Business Class Girl @lamomo
Chapter 10

Chapter 10, revamped!

Your eyes are not deceiving you. I am reposting Business Class Girl from scratch, sprucing it up with the help of Alice's White Rabbit and Sunflower Fran.
The updated version will post weekly on Mondays and, after the first 22 chapters have been posted, they will be followed by new chapters until completion, since the story is now entirely pre-written.

Thank you to Sally and Fran for editing and beta'ing, to RobsmyyummyCabanaboy and Deh for being my plot coaches and shoulders to cry on.

Thank you for all the new alerts and favorites, and thank you for propelling BCG past 700 reviews! I appreciate and treasure every single one of them.

Disclaimer: *checks notes* It still all belongs to Stephenie. I just like to play in the sandbox.

BUSINESS CLASS GIRL - CHAPTER 10

Edward's POV

*Always. Hurry back to me, Bella. Please.*

I don't know what possessed me to send her this text. I have no handle on my emotions right now.

Bella left me hanging with that sentence, and I can't call Alice to lash out at her because it's nearly midnight in Milan. I'm also a nervous wreck because I hate interviews and I never know what to say. Bella's not here when she was adamant she'd be back in time for the interviews to start.

I'm pacing the room, all the while muttering profanities at no one in particular, when the door swings open and a frantic Bella appears before me like an angelic vision. She flings her purse and laptop bag in a corner and faces me with a horror-stricken face.

"Edward, what's wrong? What happened?"

I can't help myself and seize her hands in mine. She's here; she's real. Finally.

How much of a drama queen can you be, Cullen?

"You're here." I allow myself a deep breath. Her worried eyes roam over my face.

"Of course, I'm here. What happened, Edward? I was worried sick," she explains in a troubled voice, her breath still shallow from her hurried entrance. I'm a jerk. I did this to her only because I wanted her by my side.

You missed her. Be honest.

My asshole self can't help noticing she hasn't released my grasp. My thumbs start running circles on the back of her hands, more for my own comfort than hers, but she doesn't try to disentangle herself.

"I'm so sorry, Bella. I just … I just panicked. I really hate interviews and … you weren't there. I'm sorry."

"Edward, stop apologising. I'm here now. I'd never bail on you," she adds, serious again.

I relax instantly and smile at my very own Business Class Girl. "You wouldn't, would you?"

"Of course not. Ang would tear me a new one if I did," she says, relaxing in turn. Her gaze wanders down to our intertwined hands, and I abruptly release her as if electrocuted by an invisible wire.

"So, what is it that freaks you out so much about interviews?" she spurs me on, a concentrated frown on her face.

I shoot her a quizzical look.

"I just want to make this easier for you, Edward. It's not something we can forgo entirely. We'll have to live with it somehow."

How on earth did I find such a caring, considerate assistant? Wait a minute. I didn't. Angela did.

Angela, who always tells me to just quit whining and man up. Instead, Bella is actually trying to understand me. My uneasy eyes wander around the room, and my hands automatically take up permanent residence in my hair.

"It's … I just … I never know what to say. I constantly put my foot in my mouth. There's a shit-ton of things I'm supposed to say, and I mess that up, and a whole lot of things I'm not supposed to say, and they're the only things I blurt out instead. And the worst of it is … the personal questions. I hate them," I babble on, unable to stop my sudden word vomit.

Bella nods, pensively tapping her long, elegant index finger on her nose.

"You know, I did my homework, boss. And your interviews all turned out to be pretty interesting, so far."

I plop down in an armchair and hide my face in my hands. "Oh, no … Did you really read them? What the fuck must you think of me now?"

Her fingers pry my hands off my face.

"There's nothing to be ashamed of. First, it was normal background info for me. Second, it's refreshing to see a young, famous, hot, quasi-millionaire actor who still manages to be level-headed, self-deprecating, and down-to-earth in the midst all this mayhem. You always do great, Edward."

"But those questions ... they keep asking …" I am still whining, yes.

"If you're dating someone or not." She cuts me off. "That's a no-go question for us. That's where I come in. They don't want to piss me off." Her voice is firm and authoritative. Hell, I almost feel sorry for those reporters … Almost.

I can't help but chuckle and relax. I can do this.

She said you're hot, Cullen! She said you're hot!

"You've got my back, right?"

"Always. Now go and charm their pants off, Boss," she adds, smiling congenially at me.

Without further ado, she leads me into the suite where the studios have set up the press junket.

