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)
3. DATES NAMES AND CLUES
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I had been at the office all Sunday morning. It was my favorite time to be there because no one else came near the office on a Sunday except the die-hards like me, and we stayed out of each other's way. It was a bit eerie how quiet the financial district was on Sunday. Monday through Friday definitely made up for it.
I had come home so I could get ready for my (sigh) date. Vaughn was coming to pick me up in fifteen minutes. I didn't want him coming up to my apartment, so I was meeting him in the lobby. I could feel the nausea rising in my throat. Maybe after all my vain hopes that I would get sick and be able to cancel the date today had finally worked and sub-consciously given me a virulent case of the stomach flu. A mild case of E-Coli wouldn't be bad. Maybe Scarlet Fever.
I didn't want to do this. I hated to feel these feelings again. Getting ready for a date. Knowing he is coming to pick me up. Growing expectations of how the date will go. I never wanted this to happen again. It hurt so much. What if he tried to hold my hand? I only remembered cold hands entwined through mine and I didn't want anyone else's hands to come in and change the memory.
I sometimes wondered if my mind really was like a seive, just as Edward had said. As much as I struggled not to think about him, I did not struggle to forget. My biggest fear was that it would all slip away, and that I would slowly stop remembering. I cursed him frequently for taking his pictures when he left, but part of me knew I would have been looking at them far too often. I could not think of him, but I must not forget him. Forbidden to remember, but terrified to forget, it had been a hard line to walk.
I was pacing around my living room. My hands instinctively wrapped around my waist, trying to tell myself it was just a few hours and then I didn't have to see him again. All too soon, the bell rang and I headed down to the lobby.
I was greeted by a game winning smile. He was wearing faded Levi's that fit him very well. They were baggy in all the right places and were frayed and worn just enough to make him look comfortable. He was wearing low black boots and a black shirt that buttoned up the front with a white T-shirt underneath. The black shirt made his eyes look so dark blue they were almost ocher color. I swallowed hard and looked at his hard muscled arms instead.
An hour later we were walking down a tree lined path that cut through Central Park. Vaughn had just bought us both a pretzel from a cart. It was warm and it tasted good. Children were playing on a nearby playground and there were people sitting on benches that dotted the path. It was a beautiful fall day and the leaves were at the height of their change.
Whenever I saw a leaf changing color, my mind always traveled back to that Fall seven years ago, the Fall from which I have no memory.
Vaughn turned his face to me. "During the season, my life is pretty intense. I had an early morning football meeting, and I need to be at the stadium by 3:00 this afternoon. I hope you don't mind that I didn't plan anything more eventful than walking through Central Park. I just wanted to get to know you, and this seemed like the best way," he explained.
"Football sounds a lot like a business," I said cynically.
He blew out a gust of air. "You're not that far from the truth," he said.
I had lived across from the park for two years and I had never been here, except to run. I don't remember the last time I was outside just for the sake of taking a walk or had looked at a tree. I had worn a light sweater which turned out to be just perfect. I walked with my hands in my pockets. No sense taking any chances. Gradually the conversation began to get more relaxed.
"Thank you again for agreeing to see me today," he said before he popped another bite in his mouth.
"That's the third time you've thanked me," I stated.
"Well, after Friday night at the Mayor's dinner. . ." he shook his head. "I watched you walk in and you took my breath away." He then looked at me and grinned. "I then watched as through the evening you proceeded to decimate every male that attempted to approach you. There were seventeen in all."
"You counted them?" I asked surprised.
"I think you stripped a few of them of their manhood," he grimaced.
"At any rate, it was much more intriguing watching you than that stale, boring party. I was scared to death to approach you myself, but like I said, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life."
He chuckled a little and continued, "Besides, last season in the playoffs I faced the Chicago Bears' entire defensive line and lived to tell the tale, that gave me courage."
He stopped and looked at me. I stopped too. He had more to say, "I still almost left without speaking to you, but then I thought how I watched you shoot down four movie stars, two record producers, a senator, a famous fashion designer, a federal court judge, four players from the Yankees, three Knicks players, and the owner of the Giants, my boss. I figured that If I was defeated at least I would be in good company."
I stared at him for a moment and then started walking again as I said, "Perhaps you misjudged my actions. I was actually doing them a favor saying no. I am no prize, and I am no fun."
He caught up to me and said, "You're no fun? I'm having fun."
I grinned slightly and said, "You're having fun in spite of me, not with me."
He stopped and looked at me again. He popped the last bite of his pretzel into his mouth and while chewing, he grabbed my hand out of my pocket and started leading me off the path and onto the grass. His hand was warm. It was big and strong and I swallowed hard at the memories that started crashing through my wall. I resisted following him and tried to plant my feet. He had swallowed his bite and he turned back and said, "Come ride the merry-go-round with me."
