A/N: Wow, is this really an update? This year? In this decade? In this century? Yeah, I know, shocking. RL has been crazy, but I am (I think) back on track. Next chapter is in the works, so...don't hate me...too much!
The resident beta team is always Eifeltwr, Black Hale and Peeptoe. They rock.
Shout-outs for the week: Thanks to everyone out there for your love and support. Thanks to Cookie for being so amazing. All the girls at TLS, each and every one of you. There is a true dream-team behind that blog. Go check it out, and you won't regret it. Busymommy and AstonMartin, who are the dynamic duo behind MoorWard (which is being continued, as you know).
Status report on the forthcoming (ETA unknown) outtakes of BCG: Outtake for Vicky - BPOV of the third chapter (i.e. the flight when CluelessWard sits right beside her); outtake for Annie - Marcus's POV of the Christmas Party; Gabby's outtake - TBD. Gabby, give me a shout whenever.
Disclaimer: Not mine. All Stephenie Meyer's genius. Plot is mine, though. I enjoy making them do crazy things.
BUSINESS CLASS GIRL - CHAPTER 20
It's two days after Christmas. One day since Edward appeared on my doorstep. Twenty-odd hours since I mauled him in my bedroom. Seventeen-some hours since he asked me out on a date with him.
I am on a jittery high, one side of me is excited as a seventeen-year-old on prom night, whilst a more adult corner of my mind is thinking that this could seriously jeopardise a number of things.
I am in my uncontested kingdom – my kitchen – and I'm beating the shit out of a bowl of pancake batter when a cheeky voice startles me from my musings.
"Torturing pancakes won't make it better, don't you know that, love?"
Rosalie – bless her and her Briticisms, and her being consistently spot-on, whatever she says. I let go of the bowl and the whisk, which clatters to the counter in a very untidy swirl of yellowish goo.
"What did that whisk do to piss you off so much?" Rosalie asks again.
I know her technique, she's making light of the situation until I calm down enough to speak civilly to her, that is, without being tempted to throw objects around my kitchen to vent my frustrations.
"BeeBee, leave that batter alone and talk to me. What's eating at you?"
I turn to face Rosalie. She's sitting at the kitchen island; her blonde curls haphazardly cascading around her face and shoulders, her mouth ungraciously open in a very unclassy yawn. There goes the investment banker shark, all prim and proper, without a hair out of place.
I plop down on another stool beside her, handing her a mug of steaming hot coffee. "I guess I am just overthinking things, Rose."
"What is there to overthink? That you'd be dating one of the hottest, most talented Hollywood stars around? That you'd spend 24/7 with him anyway, because he's your boss? That as soon as this gets out, you'll have hordes of rabid fangirls screaming for your head on a silver platter?"
I nearly choke on my Earl Grey. Nearly.
"Thanks, Rose. This makes me feel way better."
"It's true, though. You know it'll be like this. Better face it head-on." Typical Rose. Grab the bull by its horns, and all that. I grunt in response. I know my elected course of action won't be to her liking. Still, she won't budge me. I think. I hope.
"What's with the Neanderthal speak? I thought I'd only get that from your oaf of a brother…"
"Family trait. We're articulate like that." I joke back, hoping to deflect her attention from the matter at hand.
"BeeBee? Don't tell me you are going to ruin this by overthinking, please? Please tell me this has nothing to do with Asshole Extraordinaire?"
I wince. Of course she would know where my deepest insecurities lie. "No, yes…Partially. Shoot, it's all so complicated, Rose."
"Uncomplicate it for me," she commands, idly nibbling away at a random muffin.
"What if this doesn't work out? What if Edward and I end up hating each other? What if this all gets out to the press? Every single gory detail?"
Rosalie raises a perfectly groomed eyebrow at my slew of questions.
"Are you saying this for your sake or for his?" Her voice is serious, all traces of teasing gone.
"For both. I came here for a fresh start. If this blows up in my face, where will that leave me? If we go public, we'll be watched all the time, every action and every word broken down in search of some scandal that won't even be there. I can't go through that. I can't put Edward through that."
She covers my hands with hers in an affectionate gesture. "BeeBee, he ditched his family at Christmas to fly across an Ocean and a continent for you. I think he's already putting himself through this. Give the guy a chance."
