Disclaimer:All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
...hi guys. I know it has been a terribly long time but I just wasn't happy with what I had for this chapter and I struggled to get back on track. But now I feel a lot better about this chapter and where we're headed in the next couple :) Thanks so much to my comma guru girl, SweetVenom69. Your help is so appreciated. Enjoy.
On her way to the White House, with her trusty coffee cupped in her hand, Bella mentally organized herself for the morning. She had a morning appointment with Jasper Whitlock and the President to discuss some preliminaries for the new administration, but as everyone was still settling in, there was not a lot of press-related issues for her to do.
As she arrived at the White House, she was greeted by so many new faces that it was disconcerting. She had only worked for one administration and was used to the familiarity of knowing names, positions and agendas. However, now she was a stranger among the President's men, and she couldn't help feel out of place. It occurred to her that she had more to do than she had initially thought – there were people to meet, names to remember; she had to make herself known to these people who were now her colleagues.
She exchanged nods with several people as she made her way to her office and began mentally prioritizing the people that she would need to make herself familiar with; the Vice-President, the Security Adviser, the new Councils and the Senators who were serving their first terms. She exhaled a long breath as her workload began to stack up.
It was moments like this that reminded Bella that she was still new to this world, and that the experience she had gained over the past two years was nothing in comparison to the multiple decades that the new administration represented.
Momentarily lost in thought, she grabbed her notepad and pen and hurried to the President's office for their meeting. The Chief of Staff opened the door after her knock and she thanked him nicely; she was trying to be on her best behaviour after all. Then she spotted the President, and the tumultuous emotions simmering beneath her skin began to bubble as she tried in vain to brush away memories of the previous night.
"Mr President," she greeted him, doing her best to remain neutral. She imagined herself in front of a press conference, and gradually, she felt her emotions dissipate, and her control over the situation build.
"Miss Swan," he replied, his tone equally detached.
Jasper clapped his hands together, wanting to move past the obviously awkward moment between his friend and the seemingly moody Press Secretary.
"Alright!" he exclaimed. "Edward's informed me that he's chosen someone for the position for Communications Director and needs to arrange meetings with two of the applicants for the personal secretary position. Would you mind arranging the interviews for all three, Miss Swan?"
Jasper was deliberately cautious with his words and manner, Miss Swan's temper was something he wanted to avoid with a ten foot pole. But she seemed to take his request in stride, nodding blithely and taking the prospective employees' files with a small smile.
On the inside, however, Bella was struggling to bite back a smart remark. It wasn't her job to run the President's errands, and surely with all these people from his administration arriving, there was someone else who could ring up and arrange the interviews. But she remained professional. She would remain professional in front of Jasper Whitlock, and she would not let the President see how much he affected her. She told herself this, and after a couple of calming breaths, she felt back in control.
"I will see to these this morning. The positions will need to be filled as soon as possible," she said with a nod. She turned to face the President. "The White House event planners have requested a quick meeting for your final go-ahead for the formal dinner tomorrow night, sir."
He nodded in agreement. "When would they like to see me?"
His brusque reply made Bella cringe. He surely hated her after the way she had treated him, and while he may be warranted in his response, part of her wished he didn't. The other part was pissed at him for being so judgmental. Her anger was justified, but he probably didn't even know why he hated her. Again, she felt the vicious emotion beneath her skin. Calm down, she told herself. Now is not the time, nor the place.
"They'll be in all day, so if you let me know when you're free, I could arrange a meeting," she replied.
"Thank you," the President said, looking Bella in the eyes for the first time. His green eyes were darker than she remembered and a certain tiredness was evident. Yesterday, there had been an excited spark, but today there was a touch of doubt dimming the flame.
Bella offered him a small, honest smile. She felt sorry for him.
But then she remembered Rosalie and her mask snapped back into place. "Was that all?"
The President looked at Jasper and nodded. "I'm free for the moment, Miss Swan. Perhaps we can meet with the event planners?" he questioned.
Bella pursed her lips, she had planned other things for the morning, but, of course she would clear her schedule for the President and his biddings. Letting her overly sarcastic inner voice run wild in her mind was the least she could do while she did everything she could to prevent the words from tumbling unrestrained from her lips.
