I don't own Twilight or any of its franchise.
BIG thanks to PTB's two lovely betas, whose help has been crucial in making this a readable chapter. THANK YOU!
*Looks around warily, flinching at all the glares* Hi, people:) Where did the time go? I doubt anyone remembers this crazy little tale of mine anymore, so I'd recommend that you reread the story to get into the weirdness that is Bella and her butler. That said, those who've waited eagerly, not so eagerly, and been concerned for me, I thank you. Without you to push, I doubt I'd ever gotten this one out! Enjoy!
I was limping and whimpering a little to myself when I entered the Loser dorm, my mind set on a relaxing – and much needed- bath before plunging into bed to forget the awful and exhausting day I'd just had.
Taking advantage of the lack of Edward around to do things for me, I simply shrugged out of the dirtied dress and kept on walking into the bathroom butt naked. Five minutes later, I gratefully sunk into the warm water and exhaled loudly.
My mind was fried, too exhausted to take in what I had lived through for the last few hours. For a small-town girl, it wasn't something I could comprehend. At least not until after I'd soaked in the brilliant water for another long while.
After about half an hour, where all my limited ability to focus was on the simple task of cleaning myself, I emptied the dirty water and refilled the massive tub before leaning back to finally let myself relive what had happened after the duel had begun.
Adrianna's exuberant voice grated in my ears as I stubbornly refused to look away from Rosalie's eyes.
"The challenge today is based on knowledge," the eager headmistress explained, looking over at us with a beaming smile that looked out of place on her stern visage. "To spruce things up a bit, my lovely butler Hugo and I have made it into a treasure hunt."
"What?" I muttered, confused as to why my crazy school kept taking relatively simple concepts, like duels of knowledge, and twisting them into childish spectator sports that benefited no one whatsoever.
I glanced down at the dressed up crowd and mentally shrugged. Okay, so they might think they got something out of this whole mess, but I sure didn't.
Straightening my back, I looked back at my competitor, absently noting that she, too, didn't exactly seem thrilled about what was about to take place.
Weird, I thought, considering it was her stupid idea to begin with.
"Now," Adrianna retook my full attention as she dove right back into explaining what was going to happen next, "when I ring this bell," – she held up a garish-looking gold bell, decorated with numerous glittering stones that probably cost more than a small island - "the challenge will officially begin. The two of you will begin your quest in opposite directions into the school grounds where you will begin searching for small treasure chests or boxes, if you will, that are planted all over the school. In each box there is an item. The overall quest is locating a specific item."
Adrianna gestured to someone behind me, and I frowned with growing confusion when, of all people, Emmett stepped onto the platform. He wore a sheepish smile and nervous eyes. "Emmett here has one object that he treasures above all else in the entire world. Isn't that right, Emmett?"
The humongous butler nodded, his cheeks taking on a pinkish tone that looked adorable on him. The headmistress continued eagerly, "Well, this object can mean you either win or lose the duel, ladies."
Tentatively, I raised a hand and blurted out in my usual diplomatic voice, "Dumb it down for me, please, 'cause I'm more confused now than before…"
Rosalie's lips twitched as if she wanted to smile at my ignorance, but I just rolled my eyes and waited for the response.
The headmistress didn't seem the least bit perturbed by my interruption and just elaborated as asked. "There are ten boxes outside. The more items you bring back the better the chances are of you picking Emmett's favorite object and thus winning. The sooner you get back with your chosen items, your chances of winning increase. It is just as important to get back first, in case you choose the wrong items. It is crucial to come back with Emmett's item and thus ending the duel without going into the penalty round. We all know the school area is vast and the number of boxes are everywhere, which means it might end up being boring for us viewing you on the cameras that have been put up all over, and we can't have that. Make it interesting, please. Is that clear now, dear?"
Numbly, I nodded, still feeling a little perplexed, to be honest, but not willing to endure the ridicule of asking more questions. It seemed pretty overwhelming anyway. Get Emmett's thing before Rosalie, or hope to God she chose the wrong one.
Except, I thought despondently, she knows him better than anyone in the world, so what's the chance of that happening?
To my surprise, Rosalie actually asked the next question. "How much time do we have, Headmistress?"
