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LOST

Summary:
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)


Notes:


14. FOOL

Rating 5/5   Word Count 6649   Review this Chapter

(BELLA'S POV)

I was on my way to another party at the home of one of our firm's largest clients, Johnathan Chase. It was a birthday party being hosted by his wife. His estate in Hartford, Connecticut was large and grand. One of the most beautiful I'd ever seen. My driver headed silently away from the city lights. The snow was falling heavily and I could hear the slush under the tires. The drive that would normally be forty five minutes would be pushed closer to an hour with the weather. Unfortunately it was down time. There wasn't a lot of business I could accomplish using my phone on a Sunday night. I would have a lot of time to think. I closed my eyes and lay my head against the car window and let my mind weave back through the holiday.

Tuesday night when I got home from work, I was so unsettled. I had told Edward I was going to Forks. But, the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced it was a bad idea. It was selfish and wrong, but I couldn't do it. Not now, after what had happened. It seemed a little masochistic. I would spend all my time there in pain trying to act happy and not showing how much it hurt to see all the reminders of Edward. I didn't want to be someplace where I had to put on a mask. I was doing that enough already.

I really did miss Charlie. I hadn't seen him in over a year. I had flown him out to see me last summer and even though I tried to show him a good time, Charlie and the big city didn't get along very well. It was wrong of me to shut out the people in my life that loved me. I would have to make it up to him somehow.

I missed Jake terribly. But, there were also problems there. He was still the only member of the pack who hadn't found someone. I knew a part of me would be jealous when he did, but there was always an underlying current of tension when we were together. I knew how he felt about me, and he knew I couldn't accept. I wasn't sure I could handle Jake and everything that came with him. I had enough to deal with.

I was vacillating. It wasn't in my nature to be so indecisive. All I knew, was that I couldn't stay in my apartment all weekend, and I couldn't go to Florida or Forks. Other than that, I had no idea what I should do. Then it hit me. I called Mr. Hathaway. The firm had a cabin on a 50 acre estate in Montana. Mr. Hathaway had mentioned it to me a few times and suggested that I stay a weekend. I couldn't imagine that it wasn't being used on Thanksgiving.

When I called him, he was pleased I wanted to use it. He had his secretary call me and amazingly enough, none of the associates were staying there. She was very efficient. I told her I wanted the next flight out, and she booked me on a plane leaving at 2:10 a.m. Then, she arranged for a car to pick me up in Helena,Montana.She asked if I wanted a staff there to prepare my meals and take care of all my needs. I flinched and said no. I was perfectly capable of heating my own frozen pizza.

Around noon the next day, the car pulled up in front of the cabin. It was beautiful. And huge. I wondered if I would even get the chance to explore it all in the four days I would be there. I carried in my one bag and stood in awe at the massive great room. I also didn't feel alone. There were dead animals mounted on every wall staring at me.

The kitchen was fully stocked. I was told there would be a car, although I didn't foresee me having to leave this place for any reason. I went to the garage and when I saw it, I knew it was a vehicle that Simmons would appreciate. It was black and sleek and I had no idea what it was. I walked around to the back and saw theJaguar emblem with a XJ next to it.

I came back in and plopped down on one of the many couches and let out a sigh. This was a good thing. It was a chance for me to just be Bella. I didn't have to worry about walls, or fortresses. I didn't have to think about looming shareholder meetings, final drafts, or corporate budgets. And I didn't have to think about seeing a stunningly beautiful angel with a guilt complex.

I didn't have to think about him, but I did anyway. I checked my watch and saw that the meeting would have been over at least an hour ago. I called Simmons and I made him go over every last detail with me. I even grilled him on a few points and he had all the right answers. From what I could surmise, the meeting had gone very well. So well, in fact, that Monday was the last time Edward and Jasper would be there. My throat was all of the sudden too small for me to swallow. One more time. Just one more day in that conference room and he would be gone.

