Tuesday morning at Crossroads produced a flurry of activity.
Rose and Emmett woke on her couch in a blind panic. He because he'd cried like a baby, twice, in front of the hottest, most beautiful woman he'd ever met. She because she'd slept on the couch with a guest.
They ran around the interior of her cabin like scurrying mice to get themselves presentable before attempting to make the mad dash to the administration block for Rose and back to his own cabin for Em.
Both were nervous, excited and worried about how the other felt about their shared kiss but neither had the courage to comment on it until they were stood just inside her door ready to leave and face the real world.
Rose desperately wanted to check who was likely to see them before going outside but didn't want Emmett to think she was ashamed to be seen with him.
Emmett wanted her to check because he really was worried what being seen with him could do to her reputation.
In the end Rose threw caution to the wind and pressed herself up against his chest at the door. She slid one hand around his waist and put the other into the hair at the back of his neck. She kissed him fiercely on the lips and then smiled the widest smile she could for him.
"I have to go to work now," she whispered. "But tonight, after dinner, will you come back here?"
Excited and a little bit stunned Emmett could only nod his agreement before she kissed him quickly once more and then went out into the bright sunshine.
He positively skipped to his own cabin and once he was inside it he put his back to the door and allowed himself a small, nervously excited grin before making his way to the shower.
It was the sound of Emmett in the shower that woke Edward and Bella.
They were right where they'd been when they'd gotten into the bed in the middle of the night. Bella's back to Edward's chest, and they were both sweating like racehorses after morning training sprints.
Edward had engulfed her completely. The entire front of him was pressed to the entire back of her. He held her tightly around the waist and his arm was tense and unforgiving when she tried to shift. He had no intention, even in his semi-sleep, of letting her go. His legs were wound through hers and his face was buried in her hair.
Neither wanted to move but both conceded the need to.
In a rush all their synapses began firing at once. Bella desperately needed the bathroom and Edward desperately needed to get the lower half of his body away from hers. His morning wood might be just that, morning wood and nothing he could help, but he was embarrassed about it all the same.
For Bella feeling his hardness against her butt came as a shock. She had no idea that it was an involuntary thing on his behalf and as she shot out of the bed she covered her mouth with her hand to keep the sound of her embarrassment secret. She also didn't want him to know that she'd thought about him in 'that way' in quiet moments in the dark, hidden under her blankets at night.
"I'm so sorry," Edward stammered as he tugged the blankets back over his waist.
"No...it's...really..." Bella mumbled from behind her hands as she turned around and faced the wall. She could feel her blush creeping up her neck and knew that it would be clearly visible if she faced him.
Edward was mortified. There was no other way to describe it. Mortification pretty much covered the gamut of emotions he was feeling as he sat up and slid his legs out the side of the bed and put his feet on the floor. "I'm not filthy," he moaned as quietly as he could and still be heard. "I swear I'd never do anything...I mean...I wasn't thinking anything inapprop...shit...I mean...I'm not thinking dirty...Jesus...I can't help it," he sighed in one big long sentence.
"Okay," was all Bella could say in reply. She snatched up her clothing from the dresser top and folded it into a tight ball before going to the bedroom door. "I'll see you at breakfast," she squeaked.
She slid on her shoes and grabbed her coat and ran out of that cabin as fast as she could. She was breathing heavily and her blush was hot and irritating as she closed her own cabin door behind her when she got there.
"No need to ask the audience," Angela giggled as Bella came into the cabin.
"What?" Bella asked with a start.
"I know where you've been," Angela giggled again, waggling her finger suggestively at her roommate. "No need to ask the audiences advice."
Bella flopped down onto the couch and buried her face into her hands. She couldn't quite decide what she was most embarrassed about. Angela knowing where she'd been or what she'd just run away from. "Nothing happened," she told Angela who was giggling quite heartily.
"Your blush says otherwise."
"It wasn't...I mean...we didn't...," Bella could only cringe further into her hands and figured that it was better to stay quiet than make the conversation any more awkward.
Angela, kind girl that she was at heart, didn't want her friend to feel embarrassed so she decided a mature language approach might be best with the obviously innocent Bella. Schoolgirl innuendos were more likely to frighten the hell out of her rather than make the whole situation light hearted and funny.
"When it does happen remember to be safe," she whispered. "If you want it to happen that is."
"I don't know what I want," Bella admitted and dropped her hands. She didn't turn to face her roommate – that would've made the discussion far too embarrassing – but she knew that Angela was offering advice and there was nobody else Bella could ask about this kind of thing.
"Then it's too soon to be doing anything," Angela said firmly. "I'm guessing you've never been with a man?" she asked carefully and when Bella confirmed that to be true Angela couldn't help but get a little bit excited for her friend. Edward was a great guy and they were well suited, anyone who saw them together would see that. Despite the way he'd behaved at the trivia night not withstanding Angela knew that they were both shy, inexperienced people and she was a little bit excited that they'd found one another. "The first time is a bit scary I'll admit. And you need to be really sure it's what you want to do when the time comes. But the most important thing is that you're safe about it."
"Oh god," Bella sighed, embarrassed again. "I have no idea what I'm doing," she giggled nervously.
"Does he?" Ange asked cautiously.
"No," Bella admitted and thanked her lucky stars that she didn't have to have that conversation with Edward! "No. He's not been with anyone before. My first kiss was his too."
Thinking how very sweet that was Ange went and sat on the couch with her friend. "You can't talk about this kind of stuff with your mother, can you?" she asked as delicately as possible.
