Chapter 4, 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, once the first 22 chapters are 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.
Disclaimer: *checks notes* It still all belongs to Stephenie. I just like to play in the sandbox.
BUSINESS CLASS GIRL – CHAPTER FOUR
[November] - Edward
Light creeps in from an offending crack in the blinds. Another very sunny, very hot, late autumn day in Los Angeles. Thousands of excruciating miles away from everything I've always called home, but this is where I work and, for lack of a better word, where I live.
I lazily scratch the back of my head, trying to get up despite my still drunken haze. I eventually make it out of bed and trudge to the bathroom. Lounging in the vapours of the hot shower, my consciousness slowly returns, and I remember what I was up to last night. After the premiere of my latest movie, I was forced to go to the after party. Let's just say that, after two hours, I didn't still see it quite that way. I was having the time of my life with the prized assistance of some quality booze, courtesy of the open bar.
The fun stopped when Angela instructed my bodyguards to stealthily drag me away from the party in whatever state I was before I did something really stupid and ended up on the homepage of TMZ again. Angela may come across as a sweet, motherly figure, but everyone respects her in L.A. simply because that PTA mom appearance hides the smartest, toughest agent on this side of the Pacific. And she's my agent—my ninja agent.
Angela! Cullen, she's going to have a field day with you.
The first coherent thought of this shitty morning flashes through my mind. I'm supposed to meet her later today to discuss my next projects. I'm not looking forward to this discussion. I'm yearning to take a holiday and go home to England for a while. Angela isn't having any of that. She keeps saying this is my moment, and with the cosmic success I've garnered with my latest movie, I can have the upper hand in any negotiation in Hollywood. It isn't the time to go on holiday; it's time to work like a professional.
While my mind keeps lashing strings of profanities and lame counter-arguments to Angela's well-founded and bulletproof points, I find some decent clothes, hurry out of my apartment, and hail a cab downtown to meet her. Her office is on Wiltshire Boulevard, and it's quite a long drive from my side of town.
As soon as I cross the threshold of her huge and stylish office, I immediately know that something's off. Jessica, her receptionist, is one of my biggest fans and usually jumps in her seat whenever I arrive. Today, her anxious gaze is darting alternatively between me and the oak door of Angela's office.
"I'm just going in, Jess. I'm awfully late," I announce, making myself at home as usual.
Jessica drops her headset in a rush, jumps out from behind the counter like a ninja, and stops me from going any farther.
"I'm afraid you can't go in just now, Mr. Cullen."
Jessica's in full professional mode today, and I find myself wondering why.
"Oh, come on, Jess, I'm dreadfully late. She'll be pissed with me as it is."
A few words in my British accent are usually enough to mellow her out, but not this time.
"You'll have to wait, Mr. Cullen. Miss Weber's busy. Please have a seat."
Miss Weber? When was the last time Jessica called Angela Miss Weber?
During her frigging job interview, I reckon. This is Hollywood, and last names simply don't exist. Everyone is on first name terms with everyone. You have dinner with Debra (Messing), play squash with Hugh (Jackman), and go to the gym with Matt (Damon), which means I'm being called Edward all the time, and Angela is just Angela. There's only one Angela in Hollywood.
I sigh, frustrated and defeated, as I plop myself on one of the couches in the lounge and notice something odd. A black, white, and red leather motorcycle jacket has been left on the couch beside me, along with a pristine-looking, top-brand, matte black riding helmet. Angela is scared shitless of motorbikes, and none of her clients owns one, as far as I know. Can't blame her, though. What if one of us gets injured in a road accident? The one time George (Clooney) was in a crash with his Harley (Davidson), Angela took the keys of the damn steel trap from him for six months.
So the two deadly contraptions must belong to Angela's visitor. But who is that? I'm dying to know, but I'm forced to wait outside.
Jessica returns to her seat and continues with her work. She's uncharacteristically silent. As a rule, she talks to me whenever I come over to see Angela, but today, she isn't even looking at me. I feel like I'm back in school, waiting in the headmaster's office because I've played truant.
Something wicked this way comes …
And the hairs on the nape of my neck instantly stand on end. Eventually, it dawns on me. I am in trouble.
After a long and boring fifteen minutes—the fifteen minutes from hell—Jessica's intercom buzzes, and Angela's sweet voice rings in seething tones. "I know he's there, Jess. Let him in now."
"Yes, Ang. Will do."
Jessica turns to face me and says coolly, "You may go in, Mr. Cullen. Miss Weber is ready to see you now."
