Nothing belongs to me, well the plot does and the OCs, but everything else belongs to the wonderful Stephenie Meyer and I am not her and I am making NO money with this story.
The only sound heard in the office, was the rustling of paper as a young woman with beautiful brown hair and equally colored frustrated eyes read through another manuscript that would hopefully bring the big breakthrough for Phoenix Books. Isabella Marie Swan, who only wanted to be called Bella for several reasons, was twenty-six and not only an employee. No, she, together with her two friends, was the owner of Phoenix Books.
Bella had always loved books and as soon as she'd graduated from college she, and her friends Angela Webber and Ben Cheney, founded their own publishing house. The fact that Bella came from a very old and very rich family and that her grandfather had given her most of the money helped quiet a lot. To built a publisher was not an easy task, nor a cheap one, but that didn't stop the three friends from following their dream. Luckily each one of them had studied something very useful for their goal. Ben had studied law and took care of their legal business and on the side he was their computer- and fantasy-freak. Angele loved numbers and had graduated with a business degree, while Bella had studied English. At the beginning there had been more than one argument but at the end of the day they'd always come to an agreement. Of course they didn't make high profits yet, but things looked promising and one of these days Bella would read the one manuscript that would bring Phoenix Books the great success.
Sadly this day wasn't today. The current wannabe book was... horrible. There was no other word for it. One would think the author would let a friend or someone else read it before they sent it to a publisher or agent but nooooo. Frustrated, Bella pushed the sad excuse of a fantasy novel away and started to stand up to get Angela and grab something to eat, but before she could even straighten herself her phone rang and the ring tone told her that her mother was trying to reach her.
Dear Jesus, what have I done?
For one minute Bella thought of ignoring her beloved mother, but the resulting lecture simply wasn't worth it. With a deep sigh she took her phone and answered the call.
"'lo mother. How can I help you?"
"Isabella, speak loud and clearly, and don't mangle words. One wouldn't believe you went to the best schools in Massachusetts the way you speak. You sound like a commoner," her mother, Renée Swan, snapped and Bella was already regretting answering the call. "But I guess I shouldn't expect too as much as you refused to attend a well-known college. All the efforts..."
On and on her mother talked without noticing that her daughter wasn't listening any longer. Bella knew the tirades of her mother only too well and wasn't inclined to hear all the reasons why she was a huge disappointment to her family.
"Mother!" Bella interrupted her mother and did her best to suppress her growing anger. That lecture was another one she didn't want to listen to. "I'm pretty sure you didn't call to remind me of my numerous faults. So why don't you just tell me why you wanted to speak to me."
Bella could clearly hear her mother's displeased sniff before the answered, "The family is dining at your grandparent's house this evening and your attendance is wanted."
This day was getting worse by the moment and there was nothing she could to. A dinner at Geoffrey and Helen Swan's house was everything Bella abhorred. The food was fine but too formal for her tastes and the only topics her family talked about were money, politics and the gossip of the high society. And she had to endure the presence of her brother Tyler and his bitchy wife Lauren.
Perhaps she should stab herself with a pencil...
"Why are we meeting on a Friday night? We normally meet for a Sunday lunch," Bella asked and tried to keep her growing paranoia at bay. There was no reason to be suspicious, just because her family strayed from their normal schedule. No, none at all.
"Is it a crime for a family to eat together and enjoy a nice night?" Okay, now she was starting to panic. "Really, sometimes I wonder if something isn't quiet right with you. Maybe you should talk to Dr. Snow. He has an excellent reputation."
"I don't need a therapist. When do you want me to be there?" Bella asked in a slightly angered voice. She could only bear her family, especially Renée, in very small portions and if she was expected the endure a whole dinner, she needed to end this call. Immediately.
"At half past six, Bella, and be on time."
"Yes, I'll be there. Bye!" Bella promised and ended the call without giving her mother a chance to reply. When she looked up she saw Angela standing in her office, who was looking at her with a sympathetic expression.
"News from the family?" Angela knew Bella didn't get along with her family very well and preferred to ignore them.
"Unfortunately. I was ordered to my grandparent's home for a family dinner. This evening."
Angela grimaced at that and said, "My condolences. Better you than me."
Bella gave her a grimly smile and muttered, "Thanks, sweetie. I feel the love."
