Thursday, June 20, 2013 | By: Drotuno

Pieces of You Chapter 2 & Pics


Chapter 2 – Sad
Edward
Chicago, IL – May
My nostrils flared at the sound of Jane working in her studio downstairs. She tended to play the most obnoxious music when she painted – some techno-dance bullshit. My lip suddenly curled in hatred. Jane and I had always gotten along, even when things had fizzled out in the bedroom well over eighteen months ago. We’d learned to work really well together, simply because we’d had the same goals and ideas. But somewhere along the way, my needs, my goals had changed. They’d grown into something worthy and important. Her goals had simply stayed the same self-serving, egotistical, narcissistic...bullshit. It always was and always would be about Jane.
Now, I simply hated her – her personality, her voice, her looks, her incessant complaining, even the sound of her working. I hated her. Where I’d overlooked all that before, those were the things that were keeping me away from the one thing that had truly come to mean more to me than life itself.
Bella. My Sunshine.

Groaning, I pulled a pillow over my head to block out the music. I’d never been so...broken before than when I’d left Bella’s in the wee hours of the morning. And I’d never, ever blame her for any of it. I’d been drawn to her from the minute I’d laid eyes on her, and I’d been unable to stop myself. I was the married man, and I should’ve known better, but I’d loved Bella almost from the minute she’d set foot in my gallery.
Sitting up, I snatched my phone off my nightstand and sent Bella a quick text just to tell her I loved her. That wouldn’t stop. Ever. And even though I knew she’d lost patience with me, lost faith in me, nothing I’d ever told her was a lie.
Yes, I was trying to set up a place for my kids to continue with their art. Yes, I was trying to get away from Jane, but it was taking much longer than I’d expected. We were tied together by a pre-nuptial agreement and a contract with the gallery. If I asked for a divorce, I’d lose not only half of everything, but the gallery and my art classes. I didn’t give two shits about cars, or the house, or even the fucking gallery. But my kids had come to mean a lot to me, and I never wanted to let them down. And Jane’s father would do his damnedest to make sure I never worked in Chicago again if I divorced her. His backward ideals didn’t allow for divorce – though, his ass cheated on Jane’s mother every fucking chance he got. What I wanted was to wait until his term was up, when he’d have less power, but I couldn’t tell Bella that...since it was another year. And in all honesty, I wasn’t sure I wanted to wait either. The old man could just...bite me.
Glancing around the room that had been mine for over a year, I shook my head. It technically was the guest room, but I’d moved my things in ages ago. Jane had complained that I was too warm to sleep next to, that I kept her up, that her medication for depression was making her not want sex. All that had led to my surrender. There wasn’t even a fight. I’d just...moved out of the master bedroom.
Suddenly, I was just done. I needed out of the house before I snapped. I’d almost lost my mind on Jane when I’d pulled up in front of the bar and she’d been standing out front with the women she’d said she couldn’t find. Rose had looked like she wanted to kill her right on the spot, but she’d seen my face and knew that I’d just been destroyed by only person that had the power to do it. My temper had been out of control when Bella had sent me from her house, and Jane knew I was pissed. We’d barely spoken since that night.
My phone rang before I got out of bed, and even though I was disappointed that it wasn’t Bella, I answered anyway.
“Hey, Garrett, how’s New York?” I asked him, pressing my phone to my shoulder so I could pull on my jeans.
“Busy and loud, and thank fuck I’m almost done,” he said gruffly.
“Chicago is all those things,” I reminded him.
“True, but at least you guys are there...and my girls. God, I can’t wait to get back to Kate and Irina,” he sighed frustratedly, which made me smile because he’d told me in tenth grade that he was marrying Kate. “Anyway, I spoke to Kate, and then to Rose...and then to Emmett. I’m calling to tell you I’m in. Do it. Whatever you need, just do it. I’ll write you a blank check. My manager says it’ll be good PR, my agent wants to use it as a photo op, and I think you’ll do a fan-fucking-tastic job.”
I froze, almost dropping the phone. “You’re shittin’ me, right, Garrett?”
“Not a bit. Do it. And from what I hear, you need it.”
I groaned, my nose wrinkling. “What’d Rose tell you?”
“That you finally woke up and needed to get away from Jane the Pain.”
Snorting, I covered my mouth. “Shit, Gare...we haven’t called her that since high school.”
“Yes, we did. Just not around you. So set the whole thing up. This...this community center. I trust you completely. Call my assistant if you need anything, but keep it quiet until I’m done with this movie. Okay?”
