Author's Note: This story originally began posting in October 2008 and was completed in November 2009 under story ID#4626503. I removed it for a variety of reasons. This story has been available to read as a download from the twific database, online via Twific News, and on my blog. Despite the availability of the story, I have still received MANY requests to have it reposted here on ffnet and after much deliberation, I have decided to return it for a period of time. I am posting the entire story, including outtakes, and snippet that was sent out via review replies when the story was originally posted.
Although the story could still use a bit of cleaning up (not to mention some serious clipping and cutting to fix the pacing), I'm not doing much of that at this time. There will not be any additional author's notes in this story unless there was something that particularly needed to be addressed. Thanks go to Shug and DeeMichelle who tirelessly beta'd this story as it was being written and originally posted. And also thanks to the others along the way who had offered bits of advice, crit, etc. As with most cases, it takes an entire community to write a fanfic and that was definitely the case with this story. And that, my dears, is the real reason that I'm reposting this. Thank you.
Oh, and yes, Contractually Bound will be completed, Shug is working on it right now.
Disclaimer: This story is a work of fanfiction. The characters and setting were inspired by SMeyer. The story is mine. Please do not copy without permission.
Coming to Terms
Chapter 1: One Night in Seattle
The waitress set my drink on the table in front of me and, without even bothering to ask if I would like anything else, walked off to attend to another table. Typical. Even at a Hilton I manage to get snubbed by the staff. Though, it's true, I didn't look as if I fit with the ritzy business crowd; even if I was here on business, I just didn't look it anymore. I'd spent far too much time in meetings and boardrooms today in an attempt to convince some of Seattle's most infamous businesses that they needed to update their software and computer security systems, and that the Newton Corporation was the company that would do the best job for them.
Taking a long sip of my drink, I sat back in my chair and sighed. The meetings had gone well, and for that I was grateful. I'd been working for the Newton Corporation since I'd graduated from college and was now vice-president of sales and customer relations for the brand new Pacific Northwest branch that was expected to open in just over two months time. I just didn't know which city I would be calling home. Which meant that I was living out of a suitcase and practically would be until the new office was open. At least after the office was done, my traveling would go back down to the normal once or twice a month.
In the last two weeks I'd been to Eugene, Salem, Portland, Vancouver, Olympia, Spokane, and finally Seattle. I was currently waffling between whether I wanted to pitch Portland and Seattle as the site of the new office because of their size and the quick, easy access to the airport. Ease of travel: always a necessity when a good chunk of your business was sales.
I took another long sip of my drink and closed my eyes to shut out all of the people around me. My feet were tired. My neck muscles ached. Perhaps I needed to take a bath rather than consume alcohol. Not that I was ever a heavy drinker. No, I only drank when I wanted an easy way to unwind after a day full of meetings. Well, either alcohol or sex would serve that purpose, but seeing as I'd not been with a member of the opposite sex in well over a year, and the only man I knew who was available (and readily at that) was Mike Newton… well, let's just say that I wasn't that drunk yet, nor was I likely to ever be.
I had been traveling with my business associate, Mike, for the last two weeks. He was the technical guru; the one who would be in-charge of implementing the promises that I was making. Not to mention that he was the company owner's son.
Mike was currently expressing his preference for Olympia being our new base for Northwest operations. Although he claims that his preference for Olympia has nothing to do with a certain blonde cocktail waitress who he saw, and exchanged saliva with, last Tuesday night. But, the only advantage that Olympia offered was a more central location between the current markets we were trying to break into and if that were the singular deciding factor, Portland would seem the more logical choice.
It didn't matter, though. Not really. Each location was as bad as the other. Wet, rainy, dreary, cold.
It was my own definition of hell.
Why I was even considering this job transfer to one of the rainiest sections of the United States was beyond my current level of comprehension, but admittedly, it meant loads for my career. A raise, a promotion… neither of those things were something to scoff at. Especially since I was still struggling to payoff the student loans I'd taken out to attend college. But the souvenir t-shirt that I'd seen for sale at the Portland airport had made me seriously begin to rethink my decision. The ugly yellow shirt had hung in the shop window with the simple words: People In Oregon Don't Tan… They Rust.
