Business Class Girl @lamomo
Chapter 17

A/N: Hide the pitchforks, ladies...here I am...partially unbeta'd this time, because my gals are very busy...but they still rock! Who? The awesome trio: Eifeltwr, Black Hale and Peeptoe!

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 for the first round closes on December 4 - you know what to do, link to the awards site is on my profile!

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


BUSINESS CLASS GIRL - CHAPTER 17

[December 26/27] – BCG's POV

When Jasper said they'd come and gatecrash our Christmas, I was glad. I really was. I'd see Rosalie again, and I'd also see Jasper outside his pouting, former boss attitude that always seemed to say 'you left me high and dry to pursue your unlikely dreams of glory'.

Now that they've been here for two days, my feelings are conflicted. Right on cue, Rosalie and Emmett have spent most of their time cooped up in Emmett's room, busy with their own Christmas celebrations.

This has left me pretty much to Jasper's mercy, with ups and downs. On one hand, I am still happy to see him again – I've had some unadulterated, irresponsible fun with him in the last two days, and I can't but be grateful for that. On the other hand, Jasper reads my moods like an open book, and he knows something's bugging me.

He knows me so well that he completely forgoes interrogations of any kind, because he's damn sure that I will go look for him, once I can't keep it all bottled up any more and I need a patient ear for my ranting.

I kissed Edward.

I let him kiss me and feel me up in the middle of Angela's kitchen.

The thought assaults me unbidden, as it has often done in the last few days. I have no control over these fleeting images that run though my brain like flashing lights from a firework display.

Fireworks – a most appropriate analogy. I saw and felt fireworks when he touched me. I felt a connection that ran deep through my skin, down to my marrow, leaving a trail of fire and lust in its wake. Even now, I can't concentrate on anything around me whenever memories of fireworks and blazing green eyes cloud my judgment.

I am lounging in the den, trying to play Guitar Hero with Jasper. My fingers go over the plastic keys on autopilot, because I've got this song memorised, but I'm not putting up a great fight. I'd normally knock him out after a few bars, and now he's practically completed the song without hardly a hitch.

Damn him, he's even doing better than me. I can't let him beat me on Pearl Jam, can I?

My brow furrows in concentration, as I let the sounds possess me and my fingers. When the rhythm owns me, I let my ears and fingers do the work for me, and if I can shut my brain out for good, it does the trick. For a few bars, I overtake him, but then my brain runs headlong into a not-so-random string of ideas, just by mere association…

Music…guitar…fingers…Edward's fingers playing the guitar…his long, sinewy fingers around my face…tucking a strand of hair behind my ear…

I'm a goner. It's official. Jasper has just kicked my arse at Guitar Hero – on Even Flow, no less – and is doing a goofy victory dance around the couch. Disgusted with myself, I throw my plastic replica of John Lennon's black 325 Rickenbacker guitar down on the floor. Visuals of Edward and Guitar Hero definitely don't work so well for me.

Jasper stops his victory dance mid-stride, right in front of me, his hazel eyes level with mine.

"BeeBee, you completely spaced out for a minute there. What's wrong with you? You let me win on a Pearl Jam song? Has the world gone completely bonkers?"

I don't know what to say. I don't even have the courage to truly look him in the eye, because I'm afraid of my own reactions. I decide to go with complete honesty.

"I've gone completely bonkers, Genius, that's the problem."

He disentangles himself from the guitar strap and plops down on the couch beside me, his left arm draped over my shoulders.

"That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I think I need more detail than that. Care to enlighten me?"

I gather my legs up on the couch and hug my knees, leaning my head to the side to look at Jasper, who is patiently waiting for an answer. When that answer fails to materialise, he goes on, as if he had an agenda of his own.

"You've not been yourself since we arrived on Christmas Eve. I've been wondering what's eating at you, and I've waited just because I hoped you'd actually grow a pair and talk to me. I see that I will need to coax this out of you like in the olden days."

"Speaking of which, you'll never guess who showed up at Angela's party…"

Will my diversion work? Certainly not, but it buys me some time while I'm figuring out what to say to him. Jasper raises an eyebrow, but motions for me to answer.

"Sir…"

"Marcus? As in, our Sir Marcus Goldsmith?" Jasper's answer is so quick that I don't even get to finish my announcement.

"The very one, looking as dapper as ever."

Jasper's eyes narrow to slits, and his speculative look betrays him. While he's genuinely interested in learning more about Marcus's reappearance – at Angela's bash, no less – he's also trying to decide whether this is what got my knickers in a twist, or just my shameless sidetracking.