“Y-Yeah, sure. Whatever you need.” I gripped my hair, still a little stunned. “Jesus...Thanks, Garrett.”
“Mmhm,” he hummed. “Edward, you okay, man?”
I took a deep breath and let it out. “I will be. You just gave me what I truly needed in order to...become okay.”
“Good. Get to work. I’ve got a love scene to film,” he said dryly.
“Break a leg,” I told him with a laugh.
“With this girl, that may just happen. Wish me luck,” he said, and then he was gone.
I stared at my phone for a moment, wishing like hell I’d hear from Bella, but I knew she not only needed time, but I had to prove myself. With quick swipes across the screen, I called the next best thing.
“Yo!” boomed out of my speaker.
“You’ve passed the bar exam, and you still answer with ‘Yo’?”
“Dude, caller ID,” Emmett stated. “What’s up, brother?”
“I need to talk to you. Like today, like now!” I told him.
“Come on over. Rosie’s here, though.”
“That’s fine. I’ll be there in less than an hour.”
“Ten-four.”
I finished getting dressed, listening intently to hear if the shitty music was still playing downstairs. It was. As quietly as I could, I stepped across the hall to the room we’d deemed as our home office. Jane rarely set foot in there, but what I needed was locked in the desk. Unlocking the bottom drawer, I shifted things around until I found the thumb drive I needed, pocketing it quickly and locking the drawer back.
When I looked up, Jane was standing in the doorway.
“I’m leaving for a bit,” I stated curtly, twirling my keys around my finger. “I’m heading to Emmett’s.”
“You’re coming back, right?” she asked, looking up at me with her big blue eyes. Her bottom lip quivered, her hands were clasped in front of her, and tears welled up.
Right at that moment, I knew what Bella had been trying to tell me. Jane was stronger than she played for me. It was an act, something I’d fallen for from the damn beginning. And suddenly, I wanted to know everything that Jane knew.
I sniffed nonchalantly, shrugged a shoulder, and said, “Probably. It’s my house, too.”
Not bothering to wait for her to respond, I walked down the stairs, out the front door, and dove into my car.
The whole way to my brother’s house, all I could think about was Bella. My hands gripped the steering wheel when I remembered her tears, her heartbreak, her telling me to get out. I saw all the mistakes I’d made from the minute I’d set eyes on her up to the night of the art show two days ago. Hell, my mistakes went all the way back to marrying Jane. I’d thought that I’d cared about her enough to make it work, but I realized I’d done it all for the wrong reasons. And now I had to pay for it. All of it. Unfortunately, my Sunshine had to pay, too, and that just didn’t seem fair. She’d paid enough, as far as I was concerned, by just being with me, loving me.
A strangled noise left me as I pulled to a stop at a light. Rubbing my face, I begged silently for God, Karma, anyone that would listen that she’d still love me after all this was over. I needed her too much. I’d been completely in the dark, skating through life blind, until that beautiful, sweet thing had practically fallen into my lap. But I hoped she’d continue to stay that strong thing she’d been since the beginning, because going to see Emmett meant I was about to unleash hell. On all of us.
I pulled into my brother’s driveway, smiling and shaking my head at the scene before me. Rosalie Cullen on a daily basis looked like she stepped right off the runway. She was a leggy blonde, with more confidence than most men. She didn’t come from the same background as the rest of us in school, but the very second Emmett had seen her slam dunk a basketball, he’d been head over heels for her. And she’d fit in with the rest of us just fine, though she rarely gave a shit about money or names or the society pages that we’d all grown used to in our lives. And at that moment, it looked like she was schooling him on HORSE.
Grinning at the string of curses that left Emmett’s mouth, I strolled over to watch his demise.
What do you mean...off the garage roof?!” he yelled, glaring at her smirking face when she shrugged.
“Off the fucking garage roof, Em. It doesn’t require an instruction manual. Do it, or take a letter,” she chortled, coming to stand beside me. “This is for E, end of game. I’ve so handed him his ass this round.”
I laughed at her, propping an arm on her shoulder. “How’d you make that shot?” I whispered to her.
“Pure fucking luck, but it sent Emmett into a tantrum of epic proportions,” she whispered back with a chuckle. “Was he like that as a little kid?”
“Yes.” I nodded once, thinking she had no idea. My baby brother may have only been a year younger than me at twenty-five, almost twenty-six, but he was so very fucking spoiled as a kid. I blamed our mother.
Emmett launched the ball into the air, but it hit the garage roof with a thunk, only to veer off wildly toward me. I caught it, grinning when more curses hit the air.
