AN: DON'T KILL ME FOR STARTING ANOTHER FIC! I blame a prompt in Pay it Forward that Frannie dropped and my mind decided to runaway with it. Also, a lot of long hours in a car and no access to my other WIPs or laptop had me writing this in my notebook. I'm more than halfway done, typing it up when I have time, but its short and sweet. I'll be posting daily until after the new year. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!
The Last One – Chapter One
Bella had no doubt in her mind; she had killed her current boss in a previous life. And he was punishing her for it in this one. Two months of constant tirades, complaints about her work, and long hours, she thought the light at the end of the tunnel was near. The position was temporary; the previous personal assistant to Edward-Asshole-Cullen was returning after the holiday season from her maternity leave.
She assumed the A on his shiny gold plaque stood for Asshole; it made perfect sense to her.
Tanya, who was all nervous about becoming a mother to twins, had warned Bella about her new employer. "He's not an asshole all the time, I swear. He can be a sweetheart, but only when it's clear you're not after his bank account or dick." At the time, Bella thought Tanya was joking, but it explained his obvious dislike of Angela in Accounting and Heidi from the HR department.
Well, obvious to everyone but them.
Tanya had further explained that when her sweet husband Alec, had dropped off her forgotten lunch, Mr. Cullen went from dickhead to a thoughtful boss in a heartbeat. There was a story behind his attitude, Tanya had said, but it happened before her time there.
Bella had taken Tanya's experience as advice, and had a friend pose as her boyfriend after Mr. Cullen had given her the office version of "hell week" after Tanya left for her leave. She had Garrett come in to drop off a muffin and coffee, all smiles and using a cute pet name.
Instead of helping calm the beast, Mr. Cullen ended the faux meetup with a threat to keep her there late to work, and he had taken the muffin Garrett had brought her and dumped it in the trash. She wouldn't have eaten it, since Garrett had forgotten she was allergic to nuts. Her boss didn't know that and it had been extremely rude.
It sent Garrett scurrying in fear.
Everything that had happened for the last eight weeks rushed through her mind as she sat in Mr. Cullen's office for an impromptu meeting.
"I don't understand," Bella stated, still stunned by his offer or demand. Mr. Cullen sat behind his impressive desk, large enough to stow a body in one of the drawers. "You're hiring me full time?"
"It seems Tanya has decided she wants to stay home with her babies."
Bella managed to keep her internal freak out to herself, sealing her lips tight to prevent it from slipping out. Why would he want her? He had made it clear she never did anything right. "That doesn't explain why you want me."
Mr. Cullen leaned forward, his fingers forming a steeple under his chin. A dark copper curl flopped down, but he ignored it. He had canceled his last two hair cut appointments, and he was overdue for one. Not that she minded; he looked good with the current style.
And then he killed her wayward thoughts with his mouth. "You coasted your way through high school and college on your pretty face and sweet nature, didn't you?"
Bella ignored the flutter of butterflies in her stomach, having realized he complimented her. Too bad he ruined it with an insult. She sat up more, holding up her chin. "I beg your pardon, I worked hard for my scholarship. The work was easy during high school, I'll admit that, but college proved to be a challenge and a welcome one at that."
Here it comes. This is how all their fights started. He said something insulting; she challenged him.
"Yet, you're sitting before me wondering why I would hire you full-time after my last personal assistant decided to stay home."
"Probably to get away from you," she said under her breath.
"What was that?" His unusual gray-green eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"What I mean to say, is that you've made it abundantly clear that I am not what you're looking for in a personal assistant. Why would you want to hire me?"
Mr. Cullen's hands shifted as he sat back in his imposing chair, watching her with shrewd eyes. His sculpted full lips, a cruel gift to bestow on someone so horrible, thinned. A precursor to one of his tirades.
"Use your challenging college education for once in your life, Ms. Swan. Tanya made it clear she did not have the time or energy to train anyone else. The HR department is already swamped after the indiscretion by four employees in the graphics department during last week's office party. I do not have the luxury to train a personal assistant myself; besides, it's beneath me."
