A/N: Alrighty, so, I hope that you enjoy this story…it's kind of dry for the first chapter, but the following ones get much better. Also, I'm trying to make this so that Edward isn't a womanizer, but I'm also trying not to move too slowly. On the other hand, the story line might be moving too fast…so, tell me what you think. I appreciate all comments!
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight, nor it's characters…
Enjoy! (It will all be in Bella's POV, so, no POV hopping.)
My heels click-clacked on the cement, blending in with the incessant, soporific drone of the raindrops that plunged from the sky like pennies off a skyscraper. Each droplet sent up a spray of water that drenched my legs, staining my nylons a dark brown. Oily pools of liquid dotted the sidewalk as often as the small, washed-out circles of faded chewing gum spit by New Yorkers and tourists every day. God, I hated the rain.
I fumed beneath the raggedy newspaper I held above my head, a feeble attempt at shielding my hair from the downpour. I had just paid thirty dollars to get it to look nice, and for nothing. Alice had been right when she told me to buy an umbrella. Why hadn't I listened to her?
I swore as I made it to the curb, a taxi spraying mud onto my shoes as it sped away. I glared at the yellow car's quickly diminishing license plate, cursing the lucky soul who had managed to obtain a cab before me. It would be minutes before another one came along, and I didn't have minutes to spare.
I don't know how long I stood like that, huddled over, soaked to the bone, and looking like a stray cat, when I noticed the cloaked figure beside me. He was tall, wearing a tan raincoat that had darkened to umber after being drenched in the rain. His head was covered by a black umbrella that stood ominously between us like a wall of fabric…a wall I desperately wanted to be behind.
I looked at my options—it was New York, it was a Monday morning—at four A.M. no less—and most people who were awake at this hour were either too sleep-deprived to even notice you, or caffeinated to the point of hysteria. If I had to choose between the two, the guy looked like he was sleep-deprived. Hell, I was sleep-deprived—but that didn't stop me from wanting to get underneath that umbrella. I was absolutely sick of being wet, and I had a meeting to attend. Maybe if I asked nicely enough, he'd share the comfort of his umbrella with me for a couple of minutes, at the least. Or he might spit in my face and shout obscenities at me for disturbing him. One of the two. But I liked his taste in raincoats, so I decided that, on an appearance scale, he could be trusted. I would give it a shot.
"Hey," I said nervously, tapping him on the shoulder. "Would you mind sharing your umbrella with me for a minute? I would really appreciate it."
He turned slowly to face me, his posture setting off alarm bells in my head. His stance practically shouted that he was seriously annoyed. But I couldn't move—I had gotten myself in, and I would have to get myself out.
"Why?" I could vaguely see two green eyes glaring at me from the shadows created by his collar and the shade of his umbrella.
"Uh, sorry," I said, frowning, "I just, you know…" I waved the newspaper above my head to try and signify just what exactly was wrong with my position. "I have a meeting to attend and I'd really prefer it if I didn't arrive sopping wet."
He snorted. "Right." He then turned away, tipping his umbrella towards me so that I couldn't see his profile.
What was his problem? "Whatever," I muttered. Stupid, stuck-up New Yorker. He probably thought I was some kind of chick coming on to him—he would be lucky if I was attracted to him. He was obviously a pig—who would be so rude to a woman who just wanted a little shelter from the rain?
I was too preoccupied with his arrogance and tactlessness to notice the yellow car that swerved up to the curb. The man leaped in front of me, raising one brown-clad arm and yelling, "Taxi!" I gaped as he literally shoved me aside and swept into the cab, not even sparing me a backwards glance.
"Jerk!" I yelled, scowling at him.
He ignored me, swiftly closing his umbrella and bundling it into the interior of the car. Only the top of his bronze-colored head was visible as he slammed the door in my face.
"Jerk!" I shouted again for good measure, knowing full well that he could hear me—the cars weren't soundproof. I grimaced as it sped out of sight, hoping that he felt guilty. But, from his actions, I guessed that his conscious probably didn't play that big of a part in his every-day decision making. What a jerk.
I shook my head and sighed with exasperation. I was going to be late.
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I practically flung myself into the elevator, quickly jabbing the number 20 before proceeding to squeeze-dry my hair. I fingered the limp mess with disgust—if only that guy had let me stand under his umbrella for just one minute—then I wouldn't be in this position. But no, some people had to act like complete goons.
I stood in front of the elevator mirror, deciding on what I should do with my hair. I settled for tying it back in a bun, trying to make it look as professional as possible. Sure, it did look like I had put a little too much gel on this morning…but that was okay. I could live with that. I smoothed out my rumpled beige skirt, making sure that my white blouse was clean and devoid of lint. I was glad that I had at least remembered a jacket, though it was exceptionally small, and had had the presence of mind not to use it to shield my hair—otherwise, my top would be see-through right now. It was comforting to know that I had some amount of foresight.
