Stephanie Meyer owns Twilight, no copyright infringement intended.

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Beta'd by pixiekat7. Any mistakes are all mine.


Birdy – Skinny Love

Radiohead – Talk Show Host

Placebo – Running Up That Hill

"Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can."

~ Danny Kaye

The Remarkable Miss Swan

July. Three years previous.

My whole world felt as though it was collapsing in on me, like some dying star in the far reaching vacuum of space, everything was being sucked into the vortex and destroyed.

How did it come to this?

I closed my eyes and felt a wetness forming beneath my lashes. I continued to swallow down the lump in my throat - my last ditch attempt at keeping myself together. My crystal whiskey glass was holding strong against my crushing grip, refusing to shatter, unlike my life.

I had eagerly opened the doors and welcomed in my self-induced pity party.

I didn't want this.

I never wanted this.

"I think I've got everything for now." She walked back into the room, looking defeated by our situation yet determined to… go. She was clutching her Gucci handbag tightly and shifting from one Manolo to the other.

I simply nodded stiffly. I didn't trust myself to articulate much more than that.

"The cab's on its way. I'll be at Irina's if you need to reach me for anything."

I cleared my throat and whispered, "Alright."

Except that it wasn't. None of this was alright, absolutely none of it. Four years were about to be flushed down the toilet and there wasn't a damn thing that I could do about it, because deep down, it was the right thing to do. It hurt to admit that, oh how it hurt, but we were doing the right thing.

I couldn't give her everything that she wanted.

She couldn't be everything that I needed.

It came down to incompatibility… again.

How could two people love each other the way that we did, yet fundamentally be utterly wrong for each other?

God I loved her. It hurt how much I loved her. But I wasn't right for her.

I had given her my heart. I had given her the flashy Mercedes that she had always dreamt of as a teenager. I had given her the apartment on Park Avenue that she had always wanted for her own home. I had given her the lifestyle she craved to live, full of opulence, high society, parties and charity luncheons. I had given her me – rich, successful, able to always support her and make her life a comfortable one full of luxury. In many ways, she had bagged her 'perfect man'. It's what she had always wanted for her life.

Alarm bells had been ringing the day that I met her, admittedly. On the surface she seemed just another one of those 'types', the ones that I studiously tried to ignore. But Kate was different, she had always been different. She was everything that I tried to avoid in a woman and yet she was everything that I wanted.

Because underneath the trappings of wealth and the set up she desired, she had always wanted to be loved. She wanted her perfect life to be a happy one. She was, despite everything that I thought I knew about women like her, a good person. She was so blindingly beautiful, inside and out. Her sweet, caring temperament was captivating and she rarely thought ill of anybody. Friends and family often compared her to that Charlotte character from that God awful Sex and the City series. Kate was a proper New York lady. She was what most would consider 'well bred'. And she'd challenged every perception I'd had, because she was wonderful.

And I knew that she loved me, very much so. I knew that now more than ever because she was about to give it all up and walk away. Kate wasn't about to settle where most others would. Because through the haze of labels and name dropping and high society living, she had very basic wants for her life. Wants that I couldn't give her.

I couldn't give her my undivided attention and time.

I couldn't give her the diamond ring she so desperately wanted resting upon her wedding finger.

I couldn't give her the family she had always seen herself having.

I couldn't give her everything she had always wanted, despite my best efforts to try.

I couldn't make her happy, not in the long run.

Four years we'd been together. Four years and the acceptance over my working commitments had finally waned. Kate wanted a husband to come home to her, a husband to have children with, a husband who would give her all of his time. She wanted her happily ever after.

And I wasn't the man to give her it.

The truth could be a cruel, cruel thing.

We had never argued about it, not really. I think it had become more of a gradual understanding on her part – I just couldn't give her everything.

Marriage had never appealed to me. I lived for my work, it took me to every imaginable corner of the globe and I spent a great deal of time away from home. Marriage was a commitment, a partnership between two people. How could I ever properly commit when I was always leaving? I had seen firsthand the wedge that that tiny slip of paper could cause between couples. My adoptive parents had grown apart over the years because of my father's devotion to his work. What had started out as acceptance on my mother's part had turned into bitterness over time. He was always working, always leaving. She'd thought that would change. Both a husband and wife had responsibilities to uphold, vows and promises to keep. But they are too easily broken when one of the team refuses to give even a little. My father had never been willing to. I wasn't sure I could ever learn to either. I wasn't prepared to take the risk and live with the heartache of having her stay or leave – unhappy either way.

