Wednesday, April 15, 2015 | By: Drotuno

Man Behind the Mask Chapter 16 & Pics

Chapter 16 – Circus Life
Circus life
Under the big top world
We all need the clowns
To make us smile
Through space and time
Always another show
Wondering where I am
Lost without you

And being apart
Ain't easy on this love affair
Two strangers learn to fall in love again
I get the joy of rediscovering you
Oh, girl, you stand by me
I'm forever yours
Faithfully
“Faithfully” – Journey
EDWARD
I shut off the car, gazing around me, and started to laugh. “I can’t believe we’re doing this, Bella.”
She giggled, leaning over to kiss my cheek. “It’s now or never.”
Groaning, I let my head fall back to the headrest, only to roll to my right to look her in the eyes. “Funny that Rose agreed with you.”
Bella shrugged a shoulder. “Rose seems to be rather mischievous when she needs to be, but…baby, this’ll be fun. And perhaps no one will notice you.”
Snorting, I raised an eyebrow at her. “Seriously?”
“Okay, well…just saying,” she sighed, but her smile was too cute. “Plus,” she added in a dramatic little whine, poking my side, “you promised to help me! I want to make sure Mike has everything he needs for this tour. I mean, I know Mom got him luggage and stuff, but you know how this will work, so I want that to be a gift from me.”
My heart melted at that, simply because that was kind of cool of her as a big sister, and I gazed around Pike Place Market. It was touristy and big and full of people on a late Saturday morning. Breakfast had been reasonably quiet with Bella. No big deal. Our waitress had been a fan, but a quick selfie on her phone and a few autographs on the way out were all that came of it. And Bella had gotten her waffles. A happy Bella was an adorable Bella, but Bella on syrup was a hyper little ball of energy, and it was all I could do not to eat her up…or take her home to see just how long that energy would last. Not that I hadn’t tested that theory before we’d left my apartment.
That thought made me grin evilly her way, especially when she narrowed her eyes at me.
“Okay, okay. You’re right. I promised you at breakfast I’d help you get Mike some stuff he’ll need.”
The conversation had started when I’d mentioned needing a few things before I packed. She’d asked me lots of questions. When she realized all of this would be new to her brother, she wanted to help him.
I sat up straight, reaching for the car door, but stopped and turned to her. “Angel, listen to me for a second, okay?” When she nodded, I got serious for a moment. “I don’t give a fuck about what these people think, especially about you and me. You need to know that now. But crowds can sometimes mean trouble, so I want you close to me at all times. If word spreads in this place, then the crowd could get pushy. All joking aside about being in public, Bella… Paps, media, fans…they can go fuck themselves, really. I don’t care about squashing any fucking rumor if it means you get wrapped up in bullshit. Just…stay close and hold my hand. That alone will tell people I’m yours. Can you do that for me?”
Bella glanced nervously from my face toward the market entrance and back again. She nodded with wide eyes and a soft: “Yeah, I can do that.”
“Okay, good.”
Getting out of the car, I walked around to take her hand and then set the alarm. The day was overcast and cold, and being the first weekend of November, it wouldn’t shock me if snow didn’t start soon. We were both in jeans and leather jackets, and even though it was overcast, I wore sunglasses and a black baseball cap, just to hide my face a little, though I knew it wouldn’t work once we were inside.
The place was crowded, but true to her word, Bella stayed by my side. I caught whispers and stares, not to mention a phone or two taking pictures, but otherwise we were left alone for the first few stores.
Bella stocked her brother up on things no one thinks about – underwear, cologne, socks, and an electric shaver. And even though I told her that anyone would get him anything he needed, she just wanted to spoil him, which was extremely thoughtful and sweet.
I caught sight of an electronics store and stopped her. “Hey, baby? He’s gonna want…” I grinned, shaking my head. “It can get really fucking boring on tour buses or long flights, so… I mean, if he plays video games or something…” I pointed to the store.
Bella smiled, and we went on in. I stepped back a little, just observing her as she looked around. God, she was beautiful and completely oblivious when the poor sales guy practically tripped over his own two feet to get to her. If she heard the poor boy’s voice crack, she showed no reaction.
A salesgirl approached me eventually, gaping up at me.
“Oh… I know you,” she squeaked. “Are you… Can I help you find something?”
“Nah, but thank you,” I said with a smile. “I’m with her.” I pointed toward Bella, who seemed to be considering a tablet for Mike, and suddenly an idea hit me. “Excuse me…” I muttered, leaving the salesgirl behind and walking to Bella.