"No way," Bella all but shouted. "Definitely not. Besides, I'm supposed to be engaged and everyone at home knows it. There's no way I can talk to anyone there."
"Then consider me your local Yoda," Angela giggled.
"Wouldn't that be weird?" Bella asked hesitantly.
"I don't see why not," Angela shrugged. "Every girl should have someone to talk to about this stuff, especially around her first time. Don't be embarrassed," she begged of her friend. "It's much better to ask questions than to second guess after the fact," she winked.
"I guess so," Bella conceded. Her mind was spinning so quickly out of control she hardly knew where to start or what to ask first. Quite apart from the excitement of having spent the night with a man she still had a little bit of guilt and shame lurking in the back of her brain about being engaged to another man. No matter that in herself she didn't consider herself to be properly engaged she knew that she really was because she hadn't informed Jake of her change of heart as yet.
Couple that with the fact that everyone knew she was engaged and she began to panic at what others would be thinking of her character if they found out she'd spent the night in Edward's cabin.
Seeing the warring emotions on her friends face Angela offered a smile and a nod of encouragement. She could almost see the questions swirling around Bella's brain and she wondered what the first one was going to be. She guessed something about pain or size but got a bit of a shock when it was neither.
"I don't know if you'll know the answer to this one," Bella giggled and hid behind her hands again for a second. "This morning, when we woke up...um...Edward was um...you know?"
"He was hard," Angela finished for her, surprised just how innocent her friend was. She really was expecting the 'pain' question. Seems the couple was way, way less experienced than she'd thought. "Yeah, that happens," she chuckled. "They can't help it you know? Sometimes it happens because of dreams or when they wake up you're right there, you know, in the general vicinity," she giggled. "But sometimes it's none of that. Sometimes it's about having a full bladder and sometimes it isn't from anything at all."
"Oh," Bella sighed, grateful for the information and it's no nonsense delivery. "But he seemed really worried about it. Like I'd think it was dirty or something. He even made sure to tell me that he wasn't filthy. What's that about? I mean, I didn't react well when I felt it, I'll admit that. I sort of shot out of the bed pretty fast, but I wasn't grossed out or anything. I just didn't know what to say or where to look."
"Ahh, I see," Ange snorted as she got to her feet. "You better jump in the shower or we'll miss breakfast. I'll explain some stuff about that on the way down there, I promise."
On the short walk to the dining hall Bella was informed that two virgins were going to be pretty freaked out by normal reactions and by each other's bodies at the start. She also learned that it got easier, and much more fun, once both players gained a little confidence. As Bella was learning for herself communication was the key to everything. Edward was the only one who could explain to her what he was feeling and Bella should ask if she needed to know. Turnabout, it seemed, was fairplay and that Bella should be open and honest if Edward asked her what she was feeling, or what she wanted from him.
Just before they got to the dining hall doors Angela put her hand on Bella's arm and pulled them both to a stop. Leaning in she whispered into Bella's ear, "There's protection in the top drawer in our bathroom. Let's call it an honesty system," she giggled. "Replace them when they're gone and never, ever use the last one in a box without a replacement box on hand."
While Bella was receiving intimacy advice from her roommate Edward took his turn in the bathroom and once he was changed into clean clothes he walked with his own roommate to the dining hall for breakfast. On the walk he asked what had happened with Rose and how much trouble they were in.
"We'll have to pay the excess on her car insurance and probably for the potty too," Emmett explained. "If she asks it was nothing to do with you. I'll sort it," he assured.
"I had visions of the police getting involved this time," Ed sighed as they reached the hall.
"Nah, nothing like that," Emmett replied. "Rosie's cool as long as we fix it. I'll sort out the money situation, pay the winner and let you know how much is left once we cover the insurance costs."
"Keep it," Edward told his friend as they fronted the hot bar and began to fill their plates. "I think I'm done gambling for cash," he chuckled. "A short but illustrious career..." he chuckled. "I got paid to teach a kid the piano yesterday so I think I'll be okay for spending money for a bit."
"That's great, Ed," Emmett said with real pride. "And I reckon I'll give the pranks away for a bit too," he admitted as he piled his plate high with bacon. "A not so short and very illustrious career for me," he laughed. He took another egg for good measure and then his face took on a more serious expression. "You and Bella sort out your shit?" he asked as they made their way towards their usual table.
"Some of it, yeah," Edward told his friend around a mouthful of scrambled eggs a few seconds later. "A bit more to wade through but I think we'll get there."
"Good, good," Emmett grinned as he tore a piece of toast into squares. Holding one piece and pointing it at Edward across the table his face lost all traces of its smile and took on a startlingly sinister expression. "You hurt her and I'll beat your ass, friend or not, right?"
Edward nodded and continued eating his breakfast. He'd expect nothing else from Emmett and mentally vowed to never hurt or upset her again if he could help it.
He couldn't help but watch Bella as she walked across the hall to the servery. She was laughing and talking with Angela and looked so beautiful and carefree he couldn't help but grin over his own toast as he watched her.
"Tell her she doesn't need to sneak out in the mornings," Emmett chuckled as Edward choked on his toast.
"Nothing happened," Edward explained as soon as he'd dislodged the piece of bread from his gullet. "I swear, nothing happened. I didn't touch her. We just slept. But how did you know she was there?"
Em held his hands up in surrender and grinned at his friend. "None of my business what you two do," he chuckled. "Her coat was on the back of the couch and her shoes were outside your room when I came in and they were both gone when I came out. Pretty simple deduction," he chuckled.
