A/N Hey, another chapter in only just over a month! Thank you for your patience as I get back into the swing of things. Special thanks to my WC girls, and to my awesome PTB Betas: HEAR and Sweetishbubble

Chapter Twenty-Three: California Dreamin'

EPOV

I had thought that leaving Bella this time would have been easier. Perhaps it was, in a way, knowing that I'd see her in just a few short weeks, but it still sucked, bad. I never slept as well as I did when she was next to me. Life wasn't as enjoyable without her around. This wasn't to say I was dependent on her for my happiness, because I wasn't. She did, however, make everything I enjoyed better.

I was sure if Emmett heard the thoughts I was having, he'd be demanding my man card back. Emmett didn't have anything on me, though. He was all macho and tough unless we were talking about his wife, then he became a big old teddy bear. Personally, she came across as more of a prickly pear most of the time, but I wasn't the one who had married her.

Rosalie aside, I couldn't wait to introduce Bella to the rest of my family. Esme was just beside herself. I hadn't brought anyone home in years, and she was working herself into a tizzy. I told her that Bella was pretty low maintenance and she wouldn't feel comfortable with that amount of fuss, but Esme just wanted Bella's trip to be perfect. Surprisingly enough, Alice was helping rein in Esme. My sister was saving me once again.

As I touched down at LAX, I turned my phone on and fired off a quick text to Jane and Marcus. With Christmas approaching, I would need Jane to help get everything set up, and I would need Marcus to help me coordinate all of my remaining commitments to my latest film. Marcus was a godsend. He was my agent and my manager. It was a lot for one person to take on, but he didn't carry a lot of clients at one time. The level of service he provided kept his client list small.

Jane... well Jane was a different story. I still felt she was unnecessary, and I'd only hired her as a personal assistant at Marcus's urging. Plus, she and I hadn't really meshed well yet. We'd only been working together for a few short months, but she was still as caustic and cold as she was the first day. I considered asking Marcus what her deal was, but from what he told me, he didn't know her very well either. He recommended her based on her reputation. Perhaps it was a mistake to trust his judgment.

Thank God the filming was almost over. The sooner I wouldn't have to deal with Tanya anymore, the better. At least our love scene was over. Doing that scene with her once was bad enough. If James were to tell me that the scene needed to be re-shot, I'd be tempted to refuse.

My phone chimed with an incoming text as I walked down the gangplank from the airplane. As always, Marcus wanted to meet with me as soon as possible to go over everything that had come up since I had gone. This was why he was more of my assistant than Jane. He did most of the coordination. She just reminded me of my appointments and kept me on schedule.

I was in the middle of typing him a reply when my phone chimed again with a text from Jane. She was in-route to pick me up and would take me to Marcus' office for our meeting. I had to admit, that was well orchestrated. At least this way I could get the meetings with them done and out of the way so I could get settled back in my apartment.

It was hard to call it home anymore. Sure it had all my stuff and a lot of memories but my home was in Ohio. Not in the physical structure that was Bella's house, but anywhere she was. When she arrived in a few short weeks, this place would feel like home again.

The usual gang of paparazzi was by the baggage claim area, waiting to snap whatever pictures they could of whomever they could. Sometimes I was able to sneak by them. Today was not one of those days. However, I didn't really mind it as much. Bella really opened my eyes when we were ambushed on Friday night. She handled the sudden chaos with grace and dignity, which was more than I could say for a good portion of Hollywood. How often had I cursed the cameras? I really didn't want to get stuck talking to any of the photographers or videographers, so I pulled the bill of my hat down and just kept moving. When I heard my name called, I waved and offered a small smile but that was it. I let them get their pictures and kept going. This time, I did not let the paparazzi control my life. It was a remarkable feeling.

Jane waited for me in the backseat of a car sent by Marcus' company at the curb outside of the baggage claim. The car must've only been there for a moment or two. There was no way that the TSA would allow a car, even for a celebrity, to idle for very long. The driver stood by the passenger door, his hand on the handle, waiting to open the door for me. Jane's head was bowed as she was reading something on her phone, so I was able to enter the car without her noticing. She jumped and looked up at me with an irritated expression once I slid into the car.

"Well, hello to you, too," I greeted sarcastically. Nothing made me more welcome then cold and formal Jane.

She sighed and set her phone down. "Good Afternoon, Edward."

I settled down in my seat and signaled to the driver to head back to Marcus's office. Jane continued to look everywhere but at me.

"How was your Thanksgiving?"

Her eyes flickered to mine in annoyance. "Fine."

"Any plans for Christmas?"

She huffed again. "Not yet."

I thought it was finally time I called her out on her attitude. I certainly didn't want to have to deal with this when Bella was here in a few weeks. "Okay, Jane, what is the deal?"

She turned her head to look out the window as she spoke. "What do you mean?"

"What do you think?" I retorted. "Why the attitude? Did I do something to offend you? Do you not like working for me?"

Jane sighed again, but this time it wasn't as sharp. Her shoulders fell as she finally turned to address me. "I do not have a problem working for you. You treat me with respect, you are professional, and you do not have a diva complex like others I have worked for in the past."

"If that's how you feel, why do you act the way you do?"

"It's complicated."

"Enlighten me. I think I can keep up."

Jane closed her eyes and seemed to shrink into herself. I had never seen her act this way before. When her eyes reopened, they had become cold and reserved again.

"I am not going to discuss this with you. I will monitor my tone and behavior toward you so I do not seem so rude. I apologize for any aggravation I have caused you."

The wall that I had started to peek over was back up again. Jane's instant formal tone pushed back any iota of progress I had made at cracking her shell. I sighed, resigned, and sat back into the car cushions.

After a few minutes of silence, I turned towards her, my voice firm and unwavering. "Fine. If this is how it's going to be between us, then I need to make a few things clear."