Children admittedly, had played on my mind before. Sometimes I found myself daydreaming about having little ones, but then the doubts would slowly creep in. I suppose a shrink may say that I had abandonment issues. Personally, I liked to believe that like many adopted children, I was simply humanly flawed by my emotions. My mother didn't want me. She gave me away. Was there something wrong with me? Ultimately, I found myself questioning what sort of father I could be when my own family had never kept me. Silly, I know. But there was always that little niggling doubt at the back of my mind, stopping me. If I ever found a way to dull those thoughts, more would form. I worked too much. An absent father made not a good one. And so on and so forth.

I was resigned. I knew what I did and didn't want.

As did Kate, like I said, she wasn't about to settle and she never would. As much as it hurt at the present time, I had to admire that about her.

For all the sense it made for us to go our separate ways, the ache in my heart was nearly unbearable. We were doing the sensible thing; it was the reasonable thing to do. But I still didn't want it to happen. I loved her with every fibre of my being and to watch her walk out of that door was going to cripple me, I knew it.

Was I being selfish? Should I be quashing down my own thoughts and feelings, disregarding them completely so that I could keep her with me?

No. No, I couldn't do that. I may have promised to give her the world and Jesus I had tried, but there would always be things that I was incapable of. Always.

"Edward, are you okay?"

Her concerned tone was nearly my undoing. It would have been so much easier if we hated each other, if we could part with harsh words and difficult terms. Instead, I could do nothing but look on at her with unabashed adoration.

It wasn't fair.

I was losing her.

I took a deep breath and steeled myself. I refused to let it all go just yet. "I'll be fine. Do you need some help down with your things?"

It would feel like a torturous kick to the groin, helping her to leave, but I would do it regardless. I always would… for Kate. My Katie. My heart.

She smiled sadly. "No, it's only two suitcases, I'll manage. We can sort the rest of it out some other time, okay?"

I nodded again, though I didn't know why. There was nothing to sort, she could keep it all. I'd never liked any of it.

I hated this building. I hated everything about it. Typical Upper East Side pretention. I hated the area, I hated the grandeur, I hated how everything was social status centric instead of feeling comfortably welcoming and most of all I hated the damn beige. I was sick of beige. Everything was beige. Our apartment looked like it had taken its cue from the lobby and corridor and vomited beige. I'd put my foot down when she'd suggested we have my piano – my pride and joy, 'painted to match'.

'Over my dead body', I think had been my eloquent response. It was the only non-beige item within a ten block radius.

But Kate loved it all. She loved the area, the building, the apartment and the beige. It was what she had always wanted and I'd given it to her without complaint. She had worked so hard to perfect it, to make it her dream home. I'd never moaned, not once. Her happiness had always meant everything. If she was expecting a fight over who got to keep what, she'd surely be surprised. I was moving my miserable, beige hating ass as far away from this area as possible. This was her home; I would never take that from her.

The buzzer sounded, alerting us to her cab's arrival.

Things became tense, neither of us knowing what the correct etiquette for, 'I'm leaving but I still love you' type situations was.

"You'll call me if you need anything?" She spoke softly, her words cracking and her eyes beginning to well.

It was too much.

I was torn between wanting the ordeal to be over with already and wanting to lock her in our bedroom… forever.

I stood up and walked over to her, trying to remain strong for the time being, for her. "Of course I will. Let me know that you get there safely, okay?"

She bit her lip and sniffled. "Yes, yes I will. You promise me that you will look after yourself, Edward?"

My smile was tight, forced. I could think of nothing I wanted to do more than sink myself into the bottom of a whiskey bottle and weep. Not that I would ever admit to it.

"I will." I reached out to stroke her lovely, soft cheek. "You take care, Katie D."

Her bottom lip trembled violently. "I love you, Edward."

Her words were received like a knife to the heart.

I had to look away. The pain was crushing, too much for any one man to endure. I didn't want to feel it; I wanted it to go away and never come back. I didn't ever want to experience this… this devastating weight ever again.

"I love you too," I choked hoarsely, staring with blurred eyes at her beige wall.

I refused to watch her go, but I heard everything.

I heard her tearful hiccups as she turned.

I heard the repetitive tapping of her heels as they fell against the marble floor, getting further and further away.

I heard her wheeled suitcases being shifted about and pulled towards her final exit.

I heard the locks being fussed with.

I heard the door opening.

I heard the door closing.

I heard the silence that told me she was finally gone, for good.

But the thing that I heard the most, the one, piercing, agonised cry of frustration I heard the loudest - came from me. It came from inside.

