Disclaimer: Not mine.
Edward groaned and tried to swallow around the cotton filling his mouth. He blinked against the harsh sunlight, his hand lifting automatically to shield his eyes. Sitting up, he looked around the room in confusion. It was vaguely familiar, but he couldn't quite place it. The sound of his phone beeping drew his attention to where it lay on the floor beside him.
"Oh, fuck," he exhaled, his pulse quickening. He reached for his phone, the sudden movement causing the room spin. He was fairly certain he was still drunk. As soon as he unlocked the screen, his stomach dropped. There were three missed calls from Bella and one voicemail.
The night before suddenly came rushing back. He knew exactly where he was, and it was the last place he should be. He patted his pockets for his keys, then grabbed his shoes and started for the front door.
"You're going to leave without even saying goodbye?" Esme asked, tightening the belt of her robe.
Edward shoved his free hand in his back pocket and pulled out a crumpled pack of cigarettes. Not bothering to ask if she minded, he lit the tip and blew a plume of smoke into the air before turning to face her.
"I figured after you slapped me, I wouldn't be asked to stay for breakfast." He didn't bother to hide his anger or his sarcasm.
Esme pulled her hair over her shoulder and dipped her chin, her expression contrite. "I shouldn't have hit you. I had way too much to drink last night and you embarrassed me. I say we just write the entire night off as a drunken mistake and move on. No hard feelings."
Edward inhaled a long drag from his cigarette and shook his head in annoyance. It didn't matter to him how she felt. She wasn't important. "Yeah, whatever. I gotta go."
"You realize you're supposed to be at the studio in forty-five minutes, right?"
"Fuck." Edward didn't bother to say anything else before yanking open the front door and heading to his SUV. Esme followed and leaned on the door frame with her arms crossed under her breasts and a satisfied smile on her face.
Edward clamped his teeth around the butt of his cigarette and lifted the back hatch. Tossing his shoes inside, he grabbed the bag he kept with a change of clothes inside for emergencies. He cursed when he realized he'd used the clothes when he'd stayed with Bella and hadn't replaced them. Snatching his shoes back out, he slammed the heavy door and sighed.
The cherry of his cigarette burned bright as he sucked in a lungful of smoke and tried to figure out how he was going to get out of this mess. He straightened his back and ran a hand through his hair as he took in his surroundings. As easy as it would be to lie, he didn't want to do that. The only thing he was guilty of was drinking too much and being a complete fucking idiot.
He looked down at his clothes. His white button down was untucked, wrinkled, and reeked of stale alcohol. His best bet would be to get to the studio and jump in the shower before anyone saw him. With a final nervous exhale of smoke, he flicked his cigarette into the grass and climbed behind the wheel. Starting the engine, he pulled out of Esme's drive, completely unaware of the camera that had been snapping his picture since he walked out Esme's front door.
Edward, I texted you earlier and called a couple of times. I'm not sure what's going on. Why won't you answer? Are you okay? I'm starting to get worried. Call me. Please.
Edward's hand tightened around the steering wheel until his knuckles whitened as he listened to Bella's voicemail. Opening his texts, he read her message. His jaw clenched and his heart thumped as anxiety began to creep across his skin. She'd called and he'd ignored her. She texted and he was too fucked up to even realize it. He'd managed to make what was already a tense situation so much fucking worse. Turning into the studio, he schooled his features. He just needed to pull himself together and gather his confidence. Everything would be fine.
While Edward slipped on his shoes and tried to flatten his hair, Bella sat behind her desk twirling a pencil nervously between her fingers. She looked at the clock for the twentieth time in as many minutes before finally deciding to go look for Edward. She thought he would have stopped by her office, or at the very least called or texted. Pushing away from her desk, she grabbed her phone and walked the length of the hall to his dressing room.
Waiting a few seconds after knocking on his door, she pushed her way inside. The lights were on. She could smell the freshly brewed coffee and pastries recently delivered. Letting the door close behind her, she looked around the room for any sign of Edward. She was fairly certain he hadn't been there yet, and she wasn't sure how to feel about that.
