Disclaimer: SMeyer owns Twilight. I only play with her characters.
A/N: Thanks to everyone who is still reading this! Get ready to meet James :)
The rest of the weekend went by rather quickly for both Bella and Edward. The entire group of them had become rather inseparable. Rose and Emmett had finally quit dancing around one another and seemed to be happily dating. Edward and Bella hadn't had that conversation; they'd both been avoiding it out loud, but their actions and reactions towards each other seemed to solidify to themselves and the world that they too were happily dating.
On Saturday evening when Edward arrived at 7pm sharp to escort Bella to the dinner date the group had made, Charlie seemed to approve of the match. Bella suspected her big brother had a hand in that approval, but she wasn't one to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Unfortunately, Bella and Edward had also avoided really addressing the issue of Edward being Bella's editor at the Tribune. Bella was doing her best to avoid thinking about it altogether. Once she had realized how they would be working together at the paper, Edward had smoothed it over by simply telling her in his velvet voice that they would find a way to work together professionally and comfortably. Bella hadn't needed much more convincing after that – in fact she couldn't remember much more of what happened after that except that it was centered around Edward's impossibly soft lips and his trailing hands.
Edward was only concerned for the well being of Bella at the office. He knew from experience that office gossip could turn quite vindictive and he hoped to protect her from any unpleasant experiences at the paper. Deep down he was ridiculously thrilled that he would be working so closely with Bella. Her column topics needed to receive his approval and he had the final say in their editing. He was looking forward to private meetings in his office, late night think sessions… stolen moments in dark corners… But he couldn't let himself get too carried away. Marcus was counting on Edward to show Bella the ropes of the Tribune office and Edward was counting on himself to help Bella be the best writer she could be. He had seen her at the university paper: they had both been part time contributors and when she had an article chosen for publication Bella was the happiest version of herself. Edward knew what her writing meant to her, it was an extension of who she was, much like his composing and music was an extension of himself.
Monday morning arrived and Bella woke from a restless sleep. She had desperately tried not to think about what she would be waking up to, but excited thoughts of her first day at the paper invaded her thoughts at every turn. She could hardly wait to put all of her ideas down on paper, but she was nervous to be working so closely with Edward. When she had worked with him at the University of Chicago newspaper, they had been on equal ground, both part time contributors. He had told her countless times how he had enjoyed her pieces and admired the way she inspired their readers with her words, but he had never been in a position to critique or change them. Mostly, she was afraid that while he critiqued her work, he would be critiquing her. Writing was so much a part of who she was that it was going to be hard to hear negative things about it, especially when they were going to be coming from the love of her life.
As Bella did her hair for her first day at the office, she couldn't help but wonder what she had gotten herself in to. Charlie had already left for work by the time Bella made her way downstairs. She had already changed three times, nervous about the first impression she would make on everyone at the Tribune. Emmett ate breakfast with her in the kitchen, trying to calm her nerves before she left for her first day.
"What is there to be nervous about?" He had to talk around his mouthful of cereal. Bella wrinkled her nose at the sight of his partially chewed food.
"I think, my dear disgusting brother, that it would be easier to ask me what there isn't to be nervous about."
"Okay, what isn't there for you to be nervous about?"
Bella's spoon hovered between her bowl and her mouth. The milk threatened to drip on her green silk blouse until she dropped the spoon back into the bowl.
"I don't know!" She almost wailed the words at her brother. "Emmett, there's everything to be nervous about!" She sighed and her shoulders slumped. "Why did you have to ask me at all?"
Emmett opened his mouth to let her know it had been her question but thought better of himself and shoveled the rest of his cereal in his mouth instead. Bella washed both of their bowls in the sink before slipping on her trench coat and pinning on her hat.
"How do I look, big brother?"
Emmett smiled a toothy grin. "Like a reporter."
Bella huffed in satisfaction. "Hurry up and get dressed, I don't want to be late on my first day." Bella had only now noticed that Emmett was still in his pyjamas. He promised to drop her off so she could meet Alice before starting.
"Oh, well actually Bella—" but a solid knock on their front door cut Emmett off. He moved to the front of the house to open the door and let Edward and Alice inside.
Bella's eyes slid from Emmett to Edward and back again. She fixed her brother with a deadly glare. "You're not dropping me off today?"
Edward smiled calmly at Bella and took both of her hands in his. She automatically relaxed at his touch but was angry that he had distracted her from yelling at her brother.
"Alice and I thought it would be nice if we picked you up today. Alice thought it would help you to relax if we all went inside together." He kissed her lightly on the cheek and murmured in her ear low enough that no one else would hear, "You look absolutely breathtaking. Concentrating will be quite the feat today."
