Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of Stephenie Meyer. The original plot is the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
I would like to thank Mary-Alice-Brandon-Cullen for prereading this in record time and to CharTwilightMom for helping me with the outline and for giving this one a second preread.
Happy Birthday to shpwhitney!
I hope you like your present :)
Chapter 1 – Christmas Party
I was never big on holidays. Growing up with a mother who worked as a part time kindergarten teacher and a father who's a cop, we never had a lot of money to go around. We always had a turkey for Thanksgiving and a tree up for Christmas, with fairy lights and presents, but it was always simple.
My grandparents passed away when I was very young, so it was always just my parents and me. Since neither of them was religious, we usually had a family dinner, exchanged gifts, and then my father would go on to watch TV, and my mother would go to her hobbies.
Standing in the balcony overlooking the back yard of what could easily have been called a palace, felt foreign to me. Seeing that it was a company affair and I was the IT Applications Team Leader, my presence was required in person at the Cullen Communications Christmas Ball, which was held at the Carlisle Cullen's—the CEO—mansion.
I had been working hard to get this position. For the past four years, I had been juggling a fulltime job at the company's Finance department, keeping my checkbook balanced, my tiny apartment livable, as well as working on my MBA. Fortunately, my former boss, Leah Clearwater, Vice President of Finance, had been very understanding. She let me work from home or on weekends, and at times when my academic load seemed too great, she allowed me to postpone some of my work.
I felt sad when I had to leave her team, even though I was very happy at the benefits that came with the promotion. While she was always my boss, Leah had also become somewhat of a friend to me, and I kept in touch with her after working hours, our friendship growing even stronger once we were no longer boss and employee.
It came as a great shock when not three months after my promotion, Leah had been let go. There were many rumors and whispers circulating as to the reasons why she was essentially fired, but when Mr. Cullen announced that his nephew, Edward Masen-Cullen, would be taking over, there was nearly a riot. The new Vice President of Finance was only three years my senior, had a master's in Marketing, and had no prior experience working for a company as big as CC.
I'd like to think that I would have given him a chance, but the guy was rubbing me the wrong way since the moment he arrived. Not two days into his new position, Mr. Masen-Cullen had decided that all of the Finance personnel needed to be reevaluated, which resulted in many good people going home.
Once he was done with the personnel, he began going over the different applications in use by the department. That was how I, as both a former Finance employee and current Application Team Leader ended up in his office for a meeting. By then, I was more than a little worried. I knew that he probably couldn't get me fired, but I did not want to take any chances.
The meeting was fairly short, but the forty minutes that I had spent alone with him in the same room were more than enough for me to want to slap this man, hard. Between implying that I slept my way into the position and almost accusing me of mishandling company financials, I caught him talking to my chest rather than to my face more than once.
After that, I did my best to avoid the man. It did no good that I wanted to rub my fingers through his reddish brown hair that was always barely on this side of appropriate, that I found his jawline amazingly strong, his lips kissable, and his eyes to be beautiful and almost irresistible. I didn't want to find him attractive, especially when he was the reason my friend had lost her job and was acting like a complete jerk to me, but I did. I think I would have had to be blind, deaf, and dead not to.
The way I saw it, being away from Mr. Edward Masen-Cullen was definitely a perk of this promotion.
I was swiftly pulled back from my reverie by someone calling my name. I turned and saw that Eric Yorkie, the Vice President of IT and my new boss, was waving me to join him. I sighed, plastered a smile to my face, and went to, eh, mingle with the crowd, I believe it's called.
As Christmas grew closer this year, people had huge grins on their faces, bigger than the norm for this time of year. When I asked around, I found out later that this year, the Christmas party would be held at the Cullens' private home. Apparently, it was a one-in-five-years event in which there was an actor dressed as Santa walking amongst the guests and giving away really good presents, copious amounts of food and alcohol were served, and a raffle at the end of the event, with a brand new car as the grand prize. The second and third prizes were not too shabby either—a three-day trip for two to Paris and a weekend getaway in Vancouver.
I was impressed. The company's Christmas bonus was very generous as it was, and a party like that sounded like a really nice event. When it was announced, around the beginning of December, that there would also be a performance by the famous band, "Jasper's Monkeys", I thought that Mr. Cullen might be overdoing it a little. The band's lead singer, Jasper Whitlock, was one hot piece of man. A Texan with the sexiest drawl ever, the man knew how to make his fans wet their panties. Alice Brandon, my best friend since sixth grade, told me that she didn't care if I had to pose as a lesbian; I was taking her to the party or else!