Easing herself into the chair in front of the vanity, she let her head fall back and her eyes close. Memories of her first encounter with Edward flicked through her mind, causing a small smile to lift the corners of her mouth. He was such a jerk. Full of confidence, swag, and superiority. Her smile turned into a full blown grin when she remember the look of shock on his face when she left him standing alone with a bruised shin and an equally bruised ego. She wasn't sure how things between them had changed. How he'd managed to worm his way into her life and into her heart.
Her smile faltered as her mind drifted to their fight yesterday. She'd hoped her time with James would distract her. Allow her to sink into her stubbornness for a little longer. But dinner, touring buildings, and listening to the realtor prattle on about locations and demographics did nothing but make her realize all she really wanted was talk to Edward. She lifted her head and looked down at her phone. Edward should have been there already. Fear caused her skin to prickle and her stomach to twist as she began to imagine what could've happened to him. Was he hurt? Did he get into an accident? She knew Edward had a nasty habit of driving after he'd been drinking. What if he wrecked his car? For all she knew, he could be in a ditch or in a hospital. She had no way of knowing. No one would contact her.
Her hands shook as adrenaline pumped through her veins. Her throat tightened as dread bloomed in her chest and restricted her airway. She planted her feet on the floor to stand when the door behind her swung open. Wide-eyed, she whipped her head around, her heart pounding at the sight of Edward standing across the room.
Relief washed over her. She jumped from the chair and started toward him. "Oh, my God. You're okay. I was worried something..." Her words trailed off and her steps slowed to a stop as she took in his appearance. He was the most disheveled she'd ever seen him. His clothes looked slept in, and she could smell alcohol from where she stood. She began to fit the puzzle pieces together and a whole new set of emotions crashed over her: disbelief, hurt, confusion, and anger. White-hot, heart pounding anger.
Edward's throat bobbed as he watched the myriad of emotions flicker across her face. "Bella."
She held up her hand and shook her head. "Are you hurt?"
His voice was low and strained when he spoke. "No."
"Have you been in jail?"
She sucked in a lungful of air, and when she spoke, her tone was razor sharp and stone hard. "Have you been home?"
Edward swallowed and his hands balled into fists as he shook his head slowly.
Bella's vision swam as tears gathered in her eyes. She gave a tight nod and wiped under her eyes. Her muscles bunched and her stomach knotted. "Of course not." Shaking her head in disbelief she shrugged and threw her arms out wide before letting them fall heavily to her sides. "Of fucking course not."
Edward's shoulders straightened as his posture became defensive. "It's not what you think. Don't start jumping to conclusions." His body revolted against the sudden rush of adrenaline that coursed through him. His hangover was making him sluggish, and the combination caused his stomach to churn and sweat to bead at his temples.
"Okay." Bella nodded. It was too late, though. She'd already convinced herself of exactly where he'd been and what he'd been doing. Or better yet, whom. She suddenly felt exposed, vulnerable. She crossed her arms over her chest in an attempt to shield herself, to create some kind of barrier between the dull ache forming around her heart and the person who'd caused it. "Tell me what happened then."
Edward remained silent. The mounting tension between them was making his already tenuous grasp on holding back the urge to vomit slip.
"Tell me!" she screamed, all control of her emotions gone. His silence only reinforced her belief. He was hiding something and gearing up to cover his tracks. But she wanted answers. She deserved them, no matter how much the confirmation would rip her to shreds.
A loud knock caused them both to startle. "Fifteen minutes," a man called from the other side of the door.
Without taking his eyes off Bella, Edward yelled, "I'll be right there." He waited until he was sure they were alone before he spoke again. "Meet me at my house after work."
"No fucking way." Bella's tone left no room for argument. She wasn't putting herself in that position again. She wasn't putting herself in any kind of position again. Not where he was concerned.
Edward knew it, too. He could see resolve setting in her features like concrete. But there was no way he was letting it go again. He wasn't going to allow another argument between them to go unresolved. Especially when he was certain of the scenarios running through her mind about what he'd done last night. But if he told her the whole truth―that he'd passed out at Esme's―there would be no chance of getting her to his house. So he told her what she needed to hear. He'd tell her the rest later.
"I didn't fuck her."
"Where have you been, Edward?"
