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Edward never came back. Seven years later, Bella is a tough, heartless corporate girl in New York City. She has taken down many businesses and never lost. Now, she is about to take down C-CORP. Who is the mysterious owner? Who is "C"? She will find out, and she will destroy him. Who is the monster now? Can she be saved? The story is done. I will update everyday! THIS IS IT GUYS! THE LAST CHAPTER AND EPILOGUE! (SNIFF)



Rating 5/5   Word Count 8616   Review this Chapter

It was Sunday and I was at the office. It was late at night and I was working on a proposal for a firm that wanted to hire us to handle it's investments being transferred into an offshore bank account. On Saturday, I had called Mr. Hathaway and convinced him I was the best one for the job because they wanted to invest 3 billion dollars and we didn't want to risk losing their business. But truth be told, I was grasping at anything to get my mind off of Friday, and dancing with Edward.

I was in the middle of writing about our specialty of moving large amounts of money to a tax free country such as Botswana, when my cell phone rang.

"Hey Bells."

It was Jake.

His familiar husky voice sent a wave of wistfulness through me. A thousand memories spun in my head, taking me far away from that high-rise office building and placing me on a rocky beach strewn with driftwood trees. My thoughts raced back to a garage made of plastic sheds, warm sodas in a paper bag, a tiny room with one too-small shabby couch, the feverish heat of his big hand around mine, and the flash of his white teeth against his dark skin. I could tell he was smiling when I answered the phone.

"Jake, it's so good to hear your voice," I answered. We had written text messages to each other, but I hadn't talked to him since my birthday.

"Are you at the office on a Sunday night?" He chided.

"Yes, I am thinking about moving my bed in here," I was only half joking.

"You work too much, and I have just the solution," he said authoritatively.

"Oh yeah, what's that?"

"Come home for Thanksgiving," he said sincerely.

When there was silence on my end, he sighed and said, "Ah, come on Bells, they can't lock you up in that office for Thanksgiving, it's against the law or something."

I laughed and said, "I don't know, Jake. It's not that I don't want to, it's just that this is a bit of a bad time for me to be leaving."

"Fly out Wednesday night, and fly back Friday morning. You don't even have to stay the whole weekend. Just give us one day." He made it sound so easy. I could never refuse Jake on anything. Well, almost never. If I hadn't refused him all those years ago, we would probably be together right now. I sighed as I thought about how great it would be to spend an easy and slow weekend in LaPush. The food would be delicious, they would all be so happy to see me, and there would be no reminders of what was happening here. I certainly wouldn't have paparazzi following me around, but most of all, there would be no angel face to look at and remind me of what I had lost.

"Did Charlie put you up to this?" I asked suspiciously.

"I was a willing accomplice," he replied.

"How is Charlie?" I was terrible about writing him. I called now and then. He was worse than I was about keeping in touch.

"He is lonely. He misses you and hopes that you'll say yes."

I laughed. "You're shameful, Jake. I will call you tomorrow and see what I can do, okay?"

"I miss you, Bella."

"I miss you too, Jake."

After hanging up, I stared at my cell phone. This was invitation number three. The other two invites were from Renee and Vaughn.

Renee had never cooked a turkey in her life. Well, there was that one year when I was about eleven years old, but it didn't count because the fire department had to come and save us. I still remember her explanation to the firemen.

"I'm so sorry. I had no idea that you had to take the plastic wrapping off the turkey before you cooked it!"

That was the year of the Thanksgiving macaroni and cheese. I had taken over in the kitchen exclusively after that. I spent last Thanksgiving with Renee. I missed my mom, but I did not want to spend the whole weekend deflecting her comments about the circles under my eyes, and I definitely didn't want her trying to feed me and talking about how thin I was.

She had called me yesterday after she saw me on the cover of that stupid magazine. She was hysterical. Hysterically happy. She began babbling on about a wedding in the Spring and grandchildren and after 30 minutes of trying to explain that the article was all a lie, I still don't think I convinced her. I really didn't want to put up with that for Thanksgiving.

I wasn't sure what to do about Vaughn. He was playing that day, and his family would be in town for the game. He was inviting me to the game to sit with his parents and his sister and then all go back to his house where his mother would cook dinner. That sounded very serious. He was getting me in with his family, and I couldn't do it.

The difference between kissing Vaughn, and dancing with Edward had been startling. I winced. I didn't want to hurt him. I had to make him understand that I was just too broken to ever love him, or anybody else. It was just bad luck on his part that he was attracted to me.

I could always spend Thanksgiving at the office treating it like any other day. I would get loads done without anyone here to bother me.

