Disclaimer: We Do Not Own Twilight. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the authors. The authors are in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
"The Black Swan"
EdwardsLove82 & Nikita2009
My day was already off to a bad start; I woke up late, didn't have time to stop for coffee and I swear, there wasn't a single goddamn place to park in the entire city. I can usually just pull up right out front, but in Manhattan, there are a thousand useless people added to the streets every hour, which means you get up early or your ass is fuckin' walkin'. It is what it is.
I finally made it to the shop and received a cute little glare from my producer, who pointed me towards hair and makeup, which I hated with a fiery passion. Why I had to look like a movie star to ink people, was beyond me. I personally didn't give a shit and went out of my way to poke the bear, dying a lavender streak in my black hair… just to fuck with Jessica the vapid blonde hair and makeup lady.
"Can we get this over with? I got things to do ya know, I own this shop in case nobody told ya," I shouted, aggravated that I had to follow all these bullshit rules, in my own place. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated all the good the show had done…bringing in business and getting people into my once struggling shop, by the boatload. But the drawback was selling my fucking soul to do it.
I sat in the chair and huffed until I saw Jasper walk through the door, Starbucks in hand, I grumbled about losing my damn keys…again, which was why I missed quality time with my coffee.
"Bonjour Bella, le café ?" he asked. Wearing a signature 'I just got laid' smirk, he held his hand out, shoving a steamy cup towards me. I snatched it gratefully, taking in the delicious scent of vanilla bean and espresso. That just made my day a little fuckin' better.
"Merci, mon amour, I owe ya one, " I beamed, sipping my coffee. He winked and messed up the hair on top of my head, snickering as he walked towards his chair… which effectively pissed off Jessica. He didn't give a shit and frankly, neither did I. I just laughed and enjoyed my coffee which at the moment, was better than anything in the history of the world. I sat back and took a look around my shop, watching everyone set things up. I sighed to myself as I waited to start my long and pretty boring, and not to mention, repetitive, day.
Just another fuckin' day in paradise, I thought, rolling my eyes.
The camera crews, the producers, the clients, the fans, the noise, the occasional ass grab when they thought I wasn't paying attention. I shook my head to myself, rolling my eyes at the thought. Fuckers.
Sneaking off to use the bathroom before they started shooting, I did my business and washed my hands, eying my reflection critically in the mirror. Long black hair framing tired dark eyes, pale skin and ruby red lips. And let's not forget my lavender highlight …everybody loves the fuckin lavender stripe. I'd always loved the pinup girl style of makeup and had found that it suited my style...even if the show's producers hated it.
I'm so fucking bored. My life is monotonous to a point where my motions are robotic. I can't feel the passion I once had. Yeah, I still love what I do, I just hate what it's become. I just want something… different.
I waited semi patiently for the interview to start. I've done these things a hundred times, and they suck more and more every time. I mean seriously, how many times can you say the same thing and make it sound excited every time? … ya just can't.
"Bella, we're ready for you in five," my producer called out, handing me a copy of my "genuine answers" that have been pre written for me. I just nodded and took the damn thing, eyeing Jasper carefully, letting him know to stay close. Riley was sprawled out in his chair, waiting for his first appointment, not a care in the world. Lucky bastard. My first client was pushed back a half hour for the interview, which kind of annoyed me, since it messed with my time table for the whole day. I closed my eyes and went over my story in my head, from the beginning….
My name is Bella Swan. I own The Black Swan …the ink shop… yeah, the one with the reality show with the annoying commercials which run every 5 minutes. It's got quite the reputation now, but I started it a few years ago with some friends. Life was much simpler back then.
When I first opened, it was just me. I did everything… the tattoos, the phones, the appointments; it became overwhelming so I brought in my best friend Riley. We apprenticed together, in a small tattoo shop in the village. We worked there for a few years until I went on to open my own shop. I wanted someone I could trust, someone who I admired for their work, so I jacked him from there, offering him more money and his own chair. I think he would've come with me even if I hadn't, but I had to make it worth it for him.
Riley is the probably the only person in the world who knows the truth behind my irrational thoughts. I could give him a look and he just knows… it's crazy I know, but it's true. I trust him completely, with everything. Some people think we're a couple, but we would never be anything more than just friends, especially since he prefers the cock … just one more thing we have in common I guess. He's also way too fucking pretty for me. I prefer my men a little less super model and a little more rough around the edges.
Jake is my business manager. He's seriously the largest man I've ever seen in my whole life. Pushing almost seven feet tall the man has to duck to enter the shop door. He never says much but is killer on the business side, quiet and mellow with long dark hair, eyes and mahogany skin. He and Riley shoot each other the googly eyes when they don't think I'm watching. With his nervous stutter he doesn't do well with large crowds so he manages to stay in the background on filming days, sequestered in my office which always suspiciously smells like he's been hotboxing it back there.
Then there's Jasper, the third man in the sausagefest I call my shop. Women brought unnecessary drama into the shop, a fact I learned early on when I had to fire a chick named Lauren I'd found on her knees in the back of the shop trying to sexually harass the poor man. Back to Jasper … he's an inked up, pierced blonde haired guy who looks like he could be a bad ass surfer or something, he's just so pretty. If guys can be pretty, I dunno, but he is. I didn't pick him up until we started the show. I had been watching him for a couple months, keeping an eye on his portfolio, watching his clientele grow and I knew I wanted him. He's fantastic at what he does. I've met a lot of tattoo artists, but he's something special. He is so passionate about the actual art. If he doesn't like something, he won't ink it. He's not stuck up or picky, really, he's just… intense. Oh yeah, and he's French, which is pretty cool since I'm the only one who understands him. The other guys get annoyed sometimes, but I think it's hilarious.
I was pulled from my stroll through memory lane, when I heard the crew get quiet and the producers giving out orders. I huffed and went over to my chair, waiting for my interviewer to walk through the door. Time to smile pretty and keep the claws sheathed. Maybe.