Her head turned slightly towards me, the only indication I was likely to get that she was paying attention.

"Bella is flying out in a few weeks to spend Christmas and New Years with me. I will be relying on you to make some necessary arrangements."

Jane's face remained stoic except for a faint tic in her cheek when Bella's name was mentioned.

"I have not failed to notice how you react when I have spoken about her. I do not understand what you could possibly have against someone you have never met, but I will not tolerate any disrespect or rudeness to her while she is here. You are to treat her as you treat me. Is this understood?"

My voice left no room for argument.

She nodded stiffly. "Yes."

"Good."

The remainder of the ride was quiet as we kept to our own thoughts. I was frustrated with the riddle that was Jane Malvagita. Eventually, I would find out why she acted the way she did. It might have been a private matter, but it was affecting how she worked and I was tired of dealing with it.

Being ushered into Marcus's plush downtown LA office was like entering the inner sanctum of the entertainment industry. There were pictures of Marcus and many of the movers and shakers of Hollywood. He was, at one time, attached to one of the "Big Four" talent agencies. Marcus wanted more control over the talent he represented, which went against the grain of the strictures of the company. Eventually, he broke free and created his own much smaller company. This flexibility allowed Marcus to be both my agent and my manager. It was a lot to juggle at times, between my music career and my acting career, but he handled it all with finesse.

The only thing I disliked about coming into Marcus's office was interacting with Caius, Marcus's partner. I wasn't quite sure exactly what Caius did within the company because he never represented anyone. Most often, he was like a statue: silent, still, and cold. I had only heard him speak a handful of times in the years I had been with Marcus.

True to form, Caius was hovering in the background like a wraith as Jane and I walked in. I might've been seeing things, but I thought I saw something flicker between Caius and Jane, something more than just recognition. However, I didn't put much weight into it. I was already hyperaware of her behavior so it would be easy to misinterpret something into more than what it was.

Marcus sat behind his large maple desk, leaning back in his overstuffed executive chair. His back was turned to us as we approached. Two smaller stationary but equally well-padded chairs were in front, empty and waiting. A matching maple sidebar was off in the corner with a water service and a decanter of cognac. My throat burned as I thought about how the cognac would taste. I swallowed thickly and remembered why I didn't drink liquor anymore.

"Yes, thank you, James. I will let him know very soon. I'm sure either he or Jane will be contacting you to advise on a time," Marcus's voice rumbled as he turned in his chair to face us, his cell phone up to his ear. He smiled briefly at me then Jane before he shuffled a few papers on his desk. He said a few more things before he hung up his phone.

"Welcome back, Edward," he greeted. "I'm guessing by your demeanor right now that your trip back to Ohio was a success."

"It was. We got some issues aired out and made some progress in our relationship."

Marcus's secretary, an overly done up petite woman, approached us quietly with glasses of water. I gratefully accepted mine and nodded my thanks.

"Good. You will need that peace to deal with the shit storm your interview caused," he replied with a grimace.

I almost choked on the sip of chilled water that I'd taken. "That I caused? Tanya started this bullshit with that cockamamie interview about our relationship. I wouldn't have had to talk to the media if she hadn't done that."

"No, if you had talked to Bella beforehand, you wouldn't have needed to so publicly denounce Tanya."

I felt my anger begin to burn as I tried to defend my actions. It was done. I wouldn't have changed my mind to do that impromptu interview for one second. "This is crap, Marcus, and you know it. Tanya is fucking crazy. She's had a grudge against me since we broke up a while ago. What am I supposed to do about that?"

"You already did do something. Now we have to fix it."

Marcus leveled a stare at me, the kind of stare that meant business, that meant 'knock this shit off and listen to me.' I still thought this was bullshit but I settled down and let Marcus have his say.

"James is worried about any potential catfights between you and Tanya for the duration of the movie. He wants some kind of guarantee from you there won't be any more stunts."

I nodded; I had no intention of interacting with Tanya any more than I had to for the duration of this movie.

"The studio is concerned about the image of the film because the two principal actors, who are supposed to be in love in the movie, are publicly fighting. They are worried that this will affect distributors' desire to pick up the movie and how the public will interpret this. The movie-going public will not want to see a movie if the fourth wall is broken, destroying the illusion brought on by with all this drama."

This made me pause. To be honest, I hadn't really thought about this when I decided to do the interview. It wouldn't have stopped me from doing it, but I probably would've given Marcus and James some kind of heads up. All I was focused on was that I was about to lose the best thing that ever happened to me because of that crazy, psychotic bitch.

I leaned forward in my chair as I gathered my thoughts, tapping my fingertips together as my elbows rested on my knees. Marcus watched me passively while Jane tapped quietly on her phone. Both Caius and Marcus's secretary were nowhere to be found. I certainly wasn't looking forward to working with Tanya come Monday when we were on set or having to spend time with her during the promotional circuit for the film. At least I'd have a break in between the two, and maybe that would allow things to calm down a little. Perhaps she would have found a new boytoy to keep her occupied. I could only hope for something to keep her obsessive tricks away from me.

Taking a deep breath, I looked Marcus in the eye as I spoke. "Before I left, I said my piece to Tanya when she tried to molest me in my trailer. I made my point about the status of our alleged relationship with the interview and only did that interview to counter the farce of the one she gave. I have nothing further to say to the media about Tanya, nor do I want to. The sooner that this all quiets down, the happier I will be.

"I want to deal with her as little as possible both on the set and off. After what happened in my trailer, she is not allowed to be alone in my presence. Jane is aware of this, as is my security detail. As long as Tanya stays out of my hair and doesn't start any more shit, you won't hear a peep out of me. I've made my commitment to this movie and I will fulfill that."