The big problem with going to see Jake and Charlie, was that I hadn't been home in over five years. I never planned on going back there. I had met them in Seattle a few times and spent the weekend, but that was as close as I'd get. This time, more than any other time, would be very difficult.

I wondered what Jake would think if he knew that Edward was here. I then smirked internally as I thought of what Edward would think if he knew I was going to LaPush to spend time with werewolves for Thanksgiving. All of the sudden, I froze.

Edward had been doing a masterful job in the negotiations. His mind reading and brilliance had killed so many of our strategies.

Edward had left me months before Jacob changed. I stood up and began pacing around the room.

I realized I may have just found the ammunition I needed to muddy the waters of that perfect vampire mind of his. I'd had a plan in the works for weeks now, but Edward was always so aware of everything that was going on, that I thought it close to impossible to pull off. Maybe I had finally found a way.

There was however, a problem. The problem was, if I succeeded in my plan, there was a chance Edward would be gone within the week. I was afraid for myself at how much that hurt me. I always knew this day would come. I had just been planning on it being some time after the first of the year. I didn't want him to go.

I sat at my desk holding my middle, trying to decide what I should do. Implement my plan, and possibly have Edward gone in a few days, or prolong this torture of seeing him everyday just to have him leave anyway. And that was the truth of it. No matter what, he was going to leave. He could dance with me, sing songs into my ear, and hold me as close to him as he ever did, but at some point, I would walk into that conference room knowing I would never see him again. And I would watch him walk away.

My middle exploded as if he had already left. I bit my lip and fought a war in my head. My heart could have no say in this battle. I had to look at this like any other business decision I had ever made. I had to look at what would keep me sane. I had to keep my wits about me and think about my own life, as pathetic as it was. I had my future with this company to think about. I had to support myself. Rational, sensible, logical, intelligent, and steady. These were all words used to describe me before Edward had come back. I had to rescue me.

If I did this now, I would have to make some concessions with the deal. The firm would never have France, Italy, and Alaska. C-CORP had them protected too well. I didn't care. I would take whatever I could get. Just let this be done.

I leaned on my desk and put my head in my hands. Edward would probably hate me if I did this. His family would feel betrayed.

But he'd said it himself on Friday night, "Monday can be business as usual . . . You can do your worst."

I swallowed hard. My mouth tasted stale and sour. This was not the taste of the hunt that I loved so much. This was something much more sinister. I worried that desperation was clouding my judgment and that I was putting my need to get Edward away from me above all else. No. I had to do this. I would do it.

I was taking a chance. Everything I could use against Edward were things that I remembered from when he said he loved me. Probably none of this would matter to him now, but it was worth taking the risk. I called Simmons and told him to meet me in my office at 6:00 a.m., an hour before the meeting, then I began making a plan. I had many more calls to make. I had never lost, and I had no intentions of starting now.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Simmons' dark brown eyes stared at me. "You want me to do what?" He asked incredulously.

I put my hands up in defense. "Look, I know it sounds crazy, but nothing else is working, and I want to see if this will."

"Are you really expecting that he is going to read my mind, or something? There's more you're not telling me about Edward Cullen, isn't there?" His face looked very suspicious.

Simmons, you have no idea. That was what I thought, what I actually said was, "Don't be ridiculous, what he does is just sort of a clever trick he used to do at parties to delude people into thinking he could read minds. I am afraid he is using it in our meetings. I just want to test him to see if he is using the trick, or not. The subjects I gave you were sort of a private joke between us. It probably won't even work but it's worth a try, are you ready?"

"Go over it with me one more time," he said with a tired look in his eye.

We went over it twice to make sure he was ready, and then we went down to the conference room. A few of our lawyers were there, but none of the C- CORP team had arrived. That was good, I was hoping that Edward had not been in the building or close enough to hear our conversation. After about ten minutes, they all began to file in.

I tensed as he came into the room. I hadn't seen him since Friday and I didn't know how to react. I watched the perfect angel walk in with unconscious grace. He walked up to me and said, "Good Morning." He had never done that before. He smiled at me and I saw that his eyes were much more golden than when I had seen him on Friday. His face was luminous. He sighed deep and looked far into my eyes for a moment and then went to take his seat. I felt the heat permeating through me. Every time I saw him, I was amazed all over again.

The memories of Friday night came charging at me and I had to blink to clear my head as I sat down. I swiveled in my chair and turned away from him as I swallowed hard and gave myself the killer pep talk one more time. I wasn't about to lose my courage. I took a deep breath, swiveled back around, and greeted everyone.

We were two hours into our meeting and trying to hammer out the details of acquiring the financial records of one of C- CORP'S Russian affiliates when I could see Edward whisper to Harry Banks about something I am sure he heard in the mind of one of my lawyers. They began writing down furiously and nodding their heads. It was time to put my plan into action.

