Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns all.
Rated M for several reasons.
Chapter 1 Runners and Riders
I met him in college.
When my roommate started dating his older brother.
He was a player. And not of the musical instrument variety.
You could sort of understand how he got away with it. He was absolutely gorgeous. Deep green eyes, smooth skin, full lips, wide shoulders, wicked abs, long legs, biteable ass, ludicrously attractive yet ill behaved bronze hair. He was also funny, charming, kind and attentive. He might have been smiling at every other female in a fifty mile radius when he was talking to you, but boy did you know you were being talked to.
He made little old me more popular than I should have been, all the girls wanted to be friends with Edward's one and only 'platonic' female friend.
He spent our years at college, while Rose and Emmett were falling in love and defiling every horizontal surface, good naturedly trying to get into my panties.
I may have let him a time or two.
You only live once after all and even my natural inhibitions were surprisingly easy to overcome when it came to Edward Cullen. Besides, if you'd seen him in those days, frankly it would have been rude not to.
But at Rose and Em's lavish wedding a year after graduation, I decided it was time to grow up and grow out of my, albeit infrequently indulged, 'friends with benefits' phase. After one last valedictory romp of course.
His Mom, lovely woman, caught me coming out of his room the morning after. I think she was disappointed in me. I was ecstatic, practise makes perfect as the saying goes, and Suaveward had certainly been getting plenty of that.
"Bella Swan!" A velvet voice growls.
I spin round, huge smile on my face.
"Edward Cullen. You don't get any uglier with age do you?"
"I have a wrinkle." He chuckles, pointing to one of his sparkling green eyes.
"That's a laugh line." I huff, cuffing him good naturedly in the well defined chest area.
Any excuse, the man is still ridiculously hot.
"So where is she then?"
"She?" He asks, feigning ignorance.
"She. The woman who tamed Edward Cullen."
"Ah, that she. Alice has dragged her off to examine the contents of her closet."
"Nice." I snigger.
Poor Tanya. Edward and Em's very little sister Alice makes up for in forceful personality what she lacks in height. She once even got me to go to a party dressed as a Bunny Girl, Rose is the only person I've known successfully resist her, but that's probably because Rose is a blonde Amazon and Alice has always been a little in awe of her.
"Mom sent me to find you, Dad's home and she's opening the wine, ready for a glass?" Edward enquires.
"Always." I affirm, letting him guide me into the Cullen's massive and frankly glorious kitchen. I could live in here, not cook though, because unlike Edward's Mom, Esme, I can't even boil noodles without creating a radioactive monster that would rampage across the world if allowed to escape.
The kitchen is occupied by the lady herself and her very fine husband, damn that man ages well . . . .
"Hi Bella." He greets me with a smack on the lips and Esme slaps his butt.
Doctor Carlisle Cullen is precisely where Edward gets his success with the ladies from.
"Sorry Bella." Esme chuckles. "Down Carlisle!"
"Yes ma'am." He laughs, laying another one on me before skipping out of reach of Esme's rapidly approaching palm.
I absolutely flove this family.
"Edward dear." Esme murmurs, handing me a brimming glass of white wine. "Go and rescue Tanya before Alice fries her brain."
I open my mouth to speak but it's a wasted effort as two huge arms wrap around my torso, lifting me off the ground with ease.
"Cyggers!" Em roars in my ear. "You're already here!"
Esme grabs my wine glass before the contents are splattered all over the kitchen and Em swings me like a cat.
"Can't . . . . fucking . . . . sorry Esme . . . . breathe . . . . Em."
"Pfft." He snorts, setting me back on my feet and very kindly using his bulk to stop me falling over. "You're so puny."
"Emmett." Esme remonstrates, handing him a beer and me my wine back. "Cut it out. We don't want a repeat of the Great Birthday fiasco."
Ah, the memories. It was Alice's birthday and since we were all in college together at the time there was no free pass. We were horrendously drunk and Em decided to see if he could swing a cat in this very kitchen. He didn't have a cat so he swung me instead. We took out two light fittings and the oven door, and when he finally put me down I vomited into Esme's two hundred year old fruit bowl.
"Where's Mr Cyggers?" Em demands.
"Jake's in Karachi." I remind him. "You know this."
"Yeah, saw his by-line in last Sunday's supplement, just checking you knew where he was."
"Don't start." I warn him.
"My lips are sealed Cyggers." He says, making a zipper motion across them. "I'm a man, I couldn't possibly comment on whether or not the guy is attending to your needs or relationship when he's never here."
"He's a foreign correspondent Em." I sigh with long standing patience. "Which part of that is it that you still don't get?"
"Are you insulting my husband's intelligence again?" Rose drawls, appearing in the doorway with her hands on her hips.
"I certainly am." I squeal, leaping into her now outstretched arms.
To know Rose is to love her. To not know Rose is to be extremely afraid of her, they didn't call her The Ice Pick Princess in college for nothing.
Dinner is a raucous and wine fuelled affair and I can't help but admire Tanya.
This is the first time she's met all the Cullens and though she has all the self possession you'd expect of a beautiful patrician blonde with a Harvard law degree she copes with the insanity wonderfully, even if she doesn't quite join in.
She probably needs a bit of time to get used to them.
"My fucking head." I groan, collapsing over the marble counter in the kitchen. "Who switched the sun up to maximum wattage?"
"I don't know." Edward moans from his collapsed position beside me. "But I'll kick his ass if I find him. I think I'm dying."
"Shouldn't you know?" Alice's husband asks from the other side of the counter. "You are a Doctor."
"I'm a Veterinarian Jasper." Edward objects weakly. "Race horses don't get hangovers all that often."
