A/N I've created a little Christmas treat for you all, a light-hearted Christmas story that I'll post a little of every day between now and Christmas! This chapter is scene-setting so a little longer than the others. Enjoy Twi-HoHoHo's!
I'd never given much thought to how I would spend Christmas this year – thought I'd had reason enough in the past few weeks - but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this…
I pulled the door closed behind me with a click and shivered as the cold, damp winter air surrounded me, trying to work its way through the layers of clothing I'd wrapped myself in. The sky was still dark, thanks to the early hour and as I opened the door to my truck, the weak glow from the interior light filled the cab. I climbed in and gunned the engine, turning the heater up full, but knowing that I would be at my destination long before the ancient vents blew anything more than tepid air out of them.
I was headed for my first day at Cullen's Toys Inc, the factory that sprawled across a huge area on the outskirts of town. It was their busiest time of year with Christmas approaching and I'd had no problem getting accepted for the seasonal working that I was planning on fitting around my school work. The work would be dull on the production line, I was already sure of that, but at least the money was decent and it would certainly come in handy.
I drew to a stop next to the guard box at the huge iron gates to the factory, with 'Cullen's Toys Inc' spelt out in ornate metal letters across them.
"Isabella Swan," I told him, thrusting the letter with my instructions for today toward the man standing in the doorway of the box. He took a step forward and took the letter from my hand, scanning it quickly before handing it back. He smiled at me.
"Well, welcome to Cullen's, Miss Swan." He reached back into the box to press a button that made the gates begin to open slowly inward. He came back to my window and pointed ahead. Follow the road right around the building and follow the signs for reception, you can leave your truck there today." He slapped his hand down on the sill.
"Thanks," I told him, offering a small smile as I pulled away.
I'd left my truck in one of the spaces in the busy parking lot outside the reception entrance and walked hesitantly up to the door. I hated new social situations and this year had held some big ones for me; a new town, a new school and now a new job. I entered the large reception area, my feet sinking into the thick red carpet. It was busy; most of the many seats lining the walls were filled, mainly with kids my own age. They must have scheduled a group induction. I recognised quite a few from school and offered a couple of shy waves as I crossed to the high reception desk.
A middle-aged woman with a friendly face looked up at me as I reached the desk and greeted me with a smile.
"Good morning, how may I help you?" she asked me efficiently.
"Uh, my name's Isabella Swan, I'm due to start some seasonal work here today." I pushed the crumpled letter across the desk to her and she reached up for it. She turned to her computer screen and tapped at the keyboard before turning back to me and smiling again.
"Thank you, Miss Swan. Please take a seat, somebody will be with you very soon."
I thanked her and headed over to where Jessica Stanley, a girl from my Trig and Spanish classes, sat waving frantically to me.
"Hey, Bella!" she greeted me excitedly as I sat down on the chair next to her.
"Hi Jessica," I replied, less enthusiastically.
"I can't believe you're here! I had no idea you'd applied for a job here! I totally thought that this was going to be the dullest job in the world." She rolled her eyes dramatically. "But now you're here this is going to be so much fun!"
I nodded to assuage her while I tried to cover up my true feelings at the prospect of spending all my spare time between now and Christmas working with her.
She'd just launched into another equally excited monologue, when I was distracted by a door opening at the far side of the reception area. In walked the most beautiful man I'd ever seen in my life. He only looked around my age, but held himself with an assured air that was rare for boys of eighteen. He was tall; lean but muscular in all the right places, his shoulders broad enough to be manly without looking too large for his frame. His bronze-coloured hair was in sexy disarray and as he walked behind the desk and held a conversation with the receptionist, he ran his hand through it in a gesture that was obviously an unconscious habit. I had the strangest urge to do exactly the same thing to it; to tangle my hand in it and twist it through my fingers, preferably while kissing those perfect pink lips that were moving as he spoke.
