VC-Girl, Kimberly T., and AJasper ForMe keep me from chucking chapters more often than I'll ever admit! :-)


"In short, Luck's always to blame."

-Jean de La Fontaine

=20=

A few days later, I'm back at the club and miserable, hating every second of it and for so many reasons.

Having not picked up a cigarette in months, I've become unaccustomed to the smell of smoke and it's making me sick. I wish you weren't allowed to smoke in the clubs here, but in Florida it's very much legal. And though not everyone does, and we try to discourage them or guide them outside, if they decide to light one up no one really says anything.

That mixed in with the few shots I took earlier, trying to calm down my nerves at being back … gag.

I feel like shit. But I don't want to complain, feeling lucky I was even allowed back so …

"Can I have one of those rum runners," I ask Leah, speaking from behind my hand. It's the best defense I've had all night to ward off the smell of smoke and booze permeating the air.

"I'll get that for you." Chilly's suddenly in my face, smile wide and voice cheerful. I narrow my eyes at her, letting her know I want nothing to do with her at the moment. Maybe it's juvenile—my not trusting her even though I have no proof she's up to something—but in this situation, Edward not trusting her is enough for me to extend the same sentiment.

"It's cool." I try and smile, still avoiding eye contact with her. "Leah?"

"Coming right up."

"How are you feeling?" Chilly tries to get my attention again, and I sigh.

"I'm fine."

"You've been gone a while. That must have been some nasty bug you caught."

Tilting my head to the side, I look at her in confusion. "Bug?" Then I remember Edward and Emmett had told everyone I was sick, under the weather or whatever and that's why I hadn't been at work. "Oh." I wave a hand in the air, being friendlier than I've been all night. "Yeah, stomach virus or something like that."

"Well, I'm glad you're—"

"Rum runner." Leah walks up, interrupting her and I smile. She has no idea how thankful I am at the moment for the interruption.

For a second, it seems like she and Chilly have a bit of a stare down. I have no idea what I've missed, and I don't ask. It's not like they were best friends or anything before anyway.

Mumbling a quick thanks, I grab the glass from Leah, placing it on my tray to serve the lady who'd ordered it.

Just like before, she's sitting by herself, eyeing the stage off to the side. Though she looks into it, bopping her head to the side a little offbeat from the music, she's out of place. Hair styled to perfection, crisp looking business suit. I can't help but wonder … remembering what Alice said.

Creepy guy isn't the first and won't be the last.

He's not undercover but someone there is.

Speaking of, I realize I haven't seen him all night. I wonder if he's been coming around much lately.

"Come on, Katie!"

My head snaps up at the group of women calling out to the lady I just served. Smiling, she shakes her head, lifting up her glass at them only to look at me. When I see her mumble something, I know it's meant for me and lean over closer to her.

"What was that?"

"I know I look weird sitting here, but it's my sister's 'coming out party'."

"Oh … I didn't—"

"But you were thinking it." She nods, smiling to let me know she's not offended. "Trust me, I know I'm out of place but she's my baby sister. I'd rather get weird looks than not support her. You know?"

I don't know if she tells me that to ease my mind, or make me feel like shit, but she accomplishes the latter. At this moment, I sort of hate myself and how cynical and paranoid I've allowed myself to get.

Whatever she's doing here is none of my business. I've never cared much before what anyone was doing at the club—what their stories were when they walked through the door. And lest for idle chit chat, and mostly with the regulars, I never sought to find out more. And now, without a second thought, I was ready to cast this lady to the side, assuming the worst. Assuming she was up to know good.

Knowing what I know now, feeling how I feel … this isn't the place for me. It was only supposed to be temporary anyway, a favor given to me because of Rosalie. But then I met Edward, befriended the staff, one of which might have some weird crush on me or vendetta against Edward and is getting to him by fucking with me. Who knows?

But coming back here, it dawns on me how much of a mistake it was.

((LUCK))

"How was the first day back?"

"I didn't like it." I stand in our bedroom doorway smiling at Edward, who looks like he'd already been sleeping when I walked in. "It's—" a stray yawn cuts me off, and I pause for a second because I don't remember ever feeling this tired after a night of work before. "It's not like before," I continue my thought. "It's … weird, uncomfortable for me. The smoke, the alcohol, the vibe …" I shrug.