By the time I was ready for my first appointment, I needed more coffee and a cigarette. I grabbed one out of the pack and walked out the front door, where there were a couple of fans taking pictures. I smiled and nodded, hoping they wouldn't come over. It's not that I didn't appreciate them, cause I do. It's just that I felt fake, with the show and the publicity, I didn't want to be known for that shit, I wanted to go back to the beginning, when people came to me because I was good, not because they wanted to be on fuckin' TV.
I dunno, maybe I'm just bitter, and a little bored. I power smoked at record speed and made my way back inside, giving the thumbs up for everyone to start taping. I pulled out a rubber band and grabbed my long black hair, throwing it in a messy knot behind my head. I cleaned up my station and got ready for my client.
When Jordan, one of my regular clients walked through the door, he laughed and shook his head, making his way over to me. We gave each other a knowing look as he sat down and pulled his t-shirt over his head.
"What's goin' on J?" I asked as I put my black latex gloves on and turned to face him.
"Not much B, same shit different day," he said, distractedly as he watched me open a new needle and set up. I've been working on his piece for about three months now, it was a chest piece that was going to wrap around to his back. He had told me what he wanted months ago and trusted me to draw it up, he liked it so we went right into it. It was a large piece but he definitely had the body for it. In fact, if he wasn't my client, I would be all over that! But, business is business and you don't fuck where you eat so to speak, so I sighed as I pointed to the back of the chair, so he could relax and get positioned.
A few months ago I'd inked a pair of black handguns on his leanly muscled stomach. When you looked at him, in his low slung jeans, the effect was that the handles of the guns could be seen above, like he'd stashed them in his waistband. Original gangsta, I'd joked with him at the time. Fuckhot was more like it. Must not touch customer…must not touch customer … my inner monologue chanted frantically.
"Aright Babe, just relax, I'm gonna finish up this side today and hopefully move into the side piece where it should meet in the back.
"Do ya thang, Baby B," he drawled, his voice always made me kinda twitchy in the vag region, I'm a sucker for southern accents, what can I say? It's fucking hard work to be surrounded by eye candy…I'm a spoiled bitch.
Jasper turned on the sound system we had in the shop to distract me from the rolling cameras and I sighed happily. The music started, everyone started doing their own thing and I found my zone, far away from anything related to reality shows and paparazzi cameras. I went back to my roots and found myself completely relaxed as I dipped the black ink and continued on his piece, where I had left off. The hum of the gun was peaceful and amped me up at the same time. I truly loved my craft, it was everything else I couldn't stand. But I would never show it, I would appear ungrateful for my livelihood, just another bullshit Hollywood thing.
I was half way through J's tattoo when I heard Jasper start cursing Riley out in French. I stopped what I was doing to look over at them. Riley had an exasperated look on his face while Jasper moved closer, trying to look angry. They had to add a little bit of drama to the show, which I always complained about, I mean come on, this isn't Jersey fuckin Shore. So anyway, Jasper was supposed to be short tempered, which I never found scary, just really funny cause it was like watching Pepe le Pew ripping someone's head off. I snorted to myself, rolling my eyes and went back to filling in some of the design on J's chest. I had one hand resting on him heavily as I leaned over him, trying to find the perfect angle to do my thing. He sat back in the chair, completely relaxed with his knees loosely parted, ya know … the 'come fuck me' pose, that all these guys have….
"Ya know B, if ya wanna just climb on, feel free, I'm not gonna stop ya," he chuckled, clearly amused at my attempts to get as close as possible. I reached up and flicked his nipple ring, as I rolled my eyes at him. "Oww," he laughed, faking pain as he grabbed his sore nip.
"Owww…." I mimicked him in a falsetto voice, clearly making fun of him as I went back to work. It was another thirty minutes or so when I heard the bells chime and I looked towards the door to see a man, so beautiful, I had to stop what I was doing. Hell, we all stopped what we were doing…even Jake poked his head out of the back room, dark eyes, eyeing the stranger. I had a feeling he wasn't the usual asshole tryin to get on TV or the crazy fan that just wanted to snap a picture, but he was … different. He was just a normal guy, I didn't see an ulterior motive, not at first glance anyway, but I was usually right about these things. In a world full of fake ass people always wanting a piece of me, I learned to trust my gut.
"Ummm …" he mumbled, obviously uncomfortable under the stares of everyone inside. He wasn't a client, he was a walk in? People just don't walk in here… everyone knows that. His bronze hair was completely fucked up on top of his head, kinda like he just got laid and his jaw... oh fuck me…. I took a good look at him, his jeans were vintage, ripped at the knee with, what looked like a piece of duct tape over it… old chucks, and a tight fitting black Beatles, Abbey Road t-shirt, which hugged his muscular arms very well. I even saw some black ink poking out from under the hem of the shirt. Hmmm, Mr. SexHair has ink on his pelvis, wonder how far down that goes…. The cherry on top of his sexy ass man sundae, was his eyes…emerald green and lacking any kind of artifice…honest and guileless. Something I hadn't seen in a stranger in a really fucking long time.
"Can we help you?" Riley asked, not too politely I might add. He looked over at me to see if I recognized him and when he saw that I didn't, he made a move for Bubba, the juiced up meathead security guy to go over. I don't actually know his name, but Bubba is fitting in my opinion as he looked like he was a white trash cousin to the annoying dudes on Jersey Shore.
"No! Wait…" I yelled, pulling a glove off and held my hand out for him. "I'm Bella, what can I do for you?" He seemed to freeze at the sound of my voice, but then took a few steps closer to take my hand and shake it. He looked into my eyes and looked confused, maybe a little lost…
"I saw your work in a gallery in Soho…"he trailed off when douchebag Mike, my least favorite cameraman walked up and clicked on the bright light on his camera blinding the man, making him hide behind his hand.
