Chapter 6, 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.
Disclaimer: *checks notes* It still all belongs to Stephenie. I just like to play in the sandbox.
BUSINESS CLASS GIRL - CHAPTER 6
"As you see, Mr Cullen, my vehicle only sits one. I'll see you on Monday."
I'm mentally berating, slapping, and kicking myself for being so dumb that I wasn't able to put two and two together.
The leather jacket. The black helmet. A vehicle that only sits one.
It's her bike, Cullen.
I can't believe my eyes. Bella has a motorcycle. It's black, sleek, and heavy. It screams power and looks pretty damn fast; built as if its every curve was designed by the wind. And fuck my life, if it doesn't make Bella look like the hottest thing under the sun. She owns it. My Business Class Girl is a badass rider. Her black helmet has a dark-tinted visor that hides her face from view, and her long mahogany locks are flying free in the wind as she rides swiftly away from me.
I am, once again, gaping like a fish in front of the unbelievably sexy display of power and independence. Beatrix Kiddo, my ass. I'd pick Bella Swan to avenge me anytime.
What else does she ride so well, Cullen? Wouldn't you like to know?
A loud whistle and a muffled sound a little short of a catcall shake me from my X-rated reverie.
"That's one hot piece of metal, and a hotter piece of ass is riding it. Wish she was riding me instead."
I growl in an uncontrolled animal instinct to protect my own from danger. I know this voice. It belongs to the emperor of assholes, the uncontested king of douchebags in this town. Unluckily for me, this jerk is another actor on the rise and is also represented by Angela.
James Warner—this is the cad's name—is also slightly irritated by the fact that I am a tad more famous than he is at the moment. He's the one and only person with whom I actually brag about my taxing notoriety. I take delight in vexing him, but in a fairly non-British way, I drop all appearances of being politically correct when I do.
Fuck manners. He just said that Bella is a piece of ass.
Why is he still breathing, Cullen? Do something.
"James. What an unpleasant surprise. That lady is my new personal assistant. I highly advise you to refrain from referring to her with such lewd terminology."
Translation: keep your fucking hands off my girl, asshole.
"Oh, Angela got an assistant for her wonder boy. What, you can't sort out your fan mail by yourself?"
"I will say this once, Warner. Screw you."
I know Angela will give me grief for this, but I could always say I was provoked. I could always rat James out and tell Angela he was verbally abusing Bella. Not that I would put it past him to abuse her, period.
At the mere thought, my stomach churns in disgust.
Warner doesn't desist from teasing me. I listen with feigned indifference.
"Your assistant, huh? It means I can wine and dine her freely while you're not allowed to do this, right? Unless you want her to dump a sexual harassment lawsuit on your doorstep, eh, Cullen?"
I growl again, crouching for battle like a tiger.
The hell you'll wine and dine her, asshole. Stay away from my girl.
"Again, Warner, and I'm saying this one time too many. Back the fuck off. Bella's a friend of Angela's. A dear, old friend of Angela's. I doubt she'd be pleased to know you're harassing her staff."
At the mention of Angela's name, his smug expression fades. I take this as my cue for a dramatic exit and hail a cab.
One for the team, Cullen.
Once I'm back at the flat, I can't resist calling Alice, even if it's probably early to late evening in Milan. No need to worry because she will be beyond thrilled to hear from me, as she always is.
On second thought though, I'm not so thrilled to speak to her because my sister has an uncanny ability to read my moods, and sure as hell, she is going to corner me into telling her everything about Bella.
Nonetheless, I can't stop myself from hitting the speed dial since I virtually have no friends in this town, and my sister is the only person on earth who sees through me. There are no secrets between us, and she'll probably help me sort through the tangle of emotions that are knotted up in my head. Business Class Girl will be my assistant, my personal assistant. To have and to hold.
Cullen, I'm pretty sure that's not in her contract. Not in this one, at least.
A lurching feeling at the back of my head tells me I don't really want to spill the beans to Alice. Not yet. I want to revel a bit longer in the fact that some twist of fate has allowed me to share some part of my journey with my long-lost Business Class Girl.
Lord, Cullen, you're turning into such a melodramatic dork.
Alice answers on the third ring. I hear busy sounds and muttering voices in the background. The poor thing must still be at work, as her snapping tone suggests.
"Edward, brother dear, what can I do for you?"
"Well, good evening to you too, Alice."
I suddenly feel like a lonely puppy, unceremoniously abandoned by a careless human on the side of the highway. That's what I get for thinking the world revolves around my sorry arse. I steel myself, as Alice realises she has hit a nerve.