"Oh come on, Bella, how bad can it be?"
With my family? I better don't even think about it.
The Swans were an old family, which migrated to the USA in the early 19th century and had settled near Boston, where they still lived. The main estate of the Swans was located in Weston, one of the richest towns in Massachusetts. In 1897 Matthew Swan bought a huge piece of land where a gray stone mansion was built. It was everything a family of the leisured class needed. It was huge, representative and had exclusive facilities. Of course the rest of the family lived in equally high class dwellings. Everyone with the exception of Bella. Even though she was raised in luxury, she knew the value of money. Which was something that couldn't be said of the rest of her family. They spent money as if it would be getting out of style, but they did that in a well behaved manner.
All of her life Bella had hated the way of life that her family and her environment practiced, which was the reason why she'd turned her back on the high society. These days her life only collided with her family's at family events and when it couldn't be avoided. Like today.
A deep sigh escaped Bella before she rang the bell and sent a quick prayer to heaven. It took a few seconds before Shelby Cope, her grandparent's housemaid, opened the door.
"Bella! Welcome, darling. It's good to see you," she greeted Bella with a friendly smile. Mrs Cope was a nice middle-aged woman with red hair and a sunny personality, who'd worked for nearly three decades for her family and had the incredible gift to take most of their tempers with humor. Needless to say that Bella loved her.
"Mrs Cope, it's great to see you again. You look good. Do you know why we're meeting today. I'm a little anxious to be honest."
Mrs Cope took her coat and shook her head. "No, Bella, I've no idea but your grandfather has been rather busy these last few weeks but one week ago he came home and looked really pleased. It was disconcerting."
Oh oh, that didn't sound good. There were very few things that made Geoffrey Swan happy and none of them would be good for Bela.
"I guess I should go inside and find out what these crazy people hatched up," Bella murmured and entered the opulent living-room where her parents and grandparents were already enjoying a drink.
Her grandmother, Helen, noticed her entrance first and beckoned her over. "Isabella, it's good to see you. Do you want a drink?"
Bella declined and sat on an armchair that allowed her to observe both parties. They looked relaxed, well, as relaxed as they could be and they seemed to be happy.
Something isn't right here.
Renée looked displeased as she took her appearance in and couldn't, or rather wouldn't, suppress a critical comment. "Couldn't you wear something more... appropriate? You look like you've just finished grocery shopping. Is that what you wear to work?"
Bella was very happy with her current outfit. To dark blue jeans she wore an ivory shirt with a little lace at the neckline and a blue coat completed the ensemble. Because she knew her family wouldn't approve of her winter boots, no matter that it was March and still very cold outside, she wore her office flats. Bella didn't need to ask what her mother disapproved of. All her mother wore were expensive brands and very fashionable clothes. Comfort was not important but Bella didn't care what Renée thought and hadn't for a very long time.
"Renée is correct. Your attire is very unprofessional. You are the boss and need to …," Geoffrey agreed but before he could tell Bella what she needed to wear, Tyler and his wife entered the room and everything revolved around them.
Tyler was the golden son of the family. He did everything right. He had the right connections, hobbies and wife. And, of course, the right job. In the high society it was very important to have an occupation befitting ones social status. You needed to earn ridiculous amounts of money and be in a high position. Politicians, lawyers, banker. Teachers and professors were only accepted if they taught at a renowned institution. Doctors were also a good job, especially if you were a specialist. Everything else was only tolerated.
Just as important as the occupation were the people you surrounded yourself with. What Bella hated the most was the fact that many didn't marry for love but for money and reputation. All marriages in her family were like that. Her parents, for example, certainly didn't love each other. Oh they liked each other all right and loved expensive things, admiration and gossip but they weren't really faithful. Well, her mother wasn't but that wasn't all that uncommon. Affairs were something that occurred but weren't spoken about and if you knew what was good for you, you wouldn't let yourself get caught. Infidelity, especially with unsuitable partners, was not something people forgave or forget.
It was a world of hypocrisy and superficiality and people acted as if this they still lived in the 19th century. Bella was really happy, she had little to do with it.
