They sat glaring at each other across the long conference table in the meeting room. Mr. Banner sat at the head of the table, and the two flanked his either side.
"I want an immediate retraction," Edward said firmly, but his voice a deadly calm. Bella rolled her eyes.
"Yes, we know. You've only said it a dozen times now."
"Well, obviously someone is having a hard time grasping the concept."
"I don't think Mr. Banner likes having his mental capabilities questioned," Bella retorted. "Especially if he's the one who will grant the retraction, should it happen."
"I was talking about you," Edward replied with a smug smile.
Mr. Banner watched the two go at it, back and forth, like a tennis match.
"I still don't understand what the big deal about the article was," Bella said simply. "It wasn't as if I was lying."
"My break-up with Tanya Denali concerns no one but myself and Tanya Denali. And I refuse to let women – how did you so eloquently put it? I will not let women bang on my office door for a date."
"Right, you'll just go to them to do the banging," Bella replied smartly, referring to Lauren in the lobby. "No pun intended, of course," she added with a small smile.
"Mr. Banner, will you excuse Miss Swan and me for just a moment," Edward said, standing up quickly. He walked around the table and jerked Bella up roughly from her chair by her upper arm and pulled her into the hallway.
"Ow," she mumbled, rubbing her arm. She talked to his back, since he faced away from her. "Could you not do that? I'm not an animal to be herded around."
He paced a few steps before turning back to her. "Why did you really not tell me last night?"
Bella rolled her eyes. "You're still stuck all the way back there in this conversation?"
He ignored her sarcasm, something he realized he was getting very good at in the past hour. "What happens in my personal life is of no concern to you, so leave it alone. I will have a retraction, whether you want it or not. Isabella Swan," he said, his name off her lips making her eyes shut against her will. He moved closer to her, his breath sweeping her throat as his hand delicately moved hair away from her neck, "I always get what I want."
He could take her lips right there and there would be nothing to stop him. She was clearly without defenses; he had rendered her incapable of pushing him away. Her skin smelled like vanilla and some sort of flower, a smell he found to be his new aphrodisiac. His own eyes closed as his nose grazed her neck with the lightest of feather touches. He released her waist from his grip and stepped back, chuckling at her, heavy breathing, eyes closed. Then he forced himself to walk away.
She stood there for a good minute before opening her eyes to find herself standing alone in the hallway. It was hard to keep up with his verbal ping pong, as he switched topics more often than Alice changed outfits in a day. She replayed the conversation in her head to remember what he actually had said. Once she was satisfied that she had only mildly embarrassed herself, she walked back into the conference room.
Mr. Banner was folding papers into a manila envelope, alone, sans Edward Cullen. She looked around the room.
"You won't find him, Swan. You'll have to castrate him the next meeting. He'll be back next week to settle this. I'd advise you to come up with some sort of restitution between now and then."
She fiddled with her thumbs as they lay clasped in front of her. "Yes, sir."
He nodded, shut off the light and left the meeting room, leaving Bella alone in the dark. The windows provided little light with the gloomy October weather. She mentally berated herself as she went and sat in the chair at the head of the table.
Why in the world would she publish that article? What could possibly have spurred her to write any of it? Oh, right, she was a gossip columnist. Something she never would have imagined herself as, and yet, it was something she now called her career.
And to do this to Edward Cullen. Admittedly, it was a good source of gossip at the beginning, but she conveniently overlooked the whole part about him being a lawyer. The article would by no means win her a Pulitzer, but it did put her on the radar, especially if he drew out this retraction. Radar was bad.
Which brings her back to the original question: Why did she fucking write that article? If she hadn't done that, there may have been a miniscule chance of them being able to date, had the opportunity arisen. Now, there was no way he would ever be able to stand to be in the same room as her.
Just imagine it, he could have come to her office to surprise her today, take her out to lunch. Have a midday rendezvous. His childish grin making butterflies flutter in her stomach.
Or this could have been a meeting where Edward was hired to put a restraining order on Lauren Mallory upon her termination at the Chicago Tribune. Wouldn't that be nice? Mr. Banner would leave the room, the blinds closed, lights off…
She could feel his fingers trail ever so softly down the slope of her neck, deftly unbuttoning the elegant buttons on her silk shirt, his touch as soft as the fabric she was wearing. He unsuccessfully tried to spread her legs apart from where she was sitting on the conference table, and instead, pushed her form-fitting pencil skirt to bunch at her waist before moving her legs to stand between them. She gasped at his evident arousal pressed against her thigh, and in her aroused frenzy, she wrapped his tie around her fist, pulling him towards her to catch his lips with hers. His hands moved behind her, spread on either side of the table, balancing himself as he leaned them back.