"Maybe if I was a horse your infernal family wouldn't inflict these hangovers on me." Jasper complains. "I'm never drinking again."
"You said that last time." I point out without raising my head.
"And the time before." Edward reminds him.
"We're pathetic." Jasper decides. "And this marble is so cool on my forehead, Esme's a genius."
I'd always assumed Edward didn't drink much because it would hinder his ability to make whoopee with the ladies but it turned out the poor man was the only Cullen without a cast iron constitution and hollow legs, Alice, Esme, Em and Carlisle are probably out playing squash or something.
"Where is everyone?" I ask when I finally summon up the ability to get a glass of water.
"They went for a walk on the beach." Edward croaks, not moving an inch.
"Nice." I murmur, settling back onto my stool.
"Shhhh." Jasper chides. "Can we not just suffer in silence while we've got the chance?"
The weekend is over too soon, all of us heading back to our lives.
Rose and I are stretched out on the back seat of Em's SUV while he drives me to the airport.
"I liked Tanya." She observes idly.
"She was nice." I agree. "Which is a good job if she's going to be your sister in law."
"Steady on." Em interjects. "Just because she's his longest serving girlfriend, and the only one he's ever brought home, doesn't mean he's going to marry her."
"He's gotta give up and settle down sometime." I point out.
"There's life in the old dog yet." Em asserts with misplaced pride.
"Life?" Rose snorts. "He ought to be exhausted by now and ready to hang up his dick, assuming he hasn't already worn it down to a short stub."
"Ew." I groan, taking a swig from my bottle of water. "Anyway, I liked her and I thought she coped with the insanity that is the Cullens, no offence Em, rather well."
"She didn't do bad." Rose concedes. "She was more worried about meeting you."
"Me? What on earth for?"
"Well now let me see." Rose laughs, checking off her fingers. "You're beautiful. You're smart. You're rich. You're famous. You're a part of the family and you're one of the few girls, other than her, that Suaveward's boinked more than once."
"Boinked?" I snort.
"Yeah." Em laughs. "Since when did you start using euphemisms my Thorny Blossom?"
"It's for Bella." She says airily. "She might be all hot and badass these days but she still reacts like Pavlov's Dog and flushes up if anyone mentions fucking."
"Thank you Rose." I growl as heat floods my cheeks.
"No problem. Build you up, knock you down, its how I roll."
It's late when I finally make it back to the city and the apartment I share with Jake.
The view is, according to my realtor, 'to die for'. But I never look out of the windows, I'm pretty much never here in daylight and lights are just lights. Jake loves it though.
I'm not ready for bed so I grab a beer from the fridge, no one here to judge my choice, and flop out on the saggy couch in my study. If I sit with my back to the 'panoramic urban cityscape' I can almost kid myself I'm back in my bedroom in Phoenix.
Almost. The end wall of my study is upholstered in a rich chocolate suede which my interior designer assured me is the 'must have accent wall covering'.
I get up at six every morning to work out in my home gym.
I hate working out, it makes me sweaty and tired but at least it means I can eat junk food and wear sharply tailored clothes. I used to have a personal trainer come round twice a week to make sure I was hitting my milestones but I had to give him up, in the end.
At seven thirty my driver collects me. His name is Demetri, he brings me my favourite coffee but he won't talk to me as he drives because apparently it's unprofessional. And I'm in the office by eight thirty at the latest.
I love my office. It looks like many a CEO's office but contains hidden secrets . . . . nothing exciting, just rows and rows of hidden bookshelves so I can free my mind into the land of fiction every once in a while. And a bathroom that's almost as big as the house I grew up in. And a closet that's not much smaller. Alice loves my office too but I'm not sure we're appreciating the same things.
And just outside my office is Charlotte's assistant, Lauren. I don't like Lauren but nevertheless she ensures my day runs like clockwork and if I needed diapers I'm pretty sure she'd change them without complaint. Maybe that's why I don't like her, I don't know . . . .
God this meeting is boring.
I stifle a yawn and study the notes they've given me.
The words jumble together and my brain threatens to take a hike.
"So we're projecting four percent growth?" My assistant Charlotte asks, kicking me under the table to get my attention.
"Yes Ms Whitlock."
Charlotte, or Char to her friends, is married to Jasper's 'little' brother Pete. We're an incestuous lot the extended Cullen clan. She looks like a centrefold and acts like Gordon Gekko. Most men don't know whether to screw her or run for their lives. Fortunately Pete is not most men and they've been happily married for a while now. In fact she's pregnant, not that they're telling anyone yet. I only know because if you look up efficient in the dictionary it has a picture of Char next to it and according to her I should already be looking for a replacement.
"That's it?" Char snarls.
There's some blanching, I rather like the blanching.
"It does seem a little low." I muse quietly.
And in an instant they've gone from blanching to mild panic.
Go me . . . .
"They'll never hit eight percent organic growth." I grumble to Char as we head down in the elevator later.
"I doubt it, but now they're highly motivated to try." She chuckles. "I reckon they'll hit six."
I nod, that was my assessment too.
"Lunch?" She queries as we ding and hit the first floor.
"Pizza?" I ask, perking up.
"You are an extremely lame plutocrat." She huffs as we clack across the lobby in our heels.
"We've been through this before." I sigh. "I am not smoking cigars, drinking cognac, joining a gentleman's club or wearing a waistcoat with a pocket watch."
A/N So, I'm off again, and on a new path this time, hope you enjoy it!
Also starting out with important thanks;
To Ed Mazin and the awesome TLS ladies for making a sneak peek out of this story.
And to Christag Banners for the brilliant banner she's created for it. And which I am hoping I can manage to upload . . .