With every word the man uttered, Bella imagined herself sticking one of his expensive pens, sitting on his desk, into his arm. She was no homicidal manic after all, but it was still rather violent.
As if it was the only thing he said, she focused on it. "My position is beneath you."
His eyes darkened as he repeated himself. "Yes, beneath me." He leaned forward again, his long fingers rubbing his chin for a moment. "I have little choice in the matter. It is either you or I am on my own until well after the New Year, and with the Browning account on the line, I am not taking any chances."
For the first time, Bella had her boss exactly where she wanted him. "In other words, you need me."
Reluctantly, he replied, "Yes, I do."
Bella couldn't help but smile at the thought. Mr. Cullen had little choice in the matter, but it still felt nice to hold some of the cards. "What is in it for me?"
His eyes narrowed again. "What do you mean?"
She sank farther in the chair, crossing her legs a little higher. "You might want to use that considerably expensive Ivy League education for once in your life, Mr. Cullen." Her mouth was one of the reasons they clashed heads often, but for some reason, she was beginning to believe he enjoyed their fighting matches.
His eyes went hard, almost cold, but there was a hint of amusement in the tilt of his lips. "What do you want?"
"Let's see, you have no choice, you need me as you explained. However, I do have a choice. My contract ends in two weeks, I could simply walk away. You've given me nothing but hell for two months, why should I stay?"
"You need to eat and a roof over your head."
"I'm a smart woman, Mr. Cullen. I have enough saved up for at least six months; I'm not worried."
"You like the challenge," he reasoned.
"I can find that anywhere."
"I don't find that hard to believe with that mouth of yours." If she didn't know any better, there was more smile in his smirk than ever. "You've seen the package and benefits, I'll throw in five percent more, and an extra week vacation time."
"I'll take the extra week, but ten percent more and Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve off next week." The office was closed for Christmas and New Year's Day, but Mr. Cullen had calls and video conferences scheduled around the holidays.
"Hot dates with your boyfriend?"
Bella felt confused for a moment, her mouth going off without proper processing time. "I don't have a boyfriend."
Something in Mr. Cullen's demeanor changed, his shoulders relaxed, as well as the tightness in his jaw. "I assumed the young man who brought you a muffin that would've likely killed you was your boyfriend."
She ignored the boyfriend part so she wouldn't have to lie. "You know that I'm allergic to nuts?"
"I take the time to know those who work for me."
"Oh, um, thank you." He nodded, waiting for something else. "Do we have a deal, Mr. Cullen?"
Bella pursed her lips. "What do you want?"
"New Year's Eve; I need you here."
"All night?" she asked. He nodded once again. "But you're agreeing to my pay raise and extra week?"
"You drive a hard bargain, Miss Swan. Yes, I'll agree to your terms."
She smiled as she stood up, holding out her hand for his as he rose to his feet. "You have yourself a deal, Mr. Cullen."
"Good, now go get me some coffee, make a fresh pot." He said it with such authority that normally she would snap right to it, but if he wanted her to work for him, some things had to change. She waited, even after his dismissal, his attention already on his planner. "Is there something else, Miss Swan?" he asked without looking up.
"I know you have an eidetic memory, so use it to figure out why I'm still waiting."
He looked up at her, his eyes narrowing again. "You're pushing your luck, Miss Swan."
She batted her lashes and smiled sweetly, adding a little wink that seemed to make him smile. Though he covered it quickly, adding a gruff, "please," to his request.
She walked out of his office with a bounce in her step and swing in her hips, singing Christmas carols.
Edward sat back, watching the delectable Miss Swan, and wondered what circle of hell she was sent from to torment him.
AN: The prompt and the blurb I wrote for it hasn't come up yet, but it will in the next chapter. What do you think so far? Happy Holidays everyone, see you tomorrow.