Rose was beaming—she couldn't help it, and she couldn't stop. But it wasn't as if she was exactly trying to stop, either. She was in the middle of cleaning the portafilters on the espresso machine when a voice pulled her out of her musings.
Rose abruptly stopped her cleanup, and turned her head towards Martha. She furrowed her brow in confusion. "What are you talkin' 'bout?" she asked, genuinely at a loss as to her meaning.
Martha folded her arms in front her, smirking as if she was privy to some secret. "Last night. You an' John. What happened?"
Rose tried her best to feign ignorance and shrugged. "Nothin' really. The three of us laid on the floor and John told us about the constellations and some stories. Put Tony to bed and…uh…that's 'bout it."
Martha's smirk grew and she arched an eyebrow. "You're such a liar!" she sniggered.
"I am not! That's exactly what happened!"
"Oh, I have no doubt that you did all that. But I think—no scratch that—I know that somethin' else definitely happened. Somethin' pretty good."
Rose couldn't help but fidget at Martha's inquiry. She felt as if Martha was circling her, ready to pounce—it was a little unnerving. She tried to keep her tone calm and indifferent. "And what makes ya think that?"
"Seriously? We're gonna play this game? Well, for starters, you've been smilin' like a loon all morning. You've been singin'—which ya haven't done in public in forever. Your playlist of choice this morning is nothing but love songs. And you've been walkin' around with your head in the clouds. Soo…tell me what happened last night."
Rose turned her head away and muttered something unintelligible.
"What was that?" Martha said with a smile in her voice, leaning forward and waiting for confirmation of what she already suspected.
Rose muttered again, only slightly louder than previously.
Martha let out an exaggerated sigh of impatience. She opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off by the ringing of the phone.
"We're not finished here," she said with grin and then answered the phone. "Thanks for callin' The Cuppa. This is Martha…Hey, Donna. What's up?" She was silent for a few moments. Then letting out a snort, she moved the phone from her mouth.
"Donna wants to know what happened last night."
Rose's eyes widened. "Why?" she asked, confused as to how Donna could possibly suspect that something had transpired last night.
Martha grinned, and moved the phone back. "Rose wants to know why you're askin'…uh-huh…oh, really," she drawled slyly and addressing Rose, said, "Donna says John was grinnin' like an idiot when she saw 'im this morning and he wouldn't say why."
"Well, tell Donna—," Rose started but Martha cut her off.
"She says to not try 'n pull one over on her," Martha giggled, highly amused by this situation.
Rose huffed, her frustration brewing. "Tell her—" Again she was cut off.
"She says she knows somethin' went down and ya better spill!"
Rose was tired of this back and forth. She wrenched the phone out of Martha's hand.
Her tone was teetering between anger and annoyance. "Donna, I…Don-…No, I-…Would y-…I-…oh, for God's sake—WE KISSED, ALRIGHT?!" She pulled the phone away from her ear as Donna's ecstatic shrieks blared through the earpiece. It wasn't of any benefit, as Martha's own squeals threatened to burst her eardrums.
Rose rolled her eyes. "You two are absolutely ridiculous!" she grumbled, shoving the phone at Martha and stomping off.
Martha quickly put the phone to her ear. "Donna?...I KNOW!" she squealed, jumping up and down like a giddy teenager.
oOo oOo oOo
"This isn't what you pitched to us originally. This isn't even in the vicinity of close to it; and, it's not as if you just changed storylines. No, you've completely changed your genre! I've given you extension after extension and this is what you give me? Why should we publish this? Why should we take such a risk?" Adam Hartman ranted.
John had never really liked Adam. In truth, the only reason he had gone with Torchwood Titles was because of Jack. Jack was the heart and soul of Torchwood, truly interested in substance over sales, and John couldn't possibly trust anyone more than he did Jack. John had tried to spend as little time as possible with Adam, and therefore, he couldn't tell if his manner was more of a front, a way of testing his resolve, or if he was truly irate. He could see Jack in his periphery and saw that he was perfectly composed. John decided it didn't matter what Adam's motive was—he was going to defend his work, no matter the cost. He felt too passionate about this to let it go without a fight.
