This is my first fan fiction; I don't have a beta, and accept that I will inevitably make mistakes, apologies in advance particularly for my sure to be overenthusiastic and most likely improper use of punctuation. I'm really nervous about this so please; let me know what you think? S&S x
AH/OOC, rated M for both language and lemons.
Twilight character names and where appropriate canon words belong to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. The intellectual property including but not limited to, all characterizations, plot lines, backgrounds and details belong to Silk and Steel. Plagiarism is considered theft so please no copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without express written authorization. Thank you. December 2009.
Cullen Technologies Inc.
Chapter One: Green Eyes and Italian Coffee
Settling into my corner nook of the tiny coffee shop, I waved a greeting to Angela, shoved the handwritten "reserved" sign down the side of the comfy leather armchair and began booting up my laptop. It felt good to get out of my apartment; my regular Saturday afternoon ritual was soothing in both its stability and routine. Glancing around, I saw the shop was peaceful, the lunchtime rush now over, the afternoon cakes and coffee brigade not yet arrived.
"Hey, girlie," Angela appeared in front of me, my favourite red velvet cupcake and a large cup of black Italian roast coffee in her hands. Setting them on the table next to my laptop which was still moaning and groaning itself to life, she wiped her hands on her apron and reached over to return my hug. Seth was busy working the coffee machine behind the glass fronted counter, and there was only one customer waiting for their order, so Angela dropped gracefully into the chair opposite me, with a grateful sigh.
"How's the chapter going?" she grinned at me while nodding her head towards the laptop, knowing I had been struggling to get down on paper, or rather computer screen, what had been swirling around my overactive imagination for days.
"It's not," I grimaced, reaching for the coffee appreciatively and wrapping my hands around the cup to warm my chilled fingers, even after five years, the unpredictable nature of Chicago in the late autumn still managed to catch me by surprise.
"Where's Ben?" I scanned the room quickly; surprised I hadn't spotted him since I arrived. Angela's long term boyfriend usually spent Saturdays hanging out in the coffee shop like me. Angela and Ben had been together since High School and it was obvious to everyone who met them just how much in love they still were.
I admit, watching them together, the way they were attuned to one another, pulled on my heartstrings a little. I was grateful for the group of friends I had, in my opinion they were the best in the world, it just felt as if I'd resigned myself to living vicariously through them recently. Angela kept telling me, "he" was out there, it was only a matter of finding him, but after various disastrous blind dates set up by well meaning but clueless friends I had put my foot down and insisted on a break. If "he" was out there, then "he" could come looking for me for a change.
"Working," she pouted. I frowned at her, surprised. Ben's job as a computer technician tended to be restricted to regular office hours. He had been working at Cullen Technologies Inc, since graduation, I knew he had been hoping for promotion recently, maybe he was putting in extra working hours to help demonstrate initiative and his dedication to the company.
"Apparently the new boss is a bit of a hard taskmaster, he has been sweeping through the offices, causing havoc, making the men jumpy and nervous and the women hot and bothered." Angela fanned herself with her hand and rolled her eyes.
I looked as her, confused, as she smirked back at me, "Carlisle Cullen is retiring, but he's staying as a consultant while his son settles in to the CEO position."
"Emmett Cullen is the new CEO?"
This was surprising news, the Cullen family were well known in Chicago, old money. Cullen Technologies had been set up by Carlisle's father and was one of the biggest technology companies in the country. Emmett Cullen was a big bear of a man, good looking, with dark curly hair and a cheeky grin which showed off two perfectly placed dimples. I knew he worked in the company as Director of Communications, a position which definitely suited his cheerful persona, this was a man who could get along with anyone and everyone, it's just that he didn't strike me as someone who would be keen on steering a huge company safely through the current economic troubles.
"Nope, it's not Emmett, he is still Director of Comm's, apparently the new CEO is one Edward Cullen, Alice's twin brother."
