Mask'charade Chapter 12, A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing
Disclaimer: All Twilight related material is the sole property of the original author. Mask'charade belongs to Chynnadoll.
A/N: First and foremost, I want to apologize for not responding to reviews for last chapter. I've been dealing with RL matters, so I want to respond now; Thank you each and everyone for reading and reviewing Mask. I read and loved hearing from you all.
Onto business. Last chapter, James left us with some pretty intriguing words. Let's find out what they mean. FoolforEdward edits.
He's the fool?
I swallow hard at the implication of his words.
I'm terrified at how this will play out, but I'm also anxious to get it all out in the open, to know how he'll react.
He paces the floor in front of me, silently cursing with each pass.
"This…." He pauses and looks at me. "You're ruining our relationship. I won't let you do that."
"You have major issues when it comes to marriage. Your parents' failed marriage created a lot of doubts in your mind, and now you're projecting them onto our marriage."
"That's not what's happening here, James." I say quietly, shaking my head.
"Yes it is. I know you're insecure. You- you think I'm going to lose interest in you like your father did with your mother, Bella."
"What happened with my parents has nothing to do with this, James. What we're talking about here is you arranging for another woman, posing as your wife, to join you in a hotel suite. And then you tell me that you're the fool? What's going on, James?"
He kneels in front of me. "Sweetheart, I am not cheating on you. I promise you. That whole thing was a misunderstanding, and I'm a fool because I'm pushing you away. I'm hurting you, and I want…no I need to change that. We should go away together; spend some time getting things back to normal. What do you say to us visiting the cabin in Aspen?"
"No…." I stand and brush past him. "I can't do this any longer, James. Going to Aspen isn't going to change what's happening, what's already happened."
"I promise, Bella. It's just what we need. A week at the cabin, away from the rest of the world will be perfect for us. I'll make the arrangements."
He kisses my forehead and pulls out his cell phone and places a call. He makes the arrangements without even waiting for a response from me.
His attitude toward all of this renders me speechless. He thinks that he can just ignore what I'm saying and sweep what I know under the rug.
"There, done. It shouldn't be a problem for you to get time off from work, you have vacation days."
"James, I can't just take off without notice and-I"
"We won't be leaving for two weeks. It's plenty of notice. If Jill gives you a problem, I'll have a talk with her." He says with finality, and I shake my head in frustration. I hate when he gets like this. He never listens to me. He thinks taking control of a situation is the answer to everything, when all it does is alienate me.
"James, I need to talk with you about something. It's very important."
"Sure, sure, babe. Just let me take care of a few things for the trip first, and we can talk about anything you want. Wait, did you make that doctor's appointment?"
"James, I'm not pregnant."
"Not yet." He smirks over his shoulder and walks out.
This is a nightmare.
"You're quiet. Is something wrong?"
"Hmm…oh, no. I was just thinking." I smile tentatively as she studies me skeptically. "What?"
"You're thinking about him; Ned." She states knowingly.
"Is it that obvious?" I shift into a more comfortable position as she plates up salad and grilled chicken. She's a rather good cook, and let's face it, I need her company right now.
"This looks delicious, Alice."
"Well, it's not Tiramisu or Gnocchi or anything that fancy, but it should be good." She chuckles and takes a seat across from me. "So, are you going to tell me what's going on with you?"
I toy idly with my utensils, staring down at my plate. Where do I begin? There's so much to tell.
"James wants to take me to Aspen, he says our marriage is suffering, and we need to reconnect."
"Aspen…wow. I hear it's breathtaking there."
"It is. His parents own a cabin there. We used to visit it often when we were first married. It's been a while since we've…" I look down again and shake my head in despair.
"Bella, you can tell me anything. I'm here for you." She says sincerely, and I believe her. Throughout this situation she has been a good friend to me, and I don't have many of those.
I miss my mother and grandmother terribly. When I was a kid, there was nothing I could hide from my Nonna. She'd always know when something was bothering me and exactly how to fix it. My mother is the same, but I feel too ashamed to call her with this problem. Although she would understand how a marriage could fall apart, she's rather fond of James, and for me to tell her that I was unfaithful to him would be an utter disappointment.
