Chapter 12 ~ The Mayor
My hands were at my face and I could feel tears streaming down my cheeks and over my ice cold fingers. I heard a scream and only in the dark recesses of my mind did the voice register as my own.
James was bent over, his arms flailing. I watched in horror as he straightened up and kicked Edward, who remained on the ground. Some sort of instinct took over then and I moved in reaction, events blurring together into a series of almost nonsensical and unconnected incidents. I screamed again, vaguely registering the fact that my throat felt raw, and jumped at James. I didn't quite make it up onto his back, but I did manage to grab him around the neck and pull him backward. I heard his breath leave him in a rush as I did so and his hand grabbed behind him ineffectively as he tried to pull me off of him.
I heard someone scream my name — a female voice — as I watched Edward rise from the ground, seemingly slowly, shaking his head. My attention diverted, I inadvertently loosened my grip on James and he flung me from his back, almost knocking me to the ground. As I teetered on my platforms, I heard my name again and felt a steadying hand at my arm and another around my back. I looked over my shoulder to see Rosalie standing there, a big and beefy man next to her. I gaped at her as he whipped past us, grabbing James just before he landed another punch on Edward. James struggled in the big man's arms as Edward straightened his stance and pulled his fist back again, landing another punch just as I heard the police sirens and tires squealing as two cars pulled up in front of the restaurant.
"Thank you, Mr. Mayor." The uniformed police officer turned toward Edward, who held an ineffective and saturated tissue to his bloody cheekbone. "Mr. Masen, we will be in touch." He narrowed his eyes. "You should get to a hospital."
Edward had already declined the offer of an ambulance, but he nodded at the cop.
I stood at his side, my hand around his back. His arm was around my shoulder and he slouched against me, still holding the bloody tissue against his cheek.
I looked at Rosalie, my eyes heavy with tears both shed and unshed.
"So what brings you here tonight?" I asked with mock-glee.
"Well, we were going to dinner. I didn't plan on getting a floor show." Rosalie looked me over with a combination of humor and concern. "I can't believe you, Bella. What were you thinking, jumping on that guy like that?"
"Um ... that I didn't want him to kill Edward?" I felt Edward's body quake against me as he stifled a chuckle.
"Well, that was ... impressive, actually." She grinned at me before adopting a stern look to her face. "But stupid. You might have gotten your head kicked in, Bella."
I looked over at the big man who again stood next to Rose. I eyed him shyly. "So ... um...?" My eyes looked to Rose, in question.
"Oh. Yeah," she said, remembering herself. "This is Emmett McCarty. Mayor Emmett McCarty. My date."
I stuck out my hand, my eyes wide. "Mr. Mayor. I'm sorry we're meeting under such horrible circumstances."
He shook my hand, a wide and friendly smile on his face. He was quite attractive, with short-cropped hair and bright, blue eyes. And dimples. I'd be willing to bet you could see his dimples from friggin' space. He was also tall and broad-shouldered and his large, muscular chest was evident under the now slightly rumpled suit he was wearing.
"I really can't thank you enough," I said as I dropped his hand.
The man had done more than break up the fight. He had spoken to the cops and persuaded them not to arrest Edward (though that also meant they didn't arrest James, much to my dismay. He'd gone home in a taxi, by himself, Victoria having opted to skip out at some point during the fracas). Edward was not exactly off the hook, but at least he wouldn't have to spend the night in jail, in pain and bleeding.
"Please, call me Emmett," he said. "I feel like I already know you anyway. Rose speaks very highly of you."
I blushed slightly. "Well, I can assure you that I don't usually involve myself in brawls on the street."
Emmett laughed. "I'm sure you don't."
Edward stuck out his hand and Emmett turned slightly to take it in his beefy palm.
"I am indebted to you, Emmett," he said.
Emmett shrugged. "Not really. I'm not like the Godfather. I won't come knocking on your door, asking you to bake a cake for my daughter's wedding or anything."
