Disclaimer: Twilight and its characters are the property of Stephenie Meyer. This story, however, is mine. All similarities to real persons are just that—similarities. Please feel free to review or not. I just love reading and writing. Hope you enjoy this journey with me.
Many hugs go out to my betas, RaindropSoup and torisurfergirl. They've put up with my computer issues, ailments, and general procrastinations and they make my words, grammar and punctuation shine! XOXO
Lyrics are by from "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" by John Mayer.
"I can't believe you got me to do that!" Bella was laughing her head off, amazed that by some miracle, Edward had picked the perfect song from her favorite movie to play and that he even got her to dance a little with some of the regulars on the dance floor.
"Well, I'm glad you got to have a little fun. Seems you could have used it for a change." Edward threw his patented Tony Masen smile at her. Emmett had always said any lady would melt at the sight of it, and it seemed to be doing the trick this time too, as Bella seemed to finally be warming up to him.
It was the end of the night and the bar was closed. The only person there besides Edward and Bella was an older waitress named Shirley busing the tables of empty glasses and beer bottles. Shirley was a spry 64-year-old woman who had worked in the bar since Bella's granddad started running it in the 1950s. As much a fixture in The Swan Dive as the mahogany bar itself, pictures of Shirley were strewn across the walls spanning decades of live music that had been played in the bar with her posed in fancy dresses with tall men in cowboy hats and rhinestone studded suits.
Other than the sounds of clinking glass and the jukebox on low volume, it was quiet in the dimly lit bar while Edward sat reclined in a chair across from Bella, munching on peanuts as she tallied up the night's take.
"You don't look like you get to spend much time just having fun. I thought you'd enjoy getting out there on the dance floor."
A huge smile crossed Bella's face as she thought about just how much fun she did in fact have. It had been a long time since she'd had a chance to feel carefree and getting out on the dance floor with the rest of the crowd was just what the doctor ordered.
"I don't really get any free time anymore." She hesitated before continuing, "The Swan Dive pretty much takes up all of my free time these days. I've been running it with my dad, Charlie, for the last few years. He used to be a sheriff deputy, but retired a few years ago to help my granddad out with the bar after Gram died."
Bella continued to balance the cash on the table against the receipts in her hand, making notes in an old fashioned leather-bound ledger. "By that time, I'd just graduated from Cal Sate with a business degree without any future job prospects."
To Edwards's surprise, Bella produced a pair of black thick-framed glasses and perched them on her nose as she continued to work. He'd seen a lot of beautiful women in his time, all glittery dresses and big hair, but nothing beat the sight of Bella sitting across from him in the faint light, casually dressed, with her hair slipping out of her ponytail and those black glasses perched on her nose.
"Dad asked me to come in and help run the business side of things. You know: bookkeeping, taxes, employee records—that kind of stuff. Then one day, Granddad got sick with pneumonia. He couldn't take care of himself and run the bar, so Dad left the running of The Swan Dive to me, and here we are."
Edward was still curious about the role Jake played in her life—they were obviously extremely close. "How does Jake fit into all of this? He seems like he's a pretty important part of the business."
Bella's smile when she thought about the adventures she and Jake had together since they were kids lit up the dark space. "Jake and I grew up together, like brother and sister. Best buddies, really. Both of our dads worked together for the sheriff's department. Jake's dad retired last year and likes to spend his time with my dad and granddad, fishing and hunting when they get the chance. Jake was looking for a job after the car shop he was working at closed, so now he works here behind the bar. Sometimes he's an unofficial bouncer when things get a little…rowdy…but so far he's only had to intervene a few times."
Edward huffed in disbelief. "I don't see this place getting rowdy. Everyone here seems pretty laid back."
She nodded slowly. "They are for the most part. Sometimes college kids will come in here, thinking they're in a night club. They get loud and belligerent—the usual stuff."