Bella blushed like a fool and dropped her gaze to the carpet while she waited for her heart to stop beating so fast. She suddenly couldn't remember what had made her so apprehensive before. Anything that put her and Edward in close proximity would be easy to handle.
But then Bella remembered who Edward was while he was inside the walls of the Chicago Tribune's office. Edward Cullen, Arts & Life Editor.
"No!" The cry escaped her lips before she had time to stop it.
Edward pulled away from her, momentarily startled by her outburst. She couldn't possibly disagree with his assessment of her beauty. He was simply a better judge. He was about to argue with her when she smiled apologetically and continued speaking.
"I mean… we can't go inside together Edward… everyone will suspect something immediately!" Bella looked to Alice for support but she only shook her head seriously.
"No, Bella – everyone in the office saw you enter with Edward on Friday, remember? They'll know he introduced you to the Editor in Chief. Relax, silly Bella. It only seems suspicious to you because you have an over active imagination." Alice leaned into Bella on her tiptoes and kissed her cheek. "Hurry up now or we're going to be late. And nice outfit, doll. It almost looks like something I would have picked out. I think my influence is finally doing you some good. Get a wiggle on!" With a tiny smile, Alice kissed Emmett on the cheek and flitted out the door, dancing down the steps into Edward's waiting car.
Bella was desperately trying to find the words to articulate a convincing argument, but her own head was telling her how much easier it would be to have Edward's support and how much she was going to enjoy looking at him in his midnight blue suit all day. So she laced her fingers into his and gave her brother a punch on the arm.
"Good luck at practice today, I want to hear about it when I get home."
Edward marveled at the way Bella's fingers felt against his skin and the way her scent kept filling his senses whenever she moved. He almost missed his chance to razz Emmett before they disappeared out the door.
"Good luck, Emmie-bear." He tossed a wry grin at his best friend before closing the door behind him.
Bella's first impression of the Tribune had been organized chaos personified and her second look didn't change that. If the office had been bustling on Friday, it was exploding today. They had left Alice as she continued to climb the stairs to the magazine, promising they and Jasper would all meet for lunch at noon.
Edward burst through the Tribune office doors like it was something he did everyday. She was impressed with his confidence until she remembered that it was something he did everyday. And soon it would be what she did everyday as well. She briefly began to consider if Edward would tire of seeing her at work five days a week when someone slammed into her from the right, hard, sending a sea of white paper fluttering into the air.
"Oh no! I'm so sorry, ma'am! Please pardon me."
The someone was a blonde haired boy who looked to be close to Bella's age. He was furiously trying to collect the papers that had scattered all over the floor surrounding Bella and Edward and continually muttering apologies at Bella. She and Edward bent to help pick up the mess.
When she stood up to hand back the pile she had collected, the person was staring at her with his mouth slightly ajar. Edward laughed low in his throat and placed the papers he had collected into the boy's arms.
"Good morning, Mike. I'd like to introduce you to the newest member of the Tribune staff, this is Miss Isabella Swan, and she'll be taking over Mrs. Stanley's old column. Today is her first day."
Mike didn't take his eyes off of Bella the entire time Edward spoke to him. It annoyed Edward slightly more than he felt it should, but he couldn't help from grabbing Bella's elbow to steer her away from Mike and his open mouth.
Bella threw a "Nice to meet you, Mike!" over her shoulder as she and Edward continued to move through the fray of people towards the back of the room where the majority of the offices were located.
"Mike is one of our copy editors. I'm certain he'll be pleased to help you find anything you need in the office if I'm not available." Edward spoke lightly, but his jaw was tight. It may prove more difficult than he had anticipated working in the same office as Bella now that his feelings for her were so pronounced. Evidently I'm the jealous type, he thought sarcastically. Who would have guessed?
"Are you going to give me the grand tour yourself, Edward? When am I going to meet my secretary? When is my first column due? I can hardly wait to get in my office and start writing, I have so many different ideas I don't know which one I should start working on first." Bella's excitement had clearly started to get the best of her and she was babbling away as Edward pointed her towards a friendly looking girl behind the desk that was outside what she remembered to be her office. My office! She would have squealed if there weren't so many people within earshot.
"Good morning, Mr. Cullen." The girl smiled kindly at Edward and stood up from her desk. Bella smiled earnestly at her; she could already tell they were going to get along well. Something about the young woman screamed kind soul to Bella.
