It's been a reallllly long time since I've posted anything and I know that a lot of you are still hoping for updates on my old stories and I can only say I'm sorry. Live took a turn and you just have to roll with the punches.
It's been so long since I started wiring the others that I just can't get a feel of where my mind was while I was writing them so for now I'm going to have to keep them on hiatus. I hope I will complete them one day.
This little story you'll be happy to here is PIP not WIP so you can expect a chapter a week for the foreseeable future.
I hope you enjoy my take on Presward.
Chapter 1 - Here
Huffing in disgust I jabbed at the radio and breathed a sigh of relief as the reparative beat and squeak of the windscreen wipers filled the cab of my truck, replacing the ridiculous diatribe sprouted by Mike Newton and his nefarious strumpet: where was their sense of patriotism? Or better yet just plain old human decency; some people just don't know when to shut the hell up.
"Where do you get off?" I railed at the silent radio and just for some outlet for my anger I flipped it the bird.
Fine sit there on your high horse and judge his decisions, criticise his actions, there was no way he'd be able to please everyone no matter how good a job he was doing, but bringing his wife into it? My teeth clenched.
You're so far past the line, you can't even see the line*!
"What a pair of condescending, useless, impotent, moronic parasites." Shaking my head I growled, "Pot meet kettle, dickhead."
I tried to focus on the road. It was four thirty AM and still dark, the rain was coming down in buckets and visibility was poor: I needed to concentrate.
The headlights of a passing car bounced off the wet asphalt blinding me and I squinted through the glare and the deluge trying to see the obscured entrance to the underground parking lot. I noticed it almost too late and the truck fishtailed slightly as I hit the brakes too hard.
My heart hammered against my rib cage and my knuckles turned white against the black pleather steering wheel as I fought it for control. The car behind me blared its horn, the sound sonorous on the otherwise silent street.
I turned shakily onto the ramp and stopped the truck letting it idle just before the barrier. My head hit the steering wheel and I took a deep breath trying to steady my erratic heart.
Well that was one way to snap out of it.
My hands were tingling from the adrenalin spike and I gave them a good shake as I sat back. I was pissed at myself, why was I still letting that prick get to me? I could have killed someone!
Okay maybe that was a bit dramatic: but still.
With more force then necessary I jarred my old truck back into first and edged it forward slowly and wound the window down so that I could reach out with my still shaking hand to swipe my employee badge.
The barrier rose and I crawled through and down into the basement where over five hundred spaces were reserved exclusively for White House personnel. I was fortunate to have bagged one of these elusive spaces, most volunteers had to arrange their own but my predecessor had been a full time, permanent member of staff and while I wasn't being allocated her forty-two thousand dollar a year salary, her parking space was all mine.
When Shelly Cope retired two months ago she hadn't been replaced. Without a First Lady in residence Angela, Maggie and Irena; the three-remaining full time floral designers had been enough; our new President wasn't big on floral displays, there were to be just enough arrangements dotted about to still make the place feel welcoming, and that was fine.
Until his mother arrived.
I'm making that sound like a bad thing, and it truly wasn't. Esme Cullen seemed like a lovely woman and it just so happened that it was she who insisted that an extra pair of hands were needed in the flower shop and that a volunteer should be brought in for two months, just to cover the state visits.
I'd volunteered at the White House the past two Christmas', working for a few days in the warehouse with eighty other men and woman to help with the displays ready for the holiday season. I'd obviously made enough of an impression that the Chief Floral Designer, Angela Cheney remembered me and the rest, as they say, is history.
Although it was still early, the lot was busy and I had to move down to the lower basement to find a space but once I'd parked I just sat for a moment, staring blindly at an overhead light as it flickered and dimmed, flickered and dimmed. It was hypnotic and I felt my breathing calm and my heart settle. With a sigh, I reached beneath the seat and gave my oversized purse a hefty tug and rummaged through it for the small umbrella I'd thrown in there this morning in the vain hope that it would at least offer me some protection from the torrential rain. Ah ha!
Umbrella in hand, I jumped out of the truck, stumbling on my unsteady legs, slammed the door and locked up before rushing across the lot and up the two flight of stairs that would lead me out onto Pennsylvania Avenue. I still had twenty minutes but the walk from the car to the White House took ten and it with the time it would take me to get through security, stash my bag and make myself a coffee I'd be lucky if I made it.