The poor boy could barely keep his eyes in his head, not that I could blame him – her jeans fit like sin and her boots made me crazy. Though, his eyes lingered just a little too long on her chest for my liking, so I stepped up close to her.
“Can you give us a second…Corey?” I asked, barely getting it out without growling through gritted teeth when I saw his nametag.
Poor Corey knew exactly who I was when he tore his eyes away from Bella to my face. He paled for a moment and then nodded, walking away.
“Edward,” Bella hissed, turning to face me. “What are you…?”
“I’m surprised he can walk,” I murmured, my eyes narrowing on the kid, but I relaxed at the sound of her soft laugh. “Sorry. He was… Never mind… Look, angel, I was wondering,” I started, rubbing the back of my neck nervously. “What do you think… How do you feel about…video chatting?”
Bella’s eyes widened, but her smile curled up her sweet lips. “For us?”
“I… Yeah, I mean… Fuck, I’ll just wanna see you, you know? I mean, we could both…get one of these things and… You know…”
Bella was quiet, and she looked to the display of tablets before nodding. “Yeah, that would be…” She took a shaky breath. “Dammit, I wasn’t…”
I realized quickly that she was tearing up, and I turned her face to mine. “Don’t. Not yet, baby. I can’t take tears today. I’ll buy you this whole fucking market to keep you from shedding one fucking tear. Today is supposed to be fun, remember?” I whispered my rant low enough for just her ears. Fuck, it was going to be hard enough to leave her without seeing those big brown eyes filled with tears.
She let out a long breath but smiled up at me for my silly statement. “I’m sorry. I’m just gonna miss you.”
“Please,” I begged her because I didn’t know if I could take it, especially in public. “I’ll buy the tablets. Just…hold it together just a little longer, angel.”
“I can—”
“Let me, Bella. For me…for us.” She finally relented with a nod, and I pulled her to me in a hug, whispering in her ear. “I think you’ve done enough for Mike, and if he needs anything, I’ll make sure to move heaven and earth so he gets it, but I’m ready to get out of here. You still wanna see that friend of your dad’s perform tonight?” When she nodded, I asked, “What do you say we call everyone to meet up there? We’ll take this stuff home, and you can see your brother. We’ll just enjoy the night with friends. We usually get together in town before we leave home, so it kinda works. Hmm?”
She nodded again, gripping my shirt inside my jacket. “Love you.”
“Damn, baby…I love you, too. Let’s get these things and go,” I said, pulling back to look at her. “Besides, think of all the dirty things we can do on them.”
Her laugh barked out of her, and she shook her head. “Sure…Masen.”
I gasped dramatically at her tease but kept my arm wrapped around her shoulders when I waved poor, scared Corey back over. “We need three of these, please.”
~oOo~
Slammers was right on the bay, which made the breeze coming off the water bitingly cold. In the warmer weather, bands played outside. In fact, Radiant Eclipse had played here a time or two in the past – both inside and out.
Bella and I had been quiet for most of the ride, simply because I’d had no choice but to start packing when we’d gotten back from Pike Place Market. Having her help was fun but painful, because now every fucking time I’d open my suitcase, I’d see every single touch and every bit of care she’d put into it. Bella was much neater than I was when it came to arranging things.
I parked the car, turning to Bella. “What’s this guy’s name?”
“Harry… Harry Clearwater. Blues harmonica and some guitar, but his voice is killer,” she said, grinning my way. “He’s in his late sixties, and he can still play all night.”
Chuckling a little, I nodded and got out of the car. We walked into the place, noise and music and laughter meeting our ears. The place was busy, but I could see everyone we knew was already gathered around a couple of tables pushed together.
Rose was the first to see us, and she walked to us holding up her phone. “Did you set this shit up?”
She sounded pissed, but I grabbed her phone to pull the picture closer. My laugh barked out of me, and I looked over to Bella, who was peering around my arm to see.
It was the electronics store. Fuck, I couldn’t have staged it better. I was hugging Bella, clearly smiling as I whispered in her ear. The next picture was the two of us talking, eye to eye, flirty smiles, but how we felt for each other was written all over our faces. She owned me, and it was clearly visible in every picture.
“This shit’s gone viral, Edward!” Rose hissed. “Is that what you wanted? I thought you’d just be seen, not go global!”
Ignoring her rant, I turned to Bella. “Bet this was your buddy, Corey.”
“Nah, the salesgirl who was drooling over you,” Bella argued but pointed to one of the pictures. “See…Corey is there.”
“Oh yeah,” I sang, nodding a little. “Good call, baby. Think he’s walking straight yet?”
“Um, don’t care.” I laughed at her eye roll and sing-song tone.
