This story was originally submitted for the Fandom4TwiFanG compilation. It will be expanded to a short story!
Much love to my friend and trusty beta, Magnolia822, and my prereaders Kitty & TropicalSorbet (who came up with the title!). Much love to Lolypop82 for making the awesome banner for this story.
As always, SM owns it all. I make her characters even cooler.
The office springs from its post lunch hour droop and in an instant, energy levels buzz around me. There's only one thing in this whole place that would incite the crazy...
"Cullen's on the way up!" I hear Mike's disembodied voice from a few cubicles down.
"Shit," I hiss, quickly putting away my Inked and Tattoo magazines and closing out my gossip websites.
Jane flutters around in the next cubicle like a headless chicken. She's Cullen's PA, and not a very good one. I can hear papers being shuffled around. Poor kid. The blonde was strong with this one.
I hear a thump and an "Oh, crap!" from her before poking my head around the partition to survey the fail. Her half-empty coffee mug is knocked over, its contents soaking papers that most likely were somewhat important at some point. Since I'm her unofficial assistant from time to time, I figure now is a good moment to act the part.
"Jane, chill out, I'll clean this up. You get yourself together," I say calmly, waving her off.
She looks up at me with the most fearful blue eyes, somewhat relieved. "Oh, Bella, thank you! Here, take care of this!" She orders, thrusting a wad of napkins from her drawer and eyeing the mug and coffee-stained documents. I do the best I can, patting the excess liquid quickly, but unable to take the stain out. Bummer.
Just then the ding of the elevator rings out like an omen of doom and everyone holds their breath and proceeds to act busy- keyboards clicking away like chattering teeth.
Cullen's entrance is a slow motion movie moment, really. That's the only way I can describe it. And I've only seen it a few times since I started working here three months ago.
From where I'm sitting, all I can see is an unruly mess of penny-colored hair bobbing in and out of view from over the partition as he walks.
And a jaw. That's about it.
He's in the corner office, of course, since he's CEO of Cullen Energy, Inc. Apparently, it's a recent development since he only took over for his retired grandfather a month before I started here. I haven't seen much of him, having witnessed only two other office freak outs like this one.
Cullen's door shuts with purpose and there's a collective exhale from the worker bees.
Jane's intercom buzzes angrily followed by the boss' rumbling, masculine voice.
"Miss Voltur, please bring me the proposals I requested earlier... quickly, please."
Well, at least he said 'please'.
"Yes, Mr. Cullen."
Jane quickly shifts more papers around, and I swear she does that just to look important. She grabs the papers she needs, including the brown, stained one.
This is not going to end well.
Cullen is known to be a bit of a perfectionist and kind of an ass.
Oh, no. This won't end well at all.
She flits away in a huff towards his office and disappears behind the closing door.
I'm knee-deep in data entry about five minutes later when I hear Cullen's door click open followed by a teary-eyed Jane speed-walking back to her desk. I stare at her, along with the rest of our office mates as she takes out a small box and starts collecting her things.
"Jane?" I whisper.
"Just don't, Bella. I fucked up. He fired me. End of story," she sniffs.
"Oh, Jane... Um, I'm..."
"Oh, please, Bella. You never really liked me. I know that. You don't have to act like you care," she hisses, throwing her One Direction calendar in the box and grabbing her purse.
She's kinda right, I guess. It's not that I don't like her, though, I just have nothing in common with her.
Because really... One Direction? Cue eye roll.
She's gone in an instant, saying goodbye to Lauren, the receptionist around the corner before slipping into the elevator.
Well, that's that.
Everyone around me pretty much goes back to work, so I figure the drama's over.
Around four my phone buzzes on my desk.
Hey slut. We're still on for later?
My best friend, Rose.
