Word Count: 4014
Summary: He's working toward a future and too tired to think outside the box. She's too frustrated to care who comes to her rescue as long as he pays attention to the details.
Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.
"Yes, Mr. Whitlock, the house will be ready, and I assure you, your wife will love all the attention to detail." Isabella spoke into her cell as she wandered through the upstairs rooms, double-checking that the job was coming together and would be finished by the time her clients returned from overseas. His question about the meeting between herself and the contractor pulled her focus from the misty haze walls of the bedroom back to the phone.
"I'm sorry, but he didn't show up our appointment, and he hasn't contacted me either ... Yes, sir. I'm sure he's on top of everything. The foreman warned me his schedule was chaotic at best," she answered. But she was more focused on the stained glass door that opened into the master bathroom.
She ran her fingers across the glass door. It was beautiful, a piece of art that allowed the person opening it to step into another world. She could picture the bathroom filled with candles, mirrors, plush towels, and the claw foot tub filled with water,steam raising into the air.
Another question from Mr. Whitlock brought her back to reality, and she turned to exit the bedroom.
"I will, sir. Have a good night. I'll see you in ten days with the keys in my hand," she said as she slipped off her shoes and felt the thick, lush, carpet under her feet.
Ten days. That's all she had left to make sure the house was in perfect order, ready for its new occupants. Ten days, and her first solo assignment would be complete. It would make or break her as a general contractor for Cullen Reality. Her boss, Esme Cullen, had assured her that Masen Builders was the company for the detail work in the final stages of renovations of the old Georgia plantation home, yet in the six months she had been in charge, they had yet to meet.
In fact, Edward Masen had missed every meeting she had booked with him. Intentional or not, it was starting to piss her off. Just thinking about the wasted hours she had sat somewhere and waited caused her blood to start boiling. With one last glance around, she headed toward the spiral staircase that would lead her to the foyer.
She pulled the hair tie from her hair, letting her hair down. Wearing it up was giving her a headache—or was it thinking about another missed meeting? She wasn't sure. She scratched her scalp as her hair fell around her shoulders before taking off the thick black-rimmed glasses she wore to hide behind,trying to keep an atmosphere that said professional. thenshe placed her hand on the banister, taking the first step down.
Emmett, you cheeky ass. I knew you would do something like this. And from looking at the way you set the beam, you did it on purpose. Insteadof meeting with Ms. Swan hours ago, when I was supposed to, I was running around digging up the right materials for this job. And now, I'm stuck here working 'til God knows what time fixing it. And fuck, I'm tired, Edward's internal dialogue raged.
Edward had been on the road, and in the air, overseeing eleven different construction crews across the country, in the hopes that, by year's end, he would no longer have to travel. Instead of being the boss, he would become a supplier for the best companies in the country. He wanted to be home for more than two days at a time. Now, Emmett's practical joke would cost him his morning flight back to Colorado.
When was the last time you slept, Edward? Yesterday? Or, the day before that? He questioned himself. You knew a year ago you shouldn't have taken on another remodeling job. Oh,wait, Mr. Whitlock and your sister, Rosalie, begged you. And Esme had insisted, and being the schmuck you are, you agreed, dumbass. And don't forget Emmett's mocking.
You don't have the balls for it, do you, Eddy?" Emmett said as more of a dare than a question.
"Balls? Of course, I have the balls; I just don't have the time, and this one will require a lot of attention to detail." Edward recalled his reply.
"And that is why you would never refuse. You know how important the details are," Emmett goaded as he walked out of the office, leaving the door open behind him.
Edward loosened his tie and rubbed the back of his neck as he looked at the decorative beam he was going to have to replace. The almost too small jacket he wore pulled uncomfortably against his shoulders, his shirttail already untucked from the waistband.
Emmett, you are going to pay for this one. I know I told you to use mahogany. Even maple would have been a better choice than popular. But you knew that, didn't you? At least you left taking it down easy enough. Like I thought, you did it on purpose.
Edward inspected how the beam had been hung. Emmett had barely attached it to the frame, knowing his friend would have to be taken down.
The mahogany wood rail was rich with color. The wrought iron balusters and ornate designs on the steps showed the attention to detail she had been promised. The whimsical slide Alice had attached was fun but kept the house just outside of historical. Oh, but how many times she had been tempted to use it. She envied the children that someday would fill this house.