Edward tried to laugh, but ended up grimacing. "Good thing," he said. "I don't bake much."
"Go get this guy bandaged up, okay?" Emmett said, looking at me and taking Rosalie's hand in his.
"We will talk tomorrow." Rose looked pointedly at me. "Nice hickey, by the way," she said, over her shoulder as they walked away.
The valet had already brought the Volvo around and I gave him a $40 tip for doing so. I figured it was the least I could do, after the spectacle we'd made at their place of business.
After helping Edward into the passenger seat, I slipped behind the steering wheel and looked over at him. He leaned his head back against the seat of the car, his eyes closed. He held a fresh napkin to his cheek, but no blood seemed to be seeping through it. His left eye was already turning black and appeared to be swelling.
"Can I please take you to the hospital?" I was almost pleading.
He turned his head toward me. "I'm okay Bella. Really. Can I just come to your place?"
I took in a shuddering breath and started the car, nodding.
I got Edward into my house and seated on the sofa in the sun room while I rushed to the kitchen and opened the freezer. I returned to him moments later with a bag of frozen corn, wrapped in a paper towel, and handed it to him. "Here. Put this on your eye. I'll be right back."
I went quickly down the hall and pulled a washcloth and a bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide from the linen closet, then returned to the kitchen. While I ran water into a large bowl, tears again began to run down my face. I swiped them away and blew my nose into a paper towel before I returned to Edward and planted myself on the floor in front of him. I sighed as I looked up at his slightly swollen and bloody face. Apart from the black eye, he had a frightening gash on the side of his face, where it had hit the cement, and I knew his ribs had to be sore from James' kick to his side. I wetted the washcloth in the bowl of water and rang it out before sitting up on my knees.
"I can't believe you guys," I said. "I might have expected this from James, but from you? What are you, a neanderthal?" I patted his injured cheek with the wash cloth and, seeing him wince, pulled it away quickly. "I'm sorry. Did I hurt you?"
He pulled the corn away from his eye. "No. James hurt me." He grinned. The asshole was grinning.
I pushed the hand holding the corn back toward his eye. "I don't know what you have to be smiling about. This whole thing was so ridiculous. And now you're probably in trouble with the cops, to boot." I didn't even want to mention what might happen at work on Monday.
I rinsed the wash cloth off in the water and went back to his face. He sighed as I continued to wipe dried blood and bits of dirt from his beautiful cheekbone. At least the bleeding had stopped.
"And you'd better not have a scar. If you've fucked up your face, it's over between us."
Edward laughed and then groaned. He pulled the corn away from his eye again. "I knew you only wanted me for my good looks."
"And you were right," I pushed the corn back again. "Obviously, I'm not attracted to your mind—what there is of it."
I was trying to hold onto my righteous indignation, but a smile crept through in spite of my efforts. I shifted my position on the floor and he widened his legs so I could move closer to him, between them. I tipped the bottle of Peroxide onto the cloth and used it to wipe the cut on his face before I took his right hand in mine, turning it over so I could see the knuckles. I rinsed the cloth off again and then put it against the scrapes I found there.
"We need to put ice on this, too," I said. I could feel a lump growing strength in my throat.
Once his hand was clean, I kissed his swollen knuckles softly. He turned his hand in mine and cradled my cheek. On the verge of tears again, I closed my eyes for a moment before I looked up into his ... and the corn.
"You really scared me, you know." I whispered the words and he pulled the corn away from his face again. This time, I didn't force the issue.
He stared down at me, his eyes dark. "I know. I'm sorry."
"He might have really hurt you."
He didn't respond to that. He merely moved his hand at my face, his thumb running along my cheekbone. I stared up into his beautiful eyes as tears began to silently drift down my cheek. He lifted his head.
"Hey," he said, smiling softly. "What's this about? I'm fine, honestly."
I dropped the wash cloth into the water bowl and lay my head on his leg, my hand on his hip, careful to stay away from any of his obvious injuries. His uninjured hand ran through my hair and he massaged my scalp.
