Why did they send her over anyone else?
How should I react?
These things happen to other people
They don’t happen at all, in fact.
Excerpt from “She’s an Angel” by TMBG
Still Emmett POV
I ran around the counter, ready to jump in between them, while Jasper put his hands up, as though Edward were a cop. Rose backed away from the scene toward the door.
Edward was heaving, sweat pouring down the side of his face. Everyone was still.
“I…” Edward paused for a moment. “I think my hands are clean, but I think we should both wash our hands…to be safe. I’d feel better if you would…OK?”
Jasper smiled and nodded. They washed their hands at the sink together, like they did it every day. I went back to my perch on the stool and Rose went back to the stove.
She and I stared at each other across the room once Jasper went back to cutting vegetables and Edward went back to his place next to the bar, where he could supervise.
She smiled at me, and I winked at her.
BELLA POV (a few minutes later…)
When I got to Edward’s building I was a sweaty, nervous mess. I would be outnumbered by strangers in a social setting. This was a really bad idea.
But here’s the thing. I felt like Edward was worth it. And hadn’t the man gone way out of his comfort zone for me?
…And, I suppose that Emmett wasn’t a stranger, exactly.
I reached for the call button, but my outstretched pointer finger curled back into my fist just before contact, as I tried to get my shaking under control.
My fist found its way into my coat pocket, fingering the immunization record neatly folded in its depths. It had been easier to obtain than I thought it would be.
I had called the doctor’s office myself. I had written out what I wanted to say and I only had to repeat it once over the phone. They faxed it over to the Records Department at Brandon and Brown. Easy.
I pulled it out and unfolded the paper, gripping it like a talisman in one hand, while I quickly pressed the black circle next to their apartment number with the other.
A man (probably Emmett) yelled, “Come on up!” and buzzed me in.
I climbed the stairs carefully, remembering that this building was new to me, and therefore the steps perilous.
I paused once more at the door. Then, I knocked.
I heard a hissing noise on the other side of the door.
Then, I waited some more.
When it finally opened, I expected to see Frankenstein’s Monster on the other side, so I was looking up and right over the head of the actual answerer…
…who was Edward, sans latex gloves. Smug look on his face…
…the smell of Lysol in the air.
“Hi, Bella,” he said. “Would you please come in?”
I held up my immunization record for him to see. His eyes darkened with desire, and his lips pulled up on one side. He looked at the record carefully, but didn’t offer to take it. Then he stepped back to give me room to come in.
“I would offer to take your coat, but…”
“Gloves?” I asked, hoping he would put them back on.
“Oh…well, I didn’t think you’d want me to wear them, so I left them at home.”
“Oh,” disappointment evident in my voice.
“I can go and get them, if you’d really like for me to take your coat.”
I didn’t want to come off as too eager, so I shrugged.
He looked confused.
Then he stepped closer to me, so close I could feel his body heat. He avoided eye contact and instead stared at my right ear towards which he was leaning, and spoke in a low, almost growl-y, voice, “I don’t know what to do, Bella. I know you feel uncomfortable talking, and I don’t want to make you talk, but I don’t want to do the wrong thing, either…I…”
He seemed to struggle with his thoughts, then he took a breath, stepped back, brow furrowed, and clinched his fists. He shook his head and commanded me: “Turn around.”
I did and felt his hands on top of my hair covering my shoulders across the back of my coat.
He pulled my hair together in his hands, sweeping it around to the front. Then, he tugged the coat off my shoulders. I turned back around.
He was holding it away from his body gingerly with just his fingers. With his arms raised, I could see the marks on his shirt, showing he was nervous like me.
I understood on an instinctive level exactly how hard that had been for him to put his bare hands on me. My entire body had broken out with goose bumps.
It was unexpected and sensual. Surprisingly so, even without the gloves, and I hoped it was a silent promise of things to come.
He hung it on the coat rack by the door, and said, “Please excuse me, I need to wash my hands. Everyone is in the kitchen if you want to go ahead and go in. I’ll meet you in there in just a moment.”
I still had my immunization record, now wadded and torn, in my hand. I tucked it into my coat pocket and headed for the kitchen.
Emmett met me at the door. “Hey, Bella!” He said with that easy, compassionate smile. “This is my wife, Rosalie.”
A beautiful bombshell with yoga feet, wearing leggings and a tank top, turned from the stove and smiled at me.
“Bella, it’s so nice to finally meet you. Edward asked me not to shake your hand, so…”
“It’s OK.” I managed to say. I smiled back and waved, in what I hoped was a genuine, nice-to-meet-you, kind of way.
“And this,” she said, “is my brother—”
“—Jasper Whitlock,” said my sister’s husband before Rosalie could finish the introduction. He shook my hand and looked at me in that intimidating way he has, directly in the eyes, just daring me to say something. “It’s nice to meet you…Bella.”
I was confused.
I was horrified.
But also confused.
And definitely horrified.
If Jasper was Rosalie’s brother, and he was here…and I was here…did that mean that Rosalie and Emmett and Edward know about their marriage?
Surely Jasper wouldn’t go behind Alice’s back and tell them.
