Bella woke the next morning to the smell of pancakes being cooked on the stove and she nearly forgot where she was. She hadn’t cooked banana pancakes since Destiny’s death and it smelled good. She walked out to the living room to see the sofa with sheets, blankets, and a pillow on it and remembered that Rog had stayed overnight.
“Good morning, Bella!” Rog beamed as he finished cooking breakfast. “I hope you’re hungry.”
“Mmm, it smells good, Rog.” She smiled and took a plate and sat down at the counter. Rog sat on the stool next to her with his own plate.
“It’s the only thing I know how to cook!” He laughed and Bella joined in. “I hope you don’t mind. I found some beautiful bananas in the fridge.”
“Not at all. My mama used to make banana pancakes when she was home. It was a good memory this morning.” Bella took a mouthful and gave him a thumbs up.
Rog got up and poured a cup of coffee. “Coffee, Miss Hill?”
“Yes please, Mr. St John,” Bella replied. “Just cream, thank you.”
Rog handed her the steamy cup of brew and sat back beside her. “I took the liberty of looking for some talent agencies this morning on your computer. I will help you get out of that horrible situation. Then I’ll take you to the police department so you can file a restraining order against your ex.” He took a sip of coffee. “That is if you want my help. I don’t want to step on toes.”
“I’d appreciate your help, Rog. I don’t know where to start.” Bella took another bite of pancake.
“It’s settled then. There is a fairly new agency across from Verde Park you can look into, here.” He pointed to a map of the city on his phone. “I can see who is running it, and get some feedback from my fellow props.”
“Do it, please.” Bella finished her breakfast and took the plates to clean up.
An hour later Rog walked in from the yard. “It looks like you’re good to go at this agency, Bella. They know who you are and want to meet you!” It didn’t hurt that he knew the owner. They had gone to school together, though he hadn’t’ seen her since graduation.
“Thank you so much! I’ll go jump in the shower, and I’ll be ready in a few minutes.” Bella made her way toward the bathroom.
Rog drove Bella to the agency, which had taken the place of a tattoo shop. The office wasn’t very big but the receptionist recognized Rog and Bella and showed them into a waiting room in the back. The waiting area was decorated beautifully and was warm and inviting. On the wall were pictures of current clients, most of whom were relatively unknown. Bella guessed that she might be the biggest name they were considering. Even so, it would be miles better than where she was now.
A professionally dressed woman appeared from an office and approached Rog. He stood to shake her hand and introduced her to Bella. “A pleasure to meet you, Miss Hill. I have heard nothing but great things about you!” She extended her hand for Bella to shake. “My name is Jen Crawford.”
“The pleasure is all mine, Ms. Crawford.” Bella smiled and shook her hand.
“Please, call me Jen.” She led Bella and Rog to her office and motioned for them to sit.
“Before we begin I need to disclose a matter,” Bella confessed. She glanced at Rog, who nodded his approval.
“Sure thing, Miss Hill.”
“I am currently with the Gonzales agency which is being managed by Maria Best. There is a significant conflict of interest between Ms. Best and myself though we have never had an issue until recently.” Bella carefully thought about her next words, then continued. “In short, without going into my personal background, she has spies within her office that are stalking me and reporting back to her.”
Jen’s face froze in horror. She knew the Best family and could not imagine Calvin and Isabella being okay with this sort of thing. “Oh, Bella. I am so sorry this is happening! I will guarantee that sort of nonsense will not happen here!”
Rog piped up, “I also need to disclose something Jen, about Bella. We are dating, but I am the proprietor at Verde Park. However, I don’t anticipate being the latter for much longer.”
“I don’t see a problem with that, Rog.” She turned to Bella and whispered loudly to her. “You are one lucky lady! Rog is quite a catch.” Jen winked at Rog and he smiled.
Bella signed the contract with Jen that afternoon. On the way home, she called Maria.
“Hello Maria, It’s Bella Hill.” Bella’s voice was cold.
“What can I do for you this afternoon, Miss Hill?”
“You’re fired,” Bella announced. “You and your brother Estevan are fired.”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand.” Maria tried to act as though she knew nothing.
“Can it, Maria. I know all about you and Estevan and I’m done.”
“You can’t leave the agency, Bella. You are under contract.” Maria gloated. “If you fire me, you will never work in this town again. I will see to it personally.”
“Bring it!” Bella shouted into the phone. “Expect to hear from my lawyer.”
Bella hung up the phone, relieved to be with a new agency but dreading the certain legal fight that loomed over her. She had known Ernesto and knew he would not have approved how his replacement was ruining all of his hard work and reputation. Her stomach rumbled and she glanced at her watch. “Wow, it’s seven o’clock. No wonder I’m hungry!”
Rog admitted to himself that he was wrong about Bella. He found her fire and spunk extremely attractive, and he was ready for wherever this situation would take them. “I’ve got this,” Rog replied. He drove them to his favorite little hangout, where they celebrated her new job. It was then that Bella realized that she might be falling in love with him.