"I don't want anything–" I swallowed, hard, fighting back the tears. My voice cracked with the effort. "Bad to happen to you."
He chuckled and his hand continued to move against my scalp. "Well, I should hope not."
I slapped playfully at his thigh. "I'm serious, Edward."
He tugged at my upper arm and I obliged by moving from my position to sit in his lap, straddling him. I kept most of my weight on my knees, afraid to cause him more pain. I could feel the heat of his hands on me even through my dress, his fingers trailing over my the curve of my hips.
"I know you are, Bella," he almost whispered. "And I know that's not the only thing that scared you."
I shook my head, a few tears continuing to trail down my cheeks in spite of my efforts to keep them at bay. He was right. He had scared me. The anger I saw in him scared me. I had never seen him like that and I didn’t ever want to see that look on his face again.
"No, that's not all."
"I'm sorry I scared you, Bella." He sighed and put a hand to my face, wiping my tears. "I don't know what came over me, honestly. I just ... I couldn't stand the way he was talking about you. Like you were some wildebeest and we were the lions out to make you our dinner."
He chuckled and I buried my head against his chest, my arms around his waist.
"Please," I said against him. "Don't ever do anything like this again, okay?"
"Bella." He pushed me up so I could look in his face. "I don't ever want to do anything like that again. But I swear on all that is holy, if that guy ever comes near you again, I will fucking kill him ... Or I'll have Emmett do it," he added, with a chuckle.
I swatted at his chest. "That's not funny," I said, though I fought a smile.
He snaked his arms around me again, pulling me to him in a tight embrace. "I know, baby. But I will not let anything happen to you. Ever."
I sighed and did smile, then, curling against his chest. I was worried about him and didn't want anything like this to ever happen again. But I had to admit it felt awfully nice that he wanted to protect me.
“No one’s ever ... fought over me before." I whispered, listening to his heart beating through his shirt. I hated to admit to myself how much of a turn-on it was that the man had thrown punches on my behalf. Who, exactly, was the neanderthal in this scenario, after all?
"The truth? I've never fought for anyone before. I've never fought before, period." He chuckled softly at his revelation as my eyes went wide and I pulled away to look down into his face.
"Well, gee, you could have fooled me. You got in a couple of killer punches there."
He chuckled again. "What about you, Sheena of the jungle?"
"Oh, good. I needed a new nickname."
"You're tiring of 'sweet tits'?"
I glared at him, in jest. "Be careful, Teddy, or you'll get your ass kicked again."
His hand came again to my face and I relaxed into his warm caress.
"I'm sorry about your dress," he said, after a moment. "It was really beautiful."
I sighed and shrugged. "Dresses can be replaced."
His long fingers ran down the neckline of my dress until they reached the bottom, then ran back up the other side. I barely felt the tips of his fingers gliding against my skin, but I definitely saw the dark look in his eyes.
"Why don't you take it off?"
My heart almost stopped and I raised my eyebrows as my jaw fell open, slightly. "Because you're hurt and you're tired and if you see what I have on underneath this thing, it may well send you over the edge and give you a heart attack."
Edward's actions then were nothing I would have expected. He smiled and put his arms around me, pulling me tightly to his chest, apparently less concerned about whatever pain he was in than I was. He buried his face in my hair and I felt his lips kissing my neck through it. I could hear him inhaling, deeply, as if taking in my scent.
I'm not sure how long we sat like that, but it was at least several minutes. I shed a few more tears into his shirt, more out of relief and emotional exhaustion than any remaining upset. I was stressed and I was worried about what trouble Edward might be in, but more than anything I was happy that he wasn't seriously injured and that we were safe at home. Together. The happiness I felt at that fact shocked me and shook me more than a little. Edward held me, his arms encircling me as his mouth occasionally pressed against my hair and he breathed deeply. He could not have hugged me tightly enough.
