Boy, it's soooo good to be back! I simply cannot wait to reconnect with all of you!
A huge thank you to adt216 and painjane for taking this new journey with me—even after I had them working like slaves on T&CA. I appreciate you two so much!
I have a pre-reader, cheerleader and loyal friend this time around. Thank you, JustPeachy00 for all your insightful words, advice and for just being a really great friend and fan. You make me smile. The title of this fic was also her wonderful idea...she's just amazing!
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight or any of the characters associated with it.
Summary: Bella Swan is a beautiful, spunky gossip columnist. Edward Cullen is an arrogant, hot New York socialite. When Edward is admitted into rehab, Bella will stop at nothing to get her story. On her journey to get the scoop, she will reveal things about Edward that makes her question her own intentions, as more than the truth gets uncovered.
"Good morning, James."
"Ah, Miss Swan. A good morning indeed."
"Here you go. Black, no sugar." I place the coffee on the slick granite surface and push it towards him.
"You're too good to me." He takes the offering with a wide grin.
"You're worth it, my friend." I wink and sidestep his desk. "Don't know how you can drink it that way."
"I need to check the cholesterol, or the wife will kill me herself." He chuckles.
It's the same routine every morning. I leave my apartment at exactly seven o'clock, stop at the Starbucks a few blocks from my office to pick up James's coffee, walk into the thirty-story building where Dawn Edition, my employer, is situated; present James, the balding, middle-aged security guard at the front desk with his coffee, before making my way to the elevator.
The greeting is always the same—the chitchat predictable.
I wouldn't want it any other way.
"Give Miss Vicky my love," I call over my shoulder once I've swiped my security clearance card.
"Always do," he replies with a kind wave.
Smiling brightly, I step into the elevator, watching the doors close smoothly. I catch my reflection in the stainless steel cage, humming along to the bubblegum music filtering through the speakers. I straighten out the collar of my crisp, white shirt before smoothing down my skirt with confident palms.
Most people hate Mondays. I...love them. In the tabloid world, every Monday is like Christmas. It's the day after the weekend. In other words, the day after all the fun happened. And with 'fun', I mean the kind where one or the other celebrity got shit faced and hooked up with an old flame, smoked up and assaulted the paparazzi or got pulled over for a DUI.
Thank you, Miss Lindsay Lohan for paying the bills.
I feel a shiver of anticipation run through me. Today is different, I don't know why, but I can feel it.
The office is buzzing by the time I enter the floor. Everyone is scurrying around, phoning their sources, verifying their leads and causing a cacophony of voices and energy in the open space setup.
I smile, because shit, I really love Mondays.
"Hey, Swan! Think quick!" I raise my hands just in time to catch a small box, the contents of which shakes and clangs loudly.
"What is it?" I call over to Yorkie without slowing my pace.
"Maybelline sent it." He shrugs. "Probably a 'thank you' for running that long-assed ad for them."
"Cool," I mumble, tossing the box on my desk before throwing my handbag down next to it. We always get little gift bags or trinkets from our various clients. It's a perk of the job—one of many.
I have a ton of work to do today. One of my sources called last night, giving me the break I've been waiting for on a story I've been working to crack for weeks.
"That's a crock of shit!" I start when I hear my boss's voice booming from his office, causing a quick lull in the conversations around me. "Don't come back in here until you've got something better!"
"Asshole," Tyler mumbles as he storms past me. I stare after him with a curious smirk, wondering what the hell the poor guy did wrong this time.
"Swan!" Oh crap. My smirk evaporates.
I turn my neck stiffly, peaking over my shoulder into his office. He looks dishevelled and tired, making him look older than thirty-one.
"Yes?" I ask tentatively. I'm in no mood to get scolded like my poor colleague. I have shit to do, without having to brood over one of his renowned mood swings all day.
"Get in here." He waves a hand in annoyance. I fight the urge to roll my eyes and take a deep breath instead. Tyler turns to give me a sympathetic smile from his cubicle. I grin back, shrug and make my way towards the Temple Of Doom.
"Close the door behind you," he commands gruffly, rubbing his fingers over his temples.
"Well, good morning to you too, Jasper." I smile sweetly once I've closed the door and taken a seat across from him.
He chuckles and raises his head from his hands, casting me a reluctant smile.
"Morning, my pet," he drawls with a lazy wink.
Yes, I am teacher's pet. Jasper adores me and I respect him.
