A/N: Hi everyone! I am so sorry for the delay on getting this chapter out. My last few weeks of summer were crazy, but things are settling now so I'm ready to dive back in to this story. I hope you are too :)
Forever sending out hugs and kisses to my beta and pre-reader Nicole (Iamthealleycat), and my other lovely pre-readers, Jen (Chartwilightmom) and Lori (Lo21). *hugs*
See you down below!
Disclaimer: Twilight and its characters are property of Stephenie Meyer. This story is in no way an attempt at copyright infringement. However, this story and all plot lines therein are the property of Shpwhitney.
Turn My Life Around - Chapter 4
May 08, 2010
Generally, I'd describe myself as a pretty laid-back guy.
I like to go with the flow, and I tend to stay calm, cool, and collected.
I'm not easily agitated or made antsy, and when I am, rarely do I let it show.
Apparently, I wasn't that guy today, because I'd literally spent the majority of my morning, pacing my living room back and forth.
I'd gone to sleep last night the happiest I could remember myself being in a while. My first foray into performing publicly and professionally had been a success, I had the support of my sister and my best friend throughout the night, and I had a quasi-date with Bella planned. Life was good.
And then I woke up to remember that before my date with Bella for lunch, she would be spending an entire morning with my little sister, my loving and sweet yet overbearing sister who had seemed to decide that she wanted Bella as a friend. It's not that I didn't want them to become friends; it's just that I was hoping to secure a spot in Bella's life before my sister did.
I was also worried that while trying to become Bella's friend, Alice might let some things slip about me. Some embarrassing or intrusive things that only a sister would think were okay to share with a woman you were trying to impress.
Like how I got food poisoning after eating some bad potato salad at a picnic last year and threw up all over myself, or how I peed on myself from laughing so hard after a night of drinking this past New Year's Eve.
Just as my imagination started to get the best of me, I heard the shrill beep of my phone, indicating that a text message had come through.
Sure enough, it was from Alice.
I know you. Stop freaking out. We're having a great time, and, contrary to your ego, we've barely mentioned you.
I was instantly relieved that my worrying had been for naught, and I felt a little bad for thinking that my sister would embarrass me, knowing how attracted I was to Bella.
My phone started up once again, but this time instead of the beep of a text message, it was that horrifying Kesha song, "Blow". Alice had programmed it as her ringtone and threatened me bodily harm to places I treasure quite a bit if I changed it.
"Hey. Why are you calling after you just texted? Is everything ok?"
My sister's tinkling laughter came through the phone, and although I usually found it so befitting of her personality, right now, it was just annoying.
"Chill out, Edward! Geez! I only texted because I didn't want to embarrass you by telling you to calm down in front of Bella, but she just ran to the bathroom, so I figured I'd call and give you a little more reassurance."
"So, what have you guys been up to? Having fun?" I asked awkwardly. To tell you the truth, I wasn't sure what there was to do in a clothing boutique that wasn't even open for business yet.
"We're having the best time! Oh, Edward, she's great! She's funny and cool yet really sweet, as well, and she's actually given me some pretty good tips in terms of bringing in business since the location is in a college district, so a lot of the clientele would be different than we're used to at the other store. "
"Well, that's great, Ali. I'm glad." And I was.
On a personal level, it would be nice if things with Bella and I progressed, and I was glad that she already got along well with my sister because Alice was very important to me. It was also nice to hear Alice have a nice time with another female. Because of her energy, beauty, and wealth, a lot of girls were jealous of all the attention Alice garnered in school, especially from guys, so she didn't have a lot of female friends. It would be nice if she could finally have that with Bella.
"Yeah. And although we barely mentioned you, you did come up casually, and I think you'll be happy to know that she seems to be pretty interested…" She let her comment fade off as if there was more to it, and all of a sudden, I was anxiously pacing again.
"Why do you think that? Did she say anything?"
She started laughing, and I rolled my eyes at the level of satisfaction she seemed to gain from my unease. Just as she started to speak again, I heard what sounded like Bella's voice in the background of her phone.
"She's coming back, so I'm going to get off the phone. I'd advise you to call her in about 10 minutes and offer to meet her at the shop, so you can walk to Starbucks together. One of the things she mentioned was the fact that she'd yet to hear from you!"
Before I could sputter out a response, Alice was gone.
