Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
I shut off my monitor and pushed back my chair, flicking a glance at the clock on the wall. It was 6:15pm and definitely time to call an end to my third day at Volturi Publishing. Although a little daunting, my new role as one of only three Senior Editors in their new Romance division was proving exciting and challenging. My best friend from college, Angela, had told me about the position and encouraged me to apply for the role. She was currently assigned to their Technical Reference division and had been wanting me to join her at the company since she had started seven years ago, straight out of college.
Angela's help and support had been invaluable, first sharing her experience through the interview and recruitment process at Volturi and then helping me look for and secure my apartment while I was still only able to fly in from Phoenix on the weekends.
I had finally arrived to live here permanently two weekends ago and spent the last week before starting my new job moving in to and setting up my apartment and exploring and familiarizing myself with downtown Seattle. I was already in love with the city.
Tonight I was joining Pump gym that Angela's husband, Ben, had told me about. He received a family and friends discount at Pump through his job at Cullen & Hale Information Systems. Pump sounded just right for me, it was right near my new apartment, advertised state-of-the-art equipment but more importantly offered Hot Yoga classes in the evenings when I could attend. I was hoping that I could put in some miles on the treadmill tonight after missing the gym for the last two weeks.
Grabbing up my gym bag and purse, I hooked my raincoat off the rack beside my office door and walked briskly to the elevators. It looked like I was the last to leave again tonight, probably because everyone else I worked with had a family or actual social life and knew more than two people in all of Seattle.
I saw it was drizzling when I reached the ground level and looked out onto the street and so I shrugged into my raincoat and pulled up the hood, juggling my bags awkwardly. Umbrellas and my hand-eye coordination were not a good mix and so it was a good thing I was happy wearing coats and that I lived in hoodies when I wasn't at work. Stepping out into the light rain I tucked down my chin and hurried the four blocks to Pump.
I waved to Ben waiting for me in front of the gym as I crossed the street towards him.
"Hey Ben, I hope I'm not late." I said, pulling alongside him as we both turned to walk through the sliding doors into the gym.
"No, you're exactly on time, Bella." He replied and then chuckled. "You know it's hardly misting down, you won't melt!" He said, gesturing at my long coat with the large hood pulled forward all but hiding my face and hair completely.
"Ben, I just moved here from the desert! I need time to acclimatize before I'm running around like a local." I laughed back.
"Okay, let's get you signed up." He said, gesturing me forward in front of him. "Oh, are you still coming to dinner on Friday? Angie is really excited that she'll get to talk to someone about books if we all start in on I.T. or Squash. "
"I'll be there on Friday. Angela has made it sound like it's a great group of people and so I'm looking forward to it. It's mainly couples that you work with or went to school with, right?"
"Yeah, you might meet Emmett and Rosalie here tonight. They own this place and were both two years ahead of us at school. Then there's Jasper, Alice and Edward who I work with. Edward and Jasper were in the same year as us in high school while Alice was a year behind us. Emmett, Edward and Alice are siblings and Jasper is Alice's partner and also Rosalie's brother."
"It sounds good, Ben. I might even get to hear some stories about what you and Angela were like back in the day." I smiled.
"You'll probably hear only get to hear college stories about me, the Cullens and Hales ran in a different crowd in high school. And, as you know, Angie and I didn't get together until after she moved back from Arizona after college."
We stopped at the sleek front desk where a busty blonde was smiling widely at us.
"Hey Ben! What can I help you with this evening?" she asked brightly.
"Hi Jessica, this is my friend Bella. She'd like to sign up." He answered and then continued, "Jess, can I give you my membership number and then leave Bella in your capable hands so I can head off?"
"Of course you can, Ben! Bella and I will manage just fine." She smiled at me now.