Adrianna smiled, and as if it was a cue her butler had waited on, he suddenly jumped up on a ladder, that I hadn't noticed until now, and ripped off a cloth that I had taken for a simple wall decoration. As it fell to the ground, it revealed a diamond-covered timer-watch the size of a small whale.
On it was a countdown of two hours, and I swallowed heavily. Dressed in my gown and on a deadline, I'd have to run around in various terrains to try to find Emmett's mystery object.
"Super," I murmured, resisting the urge to roll my eyes since my headmistress was eyeing me with intimidating intensity.
Next thing I knew, the watch began its countdown, and Rosalie was halfway through the large room. Unsteadily, I copied her and wobbled down the few steps in my heels to begin doing my part.
Five minutes later, I was outside and away from any obvious onlookers. I swiftly bent down and took off my heels and was about to throw them behind me in a fit of childish anger, when a picture of a disapproving Edward flashed through my mind. Sighing as if all of the weight of the world was suddenly placed upon my shoulders, I put the shoes back on with a grimace.
Refocusing on my surroundings, I noticed a small path that I knew from previous exploring led to a small meadow with a beautiful gazebo. Deciding that it was worth checking out, I quickly cut through a field of immaculate-looking grass to reach the path sooner, all the while ignoring the loud gasps of outrage I could hear from the building I had just vacated.
Figures, my more temperamental inner voice mocked as I stomped past a line of cameras that followed my every movement. Try to throw away a two-thousand dollar pair of shoes like a spoiled brat, they don't bat an eye, but dirtying your shoes by actually using them outside. Oh that's what shocks them. Rich people…
Nearly two hours later, sweat was pouring down my back, and the silk of my extremely extravagant —and utterly useless— dress was clinging to my skin uncomfortably. Above all, though, the heels were killing me, and just as I finally spotted one of the posts that I had been looking for, I groaned and took them off. It took everything in me to not throw the damned things away with a feral cry of relief; evidently Edward's influence was bigger than I'd anticipated.
Instead, I grasped the straps with my left hand and gingerly walked on the warm paved ground until I stood in front of a small, ruby encrusted chest.
Glancing around, I noticed one of the numerous cameras that had been littered all around the school grounds and knew that the other students were more than likely gasping with disgrace at my less than perfect appearance. Just to make myself feel a little better, I flipped the camera off before I crouched in front of the chest, refocusing on the task at hand.
"Now, what was it Miss Bellsworth said?" I muttered, slowly opening the glittering lid.
Since my mind was busy recapping all of the rules that the headmistress had stated —especially focusing on the time limit, as it had taken a lot of time to find one measly treasure chest— it took a little while for my brain to fully process what I was looking down at.
My mind was running a mile a minute as I tried gauging whether or not there was enough time to chance searching for another coffer.
As if answering my unasked question, there was a sudden crinkling sound from the bushes around me, and the next thing I knew, the headmistress' bubbly voice echoed out over the entire area.
"Fifteen minutes, dearies until the clock runs out. Let me remind you, if one of you does not return within that time, the contestant present automatically wins the game. So let it be known that there are now fourteen minutes left on the clock." There was an almost evil-sounding cackle that sort of made the hairs in the back of my neck stand up.
"Shit." the curse left my lips in a half-hiss, and deciding that there wasn't enough time, I quickly grabbed the small chest and turned tail and moved as fast as my bare feet would allow me.
I had to return in time, my insides were twisting with growing dread; it was out of the question to lose.
Thirteen minutes later, just as the last tick turned the numbers from a one to a zero, I barged through the ornate doors, screaming out my presence, just like I was in some weird action movie.
There was a mix between cheery applause and booing at my timely arrival.
"That's what you fools get for betting against me," I mocked, wiping away the sweat pouring down my face with the hem of my dress — not even caring that I may have showed a little too much skin in the process.
"Miss Swan?" The headmistress's butler appeared by my side with a delicate-looking handkerchief in his hands, and I immediately wanted to kick myself for the surge of longing that the other butler awoke in me. Longing for Edward, who I knew would have already magically changed my clothes with a proud smile on his gorgeous face.
Muttering a thanks for the handkerchief, I quietly followed the butler up on the stage where Rosalie already stood, looking as perfect as ever.
Just you wait, I thought, eyeing the three chests standing neatly in front of her, you may have found more than me, but I'm pretty sure that I was the lucky one today, despite only finding one chest.
