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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:


5. Chapter 4: Fate, Contracts and Chicken Chilaquiles

Rating 0/5   Word Count 7045   Review this Chapter

**Edward POV**

Over the next week I tried to refocus myself. I went to the gym and worked out with Phil everyday. I tried to throw myself into the therapy sessions and stayed away from the alcohol. Jasper had called and gave me information on two different offers; one from San Francisco and one from Baltimore. I was also scheduled to meet with the owner of the Cubs on December 30th. I decided I would hold off on any decisions until I heard from them, too. Certainly, Chicago was looking like the best option to me at this point. For some reason, I was feeling a strong connection to the city and the team, although there was no reason why. I hadn’t had this strong of a connection to anything in a long time, so I knew this may be the best offer to accept.

The week before Christmas I headed to San Diego to visit with my mother. I loved spending time with her and honestly wished I had more time to do it. The holidays were always hard though, as both my mother and I continued to feel a sense of loss since the passing of my father. We usually did some shopping together and I helped her hang the rest of her holiday decorations, but the “extra spring in her step” that my mother always had around the holiday season when it was three of us, was missing.

My mom really was one of my best friends, so most of the trip consisted of us sitting around and gossiping like two old women. I suppose that should be embarrassing, but to tell you the truth, it's actually really fun. I loved hearing about all of our old neighbors and friends in San Diego and what they were up to now. My mom always got so animated when she told the stories. Her face literally glowed while she jumped from one to another and her green eyes, the same ones I look into a mirror and see everyday, twinkling with amusement. I loved to see her happy and laughing.

“Mom, it’s so good to hear you laugh,” I said with a smile on my face. “I have missed you so much!”

She looked at me with nothing but love in her eyes, “Honey, it feels good to laugh. Seeing you, just helps to make my life complete.”

Of course, she was also concerned about me and how my therapy sessions were going. When I had originally told my mom about relapsing back into depression, she was so worried. She knew what I was like for all those months ten years ago and was afraid it might end up being worse this time. I honestly think it was her, who had recommended to Jasper that I go into therapy, but neither of them would admit to talking about it. It wasn’t as if I was going to be mad at them or anything, so I always found this a little humorous.

Breaking me out of my thoughts, my mother asked, “Edward, how are you doing, really? I know you are here laughing and joking with me, but your eyes are still so sad. There is no life behind them anymore, no sparkle. And eyes as beautiful as yours, my sweet boy, deserve to sparkle,” she smiled sadly.

I could tell my Mom had been hesitant about broaching this subject with me. There were several times I thought she was going to bring it up over the past week. While this was a topic I wished to avoid, I knew my mom well enough to know that she wasn’t going to avoid it for too much longer. As much as I hated to admit it, I knew she was right and that it needed to be discussed. I didn't really want to talk about how I was feeling. Being here was sort of an escape, but I could never disappoint my mom.

“I guess I'm doing alright,” I admitted. “I just...I feel like something is missing, Mom. Like, I'm a little lost. I know I have a million reasons to be grateful for the life I have, but it's like I have no control over how I feel. I've been looking for that missing piece for ten years now. It isn't here in San Diego, it wasn't in Los Angeles and it certainly hasn't been in Arizona. What makes me think it is going to be in the next place I live, wherever that is? Ever since Dad died and Bella left, I don't know, I feel like a part of me died or left with them,” I stated sadly looking down at the ground.

“Edward, we both know your Dad's death is not what sparked this relapse. So let's focus on Bella, as maybe she's the key. I am sure we could find her together if we looked into it hard enough.” My mother was ever the optimist, which was always a quality that I admired in her. She knew how much Bella meant to me and I knew she would do anything to help me find her.

“I tried looking for her awhile back, Mom. I Googled, and Myspaced and Facebooked, all to no avail. It's like Bella Swan never existed, like she is a figment of my imagination. I still really miss her, Mom. How pathetic is that? I only knew her for two months and she broke my heart in ways I didn't even know it could break. Not that its her fault, I know. It's just…,” I deeply sighed and paused. “Will it never get better?” I felt my face begin to crumple and my eyes fill with tears. My emotions completely betrayed me.

“Aww, sweetie. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to make you feel worse,” she said, cradling my head in her arms. “A first love, always stays with you in some way. I wish I could tell you how to let it go, but you never had the proper closure with her. That's what's keeping you from being able to really move on. You know, maybe she still feels the same as you. Maybe she is still hurting just as much as you are. It couldn't have been easy for her, either.”

