Chapter One: Office Spouse
My time working for Edward Masen was strangely akin to a comic book. If he was the superhero, I was the sidekick.
I'd always thought this was just my silly way of looking at things, but the day after Edward and I saw the Iron Man movies—actually, we rented a movie theater just for the two of us when The Avengers came out because he wanted to watch all three and tended not to go out in public too often—I realized I wasn't alone in this way of thinking.
As soon as the end credits started rolling, Edward turned to me and said, "I'm pissed."
"Why?" I asked.
I shouldn't have asked.
"Because they totally stole my schtick. I'm the rascal billionaire crime fighter the world can't seem to get enough of," he said, finishing with a roguish smile, as if to accent his attributes.
"No one knows that you are a billionaire crime fighter," I pointed out.
"Rascal billionaire crime fighter," he corrected.
I shook my head. "Anyone who knows you—which, granted, is a precious few— knows you're a rascal. Besides, Iron Man wasn't a vampire. You are."
He huffed. "Semantics. Just like me, he was charming, rich, handsome, funny, irresistible—"
"Ah, but he lacked the modesty you have in spades."
Edward smiled. "Good point. I knew I kept you around for a reason."
I rolled my eyes as I double-checked my Blackberry for the address of our next appointment. There was a chance Edward's tomfoolery wouldn't deter us from being ahead of schedule for once. "You keep me around because despite vampiric super-abilities, so much money you could spend eternity counting it, and a brain that occasionally demonstrates capability when not too busy being cute and coming up with juvenile quips, you wouldn't be able to function without me."
"So you think I'm cute?"
I looked up from my phone. "Huh?"
"You said I was cute." He smiled proudly.
"No, I didn't."
"Who has the infallible memory between the two of us?"
I hated this argument so I didn't answer. His smile was about ten degrees beyond smug. "I thought so."
I crossed my arms over my chest. "Even if I did, your interpretation is flawed. I didn't mean—"
"You said I was 'too busy being cute and coming up with juvenile quips.'"
"Yes, that is what I said but—"
"So there it is. I was being cute."
"And coming up with juvenile quips!"
"But only after I was being cute."
"I didn't—" I huffed at the sly smile spreading across his face. The last time I had slipped up—I'd made the mistake of telling him he looked handsome in his suit—it'd taken us nearly an hour to get back on track. Edward may have had eternity to dawdle, but I wasn't about to let him.
"Why aren't you more angry?" he asked.
I put my hands on my hips and fixed my steeliest gaze on him. "You know, I've asked myself that question every single day I've worked for you, Edward."
"I mean—" he said, huffing and drawing out the word 'mean' into three syllables like a child, instead of the centenarian he actually was. "Gwyneth Paltrow? You're much hotter than she is. I mean, she's like a stick insect and you have those lovely—"
"Edward..." I warned.
He had the sense to look slightly ashamed. "You're not going to make me sit through another sexual harassment seminar, are you?"
"I don't know. We might have met our quota on those for the year. You'd think it wouldn't be that hard—" Seeing the way his eyes lit up devilishly, I corrected myself quickly. "You would think it wouldn't be that difficult to control yourself, considering I'm the only employee you see on a daily basis."
"Control? Around you? Bella, my dear, you eradicate what laughably little self control I might have ever had." He leered at me harmlessly, a look that I had gotten so used to in the years we had worked together that it barely fazed me. "Still Gwyneth Paltrow? She could Goop herself to death and not be half of the woman you are. Though, I mean, quite literally in size, she might actually be half the woman you are, which is a little disturbing since your figure is rather slim as it is—"
"How in the world do you know what GOOP is?"
He shrugged. "You can Google it. Anyway, as I was saying. Not nearly as pretty as you. Pepper Potts can't hold a candle to Bella Swan."
"Well, thank you. Can we leave now? You're going out patrolling in an hour and we're supposed to have that conference call with R&D about the design of the training um... bunker, for lack of a better term."
"Let's give it a better term."
He drummed his fingers along his jaw with one hand as he scrolled through something on his phone with the other. "I don't know. The Edcave sounds stupid. Fortress of Solitude is so whiny. What's Spiderman's hang out called?"
"Tony Stark doesn't have a name for his place," I said. Sometimes, I liked to goad him. Just sometimes.
"Don't say that name in front of me," he hissed. "I'm still furious about them blatantly ripping off my life and fictionalizing it. Come to think of it, arrange a meeting with the director. And Robert Downey Jr." He said this as if he met with people every day, completely ignoring the fact that he was a reclusive vampire.
"Yes, Mr. Masen," I said, with all the sincerity I could feign.
Apparently, acting wasn't my forte. "You only call me that when you're placating me," he said, narrowing his eyes at me.
"Yes, Mr. Masen."
"And…" He stopped mid-sentence as something he was reading caught his eye. "Oh! The proof of the pudding, which I never really understood as a phrase, to be honest—"
"The full phrase is actually the proof of the pudding is in the eating," I corrected.
