A/N – A new story! Hope you enjoy it. Stephenie Meyer owns all things Twilight. I just put them in traffic.
"Stupid shiny Volvo owner!" Isabella Swan slammed on her brakes and hit her horn. Her long brown hair fell forward over her shoulders as the car jerked to a stop.
As if her overly-long drive to work wasn't bad enough, some idiot in an admittedly beautiful car just cut her off. All she wanted was a latte with enough caffeine to un-fog her morning brain. She was being a good and careful driver, one her police chief father would be proud of. She'd put on her turn signal way before she got to the driveway for the coffee shop so she wouldn't get hit by one of the crazy commuters who "shared" this road with her every day. Just before she got to the driveway a silver Volvo pulled around her, then cut over from the middle lane and turned right in front of her. Right in front of her!
It took Bella a second to recover from her sudden stop and realize that she was in prime position to get hit if she didn't move. She jerked the wheel and turned into the drive-through lane, right behind the other car. She watched him and fumed as he stopped to place his order.
"Stupid man in a stupid shiny Volvo!" She didn't get a good look, but she was pretty sure it was a man. Who else would pull a stunt like that?
Bella was furious at the driver who, she thought, was now the only thing standing between her and her latte. She nearly stomped her foot in frustration before realizing that with her luck, she would probably hit the gas pedal if she did. She might be angry, but she didn't want to hit the other car. Well, actually, there would be something immensely satisfying about hitting him, but she knew better. And she wouldn't do anything that would hurt her little red car after spending all her savings on the down payment. Instead she hit the steering wheel with both hands, wincing when it smarted.
What was she thinking when she'd taken a job almost an hour's drive from Forks? "I wasn't thinking, that's the problem" she muttered, answering her own question. If the job worked out, she could always move to Port Angeles. But for now, two months into what she felt sure would be a wonderful job, she was living in her childhood home and driving up this crazy road five days a week.
She watched in frustration as the silver car pulled up to the drive in window. She slid the car forward and hit the button to lower her window.
"One tall, skinny vanilla latte, please" she said to the faceless speaker. What was so damn important that he had to cut her off like that?
"No, that's all." She kept her eyes on the car ahead of her. "Thanks" she added, in a softer tone. There was no reason to snap at the nice coffee people. She left her window down, knowing that if she wasn't so pissed off she would really enjoy the almost warm air of the spring morning.
She pulled her car behind the Volvo and glared as its driver accepted his cup of coffee from the barista and with only the slightest pause – totally not safe - pulled back out into traffic. What a jerk!
Bella stopped at the window, put the little car in park, and reached into her bag for her wallet. "Good morning" she said, holding out a $10 bill.
The girl in the window smiled at her. "Oh, there's no charge."
"Your latte. There's no charge."
"There must be some mistake" Bella said, cash still in hand.
"Oh no" said the barista, who looked about 18. "That guy in the hot car paid for your order."
"He WHAT?" Bella's glare returned. "How…why would he do that? How would he know what I ordered?"
"He didn't." She handed Bella the latte she'd ordered. "He gave me twenty dollars and said to pay for whatever you ordered. And he said to tell you he was really sorry he cut you off."
Bella didn't know what to say. She put the cup in the holder and looked back at the girl. "That was…nice, I think."
"I'll say" said the girl, reaching for the next person's drink with a dreamy-eyed expression. "And he was really cute too."
"But a crappy driver" Bella said, though she smiled as she said it. "Well, thanks."
The barista smiled at her. "Have a good day!"
"Huh. Maybe I will" Bella said, still surprised. She pulled up to the edge of the road, came to a full stop, and waited for a reasonably big break in traffic before pulling out.
D B F
Ten minutes later, Bella pulled into a parking space in front of the building that housed the offices of the Whitlock-Hale Literary Agency. She grabbed her purse, the backpack that doubled as her brief case, her cell phone, and her latte before slamming the door shut with her hip. She walked about 10 feet before realizing she didn't lock the door. Juggling everything, she managed to hit the right button and heard the double beep. She let out a deep sigh of relief when she saw someone was holding the door open for her. She smiled when she realized who it was.
"Alice, thank you so much. I don't think I could have managed the door." Bella and Alice Brandon knew each other in high school, but lost touch when they went to college on opposite sides of the country. Bella ran into her pixie-haired classmate at the Forks diner a month ago. When she told Alice that she had a degree in English and was looking for an entry-level position in publishing, her newly-rediscovered friend suggested Bella put in an application at the literary agency where Alice worked. In the short time they'd been working together, she and Bella had become fast friends.