I took in a deep breath. What had Jasper taught me to think right before I did anything stressful? Oh, yeah—composed. Calm. Elegant. Refined. Professional. Beautiful. Clever. Serene. Couth. I ran through as many complimentary adjectives as I could, stopping short right as the elevator took a shuddering halt at my destination, Floor 20. I gulped and waited for the gold doors to open. I had to remind myself that I was just working my way up the corporate ladder—secretary today, district attorney tomorrow. I would start simple, but have a big finish. And besides, I would only have this job for about a year—then I would have enough money to pay my way through law-school. That was, of course, if I actually got the job in the first place…
The doors slid open, revealing a long hallway that stretched before me, a crème-tiled floor set off by stark white walls. There was a table every five feet with a vase full of roses, and artwork hanging directly above. It was symmetrical on the borderline of freakish. And then, not twenty feet from me, was the front desk.
I gulped and started walking forward, careful not to hurry. If I hurried, I might look too eager…but if I dawdled, I wouldn't look eager enough. The perfect medium was hidden somewhere in the balance—I could only hope that I wasn't too far off the mark.
Clack. Clack. Clack. Clack. The sound of my footsteps echoed through the hall, while my shadow contrasted sharply with the walls, looking like a stalker crept silently behind me while I stayed merely one step ahead. It was unnerving—the lawyers who worked here probably won most of their cases through sheer intimidation, starting off with the paint job. I shivered. I would hate to see what the people were actually like in comparison with the décor…probably frightening. Ah, well—welcome to the real world.
I paused at the desk, not overlooking the fact that the blond bimbo gave me a once over. She raised an eyebrow as I coolly delivered my perfectly prepared line, "I'm here to apply for the position of secretary to the Cullen Wing." The job I was applying for sounded pretentious, even to me. The Cullens were a family of lawyers, true, but getting their own wing? That was flaunting it a bit. It was like they were a firm within a firm. Talk about cliquish.
"Really?" she said disbelievingly. I resisted the urge to glare at her. First impressions were everything, after all. I had to maintain my calm demeanor.
"Yes," I said smoothly. "My name is Isabella Swan."
She quickly scanned the list of the applicants who had scheduled meetings with the head of personnel, Victoria Blanch, before checking off my name on the list at the very bottom of the page—apparently, I was the last person to apply for this job. "Down the hallway, to the right, second door on your left. It should have the family name on it in bold, though, just in case the directions are too challenging." She smirked. I just smiled sweetly back—if I got a job here, I would find a way to deliver payback to this…what did her nametag say? Jessica? Oh, yes, I would get Jessica to regret the day she lorded herself over me and talked down to me. I hated people who did that. Just as I hated people who refused to share their umbrellas—they were basically all the same, if you looked at it karmically.
"Thanks," I said and walked off. I followed her directions to a tee, ending right outside the door she had said I would. I let out a deep breath and twisted the curving gold handle downwards, slipping inside.
I nearly fell over in shock—this was very different than the bland, beige outdoor corridor my eyes had grown accustomed to. Here, it looked like I had gone from Technicolor vision to black and white, because those were basically the only colors. Checkered black and white floor, white walls, black furniture—even black tables that looked like their wood was naturally that color. They were probably imported from some obscenely exotic island in the middle of nowhere. The only thing I could see that wasn't on either extreme of the color spectrum were slight dashes of red here and there—a red book, a red magazine, red flowers in the vase on the black table. Otherwise, it was simply black and white. I wondered vaguely whether I would see Charlie Chaplin saunter in, swinging his cane and twirling his moustache while silent-film subtitles popped up. The fact that there was no noise at all only helped with this fantasy.
I nearly jumped out of my skin when a door that was cleverly concealed in the wall to my right opened to reveal a severe looking woman with red hair pulled tightly back at the nape of her neck. Her eyes were stony and her lips quirked downwards as she turned to look at me, beckoning me forward.
"Name," she said, her voice as cold as her looks.
"Isabella Swan," I replied automatically. "Could you please tell me where—"
She held up a hand. I instantly quieted. "Only speak when spoken to. Are you here to apply for a job as secretary to one of the Cullens?"
I nodded, still mute.
"Do you know anything about the Cullens?" I was tempted to say that I thought they were ostentatious, but bit back my response. I simply settled for shaking my head.
"Really?" she looked incredulous. "You know nothing about them?"
I shook my head again. She frowned.
