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The Hot Corner

Summary:
Bella Black and Emmett Cullen are co-owners of the Chicago Cubs Baseball Team. Edward Masen is a free-agent third baseman looking for a fresh start. Bella and Edward have a hidden messy past. Can they work out their differences on and off the field? Will they be able to find love again?


Notes:


3. Chapter 2: Breathe

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Chapter 2 - Breathe

Song Selection: “Breathe” by Lea Longo

**Bella’s POV**

It’s a beautiful morning, mmmmmmm. I think I’ll go outside for a while!” were the lyrics blasting through my alarm clock on this typical Friday December morning. While I would normally welcome such a sunny disposition any other day of the week, for some reason today, I seriously woke up on the wrong side of the bed, unable to breathe. It was only 8:00 AM, but I was as grumpy as a bear waking up after a long season of hibernation and had a tight feeling in my chest, a constant thorn in my side for years. What the hell is wrong with me? No worries, I was sure this crabby-ass funk I was in wouldl evaporate as soon as it arrived. Mind over matter, mind over matter...I had to keep chanting to myself in hopes that this would eventually be the case.

After lying in the most comfortable bed in the world (and this is no lie, I am telling you) for a few moments longer, I decided that it was time to start my normal routine. I rolled onto my side to stare at the picture of Jake and me on our wedding day six years ago. Looking at it always made me appreciate how truly beautiful life was, considering that I was still here, able to enjoy it. You would never know it, but that picture was taken just five months before Jake passed away from a complication of heritable disease known as Marfan Syndrome. Thinking back on that day always made me smile, especially because my Jacob looked so happy. Even knowing that he had very little time left, anyone could see the pure love in his brown eyes. Because he was always my rock and would moved heaven and earth for me, it was only natural that I did the same to make his only wish come true. I married him. Until his last breath, our relationship was one of purity and enjoyment of life’s little gifts.

God, I miss my best friend. I quietly sighed to myself.

Morning, Jake! Hope you have a great day up there.” I stated in the cheeriest voice I could muster. Looking at the picture, I smiled and instantly felt my mood lift a little. Hmm, looked like my little “mind over matter” pep talk was actually working.

Once my little conversation concluded, I proceeded to throw my thick down comforter off me as quick as a whip, slipped into my pink fluffy slippers waiting for me at the side of the bed, and wrapped myself in my favorite red terry cloth robe. Although I could see the sun peeking through my closed curtains, I knew that Chicago weather, especially in the middle of December, could be deceiving. Due to the fact that I loathe feeling cold, (ironic right?) I erred on the side of caution and immediately bundled up before starting the rest of the day. Coupled with the fact that I was still a little pissy at the moment, there was no need to tempt fate and become chilled as well.

Once the feeling of warmth spread throughout my body, I began the rest of my normal morning routine. While some people like to rush around in the morning, I prefer to take a more tranquil route and start the day off with a nice cup of Oregon Chai Tea. I don’t know why, but the absolutely delicious mixture of all-spice and pumpkin pie, splashed with a touch of vanilla always gets me going. While I am not a breakfast eater, (sorry Mom), I can honestly say that I am addicted to my morning drink of choice. Aside from the fact that it is warm in temperature, the aroma it gives off has an oddly calming effect on me. With every sip, I immediately feel as if I am sitting in my grandmother’s house on Thanksgiving or Christmas morning. Although I am no longer able to experience these days in person, the memories alone lift my spirits and place a smile on my face. Inhaling the heavenly aroma of the loose tea in the canister, I realized these are the PERFECT scents for the current holiday season. Hmm... I began to feel the need for a little Christmas shopping this afternoon. Nice.

Once happy with my plan for the day, I took a few minutes to boil the water and create my own morning piece of heaven. I knew the time had come for me to open my curtains and greet the wonderful citizens of Chicago. So, without further ado……………….

Hello Chicago! Don’t get blown over by the wind today,” I loudly giggled from my penthouse condo on the 57th floor of The Peshtigo. I figured some forced cheerfulness might help my doom and gloom mood.

I know without a doubt that I have one of the absolute best views of the entire city. From my windows, I have a breathtaking sight of Lake Michigan, Navy Pier, and various parks and buildings. In the morning I am able to see the sun rise over the water and at night, the city looks magical with all of its lights. God, I love my life!

