A/N: Just a quick clarification for anyone who was confused by Edward being in “Frisco” last chapter. His team practices at Comerica Center in Frisco, Texas (formerly Dr. Pepper Arena) which is where he was when Bella called him. He was approximately thirty minutes away and hasn’t departed on their road trip yet. Hopefully, this eliminates any confusion. Thank yous to Team Spiderward for all you do. xx
Song inspiration for this chapter: “Way Too Pretty For Prison,” Miranda Lambert and Maren Morris
(Playlist for this story can be found on my YouTube channel, if you search for “ghostreader24”)
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. The NHL owns anything that sounds familiar. I’m here having fun.
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“Come on, Doc. Let’s go.”
With one arm firmly secured around my waist, Edward guides me toward the passenger side of my car.
“I should have you arrested!” Sam threatens from across the parking lot.
He just won’t shut up, and I’m determined to have the last word.
“Do it—” I shout. “And it will come back to bite you in the ass.”
Edward whispers, “Doc, don’t antagonize him.”
“Don’t worry, he won’t. Sam has too much to lose. I’m going to bury him, one shovelful of dirt at a time,” I promise, narrowing my eyes at Sam.
After Edward moves my messenger bag behind the seat, I sit inside reluctantly. Edward pulls the seat belt across the rise and fall of my chest, quietly clicking it in place. Giving me a small smile, he pecks my lips and closes the door. Edward says something to James I can’t hear before sliding inside behind the wheel and moving the seat all the way back.
“Here you go.” He sets my purse on the center console between us.
“What did you tell James?” I wonder, turn around in my seat, and watch James approach Sam’s car again.
“I asked him to take photos and send them to me.” Edward gives me a brief side-eye before starting my car, then slides his hand to my side to rest on my thigh. “I don’t want Sam to claim there is more damage than there is.”
I huff, removing my phone from my purse. “I was just getting started, but hopefully, the repercussions of today will continue to reverberate far beyond this day. His car is the tip of the iceberg.”
As Edward backs out of the parking spot and drives us toward the exit, I notice texts from Rose and Tanya. Clicking on Rose’s first, I read her message.
And I have everything you wanted.
Where are you?
“Oh, Rose.” I grin, elated by her message. “I think I’m going to nominate your sister for sainthood.”
I could kiss her. Everyone rescheduled. Two words have never made me so happy. Fuck. I knew it. And it feels so fucking good. I’m internally fist pumping. Hard.
“Why am I not surprised she’s involved?” Edward asks. “What have you two done?”
“We’re taking what I’ve built for the past six years, which is a small victory toward a future without Sam for both of us.”
I’m leaving Whispering Oaks.
Did Jared send everyone home?
Actually, Jane made the call.
The mention of Jane leaves me to wonder whom I can pull from the office next. I don’t know if her loyalties to Sam are unshakable, but she would be a highly valued asset to bring with me wherever I land. I should reach out to Corin and a few others too.
I’m still at the office.
Is my brother with you?
He called and I gave him Sam’s home address.
When he said you weren’t there,
I told him which country club.
He found me.
I was surprised to see him.
There’s a touch of worry that threatens to overshadow my thoughts when I consider his arrival. Edward should be at his practice, and I can’t imagine there not being some sort of consequence for missing it. And James too. But I’m distracted when Rose’s texts keep arriving.
AND THAT VIDEO YOU SENT!
I turned up the audio once I was alone,
and it captured your entire conversation!
TWO YEARS! I never knew.
I just emailed my resignation to Sam.
Do you think Emily knows?
I have no idea.
Okay. I’m finished packing my things.
Do you want me to grab anything from your office?
You’re not coming back here, right?
I smile and glance at Edward as he focuses on driving. I don’t have much there, but probably more than I realize.
Right. I’m not coming back. Ever.
I officially surrendered my keys. LOL
I hope you did it with a dramatic flair that would make Al proud. 😉
Eh. It felt good, but it’s not the only part of my departure plan.
I hope the rest stings for years.
If you could grab anything in my office
with my name on it that would be great.
And anything in or on my desk that looks personal.
There shouldn’t be much.
Are you going to Edward’s?
I can meet you there with everything.
“Are we going to your place or mine?” I ask.
Edward squeezes my leg. “I told James to meet us at my place.”