"Shit, yeah, I guess," Edward mumbled.
"Just so you know," Emmett whispered, leaning across the table so he wouldn't be overheard, "Top drawer in our bathroom's got a box of rubbers in it. Replace them before you hit the bottom of the box so a brother doesn't get left short and we'll be all good."
Edward didn't know where to look or what to say so he simply nodded. The tips of his ears felt hot and his stomach was in knots.
"Calm down, mate," Emmett soothed when he noticed the look of terror on his friends face. "I'm just saying you gotta be safe. I'm not making any judgements."
"It's not that," Edward croaked.
"Then spill," Emmett suggested as he tore another piece of toast in half.
Edward took a second to make sure the two girls were still occupied at the servery and then leaned over and whispered, "I freaked her out this morning. I woke up hard, you know...and she leapt out of the bed with a fright. She freaked and then I freaked...and...shit," he hissed.
Emmett considered that for just half a second before smiling, dimples and all. "You sure it was out of fright and she wasn't just embarrassed or nervous?" he asked and when Edward shrugged he continued. "You ever been with a girl before?" he asked.
"No, and she's never been with a guy either."
"Well then there's your answer, mate," Emmett grinned. "Nerves, embarrassment, a tiny bit of fear of the unknown and no squealing group of girlfriends around to talk to about it all. Simple. And a simple fix. You gotta talk to her. And you gotta listen to her too," he said, pointing the strip of toast at Edward across the table again. "No means no. Every time. Not just sometimes. No grey area. No take backs. No do overs. No mulligan. Every time. We clear?"
"Jesus Christ. I'm not a Neanderthal. Of course," Edward hissed, offended that Emmett would think he could do that to anyone.
"Good. So. Talk to her. Ask what she wants and what she likes. You're gonna be embarrassed and shit scared the first few times. That's normal and pretty fun if I remember correctly," he chuckled. "And if you freak out don't run away from her or the situation, they hate that shit. But, if she freaks out you gotta let her run though. I know it makes no sense but that's how it works. They hate it when you corner them and they hate it when you try and force them to deal before they're ready. There's different rules for us guys."
It sounded like good advice to Edward so he soaked up every word. And then a question hit him upside the head. "Hey, where were you coming from this morning? Were you in town?" he asked.
Emmett's chuckle and little shake of his head intrigued Edward and he was about to ask where his roommate had actually spent the night when Em offered the information without the need for the question. "I was with Rose. Nothing happened there either though. It's complicated."
"I'm learning that it always is," Edward sighed just as Bella and Angela made the table a quartet. "Morning," he said with a smile to a beaming Bella and an amused Angela.
Rose returned her messages and made the initial arrangements for the repair of her car and for the removal and return of the damaged toilet as soon as she got into her office that morning.
She organised two of the gardening crew to take a fire hose out to the carpark to wash away any lingering residue from the day befores incident and then arranged for two of the kitchen hands to douse the area with disinfectant once it was done.
She was printing out the pages she'd been looking at from the internet regarding Emmett when she got an email from Jasper warning her that her fax machine was about to receive the mother load.
Within seconds her machine began announcing the arrival of the pages and for the next fifteen minutes it spewed page after page of legal looking documents from its depths. As requested Rose didn't read them. She collated them and made sure they stayed in order as the machine gave them up, but she didn't read them. If Jasper said they were confidential then Rose would respect that.
Her interest was piqued though. She was only human.
The machine had only just given up the last page when Edward knocked on her door asking for them. She slid them into a manila folder and handed the whole lot over with a smile. She accepted his apology for the part he'd played in the day befores escapade and then sent him off with a smile.
Something was cooking there, she knew without being told. She'd had no idea that Jasper knew Edward and vice versa and as she watched the taxi pull up and both Edward and Bella – as well as the folder of documents – get into it, she wondered what the pair were up to. She wondered if the pair was actually a trio, if Jasper was involved in whatever was happening.
Her musings were interrupted when another taxi pulled up and Emmett got into it. She hoped he wasn't heading to town to spend the day in the pub but knew that it was his decision to make.
She had no time to ponder either scenario because Tyler chose that moment to arrive for their meeting and she had to set aside thoughts of Emmett and his soft, pliable lips.
Emmett wasn't heading for the pub. He was going much, much further afield than that. He paid for the cab from some of his winnings and stepped onto the rail platform with only seconds to spare before the train arrived.
He changed trains at the foot of the mountain and again in the heart of the city. He rode a tram out into the northern suburbs and then took a bus to his childhood home.
He'd called ahead so he knew that his parents and sister would be waiting for him as he stepped over the threshold, but his brain was still hopeful that the house would be empty when he got there. It was a cowardly thought but Emmett hated confrontation and he knew that's exactly what he was instigating with this visit.
His mother greeted him with a smile and a soft hello, his father nodded at him over the top of his newspaper but his sister threw herself into his arms the second he stepped into the kitchen.
He held her longer than he normally would and as she pulled away and stepped back she eyed him long and hard. She was a quick study and she knew something was 'up' with him without needing to be told.
Emmett didn't come home if he could help it. He rarely called and he didn't drop by for visits. If he wanted to see Gemima he called her directly and they met either at her work or somewhere public. He hadn't lived in the family home for eight years and yet he had no actual home of his own. He'd lived on campus or in campus housing since leaving high school and since being expelled he'd been at camp. So his arrival was both interesting and completely unexpected to his family.
"Coffee?" his mother asked as he took a seat at the kitchen table.
