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.
So, yeah … Edward's trying and we'll hear more from him soon. Up next is Bella.
True to his word, Edward gave me what I requested. I worked from home two days a week and it gave me the flexibility to help my sister acclimate to her new home. I got to know some of the other mothers in the neighborhood and with the help of the preschool and daycare facilities, I found a grief counselor for both of us. We'd already had our first two appointments, establishing a relationship with the therapist.
Katie and I fell into a comfortable routine. My sister was further coming out of her shell, growing to love Chicago and having me as her sole caretaker.
If only I could feel the same way.
Today, however, I was about ready to stick my head in the oven. It was early October and the weather had begun to turn chilly. Katie was home sick with a cold. Or, at least, that's what the doctor at immediate care told me. I'd never been around Katie when she was sick, only taking her when she was healthy and for the weekend prior to my parents' death.
With the cough and fever, I thought she'd caught some exotic disease. The doctor reassured me that it was simply a nasty head cold. She would feel better with time, some chicken soup and over the counter cold medication. Vicks was a freaking God-send.
"Bella," Katie whined from her bedroom. "Can I have a frozen pop?"
"You just had one, Katie," I said, trying to focus my attention on the latest design for New Moon Cosmetics. They'd loved my ideas. Victoria and Laurent, the owners of the company, requested I be their main contact, leading the team. For the other advertising campaigns, I worked in the background. Katie padded into the office, crawling into my lap. She felt warm and was incredibly snuggly. "Kit Kat … I love you, sweetie, but …"
"Please, Bella?" she whimpered, putting her head on my shoulder. "Can we just cuddle on the couch and watch some television?"
"Okay," I sighed, standing up and carrying her to the living room. She was laying on me, her legs on either side of my hips. She'd snuggled like this with Mom whenever she felt upset or sick. I know I was a poor substitute for Mom, but I did the best I could. I just gently ran my fingers through her curls while I had the Disney channel on. Within a few moments, she crashed, snoring loudly. I picked up my cell phone and set an alarm. A nap sounded like a good idea.
A few hours later, my alarm was going off and I was sweating. Katie's fever had spiked. She needed some of her medicine. I settled Katie onto the couch, covering her with a blanket. I made her some chicken soup and got her some children's Dayquil. As I was working in the kitchen, my cell phone vibrated. I saw it was Alice. I swiped my finger across my screen, "Hello?"
"Bella, I'm so glad you picked up. I know that today is one of your telecommute days, but I'm desperate," Alice breathed. "Something happened with the New Moon campaign, with the photo shoot. I need you to come in and talk to Victoria."
"Alice," I frowned. "My sister is sick and I can't leave her with a sitter. She's running a high fever and is just miserable."
"I'm sorry. I wouldn't be begging you to come in if it weren't such a ginormous clusterfuck," Alice said. "Victoria hates the model we chose, saying that the model is too fake, with Botox and fake books. She also wants a more natural esthetic."
I looked down to my attire. I was dressed in my faded pajamas, an oversized hoodie that had once belonged to Phil and a pair of fluffy socks. I hadn't even showered today. "The earliest I can be there is about three. I need to get some medication into my sister and I need to get dressed. With Katie being as sick as she is, I didn't want to dress up. We're both in our pajamas."
"Bring her with you," Alice said. "I'll watch her. My sister has a set of twins a little older than Katie. Perhaps, when Katie's feeling better, we can spend some time together with Cynthia and her kids, Julian and Brooklyn."
"Okay," I sighed. "I'll be there as soon as I can. I'm warning you; Katie is miserable."
I woke up Katie and had her eat her lunch. I also gave her medicine to help with her symptoms. She shuffled back to the couch, curling up and promptly falling back asleep. While she did that, I showered and got dressed. I put on a pair of leggings, some booties, and a slouchy, tunic sweater. I put on some simple makeup and checked on Katie. She grumbled when I woke her up and forced her to brush her teeth. I put her in a pair of jeans and a hoodie. Placing her and a blanket into my car, I drove us to MAC.
Balancing my computer bag, a small bag of stuff for Katie and my sister in my arms, I rode up to my office. I nodded at the receptionist. She gave me a scowl, looking at the sniffly four-year-old in my arms. I ignored her, striding to my office. Alice was in there, typing furiously on her computer.
"Bells, I'm so sorry," she said, saving her work. "Victoria and Laurent are fit to be tied. Emmett is out of town, meeting with a prospective new client and Jasper is at a business lunch. I tried to talk to them, but they only want you. I explained to them …"
"It's okay," I said, settling Katie on the couch in our office. My sister sniffled, curling around a stuffed animal. "Kit Kat, can you stay with Miss Alice?"
"Can't I come with you?" Katie whispered, her voice raspy and raw.
"It'll be fun, Katie," Alice chirped. "I've got some ice cream and we can watch some Netflix on my computer while Bella talks to a friend of ours." Katie gave Alice a dubious look, but nodded. I kissed Katie's forehead. She was still a little warm, but much cooler than this morning.
