Ah! Okay so, hi! I know it's been a while since my last update but life had a way of getting in the way! I swear like my beta, the lovely foreverhopeful21, totally pushed me so that I can publish this chapter and I'm so glad she did because we finally have a solid story line! Like I really hope we can update this story in 2 weeks but like Sarah, foreverhopeful21, has a hectic academic schedule - I just graduated a few months back so I'm just mega busy job hunting!
We haven't forgotten about this story and we seriously get REALLY excited just publishing the next chapter and we REALLY appreciate your patience!
Just as a side note though, we've italicized a certain part of this story because it's a flashback and we didn't want it to cause any kind of confusion! As always, we really appreciate your thoughts and we love hearing your thoughts on how this story is going!
Thank you SO much for bearing with us - all of you! Really, it just means a lot to us that you guys are putting in the time to read through each chapter!
With heightened senses, Edward leaned against the doorframe transfixed. His eyes had grown accustomed to the dark while he watched Isabella lying in the middle of his king sized bed, her body buried beneath the soft covers. She lay oblivious to the world and her surroundings as the sound of her soft breathing filled the silence.
Satisfied, Edward ran a hand through his unruly hair and shook his head. "You have no idea what you've gotten yourself into," he muttered before turning his back on her. She had been sleeping rather peacefully in his bed for the past five hours. Meanwhile, Edward felt infused with a certain type of energy– the kind that allowed adrenaline to rush through his body as he mentally prepared himself for the upcoming evening. He couldn't quite shake the predatory feeling that engulfed him as he realized how small she seemed in the middle of his bed.
Unable to help himself, Edward walked towards the liquor cabinet and poured himself a drink. He barely registered the taste as it burned down his throat for the second time. Frustrated, he began to roll his shoulders before he ungracefully plopped down on the edge of the bed. Noting that Bella did not even stir while the bed dipped under his weight, he shook his head in exasperation. He was beginning to feel impatient as he waited for her to open her eyes.
With a loud sigh, Edward began to unbutton his shirt while he stretched out his legs. The edges of his lips began to form a frown while he ran his hands over the light stubble that graced his cheeks. His teeth meshed together as he grinded them with a hint of frustration while his eyes drifted to Bella's bag. It was discarded on the table from aggravation earlier on. Edward mentally went through the things in her bag all over again: a notebook filled with notes from various lectures, a textbook, a set of keys, perfume, makeup, her wallet, and a cell phone. He relayed his search in his mind's eye– his eyes eating up every word in that book only to realize how meaningless the words were, his desire to rip the pages apart as he swore in frustration; the way he flipped through the textbook repeatedly; the petty cash in her wallet along with a bus pass, a student ID card that included a picture of Bella Swan smiling politely with dark doe like eyes, and a credit card; and finally, the way his long, lean fingers tapped away on her cell phone while he read through her text messages and looked through the pictures in it only to find images of her parents and her high school friends.
Edward couldn't name a single remarkable item in her bag. In fact, it managed to plant a seed of doubt in his mind. For that reason, he felt an unusual sense of impatience and urgency for one reason and one reason only.
Edward Masen is never wrong. Despite the growing doubt, he felt an urgent need to speak to his employee, to ascertain her real role in his club. With such urgency came impatience.
When he finally felt the even breathing in the room come to a stop while the figure stiffened beneath the covers, a hard glint found itself in the depth of his forest green eyes while a humorless smirk played upon his full lips.
It was then that he felt the full weight of his gun press into the middle of his lower back. To Edward, it was a subtle reminder.
Bella Swan woke up with a start. Her senses were overwhelmed by the softness that engulfed her. Her eyes fluttered open in fear and nervousness as she felt the pace of her heartbeat quicken, the sound drumming loudly in her ears while her face felt flush as she buried it into the soft pillow that cushioned her head. A distinct smell that could only be described as utterly and deliciously male made its way into her system. Confused, Bella felt further tremors of uncertainty stir within her and with it came a distinct sense of vulnerability as realization, slowly but surely, dawned.
She was not sleeping in her bed. Worse yet, she was currently lying on a man's bed.
Forcing her breathing in measured slow breaths, she heard someone clear their throat.
"Oh my God," she murmured into the pillow before turning her face towards the sound only to see her employer standing over her with a cocked eyebrow and a smirk. She noted the dark circles beneath his eyes, the dark stubble that stained his high cheekbones and his rumpled attire. It was then that she realized that he was still wearing last night's clothes. More importantly, it was then that she realized that she had been staring at her boss for an unusual amount of time while she felt a sense of panic infuse her. Her heartbeat began to quicken as her mind whirled with different scenarios and possibilities. An internal struggle began to play within her as she scrambled to remember last night until Bella felt the weight of the room's silence.
"Mr. Masen?" She asked, her voice laced with a distinct trace of huskiness as she scrambled off the bed with a frown.
After clearing her throat in an attempt to bring her voice back to a normal octave, she looked up at him. "Um. I'm sorry but where am I? What am I doing here?" She asked while she ran a hand through her tangled tresses, feeling self-conscious and out of place as her eyes began to take in the pristine appearance of his bedroom.
