Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer & Little Brown Publishing own all rights
I woke up the next morning fucking cursing Wild Turkey for the evil that it was as I propped myself slowly up on one elbow and ran my hand over my face. I’d slept in my clothes and they were rumpled and stank of bourbon, sweat and cigarette smoke. I knew from experience that a scalding hot shower was the only thing that was going to make me feel human again. I only wished I had been coherent enough last night to take my trusted hangover preventative, two aspirin tablets and a huge glass of water. I slowly, painfully, sat up and scooted to the edge of the bed. A quick glance at the clock told me it was mid morning, ten twenty-three in the morning to be exact. I had to put a wiggle in it and get moving. I had a list of difficult things to be done, the first of which would be a trip to Rose’s house. I started peeling of my clothes; my fingers, fat and uncoordinated with grogginess, fumbled with the buttons on my shirt. As I stood up to head to the john for that much needed shower, I hoped the hot water would lessen that dull, throbbing ache in my head. Today, I needed to have my wits about me, because today was sure to serve up a big fat generous slice of humble pie, topped with a heaping scoop of heartbreaking accountability.
The steam of the shower started to work its magic and I felt the stupor of too much bourbon begin to slowly lift. I struggled to put my thoughts in order. The first thing I needed to do was get my ass to Rosie’s house and try my damnedest to patch things up with her, then I’d move on to the next matter at hand, seeing my parents. I lathered my hair with shampoo and wondered how I was going to get back in Rosie’s good graces. Something told me it was going to involve a ridiculously large bouquet of roses, and a fucking obscene amount of chocolate, delivered personally with an insane amount of groveling at the very least. At most, it could come to me signing over my very soul to her. I chuckled darkly; who was I kidding?
It’s already hers, to treasure or fucking trample, as her whim dictates.
I hurried and finished up in the shower, brushed my teeth, got dressed and was out the door within twenty minutes, stopping at my desk long enough to pluck my old photo and slide it into my breast pocket. On mornings like this, I considered coffee to be the nectar of the gods, but I didn’t want to waste time stopping for some. I wanted to get to the florist. Anyway, I felt that suffering through my hangover was some small penance for being such an all-around jackass. I knew it was too little too late, but a little is better than nothing, and late is better than never.
I had a cab take me to a florist that was downtown, on the way to Rose’s house, and asked the driver to wait while I went in. Fifteen minutes later, I emerged with a massive white box tied with a red ribbon, and inside were two dozen pale pink roses. The cabbie got out and held the backseat door open for me. His smirk told me he’d seen plenty of fellas in the dog house climb in the back of his cab with flowers before. I was more than sure the difference between me and them was I wasn’t trying to negotiate a single battle; I was trying to divert an all out war.
“Brach’s Candies on Cicero,” I told the driver and he pulled out into traffic with a shake of his head.
“Flowers and candy? Oohh-ie, she must be mad at you!” he clucked and I ignored his commentary on my love life. I’d be admitting enough fault later, I didn’t need to ‘fess up to this fool, too.
Half an hour later with my pricey peace offering of chocolates and long stem roses in hand, I was standing in front of Rosie’s mansion. It loomed above me with cheerful menace, its bright white walls contrasting starkly against the clear blue sky of the pretty summer day. I shuffled my feet, wishing I could procrastinate now that I was standing here and had no where to run. I knew damn well that Emily was probably watching me already from some window, and there was a good chance Rose knew I was here, too. It was time to face the music, because I had no doubt there would be a symphony accompanying Rose’s angry fireworks.
I went to the door and wondered how I was going to ring the bell with my hands full, but of course, Emily opened the door just as I was about to step up onto the porch. I walked into the foyer and grinned sheepishly at her.
“Hello, Mister Edward. It’s good to see you,” she said sincerely. It had been a week since I had been here.
“How…how have you been?” I stammered nervously. With my arms full of flowers and candy it was pretty obvious why I was here. Hell, Rose may have confided in her anyway.
“I’m fine,” she replied and tiny little smirk playing at the corner of her mouth, she was having a little fun watching me squirm like a worm on a hook. “What can I do for you?” she asked after letting me wriggle a little more.
“Is Rose here?” I asked, only then realizing she could be at her offices and that I was an arrogant ass to assume she’d be home, waiting for me or something.
