A/N: Hey there everyone! I've got a new story for you guys below. Give it a read and let me know what you think.
This'll be rated M for language, and eventually some limes.
Thanks to my lovely Beta Danna0274, who's helping me out with this little baby now. Love you lots girlfriend!
All characters (except Maddie) belong to Stephenie Meyer. I'm just moving them over to the East Coast for a while.
Chapter 1 – First Impressions
First Impressions are a constant in society. However, their product, the period that proves or disproves their validity is not; good ones are pleasant and long-lasting, bad ones long and difficult to disprove. - Diego Velasquez
"Shhh. Jesus, keep it down!" I whispered roughly into Lauren's ear. Her moans were getting annoyingly louder. I fisted her short bleached hair within my palms, trying to communicate the need for her silence right about now, but that just seemed to get her more worked up. I rolled my eyes in the low light of the closed conference room.
Truth be told, I was having a hard time seeing what the hell she was so excited about. I mean, for Christ's sake, we were both still fully dressed here. Granted, she'd been hinting at getting me alone in this conference room for months now, but she was going to have to get a grip or we'd both be knee deep in some serious shit if we got caught.
"Sorry!" she giggled quietly, her clumsy hands working on my shirt buttons with an almost amusing eagerness. I had to press my lips together to keep from laughing out loud. Sighing, I leaned my head back against the wall and let her continue with her efforts. When her hands reached the last button, she looked up at me triumphantly and I rewarded her with the grin I knew drove 'em all crazy. Dazed, she fumbled with the button, unable to get it open and finally giving up. She threw her arms around my neck and greedily attacked my lips instead.
"Oh God Edward," she moaned, pulling my head forward. "I can't believe I'm here with you!" In her zeal, she pushed me back against the wall with a loud thump.
I grabbed her wrists and pulled her arms off of me. "You seriously need to calm down or we're both fucked," I hissed.
"Well, that's the idea!" she giggled again, winding her arms around me once more. Her lips landed sloppy kisses all over my face. I smirked and gave up, letting her have her way with me. She was right, after all. That was the basic idea here.
'What the hell am I doing here?' I wondered, during a short moment of clarity. Emmett would friggin' castrate me if he found out I was locked in one of our conference rooms with an employee. As one of the owners of Cullen, Cullen & Whitlock, or CCW for short, the fastest growing privately-owned ad agency on the East Coast, there were certain standards I was expected to abide by; certain rules and regulations to follow. Or so Emmett and Jasper constantly reminded me. I was pretty sure a quick hook up with one of the agency's Graphic Artists in a locked conference room wouldn't fall under one of those standards.
But damn it, what was I supposed to do? For months now, Lauren had been all but physically jumping me every time I so much as glanced her way. She'd give me her please-do-me-now eyes from across the conference table during meetings, bend down and stick her junk out to pick up invisible objects whenever she saw me coming. Hell, lately she'd graduated to "accidentally" bumping into me and shoving her hooters right in my chest. I mean, shit, there was only so much a man could take before looking like a total pussy.
If anything, I was doing her and the agency a favor here. The girl obviously had only one thing on her mind when she came into work every day. By letting her finally have her way with me, maybe she'd finally stop with the less-than-subtle advances and get her ass back to work.
A win – win situation all around, right?
'Yeah, good luck getting Em and Jazz to see it that way,' the small part of my brain not currently in my pants snorted. They'd hang me by my balls for this. I sighed and closed my eyes, while Lauren continued her ministrations. Was this shit seriously even worth the trouble?
Lauren must've mistaken my sigh for some friggin' sign of encouragement or some shit. Her hands moved down to my belt buckle, and the small part of my brain that had still been in my head took a quick trip south. A crooked smile formed on my lips.
Oh yeah. This was going to be worth it.
But Lauren was either dexterity-challenged, or her continued over-eagerness kept messing with the competency of her fingers, and she fumbled with the buckle, her fingers pulling and yanking with no regard for the noisy clanking metal.
"Shh" I hissed in her ear, making her quiver and fumble even more.
I rolled my eyes and smirked. Her over-eagerness was going to get us so unbelievably busted.
And just as I was thinking that, a light tapping on the door wiped the smirk off of my face. Lauren's floundering hands stopped instantly, and although it was dark as hell in here, I was sure the look of horror suddenly pasted on her face mirrored mine exactly.
