Wednesday, March 18, 2015 | By: Drotuno

Man Behind the Mask Chapter 8 & Pics

Chapter 8 – Figure it Out
Broke my shoe, tripped and fell on you
But you didn't know I planned it out
I said I'd go, cause I won't see you later
And we're not allowed to figure it out

Nothing here to see
Just a kid like me
Trying to cut some teeth
Trying to figure it out

Nothing better to do
When I'm stuck on you
I'm still in here trying to figure it out
“Figure it Out” – Royal Blood
Can I see you before I leave tomorrow?
The smile that curled my lips as I read Edward’s text couldn’t be stopped if I tried. It spread across my face slowly, causing a chuckle from Tori.
“Is he sexting you?!” she squealed, running from one side of my bar to where I was standing at the other end.
“What? No!” I scoffed, typing back that I was right downstairs at work, but I tucked my phone away before she could snag a peek. I laughed at her pleading face. “We’ve been on one date, Tori, and it was dinner at my apartment with my little brother.”
She looked at me like I was lying or crazy, but even though she’d seen him a hundred times in the bar since he’d moved into the apartment upstairs, she still saw him as Masen. She had no idea that he wasn’t the persona he projected all the time. Or maybe she did but chose to objectify him anyway. I understood it, simply because he was gorgeous. It was easy to get wrapped up in his looks, his slow, sexy half-smile. His quiet nature made him a mystery to people who didn’t know him.
The phone bleeped from my pocket, and Tori stared at me until I sighed, pulling it out. I had to spin, duck, and weave to keep his message to myself.
I’m not home, but I will be in like five minutes. Meet me in the alley, angel. Please?
I quickly closed the screen, turning to face a very disappointed Tori.
“You really like him,” she stated, pouting a little but grinning back over her shoulder when she got back to washing beer mugs. We weren’t all that busy, but we never really were on Sunday nights. “Seriously, Bella. You do, don’t you?” She served a pitcher of beer to a table full of businessmen staying at the hotel around the corner – the same hotel Edward had been staying when he stumbled into my bar the first time. “I remember you and Garrett together, boss, and you never got all…” She gestured up and down my body. “All…I don’t know…swoony over him. You…this guy…he makes you swoony.”
Laughing, I shook my head, but the girl was right. Edward was…different. It wasn’t his fame or looks or anything that everyone saw. It was the sweet things that only I saw that made me crazy about him.
After our date Friday night, I fell asleep to the sounds of Edward playing the piano. It was different than the first time he’d played for me. This time, I could tell he was writing. And it was beautiful and soulful – there was a touch of hope to it, where most of the time his music was heavier. Saturday had proven to be a busy day for him. He’d been called to the studio to rerecord a song – he’d been pretty pissed that something had gone wrong the first time – so I barely saw him. Today, the poor thing was running around trying to get packed and ready to leave for L.A. for a few days.
“Bella?” Tori asked laughingly, coming back to stand in front me.
“Yeah,” I finally answered her in a whisper, wrinkling my brow. “I do like him.”
Tori grinned, bouncing a little on her toes. “Good! ’Cause he’s crazy about you. Every time he’s here, his eyes are on you. Not a single other person but you.”
Smirking, I nodded but pointed to the bar. “You okay for a minute?”
“Yeah, yeah…sure.”
I walked through the kitchen door, grabbing my jacket on the way out the back. I’d barely had time to pull it on before strong, warm arms wrapped around me from behind.
“That’d better be you, Edward, or I’m about to get mugged,” I teased him with a grin, because his smell surrounded me. It was uniquely Edward – leather from his jacket, a touch of woodsy scent, and a light splash of cologne. It was deliciously perfect and clean and not overdone.
His chuckle was deep and so damn sexy, and it pushed his breath out against my neck, causing my skin to practically crawl as his hands started to move. “Well, let’s see… You got anything worth stealing, beautiful?”
I wanted to tell him that he’d most likely already stolen my heart, but I thought better of it. It was no less true, but he was so nervous about us as it was that it would probably scare him.
