A/N: Thanks to Nancy for reviewing for me, you are a lifesaver.
I do not own anything Twilight related, Stephanie Meyer does. The rest is just ideas from my pretty little head.
Prologue - EPOV
It's funny how there many insignificant things that can change your life in an instant. Sometimes it can be an immediate change, and other times, you don't see the change until much, much later. One person could change your world, and you wouldn't even know it.
The day I met Bella, I didn't expect to meet the person who would change my life forever. It was just my first day of work, and I expected nothing from it. I especially didn't think it would be life changing, that my lame summer job would bring me anything fruitful other than a crappy salary that would allow me to pay my rent for the next four months.
But it gave me something infinitely precious that day.
It gave me Bella.
Chapter 1: BPOV
I woke up in a pool of my own sweat, screaming, again. It was the fifth night in a row my nightmares has shocked me awake, allowing me to never get more than a few hours of sleep, and it was wearing on me.
I rolled over onto my stomach groaning, pissed that I couldn't have a solid night's sleep before my early shift tomorrow, or I guess, today since it was now 4:30 AM.
It was stupid. I only feared my nightmares when I was in them, and shortly after I awoke from one, feelings of uneasiness and sadness that would stick around for hours. I never thought about it at other times, mostly because I tried not to think of that at all, except of course, in my nightmares.
Well, not nightmares, because really, I have had the same one for the last twelve years. I have seen countless therapists, sleep specialists, psychologists, and any doctor that specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder. None of them really helped me at all, either giving me drugs that would make me groggy as hell and still not stop my nightmares, or bogus coping skills that really were no good to me. I eventually started lying to my therapists, telling them that I was getting better, that the nightmares had stopped, and soon, they believed me. I was good at acting like I was normal ; I had been doing it for years now.
In the back of my mind, I knew that because I never allowed myself to deal with what happened, that this was going to continue. I would always have the sleepless nights and nightmares, because dealing with it was far from what I wanted to do. I feared it would crush me, or worse, make me like her.
I shook my head, it would be no use to keep going down this road now, and forced myself to get up. Oh well, might as well get an early start on the day. I thought as I stiffly got out of bed to make coffee.
I went to my uber hardcore espresso machine and made myself a strong latte. My espresso machine was one of the best purchases I had ever made. It had been incredibly expensive, but when I calculated the cost between what I spend on various coffee drinks from Starbucks over the year, the cost was well worth it. It was also a plus that I didn't have to leave the comfort of my own apartment for a decent cup of coffee anymore.
I sat down at my kitchen island with my latte and stared at the patterns and sparkles in the black granite I had on my counter-tops, too tired to actually form any proper thoughts.
To the outside observer, my apartment didn't look like a student's apartment, especially a student's apartment in New York City. It had solid, but modern furniture, real hardwood, stainless steel appliances, and it was overall neat and uncluttered. The latter was because I was borderline obsessed with neatness, and the former, well, I didn't pay for any of it. My grandparents had paid for it all when I decided to get away from the confines of Forks, Washington, for the Big Apple, almost three years ago. I told them that they didn't need to do that, I could do the normal student thing and live in a dorm. But they insisted that they get a place for me, telling me since I was their only grandchild, they could spoil me a bit. I didn't want them to spoil me, but I conceded only when I said I would be paying my own way through school.
After living here awhile, I was grateful my grandparents did this. Some of my friends' places were downright scary, and I was pretty sure my friend Jasper had a family of rats living with him, the reason why I never went over there anymore.
After my caffeine fix had sunk in, I decided a shower was definitely needed, as I was covered in sweat from my nightmare. It would also kill some time before I had to be at work.
As I was undressing in the bathroom, I couldn't help but look at my reflection. I looked dreadful, the nights of little to no sleep were wearing on me. My wide brown eyes looked flat, almost lifeless, and I had deep circles around them. My hair was out of control because I tore at it in my sleep, and I looked thinner, my nightmares always made me lose my appetite. I frowned at myself, making my reflection look even sadder, and I turned quickly into the shower to get away from my reflection, ignoring the scars that were scattered across my back and ribs. The shower and make-up would help for the hair and face situation, but there were other markers that would always be on me. The markers that said I was broken. It was an uncomfortable thought.
My shower didn't take nearly as long as I hoped, and I took extra time to blow out my hair and do my make-up. I didn't usually wear much, just concealer to hide my dark circles and mascara, but today I decided to wear a bit of blush and lip-gloss, since I had the extra time anyway.