"Fuck!" I whispered roughly into her hair, lifting my hands to her shoulders to keep her still. "I told you to keep that shit down!"
I covered her mouth with my hand and waited, not daring to breathe. After a few seconds of silence, I sighed in relief and quickly began doing up my shirt and adjusting my belt. Even in the dark, I could see OverEager Lauren's annoyed smirk, as if I'd just snatched a cookie out of her hands. I shot her a look that said 'What the hell is your problem?'
The girl was definitely nuts. Was she trying to find her ass unemployed in this type of job market? She worked in Rosalie's department, and Rose would have her eager ass on the street in a heartbeat if she ever found out about this. And knowing Rose, she wouldn't hesitate for a second to rat me out to her hubby Emmett. That traitor quickly forgot who the hell introduced them to each other in the first place.
Scowling, Overeager adjusted her clothes and smoothed down her short, bleached-blond hair.
And then we heard it again.
Knock, Knock, Knock.
Three little rasps; like the sound of tiny pebbles scraping against the door.
"Shiiit!" I mouthed, nervously running one hand through my hair.
Suddenly, a sweet, honey-like voice called out. "Hello? Who's in theugh?"
It was a kid's voice; a very young one.
What in the hell was a little kid doing in our offices?
I frowned, looking over at Lauren. But instead of looking as confused as me, Lauren wore an annoyed smirk on her face.
Knock, Knock, Knock.
If we hadn't been twenty-two stories up, I may have seriously considered jumping out the window.
"Hello? I left my Angie dolly in theugh," the tiny voice called out timidly. "Can I peez have huh back? I miss huh."
My frown deepened. My confusion grew. Abruptly Lauren rolled her eyes and sucked her teeth, before walking towards the door. As soon as I realized what she was about to do, I grabbed on to her arm to stop her.
"Relax!" she whispered before turning the door knob. "It's the new girl's kid. I'll take care of her."
Before I could protest, the light from outside the room streamed in, blinding me momentarily. I pressed myself up against the wall, trying to make myself invisible to whoever stood outside.
"Hey Macie!" Lauren cooed in a sickeningly sweet voice. "What can I do for you?"
"Um, hi miss," the little girl answered shyly. "I left my dolly in theugh. Can I get huh back peez?" Her pleading tone almost broke my heart, which was surprising, because I hadn't even been aware that shit worked.
Her peculiar enquiry though made me quickly scan the room, and my eyes landed on a small rag doll with two pigtails, smack in the middle of the conference room table. Funny how it had gone completely unnoticed while Lauren had me up against the wall.
But Lauren was already answering the little girl.
"There's no doll in here honey. Sorry. Now run along and go play by the water cooler. There's some cups there you can pour water into and get all nice and wet. Doesn't that sound like fun?" she purred.
The little girl was silent for about three seconds. "Peez?" she begged in an almost whisper. "Can I just get Angie? I miss huh, and she must be scauhd." Her tiny voice cracked at the end.
And I felt as if my heart were cracking with it.
But I had no time to examine the meaning of that, because apparently it did nothing to the heartless witch at the door.
Lauren sighed, annoyed. "Look, I told you. There's no doll in here. Now run along and-"
She didn't get a chance to finish her sentence. In two quick strides I'd snatched the doll of the table and, glaring at Lauren with a look that called her the word I'd been taught by my mother to never call a woman, I passed her and knelt in front of the little girl with the angel voice.
With an encouraging smile, I held out the small rag doll, meeting her eyes.
Huge, chocolate brown eyes locked on mine, momentarily startling me. I'd never seen such a tiny face with such big, expressive eyes. Something clenched inside my chest.
But once again, I had no time to examine what that meant, because quicker than I could've imagined such a tiny being moving, she grabbed her doll and started running.
I stepped out of the conference room, my eyes locked on the tiny thing running at full speed.
"Hey. Wait!" I called out, needing to find out who the little girl belonged to.
Two things happened at once then.
A brunette I'd never seen before suddenly rounded the corner, relief coloring her pale face as she caught sight of the little girl. But before my eyes and my mind had enough time to fully register that scene, out of my periphery, I saw Rosalie step out from the opposite corridor. I closed my eyes and cursed under my breath.