The next day Bella called her father’s lawyer for some advice on how to proceed with the old contract situation. She figured she might be in for some rough sailing since she was technically in breach of contract by firing her old agent.
“This is Hal Fournier, how may I help you?” Mr. Fournier’s voice was friendly on the other end of the phone.
“Hi, Mr. Fournier. My name is Bella Atwood, and—”
He didn’t wait for her to finish the introduction. “Are you Arthur’s daughter?”
“Yes, I am.” Bella was slightly embarrassed but thankful for her father’s name recognition. She was also happy to know people who remembered her parents were still around. “As I was saying I have a legal problem. I need your advice—”
Hal cut her off again. “Whatever it is, Miss Atwood, consider me on your side.” He cleared his throat on the other end of the phone. “Your father was a great friend. I miss him dearly.”
Bella smiled at the gesture and thanked him. They arranged to meet later that day. Bella gathered all the evidence she had compiled with Rog’s help, and she drove to Hal’s office.
The office building was downtown, and Hal’s office was on the top floor. She rode the elevator to the penthouse and when she exited, the receptionist was right at the door.
“I’m here to see Mr. Fournier,” Bella informed the lady sitting at the desk.
She picked up the phone and dialed a number. “Mr. Fournier, your four o’clock is here.”
“But I didn’t even tell you who I was.” Bella was puzzled.
“Miss, even I can see you’re Arthur’s daughter. You’re his spitting image.” She stood up and walked with Bella to the office door and opened it for her. Bella had never heard that she looked so much like her dad before. Destiny, yes. Arthur, never.
“Thank you.” Bella walked into the office cautiously. Mr. Fournier was seated in a huge leather swivel chair facing away from the door. When he heard her he spun around to see her standing there.
“Wow, you really do take after your father. Please, Miss Atwood, have a seat.”
“Please call me Bella.”
“Well, alright Bella. How can I help you out today?”
Bella went into the details of her relationship with the Gonzales agency. She told him of the threats Maria made against her, what Estevan said to her at the park and her concerns about canceling her old contract. Hal pondered the information and scratched his chin.
“So all of this started after you began seeing Mr. St John?”
“And before that, you had no problems with Miss Best?”
“No, sir,” Bella replied. “In fact, after my mother passed away she was right there for me, helping me plan every detail. I couldn’t have done it without her.”
“Curious.” Hal consulted a thick, bound book for some specific information. “Would you excuse me for a moment, Bella?” She nodded her head, and he exited the room for a few minutes. When he returned, he was smiling ear to ear. “Bella, my dear, I have some news for you.”
“Oh?” She was intrigued by Hal’s sudden leave and his return wearing a smile.
“A friend of mine who used to counsel Ernesto Gonzales gave up the client after the Best family took it over. As it turns out, you aren’t the only one with a grievance against Estevan Best. He has a long history of doing this with former girlfriends. There is a bit of bad news tucked in here but not to worry! I can fix this, too.”
“What is the bad news, Mr. Fournier?” Bella shifted uneasily in her chair, uncertain she wanted to know.
“It seems the Best family has already begun their smear campaign to make good on Maria’s promise. My friend has it on good authority they plan on going public tomorrow during a live news exclusive.”
Bella’s face went pale, and she felt faint. “But none of what he is saying is true.”
“I understand that. I am hoping to scare them out of going public with knowingly false information. Maybe we can get them to develop some common sense and settle before it gets out of hand. And if that doesn’t work, a slander lawsuit will make you a very wealthy woman indeed!” Hal rubbed his hands together. “I also know they currently do not have a lawyer on retainer so they are relying on you capitulating.”
Bella felt betrayed all over again. “They don’t know me very well if they think I’m just going to accept this.”
Hal laughed. “That’s my girl!”
They finished up the meeting and she called Rog on the way home.
“Hey, Bella!” Rog was very happy to see her name on Caller ID.
“Hi, Rog. Listen, I just got back from seeing my dad’s attorney.” Bella was hesitant about discussing the details with him but if he was involved with this, he needed to know.
“Oh? How did that go?”
“Not as great as I would have hoped. I mean I have a good case, but Maria is already spreading lies about me. And about you, Rog.” Bella sighed. “You’re in this just as much as I am.”
“I figured as much, Bella. But I’ll protect you from that sleazeball ex-boyfriend of yours.”
“Well, Mr. Fournier is going to attempt to scare them out of their smears. And if that doesn’t work, he will immediately file a lawsuit on my behalf. He will also take care of the restraining order.” Bella felt herself losing her cool. “Rog, I am so sorry I got you involved in this… mess.”
“Nonsense!” Rog reassured her. “Besides, I think you’re worth the trouble.” He began to laugh, which made Bella smile.
“Oh, so I’m trouble now, huh?”
“Yes ma’am, you are.” Rog paused, then said, “Hey, I’m off work in 10 minutes. Can I swing by and get you for dinner? Your treat.”
Now Bella was belly laughing. “Yes, my treat. I’ll be ready when you get here, sir.”
Up Next: Chapter Five, Generation Three