Business Class Girl @lamomo
Chapter 12 Chapter 12, revamped! Your eyes are not deceiving you. I am reposting Business Class Girl from scratch, sprucing it up with the help of Alice's White Rabbit and Sunflower Fran. The updated version will post weekly on Mondays and, after the first 22 chapters have been posted, they will be followed by new chapters until completion, since the story is now entirely pre-written. Thank you to Sally and Fran for editing and beta'ing, to RobsmyyummyCabanaboy and Deh for being my plot coaches and shoulders to cry on. Thank you for all the alerts and favorites, and thank you for propelling BCG past 700 reviews! I appreciate and treasure every single one of them. Disclaimer: *checks notes* It still all belongs to Stephenie. I just like to play in the sandbox.

Edward's POV

"Fuck everything else. If it remotely feels like home, take it."

"Screw the rest; we'll deal with it."

"Screw the rest; we'll deal with it."

"I'm so proud of you, Edward."

How can a bloke's life change with three sentences? I'm not yet sure about how, but I know mine has.

Bella's done it again. She's supporting me, boosting my confidence, pushing me to do better … just by being there. And the magic of it is that it's all effortless to her. It's a given because she can't help being like this—it's in her nature.

I grip her hands tighter before I go on with my celebration speech, my voice cracking with an emotion I can't contain.

"You blew them away, B. I mentioned your suggested edit to the script to the director, and he loved it. He said it proved how much I'd interiorised this role, how much I'd felt it as mine, and so on and so forth …"

She throws me a wicked glance. "Edward Anthony Cullen, did you really do that?"

Uh-oh. She's unleashed my middle name like a curse. How does she even know it?

"I know your middle name because it's part of my job. I know your middle name, your birthday, your height, weight, tux size, shoe size, social security number, credit card numbers, passport expiration date, and I could recite it like an endless mantra … Did you really spit that out to the director? The guy must hate me now."

She blurts this out in one long, irritated gush that ends on a shy, uneasy note. She's doubting herself, and I won't have it. And she can read my mind or just knows me too well.

Both, Cullen, both. Though you wished the knowledge was biblical.

"No, he doesn't. He thinks I corrected it. Sorry for misappropriating your work, B. He loved it, by the way. He said the style was flawless. How did you learn to write like that?"

She shrugs and I know I'm treading dangerous ground.

"Professional hazard. Lawyers do work with a lot of written material. I was in charge of all that."

I'm stunned. My girl's talents are endless, but I can also tell she's holding out on me.

Oh, and that's right, Cullen. You just called her "my girl".

"You were Jasper's ghostwriter?"

"In a way. So you see, I'm used to this." She means Jasper got the credit for her genius, just as I did back there. I'm a jerk, robbing her of her glory.

"That's not fair. I'll go tell the director …"

She drops my hands in disdain. I regret my words instantly.

"You'll do nothing of the sort, Edward. We're a team; you're not misappropriating anything. Please tell me you won't talk to the director?"

I give in like a spineless git because I can't deny her anything. "There's something else we need to celebrate."

She nods and gestures for me to elaborate.

"I've decided. I've weighed out the pros and cons, I've had a pep talk with my confused gut, and I'll take the house in Venice Beach."

I'm afraid of her reaction, but she surprises me again. "Brilliant. Kate will have her shrine, after all. Wonder if I can get a little something for myself out of this."

Wow. I expected a cold shoulder, but her creepy irony must be her own way of coping with this.

"Are you happy with this, B?" If she's not happy, I won't take it, cost what it may.

"I'm happy if you are." And from the look in her eyes, I can tell she means it.

"Hell, we're going to be neighbours now."

She snorts. "As long as I'm not Kylie …"

I shake my head and laugh with her. "Do I look like Jason to you?"

That's another thing I love about her. When you least expect it, she'll quote something so characteristically British I can't help feeling at home.

"We have another reason to celebrate, B," I add with a devilish grin.

"I'd think the other two were enough, boss."

I grip her hands in mine. I need to feel her close to me right now.

Closer, Cullen. You want her closer still.

"They may be, but this is where you can't say no." My grin doesn't falter.

"All right, it looks like I'm trapped. Fire away."

