AN: Hiya there! Accidentally in Love, and it's sister story, Over My Head, were written as part of the Fandom For Sexual Assault Awareness compilation.
My grand plan is write two separate stories, following the same basic story line, and weave them together seamlessly. They're meant to be read together (since there will be very few scenes will actually be repeated), but they can also stand alone.
Bella sighed and glanced out the window of her corner office. It'd been a long day, and all she wanted to do was curl up in her favorite chair with a glass of wine and a good book. In just a few moments, all hope of that flew out the window.
Her assistant, Emily, rushed into the room, out of breath and teary-eyed. Jumping up in concern, she reached for the girl's hands.
"Emily, sweetie, what's wrong?"
"Oh, Bella," she wept, "it's terrible."
At twenty-one, the girl was only three years younger than Bella, with what normally seemed like unlimited optimism. To see her like this made Bella's blood run cold. She reached across her desk and nabbed the box of tissues, handing them silently to the girl. She took the offering gratefully and composed herself.
She sniffed and glanced at her boss balefully as Bella patiently waited for her to speak.
"It's Mrs. Masen," she whispered hoarsely. "There's been an accident."
Bella's heart plummeted to her feet, and tears sprang to her eyes. Elizabeth Masen was one of her partners in CMS Publishing. She and her sister Esme Cullen, the silent partner in their business, were like family to Bella.
"What happened? Where is she?" she asked urgently.
Any hope she might've felt died the instant that Emily could only respond with a sob.
"No," Bella cried, tears dripping down her face. "Not Lizzie."
She buried her face in her hands, sobbing deeply. It was several minutes before she could compose herself enough to speak again.
"Where's Ed?" she asked. He'd more than likely just lost his wife; he'd need all the support he could get right now.
Emily shook her head, her bottom lip trembling. "They were on their way home from Ryan's game when a drunk driver hit them head on. They were killed instantly."
Bella's hands shot to her mouth, covering the gut-wrenching wail that wanted to escape. She swallowed it back down, voicing the biggest fear she had at the moment. "Ryan?"
Emily wrung her hands, wanting nothing more than to go home to her husband and cry her heart out. "He's at Seattle Children's in critical condition. They're not sure if he'll make it."
Bella reached out, her hand hitting the desk almost violently as the enormity of the situation close came to drowning her. She steeled her heart and vowed to keep herself together, to be strong for the little boy who was one of her best friends.
"Close the office. Send everyone home," she ordered, her voice hollow and mechanical. She walked around her desk, shutting down her computer and gathering up her belongings.
"What about you, Bells?" her loyal assistant asked. "Do you need anything?"
Bella closed her eyes and breathed in deeply through her nose. "No, thank you," she replied quietly. "If you need me, I'll be at Children's with Ryan."
Emily nodded, her heart breaking even more at the sight of Bella barely holding herself together. Anyone who worked here knew how much Ryan meant to her and just how much Ryan adored her in return. Emily whispered a silent prayer as Bella left the office, hoping and praying that the boy would make it through this trial safely.
Bella closed her eyes and lay her head on the thin mattress next to Ryan's sleeping form, letting the day's exhaustion sweep over her. The past twenty-four hours had been one long nightmare, one that she constantly prayed that she'd wake up from.
A short time later, an incessant beeping pulled her from her restless slumber. She sat up and rubbed her eyes before being startled by the wide green eyes staring back at her.
"Bella?" Ryan whispered hoarsely, wincing at the dryness in his throat. "Where am I?"
She sobbed in relief and gently cupped his face. "Ryan," she cried softly, "Thank God."
A frightened look passed over his face, his heart rate escalating. "Where's my mom?"
Bella swallowed the lump in her throat, reaching over to press the call button for the night nurse. "Ssh, sweetie, just calm down. You've been asleep for a couple of days, and the doctors will want to check you out."
She could see the panic start to overtake him, his eyes darting between both of hers. "Bella, my m-mom," he stuttered, starting to shake. "Th-there w-w-was a car and M-mom screamed." He reached up in an attempt to frantically pull at his hair, but was momentarily distracted by the bright red cast on his arm. "Bella! Where's my mom?" he yelled, his voice breaking in panic as tears began to streak down his face.
She pulled him to her chest, letting him cry, and cursed the nurse for taking so long. "Ssh," she cooed into his hair, rubbing his back gently. "Aunt Mae will be back soon. She just ran downstairs to Uncle Carl."