"I want to, Rose, so badly but…"
"But what?" Rose is relentless, and bordering on annoyed now.
"I can't let him jeopardise his career. He'd go screaming this from the rooftops and…I'm not ready for that. I want to protect him…us…for a while longer…"
Rosalie twirls a lock of hair around her fingers. It's her 'deep in thought' gesture. She's considering what I'm saying, evaluating the pros and cons in her head based on a S.W.O.T. analysis, just as this was the next biggest corporate deal she was working on – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, all lined up before her eyes. Her world is orderly, or can be reduced to an orderly system. Mine is a universe of endless shades of meaning, of reading between the lines.
"What's your plan, then?"
"Keep this quiet, as long as we can. Edward wasn't all sold to this idea, but…"
"But he knows not to argue with the boss…" Rosalie chuckles. She hops down from the stool and hugs me, a one-armed hug around my shoulders.
"You'd better not screw this up, love. This fangirl will want details, sooner or later…" she quips, waggling her eyebrows, just like Emmett would.
"Oh, yes…" she chuckles again.
"You still leaving tonight?"
"Yes. Em is taking me to the airport. Jazz decided to change his flight, he'll be back next week. I can't fathom what made him do that."
Jasper has been complaining non-stop that he'd have to be back to London in time for some super-important, ultra-confidential meeting that he couldn't postpone.
"I suppose he's found a way around it, then?" I am only testing the waters; I already know the real answer to this question.
"Or the right inducement? Keep an eye on that, will you? I hate to miss out on the gossip."
She finally leaves me alone to go packing up her stuff and I know there's one phone call that I cannot postpone. I grab my blackberry and call Edward first.
"Good morning, my lovely." His voice wraps around me like silk and I'm a goner in two nanoseconds flat.
"Good morning, Edward." I sigh, hopeless.
"Say that again, my lovely?" he asks, a playful undercurrent to his voice.
"Good morning?" I reply, tentatively. At the other end, Edward chuckles softly.
"No, my lovely. The other bit, please?" He wants me to work for it. Sneaky little thing.
"Edward…" I cave in, a tad exasperated that my boss wants me to parrot out things to him for no apparent reason.
"That's better. I love hearing you say my name. But don't tell Emmett I said that." He adds, hastily.
My turn to chuckle. "Why?"
He groans. "He'd tease the ever-loving shite out of me, that's why."
That figures. Just like Emmett to annoy Edward on a trifle such as this and wilfully omit that he sends flowers to Rosalie in London every week.
"So, is this a social or a business call, lovely?"
"Business, actually. Or social. Hell, I don't know. Both, I guess?"
My brain feels like it's been scrambled. Edward is silent, no doubt waiting for my wits to re-arrange themselves.
"Edward, we need to call Angela. You've not forgotten, have you?"
"Umm, no. Do we really need to do that today?" he suddenly sounds like a whiny kid.
"Yes, Boss. No date if we don't come clean with Ang first."
He groans again. "This is mean. You are mean. Blackmailing should be beneath you."
"I live with Emmett. Nothing is beneath me if there's a remotely legal or illegal subterfuge to get away with it."
"All right, all right. Let's rip it off, Band-Aid style," he huffs, annoyed, but now giving in to my request.
"OK. I'll call her right away," I say hastily, but he stops me before I can disconnect the call.
"Hold your horses, B. I'm coming over, wait for me."
"She asks me why. B, I'm not letting Ang rip you a new one cause of me and leave you high and dry through it. And I don't care if you can do this on your own. Hell, you'd probably be better off without me on this one, but I'm going to be there, and that's final."
I'm only mildly puzzled, after all. Edward is a gentleman – of course he'd want to be there.
"When did you start being so logical and level-headed?" I tease him.
"Don't know, since this incredibly smart, insanely hot girl agreed to go on a date with me?"
"Right, back to your adorable, goofy self. I'll wait for you so we can call Ang together, ok?"
"Sure thing. See you in ten."
And exactly ten minutes later, right on the dot, Edward appears on my doorstep, looking like he's just left yet another GQ photo shoot, in all his scruffy, rumpled glory. Even his beanie is slumped sideways and he's balancing his phone, his sunglasses (in December?), a book, a script and a highlighter, all in his left hand.