Looking at the beautiful view usually put me at complete ease. Not today of course. Why won’t this fucking, annoying pain in my chest go away? I thought in a rather exasperated tone.

Chalking up my unusually wound-up-state to the Winter Meetings, which were ending today, I decided to have a seat on my plush, comfy couch and watch a little T.V. Being single definitely had one advantage-- always being master and commander of the remote control. Still not knowing where my head was at this morning, I decided it was best to flip through the channels one by one.

Great. 150 channels and absolutely nothing is on.” I groaned aloud.

As I refuse to watch the news (it is so depressing and nothing new or remotely positive is ever happening), I decided to flip on the TiVo and watch a recorded episode of The Starter Wife. For whatever reason, this show always makes me smile and is oddly relatable. Although I thoroughly enjoy watching Molly take her weaselly ex-husband’s ass to the cleaners in the end, this is not why I identify with her. I think the element I connect with most is her ability to roll with the shit thrown at her and stay true to herself.

Shoshonna’s a good girl who just wants to come out and play!” I laughed out loud at the screen. That line gets me every time. Oh yes, she was such a good girl! She went after another woman’s man. Stupid, trifling bitch! Shoshonna reminded me of someone I once knew, but I always had a difficult time pin-pointing who. Okay, maybe I didn't, but I was already in a pissy mood and thinking about Lauren wasn't going to help the situation. Pushing away those thoughts, I felt my mood lift and the tightness in my chest ease up a bit.

I inhaled deeply and decided I should try and force myself to be a productive member of society today. Most of the time this consisted of going into my office at Wrigley Field. Being the owner of a major league baseball team was not as glamorous a job as it sounds. My long list of duties included working through the various player contracts, stadium and practice facility leases, ticket and luxury box sales, advertising deals and media broadcasting rights. Phew! Not to mention the amount of social obligations I was required to attend on a regular basis.

Emmett and I had been trying to work out a trade with San Diego for Jake Peavy for the past few weeks. He was a Cy-Young award-winning starting pitcher, which our team could certainly use. Unfortunately, the trade was becoming more and more complicated as additional teams got involved. As new owners, Emmett and I felt the need to make a mark with the team and the community. It was important that our family legacy and reputation live on. We wanted nothing more than for our grandfather to be proud of us. For this reason, we were really trying to sign a big name player during the offseason.

The stress of this deal and some advertising legalities were really wearing on my normally calm self. What I really needed was to take a day for myself. Since our GM was in Las Vegas for the Winter Meeting and Emmett was planning on being in the office all day, I decided today was as good a day as any to take off. Em could easily reach me around noon on my cell after the Meetings wrapped up. So, what's a girl to do on a cold and windy day in Chicago, you ask? Well, go shopping of course! Hello!

Before I could call my trusty shopping partner, Rose, I first needed to ring the office to let them know that I would be out for the day.

“Good morning, and thank you for calling the Chicago Cubs organization. How may I help you today?” the warm and pleasant voice on the other end of the receiver answered.

“Good morning, Tanya. This is Bella and I was just calling to let you know that I will not be in the office today. I have decided to play a little hooky.” I said with an extra emphasis on the last part of the statement, as this was something I very rarely did. I was a self-proclaimed workaholic and proud of it. If there was a Girl Scout badge for this, I would rock that green sash everyday.

“Well, good for you, Ms. Black! You deserve it, and don’t worry, I will let Mr. Cullen know. Have fun today and I will see you on Monday” she genuinely responded.

“Thanks Tanya. Please let everyone know that I will be checking my Blackberry for emails and I can be reached by phone if needed.” Secretly, I was hoping that everyone would just leave me alone for the day. Not like that would ever happen, but hey, a girl can wish!

“Have a nice weekend, Ms. Black,” and with this, our quick conversation came to a close.

After giving Tanya the heads-up regarding my plans for the day, I decided to drop Rose a text about my little shopping adventure for the day.

Wake up bitch!

I'm thinking of hitting North Michigan Avenue.