His sob had turned into sniffles and hiccups by the time the nurse walked into the room, and Bella held back a groan as she realized the nurse was none other than Victoria Hunter.
Victoria had held a grudge against Bella since high school. Bella's brother Emmett had turned Vicky down flat on more than one occasion, which led to the redhead taking out her frustration on his younger sister.
"What do you want, Bella?" she sneered, flipping her hair over her shoulder and eying Bell with thinly veiled contempt.
Anger surged through Bella as she cradled Ryan's small form. Who the hell did she think she was? What kind of a nurse ignored a patient, a child at that, over an old grudge?
"Ryan woke up," she replied as sweetly as she could, her teeth grinding together.
Victoria's eyes shot to the boy and widened, as if just seeing him for the first time. "I'm sorry," she mumbled, "I'll go call Drs. Cullen and Martinez."
Bella glared at Victoria's retreating form, wishing against hope that her eyes would suddenly turn into lasers.
Ryan pulled away slightly and rubbed his red eyes as if he'd just woken up. "Where's Mom?"
Her heart hammered in her chest. This wasn't the way she and Esme had wanted him to find out. She gave him a shaky smile and shook her head. "Why don't you just relax, baby? Aunt Mae will be up in a minute or two."
Pleasehurryup, Esme, she pleaded to herself. Her already shattered heart splintered even further when the little boy's eyes welled up with tears and his lower lip quivered.
"Aunt Mae? Not my Mom?" he asked, his voice growing faint.
Watching his face as realization dawned on him, his expression twisting in agony, was one of the worst moments of Bella's life.
"She's gone, isn't she?" he cried loudly.
She nodded slowly. "I'm so sorry, Ry," she whispered, her throat constricting as she tried to hold back her tears.
He reached for Bella and clung to her tightly, bawling hysterically until Dr. Martinez rushed over and injected something into Ryan's IV. Still heartbroken, but relieved that Ryan was calming down, Bella eyed the doctor curiously.
Jerry smiled at her sadly. "It's just a mild sedative, Bella. No worries, he'll be fine," the doctor explained.
Just then, Esme and Carlisle rushed through the door, both slightly out of breath from rushing. Taking one look at her friend's face, Esme rushed over and took Bella into her arms while her husband walked over to speak with his colleague.
"Oh, Bell," she murmured sympathetically, "you're shaking like a leaf, dear. Come, sit down."
The older woman led her to a pair of uncomfortable chairs by the window. She smoothed Bella's hair and used her thumbs to brush away her tears.
"He woke up and asked for Lizzie," Bella replied, blinking away more tears. "I- I tried to redirect him and told him to calm down, that you'd be here soon. He- He remembered the accident, Ez, and he figured out that she didn't make it. Then he started to freak out until Jerry gave him a sedative."
Esme sighed and gently wrapped her arm around her friend's shoulders. "Ssh," she murmured. "It's going to alright, Bell."
Bella's body began to shudder, overcome by uncontrollable sobs. She'd held her emotions in check, trying to be strong for everyone. Hell, Esme had just lost her older sister, and there she was comforting someone else.
"I was just on the phone with Edward's assistant and she let me know that he's on his way. This is going to be even harder on him," she murmured, running her fingers through Bella's hair absent-mindedly.
"Good," Bella spat angrily. "He deserves it after abandoning Lizzie the way he did."
She'd heard stories from Lizzie about her perfect first son, who stormed out of their lives like a spoiled, snotty brat when he couldn't get his own way; suddenly having to share his mommy with a new baby. Granted, Lizzie never said that outright, but it was enough for Bella to read between the lines, the end result being that she detested Edward Anthony Masen and felt her stomach turn when his name was mentioned.
Esme straightened in her seat and turned Bella to face her. "Don't ever say that, Isabella. Two wrongs do not make a right. My nephew had his reasons for going off to live his life. As much as I love my sister, she handled that situation badly, and it caused a rift in their family. Carrying a grudge over something you only know one person's account of won't help anything."
Esme sighed and leaned back in her uncomfortable chair, closing her eyes for a moment and picturing her favorite nephew. She loved Ryan with all of her heart, but she and Edward had a special connection. She'd only been twelve when he was born, so her relationship with him had been somewhere between friendly and motherly. She recognized that same kind of bond between Bella and Ryan, and it warmed her heart.
Bella had moved to Forks to live with her father Charlie after her mother passed away during her junior year of high school. During her first year in Forks, Bella had fallen in with the wrong crowd and began acting out against any form of authority. Poor Charlie was the chief of police and could handle criminals without any problems, but he no idea where to even begin with his teenage daughter.