"Come here," her hand beckoned me forward, and I instantly obeyed. However, I maintained eye contact, making sure our gazes locked. I was not going to give her the notion that I was her inferior, though I hoped that I didn't seem too defiant. Luckily, she merely quirked an eyebrow at my intense stare, completely unfazed, and, if anything, slightly amused.
"Now," she said, her voice rigid, "you are going to take a quick look through this door, and you are going to see a person inside—his name is Edward Cullen. I am then going to shut this door, and you are going to tell me your honest first impressions. Are we clear?"
I nodded. I didn't feel the need to point out that this was the weirdest job application ever.
"Good. Take a look."
I stepped forward and bent my head around the doorway, peering into the room beyond. It was fairly small, with a black desk stuck against the left wall and a large window situated above it, while filing cabinets and bookshelves lined the rest of the walls. A simple white door was standing shut straight ahead of me—it probably led to a bigger, better office. But I decided that I liked this room—it was quiet and cozy, and seemed as friendly as an inanimate object could get. However, as soon as I laid eyes on the sole person in the room, I gasped.
It was the man who had refused to share his umbrella with me. I could only see his side view—he was staring out the window, no doubt plotting ways to destroy the Monday mornings of innocent females, and didn't even notice me. I whirled around to face the woman, anger apparent on my features. She looked surprised.
"First impressions?" she said. It didn't take a genius to figure out that she was confused about something.
"That," I seethed, "is the man who completely ruined my morning. He is a pig-headed, egotistical, arrogant know-it-all, and I have no intentions of working for him…for this Edward Cullen." True, I had only spent about five minutes in his presence, but when I formed an opinion of a person, it usually stuck—and that was because it was usually correct. So I didn't doubt my assessment of his character.
Instead of the shocked into silence response I had expected, the woman grinned good-naturedly at me, no longer seeming like a strict matron. "I completely agree. I think that we'll get along great, you and I. You see, you're perfect for this job."
I gaped at her. Had she not heard what I just said? Apparently not, because she continued. "First of all, your credentials are great—nice typing speed, by the way. But the important thing about you is that most people immediately take in his good looks and think about nothing else. It completely distracts them. But if you already hate him…his physical appearance shouldn't impact your work."
I blinked. "What?"
"Look," she said gently, her voice soft, "you have to take this job. You have no idea how many secretaries I've had to fire because they pay too much attention to his appearance and not to his completely idiotic and reprehensible actions. He may be a great lawyer, but he's not that great of a person…" at this she scowled, like she was remembering something painful, "…and he definitely needs a secretary that focuses on her work. I'm hoping you can take this job and do something with it. If you follow through with it for a month, I'll double your salary. But be warned, most girls don't last the week."
I was dumbfounded. She wanted me to have the job, and she was going to give me a greater salary if I stayed on the job for a month? It was too good to resist. "I'll take it," I said, hoping that I sounded determined, and not simply angry. In all honesty, I could care less what he looked like—he had been a complete jerk when I had done nothing to him. Resisting his non-existent charms would be easy.
"Good," she looked relieved. "By the way, my name's Victoria Blanch—I'm head of personnel, and secretary to the head of our firm, Murich & Co.. You can start work immediately."
I nodded as she led me over to the main desk in this black and white room, explaining every single one of the functions of my job.
"So, you basically handle all of his scheduling—he'll probably give you his Blackberry to update, so keep a USB cable cord with you at all times. Now, his office splits off of your office, which is the room you just looked into, so you'll have easy access to his files or if you need to speak with him. And, you may or may not have noticed, but you have a number of different file folders and drawers in which you can organize his cases. Are you following?"
I nodded, vaguely wondering whether I should have brought a pen and paper.
"Good. Now, the number one rule: Don't throw anything out. Ever. Case files can be used decades into the future by the police if they're reinvestigating and what-not, so no matter what, make space, don't clear it. Got it so far?"
I gave a hasty nod. She continued on with her monologue, while I briefly bobbed my head from time to time. I wasn't paying as much attention to her as I should have been. I was focused more on the future, and what it had in store. I honestly couldn't believe it—I was going to be a secretary to the guy who had refused to share his umbrella with me, who had shoved me out of the way in his haste to grab a taxi, and who had glared at me for no apparent reason. I was going to work for Edward Cullen.
"Now," she said, and I noticed that her voice had become grave, "there are to be no office romances, do you understand? Otherwise, I'll be forced to fire you. It's strict company policy."
I had to suppress a snort. Me, an office romance? That sounded like some clichéd, romantic, 50 cent novel. As if that would happen to me. But all I said was, "Of course, Miss Blanch. Whatever you say."