You in? – Bells

Always quick on the draw with her responses, I received the following reply a few seconds later:

Good morning to you sunshine and hell yea!

I have to finish up a conference call with Under Armour.

Making good progress by the way.

Meet you at La Perla at 10.

Emmett has been a VERY good boy lately! – Rosie

One thing about Rose is that she loves the lingerie from this store. The thousands she drops there every year could keep a small country afloat.

“Holy Shit! It’s nine-fifteen already and I am still in my bath robe!” I loudly yelled after looking at my watch. I'd better get my ass moving if I was going to meet her there on time.

I sprinted to the bathroom, stripping on the way, turned on the shower, and jumped in. In record speed, I was in and out, and ready to tackle my closet. While in my younger days I did not have an obsession with my wardrobe, this was no longer the case. My cousin Alice could be thanked for that. Her encouragement for me to be a little more risqué with my wardrobe had led to quite a shopping addiction. As I became older, I had found an odd sense of empowerment in the way the perfect outfit made me feel and since I still couldn’t fully shake the mood I was in, I knew that my choice of clothes needed to be kick ass.

“What to wear? What to wear?” I asked myself while tapping my index finger on my cheek. “Where is Clinton Kelly when I need him?”

After staring blankly for a few seconds, I swore I saw a light shining from above pointing me to the perfect outfit. Through this epiphany, I decided to wear my favorite pair of 7 for All Mankind dark blue skinny jeans, a black v-neck cashmere sweater layered with a winter-white camisole, and black calf-high Prada boots. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself! Once dressed, I quickly gave my hair the once over with my blow-dryer and threw on my black tweed Newsboy cap. I brushed on a little power and blush, gave my eyelashes a sweep of mascara, and completed the look with my favorite Jessica Simpson lip-gloss. The taste of that gloss was decadent.

Having only fifteen minutes to spare, I quickly grabbed my purse, coat, and keys. After locking up and heading down to the first floor of my building, I was immediately greeted by Seth, the building’s manager.

“Good morning, Ms. Black. I hope you have a great Friday.” he stated in a friendly tone.

After giving him a quick wave, I made my way to the parking level of the building. Once in my black Porsche Cayenne, I threw that baby into drive and pulled out of my spot like a bat out of hell. Because North Michigan Avenue was only two minutes from my building, I was fairly confident that I would make it to La Perla on time, but parking could be an entirely different issue. I quickly hit number three on my bluetooth speed dial, figuring I would multitask while looking for parking. I left a brief message for my cousin Ali, letting her know Rose and I would bring her lunch around 1PM or so, and see some of the designs she had found.

After finally finding a parking spot in a city garage, I braved the cold, windy weather, and was greeted by my friend who was now a tad annoyed. When Rose had her hands on her hips and was tapping her toe, it was usually a safe bet that she was a little pissy. Rose looked stunning as usual. She was tall with gracefully long, thin limbs and curves in all the right places. She had full head of silky long blonde hair. She was always dressed in the most trendy fashions. Rosalie and I had gone to Northwestern together and were roommates and best friends. I had brought her along to a few games with me in college and that was how she met Emmett. They had dated ever since and were a perfect match for each other. She had just enough sass to counteract his playfulness and sarcasm. As great of a woman as she is, Rose had never been known for her patience.

“And where have you been, Missy?” Rose demanded.

Feeling like I was a five year old getting caught with my hand in the cookie jar, I meekly responded. “Parking was really hard! I promise it won't happen again.”

“I'll forgive you this time my friend, but don’t let it happen again!” she laughed.

And with that, our shopping began. I was relieved to feel that ache in my chest evaporate and my mood brighten after only a few minutes with my friend. Hallelujah!

***************************************

Two hours and a few thousand dollars later, Rose and I finally decided that we had done enough damage for the morning. We were going to meet up with Alice at Bloomingdale's after lunch. Seeing as I didn’t eat breakfast, I was starving. After a quick debate, we decided to grab a bite at one of our favorite places, Elephant & Castle Pub.

Located just below the “L”, it was a cute, cozy little restaurant. It had a British flair, with cobblestone floors and a painted tin ceiling. The walls were a dark wood and the stain glass windows lining the entire length of the building were really beautiful. Once entering the revolving doors, Rose and I were quickly escorted to our booth. After giving the menu a quick once over, I easily decided what my selection would be.