"Mike, can you back the fuck off and stop hounding my potential clients?" I growled.
"Ms. Swan you remember it's part of your contract, filming client interviews?" Aro, my producer chimed in from the back of the room where I'd forgotten he'd been, once I'd started working.
"Mr. Aro Too Cool To Have a Fucking Last Name, do you remember when I told you that if you affected business negatively, you'd be fishing your nuts out of the Hudson fuckin River?"
Rolling his eyes at me, he went back to typing away at his lap top.
Ragey, but not wanting to let it show as they'd only focus on taping it some more I went for underhanded bitch tactics. My favorite when they got in my face too much. I pulled my gum out of my mouth and smeared it all over the camera lens. "Whoops. I dropped my gum."
Mike shut off the camera and glared at me before stomping towards the back of the shop to no doubt complain about my prima donna antics. I turned to the handsome stranger who was looking at the ink designs I'd framed and hung on the wall…not for someone to pick, like out of a book…but to show off the artists in the shop's talent. I knew I had talent…but Jasper Le Pew's was otherworldly. And the awed expression on the stranger's face confirmed it.
"Sorry about that, the circus in here can get overwhelming sometimes." Rolling my eyes, I smiled and held out my hand again. "Bella Swan. Again."
"Nice to meet you, Bella Swan, Again." He grinned and I felt my jaw drop in shock. Mr. Come On I Wanna Fuck You, was even more attractive when he smiled. I shook my head and grinned back, my look no doubt goofy and unattractive. Gahh. The man had just introduced himself and I was contemplating what kind of underwear he wore and if they'd look good on my bedroom floor. Sliding his hand into mine, palm rough against my skin he shook firmly. "Edward Masen."
"So what can I do you for?" I said brightly and winced. Nice Bella. Fucking nice. You don't do flirty and cutsey…what the fuck are you doing? Professional, not desperately pathetic please.
"Umm…like I was saying, I saw your show at the gallery near my apartment in Soho and I was interested in having you do me." He stuttered and turned pink in embarrassment. "Do my sleeves, I mean."
"I'm sure our Bella would be more than happy, to do you." Riley's smooth voice vibrated with laughter behind me.
"Don't you have shit to do? Like fucking work for once?" I turned and snapped at the back of his blonde head, pissed that he'd caught my out of character reaction to this stranger. Forcing down my irritation, I checked my appointment book.
"I've got one client I'm working with right now, but if you come back in a couple of hours, I'd be glad to go over your ideas with you?" I asked, while scribbling down in the timeslot "Fuckhot McHottypants."
"Sure. And, Bella?" he asked in heavy whisper as he stepped closer. "Should I answer to Fuckhot or McHottypants?" I could hear the smirk in his voice.
Freezing in horror, I realized he could see the open appointment book rather well as I'd blocked out the time in black sharpie ink, capital letters. BUSTED.
When I looked up mortified, to meet the highly amused eyes of Edward Masen he winked at me before giving me a little wave and leaving the shop.
The muffled snickers from behind me made my blood boil and I turned, shooting Jasper, Riley, and even Jake who'd poked his head out from the office my meanest nastiest bitch brow I could muster. Only J had the good sense to not say a word, just shrugging his shoulders.
"God. Good thing that whole exchange wasn't caught on tape… I'd be mortified for the rest of my life in Technicolor and everything." I muttered.
"Oh, I got it…from the back...but I could still hear everything." Mike's smugly satisfied voice rang from the corner where he'd sulked off to earlier.
"FUCCCCCCCK." Burying my hands in my hair I closed my eyes in frustration.
"Don't worry Baby B, I'm sure he's just flirting with you." J drawled from the chair where he'd been patiently waiting whilst I'd drooled all over the newcomer. "Lucky bastard." He muttered and I rolled my eyes at him.
"Who'd have thought the great and powerful Bella Swan would be flustered by some schmuck off the street." Riley crowed triumphantly from where he was bent over painstakingly inking a portrait on an older lady's back.
"Motherfucker, if you weren't working right now I'd kick your ass." I huffed.
"Yeah, Yeah Yeah…whatever Bitch."
Turning, I stomped outside and lit up a smoke…hoping it would calm me down. Luckily there were no paparazzi or stalker fans loitering about at the moment. Good thing or they'd have been wearing my shoe as an ass accessory.
"You ok, mon ami?" Jasper's heavily accented voice floated out from the door of the shop.
"Oui, Jasper. He's just busting my balls like he does every day…I just don't know why I'm letting it get to me today of all days."
"Maybe you should take some time off…for how do you say? You time? It cannot be roses all the time surrounded by the same three men." He held out his arms and I walked into them, nuzzling his chest with my nose, inhaling the awesome scent that was Jasper. He gave the best hugs. Not at all inappropriate or groping like you'd think for such a notorious French manwhore…but like a brother.
That was my problem. I was surrounded by men who I thought of as my family or customers. I needed something for myself. I needed a man who treated me like he was desperate to see me, kissed me like he'd die without me and wanted me...for me. Maybe all unrealistic wants…but it'd been forever since I'd felt a man's hands on my skin, felt his lips on my neck…Hell, right now I'd be happy with a man having a simple meal with me, nothing fancy or frivolous. Not with Isabella Swan, the famous owner of The Black Swan, but just plain old me…Bella.
I pulled back and stared up at Jasper's kind face. He smoothed my hair back and rubbed away a makeup smudge underneath my eye with his thumb. "Now, deep breath cherie and go back in there, head held high." He waggled eyes eyebrows at me and I snorted. "And feel free to punch Riley in the crotch if you feel like it, ok?"
Giggling, I turned and walked back into the shop, after taking in and letting out a deep breath.
"Ms. Swan…time for another interview." Aro chimed in before I could even compose myself.
"Yeah…fuck no. I gotta work."
Ignoring him, I washed my hands and pulled on new gloves…resuming my earlier position over J to finish his ink.
