AN: This story is inspired by and based on Autumn of the Witch by Anne Mather.
Disclaimer: I neither own Twilight nor Autumn of the Witch. No infringement intended.
Edward Cullen was a ruthless business man who knew what he wanted and was not afraid to get it no matter the cost. At forty he stood at six feet five inches and had a commanding presence about him, he could always turn heads just by entering a room. He had gorgeous green eyes on a well defined handsome face, his untamable bronze hair and tall muscular built completed his gorgeous physique and he had a face and body that made men jealous and women drool, with desire and lust. His good looks, devilish charm and immense wealth made him the object of many fantasies.
Edward had always known the effect he had on others especially those of the fairer sex, and had been using it to his advantage all his life. When he was a teenager he used his looks and charms to woo the girls in his school and sometimes even the divorced mothers or wives of husbands who were too busy to satisfy their wives. Later in life he used his charm and influence to dominate in business and rose to the top, where he very much intended to remain.
Walking into his home office he saw his right hand man and long time friend Peter Marshall sitting there waiting for him.
After greeting his employee, Edward never one to beat about the bush got right down to business. "So Peter tell me, how are things going with the SWA deal?"
"Straight to the point as usual I see." Peter said as he leaned back in the chair he was sitting in.
"I've never seen the need for beating about the bush; my time is very much too precious to waste."
"Well I was able to make offers to Mrs. Swan and Mrs. Evans. – Swans wife and his sister, both women were open to selling their shares and are willing to work on a deal with you." Peter informed his boss.
"That's wonderful. You did great as always Peter. I always knew I could count on you. I hope you didn't find it too hard to do." Edward said as he took a cigar from his drawer and offered one to Peter.
"Edward you know I take no pleasure in this kind of business." Peter said as he took the offered cigar and lit it.
"Did you find out anything useful?"
"Mrs. Swan is drowning in debts and is likely to accept anything we offers, she seems to have little to no loyalty to her husband and his business. Swan's sister – Julia Evans has had a tense relationship with her brother for years, apparently they had never been very close but they got even worse when Swan married his new bride within months of the death of his late wife. Apparently the first Mrs. Swan was best friends with Julia, and Julia was actually the one who introduced them to each other. The siblings had a big falling out, as she thought he remarried too soon and she did not and still does not like Renee – the new wife. So of course she will take a good offer for her shares especially if it means going against her brother who if fighting dearly to hang onto the company." Peter informed Edward of his findings.
"Ah, a little family drama I see, well all the better for me. Have you gone over the contract?" Edward asked as he pulled on his cigar before puffing out the smoke.
"I have and I have to say it doesn't look good for Charlie Swan, the poor man stands to be kicked completely out of his company." Peter said feeling bad for the poor unfortunate man.
"He made his bed now he has to lie in it. He is the only one responsible for this; I wanted to have a nice clean merger right from the start. But he thought he could be smart and tried to under hand me and this is what happens to him as a result. I make no apologies for the actions I was forced to take. Swan has no one but himself to blame for his foolish business decisions."
Peter had to admit that Edward was right, Swan Western Airlines had been slowly declining in business and profits had increasingly dropped over the last four years. Unfortunately for Swan he was about to find out the kind of man he tried to trick. Edward was not a man to be messed with, he could break a man before he even knew what hit him and as such was not someone to be messed with. People quickly learned that when Edward wanted something nothing and no one could stand in his way, he was definitely a force to be reckoned with.
"Peter I can tell that you have no interest in this kind of business and take no pleasure in carrying it out, so I will take care of it from here on out." Edward offered.
"I can do it." Peter said not wanting to be perceived as weak.
"I don't doubt you capabilities Peter. But I need someone who is not afraid to make the tough call."
"I assure you Edward I can handle it."
"I am aware, but I will still be taking over. You will of course be accompanying me, the next time we meet with them." Edward said.
"What exactly are your intentions Edward?" Peter asked his boss, he knew that whenever Edward was this intent on getting something he always had a reason that was not always obvious.
"I want certain connections that will be given to me with access to SWA. However I have no intention of letting Swan become aware of this. That way we can afford to be blasé about the whole deal, no pressure on our side."
"I'm confused, what do you plan on doing?" Peter asked, lost as to what his boss was playing at.
"I intent to stretch out the deal, have a little fun." Edward answered nonchalantly.
"Don't tell me you plan to bankrupt the man?" Peter asked, fearing the answer.
"Goodness no, even I'm not that ruthless and heartless. I just plan to play with him a little; scare him. He has given me enough trouble already as it is. I think it's time we give him a little trouble see how he handles it." Edward said a mischievous smirk spreading across his face.
Peter knew that look all too well it meant that Edward Cullen was up to no good. He pitied the poor fool who Edward intended to mess with in this and case that poor fool happened to be Charlie Swan. "Edward surely it is enough that you plan to take over the man's company whether he likes it or not."
