Another fic—this time, a romance. I was thinking one day, wouldn't it be great to see a story where Bella isn't attracted to Edward at first? I'm totally turning you off the story already, aren't I? It gets good, I promise.
A huge thanks to Burntcore, Dinx, and Coletteg17 for pre-reading. Another thanks to my wonderful beta, Lindz26, who has now worked on three stories with me and I'm very lucky to have her. And, also, a big gracias to my loyal HM readers who made the jump to this fic.
There is no James. There is no Jacob. Let's party.
*HE MET ME*
I watched him closely, never taking my eyes off him, not even chancing a blink. If I did, even for one split second, I felt like I'd miss something about him; any sort of subtle change. By now, I knew his every movement—the wave of his hand as he spoke to someone, the way his broad shoulders shook up and down from his melodious laugh, the subtle wrinkles at the corner of his eyes when he was deep in thought. I knew it all. I'd memorized him intently, analyzed him for far too long. He had a way of engaging everyone around him, and I was no different to them. I was captivated by his mere presence. Even now, as he spoke on the phone in his large office, the blinds raised and his door wide open, I couldn't help but stare at him.
To say I was obsessed with him was way off base and, quite frankly, an insult to me. I didn't have some sort of silly high school crush on him where I watched him from afar, hoping he'd make the first move. No, this was different. First off, I was an adult and quite capable of expressing my feelings in a mature and respectable manner. Second of all, I was unconditionally, unequivocally, starry-eyed, head over heels, barking mad in love with him.
His bright smile.
His warm eyes.
His overall likeable personality.
I was in love with everything about him. It had been like this for two years—my blatant desire, my craving for this man—and I knew it wouldn't stop, not for anything. He was perfect. Just what I wanted in a man, exactly who I pictured as my potential future, concerning a possible relationship.
He hung up the phone, walked around the desk and to the doorway of his office. His beautiful eyes gazed around the room slowly, searching carefully and with precision, until they landed directly on mine. Time stopped. My heart beat accelerated exponentially. He was looking at me. One corner of his mouth began to turn up into a playful smile, causing the air inside me to whoosh out in a longing sigh. Before I knew what was happening, he was walking over to me, one shiny black shoe in front of the other. I began to inwardly panic. What do I do? What do I say? What does he want? Do I look alright?
Improvising on the spot, I grabbed a paper cup from the water cooler I'd been standing next to. He couldn't know I'd been gawking at him, right? That would've been embarrassing. I pulled down the small handle to dispense some water into my cup, not bothering to check if I had pulled the hot or cold one.
A throat cleared. Already knowing who it was, I put on my sweetest smile, which was never hard to do around him, and raised my eyes to his. Our visions locked and I felt the same feeling I always felt when we looked at each other—completion. It was almost as if no one else existed right now, except for us. Time and space were meaningless.
"Hi," he greeted, his playful smirk always making me forget how to breathe.
"Hi," I greeted back. I was amazed that I could even talk to him. Sometimes I'd even forget my name around this man.
His eyes dropped down, and I frowned at the loss of connection. "Since when do you like drinking your water steaming hot?" he asked, chuckling.
It was then that I realized my fingers were being scalded. I looked down at my paper cup and saw steam swirling up. Before my fingers could burn anymore, I reacted by tossing the cup into the small trash can next to the cooler.
"Ah, yeah," I said, wincing a bit, "I guess I didn't see which one I got."
He laughed and shook his head. "Well, this one," he pointed to the red handle on the water cooler dispenser, "is the hot one." He quickly cast me a sideways glance, causing my face to become flushed, and then he pointed to the light blue handle. "And this one, here, is the cold one."
Was he teasing me? Oh, I loved it when he did that. "Ohhh, right," I said, pretending I didn't know, even though I certainly did.
His eyes swiftly roamed down my figure before landing on my face again. My entire body shivered in delight. "You look nice today," he remarked, leaning against the water cooler. I'd decided today to wear a deep purple cardigan and a form fitting gray pencil skirt, my hair rolling down my back in large waves. I'd taken extra care to appear more done up than usual in hopes that he would say something like that. Mission accomplished.