“Motherfuck, cocksucker, dammit!” he snarled, pointing to Rose. “We’re going again later.”
Rose rolled her eyes to me. “Whatever. Anyway...how you doing? You okay?”
My nose wrinkled, but I nodded solemnly. “I’m okay. I just...” I breathed heavily through my nose. “I need her back. And I need you and Emmett to help me.”
She studied my face, her blue eyes warm. “Well, come on in. Let’s see what we can do.”
Rose poured me a cup of coffee while the two of them downed bottles of water, but when we were all sitting at their kitchen table, I slid the thumb drive toward my brother.
“What’s this?” he asked, holding it up.
“Everything. It’s every contract, every bill, every page of my pre-nup, even the mortgage to my house. I need you to go through it. All of it. I need a loophole, an out, a valid reason to divorce her. And then...I want you to draw those up, too. I’m hiring you.”
Rose grinned, but looked over to Emmett. The only sound that could be heard for a few seconds was the hum of the refrigerator.
Emmett’s eyes widened, but he sniffed, locking his eyes on me. “Mom’ll be pissed. She wants grandbabies. And she’s always wanted you and Jane...”
I scoffed and waved him off. “I’m not telling anyone anything outside of this room for the moment.”
“What about your art center? She’ll take it...”
“It’s covered. Just got my backer this morning. You’ll know soon enough who it is. You’ll draw up that contract, too, but I can’t say just yet,” I told him, mentally thinking I needed to name my firstborn after Garrett. I grimaced – maybe not.
“Why me? Why not Dad?” he countered, looking confused.
Dad is...biased. He’s too close to Marcus. You...” I pointed to him. “You’ll have my back. My back. No one else’s.”
That’s true,” he murmured, eyeing the thumb drive. He got up, left the room, but came back quickly with his laptop, booting it up. “Marcus will hand you your ass, Ed. It was his start-up money that opened Sterling. And then...if you’ve...if there’s another... Are you cheating?”
I looked to Rose, shocked that she hadn’t told him, but she shook her head. I sat back in the chair, folding my arms across my chest.
“I was...am...it’s complicated,” I stammered, frowning at how much that hurt. “You’re my lawyer, so everything I tell you is in confidence, but... I love her, Em. I have to fix this. I owe her that. She’s... I’ve hurt her, and I never meant to, but...”
I told him everything. All of it. From the very beginning, including how I felt about Jane. I told him of meeting Bella for that article about my art classes, how Jane had hated the fact that none of it had been about her, about how the second Bella had brought the rough draft of the article back to me, I was lost to her. Just completely done. Bella had been sweet and smart and witty. She’d flirted and laughed, and her photos were better than just about any art on the walls of my gallery, but she was too shy, too reserved to even acknowledge it. And she was so fucking beautiful that it hurt to look at her.
I explained how I’d tried to fight it, but it was next to impossible. And I told him that I’d tried to be honest with Bella, but it had all backfired. It all sounded like lies, but they weren’t. I’d tried to talk to Jane about a possible separation, but it had sent her into a panic attack. I’d tried to talk to Dad about divorce, but he’d told me to work it out with my wife, that too many were counting on us to succeed.
Finally, I spoke about every phone call, every interruption. Before Bella, Jane didn’t care where I went, or for how long, but I’d found myself on a very short leash the last few months. At that point, Rose’s eyes shot up from the computer in front of Emmett to lock onto me.
“What?” I asked her.
“So...wait. You’re telling me she’d call you?” she asked, huffing a frustrated sigh when I nodded. “So the night of the art show, the night the girls and I took her out...that wasn’t the first time she’s called you, flipping the fuck out?”
“Hell no!” I scoffed, rolling my eyes. “It’s like she knows. Bella tried to tell me, but I didn’t believe her. And Bella said she’s acting...like she’s faking it all, and you know what? I saw it today.”
Rose’s eyes narrowed further. “You know, the night of the art show, she couldn’t stay off her damn phone...”
“Yeah, but she said she left her shit in Tanya’s car,” I countered.
“No, she didn’t. She’d study that damn phone and then drink some more. Give me your phone,” she ordered, and I pulled it out, unlocking it for her. “When was the last time Jane touched this thing?”
“She hasn’t. Not that I know of.”
“Yet you lock it,” she said with a chuckle, touching the screen over and over. “She had to have touched it, Edward. She’s tracking you with the same app that Tanya used on that ex-boyfriend of hers.” She held up the screen to show me.
