My entire time in Seattle had been fucked, so far. Well, maybe not all of it. The time spent with Bella had been fucked, because of Riley. I was currently sitting off camera in the morning show's studio, watching everybody work. I'd been here since 7 AM, which is three or four hours before I like to be awake, ideally. But I wanted to see firsthand what it is that goes into her job and I have been amazed at how much work she does on the computer with her weather models. Even though I always say there's nothing but rain, that isn't entirely true, and she's currently tracking a tropical storm off the coast of California.
My girl is brilliant. Only, I can't really call her that. She's Riley's girl, as the other newscasters constantly remind America. 'Oh, Bella, how is Riley? Everyone in the viewing audience wants the inside scoop. Is he a good patient? Are you his nursemaid?'
He's an ass, not at all a good patient, and for some stupid reason, she is acting as his nursemaid. She wanted to go straight to the hospital after she's done here, but I reminded her he's starting physical therapy today. Small favors, and all that. So instead I'm taking her to lunch, or whatever she wants to do.
I need to find out what's really going on with her fucker of a fiancé. Maybe I can talk some sense into her pretty head, or maybe I'll have to knock some into his. Either way, I'm going to try damn hard not to be the ex-slash-friend that sits back and watches her marry a douche canoe. I may not be the best guy in the world, but I am damn sure better for her than he is.
I squirm in my chair as I suddenly feel the need to take a piss.
Okay, so I won't physically mark my territory, but I have to make her see that he's not right for her, if nothing else.
When everything has been said, and the reporters have wrapped it up, I follow Bella to her office. She picks up a sweater she wasn't wearing on screen and puts it on, picking up her large brown bag and gesturing towards the door. I follow her, as I fear I always will, and watch her tall brown boots as she walks in front of me. Her dress today is navy, with a collar and buttons, and ends a few inches before her boots begin. I know nothing about clothes for women, but it's clear Bella does. She looks put together each time I see her, and she told me she does her own wardrobe.
She gives me directions after I squish myself into the damn sports car I had to get, and we wind up at the pier. I can see the ferris wheel revolving at it's slow pace, and several warehouses lining the wharf. She's opened her door before I can come around and do it for her, and the smell of salt and fish is pungent in my nostrils.
"I would've done that for you, if you'd waited," I tell her retreating form.
"Done what?" she throws over her shoulder.
"Opened the door, like a gentleman. I haven't forgotten my manners."
"You sound offended." I fall into step beside her, after catching up.
"I am, a little. I have never been less than a gentleman to you, but you seem to have forgotten." Her strides are long, almost angry. I put my hand on her arm to slow her down. "What is it?"
"How do you know? All I've done is walk, and you can sense there's something wrong." She slows, her pace more normal.
"Because of the quick, pissed off way you were doing the walking. I still know you, Bella."
She looks at me, right in my face. "You do, don't you?" she murmurs. Her sigh is loud, pained. "Riley." It's like she's admitting to having sinned.
"What has Scary Poppins done this time?"
She snorts. "He didn't appreciate the food last night. Didn't want me to leave, though I was dead on my feet. Bitched at me for being tired, like I was the one who'd spent all day in the hospital bed instead of going nonstop from 4 until 11."
She meets my eyes again, and I can't even understand the emotions in the depths of hers. "He said that Victoria would be thrilled to take my place if I couldn't handle him."
I have to break away from the pain on her face, have to pinch the bridge of my nose hard, all to keep from going off on that motherfucker.
"Tell me again why you're helping Freako Suave," I bite out.
"I don't know anymore," she whispers, before yanking open the door to the restaurant.
I make a point of changing the conversation so that we can enjoy our lunch together. She tells me of friends she's made, of discovering libraries and museums, of eating seafood until she was almost sick of it.
"It's so fresh here, as you can tell," she waves her fork around, indicating the restaurant, "and I ate so much of it after I got my first paycheck." She laughs. "I thought I would never be able to look a fish in the eye again."
"Yet, here we are." I grin at her relaxed shoulders, the way the tension has left her arms, her neck isn't tight, and her laughter is in her eyes.
"Yes, here we are, the best little shit hole on the wharf."
I donkey laugh, and she shushes me. "We don't want to be overheard disparaging the atmosphere, do we?" I agree in a stage whisper. "Good thing they've already served our food." She laughs until she can't catch her breath.
When she checks her watch a few minutes later, I can see her demeanor change. From the wrinkle between her eyes, to the short, quick movements as she gathers her things. The way all of her muscles have tensed up again, and I can't take it. I can't keep pretending to be happy for her misery.
"I need to go, to check on Riley. He should be out of therapy by now." Her voice is quieter, more reserved. Not quite Reporter Voice, but not Carefree Bella, either.
"Do you want me to come with you?" I offer. Maybe I can wait until she's out of the room and break the wanker's other leg.
"I don't know how he'd feel about that. He says everyone is gawking at him because he's stuck there like an animal at the zoo."
"More like a shark at the aquarium," I mutter.