Chapter 1

December 22, 1899

"Oh almighty Jesus, she's coming here now?" Edward Masen wiped his brow and swiped his fingers through his hair, causing it to stand on end.

"Yes, and she's very displeased with you."

Edward huffed. "Why does she have to be so difficult?"

Why wouldn't this woman give up? He'd never met her before, but she was already irritating him because she was hassling various employees in all of his newspaper companies.

"That's what some widows do. They turn all bitter like nasty little mites, and all a man can do is get out of their way and smile as they do it." Emmett swept aside and went to Edward's office door.

Edward clicked his teeth for a moment, deep in thought. "Well, I'll be damned if I ever step aside for a foul mite. I smash it with my heel. And I'll do the same with this little miss and her attitude. She's under my authority, and she'll show me some respect."

"Yes, I daresay . . . Good luck with that caustic mite," Emmett said under his breath and exited.

The door clanged shut behind him.

Edward paced in the room.

Dear God how he detested women like this. She had no business in a man's world. Why couldn't she see this?

He pulled on his suspenders, took a seat and his eyes roamed over today's newspaper—one of the few he did not have a controlling interest in.

A smile bloomed.

Nothing of report on him. Good.

"I said get out of my way, little man!" a female's voice boomed from outside his door.

Edward shook his head and groaned. How was he going to deal with her? He'd heard of her ferocious, biting attitude.

"If you do not remove your person this instant, I'll whip you like I do an idiot horse!" she yelled even louder.

A moment later, Emmett pushed open Edward's office door and then like he'd said he would do, he moved aside to make way for her.

Edward sat in astonishment at this tiny little brunette with rather voluptuous curves, an ample bosom and eyes like a black storm. She appeared so unassuming, yet she bossed around the likes of Emmett—a behemoth of a man. How was it she neither bowed to Emmett or him? Edward owned this establishment. Instead she glared at them, and she certainly didn't dip her head in respect. Who taught her to act in this manner?

His eyes went wide when she stood there bold as brass, defiant and shaking from head to toe while her face reddened.

"You did not sign my bank note," she began, stomping toward Edward and looking him in the eye.

"I see you have good eyesight; well, that settles that bet," Edward said, smirking.

"I have no time for your stupid games. You think I give a damn you own this place, all the other gossips in town and half the shares in the oil business, too? I don't see anything great before me. I see a sick man, gambling away a widows future."

He swallowed and his jaw clenched. "I don't harm widows," he said, his voice low and husky. He set his hands on his desk and leaned forward.

She inched closer until she was flush up against the other side of his desk and leaning over it as well. There was barely a foot between their faces.

The door to his office clicked closed quietly.

Apparently Emmett vacated the room.

Smart man. This might get brutal.

"Look at you—thinking you're Lord over all. It sickens me the way you prance around this town and how the women talk about you." She glared.

What women were talking? This couldn't be right . . .

"Is there a reason you're wasting my time, little miss?"

"The name's Miss Swan," she said, clearing her throat.

"Then you will call me Mr. Masen, and then maybe we can move forward," he replied.

"I'm not moving anywhere in any direction with you, asshole."

His eyes went wide, and he growled.

"Yes, that's your name. That's what the woman call you: 'asshole paperman.' Only I dropped the paperman part. I don't care if you're made of paper, oil, or shit. You reek of filth." She breathed hard and her breath fanned across his face.

Good Lord but she smelled divine. He blinked and tried to look away, but her cleavage was bearing down on him, and she had lush breasts from what he could see. His mouth watered, damn his throat. He could barely swallow for some inexplicable reason, so it was pooling at the back of his tongue.

"And if you think I work for free, you need to ponder on what it means to be an employer," she said and backed off.

His stomach flipped, and he had the undeniable urge to tie her down and see how ample those breasts truly were. God forbid he get any more aroused by this detestable mite.

"Oh, no, even prostitutes get paid handsomely, so I would never think you work for free," he said, chuckling.

She picked up his ink pot and threw it at his head. He ducked and whistled.

"Whooooohhhh, I see you have no future in baseball. Shame," he said, pointing at the ink spot on the wall she'd just created.

"I won't clean that up," she challenged, ignoring his jibe about her throwing skills.

"You will if you want your damn bank note," he barked back.

"You see if I'll do anything of the sort. No more of my work for you. I'll seek out the competition," she said, squaring her shoulders and heading toward the door. She turned on the spot before grabbing the door handle. "And if I ever see your stupid red hair on the street, you'll get more flung at you from me than a minuscule ink pot. Can't you afford bigger? I thought you were all about generous portion size." She glanced down at her cleavage and then left the room, making sure to terrorize his staff as she left.

