**WARNING: THIS STORY CONTAINS EXPLICIT SEX, DRUG USE, AND ADULT LANGUAGE.**
Okay...here it is. This story is a collaboration between TwireaderAbi and ImwithPattz. TwireaderAbi will be writing Bella POV and ImwithPattz will be writing Edward POV. This is a leap of faith on our part and would love your feed back! Enjoy the ride!
A very special Thank You to Pru Blackvange for her amazing and quick beta services!
Disclaimer: We do not own Twilight. If we did, we would be finishing Midnight Sun instead of writing this story.
"Really." I said out loud to no one. "Really? I mean, REALLY?" It bore repeating. I mean, exactly how many times was I going to have to explain to this girl the meaning of "collate"? I picked up the stack of papers and stomped down the indoor/outdoor carpeting. Determined; I looked determined. I hoped I didn't look constipated. Gosh, did this furrowed brow thing I was trying make me look constipated? Constipation isn't a laughing matter, but when you're aiming to look serious and authoritative, well, it's just not going to garner the esteem you're working towards. Great googley moogley! I ditched the serious/constipated look and settled for a thin lipped grimace instead. I barreled down the pathway, hurtling myself into Charlotte's cube.
"Charlotte." I hissed at her. I silently cursed the day management said they would allow ear buds while working. I mean, sure, it was better than having to be subjected to Kings of Leon while trying to dutifully manage Mr. Masen's schedule, but it was impossible to get anyone's attention now. I didn't see why they couldn't just wait until they got into the comfort of their own car to listen to music. I liked my music while I cooked. It could set the tone for the entire meal. Show tunes for American fare, classical for Italian, and my favorite, Lady Gaga for hand rolled sushi and sashimi. Cooking was my passion and music made that passion flow effortlessly, fluidly.
"CHAAAARLOOOOTTE!" I said much louder in her right ear while jabbing her in the shoulder with my index finger.
She whipped around in her cube and yanked out an ear bud, a look of annoyance with a tinge of fear painted across her face. Power is a funny thing. Two weeks ago I was the outcast of the cubicle clique. Now that I was the assistant to the CEO and owner of Masen Publishing, I had power. With power came respect. Well, I mean, maybe not respect as much as bitter annoyance, but no one called me rude names anymore. Well, at least not to my face. So that was a positive!
"Keep your hands to yourself, spazzy. What's got you all riled up?" Charlotte leaned back in her chair and swiveled slightly side to side, left to right. It was making me queasy, just like the time Angela thought it would be a great idea to go whale watching out at the Channel Islands. Ugh, I must have puked six times before there was nothing left in me. Angela said she had never seen someone turn that particular shade of chartreuse. Wait. Focus Bella. You're powerful now. Don't let yourself get is your chance to show her you mean business.
I held up the stack of papers, poking my finger at them even more forcefully than I had at her moments ago.
"These forms, Charlotte. I specifically asked you to copy and collate these forms. And did you? No. No! Instead I have a stack of the first page and a stack of the second page." My hands were starting to flail a little as my pent up fury came spilling out. Charlotte moved back slightly as my left hand came dangerously close to hitting her in the face. "How can I give these to Mr. Masen in this condition? I can't! Collate! Collate! How can you not know what that means? Now I have to sort these and staple them myself because of your incompetence!"
Charlotte simply rolled her eyes and popped back in her ear bud, swiveling one last time toward the dinosaur of a computer sitting in front of her, effectively shutting out my critique of her clearly lackluster office skills. I stomped my way back toward my desk, flailing my arms and loudly grumbling.
"Seriously. REALLY! I mean, how you people even call yourselves employees? Can't even collate a simple two page form. I have to do everything around here myself."
It was no wonder I had moved up the ladder so quickly. The people here were obviously mentally deficient. Oh, maybe they really were? Like, maybe Mr. Masen worked with one of those organizations that gave jobs to disabled people to help them make a good life for themselves in this harsh world. Oh no. I had better go easier on Charlotte. Poor thing. How had I not noticed earlier? Mr. Masen is such a good man. Always thinking of others. It brought a tiny smile to my face knowing I worked for such an altruistic man.
