"Jesus fuck," Alice spat, slamming her tray on the bar.
Cocking in an eyebrow in her direction, I silently asked her what was wrong, not that I didn't know. Alice had been in a bad mood ever since Emmett left town a week ago. It wasn't that he had left; it was more that neither of us had heard from him. Not a phone call, not a text, nothing, and it had us both on edge. Emmett never disappeared, and the cryptic way that he had left us both feeling edgy. But Alice was especially close to Emmett, and him not being here, him not calling, had her acting like a bitch.
Not only had Emmett been incognito for a week, but Esme had called in sick for the last two nights due to a migraine, which left us even more shorthanded than normal. Alice was manning the floor all by herself, while Ben and I tried to keep the bar stocked and the drinks flowing. It had been a long week, and appeared to only be getting worse.
"Fucker at table seven keeps palming my ass," she snarled as I placed twelve shots of tequila on her tray. She picked one up and sucked it down, giving me the stink eye when laughed. "Go ahead and laugh it up, asshole. I'm about to shove my foot up his ass."
"Want me to take him out?" I asked.
Alice sighed and looked over her shoulder at him. I followed her gaze. The asshole in question was laughing so hard that as he leaned his chair back, he fell, which caused him to hit the people at the table behind him. The man, who had been sitting there trying to woo the red-head next to him, grabbed the asshole and dragged him to his feet, slamming his fist into the man's face. All hell broke loose at they started fighting, which set several other drunks off.
"Fuck," I hissed, reaching under the bar and grabbing the metal baseball bat I had hidden.
With Emmett gone, Ben and I had to try to keep the peace since Paul was a cheap ass bastard, who refused to hire anyone to help. Well, anyone who wasn't a young, hot piece of ass, anyway. Climbing onto the bar, I gripped the bat in my hands and swung it around, hitting the metal rafters that drooped from the ceiling. The bang echoed throughout the room, drawing everyone's attention to me.
"Get the fuck out!" I yelled, using the bat to gesture to the door. "We're closing early tonight."
For a moment, everyone just kind of stared at me, like they weren't sure I was serious, but as I brought the bat back up to my shoulder and prepared to take another swing, everyone started standing up, tossing money on the table and walking out of the bar. I stayed on the bar top until the last person walked out.
"Dude, Paul's gonna have your ass," Alice snickered. "That's twice in a week that you've closed early."
"Yeah, well, Paul can kiss my ass," I muttered, jumping off the bar and stowing the bat back underneath. "He's not the one who has to deal with these motherfuckers."
Alice scoffed, but didn't say anything as she turned and started clearing off the tables.
An hour later, Ben, Alice, and I walked out the backdoor for the night. Alice had her phone pressed against her ear, while leaving Emmett yet another heated voice mail about how she was going to kick his ass when she saw him again. Ben muttered something about Angela and a pair of handcuffs, but I didn't question him. I'd learned a long time ago that it was better not to ask him anything about his and Angela's sex life. Less was definitely more when it came to those two.
Instead, I put my helmet on and straddled my bike, walking it backward. Kick starting it, I took off down the alley, automatically finding myself parked outside of Bella's apartment building. I wanted to go inside, knock on every door until I found hers, but I didn't. I couldn't. I hadn't seen her since the night I had taken her to Exploration Peak, though every night I found myself parked outside of her place, wanting nothing more than to see her smile, hear her say my name. Anything. I was scared and weak, afraid of putting myself out there. I'd learned a long time ago that it was better not to take that risk.
So instead of searching for Bella's apartment, I drove away from her building. A few minutes later, I pulled up in front Esme's building. I climbed off my bike and headed inside her building, stopping in front of her apartment door. I had barely knocked when the door was pulled opened and Esme stood in front of me.
"What the fuck happened to you?" I demanded.
Esme flinched, ducking her head. Placing my hand under her chin, I tilted her head back and looked her in the eye. Someone had beaten the crap out of her. Her lip had been busted and was swollen, her eyes were black, and she had a bruise along the left side of her jaw and a cut on across her forehead. But what scared me the most were the handprints wrapped around her neck and on her arms.
