Comfortably Numb

Comfortably Numb 2

 

Comfortably Numb

 

Bella Swan enjoys helping people. It doesn’t matter if it’s the customers she pours a cup of coffee for, or the man who just drop money on a New York sidewalk. But when the kindness she shows is turned against her, how far will she continue to go to protect her family? Will she sacrifice her happiness? Or let her only relative lose everything? Angst! CC rated M for adult content.

 

  1. Chapter 1

 

Welcome to Comfortably Numb. Although this is a Bella and Edward fiction, it is NOT my typical form. First, it will be entirely in third person, its easier to switch POV and trust me, I switch constantly. There will be no falling in love at first sight. No best friends coming to any rescue. There will be angst. There will be moments where you hate every character I bring to life, on the pages to follow. There will be many adult situations and hints of illegal activity, including drug use. But in the end, you know me well, there is ALWAYS HEA!

 

Comfortably Numb

 

Chapter one

 

Delucca’s, the bright green neon sign directed hungry patrons to the midtown Manhattan bakery. With its turn of the century exterior and the aroma of fresh baked bread permeating the air for blocks. The building itself has only housed one business. Although the owners have changed it over the last hundred years, the products created have not.

 

Delucca’s was originally built in the early nineteen hundreds by an Italian immigrant of the same name. He and his wife worked tirelessly to build the business and give it a name to be proud of. After their deaths, the business had been handed off to a number of hopeful bakers, each trying to create a name for themselves. Even when the name was changed, the regular customers always called it by the original. So, when Kate and Irina were handed the keys to the front door by their half brothers, the ownership obtained when a bet was lost, the next chapter began.

 

The building, with its aging brick and chipped mortar, held more than just memories and a paycheck for the lonely brunette who currently walked along the sidewalk. Bella Swan always appreciated the feel of home as she entered the store early each morning. For her, it was the feel of the dough as she kneaded it over and over, losing herself in the mindless task, able to forget, if only briefly, the loneliness she faced at home. It was the sound of the bell over the door alerting her it was time to smile, time to forget everything that haunted her, if only for a moment. In the smiles and gentle kisses she received from her two older bosses, their skin warm and their words genuine, as they greet her each day. With each customer who wished her a pleasant day or paid her a compliment on how wonderful the bread looked that day. She craved it all, like woven threads of an old sweater, the building was made for her.

 

To any onlooker, Bella appears to be just a typical young woman, a single dot in the masses that made up the vast metropolis of New York City. And she was, to an extent, but to her brother James she was the one constant in his crazy life. Not only was she faithful and dependable, but he would label her as honest and sincere.

 

With the wind blowing and the cold January snow threatening to fall, her long hair followed in waves that the momentum of her walk created. She was lucky, today the sun was out as she approached her destination–the brick building that housed the warmth she currently craved. The familiar scent of yeast and flour called to her as she opened the more modern door, the original long gone from overuse. The heat hit her across her reddened face, her eyes watery from the cold wind, and the real reason she was coming to work after ten in the morning.

 

Six months ago, she and James had said goodbye to their ailing mother, Renee. For years she fought a hard battle with lung cancer, even though she’d never smoked a day in her life. On a warm day in July, as the sun had just begun to rise, her mother spoke her final words, “Take care of your brother. Do everything you can to keep him safe.”

 

James was Grandma Swan’s favorite, she absolutely worshipped the ground he walked on. It wasn’t that she didn’t love Bella, as well, it was just in a completely different way. Where Bella was reserved and kept to herself, James was adventurous and popular. Grandma Swan just knew he was going to be someone one day and she was right. James had just signed a three year contract with an NFL team. He was the bright and shinning star in the football world. Upon her death, she left Bella and James a very small amount of money, James used his portion to attend college where Bella was expected to help him with her portion. She always wanted to attend a culinary institute and become a professional baker, but with her promise to her mother, that was a goal that would never be reached. Now he was living on Park Avenue in a penthouse the team paid for, while she remained in their mother’s old apartment, where the heat was broken most of the time and the water was usually brown.

 

Today, she met with her family attorney and finalized the last of her mother’s wishes. She was grateful the trust that had been established was enough to cover all the outstanding expenses. Now she could afford to put some money back, maybe afford a better apartment with better conditions. But for now, for now she would remove her coat and gloves, wrap her apron around her waist and do what she loved the most. Knead those loaves of bread.

 

In the corner of that same bakery as Bella passed by, not really looking at her surroundings, sat two men. Half brothers to the twins, Kate and Irina, whom Bella worked for. Charlie and Carlisle Cullen owned far more than just a small Italian bakery–much, much more.

 

The brothers and the twins’ father, Aro Cullen, was a wealthy man with exotic tastes. He also had issues being faithful to his lovely wife. His affair with a particular Russian maid resulted in the birth of the twins. His wife looked the other way and Aro made the housekeeper disappear. Tanya took the twins in and raised them as her own. She also made certain that Carlisle and Charlie knew they were expected to care for their sisters and, to this day, those orders have been followed to the letter.

 

The brothers currently ran a large corporation that, for lack of a better term, gave away money. They monitored scholarships and fundraising events, they set up study missions and funded everything. Aro may have been a player, but he was also a mathematical genius. He made money hand over fist and knew when to get out and when to dive in further. He taught his sons well and even after his death, the family name was synonymous with generosity. But there was also dark side to them. Charlie and Carlisle were game players. Not the games you play with dice or use a board for, no they liked to take a situation and bet on the outcome. Their games had no limits and had, on more than one occasion, involved family members.

 

“I stand behind my statement that given the right circumstances a person will turn against their basic teachings.” Carlisle insisted speaking in hushed tones, allowing only his brother to hear his strategy.

 

Charlie shook his head, “I still say that if a man was brought up in a particular fashion, then that will be carried through until his death.” His was voice slightly louder, conviction in his tone.

 

“So, you’re saying that if a Priest comes walking down the street and sees a one hundred dollar bill just lying there, he won’t pick it up and pocket it?” Carlisle questioned.

 

“That is exactly what I’m saying. The priest would ignore the money, he’s devoted his life to poverty. By picking up the bill, he’s rebuking his teachings.” Charlie took a drink from his steaming cup once his response is given.

 

“Care to make a wager, Brother?”

 

With an agreement settled, the two men decided that they were going to indeed drop a one hundred dollar bill on the busy New York street and see if anyone brought it back to them. They would make is quite obvious that the money came from one of their pockets and rightfully belonged to them. It was also agreed upon that the very next person to walk in the door would be a test subject. With the cold temperatures outside and the sweet aromas floating around, it didn’t take long before the bell over the door sounded.

 

Shaking off the chill and removing his cell phone from his pocket, a dark haired, tall young man approached the counter. With his attention on the face of the phone and not the men standing around him, the brothers begin their test. Carlisle walked to the counter and ordered a danish and another cup of coffee. Bella’s warm smile and pleasant attitude rang his order up and informed him of the total. As planned, he let a folded one hundred dollar bill fall to the wood floor beneath him. The young man noticed the money, took a quick look at Carlisle, judging him, and the designer suit he always wore, and decided to let the money stay on the floor. To both brothers, it looked like the young man was going to ignore the money and just keep looking at his phone. Just as Carlisle turned away and was about to retrieve the money, the young man covered it with his shoe and waited for Bella to get his attention. He ordered his drink and paid with his debit card, all the while holding the money down with his foot. After thanking Bella for the drink, he ‘accidentally’ dropped the plastic bank card. When he bent down to retrieve it, he easily pulled the money from the underside of his shoe and walked out the door–one hundred dollars richer.

 

“You see, not an honest man to be had!” Carlisle cheered in victory. Charlie shook his disbelieving head.

 

He was about to concede when a thought entered his head. “What about the fairer sex, would a woman do the same thing?”

 

His curiosity getting the better of him, Carlisle agreed to the new game. At the time, the only female in the room was the girl who worked behind the counter. Carlisle knew her name was Bella and that she worked here full time, but nothing beyond that. He rose from his seat and, donning his dress coat and gloves, he began the setup again.

 

Having come into work so late, left Bella with clean up duty from the early morning rush. She didn’t mind, it was mostly wiping down tables and collecting dirty dishes, not much different than it was when James lived with her. With a tune in her head, she continued her task, enjoying the break from the thoughts that plagued her mind. She shivered at the feel of cold air rushing in as the door was opened, letting out one of the men who always had coffee in the bakery in the morning. He was rich, that much was clear by his dress and the money clip he always pulled his bills from when he paid. Bella bid him good day, much like every person who leaves and resumed her cleaning. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a flutter and at first thought it was a piece of trash floating in from the brisk wind outside, but further investigation brought the realization that it was not a piece of ordinary trash, but currency. The regular customer who still had his hand on the edge of the door had to be the rightful owner and was just confused due to the sharpness of the cold. Tossing the wet towel onto the table, she ran over, scooped up the money, and began running down the sidewalk screaming, “Sir!”

 

However, the man and his friend didn’t seem to hear her or maybe the wind that was even stronger once outside, carried the sound away. Bella quickened her steps and all out run in progress. She could feel the wind slapping its coldness onto her cheeks, her arms nearly numb from the biting chill. The two men were now in range and she reached out her arm to touch the one closest to her, calling out to him one more time. “Sir!”

 

Carlisle wasn’t happy to hear the young lady trying to get his attention, where Charlie was smiling in triumph.

 

“Sir, you dropped this.” Bella said breathlessly as she held the money out to him, freezing, yet smiling her best smile.

 

“Oh, goodness!” Carlisle’s mocking voice answered, taking the money and pocketing it.

 

Knowing that she had done a good thing, the chill she felt seconds ago was rapidly leaving, replaced by the feeling she always got when she had done something selfless. James always told her it was a character flaw, that bad things happen to good people. She wondered who he knew, since she never witnessed him do anything good, unless it benefited himself.

 

“You’re an honest woman, Ms…?”

 

“Swan, Bella Swan.” She responded, still marginally out of breath, but with her smile still in place.

 

“Well, Bella, my name is Carlisle Cullen and I believe in rewarding people when it’s warranted.” His smile was genuine or at least he hoped it was. With this young woman causing him to lose a bet, the stakes were about to be raised.

 

“If you ever need any help, any at all, you call this number.” Carlisle handed her a crisp business card with Cullen Enterprises scrolled elegantly across the top in gold letters. Bella was no stranger to the name, she read it nearly every week in one of the newspapers left behind in the bakery. She was bubbling inside at the thought that she had just shown a kindness to a man who had done so much for the city, and the country for that matter.

 

“Thank you, Mr. Cullen, but kindness shouldn’t be rewarded, it should be given freely.” Her voice was cheerful and sure.

 

Carlisle wrapped his gloved hands around her bare and purple turning fingers, the card now bending in her palm. “I reward kindness. Again, call me if you ever need anything.”

 

Charlie took in the conversation, knowing his brother well enough that his action were a sure sign that his temper was building. He decided to save the poor girl and captured his brother’s attention. “Carlisle we have a meeting that began five minutes ago.”

 

Carlisle dropped Bella’s hand and thanked her again. She responded with ‘you’re welcome’, then turned and walked briskly back to the bakery.

 

Carlisle watched, his mind formulating a new plan of action. This girl, this Bella Swan, cost him a loss to his brother. If there’s one thing that he couldn’t stand, it’s to lose to anyone. Ignoring his better judgment, he pressed a few buttons on his cell, not waiting on the person on the other side to answer properly.

 

“Jenks, get me everything you can find on a Bella Swan. She works for the girls and I want it in my office by this afternoon.” He didn’t wait for an answer, he closed the phone and turned to join his brother and the pair made their way down the busy sidewalk.

 

AN Posting is set to be twice per week. This is subject to change in the event life kicks myself or my beta, Momma2fan in the teeth. Look for the next up date on Saturday… we are just warming up.

 

ALSO!

 

My plan is to post what I can of this fiction here. Now I am working very hard on placing this on a webpage Im creating. FF loves to pull fictions all the time. And… Ive already had one of my other fictions plagiarized, so expect changes on ALL of my fictions.

 

  1. Chapter 2

 

Chapter Two

 

Cullen towers, a masterfully built high rise, stood strong in the heart of Manhattan. An original design by Frank Lloyd Wright, with reflective glass and modern lines. Windows designed to withstand over one hundred mile an hour winds, a stand alone power source and security so tight, even the White House was envious. In layman’s terms, it was an architectural masterpiece.

 

Yet with all the crisp lines and modern features, two men sat behind an aging desk. Its wood grains able to tell stories which would date back nearly one hundred years.

 

Carlisle Cullen had not been happy with the contents of the file which rested in the center of the antique desk. Amber rays of sunlight slipped past the storm worthy windows, giving more clarity than he desired.

 

The pages were held together by a single staple in the left hand corner, with grainy color photographs, cut and pasted in some cheap-editing program. It was unavoidable with the short time constraints the sender was given.

 

It was the short history which frustrated Carlisle more than anything. Bella Swan’s, or as her credit report indicated Isabella Swan, bank records showed she had one hundred and eleven dollars in her checking account and less than thirty in her saving. Her credit was severely lacking in open accounts, as only one credit card with an extremely low credit limit was in her name. Carlisle scoffed at the thought; he spent more on his socks than what her credit card would allow her purchase.

 

One thing he did find to be a possible area to play with, was the one remaining family member she had; James Swan.

 

“Looks like I’m victorious, wouldn’t you say, brother?” Charlie Cullen shared his brother’s love for a good game. Winning was something he attempted to do with each endeavor he started. However, for Charlie, having one win above his brother was more important than the win itself. He had always been this way, using every waking moment to concoct a game more challenging than his sibling.

 

“Not so fast.” Carlisle’s mind was full of possible outcomes as his evolving strategy began to form. He too wanted to win this particular bet. “You know what’s about to come due?”

 

Cullen enterprises used many hedge front businesses to keep the media happy. Using a family face to keep the dirty secrets behind the bright smile was just that; a secret.

 

Forbes magazine had featured the oldest Cullen son as a potential hopeful to take over as CEO of the company. With Aro’s passing, the face of the Cullen empire had remained absent. Forbes pointed out the position had remained vacant long enough to be considered a respectable morning period.

 

They had posed the question to the family if they would be allowing Edward to take the reins of the company.

 

“The announcement.”

 

Those two words carried more weight than the building they sat in. The face of the family was the one person who not only had final say in how the business operated, but also in future avenues the company explored.

 

Edward was the clear choice to lead the family. He had a privately paid for education, a mind for business, and a face which would melt even the coldest of hearts. The media and all the investors loved him. All that would change though, if they knew one of those secrets. Undoubtedly, one of the darkest the family kept.

 

Carlisle nodded his agreement with Charlie, the wrinkles he paid big money to correcting marring his forehead. Carlisle was a vain person, always fearing what the public said about him. His biggest fear, the secret he kept in an apartment across town getting out and telling the world what really happened behind closed doors.

 

“I can tell by the wrinkle of your brow you have a plan.”

 

Everyone, including Edward, knew of the danger in letting him take over the company. Great measures had been in place for years to hide the affliction Edward was cursed with. Tons of records had been destroyed to keep lips closed and empires thriving.

 

“You know me too well,” Carlisle admitted shifting in his seat. The automatic blinds engaged, as the afternoon sun took its place between the two towers which bordered the Cullen building. Carlisle avoided the sun at all costs, its aging power too much of a risk for him. All the windows in the building were coated with an UV ray barrier, the blinds being an overkill he enjoyed.

 

“Does this plan include placing our bet on hold?”

 

When Edward began to notice the opposite sex, his uncles needed to formulate a plan to satisfy his needs, yet keep his condition a secret. Money was never a factor. Having as much as you needed at a snap of a finger made keeping the secret effortless. Over the years, a few modifications had to be made, new developments created hurdles, which were jumped with ease. Having illegal activities hidden behind the generosity the family was known for, added to the solution.

 

“Oh, dear brother,” the sinister laugh accompanied Carlisle’s amused words, gave a rush to Charlie’s already apprehensive mood. “You should know by now, I never set aside one of our bets.” Carlisle pushed his chair back, rising to his feet. He was a man who carried himself with an air of arrogance, whether behind a desk or on the red carpet. He poured himself a drink from the crystal decanter setting on the credenza. All of the Cullen men had a flavor for the finer things in life, Carlisle with his vanity and expensive scotch. Charlie with his collection of rare art and cigars and Edward, well Edward’s passion was for something no amount of money could buy.

 

“We both know the obvious choice is to allow Edward to take the majority seat.” Charlie reclined back onto his leather chair, intrigued how his brother would be able to combined a bet and the solution to what was an impossible issue.

 

“Angela has outlived her purpose, and become more of a liability.” Charlie agreed, having been the one to pay off more bar and restaurant owners due to the girls overindulgence in recreational products. In all fairness, he was the one who supplied the products to her in the first place; a small price to pay to keep her mouth shut about Edward.

 

“It’s time he moved on, takes a wife and built a family.”

 

Charlie began to laugh, deciding his brother had finally lost his mind. Edward would never be in a position to take a bride, not one with any class or social status. Children would not survive in an environment where Edward was a parent, the use of private tutors and online classrooms was a must for his education.