"Thank you," I replied timidly. "You do, too." Of course. He always looked amazing. He was wearing a black Giorgio Armani suit with a white shirt and black tie beneath. He was like something out of an Armani magazine advertisement. If you could call a man stunning, that was exactly what he was.
"If you're all done printing out the invitations for next week's auction, then we can go to lunch."
I wanted to scream my acceptance. This was the part of the day I always waited for. "Of course, just give me a few minutes to get organized and I'll meet you in your office."
He flashed his perfect teeth at me, and my heart melted into a pile of goo. "See you in a few, then," he said, and winked at me before he turned and walked away. I watched the back of him for several seconds as he retreated into his office.
Just once, I wished he'd look at me with fire and passion. Just once, I wanted his gaze to fall upon me with wanting, desire, and…love. I was so in love with him it almost hurt.
My raison d'être. My reason for being. The center of my universe. He was everything to me…and yet…he never noticed me. Not the way I wanted, at least. Not the way I had noticed him for the last two years, since the day we met.
Suddenly, a voice whispered quietly in my ear, "Does he know?"
I jumped about a mile high and turned my head quickly, my sight landing on Rosalie Hale, my co-worker and best friend, sporting a cocky grin. "Know what?" I asked, turning back around to watch him, but noticed his office was empty. My eyes darted around the large room. Where had he gone?
"That you're in love with him," she said a bit loudly, no longer whispering.
I spun around frantically, and grabbed her arm, pulling her further away from the others in the main office. "Shhh, Rose, are you crazy? Keep your voice down," I whispered harshly.
Rose laughed and shook her head. "Then maybe you should think about keeping your nipples down," she remarked crassly, eyeing my chest. I glanced down and saw that my nipples were definitely standing at attention. I flushed red and crossed my arms in front of me, trying to hide them. Rose rolled her eyes. "Yeah, like that'll help." Without a word, I began to walk towards my office, Rose hot on my tail. "So, you didn't answer my question."
I sighed, and walked inside, towards my desk, and leaned against it, half sitting and half standing. "I don't think he knows," I said honestly.
"You don't think?" she questioned. "Well, from where I'm standing, it's fairly obvious."
I frowned. "Is it?" This wasn't good if she could tell, because if she could, that meant everyone could, possibly including Jasper.
She gave me a sympathetic look. "A bit, yeah."
I groaned. It wasn't like I could help it. How was it possible to change the only way I'd acted for the past two years? I was grateful for Rose's honesty, however. She'd been there through some pretty tough times in my life.
We met almost two years ago in a January when we were both coming in to interview for two separate jobs. Whitlock's Auction House was an eastern thriving business wanting to add a sister location on the western front. Mr. John Whitlock, President and Founder of the auction house, sent his son, Jasper Whitlock, to manage the new location as Vice President of the company. They were starting from scratch, hiring fervently, and were in need of some auctioneer specialists, which was where Rose came in, and a personal assistant, which would be me. We hit it off right away. She was much more relaxed and open about life than I was. I guessed that was why we got along so well. Opposites always attracted.
The phone rang, echoing throughout my modest office. I held up one finger to her, telling her silently to give me a second, and then answered the phone.
"Isabella Swan," I greeted.
"Bella, there's a Mr. Edward Masen here to see Mr. Whitlock, but he's not answering his work line. Is he currently in?" Angela Weber asked, the auction house's secretary.
I raised an eyebrow and reached behind me, grabbing the scheduler. Flipping through, I saw that Jasper had absolutely no appointments today, except for a phone meeting with his father at two this afternoon.
"Yes, he's in, Angela, but Jasper doesn't have anyone booked today. Perhaps Mr. Masen came on the wrong day," I said, and flipped past today's date. There was no Mr. Masen booked at all for the rest of this year.
"He says he doesn't have an appointment, but that he knows Mr. Whitlock personally."