"Thanks," he smiled and tapped the cork coaster in front of himself. "How's things?" he asked his sister as she took a seat opposite his.
"I've applied for a research grant," she beamed. "Good chance of getting it too."
"Awesome," Emmett said smilingly and really meant it. "And how's the jerk treating you?" he chuckled.
'The jerk' was Em's affectionate name for his sisters long term boyfriend, Steven. Emmett actually liked the guy but he'd broken his sisters heart by ditching her after high school believing that he was holding her back and that they were too young to be so serious. Of course they'd gotten back together soon after, but Emmett had never really forgiven the guy for making his sister cry that one time and so he had been known as the jerk ever since.
"He's great too," his sister trilled. "He's just leaving Cambodia and is going to Vietnam next. Only two more months and he'll be home again!"
The jerk had been on a university exchange in South East Asia for the past four months and his sister had been pining for him the whole time.
"We'll have a beer when he gets back," Em offered begrudgingly knowing it would make his sister happy. Her smile told him it did.
He thanked his mother when she put a cup of coffee in front of him and waited for her to take her seat at the other end of the table, by his father's elbow.
"How's camp?" Gemima asked.
Em was grateful to her. She'd opened the can of worms he needed open but couldn't bring himself to unleash himself. "It's actually pretty good," he shrugged.
His father finally put his newspaper down at the mention of camp and looked over the rims of his glasses as he spoke. "You've only been there a month," he began. "Don't tell me we finally found a place that has a chance of sorting you out? And in good time too?"
Em did his best to keep his temper in check and to keep his expressions bland as he replied. "It's been a good month," he told his father truthfully. "I like it there. A lot of very nice people." He took a small sip of his coffee and steeled himself to begin the discussion he'd come for. "Look, I know we've talked about this before and I know we can't agree on it, but I wanted to try and talk about it with you again. I came to tell you that I'm not going back to university, even if there is one that'll take me."
His father reacted the way he always reacted to this conversation and as his fist pounded the table top Emmett rescued his coffee cup with half a second to spare.
"You will go back and you will graduate," his father bellowed as he hovered over Emmett in his seat. "No son of mine will be uneducated and unemployable. This is not negotiable. You can stay at that camp for the entire three months, I agreed to let you go for that long and I don't intend to renege on that deal. But when your time there is up you will come back here. You will live here with your mother and I so that we can keep an eye on you and you will be starting your final year over again. La Trobe won't have you but Monash will," he shouted.
Turning his eyes to his mother Emmett pled with her silently but as was usual it was to no avail.
A doctor in her own right she had given up her private practice to see to her children and with it she seemed to have given up her right to an opinion too. Emmett had met his mothers friends from when she'd been a young adult, before she'd become a mother and they all said that same thing of her. She used to be a strong willed, strong minded woman with clear goals and ideas.
Since marrying his father and becoming a mother she'd lost her voice. His father made the decisions for the family. His father made decisions for her. Emmett hated it and he knew that Gemima hated it too, but what could they do if their mother didn't want to make an issue out of it for herself?
"Listen to your father," was his mother's only comment before she returned her eyes to her lap.
Emmett wondered where the fierce, professional woman had gone that he'd heard about as he looked at her across the table. Why hadn't she gone back to her profession once he and his sister had come of age? Why didn't she have any hobbies or interests of her own?
Deep down he knew the answer. His father. His father had instilled his will on her just like he'd always tried to do with his children. Gemima had gone along with it because she truly was interested in medicine but Emmett could see for himself that their mother no longer had the will, or the desire, to go against him.
"I'm sorry mum," Emmett said truthfully as he got to his feet. "I really am sorry. But this time I just can't. You can stay here and let him decide what's best for your life, that's your right, but I just can't," he said sadly to his mother before turning to his father.
At six feet four Emmett towered over his dad but he'd never tried to use his height to his advantage before, but his brain was telling him that now might be a good time to give it a whirl, if only to lend credence to his decision. Shaking off that thought he tried to remain passive in both stance and attitude. It was with some difficulty that he kept his shoulders hunched and stood in a submissive position, hoping to stave off any confrontation that could lead to either physical posturing or violence.
"I've spent a fortune on your education!" his father roared as Emmett shuddered and Gemima cringed away in fear. "I've spent a fucking fortune bailing you out of stupid situations too! You embarrass me and your mother at every turn and yet I still keep paying for it all. When you start paying for your own fuck ups you'll get to make decisions for yourself but until that happens you'll do exactly what I fucking tell you to do, boy."
Em could feel the anger rolling off his dad in waves but wasn't deterred. He kept a passive stance and gave his sister a small nod so she'd know he was in control of his temper. He'd expected the words chosen by his father, and the anger behind them, and mostly he agreed with them. His father had spent a lot of money on him over the years and most of it had gone towards paying for mistakes rather than successes.
He didn't want to fight with the man because he loved him. But right then he didn't like him very much and that gave him the courage to once and for all, finally inform his father how things were going to be in the future.
He didn't exactly 'front' the older McCarty man but Emmett did square up to him. He squared his shoulders and for once he did rise to his full height. He looked him right in the eye as he spoke and his voice didn't quiver at all. "Dad, I love you, but this is my life and I decided a long time ago that I didn't want to be a doctor. I won't become a doctor. I should've been stronger and made you understand that a long time ago. I'm sorry that's a disappointment to you and I'm sorry that I've embarrassed you, and mum, in the past. But if I let you bully me into this I'll never be really happy. There isn't anything you can do or say that will change my mind about this. You never did have to bail me out of anything you know. If you'd listened to what I was trying to tell you all these years...well, I guess that doesn't matter anymore now. I don't want anything from you, and I don't need anything from you, so please don't degrade us both by threatening to cut me off again. I can make my own way," he said firmly.
