Disclaimer: Nope. Still pretty sure I live in Nowhere, North Carolina, not Scottsdale, Arizona with a ton of money. So, no, I'm not Stephanie Meyer and I don't own Twilight. Nor do I own any of the songs or their lyrics. Just FYI…
AN: Gah, I'm totally sucking at this update thing again, aren't I? LOL. Sorry. It's been a busy ass week! And now, on top of everything else, I've just found out I have to host Thanksgiving. AGAIN! Shit. So that means I have a fuck-ton of stuff to do in my house,e ven though it's a MONTH AWAY! *grumbles* So I'm not in the best of moods. *sigh* Here's hoping your lovely reviews will put me in a better, happier place. *grovels for reviews* Love you guys!
After Bella's slight breakdown, she gathered up the documentation Garrett said we would need and we drove downtown to the law offices of Garrett Norman, LL.M.
Her mouth fell open as she took in the sight before her when I pointed out the building. "Your lawyer's office is here?"
I nodded. Garrett had done very well for himself. He was an excellent businessman. Kate, his wife and now secretary, as I liked to tease her, was a former runner for the New York Stock Exchange, so I felt pretty sure she had something to do with their financial well-being. She knew stocks and bonds, and my whole family trusted her with their investments. Once they decided to have a family, she quit her job and they moved down here. I'd met them a year or so back at one of Mom's client barbeques. Luckily for me, Garrett was in business law. It made things much easier once I decided to start my own business. "He's my friend, too, and yes, he owns one of the suites. Mom's firm designed the building. "
Bella blinked and followed me mutely into the lobby. "Whoa, Edward, your mother designed this? It's gorgeous! Are you sure I'm dressed appropriately?"
I couldn't hold in my chuckle and eyed her appreciatively. "You look gorgeous, trust me." I hit the button and waited for the elevator to arrive.
"This place is amazing. I don't feel like I'm in a high enough tax bracket to even walk through the doors."
I did laugh at that and pulled her into the elevator once the doors opened. "But, you're with me, Bella." I pulled her to me and kissed her delicately, punching the button for the eighteenth floor. "I'm loaded, honey. Stick with me and you can have anything you want."
She smiled at my attempt at humor. "All I want is you."
I let out a feral sound and attacked her lips with fervor. Down boy, I commanded myself. We are insatiable today, aren't we? She eagerly returned the kiss and both of us were panting as the doors softly slid open and I pulled away. "By the way," I threw out offhandedly, "You already have me, so ask for something else."
She didn't respond as I led her down the hall. I knocked as we came upon the door, uncertain if Garrett and Kate were otherwise…occupied, but I walked on in and yelled, "Are you decent?"
The door to the inner office opened and I noticed with some amusement that Kate's usually perfect lipstick was slightly smudged. "Did I interrupt?" I asked cheekily.
Kate narrowed her eyes at me, but quickly smiled at Bella as she approached. "Hi, ignore Edward. I'm Kate and you must be Bella?"
Bella nodded and smiled as she held out her hand for Kate. Oh, how she didn't know my friend. Kate attached herself to Bella, hugging her tightly. "I'm so glad to meet you! It's about time sexy Eddie found a girl."
My face flamed. Not only did I hate being called Eddie, but adding sexy to the beginning of it was somewhat degrading. "Thanks, Katie," I groused, causing both women to laugh.
"He is kind of sexy, isn't he?" Bella asked, surely making fun of me.
"Ha, ha. Laugh it up, Bella." I told her. And then I proved just how childish I was and stuck my tongue out at her.
To my surprise, she licked her lips and moved closer to me, wrapping her arms around my neck. "Better put that tongue back in your mouth, Mr. Cullen or I'll be forced to suck on it."
The surprise must have shown on my face, because Kate burst out laughing and Bella sent me a sexy little smirk. "More of that later, tiger," she told me with a wink and then brushed a chaste kiss to my lips before pulling away.
I rearranged my jeans, thankful for the restrictive denim, and cleared my throat as Kate led the way into Garrett's office.
