Hello! Sorry for the wait on this, I got sidetracked by another fic idea. *sigh* I really need to learn to reign myself in.
Many thanks to katmom for her lovely beta'ing skills. I recommend you check out her profile and read her stories! They're wonderful. http://www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/u/1774644/
I wrote a piece for MsKathy's Twifans for Haiti compilation. If you'd like to read it, along with many others contributions, go to MsKathy's blog to find out how: http://mskathyff(dot)blogspot(dot)com
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This instalment follows chapter 5 from Elevators, Strangers and Surprises.
Elevators, Assistants and Attraction
The shrill sound of the alarm woke Edward from what had been a rather restless sleep. Groaning, he rolled over to slam his hand down on the offending appliance, effectively shutting it up.
Rolling over onto his back, Edward stared up at the ceiling, willing the images of a certain enticing brunette to leave his mind. It was no use, not to mention his body was showing the near painful evidence of the direction his thoughts had taken.
It had been frustrating to the extreme to have to stop the virtual mauling he had been giving Bella. He hadn't been able to stop thinking about her and the passionate exchange they had shared in the break room. The memory of it had been enough to prompt him to find release with his hand...twice.
Since he'd first laid eyes on Bella, she'd become the sole star of his fantasies. No one else interested him in the least.
Edward knew that, as Bella's professional superior, he had been completely out of line in kissing and touching her the way he had. If she wanted to, she could very well throw a lawsuit in his face, though something in him doubted she would take that kind of action.
It wasn't something he'd ever dreamt he'd have to deal with. He who had self-imposed a strict set of rules when it came to his professional life.
Rules he had broken and stomped over the evening before. Rules that he would gladly break again if it meant being able to touch Bella once more, feel her softness under his hands and hear again the breathy way she had moaned when he stroked her smooth skin.
Irritated with himself, Edward flung off the covers, now fully aroused, and plodded towards the bathroom, anticipating yet another cold shower to start the day.
Stepping into the elevator in the lobby, Edward leaned his head back against the wall, thinking of what he would say to his assistant.
The right thing to do would be to apologize and assure her that nothing of the sort would ever happen again. Yet, the idea of even saying the words to her made his body tense. It would mean she was available to the male population. The thought of Bella finding someone else was intolerable. It would be torture to stand by and watch that happen.
Edward knew she wouldn't stay single for long, no man would be able to resist the beautiful temptress that she was. Picturing someone else even touching her made him see red.
He wondered when he'd become such a possessive caveman. It made him more sympathetic to a past girlfriend who had been too clingy for his liking, always wanting to be with him, and hating the female attention he received when they were out.
The only other option was to tell her how he was beginning to think he'd do anything for her; that she occupied his thoughts night and day and that he might very well be falling in love with her.
The elevator doors slid open to reveal the glass doors of Empire One. Edward stepped off, still having no idea of what to say to Bella, and entered the office floor.
He caught sight of his assistant sitting at her desk, chewing on her nail. He approached her, feeling nervous and very much like a schoolboy who was going towards a first crush.
"Bella," he croaked. Clearing his throat, he continued, "Can I have a word with you?"
She turned around to face him, lifting her brown eyes to meet his gaze. Her skin seemed a little paler than usual and she seemed to be holding herself taut. The dark hair he loved seeing loose was pinned back into a knot. Her clothing was also more conservative than usual, covering up more of her body. Not that she ever wore anything remotely inappropriate to the office.
He guessed the reason for her appearance and it made him worry that he really had offended her. Edward supposed he was meant to be turned off by her look, but instead he was imagining the curves of her waist and breasts under the shirt she wore.
Bella stood, breaking him out of his inappropriate musings. "Yes, I'd like to talk with you as well."
"Is it all right if we go into my office?" he asked, not wanting to have others know what had transpired between them.
"It's fine." She nodded. They walked, side by side, to his office. He could smell her shampoo as she passed him to enter the room and he ran a hand through his hair absently.
Her closeness was affecting him too much, his body reacting in the worst way possible for the moment. He didn't want Bella to see him sporting an erection and so he went to sit behind his desk. Following his lead, Bella seated herself across from him, much as she had her first day at work.
Edward found he wasn't any closer to having the perfect words to say now than he had the evening before. He opened his mouth and then closed it, now fully annoyed with himself.