"Okay," she said shortly.
Jasper was first to reach the door and opened it for Bella and the President cordially. "I'll be in my office if either of you need me," he said, smiling kindly at Bella before strolling off in the direction of his office.
Again, Bella sighed internally. She was being left alone with the President, again.
"The event planners have an office in the East Wing," she said for the sake of saying something as they walked in silence.
In her periphery, she saw the President nod.
She sighed again. She couldn't pretend it didn't hurt that he was so quick to judge her. But then she was angry that he didn't even try to understand why she had reacted the way she did to him yesterday. And to top it all off, she was mad at herself for caring. Mad at herself for being hurt and mad because she shouldn't want him to understand.
Bella was a whirlwind of emotions as she led the President through the winding corridors and lavish rooms of the White House.
She couldn't discern where one feeling began and another ended. She felt like she was suffocating under the weight of everything.
"How long did it take you to get your bearings here?"
It took Bella a moment to realize that the President had spoken. She had been lost in her own thoughts, not expecting him to speak to her as they walked.
The President quickened his stride to walk in step with her, and repeated himself.
"Oh, after you get lost a couple of times, you learn quickly enough. People will be more than willing to help you out," she said with a smile.
The President nodded again after a quick smile of thanks in her direction.
They walked on in silence.
Bella looked at the man walking beside her. She watched, but without obviously staring at him.
He was walking with confidence, but not cockiness. He was matching her steps perfectly as they strode side by side. One hand was shoved in his suit pants pocket and the other one swung slightly as he moved. His shoulders were hunched ever so slightly and Bella wondered if he had slept that night. His head was looking every which way as he took in the sights of the White House. He peered into rooms and gazed at the ceilings with the curiosity of a little boy. Bella found it adorable.
She looked away hurriedly as she realized how she was feeling.
But his aura was magnetic. Her gaze was drawn back to him as he gently ran his fingertips over the gilded edge of a painting's frame. His face was turned away from her, but she could clearly see his jaw and its extended line down his neck. Bella had never quite seen a jaw like it, and as well as his pointed cheek bones; it was quite possible that the President had the best facial structure she had ever seen.
This was allowed, right? she thought to herself. I'm allowed to look; it wasn't like I'm going to touch. Plus, it is in my natural instincts to look for and identify males with preferable features. I'm a member of the human race and to ensure that my offspring have the best chance of surviving natural selection, I have to mate with the male with the most ideal features.
Oh God, she groaned mentally. I'm using high school biology to justify my urge to perv.
Before she could make any more justifications on Darwinian Theory, she realized that they had reached the event planner's office.
"This is it," she called to the President who had wandered past the door. Bella went to knock on the door, but before she could, it was opened by Ashley, the White House's event planner. The thirty-something exuberant woman with a mop of curly red hair had been one of the first people Bella had met on the job, and they had become fast friends.
"Bella!" she exclaimed, grabbing Bella into a tight hug.
"How are you, Ashley?" Bella replied with a happy smile.
"Good, good. Where have you been all this time? I haven't seen you in ages," Ashley gabbled until she laid eyes on the President standing in the doorway. She stopped abruptly, her mouth mid-way through forming her next word.
Bella spun around, pinched Ashley's side subtly and introduced her to the President. She recovered quickly from her daze and sprung into action, telling the President about her plans for the upcoming formal dinner.
Bella watched silently from the door, and when the President turned to her with a bewildered smile on his face while Ashley excitedly explained seating and entertainment, she laughed silently. She could understand the overwhelming feeling of Ashley's presence. She could feel her eyes crinkle as her smile reached her eyes and they shared a chuckle unbeknown to the happily babbling Ashley.
As Ashley tugged the President to each of her presentation boards, Bella took another opportunity to observe him.
He was good-looking. She couldn't deny it. In addition to the gorgeous bone structure, his uncombed chocolate brown hair and gorgeous green eyes were the icing on a very delectable looking cake. His pink lips framed a full set of straight, white teeth as they were pulled this way and that into various expressions as he listened intently to Ashley.