"Well, well, well." Rosalie drawled elegantly, leaving me quite stumped as to how one could do that with elegance. "Seems like you aren't that great without Edward around. Pity for you, isn't it?"
Not for the first time in Rosalie's presence, I had to beat down a sudden urge to slap her. It still baffled me why the blonde had completely done a 180 and challenged me. Sure, our relationship had never been a close one, but there had been mutual respect between us. Judging from the cold glare she sent my way when I didn't reply to her taunt, that respect was long gone.
"We'll just have to see, won't we?" was what I ended up saying, while we waited for our crazy headmistress to start the next level in the duel.
A couple of minutes later said headmistress had whipped up a wild mood in the room and was gesturing violently at us, and Rosalie was instructed to reveal her chosen items first. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Emmett looking eager, almost a little fearful as he too waited for the reveal.
Again I felt the absence of Edward pierce through me, but I tried not to let it show on my face. I wasn't willing to let my feelings be seen, particularly in front of the girl that had admitted to wanting me out of the school.
"I have three boxes." Rosalie's clear voice rang out over the crowd, silencing the lingering chatter still present. "It is my firm belief that either of these chests will contain the item that is most precious to my butler, Emmett."
Adrianna beamed dementedly, gesturing for Rosalie to open them as quickly as possible. I caught myself holding my breath when the blonde did just that and revealed the first item she'd found. It was a framed picture of two people, but she held it aloft for the crowd to see, so I didn't get the full visual. Rosalie did describe it though, apparently it was a picture taken on the very first day Emmett had begun as her butler.
My heart was beating wildly with growing dread, and I was almost blue in the face from holding my breath so long. A second later, I remembered how to breathe again when Adrianna asked Emmett whether or not the picture was the precious item of his. He quickly denied it with a shameful expression on his face at denying his mistress the victory.
Rosalie paled and bent forward to withdraw the next item. It was a diploma with a fancy-looking seal on the bottom. She explained that it was Emmett's certificate of graduation from one of his butler classes that he had struggled with. Again, to my relief, the large butler shook his head when asked if said diploma was indeed his most precious item.
Beginning to feel a little better, letting the hope grow inside of me, I turned to look at Rosalie as she slowly took out the last item from her boxes. "This," she said, her voice a lot less steady now, "is Emmett's most beloved thing in the world." In her perfectly manicured hands lay a small, worn and well-read book. "This is Emmett's butler book, and he is rarely seen without it, as he keeps fighting to be a better butler than he already is."
Crap, I thought, biting my lip, maybe I'm gonna loose after all.
This time, my breathing was shallow and quick, my eyes darting from the small book to Emmett and back again in repeat. On the inside, I was praying with everything in me for Rosalie to have chosen wrong, I had been so sure of my own item.
Finally Emmett moved closer, his expression looked shattered and in that moment, just before he opened his mouth, both Rosalie and I knew what he was going to say. It took a lot of effort for me to not break out into a huge grin when he somberly spoke. "No, Miss Rosalie. Though that book means a lot to me, it is not the most precious belonging that I have. I'm so sorry."
I glanced at Rosalie and frowned. If Emmett looked shattered, then Rosalie looked utterly broken, her eyes widened with genuine horror. To my surprise her eyes weren't locked on her butler, but on another man that I only caught a glimpse off before somebody stepped in front and blocked my viewpoint.
Why's she looking at that guy and not Emmett? I wondered, but the thought left me when my crazy headmistress broke my concentration and ordered me to open my small chest, which I was still clutching fiercely in my arms.
"Okay, here it goes," I stated and slowly took out the one thing that I hoped was the right object. It was a small, obviously homemade bowtie, whose garish colors and patterns were enough to make a blind man squint in terror.
The moment my eyes had first landed on the bowtie, my heart had soared with relief when the memory of Emmett sharing how much it meant to him crossed my mind. I had only had enough time to locate one treasure chest. Luckily enough, something had told me to choose this one above all. Considering the small, reluctant smile that Emmett was sending me as I held up the bowtie, I'd chosen correctly.
"No…" Rosalie's voice was hoarse, and her eyes were now glued on the bowtie in my hands. Feeling a little silly just standing there, I placed it back in the box and left it on the floor.