Taking a deep breath, I pushed my way into her apartment and looked around. It looked like someone had trashed the place. Her books, pictures, knickknacks had been thrown on the floor. Pages ripped out and glass shattered. Chairs and tables had been upturned and the cushions on her couch had been ripped to shreds.
I turned back to Esme, who was standing by the open door with her arms wrapped around her torso. Walking back to her, I reached around her, ignoring the way she flinched, and shut the door. I wrapped my arm around her and led her over to one of the upturned chairs, using my free hand to set it upright and pushed her into the chair.
"Do you have ice?" I asked.
"No," she whispered.
I nodded as I walked into her kitchen and pulled open the freeze, almost laughing when I saw the bag of frozen peas. How cliché, I thought. I grabbed a towel off the counter and wrapped it around the peas as I walked over to Esme. I grabbed another chair and sat in front of her before bringing the frozen peas up to her head, pressing it against the cut.
Esme hissed, but didn't pull away.
"Who did this to you?" I asked.
She didn't reply, not that I was expecting her to. She wouldn't be the first battered woman I'd encountered, and I doubt she'd be the last. "Did they . . . did they do anything else to you?"
Esme's eyes lifted to mine. "He didn't rape me, if that's what you're asking."
"It was," I admitted. "When did this happen?"
"Yesterday," she whispered, sliding her hand up and grabbing the peas. She tossed them onto the floor. "Why are you here?"
"I was worried," I told her. "Did you go to the hospital?"
Esme shook her head as she stood up and walked over to her couch, grabbing one of the torn cushions.
"Why not?" Of course, I already knew the answer. It was always the same.
"Because I'm fine," she lied.
"Oh, yeah, because the black eyes are in style right now," I groused.
"Why do you fucking care, Edward?" she seethed.
Her tone should have scared me, but it didn't. I was used to it. I'd spent my entire life being lashed out, why would this be any different.
"I don't know," I said. "But I do."
"Well, you shouldn't," she muttered, dropping her eyes to the floor. "Not about me."
I sighed and placed my hands on my hips. "Look, I understand —"
"Get out," she said, shaking her head. "Just get the fuck out of my apartment, and forget about me. Trust me, you'll be better off."
I walked over to the door and pulled it open. Looking back at her, I shook my head. "Put the peas back on your head. Trust me, it'll help."
"Yeah?" she asked. "How would you know?"
I closed my eyes for a second before I replied. "Life experience."
Before she could say anything more, I walked out of her apartment and closed the door behind me.
Three more days passed before I saw Esme again. Though she tried to hide it, using a large amount of make-up, the bruises on her face and neck were still noticeable. Alice cocked an eyebrow at her but didn't say anything, which was rare for the woman. Alice normally spoke her mind without caring who she hurt or how it came off, but then again, what did I know?
Esme walked into the back, tying her apron around her waist, and picking up a fresh order pad from the shelf above the desk. Pulling a case of Jose Cuervo from the supply closet, I placed it on the floor and looked over at her.
"Did you use the peas?" I asked.
Esme rolled her eyes. "Yeah."
"Maybe," she muttered before looking over at me.
"Did he come back?" I asked.
Esme sighed. "No. He . . ."
"He what?" I pressed.
"It doesn't matter," she grumbled. "I'm sorry for missing my shifts."
"I don't give a fuck about the shifts," I snarled, causing Esme to look up at me. "Tell me who hit you."
Esme shook her head.
"Goddamn it!" I yelled, causing her to flinch backward. I took a calming breath. "I'm sorry. You can trust me."
Esme turned her eyes up to mine and laughed — fucking laughed. "The last person who said I could trust them, did this to me." She gestured to her face. "Excuse me if I'm done trusting anyone."
She pushed past me and headed back out front. I took a deep breath, trying to keep from screaming. All I'd wanted to do was help, yet I just kept fucking everything up. Story of my fucking life.
