Under My Nose
Edward Cullen sets a deadline of six months to find his true love, before he turns thirty. Leaving his successful restaurant to drive a mule-drawn carriage into the French Quarter of New Orleans, he searches for the meaning of true love, because he has yet to understand it. Will he know when he finds her or will she be right under his nose? Can bubbly, buxom Bella tantalize his taste buds with beignets and an abundant
EPOV... LATE DECEMBER
The sound of thunder echoes and jars me out of my scattered thoughts, as the light turns green. Shaking my head and focusing on the traffic, I take a sharp turn onto my street and pull into the packed parking lot on the side of my two-story building. Lightning cracks and splinters into electric fingers, stretching over the black sky, illuminating my pathway. I grit my teeth with exasperation and look ahead. "Fuck." The only space available is at the other end of the lot.
Maneuvering my brother's brand new Vette close to the edge of the grass and giving myself more room on the driver's side, I push the car door open, rush out and jog through toad strangling raindrops, as they pound heavily on my leather clad shoulders. I hurdle around muddy bumpers and dance over rain-filled potholes. Once I walk through the side door and shake off some rain, I drag my feet up the narrow and dimly lit stairway shivering from chills that seep through my soaked Nikes. Out of breath, I pull off my cap and run my shaky hands through my sopping wet hair and down my week-long, scraggly beard, grasping both railings and slowly pulling myself forward.
The incessant chatter from the restaurant below hums on, but the noise of an active kitchen lessens with each step I ascend. By the time I reach my door, I hear but only soft whispers and echoes of clanging pots as I make my way into my apartment.
Flipping the switch to the overhead light, I slip off my sneakers and roll my socks down throwing them near the doorway. Pulling my cell out of the pocket, I shrug out of my drenched, Black Hills jacket and hang it to the right, on one of the curved, wooden arms of the entrance hall-tree and cup my cap on another.
I think I'm basically a simple guy with simple tastes, but I have a mother who likes to decorate and I never say no to her offerings. Needless to say, I have GQ manly surroundings courtesy of Esme Cullen, who takes no prisoners and expects said manly surroundings to stay presentable.
It is my home, but I am an obsessive clean freak, because of her. Wait. I have dust, and I'm proud of that dust. A real man doesn't fucking dust. But, my clothes are in closets and dresser drawers and never on the floor. There are no dirty dishes in the sink, in my bedroom or the living room coffee table, no food on the countertops and the bathrooms are sparkling... almost immaculate. The mirrors are spotless, the toilets are full of Scrubbing Bubbles and the seats stay up. Hey, I'm a guy. The seat stays up. No food rots in my refrigerator, and I always hang my wet towels on the warming racks. My cleaning lady Margaret says I am a dream come true that she has little to do, but dust.
My mother believes kitchens and bathrooms must be clean or you open your home to critters and germs. I don't like critters, and I don't want germs. I lean down and pick up my fucking, dripping socks off of the hardwood floor.
I feel comfortable with my surroundings. The apartment is a conversion of four separate units, taking up the entire second floor of my building with the restaurant downstairs.
From the front door, you walk right into my living room area. Mom says the walls are an eggshell color. To me, they look cream, but what do I know about a color palette. The floors are a dark wood with earth-tone scatter rugs that strategically lay around the room.
I have brown-leather sectionals, a few Lazy boy matching recliners, end and coffee tables, bookshelves and, the pièce de résistance, my sixty inch, flat screen.
I don't bother with an office, since I have one down in the restaurant. There is an average-size kitchen, hence, the restaurant's kitchen. I really don't need anything elaborate in my living space. Although any woman would cook happily... Mom's words, not mine.
There are three enormous bedrooms with en suites. My bedroom is the last one down the hallway. The walls are a dark brown. There's a king-size, platform bed of mahogany wood with a light and dark brown, geometric-patterned comforter and a bunch of earth toned pillows. Margaret likes to fluff them.
I have a 46 inch flat screen TV over one of my dresser and one of my mother's paintings above my bed. It's an incredible likeness of the skyline of New Orleans at dusk.