Alice returned the smile and reached out to take Bella's backpack from her. "You hold onto that coffee. I'll get this."
"You won't even believe the story behind this coffee."
Alice pushed the elevator button. "Since when does coffee have a story?"
"Since some guy cut me off pulling into Starbucks, and then bought me this coffee as an apology."
Alice squealed. "Oh Bella, that's so sweet!"
"Sweet? Really Alice? He should have done something. I had to slam on my brakes to keep from hitting him!" Bella sighed. "But it was nice of him to buy me coffee, I guess."
"So you got to talk to him? Was he cute?" Alice was a dyed in the wool matchmaker. She just couldn't help herself.
"No, we both went through the drive-in. He gave the barista money and told her to pay for whatever I ordered." Bella frowned. "I mean, that was nice and all, but how did he know I wasn't buying coffee for the whole office?"
"It was sweet, B – just accept it and move on." Alice stopped at Bella's cubicle and set the backpack next to Bella's chair. "Ready to hit the slush pile?"
Bella was a very, very junior editor while Alice was the personal assistant to one of the owners. Alice had no interest in the editing side of the business. As she told Bella, she only liked reading books when she already knew how they ended.
"Don't knock it, girlfriend" Bella replied. "The slush pile is like a giant treasure hunt every day. Who knows? Today I could find the next Twilight from some totally unknown author."
Bella knew when she was hired that she'd have to pay her dues reading unsolicited submissions before she could move up to reading the manuscripts the more senior agents had requested from the query letters.
"You keep thinking that" Alice replied. "Oh, wow…"
Bella looked up and followed Alice's gaze. Jasper Whitlock, the tall, blond co-owner of the agency, was walking down the hall toward them.
"Ladies, good morning." He flashed a grin and tipped an imaginary hat to them as he walked by.
Alice's sigh was a little too loud. She might be Jasper's personal assistant, but it wasn't "personal" enough as far as Alice was concerned.
"Shhhh" said Bella. "Alice, you're so obvious!" She looked around to make sure Jasper's sister and co-owner, Rosalie, wasn't nearby. "And don't let Rosalie hear you."
"I don't care who hears me" she said. "I can't help it when he's so close, and so, so sweet. I could just reach out and…"
"Don't even go there" Bella replied. "Now go sit down. I'm going to drink my free latte before it's completely cold. I'll see you at lunch."
"Yup. I better get to my desk." She lowered her voice. "A bigwig author is coming in to meet with Jasper this morning."
"Really? Who?" One of Bella's favorite things about working for a literary agent was that she got to talk to authors – new authors, want-to-be authors, published authors – and she thought just maybe she'd get to see some of her favorites. Jasper and Rosalie were quickly building their reputation as the agents to have on the west coast.
"Edward Cullen" Alice said with a smirk, knowing she'd just named one of Bella's very favorite authors.
"THE Edward Cullen? Are you kidding me?"
"Now who's being a little too loud?" Alice smirked.
"Oh wow" said Bella as she took a sip of her latte. "He's my favorite author, and he's gorgeous. At least on his book covers. If they're anything close to what he looks like in person, you may have to scrape me off the floor if he walks by here."
"Oh trust me, he looks even better than his book covers" said Alice. "When that one comes in, there will be a whole trail of women trying to get a look at him." She lowered her voice. "Maybe I can find a reason to page you over to my desk while he's in with the boss. Then we can stare at both of them."
Bella laughed. "I'll leave the boss to you, Alice. You may be too indispensable to fire, but I'm the new kid on the block. I'm still in phase where I need to suck up to the owners and hope they like me."
"Oh Bella, no one is going to fire you" she responded. "Jasper says you have an amazing eye for new talent."
"My amazing eye won't matter much if I don't get some work done." She bumped her hip into Alice. "Get to work!" Bella could hear Alice's giggle as she walked away.
Bella sat in her chair, flicked on the computer, and took a long sip of her latte. At least 50 new queries had come in overnight, on top of the hundred or so she still needed to read. But this was what she wanted, and the possibility of discovering the next Stephenie Meyer kept her optimism in high gear. "OK, amazing new author. You're in here somewhere, and I'm going to find you."
Soon she was completely absorbed in her work, in that magic zone where nothing could disturb her concentration. And, since she didn't have a window in her cubicle, she didn't see the silver car that pulled - a little too fast, of course - into the agency's parking lot.