Now I was even more confused, I knew Alice was Carlisle and Esme Cullen's adopted daughter, and she was a couple of years younger than Emmett, but this was the first I had heard of a twin brother.
"I think he must be the black sheep of the family or something, apparently he has been living and working in Italy for the last few years, Ben says he never heard mention of him within the company in all the time he has worked there, but a few weeks ago, all of a sudden he appears on the scene, a memo is circulated welcoming him to the company and saying he will be taking over the position, and the local beauty salons and spa's are fully booked."
Angela groaned quietly as she looked up and noticed the queue which had formed in her absence.
"Hold that question, I'll be back later when it quietens down again, actually there is something Ben wanted me to ask you about regarding Cullen Tech."
As she hauled herself up reluctantly from the comfort of the armchair and headed back to the counter to help Seth fill orders, she called back over her shoulder to tell me to help myself to a refill when required. Bless her, she knows I need my caffeine fix.
I looked down at the table to find my laptop had finally decided to behave itself and boot up properly. As I was now sufficiently warmed by the coffee I had been hugging, I shrugged out of my jacket, and threw it haphazardly towards the opposite chair. After unwinding my scarf I ran my hands through my long brown hair, trying to untangle knots with my fingertips and bring some semblance of order. As usual I gave up pretty quickly and settled instead for wrapping it into a loose bun on the back of my head and securing it with a spare pencil I retrieved from the bottom of my laptop bag.
I put a pair of reading glasses on and glared at the screen while picking up my cupcake and swiping my finger greedily across the frosting. I didn't usually need to bother with glasses, but had spent so long staring at this screen over the last week trying to work through my writers block as well as doing some editing work that my eyes were feeling particularly tired and needed a little extra help to focus today.
Since graduating from college I had been focused on trying to write, my professors had encouraged me, telling me I had potential, but unfortunately potential alone doesn't pay the bills. I had picked up a few hours here and there working for a friends company in a junior editing position. The job suited me as I was able to work from home, fitting the hours around my writing, but unfortunately it wasn't earning me enough to keep the wolves at bay.
I was going to have to face facts, there was no way I would be able to complete my manuscript, let alone try to tempt an agent or publisher with it if I was weak with hunger or sleeping on a long suffering friends couch after being chucked out of my building for non payment of rent. I knew I needed to get some form of more permanent work to keep me going, but in the current climate jobs that I was qualified for and that would be flexible enough to still give me enough time to write were going to be few and far between.
After a fruitless attempt at brainstorming and a few sneaky if self defeating games of solitaire, I huffed in frustration at my lack of progress on the manuscript and licked my fingers clean of the last cupcake crumbs I had gathered from my now empty plate. Looking around, I noticed the shop windows had begun to steam up with the number of customers and the constant activity from the coffee machine, I could barely see out across the street.
The shop was tiny but cosy, Angela had been thrilled to find the space available to rent, it was close enough to the offices and shops in the area to attract a healthy passing trade, and was also conveniently situated for the apartment building we all lived in. In the two years she had been in business, the walls had gradually acquired an assortment of prints and works by local artists which were available to buy, along with an eclectic mixture of souvenirs accumulated from whenever one of us travelled; it really was a home from home.
Angela was nowhere to be seen, I guessed she was out in the backroom gathering supplies; it seemed she spent most of her days restocking the counter with a near constant supply of cupcakes, cookies and other delectable goodies. Between the eating abilities of myself, Ben, Jake and the various waifs and strays that she had gathered under her wing since opening the shop, and her refusal to charge us for anything, I was constantly surprised that she ever managed to turn over a profit.