"Where are Victoria and Laurent?" I asked.
"Downstairs, in the photo studio," Alice responded. "They're holding an impromptu go-see to find a new model."
I nodded and kissed Katie again before darting down to the photo studio. I blew out a breath and pushed into the studio. Victoria and Laurent were looking over photos on a computer while our photographers were trying to fix something using their editing programs. "Hello?"
"Bella!" Victoria beamed, hopping up and hugging me tightly. "I'm so happy you're here. The model we chose for the shoot; she was hired by another more lucrative campaign. The one that was sent in her place was … ugh, she was awful. We're a clean makeup line. I do not want my brand to be demonstrated by someone who has lip fillers, Botox and a facelift. You … you would be perfect. So naturally beautiful!"
"I'm no model," I snorted. "My cellulite and acne-prone skin … nope. Not my cup of tea. I'll help you find someone to replace the woman we'd hired, more akin to my features. We'll also work on the product photographs while we get a new model. We can get some teasers on your Instagram and put some information on your Facebook page, previewing the campaign. We can also work on your PR packages, sending them to influencers. Do you have that list?"
"You are a freaking genius!" Victoria squealed, hugging me tightly. "I knew you'd make things right. Laurent, can you handle the models while I discuss PR?"
"Works for me," Laurent nodded.
I led Victoria to a quieter part of the studio. I pulled out my computer and loaded it up. "Have you finalized a number that you're willing to spend for PR?" I asked. "How much will each package be, including shipping?"
"Our PR budget is pretty hefty," Victoria said, showing me the amount from her tablet. "I've also compiled a list of who I want to send our product to. Most of them have well-established social media presence on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube."
"Do you know what you want to send?"
"A personalized kit for each, including our newest palette, lipstick, and mascara," Victoria said, showing me photos from her cell phone. "And by personalized, I want to send a few foundations around the influencer's skin shade, along with concealer, setting powder and such. I don't want to have too much waste. You know?"
"I like it," I smiled. "How about we work on the design for the PR package?"
We worked on her design for an hour and by the time we were done, Victoria was more at ease. Laurent also found a few models more to their preference. With a phone call, they were hired and booked for the day after tomorrow. After we'd chosen a few photos for their Instagram and Facebook to post, I managed to assuage their fears.
My fears, however, were just beginning.
"Bella," Alice said, her voice shaky as she came running into the studio. "I need to talk to you."
Her face was pale and her eyes were wide with anxiety. She gripped my arms. I could feel her trembling. "What's wrong?" I asked.
"Katie … I can't find her!" Alice choked out.
"What?!" I growled. "Alice, I trusted you!"
"I know," she sniffled. "I had to step out to grab some copies and then I went to the bathroom. Katie was sleeping. When I came back, she was gone." We walked to the lobby of the studio, after a cursory goodbye to Victoria and Laurent. I punched the call button for the elevator, willing it to open. Alice continued talking, "I thought she was in the bathroom, but she wasn't. I looked in the cafeteria, thinking that she was hungry but she wasn't there, either."
"We'll just need to check everywhere in the office," I snapped, upset that Katie had wandered off. My heart was stammering in my chest. I was sick with worry and I prayed that Katie was okay. When the elevator arrived, I walked onto it, ignoring Alice as she apologized.
We split up. I checked the offices and conference rooms while Alice looked in the cafeteria, break room and reception area. It was well after six and the office was all but empty save for me, Alice and a handful of graphic designers working on concept art. I asked them and they said that they hadn't seen a little girl. I was making way closer to the individual executive offices when I heard some quiet laughing, followed by a deep cough.
I looked and saw that the laughter was coming from Edward's office. His assistant was clearly gone. She was older than dirt and crabby. However, working with an asshole like Edward, you'd be crabby, too. With a deep breath, I knocked on the door.
"It's open," he called. I pushed open the door and found Katie sitting on his lap. She was idly watching something on his tablet, playing with his tie but her eyes were drooping. The frown lines on his face had smoothed out and he looked like the man I'd met briefly in the park. "Miss Swan … Isabella …"
"Bella, please," I said, looking at my sister. She was comfortable on his lap and in his arms. "We were looking for Katie. Alice came to me in a tizzy."
"My apologies, Bella," he murmured. "She was looking for the bathroom and I found her in front. I took her …"
"She's only four, Mr. Cullen," I gasped. "She can't …"
"Call me Edward," he said. "Your little one used my tie as a tissue and I've seen her pee. Well, heard her pee. I think we're past such formality. If we'd known that Katie was sick, we would have figured something out."
"Alice called me in. There was some snafu with the photoshoot for New Moon," I explained. "Victoria and Laurent … they asked for me to come in. Katie was home sick with a cold and I didn't want to leave her with a sitter. Alice said she'd watch her, but she stepped out of the office and Kit Kat decided to sneak away. I can take her now."