“Well, fuck! Give it here. I’ll remove it.”
“No way!” She laughed evilly. “See...she fucked up. You can track her, too.” When I looked at her with what was most likely complete confusion, she continued, though her tone softened. “Look, Edward... Let her think she’s still tracking you. But right now, you won’t be going to Bella’s, so it’s perfect. Where was Jane when you left?”
“Home.”
“Not now,” she said with a grin, holding up the phone again. “Right now, she’s at the next door neighbor’s house. Isn’t that the really hot DILF next door?”
Frowning, I nodded. Jacob Black was an architect for the city of Chicago. He and his wife, Leah, who was a nurse for Mercy, were of American Indian descent. He did really well for himself and worked from home, which allowed him time to take care of their two school-age children, Embry and Quil.
“What the fuck is a DILF?” Emmett piped up from behind his computer.
“Dad I’d like to fuck,” Rose answered with a laugh, shoving his shoulder with her own. “Shut up and work.” She turned back to me. “You may not be the only unfaithful one, Edward. That may work in your favor. You just have to move quickly. And...send in a few spies.”
Her grin was hilarious, and I couldn’t help but laugh. “Tanya? Kate?”
“Absolutely!”
I pinched the bridge of my nose, only to slide my hands into my hair. “Jesus, do you all hate her? And fuck, why didn’t anyone tell me?”
Rose laughed. “Because you’d have never listened, Edward. You can be quite stubborn, you know. Plus, you had all the parents whispering in your ear about success and funding and all that bullshit.”
Grimacing, I nodded and turned to my brother. “So you’ll help me?”
He nodded, breaking his gaze away. “Yeah. I’ll help you. I can’t promise this will be easy.”
Standing up, I said, “I know. Just... I have to get Bella back, and I have to get this art center underway. Anything after that is inconsequential.”
He nodded once solemnly. “I’ll call you when I know something.”
~PoY~
Chicago, IL – June
“Mr. Edward!” Sarah called from the door of my office, and I smiled up at her from my phone where I had been monitoring Jane’s movements. “I made you somethin’!”
“Well, come here, pretty girl. Let’s see,” I said, having to practically catch her when she rushed to me. I grinned down at the plethora of color on the page. It was blues, greens, and yellows, all swirled together. “Hmm,” I hummed, eyeing her teasingly. “Umm...a camel?”
“No!” she called out, laughing so hard that her head fell back. “It’s happy thoughts...like Peter Pan. ’Cause you look...sad.”
My brow wrinkled at just how intuitive she was. Standing up, I dropped a kiss to the top of her head. I was probably biased as all hell when it came to Sarah, but she was my assistant’s, James’s, little sister. And she was the reason I started the special needs class in the first place. He’d brought her school to the gallery for a tour, and I’d fallen for her and all of her classmates instantly. Little Sarah had changed my life, how I saw art, and my reasons to keep going.
“I am, but you know what?” I asked her.
“What?” she whispered like it was a secret.
“This made everything much better, Miss Sarah,” I told her and then pinned the picture to my wall next to a thousand other pictures that had been given to me from my kids. “Now...let’s get you back to class before James panics.”
She giggled, which was like a balm to my very, very achy soul. I’d been missing Bella with a complete madness lately, but at least she hadn’t cut me out of her life. She’d answer my calls and texts, and she seemed supportive of the emails where I’d been telling her what steps I’d been taking. I couldn’t tell her everything, just simply to keep her innocent in it all, but I told her what I could. I’d even told her I’d gotten a lawyer, but I hadn’t told her it was my brother.
Once I guided Sarah back to the art class, I locked gazes with James. “I’m gonna cut out early, man. Can you lock up when class is over?”
“Yeah, sure,” he replied, giving me a wave from over his desk. “Oh...and we’re almost packed up,” he stated, gesturing to the supply closet in the corner that was stacked with a mountain of boxes.
Smiling, I nodded. James would be the director of the art center. No one would ever be a better fit. He was perfect, really. He was calm, laidback, and patient with the students, had a history of working with children, and he’d majored in art, with a minor in special education. The latter was all due to Sarah. I was turning it all over to him as soon as it opened, which I was hoping would be by the end of the month. We still had to sign the lease, get it renovated, and announce who was funding it all. I was waiting on Garrett’s go-ahead. Not to mention, I still needed a few more teachers and volunteers, but I was pretty sure those would come once we were open. James had suggested college students, so I was letting him set that in motion.