My thumbs are engaged in their new favourite pastime—running circles on the back of Bella's hands. Her skin is flawless and feels like silk under my touch. I wonder if she's not put off by the rough pads on my fingers. I am, after all, a musician as well, and she's read this on my skin before I could even tell her about it.

You'd like her to do other things to your skin, Cullen.

"Right. It's been one week since we started working together. It's been an amazing week, B. I turned up on time to all my commitments. I didn't bail out of anything. I survived three press junkets, and I even endured a photo shoot with a smile on my face. I've nailed this casting call, and it's all because you were here, because you helped me not to topple this boat again. It's cause enough for a celebration in my book."

She disentangles her fingers from mine. "You would have done it anyway without me, Edward."

I snatch her hands back. "How, B? Ang was ready to drop me; you were meant to be my punishment. Little did she know she was doing me a favour. Would you do me the honour of going out to lunch with me, Miss Swan?"

I wonder if what she calls my "charm" works on her as well. I pray it will because I won't take no for an answer. She hesitates then grips my hands tighter.

"This really means a lot to you, doesn't it, Edward?" she whispers.

"It does. Please let me do this for you."

"Then I'd be delighted to have lunch with you today, Mr Cullen."

I flash her a blinding smile and, without thinking, gather up her hands to my lips and kiss them. She rewards my recklessness with one of those cute blushes.

You could die a happy man now, Cullen. Admit it.

I tap on the divider and call out to Tyler. "Tyler, please drive straight to Morton's. We have reservations in thirty minutes."

"Cocky much, Edward?" she asks, raising an eyebrow.

"Nope, my assistant taught me to always be prepared."

"She must know you very well," she quips, flashing me her own enticing version of a devilish grin.

"Better than anyone, B. And I love it."

There, Cullen. Let's see where this one takes you.

She blushes again.

The rest of the ride to the restaurant is filled with animated talk about our goings-on in the weeks up to Christmas. Bella knows very little about the movie industry and grills me on all the aspects she's not familiar with. She listens to me with rapt attention, and her questions are smart and insightful. She wants to know absolutely everything.

"What does this pre-production thingy entail, exactly?" I love that she is surgically precise with her legal jargon but can get away with saying "thingy" when talking about movies.

"Well, they check out everything they might need for visual effects, they run through storyboards, discuss production design and the like. It's a lengthy and painstaking process; once the cameras are rolling, you can't afford to waste time and money. Most of everything is discussed and decided on beforehand."

She's not physically taking notes, but her brain is working at full steam. We're now at the restaurant, some place around Beverly Hills I've chosen because it's relatively close to Ang's office and it's pretty businesslike. I don't want Bella to think I've trapped her into going on a date with me.

You want to take her, Cullen, and you want her to know it's a date.

"It all seems to me like it involves the director and the rest of the crew more than anyone else. Where does the cast come in?"

Attentive and to the point. I've never been asked so many meaningful questions about my job, but I revel in talking to Bella. I want her to know what I do.

"Well, the poor actors like yours truly get manhandled by the costume designers 'til they get the right size and the right look for every scene."

"I bet you love that," she jokes.

God, this woman knows me so well. I absently scratch the back of my head. "Well, I like the period clothes, though they make you walk all weird …"

She looks at me over her glass. I wanted to order some white wine to go with our seafood, but apparently it gives Bella a nasty headache. Only soda water for my girl.

"I bet you look dashing in those dapper period clothes."

"Quit mocking me, Miss Swan. It's not fair to make fun of other people's misfortunes …"

She smiles fondly at me. "I wasn't mocking you. I really think you'd look the part with your figure. Though I bet you make those seamstresses' lives miserable."

She's got me, again. "What can I say? I have no patience for that."

"What else?" she asks.

"What else, what?" I echo. I got lost in her eyes for a second and can't remember what I was saying.

"Pre-production, Mr Cullen?"

I slap my forehead. "Yeah, that. Then, there's make-up and hairstyling. They try out the different styles until they get them right."

"Something tells me you're not a big fan of pre-production."

I smile, and I can feel it reach my eyes. "Actually, I like the whole research side of it. It's awesome. It's the manhandling I can't stomach. What I love most are the read-throughs, though."

"I thought so. I guess you can tell if it's going to work out or not, can't you?" she adds, her gaze fixed on me, her voice level. She's interested and focused. She's in work mode as if we were preparing for the Academy Awards.