I frowned and then sighed. "Alright, have him take a seat. I'll inform Jasper that Mr. Masen is here and get back to you." I hung up, my mood plummeting. God clearly despised me today. Why did someone have to visit him when we were just about to go out to lunch? Hopefully that person was full of it and Jasper didn't actually know who he was.
"Someone raining on your parade?" Rose questioned with a smirk.
Just as I shot her a death glare, Jasper came waltzing in, holding my white trench coat. "Here we go," he said, then noticed Rose. "Ah, Rose. We're going out for lunch. Would you like to join us?"
My eyes went wide and I discreetly shook my head at Rose, who was smiling smugly at me. "Oh, that's so kind of you, Jasper," Rose said with mock sweetness. "Where are you headed to?"
Jasper walked over to me and opened the coat. I stood in front of him, my back facing his chest, and pushed my arms through the sleeves. He turned me around and began buttoning up my coat for me, starting from the bottom. If I wasn't too busy sending Rose glares, I would've swooned at his chivalry. He'd always been like that, opening doors, holding out chairs, the works. I loved it all.
"I think we're headed to our usual café for lunch, right, Bella?" he asked me, finishing up the last button.
"Um, yeah," I answered, bringing my hair around from the back to sit on my shoulder in the front.
"Oh, that darling place on the corner of Fourth and University St. The Purple Café and Wine Bar, right?" Rose questioned, still keeping her eyes on me.
"Yes, you've been there?" Jasper asked, surprised.
"Plenty of times," she answered. She was lying! She'd never been there a day in her life. She only knew of it because I'd raved to her infinitely that Jasper and I went there for lunch.
"Well, let me grab your coat and we can head out. I need to be back by two, so we should get going," Jasper said in a rush as he began to walk away. I gave Rose a pleading look.
"Jasper," Rose called, clearly holding in a laugh.
He stopped just as he made it to the door. "Yeah?"
"I've actually got some paperwork to catch up on before the auction next week, so I can't. But can you pick me up a salad or something?" she queried.
Jasper smiled politely. "Yes, of course."
"Have fun," Rose sing-songed, giving me one sly look before walking out of my office. I was going to have to give her a firm talking to later.
Jasper held out his arm for me to take. "Shall we?"
All malice towards Rose flew right out the window while I tried my best to contain my grin. I wrapped my hand around his hard bicep and allowed him to lead me out into the main office. However, my expression dropped when I remembered something.
"Oh, I forgot to mention that there's someone here to see you. He says he knows you," I told him, stopping right outside his office.
He knitted his eyebrows together. "I'm pretty sure I don't know of anyone that would be seeing me today. Who is it?"
I tried to remember the man's first name, but I suddenly couldn't. Only his last name was coming to mind. "A Mr. Masen, I believe."
Jasper looked pensive for a moment, until his eyes swam with a sea of realization. His face brightened, and my heart soared. Whoever this Mr. Masen was clearly had a positive effect on him, which made me happy. However, I really did want to go to lunch, so I was hoping this would all be very quick.
"You go wait inside my office for a bit. I'll be back," Jasper said, walking towards the elevator.
"Wait," I called after him, "are we still going to lunch?"
"Yes," he threw over his shoulder, and disappeared into the elevator.
I sighed and walked into his luxurious office. It was much bigger than mine, which suited him. The office was decorated tastefully with a mahogany desk and a leather swivel chair behind it. There were various pieces of artwork on the walls that he'd personally bought from some of our auctions we'd held over time. He loved antiques, and I knew he loved what he did. It always brought a smile to my face to see how excited he'd become when we'd get an interesting piece sent in to appraise and auction off. I loved what I did, too, but it wasn't nearly as much of a passion as it was for Jasper. For me, it was just a job. I'd never known what I wanted to do, and this job just sort of came at the right time.