Shooting him an apologetic look, I pushed my hair back and went to work again, "Sorry J. I should be done soon."
"No worries, B."
Over the next hour, I worked my ass off to get J's design finished, and when I stood up, neck stiff and back sore from the awkward but required position, gesturing for him to take a look in the mirror, I popped my knuckles.
Peering in the mirror, I watched his eyes take in everything I'd filled in today and he turned, grinning. "Fucking perfect."
"Aweeeesome." Finishing up, I taped up the ink I'd done today, forgoing the aftercare schpiel since he'd heard it before. After he paid at the register, as it was our final agreed upon session he winked at me and promised to be back in a few weeks for his next piece. I love repeat customers, they keep me going.
Glancing at the clock on the wall I stuck two fingers in my mouth and whistled. "Lunch time…everyone get the fuck out!"
Lunch time was the one time of the day I could kick everyone out of my place….even the TV crew. It was definitely in my contract. Even if I didn't go anywhere or eat anything…I relished the quiet. I never really went anywhere close as the last time I'd tried, a couple of creeper fans had followed me unnerving to say the least. Usually if Jasper grabbed me coffee he'd grab a sandwich and stick it in the fridge in the office for me. Locking the door I moseyed to the back and hooted in success when I saw a turkey and cheese Panini from the deli next door.
Stuffing my face, I grabbed a coke from the fridge, sat back in the rickety office chair and propped my feet up. If only people saw what I had to do as a result of being well known. Hiding in my office while eating undeniably good, but cheap take out, by myself. I doubted that qualified me for lifestyles of the semi rich and annoyingly famous. Meh.
Half-way through my sandwich I heard a noise…and stuck my head out of the office…knocking on the door was my eye candy from earlier. Edward fuck me Masen.
My professionalism was through the roof today. What was it about this guy that made me feel like a bumbling awkward teenager again? I'd only talked to him a couple of minutes. Stuffing another bite of my sandwich in my mouth I hurried to grab my keys and unlock the door.
"Shit, shit shit." I hissed under my breath.
"Everything, ok?" he asked, eyebrow raised. Gah. Pierced eyebrow. How did I not notice this earlier?
"Yeah, sorry about that. This is the only time of the day I get to myself and I kicked the circus out."
"Oh…I can come back later." He gestured to the door.
"No…it's fine, I promise. As long as you don't mind my chewing noises while I finish my lunch of course..." I trailed off, digging through the front desk for a clean white sketch pad and some pencils.
"Do you always eat lunch here by yourself?" he followed me over to the small couch against the wall and plopped down next to me, scent surrounding me. Fuck, he smelled good.
"Yeah, job hazard. People like to follow me around for some stupid reason..."I trailed off…noticing the blank look on his face and continued. "The cameras, the annoying producer asshole from earlier? They film a tv show here."
"Oh." He shrugged, unimpressed by the whole idea. Fuck. Had I found the one, hot guy in New York who didn't watch my show? Internally, I heard a choir of angels. Please be real.
"Yeah. And it's changed the atmosphere around here a bit. So yeah…enough of my rambling….describe what you were thinking of for your sleeves..."
For the hour and a half Edward described what he wanted and I sketched away…showing him what I had thought of while he talked. Usually most people would leave the shop and come back after a while when I did this part…preferring to not watch me draw away for forever, lost in my own world. But not him. Intently, he watched my pencils move over the paperwork, feverishly…trying to get down on paper what I imagined his tatt to look like from his description.
When I was done I held up my sketch, ignoring Reilly's pointed glance when he came back from lunch, and waited for Edward's verdict. Nervously, I chewed my lip and waited. It seemed like eons of time ticked by, and I smiled at Jake and Jasper as they came back and then scowled at the show people, who filtered in one by one.
Nibbling at a hangnail, I hoped Edward liked my sketch. For some reason this client was much more important than usual.
The scent of overwhelmingly powerful cologne wafted in the next time the small bell above the doorway tinkled.
"What up, Big Dawg?" the booming voice belonging to another frequent visitor to the shop had me rolling my eyes. This was the day from hell.
Pasting a neutral look on my face I shot Edward a look that said, I'll just be a second and stood up.
"Hello, Emmett. How are you today?"
"Yo, Dawg. You got time to ink me up today? I've got just the place for you to wrap your dainty little fingers around," he gestured rudely to his crotch and I seriously had to keep from snorting out loud.
"Emmett, for the last time…I will not tattoo 'welcome aboard' on your penis."
"Cooooommmme on, Big Dawg. It's just a friendly invitation for all my local bitches to hop on for a quick ride." He winked at me suggestively and I had to fight the urge to vomit.
Emmett was a over muscled under-brained one time underwear model who had scored a small print campaign years ago for Calvin Klein…but was still pathetically trying to milk the modest success. His ambition was to act in low budget action films that would make Chuck Fucking Norris proud. For some reason he was under the delusion that to fit in with the younger generation of try hard wannabes he hung out with on a regular basis that he needed to dress like a wanna be rap star. A la Marky Mark from the early 90's. Needless to say, the ensemble of baggy track pants, a white wife beater undershirt, gold chains and a backwards baseball cap looked totally fucking ridiculous on the man who had to be pushing forty years old.
He'd wandered in years ago for the first time and tried to get Jasper to tatt something stupid and of course, Jasper being his stubborn ass self, had refused.
He'd next tried Riley…then had set his sights on me. Along with the sexual innuendos that seemed to flow like water when he thought he was being and I use finger quotes generously here, "charming and sexy."
I'd of course refused…but at least once a week the man came in to bug me about tatting him and I made it a point to refuse politely.
The truth is I kind of felt sorry for him even though he annoyed the ever living fuck outta me.
The early 90's had long since passed and left poor Emmett behind. I was convinced that he'd spotted the TV cameras in the shop and watched the show…he wanted to install himself as a fixture in the shop and get famous. Why the hell he wanted it so bad, I'll never know. I usually could hold my tongue with him and be professional. But today was not the day to be on my shitlist.
