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.
The previous chapter 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 the previous chapter along with his interactions with Katie, plus moving forward a little bit.
Despite our heated interaction in the ladies room, Isabella nailed the presentation for New Moon Cosmetics. She was well-spoken and focused, laying out the promotional plan for their launch. Victoria and Laurent hung on every word, loving every idea that the team had created. Alice was the team leader, but it was clear that Bella carried this presentation.
Her ideas were fresh.
Her plan was multi-faceted, using traditional advertising mediums and venturing out with social media.
Her excitement was apparent as she shared the projected profits the company would receive, using our company.
Her professionalism was on point, pushing aside my behavior and giving the clients what they wanted.
After the meeting, paperwork was signed with promises of further meetings to discuss photo shoots and putting the plan that Isabella had created into place. Victoria, Laurent and their company, New Moon, had committed to a two-year advertising contract with my advertising agency. It was a multi-million dollar contract.
I was so proud of the work of the team, but in awe of Isabella Swan.
I carried the contract and walked back to my office. I scanned a copy of it into my computer before putting the hard copy into my files. I also sent a digital copy to the team. Checking my computer, I had another couple of hours before I had to leave for the fundraiser. It was being held at the Lincoln Conservatory.
There was a quiet knock on my door. "It's open," I said.
Alice Brandon walked inside. "Do you have a moment?" she asked. Her voice was still a bit hard, pissed off at how I'd treated her obvious star team member.
"I do," I replied, looking at her.
"I just wanted to talk to you about Bella," she said, sitting down in front of my desk. Her hands were in her lap, in tight fists. "She did amazingly well, despite your behavior …"
"I apologized, Alice," I said. "I was in the wrong."
"She also told me about the changes in her contract," Alice said. "Regardless, I would be remiss as a team leader if I didn't bring the concerns of my team to you. You are a brilliant man. You've saved this advertising agency and made us a leader, industry standard among our competition. You strive for excellence, but the way you want us to achieve it is through fear. You are brilliant, but you don't have our respect. You have our fear. I understand that you've been dealing with some difficult personal issues recently, but it's not appropriate to treat your employees so poorly."
I frowned, upset that I was feared. I did respect my employees and their hard work. I paid them handsomely, giving huge bonuses at the end of the year. "Alice, there is no excuse for my recent behavior. Regardless of what I was dealing with personally, I should have never treated any of you without the highest modicum of respect. I am sorry."
Alice blinked at me.
Twice within one work day, I'd apologized.
Clearing my throat, I continued since Alice was stunned by my admission, "I don't want people to be afraid of me."
"It's like walking on egg shells, sir," she blurted. "We never know when you're going to explode. What you did to Bella today? That's bullshit."
"It was bullshit," I agreed. "Alice, I will endeavor to improve my relationship with the staff. I … I'm at a loss as how to do it."
"Something as simple as 'I'm sorry' will do wonders," Alice urged. "This isn't my company. You hand-selected us because you thought we were the best. I'm proud of what I do and for the most part, we'd never had any issues. However, we need to grow as a team. The agency I'd worked at prior to this, it had a family atmosphere."
I don't know how to be a part of a family. I don't know how to trust.
"I'll do some brainstorming," I said.
"I may be overstepping, but this seems a bit out of your depth," Alice said, grimacing. "I could help." Her eyes widened and she stared at my nameplate.
Damn it … I'm fucking up, left and right. My frown deepened as I watched her obvious fear of speaking up. I had to fix this or all the hard work I did to build up this crumbling agency. "Alice, I would really appreciate any help you could give me. I am out of my depth. Draft up some thoughts and send them to me, at your earliest convenience."
She blinked at me again, surprised that I agreed with her. "Uh …"
"Are you okay, Alice?" I asked.
"Um, yeah … yes," she nodded. She stood up and smoothed down her skirt. "Yes, I'll get started on that. Yes … thank you, Mr. Cullen."
"Alice, I don't want you all to fear me," I murmured. "And I'm too young to be called Mr. Cullen. Edward … please, call me Edward."
"Uh, okay, um, Edward," she mumbled, stepping around the chair. She bumped it with her hip and it fell. "Shit!"
"Relax," I chuckled, getting up and lifting the chair to its proper place. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah," she said. "I'm just going to go. I'll get started on those ideas, the team builders and stuff."