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I thought I was going to start hyperventilating if I didn't step inside his office soon…I had been hanging outside of his door for five minutes now, and I still hadn't mustered the courage to enter. I was just so nervous—what if he recognized me as the woman who had called him a jerk? Not that I was sorry that I had done so, but it wasn't the best way to start off an employee-employer relationship. Besides, what if I walked in and my nefarious clumsy streak kicked in? What if I tripped and spilled the papers I was carrying all over the place—they looked like they were pretty important documents, not to mention their serious content…
If I messed up, did that mean all my plans for the future were completely ruined? I honestly didn't know. I wanted to just work here for one year—one year—and then I would have enough money to couple with my savings to send me to law school. And then I could come back as a lawyer and kick Edward Cullen out of town. But if I messed up now…
I took a deep breath and nudged the door open with my foot, striding inside in what I hoped was a collected and serene manner. Of course, he didn't know that I was mentally counting "In, two, three, out, two, three" to monitor my breathing. I didn't really trust myself to remember that I had a respiratory system.
It was a simple room, elegant and unadorned, but classy. Definitely classy. It had a certain elegance about it—I admired the taste of the decorator. The entire left wall was glass, sparkling in the afternoon light, and gave a bird's eye view of New York City. The ceiling was white, as well as the other three walls and the carpet, but the light from the window refracted so many colors across the room that it seemed as if white was the only hue not present. There was one smooth, ebony desk sitting by the wall directly ahead of me, two black chairs that looked as if they were part of a matching set sitting directly in front of it with their backs towards me—no doubt for clients to sit in. I instantly liked the place, even if I didn't particularly like the person within it.
Edward was sitting idly at his desk, a cup of coffee steaming at his right hand side, and a mess of papers sitting beneath his folded arms. My mouth started watering—I had been working all day, and had as yet to receive my normal dose of caffeine. I knew that I should have bought a coffee before I left for work in the first place, but of course I wanted to arrive super early to make a good impression…why was I so stupid?
I strode over to his desk, placing the papers in front of him with a slap. "Here," I said, perhaps a little too coldly.
He glanced up at me, and for the first time I got a glimpse of his entire face. He was really, really good-looking, I thought angrily. He had messy copper colored hair, glinting green eyes, and angular features…was this some sort of punishment? Was the universe getting back at me for lying my way out of going along with Alice on her last shopping spree? How was I supposed to work for a guy who was so damn attractive?
"And you are?" he said, clearly bored, sparing only a passing glance at the documents I had so kindly brought to him.
Instantly, all attraction ceased. Just because he looked nice didn't he mean he wasn't a jerk. In fact, he was a bigger jerk than ever. And, I was slightly miffed that he didn't even remember me as the woman who had asked to share his umbrella with him this morning…though now that I looked back on it, he probably had understandably expected that I would have only done so to somehow get his number…which made me further realize that he was completely arrogant. "I'm Isabella Swan," I said stiffly. "Your new secretary."
He raised his eyebrows at me. "I have a secretary?"
"Apparently," I said, gritting my teeth. He really wasn't helping his case.
His eyebrows rose even further. "So, since you're my secretary, you do whatever I tell you to?"
"Within reason," I said, trying to keep my temper in bounds. It would not do to get fired, it would not do at all…
His eyes widened. "So, you're here to help me. If I need something, you do it."
I gave a terse nod. I was sure that he was up to something—otherwise, why would he be acting like an idiot and saying that he didn't understand the meaning of "secretary"? Unless he was naturally thickheaded, in which case I couldn't understand why he was supposedly such a clever lawyer and businessman. But maybe he bought his reputation—which, from the looks of the expensive décor, sounded plausible.
He smirked suddenly, and casually knocked a pencil off of his desk. It rolled off of the wood with a grating sound before tumbling to the floor. "Pick it up," he commanded.
"What?" I couldn't control my outrage. Did he seriously think I would do that? "No!"
His smug smile grew more pronounced. "I just asked you to. Why won't you listen to your boss?"
"Because," I hissed, "it is completely ridiculous. It's only an inch away from you!"
He looked down, seemingly surprised. "Oh," he said lightly. "You're quite right. How rude of me." He took that opportunity to gently roll it away with the tip of his foot. It was now a good fifteen feet from his desk, right next to the wall.
I was positively boiling. He merely leaned back and asked me mockingly, "So, are you going to do what I asked you to? Or am I too much of a jerk?"
I felt my face blushing uncontrollably at that point, and I swore steam billowed out of my ears. I felt slightly triumphant that he had remembered me—at least I wasn't completely forgettable. But toying with me like that—how dare he?
