Chapter 6: A Hot Mess

Goth House, Willow Creek

BELLA

Bone-tired, Bella dragged herself through the front door. Her sulking teenaged daughter awaited her on the couch.

“Hey Cassie girl, what’s up?”

“Don’t call me that. I’m not a kid.” She lifted her chin. “My name is Cassandra.”

“And?” Bella’s shoulders slumped. What caused this particular tantrum?

And you missed my show after you swore you were coming. Everybody else’s parents were there, and you forgot about me.”

“Shit. Cassie, I’m sorry, work was—”

“Of course, it was work! It’s always work! You broke a promise, and it’s no big deal because you can always break promises when it’s for your job.”

“Not always, but it was an emergency. They…” Bella trailed off as her daughter made an exasperated sound and stormed upstairs.

Great. Not only was she exhausted, but now she was full of guilt. Mortimer shook his head and started to leave the room, too. Bella wasn’t having it. “Don’t you walk away!” 

“Excuse me?”

“Damn it, Mortimer! You were at the show. Why didn’t you text me a reminder?” The more Bella thought about it, the angrier she got. “My job is hectic! I depend on—”

“Me, yes. Funny, I remember an argument this morning about how you didn’t need reminders.” 

“That’s not the same thing.”

“Isn’t it? I bought the flowers, by the way. Ordered them a week ago. Call me psychic, but I had a feeling you wouldn’t show up.” 

“You’re an asshole.” She thrust out an arm, but he caught it, spinning her back against him. 

“Don’t you always choose work over family?” he sneered. “Give me a single example of when you put us first.”

Bella struggled. He let her go when she drew her arm up to elbow him, but she tipped back, unsteady in heels, and hit the ground hard.

“Nevermind.” He made a fist. “I know the answer to that question.”

Granite Falls National Park

ALICE

“I’m sorry, you’ll need a hiking pass to access the trails,” the Park Ranger insisted.

 “Do I?” Vlad’s lip curled. “Ranger Jill.”

“Yep! It’s the rules.” 

A muscle in Vlad’s jaw ticked. Alice quickly averted her gaze as shame crawled up her neck. She should have canceled. She was in no place to be going on a date.

“You’re fine. It’s just her,” Jill pointed. “She’s the one without ID.” 

Alice had an ID, but she couldn’t risk giving it to them. Even with two months left on her probation, the law frowned on being 3,000 miles out of town. 

“As it turns out, the woods can be a hotbed of criminal activity!” Jill explained in a stage whisper. “The new policy is we can’t give you a hiking pass without ID. It’s just the—”

“Rules,” Alice finished.

Salim would string her along for weeks. And llamas help her if he did get it in his head to fly to Windenburg. She was so fucked.

Slinking away from the station, Alice tried to remind herself of why she was on the straight narrow. Before Salim, she occasionally trafficked in counterfeit art, but that was just to make ends meet while waiting for her own pieces to sell. He saw her potential, though, gradually easing her from faking art to stealing it. And damn it if she wasn’t good.

If she didn’t enjoy it.

If she didn’t love it.

“You’re upset,” Vlad said, startling her. 

“What? No.” Shit. Shit. Shit. This was where he ended things, right? She should just let him do it. “I’m fine. Just annoyed I left my ID at home. Dumb,” she forced out a laugh. “Maybe just a rain check on all this?”

There was that muscle ticking in his jaw again. “Come on,” he grabbed her hand.

“W-Where are we going?”

“You wished to go hiking, and we are going hiking.”

    9 comments
  • Ninja Pink Sex
    May 9, 2022

    I think I needed a WARNING that Penny wasn’t in this chapter. I kept WAITING and WAITING and …. sigh.

    Well hopefully the combustion case will blow over soon. Haha little ticking time bombs. A high so intense it will blow your mind.

    Dear God, Salim goes from gaslighting her to hitting on her. He’s a special kinda yuck. Like bruh, your dick ain’t a lottery ticket. Not everyone wants you getting them lucky. Ugh, and then Alice had to play along with Salim. Ugh my skin crawled. Salim is just a junk human and can’t take care of his kid. I can’t….

