Maybe a Dance
by Anton M.

Chapter 3: Meet Rosie and Emmett

"That depends," Bella replied. "Do we need to work around any of your real relationships this year?"

"Not this year," Edward replied, pausing. "Although… an overview of our past relationships would be smart to do at one point. For now, you should know that I was, actually, engaged up until last November. I broke it off. We tried it again long-distance and she flew to visit me in May but it didn't work out. She left on the same day."

"I sense a longer story but I'm not going to ask. What's her name?"

"Angela," Edward said. "She's a PhD student in Psychology at Yale, but she came from… a very different financial background."

Bella wondered if it was okay to push the topic and figured he'd refuse to answer if she went too far.

"Do you miss her?"

He took a slow breath. "I used to miss what I thought we were, sometimes. But no. I would give up a kidney not to have to deal with her again."

"Damn." Bella stifled her smile. "Harsh words, Mr. Cullen."

Edward leaned back on the chair, rubbing his neck. "For full disclosure, you should know that Alice despised her, and the feeling was mutual. Angela hated it when I spent any amount of my very limited free time videocalling my family, and so I did it less and less as my PhD went on."

"Holy red flags."

"I know, right?" Edward said, but his smile was embarrassed. "Unfortunately, when you're looking at the world through rose-coloured glasses, all the red flags are just… flags."

"I want that on my fridge."

"I wish I could take credit, but it's from BoJack Horseman."

"Heard it's a good show. Never seen it, though."

"It's brilliant. I highly recommend. My roommate at the time was watching it and so I ended up finishing the series through the summer."

"Would our fake engagement be in danger if your ex, by some miracle, showed up in Chilliwack?"

"Christ. I'll take you right there on the road if that's what it takes to make her stay away."

He froze, his eyes widening in alarm as he realized what he'd just said to a former student. "Miss Swan –"

Apparently, he, too, reverted back to their teacher-student relationship when he felt he'd done something wrong, but Bella didn't want to hear his apologies.

"Just tell me in advance so I can do my hair and make-up and wear the sexiest set of red lingerie I own. To really drive home how much better off you are without her, you know."

Edward blinked, his eyes flashing with intensity that made her feel goose-bumps before he hid his eyes behind his palm and let out a laugh. "Brutal." He took a breath, staring at his hands. "But… I'm sorry for my comment."

Bella circled the lukewarm coffee in her mug. "Please don't apologize. Honestly, this kind of effortless interaction is exactly the type of stuff that will convince your family we're for real. And – I'm glad you're comfortable enough around me to joke around like that. I'll tell you if you say anything that makes me uncomfortable, okay?"

Edward wiped his face, relieved. "Thank you. Please do. Always tell me."

"And you do the same, okay?"

"Of course."

"So before we got sidetracked a hundred miles away from our actual topic – does this mean that we started dating in May?"

"Unless you had any serious relationships at the time," Edward said.

"Are you referring to my hot dates with corona?"

He laughed.

"I'll tell you about the other history later, but no. My love life during covid has been dead on arrival, so nothing to worry about from the past year."

"Let's go for March, then, just after you'd finished your last exam with me. My family doesn't know I was ever engaged to Angela and they certainly don't know she came to Vancouver in May."

After they settled on a story that felt realistic and relied on the truth as much as possible, Edward left for his Zoom call and Bella gathered the courage to call Rosalie, hoping (and fearing) to catch her on her lunch break.

Rosalie, originally from Calgary, had four brothers and majored in English before she realized it was highway to teaching and dropped out. She had worked as a UPS delivery driver since before the pandemic begun, and nothing made her angrier than hearing people who could work from home compare their new hobbies and whine about how tough it was. Bella agreed and disagreed in equal measure, but she was glad for having Rosalie in her life to remind her not to pity herself too much.

Bella held her breath as she waited Rosalie to pick up her call, but her attempts were in vain. She didn't pick up. Instead, Bella received a call from an unknown number that turned out to be one of the (more than a hundred) jobs she'd applied for within the past three months, and she had so little recollection of which company and which position they were talking about that she had to open her Excel with all her job applications and ask the woman to repeat herself as she control-f'd the company and tried her best to sound interested and competent.

