I hated this part of town. Why my mother felt the need to actually interact with these people was beyond me. Just give them the donation and forget until next year - that had become my motto. Not my mother if she wasn't actually interacting with the less fortunate she didn't feel as if she was helping. Now I was being forced to interact also because her car wouldn't start. That is how I ended up at Hope House, a halfway house for young single parents trying to build a life for their child. They were actually in the process of moving to a much bigger house in a nicer neighborhood thanks to a grant that come through from The Sinclair Foundation.
As I pulled in to park I noticed my mother talking to a young woman on the porch, a very attractive young woman. As I approached the house Kate came running out to greet me.
"Edward, it has been too long since I have seen you. What reason could the elusive Mr. Cullen have for being here today?"
"I am here to pick up Esme, she is having car problems. I can see she is in her element here." Just as I looked at my mother again a young boy ran up to the woman and plopped down on her lap. So she was a tenant not a volunteer that changes things drastically.
"I see," Kate said. "It has been good to see Esme again but I find it hard to help young mothers when I have a little one at home myself."
"I am sorry I have not had a chance to see your little one yet Kate. But with the Sinclair Foundation looking to possibly open an office in Seattle, the work on their bids has been taking up all of my time. I hope to see her soon, maybe at the BBQ in a few weeks?"
"I would like that Edward. You should settle down soon and start working on those grandbabies for Esme. She has been looking at the children all day with longing. You are still young, 40 is the new 30 or so they say."
"Kate, you know my history and why I have a hard time settling down. Esme will have to badger Alice for those grandbabies she wants so badly."
Paige and I had been dating for 2 years. She did not come from money like I did but that didn't bother me and I believed she loved me for who I was not what I had. At 30 I was young and stupid. I had picked out a ring and was going to ask her to be my wife, I loved her so much.
I had come home early from a business trip to surprise her. The surprise was on me, not only was she in bed with another man but they were talking about how long she would need to be married to me before she could divorce me and get a nice settlement. To say she was shocked to see me would be an understatement.
As I was physically dragging the man out of my house she took great satisfaction from telling me exactly how long they had been planning this scheme and that she had never loved me. I was a means to an end and that was all.
That incident reinforced my worst fears - no one would ever see me just my family's money. This was not the first time this had happened to me. That is when I decided not to marry and I have played the field every since. I rarely took a woman out more than a couple of times and only ones that came from money also. I had no use for gold diggers and everyone knew it. Nothing set me off quicker than someone cozying up to my family for our money and life had taught me that most women wanted money and social standing not love.
Once I became CEO of The Cullen Group things only got worse and the gold diggers came out of the woodwork. I used to be upset by how cynical I was becoming now it is just my life. A lesson learned the hard way.
"Edward, I didn't mean anything ..."
"I know Kate and I am sorry if I snapped at you. Even after all these years it just stings."
"Well, Tanya is always ready to help you..."
"Um, No. Just no. I know she is your sister and she is fine as a friend, in small doses, but there will never be anything else there. I just don't see her that way and she needs to realize that."
"I know," Kate said laughing, "I can't help but tease you. She will never give up on you Edward. You must know that by now and I do understand about the small doses, even if she is my sister."
As I was saying goodbye to Kate I noticed my mother hugging the woman on the porch. "Kate, do you know who the woman with Esme is?"
'No, but I know she is new. She wasn't here last month but she was here before I was this morning and I was here at 7. I have heard a few of the women call her Bella and she appears to be on good terms with the tenants and staff. No one has said much about her or her circumstances. Why do you ask?"
"Esme seems taken with her and you know how I am with my family."
"Then I feel I should tell you that I overheard her and Esme talking. She was asking questions about you and Cullen Construction. When Esme mentioned about it now being The Cullen Group she had more questions about the other businesses in the group. I didn't hear much more but she asked very pointed questions Edward. She knows quite a bit about your business, more than someone with a passing interest should."
"Thanks for the heads up Kate. I will have to be sure she doesn't become too attached to Esme." With that I walked off to collect my mother.
I loved helping out at Hope House, it felt good to know that the money provided by the Foundation was being put to good use. We were moving the single parents into a bigger house and this one would be used young adults. They could be recovering addicts or someone coming out of the foster care system but the house was here to help them get on their feet. I was currently working with Esme Cullen outside and watching some of the young children.
Her husband and sons company was one of the ones I was expecting bids on for a possible office and other buildings. Seattle was the 5th of 6 cities I had to look at for a possible second office, the only city we had eliminated was Miami. There was no way I was living in that constant heat. I took the opportunity to ask her about the company and her son Edward, he was the one I was suppose to work with and I had heard he was a hard, cold man. I had never met the man but if he was like people said I couldn't believe Edgar had set me on this task.
