Disclaimer: None of this mine, nor do I claim to be Stephenie Meyer. I just like to dabble in the playground that she created with Bella, Edward and her Twilight characters. No copyright infringement is intended.
This Edward will be pretty unlikeable … he's got his reasons. I swear. Sometimes, they aren't the right reasons, but they're his reasons. You'll hear from him in the next update.
The woman sitting in front of me, with large brown doe eyes, thick mahogany hair, pale skin and red lips, was gaping at me like a fish. She was the same woman I'd briefly met the day before at the park with her daughter, or the girl who I believed to be her daughter. Seeing the little girl, something cracked in my armor and exposed my heart, but I had a business to run, regardless of what I felt the day before.
"I'm waiting, Miss Swan," I snapped, narrowing my eyes at her. "I've read your hiring packet and I know that you've moved across the country after the death of your parents."
Her eyes watered, but she jutted her chin out defiantly. "I graduated at the top of my class, like you," she said. "I never half-ass anything. I'm a hard worker. I'm looking forward to …"
"You may have graduated at the top of your class, but your experience is sorely lacking, Miss Swan," I interrupted.
"I was supposed to begin working after completing my MBA at a firm in Seattle. My parents' death prevented me from taking that job, Mr. Cullen," she hissed. "I'm sorry that my personal loss is coloring your opinion of me in such a poor light. I may not have a lot of experience, but I'm a quick study and I do not appreciate my work ethic or integrity to be questioned."
I smirked at her fire. I liked her spark, but she was very close to being insubordinate. "Well, I look forward to see your work, Miss Swan," I retorted snidely, glowering at her. "You came highly recommended from the company in Seattle, despite never working there." Her face was pink and her eyes were welling with tears. I was obviously pushing her buttons. "I'll see you tomorrow, Miss Swan. You may go."
She shot up and strode out of my office. The door clicked shut and I leaned forward, thrusting my hands into my hair. Seeing those tears had wracked me to the core. I knew her history and yet, I questioned her integrity.
Ten minutes later, my door flew open and the bane of my existence stomped into my office. "You are such an asshole, Edward," snapped Rosalie. "Bella is one of the best people we hired since you've taken over as CEO. You should know. You fucking hired her without a fucking interview. You've read her resume, saw her portfolio and examined her educational transcripts. On top of that, you knew that she had experienced a significant personal loss with her parents' death. Yet, you kept pushing and pushing. Do you really not have a heart?"
"You may be the head of human resources, but you are not …" I growled, shooting up and glaring at her.
"I'm not finished yet," she sneered. "Ever since your divorce was finalized, you've become more and more of an asshole, more unbearable. I know that you were raked over the coals by that whore, but you're fucking yourself over."
"Rosalie … you are treading a fine line," I snapped.
"No, I'm done tiptoeing around you, Edward. You're fucking brilliant. The proof is in the product we create, the stellar teams that we have in this firm and our reputation of excellence. Your interpersonal skills, however, are sorely lacking. Isabella Swan lost her mother and stepfather six months ago. Her father had died before she could even remember. She became a single parent to her little sister, trying to be strong for a little girl who had her world upended. She's navigating this all on her own, without support. Sound fucking familiar?"
"You will shut your goddamned mouth," I yelled. "Get the hell out of my office or you will be out of a job."
She snapped her mouth shut, scowling at me. "You will apologize to Bella. She doesn't deserve your bullshit. I've sent her home for the rest of the day because she was so upset by your mercurial, asshole bullshit. And don't think this is the last time I have something to say about this, Edward. You've really crossed the fucking line. You may be the boss, but you're making this place hell to work at." With a huff, she turned on her heel and left my office, slamming the door shut.
I counted to ten and asked Shelly to cancel the rest of my meetings. I packed up my computer and left the office, fleeing down the private elevator. I needed to calm down. The only one who calmed me down was my dog, Sam. He loved unconditionally, even me.