And I knew from experience that Washington was the same. I had spent most of my life living with my mother in California and Arizona, but every summer I had been forced to spend two weeks with my father in a small town in Washington named Forks. Once I'd graduated and had been officially on my own, I'd spent one final summer with Charlie and then had begun college in Arizona with its glorious sunshine. By the time holidays and summers rolled around again, I cited financial responsibilities and work as a reason why I could no longer visit that dismal, rainy little town. The only time that I had ever gone back to Forks was two years ago when Charlie had been shot while on the job. Once the hospital released him and he'd returned home, I'd only stayed for a couple of days until he was settled.
I groaned and massaged my temples.
Alcohol always made me pensive.
"So, Bella, what say you and me open up those doors separating our rooms tonight?" Mike asked as he plopped down in the chair next to mine.
"Uh, no. But thanks for the offer." I didn't even bother to look at him. He had obviously had more to drink than I'd had. He'd gone well beyond pensive to a point I rarely allowed myself to reach... you know that point, it's when all of your inhibitions fall by the wayside and you think it's actually a good idea to go past flirting with your coworker and you all out proposition them.
"Come on, Bella, it could be fun."
I looked up to find that Mike was now leaning on the table towards me. I rolled my eyes. "I'd have more fun getting a bikini wax after I baked in the sun all day."
"Ooh. Ouch." He paused and flashed me a wicked grin. "But a lovely image. Thanks for that."
Then I kicked him.
"Fine, Bella, but you don't know what you're missing," he said, standing from his seat while slightly favoring his left leg that I'd just attacked. "I'll try my luck over there." And with that, he headed towards the bar where a beautiful woman with short, blonde hair had just sat down.
I watched, only marginally interested, as Mike put on his best performance for the young woman. She smiled at him and said something that made Mike laugh before turning her attention to the bartender. Whatever she'd said, I think that Mike felt encouraged because he sat down on the stool next to her and continued his attempts to flirt with her.
With marginal interest I watched the odd little mating dance that I'd seen my co-worker perform on numerous occasions until I felt more than saw someone come up to the table. Assuming it was the snobbish server from earlier, I didn't even to bother to glance her way as I shook my head. "No, I'm good, thanks."
"I'm glad to hear that. Do you mind if I sit down?"
My head snapped up to see one of the most gorgeous men that I had ever laid eyes on. "Uh… um… sure?" It sounded like a question. I quickly glanced around the room, my eyes noticing that there were several empty seats and tables and I wondered why someone like him would want to sit with someone like me.
He sat in the chair that Mike had vacated only a few minutes before, and smiled. It was then that I got a good look at him. His face was nearly flawless, clear, with a strong, angular jaw and a pair of the deepest green eyes that I've ever seen. They were outright mesmerizing and I found myself getting lost in them before I even had a chance to introduce myself. His hair was a reddish-bronze color, a bit longer, messy, and seemed to be almost begging me to run my fingers through it.
I was pretty sure that my mouth was hanging open as I continued to gawk. It wasn't until he began to chuckle softly that I was able to draw myself out of my daze.
"Long day?" he asked.
"God, yes. Sorry." I shook my head to clear my thoughts and held out my hand to him. "I'm Bella."
"Edward," he replied, but instead of shaking my hand as I had expected, he brought it up to his lips and placed a kiss on the back of my hand.
I had to stifle the gasp the built in my chest at the gesture. The instant that his fingers touched my hand, I felt a jolt tingle across my skin. Not like an electric shock, something deeper that raced directly to my soul. What in the hell is going on?
"I really don't normally do this, but I've been watching you since I came in here, and there is just something about you that drew me over here."
"Oh… uh… thanks?" Back to the questions again. Seriously, I didn't know how to respond to this guy, he sounded as if he'd just swallowed my latest Harlequin.
He chuckled again. "I sound stupid, don't I?"
"Well…" At least I smiled at him when I shrugged, right?
"That's what I thought. In my defense, I've been up for the last thirty-six hours, and after this, I plan on going home and sleeping for the next two days."
I ran my finger along the lip of my now empty glass, trying to think of something witty I could say. Ever since he'd approached me, I had the feeling that my brain was leaking out my ears. Really, all I wanted to do was ask him why he was sitting here talking to me, and if he would please kiss me until I didn't even know my own name so that I would at least have something pleasant to dream about tonight. Oh, and while he was at it, to let him know that he was more than welcome to spend the next two days naked in my bed.