My face crumpled in agony again, realizing that I was the cause of her pain. “Edward, just think about what I am saying, that's all I am asking. If I can help you, let me know, otherwise I'll try not to bring it all up again, okay?” I felt her warm lips kissing my forehead and then she ran her hand through my hair, trying to break the tension. “Now, why don't you tell me who is scouting my baby?”

**Emmett POV**

I had told Bella I was coming to Arizona to set things up at Hohokam Stadium, our spring training facility in Mesa. I didn't lie to her; I just didn't tell her the whole truth. After spending a few days sorting through some business and discussing the field with the grounds crew, I headed northwest to Scottsdale. I figured I would spend a few days catching up with my aunt before my meeting with Masen.

I had set up a meeting with Edward and his agent for Friday evening at Donovan's of Phoenix, which had the most amazing steaks I had ever eaten and was one of my favorites when I was in the area. I knew Bella was pretty adamant about not signing Masen, but something was not adding up and I was hoping maybe Phil or Masen himself might shed some light on the whole ordeal. He was a great player and had a good reputation on the field, so I was starting to wonder if maybe Bella didn't have more of a personal vendetta against him.

An absurd thought came to my mind, Wouldn't it just be classic if Phil had set them up and they had a one night stand some time ago? Lord knows that only Bella could get herself into a mess like that! She did seem pretty convinced about his playboy status. I snorted out loud at the thought. That couldn't be it, though. Bella shared everything with Rose and Ali, and I knew Rose would have told me about said tryst if it had happened.

I parked my rented Escalade in Renee and Phil's driveway about twenty-five minutes later. The light beige stone and stucco house seemed to blend in with its surroundings. How anyone could find living in the desert desirable was beyond me, especially because the dry air and dust did nothing for my sinuses.

I spotted Renee peeking her head out the front window and waved back to her. Renee always made me laugh. She had a similar personality to Alice, always happy and bouncing around and extremely intuitive. She ran out the front door with her arms extended.

“Oh my dear boy! Look at you. I swear you get bigger and bigger every time I see you,” she squealed.

I rolled my eyes at my aunt. “Please Renee, you and I both know there is really only one way to grow when you're thirty and I would like to think that my pants are still fitting me the same. You, on the other hand, look fantastic as always! Looks like those Pilates classes are really paying off. So, where's Phil? Not tinkering around on that damn putting green again, is he?”

Renee threw her head back and laughed. Phil's short game in golf had always been his nemesis. During the offseason he spent numerous hours a day out there cursing at himself. “No, Phil's down at the training gym with some of the guys. He should be back soon. I'm thinking of making chicken and green chile chilaquiles for dinner, why don't you come in and fix yourself a drink with me? I've been craving a good margarita all day.”

Mmmm, I thought sarcastically. Renee was really the worst cook I had ever known. I couldn't even imagine what this chicken chili-whatever dinner would look or taste like. I wasn't really in the mood for another dinner out, but I figured it might be my best course of action. “Let me take you guys out to dinner. I don't want you fussing on my account.”

Renee tilted her head and smiled. “Emmie, you wouldn't be trying to sway me from not cooking, now would you? I'm not that bad, you know. I've been taking some classes here in my spare time. And that Food Network is a lifesaver. Wish they had that around years ago. You might be pleasantly surprised, you know,” she gloated. I groaned inwardly, knowing I was most likely going to be regretting this, but conceded to let Renee make her chicken dish I had never even heard of.

Phil came home about an hour later. Renee was already two margaritas in and I was starting to really sweat out the dinner idea at this point. Phil grabbed himself a beer and kissed his wife on the cheek before we headed outside to sit by the pool while Renee finished up in the kitchen.

“I hear you're trying to steal our boy away from us, Emmett,” Phil joked as he scooped up some corn and black bean salsa on a chip.

“I wouldn't mind it. Not so sure if Bella's too keen on the idea, though. What's he like?” I was hoping to make casual conversation and get some of the answers I needed before I met with Masen tomorrow.

“Edward's a great kid. He really is. Hard worker, good teammate; you'd be lucky to land him. I think he is ready to move on, though. Finally tired of this barren desert life,” he joked. “What's Izzy's problem with him?”

