Behind Closed Doors – C6

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

-BCD-

Chapter 6: The Birthday Boy

“I’m surprised to hear from you so early on a Sunday morning.” There’s nothing casual about Jacob in his suit and tie on our early coffee date. He looks as polished as ever, ready for wherever the day may take him.

I shrug. “I was up and planning to run some errands, so I thought you would be interested in catching up over coffee. Have you been up for hours, or do you never sleep?”

“Sleep? What’s that? If I’m lucky, I nap for a few hours, as I move from one crisis to the next.”

“So, how’s life in the big house?”

“You make it sound like a prison.”

“Isn’t it? I was speaking with your wife at the Women’s Luncheon, and she seems to hold that opinion. I take it you don’t feel the same way?”

“Oh, Leah. No, from my point of view, living there is a privilege.”

“What’s wrong with Leah? Trouble in paradise?”

“It’s not good. I guess it hasn’t ever been good. We aren’t even sharing a bedroom at this point. Everyone is constantly asking when we are having kids. However, you would need to have sex for that to be a possibility or at least share a bed.”

“Jacob, I’m sorry.”

“I know she’s having sex, just not with me. She’s seeing someone.”

“Like who?”

“Sam.”

“I thought that was old news, and they were over each other when he married. What about Emily? She’s pregnant, for goodness sake.”

“I don’t know. It’s a mess.”

Jacob’s phone starts vibrating. “Unknown number… Is it okay if I take this? I never know who may be in crisis at any given moment.”

“Sure.”

“Hello? Hey, Seth. What’s up?” He looks across the table at me. “I’m having coffee with Bella.” There’s a pause. “Seth says, ‘Hi.'”

“Hi, Seth.” I speak a little louder, so he can hear me.

Jacob’s face fills with concern, but I have no clue what Seth is telling him on the other end.

“Seth, I have no idea. Sit tight and I’ll see what I can do.” He looks over at me, shaking his head. “Okay. Later.”

Jacob ends his call, scrubbing his hands over his face. “I can’t believe him.”

“What happened?”

“Seth has lost his phone.”

“Well, that’s not so bad. What was he doing when he lost it? I’m sure he can get a new one fairly easily.”

“True, but that’s not the problem. It’s what’s on Seth’s phone that’s the problem. Apparently, there is a sex video and nude photos that could be trouble.”

“What?” My eyes widen with shock and disbelief. “Seth made some kind of sex video? And it’s out there somewhere?”

“Yes, there’re dick pics too, and they aren’t only his.”

“Oh, sweet Jesus. His parents are going to lose it.”

“They aren’t the biggest problem, Bella. The media will have a field day with this, and I have no idea how to contain it.”

“Has he tried tracking his phone’s location from another phone? Sometimes that works.”

“True, but the tracking feature needs to be on, and he tells me it isn’t. So, who knows who has his phone and when they plan to sell it or use it to their advantage. This is bad.”

“Happy Sunday morning to you.” I hold up my coffee. “Cheers.”

“Oh, Bella. This is just par for the course with Seth. I need to figure out what to do about Leah. If she’s so unhappy with me, maybe we can come to some type of agreement. Have an open marriage, if we can’t divorce. Our fathers are going to be livid when they find out how badly everything has deteriorated between us.”

“Don’t her parents already suspect something’s wrong if you aren’t even sharing the same bedroom?”

“They don’t know. They still think she stays with me when she is out all night. I found out from security she frequents a hotel nearby.”

“What if she gets pregnant with Sam’s baby?”

“Oh, God. I’m sure he would like that. Something else to taunt me with in how he’s always so much better than I am: ‘the man I couldn’t be.’ Security told me it isn’t just Sam. She was with an intern from Sam’s office, Collin somebody.”

“If she does get pregnant, then it sounds like a paternity test will be in order.”

“It doesn’t matter. It won’t be my kid.”

“Jacob, I’m sorry. Is your marriage really over? Maybe counseling would help.”

“I can’t trust her if she’s out with other men, Bella. I think we’re done. I just need to figure out how to divorce her as quietly as possible and find my own place.”

“What about you, Jacob? Have you considered dating anyone else?”

“No. I thought Leah was just going through a bratty phase, and she would come around, but I would say breaking your marriage vows sends a pretty complete message.”

