Chapter 2

Forgiveness


Tuesday, 1.35pm

You went too far.

No shit, I thought bitterly to myself as I shoved a stack of papers into a cabinet. The movement was too forceful, too motivated by anger, and the papers crinkled against the wall of the cupboard.

You claim you love her. I do love her.

Then act like you do.

"Hey Mike," I heard her call sweetly from inside her office. At the sound of his name, my fists instinctively clenched into fists. I was pushing her away countless times, only to push her towards him. It was sick. "I was wondering if we could still meet up for lunch."

She's doing it to get away from you. The voice in the back of my head wouldn't shut up. It never would, and today, it was being especially vocal.

It told me everything I didn't want to admit to myself.

"No, it's fine Mike. Besides, I need to get out of the office. What level are you on again?"

Was I honestly that bad? I didn't even have to hear the answer the voice told me. Once again, I already knew. Yes, I was that bad. I hurt her, countless times again, most of the time without realising it until it was too late. I needed to stop acting like a child. She was going to meet up with him. She was choosing him over me.

"Ok, I'll see you in a few."

The pencil in my hand snapped in two as she stepped out of her office, her deadly black shoes clicking against the tiles of the office. Her face looked flustered, her cheeks a warm pink, and her chocolate brown eyes were turned away from me.

She wouldn't even look at me.

"Don't get run over." The words were muttered under my breath as I tried to keep my eyes away from her shoes. She wasn't meant to hear it, but knowing my luck, it always seemed to be turned against me. If she wasn't talking to me, did I have the right to be bitter back? Not if you caused her to ignore you in the first place. God Cullen, so much for graduating from Harvard.

"I'll try not to," she called back lightly as she pressed the button on the elevator. The lights were counting up from floor three, then floor seven, floor eight...

I still hadn't moved an inch. She was standing opposite the elevator, her back turned, her touchable hair catching the sunlight as she shifted her weight onto her other leg. I didn't have the right to be bitter to her.

Fuck it. I should apologise.

The logic was stupid, but it forced me out of my chair like no other words could have done.

"Miss Swan, wait." I blurted out as the elevator doors opened and she stepped inside. I saw her press the button, not even contemplating holding the doors.

For that short moment, luck was kind to me, and I slipped in just before the doors closed. "I just wanted to apologise."

She laughed coldly, her red lips forming a dark smirk. "Again?"

I brushed the comment off lightly; I didn't have time to question the meaning behind it. She was almost at his floor.

"So, you and Mike huh?" That was about as subtle as I got. As Alice pointed out, I didn't speak very much, but when I did, I didn't restrain what I felt. To her, I was far too blunt for my own good.

"No," she replied seriously. "We're friends. It's possible for a male and female to know each other and not be head over heels in love with each other."

With every word, she only sank deeper into her own ignorance. I wished she could just see, maybe even comprehend how I truly felt towards her. But it was almost as if she didn't want to see it.

She didn't even try.

This isn't her fault Cullen.

I exhaled deeply. "It's also possible for one person to be in love with another, and the other to be completely oblivious." Did she see? Did she understand? I met her eyes, imploring her to see the truth. I heard her breath catch in the back of her throat from the intensity of my gaze... did she see? I knew I confused her. I pushed her away, and then, for reasons beyond her, I apologised for my own actions, accepting her even further into my heart again. The cycle was only getting worse.

"You think Mike's in love with me?" she gasped, her eyes turning cold. She hadn't caught her breath at the suggestion I loved her. My heart sunk.

You have now arrived on level seven.

As the doors opened on Mike's floor, not giving me any time to even dwell on her assumption, she finally met my eyes. They were dark and furious, her lips formed into a tight cold line. She let out a short, bitter laugh.

"What the hell would you know about love?" Then she left. Just like that.

The doors closed.

What the hell do you know about love? Watching her walk away from me, eyes dark, face set into a cold mask, I knew nothing. I loved her. And yet every time I came close to even telling her that, she turned her back. She was walking away from me, towards someone else. I punched the number to the floor, and the elevator jerked upwards in response. She thinks you hate her.

Maybe I was a coward for not telling her. I was afraid of what she'd say... how she'd perceive me. All she's known is anger from me.

No doubt I'd get slapped and she'd tell me to stop messing with her.

You've now arrived on level twelve.

