Hello - welcome to my new story. A little housekeeping and then you can get to the good stuff.
I own nothing. S. Meyers has it all, I just like to play. E/B - all human. HEA.
Updates on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Sixteen chapters in total.
Thank you for reading.
I reached across my desk, grabbing another file folder. Quickly skimming the pages, I found the document I was looking for, reading it over to make sure I had remembered the data correctly. The words swam in front of my eyes, and I blinked to clear them, frowning when the action failed to work. Looking up, I realized the room around me seemed to be vibrating. Lifting my hand to my neck, I was surprised to feel the skin damp.
Leaning forward, I pressed the intercom button.
"Yes, Ms. Swan?"
"Jess, can you get maintenance in here? I think my thermostat is broken or the air conditioning has stopped working. The heat is killing me."
"A cold water would be great as well."
I leaned back, taking in a deep breath, smiling in gratitude as Jess appeared, handing me a bottle of water. "Is the rest of the building hot as well?"
She shook her head, frowning. "Your office doesn't feel hot. It's actually quite cool in here."
I took a deep swallow, sighing in relief as the icy liquid hit my throat. I laughed lightly. "I must have had my first hot flash."
Jess grinned and left, shutting the door behind her. I cleared my throat, and picked up the file again, trying to concentrate.
A few moments later, the strange feeling was back. The room became hot, oppressive; the words in front of my eyes danced and moved, I noticed a strange pressure building in my chest, and my hands started shaking.
I dropped the file folder, leaning back in my chair. My body began trembling, and like a slow tidal wave, I was engulfed in a feeling of panic so great I could barely breathe. My lungs struggled for enough oxygen, the sweat covering my skin, congealed around my hairline and neck, and my teeth began to chatter.
I couldn't move, speak, or reach out for help.
Then, as quickly as it came on, I felt the panic loosen and ease from my body. My tightened muscles relaxed, my breathing slowed, and finally, my body sagged in sheer relief.
With still-shaking hands, I reached for the water, sipping slowly. When I was able to, I stood up and went into my private bathroom. The mirror reflected my image back—my normally pale skin ashen, my dark eyes wide and frightened, my hair damp against my forehead. Leaning forward, I splashed cool water on my skin, patted myself dry, and stared at my reflection.
I looked exhausted.
I sat back at my desk, wondering if I was coming down with something. My gaze drifted to the files that covered my desk. I couldn't afford to be sick right now. We were in the midst of another merger, and I needed to get everything in order.
I reached for the file again, only to feel the prickle of unease begin at the back of my neck. Without even thinking, I stood up, grabbing my purse, one thought on a constant loop in my head.
I needed to get out of here.
Rushing by Jess's desk, I called over my shoulder. "Cancel my meetings. I'll be out the rest of the day!"
Her shocked face as the elevator doors shut normally would have amused me, but right now, it only added to the swell of panic I felt building again.
Reaching my car, I yanked open the door and slipped in, shutting my eyes and leaning my head back against the headrest.
The underground garage was dim and deserted—all the vehicles' owners busy in the building above me.
I inhaled deep, calming lungfuls of air, feeling myself relax. Once I was calm and steady, I started the car and pulled out of the garage. When I exited the dark ramp and felt the warm sun fill the interior of the car, I sighed in relief.
I turned up the music, the thumping sounds of Shinedown, my favorite band, echoing in the small space. I glanced left and right and, with no destination in mind, turned to the left and started to drive.
Steel and concrete gave way to green. Cement roads and red lights turned into long winding roads of open spaces. Brake lights disappeared, and soon, it was as if it was only me on the deserted roads. Late summer sun bounced off the windshield, and I turned off the air conditioning and opened the windows to let the air—the cooler, fresh air of the country—inside. I inhaled deeply, feeling as if I could breathe without restriction for the first time in hours. I drove aimlessly for two hours, finally pulling over to the side of the road and looking around. Miles of farmland stretched around me. The horizon was dotted with barns and houses. Fields and pastures were all I could see.
I had no idea where I was, and for the first time, I wished I had upgraded and added a nav system when I bought the car. I dug into my purse, cursing when I discovered I must have left my phone on my desk in my panicked flight to get out of the office, so I couldn't use Google maps the way I normally did.
I huffed out a sigh and pulled back onto the road. I would have to find a store or gas station and ask directions. I drove a little longer, feeling relieved when I saw a long, low log building come up on the right side. I pulled in, happy to see what looked like a small store with a restaurant attached. The sign, gently swaying in the late afternoon breeze, simply stated THE HARVEST TABLE.
