Disclaimer: All characters are property of Stephenie Meyer. Please don't steal my original work.
Once upon a time, on the north shore of Long Island, not far from New York, there was a very, very large mansion, almost a castle, where there lived a family by the name of Cullen. There were servants inside the mansion, and servants outside the mansion; boatmen to tend the boats, and six crews of gardeners: two for the solarium, the rest for the grounds, and a tree surgeon on retainer. There were specialists for the indoor tennis courts, and the outdoor tennis courts, the outdoor swimming pool, and the indoor swimming pool.
And it was for this family I, Isabella Swan, 23 years old, worked in the publications department of their company – Cullen International located on Park Avenue in energetic New York City, for nearly the past five years. I enjoyed my work, whether it was sifting through the technical specifics of an electronics design to make it sound exciting in a press release or simply creating a flyer or brochure for an existing product.
Today, though, I was being interviewed for another position with the company – to be the personal assistant to Emmett Cullen, the Chief Operations Officer. I wasn't quite awake yet as I waited for my alarm to go off at any moment, so I could revel in my puppy-love dreams about handsome Emmett. Of course I'd seen his face on numerous brochures around the company – I even surreptitiously took one of each to add to the bulletin board over the desk in my bedroom just so I could gaze at his face when I was away from the office. I added those to the Gap ad he'd done a couple of years ago and the more recent Calvin Klein underwear ad he'd completed a couple months ago. Even though I had these numerous pictures of Emmett around, my lovely roommate, Alice Brandon, always told me there was much more to me than my obsession with him. I hoped she was right.
I was mentally chanting that I could keep it together during my interview and not blush and stammer through the entire ordeal. I detested interviews, but they were the only way you could get ahead in this world. The meeting was going to be with Emmett; Jasper Cullen, the Chief Financial Officer for the company; and Edward Cullen, the Chief Executive Officer. Edward was a bit intimidating – he'd been profiled in Time magazine and been on the cover of Forbes magazine.
I was also praying I didn't get a migraine headache before the interview. I'd been diagnosed with migraines right about the time I graduated from high school. I took daily medication for them and took additional medication when I actually got a migraine. I normally had to come home and go to bed when a migraine occurred as that medication knocked me on my ass. I was to avoid consuming alcohol while on all these medications so I wasn't much of a party animal, much to my coworkers' chagrin. My doctor in Forks, Washington (where I used to live with my dad, Charlie), told me I would most likely outgrow the headaches in time or could possibly reprogram my internal system by getting pregnant. I high-tailed it out of his office with my prescriptions in hand and never spoke a word of that conversation to Charlie. He would've freaked out! I was only 18 years old at the time! Once I moved to New York, I acquired a new doctor who didn't suggest pregnancy to halt my migraines. I was glad New York was a little more forward-thinking than Forks!
My alarm went off just then and soon after, my roommate, Alice Brandon, came barreling into my room. I always thought she had ESP or something. Alice was a force of nature, although she was petite in stature, with dark brown spiky hair and big blue eyes. She was actually the reason we now lived in New York. We'd been best friends since she first latched on to me when I moved to Forks from Phoenix, Arizona, right before my junior year of high school. The only way Charlie would agree to me moving to New York was if Alice was with me. It was the only place she wanted to go – where she could be near the fashion mecca – in her happy place. She worked as a Bloomingdale's personal shopper to the "ladies who lunch" in New York. She brought me some chai tea to get my day started and sang out, smiling, "Morning Bella! Today's the big day!"
Yeah, those morning people got on my nerves. I took a hit of caffeine before I answered her. "Morning, Alice. So, dare I ask, what did you pick out for me to wear?"
"Well, thank goodness, you let me pick out your interview outfit! I thought I was going to have to beg! I actually picked it out a couple of days ago when you had to work late," she said as she went over to the closet. Yeah, of course she did – multi-tasking freak.
As I nursed my chai tea, Alice flung open my closet and drew out a hanger. "OK," she said, "you'll wear this darling blue buckle-detail chemise dress with cap sleeves. A black chunky necklace and bracelet will complete your look. You'll wear this with black stilettos."
