I don't own these characters. They are the sole property of Stephenie Meyer. I only borrow them. No humans are permanently harmed through my actions, though I do confess to harassing, annoying, torturing, and exasperating them – just because it's fun. I make no money from my little stories, sad day. I only play in the sandbox, I didn't build it.
Author's Note: As for the chocolate mousse bagel, I am currently playing with a recipe for one. It's slow going, but the tasting process is a lot of fun!
Chapter 5: Get Out Alive
The next Monday morning, Edward was surprised to see Jaz Whitlock standing there waiting for him. He helped Edward unload the food, much to Edward's embarrassment and the shock of the gathering crew. "Aren't you supposed to be off...I don't know, acting or something? Earning your ginormous paycheck?" Edward teased.
Jaz shrugged and Edward noticed that the other man looked a bit embarrassed. "Yeah, well, they're doing some stunt scenes right now and my contract forbids me from 'dangerous activities' that might cause serious injury," Jaz scoffed.
Edward grinned at his companion. "So you have a knack for getting hurt, do you?"
Jaz returned the grin. "There may or may not have been a little incident with a motorcycle a few movies ago," he conceded. "Beyond that, I'm not commenting."
Edward laughed. "That reminds me of the summer my father bought me a dirt bike and my mother didn't speak to him for two weeks."
"I'm surprised your father lived that long," Jaz observed. "My mama doesn't mess around when it came to her babies."
Snorting, Edward shook his head. "No shit, I think my dad did end up sleeping on the couch for the whole two weeks, though."
After that, the silence was comfortable at first, and then it got...awkward. "Listen," Jaz said at the same moment Edward murmured, "Sooo..."
They both laughed and Jaz shoved his hands in his pockets and looked down at his feet. "Listen," he began again. "I was just wondering..." He gave a little laugh and hunched his shoulders like a little boy who had been caught in some act of mischief. When he looked at Edward, his cheeks were slightly pink. "I was just wondering if maybe you'd...well, you know...sign my copy of your book?"
Edward could only gape at the movie star. "Excuse me?" he asked. Surely he hadn't heard what he'd thought he'd heard. No way. No. Freaking. Way.
Jaz's shoulders hunched inward even more and the color in his face heightened. "Never mind," he muttered. "No biggie, I mean, I know it's probably out of line and-"
"Hold on," Edward interrupted. "I just want to enjoy this out-of-body experience if you don't mind."
Jaz looked up and met Edward's amused green gaze. "What?"
"Well, how often does a regular guy, a history professor much less, get asked by a big Hollywood movie star for his autograph?" Edward asked.
"You shit," Jaz said with a grin. Then he gave Edward a good punch on the shoulder just for the hell of it. Edward winced and rubbed at the injury.
"I could sue you for assault you know," Edward reminded him with a smirk.
"Have at it, Professor," Jaz challenged. "My team of lawyers will have you crying like a pussy in about thirty seconds flat."
"Quit being such a movie star," Edward mocked. "It's not a good look for you."
Whatever Jaz might have said in response was forgotten when a deep voice interrupted. "Hey, you two mind interrupting the love fest while I grab some breakfast for Her Majesty?"
Edward looked up to see Jake standing there with a sullen expression on his face. Quickly, he put some cinnamon bagels on a plate and shoved them into the guy's hand. "Here," he said.
They both watched him walk away. "That guy's a douche," Edward grumbled.
Jaz merely shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. His job isn't easy," he observed quietly.
Surprised at Jaz's defense of someone who had bad-mouthed Bella, Edward gaped at him for a moment. Seeing the confusion on Edward's face, Jaz sat down on the edge of the table. Edward looked around and noticed that the rest of the crew was giving them a wide berth, waiting for some sort of secret signal before they descended like the ravenous locusts they usually were. "I'm just saying that the guy doesn't have an easy job," Jaz said again. "He's new, for one thing, and for another, working for a big star can be...demanding," he explained with a little smile.
"Yeah, but he called Bella a-"
"Yeah, I know," Jaz cut him off. "But to be honest, she can be a bitch. Just like I can be a right bastard when I want to be."
Edward frowned. "I don't get it," he finally said. "You're always nice when I'm around you, and you don't act like a movie star at all – nothing like I thought you would."
"Thanks," Jaz said dryly.
Edward rolled his eyes. "You know what I mean."
"I do," Jaz admitted with a nod. He wiped at his face. "What I'm trying to say is that people like me – and Bella – we have to remember that somebody's always looking for an angle to get at us."
"I'm not following," Edward told him.
"There aren't that many people we can't let our guards down around, so mostly, we just be what they expect us to be and they don't bother to look any deeper," Jaz said.
"I'm still not getting this," Edward said with frustration.
"Sometimes the best way to avoid a problem is to confuse the enemy," Jaz said cryptically.
"Okay, Master Obi-Wan," Edward muttered. "Still not following you."
Jaz laughed and then sighed. "I've known Bella a long time, since she first started in the business, and she was a sweet, sweet girl when we did that first movie. That fundamental truth hasn't really changed."
"But she found out quick that almost everyone around her was just looking for a way to get something from her, to use her success to jump start their own careers, or get them some publicity or money, or whatever the fuck it was they needed at the time," Jaz said quietly, looking around him to make sure no one was within hearing distance. "People aren't content just so see your work, they want to dig into your soul, turn you inside out. You put up barriers and fast, or you get destroyed. It's that simple."
"So you're saying Bella is a bitch on purpose?" Edward asked in disbelief.