 

“Now you’re being ridiculous. While I agree with the disposal of Angela, a family is an impossibility. No child, no matter how many caregivers we could silence, deserves to be in an environment Edward creates.”

 

Carlisle was deeply disappointed in his brother’s lack of faith in him. His ability to think quickly on his feet had saved the company more that a few times. “What if I told you my plan included not only placing Edward at the head of the family and putting an end to the black hole which is Angela, but also keeps our bet going, which includes Isabella.”

 

Charlie was skeptical at best. No matter how creative and intelligent his brother may be, nothing could bring all of the items on that list to life. For one, this wouldn’t be the first time they’d attempted to place Angela on ice. While killing her would be a quick end, Edward would question her whereabouts. The confrontation was not something they would ever entertain.

 

“I would tell you to increase whatever mental medication you were taking as your current dose isn’t enough.”

 

Carlisle gave his brother a stern look, one he saved for times such as this. His brother, while business smart, had no clue just how conniving he could really be. He was confident his plan would not only place the company in a position of great standing with the investors, but also the media. More importantly, however, it would keep his winnings higher than his brother’s.

 

“Everyone has a breaking point, something they hold so close they’re willing to risk anything to keep it. For Edward, it’s his condition and for Angela, her next fix.”

 

Charlie agreed with his brother, Edward hated who he was due to his ailment. Angela craved the drugs she flooded her blood stream with more than the air she breathed. But Isabella, what did she hold closest to her soul?

 

“And Isabella? What can a person who chases down a complete stranger, just to return a small amount of money, have to hide?”

 

Carlisle’s face began to brighten, his elation pouring out of him. He could almost taste the victory at hand.

 

“She may not have something to hide, but she definitely has something to lose.” He tapped his index finger over the last line of the page, the black and white letters giving Charlie more questions than answers.

 

“Call our friend down at central booking, the one who’s kid we just cleared of his debt to us.”

 

Charlie knew of the man Carlisle spoke of. Billy Black worked downtown in one of NYPD’s booking centers. His son, Quil, visited one of the gambling sites our company owned. Quil ran into some problems with paying off a bet he lost. When one of our collection representatives came to retrieve the money he owed, he tried to get his cop father involved. However, Billy didn’t have the cleanest of records, his addiction for ladies who sold their bodies was a past time frowned upon by the people of New York City. He made a deal to be of assistance for us, any time, and under any conditions. If he failed to deliver, more than just a finger would be missing from his son’s body.

 

“Have him made aware to expect a certain guest to pass his desk.”

 

Carlisle pulled a phone from his inside jacket pocket; he had dozens of cheap burner phones he kept for messaging the less than savory people they kept on the payroll.

 

“And who is this guest going to be? A young and honest girl?”

 

Carlisle shook his head, the amount of stupidity his brother possessed made him question how they shared any amount of DNA.

 

“By your own words, you say an individual will stick to the way they were taught, reflecting the environment they have been exposed to. But what if the environment changes? Remove all the familiarity and choices, leaving only one path, one that is entirely foreign to them, perhaps even one they would have avoided previously. Ask yourself this, if your only living relative is making the kind of money to live on Park Avenue, why would you allow her to live in a rent controlled street in Brooklyn? “

 

Charlie was intrigued at his idea, the results could go either way. He still stood behind his beliefs; good people tend to stay good, while evil has no real path to leave and no desire to be better. Perhaps the answer to Carlisle’s question was that the siblings didn’t get along well enough to live together. A situation easily challenged.

 

“Brother,” while Charles was no match in the planning stages of any of his brother’s ideas, he was known to be an incredible analyst. His head for detail he used to his advantage more than once.

 

“If you are suggesting what I think you are, care to make a side wager?”

 

Carlisle’s smile was all the answer Charlie needed. Reaching into his own jacket, he removed his own burner cell. “Let’s just make the wager a little more challenging, shall we?”

 

Charlie pressed several buttons on the phone and raising it to his ear, a Cheshire grin on his face. “Caius, I need you to buy the apartment building on the corner of fifth and one hundred and seventy second. Give the tenants thirty days to clear out, then demolish the building.”

 

Carlisle’s eyes lit up with joy. “Well, it seems our game just took a new turn.”

 

AN

 

I am pleasantly surprised to see the many theories you have for this particular fiction. I will admit, I am taking some creative liberties in future chapters, I will clue you into those. One of you suggested this was sounding like a movie from the eighties, Trading places. Honestly that is not where this story line is heading. Although the bets between the brothers, is reflecting of the movie plot, it is not the continuing plot of the story. I appreciate the amount of you who are breaking from your traditional forms of reading, to sample something which you may have ignored in the past. Just please keep in mind, I am always a believer in the HEA. Next up date is Wednesday,where we get to know Bella just a little better and the reason behind the title…little hint, it has nothing to do with Pink Floyd.

 

  1. Chapter 3

 

Chapter three

 

Bella found that even with all the budget cuts she was making, the amount being put away wasn’t what she expected. Nightly she prayed for a solution to her economic problem. The answer came in an ad for a part time assistant in a book store around the corner from her apartment. With her continued savings, she could place everything she made from the part time job into the bank.

 

The nervousness she woke with that morning completely vanished as she walked through the doors of the small store, only to come face to face with her neighbor, Mrs. Meyers. Gloria Meyers lived three floors above her and always had something pleasant to say as they passed in the hallways.

 

The interview consisted of a single question, “When can you start?” Proceeded by Gloria giving her a tour of the shop, including the area above the store where she had a small living area arranged.

 

“It’s not much, but it’s a nice place to take a break when you need one.” A gas fireplace decorated the center of the largest wall, with an inviting couch facing the logs that took up residence inside the brick alcove. Three large windows allowed enough natural light in, decreasing the need for the use of the overhead lights. On the far wall were more books than Bella could count. She could do more than just take a quick break in this space, she could get lost in the pages of those books and escape the life she was handed.

 

Closing the door to the tiny retreat, Bella already had plans of returning as soon as possible. As they descended the old, creaky stairs, her eyes land on a number of boxes stacked against the wall. Gloria pointed at the boxes, explaining they were the final book in the latest bestselling series by a well known author.

 

“Oh, Bella, I could not put the book down, a true love story. Two people who overcome so much to be together.”

 

Gloria went on to tell her of Anthony and Marie, an unlikely couple who meet while Marie was out with her friends having drinks at the bar Anthony owned. It’s love at first sight for the pair, but when Anthony’s family doesn’t approve of Marie, he has to choose between their help with his business or the love of his life. The cover depicted a couple engaged in a warm embrace; a small pang clinked in her chest. A graphic artist designed this couple from whatever software program they used, giving an unrealistic picture of the perfect couple. The man, tall, dark and devilishly handsome, and the woman, thin, with big tits and perfect skin, her hair perfectly styled, riding the imaginary wind the author created. Swallowing down her self pity, Bella spent the next few hours unpacking the glossy books and arranging them so the customers would see them the moment they stepped through the door.

 

Gloria let her know each of the books upstairs were sample books, sent from the publishing houses. While she could read any of them she chose, she could never sell them.

 

Once Anthony and Maria’s conclusion to their story, Comfortably Numb, was placed in its spotlight, Bella opened the next set of heavy boxes, their content much more appealing.

 

Housed in the thick cardboard was the latest in the series of instruction books by her idol, Esme Platt. Now this book was something she could treasure, no falsities of undying love or unobtainable passion. Just tried and perfected creations of sugary goodness.

 

From the time Bella could hold a spoon, she had an enormous passion for baking. She’d dreamed of attending a culinary arts school here in New York to make her dream a reality. But when the cancer came, the money she had for school went to her brother, his education labeled more important than hers.

 

Unable to argue, when he was picked up in his freshman year by an NFL team as their starting quarterback, she assumed he would be there to take care of her. She had been wrong. Instead of giving her the money he accepted to attend a year of college, he gave her excuses. Reasons why he couldn’t help her to get into school or move her into his million dollar penthouse on Park Avenue. James Swan had turned his back on his little sister, for reasons unknown to her.

 

Bella left the shop with a spring in her step. She knew with the added income, she would be able to pay her own way into school, and get a better apartment. Two years, she figured if she saved every single penny, she could have the money in two short years.

 

Her determination helped to rouse her from her warm bed the following morning. Walking in frigid temperatures was not high on her list of fun things to do, but taking a taxi was far too expensive and the subway station was four blocks from her job, and five from her apartment.

 

It didn’t take her long to become lost in the layers of bread dough she kneaded with love and care. She was able to place her life outside of this bakery on hold as she tended to the pillow soft texture of the bread.

 

Nearly finished with the last few loafs, Kate, one of the owners, called for her attention, letting her know someone by the name of Billy Black was waiting on the phone for her. Bella tried to argue she didn’t know anyone by that name only to be told to hurry up and take the call.

 

After washing her hands and removing her flour coated apron, she slipped inside the back office to take the call.

 

“Ms. Swan?” The thick New York accent called over the phone, gruff and slightly annoyed. She could hear the sounds of other voices in the background, phones ringing and loud banging. Wherever this man was, there was a lot of activity going on.

 

“If this is a sales call…” she began, annoyed to be pulled from her task in the first place. Bella hated to be a bother to anyone, least of all the women who paid her the bulk of her wages.

 

“No, Miss, this is officer Billy Black with the NYPD. We have a…James Swan in custody.” Bella’s hand flew to her sweatshirt covered chest; her brother had been arrested. He had never been in any real trouble, a fight or two at school, but nothing that ever involved the police.

 

“Can you come to the station?”

 

It took her a second or two of looking around the room, for what she wasn’t certain. She had no money to bail him out with, posing another question; why wasn’t he calling his big time attorney? The one who negotiated a rather large signing bonus for him. She remembered her promise to her dying mother, her word something she always kept.

 

“I can be there in a few hours.” She agreed as she ended the call.

 

~CN~

 

Central booking, where her brother was currently being held, was a short trip on the subway. Had she needed to spend money on a taxi, her anger would have escalated. James would never, under any circumstances, give her money.

 

As she entered the slate gray building, glass doors and windows reaching at least twenty feet in the air. Aged brass accents surround the glass doors, giving it the look of distention during the time when it was built over a decade ago.

 

Officer Black had given her clear instruction of where to go once she entered the building. With her brother having his face on the television, it was best to keep nosey reporters doing other things.

 

Turning left at the entrance desk, she followed the yellow line on the floor. Three doors down, she timidly knocked on the closed door.

 

Billy Black didn’t care for the position he was currently in. He had no choice in what was about to go on, no room to argue the legality of the allegations being brought against a man with such a hopeful career. Yet he would do it ten time over, if he could continue to keep his son safe and in one piece.

 

Opening the door, he ushered in the tiny spec of a woman who stood on the other side. She was nothing spectacular to look at, thick-rimmed glasses, face absent of any makeup, and dark, straight hair pulled back into one of those cloth hair ties he saw women at the gym use. As she passed by, he caught the smell of fresh bread, cinnamon and sugar.

 

“Right this way,” he said as she took in the room. They were utilizing one of the old interrogation rooms, no longer used for reasons he didn’t care to remember.

 

When Mr. Cullen had reached out to him, he didn’t dare question why this was happening. It didn’t matter, this slip of a girl was not his concern, nor was the NFL superstar who was brought in by the rent a cops he knew to work over at Cullen towers. Where they had managed to get current issue uniforms, he wasn’t about to question. With only eleven months separating him from full retirement and the divorce papers he had hidden in his desk drawer, this would be the last thing he hoped Cullen would ask of him. Two years prior, when his son had first started winning at poker, he managed to take one of those payouts and buy a piece of property in the middle of Arkansas. Far away from the shitty life he had here in New York and hidden from the life-sucking bitch he was currently married to.

 

Bella could feel the cold seep into her bones in spite of the many layers she had on. Sitting in the center of the room was James, his arms bound behind his back in handcuffs. Two uniformed officers stood on each side of him. James’ eyes were rimmed with remnants of his tears. Bella had never seen her brother cry, even as they lowered their mother into the ground, he’d never shed a single tear.

 

“Bella?”

 

“James, what on earth did you do?” She demanded, her hands shaking, not just from the cold, but from the anger flowing inside her veins. He had everything; money, a great job, a beautiful place to lay his head every night. Why would he do anything to take all of that away?

 

“Bella, I swear I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t do drugs, you know this.” Until that very moment, Bella had not been informed of why her brother had been arrested.

 

“Ms. Swan, can I offer you a cup of coffee?” Turning to the man in the gray suit, Bella had not noticed him when she first entered the room. Declining his offer, she turned her attention back to her brother.

 

“If you will allow me,” the man crossed the small space, offering Bella the only available chair in the room. “I’d like to explain the charges your brother is facing.”

 

Bella ignored the chair, choosing to act as she felt their mother would. Shooting him the disapproving daggers she had received several times as a young child.

 

“We have been monitoring your brothers actions for quite some time.” Bella’s stomach began to churn, as she listened to the Detective and her brother lowered his head.

 

“Acting on a tip, we entered Mr. Swan’s apartment to find a large amount of cocaine as well as a known professional escort.”

 

James comes alive; screaming he didn’t know the drugs were in his closet or who the woman in his bed was. Bella knew he wasn’t telling the truth. James lived in a well-secured building, no one got in or out of the building without checking in with security.

 

“Where is your attorney?”

 

James shook his head, “Not answering his phone at the moment.”

 

Turning to gray suit guy, “Has his bond been set?” She had watched enough episodes of Cops to know bond was something paid to get the person arrested out of jail.

 

“He has, the judge set the amount at thirty thousand dollars.”

 

Bella knew James had more than that from his signing bonus. Turning to her brother she demanded, “Give me your bank card and I will go pay your bail. You can take this up with your attorney later.”

 

One of the two officers standing in the corner pulled his wallet out of a large envelope. Taking the card James told her to use, she followed the officer out.

 

With no one waiting in the cashier line, she handed over the card to the older gentleman behind the counter.

 

“I’m sorry, the card has been declined.”

 

Billy watched as the nighttime janitor played his role perfectly. Mr. Cullen, who arrived seconds after the door closed on the Swan girl, pulled the man from behind his broom, handed him a one hundred dollar bill and gave him a quick run down of what to do. The machine he used to scan the card was broken, pulled from the trashcan moments before.

 

Like a carefully orchestrated Broadway play, the Cullen brothers came from around the corner, surprising the emotionally disintegrating Swan girl.

 

Bella was quickly losing control of the anger in the situation. She knew there was more to the story. How could he have just thrown everything away?

 

“Bella?”

 

A familiar voice sounded behind her, making her spin on her conservative heals. Standing in his expensive suit was the man she had ran after.

 

“I’m sorry,” she apologized; embarrassed she was seeing him in a place such as this.

 

“Do you have a friend who works here?” The oddity of the question was lost in the growing embarrassment Bella was feeling.

 

“Mr. Cullen,” she tried to hide the desire to run out the side door, leave James to figure out the issue with his money. “What a surprise.”

 

Carlisle chose the perfect moment to appear. Charlie had definitely been on to something when he upped the stakes of the bet. Now that they had the Swan girl in a desperate position, it was time to cut off her choices.

 

“We were just about to leave when a crowd of reporters formed at the entrance of the building, someone said a professional ball player was picked up for possession of drugs, enough he is being charged with distribution.” He could see the quick intake of breath and dilation in her eyes. “You should really come with us and take the rear exit.”

 

Reaching out to offer his hand, he waited for her to take the bait. Carlisle possessed the ability to read body language and currently, Bella was crawling inside herself, trying to remain respectful while she searched for any reason to not be here.

 

“Actually, Mr. Cullen, the ball player is the reason I’m here. So as much as I would love to leave out the back door, I can’t abandon my brother.”

 

Giving credit to her sticky situation, created by his genius mind, Carlisle pounced. “Does he have legal representation?”

 

AN So as you read, Comfortably Numb is the title of the book series Bella has found. Essentially this is a story within a story. Like many readers, we find ourselves running to the worlds author create to escape the cruelty of real life. In this fiction, I will show you just how beneficial this can be. Next Chapter will post on Saturday…

 

  1. Chapter 4

 

Chapter four

 

Bella had just wished the last customer a good evening and turned the open sign over. Working two jobs, although good for her bank account, was beginning to wear her down. Carlisle Cullen had phoned her earlier to set up a meeting to discuss her brother’s legal situation.

 

It was completely stupid for her to accept the help Mr. Cullen offered. However, attorneys were not cheap and with her brother snorting all of his money up his nose, she knew who would be footing the bill.

 

Bella is relieved as she entered Cullen Towers, the heat, which flashes over her shivering body, is a welcomed alternative to the bitter wind which blew her nearly sideways as she walked from the subway. Mr. Cullen had offered to send a car to collect her, but Bella knew the one hour subway ride could be double that if she accepted his offer. A return trip, with the decreasing temperatures of the night air, may be something she was willing to consider.