When his father was silent Emmett took that as discussion over and turned away from his dad. It was quite a shock to be yanked back by a firm grip to his upper arm and as he was spun around he came face to face with his father's fury.
"Don't you fucking walk away from me you ungrateful little bastard," his dad spat as he yanked again on Emmett's arm. "I'll tell you when you can leave," he spluttered but Emmett had already heard enough.
He sent a slight nod to his sister who rose from her seat and put a steadying hand on their mothers shaking shoulder. Only one he was sure that Gemima was ready and willing to whisk their mother away did he give his attention back to his father.
He used just two fingers to prise his father's hand from his arm and then he craned his neck and allowed the tiniest little bit of his temper to come to the surface. "I am neither little nor a bastard but I suppose you could make a case for ungrateful," he seethed into his father's shocked face. "Don't ever touch me in anger again, dad. If I hurt you in self defence I'd never forgive myself," he hissed from between clenched teeth. "I didn't want it to be this way. I just wanted to talk but I can see that you don't want to listen. Your loss I guess. I'm going to leave now because I don't want to upset the girls any more than they already are. I've said what I came here to say so I'll just leave now."
Emmett took a deep breath as he headed down the hallway. He was proud of himself for holding his temper at bay and even prouder that he'd said everything he'd intended to say. He hadn't even really raised his voice.
As he passed the living room arch his father began to bellow after him. Emmett didn't break stride as he marched down the length of the house towards the front door.
"If you leave don't call me for money, Emmett. I won't support you if you walk away from all I've done for you," his father shouted but Emmett was done.
Really done this time. He had no intention of ever asking for money again and the kind of support his father had offered in the past only made Emmett unhappy. He was done and he was settled and happy with his choices for once so he simply kept right on walking.
Gemima was quick on her feet and followed him down the hall and into the foyer, but his mother sat right where she'd been during the entire altercation. She neither said anything nor moved. It was as though she was relieved that he was leaving and that hurt Emmett more than his father's angry words.
"You'll call me, won't you?" Gemima sobbed into her brothers broad shoulder as she hugged him hard at the door.
Emmett kissed her hair and held onto her tightly. "Yeah, of course I will, I promise," he told her before kissing her again. "I love you kiddo, you know I do, but I can't be who they want me to be and I'm so tired of trying and failing," he told her honestly.
Patting his cheek fondly Gemima offered him a small smile. "You failed because it wasn't what you wanted for yourself," she whispered as though she was afraid to be overheard by her now loudly arguing parents in the other room. "That's their failure not yours. I can't wait to see who you become," she whispered behind her tears and hugged him again. "I love you big brother," she told him firmly, staring into his baby blues.
"Me too," he agreed and smiled back. "Tell the jerk we'll have that beer when he gets back," he said and then went out through the door.
He only got to the bottom step before his sister ran out of the house and called him back. Had it been anyone else Emmett would've kept right on walking until he reached the bus stop at the end of the street. But it was his little sister so he stopped and turned. She caught him up and put a set of keys into his palm. "She's yours, you should take her with you," she said and then ran back into the house without another word.
Staring down at the keys in his hand and then over to the side of the driveway where the row of prestige cars stood proudly, Emmett grinned and tossed the keys into the air before catching them. Gemima was right. It was his. She was his. He'd gotten her fair and square and he knew just what he was going to do with her.
He slid into the leather seat and took a good long sniff. Quality. The car smelled like quality.
"Hello old girl," he said fondly as he ran his hand over the perfectly preserved leather dash. "What do you say to a trip up the mountain?" he asked as he turned the engine over.
Of course it started on the first try. His father loved this car and had polished and maintained it in perfect condition even though Emmett owned it outright. The last thing he saw of his childhood home was an image that would stay with him forever.
His father was running down the driveway, arms in the air, bellowing loudly about Emmett being a bastard for taking away the beloved car.
For the second day running Edward sat in the beer garden of the pub nursing a glass of beer. This time though he wasn't alone.
Bella sat opposite with a glass of cider in front of her.
They'd pulled another table over and butted it up against theirs so they could spread out all of the pages Jasper had sent and together they were wading through it all.
After half an hour they switched pages and the reading began again.
Edward ordered them another drink each and proudly paid for them with his earnings from the piano lesson he'd given. They both read some more, each of them making short notes in the margins of certain passages and then they switched pages again.
When they'd both read everything Jasper had sent – barring the personal page he'd sent just for Edward's eyes that he'd folded and tucked into the back pocket of his jeans – Bella ordered them both a shot of scotch.
It burned on its way down but warmed them both from the inside. Neither knew what to say so Bella went for the obvious.
"It's all true," she hissed.
"Yeah," Edward mumbled. Sickened and saddened that he'd been right and that it hurt her so much.
"I didn't want to believe it."
"I didn't want to tell you."
"I'm so glad it came from you," Bella sighed and reached across the table for his hand. "You're the only person who's ever been straight with me. Thank you for that."
Edward put his hand into hers and squeezed gently. "I'm so sorry it couldn't be something good that I was straight with you about."
Bella thought on that for a minute and then shook her head. "No. You're looking at this all wrong. It is a good thing. At least I think it will be. Eventually. Sure it hurts to know that my father could stoop this low, and I can't imagine it's a very nice feeling for you to know what your fathers capable of either, but this is a good thing. Not what they're doing obviously. But that I know about it. I can't change it, or do anything about it if I don't know."
