AN: Dedicated to my mother. She passed away a couple of days ago and writing has become my way of healing.
Thank you to Alice's White Rabbit for her guidance in helping make my words come together and for being an amazing friend!
It was one of those days. You know the type. A Monday when the train is late, you spill coffee on the white blouse that took you forever to iron, and you step onto a wad of gum on the way into the Starbucks in order to try and get a new drink to replace the one now covering your shirt. Once upon a time, I would have been absolutely certain that I should have stayed in bed. These days, I was just a machine and going through the motions.
I barely got my table due to the place being packed. I always sit at the same place. I'm a creature of habit in that way. The sounds of my fellow customers yelling out orders to the harried baristas in their signature green aprons filled my ears. It was soothing, however, to my ears. It was better than the silence that filled my weekend. I spent most of it sitting by the pond, listening to the frogs croaking their ugly songs. I used to love the sound they made with the chirping of the cardinals accompanying the melody, but now it just made my head hurt.
Work was an unfortunate distraction, but a distraction never less.
I usually arrived here earlier. I had to take the earliest train for the two hour commute into the city. Having to take public transportation so early allowed me to sit here and think as the smell of roasted coffee beans fill my nostrils. My schedule, due to the inability of the train to arrive on time, only gave me twenty minutes to ponder.
Ben used to say it was my wallowing hour. It was all he would allow. One hour and you move on to find the brighter side of life. The brighter side was always Be—
That guy is in here again. He's dressed in a suit like the rest of the men on their way to broker deals or scam money from the pensions of the elderly. The suit is navy and his tie is orange. It appears to be covered in rubber duckies. The tie matches his hair. It's orange too, but not in the Howdy Doody variety. It could be described as a burnt umber or bronze if one wanted to be poetic about a guy with orange hair. That hair was also wildly sticking all over his head like he stuck his finger in an electrical socket. It wasn't very professional.
Here's the thing; I'm not stalking the unprofessional maybe executive. Not at all. He showed up last week and always sits at the same table. That table is blocking my view. I cannot avoid looking at him and still see the busy motion of the city streets.
"You need to cut out the wallowing. He hated when you did that."
I almost crushed my paper cup, my fingers digging into where my name was hastily scribbled. I whispered, "Cut it out."
Garrett sat across from me. Suit freshly pressed and bright handkerchief placed in the front pocket. The man was my savior as I tried to keep a tenuous grip on my reality. Handsome in his various shades of brown. "He'd be worried about you, hun."
"I'm fine." My fingers flicked the plastic top. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him slide a piece of paper in front of me. "What's that? Passing notes, Garrett? Are we eight?"
He directed his grin at me. "That, dearest friend, is where your new home is located."
I pushed the paper back at him. "I have a home."
I did. A perfectly lovely home that I couldn't stand living in. It had a huge yard perfect for a dog, some kids—
"Bells, you need the place in the city. The commute from Old Saybrook is ridiculous. The city is vibrant, and I bet it would do you a world of good." He pushed it right back at me.
"I have a life." I glanced back at crazy hair, and he was watching us. I was probably going to be hit with a restraining order for what could be considered obsessive staring. I wonder if I could countersue for blocking my view of the street.
"No, you don't. I know good and well that all you do is sit in that house. You don't have a life, Bells." Garrett rubbed his temples. "Tanya called me. Don't think I didn't notice your ring is gone."
It was a pain in the ass that Tanya and Demetri considered him to be another son.
"She made me." I stared at my empty finger. My hand felt incomplete like the rest of me.
"Tanya did it for your own good. Her heart broke too. She loves you, kiddo. Let her help you heal."
I looked at the address printed in Garrett's precise handwriting. "I'll think about it."
Garrett smiled and glanced at his watch. "Shithead will be chomping at the bit today to have us come in early."
"Emmett or Carlisle? Emmett's too busy trying to get the new executive assistant to visit the storage room with him to worry about work."
