FAGE 12. Never Too Late to Start Anew
Title: Her Ps and Qs
Written for: Ciara Shayee
Written by: chartwilightmom
Rating: M (duh-of course)
Summary/Prompt Used: Written for Ciara Shayee for FAGE 12. A powerful woman CEO striving to squash gender stereotypes in the business world. Bella Swan has always believed that one should take care of the little things, and the big things will look after themselves.
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A/N: Whew! It has been too long since I put down some words, real life is too crazy, but I enjoyed writing again for fun. Just stating this upfront about this fic, I don't know anything about business, or making beer, but I do know I love beer, and I know how to drink it, maybe too well sometimes. I also love love; love stories (especially our fanfics), family love, the love my hubby and I share, the love for my daughters, the love we can show each other in this world. Trying to share the love I see and feel. Read with kind eyes please. As always, I don't own Twilight.
Huge thanks to Tammy V for beta'ing and putting up with my overuse of commas.
Also huge thanks to BrookieTwiling for the awesome banner.
~Her Ps & Qs~
The four words on the page stare back at her.
Grain. Hops. Yeast. Water.
Who knew four words could be so mocking.
"Come on, Bella, you can do this," she says out loud to herself. Hops, her ever-faithful Dalmatian, peeks open one eye from his comfortable bed in the corner of her office as if she is speaking directly to him.
One new recipe.
That was her goal when she sat down over two hours ago.
And for the last two hours she has been staring at the same page in her favorite recipe notebook, the same four words she has looked at repeatedly for almost ten years and created great things. Sighing, she tucks her favorite pen in the page and closes the book, leaving it on her desk as she stands and gives her body a much-needed stretch.
"Hey boy, wanna go for a walk?" she asks Hops. The moment the word 'walk' leaves her mouth, he is up and stretching before going to stand at the closed office door.
Staying by her side, they leave the quiet of her office. There is more noise out here, everyone in the day-to-day of the office. She can see Jake through the glass walls of his office, pacing the floor while talking on his headset, tossing his well-worn baseball up and down between his hands. He sees her at his next turn, stopping and touching his earpiece to mute the call.
His head peaks out his door, "Anything?"
She shakes her head, "Thought I would take a walk."
Jake knows without having to respond, he doesn't have to ask when it comes to her process. Bella has always analyzed; whether it has been with chemicals or relationships, she has always had to see what puts things together.
It was over ten years ago that Bella met Jake as freshmen in college, both fresh faced, wide-eyed and looking to make their mark in the world. As a chemistry major, Bella had her head in books most of the time, not really caring about the social aspect of college life but not completely antisocial for someone so studious. She had a fun roommate, Leah, who tugged her out of the library and to a party one night.
It was there Bella met a drunk Jake.
And it was there Bella had her first beer.
That was the same night that the carefully laid path of Bella's college and career changed direction.
Jake was a business major. He was boisterous and friendly; they became fast friends, the brother she never had, and little did she know having him in her life was a major catalyst to the change in direction of her life. In his drunken state that night, and many nights over the years to come, he would pick on Bella for studying everything she drank, teasing and calling her a 'beer connoisseur'. Deciding to prove him right or wrong about her newfound interest in beer, she started to play around with recipes after educating herself with home brewing. The next year, she was producing some interesting flavors, gaining attention around campus and selling to some of their fellow students.
Bella's love of chemistry progressed with every batch, and by the end of her sophomore year, her major changed from chemistry to fermentation science. Jake was there every step of the way, working on the business aspect of her brewing, becoming her business partner and the other half of Swan Brewing. Jake created their business and marketing plan, gaining investors and employees, all leading up to procuring a warehouse to start the business before the ink was dry on their diplomas.
Their first warehouse grew from one location to five within the state during the next ten years. Their first location became home to their corporate offices, restaurant, and the one and only Biergarten. Swan Brewing quickly became the states' largest privately-owned brewery, and was recently placed on a list of the fastest growing breweries in the US. The company grew, but stayed close-knit with just over 200 employees.