"Good morning, Miss Webber. It's a pleasure to see you back in the office. I'd like to introduce you to Miss Isabella Swan." Edward gestured to Bella and then back to Angela. "Miss Swan, I'd like you meet Miss Angela Webber."
Bella and Angela spoke at the same time.
"Please, call me Bella."
"Please, call me Angela."
Bella laughed out loud and shook the girl's hand heartily. Edward smiled and told Bella there would be a staff meeting at 10am sharp in the conference room, Angela could show her the way after she acquainted Bella with her own office and the rest of the paper. He gave Bella a long look before excusing himself and nonchalantly brushed his hand against hers.
Angela showed Bella around the rest of the floor, pointing out the different departments. On their floor were the contributors and editors for the Arts and Life section, the business section and local news. On the floor above them were the remaining sections and above that was their telephone room and research library. The rest of the floors of the building were occupied by the magazine and the behind the scenes offices such as payroll. Angela said the printing press was on the basement floor and promised to give Bella a tour later in the day.
After they went over what Bella's schedule would be like based on how Mrs. Stanley had conducted the column it was easier for Bella to settle in. She had been typing away in her office, beginning to form the first outline of her very first column when she noticed the time. It was 9:45am and she still wasn't sure where the conference room was. Would Edward come to get her? No, she decided. That wouldn't look very professional. Even though she was the new kid, it would be suspicious for her editor to show so much interest on the first day. Angela would show her. She gathered a notepad and pencil; she wanted to seem prepared even if she wasn't sure what the meeting was about. They hadn't had staff meetings at the university paper since she had only been a part time contributor.
"Angela," she said stepping out of her office. "Can you show me the way to the--?"
But Angela wasn't at her desk. She scanned the room for the familiar face but didn't see it anywhere. Unfortunately, she caught the eye of a tall, slender blonde standing only a few desks away. Bella would have considered him attractive if he hadn't had something indescribably creepy about the way he was grinning at her. Bella could have sworn she heard him mutter "fresh meat" to the darker haired man he was standing with but she chose to ignore it, whatever he had said. She was prepared to wander around the floor until someone directed her towards the conference room when the blonde strutted towards her. There's even something about his walk that gives me the heebie-jeebies.
"Good morning, baby. I don't believe we've been introduced." He reached forward to take her hand in his, but she flinched away quickly.
"How unfortunate." She told him shortly. "It's Miss Swan."
"Sure it is baby. I'm James. What a pleasure to meet you." He smiled a sleazy smile and Bella took a small step back.
Her eyes narrowed as she looked him and tried not to tell him what a creep he was.
"No, it's not baby, it's Miss Swan. And the pleasure is all yours. Excuse me." She tried to step around him, but he matched her movements easily, blocking her path of escape.
"Since it seems to be your first day and all, whaddya say you let me take you out tonight for a little celebratory giggle water?" He waggled his eyebrows at her and succeeded in grabbing one of her hands in his own and planting a kiss on the top.
Disgusted, Bella tore her hand away from him and was preparing to roughly shove him out of her way when Angela returned. When she saw James, her face contorted into an angry mask.
"Get away from here, James." She nearly spit out his name. "Bella isn't interested in what you have to offer. No woman in her right mind is." Angela gripped Bella's wrist and stared up at James with hate in her eyes.
James simply laughed; it was throaty and disturbing. He acted as though Angela wasn't standing there at all. "Bella is it? I'll be seeing you soon, Bella baby." He turned and strutted back to his dark haired friend who had been watching their exchange.
Angela's death grip on Bella's wrist was starting to hurt.
"Angela, it's alright. Can I have my hand back now?"
She smiled and laughed, embarrassed. "Are you okay, though? That James guy is as big a creep as they come. You'd better watch yourself around him, he doesn't give up easily." Angela's face turned angry again as she glared in James' direction. Bella didn't quite understand. He just seemed like a creep. There were millions around Chicago.
"I think I'll be fine, Angela. I'm not interested in his type, and besides," she said smiling at the thought of her editor boyfriend. "I'm already spoken for." Thinking of Edward made her remember why she was standing out there in the first place. "Angela can you show me where the conference room is?"
Angela put the coffee she had disappeared to get down on her desk and led Bella towards Marcus' office doors. The conference room was directly next to them. Angela disappeared back to her desk and Bella settled into a chair in the middle of the left side of the table. There were only a few other people in the room and unfortunately she didn't recognize or know any of them. Shortly the entire room was filled with Tribune staff and Edward entered with Marcus and two other men she didn't know. Edward threw a smile her way and she tried not to blush with so many people around.