I was aware that Jessica had still been babbling next to me when she suddenly stopped. I looked away from the man and turned my head to Jessica. She was smirking knowingly at me. She lowered her voice.
"That's Edward Cullen."
I looked back at her in surprise.
"You know him?"
"Sure, he went to Forks High until he graduated last year, he's working for his Dad for a couple of years before he goes to college. Of course, why you'd want to go to college and bust a gut studying when your family's as rich as his is anyway, I have no idea." She gave an exaggerated look of exasperation.
I looked back over at him, eager to get another look at that hair and file the image away mentally for fantasising over when I was alone. I blushed when he was looking directly back at me intently. He looked back to the receptionist and took some papers from her. Moving from behind the desk and taking a couple of confident steps forward he consulted the top sheet of the paper he held. When he spoke his voice was clear with a velvety tone. He was loud enough to be heard above the chatter and piped music, without shouting. His words, when spoken with that voice, made my heart leap in my chest and something primal pulse somewhere lower down.
"Isabella Swan?" He was looking up now, his eyes scanning the room to seek out an affirmation that the person the name belonged to was indeed here.
I glanced quickly at Jessica, who was looking at me strangely. I shrugged and gathered my bag up as I raised my hand slightly and stood awkwardly, aware of the other eyes in the room on me.
"Uh, yeah. Here."
His eyes landed on me again and I felt the pressure of his penetrative gaze; it was almost as though he were undressing me with his eyes. Surprisingly it didn't make me feel uncomfortable, just slightly aroused. My mind was just beginning to wander to a place where I was imagining him undressing me for real when he blinked and regained his composure. He smiled at me, a crooked smile as sexy as hell, that did nothing to extinguish the fire that was smouldering gently now deep inside me.
"Hello, I'm Edward Cullen. This way please, Miss Swan." He turned and walked back to the door he'd come through earlier, punching a code into the security pad before pushing it open and standing to one side for me to go through ahead of him. As I passed him I caught a breath of his scent. It was so delicious that I inhaled again, more deeply. Edward was at my side now as we stopped outside the doors to the elevator and he smiled down at me.
"It's ok, Miss Swan," he said smoothly. "There's no need to be nervous."
A giggle escaped my mouth as I realised that he'd caught my deep breath and mistaken it for nerves. He looked at me curiously and I was close enough to take in that his eyes were a beautiful shade of green.
"Please, call me Bella," I told him, looking away, shyly.
"Bella," he confirmed, smiling again.
The elevator arrived; we stepped inside and Edward pressed one of the buttons. Again it was filled with annoying Christmas music. We both stood silently, facing the doors as the numbers on the display climbed, stopping at number six. As the doors opened, he stepped out and turned to his left. I followed him as he stalked purposefully down the corridor, stumbling slightly as I hurried to keep up with the pace set by his long legs. He stopped suddenly outside a door and opened it, walking in and holding it open for me. I noticed that his name was on the door; this must be his office. As I walked in I noticed yet more music playing. It had been playing in the corridor too. What was up with these people that they felt they needed this musical torture serenading them as they went about their jobs?
The office was modern and tidy. Everything appeared expensive. He placed the papers down on his desk which was otherwise bare. He caught me staring and obviously guessed what I was wondering – where was all his stuff? It was bordering on clinical in here. He chuckled softly.
"I like to keep my desk as bare as possible; it's better for fucking on."
My eyes shot up from the desk to his face, my cheeks burning and my mouth hanging open.
"I..I beg your pardon?" I stuttered stupidly. He laughed again and raised his eyebrows.
"I said, I like to keep my desk as bare as possible; it's better for working on. What did you think I said?" He was watching me, amused at my flustered state.
"I..uh, yeah. That's what I thought you said." I looked down at my feet, breathing deeply, but failing to calm down because the air was filled with his scent that made my stomach flip.