"Me? Not so much, but the director does. And you surely get to size up your castmates, whether you can get on with them or not …"

Our lunch hour passes like this, talking, bantering back and forth, and I learn a lot of little things about Bella. She doesn't like tomatoes with her salad, she's crazy about lobster, she drinks an awful lot of water, and she only eats steak if Em grills it. After lunch, she orders an espresso, only after she's made sure they have her preferred brand and know how to brew it. Damn, she's picky.

High maintenance, Cullen. It's called high maintenance.

"Yes, I know I'm horribly picky, but … I got into the habit of drinking espresso whenever I go see my mom, and …" She trails off, her eyebrow quirked in an apologetic grimace.

So that's where she was going on that flight to Milan. She was visiting her mum.

"Your mum lives in Italy?"

"Yes, she works in Milan," she answers with a bright, affectionate smile.

"Alice does, too," I blurt out. Idiot—she talks to Alice on an almost daily basis. Hell, she talks to Alice more than I do; I guess she knows by now.

"Yes, Edward, I know. That reminds me. I'll have to email her your flight details later." She adds this as an afterthought, as if she wanted a handy excuse to change the subject.

It's celebration day, and I tell myself "screw it". I want to push my luck, even if I'll probably regret it.

"B, listen. There's something I wanted to say … but … I know I'm overstepping my bounds."

She flinches slightly, closes her eyes, and pinches the bridge of her nose. I go on, my voice hesitant and low. I'm itching to take her hand, but we're in public.

"About what happened last week … About our talk on the beach … Are you all right? Is everything all right?"

She looks away from me. "Edward, I know you mean well, but … I can't … I'm not …" Her voice quivers, her hands are trembling, and she is pale.

Bollocks. I knew I'd have best keep my trap shut.

She heaves a laboured sigh. "I'm just not … ready to talk about it, and … we're having a great day … please …"

She means, "please don't ruin it". Little does she know there's no point to the great day if she's upset.

"B, please look at me. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry for bringing that up."

She nods, still silent.

"I just want you to know that I'm here for you, whenever you need me."

"I know, Edward. Thank you … I just … don't … can't …" she stutters, her eyes uneasy.

"It's okay. Leave it. Don't worry. I'm not going to pester you again on this." I'm trying to back-pedal, my voice shamefully pleading her not to run for the hills.

She drains her glass dry, and then seemingly reverts back to her normal self. We're getting ready to leave the restaurant when the maître d' approaches us.

"Mr Cullen, you may want to leave through the back door. There are photographers out front."

I huff. This is getting old. Now those bastards are intruding on my lunch with Bella.

Final blow, Cullen. You've been digging your own grave.

I dismiss the maître d' and turn to look at Bella. She's still pale.

"What do you want to do? We escape out the back door, or face the music?"

"They'll take pictures of us, Edward. I don't know if Ang is going to be okay with this."

She's worried. I can tell she's nervous about the paps. This is new to her, of course, and I want everything to be her choice. I don't want to force her into anything.

"It's a daily professional hazard for me, Bella. It happens all the time."

I know full well it's not normal for her to be hounded like this, but it's becoming fucking normal to me.

"But they're gonna have a field day with this. They don't know who I am, and they might speculate all sorts of crap."

She's panicking. I need to get her out of here soon.

"Let them speculate all they want. We know the truth," I retort, my tone final and bordering on angry. I surely don't need the paps on top of my own fuck-ups.

An awkward silence falls. Bella's eyes are restless, roaming all over the room, never landing on my face. She's debating something in her head.

After a few, excruciating minutes, she finally speaks. "Right. Let's feed them this time, and maybe it will get them off our backs."

Wishful thinking on B's part, but I'm not going to contradict her now.

"Front door, Miss Swan?"

"Front door, Mr Cullen," she confirms, resolute and business-like.

I take her hand and guide her to the exit only to release her, albeit reluctantly, as soon as we get to the front door. No use in giving the reporters any freebies.

"I got your back, B; don't worry," I whisper in her ear as the incessant burst of flashes blinds us. They're taking pics of my Bella, which pisses me off. I dragged her into this madness. I should have gone through the back door without even asking. I know how this works; she doesn't. I shouldn't have put this on her.

