51

"I have a proposition for you," I say to Em. We're watching the game on TV, Lucy snuggled on my knee, and Rosalie on his. She's become kind of a fixture and I have to agree with my mom; she seems good for him. I guess you'd say that if soul mates really do exist, then he'd do well to find anyone closer to being his.

He looks over at me, interest piqued.

"Go on," he says.

"How would you feel about coming to work for me? I need to cut my hours while Lucy's little, and I need someone I can trust to run things when I'm not around."

He sits up and Rosalie almost topples off his lap onto the floor. It's only her fast reflexes that save her as she reaches out and grabs onto his shirt, steadying herself until she can get a foot onto the floor.

"Thanks!" she huffs.

"Sorry, babe." He moves back, opening his arms so she can wriggle back onto him again. "You really think I can do it?" he asks.

"I wouldn't have asked you if I didn't think you could, would I?"

"I guess not," he says. "How soon do you want me?"

"How soon can you start? Mom's been great, but I know she's moving stuff around for me and I feel bad.

"You know," Rosalie says, leaning toward me. "If you ever need a hand during the day, I can usually make myself available."

"Yeah, she's very accommodating," Em leers, earning a smack on the arm that makes him wince. "Hey!" he says, affronted.

"You deserved that," she tells him, with a glare.

"You did," I agree, smirking as he sulks. "Thanks Rosalie, I'll bear it in mind. I'm trying not to pass Lucy around too much though, she needs consistency, or else she might as well have stayed with her mother."

"Hey, the offer's there if you're ever in need," she says, leaning back against Em's shoulder and turning her attention back to the game.

"I appreciate it. Thanks."

"I'll have to check but I think I'm only contracted to a week's notice," Em tells me. "The boss has a lot of run-ins with the guys. He likes to be able to get rid of us pretty quick if he decides he doesn't like our faces."

"How could he not like that face?" Rosalie teases in a baby voice as she places her hands each side of his face and squashes it a little. I laugh, expecting him to swat her away, but instead he puckers up and she plants an exaggerated kiss on his lips.

"I'm trying to work out if you ever actually said yes to my offer," I say, still amused.

Em gently pulls Rosalie's hands from his face.

"Of course it's a yes. Thanks...for asking me. I know things haven't been great between us lately, and I also know that's my own fault. So... yeah. Thanks."

"You're welcome," I tell him softly, with a smile.

~RH~

"Hey, you. I've brought lunch. My treat." Bella closes the office door and walks over to my desk, dropping the paper bag she was carrying down onto it. I stand and walk around to her, wrapping my arms around her waist as she slides hers around my neck and stretches up for a kiss. It's chaste for all of a second before we've both succumbed to the hunger caused by lack of quality time together. Voices outside the door cause us to stop, although we don't let go of one another straight away.

"How long until the hearing?" Bella asks with more than a hint of desperation in her voice as I rest my forehead against hers. She knows exactly how long it is, it's like the insistent blip on the radar of our lives at the moment.

"Eight days," I reply, regardless. We're keeping everything discreet until after the hearing. Neither of us trusts Bree to not be working on something in secret. We half expect her to think that declaring herself out has relaxed us enough to let our guard down, and then she'll sweep into the courtroom with some ridiculous story or other that will jeopardize everything. Well we refuse to give her the satisfaction. This is us now; stolen moments and occasional nights together if my mom can look after Lucy. The thought of being able to stand up and admit to the world that Bella and I are a couple after we've held everything so tightly together, makes me giddy.

There's a knock on the door at the same time it opens. Although we jump apart, we don't have time to put any significant distance between us before Em walks in. He stops short and his face falls as he notices us.

"Oh. Sorry, I didn't know…"

"It's fine," Bella tells him, her voice calm and steady and showing no signs that she's shaken by the situation at all. Which is good, because I feel like a sponge that has soaked up every ounce of awkwardness in the atmosphere and is experiencing each excruciating drop of it. "How are you?" she asks him. He leaves the door open, and I notice he doesn't venture further into the room. I lean back against my desk as I try to pull myself together.

"Good, thanks," he tells her. I notice he doesn't ask back and I can't help think that if our mother were here, she'd be scolding him for his bad manners. "I was just reporting in after this morning's job," he says, turning to me. I've got him on a rotation, spending time on all the different things we do. I'm a strong believer in managers who've done the job; who know what it entails. Aside from the understanding of what the business involves, it helps if the guys on the ground know they have a boss who's not afraid to get his hands dirty. It builds respect. "I'll come back later," he says. I'm about to agree, when Bella insists that she was leaving anyway. My heart sinks.

"I'll see you soon," she says with a wave.

"Sure."

I watch as Em steps aside to let her past and then watches her go.

"Well that was...unexpected," he admits.

"Yeah. I didn't know-"

"I'm okay though." He looks at me from the corner of his eye and nods a little to emphasize the lie.

"Good," I say. "That's good."

~RH~