"What was he doing at Angela's party?"

"He was one of the two guys I was supposed to meet, remember, from two different publishing houses? Well, it turns out that Marcus read my manuscript without knowing it was mine, and now his company is looking into publishing it."

"His company?" asks Jasper, his protective, cautious, half-lawyer, half-best friend instincts kicking in.

"His company, LB Books, based in New York. He's the Commissioning Editor, but he doesn't own it. Let's say he's a bigwig, and he got this post because he's bloody good at what he does. But we already knew that, right?"

Jasper stands up all of a sudden, gesturing for me to bear with him for a second. He returns, two beers in his hand.

"I figured we'd need sustenance for this kind of conversation," he says, handing one to me.

"Good thinking, Genius."

"So you say he didn't know the manuscript was yours? And you believe him?"

I shoot him a very dirty look. "Jasper, looking out for me is one thing, badmouthing a lifelong friend of yours is another."

He heaves a deep sigh. "All right, that was…unfair of me. If you believe him, I do. But how?"

"Manuscripts are codenamed, no last names anywhere. Even if this system can fail here and there, if anyone blabs, his face when he saw me settled the matter for me. He was surprised, genuinely surprised to meet me. So yes, I believe him. Marcus is not an issue here, however."

"Who is, then? Don't think your diversion techniques can outwit me much longer, BeeBee. I want to know what got you in a strop."

I pluck at an inexistent loose thread in my sweater to avoid his keen gaze.

"I kind of…well…I followed your advice, Jasper, but I'm not sure it worked so well."

I close my eyes. The only thing I remember now is Edward storming out of Angela's kitchen after he kissed me, after Emmett walked in on us.

I got cockblocked by my own brother, who hasn't said a single word about this for days. This is strange, and disturbing. I would have expected a good ribbing from Emmett. Maybe he didn't joke about it because he disapproves. Maybe he feels I'm being unprofessional. Maybe he wants to stay as much out of this as possible because Edward is also a client of his.

Jasper is silent for a long minute.

"I know I usually bestow good advice to the masses, BeeBee, but just to be absolutely sure about this…Are we talking about…?"

There. Jasper can't even say Edward's name out loud which, by the way, is a fortunate occurrence, because if he did, I'd probably lose my cool and blurt out everything in some completely haphazard, confused and unintelligible way.

"Edward, his name is Edward. And yes, we're talking about him."

Jasper taps his elegant index finger on his nose, in a slightly sarcastic, but pensive gesture.

"A disturbance in the force I feel, young Padawan."

I huff in annoyance. "Don't go all Yoda on me, Genius. I can beat you at Star Wars quotes any day."

"You said the same for Guitar Hero…"

"That's a low blow even for you. You profited from my temporary musical malfunction, that's all."

He takes a long swig of his beer and slams the empty bottle on the coffee table. "This American stuff, I can't fathom how you can drink this, for the life of me. I miss my London Pride."

Jasper is anal-retentive, obsessive-compulsive, even when it comes to beer. He has little patience for American bottled beers, but he has to put up with Beck's only because it's the only thing that Emmett really enjoys.

"Edward kissed me." I blurt it out, without thinking. Rip off the plaster, just like that – one second of excruciating pain, and then it's over.

Jasper coughs, nearly choking on his beer. "Bloody hell, BeeBee! You have no mercy on me!"

"Emmett walked in on us in Angela's kitchen."

Jasper is still coughing. "Bloody hell, Emmett has no mercy on me either! And now what?"

I take one long, last swig of my own beer and stretch out my limbs. "Now nothing. Emmett had no idea we were there, much less what we were at, and just barged in, pure Emmett style. Edward ran like a bat out of hell."

"He's back in London now, right?"

I nod, unable to vent out my other thoughts and questions.

"When is he due back? Have you talked to him since?"

"End of January. Of course not." Not monosyllabic, but very nearly.

"Damn, BeeBee, give me something to work on here. Why haven't you been talking to him?"

"First, he's on holiday – I don't want to pester him in any way. Second, he was…pretty out of it that night – what if he woke up the next day and regretted it? No, thanks. I don't want to go through that. Better to…"

"Keep over-thinking, second-guessing yourself, hiding your head in the sand? Pretty tedious, complicated hobby for the holidays, if you ask me." Jasper quips, effectively putting an end to this miserable discussion. He disagrees with me, and it couldn't be any plainer if he flashed a big neon sign over his head.