We faced Rose, who was watching us with a perplexed expression. I could see she couldn’t decide whether to be amused or concerned.
“Relax. No, we didn’t plan it. Not that way anyway. We had shit to do, Rose,” I explained, shrugging a shoulder. “I needed to start packing. You said you were cool with it!”
“Well, whoever posted these started a shitstorm. They were shared and shared. Viral, I tell you,” Rose stated with a sigh, shaking her head, but a smirk was curling her mouth. “There seems to be a great big divide in opinions, guys. Some want to think that you’re back with Heidi, which would mean you’re cheating here. Some think you’re still broken up, and some see this and can read your face like a damn book. I don’t care, but I wondered if you knew how fast this spread. Like fucking wildfire!”
“Is that… I mean, is that a bad thing?” Bella asked her, glancing up to me.
“Well, no…not really,” Rose replied, shaking her head again. “I just know that Edward doesn’t care for the paps, but this wasn’t the paps. A fan started this, so…” She shrugged a shoulder. “However, Aro…” She held up a finger and laughed a little. “Aro can’t decide whether to be pissed or happy. I think he stirred the pot with the Heidi thing just for impact. The video will be big, so having her not only in it but attached via rumor would only make it bigger. The fact that this went global was enormous – much bigger than he’d expected. It will also play into his favor. But he’s mad that you’re trying to negate the rumor he started.”
I tsked, rolling my eyes. “I don’t give a fuck anymore, Rose. I just don’t. We’re leaving day after tomorrow, and the tour will complete our contract. He’s out. I’m done. The rest of the guys agree.”
“And that’s all fine and dandy, Edward, but Bella, is this… I mean, tell me he didn’t put you up to this, because now you’ll be hounded while we’re gone. They figured out who you are, that you’re the daughter of Chainsaw Charlie Swan, and that you two met at the bar where the show was filmed. Though, they don’t know the whole story. But now they’ll watch you, follow you, wonder about every damn person you’re with, so…”
“No, no, he didn’t. I’m okay. I promise,” Bella vowed. “They can wonder all they want, but they can’t trespass.”
“True, but I’m going to put you in touch with that security firm before we fly out, okay?”
I turned to Bella as she nodded to Rose. “Maybe we shouldn’t have…”
Bella shook her head and smiled. “I don’t regret anything, Edward. It would’ve happened sooner or later. I’m just glad we sort of had control over it, you know?”
Nodding, I pressed a kiss to her forehead. “You’re right, but I worry about—”
“Well, don’t. You worry about enough as it is,” she reminded me. “Eventually we’ll be old news…just like your rehab, Edward, so I just have to ride it out. Besides, it’s not like I go anywhere, especially once you’re gone.” She frowned at that but continued. “I work, I go home, and I shop for groceries. If they wanna watch that, they’ll be bored to tears.”
Grinning, I nodded, kissing her lips. I was done hiding…me. I didn’t give a fuck about the salesgirl at the electronics store and her pictures. Hell, I kinda liked seeing the way Bella looked at me. I didn’t care who was in the bar right at that moment, either. They could do whatever they wanted. As long as Bella was okay, then I was cool with it.
We started for the table, and we were welcomed with catcalls and teases over the pictures. Mike hugged his sister, and he laughed when she told him all the stuff she’d brought him.
“You didn’t have to do that, B,” he scolded her halfheartedly. “Mom’s… Mom’s kinda okay with it all now.”
“What?! You’re joking,” Bella gasped.
“Nah, not at all. I owe Phil my life, though,” he said with a laugh, shaking his head. “When he went over everything – you know, the contract, the year touring, even the tutor – he was…kinda awesome. He told her that now was the time for me to do this. He basically told her this was my college fund. But if I waited, then I may miss out on a huge opportunity, and he set up all sorts of accounts for me to make sure I’m not an idiot with money.”
Chuckling, I gripped his shoulder. “That’s important, Mike. Trust me.”
Mike grinned, nodding my way. “Yeah, I know. I’m just glad she’s finally okay with it.”
“That’s really good, Mike,” Bella whispered. “Think he was doing it to keep her calm? Or happy that you’d be out of the house?” she teased him.
“Yes, no? Maybe both?” Mike laughed, shrugging a shoulder. “It doesn’t matter. I’m just… I’m ready. I’m good. And I met my tutor. She’s kinda hot!”
Bella snorted, rolling her eyes. “Fabulous, so this hot teacher will be traveling with all of you.”
“Nah, it’s all online work, B.”
“Oh, good.”
Snorting into a laugh, I bent to her ear. “Were you worried about your brother and the teacher? Or me?”
“Mmhm, both,” she hummed, narrowing her eyes on me.