I looked at Dale Bennett, he was one of my firm's newer lawyers that Edward would not be familiar with, and gulped. He nodded back slightly, letting me know that all was in place. I would only get one chance at this. Edward would never fall for it again. I made the signal to Simmons by putting one finger on the top of my coffee cup. I saw him sit up slightly and I felt beads of sweat on my forehead as I thought about what Simmons was thinking.

"I have to remember to ask Bella what time she is leaving for Thanksgiving to visit LaPush and see Jake Black."

Edward's head had been turned to Harry Banks, when all of the sudden he whipped around and stared first at Simmons, then at me. From the corner of my eye, I saw that his jaw was clenched. I never looked at him, but began my line of questioning again to one of Edward's lawyers. He just kept staring at me and thankfully, for the moment, was preoccupied by his own thoughts, and not what was happening around him.

After about thirty seconds, he came back to the present conversation and I signaled to Simmons again.

"I hope Bella doesn't ride those motorcycles with Jake while she's there. She told me she ended up in the emergency room almost every time she rode it. Jake never should have taught her to ride that stupid motorcycle."

All of the sudden, there was a low growl in the room and every head turned to see where it came from. Edward coughed loudly to cover it.

"Excuse me," he said hoarsely.

I saw his hand run quickly across his face. Jasper looked at Edward with a concerned look and Edward just stared back at him with dark angry eyes. His face flashed to mine and I used every bit of my resolve to keep speaking.

"As I was saying, by December 15th, I would like to know the stock equivalents of the holdings in Moscow, Brotska, and Minsk. I need them for our end of year analysis." I droned on for another few minutes, and then saw that Edward had calmed down enough to pay attention to the proceedings. Time to signal Simmons.

"At least Bella can't go cliff diving. The water will be too cold for that. Last time she tried, she came so close to dying that Jake had to revive her."

Edward rose out of his seat and gripped the edge of the table. All eyes were on him. Harry Banks put his hand on Edward's arm. He looked concerned as he tried to pull Edward back down into his seat. Jasper looked at me. I shrugged as I stared back innocently.

Jasper turned to Edward. "Do we need to take a break?" He asked, seeming very concerned.

Edward was looking down at the table. His jaw was clenched down hard. I was surprised. This was working much, much better than I had anticipated. Simmons glanced once at me with wide eyes and looked quickly away.

"Is something wrong, Mr. Cullen?" I feigned boredom.

He slowly brought his head up to look at me. He was attempting to show the others in the room that he was fine, but I could see the anger and rage in his face. His mouth was a tight line and he was breathing hard though his nose. His gaze held me and I almost felt afraid.


"Do you need to leave the room, Mr. Cullen?" I asked impatiently. I should receive an academy award for this, at least a daytime Emmy.

He shook his head slowly. "I'm fine." He said flatly.

He slowly sat back down as he kept his eyes on me. I was shaking as I said, "We have only a few more items to discuss." I glanced quickly up at the clock on the wall, and then announced, "We will be done in twenty minutes."

Dale Bennett, recognized the signal and immediately excused himself and left the room. I was amazed I was able to keep my voice detached and bored as I droned on through more legal documents and arguing on trivial business matters. After ten minutes, I knew it was time for the last blow.

I signaled to Simmons.

"Bella would be very angry if she knew I overheard her conversation with Jake Black. I wondered what she meant when she said she's worried Charlie will find out that Jake is a werewolf."

There was a loud crack under the table and I heard a murderous growl deep in Edward's chest. He stared up at me and his eyes were so black I stumbled back a step away from the table. At that moment, Jasper's phone rang. He looked to see who it was, and then answered it immediately. I was guessing it was Alice. Hopefully, she would be too late.

A moment later, Dale Bennett came walking back into the room, and looked at me triumphantly. Jasper slumped down into his seat, his head in his hands. Edward was still staring at me when he caught Jasper's reaction. I saw the recognition on his face as he read Jasper's thoughts. Then he slowly turned back and looked at me. His expression was livid.

My eyes stayed on Edward as I said, "Mr. Bennett, do you have an announcement?"

Dale Bennett stood up and proudly said, "As of two minutes ago, we have acquired three more shares of C- CORP. That elevates Berkshire-Hathaway over C- CORP with us holding 51 percent of the company." I never took my eyes off Edward. The plan had worked beautifully, and my heart was breaking.

Edward's lawyers flew out of their seats as if an explosion went off. There was yelling and accusations made from both sides of the table as Edward continued to look at me. His emotion slowly turned from fury to betrayal.

So it was over then. We now owned the company and all negotiations had changed. It was all legal business now. No need for a former owner of the company to be here. I felt a sob rise in my throat. I smashed it down just like so many times before.

