Saturday, January 22, 2011
Massage Therapy - Chapter 7 - Interference
Edward Cullen’s Little Black Notebook
Saturday, July 31I’ve always thought of myself as a rational person.
Sure, I’ve had my wild, impetuous moments. A lot of them were with you. But for the most part, I look before I leap. Think before I act.
So why do I feel like I’m willfully walking a tight-rope without a safety net these days? Moreover, why am I beginning to relish the feeling?
I made the mistake of arriving at the Thirsty Whale a minute too soon, or too late, depending on how you look at it. Soon enough to be accosted by the sight of Isabella Swan clutched beneath the brawn of Jacob Black’s bare arm, looking like she was enjoying herself immensely. Too late to do anything about it.
My reaction was so instantaneous and so volatile that it shocked the hell out of me. I wanted to charge across the room and peel his swarthy paw from her skin with a crowbar.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Looking back, it was merely the culmination of a week of escalating preoccupation with this girl, topped off by my intrepid sister springing a surprise dinner on the two of us Thursday night. I was amazed at how entranced I was just sitting across the table from Isabella. Watching her smile, chew, swallow, laugh, fidget, blush, look away, look back, look inside. I don’t know how she got in so quickly, but here she is… seeping around my edges, settling in my nooks and crannies.
Every day I wake up inside her. She is a part of my morning ritual now, my fantasy version of her taming my morning wood by various sensual and titillating methods. I wonder if reality is half as good as I make her in illusion. I know it doesn’t matter anyway. For one thing, I can never allow myself to find out; and for another, I am beyond grading her on some useless scale against past conquests. She’s exempt; separate.
She has already won.
My shapeless, impure white lab coat was my best friend this morning, able to mask my struggles to hide the beast of longing within as I worked on Isabella Swan. My brow was beginning to bead with the sweat of trying so hard to concentrate on the medical aspect of the task at hand. And, medically speaking, things are looking up. She is getting better. Her tissues are more pliant, more willing to be coaxed back to their natural state. Her body is getting used to being manipulated now. I like telling it what to do. I was high on the feeling of her surrender as the fascia relaxed and stretched in response to the pressure of my hands.
But it was nowhere near enough. I couldn’t stop myself from imagining the other ways she would yield to me and let me in, if only I would move my hands a little lower, a little further, a little deeper. If I knelt down and breathed her floral spice deep into my lungs, sucked the nectar from her lips, licked the salt from her alabaster skin. If I drew quicker and quicker breaths from her lungs, moans from her throat, cries from her mouth. Clutches from her limbs. Quivers and shudders from her core. I want her to trust me with her body in every way possible.
Even her body is not enough. I want everything that animates it from within--the traits that makes it hers. The beating soul that makes her liquid eyes melt into mine, pump through my veins and engorge my cock in a throbbing, primal drumbeat.
Bella. Bella. Bella.
I tried desperately to stop the insistent yearning as I worked. The more I tried to ignore my arousal, the harder my dick got. I’m pretty sure I haven’t had such lack of control over it since junior high school. It knew what it wanted, and my fingers were mere inches away from the prize.
That’s what I get for being celibate the past few months. I tried to remember the last time I had sex, and the effort it took to recall the details told me it had been too long.
My dilemma wasn’t about the sex itself, obviously. I can get that anytime I want, which sounds grotesquely arrogant, but is patently true. I spent nearly two years proving it. Perhaps the ease of the conquests was what eventually made them lose their charm for me. Or maybe it was the feeling of yawning emptiness that always followed.
It wasn’t even emptiness, now that I think about it. Nothingness would be a better word. I felt nothing for any of the girls I bedded; neither affection nor animosity. Perhaps only a vague sense of guilt, if any of them seemed to be eager for more than one wasted evening. But even that I could rationalize away with the knowledge that these were consenting adult women who knew what they were doing, and I’d certainly made no promises that extended beyond the breaking dawn. My drive to get laid seemed more a biological imperative to which I acquiesced than a conscious desire.
So my desire for Isabella Swan felt all the more intense because of the long dearth of feeling that preceded it. The want, the need were swift and acute as they obliterated the numbness that had been my ally before. Their invasion was total and all-encompassing, for I didn’t want just her sex. I wanted her laughter and her gravity, her twists and her straight arrows, her intensity and her unbearable lightness, her secrets and her truths, her pain and her ecstasy. I wanted her, every bit of her, this girl lying before me.