 

Mr. Cullen instructed her to check in at the security desk. An armed guard escorts her to an elevator, presses a few buttons and swipes his name badge into a horizontal slot under the illuminated numbers. Bella thanked the tall man,who nodded his head and wished her a good day. As the elevator took her to the top floor, she wiggled her toes, while trying not to look around. With as much work it was to get into the elevator, there had to be at least one camera trained on her.

 

With little noise, the elevator door opened to reveal a large cherry wooden desk, the word CULLEN in brass letters against a white wall. An older lady sits behind the massive desk, her hair in a perfect bob haircut, and clothes absolutely perfect.

 

“Ah, Ms. Swan, they have been expecting you.” Standing and rounding the desk, the beautiful woman has her right arm extended in the direction of a massive set of double, wooden doors. With a smile on her face, she opens the door, lets her pass, and then closes the door just as quietly.

 

Two men in matching black suits stand as she enters the room.

 

“Isabella, so glad you made it. The weather report isn’t sounding so good.” Bella didn’t need Carlisle to tell her of the experience she’d just completed; the decision to take an offer car home had just been solidified.

 

“Thank you, Mr. Cullen. The wind is the worst, cutting you to the bone.”

 

Bella didn’t wait to be invited to sit, after working eight hours at the bakery, and several more at the bookstore, her body was ready to give out. Removing her coat, she placed it on the back of the chair she commandeered, her body screaming in relief as she slid into the soft leather.

 

“Isabella, you look exhausted, so I won’t burden you with idle chitchat and get right to the point.” Bella watched as Carlisle opened a file which rested in the center of his desk, she could make out a photo, but not what the subject of the photo is.

 

“As we explained to you at the jail, our attorney has been able to have your brother released on a signature bond. After listening to not only you, but also your brother, James, we elected to do some investigation on our own. I have to be frank, Isabella, it doesn’t look good.”

 

Bella was afraid of this, nothing about any of this made any sense. Her brother had never been the type to get into trouble. “The first thing our investigator looked into was your brother’s financial records. It seems James neglected to report some of his earnings to the federal government and they have frozen his account. Second, the amount of cocaine recovered is enough to send him to federal prison for many years. Just the arrest alone has his job with the team in a major risk of losing his contract.”

 

Bella’s heart had found its way to the top of her throat, she felt the sweat running down the back of her neck as the room began to fade around the edges of her vision. “The lady found in his penthouse, has a current warrant for her arrest, another possible charge he could be facing.”

 

Charlie Cullen silently handed her a glass of water, which Bella drank with gusto. She had failed to keep her promise to her mother; her brother was about to go to prison and there was nothing she could do to stop it.

 

“Now, Isabella, your face tells me everything I need to know. You’ve already lost hope. This is premature, dear, as you haven’t let me offer any solutions.”

 

Carlisle’s condolences were of little relief to her. With her heart pounding and her struggle to remain conscious fading fast, she needed this to end.

 

“Now, I can see how this looks to you. You have no money to hire the caliber of attorney who could open some doors and, in the right situations, slide the proper paperwork to the right people. But, we do.”

 

Charlie had taken his place behind his desk. Watching the Swan girl with wonderment and his brother with appreciation for his skillful negotiations. He felt a little bad for her; this was a real life, well as real as he and his brother had made things. A twisted version of the truth in order to make their game a little more…adventurous. There wasn’t a single doubt in his mind as to her answer once the offer was placed on the table.

 

“We have an entire floor of top notched attorneys who fight everyday to keep our interests protected.”

 

Bella’s words left her brain and flew past her lips without any permission from her filter. “I’m not an interest of yours.”

 

Carlisle could not believe how easy she was making this. Walking into his trap like a fly landing on the silk string of a spider web.

 

“Technically, no…” He allowed a dramatic pause to hang in the air, priming the room for his tried and true delivery of an offer she would have no choice but to accept, bringing him one step closer to cashing in on another bet with Charlie.

 

“However, what would you say if I told you, we could arrange for all of this to disappear?” Keeping his voice low, soft tones and compassion in his eyes. “Isabella, you have shown my family you have a good and honest nature. But being blind-sided by the actions of your family was something you could not have prevented. Charlie and I have a favor to ask of you in exchange for making everything in this folder go away.”

 

Bella nearly rose from her chair. It was ludicrous to think that a plain as hell girl, sitting before these incredibly powerful men, could ever have anything they would want or need. Carlisle opened another file, this time only one photo rested in the center. Slowly, Carlisle passed the photo toward her, the image, although upside down, was that of a man.

 

“This young man is my nephew, Edward. He is next in line to take over the CEO position for this company.”

 

Bella took the photo from the desk and turned it around, coming face to face with undoubtedly the most handsome man she had ever seen. With his warm and perfect smile, at least three major toothpaste companies would pay large amounts of money to have him endorse their products. Hair appearing so thick, she doubted he would ever need to be concerned with losing it as he aged. But to Bella, it was the green eyes which called to her the most. Shades of bottled glass, with specks of mischief.

 

Remembering where she was, she placed the photo back on the desk. She had no business evaluating this man like a piece of meat. Bella was not one to delude herself. Men like Edward Cullen never had to beg for attention, or give anything more than a pleasant smile to those he passed. Girls with equally perfect smiles, pin-up girl silhouettes, and a lack of self-decency were the type of girls who graced his arm.

 

“Nice picture, but what does he have to do with me?”

 

Bella could feel the exhaustion creeping up her body. Clearly this trip had been a waste of time. She could have finished her dinner and been in bed watching a rerun of something.

 

“Well, he has certain obligations he needs to fulfill before he can take the seat of running this company. While he has the education and experience needed to successfully take this company where it needs to go, certain members of the governing board consider him unsuited for the job, unless he reaches a certain status.”

 

Carlisle felt as if he was walking the edge of a very sharp knife. Where his conversation earlier today with Edward was more of a boss giving an employee his next assignment, convincing Bella to take the offer could go either way. Edward had been his typical self, his disorder rearing its ugly head, but in the end he had agreed to the terms. Bella, on the other hand, could get up out of her chair, make a few phone calls and find out the illusion he and Charlie had created.

 

“Sir, it’s been a very long day. I don’t mean to appear rude or ungrateful, but can you just tell me how I fit into all of this. How can I, as you say, make this all go away?”

 

There it was, the sweet smell of victory. Using her exhaustion and generous character, he had her.

 

“Simple, Isabella, we will instruct our attorney to clean up the mess your brother created, take everything, and then make it disappear. He will have his job secured, his money back and the entire event will be like a bad dream. All you have to do is sign this document and agree to the terms in this contract.”

 

Carlisle slid the envelope in Bella’s direction, holding back his victory smile as he watched her brown eyes flicking back and forth as she read the document. Looking in Charlie’s direction, he cast him a smug and cocky look. Bella was still reading, or perhaps re-reading, the single page document. Carlisle watched as Bella opened her mouth several times as she discovered what was expected of her to save her brother. Brown eyes flashed to his green ones, shock and, no doubt, confusion residing on her pale face.

 

“You want me to marry him?”

 

AN: I ask you, if you were in Bella’s shoes, what would your answer be? Perhaps Im too much of a skeptic, but I would be just as questioning and frankly disbelieving as Bella. Many of you have questioned what exactly is Edwards disease? Well, we will get there… Next update is Wednesday, where we will get our first glance at Edward.

 

  1. Chapter 5

 

Chapter Five

 

When Angela was born, it was not to a pair of excited and in love parents. Her mother was a seasoned prostitute, familiar with the streets of New York. Her situation the result of an exchange; the use of her body for a warm place to sleep when the shelters were all full.

 

Caroline Webber had only attended three days of her freshmen year of high school, when she was introduced to the man who swore he would give her every dream imaginable. Five years later, she was not only living what most would consider a nightmare, but was hooked on more illegal substances than any of her roommates. Having Angela was the wakeup call she needed. When she received the news about her pregnancy, she checked herself into a rehab facility. She never wanted to bring an innocent child into the life of pain and anguish she lived with every day.

 

Angela’s mother may have had good intentions, but when the rent was late and the electricity was in danger of being shut off, she felt forced to return to prostitution. On her way to the streets of Harlem, she crossed paths with a stranded business man, Charlie Cullen.

 

With his expensive suits and shoes, he was an easy target for the criminals which even the police avoided. Charlie offered her two hundred dollars to stand beside him, pretending to negotiate a deal for her services. During the thirty minutes she waited with him, she managed to give him all the information he needed to come in and, seemingly, play the knight in shining armor.

 

But Caroline was blinded by the appearance of endless money, pretty clothes and a promise to take care of her only daughter. She traded the filthy crime ridden streets for a beautiful midtown apartment, payment for the entertainment she was to show any guests the Cullen brothers sent her way.

 

Angela grew up with a gold card in her back pocket and never wore the same outfit twice, all while learning firsthand what it really took to rule the world. Where her mother believed a lie her first days of high school, Angela went into a private and prestigious institution with her eyes wide open.

 

Those visitors who frequented her mother showed her how to bargain, getting exactly what she wanted.

 

For her sixteenth birthday, it was breast augmentation and a car she would never drive. For her seventeenth, it was her first trip to rehab a side effect of her skill level.

 

Angela learned how to make a man smile as he handed you a fist full of hundred dollar bills. How socially developing girls paid big money to keep their secrets hidden in the closets where they found ecstasy with Angela. But the most profitable lesson she learned; no matter the age of the man, the desire was always centered in the same part of the body.

 

While Angela had visited various rehabs, she noticed they were all the same. She learned quickly how to obtain the drugs she was admitted for abusing and how to fool the staff of her sober status. Like most orgasms she screamed her way through, it was all…fake.

 

Angela never considered going to college. There was far too much money to be made from men who had spent years gaining their education, only to fall to the demands of their families and marry the woman chosen for them.

 

When the Cullen brothers had shown up at the apartment they’d purchased for her, to tell her the sad news of her mother’s untimely death, she never feared for her own well being. At first, they assured her she could remain in her apartment for as long as she needed. Angela may be addicted to the white powder she sniffed up her nose, but she still recognized a good deal when it was offered.

 

Charlie Cullen offered her a permanent position in the company, with only one man to entertain. Edward Cullen, the up and coming golden child for the Cullen dynasty. She should have heeded the warning bells which sounded around her. Edward Cullen, rich and handsome, hiring a female companion should have been the last thing he needed. Angela was blinded by the pretty smile and big wallet.

 

She soon learned the bright smile of Edward had to be photo shopped. From the moment her apartment door closed, he never once smiled at her. It was one thing to live the life of a whore; it was entirely something else to be called one as you pleasured the person. Edward never let her forget what she really was, telling her how much she disgusted him and how he would someday be rid of her all together.

 

He belittled her, called her names, and accused her of possessing subpar skills. The harsher his words, the more she increased the numbing dug she needed. This last year had her consuming record high amounts of her current best friend, cocaine.

 

Try as she might, she couldn’t bear the thought of walking away from her luxury apartment, multi lines of credit, and filling her closet with more clothes and shoes than she would ever wear. She ignored the nose bleeds and blackouts to keep from living the horror stories she’d heard from her own mother. Angela also knew of the illness which cursed his private lifestyle. Edward may threaten to be rid of her, but she knew the truth, one she would gladly sell to the highest bidder.

 

Edward Cullen, first son of Elizabeth and Edward Cullen Senior. With his father’s untimely death eight years ago, and then his uncle Aro last year, he would soon be handed the reins of the company. His two younger brothers, Emmett and Jasper still enjoyed playing the field young men often experienced when time and money was in abundance.

 

Edward would have loved to act as reckless as his siblings. However, at the early age of thirteen, he began showing signs of excessive rage. His symptoms were similar to one who suffered from Tourette’s, although, his outbursts were more emotional than verbal. Specialists from every corner of the world had been called in, all were just as baffled as the one before him. Finally, a female from deep in the heart of the Amazon, showed a patient under her care who exhibited the same emotional dysfunctions. She, however, showed one…loophole if you would. When the victim was aware a camera was focused on him, the outburst stopped, only to return when the camera was removed. With only two known sufferers, the tiny third world physician coined it the ‘Incredible Hulk Syndrome’. Edward called it…hell.

 

During a family meeting, it was voted unanimously that Edward would be removed from any situations where a camera would be considered odd. School, work, and even his personal relationships became another obstacle. While his office in the tower displayed a framed diploma from Harvard, Edward had never stepped foot onto the campus. Every single class he’d attended was done so by a computer or a tutor who was paid handsomely. On the few occasions where greed got the better of them, an untimely death quickly found them.

 

Edward hated his disease, he could feel the change happen when the camera shut off. Just like the Hulk, his emotions ruled his body causing him to spew insults he didn’t mean or even conjured up in his thoughts. To Edward, it was as if he had another person inside him; a bitter, angry man who cared little for anyone he hurt.

 

But he was determined, he wanted to show his family, and more importantly himself, he could beat this disease. Yet with every drug he tried and every promise the drug companies gave, he sank deeper into himself. When he was introduced to Angela, he knew his family had given up on him as well. So he resigned himself to following the rules placed for him, only allowing the monster to roam free when the cameras were off. Indulging in the pleasures his money afforded him behind closed doors.

 

After his uncle died, he knew it was only a matter of time before his uncles would call him into the office and offer him the role. Deciding to allow the monster to roam free for a while, he spent the night prior to the meeting in the apartment of the woman he took most of his aggression out on. Angela was in love with him, he knew this from the repeated declarations she gave him as she tried to pleasure him. But the sight of her, and the white powder which always caked her nose, disgusted him. Edward wasn’t stupid; he knew Carlisle and Charlie had many dealers on the payroll, pushing their poison to whomever had the money to pay.

 

Edward had been used many times to deal with issues involving the so called kingpins who ran the merchandise. With his level of anger available at a moment’s notice, it was nothing for Edward to allow the monster to come out, pulling a trigger he had no desire to deal with. The monster gave him the ability to hide, but also the street credibility of a ruthless killer.

 

Edward had his secretary, Carmen, call Angela to prepare for his arrival. She didn’t disappoint as she welcomed him at the door, completely naked and ready to remove any worries he might have on his mind. Angela spoke of how she couldn’t wait for the day when Edward was in charge, how he could move her to the mansion she assumed stood empty just outside of the city. Angela took every cruel word with the help of the white line she snorted off the glass coffee table.

 

Edward knew there was no mansion, only delusions created by the drugs Angela would never rid herself of. He also knew she would need to be replaced. Her dependency on cocaine was slowly killing her, a death he wanted no part of.

 

~~CN~~

 

Edward didn’t wait for permission to enter the executive office. With his anger on the edge of explosion, he knew no one would ever question where he went inside this building. His uncles didn’t rise to greet him, they only looked cautiously in his direction.

 

“Edward, you’re early.”

 

His uncle Charlie possessed a softer temperament than his uncle Carlisle. To him, the brothers were real life versions of the two men who lived inside him. Carlisle never cowered when Edward would shout his insults, while Charlie tried to keep his flinching to a minimum.

 

Edward listened to his uncle’s blow smoke up his ass, telling him how their decision to support him as CEO was not an easy one. Did they really think for one second his middle brother Jasper could separate himself from his club ownership? His youngest brother had no interest in anything which didn’t please his current girlfriend. Edward listened while fighting boredom as they rambled off the list of other candidates they’d considered, knowing full well it was a part of his legacy to take the position.

 

“Edward, you have overcome so many things in your young life. Honestly, I hate the thought of asking you for anything thing else. But as you know, the members of the board are used to the old ways.”

 

Carlisle appreciated the direct approach Edward always required of everyone. Where most would cower when the inner demon surfaced, Carlisle rejoiced. He loved being a spectator during the inferno which would consume its offending victims.

 

“You were born to lead this family, only one thing is holding you back.”

 

Carlisle and Edward could agree on one thing, Edward’s desire to be the CEO. Both men knew he was willing to give or do anything, including let the monster devour anyone who stood in his way.

 

Carlisle felt more like an expectant father, waiting to see Edward’s reaction to the demand placed on him. Hoping the visit he paid to Angela last evening had not deflated the fire inside him

 

“Does this fucking train of thought come with a caboose or are you enjoying hearing yourself fucking talk?”

 

Carlisle nodded his head as the monster didn’t disappoint him. He knew Edward wasn’t a fan of the f bomb, the ‘Hulk’ used it more than the word ‘and’.

 

“Of course. The point we are trying to make is, the board will look more favorably on you if your were to have a wife.”

 

Edward stared at the man sitting across from him, unable to determine if he had truly just heard what he thought. He blinked his eyes several times, yet kept his emotions in his gut and not on his face.

 

“Who?”

 

Edward was handling this better than Carlisle predicted. He expected chairs to fly across the room and at least a glass or two to be broken.

 

“Cause you’re fucking crazy if you think I’m marrying that fucking cunt Angela.”

 

Carlisle was enjoying this much more than he should be, betting with himself how long before the full dose of Edward came out.

 

“Actually, we need to talk about Angela as well.”

 

Charlie slide a folder in Edward’s direction. He took the folder and opened the cover to see a stack of what he knew to be credit card bills.

 

“As you can see, she has once again charged a rather large amount on your credit cards this month. She also had to be picked up from jail three times this month, including recently with a drug related charge.”