It screamed, why do they always leave?


August. Three years later.

"I'm not saying you have to like him," I argued. "I'm asking that you not broadcast your aversion to him to me. Emmett is and always will be a very good friend of mine and I don't want to hear it, Mother."

It was Wednesday afternoon and we were at The Ritz for our mid-week lunch 'date'. I wanted to stab myself with my fork. She hadn't even finished her crab salad yet.

"I don't 'dislike' the man, Edward." She responded haughtily.

I snorted.

That earned me a look that I hadn't seen since I was eight years old and refusing to sit still through some mind numbingly boring awards evening my father had dragged us all to.

My mother straightened in her seat. "Contrary to what you may believe, Edward, I genuinely do not dislike him."

"Right," I said slowly. "He's just not good enough for your daughter, who incidentally, broke into my house – again. I think you should have her tested," I deadpanned.

"She wouldn't be breaking into your house if he could support her properly. And we did, several times."

I felt my eyes hardening. "Emmett can support Rose just fine. It's not his fault she's a vapid, spoiled little brat with zero understanding of boundaries. That's all on you two."

She waved a hand dismissively. "Rose came into this world programmed to be difficult. She always will be, no matter how firm a hand you try and take. She was a master manipulator by the age of six, she made her shrink cry when she was ten and don't even get me started on the teenage years. Your father considered hanging himself numerous times. If Rosalie was a horse, any trainer in their right mind would simply put her down. She will never be broken."

I swiped my napkin across my lips. "Don't you ever get tired of making excuses for her? I know I do."

She shrugged. "It may seem like an excuse to a lot of people, Edward, but it's the truth. Rose has always suited her name. She's interminably pretty to look at, but painfully thorny to handle. She was a horrible child and she's become a nightmare adult. You may lay blame at mine and your father's door all you like for indulging her, but we spoiled her no more than we did you." Her eyebrows arched challengingly as she sipped her Chardonnay.

It was the same old argument. We had received the same treatment and opportunities as children, but we had each turned out very differently. My mother had been spouting the same nature versus nurture bull for years. In my mother's eyes, I'd taken full advantage of my prospects and shined, whereas Rosalie was simply a pre-programmed snot and would remain one for the foreseeable future.

Compelling, no?

"And while we are on the subject, you may think that I am nothing but a snobbish old bat, but I know my daughter, Edward. Emmett, I am sure, would have made the very best husband to a wife more of his own standing. As it is, he and Rose are from very different worlds and polar opposites in nature. That boy sees through rose tinted glasses, pun not intended. Your sister needed to marry a man who saw her for exactly what she is. Instead, she married a man who saw too late. Now when he tries to put his foot down, tries to change her, she reacts the way she always has done. And you wonder why your father and I objected to the match?"

I bristled. "It's not for you to decide who she should be with, Esme."

"Perhaps not," she acquiesced. "But riddle me this, Edward. Are they happy?"

My mouth began forming a yes, but I found myself suddenly biting back my tongue.

Emmett wasn't happy. He hadn't been happy for a long while. Rosalie made his life a living hell ninety-eight percent of the time. She was demanding, uncouth, ill tempered, spoiled, impatient, selfish – the list was endless. She was a snappy little terrier with a nasty bite to boot. She loved him in her own way, I had no doubt. She would never have married a man like Emmett if she didn't. He was the happy go lucky sort who had been brought up on the wrong side of the tracks but managed to make something of himself regardless. Emmett was fundamentally a very simple man. He had everyday dreams and aspirations, he wasn't fazed by power or wealth and he led with his heart, almost to a fault. He had the look of a bad boy, but the heart of a teddy bear. Esme was right to a degree of course, Emmett had 'seen' Rose too late and he was now living with the consequences. She ate him up for breakfast.

As for Rosalie, well… who knew what made her happy. I had pretty much come to the conclusion over the years that as long as everybody else on the planet was miserable, Rose would be on cloud nine blissfully eating caviar and sipping champagne. She may love Emmett, but she would always love herself more.

While my mother could defend her position and claim her protests were a direct result of wanting the very best for her antichrist daughter, there would always be the lingering shame hovering over Esme Cullen's head every time she sat down to play bridge with her friends. And the shame came in the form of now being related to a tattooed, greasy mechanic with a heavy Brooklyn accent. It pissed me off; Emmett was a good man, the best there had ever been. Yet both of my parents were so readily able to dismiss him for being 'not good enough'. The real truth was that Rosalie wasn't good enough for him. She was an infliction, not a prize, and I could say that while declaring my unconditional love for my sister.