But she would have no way to know that they knew, because she had no idea who Jasper’s family was; that was Jasper’s addition to the contract. If he couldn’t tell his family, then Alice couldn’t go snooping…of course, if Jasper broke his end, all bets were off.
As I considered all of these things, I looked nervously from Jasper to Rosalie and back…hoping for some kind of clarification.
Rosalie sensed the tension.
“Hey, Bella, I’m sorry. I know this is unexpected. I never get to see Jasper anymore, and I thought, since it was a family dinner, we could all get together. He’s totally cool, right Jazz?”
“Yeah. I’m cool,” he said pointedly.
So…what the fuck did that mean?
And what about Alice? There’s no way she could possibly know that it was her husband’s brother-in-law’s brother who was the recipient of the restraining order.
Fuck. My. Life…which was suddenly more complicated than I’d like.
Okay, act normal, Bella. Somehow, I needed to communicate to Jasper that it was in everyone’s best interest for Alice not to find out about any of this…but before I could fully formulate my plan, I was interrupted…
“What!” I yelled defensively.
Emmett had called me from the fridge, “Uhhh…you want a beer?”
Embarrassed at my overreaction, I shook my head no. “Water?” I managed to croak out of my bone-dry throat.
“You sure? We got wine.”
“That’s not a good idea,” Jasper said to Emmett, out of the side of his mouth like a subpar ventriloquist.
“Riiiiight…you…uh, probably don’t drink at all, huh?” he said to me.
Fuck. What now? Why did they think my drinking alcohol was a bad idea? Were they trying to manipulate me into doing something?
I stared at Emmett and then Jasper, then back to Emmett, trying to understand their game.
No, drinking meant no inhibition, and no inhibition meant possible sex with Edward. Shit, they were trying to keep me from doing a (hopefully) kinky something with Edward.
Well, fuck that. I wasn’t playing this stupid game. I have my own plans that will only be assisted by drinking!
“Wine…sounds great,” I finally said, and raised my eyebrow at Jasper.
His cucumber coolness seemingly unaffected, he stepped back and pulled out a bar stool for me.
Of course. He knows I’m clumsy and short. If I fall off the thing, no hanky-panky. No way I’m gonna sit on that deathtrap.
“She shouldn’t sit on a stool, Jasper,” Edward said having slipped silently into the room.
“Bella, would you like to sit at the table next to me?” He gestured to the table with a latex covered hand.
“Fuck.” Emmett said.
I hid behind my hair and stole a glance at Emmett…How could he know about my fetish? Not even Alice knew about it.
“Bella?” Edward asked. I wasn’t sure if he was checking to make sure I was Okay, or if he was…oh, he wanted a response.
“Okay,” I finally said, unable to keep from grinning like a loon.
I chanced a glance at Jasper to gauge his reaction, as Edward pushed my seat in.
He seemed incomprehensibly pleased.
Edward took the seat next to me and Emmett placed the glass of white wine on the table. Then, I felt more than saw everyone’s eyes on me. I immediately wanted to hide in my hair again.
“Stop it!” Edward said. I looked over at him and he was shaking his head violently. I turned to see that everyone had stopped looking at me and seemed to be intently checking out the food on the stove, crumbs on the counter, or in Emmett’s case, his iPhone.
I looked at Edward again. He was still staring at me.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” I said back. I liked looking at him, and somehow, despite the humiliating blush it caused, I liked him looking at me.
I don’t know how long we sat there, Edward watching me, and me glancing to see if he was watching me, but suddenly Rosalie called, “Dinner is ready!” and Edward jumped up and stood behind my chair, pulling it out for me to get up.
The Hales served dinner buffet style with salad, clam chowder and tilapia with twice-baked potatoes. A simple, informal meal.
Edward went first, telling me that Rosalie’s were the only clams he would ever consider eating and only then if he was first in line.
Emmett laughed so hard he had tears running down his cheeks.
I blushed again, although, it wasn’t funny, nor embarrassing to me.
Once we were all seated, Edward started digging in, gloves removed. Even though I was totally turned on by them, I was glad he took them off during the meal.
I took a sip of wine, and prepared to be bombarded with questions from Edward. I had practiced my answers, so I felt confident that I would be able to answer all of them with minimal hesitation.
I stared at him, waiting for him to ask, when I was hit upside the head with a question from Jasper.
“So, Bella, I heard that your sister had a restraining order put against Edward, but then you had it removed. If you don’t mind my asking, how did your sister take that news? I can’t imagine she’d like it very much.”
I considered crawling under the table and giving Edward a blowjob. That act would be ten times less embarrassing than the fallout that was waiting at the end of the answer I was about to give.
“Actually,” Edward said, quickly swallowing a bite so he could jump in, “I promised Bella that no one else would ask her questions except for me, tonight. And I already read her the list of questions and that one wasn’t on it. I figured it was the least I could do to help her out with this evening.” He smiled at me.
If I had had any sanitary stickers on me, I would have given him a gold star.
