Prelude Chapter 2

A/N: I have no idea if ATMs even hold $10,000 dollars, but I have seen them being refilled. That was quite a stack of cash, and they weren’t one dollar bills.

Black credit cards? Never even seen one.

Go check out All I Need by CayStar on FFN.

 

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The text from her boss said to get down to the Magnolia garden villa. She had texted Richard back, saying she hadn’t finished with the Versailles suite up on the twenty-sixth floor, but he hadn’t cared. Some rather well-to-do Texan had reserved the suite with the private courtyard and cabana, and Richard wanted Bella to make sure it was up to snuff.

Bella’s slight OCD tendencies had made her a favorite of the housekeeping staff’s manager.

“Ness, I’m sorry, but Richard said I had to get down to the Magnolia. Some guy from Texas is coming in.”

The tall red-head poked her head out of the bathroom door. “Damn, Milly. It ain’t hot enough in Texas for him, he’s gotta come over here?”

Bella was glad her roommate always remembered to call her “Milly” while they were at work. She just smiled and shrugged her shoulders as she packed up her cleaning cart. “Maybe he likes it when the humidity and temperature race to see which can get higher?”

Nessie rolled her grey eyes and propped her hands on her full hips. “Probably another one that didn’t lose enough in Vegas, so he figured he’d drop a few grand at a casino in Lake Charles.”

“Well, the L’Auberge is pretty new …”

“And rich folks gotta blow their money on somethin’. Maybe you’ll get a big tip.” Nessie waved at Bella with a flap of her cleaning rag, and disappeared again into the large bath room.

“If I do, I’ll share it with you! See ya later, Ness,” Bella called as the heavy door clunked closed behind her.

As she waited for the elevator to reach the top floor, her thoughts wandered back to rainy Forks again. She didn’t know why her mind had been on it so much. Maybe because it had been almost a year since she had left. It was sort of the anniversary of her very own Independence Day.

At the time, she hadn’t known that Harry Clearwater had died and that was why her father hadn’t been home when she packed her clothes and took off. Jacob had, but he hadn’t bothered to tell her. He had used her near-drowning as an excuse to try and trap her in a lip-lock.

Both of them had been so selfish and were only thinking of themselves. The more miles she had put between her truck and Forks, the prouder and happier she was. She was finally putting herself first! Well, acting like a completely self-absorbed member of the undead for months had been pretty damn self-centered and selfish, but she thought maybe getting out from under all the bad memories would be a good thing. Even Charlie had wanted her to get out of Forks.

Of course, he had meant for her to go to Renee’s in Florida …

The elevator dinged and Bella yanked her supply cart in behind her as she pressed the button for the ground floor. She leaned against the steel cart, crossed her arms over her light grey housekeeper’s uniform, and stared unseeing at the industrial grey flooring. There was no pretty carpet in the slow freight elevator.

A couple days after she had left forks, she had bought a cheap little phone at a store in Reno, Nevada. She had thought it was funny at the time. Didn’t people go to Reno for quickie divorces? It was like she had divorced Forks, Jacob Black, and the crappy memories, but she had felt bad about not even leaving a note for Charlie. She felt even worse when she found out his friend had died.

After she had genuinely commiserated with and tried to console Charlie, he quickly stopped that sad conversation and charged at her with both barrels about being immature and just up and leaving without a word. She quickly explained why she had to get out of Forks (leaving out the part about the cliff and the near-drowning); reassured him she wasn’t quitting high school, just delaying for a bit; told Charlie to give her condolences to the Clearwaters; and promised she would contact him again.

She immediately called Jake and gave him hell for not telling her about Seth and Leah’s father. That was when she found out Harry had a heart attack because his children had phased into giant wolves right in front of him.

The Cullens had left, but more young people were turning into Spirit Warriors. She had thought the young people of La Push would stop phasing after the vampires had left.

After Jacob had yelled at her for leaving, she had told him to kiss her lily white ass and go act like a junior Alpha to his pack-mates. She had stomped on the phone, dropped the pieces in some lake near the highway, and had continued on her way to Las Vegas.

She had thought the almost constant sunshine would make it a good place to avoid vampires and maybe she could hang out for a while. No one would ever think Bella Swan would end up in Vegas.

Victoria looking for her must have been why new Quileutes were phasing. She hoped getting away from Forks would also make Victoria leave the area. It must have worked. She had called Jacob about three months later and none of the wolves in his pack had picked up even a hint of the red-haired vampire’s scent for two months. It was good for them, but it made Bella nervous.

Not that she wasn’t anxious already. So anxious, in fact, that when Bella ran across a curly-headed, red-haired woman in Vegas, she had a panic attack and nearly passed out.

Bella had been wandering along a trail in a small park on the north side of town when she literally stumbled right over the woman.

It didn’t look like any park she had ever seen before. Even in Phoenix, the parks had had some kind of grass or other greenery. She’d found herself in something that reminded her of photographs of moonscapes: barren, sandy, and rocky, with a few strange-looking trees huddling together. Bella was staring up into the weird, dried-out trees when she went sailing right over a pair of legs. The flaming red hair had almost made her heart stop, and she fell right on her ass, but she realized fairly quickly her throat hadn’t been ripped out. It took another moment, but when two very tattooed arms reached out to help her up, she guessed the woman she tripped over was human.

Nessie was a concerned but somewhat annoyed, human. She had been sitting in the shade of the sparse trees, eating Doritos, and trying to read a book.

The book had survived the encounter, but the Doritos hadn’t.

When the young woman had told Bella her name was Nessie Collins, Bella almost hyperventilated again. At first hearing, Collins sounded a little too close to Cullen.