 

Charlie tossed the last part in to help sway Edward in the direction he needed. He would be damn if he lost this bet to Carlisle.

 

“Fifty two thousand dollars!”

 

Edward closed the file and tossed it onto the desk, the papers scattering in a collage of numbers and trademark logos.

 

“Yes, Edward. This is the largest amount she has ever spent. We agree with you, though. Angela is not the person we have in mind for you.”

 

Carlisle cleared his throat; he wanted to be the one to tell Edward about Bella.

 

“Edward, we would never want you to marry a woman like Angela. We have a young lady, with a decent upbringing, drug free, and currently in a bit of financial trouble. Which is where we come in.”

 

Carlisle leaned back in his chair, his gold Cross pen tapping hurriedly on his desk.

 

“While we don’t expect you and this young lady to fall instantly in love, we do expect you to treat her with some level of respect.”

 

Edward was silent for many minutes, causing Carlisle to squirm in his seat. He knew his uncles well enough to know this girl couldn’t be trusted any more than the two men sitting across from him. He also knew he couldn’t change anything if he wasn’t in a position of authority. If he were to agree to this arranged marriage, he could get rid of Angela and his uncles in one planned event.

 

Edward had a feeling this marriage would cost him more than the credit card bills Angela ran up every month. However, Edward knew how to handle this situation. Put limits on things before they got so out of control.

 

“All right, I’ll do it.”

 

AN I cannot not imagine the inability to control my emotions. Personally, I bite my tongue many times during my work day and a few during my personal time. Next Chapter, we hear Bella’s answer. Will she agree to marry a complete stranger? Only one way to find out, see y’all on Saturday.

 

  1. Chapter 6

 

Chapter six

 

James had begged Bella to do everything she could to help him, but marrying a man she knew nothing about was asking too much. She had already given up her dream of becoming a pastry chef, instead handing James the money to further his education. Everything going to James, as her mother had instructed.

 

The more Bella tried to pull the missing pieces together, the further they seemed to scurry. James cried over and over about how he had no idea where the drugs or the girl came from. Bella wasn’t certain what she believed, her own two eyes or the tears, which flowed down her brother’s face.

 

“Think of it this way, Bella.” James tried to smile and reassure his little sister. “You will be able to get me out of this jam and finally land a husband.”

 

For three days, Bella considered her brother’s words. All her life, Bella knew two things to be constant; her mother’s gentleness and her brother’s need to speak whatever words crossed his mind. Bella never allowed herself the delusion of thinking she was anything except what she really was.

 

Where her brother was blessed with rock star good looks and athletic ability, Bella barely passed as human most days. Her long brown hair was kept in either a ponytail or braid, her eyes a dark brown, nearly black, and completely lifeless. Her skin was so pale she could burn from standing beneath a florescent light to long.

 

Having a relationship with the opposite sex was never something she considered for herself, considering the avoidance she received while traveling on the subway or walking down the street. She never bothered with fancy clothing or trips to the salon, the results would change nothing.

 

Still, having someone to wake up beside, someone as handsome as Edward Cullen couldn’t be that bad of a trade off. Could it?

 

Speaking of Edward Cullen, he was the great mystery in all of this. Google searches turned up photo after photo of him smiling for a multitude of charity events, scholarships awarded to kids with stories of defying incredible odds. Lives of families being brought back together with homes which the Cullen foundation placed them in. Edward, and his perfect smile, graced every cover. He shook every hand and congratulated each lucky winner, all while being completely alone.

 

No giggling, bubble headed, bleach blondes wrapped around his arm like a hard won prize. The newspapers devoid of stories of his public displays of affection at the clubs he frequented.

 

The same could not be said for certain other members of his family. Just yesterday, Jasper Cullen, his middle brother, faced allegations of drug trafficking from his nightclub in Flatbush. There was a grainy photo of the curly headed Jasper being escorted from the same midtown precinct, which she had visited not so long ago. Jasper’s on again off again love interest, Ally Brandon, stood in her leopard print knee high boots with matching fur coat, her hair combed back in a fashion children from the eighties would cringe at.

 

Behind them, dressed in equally questionable fashion, was his youngest brother, Emmett and his long time girlfriend, Rose Hale.

 

Bella found an article, which told the story of Rosalie Hale, the daughter of Lillian and Edgar Hale, living in the Denali Forest of Alaska. The Hales, much like the Cullens, thrived on helping the less fortunate. Their only daughter, Rosalie, suffered from a thyroid imbalance, causing her weight to skyrocket. When all other measures were exhausted, they sent her to an overpriced fat camp, the same camp Mr. and Mrs. Cullen chose for their baby boy, Emmett Cullen.

 

For five summers the pair blossomed their romance all while sweating off their waistlines in the Catskill Mountains. To look at them now, no one would ever guess they once weighed a combined five hundred pounds.

 

But Bella couldn’t find a single derogatory word about the eldest Cullen, no scandal involving naked women or illegal car racing. So why the lack of female companionship?

 

Something else she learned, which shook her to her very core, came not from the pages of the tabloids or any internet web page, but from an overheard conversation while dusting books at Mrs. Meyers shop. Kate and Irina, the owners of the bakery, were related to the Cullen brothers, the ones who had made the offer to her. Apparently, they were the product of an affair another member of the family carried on behind his wife’s back. While she understood the desire to keep one’s dirty laundry tucked in a closed hamper, the issue with her sinful brother was more of an embarrassment than her lack of funding. It made her question what other secrets hid behind the well-made doors of the Cullen fortress.

 

The Cullen brothers had kept their promise; escorting her out of the building, into a warm and waiting car. Bella’s irritation of a long and frustrating ride home never came to life, as her mind was a whirlwind of thoughts. They had given their word they would not contact her, asking for her immediate decision on the matter.

 

She had been allowed to return to her sixteen-hour days, rising before the sun and retiring long after it took its rightful seat behind the horizon. Back to the home she’d shared with her mother, continuing to ignore the struggles around her. Since the day she’d bid a final goodbye to her, Bella chose one day per month to deal with the realities of being the adult in the house.

 

Sitting at her mother’s desk, a small white, battered piece of furniture which had remained under the living room window since the day her mother placed it there. Moving of the piece was ignored out of fear that the legs would collapse, rather than anything else.

 

Taking her seat, the three stacks of bills were neatly placed before her. Checkbook open and ready to shed some of its weight from the money her excessive working hours had created. Carefully opening each white envelope, taking care not to slice the skin on her tired fingers, a pain no one could argue was excruciating.

 

How Bella hated handing the majority of her hard earned money to all of these companies; the electric company was the only one who consistently delivered the service it billed for.

 

While the rent in her building was cheap, rent control locking in her nine hundred square feet at a cost far below some of the other tenants in the building, she still hated writing this particular check as water was included; more like brown sludge.

 

Ignoring the fancy script on the envelope, she was used to seeing the name of the landlord change, sometimes several times in a matter of a few months. She always double checked the name of the company before handing the check to the less than desirable building manager.

 

With her bic pen ready to scribe down the numbers which would take down the largest portion of her balance, her eyes widened as she took in the notice, which greeted her instead of an itemized statement of her current year’s payments.

 

Attention Current Tenants of 5270 One Hundred Seventy Second Street,

 

All tenants are hereby notified of the sale of the aforementioned building, which was finalized and registered with the State of New York and county offices. Summit and Horizon, LLC have taken possession of the building with the intention of demolishing the named building in order to build to their specifications.

 

Enclosed you will find your original deposit, fully refunded since the property owners will not inspect for damages or changes to the property.

 

In accordance with state and federal laws, Summit and Horizon, LLC is withholding demolition for the required forty-five days. It is during this time, we suggest you find new residence.

 

A sliver of paper shifted under her fingers. When her great-grandfather rented this apartment in the late forties, the deposit was one hundred dollars, and there, with her name written in black lettering was a check for the deposit. The notice had been sent seventeen days ago, her choice to avoid life had cost her precious time.

 

She wanted to cry, to break something, or yell at the top of her lungs, everything all at once. But she couldn’t, it wouldn’t help her situation and would cause more damage to the problem.

 

Bella would have called Kate and Irina, asked them for an extra day off, but she couldn’t. She could hardly afford a cardboard box in the back alleys of Harlem. Her time to find a place to live was ticking away. She spoke with Gloria, who admitted her son had been after her to move into his Brownstone in Queens, with this new development, he was getting his wish.

 

Bella checked every listing she could find, but with her lack of available cash, even a one room loft was out of her price range.

 

She did find a listing for a room for rent, but when she did a Google search for the address, it was so far north of the city it would take her nearly three hours to get to work every morning.

 

With only one week remaining before her only home would be demolished, Bella picked up her cell phone, swallowed hard and watched as the busy traffic of New York city whizzed by.

 

Carlisle Cullen congratulated her as she spoke the four words which would change who she was. “You have a deal.”

 

AN

 

I will admit, I had a moment of reckoning as I typed this chapter. Creating environment of desperation is a cruel action, one no human should have to endure. I know all of you hate the Cullen brothers, and that is precisely what I want you to feel. My editor, Momma2fan wants me to write a very painful and slow death for the pair; I haven’t ruled that out yet.

 

We have one more chapter where the brothers are involved and then I shift to the relationship which will build between Edward and Bella. I wont lie to you, the angst Im about to create made me cry.

 

I will advise you not to give up on Edward. Imagine for a moment the inability to control the words which come from your mouth. Worse yet, the type of words, almost as if someone else is speaking.

 

As for Bella, remember, I write strong female characters…she’s got this.

 

  1. Chapter 7

 

Chapter seven

 

Bella was to meet the brothers at their office. She dared not question if Edward would be present for this meeting, it didn’t really matter. This was a financial arrangement, not some after school special about love and understanding.

 

Just as before, she braved the bitter cold temperatures of the season. She assumed she would move to Edward’s home after the wedding and wondered if it was far?

 

Security was waiting as she entered the lobby. Addressing her by name, he escorted her to the private elevator. No signing in this time, no odd looks from the staff who ran the information desk, just polite smiles and good mornings echoing around her.

 

Bella was overwhelmed when the elevator stopped and the doors opened, revealing what appeared to be a party. She looked above her head, checking to see if she had arrived on the correct floor.

 

“Isabella, you’re here, welcome, welcome.” The friendliness of Carlisle’s voice was unnerving, almost as if it were rehearsed or in secret celebration. But what shot ice through her veins, as if a vampire had attacked, was the way she felt as he wrapped her in a massive hug.

 

“Edward, I must say, you are a lucky man.” Charlie called from across the room, a shot glass in his hand, a slight slur to his words.

 

Movement from the opposite side of the room caught her attention. Bella had seen a large number of photos of Edward Cullen, however what she’d failed to see was the camera attached to the frame above the elevator. Edward knew it was there, watched the red light illuminate as the elevator door opened. He could feel the monster creep back into the dark corner of his mind.

 

Bella could not ignore the gnawing feeling she had as she took in the bright smile of the man she was agreeing to marry. He was Incredibly handsome, impeccably dressed and, without a doubt, a complete heart breaker. Nothing made sense about this picture.

 

Edward stood, reached across the table, and extended his hand in her direction. A small strand of his hair fell from the wave of hair he had combed to the left. On anyone else, it would have appeared unkempt, unwashed. But not on Mr. Cullen, it made him even sexier.

 

“So, Miss Swan, are you ready for your life to change?”

 

Bella, like most women, appreciated the male sector. Growing up with an athletic brother, she had seen and heard the results of high amounts of testosterone. Edward Cullen was pure man, his voice deep, jaw chiseled and, from what I could tell from the lines of his suit, an incredible physique. His appearance only added to the puzzle, which already lacked enough pieces to solve.

 

“I’m ready to move forward.” Red flags waved as she took the seat she’d been offered. Nausea brewed inside her belly, causing her throat to dry; she was completely confused. Enough to be concerned, but not enough to back away from the stack of papers which awaited her.

 

Carlisle made everything sound so easy. Stand before a Priest, say two simple words and all her issues would vanish. Bella questioned if Edward was aware of what was going on, Carlisle had sounded so chipper when he assured her Edward looked forward to their union.

 

~*CN*~

 

Bella, as hard as she tried, could not shake the feeling that something was very wrong. However, she simply couldn’t afford the luxury of worrying about it today.

 

Right now, she had to figure out how she was going to afford the dress she currently wore as she stood looking at herself in the mirror. Elizabeth Cullen, Edward’s mother, insisted on an informal dinner party at Tavern on the Green. Even a tiny child knew the prestige which came from entering the front door of the New York landmark. One simply didn’t walk in there wearing faded jeans and sneakers. Being amongst the working poor didn’t afford thousand dollar dinners or several hundreds on a black dress.

 

Standing in the line before her were two young ladies, whom Bella would have guessed to be about her age, were engaged in a conversation involving how they would be able to attend several events in the same week and afford a different dress for each one.

 

“Just keep the receipt in a safe place and don’t remove the tags. Cover the bottom of the shoes with masking tape and before you return them, take it off.”

 

Bella wanted to kiss the girl who’d thought of such a brilliant plan. She could put the dress on her credit card and return it when the dinner was finished. For the first time in weeks, Bella Swan smiled.

 

With a conservative, yet evening appropriate, dress slung over her shoulder, she headed back home. Bella would have to wear a pair of shoes she already owned, but with the dress being black, it should be easy.

 

Arriving at Tavern on the Green, a few paparazzi snapping photos of an ‘A’ list celebrity. Bella held back until the circus cleared. The rain began just as the uniformed man opened the door to the restaurant. Greeting him with a smile and a polite hello, Bella removed her coat, giving it to the lady in the short skirt and tight hair. Another man greeted her by name, motioning for her to follow him to the back of the restaurant.

 

The private room was large. A round table sat in the center with only one empty chair remaining. From her internet search of the family, she recognized everyone at the table.

 

Edward and his brothers seemed to be having a debate as she tried to adjust her shoulders and show the room she had more confidence than she really did. Jasper caught sight of her and rose from his chair. Emmett joined in the gentlemanly gesture, but Edward remained seated, an angry scowl covering his face.

 

“Ah, the guest of honor.” Jasper spoke, his voice seemingly genuine, his expression inviting and trusting.

 

Bella ignored the butterflies, which ran rampant inside her stomach. Forget the nausea she felt earlier, now it felt as if her skin was crawling, begging to be set free.

 

“You’ve arrived just in time to hear your fiance lose terribly at the discussion we’re having.”

 

Bella knew in her very soul something had shifted, gone was the gentleness she’d found in Edward just hours ago. Now, he sat at the table, one leg crossed at the knee, a drink in his hand, and an elbow on the table as he tipped back his glass, consuming the amber liquid.

 

“Emmett and I are of the notion that men look at every woman in the room and questions, even if briefly, what it would be like to have sex with her.”

 

Edward slammed down his empty glass and snapped his fingers at the waiter who stood with his back to the wall, waiting for his instructions.

 

“And I told the pussy whipped motherfuckers that not every woman in a given room is fuckable.”

 

Bella had never been a fan of cursing. She was a believer there are so many words in the English language better suited to speak aloud.

 

“Present company being a prime example.”

 

Edward’s eyes bore into Bella’s. She felt as if sheet after sheet of absolute hate were being tossed at her, suffocating her in it’s poison.

 

Edward could hear the words as they left his mouth, feel the glee the monster felt as they crippled Isabella. She was a beautiful girl, wholesome and honest. But he knew she was only with him for the money she was being paid. Had he been normal, free of the chains which confined him to his disease, he would have pursued her, dated her as a young man should. She would grow to hate him. The more she learned of him and his issues, she would find reason to avoid him.

 

“Well…looks like we’re getting an undiluted dose of Edward tonight.” Emmett murmured, taking a drink from his own glass. All eyes at the table seemed to find their plates very interesting. Bella was clueless as to what he meant, but in that moment, she didn’t care.

 

She didn’t like the tension which was thick in the air, everyone avoiding talking about whatever was bothering Edward.

 

“Here.” Edward’s voice caused her to jump. “The Times did an article on our situation, I won’t be seen as a fucking douche bag.” He tossed a small, grey box across the table at her. Charlie had shown her the article, which would run in every newspaper in the city. The Cullen family, announcing with great joy their oldest son finding love and proposing to a girl he haphazardly met. Bella hadn’t finished the article; she was never one for bad fiction.

 

She refused to open the box, knowing it was a wrapped up illusion, a farce to lead people off the true story, one of deceit and, what now appeared, to be more lies within the circle.

 

“If you will excuse me, please.” She didn’t wait for an answer or for any of the gentlemen to rise from their seats. Bella bolted from the room, her stomach pleading with her to let it empty the acid which burned her from deep within.

 

Closing the stall, Bella leaned her forehead against the slotted wood pieces. How she wished she was in a lower end bathroom where the door would have been metal and cool to her heated skin. Taking deep breaths, she swallowed back the emotions which fluctuated between anger and embarrassment. Her mother’s words from when James had teased her into a ball of tears came back to her. ‘You can not control what someone says to you, but you can control how you react.’

