"…no, I can't find him anywhere! I know, I know." Alice Volturi, both my boss and perhaps the most beautiful woman under five feet tall, bustled through the mingling crowd of the annual Christmas party. Her tall, glittery stilettos put my plain black pumps to shame that night, but I honestly didn't see the point of dressing up too snazzy for this event. The people that I worked with were alright characters, but I didn't really have many friends here. We were just colleagues, and I was perfectly fine with that. A much taller man was trailing her, speaking in low tones as if to calm her frazzled appearance. A few of my coworkers sent her odd looks and immediately began their gossip mill- perhaps she was talking about her infamous husband, Aro? "My brother's going to kill me!" I heard her hiss from where I stood and decided it was time for me to walk away and give her space to deal with her personal drama.
Aro Volturi was always extra friendly at these events, and I did my very best to ignore him at all costs. Together, they owned a chain of luxury hotels under the name "Volturi Hotel & Suites" and I even heard a rumor that they were expanding to a full-on winter resort with ski instructors, personal hot tubs and everything. As I sipped my sparkling wine and milled around, I considered for just a moment what it would be like to be employed at their ski resort. Ever since gracing the front desk of Volturi Hotel & Suites, I found myself striving to make it my duty to become Head of Personnel or Supervising Manager of this chain in North District, Chicago. I wasn't nosy by any means, my mother slapped that out of me at a young age, but when I heard a pattern of tiny sobs and sniffles, I immediately went to the source of the noise. It lead me to the annex of another smaller room, with heavy Christmas cheer décor and more people; a table was turned on its side and pushed against a wall, a white sheet held the shadow of a huddled figure that I slowly attended to. Without gaining anyone's suspicious attention, I kneeled down and pulled my green cocktail dress down a bit. I hated seeing people cry, even strangers, because it just broke my bleeding heart to pieces.
"Hello?" I announced myself softly, hoping not to frighten the tiny person before me. We were safely tucked away from the party goers, but still close enough to be able to hear their jovial laughter and random outbursts. A head of curly, raven locks was attached to small, hunched shoulders and skinny legs- a few hiccups and sobs were heard before I ducked under the rest of the sheet and cocooned myself with this little boy. If any passerby were to stop, they'd assume we were two children playing in a fort of sorts- and I'd probably be fired for looking utterly ridiculous at a company party. Children weren't a norm at these sort of gatherings, but it was rare to come across a crying child all alone. "What's wrong, honey? Are you alright?" When he shook his head, I leaned in closer, setting my glass down. "Are you sick?" Another shake of his head. "Are you hurt- did someone hurt you?" My anger flared at the thought of some creep speaking or touching this poor soul, but I cooled down when he shook his head no and lifted his eyes to me.
They were the most serene color of emerald I had ever seen and I was so glued to them that I didn't notice when he scooted closer to me, almost on my lap. "I'm j-j-just sad." His severe stutter sounded almost natural, as if it was not just a side effect of crying his eyes out. "II'm g-gonna r-r-r-run away forever." He wailed softly as he said this, emitting a tiny frown of my own to emerge.
"No, I'm not sure that's the answer here." I tried to reason softly with him. "What's your name, Green Eyes? Do your parents know you're here?" My spontaneous nickname for him caused an almost quirk of lips from the little guy, but he cast his eyes down again.
"That's w-w-w-what they c-c-c-call my dad." But it was as if bringing up his dad made him both sad and happy. "Grandpa and Vance and J-j-j-oelle say I'm not as g-g-g-good as my dad. And my dad says I shouldn't r-r-really tell strangers my n-n-name." Well, at least his dad cared him enough to give some good fatherly advice! But where was he? How long had this little boy been here alone? Surely any good parent would have gone mad looking for their kid by now? I would have shut down the entire party looking for my baby!