I got off the phone and reminded myself that it was a good thing. I was the one that had made this happen. I had hastened the process to get him out of my life sooner and definitely succeeded. I halfway wished I wasn't so good at my job.

I took a deep breath. I still had one more call to make. This one would be no fun. I had to tell Jake that I wouldn't be there for Thanksgiving. I had never actually given him an answer one way or another, but I was sure he thought I was coming.

When I heard his voice again, I felt that painful tug at my heart. How easy would life be if I loved Jacob Black? This human thing would have been a breeze. I steeled myself and broke the bad news.

"Jake, I can't come to Forks."

He sighed hard. "Can't or won't?" He said in a frustrated voice.

"Jake, I just can't come home this time, maybe next year."

"What about Christmas?" Christmas. I had forgotten about Christmas.

"Um, I'll have to see about that, Jake. There is so much going on right now."

"Charlie is going to be very disappointed," he said softly.

"Jake, I am so sorry."

"So, are you spending Thanksgiving with Thomas Vaughn?"

I was so stunned for a moment that I couldn't say anything. "What?" I finally got out.

"We get magazines way out here in LaPush too, Bella. You and this football player seem pretty serious." There was more hurt than anger in his voice.

"Jake, that is all a bunch of lies. Thomas and I are not getting marr . . ."

"Bella," he interrupted me. "I always thought that you were still in love with that damn leech and that was the only thing keeping you from being with me. Now I am starting to realize that it had nothing to do with that." I recognized the sound in his voice and knew he was shaking.

"Jake, I am not with Thomas for Thanksgiving. I am not marrying him."

"But you're dating him. I thought you weren't dating in New York. If you are, then eventually you're going to get serious with someone. Please, give me a chance. Bella, I love you. Please come home." The way he said "home" broke my heart.

"I am no good for anyone, Jake."

"Come home and I'll take care of you. Bella, I want to marry you and love you for the rest of our natural lives." He put stronger emphasis on the word natural.

I tried humor. "Oh yeah? Well, what will happen to me when we have three kids and one on the way and you suddenly imprint on some gorgeous young werewolf?"

His voice showed no trace of humor. "That would never happen. I will never see anyone but you. I am in love with you, Bella."

I felt the tears in the corners of my eyes as I whispered roughly, "You deserve more than to be anyone's second choice, Jake."

"I'll take it," he said quickly and decisively.

I shook my head sadly. "For me, it would be half a life. I would soon doom you to the same fate."

I could tell he was up and pacing. "You say that, but I know that in time you would love me just as much as I love you."

"I don't love you that way, Jake."

"Yes you do, you just don't know it. You have always let that stupid leech's memory come between us."

It was barely a whisper when I spoke. "He's here, Jake. My firm is trying to buy his company. I have been in meetings with him since the first of October." A few tears fell out the corner of my eyes.

"That damn parasite is there with you in New York!" I could almost see the ripples traveling down his arms. I could hear his breathing coming low and shallow.

"He'll be gone in a couple of days." I managed to say. "Jake, I . . . I am so sorry. Please tell Charlie I'm sorry. I just couldn't come home right now."

"Bella." His voice was a low growl. He sounded so hurt. "Don't you fall for anything he has to say. Do not go back to him."

"Don't worry," I scoffed. "There's no chance of that."

In a softer voice he said, "Bella, you don't sound very good. I'm worried about you. Please come home."

"Bye, Jake. I'll talk to you soon." I hung up the phone. Well, that went well, I thought. I shook my head in disgust at myself. If I could just choose who my heart was to love this would be so much easier.

The weekend was good and quiet. There was a vast library with a limited edition copy of Pride and Prejudice. I spent a lot of time in front of the massive fireplace reading. There was also a huge movie collection. I watched a few of the ones I heard people around the office talking about over the years.

Mostly, I thought about Edward. I decided I wanted us to have a nice good-bye when he left on Monday. If he wasn't too angry with me, I wanted to make sure that we parted on good terms. The last memory of his leaving had haunted me for too long. I wanted this to be something I could look at years from now and remember fondly. I could fall apart later, when he wasn't around. Then, I would get back to business as usual.