"I just have to ask about the new keys. Was that because of a rowdy customer or…?" Edward let the question hang between them, recalling Bella's hesitation to talk about the new keys.
"No, actually, that was due to a rowdy ex-boyfriend."
"Ah-ha." Edward had figured it was something like that. "Do you want to tell me what happened?"
"Are you sure you want to hear this story?"
"I've got nothing keeping me from listening at this point, Bella. I did ask."
They were interrupted by Shirley coming up behind Bella and putting a couple more fresh beers on the table.
"Hey, Bella. I'm done for the night," Shirley interrupted. "Need anything before I leave?"
"No, Shirley, that's fine. Are you taking some food to Marcus? "
Shirley nodded. "The usual. A couple turkey sandwiches and some fruit."
"Good, that should take care of him until tomorrow night."
"It sure will, boss. Have a nice night. Don't work too hard." Shirley gave Bella a quick squeeze on her shoulder before she turned to leave for the night, Bella trailing behind her to lock up.
She flopped down into her chair and sighed, pushing her glasses up into her hair. "Where were we? Oh, right…James, the ex."
"Yep. What's the story with James the Ex?"
"James and I had been dating for about three months before Jake started working here. James had been pretty jealous of my friendship with Jake from the beginning, so it really shouldn't have come as a surprise that James would try to pick fights with me about him.
Bella sighed and rubbed her eyes before continuing. "One night, he came into the bar after getting loaded somewhere else and started picking a fight with me. He started shooting his mouth off about how he knew the real reasons I worked so late at the bar, that it had nothing to do with the actual business aspects of keeping The Swan Dive running. It was a Friday night with a full bar and loud music. A lot like tonight, you know?"
Edward watched as the memories of what had happened that night clouded her face. Her whole expression had changed. Gone was the happy, free-wheeling spirit that had graced his presence just a short while ago. In its place sat a little woman, terrified of revisiting memories she wished to forget.
Bella was getting a bit fidgety as she ruffled the edges of the ledger through her fingers. With her free hand she reached for one of the beers that Shirley had left and continued her story after a long, satisfying gulp.
"He started making a scene in the bar, and I told him he needed to leave. He came around the bar, grabbed my arms, and started shaking me and yelling in my face about how he knew I was nothing but a little slut who spent all her time opening her legs for anyone. How I'd probably fucked every man in the bar. Jake tried to step in, but James caught him off guard and punched him. Back then, there wasn't a phone that was easily accessible down here, so I jumped over the bar away from James and headed upstairs to my apartment to call the cops." She shook her head. "Stupid move, I know. Want to know another stupid thing? I didn't remember that James had a key, a key I had given him a few weeks before."
Edward wanted to reach out and comfort her in some small way. She had been afraid at the time—of course she had only been thinking of getting away from James and calling the cops. But Edward didn't know if his touch would be well received, and he didn't want to interrupt her. Plus, he was bracing himself; he could guess what had happened next wasn't going to be good.
Bella didn't look at him as she ran a hand through her hair and continued "I remember the door slamming open behind me as I ran up the stairs, and I had just made it to my apartment when James grabbed me from behind and started slamming me, face first, into the wall. He was yelling and screaming and…I must have blacked out at some point, because the next thing I knew, I was waking up in the hospital, tubes running into my arm with my dad on one side of the bed and Jake on the other, asleep."
"What?" Disbelieving, Edward sat ramrod straight in his chair. He hadn't known Bella long, just a few days really, but even he could tell that she was a no-nonsense kind of girl and that her ex-boyfriend James was a straight-up douchebag.
"Concussion and twelve stitches right across the middle of my forehead to prove it."
Edward leaned across the table to see if he could see any trace of the stiches in her forehead. Seeing none, he remarked, "Well, they must have done a good job because I can't see any sign of stiches."
Scooting her chair back, Bella got up from the table and walked around to stand beside Edward. He turned a little in his chair as she brushed her bangs back from her forehead. Leaning down in front of him, she drew a line across her forehead from the top of her left eyebrow to her hairline. "See right here?"
