Behind Closed Doors – C16

DISCLAIMER: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m here having fun.

-BCD-

Chapter 16: The Show – This Week with Edward Masen

I rush back to my apartment in the dark, early morning hours, knowing I need a shower and a change of clothes, something more professional, if I’m going to appear on Edward’s show. My current sexed up appearance wouldn’t be appropriate despite his encouragement it’s his favorite look on me.

I also need to spend some time doing a bit of research if I’m going to be prepared to debate issues about gun control and school safety. I have no idea who else is on the panel, but it’s a good idea to be prepared for anything.

“You’re up early.” Angela’s voice startles me.

I close the front door. “Hey. I’m surprised you’re up. I didn’t want to wake you.”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

I know she has questions regarding my whereabouts, but I’ve been evasive with my excuses lately, trying to make them about work, but I think she suspects something. Normally, she’s distracted by Ben, but it looks like I have her undivided attention.

“Well, I’ve got a limited time window and too much to do. I’ve been asked to fill in on one of those Sunday morning talk shows.”

“Oh? Which one?”

“This Week.”

“Edward Masen?”

“Yes, that’s the one. They had someone cancel at the last minute, and I’ve been asked to fill in for the roundtable discussion.”

“I didn’t know you knew him.”

“Oh, well, yes. We’ve met.”

“Where did you meet?”

Holy fuck. What do I say? My mind shuffles through our past year together, wondering what she’ll believe. I decide on the hockey game, hoping she won’t remember a lot of details about that night.

“Do you remember about a year ago when you set me up on that blind date?”

“Blind date?”

“Yeah, the hockey game. We all went.”

“Yes, Tyler.”

“He left, then you weren’t feeling good, so Ben took you home, and I told you I was going to stay because I ran into a colleague?”

“That was Edward Masen?”

“Yeah, we sort of bumped into each other. Apparently, he knew me from the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last year.”

“I see. And you stayed to watch the rest of the game.”

“Right. He’s a fan and asked me to join him in his seats, as the people he was there with left early too.”

“So, you and Edward Masen.”

“Watched the hockey game together.”

“How did you get home that night? I don’t remember.”

“He dropped me off.”

“And that’s how you know each other.”

“Yes.”

“I’m sure he’s had other guests cancel over the past year, why hasn’t he asked you before now?”

I shrug. “We saw each other again recently and I guess he thought of me this time when he needed a favor.”

“Hmmmm. Well, this sounds like a wonderful opportunity for you.”

“I know, but I’ve never done television, so I’m extremely nervous. I need to go prepare.”

“I know you’ll do great, Bella. I’ll be sure to watch.”

“Thanks, Ang. That reminds me. I need to let Emmett know too. I’m off to shower.”

-BCD-

I tuck my notes into my briefcase and grab my overnight bag, which has some necessities for fixing my hair and makeup once I get to the studio. It doesn’t take long for me to arrive. As I enter, I’m directed to the green room to finish getting ready and find it isn’t empty.

“Finally. You’re cutting it close.”

“Pardon me?”

“My hair is still a little damp, but it shouldn’t be a problem. And we probably need to use some cover-up on this spot on my neck. Men can be animals sometimes.”

“I’m not here to do your hair or makeup.”

“Then where is that girl? Oh, well, I’ll take a decaf soy latte, with an extra shot.”

I roll my eyes and set my bags on the opposite side of the room. “Get your own coffee,” I grumble.

“Look, you better change your attitude or I’ll have you fired.”

“Good luck with that one.” I notice someone pass by our door, and Tanya is quick to get their attention.

“Jasper!” she yells.

“What can I do for you, Tanya?”

“This little intern of yours is useless. She refuses to do my hair or makeup and actually rolled her eyes at me when I gave her my coffee order. Do something about her!”

Jasper walks across the room with his hand extended. “I’m so sorry about this—Miss Swan, is it?”

“Yes.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Jasper Whitlock, and I can’t thank you enough for helping us out this morning. The show will start shortly and you can view it from the monitor over there. Do you need anything else before I head into the studio?”

“Whitlock? Do you know Alice?”

A huge grin spreads across his face. “That would be my wife.”

“Well, it’s a small world. I haven’t seen her in a while. Tell her I said hi when you get a chance.”

“Will do. I’m off. Tanya, Lauren will be in shortly to help you with hair and makeup, and Heidi will get your coffee.”

“You heard him, Heidi.” Tanya snaps her fingers. “Time for my coffee.”

“That isn’t Heidi. Let me introduce you. Tanya Denali, this is Isabella Swan. She’s a reporter for the Washington Post and has graciously agreed to fill in for Eric, as Katie went into labor this morning.”

“Oh. You could have said something and not let me go on and on. Nice to meet you anyway.”

I wish I could say the same, but after our start this morning, I can barely crack a warm smile for her.

Tanya focuses back on Jasper. “Where’s Edward? Maybe I should go get him warmed up for the show.”

“Lauren is finishing up with him, then he’s headed into the studio. You’ll see him soon enough. You should have about fifteen minutes before we need you.”