"This is nothing but a game of business Peter, Charlie Swan needs to learn that he is playing with the big boys now. He needs to learn that I could crush him if I wanted without as much as a second thought. But, I'd like to believe I am above that. So we will not cheat him out of his company, what we are offering them is more that generous."
"I guess you have a point." Peter conceded.
"Come now enough with all this business talk, I can see that it is wearing you down. Let's go visit Lizzie I am sure she will be delighted to see you."
Standing up from his chair Peter looked to his boss smiling for the first time since they began their discussion. "It never ceases to amaze me how you can go from talking about bringing down your competitors one minute to suddenly being Lizzie's doting father the next. You give me whiplash with the sudden change."
Laughing at the comment Edward turned to his friend and employee. "I don't intend to have Swan waste my money or my time Peter. But do tell, is it the captivating Mrs. Swan that has you hesitating to pull the punches Peter, I have never know you to be so conscionable about a business deal before." Edward teased.
"I barely know the woman, I am sure you have a more extensive knowledge of her than I do." Peter said as a deep blush spread across his face.
"I guess I may, but we can both admit that she is significantly younger than that husband of hers. So it is not hard to imagine that she may need someone to give her a little excitement. I doubt Swan can handle woman like her." Edward said with a mischievous glint in his eyes and a grin on his face.
"I am sure she realized how much older than her he was when she married him. After all she is not his first wife; he had already been married before with a daughter." Peter said, blushing even more at what Edward was not so subtly implying.
"Well then if it was not Renee Swan that caught your eyes maybe it was Isabella Swan, the daughter of Charlie Swan that has caught your interest…."
"I am not interested in Swan, his wife or daughter. So please let's change the subject. I thought we were going to visit Lizzie. That is a much more enjoyable way to spend my time than gossiping with you."
Edward decided to drop the subject for now, as he led the way out of his study and towards Lizzie's nursery.
Elizabeth Cullen was an enchanting child. At three years of age she was small and slender and extremely feminine. This was all thanks to her grandmother – Esme Cullen who made sure that even though she lived in another continent and without a mother she never lacked a female influence in her life, especially with all the shopping they get done whenever she visits her granddaughter, who was living too far away in her opinion. Elizabeth's complexion matched that of her father's, just as her long silky hair had the same bronze color as her Father and grandmother. Her green eyes were big and bright in her small face and her features, bearing a striking but feminine resemblance to her father, charm and all. She was all Edward, there were very little signs of her mother in her; something her father was thankful for everyday. Lizzie was the only person in Edward's eyes who could do no wrong, his entire world revolved around her, and yet she was not a spoilt child.
Lizzie was in the nursery with her nanny, Emily West, and when her father opened the door her enormous green eyes lit up with happiness as they darted to his matching green eyes with great excitement. Then she left what she was doing forgotten as she ran to fling herself across the room and into his arms.
Edward caught her up in his strong arms, swinging her high into the air before allowing her to fall against his chest where she wound her arms around his neck and hugged him.
"Hey Lizzie bear," he exclaimed, "Peter is here. Are you going to greet him?"
Lizzie lifted her head from her father's shoulder her eyes twinkled at Peter as she saw him for the first time since they entered the room. "Hello, Uncle Peter," she said smiling. "Have you come to stay with us?" She asked her pseudo uncle.
Peter glanced down at Edward who was now bending down to Lizzie's height. "For a little while," he replied gently. "But you are looking particularly lovely today, Liz. Is that a new dress?"
Lizzie glanced down at the daisy covered sundress she wore. "Grandma bought it for me." She said a big smile gracing her beautiful face. "Do you like it?" She asked as she gave a little twirl.
"I do, it's a very lovely dress, for a very lovely girl." Peter agreed.
"Grandma and I went shopping when she was here, last time. But that was many, many, many days ago, these many, right Daddy?" She said as she held up all ten fingers to show how long ago her grandmother was there. "I miss her."
"Don't worry Sweetie; I'm sure you'll see Grandma soon." Edward assured his daughter. He had been considering moving back to New York a lot lately. He had moved to his Sicilian home right after Elizabeth had been born to escape the memories that surrounded her birth and the pain her mother had caused him. Being in New York at that time had been too hard for him, especially with the media speculating about Elizabeth and the circumstances surrounding her birth. But it had been three tears now and Lizzie need to have family near her especially since she did not have a mother and his work kept him busy and he did not get to spend as much time with her as he would like.
"So tell me Sweetie, how are your lessons coming along, Lizzie? Have been learning your numbers and letters of the alphabet?" Edward asked, changing the subject.
Lizzie scrunched up her nose. "Yes, Daddy," she answered hesitantly.
Edward frowned at her scrunched up face. "Is that true, Elizabeth?"
