“Hey,” I smiled. “How are you doing, Em?”
“Good. You look better,” Emmett said.
“I got a B-12 shot and some iron pills,” I said. “I need to take it easy, but that’ll happen once we’re done with our tour. I love doing this, but I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and hiding from the world.”
“You and me, both,” Edward chuckled, opening a bottle of beer. “But, we’re going to have reschedule that performance in Peoria. At least, that’s what Jared said. They’re looking at Halloween weekend. Nothing’s set in stone.”
“How long are we going to have as a break? You know, before we start working on our next album?” Emmett asked.
“We’ll play it by ear,” Edward chuckled, checking his phone. “Phil’s here.”
A few moments later, the door opened and my former stepfather walked in. He looked happier, younger than I’d remembered. He shook Edward’s hand and hugged Emmett. Phil turned to me and he grinned. “You look absolutely gorgeous, Bells,” he said, hugging me tightly. “I’ve missed you so much.”
“I missed you, too, Phil,” I whispered. “How are things?”
“Good. I’ve got a new job. I’m working as a sports writer at one of the local newspapers. I get to travel the country. I was lucky to be in town while you were here,” Phil chuckled. “I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon to do a piece on the Mariners.”
“You can’t come to our concert?” Emmett asked.
“I promise to see you. I got tickets when you’re in Tampa,” he said. “I’m going to be doing an article on the Devil Rays, so I’ll be there.”
“That’s great,” I smiled. “Are you hungry? We got some delicious food on the way.” I led him to the couch and settled next to him.
“I am,” he chuckled, but his smile faded. “I’m excited to be here, but I have some disturbing news about Renee. As soon as she found out that you guys were coming Jacksonville, she’s been bitching something fierce about how you burned her.”
“What?” Edward growled. “We did nothing of the sort.”
“You know that. I know that. But, Renee … she’s the source of several nasty rumors,” Phil whispered. “The baby mama?” He blinked to Emmett, his nose wrinkled. “She was the one who talked the girl into saying that Emmett was the baby’s father. She knew about Emmett’s drug problem and his cheating, capitalizing on his issues.”
“And you know this for certain?” Emmett asked. “I should talk to that lawyer that I’m using for the defamation suit. Name my mom.”
“I don’t have definitive proof,” Phil sighed. “However, I heard it through the grapevine that she’s going to be giving an interview at some point tomorrow. She’s planning on using your celebrity to get her own fifteen minutes of fame. One of my coworkers in the arts and entertainment section mentioned that estranged mother of Isabella and Emmett Swan is going to be talking to one of the major networks.”
“Is it the NBC affiliate?” Edward asked.
“No. ABC,” Phil said. “I tried to call her and talk to her, but we’re not exactly on speaking terms. Our divorce was quite contentious.”
“What happened?” Emmett asked. “I thought you and Mom were happy.”
“I couldn’t get over the fact that she wouldn’t even entertain the idea of coming to your wedding,” Phil said, looking at me. “And then, I tried to reach out, send you a present and Renee went off. She said that I was betraying her by attempting to establish a relationship with you. You’re my stepdaughter. I’m supposed to do that. Then, she said some nonsense that I loved you more than her and she went completely off the rails. She accused me of cheating and became quite physically and verbally abusive. When she hit me, breaking my ribs, I told her that I was done and I moved out.”
“She hit you?” I breathed. “Hit you? That’s unreal.”
“And it wasn’t the first time. I’d heard about abusive relationships with women, but never with a man,” Phil sighed. “I fast-tracked the divorce and she tried to swindle me out of a ton of money. However, based on her abuse, she didn’t get anything and she shit a brick. Like I said, it was quite contentious.” He gave me a grimace. “She’s so bitter, Bella. You got everything she ever wanted. A forever love, fame, wealth and happiness.”
“She had a forever love with you,” I whispered.
“I thought so, too, but she wanted fame and wealth. I had minor fame with my minor-league baseball career, but the wealth wasn’t enough to keep her happy,” he sighed. “Anyway, enough of my drama. Tell me all about the tour so far. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things and I own all of your recordings, playing them in my cube and driving my coworkers crazy.”