The paps call out to us. "Who's the hottie, Mr Cullen?" "Smile for us, Edward!"

Bella is forced to lean into me, and I circle her waist with my arm to guide her through the throng of scumbags. I can't even enjoy the feel of her slight form moulded to my side because I need to get her out of here. Luckily, Tyler and Eric are waiting for us around the corner. The mayhem's gone. Bella collapses onto the side of the limo.

"God, I never expected it to be like this. It's over, isn't it?"

"Yes, B. It is. Maybe we should have gone out back after all."

She shakes her head. "No, they'd have gotten to us anyway. Better get rid of this right away. It had to happen, sooner or later."

How can she panic one second and be so rational the next? Thank God, we're through it, for now.

"Are you really okay, B?" My voice is laced with concern.

She squares her shoulders and then answers. "Yes, I think. I was just unprepared. I'll need to call Ang, by the way. Give her some advance warning."

She's already strategizing how to deal with this. Wow. I still feel like punching a wall, and I get this on a daily basis.

"Oh, I bet she has all sorts of ready-made answers to any and all questions she'll be getting."

She looks suspicious, her eyes narrowed to slits. "What do you mean?" she asks, her voice as cold as if it could cut glass.

"There's a drill for cases like this, B. I thought you knew."

Ang ingrained this into me when I started. There's a whole array of "what to do if" cases; for each occurrence, there's a drill. Bella is still looking suspicious, though.

"As in, Edward?"

"As in, I wouldn't be the first one pegged by the press with shagging his assistant."

An eerie, cold, and uncomfortable silence falls. Bella's seething and she's looking at me as if I were trash. I feel worse than trash, actually.

"You shouldn't have said that, Mr Cullen."

She steps away from the car as I try to pull her back close to me. "Bella, please …"

She pries my arm away in disgust. "Get your hands off me, Mr Cullen. I have other commitments this afternoon. Tyler will drive you wherever you need to go."

With these professional and detached words, she disappears from view and into a nearby cab.

I'm an idiot. I have no other words to describe my useless self because, with one single misspoken joke, I've finally managed to fuck up a glorious day.

And now Bella's walked out on me. Will she ever walk back?



"I wouldn't be the first one pegged by the press with shagging his assistant."

His light-hearted words are still ringing through my ears on a loop, stinging my wounded pride more and more each time.

I was so rational for about five minutes, thinking I had gone through this little crisis unscathed, and then Edward's words sent me reeling.

I snapped, and I left. I couldn't deal with it then, and I can't deal with it now.

This is why I left him stranded there with Tyler and retreated to the familiar sanctuary of White, Devlin & Hale's offices.

Since I entrusted them with the care of Edward's taxes and accounting, I need to swing by anyway, day in and day out. It's a great excuse for me to pop in, say hello to everyone and, if the time difference allows it, exploit the videoconference facilities to talk to Jasper.

Right now, I'm particularly glad there's some tax filing to be dealt with because a chat with Jasper is exactly what I need.

I've dropped him an email on my way here, and by some miracle, he's still in the office; he's free and can't wait to talk to me.

Why don't I call my BFF instead? Because Rosalie's world is black and white only. There are no grey areas for her; there are no "yes, buts". She would tell me to fess up and go with my gut—I'm beginning to hate that phrase.

Jasper, on the other hand, is a neurotic, overanalysing freak like me. Neurotics need to stick together because there's no way in hell an average Joe could understand what Emmett calls "the convoluted workings of their minds".

Once I sort out the umpteenth filing needed to finalise Edward's status as a non-resident taxpayer, I literally run to my allotted video conference room.

Jasper is already there on the screen waiting for me while he's reading through a bulky contract, folders and other printouts strewn all over his desk, its usual obsessive-compulsive order gone. His curly blond hair is untamed, and he's rolled his shirt sleeves up to his elbow. His tie is nowhere to be seen.

It's 3:00 p.m. in LA, which means it's 11:00 p.m. in London. The guy has had a day from hell, and the state of his desk confirms it. Knowing him, he's been working non-stop since 5:00 a.m. this morning. He's more than entitled to look a little unkempt. I am hugely thankful he's taking the time to step in as my own personal shrink, even if he's got a lot on his plate already.