“Thanks, Jasper.”

My phone vibrates with a text.

Break a leg! I’ll be watching. Text me later.

Thanks.

“Your boyfriend?”

“No. My boss.”

“Ah. And how do you know Edward? I mean he doesn’t let just anyone on his show.”

“We’ve known each other for about a year. Work colleagues.”

“That explains it. I’m not a fan of this early morning hour, but if it means I’ll have Edward in my bed later, then I’ll certainly make the effort to accommodate him.”

“You’re seeing Edward?”

“Now, now, Miss Swan. Let’s not start any rumors. I’m a married woman.” She winks. “You reporters are always looking for your next headline.”

We’re both startled as an unwanted, familiar face stands in the doorway to the green room.

“Tanya! It’s wonderful to see you here again. Edward needs to make you a co-host with as many times as you’ve appeared on his show.”

“Shelly, I haven’t seen you in forever. We should have lunch together soon.”

“That would be wonderful.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Do you know—?”

“Yes, Miss Swan. I’m surprised to see you here.”

“I’m sure you are.”

“Miss Swan is a close friend of the President, while her father works at the FBI.”

Tanya whistles. “It must be nice. I wish I had the privilege of those connections.”

“Don’t we all. I’ve got to run. Have a great show, Tanya. Isabella.”

“Isn’t Shelly the best? She’s been after me to sign with her for ages, but what in the world would I do with an agent? I’m not interested in being famous.”

Says the woman who never fails to miss a day in the society pages.

-BCD-

“It’s time to head to the studio, everyone,” Heidi directs.

As I walk through the hallway, a man falls in stride with me. “Hey there, little lady.”

“Excuse me?”

“Are you the newest little filly in Edward’s stable? He knows how to pick them.”

His head turns, and his eyes drift to my behind.

Pig.

“What did you say?” I slow my pace, recognizing him immediately.

“Edward can’t help it. He’s a man’s man who knows exactly where a woman’s place should be.”

I can’t resist letting him make an ass of himself. I’m positive his answer will confirm my suspicions. “And where would that be?”

“On her knees, of course—”

I gasp.

He chuckles and nudges my arm, then attempts to make the save. “—praying. Every man loves a devoted woman.”

His words and implications are inappropriate and at odds with his religious, self-righteous image. What does Jessica see in him?

Tanya overhears our brief conversation and rushes to my aid. “Mike, don’t be crude and leave her alone. This is Miss Swan. She’s from the Post and filling in for Eric this morning. It was a last minute change.”

“Oh, then allow me to introduce myself. I’m Reverend Michael Newton, Former Governor of Florida.” He holds out his hand as we wait for the intern to attach our microphones.

I spy Secretary Esme Platt, speaking with Edward, then giving him a hug before leaving the studio.

I garner a polite smile and gently squeeze his hand. “Hello, Reverend Newton. I’m Isabella Swan, and I believe we’ve met.”

“I doubt that, as I would remember you. How do you feel about the number four?”

Oh, God. Is that supposed to be some kind of joke about me becoming his fourth wife? He has no idea who I am.

Jasper waves us over. “Tanya, why don’t you… Oh, okay. You’re next to Edward. Reverend, sit next to Tanya, then Miss Swan, why don’t you take the seat on the end opposite of Edward.”

I clear my throat ready to end this conversation and let him off the hook before he digs himself in a deeper hole. “I’m friends with your wife, and I believe you know my step-father and mother.”

“And your step-father would be…”

“Phil Dwyer.” I shuffle through my notes and stack them carefully together.

“I know Phil. We go way back. I thought he had daughters still in high school.”

“Victoria and Bree are out of high school now and working in New York, but I’m Renee’s daughter.”

“Oh, that’s right. I remember there was one who was shy and awkward. Those teen years can be difficult, but it looks like you’ve blossomed into a beautiful woman like your mother. Not as big in the chest, but I’m sure you can find a man who will help you fix that later. I bet you know your way around a credit card too. Don’t worry, this show will only help you get the exposure you’re seeking. Rubbing elbows or other things with Edward is never a bad thing.” He winks.

“Good morning, everyone.” Edward smiles, glancing briefly at all our faces.

“Hello, Edward.” Tanya gushes with a twinkle in her eye as she pushes out her chest.

I notice the top button of Tanya’s blouse is now unfastened, revealing more cleavage than appropriate for a Sunday morning talk show. I’m surprised she’s able to hold back and isn’t naked on the table with her legs spread wide open in front of his face. I’m positive it would be her preferred position as opposed to being seated next to him where she’s touching him every chance she gets. And that’s only what I can see above the table.

This should be interesting.

-BCD-

I am barely holding onto my emotions at this point and refuse to let any of these people see me shed a single tear.

This entire experience has been one where I’ve alternated between so many emotions—with anger, rage, and jealousy being the top three. Disappointment is high on the list too. Not once did Edward step in when I was being personally attacked. I didn’t expect him to, but it would have been nice to know he had my back with these sharks. I stood my ground, but there’s one thought my mind continues to circle.

I’m done.

With this show.

I’m done.

