A/n: This was written for the Gift Exchange for ciaobella27. I had never heard of her before I got my notification from Ginny and Shug. What. A. Match. I fell in love with her writing style and her story, Living Backwards. It's in my favorite stories list. You simply MUST check it out.
Disclaimer: These beautiful creatures belong to Stephenie Meyer.
"Were you born an asshole?
Or did you work at it your whole life?
Either way it worked out fine
'cause you're an asshole tonight."
- The Asshole Song, Jimmy Buffett
It was Wednesday of the first week at my new job before I found something I liked about it.
The first two days I hadn't set foot in the office they had reserved for me. No, those two days were full of the really fun things – paper work, systems training, that kind of stuff. Wednesday, I finally got my office.
And it was stocked with office supplies.
I had a penchant for office supplies. There was just something about a pack of unopened pens that made me giddy, something about a fresh legal pad that just called to me. I know better than to walk into Staples or Office Depot, and I have been known to steal notebooks from friends who don't use them in a timely manner.
It was the pack of pencils that bothered me.
Pencils? Really? Who the fuck used a pencil in this day and age? And the wooden variety? Haven't we moved on from that? What's wrong with a mechanical pencil? They're fifty cents per pencil more and I can pretend like I'm James Bond, shoving some super secret weapon into the tip of the pencil in place of the lead.
The pencils bothered me for another reason. They weren't sharpened, making them even more useless than I had originally thought. Unsharpened pencils? What am I going to do with that? Give someone a splinter?
This place was stocked though, so surely... I glanced further into the compartmentalized drawer until I found what I was looking for. Pencil sharpener. Perfect.
A few minutes later I had 10 perfectly sharpened pencils lined up in front of me. I was downright anal retentive about it, making sure they were each the same size, right to the tip. Now what to do with them 'cuz I sure as fuck wasn't going to write with them.
Something was tugging at my memory as I stared down at the pencils. Something looked familiar. It took a few minutes for me to realize that they reminded me of one of my favorite moments in the X-Files. Scully goes on vacation and Mulder, bored as hell without her, gets into all sorts of weird shenanigans, ending with him throwing pencils at the ceiling. I glanced up, wondering if it was only television magic that made Mulder's pencils able to pierce ceilings. It looked solid enough to me.
I perched on the edge of my desk, my back to the door, trying to decide how one aimed upward. I've never been the most coordinated of people so this wasn't the kind of thing that came naturally. I practiced my wrists flicks several times before actually letting a pencil go. I watched, somewhat dismayed, as it flipped a few times, hit the ceiling and came ricocheting back at me. With a yelp, I threw my hands up to protect my precious head from the fallout.
That's when I heard it; possibly the most appealing chuckle I had ever heard. Now, I'm not the kind of girl who would get turned on by something as mundane as a chuckle, typically, but looking back - moans turn people on, why not a chuckle? Especially this one. It was all masculine and dead sexy.
I craned my neck backward catching a shock of what can only be described as delicious, bronze colored bed head, when gravity, my constant nemesis, decided I had spent entirely too much time upright lately. As I tumbled off the desk, arms flailing, I wondered if one could apply for workman's comp after only three days on the job.
But I never hit the floor. Instead, two strong arms braced themselves around me and I fell back against what I could tell was a very nicely toned chest. Not overly muscular but definitely defined, at least as far as I could feel through my shirt and his. Either way it was infinitely preferable to hitting the floor. And my God, did he smell good.
A little stunned, what with the falling and then being saved by a delicious smelling entity with sex hair, I didn't turn around as he steadied me, keeping one arm wrapped around my waist. "Are you alright?"
Of course, the voice matched the hair and the laugh and the chuckle. Sweet and smooth and sexy as hell. What the fuck was wrong with me?
Determined to put an end to the nonsense that was going on in my head, I turned to him intending to assure him I was just dandy. The snag occurred when I actually laid eyes on him. I've heard the term struck dumb before. I've even written it into my stories; that and every other standard cliché that essentially boils down to "Why yes, I find that person attractive". Before that very second, I would have told you that they were all creative license - an author's over-zealous way of capturing the essence of a moment; the thousand words that were worth the picture.
As it turns out - they all had their basis in reality because they all happened to me simultaneously. My heart fluttered. My knees went weak. My breath caught in my throat. And I was most definitely struck dumb. "You're fine," I said breathily. My brain did a mental face palm when it caught up to my lips, and I felt my cheeks get hot. "I mean. I'm fine. Thank you," I rushed to correct myself, blushing furiously.
The concern in his ridiculously deep, mesmerizing green eyes turned to amusement."No problem," he said easily. I saw his eyes flicker down momentarily then back up to meet mine. He smiled, and once again he took my breath away. Why couldn't he have had a gap tooth? A gap tooth surely would have broken this bizarre spell I seemed to be under. I looked down, surprised and embarrassed to find that my hands were resting lightly on his chest. I stepped away from him quickly, my face flushing red again. Great.