His heart hammered in his chest as his lips parted. He didn't want to lie, but he wanted her to stay more. So again, he did what was necessary. He looked her square in the eye, and with a low exhale, he told her a blatantly deceptive half-truth. "I was with Carlisle."
Bella had never hated herself more than she did in that moment. Every instinct told her to bail―to escape while she still had a shred of dignity―because he was lying, and they both knew it. Her mind clawed frantically at the stubborn cage around her heart, desperate to release the vice grip around what was nothing more than soul-crushing hope. The only problem was she wanted to believe him. She wanted to believe she hadn't become so lost in her feelings for him, that she'd become blinded to the point of idiocy. "Don't lie to me. Don't play me for a fool. I deserve better than that."
Edward stepped forward until they were chest to chest. His keys dug painfully into his palm as his hands balled into a fists. "I'm not trying to play you. Please, Ivy. Please just trust me one more time." He pulled his house key off the ring―the same key he'd given her before―and pressed it into her palm. "I promise I'll never do anything to make it necessary for me to ask that of you again."
"No." Bella tried to pull her hand away, but Edward held tight. He balled her hand into a fist around the key and squeezed.
"Don't do this again. Don't be so fucking stubborn that it's you storming out of the room instead of me. We have to talk, Bella. We have to fucking communicate."
Bella's mouth dropped open in disbelief. "You're joking, right? You are the master of avoidance and deflection, but now that the shoe is on the other foot, I'm supposed to be understanding and do whatever you say?" While she agreed they had a tendency to fly off the handle and leave things unresolved, she wasn't going to shoulder all the blame.
Edward was out of time. He still needed to pull himself together and get to the set. So he told her the one thing that was sure to buy him some time. "I told Esme I was done. No more fake relationship. I'm out."
Bella reacted exactly how he expected. Her lips parted from her rough inhale, and her eyes widened in surprise. "You did what?"
Edward shook his head. The small amount of relief he felt from her reaction was tainted by the fact that he was manipulating her. "I don't have time to tell you everything right now. Please, come to my house tonight. I'll tell you then."
Bella hesitated. Was she jumping to conclusions? Should she trust him? If he told Esme they were done, what did that mean for them? She needed answers, and there was only one way to get them. "Okay."
Edward's shoulders sagged with exhaustion. "You're leaving here after lunch today, right? That's what you said earlier this week before―before everything."
"Yeah." She planned on being as far away from the studio as possible when they filmed the sex scene. Even though that turned out to be an epic failure, she'd already made arrangements to work from home.
"Go to my house. You can work from there. Relax. I'll come straight home when I'm done."
After a shaky nod and a quick kiss goodbye, Bella left Edward to strip out of his clothes and run for the shower. He was going to be late, there was no way around it, but showing up on set looking and smelling like he did wasn't an option. He washed quickly, then dressed and raced to the set. He wasn't looking forward to seeing Esme. He didn't want to deal with her bullshit. He also needed to call Jason. Sighing, he shook his head and walked toward the director. The day had been pure hell from the moment he opened his eyes, and he didn't expect it to get any better.
Edward wasn't the only one dealing with the lingering affects of his late night. Having woken up throughout the night to check her phone, Bella's eyes sagged with fatigue and her shoulders slumped with the weight of their situation. Her life had been flipped upside down and turned inside out since she let Edward in. Nerves fluttered in her stomach as a sinking feeling started to spread. A warning that he had the potential to do it all over again, but this time with a devastating aftermath.
Heaving her bag over her shoulder, she grabbed her keys, and with a final glance around the room, walked out of her office. She'd just made it to her car when her phone beeped with a text from Victoria.
Just saw Edward. He looks like shit.
Any other time, Bella might have found Victoria's comment funny, but the reminder of his appearance only made her stomach turn.
I saw him, too. Going to his place to work. We're gonna talk later.
Bella dropped her phone in her lap and pulled out of the studio. The same feeling of unease that had plagued her the night before began to resurface and work its way across her skin. It was a form of dread she'd never experienced. Unlike other times when she'd felt uneasy or nervous, it was because of smaller, less important things, like taking a test, applying for a job, or breaking off a relationship. Those were all stressful situations, but nothing she wouldn't be able to walk away from intact. With Edward, she knew there would be no walking away without losing a piece of herself, and that terrified her.
