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)
2. FACE THE FACTS
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I stared at myself in the mirror.
I was wearing a black dinner dress that went clear to the floor. It criss crossed up my back, and was sleeveless in a tank top design. I fussed a bit more with my hair. Tonight, I was wearing it in loose curls, flowing down my back.
My driver would be here any minute. I was going to another excruciating dinner party at the home of the mayor of New York. The only incentive to my accepting the invitation was that someone there may have a lead on "C". It had been two weeks since I had begun my mission to find out the identity of the mysterious "C", and I had found out absolutely nothing. I walked over to my huge window and stared out over the night lights of the city and sighed.
The view of the lights sent a memory weaving its way into my thoughts. It began so subtle and harmless that at first, I wasn't even aware of what it was.I was standing on the platform of the Seattle Space Needle. It was night time and the city was bright with lights. The reflection blurred out into The Sound and a ship could be seen shining it's lights far out in the water. A breeze fluttered my hair and then I felt two cold stone arms come behind me and envelop me.
The voice was warm, like a velvet blanket draping over me.
I relaxed back into his strong shoulders as he began softly humming my lullaby in my ear. I laced my fingers through his as his cold breath sent chills down my neck.
The memory was brief, but it had the effect of a thunderbolt crashing in my brain.
For so long I had not felt anything, that when a memory came back to me in which I felt . . .well, everything . . .it paralyzed me. My forehead rested against the window. My arms were instinctively around my middle holding tight. It was a crippling thing. These unhealed gashes that continued to throb and bleed despite the passage of time.
I didn't understand. It had been seven years. Seven years! Why wouldn't this pain go away? I had done everything I could think of. I didn't know what more I could do. I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths. There was one thing, time had shown that I had grown strong enough to bear it. I just needed a moment. I clenched my teeth and rode out the storm. I couldn't even go running now and drive it all out of me.
My phone rang, the driver had arrived, I had to go.
I grabbed my small handbag as I slowly walked out the door, not bothering to check how I looked in the mirror.
The dinner party was, predictable. I spent most of the evening deflecting the advances of the men in attendance. You would think that some inner instinct on these men would make them naturally want to shy away from me. The Senior Senator of New York was particularly insistent.
"So, Ms. Swan, I read that you are from the Upper West Coast. Is that true?"
I held my drink between us like it was a dagger. "Yes, I lived a few hours North of Seattle," I said flatly.
He flashed his politician vote-getting smile and said, "The Seattle Seahawks are playing the Giants this Sunday, and I have a Suite. I would love for you to join me."
I thought I remembered hearing one of the guys at the office mention once that the Giants were a football team here in New York. I would rather pull out all my fingernails than sit through a football game. I answered with as little emotion as possible.
"Sorry, but Sunday is just another working day to me. I will be at the office all day."
He was used to fighting for the vote. "Oh, you can't tell me that you have anything so important you can't take off for a few hours. It's a night game. You can work until 4:00 that afternoon. I will take you back to your office after the game if you want, unless you find me so much fun you don't want to leave."
He actually raised his eyebrows up and down when he said that. I fought off the urge to just throw my drink in his face and walk away. Instead, I swallowed the urge and said, "Tempting, but no."
That's when I walked away.
I saw my assistant Simmons from across the room. He was the quintessential California guy. A very smart California guy. For some reason, he thought the women found it attractive for him to keep his blond hair just long enough that it lazily fell to the side of his face, almost covering one of his dark brown eyes. Quite a few women had proved his theory right. With that long blonde hair, olive toned skin, and the fact that he was 6'2, it was always fairly easy to spot him at a party.
He walked towards me knowingly. I narrowed my eyes as I said, "One of your jobs is to stand by me so that Senators and the like aren't free to hit on me. That's what I pay you the big bucks for."
He just laughed and said, "Sorry ice queen, but we humans need to use the bathroom once in a while."
I just sneered and said, "Yes . . .well, I also saw you stop and talk to that supermodel, "Gazelle - what's her name."
Simmons laughed deeply. "Her name is Giselle Bundchen." His thick eyebrows raised appreciatively. "And if you tried to fire me over that one, there wouldn't be a jury in the world that would take your side."
I folded my arms in a huff and said in a low voice, "Have you been able to find out anything about C - CORP?"
I sat my drink on a tray as it went by. I never touched the stuff. It dulled the senses and I liked to remain sharp. At parties like this, it was more or less a prop.
Simmons just breathed a heavy sigh and said, "Not only hasn't anyone got information, most of the guests here have never even heard of the company. C- CORP has been quietly making millions of dollars a year without anyone even being alerted about it."
He looked around to make sure no one was paying attention to him and said, "Most of the Fortune 500 players are in this room. If they don't know anything, no one will."
I was frustrated beyond belief. Now it was getting to be a game with me. I didn't like to lose games. Smelling the prey, and not being able to pounce, was driving me mad. I was in this now just as much for the thrill of the challenge as anything else.
"Warning," Simmons muttered. "Boss coming in quick on your left."
I turned and plastered a smile on my face. "Good evening, Mr. Hathaway," I purred.
"Good evening to you, Isabella. You are looking stunning as always. Just like a beautiful cat luring the mouse to his death." He smiled wickedly.
If there was one person more brutal and ruthless in this world than me, it was my boss, the CEO of Berkshire-Hathaway, Mr. Sterling Hathaway himself. He leaned in closer. "Do you have any news about C- CORP yet?" He whispered.
I shook my head. "Not yet Mr. Hathaway, but we are nowhere close to giving up. We will have their head on our chopping block soon."