The real reason I'm so nervous is because I'm being interviewed about the role and the film that changed my life and my career overnight. This is where the bullshitting ends and the real deal begins. I'm afraid I'll be weighed up and will somehow be found lacking.

While a little boost to one's ego never hurt anyone, and Bella's pep talk has definitely served this purpose, I can't stop thinking it's because Bella believes in me that I feel I can pull through this.

Bella also acts as an effective buffer during the interviews. She sits right behind me and chips in every time the journalist tries a no-go question or goes beyond the allotted time slots. I'm both irritated and relieved that I can't see her face. On the upside, seeing her would definitely calm my nerves and make sure I'm not looking so pissed and brooding all the time. On the downside, I'm certain I couldn't help looking at her like a love-struck fool, and I don't want to feed the press with anything that could be even remotely interesting to them on that score.

Three hours go by and I still need to go through the last two interviews. The first one is plain vanilla. I've answered the same questions so many times by now that a life-size cut-out of me and a recorded tape would easily do the trick.

I'm running my hands in my hair so much that it's all standing on end and I surely look like a hedgehog. I'm running on vapours when a cup of hot coffee suddenly appears beside my restless hand. In the corner of my eye, a cloud of mahogany hair and a slender figure move back to the chair Bella's occupied for the last three hours. She startles me out of the endless mantra of my own voice.

"That will be all, Miss Lane. Your time is up. We need to talk to some more people."

"Could I have just five more minutes with Mr Cullen?" Miss Lane says in a sultry voice, her eyes never leaving my face.

At this, I hear Bella's chair scrape the floor as she stands up beside me, her hand protectively placed on my shoulder.

"I'm so sorry, Miss Lane, but we must decline. We can't, in any way, favour you over your colleagues."

Bella's tone is professional but icy, and Miss Lane suddenly looks very uneasy. Bella has cornered her, and I'm enjoying the show immensely. Call me a selfish bastard, but I am—the very fake Miss Lane has tried this stunt before, but I could never extricate my sorry arse from her clutches on my own.

Bella trapped her in five seconds. Miss Lane caves in, and Bella's killer smile is a sight to behold.

"Thank you, Miss Lane. I really appreciate your understanding. It's been a pleasure."

Miss Lane retreats as quickly as Napoleon at Waterloo and leaves Bella and me alone in the room for five minutes' respite before the last rush of the day.

I'm nursing my coffee cup while Bella is quietly sipping from a Starbucks' mug. I smile—my girl's habits are becoming predictable to me, and it's only the first day.

"How in heck did you manage that? Thanks, by the way." I'm still awed by her quick reaction.

Bella smiles over her mug. "That? Don't even mention it. It's a standard survival technique where I come from."

"May I ask … or is it … too personal?" I stutter again, unsure whether I'm treading in forbidden territory or not.

Bella hesitates for a moment, then exhales.

"No, that's not … classified information, Edward. I worked at White, Devlin & Hale in London. Hence the contact for the tax guys. A law firm is as replete with sharks as Hollywood can be, believe me," she ends on a darker note.

I try to push my luck before we have to go back to work. "Devlin? As in Russell Devlin?" I'm trying to feign surprise and hoping she won't see through me.

Bella looks puzzled but nods with a fond smile. "The very one. How do you know him?"

"Lifelong friend of my dad's. He's actually Uncle Russell to me," I add, still aloof.

Bella's smile grows wider. "Seriously? Well, that's a small world. Russ is the one who hired me in the first place. He's one of the best lawyers I've ever worked with."

I clink my paper cup with her mug. "Well, here's to our first day. Looks like we have something in common."

The look in her eyes is so serene and affectionate that I can't tear my own gaze away as she answers. "Well, we do. To us, Edward."

She said "us" again, Cullen.

Someone knocks, and she rushes to open the door while she's saying over my shoulder, "The last one, boss. Then we can call it a day."

I nod and brace myself. The last one, of course, has to be the toughest. Aro Ziegfeld, the self-appointed anchor of a trendy blog that follows a few popular cinema franchises and every star and non-star involved in them. The actual cinema content of the blog is next to nothing. The rest is haphazard info, and mostly unfounded gossip. He's popular, though, and apparently, the studios don't want to piss him off.

Survival techniques in Hollywood include a lot of ass-kissing. I hope Bella encountered that as well, in the legal arena, because otherwise we'll be royally screwed by blogger asshole deluxe in five nanoseconds flat.