After introductions were made, Garrett asked, "So, Bella, how long have you known our boy Edward?" as he sat down behind his desk to look over the information she handed him. He looked impressive in his thousand dollar suit, despite the fact that his sandy colored hair was in a sleek ponytail down his back. That was one part of himself he refused to change, despite his numerous wealthy and somewhat snooty clients.
Garrett had started growing his hair in high-school and every few years, when it was long enough, he cut it off and donated it to Locks for Love because his mother had survived breast cancer, but had to wear a wig during chemo.
Looking at him, I figured it must have been about time for him to cut it off. "It's about time for a trim, isn't it, Garrett?" I inquired, deflecting his attention from Bella. I knew Garrett was a good guy, but he was the type that would look down on Bella for her occupation, even if it was so she could better herself.
He grinned and I was pleased my tactic worked for the moment. "As a matter of fact, I'm taking Jonas and Joshua to get their hair cut tonight, so I'm going to get it cut off again and start over."
I grinned, thinking of his two youngest sons. That would be an interesting trip, taking both boys to get their hair cut. "How long will it take for you to finish my paperwork?" I asked.
He handed Bella's papers to Kate, who took them to the copier in the next room. "It will take time, Edward. This is a lot of work you've just piled on me."
I eyed him and his gaze didn't waver from mine. Clearly the man had things he thought he needed to say to me. And it was obvious when Kate came back with the originals of Bella's papers and said, "Bella, I'm going to step downstairs and grab a coffee from the kiosk. Would you care to join me?"
Bella looked over at me with uncertainty. I blinked my eyes away from the staring match Garrett and I had started. "Go on, love. I'll just entertain myself with Garrett, catching up on his latest fishing expedition. When you return, we'll be ready to discuss all of our plans so Garrett knows what needs to be drawn up."
She still seemed uncertain as we stood, evidently aware of the change on the wind. "O-okay. Would you like something?"
"Sure, Katie knows what I like."
She opened her mouth to say something but changed her mind and snapped it shut. She stood and smiled at Kate. "I would love a mocha, thank you for offering."
Kate grinned at her as she linked her arm with Bella's, hauling her toward the door. "Yeah, and once we're out of earshot, you can tell me what Edward's like in bed!"
I didn't hear Bella's response because Kate shut the door behind them.
Again, my eyes shot to Garrett's. "Say it, Garrett. You know you want to."
"What the fuck are you thinking, Edward? I mean, my God, she's a fucking stripper!"
My jaw set and I threw out sarcastically, "Really? I had no fucking idea. Well, thank God you cleared that up! I guess I can just get up from here and run the fuck away from her!"
Garrett let out a growl and sat back in his chair. "Damn it, Edward. I like you, I really do. But you're young and have such big ideas, such big goals. I'd hate to see you fuck that up over a piece of pussy."
I clenched my fists and quickly judged the distance from him to me and if I could actually surprise him with a punch to his pretty face, when he added, "Oh, come on, calm down. I can see you want to hit me. Don't bother. We both know I'd put you into the ground."
It was true; Garrett was a huge man. He was taller than Emmett and just as broad. He could easily beat the shit out of me if I tried anything. "She is not just a piece of pussy," I told him vehemently.
"I never said she was just a piece of pussy. I said I would hate to see you fuck up your life over a piece of pussy. It has happened before, you know it and I know it."
"Bella isn't like that."
"I'm not saying she is," he reiterated. "I just want to warn you about…"
"About girls like her? Girls that aren't given a shot at life because their parents were killed? Girls that have to work and slave to save up money to be something? Just what, exactly, are you planning on warning me about?"
"I know all about Bella, Edward. I had one of my P.I. friends check into her. With that, along the background check I just had expedited, I know more about Bella Swan than you do."
"You had no right to just…"
"I'm your attorney, Edward, but I'm also your friend. I'm not like Kate. I can't just congratulate you on the fact you found a girlfriend." He blew out a breath and sat up, hovering over his desk slightly. "I'm glad you've found someone, Edward. And it's true, on paper she sounds like a great girl. You make her sound like a great girl. I just want to protect you in the event that she isn't a great girl. Okay?"
Part of me realized he was right. It wasn't a personal attack against Bella, it was the love of a friend protecting me. But it still pissed me the fuck off. "I understand," I finally blew out. "But I'm still not happy with how you've worded things. You're looking down on her because she's a stripper."