I turned around, completely ignoring his snickers, and stalked right back out the door. I stormed over to my desk and picked up my phone, quickly punching in Alice's number.
"Hello?" her chipper voice instantly began to calm me.
"Alice," I said, trying my hardest not to crush the tiny cell I held within my hand, "your brother is a complete and total jerk."
Sounding as cheerful as ever, she happily replied, "I know, right?"
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"Here," Alice said kindly, seating me gently on the couch. "I fixed you a bath."
I managed to smile weakly at her. "Thank you, Alice." Her clarvoyancy could really come in handy.
The black-haired pixie just grinned. "I know you had a really tough day today—what else could I expect since you're working for my idiot brother?"
I shrugged. "You'd think that he would have gotten over me calling him a jerk."
"You'd think you would have gotten over him not sharing his umbrella."
I frowned. "Well, he was pretty rude, Alice—that's the only reason I called him a jerk in the first place. And then his actions today…oh my God, it was horrible."
She nodded sympathetically. "Yeah, that pencil incident was kind of out of line."
"But that wasn't all!" I flung my hands over my head and sighed. "The rest of the day he had me running around like I was his errand dog or something. 'Get me coffee, get me the newspaper—get me wheat flakes.' And everything I got him, he just distributed among the offices. He said it was something 'to prove his goodwill.' As if he has any—ha!"
Alice's eyes widened. "You feel pretty strongly about this, don't you?"
I rolled my eyes. "Of course. How can I not with the way he's treated me? He's despicable. I don't see how you two are even related."
She plopped down next to me and rubbed my shoulders comfortingly. "Remember, we're estranged. I hardly talk to him." I was so angry that I hardly realized what a touchy subject I had brought up—she never talked about her "separation" with her family. The most I knew was that something had happened between her and her brothers, and she had up and left to start her own life. But I was too irate to notice.
"I can understand that," I snorted. "Who would want to talk to him with the way he acts?"
Now her tone was stern. "He wasn't always like that, Bella. He used to be a pretty nice guy. But now…he's just bitter."
I laughed. "I'm pretty bitter, too—how am I supposed to survive a month with him? I need that pay raise, Alice…I need to get money for law school. I could barely make it through college when I worked all the time, but now I need to raise enough money in a year…and it's going to be nearly impossible for me not to get fired."
I glared. "What's your problem?"
She continued to laugh. "Well, at least you're not going to get fired for the same reason as the rest of the secretaries. Actually, kind of the opposite."
I smiled. "Yeah, I'll be booted for hating him, not loving him."
"Knowing my brother, that'll be a shock. He's used to people falling all over him. It comes from a lifetime of having a dangerous combination of power and looks…"
"I could say the same for you," I teased, poking her in the stomach, "you're pretty tiny, but you sure pack a punch."
"That reminds me—I know you lied to get out of that shopping trip last week, Bella…'bonding time with the laundry'—please, how lame can you get?" Her eyes were now shining with amusement. Mine, on the other hand, were wide with fear.
"Uh, I can explain…"
"No need." She held up her hand. "I'll just schedule one for this weekend. And you'd better be there…" her tone was menacing, "…or you'll be sorry."
I gulped. "Sure, Alice. Whatever you say."
She beamed. "That's what I thought. Now, let's get you a foot massage, and then get everything ready for tomorrow."
I groaned. "Oh, God, Alice, I can't even think about tomorrow without feeling sick."
She patted my back. "You'll get over it within a week. Come on—time to get you relaxed." She dragged me up and over to the bathroom, exclaiming, "I got some really nice smelling soap from Bath and Body works…it wasn't exactly cheap, but, you know, a smell is a smell."
She suddenly stopped short as the piercing ring of the telephone cut through the air. I frowned. "Probably Jessica calling to gloat about how her job is so easy compared to mine, and pays better. Lord knows she did that all day today."
Alice just smiled. "Well, whenever you're off the phone, come back, and I'll have everything ready."
"Thanks, Alice," I said gratefully, "I don't know what I'd do without you."
"Probably be a fashion disaster."
I rolled my eyes and skipped over to the phone, picking it up with a cheerful, "Hey! It's Bella Swan speaking on behalf of myself and my flat mate…how can I help you?"
"Why, Bella, what a pleasantly professional greeting."
I growled. It was that smooth-talking, non-umbrella-sharer, come to pester me again. "What do you want, Mr. Cullen?" I said as politely as I could, though I'm sure it still sounded pretty rude.
"Keep that temper in check, Bella, or I'll have to think up some new ways to keep you occupied." The insinuations in his tone were obvious.