As I reached my desk, I grabbed the most recent report, my hands gripping the paper far too tightly. I tried to concentrate on the words and the article in front of me, but my thoughts were a mess. I threw the article down and started pacing. I needed to calm down... maybe wait for inspiration to strike. I needed to get her eyes out of my mind. She was with someone else. As I stopped by the window, I ran my fingers through my hair before exhaling. The street was quiet – just like I wished my mind could be. I stared closer towards the few heads of the people milling around the road. There was a woman with distinctively unforgettable brown hair, who was hanging onto the arm of a blond guy.

My mouth dropped. As I followed them up to the doors of the cafe, their eyes met and he smiled warmly towards her. She smiled back, flicking her hair over her shoulder.

That should be me.

They took their seats in the small café together. He held the door open for her, his sleazy, intoxicated eyes gazing all-too fondly at her as she sashayed past him, her hips rocking gently with her pace of walking. On an errant thought, I wondered if she'd chosen the place on purpose. She knew I'd want to know what had happened, and what better than to let me watch from an office window. As I saw them laughing together, it was the final straw, and I pushed away from the window before flipping my phone out of my pocket. There was only one person I was going to call, and judging how today was going, I probably should have called her a lot sooner.

Where was Tanya when I needed her?

As I reached her name in the phonebook, I jammed on the green call button, before running a hand through my hair and pacing... again.

"Hello?" her deep, sleep-filled voice drawled down the phone, and I closed my eyes, fighting back the emotions fighting inside of me; the guilt that I was calling her, and the thrill of what she'd bring.

"Hey darlin'."

I could hear the smile in her voice as she laughed quietly on the end of the line. "What time do you want me?"

Don't do this.

My fingers tightened in my hair, and I shook the thought away. I needed something to distract me, and with Bella fawning over a blonde haired kid with an excessive amount of hair gel and the remains of ache splattered across his face, it wasn't doing wonders for my ego.

Tell her how you feel. Put your heart at rest. And you won't need Tanya.

What... and try explaining a black eye to my parents in the process?

You're risking losing the one you 'love' for a black eye. You really are pathetic.

"Soon," I stressed, my voice luring her as once again, my eyes flickered back towards the café. To my right, the elevator chimed, and as the doors opened slowly, my gaze darted towards it curiously. Bella couldn't be back yet.

"Is this soon enough?" she was leant against the side of the elevator, her arms folded across her shirt and from where I was standing, the top five buttons were already undone. As she saw me, she closed the lid of her phone and slipped it into her pocket, the corners of her lips rising into a dangerous smile.

As I looked down her body, I saw she was wearing high-heeled shoes.

"Take your shoes off," I said calmly, before perching on the edge of my desk as I watched her saunter towards me. She did so without asking, hooking them through her finger as a seductive grin flashed across her face.

"Like this?"

She took another step towards me, and then another, and another, until she was standing in between my legs, her palms flat against my thigh.

"Perfect," I grinned, my hands catching her hips as she fell towards me.

Liar.

She pulled my jaw towards hers before crashing her lips against mine. I could feel her lipstick smudging against my face. As she slipped her tongue into my mouth, she pushed me further onto the desk, before climbing on top of me, her shirt falling fully open. As I opened my eyes slightly, I tried to imagine the deep chocolate brown eyes staring back at me, and the lips under my own as softer, more naturally red ones. As I braided my hand in her hair, I tried to imagine the brunette curls slipping over my fingers, softer than velvet.

Tanya's tanned hand slipped inside my shirt, and I tried to imagine it paler, more delicate... fragile almost.

You never had to imagine.

You could've had the real thing.


Tuesday, 3.30pm

My tongue was jammed down Tanya's throat, and my hand was buried deep in front of her shirt when I heard something clatter to the floor behind us. It pulled me from my lustful haze like a bullet, and my eyes shot up from Tanya's flushed face to see Bella, cheeks just as red, as she tried to unlock her office door as quickly as possible.

She was embarrassed.

And God damn it, I felt guilty.

Tanya's hand wrapped around my cheek, dragging my eyes away from Bella's as my hands gripped her waist a little tighter. It felt far too frail under my fingers; like she spent her life with a measuring tape strapped around it.

I heard Bella's office door shut as Tanya let her fingers tug at my hair, and her lips met mine once again. She tasted of cigarettes and cheap booze, and her mouth was coarse against my own – something that I wished, countless times, I didn't have to settle for.

I knew that bringing Tanya up to my office would do this; Bella would retreat into her office, embarrassed and yet so conceited as to believe I was still the person she'd dubbed me as when she first walked through the elevator doors. And I would be crushed against Tanya, her rough fingers moving over my body as the guilt soared deep in the pit of my stomach.

I wasn't cheating on Bella; I just wished there was some way I could tell my heart that.