As it were, I didn't have to out myself, however falsely, to take her with me. I was grateful for her presence. It provided me with a much-needed break from the inner politics, not to mention comic relief since Alice, being an accomplished fashion designer, gave me a play-by-play of all the fashion crimes the attendees of the party had committed this evening. She spared no one, and I was genuinely having a great time.
Unfortunately, I still had my personal obligations, so I still had to make a round, say hello and wish a merry Christmas to the big shots. I had a nice break when "Jasper's Monkeys" went on stage, but after their performance, Alice slipped away with a quiet, "Don't wait for me tonight," whispered to me. I didn't even get the chance to remind her that she drove me tonight, rather than the other way around. I only had time to see her reappear in front of a door next to the stage as she slipped past the door.
Shaking my head, I finished the glass of champagne I was holding and placed it on the tray a passing waiter held. I wasn't too worried about finding a ride. I could probably catch a ride with one of my co-workers, assuming I found someone who wasn't too drunk to drive, or I could take a cab.
I turned to see who was calling me and had to keep myself from cringing when I saw that it was the CEO himself. Was I in trouble?
"Mr. Cullen, Merry Christmas." I smiled.
"Merry Christmas, Miss Swan. Allow me to introduce you to my wife, Esme," he said. "Esme, this is Ms. Bella Swan. She is the new head of one of our IT teams."
The loving expression on his face when he spoke his wife's name and glanced at her was staggering. The tough, no-nonsense man that I had grown accustomed to during my years of working at CC was gone to be replaced by a man who seemed to be still very much in love with his wife, even though I knew them to be married for many years.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Swan." Esme offered me her hand with a kind smile that I couldn't help but return.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, too, Mrs. Cullen. You have a beautiful home." I shook her hand gently.
"Thank you." Esme's smile was almost beaming.
"Esme designed this house herself," Mr. Cullen explained. "So how are you enjoying your evening? I trust that everything is well?"
I was surprised to note that he actually cared to hear my opinion. I had come to think ill of him after he had brought on his own nephew to the company, but as I spoke, I saw that he was genuinely listening to me.
"Mom, dad!" A tall, muscled man suddenly appeared behind them. He gave Mrs. Cullen a tight hug before turning to me. "Hi, I'm Emmett."
His eyes seemed to light up with something that I couldn't discern, and his smile turned mischievous. I got a feeling that he either knew something I didn't or was about to do something that he knew he'd be scolded for.
"Beautiful name for a beautiful lady," he said with a wink. "Can I offer you a...drink?"
I chuckled and felt myself blush. He put just enough pause in his tone to turn the question into an innuendo.
"Emmett," Mr. Cullen said in a warning tone when Emmett was about to say something else. "As you might have guessed, Miss Swan, this is our son, Emmett."
"He is usually better mannered." Esme shot a disapproving glare at Emmett.
He simply smiled, a dimpled smile, and shrugged, unfazed. "So...what about that, eh, drink, Bella?"
I couldn't hold back my giggle when that comment earned him a smack in the back of his head by a beautiful blonde woman who came up from behind him. She stepped forward to shake my hand, and I noticed the roundness of her shape. It appeared as though she was pregnant.
"Rosalie Hale-Cullen. I'm married to the big oaf, though sometimes I wonder why."
"Bella Swan." I almost whispered the words, slightly shocked by the seriousness of her tone. Did she really mean that? No, she couldn't have...
Emmett pulled her in for a hug. "Easy," he said. "You love this big oaf and what he can do to you in the—"
"Emmett Cullen!" Esme's tone was sharp as she interrupted what was definitely going to be a crude joke.
"Sorry, Mom." He didn't seem sorry in the slightest.
"So, you're Edward's Bella?" Rosalie asked suddenly.
I stared at her. "Um, what?"
"Rose..." Esme placed a hand on Rosalie's arm, hushing her.
"I, eh, I must be going," I mumbled. "It was a pleasure meeting you all."
It wasn't the most graceful of departures, but I didn't feel like sticking around to hear more. I was fuming. So, now I'm Edward's Bella? That annoying, arrogant...
I had several minutes' worth of expletives added to his name before a touch on my arm drew my attention. It was Mr. Cullen again.
"I must apologize for my daughter-in-law's comment, Miss Swan. It was uncalled for."
"It's okay. Thank you." I offered a small smile. "Apology accepted."
"Please. Enjoy the rest of your evening."
"I will, Mr. Cullen." I just hope you'll forgive me when I kill your nephew.
