Chapter 7: It's Not Just Me Who Finds the Volturi Terrifying - BPOV –
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight or a B&B – just two mortgages and a laptop I use to escape into this fanfic! Thanks again to the wonderful Sunflower Fanfiction for her betaing and hand-holding.
It's been two months since signing the mortgage for the Volturi and I am eight-thousand dollars further in the hole than I expected to be. Every muscle in my body aches from the constant cleaning, repairs, and painting we've done. My hands are cracked and sore. And Alice was right; I've started to find grey hairs.
I don't know if I've had a single good night sleep in those two months.
Every morning I wake up out of an increasingly X-rated dream about a certain transportation engineer that I am desperately trying to just stay friends with. Sometimes I wish Edward had a girlfriend, or that he was just some jerk I could brush off. But instead he's ...
Well, he's amazing. We talk for at least an hour every night, either on the phone or while he's helping me move some furniture or pull off a particularly stubborn baseboard that needs to be replaced. No matter what we're doing, I don't think we've ever had a bad conversation. He makes me laugh even when I'm about to just bury myself under the covers and cry with frustration at the latest problem the Volturi has given me.
But, I know I'm making the right decision not getting more involved. As much as I want to drag him into my bed and get to know every inch of his body intimately, I don't want to drag him any further into my problems. He deserves more than that.
Whenever we are about to hang up, I sign off with the same lame joke, "Bye, Edward. Go out and have some fun for both of us - just don't do anyone Alice wouldn't do."
I really shouldn't tease Edward or make fun of my best friend like that. But, I need to say it out loud to remind myself that Edward is out there in the dating world and I can't be. It's only a matter of time before some gorgeous woman snatches him up.
Alice has been a god-send. True to her word, she's been getting her hands dirty, chapped, splintered and blistered right alongside me. She had the good idea to focus on getting four rooms completely finished before starting on the others. That way, we'd be sure to be ready for some overnight guests, including the writers from trade magazines. Alice has been in contact with basically everyone from college, and there are a few friends of friends who are connected to the media and promised to take a look at us when we're ready. We'd been preparing ourselves by saying yes to the occasional drop in when the other hotels in town were full, or those who just seemed curious as to what we're up to.
Speaking of which, I'm not sure what category to put our current guests in. A couple arrived around two in the afternoon, and I checked them into Room 4 - the one that had the best view of the apple trees in the backyard. I had done my best to welcome them, asking several times if the room was okay. They had looked around at the beautiful four-poster bed we'd salvaged and refinished, the antique mirror over the dresser, and then wouldn't make eye contact with me.
I couldn't figure out if they were anxious about something personal, or if the Volturi gave them some bad voodoo. What was particularly odd was that the address on the man's credit card was only a few towns away. They didn't have any bags with them, and I hadn't noticed either of them carrying a computer, and they arrived in separate cars.
It was getting close to four now and Jasper had already left for the day. Even though we weren't on any kind of regular breakfast schedule yet, he had taken to showing up before six so that when Alice and I came downstairs there was some delicious freshly made treat waiting for us along with our coffee. He'd then spend the rest of the day setting up menus, ordering food and training the staff he had hired.
As I entered the Innkeepers apartment, I found Alice sitting cross-legged on the couch, her spiky-haired head bent down as she smiled at her phone. She had moved herself into the first of the finished guest rooms, but we both spent most of our time either with Jasper in the kitchen or in my living room.
She also spent a lot of time on her smartphone since we'd managed to set up a hot-spot, at her insistence. I knew she was probably right that our customers wouldn't appreciate being in a dead-zone. Though, personally, I felt there was a benefit to being unreachable when you were away at a B&B. And I had a feeling Alice's motives wasn't all business-based.
"Who are you texting?" I asked, taking her by surprise. She quickly put her phone in her pocket before I could get close enough to see the display.
"Nobody," she said.
"Sure..." I said. It had obviously been Jasper. If it had been one of her friends from the design firm or school, she would have told me right away. I rolled my eyes. It would be a lot easier to treat my two friends like they were adults who could be trusted if they didn't act like such teenagers around each other. I just hoped they wouldn't let it get too far.
As if she could read the thoughts from my face, Alice asked "Does it really bother you?" Her voice was apologetic and somewhat lonely.
I sat down on the couch and threw my arms around her. "Of course, not, hon." I said, partially truthfully. "I love you both, and I see how happy you are around each other. It's just..."
"I know," Alice replied. "You don't want either of us to get hurt."
"So, do I even want to ask what you were texting my head chef about?"
"No, I think you'd better not ask," Alice said, evading my gaze by leaning on my shoulder a little more.
I unconsciously squirmed at the thoughts I couldn't suppress. If Jasper was getting anything in the same realm as the cafeteria talks Alice had shared with me and our other friends, the poor boy was probably either going to suffer a heart attack or go blind soon.
"I thought you said you believed sexting was a waste of minutes," I tried to make it sound like a joke.
"Bella!" Alice pulled away, looking a little offended. "Is that seriously what you think Jasper and I do behind your back?"