I looked behind him and sure enough, past the trees and through the clearing, there was a merry-go-round. He started gently pulling me again.
"Ride the wha. . .? No, I mean that's ridiculous, it's for little kids," I protested.
He turned to look at me as he continued pulling me along. "Don't you still have any little kid in you? Isn't there a part of you that doesn't want to grow up, that you don't want to get old?"
I slowed down. I closed my eyes against the pain of what he had said. I did once know a boy who could never get old, and he left me, never to return.
Vaughn could sense something was different. He stopped and looked back at me. "Isabella, are you okay?"
I heard Simmons' voice in my head, "You are alive." I nodded weakly and said softly, "Yes, I'm fine. Let's go."
We rode the merry-go round three times, and I tried very hard to find any part of me that was alive.
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Monday morning, Simmons met me at the revolving doors that led into our office towers and said, "Whatever you did to Thomas Vaughn, just keep it up, he was amazing in the game last night!"
I glared at him and snarled over my Starbucks coffee. I'd had a really strange dream the night before. The dream woke me up at 4:00 a.m., and since there was no way I was going back to sleep, I got up and went running. I ran nine miles and I still wasn't able to get the dream out of my head. I wasn't in the mood to talk about Vaughn.
"Good Morning, Ms. Swan." One of my interns was walking by as I headed to my office.
"Grrrrr," Was all I managed to get out.
She flattened herself against the wall and flinched as I stormed by.
Having dreams of unwanted things was not the way to start a Monday morning. I passed my secretary's desk. I was thankful that Sally didn't come in until 8:00. I wasn't in the mood to hear her droning. I went into my office and grabbed a few things off my desk and headed to the Conference Room.
We were having a board meeting today with our primary stockholders. It was always held in the middle of October to look at performance for the past year, and set new goals for the upcoming year. There was no stopping and resting at Berkshire-Hathaway. If you did, those running behind you would just trample you to death.
I walked into the huge conference room and took my seat. I got out my laptop to type down notes even though I had a personal assistant sitting behind me that would take down every word spoken. I didn't trust anyone to get the information that I deemed most important.
Mr. Hathaway walked in and everyone in the room stood up. He received an enthusiastic applause from the stock holders. He deserved the applause. He had made them billions this year. He put out his hand to stop the applause and began his prepared speech.
"I would like to thank everyone for their dedication to the company during this past year. We had unprecedented growth . . . ." He kept talking, but try as I might, I couldn't keep my thoughts away from my dream.
Usually, I dreamed about things in the past. Things I pushed down so hard in my mind that they had no choice but to come out while I was sleeping. So many times I dreamed I was lost, running in the dark with no idea where to go, or which direction to take. But this time, it was completely different.
I was standing on ice. It was cold and I could see my breath come out as I exhaled. But something was different. This time I wasn't lost. This time I was desperately trying to run towards someone, but I couldn't move. The ice was so slippery that I stayed in the same spot. My feet kept slipping out from under me every time I tried to stand up. The dream felt so real that I could actually feel the cold, sharp ice pressing into my palms as I put out my hands to catch myself each time I fell. I was desperate to run, to find a certain someone. Then I heard a familiar voice say, "Bella, I love you."
" . . . And now we come to Ms. Swan." I startled back to reality when I heard my name. Mr. Hathaway moved over so he was standing right behind me. He put a hand on my shoulder and said, "Never in my recollection have I seen so much dedication and tenacity in any one person. I only wish my late partner, Franklin Berkshire could have known her. She has surpassed all expectations I ever had for her, and I am certainly glad that we got her before Baxter, Tubman, & Cohen got their hands on her, or else we would be fearing her today instead of singing her praises."
There was a smattering of polite laughter. I thought he was done because he paused for a moment. Relieved, I slumped back a little into my seat, when all of the sudden he began speaking about me again.
"Some of you in this room know what I am about to say. I have discussed it with all the Chief stockholders and the Chairman of the Board and we are unanimous. As of January 1st of next year, this company will be known not as Berkshire-Hathaway, but as Berkshire-Hathaway-Swan."
Thunderous applause and yells filled the room. I was dumbfounded. My eyes opened wide and my mouth dropped open as what he had said actually sunk in. I was going to have my name on one of the biggest companies in the world. I was going to make many millions a year. I was going to be a player of major proportions. This was the kind of thing that got your picture on the front of the New York Times, Fortune magazine, Money magazine, Time and Newsweek. My future was all but set. One more thing, when this was announced, I would be much too busy for any outside interference, there would be no more dating Vaughn or anyone else. I stood up and Mr. Hathaway shook my hand as I raised my fist in the air and yelled, "Yes!" The applause started all over again.
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Simmons and I were in Chicago following a lead on "C". After a lot of digging and borderline illegal bribing, we were able to extract some files that showed C- CORP had its beginnings in Chicago.