My family was a prime example of wealth and position equalling sheer prejudiced stupidity.

"Are you and Carlisle happy?" I hit back, cocking my head in a silent challenge all of my own. "You and he were from the same 'standing', as you so put it. Has your wedded life been one of ultimate bliss?"

My mother's eyes frosted. "We are not talking about me and your father. The subject was your sister."

"I think I've made my point nonetheless." I ran a finger across my chin and held her gaze.

We sat in stony silence as the server cleared our plates and topped up our drinks.

"How is Kate? I hear the wedding preparations are coming along nicely." She deflected, obviously knowing that I would continue to press her buttons if she insisted upon pressing mine.

I took a sip of my water and nodded. "She's doing very well, currently in wedding planning heaven. I spoke to her last week; apparently Garrett willingly surrendered his credit card to get out of seating arrangement plans. Poor man."

"And are you still idiotically intent on being a groomsman?"

This again…

"If you are asking whether or not I am still willing to be part of the wedding party, having been asked by two very dear friends, then yes, I am."

"I still think it's strange." Esme scoffed.

My lips thinned. "I… don't care. They deserve to be happy and I wish them all the very best."

"Well the whole charade smacks of awkward to me. You were with the woman for four years, Edward." She scrunched up her nose in a manner that suggested she had just smelled something particularly foul.

Don't kill your mother, she's a good person deep, deep, deep down.

"The woman's name is Kate and you have been lunching with Carmen for the past three years, quite at your leisure may I add."

"Oh Edward, really!" She scolded. "It's entirely different."

"How so? You're the mother of the man who couldn't give Carmen's daughter everything that she wanted, effectively breaking her heart. And have you or have you not accepted your invitation to attend the wedding yourself?"

I watched as my mother fidgeted in her seat.

"Would you like to continue playing this game or are you prepared to admit defeat and accept that your double standards are preposterous to the extreme?" I checked my watch deliberately to annoy her. "I have to get back to the office, shall we?"

"I don't recall raising a rude, disrespectful son," she snapped, tossing her napkin onto the table and scraping her chair backwards.

"Yet I recall with perfect clarity being raised by a woman filled with silly pretention." I quipped.


I paid the ridiculous bill as Esme smoothed out her pastel blue Chanel suit and nodded proudly to all of the 'right' people still dining within the restaurant.

Honestly, why I still agreed to come to these absurd luncheons was beyond me. It was the same every week and they did nothing for my blood pressure. Nor did my mother, for that matter.

"I'll see you next week," I leant down to quickly kiss her cheek and waved down a cab. "Tell Carlisle I said hello and on the off chance that you hear from Rose, tell her I've invested in a bird eating tarantula. Maybe the threat of one could keep her out of my damn house for a couple of weeks."

She rolled her eyes and tsked. "I will do no such thing. It's your own fault she's in there to begin with."

"And just how do you figure that? Because I said no to Princess Piranha?"

"Because you said yes in the first place, Edward. You can't just give her money every time the boy puts his foot down and then suddenly decide not to."

"Sometimes it's easier to just give in. She's not the easiest person to refuse when she's throwing a fit and smashing my belongings. It's the only thing that seems to sedate her."

"I'm surprised Emmett doesn't have an issue with it. You're undermining him every time you bail her out."

I bit back my laugh. "Esme, Emmett doesn't care where she gets money from so long as it isn't his. He only does it to wind her up, knowing that she'll have to spend hours figuring out whom to turn to. It keeps her out of his hair for a while."

"It's inane and childish!" She seated herself inside the cab and closed the door forcefully.

"And it's exactly what you and Carlisle used to do. She's like a slot machine; she sings when you feed her but flashes angry red lights when you don't." I hit the cabs roof twice. "I'll see you soon. Remember – bird eating tarantula."

She sighed and shook her head, clearly exasperated.

I waited until the cab pulled to a stop further on up the street before making my way to the office. I had another trip to Seattle to plan and I wasn't looking forward to it.


My inbox pinged and I was grateful for the respite. One of the company's financial planners had made a rather large error while setting out the materials spreadsheets for a new project and we were officially up the creek without a paddle before we had even actually begun.

On the outside I appeared my usual calm, collected self.

Inside I was pitching a fit even Rosalie would be proud of.

To: Edward Cullen

From: James Johnston

Sent: August 4


It's that time again, you lucky SOB!