I looked around the reception area while Ben and Jessica chatted, the wall behind the front desk was white and the wall opposite was plastered with layers of posters advertising concerts, bands and CD launches. Interspersing the riot of posters were spray-painted "Post No Bills" stencils. Across from the front desk was a grouping of low black leather couches around a long low coffee table. Just beyond the desk were two doors leading into the male and female change rooms. On the other side of these doors and before a set of double doors at the end of the room there was a juice bar. The bar was currently deserted except for a tall, blonde woman who looked like a supermodel sitting in front of it on one of the tall stools, flicking through a magazine. She was wearing faded jeans and a snug black long sleeved top that showed off her figure effortlessly. Large windows ran along the wall opposite the bar, looking into a room that was filled with rows of treadmills, elliptical trainers, stationary bikes and rowing machines.
"Okay then, thanks Jessica. I'll get going now." Ben's voice interrupted my exploration. "See you on Friday, Phoenix!" He said to me, using his one of his teasing nicknames for me, and reaching to give me an awkward one-armed hug.
"Thanks for this, Ben. I really appreciate it." I told him. "See you on Friday!"
"Now Bella, can I just get you to fill in this form?" Jessica asked brightly as I turned back to her at the desk. "Then we'll schedule your complimentary fitness assessment and personal training session."
"Actually can I skip the assessment? I am really just interested in signing up for your evening Bikram Yoga classes and using the treadmills and ellipticals. If that's okay, of course?" I jumped in.
"That's fine, Bella. I'll write down your name for tomorrow's 6pm Hot Yoga session, shall I?"
I nodded, "Please." I started scribbling down my details on the form she'd handed me.
"I can ask Emmett or Rosalie to give you a quick tour tonight, if you'd like?" Jessica then asked, gesturing towards the juice bar where the stunning blonde had been joined by two men.
One of the men was huge, maybe a foot taller than my 5'5" height, and with massive shoulders and arms and a heavily muscled chest and back. He was wearing a short sleeved black t-shirt and faded jeans that hugged his muscular thighs. He had one arm around the blonde's shoulders and was holding a black leather jacket in his other huge hand. The other man was tall also, maybe 6'2" and looked leaner but still muscular, wearing a white, long sleeved button down shirt and dark denim jeans. His reddish, brownish hair was tousled and still damp from the showers and he was laughing at something the other guy had said, the sound of his velvet laugh floating to where we stood. The three of them were so beautiful it looked like they had arrived from a different planet, maybe the land of the beautiful people, where we mortals could only admire them from afar.
"Oh no, they're dressed in their street clothes and look like they're ready to leave. If I can, I'll just jump on one of the treadmills tonight and make sure I get shown around before using any other equipment." I quickly muttered, turning away from staring at the three at the bar just as the bronze haired god started to turn his head in our direction.
"If you're sure, Bella? I know they won't mind for a friend of Ben's." She replied. "In fact, the guy on the left is Ben's boss, Edward Cullen, and only the most eligible bachelor in Seattle." She whispered now. "I could ask him to give you a personal to—"
"No!" I interrupted, hurriedly scrawling the last of my details onto the simple form. "If this is all you need, I'll just get changed for my workout." I finished lamely, thrusting the form at her.
"That's all I need, thanks Bella." Jessica replied, watching me closely with a smile that didn't match the expression in her eyes. "I'll enter you into the computer and have a membership card ready for you on your way out. Here's a locker key."
"Thanks." I muttered, taking the offered key before grabbing up my bags and walking quickly to the door of the female change room, my eyes locked on my feet.
Finding my locker, I threw my gear onto the bench and started to strip out of my work clothes. I felt strangely unsettled and just wanted to pound out a couple of miles on a treadmill before grabbing some takeaway on my way home and settling in for an early night. I quickly pulled on a pair of black yoga pants and my faded and worn long-sleeved cotton Sun Devils hoodie that I'd had since college. I sat down to pull on my sweat socks and running shoes, quickly tying the laces in double knots. I finished my lightening change by scraping up my long brown hair into a high pony tail. Snagging my iPod and earphones out of my purse, I scooped my clothes and bags into the locker, slamming the door and pinning the key to my pants at my waist.