I breathed heavily through my nose, shaking my head, but I pulled her ear to my lips. “Don’t. I don’t give a shit who shows up on this tour. It’s you I’m leaving my heart with, understand? I only want you; I love you. Always. Okay, angel?”
She nodded and leaned into me until she caught sight of something over my shoulder.
“Dizzy Izzy? Is that you?” I heard in a smoky voice behind me.
“Harry!” she squealed, hopping down from her stool to rush to a rather large older man. He engulfed her in his arms, lifting her up off the floor. “It’s good to see you!” she exclaimed, smiling when he set her back down and cupped her sweet face.
“Dear sweet Lord, you’ve gotten more beautiful. And you look just like your daddy, which is funny…considering he was an ugly thing,” he teased her, and he glanced up, smiling. “Is that little Mikey, too?”
“Hey, Harry,” Mike greeted, receiving a bear hug from the man.
“Damn, kid. You shot up!” Harry’s eyes landed on our table, taking in every one of us. “Now, what have we here? I know you boys…”
“Harry, meet Radiant Eclipse,” Bella introduced, pointing out each one of us, along with Emmett and Rose. “And this is Masen, my boyfriend.”
It caught me by surprise that she introduced me by my stage name, but it made sense. She was protective of Edward. Masen was the public figure, and he had been on display all damn day, so since we were all out together as a band, Masen it was.
“Sir, it’s good to meet you,” I said, holding out my hand.
He eyed me shrewdly, but a smile played over his face slowly. “Never pegged Bella for snaggin’ a music man, but it kinda makes sense. You treat her good, you hear?”
“Yes, sir. Without a doubt,” I vowed.
“Well, I’ll be damned nervous up on stage in front of the high and mighty hometown rock heroes. You’re about to head out on tour, right?” he asked, and we all nodded. He turned to Mike. “You too, kid?”
“Yeah, I just took their drummer’s place.”
“Now that’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout!” he praised, turning to Bella. “Your mother must be in a tizzy, Dizzy,” he said, smiling at his own rhyme.
“She’ll survive.”
“I’m sure she will,” Harry said with a chuckle. “Don’t let that woman fool you, kids. She liked her music back in the day. Still does, I’d be willin’ to bet. And now with both her kids all wrapped up in it, she’ll have no choice but to thaw out.”
Bella grinned, leaning in to his kiss to her cheek.
“Now, I gotta go play. If I don’t see you, don’t you guys be strangers. Come see me.”
“Come to Dad’s bar,” she countered. “It’s still there. You can play if you want.”
“I may do that, Dizzy.”
He shot her a wink, gave Mike a handshake, and took the stage like he owned it. And he was good. It was old-school rock mixed with blues, and he nailed it. He called out Bella and Mike, only to play one of Charlie’s songs. My girl was a happy, teary mess, and I couldn’t help but like the guy.
I didn’t drink, not only because I was driving but because I didn’t want my last full fucking day with Bella to be miserable with a hangover. When the show was over, we verified our flight info with Rose before we all got into our cars and left, resigning ourselves to one last day at home.
I hissed a curse as we neared Charlie’s Pub. The media was everywhere, paps and fans crowding around across the street.
“Pull into the alley,” Bella said with a chuckle. “So it begins, huh?”
“Hm,” I hummed unhappily. “I guess. Lucky the apartment stairs are in the alley far enough away from them.”
She laughed and nodded, but when she opened the door, the din of noise was utterly ridiculous.
“Masen! Masen…are you cheating on Heidi?”
“Is it true you’re Chainsaw Charlie’s daughter?”
“Masen, Isabella! How long have you two been together?”
“Masen, sources say Heidi is in your new video. What was it like working with her again after she called things off when you went to rehab?”
“Masen, what’s Heidi think of your new relationship?”
“Isabella! Will you be touring with Radiant Eclipse?”
I sighed, shaking my head and trying to ignore it all, though I could damn well figure out who their “sources” were. Aro and his motherfucking agenda… Bella rolled her eyes, and we took the stairs, sagging in relief when they blocked the view so the vultures couldn’t see us from the opposite corner. The yelling stopped almost immediately.
Mumbling low, I answered all the questions just to make Bella smile. “Nope, not cheating. Yes, this beautiful thing is Charlie’s daughter. Been dating for…oh, about two months, but I think I fell in love with her the second I saw her.” I grinned at Bella’s giggle as we took the last flight of stairs. “Working with Heidi was pure fucking torture. I honestly couldn’t give a fuck what she thinks, though I’m sure it would be colorful. And sadly, no…I won’t have my girl on tour…” My voice trailed off as we reached my door, and Bella spun to look up at me.