I rolled my eyes at his casual use of Bella's hated nickname. “No idea. I was sort of hoping you might know the answer to that one. It's beyond me! I thought maybe you tried to hook them up once or something,” I chuckled.

“Ha Ha!” he guffawed. “Can you imagine? Renee would have been furious,” he said in a lower tone his eyes wide with amusement. “Actually, I don't think they've ever even met,” Phil mused, but then added, “She could do a lot worse, though.”

I confirmed that Phil would still be coming to dinner with us tomorrow. I was very grateful for his presence there, knowing he had the influence needed to get Masen to Chicago. Renee called us for dinner after a few more minutes of conversation. I'm not sure if it had to do with the four beers I had before we ate, but the damn chicken meal was actually pretty good. I would have to let Bella in on this little tidbit. We spent the rest of the evening out hanging out by the pool and catching up. Around 11 pm, I decided to head to bed, figuring I could get a good run in before it got too hot in the morning.

Lying in bed, I realized I hadn't really gotten any closer to the information I was looking for regarding Bella's behavior. Based on what Phil had to say about Masen, I was starting to think Bella was crazy. She had no personal ties to him that I could see, and she couldn't give me any logical reason to exclude him from our search. I was looking forward to meeting Edward tomorrow, for myself.

**Renee POV**

I lay awake in bed for hours that night. I had been living with Bella's secret for years. I knew exactly who Edward Masen was to her, and I knew how he broke her heart. I had intentionally kept this information from Phil, not wanting him to be biased to the boy when he was drafted to the team. I knew if he was aware that this was the Edward that was the cause of all of Bella's problems those years back, he would never have treated him fairly.

Phil and I had been friends in high school. We grew up in Forks, Washington. When Charlie died, I just couldn't handle living in Chicago anymore, so I packed Bella up and moved her back to Forks with me when she was eleven. Phil was playing professional baseball for Seattle at that time. He still had a home back in Forks. We started hanging out a few months later and he really helped me through my grief with Charlie. Eventually, we started dating and then married about two years later.

Bella and Phil got along fantastically from the start, which had always surprised me. I think it was because Phil never stepped in and tried to take Charlie's spot. He was there for her more like a big brother or a friend. They had a close relationship that was strengthened because of their love for baseball.

Bella often accompanied Phil to the field for practices and games. She had a knack for clumsiness as a child, and the team had taken to calling her “Dizzy Izzy” after a particularly amusing fall while chasing down a ball in the outfield. Over the years, Phil was nice enough to shorten it to just “Izzy,” much to Bella's dismay. Secretly, I think she kind of liked the special nickname he had given her, but she would never admit to it.

During Bella's senior year of high school, Phil had been traded to the Diamondbacks. We decided to move to Phoenix, but Bella wanted to finish out her senior year with her friends in Forks. After much debate, we decided that Bella was old enough to stay by herself during the week and I would fly back on weekends. Billy Black, who was Bella's friend Jake's dad, would look out for her while I was away for those two months. Bella had always spent her summers in Chicago with her grandfather and cousins, and she was planning on attending Northwestern in the fall, so we figured we'd put the house for sale in June.

That's when she met Edward. The beautiful, dashing boy “with the sparkly green eyes” as she described him. He had literally swept her off her feet within the first week he had moved into town, which, undoubtedly, scared the shit out of me. Bella had never had a serious boyfriend before. Her living alone without much parental control made me extremely nervous, but Phil had tried to convince me she would be on her own anyway in two months, so I might as well learn to trust her now.

I could see the changes in her instantaneously on my visits on the weekends. She was irrevocably in love with him. I met Edward briefly only once on a visit home. The magnetism between them was obvious. It actually frightened me a little. She was so young and had such a bright future. I was worried she would give it all up for him and his dreams. I had a strong suspicion that their relationship had become physical, but Bella promised me that she was being safe with him.

As fast as their relationship started, it ended just as fast. Bella broke up with him suddenly after she saw him with another girl. She asked me to let her leave for Chicago the next day. She refused to talk with him about the situation at all. I honestly didn't think it was a good idea, but I arranged for her flights. In August, when she should have been moving into the dorms, she instead showed up in Phoenix. She finally realized running from her problems wasn't going to fix them.

Bella decided to take a year off from her studies and figure out what she wanted in her life. We spent a great deal of time discussing her relationship with Edward and her actions. She never gave him a chance to explain himself, nor did she ever explain to him her reasons for leaving so suddenly. I knew then, deep down she was still in love with him. Just as I knew now, she still harbored those same feelings.