"What if I call you little Green Eyes? That way, we know when I'm talking about you and not your dad." I bargained with him, causing those electrifying green eyes to peek out once more but this time he held his head high. I wondered how his mother controlled those black curls on his head when she needed to… and where was she? Maternal instinct should be going off in her head double time. But what did I really knew? I took care of my kid brother when I was younger, but he was nineteen now with his own newborn to look after; and I was only just twenty-five with no significant other or child of my own, perhaps I wasn't one to talk? He nodded sweetly and sent me one of those melt-your-heart smiles only kids could pull off. "And sorry but I don't believe your grandpa, Joelle, or Vance." I was good at remember names and reciting facts, it was a talent that helped me greatly when dealing with 100 plus people daily. "I bet you're like, one hundred times cooler than your dad." I gushed.
Little Green Eyes gave me a shy beginning of a smile before a blush enveloped his face. "No one's c-c-c-cooler than my dad." He recited with a diplomatic nod of his head. I contained an eye roll at his sudden haughtiness, which was surely a trait he inherited from this great father of his. "Aunt Ali says he makes a g-g-gazillion dollars a day, and he s-s-s-saves people." My eyebrows rose with confusion at his last words; then what was he doing here? These people were hotel clerks, paper pushers, bellboys, ushers, cleaning staff, security guards… perhaps he was referring to one of our top security members? But I knew most of them and none spoke of an older son. "And dad has a r-r-really c-c-c-cool office." At first, his stuttered majorly bothered me but know that I was more tuned out to it, I only slightly noticed it.
He faltered on some of the same words over and over again. "Really? Well that sounds super cool." I added with feigned enthusiasm, but he didn't seem to know what to do with my special attention; he looked almost weary, as if I was being sarcastic or something. "My name is Isabella Swan, but my friends call me Bella so you should do the same." Another half smile with more teeth was granted when I mentioned "friend". This was a really lonely kid, wasn't he? For the next fifteen minutes, I learned that he was an only child to overworked dad, no present mother to speak of ("dad says I don't have a mom, he made me all by himself" when I asked), was in kindergarten but not a physical school, got bullied by his older cousins, and didn't quite live up to the name of his "perfect" dad. It saddened me deeply that he led such a morbid, lonely life as a kid. I knew what it was like to have a shitty (or in his case, omnipresent) mom and a barely there dad- my Chief of Police dad Charlie Swan was so addicted and dedicated to his work that I grew up and left at eighteen right under his nose, with barely a goodbye going either way. We weren't really on speaking terms lately, there was just too much tension and lack of communication to get back to square one.
I took a small sip of my drink to gain a little bit of warmth, not that little Green Eyes wasn't warm enough in my lap; I knew it wasn't right to drink around a child, but I wasn't his mother or anything! And I enjoyed drinking, I didn't think he minded anyway. "You know…" It was odd to hear two clear, formulated words come out of his mouth, "I've always w-w-w-wanted a mommy." Instantly, I stopped drinking and just stared at him. What was I suppose to say to that? Sorry honey, but your mom is probably a deadbeat parent that won't ever come back for you. No, I could tell a child that. I clearly remembered my dad telling me something along those lines when I was just about six years old, and it broke my fucking heart. "D-d-d-do you have a b-b-baby?"
A short 'no' escaped my lips before I took a bigger drink and swallowed the liquid poison as softly as any other would have drank water- it was another talent of mine. "But I have a baby niece, her name's Izadora." The mention of Iza brought a goofy little grin to my done up face. My younger half-brother Riley got his girlfriend knocked up at the end of his Senior year at high school, resulting in the now four month old Izadora Denise Swan. Sure, she wasn't technically my only niece, but I couldn't honestly count my stepbrother & stepsister's children. They didn't include me in any way with their lives or the lives of their kids. I was a little clumsy and oblivious in life, but I knew how to take a hint.