He decided to be completely upfront with her. Honesty was the best policy after all. Bolstered by his resolution, Edward straightened up in his chair.
"Bella, I..." He didn't get any farther than that as Bella hurriedly interrupted him. She was determined to speak so Edward sat back and listened.
He dearly wished he had gone first. As her words sunk in, his grip on the arms of his chair grew tighter and tighter until he thought he might crack them in half. Edward did his best to keep a neutral expression on his face, trying not to let it show how much Bella's speech was affecting him.
She thought their encounter had all been a big mistake. Logically, he agreed with her. He was her boss, and thus, it was unquestionably improper behaviour.
The other, illogical, emotional side of him wanted to lunge across the desk grab her, and show her how wrong she was.
Of course, he stayed where he was, gritting his teeth, hoping she didn't notice the white-knuckled grasp he was exerting on the innocent armrests.
"...I know you keep work and your personal life separate. We were just…tired last night. I wasn't thinking straight. I assure you I'll quit before I let anything like that happen again." Bella finally stopped talking, leaving a heavy silence in the air.
Letting go of the chair, Edward brought his hands up, putting the fingetips against each other in an unconscious attempt to draw attention away from his face. He struggled to find a response to what she had said.
What he really wanted to do was ask if she meant it. Her response to his advances the night before indicated she wanted him just as much as he wanted her.
He was saved again from answering when Bella misinterpreted his silence.
"Unless you were...planning on letting me go..." she said slowly.
Edward's full attention was back on her at this startling question.
"Why do you think I'd do that?" he asked, surprised.
"Well, I heard that you had to let some of your other assistants go because of trouble with…staying professional." She looked troubled.
"Where did you hear that?" Edward wanted to know how the hell she had found out about Jessica.
"From Jacob Black, when we were at the party."
Goddamn Jacob and his big mouth.
The mention of Black's name reminded Edward of the many admiring looks the dark-haired man had thrown Bella's way. Did she find him attractive as well? Was that why she had declared last night had been a mistake?
It was decided, he was going to kill Jacob Black.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have mentioned it," Bella said, apologetically.
Edward realized his face must have been showing what he was thinking. "No, it's fine. I didn't realize you might be worrying about that." He hastened to reassure her. "Bella, it was never my intention to fire you. You are, by far, the best assistant I've had. You take your work seriously. Those others I had to let go…didn't. I'm surprised you were even concerned about that. Especially in light of the fact that I was the one who…came to you. If anything, I should be the one worried about my job, not you." Edward grimaced, the truth of his words hitting him hard.
"I think we should just consider it a mistake…a lapse in judgment on both our parts," Bella said, keeping her eyes averted as she spoke.
Edward knew she was right; there was really no choice but to put the whole situation behind them. Their working relationship depended on it. Still, it felt like someone had punched him in the gut.
"Yes, you're right," he forced himself to say. "A mistake." He could hear the flatness in his tone as he lied.
Bella blinked rapidly a few times before standing up. "Right, well, if we're in agreement then I'll get back to work."
Edward only nodded his head, his eyes fixed on her every movement as she made her way to the door. He wasn't sure he'd seen her properly but it seemed as if she was trying to keep back tears.
This woman had captured his heart, and he'd made her cry. Edward had never felt more like an idiot then he did then. There was nothing else for it though.
"Close the door behind you, please."
When he heard the door click shut, he allowed himself to slump down in his chair.
He told himself it was a necessary conclusion, ignoring the empty feeling inside of him.
The day was busy, which took Edward's mind off of his assistant, keeping it on business at hand.
Ironically, Jacob Black had contacted him, requesting a meeting to look over a proposal they had been working on together. While he didn't relish the idea of seeing the man, Edward knew he couldn't give up business because of whatever personal feelings he harboured towards Black.
In any case, he didn't know if anything was going on between Black and Bella.
Edward hung up with a client and headed towards the copy room, where he found Lauren standing.
The blonde smiled at him, flipping her hair over her shoulders. Edward stifled a sigh, at least Lauren was much more tactful than Jessica. She wasn't his favourite person but she was good at her job and he didn't want to have to constantly be reorganizing his staff.
"I gave the package to Bella," Lauren informed him as she pulled the drawer open to refill the copier with paper. Edward recalled giving the parcel to his secretary to give to Bella. It was cowardly but he hadn't wanted to face her so soon after their talk in his office.
