Murder on the Moonlight
AU, All Human. There’s been a murder and it’s up to Bella Swan to discover whodunit. On this cruise ship, there’s plenty of suspects. Was it the honeymooning newlyweds, the young fashion designer or, perhaps, that brooding, handsome stranger? You decide!
5. Flirting and Fashionistas
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Flirting and Fashionistas
I had a sinking sensation that I knew exactly who would be sitting right behind us. I had no luck and, since I stepped on this cruise, I’d met a grand total of two people who weren’t part of the Moonlight crew. One of them, of course, was Jessica; the other, someone I was not too eager to see again, was that green-eyed stranger with the bad attitude. Considering how well my trip has been going, it had to be him.
Daring a glance over my shoulder, I tried nonchalantly to follow the casual point of Jessica’s fake fingernail. My face heated up immediately as soon as my eyes locked onto a pair that had been, no doubt, glaring at the back of my head only a few seconds ago.
Yup. It was him, all right.
He was sitting by himself at a table maybe three back from where I was sitting with Jessica. He was sitting on the far end, leaning casually back in his seat, as he stared in our direction. When he saw me and caught my eye, his lips curved into an uneven smile. He didn’t look half as angry as he’d been when he left me alone in the hallway but… still. There was no affection in his hard eyes.
I know that I was turning as red as a tomato. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from him immediately; it was only after I realized that now I was staring at him that I lowered my eyes and turned my head back around. "He’s okay, too, I guess," I mumbled, hoping she didn’t hear the faint tremble in my voice.
I’m a horrible liar but I wasn’t even thinking about that as I lied to her. All I kept seeing was that flat black glare he gave me the first time we met. Now I had the memory of his amazingly attractive smile creeping up on me, keeping my face hot, bothered and definitely colored scarlet.
"Mm-hmm," she said noncommittally.
After taking another sip from my ginger ale in an attempt to stop the rising butterflies in my stomach—a queasiness that had nothing to do with the rocking of the Moonlight—I glanced up at Jessica. With her chin resting on her hand, and a hungry look on her face, she was staring at the guy.
Could she be any more obvious?
Feeling a bit panicky—but not jealous… definitely not jealous—I placed my glass down rather loudly on the table. When that caught her attention, I hissed nervously, "Stop staring at him. He’ll see you!"
"I wouldn’t worry about that, Bella," she giggled, "he’s still watching you."
She did, however, take her eyes off of him. I let out a small sigh of relief. I don’t know what bothered me more at that moment: that I had captured his eye for some reason, or that he’d caught Jessica’s.
Even though she was looking at me again, I could tell that she was still peeking at the boy whenever she thought I couldn’t see her. After a few minutes, punctuated every now and then by one of her lighthearted giggles, she mentioned, "He is quite cute, you know. You should go talk to him."
"Me?" I wasn’t surprised to hear that my voice squeaked. I cleared my throat before adding, "Why should I?"
"Well, do you know him?"
For a second, I wondered if a chance meeting in the hallway constituted as knowing him. I shook my head. "No, I don’t."
She nodded in his direction. "He obviously wants to know you. Go on and say hi."
"I don’t think so," I said quickly. My heart was beating in my chest, thudding so loud that it felt as if it was rattling my ribcage. Just the prospect of going over there and starting up a conversation made me terrified. As if I hadn’t already embarrassed myself entirely in front of him…
Jessica pursed her lips, obviously thinking something over, before smiling brightly. "Well, then, can I?"
"Can you what?"
She giggled again. "Do you mind if I go over and talk to him? You don’t seem interested and he’s really cute!"
My first instinct was to shake my head vehemently and ban her from making any sort of contact with the bronze-haired boy… but I couldn’t do that. Besides, what did he mean to me?
"Not at all, Jess," I said, probably faster than I should have. Bringing an overly fake smile to my face, I stood up suddenly, nearing knocking my seat over in my haste. I couldn’t really explain it but I didn’t want to watch Jessica flirt with another of the cruise’s passengers. After digging around the front pockets of my jeans for a few crumpled dollar bills, I placed them on the table to pay for my drink. "I’ll see you back at the room."
"Okay, Bella." She was already fluffing up her curls, her eyes zeroing on her target as she followed my lead and got to her feet. "Later!"
We both left the table then, me heading towards the exit and Jessica heading straight towards the guy. I didn’t look back—though I was pretty sure I could feel the heat of his stare as I left—and, a little preoccupied, I didn’t look forward really, either.