I was going to have to play this one carefully. I was still standing in front of the conference room. Lauren was just behind me, right at the door. My office was one floor above, between Emmett and Jasper's offices, and there was really no reason for me to be on this floor right now. I ran a frustrated hand through my messy hair, wondering how well I'd fixed myself up before stepping out of the conference room.
I was so screwed. And not in the way I'd been hoping to be a couple of minutes ago.
But then the already crazy morning got even crazier. My eyes fell on the little girl - who'd turned around when I'd called her – and when her eyes locked on me again, a huge smile lit up her tiny face, like she'd just won a shopping spree at F.A.O Schwartz or something.
But that wasn't even the crazy shit. The crazy shit was my reaction to that smile. That…that thing inside my chest clenched tightly again, and I swore I felt it grow two sizes; like I'd just returned a bag full of presents to the citizens of Whoville or some shit. I couldn't even help the wide grin that covered my own face in response, regardless of the fact that Rosalie now stood a few feet from me, her hands on her hips and eyeing me suspiciously. Like a warden out of friggin' Alcatraz.
I ignored her for the moment while I studied the little girl. She was definitely a beauty. Tiny – no more than five I'd say, with a face like a porcelain doll. Her long, brown hair flowed almost to her waist. Her big brown eyes looked like pools of melted chocolate, and her little button nose turned up slightly at the end, like a little cherub. I suddenly got the strange urge to protect this little girl, to keep her safe from everything and everyone that would ever want to mess with her.
Abruptly, she skipped back over to me and stopped just inches away.
"I'm sorry mistuh! I fowgot to say thank you. But my mommy would be looking fuh me and I didn't want huh to wouwy. Thank you!" she exclaimed, looking much happier than she had just a few seconds ago.
"You're very welcome," I chuckled, ignoring the way Rosalie's eyes were piercing a hole through my brain. At that moment, I couldn't have cared less about the shitload of grief I knew I was in for.
The little angel hugged her doll close to her and gave her a soft kiss on the head, looking up at me through long, dark eyelashes. Just then, the brunette reached her.
"Maddie," she breathed, both relief and slight reproach in her tone. "I told you to stay in my cube while I went to the copy room. You almost gave me a heart attack." She knelt down and hugged the little girl to her.
"I had to get Angie mommy," the little girl explained, her voice muffled in her mother's hair. Hair that I was now noticing was the same exact shade as her daughter's. "The nice man heeuh found huh fuh me."
"He did?" the brunette asked, pulling her daughter far enough away so that she could look into her tiny face. "Did you thank him?"
"Uhuh," she answered sweetly, but looked back up at me. "Thank you so much mistuh!" she repeated.
"Call me Edward," I encouraged, surprised by the mellowness in my own voice. I couldn't remember ever having used that tone. "Mister is my father," I added, and then regretted it right away. I could've listened to her call me 'mistuh' all day.
The little girl giggled.
"Thank you, Edwood," she corrected herself.
My mouth turned up in a smile. Scratch that. I could listen to her call me 'Edwood' all day.
And then my smile faltered.
Rosalie decided to open her mouth.
"Edward. Emmett told me you were back from your extended business trip. What are you doing on this floor?" She looked pointedly at me, arching one perfectly shaped eyebrow and then looking behind me towards Lauren. I chanced a quick look back and almost cringed at Lauren's obviously guilty expression, like someone who'd just swallowed a canary.
It wouldn't have made a difference anyway. There were many names I liked to call my sister-in-law Rose, but 'stupid' wasn't one of them. She'd seen Lauren making her not-too-subtle moves on me on a few occasions, and I could see the wheels churning in her head. I hesitated for just a split second before turning to face her.
"I had a meeting with Lauren this morning on the Wheat-a-Bits account," I lied as smoothly as possible. I couldn't help the irritation that seeped into my voice though. Rosalie had a curious way of forgetting who was who's boss around here. True, she was married to my brother Emmett, and that, combined with her undeniable talent and big balls gave her as much power as I had around here. But shit, would it fucking kill her to at least pretend to let me be in charge in front of the rest of the employees? I mean damn, it was my last name on the Agency's plaque downstairs in the building lobby.
