Chapter 1: Getting-to-Know-You
Work. The word sounded dreary.
Bella stared up at the university bookstore and she could swear that the clouds darkened just a little. It was hard to believe that just a week ago she had been leaving for sunny Florida to see her mom and now she was back in Seattle going to her boring part-time job and gearing up for her second year at the University of Washington. It almost felt as if the past week was just a dream and she eventually had to wake up.
Sighing, she pushed open the door and headed for her 8 hour sentence.
"Bella!" She turned in time to be crushed into a hug by her friend and co-worker, Angela Weber. "Welcome back. How was it?"
"Sunny," Bella answered as she grabbed her name tag off the board.
Angela smiled. "It's been sunny here too." As if on some silent cue, it began to pour outside.
"Great, I came back just in time for the deluge."
"On a happier note, Les is gone," Angela tied on an apron and pulled her hair back. Bella's eyes flickered over towards the manager's office. Les had been one of her biggest dreads about coming back to work after her vacation. He was fidgety and he liked to hover in a way that made Bella really nervous.
"What happened? I thought his uncle would never get rid of him."
"No idea. I came in last Monday and there was a new guy in his office. Oh, Bella. You should see him. Gorgeous is not even an appropriate word for it."
"Angela!" Mike peeked around the corner. "Are you really just gonna' let me stock all this by myself?" A wide grin spread over his face when he saw Bella. "Hey Bells! Did you have a good trip?"
"The best, I'm almost sad to be back. Does anybody know where the new manager is? I need to find out where he wants me."
"I saw him up running the register" Mike answered as he bent over the box of dictionaries he was currently stocking.
Bella made her way up to the front to the cash registers. There was a man behind the counter. The art history book he was pouring over seemed to have him preoccupied. Bella cleared her throat. "Excuse me, sir?" His head snapped up and Bella saw instantly what Angela had been talking about. He had the most beautiful emerald eyes and his bronze hair framed his face in a deliciously chaotic way. Gorgeous wasn't even close to adequate. "I, um, 'm Bella Swan. I work here." A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. He ran his finger down a list of names.
"Bella," His voice was like velvet as it curled around her name. She lost focus for a moment and her stomach fluttered. "Welcome back. If you could help me run the registers I could get some stuff done. I would really appreciate it." Bella swallowed and started forward. She didn't see the stack of books until it was too late. As she landed on the hard floor she heard a crash. Her eyes shut and she willed herself to be anywhere else, with anyone else. "Bella? Are you okay?" Damn. She opened her eyes slowly and found herself staring into his. She couldn't keep the blush from creeping into her cheeks.
"I'm okay." She stumbled a bit as he helped her to her feet. "Just not very good on my feet."
He smirked. "Will this sort of thing be happening often?" She blushed a deeper red.
"Probably." She helped him restack the books then took her place behind the register. He sat beside her.
"I'm Edward Cullen, by the way." He flashed a crooked grin at her. Bella blushed and her mouth went dry.
"Nice to meet you." Thankfully customers began to trickle in giving Bella something to think about other than this beautiful man. One thing was for sure. As long as Edward Cullen was around, work wouldn't be nearly as boring anymore.
Bella's shift dragged on, but eventually came to an end. About half an hour into it Edward had gotten a phone call and had disappeared into the office for most of the day only emerging during the rush at the end. Finally at 6 he locked the doors and began balancing and closing the registers. Mike and Angela finished stocking and left together. Another new girl, Lauren, closed and cleaned up the small café then left as well. Bella stayed to finish closing. As she made a final sweep of the store, picking up books and re-shelving them she got lost in her thoughts, mostly about the new, gorgeous manager. She didn't notice when Edward came around the corner. "I can finish up if you'd like to go home." She jumped slightly, but was proud of how quickly she composed herself.
"I'm okay, I can stay and help. It's not like I have much to go home to anyway. My roommate has plans until God knows when."
"I guess this is as good a time as any for our getting-to-know-you conversation then." He came towards her to help with re-shelving. "Pretty basic, I just feel more comfortable when I know the people I'm working with." There was that smile again. Bella blushed and began focusing very hard on trying to remember the alphabet.
"Shoot," she mumbled.
"Okay. Why do you want to work here?"
Bella pondered for a moment. In these situations she always wondered, should she tell the truth or come up with some flashy answer that they would want to hear. Something about books being her life. What the hell. She already had the job. He really seemed to want the truth. "I don't really want to work here. Not that it's not a nice place, I would just rather not have to work. It would make my life easier sometimes. I got a job to help pay my way through school and I applied at a bookstore because I like books and figured that this wouldn't be too horrible." He processed all that for a moment. "Too much?" she asked, suddenly afraid that she had said something she shouldn't have.
He shook his head. "I understand that actually. What kind of books do you like?"
"Mostly romance. Jane Austen's my favorite. Are you going to school too?"
He settled himself on the floor with his back up against the shelf. "Yeah, I'm a fifth year senior."
She sat next to him trying not to stare at him. "That bad at school?" He chuckled softly.
"No, just a career student. What are you studying?"
"I'm undecided right now, but I'm thinking English. You?"
"Right now I'm working on a major in music. " A question rose in Bella's eyes. "I play piano," he said quickly, before she could ask. As they continued to talk, Bella realized that they had a lot in common. He liked to read and had read most of Jane Austen as well as Wuthering Heights, another of Bella's favorites. They liked the same kind of music and both of them would rather stay in and watch a movie than go to a party.
"Did all of your 'getting –to- know- you meetings' go this well?" Bella asked when it finally seemed that he had run out of things to ask.
"No. Most of them ended in awkward silence. Especially my session with Mike." Bella giggled.
"So, are we finished with the question and answer?" He stood up.
"Not nearly, just postponing the rest until tomorrow. I have to…" He looked at his watch. "Wow, I'm sorry I kept you so late. I'm supposed to be meeting my sister for dinner in ten minutes."
"Holy Crow! It's already 8:50." Bella hadn't even noticed the passing of time. "I have an English paper to finish…and start or some reading... Have a good night, Mr. Cullen." He winced a little.
"Please call me Edward. Mr. Cullen is my father. Do you have a way to get home?"
"I can walk. It's not that far."
"It's dark. Let me drive you. I don't think I could live with myself if I let you go and something happened to you. It looks like you're the best employee I've got."
"Okay, if it'll make you feel better about yourself. I just live over in Roth."
"That's on the way. My sister lives in Roth. Do you know Alice Cullen?" He tossed her jacket to her. Bella's eyes widened.
"Alice is my roommate. So you're her geeky brother? I thought she was making you up." He just stared. "Sorry about the geeky thing. Her words not mine. Please don't fire me." He chuckled.
"No offense taken. I guess I can see where she'd think that. Let's go. I don't want to keep her waiting."
"No, that's never a good idea." Bella followed him out to his Volvo. They drove in silence for the most part. Bella couldn't quite figure out what was going on between her and her new boss. She liked him definitely. He was nice …he was hot. She felt like they could become good friends, but she didn't really hope for any more than that. Edward and her were in two totally different spheres. "Bella." She blinked slowly. They were in front of Roth. "Don't think I'm trying to get rid of you, but I'm a little bit scared of Alice." Bella giggled again and opened the door.
"I understand. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Thanks for your help today Bella. It was good to meet you. " She shut the door and watched him drive off. Slowly she turned and walked up the stairs to her and Alice's room. She found she couldn't wait for work tomorrow.