“She’s always had an attitude for as long as I’ve known her. I was surprised when the two of you decided to marry.”

“It wasn’t our idea, but clearly, we should have objected. Everything was fine in the beginning when we were actually having sex, but there’s more to a marriage than sex. Let’s hope I don’t lose my job if we divorce.”

“I don’t see that happening. Harry and Sue probably know more than you think. They are used to dealing with Leah, and you’re doing a great job. It isn’t easy finding a Press Secretary who can handle the job with the ease that you do. I think you’re safe there. I’m sure Sue will be pissed, but at Leah.”

“Well, enough about me and my latest problems. How are you? All good at the Post?”

“Yes, I’m working on some articles, but I feel pulled in so many different directions. I just hope I don’t spread myself too thin.”

“Why would you do that? I thought Emmett was an easy-going guy.”

“He is, but it’s my former professor who is pushing me. Ever since I confided in him. One of my goals is to win a Pulitzer Prize, and he keeps pushing me toward more human rights stories. Carlisle, that’s his name, thinks I’ll stand a better chance of getting my work noticed if I head down that path.”

“It sounds reasonable.”

“I agree, but the personal experiences are heart-wrenching. It’s taking a toll on my emotions while I’m here far removed from the turmoil. The suffering—”

“Hey, this is what makes you so good at what you do. You’re connecting emotionally, and it will come through with your words. Keep going. Don’t give up because it gets difficult. The experience whether you win any type of recognition or not will be worth the journey.”

“Thanks, Jacob.”

“I hate to cut our time short, but I’ve got a new situation to address.”

I chuckle. “That’s right. Seth and his phone.”

“I have no idea how to prepare for this one.”

“Good luck with whatever happens with you and Leah. If you need to talk, give me a call.”

“Thanks, Bella.”

After wrapping up my coffee with Jacob, I stop by a grocery store in Edward’s neighborhood before making my way to his place. During one of our conversations, we shared birth dates, which is how I found out his was coming up this week. With little time during the week to celebrate, we made plans to meet at his place after today’s show and spend the day together.

Since Angela and Ben were at our place when I left this morning with no plans to leave, I decided to make a birthday cake at Edward’s to avoid any raised eyebrows or questions. After locating and purchasing everything I need, I finish walking to Edward’s, hoping he’s made it back to his apartment before me.

I’m readjusting my bags when I hear someone calling my name.

“Bella?”

I see Alice Whitlock smiling brightly and heading in my direction.

“Alice. Hi, how are you?”

“Oh, I’m good. Do you live around here?”

“No, I was just in the neighborhood having coffee with Jacob Black.”

“Right. You two know each other from Washington, correct?”

“Yes, longtime family friends. Unfortunately, we don’t get a lot of opportunities to see each other, but it was great he could get away this morning.”

“Well, don’t think I have forgotten about us getting together. Sue gave me your number. I hope that’s okay.”

“Sure.”

“But I’ve barely had a chance to breathe lately. We had one intern quit, and another decided she didn’t want to continue at the White House and is now backpacking through Europe.”

“Yikes. I’m sure you’ve been busy then. Do you live around here?”

“No, I made a quick visit to see my cousin, but he wasn’t home. So, I thought I would stop at a local bakery the Clearwaters love since I’m in the neighborhood.”

“Always on the job.”

“I just want them to feel like it’s their home, and they are welcome here in D.C. If they enjoy the great things our area has to offer, then they will always remember their time here with fond memories. Plus, it’s easier for me to run any sort of errand than for them to leave the White House.”

“Wow, Alice, that’s really sweet.”

“What can I say? I’m a memory maker, among other things.”

“Well, don’t let me keep you. Let’s plan on having lunch soon.”

“I’ll call you later this week to set something up.”

“Sounds like a great plan. Talk with you then.”

“Enjoy the rest of your day, Bella.”

“Thanks. You, too.”

Edward’s apartment isn’t far, but when I enter the lobby, the attendant at the front desk recognizes me and stops me from proceeding to the elevators.

“Miss Swan, Mr. Masen left an envelope for you.”

“Thanks.”

“Have a good day.”

Shifting my bags to one hand, I head to the elevators and tear open the envelope. Inside, I find a key and a handwritten card that says, “818, if you forgot—E.” I figure Edward must have left this for me just in case he isn’t back from the studio yet.