Broken as I am.
I was truly shattered and my job was my only tether to the world.
I lived in foster care until I was fifteen. My parents were both heroin addicts and overdosed when I was really young, barely a toddler. I didn't have any other living family. So, I'd been placed in foster care and was shuffled from home to home. I was a kid and because of their deaths, I had a hard time forming relationships. I had a chip in my shoulder and built up walls to prevent myself from getting hurt. I was also too smart, with a really high IQ. My various foster parents never cared about my intelligence and so I didn't care either.
I only cared about drinking, getting high and keeping people away from me. I did that by acting like a complete asshole, solidifying those walls.
I didn't need anyone. No one needed me, either.
I wasn't worth it.
It wasn't until I met Carlisle and Esme Cullen did I feel some sort of connection. I'd been living in a boy's home, having been removed from my most recent foster family. I'd gotten into a fight at school. My right hand had been broken and I was brought to a local hospital. If the social worker in charge had any choice, my hand would have left alone, but the school insisted that my hand was broken.
At the hospital, I met Dr. Carlisle Cullen. He was kind, treating me with respect despite my surly attitude. The next day, while I was at home because I'd been suspended, Carlisle came to the boy's home with his wife. They spoke to the director and I was placed into their care. The Cullen's were registered a foster family. The first few weeks I lived with them, I pushed as many buttons as possible, thinking they'd send me back. I was also waiting for Carlisle to turn into some perv, like many of the foster fathers I'd lived with before the system deemed me a mess.
Some of those assholes didn't take no for an answer.
The Cullen's weren't like anything I'd experienced. I had a safe place to land and two people who loved me unconditionally, even when I didn't love myself. I was adopted when I turned sixteen and became, officially, Edward Cullen. Even though I'd been accepted by the Cullen's and I had a family, I still never let my walls completely down.
With Carlisle and Esme, I was able to focus in school and I went from failing every class to being on the high honor roll. My academic achievement helped me get into the University of Chicago, where I found a place where I could truly shine. I was not that foster kid, a troublemaker, an asshole. I had a fresh start and I absorbed it all I could like a sponge while I was at university. I wanted to follow in Carlisle's footsteps, becoming a doctor, but the sight and smell of blood made me squeamish. I had the brain for math, problem solving and strong leadership skills. I double majored in advertising and business administration. When I graduated, I worked my way up through a small advertising firm, where I met Tanya, who worked as a model for the firm.
Tanya, who had broken through all of my walls.
Tanya, who I'd given my heart freely for the first time in life. The first person I loved unconditionally and who I thought loved me the same way. Even after almost twenty years with my adoptive parents, I still felt like I owed them something and that their love had conditions. Tanya accepted me as I was, flaws and all.
Tanya, who I married and shared my life.
Tanya, who convinced me to go for bigger and better things, telling me to apply for a position in Masen Advertising Corporation after I'd finished my master's degree in business administration.
Tanya, who had been an answer to my many, many prayers for true happiness.
Or so I thought …
Tanya, who only wanted to be with me because of my money.
Tanya, who had secretly ended several pregnancies because she did not want to have children, despite my overwhelming need to have a family of my own.
Tanya, who had fucked my best friend on my desk at Masen Advertising Corporation, or MAC, while I was out of town. I'd discovered them when I flew home a day early to surprise my wife.
Suffice it to say, Tanya was no longer a part of my life. After ten years of marriage and a shit-ton of money doled out to several high-priced attorneys to end my unwedded union to the Wicked Witch of the Midwest. She'd succeeded in completely shattering me and I was broken, bitter and found my companionship with my four-legged best friend, Sam. He was the only one who was there for me while I dealt with my unraveling marriage.
Even my parents gave me shit. They criticized Tanya for being a gold-digging whore, which, admittedly, she was, but I didn't need to hear it from them. Their criticism was further proof that their love had conditions.
I was still that punk kid, unworthy of nothing good in my life. I was poison.