I groaned at the last item. "Seriously, Alice?" She gave me a warning look. "OK," I groaned again as I took another drink of my chai tea and pushed back the covers to start my day. As I went into the bathroom to start my shower, I looked at myself in the mirror critically with my hands on my hips. My figure was just sort of average, long brown hair, chocolate brown eyes. I had good, perky boobs, though. Maybe I'd have to start working on myself to make Emmett notice me.
After I got out of the shower and got dressed (Alice had already made my bed – I'm telling you, she's way more into mornings than most people should be), I seriously hoped I didn't drip anything on myself before the interview so I looked somewhat presentable. Thank the Lord my interview was at 10 a.m. I didn't think too many disasters could befall me before then. At least it wasn't after lunch – all sorts of dangers lurked there. I'd have to cover myself with a bib. I took some lower-heel shoes with me that I could wear for the majority of the day. For my job in Publications, I basically dealt with my customers on the phone or by e-mail, so I could dress more casually. I shuddered to think if I actually did get this promotion, I'd be subjected to Alice overhauling my wardrobe – after I received my actual increase in salary.
Alice determined I should wear my hair up – to look a bit more stylish for the interview. I agreed – but only because she didn't use a multitude of pins and didn't use so much hairspray that the ozone layer was in danger of depleting itself at a moment's notice.
It was going to be a busy day at Cullen International. We were a multimillion dollar company specializing in all types of electronics – calculators, video games, software, etc. and moving into the personal computer arena.
My father, Carlisle, was the Chairman of the Board. He didn't come to work every day. He and my mother, Esme, liked to take extended vacations to exotic locations. I didn't mind. My brothers worked with me – Jasper as the Chief Financial Officer, Emmett as the Chief Operating Officer, and I, 28 years old, was the CEO. These positions suited our strengths. And yes, I was a bit of a workaholic. Hell, who am I kidding? If it wasn't for me, the company wouldn't be doing as well as it was, so it was good someone in this family was a workaholic.
This morning we were going to be interviewing three possibilities for the position of Emmett's assistant. He already had a secretary. This would be his personal assistant, his "right hand man" in my lingo. If Emmett was ever not available, this person would need to know everything Emmett knew about the daily operations of the company and everything else that came with the position. It seemed most of the time Emmett could be counted on to not be in his office, so I definitely wanted someone with a good head on their shoulders.
Human Resources had sent interview packets to Carlisle, my brothers and me a few days before. Of the three candidates, one was Jessica Stanley. She had been with the company for about two years as a secretary in Human Resources. I'm not entirely sure how her name had been considered – possibly because Emmett liked her ass in a skirt? Who knows with my brother? The second candidate was Lauren Mallory. Lauren was currently Emmett's secretary – maybe she was hoping for a promotion – from the looks of her resume, I didn't know if that was going to be possible. She didn't appear too ambitious. The last candidate was Isabella Swan. She had been with our company for approximately five years, working most recently in our publications department. Her resume was full of additional responsibilities that were not actually part of her position. I liked that in an employee.
I had dressed with care, as I did every day, in a grey business suit with a skinny black tie and a white pinstripe shirt. As I looked at myself in the mirror this morning, there was nothing that could be done with my bronze hair. It had a mind of its own, even though I'd just recently had it trimmed. I drew my fingers through it in frustration and hoped for the best. At least it wasn't sticking up like a cockatoo. My eyes were a brilliant green, like my mother's.
To say our first interview had been a disaster would be an understatement. Jessica came in, popping her bubble gum. Not that I'm above gum-chewing myself, but during an interview? C'mon! After the initial introductions were completed, the first words out of her mouth across the dark cherry wood conference table to my brothers and me were, "I can't believe how handsome you guys are." Was she kidding? Were we supposed to be able to take her serious in business situations? Emmett thought this was hysterically funny for some reason. I kicked him lightly in the shin with my black wingtip shoe. He sobered up a bit after that and we continued with the interview.
I may need to meet with the Chief of Human Resources to get Jessica some training in how to be professional in the workplace. She acted like a teenybopper who just found a place to land during the workday. Holy hell…I hoped this wasn't happening throughout my company.
As soon as the door closed behind her, Emmett spoke up, "Did you see her nice ass?" Crap – I knew I was right and gave him a dirty look. That was exactly why her application was being considered. Well, I certainly wasn't recommending her. I couldn't ever picture myself having a serious discussion with her about anything related to work, even with bamboo shoots driven under my perfectly manicured fingernails.