Other than my living room TV, my walk-in, doorless shower is a water haven and one of my prized possession. There are jets on the ceiling, walls and floor, all computerized for my showering pleasure. At a flick of a switch or push of a button, I can set off three shower heads on the top ceiling, four on the angled ceiling to the right, three on one wall and two hand-held sprays on the other wall. The temperature is a warm seventy-eight to eighty degrees. With an overhead stereo system, lighting dimmer and a wood-burning fireplace across the stall, the bathroom is my Utopia. Unfortunately, I have yet to share a scintillating shower with any creature of the opposite sex.
Although, Emmett begs on a constant basis.
The sound of the thunder fades off into the distance as I walk out from my water haven and peek out the small window that looks out over Magazine Street. I watch the storm drift away with a slight drizzle on the window pane. People skip lightly, with umbrellas in hand dodging puddles, making their way to the nightlife of New Orleans. I do a quick wipe over myself and wrap the towel swiftly around my waist. The sizzle of the gas heater clicks in, and a burst of heat floats in my direction.
I walk over to the gas heater near my bed, remove my towel and stand bare ass, absorbing the warmth. I bend to towel dry my hair, as my front door bangs open.
"Bro, you here?" Emmett boldly calls out to me.
"Yeah, in my room," I shout out to him and continue drying off.
I can hear my refrigerator door open and close and heavy footsteps walking in my direction. Emmett stands in my doorway, chomping on a cold piece of pizza and assesses my position. "Nice ass, but your balls are shriveling up."
I sarcastically sneer at him, "Nice to see you, too." And casually walk to my dresser, take a pair of boxers and slide them on. "What's going on?"
"Haven't seen you all day; where've you been with my fucking Vette, Ed-WARD?" He shifts his weight and leans back on the doorframe, throwing the dried crust of the pizza in a wastebasket, and crossing his muscular arms over his well-defined chest.
"Yeah, and thanks for the loan. I couldn't very well bring all that feed on my bike. I was in the Quarter for a while and parked in the lot, no street parking. Carolyn was giving me a rundown of the routes to take." I sit on the edge of my bed and roll on a pair of Argyle socks. "Then, we went over to the stables," I emphasize, "I parked away from the horse stalls and I covered your trunk with a blanket, before I put the bags of feed in." Emmett rolls his eyes, as I walk into my closet and yell out, "I spent some time with Julia."
I can hear him mumble something about stupid horse shit. Emmett frowns, as I walk out of my closet in only jeans, pulling an emerald green, V-neck sweater over my head. I look down and slide my feet into a pair of black loafers.
"You're still going to do this?" he uncomfortably asks. He surprises me with his quiet question.
"Yeah." I shoot him a glare.
"Edward, I don't understand." He lifts off the doorway, walks over to me, places his hands on my shoulder and stares into my eyes. "Man, you're spending too much fucking time with a jackass. How is that gonna find you a fucking woman?"
I shake my head, and huff, "Emmett, you don't understand." I walk to my dresser, grab my wallet and shove it into the back pocket of my jeans. I grab my cell phone and keys. I also hand Emmett his keychain, and he mumbles a 'thanks'.
"Then, explain this cockamamie idea to me," he pleads.
"I've got to get downstairs." I glance at him, grab the garbage bag with Emmett's uneaten crust and head toward the door.
He follows. "I'll walk with you. C'mon, Edward, for Christ's sakes, talk to me." He now groans.
We enter through the back door of the restaurant; my restaurant. The kitchen crew is doing their nightly clean up routine, and the cooking staff looks over my menus and prepares the grocery list for the week. As I walk by, they all nod and continue their jobs.
Emmett is at my heels. I can practically feel his breath on my ear, as I throw the garbage bag into a huge container.
"I'm going to sit at the bar and wait you out, Lil Bro." He grabs my arm and swings me around. Pointing his finger in my face, he spits, "You're going to talk to me. " I try to protest. "No, I loaned you my fucking car, you owe me!"
