Behind Closed Doors – C4

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

-BCD-

Chapter 4: The Secrets & Lies

The stunning arrangement of glass and steel in the lobby of Edward’s apartment building leaves me astonished by the high-end elegance. However, the most fascinating part is the Dale Chihuly glass sculpture overhead. I would recognize one of his installations anywhere, but this is inside Edward’s building. It’s a piece of Seattle right here in the middle of D.C.; kind of like me, even though I’m from Forks. I hope this is a good sign.

My confidence about pursuing whatever this is between Edward and me took a hit after my conversation with his agent. I think conversation is generous for what went down. Shelly’s threat is probably the most accurate description for her monologue on the million reasons why Edward and I shouldn’t date.

In light of her words, I’ve been thinking about the best way for us to proceed, and I’m hoping that today Edward and I can figure out what’s best for our careers and us. I know I also need to come clean about my father and our connections to the White House—because I would rather Edward hear it from me first.

“I have a Miss Isabella Swan here to see you.”

While I wait for the front desk attendant to confirm my arrival with Edward, I notice a Zen water garden tucked away in a peaceful spot. I need more Zen in my life, especially right now; perhaps I should take Angela up on those yoga classes too.

“Very good. I’ll add her to your list. Miss Swan, if you go down this hall, you will locate the elevators. Mr. Masen is on the eighth floor, apartment 818.”

“Thank you.”

After a quick trip in the elevator, I locate Edward’s apartment easily and get ready to knock when the door suddenly swings wide open.

“Bella.” Edward’s face lights up. “Come in.”

“Hey.” My stomach flutters at the sight of finally seeing him face-to-face again. He’s every bit as handsome as I recall.

As I walk through the doorway, Edward leans in, leaving a quick peck on my lips. I’m a little startled, realizing we’ve just had our first kiss, and I wasn’t ready.

Edward closes the door behind me, but I’m frozen in place with how to fix this.

His happiness at my arrival evaporates instantly when he sees the concern on my face. “What is it?”

I touch my fingertips to my lips. “Did we just have our first kiss?”

“Uh, I guess we did. Not what you were expecting?”

“No. I mean, yes—it was fine, but I wasn’t ready. Usually, those happen at the end of the date.”

“I see your point. However, I like doing things a little unexpectedly. I don’t see any reason to wait. Do you think we can do better?”

“I know I can.”

“Then, I won’t hold back this time. Let’s try again.”

Edward slides his hands around my waist, pulling our bodies flush, while my fingers are laced together behind his neck. He leans down and softly presses his lips to mine, and I respond instantly. What starts as a tentative, delicate kiss, rapidly morphs into one filled with eagerness and enthusiasm. When we pull apart, I focus on controlling my ragged breathing, while my heart feels like it may beat out of my chest. Edward seems equally affected, and his bright smile matches mine.

“Better?”

“Much.”

“I am partial to a quick kiss every now and then.” He leans down to leave two pecks on my lips then pulls away, taking my hand and leading me into the kitchen. “Are you sure you’re okay with having dinner here? We can always go out to a neighborhood restaurant.”

“No. Dinner here is fine. I think it will be easier for us to talk without who knows who eavesdropping on our conversation.”

“Wow, sounds like we’re going to get down to the nitty-gritty. The journalist in me is extremely excited.”

I shrug. “Let’s hope I don’t disappoint you then.”

“Not a chance.” Edward smiles, claps his hands together, and pulls containers from a bag on the countertop. “I’m not much of a cook, so I took the liberty of ordering our dinner from a little Italian place down the street.”

“I love Italian. Do you want some help setting everything up?” I scan his kitchen and wonder what I can do.

“I thought we would eat out on the balcony.” He points toward the beautiful glass walls of his living room, and I see a table for two, set with candles, flowers, and silverware just outside the glass balcony door.

“First course: an antipasto plate.” Edward removes the plastic covering and holds out the most picture-perfect plate filled with thinly sliced meats, small wedges of cheese, giardiniera, artichoke salad, and slices of ciabatta bread.

“It looks delicious.”

“Would you like some wine?”

“Yes, please.”

Edward pours two glasses of red. “How about I carry these, and you bring the antipasto plate?”

“You don’t trust me with the wine?”