"One thing, Alice. No trust falls," I said, arching a brow.
"Yeah, no," she laughed. "That's the equivalent of hell on earth. I'll just, you know, go." She turned on her heel and left my office. Her expression was dazed, never expecting that I'd agree with her.
For my remaining time at the office, I drafted an apology email. I had been a bear to be around. Hell, if I'd worked for me, I'd quit. I saved it to my drafts and would read it again tomorrow morning, just to make sure it still made sense. Shutting down my computer, I left the office and drove to pick up Sam. I paid for his time at the doggy daycare, parking my car in the garage behind my building.
After a brief run around the block with Sam, I put out his food so I could shower. I washed off the sweat from my body from my run and I let the hot water wash over me. Today had been stressful. Only brought on by your own actions, asshole. I leaned forward, letting the water cascade down my back. I would have stayed in the shower longer, but my cell phone rang. I stepped out of my shower, hastily wrapping a towel around my waist.
I just missed the call, but noticed it was my adoptive mother. I sent her a brief text, saying I'd call back. I walked back to my bathroom to finish getting ready. I added some pomade to my hair, tousling it and trying to calm the cowlicks. I didn't shave since I'd done so before I went to work.
After I'd dressed in a navy blue tuxedo, I sprayed on some cologne and picked up my cell phone. I dialed my mother.
"Hello?" came her soft voice.
"I'm returning your call," I said. "I was cleaning up after an evening run."
"So, you're still coming to the benefit?" Esme asked.
"I'm leaving in a little bit," I replied.
"Your father would like to talk to you," she murmured.
"Later," I snapped. "I'll see you soon."
"I love you, Edward," Esme breathed.
Like earlier, I'd hung up the phone after a few beats. I walked to the kitchen, checking on Sam. He was on his bed, eating a bone I'd purchased for him. I crouched down, petting behind his ears. Sam looked up at me, his tongue hanging out of his mouth. "You're the only one who understands me, bud," I muttered. "Be good."
He barked lowly before balancing the bone between his paws. I stood up, picking up my wallet and keys. I turned on some music, ducking out of my condo. I slid into my black Tesla, a gift to myself after I was rid of the dead weight of my ex-wife.
I'd known what it was like to not have anything. I'd been starving. I'd been abused. The value I put on material items was not normal, but in everything that I'd seen prior to my adoption was based upon wealth, material possessions.
It's a sad existence.
I pulled up to the Lincoln Conservatory. I hand my keys to the valet and he gave me a ticket. With a nod, I walk into the building. The fundraiser organizer, Anna, immediately recognized me, scurrying over to me. "Mr. Cullen, I'm so glad you're here. I need you for a few pictures. Your donation …"
"I'm glad my donation has helped, but I'd rather not take any photos," I said, shaking her hand. "I don't do this for notoriety. I do it because that's what's right."
"Okay," she said. "No photos, but we do want to recognize you for your donations."
"I'm doing what I think is right," I said. I gave her a tight smile, ducking away from her and walking directly to the bar. I knew I had to drive and work the next day, so I ordered a bottle of beer. The bartender gave me a bottle of Stella. With a nod, I handed him a hefty tip and made the rounds in the elegantly decorated conservatory. I talked to local aldermen and schmoozed with government leaders.
"Edward," a voice called. I turned and saw my adoptive parents walking toward me. My mother wore an elegant light blue dress and my father was in a tuxedo.
"If you'll excuse me," I said, shaking the hand of the alderman I'd been speaking with. He stepped away and I plastered the pleasant grin on my face. The fake smile that looked almost genuine, but hid the anger and darkness inside. "Mom." I stiffly kissed her cheek. Her skin smelled of her favorite perfume, Roses De Chloé. "You look lovely."
"Thank you," she said, taking my hand. She squeezed my fingers, her thumb across my knuckles. "Are you getting enough sleep? You look tired, Edward."
"I'm fine," I said. "Busy, but fine."
"Good," Esme nodded, stepping back and sliding her arm around her husband. However, it was just a ruse to elbow him. He grunted, shooting my mother a glare.
"Do you need another drink?" I asked, gesturing to my mother's nearly empty champagne glass. "Let me get that for you."
"Nonsense," Esme said. "I'll get it. Carlisle, talk to your son."
"Esme," he hissed as she stepped away.