I hopped into my car and drove to my condo in Bucktown. Riding up the elevator to the penthouse, I changed into a pair of shorts and t-shirt. I swiped my keys, cell phone and money. I walked across the street to the dog daycare I used for Sam. I paid for his stay and took my excited golden retriever from the attendant. I slid my phone up my arm and I crouched in front of my best friend. "Want to go for a run with me, Sammy?" I asked, scrubbing behind his ears.
He didn't answer, but he did give me a sweet doggy smile and licked my nose. I chuckled, standing up and leading Sam out of the storefront. We moved quickly to the same park where I saw Isabella and the little girl. I stretched out and took off with Sam, running away from the anger in my mind and bitterness in my heart.
xx FFADS xx
Two weeks had passed since that disastrous first meeting with Isabella Swan. From what I'd heard, she'd acclimated with her team, who were one of the most productive groups in my employ. They worked on the largest accounts and came up with the most innovative ideas.
Shelly walked in with my daily schedule and a cup of coffee. I read through my day, sighing when I saw that I had a meeting with a client and Isabella's advertising team. I prayed I would not lose my cool. I usually kept my head when in business settings. Rosalie, however, had left me several emails, telling me to apologize for my temper. I had yet to do so. If I had my way, I wouldn't, either.
I never apologized.
What was the point? No one ever apologized to me.
As I was looking over the client's request and the team's progress, I was pleased with their progress and their plan for the company. The client was an up and coming clean makeup company called New Moon Cosmetics. The advertising campaign was quite ingenious and from the information in the file, most of it came from Isabella.
My phone rang on my desk. I picked it up. "Cullen."
"Edward, it's been too long," came the sweet, soft voice of my adoptive mother, Esme. "How are you doing?"
"I'm fine," I said brusquely. "Getting ready for a few client meetings today. Then, I've got an event tonight … some fundraiser."
"I know, sweetie," Esme said. "Your father and I will be there." I didn't respond. I was not on speaking terms with Carlisle, at the moment. He had been harsh when I was going through the divorce from my ex-wife. "I know that you and your father are not on speaking terms, but he feels badly about how he's acted throughout your divorce. He wants to apologize."
"You weren't … you had some choice things to say, too, Esme," I said.
"I'm sorry, Edward. Both Carlisle and I should have been supportive and not so judgmental throughout the whole ordeal," Esme murmured. "I love you so much and I want you to be happy. For a few years, you were with T …"
"Don't say her name," I spat.
"Right, of course," Esme sputtered. "Regardless of what she did, I still want the same thing for you, Edward. You're thirty-five years old. From the moment you walked into our home, I loved you like you were my own. All a mother wants for her child is their happiness. She took that away from you. I don't recognize you anymore. Part of it is due to how Carlisle and I behaved while you were dealing with her bullshit. We should have been there for you. Not casting judgment."
"The other part is that I'm too fucked up, Esme," I said, growling at her angrily. "I don't know if I can ever be happy, to be honest. I'm broken. You did your best, but …"
"But, you've given up," Esme muttered. "I never saw you as broken, Edward. Bruised, but never broken. You are so dedicated, having so much ambition. If only you could apply that to your personal relationships. I don't want you to be alone."
"Maybe, that's all I'm good for," I breathed, a rare moment of vulnerability. "The only people who want to be with me want something. Money, a job … never me."
"Oh, sweetheart," Esme cooed. "You are brilliant, driven and capable of so much love. I've seen you give it."
"To whom? My ex-wife?" I growled. "As soon as she'd told me what she'd done and was only with me because of my money and the lifestyle that money provided, any love I'd had for her dissipated."
"The way you treat children and the money you donate to orphans, foster agencies … You think I don't know, but I'm fully aware of what you do for those kids," Esme argued. "This benefit tonight will raise so much money for that educational center."