I sat on his desk, looking over his paperwork with his elegant script. The computer's screensaver was on, flashing picture after picture of his life and those in it. There was one of him and his parents from when he graduated from college with his master's degree in business. There was another one of him on the opening day of Whitlock's Auction House. The next one that appeared almost tore my heart in two. It was a picture of when Jasper and I went to Catalina Island off the coast of California. We were both leaning against the railing of the marina dock, all the various boats in the background. He had his arm around me, and my head rested against his shoulder. We both looked equally happy. I couldn't believe he'd kept that picture after everything that happened. The next picture came on, and I smiled sadly, admiring the snapshot of him winning an award.
Deep voices wafted towards the office, and I looked to the door, recognizing Jasper's voice immediately. He was speaking enthusiastically to another man. My guess was that it was Mr. Masen. I stood and straightened out my trench coat. Checking my silver watch on my wrist briefly, I sighed, realizing that if we wanted to get in a decent amount of time in at the café for lunch, we'd have to leave no later than ten minutes.
Jasper appeared into the doorway with a smile on his face, talking to someone behind him. I looked around him, only seeing a lock of dark hair.
"I just can't believe it's been that long. Almost six or seven years?" Jasper questioned. His eyes found mine and he grinned. "Bella, this is one of my old college buddies, Edward." He stepped aside, revealing the man in question.
I blinked a few times as his intense forest green eyes connected with mine. I felt a sudden need to sit or something and I didn't know why. He looked to be about twenty-eight or twenty-nine, around my age. His appearance was less than respectable, in my opinion. He had on a navy blue plaid shirt with light blue wash jeans and dark brown hiking shoes. His face was scruffy with a heavy five o'clock shadow, and his hair was an absolute mess. Did this guy have a comb or something? I couldn't help but compare him to Jasper. Jasper's wavy blond hair was always nicely styled and he rarely went a day without looking clean shaven and dressed nicely. It was what I loved about him.
"Mr. Masen, pleasure to meet you," I greeted, holding out my hand for a firm business shake.
He glanced down at my hand, but didn't take it. I noticed he was looking at it a lot longer than normal, so I cleared my throat. His piercing green pools found mine again. I had to say, he really did have nice eyes. But Jasper's blue ones had always been what made me go weak in the knees. Blue was my favorite color, anyway.
Mr. Masen finally took my hand—very gently, might I add—in his rough, calloused ones. I wanted to roll my eyes. Why men thought I couldn't handle a good, firm handshake was beyond me. I tightened my grip, letting him know I wasn't some dainty woman that needed to be treated with care. There was some sort of glimmer in his eyes, and I swiftly withdrew my hand.
"Please, call me Edward," he offered, his voice deep and baritone. I felt a weird chill run through me with how his stare on me didn't waver.
I smiled politely and turned to Jasper, feeling at ease immediately. "So, you two knew each other in college?" I questioned.
"Yeah, we were good friends. Unfortunately, we lost contact when he left school and moved back home," Jasper said, and then turned to him. "But you're back now, right?"
"I've actually been back for a while," Mr. Masen admitted.
"Thanks for calling," Jasper joked.
Mr. Masen laughed, and glanced at me briefly before looking back at Jasper. "I know; I'm sorry. I didn't have your number, but now I do."
"All the girls in school used to call him Teddy," Jasper informed me with an added laugh after. "Tell her why, man."
Mr. Masen shook his head and laughed nervously. "No, no…"
"Oh, come on," Jasper egged. "You know you liked it." Jasper looked at me, smiling as if he was a mischievous child. "The girls in school loved Edward. They'd call him Teddy because he liked to snuggle after sex." Jasper laughed unabashedly. "We used to all rag on him about it."
I grimaced. Why was he laughing about that? It was a bit disgusting, in my opinion. I didn't want to know about this man's promiscuous sex life. I was even reserved about my own…that was if I had a sex life.
Mr. Masen hit Jasper's chest with the back of his hand. It was odd to see some stranger being so casual with Jasper. I wasn't sure how I felt about that. "That's not true," Mr. Masen said quietly, his eyes looking somewhere near me.