Finally, I took a deep breath and spoke into his chest. "Would you like to take a shower? Or if you'd like, I can draw you a bath. A good soak might make you feel better."
"Hmm..." I felt his hum deep in his chest. "A bath? Will you wash my back?"
I sat up and looked at him. He brushed hair from my face, his fingers drifting lightly across my cheek.
"I will wash any part of you you want me to wash," I said with a wink and he grinned.
"Do you have bubbles?"
"I do." I nodded and moved to get up from his lap.
As I stood, he grasped my hand in his. "Will you join me?"
"Edward, this is supposed to be a relaxing, recuperative bath, not a hot and horny one."
I grabbed the corn and led the way to the master bathroom, holding his hand in mine as he walked behind me.
"You see how your mind works?" he teased. "I said nothing about getting hot and horny. I just want you in the bath with me. To comfort me, you know."
I shot him a knowing look, over my shoulder.
"I've had a rough day," he said, with a disgustingly adorable pout on his lips.
I bent over the tub while he undressed, making sure the water was comfortably hot and pouring bubbles under the running water. Just before I straightened, Edward came up behind me and reached for the tie at the hip of my dress. I put my hand over his and to stop him.
"Bella," he moaned, his face in my hair. "I need to see you."
I turned in his arms and smiled up at him. "Get in the tub, please. You'll see me soon enough."
He raised his eyebrows. "Promise?"
I nodded and watched as he settled into the rising bubbles.
Once he was settled, I reached out to him. "Can I have your hand, please?"
He held his right hand out to me and I set it on the edge of the tub, placing the corn on top of his knuckles.
"Leave this on there for a while, okay?"
He nodded, still smiling up at me.
While the water continued to run, filling the tub, I went to the kitchen and returned with two tall glasses of ice water. I pulled a bottle of Ibuprofen from the medicine cabinet in the bathroom and handed a couple of the pills to Edward, along with his glass. Once he'd swallowed them and downed much of his glass of water, I shut off the faucet and placed our glasses on the counter after taking a long drink myself. I grabbed a rubber band from a drawer and turned slowly to find him watching me. I looked in his eyes as I wound the band through my hair, raising it above my shoulders in a sloppy bun.
"You sure you want me in there with you?" I asked. "It would do you good to just relax and stretch out for a while."
"You're good for me, Bella. And if you don't get your ass in here in about thirty-seconds, I'm gonna pull you in, clothes and all."
I shrugged, smiling. "Well, my dress is already ruined anyway."
I untied my dress, though, slowly, and dropped it to the floor. I heard his sharp intake of breath as I did so and felt the heat of a blush rush over my face.
"Wait," he said, his voice low. "Stop for a moment."
I stopped and stood as I was, hands on my hips, then turned slowly and looked at him over my shoulder, shaking my ass just a little before I turned back to face him fully.
"Fuck," he whispered as his eyes wandered over my body before returning to mine. "I have never seen anything so beautiful in my life as you, Bella."
I stepped out of my shoes and slipped the straps of the teddy down my shoulders before shimmying it to the floor, Edward watching my every movement. In spite of everything that had happened that night, his eyes were dark with desire and it thrilled me.
I dipped a foot into the hot water before sliding in opposite him, my legs entwined with his. I sighed as I sank back into the bubbles. I hadn't realized until that moment just how much I needed the bath, too. I closed my eyes as I lay my head back and felt Edward's fingers at my foot. He grabbed it in his hand and squeezed lightly.
I groaned. "That feels good."
He chuckled and I opened my eyes to look at him. He was still eyeing me.
"It's been one hell of a couple of weeks, hasn't it?"
I had to chuckle, as well. "I guess it has, at that."
He squeezed my foot again in his one-handed massage and watched my face. "You still wanna do this? Us, I mean? I swear you won't always have to play nursemaid to me, Bella."
I chuckled again. "You don't like role play games?"
He grinned, moving his hand up my ankle. "Oh, I like games ... but sadly, this shit has been all too real."