How did I let things get so out of control? I'd never imagined that I'd ever get involved with another man. I think about the day James proposed to me. It was the night he graduated from college. He was on one knee on the lawn at my parent's house, horn-rimmed glasses adorning his face and a quaint little engagement ring pinched between his fingers. The moment was both cheesy and beautiful; and at the time, I felt like we could have it all. He promised me the world, but he didn't have to give me that. All I'd ever wanted was a man to love and support me, and for a long time he did, but somewhere down the line things changed, and now I'm thinking that the he isn't the one who changed. I have.
Tears pool at the corners of my eyes and finally spill over.
"I'm…I'm sorry." I push away from the table, covering my face. She comes over to comfort me, as I breakdown.
"I'm so sorry, Alice. You made this perfect lunch, and I've ruined it." I sob.
"You didn't ruin anything. Come, let's sit on the sofa and tell me what's wrong?"
We both take a seat, and she hands me a tissue.
"Okay," she sighs. "I can see that this is hard for you, so I'm going to start, and you can stop me if I'm out of line. James wants to work on your marriage. So, I assume he feels that the two of you are drifting?"
"He thinks that we're not spending enough time together." I sniff.
"Okay, and I'm going to assume that this is not what you want?"
"Alice, it's not that simple."
"Because of Ned." She nods.
"Because of him, because of me, and because of what I accused James of. "
She looks at me in puzzlement, but waits for my clarification. I exhale, get up and walk over to the window. I stare out onto the patio. Alice has such a beautiful apartment. It reminds me of the one James and I shared before we moved into our home in the city.
"I think James is cheating on me and I accused him of it." I confess, still staring out into the beautiful afternoon. Even though I know it's a blustery day, the sun's warmth shining through the glass, toasts my face lightly. I scoff to myself, knowing it's all a mirage, just like my life. Alice's silence unnerves me somewhat, and I turn to gauge her reaction. She's silent, and her expression hasn't changed much.
"And?" She says almost nonchalantly.
"And, he completely denied my accusations, dismissing them on my 'issues 'with marriage; more specifically my parent's marriage. But in all honesty, I didn't need him to confirm anything, I caught him red-handed."
"There had been some questionable charges on our bank statement from a hotel. To make a long story short, I found out he'd been lodging there regularly."
"Yikes, completely understood. I'm….wow. Bella, I don't know what to say."
"It's alright, Alice. I understand how you feel and I can only imagine what you must be thinking of both of us." I admit shamefully.
"I feel like such a hypocrite. In the beginning, I think I only accused him because of my relationship with Ned. Who knew I would actually find out that my husband has been cheating on me all along? It's quite ironic, if you think about it." I scoff.
"Well, maybe a tad ironic. So, you found out he'd been 'visiting' this hotel on the regular. Do you know who with?"
"This is so embarrassing." I mutter, looking away.
"It's just us here, Bella. I won't judge."
I take a deep breath and face her once again.
"No I don't know who the woman person was, but I went to the hotel to see if he was there, and he was.. I found out he had someone there posing ashis 'wife.'
"That fucking bastard!"
"I'm sorry, not judging." She holds up her hands in surrender. "But, come on, Bella."
"I felt ridiculous, going there and even more idiotic when realization set in that he was there with another woman. I've never been insecure about him before any of this. I think maybe he knows about me and Ned, but he won't say anything."
"Wait a second, you think he knows that you're sleeping with his client and he's purposely keeping it from you? That's sick, Bella."
"No….I meant, I think he suspects I'm having an affair with someone. He has no idea that it's him. He couldn't….right?"
"I have no clue. This whole thing is a colossal mess." She sighs. "What about Ned, how do you feel about him?"
The minute she asks, an irrepressible smile tugs at the corner of my mouth and suddenly I'm relieved that I'm not facing her.
"Ned is…I don't know…he's mysterious and handsome and all things…."
