~* Saturday, May 9th *~
My heart raced, my dick hardened and my face felt warm the second my eyes met the beautiful brown ones that had haunted me all week. I'd never been so thankful for the coverage of the ridiculous jacket the Cullens forced us to wear as I was at that moment.
"Good morning, Miss Cullen. Miss Bella." I loved the sound of her name on my lips, loved the way my tongue caressed my top lip when I spoke it.
"Morning, Edwanthony." Her subtle whisper sent chills up my spine, and I shivered slightly. A warm hand touched mine as she moved past me, leaving a trail of fire in its wake. I felt something light but stiff slide across my palm, and I waited until the elevator doors closed to examine it.
Pink, black – so ordinary and yet so surprising.
Bella had pushed a small strip of pink paper into my hand. I could see writing on it, the slanted cursive letters calling to me. I unfolded it to reveal four words I never thought someone would ask me in this lobby.
What's your real name? ~B
For minutes or hours, I stared at the delicate writing. The way the way her S curved back over itself, the sharp points of her R. Her handwriting reminded me of her – unencumbered, sensual, beautiful. I turned the paper over and quickly wrote my response on the back.
My name is Edward. ~E
Hours passed slowly; time trudged forward at a tortuous pace. Finally I saw Bella come through the door on the eighty-ninth floor alone. A bit of panic flared in my chest. We had strict rules regarding contact with the Cullens and their guests, and there were cameras taping our every move.
As much as I wanted to talk with Bella, this wasn't the place for it.
I opened the door to the garage as soon as the elevator bell sounded. "Have a good afternoon, Miss Bella." I did not meet her eyes. I knew if I looked at her, I would talk to her . . . I would touch her . . . I would be fired.
And though I may have hated my job, I also needed it.
She slowed in front of me but didn't stop or speak. I felt guilty, afraid my sudden coldness would make her think I wasn't thrilled that she'd given me the little note. Before she could step completely through the door into the garage, I took a deep breath and a huge chance.
"Excuse me, Miss Bella, but I believe you dropped something."
I bent at the waist and pretended to pick up the pink slip tucked away in my palm. I glanced at her briefly as I handed her the paper, willing her to look at me, to see me again. When she met my gaze, I moved my eyes to the cameras mounted on the ceiling to our left and right. She followed mine, confusion quickly morphing to understanding. Relief flooded through me – she knew. She knew why I had to be so formal, why I couldn't laugh and smile and chat with her like I wanted to.
"Thank you," she whispered, her hand with the paper clenching into a fist. Our eyes met for a beat, entire conversations passing between us silently, before she turned and walked to her car. I stood in the doorway and watched her drive away, wondering when I'd be able to see her again.
Over the next three weeks, our conversation continued on simple slips of pink paper. Every Tuesday and Saturday Bella visited with Alice Cullen on the eighty-ninth floor while I sat at my desk below and fantasized about her talking to me, laughing with me, touching me . . . kissing me.