“Not on me,” I finally answered, trying my best not to let my eyes roll back into my head when his hands skimmed over every inch of me beneath my jacket – up my sides, across my stomach, just barely beneath my breasts. I felt his smile against my neck before he opened his mouth to place a long, slow kiss there.
Reaching back, I slipped my fingers into his hair, only to turn my head and pull his mouth to mine. Damn, the man could kiss. He kissed like he played music – with a fiery passion, his whole soul, his hands everywhere, and with his heart right there on the surface of things. I wasn’t even sure he knew he was like that, but I could see it, and I wanted to guard it with everything I had. It was just another glaring difference between Edward and the persona, Masen.
He pulled away from my lips just long enough to spin me to face him, cupping my face so gently. “You got a minute? Can you come upstairs?”
Grinning, I nodded a little. “Yeah, Tori’s got the bar, but I can’t leave her by herself for too long.”
“No, no…just a few minutes. Believe me, I wish I had more time, but…” His smile was crooked and sexy and spoke of untold dirty things of which he was probably more than capable. Threading our fingers together, he led us to the stairs, where he used his free hand to pick up a few plastic bags that he’d left on the bottom step.
Once inside his apartment, he dropped the bags on his bed alongside his partially packed bag.
“You look almost ready,” I pointed out, smiling at his shrug. “What time’s your flight in the morning?”
“Want some help?”
He chuckled deeply, shaking his head. “No. C’mere,” he said, leading me to the sofa. He sat down, pulling me between his legs. “I need to tell you… You might see…” He sighed heavily, his forehead falling to my stomach. “Bella, we’re supposed to have a photo shoot while we’re there, and we’ll be attending some sort of…thing.”
I raked my fingers through his hair as he mumbled into my stomach. Dropping a kiss to the top of his head and inhaling deeply, I said, “A thing, huh?”
He laughed, pulling back to gaze up at me. “Some charity concert thing that Rose and Aro added us onto at the last minute. Anyway…I just… If you see…”
“Stop, Edward.” I hushed him by pressing my lips to his briefly. “I’m well aware that you’ve got a job to do.” When he nodded, I asked, “Will you be gone longer, then?”
“No, angel. I’ll be back on Thursday as planned.”
“Well, that’s good.” I laughed a little. “I’ll miss you plenty as it is.”
Dear God, the smile that graced his handsome face was so damned beautiful. He was such a mix of rugged and hard, with his scruffy face, colorful ink, and hair that looked like he’d just pulled an all-night sex marathon. But combined with his almost boyish smile, gorgeous green eyes, and that tempting-as-all-hell blush, he was breathtaking.
“I don’t want to go.” His voice was firm, a little raspy. “I have no choice, though.”
“It’s okay. I’ll be here when you get back.”
He nodded, letting out a deep breath. “Promise me…whatever bullshit you see, you’ll ask me about it before believing it.”
“I promise.” I giggled the vow, but I understood his concern. “What? Will you be draped in women or something?”
“Oh God, there’s no telling. And Aro likes to drop hints to the paps, so…”
“That’s cruel,” I muttered, trailing my finger across the wrinkle between his heavy brow. “You hate that shit.”
“I know, but I’ll live.”
“This Aro sounds like an opportunistic, money-hungry asshole,” I grumbled, folding my arms across my chest. “I mean, I get certain aspects of your situation are…staged, but come on!”
“Shit, you’re so fucking hot when you’re pissed…” He placed his hands on either side of my face and kissed me until I relented, allowing him to pull me astride his lap. His tongue caused my thought process to completely vanish, but he pulled away too soon. “I may have to make you angry with me just to see that shit aimed my way.” He grinned when I laughed. “It’s okay, baby. Just…not much longer. And you’re right about Aro; he is all those things, but this is our last album with him, or at least under this specific contract.”
He touched my face, my arms, my hair the entire time he spoke, almost as if he was trying to brush away my temper.