“Yes, she’s upstairs, taking a bath. Can I give you a hand with those things?” she asked with her hands outstretched. I handed her the box of roses, untied the ribbon and removed one bloom from the box.
“Would you be a doll, Emily, and put these in a vase for me and then bring them up to her room?” I asked and offered her a little smile of gratitude, the best my dark mood could muster at the moment.
“Of course,” she said as she bobbed a curtsy, then shut the door and scurried off to the kitchen.
I took off my hat and dropped it on the entryway table, then took a deep breath as my gaze traveled up the massive curvy white staircase. I suddenly felt like I was walking to line up before the firing squad. My hands shook, my palms were sweating, I was sweating. I was a nervous wreck, dreading what could happen in the next few minutes. After some more deep breaths, I forced my right foot to take a step toward the stairs. My feet felt like lead weights, but my heart felt heavier. At least if she didn’t accept my apology the trip back down the stairs would be much lighter, since I’d be leaving my heart up there with her. As I neared the top of the stairs, I heard her radio playing “Fools Rush In.” I stepped into her bedroom and the full force of what I could be losing hit me, as I was surrounded by her essence, the scent of which permeated her bedroom. It had been a week since I’d been here, and I had missed the smell of the rose scented perfume that always hung in the air. I missed the soft glowing light of the radio dial when we’d lay in bed together late at night. I even missed the makeup brushes and pots of cosmetics that neatly lined her vanity.
All these things I had missed while I had been out of town working, but throughout the week I’d known I’d be going home to her, and that I’d be submerged in her world of white satin sheets and flirty fucking dresses again. Now, however, I couldn’t afford the same kind of confidence. She might very well tell me to go straight to Hell.
Get it fucking over with, Cullen.
I put the chocolates and the single rose on the bed and went to the closed bathroom door. Bringing my hand up to the door, I rapped on it softly.
“Rose?” I called, half of me hoping she didn’t hear me. I held my breath until I heard her speak.
“I’m busy,” she informed me. I could tell by her tone she that was still pretty sore at me.
I rested my forehead against the door and shut my eyes, my jaw taught with tension. “I can wait,” I said.
“You’ll be waiting awhile,” she retorted. Of course I’d wait forever if she forced me to, but I wasn’t a man known for my patience. I needed to hold her and know that everything was right between us again, so I employed a different tactic. “You can’t stay in there all day. You’ll shrivel like a prune.” I lifted my head hoping she’d tell me to come in.
“Maybe you should wait for me downstairs. Or in the study,” she suggested in what I liked to call her business voice. My shoulders slumped. This was going to be a lot more fucking formal than I’d expected, and that couldn’t be a good sign.
“I’ll be in the study,” I grumbled and shuffled off dejectedly in that direction. Her formality told me one thing, I was going to have to crawl on my belly, repentant and honest.
Hell Cullen, you’d flat out beg her if you had to.
Grumbling some more as I sat down on the settee, I lit a smoke in desperate need of something to soothe my nerves. Regardless of the fact that she and I were in different rooms, the thick tension in the atmosphere was killing me. For the first time in my life, I was actually about to stand up and face the consequences of my actions. I was going to have to see the hurt in the eyes of someone I cared about because I had been careless with their feelings. It would be her big blue eyes frowning at me with hurt, disapproval and quiet wrath. The waiting was fucking excruciating, like awaiting a grand jury indictment.
The cigarette I was smoking had come to its end and I put it out in the ashtray on the end table next to the settee. Immediately I reached into my pocket for another and suddenly cringed when it dawned on me that she was going to expect me to tell her what happened with my parents. Sure, Rosie knew I was an ass occasionally, but I honestly had no desire for her to know the full extend of my bullheaded, hot-tempered stupidity. Regaling her with the sordid tale of how I willfully misunderstood my father and simultaneously broke my mother’s heart was not an idea I relished. The disappointment in her eyes was going to feel like a bullet in the gut.