He held himself up with one hand and slid a hand down the curve of her neck, across the side of her breast, down the arc of her hip, the swell of her thigh. He felt her garter belt and she moaned when he slid his finger underneath and unhooked one from her ice blue lace boy shorts.
His hand moved to the underneath of her knee and wrapped her leg around his waist, allowing himself to push up closer against her. She moaned at the contact and marveled at how his large, rough hands created a dizzying effect on her body. The contrast to her smooth skin further ignited the slow simmer in her belly as he untucked her blouse from her skirt.
Edward exited the building as quickly as possible after being in such close proximity to Bella. She was intoxicating, and he was more than willing to fall under her spell. But that was what she wanted. Make him fall for her and then write about it in her stupid column.
Fuck! It would take more will power than he had to keep himself away from her and he wasn't sure he was up to the challenge. It would be so much easier to just take her and be done with it. Get her out of his system.
He was about to get into a cab to go back to the office when he realized he forgot his leather business folder in the conference room in his hurry to get away from Bella before he threw her on the conference table and had his way with her in front of John Banner.
Edward shuddered and then sighed. He had no choice but to go back inside. To her floor. To her office. Maybe she was still there…
He got in the elevator, but only hazy daydreams of her and him in this confined space assaulted him. He pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes tightly. He had to get her out of his mind.
He got off the elevator on the floor of the Chicago Tribune, Lauren Mallory raising her eyebrow suggestively and attempting to look coy. Eck. He walked to the conference room slowly, hoping to maybe see the one he wanted to see (not Lauren), pausing every now and then. He must have looked ridiculous, but she could be getting coffee, or making copies or getting a certain retraction approved.
He stood outside the conference room sooner than he would have liked. He glared at the door. In any other situation, he would have asked her out. But this stupid newspaper just got in the way and totally fucked up their chances…And was that a moan? A sultry, low moan coming from inside the conference room. Oh, God, I just want my folder; it has the deposition I need for next week. Deciding there was nothing else to do but enter the room and face what would be an incredibly awkward confrontation, he pushed open the door.
When his eyes adjusted to the darkened room, what he saw was most definitely not what he expected. But, Christ, is was more than he could have ever dreamed of.
She was sitting in the reclining, ergonomic chair at the head of the conference table. Her hair was mussed. Her breathing was sharp and her chest was heaving. Her hands were gripping the armrests on the side. Her stomach was arched up as she moaned again. Almost like someone…in the throes of passion?
Oh, Good fucking God.
He shifted uncomfortably in his place as his slacks tightened exponentially. What in the world was she doing to me? She wasn't even awake and she was ruining his life by making him want her.
He walked around the table slowly, spotting the object of his whole trip coming up here. It was getting more and more difficult to leave when she was distracting him with her breathing and slipping grip on the armrests as she struggled to…keep up with the dream. What happened if she woke up and found herself surrounded by pervy mail boys who had never even seen breasts? He needed to wake her up.
Edward crouched by her chair, forcing himself not to ogle her perfect legs or her chest that was rising and falling erratically with her labored breaths. Needless to say, it was fucking hard.
"Ms. Swan, you need to wake up," he said, trying to remain professional and well, bastardly. The only response he got was another quiet moan.
"Bella, its Edward, Mr. Cullen. You have to get up."
A smile broke on her face, "Mmm, Edward." Despite the enormous ego-booster, he knew that thoughts of her and him together would do nothing for the situation. Not to mention he hated her and the stupid words that she wrote.
"Bella," he said, shaking her arm. She only grabbed his hand and brought it to her chest so he was palming one of her perfectly perfect breasts.
It made him groan in response. Why, oh, why was she doing this to him? He didn't mind being the object of her dreams, but don't make him be a part of it in the real world.
"Bella!" a voice called as the door to the conference room flew open. It was Alice, who was standing there in her stylish work clothes, coat draped on her arm and purse in hand. Bella jerked awake and her eyes widened as she saw Edward on his knees next to her.
They both turned to Alice. "What?" Bella asked.
Alice looked pointedly at Bella and Bella looked down. Edward's hand had moved to the valley of her breast and her own hand was holding it there.
"Oh, God. Bad, bad, bad." She dropped his hand as if it were on fire and stood up, pushing the seemingly demonic chair, however ergonomic it may have been, away.