I chuckle at his antics. "How many fingers do you think you have on that hand? I'm pretty sure you can't do that with a normal, five-fingered human hand."
He waggles his eyebrows. "Wouldn't you like to know, lovely?" He replies, planting a chaste kiss on my cheek as he slides past me and into the hallway.
My very flustered self manages to shut the door and follow him into the kitchen, where he dumps all his stuff unceremoniously on the counter.
"Where's the rest of the gang?" he asks, removing his beanie to reveal his mop of unruly, gloriously soft bronze locks.
Now that I know what it feels like to tread my fingers through it, I'm an addict, and the addict wants her fix right now. I step closer to him and do just that. I put my arms around him and then play with the soft hair at the nape of his neck. He's not filming at the moment and he's letting it grow positively wild. I make a mental note to check his upcoming contracts for any punitive stipulations on grooming habits. Nasty producers don't get to mess with my Edward's hair.
While I mentally go all nazi on his haircut and he's none the wiser about it, he steals a few hot kisses along my jaw and collarbone. I sigh, feeling a now familiar shiver down my spine.
"Good morning again, I guess?"
How my brain can still form coherent speech is completely beyond me.
"The gang, B? Where are they?" My face must display a sign that reads 'Brains just scrambled courtesy of Edward Cullen'.
"If I'm going to have my wicked way with you on your kitchen counter, I want to know if we'll be bloody interrupted or not," he goes on, still punctuating his words with a trail of kisses. Somehow, I recover my wits and swat away Edward's hands that have, by now, travelled down south to cup my ass.
"Mean, you are so mean to me," he chuckles.
"You can fire me, if I'm so mean." Brains, welcome back. I've missed you these last ten minutes.
"Not a chance. The gang?"
"Rosalie is upstairs, packing up. Jazz has been glued to his blackberry, logged into a conference call, since 6am this morning. Emmett – dunno, running on the beach?"
"So, we're alone?" he concludes, a mischievous glint in his jade eyes.
"Technically, yes. But we have work to do."
He groans. "Mean, like I said."
I can't help but chuckle back at his goofy antics. He has these funny, childish facial expressions and he doesn't even realise how cute he looks. The guy must really be clueless.
Almost reluctantly, he releases me and sits on a stool, then gathers me back close to him, putting an arm around my waist.
"Want to have breakfast first, Boss?" I ask, because 'Procrastinate' is my middle name, as of now. Edward shakes his head, rummaging through the pile he's just chucked on the counter to fish out his blackberry.
"No, lovely, I don't want to choke on my coffee or worse while Ang gives me the third degree. You sure we can't get Jasper to ditch his conference thingy? Might be handy to have a lawyer around…"
Then it hits me. Edward might be as nervous as I am, if not worse. This puts us on a more even footing, I guess. "Edward, Jasper is a corporate lawyer, he's never seen anything remotely related to intellectual property since Oxford. He could hardly help out on this."
Edward huffs. "I'll overlook the fact that you're talking Arabic to me, but can't he even fake? Isn't he supposed to be a supportive friend?"
My turn to chuckle, again. "The same supportive friend who first bailed on New Year's Eve with us, when I asked him to stay, because 'I can't postpone the sodding meeting in London' and now, for reasons unknown, he's rescheduled both his meeting and his flight? Liar, liar…pants on fire…"
"Has he? Bollocks, so that's why…" An uneasy frown of understanding mars Edward's face.
"Alice has rescheduled her flight to Milan, too…"
I smirk. My instincts were spot on. There's something brewing between my former boss / bestie and Edward's sister, and it's real enough to send Edward into big brother mode.
"So, are we calling Ang or what?" I finally ask to get him out of his sudden funk.
"Right. Ang. Let's do this, B." He grabs his blackberry and hits Ang's speed-dial. I guess Ang will wonder what this is all about.
"Edward, high time you checked in with me. Landed almost thirty hours without a word. I'm hurt."
Or not. Why do I make the mistake of underestimating Angela and her superpowers? Nothing escapes the Nazi agent.