Of course, this simply made me become angrier. "Only my friends call me Bella," I snapped, instantly clapping a hand over my mouth. Oh, shoot, I was in for it now—I was going to be fired over the phone. Why couldn't I keep my big mouth shut?
He was silent for a moment before he said, "Then I guess we're friends, Bella."
I had to bite my lip not to give a searing retort.
"Anyways," he said, clearly enjoying himself, "I need you to come in at three tomorrow morning."
My mouth hung open. "What?" I croaked. "Three A.M.?" Did he not know that it took me two hours to get there in the first place? The subway was in no way a safe place to be in at one in the morning.
He sounded so smug that I wanted to murder him. "Yes, I believe that is what I said. So I'll expect you there bright and early. And dry." He hung up with a laugh.
I slammed the phone down onto the receiver, screaming, "Damn it!"
Alice immediately came rushing over to me, looking worried. "Oh, what happened, Bella? Was it Tyler Crowley again?"
I shook my head. No, it had not been my crazy, stalker ex-boyfriend. Actually, it was my crazy, unbelievably annoying, "I-wish-he-would-drop-dead" boss. "No," I muttered. "Just your brother. He wants me there by three."
"Oh." Her face brightened. "Well, that's an improvement, isn't it?"
"No, Alice—three A.M.."
"Oh." She suddenly looked murderous. "I know exactly what he's doing—that idiot! Trying to scare you off. Who does he think he is?"
I sighed. "I just think that I'm going to stay home tomorrow, call in sick or something. I really don't want to be at the subway at one in the morning. I mean, come on."
She glared at me, and suddenly seemed to increase in size. Before long, I felt that her comparatively small four foot eleven stature was towering over my five foot four. "Bella," she growled, "you are not going to give in! Don't you see what he's doing? He's trying to push you over the edge! Do not fall off that edge, do you understand me? Do not!" She jabbed me hard in the arm for good measure.
"Okay," I squeaked, rubbing my arm. "Okay. Fine. But promise you'll come with me? I really don't want to go alone."
"Absolutely not. I'm not going anywhere near my brother and the rest of the family."
"But Alice…" I whined. "It's so scary in the subway when it's so early…" I started to pout, hoping she would give in.
"Bella…" she still looked mad, but I could tell that her resolve was weakening.
"Please?" I used my trademark puppy-dog eyes, just to make sure.
She sighed. "Alright, fine. But I leave the place as soon as I want to, understand?"
I nodded, grinning crazily. At least I wouldn't have to face Edward alone.
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"It's going to be okay, Alice. Don't worry. We'll be fine."
"Fine?" she snapped, "Fine? I can't believe you got me to go along with this!"
I shrugged. "What can I say? I'm persuasive."
She simply glared at me, tapping her foot impatiently against the floor of the elevator.
I gave her a small smile, hoping that she would calm down. "Come on, Alice, it's not that bad. You can leave as soon as you want."
She sighed. "I just really don't want to be here, Bella. We haven't spoken in ages."
"Well, at least they won't have forgotten you. That would be impossible."
She laughed. "Yes, I suppose so. They'll be sure to remember all of the times I beat them in their arguments. They always thought I would be the one to become a lawyer."
I giggled. "Yeah, but look at you, a fashion designer! You've got your own line coming out this spring, and it's sure to be a success."
She shrugged, though I could tell she was pleased. "It is kind of trendy, isn't it?"
"Are you joking? It's amazing. Everyone's going to love it."
She bit her lip and bounced up and down on the ball of her foot, smiling, her close-cropped black hair lifting up and down. "You think so?"
"I know so," I said. This apparently reassured her, because she immediately ceased her one-foot jig. "Get ready," I said, grabbing her hand and giving it a light squeeze. She gave me a wan smile as the elevator halted, the number 20 lighting up.
"Here goes nothing," she whispered as the doors opened. I let her hand drop and held my arms stiffly at my sides. I could do this. And I had Alice—she'd keep me in check.
We walked in silence over to the front desk. I was pleased to see that Jessica was also here exceptionally early, and that, unlike me, she had not ingested enough caffeine. Her head was currently resting on her desk, a little puddle of drool pooling outside of her opened lips.
"Edward…" she moaned, "I love you too, baby…"
I had to put my fist in my mouth to keep from laughing.
Alice winked at me as she said, "Just another reason to get a phone with a camera, Bella. Maybe you will once you get a raise."
I just shook my head and power-walked away—there was no way I was going to wake Jessica up with my giggles and ruin that priceless moment. Besides, she was apparently having very pleasant dreams about her employer. If it had been me, I would have been having nightmares…but I'm sure Jessica was enjoying herself.