~* Tuesday, May 12th *~
How old are you? I'm 22. ~B
I'll be 27 in June. Have you always lived in Chicago? ~E
~* Saturday, May 16th *~
No. I grew up in Phoenix but moved here when I was accepted at Northwestern. I've learned to love Gore-Tex and down-filled coats. June birthday – which day? And what's your favorite dessert? ~B
Two questions? Getting a little greedy there, Miss Bella. My birthday's on the 20th. I like yellow cake with chocolate frosting best. Simple, but it's always been my favorite. You went to Northwestern? I thought you went to DePaul with Alice. How do you know her? And what are you studying? ~E
~* Tuesday, May 19th *~
Greedy? Me? What can I say - when I find something or someone I'm interested in, I want to learn everything about them. Carlisle's first wife and Alice's mom, Carmen, went to high school with my dad, which is how I know the family. Carmen asked me to tutor Alice so Carlisle would stop complaining about how much money 'her' daughter is costing him. He's quite the charmer, from what I remember. How did you end up working for the Cullens? ~B
So you're interested in me? That's good to know. I met Carlisle when I was still just a beat cop. He only hires ex-cops as doormen because he tends to believe everyone is out to get him. The hours are decent and I get paid well, so I can't really complain. I'm hoping to save a bit more and then go back to CPD. I miss it much more than I thought I would. What's your favorite part of the city? Oh, and the feeling's mutual, Miss Bella. ~E
~* Saturday, May 23rd *~
CPD – you're a cop? Will you show me your gun? Favorite place - the end of Navy Pier; it's touristy but the view is beautiful. I practically lived out there the first summer I moved here. I still spend most Saturday afternoons there in the summer. I like watching the people and the boats. If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be? ~B
I USED to be a cop, now I'm a doorman. And I'd be happy to show you my gun, but it's at my condo. Looks like you're going to have to stop by. One movie? The Godfather – best movie ever made! If you didn't have responsibilities here, where would you go? ~E
~* Tuesday, May 26th *~
I couldn't just stop by. What if you had company? I'd hate to interrupt if you were on a date or something. I'm not a Godfather fan, but the last guy I dated looked a lot like Fredo - no lie. Though that's not why I stopped seeing him. Yellow hankie, left pocket - Google it. If I had no responsibilities here, no ties, I'd live in Texas. I love it there. If it was only for a vacation, it would have to be an island somewhere. I'm not picky, I just like the sun. Are you close to your family? Tell me about your favorite relative. ~B
Should I be afraid to Google yellow hankie, left pocket? I think I should be. I come from a huge Irish-catholic family from the south side. Go White Sox! My favorite would have to be my Grandma Irene. She's really spunky and full of life, even at 78, though I hate her cat. Do you have any pets? (If you have a cat, I promise to try not to hate it.) And just so you know, I haven't been on a date months, though I'd really like to . . . soon. There's this beautiful brunette I've got my eye on. ~E
~* Saturday, May 30th *~
How soon for this date of yours? I'm not the most patient person, you know. I have a goldfish named Jake who is five years old . . . really. Repeating one of yours, what's your favorite part of the city? ~B
My favorite place in the city would be anywhere you are. Would you like to go to dinner Saturday? ~E
~* Tuesday, June 2nd *~
"Good afternoon, Miss Cullen." I looked hopefully behind her, waiting for the familiar white car. Alice Cullen didn't look up as she sashayed through the open door and into the elevator . . . alone.
I never heard the elevator doors close or the bell as it reached the eighty-ninth floor. The only noise in the small lobby was the uneven thumping of my heart as it slowly crumbled with the knowledge that she wasn't coming.
I held onto the hope that she'd be back. Perhaps she'd taken a long weekend to visit her family in Phoenix, or she wasn't studying with Alice because of the holiday. I would probably see her again on Saturday.
I closed the door softly, the subtle click of the latch like a gunshot to my ears.
~* Saturday, June 6th *~
No white Toyota, no brown eyes, no notes . . . I had nothing but a huge, gaping hole in my chest where my heart once beat.
~* Saturday, June 13th *~
"Did you grow a vagina or what?"
I choked on my beer, nearly snorting foam through my nose. Garrett, one of the other doormen, just smirked at me from across the table.
"What the fuck, man?" I glared at him and wiped my face on a napkin. Garrett signaled to our waitress, his girlfriend Kate, for two more. Once she dropped off the bottles, he turned back to me, a serious expression on his face.
"Not to be all Steel Magnolias, but you've been a moody bastard for weeks, and I think it's time to just . . . you know, talk about it and shit."
Out of the three guys I worked with, Garrett and I were the friendliest away from the job. He was another ex-cop, lured away by Carlisle's money and a safer work environment. We'd decided to grab a few beers at a local pub after my shift. I thought it was a good idea at the time, but I was beginning to regret the decision. I hadn't told anyone about Bella and the notes . . . or the way she just disappeared.