It feels a little weird being in Edward’s apartment without him, and I’m hoping with time, I’ll feel more comfortable in his space. I set my grocery bags on the counter and start making the cake first. Most of Edward’s kitchen items still have sales stickers on them, and cake pans are nowhere to be found, so I’m glad I thought to bring some of my own.

I’m pouring cake batter into three pans when I hear the front door open.

“Honey, I’m home!” Edward yells, coming around the corner with a huge smile on his face. “Now, this is a sight I could get used to seeing.”

He leans in to steal a few kisses. “Mmmmm. Delicious.”

“What do I taste like?”

“Vanilla cake.”

“Let me just put these in your oven.”

“That sounds so sexy.”

“You’re ridiculous. Have you ever used this oven? It looks brand new.”

“Uh, did I mention I’m not one to cook?”

“Yes, but Edward, surely you don’t eat carryout every night.”

“No, some nights I eat at one of the restaurants around here or at the studio. Other times, I eat at work events or meetings. Do I not look well-fed?”

“You look mighty fine to me.”

“That’s more like it. Now come here so you can properly welcome me home after a long morning at work.”

I slide into his embrace, and immediately, relax as his intoxicating scent surrounds me.

“I like this. Maybe it should be a tradition—you here waiting for me after the show.”

“Baking you a cake?”

“It’s making me feel like 1950. Do you have an apron and pearls you could wear?”

“Neither.”

“Well, that kills my fantasy.”

“I think you’ll get over it.”

“I’ll try. Okay, I’m going to shower and get rid of this morning’s thick coating of hairspray and makeup.”

“Is there anything in particular you would like to eat? I can order food from somewhere.”

“Mmmm, how about pizza and beer? My favorite pizza is from Little Coco’s, where we had your favorite squid ink pasta.”

“Oooh, don’t remind me.” My “ick” face is in full force with the idea of eating that dish again.

“Their pizza is fantastic. You can’t go wrong with any of the selections, and if you can find hockey anything on television, that would be great.”

After Edward leaves for his shower, I keep myself busy, tidying up the kitchen and placing an order with Little Coco’s. I’m unable to find a hockey game, but settle on a Washington Nationals baseball game, which plays softly in the background.

Edward finally emerges from his room freshly showered, in jeans and a T-shirt, when the timer goes off on the oven. “Something smells delicious! It reminds me of living at home with my folks. My mom used to bake all of the time. What kind of cake am I getting?”

“You told me your favorite was strawberry shortcake, right? Well, that’s what I’m making, but not a traditional version.” I set the cake pans on the top of the oven to cool just as Edward’s hands slide around my waist, pulling my back flush against his chest.

“I can’t wait. Did you order pizza? I’m starving.” Edward nibbles on my ear, then moves lower along my neck.

“Yes. It should be here in about fifteen minutes.”

“Mmmmm.”

“That doesn’t sound like hockey.”

“It’s sports.”

“Close enough.”

A knock on the door slows Edward down, reluctantly leaving to answer the door and retrieve our pizza delivery. I grab two beers from his refrigerator and a couple of plates, then follow him as he sets us up in his living room in front of the game.

“Is this okay?”

“Sure, Angela and I are television eaters too.”

I manage a couple of slices of pizza while Edward demolishes the rest. Apparently, he works up quite an appetite post-show, and after a second round of beers, we are both feeling sleepy.

“How about a nap?” Edward shifts on the couch and opens his arms, helping me settle on his chest. “I’m always up so early on show days this feels like evening. The early alarm always catches up with me later in the day.”

“I could nap.”

“Did you see today’s show?” he asks through half-lidded eyes.

“I did.”

Edward’s hand starts stroking my back. “What did you think?”

“I think you’re the most handsome host.”

“While that’s great, what about the rest?”

“Uh, are you asking me as a reporter or as a woman?”

“Both?”

“Are you sure you want to know?”

“Yes.”