He nodded. "Fine, if that's what you want me to say, then, yes, I look down on her because she's a stripper. She could have worked as a waitress or a fry cook or as a telemarketer, but no, she became a stripper."
"You've never needed money that bad, Garrett. You don't know!"
"Like you do?" he countered.
I shook my head. "No, I don't know. But I know enough not to call her trash because she is stuck in a shittastic job."
We glared at one another for a few moments before he sighed and swiped his hand over his face as he picked up a paper and looked at it. "Fine. We can agree to disagree. She seems like a good girl. No outstanding warrants, one traffic ticket for failure to stop, which, when things came to light, was because if she had stopped, her car would have died, which it did, and had to be towed once the cop pulled her over. She was on her way to the mechanic's at the time. She's as boring as you are, despite her colorful job."
I growled and he continued as if he hadn't heard me. "I think she may prove to be an asset to your business, Edward, but I would probably recommend she get her own attorney to look over the paperwork once I get it all drawn up."
"She doesn't have the money for that and you know it." My tone was bitter.
He nodded. "I was afraid of that."
"So, what do we do?"
"What do we do about what?" Bella asked as she walked back into the room. She handed me a cup of coffee and I took it gratefully, sipping on it.
"Garrett is worried about once we draw up the paperwork, you can't afford an attorney of your own to look over everything. It would be nice just to verify that we didn't screw you over, you know?"
She thought a moment. "You know, there's a girl that used to work with us, Kasey. She's a law student now, a third year, I think. She's the one that talked to Rosalie, helping her choose her profession for the future. I can give them to her to look over. I'm sure she wouldn't mind helping me out."
I shot Garrett a look, as if to say, See? A lawyer came out of that strip club.
He nodded in acknowledgement and I smirked. "Sounds great, love," I told her. We quickly discussed the long list of papers we wanted drawn up as well as the pros and cons of an S Corporation versus a true partnership. Once all of us seemed somewhat satisfied with how things would be handled, I asked, "So, Garrett, how long will it be?"
He thought a few moments and said, "I need to get a few ducks in a row. Give me at least a week, alright?"
"Sounds good," I said as I stood. "Now, I'm hungry. Shall we, Bella?"
She smiled and grasped my hand. "Sure." She turned to Kate and not surprisingly, hugged her. "It was great to meet you, Kate."
"You too, honey. I'll call you about dinner, though, with all the boys in my house, I'm not sure you'd want to come over and subject yourself to it."
Bella giggled. "No, I love kids. I was an excellent babysitter when I was in school. As a matter of fact, I normally didn't go out on dates so I could get the primo babysitting jobs on Friday and Saturday nights."
I smiled at that. It sounded like something Bella would do. Even as a teen she gave up her pleasures to make money, probably squirreling it away for that dream of becoming a chef.
"The Winston triplets almost did me in," Bella added. "But if I could handle three five-year-old little boys, I think I can take on your crew."
Kate laughed, as did a begrudging Garrett. "They're a handful," he added in. "Sometimes I want to run away and join the circus. It would probably be more relaxing."
Bella let out a delicate little snort. "Please. You're probably there for the fun times, aren't you? Poor Kate has to deal with all the crap jobs."
"You know it," Kate stated.
"Hey!" Garrett's tone was indignant. "I help!"
Kate and Bella, who seemed to be best of friends now, shared a look. "Anyway," Kate told her, "I'll call you. Have a good afternoon."
"You too, Kate," Bella's eyes traveled to Garrett for a moment and she nodded at him, "Garrett."
"Miss Bella, it was a pleasure." He was all cool southern charm, the damn Oklahoma in him coming out to show his manners.
Bella pursed her lips. "Hmm, I'm not too sure about that, but I swear, I'm not out to fuck Edward over. And I'm not after his money, either, no matter what you may think of me."
My mouth fell open as Bella turned and walked out the door. I smirked at the open-mouthed man behind the desk. "Bang. Got you pegged right off the fucking bat. Yep, that's my girl." And with that, I strode after my woman.
