I promised myself that no matter what happened today, I would still be able to walk away with my dignity. This wasn't your average, everyday business deal between a desperate woman and a resourceful man. I was doing this for my father, because I knew there was no other way. Working at Newton's Creamery was not paying the bills that we owed, and it was only a matter of time before my father's debts would overwhelm us to the point of no return. We had no more than a month to get ourselves together, and I would be damned if I let our family house go along with other assets. My father worked damn hard for everything we had, no bank or government department deserved what he earned! There was the mid-sized fishing boat, the two pickup trucks that my dad worked endlessly on to get running again, and the big screen TV he bought on impulse right after retiring. Not that he stayed retired for very long… within the same year, he was back on part-time at the station. "He'll see you now." A woman with cropped blonde hair spoke to me without looking away from her laptop screen.
I nodded quickly and walked through the cherry wood double doors with squared shoulders and a soft expression. We grew up together, from puberty through college, we had been off and on… with that kind of past behind us, there was no way he'd just turn me down, right? We had history, and I had done him a million favors before- now I was calling on a favor of my own. He would at least hear me out, I would not leave until at least then! As soon as the door behind me closed, I stepped through a tall threshold and there he was, with his back to me chattering into a cell phone angrily. "No, I will not accept another canceled meeting. I do not care that he had a family emergency, we made a gentleman's agreement and I have showed nothing but patience between our two companies." His voice was smooth, but those shoulders of his looked hard as a rock. This was the first time in almost six years that I've seen him, and boy had he changed! "A ballet recital is no emergency, Mr. Dawson, and so I am severing any ties that Dawson Suppliers and Mason & Black have. We do not wish to akin ourselves to any corporation willing to neglect a business meeting over a child's play." And with that, he hung up his sleek touch screen phone and turned around sharply.
Well, that was just awful! Maybe I hadn't counted all of my beans before stepping foot in this thirty-story building… perhaps this wasn't the Jacob Black I was pining for. "Bella." He said my name oddly, as if he hadn't been briefed by his rude secretary outside. "When Kaycee said an Isabella was waiting outside… I just didn't expect you to ever come visit me." Those words stung in a weird way; no, I never had the heart or the guts to come visit him here, especially during work, and now that I was, I was here with an ulterior motive. Did that make me a bad person? "You look great." A small smile churned Jake's stoic face into a softer look.
"Thank you." I blushed a deep red at his open compliment. That was one aspect that made me fall in love with him at 16, he was always so open about his thoughts and feelings. "You, too." I said shyly. He did- every muscle in his body seemed to grow twice their size from the last time I was face-to-face with him! "I don't really know how I got the nerve to come here… but here I am." I added awkwardly. Why would I admit something like that to him? I wanted to come off cool, calm, collected, and completely casual about everything. That façade didn't look like it would have much life.
"And I'm glad you came." Jake smiled boyishly at me and went around his black, wooden desk before enveloping me in one of those crazily-comforting, suffocating hugs. Oh man, when was the last time I felt so cared for and protected? He always had that drawl over me, I could never get enough of his closeness. Between the loving hug, his expensive cologne invading my nostrils like the German troops, and my nervousness, I was a ball of emotions. I wanted to break down and spill all of my troubles out in the open for him to asses, and part of me willed myself to separate from his arms and treat him like I would nay other businessman that I needed borrowed money from. "What do you need from me, Bella?" He asked softly.
Where was that evil man on the telephone at? When we separated but he did not let go of me, I realized that I couldn't do this. I would have to get the money some other way. "Nothing." I said sourly and cleared my throat to dispel myself of the painful lump forming there. "I just wanted to say hi and see how you were doing." I lied easily, but by the conspicuous look on his face, I knew he saw right through it. I was an awful liar, anyway. Instead of grueling me for the answer, he simply nodded and gestured to a chair beside me and I sat accordingly. What did I ever do to deserve to have someone like this in my life? Given, we had gone through our fair amount of painful misunderstandings and a gap of some years without speaking… but still, he didn't throw me out and lock the doors. Smiling and offering to make me a mimosa was definitely not along my expectations. "No, thank you. I don't drink during the day anymore… I'm not seventeen, I don't bounce back easily." I added teasingly. When he and I were younger, drinking liquor was like guzzling down water. Nowadays… wine gave me headaches, the thought of shots made my stomach churn, and cheap beer brought back that oh-so-familiar gag reflex.