Once I made it out of the bathroom, it was still only 6:30 AM, two hours before I had to be at work. It was too early to call anyone to talk, and t.v. was usually crap at this time, so I decided to go and read my new copy of Jane Eyre. My old one having fallen to pieces sometime ago, and I got this new copy a few days ago with my 15% employee discount at Books and Things. It wasn't a glamorous job, and the pay was shit, but it least I got to spend my day around what I loved most, books.
I soon became enraptured in Jane's plight, and the hours passed quickly, and before I knew it, it was already 8:05. "Shit!" I called out. I would have to rush to work now if I wanted to be on time. I quickly ran to my bedroom and threw on my ugly as sin uniform and sneakers, shoving a granola bar in my mouth on the way out.
I had to run to the subway, just barely making my train, and I soon found myself plastered against all the other grumpy subway riders.
Today really looked like it was going to be a shitty day.
I was sitting in the employee break room at work, having already done my pre-open stock work and prep, trying to get a few restful minutes before I had to act all cheery for customers. That shit was seriously exhausting. Betty, one of the assistant managers, had told me that I had to train a new employee today, Edward something or other, so I was not too excited about that either. He was probably some retiree looking for extra golf cash by the sounds of his name. The old guys were the worst, no matter how much higher you were up in the ladder, or how much shit you knew, they always thought they knew better. They were a pain in the ass. The only upside was that they usually didn't last long, and we would get someone new in no time.
I heard the door open, and swirled to see Betty standing close to the door. Betty was a small, middle aged woman with dark skin and friendly eyes. She was one of the nicest people I knew, but she could kick your ass if she needed to. I liked her much more then Kate, that woman always looked like she a pole shoved up her ass. I giggled at the mental image.
"Hey Bella, your, er, trainee is here." Betty said, a little flustered. Odd. I had never Betty flustered before. She was the non-flustering type, but here, she was almost blushing.
"Thanks Betty." I said kindly, getting up from my chair. "Where is he?"
"I left him up front near the cash register."
"Okay, I'll go show him the ropes," I said, as I walked over to the door. Betty was beaming at me.
"What?" I asked, confused.
Her smile got bigger and her eyes wicked. "Oh, you'll see."
I frowned, and she laughed at me. What did she mean "you'll see"? I was seriously considering whether or not the woman had finally gone off the deep end.
I made my way up the aisle slowly, in no rush to get to the front of the store, since training middle aged employees were the bane of my existence. When I got closer to the front, I could see someone leaning against the counter. He looked tall and young from where I was, but I couldn't see him clearly yet.
When I finally got close enough to see him properly, I had to do a double take. He was tall and he was lanky, but in a good way, as I could see had a bit of muscle on his arms. He had this wild, thick bronze hair, and it looked like he had been running his hands through it. I couldn't fully see his face since he was still looking down, obviously not noticing my approach, but I could see he had a strong jaw, and pouty, red lips. This guy was young, and he was attractive.
He can't be the new guy, I thought, though he was obviously wearing a Books and Things uniform, and fuck, he even looked glorious in it. I called out his name, still questioning that the fine specimen in front of me was actually the right person.
"Edward?" He looked up at me then and I gasped. Now that I could see his whole face, I could see that he was much more attractive that I initially thought. His eyes were a deep blue, like the ocean, and framing his eyes were thick set of lashes. He looked like someone who just walked out of Romantic-era novel, save for the uniform, and my literary heart of mine did flip-flops. He would fit nicely as any of my tragic, romantic heroes.
"Yes?", he said after staring at me surprised. He blushed a bit, and I felt my eyes widen. This was unexpected since most of the attractive guys I had met were very comfortable in social situations; they were suave and in control. Edward though, seemed a bit bashful and uncertain with his surroundings. He ran his hands threw his hair, and I swooned at that movement.
Get yourself together woman! I chastised myself, I shouldn't be thinking like that about a employee, especially one under me… What a tantalizing thought, my traitor thoughts rang out. I realized I still hadn't introduced myself, and I quickly pulled myself back together. I didn't need to sound like a swooning teenager right now.
"I'm Isabella Swan, most people call me Bella though," I said, reaching my hand out shake his. He moved to take mine, and when he did, electric sparks stung my hand where his hand touched mine. It wasn't painful, it was glorious actually, but it was a sensation I had never felt before, and I let go of his hand quickly, surprised at the connection.
"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Bella," he said formally, and I had to stop myself from laughing. What era did this guy fall out of? I mused.
Since laughing was out, I raised my eyebrow at him, not really knowing how to respond to that.