Her eyes were dark as she leaned against the door, her hand reaching for the front of my jeans. There was sadness but want, not to mention a small smile still playing on her face from my answers.
“How colorful?” she asked, grinning when I snorted into a rough laugh.
“You met her, angel. You can probably guess. I can imagine foul language and shallow comments.”
Bella laughed softly again, reaching up to take my baseball cap off. “We can lose this now. I’ve missed your hair today.” She dropped it onto the table beside the door, only to rake both of her hands through my hair as I stepped closer.
“I want you all to myself tomorrow, Bella,” I told her, pressing her into the door. “I don’t want to leave this apartment if we don’t have to.”
“Done,” she vowed without even batting an eye.
Bella took my keys out of my hand, and despite how close I was to her, she turned to unlock the door, though her hands shook when I pressed into her from behind.
“Edward…” Her voice started as a warning but then trailed off into something just short of pleading, because I was making sure she could feel just how badly I wanted her.
She pushed the door open, but I didn’t let her get far once we were inside. Slamming the door and pulling her back to me, I pushed her hair to the side, inhaling the skin of her neck up to the sweet, sensitive spot just behind her ear.
“Is it wrong that all I want is you…in every way fucking imaginable?” I asked softly, nipping lightly at her earlobe. “All fucking night…all day tomorrow… I don’t wanna come up for air, angel. Not until I absolutely fucking have to, and even then I want to be able to still feel you, smell you once I’m gone. Does that… Am I crazy?”
She shook her head vehemently, spinning around in front of me, only to grab my face and bring my lips to hers. “God, no… I want that, too,” she whimpered before kissing me fully.
I knew we were frantic about this upcoming tour and being apart. I knew we were pushing all that into something physical, but fuck I needed her. I needed reassurance that she’d still be mine when I came home, that she wouldn’t let time or rumors or bullshit affect us.
I whispered those very words against the skin of her throat as I pushed her jacket off, shrugged out of my own, and practically ripped her shirt off over her head. We left a trail of clothes, shoes, and underwear across my entire apartment just to tumble into my bed, but Bella reached up to stop me, her hands flat on either side of my face.
“Edward… Baby, look at me,” she stated firmly, and I pulled away from her gloriously sexy piercings to meet stern and serious. “I am yours. Please, if you ever believe anything…believe in that.”
Nodding, I pressed my forehead to hers. “I know. I do, but… I just…”
“No, there are no ‘buts,’” she argued, brushing her lips across mine. “I love you, and I’ll miss you…so much. We will find a way to keep this…this, Edward. Us.”
My heart ached with my love for her. The guilt of leaving her made me desperate to love her, to make sure she knew she was it for me. I had no more words, though. None. I simply couldn’t say all that was pent up inside me, so I showed her. I lost myself in her skin, in tracing every tattoo with my tongue, with teasing those nipple piercings with my teeth…all in order to hear my name, to see sweet yet desperate smiles when something tickled, and to finally taste her on my tongue as she fell apart while my mouth drank her in.
She was a panting, slightly sweaty pile of goo as I kissed my way from her delectable pussy, across her hips and ink, pausing to suck at her nipples, and finally meeting her orgasm-hazy eyes. Without saying anything, I lined up with her entrance and slid in as deep as I could, both of us moaning at the feel.
I wanted to take my time, but I knew it wouldn’t happen, not this round, and as I started to move, as the feel of her warmth and wetness surrounded me, I knew I wouldn’t last. But it didn’t matter because I was determined to get as much of her as she’d allow before I got on that fucking plane.
~oOo~
I glanced around my apartment, shaking my head. The bathroom light cast enough illumination to let me see the pile of luggage, my guitar case, and the clothes we’d never picked up…or put on at all the previous day. We’d never left my apartment after Harry’s show, just like we’d wanted, but our time was now up.
My alarm would go off any minute. I knew it would, yet I wanted to throw my phone across the room in order to stop time. It wouldn’t work, but it would make me fucking feel better. At least, I’d feel okay for a second, and then I’d be pissed about my phone.
Sighing, I pulled Bella closer. She was sleeping soundly, peacefully. We’d come home from Slammers, and we hadn’t left each other’s side for longer than a few minutes. The whole next day had been spent in various states of undress, of being connected to each other in every sense, and we even set up the tablets I’d bought, just so we knew what the hell we were doing when we were apart.
I smiled against her shoulder at the memory of picking games to play against each other, taking silly selfies, and pretty much drowning ourselves in one another.