The sweat continued to dampen my hairline as my erection strained beneath the layers of cotton that held it at bay. I couldn’t keep touching her. I would go crazy if I kept touching her. I would rip the sheet from her body, clutch her breasts between my greedy fingers, climb atop her and plunge myself deep between her thighs if I didn’t stop touching her. And she would wrap those insanely long, slender legs around me, grab my ass in her hot little hands and pull me so deep inside that I’d start sobbing like a baby at the sensation of finally losing myself in her. Because surely my touching her was driving her crazy too.
I tried to steady the ragged rhythm of my breathing as I slid my hands away from her lower back and hip, the edge of her panties taunting my fingers with a lacey caress.
“Is everything all right?” she asked, the concrete sound of her voice a welcome distraction from my fevered imagination.
“Everything’s fine,” I answered, amazed at the smoothness of my reply when a torment of desire churned within. “I’m actually going to move down to your legs for awhile.”
I wanted to clock myself across the jaw as soon as the words tumbled from my mouth. I had planned to examine her legs and feet to see how they were aligned with the rest of her body, as I had yet to work on anything but her torso. But why in the hell did I pick now to do it, when I was already so preoccupied with the thought of those limbs wrapped around me?
“Okay,” she said softly, her eyes fathomless in the amber glow of my desk lamp. I felt them follow me as I moved down to the end of the table and wrapped one hand around her slender ankle, feeling the connection between her foot and leg. It was angled a bit, not straight like it should be. I wasn’t surprised; the twist that ran through her torso continued its detrimental journey right down her leg. I massaged her foot gently with my other hand, continuing to work her ankle in tandem. Her toenails were painted a deep eggplant that looked black in the dim light. A bit goth, and disturbingly sexy.
I worked my way slowly up her shin and calf, gently stretching the areas that were pulled tight. I marveled at the length of her legs, impossibly long and leanly muscled for such a petite girl. The soft swell of her thigh beneath my ascending hand nearly made me groan out loud. I imagined grasping and squeezing it while she rode me like racehorse.
For fuck’s sake, Cullen, calm down, ordered the one sliver of cogent brain matter than remained in my obsessed head. I began to wonder if the fact that I had made her off-limits, sexually speaking, is what rendered me so desperate to have her. Maybe I was just behaving like a petulant child, craving the one treat I wasn’t allowed to enjoy. But what was the answer? Allowing myself to enjoy her? Not possible.
I carefully worked my fingers under the flannel sheet and over the lace of her panties until I found her hip joint. I pushed on it gently, then more firmly, and watched her face for signs of pain. She winced slightly, but I pressed on. The muscle needed to give way in order for her hips to be moved back where they belonged. I knew Emmett had already done something similar using a pressure point technique, but my method would work longer, slower, deeper.
“Try to relax,” I whispered as I pushed my fingers more insistently against the joint. Her brow furrowed again and she whimpered softly, but I didn’t give in. She would have to take a little discomfort in order for progress to happen. And I wasn’t giving up until she was better. No matter that in the back of my mind I had an ulterior motive: I wanted those hips as stable as possible before I positioned myself between them and thrust inside her, repeatedly and recklessly. I could deny it, but the thought, the desire, would not be ignored.
It also wouldn’t be acted upon, I reminded myself.
And so the rest of the session went: the angel on one shoulder supervising as I treated her other leg, smoothing out its twists and turns; the devil on the other, daring me to do the things I really wanted to those gorgeous legs. The hour drew to a close, and the angel won. The devil retreated to the merciless throbbing in my groin.
“How do you feel?” I asked, trying to make my tone of voice benign.
“Incredible,” she sighed, wiggling her feet beneath the sheet. “I don’t know what you did, but my whole body feels… alive.” She said the last word with relish, and I knew I truly couldn’t take any more.
“That’s good. That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” I answered softly, my voice nearly strangled in the grip of my rampant hormones. “I’ll leave you to get dressed and meet you outside.”
She nodded and I escaped the room with a relieved sigh. I’m completely embarrassed to admit that I had to make a beeline to the men’s room to jerk off like a prepubescent with no control over himself. But there was no way I could face her out in the front office, knowing my dick would be pointing straight up at her, desperate for her to relieve its misery. So I relieved it myself, swiftly and thoroughly, before it stole one more bit of my brain power.
I washed my hands thoroughly when I was finished, then splashed my face with cold water for good measure. I put on my calm, composed, professional look, checked its appearance in the mirror, and made my way out to the reception area.
Isabella was writing a check for the appointment. She pushed it across the countertop toward me before I could protest. When I glanced at it, I saw that it was made out for the full amount of the past three sessions.