"Don't bother," I sneered. "Apparently, your opinion of me hasn't changed. I'm still the heartless bastard …"
"Damn it," Carlisle huffed. "I'm the heartless bastard."
"And yet, you can't stand to talk to me. Without your wife as a buffer," I said, guiding him away from the crowd. "I know I'm a huge disappointment. I appreciate all you did for me. You don't have to pretend to love me anymore. I'm not worth it."
"Edward," Carlisle frowned. "I really fucked things up."
"No, I'm the fuck up. You should have just left well-enough alone," I grumbled, staring out the glass of the conservatory. "I'll always be the one thing you regret."
"Edward, I want you to listen to me," he said. He opened the door and we went outside into the warm, sticky air of late August. "I never regret adopting you. I couldn't. You're my son, even if we don't share blood."
"But, you gave me so much grief over my divorce from Tanya," I huffed.
"It's because I hated that I was right about her," he explained. "I know you felt like you found someone who would love you for you. You have that, in us." He thrusted his hand into his hair. "Edward, you are so driven and ambitious. You work hard for everything. Part of it is your need to push past the stigma of being a foster kid. You're not that anymore, Edward."
"You may think that," I muttered. "For the first fifteen years of my life, I was nothing. There are moments where I still feel like I'm nothing. At first, Tanya made me forget that and then, I saw her as the viper she was."
Carlisle moved closer to me, putting his hand on my shoulder. I stiffened and he quickly dropped his hand. "I'm sorry, Edward. I know that you …"
"It's okay," I said. "Look, tonight is a big deal. I can't really … I don't have the strength to …"
"Can we talk? After tonight?" Carlisle said, moving in front of me so he could look into my eyes. He would do this with me when I was younger. I struggled looking directly at him. I couldn't bear to see any indication of derision, hatred, or perversion. "Look at me, Edward. You won't see disappointment." I blinked up and saw my adoptive father. His eyes were not disappointed. In fact, he looked apologetic. Or, was it pity? "This weekend? Can please talk about this? About how we can make this better?"
"Yeah, okay," I agreed.
"Edward, I love you. I'm so sorry about all of this," he whispered. I nodded, skirting past him. I opened the door. I looked briefly at him as he walked inside. I followed him and I robotically went through the motions of the evening. I stayed near my parents, but interacted mainly with my mother.
After the rubber-chicken dinner, Anna made announcements about how much we'd raised this evening. Through private donations and tickets sold to the event, nearly a $100,000 was raised for the children. It wasn't nearly enough, but every bit helped. Anna also made it a point to thank me for my generous donation of $20,000 to the cause. I received a standing ovation. I awkwardly accepted the applause, but wished that the floor would swallow me whole.
Shortly after Anna's announcements, I stood up to leave. My mother caught my arm. "Will you come over this weekend? Bring my grandpup," she said. "I have some treats for Sam."
"I'll be over for dinner on Sunday," I replied. "Drive safely, please." I kissed my mom's cheek and I nodded to my father.
"You, too, son," Carlisle said.
I left the conservatory, handing the valet ticket to the attendant. As I was waiting, Anna came out. She was pretty, with blonde hair and dark brown eyes. "I wanted to catch you before you left, Mr. Cullen."
"I have to go to work and it's been a long night," I replied.
"You are so unbelievably generous with your donation," she gushed. "I was wondering … if, um … do you want to go out for a drink?"
I gave her a placating smile. "Anna, as tempting as your offer is, I'm really quite busy."
She bit her lip, stepping closer to me. "You're a handsome man, Mr. Cullen. We could make a stunning couple," she purred, resting her arm on my bicep. "One drink?"
"No, thank you," I replied coolly as my car pulled up. I gave the valet a tip and got into my Tesla. Anna was fuming on the sidewalk as I drove away. I made a mental note to reach out to the head of the organization to request that Anna not work any further fundraisers.
xx FFADS xx
On Friday, I sent out the email of apology that I'd drafted after my blow up with Isabella. I also gave my workers the option of taking the rest of the day off. A few took me up on my offer. The rest of my employees requested flexibility to take the time off when they needed it, not impacting their sick days or personal time off.
Saturday, I spent the day with Sam playing with him on the lake shore. We went for a run. The rest of the afternoon, we played an intense game of fetch. When we got back to my condo, I had to give Sam a bath since he was covered in sand, mud and smelled like fish.