Then, stretching his legs to get back on his feet, he stares at me with a serious, concerned expression in his eyes.

"BeeBee, only you can decide what to do with this but…don't let something good pass you by because of your insecurities. I don't think you see yourself clearly all the time, but sometimes the real you shines through. I think the real BeeBee shines through more often than not, when this guy is around. Don't ask me how I know, I just do. It's the look in your eyes, or the smile in your voice when you talk about him. Give this a shot, for me, will you?"

I nod again, utterly floored by Jasper's honest and heartfelt words. I'm honoured to have such a friend, who consistently refrains from sugar-coating things to me. He is bluntly honest, but never unfeeling.

He sees right through me, with only scanty details to work on. No wonder he's an exceptional lawyer, he has some outstanding analysis skills. He's also perfectly right. I want something with Edward, but I'm scared shitless, and all the implications and complications are the best excuse ever for me to walk away, as yet unscathed.

I don't think I can run away from this indefinitely. I don't think I even want to.

Jasper's voice shakes me from my musings.

"Care to feed your best friend? It's getting late and I'm sort of starved."

I get back on my feet and follow him upstairs, back into the kitchen. As I scan the contents of the fridge for some leftovers that could be suitable candidates for dinner, I call over my shoulder. "Do you think we should wait for Em and Rose?"

"Not worth the effort. They'll resurface, eventually, but I think they're old enough to fend for themselves, right?"

"Got it, Genius. Lasagna still good for you?"

"I could eat your lasagna till Doomsday, but I think I'll need some dessert too," he adds, with an evil glint in his eye. Jasper has a terrible sweet tooth. I heave a dramatic sigh, just for show. I know what he wants.

As the lasagna heats up in the oven, I cut two generous slices of pandoro and whip up some more mascarpone cream. Jasper is salivating like a kid locked up in the storeroom of Honeyduke's for a fortnight.

The typically Italian, fluffy star-shaped Christmas cake has an average content in butter and sugar that could cause diabetes on sight. Jasper has no such ailments and is madly fond of this delicacy, that I can 'bestow on the masses' each Christmas thanks to my mum's packages of holiday goodies. The mascarpone cream is just an added perk, a thick, silky concoction that coats the warm slices of pandoro making them an even worse threat to anyone's cholesterol rates. Jasper, tall and lean, couldn't care less about calories nor cholesterol, and indulges his Epicurean nature without restraint. I actually need to stop him from finishing it all up, just because someone else in this house is fond of it almost as much as he is – me.

"BeeBee, this is pure bliss," he almost moans, finishing up his third slice.

It's past eleven, and neither Emmett nor Rosalie have shown up for dinner. I wonder how Jasper is going to sleep, with the sugar high brought on by his liberal consumption of pandoro. I'm not nearly sleepy myself, either, and I've had only one slice (substantially thinner than any of his, I might add).

"Jasper, neither of us is likely to be asleep soon. Care to give Guitar Hero another go?"

He eagerly licks some mascarpone off his fingers and nods enthusiastically.

When we're settled back in the den, he rubs his hands and gets down to business. "My rules now. I say each of us picks the songs the other is going to play, and the level."

I huff, mildly confused. This way of playing doesn't make any sense to a seasoned Guitar Hero addict like me. It's plain to see there's no equal base of comparison there. How do you know who did best?

"Jasper, ever heard of the simple concept of benchmark? Because your idea's very challenging, but it certainly lacks benchmark. Who wins?"

It's Jasper's turn to huff. His next words are enunciated with pedantic calm, with the same tone he uses in stormy negotiations. "It's not for the sake of winning. It's for the sake of the challenge itself."

"I'm not following you."

"Oh come on, you of all people should get this. We're both competitive, right? If you want to do better than me, and you pick the songs I'm playing, you're bound to choose the ones I'm totally crap at. I'll do the same. Like this, we're on an even footing, and we'll probably end up playing songs we've never looked at twice. No points this time, just playing. Let's see what you've got there, BeeBee."

I nod – there's some merit in what he says, for it's true that I always tend to stick to the same, limited range of songs. The ones I like, and the ones I own. Since I lost the earlier set, I get to choose his songs first. Graciously, Jasper doesn't comment on my selection, and gets his mindset into the game.

He's not completely helpless, but he's not familiar with the songs and, like all real life guitar players, he has a hard time separating real guitar chords and fictitious ones. Guitar players always tend to suck at Guitar Hero, whilst the musically impaired like me thrive without a hitch, as long as they have a knack for rhythm and some hand-eye coordination skills.