We both exit the kitchen and enter the large dining room area that seats around 60-70 patrons. We sizzle with sexiness according to the nightlife media. With our deep colors of oranges, gold and black, each table is roomy for a large group and intimately private for a romantic couple.
Emmett briskly walks over to the bar and hits Jasper, my best friend and the restaurant's manager, up for a drink. I watch their tete a tete, as they break apart and both stare at me. Emmett sternly ruffles his brows, points and mouths, "I'll be here!" He plunks down on a stool and takes a large gulp of his drink. Jasper folds his arms, makes a silly face and mouths, "I'll be here, too!"
I roll my eyes at both of them and turn to the hallway, leading to my office. I unlock the door and open it to a cluttered desk of messages, mail and the sack of cash and credit receipts from tonight's restaurant and bar tabs. Everything else is on my computer.
I fall into my well-padded, high-back chair and sink into its comfortable padding. Leaning back, I crack my knuckles, take a long sigh, reach forward and turn on my computer.
It's past closing time when I look up from my monitor. The hum of the dishwashers echo around me, and there is still a faint smell of garlic in the air. I stretch my legs and arms with a long yawn, as both Jasper and Emmett invade my private domain.
With a fierce glare, Emmett cozies himself onto one of the swivel chairs in front of me.
Jasper gives me a slight smile and places a bottle of Heineken on my desk. I give him a nod of thanks.
"What's the plan, Stan?" Jasper sits next to Emmett on the other chair and gulps from his beer.
Emmett stares at me with his arms hanging off the sides, holding his beer bottle at the tip of the neck, swaying it back and forth. "You can't hide away from me."
I defend myself. "I wasn't hiding, Emmett. I was closing out my restaurant."
"You were sticking your head up your ass, Edward. Now, fucking explain." He raises his voice enough to show his hidden irritation. "I've waited over two and a half hours."
"I didn't ask you to stay. That's your own damn doing," I snap.
Jasper clears his throat. "Do you want to tell me what this is all about?"
Emmett flies out of his chair and paces back and forth with his arms flailing in all directions. "Jazz, he's fucking crazy."
"I'm assuming this is about Edward's extra employment activities?" Jasper nonchalantly murmurs.
"C'mon, Jazz, don't tell me you agree with this shit?" Emmett pleads and sits back into the chair.
"He has to do what he has to do, Em." Jasper slowly sits back and crosses one leg over the other at the ankle.
"Would you do this?" Emmett strains the veins in his neck.
Jasper grunts. "I don't have to. I have Alice."
Emmett glares at me. "Did you hypnotize him?"
Before I can say anything, Jasper yawns, mixing up his words. "I'mnotsayingIagree."
"What?" Emmett shakes his head.
"Look, I wouldn't go to this extreme. But this is Edward." He looks at me. "No offense."
I mumble, "None taken."
"Look, man, I've been with Alice, since diapers. She's had my balls in a knot, since I realized what I could do with them." He chuckles, "Or since I realized what she could do with them."
"C'mon, Jazz, we all like nasty sex," Emmett explains. "But to go search it out with a fucking mule?"
"Hey, don't talk about Julia like that!" I defend.
"Edward, she's an ass. A donkey you named Julia Childs," Emmett scoffs.
"I don't know why you didn't name her Jenny." Jasper adds, while Emmett frowns at him. "That's the name for a female mule, by the way."
Emmett moans, "You're an idiot. Don't encourage him, you jackass!"
He turns to me and points his index finger. "And I know exactly why you named her Julia Childs!" He rants on. "From the first rerun, she was your reason for becoming a chef." He impersonates her, "Ooooooo you must pour the wine over the chicken." He growls, "The fucking loon drenched the chicken in wine and then, guzzled down the bottle. Your crush was a lush!"
"Hey, you used to watch the shows with me!" I defend.
"Yeah, I watched the food, but you wanted Julia!" Emmett screams.
"I did not. I respected her craft. The woman was a culinary genius," I preach.
"Bull, you were looking for her culinary cleavage," Emmett taunts.
"You're both getting off the subject," Jasper interrupts.