“Speaking of contracts,” I started, toying with the button on his shirt, simply to peek at the ink splashed across his chest. My fingers trailed the words “Thicker Than Water” over and over, and I wondered what caused such a permanent and concrete declaration of his loyalty to his family. “Rose was here this morning, and we went over what you guys are gonna do in the bar when you get back. And…” I swallowed back the emotions with what I was about to ask. “Are you… You’re really going to perform one of my dad’s songs?”
Edward smiled warmly. “If it hurts you, then no. But Jasper and I wanted to…we thought it fitting, not to mention we really love Charlie’s music. We don’t have to, angel.”
“No, no,” I whispered, blinking to stop the stinging in my eyes. “I think…I think he’d really love that you’re doing it. And you… Your voice would be…amazing on it.”
“Oh, she told you which song?”
I nodded. “Yeah. Did you know that one was about me?”
Edward grinned. “No shit? Now I really need to sing it.”
I merely shook my head because I couldn’t imagine just how absolutely perfect that would sound. Despite Radiant Eclipse’s heavy genre, Edward’s voice was gorgeous. Honestly, he could sing anything, never mind how talented Jasper was on lead guitar.
“You’re upset… Shit, I… We won’t, Bella.” He reached up and caught the tears that had leaked from my eyes.
“No! Not at all. I just…” I sighed, smiling a little. “I miss him, so hearing you sing it would make me very happy.”
He visibly relaxed at that, a hint of pink coloring his cheeks. “Okay.”
That blush, that undeniably adorable blush, made me lean in and kiss him. When Tanya had pointed out Edward’s sweet tell, I’d started watching for it. It was rare, and it happened at times I wouldn’t have expected with Edward, considering all he’d done and seen in his life, but I had noticed that it was more with me than anyone else.
Our kiss was slow, deep, making me practically melt into him, but when we both pulled away, I smiled down at him. “I need to get back to the bar, and you have packing to do.”
He groaned like a belligerent teen. “Dammit.”
I giggled at him, fighting his grasp on me as I stood up from his lap. “You’ve got time, Edward, so come down when you’re done, if you want. You’ll have earned a beer.”
He laughed but stood up to guide me to his door. “Yes, ma’am.”
On the way out, I caught sight of a few framed pictures I that were new, and I stopped in front of the bookshelf.
“My family,” he said softly, pointing to each person. “Mom, Dad, Emmett, and me… That was…oh hell, ten years ago? These are more recent…Christmas a couple years back.”
Nodding, I studied the pictures. I could see where Edward and Emmett got their looks. Both were handsome and built like their father, tall with broad shoulders, though Emmett was a bit thicker, more muscular. Edward got his eye and hair color from their mom. They were a beautiful family. However, when I faced Edward, his face had taken on that dark look again.
“There’s something you’re not telling me,” I whispered, kissing his lips to let him know I wasn’t pushing.
“Jesus, Bella… It’s such a long, fucked-up story. I will, but can I do it when I get back?”
“You don’t have to…”
He kissed me roughly, pressing his forehead to mine. “I really do, and I really want you to know, but I know it’ll take time to tell you. And it’s important that it stay between us.”
Nodding, I smiled. “Okay.” I pulled him behind me on my way to the door.
“Can I… Can I call you while I’m away?”
“Absolutely. In fact, I’d be upset if you didn’t,” I told him, receiving another award-winning kiss.
“Yeah?” he asked in a breathy whisper against my lips.
Grinning, I nodded. “Yeah.”
He guided me out the door, saying, “Well, we can’t have that. I may take you up on the beer, angel. See you in a few.”
I could see how tired he was, how he wasn’t looking forward to this trip at all, and it wouldn’t surprise me or hurt my feelings if the poor thing crashed tonight before having to get up way early.
“If I don’t see you,” I started, kissing his cheek, “have a safe trip, Edward.”
“Hey, B! Your boyfriend’s on TV,” Mike called out from the other side of the bar.