"Ummm..." I didn't know how to answer. But then I realized that if Alice wasn't sending sexual texts to Jasper, there was some other reason she didn't want me to know what they were sharing. "Wait, if it wasn't dirty talk, what were you texting Jasper that you wanted me to think was nothing?" I asked.
Alice's eyes widened for a brief second, but then narrowed again, not willing to let her chance to be irritated at the assumption I had made about her and Jasper. We stared at each other in a couch stand-off, each trying to figure out if we were supposed to be offended or apologetic.
My mind whirled. "Do you two think I'm a horrible boss?" I asked, my voice cracking.
Alice covered her face with her hand and shook her head. "Bella," she moaned. "You can't seriously be worried about that. Jasper adores you as much as I do, we both just wish you'd let yourself be happy."
"What are you talking about?" I asked in surprise. "I am happy. Look at how well the Volturi's coming along. I'm turning my dream into a reality and I've got two fabulous partners helping to make it happen."
"You are making the Volturi fabulous," Alice agreed. "Just like I knew you would. But all work and no play, Bella..."
"Are you saying I'm not any fun?" I asked.
"You're the best, Bella, seriously. What I'm saying is that I'm not the only one who knows you're the best, and if you keep pushing him away, I think you'll both end up regretting it."
She wasn't making any sense. "How am I pushing Jasper away?" I asked. "I think we've got a great working relationship."
"Bella," Alice groaned. "I'm not talking about Jasper, obviously."
"Oh," I finally got it. "You were texting about Edward?"
"But he and I are just friends. It's not like you and Jasper."
"You're right," Alice said. "Neither you or Edward are like me and Jas." She smiled wickedly at all that went unspoken in that comparison.
We just sat for a few minutes, neither of us willing to say more on the subject. As usual, anytime there was quiet or I was sitting still, my mind started to whir around all the things I wanted to get done. I suddenly remembered that I had a few hours before the sun went down.
"Hey," I said to Alice. "Would you mind handling anything our guests need for a few hours? I'm going to take a ride and check out that truck I told you about." I had seen it on the side of the road a while ago wanted to take a look at it. Assuming it is in fairly good condition, it would be a much more practical vehicle for me now that I have to haul so much stuff around. I didn't want to have to rely on favors from Jasper and Edward when it came to bigger trips.
"Of course," Alice replied. "Are you sure you're okay going alone?"
I laughed. "Honey, if it weren't for the brainless assholes at that design firm you used to work for, I'd be alone all the time. Did you doubt I could handle myself up here?"
Alice shook her head vigorously. "You know that's not what I meant."
"I know," I said. "Seriously, I'll only be an hour or so, and that's assuming there's anyone around that I can talk to about the truck." I pulled myself off the couch and started to gather up my keys and notebook.
"Okay," said Alice. "Just don't do anyone I wouldn't do."
I froze. "Uhh..."
Alice's musical laugh sounded behind me. "Go, Bella."
The Chevy was a bit older than I expected … by a few decades rather than a few years. But there was surprisingly little rust and the price was certainly right. I was jotting down the phone number on the for sale sign when I heard someone walking toward me.
"Hey," he said. I assumed he worked at the garage, because his clothes were covered in grease, but the hand he waved at me was clean; and his teeth were so white he could have been in toothpaste commercials.
"Hi," I said back. "Are you the one selling this truck?"
"It's my dad's actually, but I've been working on it for a while, so if there's anything you want to know, I could tell you." He placed his hand on the side of the cab and shifted his weight as if he was leaning in. His bicep flexed. Oh boy, I thought.
I bit my lip to keep from laughing at the machismo he was putting out.
"The miles seem pretty low for the age of the truck," I said.
"Well, the miles are for the engine. We put a new one in a few years ago, and my dad hasn't been driving much."
"Gas prices?" I guessed.
"Arthritis," he corrected. "Old man can't really manage a stick shift anymore."
"Oh, I'm sorry," I said, embarrassed. I could feel myself blush.
"It's cool," the mechanic replied. "It's a really good truck, as long as you're not into speeding down the highway too much."
I shook my head. "I'm looking for something to haul stuff to the dump and make occasional pickups."
"You're the one who bought the Volturi over in Forks, aren't you?"
I nodded. At this point I was getting used to people knowing that about me. It was a small state, after all. "I'm Bella Swan," I said.
"Jacob Black," he said, taking his hand off the truck and holding it out in front of him. I shook it briefly then pulled away. "My friends call me Jake," he said, smiling so wide that dimples appeared in his tan cheeks.
"Well, it looks good, but I'm going to have to think about it," I said.
"Sure, sure," said Jake, still smiling widely at me. He was cute, even I could admit that. Not handsome like Edward, but it was silly to compare them. It's not like dating either of them was an option for me. "Did you want to take it for a test drive?" Jake offered. "I have the keys in the shop."
I looked at my phone to check if I had time. "Okay," I said.
"Just a sec," Jake said, turning to the office.