I hit the button on the elevator and waited for it to arrive as I thought about what had transpired. I wasn't stupid. I could tell from the moment we walked into that office, Garrett knew what my job was and that he didn't approve of it or Edward being with me and that pissed me off, even if Garrett did look deliciously like Trace Atkins in his music video for "I Got My Game On."
I knew I was a stripper, but I was not a prostitute. I never, ever turned tricks. That was beneath me as well as most of the girls that worked at Foxxxy. Sure, James wouldn't have minded if we had a little side business going on with the customers, but each of us girls had standards and dreams. We may take our clothes off, but no man touched us unless we wanted them to, and then it was for personal reasons, never business. Had it not been for the fact that I didn't want to cause too much of a scene, I would have said that very thing to Mr. Hot-Shot Attorney in his expensive suit and with his manicured hands. What kind of big-ass man has a fucking manicure anyway? Pussy. I was still steaming when Edward slipped in behind me, his hand going around my waist.
"Watching you cut him down to size was the sexiest fucking thing I've ever seen. Will you get pissed off at people more often? I love it when your beautiful brown eyes turn hot, like melted dark chocolate. God. I want to fuck you up against this wall so he and Kate both can hear you scream."
I wouldn't have minded that myself, but I wasn't out to prove to Garrett that he was right and I was just trash. "Tempting," I managed, even though I could detect the whimper in my voice. "But now isn't the time."
Edward seemed to sense my feelings on the subject and he whispered into my ear, "I understand, but just know that I'll remember that little display in the office later and pleasure myself as I think about it."
Now that almost caused me to lose my reserve. Fuck, the things this man does to me… I stepped away from him as the elevator opened, blowing a breath up my face to cool off my forehead. Damn. When did it get so hot in here? Oh, right, the moment Edward stepped onto the elevator.
"So," Edward said, adjusting himself yet again, causing me to smirk. I liked knowing I drove him as crazy as he drove me. "I know how you feel about Garrett, but did you like Kate?"
I felt bad immediately. "Edward, it isn't that I hate Garrett, I don't. I just don't think he should judge people by their profession. I mean, I don't dislike him because he's a lawyer. I dislike him because he's an asshole."
That got a big laugh out of Edward. I smiled. "Kate's awesome, though, she really is. And I think he's probably a nice guy, just a bit jaded. And I can understand that, too. I mean, can you imagine all the dirty dealings he's seen as a business attorney? Yikes. He has every reason to be upset that you've gone and picked up some chick and after one night together, you decide you want her to be your business partner. It would make anyone question your sanity."
He looked at me in surprise as the elevator dinged. "I…"
I shook my head and stepped out. He followed close behind me and grasped my hand. I turned to look at him. "Edward, it's like I said earlier, I don't doubt you, and I don't doubt us. But you have to realize that not everyone is going to buy the whole 'love at first sight' thing. We really don't know each other at all."
"Well, why don't we start right now? What do you like to eat?"
I thought a moment and then a smile crossed my face. "How do you feel about Cuban food?"
By this time we had made it to the car. He unlocked it and opened my door, saying, "I can honestly say I've never tried Cuban food."
"It's delicious," I told him as I grabbed the keys from his hand. His eyes widened and I giggled as I pushed him into the passenger seat. "Take a load off and leave the driving to me. I know a great little place."
I was shocked yet again as Bella grabbed my car keys out of my hand, commandeering my Volvo. She drove us into Little Havana, and once there, she directed me into a small café, called La Flor Azul – The Blue Flower. Then she marched in like she owned the place and immediately began speaking fluent Spanish to the woman behind the counter.
I was dumbfounded as we were sat by the window where we could watch the world go by outside. She smirked at me and asked, "Surprised?"
"A little," I admitted. "When did you learn Spanish?"
She smiled. "Well, there isn't a lot to do when you work at night."
I nodded. That, I knew all too well.
