~ 11 ~

". . . And this is Rosalie, my boss."

James gave her his most charming smile and his Wall Street hand shake. "Pleased to meet you."

"Very nice to meet you, James. I hear you're a finance guy."

"Mmhmm. I'm working with Chemical Bank this summer, and . . ."

Bingo! I caught Edward's curious glare over Rose's shoulder. He gave a little scowl and disappeared again behind the partition.

". . . so a few more eighty-hour weeks and then back to the grind of classes, I guess."

"Hey, Rose. Is it okay if I give James a tour?"

Rose narrowed her eyes at me. "I think it's a pretty bad idea, actually. We're not insured for visitors, Bella. Besides, he looks kind of dressed up for the garage."

"Oh, he doesn't mind if he gets a little dirt on his loafers. Do you, James?" I wasn't a batting eyelashes kind of girl, but I did my best coquette imitation.

"Actually, babe, I think your boss has a point."

Outnumbered and outmaneuvered, I sighed and started working on Plan B. It turned out to be easier than I thought. James had a real sweet tooth, so when the buzzer sounded for morning break, I made my first trip ever out to the coffee truck with him.

The mechanics tumbled out the garage door on a wave of laughter, Edward following sullenly behind. He stopped dead in his tracks when he looked up and saw us standing by the truck, holding hands. I walked us right over to him. "Edward, I'd like you to meet James LeBlanc, my boyfriend." The label made Edward flinch, and that muscle at the top of his jaw popped and rolled just beneath the surface. "James, this is Edward Cullen, one of our mechanics."

God, I was being a little snot taking ownership of him like that, and judging by the way his eyes narrowed at me, Edward didn't like it one bit. For a second, it looked like he might call me on it.

Oblivious to the mounting tension, James pulled me into his side and extended his right hand. "Nice to meet you."

"Hey, man," Edward managed, shaking James's hand but refusing to meet my eyes. "So . . . you and Bella, huh?" Edward's grin sent a cold shiver down my back. I was starting to think this conversation wasn't such a great idea.

James, not catching the edge in Edward's words, turned a bright smile in my direction and gave my hand a possessive squeeze. "Yeah, I badgered this one relentlessly until she finally wore down and agreed that we were perfect together."

Edward chuckled. "She must like badgering."

I felt like a tennis ball being batted back and forth, and James didn't even know Edward was toying with me.

James laughed back. "I wouldn't exactly say she liked it, but when you really want someone, you do what you gotta do." Turning back to Edward, he added, "Ya know?"

Edward looked at me for the first time during this whole exchange, his gaze cool as steel. "What about what the other person wants?"

I don't want you, Bella, those eyes said. How about you stop badgering me?

Good ol' James wasn't about to show remorse. With an easy shrug, he answered, "Sometimes, people don't know what's good for 'em."

I wanted to roll my eyes at James, but I also wanted to cheer and gloat because he'd basically told Edward to just give up the fight. I stood a little taller and gave Edward a What-do-you-think-about-that? smirk.

"And sometimes, they do." Edward's answer was curt and final. "I need to grab a snack. Nice meeting you, James."

I watched Edward's back move toward the front of the line, then disappear around the corner of the building.

"What's good here, babe?" James asked. I looked over his shoulder at the selection of Danishes with bright jelly centers and at least six different kinds of muffins and donuts.

"I have no idea. I never come out here."

James looked around him, seemingly noticing the high male-to-female ratio for the first time. A wide smirk crossed his face. "Good. This is no place for a lady."

I took a quick peek at my watch while James picked out his pastry—only twelve minutes left. Time to push the envelope. I led James around the side of the building, keeping our banter flirty and light.

"Is that sweet enough for you?" I teased.

Picking up on my mood quickly, he answered, "Not half as sweet as you."

"Is that right?" I swung our joined hands and smiled up at him like he was the sun. The very hot sun.

Just before I let James kiss me, I saw the telltale waft of smoke curl around the corner.

"Mmm," I hummed. I opened my mouth for James and we made loud sucking noises together. When we ran out of oxygen, James pulled back and laughed. "Wow, babe. You really were lonely."

The smoke evaporated and I heard a soft swish on the pavement, heavy steps, and the slam of a door.

A/N: Oh my goodness! Loud sucking noises followed by slamming doors? I'm starting to have my doubts about this plan! And James is a weenie.

I love that so many of you knew exactly what I meant about sharing one phone line! It's lovely to have "experienced eyes" on my story!

Happy October, everyone! The leaves are turning here in Boston, and it is the most gorgeous warm fall weather. :) MWAH!
xx ~BOH