"Ang, about that. Sorry, my return was…unexpected. Hurried. Well, whatever. I was planning to fly under the radar. Lie low. That kind of thing." Edward says, sheepishly. Ang really intimidates him.
"Under whose radar, Edward? The paps'? Your assistant's? Mine? Because you've barely passed muster this time around." Her voice is stern. This is Ang's 'don't fuck with me' attitude. Edward pales.
"Please tell me the press doesn't know." He must be worried that his cover for this impromptu holiday has been blown. That would mean no peace whatsoever for him.
"No, not this time. Thank fuck your sister has a bunch of finely-tuned brain cells in that fashionista head of hers." Angela's voice is still stern, but the hint of sarcasm is a clear indication that she's now taking the mickey out of Edward. Poor guy. I think I know what Angela means, though, so I pop in to try and put Edward out of his misery.
"Ang, hi there. You're on speaker."
"Hi, B. I hope you're more eloquent than your so-called Boss this morning. What is the pow-wow for?"
Edward clears his throat, and motions for me to let him speak first. "Ang, there's something I want to tell you, but it needs to remain absolutely confidential."
"Are you there?"
"Edward, I'm only on my first cup of coffee, and I am in no mood for childish antics. If you've pulled a Hugh (Grant) on me, you'd better tell me right away."
Edward opens and closes his mouth repeatedly. Dumbfounded and confused is an understatement. He is terrified. He truly needs the cavalry this time.
"Ang, the reason we're calling you together is…" I begin, only to stop for a second when I feel Edward's hand squeezing mine, a grateful smile on his face. Angela, who has a talent for butting in edgewise into any conversation, interrupts me.
"B, I need something that makes some damn sense. What's up, guys?"
Edward huffs, annoyed and more nervous than ever. I hope Ang can't hear him.
"I like Bella, ok? There, I told you. So what, now?"
I hear a strangled noise from the crackberry on the counter. I hope Edward's clumsy revelation hasn't resulted in Angela's premature demise. When a very unladylike snort filters through, I know Ang is safe and sound.
"You like Bella, Edward? What is this, kindergarten?"
Edward groans. "You really take delight in torturing people. You sure you weren't with the KGB or Mossad in another life?"
Edward is not that much off the mark. Angela's dad was an NCIS officer, but I'm not going to share that intel. Not now, anyway.
"Actually, I was. What is it that you're trying to say, Edward?"
"Bella and I are dating. There, you have it. Not that it's any of your sodding business, Ang."
Edward is losing his shit. Scratch that, he's already lost it.
"Ang, what we want to say is…" I start again, hoping to drive a point home, any point home this time.
"Angela, please. That's enough." I snap, because her snarky attitude grows more unnerving by the minute.
"Alright. Get on with it. I'll behave."
Next to me, his fidgety hand still entwined in mine, Edward exhales a relieved sigh.
"Would that be a conflict, in your opinion? I can step down if it is…" I go on, but Edward cuts me off right away.
"You're not stepping down, B. I need you."
"The rest we can iron out later, like the silly fact that you want us to fly under the radar."
Edward's last words finally catch Ang's interest. She clears her throat and retorts, "Actually, Edward. Bella has a point. I have no issue with you two dating. I can't dictate your personal life in any way, as long as your actions are not detrimental to your commitments and your career."
"I don't see the problem, then. I'm not saying I want to go on Oprah's, jump on her couch and yell Bella's name on national broadcast, but…"
"You would be exposing Bella to a fuckton of unnecessary risks if you flaunted your relationship status with the media."
Silence. A pin could drop at the other end of Angela's mansion and we'd hear it through the phone in Venice Beach.
More silence. Edward clears his throat, but his voice still comes out as a sort of shaky murmur.
"Risks, for Bella? Ang, are you serious?"
With her next words, Angela's tone is nothing but business-like.
"Edward, the two of you are in the public eye enough as it is. Think about lunch at Morton's a while ago."
Oh no – Ang didn't just go there. She reminded Edward of that debacle and, implicitly, of my consequent meltdown.
"So you're saying that the paps would hound her around, if they knew we were dating?" Edward is truly concerned.
