Chapter 1 - EPOV
I laid my head down on the desk and sighed. My head was pounding and my stomach ached.
Maybe I had food poisoning. I was trying to remember the last thing I ate that. . I definitely didn't eat breakfast. Did I have dinner? I can't remember. My head hurts too much to think this hard.
I slept through the alarm for almost a half hour this morning which is very unusual for me. I usually wake up before my alarm and only set it as a precaution. I remember waking up this morning to Jasper's groaning and grumbling about the buzzing noise.
"Edward," I heard my name called. I jumped in my seat. I must be out of it to be startled by Lauren coming in the office.
She was my personal assistant. She took care of my every need between the hours of 7 am and 6 pm. Well, not every need. Right now I NEEDED this headache to go away so I could finish the details on the presentation that I have to present on Friday.
I am CEO of the largest financial institution in Seattle, Cullen Financial. It's the business that I inherited from my grandfather. I have worked here since I was 19 years old when Dad and I told my grandfather that I was interested in learning the business. The first three and a half years while I was in school, I did everything from assist the file clerk to sitting in on the board meetings with Grandfather.
Granddad was so happy that I decided to go into business, even more so that I was accepted to such a prestigious college as Tuck. I know he was concerned that no one in the family was going to be interested in taking over the company when he decided to retire.
My father, Carlisle, wanted nothing to do with the business end of things. He was a neurosurgeon, one of the best on the west coast. At first, I thought I wanted to be just like him and I started my first year at Dartmouth as a Biology major for pre-med. After the first semester of my science classes and I knew that I couldn't do that for the rest of my life.
My older brother, Emmett, was definitely not interested in an office job and he had Dad's scientific mind. Right now I think he was up in Amboy studying deposits of ash found at Mt. Saint Helens.
My little sister, Alice, is currently in Paris studying fashion with some designer I've never heard of. She just makes sure to send Jasper and I a new wardrobe four times a year since she can't have her big brother "looking like he belongs on ."
I don't know if she tortures Emmett like this, since he'll just get his clothes dirty and torn anyway. Not to mention he has Rosalie and she has her own shops on speed dial.
But it never fails, every season Alice calls until I finally give in and model what she sent me so she can tell me what pair of shoes matches each shirt.
Really, it is a stereotype that just because you're gay means that you love fashion and can coordinate your pin stripe shirts with your floral ties. It's just not true. Not for me, and especially not for Jasper.
I took a moment to picture my Jasper. He stands an inch or two taller than me and has wavy blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes. He never goes anywhere without his boots on. He's most comfortable in his boot cut jeans and a soft T-shirt, but a few times a year he will put on a jacket and tie. When he does that and slicks his long hair back it's like he just stepped off the cover of GQ. It's always for me, only for me. The last time he it was for my birthday. I must have been day dreaming longer than I realized.
"Edward, Edward, are you okay?" I heard Lauren call again. She was shaking my shoulder and trying to get my attention. I jumped in my seat and turned my head that was still on the desk towards her. How long had she been standing there calling me? Beats me.
"What?" I grunt. If she understood that, it would be a miracle.
"Edward, are you feeling alright?" she asked.
Obviously not, with my head down on the desk and threatening to explode into a million pieces two seconds after my stomach erupts. But I can't say that to her.
"Yeah, fine," I manage to mumble slightly clearer that my previous utterance, hoping she just leaves me alone to my self-pity. God, my throat feels like sandpaper. They are the first two real words I have spoken all day.
I feel Lauren's cool hand that was left on my shoulder slowly drift up the side of my neck and to my forehead. She leans her hand against me as she would a child, and I sigh while sitting back in my seat.
Lauren and I are usually not affectionate people, she knows I have Jasper and she is married to Mike with a toddler at home, but her hand on my forehead feels marvelous and I push myself further into it.
"Oh, Edward," she says, "you feel warm. I think you are sick."
I try to shake my head but it's still pounding and hurts more when I move it. I just have a headache and need an aspirin, then I'll be fine, but my body doesn't appear to want to move. My head feels like a ton of bricks, so I just sigh again and whisper, "yeah."
Lauren finally removed her hand from my head and turned to pick up the phone from my desk.
As she dials, she tells me, "You are in no condition to be driving home right now. I am calling Mike to drive you home in the town car. I know you drove the Aston Martin in today. I'll make sure it's locked up and you can get it tomorrow if you're feeling better."
The Aston Martin was my baby. After I earned my first hundred grand account, the first thing I did was go out and buy that car. I was very protective of that car. I have never allowed anyone else to drive my car. Not even Jasper.
I managed to respond to Lauren with a slight nod with my head back on the desk.
She kept speaking, "I will cancel all of your appointments for the rest of the day and for tomorrow too. You've done nothing but work yourself to death since you took over last year. It's no wonder you're sick. Take some time off and relax."
Just then, I heard a soft knocking on my office door.
I glanced up and saw Mike waiting at the door to take me home.
I closed my eyes and braced myself before trying to sit up again. After taking a deep breath, I lifted my head and sat up.
After a few more moments, I gripped the desk and stood on my own two feet.
At first it seemed like the room was spinning. I stared down at my desk trying not to throw up.
Finally, as the nausea passed, I looked up at Jacob and managed to get out, "I need to go home."
"Of course, sir," Mike answered immediately. "I brought the town car around front just as you requested."
I nodded once then took a step away from the desk. Initially, it seemed like Lauren and Mike were about to dart forward to catch me, but I managed to stay on my own two feet and walked to the door.