“Miss Swan, I told you I would work with your insurance company to try to get these treatments covered. I’ll have my father write a letter of reference if necessary. You don’t need to pay for these now,” I told her with a frown. I actually hated the idea of her paying me for my time. I would work on her gratis for the rest of my life if it meant that I could improve her health.
“I appreciate that, I really do,” she said earnestly. “If I get reimbursed, that’s great. But I got paid yesterday, so it’s fine, really. I want to give you what I owe you. You and Emmett have already made a big difference in how I’m feeling, and there’s no price I can put on that.”
There was no price that could be put on how gratified that made me feel, either. I smiled back at her and accepted the payment, ringing it up and handing her the receipt. My fingers brushed against hers and I felt the ripple effect up my arm.
“So, are you excited about your date with Jacob tonight?” I asked abruptly, trying to keep the bite of sarcasm out of my tone. Real smooth, Cullen, I berated myself.
Her eyes narrowed and she studied me a moment, her lips twisting into a slight grin. She was enjoying my jealousy. Fine. At least she had a hint of what I was going through. I don’t think I could stand it if I was really out on this limb by myself.
“I’m looking forward to catching up with him. We haven’t talked in awhile,” she answered coyly.
“It’s nice to reconnect with old friends,” I agreed, certain my tone gave away my annoyance.
“I’m actually looking forward to all of us hanging out together later,” she told me. “Didn’t you say Emmett and Jasper would be coming along with you and Alice?”
I nodded, pleased at her attempt to subvert attention from her alone time with Jacob. “Yeah, they all want to check out the band. Should be fun.”
“I think so,” she agreed with a smile. “I can’t wait to introduce you all to my boss, Rosalie. She’s kind of a force to be reckoned with, but she’s good at what she does. If she believes in the Wolf Pack, she’ll really go to bat for them. I’m excited for them. A lot is riding on how they perform tonight.”
I gave her a half-smile, trying to put aside my pettiness and be happy for her friends. “What time should we show up? You know, so we don’t interrupt your date.” The last word came out like a dart, sharp and piercing. Fucking hell, why can’t I just cut my tongue out and be done with it?
Her eyebrow raised and she gave me that shrewd, questioning look again. “We’re having dinner early, but we have to be at the Whale by 8 p.m. The band goes on at nine. So, anytime after eight would be good.” She paused a moment, then added, “That way you can have dinner with Kate beforehand or something.”
I could feel my eyebrows shoot up toward my hairline. Was she serious? I suddenly realized that she thought there might be something going on between me and Katrina, the same way I assumed there was something between her and Jacob. Oh, this was rich. I was tempted to set her straight on the subject of Kate, but then thought better of it. If I had to worry about this Jacob kid, then it wouldn’t hurt for her to wonder about Kate, either. Very high school, I know. But I was kind of enjoying this game of cat and mouse. Having a little leverage now made my uncontrollable behavior during our session a little easier to live with.
“Kate won’t be coming with us tonight,” I informed her simply with a beatific smile. I scrutinized her face, enjoying the upturned corners of her mouth immensely.
“Oh. Well, that’s too bad. She seems nice,” Isabella said rather disingenuously.
I couldn’t stop the Cheshire grin that spread across my face. “She’s very nice. You’d like her.”
Her chin lifted ever so slightly as she replied, “The way you’ll like Jake, I’m sure.”
I let out a soft chuckle, loving that she was enjoying this as much as I was. “Absolutely. I look forward to getting to know him better.”
She let out a quick snort of laughter as well. “Really, now?
“Well…not half as much as I’d like to get to know you,” I boldly admitted. The resultant blush that flooded her cheeks was in danger of making my dick stir to life again, and I was beginning to not care.
And then, because our flirtation was taking such an interesting turn, my baby sister managed to ruin it by bursting through the front door at that precise moment. I still haven’t determined whether that was a blessing or a curse. Perhaps a bit of both.
“Hey, Bella! Are you ready to go bend your body into a pretzel?” she grinned in greeting.
Thanks for the imagery, Alice, I thought grimly.
“Um, no,” Isabella said frankly with a feeble laugh. “You said this class was for beginners.”
“It is, don’t worry. They show different variations of the poses for beginners and intermediates, so you can ease into it. You’ll be fine.” She looked up at me and added, “I’ll take good care of her, Edward, I promise.” She made an elaborate show of crossing her heart with her index finger.
“Yeah, no undoing all my hard work,” I joked. “Isabella is doing much better and I don’t want anything ruining that.”
“Am I, really?” my patient asked with a hopeful smile.
“You are. You’ve improved a lot already. Your tissues and muscles are becoming much more flexible. The yoga will be good for you,” I assured her.