Instead, I settled for: "So, what is it that brought you here tonight?"
He nodded towards a table at the other end of the room that currently held four people. The most notable was a blonde woman whose face belonged on the cover of magazines, now she seemed like the type of woman that this man belonged with. She sat between a large, muscular man with curly brown hair, and a much smaller man with dirty blond hair who wore it in a long ponytail. The other person sitting at the table had her back to me; all I could tell was that she was very petite, with short, spiky, black hair.
"I'm here with my brother and his fiancée; they are getting married in a few months, and tonight they were checking out the facilities here. Tasting food, drinks, looking at the banquet hall. I finally had to get up and leave when the hotel's events planner and my sister began to argue about the benefits of flower arrangements versus candles as table centerpieces."
"And you came with them," I deduced.
"Yes. With my sister, Alice. She's the small one with the dark hair. Her boyfriend couldn't join her, and she said that she refused to come here for dinner without a date."
"So, you chose to abandon her when she began to argue with the wedding planner."
"Ah, you see, the event planner is merely the guy who works for the hotel. Alice is acting as my brother's wedding planner. And Alice is very… determined."
"That sounds like another word for stubborn."
"Determined, stubborn, obstinate, pushy… all the same thing," he said with a wink.
"Ah. I see."
There was a pause before either of us said anything. "So, tell me about yourself, Bella."
"Um… what is it that you want to know?" I asked, more than a bit flustered that the conversation was suddenly turned back towards me.
"Well, are you from Seattle? What is it that you do? What brings you to a hotel bar on a Thursday night?"
"Let's see… I'm in Seattle on business. No, I'm not from here, although my dad lives in a tiny town on the Olympic Peninsula, so I am familiar with the area. And it was my business trip that brought me to Seattle on this, dark and drizzly evening." I began to fidget with my fingers as I was speaking; I wanted to forget about the stress of the day. "Look, I would rather not talk about work. It's been a long couple of weeks and I'd simply like to forget all about it."
Edward nodded. "Okay. No talk about work."
"What are your hobbies, then? Tell me, what does Bella like to do with her free time?"
"Oh, that's easy. I love to cook, although, lately, I haven't had much time to do that, because I've been traveling so much. And read. Books are my passion. I like to write, too. I know that sounds silly. I'm not a writer, but I enjoy writing short stories for my own amusement. I swear that it is some of the best therapy there is." The words that I'd just uttered had seemed to come unbidden, and I found myself glancing at the melting ice from my cocktail, wondering if there had been far more alcohol in that beverage than I had thought there was. No one knew about my writing. No. One.
His grin broadened. "I don't think that writing is silly. Everyone needs a creative outlet. Even if it's only for yourself."
"Does that mean that you have a creative outlet, Edward?" I asked, suddenly curious.
"As a matter of fact, I do. I like to compose music."
This surprised me. That sounded so sophisticated compared to my insignificant confession. "Really? That's… wow."
He shrugged. "Not really. It's just something to help me unwind after a long day of work. Just like with you, it's something that's only for me."
"What sort of books do you like to read?"
"Anything. Everything. I'm sort of a book whore." I blushed as soon as those words left my mouth. "What I meant was that I have a large variety of tastes. From Austen, Tennyson, and Bronte to Maguire, Lindsay, King, Patterson…. On rare occasions I'll even pick-up a Nora Roberts novel."
"So, from classic literature and romance to serial killers, murder mysteries, and more romance?" he asked, amused. "When you said everything, you weren't kidding."
"No, I wasn't." I was impressed that just by last names he seemed to know which authors I was talking about. It made me wonder how well-read he was. "And of course, you've read your fair share of Nora Roberts, haven't you?"
It was his turn for his cheeks to turn slightly pink, but he shook his head. "No, not really. But I have been known to grab whatever is on the table to see what other people are reading. My sister is a Nora Roberts fan and a closet Harlequin enthusiast." He leaned closer toward me and whispered, "Shh. Please don't tell her I told you that."
I laughed. "On my honor."
"Thanks. Okay, everyone has read King, and most have at least heard of Patterson. What are your opinions on Maguire and Lindsey?"