I don’t know where I was going at all really, and it was no surprise that, as I hurried out through the exit, I bumped right into someone who was walking into the dining area. Since I was going so fast, I knocked into the considerably tiny shoulder of someone who was going almost as quickly as me. I saw a shock of black hair and an apologetic smile of a petite girl as she accidentally
There was a thud as whatever she was carrying fell to the ground. We both stopped and, as once, looked at the floor. Papers and other more colorful things had fallen everywhere, scattering around us. Feeling guilty, I automatically stooped down to gather as much of it together as I could. My victim obviously had the same idea because, with a loud clunk and a sudden throbbing pain, I realized we’d bumped heads.
"Here let me," I heard, and I realized that the beautiful, clear voice I heard was coming from this girl. She was laughing. "Concussions aren’t all that in style right now."
It took me a second to realize that she was making a joke. I joined in her laughter as I carefully took a step back. As she scooped all of her strewn papers up, I took the chance to get a better look at her. She was, as I noticed, very short and had an exquisitely features face. I swear, it was almost looking at an adorable pixie—even her short black hair seemed to suit the image… not to mention the outlandish get-up she was in.
I’m sure I had a look of astonishment on my face as I absently rubbed my aching forehead. But, when she stood back up and tilted her head back so she could look at me—she really was tiny—she didn’t even act surprised that I was staring at the flowing skirt and brightly colored tank she was wearing.
She grinned. "I’m so sorry about our little crash here. I should’ve been watching where I was going. I hope I didn’t hurt you. I’ve been told I have a hard head."
My fingers were still rubbing the spot where we’d knocked heads. Feeling sheepish, I dropped my hand immediately. "I’m okay. Are you? I was walking pretty quickly myself."
"Oh, I’m perfectly fine…" She paused there, as if waiting for something. It took me a second to figure out what; when I did, I felt a little like an idiot. Maybe we’d hit our heads a little harder than I thought.
"Bella," I supplied.
Her grin was even wider. "You can call me Alice," she said, shuffling her belongings together and rearranging them so she could stick out her tiny, delicate-looking hand.
As I shook her hand, my eyes landed on the pieces of paper and scraps of fabric that she was holding against her chest. I had a flash of intuition. "Do you mean Mary Alice Brandon?"
Her eyes widened in surprise. "Wow, are you a psychic?"
When I decided that I didn’t detect a note of sarcasm in her voice, I shook my head slowly. "Uh… no?"
"A detective, then?"
"Then how did you know?"
I was getting confused now. "Know what?"
"That I was Mary Alice Brandon."
Oh. That. "It was simple, really. When we—I mean, I," I amended, feeling my face flush as I thought of my clumsiness, "knocked into you, you dropped an armful of designs onto the floor. Plus there’s the clothing scraps and the way you introduced yourself as Alice."
"Wow," she said, sounding impressed. "And you figured out my identity just from that? And here I was, trying to get up to Vancouver without anyone figuring out I was traveling incognito."
Though she looked more amused than annoyed, I felt guilty. "Well, my cabinmate kind of tipped me off that you were onboard, too."
Alice laughed then, a high, clear tinkle that sounded more like a bell than a laugh. "Makes sense, but I have to wonder her tipped her off, right?"
I shrugged my shoulders, offering her my own smile in return. "I guess."
I didn’t know what to say then. I wasn’t a really big fashion buff—a sweater and jeans is the highlight of my wardrobe—and I still felt embarrassed for nearly mowing her down. And now I felt kind of bad for telling her I knew who she was, especially since I wasn’t supposed to know.
Turns out, though, that I didn’t have to say anything. Just as I was wondering how I was going to say goodbye and continue on my way without looking ruse, I heard a loud, excited voice call out to me. "Bella! You’ve got to introduce me to your new friend!"
I wanted to groan but I thought that would look like bad form. Instead, I rolled my eyes before turning around. No doubt about it, there was Jessica—again. I guess her little discussion with Mr. Cute didn’t go as well as planned.
I must say that, right before I turned my head, I saw a fleeting look of intense dislike crossing Alice’s face. I bet she was quick on the uptake, figuring that Jessica was the roommate who told me all about her. In an attempt to make up for our earlier collision, I decided to leave out the little fact that Alice was this Mary Alice Brandon that Jessica was so excited to hear was onboard.
"Hey, Jessica. I just met Alice," I said, gesturing lightly to her. "She’s another passenger, going up to Vancouver."
I’d almost thought that Jessica, since she actually seemed to know all about fashion, would recognize Alice even without me spelling it out for her. But, if she did, she didn’t act like she did. She grinned and, waving excitedly, said, "Hello, Alice, it’s nice to meet you! I love your outfit!"
Yup. Standard Jessica behavior.
That small expression of dislike I’d swore I saw vanished once Jessica complimented Alice’s clothes. With a grin almost as wide as Jessica’s, Alice quickly agreed before offering some variation on the praise towards Jessica’s tamer, yet just as expensive, clothes.
Neither one of them noticed it when I bowed my head and took my leave.
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