I nod, texting Rose.
Okay. I’ll be there soon.
I just need to grab your things.
See you then.
I’m about to read Tanya’s text when my phone starts vibrating with a call from Sam.
“Well, well, well. Look who it is.” I show the screen to Edward. “Fat fucking chance I’m answering that call. Already begging me to return? I don’t think so. He’s probably figured out his precious golf clubs are missing. It can go to voicemail, and if he wants to speak with me, he can call Jason from here on out.”
Edward’s eyes flash to mine briefly, and he laces our fingers together. “His golf clubs?”
“They met a watery death. Probably recoverable, but I hope not.” I smirk. “My caddie said they were expensive—Mizunos or something—and illegal. Sam bragged to her roommate about their customization, which gave him an advantage over fellow players. I shouldn’t be surprised he is cheating on the golf course too.”
“Remind me never to upset you.” Edward grins.
“Didn’t know I had this side to me, huh? I’m full of edge,” I taunt. “Having second thoughts?”
“Not a single one.” Edward lifts my hand to his lips, kissing the back, then rests our hands on his thigh. “I can buy two tickets to Vegas, and we can leave tonight.”
That thought would undoubtedly give Carlisle a stroke, but he’s the least of my concerns right now.
“All right. All right. Slow down, Mr. One-Year Plan. Let’s not get crazy. I’m freshly unemployed with a huge question mark looming over the direction of my career.”
“How do you feel?”
“I don’t know . . . relief? I’m buzzing with overwhelming excitement too. It’s a little scary to think about what’s next for me, but this is long overdue. Sam deserves everything coming his way.” I blow out a heavy breath, looking out the window. “I can’t believe I fucking did it.” I chuckle nervously, then drag my fingers through my hair. “Oh, fuck. What have I done?”
“You stood up for yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe a little more destructive than necessary.” Edward shakes his head and smiles. “Do you know how many people wish they could tell their bosses to shove it? Nearly all of them.”
“I suppose that’s true.”
“I’ve kept my mouth shut numerous times, because I want to play. If I hadn’t, I would have been shuffled out of this league years ago.”
“Rose quit,” I share.
Edward flashes me his crooked all-knowing grin. “It sounds like Uley Family Dental is taking several losses today.”
My head falls backward onto the headrest, and I stare up at the ceiling of my car. “What am I going to do now?”
“That’s easy.” He nods when I look over at him. “Whatever you want. You’re in control now.”
“True. I asked Jason about opening my own practice, but he had all sorts of objections. I would be out of work for half or possibly a majority of this year trying to set up a medical office space and credentialing insurance companies. He suggested finding another practice as my best option financially.” I take a deep breath and blow it out slowly. “And if that’s the case, then I have some new standards based on recent experience—no cheating assholes for starters. And contracts for everyone.” I huff. “I can’t believe what Sam is doing to Emily. I mean sure, he’s been cheating me professionally for years, but what he’s doing to her is on another level. And she has a marriage contract. I hope she didn’t sign a prenup and bleeds that motherfucker dry.”
Edward shrugs. “Maybe she knows.”
“Or maybe she doesn’t. My caddie didn’t know if I was Sam’s wife or not. That tells me he’s been hiding this whole situation with his golf pro for at least two years, making Sam a skillful liar. He told me he discussed my partner and ownership proposals with Emily, but now, I’m wondering if that was true. Maybe he didn’t. I won’t believe anything Sam says ever again. Emily shouldn’t either.”
For a moment, I consider the possibility of approaching Emily as an investor if, ultimately, I were to decide to set up my own practice. Sam would shit a fucking solid gold brick upon finding out she’s using his money to fund me. Fuck. I love that idea too.
“But that doesn’t mean other people won’t. He could spin this in a way to hurt you.”
“Hurt me? What do you mean?” I shift in my seat, turning toward him.
“You know I’m looking out for you and trying to see this situation from all angles,” Edward cautions.
I nod. “I know that. Go on.”
“If he’s cheating on his wife, it wouldn’t be a stretch for him to paint you as a scorned or jealous ex . . . as in he could insinuate the two of you had a romantic or sexual relationship gone wrong and provide his own narrative.”
“There was nothing—nothing—other than a professional relationship between us. Ever!” I defend adamantly. “It was never like that.”