His eyes followed after her. Brazen woman. Her ankles were even showing. That was vulgar and shunned by many. His right eyebrow lifted.

He walked over to his door she'd flung wide open and called out to his crew, "Ignore that mite. Feel free to squish it anytime it comes around. You have my permission. Now, get back to work. These papers don't manufacture themselves."

He went back to his office, secured the door shut and shoved her bank note aside. There had to be a way to do this so it worked for both of them.

He lit up his cigarette and puffed on it as he rounded his desk.

Knock, knock.

"Yes, come," Edward hollered and then exhaled the smoke swirling in his lungs.

"Did you sign it?" Emmett asked.

"No. I can't."

"You still haven't altered that?" Emmett came inside and shut the door behind him. "For the love of . . ." He dropped his head and shook it. "She does amazing work, and we've sold a lot more papers because of her."

"I don't give a damn. I don't need her. I don't care how many papers we sell. They sell regardless of who we use as our artist or photographer." Edward plucked at one of his suspenders and then straightened his bow tie as he sat down.

"I know you don't care, but this my livelihood. I've got a family on the way. I need as big a salary as I can get," Emmett said, his voice traveling to the floor.

"Emmett, are you telling me you got that poor young lady pregnant I forbid you to see?" Edward's brow popped up.

"Yes, I . . . Well, I love her, and she loves m—"

"No she does not!" Edward bellowed. "She sees a fortune—she sees an easy way to have food on her table, and she spread her legs in exchange for an oil tycoon's money purse!"

"Unlike you, I have faith in the goodness of people, and she's a wonderful, sweet, Christian woman. She can't help it she was forced to work on the streets."

"Is that what they're calling it these days? Or do you prefer call girl? I myself am the one that introduced you when I refused to give her my cock. I don't like blondes." Edward took a long drag on his cigarette and then snuffed it out on the plate, sitting on his desk. "She's a horrid woman, wears entirely too much rouge, and she smokes more than I do."

"I don't care," Emmett said, his eyes twisting like knives in Edward's gut.

"Fine. You see how much she ruins you, but I'll make sure she gets none of my money."

"Your money's secured." Emmett tapped the desk with his knuckles. "Will I see you tonight at the fights?"

"I don't know." Edward frowned.

"Why? What's the problem, brother? We always go each Friday. I plan to double my wages tonight. I want to shower my lovely Rose with gifts and a lavish wedding in June."

"Great gates of hell—she'll be monstrously huge by then. Rose will look like a—"

"She'll look like a woman carrying my child, and I can't wait for the day her belly's ripe and everyone knows she's mine." Emmett bowed with a scolding look and left.

Well, this seemed to be where bets should be laid.

Edward grabbed another cigarette, pocketed it in his suit coat, put the coat on and grabbed his hat in one hand and the mite's bank note in his other.

He slapped the bank note on Emmett's desk on the way out. "Sign this."

"I can't," Emmett retorted. "You made it impossible."

"I don't care, and it's doubtful the bank will even notice. Sign it and send it to her. She'll stop moaning at me."

"I thought you did everything you could to get women to moan for you." Emmett cocked his head at his brother and boss, a devilish gleam in his eye.

"Quite, but this one's moans I cannot abide, the little trollop." Edward loomed over him, and snarled, "If you want me to attend your wedding in June, then you'll sign this and be rid of this bank note. It irks me it's still in this building."

Edward left without another word.

The day was bright, the birds were chirping, and he had a visit to make.

A/N:

The New York Herald in 1899 was actually the biggest newspaper in circulation in New York, not the Times, but since we're all familiar with the Times, I figured I'd stick with what we know.

Also, a few warnings upfront on this story. There is an attempted rape scene by a drunk guy, but there's no nudity and it's stopped before it gets anywhere. It's in chapter 12, and she does get called a whore and a slut by this man. This scene's not much worse than what happens in Twilight when Bella's being followed, and kind of along the lines of the attack by James at the end of that same book. Also, there's some minor edge play in the final chapter. I'll try to give a warning at the beginning of both of these chapters in case these are scenes you'd prefer to avoid.

Thanks so much for reading. This is a darker Edward than I usually write, and as I've told many of you, he has Dom tendencies and there will be BDSM throughout this fic. I appreciate you giving this story a "chanse." *snickers*

I plan to update every Monday and Friday… I've written all of this story except the last 2 chapters, which I intend to finish on Monday.

Let me know what you think so far.

Chanse