The "Missed Connections" Contest
Story Title: What Beautiful Really Means
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters; I just like to mess around with them.
Prompt: I don't know if you even know what beautiful really means so I'll tell you. Beautiful is someone who is pretty on the outside but even more desirable from the inside. One who is playful and can make you laugh and can make your day with just a smile and those wonderful brown eyes. I've been on a lot of dates in the last couple of years and just being around you is better than any date I have been on in a long time. Sometimes when we work with each other our hands touch and it feels really good. I'm sure I've already said too much but there isn't much of a chance you'll ever read this, so I think I'm ok :)
"Bella, you have to look at these," Angela cried out from her cubicle beside me on a quiet Monday afternoon. I rolled my supposedly ergonomic chair around the wall dividing us and glanced at her screen. Usually she was showing me something ridiculous she had found on TMZ or our favorite website, Clients From Hell, but today it was a plain white screen with black text. "Guys like this don't exist. I swear, some gay dude posted this to make his best friend feel better about herself after a nasty break up or something."
"What are you going on about?" I questioned before I looked again, more focused this time, and read the words that graced her screen.
I don't know if you even know what beautiful really means so I'll tell you. Beautiful is someone who is pretty on the outside but even more desirable from the inside. One who is playful and can make you laugh and can make your day with just a smile and those wonderful brown eyes. I've been on a lot of dates in the last couple of years and just being around you is better than any date I have been on in a long time. Sometimes when we work with each other our hands touch and it feels really good. I'm sure I've already said too much but there isn't much of a chance you'll ever read this, so I think I'm ok :)
"What is this crap?"
"Craigslist. It's their missed connections section."
"Missed connections, Bella. It's where people who met or saw someone they didn't know previously, and felt that... spark or whatever, then try to contact the other person. Sometimes its people who just can't voice their feelings to the person they like, but they have to tell someone. I doubt many people actually connect through it, but it's a romantic notion, isn't it?" I shrugged indifferently as Angela look of romanticism gave way for one of frustration. I saw this face a lot from her. Sure, the concept was romantic to a certain degree, but it could also be considered fodder for a stalker and there was no way I was getting involved in that madness. I had enough issues in my love life or lack thereof.
"Are you looking for someone in particular?" I questioned suspiciously as Angela shook her head softly. She was an adorable girl with short dark brown hair and purple cat eye glasses. For some unknown reason she had taken an instant liking to me on my first day of work at Masen-Black Creative, just over a year ago, and she was one of my closest friends now.
Angela basically took me under her wing and without her help I would probably still be trying to figure out how to use the massively confusing photocopier. Angela and I were the accounting department at Masen-Black, with her acting as both my supervisor and friend. Though my job tended to be a bit monotonous, I enjoyed the people I worked with and the environment I worked in, and I knew a lot of people who couldn't say that.
"No, not really. Sometimes it's just nice to be reminded that love at first sight might actually exist. Especially when I spend all day with a cynical bitch like you," Ang replied with her usual sweet laugh as I groaned loudly and turned to look out the window that was visible from her cubicle.
The sky was a dreary shade of grey and rain was falling lightly; neither of which was a surprise. Today was definitely the wrong day to ride my bike to work, I thought sullenly. Why was it I never checked the weather reports in the morning? I lived in Seattle for Christ's sake; I shouldn't be riding a bike to work when it was more likely to rain than shine.
I turned back to Angela at her desk and she read me a few more posts out loud, depressing both of us because the people sounded so unbelievably hopeful, before we heard a commotion near the conference room. We both stood up and looked above the cubicle walls like a pair prairie dogs, to see Edward and Jacob, the principles in the company, calling everyone to join them.
"What do you think is going on?" I asked as we walked tentatively together into the small room and stood against the back wall.
Masen-Black was a small creative branding and marketing firm that had been established only a few years earlier when Edward and Jacob had graduated from college. During the past year that I had been with them, they had grown considerably and it was nice to be employed somewhere that cherished their employees. Edward and Jacob were always coming into the office with a smile on their faces, greeting us by name and it seemed like they actually retained the information we shared with them about our personal lives. It was refreshing to say the least.
As we waited my eyes scanned the room, and I nodded softly at the people I was friendly with, but Angela was my primary ally in the company. Our fellow co-workers often referred to us as Waldorf and Statler, the two old men from the Muppet Show, since we usually sat in our chairs and made snide comments about anything and everything.