I had been talking with Bella regularly about Emmett's interest in signing Edward. She was well aware he was down here to meet with Edward, even though he had not told her about the meeting. Bella claimed she was not really concerned, believing Emmett would never make a decision without her approval as well. I, on the other hand, wasn't so sure.

I overheard Emmett and Phil's conversation before dinner. I knew Emmett was biting at the chomp to get Edward. I still wished Bella would be more honest with Emmett about their past. In some ways, I had gotten to know Edward over the years from conversations with Phil. He didn't seem like a bad guy, just a guy who had made a mistake when he was eighteen years-old. Phil had told me he was dealing with some personal problems stemming from a guilty conscious over losing his one true love. I could only hope he was referring to Bella. Deep down, I thought they might be able to make it work now that they were both much older and more mature. I just wasn't so sure Bella was ready to let her guard down again.

Rolling over in bed, I realized it wasn't my place to intervene when it came to my daughter's love life. I would keep playing the game with her as long as she wanted. I gently rubbed Phil's arm to wake him. “Babe” I whispered, “I just remembered we have that charity event tomorrow evening for the ALS Association. You have to be there. You gotta tell Emmett tomorrow you can't make it to dinner with him.” Phil groaned but gave a husky “fine” and went back to sleep.

I could only hope removing Phil from the equation would hurt Emmett's chances of signing Edward just a little. I wasn't so sure about the plan, but Bella was my only child, and I could hardly refuse her wishes. Sleepily, I wondered if fate was at work here for these two. I remembered a quote I had come across once: “Fate is like gravity. You can jump up and down until your heart's content, but the earth still falls into the sun, and the sun still courses through the galaxy, both indifferent to your short-lived and insignificant defiance.” The last thought I had before I drifted off to sleep was that Bella might have to finally stop running from Edward, her destiny.


**Edward POV**


I picked up Jasper at the airport Friday morning around 10 am and my face lit up when I saw him. I couldn't believe it had been four months. “Hey, Brother! What's up? You're looking good! You ready to tear up Phoenix this weekend?”

Jasper nodded in agreement. “You have no idea. I am just glad this is the last time we will be doing it here in this barren land. Next year, on to bigger and better things, right?”

“Let's hope! Come on, let me get you back to the crib. I figured we'd hang by the pool until we were ready for dinner tonight.”

“Sounds like a plan. We are supposed to meet with Emmett around 7 pm at Donovan's. Is Phil still planning on joining us? I have to call and let them know a final headcount.” Jasper was always worried about business. I swear he never relaxed. I was hoping he had his calls on hold for the rest of the weekend. Nothing like New Year's Eve and being stuck on business calls all night.

“Phil can't make it. Said his wife forgot to tell him about some charity event she volunteered them for, so I guess it will just be the three of us. Kind of sucks. I was hoping to have him there since he knows both of us so well. Conversation would probably flow better.”

“Eh, we'll be fine without him. Emmett seems like a great guy. I've been talking with him a lot this week. I don't think we will have any problems getting you to Chicago, my man!” Jasper seemed confidant, so I figured I would let it go.

We headed out to my car in the parking lot and threw his luggage in the trunk. “Top up or down?” I asked, already knowing the answer. Jasper had practically salivated the first time I showed him my car. It was an Aston Martin DB9 Volante. The inside was completely custom in red and tan leather, the outside was a shiny black. I'm not bragging--okay maybe I am--but the car was slammin'. A total chick magnet.

My car was my one indulgence. There were times when I would just put the top down and drive. I loved the purr of the engine in this car when driving fast. It was the most tranquil sound. Feeling the wind whip through the hot mess of hair on my head was so therapeutic. It could make me forget all my problems for awhile.

We hung by the pool until around 5 pm then started getting ready for dinner. Thank God, I had managed to get myself a stylist when I first moved to town. I had to attend so many functions and what twenty-two year-old really knows how to dress appropriately for those things? Sure as hell not me. She had designed my wardrobe so that I would easily be able to throw an outfit together, no matter what the occasion. The restaurant we were headed to tonight was a jacket and tie type of establishment and since this was sort of an interview, I dressed in my Hugo Boss black pinstripe suit, a fitted emerald green dress shirt and a black tie with green and white paisley design. I looked good. Laughing to myself, I realized it was too bad I wasn't meeting with the female owner. There was no way she'd be able to resist me.