"Has he been bothering you lately?" Garrett's face turned grim. "I can talk to him."
"Don't risk your job, Gar! It's no big deal. He's way too busy chasing Miss Hale and her tight skirts to bother with me anymore. I think his obsession with healing me is thankfully over," I stated. "I promise, though, if he tries anything again, I'll hit him so fast with a sexual harassment suit his head will spin."
I doubted Emmett would take any more risks trying to take advantage of me. I was a head designer, and it would reflect poorly on the company if I got upset. The poor support staff, unfortunately, were open game.
"Good girl," he said with a smirk. He stood and held out his hand. "The brother officially starts today in your department."
I let him help me and I chuckled. "I'm surprised he wasn't given the prime position as co-vice president with Emmett."
"I guess the naughty kid has to work his way up with good pay and benefits. Failed acting career has led him back into the family's warm embrace." Garrett noticed my discolored shirt and added, "Again? You should never be allowed to drink unless it's in a sippy cup."
I punched him in the shoulder. That was when I noticed the mystery man staring at my shirt or my boobs. It was a toss-up.
Stupid spilled coffee.
The conference room was buzzing and it wasn't only over the large spread of breakfast foods laid out over the long table. Though I could imagine that the free food was playing an awful large part. My co-workers were like the starving as they descended on the bagels.
"Bella! They have onion bagels!" Jasper explained. He was another designer in my division. His long curly hair hung over his eyes, and he brushed it away halfheartedly, letting the world see his animated blue eyes. "All this for one son coming home. It must be nice."
I giggled at Jasper's comical grimace.
"You two, behave!" Garrett came behind us. His arms held a box of new organic sweet potato chips. "After we finish up this welcome party for Mr. Movie Star, I need you both to redesign the packaging for these pieces of cardboard. Boss man thinks they don't look hip enough for the kids. I swear, these things are terrible. Give me an almost raw cheeseburger any day."
The second half of Garrett's statement was whispered, causing Jasper to snicker. Talking about hamburgers was blasphemy in the halls of Cullen Wholesome Organics. We provided grocery stores, organic markets, and private schools with organic and vegetarian products to stimulate bodies and minds. Our golden-haired president, Carlisle Cullen, stood off to the side, speaking to his son Emmett. Both men were prime examples of the benefits of healthy living with muscles and bright skin that made most of the women in the building giddy just being around such handsome men. They seemed pretentious to me.
Rosalie Hale was illustrating this point as she stared at Emmett with looks of adoration. She must not have met the real Emmett yet. The obnoxious one that wouldn't leave a grieving woman alone. He was an ass.
"I heard he was in Equus. The dude was having sex with a horse onstage," Jasper said, wiggling his eyebrows. "I guess you will do anything to get noticed."
I tried to ignore Jasper's penchant for gossip and grabbed an apple off the table. Garrett grabbed it out of my hand, ignored my protests, and asked, "Who told you that, Jasper?"
"Alice heard it from Jessica. They're both in your department. You should have heard it first, man." Jasper was always visiting Alice in the Marketing Department. It would have been cute if he wasn't always shirking his responsibilities to go flirt with her.
Garrett rolled his eyes. "Unlike Alice and Jessica, I do my job."
"It doesn't matter what this guy was doing before, the issue is if he has any experience. I'm down one designer and the graphics department has been bogged down with asinine changes from Emmett," I pointed out. "We have a job to do. We need to get it done."
Jasper wrapped his arm around my shoulder. Little Alice with her dark curls and beady eyes was shooting daggers at me. "You need to come to happy hour tomorrow! When was the last time you had any fun?"
Fun? That was before all the hospital visits. The hours of watching toxins travel through IVs into a body that was wasting away to nothing. There hasn't been any fun for this girl in quite awhile.
"I have to get to the train on time." I wouldn't look him in the eye. Instead, I grabbed another apple.
"You need to check out that apartment. It's the best place for her, Jasper," Garrett announced. "We'll all go tomorrow at lunch."