I've got something special for you today…

The idiot finally presented himself. He was getting sloppy. His weekly special was usually sitting waiting for me in my inbox every Monday morning. It was Wednesday afternoon. Perhaps age was starting to catch up with the child.

Rolling my eyes, I hit respond.

To: James Johnston

From: Edward Cullen

Sent: August 4


Did you bash your head sometime between Sunday and this afternoon?

You're falling behind, Johnston. Shocking. I should fire your incompetent ass.

To: Edward Cullen

From: James Johnston

Sent: August 4


Don't be ridiculous. Nobody else would put up with you. I'm a very good friend.

To: James Johnston

From: Edward Cullen

Sent: August 4


And I'm a very lenient boss.

If you ever send me another link to a transvestite's profile page again, I actually will fire you. You were not a good friend last week.

To: Edward Cullen

From: James Johnston

Sent: August 4


Aw c'mon! Chastity seemed real friendly!

To: James Johnston

From: Edward Cullen

Sent: August 4


Do it again and I'll be sending Vicky the links to some less friendly male 'chastity' sites, J.

To: Edward Cullen

From: James Johnston

Sent: August 4


I think my balls just shrank five inches.

To: James Johnston

From: Edward Cullen

Sent: August 4


I believe that's the general idea…

To: Edward Cullen

From: James Johnston

Sent: August 4



We're getting off topic here. You want it or not?

To: James Johnston

From: Edward Cullen

Sent: August 4


I don't think my 'wanting' it has ever been a concern. You're just an infant hell bent on making me twitch.

To: Edward Cullen

From: James Johnston

Sent: August 4


You're going to want to see this one.

To: James Johnston

From: Edward Cullen

Sent: August 4


Why? Do his/her (?) webbed limbs amuse you?

To: Edward Cullen

From: James Johnston

Sent: August 4


No webbed limbs. Promise. And definitely a 'her'.

To: James Johnston

From: Edward Cullen

Sent: August 4


I still can't believe I employ you. Have you done any work today?

Oh, and I'm heading back to Seattle on the 22nd. Liam says their site manager's being, and I quote, 'special again'.

To: Edward Cullen

From: James Johnston

Sent: August 4


You shitting me? You've already been out there twice to straighten him out! What's he done now?

To: James Johnston

From: Edward Cullen

Sent: August 4


The man's an oaf. I'll be getting rid of him soon. I wouldn't trust him to multitask between making his coffee and toast in the mornings, much less manage a construction site of that magnitude. There are two hundred workers currently struggling to comprehend why the infrastructure's assembly has come to a complete a halt. He can't do the job. Jane's going thorough Seattle résumés now.

And don't think I didn't note your lack of response to my work query, minion.

To: Edward Cullen

From: James Johnston

Sent: August 4


Who you calling a minion, slave driver?

I'm sending it on, you can thank me (and Vicky) later.

Minion out.

See attached link.

My finger hovered over the mouse, which in turn hovered over the link.

Did I even want to see this?

Probably not.

A part of me, a very small part, could appreciate James' attempts at trying to lighten the mood over my pathetic situation. He'd been a friend, a very dear one, for many years now. But while our running joke had been somewhat amusing on the surface, the majority of the time it did naught but remind me that I was alone and being sent obscure internet page links to trashy blonde leeches or confused he-she's.

I believe the poetically crass term I was looking for was fuck my life.

Kate had left a hole in my life, in my heart. I would never deny it, she had. I refused to date anymore. What was the point? They always left. Whether it was because I couldn't give them a ring or because I refused to give them a goldmine, it came down to the same end scenario every time. They walked out of the door and never came back.

I eventually came to the conclusion that it was less painful in the long run to not let anyone walk through the door to begin with.

It was rather a sad way to exist.

I'd had the occasional fling since Kate. It was nice to be reminded of the pleasure the company of a female could bring, I missed it greatly. But as much as it pained me to be alone at times, I could not stomach that feeling again. I didn't want to have to endure the heartache of loving a person who would get up and leave eventually; wearied by the facts they had known all along. As 'understanding' as they always claimed to be over my work commitments, it was always, always what got in the way in the end.

So why bother?

Sighing, I clicked on the link with a roll of my eyes. My desk phone began to chime shrilly and I glanced in its direction, stretching my arm out to the far left side of my desk. I felt the legs of my chair beginning to tilt dangerously just as I managed to brush my fingers across the handset. I wasn't paying enough attention to my actions when I glanced back at the computer screen.

I fell off my chair.

I took the entire phone dock with me.


I couldn't stop looking at her.