Grabbing the case off the floor, I carried it out front, but stopped in the doorway when I saw Emmett and a tall, curvy blond woman. Alice came out of the bathroom as Emmett looked over at me.
"You motherfucking, son of a bitch!" Alice screeched, leaping across the room and attaching herself to Emmett. To some it would appear that she was hugging him, but I knew better. She was pissed, and sure enough, a moment later she unhinged herself from him and brought to his knees with a ninja-like headlock. "Do you have any idea how worried I've been? I've called, texted. I fucking emailed, and you know how much I hate email!"
"Ali-Cat, stop!" Emmett whined, attempting to push the pixie away from him. The blond he was with had stumbled back a few steps and was watching them with wide, fearful eyes.
"Alice," I snapped, drawing her attention to me. I gestured to the blond. "You're fucking freaking her out, so chill already."
Alice growled, but released her hold on Emmett, who scrambled to his feet and moved so that he was standing in front of the blond. "You left me, Em. You fucking left!"
"I know, Ali. I'm sorry," he muttered, reaching behind him and grabbing hold of blondie's hand. "But I had to go."
"Who's the bitch?" Alice grumbled.
I whistled under my breath, expecting the blond to do something, say something, but instead, she turned toward Emmett, placing her hand on his shoulder.
Emmett, on the other hand, glared at Alice, which was a first. "Fuck you, Alice. You don't fucking get to stand there and call her that."
Alice's eyes flew open. It was the first time Emmett had ever spoken to her like that, or anyone that wasn't pawing at his Ali-Cat. "Em."
"Everyone calm down," I said, putting my hands up in the air. From the corner of my eye, I saw Esme and Ben watching us, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I blew out a heavy breath. "Emmett, who's your friend?"
"This is Rose," he gritted, still glaring at Alice.
I smiled, or at least I tried to, as I turned to Rose. "It's nice to meet you, Rose. I'm Edward. This is Alice."
Rose shifted her eyes to mine, but she didn't say anything. Her eyes were full of so many emotions: fear, sorrow, grief, anger, hatred.
I cleared my throat and looked at Alice, tilting my head toward Rose.
Alice rolled her eyes. "Sorry. I didn't mean to call you a bitch."
Again, Rose didn't say anything. I shifted my eyes to Emmett, cocking an eyebrow. He sighed. "She's, um . . . I told her she could sit at the bar while I worked tonight. I don't . . . I don't want to leave her by herself."
I nodded and looked at Rose. "Okay. Just, um . . ." I gestured to the far end of the bar, closest to where Emmett would be working. It was the same stool that Bella had sat on the night she and Carlisle came to the bar. I shook my head. "Sit there. If you need anything, just wave of something, okay?"
Rose nodded, before looking up at Emmett.
"It'll be okay," he whispered. "They won't hurt you, Rosie. They're good people."
Though I could tell Rose wasn't convinced, she turned and walked over to the bar, sitting down very stiff-like. I looked back at Emmett, who had his hand tangled in his hair. "Dude, where the fuck have you been?" I snarled, closing the distance between him, me, and Alice. "You just took off for ten days without a word?"
Emmett swallowed thickly. "I'm sorry. Rose needed me, and . . . I'm should have called, but I couldn't, okay? But I'm back now."
"You just . . ." Alice trailed off and shook her head before she walked away.
"Ali-Cat," Emmett called, but Alice simply flipped him off and went to prepare her tables. "Fuck."
"I don't know what you expected," I muttered. "You know how much she depends on you, Em."
He lifted his eyes to mine. "Everyone depends on me, Edward. Everyone," he seethed. "But when I need . . ." he waved his hands in the air. "Just fuck it. Being used is nothing new to me."
With a look back at Rose, and then one more to Alice, Emmett turned and walked over to the door, standing with his arms folded across his chest. As I walked back behind the bar, I thought of Bella.
So, yeah, heavy chapter, right? Sorry for the long wait between updates. I've really been struggling a lot with all of my fics, but I am working to get through it. So, leave me a word or two if you don't mind.