"I'm saying that we all have our own ways of coping," Jaz replied. "Me? I play dumber'n dirt."
"Wow, you're a really good actor," Edward dead-panned.
"Smart ass," was the only reply for a moment. Then Jaz shrugged. "Like I said, we all have our own ways of getting out of this shit alive. I have mine...and she has hers."
"So why you telling me this?" Edward had to know.
Jaz shrugged and looked a bit embarrassed. "Let's just say I trust a fellow history nerd and leave it at that."
Edward thought it over. "Okay, I can deal with that." He ran his hands through his hair. "So Bella... Bitch or not?"
"She's an actress, and a damned good one," Jaz said with a smile. "Just remember that."
With that, the guy grabbed a donut and sauntered away. This time, Edward didn't enjoy the view. At all.
And apparently, that had been the signal that the crew was waiting for, because they invaded en masse the very next instant.
Edward didn't see much of Bella over the next few days. Jaz brought by his copy of Edward's book, which Edward signed with a dramatic flourish.
"To Jasper Whitlock, the most famous guy to ever read my book. Love and Many Kisses, Edward Cullen, Professor."
"Ha, ha," Jaz said.
Edward just scrunched up his face and made kissing noises. On Thursday, Edward knew that Jaz and Bella would be filming a sex scene and he worked up the courage to ask Jaz what that was like.
Jaz grimaced. "Oh, trust me, it's the least sexy thing in the world."
"You ever... you know...?" Edward looked down toward his lap.
"Uh...no," Jaz said with a horrified expression.
"But the women, they're gorgeous, right?" Edward asked.
"Yeah," Jaz admitted. "But..." He shrugged. "Believe me, it's not sexy at all to hear people shouting directions at you the whole damned time." He smirked. "Though once I did fart – silent but deadly," he added proudly.
Edward burst into laughter. "What happened?"
"My co-star's nose started to twitch and then she got this horrified look on her face and then she started to look a little green, because it was really, really bad." Jaz looked around and leaned in. "To be honest, I thought about putting the blame on her. She had been absolutely relentless trying to get me into bed, even though I'd told her time and time again that I just wasn't interested. It would have served her right, and probably gotten her off my ass, but my mama raised me to be a gentleman so I 'fessed up and the crew had a good laugh." He winked. "Though she did leave me alone after that. Probably afraid I'd dutch oven her."
On Friday, Edward finally got a glimpse of Bella – Bella the Bitch. It involved Jake, which hadn't surprised Edward at all. Except...the scene hadn't gone down at all the way he would have anticipated.
As it happened, Edward had a front row seat, having been on his way to deliver yet another bit of confectionary heaven to the superstar. The door had been thrown open and there had been a flurry of movement. A young woman, one Edward had seen around the set, was stuttering an apology to Bella Swan. Or at least, she was trying to. Edward spotted Jake over Bella's shoulder, and his express was just as confused as Edward's probably was.
"...you think because he's new you can blame your incompetence on him?" Bella was hissing.
"No, I...I didn't mean..." the young woman was flustered and very red in the face.
"Oh, you didn't mean to lie to me? You didn't mean to put the blame on my assistant when it was your own ass that should have been getting reamed?" Bella said, cocking one hip and staring down at the girl.
Jake caught Edward's eyes and his widened as if to say, "What the fuck is happening here?"
Edward just shrugged. Like he had fucking clue.
"You pull any shit like that again, and I'll make damn sure you never work in the industry again, not even as someone who cleans the toilets, you get me?" Bella's voice wasn't loud, but Edward had no doubt she meant every word she said.
"Yes, I mean, of course...uh, I'm sorry," the woman stuttered, looking both miserable and terrified.
Bella sniffed and flipped her hair over one shoulder. "You don't need to apologize to me, you need to apologize to Jake over here." With that, she pulled the young man forward and gave him a little shove. He looked only slightly less terrified than the woman.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Black," came the mumbled apology.
"Get out of my sight," Bella muttered. "I don't want to see your face for the next week at least."
With that, the young woman was only too grateful to escape the wrath of Bella Swan. Edward watched as Jake turned to his boss. "Uh...listen...Miss Swan? Thanks for-"
Bella held up her hand and waved away his words. "Save it, Black," she told him. "If anyone is going to make your life hell, it's me. Don't forget that." She sighed and ran her hands over her hair. "Go get me something to eat, will you?"
Jake swallowed hard and nodded, sliding past her and then walking by Edward. Bella turned and spotted Edward. He expected her to be angry, or even embarrassed at the scene he'd just witnessed. Instead, she smiled and approached him slowly. She had on bunny slippers this time.
They were kind of sexy.
"Hey," she said and then she pointed to the box. "That for me?"
Edward nodded, feeling tongue-tied and completely unsure. "Nonna sent it for you."
Bella opened the box and inhaled deeply. "Spicy...smells like my favorite pizza from home."
"It's a new recipe," Edward explained with a shrug. "Meant to be used to make sandwiches, I guess."
"I think I'll like it," Bella replied.
"Yeah, well, there you go," Edward said and turned to leave. He hadn't gotten far when her voice stopped him.
"Yo, bagel boy?"
With a small groan, he turned. "Yeah?"
Her smile widened, looking positively predatory. "Is there any family tradition associated with this bagel?"
Grinning widely, he shook his head. "If I told you what I had in mind, you'd probably slap me," he admitted.
Her eyes went round for a moment and then she pursed her lips. "Guess you'll never know," she said and then turned and walked away.
Damn, the woman could rock some bunny slippers, he thought.