(But I guess it was hers too, by marriage. Even if she was one of those hyphenating women, as in Rosalie Hale-Cullen).
And true to character, Rosalie was in no mood to disappoint today.
"Really?" she questioned, arching her eyebrow amazingly higher.
I always wondered how women did that.
She crossed her arms in front of her. "Well, since Lauren works for me, how come I didn't know about this meeting?"
Oh yeah. She was out for blood.
And being the ass that I was often accused of being (namely by Rose), I let her goading get to me, and responded with the worst possible answer I could've given.
"Because I'm the boss, and I don't have to clear my meetings with you."
I regretted the words as soon as they were out of my mouth. But the brunette was still kneeling in front of her daughter, and I could feel her eyes on me. And for some strange reason, I didn't want to look like an ass in front of her.
Rose's eyebrow arched impossibly higher, almost right off her forehead. Her nostrils flared. Never mind Emmett and Jasper. Rosalie was going to castrate me herself. And probably right here, in front of the little princess and her mom.
So much for not looking like an ass.
But Rosalie was always professional, no matter what. Her eyes flared with anger, but she said nothing. That offered me no relief whatsoever. I knew from experience that just meant she was biding her time, and that I was going to get the royally fucked treatment for that one some time in the not-so-distant future. I swallowed hard, but otherwise kept my face blank. She was like those rabid dogs, you couldn't show her any fear or else she'd come in for the kill.
"Hmph," Rose finally said before refocusing her irritation in Lauren's direction. "Are the touch-ups for those elves I sent you ready yet?" she barked. Lauren jumped at Rosalie's tone, and I had to suppress my laughter. The overeager witch deserved it, after the way she'd spoken to the little princess.
"Um…not yet," Lauren answered timidly. Yeah, now she was timid. "They were next on my to-do list."
Rosalie smirked. "Yes. I'm sure they were next on your to-do list," she drawled, glaring from me back to Lauren. "Make sure you have those on my desk before noon," she demanded. Lauren nodded quickly and high-tailed it back to her cube.
Rosalie turned her glare back to me. I stared back at her defiantly, refusing to be the first to look away. But then I heard that sweet little nightingale voice again, and without thinking twice, my attention turned back to the little princess, my curiosity about what she was saying taking precedence over everything else at the moment.
"Mommy," she asked, her big brown eyes looking pleadingly at the pretty brunette in front of her, "can I come with you to the copy woom? I want to make a copy of my hand again."
The princess's mom stood up quickly and took the little girl by the hand. Her eyes flickered momentarily towards Rosalie and me before turning herself and her little girl around and trying to walk away as quickly as possible without actually dragging the little girl. Someone had apparently given her the memo about running the other way when Rose came around.
"Um, maybe later baby. Mommy has to finish up some work first," she whispered to the little girl while she tugged her along.
And I should've made a run for it too; tried to get away from Rosalie before she really got down and dirty. But for some reason, I was frozen to my spot and couldn't look away from the little girl and her mom.
"Bella, can I talk to you for a moment please?" Rose called out. Her voice was authoritative, but the venom that had been lacing it just a few moments earlier was gone. Still, I could tell by her tone that she wanted to have a few words with the little girl's mom, Bella.
Bel-la. I liked the way the name flowed in my mind.
Bel-la stopped dead in her tracks at Rosalie's request. With her back still to us, she drew in a sharp breath before turning around with a look of defeat on her pale face.
And once again, I got that strange, overwhelming feeling I'd gotten just a few minutes ago towards the little princess. The desire to stay and protect – but this time it was directed towards her mom.
What the hell was going on with me here today?
I took advantage as Bel-la approached Rose and me warily and got a good look at her.
She and her daughter shared a striking similarity. They both had the same long brown hair; but where the little girls' was straight, Bella's was wavy, thick and shiny. They had the same striking brown eyes, a soft warm brown that made me think of chocolate and warm nights and just a general sense of contentment.
What the hell?
Bella's complexion was fairer than her daughter's, yet it had a healthy glow to it. And as she reached us and stood before Rose anxiously, I realized just how beautiful she was. It wasn't that in-your-face beauty, like Rose had. It was a more natural beauty; a beauty that didn't need tons of makeup to stand out. A beauty that you sometimes didn't appreciate fully until it was right in front of you.
Well, it was right in front of me now.
