"Where're you going now?" Ej asks. His sweet blue eyes staring up at me while I try like hell to fix my tie. But it's useless. I haven't ever been able to manage to tie one right and it's even harder now.
I've been working my tail off at this job for a while now and the clip on ties are just getting ridiculous.
A new year's resolution to myself will be to learn how to tie one of these silly things.
"Buddy, I have to go meet with an important client. I'll be back later," I tell him, trying not to get frustrated with the blasted material.
I put myself through school to become a realtor. I have a son that I need to support, so I was in need of a job that could pay the bills. It was a whole lot of long nights and early mornings. But I really think it was worth it. And luckily I made some connections while I was in school.
Demetri Cudmore, a friend I met at an agency gathering, was nice enough to take me on to his firm.
And now, I make him lots of money and he cuts me a nice bonus each time I close a deal.
It's a nice win-win situation.
"So who's coming over tonight?" he asks, looking concerned.
"Bella," I answer.
"It's Bella? Yay!" he shouts adorably, twirling all over the room.
"Why do you like her so much?" I ask, still managing to mess up the simple Windsor knot I was going for.
I know the answer to the question. Bella is the only babysitter that's made any kind of headway with Ej. He's been a tough cookie since his mother and I separated. And he's had a real hard time getting close to any female.
And Mrs. Winters our other babysitter is the older woman from next door. She tries. I know she does. But she just doesn't connect with Ej like Bella.
"Be-cause dad, she's cool," he tells me with a smile.
I chuckle and try to find my phone to see if I can find some instructions for this fricken tie.
"So she's really coming over, dad?" he asks looking so cute. I hate to leave him, but I'm glad he's in good hands and he looks forward to seeing her.
"Yep, she'll be here in a minute. Why don't you check and see if she's at the door," I say, still fighting with my tie.
Just as I find some instructions, Ej hollers from the doorway.
"Daddy, she's here!"
With a frustrated sigh I leave the garment limp around my neck and hurry out to help him with the door.
He might be five, but sometimes he just can't twist the handle enough to get it to open.
He gets that door open and smoothers Bella in a tight hug before she can even make it into the house. And the reason why I think Bella is so great, is because she drops her bags and hugs him right back, instead of worrying about where to put things or how cold it is out.
She doesn't care about her stuff. She just cares about hugging that boy and that makes my heart happy.
I watch as her long brown hair whips around in the icy air. And the sparkle in her eyes when she sees him, tells me that she's sincere, something you don't often come across when looking for a caretaker for your children. Most of the time all the people are looking for is the paycheck. But Bella seems different.
"C'mon guys, it's freezing out here," I say, trying to usher them in.
Eventually they break apart and Ej helps Bella bring her stuff inside.
"Hey Edward," she says with a smile as she makes herself at home.
"Evening Bella, thanks again for tonight," I tell her as I dip back in bathroom to try fix my tie again.
"Not a problem at all," she yells from the living room.
With a frustrated sigh I attempt to make my tie work.
After a few more minutes of trying and failing with the flipping tie and listening to the mass of giggles from the other room, I decide that it might be okay to go without a tie to dinner. While it is a business dinner, I'm sure I will look just fine without one.
I roll my eyes and pull the tie away from my shirt before heading back to my room to hang it up.
I see Bella staring at me, almost frowning. "Ej why don't you go get us a game to play after Daddy leaves."
I watch as EJ runs and when her eyes turn back to me, her eyebrows dip together.
"What's the matter?" I ask as I pass through the living room.
"Nothing," she says quickly, telling me that it's not nothing.
"No, what is it. You know that there's not much that you can't say to me."
She sighs and frowns again. "Well it's just that you told me that you were going to a business meeting tonight, right?" she asks, almost bashfully.
I nod, wondering what the hell she's holding back.
"Please don't tell me you're going without a tie. That look is just so…overdone. I mean its fine for the Rico Sauvé type, but c'mon, if you're trying to be professional, it's just not the look I would suggest."
Now it's my turn to frown. Not at her words, because Bella's honesty has always been one of my favorite things about her.
"Oh man, Mr. Cullen, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings," she murmurs quickly, making me wince at the title. It makes me feel a little old, ya know?
"You didn't," I reassure her. "But I just can't tie the blasted thing, so it's either, like this," I say motioning to the two buttons I've left undone. "Or I'm just not going. And it's Edward, right?"
She sighs and her lips lift up into a light smile. "Is that all?"
I dip my eyebrows together.
"Want me to help?" she asks, looking from the tie in my hand to me.
"You know how to tie a tie?" I ask skeptically. She's a twenty-six year old woman, there's not much of a chance that she knows how to tie a tie.