"I bet you w-w-w-would be a g-g-g-good mommy." Little Green Eyes stuttered his sweet ballad to me, but I had never heard something to beautiful; he really thought that? Of course I understood he was young and unknowing to the ways of the world, but it just felt nice to hear once in my life. My step mom Sue was a kind woman, I could admit that, but I always knew she loved Seth, Leah, and Riley more than she cared for me. Maybe it was my cold shoulder or my odd, lonesome ways as a child, I didn't know exactly and I couldn't blame her. She had other kids to worry about, but I could never shake the notion off my back that I deserved a good mom that loved me in a special way. So I completely saw where he was coming from when he shared his urgency for a mommy, or at least a motherly cutout. He probably thought none about the grounding, nagging, complaining, and troubles that kids face with their moms… but I suppose there was good and love lying beneath every one of those sentiments anyway. "A g-g-good mommy for m-me." He spit out at last.
I literally choked on my own spit at his words. "What?" I asked in expiration. Did this kid just say I would be a good mom to him? It was almost laughable, really. My cooking was down to about four meals, my hangovers often left me zombie-like on weekends, I wasn't the smartest woman to teach another anything valuable regarding life, and I doubted he could join me at Club Rome on Friday nights where I went for pure fun. I didn't have the lifestyle of anything close to a responsible mother, I was just some young, stupid girl chasing a single woman's dream for the rest of my life.
And I supposed I was okay with that. Though nobody back in my country hometown of Avila thought the same- they assumed I was too old, too lonely, too careless to be Charles Swan only legitimate daughter. Not to mention the fact that I was meant to be a part of Avila's Police Department, just like my dad stepbrother and stepsister. I was a living, walking, talking contradiction in their eyes, nothing but an eyesore when I rode into town for occasional family visits. "Honey… I think you have me mistaken. I- I can't be your mommy." I bit down on my lip in nervousness. "When your daddy finds a nice woman he loves, he will marry her and she will become your mommy. Do you understand?"
It made me cringe to think that he would be another result of a stepchild, one that possibly wouldn't be treated the right way. But that was life, and it wouldn't be right of me to play along with his little fantasy and then just walk away at the end of the night. At first, he shook his head solemnly and I could see his green opals watering with that dreadful pang of hurt like in the beginning. But then, almost as if a light bulb went off in his head, he shot up in the air and tugged me by my hand and ushered me out of the small sanctuary we made for ourselves. His skinny legs for long for what I presumed what his age was, and he looked a little too thin for my liking. I came from a big-eat type of family, and none of us ever went hungry. It was what I had to blame my thick, full figure for as an adult. Sure, my stepsister's jeans would never in a million years be able to fit over my hips, but I took pleasure in crafting my body to be what I wanted. Thick, full, curvy- and dancing helped to tone muscles that my genes forgot to give me as a child. I barely had enough time to pull down my dress to a respectable length before he had us weaving in and out of the crowd, rushing past people like maniacs.
"Tony!" The rough, callous voice that barked the name seemed to stop little Green Eyes right in his tracks; that tone gave me chills down to my bone, it was what I assumed an executioner sounded like. But the boy just turned towards the voice and smiled easily, bringing me with him. I had one diamond ring on my right hand and painted my nails a simple black for the night, not imagining I would be face to face with a god-like being… the Adonis, if there was one. He was like, easily over six foot, bulky build, one goddamn beautiful facial bone structure, and those eyes… they were the same kind of green as little Green Eyes, but older and darker by far. The man was clean-shaven and as we approached, I began to smell his aftershave and it was so intoxicating that little stars began to swim behind my eyes. God, he was just… beautiful! But my swooning over him immediately stopped when his mouth opened. "Antonio D'angelo Cullen… what have I specifically spoken to you about wandering off? Something horrible could have happened, how do you not understand that?" This guy was barking down on him like a boss would berate a lowly employee; just who was this evil, beautiful creature?
Antonio's smile faltered at this man's enraged mantra and scooted himself behind my legs, squeezing my bare skin like I was his savior. The tall man snapped his unforgiving, cold eyes from his retreating kid to my surprised expression. "Don't yell at the poor boy that way, he just got himself lost is all! Who do you thing you are, anyway?" I folded my arms as I asked the question, trying to cover any trace of my stupid body reacting to this stranger being in close proximity to me. I felt the incessant need to defend little Antonio, no matter the cost of the public scene we were making.
