Chapter 8, revamped, and a day late in posting!
Apologies, but Monday ran away from me.
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 8
As much as I'd like to tear him apart limb from limb, I have to concede that Linebacker Em is actually a nice guy.
We can never be friends, though, because he lives with Bella. He lives with my Bella in a gigantic beachfront house in Venice Beach. We've been talking for barely ten minutes and I've already learned this much.
I am reaching my boiling point. If I was tempted to make a scene with AssKevin on the plane and I thought I couldn't get any lower than that, I was sorely wrong. There's a coil of bubbling rage brewing in my chest, and I can't help flexing and unflexing my fists until my knuckles are white with tension. My mouth is shut in a thin, tense line and my brow is furrowed in disgust, as if my stomach were prey to a rare and uncomfortable tropical disease.
I feel ridiculous but I am still honest enough to admit that the green monster is making a meal of my pitiable self. I'm jealous, and my rage and jealousy reach an unprecedented peak when Bella herself happens upon us, just as Emmett is regaling me with a tale of the latest prank he pulled on her. How could he think that spraying her with the showerhead would be fun for her? She could have caught a cold.
Just because you want to show her fun times, Cullen …
Emmett turns to acknowledge her presence, and I stare at her, transfixed. She is beaming, as if she knows she's catching Emmett red-handed. Emmett, on the contrary, doesn't look too pleased. I am positively mad because she's instantly glued to Emmett's side. I want to pry him away from her and hurl him down a ravine. Possibly, a very steep one.
They speak. My mind can't process any of the words they're saying because all I can think of is how easy and relaxed their interactions are. How utterly beautiful Bella looks, sheathed in that emerald green, shimmery top.
Suddenly, Bella shivers. She's cold. There, he did it. He sprayed her with cold water and now she'll be sick. I really have to hurt him now. He made Bella sick with his childish pranks.
You're just mad with jealousy, Cullen. Imagine Bella drenched in water, in a tub.
She murmurs something into his shoulder and he replies.
"I'll go get it for you, BeeBee."
Why does he feel the need to kiss her forehead before he goes? Why can't he disappear and never come back? I'm furious now, and I bet it shows on my face. I have no control over my emotions where Bella is concerned. Before I actually try to punch him, Emmett is gone.
We're finally alone, and what do I do? I bet I do look awkward with my pissed-off grimace in place. She must think I'm not happy to see her. She must think I'm an asshole. She must think her boss is mentally unstable.
You're only afraid she won't work for you anymore, Cullen.
While I attempt to regain my composure, she surprises the hell out of me and speaks.
"You should never take anything that comes from Emmett's mouth at face value, you know."
There's an unmistakable smile in her voice, and her tone is indulgent and loving. I wish she were speaking of me with such tenderness. I wish Emmett would disappear.
That wouldn't guarantee she'd want you instead, Cullen.
I can't bring myself to answer. I have no coherent words left in my brain, and after her behaviour to me this morning, I have no clue what I should do or say around her. I wish a prompter would appear from behind a bush and whisper some well-written lines to save my sorry arse from this.
I can't bring myself to look at her, either. I looked at her this morning and all I could do was vomit profanities in her face, which did not make for a great first meeting. Now I choose to remain silent, and while I might come across as not incredibly sociable or polite, my silence will surely be safer. Let her take the lead; I'll do whatever she wishes me to do.
Then, for the second time in a handful of minutes, she surprises me again. She keeps talking, with a knowing look on her face, her eyes narrowing in suspicion, and a cunning smile on her luscious lips. This woman poses a serious threat to my self-control.
"And I'm sure he just told you something he'll probably regret."
Though you'll hardly regret the visuals, Cullen.
Linebacker Em just spent fifteen minutes gushing about how happy he is that she's living with him. He just spent fifteen goddamn minutes telling me, her boss—a perfect stranger and her own personal stalker—how he pulled a frat boy prank on her and turned his master bathroom into a mock-up of the Everglades. He described in full detail how funny she looked, slumped on the wet tiles and soaked like an ugly duckling. Wanker. As if a parallel universe could ever exist where my Business Class Girl would remotely look like an ugly duckling.
