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 in 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
A/N at end.
EPOV... January 1st
The darkness of my room hides the exact time of day. Hmmm, it's odd that my digital alarm clock doesn't illuminate any numbers. I try to flip on my table lamp and nothing happens. Grabbing my cell off of the nightstand, I light the area and reach over the side of the bed to find the cords unplugged. What the hell? I plug them back in and turn on the light.
As I look around, my head pounds a steady beat, while my eyes go in and out of focus. My clothes are strewn all over my floor. I look under the covers to find I'm only in boxers. There's a red dress in the corner with a pair of red stilettos and red lace bra and thongs over a chair. Oh, God, I didn't. I rub my temples slowly, as my heart rate quickens.
I try to recall the party. All the people. All the females. I'm blank.
Next to me the blanket stirs with a slight groan, I hold my breath and my eyes focus on the movement. I pull the covers down slowly with trembling fingers, thinking 'what the fuck?'. Exhaling a large breath, I find Jasper peeking up from the blankets at me with a dazed frown.
"Jasper, what the fuck are you doing in my bed?" I gripe.
He groans, "Edward, it's way too early for all this yelling." He cringes, gripping the blankets under his chin. "Emmett, Alice and I brought you upstairs from the party. You were really out of it, man. It took the three of us to get you into bed, and you were dead weight."
"I hardly drank anything, Jasper. What the hell are you talking about?" I argue.
"You fell asleep, Edward, halfway through Auld Lang Syne. We dragged your exhausted, dream-filled ass up the stairs and threw you in bed. Emmett took your clothes off, and we both struggled while you swung at the both of us." He indignantly mumbles, "That's suck ass gratitude for ya."
"Hey, I had no idea what I was doing. But how did you end up in my bed?" I bring my voice to almost a whisper.
He stammers, looking down at his hands, "We sort of used your shower?"
I stare in utter shock. "You, Emmett and Alice?"
He looks at me oddly and cringes. "No, man, just Alice and me. Emmett went back down to the party." He cringes. "The fuck, Edward."
"And?" I sit up and glare at him.
"Well, I was too drunk, and Lil Jazz was kind of stuck in neutral." He sits up and coughs. "Ouch." He grabs at his crotch. "She got mad and went into one of the guest rooms, and told me to stay with you."
I rub my eyes and sigh. "That explains the red dress and things on the floor and chair?"
"Oh yeah, Alice left her clothes and ran away wearing a towel." He looks at me closely. "You thought you had a woman with you?" He laughs.
I stare with a sour face. "It's not that funny, Jazz."
"It is, when it's you. No one is good enough for this bed," Jasper spits out.
"For fuck's sake, you're in it!" I spit back.
He yells, "I'm not a woman, dipshit!"
I shake my head; he sighs and sadly starts to berate himself. "I can't get things right, Edward. She's always mad at me." He looks down. "My little guy is overworked and tired. She can't expect me to stand at attention, every time she wants sex." He huffs, "And that's all the time. A superhero couldn't do her all the time. She's fucking baby obsessed."
I sympathize and pat him on the shoulder. "Sorry, Jasper."
"Thanks, man." He smiles.
"So, who ran last call?" I ask.
"Oh, I ran back down after Alice shooed me away. Emmett closed up with me." He chuckles. "We drank a few more beers." I nod. "I think everyone had a terrific time. They told me to wish you good luck, tonight." I nod, again. Jasper hesitates. "Emmett left with two uncommonly …" He searches for the words, "tall ... titty women." He places his hands over his chest. "Hey, do you want me to hang out with you in the Quarter? I can stay to one side and be there if you need me."
I grin. "Jasper, I'm cool, but thanks. Carolyn's going to work tonight, too. She'll spot me."
He bounces his head, in thought. "That's good." He barely whispers, "Is she your new best friend?" He looks at me with pleading eyes.
I glare at his sad face. "You are such a woman, Jazz."
He points a finger. "Hey, that's a cheap shot."
I snort. "Jazz, you're my best friend, you have always been my best friend, and you will always be my best friend."
He smiles broadly. "I love you, Edward." He hugs me... in my bed.
I pull away. "Jasper, if you ever do that again..."
He timidly raises his hands. "I'll lose my best friend?"
"You'll lose more than that. Get the fuck out of my bed and go to Alice. Jesus." I yell.