I decided to get a fucking grip on myself and figure out my next move. I hadn't called Bella yet because I didn't want to call her before she'd be getting to Alice's shop and look too eager, and I didn't want to interrupt them while they were together. But now I realized how stupid that was. Unless I was going to wait until it was actually time to see her, we'd need to figure something out in terms of meeting up.
I scrolled through my contacts until I got to Bella's number in my phone, took a deep breath, and prepared to press the green call icon.
Time to man up.
In actuality, it took me about 15 more minutes to man up, and if it weren't for the all caps text message I received from Alice telling me to, "grow a pair," I might still be looking at Bella's name in my phone.
Thankfully my sister's figurative kick in the butt led me to press the call button on my cell phone, which allowed me to be greeted by the sweetest giggle I'd ever heard in my life. It didn't even matter that she was probably laughing at me; the fact that she answered at all brought a smile to my face.
After exchanging pleasantries, I offered to meet Bella outside of Alice's shop at noon. I definitely wanted to be a gentleman and walk with her to the coffee shop, but there was no way I was going into my sister's boutique and risk the chance of her actually saying something to embarrass me today.
As I approached Alice's store, I saw that Bella was not only beautiful, but prompt. And damn, was she beautiful.
She was dressed a lot more casually than I'd seen her last night, but she still looked amazing. She wore a white tank top with one of those colorful scarves that girls seem to wear for fashion instead of function. She paired it with a pair of very dark and very tight jeans.
"Hey, Bella," I said as I finally reached the spot she was standing outside of the door.
"Hi, Edward," she answered. It was then that I noticed what she wore on her feet, and I couldn't help but chuckle. She was wearing a pair of bright pink sandals that matched one of the shades in her colorful scarf. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail and she wore minimal makeup, if any. She was simply breathtaking.
"You know, I'm beginning to think you have a foot fetish or something," Bella commented sassily with a smirk on her face.
"Huh?" was the best response I could come up with. For some reason, this woman left me devoid of my faculties and all I could do is stare and drool.
"The last two times we've seen each other you've spent an abnormal amount of time looking at my feet!"
Oh shit. She's right. I must look like a complete creeper.
"Well, I, uh…" I tried to stutter out some sort of response. If I told her that I was actually thinking about her amazing legs in those shoes, I'd totally sound like a perv. On the other hand, that might be better than coming across like a foot fetisher.
Thankfully, Bella saved me from having to decide which type of deviant it was better to be.
"I'm kidding, Edward! Well, I'm sort of kidding. One more below-the-ankle stare-down, and I might begin to wonder," she stated with a slight laugh.
I joined her, and just like that, I was good. It amazed me at how even though she had the ability twist me all up inside, she was also the one to calm me back down.
I decided that it was time I relax, enjoy our time together, and start forming longer sentences when communicating with her.
"Well, although I do think your affinity for colorful shoes is quite endearing, I was actually admiring you as a whole. You look great, Bella."
The signs of shyness that I'd rarely seen in Bella shone through as she blushed and uttered a quiet, "Thanks."
After a little awkward shuffling, I swept my hand in front of Bella to indicate I'd follow her lead, and we started walking to the coffee shop.
"So, how was hanging out with my sister? I know she can be quite the handful. I was curious to see whether or not Bella shared the same enthusiasm about their morning as Alice did.
"It was great! We had a lot of fun, and her boutique is truly amazing. She's definitely a ball of energy, but it's nice," Bella said with a sweet smile on her face.
It seemed as if they'd genuinely had a really good time together.
"Well, I'm glad. I know Alice can be a little…forceful, when it comes to things, but she means well."
She laughed and shook her head at that comment. "Yeah, she's definitely hard to say no to. She kept trying to give me free clothing, and I practically had to throw it back at her in order to refuse it. She's really sweet, though."
We made some small talk as we approached Starbucks and walked up to place our orders. Bella insisted on paying for her own drink for about five minutes, until I reminded her that this was my treat and my way of saying thank you.
"You know, there's no reason to thank me. Your talent is what got you up on that stage. If anything, I should be thanking Jasper for sending your music to Em," she said as we sat down next to each other in a pair of lounge chairs in the corner.
"Well, if it weren't for you, there wouldn't be an event. But, maybe I owe Jasper a cup of coffee, as well." That reminded me of a question I'd been wondering about for ages. "Hey, how does Emmett know Jasper anyway? He's my best friend, and it seems weird that we're all just now connecting this way."