"Sorry Em, I've got a customer. Try another shop, ok?" I gritted through my teeth.
"Awww...come on Big Dawg. I just wanna feel your hot little hands all over my disco stick…" he leaned forward entering my personal space and I lost it.
Jumping up, I grabbed his ear and yanked his head down to my level. Twisting until he whimpered, I hissed, "First of all, I'm not your Dawg. Second of all, this is the last fucking time you'll feel my hands on ANY part of your body. Third, does Marky Mark know you've stolen his wardrobe from 1995?" I pulled him in front of the mirror on the wall and pointed. "You're not my dawg and I'm not your homey….got it? You're not a fucking gangsta. You're a whiter than white, roid-head from Jersey. Got it?"
Releasing his ear, I smiled sweetly and went back to sitting next to Edward. Out of the corner of my eye I watched as Bubba wordlessly escorted his yelling and protesting ass out the front door for what had to be the 30th time since filming had begun.
Once the show contract was up I didn't know what I'd do with Em…but hopefully the motivation for him to hang around would also be gone.
Turning to him, I smiled what I hoped was my sincere professional smile and not my try not to kill anyone else today look and sucked in a breath. God…I'd forgotten how fucking gorgeous the man was in the short time I'd been talking to Emmett's abomination of nature dressed self. Edward was everything Em wasn't. Handsome without trying and quietly sexy.
"Sorry about that. I swear…this place isn't always this crazy. The cameras just seem to bring out the nutcases in droves."
Absently waving away my protests with the sketch in his hand he stared at me, an indecipherable look on his face.
"It's….it's…." he paused and cleared his throat. "Perfect." He took the piece of paper from me and regarded it thoughtfully, tracing the curved lines and shading with his fingers. He'd described to me a pair of dark angel wings and I'd tried to create his vision to the best of my ability. It hadn't struck me as something he'd get…but again as always, people tended to surprised me. "Thank you, Bella." He smiled at me a brilliantly beautiful but infinitely sad look; his vibrant green eyes grateful but filled with sorrow. I nodded and reached out a hand and squeezed his gently.
I'm sure there was a story behind Edward Masen's ink. There usually was for my clients. But it was never my place to ask. If someone wanted to share their story with me it was an honor. Tattoo artists acted almost as a confessional sometimes…clients pouring out their stories...whether happy or sad. Getting ink to commemorate something important to them was oftentimes cathartic and to see someone gain some kind of closure through the act was more satisfying than anything else in the world.
"I'm gonna step outside for a second." His soft voice pulled me from my reverie and I nodded, picking up my discarded pile of balled up pieces of paper and pencils. Cleaning up my mess I went back to my station and glanced out the front window.
Edward was pacing back and forth up the sidewalk, hands buried in his glorious bronze hair.
I grabbed my smokes and lighter, needing a hit of that glorious nicotine.
Stepping outside I made sure to duck into a doorway unobtrusively downwind and closed my eyes, inhaling deeply. God, I fucking loved the rush I felt in my body, even though intellectually I knew it was an unhealthy habit. Meh. Delicious.
"Yeah, Edward?" I recognized his voice, though it was scratchy now from whatever powerful emotion he'd been battling by himself out here and opened my eyes to find him standing close.
Close enough to see the worry lines around his eyes and the day old stubble on his cheeks.
"I know this is random as hell and I totally understand if you're not interested…I'm probably overstepping my bounds on so many levels. I mean look at you…you're so beautiful it hurts to look at you. But will you have dinner with me…or something?"He stammered before flushing pink. "And the award for most awkward attempt to ask an attractive woman out, but failing miserably while looking like a complete asshole goes to me." Edward looked down, his voice low and embarrassed.
Floored, I couldn't believe it. This ridiculously handsome stranger was embarrassed to ask me out. Me. Bella regular old Swan. Take away the money, the fame, all the ridiculous bullshit that came along with it and it was still just me. The plain girl who always said the wrong fucking thing at the wrong time, but had been lucky enough
Internally I did a happy touchdown dance that would have done the fucking offensive line of the Jets proud. But professionally, I should politely say no and step back. I'd made it a point when I'd started out to not be one of those tatt artists who banged their clients. It was the epitome of stereotypical trashiness. You didn't mix business with fuckery…even when your clients were tempting as the 6 plus feet of tatted leanly muscled extreme hotness standing in front of me. It was made even harder when his still sad eyes closed in resignation.
I stood there, speechless fighting with my conscience. I heard Riley's voice in my head, "Relax B…it's only dinner or coffee…just don't wander into 'something' territory."
"I'm sorry…I don't mean to be too forward. If you don't want to work with me on my ink I understand." He stepped back and turned away…muttering under his breath. "Stupid, Stupid, stupid…what the fuck were you thinkin', Edward?"
Gah. Say something Bella….before he leaves, my brain screamed! He was different. Fuckhawt, sweet, easy to talk to, intelligent and nothing about him said famewhore like Em.
"How quick do ya think we can sneak out, before those assholes notice?" my voice rang out and he stopped. Straightening up, the slump in his shoulders melted away. Turning, he shot me a brilliant smile which made my breath catch in my chest.
"Let me grab my car and they'll never notice you're gone."
"Deal." I stomped out my smoke and sauntered inside…straight to the back of the shop and grabbed my purse. Head held high I did something I'd never done in the history of my shop. I left early.
"Bella?" Jasper's voice asked worriedly.
"I'm taking the rest of the day off. Riley's in charge and make sure you lock up at closing. This bitch is audi for the rest of the day." The soft swish of the front door closing behind me was a liberating sound and I snickered when a small silver Volvo screeched up.
Ducking down I peered in the car and saw Edward's grinning face. His mischievous look said everything. It may have been small…my leaving early with a total stranger…but it was something I just didn't do usually. It was totally out of my workaholic character. But it felt fucking good.
