I paced back and forth in the kitchen, cell phone clenched firmly in my right hand. For about the millionth time in the past thirty minutes I glanced at the clock.
10:34 pm. Where the hell was he? He was supposed to have returned around three hours ago. Eight o'clock at the latest, he had told me. But that had been before I had screwed everything up and made him late for work; which, I realized, had been entirely my fault.
I had no excuse except for the single fact that I had lost track of the time, thanks to Jake and his uncanny ability to make me feel like a kid again.
A kid who, quite obviously, had zero responsibilities.
I groaned softly and mentally thumped Jake upside the head. I didn't regret going to see him; after all, the visit had heightened my mood, at least temporarily. But I had to keep in mind just who the most important person in my life was right now.
I had to make her my first priority. No more losing track of time and forgetting schedules. That was a one-time only mistake of stupidity. I had to make this work…no, I would make this work.
Feeling my heart pound with sudden determination, I lifted the phone and dialed Rose's number.
She answered on the fifth ring, offering an unintelligible response.
"Oh god, you're not having sex, are you?" I questioned tentatively, sounding as mortified as I felt.
"Bella?" Rose's sleepy voice perked up a bit. "What's up? And no, I'm not having sex." Her laugh flowed through the other line like a perfect melody, hitting all the right notes, "Trust me, you'd knew if I were, I'd be-"
"Not telling your best friend about it," I quickly said, grimacing. "Honestly Rose, I'd rather not hear about what you do during sex."
Rose laughed her perfect melody once more and replied, "Got it. So why are you calling me so late?"
"I need to ask you a favor," I began, "I hope you won't mind."
"In other words, I probably will."
I shook my head once and asked, "Could you watch Ezzy for a little bit? I promise it won't be for long, I just need to…to take care of something in town."
"What kind of something?"
I narrowed my eyes then sighed and decided to tell her the truth. What the hell. "It's Edward. He's not home yet and he was supposed to be back three and a half hours ago."
"Did you try his cell?"
"Yes, several times," I said, biting my lip.
"Maybe he's just having a drink with some of his buddies. Don't be so worried," Rose said reassuringly.
"I'm not worried," I huffed, speaking a bit louder than I had meant. I closed my eyes and leaned against the counter, adding softly this time, "Edward and I…we're not on the greatest of terms right now. I'd really like to make things right with us and I can't do that sitting around."
"It's called patience, Bella," Rose replied, sounding amused.
"To hell with patience. Will you please babysit Ezzy for a bit? You won't have to do much, just check on her every now and then. She's already asleep."
I smiled in relief when Rose gave me the answer I had been hoping for.
"I'll be over in ten."
After Rose arrived to watch over Ezzy, I hopped into my car and headed into town. Fatigue caused my eyelids to droop and with a quick shake of my head I turned on the radio.
Ho! Hey! Ho! Hey! I belong with you, you belong with me…
"My sweeeeetheeeaaart," I sang along, horribly off-key and louder than usual in an attempt to wake myself up a little. I mentally cursed Edward for making me go out so late. I absolutely hated driving in the dark and always had ever since I was a teenager.
I doubted this anxiety would ever go away, especially now after what had happened to Alice and Jasper. Grimacing, I tightened my grip on the wheel. I had to think of something else.
If Edward wasn't where I thought he'd be then I was most definitely screwed. I may not know much about Edward (except, of course, that he was an insufferable dickhead), but I did happen to know his favorite drinking spot. It was the same bar Alice and I used to go to every now and then over the weekends…I bit down on my lip as a wave of grief crashed over me, momentarily halting my train of thought.
Damn him. Damn Edward for…for…for what? I clenched my hands so tightly around the steering wheel my knuckles began to turn white. I didn't even know why I was so angry. But the anger was surely present, traveling through my body swifter than a hungry cheetah chasing its prey.
Once I arrived in town I parked in the lot on the corner of 7th and Peachtree Street. I sat in the car for a moment, contemplating on what I was going to do once I was actually in there. I had to devise some sort of plan to get Edward home just in case he chose not to come willingly. It would be a miracle if he was even inside The Vortex at all.
No, I had to think positive. Running a hand through my hair, I blew out a sigh before finally getting out of the car. Zipping up my jacket, I quickly crossed the street and walked up to the bouncer standing by the entrance to the bar. After showing him my ID I slipped inside and pushed my way through the throng of people, towards the bar.