"You know, if you'd like, I can show you a technique. It might save you from a lethal head injury," he offered, crossing his arms and leaning against the door jamb.
I raised an eyebrow at him. "You have a technique?"
He smirked back at me. "It's all in the wrist."
"You use your wrist a lot, do you?" I said, my brain lagging behind again while my lips wouldn't stop moving. Christ, was I flirting? Hadn't I just signed a form yesterday stating that I implicitly understood the company's policy on sexual harassment?
His eyebrows shot up in surprise. He had bushy eyebrows. That should break the spell, right? I looked again. No such luck. The eyebrows seemed to fit his face. If anything they accentuated his expressions and drew attention to those beautiful, emerald eyes.
He recovered from his shock and grinned. I thought Han Solo had perfected the lopsided grin but no. Harrison Ford had nothing on this man. Sorry, Harry! His hands dropped to his sides and he took a slow step toward me. I unconsciously took a step back, bumping into the desk. He took another couple of steps, coming right into my personal bubble space. He reached forward, leaning on one hand against the desk, almost but not quite touching me. He brought his other hand up on my other side and...
Snatched a pencil from my desk and stood up straight.
I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding, trying to shake off the feeling of electricity that ran through my body with his proximity. He was still smirking at me.
"Watch me," he said, unnecessarily as I was still staring at him. He sat on the edge of the desk next to me and I tried to ignore the crackling, the electricity that had every nerve in my body aware and alert - waiting for a bolt or a whole fucking lightning storm. He gripped the pencil in his right hand and flicked it upward. It shot straight, like an arrow - totally the opposite of how my pencil had flown - flip flopping like an out of control gymnast. His stuck to the ceiling, of course. He picked up another of the pencils and held it out to me. "You try."
My second try was much the same as the first. He chuckled as I ducked out of the way of the flying pencil, catching it before it hit my head. "You're flinging it," he said as he put the pencil back in my hand and wrapped my fingers around it. His fingers were long and...alluring? "You need to flick, not fling."
I blinked, momentarily dazed and confused. It took me a second to remember what he was talking about. Pencils. Right. "What's the difference between a fling and a flick?"
His eyes held a hint of mischief. "A fling is against company policy. A flick is what you go see when you don't care about adhering to said policy."
I think I gave up the pretense of breathing all together. Was he asking me out? His bizarrely and yet beguilingly long fingers were still wrapped around my hand, and his head was tilted, staring into my eyes. He was smirking that cocky little smirk again, but his eyes were intense, with just the slightest bit of panic and uncertainty in their depths. That was somewhat comforting, to think that he maybe was stumbling through this surreal meeting just like I was.
My mouth opened. I will never know what I was about to say because right at that moment someone cleared their throat.
Both of our heads snapped up to where a good looking African-American man leaned against the doorway. "I wasn't aware that Miss Swan has been here long enough to get mail, Mr. Cullen," he said with an air of disdain. I hadn't realized until that very moment that I had no idea what this beautiful stranger's name was. I watched out of the corner of my eye as his shocked expression turned into a tight lipped glare.
"Mr., uh, Cullen was just introducing himself, that's all," I covered.
The condescending asshole in the doorway quirked one eyebrow. "That's about the longest handshake I've ever seen."
I looked down at the same time he did, and realized that Mr. Cullen's hand was still wrapped around mine. He let go of me as if he suddenly realized he was holding a hot potato, and I let go of the pencil. It hit the ground with a dull thud.
Jackass had the audacity to smirk at our discomfort. "Edward, your mail cart seems full," he said, gesturing to what was indeed a cart of mail outside the door to my office. I put it together pretty easily then. Edward Cullen's position here seemed to be some sort of mail clerk, and the asshole in my doorway was making certain to rub his spot on the totem pole in his face. What. A. Prick. But I couldn't afford to tell him off as I longed to, at least not until I was sure of his position in the company. Three days, Bella, I reminded myself. Three days in and I already hated the company politics that dictated I had to stay silent and let this total dickwad say whatever he wanted.
Edward glared at Douchebag once more before tilting his head once at me and striding out the door. I opened my mouth automatically to call him back but, of course, I had no excuse. Besides, Asshat stepped in front of me, blocking my view of Edward. "So, Miss Swan. I wanted to stop by and welcome you to the company. I'm Tyler Crowley and I'm the head of the sales department." I could have guessed that. I think it's practically a prerequisite to be a world class asshole if you were in sales. Either way it meant that he wasn't my direct superior at the very least. "I haven't caught your first name."