I sat back and watched Marcus as he absorbed what I'd said. I only spoke the truth. While I didn't want to belabor the situation with Tanya, I wasn't going to take her manipulation lying down. I trusted her once, but after what happened with the coffee shop and my trailer... never again.

Marcus pursed his lips as he looked at something on his desk. His face showed no emotion, just concentration on the subject at hand. He had seemed a little annoyed when we first walked in but that quickly dissipated. Jane never once looked up the entire time I spoke. Her attention continued to be focused on her phone. I hoped she was so attentive to her phone because she was taking notes on the meeting.

Finally, a hint of emotion crept up Marcus's face as a smile broke his grim visage. "That will be of great relief to both James and the studio. Since most of the movie is done, the biggest concern is how you two will interact during the promotions. From the success of your last movie and all this recent drama, you and Tanya are going to be in higher demand for all the late shows, not to mention how huge the press junket is going to be."

I sighed, already dreading the drudgery that the press junkets were. Sitting in a room all day long, answering the same questions would be bad enough. Having to put up with Tanya as well would make it a borderline nightmare. There was always some pesky reporter who wanted to ask blacklisted personal questions too. This time around, I may not mind as much I usually would. It would be another opportunity to set the record straight.

"When it comes time to making the arrangements for the press junket, I'll have some requests to make things tolerable and ensure I don't murder my co-star."

Marcus rolled his eyes with a smile. "That's reasonable. I'm sure Jane will be able to get that squared away for you."

She looked up and nodded briefly. Maybe she was paying attention after all.

Recalling what I had heard when we came in, I questioned Marcus. "What were you and James talking about when we walked in?"

"James wants to meet with you and Tanya before heading back to the set on Monday, preferably today. Studio reps will be there as well. He wants you or Jane to call him as soon as you leave here to confirm a time."

I sighed, realizing my hopes to go back to my apartment and just relax for the rest of the day were quickly dwindling away. I should've realized that I couldn't live in LA at the same pace that I had in Ohio. Garrett's offer of a slower pace started to look better and better. Running a hand through my hair, I slouched in my chair, dreading the direction the rest of my day was going.

"Do they want to meet with us at the same time, or can I meet with James at the studio on my own?"

Marcus looked at me pointedly. "Come on, Edward, I think you know the answer to that question."

I sighed again. "Yeah, I know but I had to ask. She's the last person I want to see today, tomorrow, or any other day."

"Life's full of disappointments, Edward. Just be professional."

I rolled my eyes, not really in the mood to be lectured. "Yes, Marcus."

Marcus shook his head at me and muttered under his breath as he rose from his chair. I didn't bother to ask what he was saying. I was sure it was about me and wasn't very complimentary. Taking his cue, I also stood up and stuck out my hand to Marcus as a gesture of good faith.

"I know I can be a pain in the ass sometimes, Marcus. I appreciate everything you do, and I want to thank you for sticking up for me."

My manager, and sometimes friend, finally smiled and shook my hand. "This is what you pay me lots of money to do. The more money you make the more money I make. It is a win-win situation for both of us."

It always helped to talk Marcus's language: money. He, more than anything or anyone, was a businessman. He had your attention if you were talking his business.

I turned to Jane who had finally disentangled herself from her phone. "Jane, please call James and see if we can head right over there. I want to get this done as soon as possible. I also need to talk to Marcus for a moment longer, so I'll meet you out in the lobby shortly."

She nodded and quietly withdrew.

Not finding a better way to broach the subject, I went right for it. "Marcus, I need to ask you something."

He nodded his head for me to continue.

"How well do you know Jane? You recommended her to me, yet she acts like working for me is the last thing she wants to do. I am in a continuous state of frustration with her. I don't expect her to be my best friend, but her borderline disrespectful attitude is quickly getting old. She's very efficient and professional in other aspects of her job, except for when I interact with her directly or if I mention Bella."

Marcus's eyebrows furrowed as he listened. "I have known her for several years, but not well at all. Caius knows her better than I, but has never spoke ill of her."

"Caius?" I asked, startled.

"Yes, apparently they have been friends for quite some time."

"I didn't realize she had any friends," I mumbled.

Marcus ignored my comment as he continued. "In the few years that I have known her, she has never exhibited a warm, welcoming personality. She has always kept everyone at a distance, except Caius. She and I have only exchanged a minimum of words, barely even pleasantries. However, I have always been impressed with her professionalism and her ability to get things done. Whatever her methods may be, she is very effective. This is why I recommended her to you. You need someone that is going to be able to cut through the bullshit that is in this industry and make things happen."

"What's the deal between her and Caius?"

"Neither will say, and I refuse to pry."

"Hmm, okay. Well I feel a little better about the fact that she doesn't treat me any differently than other people," I muttered, running a hand through my hair. "I don't get her deal with Bella, though. Jane has never met her."

"Don't let her get to you, Edward, or to Bella. She may be suspicious of new people. Who knows? Just don't let her give you any shit. One thing I do know about her is that she respects people who stand up for themselves and don't let themselves be walked on. Keep doing what you are doing, and things will be fine."

I nodded and shook Marcus's hand one more time before leaving his office. Jane waited quietly in the foyer, for once not playing with her phone.

"Thank you for your patience, Jane. What time is James available?" I asked softly, approaching the petite woman.

She looked up, her face momentarily vulnerable before it was quickly covered with her usual cool façade. "He said to come right over. Tanya is already there. I could hear her screeching in the background."

"Great," I moaned.

Jane smiled, "She's only upset because you publicly humiliated her. She had it coming to her."

I was stunned. Not only had Jane never smiled at me before, but she'd actually spoken to me without me asking a question of her. However, just as soon as this bit of humanity showed itself, it was quickly hidden.

Jane stood, brushed an imaginary bit of lint off her skirt, and looked up at me expectantly. "Ready?"