He pumped my hand and smiled wickedly again. "Oh, I'm sure of that. I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever. Happy hunting," he said as he slapped me hard on the back and walked away following the drink tray.
Before I could open my mouth to talk to Simmons, I felt a very soft touch on the outside of my elbow. I turned to see a man about 6'4 with thick, coal black wavy hair looking at me. He had tan, rugged, chiseled features like from an Abercrombie & Fitch ad. And I couldn't help but notice that he had the darkest blue eyes I had ever seen. I looked at him expectantly.
"Excuse me," he said in a deep but soft voice. "I don't begin to think you have any desire to know me, but I have to leave soon and I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn't come over here and meet you." He then stuck out his hand and said "Hello, my name is Thomas Vaughn, and you are?"
Before I could open my mouth I heard a garbled squeak come out of Simmons' throat. I looked at him curiously.
"I am Isabella Swan," I replied. I put out my hand to shake with him, but instead, he took my hand and lifted it up and while his eyes never left mine, he lightly touched it to his lips. "Hello Isabella," he whispered.
Simmons finally seemed to find his voice. "You're Thomas Vaughn!" he said.
I looked at Simmons with narrowed eyes. "I think we already established that," I quipped.
Simmons didn't appear to hear me. "Hey man, I am a huge fan." he said. He stuck out his hand and began shaking Vaughn's hand vigorously. "You are the best quarterback the New York Giants have had in fifteen years! Your game last Sunday was unbelievable! That throw in the last three seconds to win the game was just . . ."
Simmons didn't seem to be able to finish his sentence. I looked at Vaughn and he seemed embarrassed and a little uncomfortable. He smiled at Simmons and then he looked down and blushed a little as he said, "Look, if the two of you are together, I'm sorry . . ."
"No!" Simmons practically spit on the guy. He came behind me and grabbed me by the shoulders and pointed me in Vaughn's direction. I had no idea that he was so strong. He gave me a slight push as he said, "Here, you can have her!"
I whipped my head around and gave a horror filled look at Simmons. He just whispered furiously through clenched teeth, "Look, I know you haven't had a date in like, ever. You might as well have been in a convent. You will do this! This is Thomas Vaughn!" He nudged me forward slightly as he whispered, "Now smile like you're human."
I turned back and smiled politely. I winced a little. I think I pulled a muscle in my cheek from not smiling for so long. I guess it worked, because I got a 100 watt smile shot right back at me.
"Listen," Vaughn said. "I'm very sorry, but I really have to go. Is there a chance that you would go out with me this Sunday afternoon?"
I had not been on a date since I went with him to his house on my eighteenth birthday. I had no desire to do this. I didn't want to go anywhere with Thomas Vaughn or anyone else. I never would. Not ever. I opened my mouth to tell him "No" when I felt Simmons grab the back of my head and move it up and down. I was nodding "yes" against my will.
"Great!" Said Vaughn. "May I call you?"
Simmons jumped out from behind me and handed Vaughn a napkin with my personal cell number scrawled across it. Vaughn chuckled and bent a little at the waist and said, "Until Sunday." Then he turned and left.
I stared after him, blinking in shock at what just happened. I turned to look at Simmons with my eyes narrowed and spat out, "What in the hell was that?"
"Hey, don't even start, okay? Honestly, on Monday morning you'll come in to work thanking me. You need a date like . . .well, like a flower needs the rain."
"What?" I breathed out.
His wide smile spread across his face. "Where's your sense of adventure?" he asked.
Adventure, I was set to have the greatest adventure of all, then he took it all away from me. I just stared at Simmons and didn't answer.
Simmons actually got serious. He put a hand on my shoulder. "Look, you are dead inside, Bella." He put his hand up to stop me from interrupting. "I know, I know, you have it altogether. You can go in for the kill like nobody has ever seen, but you are notreallyliving. Somewhere along the way something or someone killed anything in you that made you human. You are here with us, but more like a walking corpse."
I straightened up and folded my arms indignantly. He had no right to talk to me like that. I was his boss, his superior. I could fire him right there on the spot. I pursed my lips into a hard line and thought about how much his words stung, but I would never show it. I thought I had hidden all the hurt down so deep that no one saw anything when they looked at me but a tough, no nonsense, smart woman. Apparently, there was at least one person who wasn't fooled. Was there anyone else who could see through me? I would just have to make my shell harder to penetrate. I wasn't about to go down. This shell was the only thing keeping me together.
He put his hands on both my shoulders and said, "Look, I am not saying you have to marry the guy, you don't even have to go out with him again if you don't want to, but come on, Bella. Face the facts, you are alive. You're here. Things are happening all around you if you would just look." He got closer to my face and whispered "You're alive."
I stared at him and swallowed hard. "Alive" meant my heart was beating and blood was coursing through my veins. It usually meant you had hopes and dreams for the future. Alive. I wasn't so sure he was right.
Once, long ago, because of true love I'd made the decision that I wasn't going to be human anymore. Somehow, that had altered me. No matter what world I was currently living in, I wanted to live in that other one.
Was there a manual floating around somewhere that I could buy that would teach me how to be human? "Human for Dummies", perhaps? Or maybe, "How to Become a Human in Three Easy Steps?"
Everyone else seemed to be doing okay with it. All around me, I could hear laughter and joking. People engaging in real conversations. I saw a woman flirting with three men by the bar. Even Sterling Hathaway seemed to be able to be ruthless with a few human traits mixed in. Why couldn't I do this?
There was only one reason.
And he didn't care.
I growled and left the party. I was going back to the office. Work was calling my name.
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