I studied the crowd as Mr. Cullen walked away, wondering if I should start looking for a ride home. The party didn't seem to be winding down, despite the relatively late hour, but I had had enough. I didn't know where that annoying Mr. Masen-Cullen had gotten the impression that he had any hold on me.
That arrogant, stupid, pretty-eyed, sex-haired, good for nothing, body to die for, kissable lips—
I wanted to slap myself as soon as I realized where my thoughts were taking me.
This was absolutely the worst time to be letting my mind drift to lustful thoughts about someone who was, in a sense, the prodigal son of my boss! Besides, I reminded myself, he's a prick, and you need to stay away from him.
Nodding to myself, I decided that another glass of champagne was in order and took one from one of the passing trays. I made my way through the crowd and leaned against one of the walls on the outskirts of the large room. Mr. Cullen definitely spared no expense in the making of tonight's party, ball, um, Christmas, er, whatever the hell they called it. There were several waiters walking around, a bar at the corner, plenty of hiding places, like the one I was certain Alice was occupying with her mystery man. Not that I could blame her for skipping out on me. If her Mr. Mystery was as hot as...
Are you really sure that you need another glass?
Yeah, that was one hell of a time to get my inner voice talking to me. I looked at the now-empty glass in my hand. The voice was probably right; it might not be the best of idea to have another glass. I'd eaten before drinking, but I felt tipsy already.
I'll just finish this one, and no more—
"What the hell?" I pivoted to see who just bumped into me, but in the shadows here, I couldn't quite discern who it was. "Stupid, drunken co-workers who can't hold in their liquor..."
I had just turned back to face the crowd again when I felt something wet get splashed all over my silk red gown. The first thought I had was that Alice was going to skin me alive—this was her design, and on the free market, it probably cost more than my yearly salary—but as soon as I saw the reddish brown head and those sinfully-green eyes staring at me, the only thing that was going through my mind was that I was going to need to talk to my father about hiding a body. Edward Masen-Cullen was just asking for it.
"You idiot!" I screeched, not even caring what he was about to say. This man had had it coming for months now. First, he got Leah sacked. Then, he spent twenty minutes interrogating me like a fucking suspect in a murder, all the while staring at my bloody breasts! Sometime later, he had managed to stake claim—at least in his family's eyes—while having absolutely no right to do so, and now, this?
"I said I was—"
"I don't fucking want to hear it, Edward!" I was really wishing I hadn't finished that glass of champagne right now; it would have definitely felt great to spill it in his much-too-handsome face and all over his too-expensive suit. Calling him by his first name was the least I could do.
"Now, wait a fucking min—"
"No, you wait a fucking minute." I took a step forward, poking his chest with my finger. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I thanked Alice for putting me in those ridiculously high heels, which allowed me to poke the idiot in his chest while looking him straight in the eye. "I'm tired of you. You chauvinistic," poke, "job-stealing," poke, "under-qualified, BRAT!" three pokes.
I didn't think anyone's face could grow as red as his did at that moment. I should have been scared. I should have worried about the rest of the company—for I didn't think there was a single soul that worked for CC that wasn't here tonight—overhearing us. It was all I could do to hold myself back from slapping him across his face as it was.
I could almost hear him gritting his teeth, and I smirked. This felt good!
"Listen, Miss Swa—"
He grabbed my shoulders.
"Get your filthy, muscular hands—you really have nice hands...—off of me." I frowned, looking down at his large hands. I wonder if it's true what they say about large...wait, I swear I had a point there.
"Will you shut the fuck up for one minute?" he almost roared the question.
I shook his hands off of me and made another step forward, placing us almost a breath away from each other. My finger was still placed firmly in his chest; apparently I was still poking him. "You think you're some kind of God's gift to womankind!" Is that even a word? Oh, who cares! "You walk around like a bloody cock, er, rooster." Now's definitely not the time to mention that, Bella. "But you listen to me, Mister, "I have nice hands, bedroom eyes, and too-fucking-sexy hair,"—"
"You think I have bedroom eyes?" He cocked his head to the side, raising a brow.
Figures that he would hear that part. "I, um...I swear I had a point there," I mumbled. His stupid green, bedroom eyes were staring at me. His lips—totally kissable—curved in a crooked smile that was really just a slight tug at the edge of his mouth and made me feel like tackling him to the nearest bed. How could someone stay focused under that kind of assault?
"I can think of a better one," he said, or, I think that was what he said. I couldn't be sure because at the very next second, his soft, kissable—didn't I say that already?—lips were on my mouth.