She was not sure that she was either, but she didn't have the luxury of caring. Finding a job was a delicate balance between hoping to get the job enough to write a decent application but not be so hopeful that a rejection would crush her. During the summer, she'd been insanely hopeful. Naïvely so. Everyone said it was an employees' market. But her first fifty applications had barely even received a rejection – mostly, she got ignored. She signed up for a few courses on how to write her CV, but they contained things she already knew (keywords, keywords, keywords), and it wasn't working. The only thing she realized she'd done wrong was not having relied much on her network. Apparently, try as you might, networking was more powerful, and she reached out to her friends, colleagues, a few undergraduates she got along with, professors and everyone in her dance troupe. She learned to swallow her pride in order to put herself out there, but she managed. Rosalie helped a lot.

When she started her PhD, she'd been convinced that academia was for her – doing post-doc, teaching, becoming a principal investigator or an assistant professor (tenure track, of course, as if those jobs were just lying around), and – eventually – a professor. But five years had torn her down enough to realize that the uncertainty of ever finding a tenure-track position, of applying for grants every few years if she became a non-permanent research staff and relying on them for her livelihood… she was not sure it was uncertainty she wanted. And post-docs, mostly, did not make bank, not with benefits nor with compensation. During her PhD at Banting-Carr, she got to know the academia, and as much as she loved her research, she did not wish to put herself through what she'd seen others go through.

It was, therefore, only on her last year of PhD that she seriously started considering positions outside of the university: epidemiologists, research coordinators, biostatisticians, research assistants and associates, even data analysts. The closer her viva got, the more desperate her applications got, and the less she could care if her interests overlapped with the offered positions.

It was a true catch-22. She had a PhD but no relevant job experience. She couldn't get a job to get experience but she couldn't get experience because she couldn't get a job. It would've been hilarious had it not been such a crushing journey of endless rejection and being ignored.

And so, when a woman called from an NGO she didn't remember applying for and asked about her experience with biostatistics, Bella channelled her inner Emmett and beefed herself up, hoping that she remembered all the right words to mention and that she sounded competent and interested. It was the fourth time she'd been interviewed by phone or video-call, and she tried her best, but her hopes had been crushed one too many times to be too high.

The trouble was, she had now been given official notice that she had three months to move out of her dorm (starting from her graduation), so she needed a job. Rosalie would probably let her sleep on her floor but it wasn't an amazing prospect to look forward to.

Bella had a call with her supervisor before Edward, surprisingly, reached out to her to see if she was available for a video-call with him and an undergraduate he was supervising.

Bella agreed, of course, and it was an experience to be referred to as Doctor Swan, as Edward (so casually) did, and being asked to explain why she'd chosen some statistical analysis methods over others. Benjamin Cheney, the undergraduate, seemed a bit flustered and insecure in his choices, and Bella tried guiding him as best she could before leaving them to their Zoom call.

His 'Thank you for your time, Doctor Swan. I will talk to you later' felt, somehow, personal, even though it was a perfectly simple thing to say. Maybe it was the way he smiled when he said it or the depth of his voice, but it was wild to realize that Bella was getting to know the person behind the lecturer, Mr. Cullen. He was calm, conscientious and professional, and yet she was seeing a newer, unexpected side of him.

She made dinner before Jessica arrived, and Rosalie called just as Bella was sitting down in her room with her bean chili.

"Hi, Rosie."

"Hi, stranger. So did I dream up the whole morning where you got engaged or is there a perfectly crazy explanation for your message? And don't tell me it's nothing because the radio silence after you rejected my call certainly wasn't imagined."

Bella paused, distracting herself with her mug. Rosalie would not be happy, later, to find out that Bella had lied to her, but helping out her – lecturer? colleague? friend? – whose mom had cancer was a pretty good reason for an emergency lie.

"Yes. I'm engaged."

Rosalie made a sound that was half-way between a squeal and a whine.

"Fucking hell. To who?"

A hushed conversation followed on the other end of the phone.

"Emmett is asking if it's that tall guy who's always frowning at him in the hallways."

Bella hesitated, but it was long enough.

"Oh my God," she whispered. "Is it? And – who is it?"

"He's a – lecturer."

Rosalie squealed before she started laughing. "What? You're shitting me, right? How did you –? When did you –? Your professor? I thought you had no time for anything outside of your thesis? Or was he a part of your thesis? Did he press himself against you nice and tight while you were all 'oh yes professor, right there, professor, harder, oh, do I get an A –'"


Rosalie laughed while Bella facepalmed, grinning. She was embarrassed but also… not entirely unaffected by her imagery. Bella explained the story they'd agreed on, and Rosalie's scepticism didn't quite fade but she seemed to get used to the idea the more Bella answered specific questions about them.