I also knew that things with Thomas had to end immediately. I had to let him go find who he was really supposed to be with. It wasn't me.

It was good to get away. On neutral territory I was able to see things from a different perspective. It had been a good break.

As the plane came in for a landing, I could see the skyline. I took a deep breath. I was ready for the future. When news of my promotion at Berkshire-Hathaway became public, I was going to be busier than I had ever been. I would be traveling around the world and living a life I could scarcely even conceive. I would have all the money I would ever need, and then some. I would have the cars, and the private jets. I would have the yachts and the parties. This was what many people dreamed of getting their whole lives.

I lay my head back against the seat and bit my lip. I never wanted it. All the things that were being handed to me I never cared about. If I could have my vampire and live somewhere in a tiny house miles and miles from anywhere, I would trade it all. In a heartbeat.

When I got in the taxi, I checked my messages. Vaughn had called me. No time like the present to get this over with. I called him and flinched at how happy he sounded at my return. He met me at my building and gathered me up in a huge hug and then he put his face in my hair and told me how much he had missed me. I really was a monster. A stupid, can't seem to love the great guys who want you and won't leave you, kind of monster.

"How was Thanksgiving with your dad?" He asked.

Here it comes, I thought. "I didn't go to Forks. I ended going to the Firm's cabin in Montana."

He blinked at the surprise and his face fell. "You would rather go to a cabin alone instead of spending Thanksgiving with me?"

"I needed some time alone. I had a lot of thinking to do." I stared at him and tried one more time to fall in love with him. No luck.

"Thinking." He swallowed hard. "That's usually a bad sign if you're so unsure about something that you have to travel halfway across the country to think about it."

I sighed hard and looked in his eyes. "Vaughn, I don't need five dates to know how I feel." I shook my head sadly and he slowly closed his eyes and dropped his head.

"I'm so sorry," I whispered.

He looked up and put his hands gently on my shoulders. "Bella, is this because of that stupid article? Look, I know we haven't talked about children, but I do not expect you to leave your career and start having kids right away. Your career is one of the things I love about you." He was shaking his head now. "Don't throw this away, Bella. We are great together. I am in love with you and if you need more time to be sure, then you've got it. I don't need a decision after five dates."

I put my hand on his cheek. "You are far better than I deserve. And you deserve somebody who is capable of falling head over heels in love with you." I shook my head sadly. "That girl isn't me, Vaughn. It will never be me."

He backed up a few steps and his hand ran through his hair as he said, "This is about Edward Cullen, isn't it?"

I stuttered and stammered as he came closer to me again. "I was furious at the way he danced with you at the Governor's Ball, but I believed you when you said you were over him." He put his hands on each side of my face. "Are you back with him? Did he tell you he loves you and that he wants a future with you?"

"No," I said painfully.

"That's right, and he won't either. If he cared as much as I do, he would be here right now fighting for you just like I am. I am offering you everything he won't give you, Bella. Please don't tell me it's over."

I moved my face out of his hands and said, "It's over, good-bye Vaughn."

I turned and headed for the elevator. I hit the button and when I looked back, he was gone.

In one week, I had tricked Edward out of his company, backed out of Thanksgiving with Jake and told him I didn't love him, and dumped Thomas Vaughn, the Sexiest Bachelor Alive. The day was still young, I was sure there was a kid I could push off a bike, or puppies I could drown. There had to be a special place for people like me.

The car hit a pothole and slowed. It drew me out of my daze. I realized we were turning down the long drive to the Chase Estate. I checked my watch and realized we had been driving for almost an hour. I had been completely lost in my own world.

My driver dropped me off in the large circular driveway and I gave him instructions to return at 9:30 p.m. I took a breath before ringing the doorbell. I was back to reality.