 

Pulling her shoulders back, a new resolve filled the bitterness she had when she came in. Edward Cullen may find her to be lacking, but this was not her worry. Whatever plagued him was far worse than having an unattractive face. Beauty was only skin deep, but ugly went clear to the bone.

 

Flushing the toilet to dispel any rumors, which may have followed her in here, she opened the door to find a very attractive woman leaning against the vanity. Her long dark hair hung in curls, bone thin with her skirt so tight, it left no room to wear any panties. Bright red nails tapped out a rhythm on the marble top.

 

“Well, well…if it isn’t Isabella Swan.” Bella’s given name came out as if it were a piece of rotten fruit. A folded up newspaper was tossed in her direction, landing in the center of her chest, and then dropping to the floor below. Bella gave it a sparing glance, and then looked back to the tall brunette.

 

“You may think you’re something special, but just you remember,” she took a step in Bella’s direction, her shoes clicking against the shiny tiles. “Those nights when he calls to tell you he is working late and won’t be home, he’s really with me, letting me give him the pleasure a man of his caliber needs.”

 

Bella thought of many ways to respond to this woman, clearly she was a ladder climbing socialite or a high priced call girl, not much difference if you really thought about it. Her mother would tell her to ignore the comment, but something told Bella this girl was someone to watch out for, someone who would need boundaries.

 

“So,” Bella started, planning the delivery of her words carefully. “You are going to be available to my husband to do sexual acts? Am I understanding you correctly?”

 

Angela had no intention of letting Edward go. She didn’t give a shit if he married every single woman in the free world, she would continue to be there and live the life she was used to. No one was taking that from her.

 

“That is exactly what I’m saying. If you ever wonder where he is, you can bet your ugly ass he is with me.”

 

For the first time in as long as she could remember, Bella had no desire to be the bigger person. After today and what she had signed away, she had nothing left to bid away.

 

“Well, thank God for that.” Bella crossed the room, stepping around Angela to wash her hands in the sink. “I am so relieved to know I won’t have to be on my hands and knees for him. Placing his penis in my mouth after he has done his business in the bathroom.”

 

She pulled a hand towel from the stack against the wall. “Besides, I’ll be too busy using his credit cards to worry about what happens in his bed. You can give him all the blow jobs you want. I’ve never been one to stick something like that anywhere near my mouth.”

 

Bella didn’t wait for a rebuttal as she walked with pride back into the restaurant. As she rounded the corner and back into the private room, she noticed the women all talking together, the men, including Edward. were looking at their phones.

 

Carlisle had sworn to Edward he would take care of getting Angela into rehab. She was no longer of any use to the family and it was time to retire her. They would need to be careful as she was a loaded gun, pissing her off was an invitation to disaster.

 

Edward felt his phone vibrate in his pocket, his eyes fixed on the ring box which still sat in the place he tossed it. When he learned Bella had accepted his uncles proposal, he did some investigation on his own. He knew this was just another one of their bets, a way to pass the time. A smile crept upon his face as he thought of how this would be the last scam they ever played on anyone.

 

With his new position, he would put an end to their antics. The ring, which he would insist Bella keep when this was all over, would provide her with a hefty sum to find herself a new life. When this all came crashing down, and it would, he wanted her far away, living a decent life without any worries in the world.

 

Looking at his cell phone, his anger increased, the monster rose from his seat, taking the reins of what needed to be done.

 

Bella watched Edward’s forehead wrinkle as he read whatever was on his screen. He rose from the table and retrieved something from his jacket pocket.

 

“Let’s go.” He barked at his brothers, tossing a wad of cash to the table, an amount which would pay Bella’s bills for a month. Looking in her direction, he opened the wallet again, removed a shiny black credit card, and tossed it beside the grey box.

 

“Take this and plan the fucking wedding. Go fucking nuts and make my mother happy.”

 

Bella wanted to return with one of his more colorful four letter words, but she refrained. Ignoring the bite in his voice, she sat perfectly still as his brothers gave sweet kisses to their girls. Bella prayed Edward would stay on his side of the table.

 

“Ride with the girls home,” he tossed as he shrugged on an overcoat.

 

Ally voiced her dislike for having dinner interrupted before Elizabeth had arrived.

 

“Let’s go.” Edward demanded as he turned and walked away.

 

Bella and the girls stood under the awning as the rain poured down in sheets. She listened as they spoke of how work never seemed to stop when the guys were together. Bella didn’t question what type of work would require them to go into the office at this time of night. Besides, didn’t Jasper run a nightclub?

 

“Come on, Bella.” Rose called from the back of the town car, but Bella had other ideas. She wasn’t married yet and she would be damned if she would allow Edward to tell her what to do. Ignoring the that fact her dress would be unreturnable, she waved good bye to the girls and walked in the pouring rain to the subway station.

 

AN

 

Bella has agreed to marry Edward. What a wonderful way to receive an engagement ring, tossed at you across a dining table…

 

My editor questioned if Edward knew Angela was in the restaurant? No, he is not aware she is there or what she said to her. Bella will bring this to his attention, in a somewhat colorful way.

 

This fiction is bursting with angst, I guess it is all the drama missing from the multitude of other completed fictions in my resume. Even though Comfortably Numb is far from over, a new fiction has been calling out to me, free from the large amount of angst I assure you. Im thinking a Rescueward…

 

Thank you to my editor, Momma2fan. She is comfortable enough with our relationship to call me out on a plot gone wrong.

 

Next chapter will be Wednesday, where we all see where Edward and the boys took off to. Any guesses?

 

  1. Chapter 8

 

Chapter Eight

 

The rain became too much, even with the heat from the anger which still registered dangerous levels in her body. Bella couldn’t afford to get sick, not before she stood before the Priest and spoke the two words which would change everything. Twenty minutes into her subway journey home, the combination of the forward momentum and squealing of brakes, let Bella know her night was about to get much worse.

 

Voices grumbled around her as the conductor announced the tunnel ahead was flooded from the rain, causing the ride to terminate. Trying to stay positive, she looked at the digital map, only two more stops before her destination. If she hurried, she could just make the bus.

 

With the amount of rain flowing down the steps of the station, she wondered if the entire city was flooded. Just as she crested the edge of the landing, she noticed the signal lights of an approaching bus enter the lane. Her shoes were ruined, not that they were in great shape to begin with. Picking up the pace, as it seemed everyone for miles was stranded with the shutdown of the subway, Bella was relieved to see the bus approaching was not the one she needed.

 

As the bench cleared, she politely waited until a spot opened under the protective awning of the stop. The tires from the bus splashing the standing water across her poor excuse for shoes. She was now chilled to the bone from the monsoon rain and the loss of the fire which once burned inside her.

 

Bella found relief that she was the only person waiting after the bus pulled away. She closed her eyes as the sounds of the street, drivers blaring their horns frustrated with the slow traffic and whistles of travelers trying to catch a passing taxi, caressed her soul, bringing her a comfort she needed.

 

Sounds of brakes once again alerted her of an approaching city bus, this time it was the one she was counting on. A smile caught her face as she recognized the driver; Waylon. He had worked for the city for over twenty years, for the last twelve, he had driven the same route. Bella had taken Waylon’s bus when she would travel to visit her mother while she was ill in the hospital. Bella found him to be a gentle and kind soul, letting her skip the fare when he knew her day had been particularly difficult.

 

Waylon noticed the petite brunette the second he turned the corner. He had read about her recent engagement, which had surprised him as he didn’t think she ran with the likes of Edward Cullen.

 

While most of the world knew the Cullens as ‘do gooders’, Waylon was from the streets of Harlem; a place where the Cullens posed for photos with the scholarship winners and gave new homes to families who were one step from cardboard boxes. He had been there when the cameras packed up and went back to their comfortable offices. When the shadows turned into men with white powder in their pockets, selling to the kids and folks who did live in those cardboard boxes. Waylon had also witnessed the side of Edward Cullen the media never took photos of, the one with a temper and a shiny black gun hidden inside his designer jacket.

 

He had picked up three of those shadows who sold the poison, listened to them harass the other passengers until only the trio remained. Waylon wanted to pass the stop, leave Bella to find a much safer taxi, but he suspected she didn’t have a choice, maybe there was trouble in paradise already. Maybe the thugs in the back would leave her alone or get off at this stop, if they didn’t he knew how to shut them down, let them know to back off.

 

Bella felt the tension leave as she stood before the open door of the bus. Heat from the carriage hit her, making her move her feet a little faster, searching for a dry and safe space to spend the next forty minutes.

 

“Well, look at my luck, a beautiful girl waiting for me.” Waylon’s charismatic demeanor brought a smile to Bella’s face. As she moved her arms to place her ticket against the scanner, Waylon surprised her. “I hear you got yourself engaged.”

 

Bella wanted to hold on to the smile he had gifted her, but the thought of the man who had treated her so poorly and the disdain he had showed her was greater than the happiness she longed for.

 

“Where did you hear that?” Distraction had worked with her mother and brother anytime the question became too much.

 

“Are you kidding? When a man like Cullen announces to the city he has found his girl, everyone listens.”

 

Bella hadn’t noticed the three men in the back of the bus until Waylon asked his question. Dressed as most of the kids in New York with their jeans too large and the New York fitted cap. The larger of the three stood from his seat and began pounding on the side door. “Hey, I need off this bitch.” The other two nearly tripped over themselves following him out the half opened door. Bella thanked Waylon as she took a seat directly behind him.

 

~*CN*~

 

“You chose to take my merchandise, fill your nose with my poison, and now you have to pay.” Dim light reflected off the barrel of the gun in Edward’s hand. The monster inside begged him to pull the trigger, but killing him would only feed the evil in Edward’s head, not treat the issue before him. He wanted to be anywhere but standing with a man’s life in his hands. Carlisle had created this situation, panhandling drugs to the poor souls whose bodies craved the white powder.

 

“I-I can get your money, tomorrow; I swear.”

 

Edward wanted to tell the man to check into rehab, get his life together. The monster inside wanted to watch his blood dripping from his lifeless body.

 

“Hey, do you know who this loser is?” Emmett stood with a chain wrapped around his right hand, more for appearance than anything as he was not a violent man. Emmett did, however, enjoy going along and appearing intimidating.

 

“He is some lame assed fuck who can’t pay his bills.”

 

Edward felt bad for the man, the monster inside could care less, and since he was in control, he was the one who answered.

 

“But he’s more than just your typical dirt bag who owes you money. This one is practically family.”

 

Edward couldn’t believe his ears. Earlier, Carlisle texted to let him know he had some asshole who was trying to skip out of paying for his drugs. Said he had been given extension after extension and never came through. By the size of the guy tied to the chair, he questioned how this guy was so large and yet ran up such a huge debt with his uncles.

 

“What the fuck is your name?”

 

Edward allowed the Hulk to do the talking. Carlisle had assured him the Swan girl was of good and moral standards. If this fuck was going to be related to him, he wanted to know everything.

 

“James Swan.”

 

James had a gash above his left eye, something he would have to tell his coach a lie for. Lying had come natural to him, worked well in nearly every situation. When his mother had passed, he knew he could talk Bella into giving him her part of the money.

 

Carlisle Cullen had come to him when he had been turned down by the NFL, his one and only dream. Carlisle told him if he could do a few favors for him, he could change the mind of the coach. He came through for him, so when Charles Cullen showed up on his doorstep a few weeks ago, he didn’t hesitate to go along with him in the game he wanted to play. Charlie sweetened the deal when he offered the beautiful girl who was with him at the time. Angela had been an amazing fuck, returning several times to get high with him and fuck against the glass of his condo.

 

James assure Carlisle, Bella would do anything to help him, believe any story he filled her mind with. Charlie had called him this morning and said to be at this address tonight. James assumed it was to do another deal for him, place a little more money in pocket. But now James was changing his mind about the situation, feeling as if he had been double crossed.

 

Edward could smell Carlisle all over this; another player in the game he had going on.

 

“Everybody get the fuck out.” Edward demanded firing a single shot into the ceiling above. If his uncles wanted to play a game, then a game they were about to get. His brothers scattered like cockroaches when the lights were turned on. Edward envied their ability to think clearly and recognize the danger of a situation.

 

Placing his gun back in his pants, he leaned against the metal of the warehouse wall. He didn’t worry about anyone hearing gunshots, this was Harlem, the home of gun battles.

 

“Tell me every fucking detail of why you’re here.”

 

James knew better than to be cute. His gut told him this entire situation was supposed to have ended in an entirely different way. So he told Edward everything; the fake arrest, fucking Angela and even the generosity the coach of the local team showed when he’d welcomed him on board.

 

Edward listened closely, confirming what he already suspected. He was about to take over this company and he knew change was needed. He planned to start with the man tied to the chair in front of him.

 

“This is what you’re going to do.”

 

AN

 

I love a good twist. Gives your heart a good jolt. Next chapter we get see a little crack in Bella’s armor as we turn up the level of ass in Edward. Check out my Facebook page for photos for this particular fiction.

 

  1. Chapter 9

 

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. These were the words Bella whispered to herself as she left her apartment, garment bag slung over her right arm. After arriving home last night, she’d carefully removed her outer coat to see her dress was completely dry. As if the Gods above were smiling down on her; she could return the dress thus removing the charge that would max out her card.

 

As Bella reached the street from the subway station, she couldn’t miss the aroma coming from the building across the street. The white building seemed to mock her, reminding her she would never be able to study behind its brick walls, creating a fragrance which would tease the senses of passersby. She sighed as continued to her destination, there was no use getting upset over things she could not change.

 

Pushing open the door to the off Broadway store, the loud music, which nearly killed her ears the first time she visited, seemed to be playing the same song. She found the shop virtually empty given the early morning hour.

 

“May I help you?” The salesperson this time was a young girl who reminded Bella of herself. Conservative skirt, reaching her socks and a modest sweater, dropping to her mid thighs, with black boots peeking out from the grey skirt.

 

“Yes, I need to return this dress.”

 

The young lady motioned for Bella to follow her to the back of the store and took the bag from Bella’s hand, a smile now coloring her face. Bella could barely hear the beeping of the scanners above the techno music.

 

“Was there something wrong with the dress?”

 

Bella thought of many ways to answer the question, the issue wasn’t with the dress, but the occasion which forced her to buy it. “No, just didn’t like it as much when I got home.”

 

Sarah, as the sales girl introduced herself handing her the return receipt. Bella wished her a good day as she left the store. She felt terrible for ‘borrowing’ the dress like she did, but not enough that she was willing to go back and have her credit card declined. Even though the weather had warmed with the visible sun, Bella still shivered as the New York wind rushed past her, slapping her with the reminder she had more shopping to do.

 

Ally and Rosalie had left her several text messages this morning, offering to meet her at any of the bridal shops the city had. Last night, after Bella had settled herself into a warm pair of pajamas, she’d Googled an article with a timeline for planning a wedding. Her first mission today, would be to secure the venue. Bella was clueless as to which company to choose. Edward had tossed her his card and instructed her to make his mother happy. Another Google search of the Cullen family showed a wedding which was planned by a company called Chantilly and Co. Bella searched their web page to find a phone number, as well as any information about their services. A cell phone number was listed on the webpage with the tagline ‘available to all our brides day or night’.

 

The phone rang twice before a thick accented woman answered the phone. She questioned whether Bella was a current bride of theirs, which of course she denied. The French sounding woman scoffed, and then informed Bella the next available date open with them was two years away. Bella began to thank the lady and apologised for calling at such a late hour.

 

“You were the only one I thought to call, as you’ve taken care of the Cullen family before.”

 

The French woman immediately sounded wide awake and suddenly remembered a cancellation she’d forgotten to enter into the computer. “Of course we would love to have the future Mrs. Cullen and any of her family in our boutique.”

 

Chantilly and Co. was elegantly scripted across the marquee of the Park Ave store front. Not only did a very well dressed and armed security officer stand by the door, but the door handle was non existent. Bella introduced herself to the gentleman, who looked to be more of a Marine than a rent a cop, and watched as he waved his watch over a panel on the side of the building. One of the panels of glass slid sideways, opening for her to enter the boutique.

 

Inside was a brides wet dream. Flowers in every shape and size rested in crystal vases on nearly every surface. Round tables with Wedgwood china and silk bunting graced the right side of the shop. Three women, dressed in matching cream suits and impeccable hair, pulled back so tight it gave Bella a sympathetic headache, stood to the side waiting to serve her.

 

With a snap of fingers from the tall woman in the center, a plush chair came from the back of the shop and a tray of tea was placed on a mirrored table in the center of the room. Books and catalogs seemed to fly into the room. As the overwhelming activities swirled around her, Bella managed to separate herself as she wondered how many brides did this alone?

 

She really didn’t find a need for all of this planning. She had studied the wedding photos of the last Cullen to marry and although it seemed over the top, Sophia assured her this was very close to the events planned in the wedding she read about.

 

In the end, a string quartet would play while the guest were seated and during dinner. A full orchestra would entertain once the food and cake had been served. More flowers than she had ever seen would be shipped in from around the world. Appointments were made with two designers, not wedding dress shops, but actual designers. Bakeries were put on alert, as well as the catering service Bella was told handled all Cullen events. After three hours, and far too much tea to be mentioned, she had what Sophie described as sixty percent of the wedding planned. All that was left for today was placing down a sizable deposit.