I closed my eyes again and sighed, reveling in the feeling of his hand massaging my calf muscle.
"Bella?" I opened my eyes to see him gazing intently at me. "You didn't answer my question."
I moved my foot to rest against his chest. I could feel his heart beating through its' sole.
"Why? You wanna quit while we're ahead?"
His hand was now behind my knee, his fingers more caressing than massaging.
"Not me, Bella." His eyes sparkled as he gave me a lopsided grin. "I've never been a quitter."
I watched his face for a while, as his fingers continued to tickle behind my knee, occasionally drifting up along the underside of my thigh. He had an earnest look on his face and appeared worried, in spite of the crooked grin. He looked very young.
I sat up and scooted closer to him, bending my knees and resting my elbows on them, my hands on his chest. His hand moved to my shoulder and caressed there, while his other remained on the edge of the tub, beneath the bag of corn.
"We could be in some serious trouble come Monday," I said, softly.
Edward watched his own hand moving at my shoulder and then his eyes drifted down to my breast, his hand following. "Well, I probably will be. You didn't do anything wrong, Bella."
I shrugged subtly as his fingers played in the bubbles around my nipple. The heat passing between us was unavoidable, in spite of the serious nature of our conversation.
"I don't know how this will play out. I mean, I should have told HR about James when he grabbed me the other day. Now it could look weird, in light of everything. Like, I'm less sure they'll even believe me." I sighed and gave him a solemn look, the truth of the situation fully sinking in for the first time as I admitted it aloud. "I kind of fucked this up, Edward."
"I'm sorry, Bella," he almost whispered. He looked at me, the grin gone.
I put my hand at his face, careful not to touch any of his injuries. "I know you are, Edward. You don't have to keep apologizing."
"I don't just mean for the fight and for all this mess. I mean..." He sighed, deeply. "I mean, this has been the craziest beginning to a relationship ever." He smiled, shaking his head in incredulity before he leaned in to kiss me. His tongue slipped into my mouth briefly, teasing me. "I just want to romance and seduce you and wine you and dine you and say deliciously dirty things in your ear and instead we keep getting sidetracked by a bunch of crap."
I played with the bubbles, trapping them between my hand and his skin as I absorbed all he’d said.
"Well, Edward. It's not like any of that crap is your fault, or mine, really. It just is what it is. I mean, we work together and there is a rather large difference in our ages. There are a lot of built-in stresses there. Throw in a jealous psychopath and crap is gonna come up."
I traced his nipples with my fingers before squeezing them and his eyes shut for a moment before they moved back to my breasts. He pooled water in his uninjured hand and drizzled it along my hard nipple, rinsing bubbles away before dipping his head to take it into his mouth.
"Edward..." I sighed his name more than said it. "I really like you, Edward." He lifted his head and looked into my eyes as I scooted a little closer to him. At my movement, little waves traveled through the water surrounding us; bubbles crushed against our skin, between us. "If you're still in this with me, I don't want to derail what we're doing. I rather enjoy your company, you know. I'd like to get to know you better. Eventually, people will tire of talking about us and hopefully James will get sent packing or at least will just go away on his own. I'll always be an old lady compared to you, but I should still have a few good years in me before I have, like, bladder control issues or anything."
I smiled and he chuckled as I continued.
"Think of it this way. If we get through all this crap and still like each other at the end of it, the rest of our relationship is gonna be cake."
His smile lit up his features and my heart leapt at the relieved joy evident in his eyes. He pulled my face toward his to kiss my lips softly.
He kept my face to his, touching his forehead to mine and sighing softly against my lips. "I was really afraid that after tonight’s fiasco you were gonna figure I wasn't worth the drama."
My wet and soapy hand moved to his neck, my fingers drifting through his hair. I was somewhat taken aback by what he'd said. I figured my feelings were evident—embarrassingly so.
"Edward," I whispered as I leaned toward his lips again. I kissed him softly, cradling his jaw in my other, soapy hand. "Edward, the way you make me feel..." I kissed his lips again, running my tongue along his lip. "I'm really not eager to give this up any time soon."