Sure thing h00r. Got some sketches 2 show u 4 the torso piece u wanted. -B
Cool beans. I'll order some vindaloo from that place you like. -R
Don't forget the mango lassis. My mouth will die w/o them. -B
You're such a drama queen. 3 stars isn't spicy. -R
Says the girl who thinks 5 stars is a walk in the park. -B
Ha ha. See you later woman. -R
I'm getting back to my oh-so-exciting data screen just before I hear Cullen's door open. It's like a Pavlovian response here and everyone once again holds its breath. It's usually around this time that Cullen's out the door to do whatever high-society snobs like him do after ordering people around all day.
But no. Not today.
Today, I notice incredulously, he walks towards my side of the floor. He couldn't be...
What the hell?
He's at my side a moment later, leaning against the partition that once divided my cubicle from Jane's. He eyes her empty space before turning back to me and, for the first time, I catch a full glimpse of the man.
Well, whaddayaknow. The man is fine.
The Jaw's in full effect, perfectly smooth skin and blazing green eyes. And speaking of blazing, the hair. The hair's a riot of burnt sienna... and maybe a little yellow oxide.
I can't help it, I speak in paint colors.
His black suit is perfectly tailored and fitted, like perfectly. It's a little too much for my senses.
Oh, wait. He's talking. Shit.
"I'm sorry. What did you say?" God, I sound like a moron.
He narrows his eyes at me and eyes my own workspace before repeating himself.
"I said," he pauses to breathe. Apparently, he's also impatient. "Miss Voltur is no longer employed at Cullen Energy and therefore, you will be my acting PA until a suitable replacement has been hired."
"Um, sir. I appreciate your trust in my abilities, but I'm hardly qualified for the position. I'm just a data person."
"Nonsense. Don't think it has escaped my attention that you were the one responsible for cleaning up Miss Voltur's messes time and time again. LIke I said, it's temporary until I can interview and hire a new assistant. That said, I need these proposals re-typed. They're stained and unacceptable. I trust you'll make them perfect."
That's when I notice the file in his other hand, and when he places it on my desk right next to my keyboard, I look down.
His long fingers rest on the file, and my eyes follow upwards until I see something that totally screws with my brain.
Just a sliver of black ink peaks out from under his very expensive looking silver watch and cuffed sleeve, right on the wrist.
Cullen's tatted up.
This is a new development. And I'm totally turned on.
"By lunch time tomorrow, Miss Swan. Yes?"
Shit. He's talking again.
When I look up, he's staring at me like I must be crazy.
I must be.
I clear my throat nervously before replying.
"Yes, Cullen... I mean, yes, Mr. Cullen, sir. I'll have that done and come for you... I mean... come to you tomorrow with the proposals. You can count on me, sir, Mr. Cullen... sir."
Shit. I'm an imbecile.
His brow arches before he straightens and walks away.
"Oh, my God," I mutter to myself, still trying to make sense of what I just saw.
My hot boss is inked up, and I'm dying to find out how inked up he is.
It's totally wrong on every level.
A minute later, he's out the door making his normal beeline to the elevator, but this time, he looks around before locking his gaze on me.
It's unreadable, but it's still acknowledgement.
Well, that's new.
"This is pretty baddass, Bella. When can we start?"
Rose peers over my sketches for the torso piece we've been back and forth on for the last two months. Well, it started as a torso piece but now it's evolved to a torso wrapping to the back and up the shoulder.
"Yeah? You don't think it's too much? I mean, cherry blossoms are really popular now and I just wanted yours to be a little different."
"No, no, this is perfect. I kinda like the idea of the roots being more prominent at the waist and growing up and over like that. It's going to rock, girl," she assures me, taking the last swig of her glass of wine.
I'm pretty damn proud of myself. Rose has been my canvas for the last year or so, starting from a tiny skull key on her wrist to full blown concepts.
"I bet your painting teachers never imagined you'd use your art background for this stuff, eh? All those stuffy ass gallery types..." she trails off as she puts the empty plates in the kitchen.
"Well, it's still art to me; I'm just using skin instead of paper or canvas," I reply, still tweaking my design just so.