When we were both clean, I made dinner and watched Netflix. Sam was exhausted, curled up on the couch. He was snoring. Loudly. I snickered, petting his head. My dog sighed, flopping onto the couch and stretching his body. "I'm with you, buddy," I said. I rubbed his belly, turning to continue watching the television until I eventually drifted off.
The next day, I worked out on my own and verified with my cleaning service to come to my condo. I also did some work from home before loading up Sam into my car, driving to my parents' home. They lived in the Gold Coast, in a recently renovated home. They'd moved there once Carlisle was promoted to the chief of surgery, shortly after I'd begun divorce proceedings with Tanya. I'd only gone there a few times, but it was a lovely home.
Parking on the street, I rang the doorbell. I still never felt comfortable, just walking in. The door opened and my mother smiled at me. "Edward," she breathed, hugging me tightly. "Thank you for coming over." Jake barked; his tail was wagging excitedly. "Hello, Sammy! Grandma has some treats for you."
"Sam is not really your grandchild," I deadpanned, following her into the house. I slipped off my shoes and unclipped Sam's leash.
Esme wanted to say something, but she knew that one of the many reasons that my marriage to Tanya ended was her stance on children. "You know, Edward, you can just come in. You have a key," she chided. "This is your home."
"No, it's your home," I retorted. "I'm just visiting." She sighed, giving me a confused look. I know I had issues. "Mom, I don't think I'll ever be okay with just walking in. I never had a home until you all adopted me. Even then, I still felt like I was a long-term guest."
"Was it something we did?" she asked. "Edward, your father and I love you."
"No, it's not, Mom," I answered. "It's all me."
"We should have pushed you to continue with your therapist," she grumbled. "Edward, when will you know that you are worthy of so much?"
"You stopped sending me to the therapist because I wouldn't talk to him," I explained. "He was … I didn't trust him."
"You don't trust most men," she frowned. "The only man you'd accepted was your father."
"And do you blame me?" I pressed. "You've read my file when I was brought into your home as a foster kid." I looked around. "Where is Dad?"
"I don't blame you. What you went through as a kid was horrific. I prayed that with us, you'd feel love, unconditional love. I wish you would talk to someone," Mom murmured. She walked into the kitchen, giving Sam a handful of treats. She took out some iced tea, pouring us both a glass. "And your father was called into the hospital. He'll be back for dinner. I know he wants to talk to you."
I sipped my tea. "Okay."
"I want to talk to you, too. It's been too long since I've spent time with you, Edward. I've missed you," she said, gesturing to the outdoor patio. "It's a nice day with a breeze off the lake."
We walked outside and settled underneath the pergola. She told me about some plans she had for upcoming charitable events. My mother was trying to get me to go, but I'd only attend the events for foster children or adoption agencies. The next event was around Christmas.
It started raining, forcing us inside. My mother started preparing dinner. "How are things at MAC?" she asked, chopping up some vegetables.
"Could be better," I answered honestly.
I frowned, picking up a carrot and popping it into my mouth. "I really messed up," I explained. "I haven't really been all that pleasant to be around because of what transpired with me and my ex-wife."
"Understandably so, Edward," Esme said kindly.
"Well, I was a ginormous bag of douche to our latest hire. Alice hired a woman from Seattle. She started about a month ago. I tore into her on her first day, questioning her work ethic and integrity," I sighed, scrubbing my hand through my hair.
"Edward, really? Why would you do that?"
"I don't know. I was pissed. I'd met her the day before at the park, with a little girl whom I believed was her daughter. It turned out the girl was her sister. She'd lost her entire family and I was riding her so hard," I huffed. "Then, the day of the benefit, I ripped into her. To be honest, I don't know why and I made her cry. Again, questioning her work ethic and integrity. She put in her two week notice, but I couldn't let her leave. Seeing those tears, it did something to me."
"I'm not condoning what you did. In fact, I'm pretty pissed at you," Esme sighed. "I know that Tanya raked you over the coals." I stiffened at the mention of my ex-wife's name. "That also doesn't mean you get to treat the people who work for you like utter shit. That employee was well within her rights to quit, without her two weeks' notice."
"I talked her down and we renegotiated her contract," I said. "I gave her more flexibility in her schedule, more money and a bonus for each client her and her team landed."
"You can't just flaunt your money and pray it works."