It appeared that in 1906 "C" had its first purchase of a company dealing with freight cars traveling from Illinois to the Pacific Northwest and on to Alaska. I furrowed my brow as I read over the financial records. There was no doubt that this had been an intelligent man. I knew it was a man because women were not allowed to own or sell property as freely back then. Every transaction, every document, was so wrapped in secrecy. I was equally amazed and frustrated at this mystery man.
In 1920, it seemed that there were two men working together. One was not quite as consistent in his day to day operations as the other. In fact, it seemed that for a period of several years, one of the men was on his own again. Then, in the 1930's and 40's there were at least four men involved. How were they all able to stay so secret?
"Simmons," I said. "One of these men somewhere along the way had to make a phone call from a recorded line, had to use a traceable computer, or speak to a real person that can give us more information." I looked down the list of companies. There were at least 300 companies that these men had dealings with. I had 45 interns at my disposal.
I turned to look at Simmons. "This is our next move." He turned from the mountain of papers in front of him and gave me his full attention. "I want you to divide this list between all of our interns. They will each get roughly 3 companies. I want them to spend at least a month with each one getting by any means necessary the information we are looking for. I don't care if it's a fingerprint on a paper that "C" may have touched, or if someone at the company saw him back in 1972, I want anything they can get."
I was up now and pacing excitedly. I whirled around facing Simmons again. "Tell the interns that to the one that finds the golden clue, I will reward that person when my name goes on the building and they will receive a promotion and salary they can scarcely imagine."
Simmons stared at me with his eyebrows raised. "Golden clue? Are you going to give them a magical chocolate factory too?"
I glared at him. "Just do it!" I growled.
He jumped up and was leaving the room to carry out my wishes when he turned and looked at me again. "So, what's going on between you and Vaughn?"
"Nothing." I muttered.
"You went out with him again, that's pretty big," he said encouragingly.
"I'm not seeing him again," I said with finality.
"Was that your choice or his?"
I had gone out with Vaughn once more after our walk through Central Park. He had taken me on a dinner cruise through the harbor. The dinner was lovely, the conversation relaxed and interesting, and he looked very handsome in his tuxedo. We had been slow dancing. The band played music from the 1940's and 50's. We had been talking and smiling when all of the sudden, the band began to play a song that I had heard only once before.
It was summer. The rain droned on outside as I sat on the couch reading Pride and Prejudice while he played the piano. Suddenly, out of nowhere, he began playing a different melody and started singing to me in his beautiful velvet voice. The words were beautiful and unforgettable.
I've been so many places in my life and times
I've sung a lot of songs, I've made some bad rhymes.
I've acted out my life in stages,
Been so afraid of people watching,
But we're alone now, and I'm singing this song for you.
I know your image of me is what I hope to be,
I've treated you unkindly, but girl can't you see?
There's no one more important to me,
So darling can't you please just see through me?
Cause we're alone now and I'm singing this song for
You taught me precious secrets,
The truth withholding nothing,
You came out in front when I was hiding.
But now I'm so much better,
So if my words don't come together,
Listen to this melody, cause my love is in there hiding.
I love you in a place where there's no space or time
I love you for my life,
Because you're the best friend of mine
And when my life is over,
I'll remember when we were together,
We were alone and I was
Singing this song for you.
And when my life is over,
I'll remember when we were together,
We were alone and I was
Singing my song for you.
The notes were still hanging in the air as he came over to me on the couch. He kissed away the tears that were on my cheek. He tasted one of them. He then took my book gently from my fingers and laid it on the floor as he slowly lowered me down on the couch pressing his lips to mine.
I tensed up and gritted my teeth. The unhealed gashes in my middle seemed to be throbbing and bleeding. My eyes were glassy and I bit down hard at the emotion and swallowed it. Vaughn never knew what happened, but for me, the evening was over.
I kept up the small talk and smiled when he brought me to the lobby. When he tried to kiss me good-by I turned my head and offered my cheek and hurried to the elevator.
I woke up at 4:00 a.m. and ran ten miles. Vaughn called later that morning. He called twice in the afternoon, again that night, and once more before his game on Sunday. I never answered the phone.
I looked over at Simmons. "It was my choice," I barked.
‘Well, that would explain his crappy game on Sunday. The coach pulled him out, he didn't even play the fourth quarter."
I glared at Simmons. "Don't make me responsible for how he plays. You're the one responsible for us dating in the first place. You knew exactly how this would turn out."
He nodded knowingly, "Well, I had hoped that he would ignite some little spark inside you."
"I have plenty of spark," I hissed. "Now go get on the phone to the interns before I offer one of them your job."
"You couldn't pay them enough to put up with you," he joked.
I turned and glared. He left.
At least, looking for "C" had given my mind something to think about. I had been devoting all my time to this. It was just what I needed to keep my mind off the wrong things.
This had become a welcome distraction.
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