"So, what about this guy, your boss." She's at my side again with a second glass of wine watching me draw. "You stopped the story when the chick was fired, what happened after?"
"Ugh, it's still completely surreal to me, Rose. Turns out my boss, Mr. Cullen, comes out of his office towards me, which he never ever does, and tells me I'm acting PA until he can hire someone else."
"Shit, I hope that comes with a raise."
"You know? I don't even know. I guess I'll have to ask him. But, Rose, that wasn't the kicker. He leaves the file on my desk just in time for me to notice he's inked. I couldn't tell what it was but it was definitely peaking out from under his sleeve." I shiver, re-living it while I tell her the story.
"Fuck me. Is he cute?" she asks, eyes wide and interested.
I take a deep breath and sigh. "Holy shit, Rose. It's ridiculous how hot he is. I don't even know why I didn't notice before. Oh, wait, yes I do. It's because he'd never stepped foot on my side of the office until today," I rest my head on my open sketchbook.
"Well, what the fuck are you waiting for? You're going to be his PA now, at least for a while. Maybe you'll become somewhat professionally personal with him and you can straight out ask him about the ink."
I turn my head, still resting on the pages, and narrow my eyes at her.
"Yeah, you know. What his Starbucks order is, what he likes on his sandwiches, what days to pick up his suits from the cleaners. You'll know his entire social calendar and have to stop by his megalomaniac penthouse to water his plants while he's out of town," she says, waggling her perfect eyebrows.
"Rose, you watch too many movies. Jane never did any of those things. Well, except for the coffee and the cleaners. But mostly it's just typing things out for him and setting up appointments and syncing his iPhone."
"Well then, there you go. Access to his iPhone could give you valuable info on the guy. He's probably going to want your number too so he can keep you on call. Maybe one of these days he'll call after hours wanting you to come over his place and 'synch his iphone...in bed'." She says the last part all breathily, like the dork she is. I can't help but snort.
"You sound like a phone sex operator. You should consider a career change."
"Are you kidding? And waste this fantastic package?" She straightens, waving her hand over her body like Vanna White.
"You're right. You're much better suited for owning a bar, kicking ass, and taking names."
"Damn straight, slut. Okay, now, let's talk about the rose I want on my foot."
As we delve into new thumbnail sketches for yet another tattoo for Rose, my mind is reeling.
Can I do that? With him? The guy that made me want to rip his expensive suit right off his fine ass with just the tease of ink on his hand?
Tomorrow's going to be interesting.
"Miss Swan? My office, please," Cullen's voice rumbles through the intercom on my desk.
Deep breath in, deep breath out, Bella.
I had spent most of the morning putting the finishing touches on those proposals Cullen wanted and had just taken the final copy from the printer when he'd summoned me.
"Here goes nothin'," I mutter to myself, straightening out the non-existent wrinkles from my pencil skirt and walking towards my boss's office.
His office is minimalist and cool steel and leather. No surprise there. His back is to me as he jots something down. The chair in front of his desk looks inviting, but I'm unsure what protocol is. Do I stand? Do I sit? Do I announce myself?
"Have a seat, Miss Swan."
Well then, that's that.
I sit quietly waiting for him to finish whatever it is that he does in this sterile room. I glance around quickly, surveying the space around me. There is absolutely nothing personal in here: no pictures, no diplomas, no plants... nothing.
The sound of his chair whirling around brings my gaze front and center, locking with Cullen's deep green eyes. He looks at me expectantly.
"Well, you have something for me?"
I clear my throat. "Yes, Mr. Cullen. Here," I place the typed documents on his desk, pushing them towards him. His hand reaches out and like fucking magnets my eyes are drawn to his watch- more black and chrome- and the black tail of ink under it.
His hand's gone in a flash and I shake my head a bit to clear my hazy brain. His brows cinch together and his mouth does a cute little pouty thing while he reads over my handiwork.