The day wasn’t without its hitches. There had been a moment when all of it – the packing, the planning, the sadness of it all – caused us to snap. It didn’t last, and neither of us meant a damn word, and we’d ended up simply laughing at the stupidity of it all.
Brushing kisses along the ink on her shoulder, I whispered I was sorry for being an idiot, that I loved her, and that I would miss her like the air I breathed.
Bella snorted, rolling over to face me with sleepy eyes. “Me, too.”
I pushed her hair from her face, smiling at her. I knew time was ticking, but I just wanted to touch her. Skimming my flat hand down her side and over her hip, I eyed the splash of color up the side of her ribs.
“You ever think of getting another tattoo?” I asked, delaying the inevitable.
She smiled, her finger tracing my own ink on my chest. She rewrote “Thicker Than Water” over and over as she nodded.
“I have,” she answered. “I just haven’t figured out where or what. What about you?”
“Oh yeah, all the time. I’d actually thought about flying my tattoo artist out on tour once, but…I never did. What about more piercings?”
“No, no more of those. You? I see you aren’t—”
“Nah, never been interested.” I cupped her breast, rolling my thumb over the ring in her nipple. “But fuck, I love them on you…” Kissing it, I pulled away. “Ink, though, I’m all for.”
She grinned, shaking her head, her hand now flat on my skin. “Where and what, Edward? Your sleeves are done. Your chest is covered, though there’s room on your back…”
“Exactly. My back, and I have an idea, but I’m not sure yet.”
“We should go together.”
I froze for a moment. “Yeah? That’d be… Fuck, baby, I’d love that!”
“Okay, so…how about when you take your first break? Hmm?”
I could see what she was doing, and I fucking loved her for it. She was giving us a goal, something to look toward in order to endure this shit.
Kissing her lips, I whispered, “Okay. It’s a date.” Grinning at her giggle, I nuzzled her nose with mine, just loving her a little bit more, but the sweet, calm moment was shattered by the alarm.
It continued to ring loudly as we stared at each other with wide, scared eyes. Bella’s hands slipped up my chest and into my hair, bringing me in for a frantic yet deep kiss.
When she pulled back, she was breathing heavily, tears welling up in her eyes. “We can do this, you know. We’re better than all the bullshit.” Her voice wavered with that reminder of our very first conversation, and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that she was right. I just couldn’t say it yet.
Nodding, I hugged her closer before finally shutting off that demonic alarm. We showered quietly but with continuous touches and kisses. We dressed in that same sad silence, and as she finished up in the bathroom, I loaded her car with my bags and guitar case.
When she stepped into the room, our eyes met. “You sure you wanna go to the airport?” When she narrowed her eyes dangerously at me, I grinned. “I meant…it’s a pain in the ass, angel. And Tony would come…”
“Shut up, Edward,” she said, smirking my way. “As nice as Tony is, I’m not sure you want him kissing you goodbye at the security check.”
Chuckling, I felt my face heat at her teasing. “Uh, no. Unfortunately Tony isn’t saying goodbye. He’s coming with.”
“Get in my car,” she ordered, rolling her eyes at my attempt at being funny.
I glanced around the apartment one more time, and then I drank in the sight of the gorgeous girl waiting patiently by my door. I wanted this. I wanted it on an every-damn-day basis. I wanted her and the comfort that she and this apartment had given me the last few months. In all my traveling, in all the homes and apartments I’d lived, nothing had felt as much like home as the place I was currently standing. I just had to get through one more tour, the next several months of traveling and shows, and then…I could write my own ticket. The band would sever from Volturi Records, and we’d make our own rules, our own touring schedule, and it would make or break us, but I honestly couldn’t find it in me to worry about being responsible for producing our own music. What was the worst that could happen? Radiant Eclipse could go back to performing in bars like Charlie’s? Or we take time off? Nope, none of that was a concern.
“Edward?” she called softly, slipping her hand into mine.
“I was just…” I sighed, dragging my gaze from the bed we’d pretty much stayed in for the last twenty-four hours. It was twisted sheets and rumpled pillows, love and sex and smiles. “I wanted to remember it. Just like this. I need it.” I tapped my temple and smiled. “And I want it to look just like this when I get back.”
She giggled. “I’ll see what I can do. I’m watching your car and this place, baby. Don’t worry.”
“I’m not worried.” I stated that and meant it as we finally locked my door and made our way down to her car. My things, my property was perfectly safe. My heart was scared. It was terrified of being away from Bella and the relief she brought when I could truly be me with her. It was afraid that she might hate being apart and everything she’d see. I dreaded having to slip back into the Masen persona on a full-time basis, because I was losing that edge after all this time. And I was scared to fucking death that the media would stalk my girl, haunt her, making her second-guess every-fucking-thing.