"Uh, yeah. Let's go."

The drive to the studio was not quite as tense as the ride to Marcus's office had been. I occupied myself with texting Bella and Seth. It helped to calm me down from the gathering stress of dealing with my she-witch of a co-star. There was truly something inherently wrong with Tanya. I didn't know why I hadn't seen that before.

Piles of paparazzi and tourists were camped outside of the studio gates, the flashes of their cameras not as glaring in the daylight. It served only to remind me of the fiasco after last night's concert. At least I was here now so the paps would leave Bella alone. The security guard at the gate quickly waved us in, leaving behind the noise and chaos of the city for a completely different kind of noise.

The studio lot was abuzz with activity. Extras and grips were running around between sound stages while open-air buses gave tours. Thankfully, it didn't take very long to get to the studio offices since they were quite prominent in the front of the studio. I preferred to enter from the side entrances, but this was faster. Going through one of the side entrances would mean having to navigate around the many stages, trailers, and even more people running round. A tour bus went by the car and I could see the people leaning over the side of the open-air vehicle to try to see inside the car. I was very thankful that the windows of the car were tinted, offering me some desired privacy.

The car slowed and came to a stop in front of impressive glass doors with the studio's name etched across the front. Before I could exit the vehicle, the chauffer had hopped out and opened his door for me.

"Mr. Cullen," the man prompted quietly.

I slid out smoothly and waited for Jane to help her out. She didn't accept my hand, but didn't completely turn me aside either. It may have just been the jetlag talking, but it seemed like she was defrosting a little towards me. Lord knew I was going to need it when I had to sit in the same room with Tanya.

As we walked into the main lobby, the receptionist called James's office to announce us. She gestured quickly towards the bank of elevators down the hall.

"Mr. Richardson is waiting for you, Mr. Cullen," she said hurriedly, looking a bit frazzled. I could only imagine that Tanya had something to do with that.

I smiled at her as we walked by, hoping that her day would get a little better once Tanya was out of the building. I knew my day would improve the moment I could get away from the toxicity that was Tanya Denali.

I could hear Tanya's voice from the beginning of the hallway. Her range was actually quite impressive. I turned to Jane as we walked towards James' office.

"You don't happen to have earplugs in your bag, do you?" I asked.

Jane's mouth twitched in amusement as she shook her head.

"Eh, it was worth a shot."

I stopped outside of James's suite. Tanya was just coming down from a rant. Taking a deep breath and thinking fondly of Bella to help keep calm, I firmly rapped on the door. James's assistant swiftly opened the door and ushered us in. The poor man looked even worse than the receptionist downstairs had.

"Thank God you are here," he uttered quickly. "That woman is a shrew and has not stopped haranguing since she stomped in here earlier."

Laurent, James's assistant, knew all too well the ways and wiles of Tanya Denali. He had the pleasure of hearing many of her tirades during the filming of the movie. She could be as sweet as pie as long as you did whatever she asked when she asked. However, she was very vocal on any slights she perceived against her or things she didn't agree with. One more thing that should have tipped me off that something was up when she had been so nice to me leading up to our blow-up in my trailer.

I chuckled and followed Laurent into James's office.

The moment I walked into the room, Tanya whirled around, her strawberry blonde hair flying. Her eyes narrowed at me and her face transformed into an ugly sneer. A long manicured finger pointed at me. I was glad I was not within reach of her otherwise that finger would be digging into my chest.

"You!" she ranted. "This is all your fault. You blew this whole thing up, making me look like the bad guy. All we had was a misunderstanding."

I cocked an eyebrow at her and scoffed mildly. "If you call announcing a made-up relationship on national television a misunderstanding, then sure."

James Richardson sat behind his desk, watching our interaction. His long blond hair was tied back and it looked like he hadn't shaved in a few days, which was a normal look for him. However, he was actually wearing trousers and a polo shirt instead of jeans. This was the only indication that this meeting was important. I took that as my cue and would not allow myself to get into a shouting match with Tanya.

Tanya huffed and took a deep breath to start in on me again, but James mercifully cut her off.

"Alright Tanya, we already know how you feel about the situation. However, what is done is done. What we want now is to ensure that the two of you will be able to work together to get this film finished and participate in the promotions that you are both contractually bound to do."

I nodded and took a seat by his desk. Tanya continued to pace about the room. Her personal assistant sat on the couch against the far wall, looking worse for wear. I felt bad for the poor woman. On a good day, Tanya was okay to deal with, but it didn't seem like she had many good days to speak of. Jane quietly walked over and joined the suffering woman on the couch.

James' eyes flickered in annoyance at Tanya before addressing me. "The studio heads will be here shortly. They were waiting until you arrived before coming down. The-"

"You certainly took your sweet ass time getting here too, Eddie," Tanya spat, cutting off James. "I've been here all afternoon waiting for you to grace us with your presence. At least one of us is able to be professional and arrive to a meeting on time."

I was really trying to hold my tongue and not lash out at her like I wanted to do. Her barbs had no weight and I knew James knew the truth, but that didn't stop me from getting upset about them. I closed my eyes, pinched the bridge of my nose, and tried to rein in my temper.

"Tanya, I've had about enough of your shit today," James cut in, clearly getting more pissed by the minute. "Sit down and shut up. You knew that the studio wasn't happy with all the drama from these ridiculous interviews you both gave, so you came in to start pleading your case to save your job. It was sheer coincidence that Edward was going to be back in town today, thus creating the opportunity for this, impromptu but important, meeting."

Tanya sputtered, her face turning red in anger. "How dare you speak to me this way? Do you have any idea who I am? Who I know? With a single phone call I can make sure you never direct another film again."

James laughed as he leaned back in his chair. I stared at him, completely thrown off by his reaction. Once James stopped laughing, he stood up slowly and leaned against his desk by his hands. His face was tight with rigidly controlled fury while his eyes burned.