“Okay,” she sighed, sounding like I’d just sent her off to the gallows instead of yoga class. I couldn’t help but chuckle, and the dour look she gave me only made me laugh more.
“Come on, let’s go or we’ll be late,” Alice ordered, heading for the door. “Do you have gym clothes with you?”
“Yeah, they’re in the car,” Ms. Swan answered, following my sister after giving me a small wave good-bye.
“Have fun,” I called after them with mock enthusiasm. Isabella turned back long enough to make a rather snide face at me, which amused me greatly.
“See you tonight,” I replied with a smirk. The smirk faded as her pheromones dissipated from the air around me. What was I thinking, flirting with her like that? It wasn’t even flirting, really. More like a clumsy profession of truth. I do want to get to know her better, in every way possible. And I couldn’t stop myself from looking forward to this evening, regardless of the fact that she would technically be on a date with someone else. She might not think so, but I was willing to bet that Jacob Black did.
I clobbered Kate at tennis again this afternoon. Every time I pictured Isabella in the “cat” or “downward-facing dog” yoga positions, I would channel the resulting sexual frustration into a brutal backhand return. After only one match, Katrina yelled, “I surrender!” from her end of the court.
“What, giving up so soon?” I teased as I jogged down to meet her.
“There’s no point in trying to beat you when you’re keyed up like this,” she sighed with a shake of her head. She picked up her water bottle and took a hefty swig, then changed the subject.
“So how are things going with the patient you’re not supposed to be pursuing?” she asked, giving me an accusatory look. I should know I can’t get anything past her.
“Great. Fantastic. So good that I had to go jack off in the bathroom like a 12-year-old after I treated her today.” I grabbed her water bottle and took a few gulps, ignoring her flabbergasted expression.
“Oh, no you didn’t,” she gasped before giggling profusely.
“Oh, yeah. And it gets better. I’m also crashing her date with another guy tonight.”
Her eyes were saucers, and her open mouth matched. “Who are you, and what have you done with Edward Cullen?”
I could only grin in response. Something in my face must have given me away, because she said the very thing that I’d been thinking.
“…Or maybe this is a taste of the old Edward, and I’m finally getting a glimpse of him.”
“You could be on to something there,” I admitted ruefully. “Clearly my behavior has regressed at least ten years.”
“Well, there is that,” she agreed with a laugh. She squinted up at me a moment, studying me. “But it’s more like there’s a spark in your eyes that I’ve never seen before. Sort of a mischievous twinkle. I don’t know, exactly. But something’s different.”
What’s different is that I met someone who makes me feel alive again, I thought, cringing at the hackneyed phrase. But the truth of it outweighed the triteness. I merely shrugged and helped Kate gather up her gear, heading back to the clubhouse. Before we went our separate ways, she leaned in the open window of my Volvo and said, “I don’t recommend masturbating in your office, and I certainly don’t condone date-crashing, especially on a client. But I have to say … Isabella Swan looks good on you.”
Her words from this afternoon rang in my ears as I now watched Isabella Swan look good on Jacob Black. I didn’t want to admit it, but she did. She was relaxed and smiling as she stood close to him, his arm draped loosely around her shoulders. They were near the stage, talking to some of the other guys I recognized from The Wolf Pack. Jacob was waving around an Amstel Light as he spoke. His teeth practically glowed in the dark under the low bar light.
“So, that must be Bella’s date,” Jasper stated, following my gaze. He hadn’t really met Jake or his Quileute band mates since Alice had monopolized most of his time at the Java Shack a couple weeks ago. “Nice teeth.”
I couldn’t help but grin at Jasper’s assessment, the sarcasm barely detectable in his low-key delivery.
“Aren’t they? Maybe I should find out the name of his dentist.”
“Don’t bother. I’ve got a bottle of Clorox at home that you can gargle with. Much cheaper.”
Jazz and I exchanged puerile snickers and clinked Heineken bottles together.
“Well, are we gonna stand here and take some more pot shots at this guy, or do you wanna go introduce me to him and your… client?” His emphasis on that last word let me know that I hadn’t fooled him for a moment when it came to my feelings about Ms. Swan.
“I suppose I shouldn’t put off the inevitable any longer,” I agreed. She hadn’t seen me when Jasper and I arrived, but I noticed her almost instantly, her effortless beauty easy to spot amongst the overly made-up girls who frequented the Whale. It was also hard to ignore the way Jacob Black seemed to be touching her constantly in some way, as though he were trying to establish ownership over her slight frame. I was again overwhelmed at how much I disliked this guy already.
