This will be familiar to some of you as it was donated earlier this fall, but I have expanded and finished. There are only 7 chapters and I will post twice per week til done.
All the usual disclaimers remain. I have only borrowed the characters, but the word and ideas are mine.
Thanks to Liz, Lady and Trina for their eyes. Mid-Night Cougar betaed – her red pen is legendary.
The walls were closing in around me. I paced around the room, my hands pulling at my hair in frustration. I stood, looking out the window, ignoring my phone that was beeping constantly with incoming texts and calls. I knew whom it would be if I picked up the phone. I didn't want to talk to them right now. I didn't want to listen to how grateful I should be; how many other people would love to be in my shoes.
I didn't want to hear what a selfish bastard I was being. I'd heard it enough today.
The phone in the room began to ring and I knew I had to get out of there. I couldn't take another minute of being cooped up. Moving into the bedroom I changed into jeans and a white T-shirt, throwing a jacket over it and grabbing my other cellphone. The one for which only my family and closest friends had the number. No one else. Not even my manager. I left the other one where I had thrown it on the couch earlier.
Leaving the suite, I checked the hall first, but it was empty. It was only eight o'clock, but the hotel was pretty quiet. Hearing the elevator ping, indicating someone was getting off on this floor; I quickly made my way to the back stairway and ran down the empty flights of stairs, knowing exactly who would be getting off on my floor. Having gone this way before, I knew precisely where to go and a few minutes later emerged out the back of the hotel and into the alley.
This time there was no car waiting to whisk me off. There was no one waiting for me at all. Any photographers would be hanging around the front of the building or at the entrance of the alleyway to my left.
So I turned right, and began to walk briskly. The walk turned into a jog and then finally I began to run.
I didn't care where I was going as long as it was away.
Away from the world of Edward Masen and everything it represented.
I had no idea how far I had run or where I was in the city. I had stuck to alleys and back lanes for a long time before finally venturing onto the main streets and slowing my running feet back to a walk. It was dark now and the sidewalks not overly crowded.
The best part, no one was even looking at me. I was just a guy walking. I felt a long expel of pent-up tension leave my chest as I realized I had done it. Only for a short time, of course, but for the moment I was alone … and free.
I stopped at a corner, waiting for the light, when a mouth-watering aroma filled the air. I glanced to the right and saw a small coffee shop with the sign Easy as Pie lit up in the window.
Pie. I loved pie. I really loved pie.
I never got to eat pie anymore. Apparently, refined sugar would be the death of me; at least according to the personal trainer the studio insisted I needed for my next role, who designed a hell-on-earth daily routine I was supposed to be following religiously. Now my diet consisted of vegetables, fruit, and fish. I was hungry all the time and lately had been questioning why I had agreed to do this next role. I snuck in the occasional sandwich because, really, how bad could a sandwich be for you? I snorted, remembering James' reaction to that innocent remark. Really bad, it would seem. At least his fifteen minute speech about dedication and sacrifice for the part, seemed to indicate that.
But I missed dairy. Bread. Pasta. Meat. And pie.
I hesitated; James wasn't here right now and I wanted pie. I really wanted pie.
After all, I was going to hell anyway. Might as well do it thoroughly.
I headed toward the small diner and stepped inside, breathing in deeply. My mouth instantly began to water. I walked to the back and sat in a secluded, corner booth, grabbing up a menu and burying my face in it. After a few minutes I looked around. The place was fairly deserted, with only a few tables taken and once again, no one was looking at me. I sighed and put the down the menu, taking in my surroundings. Clean and warm, there were bookshelves along one wall with a sign over them saying 'Help Yourself While You're Here', a long counter with stools opposite it, and the rest of the restaurant was tables and booths like the one I was sitting in. Curious, I got up and perused the shelves. Grinning, I grabbed a book I had been meaning to read and sat back down. I had just opened up the cover when a gentle voice startled me.
I looked up into the deepest brown eyes I had ever seen. They were warm and welcoming as they gazed at me and I waited for the sure widening that would happen when they recognized who I was, but it never came. Instead they remained warm and kind. They were framed by long lashes and as I looked into them I had the overwhelming sense of something inside me settling into place. A small voice in my head said the word home, and I was mystified because of it, trying to figure out why that had happened. Suddenly, I noticed the furrow appear between those lovely eyes and I realized I had been staring and not speaking for far too long.
