Disclaimer: Twilight and all its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer.
Note: THANK YOU to everyone who read/reviewed my first chapter. I was nervous posting this b/c I've never written AH before. I hope you enjoy this chapter as well.
"What do you mean you already found another job?" Charlie's voice sounded far from understanding when I spoke to him on the phone Sunday night. I cradled the phone against my ear as I absentmindedly flipped through the documents in the leather folder Alice had given me. "You're just going to abandon the station, huh? Get a job in the big city?"
Irritation sparked my bitter tone as I responded. "You were fine without me last week," I explained hastily. "And you fired me, remember? Listen, Dad, you know I love you I just… I need to try something different."
He was quiet for a moment while I scanned the page detailing the things Mr. Cullen preferred for breakfast. I vaguely wondered if I could pick up apple and cinnamon oatmeal on the way from the train station to his loft. Charlie cleared his throat as if to remind me that I was on the phone with him.
"Look Dad, I'm not backing down on this. I'm sorry." Whether or not the Cullen job worked out, I couldn't go back to working at the station. Any more time in that close of vicinity with my father, I would go insane.
He sighed, resigned, and I knew he would get over it. "I know Bells," he mumbled. "I know."
"You still want me to come over for dinner tomorrow night?" I asked. It was a silly question to ask, actually. If I went over to Charlie's, I knew I would be the one making dinner, but that was ok. Even though I didn't live with him anymore, I still liked taking care of him. He was my father after all.
"I, uh, I actually have plans for tomorrow night," he said quickly. I felt suspicious, not just from the tone in his voice, but because Charlie never made plans and called them plans. The only "plans" he ever had was the lake on the weekends with his friend Billy.
"Oh yeah?" I asked, pushing the folder of meal requirements aside for the moment. "With who?"
"Listen Bells, it's late and I have to be into the station early tomorrow. Some of us have to start early." He was avoiding my question and I couldn't help but smile. Ok Charlie, be sneaky.
"Sure dad. I love you."
I knew I should have grabbed my umbrella when I left my apartment the next morning. The sun was rising bright in the sky but I had that feeling, which I ignored because if I ran back inside, I'd miss my train.
But sure enough, as I exited the coffee shop that was between the train station and Mr. Cullen's loft, the sun had been swallowed up whole by dark, menacing clouds. "Shit," I mumbled as soon as the first big drops began to fall.
I cradled the bag with the hot oatmeal to my chest, tucking it beneath my sweater as I hurried the last few blocks on my heels. By the time I made it to his building and punched in the code for the door to buzz, my sweater was soaked and my hair was just a flat bun of water. I slipped across the empty foyer, hardly noticing how sparse the first floor was. A pair of elevators was set against the back wall and I stepped in, pressing the button to take me to the penthouse.
As the lift began to climb, I set the damp bag down and attempted to wring out my sweater. Great, I thought, looking at the ground. A puddle had formed around my feet and began to seep into the bag.
"Shit, shit, shit!" I cried, rescuing the bag from further damage. The elevator dinged at that moment and the doors slid open silently. I hesitated, fully aware of how ridiculous I looked here, the damp paper bag clutched against my chest, my haggard appearance, and the puddle at my feet.
I don't know what I was expecting as I stepped off the lift; if I had been expecting to see him standing there, waiting for me, then I was sorely mistaken. The front foyer echoed the detailing of his office. Everything was lined with dark mahogany, the carpet was a deep, plush shade of cream, and even the molding had an exact pattern to it. I hesitated, wondering how best to proceed.
"Please, come in."
Ah, there it was. The deep velvet voice I had expected on Friday called from the shadowed passage to the right. I found my feet moving before my mind could really process anything. The dark hall led to an open, bright doorway, and I blinked hard as I entered. I paused, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the flood of sunlight in the room.
"Hello. You must be Isabella."
His voice called to me again and I turned my gaze from the bright wall of windows to a deep mahogany desk that matched the one from his office. There he was, Edward Cullen, millionaire bestselling author and creator of the most popular vampire series since The Vampire Chronicles. I let out an audible gasp as I stared at him. From the untidy bronze hair on his head to the straight edge of his jaw… he looked even better than the picture in the back of his books.
He was smirking coldly at me, his hands folded on his desk, his eyes running up and down my body. I glanced down and stuttered; I was creating another puddle at my heels and I winced.
"I'm… I'm sorry," I said quickly. I felt the heat rise in my cheeks as his smile faltered and his brow furrowed. "I'll clean it up if you'd just… where are your towels?" My voice was barely a whisper and I felt sure, the way he was looking at me, he was going to fire me.