"Eddiekins, I'm sorry, I'm just … it's that …"
Alice stuttering? Since when does she stutter? This must be a bad day for the Cullen kids worldwide. Dear Alice, welcome to the club. We can mope together.
"Having a bad day, Ali? If you're busy, I'll talk to you tomorrow." I try to bail out, half-disappointed because I'll lose my psychiatric help, and half-relieved for exactly the same reason.
Alice huffs over the phone. That's when I know she's going to drop whatever she's doing to listen to my musings. I don't even have to pull the big brother card—that's the extent of how spoiled I am when it comes to my little sister.
"I'm sorry, Edward. I'm just freaking out over this collection. Everything is going wrong, time is running out, and half of the designs are mine. I'm sorry. I'm just stressed."
My heart immediately goes out to her because this isn't the Alice I know. She always exudes self-confidence, knows her own worth and strength, and doesn't take shit from anyone, yours truly included. I don my protective big brother cap and decide to help Alice.
"Short Stuff, you're going to take them all by storm. Vogue won't know that hit them, literally. Fate must be quite clueless if it's set out to mess with you. You're an awesome designer, you're resourceful, and you're the most creative person I know. You're going to nail this. Besides, if this isn't enough to cheer you up, I have something to tell you. And this is going to make your day."
Silence. Only one thing can shut Alice's mouth. Interest, pure, unadulterated, and unbridled interest. She's intrigued, and I can almost hear the cogs turning in her head while she's trying to figure out what the hell I'm dumping on her doorstep.
"Edward, is there something I need to know?"
Bingo. Alice is probably the only person in the world I'm not entirely clueless about. Her interest is piqued, and now I'm trying to devise a water-tight method to vent my frustrations without shedding my entire closet of emotional underpants to her. A bloke needs to retain some semblance of dignity, somehow.
Cullen, you relinquished your last shred of dignity on a Boeing 747 nine months ago.
"Angela put her foot down today. I've been officially labelled as a lost cause."
The other end of the line crackles with the sound of shuffling feet and the click of a door closing. The fact that Alice has retreated to closed quarters for this conversation is an indication of her eagerness.
"Edward, is she dropping you? Mum and Dad will be devastated. What did you do this time?"
I take the blow like a man. Alice is right. I'm good at what I do but I never took the larger implications of my job seriously. Not until today. Not until I spent the better part of this morning walled up with Angela and Bella going over my commitments at the speed of sound. I only just realised today that I want to be in this for the long haul because I like what I do. I want to do it to the very best of my abilities, and to achieve that, I need to get my shit together. That is, if I don't want to be hurled overboard by a tidal wave.
"No, Ali. But what have I done that you've not already seen on PopSugar this morning? That must be the one advantage of the time difference, right? You get the trash first."
Alice scoffs. She knows I'm berating myself more than necessary, and it always pisses her off. I decide to be mature and actually give her an informative answer.
"Angela's not dropping me, but I've been served an ultimatum. As of today, your brother can boast of a personal assistant."
Short Stuff can't contain her enthusiasm any longer; she feels smug and ten-feet tall because she suggested it a long time ago. I always flatly refused.
"Oooohhh … so, who's the organisational genius in the family? You've got the looks, and I've got the skills, Mr. Hot Bod. Admit it, I was right all along."
It would be pointless to resist her. I cave.
"Of course you were right, and if your older brother were a little less clueless, he would have listened to your advice sooner. But now …"
Anxiety creeps up in my voice. Now comes the hard part.
And you mean that literally, Cullen.
"Edward, please tell me you're not going to make that girl's life miserable with your antics. Oh, no, wait. I got it. Angela found you a guy assistant? A gay assistant? That must be all the rage in Hollywood."
She's actually getting a kick out of this, which works in my favour because it means I've succeeded in making her forget her complaints.
"No, Alice, as much as that would divert you. I'm not going to make Bella's life miserable, either, if I can help my idiotic self."
Short Stuff doesn't relent. She's on a manhunt for information and she can tell, from years of practice, that I'm holding something back.
"Bella? Who's Bella?"
She's playing cat and mouse with me because we both know that she isn't this dumb, not by a long shot, not even when she's unconscious.
"Bella is my assistant, Alice. Actually, her full name is Isabella Swan. Miss Swan to me because we're not even on first name terms. I'm Mr Cullen to her."
Alice can tell I'm disappointed. There are no sizeable mirrors in my flat, but even I can tell I'm pouting like a wilful child.