Rose looked down at the little girl first, who was holding on tightly to her mom's hand.
"Hey Maddie," she began, in a gentle voice I'd never heard her use in the whole ten years I'd known her, "did you know you can see almost all of Central Park from those windows there?" She pointed at a set of windows a few feet away from us. Maddie's eyes widened in surprise and she shook her head. "Well, you can! And a bunch of Manhattan, and super tall buildings, and if you look really hard, you can even see some of New Jersey just across the river," Rose added in a hypnotic tone. "Why don't you go take a look and tell me what you see?" she coaxed.
Maddie turned to her mom excitedly. "Can I mommy?" she pleaded, looking up at her mom with those big brown eyes.
Her mom nodded her head in approval. "Sure, go ahead," she encouraged. Maddie turned away and skipped happily toward the windows, while the three of us stood there smiling at her retreating form.
As soon as she was out of earshot, Rose turned back to Bella and pursed her lips.
"Bella, this is the second time this week," she began, but Bella cut her off.
"I know Rosalie, I know. I'm really sorry. I'm doing my best to get this taken care of."
I wondered what the problem was.
"Shouldn't she be in school or something?" I thought out loud.
Bella's eyes flew to me as soon as I'd spoken the words, and she shot me a look that surprised me. It clearly said 'mind your fucking business asshole.' But she said nothing and turned back to Rose.
"She hasn't adjusted well to the last couple of pre-schools I've tried. She's not used to all the commotion. Back home she just had a babysitter, and even that was just for a few hours each day. She's not used to being away from me for so long, or with so many people."
Rose sighed. "Bella, I sympathize, I really do."
I looked at her and smirked. How the hell could she sympathize with something like that? As far as I knew, she didn't have any kids, and if she did, she'd neglected to mention them to my brother when they got married.
Rose either didn't see my smirk or chose to ignore it. "Maddie's a sweetie, and she doesn't bother at all when she's here. It's just that if I continue to let you bring her in, others around here are going to want to bring their kids in too. And with clients walking in and out all the time, how would it look to have so many children running around this office?"
I chuckled. "Hey maybe we can change the Agency name to Cullen, Cullen & Whitlock, Childcare Center?" I joked.
This time both women glared openly at me. And while I was used to being glared at by Rose, Bella's angry gaze made me wish the ground would open up and swallow me whole.
Rose sneered at me. "Bella, in case you haven't figured it out yet, this…gentleman here – I rolled my eyes at her sarcastic tone – "is my brother-in-law, Edward Cullen, one of the co-owners of the agency. He's been away for a few weeks, so you haven't had a chance to meet him yet. He doesn't usually spend so much time on our floor" –she smirked- "so you probably won't be running in to him too much, other than client meetings or conferences. Official conferences," she added under her breath, only meant for me to hear. "Edward, this is our new Graphic Artist, Isabella Swan. She goes by Bella."
Bella turned begrudgingly towards me. Her cheeks suddenly flushed with the most amazing crimson color, but her expression was impassive, her lips drawn in a tight line. She refused to meet my eyes as she mumbled a polite, yet perfunctory "How do you do?"
At that moment, I knew she knew. She'd figured out what the whole conference room debacle a few minutes ago had been about, and Rosalie's little comment a few seconds ago had probably confirmed it. For some reason, I felt my own face flood with shame and, strangely enough…guilt.
I replied nervously, "Nice to meet you." I couldn't understand why her obvious dislike for me upset me so much.
"Anyway," Rose broke in, and for once I was grateful for her interruptions, "as I was saying, you've got to find-"
"How old is she?" I asked, earning an exasperated sigh from Rosalie and another pointed glare from Bella.
"Excuse me?" Bella questioned with a frown.
"Maddie. Um…your daughter," I clarified. I wasn't sure if she'd want me addressing her daughter by name. "How old is she?" I repeated.
"She's four," Bella answered slowly, narrowing her eyes at me warily. "Why?"
"Um…well I was just thinking" and as I spoke I really hated myself, because I NEVER said 'Um'. 'Um' as far as I was concerned, was a syllable reserved for idiots and people who had nothing worthwhile to say.
But damn if that wasn't exactly what I felt like now.
"Does she have to be in school?" I asked.