I was actually slightly looking forward to this party. I was close with Johnathan Chase. He had been one of my first clients when I was hired with the firm, and we had hit it off. He said he could tell I had potential. He had been patient as I made mistakes, and then gave me all the praise as I made his company a lot of money once I gained confidence in myself.

It was a very fancy affair. I was wearing a gown that was dark purple satin with a halter top, bare back, and tight at the waist. It glided down to the floor and shimmered as I walked. I wore my hair up and let a few curls fall down here and there.

I walked in and was greeted and sent into the living room where we would talk before dinner. There was a band playing soft jazz and the lights were turned down low. I saw some business associates in the far corner and made my way there. Apparently, talk had reached their ears about the buy-out of C-CORP. They were intrigued at the money involved and I tried to stay tightlipped and guided the topic in other directions. I had already committed to myself that I would not think of Edward that night.

The party moved into the dining room and to my disappointment, I was placed between two men that had in the past been less than subtle about their intentions with me. I cringed and sat down and tried to pay attention to the conversation going on across the table.

The guy on my left was a stockbroker and was apparently as aggressive off the stock exchange floor as he was on it. Three times during dinner he put his hand on my thigh, and every time I would swat it away.

The man on my right, was a lawyer for an investment client of mine and every time he knew I was in the office he would find some reason to be involved in the meeting. He was awkward in the way he flirted with me and it just made me uncomfortable. He asked me out every time he saw me, and I was running out of reasons why I couldn't go out with him.

I spent the meal swatting away "the hand" on my left, and politely grinning at goofy jokes on my right. I was beyond relieved when the dinner ended and the party was shifted to the inside pool area for presents, cake, and dancing.

The pool was covered in floating candles and there were large balloons and lights hanging from the glass ceiling. Light snowflakes fell onto the cold glass and clung there.

The band from before had moved into the room and was softly playing and I shrank back against the wall. As lovely as it all was, I did not want to dance. It was 9:00 and I went looking for Johnathan Chase. Before I went home, I wanted to wish him a happy birthday, make sure he had received my gift, and thank him for the invitation when "the hand" came over and put his arm around my waist and without asking, started guiding me to the dance floor. I planted my feet and started pulling away from him when another stronger hand yanked the arm away and a velvet voice said, "I don't think she wants to dance with you."

I turned my head and there he was, looking unbearably exquisite in his tuxedo. He touched my elbow gently and began leading me to the dance floor as he turned around to "the hand" and said softly, "And if you ever lay a hand on her again without her permission, I'll break it."

Edward gracefully backed onto the dance floor and pulled me to him.

"Hi," he said.

"Hi," I breathed back.

I could feel the chill of his body through his tux and smell his scent swirling all around me as he breathed inches from my face. He took my right hand and held it in his own. He then placed his other hand on my bare back and I inhaled with surprise at the ice-cold touch. He didn't move his hand. He just let his fingers gradually lower to the small of my back where my dress kept me from feeling the direct chill, and pulled me tighter to him.

He slowly began swaying to the music as he murmured into my ear, "Did you have a nice Thanksgiving?"

I nodded my head.

I was using all my concentration to keep my weak knees under me. I was going crazy inside. Every sense was on alert. I was tingling, I felt electric.

I searched for a topic of conversation, anything to keep me from falling deeper into his spell. "I wasn't aware that you knew Johnathan Chase," I said.

"Who?" he asked.

"The host of the party," I said breathlessly. "We are celebrating his birthday tonight."

"Oh sure," Edward said confidently, "Johnathan and I go way back."

I looked at him skeptically. "I find that interesting."

"Why is that?" he asked innocently.

I was beginning to find my voice again. "Because Johnathan Chase used to be a surgeon, then he moved to research. His company specializes in red and white blood cell exploration. He is the top blood researcher in the country."

Edward's eyes blazed with surprise for a moment and then he grinned, "I can see why you would find that interesting."

He chuckled then and said, "Okay, you got me. I'm crashing this party with the sole intention of talking to you." His face grew serious.