I shook off the jealousy, gave Jasper a nod and headed toward the front of the bar as he followed. I couldn’t take my eyes off of Isabella as I approached, waiting for her to notice me, eager to gauge her reaction.
A wave of pleasure traveled through me when she caught my gaze, her eyes widening and her smile broadening. Better yet, she took a quick step away from Jacob, causing his arm to fall from her shoulders.
“Hey, Edward,” she greeted me, her cheeks reddening ever so slightly. “I’m glad you could come.”
As if I would miss an opportunity like this.
“Isabella,” I replied smoothly, “this is my friend Jasper Whitlock. Jasper, Isabella Swan. And Jacob Black, if I remember correctly,” I added evenly, including my nemesis in the introductions. I wasn’t about to let any ruffled feathers show concerning the amiable-looking kid who shook hands in greeting with us once again.
He re-introduced us to the other guys in the band, and Jasper immediately got into a conversation with guitarist Paul over the vintage Strat that that rested with his onstage gear.
“Oh, man. I still can’t believe you didn’t tell me your boss was coming tonight,” Jacob complained to Isabella, his body bouncing up and down with nervous energy. He turned his attention to me and said, “Bella waits and springs this on me at dinner, that her A&R manager is coming to check out our gig. I mean, this is huge. If we had known, we would have rehearsed a little more, you know? Made sure that we were really tight.” He gave her a gentle tap on the arm with his fist, like a mock punch. I wanted to punch him for real for even joking about hitting her. She didn’t seem to see it that way, for she only giggled.
“Isabella likes the element of surprise,” I told him, though my eyes refused to leave her face. “She’d rather see what you’ve got when you’re not self-conscious and trying too hard.”
Her eyes widened in surprise and a grin stole across her face. If she had ever wondered if I had been paying attention, her questions were now answered.
“Edward’s right. It’s better if you don’t have time to over-think things too much. I know you guys have rehearsed plenty. Now it’s time to just… let go.” Her gaze drifted back to me, and I comprehended her meaning perfectly. My pulse began to race, and a maelstrom of emotions flooded me, threatening to overwhelm whatever bit of reason I had left.
I drained the last of my beer in a few greedy gulps and excused myself to get another, asking if I could get her anything before I escaped. She told me she was fine, while Jacob’s deep-set eyes darkened at me in annoyance. Clearly he saw himself as the one who would take care of her needs, and he didn’t appreciate my interference. I hid the childish smugness I felt and headed for the bar, wondering what the hell I was getting myself into. Did I really want to do this?
I took a long draught of my second Heineken and felt inevitability wash through me along with the beer. I was losing any choice in the matter. I could no more ignore the pull toward Isabella Swan than I could stop the twilight from coming every evening. Those deep brown eyes of hers would eventually consume me, and I was beginning to crave the warm, soothing darkness I sensed I would find if I let myself drown there.
As I turned from the bar to make my way back to the stage, a woman who was the antithesis of Isabella’s soft warmth blew past me like an arctic front. Blonde hair flying, crystalline eyes flashing, she practically stormed through the crowd toward the stage, appearing as if she would trample anyone foolish enough to cross her path. Her beauty was astonishing--icy, perfect, forbidding. I couldn’t help but appreciate her curves as she flounced by me, but I knew her type--more trouble than she’s worth.
I followed the blonde curiously, somehow not surprised when she halted in front of Ms. Swan and began gesticulating wildly, obviously quite upset about something and venting to my client. Isabella looked sympathetic to the blonde’s plight, whatever it was, and seemed eager to placate her. As I approached and began to hear snippets of the blonde’s tirade, I realized that I might have had my first glimpse of Rosalie Hale.
“…and then this Neanderthal has the nerve to tell me that if I had signaled sooner and not slammed on the brakes to steal his parking space--AS IF!--he never would have hit me. I reminded him that if he hadn’t been riding my ass for two blocks with his giant gas-guzzling Range Rover and talking to his girlfriend instead of paying attention to what he was doing, he wouldn’t have plowed into me!”
Range Rover? Uh-oh. Surely she wasn’t talking about….
I looked over my shoulder just in time to see my brother and sister approach. Emmett looked from me to the blonde and a huge grin split his face. He put his index finger up to his lips to silence me before I said anything. He and Alice lined up next to me and the three of us stood in silence, listening. Alice looked up at me and shook her head, rolling her eyes a bit, as the blonde carried on.
“I know the type. Thinks he owns the road with his giant fucking 4-wheel-drive monster truck. He probably looks for little Beemer convertibles like mine to play bumper cars with down the highway. I told him if there was so much as a scratch on the bumper, I would make him replace the whole thing.”