Blinking, I cleared my throat and smiled warily at girl in front of me. "Please."
Her answering smile was wide. "Anything else?"
"You have pie?"
Her smile got wider. "Not just any pie. Real homemade pies. Best in the city. I just took one out of the oven."
How could I resist that?
"Today's specials are blueberry and strawberry rhubarb crumble. We also have the usual lemon meringue and apple."
She waited expectantly as I drooled and hummed. "Would you like a piece?" she asked patiently as she filled my cup with the steaming, fragrant liquid.
"I don't know. They all sound delicious." I smiled up at her, a real genuine smile this time. "Surprise me?"
She left and grinning I added cream to my coffee. I wasn't allowed caffeine either.
Opening my book I took a deep swallow and almost groaned. I had forgotten how much I loved coffee. Settling back, I started to read. A few minutes later, a plate appeared in front of me and I looked down with a grin.
"I gave you a small slice of all of them." She spoke quietly. "And some ice cream. The Strawberry Rhubarb is the warm one. You have to have ice cream with warm pie, right?"
My eyes snapped up to hers as I nodded. "Right."
I reached out my hand to stop her from leaving. "Thank you …" I glanced at her name tag. "Isabella."
Her smile was shy as she placed her hand in mine, a soft blush fusing her cheeks. "Bella. My friends call me Bella."
I looked down at her hand resting in mine. It was so small, mine encased it totally. It felt strangely right there. "Hello, Bella. I'm…" I hesitated, "Edward." Once again I waited for a reaction, but there was nothing but shy warmth in her gaze.
"Nice to meet you, Edward. Let me know if I can get you anything else."
Reluctantly, I released her hand and watched her walk away. She was short, probably no more than five feet and a couple inches, with dark hair that was piled on top of her head, although a few tendrils had escaped and hung down past her shoulders. Surreptitiously, I watched her move around the diner, offering refills, chatting with her customers and clearing the tables. She seemed to be the only waitress here, although I could hear voices in the back, no doubt from the kitchen.
I grabbed my fork and dug into the first slice of pie, this time a groan escaping my lips as the taste exploded in my mouth. It was heaven—the filling rich and the crust flaky. I had never tasted a pie this good. My book forgotten, I devoured all four pieces; each one equally delicious, and the ice cream in a matter of minutes, only laying my fork down when the plate was empty.
I sipped at my coffee, leaning my head back, feeling a strange sense of ease steal over me. At the sound of my plate being pulled away, I opened my eyes and smiled warmly at Bella.
"You liked that?"
"I did. I'd like it even more if I could get another piece. Or two."
She chuckled. "Which kind?"
"All of them. Big slices this time."
Her eyes widened. "Really?"
I nodded. "And more coffee, please."
Her face broke out into the most impish grin I had ever seen. "Okay, then."
I looked up from my book, once again watching Bella. I had been here all evening; sitting, reading, drinking coffee and eating pie.
Lots of pie.
And in between it all, watching Bella. Chatting with her when she had time. I liked her voice. It was low and pleasant; such a change from the shrill ones I had to cope with so often. There were always so many voices, often speaking at once; all vying for my attention, when all I really wanted them to do was shut up. But this wasn't the case with my little waitress. I wanted to hear her talk. I wanted to see that impish grin again. I loved to hear her laugh. It was like a soft, tinkling in the dark. Musical and sweet. A little bell.
My Little Bell.
In between customers, I managed to get her to sit and talk to me, asking questions about the diner and after finding out that besides working here; she attended University, asking about her courses. She was planning on becoming a physiotherapist and already had a degree in massage therapy which she did on the weekends at a nearby clinic. When I had teased her about not having big enough hands to be able to do much good, she proved me wrong by grabbing my hand and working it with her surprisingly strong fingers. She kneaded and pulled the muscles, actually causing a shudder to run down my spine when I thought of what other knots I would like those little hands to work on. When she stopped, I opened my eyes and smiled. "Point taken."