Rhianna once said, "I may be bad, but I'm perfectly good at it." Snorting, I pulled open the door and climbed in. Aro burst out the front door and I grinned and shot him the bird.
"Why do I feel like I've been sucked into your own version of Thelma and Louise?" Edward laughed as we sped off.
"You be Louise and I'll be Thelma and we'll skip the whole dying in a fiery death thing…though if we run into Brad Pitt I'm inviting him to come along. He's too fucking pretty in Fight Club to not ask him."
Laughing I slipped on my big oversized sunglasses and leaned back, waiting for my welcomed kidnapper to bring us to our next destination.
We pulled up in front of a seedy looking diner and I heartily approved. Nic & Niks All Night Diner was definitely a dive kinda place…but my favorite and I knew the owners personally as I'd done several of both of their ink pieces over the years. I smiled at the fact that Edward hadn't tried to bring me to a fancy overblown restaurant that was the latest greatest hip hangout like the last guy I'd agreed to go out with. James had been a quietly ambitious famewhore and had wanted us to be swarmed with paparazzi and annoying photographers, who'd always just happen to show up where we went. Later on I'd found out that he'd called them before we'd go out arranging it beforehand just to get the publicity for "banging" Bella Swan even though we'd never gone past a peck on his cheek.
Walking around to my door he opened it and politely stood back. Shooting him a smile I sighed when I felt his hand come to rest on the small of my back. Not too high or too low…just lightly resting there and I realized how much I missed just being touched. It sounds pathetic, but it'd been too damn long since I'd felt a man's touch on me…hell..even been attracted to one enough to want to touch him.
Walking into the dimly lit but clean diner we made our way to the very back, my favorite table in the corner away from the windows. If I was lucky I wouldn't be recognized. Smiling at the waitress I grabbed the menus off the tables and handed one to Edward who slid in the booth across from me, his wonderful Edward scent wafting around him. While he looked around the room to grab the attention of a passing waitress, I leaned forward and tried to unobtrusively get a bigger whiff of that clean but masculine scent. I was totally busted when he turned back around and I was caught sniffing at him like a total weirdo.
Feeling my face heat I hid behind my menu.
I knew I didn't want much to eat as I wasn't that so I didn't really need the menu. When it dipped lower and his amused green gaze peered over the top I smiled sheepishly. Something about this man made me feel all giggly and swoony like a fucking teenager. Pull yourself together, Bella I sniped.
"So….Bella Swan. Tell me about yourself."
"Not much to tell, really. I grew up in Brooklyn and I have a job that I mostly love." I tell him the abbreviated version of myself, leaving out the part where I sold my soul and basic human dignity for my shop. He doesn't know who I am, doesn't know I'm a "celebrity" and I like that about him. To Edward Masen I'm just some girl whose art he saw in a gallery somewhere. I like feeling anonymous and it thrills me endlessly that he sees me. Not the painted version that stares back from those ridiculous life size cardboard cutouts that Aro had tried to put in the shop that I'd promptly thrown in the dumpster. I don't have to be anybody but my true self because he's not expecting the fake me on tv.
My eyes dropped to my coffee cup, staring at the chipped black nail polish on my fingernails and the black ink swirling in designs on my hands.
When I ask him about himself, he shoots me a bitter look. His day job as an accountant pays the bills but he is miserable. He is a fellow New Yorker too, born in Queens and I smile at him knowingly. There is a kind of unsaid understanding when you talk to someone who was born here too. You just know they've been through the same shit you have, growing up here, struggling to find your place in this huge city when you're older, the horrific events of September 11th. It ties us together in a way that a person not born and raised here would never understand. It's that nod you give someone you recognize from growing up here, in the way they carry themselves as they walk down the street. It's simply New York.
His voice, when he describes his passion for his art, charcoal sketches and simple paintings, is when he lights up. I recognize the fervor in his eyes, understanding how it's possible to live days on coffee and little sleep, your hands covered in dark smudges and your eyes drooping in a race to get an image in your head down on paper before it fades in your memory.
"When did you decide you wanted to be a tattoo artist? I saw your sketches at the gallery and was blown away," his voice was sincere.
"I've always loved to draw...sketch in blank ink, sharpie…pencil…whatever I could get my hands on. I did alright in school but I lived for my art classes. I went to NYU and majored there in the visual arts. Inking people was the only way I could find to make a living off my passion." My voice was soft, only Riley knew me…my real story. The story the show portrayed was way more sex drugs and rock and roll fake type shit…about running away and finding a mentor who helped me. All shit. But the story of a boring girl who'd went to college just wasn't "sexy enough" according to Aro.
We both sip away at our cups of coffee, talking about everything and nothing.
Just then my phone buzzed in my pocket. And kept buzzing. Shit.
"Fuck. I'm sorry. Let me check my messages real quick and make sure my shop is in one piece. Ok?"
"Ok, no worries." His brilliant smile for me, sends the blush flooding into my cheeks and I duck my head as I walk outside not wanting to bother anyone else with my most likely impending ass chewing of Aro who won't leave me the fuck alone, his name flashing on the screen of my phone.
When I step outside and light up a smoke, drawing in a deep drag I roll my eyes at my phone. 12 fucking messages from Aro and a couple from Riley. Absorbed in my growing rage I don't notice the footsteps or the cars that pull up to the parking lot until I hear the clicking of cameras and the lights on the video cameras click on. Panicking, I look around. I've chosen the worst place to be…cornered by the paps running towards me shouting.
"Miss Swan, are you quitting your show?"
"Bella, did you hear about the sex tape on the internet?"
"Miss Swan, are you and your lover Riley, fighting?"
"Bella, talk to us!"
The shouting gets overwhelming and I feel claustrophobic.