"You always were a bit of a lightweight, Bells." He chided. Where we grew up, it rained for seven eighths of the year and nothing ever happened- drinking, bonfires, chilly beach days, and driving was all you could really do out there. Jake was four years older than me, so he finished high school and college before me, but I was always right there with him. I couldn't remember the exact first moment we met, but it was around the time my mom left me with my dad- and she never came back. I was starting middle school, he was starting his second year at high school. I was always very mature and developed into a woman early… I turned twelve as soon as he turned sixteen. Our story was long and complicated. "Oh, man." Jake shook his head, and gone was his long, shiny black mass of locks- he was suited up and put together, along with a short crew cut. It was sort of startling. "Do you think about our childhood often?"
That question hit me like a bucket of ice water. Of course I thought about our childhood, all of the time. "Yeah, sometimes." I fibbed only halfway. "What is there to think about?" I turned the tables on him. He took a seat next to me, not behind the desk like I thought he would. We were sitting so close that the side of my exposed right knee was rubbed up against his own. We didn't necessarily part on the best grounds when - I broke a lot of his things, he put his hands on me, our fathers got into their own feud over us; it was very safe to say that this meeting was a crazy miracle.
Jacob's self-absorbed smile sent butterflies scattering through my stomach. The only person he loved more than me was himself. "I think about growing up from nothing and being here now… I think about us- and the hell we used to raise." That made me smile. We were capable of raising hell back then in our shitwater town of Forks, Washington… the local bad asses, taking part in a completely taboo relationship. "What comes to mind when you think about us?" I used to love when he referred to he and I by "us"- it made me feel loved and finally a part of something. Now, I wasn't so sure if I liked remembering an "us".
I told myself to play dumb and spurt out some little details, or even one of the many good times we had. Instead, I told the truth. "I think about Diver's Cliffs, and that fight in your room, and then about when Billy and Charlie were ready to kill one another with fishing poles." It was stupid to bring that up again, after all of these years, but I thought about it nonstop. That argument wasn't the only thing I thought about, either… there were other parts, dangerous/psychotic ones, that I thought about. Like how he was super organized and verbally attacked anyone who disturbed that, too put together, completely obsessive over many matters- like how I dressed, what others thought of him, and my overall faith in our relationship. For being such an attractive man, he sure was insecure.
That was one leading factor to our final breakup. "Yeah." Jake replied dejectedly. "I sure am glad that we settled everything before it got out of hand." My jaw was nearly on the floor. We didn't settle anything and things did get out of hand! How exactly did he remember the argument going? Despite all of my real feelings, I pushed it aside and nodded with a bright little smile.
"Of course, Jake." I added fake kindness for the effect. "What I said earlier- that was a lie, I did come to you for something. And I feel really awful for it… I mean, I never thought I'd actually… you know, never mind-" Though I had practiced my speech for days on end, memorizing every line and thinking of a comeback or witty statement for everything he could have come up, I was stumbling over my words like a drunken fool. Jacob Black's hand somehow found its way to my bare knee, and there he was rubbing soothing circles around the boney cap. I idly wondered if he remembered doing that same thing for three weeks on end after a particular nasty spill on our dirt bikes my senior year.
"How much, Bella?" Jake had a pleasant look on his face, which was the polar opposite reaction I expected. He seemed to be exceeding every one of my expectations today! It was as if he expected me any day to come waltzing through his office door, asking for money like a poor beggar.
"What?" I asked in fear that I'd heard wrong.
Jake leaned in and pressed the smallest kiss on my cheek before pulling away and capturing my eyes in one of his famous stares. "You gave me everything you had, Bella, when I had nothing at all to offer you. Now that I have everything of possible use at my fingertips, I want that privilege to be available to you, also." I smiled shyly at his meaning. I was his girlfriend, on and off, for a good few years of our life. I gave him my virginity when I was sixteen, I fed him the last scraps of food from my fridge when his dad couldn't afford his hefty diet, I used my graduation money to bail him out of jail when he was arrested… he grew up poor, on a starving Indian Reservation until he left for college for a few years, and when he came back to say his "final goodbyes" he had just a few dollars to his name. I gave him my entire heart and soul that day on Diver's Cliffs, he took that and left, too. "So how much money are you in need of?"