Marcus addressed the group with a hearty good morning and took the seat at the head of the table. Edward and the other men lingered around the doorway. Bella couldn't help but stare at Edward as he leaned against the conference room wall like something straight out of Alice's fashion magazines. He had shed his suit jacket and loosened the first few buttons of his dress shirt. Bella could see the marble perfection of his throat and couldn't help her eyes from wandering down the rest of him. Her gaze lingered on places a lady shouldn't linger on in public and she had to look away quickly to try and focus on Marcus' voice. He was talking about the assignments for this week for the local news section. He stopped mid-sentence and scanned the room slowly.
"Where's that good for nothing James?" His voice echoed around the room and a few people, including herself, cringed at the volume. James? That creep from before? As if on cue, James sauntered through the doors to the conference room and lazily dropped into an empty chair across the table from Bella.
Marcus' face had turned a bright shade of red. "The meeting started at 10am sharp, James. Not 10:15. You're late. AGAIN!"
James shrugged his slender shoulders and leaned back in his chair, throwing his feet up on the table. There were annoyed murmurs and resigned sighs echoing throughout the room.
"Fashionably late." James smiled his creepy smile at Marcus, seemingly oblivious to how disrespectful he was being. Bella thought he was crazy.
Marcus ignored his antics as though they were common occurrences. Bella got the feeling they were almost expected. "Get your feet off my conference table, James. And tell me where you are with the Capone importing story." Marcus kept his voice even, but Bella thought his face had darkened to a new shade of red as he spoke.
James shrugged again and mumbled something about sources but didn't move his feet. Marcus shook his head.
"You have until Thursday morning to get me something substantial or the front page will go to someone else."
Marcus had similar conversations with most of the reporters in the room reminding Edward and the other men he stood with to keep on top of their staff. So they're the other editors. He looked like he was about to adjourn the meeting when he suddenly seemed to remember that Bella was at the table. He made a show of introducing her to the group and then quickly went around the room, introducing everyone else. Mostly she received warm smiles and curt nods, but when Marcus got to James he practically leered at her with his creepy smile again.
"James, for Pete's sake, get your feet off the table!" Marcus roared and shifted his gaze to the next person at the table.
Instead of simply smiling or nodding like everyone else, James spoke before Marcus could move on to the red headed woman beside him.
"The pleasure is definitely mine this time, Bella baby. Welcome to the team."
Edward moved across the room like the wind. He deftly lifted James' crossed ankles off the table in one smooth movement and let them crash to the floor, tipping James out of his chair completely.
"Show some respect when addressing a lady, James. Marcus asked you to remove your feet from the table." Edward leaned against the wall directly behind James' seat. Quiet giggles and whispers of disbelief floated around the room. "Welcome aboard, Miss Swan." Edward said coolly, shooting Bella a quick wink when he was sure everyone was watching James pick himself up off the floor.
Marcus cleared his throat loudly and Bella suspected it was more to hide his laughter than to command everyone's attention. He continued on with the introductions as though nothing had happened that was out of the ordinary and then adjourned the meeting.
Bella hurried back to her office, careful to avoid going anywhere near James. Angela was typing away on her typewriter when Bella returned. She had organized Bella's notes for her and organized them into potential articles. Bella was impressed with her initiative. Angela followed her into her office asking about the staff meeting and Bella proceeded to tell her about James and his horrible attitude. Angela sniffed as though the news came of no surprise to her.
"But why does he still work here if he's so ill behaved? Surely the whole paper must loathe him?"
Angela shook her head sadly.
"He's one of the best local reporters. He has the best sources in the city. The Tribune gets the scoop on all the most news-worthy happenings in Chicago because James always seems to get some sort of tip before anyone else." Her expression told Bella there was a little more to the story than that. And Angela didn't disappoint.
"Most of the other reporters think he's in on a lot of the stuff that isn't really on the up and up. Most recently there have been rumours that he's actually a part of Mr. Capone's inner circle. Sometimes I think Mr. Volturi is too scared to fire him. That's why he gets away with a lot of the stuff he does around the women too. At least, he used to get away with a lot more, before."
"Before what, Angela?" Bella couldn't believe what she was hearing!
"Before Mr. Cullen started working here. He really doesn't let James say any of the awful things he used to. He's always catching him in the middle and he just doesn't continue the way he used to. I think James is a little scared of Mr. Cullen." Angela's face lit up with the mention of the office's apparent saviour. But Bella didn't worry; it was the face of a kid admiring his favourite baseball player.