But Bella was so damn strong, and I needed to keep that in mind. Our fingers were linked the entire ride to the airport, and I frequently brought them up to kiss hers, the back of her hand, her wrist.
We still didn’t say much, other than the occasional directions as to where she should park, what gate I needed, and whether or not she could carry something, which was no. A member of security met us at the door and led us quickly past the lines for check-in and the throngs of media to an unmarked door, which was a private hallway. We walked through the back ways of the airport holding hands, despite my bags. Coming to a stop in front of another door, the security guy gave us a nod and a smile to go on into the VIP lounge I’d seen more times than I could count.
The room was filled with just about everyone. I could see Jasper, Tony, and Emmett, all of whom were kicked back in chairs. Tanya and Kate were chatting with Rose and Alice. Alec was hugging Carrie, whose belly was much rounder than the last time I’d seen her, and that made my thoughts return to what I wanted for a future. Jacob was smiling at a girl with tan skin and a pretty smile, and I had to guess that was Leah, his girlfriend and the nurse who took care of his father. Lastly, I smiled at Mike, who was allowing Renee to hug him, adjust his collar, and essentially fawn all over him.
“Your mom’s here, angel,” I told her, smiling over at her as we got closer.
“I see that,” she said with a laugh. “She looks…calm.”
Chuckling, I kissed the side of her head. “She’ll be fine.”
Rose stepped away from everyone to meet up with us, her face calm, but she was in pure management mode, I could see as she handed me my ticket first and then directed my bags to be taken away.
“Okay, so… You’re not gonna believe this shit,” she stated, holding out her phone, and I took it from her in order to see the latest tabloid crap. “I knew when I spun that shit against Heidi when she broke it off with you that it would cash in big fucking time! Look at this shit! They love you two. The majority of the opinions are… Well, they simply don’t care what Heidi says or does; they adore the two of you! The rehab stuff was brought back up and then paired with those pictures from Pike Place. You two are like…the new it couple!”
Bella giggled, shaking her head and scrolling through Rose’s phone. “Rock Royalty, huh?”
I laughed before I could stop it, wrapping an arm around Bella from behind and reading over her shoulder. Sure as shit, the title of the damn online article was Rock’s New Royal Couple. It spoke of local guitar legend Chainsaw Charlie Swan and how his daughter was now seen out and about with Seattle’s hometown rock god, Masen. Apparently the two of us met when, just after rehab, I’d moved into the hotel around the corner from Charlie’s Pub. While they had it mostly correct, their timing was off, but I didn’t give a shit about their meaningless details. At least they weren’t hating on my girl. Heidi was a different story. It seemed her shallow personality had gone public, and I couldn’t give a damn about that either. Though, I did find in interesting she’d been seen at dinner with James recently, but I tucked that info away for a chat with Rose.
“Hmm,” I hummed in Bella’s hear. “I still think you’re closer to an angel than a princess…”
She snorted adorably into a soft laugh but leaned into me. “What did I tell you?”
Grinning, I kissed her neck, murmuring, “Don’t care what’choo say, baby. I know what I know.”
A few flights started to get called over the speakers, and Rose turned to face everyone. “We’ll be up soon, so get yourselves ready.”
We all stopped to say goodbye to those staying behind. It was at that moment my heart started to really fucking ache. It took all I had to give Bella a minute with her brother, to push aside the selfish need to keep her as long as possible.
“I don’t know who I’m gonna miss more,” she said to Mike, who grinned at her. “I want you to stay safe and smart. Keep up with your schoolwork, too, Mikey. I’m not kidding. I will find out, so no slacking just because you’ve hit the big time, okay?”
“Yeah, B. I promise,” he vowed to her, and I could see he’d do just about anything she told him. He loved and respected her, and in turn, she spoiled him rotten. And I instantly felt badly that I was taking him away from her. If he’d wavered in any way the day of his audition, I’d have snuffed the whole damn thing, but he hadn’t, and I had a feeling he’d take to the business like a fish to water. He bent to her ear, whispering words I couldn’t hear, and her eyes welled up as she nodded into his shoulder. “Love you, B…and I’ll check in like Charlie did…every other day. ’Kay?”
She nodded, tears spilling over, and I couldn’t stay away from her a second longer. Mike gripped my shoulder before walking away, leaving us alone in a corner…well, as alone as we could be with everyone we knew around us.