My desk was right outside Mr. Masen's door. It made it easier for him to access any and all assistance I provided. Every morning I had his coffee on his desk - two sugars, no cream- waiting for him. I made sure The New York Times, LA Times, and Wall Street Journal were organized neatly to the right of his office phone. I tilted the blinds up so as to prevent any glare on his computer monitor. I always stopped to admire my handiwork with glowing pride before I settled into my desk for the day. I knew it meant so much to Mr. Masen that I took the time to make sure everything was perfect for him. I knew it made his day easier. That was what made me the Rock Star of assistants.
He always arrived at 8:15 on the dot, usually already engrossed in a very important conversation on his cell with some super famous writer, or their agent, or both. He moved swiftly and with purpose through the sea of cubicles, to the beautiful mahogany double doors only to disappear behind them for hours on end, nothing to be heard but the light click click click of the keyboard, and sometimes the murmur of a curt telephone conversation. Today had started out the same, but just before noon the mahogany doors flew open in and he strode quickly out of the office with barely a glance in my direction. He barked at me to cancel his appointments for the afternoon and reschedule them for tomorrow. His voice had an edge of anger to it. Mr. Masen was known for his ability to charm the pants off people, and from what I had heard via the office rumor mill, it wasn't just a figure of speech. It usually wasn't necessary for him to get angry, since things always went his way. This uncharted emotion from him had my stomach clenching in nerves. Whatever had happened, it was clear Mr. Masen hadn't gotten his way.
I was busy aligning all of the pen cap sticks with the words pressed into the plastic body of the pens. It was a conscious effort right now, but really it had become such an automatic response to holding a pen that I found myself doing it to any pen I used in any place I went. I didn't understand why people thought it was such an odd habit. The pens were so much neater and organized this way. I had already rescheduled all of Mr. Masen's appointments for tomorrow and canceled his lunch with his daughter Alice. She was a sweet girl, only a few years younger than me, but still in college. She had just finished her third year and with only two semesters left, she was jockeying for position as Valedictorian at Pepperdine University. She was the antithesis of a rich girl attending a private university with a view of the Pacific Ocean. She was hard working, determined to be the best, while maintaining a genuinely warm disposition. Alice didn't seem to take her life of fortune for granted. She wasn't just wasting Daddy's money while partying it up with the Frat boys. I had gotten to know her on a rather friendly basis since I'd begun managing Mr. Masen's schedule. Between his business and her studies it took some serious coordinating skills to get those two together. I had spent many afternoons on the phone with Alice trying to find a time that worked for both of them. She seemed wise beyond her years. Sometimes I wondered if there was more to her story than being Daddy's Little Girl. Oh God, maybe it was really tragic. Maybe Mr. Masen found her on the streets, working as a child performer for the tourists in Venice Beach. It would be just like Mr. Masen to adopt a poor homeless girl so she could achieve her dreams of being a Biz/Econ major at a prestigious private university.
Looking out over a desolate wasteland of failing PCs and jamming fax machines, I was silently thankful my talents were recognized early and I didn't have to spend an eternity lost amongst the ruins of account assistants and publishing plebes. Offices like this always reminded me of a prairie dog pasture, people popping up randomly to see if anything interesting might be happening to break up the monotony of their days. But not me, I was going somewhere at Masen Publishing. I could feel it in my argyle knee socks. I had a desk near a window now. Eventually I would even have my own office, with a door!
Mr. Masen came forcefully through the collection of cubicles, the same angry edge to his demeanor. As he moved brusquely past he me he shouted over his shoulder "Isabella. My office. I have an assignment for you."
I was suddenly so thankful that I had chosen today to wear my best J. Crew khaki skirt and navy sweater vest. It was a little hot having the starchy white dress shirt sandwiched to me but with my very chic navy argyle socks I totally looked responsible enough for my own assignment. My hands got a little shaky just thinking about it. My first real assignment. My OWN assignment! I bet he wanted me to sort through a huge stack of queries, picking out the top ten submissions so that he wouldn't have to spend his time on comma addicted fools and lame housewives who wrote fan-fiction and thought they were going to be famous. I shook my head just thinking of those poor sad, frumpy middle-aged ladies with their "mom jeans" and Crocs, sitting at the kitchen table clacking away on the laptop while dinner burned on the stove, while day-dreaming of the fame and fortune they would have once a real publishing house saw the true talent hidden behind bake sales and mountains of laundry.