“I understand and believe you, but I’m just saying to prepare yourself for the possibility. It would be your word against his. I believe he’s capable of anything. Who do you think people are going to believe?”
“Fuckers.” I shake my head as my phone vibrates with a call from Jason. “It’s my lawyer. Is it okay if I take this?”
I tap the screen, putting him on speaker. “Hey, Jason. What’s up?”
“Bella,” he says with a heavy sigh that prompts a smile to tug at my lips. “You’ve had quite the morning.”
“Eh. I’ve had better.”
With a quick glance, Edward’s smile matches mine, knowing we’ve had our share of great ones recently.
“I just got off the phone with a very irate Sam Uley.”
“Oh? I didn’t know he had your number.”
“Don’t act innocent with me.”
“He couldn’t provide either of us with the courtesy of a phone call back in November after my offers, and now, suddenly, he is able to reach out? I’m calling bullshit.”
“Well, this morning he’s threatening to have you arrested for trespassing—”
I huff, interrupting him. “Oh, I don’t think so. Sam’s wife, Emily, made it possible for me to enter through the pristine gates of Whispering Oaks.”
“And vandalism. This is serious Bella. If he presses charges, I’ll need to hand this over to one of my associates since I don’t practice criminal law.”
I scoff at the idea. “Sam is full of shit. I’m confident he doesn’t want to go down that rabbit hole. Do you really believe he wants this to become public record with investigators involved, putting a spotlight on either of us, especially him?”
Jason continues without answering my question, but I know I’m right.
“I got your text message earlier, and I want to make sure I understand where we’re at here, Bella. You resigned and sent me the little blockbuster video. He obviously knows I’m your lawyer, and gave me an earful. What else should I know? Tell me everything.”
I sigh. “There could be damage to one of Sam’s golf clubs—the driver. I couldn’t get it to break, but not for lack of trying. Maybe I messed up the head—or whatever that thing is called at the end of it.”
Jason groans. “He mentioned his clubs are missing, and there is significant damage to his car and golf cart. Is that true?”
“His clubs have been released into the wild.” I chuckle. “His golf cart may have hit his car.” Repeatedly. “Just a little bump. A scratch. Minor stuff.”
“Oh, Bella. I doubt that. And this happened at his country club . . . Whispering Oaks you said?”
I can hear him shuffling papers in the background. “It’s private property, but we will check on any surveillance video in the area to see if we can access it before Sam or someone at the club does. So, what is the extent of the damage to his car?”
“I used my building and office keys to leave him with a little departing message and added a new pinstripe. His car will need some repair. It’s only superficial, but if he thinks I’m going to pay for it, then we can use the video as payment or leverage.”
“Bella, Bella, Bella.” Jason sighs heavily. “You know we’re not doing that. You’re not a blackmailer. I watched the video, and we both know you would never hurt any of the women or children in this situation.”
Damn it. He’s right. I wouldn’t.
Sam has done enough of that to everyone involved.
“Jason, he’s not getting another damn pass on my watch. If he comes after me, then I want to hold him accountable for all the years he cheated me out of income and professional advancement. I would welcome a forensic accounting of his practice, let alone airing all his dirty laundry in court—name the time and date. I’ll be there.”
“No, you won’t. While you know I love a good fight, I’m going to do everything within my power to prevent this situation from ever seeing a courtroom.”
“You’re no fun,” I tease. “I also don’t want Sam to spin this in any way that would make me look unprofessional, just because I’m a woman—as if I’m some jealous ex. I’m not. Our relationship was never like that. That’s slander, and I’m willing to use anything I can. I’ll sue him if necessary. I wouldn’t want to reveal anything publicly, but if he forces my hand, I’m not holding back. I think Emily deserves to know what he’s been doing, if she doesn’t already.”
“Maybe if you didn’t want to look unprofessional, then you shouldn’t have damaged his property. I understand you are upset and possibly not making the best decisions in the heat of the moment, but you crossed the line.”
“Like he hasn’t for years? I had a point to make, and I believe I successfully did on a level he can understand,” I defend. “He cares more about that damn country club and those fucking clubs than his own wife or his practice. And for that, I hit him where it hurts most—and will continue to do so.”
“Literally and figuratively.”