Jasper's laughing fit died. "Well, we'll have to go out to a bar one of these nights and see if I'm right or not. I'm pretty sure I am," Jasper said, smiling confidently.
Since when did Jasper go to bars? Hopefully he meant one of those Sushi Bars. I looked at my watch uncomfortably, realizing we only had two minutes. We needed to go now.
"Did you want some coffee or something?" Jasper asked him. "Bella's my personal assistant. She'll get it for you. Won't you, Bella?"
I immediately looked up at Jasper, frowning. He wasn't even looking at me, but at Mr. Masen. What was I, a waitress? I knew my job entailed doing what Jasper asked, but he'd never asked me to get coffee for anyone before.
"Um, yeah," I replied softly, and looked at Mr. Masen, who seemed upset for some reason. "Would you like some coffee?"
He glanced at me and shook his head. "No, thank you." A small smile began to play at his lips.
"Don't be so modest," Jasper said, "she'll get it for you. It's really no problem at all." My eyes fell to the floor.
"No, really. I'm good for now," Mr. Masen said, scratching the back of his neck. "I'm actually here because…" He shifted in his seat a bit and cleared his throat, "I have a collection that I'd like sold as soon as possible and was hoping your company could help me."
Jasper brought his leg up and rested his ankle on his other knee, his expression becoming serious. "Well, we can definitely look into that. Why don't you tell me a bit about the collection?"
"Alright, well…" Edward trailed off, and his eyes lined up with mine. I furrowed my brow slightly, wondering why he was looking at me like that.
"Bella?" Jasper questioned, trying to garner my attention. I looked away from Mr. Masen and into Jasper's beautiful blue eyes instantly with a subtle hopeful expression. "You can go ahead and go to lunch. But bring me back something. You know what I like." He turned back to Mr. Masen, picking up conversation again.
I stared at Jasper for a few seconds, my heart plummeting into my stomach with rejection. We'd gone to lunch every day since I'd started working here. We used to go with other co-workers, but soon it just became him and me. Now, he wanted me to go…alone? Why? Because of this man? I scowled at Mr. Masen, his scruffy appearance less than appealing. Why did he have to come here today and ruin everything?
As Jasper continued to converse with him, his eyes caught mine. He appeared taken aback for some reason. How could Jasper have even been friends with this guy? He looked like he needed a good shower. Jasper and he didn't even fit together. They seemed like complete opposites.
I backed out of the office and turned my sight away from the man who was taking up the time that Jasper could be spending with me.
"Oh, and, Bella," Jasper called as I stepped out of his office. I turned around as soon as his familiar voice said my name, my heart skipping a beat. He smiled at me—the smile I'd fallen in love with time and time again. "Please shut the door." He turned away, and that was it.
I slowly closed the door, their voices becoming muffled. Feeling completely dejected, I had no appetite anymore, but Jasper wanted his usual, so I had to go now. He always ate a vegetarian sandwich with a side of Caesar salad. He was right, I did know what he liked, but he also knew what I liked, too. We knew everything about each other, or at least I thought we did up until now. He'd never, ever, mentioned Mr. Masen.
Well, if anything, Jasper certainly knew everything about me. He knew my secrets, my hopes, my desires. The fact was that I wasn't just his personal assistant; I was so much more than that. There was only one secret that he didn't know about, one desire that he hadn't found out, one hope that he wasn't aware of…I loved him with every inch of my heart and I wanted him to be mine, and more than anything else, I wanted him to want me, too.
He was my Mr. Perfect.
Thanks for reading if you got this far. I'm not one hundred percent sure about my posting schedule. Right now, I'm thinking Thursdays, but this could change. The good news is that I have several chapters written in advance, so it should be fairly smooth for a while.
A note: this is all Bella's perspective. I felt like being in a woman's head for an extended period of time…besides my own.
Please review and let me know your thoughts, concerns, demands, or just notify me that you're alive. Thanks.
There's a Polyvore of the characters on my profile.