Aro Ziegfeld comes across as an overdone, campy guy who reminds you of someone in between Elton John and Holly Johnson in their heyday. His sardonic grin, though, could rival Jack Nicholson's in The Shining.

This guy isn't going to play by the rules, even if his first questions are pretty inane and boilerplate—how I got the part, how I prepared for it, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I blurt out my usual, well-rehearsed answers, and everything goes smoothly until he fishes out a blurry picture of the premiere after-party. It shows yours truly puking over Jessica (Alba)'s dress. Bollocks. How in fuck did he get this? The party was at the director's private residence in Malibu and no photographers—hence, no paps—were around. Security was too tight.

Bella has smelled a rat and quickly pries the photo away from the table.

"I'm sure you don't mind if I have a proper look at that, Mr Ziegfeld."

Aro wordlessly gestures his consent. I try to put on a poker face, calling all my actor superpowers to the rescue.

"This looks to me like it was acquired illegally, Mr Ziegfeld. I'm afraid I'll have to ask you where you got it." Bella's voice is icy again.

Aro grins. "I'm sure you're aware I can't disclose my sources, Miss ..." The disagreeable sneer he directs towards Bella makes my hackles rise.

"It's Dr Swan to you, Mr. Ziegfeld. You'll do well to bear in mind that this picture amounts to trespassing on Mr Stephens' property, since he hosted this party at his private residence. We'll enforce it in court, if need be." Scratch that, her voice is colder than Antarctica, and she's looking downright scary.

Yes, Cullen, you got that right. Dr Swan. Holy hell.

"Well, Dr Swan, if you want to play this the hard way, on what authority would you challenge my sources?" he sneers at Bella again, trying to egg her on.

He's threatening Bella. He's threatening my Business Class Girl. My hands fist up in sheer anger and frustration because I'm well aware I can't say anything, leaving Bella to fend him off alone. My blood nearly boils with rage.

"On the authority that trespassing on a private residence is still a crime in California. And on the grounds that your blog will be annihilated if it gets out that your so-called news is only obtained through illegal means and not honest research in the field. What would it do to your credibility, Mr Ziegfeld?"

Bella doesn't bat an eyelid as she stares down at this scumbag, arms akimbo and eyebrows raised.

Damn, Cullen. She's hot when she's pissed.

"Well, may I ask about Edward's co-star then? They looked pretty cosy at the premiere."

"You may not. Mr Cullen does not discuss his personal life. You are here to ask about his professional activities only," she cuts him off immediately, still icy.

"She's his co-star; it's a perfectly legitimate question," he tries to protest.

"It's still off the table, Aro. This interview is over."

"You know I'll write whatever I please, Dr Swan." He's still fighting, but Bella doesn't flinch.

"I'll check your blog personally tomorrow morning, Aro. Don't try anything funny; I have ammunition against you. Good afternoon." More ice coming Aro's way. How in the heck does she do it?

With this last blow, Aro Ziegfeld leaves the room in a cloud of indignation. Bella plops down in her chair, looking exhausted.

"Crap, Edward. I'm so sorry. Ang will have my skin for this. I'm so sorry." She looks deflated, all of her earlier bravado evaporated from her voice.

I kneel in front of her and squeeze her hands reassuringly. "Stop apologising, Bella. You were awesome. Dr Swan? I'm humbled that you're even putting up with me," I quip, trying to lighten the atmosphere.

"I didn't earn a doctorate yet, technically. I dropped out, but he doesn't need to know. Still … Not sure what Ang will think of this."

"We'll worry about it later. First, take a deep breath, and accept my heartfelt thanks. You had my back twice today."

She offers me a small, shy smile. "I told you that's my job. I know no other way of doing it. It's all or nothing for me, Edward." Her voice is hesitant and low, and I get a distinct impression she isn't just talking about her job.

"Well, I'm extremely glad you work for me, and again, I hope I never get on the wrong side of you," I repeat my earlier joke, smiling.

"You don't need to worry about that," she whispers, with that cute blush of hers in full bloom on her cheeks.

You want to kiss her, Cullen. Admit it.

"Ready to head back to the office?" I ask before I get carried away.

She nods, and after leaving the room, and emerging from the elevator, we silently climb into the limo. The ride back to Angela's office is the polar opposite of this morning's. She's no longer sitting far away from me. She's right beside me, her purse, laptop bag, and "crackberry" thrown haphazardly on the seat in front of us.