Soon after they heard everything about the new accomplishments of Tyler's and Lauren's daughter Renesmee, poor child, Mrs Cope called them to dinner. She was a great cook but the food wasn't something Bella enjoyed. She loved simpler dishes, a good curry for example. The topics at the table were also not things Bella enjoyed. Lauren proudly announced that she and two of her friends were organizing Mrs Owen's 70th birthday. Everyone was very enthused over these news. Mrs. Owen was a well respected woman who planned many parties and events and because of that she knew everyone and everything which made her opinion rather important. At least to people like Lauren and Bella's mother.
By the time dessert was served Bella was ready to scream. No one had said one word about why they had to meet today and Bella didn't like it at all but now it seemed like her grandfather was willing to share his most important information. After he took one last swallow of his wine he looked at everyone and said, "Today is a great day for our family. You're all aware that these last three years haven't been easy. Many people lost not only money but also their good reputation. Sadly, we weren't an exception."
Only sheer determination saved Bella from snorting. Oh, yes, the last three years hadn't been easy for her spoiled family. The Swan family had a rather long and successful tradition with money and insurances. Most of their wealth, and that of their clients, was made with hedge funds and similar investments. Everything went very well for her family until her grandfather, father and brother had made some rather suboptimal decisions and lost money and not only their own. No, they lost millions of their clients money and that was the reason why Bella's family had lost some of their standing and that was something none of the members were willing to take. Bella knew that they would do nearly everything to get back where they had been and she wouldn't have wasted one thought concerning their social problems if she didn't have a bad, really bad, feeling about this.
"But the hard days are over," Geoffrey interrupted Bella's thoughts. "Over the last few weeks I had some meetings with one of the most important patriarchs of North America." The excited breaths of the family were the only sounds heard and Bella's grandfather seemed pleased that his family was hanging on his every word. "From this day onwards our family will be very close with the Cullens."
"Dad, what great news."
"How wonderful. That's such a blessing."
"What an amazing day."
Bella heard her family's happy exclamations. They were elated and nothing could darken their mood, but Bella wasn't stupid. Her grandfather hadn't said one word about the conditions and there were always conditions and she feared what these would mean for her.
"Bella, you're very quiet. Why aren't you as happy as the rest of us?" Geoffrey asked her and something in his eyes made her want to run and hide but she knew she couldn't.
"I simply don't see how this has anything to do with me. I have no interests in these social battles and couldn't care less about the opinion of some old and rich people."
Lauren made a disbelieving sound in the back of her throat but Bella ignored her for now, as she ignored her mother, who sounded like she was choking on her drink.
"Oh yes, I know you couldn't care less about such trivial things but this is going to change now, because it's time that you do something for your family. You've been selfish long enough and it's your turn to take on some responsibility for the sake of this family."
Now wait a moment! Bella was getting angry now. She was never selfish. She went to college, graduated, started her own publishing house and was earning her own money. Lauren and her stupid friends were selfish and lazy. They only went to college to get a good husband and wasted their days with shopping and organizing parties for different reasons. How dare he call her selfish!
"I'm Not selfish. I work very hard and do my best to make Phoenix successful. You don't have to remind me, it was your money that made all this possible but I'm paying you back, as you're well aware of."
"Yes, I'm aware of that and you would do well to remember this as well because if you want to keep your little hobby then you'll have to do as I say or I'll take the money back. You know I can. Especially because we have no formal contract. Without the money you won't be able to pay your employees."
Bastard! How dare he do something to me! He knows Phoenix means everything to me. Damn asshole!
Bella was cursing her grandfather and his damn money to hell. She knew she couldn't do anything about him because he was right. There was to contract and he could demand his money back at any time. Like he was threatening now. She knew her grandfather wasn't the nicest person but she'd never thought he would do something like this.
"I understand. What do you want from me?" Bella asked and tried to keep herself together.
"Oh Bella, don't act like that. Most young women would be happy about such an offer. I'm sure you remember Edward Cullen Senior and his grandson."
Of course, she did. Just because she tried her best to leave this superficial world behind, didn't mean she lived under a rock. Edward Cullen Senior had been the head of the Cullen family and their business for over half a decade. He was a well respected and liked man. You only heard the best of him and most of his family members. If there were a royal family in North America it would be the Cullens. They'd left England in the early 18th century and had lived at the east coast most of the time. Over the centuries the family became not only one of the most important families but also one of the richest. At the beginning they made their money as carpenters, but not with everyday furnitures, no. They made wonderful and exclusive pieces. Every family that was something owned at least one Cullen piece. Even the White House had some of their creations. Till this day they sold their furnitures all over the world. Many exclusive hotels ordered beds, tables and other things but that wasn't their only income. Over time they invested quiet a lot of their gainings in lucrative business'.