Jasper jumps out and hops towards the door.
"You've been in my bed more than any one woman," I groan.
He turns to look at me. "You'll find her, Edward." He smiles and walks away.
Once I'm finally out of bed (Jesus, all this talk of my bed.) and in the kitchen, I get the coffee machine going and I prepare snack bars for Julia. In a large bowl, I combine uncooked oatmeal, flour, shredded carrots, salt, sugar, corn oil, water and molasses. I roll them into balls, place on a baking sheet, pat them out into bars and place them in the oven. They bake for fifteen minutes at three-fifty. Julia likes them. Then again, Emmett does, too. He sells them at his gym, as health treats, packaging them under my restaurant's name.
I sip my coffee as I open the oven to check on the oatmeal bars. Alice slowly saunters to the island with her tiny, bare feet, dragging on the tile floor. Her hair stands up all over her head with strands sticking to her cheeks, and black smudge lines run down her face. She wears one of my T-shirts that hangs below her knees gives her a waif, homeless kind of look.
Alice motions with a hand towards the coffee with droopy, desperate eyes. I fill a cup and hand it to her. She bows to me and sits on a stool at the island with both hands circling the cup.
She hums, as she sips, "Hmmm, Edward, good cup of coffee. Thanks."
I nod. "Good." I sit across from her. "Jasper finally get to sleep?"
"Yeah, he was mumbling something about "Lil Jazz". I think he wants a son," she chirps.
"I'd say his Lil Jazz was overworked, Alice." I hold in my laughter. She's oblivious.
"You were out of it, last night, Edward." she mumbles through her cup.
"Been burning the candle at both ends with juggling restaurant and mule, Alice."
She plays with the handle of the cup and peeks up at me. "Edward, are you sure about this? I mean, you know I support you."
"It just feels right, Alice. No one can tell me what I need to know," I huff.
She awkwardly smiles and shrugs, "Well, you really haven't listened to us."
There is silence.
"What are you baking? It smells so good." She drools.
"Oatmeal bars for Julia. She loves these. A happy mule is a well-behaved mule." I preach.
Hey eyes are on the stove. "Can people eat them?" she asks.
"Yeah." I shrug.
"Fuck the mule. Give me some cookies," she giggles.
I make a few more batches.
Later in the afternoon, Jasper schleps into the kitchen as I pack my duffle bag on the island.
He sits on a stool and looks over everything. "What's all that?"
I continue to pack up. "Carolyn told me there were essential things I need to have on my rides."
He picks up the duct tape. "What do you do with this, shut your customers up?" He chuckles.
I grab it from his hands. "Don't be an idiot. It's the most important tool to have. Something breaks, duct tape seals it together."
"That's a lot of shit, Edward." He still looks at the Island top.
"She was nice enough to give me a list of the basic essentials." I shrug.
"Do you know what you're going to say, and where you are going to go?" he honestly asks.
"Yeah, I have a plan. Jazz, I had to take an exam on the history and culture of New Orleans to get my permit to drive. This isn't some average, little hobo job with anyone driving a carriage. There are permits, drug tests, background checks, and we have to produce a birth certificate and a state Id or license. There's a lot involved." I inform.
Jasper grunts. "I didn't know all that. Damn, Edward, so much shit to find a woman!"
I exhale a large breath of air. "Jazz, it's not about finding a 'woman'; it's finding that feeling."
"And I'll tell you again, my friend, you'll know it, when the right one comes along. No buggy and mule are going to ..." He slaps my head.
"flip on your light bulb."
I smack him back. "Don't do that!"
"Hey, maybe Alice and I will come take a ride with you," he raises his eyebrows.
"Yeah, that would be helpful. I can practice on your guys." I smile broadly.
"Sure. I want to see you in action." He hesitates. "But don't get too good at that romance stuff. She'll be on me before you can stop the carriage."
I blush. "Oh, I forgot to tell you she was going to Victoria's Secret, this afternoon. Yeah ... tonight, when you get home, she'll have a surprise for you."
Jasper literally turns green and whines, "Aw man, I feel a headache coming on."
I make a call to the stables around six o'clock for my mule handler to ready Julia in her gear and costume by seven-forty-five. I am a little nervous, yet excited. I'm glad the battery-operated foot heater is already in the carriage with warm blankets.