I cast a glance in her direction to see that she's still looking uneasy. I tap on the divider to catch the driver's attention.

"Tyler, please stop at the first Starbucks and get Miss Swan a mug of tea. Earl Grey, no sugar, no milk, no lemon."

"Yes, Mr Cullen," Tyler answers as the divider goes up again.

Bella looks quizzically at me.

"Edward, how did you …" she trails off, and I suddenly realise my epic blunder. Inspiration strikes, though, and saves my arse.

"I do my homework too, Bella," I answer with a lopsided grin and a wink.

Me, Bella, and a mug of Earl Grey. This is the happiest I've felt since I moved to this crazy town.

###BCG###

BCG's POV

Is it the wink, or the half-smile that's done me in? Is there a rational reason why I'm sitting in a limo with my boss—my freaking hot actor of a boss—and my knees are weak?

This can't be happening to LA Bella. This is happening to BeeBee, who has little self-esteem and is starved for genuine male affection from someone who doesn't share my gene pool.

What is it about this guy? One day and I'm a babbling teenager?

How can I cope for weeks, months even? What will I do when we're on the road, working 'til the wee hours of the night, getting through film shoots and travel, if I can't make one day unscathed?

I need to bolt and run like hell.

No. No way. BeeBee wants to run, but LA Bella will not run. LA Bella is a hard-ass professional, and she will not lose ground. She will pull through this, one day at a time, possibly while she avoids falling for her boss.

It's humanly impossible, though, not to have a soft spot for this guy. He's worked his ass off today without complaint, with not a single impolite answer or a hissy fit. He's done much better than the average corporate lawyer who can get away with dodging phone calls and yelling at his assistant if his knickers are in a twist—Yes, Jasper did that a lot.

He's been witty, polite, informative, humble, ironic, and just downright adorable with every journalist we've encountered today. Even to that skank Miss Lane. My musings are interrupted by his gentle touch on my forearm.

"Your tea, Bella," he says softly.

"Thank you, Edward. You didn't need to do that."

"But you needed it. I want to make your life easier, too, if I can. You have to put up with the likes of Aro Ziegfeld for my sake. A mug of tea is the least I can do." He looks bashful.

"Edward, what's wrong? I know I didn't handle that very well … but …"

He puts a finger up to my lips to silence me. I want to lick that finger. Or bite it. Or both, in that order.

"You were great. I feel like a failure because I let you fight my battle," he finally admits.

I shake my head. This guy is definitely too much of a gentleman to be in this business.

"Edward, again, that was my place and my call. You can't be mean to the press, but I can be mean for you. It's a team effort, if anything," I try to explain, my voice hardly above a whisper.

He smiles, and his green eyes light up like emeralds. He truly is gorgeous. Bella, focus. He's still your boss.

We're back at Angela's office. Emmett's boisterous laugh welcomes us in the foyer. Jess has long gone home, and Ang herself is ready to leave.

"I've come to collect my little sister and take her home. It's her first day of school, after all," he says, enveloping me in a hug.

"Thanks, Em. I'm done in," I say as I try to stifle a yawn.

"That's why I'm cooking tonight."

Emmett bumps fists with Edward. Are they on gangsta brotherhood terms already?

"Edward, man. How's life?"

"Brilliant, Emmett. Your sister's a shark," Edward answers with a mischievous tone in his voice.

I'm witnessing a weird and potentially dangerous conversation, but my batteries are too exhausted for me to be able to cut in.

"That she is. Wait 'til you piss her off though. I still can't find my PlayStation cable. I'm going through GH withdrawals," Emmett whines like the five-year-old brat he is.

Edward shoots me a quizzical look. I mouth the words "Guitar Hero" to him, and he nods back with a mock-serious expression.

"Wanna tag along for dinner, man?" Emmett asks out of the blue. Edward's mouth is agape; mine is drawn into a thin, tense line.

Emmett will never reach the ripe old age of thirty-five because I'll kill him long before his next birthday. I try the very-pissed Bella stink eye, but he doesn't take the hint. Edward does, though, because he looks uncertain.

"Well, I'm not sure … Bella deserves a break from me. I'll just go home … but thanks for offering," Edward stammers through his reply, his unease evident. Emmett is oblivious and unrelenting, though.

"Nonsense, go home to what? Take-out? And pass up the best steak in Venice Beach? You wound me, man!"