I'd had the link to her profile page on that despicable site for four days, four whole days. I'd had the necessary and slightly illegal, shortcuts to contact her without leaving a trail now for three. James, presumptuous nuisance that he was, had somehow managed to set it up, I'd asked no questions.

Rendered speechless might have been putting it mildly.

She was stunning.

The picture of her was just… Jesus. I had no words. Utterly captivating.

The setting was beautiful. It almost looked as though it had been taken by a professional photographer. She was evidently at a beach, gazing out at the sea with the most serene smile upon her face. She appeared content and happy. Her silhouetted form glowed against the bright, sunny weathered backdrop and a faint breeze had caught her luscious looking chestnut brown hair just a little, making the ends of it float in midair. I wanted nothing more than to coax her image into turning for me, so that I could see her full profile. It had done nothing but tease me for the past few days. I wanted to really see her.

One of the things that had truly made me beam was her attire. She wasn't sporting racy lingerie or revealing her bodily assets in an attempt to garner attention. She was dressed casually, effortlessly radiant in nothing more than a pair of light blue jeans and a dark blue tank top. The colour offset her flawless, milky skin perfectly and her bare feet were left to toe the sand, her old, well worn looking Converse sneakers had been thrown lazily to the side. She couldn't have looked more… natural. There was nothing overdone about her appearance, nothing that screamed, 'look at me!' and certainly nothing, how could I put it, daringly lascivious or 'come hither to me' about the way she was dressed. Yet she was a vision that I refused to look away from.

Most strikingly of all, she had somehow made the tiny snatches of delicate, innocent skin actually on show appear sensual without meaning to. Her bare feet, her tiny hands, her uncovered arms, the flash of her shoulder, her long, exposed neck – they were completely beguiling.


She was so very lovely and yet so entirely out of place on a site like this. I still couldn't understand it.

I read, perhaps for the thousandth time, through her profile.

May to December's Profile! NEW USER!

Name: Isabella

Age: 18

Birthday: September 13th

Location: Washington

Height: 5'2"

Weight: 105 lbs

Hair Colour: Brown

Eye Colour: Brown

Ethnicity: Caucasian

Looking for: Someone to financially support me through four years of college.

Offering: To meet the individual's specified needs/wants in return for financial aid.

Interests: Reading, writing, cooking, music.

About Me:

- I have the opportunity to gain an Ivy League education, or as good as. I have narrowed my choices down to three institutions, all of which are ranked within the National top twelve. Two are based in Chicago and one in New York.

- For reasons that I will not go into, I have no way of financing my studies.

- This is all a little… alien to me. I am, generally speaking, very independent and like to stand on my own two feet. I am not accustomed to having to ask for help. However, my studies mean a great deal to me, and I am determined to obtain my college degree.

- While this is an incredible contradiction of terms, I am not a leech. I do not expect anything in the way of gifts/treats/being spoiled/pampered, etc. I'm quite able to support myself in regard to day to day living; unfortunately, finding $40,000+ for annual tuition is just a little over my head. Fun to be poor, huh? :)

- Other than that, my passion is classic literature, I abhor text speak, enjoy good food, wish I could travel more and am allergic to cats.

To contact this user, please click here!





Markedly bright if what she was saying was true.

So how on earth did a beautiful young woman like her end up here?

There were options out there, scholarships, college funds, parental help, personal savings, loans and so on. Some of the options weren't easy to come by, I knew that. But surely there had to be something other than this?

She confounded me. I didn't understand. I'd never seen anything like her profile before and James had made sure I'd seen my fair share. I didn't get it.

She'd certainly captured my attention, though I didn't have the faintest idea what to do about that.


"It's true," James slapped a large manila envelope onto my desk with an audible snap.

I was going to hell for this.

I swallowed. "What did you find?"

He rolled his eyes. "It's all in there, take a look."

I was a bad man. A very bad man who was most definitely, definitely going to hell.

I cautiously picked up the envelope and slipped the papers inside of it out, scanning the details of the first few pages quickly.

I hoped he hadn't pried too much. I'd only asked for enough to confirm what was already on her page. I didn't want to contact her and expose myself to trouble, should this all turn out to be a silly hoax.

It was frightening how much James could do with a URL.

I felt like the worst human being alive for asking him to do it, but I had to protect myself.

Isabella Marie Swan.

Born September 13th.

Nearly nineteen years old.

Lived in Forks, Washington.

Recently graduated from Forks High School.

Straight A student.

Several college offers made, including Columbia. Interesting.