Edward was stunned at her generosity of heart. "Can you forgive me my part in all this?" he asked from a thickened throat.
Bella cocked an eyebrow and chewed on her bottom lip for a second and she smiled the most magnificent, confident smile he'd ever seen her produce. She squeezed his hand tighter and leaned across the table. "You played no part in this mess," she announced firmly. "And the proof is all around me. It was you who told me what was going on. It was you who came clean. It was you who got yourself upset over it before you even told me you knew about it. You have nothing to feel bad about. Nothing."
Stunned, grateful and relieved Edward tugged a little too hard on her hand to bring it to his lips, her belly shoving the table and making their glasses wobble dangerously as she came over and across the table towards him. "Thank god," he whispered across her knuckles. "Thank god."
Satisfied that that part of it was now behind them, and pleased that Edward could now let go of his guilt and upset over it all, Bella made her way around the table and took the chair next to his. With her hand still in his she rested her head on his shoulder and sighed heavily. "I need a favour," she said quietly and smiled when Edward replied with a firm 'anything' right away. "Will you be there with me when I call Allie and Jaz? I need a game plan, and end game, and I need you to be with me while I work it out."
Taking his free hand and cupping it to her cheek Edward encouraged her to lift her head from his shoulder and as she lifted her eyes and they met his he smiled widely. "I meant it when I said anything," he whispered before covering her lips with his.
Two hours later, after switching to orange juice to keep their minds clear, the pair decided to get a head start on that end game and after another hour they had a page of potential fallout scenarios mapped out. In all of them their respective parents lost a lot of money. In each scenario the relationship between parent and child would be stretched to breaking point. Every eventuality hurt someone and most of them saw Bella with no place to live, no income and possibly without any other ally other than Edward.
Edward was fine with that. He was more than fine with that. But he knew that Bella was scared. That her world was about to change in fundamental ways and that she'd never had to fend for herself before either. Edward was determined to ride that wave with her if he needed to.
It was too soon to pledge his undying allegiance to her, he knew that. But he also knew that if it came about that the worst case scenario became their reality he'd be there, at her side, out on the street without a job or anywhere to live too.
He had nothing to lose by standing by her side. If his parents disowned him for his part in sabotaging the project he'd wear that. Actually, when it came right down to it he'd be happy with that. It would save him from having to disown his parents himself.
It would also be the easy way out of his job. He had no doubt that his father would purge him from the family business if it ever came out that it was Edward who 'outed' the group. For Edward it was both frightening and a great relief.
Knowing it was too soon they didn't speak about those eventualities that saw them together somewhere. It was implied, but neither put strong voice to the option. Edward knew without needing to think on it that he wanted to be with Bella. In any capacity. As friends, lovers, married, roommates...hell...he'd clean her toilet and do her dishes if the only way she wanted him in her life was as a houseboy he'd do it.
Bella wanted Edward in her life too. She had no idea how to explain that, or even if she should, so she said nothing despite Angela's advice to communicate openly.
There was too much going on outside of their budding relationship to get into that right then. So instead Bella ran those scenarios around only in her mind.
Of course Edward couldn't know it but Bella had money. Real money. Money that was just hers and it was a healthy amount that would set them both up and get them a start at the very least. Maybe not enough to buy a house in the suburbs their families resided in, but enough to buy something small and tide them over until they could get jobs.
But Edward didn't know that and Bella couldn't tell him yet. He'd come to camp with nothing of his own and she didn't want to make him feel bad that he couldn't contribute to any plans they might make yet. It didn't matter in the least for Bella. She'd give him everything she had and never blink an eyelash over it.
He could get a job teaching piano and she could go to school. Maybe she could get a scholarship, her grades were good enough and she'd already been accepted to a couple of good colleges before her parents had told her no, so maybe she could do a few small courses and then apply again for the new school year?
Maybe Edward could go to music school or do a teaching degree? Maybe his business degrees would give him a foot in the door for that? Maybe he could use the degrees he already had and start a music school of his own and run it as his own business? Hell, if Pete knew what he was talking about and Edward really was as good as he'd said he was maybe Edward could just teach piano at college right away?
She could help him. He could help her. They could study together and if they got into the same school they could share a place and it wouldn't have to be about a relationship if he didn't want it to be. She could still see him every day if they lived together close to campus. They could cook together and share chores. They could talk all night and watch movies any time they wanted.
Just as friends at first, maybe, possibly. Maybe if he agreed they could move in together just for convenience and then she could make him see that they could have more? Because Bella already knew she wanted more.
But there was a tiny little portion of Bella's mind that wondered if Edward wanted a life like that with her? A real life. Where they lived in a house together, just the two of them. As adults that did adult things together. Adults that shared a bed and their bodies and minds. Maybe even a marriage of sorts. She didn't even know if Edward believed in marriage!
But what she did know for sure was that if Edward agreed she'd live with him as his friend, or roommate or any other connotation he wanted to label it as.
Pulled from their individual thoughts and fantasies by a waitress coming to collect their empty glasses they both smiled shyly at one another and tried to push down their personal desires.
If felt too soon, for both of them, to be openly making long term plans with one another. They both wanted to but neither wanted to be the first to say so. So they both sat and stared at the page of notes they'd made.
On the upside of each of their scenarios was Bella being free of her arranged marriage to Jake. But the hardest part of it all for Bella was deciding whether she was willing to sacrifice her family's wealth and security for the sake of her own happiness.