 

Bella reached into the pocket of her pants, too afraid of muggers and pickpockets to leave the black card anywhere else. She handed over the card, which felt more like a bolder rather than a piece of plastic, to Sophie.

 

“Oh, cherie, we do not accept the American Express.”

 

Bella’s face went pale at the thought of paying the deposit with her own credit card. Her credit limit wouldn’t even cover the cost of postage for the invitations.

 

“Do not worry, mon cheri. The Cullens are well established customers, have one of the accountants deliver a check.”

 

Bella did not think her pulse could race any higher, but as Sophia handed her the amount of the deposit, she nearly fainted.

 

Ignoring Sophia’s reassurance the details would be handled and items ordered by the end of the day, Bella could not ignore the sense of urgency she felt to get the money to them, avoiding any talk of her future family being unable to meet its obligations. Besides maybe Edward would tell her this was too much and cut half of the items Sophia had tossed at her.

 

Ignoring her stomach which begged to be fed something other than hot tea, she jumped in the back of a taxi to rush her the eighteen blocks to Edward’s office. Rosalie and Ally wanted to meet for lunch, but Bella had declined their invitation. She had no plans of getting close to the woman in this family, too afraid to see the judgement in their eyes. She would fulfil the terms she’d agreed to in the contract she signed with the Cullen family.

 

Bella no longer had to sign into the building, instead she had her own white card which she slid into the slot on the elevator pad. Wishing the information staff a good day, she waved as the elevator door closed, shutting away the noise from the street which seemed to filter in through the door.

 

Edward’s office was on the top floor. She’d been given a brief tour after she had agreed to the terms of the contract. She was also introduced to his secretary Jane, an older woman who seemed bored with her job. As the elevator opened, Jane rose from her chair,

 

“Miss Swan, how nice to see you again. Are you here to see your fiance?”

 

Bella hated the word and the emptiness behind the fake title. But she had agreed to the stipulations, secrecy being one of them.

 

“If he’s available. I don’t want to interrupt, but I have an urgent matter to discuss.”

 

Bella had not placed the plastic card back into her pocket, instead choosing to keep it clenched in the palm of her hands. Her fingertips were imprinted with Edward’s name and the expiration date from the force she used against the raised lettering and numbers.

 

“Oh, you are never bothering him.”

 

Jane stepped around her desk, taking the librarian style glasses from her face and sliding them to the top of her head.

 

“He is in a meeting with the Uncles, down one floor.”

 

Jane went with her to the elevator, smiling pleasantly as she asked how the wedding planning was going. Bella remained respectful as she told Jane the unfortunate story.

 

“I wish I’d known you were going to Chantilly’s.” Her brow furrowed and her mouth turned into a severe frown. “The last event the family did with her, several attorneys had to get involved when she failed to provide the services she charge for.”

 

Bella’s heart sank, she had no idea there was bad business between them. Jane could see the blood leave Bella’s face.

 

“Dont worry, I will call Sophia and remind her we do not do business with common thieves.”

 

The elevator doors opened just as the sound of shouting voices carried down the hallway. Bella and Jane exited the elevator and began walking briskly down the hall toward the open office door.

 

Carmen stood from her desk, a worried look about her face. Jane waved and motioned to the door, but Bella’s eyes never left the tan wall which separated the office from the double wooden doors. Bella could see the shadows of someone pacing in the room and the clarity of the conversation slowly became a nightmare.

 

“I doubt if she has even lost her virginity! There has to be years of dust and cobwebs blocking the path to her fucking pussy!”

 

Bella reached over, blocking the path of Jane, and now Carmen, from going any further down the hall.

 

“Edward, be reasonable! Young ladies don’t make it to their sixteenth birthday with their virginities intact.”

 

“Really, Carlisle? Are you willing to fuck her? Are you going to plant your fucking face in her snatch or slam your dick into her fucking pussy, as you hold back the vomit because you have to fuck her in order for her to become pregnant? Are you willing to let her lay beside you in your bed every night, be the mother of your fucking baby and deal with her for the rest of your life?”

 

“Edward, it would seem you don’t want to run this company after all. That’s evident with this attitude of yours.”

 

Bella swallowed hard, she knew there had been something to make a man like Edward agree to a situation like this.

 

“When you have a wife like the one I’m about to have forced upon me…”

 

Bella could not bear to listen to another word. She turned sharply in Jane’s direction, “Please give this card to Mr. Cullen.” Angry tears were rushing to the surface of her eyes as she placed the card in the other woman’s hand. Bella refused to give them life or allow that jerk to bring her to her knees. “Explain to him what the issue is and that if at all possible, I’d like to schedule a meeting when I won’t interrupt a conversation which was not meant for me to overhear.”

 

With the most amount of dignity she could muster, she walked back to the elevator, refusing to turn around as Jane’s voice interrupted the meeting.

 

“Excuse me, Sirs. Miss Swan just…”

 

God was shining down on her as the elevator doors closed, saving her another hit of humiliation.

 

Bella didn’t remember getting on the subway or taking a bus, but she found herself standing outside the tiny book store, it’s closing time long since past. Couples holding hands strolled by her, yet she continued to stare at the locked door. Craving a few hours of solitude and a place to let herself fall apart, she unlocked the door and silenced the alarm.

 

A single security light glowed behind the register, its intended target was to give the passing police officers an inside view of the store. It also highlighted the collection of books which had hit the number one slot on the best-selling lists, Comfortably Numb.

 

Knowing she could escape the pain which was quickly engulfing her soul, she snached the first book in the series and headed up the staircase. Bella had already found a favorite chair in the break area Mrs. Meyers had created. Not bothering to turn on any lights, she instead chose to allow the flames from the fireplace to light the room. Bella needed an escape, to live in the shoes of a fictional character, one whose life was unlike her own and not tainted with cruel words and lies. Finally, allowing the tears to fall, she opened the cover and allowed herself to escape.

 

Marie Dyer was never much of a party girl. Her idea of a good time on a Friday night was a good movie or a trip to her favorite cooking store. She loved to create decadent meals for those she loved, lived for the weekends where she would entertain her family and friends with her culinary creations. Dinner had always been a special time in the Dyer household, coming together as a family after the battles of their daily life.

 

Tonight, however, she had sworn to her best friend, Jessica, she would come to the bar to meet the new man in her life. Marie stood outside the nondescript building, her blonde hair caressing her face in the gentle breeze. Summers in Chicago could get unbearably hot, but tonight, the temperature was comfortable. She watched as several celebratory groups entered the squeaky door, she could hear the hum of the neon lights the name of the bar reflected in its tubular gas.

 

Just as she was about to give up and call Jessica, her friend rounded the corner, practically jogging in her direction.

 

“I’m sorry!” She screeched as she pounced on her in a big hug. “Alex couldn’t get the alarm to engage and so we had to wait for security.”

 

Jessica worked for a dentist a few miles away. She had gone to dental hygienist school fresh out of high school. Alex was the office manager and her little brother. Well, little in age only as he was nearly a foot taller than the both of them.

 

“I was about to give up and send out a search party,” Marie joked. Pulling her ID from her back pocket, ready to present to any security which may be in the bar.

 

“I should have called, but I was rushing.” Jessica admitted as she pulled the handle of the door.

 

Once the pair was inside, Marie took a look around. She was surprised to see how nice the interior was, considering how plain the exterior looked. Along one side of the room was the bar, it’s dark wood had a beautiful shine which the lights above highlighted. Mirrors advertising different brands of alcohol and the like decorated the walls. All showed a little aging, clearly they were as old as the building. Three waitress danced around the room, green aprons tied around tiny waists, with snug t-shirts sporting the name of the bar on the front and a catchy logo on the back. Marie was a prisoner to her surroundings, loving the speakeasy feel of the room. Marie was a lover of all things roaring twenties. From the music to the flirty clothing, she always wished she could travel back in time to live during prohibition and run her own gin joint.

 

“Marie?” Jessica called from her seat at the bar. Marie smiled as she moved in Jessica’s direction, placing her right thigh on the leather covered bar stool.

 

Behind the bar, two men moved from patron to patron, filling glasses with foaming beer and chunks of ice. The young man closest to them, a spiky haired blonde, was tall and muscular, with two full sleeves of tattoos. He noticed us and it wasn’t hard to see this was the bartender Jessica has been swooning over.

 

“Hey, baby.” Mr. Muscles leaned over the top of the bar, pulling Jessica by her shoulders to him, placing a kiss on her which would cause a porn star to blush.

 

“Hey.” Jessica sighed, completely out of character for her. Normally, Jessica was more of a ball buster. Not giving a shit if a guy liked her or not. She was fine being by herself, hanging out with her family or helping her father in his business.

 

“This your girlfriend?” He nodded in Marie’s direction.

 

Jessica’s smile reset as she came back to earth. “Oh, shit, yes. Marie, this is Garrett. Garrett, this is Marie.”

 

Before the customary handshakes could be exchanged, a loud bell rang followed by a roar of excited men. Marie turned to look at the other end of the bar, where she found a group of guys who were chanting, “chug, chug, chug.” The other bartender stood behind the line of shots he had prepared with a can of silly string in each hand, doucing the men as they tossed back shot after shot. Marie couldn’t help but smile at their joy, or watch the bartender as he danced and emptied the cans all over the guys.

 

When the drinks were finished and the competitors were covered in green and blue gobb, the bartender reached over his head and, again, rang the bell.

 

“We have a winner!” He shouted as he tossed the empty cans into the trash and handed a clean towel to each of the young men. At least Marie thought it was a towel, but when one of the guys unfolded it, she changed her mind as it was a t-shirt, much like the one the waitresses were wearing.

 

Garrett clapped and placed his thumb and ring finger into his mouth, letting a loud whistle resonate over the roar of excited patrons. The second bartender then turned in Garrett’s direction and Marie gasped. He was incredible. Same build as Garrett, his black t-shirt tight enough to see one of his nipples was pierced. Hair messy, as if he had rolled out of bed and ran to work. Marie could see something was tattooed on the side of his neck, but he was too far away for her to read it.

 

“Hey, Tony!” Garrett shouted, placing his hands on each side of his face, directing his voice to travel over the still very excited crowd. As the second bartender approached, Marie’s heart began to race. He was seriously good looking, with the classic badboy warning label written all over him. Marie appreciated the way he swayed as he came closer, walking with confidence and swagger, a cheeky smile which Marie was certain came natural to him. But it was when he looked up from the floor, his eyes locking with hers, that her heart left her chest and floated away making a new home in the man who had every ounce of her attention.

 

“Hey man, this is Jessica, my girlfriend and her friend, Marie.”

 

“Ladies, this is my boss and best friend, Anthony.”

 

Marie tried to get her mouth to work, say something, instead she was left to look like a mute as the gorgeous man stood before her. Anthony stepped around Garrett, ignoring the outstretched hand of Jessica.

 

“Hello, beautiful.”

 

Marie watched as Anthony placed a kiss to the back of her hand. His much larger fingers gently taking her tiny hand in his. She watched as he lowered his head down, eyes never leaving hers as his pouty lips touched the skin of the webbing between her fingers.

 

“You kept me waiting a very long time.” His husky voice told her, sending a quiver down her arm and straight to her core.

 

AN

 

So now you can see how this has turned into a story within a story. I know may of you read to escape and so it seems only fitting to have fiction duplicate real life. Bella will have her day, don’t worry. Edward is having a war within himself. Imagine if for a single day you were unable to control the words which crossed your lips, spewing hurtful words you have no control over. Being afraid to trust anyone, even those who share your last name.

 

  1. Chapter 10

 

Chapter 10

 

Bella had tried and failed to reach her brother by phone. If what she suspected to happen in Edward’s office became a reality, she wanted to have a member of her family there. So far, after numerous calls to James, she was on her own.

 

Bella had read Comfortably Numb well into the early hours of the morning, losing herself in a romance which she knew would only come in the pages of the book. For nearly six hours there were no bills she couldn’t afford, no working two low end jobs or betrothal to a man who hated everything about her. A man who she was about to sign a contract with. Marriage was sometimes just a means to an end and, certainly like the one she was entering, only a written agreement. Two parties agreeing on a middle ground, with profitable benefits for both involved.

 

Some would argue that marriage should be about love and attraction, but Bella had come to the mindset that both were luxuries she could not afford. This arrangement had become more than keeping her brother out of jail, it had become a matter of survival as her apartment would be demolished in seventy two hours.

 

Bella’s eyes remained on the dark gray carpet of the elevator. She thought they called it industrial, designed to withstand large amounts of foot traffic and still remain looking new. This is what she would need to become, strong and resistant to the stains and spills of the life she was about to enter.

 

Jane sat behind her wood desk, a bluetooth microphone extending from her left ear. She was typing away on her keyboard, softly speaking into her microphone. Her hazel eyes looked in Bella’s direction, a sad smile welcoming her. She knew the stories had to have traveled yesterday, proclaiming how the wedding hadn’t even taken place yet and there was trouble in paradise. If they only knew the fantasy which had been created was more like one of those travel brochures. The ones that used odd camera angles to show a room larger than it really was, a floor not as clean as pictured and the property located on a nuclear landfill instead of a tropical island.

 

Jane nodded her head in the direction of Edward’s door, the slow hum of the elevator doors closing behind her. Bella knew this meeting could go either way, either she left victorious or homeless.

 

Edward wished he could punish himself, hit himself until he bleed. Bella should never had heard the unforgivable words his inner demon lashed out. With the majority of his family too frightened to silence the anger he showed most of the time, there was one person, his aunt who didn’t fear him. Oddly she was the one person who he turned to in times like this.

 

Once Jane and Carmen had informed him what Bella had heard, further shocking him with her request to meet him at a later time, he called his aunt Esme. She held nothing back as she told him what a cruel and unforgivable way he had treated the poor girl. Esme knew how badly Edward wanted to take the reins of the company, not to make himself a dime richer, but to rid the family of the two cancerous members, Charlie and Carlisle.

 

Together, with a video camera on, they explored everything Esme found out about this young lady, Bella. Esme complimented Edward on how timelessly classic her beauty was, Edward couldn’t agree more as he took in every detail about her. In the end, Esme encouraged Edward to take the meeting and accept any terms Bella placed before him. When the wedding was finished, he should have the condo below his ready for her, giving her the privacy she may need when Edward’s monster became too much.

 

Bella stood trembling with her hand raised just outside Edward’s office door, she tried to picture Anthony standing behind the bar, holding Maries hand as he ignored the patrons around them. This morning when she left the shop, she’d purchased all the books in the series, she knew from the relief she had last night, she was going to need them.

 

“Come in.”

 

No doubt Edward had the face and voice of a true man, silky, yet resonating in her very soul. He also possessed a tongue so sharp it could, and had, sliced her in two.

 

Edward pulled his eyes from his desk, the pages and screen failing to hold his attention, he worried Bella would change her mind and not show up this morning. But there she stood, looking defeated and broken, holding his and the future of his company in her pale and fragile fingers

 

“Mr. Cullen, I know you’re busy so I will keep this brief.”

 

Bella pulled the door closed behind her, as if sealing the tomb of her certain death. He looked tired, yet still so very handsome, making this another piece of the puzzle she couldn’t seem to solve.

 

“Please, Ms. Swan, we are to be married.”

 

His smile and his words cut her once again. She could feel the pain from the tears behind her eyes and in her chest. She wanted to scream profanities at him, run from the room and dive back into her books, back to the man who adored the woman who stood before him.

 

“Yes, about that.”

 

She stepped around the chairs which faced his desk, not giving him an opportunity to offer her anything, including a hug or handshake. The thought of him touching her after knowing the truth of how he really felt and seeing the kind of women he kept at his beck and call, made her shiver. This was her one and only shot to plead her case, secure her future to Satan himself.

 

“With the events which took place yesterday and the requirements of the contract we agreed on.”

 

Edward wanted to interrupt, to apologise for the words which she’d heard; words he didn’t mean, yet could never take back. Esme had said to let her talk, even take a slap or punch if it made her feel better, and then to promise her the world and everything in it.

 

“I went home and did some research in regards to the concerns you have about our arrangements.” Bella opened the leather satchel which housed her collection of recently acquired books and printouts of what she had discovered. She pulled the first document out, a copy of the New York statutes on contractual obligations for marriage.

 

“It would appear the law regarding a kiss being required to bond the marriage contract was abolished around the time of the end of prohibition. The only thing the state requires of the parties is to register the license with a clerk of the court.

 

“Furthermore, a Priest is only a personal choice, anyone who is appointed by the state, which any current Judge meets that criteria, can sign a marriage license making the union legal.”

 

Bella passed the pages in Edward’s direction, avoiding taking her eyes off the black ink of the paper.

 

“Second, the act of consummation is also no longer a requirement unless you’re in sixteenth century England about to marry the King.”

 

Bella felt she was doing a pretty good job of not shaking, how easy it seemed to openly toss away the traditions associated with getting married. What was left in her case would be a change of name and the service of an attorney.