"Is he hot? Oh wait, don't tell me – what's his name? I'll google him."

Bella answered her question while Rosalie paused.

"Hmm. Looks pretty average, not that that's a bad thing. Like if you describe a random dude on the street, you'd probably end up with his drawing. Oh – there's a video from some conference, wait."

"You don't have to –"

"Sshhh, I'm doing research."

Bella blew on her decaf coffee, smiling to herself. Rosalie ignored her.

"Holy deep voice batman, okay. I take it back. I take it all back. He's like, Tim Storms-level. Confident. Very hot. Good body language, too. Nice shoulders. I can totally see him locking his office door and pressing you against it to –"

"Oh my God."

"– discuss important research," Rosalie finished, smug. "Why is your mind always in the gutter?"

Bella laughed.

"Why all the secrecy, though? Is it because you were still technically a student?"


"But you said you only got together after you were no longer his student."

"He just wanted to be… extra careful. Waiting until I got my PhD made sense."

Rosalie made a non-committal sound, discussing something in hushed voices with Emmett. When she returned, her voice changed from her bull-shitting and ever-teasing friend to one who was a little bit concerned.

"He's not, like, blackmailing you with some power-dynamic shit to get you to be with him, is he?"

"Rosie, no. Not even close. He's… very respectful."

"And you're not rushing into this?"

"As I told you, we kind of knew each other before. It feels right."

It was getting a little bit scary how easily this could've been a true story.

"Can we meet him before you both head off to Chilliwack?"

"No. I'm sorry. As I said –"

"You have to be careful for his mother. I get it. Wait – is this why you got engaged so soon?"

"Partly. Not entirely."

"Okay. I still wish we could meet him, but I guess it'll have to wait."

"Maybe… after we're back," Bella said, knowing that by that time, they would've come up with some sob story about a break-up and she'd have to either play the part or confess to Rosalie that it hadn't been real in the first place.

"Wait, why were you asking me about my period anyway?"

"Oh." Rosalie laughed. "Emmett does not believe me that women's periods syncing is total bull from shit studies. So, I asked Jessica and you to confirm yours. You've lived together for a year and a half. You'd have to have impeccably syncing periods by now."

"Oh my God. Put Emmett on the phone."

He picked up her phone after some rustle.

"So, you and Mr. Cullen, huh? Never thought he was the type to be banging a student on the side."

"Jesus, Emmett. You know that's not true."

"It's a shame, really. Makes for a much juicier story. He was always stingy with details about his personal life, so I can't say I'm surprised he was dating you in secret. He always looked displeased to see me with you in the hallways, too. Jealous much?"

Bella could tell from his voice that he was grinning, but she didn't give him the satisfaction of an answer.

"What is it that I hear about you believing some abysmally old study that went viral and was disproven decades ago? I cannot allow you to get your master's degree thinking that women's periods sync up. It's not a thing."

"It has to be. I've heard several of my classmates say that theirs synced up."

"Given that most women's periods are between three and nine days, and cycles can be anywhere between sixteen to forty days, it would be a miracle if they didn't overlap sometimes. But then they diverge. It's coincidence. Do you want the full data on mine and Jessica's? I'm sure she'd be up for it, for science. Or should I send you all the studies that prove this one wrong?"

"But wasn't it caused by pheromones?"

"Unlikely." Bella, noticing the time, took a breath. "How about you spend some time reading and I'll be a phone call away if you want to discuss periods after that. I have to go for now. I have a call with Edward."

"Edward, huh," Emmett repeated, his voice teasing. "Can't blame you. Phone sex is nice. Phone sex with your professor must be double nice."

"Oh my God," Bella hid her face behind her palm even though Emmett couldn't see her. "He's not a professor. He's a lecturer."

"I didn't hear you disagree with the other part of my claim," Emmett replied, on the verge of laughter.

"Bye, Emmett."

"We hope you have a pleasant call," Rosalie yelled before the couple burst into laughter, and Bella set aside her phone, shaking her head in embarrassment before she joined Edward's video-call.

The fast chopping of his knife reached her before he'd said hello, and the camera was pointed mostly at his chest and chin before he pulled it up and adjusted the volume on his earbud.