With chauvinistic assholes.

I’m done.

With bitches without boundaries.

I’m done.

I think it could be my new mantra.

Clearly, I’m not cut out for television. Doing this show has opened my eyes in ways I’ve never considered, and I feel like I’m seeing things as they are for the first time.

I’ve been an idiot, swimming in the sea of denial for the past year where Edward is concerned.

I can’t wait to grab my stuff and leave. When Jasper gives us the all clear, I make a beeline for the studio door and drop my microphone into the hands of the waiting intern.

Once I’ve made it to the green room, I throw my stuff in my bag, making an even greater realization.

I’m done.

I’m done hiding this relationship.

I’m done lying about us.

I’m done being his secret.

The door to the green room opens and I hear it close then lock. I don’t have to look up to know who it is.

“I can’t do this anymore, Edward.” I gasp as my heart breaks.

Fuck. I think I’m in—no. I’m not. I can’t be. And I’m not going to let him know. Not now. Let this be a lesson. Never let someone have this kind of hold over you because they have the power to crush you and your heart then never look back.

“I’m sorry. I’ll never ask you to be on the show again. I needed a favor. Just this once.”

I stare at him in disbelief. “The show? You think I’m upset about the show? The show is just the final straw that broke the camel’s back. I saw you eyeballing that intern before I ever set foot in the studio, and how about the flirting with the Hair and Makeup woman when I was sitting directly across from you? And Tanya with the innuendos? Whatever is going on between the two of you, I want no part in it. You’re no different from Newton and his good ol’ boys network who subtly demean women by reducing their worth on your show to their appearance only. Women fight this battle for credibility every day in the world, and I never would have guessed you would perpetuate the problem. I’m done.”

“What do you mean you’re done?” he questions.

“Um, let’s see. I’m finished. I’m through. Or here’s a better one. This—” I point between the two of us. “—is over. I can’t do this secret relationship, or the lies that accompany it, any longer. Whether they are lies by omission, little white lies, or lies of deception, they are eating my sanity alive, one bite at a time.”

“Bella, please. You don’t mean that,” he begs.

It’s time to come clean, so he understands exactly how serious I am. “Oh, trust me. I do. I’m so sick of living in everyone’s shadow. What about my career? Well, for once, I’m going to be selfish and do something for me. I didn’t tell you, but a week ago, I was offered a position in our Berlin office.”

He falls heavily into one of the chairs without a response, so I continue.

“Emmett has been after me for an answer, and I didn’t really know what to say. But I think it’s crystal clear for me now. I’m taking the position. I’m pretty sure you can understand my desire to put myself first. You’re quite the pro at that yourself.”

“Bella.” He reaches out for my hand, but I pull away quickly.

“I need to prove to myself and everyone else that I’ve got what it takes without my father pulling strings, or my connections to the President and his family.” My eyes fill with unshed tears. “Or I would sleep with a talk show host in order to secure a guest spot on his Sunday morning show to further my career. I want to be taken seriously, Edward. I deserve that. I deserve better.”

Anger flashes across his face. “Did Newton say that? Or Tanya?”

“We both deserve better. This isn’t a relationship. This is us, doing whatever this is—a few late nights here and there when we can find the time. We aren’t roommates. I don’t even have a drawer at your place. I move around D.C. with a bag of essentials, just in case you decide to throw a breadcrumb in my direction. I have no claim on you. As far as everyone knows, we are only acquaintances, business ones at that. And it hurts, more than you can ever understand. I don’t know why I ever thought I could keep our relationship a secret. It’s killing me.” I zip up my bag, knowing I need to get out of this room before I break down completely.

“Bella, why didn’t you tell me before now? How can you think you have no claim on me?” Edward asks.

“Oh, I don’t know. Just ask every woman—married or single, in a fifty-mile radius, probably even farther—if they think they have a chance with you. You certainly don’t act unavailable. I get it now. I understand why I shouldn’t be here witnessing you flirt with anyone with boobs or a skirt. And before you say it, it’s not just me being jealous. It is absolutely heartbreaking to watch, and I can’t do it anymore. I thought it was more about your career, but the truth is, it never was. You like your image and have no plans to change it.”

I wait for him to contradict me, but a response never comes, which breaks my heart open even wider because that means every word I’ve said is true.

“Goodbye, Edward. Good luck with chasing your dreams. It’s time for me to have a shot at mine.”

I’m out the door and never look back. There’s no “Bella, wait,” or “I love you.” He doesn’t make a single attempt to stop me, and I’m left with the sound of my shoes, shuffling along the hallway and walking out of his life.

I’m almost at the exit when Shelly comes around the corner, and when she sees me her face transforms to that of the cat that swallowed the canary—already gloating, as if she heard every word of our conversation.

Maybe she did.

“Congratulations. You win!” I snarl, pushing past her.

She smirks. “I always do.”

A/N: Huge thank yous to Hadley Hemingway, LizziePaige, Honeymoon Edward, purpleC305, and Midnight Cougar for their help with this story. xx

There’s so much more going on behind the scenes of Edward’s show than you probably anticipated.