I suffer the brunt of his bad moods more than most, but we understand each other. He lets me do my thing, without interfering too much, and I bring him the stories every time. We have trust. In this industry, it's hard to come by, and therefore, we both work at not screwing it up.
"What crawled up your ass?" I tilt my head to the side, reaching for his mug to take a sip from his tea.
"You mean, what Crowley'd up my ass?" he corrects me with a heavy sigh, closing his eyes to find his Zen.
"What did he do this time?" I've known Tyler Crowley since he started working here, almost two years ago. When that boy hits the money shot, he hits it good. But then he fucks up, he fucks up extraordinarily. It makes him unreliable, and therefore, at times, Jasper's worst enemy.
"Don't ask." Jasper shakes his head, falling back against his chair.
I snicker and take another drink from his mug.
"You buy James coffee every morning. Why don't you get your own tea while you're at it?" he asks with a sigh, indicating that he's barely tolerating my forwardness.
"I like yours better." I shrug, pushing the mug back towards him, but not before having a final taste.
He smiles. I smile.
After a long pause, he finally speaks. "I've got some news that's going to make that innocent, little heart of yours leap through you chest."
"Innocent? Really?" I snort-laugh at his ridiculous comment. "I haven't been innocent in a very long time, my friend."
"Oh, I'll always remember you as the small town virgin that walked into this office in a pair of jeans and a hoody." He chuckles.
"I had to grow up sometime." He nods and then steeples his fingers beneath his chin as I cross my legs, my knee bouncing restlessly. "So? What's the news then?"
He grins widely, knowing that I'm always far too eager to get the dirt. Whatever he's holding back is something big, and I feel the earlier anticipation build in my chest.
"Edward Cullen was admitted into rehab on Friday."
His words fill the empty silence of his office, fill my ears with buzzing blood and fill my chest with exhilaration.
"I'm sorry." I swallow thickly. "Do you mind repeating that, please? Because I'm almost sure you just said that Edward-fuck-me-please-Cullen was admitted into rehab." My voice is slowly rising in pitch as my excitement matches it stride for stride.
He nods, mouth twisted up into a satisfied smirk, eyes burning realization into mine.
"Holy shit," I breathe slowly as I blink in shock and awe.
Not because I pine after the spoilt, arrogant, sexy hellion of the Upper East Side, although I would be lying if I said I wasn't affected by his good looks—me and half of New York's population, including the grandmas—but because Edward Cullen sells magazines. By that, I don't mean that he literally sells them. I mean that whenever a story about him is published, it flies off the shelves within hours. He is the proverbial golden goose of the gossip magazine industry. And of course, as these things go, the hardest socialite to get dirt on.
Now, don't get me wrong, there is a lot of dirt on that boy, but none we're ever able to get our hands on. Daddy Cullen, better known as Carlisle Cullen—New York property tycoon—pays a lot of people a lot of money to keep his children out of the papers.
"Who's your source?" I ask once I've collected my thoughts, feeling my knee bounce restlessly.
"Can't tell." Jasper shrugs. Of course not. We don't share our sources, anonymity is our greatest ally.
"Do we have someone on the inside?" My mind is racing a mile a minute. I'm already running through my list, thinking of people who might confirm the rumour.
"Nope." I frown at his answer.
"We don't have anyone inside?" He shakes his head. "How the hell are we going to find out what he's in for then?"
"That's the tricky part." His careful answer sets me on edge. What the hell is going on here?
"Where is he?"
"He's with Volturi."
"Oh shit," I sigh. The Volturi family is known for running an exclusive rehabilitation facility in Antigua. They're the best in the industry, not only because they deliver results, but because they're almost more tight fisted when it comes to anonymity than we are.
"We've already tried to hack into their system, but it's impenetrable," Jasper explains, running his hands through his golden locks. If you ever passed him on the street, you would never guess his occupation. Cowboy looking men with golden skin, sparkling blue eyes and lazy smiles aren't usually associated with gossip magazines. It's a weapon I've seen him use to his advantage on more than one occasion. We all have our little arsenal of gifts to fool our unsuspecting victims.
"So we break the news of his rehabilitation stint, and that's it?" I find it hard to believe that Jasper would call me into his office for only that.
"No, of course not." He chuckles humourlessly. "Don't you think that once we break the story, Carlisle Cullen will lock down on this shit like it's Fort Knox? We'll never get anything on the Cullens again."