That was the jumping off point to a conversation that engrossed us both. Edward, it seems, was also an avid reader, although he said that he rarely had time to read these days, unless it was a medical journal. Despite my claim that I didn't want to discuss work, I did end up telling Edward that my company was looking at moving me to either Washington or Oregon, and he wound-up telling me that he was a doctor… which explained his thirty-six hour shift and his penchant for reading The American Journal of Medical Sciences and Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.
Edward played the piano and that was what he composed his music on, and he had a hidden passion for books about serial killers, both true crime and fiction. He said that reading about the psychological implications of someone who was so completely deranged was fascinating. I wanted to ask what he specialized in, but for some reason, I was enjoying getting to know a person, not who they are based on their name or their profession. I was so thoroughly engaged in the conversation that I jumped when I felt someone touch my shoulder some time later.
"Hey, Bella, this is your last chance with me tonight," Mike announced behind me.
"You know how I pine for you, Mike. But tonight, I think I'll pass."
He nodded his head towards Edward. "Better offer, eh? Yeah, I know how you are. Prefer the new guy over what you can have any day of the week."
"Yeah, that's it," I said as I snorted to cover my embarrassment from his statement. "Oh, Mike, this is Edward. Edward, this is Mike, my co-worker."
Mike grinned and leaned over to shake Edward's hand. "Nice to meet you." Then he turned his attention back to me. "Well, you know where I am in case you change your mind."
"Uh, yeah, Mike. See you later." I watched as he walked away to presumably try his luck with his next potential victim.
I shot Edward an apologetic look. "I'm sorry about him. He's…" I waved my hand a bit. "He's just like that."
Edward smiled. "Yeah, my brother is," he waved his hand, mimicking my previous actions, "like that, too."
I giggled softly. "Thank you. It's nice to know someone who understands."
Just then he pulled out his cell phone which I could hear was beeping. I watched as he looked at the Blackberry, grinned, and shook his head.
"Everything all right?" I asked.
"Yeah, my brother, he just sent me a text to let me know that they all left me here because they didn't want to interrupt."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I hadn't even noticed that they'd left," I said, craning my head to look over at the now empty table that I'd seen his family occupy earlier.
"I didn't either. They're all just hoping that I score. They figure that'd be more likely if they left me without transportation. I'll just call a cab in a while."
I didn't know how to respond to that. I found myself blushing, of course, but for some reason I felt disappointed at the idea of him leaving. We were getting along well. I liked Edward far more than any other guy that I'd met in the last year. And there was just something about him. It was like he had said when he'd sat down—I felt drawn to him.
But I wasn't a brash and bold woman. I knew how to get what I needed… what I wanted in the boardroom. However, that was a performance—nothing more than acting out a character of a much stronger, more confident, and powerful Bella. The strong Bella who took control of a situation and told people what it was that they truly wanted—whether they needed it or not—and was able to make those people believe it.
That wasn't me. Not really. I knew how to draw on that persona when I needed to get the job done. Most of the time, though, I hid. I was shy by nature. Too worried about what other people would think of me if I were to be too vocal.
But, damn! I wanted this man. Far more than any other man that I'd encountered before. He was witty, funny, smart, clever, confident, and probably the most gorgeous man that I'd ever met. And for some odd, unknown reason that I couldn't even begin to fathom, he seemed to want to talk to me.
My entire being yearned for him.
And it was for that reason—that sudden all-consuming urge that had begun in the pit of my stomach and had leeched out to encompass my brain, thereby causing me to completely tune-out that little voice of reason that was typically so vocal in the back of my head—that I did something completely unlike me. I tapped into that confident, self-assured Bella who was good at closing a sale. "You don't have to leave, you know."
I don't know who was more shocked by my simple words, me or Edward. Not once had I given off even a hint that I was "that kind of girl." Edward's eyes snapped up and locked with mine, it was as if he were trying to look into my very soul. I felt exposed, yet oddly comforted.
"Look," I said, trying to break the sudden tension that had developed, even though my own insecurities had had a chance to resurface. "I don't… I really don't want you to leave. I—I can't explain it, but…"
And suddenly the surprise melted from his gaze and was replaced with nothing less than desire, as a crooked smile grew on his face that made my heart nearly melt. Edward stood from his chair and held out a hand to me. "You lead the way, Bella."
The knot was replaced by butterflies as I grasped his hand for a moment, giving it a gentle squeeze before letting go and walking with him to the elevators.