This was so overwhelming. Tears started at my eyes and I begged them to control themselves; how weak was I going to look in front of Jake? We were both grown ups now, we weren't supposed to break down and cry over money problems. "I never did any of that with expectations of something in return." I stated clearly. He was not going to get away with thinking that I gave myself and my last dollar with wanting anything in return… I was taught that if you had, share it.
"I know that, Bells, that's why I am so willing to help you. You never expected a damn thing from anyone." Jake took my hand and placed random kisses all over it, just like he used to when he was trying to rouse me out of a bad mood. "Independent, headstrong, silly Isabella." He was possibly the only one, lest my dad, that could get away with calling me by my full name. "It's been three years, and not one thing has changed about you. I love that." I smiled weakly in return. Why was he touching me like this? We weren't together anymore, there was actually a man that I was currently interested in… and I doubted Mike would appreciate the way another man (especially one that I was involved with in my past) was putting his hands all over me. "Tell you what- join me for dinner and we can hash out all of the details there?"
God only knew why I was so excited when he invited me. I was supposed to be madly in love with Michael Newton, the local celebrity in Forks. There should have been more hesitation to my answer when I opened my big mouth, but I was still so very stupid around him. "That sounds good." I even blushed like a red fool. "What time?"
Jake raised an eyebrow at his silver Rolex and shot me a crooked smile. How many panties had gone wet with that one glance? Now, at twenty-four, I was still not immune to it. "How does right now sound?" I sent him a shaky look. It was eleven o clock in the morning, near noon, where were we going to find a spot that served dinner meals at this hour? This was Seattle, not New York. "I know this fantastic kitchen that serves dinner 24/7."
My eyes flicked over his face, searching for any signs of malicious intent. As I mentioned before, he and I hadn't left one another on peaceful terms… so his kindness was just off to me. But I nodded eventually and he kissed my cheek again before pulling me up from my seat swiftly. "Just let me call Mrs. Knoeb before we go to let her know I won't be back for lunch."
"Mrs. Knoeb?" Jake asked with a reserved look. "Dwyer's mom?" I nodded before looking away, afraid he'd start asking questions. It wasn't easy to date after we broke up- no guy wanted to date Jacob Black's ex-girlfriend, I was basically blacklisted to the locals. At nineteen, it was a pretty low blow beneath the belt. We broke up when I was almost nineteen, him twenty-three- I was in my first year of college, he had just graduated with his masters in machinery. Even if our actual relationship only lasted over a span of three years and some change, we were friends for a while before anything romantic happened, which made things so much more complicated in the end. (24). We knew a guy named Dwyer Knoeb off the reservation, and when Jake left (after I stupidly admitted to hooking up with someone when we broken up for a week), Dwyer was one of the few to bravely date me. It lasted for a mere few weeks, but his mother loved me and offered to put me up at her house while I was "sightseeing" in Seattle, as if I were some foreigner to Washington.
And to think- after a year at University of Arizona, I was seriously considering transferring to a college in Washington just to be near Jake! As stated above, things were very complicated when we called it quits. "Yeah, remember him?" I tried to play it off casually.
"Yeah, you seem to know him personally." There was less animosity in his eyes than there would have been given when we were still together. Jacob was just naturally a jealous person, he'd never grow out of it.
"Well you know Mrs. Knoeb, she's just so friendly." I laughed awkwardly afterward and brushed a stray piece of hair back; why was I sitting here explaining everything to him? Mike didn't even ask these many questions about what I was doing. Jake was not my boyfriend, I could not let him think that for even a second. "But are you sure your boss is alright with you taking the rest of the day off? I'd hate to get you in any kind of trouble, Jake." Even though I was pretty sure Jacob hadn't given up on being a total badass, maybe things were a little different for him now that he had some stability in his life?
Another drop dead gorgeous smirk. "I am my own boss, Bellsie."