Standing up and reaching my arms above my head to stretch my sore muscles I realized I had been sitting scrunched up over my laptop for an hour and a half. I straightened my dark denim boot-cut jeans and smoothed my fitted t-shirt down where it had ridden up while I was hunched over the computer. I smiled to myself, knowing that Angela would approve of my look, the loose bun and glasses just added a sexy librarian touch to the ensemble. Ang had taken it upon herself to organise my wardrobe once I had graduated, throwing out my comfortable sweats, ignoring my protests, and pre-approving all future outfits, after a few half hearted arguments I capitulated, agreed that it was easier to defer to her superior clothes buying and matching abilities, and put myself in her capable hands. I smirked as I looked down at my t-shirt and saw the hot pick cupcake outline on the black background, and the words "Bite Me" written above it in cursive script, this was one way that we tried to repay Angela in lieu of payment for all the love and care (and cakes) she gave us.
I had gotten a couple of dozen of the t-shirts printed with the name and logo of the shop and distributed them among our friends, with the website and shop location written on the back of the t-shirt, it was a great way to drum up extra business and spread awareness. It also sparked some interesting conversations while we were wearing them and a Friday night out with the gang always included recounting our latest, um, propositions…
Picking up my now empty coffee cup I headed towards the counter for a top up. As I passed Seth who was chatting to a regular customer he caught my eye and gave me a quick wave. I smiled at him, pointed first to myself, then the counter and then my cup and he nodded with a grin before waving me on with an extravagant flourish of his arm and a low bow. I gave him a quick attempt at a curtsey for his gallant behaviour and even managed to right myself without dropping anything or twisting my ankle. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for not breaking anything or causing a scene in the middle of the shop, sadly however, my pleasure was short lived as continuing on I promptly stumbled, banging my hip sharply into the side of the counter as I reached it.
I let out a low oath as I grabbed the counter to steady myself - that was definitely going to leave a bruise. I stood with my back to the counter, shocked tears pricking at the corners of my eyes, grumbling to myself, and cursing my inability to get through an entire day without personal injury.
Rubbing my hip with one hand to try and soothe the throbbing pain, and reaching for the coffee filters with the other hand I heard someone politely clearing their throat behind me. I vaguely recalled hearing the bell above the door ringing as I collided with the counter, but had assumed it was a customer leaving, so the sudden noise startled me. Spinning round I was met with a pair of emerald green eyes looking curiously down at me and I froze as I felt all my breath leave my body in a rush.
Damn, this was why I tried to stay safely sitting in my nice armchair in the corner of the coffee shop - so I could observe from a distance without making a complete fool of myself.
This was the reason that my Saturday afternoon ritual had become particularly important to me recently and in fact why I had refused an offer of a friendly lunch out with Jake today. Although I would curl up and die before admitting it to anyone, for the last three Saturdays in a row I had watched with borderline obsessive creepy stalker fascination as Green Eyes arrived for a mid afternoon cup of coffee to take away.
Usually I was able to safely watch from a distance, tucked away in my makeshift office. I would discretely admire the tall, lean figure; the beautiful bronze hair which looked like it was beyond taming yet still perfect in its unruliness. I would watch his long slim fingers gently tapping a rhythm on the counter top as he waited for his coffee.
Moving my eyes downwards involuntarily I took in the sharp lines of the well fitting dark suit he wore today, the top button of his crisp white shirt undone, looking like he had given in to temptation and just recently removed his tie. The black wool overcoat he wore today looked designer in both its cut and style and covered what I knew from my previous ogling sessions was a fantastically well toned…
Eek, I snapped my eyes back up to his and blushed profusely as I realised that he had cleared his throat again to try and gain my attention, he had raised one perfect eyebrow at me, and was clearly waiting for me to say something. Unfortunately his close presence appeared to suck out all my ability to speak coherently, so I had to settle for a slightly squeaky "Hi."
"Hi," even his voice was stunning, low, deep and melodic. If I had thought he was beautiful from a distance, up close it just got better and better, his pale clear skin seemed to almost glow, his strong jaw was well defined and clean shaven and his lips, his lips were… oops, his lips were moving, it seems as if struck dumb Bella also appears to have become hard of hearing Bella in the last two minutes.
"I'm sorry, you were saying..?"
He smirked slightly and appeared to be deciding whether he needed to speak very slowly and clearly to me, obviously not trusting my ability to understand a word he was saying.
