-x-o-x-Accidentally in Love-x-o-x-
Edward mouthed an apology and held the phone out to me. I wanted to shake my head and tell him no, but I felt my trembling hand reach forward.
“Alice? Nice to meet you, this is Bella,” I said as I gave Edward a look to let him know I wasn’t happy.
“Oh my God!” The voice on the other end gasped. “Holy shit! I thought he was being a smart ass. You’re really there?”
I started to laugh and realized just what a predicament he’d put himself in. “Yeah, I’m real. Like Edward said, who would make up a fiancée?”
I raised an eyebrow at Edward and his eyes were wide. He was absolutely terrified of what I was going to tell his sister, but he’d done this to himself. He could have sent her an e-mail or given her a call later, but he tried to be cool and made the call while I was sitting right there without a thought to how things could play out. It was such a guy thing to do. I could have told him that if Alice picked up she would ask to speak to me. What girl wouldn’t?
“Oh, Bella, we’re going to have a great time getting to know each other. I’m so glad that you’re able to make it out for the Fourth. Do you know when you’re getting in?”
“Um, I don’t think Edward has booked our flights.” He nodded at me and smiled. “He mentioned leaving Thursday morning and I’ll be off work for the summer, I’m a teacher, so that works for me. I think he said we’ll drive out to your grandparents’ on Friday morning.”
“You’re a teacher? How fun! I want to hear all about it sometime. Thursday sounds good, too. Maybe I’ll convince Jasper that we should come meet you and we could all go out!”
“I’ll let you work that out with Edward. I don’t know what his plans are.”
Edward looked nervous again, and I decided I shouldn’t look at him while I talked to her. I turned my head and sighed. We were doing this. I was on the phone with his sister and it was going to happen. And I was excited about it. Talking to Alice was so much better than I’d expected, aside from the part where she thought Edward had made me up.
“Alice, I need to know what kinds of things to pack. Is it a mostly casual weekend?” In my head I was wondering if casual meant the same thing to her and praying I didn’t need to buy a lot of fancy clothes.
“Exactly. We’ll spend most of our time with the family around the house and at the beach. My cousin Riley has a cook-out that we go to every year, but all of that is casual. The neighbors have a more dressy party, though. You’ll want a cocktail dress for that and maybe just another summer dress in case we go to dinner.”
“Okay. Sounds good.” I was mentally going through my closet thinking about the black cocktail dress I’d bought when I graduated from college. I might need to head to the mall for a few tops, though.
“Listen, I don’t mean to be forward…”
“Yeah, but,” Alice giggled, “why don’t you give me your sizes and I’ll bring some things you can borrow. I have a lot of connections in fashion. It would be no problem.”
I chuckled. “Edward told me that you were interested in fashion and design. You can bring some things if you’d like. Just keep in mind that I’m pretty low maintenance, I don’t need anything too crazy.”
“Of course! Just get my number from Edward and text me with your sizes. Shoes, clothes… Oh, and your ring size—I have a good connection for some costume jewelry.” Her obvious excitement made me grin. “We’re going to have so much fun! I can’t wait to tell my mother I’ve actually spoken to you!”
“And that I’m real?” I glanced at Edward and smiled.
“Well, that too.”
Edward rolled his eyes and I found myself reaching over to pat his leg. “Alright, I had better go; your brother is stroking out because you might tell me some of his deep dark secrets.”
“I’m sure he is! I can’t wait to meet you.”
“The feeling is mutual.” And truly, it was.
I handed Edward back his phone and he looked at me expectantly. I let the silence draw out and he huffed in annoyance.
“Well, what did she say?”
“After I reassured her you hadn’t made me up?”
Again with the eye roll, but we both laughed this time.
“She told me you like to sleep naked and that you secretly want to be Indiana Jones.”
He started to blush. It was adorable.
“Shut up! She did not! I’m sure she assumed you already know I sleep nude. And the Indy bit? Well, she probably thinks you’ve already seen my whip, too.”
Okay. My turn to blush. Then he winked. Fucker. That was adorable, too. I was in so much trouble.
“Okay! You’re right! She just told me that she was going to call your mom and tell her we’d spoken and about what kind of clothes to pack. She mentioned something about a party at the neighbor’s and a cookout at your cousin’s.”
“Right. You feel better about packing?”
“Yeah, I just have a couple of things I’d like to get to finish off my outfits and I’ll be fine.”
“Bella, you really shouldn’t spend money to come on this trip.”
I bit my lip, not wanting to say anything about the $5,000 his Craigslist ad had mentioned. I had to admit it would be nice to pay towards my student loan, but we hadn’t really talked about the money. I mean, he’d reassured me the first night that he would pay me. I got the impression that he was certainly good for the cash, but we got along so well that the thought of him paying me was a little skeevy.
Angela told me to buck up and ask for half up front. I would need some of it if I wanted to go shopping, but I wasn’t sure I could come right out and ask him. “Hi, I’m a not a whore, but can you pay me?” Nope. I couldn’t do it.
Somehow he read my mind, and I didn’t have to ask.
