Business Class Girl @lamomo
Chapter 16

A/N: Hide the pitchforks, ladies...here's the next installment, from a chatty and chapter-hogging CluelessWard turned MopeWard for the occasion.

The girls with the red pencil are always the awesome trio: Eifeltwr, Black Hale and Peeptoe. They all rock! A big thank you to my sisters in crime Lory and Debbie for still holding my hand.

Bragging Corner: Business Class Girl has been nominated for 4 (and I say 4) Avant Garde Awards: Best Must Read, Best Bella, Best Edward and Best Emmett. Yours truly has also been nominated as Best New Author. Thank you to all the biased people who did it! Voting begins on 20 November - you know what to do, link to the awards site is on my profile!

Shout-outs for this week: KitsuShel, for reading and reviewing each chapter. I am in awe of you! MinaRivera, for making two incredible banners for this story - linkies below. Annie, for coaxing me into promising an outtake of Marcus's POV of the party (sometime in the near future)...

Disclaimer: Not mine. All Stephenie Meyer's genius. Plot is mine, though. I enjoy making them do crazy things.


BUSINESS CLASS GIRL - CHAPTER 16

[December 22/23] – Edward

Flying with a hangover is the worst possible idea anyone could have. Of course, I can't bloody help it and the only moronic ass I can blame on this earth is my own. On top of my throbbing headache, I am also nursing a humongous guilt trip, because last night's events are finally coming back to me in haphazard bits and pieces.

I kissed Bella.

I shoved her against Ang's fridge and kissed her forcefully. What if I bruised her?

I behaved like a drunken caveman and dragged her away from Mr. Tall Dark Stranger.

I stalked her all night hoping she'd come and talk to me and, when she didn't, I hunted her down like prey.

I even groped Bella, my fair Business Class Girl.

I manhandled her like a fumbling teenager on a hormonal rampage.

My slurred words of desire and mad possession probably made no sense to her. Hell, they made hardly any sense to me, assuming I am remembering them correctly.

I am sure I succeeded in ruining her evening.

She kissed you back, Cullen.

My head falls back in defeat against the headrest of my plush first class seat, as I rub my eyes, trying to squeeze some discomfort out of my head. I've never been a great fan of medication, but desperate times call for desperate measures. An Advil or two won't take my guilt away, but they will certainly give me back some approximation of humanity. With a clear mind, I'll probably remember all the things I've wilfully removed from my memory and, with a faithful picture of last night clearer in my head, I'll be free to chastise my clueless, idiotic self for all the right reasons.

After all, I have a ten-hour flight ahead of me, and I must find a constructive pastime until I'm handed over to Little Miss Spanish Inquisition. To do this, I need to be perfectly isolated from the outside world and listening to my iPod for the next six hours or so seems like a good idea.

That is, of course, until 3 Doors Down begin thundering from my earbuds that they, too are 'Landing in London'. Bollocks. Just the right song at the right moment, to get me into the festive mood.

I woke up today in London

As the plane was touching down

And all I could think about was Monday

Maybe I'd be back around

If this keeps me away much longer

I don't know what I would do

You've got to understand it's a hard life,

that I'm going through

And when the night falls in around me

And I don't think I'll make it through

I'll use your light to guide the way

'Cause all I think about is you

All I think about is Bella. How she looked in that dress, her radiant smiles, the easy conversation she kept up with Mr. Tall Dark Stranger, her shivers as I whispered my frantic, jealous words in her ear, her flushed cheeks as I held her to my chest, zeroing in on her face as I kissed her, the unreadable glint in her eyes as she whispered my name, in what I construed as a conflicted plea.

All I can think about is that my reckless, possessive actions have probably screwed up everything good I've built with Bella over the last few weeks. I'm nervous about leaving things hanging like this, but maybe some distance is a good idea right now. This way, I can wallow in relative solitude before Ang rings me to let me know that Bella has quit.

Then a fleeting thought hits me - I haven't heard from anyone since last night. My phone has been conspicuously, mockingly silent all this time. I haven't received a single call, text or email from anyone. Nothing from Angela, or Emmett, or even Alice. Heck, not even my mum has called me. I deliberately leave Bella off of this list. There's no chance in hell she'd want to talk to me right now. She's probably trying to figure out a way to emigrate to a secluded pampas in Argentina before I fly back to LA next month.

At least, she'll have a fun Christmas with Jasper and Rosalie around. I am wondering what they will be doing, when a terribly unwanted visual of Rosalie and Emmett strikes me. I try to shake this one off, but thinking of Jasper and Bella together doesn't help that much, either. They have a history together, and the mere thought that Bella doesn't have to watch her every word and move with Jasper, nor to keep her emotions in check. In short, that she can be herself, that she can be entirely open with him just because he's no longer her boss, but only her closest and oldest friend, makes blind rage bubble within me.