Eventually, Bella landed in the E.R. with a concussion suffered while she was cliff-diving with her friends. There she met Lizzie and baby Ryan, who had been visiting while Ed was in the middle of a two day shift. She and Lizzie chatted, and Ryan took an instant liking to the young girl who'd captured his mother's attention.
After a while, Lizzie managed to convince Bella to attend grief counseling, and soon Bella had abandoned her more rebellious pursuits and was instead spending her free time babysitting Ryan. It was a relief to Lizzie, who worked from home, and a pleasant diversion for Bella, who was still mourning her mother.
One afternoon while Ryan was napping, Lizzie shared some manuscripts she was editing with Bella, explaining her work and how much she enjoyed it, and the younger girl's interest was piqued. It wasn't long before Bella had fallen in love with editing, and two years later, while Bella was still attending Washington State University, the two women hatched a plan to open up their own publishing house in Port Angeles.
Esme had never had the book-smarts of her sister, but she'd inherited their father's uncanny knack for investing. She offered to front the money to get her sister's business started, asking for nothing in return except the opportunity to be a silent partner. The ladies quickly decided on a name that would reflect each woman's contribution, and since she was the youngest, Bella insisted that her initial come last. Thus, Cullen-Masen-Swan Publishing, CMS for short, was born.
Bella ran a hand through her hair and nodded, albeit reluctantly. "I'm sorry, Ez. I'll try to mind my manners."
Esme nudged the younger girl's shoulder and offered her a tender smile. "Mind your manners? What are you? Eighty?"
Before Bella had a chance to respond, Carlisle walked over and took for his wife's hand, gently pulling her to her feet.
"Esme, my love, Ryan's sedative will keep him out overnight, at least. Let's head home and get some rest."
Knowing she would protest, Carlisle silenced Esme with a sweet kiss before she could utter a word. Bella blushed slightly and looked away, feeling like she was intruding upon a private moment.
Esme smiled and shook her head. "Fine," she replied in acquisition, "but I'm setting the alarm for six o'clock."
As they turned to leave the room, Esme wrapped Bella into one last bone-crushing hug. "I take it you're staying again?"
Bella nodded and smiled sadly. "I can't bring myself to leave."
"I know the feeling, Bell. The only reason Carl is able to pull me out of here right now is because I know you'll be here with him."
After the room had emptied, she pulled her chair closer to Ryan's side and gently stroked the top of his hand.
"You need to wake up for me, little man," she whispered quietly. "I can't lose you, too, Ry."
Silently, she laid her head down next to his hand, tears falling slowly down her face. Despite her worry, grief soon gave way to exhaustion, and Bella drifted off to sleep.
Bella was awakened by voices the next morning, one of them being a deep, melodious sound that settled over her subconsciousness like honey. When she opened her eyes and met with a gorgeous pair of green ones, her heart skipped a beat. It only took a second for her to realize that those eyes mirrored Ryan's, and in an instant, she knew exactly who he was.
She sat up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes, attempting to calm her racing heart and stamp down the case of nerves she felt at finally meeting the prodigal son. She didn't even notice Esme was there until the older woman laid a kiss on her cheek.
"Esme? Who's he?" she mumbled, attempting use her just-awakened state to her advantage. "Is everything okay with Ry?"
Ryan was fine, of course, but after introductions were made to Edward Masen, Bella made a beeline out of there, not caring if she came off as rude. She was angry and frustrated that this man was affecting her before she'd even had a chance to speak to him properly. She'd hated Edward Masen from afar for too long to just abandon her feelings so quickly, and she was afraid that if she stayed, she'd make a terrible situation for Esme even worse. A part of her wanted to punch him in the jaw when he smiled at her; the other part wanted to jump up and run her hands through his messy auburn hair while kissing him senseless. She knew she needed to kick this attraction to a man she intensely disliked before her mind became a war zone, battling sides warring for Edward Masen's fate.
The only thing she knew with absolute certainty was that she'd have to make peace with the idea of having him in her life if she wanted to remain in Ryan's. She'd go to the end of the world for that little boy, so learning to co-exist with his new guardian was going to be a difficult challenge - but one at which she was determined to succeed.
There was no choice.
AN: Accidentally in Love and it's sister story,Over My Head, will start posting on a regular basis starting sometime in January. I can't wait for it!