He shook his head slightly but didn't speak. His frown deepened as he pushed back from the desk, standing and causing me to gasp again. He was an impressive height, somewhere over six feet, and lean. Strong and lean, I noted as he strode across the room to me. I couldn't help but stare at the way his muscles glided beneath his shirt, the way his jeans clung snugly along his hips and… downward. I shrank back as he reached an arm out and shut my eyes.
I felt him tug at the brown bag in my hands and I released it, keeping my eyes shut tight.
He laughed then, which made me jump. He sounded warm and soft when he laughed, so far from the sharp and cold exterior he had exuded at his desk. I opened my eyes carefully and felt the tingle of shame in my cheeks as he peered into the bag.
"Excuse me, but I don't see what's so funny," I managed to say in an audible tone.
Mr. Cullen quieted for a moment and offered me an apologetic grin. "I'm sorry Isabella-"
"Bella," I said, correcting him. "Just Bella."
He sighed and ran a large hand through his hair. "Bella… you didn't have to do this," he said, lifting the bag. "I'm not sure what my sister told you but I'm perfectly capable of feeding myself."
I narrowed my eyes at him. "But the binder…" I trailed off, remembering bitterly how thoroughly I had studied Alice's notes over the weekend. Notes Mr. Cullen obviously had not given her.
His eyes widened as he set the breakfast bag down on a table by the door. "Binder?" he asked. "Alice…" He sighed and shook his head. "She worries about me too much," he said. "I appreciate your efforts Bella, truly," he said, reaching his hand up and brushing a stray, damp lock of hair off my face. I shivered involuntarily at his touch, wondering if that was an effect of his skin on mine or my cold, wet clothes.
Mr. Cullen snatched his hand back and clenched it into a fist. He stepped back behind his desk and flipped open his laptop. "I'm not sure what my sister told you," he said, resting himself down heavily in his chair. "But I don't need you as a…" he trailed off, searching for the right word.
"A personal assistant?" I offered.
"Yes," he agreed. "I don't need… this," he gestured to the damp bag on the table.
"Why?" He stared at me and I tried not to stare directly into his mesmerizing green gaze. He made it difficult to speak coherently when he stared like that.
"You don't… need me then?"
"That's not your fault that Alice is overbearing." He gave me a reassuring smile. "Don't ever apologize for something that's not your fault Bella. Besides, I still need you."
"I'm not sure I understand."
A dark expression crossed his face for a moment as he answered. "I haven't… I can't… I'm having a bit of a block… creatively," he explained.
My heart pounded at a glimpse of Mr. Cullen, the tortured writer. All I felt compelled to do at that moment was pull him out of whatever dark place he had drifted to. It was only a glimpse though, a flash of darkness across his face, quickly wiped away.
His head snapped up and he raised his eyebrows at me.
I blushed a furious shade of red and wiped my palms on my skirt. "Right," I mumbled. "Well, Mr. Cullen, I-"
"Edward," he said, smiling genuinely now. "You may call me Edward." I wondered if Edward enjoyed seeing me flustered.
"Edward, I don't see how I can help with that," I said finally.
His gaze flittered to a pile of papers on his desk then unmistakably up my legs. "Oh believe me Bella, I'm sure your presence alone will be inspiring."
I felt the heat creep from my cheeks down my spine and hover wet between my legs. Yes, Mr. Edward Cullen does enjoy making me flustered, I thought hotly.
He grinned again, satisfied with his effect on me perhaps. "I'll only require you for dinner, Mondays through Fridays." His explanation distracted me from my arousal momentarily.
"But… Edward," I said, my voice shaking slightly with his name. "I was expecting a full time job with… a full time… salary," I stuttered out.
Edward nodded. "Naturally, and you will still receive that," he said. "I'm certain you will still earn your full time salary, even if you're not with me for full time hours."
I swallowed hard and thought back to the binder. All of those tasks and preferences… I would have gladly taken on all of them over this immense task. But when he stared at me, those green eyes pleading in their own silent way, I could only nod.
"I can try then," I said softly, locking myself into something much larger than myself.
A grin stretched across his face then. "Excellent. No need for you to come into the city again tonight," he said, glancing at his watch. "We'll start… tomorrow night, six o'clock?"
I nodded again and took a step back, out of the sunlit room and into the dark hall. "Tomorrow then," I said.
I turned to leave when he called my name again.
"Oh and Bella?" My feet pivoted to face him again, like a gravitational pull.
"Yes?" My voice was scratchy now, my throat far too dry as he gave me a blinding grin and squinted his beautiful eyes at me.
"Wear blue please," he asked softly. "Blue tends to… draw the muse out in me."
"Of course," I said weakly.
I made it to the elevator before my knees gave out. What had I gotten myself into?
PS: The next chapter may take me a little bit longer. The semester is almost over and I'm getting slammed with stress and work. Please be patient! Thank you!