    I don’t know what to think/feel about Mort v. Bella. Initially, in earlier chapters, I wrote Mort off as a jerkface. I didn’t feel that (entirely) this time around. The roles are def reversed (workaholic Bella and [sorry I forget what Mort does] household/family-functioning Mort), so I could definitely side with Mort this time around. They both have a lot of expectations on what the other should be doing, and don’t have a problem tearing each other down (pointing out their flaws rather than pointing out their strengths). I will say that while I was more team Mort during the argument, the fact that Bella fell on her butt and he so much as didn’t bat his fucking eyelid. Bruh. You ain’t cool. Maybe HE is the reason why she works so damn much. He sucks.

    LOL Alice vandalized the laundromat on their first date (unbeknownst to Vlad), and this time Vlad openly did that in front of Alice. Oooh they are showing themselves. Wilderness outlaws! They thrive in adrenaline situations. THAT’S their foreplay. I must admit I found this to be my favorite part. It was very lighthearted (except for Alice’s “breakup” er “let’s just be bone-friends” scene). Damn. And then she ELBOWED him. Like dang, Alice, when you wanna give your man something he can feel you GO HARD.

    “Yeah, we share a…uh…mutual acquaintance.” LMAO OMG THIS. I nearly spat out my tea laughing.

    “I would never engage in the outright dismemberment of your misogynistic ex-lover without your permission.” VLAD CAME THROUGH. omg i died. And I hope Alice signs THAT permission slip.

    Ferosh, is that a HIPPIE VLAD? and WHAT …. divorceS?!?!?!

    YOU’RE.LEAVING.ME.WANTING.MORE.

    • feroshgirl
      May 9, 2022

      On time to reply for once in my life! Yes, we will get back to Penny in Chapter 8. Oh, the downsides of having a large cast of characters!

      Salim is…ugh…my skin crawled writing it. Honestly, I know Vlad needs to rein in his indiscriminate murder tendencies, but like, he should at least get Salim first.

      MORT & BELLA, LET’S GET INTO IT!!! I’m very excited about this dynamic. I will be so interested to see where you come down. Is Mortimer acting like this because he’d fed up with being taken for granted? Or is Bella trying to stay out of the house because she knows it’s a bad situation? Who can say? (I mean I can, but you know…spoilers). Yeah, you caught the whole “not even bothering to help her up” bit.

      Vlad and Alice. ::shakes head:: These two idiots. They are both trying so hard to keep their crazy under wraps and yet, here they are using running from the park authorities as foreplay. Some days I fear I have given all my best one-liners to them lol.

      Oh yes, there is hippie Vlad (my god I cannot wait for the flashback scenes) and yes, your boy has divorces…plural. Very plural. What can I say? Vlad is a lover. He’s completely batty and a murderer, but also a romantic at heart. LOL.

      (my lord I cannot wait for you to see all of his exes)

  • Dolly Llama
    May 9, 2022

    Cool; cool cool, after the play-by-play, I still have crap to unload.

    RANGER JILL: My notes (in LaTeX obviously), presented without edits, read “she face. i love her. what a crazy as face.”

    ALICE: All things considered, her track record with Gwendolyn is solid. In light of that, and the foreshadow-y sweater, and the other shadows in this chapter, I have a job for her: bunnysitting storm clouds. Even if it’s only partial control. If she can get the storm clouds out from under the furniture and eating oats from her hand, that is a suitable demonstration of power.

    Also, way to pull a Xiyuan and not tell your supernatural love interest about your kid. If Gwendolyn follows Shu’s lead and introduces herself to Vlad by opening the door while he’s on the potty, she’ll win some sort of fancy award. Not that she needs it.

    PANCAKE FUCKER: Is no longer allowed to dress himself. For manscaping, 10; for looks, 3. Really! Far more skin than we needed and not a body hair in sight. Wait, are Gwendolyn’s powers (that clearly drive off every babysitter) a combination of Alice’s and whatever P.F. has going on? Uh, let me guess. Bro-tanks falling from the sky (Deacon: “sick!!!”). Lightning bolts not paying child support. Some form of mind control ’cause it’s Gwendolyn and I know you wouldn’t be able to resist diving into the implications of having one of those in a romantic relationship w/r/t consent.