"Listen to me, little girl. I don't give a flying fuck who you think you are or who you think you know. Do you really think you have more power than I do around here? Do you really want to play that game with me? I guarantee that you will lose."

Tanya stood stiffly, her hands curled into fists at her sides as she tried to stare down James. I was very glad I wasn't a part of this particular battle of egos.

"I've been in this business a lot longer than you have, Ms. Denali. You think your tricks are new or unique? Think twice. You haven't exactly been discreet in some of your associations and dealings. I'm sure you wouldn't want the public to find out and shatter that perfect image you've cultivated, nor would you want the studio to know about some of things you have been up to in the past several years."

Tanya's face paled as she took a step back from his desk.

"You would be wise to remember this: You are nothing more than the flavor of the month to the public. You've managed to have a decent career because you started so young. As soon as you start to age, you will start getting passed over on roles for younger actresses. Unless you change your superior attitude and start realizing your place in this industry, your career will end as soon as you find your first gray hair.

"Now, sit down so we can get this meeting over with."

Tanya quietly took her seat on the opposite side of the desk from me. I was intrigued about just what she had been up to that would silence her so completely when James called her out. I wasn't so curious that I wanted to find out. Whatever kept her out of my hair was fine by me. She had done nothing but make my life difficult from the day I met her.

"Edward, while I remember it, some scenes of yours need to be re-shot. Please have Jane get with Laurent on the schedules."

"Sure," I replied lightly. "What scenes?"

James scanned through some paperwork on his desk before answering. "The beach, the first scene in your office, and the opening scene at the cemetery."

"Oh, thank God," I replied. "I was afraid you were going to say the sex scene."

James chuckled and shook his head. "No, you lucked out this time."

Tanya huffed but did not say anything.

I looked back over at Jane who nodded and began typing furiously into her phone. Satisfied that she heard the necessary information, I settled into my chair and waited for the bigwigs to show up. Surprisingly, I wasn't nervous. I had only met with them a few times and each time I couldn't stop fidgeting. Now, it was different. Now, I had nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. Sure, countering Tanya's claims about our 'relationship' could've been handled differently and perhaps with less public knowledge, but I felt what I'd done was the most effective. I had learned in these past several months that subtly did not work on Tanya, and I needed to do something big to show Bella the truth.

If I had tried to fix things quietly, Bella may have thought I was trying to hide our relationship, which was farthest from the truth. I had only been trying to protect her from the paparazzi. Now that they'd found her, there was no reason not to go public. We kept things quiet long enough to get proper safety measures in place for her. I was not as worried about her as I would have been if she didn't have the security fence and her dad to keep an eye out for her.

We weren't waiting long before Laurent came in with three well-dressed men trailing behind him. The trio of men controlled every aspect of the studio and ultimately our jobs. Their concern was simple. Money. Just like Marcus, their business was making money. If you could make them money, they were your best friends. If you cost them money, you'd be hard pressed to find work again. By the end of this meeting, they would know without a shadow of a doubt that I was not out to cost them money. I just wanted to do my job and get back to my girl.

James stood up and smoothed a crease in his pants. "Gentlemen, ladies, let's move this into the conference room."

The studio executives, led by Laurent and quickly joined by James, passed through the office smoothly into the adjoining conference room. I could feel their eyes on me as they passed, calculating and measuring to see where I stood. I didn't bow to their scrutiny nor was I disrespectful. I stood straight, but relaxed, while I waited for everyone to proceed me. I wanted to make sure Tanya was ahead of me. I didn't trust her at all and did not feel comfortable with her at my back. Jane and Tanya's assistant remained in the back of the conference room on a low couch where they would be out of the way but available if needed. Laurent brought over a pitcher of water and glasses for each of us before he sat down near the two women.

As I settled into my chair, I glanced up and caught Tanya staring daggers at me. Her hands were tightly folded on the table, her tendons prominent. Yep, she still was pissed. I looked away dismissively and she sucked in an angry breath. I really didn't care what she thought of me anymore.

The trio from the studio sat impassively, watching with a seemingly casual regard. They watched a little too closely. Their faces were a little too calm. I knew right at that moment that they knew a lot more than they let on, and nothing that had happened since they walked on the lot today had missed their notice. Still, I knew I had nothing to fear.

James cleared his throat and shuffled a few papers that Laurent had set in front of him. "Thank you everyone for coming so quickly. Our biggest concern is how the personal differences between Mr. Cullen and Ms. Denali will affect the rest of the filming and how the public will perceive the movie. Will they be able to work together to get the last few weeks of filming done? Will they be able to be civil to one another during the press junkets and interviews for the movie? Most importantly, will Edward and Tanya's public spat destroy the image of the characters in this movie to the point that the public won't buy into the message and see the movie? We are here to make money and if this rift makes the movie unsellable, it would be most unfortunate."

Stefan Vasile, the middle studio representative, spoke up. His old European accent giving his voice a lilting cadence. "Mr. Cullen, because of your previous history of instability, this new development has given the studio cause to be concerned. We do not want negative press on this film to affect its projected profitability. As you know, part of the draw by movie goes to most films are the actors attached to it. If your issues right now affect how the public perceives you then I and the studio will have a problem."

I nodded my head and took a breath to respond. Before I could speak, Tanya broke in.

"What about me? What about how his actions have changed how the public perceives me? Everyone thinks I'm some kind of crazed, jealous ex-girlfriend because he had to give that stupid interview on Monday."

I shook my head and wondered what a precarious position Tanya was putting herself in by her continued outbursts. She was digging her own grave for her career.

Stefan's piercing hazel eyes narrowed as his head turned towards Tanya. James shook his head slightly from side to side in disbelief.