I recall that Mr. Tall Dark Stranger turned out to be an old friend of Bella's, too. I may or may not have dished out some sarcastic and awfully rude comment about this. He may or may not have looked down on me with a tangible hint of snotty disgust.

Bollocks, Cullen. It'll be a miracle if she still wants to talk to you after this stunt.

I try to close my eyes and get some much needed sleep, but rest eludes me and my tormented thoughts keep coming back to her. My beautiful Bella. A vision of purple and cream.

There's one thing that my plastered ass can't have misconstrued, though.

She didn't refuse me. She didn't fight me off. She wanted this, too. She wanted me.

She kissed me.

Shit. This complicates things.

I am supposed to be the clueless idiot, the chap that flies by the seat of his pants, that snatches things away without pondering the consequences, just because I want them.

She is supposed to be the one in control, the rational girl, the one that always looks prepared, adult, professional and put-together. She shouldn't run wild like that. It's unsettling.

But you sure as hell liked walking on her wild side, Cullen.

Last night harbours so much potential for disaster that I don't even want to delve into it. On top of the brainfuck I'm gladly and happily giving myself, I also realise that Emmett walked in on us.

Son of a bitch, he'll never let me live that one down. But first, he'll kick my ass for getting handsy with his baby sister.

A lot sooner than I expect, the captain announces that we're beginning descent into Heathrow. My heart sinks. I've never been so wary and unhappy to be back with my family.

All too soon, the plane lands. That's my cue to go through my well-oiled airport routine, the only minor change to it is the absence of my security detail. I always insist on leaving them behind whenever I go back to England. I don't want to feel under special surveillance at home and, luckily, I tend to steer clear of popular celebrity haunts in London, and this gives me a modicum of peace and quiet.

This doesn't mean I get to dodge the paps at the airport, too, unless I outwit them. That's the reason I'm leaving by a secluded side exit, where my dad is picking me up in a pretty unassuming silver SUV that's been the family car for years.

As soon as I plop down on the front seat beside him, his scrutinising eye lands on me. Carlisle Cullen, MD, RCS, is an eminent paediatrician at the Great Ormond Street Hospital and, much to his family's displeasure, he rarely switches his doctor-mode off.

"Good to see you, son. Might as well tell me why you're moping, though," he salutes me, cutting to the chase.

I may have forgotten to mention that he also likes to mess with me whenever he has the chance.

"Hi, Dad. I'm not moping. Where's Alice?" I try to divert his attention, but fail miserably.

"Sloane Street. You're lucky she's not here, or she'd be merciless with you."

You'll be caught in the crossfire, Cullen.

Sloane Street means one thing only in my sister's vocabulary. Shopping. She's window-shopping, truly-shopping, and checking out the competition at the same time. She's a mostly efficient multi-tasker, and it's no wonder at all that she's struck up a friendship of sorts with Bella.

"So, Edward, what is this I hear from Russell…" my dad begins again.

I know where this is heading, he doesn't need to continue. And clueless old me thought that Alice would be the hammer of the gods. I'm sitting in my dad's car, grilled by said dad about my newly acquired personal assistant. This is the epitome of ridiculous.

How about the fact that you kissed that personal assistant, Cullen? Still ridiculous?

"Hhm…it would appear that… well, that we have some mutual acquaintances," I answer, smiling a little as I think of Bella and her killer swing, and hoping that my cheerfulness will get dad off my case.

My dad smirks and shots me a funny, knowing look. "Are we talking about the same mutual acquaintances that you take out on lunch dates, son?"

Bollocks. Are those fucking pics coming back to bite me in the ass for decades to come? I try to ignore the question, looking out of the window like a sulking child.

"Son, you know this is going to get tough when you face your mother and your sister. Better spill the beans with me and hope for some male solidarity now, rather than beg when you're facing the Inquisition later."

I bang my head on the window. This is my capitulation.

"Her name is Bella, Dad, and she's my personal assistant. She used to work for Uncle Russell, and she's been his golfing partner for years. She's….well…she's…special. That's all."

My father's sly smile is unwavering. He knows me too well, and the doctor in him detects every little shift in my demeanour as I mention Bella. That's a dead give-away, but what can I do? That's what she does to me, even with an ocean and a continent in between us.

"Special…" he finally echoes, his tone speculative. "That's the same expression Russell used. And you know what?"

His unflappable smirk is making me uneasy. My dad has something up his sleeve. I raise an eyebrow, silently questioning him.