"Desirable? Yes, he clearly is, but is he someone that you want to walk away from your marriage for?"
I look at her in silence before swallowing hard.
"I don't think I can walk away from him, Alice."
I stand at the threshold of our bedroom with my head resting lightly against the frame. I watch and listen as he rearranges his work schedule around our impending getaway. I feel miserable for what I'm about to do, but it has to be done. We can't go on like this.
Still oblivious to my presence, he ends the call and turns.
"There's someone else."
"What?" he laughs and blinks at me.
"I've been…seeing someone else." My voice is calm, yet powerful; conclusive.
"Bella, that's um….not funny." He chuckles impassively and turns to gather some papers from the table.
"James, It's not a joke. Look at me." He turns to face me and our eyes lock. I recall how I used to love the comforting coolness of his ice-blue gaze. This look in his eye is one I don't recognize. And now I wonder if I've made a horrible mistake with my confession. First mystification registers across his keen features; then shock, finally settling into ferocity.
He screws his face angrily and in a rage, he whirls around swinging violently, sending the vase and candelabras to the floor with a crash. He does it again, and I jerk back from the sound of our wedding picture smashing to bits.
My hand flies up to cover my mouth in shock, and he finally looks at me. His nostrils flare with fury.
"You had sex with him?" He nearly growls.
My eyes widen, but I'm speechless. All I can do is stand there, motionless.
"You tell me that you've been seeing someone. What the fuck does that mean, huh? You're sleeping with this guy! How the fuck could you do this to me?"
"I don't know!" I scream with tears streaming down my face.
He braces his hands on his head and paces in front of me.
"This isn't happening…this….it wasn't supposed to happen like this."
"James, please, I…"
"What? You're sorry? I can't fucking believe this. You've been accusing me of being unfaithful, and you have the nerve to dump this shit on me?" He roars, and I flinch from the sheer bite in his tone.
I whimper, shaking like a leaf as he advances on me. His eyes bore into mine. The once felt comfort of the ice-blue ocean is now a raging, stormy sea. I've never seen him like this. He backs away and storms out of the room. My chest heaves, as I try to calm myself, and I take off after him when I hear his temper escalate in our living room.
I make it to the bottom of the stairs and look on as he rips open my purse and dumps all of the contents onto the floor. He reaches down to retrieve my cell phone. Before I have a chance to stop him, he's reading through my messages.
"I need to see you." He reads aloud.
"It's not a good idea."
He recites the conversation between Ned and me, but his number is listed as "unknown."
If there's anything to be thankful for out of this mess, that would be the one thing.
"Are these messages from him? Was that who you were talking to yesterday when I walked in on you? Is this whom you had to "sever" ties with?" His voice escalates with each question, only he's not simply asking, if feels more like a cross-examination.
"And then you ran off….to be with him. You didn't have work-related business, you went to see him. I saw the look on your face when I walked in on your conversation. Fuck! This is all starting to make sense now!"
Tears pour down my face uncontrollably as I watch my marriage implode right before me. James walks away from me and plops down onto the sofa, holding his head in his hands. I look on helplessly.
It's silent. The only sound is the ticking of the antique clock, perched on the wall above the mantel.
I don't know what to say. We've only been sitting here for a few minutes, but it seems like hours. By James' disheveled appearance, you'd think we'd been sitting here for days.
The loud buzz from my cell breaks the silence, and both sets of eyes settle on the coffee table. It's like we're staring a bomb, which is about to detonate.
My heart is in my throat.
"It's from an unknown caller." James says with eerie calm.
And I know exactly what he's thinking.
I swallow hard and shake my head.
"Fine." He grits through his teeth. "Then I will."
My eyes widen, as he grabs the phone and puts it to his ear, saying nothing.
"Please, don't." I sob, as I lurch over to him to grab the phone, but he holds up a finger to silence me, and continues to listen.
It's Ned. I know it. I can hear his voice. James' expression grows more angry each time Ned says "hello' and "Bella."