A humorless laugh left his thin lips before he moved even closer to me, his eyes glaring down on me with pure hatred. How could one look make me feel so weak and unprotected? I lived alone in a big city (and not the best neighborhood), walked myself to my car every night in the dark, and punched a guy in the face once in a bar fight… so why was I scared shitless in a room full of people? "I'm his father." He said it with a sneer. "Now get the-" he moved closer, as to not let his son hear, "fuck away from my son." My jaw dropped at the nerve he had. How dare he talk to me like that? What did he expect me to do, move aside and let him drag Antonio out to possibly do physical harm to him?
I would rather take any wrath this man had before I let him hurt his misunderstood son. "No." I uttered shakily. I didn't want to move, but it almost looked like he was angry enough to shoot me dead. "You're obviously very angry, and need to calm down before you're left alone with-"
"He is my child, you stupid… woman." I was sure he fought down the word "bitch" in his head, opting for a more socially acceptable term. It seemed as though cursing wasn't done around his son, and I respected that, but what good did it do when his temper was on parade for everyone to see? "Step aside, or I will have you physically moved." I wanted to remind him that I wasn't holding his son back, Antonio was hiding behind me. But I didn't have time to argue fore in the next moment, his fingers dug into my uncovered arms and I was forcefully pushed aside. I had nothing and no one to hold onto for balance, and my heels did me no justice as I took a hard fall to the ground. Never before, even in high school gym, had I felt so humiliated and ashamed as I did- everyone stopped to look at the commotion, but no one necessarily stuck out a hand to help me up. They just stood there and gawked, witnessing the way the madman tossed me aside like a rag doll after calling me stupid.
Tears welled up in my eyes, but I refused to let them fall at this time and place. Next Wednesday morning, I would be working with and seeing most of these people again. I would be the laughing stock of the company; the stupid, clumsy Bella who probably had too much to drink anyway. The man took a deep breath and gritted his teeth, whether at himself or at me, and bent down to my level and offered a hand to help me up. Instinctively, I jerked away from him like some scared animal- he was some sort of insane, angry monster with no filter at all. Neither of us had time to do anything else when two small fists came flying forward and landed two good punches on the monster before he was restrained. "Look what you did! You hurt Bella, you hurt my mommy!" Antonio screamed on the top of his lungs, and if anyone in the party hadn't been engrossed in the scene definitely were now. His father held him by his forearms, preventing him from causing anymore harm. "I hate you, I hate you so stinking much!" The pain and anger in the little boy's words brought more water to my eyes- I wanted to hug and kiss him, tell him I could make it all better.
I was deeply trying to ignore the fact that he referred to me as his mother, again. "Tony, stop! You're embarrassing yourself, son, do you see that?" His father spoke in a hushed tone, but the mean factor was ever-present.
"You hurt her, now she's never going to be my mommy!" Tony was screaming and crying, tugging at the restraining hands of his parent. I idly noticed how Tony didn't stutter once when he was screaming and yelling, but I pushed it aside.
"I am the only one you have, you have no mother and you never will!" His dad screamed back at him. A pang of guilt felt like a physical stab to my stomach, where emotions were sloshing around in summersaults. I should have never pried into Tony's life, or questioned him about a mother. This was my fault, I did this to them. But Tony stilled at those words, slowly raising his head full of hair before gaining a full lock of glares with his dad.
"You aren't m-m-my dad. I don't h-h-have a dad." This situation was getting worse with time, but I could only sit there on the cold linoleum floor and stare at the interaction as it happened. It was wrong of Tony to say, but his dad said some pretty bad stuff as well. I soon realized that they were two bulls, going head on at one another for dominance in the argument. His father growled a deep, inhuman voice and I was surprised he didn't turn into some wild animal with the way his face was contorting and his jaw was clenching then unclenching.