"I might have met her before…" he says, casually, as if this wasn't some monumental piece of news to me. This dignified physician, with the polished look of a character from a Jane Austen drawing room, is a gossipmonger in disguise, and is as ruthless as Miss Bingley when it comes to juicy information. He's on to me, and is luring me in with his own enticing details. There's no use wondering where Alice got it from. DNA is a bitch.

"You met Bella? When? How?" There – hook, line and sinker. My word vomit has finally given me away. I'm a goner. Dad smirks again. I might hate him just a little if he doesn't give up some interesting details soon.

"You know, Russ's firm does a lot of pro bono work…"

I nod. Six weeks with Bella and her law-speak have introduced me to some of the niceties of the legal arena, and now I actually know what pro bono work is. "For the hospital?"

"Not just for us, for a number of institutions in the country. White Devlin & Hale take a lot of pride in their pro bono work, and invest a good deal of time and money into this. Once a year, the firm throws a benefit gala for all those institutions and invites celebs, petty nobility and the like. I get invites for the gala every year."

"I thought you hated those things…?" My dad loves his job, but doesn't particularly relish the ass-kissing that might go with some aspects of being in charge of a publicly-run, under-funded but widely renowned institution.

"As a general rule, I do…but this is Russell's firm. He's my closest friend, and his firm has done a number of good turns to the hospital. We've saved hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees over the years thanks to the work they've done for us. And of course, it's good for the hospital's public image, so it's a necessary evil. So yes, I religiously attend the gala every year."

"Dad, I'm lost. How does Bella relate to all this?"

"You know, for a pretty smart kid, you're remarkably slow sometimes."

"I still have to face Alice and Mum. Show a bloke some mercy?" I'm getting antsy. What the hell is my father hiding from me?

"Well, this year's gala was at the V&A last May. Let me tell you, those lawyers know how to throw a party."

"V&A, as in Victoria & Albert Museum? That must have been some party…"

He nods, before launching on his explanation.

"And of course I complimented Russell on the perfect organisation, the scenic venue, the tasteful catering…and in turn, he introduced me to the 'genius behind it all' as he put it."

I sigh with longing, and my chest puffs up with pride at the same time. This has Bella's trademark written all over it.

"Let me guess, the genius was Bella?" I ask, proud as a peacock, and not a little smug. Take that, Dad. I might be slow on the uptake, but slow and sure wins the race.

Carlisle smiles unevenly at me, a mischievous glint in his eyes. At times like these, he looks like an older copy of yours truly, minus the bronze hair I got from my mother. The dishevelled look I perfected on my own.

"Yes, son, and she was there, in all her glory. I daresay, a most remarkable young lady. Russell is very fond of her. He also said she's like a daughter to him."

Did you just growl at your dad, Cullen?

"Bella speaks very fondly of Uncle Russell, too." I answer, keeping my other comments to myself.

"It looks like you two get on really well. I'm happy for you." I don't like the sudden turn of this conversation. Is my father implying something? Has Alice been talking behind my back?

"There's nothing to be happy about, Dad. We just work well together," I quip, my tone clipped and defensive.

"And the lunch dates? You know your mother is going to grill you about it. You kept your mouth shut with her and that made her highly suspicious. I take it this is the same Bella that Alice has been gushing about since she came home?"

I merely have the strength to nod. Not even through the front door, and my family is ganging up on me. I'm Bella-less on the other side of the world. She's left me unprotected to face the enemy and I don't know how to extricate myself from my very inquisitive family.

"Dad, can we just…can we just not talk about this? I'm exhausted and I'm not in the mood for small talk." I finally retort, my tone sullen and final.

"Which means that you have a shit-ton of things to hide, and you don't really appreciate me poking my parental nose into them. Fine, but don't say I didn't warn you."

The rest of the long drive home continues quite uneventfully until we pull up in front of my parents' house. Funny. I thought of this red brick three-storey as 'home' till a few months ago, and now it's my parents' house. I'm a guest here, my home is in Venice Beach.

I wonder what my favourite neighbour back home is doing, but I have no time to dwell on these happy thoughts. Before I can even blink, I am engulfed by four small but freakishly strong arms.

"Edward! Finally!"

"Sweetie! Let your mum look at you!"

Here are Esme and Alice Cullen, the two women who completely ruled my world and had me wrapped around their little fingers, until my Business Class Girl came along. If they only knew. I hug them back, and for a passing moment I am happy to be here, with them.

They sense that something's amiss, though, as soon as I disentangle myself from them to head upstairs to my old room.

"Sweetie, what's wrong?"

"Edward, what did you do?"