"Miss Rosalie?" Emmett began, but the blonde didn't acknowledge him, seemingly lost in her own little world for now.
My fellow students and their butlers clapped politely at my victory. I even spotted Lauren cheering happily for me, which sort of boggled my mind a little bit. The headmistress had her own butler release a bunch of streamers that flooded the area within minutes, but I didn't feel up to celebrating, as Rosalie's horror seemed to grow, culminating in her all but jumping down the stage and fleeing the grand room.
I didn't even think about it before hiking up my skirt and following her, ignoring the shocked reactions we were getting. Due to the packed room, it took me a little while to finally exit the main door that Rosalie had fled through, and when I entered the hallway I couldn't see her anywhere.
"Damn it," I cursed, and decided to keep looking. I hadn't liked the raw emotions on Rosalie's face, it did something to my insides, seeing the normally so put together girl frantic and scared.
What's she so afraid of? I wondered, only to be distracted by distant voices. Sneaking closer, never happier for my bare feet than in that moment, I managed to catch a familiar voice pleading. It was Rosalie.
I didn't dare look around from my hiding place, and I didn't recognize the other voice, except that it was male.
"…did what I could, please!"
"Sorry, Miss Hale, but we gave you every opportunity to win. She was delayed in finding any of the boxes; I personally removed them, as a matter of fact. It was only the last one I left intact to make her seem simple and easily confused. You failed your objective and must now pay the price. Now, return to the hall to do so."
The implications of what I had just overheard froze me for one crucial minute before I realized that it was important to hurry back to the main room. I didn't want Rosalie and the man she was speaking with to know I was listening.
I don't think I'd ever run so fast in my life, and to my surprise, I managed to reenter the room just as Rosalie came up behind me. She eyed me warily, a hint of confusion blending into her blue eyes, but in the end, we both made our way back up on the stage. Adrianna and Hugo were staring at us with disappointment in their expressions for failing to follow the traditions.
A moment later, our headmistress spoke, and I felt my jaw drop at her announcement. "Miss Hale challenged Miss Swan and ended up the losing party. Thus she will lose her privileges and be denounced in power. We will allow her now former butler, Emmett to pack her belongings and get her settled in to the Losier dorm." Her eyes glittered with something devious I couldn't really focus on at that time given my inner turmoil.
A choked sob next to me, alerted me to the fact that Rosalie had abandoned all semblance of dignity. Her eyes were red-rimmed, and tears were falling down her face in a steady stream as Adrianna continued with a hint of pity in her eyes, "Miss Hale's mother will come in the morning and reclaim Emmett to their family home and graciously allow Miss Hale to continue on here at St. Lucia despite her Personal Duel loss."
"Whoa!" I held up a hand, once again letting my mouth talk before my mind had fully finalized any kind of plan. "I was under the impression that I am the one to decide Rosalie's punishment. What the Hel—heck?"
"Be quiet, newbie," Rosalie said sadly, her gaze locked on an equally heartbroken Emmett. "I lost, and my stepmother is the owner of Hale Enterprises until I turn 21, so there is nothing I can do."
"What if I just do as I did with Lauren's duel and take ownership of Emmett and give him back to you?"
If eyes could kill, I think her glare would have actually killed me. "Don't even think for a second I'll take charity like that. It's demeaning, not only for me, but for Emmett especially. I took a chance and lost, there's nothing to do about it now."
"Respectfully, I must disagree, Miss Rosalie," a very familiar voice stated from the entranceway. Edward. My mind sang his name with joy, he's finally back.
While all heads immediately turned in his direction, my subconscious was busy berating me over the fact that my butler had only been gone a little over three hours— reminding me that I was not addicted and unable to take care of myself in his absence.
A few seconds later, everyone in the crowded room had stepped back somehow to allow Edward free passageway up to us, and as he made his way to my side, I promptly beat down that snarky subconscious of mine and sent him a beaming smile of welcome.
Since his smile widened at my actions, I decided I'd made the right move for once and straightened my back and refocused on the matter at hand. Helping Rosalie and Emmett.
"Miss Rosalie." Edward's tone was serious, and if I didn't know better, it was a tiny bit smug as well. "You may relax now. This Duel is not valid in its entirety."
Rosalie frowned, as did pretty much everyone else present. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that Alice, who was sitting on top of Jasper's shoulders, looked particularly confused. "Of course, it's a valid duel, Edward. I challenged and lost."