"Maybe it's your lucky day and they are getting rid of Tyler." I gave Angela a smirk but when I looked back to the doorway, sure enough, Tyler the creep from IT who was constantly flirting with me walked in and winked at me. "Ok, no luck on that one then," Angela laughed again as I pulled her close to me so that Tyler wouldn't try to stand beside me, like he usually did.
"You should know by now that I am just not that lucky," I quipped as Ang rubbed her shoulder against mine and gave me a small smile. "If I had any luck whatsoever, I would have never ran into Tyler that day at Pike's Market and he wouldn't be under the misconception that I like him. The boy smells like feet."
"There's worse things than a man that smells like feet. He can get that shit looked after. I'm sure Tyler must have some redeeming qualities, right?"
"He's handy with a router and setting up wireless Internet, I suppose," I joked as Angela nudged me again and laughed. "He could fix my piece of shit computer that I can't afford to replace these days. Stupid student loans and rent payments."
"If I have to hear another one of your sob stories, I'm going to punch you in the uvula."
"Oohh... big words from a tiny girl," I replied as I held up my fists, pretending to want to box with her.
"Isabella, if you are done with your impromptu fight club with Angela, we'd like to get started," called Edward's distinctively smooth voice as I dropped my hands to my side and felt my cheeks grow hot in embarrassment. Angela, of course, just laughed at the entire situation because she had been a close friend of Edward's since high school. She could tell by the grin on his face that he was joking, but to me he was still my boss and I couldn't help but feel like I was acting inappropriately.
"Sorry," I piped up anxiously as I pulled at the hem of my shirt to channel my nervousness. "I'll refrain from causing her serious bodily harm until we are off company grounds."
"Glad to hear it," he remarked as he turned to focus his attention back on the group and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Edward began speaking, but I zoned out, like I usually do when I was in his presence. He was cool and aloof, and I was completely smitten. Even Angela knew it, and she teased me mercilessly about it. Every time Edward came near our cubicles I would become an unfortunate, blubbering mess. I always made awkward jokes and though Edward would laugh, it always felt like he was doing it to be nice, rather than because he found me funny. People rarely found me funny. Well Angela found me funny, but we had the same sarcastic sense of humor.
Suddenly, Angela nudged me again and I looked up at her with a look of confusion on my face. "Are you paying attention?"
"Do I ever when Edward is within 200 feet of me?"
"Well maybe you should this time." I let out a little sigh and did my best to pay attention as Edward spoke.
"So... as you all know we are getting too big for this office. She was great while she lasted, but since we are looking to add more staff by the end of the year, we have to plan ahead and make some adjustments. So, we are moving next month." My mouth fell open and I immediately began to grow concerned.
The office was currently pretty close to my small apartment, which meant that I could save money by riding my bike when the weather allowed. The last thing I wanted was for us to move across the city or somewhere that wasn't feasible for me or made me commute an hour each day. "I know a lot of you are worried we are going to move downtown, but honestly it's too expensive."
"Yeah, I crunched the numbers and we would lose overall size and be charged through the teeth," Jacob chimed in as Angela smiled at him a little too much. "I had my girl Angela trying to figure out all the angles financially and we just can't do a downtown location." I glanced over at Angela once more and she was beaming as Jacob spoke about her. I knew they were on friendly terms, but as I watched them silently interact, I couldn't help but feel like there was something else going on that she wasn't telling me.
"So, that being said, we've purchased a large warehouse space a few blocks from here that has been fully renovated to accommodate our size and also has room for potential growth." Everyone in the room buzzed with excitement and energy, because this was such a big step forward for Masen-Black. "In celebration of our upcoming move, we will be holding a party this Friday night in our new building."
"Oh be honest Edward, you just want to christen the place before all the new furniture comes in on Monday morning," Jacob joked as Edward grabbed at the hair at the back of his neck anxiously and when he looked up, his eyes were trained on mine. Okay, that wasn't normal.
"Well I certainly don't want you spilling liquor all over the place, no."
"Anyways, everyone is welcome. Bring your husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, best friend, mother in law... whoever floats your boat. It's an open bar, but we don't condone drinking or driving so make sure you bring a designated driver or the number of a cab company." Angela wrapped her arm through mine tightly and I knew full well we would be going together and we would be taking a cab.