"Edward, something's up. I can feel it. I'm busy, busier than you'll ever be even if you happen to snatch an Academy Award, but I am still on this godforsaken phone because you are keeping something from me, and this something is bugging you. Why are you in a strop, if all of your problems have been solved? And by someone else, I might add?"
"Alice … It's her. Bella … it's her …"
"Edward, you lost me. You'll need to be a little more eloquent for me to empathise with you."
"It's her, Alice. The girl I saw on the plane … Bella … she's the same …"
I know I sound incoherent, but at the moment, it's the best my befuddled brain can do. Alice will understand and forgive—maybe?
"Edward, let me get this straight. Isabella Swan and Business Class Girl are the same person? Your new assistant is the same girl you've been fantasising about for the last nine months?"
I draw a deep breath. Lucky for me, Alice has her wits about her and has figured this out without my help. "Yes, Alice. That's correct."
"So, to cut a long story short, you want to shag your assistant?"
Sometimes, my sister does have a way with words. If I were drinking coffee, I'd definitely be choking on it. I wince, only partially shocked. After all, she's got it right.
"Alice, no, I don't … Well, I do … Ugh … Why do things have to be so complicated?"
"Are they? She doesn't like you, then?"
"Alice, she doesn't even know me, and she calls me Mr Cullen, for God's sake. It's not like she's being friendly, is she?"
Alice chuckles. I'm happy to be of service—apparently my woes amuse her.
"You silly boy. She's trying to build a wall between the two of you, which, if anything, means she doesn't exactly dislike you."
"Alice, you lost me there."
Alice sighs impatiently over the phone. "Ah, guys and their non-existent behavioural analysis skills. If she found you repellent, she wouldn't need to keep you at a safe distance, would she?"
I finally get her point. Understanding dawns on me and I allow myself to feel hope for a split second.
"Oh … Oh … I see … But, Alice … now what?"
"I assume you still want to shag her? Work ethic notwithstanding?"
"Well …" That's the very eloquent answer I come up with.
"Right, try not to make her life impossible."
"Alice, I don't want to do that. But what can I do? For her, I mean?"
Alice huffs again. She's getting more and more impatient, probably because my male, testosterone-impaired brain can't grasp some self-evident truth about the female universe.
"Be yourself. She'd call you out on your shit anyway."
I nod through the phone, quite unaware that she's unable to see me.
"And get to know her, Edward Cullen. What do you know about her? 'Awesome' and 'beautiful' are not acceptable answers. Think."
I wrack my brains, sifting through all the things I know about her. Realisation strikes me. I smile to myself.
"She is very picky about her tea."
Alice chuckles. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"I've seen her three times, Alice, and she always asks for Earl Grey—no sugar, no lemon, no milk. And it must be in a mug, not in a cup."
"Well, that's a start. Keep going, Edward. I'll leave you to it; the world of fashion awaits."
The phone clicks, and the line goes dead. My sister has bestowed her ounce of wisdom upon my clueless self and has now left me to my own devices. I still have to survive Angela's party tonight.
I throw a good look around. The flat is a mess; I am a mess. In an attempt to sort myself out, I start cleaning and tidying up. I go through piles of discarded papers, take-out boxes, mismatched socks, and untied shoes scattered all over the place. For about three hours, the mindless task keeps my musings at bay until I realise it's close to 8 p.m., and I still have to get ready to go to Angela's.
What do I do? What am I wearing? I can't call Alice again. I need to do this alone. Right. I make a mental to-do list and actually count the items off on my fingers. I guess I really am Alice's brother, after all. Shower, towel-dry hair, find clean underpants, find an unrumpled shirt, find a pair of presentable jeans, find shoes, get beanie, get out of the house, get to Angela's. Easy? We'll see.
I jump in the cold shower first to clear my head. Again.
Cullen, seriously? Who are you kidding? Cold shower in November?
I go through my routine, running around the flat barefoot and with a towel around my waist, trying to find my clothes and shoes, one excruciating item at a time. All the while, I can't rid my mind of the image of Bella meandering through the crazy traffic of downtown L.A. on her hot, black bike. She looked so focused and in control, lost in her own bubble of unreal speed.
How would it feel to ride behind her, her hair on your face, Cullen?
I practically run through the door, dodge a few paparazzi who are, as usual, waiting outside to follow me everywhere, and manage to call Eric and Tyler—my security guys—to come and collect me. Angela insists I call them instead of hailing cabs, and for once, I actually listen to her advice.
They arrive in a few minutes and drive me to Angela's in a flash. Angela lives in a huge but discreet mansion in Beverly Hills. It only befits her status of established Hollywood mogul, and from her location, she can actually keep a close eye on some of her clients.