Edward desperately wanted to point out that her father had gambled her happiness in order to bolster the family coffers, but couldn't bring himself to say it out loud.
The choices were easy ones for Edward. He had nothing to lose from Bella backing out of the marriage and everything to gain. His father would lose a lot of money but having never had any of his own Edward couldn't feel bad about that.
Deciding to sleep on it the pair headed back to camp in the early afternoon. They ate dinner with their friends at their regular table and then went back to Edward's cabin for a drink and to try to relax as best they could.
The page Jasper had sent just for Edward's eyes was burning a hole in his pocket but Edward wouldn't give up one second of private time with Bella in order to read it, so it stayed in his pocket. Unread and forgotten while the pair did their best to keep their hands to themselves until after they were really alone.
Emmett excused himself after a shower and a change of clothes and told them both not to wait up for him. It was only after Edward was sure that Emmett was far enough away from the cabin that he told Bella that Em had stayed the previous night in Rose' cabin.
When Emmett knocked on her cabin door Rose was still reeling from her meeting with Tyler.
He was a good guy with a good heart and she trusted him implicitly. But the information he'd gotten from Jasper made her blood run cold.
Pressuring someone into a life they didn't want was one thing. Using your daughter as leverage for financial gain was quite another.
Tyler had looked shocked and appalled as he recounted his conversation with Jasper and it left Rose feeling the same once she'd been filled in. There were no specifics, just vague references to handshake business deals that had invaded both property, business and politics in the States. Jasper hadn't been able to give too many details but from what Tyler was able to piece together the scenario rather vaguely and the bottom line was that Isabella Swan was being used as a pawn by her own father.
Rose had always recognised the pressure Bella was under from home but now...now that pressure seemed far more insidious than even Rose had imagined.
Her depth of sympathy and empathy for the girl knew no bounds and she promised Tyler and by extension Jasper that she'd do whatever they needed to her to do to help Bella get herself out from under the dark cloud that hung over her head.
Rose had no idea what that help might entail, but both she and Tyler recognised how important Edward might be to the outcome. Any assistance they could give that would ensure that those two remained 'close' was agreed upon easily.
Rose had spent the morning planning a 'report' for Tyler to construct to send home to Bella's mother and for the first time since her guest had come to stay Rose understood the importance of the fake report.
Together they mapped out a strategy to not only keep Bella's mother unaware of her daughters activities but to also support and encourage the girl to find her feet on her own. The idea that Bella would have a little fun at camp and then go home to go through with the awful marriage anyway made Rose feel ill. Tyler felt the same and also pledged his time and effort to help both Bella and Edward come through the awful situation whole.
Rose looked drawn and tired as she opened the door to a grinning Emmett. He was quick to ask if she was alright and just as quick to offer to leave her to an early night if she wasn't up to having company when she explained that she'd had a bad day in the office.
"No," Rose told a concerned Em. "I could use a distraction," she said as she ushered him inside. "I mean, I don't think you're just a distraction. That came out wrong. Sorry. Um, what I mean is...shit..." she chuckled. "I had a rough day and I'm glad you're here. Come on in, please."
After refusing her offer of a beer Emmett took out the set of keys his sister had given him and dangled them from his index finger. "In the carpark you'll find a 1981 Bentley Mulsanne," he chuckled as he swung the keys back and forth. "She's all yours until your car is fixed," he told a gaping Rose. He put the keys into her hand and closed her fingers around them gently. "I really am sorry for the damage I caused. Please say you'll use her until yours is repaired."
"Where on earth did you get it?" Rose asked without thinking.
"I didn't steal it, if that's what you're thinking," Emmett barked, offended at her shrug. "It was my granddads. He left it to me and it's been sitting in my parents driveway for the past three years. But she's in perfect condition and she runs like a dream."
"Why haven't you been driving it?" she asked.
"Her," he corrected automatically. "She's a she," he chuckled. This time it was Emmett who shrugged before answering her previous question. "I haven't been sober enough long enough to be able to drive her I guess."
Just how sad that statement was Rose couldn't articulate so she simply said thank you for the loan of the car and lead Emmett to the couch. She made coffee for them both and then settled onto the end of the couch with her cup between her hands.
"What did you get up to today? I saw you leaving early," she asked, suddenly nervous to be alone with him after sharing the kiss the night before. The air between them felt heavy, as though they were both avoiding speaking of things better left unsaid.
Neither liked the feeling but neither was willing to reference their growing feelings of lust, desire and perhaps just the tiniest little bit of new love for one another.
Emmett took a long time sipping his drink before replying and to Rose it looked as though he was thinking over his words carefully before sharing them. "I went to talk to my family," he said quietly before taking another long sip. "You were right you know? What you said last night. My parents know how unhappy I am and it doesn't matter to them. I deserve better than that because I love them anyway, despite all that, I love them anyway. So I went home and I told them that I wasn't going to become a doctor once and for all."
Rose was both proud and shocked at the same time. "How did it feel to say it?" she asked.
"Fucking scary," Em chuckled but his face clouded over and Rose knew that wasn't all he'd felt. "I guess it was freeing in a way. To finally say it and know that I meant it. That no matter what they tried to bribe me with, or what they threatened me with, it wasn't going to matter because I meant it. That part felt good."
"What response did you get?"
"The usual. I'm a bastard. No, wait. This time I was an ungrateful little bastard," Emmett chuckled but there was no humour behind it. Just sadness. "It's okay though. My dad was just angry, he didn't really mean it."
