Title: The Cullen Enterprise
Author: Amethyst Jackson
Summary: Bella has no idea how she's going to continue supporting herself and her recovering father on her meager income…until a certain CEO waltzes in with an offer she can't refuse.
Disclaimer: The characters in this story are in no way mine, and that is why I am making absolutely ZERO dollars off this story. And the idea isn't all that original, either, so I'm really not making any claims here.
Chapter Twenty-Five: Miss You
As excited as I was to see my dad, leaving Edward wasn't easy. I'd made sure to get up early in order to get on the road, knowing the three hours to Forks and the three hours back would eat up most of the day. I hadn't counted on how hard it would be to pull myself from Edward's arms - both figuratively and literally. He had one solid grip.
The sun was just starting to really light up the neighborhood when I got downstairs. I watered the plants in the greenhouse - I hoped Edward wouldn't go in there while I was gone and ruin the surprise - and then packed up the food I'd prepared for Charlie.
I had to admit, I was happy with my new car. I didn't have to worry about it stalling as I made my way out of Edward's neighborhood and onto the highway to Forks.
Edward had been impossible yesterday, from his smothering attention after my fainting spell to his insistence on my buying the safest vehicle on the market. I'd wanted something gently used, but at least we'd come to a reasonable compromise. As much as I wanted to assert my independence as a matter of principle, it did feel like I was spending his money and I wanted his approval.
The drive to Forks was long, but it helped having a thermos of Edward's fancy coffee and a nice, new stereo to listen to.
When I pulled into the driveway of the house I'd called home just a week ago, I sent a quick text to Edward letting him know I'd arrived safely, per his request. He replied immediately, reminding me to text before I left Forks, and it made me wonder what he was doing. I knew he planned to work today, so I doubted he was still in bed. Was he sitting down to breakfast alone? Was he already ensconced in his office? Did he feel as weird about me being away as I did?
I found Charlie in kitchen with a plate of scrambled eggs and a cup of black coffee. He was still in his bathrobe and flannel pajama pants.
"Hi, Dad," I said, carrying an armful of tupperware containers to the fridge. Charlie jumped up to help, but not quickly enough.
"Hey, Bells. I didn't hear your truck," he said, giving me an awkward, one-armed hug.
"Oh. Yeah, I actually got a new car. Didn't seem like a good idea to keep driving the truck back and forth."
What followed were a million questions about the car, its safety features, its warrantee, whether I could afford the payments, and what I planned to do with the truck.
"Sell it for parts?" I suggested. "I'll figure it out soon."
"The Blacks might like it back," Charlie said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "You know Jake likes working on cars."
I shrugged. "Why don't you ask next time you see them? Come on, I didn't get a chance to inspect the fridge earlier."
My Sunday was a complete wash.
For years now, it seemed, I'd followed the same routine. Work hard Monday through Saturday, be lazy on Sunday. This weekend, I'd deliberately saved my extra work for Sunday, knowing that a lazy Sunday would not be the same without Bella now, and knowing I wouldn't want to waste the Saturday I had with Bella working.
Unfortunately, as soon as I heard Bella pull out of the garage, I knew I'd be useless for anything.
Sleeping in wasn't an option, not in an empty bed. I didn't waste any time in the shower because it reminded me of her now. Breakfast was a boring affair, just a bowl of cereal in an empty kitchen.
At first I went to my office, thinking I might be able to bury myself in work. I had almost convinced myself it was working until Bella texted that she'd arrived in Forks, and I realized I'd made next to no progress during the three hours she'd been gone.
The afternoon went much the same way. I made myself lunch. I ran the dishwasher even though Carmen would just wash them by hand tomorrow. I tried to read some reports and got stuck on the same paragraph for half an hour. I reached for my phone at least two dozen times to text Bella, but I always made myself stop before I hit 'send.' I was desperate for any kind of assurance that she would come back – a simple, "I miss you" would have set my world to right, but that was a naive notion. What reason would she have to miss the man that was paying her to be his girlfriend?
By six o'clock, Bella hadn't yet sent a text that she was returning. By seven, I was texting her, and then pacing the living room when she didn't respond. I had a feeling I was in for a long night.
"So, Bella, how's that new job of yours going?" Charlie asked me over dinner. "What does a personal assistant do, anyway?"
"Um, a little bit of everything. You know, errands, getting lunch, whatever," I lied vaguely. "It's good, although..."
"What?" Charlie asked, his mustache tilting downward in concern.
"Well...I think my boss actually needs me more on the weekends because he does a lot of work at home. He has an assistant at the office during the week, but just me on the weekend...so I was thinking I might visit you during the week instead. If that would be okay."
"Of course that's okay," Charlie said. He looked sheepish. "To be honest, the boys from the station are always asking me to go fishing on Sundays."
I laughed, relieved. "Okay, then. I'll pick a different day to come."
"You know, Bella...as much as I miss having you around, you don't have to visit every week. That's a lot of miles to be driving, and I'm sure you have other things to do with your time off."
He was staring at the tabletop, and I felt tears gathering at the corners of my eyes. "Dad, I want to visit."
Charlie nodded and cleared his throat, a signal that the emotional conversation was over. We finished dinner and I cleaned up. Afterward I reminded Charlie that he would need to get his whites out of the dryer soon and gave him instructions on reheating the meals I'd brought with me – he didn't appreciate the lecture about foil in the microwave, but I'd learned from experience.
By that time the sun was starting to set, and I knew I needed to get on the road. I gave Charlie one last hug goodbye and left Forks.
About an hour into my drive, I heard my phone chime with a text message alert, and I winced. Only Edward could be messaging me right now, and I realized then that I'd forgotten to tell him I was on my way home. Years of being a cop's daughter had taught me not to touch my phone while I was behind the wheel, though, and there wasn't really anywhere to pull over. It would be fine, I reasoned. I'd be home soon and Edward would see I was safe and sound.
When I pulled up to the house two hours later, only the living room light was still on. I felt a pang of disappointment, wondering if Edward had already gone up to bed without me and merely left the light on for me. As I tiptoed inside, however, I saw a familiar form sprawled on the couch. His head was on a pillow against the arm of the sofa and his laptop sat open on his stomach. It had sat abandoned long enough to hibernate, and Edward's face was relaxed in sleep.
I approached him quietly, unwilling to wake him when I so rarely saw him in slumber. He was always the first one awake in the morning and the last to go to bed.
I moved the laptop onto the coffee table and then reached to run my fingers through his tousled hair. He sighed and stirred at my touch, but his eyes didn't open until I ran my thumb along his jaw.
His long lashes fluttered and then his deep green eyes looked up to me. "Bella?"
"Hi," I said lamely, dropping my hand.
His eyes narrowed. "You didn't text. I was worried sick."
"I'm sorry. I forgot, and by the time I realized, I was already driving."
"I'm just glad you made it back," he said, pushing himself into a sitting position. "How was your father?"
"He was good. Seems like he's taking care of himself. I, uh, talked to him about visiting during the week instead."
"You did?" I couldn't read his expression.
"Yeah. I mean, he's retired, so it doesn't really matter, and it seems silly for me to be gone on one of the two days you're not working."
Edward smiled then, an expression so happy that my heart skipped a beat. "You didn't have to do that for me...but I did miss you today," he said softly.
If my heart had skipped before, it now sped to double-time. "I missed you, too."