Reaching the bottom step, her hand bolted to her chest, startled, after noticing she wasn't alone. A man she hadn't met stood looking in the one part of the house she hated the most. It was all wrong, and she cursed Emmett for the arrogance he had shown when she pointed it out. Trust me; when it's all said and done, the house will be perfect, he had said. He had thrown his hand in her face when she tried to protest. Her boss had laughed hysterically when she reported it.
"It's lovely, isn't it?" Bella said loud enough she was sure he heard her but he showed no reaction.
From behind, the short length of his hair screamed business, though it appeared he was overdue for a fresh cut. The dark jacket he wore gave her nothing other than he knew what to look for in a good coat, even if it was a bit tight. She overlooked the careless way his denim-colored shirt hung below the edge of his jacket, but the faded,relaxed jeans he wore looked like they had been brought home from a yard sale.
"This is not an open house. So, unless there is something I can help you with, sir, it's late and I was just heading out myself."
Lovely? Was this woman serious? Edward thought incredulously. He couldn't believe what he had just heard the woman say behind him. He hadn't been conscious of her, as he was too engrossed withEmmett's irritating craftsmanship, a joke left just to piss him off.
"It's shit, and if you think that is lovely, then you have no eye for detail and no clue about construction," he raged as he pivoted around to face the woman who obviously had no common sense. "And no, you cannot help me," he ground out as he stalked toward her, causing her eyes to widen as she backed up the staircase.
When Edward stopped his movements, the woman stood at his height.
Maybe it was the long hours, or the lack of sleep, that caused him to have no filter. Surely, if his mother, or even his Aunt Esme, heard him speak to a woman in such a manner, not only would his mouth be full of soap, but his backside would glow in the dark. He bristled with irritation. The woman definitely didn't fit the picture he had constructed of Isabella Swan based on the description from Emmett, his aunt, or Jasper. Maybe this was Alice, Jasper's new wife, and they had returned early. From the looks of her,Jasper was a lucky man.
He looked the woman up and down. Attention to detail was his middle name, right? The flash of indignation that crossed her face caused his heart to thunder. He had always liked a woman with spirit, and as she lifted her chin in defiance, she proved she had that in spades. His lips turned into a snarl as his eyes took in her form.
Her chestnut hair, highlighted with red, blended in with the staircase balusters. He wanted to sink his fingers into her hair to see if its softness matched the way it appeared. Her white blouse screamed sterile, boring, but the hint of blue from her bra was a direct contrast to that. The black pencil skirt she wore showed how small her waist was and left the length of her legs to his imagination. Her body was perfect,but his nostrils flared when his eyes rested on her polished red toes. Predictable.
"And what do you think you can do about it?" Bella dared to question.
Alice is an idiot! Her hoity-toity tone was filled with irritation, or she was offended, Edward thought.
"What do you think I'm going to do? Fix it, of course," Edward answered her.
Who was this arrogant man? And how dare he speak to me as if I'm the idiot, Bella thought, and the man's eyes came level with hers. Her chest heaved as she tried to control her anger. She dug her nails into the palm of her hand to keep herself from slapping the mischievous smirk off his face. But he did have a point. The decorative beam was hideous compared to the rest of the woodwork in the house. A flash of amusement ran through his eyes as she glanced between the beam and back at him.
Who did he think he was? The all-elusive Edward Masen? The almighty craftsman, himself? She knew it wasn't him. He had failed to show at all during the project. Why would he show up now? If she didn't do something quick, she could kiss her future goodbye.
"Prove it," she said, daring him as if she was waving a red flag in the face of a bull. The side of his lips turned up as he stepped back. She almost missed the roll of his head as he turned away, giving her his back.
The next thing Isabella Swan knew, she was sitting on the stairs watching the stranger strip off his jacket, throwing it into the corner as he stomped toward the door.
Bella, after this project, you're getting yourself laid, she thought to herself after realizing she thought the man was attractive before he returned with a bag and bucket in tow.
If Bella had thought watching his jacket fall to the floor was somehow sexy, it was nothing compared to watching him add his tie and shirt to the pile, leaving him in a white work shirt with missing sleeves. He stood there, looking up, and his frame vibrated with something primal and powerful. Bella noticed the markings on his right bicep—a tattoo—but she couldn't tell what the design was unless she got closer.
With his next movements, Bella's eyes widened in horror as the man grabbed a sledgehammer whichshe hadn't seen until it was too late. He swung, striking the beam and knocking it to the floor.
Oh my God! If that had fallen when the owners took over the house … Bella couldn't finish the thought. The ramifications were too terrifying to admit. Now it was too late.