Bella couldn't help but feel like the luckiest girl in the world. Her Edward was so highly thought of at the Tribune she felt she might burst open with the amount of pride she felt. She and Angela talked a little while longer; Angela had some great insight about Bella's ideas for articles. Bella felt herself wondering why Angela wasn't doing more for the paper and made a mental note to ask Edward what else they could have her doing.
At noon, Alice flitted into Bella's office and Bella gathered her into the biggest hug she could muster without crushing her pixie friend. Alice returned it eagerly.
"Are you having a good first day?"
Bella gushed to Alice about all the ideas she had come up with and Angela's great input and told her all about her first staff meeting and her annoying encounter with James.
Alice frowned when Bella told her about him.
"Stay away from him, Bella. They even gossip about him at the magazine. Jasper's had a few words with him too. There are some awful stories about his relationships with women in this building. Make sure you tell Edward about what happened before the meeting. He's serious bad news, Bella." Alice's face was very grave as she spoke to Bella. There had been horrible stories at the magazine when she first started about 'James from the Tribune' and the way he treated his women – plural. Jasper had told her specifically to watch herself, James wasn't known for taking 'no' very well. Several women had even found new jobs elsewhere after experiencing what it was like to be one of James' girls. Unfortunately for everyone, they never spoke up to anyone about it officially, so nothing was ever really done about him. But the rumours eventually spread across the building and women were vehemently told not to get involved with him. It didn't seem to faze James; he just increased his awful comments.
But even Jasper and Alice had heard about the difference Edward had made when he came into the Tribune. There were a lot of men in the building that thought James was horrible, but none of them seemed to get right under his skin the way Edward did. Alice was proud to be Edward's sister and even happier to know it meant James didn't speak to her at all whenever he found himself on her floor of the building.
"But enough of this. It's your first official day and we're taking you out for lunch! Go get Edward. Jasper and I will meet you in the lobby." Bella smiled and followed her friend out the door. Angela had already left for lunch as had Edward's secretary, Tanya, who Bella realized she had yet to meet. So she let herself into his office without a knock to announce her presence. Edward didn't seem to hear the door open; he was sifting through a large stack of paper on the table behind his desk. Bella smiled and quietly closed the door.
She cleared her throat and watched his body stiffen before he turned around. When he realized Bella was in his office his face exploded into a dazzling smile and he threw his arms around her, spinning her in a circle. She giggled and kissed his cheek.
"Well Mr. Cullen," she told him seriously. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything."
He growled playfully and buried his face in her hair, kissing his way along her neck and up across her jaw.
"Only my daydreams of you." He told her breathlessly, covering her lips with his own. He hadn't been able to take his eyes off of her during the entire meeting and hadn't stopped thinking about her since he left her with Angela in the morning. It had been mere hours, but Edward hardly made it through the day without his mind wandering into daydreams of him and Bella alone… her impossibly soft skin and his wandering hands… He had to ask Marcus to repeat himself on several occasions already this morning, which wasn't a good sign of things to come. How will I survive working so close to this creature I can't fathom being without? Edward realized it in that simple thought – he was wretchedly in love with Bella Swan. It had taken him more than five years to realize it, but he finally had. And while he lost himself in his passionate embrace with Bella, his mind wandered back over the time they had known each other. He couldn't believe looking back now, that he hadn't known all along.
He reluctantly pulled away from Bella, out of breath and smiling wider than he thought possible. Bella was flushed and breathing heavily. Her lipstick had smeared but she never looked more beautiful.
"Bella, I love you."
Her eyes widened and her mouth opened with a small popping sound, much like his had the first night they had kissed in the speak easy. He grinned at her, there were so many quirks about her that were so perfect. But as the seconds ticked on and she continued to look at him without speaking, he immediately tensed and thought the worst. He started to pull away from her.
She suddenly came to herself and clutched at him hard, preventing him from moving at all. Her face flushed and she smiled a timid smile.
"I love you too, Edward Cullen."
They lost themselves in each other then, forgetting about lunch and especially the fact that they were making out in Edward's office. Bella's hands found their way under the hem of Edward's dress shirt and she slowly trailed them along his flat stomach and along his sculpted chest. Edward's hands roamed across Bella's body, tracing lines up and down her spine and pulling her skirt higher to better caress her thighs. Edward pushed her up against his desk and she wrapped one of her legs around his calf as she sat on the edge. They were so lost in each other and their newly proclaimed feelings for the other that they didn't hear the soft knock on the door twice, or the slow opening of Edward's door.
"Well now! Aren't you two just having a grand time in here."
Bella and Edward disconnected to look into the gleaming eyes of James.