"Well sure," she tells me. "I tied my father's for years."
I stand there both equally amazed and shocked. This girl, she's got talent. "If you wouldn't mind, I would be eternally grateful."
"Sure, no big deal," she tells me brushing her hair back behind her ear.
I stand back, hand her the tie and wait for her to work her magic.
Her soft, warm hands work quickly, she pops my collar and runs the tie through it, before buttoning the two top buttons.
Her fingertips brush against my skin ever so briefly, but it's still enough to make my heart stop for a moment.
I stare at her hands, gulping slightly when I realize just how close we are.
She takes the tie into her hands and then begins to weave and pull, tying it to perfection, then straightening it until it's just right. And finally she takes those same warm hands and smoothes them over my shirt and tie, before lifting her eyes up my way.
And it's then that I suck in a breath that sends me through a loop of hell. I smell, almost taste Bella. A sweet, fragrant scent that is so perfectly her, it makes my heart beat harder and my head swirl.
I guess before this very moment I never considered Bella to be a woman. She was just Ej's babysitter, who I met on chance through a work friend.
It never occurred to me that Bella was even a female until just a moment ago. Her soft lips, gorgeous curves, long hair and sparkling eyes make that much more evident that she is in fact a woman. And all woman for that matter.
And once that realization is clear in my head, I find myself staring down at the brunette beauty wondering why I'm stopping myself from wrapping my arms around her and kissing the living daylights out of her.
"Bella, I got us the Super Why game!"
And there's my que. That's precisely why.
Ej. He loves her probably more than life. And the fact that he's even comfortable with another adult makes my heart happy and my head hurt less. So I can't, I just can't bring myself to do anything with Bella that would compromise Ej.
We break apart, distancing ourselves before he even has a chance to see what almost happened.
And I play it off as though nothing was going to happen.
"Alright buddy, you let Bella win a round or two," I tell him, trying my best to act normal.
"O-kay Dad," he says sounding bummed.
I chuckle and shake my head, before grabbing my jacket and keys, heading for the door.
"Bella, I'll be back around nine," I tell her.
She nods, not saying, but she offers me a quick little smile.
I smile back and head out the door.
I sit down to dinner with my client still feeling all warm and fuzzy from my moment with Bella. It makes me wonder what if there could be more. But I immediately squash that thought. I don't have time to think like that. Besides the fact that Ej is finally behaving, there's no need to mess him up anymore than he already is.
"Mr. Cullen, how very nice to see you again," Maurice comments.
He's my newest client. A newly single man, looking for just the right place to call home now.
"Thanks, how're you holding up Maurice?" I ask as I take my seat.
The restaurant is beautiful, very high-end and makes me a little uncomfortable if I'm being honest. But it's just part of the territory.
I'm a realtor and often times I have to meet clients where they feel comfortable.
"Oh I'm alright, I wish we didn't have to go down this road, but hey, we're here and I'm still alive so I guess that's all that matters."
I chuckle at his sarcasm and his way of thinking before sipping some of the water that's on the table.
We broach into casual conversation before ordering some dinner. I hate nights away from Ej. But I imagine that Bella is spoiling him right now. She thinks I have no clue that she makes him mac and cheese nearly every night I'm away.
She makes out like he's eating a healthy dinner full of vegetables and while I come home to a spotless kitchen because she cleans up the dishes, she doesn't realize I can just peak in the trash. And each time I see a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese sitting there.
Oh well. At least he likes her.
After our dinner is on the table I begin casually asking Mr. Fontaine what he wants in a house. So I know where to focus my efforts.
"I'm looking for something smaller. Three bedrooms. A few bathrooms. But I still want a nice kitchen. Goddamn it, I'm going to miss my old one," he says with a sigh.
I feel for the guy. I was able to see his last place and it was magnificent.
"That sounds reasonable," I tell him. "And hey, maybe if we can find one cheap enough you can think about re-doing the kitchen just like your old one."
He scoffs. "Hell, I don't want that. I don't want any memories. There's no need it for it. That place is no longer happy for me."
I frown. The poor guy has really been through the wringer. "That bad, huh?"
The first thing I learned as a realtor, was that you should never get too deep with your clients, but I just can't help it with this guy. He seems like he's been through a lot. I've been through a few break ups before, but even with Ej's mom it was never this bad.
"Yeah, that's an understatement," he murmurs sipping his wine. "The bitch ran off with my brother."
I sit there stunned at his colorful description of what happened between them.
"That's yeah… that sucks."
He chuckles dryly, before glancing down at my hand and noticing that its ring free. "What's your deal? I know you've got that little boy."
I smile, thinking of Ej.