I snuffed out the second cigarette and eyed the drink cart and the cut crystal decanter that was sparkling with temptation at me. I shook my head determinedly and pulled out another smoke instead. As much as my nerves would love the numbing haze that would make what I had to do bearable, Rosie would not be pleased to smell alcohol on my breath. I didn’t need to add to her disappointment in me. Time dragged as I smoked. The waiting becoming more nerve rattling with each minute that passed. I began cursing the time consuming mechanics of Rose’s beauty regimen and society’s unrealistic ideas of feminine perfection. I put out my Lucky Strike and went for a third one, but my hand froze when I heard the click of the bathroom doorknob. The jury was finished deliberating, and she was coming to tell me my fate.
“Just one flower?” My head snapped up at the hint of insult that colored her voice. Good thing I’d bought two dozen.
“Emily has the rest. She said she’d put them in a vase,” I explained apologetically and then realized suddenly that I had no fucking idea how to start this conversation. I wasn’t sure what Rose wanted to hear, or what she needed to hear me say. There was so much to say.
“I believe you had something you wanted to say?” She said flatly as she stood sternly before me. She hadn’t put any makeup on and the fact that she didn’t feel the need to don her armor gave me a small ray of hope. She was still breathtakingly gorgeous, but for all her pretty softness in her demure cotton dress, my Rosie was tough as nails. Always. I fucking loved her for that, even if her coldness was directed at me. After all, I was a cold hearted bastard; I deserved it.
“Rosie. I… you…” I began nervously. “Won’t you sit down?” Hoping she’d set my fears at ease by taking a more casual seat beside me.
“No. I’d rather not.” She said crossing her arms across her chest. Shit.
You REALLY fucked up, Cullen.
I stood up and started pacing the room, trying to spit out what I’d come to say. “I… behaved deplorably last night. You were just trying to help and I…” I began and got tongue-tied again.
“Yes, you did. And yes I was. What else were you about to say, Edward?” She still had her arms crossed and a sarcastic pissed-off smirk turned up one corner of her pretty mouth as she stared at me expectantly.
I stepped closer to her and met her piercing gaze full on. “I’m so sorry, Rosalie. The way I treated you last night was reprehensible. I took out my anger at myself on you, and that wasn’t fair to you. Being caught off guard is no excuse for speaking to you that way, especially when I know you have my best interests at heart. I was a real jackass. I hope you can forgive me, and trust me when I say I won’t let it happen again.”
“That depends,” she bargained shrewdly. “Are you taking your father’s case?”
“Are you going to tell me what happened between you and them?” she asked, laying out the second of her terms.
“Yes,” I replied, really fucking hoping I hid any sign of reluctance in my voice.
“Are you going to let me help you?” she asked quietly.
She wanted to help me. “Yes,” I said, honestly and gratefully.
She’s fucking amazing, Cullen. Hope you know that.
Book in hand, I sat on the settee chair near the window in my father’s study. I often came to the room when I needed to clear my head or just feel close to him. At the moment, I needed his presence in my life. Just being there in the room that held all of his things and that once belonged to him made me feel comforted, as though I was surrounded by him even though he wasn’t physically there. My eyes were trained on my book, but I was distracted by the movement outside the window on the street.
A taxicab pulled to the front of the walk, right outside the gate and I saw Edward duck his head as his grabbed onto the door frame, pulling himself from the vehicle. I closed the curtain quickly, not wanting him to look up at the house to find me staring out the window like some lovesick puppy, which I was not! Taking my book with me, I made my way into my room. My mind raced as I tried to figure out what to do with myself. Not wanting to appear to anxious, meeting him at the door was out of the question. Nor did I want to sit in my room and wait to be called upon.
My eyes landed on the new bubble bath product that La Bella had just started producing. Turning the faucets on the bathtub, I dumped a good amount of the bubble bath into the tub while quickly stripping from the lounging clothes I’d been wearing. I placed my book on the floor next to the tub before calling out the door of my room, “Emily? I’m drawing a bath for myself. Please don’t disturb me unless it’s important.” I figured that would hold him off for a bit. Make him wait on me instead of the other way around. As well he should.