Nonetheless, Jasper is sweating by the end of the third song. He's stayed afloat, but he can do much better than this. He gives me a stink eye that I might remember for a long time.

"Have I killed one of your puppies in a former life? Killing in the Name, Bulls on Parade and Monkey Wrench? Fuck you very much!"

"Challenge, remember? Your turn to hit me now. Do your worst."

"All right, let's see how you handle this. Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down, Hurts So Good by John Mellencamp, and You and Me by Attack Attack! The stage is yours."

Bollocks. Jasper is a subtle arsehole. He's not playing for the sake of it, he's sending me a covert message. I know those godforsaken songs, pretty well even. The lyrics tell me that I'm dead right. Jasper is sending me subliminal messages via Guitar Hero.

What has the world come to? I think, as I'm finger-picking my way through You and Me. This is where I mentally throw down the gauntlet, but I can't do this, it's a matter of principle. I opt to keep playing instead. Jasper's lowest and subtlest blow is in the first verse of the song.

Far too long now I have been waiting

Waiting for something just to happen

Far too long now I have been thinking

I've been thinking you've got the answer to...

...The question is do you feel like you're letting go?

The question is do you feel like you've lost control?

Somehow, I get to the end. Jasper is yawning in his corner of the couch.

"Genius, I think we'd best call it a night," I say, nudging him with my plastic Rickenbacker.

"What?" he yawns again, stretching his legs.

"Sleep, Jasper. Bed, upstairs."

We both trudge upstairs and grumble some semblance of a 'goodnight' before each of us disappears in our respective rooms. No embarrassing signs of Emmett's or Rosalie's presence anywhere. At least they've been considerate enough to keep their decibels in check.

The next morning, I wake up abruptly to the sound of my blackberry thundering with the chipper chorus of 'Uptown Girl'. With my eyes still shut, I fumble on the nightstand till I find my phone and, somehow, I blindly manage to tap the correct keys and answer the call.

"Alice? What time is it?" I ask, sitting up in my bed, and slowly becoming aware of the ungodly time difference. I risk a glance at the clock. It's nearly noon in LA, which means it must be nearly 8pm in London.

Blimey, I overslept!

I quickly recover, though. I'm on holiday, who cares if I slept through a gazillion alarms?

"Never mind the time! Are you home?" asks Alice, cutting to the chase.

"Alice, I'm so at home that I'm still in bed." I hear muffled voices in the distance, she must be with someone.

"Well, don't move, because you're getting an important delivery this morning," she answers cryptically, almost stifling one of her epic squeals.

"Can I get out of bed, at least? I might need nourishment at some point, you know?"

"Of course, just…don't leave the house."

There's no point in contradicting Alice. I agree to her crazy instructions and quickly disconnect the phone.

I pad downstairs to the kitchen, barefoot and with my hair in a messy bun, to find Jasper already up and about, with a stack of newspapers spread out on the kitchen island. He has occupied my kitchen with his business papers. My kitchen now speaks the language of Moody's and Fitch's ratings, and my morning mug of tea is in close proximity with the Financial Times.

"Morning, Genius."

"Morning, Sleeping Beauty. I thought you'd never show up this morning," he quips, quite cheerful.

"Well, someone solved the problem for you," I quip, still yawning.

Jasper quirks an eyebrow over the rim of his own mug of tea.

"I got the strangest phone call from Alice. Not that her other phone calls could be labelled as ordinary, but still…"

I open several cabinet doors and drawers at random, with the typical lack of purpose I have on those mornings when I'd rather stayed in bed. Finally, my hand reaches for the fridge door. Sometimes, X does mark the spot. I've found what I was looking for (raspberry jam) and can get back to the serious business of preparing my breakfast.

"Alice would be?" asks Jasper, who isn't up to speed with the rest of Edward's family tree.

"She's Edward's sister. We're sort of…friends, I would say. She's a pocket firecracker of a girl, but I'm fond of her."

"What made this phone call stranger than the rest?"

I'm about to answer Jasper's question when we hear two sets of feet padding down the wooden staircase. Emmett and Rosalie have finally come up for air.

"Look at you! You're alive!" My snarky comment leaves my burly brother and my BFF totally unfazed, as they both sit down at the kitchen island, on a serious hunt for some much needed sustenance.