“Really,” Jasper said, amused. “Well, please accept my apology, Bella. I had no idea. I certainly didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable with my questions. I just wanted to know what to…expect…out of all of this. I mean…a sister who would go behind your back like that, well, she probably wouldn’t like you removing the restraining order. You should be very careful.”
I couldn’t speak. And I’m pretty sure my mouth was open. My tongue was dry…but I suppose that didn’t signify anything special.
Luckily, Edward was never at a loss for words.
“I’m sure that if Bella’s sister really has her interest in mind, she will respect Bella’s wishes. I know that I can count on Emmett to always support me, even if he disagrees.”
“Within reason,” Rosalie added.
“And what if your sister…I’m sorry, what was her name?” Jasper said, effectively answering my lingering question.
“Alice,” I said, playing along. So, it is a secret between me and Jasper…Okay…so…who has leverage over whom in this situation?
“Alice. Pretty name. What if Alice felt like it was unreasonable for you to remove the restraining order? What I mean to say is that we, his family, know that he doesn’t pose a risk to you, but clearly she thought that he did. Do you not think that she might find it unreasonable that you would remove it?”
Again, I was mute, trying to figure out his game.
Again, Edward came to my rescue. “Well, isn’t that irrelevant? What can she actually do?”
This constant white-hat routine was both annoying and relieving. I wonder if Elizabeth Bennet ever felt like that.
Oh. Everyone was looking at me again.
And Edward, who couldn’t be more of a boy scout if he had a red cape and tights, followed my lead. “Yes! I remember you said you like reading. Is there anything else that you enjoy? I’m very interested. I hope we share some common diversions, although, Emmett tells me that couples often end up discovering activities that they enjoy together but wouldn’t normally engage in alone. He used dancing as an example, but I think we can all agree that that activity wouldn’t suit either of us, right?”
What would have normally embarrassed the holy hell out of me, was, in this context, endearing. Edward was completely sincere. His intention was not to shame or humiliate, at all.
I nodded. I was prepared for this. “I like watching certain shows…Television shows. Dexter, Weeds…I also like writing in my journal and watching people.”
I glanced at Jasper. No doubt he knew of none of this about me. I guess he was getting to know the real me…completely un-Alice-filtered…how fun for him.
Edward beamed at me, while Emmett and Rose tried not to pay attention.
Then, Edward said, “I don’t ever watch television…Dexter, hmmm. That’s Latin meaning right, right handed or skillful…now that sounds interesting, but why anyone would want to watch grass grow is beyond me…but I would love for you to introduce me to all your favorite shows. Would you do that?”
“OK.” Edward was fast learning how to toss fat citrus fruit.
“Maybe you can write to me and tell me about how you like to watch people. I don’t think I’ve ever engaged in that activity, but I can see how it might be interesting.”
“I’ll let you get back to your food,” he noticed that I hadn’t taken a single bite.
Then, turning to his sister he said, “This is very good chowder, Rosalie.”
“Thank you. I got the recipe from last month’s Gourmet. Most of the ingredients are local and fresh. The clams, of course, and the cream, too.”
She smiled and was clearly proud of her work, and charmed by Edward’s appraisal.
Edward continued: “Rosalie loves to cook, Bella, and I have only recently allowed myself the privilege of enjoying it. She has been gracious and allowed me to advise her on personal hygiene in the kitchen.”
I snorted and glanced at Rosalie.
“I know,” she rolled her eyes, “but he doesn’t mean it like that.”
“Like what?” Edward asked.
Everyone looked intently at their plates.
“Like, girly parts, Ed,” Emmett clarified for Edward what no one else had the nerve to say.
“What does that have to do with the kitchen?”
“Well, I for one had no idea tilapia could taste so good. What is this flavor, Rose?” Jasper asked the cook.
“Fresh dill,” she said.
The conversation continued, mostly without me having to do more than answer in one or two words. Jasper didn’t bring up Alice again, so I presumed that we were in agreement that she not be told about this evening…or at least that she shouldn’t be told that we were in the same room together with Jasper’s family…no doubt that piece of information would not be well received.
Edward didn’t get to ask me very many of the questions on his list, because as the evening wore on, he spent more time staring at my face than speaking. Emmett and Jasper called him out on his inattention to the group conversation several times, which revolved around sports, cars and hiking. They rarely included me, and only to be polite, I was sure. They only asked Edward statistical questions and he repeatedly waved them off.
And went back to staring at me.
I know it should have been a bit creepy, but coming from Edward, it just wasn’t. I was getting the impression that he was the kind of guy who looked at whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. And right now, he wanted to look at me.
If I had been as brave as he was, I would be staring right back. Instead, I stared at my plate or ventured a glance at the others from time to time.
Finally, after Emmett raised his voice to get Edward’s attention a third time, my date briefly made eye contact with his brother then turned to me and said, “Would you like to come back to my place, now?”
However, instead saying, “Hells yeah!” like I wanted to, I looked up at Jasper…and he looked at me…and I didn’t say anything to Edward.
An awkward silence followed.
Then the man of my dreams looked away from my face, following my line of sight and asked, “Why are you and Jasper looking at each other?”