"I also apologized," I whispered.
"You never apologize," Esme breathed. "I don't agree with that either …"
"It doesn't really change anything. None of those monsters from before apologized for fucking up my life," I snapped. "My ex never apologized for aborting our babies. They're just words."
"You obviously don't believe that now," Esme argued. "Did your employee stay?"
"Yeah, she's still working for MAC," I said.
"What's her name?"
"Who?" I asked.
"The employee, the one you made cry?" Esme asked.
"Isabella," I replied.
"And, you said that she's in custody of her sister? She lost both her parents?" Esme pressed. I nodded, feeling even more like an ass. "Edward, she's an orphan. You, of all people, should be sympathetic about that. And, the little girl? Why weren't you more understanding?"
"Again, it's because I'm asshole. I want to make it up to her, but anything I do now would be misconstrued as something else," I explained. "So, I'm going to let Isabella and her team do their work. Alice Brandon is responsible for her performance reviews, though Isabella should be the person in charge."
"So, you admit that Isabella is a stronger worker, with a stellar pedigree. You wouldn't have hired her without doing your due diligence," Esme chided. She reached for my hand and squeezed my fingers. "Edward, regardless of what you think, you are a good man. A little lost …"
"Mom, I'm not worth it," I frowned.
"I disagree, Edward. You're worth everything. You're worth of love and so much," she whispered. "I hate that you don't see that."
"I doubt I ever will," I shrugged.
"Edward, I want you to listen to me. Your childhood sucked," Esme sneered. "There's no disputing that. Your birth parents were irresponsible and their deaths began your nightmare. You were shuffled from foster home to foster home, hurt by people who were supposed to help you. You were an innocent. When you joined our family, we loved you instantly. We still love you, sweetheart. We always will. But, you need help."
I clenched my jaw, trying to keep my temper in check. My mother's words came from a place of love and concern. "I'm going to take Sam for a walk," I said.
"It's pouring," Esme replied.
"I just need a few moments," I huffed out. "Sam!" He scrambled off his bed, wagging his tail. I clipped on his leash and picked up an umbrella from the closet. We left the house and walked toward a nearby park. The streets were virtually deserted because of the storm. I shuffled away from my parents' home. All of my insecurities swirled in my mind. Every hateful word from the foster families, angry vitriol from my social workers, leering glances from the men who were supposed to protect me and empty promises from my ex-wife.
In the park, I sat underneath a tree, on top of one of the picnic tables. The rain was calming. Sam was sitting on top of the table next to me. He looked at me, his head cocked to one side. "I'm a mess, buddy," I muttered, petting his head. "Why can't I open up to anyone besides you?"
He whimpered, shuffling closer to me and putting his head on my lap. I leaned against him, closing my eyes and taking a few deep breaths.
"Your mother told me you'd be out here."
I looked up and saw my father. He was wearing a raincoat and a hat; despite that it was warm outside. "I needed to …"
"Catch your breath," he replied, sitting next to me. Sam barked lowly, his tail wagging. He stayed glued to my side because he had this innate ability to understand my moods. "You look shattered, son."
"Maybe, because I'm broken, Dad," I snorted humorlessly.
"It's our fault," he muttered.
"No, it's not," I sighed.
"It is, son. Edward, the only job of a parent is to make sure that their child loved, protected and cared for. You had, from a young age, that irrevocably ruined. Your mother and I, we tried to rebuild that trust and provide every opportunity for you. You did overcome the stigma of being a foster child, but you are still trapped there. Yes, we sent you to therapy, but we let you stop going because your therapist explained you wouldn't talk to him," he explained. "We failed you."
"I'm the disappointment. I may, as well, get used to it," I sneered.
"We're not disappointed in you, Edward. Despite your past, you've made something of yourself," Carlisle pressed. "You're successful and you give back. Where you're struggling is with your personal relationships. That's due, in part, to your birth parents and various foster families fucking with your trust." He moved closer and he held out his hand. "Edward, I love you. Your mother loves you. We want to help you." He looked at me, wiggling his fingers. "Take my hand, Edward. I'll never hurt you."
"But, you did," I whispered. "With your … judgment … of my ex. That killed me inside. Everything has a price. No love is unconditional."