"Why? You mean other than the fact that the last two novels were Top 10 bestsellers and brought in millions of dollars for your company? How about the fact that this is the best work I've done and you know it? Or maybe the fact that I'm one of your highest grossing authors? Would you like me to keep going or have I given you enough reasons for you to get off your pom-"
Jack put his hand out in front of John, signaling him to stop before he did irreparable damage, and quickly spoke up. "Adam, John makes a valid point. You and I both know that this is his best work. In fact, it's not just his best work. It's probably the best work we've seen in years—period. I've never steered you wrong, you can't deny that. I'm telling you—if we pass on this, we are going to regret it. Our firm has already taken several hits from that fiasco Saxon's work caused, and John's novel is the type of thing that will put us back in the limelight—the good kind."
Adam leaned back in his chair, holding his chin in heavy contemplation. He gave a faint nod in agreement.
"Fine, we'll back it. I have a conference call in ten minutes, so we will meet tomorrow and work out the logistics. But know this," he said, leaning forward and pointing a finger at John, "if this doesn't meet to my complete satisfaction, I will sever your contract in an instant. Make no mistake about that."
A few minutes later, Jack and John exited Adam's office. Jack gave John a slap on the back. "Told ya it would work out."
John still looked slightly uncertain. "I wouldn't jump the gun on that. He still seemed upset when we left."
"Adam can be a real prat sometimes, not to mention one of the biggest blowhards you'll ever meet. He doesn't like to be shown up. He knows he was wrong and his threat in there was nothing more than his attempt at saving face," Jack assured him with smile. "Just relax. I've got this."
John let out a breath, trying to release the built up tension that had been plaguing him all morning.
"Alright, I'm gonna head to The Cuppa, so I guess I'll see you tomorrow," John said as he turned to make his way to the lift.
"I'll ride with you. I'm cutting out early so Donna and I can spend the rest of the day together."
In short order, the doors opened and they joined the few people already present, not paying attention to any of them. It was a rather long ride to the lobby, and the perfect opportunity for Jack to press John for some details. He turned to him, flashing a knowing smirk. "So…The Cuppa, huh? Why are ya goin' there?"
John was tired of holding back; there was no sense in it anymore. "I'm going to see Rose. Happy?"
Jack chuckled. "I am, actually. So, are things official between you two?"
"Not exactly," John sighed, but then smiling, added, "but I think we're getting close."
"Well then, I'm gonna ask you the same thing I did yesterday—did you tell her? About the book?"
"I already told you I'm going to. You seem to think this is going to be some sort of big deal." John couldn't pinpoint exactly why Jack pressing this issue was beginning to annoy him—all he knew was that it was.
Jack looked at him squarely, concern etched in his features. "John, think about it. Rose has been through a lot—more than a lot, actually. From what I've gathered, she's had a difficult time dealing with things. And your novel has major parallels to her life. If she finds that out on her own, how is she gonna take it?"
"Jack, I'm not writing her life story. You've read the manuscript—that's not the crux of it at all. Was that not obvious?" He was starting to get defensive, feeling like his intentions were being twisted.
"John, I get exactly what you're trying to convey, and I think it's profound. Like I told you, it's the best thing I've read. I'm just saying that she probably would appreciate you telling her about it before it hits the shelf. Don't ya think so?"
Before John could answer, the lift reached the lobby and the doors parted. Both men headed towards the main entrance of the building, neither of them noticing the last person to exit the lift. The person who had been listening with rapt attention. The person who found this new information to be very beneficial—Yvonne Hartman.
oOo oOo oOo
Rose found herself constantly checking the time. John had promised last night that they would see each other today, and as morning merged into afternoon, she was becoming increasingly anxious to see him. She was making a conscious effort to open up more; but even though she was making the effort, she still found herself battling against her fears, however irrational some of them were. After eight years, it was definitely a hard habit to break.