It was a week after the funeral when Gabe came to see me and gave me the letter. Edgar had wrapped it up in a task for the Foundation but I knew better.
Edgar & I had been talking about opening a 2nd Foundation office for months before he became to sick to work. We still talked about it once in a while but by this time we were just holding onto every second we had together.
"Bella it is important to me that you move on. You are still so young I want you to find someone special, to love and have children with. That is my greatest wish for you. Do not spend the rest of your life mourning me. You would do me a grave injustice if that is what happens; my joy in life comes from seeing you happy. I know you love me; I have never and could never doubt that. I want you to fall in love again and have someone to take care of and let him take care of you. Believe me when I say I know it would not diminish your love for me. Your heart is so big that you could love us both and still have room left for kids. This is my last request of you, move on and have the family I wasn't able to give you. I love you Bella, please do this for me."
The letter stated that if the 2nd office for the Foundation was not open within 3 years after his death I had to go look at the 6 cities he had picked. In each of those cities he had listed 2 companies I had to try to work with and who within those companies I must make initial contact with. I had one year to visit each city and make the location choice for the new office or I could not remain President of the Foundation. I would still be on the Board but not President. He knew that would motivate me.
Two cities had stars by them Seattle & San Diego and under each city one man's name had a star - Edward Cullen & Jacob Black. That was when I knew what he was doing. Edgar was forcing me to interact with men he deemed acceptable to take his place. That isn't saying that he tried to pick his replacement. He was forcing me to get out in the world and live. Edgar had been a force to be reckoned with in the business world so I knew he had interacted frequently with these men. If he thought they may be acceptable to me I would at least give them a chance. I had always trusted my husband's judgment and even though I hated what he was trying to do I understood. I wouldn't him to be alone for the rest of his life either.
I was brought out of my memories when a man, a very handsome man approached the porch.
"Edward" Esme called excitedly, "Thank you for coming to pick me up. Bella, this is my son Edward. Edward this is Bella Si.."
"Kate told me who she was. Nice to meet you." Edward spoke effectively cutting off Esme and looking at me as if it was not nice to meet me at all. I started to speak but Edward spoke again, "Mother we need to go, it is late." With that he pulled Esme to the car so fast we only had time to wave goodbye to each other.
I went in the house and said goodbye to the staff. As I was getting into what I considered my gardening truck I waved goodbye to Kate as I passed her car and drove home. After I got cleaned up and made a light dinner I went out to sit on the beach and think about all that had happened since I arrived in Seattle 2 weeks ago.
Two weeks ago I had opened Sinclair House on Bainbridge Island. I loved this house because it was on the water and kept a year round maid, gardener and caretaker on site. Almost immediately the rumors started about "Old Widow Sinclair" opening the house. I was at the grocery store one day when I overheard two young women talking about it so I asked them what they meant.
As the rumor mill tells the story 'Old Man Sinclair' died 3 years ago and his widow has now returned to Seattle to see about opening a new office for their Foundation. It seems no one has seen her though she does have some young woman going around taking meetings for her. She is a cougar see, and was 15 years older than Mr. Sinclair so she is 60 now. I wanted to bust a gut laughing when I heard this, instead I asked about the young woman. Well, they say she is a no good gold digger that latched onto an unsuspecting Mrs. Sinclair for her connections and hopes to get in the old ladies good graces because the Sinclair's do not have any heirs. I went home that day and laughed harder than had in 3 years. I called Gabe, Sinclair Industries CFO, we laughed over it together and agreed not to do anything to stop the rumors, the truth would come out in the end.
Once I understood the gossip some of the meetings I had taken now made more sense, especially when I had to clarify that I was 'Old Widow Sinclair.' Widow Sinclair was not a cougar but was actually 18 years younger than her husband, which made me 27 now. She was not a gold digger but was actually a Chicago Swan and had more money than her husband when they married and that was saying something. If the way Kate and Edward had treated me today was any indication the truth had not caught up to the rumor mill yet. It would be interesting to see Mr. Cullen's reaction tomorrow. He was my 1:00pm lunch meeting to go over The Cullen Group's contract bid for work with The Sinclair Foundation.
When I went to bed that night I couldn't stop thinking about Edward Cullen and things Esme had told me about him. He was the first man since Edgar that I had ever given a second though about, too bad he was a jackass.
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or its characters.
A/N: Updates should come weekly. Please read & review.