I heard the bag of corn hit the floor as both of his hands went to the back of my head. He pulled the band from my hair, his hands running through my curls it as they fell over my shoulders. A growl came from deep within him as he deepened our kiss and I ran my hands down his chest.
"What happened to my relaxing and recuperative bath?" he asked, breaking our kiss with a grin, my face in his hands.
"If you're not relaxed after what I have planned, then I'm out of ideas."
He growled again as his mouth ravaged mine. My hands wandered his torso, his arms, his back. When I squeezed his hip, he almost whimpered into my mouth, making me smile widely against him.
He was already hard when I reached for him and I gripped him in one hand while reaching below with the other to tease him there.
"Ung!" He broke our kiss and exhaled heavily into my smiling mouth, his grip tightening in my hair, his eyes shut tight. "Bella," he whispered.
One of my hands returned to his hair, keeping his face close to mine while I stroked him with the other, squeezing in a way I'd learned drove him crazy. My palm twisted around the head before moving down again to repeat the process.
"Bella," he rasped out my name as he grabbed my forearm in his hand, stilling my movements. He opened his eyes and smiled.
"You can't keep doing that or you'll make me come."
I grinned and started moving my hand again, in spite of his grip. "Isn't that the point?" I kissed him again, running my tongue over his teeth before he gripped the back of my head in both of his hands and pulled me forward in a deep kiss. His tongue ran rampant through my mouth until he gasped and groaned, forgetting about kissing me entirely. I smiled as his breaths came faster into my mouth and against my face. His eyes were shut tight again, his face distorted into a delicious mask of pleasure that made my skin tingle.
He gripped the back of my neck, tightly, before his good hand flew to the side of the tub, trying to grip the wall. "Fuck! Bella! Yes!"
His hips thrust up into my hand and he stiffened, jerking several times into my squeezing hand before he stilled and settled back into the water. His grip loosened, but he kept his hand at the back of my neck, caressing me lightly and slipping his fingers through my hair.
I watched him as he caught his breath, his eyes closed and a smile on his lips. My hand drifted down from his hair to run along his jaw, my thumb snaking up his cheek. I dipped my neck to kiss him along the other side of his jaw, toward his ear.
He chuckled. "You do like the jaw porn, don't ya?"
"Mm-Hmm," I murmured into his skin. I didn't even bother trying to deny it.
He took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. "Jesus, Bella. You are really ... amazing."
I pulled away and looked at him, grinning. He chuckled again as he looked at me. His eyes were cloudy and he seemed a bit dazed.
"Really?" I asked, shyly. I knew he enjoyed sex with me. A lot. It was obvious. But that didn't mean I didn't want to hear him say it again.
"Uh ... yeah." He trailed his fingers down my neck one last time before he dropped his injured hand to my thigh, squeezing and making me worry about his swollen knuckles. He chuckled and ran his other hand through his hair, leaning back against the tub, oblivious to my concerns.
"Come on," he said, nudging me with his thigh. "I know I'm not the first man to tell you your good at this sex thing."
"This 'sex thing'?" I rolled my eyes and he laughed softly. I shrugged and averted my gaze, a bit embarrassed. "You know ... what's good for one person isn't necessarily good for everyone. I don't think everyone thought I was amazing."
He sat up and wrapped his arms around me. "Well, you are perfect for me." I giggled as he peppered my neck with kisses and then laughed at the fact that I was giggling like a seventeen year-old.
When the water started to cool and our bubbles dissipated, leaving only cloudy water in their wake, we rose from the bath and took a shower, rinsing the suds from our bodies. I'd never seen anything quite so erotic as the water playing off of the gorgeous body in front of me and I was a bit mesmerized by the site. I couldn't help but trace my tongue along the paths made by the streaming water. Edward's hands and mouth roamed my body freely, leaving me completely keyed up and wanting, but not finishing what he'd started until we’d dried off and were snugly ensconced in the bed.