"So, before we go, are there any questions?" Some of the other employees began firing off questions about parking, moving dates and new chairs because they seriously sucked, but I had nothing to ask, so I stayed silent. Once we were done, Edward and Jacob allowed us to leave early for the day and as everyone filed out of the conference room, I glanced outside once more and let out a sigh of irritation at the rain, that was now coming down heavily.
"Is there a problem, Isabella?" I turned to find Edward standing just inches behind me. His deep-set green eyes were looking down on me with unease and I struggled to calm myself. He smelled so good up close, and I really needed to stop thinking inappropriate thoughts about him or just stop thinking about him in general.
"Uh... no, not really. It's good… it's raining you know." Are you there God? It's me… idiot.
"Yes, I can see that just fine," Edward commented with a smile. He was clearly used to my random bouts of word vomit. "However, saying 'not really' implies that there is something wrong, so spill."
"I'm fine, really."
"Ooh, saying 'fine' is even worse than 'not really'."
"Who the hell told you that?" I had to admit, even though I was under his spell, I was a little pissed he seemed to know all the secrets that us women held sacred.
"My sister, Alice. She has talked me off many a ledge in my past with her words of wisdom. She taught me that paying attention was the best thing I could ever do, both personally and professionally. It's actually kind of amazing the things you learn if you pay attention."
"Like what really happened in the final season of Lost?"
"No… I'm still confused about that one." I cracked a smile at Edward's joke, but when I looked back out the window and was reminded of the shitty situation I was in, I couldn't help but open up to Edward when he asked me what was wrong again.
"It's nothing really. I just rode my bike to work today because I wasn't thinking and I can't exactly bike home in the rain. Well, I could, but I would be calling in sick tomorrow and neither of us wants that," I replied nervously as I stared outside once more and Edward sounded like he breathed a sigh of relief behind me.
"You're right. That is nothing; I will just have to give you a ride home tonight."
"No, it's fine, really. I am sure I can get Angela to give me a ride."
"She's working late with Jacob this afternoon to finalize the financials for the move." Hmm… that sounded suspicious. "I can toss your bike in the back of my SUV and you will have it for the morning. Plus, doesn't Angela drive an Accent or something like that? She's small and can barely fit in it, so there's no way your bike is going in either."
"I don't want to put you out, Edward." I really meant that too. Surely there was something more important this man should be doing a few weeks before a huge move of his company that was more important than shuttling me home, right?
"I won't take no for an answer, Isabella."
"I'll accept on one condition," I said simply as Edward quirked his eye brow and looked down at me with a grin. "Stop calling me Isabella. Everyone calls me Bella."
So began the somewhat awkward friendship I had formed with my boss, the formidable Edward Masen.
He drove me home that afternoon and even helped me unload my bike from the back of his SUV. He was polite and made conversation about the move and work issues, but we never really joked like we would at the office.
When I finally settled in at home that night, with a hot cup of tea and a couple of episodes of Paranormal State, I couldn't help but feel that there was something left unsaid between us.
On Tuesday morning, shortly after I finished my coffee, Angela was calling me back to her desk. "The guy from yesterday is back again."
"What guy?" I glanced around the office, looking for someone I would recognize, but there was no one.
"The romantic Craigslist guy, that's who." I rolled my eyes but Angela just pointed to her screen and nodded her head, forcing me to read the latest entry to figure out what she was talking about.
Yesterday I helped you out of the rain and wanted to say something, but I didn't know what. Being with you, close to you, even for a few minutes, made my day. Hell, it made my year and I can't help but think that maybe, just maybe you will realize that I care for you... but you'll never find these words, so it seems unlikely. You are beautiful; just throwing that out there.
"Okay, so he's a sweet talker," I replied as Angela twirled a pen between her fingers and glared at me as though I was missing the point. "I don't want to talk about the Craigslist guy though. I think you are using him to distract me from what is really going on."
"What are you talking about?"
"You know what I am talking about."
"I think you missed tossing in a 'Willis' reference in there, Arnold."