Walking back to the door that led out into the lobby, I pulled forward the hood on my top. I'd found at my old gym that covering my hair and obscuring my face discouraged the random pickup attempts from sweaty guys that I dreaded. I stuck in my earbuds and pushed out through the door, scrolling through my playlists to find the perfect music for my work out tonight. As I strode past the juice bar, my head still bent over my iPod, I was hyper aware of the long, dark clad legs in my peripheral vision.
I let out the breath I hadn't known I was holding when I pushed through the double doors at the end of the lobby and shook my head internally at myself. I didn't understand why I was having such a strong reaction to the, admittedly, extremely good looking bronze haired stranger.
I corrected myself then, remembering that Ben had said that I'd be meeting them all at dinner on Friday, the extremely good looking soon-to-be acquaintance, I amended. I sighed, pushing through the door now on my right that led into the exercise room visible from the lobby, at least I would have two days to mentally prepare myself to seeing him again. I walked around the perimeter of the room and found an unused treadmill in the first row looking out onto the street. Climbing onto the machine, I quickly punched the speed up to a brisk walking pace to warm up with and selected my Grunge playlist, it was fitting for my first work out in Seattle.
As I finally started to relax I looked out onto the street and saw Edward, my soon-to-be acquaintance, standing on the street, turned back to talk to Emmett and Rosalie who looked like they were heading in the opposite direction. I studied him more closely now, my gaze moving slowly from his messy bronze hair over his dark eyebrows, down his straight nose, pausing on his red lips split now into a wide smile and then shifting to his chiseled jaw. I breathed in deeply through my nose, feeling momentarily stunned by his beauty. I dropped my head, tucking my chin down to my chest and pretending to fiddle with my iPod, now sitting on the controls just above waist level in front of me, as I saw him again start to swing his face towards mine.
"Get a grip, Bella." I told myself fiercely. I cranked up the volume on my iPod and stabbed the button on the treadmill in front of me to speed up to a fast jog. I shrugged and then rolled my shoulders, shaking off my fascination for the unsuspecting Edward, still standing in front of me as I could see by his lower legs. I forced myself to focus on the pounding of my feet on the rubber track beneath me and the driving music, still looking down at the controls in front of me, until I felt the calmness I was waiting for start to spread.
Tomorrow I would think more about my strange reaction to Edward and how I could deal with it before Friday, tonight I would zone out during my run and go home tired and relaxed and not worrying about why I suddenly felt like a teenager crushing on the bronzed haired, beautiful man that I'd seen for the first time tonight.
I stared up at the girl running in the window in front of me, trying to penetrate the shadow of her hood to see her face more clearly. There was something strikingly familiar about her but I hadn't been able to catch more than the most fleeting of glimpses of her face. I only had the impression of pale skin, dark hair and a cute nose.
I had first seen her standing at the front desk talking with Jessica; before I could look more closely I had been distracted by the sight of Ben Cheney leaving and had then been called back to my discussion with Emmett and Rosalie about the interclub squash competition starting up next week. When I later thought I felt the girl's eyes on me I'd turned to catch her gaze but by the time I looked she was talking again with Jessica before she'd handed something over the desk and then quickly walked into the change rooms, her face completely hidden by the deep hood on her jacket.
She had walked right past us, not five minutes later, but her face had been turned away, looking down at the iPod in her hand and she'd again covered her head with another damned hoodie. After she had walked past I'd looked up from staring at her ass to meet Rosalie's knowing smirk, she had only laughed at my attempted innocence at being caught ogling, open mouthed at the strange hooded girl's shapely behind.
Turning away from the window now, I promised myself that I'd talk to Ben tomorrow to find out if this was his wife's friend who he'd told me was moving to Seattle. And, I decided suddenly, if Ben did know Hoodie Girl I was determined to arrange an introduction and find out why she seemed so familiar and yet, at the same time, so mysterious.