We weren’t quite open yet, and he was doing his homework while I checked inventory. My head snapped up so fast from the list of boxes Garrett was checking in that my neck creaked a little. My eyes drank in the sight of the person I’d been missing. It actually shocked me just how much I missed Edward since he’d left three days ago. He was due back tonight, and he couldn’t get here quickly enough. Though, I had to admit, talking to a sleepy, sexy Edward on the phone while he hid away in his hotel room was way too addictive. He was funny and silly, making fun of all the strange L.A. people he’d come into contact with over the last couple of days, and we’d talked about anything and nothing.
Occasionally, he’d sneak a picture on his phone, sending it with some random comment. I think my favorite was the selfie he took with Emmett, who was sleeping so hard in a meeting that he was drooling, and attached to it was the text, Some bodyguard, huh?
However, up on the TV that my brother was now turning up was Masen…not my Edward. He was in full work mode, and the gossip show was discussing the photo shoot for Radiant Eclipse’s new album cover. His face was almost cold, a little conceited, and a whole lot sexy. And even though I’d teased him about being draped in women for the pictures, I had to admit that seeing it come to fruition made me a touch jealous. Although, his expression was so detached from it all that I knew poor Edward was hating every second of it, and I noted he wasn’t the only one – both Alec and Jasper were pretty stoic in the pictures, as well.
The show went on to show more clips of the band getting their pictures taken, a few shots of them arriving via limo, not to mention a quick spot of them arriving at a club the night they’d arrived – that one was conspicuously missing Edward in it, and I knew for a fact he’d been at his hotel room talking to me. The last was the concert from the previous evening, where Radiant Eclipse was a surprise performance, much to the audience’s glee. It was a cancer awareness concert, and they sounded amazing, playing a couple of older songs and one new one that they’d announced would be on the new album coming soon. The guys had sounded good, and Masen had worked the crowd, the women in the front row, and the camera with his usual bold and sexy nature.
“What a fucking prick that guy is,” I heard from the door to the kitchen, and I looked up to see Garrett glaring at the TV with a scowl on his face.
“Jealous much, dude?” Mike laughed, but Garrett ignored him. “Masen’s all right. He’s actually pretty…normal. What’choo so pissed off for? I thought you were seeing some chick you met online.”
“Not online…you little shit,” Garrett snapped, rolling his eyes. “My class reunion…we’ve been chatting online, though,” he mumbled, shrugging a shoulder.
My eyebrows shot up at that, but I merely smiled, going back to the show. I frowned at the street shots that the paparazzi had snagged of Edward, Jasper, and Jacob, along with Emmett as protection. It looked like they were simply trying to get to a restaurant or club, but they’d been ambushed by not only photographers, but female fans, as well. I had to grin when the door of the limo opened again and long legs and beautiful faces appeared. Tanya and Kate, the former carrying what looked to be a bottle of Jack Daniels, walked straight to Edward and wrapped themselves around him. Jasper was joined by Alice, and Jacob flirted with a few of the fans. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve been unnerved at the blatant touching, the drinking, and the salacious aura Edward was giving off, but Tanya and Kate were fantastic.
“What the fuck do you see in that guy, Bella?” Garrett asked, taking the chair across from me.
“Actually, Garrett,” I started, tearing my gaze away from the show as the credits rolled, “there’s more than just what you see.”
“He’s gonna fuck you over, baby. I would…”
“Don’t call me that, Gare. I’m asking nicely,” I reprimanded him, but I folded my arms on top of my paperwork and looked him dead in the eye. “I get this…thing you’re doing, but I don’t need it.” When he didn’t say anything, I asked, “Who’s the online girl?”
He smirked, leaning back in the chair. “What? You care?”
“We’re friends, Garrett. Of course, I care.”
“Maggie. She’s…I knew her a long time ago. Seeing her again…was good.”
I studied my ex for a moment, finally breaking into a smile. “Good for you.”
“She wants the whole shebang, Bella,” he admitted, fiddling with papers in front of him. “Marriage, kids…” He trailed off, but I could hear the accusatory tone in his voice.
“I want those things, too.”
“Just not with me,” he tacked on to the end.
“Garrett,” I groaned, and I rubbed my face in frustration. “It wouldn’t have worked, sweetie. We wouldn’t have worked…not like that.”