"Shut it, bitch," I grumbled as I stared long and hard at Angela, hoping she would crack under my scrutiny. It didn't seem to work so I decided to just be blunt. "What the heck was up with you and Jacob yesterday in the meeting? I don't think I'm oblivious to everything going on around me, but he was definitely giving you some strong signals."
"He was?" Angela asked with an over-dramatic gasp as she put her hand against her chest and I fought back the urge to smack her upside the head.
"Cut the act, Ang. What's going on?"
"There's nothing going on."
"Oh ok... I don't believe that for one second. If nothing is going on between you and Jacob, then I am having Edward's love child via immaculate conception."
"Oh fine, you pushy cow. He may have kissed me the other day." Suddenly Angela burst out into girlish giggles and broke into the biggest smile I had ever seen. "We've been flirting on and off for ages and last week he asked me to stay late to help him with some stuff and we ended up making out on the leather couch in his office for like three hours."
"Well there's romance for you," I replied sarcastically as Angela grabbed my arm and pulled me closer to her.
"Bella... he does things to my insides no other man has ever done before."
"It could be a tape worm."
"Did you know true tape worms are hermaphrodites?" commented Mike, one of the graphic designers, as he walked by and overheard part of our conversation. Angela and I both looked at him curiously, shooting him evil looks for interrupting us, before he took the hint and walked away.
"What was that?"
"Fucking random and very creepy. Anyways, are you guys going out to dinner or anything? Tell me that after he inspected your tonsils with his tongue he at least had the decency to ask you out."
"Yes, Mom!" Angela said exasperated. "He asked me out for Saturday night, since we have the work party on Friday. Let me tell you, I am so glad we don't have one of those stupid 'no dating co-workers' rules here." Yeah, I guessed that was convenient and probably one of the reasons why Tyler was so persistent. There was no way he was getting fired unless he grabbed my ass or did something equally offensive.
Just as Angela was about to tell me a bit about their date, my phone rang and it was back to work for me. I spent the rest of the day wrapped up in client calls and accounting issues, so before I knew it I was heading home to relax as best as I could.
"Craigslist guy is back," Angela advised me late on Thursday afternoon. Our morning had been busy making arrangements for the move at the end of next week and facilitating changes to our accounts. I was elbow deep in QuickBooks updates when she tried to get me to come talk to her. I wasn't having any of it though.
"Good for him."
"Don't you want to know what he has to say?"
"Where is your sense of adventure?"
"I lost it along with my mind when you and I became friends."
"Oh shut it, we're besties and you love me," Angela said in a singsong voice. "Today's post reads: I wish I could spend more time with you, so that you could see what I know. I'm a nice, professional man who has been head over in heels for you for almost a year now. You've never looked at me as anything but a friend. Should I even try anymore?"
I couldn't help the small frown that crossed my face as Angela finished reading the post. It was heartbreakingly sad. He clearly cared for this mystery woman, but she was blind to his affection. Instead of getting caught up in Angela's game, I didn't make any further comments and spent the rest of the afternoon focusing on work.
This is my final attempt to reach out to you. I adore every single thing about you, from the curls that form in your hair when it's wet outside, to the way you always make snide comments when you think no one is listening. Someone is always listening, and that someone is in love with you. Oh how I wish you would pay me some attention. Something more than a casual joke as we pass in the hallway or formal note.
You deserve the moon and stars.
I wish I could give them to you.
Angela would have killed me if she knew I was looking up Craigslist guy all on my own now, but I couldn't help it. It was like some stupid compulsion of mine; I needed to see how things would play out for him. After the latest post, I couldn't see the happy ending that he was clearly desperate for.
The night before when I had curled up on the couch, Angela calling to discuss outfits for Friday's party interrupted me. When I was honest with her and said I was probably going to wear jeans and a t-shirt, something casual, she screeched at me in disappointment and I spent the rest of the night on the phone with her, cataloging my wardrobe, as she tried to help me pick something sexy. I didn't want to do 'sexy' since it would just exacerbate the unwelcome advances of Tyler, but Angela was insistent.
In fact, when she walked into the office Friday morning, after I had already scanned Craigslist, and saw me sitting at my desk practically mainlining coffee, she just gave me a wink and a wave. Smug bitch.
Ang then cornered me before lunch and pretty much forced me into letting her come to my place to get dressed and have a drink before the party. I think she just wanted to make sure I wore what she had selected and that I didn't dress the way I had initially planned.