I closed my eyes and blew out a breath. I'd always had a soft spot for children because I knew what it was like to lose that soft place to land. They needed continuity, support, love … I couldn't provide any of that, but with donations I'd given, I helped many kids obtain those things. "Whatever. I'll see you tonight, Esme."
"Edward …" she breathed.
"I've got a meeting I need to attend," I said. As she said she loved me, I hung up the phone. I always felt guilty in that I never said it in return, to either of my parents.
I couldn't love.
I didn't deserve love.
I sure as hell couldn't give love.
Not when my heart had been battered and broken as much as it had.
I pinched my nose, blowing out a slow breath. A reminder pinged from my computer. I picked up my tablet and turned off the reminder, heading to the large conference room where I was to meet up with the client and Isabella's team.
Alice was typing on her laptop while Isabella was laying down hard copies of the advertising campaign. Emmett was puttering with the projector and Jasper was placing posters around the room. "Where's the client?" I asked.
Isabella jumped, looking up at me and her lips pursed. She stood up and handed me the presentation. "They contacted us a few moments ago. There was an accident on the Dan Ryan. They'll be here as soon as they can."
"About ten minutes," Alice chirped. "Victoria just texted me. They just got off the expressway."
I flipped through the campaign, nodding with approval of the hard work they'd put in for the client. "I like the aspect of focusing your attention on social media," I said. "Who's idea was that?"
"Mine," Isabella answered, sitting down next to Alice. "A number of companies are placing ads on traditional platforms like magazines, and newspapers, but using Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media is another way to spread the word. When I …" she trailed off, but shook her head. "Never mind."
"No, continue," I said.
"I'd rather not have my work ethic ridiculed," Isabella responded coldly, her eyes narrowed at me. "Or my integrity questioned."
"If you won't say it, I will," Emmett said, his normally jovial face tense and his eyes swirling with anger as he looked at me. "Bella used the same strategies where she worked in Forks." He sat down, typing on his computer and pulled up an Instagram for Newton Sporting Goods. "She created an Insta account and linked it to an online e-commerce store. Linda Newton has said that the online store has tripled their profits since its inception."
"I still help with their e-commerce aspect of the store," Isabella said quietly.
"You signed a non-competition clause in your contract," I hissed.
"I don't get paid for it and I help out because Linda or her husband, Darrell, do not have the technical expertise. Their son could handle it, but he's more interested in screwing around on his wife," she said. "Regardless, they helped me out when I was drowning in grief and now it's time for me to return the favor." She closed her eyes and a lone tear fell down her cheek. On shaky limbs, she muttered an excuse me and left the conference room.
"Mr. Cullen, I respect you for having a brilliant mind, but you're being very unfair and downright mean to Bella," Alice said. She'd never raised a fuss with me, but I'd crossed a line. "You're going to lose her if you keep it up. She's … she's better than you when it comes to thinking outside the box. She told me what you did on her first day. You've not apologized. And then now, calling her on a minor non-competition clause? It's not right, sir."
"Agreed," Jasper muttered. "And Bella won't be the only one you might lose if this continues." Emmett crossed his arms and nodded.
Damn it. I blew out a breath, pinching my nose. I had really gotten worse. My angry, bitter mood had started to spread like a cancer, all thanks to my ex-whore. "I'll go talk to her," I said.
"Not if you're going to upset her," Alice growled. "We need her today. She established a rapport with Victoria and her partner, Laurent."
"No, I'm going to apologize," I sighed. "I have been pretty unbearable lately. Things have been difficult for me recently and I need to …" I shook my head. "Excuse me." I left the conference room and made my way toward the team room where Isabella worked. She was not in there, but I heard quiet sobs in the bathroom.
I am an asshole.
I opened the door to the bathroom and saw Isabella leaning against the quartz countertops. Her face was red and her tears were falling unabated. I cleared my throat. She stood up, looking at me through the mirror. The emptiness and agony in her eyes nearly knocked me over. However, it was quickly replaced with ire and hatred. "This is the ladies room," she said, her voice thick and her derision clear.