I despised hurting him, so I refused to reiterate how settled and boring we’d become at the end, and the mere thought of tying myself to that through marriage and children would have been a huge mistake, especially when I knew for a fact he’d felt the same. I knew he’d never cheat. It simply wasn’t the way he worked, and I knew he cared about me, because he’d stuck by my side the entire process of my dad’s death. Despite the fact that I cared about him, it wasn’t enough. And his kisses never lit me on fire the way that Edward’s kisses did. That alone told me so much.
“I know,” he groaned, shaking his head, but he cracked a small smile. “I know that, sweet girl. Now, anyway. I didn’t want to hear it, but…”
Narrowing my eyes at him, I broke into a light chuckle. “Someone’s in love.”
“I’m not the only one, apparently,” he noted sarcastically, pointing a finger my way. “Watch yourself, Bella.”
“He’s not what you see, Garrett.” I shook my head but cracked a smile when my phone vibrated across the table. Edward’s handsome face lit up the screen, and I answered it on speakerphone. “Hey…there’s the party animal.”
Edward’s snort of disgust echoed through the bar, and Mike laughed a little from his stool.
“Such bullshit, angel,” he stated. “Let me guess… You saw that damn show.”
“We were all watching it,” I told him. “I think I won some sort of bet about your photo shoot.”
“Yeah, you did,” he sighed deeply. “I’ll show you the proofs when I get back, Bella. They’re not bad, but I had to fight to stay dressed. You wouldn’t believe what they wanted us to do. Just…no. The show was the best part of this trip, though. We were able to raise close to twenty grand with just our appearance.”
“Nice!” I praised him, eyeing Garrett. “And the club?”
“Another paid appearance, baby. That’s all. Luckily, Tanya and Kate were able to help us out, and they wanted to go dancing anyway. Though, they got a little trashed…okay, a lot trashed. And they started making out on the dance floor; Jasper and I had to get them out. They said to tell you hello, by the way,” he said with a light laugh. “And that they’ll gladly – and I quote – ‘swat away the clingy fame-whores just for you.’”
I couldn’t help but laugh, taking the phone off speaker and saying, “Tell them hello…and thank you.” I laughed even harder when I heard him call out over the phone; even funnier were the yells and cheers back to me. “Where are you?”
Edward laughed softly. “The airport. We’re getting ready to head back to Seattle. I just… I… I missed you.”
“Me, too.”
“Are you closing tonight?”
“I am, and by myself, at that. Tori has the night off and Garrett apparently has a hot date,” I said with a cheesy smile Garrett’s way, but he rolled his eyes as he got up, shaking the inventory pages at me before going into the back.
“Good. He needs someone…”
Grinning, I shook my head at the testosterone I was having to endure today. “Yes, I agree.”
“He was listening, I take it,” Edward sighed with a laugh.
“Uh, yeah… You should know that your publicity works on most people. He wasn’t pleased with your display.”
“He won’t be the last, Bella,” he warned.
“You still expect me to run.”
He was quiet for a moment. “No, I don’t think so, but it’s a worry, angel. And this was the easy part… Going on tour will be…fucking hard. We got the list of cities…”
“I own my bar, Edward. I can take time off.”
“Don’t fucking tease, Bella…”
I laughed because if I didn’t, I’d beg him to keep talking dirty to me. “I’m not teasing, so…come home. We’ll talk about it.”
“O-Okay,” he stuttered. “The flight’s just under three hours, and I’m supposed to go to a meeting…”
“I’ll be here.”
We said our goodbyes, and I hung up just in time for my mother to pick up Mike. She was busy on the phone, making plans for something or other, so she didn’t stay long. I helped Garrett put away the bottles he was taking out of the boxes that had just come in, and he left not long after. It would be a quiet night, but I had music, TV, and paperwork to keep me occupied.
A few guests from the hotel came in for a quick drink but departed after leaving me a healthy tip. I was halfway through a train-wreck of a reality show when the door opened again. Edward was due to land any minute, and I wouldn’t see him for another couple of hours after that, but I couldn’t help but hope. However, I wasn’t expecting the person who stepped into my bar.