When we walked into the new office building a little past seven, fashionably late as Angela explained, I pulled up the top of my strapless dress and looked down at myself in anxiety.
"I am so going to fall out of this dress," I complained as Angela wrapped her arm around my shoulder and ushered me into the room filled with our co-workers and their friends and family.
"I'm only going to say this once, but there are several guys in this building right now eyeing you up and I know for a fact that you look hot as fuck. You are a smart woman, even though you are a bit too cynical for your own good. Now, go mingle with your co-workers before I have to get you plastered and dancing on tables to have a good time." I glared at Angela and she looked at me with a sadist grin on her face. "Don't think I won't do it."
"I hate you," I grumbled as I watched her walk away, no doubt seeing Jacob somewhere and wanting to slobber all over him like a bitch in heat. With a quick glance, I noticed Tyler standing with a few of the guys from design near the bar, so I headed in the opposite direction and ran face first into a brick wall.
Well, not technically a brick wall, though the new office space was filled with exposed brick everywhere. I looked up and saw Edward standing before me, looking as handsome as ever. I immediately shut my eyes and began internally cursing myself for not paying attention and lusting after the boss. The latter was clearly the worse of the two.
"I'm so sorry," I said emphatically as I noticed Edward was holding onto my shoulders and showing no inkling of removing his hands. "I was just..."
"How did you know?"
"You're not the first beautiful woman he's pursued since he started here." I couldn't help but find my heart beating rapidly as he called me beautiful. Then again, I bet he called all the girls in the office beautiful because then his employees were happier and more productive, although stuck under the misconception that Edward wanted them. I shook my head of the thought because I knew Edward was more genuine than I was giving him credit for. "He's great at his job though and hasn't done anything to warrant a sexual harassment claim, but Jacob and I keep our eyes on him."
"So you guys know..."
"That he's a flirt? Yeah, but you can't blame the guy," Edward replied cryptically as I felt my entire body heat in a blush as he looked me over. Was he seriously checking me out? There was no way. "You look lovely tonight, Isab... Bella."
"Nice save," I said with a chuckle, remembering only a few days ago when I insisted he call me by my nickname. "I have to admit, that what Tyler does could be construed as harassment, if he took it just a little bit further."
"You'll let us know if he steps over that line, right?" I nodded swiftly as Edward's smile grew a bit bigger and he finally noticed he was still grasping my shoulders. Rather than pull them away abruptly though, his hands ran down the length of my bare arms and my entire body literally shuddered. His lingering touch felt so good, but I was suddenly wracked with confusion. What was going on here? "How about I buy you a drink?"
"It's an open bar."
"I co-own the company, so I'm technically still paying for it." I gave an awkward laugh in response and let Edward lead me as we walked through the crowd of our co-workers and friends. We stopped often and Edward was introduced to spouses and friends of his employees, but he kept it all very casual.
When we finally reached the bar, I ordered a Long Island Iced Tea and Edward simply got a beer. I was expecting something more pretentious, but it just went to show me how little I really knew about him. "So, Angela mentioned to me that you love paranormal shows."
"Oh well…" Shit. I wasn't exactly expecting that to be a topic of conversation. I liked my little bubble of ghost shows on TV, but I didn't exactly run around and promote that fact. "They're fun."
"What do you want me to say? They are my guilty pleasure. Everyone has one… you must have one too, right?"
"No shit," I said loudly before I clamped my hand over my mouth in embarrassment. That was the last thing I expected him to say.
"You don't picture me on the internet do you?" Edward asked with a laugh as I struggled to maintain my calm. God, I could only hope he had no idea that Angela and I scoured Craigslist at work, that could get even more embarrassing than my guilty pleasure.
"I picture you on creative sites, not crap like Craigslist. I bet you love Facebook too huh?"
"I can't stand Facebook actually. I'm tired of people I didn't like in high school friending me and then sending me requests for something called Mafia Wars. For the record, I have gotten some really awesome deals from Craigslist. I collect old cameras and between Craigslist, eBay and a local photography store I love to frequent, I've got a great collection." Yet again, something that surprised the hell out of me. I couldn't picture him collecting anything, although I guessed cameras made more sense than stamps or teacups.
