A/N. So, yeah I was supposed to be on a break, but as some of you know, plot bunnies can attack at any time, and this is no different. :) This is such a change of style for me, so I'm terrified as I post this.
Perhaps I should warn you guys on this story. This is a completely different direction than you guys are used to. At it's core, my values stay the same...HEA, E/B, no cheating...blah, blah, blah, but I've been told that I should warn you that this gets a touch frustrating and angsty. It's frustrating, because it's shorter chapters AND it's only one POV per chapter. It's angsty on a limited basis. This is a short story. Seven chapters and that includes the Epi. The POV's will alternate between Edward and Bella until the end.
The inspiration from this is hilarious...definitely funnier than the fic itself, but I got this idea from an episode of Bosom Buddies. LOL Don't ask, but I swore I could do something else with it, so I started to write, and here you go. It became more drama than comedy, more pitiful than sitcom-like.
There are two songs that have inspired this fic, both by Lady Antebellum: Just a Kiss and If I Knew Then. Give them a listen if you want, because they do represent this story very well. However, you'll see the lyrics eventually. It's been so long since music has inspired me that I couldn't help but go with it. (You Angelward fans will understand that! LOL)
Okay, nervously, I'll let you get on with it...meet my sweet Edward Masen...
"Hey, Bell! I need..."
"It's in your inbox," she called back before I could finish.
I chuckled, shaking my head. "Thanks," I said, tugging the file folder that I'd been about to ask Bella for to me. "And can you..."
"Mr. Thomas is in the conference room right now," she interrupted. "He's having a cup of coffee, talking on his phone to his wife about dinner plans. He's fine for the moment."
"You want to lead the meeting for me, too?" I muttered sarcastically under my breath, because this was Emmett's forte, not mine.
"No," Bella laughed, leaning in the doorway of my office. "You're quite capable of getting this shit done on your own, Edward, even without Emmett."
I grinned, but ran a nervous hand through my hair. "This deal could make us, Bella."
"I know," she stated softly. "Mr. Thomas wouldn't be here if he didn't like your ideas better than anyone else's, so just get in there and show him we rock."
I sighed, pushing up my glasses and looking down at the drawings I'd been working on for this perspective client. It was a huge deal, because it would mean the redesign of several businesses. Mr. Thomas owned three strip malls in the Tampa Bay area, but they were all outdated, all in dire need of refurbishing, and all in areas that would get our name out there.
Emmett and I had started Cullen and Masen Design Firm straight out of college. We'd attended USF together, and we couldn't be two more different people, but we'd met in the dorms, forming a friendship instantly. Emmett was an outgoing, former football playing, big, booming personality. I was a number crunching computer geek that could run a CAD program blindfolded. Emmett had the people skills; I didn't. We were a little over a year out of school, struggling with a few small jobs, but we needed this one big break, and my partner was stuck on the other side of town in traffic.
I looked up to Bella, who was patiently waiting for me to get my shit together. She'd attended school with us. Why she'd followed us, I'd never know, but Emmett and I would've never survived our first year without her. She was fucking amazing. She never got rattled, never left us needing for anything, and always pushed us for bigger and better. She was our receptionist, our publicist, our cheerleader, our personal assistant, and our calm in the storm. She was also the best friend I'd ever had.
Between Bella and her brother, Jasper, we wouldn't have made it this far without them. She ran the office, and Jasper was our construction manager. And that was what made our firm unique, because not only did we design the buildings, we had our own construction crew to do the work.
"We can't wait on Em?" I asked, almost sounding like I was whining.
"No, you can't, Edward. You have to do this alone," she soothed, walking to my desk. She picked up the file, the drawings, and my hand, tugging me up to my feet. "Stop relying on Emmett. You're the brains of this operation. You don't need to schmooze people. Just show them what you can do," she said the whole time as she straightened my tie and sweater vest, shoved me into my coat, and even raked her fingers through my unruly hair. Lastly, she took my glasses off, cleaned them gently, only to put them back perfectly straight onto my face.
She smiled, and it was all sweet and sympathetic. "Stop it. I know you don't like this part, sweetie, but I'm thinking you can't go wrong by just being honest. Show him what you've done. Show him your ideas, and let him decide. The worst he can say is no, Edward, but play to your strengths."
I scoffed, rolling my eyes.