"We never get anything on the Cullens as it is, anyway," I grumble in frustration.
"That's exactly why we can't waste this opportunity. We need to make the most of this story. Get all we can while it's there for the taking." The tone of his voice grows in authority and excitement and for a moment, I feel like I'm in boot camp, being prepped for war.
"We need to do something we've never done before..." He lets his sentence trail off, and finally I know that we've reached the reason why I'm sitting here.
"What did you have in mind?" I ask suspiciously, my knee dancing at a renewed beat.
"We need to go in."
"Go in where?" I'm as confused as puke in a tumble dryer.
"Into the beehive, baby." His grin makes me feel uneasy. I just know I'm not going to like this. "Into Volturi."
I blink a couple of times, open and close my mouth a few times more, before I finally find my voice.
He nods, smiling brightly.
"Please tell me you're not suggesting that I book myself into Volturi for this story."
"It's not a suggestion."
My world comes to a screeching halt. The noise outside his office dims down to a low humming, filling my ears like water.
"What?" I shriek. "I'm not booking into fucking rehab, Jasper. Are you crazy?" I feel I might hyperventilate, my breathing leaving my chest in desperate huffs as my muscles strain to flee.
"It's a done deal, Swan. I need you to do this. There's no one else." His voice transforms into boss mode, and I can tell there's no room for argument.
I ignore it.
"No, no, no." I shake my head desperately. "I'm a journalist, Jasper. Not an actor. How the hell am I going to pull this off? I can't fake an addiction!"
"You're a tabloid journalist, Bella," Jasper deadpans with a roll of his eyes, causing me to set my mouth in a grim line. "You lie and deceive people every day to get your stories. This will be a walk in the park for you."
I stare at him dumbfounded before hunching back in my chair with a resigned slump. I hate that he's right. This is what I do. I'm good at it too, and he knows it.
We're silent as I stare at him sullenly. He sips from his mug, his chuffed smile impossible to miss and even more impossible not to hate. I can tell by the resolve in his eyes that this is happening, whether I like it or not.
I contemplate the meaning of it. I can understand that Jasper would want all the dirt on the Cullens he can get his hands on. Shit, I want it too. We've waited for this break for what seems forever, or at least for the last five years I've been working here. His trust in me is the only reason he's sending me out there, and although I should feel flattered that he's entrusting me with such a responsibility, I'm momentarily annoyed with the fact that there's no one else good enough.
"How the hell am I supposed to get the dirt from Cullen?" I voice my concerns. "Surely, a man would be best for the job. You know, befriend him, talk about women and sex like men do." Given Edward's less than exemplary reputation with the opposite sex, I hardly believe that he'll spill any personal details with the likes of me. He has no respect for women, why would he ever trust one enough to share his most private thoughts with.
"You're going to have to dig up the girl you were when you started working for me." He shrugs.
"That girl is long gone." I laugh cynically. Sure, she's still there in my insecure moments, but those have become few and far between. New York and the tabloid industry have stripped her of her innocence, her naivety, her clumsiness. After a while, once you've seen and done the things I have, acting blasé and sassy easily replaces blushing and gushing. I'm still an optimist, in most things. At least that's something this town hasn't managed to take from me yet.
"I've seen you work the wide eyed innocent look with bashful smiles and twirling hair on more than one occasion to get what you want." Jasper chuckles.
I grumble my annoyance lowly.
"I know you can do this, Bella." His voice is soft and reassuring, and I can't help but respond to it with a reluctant smile. He knows how to manipulate emotions so well. It's like a gift.
"When do I leave?" I ask with a resigned sigh.
"Tomorrow." I swallow at his answer.
"I presume I'm already admitted?" I don't give him a chance to respond, already knowing the answer to my question. "What's my alias?"
He smiles brightly. I can see the dollar signs dance behind his irises.
"You're booked in under Bella Dwyer."
"Dwyer? What in hell kind of a surname is that?"
"My old baseball coach's surname."
"How creative," I snort.
"Comes with the territory," he shoots back without pause. "You're from Forks, Washington."
"At least that part is true," I grin sardonically. "Why do I get to keep my name?"
"I don't want you to get confused. You're going to have to play a part and giving you a different name might make you slip."
"Fair enough." I shrug. "What's my vice?"
"Alcohol." He nods, raising an eyebrow to match mine.
"Are you trying to tell me something, Jasper?"
