About a month ago, Emmett was called into his boss’ office for his annual performance review. The assessment of his work was glowing, with a single caveat. Emmett was a micro-manager bordering on a control freak who needed to trust his direct reports to do their jobs. So he took a step back. He gave assignments and deadlines, and occasionally asked for updates. He didn’t hover, and he didn’t check the work of his team. He trusted that it was completed correctly, never once anticipating that his doing so would cause the veritable shit storm he now faced – both on a personal and professional level.
“You’re going to catch hell, aren’t you?” Rose poured herself another cup of coffee before joining Emmett at the conference table.
“Probably. I’m not going to whine about it. I deserve it.”
“There’s no way you could have known there would be a software glitch and the reports would be wrong.”
“No,” he admitted. “But had I lit a fire under the asses of the developers, Bella and I would be at Le Bec Fin right now, laughing at how crazy Georges Perrier is and eating wild mushroom risotto. Instead, I’m elbow deep in code and faulty data, cursing myself for delegating this project in the first place. And do you know what the worst part is?”
Rose looked up from her laptop and pushed a lock of blond hair that had somehow escaped her chignon behind her ear. The large diamond on the fourth finger of her left hand caught the light, and Emmett remembered she, too, had disappointed her significant other by staying at work.
He immediately felt like an ass.
“Never mind, Rose. I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have to listen to me moan.”
She shrugged. “It’s okay. You’ll be more productive if you let it out.”
“Did you have plans with Edward?”
“Yes, but it’s no big deal. We were just going to Monk’s for beer and mussels. He was mildly annoyed, but he didn’t make an issue of it. He’s been known to put in very long hours himself, therefore he has no room to talk. His career is every bit as important to him as mine is to me. He knows getting pissed off at me for working late would be incredibly hypocritical.”
“That’s the worst part. Bella isn’t pissed.”
“Oh, really?” Rose challenged him. “Is that why you were hiding from her all afternoon?”
Emmett took off his tie and threw it onto the conference table in frustration. “Was it that obvious?”
“A word of advice. If you’re hiding from your girlfriend already, whom you’ve only dated six months and don’t live with, it doesn’t say much about your prospects for long term relationship success. Edward and I lived together for over a year before he started avoiding me when he was angry.”
“That’s just it. Bella isn’t angry. And you know what? I wish she was. I can handle that. Yell at me, throw stuff at me, call me names. That’s fine. That’s what guys do, and I know how to respond to it. Bella’s not like that. She’s sensitive and delicate and just so god damned girly. She doesn’t get mad, she gets hurt. She doesn’t raise her voice, she gives me the silent treatment and averts her eyes, thinking that if she’s staring at her lap, I won’t notice she’s crying. I ask her what’s wrong, and she says she’s fine. So I tell her that I know she isn’t fine, because she wouldn’t be crying otherwise and she still doesn’t tell me what’s wrong. This goes on for hours, but we don’t resolve anything because she doesn’t fucking tell me what she wants. It’s like she expects me to read her mind, then gets all disappointed when I don’t, like I can help the fact I’m not Miss Cleo. And it’s not just Bella. Every woman I have ever dated does the exact same thing. You probably pull that shit, too.”
“What, passive-aggressive sulking?” Rose asked.
“No, I don’t do that.”
Emmett looked at Rose in amazement. “You’re kidding me.”
“I’m totally serious. I don’t pout or cry. I yell and throw things. If that doesn’t make me feel better, I either hit the bar or the driving range, depending upon what time of day it is. There’s nothing that a tequila shot or an hour of intense physical activity can’t cure.”
Emmett laughed. “And that, Rose, is why you are so good at business.”
“Because I golf?” she joked.
“No, though that helps, too. You’re a man trapped in the body of a Victoria’s Secret model. It’s a lethal combination.”
Rose wasn’t sure if she should be insulted or flattered. She decided to put the focus back on Bella.
“You don’t think Bella gets you?”
Emmett thought for a moment before he answered. “She doesn’t understand why success is so important to me, why I’m so driven to get to the top.”
“Surely, she understands avarice,” Rose teased.
“That she would understand, even if she didn’t agree with it.”
Rose didn’t understand Bella any more than Bella understood Emmett, but that didn’t matter. Rose was extremely observant, and let Bella’s actions speak for themselves. They clearly indicated that Bella hated Rose with a passion. Though the feeling was mutual, Rose did not like being placed in the middle of Bella/Emmett drama. This was happening with increasing frequency, and Rose wanted it to stop.
“You know Bella dislikes me. Continuously putting me in positions where I have to lie to her doesn’t exactly help the situation.”
“I know, Rose. I’m sorry.”
“A word of advice, Em. If you called her at noon and explained the situation, apologized profusely, and had flowers sent to her office, she would been disappointed but she would have understood.”
He leaned back in his chair and rested a pen against his lips. “Does stuff like that really make a difference?”
“If you’re Bella, yes.”
“Would it make a difference to you?”
“No. I mean, I would be annoyed if the guy I was dating blew me off. But if he came home and blew me, I’d get over it fairly quickly.”
Emmett’s cock responded to Rose’s statement before he could mentally formulate a verbal reply. His mind went right to the gutter, and he was grateful when seconds later, the other members of their team began filing into the conference room.
It was time to get back to business.
Clearing his throat, Emmett adjusted himself under the table and addressed his coworkers. “I hope you all tanked up on coffee, snorted your ritalin, smoked your cigarettes and did whatever else it is you do when you need to stay awake. Tonight’s going to be a long one. No one goes home until the reports are corrected. I refuse to be humiliated in front of our biggest client.”
Eleven hours later, the crisis was averted. Rose went home to shower and change. She opened the door quietly and tiptoed through her apartment, not wanting to wake Edward if he was still sleeping. After spending all night working on reports, Rose was completely exhausted and hoped more coffee would get her awake enough to survive the day. She went to the kitchen to brew some, surprised to find Edward standing at the counter pouring himself a cup.
“You know, darling, there’s a difference between working late and staying out all night.”
She shrugged and pulled a mug from the cabinet. “It was unavoidable.”
“In the future, I would appreciate it if you would tell me if you’re not coming home.”
Rose placed the cup on the counter and crossed her arms. She was too tired to deal with Edward hinting he was upset with her.
“What are you talking about? I called you four times, left three voice mails, and sent you a text message. Don’t give me any of your shit.”
“I’m sorry.” Edward was immediately contrite. “I wonder if something is wrong with my Blackberry.”
“Have it looked at today. You probably missed more calls than mine.” She stretched onto her toes and gave him a quick kiss on the lips before walking out of the kitchen. “By the way, we managed to fix the software glitch. Thanks for asking,” she called as she headed into the bathroom.
On his way out the door, Edward picked up his briefcase and Blackberry. Sure enough, Rose had called him multiple times while he was at Monk’s with Bella. His Blackberry had been in his pocket all evening. He wondered how he possibly could have missed it vibrating, as he was such a slave to the tiny piece of black plastic, he could sense incoming calls in his sleep. As he walked into the chilly morning air, he realized Bella’s simple presence had distracted him to such an extent he was unable to notice anything but her.
He knew he was in trouble.