I flung open the door to the Cullen Wing and hurled myself onto the single black couch in the room. I immediately succumbed to my laughter. Soon enough, Alice waltzed in and joined me.
I could only imagine how ridiculous we must have looked to Edward when he finally walked in.
I had been burying my head in the black leather, shaking with laughter, when suddenly Alice's bell-like chuckles had ceased. I lifted my head, ready to ask her what was wrong, when I laid eyes on Edward. There was some justice in the world, at least, because he looked just as shocked to see us as we were to see him. I had expected him to have arrived at least an hour late and then say, "Oops…I must have told you the wrong time. Sorry." Instead, he was prompt.
But my God, the man had awful timing.
"Mr. Cullen," I said politely, trying to disregard the fact that he was gaping at us. "Is something wrong?"
He immediately shifted into suave mode. "Of course not, Bella. I simply don't remember telling you that you could bring…a visitor."
"Visitor?" Alice was immediately on her feet, her tiny fists balled up as she shouted at him. "Is that all you have to say to me? After two years, all you can do is not even look at me and say, cool as a cucumber, 'she's a visitor'? Don't you have any kind of family honor?" My eyes widened—I hadn't expected that she would be so easily provoked. And I thought it took only a little to get me riled up…
It was interesting, to say the least, that Edward went from being composed in one second to his eyes alight with anger the next. It was astonishing how much the two looked alike when they were so mad at one another. "Family honor? Interesting choice of words…coming from you."
I blinked. I hadn't expected him to sound so vicious. "Oh, please!" she cried. "Like you know the meaning of the phrase!"
He pursed his lips, attempting to regain his composure, and simply said, "Why are you here, Alice? Come to torment your family with the fact that you have the oddest urge to hate us for no apparent reason?"
That made me angry—he hardly knew Alice anymore, and so had no reason to judge her. It was just like him assuming that I had only asked to share his umbrella so I could get close to him…it made my blood boil, and probably was what influenced my next actions. I jumped up and said, "That's unfair. I'm sure that Alice has a multitude of reasons to hate you—I certainly have enough."
The silence was deafening. I immediately dropped my head and mumbled a quiet, "Sorry." I really had to learn how to keep my mouth shut. I didn't doubt that he was going to fire me now…I had basically told him to his face that I hated him. How much more tactless could I be?
Edward's voice was monotonous. "I'm going to have to ask your friend to leave, Miss Swan. I'd like to see you in my office in ten minutes."
I took in a deep breath as he strode purposefully out of the room. It was clear that he didn't want to be here.
Alice was breathing heavily next to me, and said quietly and with some effort, "I'm sorry, Bella. I shouldn't have reacted to him. It was stupid."
"No, Alice, I was stupid. It has nothing to do with you. You can stay, or go, if you want…whichever. I don't care." I wasn't about to tell her that I didn't think I could survive if she left.
She sighed heavily. "Look, Bella, I'm really sorry, but I don't think I can stand being here. This environment isn't exactly conducive to calming me."
I smiled weakly. "Kay. Just, head back out. You know the way."
"Thanks, Bella. This means a lot to me." She beamed. "I'll be back at our flat when you get home. Call me if you need anything."
I nodded. "I'll probably just have a list of complaints. You know, the usual."
The closer she got to the door, the happier she looked. I was glad for her—at least someone was cheerful. I, personally, didn't see how I would live through the meeting Edward had set up. I was now measuring my job's life expectancy in mere minutes, not months. And all because I had never bought a stupid umbrella.
ASADSFADS ASADSFADS ASADSFADS
He was sitting quietly at his desk when I entered, almost passively. But just because you were passive didn't mean you weren't aggressive…I actually expected him to have a lot of pent-up anger stored inside of him now that he had just seen his sister for the first time in two years. And it hadn't exactly been the pleasantest of meetings.
"Sit," he commanded. I had no choice but to obey, reluctantly placing myself in a black chair that stood ominously in the center of the room. Was it just me, or did this feel like a cross-examination?
I folded my hands in my lap and started fidgeting with my fingers. Maybe the more they moved the less my mouth would have to.
"Do you know why you're here?" His voice was cold and clinical, like a scientist. There was no emotion.
I decided to play dumb. "What do you mean, why am I here? In this room specifically, or working for you?"
"Why don't you explain both, Bella?"
"I'd be happy to." I remained silent.
He looked at me expectantly, and for the first time showed some feeling—frustration. "Go on."
I smirked—I could deal with frustration, though numbness was beyond me. "I'm here, working for you, so that I can get enough money to pay my way through law school."
He looked slightly surprised. "That's a lot of money to raise."
I shrugged. "Not if I work hard enough, and for the right people."