"Um, I said, could I please get some coffee…?"
Yep, good one Bella, funnily enough, a guy walking into a coffee shop and standing at the counter would probably be wanting some coffee, especially as you have watched him do the same thing for the last three Saturdays in a row, you couldn't have made a guess at that?
"Ok, you can handle this; you've made coffee before…"
Damn, my verbal filter is broken; I think I just said that out loud.
I figured as I couldn't turn time back and do over this pathetic attempt at lucid conversation it was probably best to just plough on with my rambling in the hope that something eventually made sense.
"Okay, if you like strong, black Italian roast coffee I can make you one, anything more complicated from that thing," I pointed to the contraption behind me which I was bound to break or scald myself on if I attempted to prepare something other than my favourite drink, "and I will need to call in reinforcements."
I waved my arm weakly in the general direction of Seth who had now sat down and appeared to be playing cards with the customer he had previously been animatedly chatting to.
What the hell? Why is he leaving me here alone? He knows I shouldn't be trusted with things like hot coffee and gorgeous customers in close proximity to one another, it's just asking for trouble.
Green Eyes was still watching me with an amused expression on his face, so I waited for an answer, hopping on one foot to the other nervously, and desperately trying to avoid opening my mouth and allowing my verbal ramblings to continue on unabated.
"A large strong, black, Italian roast coffee to go sounds perfect, thank you."
Relieved that he had given me an excuse to turn around and busy myself rather than continue to gawp embarrassingly at him, I tore my eyes away, turned my back to him and began to prepare his order. At the same time I tried to discretely peer at the chalkboard above my head, searching for the price of a large black coffee, having never actually paid for one myself.
"That will be $1.65 please," He already had the right change out and I was instantly glad I hadn't just tried to make up a price on the spot. As he placed the money into my outstretched hand, his cool fingers brushed against mine, and I felt a tingling feeling run up my hand and through my arm. His scent also washed over me as he leant forward, god, he smells delicious, all masculine and clean and fresh. He must have felt the tingling sensation too, as he frowned slightly, looking down at our hands. I was about to apologise and blurt out something stupid like "sorry, electric shock, must be the carpet in here" even though there was no carpet in sight, but was luckily saved from further embarrassment by his question.
"So… you work here?"
"No" I shook my head slightly.
"You don't work here? Even though you are standing behind the counter, wearing a t-shirt that says Bite Me, you took my money and are currently preparing my coffee as we speak?"
His eyes travelled from my face down my body to glance pointedly at the logo emblazoned on my chest, before they flickered back up to meet mine.
And apparently the chance of being saved from further embarrassment has now been rescinded. It appears that verbally rambling Bella has now officially left the building, in fact, if you check she has probably managed to run the five blocks home, get in the front door of her building while avoiding the nosy neighbour downstairs and is currently hiding under her duvet with her eyes tightly shut, pretending that if she can't see you then surely that means you can't see her.
"Okay…" Green Eyes says slowly, raising both eyebrows this time, I guess he's probably wondering if I am high on something illegal or am about to be carted off to a secure facility.
Thankfully he seems to have decided to give up on our attempted conversation as a lost cause, for which I am grateful because, honestly, I just can't see it improving from the way it has gone so far. He taps a rhythm gently on the counter with his fingertips and glances around the room, the expression on his face seems to be slightly panicked, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him grabbing the nearest person and asking if there is a back way out of the building away from the crazy lady manning the counter.
The coffee finished filtering while I collected the award for biggest dork of the year, so I hastily fill a large takeaway cup, snap the lid on and whirl back round to hand it to him, careful to avoid touching his fingers this time, in case I shock him again. It would be just my luck that I would jump and he would end up covered in hot coffee to round off this complete fiasco.
He murmurs his thanks, looking at me as if he is debating saying something more, but then changes his mind, his expression smoothing to a blank mask of polite indifference. Before I can think of anything witty to say, or even something unoriginal such as "you're welcome" he has picked up his briefcase, spun around and strode to the door.