"Let's go someplace else," I whispered, my lips at the base of her collarbone. I flashed her a quick, alluring smile and her face lit up with the mention that I was even considering wanting to do anything more with her, caught by my lie so easily that it was almost laughable. Using Tanya like this wasn't fair on her in the slightest, but as I told myself all too willingly, she wasn't complaining. Besides, my moral conscience only decided to be vocal when Bella was in the room.

It wasn't all that impressed with Tanya.

I touched her arm gently, letting her know I'd be right back as I turned towards Bella's office door, determined not to let whatever she would say to me get in the way of sex with Tanya. Bella was just a woman, and one that I'd managed to keep my hands off for far too many years. I could do it then, and I could do it now.

"Tanya and I are going out for a bit," I stumbled over my words in an effort to get them out quickly. Maybe if I didn't look at her, the guilt wouldn't feel so sickening. "Do you want me to send up some staff from level two?"

She smiled all too angelically back. "No, that's fine. I was just finishing that report you asked me to write for you."

Instinctively, my eyes shot up to hers at the danger lurking behind her voice and almost instantly I realised my mistake.

I'd looked at her.

"I'll be back in an hour." I turned on my heel and grabbed the door so forcefully I wouldn't have been surprised if some of the paint fractured under my palm. Before I could open it fully, she placed her hand on my shoulder.

Her palm felt warm through my shirt.

"I just wanted you to know that you are one hell of a hypocrite." Then, she opened the door fully and with a shove, she pushed me out into the foyer before slamming it behind me.

I couldn't help the growl that rumbled deep in my chest in anger as I stormed towards the elevator, barely noticing how my hand slipped around Tanya's hip, clutching her to my side. As the doors opened and I punched the button for the ground floor, I felt her arms around my neck and her lips against my shoulder. My fingers tightened around her waist, and I pushed her against the elevator wall as my lips crushed to hers.

But as I kissed her, I only felt Bella's mouth, soft against my own. As my hands wound in her hair, it was all Bella's.

And as she whispered my name gently, I only heard Bella's voice.


Tuesday, 4.50pm

"We should do that again," she flashed me a dangerous smirk as she straightened her top. I tried not to flinch as she pressed her lip to my cheek, and again, I tried to suppress the guilt as she sighed from my reaction and left without another parting gesture.

The remorse for using Tanya as a way of letting go of the anger that built up inside of me every time I saw Bella. The remorse for pushing Bella away through a temper I couldn't control, and then, and only then when I saw the pain deep in her eyes did I try to apologise until the words sounded dead, and lifeless.

I wish I could stop.

A hypocrite. Did I agree with her?

Although at the moment, that wasn't the question my thoughts were focused on. I only wanted to know why she thought that, and through far too many past experiences, I knew the best way to go about finding out.

"I'm not a hypocrite," I stated as I opened her office door, not bothering to knock. She was bent over her computer and her hair was scattered haphazardly across her face as she frantically typed away at her computer. Her gaze flashed up from her desk towards me, one eyebrow raised as slowly, and reluctantly, she pulled her office glasses off.

She wet her lips as I prepared my ego for the pain it was about to go through.

"If Mike's insipid, then what's Tanya?" she smiled coldly towards me, her eyes dancing with amusement as she threw her glasses down on the desk in front of her. Then, she leant back in her chair and folded her arms casually across her chest. From her stance, I already knew she'd won. "You thought I could do better than Mike... but at least I didn't use him. I know the person that he is, and I've spent time with him and I've talked to him."

I shook my head, my jaw tight as I tried to control the temptation just to lash out at her with cold, bitter remarks. "Her favourite colour's pink." She wore it a lot... right? "She likes roses and the smell of candles, and her birthday is November 4th."

"Your favourite colour's green," she grinned smugly as she raised her eyebrows once more, daring me to disagree with her. "You like white orchids and the smell of strawberries. Your birthday is June 20th and you'll be twenty three next year."

She someone told her, or she'd heard a rumour from Kate, or-

Fuck.

"Does that mean I like you?" she pulled me from my thoughts, now entirely dominated by her casual mention of strawberries, by another question. "Does that mean that I would willingly talk to you?"

Strawberries. "How did you know?" I asked bluntly, as she stared back at me in confusion. I thought I'd been so careful about it, with good reason. Obviously. It was embarrassing. "That I liked the smell of strawberries?"

"I found my shampoo in your desk drawer."

My teeth grit, and my eyes narrowed towards her; caught fucking red handed. Maybe if I tried to pass it off as her mistake... "You looked through my drawer?"