“Did you bring extra clothes?” He smirks.

“Very funny.”

“Don’t worry. If an unfortunate accident would occur, I’m positive I can find you a change of clothes.” He wiggles his eyebrows suggestively.

I open the door to the balcony and walk out into the cool evening breeze while Edward follows behind with our wine.

The sun is starting to set, giving us the most picturesque setting. “This is a beautiful view. How long have you lived here?”

Edward pulls out my chair and helps me to get settled then sits directly across from me.

“About a year—wait until you see the rooftop pool. It’s a real treat.”

“Oh? Are you someone who takes a midnight skinny dip?” I tease with my cheeky comment, but regret my words immediately as my mind pictures a naked Edward. I have no doubt my face flushes at the image.

“I’ve never thought about it, but I suppose I could be with the right person.” He winks, not missing a beat.

I give him a sly smile at the possibility I could be that person and ask between bites, “Have you ever been up there?”

“Yes… on the tour when I was considering this place, but to be fair, work overtakes most of my time. There’s also a workout area, but I have yet to use it either.”

“Sounds like you keep very busy, which makes me wonder how much time the two of us really have to devote to a relationship.”

“I understand your concern. It’s taken us over a month to have our first date.”

“I’m also worried about what kind of effect dating will have on either of our careers.”

Edward pauses, but I continue, knowing I’ll feel better once I get it all out.

“I probably should explain more than I did when we first met, but it’s not the easiest conversation to have, especially in a crowded hockey arena. My father is Charlie Swan.”

“Charlie Swan?”

“Yes.”

“As in Deputy Director of the FBI, Charlie Swan?”

“Yes, the very one. I understand that he can be a little intimidating, but knowing him and his position is only one piece to this puzzle. Charlie has a couple of best friends.”

I wait and let that soak in.

“Best friends? Okay, I don’t get it.” Confusion mars Edward’s handsome features.

“Yes, I told you we were from Washington originally, but my dad’s best friends are also from there. You know them as well.”

“Your dad’s best friends would be…”

I clear my throat. “Harry Clearwater and Billy Black.”

“The President?”

“Yes and his Chief of Staff.”

“Wow, Bella.”

“I know. It overwhelms me at times. When Harry decided to run for Governor of Washington, I don’t think anyone thought he would win, including Harry. However, he did win, ousting an incumbent. I had already moved across the country and was working on my undergrad degree at Harvard. By the time re-election came around for Harry, he won easily, while I was busy graduating and getting ready to start my internship at the Boston Globe.”

“So, you weren’t living there or involved in his campaign?”

“No, I wasn’t, and actually, I was grateful for the distance. I received scholarships in order to attend Harvard, and when I graduated, my internship paid enough for me to stand on my own two feet. Angela and I had an apartment while she was busy attending law school.”

“If my estimate is correct, she would have probably graduated close to the time your internship finished?”

“Yes. I was offered a position with the Globe but also one with the Post, which I took. Angela was lucky enough to land a federal appeals court clerkship.”

“Those are difficult to get.”

“Which is why we knew D.C. was our next step. So, we found our current apartment and have been living there ever since.”

“Then your dad…”

“Right. Harry decided to give the presidency a shot, not thinking he had a chance. You know how that went. He won by a landslide, and they all moved to D.C. Harry appointed the people who had been with him during his time as Governor into similar positions here for his presidency. While most aren’t in cabinet positions, they are only a step away. He chose those best for the cabinet jobs from all over the country, then added in the people he could trust to support them.”

“Holy smokes. You probably have some amazing connections now.” He smiles. “Are you ready for more wine and salad?”

Edward grabs our empty antipasto plate, and I follow him back inside.

“More wine and salad would be great. And yes, I do have some incredible connections, but I was already building my own network before they got here. My mentor, Carlisle Cullen, has been instrumental in my success and continues to be a huge influence as I build my career.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever met him, but I’ve heard of him. It’s hard not to when he’s a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who rewrote ‘opinion journalism’. Doesn’t he contribute to the New York Times?”

“Yes, and he’s a political commentator for CNN while still teaching at Harvard.”

Edward opens the salad and divides it between two plates. “Second course: harvest salad, which is lettuce, apples, radishes, and candied walnuts. They put in a container of some type of vinaigrette. Is that okay?”