Hops and Bella continue through the office of the corporate headquarters for Swan Brewing, a smile on her face as she takes in everything there, silently thanking God for the blessings that they have received with building this business. Everyone waves and gives soft hellos and scratches to Hops as they head to the tasting room off the restaurant, a natural pull for Bella.
Her body relaxes as she enters the room, a soft atmosphere created from a motley of warm colored reclaimed wood, and glowing lights. At ten o'clock in the morning, it is too early in the day for there to be any customers, so she takes advantage of the solitude, making her way behind the bar, pulling out a flight board and four clean glasses. Bella flips on the speakers, connecting her phone to the sound system before selecting her ever-growing 'thinking' playlist. As she assembles everything, she sees the faint words of the chalk written beer names from yesterday and her brain immediately starts to recall the recipes that it took to make them.
As the ingredients and measurements swim through her mind, pieces of a puzzle she had been trying to put together start to take shape.
Bella looks up from the piece of paper she found and started to scratch ingredients on, to see Emily, the company receptionist, standing in the open doorway of the tasting room.
"Sorry to bother you, but your appointment is here."
"Appointment?" Bella's scattered brain searches for dates and times in her head, wondering what she would have agreed to during a week of working on new recipes.
"Mr. Edward Cullen, from Cullen Investing."
Her memory clicks at his name, Cullen, some new guy that Jake met at a business function, after which Jake insisted she take an appointment.
This is the part of her job that she doesn't particularly like, the meet and greet in the business world. If Bella had known that being a CEO of a major brewery would come with shaking hands with everyone, smiling till her teeth hurt, and putting up with assholes who think they know how to run her business better than her, she would have run in the other direction. But with time, practice, and the love of her company, she has grown to present well and not take shit from anyone.
"Sure, show him back here please, and tell Jake ten minutes."
The tasting room fills with the familiar sounds of what would be the inspiration of the name of her first brew. She steels herself internally for the meeting. Over the years Bella has worked hard to be her own person in a leadership position, to be the kind of CEO she would want to have, not to be a cold woman, which is normally expected, in what is traditionally known as a man's world, altering her appearance and demeanor just to survive or climb the ladder. She hates seeing some of the other women leadership in top companies act this way, cold and heartless, almost as much as she hates pants suits. It is her opinion that whoever designed those for women should be shot.
A small whine breaks her thoughts and she looks down to see Hops sniffing around, no doubt smelling the treats hiding under the bar for him. Bella reaches underneath to retrieve one for him as she hears footsteps enter the room.
"Ms. Swan," a rough voice says loudly. Standing up, she is not surprised by the first impression. He is so much like the other businessmen she has encountered; tightly wound, but tall and fit, hair slicked back, three-piece suit, with matching shoes to belt to padfolio in his hands.
Bella lets the first impression go, something she has learned over her years to do in her leadership role. She notices how his chiseled good looks are just the kind of guy she would prefer, and wonders if Jake set this meeting up as matchmaker. He is always trying to hook her up with eligible men that he networks with. Just because Jake met the love of his life, her roommate Leah, in college, shortly getting married after graduation and started having kids in the years that followed, didn't mean that she had to settle down and play house too.
"Mr. Cullen, please, call me Bella," she starts, a genuine smile on her face before reaching her hand to shake his over the bar. In an unusual move, he places his other hand over hers, a move that naturally feels right.
Edward is instantly intrigued with Bella Swan, having only seen a few online images during his research, none of them doing her justice. She is relaxed in jeans, a Swan Brewing logoed t-shirt with a matching logoed oversized flannel loosely hanging over her petite body. Her appearance is much more down-to-earth than he is in his traditional working wardrobe of a suit, and he internally chastises himself for not thinking to dress more casual for the meeting.
He became familiar with the Swan Brewing name over the years, watching the company grow and thrive. The industry as a whole has always been on an upswing. Not surprising since he knows that beer is the second most popular beverage in the world, tea being the most popular.