    BELLA/MORTIMER (BORT) GOTH: That’s it. Alex and Cassie are now BORT and MELLA. Capitalization necessary. I’m gloriously in the opposite camp as Pink Sex. Before, it was clear Mort was getting a raw deal, but I should have realized earlier, esp. given the state of the world and stuff, that Bella knew she never wanted this and felt pressured into the white-picket-fence life anyway. Oh, fantastic! A problem with no clear or easy solution, where things have to get far worse before they get better! But also werewolves.

    DEACON: Not tired of Detective Deacon. Will never tire of Detective Deacon.

    Dear god, VLAD: Ok, ok, ok, ok. I’m seeing why Vlad owns so much of your heart. The total lack of anything resembling chill. At all. The appropriately violent anti-toxic-masculinity. The petulant brattiness after having gone through several lifetimes of trauma no mortal should have to see. (Like he’s tantruming over the hiking pass??? Really???) The going catatonic in response to head scritches. The asking for 100% consent. The complete non-understanding of whether this is a relationship. The “oh yeah, I forgot I had half the park and this cabin lying around” of it all. At least he remembered where the keys were. Anyway. I get it now. I understand.

    I TOO WOULD ALSO LIKE TO SEE HIPPIE VLAD’S EXES. All of whom are not BBD!Nard? Hopefully? Hopefully?

    THE CANDLES: I’m stumped. Maybe there’s something in the vampire book earlier ? Not sure.

    • feroshgirl
      May 10, 2022

      Welcome to the Vlad Fan Club. There are t-shirts. Yes, he’s just a murder dude who has no chill. I like to imagine Latimer’s advice was like: You should be truthful with Alice if you think this is going somewhere and she’s special, but for the love of God do not come home married after your first date. And Vlad was just the meme of that woman staring off into the distance while math equations floated around him. He just wanted head scritches, permission to murder misogynists (okay to be fair, murder anyone), and romance. Also, maybe permission to rearrange your spices. Also, the occasional romantic stabbing. Is that too much to ask?

      Hehe, the candles. Don’t worry about the vampire book. Why would you be worried about that?

      Hippie Vlad is one of the best things I’ve ever done and we will absolutely spend some time with him and his exes.

      Detective Deacon needs an award for carrying this show on his back.

      BORT/MELLA – I love watching all the opinions about these two! Yeah, it’s interesting to have written this given the hot mess going on with women’s rights, but yeah, I’ve always imagined Bella as someone who made some choices she felt pressured into. At the same time, her family is here and she clearly does what she wants. There is a lot going on.

      WEREWOLVES

      Pancake fucker – All of those Gwendolyn powers sound incredible. She is incredible. Alice also wonders how Gwendolyn came out to her and PF.

      ALICE: How long can you keep Gwendolyn secret tho!?!?!?!?! LOL. Alice and Yuan bond over this at dinner.

      Ranger Jill is a side character who now has become recurring on account of that face.

      • Dolly Llama
        May 12, 2022

        There really are T-shirts now. Thanks, Pink Sex!

        (Vlad owns The Container Store confirmed?)

  • Yimiki
    May 10, 2022

    Oh, so the drug dealer that Officer Greenhorn was shadowing is the same guy that fathered Gwendolyn and then abandoned them both, is he? I haven’t even seen his face yet and he already sounds like a complete- yup, that’s a potato face right there. Alice. Alice. No. Don’t entertain this guy’s bull*** and just file for the darn child support. He’s legally obligated. Swallow that darn pride and fix your wall cracks.
    Ooooooh Salim having the audacity to blame Alice for having “strange men around his kid”. Well there wouldn’t be strange men if you’d been a proper one and cared for your crotch goblin, now would there?

    Oh, bloody hell. She forgot to go to her daughter’s show. Arguments with Mortimer aside, that’s actually heartbreaking. Poor Cassandra. There’s no better way for a kid to feel like they don’t matter than the parents treating them like an afterthought. No, Bella. You don’t get to blame Mortimer for this one. This is all on y- whoa! Don’t get handsy with her! Oh my gods I was completely on his side until he grabbed her and then just LET HER DROP TO THE FLOOR.
    That’s it. You are terrible for each other. Line drawn, right there. Figure it out with the divorce attorney.