"Oh. That makes more sense; I always thought I missed out because I don't eat pudding."
"Pudding's not that revelatory."
"Good to know. Anyway, proof, pudding, whatever, it's here. Tony Stark's full name? Anthony Edward Stark."
"I don't see the link," I deadpanned.
Edward gave me a withering look. "My name is Edward Anthony Masen. One would think you would know that, Bella."
I matched his expression. "I know that you hate cow's blood and prefer goat and that you once ate a lynx but felt really guilty about killing an animal on the endangered species list. I know you hate the color orange and the food you want to eat most in the world is funfetti vanilla icing. You hate Cheers but love Frasier, you read Emerson when you are upset. You sing Andrea Bocelli in the shower, loudly. Too loudly, since I can hear it from three rooms away. If you had a social security number, blood type or allergies, I would know those too."
He regarded me for a minute before declaring, "Impressive." But just as quickly, he was back to his own madness, no method needed. "Anyway, this name thing seals it. Sue the director and writers for… defamation."
"Stan Lee is actually the creator of the Tony Stark character—it started as a comic."
"Sue him, too."
I resisted rolling my eyes. "While we're at it, there is an actor, most noted for his role on the hospital drama ER, named Anthony Edwards. Would you like to sue him as well?"
"Yes." He paused for a beat. "No, sue his parents. They were the ones who named him." Another beat. "You know what, just sue all of them. A reverse class-action suit."
"I'll get right on that, Mr. Masen. In the meanwhile, can we head out? If we can finish that R&D meeting today, it'll free up some of your time for tomorrow."
"Do I need free time tomorrow?"
"Well, in the morning, we have the meeting with Ms. Weber."
"Why are you calling her that? It's Angela. And why do I need to meet with her? I thought I made her CFO and CEO and COO and CD-rom and CNN and eighty other acronyms so I wouldn't have to meet with her."
"Well, it's still your company," I pointed out. "So yes, you do have to meet with her. But you haven't run any hunting drills in a while. I thought we'd put you through the old course. Wouldn't want you going soft on us, now would we?"
"Oh, Bella, I would never. I'm always ha—"
"Finish that sentence and I will make Mackenna give you another sexual harassment workshop."
"I was going to say, I would never go all soft on you. Just because I get delivered shipments of animal's blood like a spoiled house cat doesn't mean I'm getting domesticated."
"If I could domesticate you, the first thing I'd do is have you neutered," I muttered under my breath. But of course, heightened senses and all, Edward heard it.
"Ouch, Bella. I may be a vampire but I'm still a man." Immortal though he might have been, I think he could sense from the look I shot him that he was quite possibly in serious harm. He cleared his throat. "Anyway, yes, R&D today. Angela and some fake hunting tomorrow. All in a days work for... Vampman?" He looked at me for my opinion.
I shook my head. "Stop trying to be a superhero."
"You're just lucky I'm on the side of good. What if I wasn't the hero? What if I was the villain?"
"Then I wouldn't work for you." I shrugged. "I don't work for evil."
"Well, that alone is incentive to keep me on the straight and righteous."
"Get up, Edward. R&D, let's go." I stood up and moved down the aisle.
"I'd prefer some T&A," he muttered from behind me.
"Never mind about those drills," I called behind me breezily. "Your free time has been filled up."
"With what?' he asked.
"I'm scheduling that call with Mackenna. For someone with an infallible memory, you seem to forget the rules of conduct with an employee quite often."
I heard him snort from behind me. "It's been years since you've been my employee, Bella."
We both knew there was far too much truth in that statement. Still, I pushed away that feeling of freefall his words incited in me and casually turned my head, asking over my shoulder, "If I'm not your employee, Edward, what am I?"
He caught my arm and turned me to face him. His eyes, far too gold and compelling, were soft, and gone were all the traces of the childish humor he'd just been displaying. "You are my life now, Bella," he said, seemingly sincere.
I raised an eyebrow.
"Too cheesy?" he asked.
I raised it a little higher.
"Too cheesy," he agreed. He took an unnecessary breath and let it out. I let out a breath, feeling relief that the serious moment had passed. This push-and-pull, his jokes and my exasperation at them, the easy rhythm of our conversations were the way we had been for years now. The idea of changing it, of losing this familiarity, this comfort filled me with a type of fear I couldn't describe. But it didn't explain the tiny stab of disappointment I felt. Edward, purposely playing oblivious, shrugged and grinned brightly. "Alright. I'll try to woo you again later."
As I turned away toward the exit, I allowed myself a little laugh. I knew that he could hear it, even though he didn't overtly react.
I had no doubt he'd try again. And again and again.
That was just how we did things around here.
Hello! So this is a short, ten chapter fic that's already been written, so posting will be pretty steady. Readmylips0 was lovely enough to bid on me for FGB two years ago and this is what I wrote for her. Yes. TWO YEARS. She is patient and lovely and wonderful. So much love and thanks to arfalcon, who is my personal superhero.
Tell me what you thought? xo Anya.