 

“As far as the final issue you have with being married to me, I have located three physicians who are very open to alternative avenues as a way of fertilizing an egg.

 

“Of course it would require you to provide a sample, but from my understanding of their website, you can bring your own…inspiration to make the task easier. Even your girlfriend from the other night would do, if you wanted.”

 

Edward’s stomach had been churning as he listened to the beautiful woman before him sell her soul, trade her dreams of the perfect day into contracts and clauses. What caught his attention was the mention of a girlfriend, something he didn’t have, but clearly someone had led her to believe.

 

“‘I’m sorry, what girl?”

 

Edward tried to sound polite and non threatening. He had every camera in the office on, leaving the monster rocking back and forth in the corner of his mind. He wished he could always do this, have a camera on. Somehow, and no one could explain it, his tolerance had a time limit. After about three hours, the camera no longer mattered.

 

“At the party your mother hosted, a woman was in the bathroom, she wanted to make certain I knew she was going to remain in the picture long after the wedding happened. She assured me she would be taking care of your sexual needs.”

 

“This woman, what did she look like?”

 

Edward sat back in his chair as Bella described Angela, right down to the ring she wore on her left pinky, a playboy bunny she had made when she turned twenty-three. He knew it was time to take matters into his own hands, live up to the man his father had raised.

 

“As you can see, there will be no need for a public event as Jane has already cancelled the venue and all of the appointments. With the number of attorneys in your employ, I assume you could have a judge or a notary sign the marriage license. It would go from a required kiss and unnecessary touching, to a few strokes of a pen and an appointment with a doctor on Park Avenue.”

 

Bella had only one request in all of this, willing to trade everything for a warm place to rest her head.

 

“Ms. Swan, all of this sounds very clinical and quite sterile. Doesn’t every girl dream of the day when all eyes are on her, walking down the aisle on the her father’s arm?”

 

Bella had given up on that dream many years ago, there would never be a father to walk her anywhere.

 

“Not everyone has the time to dream, reality takes up too much of our time. The struggle of survival outweighs the fantasies we wish to create. Which brings me to my only request for this change in our agreement.”

 

Four hours later Bella stood in a Park Avenue apartment, her bags and boxes from her old life scattered around her. Edward had agreed to her terms of a roof over her head for as long as the marriage lasted. They would table a future family for another time.

 

As Bella sat on the marble tile, the New York skyline a panoramic view before her, she let all the emotions leave her body; tears, anger and pain, lots of pain. Clenching the book which she had started the night before, the large princess cut diamond overshadowed her hand. She hated it, tried to get Edward to take it back, but as he signed the license and handed her a key to his home, he told her to keep it, that it might just grow on her.

 

Across town, Edward entered one of the buildings he had purchased several years ago. Tan legs and dilated eyes met him as he entered the penthouse apartment. She assumed he was there to fuck her, but she was wrong. Edward may have not stood before God and his family, but he did give a young lady his word. His platinum band, which he’d picked up on his way to the apartment felt heavy on his third finger. It was a symbol, a reminder of a promise, one he had every intention of keeping. He was going to protect his wife, even if it was from himself. Starting with the evil of his past.

 

“”We need to talk.”

 

AN

 

This was the the scene I pictured which inspired this fiction. It’s hard to understand a woman in position such as Bellas, willing to give up her dreams for basic survival.

 

  1. Chapter 11

 

Steam rose from the manhole cover in the center of the intersection. Edward remained emotionless, sitting in the back of his limo, watching the line of onlookers who awaited the demolition work to begin. He’d arrived back in the city only a few hours ago, any hope of sleep long gone after the conversation he’d had with his new wife.

 

Angela had stepped over the line when she approached Bella. She had been wrong when she spoke of being there to take care of him sexually. Edward would never lay a hand on her ever again. For all the years she had been available to him, and the damage he caused to her from the monster inside, an extended trip to a top rated rehab facility was the least he could do. She could have a good conversation with another patient, James Swan.

 

Once Edward listened to what James had to say, he asked him why he felt the need to betray his only sister? The truth, something he wasn’t certain he would be able to keep for long, would change the way this game was being played. But he would remain silent, to his wife and to his family, at least for now.

 

Edward watched as the heavy equipment workers arrived with their massive trucks, bright yellow hard hats with matching vests distinguishing them from the crowd. But it was the slender woman who stood in the back of the crowd, arms wrapped tightly around her waist as if holding herself together, who captured his attention. Wind blew strands of hair around her face, her pale skin tinged pink from the cold. He should have invited her into the car or got her a new coat to keep her warm. But he couldn’t let her know he knew about the end of her living arrangements, or his involvement.

 

“Edward, we really don’t have to watch this building come down.” Charlie had always been the kinder of his two uncles, although it didn’t make him trust him any more.

 

“Afraid to see the damage you’ve caused?” Edward’s words held anger and power, something his signature yesterday guaranteed him.

 

An early phone call from the board of directors had congratulated him on his nuptials and reminded him they would need to make a public statement. Bella had refused a formal wedding, calling the charade a waste of good money. Her suggestion was to tell the press she’d been a devout Catholic her entire life and refused to go to her wedding bed being anything but pure. So on a whim, Edward had surprised her with a weekend away and small private wedding. The press would find it terribly romantic, giving praise to the noble Edward Cullen.

 

His cell vibrated in his pocket, his mother’s name flashing across the screen. He had phoned her after Bella had left, confessing to her what he had agreed to. Elizabeth Cullen knew how important having her son in a seat of power was, the only way to return the company to the way her deceased husband had wanted it.

 

“Mother.” He didn’t want to know what she had planned for the day, he knew all too well the woman she was. Elizabeth Cullen had a new daughter in law, regardless of the circumstances and she would embrace her into the family.

 

“Edward, I’ve been trying to call your wife all morning and can’t reach her. Is she with you?”

 

Edward looked again to the beautiful woman shivering in the cold. Had she enjoyed the new home he provided for her? Did she know how he wanted to share his space with her, hold her hand as they walked along the street?

 

“She had a early morning meeting. Try her in another hour, I’m certain she will be available to you then.”

 

Elizabeth had understood the need for a quick wedding, or rather lack of. Edward was a hard man to be around, even with the camera running. But she had refused to allow the union to go uncelebrated. And so as soon as she got off the phone with her son, she called her assistant, Tanya Denali. Together they would take the blank canvas which was Bella Cullen and make her into a striking beauty.

 

Bella ignored the cold which tried to punch through her body. Watching the only home she had ever known fall to the ground in less than ten minutes. She pondered the hopes and dreams the first inhabitants had shared. New couples making this their home, families creating memories. Years of laughter, tears and jobs gone in the blink of an eye.

 

Bella turned as the huge cloud of debris and dust clouded the once peaceful street, she no longer lived here and had no business loitering on the street.

 

With one stroke of a pen, she had gone from a tiny apartment in Brooklyn to nearly half a floor of a luxury condo on Park Avenue. She had also gone from the safe and security she felt, to the lost feeling of no longer fitting in. When she returned to the Manhattan borough, a whirl of activities were in full swing inside her new home.

 

Elizabeth Cullen stood beside a beautiful older woman, small rimmed glasses resting on the end of her nose. Short, curly hair created a blonde halo around her head.

 

“Bella, sweetheart, there you are.” Elizabeth bounded over, taking Bella into her arms, gripping her tightly as she hugged the life out of her.

 

“We’ve got very little time and so much to do.”

 

Elizabeth began to drabble about a wedding reception which was going to allow the city it’s first glimpse of the new Cullen member. Rose and Ali were seated on the sofa which faced the fireplace, cell phones in hand, acrylic nails tapping loudly on touch screens. Adding their opinion as to Bella’s preparations for the reception planned for this evening.

 

Tanya and Elizabeth were in their own world of color and textures. Holding up various articles of clothing as Bella stood still, dazzled by the level of excitement these ladies possessed. She had never been one to take much value in shopping, yet with the privacy this style provided, Bella was soon enjoying herself. Shirts and pants, skirts and dresses, all more beautiful than she had ever seen. However, it was one particular dress, one she had spotted early on, that caused not only her to gasp, but those around her.

 

Satin and beads, brought together in a perfect symphony of exquisiteness. One arm covered with taffeta and matching bead work, while the other revealed the skin of her arm. It was elegant and beautiful, with its slit in the skirt which would expose her to mid thigh. Classic without being tacky, seductive without being sluttty. Bella loved everything about it.

 

“You’ll need a spray tan and an updo.” Rose added in, not waiting to consider Bella’s feelings. But as Rose waited for the phone to ring, Bella made her feelings known.

 

“No.”

 

The room fell silent as her frail and tired voice rang out, ending the many conversations filling the room. The meek and mild person they had suspected possessed something a little commandeering.

 

“I dont need any tan or special treatments. I’ve been doing my own hair for years, tonight will be no different.”

 

Tanya began to carry armloads of garments, heading in the direction of Bella’s new closet. While Bella touched the red satin of the dress a little longer. Elizabeth was on a call speaking softly with someone across the room.

 

A chill filled the air as the door opened and Edward walked into the room. His eyes tired with dark circles framing his green eyes. He took a long look around the room, the clothing still hanging on the racks. Tanya had tallied up the cost of the items Bella had chosen, sitting it on the end table which Edward currently stood over.

 

Not wanting to be part of the rage which was certain to come, Rose and Ali excused themselves, rambling on about their own grooming which needed to be done. Elizabeth and Tanya headed off to the closet, each another article of clothing, giving them an excuse to leave the newlyweds alone.

 

Edward ignored Bella’s greeting as he picked up the invoice, studied the total, and then dropped it back onto the glass surface.

 

“Thirty thousand dollars!” He shook his head back and forth. “It didn’t even take you a full day before you got used to spending my money.”

 

Bella had no idea how much the clothing had cost, but never thought more than a few hundred at the most. She swallowed hard as she thought of the red dress which Elizabeth had taken out of the room just now. Bella couldn’t respond to Edward, angry at herself for falling into the excitement of the morning.

 

Edward checked his phone, he regretted the words which had left his mouth, once again, without his permission.

 

“I have to get back to the office. Someone has to work to pay these bills.”

 

Bella didn’t utter a single word or argue she hadn’t asked for any of this. Elizabeth emerged from the bedroom, telling her she would see her this evening and to wear the red dress.

 

Tanya came out a moment later, a smile on her face.

 

“I’m so glad you liked the collection. I have a few…”

 

Bella stopped her before she could continue. This had been a mistake, one she must fix.

 

“Mrs. Denali, I’m sorry you wasted your morning, but I want you to return everything back to the store. Make sure they credit Mr. Cullen’s card appropriately.”

 

She left no room for argument as she turned and walked into the kitchen, trying not to think of the red dress she would never wear. Later that night, as she took the elevator to the ground floor, she thought nothing of the clothing she wore or the fact she would be declining the limo which was to take her ten blocks over. Tonight, she would join the army of walkers as they hustled to their final destinations.

 

Elizabeth Cullen knew how to throw a party. Even with the very short notice, very few who were invited declined. As Bella walked into the room, the chill from the New York night still wrapped around her, she couldn’t get over the grandeur of the room. The chandeliers hung with grace, lighting the path of all the venues visitors. Heavy curtains decorated the massive windows in regal colors of gold and cream. Waiters danced around the room in a choreographed waltz, avoiding spilling the treasures which decorated their trays.

 

Edward Cullen’s patience was thinning as he adjusted his tie for the fourth time. The driver he had sent for his wife had messaged him that she declined to get into the back of the car. He said she chose to walk instead.

 

As he listened to the milling of yet another boring man, his name he could not recall, he noticed Bella walk into the room. He was puzzled as to why she stood in the very same clothing he’d seen her wearing as she witnessed the destruction of her old home. Had she not just spent a good amount of money on clothing?

 

Elizabeth noticed not only the girl who stood in gray clothing from head to toe, but the absence of a ring on her finger. A sly smile crept on her face as she said a small prayer to her husband. “She’s perfect, Ed.”

 

Edward was absolutely furious as he walked with determination and purpose across the ballroom, smiling at several people who extended a friendly hello.

 

“May I have a word?” He growled through clenched teeth disguised as a smile. Not wanting to make a scene, not yet anyway, Bella nodded her head and followed him.

 

Closing the door behind them, Edward spun around with fight in his voice. “Are you trying to embarrass me?”

 

Bella shook her head, swallowing hard as she prepared for what was to come. “Then what in the fuck is this?” Edward drew his hands up and down her person.

 

Bella looked down at herself, her sweater and skirt were her favorite. Good cotton material, they were clean and pressed and suitable for public.

 

“My clothes.” She responded calmly.

 

“No, I bought you a fucking fortune in clothing today which did not include this piece of shit you have on.”

 

Bella took a step back, reaching into the pocket of her knitted sweater. “No, actually you spoke of me being too accustomed to spending your money. And you were right. Our contract was for legal services and a home. It did not include clothing, or a car service, or even this.” She pulled the box, which contained the ring he had tossed at her in the restaurant, from her pocket.

 

“This is the receipt which shows a credit for the clothing, which I did not purchase and I walked here so there would be no charge for the car you sent for me.”

 

Her hand extended to him, Edward stared at the box and white piece of paper as if they had poisoned thorns coming from them.

 

“You returned the clothing.” Each word coming out in a slow, angry hiss.

 

Bella cast her own angry look in return. “Yes, it made you upset..” He explanation interrupted by his outburst.

 

“Are you fucking kidding me? You returned everything I gave you? And to a designer who is known to run her mouth to any listening ear! Do you have any idea what you have done to me, to my family?”

 

Bella refused to let him belittle her, she had given so much and now had nothing left. She would not let another man rob her of the feelings of goodwill she had.

 

“You don’t get to scream at me for doing the right thing. You can’t march into a room and get angry for one thing and then scream at me when I fix it. I don’t know what your problem is, but I won’t stand here any longer and let you act like a complete idiot!”

 

Bella turned from the room just as Elizabeth turned the knob to enter.

 

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Cullen. I won’t remain at a party where I’m not wanted.”

 

Bella stepped around her, giving Edward one last ‘go to hell look’ as she excused herself, and then disappeared into the night.

 

AN Go ahead… you know you want to clap for Bella. Still I know whats its like to fall in love with a dress and then for what ever reason, not be able to wear it. Yet, I honestly feel worse for Edward. Its one thing to find disappointment in an ill fitting dress or pair of shoes, but imagine the horror of not being able to control the words which cross you lips. Words can be more damaging than the blade of a sword, especially to someone you hold close to your heart. Make no mistake, Edwards monster may be the puppet master, controlling what leaves his mouth, but his heart belongs to Bella.

 

  1. Chapter 12

 

Chapter 12

 

“So, let’s pretend for a moment we’re stranded on a desert island.” The bar had closed an hour ago, still Anthony kept talking to her, asking her a number of ‘what if’ questions. “What would be the one thing you would let me do to make the time pass quicker?”

 

Anthony was handsome, creating a fire in my belly I hadn’t felt in a very long time. Maybe it was the cheap beer he kept giving me or maybe it was the bubble we had around us, whatever it was, I didn’t want it to end.

 

“Well, that’s easy. I’d want you to collect all the coconuts you could so we could build a radio, like on Gilligan’s island.” It was meant to be funny, give him the out so he could close up and go home. Instead, he looked me deep into my eyes, cupped my face in his hands, and placed a kiss so gentle on my lips, I nearly fainted.

 

She slammed the book shut, the love between Anthony and Maria too much to handle tonight. Bella was angry; at herself for allowing other people to decide things for her and for her brother’s lack of concern with what was happening to her.

 

Instead of going back to Edward’s house, she couldn’t call it home no matter how much she tried, she had jumped on a bus to the bookstore. The bus driver was not one she recognized, so she stayed closer to the exit door. With just a few stops left before she could get off, a group of men got on the bus. They were loud and appeared to be looking for trouble. One of them sat on either side of Bella, picking at her clothes and taunting her. No one around her would lend a hand, not that she expected them to.

 

“I think this one should give us a little show.” The man to her right had told his friends. Bella had tried to stand up, only to be shoved back down. When her stop came in sight, Bella had again tried to get out of her chair, instead of forcing her back down, the man had punched her in the face, and then began punching her in her stomach.

 

The bus driver had yelled at them, threatening to get the attention of the police officer who had been across the street. Bella had used the distraction and bolted from the floor, catching her sweater on a loose bolt, ripping it on the edge and getting it caught in the closing doors thanks, in part, to the driver. She ran as fast as she could into the bookstore, slamming and locking the door behind her.

 

The driver of the bus had picked up her torn sweater and discovered who the poor woman was from the credit card Bella had been planning to give back to Edward, that had still been in her pocket.

 

Edward stood against the window, a drink in hand while waiting for his wife to get home. All of his calls went straight to voicemail, her whereabouts remaining a mystery. It was nearly eleven when his cell rang with any news. Edward closed his eyes tightly as the man on the other end told him what he had witnessed. Edward said nothing as he ended the call, allowing the monster to take over.