He was warm and wet, and, surprisingly, I didn't feel like he was eating my face out like I felt when Mike "the lip molester" Newton tried to plant one on me. Edward was everything that a kiss should be; slow, deep, just the right amount of pull, a soft caress of his tongue.
I think I moaned when I felt his arms wrap around me. I know that I was losing all train of thought when his fingers lodged themselves in my hair, holding my head just at the right angle for his mouth to devour mine.
He tasted of something sweet—chocolate, maybe?—and something sour. I could taste the alcohol in his kiss, but suppressing all of the other flavors was the one that was one hundred percent him.
"God, I should have kissed you a long time ago," he murmured against my lips.
I tried to form the question aloud, but his magical fingers cupped my ass, brushed along the sides of my body, coming close but not close enough, and he pulled me tighter into him—how many hands did this man have?—and when his lips descended on my neck and collarbone, I was fairly certain that the sounds coming from my mouth were rated R.
Speech was a much too complicated task for my mind at that point. It was much happier focusing on his mouth nibbling a path up my neck and to the sensitive skin behind my ear. My legs wanted to be around his waist, rather than trying to hold me upright on wobbling knees, and it was only through great effort that I managed to mumble, "People, um, crowd?"
Luckily, he seemed to understand me.
Edward—it was ridiculous to call him Mr. Masen-Cullen when he had one hand cupping my ass and the other slowly making its way to cup my right breast—led the way around the crowded room and past a pair of doors.
The shock of the cold air of the outside was enough to sober me, but a look at his disheveled hair—when did my hands have enough time to mess up his hair like that?—was also enough for me to say the hell with it.
If I were to be honest with myself, and since mind-reading was a gift left for fictional, sparkling vampires, I could afford being honest in my own mind, I would have had to admit that he had starred in more than one of my fantasies. True enough, they usually involved a closed office, his desk, and bending over, but I wasn't about to complain.
The stay outside was thankfully short. He was taking us to what was probably a pool-house or a guesthouse, which was only a hundred yards or so from the main complex. At any other time, I might have cared to see if there was a pool somewhere in the vicinity of it, or I would have paid attention to the inner decor. Now, however, I had no time or will to do anything like that; as soon as Edward kicked the door shut behind us, his lips were on mine again.
I let him lead me into what I assumed was the bedroom, all the while tugging at his clothes. Why did the man have to wear so many fucking layers? All he had to do was pull down the zipper at the back of my dress—which he did even before we set foot in the bedroom—and I was practically naked. He, on the other hand, had a tie, a jacket, a dress shirt, and, bloody hell, was that a wife-beater underneath it all?
I growled in frustration. "Why the fuck are you wearing so many layers?"
He chuckled, his breath fanning over the skin of my throat, causing a delicious shiver to run down my body. "I apologize, Miss Swan."
"Get rid of it!" I commanded when the third time I tried to tug at his tie, it wouldn't come loose. "I swear, if you don't, I can't be held responsible for the fate of your clothes." I added a bite on his shoulder for good measure and enjoyed hearing him hiss.
"My little kitten has teeth."
"You're about to find out that this kitten has claws, too, if you don't start getting naked right now." I had to resist the urge to stomp my foot, but honestly, he was taking too fucking long. I was about to make some more threats, but he had put that wonderful mouth of his to use on my neck, and my thoughts scrambled again.
His hair was just as soft as I thought it would be, and I really enjoyed burying my fingers in it while he kissed his way down my neck and onto my breasts. My bra disappeared at some point after his tie, and I didn't quite remember how I got to be on my back with him on top of me, but the weight of his body and the pronounced hardness that was poking me in the thigh felt so good that I didn't really care.
I closed my eyes and arched into his touch. He began sucking on my nipples, and it was as though each pull of his mouth was a shot of pleasure that went straight to my core. It felt so good that I knew I was making the most wanton noises ever, but I just couldn't find it in myself to care.
How many times had I dreamt of him naked? How many warm showers did I spend, thinking about all the things I wanted to do to him, wanted him to do to me?
As it was, reality was so much better than any dream of mine. It was like he took the "Bella's Body 101" course, followed by the "Bella's Body – Expert" course. He touched at the exact places I wanted him to touch, and when his mouth touched my core, two of his fingers sliding into me and curling upward, I came so hard that I literally saw stars.
I couldn't breathe. I couldn't think. All of my attention was focused on his head between my legs, on his tongue and fingers doing the most amazing things to my body. I lost count on how many times he made me come before I was too tired to keep my eyes open.
There are four chapters and an Epilogue for this one. All of them will be up today, so stay tuned.
Thank you for reading,