"One day I got the urge for Mexican food, but I didn't know where to go. I asked Rose if she had anywhere she would recommend. She asked me if I had ever eaten anything Cuban, which I hadn't. She brought me here. I was immediately fascinated and began a conversation with the lady behind the counter, Huilen. Her nephew, Nahuel, owns this place. He came over and we started talking. Soon enough, we became friends and he taught me the language. I've become quite close to his cousin, also. She's into architecture, studying in Rome. I used to come here quite often. Nahuel has taught me how to use some of the Cuban spices and I've already made a few dishes. I'm eager to experiment, and have tried a couple of side projects…"
"One of which is now on my menu," a man said as he came up behind Bella and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Bella, aren't you going to introduce me to your friend?" he inquired with a slight accent.
She smiled. "Nahuel, this is Edward. Edward, this is my friend, Nahuel."
I smiled at him, sensing his kindness and immediately liked him. He seemed to have taken Bella under his wing. "A pleasure," I said as I stood and held out my hand for him. We shook, and I sat back down again.
"So Bells," he began, as he also sat. "What's new?"
Her eyes shone with excitement as she told him what had transpired throughout the day and night, quick to leave out all of the sex, which I was thankful for. Nahuel looked at me with…was it gratefulness in his eyes? I gave him a small smile that hopefully said, I'll take care of her from now on.
He seemed to understand, because he gave me a curt nod before standing. "Well, I'll just get back into the kitchen. Do you want me to surprise you?"
Bella nodded. "Please do, but nothing funky, if you don't mind."
He laughed. "This from the woman that tried the rice and squid?"
Her nose wrinkled. "And I didn't like it. Besides, it's Edward's first time. Go easy."
He held up his hands as he chortled. "Okay, okay. It will be right out."
I looked at her. "How much do you trust Nahuel?"
She giggled. "With my life."
I rolled my eyes. "Okay, if you say so."
But she was right, the food was excellent. He brought out Escabeche with Frijoles Negros and rice for me and Fricase de Pollo with a side of rice for Bella.
I pushed away my plate and said, "I'm stuffed." I had eaten every mouthful of mine and had sampled Bella's. I was going to have to waddle in behind the bar tonight.
Bella smiled as she sipped the small glass of Sangria and said, "Did you enjoy it?"
I nodded. "That was fabulous. I can't believe I live in Miami and have never eaten Cuban food before."
"Once you try it, all other food seems to pale in comparison, at least, it did for me."
"Is this the type of food you would like to cook in our restaurant?"
She tilted her head to the side, thinking. "Perhaps. But I think it would be nice to have a theme night, perhaps once a week or even a different theme every night. That would be cool, too. One night could be Italian, one night Cuban, and the like."
I smiled. "You've given this a lot of thought."
She shrugged. "It's always been my dream. And thanks to you, that dream is becoming a reality."
I smiled again and reached across the table to take her hand. "I thought I knew my dream. I thought Twilight was it for me, but now, with you, I realize, I had no clue what I really wanted out of my life." My eyes caught hers as I added, "My life didn't truly have a dream, until you came in it." Yes, it sounded corny as hell, but hopefully, it also sounded romantic.
A tiny tear slipped down her cheek and she said, "Thank you."
"Trust me," I said, getting a bit choked up myself, "It's you I should be thanking."
She smiled then. "Let's get Twilight up and running and we'll call it even."
I nodded. "Good enough."
She glanced down at her watch. "We need to go. We don't want James fussing at us because we're late."
I let out a groan, but stood and pulled out my wallet. Bella put her hand over mine and said, "No, it's on me."
"Bella…" I started, but her finger went to my lips, silencing me.
"Shush," she said. "I've got this." She turned and walked to the counter to speak with Huilen. It took her only a few moments before she was back. "All set, let's go."
I sighed and opened the door for her. I really didn't want to do this. I didn't want her going to work. I wanted to keep her tucked away in one of our apartments and not let anyone see her perfect body again.
She handed me back my keys and I helped her in the car. Once I sat behind the wheel, I let out another breath and I heard her sigh as well.
"One week, Edward. You only have to share me for one week," she told me. "You can do this," she added softly.
AN2: Was I the only one that thought of Trace Adkins when I read about Garrett? Yes? No? Eh, well, whatever. If you're not a country music fan, you're free to think of him as someone else, that was just what I thought.
Did you guys notice the ton of stuff added to this chapter? I had to add to Garrett's office scene. I like this new one much better! Hope you guys do to! Please leave me some love (or hate) on the way out!