Cupping Bella’s face, I swiped away her tears gently with my thumbs. “Look at me, angel,” I whispered, though it sounded like begging. When those dark, sad eyes met mine, I pressed my forehead to hers. “I owe you a thank-you, Bella. Thank you for saving my ass repeatedly. Thank you for protecting me with the heart of a lioness. And thank you for giving me back...me. I was losing myself in the bullshit, angel. I was. And you… You wiped it all away, and I found me again. But I found myself better than before because you… You make me better, baby.”
“I love you,” she said through sniffles and an almost-smile.
“Oh, angel… I love you so, so much. And that’s what makes me a better man. That sentence…and every beautiful time you say it. And I will bust my ass to get back to it. The very second you want to fly out to me, you let me know, and I’ll move mountains to get you there. If you can’t, then I’ll be home in a few months. Home, Bella. You’re my home now. Do you understand?” When her crying started in earnest, I wrapped her up and lifted her in a hug. “Shhh, baby,” I said in her ear when she burrowed into the crook of my neck. “Please, please don’t cry…”
Her fingers gripped the back of my jacket as my sweet thing tried her damnedest to calm down.
I kept her in my arms, her small sneakers dangling just above the carpet. She pulled back from my neck, and she’d never looked more beautiful to me. It didn’t matter that her tears ran unchecked down her sweet face or that her eyes were red and puffy. None of that mattered when she set her elbows on my shoulders in order to place her hands flat on either side of my face. She pulled me in for a kiss, and it was salty, sweet, and heartbreaking, all at the same time.
“Make me a promise,” she said through a hiccup.
“The world, angel.”
“Don’t let it get to you. Don’t forget you’re Edward to me. You may be Masen to everyone else in the world, but you’re my Edward. My…fidgety, kind, caring Edward who blushes when he’s nervous or says something so awkwardly sweet that he’s now ruined me for life for any other man on this planet.”
Almost on command, my face heated, and I tried to smile but couldn’t.
A sob caught in her throat. “Oh, God, that! I love it so much, and I’m gonna miss it with a sickness.” She pressed her lips roughly to mine. “I promise I’ll come to you, but I have to work a schedule with—”
I kissed her again to stop her. “I know…just let me know when. I’ll pick you up myself.”
Suddenly, it was a battle of promises.
“Don’t close the bar too many times by yourself. Use that security company Rose gave you.”
“Make sure Emmett keeps you safe, and I’ll check on your parents, I promise.”
“I swear I’ll watch over Mike. He’ll be too tired and busy the first few weeks to get into any trouble anyway.”
“Call me, text me…I don’t care what time, okay?”
“I will, so much that you’ll be sick of me.”
“Never.”
“No matter what you see, you call any of us, and we’ll work it out. Illusions, Bella. Okay?”
“Video call when you get to your hotel?”
“Absolutely. Fuck, I’d keep it on twenty-four-seven if I could, just to keep you close.”
We smiled a little at all of that, but I set her back down to the floor and pressed my forehead to hers.
“Fuck, Bella… I miss you already.”
“Me, too.”
“If you… If it’s too much… I…”
“Shh… You made me yours, Edward, remember? Now you’re stuck.”
I kissed her fully, public image, airline security guarding the doors, and whistles from my bandmates be-damned. I tasted her, claimed her, and her lips were so soft due to her crying. Her fingers gripped the sides of my T-shirt underneath my jacket, and I had to force my own not to pick her up and run away with her.
“Edward, we have to go,” I heard softly over Bella’s shoulder, and I pulled away to see the sad faces of Tanya and Kate. “I know, sweetie, but… It’s time.”
Nodding to them, I looked back down at Bella. “I… You’re everything to me, angel. You need to know that…I want it all with you. I want to figure out how to do this without breaking us in two every-fucking-time. I want…just… And fuck, I love you, and I need to hear you say it back before I lose my shit in front of God and everyone in this motherfucking airport.”
“I love you, Edward.” She smiled through her tears at my crazy rant.
Steeling my resolve, I pressed my lips to hers one more time before following everyone out. It felt like I’d been ripped into two pieces, and as security loomed closer, I shot one more glance and a wave back to Bella before stepping into the hallway. We were ushered through a private security check and then onto the plane.
Per usual, we were the last to board, which always caused a stir among the other passengers. I stowed my bag in the overhead compartment, taking the aisle seat. There was a gentleman already in the window seat next to me. He was dressed in an expensive business suit, but he gave me a second glance and a small smile.
“Masen, right? From Radiant Eclipse?” he asked softly, glancing up at the rest of the band settling into their seats.
Taking a deep breath, I slipped on the mask, the persona that I’d have to wear for the next several months. I almost had to force the smile, but it came, along with a quick nod. I’d do what my angel asked of me. I’d give the world Masen and bring Edward home to her.
“Yeah, man…that’s me.”





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