"Jazz? Track changes won't disappear by magic, you know?" I say teasingly to pry his attention away from his papers.

"BeeBee? How are you? What's up?" His reply sounds anxious.

No need to state my case because he's on to me already.

"I'm a mess, Jazz. I made a mess, and I fucked up."

Jazz scratches his forehead with his pencil. Time out of mind, Jasper's been using the same double-end red-blue pencils. No highlighters for Jazz, only these old-fashioned, professor-like writing implements. He's picky, true, but I guess it takes one to know one.

"I'm a lawyer, Bella. Define fucked-up, please. I need evidence, motives, mitigating circumstances, the works …"

I snort. "You're a corporate lawyer, Jasper. You're no barrister. The only mitigating circumstances you deal with are the ones you see on CSI, genius."

"Touché, madame. You're too smart for your own good, but you won't sidetrack me with your ruthless skills. What the heck happened? Abridged version, please. I haven't eaten in thirty-six hours, and I'd love to rectify that soon," he answers playfully, pointing his pencil at me through the screen.

I nod and steel myself, and just like that, I unleash my word vomit on Jasper, regaling him with a faithful account of today's events.

"So, let me get this straight. You've walked out on your boss because he joked about something that's not true?" he comments, his voice neutral.

"Correct, genius."

"And you're saying there might be pics of the two of you together on the gossip sites?"

"Correct, genius."

"As you say, I'm no criminal lawyer, but there's no case here," he concludes, still neutral.

I'm more than a little miffed, with a side dish of growing irritation. I expected support, and he's blowing me off. Traitor.

"No case? How can you say that to me?"

"Well, the way I see it, he was trying to defuse the tension. Poor chap picked the wrong joke, with the wrong girl, but cut him some slack …"

"Cut him some slack? Honestly?"

He fiddles with his monitor. "Is there an echo? Why do you keep repeating everything I say?"

"Because you make no sense to me, genius."

"Don't I? Then I know why, BeeBee, but you won't like this," he counters, his eyebrows sternly furrowing.

I mimic brandishing a highlighter at him. "I have my lightsabre, Jedi. Hit me."

He waves his hand in a "you asked for it" gesture. "Truth hurts, and reality bites."

"Ditch the epigrams, genius. This isn't Dead Poets Society."

"It all stings because somehow you do feel guilty about it. You feel guilty because you do want to shag your boss. There, I said it." He says this with the same level tone he uses with clients who ask for unfeasible things on impossible deadlines.

I'm sorely tempted to disconnect the video call, but then I freeze in place. I unceremoniously drop the highlighter onto the desk. I hide my face in my hands, banging my head on the desk multiple times. Jasper's right.

"Don't misuse corporate property. Talk to me instead." He sounds concerned again.

I can't move. I can't talk. I'm still paralysed by the Jasper-induced epiphany.

"BeeBee, are you alive?"

My head slightly bobs on the desk. Jazz is not happy with that, though.

"I need proof positive. Recite the Magna Charta to me, 1215 text."

"Johannes del gracia rex Anglie, dominus Hibernie, dux Normannie, Aquitannie et comes Andegravie …" I recite, by sheer rote, with the same hollow voice I'd use to enumerate my grocery shopping list.

"Blimey, girl, the Latin text? You must be alive. Talk to me, for heaven's sake," he insists, now bordering on anxious.

Jasper is the only one who can understand me right now, but this involves a serious amount of mindfuck, and I really hope he can keep up with my ramblings.

"I don't want to be that girl, Jazz …"

"Define 'that' for me, please. Otherwise I'll have to pretend I don't understand where this is going."

"I don't want to be the girl who …"

"Shags the boss? Sleeps her way to the top?" he suggests, completing my thoughts.

I nod against the desk, still unable to face Jasper. I am pretty disgusted with myself and pretty conflicted with my feelings.

"Look at me, please. I feel pretty moronic, talking to a moving desk."

I force my head to move upwards and straighten my hair. Jasper is looking at the webcam, ergo at me, with concern etched all over his features. I feel shitty—he hasn't eaten in thirty-six hours, and I'm forcing him to sort out my problems from overseas via videoconference.