Bella narrowed her eyes at me further, but didn't respond.
Rosalie on the other hand spoke to me in an exasperated voice. "Edward, she can't come here every day, we simply aren't set up to take care of children." She turned her whole body directly towards me and shot me a look that clearly said, 'I know you're just trying to get laid here so cut the shit out!'
I ignored her implication and continued speaking, my eyes on Rosalie now.
"Because if she doesn't have to be in school yet, Rosalie, maybe she can go to a babysitter?" I offered.
Bella responded quickly in an annoyed tone. "I can't find anyone I can trust-"
"Rose, doesn't the Agency keep a list of approved child care workers?" I wasn't very familiar with it, but I thought I'd heard of something like that being talked about a couple of times around the office.
Rose stared at me suspiciously for a split second before turning her attention to Bella.
"Actually, he's right Bella. We do keep a list of approved child care workers to help our employees with families. Every child care worker on the list has had their credentials fully checked out by our HR Department. HR makes sure the child care workers on the list remain up to date with all their CPR and other child care related trainings, and they even compile a list of references from our own employees for each child care worker."
Bella's big brown eyes grew even wider with surprise. "I…I didn't know about that," she stammered, looking between Rose and me.
"Why don't you go up to HR and look into it?" I suggested gently, afraid that she'd shoot me another death glare.
"Um…yes, I think I will. Thanks for the information. I'll go up there on my lunch break," she murmured shyly now. That unbelievable shade of red crossed her cheeks again as she spoke, and she looked away from me quickly and down to the floor. I had an overwhelming urge to lift her chin towards me so I could see how long that color would actually stay on her cheeks.
At that moment, I also decided that the word 'Um' couldn't possibly be reserved for just idiots and people who had nothing worthwhile to say. Because it was obvious by just looking at her that Bella Swan was anything but an idiot, and I found myself extremely intrigued to know what she had to say, about anything and everything.
"Actually Bella," Rosalie chimed in "it's still fairly early in the morning, and it should be a slow day. Why don't you head up there now, since it might take you a while to sort through everything and get in touch with any references you may want to contact?"
Bella's face lit up with gratitude. She breathed a sigh of relief. "Thanks Rosalie. I am pretty anxious to take a look at that list now," she confirmed.
"Don't thank me too much Bella," Rose snickered in a tone that was supposed to be intimidating, but I could tell she wasn't putting as much effort into it as she usually did. "I just want this whole business taken care of ASAP. I need to make sure that when you're here, your mind is one-hundred percent focused on work," she finished in a serious tone.
"I'll try to take care of it right away Rosalie. I promise," Bella affirmed.
She turned to leave, ready to go claim her little girl from the window, but then paused for a split second before turning back. Her brown eyes focused in on me, and that thing inside me gave a startled jump.
What the hell was that?
"Thanks again…Edward," she offered in a low voice, her cheeks turning red again. A strange warmth coursed through me at the sound of my name from her lips.
"You're welcome…Bella," I managed to respond, my voice as low as hers.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Rosalie eyeing me curiously, but I kept my eyes on Bella. It was a much more pleasant sight than my annoying sister-in-law slash co-worker.
Bella turned away from me quickly. "Maddie sweetie, we have to go upstairs for something. Come on," she called in a soothing voice.
"You mean on the elevaytuh mommy?" Maddie asked excitedly, skipping back to her mother.
"Yes honey." Bella responded, putting her hand out so that Maddie could take it.
"Yay! I love the elevaytuh" Maddie exclaimed.
As she passed us with her hand securely in her mom's, she addressed us politely. "Bye Miss Wosalie. Bye Mistuh Edwood."
Rose smiled at her and I chuckled heartily. "It's just Edward princess. And may I call you Maddie?" I asked, looking between her and Bella. Bella gave her daughter a smile and nodded.
"Shooah. It's my name," Maddie answered with a shrug, as if I'd just asked the most inane question. We all laughed.
"Okay. See you laytuh," she exclaimed as her mother led her out to the elevator banks.
I watched them disappear through the doors to the elevators, and then turned back to Rosalie.
She was staring at me again with that weird, curious look of hers.
Rose seemed to debate whether to answer for a couple of seconds, which in and of itself was strange. Because Rosalie never debated whether to speak or not.