I walked back to my office, sent Bella a message that I loved her and was thinking about her, and then locked up for the day. She didn’t reply, but she usually didn’t when I said the words anymore. At first, I’d been devastated, thinking she was pushing me away, but when I truly thought about it, I understood it. To say the words back would hurt. Saying those words back to me would mean everything was okay, and it wasn’t. One day, I hoped it would be, but not at the moment.
My drive home was quick, but I had a wretched headache by the time I pulled into my driveway. I immediately went in search of something to take, especially when I heard the music blaring from Jane’s studio. If anyone had something for headache, it would be Jane, so I trekked into the master bathroom to rummage through her medicine cabinet. What didn’t expect to find was my wife, sitting on the side of the tub, with streams of tears coursing down her face. But it was what was in her hand that made me freeze. A pregnancy test.
Oh, this was way too good to be true. Leaning against the door frame, I crossed my arms over my chest.
“Immaculate conception...dear?” I sneered, seeing the two pink lines from where I was standing.
She gasped, her gaze snapping to mine, and I could see she was absolutely terrified, but she’d just handed me my out on a silver fucking platter.
“Can’t be mine,” I sang, shaking my head.
“Edward!” she breathed, her entire body shaking. “I didn’t...I mean... This was...not supposed to happen.”
I snorted. “It’s amazing what can happen when someone sticks their dick in you... And it wasn’t my dick.”
“Don’t be crass, Edward,” she snapped.
“See...you don’t get to tell me what to do anymore...as of right now,” I told her, pushing away from the door. “I’ll be moving out...today.” I held my phone up. “I’m not the only one that can track someone’s whereabouts. Does Jacob know he’s gonna be a daddy...again?”
“You fucking hypocrite!” she snarled, throwing the pregnancy test at me. “You think you’re so slick. You’ve been fucking around for ages!”
I bent over, picked up the little white stick, and smiled as I tossed it up in the air and caught it, pocketing it quickly. Leaning closer to her shocked face, I sneered, “Prove it.”
~PoY~
Chicago, IL – July
I groaned, pulling the pillow over my head when my phone rang way too early on Tuesday. This was supposed to be my day to sleep in, to go into the gallery later. It took a moment for me to realize who, what, and where I was. The fog took forever to clear from my late night and too many beers with Emmett the night before. I scrambled for the phone, but it was too late.
“Shit!” I hissed, seeing that it had been Bella. “Oh, baby...please answer...” I pleaded to my empty room in my brother’s house.
“Hey.” Her voice sounded relieved and like fucking heaven.
“Sunshine.” I sagged back to the pillows. “Jesus, I’m sorry. I’ve been so busy. The art center is kicking my ass. Getting it ready, making sure it’s in the right location, that I’ve got enough people to run it...”
Her laugh was soft and sexy. “Good for you, then. That type of busy is okay.”
I chuckled, but took a deep breath to tell her why I’d been so out of touch lately. “I’ve moved in with Emmett and Rose, Bella.”
“What?”
“Yeah...that’s the other reason I haven’t gotten in touch with you. I’ve been slowly separating from Jane,” I murmured, not wanting to tell her about the pregnancy just yet because Emmett was doing his damnedest to start my divorce. I wanted to surprise Bella when I had the bare-bones truth in my hand. “I’m sorry.”
“You’re serious?” she gasped, sounding completely taken aback.
“Dead serious. You asked for me to be free. I’m doing the best I fucking can, Sunshine. I love you. I mean that.” I tried to convey everything I felt for her, just how hard I was busting my ass to give her what she wanted. But she was so quiet for so long that I had to pull the phone away to make sure we were still connected. “Baby, you still there?”
“Yeah, Edward. I want...”
My heart hurt, because I could hear her struggle, her need, but I couldn’t do a fucking thing about it at the moment except tell her it was all okay. “I know. I get it, Bella. But know I’m trying, okay?”
“Okay.”
I heard the emotion in her voice. She thought she was hiding it, and she was doing a hell of a job, but she couldn’t hide from me.
“You okay, sweetheart?” I asked her softly.
“I will be, Edward. Just... Time?”
“Whatever you need, baby. I swear it’s yours.”
By Sunday afternoon, I was feeling pretty hopeful as I bounded downstairs to grab something to eat. Living with my brother and Rose wasn’t all that bad. They left me alone for the most part, but I usually slept in on Sundays and fended for myself food-wise.
But when I walked into the kitchen to see my brother’s pale, worried face, I froze mid-step, glancing over to Rose, who looked like she was just about to commit a felony.