I looked back at the group and raised my voice as I said, "Gentlemen, why don't we have lunch and meet back here at 2:00. We will have one more meeting tomorrow." I turned to look at Harry. "Your team will need to come to the meeting tomorrow with a plan of how you will proceed with the transfer, and then we will put this matter behind us."

Harry's face was dark red. He loathed me. "This is not over yet, Ms. Swan." His teeth were clenched tight. He glared at me and said, "You were already on shaky ground with France, Italy, and Alaska. I will use that leverage to rally the other companies behind us. They won't leave without a fight. You are in for the battle of your life, Ms. Swan!"

I didn't give a response. I truly hoped that wasn't the case. I gathered my things and walked swiftly from the room. The door didn't shut behind me. I didn't turn around to see who it was.

"Bravo, to your great performance." His musical voice was heavily laced with sarcasm.

"Hello, Edward, anything wrong?" I asked virtuously.

"Enough, Bella." He was walking next to me and moved his head closer to mine so no one else could hear as he said, "We need to talk."

"We just sat in the same room for three hours. You could have said anything you wanted to in there." I said sharply.

His voice showed great restraint, with anger tinged around the edges. "If you would rather, I will wait until the conference room is full to discuss how I can't believe that you would deceive me and take away my family's company after they all accepted and loved you."

I stared sideways at him and fumed. He probably would try something like that. News of a scene like that one would spread through the office like wildfire. I stopped and glared at him. He stopped too, keeping his face inches from mine.

"I don't have time to talk to you right now." I growled.

"Clear your schedule." He said quickly.

"No." I said folding my arms.

We were close to my office and he, unbelievably, lifted me up and put me gently on the floor of my office and turned back to the door. He looked at Sally, my receptionist and said in his warm voice. "Please clear Ms. Swan's schedule for the next half hour or longer." She stared at him with a shocked look on her face.

"Call security!" I shouted.

He turned back to me. "Do you really want to see what I'll do to your security, or could we just have a discussion like two adults."

Sally stared at me with the phone in her hand. "Forget it Sally." I grumbled and shut my door.

I waited a few seconds before turning around. I had to ready myself to look at him. Edward was here in my office. I'm tough, I reminded myself. I just gained control of his company. I beat a vampire at his own game. I am going to win. There were still many details to be ironed out in this fight with C- CORP but I had just sped things up considerably. I can do this.Fight, Bella. Remember he doesn't love you. He doesn't love you.

I turned around and said coldly, "You're on the clock, Cullen. You have thirty minutes or less."

"That was quite a trick you played on me in there," he said through clenched teeth.

"It is no different from all the times you've had the upper hand because of the small fact that you can read every mind in the room," I retorted.

"Almost every mind." He sounded extremely frustrated.

"It was a foregone conclusion. I was just hastening the process." I said heartlessly.

"From the very start you have been manipulative and deceitful in your tactics." His voice had risen slightly.

"Thank you," I smiled.

"The Bella I knew would never have done this to my family." His muscles were tense as he pointed his finger at me.

I strengthened my resolve. "The Bella you knew was a trusting girl who would have followed you anywhere."

His voice was barely a whisper. "Where did she go?"

"Gone forever." I spoke with complete finality. I walked away from him and put my briefcase down on a side table and then went over to my bar to get a glass of water.

He turned towards me and said angrily, "You do realize what that money means for me and my family, don't you?"

I swallowed hard. I had to keep with the "Tough Bella" theme. "You made millions off the deal. Start over, it's all the rage right now."

He walked up to me and said in a low voice. "Times have changed since we started this company. There is too much information that we can't risk divulging to start over."

I tried to sound flippant. "Do what everybody else does. Live off the interest."

He looked at me as if I wasn't getting it. "We didn't live off the money that you see on the ledgers you throw around in those meetings. That is all a front. There are back channels, and loop-holes, and safety nets to make the money we do use untraceable."

He was walking around the room running his hand through his hair. "Bella, do you realize that Carlisle has been building C- CORP since 1731?"

My eyes flew up at him with a look of shock. "I didn't see anything on the records before 1906."

He was shaking his head. He had pursed his lips in a hard line as he said, "Record keeping was not very reliable before 1900. He used that to help build businesses for others like him and make it so that they were all free to live away from the public eye. They are not going to go quietly, Bella. You could be in this fight with Harry for years."

I gulped. Others like him? . . . "You mean to tell me that all of these businesses are run by vampires?" I asked incredulously.