I caught sight of him almost immediately. It was kind of hard not to, what with all the obnoxiously loud cheering and shouting going on. He was surrounded by a group of his friends, chugging down a shot as they pounded their fists against the counter. I raised an eyebrow and glanced over at the bartender who stood nearby looking pissed and more than ready to intervene.
I waved to get his attention. Once it was captured I pointed to the source of the commotion and hollered above the noise, "How long have they been at it?"
"Long enough," he nearly growled, "Do you know him?" He jerked his head in Edward's direction.
"Unfortunately, yes," I replied, smiling an apology. "Don't worry; I'll get him out of your hair."
"About damn time," he grumbled before slapping a bar towel over his shoulder and ambling over to the other end of the bar.
I politely tapped one of Edward's friends on the shoulder and flashed him a pleasant smile as he turned around. "Hi, I need to get through."
"Suuure thing, babe," he slurred, giving me a wink as he moved to the side. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and stepped forward, taking the empty seat beside Edward.
"Edward, it's time to go home," I said, placing my hand gently on his arm, "Come on."
He glanced over at me lazily, his bloodshot eyes boring into mine as he slurred, "I'm not going…anywhere…"
"Edward, you're drunk," I said in a firm, matter-of-fact tone, "Let's go home." I tugged lightly on his arm and pleaded him with my eyes.
He snatched his arm away and shot me a malevolent glare. "Fuck off," he mumbled.
Apparently this wasn't going to be easy. Narrowing my eyes, I stood up and planted a hand on my hip. "Edward, they're going to kick you out if you stay any longer." I gestured towards the bartender and added seriously, "They've had enough."
He continued to glare at me. "Yeah? And what about…you?"
I blinked in confusion and tilted my head slightly. "What about me, Edward?" I asked patiently.
"Have you…had enough?" Edward questioned unintelligibly, clenching his hand tighter around his empty shot glass.
I stared at him, wondering what the hell had possessed him to ask such a question. It was like he was trying to push me away, which was ridiculous because he had nowhere to push me. I've already been pushed to the limit as far as stress was concerned and if I wasn't careful I'd be falling off the edge in no time.
"Edward, I can't…I can't talk to you when you're like this," I said, biting my lip. "Come on, I'm tired. Let's just go home and we can discuss it in the morning. Okay?"
"I'd rather…not," he slurred, and with a devilish smirk swiveled his seat around to face his friends. My scorching gaze burned a hole in his back and I clenched my hands into fists.
I could feel the edge getting close…dangerously close. But I wasn't about to let myself fall. Oh no, not this time.
Drunk Bucket Boy was going down.
Gripping the edge of his seat I spun him back around. Before he could so as open his mouth to protest I grabbed a fistful of his white t-shirt and yanked him off the seat. He stumbled forward, arms flailing in all directions. Sensing that he was probably too drunk to walk, I wrapped one of my arms around him for support and started pulling him towards the door.
He leaned into me and I gasped, realizing too late that his weight was a little more than I could handle. I staggered to the side and crashed heavily into the wall. Edward's body fell flat against mine and we immediately knocked heads, pain shooting through me hard and fast.
"Fuck!" I exclaimed, shoving him off me. He let out a groan and slid down the wall onto the ground.
"We seriously need to stop this…this head butting thing," I muttered, rubbing my aching head with a frown. This situation was becoming utterly ridiculous.
"Hey, need some help getting him to your car?"
I lifted my head and glanced over to see the bartender staring at me with a raised eyebrow. I gazed at him for a moment, taking in his short sandy blond hair, average height and stunningly clear blue eyes. Whoa, how had I not noticed those eyes before?
"Um…yeah, yeah sure," I replied, nodding my head, "that'd be great."
"Looked like you needed a little assistance," he said jokingly, stepping forward to take Edward's arm and throw it over his shoulder.
"He doesn't usually get this drunk," I replied, shooting him a look. What was his name again? It bothered me that I couldn't remember. Pursing my lips, I lifted Edward's other arm over my shoulder and we made our way out of the bar.
"So why now?" the blond bartender asked as we looked both ways before crossing the street.
"It's…complicated," I said, grimacing at how elusive that had sounded. I attempted to explain. "We're going through a lot right now and well…it's been really tough."
