The room was small and she was sure that it had once been a closet till someone had figured out that it was big enough to hold a desk and then it had been converted into an office. Her office.
Shifting the file box holding her things uncomfortably in her arms she made a face. It was a bit warm in there, the heat almost stifling. She was going to need a fan. Wrinkling her nose she realized that some air fresheners and Fabreeze might not be out of place either.
Sighing she finally stepped into the room and put her box down on the old desk and sighed when it shifted a bit under the weight of the items, showing that the legs were uneven.
"Great," she sighed and looked around at the grey walls. This was definitely not what she had envisioned as her workplace when she had agreed to come on permanently as Senator Carlisle Cullen's Director of Communications. Sure, the title was a glorified way of saying she wrote the majority of his speeches (with his input of course), but she still expected more than this.
As she laid her hands on the desk's surface and felt it wobble as she pushed at it then she jumped a bit when she heard a low whistle behind her.
"Wow, and I thought my office was bad," Jasper Whitlock, Senator Cullen's Chief of Staff said as he came into the small space that already seemed crowded with both of them in there.
"Well, we were warned that real estate was prime here in D.C., Jazz," Bella said with a sigh as she moved her wobbly desk around a bit more. "Seriously though, how can anyone get any work done on this thing? When they get around to hooking up my computer it's going to wobble every time I type."
Jasper frowned a bit and went to check on the desk. Peering under it he discovered that one of the legs was an inch or two shorter than the rest. Looking at her box of belongings he plucked out her well-worn copy of Pride and Prejudice and stuck it under the short desk leg.
"Hey!" Bella said indigently.
"What! It's perfect till we can find something else and it's not like you use it for your work!" Jasper replied.
"That's my favorite book! And, besides, how do you know I don't use it for work?" Bella scowled, leaning over to examine the book that was now being used to steady her desk.
Jasper snorted. "I haven't heard Carlisle say anything considered particularly Jane Austen-ish from the podium yet, Bella."
She sighed and looked around her office. "So this is it?"
Jasper nodded. "Home."
She shook her head at the thought and tried not to think about how depressing it was going to be working within the confines of the small space for the foreseeable future.
"So did you just come here to check out my closet and ruin beloved pieces of literature or was there something you needed?" Bella asked as she started to unpack the box she'd brought into the office and put the reference books on the nearby shelves that lined one drab wall.
"Carlisle wants to have a meeting in about half an hour," Jasper shrugged. "Seems he's causing a lot of waves with the staff changes that occurred."
Bella nodded. They had been told to expect this. Senator Carlisle Cullen, one of the senior members of the senate who had held office for several years and was speculated to be a top candidate for the office of president in the next election had shaken things up by replacing almost all of his staff right before he ran for another term in office. No one really knew the reason why he had done so, but people speculated. The line fed to the press was always the same, "It was time for change." This led people to believe that Carlisle really was preparing for a presidential run. He was looking for a different group of people that could lead him there, but they were more than surprised by the group of people he had chosen.
Jasper Whitlock had been named his Chief of Staff. This had raised more than few eyebrows considering that Jasper was young and not even from the Senator's home state of California. But, the Texan was hard working, had a good head on his shoulders, and handled his duties well. It was only a select few that knew that Jasper was also dating the Senator's daughter, Alice. Widespread public knowledge of this relationship was prevented due to trying to avoid the appearance of nepotism—not that D.C. politics wasn't full of that already—but it's just the way that Jasper preferred it. He wanted people to realize that he had gotten the job on his own merit rather than the fact that he was smitten with the Senator's daughter.
The rest of the staff that had come on board during the change-up was just as young and idealistic. At twenty-five Bella already had graduated magna cum laude from Arizona State with a double major in government and speech and had been editor of the law review at Stanford before she graduated summa cum laude with her J.D. It was right after graduation, when she wasn't quite sure what she wanted to do—having fielded offers from some of the nation's top law firms and having looked into working for several non-profit organizations—that she had received a call from Jasper, a friend who she had met in law school. He had been ending his time at Stanford right as she was starting, but he had been impressed enough from their few discussions to keep in touch and follow her academic career.