Bella watched as he twisted his lower lip between his teeth as he studied the pictures, leaning in closer to get a better look. The set of his eyes and the way his brows knitted together told her that he was trying to understand something. When he did, he nodded and pulled a half smile before moving onto the next part of the event's organization. His whole expression was light when he smiled and laughed at something funny Ashley pointed out. He was beautiful.
Bella snapped out of her reverie and began tracing her thoughts backwards. Beautiful, funny, smile, trying to understand, teeth, lips, eyes, hair. She turned away from her spot on the doorframe and leaned back against the wall, out of the President and Ashley. Her chest heaved as she tried to contain the torrent of emotions flooding her thoughts.
For the past six years she had hated Edward Cullen with every bone in her body. She had harboured rage, aggression and fury against him for what he had done to Rosalie. She had sworn that she would never forgive him, that she would never like him.
But she had known him for two days and all it had taken was a few off-hand comments and a bit of genetic luck for her resolve to think twice. There was already a small part of her that held some sympathy for him. Another part, located right beside her ovaries, that was screaming at her to make beautiful babies with him. And another part that she felt right in her heart, stealthily working on conjuring up emotions that she didn't want to think about feeling.
Bella closed her eyes. She had been ruled by her head for so long that the emotional ambush had caught her off guard. She just needed a moment to regain control, and to quash those traitorous parts of her psyche.
The President's voice startled her and Bella gasped, her eyes flashing open and her hand flying to her chest.
He was looking at her with a bemused smile. She wondered how long he had been standing there as she composed herself quickly.
"Thanks, Bella," Ashley said from her office door. "I'll send you an update later. Mr President, it was lovely meeting you. I'll see you tomorrow night," she said with a playful smile.
Bella ushered the President back down the way they had come earlier and shot Ashley a pointed look over her shoulder. Ashley was watching them walk away and shrugged back at Bella, a cheeky smile painting her face. Bella rolled her eyes and continued walking with the President back to the West Wing.
After calling the new Communications Director and the two applicants for the personal secretary position in order to arranger their interviews, Bella decided to take a walk around the West Wing and try to introduce herself to her new colleagues. She took a deep breath and steeled herself; she could do this.
First she wandered through the lobby and toward the Vice-President's office. The President's right hand man would be definitely someone she needed to know and be on side with. Perhaps she could go through him to avoid the President, Bella plotted as she walked. There would be less repeat incidents of the morning if there was someone between them, taking any communications and passing on her observations and plans to the President.
She smiled as her idea began to take shape as she knocked on the Vice-President's door. A tall, muscular Native American man opened the door and smiled a brilliant smile at Bella. She was momentarily speechless as she stared at the handsome man with short black hair and tanned skin.
"Hi," he said, after it became apparent that words had escaped the woman standing in his doorway.
His words brought back her senses and she arranged her face in a polite smile and stuck out her hand.
"Hi, I'm Bella Swan, the Press Secretary."
"Jacob Black, the Vice-President," he replied, shaking her hand and offering her an enchanting smile. Again, Bella nearly lost herself as he took her hand and his smooth, large hand slid against hers.
He gave her an expectant look after a beat of silence. Bella blushed and began forming her sentence before random words came tumbling out of her mouth.
"I just thought I'd come and introduce myself as we'll be working quite closely together in the future," she said carefully.
Did she imagine it or did his eyes shine and crinkle happily when she said they'd be working closely? Bella hoped her face wasn't giving away her clear delight at the same sentiment quite so obviously.
"Well come in, Miss Swan, and we'll get to know one another," Mr Black replied, opening up his door wider and gesturing for her to enter.
"Please, call me Bella," she insisted with a genuine smile as she entered his office. Using the attractive Jacob Black as an intermediary between the President and herself was the best idea she had had in a long time.
Most of the new administration had left at five that evening and Bella had heard them talking about meeting up for drinks to celebrate their first day. She was still busy with press reports and schedules for the upcoming week, not that she had needed the excuse. No one had stood in her doorway and asked her if she would join them.
While she had tried to introduce herself and make connections with her new colleagues, no one had been particularly forthcoming. She had managed a few minutes with each of the major players but then each of them had cited various excuses to leave. Maybe she was being paranoid, but she couldn't help but think that someone had been speaking badly about her.