It was a chance meeting with the head of sales, Jake Black, at a basketball game through a mutual business associate's private box who invited them both, that he began to take interest in the financial opportunity that Swan Brewing offered. Doing his due diligence, researching and educating himself with everything about the company, he made sure to run into Jake again at another basketball game, which turned into a business lunch with a promise that he would work on getting Bella to say yes to a meeting. Edward learned everything about the company, its history, as well as searching on both Bella's and Jake's personal and financial background.
Edward thought he was prepared for this meeting, but with one look at Bella Swan, one handshake, everything he had planned to say went out the window, knowing instantly that he was going to have a hard time focusing on anything other than her. He smiled back at her naturally, remembering to himself that he knows of her current single-status.
"Bella," he says slowly, his firm handshake in his large hands engulfing hers. "Please, call me Edward." Her petite hand fits comfortably in his, her handshake firm but not overzealous like other women tend to have in the business world.
The skin-to-skin contact sends a pleasant, warm sensation creeping along her body as his fingers graze her hand as the gesture breaks. They both remain silent, staring at each other for a moment too long.
"Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I have…." Edward says after clearing his throat, trying to regain his footing.
"Edward," she replies, cutting him off, not wanting to give him the upper hand in the meeting. She goes for an old standby, drinking beer. "Would you care for a flight?" Bella smiles widely, natural and sincere.
The proposition of drinking is two-fold for Bella. One, if you can't drink her beer, you can't understand Swan Brewing. Bella has always made it a practice to never work with anyone who doesn't at least try their brews. Two, beer equals relaxing and getting to know someone. Bella wants to know more about Edward, already wanting to explore more of her reaction to his handshake.
He remains silent for a second before answering, all the while internally she is making bets with herself that even though he will drink her beer, he probably prefers bourbon.
"Sure." He unbuttons his suit jacket, places his stuff on the bar and takes a stool, turning all his attention to her. "I'll have whatever you're having."
"Oh really," she muses quietly to herself, his request more telling than he realizes. Grabbing another flight board, Bella writes the names of the beers on both his and hers, before expertly pouring, placing the matching flights on the bar.
"Have a Drink on Me," he says aloud, looking at the flight board. "Nice, AC/DC."
"First brew; just gets better every year," she explains.
Edward studies the golden brew in the glass, already liking their signature beer names from popular song titles.
"The Sign?" he asks, picking up the matching glass, looking inside for a clue.
Bella giggles to herself before replying. "That one always gets the most questions. Gotta know how to read them. Also, I had a thing for Ace of Base growing up."
"Hot N' Cold," he says quietly.
Bella raises an eyebrow in a silent response, leaving the innuendos floating in the room as to what the meaning behind the name is.
"Indeed," she responds.
Bella picks up the same brew that he does and raises her glass, "Cheers, Edward."
"Cheers," he responds, clinking the small glasses together before taking a good first sip, draining at least half of the small glass. She immediately notices his long neck fitted perfectly into the collar his fitted dress shirt, and how his Adam's apple moves as he swallows.
"Oh my," she mentally swoons. It is at this point that Bella realizes she might be in over her head with Edward; she is doing her best in trying to figure out if he is releasing a pheromone that is causing these reactions in her. There is a suddenness to her wanting to know more about him, a growing physical attraction to him each passing minute, more than she has ever had for any man in her life.
Somewhere in her mind, she recalls reading about the chemistry of love, the process is just neurochemicals similar to what happens during drug addiction. She wonders if Edward is her drug of choice.
As they continue to silently taste each brew together, she stares at his full lips a little too much as he sips each one, his savoring and examining the brews as she continues to examine him closer. She takes note of his angular face, the smoothness of his cheekbones where he shaved this morning, the almost perfect symmetry of his nose, and the eyelashes that frame his eyes with a darkness that makes her want to touch them to see if they are real. Manscaped eyebrows help balance the green of his eyes, so vibrant a color that she wishes they had it as their St. Patrick's Day hue.
She lets her mind wander for a moment, thinking of the recent lack of affection she has had in her life. Sure, there have been men she has casually dated, but nothing with the instant pull as with Edward, even only after one hand shake and a few words. If he is her drug, he is definitely a powerful one.
"Cullen!" Jake loudly shouts as he enters the tasting room. "Good to see you man, how was the trip?"