When he had asked her if she'd considered getting involved in politics, she had laughed, thinking he was joking, but then he had convinced her to meet with Senator Cullen and his family. In addition to actually liking Carlisle and agreeing with his political outlook, she had gotten on very well with his daughter, Alice, and his wife Esme. It hadn't been much longer till she had given in, thrown into a totally new world that had little to do with the law books that she had studied so passionately for the last three years.
Who knew that making laws actually had little to do with studying the law.
It was while learning the ropes as part of Carlisle's staff that everyone had discovered her ability to write the type of speeches that garnered attention in the political arena. Some of the speech writers had been working with Jasper on a piece that Carlisle was supposed to read at a gathering commemorating some flood victims in southern California. They were having a hard time treading the line of being political and sympathetic when Bella had rolled her eyes and looked over the speech, practically changing the whole thing before handing it over to Jasper moments before he thrust it into the right hands so it could be put on Carlisle's prompter.
The speech had reached far beyond the boundaries of the small town where the Senator was speaking and had actually received attention from national news outlets that had run it several times. Many commentators pointed to the speech as a sign that Carlisle could sound very "presidential" and though there had been rumors of a presidential run before, this speech was pointed to as the shift that could actually get him there. People began to imagine him in the role of President of the United States.
Carlisle had been so moved by the speech that he had insisted on having Bella work on his public addresses after that, much to the chagrin of the staff that had been utilized to do so before. Mike, Jessica, and Eric were told to report to her and they didn't like it one bit, though much of them grudgingly accepted that she could do the job.
After that she, Jasper, and the other staffers had worked tirelessly on his campaign while also trying to run his office. Even when congress wasn't in session, there seemed to be so much going on and it was a real juggling act to make sure that things ran smoothly. She swore that she and Jasper had aged at least ten years during the reelection period, but in the end it was worth it. Carlisle had been reelected by a landslide, his numbers so high there might as well not have been an opponent on the ballot.
Now she was in D.C. working for one of the most powerful and recognizable Senators in the country.
Jasper interrupted her musings as she unpacked by clearing his throat.
"I'll be there when the meeting starts, Jazz. Was there something else?" Bella asked.
He looked at her sheepishly. "Uh, yes, well, you see, there was this thing…"
She sighed. "What'd you commit me too this time, Jasper Whitlock?"
When he didn't deny that he had committed her to something she couldn't help but sigh.
"There's this function for staffers tonight and they wanted several of Carlisle's staff to attend. Considering that there's so few of us that have already arrived I said that we…"
Bella groaned and Jasper sighed.
"Sorry, Bella. You know that socializing is part of the job, we can't just… NOT attend."
"So I guess it's you and me again?" Bella frowned.
"You know that the rumors are going to start up again, don't you, Jasper?"
There had been rumors back in California that she and Jasper were an item. Jasper had begged her to let the rumors take hold, wanting to protect his relationship with Alice from the spotlight, and so Bella had agreed not to deny the rumors, but she didn't confirm them either. Jasper had been grateful, as had Alice. Both of them wanting to keep people within the political arena from believing that Jasper only had his job because of Alice.
She'd even agreed to share an apartment with Alice in D.C. Alice had reasoned that people would just assume that Jasper would be over so frequently to see Bella about work stuff. Jasper had agreed that this was a great idea. What neither of them had considered or realized was that now people were wondering if she had gotten her job because she was sleeping with the Senator's Chief of Staff. She'd already heard a few snickers about it, but they hadn't bothered her enough that she had brought it to either Jasper or Alice's attention. At least she got a good apartment out of it. If she hadn't been sharing with Alice she probably would have ended up somewhere just as bad as her closet-office. But, the rumors got to her.
Jasper nodded and stuck his hands in his pockets, shrugging his shoulders a bit. "I know, Bella, but…"
Bella interrupted him. "No need to explain, Jasper. We'll continue to throw everyone off the right trail and let them continue to think that there might be a thing between us." She shrugged. "I could do a lot worse."
Jasper grinned and winked at her. "Thanks, Bella." He turned to go, calling out, "You got twenty minutes." He called out even louder as he continued to walk away, "And, I'll see what I can do about that desk!"
Bella looked at the leg of the desk resting on her copy of Pride and Prejudice and she shook her head with a sigh.