"Well, I obviously just met Jasper myself the other night, but I'd heard Emmett talk about him a couple of times. They met when Jasper brought his car into the shop, and at the time, I think there was some sporting event on in the garage. Instead of just dropping his car off, Jasper took Emmett up on his offer to sit, have a beer, and watch the game. I think they've hung out a few times since then and have become friends."
Now that she mentioned it, I did recall Jasper telling me about how he had found the most amazing auto repair and body shop with some pretty cool people, but I didn't recall any names being mentioned.
"So, Emmett manages the pub and works at an auto shop? He must be a jack of all trades!"
She laughed at that. "Oh, he does more than work there. He co-owns it with his wife, Rosalie. Just like at the pub, Emmett is more the finance/business mind, whereas Rosalie is all about the cars. That's why Emmett can sit back and watch games; Rose is the one who does all the hard work."
Her eyes lit up as she talked about her brother and sister-in-law. It was clear how much they meant to her. "Wow! Entrepreneurship must run deep in your blood. Is everyone in your family so self-sufficient?"
Immediately her eyes dimmed a little, and a wistful smile replaced the exuberant one that had previously been on her face. "Yeah, Em and I definitely get our tenacity and drive from our parents."
Her answer was simple enough, so I wondered what could've brought along the reaction that preceded it.
Before I could continue that train of thought, Bella turned the conversation back to me. "So, how did you meet Jasper? You guys have been best friends for a while?"
"Yeah. His family moved up here from Texas when he was six years old, hence that accent he tries to use to charm the ladies," I said with a wink.
Bella laughed, giving me a soft smile, and I hoped it had more to do with my wink than reference to Jasper's accent.
"Jasper and I went to the same elementary school, and our parents travelled in the same circles since his dad is in real estate. His parents eventually moved back to Texas when Jasper was 16, but he loved it so much that he wanted to stay. By that point, he was pretty much a part of the family, so my parents volunteered to let him live with us until we went off to college. I'm sure Alice's powers of persuasions were at hand there as well."
I still remembered the way my sister used every opportunity she had to bring up the benefits of Jasper living with us. She was so detailed and organized that I would bet any amount of money that she was going off an outline or a PowerPoint presentation that she'd created. Even though they weren't dating at the time, it was clear how infatuated Alice was with Jasper.
"I'm sure that definitely played a hand in it. That was really cool of your parents to do that. I'm sure it was the best thing in the world to have your best friend basically become your brother in a way," she said as she sucked the last of her Green Tea Frappuccino.
"Yeah, it was definitely cool to have him around all the time. It sucks that we don't get to spend as much time together as I would like now; I've been so busy with work." As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I regretted them. I had planned on avoiding discussion of my position and C&D. I wanted to keep that aspect of my life separate for some reason that I hadn't quite figured out yet. I was just so comfortable with Bella that it came out.
"Yeah, that does suck. At least he'll know where to find you every Friday night, though," Bella commented with a reassuring smile. She was very good at that—making me feel better in the simplest of ways. "What do you do anyway, Edward?"
I knew that the question was coming; it was a very standard, "getting to know you," question, after all. Still, I didn't know if the prominent position I had in the company would raise more challenging questions than I was prepared to answer. Specifically, questions about how I'd achieved the title at such a young age, why I played in a bar on the weekends if I was an executive in a billion-dollar corporation, or what my plans for even further advancement were. But looking into Bella's earnest eyes, I knew I couldn't lie to her. Besides, she was a smart girl, and I was sure she knew how to Google. Better to tell her the most amount of truth I was comfortable with than telling her a lie and having her find out another way.
"I work in the design department at C&D Architecture. I've been there for a few years; interned there my last year of college and then went straight into the company." That was honest enough. In actuality, my VP title was fairly new, and I'd yet to get used to it myself, so there was no need to publicize that.
"C&D…that's Cullen and Denali, right?" See? She's already aware of the company, and since she knew my last name, the next question was not surprising. "So, it's a family business? Is the owner your grandfather or something?"
"My father, actually. He created the company with his best friend straight out of college." I could hear the defensive nature in my tone, and I hoped that Bella hadn't noticed. It's just that the first thing people tended to think of when I told them who I am and where I work was that nepotism got me my position. Although I wasn't at all prepared to take on my father's role, I was damn good at my job.