"Ms. Denali, I was not addressing you," he murmured coldly. His voice was tightly controlled, but I could see the anger brewing underneath his calm exterior. I did not want to be in the room if that façade cracked. Tanya wisely heeded his words and kept her mouth shut.

"Mr. Cullen?" he prompted, continuing as if Tanya never interrupted him.

I cleared my throat and carefully phrased my next words. "It is true that in the past year I have hit the bottom professionally and personally, but I have climbed out of that hole and seen where I have gone wrong. I am healthier than I have ever been in my adult life, and I am more committed to my career than ever before. Despite my personal feelings toward my co-star, my abilities to fulfill my obligations have not been hampered. I do not wish my personal life to become a spectacle for the paparazzi. I just want to do the best job I can so I can put this episode behind me. This past year has been a learning experience for me. I know myself better now and what I really want out of my career."

"And what do you want out of your career, young man?"

This question came not from Stefan but his senior counterpart, Amun. Amun was the eldest of the trio, his olive-toned skin pale with age. Unlike Stefan, he no longer held the accent of his Egyptian homeland. He had been in the United States since he was a small boy and was whole-heartedly American. His gifts as a businessman allowed the studio to flourish under his tenure. He was living his American dream... just on a grander scale than most could imagine.

"I want it to be satisfying, sir. I want to be able to make enough to provide for my family comfortably, but have it still be something I am proud of at the end of the day. I want my kids to know that I did not sell out, that I stayed true to who I am. In the past year, I had almost lost that vision, but with some help, I have found my way again. This is how I've been able to put my personal feelings aside, stay dedicated my job, and perform to the best of my abilities."

Amun sat back in his chair, not commenting, but seeming to be satisfied with my response.

The third man of the trio, Liam, finally spoke up. "Ms. Denali, what about you? Are you going to be able to finish this film without making a further spectacle of yourself?"

"Of course," Tanya replied sweetly, a little too sweetly. I knew this woman. She was up to something. "I only did the interview to help promote the movie. I thought that if the public knew that Edward and I were in a relationship again that it would bring people into the theaters. Since Edward ruined that plan, I will continue to work hard at putting out a great movie."

"Ms. Denali," prompted Stephan, "What is unusual about this situation is that you expressly asked Entertainment Tonight to do the interview. Is it not typical that the media contacts you to sit down for an interview?"

Tanya's face paled and she started fidgeting with a fingernail. "Um, yes, sir, it is. Normally they put a request through our agents for an interview."

"So what made giving this interview so important at this moment? Could something like this not have waited until closer to the movie release? That way, your message about your alleged relationship with your co-star would be fresher in the public's mind."

"I-I... I"

"Come on, Ms. Denali, you certainly had plenty to say earlier. Why are you so reticent now?" Amun asked.

My eyebrows shot up in surprise. Had they really known about Tanya's earlier ranting and raving?

The same thought must've gone through Tanya's mind because her face started to turn dark red. She took several breaths before finally speaking.

"I did the interview to try to bring some publicity to the movie. If people knew we were a couple, they would have a greater interest in the movie, and it would continue to grow and build until the movie was released," she insisted, almost making it seem like she was trying to convince herself.

"Was that all?" Stefan asked, believing accurately that there was more to her motivation.

"Mostly," Tanya said. "That and I wanted to put to rest all that garbage about his mystery girlfriend. That Bella girl was just a fling anyway. How long can they do a long-distance relationship with all the responsibilities he has here? I know Edward still has feelings for me. Hell, he was already starting to warm up to me up until last week."

My jaw hit the floor. I was completely stunned by the sheer lunacy of the words that came out of her mouth. "You're delusional if you think I have any romantic feelings towards you, Tanya," I said derisively

"What about our moment in the coffee shop?"

"What moment? You staged that whole thing. I was being nice because you were being civil to me for once. I should've known that it was all a ploy."

"It wasn't a ploy," she pleaded, her anger giving away to desperation. "You love me, I know you do."

"ENOUGH!" James roared, pounding on the conference table hard enough to rattle the glasses. "This kind of behavior is exactly what we want to prevent! How can we believe that you will be able to film the rest of the movie and not get into a fight?"

"We can not have this kind of publicity for this movie!" Stefan added, glaring at Tanya and me. Tanya sat back in her chair, looking so incredibly offended that I almost believed it was real.

I hung my head, embarrassed that I'd allowed myself to start getting pulled down into Tanya's game. "My apologies, gentlemen. I can reassure you that this will not happen again. The anger I feel over what has gone on is still a little fresh, and I let it get the best of me. I do not wish this to drag out any longer. I want to get this film finished so we can get the promotional requirements done as quickly as possible."

Liam finally spoke up again. "A lot of this stems from this Bella; this is your girlfriend? Is she not also the reason for all this unfortunate business?"

"Yes, Bella is my girlfriend but she is not the reason for all this drama. Tanya took it upon her self to do that interview. So I did mine to defend Bella and our relationship. The public needed to know the truth about what was really going on. I had no other reason than that. I had wanted to avoid putting Bella into the media spotlight, but I could not allow lies to be spread about her or myself or our relationship. Whatever else I have left to do in my life, she is a part of it."

With that last statement, Tanya huffed again and rolled her eyes. I continued to ignore her. It was hard now not to see how her actions had been spurred on by jealousy.

"Does this mean you are going to do an interview to defend yourself every time some gossip is said about you, Edward?" Liam asked.

"Of course not," I snorted. "There's been gossip said about me since I came to Hollywood. I can deal with the typical crap that is spouted by the tabloids. However, when it's my own co-star spreading the lies, it tends to hold more weight, so I did what I thought was necessary."

"Don't you think you could've handled this situation differently? Perhaps more quietly?" Amun asked.