Cullen finally finishes his perusal and sighs.
"Perfect. Thank you. You may go."
Um, that's it? Alrighty then. I slowly get to leave as he directs his attention to his laptop.
Before I'm at the door he speaks again.
"Oh, and Miss Swan?"
I turn quickly. "Yes, sir?"
"You going to lunch now?"
"Uh, I was planning on it, sir."
"Good. I want a pastrami on rye from Norm's," he says, his eyes never leaving the screen.
Professionally personal. Okay, Here we go.
"Anything else, Mr. Cullen?"
"Yes. I want a venti coffee, black."
"Yes, sir," I dutifully comply, my hand on the door handle.
"Oh, Miss Swan," he says with a little song to it. I turn again and look questioningly.
"Are you treating?"
"What?" Is he serious?
One side of his mouth lifts into the most delicious smirk I've ever seen. I've never seen him smile. The image is debilitating.
"Then you might want to take this with you," he says as his eyes glance to me and he pushes a credit card across the desk.
"Oh! Oh, yes, of course. Silly me," I walk and retrieve the card from him and his fingers graze mine for a split second longer than normal... I think.
Did he do that on purpose? I'm delusional. That's it. I'm a horny mess.
"Hurry back. I'm starving." His commanding tone returns and yeah, I'm delusional.
I exit quickly and am back in thirty minutes with his order, his coffee and my salad. I drop my stuff off before heading to his office to deliver his food.
"Excuse me, Mr. Cullen, where should I put this?"
His chair turns and he's on the phone. He signals me to wait.
"Yes, yes, I'm aware it's short notice, but need I remind you that you've been negligent with two former deadlines? I need this done by the end of today. There's no discussion. Do I make myself clear? Good. Goodbye."
His boss voice is scary.
"Forgive me, Miss Swan, you can just put it over there on the coffee table." He points to another little area in the office with a leather love seat and two matching chairs surrounding a basic glass top coffee table. I drop off the goods and prepare to leave when he speaks.
"Where is your lunch, Miss Swan?"
"Hmm? Oh, it's at my desk, sir. Enjoy, sir," I say before heading out the door. I catch what almost looks like a disappointed look from Cullen. Weird. And just like that, it's gone, replaced with the hardened expression of a shrewd CEO.
"Well, Miss Swan, you can bring your lunch here. We're going to have a working lunch. I need to finalize my calendar and I need you to be fully updated and prepared. I want you back here in two minutes. And bring your laptop and your phone. I trust it's a smartphone?" He turns his back on me without giving me a second look, and I scamper away trying to make sense of what just happened.
When I return with my salad, he ushers me to the sofa and we eat while synching and coordinating events, appointments, meetings. I see glimpses of his ink every time he takes a giant bite out of his sandwich. Everything about him is distracting- his jaw when he chews, his Adam's apple when he swallows, his fingers as he wipes his pouty mouth with his napkin, and of course the ink on his hand. It's teasing me. Shit I need to know what it is.
After eating, he takes my phone and types in his phone number and saves it under E. Cullen. His own phone chirps.
"There. I have your number now. You'll be on call but I won't call you after hours... much."
"There will be times when your assistance is required, although they will be few and far between, if at all. And remember, Miss Swan, this is temporary. HR is already sending me a few resumes for Jane's permanent replacement."
Suddenly, there was something I needed to bring his attention to. I remember what Rose said the night before.
"Mr. Cullen, I, uh, there's something that I may need clarification on."
"And that is?"
"Um, I still work mainly as data entry, and I know I accepted this job as an interim position, but um, how will this reflect on my paycheck?"
And, breathe, Bella.
Cullen fixes his unreadable gaze on me once again, and I want to look away but simply can't.
"You have a right to ask that question, Miss Swan. Don't feel uncomfortable at all. I've already considered my pay plan for you and you should see the change on your pay stub on Friday. I trust it will be satisfactory."