"That's where you're wrong, son," Carlisle said, his voice cracking. "After years of not being able to have a child with Esme, you walked into my ER. From the moment I helped you, I couldn't get you out of my mind. Despite the bravado, you were so sad. You were terrified of everything around you. You'd been hurt so much and I knew that I wanted you as my son. We love you, son. You are our child even though we don't share blood. I wish I could take away that pain, the fear and the feeling that you are broken with a hug and a few words. I know that everything in your body is telling you to run, but let us help you. Take my hand. Trust that I won't hurt you, son."
There was a low rumble of thunder as I stared at my father's innocuous hand waiting for me. I clenched my fingers around Sam's leash before I inched my hand toward his.
Twenty years … he never touched you inappropriately in twenty years. Why would he start now?
Closing my eyes tightly, I grasped his hand. He squeezed my fingers and stood up. I did the same, opening my eyes and staring at his trench coat. I blew out a breath, looking into his eyes. They were brimmed with tears. "I need help, Dad."
"Anything for you, son," he whispered, gently tugging me back to the house.
xx FFADS xx
I'd been seeing a therapist, a woman, since that day. Dr. Angela Weber was highly recommended for children who'd been abused. Granted, her usual clientele was much younger, but after discussing my case, she agreed to meet with me. My history obviously raised some red flags for her.
She was helping, but it was slow-going.
My phone rang on my desk. I picked it up. "Cullen," I said.
"The modeling agency fucked up," Alice said, in lieu of greeting.
"I need more than that, Alice," I pressed. "What are you talking about?"
"Today is the photoshoot for New Moon Cosmetics," Alice said. "Victoria and Bella found a model that would best fit the campaign. However, that model was hired by another more lucrative client and they sent synthetic Barbie. She's got more silicone and plastic than my vibrator collection."
"Um, excuse me?" I coughed.
"Sorry, sir. I'm pissed and when I get pissed, my filter disappears," she said contritely. "Not that I need that collection …"
"Alice!" I barked. "That's too much information. I do not need to know, um, that."
"Again, my apologies," she said. "Victoria is all in a huff and understandably so. I'd be pissed, too. That model broke her damned contract!"
"I'll handle the model and the agency. What about Victoria?" I asked.
"She doesn't want me. She's adamant that Bella come in. I know it's her telecommute day, but … I don't know what to do," Alice rambled.
"Call Isabella," I said. "I'll deal with the modeling agency."
"Will do," she chirped, hanging up the phone.
Looking up the modeling agency used for the New Moon campaign from Isabella's stellar notes, I contacted the agency. "Eclipse Modeling Agency," replied the receptionist. "This is Abby speaking. How may I direct your call?"
"I need to speak with Siobhan O'Malley," I said. "This is Edward Cullen, CEO from Masen Advertising Corporation."
"Ms. O'Malley is unavailable at the moment, Mr. Cullen," Abby said softly.
"Make her available," I snapped. "I'll wait."
"Yes, sir," Abby said, putting me on hold.
Ten minutes later, a lilting Irish brogue picked up. "Siobhan O'Malley. Mr. Cullen, it's always a pleasure hearing from you."
"Your agency messed up, Siobhan," I said. "According to a contract I'm looking at, we hired Maggie Frye for the New Moon Cosmetics campaign. I have the paperwork with my signature, Maggie's signature and the signature from my client. Today, a model showed up. That model was not Maggie Frye. Looking at our sign in log, Katerina Stoli came in her place. Katerina looks nothing like Maggie and she's not who we hired."
"Maggie is unavailable, unfortunately," Siobhan said, her voice overly sweet. "She received a better offer."
"Well, regardless of her better offer, I can sign you for breach of contract," I growled. "In the fine print, it's stated that if you change the contract without proper notification, you can be sued for the cost of the contract, plus an additional seventy-five percent surcharge to reschedule the labor involved with photoshoots."
"What? I don't see that!" Siobhan hissed. I heard her shuffling papers.
"Back side of the contract, paragraph five," I said calmly.
"God damn it," Siobhan spat.
"So, you have a choice, Ms. O'Malley," I said. "Either you produce Maggie and this problem goes away, or I'll have my attorney contact you and I'll see you in court as I sue you for breach of contract. Also, if you don't comply, you lose us as one of your clients, as well. I'm fairly certain that Twilight Modeling would be more than happy to receive our business."
"Maggie is out of the country on a shoot," Siobhan moaned.