He blew out air angrily as he walked around my office. He shook his head as if I had no idea what I had done today. He walked passed my large window and glanced at my desk. Suddenly, he stopped and gazed at the pictures I had put there. I had three; one of me and Renee, one of me and Charlie, and one of me and Jake. His face rested on the one of me and Jake. All traces of anger left his face.

"Not all of them, but many of them," he murmured.

I was slightly unnerved. How many vampires did I have business dealings with on a daily basis? I put down my glass and asked nervously, "Are these vegetarian . . . or non-vegeterian?"

He picked up the picture of me and Jake and examined it more closely. It was taken shortly before I graduated from High School.

"Most of them share our way of life," he said quietly.

Most of them? That wasn't very encouraging.

He continued to look at the picture. Jake and I were out at First Beach with Sam and the others. I had an easy smile on my face. It was early Spring and my cheeks were pink and flushed from the cold. I had a sweatshirt and levi's on and we were sitting on a log by a fire. The sun had just started to go down casting a beautiful sunset behind us. Jake and I were holding hands. I was looking at the camera, and Jake was staring at me. The look on Edward's face was unfathomable. He gripped the picture in both of his hands and swallowed hard. Finally, he gently laid the frame on the desk. He turned and looked out my window.

"You have a beautiful view," he said softly.

I was beginning to get a little confused. I expected to feel the "Wrath of Edward". I was aware of what kind of temper he had. Instead, he continued looking out the window as he asked me a question.

"Bella, you are very successful, with a corner office at the top investment firm in New York City, you are going to have your name on the building soon, and you have the respect of all you have worked with. But, are you happy?"

He turned and his golden eyes bore into me. I had been standing on the other side of my desk and he came around in front of me and sat against the desk. He brought his face inches from mine and asked, "Did you get everything you ever wanted?"

I didn't have any of the things I wanted. True love, a family, happiness, forever . . .

"I am doing fine." I said softly. Even I knew that didn't sound very convincing. "What about you?" I asked, while struggling to keep my breathing even.

He shook his head slowly. "I don't have any of the things I want."

My pulse thudded in my ears. Say you want me, I begged inside. I closed my eyes. I had to stop this. I had to drastically change the subject.

I straightened as I said, "By the way, I want you to know that Simmons has no idea what is going on or . . . what you are."

"Are you," He stopped as if he were deliberating his question. He then continued, and said the words quickly. "Are you going back to Forks to spend Thanksgiving with Jacob Black?"

I hadn't made my mind up until that moment. "Yes, I am. Charlie too."

He stiffened a bit. "Is Jacob really a werewolf?" He spoke these words much more slowly, through clenched teeth.

"Yes." I said simply.

"Do you . . . spend a lot of time with him?" He was struggling mightily to keep calm.

"Not now, but for the year and a half before I left for college we were together everyday."

He stiffened again, and he put his head down and closed his eyes. His body twitched slightly as he breathed deeply, trying to calm himself. Finally, he looked up at me.

"You shouldn't be around werewolves, Bella." His face was twisted and his fists were clenched.

"I am completely safe around Jake and the rest of the pack," I said defensively.

"The rest of the pack?" His eyes widened and turned dark and menacing.

My eyes bore in on him as I folded my arms and said acidly, "It's really none of your business, is it?"

He ran his hands through his hair and then his long perfect fingers ran lightning quick over his face. He closed his eyes and took a long breath.

"Werewolves are dangerous and unpredictable and you need to stay away from them," he hissed.

I blinked at the shock. I was getting angry. "Thanks for the advice," I said flatly.

"You promised," he whispered.

His mouth-watering scent swirled in my face.

"What do you mean?" I huffed.

His expression changed and I had to take a sharp intake of breath. His eyes were the exact color of topaz that always sent me over the edge. I felt my chest cave in as he moved closer to me. His fingers brushed my cheek. It had the same outcome as the first time he did that. My eyes flickered shut for a moment as I savored his touch.

He said gently, "You promised me you wouldn't do anything reckless. You said you would be careful."

I stared at him and thought how if he held me tight right now, how easily I could forget everything. Forget that seven years had passed, forget how I lay on the wet ground shivering and sobbing for hours when he left, how I had cried in my bed begging him in my mind to appear at my window, how I had become someone so closed off to any emotion that I didn't even know who I was anymore. I backed up a step, trying to break the spell he still so obviously had on me.

"Are all those things true?" He said as he stepped forward and closed the space between us again.

"All what things," I stammered.

"Do you really ride motorcycles with Jake Black and jump off cliffs and push things to the point that you are rushed to emergency rooms and being revived from near death?"

"I was never rushed to the emergency room, I usually walked in on my own." I argued.

"Bella." He said it just like he used to.

I watched his impossibly long dark lashes hide his eyes for a moment before he looked up at me and said, "I can't live in a world where you don't exist."