The kitchen is suddenly crowded, with the four of us now assembled around the island. Two mugs of earl grey and two cups of coffee. Four pints of orange juice (yes, Emmett drinks it by the pint). A stack of toast and pancakes. Jasper's lone but substantial slice of pandoro. Jasper's stack of newspapers. My own stack of notes and mail to go through, along with my planner and my blackberry. Emmett's ever-present copy of Sports Illustrated. Rosalie's copy of Vogue and something that looks dangerously like an Information Memorandum. I hope she doesn't scatter confidential information around my house.

We pass around jars of jam, the sugar bowl, the milk carton and a whole series of breakfast paraphernalia over our criss-cross, endless late morning chatter. We've been in the same house together for three days now, but it looks like it's the first all-round, civilised talk we're having. There's a lot of catching up to do.

"Rose, any news of upcoming partnerships, this year?" I ask, eager to know about her future prospects. She's been working very hard towards that goal in the last three years, even sacrificing her relationship with Emmett, and the possibility to move in together, because she wanted to achieve a stronger foothold within her firm before thinking of her 'personal issues', as she calls them.

"They might make room for a couple, but it all depends on what sort of business case the candidates will come up with. Mine's as good as any. Someone's willing to cut corners, though."

Emmett's face darkens perceptibly. "What do you mean by cutting corners?"

"Well, if you agree to move to another office, they might reconsider, even if your business case is crap. Some assholes are thinking this could be a way of killing two birds with one stone."

"Rosalie, this is not the time. Hold your tongue, for heaven's sake." Jasper's voice is ice cold.

"But Jazz…" Rosalie challenges him, but to no avail.

"You will do as I say. It's a family holiday. Give it a rest."

Rosalie shuts up, with a look of haughty disdain on her face. This isn't over, and sure as hell I want to know what she meant with all that but, with the shittiest timing in the world, my words are drowned by the sound of the doorbell.

"Who the fuck would that be?" Leave it to Emmett to voice his concerns with his customary courtly manners.

"I'm…I'm kinda expecting a delivery, I'll go get this."

When I open the door, sure as hell, there's a Fed-Ex delivery guy with a gigantic, flat and square parcel and a delivery slip for me to sign.

"Delivery for Miss Isabella Marie Swan?" he asks, handing me the receipt.

"That would be me, thank you," I reply, snatching a pen to sign the receipt from a bowl in the hallway where Emmett dumps odds and ends from his pants pockets.

The guy nods and thanks me, and is gone in a flash. I'm sizing up the parcel, considering whether I need help in taking this inside, and my questioning eye falls on the delivery labels on it. A neat, classy label says 'Giorgio Armani S.p.A.' and the delivery address is etched in a messy scrawl that I would recognise everywhere as my mother's handwriting.

This must be her Christmas present which, by some stroke of luck, has only been delivered two days late this year. She has no grasp on time and calendars, and probably waited to courier this aberration until the very last minute. I'm still trying to figure out how to get this inside, when Emmett appears.

"Need help with that, Hot Stuff?"

"That'd be nice, Em. I think this parcel is actually taller than I am."

He snickers. "Let me guess, it's from Renee, right?" I nod, pushing the parcel inside.

He shakes his head, still chuckling. "Only Renee would send a Christmas present after Christmas."

"The timing is just typical, Em. I'm more worried about the size of this thing."

Emmett effortlessly moves it inside, and I'm suddenly hit by an epiphany. Alice warned me about a delivery this morning, and here is my mom's present. I am sure, by now, that they work together, but the fact that Alice might know what this is about is…unsettling.

I shake my head, thinking that I know better than putting two and two together like this, without clues, without evidence. As I'm finally shutting the door behind my back, the doorbell rings yet again.

"BeeBee, are you having anything else delivered this morning?" asks Em, still snickering as he places Renee's parcel against the hallway wall.

"Not that I know of, Em. I'll get this, go finish your breakfast."

He pads back to the kitchen and I turn to open the door once again.

I don't even have the time to say 'hello' and to process my surroundings, that two small, but freakishly strong arms engulf me. I'm being almost hurled to the floor by a tiny ball of energy that is donning Jackie-O sunglasses in December, a white Hermès scarf, a black Armani handbag and smells like Giorgio Armani Diamonds. Now is definitely the time to put two and two together, even if reason defies it.

What was Sherlock Holmes's motto? 'Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.'

"Alice?"

[December 27] – Edward

Trying to get though a ten-hour flight peacefully with Alice is an impossible feat, all the more when she's been bouncing with excitement for thirty-six hours straight.