She seems to know exactly what he was talking about, even if there's no way she could have heard. She was nowhere to be seen until she magically reappeared a few minutes ago. Angela kidnapped her as soon as they got out of the car; I know because I looked for her in the crannies and nooks of Angela's humble abode all evening. I had to give up when Linebacker Em cornered me, a beer in his hand.
I get the distinct impression that Emmett will live to regret what he told me because, however little I may know about Miss Swan, I am pretty sure she wouldn't be pleased to discover what sort of tales Emmett has been passing on to me. She has made it clear she wants to keep a safe, professional distance from me. Visuals of my assistant drenched in water after a shower prank clearly do not fall into the category of correct, professional interactions.
While I debate all this in my head, I realise I need to muster up some courage and say something; otherwise she will be forced to think I may be certifiably unsociable. I try to be formal and hope this is what she expects of me.
"Why should he, Miss Swan?" My voice is tentative, barely audible.
I force myself to meet her gaze because it's the polite thing to do, and because I can't humanly go any longer without admiring her. What I see renders me speechless. I know Alice would probably beat the shit out of me for saying this, but she is beautiful. As in, angelically, otherworldly beautiful. There's a warm light all around her from the twinkle lights and candles scattered all over the balcony; their halo surrounds her, bringing out the mahogany streaks in her brown hair and the golden specks in her chocolate eyes.
There is nothing plain and simple about this girl. I may know little about her but everything I've witnessed so far shows she's a careful, well-balanced creation, in layers and nuances. She may not be striking, but she is captivating. The casual observer could never catch her allure because it can only be appreciated with patient observation.
I've been blessed with this realisation only because I met her three times without being able to talk to her, which compelled me to expend an uncommon effort in paying attention to every little detail about her. Now I'm so finely attuned to her I can notice every little shift in her demeanour, every imperceptible line on her face.
That's why, though I'm completely lost in contemplation of her, I can sense a shift in her expression. Her brows are no longer scrunched up, her features are no longer tense, and her eyes are smiling. This is the most relaxed I've seen her since this morning.
Then, for the third time tonight, she surprises me.
"Bella … just Bella."
I blink once, then twice. I almost ask her to say that again, then somehow manage to stop myself. Instead, I replay those three words in my head, revelling in the sound of her voice as she smiles tentatively at me.
She's giving me a chance.
She's making an effort to close part of the distance between us, a distance she imposed herself. I am more than fine with this. In fact, I'm ecstatic, but I need to keep my reactions in check if I don't want her to think that her boss is unstable, after all. Screaming that you're happy your assistant is finally on first-name terms with you from the top of the Hollywood sign could be labelled as a token of certifiable insanity, even in this town.
That, and dragging her away to your cave, Cullen. You know you want to.
Somehow, my dazzled brain formulates a polite, appropriate answer.
"Only if you call me Edward, Bella."
It's liberating to be finally allowed to say her name aloud, and a foreign, tingling feeling electrocutes me down to my toes. My brain has done its job for the night and is now irrevocably flatlining.
She casts her eyes down again, and then nods with a shy smile. This girl is a far cry from the badass rider I saw this morning.
Since I have no functional brain cells left, I can't decide who's hotter, and I don't trust my traitor dick to do that for me because he would never make an informed decision.
He'd pick both, Cullen. And you know it.
"Can I ask you something though, Edward?"
My breath suddenly turns shallower and that's only because she just spoke my name.
"Anything you want, Bella." She doesn't know how true my last statement is, and she might never know.
"Can we stick to Mr Cullen in public, please?"
I frown a little. This is a strange request, and I feel like I'm taking one step forward and two leaps back. She picks up on my puzzled grimace and elaborates.