"Oh hey, there you are," Angela said excitedly as she came up beside me, with Jacob at her side, and wrapped her arm around my shoulder. We hadn't been separated that long, but she was acting like we hadn't seen each other in forever.
"Here I am."
"Are you and Edward getting to know each other better," she asked playfully as she nudged my side and I turned to face her, giving her, what I could only hope, was a look of death. What the heck was she doing? We hadn't been in the building long enough for her to be this drunk, right?
"Sure, yeah," I replied hastily. I guess we were learning a bit about each other, but nothing major, like I'm sure Angela was hoping for. I could already see the hope in her eyes that she and I ended up dating best friends and suddenly we worked together and went on double dates all the time. I wasn't as confident as she was.
"Edward, do you think we should make some sort announcement or something. Thank everyone for coming?" Jacob questioned. "I mean, the booze and free food is good, but I bet they want to hear something from us, right?" Edward looked down at me with a small frown on his face before glancing and Jacob and nodding. I felt his fingers touch mine briefly before he disappeared, no doubt to discuss what to say during their somewhat impromptu speech.
"So… you and Edward looked cozy," Angela said, her voice laced with innuendo as I rolled my eyes at her. "What's the story, Morning Glory?"
"No story. He offered me a drink, he told me about his love of Craigslist, old cameras and also let it slip that you told him about my love of the paranormal." I may have growled at this last part, especially since it took me almost nine months of being friends with Angela before I told her, and now my secret was kind of out of the bag. I could only hope Edward didn't go blurting out something to one of the catty bitches in our office.
"That was a story, Bella."
"Fine, but it wasn't an interesting one."
Angela grabbed my arm and pulled me back to the bar to get a refill and it didn't take long before Edward and Jacob were standing on the open stairwell looking down onto the sea of people. There had to be close to a hundred people at the party, and I felt proud to be a part of Masen-Black.
"First of all, we want to thank each and every one of you for coming tonight, even those we don't know and might be mooching off of our generosity," Jacob said with a hearty laugh as I noticed Angela swoon slightly as he spoke. God, she had it bad. "Your continued support, diligence and friendship have meant the world to Edward and I."
"Masen-Black wouldn't be nearly as successful without you guys," Edward added in as I blushed furiously and noticed his eyes were on me as he spoke. "We encourage everyone to have a great night, enjoy the food & drink, and don't forget to hail a cab, if you find yourself three sheets to the wind."
A loud chorus of hoots and hollers rang through the space and the party seemed to kick into high gear. Music was already being played throughout the room, but suddenly it got ramped up. Dance music overtook Angela and before I could protest she was pulling me onto the floor and making me dance with her.
Before I knew it, the party was starting to wind down and people were beginning to leave. I hadn't spoken to Edward since his speech had ended, but every time I felt like someone's eyes were on me, I would look and catch him staring my way while having a conversation with various people from the office.
"Jacob offered to give us a ride home since he wasn't drinking tonight," Angela explained as we walked into the bathroom. I was buzzed, that was a fact, but part of me really wanted to stay behind and say goodnight to Edward. That was until Angela and I overheard, while sitting in our respective bathroom stalls, Lauren gushing to Jessica how she was going to make her move on Edward.
"It's about time. You've had a thing for him for ages," Jessica chided her friend. "I'm actually getting tired of you talking about it and never having the balls to do anything."
"Well, now that Angela and Jacob are finally out in the open, I know that there is no policy in the company about dating co-workers."
"Why didn't you just ask about a policy?"
"Cause I wasn't sure Edward liked me at all, and then tonight we had this… moment. I can't explain it but I just know that he feels the same way I do." I cringed in the stall and fought back the tears that were forming in the corners of my eyes. Just hours ago I felt like Edward and I had our own moment and now, listening to Lauren proclaim the same, I couldn't help but feel like I had completely misread the situation.
When the door shut, Angela and I made our way out and began to wash our hands side by side. "I'm sorry," she said forlornly and I could tell she saw the proof on my face that I was upset. Sure, I had developed feelings for Edward in the last year, but we were as different as could be. I was bikes, ghost stories and macaroni & cheese; he was SUV's, vintage cameras and filet mignon.
"No need to be sorry."
"But you guys… he was…" Angela stopped for a moment. "I just feel like I was encouraging something I shouldn't have."