The tub only had a few inches of water, yet I was anxious to get in as quickly as possible since I knew time was of the essence. Gingerly stepping into the bath, I hissed as I realized I had made the water a bit too hot. Cursing under my breath and then cursing some more for cursing in the first place, I quickly spun the knob to make the water cooler. I put my hands on either side of the tub and lowered myself into the few inches of hot water and suds. It wouldn’t have done me any good to have him find me standing next to the tub. I needed to appear as though his tantrum last night had not bested me. After I pulled my hair on top of my head, I settled into the filling tub and daintily reached for my cumbersome book, Gone With the Wind. I leaned back and the bubbles pushed themselves up and around my body as I held my book just above them. Finally, I opened to the page I had started to read for the third time.
Heavy footsteps came from my bedroom and I realized that it was not Emily skulking about in my room. It was then that I realized that while Emily was quite loyal to me, she had a soft spot for Edward. I remained quiet, staring hard at the words that danced in front of my eyes. I heard him move around the room for a few moments and then a soft knock at the door and a gruff call of my name.
Not answering right away, I placed the book down on the floor and took a deep breath. Alice’s words came back to me. You keep that man on his toes. Never let him get complacent.
I leisurely ran my fingertips along the bubbles but called out in a no-nonsense voice, “I’m busy.”
“I can wait,” his voice floated through the door.
“You’ll be waiting awhile.” I took a handful of the bubbles and blew them so that the air made rivulets into the foam.
“You can’t stay in there all day. You’ll shrivel like a prune.”
He had a point. Still, he wasn’t getting an invitation to join me in the bathroom.
Thinking hard about what I should say next, I realized that even if he stayed out there I couldn’t very well walk into my room with just my robe wrapped around me. In the same no-nonsense voice, I spoke quietly, “Maybe you should wait for me downstairs. Or in the study.”
I could hear his audible sigh before he grumbled that he’d be waiting for me in the study when I was ready to see him.
I tried to take my time finishing my bath. I watched as the last bubbles swirled down the drain before I picked up my book and entered my room to find a heart-shaped box and a single rose resting near the foot of the bed. The bed that I had come to think of as ours. I picked up the flower and sniffed it, noticing that he had opted for pink rather than red. He had once told me that my lips reminded him of pink roses after he wiped the red lipstick stain off of them. I wondered if that’s why he chose the flower.
Deciding to forgo the makeup routine, I headed to the study after I had adorned a light cotton dress. Walking in silently, I found him sitting on the same settee I had sat not even an hour ago. His forearms rested on his knees and his head was bowed.
He looks like he’s in pain. Not just emotional turmoil but physical pain. I knew he’d been a big drinker before we’d met but once we were together, he seemed to clean up his act. From the looks of things, it seemed that he spent the night with his old friend, Wild Turkey. I tilted my head, trying to see his face as I twirled the rose between my fingers.
“Just one flower?” I couldn’t stop myself from asking.
His head snapped up and he ran a hand through his hair, his eyes filled with remorse. “Emily has the rest. She said she’d put them in a vase.”
We sat in silence for a moment.
“I believe you had something you wanted to say?” I stood in front of him, chin held high and waited.
“Rosie. I… you…” he breathed out, noisily. “Won’t you sit down?”
I shook my head, folding my arms across my chest. “No. I’d rather not.” I could see that he wasn’t happy with the response but I wasn’t very happy with him so he could squirm a bit. I couldn’t let him off the hook too easily.
He rose so that he stood in front of me. His eyes met mine and we stared at each other. I knew that my stare could intimidate, I was relying on it. I wanted him to realize that this was something that I would not back down from. I was ready to take him on fully, just as he had taken me on after my father’s passing.
“I… behaved deplorably last night. You were just trying to help and I…” he was uncharacteristically at a loss for words. Edward started pacing back and forth in front of me as I leaned back onto the desk, taking a less defensive stance but still with my arms crossed. He wasn’t going to spit out a few haphazard words and get off that easily.
“Yes, you did. And yes I was.” I arched an eyebrow at him, while I placed my palms on the desk beside my body, placing the flower on the blotter. “What else were you about to say, Edward?”
He continued on, spewing apologies and professing his jackass behavior. Stoically, I stood while silently listening to his groveling. Once he was finished, I spoke, asking him if he planned to take his father’s case and furthermore asking if he was planning on telling me everything that he had kept from me. I could still see a bit of reluctance on his part but he agreed and I knew that it took a lot on his part to do so.