I eye her sceptically, rise to my feet, and shuffle my way through the huge door of Angela's office. When the door clicks shut behind me, the distinct feeling that I'm going on trial grips me. Angela's ashen face confirms that I am on trial. I try being casual.
"Morning, Ang. Great party last night …"
A faint snicker resonates from a far corner of the office. I don't dare shift my gaze away from Angela's, though.
"Which part, Edward? When you turned up late at your premiere with the wrong suit, scuffed Doctor Martens from the 80s, and no fucking black tie? Or when you puked on Jessica (Alba)'s fifteen-grand red Valentino dress at the after party, and I had to get Eric and Tyler to drag you home before she called her lawyer, the cops, and the FBI and unleashed a restraining order on your guts?"
I absently scratch my stubble-covered cheek with my right hand while I run my left one through my ever-tousled, ever-rebel, ever-bronze trademark hair. To my credit, I have the decency to look sheepish and cast my eyes down while she lashes out at me.
"Right. I get it. Are you dropping me?"
Angela doesn't want losers. And though I'm on all sorts of demented lists and charts for the Sexiest Man, the Sexiest Smile, the Hottest Bod, and the Most in Demand Actor on the sunny side of the planet, and my last two movies had a turnover that topped all possible charts in movie history, I'm a disorganised freak. I'm not a drunk, I don't do drugs, but I just have an obsessive-compulsive tendency to fuck things up because I'm always absolutely clueless.
This makes me a loser in Angela's book. She doesn't want losers—she wants determined people who are in this for the long haul. So I figure out that my latest fuck-up at the premiere has granted me a ticket to ride far and away from Angela Weber. I'm probably going home to England after all. Yes, because my career will be in shambles in three, two, one … and action!
"No, I'm not dropping you, but right now, I'm so pissed I'd send you to England by the mere force of a formidable kick in your skinny British ass!"
Relief and shock wash over me at the same time. Why do I feel like I've been blessed with some kind of miracle? Why do I feel like there's a catch somewhere around the corner?
"Ang … wait! You're not dropping me? You're serious?"
"Yes, I am. Because I'm a sentimental freak, and I've known you since we were kids. I can't do this to you, and to my career, as well."
There goes the sentimental. Angela, always on top of business.
"But this is an ultimatum, Edward. You being clueless was endearing for a start, now it's just plain irritating. I'm going to help you."
I'm genuinely interested and puzzled. How is Angela going to replace my genetic lack of organisation skills?
Another snicker comes, more forceful this time, from the same corner of the room. Again, with a faint sense of foreboding, I avert my eyes from that spot.
"Edward, you can't do this alone, and I'm not your frigging babysitter. I'm your agent. My job is to find you jobs, not to keep you on top of things."
"I've found someone who will do this for you 24/7."
"I get a babysitter? Now, at the ripe old age of twenty-seven? Ang, this isn't even funny!"
"Not a babysitter, you moron! I've hired you an assistant."
I am dumbfounded. Am I not supposed to hire an assistant for myself if I want one? Oh, but wait. I wouldn't know how to do that.
Angela's gaze wanders to that corner of the room, and she says, with a smug tone, "B, I think you should come forward now. It's time for introductions."
B as in … Bollocks. You're fucked, Cullen.
Business Class Girl's POV
I wake up to a crisp November morning in sunny California. I decamped to Em's house a fortnight ago, and adjusting to this semi-tropical weather hasn't been easy. Not after years in England. Not after years in London. And oddly enough, even if I am relishing the sun, the long days, and the unexpected warmth, I miss London. I miss my old job, my old haunts. I miss the rain, the crowded Tube, and the neat lines of people waiting for their coffees and newspapers.
I miss Jasper and Rosalie, my boss and my BFF, who happen to be brother and sister. The three of us have been like the holy trinity for longer than I can remember. I met Rosalie at Oxford when we were both at Trinity College and shared a room in the same residence hall. Turns out, Rosalie wasn't out there alone. Her brother, Jasper, was there too, and the three of us became inseparable through thick and thin until we parted ways two years later when Jasper went to Princeton for his LLM.
When Jasper came back, he got a job at White & Devlin and turned to me for help. I became his assistant, his ghostwriter, his alter ego. Meanwhile, Rosalie took the investment banking world by storm. And then, courtesy of a blind date orchestrated by Rosebud herself, Jake happened. Until … until it all blew up in my face and all I could do was walk away.