Despite Bella’s wild-eyed hysteria, Nessie got her name out of her, an abbreviated version of the horrible break-up, and found out Bella had just arrived in town and didn’t have any place to really go. She invited Bella back to her air conditioned apartment, and they’d been friends ever since. It didn’t hurt that Nessie loved the truck.

It had been pure, dumb luck, but Nessie had turned out to be a great new friend. She had been willing to share her tiny apartment, and she had helped Bella get a new ID and a job washing dishes in one of the casinos. Bella hadn’t needed any money at the time, thanks to Edward’s black credit card, but it was good to have some kind of identification, even if her new name was Mildred Elaine Englebert.

At least “Milly” was twenty-two years old and could look around the casinos if the mood struck.

Nessie never did tell Bella what “Nessie” was short for. She claimed it wasn’t Vanessa. Whatever her full name was, it must have been really awful.

They watched each other’s backs as they worked, though Nessie seemed to have a sixth sense about people. It helped to keep them both out of trouble.

After a few months, Nessie had heard about a casino and resort being built in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and she decided it was time for a change of scenery. Bella thought swamps and mosquitos weren’t much of an improvement over sandy desert, but she really didn’t have any plans and really didn’t care. Then there was that young, lanky fellow who had taken a shine to Ness at Christmas. Everything had been fine between them until her Mistletoe Cowboy had wanted to take her home to meet his momma.

Free spirited Nessie decided meeting momma wasn’t in her plans. Besides, most people didn’t appreciate her extensive body art.

They had packed up their few belongings into Bella’s truck, which had mysteriously turned up with new license plates one day, and had driven to southwestern Louisiana.

Nessie’s luck held. Within forty-eight hours they had found a furnished apartment that wasn’t infested with lizards or giant cockroaches, and they both had jobs at the L’Auberge Casino and Resort. Nessie was the best good luck charm Bella had ever had. She could have used her back in Forks.

Once they had settled in, Bella had called Jacob and her father from another throw-away phone to let them know she was fine and still busy finding herself.

Charlie had been skeptical about that part, having been through it with Renee, but he told Bella not to take too long with the finding and enjoy the wanderlust while she had the chance.

Jacob had finally calmed down a little, but he kept asking when she would be back. She was tempted to say, “Never, as long as you’re there,” but held her tongue.  The good news from Jacob was the pack was continuing to patrol and he could report there had been no vampire sightings.

Overall, life was pretty good for Bella. She just couldn’t figure out why she kept thinking about the Cullens recently. Maybe it was because a year had gone by. Maybe because she had finally opened up a little more to Nessie about why she had left Forks and wanted to disappear.

It could have been because cleaning rooms in a new hotel wasn’t rocket science, so her mind had plenty of opportunities to wander.

She had told Nessie as much as she could about the boy who had treated her like shit and dumped her. She was angry with him, but she still had a soft spot for the family she had grown to love. She missed them—except for Edward and Alice. She even missed Rosalie, who didn’t like her, and Jasper who hadn’t said more than a couple of words to her.

Over and over, as she scrubbed tubs and ran the vacuum, she had wondered how Jasper had gotten himself stuck with Alice. He’d always been so steady, calm, and quiet—rock solid, thoughtful, and at least acted like he listened to everything you said. Alice had been like a whirling dervish that obviously never listened to anything Bella had said.

Where Carlisle and Esme had been tenderly affectionate, Rosalie and Emmett had been a bit more … demonstrative. Jasper and Alice had rarely interacted with each other. Well, not when Bella had been around. She had thought they were just more private. But Alice had been all about hugging Bella, touching her, adjusting her clothes. She almost couldn’t keep her hands off her, or anyone else, except for Jasper.

Strangely, Alice and Edward had been together all the time especially when Bella had been around. The more she thought about it, the more she thought Alice seemed to be a better match for Edward. He smiled indulgently at her hyperactive mannerisms and encouraged her schemes. Usually involving making Bella do something she really didn’t want to do. They were always staring at each other with those private, and rude, conversations they had.

Bella didn’t miss that.

The elevator dinged to let her know she had arrived, and she tugged the heavy cart behind her, making her way through the back corridors to the villas. One-and-a-half of her apartments would fit inside one of them.

The months she had been with Nessie had been good ones, and she had begun to think that Edward had done her a favor.

As she passed by her manager’s office, she gave him a quick wave and continued on. The scent of warm cinnamon in the air made her mouth water, and she decided she would have to make her way through the kitchen before she left. Unfortunately, she’d probably run into Rudy—one of the hotel bakers. He had a little crush on her and had asked her out, but she had turned him down. She had been lonely. There had been times when the loneliness had pulled at her heart, but she just hadn’t wanted to get involved with anyone. None of the men she had met had seemed quite right to her.

Maybe loving a vampire had ruined her for human men? Perhaps she just hadn’t met the right one yet. If she ever did.

Though she hadn’t seen any vampires, Victoria was still out there somewhere. It was bad enough Nessie was close to her; she didn’t want to endanger anyone else.

The rich scent of cinnamon caught her attention again. It was absolutely mouthwatering. It was so enticing she almost decided to follow it and skip checking on the villa. She stood and dithered back and forth for a few moments but then decided whether Rudy was in the kitchen or not, when she finished the Magnolia suite, she would definitely find whatever it was that smelled so good.

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“Independence Day” by CayStar on FFN

“Doritos” by happyghost on FFN

“Mistletoe Cowboy” by jlove34 on FFN

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One Comment:

  1. I do wish Bella would tell Jacob the harasser off. I do like this Nessie though.

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