Emmett has cornered him—and me, unknowingly. Edward looks apologetically at me, and I nod my silent consent. Emmett is blissfully unaware of this exchange and only hears Edward's answer. "Well, if that's the case, count me in, Em!"

I turn to Angela, ready to grovel for the clusterfuck I caused with Aro's interview, but she beats me to the punch.

"B, can you explain why Aro Ziegfeld called me earlier to discuss his latest interview with wonder boy here?" She weaves a cryptic undertone into her question.

LA Bella is too exhausted to answer this, and BeeBee is left alone to clean up the mess.

"Ang, about that. I'm so sorry I didn't call you but …"

Edward interrupts, wedged between Ang and me, as if he wants to physically protect me from Ang's wrath. "Aro was out of line, and Bella kept him in check. I don't want to hear another word about this. End of story." He doesn't look like a clueless young actor anymore. With his mouth pressed in a hard, thin line, his brow in a stern, menacing expression, and his eyes a sombre, intriguing shade of forest green, he cuts a forbidding figure.

Ang bursts out laughing. Both Edward and I shoot her a very puzzled look, hoping she'll elaborate.

"So you don't want to hear that the asshole called to grovel and apologise for being out of line, and to actually confirm that his feature on Edward will only focus on his latest movie in the most glowing terms?" Angela's megawatt smile could light up the whole city. Apparently, LA Bella did not fuck this up. I let out a very relieved sigh. Edward is speechless. Emmett is laughing.

"Little sis, what the hell did you do to that guy?"

Ang precedes me, yet again. "Guy is a loose definition in this instance, Em. Anyway, our B here must have jumped to the big guns, and kudos to her. I've been itching to give that asshole a taste of his own medicine for some time. Well done, B; that was a good day's work."

I'm still wondering about Aro and his call with Angela. "But how? He looked so arrogant at the interview … I can't imagine …"

"You threatened him with the law. That did the trick. Rumour has it that the guy has a murky past, and it seems he doesn't want it rehashed, either in court or outside. Good call, B. Now go home and celebrate!" And with that, she disappears from the foyer.

Emmett, once again, saves the day when Edward and I can't muster up one cogent word between the two of us.

"Well, lady and gentleman, the hottest grill in Venice Beach awaits! Let's go!"

And this is how, an hour later, the three of us are sitting on the deck of my house while the steaks are marinating to Em's liking.

I'm still in my work clothes even if I'm itching to ditch the power suit and the stilettos and revert back to my true self—sweatpants and run-down Chucks. I can't, though. With Edward here, I still feel like I'm on the clock, plus I'd love to avoid more bonding time between my brother and my boss. Em shakes me out of my musings and decides it for me.

"Are you really going to eat grilled steaks like this?" Em asks, right on to me.

"As in, Em?" I ask, faking indifference.

"As in, dressed like a power secretary, with your killer designer suit and heels. Who are you, and what have you done with my sister? She wears Chucks at home; go get changed. Now."

He's in big brother mode, and for once, I silently thank him for having no brain filter whatsoever.

"Aye-aye, Captain. Be right back. Don't you two gang up on me while I'm away."

Emmett smiles with an innocent "who me?" look as he's handing Edward a beer.

I return ten minutes later to the sound of Mission Impossible thundering from my phone. It's Jasper's ringtone and I pick up, noticing it's an ungodly hour in London. The poor guy is probably still working.

"Jazz, still up? How are you, genius?"

"I'm fine, but this deal is killing me slowly. I can't wait to be done with it. I miss you, traitor!" He sounds exhausted.

I'm listening to the familiar sound of Jasper's weary voice as I walk back to the deck, and I realise I miss him, too, but there's no way I'm going back to my old life.

"Miss you, too, genius. But I'm not coming back, if that's why you're calling," I jibe.

He chuckles. "You know me too well. I was actually calling for another reason. Are you home?"

Now I'm intrigued. "Yes, I am. Em's grilling steaks tonight."

"Bugger, and I'm in London. Eat one for me, will you, BeeBee? Get Emmett and put me on speaker. I need to talk to both of you."

"Sure. Let me get to the deck."

I rejoin Edward and Emmett. Edward meets me with a blinding smile.

"Em, Jasper's on the phone and wants to talk to you, too. Sorry, Edward, this is going to take five minutes tops."

Emmett nods. Edward mouths "no problem" to me as I put Jazz on speaker.

"Jazz, you're on. No funny business; we have a guest tonight," I announce.