"That's better. Where were we?" he asks, and it's obviously for dramatic effect. He remembers perfectly well what he was saying. He just wants me to acknowledge he's right.

"At the 'shag my boss' stage, genius."

He's deftly twirling his double-end pencil between his index and middle finger.

"Do you? Have you?" he quips, half-jokingly.

"Shagged the boss? Hell, no, Jasper!"

"But do you want to? What is this guy like? He must be something else," he says with an intrigued glint in his eyes.

"Jasper? I was under the impression this was a serious conversation." I'm perfectly aware I sound over-dramatic, but this is my pity party. I set the rules and the tone.

"It is. If you want to shag this guy, after the AssJake fiasco, he must be something else. Tell me about it. I'm feeling rather disappointed, though, and a bit jealous."

"Why?" That's my knee-jerk reaction to Jasper's attempts at sidetracking my emo ramblings.

"Because you never wanted to shag me. My monumental ego is wounded."

I can't help but chuckle. Jasper is always good at cheering me up. "Well, if that's any consolation, the whole staff of WDH in London believed I was."

"Shagging me? Why?" Now he's genuinely shocked.

"Because we were friends. Because I did everything for you. Because I got top bonuses. Because I was Russ's golfing partner. Do I need to list other reasons?"

"But that's preposterous! I've never heard anything about this. Why?" He definitely didn't see this one coming.

Jasper's a lawyer, worse, he's a partner, and this kind of gossip was kept well below his radar. Break room talk has very selected audiences, especially if you're the target of these kind of assumptions. I never contested any of them because it would have made them worse, and it would have made my working life a living hell.

"Because that's not the kind of chit-chat that gets passed on to the partners. Just so you know."

His expression now turns serious. He gets closer to the webcam, as if he could physically be closer to me. "You could never be that girl, if that's what you're worried about."

"What the heck am I going to do, Jazz? A part of me wants to run like hell, and the other wants to stay and …"

"Shag the boss?"

"Will you just stop wording it like this? It's not …"

"He must really be something else. I'll have to grill Russ about him, talk to his dad."

Jasper's trying to cheer me up, and he is mostly succeeding, but I don't want things to get more awkward than they need to be.

"Jasper Whitlock-Hale, you will do nothing of the sort. Spare me the embarrassment, please."

His expression turns serious, and with his hazel eyes he's trying to examine my face from the webcam. Not easy for an average person, but child's play for Jasper. He's damn perceptive and can read my moods like ratings from Fitch.

"BeeBee, seriously, what are you going to do about this?"

I heave a laboured breath. It's time to don the big girl panties because I'm done running away. "I'll face the music, Jasper. The only way I know how," I voice my mission statement without faltering.

"Which is, according to the latest edition of the Bella Swan Interpretation Guidelines, to give 150% on the job, care about everything as if it were your baby, and follow Scarlet O'Hara's rule, right?"

I look at him with my best puzzled expression. "Which would be?"

"Remember Scarlet O'Hara. She said 'I'll deal with it tomorrow'. Deal with things one day at a time, Bella. Don't let them overwhelm you."

"Thank you, Jazz. For all this, I mean."

"You don't have to thank me. I'd fly out and kick your bum, if I could. I guess we have to make do with technology. Okay, just to err on the safe side, and to wrap up our pep talk, what are you going to do now?"

I pinch the bridge of my nose and close my eyes, regrouping my ideas in my head. I need to call Angela and deal with this mess. I need to find Edward and explain.

"I will stay and deal with this one day at a time. Good advice."

"Damn straight, BeeBee. What about your boss?" He never gives up. At least, he no longer sounds teasing.

That's harder to figure out. I've neglected my wishes for a long time, drifting with the tide, and keeping my dreams at bay to settle only for realistic achievements, the ones that wouldn't leave me disappointed and broken. I followed the yellow brick road for a few years, and it led me to a job I loved but for which I had, funnily enough, no calling in the first place, and to a conventional relationship that was everything I could wish on the outside but left a broken-hearted and barren wasteland on the inside.

"You know what, Jazz?" I say, resolutely. I've finally made up my mind. Or not.

"Tell me, BeeBee. I'm all ears."

"I don't know. Guess only time will tell."

And we have a minor freak-out, but Jasper talks sense into Bella. Talk to me, people!
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