A/N: Happy belated Valentine's Day to all! I hope everyone who celebrated enjoyed the day! :)
As a thank you for pushing Hot Commodity up to 300 reviews (361 actually - you guys ROCK!), I prepared this outtake of Emmett and Jasper's lunch from Chapter 9. This is the first in a series of outtakes I'll be doing, hence the new thread.
You all know how I roll - reviews = love, so don't be bashful, feel free to leave some! :) And THANK YOU to everyone who reads my stories - I can't even express how happy it makes me and how much it means!
One last thing - Hot Commodity is nominated for a Sunflower Award. The story is up in the 'Best Edward' category. Pretty please (with sugar and cherries on top), head over to thesunflowerawards(dot)blogspot(dot)com and show Edward some love and cast your vote! If it wins, there will be a VERY special, VERY citrus-infused outtake as a thank you! ;)
This puppy is unbeta'd, so apologies in advance for any errors that might pop up.
There's a lovely banner for this over on my blog - blueeyedcherry(dot)blogspot(dot)com. Thanks to vbfb19 for the banner! :)
Characters belong to SM. Everything else belongs to me.
It didn't take a genius to know that something strange was going on with Edward.
Having known him since college, I was pretty familiar with his ways. Granted we didn't maintain constant contact in the years after we graduated, I saw him around town enough and talked to Jasper enough to know how he was, especially with women. I hadn't seen him show an ounce of emotion since Jessica, and up until a month ago I was convinced I'd probably never see him show any again.
Then Bella Swan came along.
It wasn't an overnight change, but he was definitely acting different. He didn't seem quite so cocky, he wasn't going out as much, and he was always present whenever I went out with Rose and her friends. Friends of mine who ran in the same circles as him said he wasn't "chasing as much tail" as he used to either, which left us all perplexed.
I always was a nosy bastard. Meeting Jasper for a beer on Saturday afternoon seemed like a good way to get some answers.
"How did you get Rose to let you out?" Jasper joked, taking a pull of his beer and popping a piece of popcorn into his mouth. Years ago we used to frequent this bar every weekend. The staff had changed several times, but the décor remained the same.
"She's not like that, my friend. Besides, I've only been seeing her for what, a month? No girl owns me after a month."
"Bullshit." Jasper smirked. "That's right, I call bullshit. I've seen the way you look at her. You practically orbit around her when you're together. Don't tell me you wouldn't bend over backwards for that girl if she asked you to."
I smiled sheepishly. He was right, of course. I was completely smitten with Rosalie. I still had my pride, however, and I didn't want everyone to know how whipped I was quite yet.
"Speaking of orbiting," I saw this as a good time to change the topic. "What's up with Cullen? Bella Swan's pussy must be made of gold."
Jasper choked on a peanut. "What are you talking about?"
"C'mon Whitlock, don't be like that." I tipped my beer back and drained it, sliding the empty glass across the bar and signaling the bartender for another one. "You know Edward better than anyone. You can't tell me you haven't noticed the change in his behavior."
"Could you be more specific?" Jasper fidgeted with the buttons on his shirt. Gotcha, I thought triumphantly. He knew something and I was determined to pull it out of him.
"Well, for starters, he's not drilling any new notches in his bedpost. That fact alone is enough to cause alarm." I ticked my reasons off on my fingers. "He seems humbled. He's always around whenever Bella is there. They're photographed together every time I turn around. And he was rather quick to come to her rescue Friday night after the whole red carpet debacle." I watched Jasper carefully, waiting for his reaction.
"I…" he sighed and fisted a hand in his hair. "I don't know what's going through Bella's mind, but Edward is just playing along. At least he was at first. I'm not sure that's the case anymore."
"What do you mean 'playing along'?" This didn't sound good.
Jasper pushed his beer away and turned his body to face me. He looked gravely serious. "If I tell you this, you have to swear on all that's holy that you won't flap your gums to Rosalie. We'll all be hosed if you do."
"It can't be that bad," I started, but stopped when Jasper fixed me with a glare. I swallowed and held my hands up in a gesture of surrender. "Alright, alright, I swear I won't say anything to Rose."
"Edward is putting on a façade," he began to explain. "You see, it all started last month with this bet."
"A bet? What kind of bet?" This definitely didn't sound good.
Jasper looked away and clenched and unclenched his hands in his lap. "If I had known Alice and I would become an item so fast, I'd of never suggested this stupid bet in the first place." He turned back towards me and looked down at his lap. "You were at the Guggenheim event last month, right?"
I nodded. "Yes, that was the first night I went home with Rose…" I felt my cheeks redden at the memory. Jasper's lips curved upward in a tiny smile and he shook his head.
"That also happened to be the first night Edward and Bella met," Jasper explained. I furrowed my brow in confusion, and then remembered how irate Bella was that night when Rose introduced us.
"She was awfully angry when Rose gave us an introduction," I said, taking a pull off my beer. "I'm guessing that was because of Edward? What did he do to her exactly?"
"Made comments about her tits, tried to get her into bed … the usual Edward game." Jasper scoffed. I crinkled my nose in disgust. That type of behavior was exactly why I'd come to dislike Edward after our college years. I was no saint in the bedroom – I'd shared mine with a few women over the years – but I never aimed to objectify them like Edward did.