Tuesdays were always slow at the shop, and this one more so than usual. Martha had gone to surprise Mickey with an impromptu lunch date, leaving Rose to idly pass the time. She had tried reading, but found she couldn't keep focused to really appreciate what was on the page. So, she began to do every small and tedious task she could find to keep herself occupied. Everything was dusted. Dishes were done. The floors were swept and mopped. She had even rearranged the books three time—first, alphabetically, then by genre, and finally, by author. She was beginning to go just a bit stir-crazy. Well, maybe more than just a bit. She was honestly getting ready to count the espresso beans in the hopper, when John finally came in. Their eyes met, and Rose could feel herself break into a brilliant and involuntary smile. John met her smile with one of his own equally brilliant grins, the same grin that made Rose's insides flutter like mad.
She braced her arms on the counter as he approached. "I was startin' to think you'd changed your mind." She hoped that her lighthearted tone would hide the fact that had genuinely been concerned that he wouldn't show.
"Why would I change my mind?"
She shrugged, turning her head down and giving a shy smile. "I dunno. 'Cause it's Tuesday."
John chuckled. "What's that have to do with anything?"
She gave a faint giggle, blushing. "It's just somethin' me and Martha say. Sometimes when we don't really have a good reason, we just blame the day of the week. I know—it doesn't really make sense."
John just chuckled and shook his head. "Martha here?"
She shook her head. "She went to eat lunch with Mickey. She'll be back soon. And Calleigh's s'posed to come in in a few and then I get to leave."
John's smile widened at that. "So that means you'll be free to do something?"
Rose grinned and went to answer, but suddenly Calleigh entered the shop, her eyes red and mascara smudged. She was sniffling as she made it to the counter and threw her bag down.
Rose immediately became concerned. "Cal, what's wrong?"
Calleigh shook her head vigorously and sniffled again. "Nothin'."
Anyone could tell that she was obviously lying. Rose turned Calleigh towards her, her eyes soft and worried.
Calleigh's lip started to quiver and she burst into tears. "M-my b-b-boyfriend dumped m-me!"
Rose pulled her into a hug. "Oh, sweetie! I'm so sorry."
Calleigh pulled back slightly. "I-I don't kn-know what to do," she sobbed and buried her head back into Rose's shoulder.
Rose stroked her back while John just stood there awkwardly, completely uncomfortable and at a loss as to what to do. He pointed to one of the leather chairs. "I'm just going to-to sit over there away from…this," he said and quickly walked away.
"Men are pigs," Calleigh spat out.
"I know, sweetie. I tell you what—you go home, you get a bottle of rum and watch a movie, something where everythin's blowin' up or somethin' 'bout revenge. NO romantic movies of ANY kind."
"It w-was our anniversary today," Calleigh said through renewed sobs.
"Ok, skip the rum and just go straight for tequila. Go ahead and head home. I'll stay."
"I'm so sorry, Rose. I don't mean to be such a mess," Calleigh said as she stepped back and wiped at her face.
"Don't worry 'bout it, Cal," Rose said, giving her a reassuring smile. Calleigh picked up her bag and left.
Now that the awkwardness had passed, John came back over. "So I take it you're no longer free?" he said, his disappointment evident.
"I'm sorry. I couldn't make her stay, it wouldn't have been fair to her."
"No, no, I understand." John began rubbing the back of his neck. "Uh, I can stay here for a while—maybe help you."
Rose gave him a disbelieving smirk. "Y'know how to make drinks?"
"Weelll, no, but how hard can it be?" At seeing Rose's eyebrows jump, he quickly tried to clarify. "No, No! I didn't mean it that way. I just meant that—"
She chuckled as he began to flounder. "It's okay. C'mon then," she said, motioning him to come behind the counter.
He came around to her and she hopped on the counter, ready to observe his attempts. John looked around at the equipment and tugged on his ear. "So, uh…what do I do?" he asked sheepishly.
Rose laughed. "Oh, no—you said it can't be that hard. Let's see ya figure it out, Mr. Impressive."
John began to putter around, trying to figure out where to begin. Rose couldn't help but chuckle and snort when something went wrong and he grumbled irritably. After a few minutes of John's frustrated attempts, she hopped off the counter and came up beside him.
"Alright, alright. Stop before ya break somethin'. How 'bout ya try somethin' simple—like steamin' milk?" She poured some milk into a pitcher and handed it to him. "Okay—this is the steam wand. Pitcher goes under there. Once it's in there, ya lift up the lever. G'on and try it."