"Not at all, Miss Swan." His smile is sickeningly sweet. "I just thought with your...vast...knowledge of wine and such, that it would be an easier role to fill." I don't miss the meaning behind his pause.
"I don't have a drinking problem," I defend sourly.
"No," he shakes his head with a laugh. "You don't. But—" he pauses, leaning back in his chair, "you know nothing about the harder stuff, either."
"True." I nod my assent. I never dabbled in drugs before, and I certainly don't plan on doing it now.
"What time do I leave?"
"Your flight is at eight tomorrow morning." Jasper reaches into one of his desk drawers and pulls out an envelope, before tossing it towards me. "It's all in there. Your plane ticket, your new identity, a credit card for when you book in, the works."
"How presumptuous." I smile flatly, taking the envelope in both hands.
"I know you, Bella." He laughs. "You want this just as much as I do." Damn him for being right, and damn me for having no moral compass.
"How long will I be there?"
"The program is for six weeks, but—" he raises a hand to stop me from blurting my objections, "you can leave as soon as we have enough."
My panic deflates minutely as I sigh a breath of relief.
"What do you need me to do?"
"Get whatever you can from him. You'll know once you have what we need."
I nod, staring at the envelope in my hands. I can hardly believe I'm doing this. One part of me wants to cower away in a corner, the other—more dominant part—wants to storm into this head first, kick asses and take names. I can't really tell if my nerves are eating away at me because I'm going to have to convince a bunch of veterans that I have a drinking problem, or if it's because I'm going to have to get closer to the elusive Edward Cullen, but either way, I feel myself gearing to go.
"I want you to be cautious around Edward Cullen, Bella." Jasper's warning cuts through my internal thoughts.
"Excuse me?" I frown in confusion.
"You know his reputation with women, Bella." He eyes me wearily. "Apart from the fact that he's a playboy and a notorious man-whore, he's also manipulative and clever and fucking powerful. If you're not careful, he'll be playing you instead of the other way around."
"Why are you telling me this, Jasper?" I laugh sardonically. "You're the one that chose me. Shouldn't you have worried about his possible advances earlier?"
"I did think about it." He pulls his mouth into a hard line. "I know you're the strongest I've got, but that doesn't mean I don't worry anyway."
"I can handle him, Jasper." I huff indignantly. If there's one thing I'm not, it's a blabbering, swooning princess, which is exactly the type of girl Edward-I'm-too-pretty-to-give-a-shit-Cullen surrounds himself with. I don't know what he's compensating for—whether he has a small dick or whether he bangs these bimbos because he's too 'special' to make an effort, but I'm not intimidated by him. Men, or rather boys, like Edward Cullen, are what is wrong with our society. I'm not a hypocrite. I know people like me feed the masses all the shit about people like them, getting the general public addicted to it, but that doesn't mean that I condone it. Just like a liquor storeowner doesn't necessarily condone alcoholism. It's a job, and somebody needs to do it. Right now, that somebody is me.
"I'm not going to let the pretty boy anywhere near my panties, if that's what you're worried about," I confirm with a sneer. "He won't stand a chance." I can feel my voice growing in assertiveness, the blood pumping through my veins vigorously as my irritation builds.
My eye catches Jasper's shit-eating grin, and I know I've been had.
"Just checking." He chuckles.
"I hate you," I deadpan.
"You love me." He grins.
"No I don't," I grumble, fastening my hold on the envelope on my lap, embarrassed that I walked straight into his trap.
"Get out of here. Give your current leads to Angela to follow up on. Get packing. Tomorrow is a big day for you, Bella Dwyer," he shoots off his list of instructions.
"So bossy," I joke grudgingly, jumping up from my seat before shooting him a winning smile.
"It's what I do," he replies playfully, casting me a quick wink before I reach his door.
"Do I get promoted if I pull this one off?" I ask before pulling the door open.
"To what?" He barks a laugh. "Head gossiper?"
"I like the sound of that." I join him in laughter.
"We'll talk about it when you get back." He shuns me away with a wave of his hand. "Make me proud."
"I always do," I comment before stepping out of his office.
A feeling of dread momentarily grips me as I stare anxiously over the floor of cubicles filled with my hustling and bustling co-workers.
What the hell have I gotten myself into?
And? How was that?
I'm so damn nervous this time around. LOL!
I'm working on writing a few chapters ahead. If all goes well, I'll be updating weekly once chapter one has been posted.