"Hi, Bella," Edward said, casually, as if calling each other in the evening was standard routine. Rosalie's comments had made Bella much more aware of Edward's presence, his shoulders, confidence, deep voice. He had a low, gravelly voice, and she was ashamed to realize she'd never paid much attention to it. It was unexpectedly… attractive.

"Hi," Bella replied, determined to ignore the thoughts Rosalie had put in her head. "What're you making?"

"Chicken tostadas. Had some leftover chicken. Before you're too impressed, let me admit that I googled what to do with leftover chicken and this is the first thing I had ingredients for. The website promises it will only take twenty minutes, so I fully expect to be done in – an hour."

Bella laughed.

She ate her dinner as they made small talk, and it felt no less wild to be witness to his little habits at home. She almost swooned as he wiped his countertops and put on a load of laundry while waiting for his kettle to boil.

"So how are you today?" Bella asked.

"Busy," he replied. "I was not expecting it, but it's been one call after another all day."

"I'm sorry. I won't feel bad if you want to cut the call now and go relax. I don't mind. We can talk some other day."

Edward, who'd been looking for something in his cupboard, leaned closer to his camera and smiled. Used to him wearing a mask, Bella had not realized how disarming his smile was.

"Don't apologize. This is the only thing today that takes no effort. I'm just sorry I keep running around and doing my chores."

"Don't be," Bella said. "I – my ex-boyfriend was… completely useless doing anything for himself. Honestly, it's nice to know that self-sufficient men are out there."

"Ex-boyfriend, huh?" he asked, glancing at her on the screen before he disappeared from view.

"Do you like how I snuck that little detail in there?"

He pulled the lid of his laptop down so that he could see her while tying the top of his garbage bag. "Nicely done. Name?"

"Seth," she replied. "We were together for two and a half years. We moved in just before the first covid lockdown, and… I never knew this stuff about him. We were one of those couples who discovered we definitely could not live together. Or, I mean, he found nothing wrong with our life. In fact, he loved it. But I wanted to kill him half the time for expecting me to be his mother. It's not that nobody'd ever showed him how to do household tasks, either. He just refused to learn."

"I'm sorry you went through that," Edward said, kindly. "I blame bad parenting, at least partly. I think there's still a huge upbringing difference in that most women are expected and taught how to do everything and guys are… coddled a bit more. In my eight years at Yale, I think I had… four useless roommates. Total nightmares to live with. My last roommate there was a fantastic guy, though. Laurent. Cool, chill, and I did not have to remind him to do his part. We became good friends. I kind of miss him, actually."

"Is he the guy who called an ambulance for you?"

"He is."

"Are you still in touch?"

"Absolutely. He's planning to visit Vancouver in the summer for a week, covid mutations and rules permitting."

"Sounds like a great guy. Just don't take him to Granville Street. Homeless right-wing activists will sell him anti-transgender merch while pigeons poop on his nose."

Edward laughed before he let out a slow, almost sentimental sigh. "Ah, good old Granville Street."

He took dinner to his room and sat down. "Since you opened the pandora's box of exes and I'm the one eating, how about you give me an overview of that situation."

"That situation." Bella laughed. "My love life in a nutshell."

"Oh I didn't mean –"

"Don't worry, I know. Anything in particular I should share?"

"Number of boyfriends?"

"Do flings count?"


"Three, then."

"Sexual partners?"

Bella froze before stifling her smile. "Why?"

She waited as he chewed his food.

"My mom we can convince, but Alice? She will catch us on stuff like this."

"Fair enough," Bella replied, but she rested her chin on her palm and smiled, feeling a bit embarrassed.

"You don't have to answer if you don't want to. But it doesn't matter. You can say zero or twenty, it has no impact on anything."

He was so sweet, taking the pressure off of her.


He nodded, locking eyes with her, not reacting, and his lack of reaction was everything. It was mature, it held no judgement, and her respect for him grew a thousandfold for being so kind. Seth, in his insecurities, had called her a slut in an argument after he found out he was her eighth partner, and even though he'd apologized, she had struggled to forget his comment.

"I was twenty two when I lost weight, and I think… it blew my mind when I realized that I was desirable to men. Or maybe it was the confidence I gained, but I had a bit of a wild year with Tinder, at first."

"You don't owe me an answer. Although it's good to know so that I'm not taken aback if stuff like this comes up. It's a normal number, anyway. Nothing to feel self-conscious about."