“Hello, my name is Mandy and I will be taking care of you today,” our waitress said in a friendly tone. “Can I take your order?"

Famished, I quickly said, “I’ll take a coke and the mushroom and chicken penne pasta, please.”

Shaking her head at my choice, Rose proceeded by ordering a water with lemon, the chicken curry for herself, and the Sonoma Chicken Wrap to go for Alice.

“Bells?” Rose asked with an inquisitive voice. “Why do you always order the exact same thing every single time we come here?”

While I never really thought about this before, I chalked it up to simply liking the dish. For some reason, I found an odd sense of comfort in eating it. It was familiar and always made me feel as if I were really “at home,” in every sense of the word.

“I don’t kn…” I was interrupted mid thought by a call I was expecting from Emmett.

Giving Rose the “hold that thought" look, I quietly told her that I needed to take a call from her man. Because I was expecting news on the Winter Meeting and the Peavy deal, I knew that this couldn’t wait until later.

“Hey Em. I hope you like your present tonight!” I chuckled and winked at Rose. “So what’s up? Did you talk to Hendry?”

“Yeah, the Peavy deal is dead,” he firmly stated. “They're just are asking for too much in return. It's not worth it for us.”

While I was a tad upset about the news, it’s not like I wasn't prepared for this possibility. In this business deals can go south very quickly. Athletes were always wanting more money than they're worth, and franchise owners were always trying to take advantage of another team's desperation for such players. Over-inflated egos, all of them! Emmett and I learned at a young age from our grandfather that business is business and if you can't get a strong return on an investment, walk away. So, walking away is what we were going to do.

“I agree. The minor league prospects they want have too much potential for us to part with all of them. Anything else? Did he have any other suggestions?” I inquired.

I always liked looking in our farm system because those boys were so hungry for their “call up” into the majors. Emmett and I were true believers in scouring the minors for unknown players who could fit nicely with our organization. Because of this, I was confident he would have a few options to replace Peavy.

“Nothing in the way of starting pitchers, but we did discuss the possibility of Edward Masen as a free agent. With Ramirez's shoulder problems, we really need to look at our options at third base. Hendry is going to talk to his agent and get an idea of what they want. What do you think?”

At that moment, my life came crashing down all around me. I felt like I was being pulled under. I couldn't place whether the sensation was more like sinking deeper and deeper into Lake Michigan or being pulled under by quick sand. All the background noise of the restaurant instantly faded. The walls started closing in around me as I felt my chest tighten and my breathing speed up.

Are you kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me? I panicked to myself. My heart was beating out of my chest in a completely erratic fashion. There had to be some glitch in the universe! There was no way Edward Masen could come here.

While always a part of my subconscious, I had desperately tried to not think of Edward in ten years, which remarkably, I was very good at accomplishing. After seeing him and that bitch-face Lauren together, a little (well more than a little), piece of myself died and had never recovered.

How could I face him? Would he remember me? Would he be with Lauren? Does he know how much I loved him? Does he even care? I thought a million miles a minute. I was starting to hyperventilate. I hadn’t had a panic attack in years, well ten to be exact, but I definitely felt one coming on.

I had seen Edward Masen from afar many times in the past five years. It was unavoidable with him playing for one of our rival teams in the National League. I had always tried to busy myself when the Diamondbacks came to town. I kept my distance. Always finding some work to do in the office during those games or skipping the games altogether. He had never seen me, I was sure of that.

As I felt my world spinning out of control, I vaguely heard Emmett’s voice asking me if I was still there.

I knew that I needed to regain my composure and fast. You’re not eighteen anymore! You’re not eighteen anymore! I silently repeated to myself. I finally gave Emmett some shit about Edward being an ass or a playboy, and him not fitting into our organization. To be honest, I was babbling so fast and nervously I don't even know exactly what I told him. I felt all of the air within me leave, as my chest became the tightest it had ever been. I knew Emmett wasn’t going to let this go without a fight and that scared the hell out of me.

Lord knows, I’d already played ball with Edward Mason once, and I struck out miserably.

Once was enough. It had to be.