She drove to his house in silence. Her thoughts bounced between colors and fabrics to nightclubs and one very determined actress. She didn't want to think about Esme. She didn't want to imagine that Edward lied and hadn't been with Carlisle at all. It wasn't like she could ask Carlisle if she wanted confirmation. Even if she could, she was certain he would corroborate whatever story Edward had given her. She'd been on the outside looking in since the beginning, and the constant anticipation of waiting for the other shoe to drop was exhausting.
Pulling in his drive, she killed the engine but remained unmoving. She stared straight ahead, looking at the perfectly manicured lawn and absurdly large house. Never once had she felt intimidated by his home until now. Her eyes tracked the iron fence surrounding the perimeter of the property. It wasn't a high fence. The wide slats and flat caps would do little to deter someone if they wanted to climb over the top. But the fence wasn't meant to serve as a barrier in the literal sense. Its purpose was more figurative. It reinforced to those on the outside that they didn't belong. Even if they did breach the barrier, they'd never fit in. Never have a place.
Bella rolled her eyes and huffed out a disgusted laugh. She couldn't believe she'd let her insecurities become so bad she was comparing her situation to a wrought iron fence. Shoving the door open, she grabbed her things, walked to the front door, and let herself in.
The familiar smell of Edward's house surrounded her when she stepped inside. Pulling in a deep breath, she kicked off her shoes and trudged into the living room. She sat heavily on the couch and rummaged around inside her bag for her latest project. It wasn't very long after she started reading that the words began to blur and her eyes began to drift shut. Knowing it was going to be impossible to concentrate, she traded out reading for mind numbing television.
Settling back against the couch, Bella zoned out for the next several hours. Her thoughts were hazy and quiet, almost peaceful. After three talk shows and one soap opera, Bella remembered with perfect clarity just how much daytime television sucked.
She finally settled on an old Hitchcock movie and had just gotten to the murder scene when her phone rang, causing her to brows dipped in confusion when Victoria's name flashed on the screen. Muting the volume of the television, she grabbed her phone off the table.
"Bella, is Edward there?" Victoria's voice sounded off, edgy and panicked.
"No. Not yet. What's going on?"
Victoria fell silent before pulling in several deep breaths. "Have you seen the pictures?"
All traces of the haze that had cocooned Bella for the past several hours was suddenly stripped away as she was thrust right back into reality. With a hesitant shake of her head, she answered. "No. I―I'm not so sure it's a good idea. Not after yesterday."
"Did Edward tell you anything about last night? Where he went after the club?"
"Not in detail," Bella said, a frown pulling at the corners of her mouth. "I know he didn't go home last night. He said he was with Carlisle. That's why he looked like shit this morning. Why?"
"Ah, fuck," Victoria choked, her voice shaking. "Can you come home? Please?"
Bella's throat tightened, and her heart began to race when Victoria's voice broke. She only ever sounded like that when she was on the verge of tears. "Why?"
"I don't want to talk about this over the phone. Please, Bella. You just gotta trust me."
"Vic, tell me what this is about. If it's the pictures from last night―"
"Not last night," Victoria interrupted. "Just come home. I'll tell you then."
Bella gripped her knee and squeezed her eyes shut. "I'm not going anywhere until I know what's happened. Just tell me. If it's not last night, then..." Bella's voice trailed off as realization hit her like a bucket of ice water.
"This morning. There are pictures from this morning, aren't there?"
The deafening silence that followed caused a choked sob to rip from Bella's throat.
Tears spilled down her cheeks as Victoria's nonverbal confirmation cracked and splintered something inside her chest . "He―he wasn't with Carlisle, was he?"
Bella's nose burned and her chin quivered as she rocked forward. She pressed her forehead against her knees and wrapped an arm around her middle. "Please don't tell me he was with her. Please." Her voice was no more than a broken whisper as she begged for an answer Victoria couldn't give.
A cold numbness began to spread over Bella. It caused her tears to freeze and her skin to prickle. Pulling in a sharp breath, she straightened her back and smoothed down her hair. "I have to go."