Mum is worried, Alice is accusing. Mum tries giving Alice the stink eye, but Alice does not relent. She is glaring at me, her arms on her hips, and she's silently demanding an explanation. My mum is almost as shrewd as my dad, and she immediately cuts to the chase, but is way more subtle about it. She never relinquishes her motherly role, even when she's fishing for information.

"Are you feeling unwell, sweetie? Did you have a bad flight?"

With a one-armed hug, I kiss her cheek and smile weakly at her. "No, Mum. I'm just very tired. Jet lag."

She nods, with an almost imperceptible sidelong glance at Alice. Damn women and their secret sisterhood signals. Alice finally seems to soften and says, "I've got something for you. Come find me when you feel like some company."

I merely nod again and disappear upstairs, for some much needed…moping. Instead, I actually fall asleep before long, oblivious to all other thoughts of self-deprecation and second-guessing.

"Edward! Edward! It's time!"

"Bella?" Even in sleep, her name is the only coherent thought I can muster. I rub my eyes and try to get back on my feet. Finally, I realise I'm not in LA. I'm in London, in my childhood room, and the voice that troubled my sleep is Alice's, and sadly, not Bella's.

"Are you awake now?" she says, impatiently. Impatience is Alice's middle name.

"No, go away, evil backstabbing pixie…"

She clicks her tongue disapprovingly and pokes a tiny, elegantly lacquered finger into my jet-lagged chest.

"You, Edward Cullen, are the most undeserving brother that ever walked this earth."

I quirk a lazy eyebrow at her, and try sarcasm as a last resort weapon. I will lose this battle anyway, but I fully intend to go down in style.

"Should I be flying instead?"

Alice swats my arm with unexpected force. "You're a lousy, grumpy, unstylish heap of rags. You know that, right?"

I shudder. Alice has just unleashed on me her own personal equivalent of a string of unadulterated profanities. Being unstylish is a capital offence in her world, punishable with social death by non-designer, mismatched, last year's clothing. In short, slow and painful.

I plop back down on the bed again. I sense this is going to be a longish conversation, I might get comfortable anyway. Leaning on my elbows, I throw a sheepish glance at my sister.

"You said…you said you had something for me?"

"Did I mention 'undeserving'?" she asks, in a mock-disdained tone, but the hint of a smile on her face. Alice looks like a miniature porcelain doll, petite and light like a ballerina. Here I am, turning into a sap, praising my sister's beauty like a minstrel from times bygone. All because I miss Bella, and Alice's perfectly sweet features remind me of Bella's own perfection, now unattainable to yours truly, the King of Clusterfuck from CluelessTown.

I scratch my head pensively, and realise that I haven't answered Alice's question, as rhetorical as it could be. "I believe you did. Of course, you are right. I'm most undeserving right now. But take pity on me, please?"

She smiles playfully at me and throws me a pink metallic contraption. It's her blackberry. Only Alice would have a pink blackberry.

"What am I to do with your 'crackberry', Alice?"

She huffs, and her answer is enunciated with pedantic patience. "Pull up text messages. Read the last one."

I do as she says, scrolling the menus till I find the incriminated text. I don't need to see the sender's name, my heart knows it before my head can register it.

*Edward landed and home all right? BeeBee*

I close my eyes, clutching Alice's blackberry like a lifeline. She texted Alice. About me. She asked about me.

I risk a peek at Alice's answering text.

*Moping in his room, but quite all right. A*

"Thank you, Alice. I know you didn't have to do this."

"True. But your face back there scared me a little, Eddiekins. What happened?"

My brow furrows in frustration as I toss the pink offending device into Alice's hands.

"I got completely wasted at Angela's party."

Alice eyes me sceptically. She doesn't get this or, at least, has no way to fathom the possible ramifications of my drinking habits on this particular occasion.

"And where's the news in this?"

"Alice, remind me never to walk in on you while a random guy is snogging the living daylights out of you. That would be something from which I might never recover."

Alice's hazel eyes elegantly bulge out of their sockets. A strangled, high-pitched shriek is her laconic answer to my shocking comment. "What? WHAT?"

"Please, don't make me say that again. Please, tell me your ears are functioning properly and you're just trying to figure how to have me committed."

Alice's features freeze and then she covers her mouth with both her hands. For a split second, I don't know whether she's going to scream bloody murder or…

She's laughing. My sister is crying with laughter at my own sodding misery.

"Thanks for your undying support, Alice…" I trail off, and then a metaphorical light bulb flashes in my brain. I suddenly see this exchange from Alice's perspective.

I have to admit that my abrupt summary of the evening, without any context, may sound hilarious to the third party observer. Too bad the third party is my sister, though. Otherwise, I'd be laughing my arse off right along with her.