There was, however, Jacob Black who had been very kind and engaging. They had spoken for forty-five minutes about his position, general party business and some of their new workmates. Bella had also hinted at the idea that he would act as her spokesperson to the President, telling him that his predecessor had been an excellent channel for voicing the opinions of her office. He looked puzzled momentarily but seemed to accept her words without complaint.
Bella was extremely relieved. The less time she spent with the President, the better – especially after the incident in the East Wing that morning. She couldn't explain what she felt towards him, whatever it was. Hopefully if she kept away, she could go back to hating him and not worrying about her conflicting emotions.
A knock on her open door interrupted her report writing. She looked up in surprise; she thought she was relatively alone in the West Wing. But there stood the President.
"Hey," he said quietly.
"What are you doing here?" Bella replied. When she realized how rude she sounded and remembered that she was still trying to be civil towards the man, her face softened.
"Sorry," she muttered.
He laughed. "I live here now."
She nodded and murmured in agreement. She sat back in her chair and looked at him curiously.
"Can I come in?" he asked, gesturing to the leather chair in front of her desk.
"Oh. Sure." Bella wasn't sure this was a good idea, but she was feeling a little too forlorn to be snappy or bitchy to someone who appeared to actually want to engage in a conversation with her.
He sat down in the chair in front of her and looked directly at her. They both watched each other in silence for a minute.
"How was your day?" Bella asked him, desperate to fill the void that was threatening to expose her.
"Good, really good. I haven't slept much, but I guess it is part of the job. How was yours?" he replied.
He looked at her, waiting for her to go on. It was against her better judgement to complain to someone she barely knew, even more so to someone she disliked, but as he kept on waiting for her to open up to him, she caved.
"I don't think that your people like me very much," she said, cringing as she realized how narcissistic she sounded.
He raised an eyebrow. She scowled angrily.
"I don't know what these people have heard about me, and I'm trying not to care, but if it's going to affect how well I do my job, then they're all going to hear about it! I'm a professional and I'll be damned if I let rumours and lies get me fired," she said heatedly.
The President had been trying to keep himself from looking too surprised or guilty as Bella ranted. He had heard the rumours about her, truth be told, but he had tried not to let it get in the way of their respective jobs.
Bella sighed and shook her head. "Sorry, I didn't mean to..."
"No, it's okay," the President replied. "I don't want petty rumours to interfere with the integrity of this institution. I'll speak to my party members and make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again," he said, frustration, and then determination, marking his words.
"You don't have to do that. I can handle it," Bella tried to say, but the President wouldn't listen.
"No, I won't stand for it. If there's a problem in my administration, I'm going to fix it," he said firmly. And for several reasons, both known and unknown to her, Bella believed him.
"Thank you," she murmured, averting her eyes.
"Miss Swan," the President went on, hesitantly this time. "I was just wondering about something you said... Well, it's not so much as what you have said, it's just..."
Bella felt her vital organs metaphorically stop working. Her heart leapt into her throat, and she could feel a blush begin to creep up her neck. He was going to ask her why she hated him, she knew it. He was looking at her curiously as he tried to frame his words so as not to offend her, she guessed. She bit down hard on her lip and prayed for the ground to swallow her up. She did not deal with this type of confrontation well.
Suddenly, her cell phone began chirping, and Bella faked an emergency as Rosalie asked her whether she wanted to go out for dinner that night.
"Okay, honey, calm down. Don't move your ankle just in case it's broken. I'll be there as soon as I can," she said, faking a concerned tone.
"Sorry, I've got to go," she said to the President, deliberately avoiding his penetrating, questioning gaze before grabbing her bag and jacket and running out of her office, her face burning bright red.
Edward was left sitting alone, feeling considerably more confused than when he had entered Miss Swan's office. He sat thinking about Isabella Swan, her peculiar mood swings, why he was so drawn to her and why she always made him feel so...so comforted in her presence. He continued to stare down the hallway which she had fled down and wondered.
What do you think? Things are certainly warming up now. Next chapter we'll be peeking into Edward's head ;)
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