"Don't even think about it," she finally blurted out in a hushed voice. "She's not your type."
I snorted. "First of all, I don't know what the hell you're talking about. Second of all, what do you know about what my type is?"
Rose sucked her teeth and pursed her lips, giving me a look that said 'Seriously?'
"You know very well what the hell I'm talking about. Don't think I didn't catch you checking her ass out while she walked away." I chuckled guiltily and started walking. It had been a very nice ass actually. "And based on your activities this morning," she continued, "your type has apparently been downgraded to anything with a willing hoohah between its legs."
I stopped in my tracks and turned to glare at her. "Seriously, you have to be the most crass woman I've ever met."
Rose smirked and moved in closer, taunting me. "Anyway, trust me, you couldn't handle someone like Isabella Swan."
I scowled, looking down at her with a look that usually intimidated the hardest of men. But Rosalie just stepped in closer, giving me her own intimidating glare.
"Trust me dear sister-in-law, you have no idea what I can and can't handle." She stared at me and gave me one hard chuckle, completely unfazed. I turned and started walking again, and she fell in step next to me, switching into prosecutor mode again. I sighed and continued looking straight ahead.
"So what the hell was that in the conference room?" she hissed, turning to face me as we walked. I flinched slightly and groaned internally. I'd been stupidly hoping she'd forgotten about that. I kept walking without answering, hoping she'd just give up. But she walked along with me, refusing to let me get away.
"That was nothing," I finally replied in a low and even tone.
"Bullshit!" she hissed, lowering her voice even further. "What the hell is your problem Edward? Do you know how dangerous that little stunt could've been? Do you have any idea what could've happened if anyone other than that little girl had found you two in there?"
"Maddie didn't see anything," I hissed back. For some reason, the thought of the little girl seeing me with Lauren made my stomach turn. And then for some stranger reason, I pictured her mother being the one standing outside that door when we'd walked out. I suddenly felt like gagging.
"That's not the point!" Rosalie continued. "That little stunt of yours could've gotten us all in a shitload of trouble!"
"You know, you're such a damn hypocrite!" I retaliated, on the defensive even though I knew she was right. "You think I don't know what's really going on when you and your hubby close the door for your 10 minute meetings?"
Rose smirked. "That's different Edward and you know it. We only do that when the rest of the employees have gone home, after hours. You know no matter what, Emmett would never risk the reputation of the Agency that way."
Once again, I knew she was right. But knowing that made me feel even shittier. Because that's what I'd almost done. I'd almost risked the company's reputation for a quick piece of ass. And we'd all worked too hard to get where we were for me to go blow it all like that.
"When are you gonna grow up Edward?" Rosalie admonished as we headed towards her office. "When are you going to realize you're not some young frat boy anymore? You're twenty-eight years old for God's sakes. You run one of Money Magazine's top 10 new Agency's of the Decade. You belong to one of the most powerful and well-respected families on the East Coast. Yet you can't seem to keep your name out of the Page Six headlines and the tabloids. When are you going to finally get your head out of your ass and realize your potential?"
We walked into her office and she shut the door behind us, walking over to her desk and sitting down all queen-like on her black leather chair.
Why had I followed her in here? Why was I subjecting myself to this speech? I could've just gone back upstairs to my own office and saved myself this aggravation.
Except that, as much of a pain in the ass as Rosalie was, as much as she and I butted heads and argued, deep down - so deep that I rarely acknowledged it to myself, much less to anyone else - I actually loved and respected my sister-in-law. And even though she was tearing me a new hole right now, I knew I deserved it.
But I'd never acknowledge that to her.
I sat down on one of her guest chairs and put my hands behind my head, interlacing my fingers together.
"Do you know how much you sound like my father right now?" I teased her. "For someone who's only twenty-seven, you sound more like a fifty-year old," I goaded.
Her eyes flared and she pursed her lips, shaking her head at me viciously. "You're a real asshole. I'm trying to give you some advice here and you're being a jerk. When are you finally going to start thinking with that head on your shoulders instead of with the one between your legs?"
I sneered at her. "Jesus, I see why you and Emmett got together in the first place. You have to be the two most vulgar people I've ever known."
She snorted, very unladylike. "Oh yeah…because you're the patron saint of decency," she laughed.
