This is dedicated to Jo. I told her she deserved rainbows & unicorns & true love, but this was all I had to offer.
And to Amy, the other wheel of the trike as well: I'm forever glad the fandom brought us together.
Bella Swan switches off the security monitor on her desk and swivels her chair so that she faces away from the cadre of executives assembled in her office. Floor to ceiling glass reveals the city at her well-heeled feet. Some businesswomen might cross their legs when seated for high level talks, but Bella spreads her legs as wide as her tailored skirt will allow, her feet planted firmly on the floor. She takes her rightful place in this world.
"The board will want answers, Ms. Swan."
"China's market collapsed in on itself. Europe isn't coming back for another twenty years, if at all. What domestic capital is left is being held in reserve so long as those obsolete windbags in Washington pontificate instead of taking action. The answers are easy, Jared. No need to play perplexed."
"I've misspoken. They'll want solutions."
Bella's confidence doesn't waiver. Neither does her voice.
"Those are similarly straightforward. We will adapt if we want to survive. The world has changed and business must change with it. Slimmer, trimmer and meaner, we will thrive with lethal grace. Simply stated, we'll cut all excess and focus our remaining, vital resources. We can no longer afford to dance around the goal. Each and every one of us is here for one reason: to turn a profit. We are here to win. We are here for the kill. Only those ready for blood will remain."
"Lay-offs, then?" Paul asks.
Bella sighs in frustration, but reminds herself that the shortsighted also serve their purpose in this life. They remember the little things, like how you must pick up the blade before taking a life.
"Yes, lay-offs… at the very minimum. We will eliminate five thousand units in conjunction with top to bottom corporate restructuring. We'll scour the budget. We'll close Hong Kong. Nothing's happened in that hole since the British retreat. And we'll finally grow a pair and go after Volturi."
There is an audible gasp from the executives Bella has summoned for the meeting. She cannot keep the grin from her face.
"Are you serious?" Paul asks in a near whisper, glancing about the office like he might catch sight of the rival firm hiding behind the planter. "The Volturi? With these earnings?"
"Survival of the fittest, Paul. In this brave new world there isn't room for two of us at the top."
"That's what you're bringing to the board? Aldous Huxley meets Darwin?" Embry challenges. Bella hears his glass of scotch plunk down on her desktop and flinches. She has a rule about glasses on her mahogany. If Embry doesn't watch his actions he'll find himself among the unlucky five million former employees SAF Global.
Bella takes a deep, steadying breath. She concentrates on the air filling her chest and the feel of lace, silk and vicuna wool as it presses against her skin. She takes her time and slowly swivels in her chair to face her inquisitors. She looks from one to the next. They are uniformly tall, well dressed, brilliant and empty, she thinks to herself. She imagines they wait for her to fill their heads with purpose and drive – for her to animate their limbs, as if she were an overpaid puppeteer. They appear anxious, no doubt wondering which of their strings she is poised to sever.
"Will your proposal be enough?" Embry prods. Bella focuses all of her attention on the man. He takes an unsteady step backward.
"Enough for what?" Bella asks, daring the insubordinate executive to suggest the board will interfere with her plans. She is certain that she is the board's greatest asset during this crisis and she doesn't fancy the board members are fools. She believes that her position is the only thing certain to remain intact in this new fiscal environment. She is likewise certain that Embry can no longer maintain such security.
All of the executives appear mute, unwilling to answer Bella's challenge. A clock ticks. The men shift their weight. Bella's eyes dart deskward and her fingers itch to switch the security monitor back to life. Her body tingles with involuntary desire, which she controls by pressing her thighs together as she purposefully rises from her chair.
"The names of those positions eliminated have been uploaded to your drive, Jared. Work with Samuelson in HR. You have ten days. And this one…" Bella does her best to appear nonchalant as she slides an envelope across her desk. "This one must go before the close of business today. He leaves the premises promptly at six pm. Let him work out his last minutes with us before you give him the news."
"You want me to do this, ma'am? Myself? Shouldn't Samuelson or -"
"Absolutely, Jared. Now Paul, Hong Kong's going to need help with its own demise. Embry, Quill, to London and Tokyo. We'll meet again at seven tomorrow before we quite literally divide and conquer."
The men nod their heads, accepting their allotted duties and file out of the office. The door clicks shut. Before Bella has time to take another breath she switches the security monitor back on.
She takes a satisfied seat. He is on the screen.
He works in chambray shirtsleeves rolled to the elbows. He worries his hair, (he always does). She is used to seeing it sit in a haphazard mop on top of his head. He sits with a wide stance just as she likes to do, and Bella spreads her legs until she feels woolen resistance against her thighs.
Despite his bearing, this man does not take control in his workplace like Bella does. Lately he has been distracted and his work has suffered as a result. His dutiful staff fills in and keeps him afloat, but a large network floats amorphous, leaving the company vulnerable. He is no longer up to the job at hand.
As if to confirm Bella's misgivings, she watches as the man's concentration falters. He runs his hands reflexively through his hair and grits his teeth. His focus drifts upward until he is staring head on into the lens of the security camera. Bella's body snaps to attention as if the flickering image of the man's eyes has the ability to strip her bare and scald her skin. Slowly, she stretches her limbs and licks her lips.
All too soon the man turns back to his work. Bella hovers over the monitor pleased with her decisions. She has chosen her prey – both large and small. She will bring down Volturi and bring herself worldwide fame and near absolute power. Meanwhile, she will let this man see the strings she holds over him and then she will tell him exactly what he should do with them.
This idea is distracting, to say the least. Bella switches off the monitor. She is determined not to dwell on the hold the man's unknowing glance commands over her, or the manner in which her body responds. She will simply do what she knows how to do best. She will master and control. The world will fall away and the man will dangle over the abyss. She will save him if he will make her suffer.
A/N: Thanks to SereneInNC for beta'ing, Obsmama for pre-reading, Fiction Freak95 for making an awesome banner, and to my family for somehow finding the time to let me write.
No more than 1 chapter weekly, and hopefully no less.
Somehow this feels both darker and lighter than anything I've written lately. We'll see...
Thank you for reading. Your reviews are cherished. Your support means the world.