Edward peels his focus from Bella, turning to accept Jake's friendly and excited handshake with a half bro-hug that everyone has come to know is Jake's signature greeting.
They start to talk to each other, the tension that was building in the room between Bella and Edward starting to dissolve to a low roar in the background. The two men are guy-speaking, sports and travel and a few stats thrown round. When it comes to Jake and his networking, Bella lets him do his thing.
Hops comes from around the bar and jumps his front paws onto Jake, barking loudly at him.
"Hey Hops," Jake affectionately rubs the friendly dog. "Did you meet Edward?" Talking to the canine like he understands everything.
Hops barks loudly in reply, turning to look at the new human in the room.
Both men move back to the bar, Bella smiling as she pours Jake a small glass from the tap.
Edward admires Bella as she expertly works behind the bar, whipping a bar towel over her shoulder after cleaning the pour. The easy smile on his face mirrors hers. Their eyes connect, not the intense staring from before but an easy and simple connection not spoken.
"Cheers! To world peace!" Jake excitedly proclaims.
Bella laughs at Jake, still loving his traditional toast after all the years it has been heard. Edward joins in, already knowing Jake's cheerful disposition.
"So, Edward, which ones do you like so far?" Jake asks, motioning to the flight in front of Edward.
"I like them all," he starts, looking from Jake to Bella.
"But if I had to pick one to order a pint of, it would be The Sign. Perfect blend of flavors, nice after-taste, something I could drink all night long."
Bella blushes, uncertain if her reaction is to his compliments or the underlying message Edward was possibly conveying. For her, it would be easy to fall into his arms and kiss him right now, the hope to progress to something that would take all night long.
As he continues to tell Jake what he notes on the other brews, she feels satisfied in listening to him. Bella finds herself watching as the two men discuss her beers, Jake following up each of Edward's opinions with background information on what goes into making each unique brew.
And just like with the chemistry to make her brews, she realizes that the connection with Edward is instantaneous; a comfortable coupling as if they were meant to come together. Perfect chemistry, she silently thinks.
Bella turns and grabs a frosted pint glass from the refrigerator and pours Edward a full glass of The Sign. Grabbing one of her favorite coasters, she places it down in front of him with an infectious smile on her face.
He raises the beer and notices the coaster, leaning over it to read.
Nothing gives a sensation better than a beer!
Nothing builds a relation better than a beer!
― Anshul Dubey
"To new relationships," Edward holds his raised glass to Bella and Jake in a toast.
The three tap glasses, Bella keeping her eyes on Edward, once again enjoying watching him drink. The two men continue to talk, while Bella notices the time, knowing that the server staff will be in shortly to setup for the opening of the tasting room. She excuses herself and peeks her head into the kitchen to see her staff starting to arrive and the head chef, Seth, preparing his stations.
She steps fully into the kitchen, making her presence known to him. "Hey Seth."
"Hey Bella!" he cheerfully responds.
"What's the special today? We have a guest." She says this blushing.
Seth, always observant, notices her flush of color to her face and neck, not usual for Bella. "Guest?"
"Yeah, some guy Jake brought in. Can you plate us some apps and then some lunch?"
"You got it." Seth turns his attention to getting everything started for her business lunch.
Edward immediately notices that Bella has physically left the room, somehow a drop in pressure or temperature, he is not sure which. He tries his best to focus on what Jake is talking about, joining in on the conversation, but all he can think about is getting up and finding her. It is only when she is back in front of him that he feels like he can relax.
"I got Seth to put some food together for us," she says smiling at the two men.
"I hope you two will enjoy your lunch together," Jake replies. "Sorry I can't join you. I have a date with my wife," Jake says, wiggling his eyebrows.
"Jake, remember, not on company property," Bella warns.
"It was one time, years ago!" Jake explains.
Bella scoffs, "One time of seeing your butt on the security cameras was one time too many."
"Really, Jake?" Edward asks.
"Yeah, it was back when Leah was pregnant for the first time. Never underestimate the strength or horniness of a pregnant woman," he says smiling. "You two enjoy lunch. Edward, pleasure seeing you again." Jake and Edward shake hands before he makes his exit as the serving staff starts to show up.