Fix it? Of course, I'm going to fix it,Edward thought as he grabbed the sledgehammer. ,but first this is coming down.Edward pictured Emmett's face in the exact spot he wanted to prayed the floor would survive as the beam came crashing down, too late to protect the floor.
He took a deep breath, the woman's perfume tickling his nose, then released it and focused on the damage that lay before him. Yes, it was going to be a late night if he was going to fix this mess before the crew came back in the morning.
He set up two stands to hold the new beam, a halogen light, and a table filled with tools. He wrapped a tool belt around his waist and stuck a handkerchief into his back pocket.
What his friend had installed was nothing but a frame covered in veneer. Emmett knew ... he knew this was one of the most visible features of the entryway, and I wouldn't stand for anything less than perfection.
Taking a deep breath, he removed the old beam before lugging in the new one, balanced on his shoulder. No one had even prepared it or shaped it as he had directed. This time when he released another breath, he let everything running through his mind go.
Focus, that's what he needed to do. Focus.
Bella almost cried looking at the scraps of material that littered the entranceway as she sat on the servant's staircase. What was she going to do? This man had destroyed the focal point of the room. On one hand, she felt sick, desperate, and horrified. On the other, she felt relieved someone finally agreed with her that it wasn't right. Was this man, that seemed to agree, going to save her future? Because the other things he was doing to her, to her body as she watched, were anything but of the saving nature. She was completely turned on just watching him.
With her eyes glued to his every move, Bella sat in silence as his hands danced, caressing the object in front of him. He moved as if he was in a world all his own, and she doubted he even knew she still existed. What would it be like to be that beam in the rough,she thought as the man wandered the length of it before he used a tape measure and pencil. She watched as he eyed the new beam then, using the pencil from behind his ear, scratched lines on the surface of the wood. She bit her bottom lip when he slid under the beam, moving to the other side, and repeated the same process on the other side.
Her heart stopped roughly when he took a planer from the table and, after a span of time, began making long strokes along the wood, slowly carving its weight away. Each curl of wood that floated to the ground was attached to her nerves. Between each pass of the planer, his arms would tense and relax as his body moved in a magical dance alongthe distance of the newly appearing shape. If he was trying to memorize every inch of it, she was sure he had been successful.
He stretched his muscles loose before returning to his work. As hard as he tried, his focus wasn't completely where it should have been. He was distracted by the woman he pictured watching behind him. Unlike the piece of mahogany before him, her body was already perfect. He could almost feel it when his rough hands touched the wood in front of him as the metamorphosis took place.
He pictured each curve of her body somewhere on the beam. Her shoulders, waist, legs. And don't forget about her breasts. He doubted she even noticed his internal struggle as he tried toharness his desires. He had already run his mouth, now he had to back it up, but he was tired, and tonight, the last thing he had wanted was to work.
What he had hoped for, after driving across town from the airport in his work truck, was making up forall the missed meetings and miscommunications between himself and one Isabella Swan. But she had already gone, leaving him here with her, Alice, Jasper's new harpy.
Until tonight, he had always thought his friend from college had different tastes in women, but finally meeting Alice, he was wrong, and that confused him even more. Alice was his type, while Jasper usually went for someone with much darker hair and more petite frame..
How long had he been at this already tonight? Had it been three or four hours? It felt like ten. Edward scratched his face, itching where his five o'clock shadow had turned into two days of growth. He couldn't wait to shave, but it would have to wait. He turned to see what the woman was doing and almost laughed out loud. Her face was pressed into the wrought iron, and she was now wrapped in a blanket. If the look of her hadn't scared him so much, he might have found it ... sweet. Instead of returning to her room and sleeping, she had stayed. But why? To ensure his work was completed? Did it really matter? The only thing he needed to be happy with was the work. If he was happy, he was sure Jasper would be happy. So would his aunt ... and hopefully, Isabella Swan.
This project was going to allow him to do what he'd been unable to do for the past two years: get to know someone without disappearing every other day.
Had she imagined watching a man change right in front of her eyes? She was so tired. It felt as if her body had been put through the ringer. God, I need a hot/cold shower, she thought as flashes of him rolled through her head.
A layer of sweat covered his exposed skin, stained the back of his shirt, and caused his slicked-back hair to rebel in a disarray of dark waves. Watching him as he drank a bottle of water and his Adams Apple bob up and down had left her frozen and unable to speak. The way he had scratched at his beard afterward made her fingers tingle.