"Yes, Edward, even more than they normally would. The press will see her with you a lot anyway, but after a while they'll stop noticing Bella and write her off as a constant presence if the believe there are no juicy details to be uncovered there. Think about it. You can always announce it with a fanfare in a month or two, or whenever you feel the time is right."
"No! No fanfare!" I blurt out before I can think twice. Edward gathers me close and kisses my temple.
"No fanfare, my lovely. Anything you want, or don't want. Fine with me." His voice is calmer, smouldering, and kindles embers of lust underneath my skin.
"Right, lovebirds. Got a game plan, now you've come clean with the coach?"
"I think we should lie low until Edward is officially back in town."
"Sounds good to me. B, can you please be in charge of logistics and such for this undercover mission? Seems to me Mr Cullen could lose his marbles any time," she comments, an unmistakable smile in her voice.
"Yes, yes, make fun of me. I'm still here, you know."
"That's why I'm making fun of you."
Edward's answer is an unintelligible grunt. He spends too much time with Emmett.
"Try not to mess this up, or I'll truly kick your skinny British ass this time."
Angela disconnects the call without saying goodbye. Edward stares at his blackberry, a disbelieving expression on his face.
"Well, that wasn't quite how…" he begins.
"Ang sometimes has…a knack for tackling tricky situations."
"I don't want to talk about Angela now." His voice is all silk and honey, his hands run tantalising patterns through my hair. "I don't want to talk at all."
"I don't want to talk at all."
These are the last coherent words I manage before I throw all rationality out the window and make good on my earlier promise. I want to have my wicked way with B, and I want to take full advantage of the empty house. I don't give a shite that, for the third time in a row, we appear to have a thing for kitchens. With B, everywhere goes.
"You sound like a horny teenager, Boss." Bella sighs and shivers in my arms, and that's my cue. Most of the time I can't really fathom what goes on in her head, but I think I'm learning to read her reactions to me like a map. She wraps her arms around my neck and, when her fingers begin playing with my hair, I'm a goner. Hell, I was a goner the minute she opened the door and smiled at me ten minutes ago. I'm the one to sigh, now that my nose is skimming hers and her chocolate eyes are staring at me, a thousand emotions running through them.
Suddenly, I get hooked on this phenomenal look she's giving me, and I never want it to fade away from her face, because it gets me higher than any drug ever could. It exudes adoration and pride, and it makes me feel like more than a man. It makes me feel like I can conquer the world if it means she'll be here tomorrow, looking at me like this.
I throw the momentous force of this realisation into every kiss and every touch, until I am, too, wrapped around her and I never want to let go. Time passes, meaningless minutes, but silence is no hindrance to us, as I continue my reverent exploration, where my hands and fingers do all the talking. I never believed it could be possible to convey feelings as strong as these with simple kisses.
It occurs to me that we've only just crossed this 'line' not a day ago. Still, it feels natural, it feels homey to be with her like this, and the unrestrained flood of feelings has probably been kept at bay too long in any case.
Another errant thought hits me. I started off wanting to make out wildly with her, and now I find myself worshiping at her feet. An oddity? Maybe, but all I feel is elation. Our foreheads still touching, I smile into the kiss.
"What is the smile for?" She whispers, her lips brushing against mine with every syllable.
"I have a date to plan. And I want it to be perfect." One more peck on her lips, as I reluctantly disentangle myself from her grasp. "Off with you, woman. I have work to do."
She flashes a devious grin my way. "Get out of my kitchen, then!"
I walk away, headed downstairs into the gym, winking at her over my shoulder. I need Emmett and Jasper, and screw the conference whatever thingy.
Wink, Cullen? Are you regressing into teenage wasteland?
Public service announcements:
TLS is hosting a Lemons & Lyrics O/S contest. Yours truly is one of the judges. Assuming this won't scare you away, go check it out and, if the music plot bunny bites you, enter the contest!
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If you haven't already, please check out my other story "Everything I Knew Was Wrong", aka Moorward. Entirely different time and place - Cornwall, 1840. All EPOV. This story will very soon have an outtake, that I donated earlier this year to Fandom Fights the Floods. The outtake is BPOV of some events that are NOT related in the main story and might shed some light on things MoorWard doesn't know. MoorElla should come to an inbox near you later this week. So...brace yourself!
Until next time...CluelessWard is planning a date!