Edward's eyebrows rose up with amusement and his lips pulled back to form a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Why Ms. Swan, are you always so cheerful when you wake up?" He asked, not bothering to mask the heavy sarcasm as he took in the severe frown marking her otherwise soft features. When he watched a delightful shade of pink stain her fair cheeks, he crossed his arms and smirked. "But to answer your questions. You're in my apartment, and to be more specific, you're in my bed." He noted the slight tremor that went through her as he continued. "You fell asleep in the club last night. I couldn't leave you there now, could I?"
Bella managed to smile weakly as a sense of unease instilled itself deep within her. She felt her stomach coil as she watched him warily. She took a deep breath before answering his question. "Mr. Masen, while I appreciate your concern for my welfare – this," she said as she gestured to the room and the bed, "was unnecessary."
Edward's eyes narrowed at her obvious display of temper and his eyes hardened. He didn't say anything for a full minute, causing Bella to grow uncomfortable with every second. She fidgeted self-consciously until he replied in a soft, almost dangerous tone, "I will, of course, give you a few minutes to freshen up. Your bag is on the table by the balcony." With that, he walked away from her with a strong sense of purpose. He didn't hear the soft sigh of relief that escaped her nor did he feel her eyes boring into his back as he crossed the bedroom's threshold. Bella found her employer's intensity quite terrifying at times.
Edward sat down on the sofa and leaned over with a cigarette in hand. He tapped the end against the table with a cold sense of self-satisfaction, completely unaware of the inner turmoil he caused in his houseguest. He relished the fact that everything was going as planned. He knew that he could not afford to waste anymore time exposing the snitch, and as he began to light the cigarette, Edward allowed a ruthless smirk to grace his cold features; Bella Swan would not be leaving until he knew with a certainty whether or not she posed a threat.
Meanwhile, Bella splashed her face with water while her mind processed her current situation. She felt as though she were playing a dangerous game, a game that she was losing. She tried to rationalize her feelings as she chalked them up to sheer exhaustion, yet she couldn't block out his expressions whenever he looked at her. It was as though he was trying to see through her. More than that, however, was that she couldn't figure out why he hadn't just woken her up so that she could go home. Moreover, in hindsight, he seemed to seek her out regularly in a way that made her feel as though he were toying with her. As though he were the predator and she the prey. With a familiar rush of panic, Bella closed her eyes and felt the water cling to her face delicately only to open them and see her employer standing in the middle of his bedroom. He seemed so very calm, so very controlled, and yet it all seemed calculated. All at once, her mind and instincts demanded that she flee.
Bella shook her head in frustration while her stomach seemed to rebel against her. She ground her teeth together as she reached out to open the door because in that instant a single thought resonated throughout her mind: what if Edward Masen was just trying to be nice?
Edward's eyes kept drifting towards his bedroom's door in anticipation until Bella finally appeared. He vowed to assure himself of her guilt by the time she left his apartment. However, he also mentally braced himself for the possibility of her innocence and his gut clenched at the thought.
It would mean that he had spent his precious time. Time he didn't have to waste.
Bella did not look as disheveled as she did when she first woke up, and she had her bag hanging over the crook of her arm. She tentatively smiled as soon as she saw her boss. She walked towards him, slightly intimidated despite his relaxed demeanor, as she tucked a stray loose curl behind her ear. "Mr. Masen, thank you so much for letting me spend the night, but I should probably get going."
"And why is that?" His smooth voice responded, sounding like pure velvet.
Bella squirmed a little as her finely arched brows came together to form a frown. "I have a few papers to write?" The statement came out sounding like more of a question than anything else.
With a sigh, he shook his head and stood up, fully intent on using his height to tower over her, to intimidate her. "Those papers can wait, can't they? After all, we never got the chance to talk." Edward smiled causing a feral glint to sparkle within the depth of his cold green eyes. His mind automatically shifted through a mental catalog filled with fools who had attempted to dupe him, to cross him and all it took was a simple conversation.
As always, his sharp green eyes took in every single detail while a sense of cold determination rippled through him. In a surreal moment, he remembered the last traitor, James, sitting in front of him in a dark, damp shed. The sound of traffic meshed with his grunts and groans of pain while he struggled to beg. Edward had found out that evening that James had been stealing money from his drug cartel – and so he decided to make an example of James to the rest of the organization. After two hours of violent torture, Edward cocked his gun – a sound that reverberated and echoed in the dark just before he shot James once. A clear shot through the head. He watched the light die out in James's ice blue eyes before his body lay limp in the chair. He could still see Emmet wrapping his bloodied hand from the vicious beating he dealt out as they walked away and made sure the rest of his employees disposed of the body.
Her smiled faltered. "Talk?"
"Yes. Talk. We'll have coffee and talk." Edward's lips twitched while he noted the way her eyes drifted towards the front door.
"I would love to Mr. Masen, but I really can't."