I recognized the face from the framed pictures Edward had shown me, but seeing Dr. Cullen in person was a little surreal. Even more, I could see he’d already had a few before coming in.
“Hi. Welcome in. What can I get you?” I offered, setting down a coaster for him at the bar.
“I’ll take a vodka tonic,” he answered, but as he took his seat, he narrowed his eyes at me. “Are you Bella Swan?”
“I am,” I said with a smile, holding out my hand, which he took in a firm shake.
“I’m Carlisle Cullen. I think you know my son?”
“I do.” I smiled his way, but he simply sipped his drink for a moment, looking around my bar.
“I was told he lives here,” he mumbled, shaking his head, but he knocked back the drink and set the empty glass down. “Another, please.”
“He does…in the apartment upstairs, but I’m afraid he won’t be back for a few hours,” I explained, pouring him another. Something about the way he was chugging them told me something wasn’t right with Edward’s dad. And I was pretty sure it was why Edward didn’t talk much to the man sitting in front of me. “You can wait, if you’d like.”
He thanked me and asked for the bottle, sliding a credit card my way. With a heavy heart, I did as he asked. He drank in silence, but I could feel his eyes on me, even when a few more hotel guests came in for a pitcher of beer and the score of the football game. When I caught a split second to dart into the kitchen, I pulled out my phone and dialed Edward.
“Good timing, angel,” he answered with such a sweet, happy sound that I hated to even tell him. “We just landed…”
“Edward…” I started but then paused for a second.
“Bella? Baby, what’s wrong?”
“Um, is there any way you can miss your meeting?”
“Yes,” he said slowly. “I can go tomorrow night, but I was hoping to hang out with you all day.”
Smiling a little at that, I sighed, “Edward… Sweetie, your dad’s in my bar…and he’s slowly drinking himself to oblivion.”
“Fuck me to tears!” he snapped. “What’s he said to you? Has he been an ass, Bella?” I heard him pull the phone away for a second, calling Rose and Emmett. “Bella…has he said anything?”
“No, he’s just…quiet. Edward, he’s really drunk, but he came here looking for you. I…I told him he could wait, but…” I started to think I’d done the wrong thing, because Edward let a string of curses out of his mouth. “I didn’t know what else to do…”
“Shit, Bella…you did nothing wrong. I’m not yelling at you. Okay?” he said softly.
“I know, but what do you want me to do? I can’t let him drive.”
“No! Definitely not. Is he close by?”
“Yeah, I’ll get him.”
I stepped out to the bar again, holding out my phone to Dr. Cullen. “It’s Edward for you.”
Carlisle’s eyebrows scrunched up a little at that, but he took my phone with a shaky hand. “Son…”
I could hear Edward’s voice, but it wasn’t loud enough to understand.
“No, son, I’ll be here. No, she’s… Right. Okay.” His words were a little slurred, but he seemed to sober up at whatever his son was telling him. He actually looked slightly scared. He handed the phone back to me. “He wants to speak to you again.”
Nodding, I put the phone to my ear. “Edward?”
“Cut him off, Bella. I’m begging you. Close out his tab and give him coffee or some shit. Please?”
“Okay, sweetie. Is everything…”
“Fuck, I just wanted to come home to you…that’s it. I wanted to kiss you stupid and help you close the bar so you weren’t alone, maybe talk on my couch until we fell asleep,” he rambled and then laughed humorlessly. It was a harsh sound but filled with understandable frustration.
“Hey…I’m still here. No running. And my couch is just as comfy…and one staircase closer.”
“Thanks, angel.” There was the sweet chuckle I needed.
“Yup.” I sighed deeply, saying, “Okay, I’ll cash him out and make coffee. How long until you get here?”
I heard him update Emmett and Rose and then what sounded like a cab driver’s voice before he finally said, “I’m on my way.”
The call ended, and I tucked the phone away. I turned to Dr. Cullen, whose head was in one hand. The other held his empty glass.
Gently, I took the glass away, smiling at him. “What’cha say to a cup of coffee, Dr. Cullen?”


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