"Care to tell me who it is, BeeBee, so I can be polite and say hello?" Jazz quips, sounding curious.

Em, of course, needs to throw in his tuppence.

"It's BeeBee's new boss, Jazz. Edward Cullen. As in, the Edward Cullen."

Edward looks bashful. Once again, he's being drawn into Em's crazy antics.

"And that's why you'll both behave and make this quick and painless for everyone, right?" I chip in, trying to stave off any funny idea of theirs.

"Edward, it's a pleasure to meet you, even if you did steal BeeBee from me," Jasper finally says.

Could have been worse, I guess.

"Well met, Jasper. I may not give her back, though. And I'd say sorry, but I'm not. She saved my arse twice today."

Now it's my turn to look bashful and blush. Edward's smile grows wider. Jasper is speechless, and Edward goes on.

"Jasper, would you be so kind as to give Russell Devlin my regards?" For some strange reason, Edward is enjoying this.

There's a clattering sound at the other end. I decide to rescue Jasper from the rough patch. "Genius, Russ is a good old friend of Edward's dad," I add quickly, for Jazz's benefit.

"Well, that's good to know. He'll be thrilled to know BeeBee is in good hands, though he's not so happy with her right now."

"Why ever would that be, Jasper? What did I do?" I ask, sounding shocked.

"You left him stranded without a golfing partner. He's pissed as hell."

Edward is stunned and mouths to me, "you play golf?" and I nod.

"Jasper, will you get to the point? We have Em's steaks waiting."

"Bugger, don't remind me. And I have hours of negotiations waiting. I wanted to check what your Christmas plans were, if any."

Emmett turns to me asking, "Do we have any Christmas plans yet?"

I shake my head and add a verbal reply for Jasper's benefit. "No, we don't. I'm off the clock since Edward will be back in London with his family." I catch Edward frowning in the corner of my eye.

"Great news, because Rosalie and I would love to fly out and gatecrash your Christmas," Jasper finally announces, an unmistakable thrill in his voice.

Emmett is ecstatic. He hasn't seen Rose in a while. "You're bringing my girl back to me? And you're tagging along? Sounds damn awesome to me, man! When are you flying in?"

"Don't know yet. Just wanted to run the idea past you first. BeeBee?"

"I'll be thrilled to see you both, genius. It'll be great to spend Christmas together; that's a brilliant idea. Email me your flight details."

"I will when my new, inept assistant sorts them out. Are you sure you couldn't …" he trails off, pleading.

I chuckle. "Nice try, genius. I have other flight plans to worry about now."

Edward smiles fondly at me. Emmett shakes his head and chuckles, too.

"Quit harassing my sister, man. We'll leave you to your negotiations. We have steaks to grill." And without even blinking, he clicks my phone shut.

Edward breaks the silence first. "You play golf? You used to play golf with Uncle Russ?"

Emmett chips in totally uninvited. "She has a killer swing, too. Pass me the plates, BeeBee, will you?"

The dinner goes smoothly, and I actually have fun with my big brother and my boss. Edward is as funny and gentlemanly as ever, and Emmett gets along famously with him. I should be worried, but I'm mighty pleased about this.

Emmett's presence is a great buffer between Edward and me, what with his continuous banter at my expense and his countless questions to Edward. This varied chit-chat distracts me from falling prey to any undue thoughts I might entertain about my boss and prevents us both from talking shop.

Apart from the tax issues and the Aro Ziegfeld showdown, there are tons of things I need to discuss with Edward, but they will all have to wait until morning.

Emmett has really outdone himself tonight, going as far as to risk making a cheesecake, which, to be perfectly honest, has been made following my own recipe, in my own kitchen, with my own tools, but still … I could get used to my brother spoiling me rotten like this.

I'm handing out chunks—slices do not exist in Emmett's universe—of said cheesecake when Edward surprises me by talking shop himself.

"Bella, you were saying earlier this morning that you've looked into a few housing options?"

I cut a very crooked chunk of cheesecake, which I set aside from my clumsy self, recover my composure, and give Edward an abridged version of my findings.

"Yep. There are a bunch you might want to look at, selected on the basis of a few common sense criteria and a certain budget range. And, of course, location, location, location …"

Emmett, of course, has to contribute to the conversation in his own special way. "I can only imagine what your common sense criteria might be …"

I can take jibes from my brother at any time, on any topic, barring my work, and he knows it. He's throwing a gauntlet here, precisely leveraged on Edward's presence. The bastard—as if I couldn't find a way out of this anyway.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence. You will kindly remember that your PlayStation cables are still MIA, and if you want visitation rights any time this century, you might want to reconsider that statement."