I took a moment to drink some ice water from the glass in front of me. Then I got up from the plush chair and looked out the window. This conference room had one of the best views of New York City. It was a gorgeous day and I was looking forward to being productive in it as soon as these blasted interviews were over. I could most likely work through lunch. I'd get my assistant to order something in for me.
Speaking of my personal assistant – Mrs. Shelly Cope – she knocked on the conference room door a moment later to announce that Miss Isabella Swan was here for her interview. All I could do was hope that she was better than the last candidate – although it was difficult to imagine anyone worse.
As Isabella came into the room, the atmosphere seemed to change. We all stood to shake hands and then quickly took our seats. I knew I was to begin the interview, but I couldn't stop staring at our interviewee – her gorgeous chestnut brown hair pinned up – I briefly wondered what it would look like flowing down her back, those expressive chocolate brown eyes, her figure in that incredibly flattering sapphire blue dress. But her beautiful lips – they had me completely mesmerized. It looked like the bottom one was a bit larger than the top one and for one brief moment, she chewed on the inside of the bottom one. Oh – to be able to taste those lips for myself – lips that looked like they were only shining with a sheer tint of some lip gloss and not loads of lipstick like some women wore to the office. Shit – I needed to get myself back on task!
The interview for Miss Swan could've been conducted in Swahili for all I could remember of it. I remember she gave spectacular answers to our questions. She did keep looking a bit shyly at Emmett for whatever reason – maybe because the position would be working directly with him – or did she have a crush on him? What female didn't have a crush on my brother? I suppose he was handsome in a cheeky bastard sort of way, but we were here to work, not discover potential dates.
The interview after Isabella's – Lauren – went ok. It wasn't the best. It was certainly better than Jessica's, but not as good as Isabella's. Isabella was my first choice, and Jasper's as well. Most of the time Emmett wasn't in the office, so I knew Emmett would go with whatever we decided.
I informed Shelly we had chosen Isabella for the position of Emmett's assistant and that she would begin Monday. I knew she would follow through on informing Human Resources of any needed actions as well as ordering my lunch from my favorite Chinese restaurant just down the street from our building as I settled down to work. Shelly was an older woman who had worked for my father for years before I even started working for the company. She was a grandmother and would frequently bring cookies to the office. The Cullen boys enjoyed being part of her extended grandchildren.
My mind didn't go directly to my work, however. My mind was on our beautiful interviewee who would soon be joining our management team – Isabella Swan. I had no doubt she'd fit in right away. She seemed to have a quick mind and she would catch on to things – no doubt faster than flighty Emmett ever did. All I could think about was unpinning her long hair, letting it fall loose, and running my fingers through it as I drew her closer to my body and kissed her sweet-looking lips. God, Cullen, you have seriously got to get a grip! You have a company to run. You have no time for a woman in your life – and certainly not one who is part of your management team!
Thankfully, Shelly chose that moment to stride in with my lunch and I hunkered down over my computer and got on with the rest of the day's work. I didn't look up again until the sun was setting over the horizon.
After those mind-numbing interviews, all I wanted was get some lunch and to play some video games. I knew Edward and Jasper would make a good decision. I could really care less – as long as they picked someone who was smart and was pretty easy on the eyes. I don't ask for much.
I sucked down some pizza at a nearby restaurant and then went back to the office, settling into a beanbag chair. I was going to kick whatever alien's butt was on my TV screen currently.
After some time playing our newest video game, my brother, Jasper, walked into my office. I put the game on pause and greeted him, "What's up, bro?"
He glared at me a bit and stated, "What's up, bro, is that Edward and I have hired your new assistant."
"Right on!" I fist-pumped into the air. "Who did you pick?"
"Not that you would care," he continued, "but we chose Isabella Swan. We expect you to be nice to her and show her what you know. Edward, Shelly, Angela, and I can show her the rest because God knows you won't."
My face fell a bit. Great – I had thought Jessica would get it for sure. She was so nice during the interview and even started out with how handsome we were. Isabella was all right – pretty even – maybe I could date her after she became my assistant as I didn't know her at all now.
Jasper left my office then and I sighed. It sounded like I'd be calling Jess and asking her to dinner tonight. Hopefully I could make her feel better about not being selected.
I stood up and grabbed the handset of the phone on the corner of my desk. I dialed Jessica's number from the company directory.