He's right. "I don't have much of a story," I tell him. "Just that, a while back I made a mistake and got mixed up with someone who wasn't ready to be a wife or really a mother for that matter. So now I'm doing it on my own."
He scoffs. "C'mon now, there must be more to it than that. If you're going to be dealing with my house, I have to know you're the kind of person I think you are."
I sigh. "Well, there's not that much more to tell. About six years ago, I met and fell for a woman who was sweet and very beautiful. Her name was Maria. We were the typical couple. We went out, had fun, and had fun. If you know what I mean," I say, knowing that Mr. Fontaine would appreciate that piece of information.
He chuckles and pours himself some more wine, before urging me to continue.
"Then that fun lead to Ej. She got pregnant and everything got serious. Too serious for her liking. She even considered getting an abortion," I shake my head at the thought. "She was a wild child not ready to settle down. But I pressured her any way, seeing no other way that I could convince her to keep Ej. So I proposed. And she hit the roof. Telling me that life isn't about being tied to someone forever. She was furious and thought I had gotten her knocked up on purpose," I explain.
His eyes went wide. "Jesus, she was a maniac. What did she do?"
"Her grandmother talked some sense into her, thankfully. And once she had the baby, I applied for full custody. She willingly gave up her rights and went back to being a free spirit. As if she never gave birth."
"Wow," he murmurs.
"Yeah, well, it's not the most romantic story, but that's how it happened."
Maurice smiles tightly before sipping on his wine. "Yeah, I don't think it's supposed to be romantic. But at least you have your son. And you should savor every moment you have with him."
I nod. The man's right.
"I know I love spending time with my kids," he says softly. "That's why I want a place that they can come visit me. Some place they love and will come back to. Kind of like a Christmas present to myself and my family."
I nod and get to work on the details.
We hash out just what he wants to see in the house. And once we've talked price we finish our meal. I promise him that I will try to find him just what he's looking for and hopefully in time for the holidays too.
After a hand shake we part ways.
Mr. Fontaine is a sweet older man and his words really stick with me through the drive home.
As I sit in my freezing cold car, I think about exactly what he said.
Savor the moments you have.
And I take that to heart, planning to do just that.
I love Ej and need to savor my moments with him. But trying not to get caught up in hectic work schedules and other things is difficult.
I get home quick, my mind seems to have sopped up the irritating drive for me.
I walk into the dark house and expect to see Bella sitting in the living room, texting or in the kitchen, cleaning up quietly.
But as I walk through the house, she's nowhere to be found.
I poke my head in Ej's room to make sure everything is okay.
And what I find is quite possibly the most adorable scene I've witnessed as of yet.
There in Ej's tiny bed is my boy sleeping soundly. And lying, in what looks to be an uncomfortable position is Bella with a book sprawled across her chest, out cold.
I chuckle and shake my head at the sight.
And though I want to leave her, I know she's got a life. And I promised her I would be back at nine. So I tip-toe across my son's planet rug and around his Buzz Lightyear toy to Bella.
I rub her shoulder lightly for a moment, while leaning down and whispering her name. Her soft brown eyes open, but I can tell she's still mostly asleep. She looks around confused, then locks eyes with me.
"Edward?" she whispers in her adorable half asleep voice.
I hum trying not to wake my boy.
"Oh Edward," she murmurs, as she rolls, facing me with her eyes closed.
I chuckle lightly. And she smiles sweetly in her sleep.
"Hey Bella," I try again.
Her eyes open and she adjusts to where she is, taking in everything.
"Huh?" she wonders confused.
"I think you fell asleep when you were getting Ej into bed.," I whisper.
"Oh," she says, looking embarrassed, before getting up and stretching. I admit that I watch as she does this, a move that she's probably done in front of me more than twenty times. But not once did I ever look at her the way I am tonight.
We walk out of the room and I close the door a little.
"I'm so sorry, I don't normally sleep on the job," she says, with a pout.
I shake my head. "Don't even worry about it. As long as Ej is fine. I don't care. Besides, I know that you have early mornings."
"Thank you," she whispers bashfully.
"No problem," I tell her quietly. This seems like the perfect time to segway into what happened earlier, but I just don't have that kind of talk in me tonight.
I reach for my wallet and hand Bella the money she's owed plus a little bonus for taking such good care of my boy. "This should be everything," I tell her.
"Um, next week, 'round the same time?" she asks.
"Yep, but um, I might need you sooner. My client wants to buy as soon as I can find a place."
She smiles. "That's fine with me. I'm always available. Especially for you and Ej."
I thank her as she heads out the door.
I'm left to my own devices for the rest of the evening. Cleaning and organizing the kitchen, because I can't get my mind to stop. Thanks to the beautiful woman that just left.