So I left. And Emmett, my burly big brother, came to the rescue and told me to come and bunk with him in L.A. Still, it's like someone pulled a carpet from under my feet, catching me unawares, and I fell to the floor with a loud thud. I needed a change. I wanted a change. I couldn't go on working for Jasper forever, basking in his glow but toiling in the shadows. I knew I could do more, and I owed it to myself to try. And then, I couldn't be in London anymore, not when Jake was coming back to London for good.
So here I am, on a sunny November morning, heating up coffee and making pancakes in Emmett's kitchen. Seriously, the guy has been living here for years, and it all looks as pristine as the first day. Booming footsteps on the wooden staircase alert me to my dear brother's presence.
"Something smells good in here, BeeBee!" He's glowing like a kid on Christmas morning.
"Em, when is the last time you actually used this kitchen?"
Why do I get the feeling I'm not going to like his answer?
"BeeBee, it depends. For cooking? Not ever … For other things … Let me think … Remember when Rosie had to close a deal in Palo Alto? Well, she came over to celebrate with me … over, and over, and over …"
"Stop! I don't want to think about Rose and you in this kitchen! I was trying to have breakfast before you grossed me out!"
Emmett laughs, and so do I. It's liberating. The free banter with my brother, not worrying about how I look, about what I say, about what other people will think is refreshing. Emmett rushes to my side to steal a pancake and kisses me on my cheek.
"I take it you're settled in all right, little sis? My gross habits aside, that is?"
I shake my head and chuckle some more. I've known Emmett's gross habits since we were kids, nothing that will send me to an early grave. And since then I've developed a high resistance to his pranks.
"Yes, Em. And I have a job interview this morning." In fact, I'm pretty nervous. Angela is a friend, but it doesn't mean this is going to win me brownie points.
"Oh, that actor thing? You're going to nail it, BeeBee. After years with Jasper, this is going to be a piece of cake for you. But … are you sure you want a full-time job?"
"I need a full-time job, Em. I'll take care of the rest in my free time."
"It's your big dream, BeeBee. I don't want you to botch it because you end up being the workaholic that you are."
I narrow my eyes at him, but he has a point. "I'll try to find some balance. I mean, an actor can't be worse than a corporate lawyer. And remember that Jasper is the worst of them—I'm speaking from experience."
"That's just because you're awesome. He'd always brag to Rose about how extraordinary you are and that he'd never get anything done if it weren't for you."
"Well, that's changed. I hear Kate's leaving. He'll have to find another assistant," I add with an evil smirk.
Emmett laughs outright. "As long as he doesn't snatch you back. I love having my sister back at my side—partners in crime."
"Speaking of which, Em. I'm riding the Tiger today."
Emmett chokes on his coffee. "Alone? To downtown? To Wilshire? Are you crazy?"
My pride is hurt. The bike's mine, after all. It was left here in California under Emmett's custody. Imagine the state of an MV Agusta F4 CC after months in the London rain. I confront him, my hands on my hips. "Do you think I can't ride it?"
Em raises an eyebrow. "Of course not, you totally own that steel trap. You ride it better than I do. I'm too heavy. You're the perfect weight and height for it."
I don't cave. "So what?"
Emmett heaves a deep sigh. "Angela's going to have a conniption when she sees you turn up at her office in full riding gear. I'm thinking of her coronaries."
"The hell you are, Emmett McCarty-Swan."
"All right, all right, hot stuff. The thing is … are you meeting the actor guy too, today?"
I wave my hands dismissively at him. "I wouldn't know. Probably. Likely. So what?"
"Hot stuff, I shouldn't say this because you're my baby sister. But you look downright fucking hot on that bike. Is that the visual you want to give your new boss on day one?"
I cross my arms over my chest and smirk back at Emmett. I speculate on his point for a second. London Bella would go back to her room, extract a demure designer pantsuit from her closet, black heels, and a briefcase, and go to the meeting downtown in a cab. She would attempt to be professional, but she would get emotionally involved too quickly. Like she did with Jasper.
L.A. Bella doesn't work in a law firm and doesn't abide by dress codes anymore. She's allowed to be creative because this is what she wants to be, and she can go a little crazy on occasion.
L.A. Bella thinks she can walk this fine line as long as she keeps being a kick-ass professional because she can't work any other way, as long as she keeps her life to herself. This is going to be a piece of cake; she doesn't know anything about this guy who is her prospective boss. Jasper knew everything about London Bella, and London Bella knew everything about Jasper. There is no distance when there are no secrets. L.A. Bella is going to guard her life and her secrets with the cut-throat instincts of a wild panther.