"Are you coming home? I can be there in―"
"I'll call you later. I promise." Without waiting for a reply, Bella disconnected the call and rose to her feet. She pinched her bottom lip with her fingers and paced the length of the room, her steps slow and unhurried. She wasn't going to fall apart. There was a chance it was all a mistake. Maybe someone was trying to pass off old pictures as recent ones. It wouldn't be the first time something like that happened.
Determination set in her features as she walked into the dining room where Edward's computer sat on the table. She stared at it warily. Like she was afraid any sudden movement would cause it to detonate and blow her apart. A humorless chuckle bubbled up from her chest when she realized that was exactly what it could do.
She lifted the top and swept her finger over the mouse pad to bring the screen to life. The motor hummed and the cursor blinked in the password box, both mocking and taunting her. Leaning forward she typed the password Edward had given her a couple of weeks ago and opened Google.
Biting the inside of her cheek, she typed the web address for one of the Hollywood gossip sites and took two steps back while the page loaded. As expected, the latest news was about Edward and the headline attached made Bella's face crumple.
Nothing shameful about this walk. After partying with friends until after 2AM, Edward and Esme head back to her place for some quality time alone.
Heat crept across Bella's skin as she tried to grasp a hold on her emotions. Hurt made her breathing falter, embarrassment made her cheeks burn, but the anger she felt pushed her forward. She reached for the keyboard, her finger pressing the down arrow a little harder as each new picture was revealed.
The tears dripping from her chin and pooling on the table went unnoticed as Bella stared unblinking at the images on the screen: pictures of Edward and Esme arriving at the club, groping each other as they danced, and leaving hours later smiling and laughing. As painful as those were to see, the one that twisted the steel blade into her stomach was of Esme in her robe, smiling at Edward as he walked to his SUV.
"Fucking asshole," she spat pushing away from the table. With gritted teeth, she wiped away the tears sticking to her skin. Her emotions were all over the place, jumping from one extreme to the next. She fought to hang on to the anger quickly seeping from her pores, but one look at the screen decimated the last of her resolve. Her shoulders slumped and jerked as the pain of Edward's deceit ripped body-wracking sobs from her chest.
Bending at the waist, she dug her elbows into her knees, hoping the physical pain would distract her from the emotional lashing unleashed inside of her. She tried to focus on her breathing, but the burn in her throat from each ragged breath expanding her constricted lungs was crippling. Lost in her pain, she didn't hear the key slide into the lock or the turn of the bolt as it disengaged.
Edward tossed his keys on the table and let out a tired sigh. Dark circles marred the puffy skin under his eyes, and his body ached from fatigue. He wanted to crawl into bed and sleep for the next couple of days, but he knew there was no way Bella would allow that.
Dragging a hand down his face, he walked toward the living room. He'd taken three steps when he realized someone was crying in the dining room. Turning to the left, he stepped through the doorway and immediately froze. His heart rate spiked with panic when his eyes landed on Bella.
"Bella, what happened? Are you okay?"
Every muscle in her body tensed at the sound of Edward's voice. She released her hair and straightened her back before her red, swollen eyes locked with his. The anger that had slipped through her fingers like sand only moments earlier came rushing back in an instant. "What happened?" she croaked, a mocking sneer twisting her features. "I'll tell you what happened. I let myself get involved with a lying asshole who doesn't give a fuck about anyone but himself."
His voice was even and controlled when he spoke, conveying none of the emotions swelling inside of him. "What the fuck are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about you being a liar. Or are you stupid, too?" Bella shook her head as a tear rolled down her cheek. "No, I'm the only fool here."
Edward wasn't stupid enough to believe it was about anything other than last night. He just wasn't sure what had set her off. Until he figured it out he was going to have to tread carefully. "Well, why don't we pretend for a minute I'm not smart, so you can explain why I'm a lying asshole."
"Are you going to stand there and pretend you have no idea what I'm talking about? Pretend you didn't look me in the eye this morning and lie?"
Confusion flashed across Edward's features, and for a split second hope stilled the breath in Bella's chest. But the moment his lips parted and his eyes widened, the air expelled from her lungs, and any traces of doubt that the pictures had somehow been wrong vanished.
"I didn't lie to you this morning." Edward wracked his brain trying to figure out how she would know anything about what happened last night. His eyes drifted to his open computer and the sight caused a rock to settled in his stomach.