I stood up from my desk, a knowing smirk faintly hovering at my lips. I always knew I would be somebody. From the time I was a little girl I'd envisioned myself in a power suit, striding through my office while my stilettos made sharp taps across the floor, making and breaking careers with a flick of my wrist or a wrinkle of my nose. I would be a Guru of the literary world. I knew all those AP English classes and my BA in Contemporary Lit would pay off. Mr. Masen knew I was ready; I knew I was ready. I smoothed my skirt and made sure my thin plastic headband was in place. I didn't want to look disheveled. What if that reminded him of how Alice looked when he found her homeless in Venice? You know, if that's what had happened. It might make him sad and derail the whole thing. No, I needed to look as competent and capable as I felt. I reapplied my cherry Chap Stick and headed to the mahogany doors of power.
"Isabella, I hope you are well. I trust you're enjoying the view from your new desk?" Mr. Masen flashed his perfectly veneered smile at me. If I were into older men I totally would have melted on the spot. Objectively, it was easy to see why women threw themselves at him. He always wore an expensive suit, had immaculately coifed hair with a super straight part combed to perfection, flashed a toothy grin that might as well have made a "bling" sound when he smiled, and had just a hint of age around his eyes giving him that sexy George Clooney distinguished look. But I wasn't about to sleep my way to the top. You never really held any power when you took that route. Besides, I was saving myself for Kellan Lutz. He was always Tweeting about his charity projects and it made me swoon. Plus his abs were amazing. I could just imagine eating honey and fresh dates off of them while sexy John Mayer songs played in the background.
"Isabella?" The sound of Mr. Masen's voice, sprinkled with a tad bit of concern and confusion snapped me out of my daydream.
"Oh, gosh, sorry. Yes, yes, I like my desk very much." I felt the heat singe my cheeks. God, I hated when I did that. I didn't want Mr. Masen to think I was some ditz who spaced out on Facebook all day and flirted with the mail room guy, like that stupid Jessica at the front desk who was ways flipping her hair and flaunting her cleavage. Who leaves the top THREE buttons of their blouse open. I mean, really? I swear it was no coincidence that I never got my messages. Instead of transferring my calls she simply hung up on them. That girl hated me. I had no idea why. The guys of the office were always hanging all over her, bringing her coffee and offering her their left overs from lunch. No one offered me lunch. I sat quietly in the break room, eating my turkey and cheese, alone. She was obviously the office sweetheart, well, the slutty version at least.
"Good. I'm glad. Now Isabella, I have an assignment for you."
"Yes Mr. Masen. Thank you for the opportunity. And I just wanted to say I am so ready for this. I have been keeping my skills finely tuned. I can read 15,000 words in a hour, I have several Words with Friends games going to keep my vocabulary sharp, and I even took a course on eye exercises so that my eye sight won't suffer on account of the small type face." I took a minute to breathe after the word-vomit had subdued. Whenever I got nervous I talked. A lot. It didn't matter if I gave myself a pep talk before hand, reciting affirmations to convince myself that I was cool and easy going, I always spewed inane drivel when I felt insecure, and I felt insecure more often than not.
I dropped my eyes to my hands in my lap, mentally giving myself a lashing for being such a spaz. Charlotte was right. Mr. Masen smiled at me genuinely when I peeked up at him through my lashes. Immediately a wave of relief washed over me. Maybe he didn't think I was a spaz after all. Maybe he saw that really, my mind just moved a mile a minute and sometimes I couldn't contain all of the thoughts. Sometimes they came out through my mouth without me having much control.
"Isabella. Although I find your pursuit of, how did you put it, 'finely tuned' editing skills to be advantageous to your growth here at Masen Publishing, this assignment is less editing-oriented in nature." He pursed his lips and knotted his brow at the last statement.
I drew in a breath, ready to assault him with all of the reasons I could, in fact, handle any type of assignment to prove I was still worthy of my non-cubicle desk.
"It's my son. I need your help, er, looking after him." He looked at me cautiously. I wasn't deterred though. I jumped right in.