“So, was there? A scratch?” Isabella asked, biting her lip worriedly. Her eyes darted from the blonde’s face to Emmett’s bemused one behind her.
“No, luckily for him. I would have taken that gorilla to the cleaners. I’m telling you, if my car acts up even a little in the next month, I will hunt him down and make him pay, one way or the other. You know what I always say about guys who drive over-priced penis extensions like that Ranger Rover of his: he’s clearly compensating for lacking in another department.” She held up her thumb and index finger about three inches apart in illustration, just to make sure we got the drift.
Emmett could no longer contain his mirth. “Tell you what, Blondie. Why don’t you take me for a test drive so I can disprove that theory?”
Alice began giggling as the blonde whirled to face us, anger and surprise twisting her lovely features. When she looked up at Emmett’s grinning mug, fury took over.
“You have got to be kidding me,” she snarled. “You followed me in here? I told you I don’t want to exchange names and numbers. I’d prefer to forget this whole incident ever happened.”
“Fine. That will make it hard for you to ‘hunt me down and make me pay’ if there’s anything wrong with your precious Beemer, though. But I’ll enjoy seeing you try.”
The twinkle in my brother’s eye was unmistakable. He loves nothing more than a challenge. He welcomes women like Rosalie Hale with open arms. “I love a handful,” he’s fond of saying. “Two handfuls is even better.”
Isabella piped up before her employer could unfurl another string of invectives. “Rosalie, he didn’t follow you in here. I invited him here tonight. He’s my chiropractor, Emmett Cullen. That’s his sister Alice, and brother Edward, my massage therapist,” she finished, pointing at us one by one. “This is my boss, Rosalie Hale.” She gave us a pleading look, imploring us to play nice.
“Charmed, I’m sure,” Emmett replied, grabbing Rosalie’s manicured hand and planting a kiss on top before she could withdraw it in a huff.
“Unbelievable,” she muttered, still glaring. “I’m surprised he doesn’t crush you to death by accident,” she said to Isabella, her eyes raking up and down Emmett’s brawn. There was definitely something else in her expression besides distaste.
I leaned down and whispered in Alice’s ear, “Here we go.”
She giggled and put her hand up to my ear. “You should have seen them going at it outside. We barely bumped her car, but she came out screaming like a banshee. It was hilarious. Emmett was so into it, I thought he might throw her down on the hood and mack on her; and I’ll bet you a 12-pack that she would have loved it.”
“Oh, I won’t take that bet. I think you’re right.”
We stopped whispering in time to hear our brother insist on buying Rosalie a drink, saying it was the least he could do for causing her and her vehicle so much undue distress. “I’ll even throw in a free chiropractic treatment,” he added. “You know, in case my rear-ending you so violently caused any damage to that lovely neck of yours.”
“You’re disgusting. And I’ll take a Glenlivet on the rocks.”
“I love a woman with expensive taste,” he grinned. “When I get back, let me tell you my theories about women who drive candy-apple red luxury convertibles. You might find them interesting.”
Rosalie gave him a half-hearted sneer, her eyebrow raising provocatively. She excused herself to go to the ladies’ room, while Alice and I exchanged knowing looks that said, Game on.
We decided to pull a couple of tables together before the place got too crowded, and the band went to finish setting up their gear. I was glad to see Jacob disappear behind his drum kit, though I didn’t mind if he caught a glimpse of me pulling out a chair for Isabella and then seating myself beside her. Alice and Jasper got cozy across the table from us.
“God, what a disaster,” Isabella moaned, propping her elbow on the table and resting her temple in her hand, her body turning toward mine. “Could there be a worse scenario than Emmett and Rose getting in a fender-bender?”
I shook my head and let out a laugh. “It’s not that bad. In fact, I’m kind of thinking that that was a perfect set-up. A real ice-breaker.”
She gave me an incredulous look. “Seriously? You don’t want to get on Rosalie’s bad side. She’s the coolest boss ever, but she does have a temper and she’s not afraid to use it.”
“If anyone can handle a firecracker like Rosalie, it’s my brother. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is his favorite type of foreplay. And I don’t think Rosalie is as averse to the idea as she appears.”
Isabella raised a skeptical eyebrow, while Alice agreed with my assessment. Jasper wisely refrained from comment, and instead offered to pick up the next round of drinks. He ordered a pitcher for the four of us, and we settled in as the band started to warm up. Rosalie returned and sat next to Bella, and the two of them began “talking shop” about The Wolf Pack. A strange discomfort pulled at my insides while they discussed the viability of the band--their look, their sound, their general appeal and talent level. I had never aspired to be a professional musician, but listening to the girl I already adored sound so excited about someone else’s potential produced a new and unwelcome envy within me.