"Wow. That's really impressive; that they were able to create something so economically sound and publicly revered at such a young age. I'm sure you make him proud."
Her words not only calmed my fears, but gave me even more insight into why I was so entranced by this woman. She couldn't know how much it meant to me to hear those things, but I could tell by the sincerity that shone through her eyes that she meant every word.
"Thanks. I hope so. I'm sure your parents are proud of you and Emmett as well, though. Owning your own businesses and doing it together; that's amazing." I was a little hesitant when mentioning her parents due to her earlier reaction, but she seemed to take my comment in stride this time.
"Well, we've had a lot of help. Not only from our parents, but from other family and friends. Rosalie's brother, Jacob, actually manages the auto shop, since Emmett splits his time between there and the pub and Rosalie is interested more in the hands-on aspects of the job."
"I might just have to take my car to this shop; seems like I've been missing out!"
She laughed at my statement. "Well, I have it on good authority that Rose and Jake will be making an appearance for the performances next Friday, so hopefully, you can meet them then. I think they'd like you."
"Oh, really? And what makes you think that?"
"Well, not only are you crazy talented and very nice, but you have good taste in coffee AND coffee-date partners." She winked, smiling broadly.
I loved how self-assured she was and that she could say things like that and not come across as cocky, just real and honest. Besides, she was a pretty great coffee-date partner.
"Well, on that note, why don't I get us both a refill?"
"I'd love that."
After I got us both fresh drinks, we sat in those lounge chairs in the corner and talked for a couple of hours. We never delved into any deep subjects, but at the same time, it wasn't superficial either. We talked about music, movies, and books, and I loved the passion that Bella seemed to possess when she expressed her opinions. I found out about "Jersey Shore" being her guilty pleasure, and in turn, she discovered that I'd always wanted to go on one of those cooking competitions, even though I could barely boil water. As the conversation continued, we became more and more comfortable with one another, and our interactions seemed effortless. It was a little after two pm when we realized how long we'd been sitting there.
"Oh, wow. I didn't realize how long we'd been here. I should probably head back to the pub to take care of some things since Em is off today," Bella said as she got up and stretched.
It took everything in me not to focus on the sliver of skin on her stomach that was revealed by that motion.
"Yeah, it is getting a little late. Sorry to have kept you." I wasn't really sorry; far from it. This had been one of the most amazing afternoons I'd had with a woman in a while, and I'd definitely like to have more days just like this.
"No! I've had a great afternoon. I'm just sorry I can't stay longer," she said as we trashed our cups and headed for the door.
"It's alright, that just means we'll have to do it again, soon." I tried to sound casual yet confident as I made the statement, but I was anything but.
"I'd like that actually," Bella responded as we walked back towards Alice's shop.
We'd both parked our cars there, and it was nice to be able to delay our departure for a little while longer. The walk back was mostly quiet, but inside my head, I had a million thoughts running around. I desperately wanted to grab her hand, which was a shock to me in and of itself. Even when I was in a relationship, I wasn't big on PDA, and now I wanted to grab Bella's hand? I don't know if it was the last few hours we'd spent together or our impending departure that brought on the urge, but it took everything in me to exercise some restraint.
Once we made it to the boutique, I walked Bella to her car and held the door open so she could climb inside. I wondered if I was alone in feeling like this resembled the end of a date more than a causal meeting.
Just as I had that thought, Bella reached up and kissed me on the cheek before getting in her car. We smiled at each other for beat, before she turned to buckle her seatbelt.
"Well, thanks for letting me treat you to coffee today. I had a great time getting to know you, Bella."
"No, thank you. We'll definitely have to do it again sometime. Goodnight, Edward."
And although she said the words that effectively ended our time together, I wasn't upset. I knew that at the very least I'd see her again on Friday, and I had a feeling that we would actually get a chance to do this again.
"Goodnight, Bella," I said as I closed her door and walked to my own car.
After making sure she departed safely, I got in my car and made the drive home, the smile on my face never faltering.
So, what did you think of their first unofficial date?! I think it went pretty well, if I do say so myself :) I'm definitely going to try to get us back on a regular schedule with this story, so expect the next chapter in two weeks unless real life rears its ugly head again. See you all soon!