We headed out around 6:30 for Donovan's, which was a great place. I always liked to take my mom to the one in San Diego when I visited. Upon arriving, we noticed that Emmett was already waiting at a table for us. He was a huge man, at least 6'4 with short, dark curly hair and a muscular build better suited for a football player than an owner of a baseball team. He could have been intimidating if he hadn't had the goofiest grin on his face.

Introductions were made and we sat down to order some drinks and then dinner. I decided on the filet, Emmett ordered the huge 20-ounce Porterhouse and Jazz went with the Seared Ahi Tuna Steak. We talked a little about the Chicago organization over dinner and how Emmett and his cousin had taken over control of ownership.

“Have you ever met my partner, Edward?” I gave him an inquisitive look, so he continued. “I was just wondering, because she seems to have such strong opinions towards you. I'm going to level with you here.” He paused, seeming to wondering how to continue. What the hell? “I have never seen her so openly against acquiring a player before. You didn't have a one night stand with her or something did you?” Emmett smirked while waggling his eyebrows, probably hoping to lighten the conversation.

I was totally baffled. I had never met this woman that I knew of. Would Phil have discussed me with her? I couldn't imagine Phil ever saying anything that horrible about me. We were friends, right? He always said I could trust him with all the details of my problems. I knew he had never told the manager about them or any other players. Why would he go and tell his stepdaughter?

I could feel the sweat starting to pool and accumulate under my arms. Shit! Am I panicking? Why was I panicking? This was not like me at all. I was always so level-headed and calm. You don't earn the title of team captain by losing your cool. He wasn't even asking me anything I should have been embarrassed about. I had nothing to hide.

Trying to mask by increasing nervousness, I answered, “Izzy, right? I have never met her that I know of. I've only heard Phil talk about her.”

Without thinking, I started massaging the bridge of my nose, then peered over at Jasper, hoping for some silent encouragement and reassurance. He narrowed his eyes and nodded to me, seeming to know exactly what I was thinking. I had hoped to not address my personal problems at this dinner, mostly out of sheer embarrassment. Regardless, they were my problems and not of the team's concern. Or so I thought, at least.

In the last three weeks, I had slowly started making some progress in my therapy sessions. I had come to realize the past was the past and I was hopeless to change it. I could accept it and try to move on once and for all, or I could fight and try to do something to change it now, here in the present. I was tired of just letting my life play out. I no longer wanted to be just a character in the drama. It was time I started being the director of my own life and I was ready to fight for it, tooth and nail if that's what it took. Once I realized this, I knew that fighting for my life didn't just mean fighting for a lost love, but also my for my career and all my original hopes and dreams.

It was time to man up and take this my life into my own hands. “Look, I was hoping to avoid this, but I have been going through some personal issues and I don't know if maybe Phil would have said something to her or not. I am dealing with them and even seeing a sports psychiatrist and everything. I hope that this will not be an issue for you. It has never impacted my game or my relationships on the field. You could verify that with Phil, I'm sure.”

Dammit! Shut the hell up, Masen!!

My mind was going a hundred miles an hour. Although I wanted to get this off my chest with Emmett, I couldn't help but worry what this information would do for my chances of signing with the Cubs. Did I say too much? Not enough?

Fucking Phil! It was a good thing he wasn't here. I felt my hands ball into fists under the table. I tried rubbing my fingers with my thumb to settle myself down. This whole thing was not making any sense at all. Was Phil trying to sabotage my chances of getting signed with another team? I had to get myself under control or Emmett was going to think I was some sort of psychopath.

Get it together, you pussy! was all I could think to myself as my damned mind wouldn’t stop running.

The sound of uproarious laughter startled me out of my thoughts. What in the hell was he laughing at? Could he seriously be laughing about me having personal problems, about me seeing a therapist? Again, I looked at Jasper. This time though, he seemed to have the same sort of baffled look on his face that I did. He tilted his head in a questioning manner, catching my eye as he debated, I assumed, whether to intervene or not, but finally just shrugged.

Emmett finally breathed out the word “Izzy!” then proceeded to drop his head to the table and his body shook in what looked like convulsions. There were tears in his eyes when it sounded like he mumbled “Oh my God, Phil!”, but I couldn't be sure. Shaking his head, he continued to laugh at a level above normal volume for a five- star restaurant. Every person was turning towards us at their tables to see what the commotion was about, to which I sat, completely stunned. I didn't even know what Emmett was laughing about and the stares were starting to make me uncomfortable.