"Bullshit!" Bella screamed, her voice bouncing off the walls as her hands tightened into fists. She'd never wanted to hit anyone as much as she wanted to hit him at that moment.
Edward stepped forward and wrapped his hands around the top of the chair in front of him. His body began to vibrate with anger. Anger at himself, Bella, Esme, and the entire situation in general. "So what? You know everything about last night?" He jerked his chin toward the computer. "You're gonna look at those pictures and the shit they print, knowing it's most always bullshit, and believe it like it's the fucking gospel? Jesus fucking Christ, Bella, I thought you knew better than that by now."
Bella bristled. "I'm not a fucking idiot. I'm also not blind." She stepped to the laptop and in one angry move, spun it around until the screen was facing Edward. "This looks a hell of a lot more like Esme fucking Platt standing in her robe then Carlisle. But that's not possible, right? Because you weren't with Esme. You were with Carlisle."
Edward's knees buckled from the weight of shock and dread that fell over him. He reached forward and dragged the laptop across the table, his eyes scanning picture after picture of him leaving Esme's house. It wasn't possible. It couldn't be. He was sure the pictures Bella had seen were of the night before, when they'd been dancing or when they left the club. He knew he could explain those. He had every intention of telling her about the rest of the night, but he wanted the time and privacy to do so. But this? There was no way she'd ever believe him. Not now. Still, he had to try.
"I know this looks bad. But I can explain. I didn't lie to you this morning. I just didn't tell you everything because I knew you'd be pissed."
Bella's mouth fell open with disbelief. She thought for sure he'd cash in his chips, throw in the towel, and admit what he'd done. She never imagined he'd still try to keep his charade going. "You―you're still going to deny that you lied? Do you have no respect for me at all?" The obvious truth in her words caused her eyes to shimmer with tears and her lip to tremble. From the beginning, she'd expected to be the one turned to ash when they finally caught fire. What she hadn't realized, what she couldn't have prepared for, was just how fucking much it would hurt when it happened.
"Of course I respect you. Look, everyone wanted to hang out a little longer, and things seemed okay. Esme had kept her distance, and I was too drunk to drive so I went along with it. We all went back to her place to chill, but she started her shit again so I told her. I told her I was done, it was over. Fuck, the bitch slapped me and stormed out of the room. I remember, I was going to rest for a minute then call a cab. The next thing I knew, it was morning and I was on her couch. She caught me at the door spewing some shit about being sorry and drinking too much. Honestly. I wasn't listening, I just wanted to get the fuck out of there."
Bella thought about the pictures of them dancing, the way Esme's arms wound around his neck and his hands gripped her hips. They looked comfortable, familiar, intimate. Then she remembered the satisfied smile on Esme's face as she watched Edward leave her house. She didn't look like a woman who'd been turned down, not even a little bit. Bella shook her head. "I don't believe you."
Edward flattened his palms on the table and dropped his head. He pulled in a deep breath before slowly lifting his head. His eyes were hard and guarded as his anger simmered just below the surface. "What don't you believe, Bella?"
With her face wiped clean of emotion, she met his gaze without hesitation. When she spoke, her voice was flat and lifeless, just like her eyes. "Any of it."
"Goddamn it!" He picked up a chair and hurtled it against the wall. The sound of splintering wood, cracking drywall, and panting breaths echoed around the room. "Why the fuck are you even here then? If you're never going to believe anything I say, what's the point?"
Bella flinched as her heart hammered in her chest. She took two steps back, her eyes wide with surprise. "There isn't one. That's why I'm leaving." She turned toward the hallway, but hadn't even taken a step before Edward's arms locked around her waist from behind.
"You don't mean that," he whispered, his voice rough.
But she did mean it, and they both knew it. "Let me go. I need to get my things."
"I don't want to be here," she cried, wrenching herself free. "I'm tired of feeling like shit about myself. I'm tired of ignoring my own feelings for yours. I told you I'd never back burner myself for you, but I did. And I'm done."
"What about me? Do you think I've done nothing for you? For us? You're not the only one who's out of their comfort zone. None of this is easy for me. But you don't care anything about that, do you?"