"Probably, if I had more time to analyze the situation, but enough time had already passed, and I needed to do something very quickly."

"You made me look like a fool!" Tanya spat.

"You did that well enough on your own," I retorted, my voice starting to rise.

"I've lost credibility now because of you. I could sue you for slander!" she screeched.

"I didn't say anything about you in that entire interview that could be considered slanderous. I only said that we were not involved in a relationship nor would we ever be," I replied as calmly as I could. I kept reminding myself that we were not the only ones in the room.

"You called me a liar on national television!"

I gritted my teeth but did not respond. I wasn't going to fall in her trap again. By not speaking, it put all of the men's focus on Tanya. She was on the hot seat and didn't even know it. I couldn't wait to see how quickly she would burn.

"This is ridiculous and you are crazy, Tanya," I said, pushing away from the table. "There was nothing about your interview that was for the film. It was all about you just as it always has been with you. Gentlemen, perhaps you may be able to reason with her. I will be here ready to work Monday morning. I've said my piece. Do you have any further questions for me?"

"What's the big rush, Eddie?" Tanya sneered. "You want to hurry up and go back to your precious Bella?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact I do. I love her, so yes, I want to be with her as much as I can."

Tanya seethed in her chair but didn't say anything further.

The three men conferred with James quietly as I looked anywhere but in Tanya's direction. If I looked at her, I was likely to hop over the table and strangle the bitch.

Stefan cleared his throat and stood up. "No, Mr. Cullen, I think you have satisfied all of our concerns. Thank you for your time and for coming down so quickly. Have you even been home yet?"

"No, sir, I came right from the airport to my agent's office to here. I wanted to get this settled once and for all."

Tanya scoffed, and I heard her mumble something under her breath about me.

Stefan held his hand out to me to shake. "Consider it settled. We are more than convinced that you are not the problem."

I shook his hand firmly before nodding to James, Liam, and Amun. I saw myself out of the office with Jane following behind me quietly. As I closed the door to James's office, I heard Stefan speak coldly, "Ms. Denali, we need to have a chat about your future."

As we walked past the receptionist desk in the lobby of the studio's offices, I was finally able to let out the last of the tension in my body, tension that I didn't even realize I had been holding in. Jane continued to follow behind me, silent but the cold resignation seemed to have left her body. I'm not sure what brought about her change, but I welcomed it compared to what she was like before.

Marcus's car pulled up just as we were walking out of the building. Jane had impeccable timing when she called for the car just at the right moment. I didn't want to stick around outside in case the she-witch came flying out on her broom. The chauffer quickly opened the door for us, and I waited until Jane was all the way in before I slid inside the car.

"There isn't anyone else that wants to meet with me today, is there?" I asked, as I got comfortable in the thick leather seat.

Jane checked the calendar on her phone briefly before answering. "No, the rest of your day is free."

"Good. I'd like to keep it that way for the remainder of the weekend. If anyone wants to talk to me, they can wait until Monday. I don't want to be bothered by anyone until then."

"Very well." Jane made a few notations in her phone then set it down on the seat between us.

"Did you park at Marcus' office?"

"No, the car picked me up and brought me to the airport to pick you up."

"Alright, I'll tell the driver to drop you off at your place."

I leaned forward in the seat to get the driver's attention. He already knew where she lived, so I didn't need to ask Jane for any directions. I had never been to her home so I had no idea what to expect. I didn't even know if she had a house or an apartment.

The drive didn't take long, but I noticed that we were driving into rougher parts of Los Angeles. If this was the area where Jane lived, she certainly gave no indication of it by the way she dressed and acted. I knew I certainly paid her enough to live in a better neighborhood than this. The car slowed and turned into small housing development. The majority of the houses were at least fifty to sixty years old and were starting to show wear and tear.

As we pulled into the driveway of a small, blue bungalow, Jane tensed up beside to me.

"Thank you," she said shortly as the driver hopped out and opened her door.

"Wait a second, Jane," I said quickly before she was able to escape. She looked over at me, saw the questions on my face, and rushed out of the car.

I scrambled out of the car and followed her. She only got as far as her front door before I caught up to her.

"What's wrong?"

Jane played with her keys in her hand as she looked everywhere but at me.

"I saw how you looked at my house and the neighborhood I live in. I'm sure you want to know why I live here when my income could afford me a much nicer area."

I smiled softly, suddenly realizing how difficult this was for her to talk about. "It had crossed my mind, but it is none of my business what you do with your money."

Jane nodded appreciatively. "Life is not always what it seems."

With that cryptic response, she unlocked her door and entered her house, leaving me on her front step. I stood there for a moment in stunned silence staring at her closed front door. Why would she say something like that? What was she hiding? Granted, I didn't know her so well as to know for a fact that she hiding was something, but a person wouldn't make a statement like that unless there was something more going on. Ever so slowly, it seemed like she was opening up to me. Perhaps she would choose to confide in me at some point.

Shrugging my shoulders, I walked back to the car and asked the driver to unlock the trunk. I quickly retrieved my carry-on bag and settled back into my seat. My stomach had begun to growl and one of Bella's muffins would do the trick until I got home to eat something proper. Although, the trip to Ohio hadn't been planned so who knew what was growing in my fridge after a week. A run to the grocery store appeared to be in my near future, after a stop to the dumpster.

I sighed as I ate one of the muffins. The actions of the day weighed down on me, only thoughts of Bella helped to keep my spirit up. I had only been in California for maybe half a day and already I was exhausted. Jet lag would do that, I supposed, as well as dealing with Tanya. In any given day, just thinking about dealing with Tanya was enough to tire me out.

The scenery outside my window flew by as the driver made good time to my apartment building. I just wanted to relax and talk to Bella a little bit. I was tempted to call Seth and tell him that I ran into his cousin and his aunt. It was still a little shocking that despite growing up on opposite ends of the country, we still managed to know some of the same people.