Hoping that was true Rose put her hand on top of his and squeezed. "Did you get to see your sister?" she asked.
This time his smile was genuine. His dimples popped and his eyes lit up. "Yeah. She's great. Really great. She's really supportive and I know that this won't change our relationship at all."
"I know it might not mean much but I'm really proud of you," Rose whispered and squeezed his hand again.
He didn't meet her eyes but he did respond. "That actually means a lot," he whispered.
Removing her hand Rose sat back against the arm of the couch and folded her legs underneath herself. "So what's the plan going forward for you then?" she asked.
"That's where things get a little murky," Em laughed. "I've got eight weeks left here to sober up and get my shit together and then I guess I'd better start looking for a job and somewhere to live."
"Have you lived at home all this time?" she asked.
"No, not since high school," Emmett confessed. "I've always had campus housing and for a while in my fourth year I lived in a share house with some guys from my course. But they eventually graduated and moved on so I went back to Suicide City."
Suicide City was the name given to the high-rise apartment buildings that flanked the major university campuses in Melbourne city proper. They were dark, bleak rat holes that housed the attending students and they had a nasty reputation for being ideal places for depressed and stressed out students to end their lives by jumping from the balconies on the upper floors.
"I know it's none of my business, but do you have any money of your own stashed away?"
"Not a cent," Emmett confessed sadly. "I got a good chunk when I turned twenty-one, but I bet you can guess what I did with that. All I've got to my name is what's in my duffel bag and that car," he said as he nodded towards the front of camp where he'd parked her.
"Okay, well that's not so bad," Rose said thoughtfully. "People have started out with a lot less. We'll worry about where you're going to live when the time comes, but for now let's get you healthy and in a good head space. How's that sound?" she asked.
"Good place to start," he agreed.
"Have you had a drink today?"
"Not a one," Em said truthfully. "And I gotta say I'm pinging for one."
"I know you are," Rose said truthfully. "But you'll make better decisions with a clear head. Nobody says you can't drink at all. Maybe just temper the intake a little?"
"Yeah," Em conceded. "I know you're right but thanks for not lecturing me about it."
"Not my place," Rose insisted kindly. "So, I've been thinking about your little obsession with explosives," she chuckled and reached for the stack of pages on the coffee table. "Ever heard of a mob called Explosives Training Australia?"
"Nope," Emmett answered truthfully as he began flicking through the pages.
"They're just one of half a dozen groups that offer courses in fireworks and explosives training. They even run courses for the mining industry and for demolition companies. There's an expression of interest page on the internet you can fill out and they'll send you a heap of information. That stuffs just the bits and pieces I could find with a quick search. Sound like something you might be interested in?" she asked hesitantly, well aware that she might be seriously overstepping some boundaries.
"Blowing shit up for a living?" he asked idly without lifting his eyes from the pages.
"I don't see why not. People need things blown up. Legitimately blown up, not just for pranks," Rose giggled. "I can't say that you're very good at it but enthusiasm and a lack of self preservation seem like pretty good qualities to have for a professional powder monkey to me."
"Powder monkey," Emmett whispered more to himself than for conversations sake. "I'd have to sell the car to pay for courses like these," he said, pointing to the top page.
"It is pretty expensive," Rose agreed. "What's a car like that worth?"
"She's in good condition and she's got all the bells and whistles so maybe ten grand to the right buyer," Emmett shrugged.
"If you could get that much you could pay for a course and buy a cheap car to get yourself around," Rose encouraged thinking it was a pretty sound idea.
"I could," Em sighed. "I guess."
"I know she means a lot to you, but could you part with her to give yourself a shot at a job like this?" she asked, tapping the page he held in his hand.
Emmett read through a little bit more of the information and could feel himself getting excited at the prospect of a job blowing shit up. "Yeah, I think I could. I mean, granddad gave her to me and I know he loved her as much as I do, but I mean, I think I could like a job like this one," he said, holding up the page and showing her which course he was considering.
Rose worked hard not to show how relieved she was that he was taking more of an interest in the fireworks information than the far more dangerous mining or demolition parts.
Instead she offered him a small smile and took the pages from his hands. She put them in a pile onto the coffee table and then she slid across the couch until she was facing him as best she could. "I like you Em," she whispered nervously. "You drive me nuts," she giggled, "But a good kind of nuts. I think we have a lot in common and I know that we could be good for each other. I know you've got a lot on your mind, and you're going to have to make a lot of tough decisions about your life very soon, so you don't need to be thinking about your love life right now. But I wanted to let you know that I like you. I really like you."
Emmett was stunned. He'd thought about very little other than the beautiful, headstrong director of Crossroads since almost the first second he'd stepped off the bus and here she was telling him she liked him. Liked him liked him.
She'd been brave enough to put voice to what they'd both been thinking and Emmett was grateful. Grateful that she was brave enough for the two of them. Grateful that she hadn't excommunicated him for his behaviour since coming to camp and grateful that she seemed to be able to see past his childish exterior.
As Emmett slid his hand into her hair and tugged her forward he couldn't help but smile. Sure, he'd just effectively cut ties with his parents and he was homeless, unemployed and he had a serious case of the DT's but she liked him. Liked him liked him. "Blondie, I gotta tell ya, the timing might be all fucking wrong but I like you too." He kissed her softly once, twice and then a third time before pulling away and grinning at her, dimples and all. "And you drive me nuts too. The good kind of nuts."
A/N: Thank you for reading.