I walked around the truck again, taking a closer look at the body. If Jake was being honest about the engine being fairly new, then it looked like a pretty good deal. Just then a car pulled into the station for gas. From behind the truck, I could see it was the man who had checked into the Volturi earlier today. He looked even more nervous than before, as he walked into the office and came out to pump. He kept checking to see if anyone was around, and when we made eye contact, he jumped and looked away before I could wave.
He pulled out of the station and drove off in the opposite direction of the hotel as Jake came out of the office. "All set," he said, jingling the keys above his head as you would to get a dog excited about taking a ride.
I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, and part of me wanted to get back to the Volturi right away. But obviously my guest wasn't there, and I had faith that Alice would have things under control.
"Okay," I answered, taking the keys.
"I'll ride with you," Jake said, getting in the passenger side. I had assumed he would, since it was basically his truck and I was a stranger, even though everyone in Vermont was very trusting.
I turned the key in the ignition and rammed my foot down on the clutch. It moved easier than I expected. I looked over at Jake and he smiled. I couldn't help smiling back as I put the truck into drive and pulled out of the parking area.
"So, what do you do for fun?" Jake asked. I tested the gas pedal a bit and was pleased with how the truck responded.
"Fun?" I responded, not really thinking about it.
"Sure, sure," said Jake, He was staring at me now. "Fun, it's this thing people have when they're not working..."
"Hmm..." I said. "I think I remember something like it. But, it's been a while." I turned onto a road I knew had some decent curves so I could test the truck's handling.
"You like music?" Jake asked.
We were at an incline and the engine purred. I was pleased with the pick-up. "That's a pretty general question. Is there such a thing as someone who doesn't like music?"
Jake laughed. I wondered if he had looked out the window once since we got in the truck. I was keeping my eyes focused on the road, but I could feel his directed solely at me, and from the corner of my eye I could see he had twisted his body toward mine. It was starting to feel a little uncomfortable and warm in the small cab.
"Ok, let's try a more specific question." Jake said. "Do you like live rock music with a heavy blues influence?"
I pulled off onto the shoulder and got ready to do a three-point turn to head back to the garage. "Yeah, I like blues and rock, I guess."
"Well," Jake said, "I've got this band, and we're playing over at the River Tavern. You should come check us out."
"Oh." Was he asking me out? My mind whirred for one of the standard excuses I had used when this occasionally happened in college. None of them seemed to apply anymore; I couldn't say I was studying or going out of town, could I? The silence stretched for minutes over the growl of the truck's engine.
"I just mean..." Jake was turning red and squirming. "The owner is trying us out this week, to see if we can draw a crowd. I'm asking everyone I know, and even some of the people I don't, to come."
Whew. With relief I pulled back into the garage's parking lot. "Well, I'll try, I guess." I told Jake as I put the truck into neutral and engaged the parking brake. "I'll have to see if my roommate wants to come, too."
"Sure, sure," said Jake. "Anyone you can think of to bring along, please do." He paused for a minute. "You know, I could probably knock a few hundred more off the truck."
"Are you trying to bribe me into coming to your show?" I asked with a grin I couldn't suppress.
"Would it work?" he asked, brightly.
I rolled my eyes. "Tell you what, write down the when and where of the show, so I have something to remind me. I've been kind of scattered lately." Jake opened his door and ran back into the garage without saying anything. I got out and walked back to my car to wait for him.
When he came out the door, he looked back and forth before catching that I had moved. The gesture reminded me of my guest and reminded me that I really needed to get back to the Volturi. Jake came bounding back to me like an overexcited puppy, wagging a little piece of paper at me.
"Here you go - directions, time, and my cell, just in case you get lost," he said sheepishly.
"Okay," I replied. At this point I didn't think I would go, but I folded the paper and put it in my pocket. "I'll think about the truck, too." I said. He nodded and then stepped back as I got into my car and pulled away.
All I could think about were the guests. What could I do to make them more comfortable? They had said they didn't want dinner, but maybe I should slip a mock menu under their door. Should I call Jasper first? Hmm...
The Volturi seemed unsettlingly quiet when I pulled back in. It didn't take long to find the reason. There was a note for me on the front door from Alice.
"Our guests checked out around 4 pm. Keys and paperwork are taken care of. Jaz and I had some errands to run but will be back soon."
I gulped. The guests were already gone? They checked out before it even got dark out? They must have been disgusted with the place and were afraid to say something. Oh, god, had they discovered something unpleasant in their room? I was starting to hyperventilate. This was not a good start to my new business.
Alice and Jasper were out - where? Did they know what had scared the guests off? I needed to talk to someone now. Without thinking, I grabbed my cell phone and hit redial. I wasn't even sure who was the last person I called, but when I heard the voice I was thankful it had been Edward.
"Hello," he said.
"Can you come over?" I sniffed, tears were literally streaming down my cheeks.
"Bella, what's wrong?" he asked, with concern laced in his voice.
"Everything." I replied.
"Hang on; I'm on my way …"
Hang on readers – Edward is on the way. And so are some confessions from our heroes. Chapter 8 is in progress. Thanks for reading.