I had to laugh with her on that one. I hadn't been the paparazzi's golden boy for the past few years for nothing. I was in the gossip pages of one or the other of those tabloids and magazines at least a couple of times a week. And even though half of the things they printed were total bullshit, I couldn't have cared less. It was no one's business how I lived my life anyway. And all the girls who got their pictures taken with me over the years didn't seem to mind the attention. Sure, every now and then one of my crazy exploits would earn me a tongue-lashing from either my parents or one of my siblings, but hey, I was young and free. I had no one but myself to answer to. And as much as Rosalie liked to say otherwise, I worked hard helping to build this Agency to where we were today, and they all knew it. I put my heart and soul into this company, and I deserved to have my distractions.
In a round-about way, that brought me to my next question.
"So tell me about the new Graphic Artist. When'd she start?"
Rosalie watched me through narrowed eyes before answering. "She started a couple of weeks ago, a few days after you left on your latest adventure."
"What's her background? Where'd she come from?" I figured I'd start with basics.
Rose inspected her well-manicured nails while she spoke. "She's actually a relocation from the Northwest. She attended the University of Washington. This is her first position in an ad agency, but her designs impressed me. Anything else?"
I glared at Rose. "Married?"
Rose sighed dramatically, still inspecting her nails. "Divorced. With a kid, obviously."
I sucked my teeth. "Shit, you're really going to make me drag every bit of info out of your mouth, aren't you?"
Rose looked back up at me, an angry glint in her eyes now. "Look, I've told you everything you're required to know as her employer. Even more actually." She leaned across her desk. "Are we done now, boss?" -she hissed the last word sarcastically- "Because I've got some real work to get to now."
This was her pay back for the 'boss' incident in front of Lauren and Bella. I knew I wasn't going to get anything else from her now. I glowered at her for a few seconds, but she simply smiled back at me evilly. Frustrated, I stood up and stormed out of her office, slamming her door behind me and stalking to the elevator bank.
The name resounded in my head, repeating itself like a chorus. Those large brown eyes had intrigued me; that was for damn sure. But as I pressed down impatiently on the 'Up' button for the elevator, I realized it didn't matter that Rose had refused to give me more information on the new Graphic Artist. I'd gathered all the information that I'd really need on my own this morning.
She had a kid. Maddie.
Granted, the kid was the most beautiful and sweet little girl I'd ever laid eyes on. But she was still a kid.
The last thing I needed was to get involved with someone with a kid. It just wasn't conducive to my lifestyle. I liked partying, drinking, coming and going as I pleased. I wasn't the type to let anything tie me down, or to – God help me – commit to anyone. Just the thought made me shudder. And I was pretty sure a kid was the biggest tie-down of all.
Isabella Swan and her big brown eyes and blushing cheeks and thick wavy hair were definitely on my hands-off list. And even though a part of me had an unexplainable urge to find out every bit of information I could on her, I wasn't going to give in. She wasn't what I needed in my life.
Then I chuckled once to myself as I recalled those dagger-infested looks she'd thrown at me earlier. I was pretty sure Isabella Swan had no desire to get to know me either.
And that was fine by me. It was a big enough agency where our paths wouldn't have to cross very often. We were both on different floors, and she reported to Rose, not to me.
'Just stay away from her' I told myself as I got on the elevator back up to my floor.
When I got back to my office, I sat down heavily on my own big leather chair. I swiveled around to gaze out of my floor-to-ceiling windows, at the city outside. New York City. The City that never sleeps. If you could make it here, you'd make it anywhere.
The bright blue sky above was perfectly clear today, not a cloud to be seen for miles. The warmth radiating through the windows into the office on this late August morning should've come from the bright yellow sun shining from above the skyscrapers surrounding me. Yet when I looked up, it wasn't the blue skies, or the yellow sun that I saw. It was two warm brown orbs - sparkling with undiscovered secrets - that were filling me with the unexplained heat now coursing through my insides. They saturated me with a glowing warmth the likes of which I'd never felt before.
What. The. Fuck?
A/N: Alright guys. What do you think? What kind of impression would our Eddie have made on you?
I've got a couple of more chapters written out, just need to get them Beta'd so you should have the first few chapters within days of each other. Then it'll probably be a week or so between chapters.
Hit the little button below and give me your thoughts.