    Hiking passes are a thing? 😐

    Ah yes, and of course Bella goes back to work instead of, oh, I don’t know, CONSOLING HER DAUGHTER and reconnecting with her. Nope. Makes too much sense. Oh NOW he has child support to worry about? The mouldy, rotten piece of-
    Whoa, I am just full of sunshine today 😁 happy. Happy thoughts!

    Ah, yes. Bone out. Chill. Completely casual. My gods, Alice 😂 “So we’ve already broken up?!” Dead. Am dead. 😂🤣

    Oooooh who is pink-hairs? Wait, who did we have before with pink hair… Miko? Eh, probably not. Who else… Aaaaah I want to know-OH MY GODS IS THAT L FABA?

    • feroshgirl
      May 10, 2022

      DING! DING! DING! You win a prize for correctly identifying L. Faba!!!! My god I cannot wait for that flashback.

      I like the two least casual characters in the story having a conversation about having a “just sex” relationship. Like Vlad has no chill. Neither does Alice, tbh. But Alice also understands more about how relationships work. Vlad has no idea.

      Yeah, Bella is not thinking about Cassandra right now. She’s in the midst of a big case! There will be time later, right? Nothing bad will happen to make her question her choices.

      LOL, you and Vlad are both upset about hiking passes.

      Bella and Mortimer, whew, what a mess. I am so curious to see what you guys think about this as it evolves. I mean, will they get a divorce? Do the characters in this story make healthy choices?

      Yeah, Salim is…the worst. And Alice’s relationship with him is pretty fucked up. I can say without a doubt, that being legally responsible for anything is not Salim’s vibe.

  • Snow ~
    May 10, 2022

    Yikes. Someone spilled a lot of strawberry jam there XC Alice’s cottage is so pretty < 3

    Hey, nothing wrong with cheap coffee – it's the thought that counts! UGH gosh Salim… If you were so worried about another guy possibly harming your kid maybe you could have…you know…STUCK THE FUCK AROUND???

    Work/life balance is nightmarish to balance properly in a way that pleases both parties, especially when you have a child as well, and especially with a job like that, and ESPECIALLY when they have to be hot on the trail of all these murders and have little choice but to be almost completely absorbed in your work. Bella probably can't just take time off for family when things are so dire with all that's going on. I'm wondering if she will start to take a step back for her family's sake though. Risk the job you need to look after family, risk the family you love to keep the job you need to look after family…It's a tough one, but creating a lot of tension.

    I laughed so much at Bella needing a shower after Salim winking at her XD I was wondering earlier in the chapter 'How could a hike possibly go wrong?' and then I forgot Vlad was in the vicinity, anything could have gone wrong. I love these two : P Honestly I'd be surprised if Vlad didn't end up killing Salim sometime soon. (Just so you know I have no plans to stop him if he does. I'll look the other way…)

    Ohhh goodness, that definitely ruins the mood, an elbow to the eyeball XD but also these kinds of imperfect and comical sex (or almost-sex) scenes are so GREAT. It gets kinda boring always seeing it as this super-serious moment over and over in other stories that always goes without a hitch. Vlad sitting there getting his head scratched like a lil cat XD In the flashback is that L Faba?

    • feroshgirl
      May 10, 2022

      I love Alice’s cottage! Like it needs some care and feeding but it’s lovely. A YouTuber I follow built it and I adore it.

      Salim is trash, I cannot stress this enough. And Alice has got some real effed-up opinions about herself because of it. He will not stick around but he will ALWAYS bring it up.

      Yeah, I mean here is the thing, they are rich as hell. Like, they could hire help but then how would they hurt each other? Really though, they’ve got an unhealthy dynamic and they definitely don’t support each other. I agree Bella is not really in a career that’s good for just randomly taking time off.

      How could hiking go wrong? LOLOLOLOLOL oh man, that’s another check in the Vlad v. Salim box!

      DING! DING! DING! You also get a prize for recognizing L. Faba!!!! Vlad is a ::cough cough:: times divorcee who loves head scratches and doesn’t mind a little violence alongside sex LOL

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