"Good, thanks, Lauren." Edward gave her a brief smile. "How is Bella settling in?"
"Well enough," Lauren replied, indifferently. "One assistant is the same as another."
"Hmm," Edward responded, refraining from mentioning how much he disagreed with her comment.
He handed a few files to Lauren for copying and left the copy room.
On the way back to his office, he caught sight of Jacob Black's tall form standing in the entryway...and Bella's more petite figure beside him. She was smiling up at Black, her hand extended, offering a small, white card to him.
Her contact details.
Edward stopped dead in his tracks, a wave of jealous rage washing over him. If he'd wanted to punch Black before, he now wanted to flog him into the ground. Unaware of the rather harsh expression that was currently residing on his face, he headed straight for the pair.
"Jake," he bit out. He spared Black a quick glance before transferring his gaze over to Bella.
The brunette dropped her head, refusing to meet his eyes. The only sign she was affected was the blush that was starting on her cheeks.
"Hi, Edward," Jacob said easily. "I'm here to go over the proposal with you. I was just finishing up a transaction." He gave Bella a knowing wink which only caused her to turn an even deeper shade of red.
Edward didn't respond, not trusting himself to speak or even move without making a scene. All he really wanted to do was take Bella away and make sure she never laid eyes on Black again.
He kept his gaze on Bella, willing her to look at him. He was rewarded with a quick, appraising glance. Whatever she saw made her face tighten.
"I'll leave you two to it then," she said. "It was nice seeing you again, Jacob."
"Likewise, I'll give you a call later." Jacob smiled widely at her.
The two men watched Bella disappear around the corner. Jacob turned to Edward.
"Shall we go over the account, Edward? Or do you want to glare at me for a little while longer?"
"Let's go into my office." It sounded more like a command than a request.
Once they were in his office, Edward rounded on his client.
"Jacob, I want to make one thing clear."
Jacob looked at him, curious. "Okay, I'll bite."
"You try and entice Bella away from Empire One to work for you, and you'll have me to answer to."
"Entice her away from Empire One or from you?" The black-haired man raised an eyebrow.
"Don't hurt her. I won't stand for it." Edward's tone was curt. He picked up the phone to instruct Lauren to bring in the necessary files.
"Could it be that the great and stoic Edward Cullen is in danger of breaking his strict moral code? Pigs really do fly." Jacob was grinning at him.
"Drop it, Black," Edward snarled. Jacob raised his hands as if surrendering.
"Won't say another word."
Lauren came in then, handing the required files to Edward.
The two men got down to perusing the proposal, an undercurrent of animosity hovering about them.
Edward was glad when Jacob left around an hour later. They might not have liked each other personally but professionally they saw eye to eye. Yet, he couldn't help thinking that Jacob had been a tad smug throughout their interaction.
It hadn't helped to stem his desire to lock Bella away so she wouldn't be able to date him.
He was just beginning to edit the campaign for La Push when the phone rang.
"Yes?" he answered.
"Ms. Denali on the line for you, Mr. Cullen," Lauren informed him.
Edward rolled his eyes. Tanya. As persistent as ever. If it wasn't for the business connection, he'd want nothing to do with her.
"Okay, thanks, Lauren, I'll pick it up." Steeling himself, he pressed the button to take the call. "Edward Cullen."
"Edward! It's Tanya, how are you?" She sounded too happy to be talking to him.
"I'm fine. What can I help you with?"
"Well, it's actually about the meeting you're supposed to have with my father...he won't be able to make it. There's a mini-crisis going on at one of our other divisions, so he flew out to deal with it."
"Okay, and he wanted you to tell me that? We can always reschedule."
"No need, I'm going to come in his place, if that's all right with you."
Edward hesitated before answering. He knew there really was no option but to meet her as distasteful as he found the idea. After fighting off her advances on numerous occasions, he wasn't looking forward to more of the same.
"That's fine," he said reluctantly. "Do you have the details of where and when we were supposed to meet?"
"Yes. Shall I come to pick you up, or vice versa?" she asked, hopefully.
"No, it's easier if I meet you there. I'll see you on Saturday."
"I look forward to it, Edward."
