I paced anxiously.
What was taking so long?
I had showered, shaved and dressed in forty minutes. They'd been up there for almost two hours. A couple of times, while I was getting ready, I heard muffled shrieks from the third floor, and once I was sure I heard Bella cursing at Alice.
She rarely cursed unless she was pissed at me, which was often. I enjoyed listening to her cuss me out, but I knew she wasn't enjoying the primping that Alice had assured her she would love.
Bella didn't primp.
It was one of the things I found so endearing and refreshing about her.
She was just Bella. It was true; I had never seen her in a dress. Her everyday outfits consisted of either black yoga pants or jeans and a long shirt. When she had cleaned out my closet she had snagged a few of the dress shirts I didn't want and often wore those, the arms rolled up and the bottom tied around her hips as she worked around the house.
I never told her I preferred it when she wore my shirts. For some reason it made my chest warm to see her in them though.
Her hair was always up in a bun or a ponytail. No make-up. The only item I'd ever seen her use was lip gloss.
She was naturally pretty; it was effortless. She was simply … Bella.
So what was taking so bloody long?
I dragged my hand through my now shorter hair and glanced over at Emmett who was busy typing away on his phone. Felix had arrived and was outside having a smoke as he waited patiently. Neither of them seemed concerned over the time it was taking. I glanced at my watch for the hundredth time.
"Relax, Edward. Plenty of time," Emmett chuckled.
"What are they doing up there?"
He looked up and shrugged. "God knows."
"Go find out."
He shook his head. "Your house, Edward. You go."
"No. I don't go onto Bella's floor. That's her space." I had only ever been up three times. I had insisted she make over the rooms to suit her and she had shown me the end result. The second time, I had been desperate. My head ached and I felt like shit and I needed Bella to fix it for me, so I had bravely gone upstairs and woke her up at four a.m., asking for her help. She had taken me back downstairs, soothed my head, got me medication and something to drink before she sat with me until I fell asleep. When I woke up later that morning she was still curled up in the chair beside the bed, having watched over me all night. Because that was what Bella did. She cared for those she loved and as she often told me, she loved me like a brother. I loved her right back—she was my best friend and I couldn't imagine my life without her. She took care of me. I was lucky to have her. So when she got sick from looking after me and hadn't come downstairs for the day, I went back up to her room after making her some dinner. I learned two valuable lessons. Never wake up a sick Bella. And never offer baked beans on toast to someone who was ill. I barely made it out of the room without joining her in the bathroom while she was retching after I shoved the tray under her nose, trying to be helpful.
Never happening again.
The sound of her nervous voice calling for Em, broke through my thoughts as he stood up and exited the room. I followed behind him but waited at the foot of the stairs. A few minutes later he appeared, chuckling.
He shook his head. "I'll let you decide. My sister is looking rather," he grinned and winked, "dishy, I think you'd say." He turned his head. "Come on, Beaker! Show yourself!"
"Don't call me that!"
I gaped at the vision that appeared at the top of the stairs, one hand on her hip as she glared at Emmett.
I blinked as I took her in.
Where was my fresh-faced, pink-cheeked Bella?
A woman stood there, who resembled her, but was so beyond beautiful and sexy my throat hurt trying to stop the wolf whistle that wanted to escape.
Bloody hell. She was beyond dishy.
She was fucking … exquisite.
Her dress was long and red, her bare shoulders glittering under the lights with the crystals that rested over them, her bare skin gleaming. Her waist was cinched tight with the same glittering beads.
And her hair.
Long, dark tresses rippled freely down her back, swaying, as she walked down the stairs, one hand clutching the railing as her other one bunched and unbunched the deep red fabric of her dress nervously. Whatever Alice had done with her face made her dark eyes seem huge in her face and her lips were entirely kissable with the red stain on them.
What was I thinking?
Emmett's sharp elbow into my side made me groan. "Dude," he hissed quietly. "Quit eye-fucking my sister."
I glared at him, keeping my reply low so I couldn't be overheard. "I am not eye-fucking …" I stopped, shaking my head.
Holy crap. I was.
What was I doing? It was Bella. Dressed up or not, it was still my best friend, Bella. I didn't eye-fuck my best friend.
But he was right. I was doing exactly that. She was stunning.
I frowned at him, refusing to admit it. He was way bigger than I was and could hurt me easily. Manager or not. "Am not."
I stepped forward, reaching for Bella's hand as she drew closer. Gently, I pulled it away from her dress.
"Bella …" I breathed. "Thank you."
She smiled shyly as Alice grinned beside me, almost giddy with glee. "Isn't she perfect?"
I nodded as I squeezed Bella's hand in reassurance. "She is."
"You look so … amazing, Edward."
I chuckled. Beside her I was plain. She was the amazing one tonight.
Alice suddenly clucked and leaned over, lifting Bella's hand and taking something off her wrist. "Sorry, Bella. The bracelet doesn't work. The gold doesn't go with the silver crystals. I don't have anything silver with me."