But the Cullens were not a too old fashioned family. You didn't have to work in their family business and some didn't. Like Carlisle Cullen, son of Edward Senior, he worked as a doctor. A brain surgeon and he was a great one. People came from all over the country to see him.
Edward Senior had died a two weeks ago and that meant his 29 year old grandson Edward Anthony Cullen became head of the Cullen Corp. He wold watch over the different branches and make sure that everything went as it should. His younger brother Emmett, if Bella remembered correctly, worked with investments, while the youngest, Alice, was still studying fashion and design and wanted to stay with the main business.
Bella knew all this but that didn't help her understand what her grandfather wanted from her. "Of course I remember them. Mr Cullen died a short while ago and I know that Edward took over as head of business, but I haven't even seen one of them since my debutante ball."
"Yes, I'm aware of that," Geoffrey said and looked at her like this was a great disappointment to him. "I met with Edward Senior weeks before he died and while he couldn't have been more happy about his grandson and his achievements, there is one thing Edward doesn't have yet and that is a wife."
"A wife?" Bella asked in a broken whisper.
"Absolutely correct. Edward needs a wife and you will marry him and bring glory to this family."
The statement was met with happy exclamations and joyous cries from her family but Bella just sat there. Frozen.
NO! This can't be true. I'm dreaming and this is a nightmare a horrible, horrible nightmare. Please God! I won't do this. They can't make me. No, no.
This one word stopped all action in the room and made her the sole focus of her bizarre family.
"No? What do you mean 'no'?" her mother asked with a shocked expression on her face. "Do you have any idea how lucky you are? Many girls would be happy to be able to marry into such a fabulous family. You'll move in the best circles and only have the best. What more could one want?"
That right there was one of the reasons why Bella couldn't take much of her family. They thought money meant everything and would make you happy. But Bella knew better. She'd seen too many society marriages to believe luxury made anyone happy.
"Honestly, Isabella, you don't know what's important," Lauren commented and looked more than a little jealous. Oh yes, Bella knew only too well that Lauren would give her soul, if she had one, to be Mrs Edward Cullen. It wasn't that she didn't like Tyler but she would rather be married to a more important and richer man than being together with her brother. But that was Lauren.
"Listen to Lauren, Isabella. You don't know how we suffered when you decided to turn your back on us. The gossip was horrible. Not only didn't you to attend the right college, no, you spent you time in the company of ordinary people. Children of cooks, teachers and ministers," her father Charles agreed.
Bella heard what her parents and Lauren said but she kept looking at her grandfather, who looked pleased that most members of his family countenanced his arrangement. Not that it would matter if they didn't share his opinion. Geoffrey was the head of his family and he controlled most of their finances. If he wanted something, he found a way to get it. Like now. He knew how much Bella hated this affair but that was not something that mattered to him.
"Hm, you seem to think that you have a choice but you don't," Geoffrey sneered and looked at her like she was nothing more than an insect. "Since you've been born you've been little more than a disappointment but for once you'll do something to make me and this family proud. Once you're married the money I gave you will be yours and no one will be able to touch it but if you refuse to behave, I'll ruin you."
The last part was whispered but Bella understood every single word and she also knew he meant every word he'd said. Her family had never been warm or loving but this was something else entirely. Bella knew no one would help her because they all hoped she would agree so that they could benefit from her marriage but to hear how less her grandfather thought of her hurt her more than she would like to admit.
There was nothing she could do and her grandfather knew it. All she could do was agree to this farce of a marriage. But she would do everything in her power to make them regret forcing her into this live. In this moment she hated them all.
A single tear ran down her cheek as she looked into Geoffrey Swan's hard eyes and said the damming words.
"I acquiesce to the arrangement."
Welcome to my new story. I know I'm late but I had to stay in the hospital for a week because of a thorax vertebra infection. I couldn't feel my legs really well.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. And yes, Bella's family as crazy and I love to hate them.
The second chapter with Edward's first appearance should be out ion two weeks.
Please leave a comment. They make me really happy. Nearly as much as chocolate.