"What about you? Number of girlfriends?"

He held up two fingers as he chewed.

"Sexual partners?"

He made a face and held up three fingers, and she waited for him to finish chewing.

"I've been on SSRIs since I was 19."

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors were some of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants, and they could cause sexual problems as a side effect – delayed ejaculation and/or delayed or absent orgasm and/or changes in libido levels. Bella knew about their side effects because of Rosalie.

"Damn. I'm sorry."

"It is what it is," Edward replied. "They saved my life, probably. It's a small price to pay when you consider that, and I was lucky – they actually worked on me, at first… or so I thought. It's just that I always had that side effect. Honestly, I'd half convinced myself that their impact on my sex life was my own fault. This last half a year is actually the first time in my adult life I've been off them."

"Can I ask what made you decide to quit them? Or is that too personal?"

"Nothing is too personal for my future wife," Edward replied, grinning.

Bella laughed.

"But… I was in a clinical trial," Edward continued. "A randomized controlled trial for the use of psychedelics in depression. Psylocybin in particular. Laurent sent me a link to the study, right here in Vancouver, and… I hate to use this word, but it was – life-changing. It's probably the single most important thing I've done in my life for myself, signing up for that study."

"What was it like?"

"There is no way in the world to express it without sounding like an idiot." Edward put down his food, his eyes afire as he gestured with his hands. "I read accounts of experiences, and I thought they were stupid. Everyone talking about how you become one with universe and I thought, yeah, that's a crock of shit. They all sounded so stupid, but..."

"You became one with the universe?"

Edward smiled. "I mean, even that doesn't do it justice. It's like, you are everything. Everything is you, everything is connected. It all makes sense, everything has meaning and it's beautiful."

Bella observed his enthusiasm in silence, and Edward wiped his face before he picked up his food.

"I told you it sounds stupid."

"I don't think it sounds stupid," Bella replied. "It's pretty fascinating, actually. Are you tempted to do it again?"

"No. Especially not without supervision. It's a three-year study, and I have monthly follow-ups. So far, whatever it did to my brain, the change is still there. I wrote down my experience as a part of the study, and I go back to read it every once in a while. My next aim to recreate it with meditation, but that could take years."

"You meditate?"

"I try. I'm not very good. Turns out your brain is your biggest enemy if you ever try to listen to what it comes up with when you're not paying attention."

"I tried once or twice," Bella said. "It's difficult."

He nodded. "More than what it sounds like."

"Was it a placebo-controlled trial?" Bella asked, getting back to the topic at hand.

"It was," he answered before he paused, locking eyes with Bella. "Oh my God. No."

Her eyes were full of mirth. "It's possible."

"God. No. What does it say about my depression if it could've been fixed with a starch tablet?"

She tried hard to hold in her laughter, and when he grinned at her, blushing but happy, they both burst into laughter.

"God," Edward said. "Up until you mentioned it now, I was positive I got the drug. But you could be right. I – you – you're turning my world upside down, Bella. That's not very nice of my future wife."

Still, neither could hold their laughter and it was almost a minute later before Bella could even see the screen through her tears. Edward was no better, grinning back at her.

"I'm so sorry," Bella said. "I didn't mean to ruin your experience."

"I'm not telling a single soul I'm in that trial until I know for sure I got the psychedelic and not the placebo."

"Did you have any side-effects?"

"I did, but –"

"– they could've been imaginary," Bella finished, and they grinned at each other. She marvelled over how incredibly easy it was to spend time with Edward. She could do this all night.

"Thanks for helping me out with Ben, by the way."

"Of course," Bella replied. "I'll have you know that you're the first person to casually refer to me as Doctor Swan. I'm not ashamed to admit I lived on that high for the rest of the day."

"I'm glad." Edward smiled. "Poor boy was a bit awe-struck around you. He asked me how come his cohort doesn't have any girls who look like you."

Bella laughed.

"I bet it's because they all got braces to fix their crooked teeth," she replied. Bella's parents had not been able to afford braces when she first got permanent teeth, and by the time they could afford them, she was a teenager and actually grew to like her little crooked top left lateral incisor.

"Oh definitely," Edward said, stifling his smile, and the twinkle in his eye made her a bit self-conscious.

"Why'd you involve me, anyway?" Bella asked. "Aren't you some kind of statistics wizard?"