I took a pull from my bottle, pausing to collect my thoughts before sighing. "I kind of met someone, but it ended before it even really started."
Garrett continued to stare while I peeled the label off my bottle. I was thankful for the distraction when Kate walked back over to us.
"Hey boys. Do you need anything?"
I was shaking my head no when Garrett said, "Bring us each a Gentleman Jack on the rocks. Okay, babe?" My eyes darted to meet his just as Kate smiled and walked toward the bar.
Garrett shrugged and took a pull from his bottle. "If you were anyone else, I'd buy you a beer, point you in the direction of the nearest cooch and remind you to wrap it up before you get your dick wet." I cringed at the imagery, and Garrett chuckled for a moment before turning serious once more "But man, you're Edward. I've seen you turn down more tail than most men could ever have a chance to hope for. You don't really do the whole fast-and-loose thing, so if you're upset because of a girl then it's a whiskey-worthy moment."
I nodded once as Kate put the glass in front of me, the toffee-colored liquid almost to the rim. She smiled and patted me on the back before walking away.
Garrett lifted his glass. "To the women that tie us into knots. God help us if they ever figure out the power they have over us." I snorted a laugh before taking a sip, the whiskey burning all the way to my gut.
"So," Garrett said as he placed his elbows on the table and leaned toward me. "Tell me about her."
I paused, thinking I shouldn't bother, but then my resolve broke.
I told him about meeting her at work, about the notes. I told him how she would smile at me when she thought Alice wasn't looking, and how her eyes never left mine when she walked through the lobby. I told him about all the questions, including the final one when I asked her out to dinner. And I told him how disappointed I was when she disappeared without a word.
"I feel like a fool," I said at the end, spinning my now empty glass on the table. "I really thought there was some chemistry between us, but she never came back."
"Well, it's not like she could just walk up to the door," Garrett said. I stilled my fingers and stared at him, my brow knitting together in confusion. "The building security wouldn't let her into the garage without a pass from one of the Cullens."
I shook my head. "But she could have come to the pedestrian door."
Garrett rolled his eyes. "Have you forgotten how fucking hard that door is to find? There's no way she'd know it was there unless someone showed her. And we both know Alice Cullen doesn't walk anywhere, so you can bet your Bella doesn't know about that door."
My eyes widened as I realized how right he was; that door was next to impossible to find. Building security sent deliverymen through the garage because it was easier than trying to explain the door hidden behind the marble columns outside.
"She never called." I sounded unsure even to my own ears, knowing the argument Garrett was about to make.
"You said you never gave her your number."
I nodded. "True, but she could have called the desk phone."
"So you gave her the desk number." Garrett smirked at me.
"Well, no. But—"
"But nothing," he interrupted. "That number's unlisted. If she tried to reach the building, she'd be directed to those idiots at the main desk."
I felt a tiny twinge of hope in my chest before reality crashed back into me. "She stopped coming." I stood and threw some money on the table. "Thanks for listening. I know you're trying to help, but she's friends with Alice Cullen. If she wanted to see me, she could have."
"Edward, there are a hundred reasons why she might have stopped coming to the building. Maybe you should try to find her."
I snorted and shook my head. "How? I don't know her phone number, I don't know where she lives; hell, I don't even know her last name!" I caught Kate's eye across the crowd and signaled that I was leaving. She smiled and waved before turning toward another customer.
"You're an ex-cop," Garrett said. I turned back to him, surprised when I saw him glaring. "If you really wanted to find her, you would."
I slowly backed toward the door. "I don't think she wants to be found." I turned and grabbed the door handle, pulling it open just as I heard Garrett yell from behind me.
"Don't be such a coward, man." His words made me freeze in mid-step. "Anything worth having is worth working for . . . worth fighting for. Track her down, find her, and give her the chance to tell you why she stopped coming. If you don't, you'll always wonder."
I waited a beat before walking out the door, Garrett's words chasing me through the streets.
Don't be such a coward.