Herro friends. Yes, this update has taken longer than the 2-4 weeks I promised, but I've been busy with other things. I released a new book-technically a rewrite of an old FF story on here, The Golden Giants Tour now called Rhythm, Chord & Malykhin-and have been hacking away at my next manuscript. The chapters I had written weren't the direction I wanted to go in (they weren't even close to the direction I wanted to go in. I must have been half-asleep when I wrote them.)

I've gotten a few emails about people wondering if I'm ever going to finish TD... guys, I swear, like I've sworn ten other times in the past in my author notes, that I'm going to finish this. It might take me a while but I will. This just isn't a priority for me, I'm sorry but finishing this is still the plan.

Anyway, blah, blah, blah. Enjoy the chapter!

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight but everything else about this bad boy is mine.

"That's the last time I listen to you."

Edward laughed from his spot next to me on the elevator. "It had good reviews," he said, trying to justify the terrible lunch we'd just had. Our waitress had taken ten minutes to take our drink orders, fifteen minutes to come back with said drinks and ask what we wanted to eat, and then our food had come out twenty minutes later... only to be completely wrong. Needless to say, we'd stuffed our faces with chips and salsa.

"Yeah, you're fired from choosing the next place we're going to eat," I snickered. This had been our third time going out to eat this week.

Last week, we'd gone twice; he'd been out of the office on two afternoons. The week before that, we'd gone once. As long as he was in the office, and didn't have a meeting, we went. Jasper had gone with us a couple of times but the rest of the time, it had just been the two of us.

It was fun. Hanging out with him was genuinely fun and easygoing. Usually we shared funny stories about our families, other times we cracked jokes about each other, and sometimes we complained over our coworkers. Mostly, he told me whatever crap Alec was bestowing on him.

"You can choose the next time," he smiled over just as the doors chimed open on a floor two below mine.

"Deal," I said, watching as three people entered the elevator. It was two older woman and an older man that I didn't recognize. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Edward tip his head down in a wordless greeting.

I smiled at Edward and he smiled at me in return, neither one of us saying a word as they settled into the corner furthest away from us. In no time at all, it beeped on my floor and I shot Edward a look as I stepped closer to the door. "I'll talk to you later," I said, unsure how much he'd want me to say in front of other people.

"Okay, Bella."

Bella. Ahh.

The doors closed and I smiled, a little awkward since I wasn't positive how much I wanted these strangers to know about my friendship with Mr. Cullen-Edward. I mean, I knew how much people gossiped, and I didn't really want them to gossip about us. Pushing the thought out of my head, I made my way to the bathroom on our floor and headed into the stall.

I had just finished doing my business and was in the process of zipping up my pants when the door to the bathroom opened. The soft clack-clack of two pairs of heels hit the tile flooring, immediately followed by, "…back already?"

"No," that was Jessica's whispered voice.

"I guess she thinks that now that she's dating the boss she can do whatever she wants."

And, that was me they were talking about. I knew. My gut knew it. My soul knew it.

"Oh, I don't know…"

"You think they're not dating?"

Since when were Jessica and Carmen on a first name basis, anyway?

"Oh, I don't know but they sure seem to go out to eat a lot. They email each other all the time too."

Carmen let out a low whistle. "Sounds like something to me."

"They might just be friends," she argued for me.

"He's still the CFO," Carmen added.

For a second, I thought about staying in the bathroom. For one single, tiny split second. Then I thought, why should I? I hadn't done anything wrong. Plus, what dumbass doesn't check to make sure the restroom is empty when you're talking shit about someone?

So I opened that stall door and smiled at both of them, my best condescending I heard everything you said, bitches smile. And Jessica, poor Jessica, looked like she wanted to throw up while Carmen just looked wide-eyed.

I washed my hands steadily and then dried them as they both just stood off to the side.

But I couldn't help but feeling just a little bit angry and frustrated that my coworkers were talking about me behind my back. Realistically, I knew that's what coworkers did.

They talked about you because it was something to do.

I still couldn't help but be annoyed over it.

Because who's business was it if I was friends with Edward? No one's. I didn't like that they made me feel sleazy about it when there was nothing sleazy about our friendship. Plus I wasn't freaking late getting back to work after lunch. It wasn't like us being friends gave me some kind of distinct advantage over anyone else—it didn't. Even if it did, neither one of us would abuse... anything.

I was so wrapped up in shooting death glares over at Jessica over the course of the next hour that I didn't see Jasper until he was standing over my desk, knocking on the partition.

He raised his eyebrows at me, holding a Snickers bar in his hand. "Are you all right? I said your name about three times."

I'm pretty sure I might have thrown a snarl in the general direction of Carmen's office before answering. "Yes." I paused. "No."

"You want to talk about it?"

Knowing full well that Nosey McNosey might be eavesdropping, I shrugged a shoulder. "I have two reports I need you to look over. I'll bring them by in a minute."

He gave me a funny face and nodded. It only took me a couple of minutes to collect what I wanted to show him—I hadn't been lying, I'd been planning on taking them later—and made my way to his office. Jasper was sitting behind his desk on his computer when I came in, making sure to leave the door slightly cracked before I got accused of messing around with him too.

Thrusting the paperwork at him, I took a seat on one of the chairs in front of his desk. "I overheard these hookers we work with talking about our buddy Edward and me."

"Who?" he asked as he took the reports and set them on his desk, already forgotten.

"Carmen and Jessica."

Jasper blinked. "Really? I didn't think Jessica talked to anyone."

I snorted. "Apparently, she talks to Carmen now." I shook my head in frustration and disgust. "I heard them in the bathroom. It was like high school all over again."

A small smile crept over his mouth. "I'm not surprised. Okay, maybe I'm a little surprised it's taken so long for them to start. You know it was unavoidable."

Was it unavoidable? If I wasn't aggravated, I would have thought yes. I guess it was bound to happen. But... "I know. I guess. It's still annoying."

"You're going to lunch with the CFO. You. Young, ex-assistant… spending time with the boss out in the open after you quit working with him." He waggled those blonde eyebrows at me. "People like to gossip."

Did I realize he had a point? Of course. He said exactly what I'd been thinking three seconds before; that didn't mean I had to like it. "It's still annoying. Don't they have anything better to do?"

We both looked at each other before simultaneously answering my stupid question, "No."

I sighed.

"It's part of the territory. You want to be friends with Mr. Cullen you need to face the music, Bella. It's going to happen no matter what. It's up to you whether you can live with it or not."

Something about his words rung hollowly in me. Whether I can live with it or not? "I'm not—" Was I going to put up with this crap for who knows how long, just to be friends with Edward? "I'm not going to stop being friends with him." I didn't care what they thought-not really. Plus I wasn't ten-years-old and we weren't having an affair.

We were two youngish, not horribly looking people who had once worked together-one person having a terrible reputation for being a dick and the other, not having a reputation at all-and we spent time together. It made sense, sure. It also made me defensive. Edward was my friend and it had taken us a long time to get to this point. I wasn't about to throw a perfectly good friendship away because of nosey bitches.

Jasper held up his hands. "I never said you were. I was just telling you that it's going to happen, Bella, and it's only the beginning. When people are bored, they make things up to entertain themselves and speculate. People are going to be saying you've been messing around for months, or that you're pregnant, or—"

"I get it. I get it."

Because I did get it.

It was just the beginning.