L.A. Bella goes up to her room, dons a pair of fitted, low-waist black jeans, her riding boots, a fitted white shirt, and her leather jacket and goes back downstairs to face a dumbstruck Emmett, who is still clutching his coffee mug. L.A. Bella grabs the motorbike keys from the kitchen counter and her black helmet before she descends the stairs to the garage that hosts the Tiger. Behind her shoulders, Emmett yells, "Damn, sister, that guy is not gonna know what hit him."
An hour later, after a great ride on the Tiger through the busy avenues of downtown L.A., and a coffee plus debrief from Angela on the "situation," as she calls it, I find myself huddled in a corner of Angela's gigantic office, waiting to face my future boss for the first time.
She actually called me last week to probe my potential interest in this. She knows full well that my primary motivation for coming back to L.A. is to find myself a convenient and peaceful hideout to make my professional dream come true, but she's at her wits' end, and I appear to be her last resort.
I jumped at the opportunity since I needed a job so I can stash some money aside and keep some sort of regular schedule to my days. Angela's a friend, and I would never dream of leaving her high and dry.
Angela has been utterly clear about this client of hers—my prospective boss. Edward Cullen is twenty-seven and is one of Angela's best clients. He's a young actor with a lot of market leverage under his belt since he starred in a blockbuster teen movie last year. The first movie he filmed after his admission to worldwide stardom premiered last night, and that's when Angela finally put her foot down.
We hear some sort of commotion in the reception area, and Angela immediately guesses that the infamous Edward Cullen has finally decided to make an appearance.
"He's finally gracing us with his presence, bless the child." Angela is cold and dry and refers to him as "child", a sign that he's well and irritated her. Patronizing, I know—even if, at thirty-four, she is indeed older than both Edward and me. He must have pissed her off big time. I venture to ask what he did to have Angela's panties in a twist.
"He's a good guy, don't get me wrong, but he's all over the place—literally and metaphorically. He can't manage to settle down in L.A. because he regrets leaving London behind, so he lives like a hobo and messes up half of his commitments in town because he's neither here nor there."
I nod. The picture is uncannily familiar. He reminds me of Jasper, devoid of his pinstriped Brooks Brothers suit, of the Jasper fresh out of his LLM, eager to make the most of everything, provided he could only remember what everything was.
"Again, both literally and metaphorically, let me guess?" I go out on a limb. Angela beams at me.
"B, you got it. That's Edward Cullen, the King of Clueless, for you. You're a lifesaver. Please say you'll take this job. Please, for me."
Angela lowers her tortoise-rimmed fifties-style glasses and eyes me pleadingly. I can't resist her. Not when she pulls out the big guns. I try to hold some ground, though.
"I'll take the job. But no second chances because I need time for my other project. You know that very well. If the brat doesn't follow the rules, I walk. He'll learn the hard way how to walk the walk and talk the talk. No second chances. This is my condition."
"Irrevocable?" Angela tries once more. She wouldn't be such a ruthless negotiator if she didn't.
"It's a deal-breaker, Ang. No second chances. If he fucks up, I walk."
Angela sighs and pushes the intercom button. Jess ushers Mr. Edward Cullen inside. I remain huddled in my corner. Angela says it's imperative that I remain hidden—for dramatic effect. Hollywood has definitely rubbed off on her.
The guy comes in. My new boss, that is. The first thing I notice is that he looks incredibly young, genuine—almost too genuine—and fresh to be at ease in this town. I'm new in L.A., too, but after years in London, surrounded by sharks in the legal arena, this city of actors and wannabes is a piece of cake for me.
The second thing I notice is that the guy is breathtakingly handsome. As in, stops my breath and drops my jaw handsome. And that's my new boss. And he's clueless. And I'll have to spend a lot of time with him in close quarters from now on. Emmett is going to have a field day with this. Game face on, Bella.
The guy finally speaks. What I hear is not entirely to my liking.
I decide to set the record straight from minute one; otherwise, this is not going to work. And I'm going to kill Angela later, quietly, for getting me into this mess.
"Actually, Mr. Cullen, the name is Bella. Isabella Swan. That's Miss Swan to you."
They finally meet. Sparks-curse words, more like-fly.
The "Tiger" is an MV Agusta 1000 F4 CC. Only 100 of these were made. It's fast. Hella fast. Pictures of the Tiger and other goodies are in the Google Images album link posted to my ff profile. Just delete the spaces and replace "dot" with actual dots. You know the drill.
Talk to me, people.