"Morning, Miss Swan,"
"Morning, Liam," I panted as I handed my pass, drivers licence, umbrella, jacket and purse over to Agent Biers; AKA Dolph Lundrem, the miserable sod who stood sentinel beside his friendly counterpart, Agent Myers or Liam as he insisted I call him.
"You enjoying the rain?"
"Ha, hardly. I'm just grateful I remembered my boots this morning," I laughed lifting a foot slightly to show off my black knee high boots; one cautious eye still on the Universal Soldier who was now emptying the content of my purse onto the white Formica table. Phone, gum, wallet, tampon…I cringed and looked away.
Liam chuckled, either remembering my squelchy pink ballet shoes from yesterday or at the mortified blush that was heating my flaming cheeks. "Arms up."
I raised my arms horizontal with the ground and stood patiently, waiting for the hole that I hoped would open up beneath me while Liam ran the magic wand up my left side and back down my right: beep free.
"You're good to go."
I sighed in relief and shrugged back into my jacket.
"Same time tomorrow?" I laughed, retrieving the rest of my belongings from Dolph and opening my umbrella for the dash across the court.
With a quick wave, I shouldered my purse and jogged across the gravel, dodging puddles as I ran across the court and into the basement hall, shaking my umbrella at the entrance.
The flower shop was just to my right and I slipped my jacket back off as I walked in, hanging it and my bag on the hooks in the back corner by the large cold storage. It looked like I was the first to arrive, which was unusual, I glanced at the clock: four fifty-six. Knowing that I wouldn't be alone for long I checked the coffee filter and flipped the switch letting it percolate while I grabbed milk and four mugs; the British Prime Minister was arriving this afternoon, the French President tomorrow and half of the United Nations would be here on Friday for the ball: I knew we'd need the caffeine.
I shook my head and laughed, when did visiting foreign dignitaries become such a mundane thought? Who'd have imagined that the mousey, uncoordinated daughter of a small-town police chief would find herself rubbing elbows with the world's elite?
I laughed again as I grabbed the coffee pot and poured a generous amount into my Eeyore mug, maybe rubbing elbows was a slight exaggeration, I hadn't even seen our President let alone anyone else's. I was strictly a behind the scenes kinda girl, a hundred years ago I'd have been with the scullery maids.
"You're far too chirpy for this ungodly hour."
I turned and smiled at Maggie as she grumbled and slumped against her work station, her flaming red mane cascading across the marble and dripping over the edge like molten lava.
"I swear that girls gonna scream herself horse one of these days, at least I hope to God she does," Maggie tilted her head to look at me, "And the shit she throws at him. Glasses smashing, shoes flying; I almost caught a coaster in the eye last night, and I only came out of my room for a drink."
I snorted and poured her coffee. Apparently, Maggie's roommate had totally lost the plot, she was four months pregnant and the hormones had turned her into young Betty Blue**. "Here," I laughed handing her the strong black brew.
"You're an angel," she sighed. Blowing the steam from the top she took a tentative sip, "I love you."
"Good morning, Ladies," Angela strolled in looking more harassed than Maggie, one hand clasped her black leather folder to her chest and the other ran tiredly over her eyes and I realised that I hadn't been the first to arrive after all. Maggie placed her mug down and quickly gathered her unruly mane in a bun, shoving a pencil through it to hold it in place. "We have a slight hiccup." Angela rolled her eyes and scoffed and I took a wild guess that hiccup was a massive understatement. Placing her folder at her own workstation, Maggie and I watched quietly as she poured herself a drink then turned to face us. "Irena was in a car accident last night."
"Oh God, is she okay?" Maggie gasped and my thoughts bounced to my own near miss this morning.
"She's recovering but it looks like she'll be out for a while, compound fractures tend to take a long time to heal."
"Ouch." I'd only been working here for four weeks and I didn't know Irena that well; she was a bit standoffish and something of a snob; okay she was a bitch but that's beside the point, that shits gotta hurt.