“We could go shopping together. I could pay. I mean, I could buy what you needed for the trip and then give you the rest of the money. You know. ”
I kind of squinted at him, still not wanting to talk about it. “I guess that could work.”
“What?” he laughed. “The look on your face is…I don’t know what it is.”
“Ugh. I don’t know. I feel weird taking money from you.”
He sighed. “Don’t. If I wasn’t such a dumbass I wouldn’t be in this situation. I want you to get something more out of this than a trip to the Hamptons.”
And that was just it. I had a weird feeling that I was getting something else out of our trip. Whether I wanted to or not. I just wasn’t sure if he wanted more.
“Look, if you want I can write the check directly to your credit card company or your student loan company or whatever. If you don’t want the money to come directly to you I can understand that, but I believe in truth in advertising.”
“I don’t think that really applies-”
“Please, just let me take you shopping. We can argue about the rest later.”
I sighed. “Fine, but next week is busy. You might have to help me grade some exams.”
“Smart ass.” He ran a hand through his hair. “I’ll book our tickets this week and take you to the mall, say, Thursday?”
“Yeah, that works. I’ll have to clean out my classroom on Friday.”
He checked his watch and sighed. Time had flown by and we’d been together for close to four hours. Stretching his legs, he ran his hands down his thighs. “I have to go into work. I’ll text you later?”
“Sounds good. I had fun today, Edward.”
“I did, too.” He paused, glancing down sheepishly. “I’m sorry you had to talk to Alice.”
“It was fine. I think we’ll get along.”
“I’m glad.” He nodded in agreement, then raised his brows. “Are you ready?”
He took care of our dishes and we made our way out of the building. We said a quick goodbye on the street and agreed to text throughout the week to make plans for shopping. We were standing close together and I wasn’t sure what I should do. Hug him? Kiss him? On the lips or the cheek?
“Stop biting your lip,” he chuckled, before he leaned forward and hugged me while giving me a little kiss on the cheek.
He was grinning when he stepped away from me and I knew my face had to look the same. Except mine was probably bright red. He took a few backwards steps and waved, then turned and made his way down the street.
I watched him for a few seconds, touching my cheek like a fool, then he went around the corner and was gone. He was so much more than I’d imagined when Angela and I answered the ad. He really was everything I was looking for in a man, I just wondered how he felt about being found.
-x-o-x-Accidentally in Love-x-o-x-
My week was busy with work and grading tests in the evening. Edward and I texted a few times and it was sweet. I was enjoying getting to know him and was surprised at how much I was looking forward to spending time together. Not just that, shopping, traveling, the whole thing really. I’d only met one boyfriend’s parents in my lifetime, and though the thought of meeting Edward’s family was daunting, I was excited for it.
Edward picked me up at my apartment for our shopping trip and I got to officially introduce him to Angela. She took full responsibility for coercing me to respond to his ad and told him he owed her a date with one of his friends. He thanked her repeatedly and said he would set her up with his best friend, Garrett, who was the same person who convinced him to place the Craigslist ad in the first place.
I groaned as Angela started asking a million questions about his friend and pulled Edward out of the apartment before she could beg him to set up their date right then.
We each bought a few things at Macy’s for the trip and found ourselves sitting in the cafe splitting one of their giant Rice Krispie treats.
“…but the worst family trip we took was to Paris when we were teenagers. It was my parents’ twentieth anniversary, and they wanted to do something special. Alice wore a beret and became this uber-bitch who refused to speak English to any of us. Emmett didn’t speak a word of French and spent the entire ten days being miserable. My parents wanted the three of us to do things together so they could have some romantic alone time in Paris, and I just wanted to be left alone. I could have spent the entire time we were there at Versailles or wandering the museums.”
My chin rested in my hand as I listened to him reminisce. His family sounded like they were a trip, and much more normal than I expected. The Cullens apparently had a house in Aspen in addition to the their places in Connecticut and the Hamptons. Old, family money was just as foreign a concept to me as new family money, but the idea of having grown up taking trips to Europe and skiing in Aspen every Christmas made me think of those obnoxious people on the Real Housewives shows or The Hills.
He laughed, realizing he’d gotten a little carried away by his story. “What about you? Tell me why you want to see the East coast?”
“My dad,” I said quietly. “When I was growing up he had a map in his office where we marked off all of the states we traveled to, but we never made it east of Memphis. We just sort of ran out of time.”
“How many states did you make it to?”
I smiled. “Twenty-three.”
“Almost half way, that’s impressive. I’m sure I haven’t been to that many states.”
“Yeah,” I laughed, “but you’ve got me beat with traveling to Europe.”
“Have you been out of the U.S.?”
“Mexico. You know, spring break in Cancun.”
He nodded. “Out of all your travels, what was your favorite trip?”
I thought for a minute, not sure how to decide. “Vegas with Ang when we graduated from college. We partied on the strip and drank by the pool, then spent a day at the Grand Canyon. It was just the two of us—officially starting our lives as adults.”
“In a totally sinful way.”
“Well, not totally, but yeah, we got a little rowdy.”
“I’d like to see you get rowdy,” he laughed, waggling his eyebrows and teasing me.