"Thank you, sir."
"Well, then, I think we're done here. You may go back to your desk, Miss Swan. Have a good day."
Consider me dismissed.
I return to my cubicle, catching the stares of Mike and the rest of the crew. I bet they're wondering when I'll screw up.
Ha! Not fucking likely. I'm gonna rock this job and hopefully rock Cullen's world...
Professionally personal, of course.
The next morning, I walk into work wondering why there's suddenly a desk placed in front of Cullen's office, but pay no mind since I've got plenty of work to do today if I'm going to have to cater to Cullen's whims.
I power up my laptop and notice and email from Cullen.
Fr: ECULLEN at mail dot com
To: BSWAN at mail dot com
Re: Desk Assignment
Time: 8:35 A.M.
Please take note that you are to move your belongings to the available desk in front of my office. It's imperative that my PA be closer in case I need assistance. I expect you to be moved completely by the time I return tomorrow. I'll be out of the office today. Re-schedule all my appointments for next week.
Edward A. Cullen
CEO Cullen Energy, Inc.
What? I stare and reread the email over and over again. Why does he want me to move? Jane never had to move. As far as I know, Cullen's grandfather never really had a PA outside his office. So why the sudden change?
I can't really question his decisions at this point, so I simply reply to let him know I've received his message and will comply.
After I'm completely transplanted and I've been sufficiently creeped out by everyone staring at me either curiously, in shock, or both, Friday pretty much passes without incident. I reschedule all his appointments as he asked and by four-thirty, I'm ready to hit the weekend.
I meet up with Jasper on Saturday morning, a dude I met at a tattoo convention last year. He offered me an apprenticeship in his studio so I could get my hours of practice in. He's awesome—a fantastic artist with a ten-month waiting list of clients and, on top of it all, he's just a cool guy.
"What's up, Bella-girl. How was your week?"
I plop my stuff down at my station and pull up a chair next to him while he works. He's working on a leg piece on Marlene, one of his regulars. She's pretty baddass. A professional photographer, she takes pin-up style photos of her clients. She's gorgeous with Rockabilly style, and this time, he's filling in the outline to a pin-up geisha.
"Meh. Work is work," I reply, watching him with rapt attention.
"Well, I'm afraid I'll be adding more work for ya, but I doubt you'll complain." His eyes briefly meet mine above the rim of his glasses and he smirks before returning to his piece.
"You got that right. I'll take this over my day job any time. Whatcha got for me?"
"A couple of girls coming in about twenty. They're first-timers so they want small tatts. The paperwork and the sketch is up there on the counter. I trust you. Get to it."
"You got it."
The next few hours pass happily as I ink the two girls who want matching hearts on their hips with "BFF" etched inside. Yeah, not my cup of tea at all, but hey, who am I to judge?
Rose waltzes in for her first session after lunch. I'm too excited to eat. This is my first big piece, and my best friend is letting me permanently mark her with my own creation.
"Hey, Jas! What's shakin'?" she shouts to my boss across the shop as I prep her up in my station.
"Nothin' much, blondie. You're really gonna let this one mark you?" he teases, nodding my way.
"Ha, ha. Funny, Jasper," I say dryly.
Rose laughs and then changes the subject when she gets comfortable.
"So, anything new with Mister Bossman?" She waggles her eyebrows.
"Ugh. Jerk didn't even come in on Friday. Sent an email commanding me to move to a desk in front of his office and told me he wasn't coming in at all... all short notice. I was scrambling to reschedule everything. Everyone was staring. I miss my little cubicle."
"Oooh, he wants you closer. He wants you, baby. Oh yeah..." she says, complete with sultry phone sex voice.
With a roll of my eyes, I trace out her drawing for placement and, after her approval, I set to work out all the outlines for the next three hours.
I spend Sunday in my pajamas reading trashy novels and working on my sketches. I also get curious and Google my boss because I have no shame.