“The damage is nothing—nothing compared to the inequity of what Sam has approved for the past six years I’ve been working for him. I have the numbers. You have the numbers. He continues to pay himself generously for a job he never does, while Paul’s pay raises and bonuses are unwarranted. And those are things I do know about. What about everything I don’t? After what I learned this morning about his character—I can only imagine.”
“I know, Bella, and remember I’m on your side here. Tell me who witnessed your version of tendering your resignation? And I use that term quite loosely.”
“There was Sam, of course. His golf pro, who is the woman in the video. The woman working the counter in the pro shop. It’s her voice on the video.” I hesitate bringing Edward into this. “Uh . . . my boyfriend and his friend were there, but they arrived mostly after the fact. I think that’s it.”
“Do you have any names for me?” Jason asks.
“The woman working the counter said her name is Mary, but I don’t know the pro’s. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find out since they are both employees of the country club.”
“Okay, I will look into tracking them down and find out what I can about the child mentioned in the video. I’ll try to get my hands on a birth certificate. It’s better we know all we can about everyone involved. And your . . . boyfriend?”
“Yeah. About him.” I blow out a steady breath, hoping none of this comes back to Edward or James. “He’s kind of high profile here in Dallas. So is his friend.”
We’re sitting at a traffic light when Edward looks at me, and mouths, “Kind of?”
I chuckle and squeeze his hand while Jason continues with his questions.
“Oh? How high profile are we talking?”
“He’s an employee of a professional sports team. So, I would prefer to keep him out of it.”
“An athlete, staff, or front office?”
Jason groans. “Bella, that may not be possible. Reporters love to pick up these types of stories and run with them. Accuracy is never guaranteed. We may need to leak this ourselves to get the right narrative going. I know a few people. What’s your boyfriend’s name?”
I look over at Edward who nods that it’s okay for me to share his name.
I mouth the words. “Are you sure?”
And he nods again.
“Okay. Who does he play for?”
When I hear Edward’s huff, because Jason doesn’t know who he is, there’s no holding back my chuckle.
“The hockey team,” I supply.
“And his friend? Another hockey player, I’m guessing?”
“Yeah. He’s the captain of their team, James Hunter.”
“Don’t know either of them, but I’ve met the owner of that team several times—Roy King. Great guy.”
When I glance in his direction, Edward rolls his eyes, pulling into the entrance for his gated subdivision. After pressing the button on the opener attached to my car’s visor, I watch the gate open slowly. The mention of Roy reminds me of his tentative offer of consideration to be the team’s dentist.
I wonder who they’re using currently and maybe that could be a possible dental practice to pursue. I would guess the team dentist only covers home games and is available for both teams in the case of an emergency. So, if Edward did retire after this season, I wouldn’t be stuck traveling with the team when he wasn’t on their schedule any longer. I don’t know. It’s something to look into since my options are wide open now.
“Are you still there?” Jason asks.
“Yeah. Just thinking about my next plans.”
“All right. I have another call waiting. If you think of or need anything else, call me. I’ll handle what I can on this end. And don’t cause any more trouble.”
“You know I can’t promise that. I’m just getting started.”
“Bella,” he warns.
“Thanks for calling, Jason.”
“In that case, I’m positive we’ll talk soon.”
“Okay. Bye.” I end the call, remembering I have another text waiting. I release Edward’s hand, tap on the screen, and open my app with Tanya’s message.
BB, you’re lucky I love you!
I have good news WITHOUT my typical MO.
No dicks were sucked or harmed
to make it happen either. LOL
So, there’s that. 😉
Call me when you get a chance.
“What is it?” Edward asks.
I look up from my phone. “Oh, it’s uh . . . Tanya.”
“Tanya?” Edward’s eyes widen with surprise.
“Yeah.” I nod.
“As in . . . Tanya Denali?” he questions skeptically.
“The one and only.”
“Tanya Denali is texting . . . you?” His voice is full of disbelief.
“That’s right.” I smirk. “Nervous?”
I shrug. “She’s helping me with something. A side project.”
“Helping . . . you?”
“Correct.” I set down my phone for a moment. “Why is that so difficult to believe?”
“And you are aware that we’ve dated?”
“Absolutely. I’m aware, but according to her, it was much more serious than simply dating,” I share, knowing that according to her, he proposed.
Edward doesn’t confirm or deny the seriousness of their relationship, but focuses on the fact that we’re in contact now, given their history.