"There's nothing there, Angela, so don't worry about it, okay?" Angela nodded her head and we walked out of the bathroom with our heads tall, both of us looking for Jacob so we could get out of the party as quickly as possible. Angela pulled me towards the bar where Jacob was talking with Jasper, one of their friends and investors.
As I waited impatiently, Angela whispered into Jacob's ear and before we knew it, we were being ushered towards the door. Of course, I wasn't so lucky to have gotten away unscathed. Just as we neared the front door, I noticed Edward having a conversation with Lauren and he noticed us leaving and came to say goodnight – with Lauren following behind him.
"Are you guys leaving already?" he asked as he eyed me up, his expression one of worry, which baffled me.
"Yeah, the girls decided they've had enough." Jacob looked at Edward with a frown and, though I had been drinking, I didn't think I was reading his expression wrong. Jacob actually looked upset with Edward; a first.
"Oh," he replied sullenly as Angela threaded her arm through mine and pulled me from the building as I fought back tears.
Angela had Jacob drop me off first and as I stepped from the car she apologized again for encouraging anything between Edward and I, but I just brushed her off. She hadn't done much of anything in my opinion, but she seemed really contrite. Once they had driven away, I kicked my shoes off and fell onto my couch with a thump, only to be interrupted by a loud knocking on my door.
"Angela, you can stop apologizing, alright," I yelled through the door, opening it to come face to face with Edward. He was the last person I expected to see, so I said the only thing I could think of. "Jacob and Angela already left."
"Good? You aren't looking for them?" I questioned curiously as Edward shook his head. My mind was suddenly filled with dozens of questions like why was he here? Where the hell was Lauren? And why was he here? "Uh… can I help you with something?"
Unexpectedly, Edward took a step forward and closed the space between us, before he gripped my hips and pulled me flush against him as his lips met mine soundly. We moved together tentatively at first, and then he was all taste, touch and sound. He felt great and the groans falling from his mouth made my body practically shake. When he opened his mouth to taste and take more I gasped.
And then I lifted my hands to his chest and pushed him away roughly.
"What on earth are you doing?" I shouted angrily, not caring that everyone on my street was probably fast asleep at the time. After all, it was nearing midnight.
"Jesus Fuck," he replied as his hands found their way into his hair and he began pulling on it, which looked really uncomfortable. "Angela said…"
"What the hell did Angela say now?" I groaned and then quickly things began to fall into place. Why Ang kept apologizing and how contrite she looked after we overheard Lauren in the bathroom. It all made sense. "Let me guess… Angela told you that I liked you and that was why she was so fucking apologetic. Jesus, she is so fucking nosy sometimes."
"She just wanted you to be happy," Edward said succinctly and when I looked at him, really looked at him, I could see how upset he was. "That's all I want too."
"This is bloody ridiculous. Angela tells you something she had no right to tell you and you stupidly agree to go along with her plan, for I don't know what reason. Is that what this was? Some stupid misguided plan to put a smile on Bella's face since she hasn't dated in so long. In rides Edward on his white horse to show Bella that there's more fish in the sea? I'm not that fucking pathetic as to think that you actually want me, so just leave and we'll pretend tonight didn't happen." I gripped the doorframe tightly and moved to slam it shut, but Edward's foot was suddenly shoved between the frame and the door. I wasn't afraid of stomping on his foot and pushing him down my stairs.
"That's not what this is Bella. I asked for her help."
"I've liked you since the moment you came to work for us, but Jacob and I had an unspoken agreement not to date anyone who worked for us. That was until a few weeks ago when he admitted he had completely fallen for Angela and I told him the same…"
"No… about you. I'm head over heels for you, Bella. Lauren figures no where in this, believe me." I took a step backwards and dropped my hand from the door as Edward moved forward into my foyer, closing the door behind him. "Angela found out that I was pining over you and yeah, she may have told me that my feelings weren't one-sided, but when she found out how I was trying to 'woo' you, through Craigslist, I asked her to help me."
"Just don't be mad at her."
"How can I not be upset with her? She's been…"
"She's been trying to get you to see the light. I don't know if you even know what beautiful really means so I'll tell you. Beautiful is someone who is pretty on the outside but even more desirable from the inside. One who is playful and can make you laugh and can make your day with just a smile and those wonderful brown eyes." My mouth fell open as I looked at Edward in shock. How the hell was he quoting the first Craigslist posting verbatim? What the hell had Angela told him? "I wrote that before Angela knew I liked you."