"Shall we?" Bella offers, gesturing to the tables.
Edward nods, picking up his pint and picking out a smaller table in the corner of the room while Bella grabs her own pint and follows. Hops follows along, taking a rest at the end of the table near Bella's feet. They both sit in silence for a moment before both starting to speak at once.
"Expansion, nationwide," he says again as Bella motions for him to go first.
As soon as the words leave his pretty mouth that she has been ogling, Bella sighs in exasperation. "I've told Jake, I'm not interested."
"He said you would say that." His tone is soft and gentle, approaching Bella is if she were a scared cat about to jump to the next tree away from him.
"And did he tell you why?" she counters.
"Yes, he did." He puts his glass down and leans into the table, closer to her than traditionally appropriate for a business meeting. Edward doesn't mind bending the rules with Bella. "And even though I agree with your reasons, I think you could use an added perspective."
Bella can feel the heat of his body, the scent of his skin; natural, manly musk, no hint of over-priced cologne or aftershave. Definitely pheromones, she thinks. The closeness is intoxicating, there isn't another explanation. He is staring directly at her, not like the words from her notebook this morning, mocking. He is serious and sincere.
"Perspective that you can help me with?" she asks, teasing as she leans closer to him. She knows that Jake gave him their stock answer for reasons why to keep their business the way it is, but she knows that Edward doesn't believe that reason, why else would he be here today pitching.
Keeping his lips closed, one side of his mouth lifting into almost a smirk, silently accepting her teasing challenge. His smile grows, dimples appearing, before his tongue peeks out of his mouth, running between the two plump pieces of flesh, wetting them. "Yes."
Bella likes the look of his lips, wet and juicy, wanting nothing more at the moment to suck and bite them. Taking a deep breath, she tries to clear her head, feeling as though she is Alice following the white rabbit down the hole. Her brain starts analyzing, putting parts together, using her chemistry side to figure this situation out.
But as she is thinking, the ingredients for a new recipe form in her head. "Bingo!"
"Bingo?" he questions.
Bella switches gears fast into full chemistry mode, the formula completing itself as a new recipe. Grabbing a napkin from the table and a pen from her pocket, she starts writing out everything as fast as her hand can move. She can feel Edward moving closer over the table, watching her as the ingredients pour out from her head to the written word.
Her head is down as she looks over her newest chemical compound, speaking softly to Edward. "My goal is not to have a big brewery, but a great brewery. You can't do that if you spread yourself too thin. This is a 100% employee owned business, ultimately it is not up to me to make that decision, to take that risk on expanding this company."
"If you plan, you won't be risking anything," he replies.
She looks up from her paper to see the sincerity and honesty that he expressed just a few moments ago still there. It is hard for some people to understand why she doesn't want to go national, or expand to the world, but as the words that she believes, and has spoken before, start to form in her head, she has an idea, one she hopes he will be willing to go along with.
"Can you come back tomorrow?" She worries the moment the question leaves her mouth, wondering if she asked based on needing for him to learn why they don't need to expand or more to keep him around. Bella dismisses the worry, coming to the conclusion that the ingredients are right, she just needs to put them together and see how great they will be together.
"I thought we were having lunch together."
"Oh, yeah, lunch, but I have a proposition for you."
Edward raises an eyebrow at her choice of words.
"Oh, come on, Edward," she says lightly smacking him on the arm. "Come spend a few days here, working. Gain some perspective from my side."
"I already have a job, Bella."
She leans even closer, smiling and tilting her head in the most alluring manner she can, her finger running over the rim of her glass, his eyes flicker to her movements, distracting him. "I know you have a job. And I am sure you are good at your job, but I know you have researched and read up on Swan Brewing. I think you could understand more if you spent some time with us."
She is interrupted by a platter being placed on the table in between them, their bubble once again being broken, Bella looks up at the server, seeing Seth's girlfriend Bree, smiling at the two of them. "Let me know if you need anything else Bella." After placing the plates, utensils and napkins on the table, she gives Bella a wink and swiftly walks away.