Classical music still filled the room as he began smoothing the chiseled spots with sandpaper. Watching his lips blow away the simplest obstruction from the design that softened the look of the beam, she imagined how the same actions would feel against her skin. What would his seemingly gentle touch feel like? Rough? Callused? Smooth? Or would it matter, considering the attention he showered on the beam—the new object of her frustration.
"Lord, are you trying to kill me?" Edward mumbled to himself, looking at the woman sleeping on the staircase as he took a break. The sounds that emanated from her proved she was uncomfortable, and it took a few minutes to figure out what he could do to help. Besides, she was still a distraction, the hint of blue was still taking his mind to places he didn't want, or have the right, to go.
How someone could fall asleep, sitting in that position, wasn't beyond his understanding. It had to be from pure exhaustion. A long flight maybe?
Edward felt like a pervert as he stood there watching her, a peeping Tom. He smirked as his eyes traveled past her red painted toes and landed on the heels that had slipped from her hands and rested at the base of the stairs.
Walking over, he picked up the shoes, planning on setting them out of the way. He shook his head when he realized the woman before him wore a size seven-and-a-half, and the black patent leather shoes were not Louis Vuitton or some other famous designer but some company called Five PMbut he didn't know anything about shoe designers, so the point was moot.
Maybe Alice wasn't like the rest of the woman who had tried to take advantage of his friend.
He placed the shoes to the side of the staircase and then worked his way around the woman without disturbing her. He chuckled when he thought he heard her snore.
He wandered around the rooms, soaking in the details he hadn't had time to view in person. He knew the photos Emmett had sent him didn't do the house justice. Noticing the bedrooms were furnished and decorated, he grabbed a plush blanket from one of the guest rooms and returned to the staircase.
If he hadn't been exhausted when he noticed the slide that ran along the staircase, or if the owner of the house had not been sleeping at the bottom, he thought it would have been fun to let his inner kid out just this once. Besides that, he had a lavender duvet in his hands that he planned on covering her up with. Also, he still had real work that needed to be done.
"And when in the hell did I fall asleep?" she added, not realizing she was speaking out loud. Her eyes opened and she blinked at the sound of a gentle chuckle.
"About six hours ago," a deep, rustic voice said, growing closer with each word. Trying to focus, her eyes lolled back and forth until she saw him standing a few feet away. He snapped the collar of his jacket back into place before adjusting his tie. His jaw was only a little darker than the night before, but his hair was still beautifully disheveled.
Looking around, she noticed the mess from the night before was gone. Looking up, she smiled. The new beam was in place ... and it was perfect.
"Now why couldn't Edward Masen have shown that kind of attention to detail?" she asked, still more asleep than awake to have a verbal filter. "What?" she asked confused at his low chuckle.
"He did, and thank you, Alice. You are very entertaining when you're asleep. Don't be too hard on Ms. Swan; the beam wasn't really her fault," the man continued.
"Stop," she barked. "You are confusing me. It's too early for this shit without coffee," she rattled on. "And ... Alice? You think I'm Alice? And what do you mean Edward Masen did? Wait, don't answer that yet," she said, letting go of a blanket she didn't remember getting as she tried to stand.
God, I hate you Jasper, Edward thought as he stepped closer, catching the woman by the arm before she fell down the last three steps. "Not much of a morning person, are you?" Edward chuckled again. Between the confused look and the impression of the wrought iron ingrained into her cheek, the woman was a sight to behold. Her confused words replayed quickly, making him just as confused as she looked. He felt his brows pull deep together as he tried to weigh their meaning.
"You're not Alice?" he asked with a somewhat hopeful tone. Was it possible? Could she really be ... He was fucked if she was!
"I'm Isabella Swan, and who exactly are you?" she asked, more alert now that she hadn't fallen down the last few steps and into the strong arms of the man before her.
"I'm Edward Masen. It's a pleasure to finally meet you." Maybe the lack of sleep was affecting him more than he wanted to believe, but looking into her eyes gave him a new burst of energy. "I really hate to introduce myself and leave again, but I have a ten a.m. flight to Oregon. I really hope we get to meet again soon, Ms. Swan."
"You're ... you're Edward Masen, as in Masen Builders?" Bella asked as she followed him to the door. "With the way people talk about you, I thought you would be older, somehow."
"Next time, Ms. Swan. As I said, I really have to catch this flight."
Bella stood at the brink, leaning against the open door.
"Next time, Mr. Masen. Definitely next time, " she said, whispering at the end.
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