Emmett found himself feeling entitled to answers, and he was more than a little surprised when he realized this was not because of deadlines or head counts, but because he cared for Rose and wanted to support her in any way he could. After spending several moments standing in the corridor, Emmett was no calmer than he’d been when he arrived. Realizing his hesitancy did nothing for his nerves, he took a deep breath and entered Rose’s room.
Nothing could have prepared him for the sight before him. Though Emmett had no specific expectations regarding Rose’s appearance, he’d never imagined that she could look so fragile. Her skin was deathly pale and her platinum blonde hair, usually worn pulled back, rested straight and flat against her chest. There was nothing at all familiar about her, and if not for the fact Rose’s face lit with recognition the second Emmett’s eyes made contact with hers, he would have seriously questioned whether he had the correct room. Emmett placed the vase of orange roses he’d been holding onto Rose’s bedside tray table, almost as shocked by the absence of any other flowers as he was by the absence of Edward. Not knowing what to say, Emmett decided to go with humor.
“The lengths some people will go to in order to get out of work on a Monday.”
Though Emmett had never before shown Rose any physical affection, he was possessed of an overwhelming urge to touch her. Though Emmett had similar urges in the past, they were born of a need for physical gratification. Yet when he leaned forward and kissed her forehead before grasping her hand in his, sex was the furthest thing from his mind.
Looping his ankle around the leg of the chair next to her bed, he pulled it close enough that he could have a seat without breaking physical contact. He settled into it and squeezed Rose’s hand.
“You came,” Rose whispered, offering him a half smile.
“How could I not?”
“How did you know I was here?”
“Edward called me.”
“Oh.” Though Rose fully remembered asking Edward to call Emmett, it seemed like she’d made that request a million years ago. That, coupled with the fact that she expected Edward to be spiteful and not adhere to her wishes, made Emmett’s presence before her a bit of a welcome shock.
“Edward didn’t tell you?”
Emmett shook his head. “Edward said you had emergency surgery, and that you would be here for a few days.”
Rose dreaded saying the words out loud, but at the same time she knew that if she were ever to date again it was a story she’d be telling each and every time she entered into a new relationship for the rest of her life. She imagined it wouldn’t be very different from the way her mother, Lily, described self-indentifying as a stripper—the first time was the hardest. Subsequent instances stung less and less, and by the time the elastic on Lily’s homemade G-string wore out, she could admit her profession to strangers as painlessly as she could rattle off the names of her children. Rose knew this because once when she had been naïve enough to ask, and Lily had been drunk enough to answer. Though at the time Lily’s words tore at Rose’s heart, she now found them to be an odd source of comfort.
Rose had never confided anything of a personal nature to Emmett, but she suspected he would be a good listener. Despite the fact Emmett was her boss, Rose had an odd feeling that were she to break down in front of him it would not lower his opinion of her. Though Rose was not entirely certain exactly what Emmett’s opinion of her was, she knew he was fond of her as a person and found her physically attractive. Emmett had made the latter abundantly clear despite the fact company policy strictly forbade fraternization among executives. She wondered if he would still desire her sexually when he found out her femininity was being maintained exclusively via pharmaceuticals.
Knowing it would never hurt as badly as it would this time, Rose took a deep breath and found her voice.
“We left the party last night shortly after you did. We came home and argued a bit, but it was nothing out of the ordinary.”
Emmett’s eyes narrowed as he tried to process this information. “Do you two fight a lot?”
“Huh. That surprises me.”
“Just because the way you’ve described Edward, I would think he’d go along with whatever you wanted.”
“In the past six months or so he wasn’t fighting back.” Rose closed her eyes and sighed. “I thought morphine was supposed to cloud your thinking. That’s what’s in the IV, you know. I should be drugged into happy oblivion, not having relationship epiphanies.”
Now that she was thinking about it, she could no longer delude herself that Edward hadn’t already emotionally checked out of their relationship by the time Bella entered the picture. As much as Rose would like to blame Bella, she knew she realistically couldn’t.
Rose opened her eyes and focused on Emmett. “That should have been a sign, right? That Edward didn’t care enough to fight. I know what I’ve told you about him, and though it was how I felt at the time, it wasn’t exactly true. He’s not weak or cowardly, but somewhere along the line he stopped caring enough to make an effort. I should have figured it out then.”
Emmett had no idea what Rose was talking about. “Figured out what?”
“That he was leaving me. Last night, he had his suitcase packed. If I hadn’t started bleeding, he would have moved out. But then I couldn’t walk or move, and we came to the ER and found out I was pregnant…”
“Whoa. You’re pregnant?”
“Not anymore,” Rose muttered bitterly. “The embryo didn’t implant itself properly, and I lost it.”
Rose cringed. She’d managed to hold it together thus far by not thinking of what was inside her as a baby. But it was a baby, it was Edward’s and her baby, a baby she’d wanted long before she knew it existed or that it was tearing her in two.
“My baby,” she added in a whisper. “And my uterus, my ovaries and my ability to bear children.”
“Oh god, Ro, I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine.” Emmett brushed away the tears that had fallen beneath her eyes with the thumb of his free hand.
Rose relished the feeling of Emmett’s gentle touch on her face, and she realized how much she needed to feel—to be in the moment and sob and grieve. For the first time in over twenty years, her tears flowed freely. Emmett stayed at her side, holding her hand and wiping her face, until a drug-induced sleep claimed her.
Emmett stayed at Rose’s bedside until he heard Edward’s voice from the hospital corridor, followed by the soft, sweet voice he’d know anywhere. Careful not to wake Rose, Emmett gently disengaged his hand from hers and crept to the door so he could better hear Bella and Edward’s conversation.
“I’ll stop here. I doubt Rose wants to see me.”
“She doesn’t dislike you,” Edward countered.
“Yeah, right. Have you called Emmett?”
“Yes, I left him a voicemail. Rose asked for him. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. She was downright belligerent when I suggested that she not worry about work at a time like this.”
“My understanding is that they’ve always been more than co-workers.”
Edward’s sharp intake of air reminded Bella of her words from the previous evening, and she immediately regretted her candor.
“I didn’t mean to imply anything,” she added quickly. “I just know that in addition to the obvious respect Emmett has for her contributions at the office, he always seemed genuinely fond of Rose on a personal level. I’m not suggesting…”
“I know, Bella,” Edward interrupted her. “It’s okay.”
As much as Emmett wanted to remain behind the wall and eavesdrop, he knew he needed to make his presence known before Edward and Bella discovered it for themselves. When he stepped out into the hallway, Edward and Bella looked guilty, though Emmett couldn’t ascertain why. There was nothing inappropriate about their proximity to each other. They were not touching, nor did they exhibit any of the usual indications that they’d ever previously engaged in some sort of sexual misconduct. As Emmett studied Bella’s face, he thought about the kind of person Bella was. Moral and good, she would feel shame for even entertaining lascivious thoughts about a man who belonged to another.
Except Rose and Edward were no longer together, were they? Rose said Edward had been planning to leave her, not that he’d actually followed through with doing so. Emmett wasn’t sure what was going on; he knew only that when Bella’s eyes met Edward’s, they did so with an intensity of emotion he’d never before witnessed from her. If how to proceed with Rose was still a bit of mystery, Emmett had no doubt what he needed to do about Bella.