"You do have strengths," she laughed, smoothing my collar and forcing me to look at her. "Yes, you stay locked behind a computer all day. Yes, you can calculate shit in your head, but you also have an amazing eye for details. I'm well aware that you aren't going to sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl in front of a gazillion people, but you'd probably design the stadium it was playing in better than how it sits now," she said with a grin, giving me a wink. "Now, go show Mr. Thomas that you're all over this like white on rice, and then we'll all go celebrate at Phil's. It's been a long damn week with you guys, and I need to hang with my friends, not my bosses."
"Yes, ma'am," I sighed and groaned at the same time. With one last pleading glance to her over my shoulder as she shoved me out of my office, I said, "I'm going...I'm going."
"To Eddie!" Emmett boomed, holding his mug of beer up in the air at the table.
"Don't call me that!" I snapped, rolling my eyes at Bella's laugh. I hated that name.
"Fine... To Edward," he revised, still grinning. "Nice job, bud!"
"Edward!" the whole table chanted, and mugs clinked together.
"I told you that you could do it," Bella said with a smirk. "Say it, Edward..."
"I'll never doubt you again," I chuckled, leaning in to kiss the side of her head.
"That's right," she agreed, her head falling back with her laughter.
She smelled like flowers and something I could never quite place. She was a beautiful girl, and I never understood how someone hadn't snatched her up already. She'd dated a bit in college, but it was nothing ever serious.
"Hey, Edward," Jasper drawled from across the table, jerking his chin toward the bar's door. "Kate's here, dude."
Immediately, my head spun to take a look at the stunning woman that was walking through the door. She worked in the law office next door to Cullen and Masen as a legal assistant, and I'd wanted to ask her out for ages, but I could never find the courage.
"Do it, man," he urged, raising his eyebrows up and down.
"Fuck that. You need to get laid some time this decade," Emmett chuckled. "Yo, Katie! Come join us!"
Kate looked up and smiled, gesturing to the bar that she was going to order before coming over.
"Damn it," I groaned, shaking my head, because the girl made me almost sick with nerves. In fact, my palms had already broken out in a sweat the second I'd laid eyes on her. I pushed my glasses up, ran a slightly shaky hand through my hair, and swallowed nervously.
"You'll never know unless you try, Edward," Alice said from Jasper's side.
They'd been together since high school and had never even had a fight, as far as I knew. She was still in college, taking more classes to finish her Masters in Interior Design. She interned for us during her breaks and holidays, because she eventually wanted to add that element to our company. We were all for it, but we were willing to wait until she was finished.
"Hey, guys!" Kate beamed, walking up with a gorgeous blonde at her side. "This is my cousin, Rose. She just moved here from Atlanta to open her own styling salon."
"Well, hello, Rose," Emmett crooned, and Jasper and I rolled her eyes, because Emmett was shameless. "The name's Emmett Cullen. It's a pleasure to meet you."
"Rosalie Hale," she purred back, tilting her head at my business partner.
Fuck, if he didn't already have her hook, line, and sinker.
"Dear God," Bella snickered next to me as Rose blushed, but took the man's hand anyway.
"Let's play pool!" he suggested, and he looked over to the bar. "Phil! We're gonna rack 'em up in the back room, okay?"
"Sure, Em," Phil, the owner of our favorite sports bar, former professional baseball player, and Bella's step-father called back. "Don't make a mess!" he warned, raising an eyebrow our way.
"Yeah, yeah," Emmett chortled, waving us all to go with him.
"I'm out," Kate giggled, taking Jasper's vacated seat across from me.
"Hey, Bells!" Phil called from the bar. "Your mom's on the phone!"
"Okay," Bella sighed, rolling her eyes. "Five bucks says she got another computer virus again..." she muttered, before walking away and leaving me and Kate alone at the table as Jasper, Alice, Rose, and Emmett headed toward the game room.
"Celebrating, Edward?" Kate asked, gesturing to all the empty shot glasses, beer mugs, and half empty pitchers.
"Yeah, we...we won a pretty big client today," I murmured, looking more at my beer than her face.
"Nice job!" she praised, and I felt the blush creep up my face before I could blink.
I nodded, pushing my glasses up. "Thanks," I sighed. "So what's new with you?" I asked, trying to get the attention off of me and onto her.
"I just found out the guy I've been seeing has been cheating on me for the last few months." She huffed an incredulous laugh, rolling her eyes. "That's why Rose and I are out tonight. It's sort of a...moving on thing."
"Well, that's good...that you...that you're moving on," I sputtered idiotically, but she suddenly exploded.