Emmett returned with drinks for Rosalie and himself, then sat across from her and leered at her relentlessly. I couldn’t see her reaction very well from where I was sitting, but I could see that whatever it was, it only egged my brother on. I know him well, and it was clear that he would not rest until he broke down this woman’s defenses.
I knew a thing or two about crumbling defenses, the hairs on my arm rising every time I brushed against Isabella. Having her so close was maddening. I loved the nearness, but it only sparked a craving for more. I hated Jacob Black for being able to so effortlessly touch her and pull her close, knowing that she wouldn’t take offense. Then again, I was certain that if I did the same, she would not react negatively.
And yet I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t make the move. I sat next to her in a quandary of frustration for the rest of the evening, dividing my time between watching the band and watching her. I would have studied her exclusively if I could have gotten away with it. The way her eyes gleamed and her body swayed in time with the music was mesmerizing to me.
I watched The Wolf Pack long enough to discern just how talented each musician was, and how well they worked together. Their synergy was very good. Jacob and the bass-player, Seth, were in perfect sync, providing the solid rhythm section necessary to anchor a band and let the guitarists and singer shine. Quil did a fine job on rhythm guitar while Paul was a madman on lead, truly gifted and drawing lots of cheers from the crowd for his biting solos. Sam was a solid front man, having a kind of alpha-male presence that commanded respect. The Wolf Pack was good. I observed Rosalie and Jasper studying them, and could see that their judgments matched mine.
I looked at Isabella to see her reaction, and caught her looking at me instead, her eyes intense, lips parted. Oh, God. I wanted to kiss her so badly I thought I might explode. I could feel my face drifting closer, my eyes pulled into hers, the breath coming fast between my lips.
“Wow, that was fantastic!” Rosalie suddenly exclaimed, grabbing her employee’s arm as the song drew to a close. Isabella blinked up at me a moment, a long sigh escaping her mouth. She seemed to pull away from me with reluctance, turning to her boss and agreeing that the set had been great.
It was the last song of the night, and the cheers and applause were thunderous in appreciation. Isabella’s friends had done well. They had set out what they wanted to do in impressing Rosalie Hale, and had made Isabella look good in the process. I reminded myself that any musical find of hers that ended up being successful could only be good for her, and my petty jealousies needed to take a back seat.
The band made their way past the patrons who congratulated them and surrounded the two Java Noise reps, thanking them for listening, and asking about the next step in getting signed with the company, if the offer was on the table. I didn’t want to eavesdrop, but I overheard Rosalie saying something about bringing in some higher-ups to hear the band and they would talk after that.
The excited band members went to tear down their equipment, Jacob grabbing Isabella in a sort of headlock and planting a kiss in her hair first. I barely had time to register my irritation before he released her and bounded back up on the stage.
“Well, that was definitely worth my time,” Rosalie smiled at Isabella. “Regardless of the pain and suffering I endured on the way here,” she added with a sour look at Emmett. Emmett smiled angelically in return, clearly undaunted.
“I knew you wouldn’t be disappointed,” Isabella replied. She glanced at me, then over at Jasper. “You know, Rose, Jasper has a band of his own that I think could be promising. I’ve heard him do some solo work that was great.” Her eyes flitted to mine again, slightly hopeful, but mostly resigned.
“Oh yeah?” Rosalie said, her eyebrows raising at Jasper. “What kind of music do you do?”
“Kind of a weird blend of blues, folk and rockabilly,” he grinned slowly, surprised but pleased that Isabella had gone to bat for him. “We need a little more rehearsal time and some gigs under our belt before we waste your time,” he said modestly.
“Well, I trust Bella’s judgment. Maybe she can record you sometime and I’ll take a listen.”
“He and a friend are playing Thursday night at the Java House again,” Alice interjected, wisely avoiding looking at me and giving the “friend” away. “You’ll come, won’t you, Bella?”
“Of course,” she smiled. “I wouldn’t miss it.” Her leg drifted over and touched mine under the table, waking up my hyperactive dick again. I took a deep breath and concentrated on keeping my hand from grabbing her thigh.
Rosalie said she’d love to hear Bella’s recording of Jazz, and then got up and excused herself, saying she had to meet her parents for an early brunch tomorrow. Emmett immediately rose from the table and insisted on escorting her to her car. She snapped that she didn’t want him anywhere near her vehicle, since he could probably dent it just by leaning on it with his beefy paws. He replied that he’d make sure he rested his beefy paws on softer, less rigid surfaces just in case.