Bella shrugged. "It's fine, Alice. I'm not much for jewelry anyway."
Alice sighed. "I really wanted one show-off piece." She held up the gold cuff. "This simply won't work, though."
Inspiration struck and I held up my finger. "Wait!" I hurried to the den, returning in a few minutes with a small case. I opened it for Alice. "Will this work?"
She clapped her hands. "Edward, it's perfect! Where did you get it?"
I grinned as I lifted the shining antique bracelet from the case. "It was my nan's. My grandmother's," I added in case they weren't familiar with the term Nan.
Bella gasped when I took her hand and snapped the bracelet on her wrist; the diamonds glittering under the lights, matching her shoulders in their brilliance. I loved how it looked on her. Like it was meant to be there.
Her eyes were wide as she looked between it and me. "Edward, I can't …"
"You can. And you are. Alice is right. It's perfect for you. Um, your outfit I meant."
"I'll guard it with my life," she whispered, running her fingers over the intricate designs in the metal.
"One more thing," Alice chirped as she tucked a deep red square into my tuxedo jacket pocket. "Now you look like you belong together."
For some reason I agreed with her statement. I looked over at Bella again, unable to take my eyes off her. The heels Alice had her in made her taller but she still fit perfectly under my arm as I tucked her into my side. "Ready?"
She nodded and swallowed nervously. "Ready."
I kissed the top of her head softly, inhaling her calming scent deeply. "I'll be right beside you, Bella."
"I think that's my line, Edward. I'm here for you, remember?"
I tightened my hold on her. "Quiet, Beaker. We'll look after each other, okay?"
Her smile could melt icebergs. Big ones.
I had to look away before Emmett saw me.
I was eye-fucking her again.
The crowds were huge. Security lined the red carpet holding them back. I looked out the tinted window at the crowd and shuddered, fighting the panic, knowing I had to signal Em when I was ready and to open the door.
They were so loud.
The screams. It was the screaming that hit me the hardest all the time. There were times I wanted to weep with the noise level pounding at my ears constantly. I hated this part of my life.
Bella tugged on my hand, distracting me.
She nodded reassuringly at me and silently glanced down to where our hands were entwined. I looked down and sighed, releasing some tension. Our hands were so tightly clasped I couldn't tell where her hand ended and mine began. It made me feel better.
"Em and Felix are here. I'm with you, Edward," she whispered soothingly.
I didn't care if I sounded like a child. I needed to hear her say it. "You won't let go?"
"I promise. I won't let go."
I nodded. "Let's do this."
The screaming increased vociferously when I stepped out of the car. Emmett helped Bella out first, and she turned, holding her hand out for me as I stepped into the line of vision. I hesitated before grabbing her hand and dragging her close. Her hand wasn't enough. I needed to feel her as close to me as possible. I wrapped my arm around her waist, holding her tightly as we made our way down the carpet, refusing to release my hold on her even when I stopped to speak to a few reporters. Emmett and Felix trailed close, making sure I didn't stop long and we made it to the door in record time. I even managed to avoid the big question of the beautiful brunette I was holding. Emmett told me what to say, but I was still overwhelmed with her and I forgot. So I simply winked, saying I wasn't ready to share that yet. I thought I was brilliant. Emmett smacked my head when we got in the door and I growled at him. The git messed with the hair. You never messed with the hair. Took me forever to make it look like I didn't give a fuck about it. Luckily Bella smoothed it back in place before she smacked him for me. I liked that.
"You okay?" she asked anxiously, her bewitching eyes scanning my face.
I blinked again.
What the fuck was wrong with me?
I shook my head wondering if I had accidentally doubled up on my Xanax. My head was certainly not reacting properly. Especially toward Bella.
But the red carpet had been easy. With Bella tucked into my side I had been calm and not once had I felt the usual panic.
It had to be Bella.
Or the Xanax.
I looked down at her.
No. It was her. It was definitely her. I beamed at her and brushed a kiss on her forehead, ignoring the flashes I could see from outside.
"Thanks to you, yes. I'm good."
She smiled up at me, those lovely eyes glinting with relief.
There went a few more icebergs.
"Is this almost over?" I groaned to Emmett. It had been a long night. We'd done dinner, the speeches, the auction and all the bloody press and fan stuff I had been told to do. And true to her promise, Bella was beside me the whole time, a constant calm for my frazzled nerves. She made it almost fun. Her droll comments as we walked around the room kept me laughing and I was actually grateful Lauren had cancelled. She was nowhere near as entertaining as Bella. Or as lovely.
He chuckled dryly. "This wouldn't have happened if you hadn't been so, ah, difficult the last couple of weeks, Edward. The studio …" his voice trailed off.
"The studio can kiss my arse," I muttered.
"Oscar," Bella admonished.
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes at her. Instead I smirked widely. "Did I tell you how beautiful you are tonight?"
Now she rolled her eyes at me. "Nice one. But the diversion didn't work. Behave."