"We were talking marriage!" she stated, her voice almost a growl, and then she proceeded to tell me all about it. She'd started getting suspicious when her lawyer boyfriend started taking late night calls, staying late at the office, and smelling freshly showered after a simple lunch with a "client." After I received all the details of that, I grimaced when her talk turned to man-hating. We were all dogs, we were all after one thing, and not one of us could be trusted.
At one point, she was in tears, and I slid a bar napkin across the table toward her. She thanked me, only to continue to berate my gender. I stayed quiet, only hmming and ahhing when necessary.
I glanced around the room as she continued to talk, watching Bella lean against the bar with the phone to her ear. I smirked when she rolled her eyes and shook her head at whatever her mother was babbling about in her ear. I gazed into the game room, seeing that the game of pool was just about over, which caused my attention to snap back to Kate.
"I just don't understand it, Edward," Kate sniffled, shaking her head. "I thought Brad leaving his wife was a good thing."
"Well, theoretically speaking," I said, clearing my throat, "if you can take someone away from their significant other, then it only goes to reason that they can be taken away from you." I shrugged when she gazed up at me, but it was only rational thinking. She was quiet for a moment, and I pointed behind her. "Looks like the game is over," I muttered, internally berating myself for basically telling her that dating a married man was cheating and stupid.
"Oh, good," she sighed, downing the rest of her beer quickly.
"Hey, um... Would you like to go... I mean, can I take you out some time?" I asked her, not wanting any of my friends to hear this shit.
"Oh, you're sweet, Edward," she crooned, getting up and kissing my cheek. "I'm going to take a break from the dating scene for a while. But we can still be friends, right?"
I wanted to grimace, wanted to tell her friends were for chumps, and I wanted to tell her that I wouldn't cheat on her, but none of it would come out. I wanted to tell her that she was sexy and deserved better than cheating assholes, but I was already deflated.
"Yeah, right... friends," I muttered, downing the rest of my beer. "Sure, that's great."
She gripped my hand, giving it a squeeze. "You're a great listener, honey. Thanks for letting me rant."
I stood up when she left me to join her cousin and my friends in the game room, pushing my glasses up my nose, and looked to Bella as she walked back to the table. "I'm heading home. Need a ride?" I asked, because she'd left her car at her apartment.
"Yeah, sure," she murmured, frowning up at me. "You okay, Edward?"
"I'm fine," I said as I held the door for her. Unfortunately, it came out more harshly than I'd meant it to.
"You don't sound fine," she muttered once we were in the car.
"I just..." I groaned, my head falling back to the headrest of the car. "I just got...humiliated."
"Oh," she sighed, grimacing just a bit, and her nose wrinkled in an adorable way. "Kate?" she verified, and I nodded. "What did she say?"
"That we could be...friends," I said, sneering on the last word.
"Well, then, she's blind, Edward," Bella stated simply, shrugging when I rolled my head to look at her. "If she can't see you for how awesome you are, then she's not worth the time, sweetie."
I pursed my lips at her and shook my head. "I guess, Bell."
"Don't guess. Believe it," she urged, shoving my shoulder a bit. "Now, let's celebrate the right way. Let's grab some terrible drive-thru and eat it watching Lord of the Rings."
I grinned, broke into a laugh, and nodded, because Bella knew me so well. "Okay, Sam," I chuckled.
"I don't get it," I sighed, falling onto Bella's sofa. "Emmett can walk into a room, treat a woman like a Neanderthal, and he comes out a winner."
Bella snorted into a giggle, sitting down next to me and curling her legs under her. "Okay, first of all...that's not winning. Have you actually seen the women Em ends up with?" she asked, raising an eyebrow at me.
"Yeah, they're hot," I grumbled, picking at a string on my sweater vest.
"And dumb...and needy...and clingy...and been stuck more times than a pin cushion," she added, almost with a growl. "They're walking petrie dishes. Is that what you want?"
"No..." I huffed, knowing she was right. "I just want..."
"Something more than friendship," she finished for me, and I turned to nod at her. "God, Edward," she groaned, cupping my face. "You're way too special to waste this sweet face, that smart brain, and that very pretty smile on someone so vapid that they can barely remember their own home address. Please don't be like Emmett. There's someone out there for you. I promise."
"You think my smile's pretty?" I asked, shocked at this admission from her, because she'd never said anything about my looks before.
Bella giggled, nodding slowly. "Yeah, silly. So don't worry about Kate. There's probably a reason Brandon cheated on her."
We were quiet for a moment, the movie playing endlessly in the background, because we didn't need to really watch it. We'd seen it more times than I could count. We'd studied for finals, planned Cullen and Masen, and solved all the worlds problems, all while Hobbits were chased by black hooded creatures on horses.
