Hi guys. I'm sorry it's taken me so long. A big thank you to our new prereader Haley, and the magnificent, HollettLA, for their help. Enjoy! xo-Mariana
Why was is it that every time I really needed something, I couldn't find it?
My head had been pounding all day. From the moment I'd woken up, I had started battling a dull throb that quickly intensified to a pain that could only be compared to an earthquake in my skull, all in a matter of a couple of hours. For some reason, there wasn't a single bottle of Excedrin, Advil, or even any generic kind of pain killer around. I usually didn't take any medicine if I could avoid it, but I couldn't anymore. I wanted to throw up and specifically aim at Jasper if possible.
"You all right, boss?" Riley asked from his spot at the door frame. He was holding a file underneath one arm while he frowned in my direction.
The lights in my office were dimmed, and I'm sure my face was so pale I could've passed for a ghost. "I have a migraine," I mumbled and even then my words sounded too loud in my ears.
"You don't have any Tylenol on you?"
I settled on a grunt to answer his question. All I wanted to do was throw up or saw off my head, whichever got the job done quicker.
"Want me to take you home?"
I wanted to tell him no, but I couldn't. I couldn't remember ever having a headache that bad, and it was pretty useless for me to stay at Green if I wouldn't be able to get anything done. Riley had been inputting the amounts to our weekly balance sheet while I'd been moping around. Even though he hadn't been with us for longer than two weeks, I already felt a lot better having his help around the office for little things that I'd rather not deal with.
Knowing I could go home right then, on a Friday of all days, felt like a weight off my shoulders. So I didn't hesitate more than a second before telling him, "Yes." There was no way in hell I'd be able to ride all the way back home with the way I was feeling. I'd probably pass out or throw up on someone who wasn't my best friend and wouldn't easily forgive me for it. Grabbing my helmet, messenger bag, and keys, I moved like a zombie through the long hallway toward the reception area where Riley would meet me.
"Edward," Esme whined from her spot behind her desk. "Do you want me to call Carlisle?"
I couldn't even bother to shake my head. "No, Riley is taking me home. Can you close up tonight, please?"
"Of course." She made a humming noise in her throat before piping up again, "You're coming tomorrow though, right? As long as you're feeling better?"
The faint reminder that I'd agreed to go to her house for a dinner party the next day swam through my brain softly. "I'll be there, Es."
"Are you bringing a date?" she asked with so much hope in her voice that it would make me go running to find one—if I hadn't already—just to avoid disappointing her.
Not that anyone could really count Tanya Denali as a real date, but Esme didn't have to know that was who I was bringing over.
"I am," I muttered, squeezing my eyes closed while she squealed in excitement.
The door to the office opened when I had them closed, and I heard a voice make a groaning noise of disapproval in my direction.
"What the hell is wrong with you, bro?" Jasper's all too familiar voice questioned from a few feet away. "You look like shit."
"He has a migraine, Jasper. Don't be a dick." Esme chastised him in a soft voice that didn't make me cringe. An angel, she truly was an angel.
"Pussy," he snickered.
It was a sign of how crappy I felt that I couldn't bring myself to respond. Riley tapped my elbow to let me know he was ready, and I just waved a goodbye to my sister-in-law and best friend. It was only when I knew we were close to my two-bedroom apartment that I let myself do more than give him directions to my place. I asked him to finish a couple of things I needed done before the weekend, and then walked into my apartment where I passed out on and off for the next fifteen hours. The lights were off and I found myself only getting up to drink water and pee. The pain in my head had gotten a little bit better before I felt well enough to eat something.
I took it easy that day and hung around my apartment, cleaning my bathroom with products that—thank you, Jesus—were green products and didn't really smell. I finished my laundry and read some of the books I'd picked up at the library the day that I saw Bella.
Bella and her long, brown hair and perfect, pretty face. I could honestly say that I was really disappointed she couldn't come with me tonight to Esme's. I don't think that I'd imagined that there was something between us that day. When she'd said she couldn't go, it felt like someone had let out the air of the tires on my bike. I had the dinner on the top of my mind when I'd stopped at Brandon and Denali, my accountants' office, on the way back from the library.