"Ouch indeed," Angela took a sip of her coffee, "For her as well as us." She put her cup back down and opened her folder. "Normally we could manage with the three of us but with the ball we'll need more hands. I tried Shelly last night but her daughter said she's ten days into a world cruise and somewhere in the middle of the Southern Ocean. I've contacted the agency and they're sending over two volunteers this morning," She checked her watch, "They're wet behind the ears so, Bella that means we'll need you on the floor."
I choked on my coffee, coughing as it went down my windpipe. Angela raised a pointed eyebrow and Maggie laughed as she reached over and patted my back.
"But.." I hesitated, the eyebrow went higher. "Yes, ma'am."
"Good," Angela nodded and marked something in her folder. "Agent Southern will be here at quarter past; he'll take you to get your pass swapped out, you'll need it changed to get up to the residence, he'll also give you a walk through." She handed me a map, "learn it."
I nodded and attempted to steady my hands enough to see anything other than a riot of colour against the white background.
"Maggie, we'll bring in the delivery, here's a list of displays I need you to start on, we'll have the temps working on…"
I shut Angela out and tried to steady my breathing, adrenalin was once again flooding my system, my nerves shot to shit, I was so not ready for this. I was happy staying in the background, the only reason I agreed to take this position was because I was promised that I'd go no further than the Flower Shop.
It wasn't that I was shy or unambitious, I was friendly and somewhat outgoing, I just didn't do very well speaking to people who intimidated me; and the White House was chock full of intimidating people. My only saving grace was that I had an uncanny ability to fly below the radar, I was good at going unnoticed; unless I was tripping over words or my tongue or my own feet or thin air. Oh shit.
I stopped speaking and whipped my head around to see Van Damme or Agent Southern if you like, waiting to take me to get the rope that I would undoubtedly hang myself with.
Taking another deep breath, I carefully placed my cup in the sink and followed Rickenbacker out of the shop, along the Basement Hall and through into the Secret Service Office. This was the only other room I had been in before and it still amazed me. Two walls were dominated by screens that filled them completely, each screen was broken up into individual security feeds from both inside and outside the residence and was monitored twenty-four seven. Before I could get a good look, I was guided into a smaller office.
"Have a seat, Miss Swan." I did as I was told, perching just on the edge of the chair, my hands fidgeting with the map I still held. Van Damme took his seat in the chair behind the desk and slid a stack of paper over to me, his dark eyes assessing. "Being in and around the House you'll obviously run the risk of overhearing a conversation or two that maybe you shouldn't." I gulped and nodded. "The top document there for you to sign is a non-disclosure agreement, I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that breaking it is treason."
As my tongue was glued to the roof of my mount, I nodded again and clasped my hands together crushing the map between them to stop them from shaking, dude was scary.
"The second document Ms Cheney completed for you requesting your access badge and listing the areas of the house that you'll be permitted to enter, I'm sure you signed something similar when you first joined us." I'm sure I was starting to resemble one of those nodding dogs that people put in car windows, "It just needs your signature. Your current pass has restricted access to just the doors to the Basement Hall and the Flower Shop, this one," He held up a gold tabard with a white badge hanging from it. It twirled slightly in the air showing the White House monogram on one side and my god-awful picture on the other. "Will allow you through most of the Residence and West Wing, I've marked on the map the rooms that you won't have access to, if you do need to enter there are usually agents posted at the entrances. Understood?" I looked down at the crumpled paper then back up at Agent Southern.
"Yes, sir." My voice cracked and I cleared my throat.
"The last document is a temporary contract of employment," my eyes shot to his, "It's for a three-month term from today's date, vacation days, benefits and pay are pro-rata. Normally HR or Ms Cheney would go through all of this with you but things are a little crazy today." His faced softened and he looked almost human. "Any questions?"
"I…um…I mean," I cleared my throat again.
"Okay then," He places a pen on top of the papers and rose to walk out of the room. My mind was blank and I was still staring at them when he walked back in with a glass of water that he placed down beside them. I blinked.
He nodded and after taking a sip of water I picked up the pen and pulled the paperwork closer.
I made a brief attempt at understanding the legal gibberish and old English that formed the non-disclosure but when it was still gibberish after reading the first paragraph for the fourth time I sighed and flipped to the back page and scrawled my messy signature and noted the date. Why they needed five pages just to tell me to keep my mouth shut I'll never know.
Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil: got it!
The second document I didn't even attempt to read, Van Damme had marked the no go zones on the map and it would be easier to learn where I couldn't go rather than where I could. I signed that too.