Colleges were still waiting for a response; fees had most definitely not been paid.

I flipped to the next page and felt a stab of anger beginning to rise.

"What the hell is this?" I thrust the paper in James' direction. "I said no more than necessary, J!"

His eyes flashed darkly before he muttered, "Oh believe me, it was necessary…"

"I don't need her…" I glanced at the sheet, "school reports, teacher's observations, school awards, school medical reports… Christ, how accident prone can one person be?" My eyes bugged.

That was a long list.

I shook my head, regaining my focus. "What am I supposed to do with all of this?"

He waved me off. "Read on."

I scowled but did as he said.

For several, silent moments my eyes flickered and scanned the words, absorbing and trying to make sense of them.

"The school monitored her?"

James nodded, looking thoroughly agitated. "All of her schools did."

"What do you mean, 'all of her schools'?"

He swiped a hand roughly over his face. "Her parents split when she was a toddler. They alternated years; one had her one year, the other the following. She got moved around a lot."

It took a minute for that to sink in.

Eventually, I shook my head. "Don't be absurd, any child would find that inexorably unsettling."

"Uh huh…"

I suddenly hit a particularly personal report and slammed the paper down onto my desk, face down.

I didn't want to know. It wasn't my business to know. I had already invaded her privacy more than enough by having her basic details confirmed; this was without a doubt a very large step too far. I'd only done it to protect my company and myself. I had what I needed to know to contact her, but enough was enough.

"Makes for some tough reading, doesn't it?" James quipped.

"I don't want to know, I just needed the basics."

"How can you not want to know?"

"Because it's none of my business, James. I'm not about to learn her life story through a paper trail."

"Well, it paints a pretty concise picture of how the poor girl ended up on that site. I swear, if you don't so something to help her, Vicky's sure determined to."

"If I decide to contact Isabella, it'll be for her to choose whether or not to disclose how she came to be on there. I am not taking that decision away from her."

He smirked. "So you are going to contact her then? I mean, it's only been nine days."

I fidgeted in my seat. "I don't know what I'm doing yet."

James snorted. "Liar. Admit it, James did good!"

I pointed to my office door. "Out."

"Edward," he started slowly. "You can do it, it's easy. James. Did. Good."

"Have I fired you already this week?"

"Yes, several times. It's Friday."

"Well then you're fired again as of Monday morning. Get your lazy ass out of my office. And take this with you," I held the wad of papers and the envelope out for him.

"So now wouldn't be the best time to broach the subject of my raise…?" He added cheekily, scratching his chin.

I put on my glasses and logged into my emails. "I'm about to throw something heavy at you," I griped. I had a paper weight somewhere, I know I did.

"You can send my thank you gift basket to the house, you know the address," he snatched the papers from my hand and strutted towards the door. "We'll talk raises later."

I picked up my stapler threateningly and turned just in time to see him bolt from my office. Jane entered soon after, questioning why I still allowed 'the man-child' to work here with the adults.

I didn't have an answer for her. My only one, clear thought for the rest of the day, was Isabella.


Isabella Swan was a total enigma, and I needed to figure her out. The young woman had bewitched me, utterly and completely.

Twelve days after receiving the email from James, I'd finally bitten. I had to know.

I responded to her page.

What I received back from her was intelligent, witty and tantalisingly refreshing.

I believe the saying is hook, line and sinker.

Every sentence, every slice of information, every brief window into her person was devilishly addictive. I needed, wanted and craved more.

James' ego had soared, of course. Everyone in the office was suffering.

But she was like nothing I had ever come up against before. She was sweet and humble and so awkward. Yet determined. And feisty. And willing to do whatever it took.

I thought about her incessantly.

I found myself both sympathising with Isabella's situation and admiring her tenacity to get through it. She hadn't had it easy, that much was evident. Yet she was still going, still pushing.

I hadn't felt this interested in a woman since Kate.

It shocked me.

Most shockingly of all though, I didn't feel worried about taking an interest.

Every woman I'd met over the past three years had drawn up my red flag.






The irony was not lost on me. I was fending off leeches on a weekly basis with my imaginary fly swatter and here I was, exchanging emails with a woman from a Sugar Daddy website.

Poetic, wasn't it?

She wasn't like them though. Isabella was unfortunately marred by her circumstances and reaching out for help, she needed somebody to throw her a line. She was not some tasteless, label loving little girl who wanted pampered. She was wise for her young years, sensible, logical even. When options A, B and C were all shot down, she recognised that she didn't want to be left with option D only - loans. She could have applied; she would most likely have been granted them. She would also have spent the better part of her life seriously in debt and paying them off. An Ivy League education didn't come cheap. At twenty-two, she would be at least $160,000 in arrears for tuition fees alone.