I blushed and tried not to smile. He was making me want to get all kinds of rowdy with him. “Maybe sometime, Dr. Cullen, when I’m not trying to impress your family.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
We sat smiling at each other for a few seconds until I remembered Edward’s comments about his mom’s drinking.
“I don’t make a habit of that, you know?”
“I don’t know. I’m sorry. I was thinking about your mother.”
“Oh! Fuck. Don’t worry about that. She just… My mom didn’t cope really well when her parents died a few years ago. The Fourth is a hard time since we always spent it with them at the beach. I might have exaggerated a little in my ad. She…she’s fine. Don’t worry, please.”
I bit my lip, then finally nodded.
“I guess we still need to get to know each other.” His shy smile made me want to do just that.
“We have two weeks. Plenty of time, right?”
He laughed. “It will have to be.”
We grinned at each other while finishing our sodas, then Edward drove me home. I just needed to clean out my classroom and I was done working for the school year. Edward had picked up some extra shifts to have more time off for the Fourth so his schedule was crazy.
We texted or talked on the phone every day for the almost a week but then two days went by without a word. I left him a second message asking if things were alright, and he texted back a few hours later.
Busy. Exhausted. Incredibly sorry. Meet me for coffee?
It was eight o’clock at night. I might live in Seattle, but I wasn’t a twenty-four hour a day coffee drinker. I did, however, want to see him.
Now? LOL Lobby cafe. Text me when you get here?
Holy shit. He wanted me to come to the hospital? He was okay with that? Was I okay with that? It was a big step in our fake relationship. How would he introduce me? Who would I say I was if someone asked? This fake relationship was supposed to be for people who weren’t going to see us everyday.
I mean, Angela knew, of course she did, but I hadn’t told anyone else about Edward. It wasn’t that I wanted to keep him secret, but I didn’t want to have to explain that he we were probably only dating until after the Fourth. Oh, and he was paying me. It was just easier for me not to talk about our relationship and keep it separate from reality for the time being. Going to the hospital to see him was setting off all kinds of alarms for me. I was excited and terrified—pretty much freaking out.
Angela came down the hall from her bedroom and grabbed a Heineken from the fridge, twisting the top off. She leaned on the breakfast bar and sipped her beer.
“What’s going on with you? You looked terrified.”
I looked down at the phone, then up at her. “He asked me to come have coffee with him. At the hospital.”
She took another drink then grinned at me. “What are you waiting for?”
“I don’t know. For a sign that it’s the right thing to do? This fake engagement is seeming increasingly real.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“What’s wrong with that? We hardly know each other! He’s paying me to meet his family!”
“Yeah, that part is kind of weird. But you two are pretty perfect for each other. You should pretend like the money isn’t really from him.”
“But it is.”
She groaned. “So what? Seriously, Bella, in this day and age it doesn’t matter how you meet someone, just that you do.”
“It doesn’t matter that he’s paying me to meet his family?”
“You’re pretty focused on that, aren’t you?” She set her beer down and sighed. “If it’s that big of a deal you should donate it to charity or something—they don’t care where the money comes from.”
Even though I’d been the one to bring it up, I didn’t want to think about the money, that wasn’t the issue at the moment. “You don’t think it’s weird he asked me to come to the hospital?”
“I think if he’s cool with it, you have no reason not to go.”
“What if I’m not cool with it?”
She rolled her eyes at me. “Why the fuck wouldn’t you be? Seriously. You’re starting to piss me off. Edward is hot. I don’t really know what’s going on between the two of you long term, but the bottom line is that, right now, he likes you. He asked you to come to his work for coffee, and unless I’m missing something, it’s not a big deal. Change your clothes, brush your teeth and go already.”
She was right, it was just coffee. Friends had coffee. I had coffee with her every morning. But out of everything she said I kept coming back to one phrase. I looked up at her and bit my lip, hesitating because I knew she was going to yell at me.
“You think he likes me?”
If he liked me too…that would make all of the difference in the world, but did he? I needed to figure that out.
Her laughter rang out through the living room. “You’re a dork. Yeah, I think he likes you, but I don’t know what that means. So go have coffee together and see if you can Nancy Drew it out of him.”
I snorted. “Nancy Drew is not a verb.”
“Do you teach English?” She eyed me with a bitch brow. “I didn’t think so. Now go.”
She always had a way of getting to the heart of the matter and she was completely right.
I gave her a nod, letting her know she’d talked me off the ledge, again. “Thanks, Ang.”
“No problem. What are best friends for?” She angled her beer at me before making her way back to her bedroom to do who knows what.
I thought about the times I’d spent with Edward as walked out to my car. We got along well and laughed a lot. He made me smile and really listened to me when I spoke. I was more comfortable with him than with some people who I’d known for years, that was for sure. And when we kissed…I hadn’t wanted to stop. Maybe he did want to be more than friends. Maybe I did too.
I took a deep breath and typed out a quick text to Edward.
Be there in 30 min.
I was going to Nancy Drew the shit out of him.
-x-o-x-Accidentally in Love-x-o-x-