Alice Brandon and Tanya Denali had been my accountants from the moment I even thought of starting Green Couriers. I'd met Alice back when I was going to school in Tacoma, and even though I'd quit the program, she'd stuck it out and finished her accounting degree. Little did either one of us know, but she'd meet Tanya Denali after her final CPA exam and according to Alice, it was "love at first breast." Not that I really found her that attractive, but Tanya's tits were larger than my head. The girls had been together ever since.
It was a complete accident that I even brought up Esme's dinner party to them, but Alice was on my ass about finding growing old and alone when I told her about Bella in passing and how she'd declined my invitation. Instead, she pawned Tanya off on me and told me to have a good time.
The simple mention of her name could make a hard-core feminist cower in fear. At six-feet tall, with a classical face and a figure that would make any man weep, she was the epitome of beautiful. Until you got to know her.
Tanya had the worst temper I'd ever seen. She was pushy, bossy, vicious, self-righteous, and just a pain in the ass. She didn't take shit from anyone and would rip assholes left and right when things didn't go her way. Like the time I'd gone out to celebrate her birthday with Alice and Jasper. The waiter had messed up Alice's order, and Tanya had thrown the biggest fit in the universe. Needless to say, that was the last time I went out with them. I liked a woman who knew what she wanted, but Tanya could possibly turn me off from women for the rest of my life if I hung out with her long enough.
I really didn't see what Alice loved about her but I related to her as a female Shrek. Someone had to love the woman buried deep, deep, deep underneath her snappy attitude.
Yet, I'd somehow gotten set up to go do something with her. Alone. I was going to have to remember this incident when Alice's birthday came along.
We'd agreed that she could pick me up at my apartment because the chances of rain were pretty high that day, and I'd try to get Carlisle to drive me back or I'd catch a cab. At six-fifteen, I heard a car honk from the street and I ran out. Tanya was sitting behind the wheel of her brand new Chevy Volt, tapping her fingers impatiently on the steering wheel.
"Hi Ed-nerd," she greeted me as soon as I slid into the seat.
I rolled my eyes before leaning over her console to give her a one-armed hug. "Thanks for coming with me."
She sighed before waving a hand in the air dismissively, putting the car into drive. "Yeah, yeah. You're welcome. Where are we going?"
It should be noted that I definitely preferred Alice over Tanya. They were polar opposites in every way possible, but I think that's why they worked out. I couldn't imagine someone with less patience than Alice dealing with the reddish-blonde next to me.
"Is your right hand still going strong?" she laughed a few minutes into the drive.
Scowling, I shook my head and looked away. It seemed like every female in my life was all too aware that I hadn't been in a relationship in a while. The only difference was that Esme at least had a little more class than Tanya on that subject. "Jesus. None of your business."
Tanya laughed. "What? It's a legitimate question. Don't be so uptight." She did some weird shimmy thing with her shoulders to the music on the radio before smirking. "But I guess that makes a ton of sense if you're working out that right hand religiously."
I groaned and ignored her the rest of the way to the house. Luckily they only lived about ten miles away so we made it in no time. I noticed that there was only one other car in the driveway since Esme and Carlisle parked their hybrids in the garage. I got out of the car and met Tanya by the trunk where she slipped her hand into the crook of my elbow and we walked toward the house. We didn't even need to knock before the door was flung open and Esme stood there, smiling brightly at me before looking in the direction of my "date." Her expression deflated right as she smirked.
I really couldn't help but snicker at the defeated look on Esme's face. She knew Tanya just as well as I did. She knew that there was a better chance of her getting hit on than there was of me getting hit on tonight. Actually, I'd probably be the last person that Tanya would ever even consider procreating with. She had a thing against gingers, and the fact that I had a dick gave me two strikes against my name.
My sister-in-law ushered us in, waving us toward the living room where Carlisle was sitting with their dog on his lap.
"Baby brother." He smiled as he pushed their overweight, panting English Bulldog off his lap.
Carlisle, my brother who looked like a mirror image of our mom, came toward me to give me a hug. We'd always gotten along really well, despite the fact that he was four—or was it five?—years older than me. Now that our parents were off enjoying their lives without us, he was my only family and we tried to see each other as often as possible.