"What's going on…" Alice Volturi's voice followed the panicked clacking of her heels as she stopped in a dead halt before us. Her eyes widened at my fallen self then narrowed at the man holding his son mid-air, a maniacal look schooling her pointed face. "Edward, put him down! He's just a kid, what are you thinking?" She marched over and snatched the small boy from her brother's grasp, with little opposition involved. "My brother is a tyrannical idiot at times, sorry." She regarded me genuinely, holding a small hand out for me. I took it and dusted my bum off, avoiding his line of vision any way I possibly could. "Everyone, im sorry- continue as you were, please! Everything is quite alright." Her damage control skills were impeccable, as always, but you could literally cut the tension in the air with a dull as butter knife! I followed Alice through the crowd, and they parted like the Red Sea, but once I noticed her pig-headed brother following, I took left towards one of the empty conference rooms rather than down the hall to her private double office.
I took a few minutes to cool down and collect myself, but all I could really think about was Tony. Was he alright? Was Alice protecting him from her crazy brother, unlike I could? Did Tony calm down any yet? So many more questions zoomed through my mind, but there was no way to possibly find out so I instead took out my frustration on a nearby box. I kicked it so hard that I heard some pieces break; if I wasn't so angry, I would have pissed myself in fear that I had broken something overly valuable. But it was the heat of the moment, could I really be blamed? A warm hand found its way to my exposed shoulder, causing me to gasp loudly and whirl around in an act of pure fear. An electric shock came from those fingertips and shot through my body like a broken circuit of sorts. "What do you want? Come back for round two?" I barked up at him.
He pursed his lips together and let his hand fall away from my body slowly. I immediately missed his warm touch, but I would never admit such. "I came to apologize-"
"If Alice sent you as some peace offering, forget it. You're an asshole, plain and simple." I sneered, not even stopping to breathe. "What you said to your son was horrible, I can't imagine how he is dealing currently! And in public, really? It was a nightmare to watch, I wanted to wring your stupid neck when you told him that he would never-" Sure, I was being a little braver for my britches than I had ever before… especially seeing as I was in a room alone with him, but he had this coming! It was either now or never to say it to him.
"Yes, I get your point." He spoke loudly, rudely cutting me off. Before continuing, he pinched the bride of his nose and took an even breath. "I am sorry- truly sorry to you, Miss. Despite the harm I did unto you," his green eyes flicked to the already forming fingerprints on my arms, "I promise that I would have never laid a hand on my son, Tony means everything to me. When you showed up out of nowhere with him, I was just moments before worried and in fear that I had… lost him." My eyes warmed at the openness he was showing to me in that moment- it was like I was peeking into his private life for just a second longer than anyone else could. From what I could tell, he was a man of both money and sophistication; he was the type of guy I saw walking out of Macy's with his model-like wife and equally dashing kids, or perhaps right off a magazine cover. Not my league, not my level. I was just a simple-minded broad that secretly enjoyed reality television and eating tubs of ice creams on particularly bad days. He was a man, I was a girl.
So why was I fantasizing him hovering over me, completely naked and drenched in sex-induced sweat? I shook my head to dispel of those thoughts. "Okay, I accept your apology." I shrugged. "But you shouldn't be worried about me, it's Antonio you should be stressing over. That's where you should be, not here talking to some stranger about things that don't any longer matter." It was making me angry all over again, so I took a small breath to continue. "He look devastated." How did we get so close to one another anyway? It was like we were just a breath away from locking into a passionate kiss… wow, where did that come from? I internally shook my self, but it was no use. This man was getting into my head!