John did as she said.
"Ok, the wand's too far down and you're gonna scald the milk. Here," she said and put her hand on his to help him. At her touch, John's hand jerked, causing milk to spatter on them both. He quickly turned off the steam and faced her, an apology written all over his face. For a moment, Rose just stood there stunned, but then she quickly began to burst out giggling. John soon followed suit.
"I think I better stick to drinking and leave the technical stuff to you," he said, still giggling.
She smiled. "Yeah, I think that's probably best."
"You've got some milk on your cheek," John said softly, and before she could react, he reached up and wiped it away, his hand lingering. Her breath hitched at his touch and her head started to spin. John just started to lean in when Martha's voice broke the moment.
"Sorry, Rose, I didn't mean to take so long. Mic-...," Martha trailed off as she realized she had walked in on a moment. Rose and John stepped back from each other.
Why does this keep happening? Every. Single. Time! John thought to himself. "I'll just head out now."
"Ya don't have to hurry off," Martha said, trying to salvage the situation.
John gave a small smile as he tried to hide his disappointment. "It's okay. I should leave you two alone, let you get work done. I'll see you later."
Rose squeezed his hand. "See ya later," she said, giving him a quick smile.
oOo oOo oOo
Yvonne Hartman did not take rejection well. All of her life, she had always gotten what she wanted; but instead of feeling privileged, she felt entitled. Her relationship with John Noble had been very brief and she was shocked when he had ended things—who wouldn't want to be with her? Yvonne had tried to rekindle a relationship with him, but was repeatedly given the cold shoulder. And then that night at the gala, she had seen her "replacement" and was enraged. He had turned her down for that—oh, no way was she going to let that stand! She wasn't concerned with getting back together—now, she just wanted to have some fun at his expense. Which is why, when she overheard John and Jack's conversation in the lift, Yvonne decided to pay a nice little visit to Rose.
Wednesday morning she walked into The Cuppa. Fortunately for her, Rose was behind the counter putting desserts in the display case. Rose heard her come in, and when she made eye contact with her, Yvonne put on a smile and walked up to her.
"Oh, I know you! You're the woman from the gala—the one who came with John!" she said in feigned surprise and snide sweetness. She could tell Rose was uncomfortable with her presence which satisfied her all the more.
"Yes, I was," Rose said with a tight smile.
"You know, I owe you an apology."
Rose crinkled her brow in confusion. "For what exactly?"
Yvonne sighed softly. "Well, I jumped to conclusions. I was rude to you and I didn't realize the real reason why you were there."
Rose's confusion was still apparent. "The real reason?"
"You've been helping John with his novel. I didn't realize it was a thank you."
Rose shook her head. "I haven't helped John with anythin'."
Yvonne gave a false smile. "Oh, no need to be so modest. My father's John's publisher, so I know all about it. I have to say, I really feel for you. Going through all that tragedy and pain. You're life has been so horrible, but here you've made a little something out of yourself," she finished, wiggling her fingers around the room.
Yvonne could see Rose blanche and shake slightly. "Are ya saying that…that John's novel is about my life?"
Yvonne did her best to look shocked. "You mean you didn't know? Oh…I just assumed…I hope I haven't upset you. I'm sure you don't need yet another thing to deal with."
Rose cleared her throat and quickly regained her composure. "Are ya gonna order somethin'?"
Yvonne put her hand on Rose's. "I'm sorry. I can see I've upset you. I'll leave now. Take care." Giving another fake smile, Yvonne sauntered out of the shop completely satisfied with her work.
oOo oOo oOo
That evening, John was relaxing in his flat. He was watching the telly, but found his mind preoccupied with thoughts of his relationship with Rose instead of the images on the screen. He felt confident about the way things were progressing. He could see her opening up more, letting him in. John knew there were things that still needed to be discussed, but he felt that soon all of that would be taken care of, and they could finally take significant steps. Suddenly, John's thoughts were interrupted by an angry pounding at his door. He quickly got up to answer it. As he opened the door, he was instantly met with searing slap to his face. John focused and saw Rose in front of him, eyes blazing and shaking with rage.