Picture after picture at fundraisers, ground-breaking ceremonies, and galas. I can even see the tattoo on his hand in some of them. I still can't make it out.
I see him smile in a couple of the pictures and it totally jumbles me up. He's hot, everyone knows this. But when the guy smiles, it sends all kinds of fluttery sensations into my belly.
He never brings a date to these things. That's something else I notice.
Maybe he's gay.
It's possible. It wouldn't surprise me one bit that someone that gorgeous plays for the other team.
With a sigh, I close my laptop and get ready for bed. Just before I turn off the lamp on my nightstand there's a buzz coming from my phone.
I'm suddenly alert. It's eleven-thirty. I thought he said no after-hours calls unless necessary.
I grab the phone to see the message that he deems to be so necessary on a Sunday night.
Did you move your things?
Good evening to you too, sir. And yes, I did. -B
Good? Is there some kind of pressing matter you needed to discuss, sir? -B
Why do you ask? -E
It's 11:30pm on a Sunday. You mentioned after-hours were off limits except for emergencies. Is there an emergency? -B
There's no message after that and I figure he got bored with texting a peon and went to sleep.
I get to work with a few minutes to spare so I can get a hold of Cullen's calendar and see what needs attention. So far, everything is smooth sailing. Cullen sends me an email telling me he'll be a bit late coming and to have his coffee ready at his desk at ten.
Yes, master. I roll my eyes.
I catch up on some data entry and fetch him his precious coffee and still finish way before Cullen's supposed to be waltzing into work. So I do what any normal person at work does- I go online and putz around reading my tattoo magazines. Aside from the occasional phone call, I'm not disturbed.
"Enjoying yourself?" The rumbling and, I'll admit, sexy voice of my boss startles me.
I look up and gasp. He towers over me with an intense expression, though I can almost make out an amused smirk on the verge of breaking through as I follow his eyes to ...
My magazine. Photos of some of the best ink in the world.
I stash it away quickly and slam my drawer shut.
"Yes... I mean, no... I mean..."
"Save it," he says curtly, causing me to shut my trap. I don't dare look at him until he's almost through the door, and when I do, I catch an evil grin on his profile. He doesn't notice that I saw it... but I sure did.
The rest of the week passes with Cullen spending much of it out of the office with the occasional text or email thrown my way confirming appointments. Sometimes, when he does grace us with his presence, he's quite the cold boss, not even looking at me while he orders me around. The rest of my co-workers still spaz out every time he's here, but I've learned to ignore it. It gets old. I mean, he's just a guy, right?
Right. Maybe. I don't know.
There are other times- very rare moments- when I swear he's flirting with me, almost like he has no control over it. Simple little gestures, the way he looks at me when he actually does look at me... it's almost as if he's holding back. What, I don't know.
Brushes of fingers when I hand him his coffee. The way he stares at me when I'm reciting phone message.
What am I saying? I'm insane. He's my boss; he's not hiding anything. He wouldn't want anything to do with a little data-entry girl like me.
Right, Bella. That's the attitude. Keep it Professionally Personal. You are his PA and nothing more... And not even permanently, at that.
The buzz of the phone on my desk redirects my attention.
I left a very important supporting doc in my office. Please retrieve it from my desk and fax it over to 555-476-8452.
"Yes, sir," I mock salute, heading for his office.
When I open the drawer to his desk, the doc is right where he said he left it. Grabbing it, however, reveals something that stops me in my tracks.
The corner of a magazine I know well peaks out from between haphazardly placed files.
The current issue of Inked Magazine.
My heart almost leaps out of my chest. How can something so simple cause me to break out in goosebumps? How?
And because I'm a nosy bitch, I gingerly move the files and notice a Post-it attached to the magazine.
My mentor's name written in Cullen's chicken scratch.
What the fuck? Why does he have Jasper's number?
Immediately, a million theories float through my head. Each one melts into a different, more elaborate one, and that's when I know I need to take a step back and use logic.