Distracted by the sight of Bella's formerly concealed breasts threatening to spill out of her top as she leaned over him, he replied. "I still don't really see anything."
She grabbed the arm of the chair to scoot Edward away from the table and stepped between his legs, as close to him as she could get, before bending down and shoving her head in his face for closer inspection.
"Look. Right here. See that pink line?" she asked.
"Bella, it's barely noticeable."
"That's not the point."
"Then what's the point, Bella?
Bella huffed impatiently. "The point—the point is that there is no point, I guess."
As she straightened, Edward grabbed her hand. "Hey. I wanna try something. Think you're up for it?"
Edward smirked and tugged her toward the jukebox. "Do you trust me?"
"I don't know if I should."
Edward dropped her hand as he searched through the song list. "This one should work. I know this one, even though I can't figure out for the life of me why you have it in a country bar jukebox."
A slow, bluesy guitar riff echoed across the empty dance floor as Edward reached for Bella's hand and placed it on his lower abdomen, close to his hip, letting it rest above his belt.
"Edward, what the hell are you doing?" she asked sarcastically.
He smiled down at her. "Humor me?"
She started giggling as Edward started swaying in front of her. "You look like a complete idiot dancing by yourself like that."
"Well, the point was to get you to dance with me. I think I may have picked up a few things the last two nights while watching from the stage."
She slapped a palm to her face as she tried to hold back the giggles. "Okay, okay!"
Edward drew her hand from her face and placed it on his shoulder as he took her other hand in his. They slowly swayed in place until Edward started taking a few steps back and forth, mimicking what he'd seen the other dancers doing in the bar.
I was the one you always dreamed of,
You were the one I tried to draw.
How dare you say it's nothing to me?
Baby, you're the only light I ever saw.
"So you want to tell me why John Mayer is on your jukebox?"
"I like him. A lot. His music is just…It gets me. You know what I mean?"
"He's definitely a cool guy. Kind of a douchebag, though."
"Oh, come on! He is not!"
Edward agreed. "Okay, he's not a total douche bag. He's a nice guy."
"And you would know this how?" Rolling her eyes and then looking him square in his, Bella asked, "What is the point of all this, anyway?"
"Well…" he started as he spun her out from him, catching Bella off guard and making her laugh. "You had a bad memory of something in this bar. I wanted to create a happier one. How am I doing?"
Don't you think we oughta know by now?
Don't you think we shoulda learned somehow?
She spun back toward him, a little off balance. "I think you've done a great job. Thank you."
As the song came to an end, he tipped his imaginary cowboy hat at her and led her back to the table to collect her things before heading upstairs for the night.
She looked tired and worn out from a long busy night, and Edward told Bella that he'd pick up what was left so that she could use the shared bathroom first.
She thanked him and gave a little wave as she headed through the bar to the stairs. Halfway up, she stopped and turned to thank him for the great night, but hesitated as she watched him dump their bottles in the trash.
Tense and brows furrowed, he seemed deep in thought. She wondered what he was thinking about. His own story he had yet to tell? Or her and what he learned tonight?
Part of her hoped for the latter; the other part wished he wouldn't. She already opened up to him like a can of worms, when she rarely told the story to anyone. Who knew what would happen if he took an interest her.
She shook her head and turned to go continue up the stairs. What did it matter? He'd go back to whatever life he had, while she stayed in her little town. And she was his boss. A relationship between them would be unethical, right? Right?
Edward let out a deep breath as he heard the door close behind her in the hall. That was the closest he'd been to a woman in a long time, and it was growing increasingly difficult for him to contain himself around such a naturally wonderful person like Bella.
His only problem at the moment, though, was trying to not imagine her in the shower upstairs.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter! Please let me know by leaving me a lovely review. You can always find me on Twitter: stephabelle77