"Oh, I didn't realize you had a son. But Mr. Masen, I assure you I am a very qualified babysitter. I have been baby-sitting since I was 15 years old, I taught preschool as a summer job in college, and I am CPR certified. I also give a stellar puppet show." Right then I broke into my puppet voice, holding up one hand and making it talk. "Hello there Mr. Masen! I can't wait to sing my 'show and tell' song for your little guy!"
Mr. Masen started to choke a little and squeezed his eyes shut. I suspected he was hiding a laugh and my insides crumbled. How was I screwing this up so royally? My puppet skills were unrivaled when I taught preschool. Had I lost my touch?
"Sorry," I squeaked out.
"No no, Isabella, it was a great puppet. Honestly. It's just that my son is not a child anymore. If only he knew that." He muttered the last part under his breath, but I caught it.
"He just graduated from UCLA. He was supposed to start working here immediately, learning the ins-and-outs, prepping to take over when it was time for me to retire. But he has asked for a little time to, uh, 'sow his oats', one could say."
I blinked once, trying to figure out what Mr. Masen was saying. Did he need me to babysit his grown son? Did his son have a disability? Holy crow, that's probably why he worked with the organization giving disabled people jobs. Oh poor bleeding-heart Mr. Masen; one child with a disability and still he adopts another who was homeless. Really, this man was such a saint.
He was pacing in front of the window in his office, his hands clasped behind his back.
"I need you to keep an eye on him but this should be a covert operation, do you understand? I can't do it myself. Not only do I not have time to tail my son all over the greater LA area, but he'd see me. You, though, he has no idea who you are. He'll never notice you. You will blend right in with all of the other nameless faces. You can watch his every move." As he said this, a devious fire lit in his eyes and I saw something I had never seen before in Mr. Masen - deceit - and he seemed to come alive with the thought.
I nodded to look like I understood, but I was beyond confused. I had seen a whole different side of Mr. Masen today and it clashed with his nomination for sainthood I had planned. Was I really so uninteresting that I could blend into the background and no one would ever see me? Did he really mean no one would notice me? No, that couldn't be what he meant. I mean, he did choose me to be his right hand person, I was "Assistant to Mr. Carlisle Masen" now. That title held power and he chose me him very self. I shook off the moment of hurt and resolved to do this like the professional that I was.
"So you want me to spy on your son." It was more a statement than a question.
"Exactly! You will report directly to me. No one else is to know you are doing this. He has friends here. They will tell him and I won't get the truth, but I need the truth. I won't be duped and I WON'T have my money stolen from me. Do you understand what I am saying?" He turned and narrowed his eyes at me. I gulped and nodded again.
"I understand completely, Mr. Masen. I will do everything I can to give you a minute by minute account of your son's whereabouts as well as his activities and affiliations." I put on my most serious face, making sure Mr. Masen knew he could trust me. I resolved to myself that I wouldn't screw this up. If I proved that I could do this, Mr. Masen would see how valuable I was to the company and immediately promote me to Assistant Editor. This was simply a test and I would pass with flying colors, just like the English Lit AP test senior year of high school.
"I knew you were the right girl for the job, Isabella." He put both hands on his desk and leaned forward. He looked extremely pleased, but I wasn't sure if it was with himself or me. "Here is his address in Malibu, start there, and this is the address of his best friend, Emmett McCarty. If you don't find Edward at home, he's probably at Emmett's house." Mr. Masen handed me a small piece of lined paper with two names and two addresses in neat cursive.
"Come in every morning at 8:30 and give me the highlights of the previous day. You can head out to start your day after that. We'll start Monday." He said with a finality that let me know our meeting was over.
"Yes, sir." I stood to leave and as I made my way to the door I turned and asked one last question.
"Mr. Masen?" I tried to hide the slight panic that was in my voice.
"Yes, Isabella?" He wasn't looking at me. He was already engrossed in an email on his monitor.
"Mr. Masen who will handle your schedule now, since I will be out of the office all day long?"
"Oh, that nice girl Jessica at the front desk will take care of me for now. Thank you for your concern, Isabella. You're a really superstar employee." He flashed his winning smile one more time and turned his attention back to the computer.
A/N: The first few chapters of TPR have been cleaned up and remastered. Thanks for your patience while we were being refurbished.