"Mr. Cullen?"

I jumped in my seat, startled by the voice of my driver. I must've nodded off at some point because the car was parked outside of my complex.

"Oh! Yeah, sorry about that. Jet lag," I said as I scurried out of the car.

The driver already had my carry-on bag on the curb waiting for me. He swiftly shut the door behind me as I blinked in the bright, California sunlight. I fished around for my sunglasses before I realized that I hadn't brought any with me.

"Thank you," I said to the driver, shaking his hand and slipping a few folded up bills at the same time.

"Thank you, Mr. Cullen. Have a good afternoon and welcome home."

I turned and grabbed my bag before walking into the lobby of my building. The usual security guard was there, as always, making sure only the residents of the building and welcomed guests were allowed any further.

"Mr. Cullen! I haven't seen you in a week! Did you go up to Washington to see your family for the holiday?"

I laughed as I shook the older man's hand. "Brian, you don't watch much television do you?"

"I try not to, Mr. Cullen."

"How many times have I told you to call me Edward, Brian?"

"Only every time, Mr. Cullen," Brian replied with a smile.

-bfto-bfto-bfto-bfto-bfto-

Finally, I was back in my apartment, free of everyone and everything. I dropped my bag with a thump in the entryway and stumbled into the living room. Everything was just as I'd left it when I'd hurried to Ohio last week. The smell of rotten produce and something else gone rancid wafted from the kitchen. I sincerely hoped there wasn't anything in the kitchen that had sprouted fuzz in the past week. Pictures of Bella and my family adorned a corner table. As I walked by, I touched the picture of Bella, my finger caressing her cheek.

The late afternoon sun poured through the floor to ceiling windows from the far side of the room. My piano glowed in the sunlight and my fingers itched to dance along the keys. My fantasy from months before came back with a vengeance, causing my body to react in a most inconvenient way. Now that Bella would be here in a few weeks, the fantasy seemed more real. Sighing at the state of my pants, I knew I would need to take care of business in the near future.

First, the funk in the kitchen needed to be dealt with before I did anything else. The smell was starting to bother me as I approached the kitchen. I wished I'd had the foresight to have hired someone to come in and clean while I was gone. I grabbed a pair of gloves and a garbage bag, held my breath, and opened the fridge.

It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Sure, the lettuce was mushy and the nectarines were fuzzy, but the rest of the produce was fine. However, something still was quite rank in my fridge, and I couldn't find anything else that had spoiled. I dug through all the various items and containers one more time until I came across something in the very back. I pulled out a plastic container that held some leftover black beans. My memory failed me as I tried to remember the last time I ate black beans. I peered through the plastic and the beans looked okay. However, the second I opened the container I was hit with a noxious smell of fermented beans. My stomach churned and I quickly resealed the container and tossed it in the trash bag.

Hoping that was the last of the nastiness in the kitchen, I tied up the bag and set it by the trashcan to take out to the dumpster later. Already it seemed like the kitchen smelled better. Satisfied, I grabbed my carry-on bag from the entryway door and headed into my bedroom.

My bedroom screamed bachelor. It had none of the loving touches of Bella's home. Sure, I had a few pictures on my wall and some other décor, but it was just missing that thing. I realized what was missing. Bella. Bella was the missing thing. I sighed, unpacked my bag, and couldn't wait until Bella was here with me.

The rest of my day went by quickly as I got back into the routine of things. I took a much needed shower to wash off the grime from travelling and to relieve the tension that had been building in my pants. A quick stop at the dumpster to dump the garbage and a mostly incognito trip to the grocery store finished off my day.

Going out in Los Angeles was a give or take when it came to being recognized. The regular people who work in the city had gotten used to seeing celebrities doing ordinary things. Some of the mystery dies when you see an A-list movie star grabbing milk and trying to decide what kind of jelly to buy. That's when most people realize that celebrities are just ordinary people. It's the celebrities that vie for attention and become media whores that create problems for the rest of us.

I was recognized at the store but thankfully left alone. I was sure my photo was taken and would probably show up online later on, but at least I was not disturbed. I just wanted to buy my milk and jelly in peace. This grocery store was frequented by other actors and musicians too, so it was a bit easier to blend in. I'd even saw Tommy Lee here a few times. He was a little scary, truth be told. I sincerely hoped I looked better than he did when I got to his age.

Returning to the set on Monday proved to be very anticlimactic. Whatever the studio heads had told Tanya had worked because I barely heard a peep out of her except when we were working a scene. That didn't stop the hateful glares but at least she wasn't talking to me. That alone was enough to make me thankful.

The drama from the interviews and the outing of my relationship with Bella eventually died down. It seemed that the studio's worries about it affecting the movie were unfounded. However, it remained to be seen what would develop during the press junkets and interview circuits. I saw our pictures in the gossip rags, but it wasn't anything I hadn't expected. I talked to Bella every day and I was pleased when things seemed to calm down for her as well. Perhaps it would be possible for us to really have a relationship without it drastically affecting her life.

Jane continued to be aloof but we seemed to get along better than before. Something changed after the meeting with the studio executives. I didn't know exactly what, but I was very happy my rapport with Jane was improving.

She made all the arrangements I asked for without question, including the first class tickets that Bella objected to me buying. I wanted to keep Bella safe and do something nice for her. Eventually she relented. I knew she would love flying first class once she had the chance.

Before I knew it, the day that Bella was due to arrive was here, and I couldn't wait to show her my world. I was excited to show her my life in LA and make her a part of it, just as she'd made me a part of hers in Ohio.

A/N Thanks for reading! Next chapter – Bella's in Cali! (Which is what this chapter was supposed to be but Edward kinda ran with it during that lovely meeting with Tanya)