"Uh, yes. Pleasure." I said, sounding very inarticulate. Edward blushed again, and for some unknown reason, I relaxed. He was so damn cute.
"Come on, I'll show you around." I motioned for him to follow me. I could hear him following close behind while I walked ahead, thrilled that he was close to me. I had the urge to know this beautiful boy, and something told me inside that doing that would be very stupid, but I ignored it.
When I took a peek behind me, I could see his eyes glancing down at my ass, and I smiled.
Maybe today wouldn't be half bad after all.
It is way too early for this shit, I thought, grumbling to myself. It was 8:30 AM on a Saturday, and here I was making my way through the grimy New York streets in search of coffee. I would NEVER be up this early in any other circumstances. Fuck, I even scheduled my classes so they would all fall after noon, but because I have a summer job to go to, I was up, and I was grumpy.
I spotted Starbucks in the near distance, and I nearly sprinted to its beautiful white and green logo. Thank God for Seattle based coffee conglomerates.
Of course, there was a huge line at the counter, and I folded my arms over my chest in frustration. Should have just made coffee at the apartment, I thought bitterly.
I was in a bad mood. Not only did I have to get up early, but I was starting a job ridiculously early that I knew I would hate. I had tried to get a "cool" job interning at some law firm, or pushing a mail cart at a non-profit, but apparently that was every other student's plan this summer, and I had received no calls for interviews. Therefore, I had to shake my dreams and take a job at a bookstore downtown for minimum wage.
See what three years at NYU will get you?
Don't get me wrong, I love books. I have piles stacked everywhere in my room, authors from the contemporary Stieg Larssonto the philosophy of Jean- Jacques Rousseau. I even have a whole wall dedicated to my books in my father's library back home. And if this job had been one of those cool, indie, used bookstores that were scattered around the city, I would be in a much better mood. Unfortunately for me, those places wouldn't hire me either, so I was now an employee of Books and Things, the largest bookstore chain in America. I was okay with getting my coffee from conglomerates, but not my books.
Don't judge me.
I frowned down at my uniform as I was getting closer to the head of the line. It was a black golf shirt that had "Books and Things" stitched in gold on the front pocket. What completed the outfit was a pair of khakis and black sneakers. And you better believe that shirt was tucked in with a belt. Jesus, I looked like my father when he went golfing with his doctor buddies.
While frowning at my uniform, I had finally moved up significantly in line, and I was almost at the front. I would soon be reunited with my sweet caffeine love.
When I got up to the counter, the girl at the cash register did a double take, gaping at me instead of asking for my order. I sighed. I was used to this reaction, people most likely recognized me from somewhere, and probably it was one of those high society gossip sites where my picture was plastered at various charities I had to go to with my parents.
Not only was my father Dr. Carlisle Cullen, heroic surgeon, and my mother revered in the interior decorating business, but my two siblings, Alice and Emmett, and I were adopted from the clutches of various foster homes and had flourished under Carlisle and Esme's care. That's how the papers described us anyway. The real story was far less romantic. We were normal, nothing extraordinary. I loved my parents and my siblings, and really couldn't give a damn what my parents did for a living or what house we lived in. I had argued with my parents on this point, refusing to take their money for school or for paying my own rent, I wanted to do this all on my own.
So now here I was, ordering coffee and going to work at a job that I already hated at 8:45 AM.
"I'll err, have a grande bold coffee, black please." I muttered after the girl still didn't ask for my order. She seemed to snap out of it though, and punched in my order, blushing all the while. Well, at least you don't work here, I said to myself, taking comfort in the fact that I didn't have spend my summer making lattes for angry New Yorkers.
Once I had my coffee, I exited the shop and continued my way down to Books and Things. I didn't have to rush, I didn't start until nine and the store was just around the corner, so I sauntered my way over to the store.
As I turned the corner, I caught sight of the store and groaned. I had forgotten how fucking massive Books and Things was, particularly this location. It occupied a wide space, probably the length of several normal sized stores, and was two stories high. They had books from the most mundane works of fiction, to "how to" books on how to make costumes for your cat.
I downed my coffee in a few swift gulps, probably burning my tongue in the process, tossing the cup in the trash can, and walked through the automatic doors that led to my torture.
How does anyone find anything in here? I wondered as I wandered through the store. It was even more intimidating than the outside, rows upon rows of books and displays. I laughed particularly at the display for this new vampire series that people were fawning over, and it was now becoming a movie. The brooding vampire was clutching his female lover on the cover, with a protective stance, and she, apparently innocent and beautiful, was holding onto him as well.