“Sure, but don’t go wild.”

Edward drizzles just enough on each salad, and I grab the wine for refilling our glasses once we move back outside to continue our meal.

“So, you’re here working, and they have all recently moved into the White House, which I’m positive is a shock to everyone, you included.”

“Yes, but I think they are all settling into life here, which is good. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic achievement for Harry, but at the same time, it’s now being thrown in my face.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve been working hard to establish myself as a serious journalist, Edward. My nose to the grindstone and all that. However, now there’s like this… I don’t know… peanut gallery who rears their ugly heads every time I do something or I’m successful at something, claiming I wouldn’t have this success without my or my father’s connections to the presidency.”

“Ouch.”

“Exactly. I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. I can’t win.”

“So, it’s affecting your career and not in a good way.”

“Not just my career, but my life. Edward, you have no idea how many people now try to use me or my friendship to get to Harry. It’s ridiculous. And don’t even get me started with dating.”

“I can see where dating may become more challenging, but I would think the right guy could handle it.”

“But how do you ever know if someone is really dating you for you or for what you can do for them. I’m sick of being everyone’s stepping stone, which is why I was on a blind date at Angela’s prompting.”

“I may be biased, but I’m glad it worked out the way it did.”

“Edward, are you really sure you want to pursue something with me? I could inadvertently sabotage your career. It would kill me if that happened.” I shake my head.

“Bella, I like you. I like talking with you and hearing about your day. I like listening to your opinions on the stories you’re researching or the people you’re interviewing. You always have an interesting take on my questions for this week’s show. You’re this bright spot in the middle of my own brand of chaos. While I have goals, I’m not looking to use you for my own gain. I didn’t even know your connections until you told me. I want to give us a shot, and we can do this however you think is the best way to proceed.”

“That’s just it. I don’t want to be your dirty little secret or you mine. If word gets out we’re dating, we’ll both be hounded. You will be seen as someone who has his own political aspirations, trying to cozy up to the President by having a relationship with me. You won’t be viewed as an objective journalist, which could impact your ability to land guests for your show, causing your ratings to plunge.

“If our critics aren’t busy waving the flag of nepotism in my direction and discrediting my work at every turn, they will start singing a new tune. I’ll be branded as a fame-hungry journalist who’s only dating you for television airtime.”

“You don’t think we can make it?”

“I don’t know, Edward. It’s not going to be easy if we go the traditional route. We could be over before we even get started.”

“My father always told me worthwhile things are never easy.”

“Maybe it’s best to keep our relationship just between the two of us for the sake of both our careers.”

“Well, I’m not sure how easy it will be to keep it contained, but if it means you’re willing to give us a shot, then I’m willing to try. I put you on my list of allowed guests, which means you have access to my apartment without waiting. And before you ask, no one at the desk will tell anyone about my guest list or who frequents. Privacy is all part of the deal here.”

“Are you sure, Edward? I don’t want you to have any regrets.”

“My only regret will be not giving this a try.”

“Do you have an agent?”

“Sure, doesn’t everyone?”

“Well, no. I don’t. Do you think this is something to discuss with your agent? If word gets out about our relationship, it could have a huge impact on your career.”

“I thought we were keeping this just between us? Look, Bella. My private life is just that, private. When asked, I make no comments. It’s that simple. My agent is busy crafting this successful career for me with an image that appeals to the most people. I try my best to do what she asks, but I have my limits too. I understand your concerns and the burdens you carry.”

“I just don’t want them to become too much for you, and you end up resenting me.”

I consider sharing my conversation with Shelly, but if Edward is adamant about keeping his public and private lives separate, then there’s no reason for me to worry he won’t keep her in line.

“Our relationship won’t be conventional, Bella, but I’ll do whatever it takes to keep it ours.”

“I can live with that.”

“Good.” Edward grabs our empty salad plates. “Ready for the next course?”

I follow him back inside. “Sure, what’s next?”

“Squid ink spaghetti with crab and shellfish cream, sea beans, and bread crumbs.”

I’m sure I make a face, but I try not to be the three-year-old who refuses to eat her peas when I see the next container he opens. “It’s black.”

“Come on, Bella. Where’s your sense of adventure?”

“I like to leave it in the ocean with the squid and its ink.”