I'd been nervous the entire walk up to my room, constantly clenching and unclenching my hands into fists. My heart was nearly pounding out of my chest, and I had to constantly remind myself to slow down my breathing. Passing out right now wouldn't be a good thing. When we finally reached my room, I fumbled in my purse for my room card.
His hand reached out and grabbed my hand into his as he turned me to face him. Edward's other hand reached up and gently cupped my cheek as he started to gaze into my eyes.
He brought his finger to my lips to silence me. "Let me say this, please."
I nodded, never breaking eye contact with him.
"Bella, before we go in there, I want you to know that this isn't the sort of thing that I do." He brushed his fingers from my mouth, back up along my cheek. "I just need you to know that I'm not doing this because of some text that my brother sent. I want to do this."
I grinned. "I don't do this either, I—" This time my words were cut-off as his lips met mine. His lips moved against mine and the energy that seemed to generate at his touch began to thrum, almost urging us along. That single kiss held more passion and desire than I had experienced in my life. I could almost swear that I felt his soul reach out and touch my own. My heart began to beat wildly, no longer able to keep up a steady rhythm.
Edward pulled back slightly and smiled. Reaching down between us, he grabbed the key card that I had managed to find in my purse and swiped the door, letting us inside.
Like many mornings when I'm on business trips, I woke up feeling disoriented. This didn't feel like my room, like my bed, and the pillows most definitely weren't my pillows. The sheets were a tangled mess, and I felt as if I were missing something important.
I opened my eyes and squinted at the sun that was filtering in through the window. Gradually my eyes adjusted and the room came back into focus. And the fog from my sleep lifted. I bolted upright in bed and looked around the room.
I was alone.
The side of the bed that he had occupied for at least part of the night was cold and empty. I clambered out of bed and stumbled to the bathroom, noting that his clothes that had been scattered across the floor were no longer there. As I'd predicted, the bathroom was empty, too.
I walked back over to the bed, lay down, stared at the ceiling and sighed. It wasn't as if I'd expected him to stay. I just hadn't expected him to sneak out while I was sleeping. I'd been hoping for one final kiss before he walked out my door forever. Running my hands across my forehead first, I then rubbed my eyes.
He really had been amazing. I reached over my head and grabbed the pillow he'd used while he slept and brought it to my face, inhaling deeply. Memories began to flood my mind. The way it felt as my fingers ran down the planes of his muscular chest; the way his hands touched and caressed every part of my body; the way his mouth had wandered from my lips to my neck, to my breasts, to my…. I shook my head. If I allowed my mind to reminisce, I would never get anything done today, and I had a plane to catch in—I glanced at the bedside clock—damn, three hours.
With a deep breath, I sat up. I needed to shower, dress, and pack before Mike decided to knock on my door. It's not like I expected him to, Mike was a late sleeper and usually needed me to pound on his door to wake him up. Standing up, I went to my suitcase and grabbed my clothes for the day, before heading towards the bathroom. As I was walking past the desk, I noticed a piece of paper on it, being held down by a pen and an unused condom. Subtle.
I had a great time.
Call me if you make it back in to town. Maybe we can get together again.
His phone number was written at the bottom.
Suddenly I felt hurt. It had been my idea to come upstairs, damn it. But I'd felt a connection with this guy. Almost instantly I'd thought of him as more than just a way to get laid. The last thing that I'd wanted was to feel like nothing more than a piece of ass. Though, I don't know what I'd really been expecting. He'd never even given me his last name. Granted, I hadn't shared mine either. It had all been my idea: not getting too personal, inviting him upstairs. But this was all new to me, all of the guys I'd had sex with before were men who I'd been in a relationship with first. I'd never been good at understanding this casual sex thing.
Seriously, Bella, grow up! I chastised myself when I felt the urge to cry.
I grabbed the note off of the desk, crumpled it up, and tossed it into the waste basket to join the used condoms and their wrappers. There was simply too much stress in my life; with the promotion, the move to an unknown city, and the current push to build a new customer base, I certainly didn't need to add the complication of a potentially intimate relationship with someone who seemed to only be looking for one thing from me. With growing aggravation, I considered each of my failed relationships. From the dysfunctional interactions I had with my parents, to my past boyfriends, to how I can't even get some random guy in a bar to look at me as something more than an easy fuck, it was suddenly very clear to me that I was meant to be alone.