Edward nodded silently and then turned a little to keep me in his sight as he began speaking again. "I do regret to do this in such a public venue, but that seems unavoidable, I'm afraid. The duel itself is only valid in terms of you losing your status and moving to the Losier dorm. Emmett shall remain by your side, as he will for as long as he is needed."
"How?" Rosalie looked like she was too scared to get her hopes up, but there was a little more life in her eyes now. She downright grinned when Edward spoke again.
"Your stepmother no longer wishes to poach upon your heiress rights due to my discovering certain things that truly should not be shared until we are in a more private setting."Edward glanced over at me and noticed my complete confusion and added, "That means that she has relinquished her hold upon Emmett and given him back to his rightful mistress."
"Oh," I smiled. "That's cool."
"Cool? That's fucking brilliant!" Emmett cried out with pure joy, and mere nanoseconds later, the huge butler had all but exploded into movement, ending up with Rosalie firmly encased in his massive arms as they proceeded to hug it out. It was kinda nice seeing St. Lucia's Ice Queen herself giving no notice to the curious onlookers.
"Are you happy, Miss Bella?"
I looked over at Edward, whose beautiful emerald eyes weren't the least bit taken with the display of happiness going on beside us. He looked at me as intently as ever, and I just shrugged with a smile, feeling awkward at the forward question.
Fortunately, he seemed to read my emotions better than my lack of words and looked quite pleased with himself.
"Let us adjourn here and find another place to reveal the rest of my tale," Edward said quietly, and I felt a little hesitant when he gestured for me to leave the stage.
"Are you sure it's okay that I'm there, too? I mean, it's not really any of my business," I said quickly when Edward began to frown."
"Come on, newbie," Rosalie invited, her head leaning on Emmett's chest. "Since it's your butler that's somehow managed to save the day, you have my full cooperation."
"Oh, thanks," I muttered and followed her and Emmett.
Leaving the stage felt pretty anticlimactic, to be honest. The other students began whispering to their butlers, who had remained silent throughout the ordeal. Adrianna looked like she wanted to drag Hugo after us, eager to listen in. Alice looked murderous at being denied knowledge; it took Jasper throwing her off his shoulders in some kind of Judo move to distract her.
Edward led the way into an unused classroom I had never been in before. It looked just as opulent as my classroom. His hand on my back propelled me back to the present, where Emmett had somehow procured a cup of steaming hot tea that he carefully handed to an uncharacteristically beaming Rosalie.
A moment later, I was holding my own cup and sitting in one of the expensive-looking armchairs. Edward was standing vigil by my side, scanning the surroundings for any possible threats. A part of me wanted to slap him in the back of the head to just get on with it, but most of all, I just wanted things to be over so I could go back to my room and take a much needed bath.
I sniffed my armpit as surreptitiously as possible while Rosalie turned her attention back on Edward with a questioning tilt of her head; apparently she, too, was done waiting for answers. Yup, a bath was definitely needed.
"Before I begin," Edward said, "I must credit the whole thing to Emmett. Him sharing a story about you and yours led me to my discovery."
Emmett and I shared a quick look of confusion before Edward continued, "As I stated earlier, your stepmother is no longer a threat to your empire. She's signed an agreement to yield her power as Mr. Hale's widow, deferring to you."
Rosalie looked perplexed and leaned forward in her chair. "How? I've tried getting my family business out of her grabby hands since my dad died. She hasn't given an inch, promising to look after me adequately until I turn 21. Her only concern has always been my little brother and no one else."
"You have a little brother?" I asked, suddenly too curious to keep my tongue. Don't ask me why, but the idea of Rosalie actually having a sibling somehow mystified me.
The blonde rolled her eyes, looking like she wanted to slap the stupid out of me and didn't give a verbal answer. Instead, she turned her gaze back on Edward, silently demanding that he continue.
"The answer to your question lies with your fiancé, Mr. King."
The look of disdain mixed with a little bit of fear, told me that Rosalie didn't exactly get along with her husband-to-be, but I kept my mouth shut and waited for Edward's explanation to finish.