“You’ll like this, I promise.”

Edward divides the pasta between two plates.

“Not too much on mine.” I hope Edward believes in the old adage, less is more.

“I also have cannoli for dessert.”

“You’re not playing fair. Don’t you need to watch your weight with the pasta and sweets? What about the saying, ‘television adds ten pounds’?”

Edward grins. “Only if you lift it.”

“Ha,ha. You’re a comedian too.”

“No, the ten pounds are a myth, which can be attributed to bad lighting and poorly chosen camera angles. Why, you don’t think my fans would still love me a little doughy?”

“I’m sure they’ll love you no matter how you look.”

I open the balcony door, as he carries our plates back to our table for two. With the sun now set, the candlelight creates a beautiful, romantic glow about the space as we settle back into our seats.

“See, you’re good for my ego. I’m going to keep you around for a long time. Now, try the pasta and stop pushing it around your plate. It’s good. Trust me.”

I take a deep breath and twist a few noodles onto my fork. I pause when the fork is near my mouth. “Are any of the cannoli chocolate?”

Edward chuckles. “Yes.”

“Shoot. Here goes nothing.”

I ease the forkful of pasta in my mouth and start to chew, noticing a saltier flavor, but close enough to regular pasta that will keep me from freaking out.

“Well?”

“I’ll concede this one. It’s not bad, but I think the cream sauce is the true champ on the plate.”

“Oh, it’s not that bad, Bella.”

A thought occurs to me. “Oh, dear. Is it going to stain my teeth?” I take a drink of wine to clear my mouth and smile for Edward showing him my teeth.

“Uh—”

“Oh, God! It is staining my teeth, isn’t it?”

He finishes another mouthful, indifferent as I notice his own lightly stained lips and blackish teeth. “Bella, stop freaking out. It’s only temporary. I’ve had this dish before with no lasting effects.”

“Edward, you need to be more careful. Something like this could ruin your career more than any of my baggage,” I warn.

“You just don’t like the idea of eating black food.” He takes another huge bite.

“Not true. I think it’s the squid part that freaks me out. I’ve had blackout cake, which is divine and didn’t stain my teeth. Why didn’t you force me to eat that? Now, I’m some goth chick with my stained lips. Oh goodness, Edward. You have a show to do in the morning. It won’t fade by then, will it? You need to stop eating. Put the squid ink down before it’s too late. Let’s go inside. You should brush your teeth .”

“You’re overreacting.” Edward reaches for my hand, pulling me from my chair and urging me to sit across his lap.

“Am I?” I wrap my arms around his shoulders, and he tilts his head up, puckering his lips while waiting for me to kiss him.

“Yes. Now kiss me.”

I give him a quick peck. “Now I understand why we need to eat here. This wouldn’t be appropriate behavior in a restaurant.”

“Hmmm, you may need to give me lessons on appropriate behavior, Ms. Swan.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yes.” Edward pinches my ass, causing me to jump and squirm on his lap. “Let’s go inside. I’ll make you a fire.”

“Do you mean flip a switch?”

“Technically yes, but a fire is still a fire.”

“I probably should be going soon. It’s getting late, and rising stars need their sleep when they have to host an early morning talk show.”

“Okay, but first, let me woo you with cannoli and a rousing discussion on free-trade agreements and tariff increases. I need to go over my notes before tomorrow’s show.”

“How could anyone turn down an offer like that?” I laugh and head inside.

A/N: Huge thank yous Hadley Hemingway, LizziePaige, Honeymoon Edward, and purpleC305 for pre-reading and Midnight Cougar for beta-ing. xx

A side note for those who aren’t familiar with the name mentioned at the beginning of the chapter. Dale Chihuly is an American glass sculptor with colorful, large-scale installations found around the world. For those who read my story, M. Parfait, they will remember that Edward is a glass artist who learned to create similar pieces of art using many of Dale’s pioneering techniques.

In this chapter, Bella came clean with her connections to the White House, helping Edward to understand why dating and trusting people is challenging for her. Many of you aren’t pleased that she chose to keep her conversation with Shelly to herself, but Bella is a journalist who doesn’t always share everything she knows, especially in a new relationship. Yes, they have decided mutually to keep the relationship a secret, but it isn’t without some influence by Shelly.