Bella’s absence, however, troubled him. He hoped her resolve had not weakened during the same moments he found his, and got out of bed to find her. He stopped in front of the mostly closed bedroom door when he heard voices on the other side of it.
“The coffee is a nice ruse, Alice, but we both know why you’re here.” Bella’s voice was battle-weary. “You are aware it’s six o’clock in the morning, right?” she said, yawning.
“Of course I am. Emmett told Jasper you two broke up; Jasper passed the news on to me late last night. I waited five whole hours until it was an appropriate time to come over.”
Bella sighed. “Look, I totally understand if you’re Team Emmett, considering he’s Jasper’s best friend. And though nothing physical has happened between Edward and me, I was emotionally unfaithful.”
“Let’s get something straight. You saved Jasper from making what would have been the greatest mistake of his life. You did so—despite having nothing to gain and everything to lose—because it was the right thing to do. I don’t give a shit if you end up with Emmett, Edward, or your doorman. My loyalties are to you. Though between the two of us, if you do wind up dating Edward ‘I’m not a cliché; I just play a lot of squash’ Cullen, I reserve the right to mock his preppy ass every chance I get.” Alice looked over Bella’s shoulder and raised her voice slightly. “You may as well join the conversation, Edward. I know you’re listening; I can see your feet.”
Edward opened the door the rest of the way and smiled sheepishly as he walked into the living room, clad only in the boxers he’d slept in the night before. “Hi, Alice.”
“Damn,” Alice muttered, raking her eyes over Edward’s bare chest. “And here I thought the Sporting Club was just fat former governors on treadmills.”
Bella smacked Alice lightly on the shoulder. “Do you mind?”
“Not at all,” Alice said, laughing. “Though if I’d known you had company, I would have brought you two cups of coffee. I should get going.”
Bella followed Alice to the door and hugged her tightly.
“Thank you,” Bella whispered, “for standing by me.”
“It’s what real friends do. I don’t know what kind of fickle, self-centered sluts you were friends with before.” Alice paused and faked a moment of realization. “Oh wait, yes I do.”
Bella laughed as she released Alice from her embrace.
“Nice seeing more of you, Edward.”
Edward chose not to acknowledge Alice’s double entendre. “You too, Alice.”
Seconds later, Edward and Bella were once again alone.
“Good morning,” he said, smiling.
He was all bed hair, stubble and bare skin, and Bella wondered how she’d ever be able to resist him. Her doubts only intensified when he closed the distance between them and pulled her into his arms. Bella needed something—anything—to distract her from the flutter in her pelvis and the moisture forming between her legs. In the absence of anything more compelling, she settled on inane chatter.
“Do you have any plans for the holidays?” she asked.
“Nothing major. I’ll probably go to my aunt and uncle’s for Christmas dinner, but that’s about it. I doubt it will even feel like Christmas. I’m fairly sure they won’t let me have a tree in my room at the Westin. You?”
“I usually go home, but since my father moved to the West Coast, it’s no longer practical.”
“You should come with me.”
“Thank you for the invitation, but I’d rather wait to meet your family until after…” Overcome with guilt, Bella couldn’t finish her sentence. Instead, she stared at the floor, sighing.
“Hey.” Edward nudged her face up to meet his gaze. “You didn’t cause my relationship to fall apart any more than I caused yours to. You do realize that, right?”
Bella nodded, but remained uncomfortable enough that she felt compelled to change the subject. “Are you going into the office today?”
“Yes, but only briefly. No one does anything the week before Christmas. If nothing else, the timing has been good.”
As if there is ever a good time to lose a child, Bella thought, pulling away from him slightly.
He amended his statement, as though he sensed her discomfort. “No matter who stays in the apartment, there are arrangements to be made.”
Though neither of them verbalized it, their next thought was the same: and engagements to dissolve.
“Do you regret it?” he asked.
“What, declaring myself to a man who isn’t mine to love? Letting you spend the night here? Touching you and kissing you, all the while wishing I were the kind of woman who would let it go further?”