"It's just … It's just the way I'm used to …"
She doesn't finish her sentence, and I'm about to protest that "Jasper" got promoted to "Jazz" status somewhere along the way, but a lone, overworked brain cell stops my mouth before I blow my cover. I'm not supposed to know who Jasper is. In fact, I'm not even supposed to know he exists. Then, a light bulb flashes in my head. I always overheard their one-to-one conversations. I have no idea how they referred to each other in public.
"Where I come from … it's a spot more formal than all of this …" She continues, waving a graceful hand to indicate Angela's lavish party and glamorous guests. This makes her uncomfortable; maybe we do have something in common, after all.
Just like that, though, our moment is over because Linebacker Em is back and is wrapping a golden scarf around her shoulders. She looks at him from the corner of her eye.
"Thank you. Em. I take it you've met my boss here, right?"
Emmett shoots a wicked smile at me. I notice he has dimples and immediately think that those cute dimples must have gotten him out of trouble more than once. And why do I get the sudden feeling something is afoot between the two of them?
"Why, yes. I was talking to Edward before you so rudely interrupted us."
Bella's scolding glance is icy, as in Antarctica-is-closer-than-you-think icy. Gone is the shy girl, enter the badass rider. She does look scary.
And hot as hell, Cullen, hot as hell. Luckily she's not scolding you, though.
She turns to me, leaving Emmett to his own devices. "So, Edward, you've met Emmett McCarty-Swan, my obnoxious, immature, deranged older brother?"
Her emphasis on the word "brother" is ominous. My brain restarts abruptly.
Older brother? As in, they're blood relatives, Cullen?
I'm astounded. I must be gaping like a fish but I can't bring myself to care. I shake my head, as if this movement could actually clear the fog in my brain.
What the fuck? They're brother and sister?
"Emmett … is … your … brother?" I actually enunciate one excruciating word at a time, trying to rein in the word vomit and the string of profanities that threaten to leave my mouth.
My gaze frantically alternates between Bella and Emmett, who is now looking … sheepish?
All of the above?
Bella closes her eyes for a fraction of a second and heaves a deep breath. She points a finger at me, indicating I should bear with her for a second, and then turns to Emmett with the enraged features of a mythical fury.
Something wicked this way comes …
"BeeBee …" Emmett pleads while a sound dangerously close to a growl comes from Bella's mouth.
"Emmett McCarty-Swan, is there anything at all you would like to say in your defence now before I rip your throat out?"
"BeeBee, you know …"
I feel like I'm attending the final game at Wimbledon with Bella and Emmett as players, and Bella's throwing curveballs at a defenceless Emmett. Suddenly, Bella turns to me again.
"He didn't tell you he's my brother?" Bella's tone teeters between furious and astounded.
I can only shake my head in denial, though Emmett is looking at me with the pleading eyes of a lost puppet. She turns to her brother again, seething with rage.
"Emmett, before I go mad, cut your nuts off, have them coated in sterling silver, and then Fed-Ex'd to Rosalie as paperweights, you'd better come clean with whatever you've done. Like now."
Emmett's eyes are cast down, and I'm all the more in awe of Bella, who can make a giant of a man like Emmett feel like he stole alms from a church.
"BeeBee, I might have neglected to mention you're my sister …"
"I daresay, from Edward's face, you did more than that, but we'll discuss this at home. Get out of my sight right now. I need to calm the hell down before I talk to you again."
"BeeBee … I …" He touches her elbow, but she recoils immediately.
"Emmett, you can grovel later in private. Now get lost, for fuck's sake."
I've never heard Bella actually curse in public until now, and though it's kind of hot, it's still tangible evidence of how upset she must be. Emmett is gone in a flash, and Bella exhales again.
"What else did he tell you, Edward?" She's speaking with her eyes still closed, and her voice has an apologetic tone I've never heard before.
I debate for a second whether I should be truthful and rat out Emmett, or be charitable and feed Bella some kind of white lie. I choose truthful—Emmett won't be the one managing my days and nights, after all. Bella is the One Who Should Not Be Pissed Off.