Fuck. I should know better. Never let yourself be vulnerable. I'm not a weak person by any means but this bombardment is too much. If I know I'm going to a gallery opening or an event I can prepare myself mentally. It's when I'm alone and not expecting it, is when it threatens to drag me under. My eyes close and I fight to not hyperventilate.
"Hey, ayyy ayyy …back the fuck off. You're fuckin smothering her. Back off…MOVE!"
I hear what sounds like Edward's enraged voice roaring amongst the melee and my eyes snap open. Oh no.
Then the questions start.
"Who's this Bella?"
"Sir, are you Miss Swan's new lover?"
"What's your name?"
"Does Riley know you're seeing someone else?"
Fuck. My. Life.
Helpless, I shot him an apologetic look and mouthed, "I'm sorry."
His eyes confused but still angry as he sees the reporters jostling me and he pushes through the crowd, elbowing and shoving those who'd block him.
"Get the fuck out of the way. Get away from her!" He growls and one pap slinks back. Finally Edward is close enough that his presence calms me even though I am in deep water surrounded by swarming sharks.
"Come on, Bella." He grabs my hand gently and guides me through the crowd, trying to shield me and pushes away those who get too close. The flashes go off like crazy, and his face is set in an angry line.
Batting a camera out of his face he opens the passenger door of his car and gently nudges me inside.
Pushing the following paps out of the way that swarm his car he gets in and guns the engine, sticking his head out the window. "Get the fuck outta my way or I'll run ya the fuck over!"
With a screech of tires we took off, the little silver car zooming down the street and I turn, peering out the back window and see them scrambing for their cars.
Rolling the window up he turned and I could feel his eyes on me. I refused to look as I was afraid I'd see disgust. Distrust. Exasperation. Everything I'd been dreading when he found out who I was. Normal people didn't process experiences like this. And he was blissfully normal…while I was…alone. I knew he'd probably drop me off somewhere and disappear, never to be seen again.
"Well….that was different." His voice was amused.
"Welcome to my life." My voice was listless and I felt more alone than ever.
"Hey. Look at me." His voice commanded.
"You can drop me off up here."
"Bella, look at me."
"I totally get it…I mean I do. Who would want to be involved with someone like me…" I trailed off.
Swerving to a side road, he pulled into an open space and shut the car off. "Look at me."
Afraid, for the first time in my life I met his look and gasped. He was angry, eyes blazing green and face intense… "Bella…I like you. I like you a lot. More than I should for someone I just met. Whatever that fucking circus was…" he let out a deep breath. "I don't give a fuck. If I have to deal with that, just to hang out with you, then fine. But I won't let them put their hands on you and corner you like that again, if I can help it."
"You don't understand how bad it can be. They'll follow you everywhere, look through your garbage, hound your family for quotes about us. It'll be ok for a while, but sooner or later, you'll get tired of it...having your every moved photographed…not being able to go to work, your friends will sell them secrets. Then you'll figure out you could have had a helluva lot easier life without me."
"Fuck easy." This time I gasped and he continued, "I want complicated. I want crazy. I want whatever you'll fucking give me, Bella Swan. Friends, acquaintances who occasionally have coffee and make quick getaways…more…whatever. Just don't push me away. I just met you and I don't want this to be something I regret not doing for the rest of my life."
He leaned over the small console, tugging me to him gently and I had enough time to take in his disheveled hair where he'd run his hand through it during our short getaway, the look in his eye that I yearned for and the fact he smelled fucking fabulous like coffee, mint and cigarettes. His lips met mine and I felt my eyes close, my lips part and I let go. Edward Masen kissed like he did everything else. With intensity, passion and without worrying about what would happen next. I was a goner. Our lips moved together like we'd done this a thousand times before, no sound in the car but the muted radio, our harsh breathing and these unrecognizable sounds that had to be coming from me.
Burying my fingers in his glorious hair held on for dear life, until we broke apart, both gasping for breath and he stared at me, lips wet from our kisses and eyes searching my face.
The serious moment was broken when I heard the muted sounds of the Macarena on the radio and fucking lost it. Giggling I pulled his face to mine and kissed his lips, small kisses to his cheeks, everywhere, until I rested my forehead against his. His answering grin was infectious and he laughed as well. It was a scratchy sound, like he hadn't used it in a while.
"Well, that's a story for the grandkids. What song was your first kiss to? The motherfuckin' Macarena." He snorted and rolled his eyes.
"Grandkids, huh? You thought that far ahead?" My voice was amused and I rubbed his scratchy cheek with my fingers, the stubble prickling my fingers.
"Trick question. Any way I answer it, I'll sound like a fuckin' creeper."
"True. But I happen to have a weakness for creepers with red hair and tempers who sweep in and save me from paps."
"I'm a lucky bastard, then."
"You certainly are." Pulling back I rubbed away the moisture on the window that had collected during our kiss. "We better get out of here before they find us and you get a call from your parents wondering who you were mackin' on, in your car."
"You're not kiddin'. My mom is the nosiest woman in the northern hemisphere. Where to?"
Taking a deep breath I let it out. Now or never Bella. The man was fucking perfect for me.
"Show me your work."
Nodding he started the car up and pulled out into traffic.
We were quiet as he drove, but he'd shoot me glances, as if he expected me to change my mind.
When we pulled up to a non-descript block in Soho, a few blocks down from the gallery where I showed my stuff. I shot him a look before getting out of the car and he smiled sheepishly at me. Looking around, I didn't see any paps waiting and let out a breath I didn't know I'd been holding.
Slipping my hand into his I squeezed and I followed as he walked up the steps to a building and used his key to let us in.
He flicked on light switches and suddenly the dark room was flooded with light. It was beautiful. Brick and concrete…industrial looking…but still homey. Best of all it smelled like him.
"This place used to be an old warehouse, but they converted it into condos a few years back." He explained, before moving a pile of mail off his small couch and throwing it on his kitchen counter.
He took my sweatshirt I peeled over my head and removed his jacket hanging it on a bar stool, eyes watching me take in his place.