Bella knows that look Bree is sporting, and she knows later she will be drilled with questions about Edward, their closeness and the smile on her face that she can't stop.
"Time," Bella begins again, her eyes down at her task of plating some appetizers for each of them. "And patience. Of course there is trial and error in what we do, but when we take our time, pay attention to the little things, the bigger things take care of themselves." She takes pause as she takes a bite of her food, letting him think about her request.
His mind is thinking of what it would be like to work here. Edward is not unfamiliar with manual labor, having spent his college summers working in various warehouses and retail businesses before eventually finding his way into an office setting. Part of him longs for the days of what his father would refer to as 'good old day of hard work'. Then he imagines spending the day with Bella, what he could learn from her, or about her, how his day could be spent getting close to her. Until now, Edward has used another one of his father's beliefs 'never mix business with pleasure' when it comes to his romantic and career.
Until now he never had a reason to mix the two.
"Do I have to wear a hairnet?" Edward jokes.
Bella's smile is beaming as she responds, "And jeopardize messing it up, never." She can't help herself thinking of what his hair feels like naturally, without all that product slicking it back, and her hands combing what she imagines are soft locks.
"I'll have you know, it takes my mom all morning to get it to look like this."
"I'll bet," she laughs, imagining a smaller version of a little Edward sitting on the bathroom counter, swinging his legs, as a mother figure applies gel and runs a comb over wild hair. Her eyes go back to the piece of paper next to her plate, her latest combination for a new brew. "Seriously, come work with us for a few days, help me with this." She waves the paper in the air.
"Do I get to name it?"
"That depends on your taste in music."
He pulls out his phone, opens the music app and slides it over to her. She scrolls through, seeing how much of his tastes match up with hers; finding one artist that is fairly new, she pulls up their latest single and flips the phone back around to Edward.
"Nice to meet ya."
"Yeah, why not?" she counters. "It's a good conversation starter."
"Indeed," Edward says keeping his eyes on Bella as he picks up some food and occupies his mouth.
Taking a bite of her own, she chews quickly before picking up the conversation again. "What time do you normally get to work?"
"That depends, but mostly I'm in the office before 8."
"I've never really had 'normal' working hours," Bella explains. "Being CEO has allowed me a working environment that I never dreamed I would have."
Edward takes a sip of his beer before leaning in to the middle of the table again, closing the distance the food brought. "You don't seem to want the normal."
"No, definitely not. Nor do I want to be. Especially when it comes to my job. I'm sure you have met other female CEOs before?" she questions. "They work too hard, wear bad clothes, and treat their employees like servants."
Edward's mind immediately goes to thoughts of a meeting last month, a piranha of a woman who was more interested in bedding him than listening to his ideas. "Yes, a few come to mind," he replies shaking off a shiver running through him.
"Jane?" Bella guesses, having met the awful woman at women's leadership functions in years past.
He nods, "Piece of work she is, I had to take three showers just to feel clean again."
"How many will you need to take today?"
"Just a long cold one," he mumbles.
Fresh plates, and a larger share platter interrupt them again, along with fresh pints, delivered by a still grinning Bree.
They continue to talk during lunch, sharing more personal items about each other more than business. Edward learns more about Jake and his relationship with Bella, hearing a few more interesting stories of their college days as well as early days in starting the company. Bella learns about Edward's close family and friends, working for several companies before going out on his own.
The natural chemistry brewing between them developing as nicely as one of Bella's beer recipes.
When both are stuffed, Bella waives Bree over to collect their empty plates.
"Bree, could you bring an unopened bottle of I've Got A Feeling?" Bella asks.
"Be right back," Bree responds, expertly gathering everything and clearing the table.
Bella turns her attention back to Edward after Bree has left. "So be honest with me, when you go home at night after a long day of work, what is it that you drink?"
Edward thinks for a moment before answering, "Usually a glass of brandy, a good beer if I have one available. Depends on how hard of a day. Why?"
Bree returns with a six-pack of the brew that Bella requested, all the chilled bottles nestled in their cardboard carrier.