While Edward was taking another shower the following morning, I called Carlisle. I didn't want to, really, but I did want him to hear my side of the story before he heard any alternate version. I had no idea what was going on with James and Victoria, but I assumed that if he heard of the events from either one of them first, they would not reflect well on Edward or me.
I started at the beginning, telling him how James and I flirted with each other and then how angry he became when he grabbed my arm in my office on Monday. I ended with the fight the night prior. I was upfront about the status of my relationship with Edward—that we were seeing each other, but were at the beginning of our relationship and had no idea yet where it was headed. I also told him that I didn't exactly see the relationship ending any time soon, though. Revealing that out loud for the first time actually made me smile in spite of the circumstances surrounding my call.
Carlisle listened quietly throughout my relating of the events, only asking for occasional clarification. When I had finished, he sighed heavily. We sat on the phone in silence for several moments before he spoke.
"Well, this is quite a fucking stew you've gotten yourself in to, isn't it Bella?"
I cleared my throat. "Yes, it is."
"Bella, you should have told me or you should have told HR about James the minute he touched you. Really, even before that. His actions have been completely inappropriate."
"I know.” I sighed. “I just never thought James would turn out to be so ... well, nuts."
"I don't know, Carlisle ... I think I just felt like I had been flirting with him for all those weeks and I was as much at fault as he was. And I thought I'd handled it."
"I don't care that you were flirting, Bella. He had no right to touch you like that."
I heard another sigh from him. "Bella, I know you like to think of yourself as strong and independent, but you can't allow those traits to put you in a dangerous situation. Sometimes you need to rely on others to intervene and help you out. You do have people on your side, you know."
I laughed. "You sound like my dad."
He chuckled, too. "Sometimes you make me feel like your fucking dad, Bella."
"Charlie would never say the f-word, though. He thought people only cussed because they had a limited vocabulary."
"So basically, it's a sign of ignorance."
"Basically." I laughed and it made me feel better; lighter.
"Well, I can see that." He chuckled again before turning serious again with another sigh. "Bella, you know I have your back and that I completely believe you. But you also know there will be an investigation. HR will need to speak with all parties and will then make a recommendation as to what's to be done. Their job will be to protect you and to be fair, but also to protect Con-Vert from any liability, here."
"Yes. I know." My voice was soft and I was on the verge of tears. My head started to ache.
"Bella, I have to tell you. Edward's job could be in danger, here. He's brand new to the company, for Christ's sake. He's still in his probationary period."
I impatiently wiped at a tear that had fallen down my cheek and sat a little straighter in my seat. "That's bullshit Carlisle, and you know it. It's James who should be out of a job."
"Well, he might be. I don't know what's gonna happen, Bella. I just want you to understand the seriousness of the situation. From what you told me, Edward threw the first punch, right?"
"He was totally provoked into that, Carlisle, and it was that or get his teeth bashed in before he even had time to defend himself."
"As a man I understand what you're telling me, Bella. But as the CEO of Con-Vert, I am telling you that all facts will be looked in to and reviewed and a determination made based on those facts."
I sighed, again. "I understand."
"I am sending an email to Frances this morning and asking her to meet with you when you get in, first thing Monday. Edward and James, as well. I would assume they'll also want to speak with Jasper."
"Okay." It was all I could think to say.
"Bella, go have some Mimosas and try to get your mind off of this for today."
I chuckled, halfheartedly, at the notion of taking my mind off the situation. "Okay, I'll try."
"Hang in there, Bella," he said finally, before we said our good-byes.
I disconnected the line and sat on the sofa for several moments, trying to clear my mind of the events and scenarios that were filling it. Ultimately, I decided to take Carlisle's advice. I went to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of champagne and one of orange juice and took them into the bedroom. I went back to the kitchen to fetch two champagne glasses and sat down on the bed to wait for Edward.