"Then, I'll see you in court, Siobhan. Any further comments, you can contact my attorney. His name is in paragraph six, Jason Jenks," I said. I hung up as she spluttered out several curse words in Gaelic. I took a few breaths, dialing Stephenie at Twilight Modeling. I explained what I wanted and she said she'd email over some photographs that would best fit the campaign. Within ten minutes, I received ten photos and I forwarded them onto both Alice and Isabella.
I left my office, padding to the cafeteria. I picked up some coffee and a snack. I was walking back to my office, checking reception.
"Bless you," I said. I turned and saw Isabella's sister. Her blue eyes were watery and her nose bright pink. "Katie, right?"
"Yeah," she sniffled, wiping her nose. "You're Sammy's dad!"
"I am, little one. I'm Edward," I chuckled, crouching down. "Are you okay?"
"I need to go potty. Miss Alice had to do something and Bella is taking pictures," Katie said, coughing deeply.
"Come on, Miss Katie. I'll take you to the bathroom and get you something for that cough," I said, offering her my hand. She took it. We walked back to my office. I let her use my private bathroom and I helped her wash her hands. "Do you want something to eat, little one?"
"My throat hurts," she said. "Can I have some juice?"
"Have a seat on the couch, Katie," I smiled. I walked to the mini-fridge. "I've got apple, orange and grapefruit juice."
"Ewww, grapefruit! Bella had me try some. It's gross," she giggled.
"So, no to the grapefruit?" I asked. She shook her head. "Apple or orange?"
"Apple, please," she said, her feet dangling off the couch.
I swiped a bottle of apple juice and a small glass. Pouring it into the glass, I sat down next to her. "Hold it with both hands, Katie," I said softly.
She took it and sipped the juice. "That's good, Mr. Edward. Thank you," she said. "Where's Sammy? I want to play with him. Can I play with him, Mr. Edward?"
"Sam doesn't come to work with me, little one," I chuckled. "I'd love for him to come to work, but he's hanging out at doggy daycare."
"I hate daycare," Katie spat. "When Mommy and Daddy were alive, I went to Mrs. Cope's sometimes. But, I stayed with Mommy. Bella put me into preschool. I hate preschool. I hate daycare. I hate Bella. I want my mommy and daddy."
I frowned. "Katie, I know you're upset, but you can't say that you hate your sister. She's trying very hard to give you the best life. She adores you and she's doing all of this. On her own. Does Bella have a boyfriend?" Katie shrugged; her lip still pouted out. I took the glass of juice and put it on the table. I picked her up, putting her on my lap. "Tell me about your mommy and daddy."
"My mommy was so pretty. She was with me all the time. We read, played and baked cookies. Sometimes, we'd go to the beach and find shells and light driftwood fires. It was so pretty," Katie said. "Daddy? He was a doctor. He sewed people up. He wasn't around as much as Mommy, but more than Bella." Her little face crumpled. "Why did my mommy and daddy die?"
"I don't know, little one. But, your mommy and daddy will always love you," I whispered. "Even though they're not here, they're watching over you."
She started crying, snuggling close to me. I held her closely. This little girl had suffered an unimaginable loss. She didn't know how to cope with it. Obviously, Katie was bitter that Isabella had to work. Now, I understood why Bella needed the flexibility.
"Do you want more juice, Katie?" I asked.
"Yes, please," she sniffled. I handed her the cup and picked up my tablet. "Do you have any games on there, Mr. Edward?"
I tapped the games folder and she found one that she liked. After she finished her juice, she crawled back into my lap and played the game. Katie was giggling as I tried to help her, but I was hopeless at playing games. When she giggled, she also coughed and it sounded deep.
Fifteen minutes passed and there was a quiet knock on the door. "It's open," I called out. Isabella walked in, looking frazzled and worried. "Miss Swan … Isabella …"
"Bella, please," she said, looking at her sister. "We were looking for Katie. Alice came to me in a tizzy."
"My apologies, Bella," I murmured. "She was looking for the bathroom and I found her in front. I took her …"
"She's only four, Mr. Cullen," she gasped. "She can't …"
"Call me Edward," I 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," Bella explained, but I'd already known that. "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."
I looked down to my sister, feeling a tugging in my heart. This was what I wanted. I wanted to give a child a life that I didn't. She was curled up, sleeping on my shoulder. Bella's sister looked so comfortable despite being sick, but I could hear the rattles in her chest. "Have you been to the doctor?" I asked.