To my relief, Emmett finally began settling down. “I'm sorry. I just couldn't help it. Izzy!” He burst into guffaws again and finally took a deep breath to continue. “Dude, please, for the love of all that is holy, don't ever let her hear you call her that name!”

What? I didn't even know how to respond. Wasn't that her name? I was sure that's what Phil had always called her. Wasn't it? Maybe she went by Isabella. Maybe she was one of those people who insisted on being called by their proper name to enforce their authority. I had no idea to any of these answers, but I was starting to get a little upset that Emmett was finding the whole exchange so comical. How the hell was I supposed to know what to call her? Irrationally, I realized that I was also getting pissed that Jasper wasn't saying a damned word. Not that he was really expected to, but come on, back a brother up, Man!

“Look Emmett, I apologize. I could have sworn that is what Phil called her.” Practically begging, I continued, “Please tell me how to address her correctly. Does she go by Isabella? I, in no way, intended to insult her.” I had to get back on track here. This little interview was starting to go downhill and fast.

Again, Emmett began laughing hysterically. “You're killing me right now!” Sensing the panic in my eyes, he again calmed himself down. “Well, I think you have convinced me, that you probably have never met her before. She would certainly have put you in your place if you had.”

Looking at me in what appeared to be pity, he continued, “Aw, don't worry about it, Edward. She just hates that nickname. Phil started calling her that years ago. I think he just did it because he knew it pissed her off. She used to huff off every time she heard it. It is sort of an inside family joke.” Emmett rolled his eyes and couldn't hold back the snicker that escaped his lips. “She goes my Ms. Black or Bella. Definitely not Isabella; she hates that too! Either of the other two would be fine, but I suppose maybe you should start with the Ms. Black until you two settle your issues. Whatever they are.”

Whatever they are indeed. Emmett definitely had an odd sense of humor I decided, but I pushed it to the back of my head for a minute. The name Bella had caught my attention. The only Bella I had ever known was...No, that's silly. There is no way it could be her. I can't even imagine her in charge of running a major league baseball team. Just the thought of her in the cut-throat world of business dealings almost made me smile. She was into literature and writing and was probably an editor or a newspaper reporter somewhere right now. This obsession with Bella Swan was really causing my mind to conjure up some crazy things.

Get it together, Masen. Get it together.

But on the other hand, what if it was her? Could I face her again? Lord knows, I wanted to with every ounce of my being. I wanted to finally apologize for hurting her. I wanted to tell her I never stopped thinking about her. I wanted to hold her the way I always had. I wanted to stare into those never ending chocolate pools of her eyes. I wanted to kiss her. I wanted...

Dammit Edward, get a grip on yourself! You have to let that shit go. It is not going to be her, and you are just setting yourself up to be heartbroken when you finally meet this woman. Who, by the way, already hates you for some unknown reason. The last thing she needs to see is a look of disappointment on your face when you finally meet her.

“I'd like to meet with her, Emmett. Just to see if we can settle whatever differences she has with me. I rather like the idea of Chicago for my immediate future. I like what you two are doing with the team. You have a great vision and I can see where you are going with it. I also like that you are not afraid to spend some money to become better.” Shit. My lack of verbal filter failed me again. I was trying to compliment them as an organization. I hadn't intended to bring up money with him tonight, but I guess there was really no way around it now.

“I'm sorry. I hadn't actually intended to discuss any type of contract with you tonight, but I think maybe I should be more forthcoming with you, especially with the question of my character being addressed by your partner. I would really like the next team I sign with to be where I finish playing my career. I don't want to be one of those players who jumps from one team to another. I'd like to set some roots somewhere, you know, settle down for the long haul,” I said with such passion, that I hardly recognized my own voice.

“Listen Masen, I like you. You seem like a good guy. Maybe a little too serious, but hey, I won't judge since we just met. I'm sure I could loosen you up a little. Bella will like you, too. I am sure she just needs some time to get to know you,” he stated with such a confidence that I was beginning to believe him.

Emmett folded his hands on the table and looked at Jasper. “I won't ruin our dinner by going into business stuff tonight. I'll give you a call in a day or two, Jasper and we can see if we can hammer something out that works for all of us. Now, I don't know about you two, but I could really use a night out on the town. You boys up for a little fun, tonight?” he challenged with a raise of his eyebrow.