"Emmett, I'm not fucking the mule!" I yell.
"I never mentioned beastiality. But you're going to use that donkey to get you women?" He pauses and stares his eyes popping out of his head. Then, he smiles. "Maybe it's not such a dumb idea."
I sink into my chair and groan. "I am not using my mule to get women. I want to drive a carriage to understand what makes a relationship. I'll be giving romantic carriage rides."
"And you think people are going to tell you why they are with the person they're with?" Emmett growls.
"It's not what they say to me, Emmett. It's how they behave with one another. I don't have a fucking clue about real love." I grumble.
"Oh Edward, Edward... where have I failed you?" Emmett stands and sits on my desk, staring hard into my eyes. "Lil Bro, you haven't found the real one. All the chicks you dated or laid, were all fillers. Practice runs, the rungs up the ladder. You haven't reached the top of the pile!"
He sighs and collapses his shoulders and mutters, "Did you not learn anything from Mom and Dad?"
Jasper stares. "I can't help you there. I had one rung. That's all it took."
I seriously look at Jasper. "And how do you know, Jazz?"
"She's my reason for getting up in the morning and getting into bed at night. Edward, you'll have to feel this on your own. Find the yin to your yang. Your peanut butter to someone else's jelly. Your hand and the right glove."
Emmett waves his hands at Jasper. "Jazz, I think he gets it."
"Okay, I see it, but I don't feel it." I resign.
Jasper excitedly quips," Exactly. It's a feeling, Edward. You'll know when you find the right one."
Emmett stands and walks about. "Man, they're all the right one. When I get a honey to take home, I love her up."
"But you don't date, Em. You have a string of one-night stands."
"Once again, you are incorrecto, Lil Bro. I have had some women a few times." Emmett prides himself.
"But they don't stick around!" Jaspers throws in.
"Hey, I don't play. I tell every woman I'm not into "relationships". If they can handle my sex," he elongates a gesture towards his dick, "then, they experience the ultimate dream machine of orgasms."
Jasper and I groan with disgust.
"Ah, you both groan, but I have more action that the both of you put together," he boasts.
"Of course, you do. You have a retro gym down on one of the hottest streets in New Orleans. Woman work out at your place all the time. It's a revolving door of sex mates," Jasper comments.
"Convenient, yes, but I didn't open my business for personal satisfaction. It's all about health and care." He counts on his finger in rage, "I have a nutritionist, trainers, doctors. So, don't tell me I created a fucking, pussy factory for myself!"
"Maybe that wasn't your intent, but it certainly traveled in that direction, Em." Jasper points his finger at him. "Every night, you have a different woman."
"You're jealous, Jazz!" Emmett accuses.
Jasper huffs, "In your dreams, you fucker. I only need one woman."
"And that's what I want, too," I mumble sadly. "I want someone to come home to. Someone to cook with, someone to share my dreams, have my kids, grow old. And I want to find it before I turn thirty."
"You've got six months, Edward. And driving a quote 'romantic' unquote carriage in the French Quarter is bullshit. You and Julia will be the match since you will be driving couples around all the time, when will you be searching for Ms. Right?"
Jasper looks at Edward. "He's got a point there."
"And your latest lack of grooming is definitely not going to attract a female flea, unless it's on Julia." Emmett roars with laughter.
"I want to play down my looks," I explain. "Women are attracted to my usual appearance and the fact that I own this restaurant."
"So, you're going for that homeless, hobo look?" Emmett chuckles. "Oh, Edward, you're killing me here. Mom gave birth to two fine specimens of male magnificence and intellect. I pride myself on my manly appearance, and I'm proud you are my studley, younger brother. But this scraggly beard and hair have got to go."
Do you love Emmett or what?
A/N: Well, it's about time... right?
I am blessed with great help. Thank you to my Beta, Sunflower Fan Fiction. I appreciate her time, her proper grammar and quick pen.
To Robseve and Postapocalypticdepository, my pre-readers that give their unselfish time and creative input.
Next chapter is Bella's POV.