Wandering over to a wall where there were several series of charcoal drawings hanging, framed simply I ran my fingers over the brick beneath.
"Those are beautiful, Edward."
"My mom framed them for me as a Christmas present.
The last one was of a beautiful woman who had Edward's features and smile, and his face lit up when I stopped, leaning forward to squint at the caption scrawled in pencil on the matte.
"Alice. These are perfect…I feel like I know her from just looking it."
"She was perfect, my older sister by a couple of years and we were best friends. There are not enough words to describe how much I miss her. She was on the 89th floor of the north tower."
Oh, Edward…my heart breaks a little when his voice cracks with emotion.
Unknowingly, I reach out and squeeze his hand, mine engulfed in his much larger one, rubbing circles on the back of his hand.
"She always loved ink and she had her own pair of angel wings done a couple of months before she died." His voice is quiet and I understand. His pair of wings is a fitting tribute to someone so important in his life.
Pulling me into his arms I melt into his chest, wrapping my arms around his waist and resting my head against where his heart beats slow and steady. Resting his head on mine, I feel a shudder go through him and I squeeze tighter for just a second. I can never understand loss like this…I've never lost anyone in such a tragic fashion so all I can do is let him take what he needs from me. Comfort.
After a few long minutes he lets go, with a long sigh and steps back.
"I'll be right back," his voice is thick with emotion and I let him go.
A few minutes later he reappears, and the whiff of smoke on his clothes lets me know he went outside, his hair is disheveled even more by his fingers, but his face is calm.
"Sorry for going all emo on you."
"It's more than alright. I understand…and it's September 5th…I know the memory must be stronger this time of year. You're celebrating her life with your ink…I don't know her but I like to think she'd like the idea. I'm honored you're letting me do it, Edward."
I reach out and squeeze his hand again, though this time we don't separate and he shows me around his place, and I take in the art on the walls. The animated way he describes his subjects, friends and family and the city around him, makes me smile. When he looks down at our joined hands, I feel myself flush but don't let go. Staring at his face I take in the feeling that even though we've literally just met a few hours ago, I feel like I've known him forever. He's funny, protective of me, his love for his family, his self deprecating humor matching my own sarcasm.
He smiled and reached down to kiss me softly, moving his hand through my hair and his finger trailing down my neck, following a design that disappeared near the hem of my shirt. His eyes met mine, and I saw excitement there, a burning question in his eyes, but he never asked it. He just licked his lips and held my hand in his again, pulling me towards the living room.
"Well, since we can't go out to eat, without a press conference, how bout I order something?" he asked, a teasing smile playing on his lips. I rolled my eyes and folded my arms over my chest as I plopped down on his couch.
"Sorry, I know it's annoying," I apologized, shaking my head as I looked down into my lap. I didn't even hear him come over, I just felt his lips attack mine as he slid over my body, pinning me to the couch. His lips were fierce, reassuring, and demanding as he kissed me, one hand in my hair, the other on the couch behind me. He moaned quietly into our kiss, that's when I squirmed under him, pulling him closer to me.
"I was just kidding, Bella. You know that right?" he asked, his brows furrowed and his eyes piercing. I nodded as his hands framed my face. He leaned down and kissed me again. Just once, soft and slow as he started to lift his body off mine and pull away from me. He walked back towards the kitchen to grab the phone, and a stack of menus. He sat back down next to me and we looked through them, deciding on Chinese food. He called it in, while I sat on his couch, smiling at him as he counted off everything we wanted, sometimes repeating it and rolling his eyes, when they couldn't keep up.
I stood up slowly and walked over to him, he swallowed thickly before he continued to speak into the phone, a little slower than before. I stared into his eyes as I smiled at him, biting my lip as I put my hands on his chest, moving my body to press against his. He placed his free hand on my hip as I dipped my head to run my nose along his neck, breathing in his intoxicating scent. I felt him shiver, then his voice cracked slightly as he continued to speak into the phone. I placed my lips to his neck, soft and lingering, before I moved down and kissed a trail to his throat. I watched his head tilt backwards as I sucked his adams apple into my mouth.
"Yeahyeah that's it, thanksbye," he blurted out before he hit the end button and dropped the phone on the counter behind him. "Fuck," he moaned, wrapping his arms around me to pull me to him. I felt one hand feel its way down to my ass where he grabbed roughly and pulled me up to him, even closer. "That was a sneaky move, Miss Swan," he smirked, his voice somewhere between lust and amusement. I laughed and pulled away from him, making him groan at the separation.
"How long til the food gets here? I'm starvin'." I sat down on the couch, pulling a pillow into my lap. He walked over, took my pillow, then proceeded to hit me with it. I squealed as I jumped up laughing, hitting him with a little black throw pillow, it was all I could find.
"Cute, Swan. Real cute," he teased dryly, dropping the pillow into my lap. I stuck my tongue out at him and he adjusted the situation in his pants, trying to hide his very prominent erection. "So… you wanna watch a movie or somethin?" he asked, his hand pulling at his sexy disastrous hair.
"Yeah sure… a movie," I smirked, falling backwards onto the couch, patting the spot right next to me. He licked his lips, and stalked towards me. He slid in next to me, snaking an arm around me, pulling me to him so he could kiss the top of my head. He grabbed the remote and hit a few buttons until a list of movies came up, paperview or some shit. We argued playfully for a minute until we decided on a horror movie. I snuggled into his side and didn't move until we heard a knock on the door, which made us both jump, not gonna lie. We chuckled to each other and he got up to get the door.
We ate Chinese food, read each others fortunes and watched scary movies until the early hours of the morning. We did of course, have the occasion make out session on his couch, and, in his bathroom, oh… and on the kitchen counter... whatever. It was an awesome night and we had this incredible bond, we just … fit.
** A/N **
This story was written for Jordan.
Happy Birthday Baby
Review Please ;)
Nicci & Nikka