A deep rust-colored pick-up truck was parked to one side, and there was one other car closer to the doors; otherwise, the place looked deserted. The door opened, and a woman came out, followed by a tall man who was carrying a box of produce. He was smiling and talking as he loaded the box into her trunk. Dressed in jeans and a faded T-shirt that stretched across his broad shoulders, he was wearing a rust-colored apron tied around his torso; the apron had the same name emblazoned across his chest as the sign. As he stood talking, he ran his hand through his hair, the color a brilliant symphony of reds and golds in the sunlight. He opened the driver's side door and bent down, brushing a kiss across the woman's cheek then shut the door and walked back to the store. He paused before he went in, looking in my direction.
"Come on in," he called. "We don't bite." Then he grinned—a wide, toothy smile that was devastatingly wicked. "Unless you want."
He disappeared inside. I sat staring for a minute,then grabbed my purse. I was hungry and hoping the restaurant was open, or at the very least, maybe I could pick up some fruit to snack on.
I entered the building, the wooden door closing slowly behind me. Rows of beautiful produce met my gaze, the colors of the vegetables intense in the diffused light. All around me were the scents of fresh vegetables and fruit. Bright red peppers stacked beside green zucchini and yellow beans were a feast for the eyes as well as the nose. I picked up at basket and wandered around, picking up vegetables and fruit and admiring the entire store. I paused at a set of double doors at the end of the store, glancing through the glass at the restaurant on the other side. Small, intimate, and homey—it held about twenty tables, all covered in gingham-checked cloths. Wide windows and vivid prints on the exposed logs made it a lovely space. I didn't see anyone inside, so I assumed they weren't open. I turned back, stifling a gasp when I realized the man I had seen outside was now standing a couple of feet away from me.
Up close, he was…indescribable. Brilliant, warm green eyes were set under heavy eyebrows. His jaw was chiselled and hard, covered with a smattering of afternoon scruff. Sculpted cheekbones and a wide, beautiful smile completed the package. The only thing that saved him from being too perfect was the slight bump to his nose, but somehow, the slight imperfection only added to his attractiveness. He towered over me—at least a foot taller, his shoulders even broader close up, tapering down to a lean waist and extraordinarily long legs encased in tight jeans. He was, without a doubt, the most handsome man I had ever seen. He was holding a basket of garlic, the pungent scent drifting in the air.
Then he spoke. His voice was like rich honey, deep and smooth.
"Welcome to The Harvest Table. Finding everything you want?"
He tilted his head to the side, his smile becoming wider. "Can I help you find something?"
I swallowed and cleared my throat. "No, I think I'm good?"
He grinned, and realizing my answer came out more like a question, I felt my face flush, and I turned to the pile of peppers I'd been looking at, blindly picking one up.
"Fresh this morning," he offered as he starting arranging the garlic on a display beside me.
"Picked them myself."
"Ah. They look lovely."
"All organic. Everything we sell here is. All grown without pesticides."
I placed a couple of peppers in my basket and moved over to the cucumbers. I reached out for one when he spoke again.
"Your hand is shaking."
I froze and looked down; he was right —my hand was trembling.
He moved closer. "Are you all right?"
"I should probably have some lunch."
"Lunch? It's past three. You haven't eaten lunch yet?"
"Oh, um…I forgot."
On cue, my stomach rumbled. Blushing again, I shook my head. "I didn't have breakfast either." I glanced at my watch. "I didn't realize how late it was."
"I can get you something."
He stepped forward. "Come to the restaurant. I'll get you something to eat."
"Is it open?"
He shook his head. "Doesn't matter." He held out his hand. "Come with me."
I hesitated then let him take my hand. His long fingers closed around my palm, and I felt an instant warmth at his touch. He reached over, taking my basket from me and pulling me gently up the aisle. "You can finish shopping after."
I let him pull me through the double doors and lead me to a table in the corner. I looked around, feeling uneasy. "Are you sure you won't get into trouble with your boss?"
A crooked grin curled up his full lips. "No, I'm good."
"I don't want to take you away from your work."
"Honest, it's good." He pushed me into a chair. "Sit here. I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere, okay?"
Where was I going to go? I didn't even know where I was.
"Okay." He turned to go, then came back, holding out his hand again. "I'm Edward, by the way."
"Isabella Swan. Um…Bella."
He squeezed my hand. "It's a pleasure, Bella. Stay there. I'm going to feed you."
My gaze followed his retreating form.
"I'm going to feed you."
Why did those words sound like so much more?
And why did I like the sound of them so much?
Thank you to Sally and Jen for their help with this story. Thank you for reading.