"It's just a cold, but it's the first time she's been sick since … since we lost our parents," she explained, frowning and fidgeting in her seat. The sadness in her eyes increased and the walls around my heart cracked. "But, yes, I took her to the doctor."
I gently ran my fingers through her curls. Katie snuggled closer, muttering in her sleep. "She asked about Sam," I 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," Isabella explained. "My dad had an older sister, but she was never close to us. I never spoke to her in all my life. Being a single parent … it's tough." A few tears slipped down her cheeks and she just wilted. "I don't know if I can do it."
"The little one … she's loved and despite being sick, happy," I said quietly. "She does need to go home."
"Let me take her," Bella said, wiping away her tears.
"I can do it," I replied, standing up with Katie in my arms. "Meet me out front and I'll carry her to your car, Bella."
"Thank you," she breathed. She got up, smoothing her hands down her leggings. She gave me a tiny grin before leaving.
"Little one," I cooed.
"Daddy?" Katie rasped. I closed my eyes, trying not to lose my shit. "Oh, sorry, Mr. Edward."
"It's okay, Katie," I smiled, standing up with her. "Bella came in here. You're going home."
"I'm sleepy," she yawned. "Can you come with us? Maybe you could help Bella smile. She's sad, too. I think she misses Mommy and Daddy."
"I can imagine, little one," I whispered, kissing her forehead. "Maybe, when you're feeling better, you and Bella can meet me at the park? I'll bring Sammy?"
Katie nodded, her head on my shoulder. I rubbed her back, making my way to the lobby. I waited for Bella, 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," Bella explained, slipping her messenger bag over her body.
"I was going to suggest that," I said, pressing the button of the elevator. I shifted Katie in my arms, hitching her further into my arms. She was dead to the world, comfortable in my arms. I looked down at her, watching her sleep comfortably but frowning at her red nose. "I have a name of a good doctor. A pediatrician."
"Really?" Bella asked.
"I do some work for a foster care agency, donating my time and a great deal of money," I explained uncomfortably. "This doctor can … help her out." I blinked at her, giving Bella 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. Bella pulled out my keys and we walked to her car. She unlocked it, opening the backseat where Katie's car seat was located. I strapped her in.
"Thank you for …"
"Do you need …"
We both spoke at the same time. She blushed and I laughed, gesturing to her. "Go ahead, Bella."
"Thank you for watching her," she whispered. "I'll pay for any dry cleaning." She gestured to a spot on my shoulder that was covered with Katie's snot and slobber.
"It's okay," I shrugged. "Katie was sick."
"What were you going to say?" she asked.
"Do you need help with her when you get home?" I asked. "Carrying her?"
"I'm good, but thank you," Bella answered, smiling prettily.
I handed her a business card. "The pediatrician I mentioned," I said. When our palms touched, Bella jumped. There was a spark that zipped up my arm. I took her tiny hand into mine and held it tightly. The electricity moved from my arm and enfolded me in warmth. I wanted more of that. "My number is on the back of the card. Please, call me if you need anything?"
"Thank you, Edward," she said. "I really appreciate everything you've done."
I took a few steps back, watching as she slid into her car. I watched her as she drove away, my lips curling up into a tiny smile. Something about Bella Swan had intrigued me. She'd done so when I met her in passing at the park. It had only intensified with each of the short interactions we'd shared. At first, I tried to push her away by being a douche. I was angry when we'd met as employer and employee because I felt betrayed. Then, that anger grew until it blew up in my face that fateful day when she'd threatened to leave.
I couldn't have that.
And now, I know why.
At least, I think I know why.
What the hell am I saying? I have no clue. All I knew for certain was that I wanted to get to know her better.
Does she feel the same?
A/N: Edward … oh, my sweet broken Edward … he lashes out at what he doesn't understand. He thinks he's inherently unlovable and that everything, everyone has a price. It's why giving bonuses and owning property makes sense to him.
Pictures from this chapter are on my blog. You can access that from a link in my profile. I'm also on Facebook: Tufano79's Twilight Fanfiction Appreciation. I'm on twitter, too: tufano79.
We're going to hear from Bella next chapter and perhaps, we'll get some more Edward and Bella together, with a side of Katie. Thank so much for reading. Leave me your thoughts!