I actually wanted to sleep and mope a little more on the plane, take some time to go over my options and get a good grip on my emotions before I had to face Bella again. I've had no such luck. Alice has kept gushing about BeeBee (as she calls her) non-stop since we left my parents' house.

Cullen, are you the only moron who doesn't call her BeeBee?

The ride from the airport to Venice Beach is long and nerve-racking. Alice doesn't stop talking for a second, but eventually I manage to tune her out.

At destination, Alice wants to see my new house first and this actually works to my advantage. I can gain some sort of composure before the big reveal. I know that Bella isn't big on surprises, I can't help wondering what she will think of this one. She is certainly in for a bit of a shock.

Alice dumps most of her bags in the middle of my living room and runs around the house enthusiastically, shouting 'oohs' and 'aahs' of wonder at every knick-knack that she happens to like.

"You know that I didn't decorate this, right?" I'm so nervous and jet-lagged that I don't even try to hide my bitter sarcasm.

"I'm aware of that, you big dork! It's still a nice place to me, it's plain that BeeBee helped you pick this," she adds, gleefully throwing Bella's name into the conversation, for good measure.

After a thorough tour of the house, she's back in the hallway and she's dragging me outside.

"Come on, useless older brother of mine! Lead the way, I want to meet Bella!"

Resistance is futile, and I accompany Alice along the short footpath that separates Emmett and Bella's house from mine.

At her door, I finally freeze because panic is overtaking me. Alice ascends the doorsteps and rings the bell, while I remain rooted in place, unable to move.

I hear some racket from inside the house and then I remember that Jasper and his sister are there, too. A full house – I'll have a perfect audience for my misery.

The door opens and she finally appears. I have tunnel vision, and everything else disappears as I take in her appearance. Her hair cascades on her shoulders in a loose ponytail, her eyes are still sleepy, and she has a smidge of what looks like jam on her nose. She's also barefoot, and her yoga pants (or whatever else are these grey, loose thingies she's wearing) hang definitely low on her hips, unveiling a sliver of her toned stomach. She's never looked more adorable to me than she does now.

I can't look away, and with some luck, I'm not yet making a complete fool of myself because she can't see me. She doesn't see me, yet, because Alice has gripped her in a vice-tight hug. With a half-strangled, half-stunned voice, she finally says: "Alice?"

"Bellaaaaa! I finally get to meet you!"

"Alice, so you're the delivery I was expecting?" Bella recovers her cool very quickly, still not quite looking around, though.

"Of course, who else?"

"So you wouldn't happen to know that I got a parcel from Milan this morning? You don't know anything, and I say anything about that?" Bella's inquisitive voice is scary, and even Alice has the good sense to look sheepish.

"Well, no…but…"

Bella's gaze finally wanders past Alice's diminutive frame and lands on me.

"Edward? You're here, too?"

There's genuine disbelief in her voice, a hint of surprise, and something else besides, an emotion I cannot place. And it scares the living daylights out of me.

"Of course he's here! I had to drag him along to find you, right?" says Alice, genially, cutting me off the conversation.

I climb the doorsteps that still separate me from Bella and try to hold her gaze without faltering. My sister is uncharacteristically silent.

"Yes, I'm here, too. I'm here to stay."

The words sound foreign and cheesy on my lips, as if I've stolen them off a bad script, but I don't care. She smiles. Bella's smiling at me, and her whole face lights up. My misery's over.

"Well, you'd best get inside, then," she says, and everything clicks into place again.

It's going to be a very interesting day.

Songs in this chapter:

Even Flow, Pearl Jam: http: / www(dot)youtube(dot)com /watch?v=WQBPtQ6bXG8

Guitar Hero, Jasper's set:

Rage Against The Machine, Killing in the Name: http: / www(dot)youtube(dot)com /watch?v=sjDPWP5GKQA&feature=fvst

Rage Against The Machine, Bulls on Parade: http: / www(dot)youtube(dot)com /watch?v=-58-36lSqG4

Foo Fighters, Monkey Wrench: http: / www(dot)youtube(dot)com /watch?v=NQ0we7NmojM

Guitar Hero, Bella's set:

John Mellencamp, Hurts so Good: http: / www(dot)youtube(dot)com /watch?v=4dOsbsuhYGQ

Attack Attack!, You And Me: http: / www(dot)youtube(dot)com /watch?v=CAhXWEloWLU

Linkies to pictures are on my profile...

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