 

~*CN*~

 

Bella woke the next morning, stiff from laying on the hardwood floor of the break room. Her face felt swollen and she was grateful that it was Sunday, meaning the store would be closed. She could spend the next twenty four hours in peace and quiet, with no possible run ins with her husband. After making herself a cup of coffee, she turned on the television to check the weather report. Instead, the handsome anchorman smiled as he reported the news of an attack in Brooklyn. Three gang members had been brutally beaten with one in the hospital requiring surgery to reattach his jaw.

 

“Sources are telling NBC 6 this has all the makings of some sort of vigilante retaliation. One has to ask themselves, what kind of act would warrant such a punishment?”

 

~*CN*~

 

“Tanya, It’s Edward Cullen.”

 

Edward hated to apologize to anyone, most especially when it was beyond his control. He could handle the sharp words his mother threw at him as it wasn’t the first time she had screamed at him. What bugged him, what really got under his skin, was the fact that Bella had turned her back on him, called him out on his behavior. She was one hundred percent correct, his marriage to her was a contract, a piece of paper signed by four people. Yet somewhere deep inside, buried where the monster couldn’t see, was a wish to make her happy. To make her see the man he could really be. Edward had seen the security video, watched with a pain in his chest as she touched the red dress, much like a lover would touch their intended. Did she think of him as she caressed the satiny material? Was she picturing his face as he took her in when she entered the hall? Did she dream of their first dance, anticipating the moment when he would hold her in his arms?

 

“I need you to collect the clothing my wife asked you to return and take it all to the condo across the hall from mine. Add a few sweaters and other things women wear to bed.” He was taking his aunt’s advice, devising a plan to make his wife fall in love with him.

 

~*CN*~

 

Bella was worried when she couldn’t locate the credit card she’d had tucked into her skirt pocket. Had she lost it in the attack last night? She would have to let Edward know, have him cancel the card before it landed in the wrong hands. She was sure he would yell at her and call her irresponsible. She was also afraid to take the bus or the subway, leaving her to call the car service.

 

When Bella arrived back in Manhattan, the apartment was as quiet as a tomb, or so she thought. Standing just inside the kitchen was a casually dressed Edward, a cup of coffee untouched on the counter.

 

“I-I didn’t think you were home. I’ll just go to my room.” Bella nearly forgot about the credit card, Edward seemed to already be in a mood, she wasn’t certain if she should add to it or not, but needed to tell him. “I think I may have lost your credit card.”

 

“Bella, I’d like to show you something.” Edward interrupted as she began her confession. Pushing the cup of coffee into the middle of the countertop, Bella noticed the many cuts and bruises on his fist, she remained silent so as not to stir the pot.

 

“Follow me, please. And don’t worry about your card, one of my men recovered it.”

 

Bella didn’t question how it was found and she didn’t question where Edward was leading her. She followed as he opened the front door, crossed the carpeted hallway, and then slid a key into the door across the way. Bella had wondered who lived here since she had never seen a soul come or go.

 

As Edward opened the door, he said a silent prayer she would be pleased at what he had done for her. Giving her the space she needed and all the comforts he could imagine.

 

Bella was overwhelmed with the general splendor of the room. “Edward, who lives here?” She anxiously questioned.

 

“Well, the apartment, as well as this entire building, is mine. I thought it would be nice for you to have a space of your own.”

 

The floors could be made of dirt for all she cared, While one wall was glass much like Edward’s, the opposite was made of book shelves, plenty of room to fill them with stories to take her away from the horror which was her life.

 

“Come, there is more.” Edward resisted taking her hand, he wanted to, but he was trying to keep the cuts he’d received last night from her. Edward opened the door to the bedroom, the light from the Park side filling the room with the sun’s golden rays. He hoped she would find rest on the bed he had made for her. The real prize however, was hidden just behind the double doors beside them. While Bella admired the king sized bed in the room, Edward pulled open the door revealing the treasure he had for her.

 

Bella couldn’t believe her eyes as she took everything in. As the door opened and the lights in the closet came on, she nearly lost her breath. Hanging on the racks, she saw all of the clothing she had fallen in love with. All the soft materials, leather handbags and comfortable shoes.

 

“I know I was very rude when I said what I did about spending money. I don’t want you to think you can’t have the privilege which comes from sharing my last name. You and I agreed this marriage isn’t traditional, but that does not excuse me from my duty in providing for my wife.”

 

In that moment, and it was only a sliver of it, Edward Cullen was able to control the monster as he spoke kindly to his wife, the quiet girl from Brooklyn who owned his soul.

 

  1. Chapter 13

 

Two months later…

 

Having separate apartments had created a marriage made in high society heaven. While Bella would occasionally hear Edward come home late, cursing whichever the unfortunate soul was on the other end. Sometimes, when she couldn’t sleep, she would tiptoe across the hall and listen to the soothing music, which seemed to be constantly playing.

 

Rose and Aly had continued to be persistent, inviting her to join them in every shopping, spray tanning, and nail appointment they attended. Bella still felt she had no room for them. She detested shopping, felt spray tans looked too orange, and fake nails would get in the way of making bread.

 

Every Friday night, Bella would meet Edward at a designated restaurant somewhere in the city. Occasionally he would engage her in conversation, asking her opinion about random things. While others he would remain silent, tapping away on the screen of his phone or watching the people on the street go by.

 

Tonight, however, she would meet him at the restaurant. Elizabeth had something she wanted to announce and so this would be a family event. Bella hoped the night would end early since she wanted to read the next chapter in her book. Last night she had to force herself shut the book and go to bed just as Anthony was about to take Maria.

 

Bella dressed in gray pants and a lavender top, daring any of the women there to say anything to her for not dressing in satin and sequins. Gathering her purse, phone and identification, she left the security of her apartment when Edward’s driver sent her a text letting her know he was downstairs.

 

She had to admit she loved the building Edward owned, the colors, the soft lines and the quiet. Bella had learned by accident, that the two floors beneath them were empty. Alex, the maintenance guy, told her it was due to Mr. Cullen not wanting to hear any of his neighbors. Bella had ventured down to one of the empty floors one afternoon, the key to her own apartment opening the unit directly under Edward’s. The light was different there, the afternoon sun warming the carpet where she liked to sit and lean against the window, giving her body an almost soothing effect with its heat.

 

She could see Mr. Quil, Edward’s driver, his pressed suit and white gloves standing out against the dark car. He had always been nice to her, greeting her with a tip of his hat and pleasantries. Just as she was about to exit the automatic doors, her cell began ringing. She was almost afraid it was Edward, in one of his foul moods she had grown to hate.

 

Instead, the screen showed a local number she didn’t recognize. Stopping in the center of the sidewalk, she slid her finger across the screen.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Yes, is this Isabella Swan?” Bella didn’t recognize the male voice, not that she got a lot of phone calls from men or women for that matter.

 

“Yes, who is this?”

 

“Miss Swan, this is Doctor Black, ER physician at Lenox Hill. We found your information on a patient, James Swan, who was just admitted. I cannot discuss his injuries over the phone, would you be able to come to the hospital?”

 

Bella’s legs nearly buckled beneath her. She felt her chest tightening as she reached for the edge of car, praying no one could see her nearly faint.

 

“Y-yes, I’ll be right there.”

 

The man said something else, but Bella was barely able to understand, ending the call as she tried to hold back her tears. Mr. Quil noticed her posture change and rushed in.

 

“Mrs. Cullen?”

 

“I have to go to Lenox Hill.”

 

Mr Quil assumed she needed medical attention, his first thought was to get her there and call Mr. Cullen on the way. He guided her gently to the running car, laced her in the back and ran around the front.

 

“Don’t you worry Mrs. Cullen, I’ll call your husband right away.”

 

Bella came to reality briefly. The last thing she wanted was Edward and his cruelty anywhere near her right now. She had to get to the hospital, find out what was wrong with James. Then she would call Edward, deal with him and the family. “No, don’t call Edward, he’s busy.”

 

~*CN*~

 

Edward hated the walls, which separated him from Bella and despised how modern science couldn’t fix his fucked up head. Late at night, he would sit on the floor just inside his front door, closing his eyes and fantasizing about what she looked like walking around her apartment. He tried telling himself she was only in another part of the house and not completely separated from him.

 

On the nights they shared a meal together, a chance for the public to see the happy couple. He memorized the way her skin felt against his as they walked from the car to the restaurant and the fragrance of her hair as the breeze caressed its gentle waves. He had been practicing how to keep the monster at bay, reminding himself how she spoke softly to him when he succeeded. There were occasions when the struggled with the company and his plans to deal with his uncles didn’t allow the Hulk to stay hidden. He wished more than anything he could hide away on those nights, keep her safely on the other side of the wall instead of vulnerable across the car interior.

 

To further complicate things, Angela had progressed enough in her program that she was allowed short phone calls. They seemed to always come when he was alone with Bella, stealing the precious time he anticipated all week. James had also called him, letting him know his stay had come to an end and he would be released very soon. Edward dreaded telling Bella the truth, how she had been a game his uncles used for their twisted pleasure.

 

Tonight, he would miss having her so close in the car. Circumstances being what they were and his office a short drive from the restaurant, he took take a taxi. He left Quil to pick up his wife, a job he trusted to his driver of over fifteen years.

 

Morrisons, a family favorite, was the agreed meeting place for the get together. Edward suspected his mother would finally admit she had been seeing Jason Jenkins, a friend of his father’s, for the past few months. Jason and his deceased father had been fraternity brothers, remaining close all these years. Edward would never feel angry about the couple, if Jenkins made Elizabeth Cullen happy, then that was all he cared about.

 

While Edward had worked on controlling his temper, he would never be able to change his lack of patience. Sitting in the restaurant bar for the past thirty minutes was not helping his anxiety. Bella should have arrived twenty minutes ago. Edward had tried reaching her cell many times, only to be sent to voicemail. He had also tried Quil’s number, but it rang several times with no answer.

 

“What the fuck is taking so long?” He could feel the monster stirring, begging to be unleashed on the source of his aggravation.

 

“Man, chill out, there are people watching you.” Jasper had arrived just as he exited the taxi, his brand new luxury car receiving an eye roll from Edward. Jasper was a collector of well…everything; cars, watches, paintings, you name it he had it.

 

“She should have been here all ready. Hell, even your fucking girl is here.”

 

Aly Cullen, was known for being excessively, fashionably late and spending money on herself. Where Jasper collected things, his wife was more of the disposable variety. Never wanting to wear the same thing twice, she was constantly shopping.

 

“Eric mentioned something about our suppliers having trouble keeping up supply.”

 

Eric managed the club Jasper owned. Carlisle had encouraged Jasper to look the other way, allowing some of his associates to sell their poison in his club. Edward had been allowing the rage he bottled up and hid from Bella to convince the pushers to find other places to conduct their business. Another step in his plan to change the way the family did business.

 

Since the day he knew he would be taking the reins, he began planning on how to toss Carlisle and Charlie out of the ivory tower. Sending them to the dark corner of hell they belonged in. His uncles had no idea he had spoken with James. Or how he’d researched Angela’s prior stints in rehab, always paid for with Cullen money, but at less reputable facilities. This time, he had made sure she wouldn’t be able to fuck her way out of getting clean and wouldn’t be able to get drugs smuggled into her. This time, he would be free of her, giving her a life somewhere far away from him.

 

Edward tossed back the remainder of his drink, he knew he couldn’t afford to order a second as any crack in his armor would guarantee the monster would come out in the middle of dinner, ripping Bella to shreds. Instead, he motioned for the bartender to bring him a glass of water with lime.

 

Emmett had his eyes glued to the television above the bar. As an avid sports enthusiast, and one time NFL hopeful, he never missed a second of Sports Center.

 

“Motherfucker!”

 

Nearly every eye turned in Emmett’s direction, the sports casters face was serious as the picture of James Swan in his New York Giants uniform flashed on the screen.

 

“ESPN has just learned, quarterback James Swan, has been taken by ambulance to Lenox Hill emergency room. Police reports indicate an ambulance was dispatched to a home in Brooklyn known for drug activity. Swan, was a first round draft pick for the New York team.”

 

Edward knew the hospital would contact Bella, which is most likely the reason she hadn’t answered. He had to get to her, be there for her when she learned the truth.

 

“Give me your fucking keys.” Everyone feared the monster, including Jasper who willing gave him the keys. Edward skirted around the stunned bodies who were still listening to the report of the fallen football hopeful.

 

Edward didn’t wait for the valet to bring the car around, tossing some cash at the shocked kid, then speeding off down the road. He tried again to dial Bella’s number. When the line again forwarded to voicemail, he nearly tossed the phone when an idea hit him. Edward felt completely inept for failing to call Quil again.

 

“Hello, Mr. Cullen. I wanted to call you, but Mrs Cullen said not to.”

 

“Where are you?”

 

“I left her in the waiting area of the emergency room, she said she would be there for a while and told me to go home.”

 

Edward pressed the gas on the racy sports car, sending the needles on the dash to their limits.

 

“She’s right, go home. I’ve got her.”

 

Edward ended the call, this time tossing his phone onto the passenger seat. The hospital wasn’t that far from his location. He recalled the last time he himself had been to that very hospital. Dr Jacob Black had sat with him, told him there were worse things in life than having a mouth and emotions you couldn’t control.

 

“Come on, you’re a young man, at least your dick didn’t fall off or quit working. Some chicks dig having their partner call them names.”

 

Jacob had been a great sounding board in his younger days, taking time to shoot hoops and have some guy time. But as Edward got older, his education took up more and more of his time and basketball took a back seat.

 

Edward continued his high rate of speed, his need to get to his wife greater than his need to avoid getting pulled over. Between his trip down memory lane and his thoughts of what to say to Bella, he failed to see the city dump truck which ran a red light. Edward never saw the accident coming, one moment he was shifting gears the next his world was completely black.

 

~*CN*~

 

Bella had been told to have a seat by the middle aged nurse who manned the information desk; that had been nearly an hour ago. A television which hung in the corner of the waiting area, told her why her brother was here. Could his desire to get high be more important than his family? There would be nothing she could do to help him this time. She had already bargained away her dream of marrying for love. Edward had made his opinion on taking her virginity perfectly clear, so that wasn’t something she could use to sweeten the deal. James would have to spend time in jail, his career would be his problem.

 

“Bella Cullen?”

 

A tall, dark skinned man in blue scrubs, with a cup of something in his right hand, stood in the doorway. His dark hair complimented his skin, and while his clothing hung on him, she could tell there was solid muscle hidden in there.

 

Bella stood and began to walk in the man’s direction. His eyes landed on her, a sincere smile gave her a warmth she hadn’t felt in the last six months. How she wished Edward would look at her this way.

 

“Hello, I’m Dr Black.”

 

Jacob wondered what the odds were this beautiful woman was married to Edward. He had heard there had been a whirlwind romance, followed by a quick and private wedding in seclusion. Knowing what he did about Edward, either she loved to be treated badly or had a huge bank account to keep her mouth shut. Jacob couldn’t blame her, when he was called in to have a look at a test which was run on Edward, he was confronted by the uncles, a blank check waved in his face. Jacob didn’t want the Cullens money, he wanted to really help Edward, but short of a miracle, there was nothing anyone could do.

 

However, he could be completely wrong, after all she had been listed as the next of kin for James Swan, a sad situation to be had. Jacob had just finished pumping charcoal and narcan into the NFL golden boy. His drug levels were the highest he had ever seen. Either he was trying to kill some major pain or someone had a real beef with him. In either case, his recovery would be a long one. A guy who was brought in with James, confessed the guy had just been released from rehab and had been inside the house when he got there. Something wasn’t right about the situation, but that was the job for the police.

 

“Good to meet you,” Jacob liked the sweet sound of Bella’s voice and her ability to remain calm when she knew so little about the situation. Jacob escorted Bella to a private waiting area the hospital had constructed several years ago. Jacob let Bella enter the room first, checking out the curves her clothing eluded to. Her modesty ranked very high with him, although the diamond ring on her left hand reminded him this was a married woman, a line he was not willing to cross.

 

“Mrs Cullen, as you know your name was on file as an emergency contact for James Swan, who is…”

 

“My brother, Dr. Black.”

 

Jacob liked the way she said his name, quiet and yet respectful, he would remember that for later when he was alone.

 

“Yes, your brother. Well, Mr Swan was brought into the emergency room by ambulance when he was found unconscious in a crack house. We ran several test to see what, if any, drugs were in his system. Unfortunately, he tested positive for meth and heroine.”

 

Jacob watched as Bella closed her eyes in disappointment. He had seen this before with a mother who discovered drug use in their children for the first time.

 

“We were able to reverse the drugs and have sent him upstairs to ICU for observation. We won’t know for a few days if any long term damage is present.”

 

Bella could feel the despair fill her body. If James had really hurt himself, she had no way of helping him. What if he couldn’t take care of himself, where would he go? Bella was about to ask Dr. Black his opinion on the long term effects of the drugs, just to get her mind wrapped around the possibilities, when a soft knock came to the door.

 

“Excuse me,” Dr. Black rose from his chair, cracking the door slightly before exiting the room. Bella had just enough time to let out a deep breath and close her eyes when the door opened again, revealing Dr. Black and a face she hadn’t seen in several months.

 

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but Isabella, we need to talk.”