Finally, I assume that Ned hangs up, because James lowers the phone. He starts typing a message and then waits. I try desperately to retrieve it from him, but it's a failed attempt. The phone chimes with a message alert almost instantly, and I'm horrified.
"James, stop, please!"
He doesn't listen.
"I'll be at the restaurant in twenty minutes. I miss you too." He reads and then throws my phone against the wall.
"James!" I scream.
"He's at that deathtrap you want to turn into a restaurant. Well, let's just see what he has to say when I show up there instead of you."
He doesn't wait for me to respond, as he grabs his keys and stalks out of the door, leaving it wide open , and me terrified at the thought of what he's about to do.
I dart across the room to collect my phone from the floor. Thankfully, there's no real damage done to it after James' tirade.
My body shakes violently as I try to call Ned to warn him. James is on a rampage, and it's only going to get worse when he sees Ned.
"Ned, please call me when you get this message."
After the voicemail, I send him a quick text and rush out of the door.
I swing into a parking space and jump out of the car, practically racing down the street. James is waiting impatiently outside the door, with hand on hip. I'm breathless as I approach him, and he turns to me.
"Looks like your boyfriend is a 'no show.' Good thing for him." He spits and heads back to his car, ripping the door open. "Don't expect me home tonight; or for a couple of nights, for that matter."
He tears away from the curb.
I stand there, not knowing what do next. I contemplate going in, but think better of it. I'm worried about Ned. He hasn't called or responded to any of my messages. My initial thought is to go to his place, but I can't take that risk with James so angry right now. I think the best thing for me to do is to give him some time to calm down and then try to discuss things with him later.
My phone rings, and I answer it without acknowledging the caller. At this point, I pretty much already know.
"Hey, are you alright? I got your messages."
"I'm fine. I just wanted to make sure you knew what was going on, before you were blindsided. It was good that you didn't show up." I choke out the last statement.
"Yeah, well, it wasn't because of him."
We remain momentarily silent after his admission, as I stand, shivering in the blustery cold, not knowing what to say next. He finally breaks the awkward silence.
"So, he knows."
The sound of his smooth voice cuts like a knife. There's such concern, yet his voice is laced with unmistaken satisfaction.
I don't respond. I don't want to, and even though the answer is so simple, I'm not sure of how to say it. The feisty wind whips through me, and I turn my back to brace myself against its wrath.
"Where are you…are you outside? It's fucking freezing out."
My lips tremble, but I can't be sure whether it's from the cold or the weight of emotion threatening to break through.
"I-I'm standing in front of the restaurant." My voice breaks.
"I'm coming to get you. I'll be there soon."
"No…Ned, I need time. I need to find James. I have to make sure he's alright."
He curses quietly, and I can almost envision his furrowed brow and him running his hand through his hair in frustration.
"I don't think you should be around him. No, it's not a good idea, Bella." He says in a more demanding tone.
"I'm sorry, Ned, but he's my husband, and you don't get to make that decision for me. I'll call you later."
I end the call and take a deep breath, before I walk back to my car. I sit behind the wheel and bury my face in my palms, sobbing over the colossal mess I've made of my life.
I drive around the block for about twenty minutes before I work up the courage to go in. The building looks empty, but I know he's inside. His car is parked in his normal parking space.
I pass the receptionist desk; the area is neat and tidy. Siobhan has obviously gone for the day, but I hear voices coming from James' office. The door is slightly ajar, and I can see him, standing in the middle of the room speaking to someone.
I approach the door and raise my hand to knock, but the words I hear stop me.
"I don't understand what you're so upset about. You got what you wanted, James."
"You think I wanted my wife to sleep with this guy? You're fucking insane. I wanted Cullen as a client. I didn't want him to bed my wife."
"But, you practically forced them together. I figured you'd expect–"
"I didn't expect anything but some harmless flirtation!" He snaps, and she jerks involuntarily.
I can barely comprehend what I'm hearing. He expected me to flirt with Ned, just so he could close the deal with Devex? I feel sick.