I laughed. She'd made me happy all night. Not an iceberg in sight.
I looked up and grinned; the first genuine one of the night for someone other than Bella. I stood up and extended my hand. "Carlisle! You're back!"
He smiled in return, shaking my hand. "Finally. What a shoot."
I nodded. "You've been gone for almost five months! I indicated the empty chair beside Bella. "Join us."
He sat down, introducing himself after he greeted Em. I laughed, slightly embarrassed. "Sorry, Bella. I've told you about him, but you haven't met Carlisle. You hadn't been with me very long when he left on an extended shoot. This is my cousin, Carlisle Cullen. He's a producer. We grew up together in England."
Carlisle chuckled. "And he does mean that literally. After my parents died I lived with Edward and his family for a few years before I came here to make my fortune. He's like a brother." He smirked. "A younger, not so good-looking brother."
I laughed at his explanation. Bella had heard many stories of our escapades back in England.
He shook her hand. "Hello—it's a pleasure." He winked at me, teasingly. "Your prettiest girl yet, Edward."
Bella laughed, shaking her head. "I'm not one of his girls. I'm his housekeeper."
Carlisle's eyes widened.
"Bella is my friend, and Emmett's sister. She did me a huge favour and attended with me this evening." I was quick to step in and explain. I didn't want Bella to be thought of as my housekeeper. Of all the things she was to me that was the least important.
"So she's not your housekeeper?" He frowned.
"She is, but she's my friend first," I insisted.
"Sister second," Emmett piped in.
"And housekeeper third. Got it." Carlisle nodded, leaning back in his chair and winking at Bella. "A triple threat."
Bella dipped her head; her cheeks coloring slightly. I slipped my hand into hers. It felt better there.
Carlisle picked up his drink. "Now tell me what you've been up to while I was slaving away in Europe."
Emmett took pity on me and had the car pull around back, allowing Bella and I to slip into it with little fuss. The front of the building was still mobbed and I didn't want to face that again. I was calm, but I didn't want to push it. He and Felix took the other car, so it was only Bella and me in the back seat.
My head fell back onto the headrest in relief. Peace. Without opening my eyes, I lifted Bella's hand and kissed it gratefully. "Ta, Beaker."
She sighed. "I see why you hate these things, but it was worth it."
I cracked my eye open. "Yeah?" I grinned. "You liked seeing me all dressed up and hot looking? Working the room and oozing British charm?"
She snorted. "No."
I sat up. "Bloody hell, Bella. You don't think I'm hot?"
She chuckled and patted my leg. "Like an inferno, Edward."
I nodded and sniffed. "Better." I leaned my head back again. "Did you have a good time?"
"I enjoyed spending the evening with you but otherwise, not really."
"Why then was it worth it?"
She sighed and relaxed into the seat beside me. "I got the draft problem solved. So worth the sore feet and listening to the inane screams."
Then she giggled. An unusual, endearing sound she rarely made. "Seriously, Oscar. Those woman need to get a life. You're not all that and a bag of potato chips you know."
I tried not to laugh. But it was a lost cause. I started to guffaw. Loudly.
I wasn't all that and a bag of potato chips.
To Bella, I was simply Edward. A slightly goofy, leaning-toward pudgy, strange sounding Brit who had an abiding affection for baked goods and turkey sandwiches. And her.
She knew me. The real me.
And she still loved me.
I was good with that.
"Thanks for the reality check, Bella."
She groaned as she leaned over, unstrapping her shiny sandals. "Anytime, Oscar. God, my feet hurt."
I lifted her feet into my lap, clucking at the pinched look to her toes. She loved it when I rubbed her feet while we were watching movies and from the look of them right now they needed my talented fingers. "You should have told Alice no to the shoes." I shook my head as I started rubbing the sore looking flesh.
She sighed contently. "These were the compromise. You should have seen the death traps she wanted me to wear."
"Tell her lower heels next time."
I nodded hopefully. "You were brilliant tonight. I haven't been that calm at an event—ever. I was hoping you'd be willing to accompany me again."
"Add me to your roster, you mean?"
I drew in a deep breath. "My number one spot, Bella. You made tonight so much easier for me. You have no idea what a difference having you with me made."
She bit her lip. "What about the press? The questions? I'm your housekeeper, Edward."
"You're way more than that. We're friends. We'll talk to Em and figure it out. I don't care about that stuff. I just want you beside me."
"Do I get a foot rub after the hell is over?"
"I'll think about it."
I smirked as I worked on her feet.
"I'll think about it" was code for Bella's yes.
She couldn't say no to me anymore than I could say it to her.
And I was really good with that.
Not all that and a bag of potato chips. Giggles. I do love her keeping him humble.
I am sensing a shift here. There was, after all, eye-fucking. Hmmm.
Pictures of Bella's dress and bracelet on my group page. EdwardEternal's Love of Words. You have to 18+ to join. Your brithday has to be on your profile page or you will not be added.
Next update Monday.