"You stole my shampoo?" ... no chance. She wasn't going to let me crawl out of it so easy. A smirk twitched at the corners of her red lips, and her gaze turned almost malicious as she stared back at me, victory plastered across her expression.

She thought she knew who I was.

"My favourite colour isn't green," I said finally, not finding the heart to try and cover up my mistake, or hide the fact that I liked how she smelt. If she brought it up again I could disguise it with superfluous flattery. "It's brown."

She didn't look up from her desk at my comment, and no doubt by this stage she'd already tuned out from what I was saying to her. But I needed to keep going; for her sake as much as mine.

"Because it's the colour of your eyes."

I wasn't entirely sure what made me say what I did, and as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I left her office, red faced and with a stomach full of nerves. Maybe Alice had slipped me some crazy shit for breakfast in order to get me to finally admit how I felt about her, and I wouldn't have put it past her to try that.

But in all honesty, I'd said it to her because I'd wanted to say it.

I wanted to give her compliments she deserved, rather than the usual sexual, lust-filled suggestions that she shook her head over with a dry laugh.

As I turned back towards my desk, my thoughts were still consumed with what I'd admitted to her; subconsciously. I knew that the small, pink bottle was still stashed at the bottom of my drawer, under several files and stationery where I thought she would never find.

She'd never believe me if I told her that my compliment was genuine.

I shook my head with a sigh as I grabbed a post-it-note from off my desk, before fishing around in my drawer for the harmless bottle of shampoo.

Since you weren't going to let me smell your hair, I had to buy what you used.

Edward

Then I walked back towards her office door and sat the bottle down on her desk. Before I'd even turned to leave again, she was laughing, the sound no longer cold. Yes, she was laughing at me, but more importantly she was laughing. She wasn't angry.

"I'm serious, you really need to stop handing out compliments so freely," she called from inside as I pressed my cheek to her office door, catching each word. "I know that eventually you're just going to take them all back."

I opened her office door as I leant my body against the doorframe, my eyes watching her carefully. "What makes you so sure?" I asked slyly as she slid her dark framed work glasses off her nose... the ones that made her skin look even softer and whiter.

"What if I told you that I'd arranged to see Mike again?" she pursed her lips, her expression falling back into her signatory smug grin of victory. I really needed to start winning our arguments. "What would you say then? Perhaps you'd comment on my taste in men, and say how ridiculous that is. Or maybe you'd make a stab at Mike. Oh, and whilst you're at it, why don't you just give me another report to do?"

I wrinkled my nose in disgust. "Are you going to see him again?"

Fucking blonde kid that has yet to hit puberty catches her attention and she won't even look twice at me. Am I supposed to take pointers from him in how to impress her?

I recoiled at the thought.

"Perhaps," she twirled her work glasses between her fingers as subconsciously, she wet her lips. "Although, I don't see why it should be any of your concern. I mean... about who I choose to date."

She paused to let her words truly sink in, and all of a sudden, regardless of what I'd just eaten for lunch, I felt like I wanted to hurl. Just the image of his greasy hands over her and I could taste the vomit in my mouth.

I didn't own her, but fuck, she couldn't date him.

Could she?

"Date?" I questioned, wishing that by some malfunction of my mind I'd heard her wrong. I wasn't ready to accept that there wasn't a chance she could love me back, let alone the fact she could date other people.

"Are you going to take the compliment back yet?"

I couldn't help my bitter thoughts leaking into my speech, and I used her own words against her. "Perhaps," I said nonchalantly, my eyes watching her as she moved from her desk towards the printer. She didn't reply back as she stapled the freshly printed sheets of paper together, before handing them to me with a bright smile.

"Finished." She beamed as she grabbed her coat off her chair. "Now if you don't mind, I'm going home early."

Let me go with you. "You really typed all of this up?" I forced myself to focus on the papers I was holding in my hands and not the woman who was in arms reach, her white blouse staring dangerously back at me.

She rolled her beautiful, brown eyes and her lips pulled up into a coy smile. "No, those are eight pages of hate letters I wrote to you."

As my gaze met hers, I stared back at her, desperately trying to see why she'd even take the time to write such a ludicrous report that no doubt she could've handed on to another level. But her face was blank.

All my life I'd relied on being a good judge of character, and I could see people's faults and weaknesses almost instantly. I could read women like I had a handbook in my back pocket, and although it wasn't something I was proud of, it had helped me more than I could put into words.

But her poker face was a door I didn't have a key for.