"I know that, but I'm also the boss," I said. She reached for a towel and wiped her eyes, but I could see her anger behind her chocolate brown eyes. "Isabella, I …"
Before I could continue, she whirled around. "I'm putting in my two-week's notice," she spat. "I cannot work for someone who is incapable of being compassionate, kind and respectful."
"Please don't," I said, holding up my hands. "I … I'm sorry for my behavior."
There's a first time for everything.
"Too little, too late," she sniffled. "I've uprooted my life, and the life of my baby sister so I could start fresh. I'd rather go back to Forks and do my work for Newton's Sporting Goods than work for an asshole like you. I'm trying to keep it together, but when I'm terrified of coming to work …"
"You're brilliant, Isabella," I said, interrupting her. "I saw that when I read your application, looked through your portfolio and contacted your references. I don't want you to be terrified."
"Why are you so mean?" she asked, more tears falling onto her cheeks. "You read my file and yet you throw my personal loss into my face?"
"I'm also going through a difficult time," I replied. Isabella scoffed and shook her head. I held up my hands, "but that's not an excuse."
"I was warned about you," she frowned. "Senna told me that you were an asshole, but I didn't want to believe it. I was taught to see the goodness in people. You were kind to Kit Kat that day, but when I met you the following day … it was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." She wiped her cheek with a shaky hand. She looked so broken, so sad.
"What can I do to convince you to stay?" I asked. "I don't want to lose you at MAC. From what I saw of the campaign for the client, it looked brilliant and multi-faceted."
"I need more flexibility with my schedule," she argued. "Rose said that I could telecommute one day a week, but with my sister and with everything that's happened recently … let's just say we're both struggling with the death of our parents. I'm looking for a therapist." She also blushed and twisted her hands nervously. "It's also a lot more expensive here than it is in Forks." Isabella looked at me sheepishly, anxiety in her eyes.
Anxiety that I had put there because I was a colossal assface.
"How about this? You can have two days a week where you could telecommute. I'll also give you a 3% raise from your base salary, plus a 15% bonus for each campaign you and your team close," I suggested.
"5% raise and a 20% bonus for all of us on the team," she countered, arching a brow. "Not just me. And, no more public beratement. Praise in public, criticize in private, Mr. Cullen."
"You're right, Miss Swan," I frowned. "I am truly sorry. It's something that I need to work on." She nodded, her posture still stiff and her face flushed with her tears. "Will you be okay?"
"I will. I just need to," she blushed, gesturing to her puffy cheeks and tear-stained cheeks, "make myself presentable. I'll be there in a few moments. Thank you for talking to me. I really did not want to drive back to Forks. Linda Newton is a gossip and her son is a walking STD."
I barked out a laugh, imagining what she described. "That is not something I'd ever want to see. Ever."
"Me, neither," she grumbled. With a timid smile, she ducked out of the bathroom.
Isabella Swan was definitely an interesting woman, with fire, spunk and a fuck-ton of responsibilities. She was also brilliant, witty and could negotiate better than anyone else, other than me. The single most important that I noticed about Isabella Swan was that she … her feelings and emotions had niggled their way into my heart, making it beat for the first time in nearly a decade.
No, scratch that … in my entire life.
I didn't know how to react to that, to be honest.
Distance … I'd keep my distance, but give Isabella what she wanted so she wouldn't leave.
A/N: Like I said, Edward's fucked up. He's got some major issues. A friend of mine who adopted her daughter said that children who are in situations like he was in have difficulty forming relationships, building trust.
So, yeah … he's trying and we'll hear more from him soon. Up next is Bella.
Pictures from this chapter are on my blog. You can access that from a link on my profile. I'm also on Facebook: Tufano79's Twilight Fanfiction Appreciation. Twitter, too: tufano79.
Leave me some and thanks for reading!