Edward's face was soft as he looked down to my sister. She was curled up, sleeping on his shoulder. My sister looked so comfortable despite being sick. "Have you been to the doctor?" he asked.
"It's just a cold, but it's the first time she's been sick since … since we lost our parents," I said, frowning and fidgeting in my seat. "But, yes, I took her to the doctor."
He gently ran his fingers through her curls. Katie snuggled closer, muttering in her sleep. "She asked about Sam," he chuckled. "She wants to play with him."
"She's been bugging me for a dog. I want to be able to take care of her first. I'm navigating all of this on my own. I have no other family. My grandparents had passed away before I was born. Phil and my mom were both only children," I explained. "My dad had an older sister, but she was never close to us. I never spoke to her in all my life." I scrubbed my face. "Being a single parent … it's tough." A few tears slipped down my cheeks and my exhaustion slammed into me. "I don't know if I can do it."
"The little one … she's loved and despite being sick, happy," Edward said quietly. There was a sadness in his eyes, but they were tender as they looked down at my sister. "She does need to go home."
"Let me take her," I said, wiping my cheeks.
"I can do it," Edward replied, standing up with Katie in his arms. "Meet me out front and I'll carry her to your car, Bella."
"Thank you," I whispered. I left his office and walked to mine. Alice was there, typing on her computer. "I found Katie. She was in Edward's office. She was snoozing on his lap."
"I ran into Shelly on my way back to the office," Alice said sheepishly. "She told me that he found Katie. I texted you, but your phone was on your desk." She got up and hugged me. "I'm sorry that I didn't keep a closer eye on her. I should have. She was feeling so crummy. I'm assuming you won't be in tomorrow?"
"Probably not," I answered. "I'll do some work remotely for the New Moon campaign. I'll also do some preliminary research for the new campaigns we've got on our plates. I'll Skype in if I have any questions."
"Got it," Alice nodded. "I hope Katie feels better soon. Slather some Vicks on her feet. It should clear up her cold."
"I've never heard that, but I'll try anything," I nodded and slipped my computer bag over my head. I walked to reception and saw Edward swaying gently with Katie in his arms. "Sorry. Alice wanted to talk to me before I left. I won't be in tomorrow. I'll have to telecommute until Katie's better."
"I was going to suggest that," Edward said, pressing the button of the elevator. He shifted Katie in his arms. He caressed her cheek with his fingers. His expression was tender, loving as he looked at my sister. "I have a name of a good doctor. A pediatrician."
"Really?" I asked.
"I do some work for a foster care agency, donating my time and a great deal of money," he muttered uncomfortably. "This doctor can … help her out." He blinked at me, giving me a tiny, but crooked smile. "Her card is in my pocket. I'll give it to you when I get Katie into your car."
The ride down to the parking garage was quiet and a bit awkward. I pulled out my keys and we walked to my car. I unlocked it, opening the backseat where Katie's car seat was located. Edward put her in it and strapped her in.
"Thank you for …"
"Do you need …"
We both spoke at the same time. I blushed and he laughed, gesturing to me. "Go ahead, Bella."
"Thank you for watching her," I said. "I'll pay for any dry cleaning." His brows furrowed. I gestured to a spot on his shoulder that was covered with Katie's snot and slobber.
"It's okay," he said. "Katie was sick."
"What were you going to say?" I asked.
"Do you need help with her when you get home?" he questioned. "Carrying her?"
"I'm good, but thank you," I said, giving him an appreciative smile.
He reached into his pocket, handing me a card. "The pediatrician I mentioned," he whispered, placing it in my hand. When our palms touched, I jumped at the shock that traveled through me. His hand enfolded mine and he held tight. "My number is on the back of the card. Please, call me if you need anything?"
"Thank you, Edward," I breathed. "I really appreciate everything you've done." He nodded, releasing my hand and stepping back. He looked like he wanted to say something more, but he gave me a brief smile before turning on his heel. I got into my car and backed out. I blinked up to the rear-view mirror. Edward was standing there, watching me as I drove away.
I was puzzled by his behavior. He was so aloof, but when he was around my sister … something changed. He melted and he became more human. I also couldn't deny my attraction to him.
There was something sad and broken inside Edward Cullen, something inherently dark. He built up so many walls, but those walls came tumbling down when he interacted with Kit Kat.
With a blush, I realized that I was falling for him. Falling for a dark soul … a broken, dark soul.
A/N: This is the last of the prewritten chapters. After this, we'll have all new parts of the story. We're going to go back to Edward in the next chapter. We're going to backtrack in time in his eyes. We'll go to the fundraiser and meet Edward's adoptive parents. Then, we'll get a glimpse of the latter part of this chapter along with his interactions with Katie, plus moving forward a little bit.
Now, will he magically get better? Edward has some major issues. Bella is also struggling, too.
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