"She's my fucking wife! She wasn't supposed to let him get that close! Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to pretend that I didn't know who she was talking about when she said she was 'seeing' someone? I nearly had a fucking coronary. I just…She said she was seeing someone else….like he means something to her!"
"But it's not like she knew what was going on. You pushed them together." She admits quietly.
"Yes, I set up a few surprise meetings, and yes, I found out that he was interested in that rat-hole Bella had her eye on, but I never expected this. It was apparent that he was attracted to her when he first laid eyes on her, and I knew that restaurant shit would be the thing that would get them talking. He's a man. I knew exactly what was on his mind, but I never expected my loving wife to spread her legs for him. I thought she could handle it! All I wanted was for her to make enough of an impression on him for him to sign with Devex. That's it!"
"And you accomplished that. James, come on. I know you're upset, but this is what we've been waiting for. Now, we can be together. You have Edward Cullen, lock stock and barrel. There's no reason for you to stay married any longer."
I gape in shock as I realize that he and Siobhan are discussing the plan he's had from the beginning. She caresses his shoulder affectionately, and he roughly shrugs her off.
"Are you serious? I mean do you think that I'm actually going to leave my wife for you? What are you, like twenty? Christ you're a kid, for fuck's sake. I don't need that kind of shit in my life."
"You-you don't mean that." her voice breaks as she tries to touch him once again, and he shrinks away. "What about all those nights we spent together?"
"Look, you're a very pretty girl with a bright future ahead of you, and we had some good times, but that's where it ends. I'm married, and I'm not leaving my wife for some teenybopper."
Her head hangs in shame as she weeps in front of him. In that moment, my initial shock subsides, as I think about what's actually happened to this poor girl. She is basically just a kid who's gotten herself caught up in the twisted mind game orchestrated by my worm-like husband.
She sniffs uncontrollably then raises her head, staring at him with new-found anger. "I'll tell her."
"Excuse me?" He whirls around, eyebrows raised in surprise.
"You heard me. I'll tell her everything; about how you concocted this plan to have them meet at that club. I'll tell how you had her followed, and how you basically pimped her out to a stranger just for your precious company."
"You better be careful, Siobhan." His expression turns lethal.
"You go to hell! I'll tell her everything. All the things you promised me and all of those nights you had me pretend to be her, just so you could fuck me in that hotel!"
"Shut your fucking mouth!" He jerks her to him by her wrist. "You're playing a dangerous game, Siobhan. You aren't going to tell my wife a damned thing. If you do, I'll make sure you never find another job in this state. I'll make it known that you're the slut that tries to fuck her way to the top. You got that?" he snarls in her face, and I watch her cower, eyes widening in fear.
I don't recognize the man I'm seeing, the man that I just heard confess to all these terrible things. My head is reeling from the revelation of what James has done. I can't even wrap my head around it. All I know is that I can't listen to another word, and I don't want him to find me standing outside his office. I hurry back into the elevator before either of them have the chance to notice that I'd ever been there.
I knock lightly on the door, tears spilling over the moment I arrive. He opens the door, and our eyes meet.
"What's happened? What did he do to you?" He reaches out and gently tips my chin, examining me closely. I gingerly shake my head, letting it bow to the floor. His hand falls slowly from my face.
"It was all a sham, all of it. He used me." I whisper despairingly as the tears flow freely.
"Come inside." He takes me by the hand and leads me into his apartment. The moment the door clicks behind us, he pulls me into his arms, and I break down.
He shushes me and softly kisses my hair. His hands soothingly caress up and down my back.
"Tell me what happened."
I pull back and stare into his eyes. "Please tell me it's a lie; that you didn't know anything about it. Please, Ned?"
"Bella, I…I don't know what you're talking about. What's a lie?"
"Did you really want me, or was it all just a business deal?"
"What?" He frowns.
"Just tell me the truth, please!"
"No….it wasn't. I really wanted you. I still do; more than you know." He brushes my tears away with the pad of his thumbs. I study those electric eyes, not a trace of dishonesty present.
"Why do you want me?"
"You are my dream, Bella."
Thank you for reading and see you all next chapter!