Edward is watching, utterly diverted. "When she starts mentioning the legal crap, I'd wave the white flag, if I were you. She's got lawyers in her pockets, you know."

They both chuckle. "Man, as if I didn't know. Sorry, sis. I'll behave. For the sake of Guitar Hero."

I smack his arm playfully and return my attention to Edward. "Edward, I think you'd better have a look at those options, and then just go with your gut. You're not buying, true, but we're still looking into a long-term lease. Just pick something you like, somewhere you could feel comfortable in. We can do that tomorrow."

Edward sighs. "Something I like where I'll probably spend one week out of ten. Big deal."

"You're really looking for a new house, Eddie?" Em asks.

"Yes, but don't call me Eddie if you want me to answer you."

"Because you might want to check out right here," Em says with a grin.

"Em, define 'right here', please," I ask, turning to my brother.

"Well, right here, as in two houses down this lane, same gated community."

I raise an eyebrow. This is complete news to me. "Kate and Garrett are moving?"

"Not exactly. Garrett's been offered a post in Hong Kong for the next two or three years, and they don't want to sell the house yet. So they're looking for someone who could opt for a long-term lease as a start."

I scrunch my eyebrows and revert to work mode while I calculate square footage, rooms, and price range in my head. Plus the totally negligible fact that my boss would almost be my next-door neighbour. That alone would be a big no-no for me.

Edward, of course, lights up at the news and starts grilling Emmett about it. The house in itself would be perfect for Edward. Not too big, not too small, perfectly kept, tastefully decorated but not overdone, beach access in a safe, gated community in a crazy but almost celebrity-free neighbourhood. Budget would not be so material. Downside—location, location, location, and the neighbours.

I hope he dislikes the house intensely and acutely. I hope he wants to move to Irvine instead.

My hopes and musings are interrupted by the very unwelcome sound of Werewolves of London. I freeze in place, unsure what to do. Emmett senses my discomfort and lays a soothing hand on my forearm.

"I told you, BeeBee. You don't owe him anything—let the fucking phone ring," Em says sternly, his eyes protectively meeting mine.

I heave a resigned sigh. LA Bella knows he's right and would gladly crush her cherished iPhone on the floor if that would stop Jake from calling. BeeBee, on the other hand, has been talking to Rose in the meantime and has a few bones to pick with Mr Asshole—not that her grip on her emotions is such that she would get out of this ordeal unscathed, all the more factoring in Edward's presence.

I heave another laboured sigh and head back to the living room. At least, if I go completely berserk, Em and Edward will only overhear scraps of the conversation.

"I don't know why you keep tormenting yourself, BeeBee." Em's angry words are the last thing I hear before I answer my phone and insert myself into another cutthroat confrontation with Jake.

Edward got over his freak out; they got over a day of interviews together.

One thing I want to address is a comment I got from multiple people in reviews, that is ... Why is Bella working "only" as legal assistant and then PA to an actor if she had a career in the law and a PhD?
First, the early version of the story never gave unambiguous confirmation that Bella had completed her PhD, nor in which subject or branch of law the PhD was. I clarified this time that she dropped out, so she can't claim it as a professional credential (nor would she want to). Also, she was trying to frighten Aro Ziegfeld into compliance, and as such, not 100% of what she said was necessarily accurate.
Second, a couple of facts about working as a legal assistant. I was that legal assistant for about 10 years and I can tell you a few things about that sort of job:
1-It is fast-paced, varied, and extremely demanding at the level Bella would have been as PA to a "rainmaking" partner like Jasper in a top law firm. Think about the PAs in Suits or The Good Wife and then let me know if that job is a walk in the park.
2-Because it is so fast-paced and high-octane, it can lead to burn out easily after a while. Even being a lawyer leads to burn out. So it's not a given that anyone with education in that sector would want to pursue a job in that sector for life. Follow the bread crumbs here and there to figure out WHY Bella left her job with Jasper and what she hopes to achieve by moving to LA. Spoiler alert: pay attention to her conversations with Emmett and Angela, in particular. There will be a LOT more on this in upcoming chapters, so stick a pin in it.

That said, thank you for all your reviews and comments. Talk to me!

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