The last document was the one that concerned me the most. Don't get me wrong, the forty thousand they were offering, even pro-rata, was a good incentive; the meagre savings I was living off at the moment were dwindling fast but that had been okay, I was leaving Washington D.C in five weeks to go live back with my Dad in Forks. I had a job waiting for me at the town's only florist. Then there was the lease on my apartment, that was up in six weeks and there were already new tenants waiting to move in, there was no way I would be able to extend it by another two months.
But how could I turn down a job at the White House? Or ten thousand Dollars?
The rhythmic tapping of the pen against the desk broke my blind staring and I dropped it, slamming my hand over it to avoid it rolling onto the floor.
"Is there a problem, Miss Swan?"
I looked up at Agent Southern and shook my head, "No," I croaked.
It was a blatant lie; this was huge, I'd been trying to get out of this Godforsaken city for months and I was so close. It had taken blood sweet and tears to get to this point and I'd been marking the days down on my calendar. There were more reasons to turn the job down than there were to accept it. Yeah it was only an extra couple of months but to accept would be reckless and irresponsible, I'd already made that mistake once and it had blown up in my face. I would have to turn down a permanent position for a very temporary one, the bridges I had only just mended with my dad would crumble, I would be homeless in just over a month and I'd have to cancel the flight that I had already bought and paid for. But it was the White House.
I think I may have whimpered.
Oh, screw it.
I scribbled my name, dropped the pen as though it had burnt me and pushed away from the desk. I would never learn.
"Angela said something about a tour?"
We did a walkthrough of the west wing first, cutting through the Palm Room and Press offices to avoid the Rose Garden and the rain that was still coming down at an alarming rate. It was only quarter to six but the opulent rooms were teaming with people. The press office was loud, phones ringing, staff rapidly talking with people on the other end of the line, and each other. Six plasma screens ran the various news channels, silent but with sub titles, some relaying news of the impending diplomatic visits others with the same bull Mike was spouting on the radio this morning; the speculation surrounding the marriage and subsequent death of the President's wife.
It was just awful. Two years ago, today, a heavily pregnant Kate Denali had stood beside her husband, Senator Edward Cullen, as he addressed the nation and announced his intentions to run for President. Amidst the cheers of the crowd and the celebratory pats on the back, she'd raised a shaking hand to her pale, pinched face and collapsed.
It was a pulmonary embolism, the Senator's wife and child were gone before the EMTs arrived.
It was one of those moments in life, like the death of Princess Diana or the Twin Tower collapse, where you would always remember where you were, what you were doing, who you were with when you heard the news.
I was working in a local dinner, CNN was running quietly on the old TV above the hatch. Leah, one of the other waitresses, and I were folding napkins; using the mundane task as an excuse to drool over the young Chicagoan Senator. The footage was live from his home town, the reporter had been speculating what announcement would be made and when the camera first flipped to the podium the Senator was stood quietly talking to his wife, his head bent and his hand on the small of her back, she'd nodded and he'd turned to address his audience.
He was running for President: the crowd went wild.
Yet still, in all the excitement Kate's body had barely crumbled before he'd turned and caught her midfall. Then all hell broke loose and eventually the feed was lost and anchor man sat dumbly, with absolutely nothing to say.
The dinner fell into an eerie silence and Harry grabbed the remote, flipping channels trying to find a station that would know what was going on.
It was two hours later that the Senators press secretary announced that both Kate and the baby had died.
I shuddered visibly as Van Damme guided me out of the press office and further into the west wing where he pointed out the Cabinet Office, Roosevelt Room, Oval Office and so on.
As I wiped a stray tear with my sleeve I suddenly became acutely aware of how underdressed I was. In this part of building ladies in expensive business suits and scarily high heels rushed from one room to another with their equally impressive male counterparts. I looked down at my black leggings, flat knee high boots and my favourite cable knit cardigan and sighed; I really didn't fit in here.
As we passed the stairs to the basement level he explained that it was a no access area but other than that, the only room I was denied entry to was the room that the President occupied at any given time; unless of course I was expressively told to enter, and then only with the permission of the Agents on guard.
We circled the floor and I lowered my head as we passed back through the press offices, I was still attempting to swallow through the think lump in my throat; I didn't want to set myself off again.