He turns back towards me as he opens the door to leave; of course being perfect he is able to effortlessly juggle the door handle, his case and the coffee cup. Indicating with the hand still holding the coffee towards my hip, which I have begun unconsciously rubbing again, he says "I hope that feels better soon, that looked a nasty collision." Before I get a chance to even open my mouth, let alone formulate a reply, he is gone, only a blast of cold autumnal air left in his wake.
I exhale loudly as I recall the truly pathetic picture I have presented of myself today to the sexy man I have been ogling for several weeks. I'm pretty sure if you asked my friends they would describe me as a fun, happy, enjoyable person to be around most times. I'm able to talk articulately, and argue passionately about things I believe in. Okay, so I'm a little clumsy, but I've definitely got better over time, at least now I only tend to do damage to myself, rather than taking down anyone else unfortunate enough to be in the firing line.
Angela has spent years patiently training me in the art of walking in high heels safely (and when necessary seductively), I have also been drilled in the importance of wearing the appropriate underwear for each and every occasion (supposedly the foundation for everything in life), and thanks to Christmas, Birthday and "Hey, saw these and just had to get them for you" gifts I have amassed quite the comprehensive selection. I still haven't quite figured out why I need these particular skill sets, but Ang assures me I need to be prepared for anything and this is a necessary education. I just know once she puts her mind to a project it's pointless to try and fight against it, accepting gracefully and buying expensive bottles of bubbly to share in return is much the safer option.
All this preparation was in vain however when faced with my secret crush today. Within the space of a five minute encounter I had managed to demonstrate my clumsiness, gawped at him fairly comprehensibly, blushed furiously, appeared as if I had been struck dumb, and hard of hearing, then babbled inanely at him for a while before shocking him and finally reverting to being struck dumb. Hmm, nice job Swan, very impressive.
Angela's return from the backroom brought me swiftly out of my pity party, trying to avoid her questioning look when she noticed my face, which I'm pretty sure was both flushed and flustered, I busied myself with repeating the actions from earlier to make another coffee, this time for myself. I prayed that she had been blissfully unaware of my pathetic loser behaviour earlier, I didn't think I could bear a full analysis of how I could have handled things better, I could wait until later tonight while trying to sleep to torture myself with that process.
Taking the cup back over to my table, see I can manage to walk perfectly well when Mr Gorgeous isn't here; I sat back down with a groan and covered my face with my hands. Today was not turning out to be a good day; I knew that getting out of bed this morning was a bad idea.
I forced a smile back on my face as Angela arrived back at my table and sat herself down again. Seth brought over two plates of chocolate chip cookies for us and a coffee for Angela, I think he might have been feeling sorry for me, especially if he spotted any of my earlier display, as he pulled a face at me and then affectionately patted me on the head like an errant puppy before heading back to the counter to take over.
"Sorry about earlier, where were we?"
"Um, something you wanted to talk to me about Cullen Tech, and apparently there is currently a shortage of spa appointments currently in the Chicago area?"
"Ohh, yes, Cullen Technologies gossip" she smirked, "well it seems that the new Edward Cullen is rather a catch, you know Alice is a beauty…?"
I nodded, remembering pictures of the Cullen family attending a recent charity do. The Chicago society papers had done a full four page spread on the event, heavily featuring the Cullen family. Even though the children were adopted, the entire family seemed to have been blessed with freakishly good looks. Alice was indeed beautiful, all petite, black spiky hair, and huge sparkling blue eyes.
"Well it seems that although Edward is the complete opposite of Alice, he has been equally lucky in the looks department. Ben was being a typical guy not wanting to be thought of as checking out another man too closely, but he says tall, darkish hair and good looking covers it. All the guys in the office are feeling rather insecure and are surreptitiously checking out gym memberships on their lunch breaks and all the women are busy dolling themselves up, layering on the makeup, wearing their skimpiest "come hither" outfits and simpering over him."