Lizzie pressed her lips together. "But it is so difficult," she exclaimed. "I cannot make these letters and there are too many numbers. I cannot possibly remember them all Daddy."
Peter glanced at his boss and long time friend. "Surely she is too young for a formal education, Edward," he commented, surprised that Edward had already had Lizzie having formal school lessons.
Edward shrugged his wide shoulders. "They are not formal lessons, Peter. They are just little exercises for young little minds. My daughter should not find them impossible. She is a very intelligent child and should be coping with it. I know she has the potential all she needs to do is focus and apply herself."
Peter shook his head. "Is Emily the one teaching her?"
"Let's put it this way, when I am not here Emily supervises her lessons," said Edward carefully. "Oh, come on Peter! It is not that important. Lizzie needs something to occupy her mind and her time. We both know that she is an intelligent child. In England children her age are already in school and do the same thing she is doing, if not more."
Peter sighed. "Even so, I am sure that Emily does not have the credentials to be teaching her, no offense to Emily."
Lizzie who had been listening to the interchange, between her father and pseudo uncle now said: "Can I stop my lessons for today – now that Uncle Peter is here?" She asked hopefully.
Edward's eyes and demeanor softened as he looked at his beloved child. "Of course, Liz," he said. "How about this, we all go out for a nice day of fun, just, you, me, Peter and even Emily?"
"OH, Daddy!" Lizzie's face lit up with excitement.
"But the Swan deal –" Peter began to say, when Edward smiled at him.
"Which Swan?" he questioned lightly. "Like Lizzie, I am putting aside my work and problems for today. Come, Peter! Do you not find prospect of taking out my yacht for nice sail appealing on such a beautiful day?"
Peter relaxed. "I most definitely do. I can think of nothing more delightful, especially in the company of the enchanting Elizabeth Cullen." Peter said as he scooped up a giggling Lizzie into his arms.
"Peter, if you were in my position, what would you do about Swan?" Edward asked as he slid his dark sunglasses off his face to rest atop his head. They were lounging on the deck on Edward's yacht, each enjoying the sun, the cool breeze that blew as they sailed and a good cigar and a cool beer, while Lizzie ran around with her nanny Emily.
Peter took a drag of his cigar as he contemplated the question before finally answering it. "I don't know what I would do." He answered honestly.
"Look at all the details Peter, think about the whole picture. Charlie Swan tried to use us to make money to save his company then back out of our deal. Now that he's been caught he still thinks he can call the shots." Edward said getting annoyed just thinking about what the man planned on doing.
"I see your point." Peter conceded.
"I don't see how he didn't anticipate this happening. The company has been heading south for years." Edward commented.
"I know. I still feel sorry for the man. He has had that company in his family for generations and to be the one that loses it must be a hard pill for him to swallow." Peter observed, thinking of how Swan must feel in the current situation.
"It is a harsh world we live in my friend. And in business we cannot always be compassionate, or else everyone will use that as an excuse to walk all over us. Then we would find ourselves in a position not very different from Swan's. And if the roles were reversed don't think for a second that Swan would hesitate to destroy us. That is just the way business and the world as a whole works. We have to learn that in order to get to the top and stay there we have to make some hard calls."
Peter nodded his head; there was definitely truth and wisdom in Edward's words. If anyone knew what it took to get to the top and stay there it would be him, after all he had been there for the last fifteen years. As Peter glanced over at Lizzie who was frolicking around while Emily kept a watchful eye on her; he decided to change the subject. "Edward, have you ever thought of marrying?" He asked as his eyes shifted from Lizzie to her father.
Edward, who was caught off guard by the sudden change of subject, was very surprised by the question. However when he did finally answer his reply was a firm, "NO!"
Peter observed him for a minute, his posture that a mere minute ago was relaxed was now tense and his face was marred with a deep frown. "Surely, you see the need for a woman in your life. It has been three years now since Lizzie's mother died. Lizzie is a young girl, and she needs someone besides her nanny, she needs a woman, a moth—"
"I know that your intentions are good Peter, you have been a dear friend for many years. But there is nothing more to be said in this discussion. What Kate did to me was unforgivable and unforgettable; the only good she has ever brought into my life was Lizzie. Now I need no woman about the house, no companion for my future years. If it is my other desires that needs to be taken care of, rest assured that there are plenty of women to satisfy it without me putting a ring on their finger. What more do I need?"
"Edward there is still Lizzie to consider." Peter said trying to get Edward to see reason. "As she grows and matures into a young girl, she will need a woman's guidance. She will need a mother's gentle touch, something that as much as you love and adore her, you cannot provide."
"I am sure my mother will be happy to assist with that in whatever way she can." Edward replied getting annoyed with the direction this conversation was headed. "I think your time would be better spent looking into your own affairs than mine." Edward said with a tone of finality in his voice which Peter knew meant the end of the discussion.