No wonder I have such a hard time with relationships, all girls want is a teenage vampire to fuck, I chuckled to myself. Women.
Someone must have heard me laugh, because a disembodied voice called out to me.
"The store doesn't open for another half hour." It was a woman's voice, and she sounded angry.
"Err, I'm not a shopper. I'm here to start my first day of work. I'm Edward Cullen." I said, spinning around trying to figure out where the voice was coming from.
"Oh!" I heard the voice call out, and a small, slightly round, black woman came from the aisle left of me.
"I'm sorry; I thought you were a customer. I'm Betty, one of the assistant managers. Kate hired you, correct?"
I stuck out my hand to shake hers. Her hand was strong; I had flex my fingers afterwards. "Pleasure to meet you ma'am, and yes, it was Kate who hired me." I wondered idly how many assistant managers the place had.
She looked up surprised at me. Gosh, this woman really was short.
"You're very formal. I didn't expect that from a man your age."
"My parents taught me to be polite ma'am." I told her with a smile. Yes, I was polite in these types of situations, but she didn't know the stuff that could come out of my mouth normally. I swore worse than a sailor most days. I just knew when it was appropriate and when it wasn't.
"Please, call me Betty. My mother is a 'ma'am', not me," she chuckled, and waved for me to follow her. She walked quickly and spoke equally as fast, and I had both a hard time keeping up with her and her words, almost falling over a stack of books in the process.
"The store opens at 9:30 AM every day except for Sunday, when we open at 10. I expect you to always be here a half hour early so you can do stock work or whatever else needs to be done before opening. You will always have to wear your uniform to work, and your nametag, which, ah, isn't ready yet so you are nameless for now. I'm going to stick you on the floor for now, since being at the cash register is a little much for a newbie, and you'll have an experienced employee train you for the first few weeks."
She turned and stopped in front of me, almost causing me to crash into her.
"Got all that Cullen?", she asked raising her eyebrow at me. Fuck, she probably thought I was some pretty boy who had no brain in my head.
"Err, yes I think I do ma...Betty." I sputtered out. Good job not looking like an idiot. Inside, I was my rolling my eyes at myself.
"Good." She seemed placated that I could comprehend the job. "I'll go get Isabella, and then she will show you the ropes." She quickly turned again, and dashed through a door that must have led to the employee break room or something.
An experienced employee? She must be older, maybe a woman my mother's age, working part-time as soon as her kids left the nest. I could picture a stout blonde woman with a "mom" haircut, teaching me the ins and outs of a bookstore. Ugh, if I wanted to see a mom, I would have stayed home this summer instead of suffering here. I leaned against a counter pinched my forefinger and my thumb at the bridge of my nose.
"Edward?" I heard a very pleasant voice call out. I looked up and was shocked at what I saw. Before me was a slim young woman that looked to be about my age, and she had long chestnut hair that ran down to her waist. Her most enticing trait was her eyes; they were wide and a deep chocolate brown in colour. Her eyes looked like they held so much, like they actually were windows to her soul. She was probably one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen, and I was just gaping at her. Sheesh, I was no better than the Starbucks girl.
"Yes?" I answered. Smooth move Cullen. Surely this pretty girl wasn't my supervisor, she looked far too young for that.
Her eyes widened and she spoke softly but with control. It was unexpected from her slight frame.
"I'm Isabella Swan, most people call me Bella though." She reached out to shake my hand.
Ah, so she was my supervisor. Her name was apt to describe her, beautiful Bella.
I took her hand in mine and something weird happened. Her skin seemed to send sparks into mine, traveling through my fingers and up my arm, and it caused my body to tingle. I felt my eyes widen, and when I looked down at Bella, she had the same look of surprise.
Before I could even process what was happening, Bella let go my hand quickly, recovering and moving her face into a professional mask.
"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Bella." Pleased to make your acquaintance? Who did I think I was, Mr. Darcy?
She seemed surprised at my formality, and she quirked her eyebrow at me.
"Uh, yes. Pleasure," she said stiffly, and I blushed at myself for being so awkward. Her face suddenly softened and she gave me a small smile.
"Come on, I'll show you around." She waved at me, and I followed closely behind her.
"So you're not quite what I expected when Betty told me I was training a new guy named Edward," she said, looking behind at me.
"What did you expect then?" I asked.
She shrugged. "Oh, some retired guy who was getting a job because he was bored. I'm glad you're not, we already have enough of those, but I never expected a guy like you."
"A guy like me?" I furrowed my brow. What the hell was that supposed to mean?
She slowed down so she could meet my stride and walk beside me.