I quickly rearrange everything back to where it was and fax over the stuff he's probably impatiently waiting for as I freak out. In moments, there's another text.
Thank you. Go home early. Have a nice weekend.
See? Then he does things like that, and I just don't know what to make of him. But this girl's not gonna complain about starting my weekend early. I hightail it out of there and make it home in record time. I really want to call Jasper and ask him if he knows Cullen, but I'm not that chummy with him so I'll just have to wait until tomorrow when I go in for Rose's next session.
"Hey, Jas?" I ask, prepping my station for Rose's arrival. He's at the front desk going through receipts.
"Do you know an Edward Cullen, by any chance?"
He stops what he's doing and thinks for a moment before shaking his head and returning to his work.
"Doesn't ring a bell, why?
"Oh, no reason, really. Funny though, he's my boss, right? And I came across your name on a piece of paper in his office and just wondered." I shrug, feigning indifference.
"Hmm, that is weird. I don't remember ever meeting an Edward. But I run in different circles than the tight-assed suits you work for," he says with a sly grin.
I snort, because yeah, dude, if you only knew.
If I only knew.
Rose's second session is a success. As a pat on the back to myself I use Sunday to just sit outside and enjoy the great weather.
I have a spot in Central Park. It's a nice big oak tree that offers the best shade in the world and a great view of the high-rise condos, situated right next to a small field where lots of people walk their dogs and play. I sit down and take out my sketch book and pencil and just draw.
Sometimes, I draw the intricate designs on the buildings, sometimes a couple sitting on a blanket making googly eyes at each other, maybe a kid flying a kite with his dad. And sometimes I sketch out new designs for clients who don't exist yet.
I'm not inked up much. I definitely prefer marking other people to having myself marked all over. My tats are personal, not for displaying just for people to see. But strangely enough, I absolutely love seeing men and women fully-displaying their skin.
I'm starting a new abstract design inspired by tribal and Celtic patterns when I hear a voice that's been recorded in my head and filed under "things to fap to."
"Leah! Here, girl!"
I look up, searching for the owner of said sex voice, because maybe I'm finally losing my mind and hearing things.
But there he is. Looking very, very different in some kind of oatmeal-colored, long sleeve henley and low-slung jeans. There's a cute black lab running back to him, stick proudly hanging out of her mouth.
I don't know if he's seen me because I'm too busy trying to hide. I don't know why I freak and start pulling my hoodie on, hurriedly putting on my sunglasses. It's not that I don't want to talk to him, I just wouldn't know how to behave with him in this setting. He's my boss. He exists within the confines of my nine-to-five job. This-having to communicate with him out here with normal people—I just cringe at the awkwardness.
I think I've successfully managed to blend into the tree, so I continue drawing, noticing I don't hear his voice anymore. Good, maybe he's gone.
"Miss Swan? I thought that I recognized you."
Shit. Shit shit shit shit.
I slowly trail my eyes from his black Adidas to his jeans and up his chest, noticing he's pushed up his sleeves to his forearms. My eyes linger on the tattoos: they extend from his wrists and disappear under his sleeves. Dear God.
When I finally get a good look at his face, his expression makes me want to do bad things to him right here, in this park... in front of all these people. He's grinning mischievously, and I'm sure it's obvious I was checking him out.
"H..hi, hello, Mr. Cullen. How are you?"
Good. I didn't sound like a moron... at all.
"Miss Swan." He bows his head just a little in greeting. "Please, do you think we can drop the Mr. Cullen thing, at least out of the office?" he says as he silently commands his dog to sit by his side. She's adorable.
"Uh, okay, sir."
He rolls his eyes, and yeah, even that is kinda hot. It makes him... human, I guess.
"Just Edward. No sirs either, alright? May I?" He gestures to a spot on the ground next to me, and I am freaking the hell out right now. I gesture to the spot as casually as I can. Hopefully he can't tell how the butterflies in my stomach have morphed into friggin' emperor penguins jumping on trampolines.