"Bella, take a seat." He indicated to one of the chairs that faced his desk and then he stood perched on the edge of it, only a couple of feet in front of me. Unfortunately this placed my eye-level at his crotch height; something that I'm sure hadn't escaped his notice either.
"As you know, we've offered you a job here at Cullen's."
I nodded and he continued. "I know you thought that you going to be in the factory, but we've had another vacancy come up and we need somebody a little…" He searched for the right word. "Special, for this role. It's in our inner circle Bella, and we don't let just anyone in. There are things that go on here that can never get out. We need somebody that we know we can trust with our secret."
I swallowed deeply and nodded, flattered that I could have been chosen for something like this. "Our lawyers have been doing some digging, Bella and they think that you could be our girl." I was shocked that someone had been 'digging' as he put it, into my background, but hell, this sounded a lot more interesting than putting toys together on a production line. "So," he smiled down at me again." What do you say?"
I nodded, hesitantly at first. "Yes. Ok, yeah, I'll do it. Why not?" I smiled back at him and he offered me his hand to shake.
"Welcome to the madness, Bella. I hope you enjoy the ride!" He winked at me and I was taken aback. All the innuendo was making my head spin.
"Just one thing first, I need you to sign a contract. There's a secrecy clause in there Bella. Please don't sign if you think there's any way that you might not be able to stick to it, because, believe me, we take secrecy very seriously here." His warning was loaded with threats and I wondered what on earth I was letting myself in for. To curious now not to sign, I scanned through the document and scrawled my name and the date at the bottom of the page.
There was a knock on the door and a small, elfin girl close to my age, poked her head around. She had dark, spiky hair and a beautiful face with delicate features. She looked directly at Edward.
"It's time!" she told him, an edge of excitement in her voice. He nodded.
He turned to me. "Ok, Bella. Are you ready?"
"Yeah, I think so."
He laughed at the confusion in my voice.
"Let's go then." He ushered me to the doorway where Alice was waiting for us, placing his hand on the small of my back to guide me out as he pulled the door shut behind him.
"I should warn you, Bella, what you are about to discover is going to seem a little unbelievable to you, but this is what we are. I hope you won't be too disturbed by it." I was worried now, unable to think what on earth he could mean by his words. 'What we are'? What the hell could that mean?
We reached the end of the corridor and in front of us was a huge set of wooden doors. Alice stepped forward and knocked and a voice shouted for us to enter. Alice and Edward grasped a door handle each and pushed the doors open in front of me. I gasped. The room was magical. The colours were rich and Christmassy, everything was luxurious and sumptuous. There were comfortable looking couches, thick rugs and a roaring open fire. One corner held a huge Christmas tree, immaculately decorated, like the kind you only ever see in department stores, and right in front of me, at the very end of the room behind a desk sat a man. Edward spoke.
"Bella, I'd like you to meet our father."
I stared awestruck, then I started to giggle, realising that they were playing with me and it was all a huge practical joke. I looked up at Edward and promptly stopped laughing. His face was serious and he looked almost disapprovingly at me. My heart sunk in my chest.
"Oh my God. This isn't a joke, is it?"
He shook his head.
"No, Bella. This is serious. Potentially deadly serious."
I looked back to the man and watched as he crossed the room toward us. He stood in front of me and offered me his hand.
"Bella Swan! I'm so pleased you chose to join us Bella. No doubt you're feeling a little confused right now." He smiled pleasantly
"Uh, just a little!" I told him.
He held out his hand to me and I shook it, the white fur on his cuff tickling my hand slightly.
"I'm Carlisle Cullen," he told me. "But you probably know me better as—"
"Father Christmas," I whispered.
A/N Woooooo! What a shocker that was! I'm trying to post a little a day between now and Christmas, not planning on any of the rest being as long as this, but then I wasn't intending it for this either! Aah, that's just the way the key-tapping flows sometimes.
Lemons to follow people so keep checking back!
Please make your Christmas present to me some prettily wrapped reviews!