I remembered him saying that to me once before. We had been lying on my couch watching Romeo and Juliet and he was whispering the lines in my ear. He had held me so tight as we laid there. That night, when he said that to me, I couldn't imagine us ever being apart. My fate, future, and destiny were already decided and I wanted nothing but him. I couldn't believe that I deserved such good fortune. This archangel.

Then my world fell out from under me.

I blinked away the hot tears that were forming dangerously close to the surface and said, "The last time you said that to me, three days later you told me you no longer loved me and left me standing there alone and . . ." I backed up as I said, "You have no say over my life or what I do."

I blinked furiously and with force I said, "How dare you. . . You don't want to ever see me again, but you should still be able to tell me what I can and can't do?"

"Bella . . . . "

I walked closer to my door and said in a low voice, "You had seven years to seek me out and you did nothing. If I hadn't searched out your company, you still would have no idea where I was." I set my back against my door as I hissed, "You arrogant vampire."

I leaned forward and narrowed my eyes as I growled, "I will ride motorcycles and crash, I will jump off cliffs and nearly drown, and I will also play with werewolves whenever I want and you have nothing to say about it."

I opened my door. I was about to storm out when in a flash he was beside me and said in a perfect velvet voice, "Don't go, I want you to know the truth." He calmly shut the door again.

I clenched my teeth as I said, "I have been painfully aware of the truth for seven years." I took a deep breath and in a broken voice I said, "Look Edward, I will make this as easy as I can." My insides throbbed and I felt the pain rip in a new and much more painful way. I had to say it.

"Edward, this is the last time you and I will talk. You want to know why I pulled this stunt today? I did it because I want you gone. I want you out of here. I can't stand this anymore, do you understand? This has dragged on long enough."

I looked into his face. That was a mistake. His face was beautiful. It was full of passion and longing as his eyes danced and struggled to hold in his emotion. He swallowed hard and began shaking his head slowly as he said, "The way you danced with me on Friday night tells me otherwise."

I opened my mouth to speak but then shut it again. I had to think up a good argument fast. I backed up a step from him and said, "What happened Friday was . . ."

"Wonderful." He whispered.

"No, it was pointless." I was holding on by a very thin thread. I could feel my heart begin its screaming for his touch. It was demanding I pull him close to me and feel myself in his arms again.

I backed up another step. "Dancing with you was also reckless, irrational, foolish, careless, rash, ill considered, and senseless."

Every time I took a step backward, he followed me. I was growing increasingly desperate.

Before I knew what was happening, he was inches in front of me. He put his hands on each side of my face and said, "That dance meant as much to you as it did to me, and you'll never love Thomas Vaughn."

I was so confused. I had no idea what he was doing. I pulled away from him and shook my head as I said, "Stop it! You just don't get it! You are not to come near me. This will not happen again. Don't worry about me and what happened in the past. It's over. It's done with. I have moved on and I don't need you to make sure I am all right. I don't need you to check up on me or feel that you need to mend or fix the situation." All the air escaped out of my lungs as I set my shoulders and said, "Edward, I set you free."

His eyes masked over with hurt and anger. He exhaled sharply with frustration as he grabbed me by the shoulders and drew me up to his face.

"No!" He blurted out through clenched teeth. There was fierce determination on his face as he pulled me closer to him. He brought his head down so that our foreheads and noses were touching. I closed my eyes as my hands clasped onto his stone arms.

A loud knock shook the door. "Swan, everything okay in there?" It was Mr. Hathaway.

I blinked my eyes as I struggled to gain control of my senses. My legs were weak and I knew my heart was pounding madly. I released my grip on Edward's arms, and attempted to step back. Edward exhaled slowly and held on to me a moment longer before letting go.

"This isn't over." He said resolutely.

"Yes, Edward. It is."

His jaw was clenched tightly as I shakily opened my door. Mr. Hathaway looked at us with suspicion and bewilderment. "Your secretary thought I should stop by and see if you needed anything."

I was aware that the entire time I looked at Mr. Hathaway, Edward was staring at me.

I took two steps to the side and said roughly, "I am fine Mr. Hathaway. Thank you."

Mr. Hathaway's eyes kept darting from me to Edward. Then he looked at me and his eyes narrowed. "I need to talk to you in my office, Ms. Swan." His gravel voice sounded so harsh after Edward's lilting, musical one.

"Yes, Mr. Hathaway." My breathing alone had to tell him something was up between me and Edward.

I stormed out leaving Edward standing in my office alone and followed Mr. Hathaway to his office.