"I figured you more for a bourbon guy," she admits, sliding over the six-pack. "Here is our porter, very rich, almost like dessert in a bottle. Maybe give this a try."
He pulls the pack over, lifting one of the frosted bottles and examining the label as he speaks. "Bourbon was my father's drink of choice; I never developed a flavor for it. But a good porter beer, definitely something I can enjoy. Thank you." Edward looks from the six-pack in front of him to Bella, watching the smile grow on her face.
He is stalling, not wanting lunch to be over, more so his time with Bella. In just the short time of meeting her, learning about her, he already knows he plans to pursue more with her. Good thing he is coming back tomorrow.
As Bella is leading Edward back through the tables, she makes her way over the bar, ducks behind and grabs a logoed cap. "Here, wear this tomorrow, in something casual that you don't mind getting dirty or sweaty in."
"Sweaty?" he asks, raised eyebrows.
Bella can't help but tease him, leaning in and speaking softly, "Making beer gets hot."
~Her Ps & Qs~
The next morning, Edward shows up dressed casually this time in jeans, a t-shirt and the logoed cap that Bella gave him before leaving yesterday. He is a few minutes early and happy to see a smiling Bella waiting in the lobby for him.
"Good morning," he says, reaching a hand out to greet her.
Bella has thought a lot about Edward since he left. It didn't help when Bree cornered her after she came back from seeing Edward out, bugging her for the details of their lunch. She couldn't help but let some of her inner school girl out and gush over the instant connection she was feeling with him. She had Edward on the brain.
As soon as she sees him, she takes the opportunity to give into her wants and reaches out with the opposite hand and grabs his to pull him along with her. "Good morning, Edward."
Surprised but happy with her physical gesture, he returns by wrapping his hand around hers, weaving their fingers together. "It certainly is now."
The cap she gave him looks good on him, and from the tufts of hair peeking out from the sides, she can only assume that he left his routine product out today. "Glad to see the cap fits."
She leads him through the lobby to the adjoining hallway towards the back of the building, only then letting go of his hand to enter the code in the push keypad to the side of the door. The door opens to the plant part of the building. There she hands him a pair of gloves and boots before sliding into a pair of her own then giving him a guided tour of the brewery floor.
Pipes and fermentation tanks along with other equipment fill the large space. Bella tries to explain as much as she can in layman's terms, knowing Edward doesn't know much at all about how beer is made. He listens and watches her, enjoying seeing the excitement that she has for her company. She introduces or points out every employee, something he doesn't ever remember recalling any other CEOs doing before.
They approach the bottling section where a tall and fit young man smiles brightly at Bella as they arrive.
"Edward, I'd like you to meet our shipping manager, Jared, Jakes' cousin. Jared, this is Edward Cullen."
"Hi Jared," Edward says.
"Welcome Edward, you ready to do some heavy lifting?" Jared jokes.
Edward has a moment of worry flash across his face, fast enough that Jared doesn't see it but Bella does. She looks at him directly in speaking again. "Jared is going to put you to work for a little while, give me some time to take care of a few things," Bella explains. She leans closer, her mouth almost reaching his ear, "No heavy lifting, I promise. Jared's yanking your chain."
Edward smiles in response.
A few hours later, Bella comes back down to shipping, everything packed up, happy to see that Jared and Edward worked well together loading up a truck heading out for delivery. Both men are leaning on a worktable while talking and joking with each other, seeming to have found an easy working relationship.
Edward learned a lot in over three hours of helping Jared. He thought at first Jared would be a hard guy to talk to, but only after a few minutes, Edward almost wished he said no to coming today. Jared would not shut up. He talked about the company, the beer, other employees, the time he and Jake taste-tested a winter brew that ended in them wasted and passed out in the Biergarten only to be found the next morning. It was clear very quickly to Edward that Jared loved beer and loved working for Bella. He had nothing but kind words to say about her, and constant praise for a great working environment. Jared made it clear that this is the kind of place to come to work till you retire, not till the next best thing comes along.
It wasn't hard to see how different Bella was as the leader of her company.