Edward stood up. "I swear, I didn't do anything. I just came in here and she was asleep so I thought that I should wake her."
Alice's eyes narrowed, "By fondling her?"
"Alice," Bella said sharply. "I'll meet you in the lobby."
Alice huffed at being left out of the confrontation and turned on her heel.
"So, uh," Bella started.
"Don't worry, I left out the graphic parts. You know, the sex on the table and against the window. No big deal."
His face was one of perfect calmness as he watched Bella's eyes widen and face turn as red as a tomato.
"You dirty bastard," she began.
"Woah, I'm just kidding," he interrupted her before she could rip off his balls. And he was sure she could do just that. "You were asleep and talking in your sleep, so I didn't think you'd want some creepy people coming in and well, creeping."
"No, that's your job, right?" she sneered.
"I was trying to be nice! You were the one moaning as if you were having the greatest sex of your life."
Her face flushed red again. "Well, you're the one who was being a pervert and standing there watching me."
Edward blinked. "So you were having a sex dream?"
"I don't think it's any of your business," she sniffed, looking away, willing this conversation to end.
"Was it good?" he asked, a smirk on his face as he stared at her, hair still a mess, face flushed, shirt wrinkled.
"Much better than I'm sure you can do," she responded, folding her files and putting them in the folders before gathering them into her arms. "Now if you don't mind, I have a lunch to get to."
As she walked by he grabbed her arm. "Oh, don't worry," he said. "I will be much better than any dream you've had."
She stared at him before twisting her arm out of his grasp for the second time that day. "Don't touch me. Somehow you've made it to second base and we don't even like each other. And believe me, the only thing you could possibly be good at concerning me is pissing me off."
She left the room with her mind reeling. Did he say "I will" as in the future as in he and I together one day as in complete and perfect coital bliss? Okay, Bella, calm the fuck down. The legs are staying closed to one Edward Cullen. For now. NO! Always. She growled at the argument in her mind.
She stopped by her desk to drop off her files and shrugged into her new Burberry coat and grabbed her purse from the floor.
She purposely looked busy when Edward came out of the conference room, avoiding looking at him and turning around to avoid temptation all together. Once she was sure he was gone, she went to the lobby where Alice was waiting in one of the comfy chairs in front of the reception desk. Lauren glared at Bella as the two walked towards the elevators.
"Sushi bar?" Alice asked. "We're meeting Rose there and then you are going to tell us everything about Edward Cullen."
Bella groaned as the elevator began its descent. "There's nothing to tell, Alice. Asshole extraordinaire who just happens to smell like delicious sex itself and have the body of a Greek god. No big deal."
Alice grinned as they got off the elevator. "Well, I think he's perfect for you."
"You remember what happened the last time you thought someone was perfect for me?"
It was Alice's turn to groan as they walked out onto the downtown Chicago streets. "That was in college, Bell. Believe me, I've changed my tune since then."
"He was in the chess club and he had braces! And his mom still packed his lunch for him!"
"Nate wasn't that bad," Alice defended as they walked down the street.
"He tried to feel me up and I swear to God, he started drooling. And I still had my clothes on. It was as if he had never seen breasts before."
"Maybe he just really liked you."
"We were in his mom's car," Bella deadpanned. "Besides, you were the one who dragged me away from him last night."
"Don't worry," Alice said with an evil grin on her face. "Everything in time."
"Ugh, I hate when you give ominous warnings like that."
"Its all part of my charm," she said, and she pulled open the door to Kamehachi and they saw Rosalie already sitting at a table.
Alice sat down and removed her coat. "You'll never guess who was groping Bella this morning and who serenaded her."
"My, Bella, you've had a busy morning. Groped and sang to and its not even one o'clock."
She moaned and sank her head to her arms. "I hate my life."
Alice took it into her own hands to inform Rosalie about everything that had happened that morning.
"He wanted to take you to McDonalds?! Romantic…" and "His hand was where?!" were only two of the comments Bella heard in the recounting of her day.
"Can we just let this go?" Bella pleaded.
"Absolutely not." They both said. "Tula's tonight?" Alice asked.
"No! I'm not going back there," Bella said. "Besides, I need groceries. Sorry, girls, no fun for me tonight."
"That's okay," Rose said with a smirk. "Sounds like you've had enough fun for all of us today."
Bella sighed and looked out the window to the bustling Chicago street. If only he weren't a total asshole and completely out of her league. Oh, and if she hadn't blabbed about his relationship in the Chicago freaking Tribune, they may have had a chance.
She sighed again. Probably not.