Just before I left, I turned slightly to look at Lauren. "Thank you," I said, "and after you make those calls, make sure you take the rest of today and tomorrow off for yourself. Enjoy some time with little Jessica and Eric."
"Thank you, sir," Lauren responded with half a smile.
I walked down the hall towards the elevator to go down to street level. As I did, I noticed myself in the polished brass ornaments hanging on the walls.
I stopped for a moment, looking. My face was pale, more so than usual. My eyes which are typically bright green were surrounded by dark circles and looked black. I looked thinner than I remembered. I really was sick.
"Sir," Mike said, trying to get my attention.
I looked up at him and noticed he was holding the elevator for me. I stepped in and took the ride down. The car did not make any stops on the way down. It only bounced as it stopped on the bottom floor.
"Ughh," I groaned. As soon as the doors opened, I tried to sprint to where I knew the men's room was.
Unfortunately, I was neither fast enough nor coordinated enough in my current state. I shocked a few people who were entering my building as I vomited up whatever little dinner I had left in my stomach and the acid that burnt my throat.
Ahh… I remember now. Jasper had made pork chops and scalloped potatoes.
I felt Mike come up behind me a moment later, helped me stand with the little bit of dignity I had left, and walked out the front doors.
The last thing I thought as I set myself in the backseat of the car was I should give the housekeeping crew a bonus this week.
I felt my shoulder being shaken and I heard my name being called, "sir, Edward, sir."
It must be Mike, he was the only one to call me "sir" all of the time. What is he doing here?
I cracked one eye open. That's right I'm still in the car. I must have fallen asleep.
I was sitting in the plush leather seats of the company town car. The door was open and Mike was standing to my right. Peering past him, I saw we were at my condo in Madison Park.
I climbed out of the car, walked up the five front steps and went to dig the keys out of my coat pocket. That was when I realized I didn't have my coat on or with me. I was just about to walk back down the stairs to go to the back door when the front door opened.
What a wonderful sight greeted my tired, swollen eyes.
Jasper stood in the doorway of our three bedroom condo wearing his jeans and T-shirt, but was barefoot. He had a small smile on his face and his arms were open towards me.
"Oh, Edward," he sighed as he pulled me in for a hug.
I wrapped my arms around his waist and held him tight.
"Come on, let's get you inside," he whispered.
He took a step back, forcing me to let go of him. I watched as he looked over my head probably to Mike and nodded. Jasper grabbed my hand and led me into the house.
I sat down on the chocolate leather sofa and curled up into a ball. I felt terrible, but I still felt better being home in Jasper's company.
I heard him walk down the hall until he returned a moment later. He sat close to me on the sofa and swept his hand across my forehead and down my cheek similarly to what Lauren had done not even an hour ago, but this movement was filled with love. I felt goose pimples shoot across my skin from the contact.
"Beautiful," I heard him mumble.
I hummed as I enjoyed his cool touch.
A few minutes later, I felt him shift off of the sofa. He was back only a moment later and pushing a probe into my ear. I heard it beep three seconds later.
"Edward," I heard Jasper whisper. "You have a fever of 102.1. You couldn't have been feeling well this morning. Why on earth didn't you say something?"
I didn't have a better answer than a nonchalant shrug of my shoulders and burying my head into Jasper's shoulder.
He wrapped his arms around me for a quick hug before pushing me back against the cushions.
He leaned away from me just for a moment, but it was long enough for me to miss the touch of his cool skin. He was back a moment later and said softly, "open."
I dutifully opened by mouth and felt him place a pill on my tongue and a straw against my lips.
"Drink," he ordered.
I took a few small sips of the cool water to wash the pill down my dry throat.
I took one more small sip upon Jasper's insistence before curling up between the arm rest and Jasper's body.
I moaned softly as my stomach churned with the liquid, threatening to come back up. I swallowed fiercely willing it to stay down.
Jasper moved to stretch out behind me. His long, thin frame hanging off the legs as they always did. Gently, he pulled me down next to him.
He whispered in my ear, "Rest, love. I'm here."
Somewhere in the back of my mind it registered that today was Tuesday and he should have a class this afternoon, but I took comfort in his words that he would take care of me.
As if reading my mind, he whispered, "I cancelled class this afternoon. The kids have a project to start that is worth half of their grade so they won't miss me."
After a pause, he continued, "Lauren called me as soon as she knew you were on your way home. She filled me in on this morning.
You have to take care of yourself baby. I see what you're doing. You get up hours before me, work hard all day, you come home, eat dinner, then lock yourself away in that office of yours for another hour or two at night after I go to bed. When you wake up in the mornings, you're exhausted.
This has to stop, baby. I love you, but you can't keep doing this to yourself."
"I know," I whispered back. "It's just I have so many people relying on me to know what I'm doing. Not just the people that work for CF, but all the people who have invested money and the people that work for those people I have the proposal for Aro-"
He cut me off with a gentle squeeze and said, "No, baby. You're sick. We aren't going to think about Aro, Inc. or Caius, Marcus, and Associates right now. All we're going to think about is you, us, and getting you better."
Jasper held me close to him and said, "I know it's a lot of pressure, baby, but you have to take a break. If you don't, you'll end up burning yourself out in another year and you'll be good for no one.
Lauren and I agreed. You are definitely going to take the rest of this week off. She is going to postpone your proposal meeting for Aro, Inc. until next week to give you time for what you need to do, then… you and I are going to take off two weeks and do whatever we want to do.
Really baby, when was the last time when we just had you and me. No interruptions, no phone calls, no commitments. We need this vacation."
"That sounds great, Jazzy" I slurred as sleep began to overtake me, "and I know just the place to go."