What was Edward doing to me? It made no sense. I wanted to get this over with so that he could just leave me alone and then go back to Ireland, or wherever. Why did he have to keep trying to talk to me? Why did he keep trying to get close to me? Didn't he know what he was doing to me? Why? Why? Why?

Guilt. That was all I could come up with. He always had that tendency to put all the blame for everything on him. He could probably see that I was not handling things very well.

Guilty conscience or not, I would not give him the opportunity to talk to me again. It was much too painful. I was never going to get over him if he talked to me this way.

He had been here for two months and he never explained where he had been for seven years, or told me much of anything. All he did was sing to me and drive me crazy witih passion, and then tell me I couldn't talk to Jake.

We approached Mr. Hathaway's office. He wasn't yet aware that I was giving C-CORP concessions on the deal. I was fairly certain he wouldn't like it.

We walked in his office and he sat down hard in a big overstuffed chair and said, "How goes the acquisition of C- CORP? Is everything on schedule?"

I sat down on the couch across from him and said, "Yes sir, everything is right on track. We acquired the 51 percent today, so we are moving right along." I took a deep breath and tried to make my argument sound compelling. "C- CORP is very . . . clever and they have created a few delays. They may end up keeping their operations in France, Italy, and Alaska, but the majority will be bought and sold."

"Why aren't we able to get their holdings in France, Italy and Alaska?" He asked angrily.

I shifted a little in my seat, "Well sir, these are their strongest companies and their stockholders are holding on tight. They don't want to leave C- CORP. Frankly, it would delay things further to keep strong arming them to sell out. There is enough money to be made by going for what we know. Still well over 26 billion dollars worth."

Mr. Hathaway stared at me as if I was in kindergarten and he was about to teach me an important lesson. "Isabella, you say there is enough money to be made, I want all the money. We could make close to 10 billion dollars more from squeezing them dry." He leaned forward in his chair and frowned. "Why am I telling you this? These are tactics you have been perfecting on clients since I hired you. It's what is getting your name on the building."

Suddenly, getting my name on the building didn't seem as important as my sanity.

I cleared my throat and said, "I believe that after we are through paying legal fees for six more months and paying interns to do all the grunt work, we will get significantly less than 10 billion dollars, and we will have lost many other important opportunities at other worthwhile companies. The cost is too great."

Mr. Hathaway got right in my face. "How about this cost. As soon as the business world sees us letting one company keep something instead of annihilating them, others will think that we have lost our edge, that we have gone soft. We will lose the fear factor, and at that point, we will begin to slip from number one to number two. How is that for cost?" He stared at me without flinching.

"I see your point," I said flatly.

He then spoke in a softer and yet somehow more menacing voice. "You can never let personal feelings get in the way of success."

I knew my bottom lip was trembling. I bit on it to stop it and then said, "I understand."

He stood up and began walking to his desk, without turning to me he said, "Do not let me down, Swan."

"Don't worry, sir," I said with growing nausea, "I will bring C- CORP down."

I walked out his door and began numbly walking to my office. Edward would soon be gone, but it was not over. We owned the company, but there was no way that this was truly over when France, Italy and Alaska were still on the table. It was going to drag on until next year. Because Edward still had a financial stake in those countries, he could come back for negotiations. I could feel the hole ripping and tearing.

Sally met me outside my office with a stack of files and began speaking to me. She could have been speaking some ancient form of Arabic for all the sense she was making. I put all my effort into concentrating on her voice, but I was too far gone. I squinted hard at her and finally I shook my head and said, "Sally, I have a splitting headache. Could you make sure no one comes in my office until I tell you I'm feeling better?"

Her face became sympathetic and she took the files from me and guided me into my office. She shut the door behind me after assuring me that no one would disturb me.

My hands went into my hair and I felt the tears dangerously close. I thought I was so tough. I was falling apart. I pushed my large leather chair to the side and crawled into the space it left under my desk. I cried and held myself tight as I shook. After a while, I checked my watch and sighed. The meeting with C - CORP was to resume in thirty minutes. I crawled out from the desk and called Sally and asked her to cancel the meeting. I would just see them tomorrow anyway. There was no chance of me walking in there like this. I couldn't explain away this level of lunacy.

Once I was safely back in the small space, I told myself that this was no time to fall apart. C- CORP was so close to being ours, and years from now this would just be a faint memory. Soon, he would be gone. But all my heart cared about was getting Edward back. He had been in here less than an hour ago, and my heart had not forgotten. It just wanted Edward.

I eventually saw the sky begin to darken. That didn't mean much, I scoffed. It was dark by 4:30 in the winter. Still, I knew I needed to get out of this little space and get back to work. Another hour went by.