I smiled as Angela mimed primping and preening herself in front of an imaginary mirror, pouting and pretending to apply lipstick and batting her eyelashes.
"You know Emmett is supposed to be seriously involved with someone now, well, if he is off the market, and Edward has appeared on the scene, in the top position in the company no less, I guess the vultures are going to be circling, ready to grab on at the first opportunity."
I laughed, knowing from the conversations I had been a part of with Angela and Ben that the women that worked for Cullen Technologies had fought hard and dirty over Emmett Cullen's affections, I could only imagine how much they must be licking their lips at the thought of fresh blood.
"How is he coping with all the attention?"
"Ben says there is a lot of scowling going on, he breezes through the offices, glaring at pretty much everyone, has refused all invitations to help him settle in, or be entertained around the city, has worked every weekend since he arrived and spends the majority of his time locked in his office."
"What does Ben think of him?"
"I don't think he has actually managed much face to face contact with him yet, from what he has seen; he said he seems a bit of a tortured soul. His secretary Mrs Cope told Ben that he is friendly if rather formal with her, but she is old enough to be his mother. I think he feels more comfortable with her as she is probably less of a threat than the rest of the female population of that building…"
"Poor guy, maybe he didn't want to leave Italy and come to Chicago, it's a pretty major upheaval to make."
"Yeah, I guess family responsibility may have come first in that scenario" Angela mused as she finished her cookie. "Speaking of Cullen's, I do have a question for you from Ben, he heard on the grapevine that a job opportunity has come up and he was wondering if it would be something you would be interested in?"
"I'm listening" My ears perked up at this news and I leaned closer towards Angela.
"Well, the personnel department have put out an internal memo regarding a 20 hours per week position, I think its general dogsbody work, reception cover, typing, filing, copying etc, they want someone willing to jump in wherever a department needs extra help. They already have a floating position like this, but it's gotten too much for one so they are looking for another person to join. I know it's not likely to be the most interesting work, but you know that Cullen Tech pays pretty well and the benefit package is great."
"Ang, that sounds fantastic, you are a genius, you always know what I need as soon as I need it, how do you do that?"
I was definitely interested, 20 hours a week would still leave me plenty of time for writing, and the offices were only a couple of blocks further over from the coffee shop, I would be able to walk into work or catch a lift from Ben sometimes, or stop at the coffee shop on the way home or….
Whoa, talk about getting ahead of yourself…
"We know you need time to work on your manuscript, and I know your grandma's inheritance just about covers your apartment expenses but I wasn't sure how many hours editing work you were getting recently?"
"You're right, I was contemplating earlier how I was going to need to get some extra funds coming in, the editing job is great, but recently I've had less and less hours offered, business definitely seems a little slower lately. The Cullen Tech job sounds like it could be absolutely perfect; do you think Ben would be able to put in a good word for me?"
"He fixed the personnel department's intranet when it got a rather nasty virus recently, one of the dopey girls in the department got an email telling her she had won a holiday in the Bahamas if she just clicked on a link, she did and the whole system went down. The department head was furious with her, but luckily Ben was able to rescue everything, so he is the golden boy with them at the moment. I'll get him to talk to them on Monday, see if he can arrange an interview for you, if you like?"
I jumped up to hug Angela, she and Ben were such great friends, if I could swing this job with a little inside help from Ben it could solve so many of my problems in one go.
"Are we still on for your Birthday dinner tomorrow night?"
Whenever one of my friends birthdays came around it was customary for us to make sure we all cleared our schedules and a big night out was planned. Angela had decided she fancied dinner at Luigi's, a rather snazzy restaurant that served the best mushroom ravioli in the city, with lots of margaritas followed by dancing at a nearby club for her birthday celebrations.
"Yep, and I've even arranged for my mum to come in and open up the coffee shop on Monday for me, she is already primed to set up a coffee drip directly into our system when we eventually roll in.
"Can't wait, it's going to be a good night!"