He came out of the bathroom, stopping at the threshold. He was dressed in what was, on me, a knee-length, red silk robe. On Edward, it barely fell long enough to cover his junk and it didn't quite close around him, gaping open at his chest.
"Hey. Don't I look like a boxer, baby? I have that rugged, Raging Bull look, don't I?" He wagged his eyebrows at me and I laughed. His left eye was completely black now, although we'd kept the swelling to a minimum with the help of various bags of frozen vegetables. He had a white bandage on the opposite cheekbone, covering the gash there. He really did look like he'd just gone several rounds with Jake LaMotta. He moved into the room, sashaying in my robe and making me laugh even more.
"Ooh ... Mimosas?" He raised his eyebrows at me.
I nodded and grabbed the juice to start pouring some into the awaiting glasses. "You up for one?"
He grasped the champagne bottle and started removing the foil around the cork. "One? No. Five? Perhaps." He grinned down at me where I remained seated on the bed. "What's the occasion?"
"Occasion?" It was my turn to raise my eyebrows. "Does there have to be an occasion?"
He chuckled as he popped the cork, smoothly. "And this is why I love you," he said. His hand paused, the bottle tipped over one glass but not pouring. His eyes glazed over and he stared at seemingly nothing in front of him.
I let him stew for a moment before I grinned.
"Gee, Edward. A little flummoxed at your admission, there?"
I watched his adam's apple bob as he swallowed. He started pouring the champagne. "Um ... not at all."
My chuckles grew to outright giggles and I grabbed for my glass. "Jesus, Edward, you can stop sweating. I didn't take you seriously."
He chuckled as he picked up his own glass. "I'm not sweating."
He so clearly was.
He raised his glass to mine. "Thank you again, Bella, for taking care of me." He bent and kissed my lips softly before taking a healthy drink of his mimosa.
His legs stretched out in front of him as he sat down next to me on the bed, his back against a pillow propped up to the headboard. I had to giggle again at the site of his bare legs extended from under the tiny robe. I poked my finger on his thigh, up underneath the hem of the robe.
"What do you got under there, anyway?" I asked, bending down to try to sneak a peek.
He fidgeted, trying in vain to pull the robe lower on his thigh, and batted my hand away. "Fresh! It's none of your business what I may—or may not—be wearing underneath this robe." He grinned at me, an eyebrow raised.
He took a large sip before resting his glass on his thigh and his smile slowly faded. He took a deep breath and asked, "So did you talk to Carlisle?"
"Yes," I replied. I scooted down into the bed, careful not to spill my mimosa. It rested it on my belly once I'd laid down on my back.
He looked down at me. "And?"
"Well, I mean, he's on our side. But HR has to do an investigation, of course. They'll be interviewing all of us first thing Monday morning."
He nodded solemnly and took another drink.
"I'm gonna have to call Jasper and warn him," I said.
"Well, he was in my office for the tail-end of my run-in with James. They'll want to ask him what he saw."
"Did he see anything?"
"Not much, I don't think.” I shrugged. “He heard me tell James not to come around anymore. I think that was it. He seemed to know I was upset, though, so maybe he heard something else. I don't really know, honestly. We didn't discuss it much."
He nodded and took another drink, seemingly lost in thought.
"I could lose my job," he announced after several moments.
I sighed. "Let's just not even think about it anymore, okay? There's not a lot we can do about it today. We'll see how it goes on Monday and then stress out if need be."
"Well, what am I supposed to do with myself if I'm not gonna spend the day stressing out?" He looked down at me and grinned.
"With yourself?" My eyes went wide. "Well, if you're gonna do stuff all by yourself, at least let me get my camera."
Edward finished off his mimosa before setting his glass on the bedside table and reaching for mine to do the same. He scooted down next to me and nuzzled his nose into my neck. My robe moved up along his thigh, no longer hiding the fact that he wore nothing underneath it.
"I've got a beautiful warm body on one side of me," he said. "And a cold bottle of bubbly on the other. Why in the world would I want to do anything to myself?"