Bella’s words went right to Edward’s cock. He moved to adjust himself, to attempt to conceal his arousal from her. This backfired, as his lack of attire made his erection impossible to hide and the movement of his arm only called attention to the growing bulge in his crotch. Her gaze followed his hand, and just when he thought he couldn’t get any harder, Bella proved him wrong by licking her lips.
When she looked up at his face, her smile was surprisingly suggestive.
She nodded toward his cock. “At least I know it’s worth the wait. Now before I do something I know I’ll regret, I’m going to take a shower.”
“May I join you?”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Yes, unless you were planning on letting me.”
Bella laughed, but knew she was playing with fire. “On second thought, you should shower first. Be sure to make it an extra-cold one.”
After Edward and his cock disappeared into the bathroom, Bella leaned against her kitchen counter, sighing. For the very time first in her life, she wished she was a bad girl.
A few blocks away, Emmett settled into his desk at work. His building was empty except for a few members of the custodial staff and a security guard, and even though what he was about to do was part of his job description, carrying it out in solitude enabled him to delude himself into thinking he had no ulterior motives. He opened Outlook and began drafting his email to Human Resources—one that would place Rose on short-term disability that would run concurrently with FMLA. The latter was more for him than her; he knew very well she’d return to work within the time allotted her through disability. Legally, upon returning from FMLA, an employee can be placed in any open position that would not be considered a demotion. If there was one thing Emmett wanted to ensure, it was that when Rose returned to work, she would not be his direct report. She would be upset, probably, but she couldn’t blame him. He told himself he was simply doing his job, and if it happened to get the job done, so much the better. After all, once he was no longer her supervisor, he would be free to pursue her romantically.
Meanwhile, Rose was handling her own paperwork. Though technically her discharge from the hospital was not against medical advice, it was strongly suggested that she stay another day—something she was completely unwilling to do. She knew Edward was planning on ending their engagement. Frankly, after the way he’d carried on with Bella behind her back, she wanted nothing to do with the bastard anyway.
She didn’t trust Emmett’s assessment that Edward and Bella had not slept together. For all of Emmett’s ability to see through bullshit in the business world, he was incapable of seeing Bella for who she truly was. Over the past few months, he’d painted Bella as such a saint—albeit a whiny and emotionally needy one—that Rose thought that if Emmett walked into a room and found Bella on her knees with Edward’s dick in her ass, Emmett still wouldn’t believe Bella cheated. Still, on the off chance Emmett was right and Bella would never fuck a guy with a fiancée, her disappearance would be cock-blocking at its finest.
Edward would be unable to break up with her if he couldn’t find her. She could pull it off easily, with only a little help from an outside source. She picked up her cell phone and called Emmett’s office.
“How did you know where to find me?” he answered.
“Wild guess. I need a favor.”
“Anything for you.”
“I need you to come get me at the hospital. They won’t release me unless I have a ride home. I don’t want to call Edward.”
“I’ll be right over.”
“Wait, there’s something else.” Her voice betrayed her nerves, but somehow, this didn’t bother her. She didn’t know why she trusted Emmett completely; she only knew that she did. “May I stay with you for a few days? Just until I figure some things out. I can’t bring myself to go home…”
“You can stay as long as you want,” he interrupted.
“…and I need you to not tell Bella and Edward where I am.”
He paused, trying to figure out why she’d care. “You can’t hide from him indefinitely. I think you’ll feel better the sooner the two of you resolve things.”
“There’s nothing to resolve. Our relationship is as dead as our baby. I know it won’t feel over to him until we have an overemotional discussion that isn’t really a confrontation—because he doesn’t care enough to tell me how he really feels—in which I return the ring and he tells me he wishes things would have turned out differently, which we both know is a crock of shit. I’m just not ready to deal with that.”
It was a lie, of course. She was more than ready to be completely free of Edward, but not without fucking him over a bit first. Three hours later, she was propped up on pillows in Emmett’s bed. He said he’d be back to keep her company soon; in the meantime, she allowed Xanax and Vicodin and bad daytime television to do so on his behalf. She wondered if she’d ever feel whole again, but if that wasn’t possible, breaking Edward would be the next best thing.