"I mean, most of the guys we get here are either older, or pubescent guys who spend way too much time in the graphic novel section, but you're..."
"Awkward." I interrupted. I knew that, throw me into any social situation where I have to be a somewhat normal person, and I'll make it awkward in seconds flat.
Bella giggled again though. "I was going to say hot, but I guess awkward works for you too."
I was startled; no girl had ever outright said that to me before. Sure, I was aware that people, especially women, thought I was attractive, and I knew I wasn't unfortunate looking, but I never saw myself as 'hot'. I saw myself as awkward, clumsy, and gangly.
I was quite flattered that Bella thought I was hot though.
"I'm hot?" I beamed at her.
"Like you don't know. You probably have girls throwing themselves at you all the time." She said as she rolled her eyes at me.
"No actually, I don't. Like I said, I'm awkward." I was cocky at the moment though, so I said something I wouldn't normally.
"Would you throw yourself at me?" I asked.
She looked incredulously at me, like she didn't believe I would actually say something like that, and shook her head.
"In your dreams, Edward." She laughed and sped up to walk in front of me again. I jogged up to her so I could be at pace with her.
"You know, you're not what expected either." I said. That piqued her interest.
"And what did you expect?" She asked, mirroring my earlier question. I gave her a lopsided smile and I heard her breath hitch. Huh, interesting.
"When they told me 'experienced employee' , I thought you would be someone my mom's age, and you're, well, not."
"Pictured a soccer mom?" She asked, apparently reading my mind from earlier. I laughed.
"Maybe, yeah." I said, and she laughed with me. I didn't want to further stick my foot in my mouth by telling her I didn't expect her to be so beautiful.
"So how old are you?" She asked as we made our way up the stairs to the second floor.
"Me too." She smiled. Oh, so she was experienced but not older.
"How long have you worked here?" I asked.
"Umm, I've worked here full-time over the summer for the past two years, and part-time when I'm studying at NYU." She told me proudly. So she was smart, funny and beautiful. Oh Cullen, this could be your dream girl.
"You go to N.Y.U.? I've never seen you there before." I mused, trying to remember if I had seen her somewhere on campus.
"It's a big campus Edward, I wouldn't be surprised if you hadn't. Plus you're probably an economics major or something, and I don't mingle with those." She said, laughing.
"You're close," I told her. "Pre-law."
"That makes sense then, since I'm an English Lit major, and I only hang out with those of my own kind," she said with a smirk.
"Well, maybe you need to make an exception for me," I told her. Holy hell! What was making me so ballsy today?
Bella stopped dead in her tracks and blushed. It was incredibly cute.
She shook her head though and seemed to pull herself together, a faint reminder of her blush still laden in her cheeks.
"Enough with the chit-chat Cullen, time to get to work." And with that she regaled me with everything there was to know about Books and Things. Most of it was pretty simple, books went by genre, then by author on the shelf. If it was in demand or popular, you would make a few copies facing with the covers in front, instead of the spine, and we always had to restock so there would be no gaps in the shelves.
She showed me the backroom, which was really more the size of a warehouse, where they stored all the stock. She told me that mostly the stock boys would get stuff ready in the carts beforehand so we didn't have to go searching the warehouse, but it was always be good to familiarize yourself with it.
After that, she gave me a tour and showed me where all the different sections were, told me to memorize the layout of the store so I could direct customers. I made a mental note to pick up a store map before I left at the end of the day.
All the while she was walking and talking in front of me, I was watching her robust bottom swing in front of me. I knew I could get into deep shit for ogling my superior but damn, Bella even made khakis look hot.
"So for now you will be responsible for one section, and you will be in charge restocking, and helping people in that section. There are phones by the computers, and if someone calls your section, you pick it up. Got it?", she said, interrupting my reverie. I prayed she didn't catch me staring at her ass.
"I think so," I said warily. It was all pretty simple to figure out. I was just worried about her kicking my ass for looking at hers. She was tiny little thing but she looked like she could take me if she wanted to. I just then had the hilarious mental image of Bella hurtling herself at me, and I suppressed a laugh.
"Good. Your section is just coming up." She smiled, and I was relieved that she seemed to not have noticed my ogling.
We continued to walk until we stopped at a section full of paperback novels that featured various men with their shirts open, exposing their chests, and had titles like, "Love in the Italian Villa", and "The Doctor and His Mistress". I gaped and felt my eyes bug out. I heard Bella giggle behind me.
"So this is your section." She laughed.
Fuck, this really was going to be hell wasn't it?