“Lay one finger on me and I’ll mace you so thoroughly you won’t be able to see for a week,” she hissed as she sashayed away from the table.
Emmett ogled her ass lewdly and said, “Ah, but then I won’t be able to appreciate your beauty, and that would be a travesty.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere,” she muttered over her shoulder.
“Ah, how my lady lies,” Emmett said, his voice trailing off as he followed her toward the door.
The four of us exchanged looks and began to laugh simultaneously.
“This is the best time I’ve had all summer,” Alice announced. “Classic.”
Isabella rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I love nearly having heart failure when I find out that my chiropractor just had a fender-bender with my boss.”
“It was nothing, really,” Alice insisted. “We barely tapped her car and she went ballistic. She must be a bear to work for!”
“Actually, she’s not. I mean, she does have a temper, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen her riled up like that. Emmett seems to know how to push her buttons.”
“That he does,” Jasper agreed with his usual subtle innuendo and a quirk of one eyebrow. “Match made in heaven.”
“Or hell,” I laughed.
“Or both,” Alice grinned.
After our laughter subsided, Jasper thanked Isabella for mentioning him to Rosalie and told her how much he appreciated it. He said that he and his band have been rehearsing a lot and are going to try to line up some shows soon. “I’ll try not to let you down,” he told her.
“Impossible. You’re so good, truly. I’m really looking forward to seeing you again.” Her leg pressed harder against mine and she looked up at me. “Both of you.”
I wondered what she would do if I really did kiss her, right here in the middle of the bar, in front of Alice and Jasper. But I knew I wouldn’t do it. Our first kiss deserved better than that.
And then I realized that I was thinking in terms of “firsts” instead of “nevers.”
Let the drowning begin.
“Speaking of the band, I’ve got a lot of stuff I’ve got to take care of tomorrow,” Jasper announced. “You ready to take off?” he asked me.
“Sure,” I reluctantly replied. Since I’d given him a ride here, I didn’t have much of a choice, unless I forced him to close down the bar with me. I turned to Isabella, and without much hope asked her, “Do you need a ride home?”
“No, Jacob brought me. The band won’t be too much longer tearing down the stage. Thanks for the offer, though.” I wanted to believe that there was as much disappointed longing in her eyes as there was in mine.
“Okay,” I answered softly. “I’ll see you Thursday, then.” I squeezed her shoulder briefly as I rose from my chair, the cotton of her t-shirt soft under my fingers. It was as much as I dared to do, and I hated my cowardice.
She nodded up at me as Jasper and I left, while Alice promised to stay awhile and keep Bella company until Jake was free. Jasper and I passed Emmett as we made our way to the door and laughed at his shit-eating grin.
“Did she deck you?” I joked.
“Hell, no. She did, however, agree to have dinner with me next Saturday night.” He blew on his fingernails and polished them on his collarbone in a gesture of victory.
Jasper laughed and high-fived Emmett while I shook my head. So now my brother is going to date Isabella Swan’s boss. Just what I need--one more thing pulling me into her personal sphere outside of the office.
“You can thank me now or later,” Jasper commented as we climbed into the Volvo.
“What do you mean?” I asked him.
“I know you wanted to hang around there and fuck with Bella and Jake’s so-called date. I saved you from making a nuisance of yourself.”
“Oh, thanks. I’m forever grateful that you dragged me away early so that I can spend the rest of the night wondering what the hell’s going on between them.”
“You should be grateful!” Jazz exclaimed, scowling at me. “How many times have you told me that clients are off-limits? You can’t date her, and I can see how much that’s getting to you. Why put yourself in temptation’s way?”
I sighed as I pulled out into the glowing night traffic that crept through the city. “You’re right, I know. But I’m getting to the point where… I don’t care anymore.”
I could feel Jasper’s shrewd gaze on me. “That can be dangerous territory, you know.” He paused, then added, “I’m not just talking about the doctor/patient thing, either.”
“I know. Believe me. I just don’t know how much longer I can stay away.”
We drove in silence for a moment. Finally Jasper said, “Can you make it until Thursday, anyway?”
I looked over at his lopsided grin and returned one of my own. “Yeah, I can do that much.”
But now that I’m home, all I can do is look at the clock and wonder if Jacob Black is kissing Isabella Swan good night. Or worse.
“She won’t let him do that, will she?” I said aloud.
Only this time, I wasn’t just talking to the empty air. A loud purr sounded in response to my question, and a pair of yellow eyes glowed reassuringly at me from the couch cushion next to mine. I scratched under Lucky’s chin while he rubbed his furry cheek into my hand.
I know this is the only reassurance I’ll have for tonight.