I heard a faint knock on the door, and I stiffened. It was silent for about two minutes, and I relaxed again, thinking that whomever it was finally left. Suddenly, the door opened slowly and I tucked in my feet, hoping they would find my office empty and go away. I heard footsteps coming closer, and I vowed I would fire Sally tomorrow for not doing her job. She had lasted longer than any secretary I'd had anyway.

There were two feet standing right in front of my desk. They paused there, and then much to my horror, the person knelt down and looked at me. It was Simmons.

His eyes grew wide, and then when he saw the state I was in, his face became softer as he asked, "Bella, what are you doing?"

I sniffed and wiped my nose on the back of my hand. He reached up on my desk and handed me a box of tissue. I smiled through my tears and pulled out a handful and very ungracefully blew my nose.

"Come here often?" He asked with a puzzled look on his face.

I was still wiping my nose and eyes. A small pile of used tissue was building up beside me.

He sat down, leaning his shoulder against the side of the desk, and smiled slightly. "You have been doing so well, you should be very proud of yourself."

"What are you talking about?" I choked out.

"Well, I assume this has everything to do with Edward Cullen, does it not?"

I thought of protesting, but I knew he would never buy it. I started to cry again, and I just nodded my head.

He let out a frustrated sigh and said, "Bella, if you took two seconds to notice, I think you would see Edward feels the same way. He may not be sitting under a desk crying right now, but I am almost certain that he is still in love with you."

"Almost certain?" I said between sniffs. "You are so wrong."

He ran his fingers through his hair and said, "I would be an idiot if I sat in all these meetings with C- CORP and didn't notice the way that Edward looks at you. It's as if no one else in the whole room exists but you."

He was probably just remembering how good my blood tasted, I thought. I just snorted in derision.

"I watched the two of you dance on Friday." He shook his head appreciatively. "I can't believe he let you leave with Thomas. The two of you were in your own private universe." He lowered his voice as he said, "I have never danced with anyone the way you two were dancing."

"You're right though, he did leave. Just like every other time," I whispered hoarsely.

"Perhaps he is getting mixed signals between the dance floor and the conference room," he offered.

"You're not helping," I barked.

"Was Edward a jerk to you? Did he like ever physically hurt you or anything? He asked.

No, he wouldn't even kiss me for longer than ten seconds because he was so paranoid about hurting me.

"No, never. Why do you ask?" I managed to say.

"Your plan worked a little too well on Edward today. I saw a bit of a temper break that otherwise very composed face. He seems to care about you quite a bit," he said hesitantly.

I just stared at him. Anything I said about that subject would be unwise.

"You have to talk to him, Bella. Your big fortress is up and he is trying to find a way in and you keep shooting him down before he can scale the wall."

"Simmons . . ." I began. I had to swallow and wipe at my eyes again before I could continue. "He left me . . . all those years ago, he told me he didn't love me anymore. He never tried to find me, and now that this is all over, he will leave again. I am just trying to hold it together until he's gone."

Simmons was exasperated. "Well, by all means, keep sitting under your desk instead of telling him how you feel. It seems to be working well for you."

I smiled a little. "I'm coming out," I announced.

He backed up and let me out, then he helped me to my feet.

"Tomorrow will be business as usual," I said toughly.

He raised an eyebrow at me.

"Oh come on, every girl needs a good cry now and then," I said lightheartedly.

"I wasn't aware your species was considered female, though I have watched as in the last two months more human characteristics have reared their ugly head in you, than in the last two years combined."

I slugged him hard in the arm and we walked out. I needed to go home. I was surprised to see that Sally and just about everybody else in the building had left for the night.

Suddenly, his face perked up. "Bella, you know. . . tomorrow's meeting is all about the infrastructure of the shares and how to assure their strength once the company's been acquired."

"Yeah, so?" I prompted him to finish.

"Well that, as you know, is my specialty. I wrote my Master's Thesis on the importance of maintaining the strength of the stock." He looked at me proudly.

My eyebrows furrowed at him. "And you're telling me this because. . ."

"Well, I can handle the meeting tomorrow. Don't you think it would be easier if you weren't there at all? Let me do it, leave for Thanksgiving a day early, and I'll call you as soon as the meeting's over and give you a play by play synopsis."

I thought that idea over. I wasn't sure how I would do this tomorrow. I might actually be a detriment at this point. I would do anything to get out of seeing him walk away for possibly the last time.

I stopped as we waited for the elevator and said, "Do you promise to call me if there are any problems?"

He smiled. He seemed proud that I would put this trust in him. "Absolutely," he said confidently.

"Thank you," I sighed. "Just this one time and I will be right back in the fight," I said with vigor.

He nodded his head knowingly. "Of course."

I entered the elevator thankful to have an assistant that I could trust.

And hopefully, I would never see Edward again.

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