“And that doesn’t make you uncomfortable?”
“No.” I shake my head. “Are you uncomfortable with us talking? Because it sounds like you could be.”
Pulling into his driveway, he opens the garage door for my car and runs a hand through his hair while we wait before answering. “Uh, I’m not sure.”
“Edward, do you still have feelings for her?” I wonder.
“No. Absolutely not.”
“Then why is it unreasonable to think two women in your life would have things in common? Most notably you.”
“I suppose it’s not, but I don’t know.” He releases a nervous chuckle, eases my car inside, and shuts off the engine. “You’re talking about me?”
“No.” I smirk, because I’m not surprised that’s his focus. “Not this time.”
“But you did,” Edward states, as neither of us moves to depart my car.
“And you have each other’s phone numbers.” He shifts in his seat, twisting toward me. “So, you’re what? Friends now after meeting once?”
I shrug. “That’s probably accurate. Not close friends, but we kind of hit it off. I was surprised.”
“Doc. You’re killing me here.” Edward leans back in the seat, blowing out a deep breath.
“Edward, I don’t know what to say. Do you want us not to be friends? Would you prefer I hate her because you had a relationship? And what? She should hate me, because I’m in a relationship with you now? Because that’s not healthy for anyone.”
“No. I never said that.” He shakes his head.
“You just told me you have no feelings for her, and I believe you. Give us a little credit. It’s not only men who can be friends and bond over anything.”
“I’m sorry. She just—” Edward releases another frustrated sigh.
“Hey. You and I—we aren’t in some high school romance brimming with every possible fear or insecurity. We’re adults who hopefully have learned from our past mistakes by now. We’re both here working on a relationship built on honesty and trust, despite any issues we face. And I’m more confident than ever in us. We’ve been talking about marriage and children—two subjects I take very seriously. I love you more than anything, and part of that means accepting everything—everything in your past and mine that has gotten us to this point.
“I don’t have to like it, but Tanya is your friend and still cares about you. If I thought for one minute there was anything lingering for you, or if you were interested in someone else—anyone else, I wouldn’t be here now. No, it isn’t easy knowing Tanya or any other woman out there knows you intimately, but I’m confident in what we have.” I pause, letting my words sink in a little, then make the most significant comparison between us. “I’m guessing Tanya wasn’t ever more important than hockey.”
“No, she wasn’t,” he confirms with a slight grin.
“Then understand that Tanya isn’t a threat to us. She still loves you, and I can respect that. Because if I was in her position, I would too.” I smile. “You’re easy to love, but difficult to forget.”
“You’re saying there’s no forgetting me.”
“That’s right.” I chuckle. Of course, he likes this idea. “Not possible. I have no doubt there is a string of broken hearts in your past, and the majority of your social media accounts are followed by women. Are you honestly going to tell me you had trouble listening to my conversation with Jason, knowing we dated?”
“No, but I’m not as . . . evolved as you, and I know how Tanya can be. I would never be able to be friends with Mr. Seattle, knowing how he treated you.”
While I appreciate his sentiment, it’s then I realize that he’s still hurt with how their relationship ended. Rejection stings, and I completely understand that. I’ve been there too. I reach across the center console, lace our fingers together, and wait until our eyes meet, hoping he can see the sincerity in mine.
“Edward, I will always be as transparent as possible with you, and I promise you that it was never my intention to upset or hurt you by reaching out to Tanya. I was hoping to lean on her connections here in Dallas, and it looks like she came through. I need to call her for the details, but I suspect Sam won’t have his membership at Whispering Oaks for much longer.” I give him a small smile. “Or be able to join any other country clubs in the Dallas area.”
I shrug, absolutely unapologetic. “I’m going to go after everything he holds dear, and it starts with that damn country club. The gloves are off. He should have secured me as part of his team with a contract when he had the chance. Sam will eventually regret that decision—that’s a promise. Do you know what he should do, but probably still won’t with my departure?”
When Edward shakes his head slightly, I grin, as if it’s obvious.
“Dentistry. Because his patients will now have a new choice. If today’s appointments are any indication, then he will have plenty of work to do in rebuilding his practice, especially if he’s relying on Paul or Jared to do any actual work.” I nod toward Edward’s home. “Come on, let’s go inside. I need to change my clothes and figure out my next moves.”