He grinned. "Is that what they say about me?"

"I mean… a little bit. Not everyone gets into Science with mad statistics calculating some massive amounts of raw data into showing that three different autoimmune diseases are strongly correlated with exposure to specific strains of certain viruses."

"You read it?"

"Of course I read it. I read your thesis, too. Our interests overlap a bit too much in some ways to have ignored it."

"Well, now I feel bad for only skimming over the summary of your thesis."

"I mean, you attended my viva," Bella said. "So don't feel too bad on my account."

He lifted his laptop as he took his plate back to the kitchen and disappeared from view as he put his laundry in the dryer. Their conversation flowed so easily that Bella hadn't realized they'd spoken for hours.

"Back to my question," Bella said. "Why'd you ask me to explain my thesis to Benjamin when you could've easily done it yourself?"

Edward reappeared, putting his laptop on the shelf above his sink as he did his dishes.

"I'm trying to get him to be exposed to other scientists. The combination of corona lockdowns, his introversion and struggle with mental health doesn't help him form the kinds of connections that will help him advance in his career. Having a degree is nice, but networking is crucial."

He focused on his dishes as he finished washing them. Bella had the urge to ask about his own struggles during his PhD but refrained when she remembered his desire to discuss it face-to-face.

"That's very kind of you."

He gave her a pursed-lips smile, silently acknowledging her compliment. Sitting on the couch, he lifted his legs on the coffee table and crossed his arms. He averted his gaze as his smile disappeared.

"Oh shit."


"We'll need an engagement ring. A real one. Alice will sniff a fake from a mile away."

"Wait just one second." Bella gave him a soft smile before she set down her laptop and shuffled around in her drawers until she found her little navy pouch. Back in front of the camera, she pulled out the gold engagement ring.

"Jesus." Eyes wide, Edward leaned forward, cracking his knuckles. "Were you – were you engaged?"

Bella laughed. "Not at all. This was the one dad gave my mom a long time ago. It's pretty standard, one small diamond. My mom wanted to throw it out but I convinced her to give it to me. Is it good enough?"

"It's perfect," he replied. "Wait – has Alice seen it?"

"I don't think so, but if she has, I'm willing to say that I insisted you propose to me with this one for the sentimental value."

"Is that not considered a bad omen, using a ring of a divorced couple even if they're your parents?"

"I don't care. If Alice thinks so, she wouldn't want to hurt my feelings by telling me."

"Thank you." Edward leaned elbows on his knees. "Seriously, thank you. You're saving me a lot of money right now."

Bella slipped the ring on, and it fit her quite well. "Don't mention it."

He looked endlessly relieved by her solution. "Do you mind if I switch to my phone audio? It's getting late and I skipped my workout in the morning."

He wiped his face, embarrassed by the memory of her catching him on her video-call. Bella was ready to say that, yes, she did mind. Why wouldn't she enjoy watching him work out on his bar?

"Go ahead," she said. "But we can also finish for today if you're bored or tired. We can pick it up some other day."

His camera switched off and his audio disappeared for a few seconds before he reappeared. "Not unless you want to," he said with a smile in his voice. "I've been tired of the podcasts I usually listen to, and I enjoy talking to you."

Her heart squeezed when he so casually admitted that.

"Me, too," she replied.

They spent the next two hours bantering and laughing as they learned to get to know each other, and Bella used the time to stretch her legs. It was past 11 when he set his phone on the table and turned on his camera, wiping sweat from his eyebrows. He had, quite possibly, never looked more attractive to her, red-faced and panting slightly.

"I have, hands down, never had so much fun talking to anyone than I do with you. We never run out of topics. I cannot thank you enough for being so easy to get along with."

Bella smiled, her stomach somersaulting at his sincerity – and maybe at how attractive she was starting to find him.

"I'm glad we get along so well," she replied.

"I think convincing my family we're engaged will be a piece of cake," Edward said. "Unless you are physically repulsed by me, we'll be fine."

Her eyes twinkled. "It will be a struggle I shall learn to tolerate."

He laughed.

"But, anyway," Bella said. "I'll let you get to shower and we'll talk tomorrow?"

"It's a deal."

Smiling, they cut the call, and Bella wondered if she was imagining the flutters his smile caused or if she was going to be in trouble.

A/N: Thanks a bunch for reading! You're endlessly kind. I'm lucky to have you all here.