He cradled the receiver, running a hand through his tousled hair. Bella was potentially going on a date with Jacob, and he was stuck meeting Tanya tête-à-tête the upcoming weekend.
It wasn't shaping up to be a good week at all.
The next morning, after what had been a rather sleepless night, Edward arrived at work early – and in a foul mood. Thinking about Bella and Jacob together had done little to improve his temper.
Walking through the building lobby, he saw the doors of an elevator about to close and he hurried to catch up, thrusting his hand out to push the doors back.
An all too familiar scent wafted under his nose and he realized he had just stepped into an enclosed space with Bella Swan.
The doors slid closed, effectively locking them in.
"It seems we're fated to be on these together," he commented, with a fleeting smile.
Bella, who'd had a faraway look on her face, smiled back. Momentarily struck by how her smile further beautified her features, Edward fell to wondering if she was thinking about Black.
He automatically tensed, hating the fact that he had witnessed the date creation first hand. At the present moment, he hated it even more that she was so close to him and that they were alone in the elevator with no third party to help take the pressure off.
The impulse to push her against the wall and taste her lips was overwhelming. He wanted to see if she would let him and at the same time it would be in opposition to everything they had talked about and agreed upon.
Despite it all, Edward couldn't rid himself of the memory of how she'd felt around him, the way her mouth had moved so invitingly under his, the way her breasts had fit perfectly in his hands.
It was almost more than he could bear.
Afraid that he would lose control again, Edward kept himself rigid, unconsciously leaning away from her to put as much space between them as possible. His hands were curled into fists at his side so he wouldn't reach out and touch her.
"Edward? Are you okay?" Bella asked, her tone worried.
"I'm fine," he said shortly. Suddenly, the words he'd been holding back spilled out, unbidden. "Are you dating Jacob Black?"
It was Bella's turn to stiffen. "Yes. Not that it's any of your business." She looked directly at him, displeasure clear in her expression.
He had his answer, no matter that it made him want to punch a hole through the wall. It was confirmed, she was actually dating Black.
Edward closed his eyes, breathing out through his mouth to try and control his emotions.
"You're right. It isn't any of my business. Forgive me." Thankfully, the elevator doors opened right then, saving them from any further conversation.
Wanting to escape the space as quickly as possible, Edward walked off the lift. He pushed the glass doors with such force that they swung wide, hitting the stops with a loud bang.
He headed straight for his office, in no mood to say hello or converse with any of his employees.
Needing the name of a client pulled up, Edward walked out to Lauren's desk only to find it empty. Checking the clock he saw it was past 9 – 9:05 to be exact.
He saw his secretary come rushing up to the desk.
"Where have you been?" he snapped at her. Lauren looked surprised at his tone of voice.
"I'm sorry, traffic was terrible..." she started to explain.
"We start at 9 a.m. I expect you to be here at 9 a.m."
"Yes, I know, but I..."
"No excuses, Ms. Mallory, just see that it doesn't happen again." Edward knew he was overreacting but couldn't seem to stop himself. He quickly left Lauren's desk, leaving a stunned secretary looking after him.
Edward returned to his office only to realize he hadn't retrieved the information he'd needed.
Anyone passing by his door would've heard enough cursing to turn the air blue.
The day was finally coming to a welcome end. After enduring a meeting where all he could think about was getting his assistant alone and imagining the things he would do to her, Edward was more than ready to get out of the office.
He was sitting at the edge of desk, staring moodily out the window when Jasper showed up in his doorway, a bag slung over his shoulder.
"Ready to go?" he asked.
"You have no idea," Edward replied, checking his wallet to make sure his gym pass was in there. The two men left the office floor.
"Is everything okay with you? You seemed kind of – distracted today," Jasper said, once they were down in the lobby.
"I'm an open book it seems," Edward said, wearily.
"Hardly. You don't seem like yourself though."
"I don't feel like myself," Edward muttered. He hadn't felt like his old, assured self since meeting Bella Swan.
"Want to grab a drink after the gym?" Jasper asked.
Edward considered the question. He and Jasper were certainly friendly and the blond man was pretty much his right hand in the company, but he'd never confided in him before.
In fact, he'd rarely confided in anyone, much less Jasper, before.
Figuring there was no time like the present, Edward agreed, "I'm buying."
A/N: Thanks for reading! Please show me some love in the form of a review!