"He told me you two live together in Venice Beach … and …"
"Let me guess. He made it sound as if we lived together, together?"
Bella definitely knows her brother inside-out and damn if she's not right. On second thought, Emmett never expressly said he and Bella were together, just that they lived together, and he just neglected to specify they are siblings. So, yes, it's a sin of omission, but sure as hell it's not accidental. Uncle Russell would say this behaviour reeks of mens rea. His golden boy Jasper would probably agree, and Bella in tow.
Bella's reaction, though, tells me this behaviour is part of Emmett's usual antics, much like the showerhead prank.
I nod before she has a conniption and considers me a wilful participant instead of an unwitting victim. She covers her face with her hands.
"I'm so, so sorry … I told you that you shouldn't take anything he says at face value …"
This is all quite hilarious. It all boils down to my assistant's brother, who spots me at a party, chats me up, butters me up with a beer, and just feeds me a series of tales that, while technically true, are carefully worded to sound misleading.
I can't help laughing out loud. I've been thrown into the dark green hell of jealousy for nothing. All of Emmett's gestures, while overtly affectionate, did not indicate the closeness or complicity of lovers. They were just that—affectionate gestures between siblings.
Cullen, when in hell have you ever been that affectionate with Alice in public? Here's your answer …
"Do you think he …" I blurt out, not quite sure myself what I'm trying to say.
"He was trying to pull yet another prank on me, and he was definitely pulling your leg as well. You'd better get used to it. I've known him for twenty-seven years and counting …"
We look at each other for a split second, and Bella's expression is priceless. She looks half-defeated and half-diverted. I think back on Emmett's dexterity at pulling such a stunt on both of us and try to figure out how I can manage not to give away how much Emmett's prank actually disturbed me, and why.
Without warning, Bella and I burst out laughing when Angela joins us, shooting a quizzical look at both of us.
"I should say you both took it in stride, eh?"
Angela obviously knows about the EmPrank©. The bloke works fast; I have to hand it to him.
Bella's trying to stop her fit of quasi-hysterical laughter and answer Angela's comment at the same time. "Oh, Ang. He really went out of his way to try and embarrass both of us. And he'll pay for it. Slowly and painfully," she finally says with a wicked glint in her eyes. I'd love to see her inflict some payback on Linebacker Em.
"Why should he pay for it if you were both laughing your asses off right now?"
Bella turns abruptly serious. "Because he knew full well he'd be taking the mickey out of both Edward and me. Now tell me if that's responsible, adult behaviour for a professional, thirty-four-year-old man?"
Angela waves a dismissive hand at Bella. "You know perfectly well he's hopeless on that score. It's a win-win situation for him. He had fun, and so did you. He got you laughing at the end of the day, and with the afternoon you've just had, you deserve it, right?"
Bella's smiling face clouds over as she nods at Angela. Something must have happened this afternoon, though there's a slim chance I might get to know what exactly.
Angela throws a pointed look at Bella, taking in her appearance from head to toe.
"B, where are the Louboutins I gave you for your birthday?"
Angela lavishes posh gifts on my Bella, that's the extent of how well they know each other. In my limited run-ins with the world of fashionable ladies such as Angela and Alice, I've learned this much. Shoes don't just walk your feet around, shoes are a whole world unto themselves, they're a mission statement. This is a truth Alice has been hammering into my fashionless brain for years now. I finally get it with the magical word "Louboutins". You could get a fairly good guitar for the price of a pair of those shoes, and this is Angela's latest birthday gift to my Bella. A gift Bella is not wearing, much to Angela's distress.
Bella retorts, in true Beatrix Kiddo fashion. "Those traps? I'm afraid of heights, Angela."
Afraid of heights? When is the last time I heard a girl make fun of stiletto heels?
She's a rare one, Cullen. Hold on tight. Monday's gonna be interesting.
Next chapter, next Monday!
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