She answered with a wavering voice, "Human Resources. This is Jessica speaking."
I tried to sound smooth. "Hey Jess! It's me, Emmett. I just heard about the job. I'm sorry. That was a great skirt you were wearing today, baby. I'd like to take you to dinner to get your mind off things. You in?"
I believe she squealed into the phone, "Oh Emmett! I'd love to! What time?"
Just like that, we had a date set up. Jess and I had dated several times off and on. I think she wanted to get serious, but I didn't get serious with anyone. That wasn't my style.
My first week of work in my new position was incredibly busy. There was so much to learn! Shelly Cope and Angela Cheney, Edward's and Jasper's assistants respectively, helped me immensely. My new position could've been in French for all I understood at first. I did start catching on eventually. I hoped I would soon – I certainly didn't want Jasper or Edward coming in to ask me something and me floundering about.
Emmett was handsome, charming, funny, and romantic – to me and every other woman in the office building. I noticed other women made him laugh, including this week's "love of his life." I had no idea if I was witty enough to make him laugh. I was there to get my job done – I didn't know if providing laughter was included in the mix.
Alice, of course, had been thrilled I received my well-deserved promotion and she had set to work right away overhauling my wardrobe. She kept an eagle eye out for sales at work. The moment things went on sale that were my size and would look great on my body type, she snatched right up and brought home for me. She and I also purchased quite a few things online. I was never going to run out of clothes at this rate. She also showed me different ways of wearing the same items in different ways so I had a multitude of outfits.
Time wore on eventually and I started to feel like I knew what I was talking about with Shelly and Angela. I was starting to develop a friendship with both these fine women. They both became frequent numbers on my speed dial – if I happened to be out of the building around lunchtime and thought they'd like something, I always called and asked if they'd like me to pick them up something. They did the same for me.
One afternoon, there was a knock on my open office door. I answered absently, "Come in," as I was distracted by the spreadsheets flickering across my computer screen.
Edward spoke from the door, "Isabella, am I interrupting something?"
My mind scrambled around for a few seconds. Crap – I'd taken off those heinous stilettos and kicked them under my desk, so I wasn't looking very professional at all. My feet felt around for them now. I could see the side of Edward's mouth raise up into a smirk as he watched my feet mercifully find my discarded shoes. Then I realized I hadn't answered him yet. "Um, no, you're not interrupting."
He continued, "Since Emmett isn't in, I was looking for production numbers." He moved closer to my cherry wood desk and leaned onto the edge of it with his long fingers, looking me directly in the eye, "Do you know what percent of an increase we had from this past quarter over the same quarter last year?"
I stared at his fingers for a long moment, during which he cleared his throat. That snapped me right back to reality. "Let me get that for you," I said quietly. This man still intimidated me, even if he did have the most beautiful fingers I'd ever seen.
"Excellent," he replied.
I focused on the computer screen and found the needed information, which I then wrote onto a piece of note paper – paper that frivolous Alice insisted on buying me when I got my promotion that stated at the top of each sheet "From the desk of Isabella Swan." She thought it would look classier than me handing out random sticky notes to people. I had to agree.
I handed the paper to Edward. He looked at it and ran his fingertips over the raised lettering. "Very nice," he murmured. He looked at me again and said, "Thank you for the information." He turned to go and then stopped by the door. He questioned, "You'll be attending on Saturday evening, yes?"
Was my mind always going to be a blank around this man? I had no clue what he was talking about and my face must've given my thoughts away. He looked out into the hallway, held up his index finger, left my office for a moment, then came back in, holding a crème envelope out to me. "It appears Lauren has gone to lunch and didn't deliver your mail to you," he stated simply. As I took the heavy envelope with my name written in calligraphy on the front, he continued, "I hope you'll attend." He turned on his heel and left my office just as quickly as he'd come and I was left, staring after him.
I quickly regained my wits and opened the envelope. It was an invitation to a party Carlisle and Esme Cullen were hosting at their mansion on the north shore of Long Island. The invitation was extended to me and "plus one." Oh yeah – Alice was definitely getting in on this one. Who else would I invite? I dialed her on my cell phone immediately because I was going to start freaking out or hyperventilating (or both!) and she needed to find us something to wear – yesterday!
Author's Note: Please review and let me know what you think! Thank you so much...I appreciate you!