I found it impossible to breathe or swallow. I knew I couldn't do this again. I was painfully aware of my limitations. "Edward, we talked about this."

He took my hand and led me into a far corner of the dance floor. He opened the door to a small room used for pool supplies. It was dark, and we were all alone. I was not going in there with him. I pulled at my hand, but he held it fast. I tried to back up, but he grabbed me around the back and pulled me in. There was just enough light from a vent above the door to see his face and I saw his eyes shine brilliantly in the darkness as he shut the door and said, "No, Bella. You said you set me free. I never agreed to it, and I never will. You're going to listen to me for a change." His hands came softly on each side of my face.

"There are some things you need to know." His velvet voice was warm and resolute. "Bella, you said I never looked for you, but I did come back. Three years after I left, I went back to Forks to see you." I saw his eyes pull tight. "I read the note you left for me."

My head was spinning. He came back? I would have been twenty-one and working like mad on my Masters.

"Charlie never told me . . ." My voice trailed off.

He looked down at me gently. "After I read your note, I asked him not to tell you I was there." He smirked in derision. "He was only too happy to comply."

I was in shock that he had actually come back on his own. I thought of all those nights I had laid awake staring at my window hoping in vain that he would return.

Still, three years? Why had it taken three years? And why did he come back? Guilt again?

As if he could read my mind, he dropped his hands to my waist and pulled me to him and said very quickly, "For the first few months after I left, I tracked Victoria and somehow ended up in the slums of Brazil trying to first, make it day to day, then hour to hour, then minute to minute without you."

His breathing was heavy by my ear and I felt myself grip tight to his arms. He missed me? He was trying to stay away? . . Then it hit me, and my heart sunk as I remembered him saying I wasn't good for him. That's why he fought the urge and apparently won for three whole years.

Panic hit me. He would leave again. I hadn't been then, and certainly wasn't now, enough to keep him. Our spheres were still nowhere close to touching. He was with me tonight, but at some point in the future I would wake up alone. What would a seventeen year old exquisite piece of perfection want with a clumsy, twenty five year old human? I had to keep up my protection. I had to put up the wall to keep from dying inside.

I tried to pull away, but his iron grip held me fast. The tears were pooling in my eyes. His lips moved on my ear as he said, "Bella, I love you. I have always loved you."

He loved me? My fingers tightened on his arms as I let those words sink in. His eyes never wavered as they looked intently into mine. I shook my head in disbelief and felt the tears falling down my face as I said, "You never would have left if you loved me half as much as I loved you."

He looked directly into my eyes, and spoke slowly, "It was the biggest mistake I've ever made, I see that now. But, you were in constant danger from my existence. I had to put your needs before my own. I had to leave and give you the chance at a real life."

I was choking on my emotion. I clenched my teeth and growled, "I had a real life, with you." I bit my lip and swallowed down the tears.

His teeth were clenched with a yearning to make me understand. "It wasn't a real life, it was dangerous and selfish on my part to keep you. I wanted you to have the real life you would have had if you never met me."

"How do you like my real life?" I asked angrily. "How dare you make that decision on your own! How could you make such a huge decision about my life without me and leave me thinking that for the last seven years you didn't love me?"

I tried again to pull away. He moved his hands back up to my face and his eyes softened.

"Bella," he whispered gently. "If you want to leave after I'm finished explaining myself I will let you go, but not until I am done. I realize this is my only chance. You have made it impossible for me to speak to you any other way."

His thumbs moved back and forth on my face as he purred, "Bella, I have loved you every moment of everyday. I have been in Ireland trying to figure out how to be part of my family again. Ever since I left you it has been very difficult for me to be around them, to have any sort of purpose or direction."

He gripped me almost desperately and whispered harshly, "I had made peace with myself that you were happy and living life as you would have before I met you. I imagined you happy and that you had forgotten all about me." He grit his teeth and growled. "Then when I saw you at the top of those stairs with that Thomas character. . ."