When he sits, his dog does the same at our feet. I figure talking about the dog's a safe topic.
"She's cute. What's her name?"
"Leah. She's a year old, I've had her since she was a puppy."
"She follows commands well."
"Yeah, that took a while." He laughs, and the sounds of his voice is ridiculously sexy.
"I got her from the pound when she was just a puppy. She was the runt and all her other siblings had been adopted."
As if he couldn't be hotter. He has a shelter dog.
"What are you drawing there?" He leans a little toward me, trying to peak at my sketchbook. The action is weird to me, since he's been kind of an ass at work. Having him so close to me is scrambling my brain, making it difficult to form words.
"Uh, um... this is just, nothing special. Just sketches I do for... stuff..." I trail off as my eyes find his ink-covered forearm.
"They look like tattoo designs," he says.
"Um, yeah, they kinda are. That's what I do… or want do, I guess," I reply, subtly trying to cover and close my book. His hand suddenly covers mine, halting all movement and rendering me paralyzed.
"Can I take a look? You don't have to hide them, you know. As you can see, I'm not particularly averse to tattoos."
It's the look in his eyes and the little grin on his lips when he says that which makes me weak in the knees. He's there, holding me captive with his stare.
He gently pries the book from my hands and starts to thumb through the pages, stopping on several pages with nods and occasional mm-hmm's.
"These are really, really good. You have a way with lines and shading. Why aren't you working in a studio?" he asks, placing the book down between us.
"I kind of do, actually. It's just an apprenticeship though on weekends."
"Why not full time?"
"Uh, because..." Why am I telling him any of this? More importantly, why does he want to know so badly?
He looks genuinely interested in what I have to say. It's so different from work.
"Because?" he prompts after I take too long to answer. Well, here goes.
"I want to open my own studio someday, and working a stable nine-to-five allows me to save a little every paycheck. I'm patient. I'll get there."
He regards me once more as if trying to decode me. It's a bit unnerving, especially since he's so friggin' good looking.
"I have no doubt you will, Miss Swan."
"Bella," I blurt out before I think about it.
Then he smiles. And I smile.
"Call me Bella, please. Like you said, we're not at work."
"No. We're definitely not." His voice drops a bit when he says this, and there go the penguins again.
This could be potentially dangerous. I've heard all kinds of things and read romance novels and fan fiction about personal assistants and their bosses. As much as I wouldn't mind if he kissed me right now- or other things- it would compromise our professional relationship.
That's assuming he wants to kiss me. It feels like he might want to, but then again, I might just be a lusty mess and imagining things.
I cough nervously and finally look away, breaking whatever moment just happened between us.
"I should probably be going. I have to, uh, so do something... yeah."
Brilliant, Bella. Just brilliant, spazoid.
I get up, brushing the leaves off the butt of my jeans and looking down.
Is he . . . Did he just check out my ass? It happened so fast I can't tell.
He's already standing and gathering Leah's leash, so I guess I am once again seeing things.
"I understand. This was... nice. It was nice talking with you, Bella."
Oh my God, my name from his lips...
"I'll see you tomorrow, bright and early," he declares, a little bit of his boss voice coming back.
"Yes, sir... I mean, yes, Edward." Why is saying his name making me think of other activities where I'd say his name, repeatedly?
"Great. Goodbye, Bella."
"Yeah. See you tomorrow."
This has to be the single strangest afternoon I've ever had.
Something passed between us today.
And after all that... how do I act tomorrow? How will he behave? Will he ignore me again? Will he acknowledge today actually happened? Or was he just humoring me?
Can I still see things as professionally personal?
Once I'm home, I throw everything down on the dinner table and grab my cell.
"Hey, Rose? You got a minute? I need help. My boss... I saw him today."
A/N: Thanks for reading. Thoughts?