It's a cold night; already fifty-two degrees and windy. I wear a thick, dark gray sweater with thermal underwear and jeans, my bike boots and jacket with a thick knitted cap that matches my sweater. I didn't shave my beard and my hair is still too long. Yeah, I'm still stubborn about the looks thing.
My nerves calm, when I see Julia. She nudges close to me as I feed her a few oatmeal bars. I pet her gently down her nose and she leans close.
"Don't let me down tonight, girl," I whisper into her ear.
She looks great in her costume of red roses and tulle. Since it's cold, she wears a red cover on her back, and red, knitted leg warmers. "You let me know if it gets too cold for you, Girl. We'll head in." I pet her neck with long strokes and she snorts at me.
Once in the Square on Decatur Street, we settle in behind Carolyn, near St. Peter Street. But she is on her way out with a group of giggling, college girls. I'm on my own. I swallow hard with a very dry mouth.
My carriage is smaller than all the others, being that I want to focus on only couples for romantic tours. A few people pass by and remark on Julia's costume, but other than that, no business.
Another driver behind me, starts to walk towards me. He's shorter and heavier in stature, wearing a formal, woolen coat with a red scarf, dress pants, shiny patent leather shoes and a top hat under his gray hair.
He introduces himself with his hand out. We shake. "Hey, I'm Garrett."
"Edward." I smile.
"First time, huh?" Garrett nods.
"That obvious?" I moan, rubbing the back of my neck.
"Well, I haven't seen you around." He examines my carriage and Julia. "Nice carriage and mule. Yours?"
"Yeah, the stables didn't have any two-seat carriages, and I wanted to own my mule," I confess.
He chuckles. "Yeah, the more intimate the ride, you can charge more money," he says with a matter of fact attitude.
"I didn't want to over tax, Julia." I pet her head. "She's an old gal."
"Edward, they're bred for that. These mules are pretty strong." He pets her ears. "And intelligent; she looks like an even-tempered animal."
"Yeah, I've had her for a few months. We've bonded right away."
"She'll be your best friend. What did you name her?" Garrett asks.
Garrett raises his eyebrows and nods. "We have a chef?" He looks her in the eyes. "Bonsoir, Julia. Tellement agréable de faire votre connaissance." (Good evening, Julia, so nice to make your acquaintance.) She nudges him. He continues to look her in the eyes. "You are one great girl." He glances at me. "You found a good one, Edward."
"Thanks." I blow on my cold hands.
"You should get yourself a coffee at Cafe du Monde and warm those hands up."
I hesitate, "I don't want to leave Julia."
"Look, we all watch one another's back. I'll stand between both our carriages. Go get yourself something. Go on."
"Thanks. Can I get you anything?" I ask.
"Oh no, I'm fine, thanks," he cheerfully answers with a cackle.
I pat Julia on the ears." "I'll be right back, girl." Running across the street and down the sidewalk, I look back at her. She turns to watch me as Garrett stands near both of our carriages.
Entering the patio area of Cafe du Monde, I go into the small indoor area. I stand on the side, waiting to order, when a short stack, with deepest, chocolate eyes tugs on my arm. "Hey, grab a seat. I'll be happy to take your order." She smiles brightly with a slight giggle.
"I'm not staying," I blurt out.
"It's going to take a few minutes. Why don't you take a seat over there?" She gestures with her head. "What would you like?"
I shrug and take the seat, "Okay. Ah, I'll have a large, black coffee to go."
"No beignets?" she asks.
I grin. "Just a coffee to warm my hands."
"Okay." She goes to the counter and waits her turn at the coffee machine. I watch as the server in front of her laughs at something she says, both snort and laugh together. The other girl carries a tray filled with plated beignets drowning in powdered sugar out to the large patio area.
My girl stands in front of the huge, coffee machine and fills a large Styrofoam cup. She places on a lid and walks in my direction. Her smile blinds me as I focus on her lips. They are deep burgundy and heart-shaped. Her teeth are white and straight. She has a beautiful smile with happy eyes, under thick blonde bangs. Her hoodie sweater is a deep burgundy (like her lips) that hugs her rounded curves under the white Cafe du Monde apron. She wears the bowtie in her hair, not around her neck, and the white, paper hat, sits back on her head with her long blonde hair in a ponytail.
I search for her name tag and see it on her right side, "Bella." She looks all of eighteen, but her walk is one of self-assurance and confidence of an experienced woman.