"Yes, I realize I should be with my son. But I didn't want you running off without first hearing an appropriate apology. And I doubt Tony wants to see my face right now, his tempers usually wear off after a few minutes of relax breathing. My name is Edward Cullen, by the way." I tried his name out in my mind and I couldn't help the thought that it fit him for some reason. It was sexy and straightforward, just how I liked it. "It does matter, I hit you- I do not take pleasure in the harm of women, or children for that matter." I blushed at the fact that he was pointedly going out of his way for me, and he made me feel so special… and important. Edward's large hands trailed over my bare shoulders (of all nights, I chose to wear a thin halter neck number) and stopped right above his bruises he made. He marked me, as no one else had ever before, and I loved and hated the way that notion made me feel. If only it were my lips he bruised, not my arms.
Seriously, Bella, cut this out! "Well…" I started out shakily, watching his fingers bravely trace patterns on my skin, "technically you didn't hit me, per say." I teased to lighten the mood, and his smooth chuckle made me pleased to break the tension. "But I'm sure when we all come back for work, there will be rumors of an abusive boyfriend chasing me through the party or something insane like that." I don't know why I said that, but I just felt like I needed to put it out there. Edward grunted in response.
"I will have a word with my sister to make sure that doesn't happen, Miss." His eyes tried to capture mine in a tight hold, but I chickened out and looked away.
"Alice is your sister? She's Tony's aunt?" The thought baffled me… I had been in her office often and we went out occasionally since I started working for Volturi Luxury Hotels (or VLH as we called it), but I never paid much attention to her babbles of home life or family. Edward nodded solemnly. "Oh, I guess I just didn't put two and two together." I shrugged softly and his hands still hadn't left my arms, but I wasn't going to point that out to him. "My name is Isabella Swan." I added lamely.
Edward's lips quirked in the same way his beautiful son's did and it brought an involuntary smile to my glossed lips. "That's a beautiful name for a beautiful woman." It took me gently by surprise that he would refer to me as a woman, beautiful at that! Sure, I was twenty-five… but I knew I looked too young for my age, and I felt more like an insecure girl in life than a grown woman. I almost missed the way his hands drifted down lower, dangerously lower, until his fingers brushed with my own. I couldn't help the automatic reaction my breasts had to his touch, and I took a long swallow to beat down the incessant need to scream at him "no!". "The way you stood up for my son out there… I was taken aback. People don't cross me, ever." Edward ran a hand through his hair, capturing my hand with his other in a tight hold. Why was he holding my hand? This was weird and out of some fantasy I would have about him next week, when this was over and we both went back to our two separate lives. "And I definitely don't like being told the word no, even if its from a pair of irresistible lips."
My breath caught in my throat. He thought my lips were… irresistible. I licked them subconsciously. "Yes, well, everybody deserves to be told no once in awhile." I stuttered out, feeling like a fool. He's totally out of your league, Bella, I screamed at myself.
"He called you is mother… and that took me most by surprise. Tony is usually hell-bent on disregarding any kind of motherly figure. So, I want to apologize for his freakish behavior on that front as well. He is young, he doesn't quite understand social boundries as of yet." I looked around his face as he spoke of his son in such scientific matters. Tony was breathing, living human being not some test subject!
"It's not his fault." I shrugged. "Can I… can I go see him? I have to get going in a bit, and I just want to make sure he's feeling alright." Tony wasn't my son to dictate, and if Edward refused me then I would have to bow out and take my post back at being the boring, lonely Bella I was before.
"Of course." Edward said, almost too eager. He cleared his throat and tried again. "I mean, Tony would probably do good to see you once more before you must take your leave. Though I am not sure how he will react to your leaving… perhaps you will just have to join us on our way home." His tone at the end of the sentence was obviously a teasing one, but I couldn't shake off the personal want of mine- I wanted to join him, and I wanted to raise Tony into a brilliant young man with perhaps even a little brother or sister…
God, you're a real fucking idiot when you want to be, another small voice belittled my far-off delusions. "Perhaps." I teased back and followed him through the conference's door and into the florescent lit hallway, finding our way to Alice's office in no time at all.
How was I expected to just walk right out of Tony's life? I wanted to give him everything he asked for: a mommy, a friend, a better dad, a more understanding family… everything! But I was no magician, and neither was I any good at playing those types of roles.