"Thank you," I said softly, trying to make it sound as genuine as physically possible, because it was genuine. Just like the compliment that she was so quick to brush off.

As a blush flooded across her cheeks at my words, I thought, for one flash of a second, that I might have gotten her to believe me. "You're welcome." She said, all too hurriedly as she tried to push past me. I touched her shoulder, and at the gesture, she spun around, her eyes all too wild for someone who was usually so composed.

Had I done this to her? "I mean, I'm really grateful. I just want you to know that." I didn't want to lay it on too thick, but I couldn't help but gloat in the moment. She'd listened to me. She'd seen me for someone that wasn't a self-conceited egoist, and even for that brief moment, it was worth it.

There was just one last thing I had to say to her before she left. I knew that it probably wouldn't cause the most favourable of reactions, but it was part of who I was to say the wrong thing or to step in other people's businesses. And ever since she'd worked as my colleague, regardless of whether she'd wanted to be, she was my business.

I had one shot to talk about this with her, and right now, when her thoughts seemed less hostile towards me, was as good as any time.

"Don't date Mike."

She froze at my words, and her eyes turned to me in confusion, almost as if she hadn't understood what I'd said. "What?"

"Please don't date him."

She shrugged out of my touch, and her eyes narrowed towards me. At that one expression, I knew that already, speaking to her about this was wasted air. "Why?"

Because I fucking love you, and if you choose him over me, my ego might not make it out alive. I shook my head at her question, and instinctively, I turned away from her, struggling to control the mess my thoughts were in.

"Don't date Tanya."

My eyes flashed back to hers. Why would she have something against Tanya? ... apart from being a victim to walking in to the sight of her backside. "Tanya's my friend."

"So is Mike."

"It's not the same."

She smiled all too widely, her red lips pulling back over her pure white teeth. "Oh what, because I haven't kissed Mike? Is that the difference?" she pulled her bag further up her shoulder as she shot me a cold look. "I am allowed to have relationships outside of this office, Mr. Cullen."

If her patronising tone wasn't enough to scare the shit out of me, then the mention of my surname was certainly a pointer in that direction. I'd yet again managed to fuck things up pretty successfully; when all I'd wanted was a tame conversation where we talked as adults about the disadvantages of being in a relationship with slimy, blonde haired kids.

Before I could stop myself, I asked a question out loud that my thoughts were fixated on. "You haven't kissed him?"

She laughed coldly as she took a step away from me, putting more distance between us. "Why the fuck do you care?" her question was laced with acrimony, and I flinched away from her tone, not realising how horrendous my timing of bringing it up actually was.

"Bella-"

"Mr Cullen, I wish you would stop telling me what to do." The formality was back in her voice, and over her shoulder, she shot me a cold smile as she pushed past into the foyer. As I followed her, scrambling about in my mind for a way to apologise, the elevator doors opened and Satan in a blonde wig and a face covered in ache walked out.

"Hey Mike!" Bella's face changed in an instant, her brown eyes filling with a vibrancy I wanted to be the cause of. "Are you leaving?"

He shot her a cheeky grin as he stopped beside her, his hands still buried deep in his pockets. "I was wondering if I could walk you down."

I snorted at his comment as I pushed past the all-too-happy couple and sank into my office chair. If she was going to leave with him, then she needed to leave pretty fucking quickly, because my will power was pretty hideous in the first place, and with Mike being in the room, it was virtually non-existent.

"What's his problem?" Mike called loudly as he stared at me obviously, making sure he knew that I'd heard him. Bella laughed warmly at his question, the sound so much more appealing than the cold laugh she'd offered me in her office.

"I have no idea," she replied dryly. Then she tilted her head towards the elevator door, no doubt counting down the seconds till she was free from my presence. She held out her hand for him to take shyly, knowing that from where I was sitting, I could see every gesture and touch.

As he took it, she moved closer towards him to lean against his side, and his grin increased tenfold. It only made me want to punch him even more. His arm wrapped around her waist, his greasy fingers clutching her waist all too tightly and they walked towards the elevator.

That should've been me.

"Miss Swan, do you listen to anything I say?" I called after them both, my eyes begging her to listen. Please don't do this.

But I only saw the defiance and determination of her gaze staring back at me, and with a cruel smirk back, my heart clenched inside my chest as her hand wrapped around his cheek, and she pulled his mouth towards hers.


AN - ... :O. Hopefully this is helping everyone to understand just exactly what was running through Edward's mind in "Red". Yes, he's fickle. Yes, he doesn't know how to act around Bella. But you know what they say... people do crazy things when they're in love.


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