"Are you two…together?" he asked and glanced towards me.
"No!" Edward and I exclaimed simultaneously.
I then heard Edward let out an obnoxious snort and I rolled my eyes at him in response.
The blond, blue-eyed bartender chuckled at us and I sighed as we finally approached the car. I took the keys out of my pocket and unlocked it before opening the passenger door.
"All right, in you go, bucket boy." I lowered his arm off my shoulder and pushed him gently into the car. Once he was inside I slammed the door shut and turned around to face –
"Mike," he introduced, reaching his hand out and flashing me a charming smile with dimples dancing on each cheek. Oh, he was charming, all right.
I smiled back and gazed into his clear baby blue eyes. "Bella," I replied, shaking his hand, "it's nice to meet you. And thanks."
"No problem, I'm glad I could help." He grinned and lifted his hand in farewell. "I'll see you around, Bella."
I watched him walk away for a moment before I realized that I was holding something in my hand. It felt like paper.
Confused, I glanced down and opened my hand. I was right; it was a piece of paper…with ten digits scribbled in black ink.
"You've got to be kidding me," I said, staring down at the paper in downright astonishment. Shaking my head, I turned around and headed towards the driver's side, slipping the number in the back pocket of my jeans. I doubted I would ever use it, but hey, you never know.
I climbed into my car and slammed the door shut. "Let's get outta here before the night gets any crazier," I said mainly to myself and started the engine. Just as I was about to pull out of the parking spot I glanced over at Edward and smiled slightly at the sight of him. His arms were crossed against his chest with his cheek smashed against the window, no doubt snoring like a baby. He looked irrevocably handsome, as always, but that wasn't what got me. For the first time in a long time he looked…peaceful.
And I suddenly found it hard to look away.
"You're back! Finally, what took – oh my god."
Rose stared at Edward in disgust before flicking me a glance. "He is so wasted."
"Oh, thanks. I never would have guessed," I stated with a roll of my eyes, stepping into the house. "Come on and help me get him to the couch."
We helped Edward stumble his way down the hallway and into the living room. Once we made it to the couch Rose and I dropped him onto the soft cushions and he immediately plopped his head on top of Alice's white fifty dollar throw pillows.
"Well then," Rose said, brushing her hands together, "My work here is done. Later, Bella babe." She grabbed her purse from the end table beside the couch and started towards the door. "Oh, Ezzy is fine, by the way. She slept like a rock." Opening the front door, she stepped out and called behind her shoulder, "Have fun!" before shutting the door pleasantly behind her.
I heaved a massive sigh and glanced down at Edward. "I'm not doing this again," I warned him, although I doubted he was even listening. "I might have pissed you off but let me tell you something Edward; you won the stupidity contest today. I was in first place for a while but you really brought it home after forcing me to haul your drunken ass out. I congratulate you."
I continued to talk, knowing he was probably fast asleep but hardly caring at this point; I needed to get this off my chest, pronto.
"I'm sorry for not picking up my phone and forgetting the schedule. That's not going to happen again. It shouldn't have even happened in the first place. And I'm…I'm sorry for calling you an insufferable, mangy dick on our blind date, despite the fact that you kind of deserved it."
Biting down on my lip I paused for a moment, collecting my thoughts, before adding in a soft, slow whisper, "Maybe…maybe you're not. An insufferable dick, I mean. Maybe you're actually a good guy. But the thing is, Edward…" I gazed down at his face and thought I saw one of his eyelashes flutter as I murmured lastly, "…I haven't seen that side of you yet." I turned away and stepped forward, heading for the stairs.
I stopped abruptly when I felt Edward's hand suddenly grasp my wrist. Startled, I turned back around slowly and glanced down at him with parted lips.
With his eyes still closed he mumbled something, something I couldn't hear. Stepping closer, I leaned down and asked, "What was that?"
My eyes grew wide in surprise. "For what?" I whispered.
There was a moment of silence, and then…
"For…everything," he murmured, before letting go of my wrist and rolling over to his side.
I felt my heart flutter wildly, and like hell did I know why.
Hope you enjoyed this one. And I hope you can forgive me for taking so long to update. Writer's block is a bitch, as is college. I think I'm beginning to conquer both though, haha. Feel free to leave me a review with your thoughts. :)
Till next time...