His fingers twitched and tightened reflexively on my face. "I knew I wanted you to only be with me. To belong to me, and no one else. This time without you has been unbearable, desolate even. I need you and the light you bring into my life."

His nose brushed mine and his lips were so close to me as I muttered, "Edward, I can't do this. You say you left to protect me, but none of that has changed. You seemed pretty sure of your decision the first time." I swallowed hard. "At some point you will leave again." My voice caught as I whispered, "I won't survive the next time."

He growled slightly and his forehead rested on mine as he said, "Bella, I will never leave you again. I give you my solemn vow. I can't bear to be away from you. I follow you every morning on your run and I have followed you on every date you've had with Thomas. I watch your light go out at night and I sit and stare at your window." A sob came out as he said, "I even flew to Forks to make sure you were all right and try to talk to you."

"You went to Forks?" I whispered. I was grasping so tightly to him. Could these things he was saying actually be true? Could he really feel this way? If he really loved me all this time, hope was going to start to creep back into my heart. I was so afraid of feeling hope again.

"You weren't there," he said painfully. "I had no idea where you were. I went to the airport and waited all day until I saw that you made it back safely."

His hand went into my hair. "Bella, I can't survive unless I am close to you. I need you beside me, close beside me. I want you more than I'll ever want anything." His hands were back on my face again. "I love you, Bella. I never stopped. I never will.

I heard his voice catch as he said, "You are accomplished, and intelligent and you've far outgrown me in every way. Ever since I saw you at the top of those stairs, I have wanted you . . .so much, but I have tried to stay away from you. I can't imagine what you would possibly see in me now. I'm not worthy of any of the heartache and sacrifice it would take to be with me, but it is too much for me to have you go the rest of your life believing I don't love you, that I didn't love you then. You will always be the most important part of my life."

He finished his speech and I stood there motionless. It was as if he had been describing how I felt about him. In my heart, the last seven years didn't matter. All I wanted was to hold on to him and never let him go.

Edward loved me, and I was found.

I felt his cold hand travel to my chin and he pulled my face up to his. "Oh, Bella," he whispered hoarsely. "Is there any chance that you could still care for me, that you could love me?"

So many words were fighting to make their way out. My arms didn't stop until they were encased around his neck. My hands went into his hair and I pulled myself up to him and brought my lips so close to his that I could already taste him on my tongue. My heart was screaming the answer. Somehow I found the voice to whisper, "Yes Edward, I love you, I'll never stop loving you."

All the air went out of him as his lips pushed hard against mine. His hands tightened on my face as he whispered my name and kissed me harder. My heart exploded. I was completely overtaken by desire and longing for the love of my life. My fingers wound tight in his hair as our lips moved hard against each other, pushing and holding as we struggled to get as close to each other as possible. There were no rules. No matter what I did, he never stopped me. He had never kissed me this way. Over and over, his lips pushed hard against mine, and I had to pull away, gasping for air, before I could start kissing him again.

“I’m never going to let you go,” he growled. His voice was ferocious and strong. He kissed with so much intensity that it was as if we were one. He then held my head steady as his lips parted for a moment and his scent was so potent, so intoxicating, that my fingers attempted to dig into the back of his neck. I was heady and dazed for an indescribable moment. When I sighed, he moved forward and backed me up against the wall and held himself tight against me, then his hands traveled down to my sides, and his fingers tightened around me as he kissed me again.

I never thought I would feel this. I was prepared to spend my whole life looking back on what it felt like to be in his arms, and yet, here I was. It was every dream, every hope, every silent wish. I couldn’t get close enough to him, I couldn’t express how much I lived for him. I ached for every second he would give me. I couldn’t be parted from him now. I would never be able to let him go.

He took hold of my hands and held them above my head and I let out a cry as his mouth left my lips and traveled down to my neck. He kissed me gently, and then he moved his lips back and forth along my jaw. His very talented lips then found their way to my ear and he whispered breathlessly, "Please, let's leave this party. Let's go somewhere we can be alone.