"And here we go, right back to you and what you've given up. What you've sacrificed. I promise you," she choked, her eyes stinging. "What I've lost, what I gave you freely, was more of a sacrifice than anything you've done. And you ruined it. You broke everything."
Edward swallowed around the lump in his throat and remained still as Bella stormed out of the room. Her angry words slammed into his chest like a sledgehammer, and all the reasons he'd guarded himself in the first place flooded his mind. The wall he'd spent years erecting began to harden and mold itself over the cracks his relationship with Bella had caused. He let the weight of its protection slide over his shoulders and fortify around his heart once more. With his mouth set in a hard line he, walked into the kitchen and pulled a beer from the refrigerator.
He flicked the cap onto the countertop and moved back to the dining room. Shoving his free hand into his pocket, he tipped back his beer and stared out the window. He tried to ignore the sound of Bella opening and slamming drawers in the bedroom as she packed the few things she'd left at his house. He worked to keep his expression a mask of indifference when she let out a muffled curse.
He turned away from the window and winced when his eyes landed on his laptop. The dozen pictures of him dancing with Esme last night and then of leaving her house were sure to have brought a fat paycheck to someone.
His lip curled in disgust as he thought about the paps. They were always out to make a buck, not giving a shit whose life they fucked up in the process. Not that Edward considered his life fucked up. Until all the bullshit drama started with Bella he'd been content, happy even. If Bella wanted to call it quits, then there was nothing he could do to stop her. He'd been fine without her before. He'd be fine without her now. So fucking be it.
His stomach tightened and his indifference slipped when Bella walked into the room with a bag thrown over her shoulder. Her eyes were red and swollen, but it did nothing to deter the fire burning in her gaze.
For a moment, Bella hesitated. Her eyes raked over him before she made a sound of disgust in the back of her throat and turned to leave without saying a word. Edward's jaw tightened at the dismissive gesture and he took off behind her, catching her arm easily and spinning her around to face him.
"So that's it? You're done? You've got nothing else to say?"
Bella jerked her arm free and wrapped her fingers around the strap of her bag. "I think I've said everything I can."
"Why won't you fucking believe me?" he shouted. He didn't know why he was bothering. She was done, and he was tired of defending himself. This was why he didn't do relationships. This was why he should never have broken his one and done rule.
"Because you have a shitty track record? Because there are pictures of you two hanging all over each other? Because she's wanted to fuck you since she walked onto the set? Or how about the fucking fact that you didn't come home last night?" Her chest rose and fell with each heaving breath she took, and her body shook with anger.
"I told you nothing happened. I passed out. That's it."
For months Bella had warred with herself. Her heart and her head at odds. But for the first time since she and Edward had been together, they were both in agreement about something: he would destroy her. He'd turn her into someone she couldn't recognize. This life wasn't meant for her.
He wasn't meant for her.
There would always be an Esme in their lives. Even if people knew about her, it wouldn't matter. Not in this business. Not when the prize was Edward Cullen. Even if he didn't fuck Esme, which she believed he did, it would happen eventually. Guys like Edward couldn't change. She was a fool for ever believing any different. "Yeah, well, I'm not waiting around until something does happen." She turned back for the door and wrapped her hand around the knob.
Edward's heart hammered in his chest, and the walls around it squeezed mercilessly. Concrete settled in his stomach, and he knew, he knew if she left this time, it was for good. They were done. "If you leave, that's it. There's no coming back."
Bella laughed, the sound harsh and hollow. Empty. She turned to face him again, her hand still holding the handle. "That's usually how breakups work. I leave. And I don't come back. Oh wait," she gasped in mock surprise, clinging to her anger and fighting to ignore her heart shattering into a million pieces. "We can't break up. We don't even exist. Have a nice life, asshole."
Edward smoothed his face like the A-list actor he was and smirked. He lifted his beer in the air and saluted her before draining the rest as she slammed the front door.
"Well, that's that," he muttered. It wasn't worth it. He turned back to the kitchen for another beer, not daring to acknowledge the stinging in his eyes or the searing pain carving a hole in his chest. It just wasn't fucking worth it.
Well that sucked.
Big thanks to the amazing people who hold my hand every week. You guys rock.
See you guys soon!