"I regret to inform you that I have previous experience with Mr. King. He is not a man that I believe your father would have deemed worthy of his only daughter, and thus I did a thorough investigation and quickly discovered that he had not changed since we last met. He and your stepmother have been having an affair for years, I'm afraid."
Edward didn't seem surprised by Rosalie's lack of the same and hurried on, leaving me and Emmett gaping like fish on land. "A quick deduction after meeting your stepmother's son told me that he does not have an ounce of Hale blood in his veins. I shared my findings with Mrs. Hale, and though she resisted at first, she ended up revealing everything."
"Everything?" Rosalie asked, crossing her arms with a deadly look in her blue eyes.
"Yes, Miss Rosalie," Edward replied. "The father of the young boy is, in fact, Mr. King. He and your stepmother conspired together, plotting to take control of Hale Enterprises. A fact that Mr. Hale unfortunately stumbled upon, and his shock, coupled with the natural anger at such a betrayal from a loved one, was paramount to his demise. Mrs. Hale knows this and is aware of her wrongdoings and will await your judgment. Mr. King is no longer a concern. I forwarded his deceitful actions to the proper authorities, shielding Mrs. Hale's involvement until you have decided what to do." Edward said, his tone took on a deeper timber, and his green eyes glowed bright with repressed anger.
Rosalie sat immobile for what felt like forever, her eyes closed as she processed all that she'd just learned. After a long while, her eyes reopened and she shared her decision.
"I don't want her in my life anymore, but I won't implicate her in Daddy's death. It would break poor David's heart. Can you somehow keep her out of sight and make sure things stay calm until I get old enough to fully take on the company?"
Edward nodded and gestured to Emmett, who looked absolutely murderous at the thought of people he had cherished had betrayed Rosalie in such a way. There was a heavy dose of guilt on his face, too, but I knew nothing that neither Edward nor I said would ever make that go away. It was a demon he'd have to fight himself.
"Emmett will assist me in making sure things go as planned."
"Good," Rosalie said and got up. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go oversee Emmett while he packs my belongings so we can relocate to the Losier Dorm."
Edward got a grateful smile, and Rosalie even nodded respectfully at me before she left with an angry-looking Emmett in tow.
Unable to do anything else, I just grinned. "So glad things worked out. St Lucia is lucky to have your genius around, huh?"
Edward's smile transformed into that crooked one that sent shivers down my spine, and I fidgeted in my seat. "I'm the lucky one, Miss Bella." Before I could respond to that, Edward changed the subject and became his usual serious self again.
"I will now escort you to your helicopter, Miss Bella," he stated, lending me a hand to help me stand. "I have to report an edited version of today's events and the reason for my absence to the headmistress. I hope you are okay with that?"
"Sure," I muttered, already imaging myself in my beloved bath and momentarily forgetting to fill him in on what I'd overheard the mystery man say to Rosalie. "I'll be fine, Edward."
Not looking entirely pleased with himself, Edward merely nodded and led me out to the Pink Horror without another word, staying outside until I was safely off the ground and turned toward the Loser Dorm.
Now, almost an hour after stumbling through my door with weariness dominating my every cell, I was finally clean, and I got out of my bath with a contented sigh.
It had been a grueling day, and I could only hope that no one else wanted to duel me for the foreseeable future. I kinda feared I'd give Edward grey hairs if that were the case.
The image of a graying Edward flashed through my head, and I giggled until the picture transformed into him sitting next to an equally elderly me, holding my hand with a happy look in his eyes. The whole idea of us growing old together made me feel stupid, especially since he was basically my employee, despite me not actually being the one to sign his paychecks.
Before my mind could ponder whether or not Edward actually got paid for his services, my cell phone ringing in the other room interrupted me. I was interrupted by my cell phone ringing in the other room.
I stubbed a toe in my haste to answer it, and with a muffled curse, I managed it just in time. Only, as soon as I realized who it was on the other end, I kinda wished I hadn't made it.
"Hello, dear Isabella. I called to hear if you were settled in at your new school. Call me a doting grandfather, but I was curious."
I swallowed a lump of rapidly growing rage, still having issues with the man that hadn't even shown up at his only child's funeral.
"Hello, Mr. Volturi."
So...was it worth the wait, do you hate me less now? I'd be thrilled to see some reviews when I come home from work today, to brighten the whole weekend that's gonna consist of cleaning and more cleaning;)
Until Next Time