"You're pushing again, Gar—"
There was a clap from Carlisle Cullen that interrupted me. "Cullen Wholesome Organics is a family. I think of all of you as an extension of the Cullen clan, and I hope you will all give a warm welcome to my son Edward!"
Emmett was glaring in the direction of a man who was looking out the window at the city below. I had just taken a bite of the apple and immediately choked on it as the man turned around.
It was the goofball with the rubber ducky tie.
Garrett and Jasper started patting me on the back as I continued to cough. The man stared at me with a smirk and gave a wink.
If I had any luck at all, it would be bad.
It was the end of the day, and there had been no sign of the newest member of the design team. At least not in the physical sense because my mind had been creating a myriad of possible interactions with the man.
I might be becoming obsessed with the mystery of the man. Instead, I decided to try to concentrate on the schedule on my computer for the most recent ad campaigns. I was failing miserably at my task. I kept envisioning green eyes staring at me as his body pressed closely to mine.
"Isabella Swan?" I looked up to see those green eyes looking at me mischievously. His body leaned over my desk as he looked at my screen. "What are you working on?"
"It's Mrs. Denali," I corrected. I tried to push my chair away but was blocked by a box of file folders. He had lost the jacket and his shirtsleeves were rolled up. The ducky tie was now missing. "This is the schedule for the week. Jasper can show you your desk."
"Emmett said it was Miss Swan. You aren't wearing a ring. Is this a recent development or—" he began. I stood up and pushed past him.
"Talk to Jasper. He can get you set up. I need to file these." I took a random pile of papers and headed toward the file room. I glanced at them quickly to see they were take-out menus that were not permitted in the building. I probably should have filed them in the trash, but I wanted to get away from my new coworker. He made me feel flustered. It felt like I was being unfaithful.
I placed my head against the cool metal of one of the file cabinets. I just wanted to go back into the past. Maybe things would be different this time around.
"You know my dad has an irrational anger toward that pizza parlor. The idea of the grease alone makes him want to break things." It was Edward Cullen, the prodigal son.
I turned around to face him. My back was flush against the cabinet. "Did you find Jasper?"
"Nope." He moved closer. "What's your story, Miss Swan? Pardon me, Mrs. Denali?"
"There's no story here, Mr. Cullen. I need to finish up for the day." Both arms went up and caged me in.
"Does this make you uncomfortable, Isabella? May I call you that?" My knees were shaking and it wasn't from fear.
"Yes and no, Mr. Cullen. There are professional boundaries that must be adhered to." I wanted to kiss a stranger. It was an irrational feeling. He wasn't whom I wanted to kiss. Those lips were long gone.
"You have a little something on your shirt, Isabella." He was staring at the coffee stain located on my breasts.
I felt my breathing getting heavy. "It happens."
I was lying to myself. This man was handsome with his crooked nose and crazy hair. He made me dizzy with something I hadn't felt for so long.
"Call me Edward. I feel like I've always known you. You've been staring at me every morning. I've noticed and have been staring right back." His nose grazed mine and he added, "Oops. My bad."
"You were blocking my view like you're blocking my exit now. I wasn't staring at you," I protested weakly.
"Or watching life pass you by, Isabella? Emmett told me all about you." He tapped my nose with his long finger. "You should try new things."
"Like restraining orders and sexual harassment suits, Mr. Cullen. I suggest that you mind your manners." I found myself leaning into him. I had been so lonely. Perhaps I have been starving for this.
"Isabella Swan Denali, I'm not going to be doing anything without your permission. In fact, you'll be begging for it. We're kindred spirits. You just don't know it yet." His mouth hovered over mine. He moved slightly and I felt them ghost over mine. "Better catch your train to Connecticut, Isabella."
He walked away with a swagger. That man knew everything about me.
Tears filled my eyes. I was weak. "I'm so sorry, Bennie. So very sorry."