I turned to look at Bella. "Why don't you date?"
She laughed once and tilted her head at me. "I do. I just don't bring them around you and Emmett. Em tends to be..."
"Right." Her eyes drifted to the TV, but she watched it unseeingly. "Besides, Riley was the last guy I went out with," she said, sighing deeply and turning back to me.
"Bell, that was a year ago," I pointed out, sitting up straighter.
"Taking care of you and Em is a twenty-four-seven job, Edward," she chuckled, like it didn't bother her at all. "Riley was...handsome, but he didn't get me. You two understand me." She shrugged a shoulder, but turned fully my way, this time shutting off the TV. "This is really bothering you, isn't it?"
"I guess," I hedged, copying her shrug. "I'm twenty-four-years-old, and I've never even had a girlfriend. You're the only girl that doesn't make me nervous. I haven't been with anyone since freshman year, and I still suspect that Emmett put the girl up to it at that party."
Bella sighed, scooted closer, and picked up my hand. "No, he didn't," she chuckled, squeezing my hand. "Haley liked you."
"Yeah," she sighed, still smiling. "Yeah, but she hated that you and I were friends," she stated with a smirk. "Look, sweetie, you need to figure out what it is that you want in a girlfriend. Kate's not it. Trust me. She's beautiful, yes, but she also uses her men like fashion accessories. They are to be seen and not heard."
I snorted, rolling my eyes.
"Because if this is just about sex..."
"No!" I gasped, shaking my head. "Yeah, that's a part of it, but for once, I'd just like to be...noticed. I know what I am, Bell. I know I'm not exactly GQ, and I know I'd rather quote statistics than discuss pop culture. I'm skinny and like sci-fi movies..."
She grinned, but it wasn't in a teasing manner. "You're not skinny, Edward. You ride your bike to work three times a week. You're lean, yes, but toned. You have your own unique style of dressing, but it's just you. And you're extremely smart. Please don't apologize to anyone for that. Intelligence is unbelievably attractive, sweetie. You don't see yourself the right way."
I rolled my eyes at all that she was saying, because she always seemed to see the brighter shit in life, and I just couldn't grasp it at the moment.
She groaned, shaking her head, and I noticed that her cheeks were a touch pink. "You don't see yourself the way that I see you."
Staring at her, I realized that she wasn't meeting my gaze. "Bell?" I asked, my voice almost a whisper, because she sounded like she was trying to tell me something, but it couldn't be true.
Bella was stunning, with dark hair and dark eyes. She could hold her own with Emmett and his boisterous ways, but she could talk computers and sci-fi movies with me for an entire weekend without stopping. She turned heads everywhere we went, but she never gave them a second thought. Her last boyfriend, Riley, was a simple-minded guy that looked like an underwear model. What could she possibly see in me? What if she saw more in me than she actually lead on? What if there was more there than friendship?
And I found myself really looking at her. I'd seen her in various states of dress, from pajamas to dresses. She had a killer body in jeans and shorts, but was even more appealing in sweats like she was wearing right then. I'd known her since we first moved into the dorms at college, yet no matter what, she was the only girl I never got nervous around, even from the very beginning. When I first met her, I was jealous of her easiness around others, how guys flirted with her all the time, because I'd latched onto her immediately. We were in some of the same classes, watched most of the same movies, and had met Emmett at the same time – the day we all moved in. The ease of our friendship made me grab on and not want to let go of her, but did that mean that it was something else?
"You're my best friend, Edward..." she whispered softly, looking up at me with a pain-filled expression, and suddenly, my quick little fantasy was dashed.
"Right," I huffed with a nod. "Friends."
There was that damn word again. I was pretty sure I hated it.
"I have to go," I said, standing abruptly.
"Okay," she answered, and she looked just a bit hurt at my sudden leaving.
"I'll see you at work Monday," I said, grabbing my coat and walking out the door. I pulled my phone out of my pocket, because there was only one person that could help me now.
A/N... Oh dear...Edward's had pretty bad day. Next up, Bella gets her say in, not to mention more of her opinion on Kate. And...Why did Kate really turn him down?
I need to thank the usual suspects...JenRar for beta'ing and totally yelling at me about this story. To GooberLou and MedusaInNY for pre-reading this little fic, because I'm still frantic about it.
Okay, so let me hear you. I don't usually reply to reviews, but I will post my traditional twice a week. This story is complete, so the next posting will be on Wednesday. :) See you then... Later! :)