"It's Bella," I said in a clipped tone. I was about to launch into some bit of sass when a knock on the door frame interrupted me. My icy stare melted instantly. It was Edward.
But he wasn't looking at me. He was looking at Tyler. "Mr. Crowley? Since you're here, sir," he sneered the word, "I have some of your mail." The way he smirked as he held the small stack out, the item on top tilted toward me so I could easily read it, made me curious. I peeked and instantly had to put my hand over my mouth to stifle a giggle.
Apparently, Tyler Crowley had Cosmo magazine delivered to him at work.
Tyler snatched the stack out of Edward's hands, glaring at him. "Thank you," he said through gritted teeth. "Next time please deliver my mail to my office, as we discussed."
As Tyler turned his back to me, Edward's innocent expression faded into a mischievous grin. He winked at me before he turned and strode back out of the office. As he wheeled his cart away he started whistling. It took me a moment to recognize the twangy, country tune but when I did recognize it I couldn't help but snicker. He was whistling Jimmy Buffett's The Asshole Song!
"What's so funny?" Tyler asked suspiciously.
I just shook my head. "Nothing, nothing. I was just, uh, thinking of something in my head," I said quickly. Nice recovery, Swan. Not.
But it seemed to appease Tyler, and he smiled what I imagine he thought was a charming smile as he stepped closer to me. Unfortunately, I was already pressed against my desk so I had nowhere to back away from him. "It's almost lunchtime, Bella. I was wondering if you'd like to go out to lunch. You know, I can tell you a lot about the people worth knowing in this company."
I had to fight to keep the grimace off my face. As the new girl, I knew it was not a good move to turn down his offer. He was higher up than I was and I didn't need to be making enemies 3 days into a new position regardless. You wouldn't have told Edward no, the little voice in my head reminded me before I mentally told her to shut the fuck up. "Well, I-, " I stumbled, trying to figure out a good way to turn him down.
"Cinderbella!" a booming voice came from the doorway.
"Sully!" A grin spread across my face as Emmett McCarty came flying at me, forcing Tyler to the side just by the sheer size of him. I threw my arms around his neck as he lifted me off my feet in a monster hug. "What are you doing here?"
"I was in the neighborhood so I came to take you out to lunch," he said, setting me down and looking at Tyler."Unless you've got plans, of course."
It wasn't lost on me that Tyler was eying how close Emmett and I were standing together. I leaned into Emmett purposefully, worrying my lip between my teeth to give Tyler the impression that I really wanted to go with Emmett instead of him - which was the case anyway. I felt Emmett chuckle beside me as he figured out what was going on. He stood up straight and I didn't miss Tyler's expression going slightly wider as he took in Emmett's thick, muscular shoulders.
"That's alright Miss Swan," Tyler said quickly, "I just remembered there's a meeting I need to prepare for anyway." He turned on his heel and strode out of my office without another word.
I let my innocent, non-annoyed expression fade as soon as his back was turned. I rolled my eyes as I turned to Emmett. "Thank god for your sense of timing."
Emmett laughed his loud laugh, "Boy trouble already, Princess?"
I chose to ignore him. "How did you find my desk?"
"The receptionist was very helpful. Jessica, isn't it? With the nonchalant questions about what my relation to you is?" Emmett waggled his eyebrows.
"That's Jessica for sure," I replied. Even in just three days I could already tell that Jessica was probably the biggest gossip in the office.
"Nice legs, not bad at all. Although, if she's the best the office has to offer, it's no wonder the boys are already all over you."
I smacked his arm hard, though my mind automatically took me to some not so PG rated fantasies about a certain, bronze haired man being "all over" me. "Didn't you say you were going to feed me?"
Emmett grinned and gestured to the doorway. "After you, your highness."
Fantastic job, Cullen. Practically proposition the new girl before you even know her name and her boyfriend looks like he can beat your ass with his pinky finger.I sighed as I watched Bella Swan and the Hulk leave her office. If she told him about our meeting he would surely kick my ass. I know I would kick my ass if I was him.
Hell, I wanted to kick my own ass for my behavior in her office. What in the name of all that was holy had gotten into me? I sighed again, watching the grin on her face as she spoke to Gigantor, holding onto his elbow as they walked.
"I know what you mean, Cullen," said an all too familiar voice. I hadn't noticed but at some point Mike Newton came to stand beside me. He was watching Bella's retreating form as well, shaking his head wistfully. It wasn't unusual for Mike to ogle women in the office. What was unusual was the overwhelming urge I had to kick him square in the ass for staring at hers. "You know that had to be taken."
"She's probably a bitch anyway," I said dismissively. It was something that Mike would have said and the words felt like absolute shit leaving my mouth, but hopefully it would get him to drop the subject before I could add a second write-up for the day. Sexual harassment charges and a fist fight with a co-worker would not look good on my personal record.