Slumping down onto the settee, his head hung once more and he began to speak. He spoke of his love of his mother and his admiration of his father. In a broken voice, he spoke of his stubbornness, of his mistakes, of his regret. He sat before me, baring his soul and laying it all on the line.
After he’d finished, he did not raise his head. He appeared broken and it wasn’t something I’d ever seen from him before. Forgive and forget. Daddy always taught me the importance of those words and standing in his study, I was reminded of them once more. I knew that Daddy would have liked Edward, no matter how brash he was on the outside.
I stayed quiet, but took his right hand in my left and pulled his chin up with my free hand. It was a move he’d done on more than one occasion to me and it was important that I see his eyes. Moving my hand toward his cheek, I stroked it with an open palm. He turned his lips toward it, kissing it before nuzzling it with his nose. I moved closer still, tentatively wrapping my arms around his neck. He drew me close to him, his hands grasping my hips.
“Never again,” he muttered, his eyes holding mine.
“Oh Edward, we’ll most certainly fight again. That’s who we are. We’re both passionate people, not to mention headstrong. But let us not be stupid and let our emotions rule us. Okay?”
With his answer he stood and I moved closer to him, pressing my lips against his. It was a soft kiss; it was a kiss of apology and one of understanding. We rested our foreheads against one another and took a moment to just be together. After a few minutes, I turned on the balls of my feet, leading him into my room, our hands still intertwined.
“Are we…” he trailed off, questioning hopefully, his eyes trained on the bed.
I smiled at his question. “We are…” I paused for a moment and he moved closer, ironing his front to my back. “…going to have those chocolates!”
“You are evil,” he declared, as he kissed my neck softly. Oh, who’s the evil one now?
“You’re the one who brought me chocolate.”
Pulling away from him, I visited my vanity that had the flowers Emily had put in a vase waiting for me. My fingers grazed the soft petals before I bent forward to smell them.
“Red seemed too cliché for you. Plus, the florist had a little card next to the counter and apparently red means passion, and being too passionate is what got me into this mess in the first place.” He looked down sheepishly and scratched the back of his neck.
Satisfied with his answer, I sat on the edge of the bed and opened the ribbon on the chocolates. With the box resting in my lap, I looked at the chocolates before carefully choosing a candy out of the box. Looking up, I saw him still hovering in the doorway. I patted the bed next to me with my hand and he joined me, sitting next to me and looking at me questioningly. I brought the chocolate to his lips and he grabbed my hand as he easily granted me access to push the candy into his mouth. Before letting me go, he held my fingers to his lips and licked the excess chocolate that had stained my fingers.
I was reminded of our first meeting at the diner a little over six months ago and my attempts to flirt my way into him taking my case. I turned his words back around on him. “I’m not easily played, Edward.”
He smirked at me before pulling his hand away from mine and reaching into his inner jacket pocket. My eyes widened when I saw him pull out the photograph of him with his folks, the one I had been snooping for the previous day. He reached his arm around me and pulled me close to his side.
“This picture is the only one I have of us together, Rosie. It’s from my sixteenth birthday.” I looked at his boyish face in the picture, the hope and the youthful exuberance evident in his grin. I knew that full grin although it didn’t make an appearance too often. His parents both looked at him with clear adoration. He was their one and only and from listening to his story, I knew it must have hurt them every day to not have contact with him. Hopefully, they were on their way to recovering their relationship. Hopefully, I’d be able to help in that recovery.
“Do you need to call them? Do you want to meet with them on neutral territory? Perhaps you could invite them here rather than going to their house?” I offered. It would be a way for me to help. Ideas in my head for a tea started running wild and I had to pull myself back, stopping those thoughts. He might still be resistant.
He pulled back to look at my face, his eyes sparkling in amusement. “Well, considering I sort of already mentioned something like that to my mom last night…”
My mouth dropped open. “Edward!” I pushed him playfully against his chest.
“I was drunk and honestly, I’m not ready to go to their house yet. Is it okay? I didn’t mean to presume…” he pleaded softly, wrapping his fingers around a strand of my hair and my heart hurt for him a bit more.
“Of course, it’s okay. It’s more than okay. Why don’t you call your parents from the phone in the study and set up something for tomorrow?” My mind once again started to run rampant with planning.
He stood and pulled me with him, kissing me once more, this time leaving me breathless.