"Hey," I told him, slapping his back gently.
Tanya came into the room, greeting Carlisle with a hug and a kiss, which was a lot more than I'd gotten. I wondered why I'd even bothered bringing her if she was going to treat everyone better than me. Soon enough, she wandered off with Esme to do God knows what in the kitchen, leaving my brother and me alone to talk about how Green was going and giving me a chance to tell him about how Riley and James were doing. It was mindless; Esme had told him everything. He probably knew more about my newest employees than I did since she had gotten to know them better than I did.
"I like your date," he chuckled with a smirk.
I groaned. "Blame your wife. I didn't want to get surprised coming over and having an arranged marriage set up."
Carlisle laughed. "Too late. She's been saving for your dowry for a while."
The doorbell rang, and Esme scurried over to the door, opening it up before she squealed. I recognized the low, deep sound of Emmett's voice coming from the foyer. We'd been friends for the last few years, but it wasn't often enough that I got to see him. Carlisle and I got up and—holy shit.
"Edward?" the pretty brunette standing at the entrance to the living room asked.
I blinked twice, making sure I wasn't imagining Bella standing there in a simple, navy dress with those wide, coffee-colored eyes locked on me in surprise.
"What are you doing here?" she asked breathlessly.
I smiled at her bluntness, reminding me of the first time we'd met. "I'm here for dinner." Pointing at Carlisle, who was standing right next to me, I smiled even bigger. "This is my brother."
Bella smiled, biting her lip as she took a couple steps closer. "I know Esme," she explained. "We yoga together." She hesitated. "Well, we go to yoga together."
My brother cleared his throat and closed the distance between himself and Bella, extending a hand out in her direction. "He doesn't have any manners, I'm sorry. I'm Carlisle, Esme's husband."
When she took his hand, her eyes darted over to me. "It's nice to meet you. I'm Bella."
"You two know each other?" he asked, glancing back and forth between Bella and me.
"Bella works for Emmett," I explained to him. He already knew that I delivered for Masen Peter.
He nodded but Emmett and Rosalie walked in right then, exclaiming a "hello" to my brother. I can't really even remember us greeting each other because I was busy looking at Bella the entire time. She was smiling, but by the twitch in her jaw, I could tell she was trying to rein it in for whatever reason. Each time she caught me looking at her, she'd smile even bigger for a split second before containing it.
"This is so weird," she whispered to me the moment she had a chance to side-step her way toward me.
I nodded and grinned. "Yeah, it is." My eyes grazed down the curve of her hip, over the soft-looking material of her dress, and down to the long legs that peeked out from the bottom. "You look really pretty."
Bella blushed a shade of red that seemed completely unnatural. "Thank you," she replied in a soft voice. "You look, umm, really handsome, too." Her voice went slightly higher at the end, eyes darting in the opposite direction of where I was.
God, this girl was just too fucking cute for her own good. "Thanks. I would've dressed up nicer if I would've known you'd be here, though."
Her eyes went wider as she sucked in a breath of air. "I—well—thank you?"
"I'm glad you're here, you should see—"
Tanya bounded into the living room then, holding a glass of red wine in one hand and a glass of water in the other. "Ed-nerd, want to share this wine with me? I can't drink it all. If I do, we're spending the night here."
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Bella flinch at Tanya's words.
"No thanks. I can drive us back if you want to, and then Alice can come pick you up." I offered the worst date in the universe, looking at Bella's tight face the entire time.
"You aren't any fun." She made a face at me before catching sight of the female standing next to me.
"Bella? This is my friend, Tanya." I said, introducing her to the blonde in front of me. "Tanya, this is Bella," I finished. I didn't want to call her my friend because there definitely wasn't anything friendly about the way I thought of Bella, and I remembered that she probably overheard my conversation with Alice about her.
Tanya grinned, extending her hand. "Nice to meet you, Bella."
"Oh, nice to meet you too," she replied.
A sip of red wine later, Tanya was ducking her head in toward Bella. "Are you straight?"
You've got to be kidding me.
As always I hope you enjoyed this chapter, I know I did! I can't say enough now much I love writing with Mariana. Check out her other stories, they are all fabulous. See you soon, XOXOX Lucy :-)