"And why's that, Ms. Swan?" He repeated in a deceptively calm tone as he began rolling his sleeves while he watched her.
Bella began to feel increasingly uncomfortable. She was under the distinct impression that no one denied Edward Masen — that no one would dare to. "I don't know! It just feels really inappropriate!" She explained, unable to hide the panic behind her response. She didn't understand why felt so overwhelmed by her employer, but the intensity of his stare unnerved her.
"It's a cup of coffee, Ms. Swan," he said in a rather matter-of-fact tone. "I'd just like to get to know you better, that's it."
Her big doe eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Why?"
Edward seized the opportunity as he realized that she had momentarily forgotten about leaving and began ushering her towards the kitchen. "Why not?"
Bella watched him in confusion while he started preparing the coffee. "You're Edward Anthony Masen. You built an entire empire, and you haven't even hit thirty, yet. I'm a small town girl who just happens to work for you. What is there to know?"
At that, Edward turned to look at her with a smirk. "Let's start with that, then— the small town." He had his back to her while he listened impassively. He knew she wouldn't tell him anything he didn't know, anything he hadn't memorize from her file.
With a loud sigh of resignation, she shook her head and propped herself onto the kitchen counter. "Well, where do I begin? I grew up in Forks, Washington. A day wouldn't go by without a bit rain." Her lips formed a smile while she tapped her chin with her finger in thought before a soft laugh filled the silence. "And if I were being truly honest, I hated it when I was a teenager."
Edward began to pour coffee into two identical mugs while his piqued. "Really?"
She began to nod as he handed her the mug. She looked down at the black liquid with distaste. Torn, she mustered up the courage to ask for sugar and milk.
Amused, it was his turn to nod while he brought her the extra ingredients. "Now then, you were telling me why you hated Forks as a teenager?" He prompted.
Blushing, Bella nodded. "Oh. Well, it's just that it was such a small town, you know? Everybody knows everyone and I'm the chief of police's daughter."
"Hmmm. Never would have pegged you as a wild child," Edward teased despite the fact that his eyes were guarded as he sipped his black coffee. He leaned against the counter and watched her while she mulled over his words.
"I wasn't." She let out a deep breath and pursed her lips. "It's hard to explain but it just made everything seem so limited."
When Edward didn't comment or reply, she took a sip of her coffee. It still tasted strong despite the milk and sugar she added. Nevertheless, she watched him with a sense of interest. "What are you thinking about?"
Edward rubbed the back of his neck while he thought about his own life and shrugged. "What a teenager might do when life seems so very limited."
Bella cocked her head to the side with a small smile. "Read."
Edward's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "And what did you read, Ms. Swan?"
It was Bella's turn to shrug. "Novels, but the classics would have to be my favorite. What about you?"
"What about me?" He asked while he watched her, his eyes unblinking, his posture alert.
"I feel like I've been talking about myself for ages now; why don't you tell me about yourself? How Edward Masen became Edward Masen?" She asked, not really noticing the subtle change in his demeanor as she began to relax in his presence.
Edward noted the teasing light in her honey colored eyes and rubbed his hand over the stubble on his jaw. "Nothing much to say really. Grew up in Chicago, came to New York with Emmett to study." Edward watched Bella while he spoke – gauging her reaction to his words while she nodded in interest and continued drinking her coffee. "My father passed away during my second year, and Emmett and I inherited everything."
At her slight frown, Edward broke into thoughts. "Not very fascinating, is it?"
Bella's eyes widened and she shook her head vehemently. "No, no. It's not that. I didn't know you inherited everything. I just thought you built everything."
Edward smirked in cold amusement. "I didn't inherit everything, Ms. Swan. I simply took what I had and branched it out."
"Now that I've satisfied your curiosity, I do believe it's your turn," Edward said as he discarded the empty mug into the kitchen sink only to watch her jump down from the counter and walk towards the sink, her empty mug in hand. She stood next to him and began to clean the mugs.
Bella felt the need to keep her hands busy while she finally answered him, "My turn?"
"Yes. Do you still hate Forks?"
Bella chuckled and shook her head. "No, I miss it actually."
"What is there to miss?"
"My parents, my friends, the rain even."
Amused, Edward asked her to elaborate while he led her back to the living room.
With a small, nostalgic smile, Bella began to talk to him about her past, revealing to him the fact that she hadn't been to Forks in over a year; and while he listened to her recount her memories with ease, he realized one important fact: Isabella Swan was telling the truth.
Because Edward valued caution, his discovery was met with a deep sense of relief and disappointment. After all, he simply hated being wrong.
And so, the gun pressing down on the skin of his back ceased to act as a subtle reminder while he began to relax in her presence. The guileless innocence of her gaze reassured him. Thus, when she finally stood up, no longer hesitant with a friendly smile, he walked her to the door.
"Thanks for everything, Mr. Masen," she told him just before she turned to leave.
Edward gave her a quick nod, indicating that he had heard her words before closing the door behind her with a soft click. He ran a hand through his disheveled hair while he made his way towards the table. He took out his papers and began working – Isabella Swan already forgotten.