The residence itself was much the same, the basement and first floor were mine and Maggie's, the third floor and private quarters of the second however were strictly Angela's domain.
"Your badge will allow you entrance to this floor," Agent Southern explained as he swiped both of our badges and opened the door to the residences' second-floor landing, "But none of the interior doors require badge entry." He opened the door to our left, "This is the Queens Bedroom, Lincoln Bedroom and their respective sittings rooms. These are the only rooms on this floor that you are to enter." I nodded and peaked into the four rooms as he opened each door.
The whole place was out of this world, I'd never seen anything like it, and the carpet was so thick that I bounced as I walked, the movement gave me motion sickness.
"This door is the only exception to that rule," We'd walked back onto the landing and Agent Southern gave me a hard look before he opened the door directly before us, I gulped. "This is the Central Hall and the only way to access the elevator which will obviously be needed to bring the displays up to this level. As with the West Wing, this area is off limits when the President is within, the Agent posted at basement level will advise you if that's the case."
We bypassed several doors and I attempted to be discreet as I tried to match each one with the map I was still holding; East and West bedrooms, Yellow Oval Room, Living Room. I tried to imagine the President here, relaxing in his own domain but I couldn't. It was too big for just one man and I wondered for a moment if he ever got lonely.
We reached the end of the hallway and rounded a corner where the map told me there would be an elevator and a stairway that lead up to the third floor. I jumped, startled when I noticed we weren't alone. Agent J stood to attention opposite the entrance to the elevator, his arms crossed over his chest and, as my heartrate lowered, I was tempted to check the stairwell for aliens, but I'll always be eternally grateful that I didn't.
J flicked his eyes, Van Damme nodded his head and I was turned by a hand between my shoulders to retreat the way we came, the whole silent conversation having taken no more than three seconds. Unfortunatly, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, I had barely taken a step when quick footfalls where heard on the staircase behind us.
Van Damme stopped and turned, and on reflex I did too.
Holy mother of God.
My eyes widened and I instinctively took a step backwards behind Agent Southern, it took all I had in me not to run, or faint or curtsey or fall at his feet and declare my undying love.
President Edward Cullen was freaking gorgeous.
And he was close, so close I could almost touch him. His skin and the t-shirt that clung to it were dripping wet, his sweats hung low on his hips and, dear God, his feet were bare.
My throat closed and I was suddenly finding it hard to breathe.
"Mr President." Van Damme stood to attention.
"Esme's decided she wants to come this morning, can you arrange for Benjamin and Alistair to join us." As casual as he sounded, as he rubbed his unruly hair with the towel that hung over his shoulders, it wasn't a request, it was an order and I'm not ashamed to admit that I almost peed myself.
"We'll be ready to leave at eight."
The President glanced at his watch and as his head rose his eyes locked on mine, noticing me for the first-time half hiding behind Van Damme's left side. My heart took off again, finding its way up and lodged itself firmly in my throat. One sexy eyebrow hitched, Van Damme followed his line of site and side stepped blowing my cover completely. I tried to swallow.
"This is Miss Isabella Swan, she'll be working with Angela Cheney for the next few months."
"Mr President," I gasped, and as he extended his hand to meet mine I prayed to God that I wouldn't swoon and that my palms weren't sweaty and that he didn't notice my trembling as he wrapped his long fingers gently around my hand and grasped it in his warm one, squeezing it lightly.
"How are you finding the place so far?" Why was he still speaking to me? Why was I still holding his hand?
For the love of all that's holy!
I dropped his hand and muttered the first and only word that came to mind.
"Confusing." No, no, no.
See, that right there is why I don't talk to intimidating people, or good looking men, or Presidents of the United Freaking States of America. My cheeks flamed.
He laughed, "You and me both."
My trembling increased and I was about to bite through my bottom lip when he again looked at his watch and with a nod stepped towards the door on his right.
"It was a pleasure to meet you, Miss Swan."
"You too, Mr President."
He left then, closing the door behind him and I somehow made it safely to the basement bathroom before losing the churning contents of my traitorous stomach.
Bloody Hell, Harry!
* Joey Friends - The one where Chandler crosses the line
** Betty Blue - Movie from 1986 where the title character goes insane