Alice finally understands my plight and says, "Edward, I'm sorry. I shouldn't be making fun of you but…I'm not sure I understand…Or am I? Oh my god. Did you really? And she…? And he…? And what did you?"

"ALICE! One fucking question at a time!" I huff, unable to keep up with her.

"Do you want the short or long version?" I ask, even if I already know the answer.

"I want details, Edward Anthony. Like, yesterday. Out with it, now."

Bossy Alice is back, and I have only one way of fending her off.

"Why torment me? She'll tell you everything anyway, and you'll know fair and square that I screwed up. Stop harassing your older brother. I claim seniority rights."

"I'm waiting."

I heave a resigned sigh and try to concoct a very short, much less graphic version of last night's events.

"I screwed up, for good."

Alice shakes her head, which means that she's actually letting this one slide.

"I really wish you'd give yourself more credit sometimes, Edward. I mean it. Come downstairs now, Mum said that dinner's ready, and that was about an hour ago. No excuses."

I nod and heave myself off the bed. Alice is off my case - for how long, I have no way of knowing. She'll come back to her merciless questioning whenever I least expect it.

Dinner with my family turns out to be an uncharacteristically quiet affair. They're all walking on eggshells around me and, while it's perfectly normal for me to claim jet lag to hide my shame, I am also aware that they've been sharing information. They must know something's the matter.

There's idle chatter going on around me, news about Mum's charity projects and about Dad's fellow doctors and friends, about Uncle Russell and about Alice's doings in Milan. No news about me, because I don't pitch any into the conversation. I poke my food around, even if mum has gone to an awful lot of trouble to cook my favourites tonight.

Mum's hand covers mine on the table. "Edward, sweetie, we are so happy you're back home."

Her affectionate, sincere remark throws down all my walls. I'm being a spoiled, ungrateful brat. I would kick my own ass, if I could. I turn my mum's hand in mine and squeeze it.

"I'm happy to be home too, Mum."

My vacant eyes don't deceive her, though. "But you'd rather be somewhere else, right?"

I open and close my mouth twice, my answer hesitant and slow. I want to spare them the gory details, but I don't want to deceive my family, either.

"I just…left some unfinished business in LA, Mum. I'm not sure what I'll find when I go back."

"Anything likely to fester, son?" comments my father, interjecting his beloved medical jargon into dinnertime talk.

"I'm afraid so."

In the corner of my eye, I see Alice nodding again at my mum. These two are up to no good, I swear.

"Edward, I thought I'd give you an advance Christmas present," says Alice, back to her usual cheerful self.

"Uh?" My answer is the epitome of eloquence. Good riddance to me, because little talking is usually required around Alice.

She's flashing a blue glittered envelope in front of my weary eyes.

"Open it, it's your present. I'm not sure you're quite entitled to it, though."

"Being undeserving and all…"

"Something like that, Eddiekins, something like that…" she replies, a smile in her voice.

The envelope reveals a printout of an airline ticket. A plane ride for passengers Alice and Edward Cullen, from London Heathrow to LAX. Date: 27 December.

In four days. Alice wants to fly back to LA with me in four days. Bollocks, she planned this shit. She must have planned this way back, because getting flights at Christmas from anywhere to everywhere is the worst travelling nightmare you can imagine.

Clueless old me actually knows this because Bella has been telling Emmett again and again that they're lucky they even got flights for Jasper and Rosalie, with outrageously high fares even for business class.

"Alice, what does this mean?" I ask, flashing the printout in front of her grinning face.

"It means I'm flying back to LA with you," she quips, flatly, as if that's the simplest thing in the world.

"Why?"

"Edward, I swear…for a smart guy…"

"I'm slow on the uptake, I get it. Now revel in your own brilliance and humour my pedantic pace. Why are we flying back to LA right after Boxing Day? I'm supposed to stay here till the end of January, you're totally screwing up my schedule, Alice!"

The more I say, the more my voice rises in disdain. How could Alice do this to me? Get me back to LA? Force me to see Bella? Now that I've screwed up? Does she want me dead?

What if she wanted to surprise you, Cullen?

"Because I want to meet Bella, and that's exactly what we're going to do. You're flying me back to LA so that I can see her. Plain and simple."

You're so screwed, Cullen.

Resistance against my sister is futile. On the upside, I get to see my Business Class Girl again much earlier than planned. I can't help the goofy grin that instantly knocks away all residues of my moping self.

"Well, Merry Christmas to me, I guess?"

Alice flashes me her blinding smile. She knows she's won.

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Visuals for Esme and Carlisle are on my profile. See you next week!

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