I swallowed hard and breathed out, “My place.”

"Perfect." His inhumanly delicious breath enveloped me.

His fingers traced their way down my arms and then I felt his ice cold hands move up and down my spine on my bare back and my breath caught and held in my throat. He then grasped onto my dress as he pressed me tight against him. He kissed my bare shoulder. Then his lips were lightly touching mine as he whispered, "Let's leave now."

His lips were still brushing over mine as I whispered, "I need to tell Johnathan good-bye. I need to thank him for the evening."

He kissed me in a way that should be illegal, and then his eyes found mine. as he said roughly, "I'll wait for you by the side entrance. I brought my own car."

Somehow, I tore myself away from him. It wasn't until I turned away and walked out the door that I heard the music and the loud conversations. I had been in such a trance that only Edward had existed for me. My legs were shaky as I hurriedly made my way through the crowd looking for Johnathan.

I found him near the bar and thanked him for the gracious invitation to his lovely party and as quickly as I could without seeming obvious, I grabbed my coat and purse and made my way to the side entrance.

The crowds were thick and many stopped to make conversation with me. I smiled and kept walking, apologizing for my having to leave. The music was loud as I passed the dance floor and began weaving through the people coming ever closer to the paradise of that side entrance.

I was halfway across the pool room when Steven Maxwell, the head lawyer for the company I had acquired back in September, approached me. There was a strong smell of liquor on his breath.

"Well, hello there, Ms. Swan," he said with a bit of contempt.

I was impatient. I just wanted to get to Edward. I was trying to push past him as I said flatly, "Hello Steven."

After I had beaten him in the conference room, he had called me and asked me out. My refusal at his advances seemed to make him angrier than taking his client's company.

He raised the side of his mouth maliciously and said, "That was a tactic I had never thought of myself, but I must admit, that given the chance I would gladly give it a try".

"What are you talking about?" My voice was raised to be heard over the music.

"The word is out that that was the guy from C- CORP that you were hot and heavy with in the shadows over there. You are about to take over his company and he is invoking a strategy that appeared to be working." He sneered as he said, "Can't really ruin a guy's life if you're involved with him now, can you?" He got closer in my face and said, "Word on the street is that they were planning to invoke one last ditch strategy to stop the sale. I guess this was it. Looks like he'll be keeping his company after all. He plays as dirty as you, Isabella."

I backed away from him. My insides froze as my eyes widened at the shock. It couldn't be . . . but it had to be.

Of course. My middle was on fire.

I was an utter fool.

Edward was doing all of this in a final effort to save C- CORP. It was just like any other time he used his "gifts" to lure in the prey. And I deserved it. After all the things I had put him through, he had finally found the ultimate trick to play on me. Had this been his plan from the beginning? How could I be so stupid? I felt it all slipping though my fingers.

I backed away from Steven. My jaw was clenched painfully and I could feel the panic, horror, and embarrassment rising and incapacitating me. I looked at my watch and had to blink furiously to see that it was 9:40. My driver would be waiting for me at the front entrance. I pushed through the people and ran towards the dining room. If Edward heard that conversation, he would be right behind me.

Once I hit the carpet, my heel caught in the heavy loops and I fell. I was back in the forest again. Stumbling. The only world I ever wanted was again taken from me as the hole grew and spread, much larger than it had ever been before. I picked myself up and stumbled towards the front door. The snow was swirling around me as I reached the entrance, but my coat hung limply at my side. The car pulled up the circular drive and as my driver came around to open my door, I stumbled in and fell limp on the seat.

The tears threatened. I angrily wiped them away. There was no time for such ridiculous, weak things.

I was done with all of this.

I, Bella Swan was taking complete control now. In less than 24 hours this would all be over, and Edward Cullen would never have a say on what happened in my life ever again.

What a complete fool I had been.

I squared my shoulders and growled at the driver to get out of this place.

I had a job to do.

I had never lost, and I was not about to start now.