He raised one elegant eyebrow. "That's a lofty goal."
"I have great expectations. What can I say, I'm a natural follower of Dickens."
He looked as if he was about to respond, when suddenly he pursed his lips. "You're trying to distract me."
I blinked at him innocently. "I'm doing nothing of the kind."
He glared at me. "Of course not. Remind me the next time I try and talk to you that you're slippery as a snake."
I tilted my head to the side and said as sweetly as possible, "Takes one to know one." I knew it was a stupid and rude thing to say, but, since I was losing my job anyways, who cared?
He smiled. "Touché."
I continued, hoping to wipe that smirk off his face. "I wouldn't want to fluster you at all, though. Please, tell me if I am." I once more mentally reprimanded myself for being sarcastic to my boss, but really…it was so hard not to when he was sniggering at me like that. He thought this was a game.
He stood up and walked over to the edge of the office, staring out the window with his hands folded behind his back. "And why are you in this room?"
"I expect that, from the set up of things," I gestured to the fact that I was seated in a single chair in the center of the room, "you're trying to interrogate me."
"Wrong," he said quietly, turning to face me. "I'm here to tell you the rules. And please, don't get angry in the middle and call me a jerk."
I scowled. Why did he keep referring to the umbrella incident?
He gave an arrogant smile. "First rule—our relationship. Merely professional."
"That's what it's been like all along," I couldn't help saying.
"No," he shook his head. "It hasn't. I'll admit, I probably should have been…more polite to you yesterday morning."
"So you admit that you should have shared your umbrella?"
He pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger and let out a low, whistling sigh. "Please, let's drop the subject."
"No." I knew that I was being immature, but I couldn't help it. I crossed my arms and pouted. "I want your apology. I want it for all of yesterday. For how you ordered me around like your slave, and for how you were a complete jerk."
"Bella, what did I say about name-calling?"
I glowered and stated, "I call 'em like I see 'em."
He sighed and squinted his eyes at me. For a moment, I was lost in his stare—his orbs were just so green, and his hair was so pretty when it casually fell in front of his eyes…but then I remembered exactly why he was squinting at me, and that stopped me cold. He had yet to apologize.
"I should have acted more cordially towards you. But forgive me for believing that you were just another one of those women. And whose to say that you aren't one now?"
I gasped. That was possibly the worst apology I had ever heard. I stood up and practically ran to him, jabbing his chest with my finger. I hadn't noticed it before, but he was apparently very muscular…that little poke had hurt. "One," I snapped, "you shouldn't make assumptions about yourself just because most women happen to find you very attractive. That doesn't mean all women find you very attractive—I happen to include myself in that apparently small category. So don't ever think for one moment that I might even remotely like you…I don't see how most people have overlooked your self-centered, arrogant, pig-headedness before, but I see it clear as crystal. Got it?"
For once I didn't immediately berate myself for mouthing off. I was just so angry—it was disgusting the way he thought about himself.
"Oh, really?" he didn't look anything except for amused. "I usually hear that description reserved for Rosalie, not me."
I jabbed him again for not taking me seriously.
"But," he gently grabbed my offending hand, holding it out to my side. His gaze never left my face. "I'm sure that I could convince you to become…romantically involved with me, should I wish for you to do so. It wouldn't be terribly hard."
His face swam closer and closer to mine as my senses went into overload. Where did he get his cologne? He smelled so good…and he looked so good, too. It wouldn't hurt if we got a little closer, now would it? But as he started to drag my wrist towards him, which inevitably brought the rest of my body along with it, I realized what exactly was happening. So I did the only thing I could do—I defended myself.
I raised my left hand and gave his face a resounding slap. His hand immediately released mine, and reached up to tenderly rub his jaw. He was glaring at me now. I had to say, it was an improvement to trying to seduce me.
"Ow," he said, his eyes still narrowed.
"Serves you right," I said viciously. "Who's coming on to whom now?"
He massaged his chin. "We'll see. And you may leave. You're excused from my office for the remainder of the day."
"With pleasure," I said, whirling around and storming towards the door. It would have made an exceptionally dramatic exit…except I accidentally tripped on the interrogation chair. I blushed profusely as someone—I could only assume it was Edward—gently lifted me off of the floor and placed me on my feet. I quickly brushed myself off with as much dignity as I could muster, and slunk out of the room, his quiet chuckles following me the entire way.
A/N: I didn't particularly feel like ending with a cliffhanger for the first chapter. Next chapter, though…well, you'll just have to see. It does involve Emmett, though, and a costume…but not the costume you would expect.
Anyways, it would be amazing if I could get some reviews before I updated…I really want to know your opinions. So, review!