She spots me right away, and now, in the quiet of her private home, I can discard the knit beanie that's become the disguise of choice for my notorious hair. She greets me congenially with a fashionable display of air kisses.
"Edward, dear, how good of you to come!"
As if she expected otherwise. These monthly parties are designed to gather up her clients and other contacts in the business. Angela tells me it's called networking. Not that I ever bothered to catch the nuts and bolts of it, though.
I smile at her and surreptitiously scan the crowd. There's only one partygoer I'm interested in. Angela catches my wandering eye.
"She's not here. Yet. You can rest easy for a while."
I'm relieved, overjoyed even, now that Angela has confirmed my suspicions. Bella is going to be here, too. It suddenly makes sense to me because from now on, in her capacity as my assistant, Bella will have to be on speaking terms with most of the people attending tonight.
You hear that, people? She's MY assistant.
I frown as I think back on Bella's last words this morning.
"Angela, what was Bella's talk about deal-breakers? Anything I need to know?"
Angela is about to address my question when she abruptly turns her head. I follow her gaze down to the gates, which we can clearly see from the balcony where we're standing.
A powerful engine roars below us. It doesn't sound like a motorbike, though.
Good for you, Cullen! Another sight like that, and you'd have a coronary … At twenty-seven.
Everyone else also turns to have a good look at the commotion. The latest addition to the party seems to have caused the uproar is caused. It's a shiny, curvy, red sports car, with a prominent Dodge logo on its hood. I've seen those around—not that many, though—and I'm pretty sure it's a Dodge Viper. A burly man, with curly and close-cropped dark hair, swiftly walks around the front of the car to open the passenger door, as an ominous sense of anticipation seizes me while I stare, transfixed, at another newcomer emerging from the red Viper.
An all-too-familiar whistle rings in my ear, and in the corner of my eye, James Warner's sorry arse materialises beside me. This is getting too old, too soon.
"Hot car, hot passenger. That's a given. I'm dying to know who she is," he says, even waggling his eyebrows.
As my sole reaction, I raise my own eyebrows and remain sullenly silent.
"That must be a SHE, and a hot SHE, by the way the guy rushed to open the door."
I can't rein myself in now, though, even if we're at Angela's.
"Or maybe he's just the gentleman you're not, Warner."
Screw you, scumbag.
I fall silent again. The guy, all dressed up in a light grey suit that looks tailor-made, finally grasps a tiny hand extended from the inside of the car. A jean-clad, slim, and toned leg follows this mysterious hand.
With a fleeting thought, I realise everyone else has gone silent, and this scene is sort of playing out in slow motion. This looks nothing short of the arrival of Brangelina.
The guy finally turns to face the music, so to speak, and I could slap myself for the second time today. It's Linebacker Em. He cleans up nicely, but it's him. There's no mistaking that wall of rippled muscle.
Wait a minute, Cullen! If that's Linebacker Em, then SHE …
My idiotic arse got something right this time. I take a deep breath and steel myself to cast a slow, deliberate glance at the girl who is now standing beside Linebacker Em, his arm draped protectively around her shoulders.
It's her. It's Bella. She came to Angela's party, with Linebacker Em in tow and riding in his fuck-hot car.
What is it with this girl and transportation? Can't she ride something lame like an Austin Metro?
I allow myself to take one good, appreciative look at her while the distance that separates us still prevents me from embarrassing myself. She's dressed simply, but her unassuming attire does nothing to detract from her natural grace.
She looks stunning in her curve-hugging, dark blue jeans. There are no strategically placed rips this time. Those jeans look so pristine and glamorous that they must be designer made. Her outfit is completed by a halter top that shows off her toned shoulders and arms. Its emerald green hue complements perfectly her chocolate brown eyes and mahogany locks, and with a tinge of smugness, I notice it's nearly as green as my own eyes.
You self-centred moron. That's not the reason she chose it, Cullen.
She looks a good foot shorter than Linebacker Em who, in turn, is maybe a couple of inches taller than me. She must not be wearing heels, unlike the rest of the girls here in Tinsel Town.
Before I can approach them and make myself known, Angela engulfs her in a hug.
"Bella, my dear! Welcome! Come, there are a lot of people I want you to meet."
And just like that, Bella's gone, whisked away by Angela and a whole crowd of other people.
You're on a mission, Cullen. Find her.
Edward is a man on a mission. Will he find his Business Class Girl at a chaotic party?
Tune in next week to find out.