“Senator Volturi’s plan isn’t great. It has the potential to be a disaster for many women who stand to lose basic health benefits. When you allow the states to determine what are essential health benefits, most will choose to cut coverage of maternity and prescription drug benefits. With this plan, Medicaid will also suffer deep cuts, which covers more women than men. Half of all births in the United States are covered by Medicaid, which puts many young mothers at risk. The plan also looks to defund Planned Parenthood, which means it will no longer reimburse Planned Parenthood for Medicaid patients. Therefore, a woman on Medicaid can no longer use Planned Parenthood’s services which provide well-visits, cervical cancer screenings, access to low-cost contraception, and testing for sexually transmitted infections. The cuts will force many Planned Parenthood locations to close, leaving women and communities without access to the care they need. The United States already has the highest maternal mortality rates among developed countries; reducing coverage will likely make the problem worse.”

I tilt my head up to gauge Edward’s reaction to my position on Senator Volturi’s plan, only to find his eyes closed and his breathing slow and deep. He’s asleep.

While I enjoy being here cuddled together, my brain won’t turn off, and I’m a little worked up thinking back to this morning’s show. Carefully, I extract myself from Edward’s arms and go check to see if his cake is cool.

Since it isn’t, I take out my phone and go through my emails, catching up on those. Then, I do a little research for work while the sounds of the baseball game and Edward’s soft snores fill the background noise.

Two hours later, Edward starts to rouse from his afternoon nap just as I’m adding the final strawberries to the top of his cake.

“Bella?”

I wipe my hands and walk over next to him, sitting on the edge of the couch.

“Hey.” My fingers run through his soft wavy hair.

“Where did you go?”

“I just finished your birthday cake.”

With his eyes still closed, a smile spreads across his face. “Cake.”

“I also got you a present.”

“You’re just full of surprises. Sorry, I fell asleep.”

“It’s fine. I know you’re exhausted.”

“I like you being here when I wake up. How late can you stay?”

“I would say midnight. I still have to get up early for work in the morning.”

“Okay. You said something about a present?”

I hand him the brightly wrapped rectangular box I left sitting on his coffee table earlier. “Happy birthday.”

He puckers his lips, tilting up for me to give him a kiss, which I do.

“Thank you.”

“You haven’t even opened it yet.”

Edward unwraps and opens the box. “A blue tie?”

I shrug. “Since you need to dress up all of the time, I figured another couldn’t hurt. I think it would look great with that gray suit you wore today. I know everyone is all about the ‘power red’ tie, but blue can be patriotic too. You’re just lucky I chose this one over the bald eagle one I was considering.”

Edward laughs. “You’re not going to believe it, but I have one with an eagle. It just doesn’t get a lot of airtime. Thank you, Bella.”

“Sure. Are you ready for cake now?”

“Absolutely.”

I bring the cake over to the coffee table and light the two “3” candles in the center of the cake.

“Are you going to sing for me?”

“I’m not much of a singer, but I’ll do my best.”

“Marilyn Monroe style?”

I use my best deep breathy voice to deliver the sexiest version possible.

Happy birthday to you,

Happy birthday to you,

Happy birthday, Mr. Masen,

Happy birthday to you.”

He pulls me across his lap and smashes our lips together in a kiss filled with passion and promise.

I’m the one who finally breaks away needing to catch my breath. “You need to make a wish and blow out the candles.”

Edward gets a sneaky grin on his face then leans over and blows out the candles.

I turn around, cut a slice, and place it on a plate, then get ready to cut another, but Edward stops me. “Let’s share a piece.”

“Sure.”

He readjusts me across his lap, and I hold the plate and fork while Edward’s hands start wandering over my curves.

I hold up a bite for him then take one for myself.

“This cake is delicious. I’m glad you could come over.”

“Me, too.”

“You feel good and smell amazing.”

“It’s the cake.”

He’s very distracting, but I manage to feed us half of the slice before we abandon the plate all together.

Kissing Edward is becoming one of my favorite ways we spend our time together. However, we did round a couple of bases this evening, making me appreciate our national pastime in ways I never considered.

Before I leave for the night, we make plans to spend the Fourth of July together, watching the fireworks from his balcony. I’m excited for more fireworks of our own.

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

Jacob shared his marital woes with Bella and she ran into Alice unexpectedly this chapter. I’m pretty sure you know who her “cousin” is that she was trying to visit. Thank goodness her timing was too early or that would have been a sticky situation for Bella to explain. I hope you enjoyed a little more domestic side of Edward and Bella’s relationship. Any guesses as to Edward’s birthday wish?