She laughed. "You don't roll as many pie crusts as I do without building up some muscles, Edward."
I gaped at her. "You make the pies here? All of them?"
She nodded. "Every day. Four kinds every day, except Sundays. I make twenty a day and then they're baked as needed. Once they're sold out they're sold out for the day. You're lucky it was a quiet day today."
I frowned at her. "Twenty pies every morning. And then you go to school."
"And work here?"
"Only three or four nights a week. Sometimes on Saturdays if they are short-staffed."
I snorted. "Only."
"What do you do?"
I looked at Bella, not wanting to lie, yet not wanting to have to answer the multitude of questions that would follow.
But especially not wanting her to look at me like Edward Masen, actor. I liked how she looked at me now.
"I'm in the … uh … entertainment business."
"Oh, cool. What do you do in the entertainment business?"
"Um, film work."
"Wow. So like a cameraman?"
I nodded. "Something like that."
She leaned forward. "Do you meet a lot of famous people?"
The impish grin was back. She also arched her eyebrow at me. I found it very sexy. "Are they assholes?"
My lips twitched. "Some."
She sat back, grinning, and I found myself chuckling at her mischievousness.
"Most of them are nice. Just people doing their job. Like you."
She laughed. "Somehow I can't see some of them beside me rolling out pastry dough at four a.m."
I had to chuckle. "No, probably not."
I looked over at the counter, nodding. "I think your last customer is leaving. "
Bella jumped up and went to the counter to settle his bill, and I glanced down at my cellphone. I realized, with a start, that it was past midnight. I had been here for almost four hours. I couldn't remember the last time I had almost four hours of time alone while outside the confines of a hotel room. Sighing, I stood up. I had no idea what time the diner closed, but it had to be soon. I had to return to the hotel anyway. I had a five a.m. wake up call.
Mentally marking the page number in the book, I placed it back on the shelf before approaching the counter, smiling regretfully at Bella. I really didn't want to leave. She smiled back, her eyes a little sad as she handed me my bill. I reached into my pocket as I glanced at the cash register and the small sign posted on it.
I blanched and swallowed as my hand closed around my credit card. I hadn't brought any cash with me. Cursing internally, I looked at Bella who was watching me quietly. "What's wrong?"
I pulled out my credit card. "This is all I have."
I sighed, knowing what I had to do. "It's okay, Bella. Give me ten minutes. My, ah, friend will come down and bring me some cash." Inside I was fuming. Once she came down here, I wouldn't be coming back here, since she would know where I was and would put a stop to it. "Unless …" My voice trailed off.
I swallowed heavily; embarrassed I even had to ask. "If you can spot me the cash, just until tomorrow, Bella. I'll come back. I swear. Tomorrow."
Before she could even open her mouth, I pulled out my cellphone. "You can keep this until I come back."
Again, she hesitated and, I realized how inane this must look. It was a cheap, simple cellphone. Hardly worth even the amount I had eaten tonight in pie. I leaned closer, my voice pleading. "This cellphone means the world to me, Bella. It contains my life. It's my main connection to my family. I won't stiff you. I'll come back for my phone, I drew in a deep breath, "and you."
"Me?" Her voice squeaked a little.
I stepped forward, my voice husky. "Yes, Bella. More of your delicious pie and more of your sweet, wonderful company." I pressed my phone into her hand. "Please, Bella."
Her hand closed around the small silver phone. "Okay, Edward."
Unable to stop myself, I leaned closer and pressed my lips to her soft cheek.
I walked to the door, a thought making me turn around. "Do you have someone to walk you home?"
She smiled. "I live upstairs, Edward."
"Okay, then. Good."
I turned around again. "Yes?"
"What's your favorite pie?"
"Your strawberry rhubarb."
Bella laughed. "Next one? One you didn't have tonight?"
"My mom's raisin pie."
"Good night, Little Bell."
Her eyes widened and the sweetest smile played on her lips. "Goodnight, Edward. Be safe."
I nodded, touched at her simple words.
I smiled one last time before I walked back into the night and the life I had temporarily fled.
His Little Bell. Sigh.
The boy loves his pie.
See you on the weekend.