AN: Trio is almost over and this will take its place. I hope you like it. Thanks for reading.
Deep Dog Walking Thoughts:
Change is in the air.
I feel it as the wind makes me snuggle into my sweatshirt.
I can see it as the green of the trees are suddenly starting to be joined with reds and yellows.
I can smell it in the air and it stinks. Actually, that stink is a skunk.
The omen is still a fitting one.
The book club was Alice Whitlock's idea. Every Monday, I watched them stroll in with their coffee and bagels brought over from the diner next door. The trio heads to the little sitting area I had set up for paying customers to use to enjoy their books and then the ladies proceed to take up space. There was not a book in sight with this group. I watched as Kate Walker started to pull out an iPad out of her purse. Her frizzy, blonde ponytail waved around, as she tried to sneak the device past me.
"This is a device free zone, Katie!" I barked. Her big, blue eyes got even bigger as I caught her. I was Kate's friend a long time and I knew all the signs of her attempts to be sneaky.
"I just needed to check my calendar! Jimmy might have music after preschool, Bella!"
Liar. She had no schedule planned anywhere. Garrett was the organizer in the family. Kate just ran around town trying to keep her three boys from terrorizing the citizens. They were a bunch of adorable hellions. I loved them, but there was no way I would ever offer to babysit.
Alice pulled out her phone. Her dark hair fell in her eyes, as she slouched in her ratty sweater and held up her phone. "Just a phone, Hells Bells. I might get a client calling and I need you to simmer down, monkey."
My cranky friend was an artist who created large canvases of frightening images that some people actually wanted to buy. The book club was her way to hide out from her sweet, southern husband who made beautiful art that he was inspired to create after making love to her. Surprisingly, constant lovemaking made Alice want to hide in a dark bookstore from her husband. I would never imagine it would be an issue, but I never had the opportunity to have sex three or more times a day.
"Does that phone have any book apps that would link you to an online book seller?" I gave her the evil eye, but it didn't bother her one bit.
Alice just smiled and said flippantly, "I plead the fifth."
I was destined to become a harpy, old lady who yelled about those damn kids and their technology ruining the small business person. It was true though. My business was barely holding on and that was only because everyone in this town knew me since I was born. They felt bad for the poor Swan girl. I would take their pity. It was the only thing keeping me financially solvent.
I sighed and cursed Amazon. They were my enemy.
"I bought a copy from you!" Kind Jane announced in her quiet way, as she pulled out a mystery that just popped up on the New York Time's Bestsellers list. She had always been the girl in our group that would keep the rest of us in check with our sharp tongues. We almost got in fights with cheerleaders, the basketball team or even the science squad daily in our youth and Jane would sweet talk us out of being beat up. "There was this cute boy working two days ago—"
"Peter. I fired his ass. He was making photocopies of his butt with my copier and hiding them in my purse."
Alice almost fell out of her chair laughing. She calmed down and stated, "That explains the sign outside. You are looking for a new sucker to work for peanuts. That's why you got the butt artist."
"He seemed really nice. I always pick the worst ones," Jane lamented, as she tugged on a lock of her hair. We almost looked like sisters with our brown hair. I gave her a sympathetic smile. If I had a sister, I would want it to be her. Then she added something that made her shine even more, "I have a plan to help both of our businesses. This place has a kitchen and I have a catering licens—"
The girl was a genius! I quickly sat down. "Where's my coffee, so we can discuss this proposal."
"It's Alice's fault!" Kate blurted out.
"Don't blame me! Blame my caffeine addiction. I wasn't thinking clearly. It just popped out!" Alice looked visibly upset.
The bell on the door chimed and I heard the booming voice of my ex-boyfriend. "Sweets for my sweet!"
I turned to find my ex carrying a large coffee and a cheese danish in his hands from the diner he owned. Emmett McCarty might as well stab me in the heart with the plastic fork that he carried. Twist it around a bit and truly destroy my broken soul.
He was always one of the most handsome men that entered any room. Warm brown eyes, strong muscles and a charming face that even when he was crushing you dreams of happily ever after still attempted to make you smile. It was a large bag of bullshit.
The memories flooded back when he winked at me.
The lovemaking was passionate again. The way he kissed me rippled through my whole body. The top of my head to the tip of my toes erupted in bliss. He pushed into my hard and whispered, "Baby, baby, baby—"
I usually hated that term of endearment, but it was beautiful to me at that moment.
We had grown so distant, but Emmett was my world. I had no idea what I had done to mess up our relationship, but appeared that all was forgiven.
That was until I woke up alone. I sat up naked and sweaty, with my hair a bird's nest to look at him staring out the window. He was fully dressed and there was a frown on his face. "I can't do this anymore, little one."
"But last night. . . Wasn't I any good? Did I make a mistake?" I tried to hide my tears, but they snuck out anyway.
He turned to me with a sad expression, "It was amazing, Bella. It always is. We've been together since we were practically kids. I just think it would be a good thing to try new things."
"Is there someone else?"
"No. I just need a change." He wouldn't look me in the eye. He was a liar.
The rumors about Emmett running around with Rosalie Hale were being whispered all over town. I heard them. The consensus was that the two of them fit, with his dark hair and football player build and her blonde waves and model good looks. I was just a nice girl that reached too far. I deserved what I got.
"You shouldn't have had sex with me last night." I wrapped the sheets around myself tightly. I would never let him see my naked body again.
"We made love, Bella," he stated sadly.
I rolled my eyes. "Is this love too? I want a refund if it is."
"Let me hold you." He came towards me and I threw a book at his head.
I wiped my tears away and made a promised myself to never let him hurt me again.
"Leave, Emmett. I'll call my dad and he'll bring the shotgun." I gripped my knees and tried not to wring his neck. "I can make my own damn coffee."
"You're coffee tastes like shit, cutie." Emmett gave a smirk. "Let me take you and Clem out this weekend. I need a puppy play date."
"Her name is Clementine and stay away from my dog." I was seeing red.
I had heard that Emmett was still with Rosalie, but was constantly trying to get close to me again or close to my dog. I wasn't quite sure. Clementine was a mutt of unidentified classification that I loved more than anything else. She was big, loyal and mine.
"I just think—" he began.
That was when the most beautiful man came into the store. He was tall and had a face that looked as if it was carved by Michelangelo himself. I wanted to run my fingers through his auburn hair that made me think of a handful of shiny pennies. The Yale sweatshirt he wore made him seem youthful, but his eyes looked older as if he had seen much of the world and it was full of sadness.
"Is the owner here?" He glanced around nervously.
I got up and pushed past Emmett. Hot coffee sloshed on his hand making him wince. It was funny and I couldn't help snickering.
Jane sighed wistfully behind me. I couldn't help but agree. The stranger was quite the looker.
"I'm the owner, Bella Swan. Can I find a book for you?"
"I need a job." He was direct and to the point.
It was hard to look at him. It was like looking at the sun. He was so good looking it was almost blinding. I wanted to be brave and take a chance.
"I pay horribly. You might be able to afford peanut butter and generic bread on the salary you would make," I joked.
Not a hint of a smile appeared. "That's fine."
"You've got a name?" I tried to get a read off of him, but it was impossible.
I held out my hand. He placed his in mine and it was electric. "Welcome aboard, Mr. Cullen."
He gave a fleeting smile. It was handsome, but I must not become smitten. I was going to keep this broken heart of mine safe.
"Bella! This guy is a stranger! You can't hire him!" Emmett complained.
I looked at Edward Cullen and cocked my head towards Emmett. "I have your first job."
"Escort the giant idiot out!" I turned and sat down with the girls. They looked at me shock. This might just work after all.