While a lot of people took that option regardless, Isabella didn't want to. That was her choice. She wanted to study English – her one true passion. But English was a degree where, generally speaking, a post graduate degree would also be needed to really do anything with it. More loans. More expense. More debt. Would she ever manage to pull herself out of the red? Would she ever be able to enjoy her studies with the lingering restlessness of knowing how financially sore she was? She was most certainly not a stupid woman and while her actions may have seemed strange to some, ludicrous even, I found myself having the upmost respect for her determined way of thinking. I found that I neither agreed nor disagreed with her decision to effectively pimp herself out to fund her education. Instead I had a morbid sort of admiration for her, for doing it her way.

I thought she was remarkable.


An opportunity had presented itself and like a great white shark, I was swimming the waters and ready to snap at it. It was almost too good to pass up.

My lawyer thought I'd officially gone insane. I paid him well to look past such trifles.

Isabella Swan needed help, and I was in a position to give it to her. It just so happened however, that she was in a position to give me something back, something that I had never really had before, something that I'd always been searching for.

"How are you feeling?" Vicky asked worriedly for the twelfth time.

"Good, nervous." I responded, holding my blackberry between my ear and shoulder as I rolled up my sleeves.

I was making my way through the reception area of The Edgewater Hotel in Seattle. I'd had quite a day of it. Resisting the urge to choke ignoramuses was a trying ordeal. The project was behind schedule, running well over budget and there were too many morons to count working on that site. I didn't have long to correct it all, but I was going to. I would not have my company being made a mockery of.

"Is she there yet?"

"I'm about to find out," I strode up toward the desk and greeted Heidi with a smile. "Has Miss Swan arrived?"

The blonde responded with what I suspected was meant to me a flirtatious bat of her eyelashes and beamed. "Yes, Mr. Cullen. She's waiting for you in your suite."

Vicky made some rather bizarre toddler sounding gurgle-giggle.

I nodded to Heidi and walked to the elevator.

"Now, are you absolutely sure that you want to go through with this?" I could just imagine Victoria placing her hands on her hips and pursing her lips.

"Well if I wasn't, then I've just wasted rather a lot of money paying my lawyer."

"Don't you go getting all sarcastic with me, Cullen. I'm just making sure that you're alright."

I shook my head and smiled. "I'm fine, really."

I couldn't wait to see her.

I'd internally kicked myself over and over again for not responding to Isabella sooner, because before I knew what was really happening, I was calling in favours at Columbia to extend her acceptance deadline, asking if she would like to meet and having papers drawn up. It all happened so very quickly. But what else could I do? I wasn't prepared to let her slip by me. I had to meet her.

Victoria had asked if her age presented a problem. But truthfully, I didn't see her age. I saw an extraordinary young lady who could quite literally have the world at her feet. I saw aptitude, a sharp wit, a rare, innocent shyness and an aversion to materialism that I was unaccustomed to.

I saw Isabella Swan. And she fascinated me.

'Want' had most definitely become word of the week.

The elevator 'dinged', announcing its arrival and I bid a hasty goodbye to Vicky. Her parting 'good luck!' had all but perforated my eardrum.

The ride up to my floor was slow; my heart was hammering out a staccato and the nervous anticipation free flowing through my veins tingled. I wanted this to go well, for both of us.

Was it possible to feel so encumbered by a person you'd never met? Everything about Isabella so far had me enraptured.

I would never forget the first time that I heard her voice, it sounded, quite literally, like bells. Softly tolling bells that sang my name and carried her laugh. Enchanting.

I would never forget how hopeful she seemed at the prospect of me helping her, almost as if being offered a hand in this life was a rarity for her.

I would never forget hearing her lie to me for the very first time earlier on today. I'd had to bite my lip and play along for fear of embarrassing her. I had to wonder if she would ever actually admit to not knowing how to work GPS.

I would never forget the elation I felt knowing that I would have a companion to eat dinner with tonight, instead of dining alone.

But most importantly of all, I would never forget seeing her for the first time as I walked through the entrance door to my suite and caught a glimpse of her out on the balcony.

I felt like I'd had the breath knocked out of me.

Even with her back to me, she was perfect.

Two thoughts shot straight into my mind.

The first?

I'm in trouble.

The second?

But at least she won't leave me if I can get her to sign.