"You wrote that?"
"I did. I was throwing it out there, into the universe, so that someone knew how I felt about you, even if I couldn't get up the nerve to do it myself."
"So all of them…"
"They are all about you."
Speechless, I backed into my living room and sat precariously on the edge of my couch. I just couldn't wrap my head around everything. Edward, my boss, was standing in the doorway of my living room after having just admitted that he wanted me. He had posted on Craigslist, to perfect strangers, how he felt about me but hadn't had the nerve to tell me… until just then. My best friend knew, and she had even helped him along. I just couldn't fathom it. This kind of shit never happened to me. Well, not outside my dreams anyway.
Just as I was about to say something, I noticed Edward was leaving. I had taken too long and blown any chance I had of being with him, I could feel it. I didn't hesitate in jumping up from the couch and following him into the street, where I found him about to step into his car.
"Wait," I called out as I took the steps two at a time and found myself standing before Edward, feeling very self-conscious. "I don't want you to leave."
"What do you want, Bella?"
Usually this is the point where I would have hesitated, but I decided to throw caution to the wind and I went up on my tiptoes and reached my hand up behind Edward's neck, pulling him down to me as I kissed him hard and deep.
"You. I just want you."
"Bella, come over to see this," Angela called from her office beside mine. We had moved comfortably into our new building over a year ago and Angela took a promotion shortly thereafter and was now the Vice-President of Accounting. We added a new staff member, Claire, and she was sweet and a nice fit for Ang and I. It also helped that she fell head over heels for Tyler the moment she saw him. She solved more than one problem for the staff of Masen-Black when she was hired.
I stepped out of my small, but perfect, office and headed in to see her, expecting her to have QuickBooks or some massively overdone Excel spreadsheet pulled up on her computer, which was normal these days since Masen-Black had taken on dozens of new accounts. Angela had become a little more serious in the office when she was promoted, and gone were the days where we would giggle over the posts on Clients From Hell, though we still did it via personal email or during our coffee breaks.
"Is there a problem with the quarterly figures? I went over them with Edward late yesterday and everything seemed fine."
Oh, everything with Edward and I was more than fine. We were in such a good place it was hard to keep the smile off of my face. We were dancing around moving in together, both of us wanting to do it, but unsure of where to move. Edward owned his own apartment, but it was already a tight fit when I stayed over. My lease wasn't up for another six months, so I didn't want to do it just yet. However, we were trying to compromise. At least I was. He just wanted me to deal and move in with him, claiming he would take care of the cost of the apartment, but I wasn't comfortable with that. I wanted us to be equals, even though we weren't.
I knew Edward was well off before we began dating; he was the co-founder of a booming creative company and had worked hard for everything he earned. I just had a little difficulty adjusting to it all. Something else I needed to compromise about.
"Nah, the numbers are fine. The report is textbook perfect actually. Jacob will be thrilled to see the results when he gets back from Chicago tomorrow."
'Okay, so what's going on?"
"Just look at the screen, alright? I groaned at Ang and stepped behind her desk to look at the familiar white screen with black text gracing it.
Twenty three months ago I saw you for the first time. Fourteen months ago I wrote to you on Craigslist, throwing myself out there for someone to see, but most of all for you to see me. We finally found our way to each other and I have been the happiest man in the world ever since that day.
I'd like to continue this happiness for the rest of our lives.
Marry me, Bella?
My hand flew to my mouth and when I looked up, Edward was walking into Angela's office with a box in his hand and dropped to his knee in front of me. When he flipped open the box, I didn't even look at the ring, I just looked at the hope on Edward's face and knew my answer immediately.
"Yes!" I shouted loudly as Angela began squealing beside me in excitement. Edward slipped the ring onto my finger and I noticed he let out a breath that he had been holding. "Did you think I was going to say no?" I asked with a laugh as he stood up and swept me into his arms as a crowd of our co-workers began to gather around Angela's office to see what was going on.
"I'm never sure about anything with you Bella Swan, except you like Paranormal State, Ghost Hunters and the left side of the bed, and I'm okay with that, for as long as we both shall live."