As she walks towards me with my coffee, she wraps a few napkins around the cup. "Here you go."
I reach up, take the coffee and hand her a five dollar bill. "Thanks, keep the change, Bella."
With a look of surprise, she argues, "No, that's too much." She searches in her apron for money and tries to hand me the change.
"Really, keep it. Thanks." I smile. "I've got to get back to my mule."
She smiles up at me. "You're a carriage driver?"
"Well, I haven't had a ride, yet. It's my first night," I confess.
"Mine, too." She looks around, "never peddled coffee before."
I shyly blurt out, "Well, you're a natural."
She curtsies. "I try to please."
I start to back away. "You did."
"See you around ...?"
"Edward." I fill in her blank.
She quietly repeats, "Edward". She nods her head.
I walk out the door, barely make it across the street and step into a pothole, dropping my coffee, spilling it over my hand. "Shit." I shake my hand off, pick up the empty cup and make it back to Julia.
Garrett hands me a towel. "Here, you go."
"Thanks, Garrett." I wipe my hand and give him back his towel.
"Why don't you go back and get another coffee? It's quiet here. I'll watch Julia, he offers.
I throw the cup into a garbage can. "No, it's alright."
Garrett grins. "Well, it appears as though another cup is on its way." He looks across the street.
I follow his eyes and see Bella walk in my direction, holding another large Styrofoam cup and a small, white bag.
With her hood up, the fur surrounds her face, and she beams. "Did you burn your hand?" She thrusts the cup into my left hand, stuffs the small bag under her arm and inspects my right. "Oh good, no redness, but just in case ..." She pulls a small tube from her pocket, juggling the white bag as looks up at me. "It's Neosporin," she explains and rubs a little over the tender area of my palm and knuckles. "I carry everything in my purse," she mumbles.
Her hands warm mine, as she smoothes my palm. I watch in utter fascination not able to speak with a tingling on my skin.
"You really should cover it, so it doesn't get dirty." She slowly removes her hands from mine. "I've got to get back. But here ..." She holds the small bag out to me." I frown. "It's beignets."
She begins to walk away, and I regain my power of speech and grab her wrist. She turns to me. "Thanks."
"No problem. Just watch that hand." As she begins to walk away, Julia brays or whines this pleading sound. Bella stops and reaches her hand to Julia and pets down her nose.
"Is this your mule?" she asks me.
Her eyes never leave Julia's. "What's her name?" They stare at one another.
I answer quickly, "Julia." Then, I stammer, "She normally doesn't like females."
"I'm not any female, right, Julia?" Bella kisses her nose. "Well, Julia, keep a good eye on Edward." She looks up at me. "I've got to get back."
I lift the small bag in a wave. "And thanks again."
"No problem." She walks quickly across the street.
Garrett watches her as he speaks, "Sweet girl. How long have you known her?"
"We just met, as I was getting my coffee." I look back at her as she walks closer to the cafe.
"Yeah, and she went out of her way to bring you another and beignets?" He nods and pulls on his chin.
"Sorry I didn't introduce you." I apologize.
"No problem. You looked a bit dazzled." He smiles.
I watch her walk through the patio, then she turns and I wave. She sends me a small wave and disappears into the cafe. "Yeah, it was nice." I stretch my hand and look back across the street. I still feel the tingle.
Ooooo, who dazzled whom?
A/N: Thank you to my Beta, Sunflower Fran. I appreciate her time, her proper grammar and quick pen. Another great find by PAD!
To Robseve and Postapocalypticdepository (PAD), my pre-readers that give their unselfish time and creative input. Both of these ladies are inspirations and true friends.
Now, let me rec Postapocalypticdepository stories, since she so graciously rec'd mine.
Never Judge by the Cover: 9056924
Boys Will Be: 8868006
Rude Awakenings: 8876785
It's a New Dawn, It's a New Year: 8862243 (complete)
Also, let me rec this fic,again: Beyond the Wine Dark Sea by Smartmouth62 9416302 It's a period piece!
And thank you to all the readers, whether you review or not. I enjoy every comment and suggestion. Yes, NOLA is an exciting place to live. And to combine the old world with the new is a challenge, but the humor is quite a serious business. My objective is for all of you to smile, after each chapter.
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Next up: BPOV