"That would explain her sailor-speak," I said, laughing at the inside joke. Jasper looked curious but I just waved my hand, signaling for him to continue with his story.
"As you can imagine, Edward was completely up in arms over the fact that a woman had rejected him. I cracked a joke, he got more pissed, and then he claimed he could get her to fall in love with him…" Jasper's voice trailed off and guilt clouded his features. I sat up straight and slapped my palms against my thighs.
"Oh no, Jasper. Please don't tell me that's what his 'Mr. Nice Guy' attitude is all about." I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, pinching the bridge of my nose between my thumb and forefinger. Maybe I should tell him to stop, I thought to myself. If I didn't know any details, then I couldn't technically be considered an accomplice in this madness, right?
Jasper nodded. "Edward is on a mission to get Bella Swan to fall in love with him. And judging from how cozy they've seemed lately, I'd say it's working."
"And you're the one responsible for this whole mess?" I asked, staring at Jasper in disbelief. In all the years I'd known him, he'd never been one to instigate such shallow games. He spent too much time with Cullen lately, a little voice at the back of my head said. "I'd expect way more from you, Whitlock."
"Hey, hey, hey," Jasper held his hands up in defense. "I'm not alone in this! Edward wasn't exactly hesitant to agree on his end either. I just offered up the wager, that's all."
"I'm quite sure Edward wouldn't have dreamed this up had you not planted the seed for him," I scolded. "I think we both know how anti-monogamy he's become since the whole Paris fiasco with Jess."
"I know I should have stopped this thing the minute Alice agreed to go out with me." Jasper ran his fingers across his stubble-coated chin, appearing lost in thought. "Come to think of it, I did try to stop this once. Edward didn't want to back down though. I'm sure his pride is standing in the way at this point."
"So what did you wager? I can't imagine anything enticing enough to get him to agree to something like this."
"I tried cash at first," Jasper admitted. "That was a stupid idea, since his family is loaded. Then I offered up my new place in the Hamptons."
"Your Hamptons house? Really? Wow." I didn't know what else to say. I drained the rest of my beer and propped my elbows up on the bar. I clasped my hands together and rested my chin against my knuckles.
This entire situation was ridiculous. Part of me wanted to believe that I could close my eyes for a few minutes, and when I opened them, I'd be home in bed, dreaming about this fucked up conversation instead of engaging in it. Life wasn't that easy though, and I knew now that Jasper had shared this information with me I'd have to figure out some way to deal with it.
"This whole quiet, contemplative thing is starting to freak me out. I don't even know if I want to ask what you're thinking."
I looked over at Jasper and sighed. "What I'm thinking is that you just put me in a totally fucked up position by sharing that with me. How do you expect me not to tell Rose about this?"
Jasper's eyes grew as wide as saucers. "Oh no, Em, you can't tell Rose. She'll tell Alice and Alice will tell Bella and then this whole thing will get blown out of proportion and we'll all end up hurt."
"Blown out of proportion? Excuse me for being so crass, but this is already a big fucking deal!" How Whitlock didn't grasp the significance of this was beyond me.
"I know it's a big fucking deal," Jasper spat out. "But we need to keep this under wraps. I know I can convince Edward to back down; I just need a couple weeks to do it. I have no problem giving up the house if it means keeping Alice and saving Bella from getting hurt."
I ran a hand through my hair again and tossed a few bills on the bar. I stood up and grabbed my coat off the stool. I had to get out of there. I didn't know Bella very well, but I did know that she was a nice person who didn't deserve to get caught in this crossfire.
"I can't walk around with this on my shoulders, Jasper. I have to tell Rosalie."
Jasper threw some money down to pay his tab as well and followed me outside. "Please Emmett, I'm begging you."
"You and Edward might be willing to engage in childish, bullshit behavior like this, but I refuse to encourage it and I sure as hell won't be a part of it." I tugged my coat on and spun around so I was face-to-face with Jasper. "When did Cullen's raunchiness start to invade the decent part of your brain? You were always one of the good guys, Jasper."
Jasper sighed and stared down at his feet. "I am a good guy, Emmett. I made a stupid decision. I will rectify it. Just give me until Friday, ok?"
I tipped my head towards the sky and took a deep breath. Everyone makes mistakes, right? Nobody is perfect. As angry as I wanted to be, I was actually happy that Whitlock had guided Edward into Bella's arms, even if it was under the wrong pretenses. This woman just might be the push he needed to get straightened out and settled down.
"You have until Friday," I muttered. Jasper blew out a sigh of what I assumed was relief and clapped his hand against my shoulder.
"Thank you. And I'm sorry I said anything. You kinda backed me into a corner with your questioning and, well … you know me. I've never been good at lying."
Yeah, right. Until October, that was.
"Straighten this mess out by Friday or I'm coming clean to Rose," I said, stuffing my hands in my pockets. "And don't try to weasel your way out of this, Whitlock. I'm going to Cullen before I go to Rose. That's obviously the only way I can get some truth without harming Bella in the process."
Jasper gulped and nodded. "Got it. Everything will be under control by Friday, I swear."
We said our goodbyes and I headed off in the direction of Rose's apartment.
For some reason, I didn't think getting things under control would be as easy as Jasper made it sound.
And in the back of my mind, I knew that somehow, someway, I'd also be in trouble when this was all said and done.