**Jasper POV**


“Mr. Whitlock, Mr. Cullen is on line three for you,” my secretary's voice came over my phone.

“Thank you, Victoria. You can put him through.”

I was sitting in my office in early January sipping on a much needed hot cup of coffee. I had been waiting to hear back from Emmett for over two weeks. I hadn't expected it to take so long since we seemed to all really click back in Phoenix. San Francisco had decided to pull their offer since Edward hadn't given them an answer. He had no plans of going there anyway, so it wasn't a huge loss. Baltimore and now Kansas City, on the other hand, were still courting offers.

“This is Jasper Whitlock speaking,” I answered into the phone.

“Hey Jasper, it's Emmett. Sorry about the hold up getting back to you. I am still having some problems convincing my partner that Masen is our man, but I decided I'm not going to keep playing with her. I'm convinced he's what we need, so I'm making a move on my own. The Cubs are making an official offer of $180 million for ten years. I like to keep our contracts simple. I don't add any provisions for bonuses based upon making the playoffs or the World Series or batting averages or home runs. He will have an opt-out clause for the final two years of the contract and veto power over any trade possibilities.”

“Okay, sounds fair. I will give Edward the information. We have two other offers available so I will let him sort through them and get back to you as soon as I can.”

“Listen Jasper, this might sound odd, but I'd like to keep this out of the media until he decides and finalizes a deal with us, if that's what he wants. My partner will be fine with it in the end, but I just think it will better if she doesn't know all the details until they are finalized. Please understand, that this is not at all how we normally operate. I just feel really strongly that this is the right move and I don't want to lose our chance with him.”

“I understand, Emmett. I will keep it under wraps and communicate with you only for the duration of the negotiations. Don't worry about it. Believe me, I have heard worse stories.”

“Thanks, Man. We should get together some time this week. Grab some drinks or dinner. Maybe I'll bring my fianceé and my sister Ali along. You two would get along great.”

Before hanging up, Emmett and I made plans to meet on Saturday night for drinks at the Blue Stem Martini Lounge and to discuss any problems Edward might have with the contract. We decided to go sans the girls this time since business would be discussed. I then called Edward to give him the good news.


**Edward POV**


I had just gotten back from a run when I heard the phone ringing. It was Jasper. God, I hope he finally has some good news. We were both surprised that we hadn't heard anything from Emmett yet. I assumed it had something to do with the co-owner, who I was beginning to believe was obviously the biggest bitch ever.

“Yo. What up, Jazz?”

“Chicago's in! They are offering the same as Baltimore. So get your sweet ass up here and let's go look for a place for you to live already,” Jasper exclaimed.

I was relieved, to say the least. Now that it was all finally happening, I was a little nervous too. I was about to make a huge move across the country and start over. Even though it was what I had been hoping for, I knew this was big. My mind started racing to all the things I would have to do to make such a move. I wouldn't have much time before spring training started. Mesa was only a short drive from my home now in Scottsdale. Maybe I could keep this home, at least for awhile.

I guess I was lost in thought longer than I realized, because I heard Jasper asking if I was still there. “Yeah, sorry man. Zoned out there for a minute, thinking about everything. So what do we have to do? When do I go for the physical and sign the contract? When do we have a press conference?” I inquired at lightning speed.

This was all really happening and I couldn't believe it. “Well, I will meet with Emmett this weekend to review and finalize the contract, so probably in the next two weeks. I will need you here for the physical and to sign the paperwork. We'll do a press conference sometime after that.” Jasper hesitated a second, than added, “I know this might seem odd, but Emmett asked me and you to keep this quiet until we finalize everything. Hope that's okay.”

I figured it probably had something to do with the bitch of a partner that he had.

What the FUCK does this woman hate me so much for?

God, I was really going to have to stop thinking of her in derogative ways. I was hoping Emmett knew what he was doing, because the last thing I needed to walk into with a new club, was an ambush by this woman. She could certainly make my life a living hell and I was really trying to move on from the personal hell I was already in.

I agreed to Jasper's terms after he recounted that Emmett was sure there would be no lasting problems with “Ms. Black” once everything was settled. I could only hope for the best at this point. After we hung up, I booked a flight to Chicago for the following Monday and looked around my house in disbelief that this was all finally happening.