“What?” I asked, and Rose slid a section of newspaper my way. “What is it?” I whispered. “Just fucking tell me.”
“I can’t even...” Rose abruptly stood up from the table, snatched up the paper, and forced it into my hand.
I didn’t know what I was expecting – someone’s arrest or an obituary or a paparazzi scandal with Garrett – but what I saw never even crossed my mind. The headline alone wasn’t even processing correctly.
Young Art Moguls Announce An Impending Arrival
“Oh, no...” I barely breathed, looking to Rose. “No, no, no! She didn’t...”
“She did... Or her daddy did,” Rose accused with her lip curled in hatred. “Doesn’t he have friends at that paper?”
I slammed the paper down onto the kitchen table. “That’s not my fucking kid!” I yelled, gripping my hair. “And the whole world will fucking know it as soon as it’s born! Why?!”
Emmett jumped, but he looked just as pissed as I was. He stood up so quickly that his chair fell backwards. “Ed...we need to serve her. Like now. And we can ask for a paternity test to prove you’re not the father.”
“That’s nine fucking months from now!”
“Maybe not. We’ve had judges order them to perform one in the early stages of pregnancy,” Emmett explained, spinning his computer around. “I’ve been studying your pre-nup. If either of you cheats, then all the assets go back to you. You keep everything you brought to the table. That includes Sterling, Edward.”
I waved him off, shaking my head. “We both cheated. Jane knew. All they’d have to do is subpoena Bell...” And then...it hit me, like a fucking freight train: That was Bella’s newspaper. “Fuck...” I hissed, fumbling for my phone and dialing her number.
The number you have reached is no longer in service. If you feel you’ve reached this message in error, please check the number...”
My heart plummeted into my stomach, and my hands braced themselves on the chair in front of me. Rose snatched my phone from my fingers and listened to the message, only to spin me around.
“Go! You know where she lives. Go to her! Now, Edward!” she ordered, pushing at me until my mind finally kicked into gear.
My feet were the last to catch up, and I bolted up the stairs, grabbed my keys and wallet, and ran right back down. I stopped at the door of the kitchen.
“I want this over, Emmett. Do whatever it is you have to do, and I don’t give a fuck what I lose or what I have to pay. Just get that bitch out of my life!”
“Already on it, bro!”
The entire drive to Bella’s place, I tried her number over and over. Finally, I called her office, thinking they could at least get a message to her. I asked for the writer that had made an appearance with Bella the night of the art show, Angela Weber.
“This is Angela,” she answered her extension.
“Angela, this is Edward Cullen,” I said, weaving through traffic.
“Oh, Mr. Cullen! I hear congratulations are in order...”
“Angela,” I groaned, feeling like a shit for interrupting her, “I really need to speak with Bella Swan. I’ve been trying to get in touch with her.”
“Um, I’m sorry, but Bella Swan put in her notice on Friday afternoon, Mr. Cullen. She didn’t even give two weeks. She just packed up her desk and left,” she explained.
“Ah, fuck.” I pounded my head back against the headrest. “Please tell me she left forwarding information...”
“No, sir. Nothing.”
I ended the call without even telling the poor girl thank you, but I was afraid it would simply come out as sobbing. The closer I got to Bella’s house, the more dread seemed to fill my chest. When I screeched into her driveway, her car wasn’t there, and there was one I didn’t recognize in its place. An older woman stepped out of the front door, smiling my way.
“Are you here to see the house?” she asked, holding out her hand. “I’m Charlotte. I own the place.”
I shook her hand, but grimaced a little. “Actually, I was looking for Miss Swan.”
“Oh, dear,” she gasped, glancing over her shoulder to the house and then back to me. “I’m afraid Miss Swan moved out. Rather quickly, I might add. I was showing the place today.”
Rubbing my face with my hands in order to stop myself from completely falling apart, I then gripped my hair. “You... Um, do you know where she went?”
“Are you family?” she asked, but her brow wrinkled.
“Um, no ma’am. I’m...” Fuck, what the hell was I? The guy that had finally pushed her passed her limit, that’s what I was. “I’m a...friend.”
It was the easiest answer and one that left me standing in front of the poor woman with a bad taste in my mouth. I tried to smile, but the sob I’d been fighting finally escaped.
“Gracious. Are you okay?”
I pressed the heels of my hands into my eyes, but I nodded. “Yeah, I’m okay. Have you rented it yet?”
“No. Did you want to see it?”
“No.” I shook my head. “I don’t need to,” I told her, reaching for my wallet. “I’ll take it.”

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