"Then don't go back." He shrugs, too, reaching out to me. It's always so simple with him. Don't like it, then don't do it. The world, my world, doesn't work like that though. "So, listen … me and Car, well it was really me and the boys but ..." he puffs out his cheeks, blowing out a long breath. "I had a feeling this was going to happen—you not liking being back. Once you leave it's … well, anyway remember that yogurt place in Coconut Grove?"

"The one you love to hate?"

"Yeah. Well, turns out the owners are selling the place. Kind of as is. We were thinking about getting it. What do you think?"

Though confused, I try giving him an encouraging, supportive smile. I have no idea why he's talking to me about business, he never has before. "Umm … yeah, if that's what you guys want to do. Go for it."

"It's what you'd want to do. It'd … uh, be for you. To run." He leans back cringing, while I stare at him, hoping he'll start making sense.

"So you want me to be the manager or something?" I can handle that. I did go to school for that after all. Even though I'd be working for Edward … I don't know, I don't see this ending anytime soon, if ever, so I don't see a problem with that—going into business together. That's what couples do.

"Manage, own it. Same thing, right?"

"Umm—"

"Just think about it."

Too tired to discuss any form of work, business, or anything dealing with the outside world, I fall asleep, forgetting to ask Edward if he talked to CG because I didn't seem him tonight, and since the first time I'd seen him at the club this was a first.

Over the next few days, being back at work continues to feel strange—I continue to feel strange.

For a while, it feels like I just about forgot half the people who worked here. It's funny how the possibility that one of them might harbor a dysfunctional crush on you can heighten your awareness, huh?

Since today is Saturday—a busy day, it's all hands on deck.

I look over and see Sam in one corner. We'd only worked together once or twice in the months since he'd came at me after work, but he seemed to calm down significantly since then. Even now, he doesn't seem to be checking out too many people, well other than Leah.

In the other corner, I see Chilly and she too seems to be keeping a close eye on Leah.

I think nothing of it, remembering the extra tension I felt between them when I first came back.

Maggie floats around, a little less exuberant since it seems her and Ed Senior have stopped their little fling. And from time to time, I see Aro lurking around as well. For the most part, it all still feels the same, I just can't figure out why I don't.

As the night starts coming to an end, I'm not feeling too well and debate calling Edward to ask him if he's up to picking me up.

A few days ago, I'd gotten lightheaded, not dizzy but lightheaded, and because of that, he'd been taking me to work. Of course the drama queen that he is, he wanted me to go to the doctor, the emergency room in fact, but I protested knowing I was probably just tired. My body has to catch up with being up and about on my feet for hours at a time after being elevated and perched on the furniture—couch-potato style—for weeks. It was almost a fight to the death today telling him I could drive myself, but I had to promise if I didn't feel up to it, I had to call him for a ride or take a cab, but either way to let him know.

"Ready, Bella? I can walk you out."

I damn near jump out of my skin at the lurker and almost drop my phone out of my hand. "Aro. Um, hey. No that's okay."

"Is everything alright?"

"Yeah, no. Umm."

"Bella, you okay?"

I breathe a sigh of relief at hearing Leah approach. "Hey, yeah, can you give me a ride home?"

"Of course." She smiles. It's weird, a little off-putting, but then again that's how Leah rolls.

"Thank you." I smile at her as we make our way out, following closely behind Aro.

The ride to the house is silent, and the movements of the car make me feel queasy so I lean my head back against the seat. About fifteen minutes later, I feel and hear Leah nudging me awake.

"What? Huh!" I look around, startled when I realize we're parked in front of the condo building. "Thanks, Leah." I reach over and give her a hug. "You're always around when I'm in trouble. Thanks." My words make me stiffen and I quickly pull back with wide eyes.

"What?"

"Nothing!" I shout, jumping out of the car. Barely getting the car door closed, I call out another 'thank you' over my shoulder and bolt inside the building.

Because what hit me with my own words is that exact realization: Leah's always been around every time I've been in trouble these past few months.

And not once have I told her where Edward lives.


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