After a quick lunch, Bella brings Edward to her workroom. The room is comfortable, wood tables, bar stools, couches, a pinball machine and everything she would need to run a small batch of beer. He felt as if he stepped into a garage with a home brewery.
"Now, here is where our company differs from those national chains you want me to expand into. We can come in here, any day of the year, with a recipe in hand or just thoughts of mixing ingredients till we find something that works. I have done this for over ten years, and for all that time, after visiting other breweries and seeing how they are set up, how cold their research process is, comparing them to us, I know I have the right method."
Edward steps closer into Bella's personal bubble, taking her hands in his before speaking, "I can see that, in just the short time since meeting you, seeing the company, I know you have something special here."
"Yes," he says. "I believe in more ways than one," he says before slowly leans in, and giving her a small simple kiss on her lips.
~Her Ps & Qs~
Friday arrives, and the new recipe that Bella wrote out only a few days ago has been completed, a full keg chilled at the bar and ready for tasting.
Edward stayed that first day with her in the workroom, helping her go through the steps of making beer. It was at those moments of time, patience and waiting that he snuck in more kisses, before they fully enveloped themselves into make-out sessions on the couch.
It was the next day they had to start the ruined batch all over again. Bella didn't mind.
The next day she got her timing right, making Edward behave himself with the promise of dinner back at her house after getting everything completed properly. Dinner led to more kissing, more making-out, and Edward having his first of many sleepovers at Bella's house.
Edward professionally gave up on the idea of Bella's company expanding nationally or globally, resigned to the fact that she had the right recipe for her company. The idea of expanding was something that he understood she would probably not change her mind on in the near future. With each day he spent with her, seeing the company from the inside out, top to bottom, he understood what a special place she had built.
She personally checked all the glasses for tasting as they came back from being cleaned, wanting nothing to get in the way of the new brew. She normally relied on her trusted employees to do some of these jobs that she has done herself in the past, but this time was special and she wanted everything to be perfect.
Her phone buzzed in her back-pocket as she placed the last tray of inspected glasses back in the refrigerated case. Looking down she saw the message from Emily that Edward had arrived and was on his way back.
"Edward's here, you ready, boy?" she asks Hops, his bark in reply as he sits by her side behind the bar, looking happy as she did at the anticipating of Edward arriving. She grabs two frosted glasses and fills them with the new recipe.
A few moments later, Edward enters the room.
"Edward," she says, placing the glasses on the bar, "Nice to meet ya."
He picks up the glass, inspecting the dark golden hue of the liquid, before sniffing then raising his eyebrow at Bella. She comes from around the bar and sits on the stool closest to him, picking up her own glass and taking a large drink.
"Bella," he says raising his glass to her, "Nice to meet ya."
~Her Ps & Qs~
(Six months later, yep time jump)
Four words are mocking her again, but different ones from her usual.
Move. In. With. Me.
She is scared, wanting to practice saying the words out loud, but losing her voice as she opens her mouth. Bella knows this is what she wants, a step in her personal life. Hell, they have spent almost every night together since that first week, it is only natural progression in any relationship.
But it still scares her.
What if he doesn't want to live with her, put up with her schedule and responsibilities. The what ifs fill her mind. She stops the train of thought, and takes a few deep breaths, focusing on the words before her.
"Move. In. With. Me," she says aloud, clear and confident.
She looks up, startled to see Edward in her office doorway. Hops is instantly by his side, seeking affection from his second favorite human.
"You weren't supposed to hear that, well, not yet anyway." Bella says blushing.
"Those words are meant for me," he states clearly, leveling a smoldering stare at his Bella. He walks with purpose towards her, coming around her desk and bending over her as she leans back in her chair.
"You are so sure of yourself, aren't you?"
"When it comes to you, most definitely." Edward's smile is joyous as he pulls her up to stand before him.
She knows this, how well they work together; the ingredients and chemistry coming together so well from the very beginning.
Bella mirrors his happiness with her own beaming smile. "Is tomorrow too soon?"
Edward shakes his head, before kissing her soundly and wrapping her in his strong embrace, folding her under his chin. "Yesterday was never too soon and tomorrow will not be long enough."