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)
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It was early in the morning, before sunrise. I was sitting on the veranda of my place that I had come to love, in Ireland. The rain was slowly drizzling down. That was nothing new. It rained here almost constantly and the country showed it. It was green rolling hills as far as the eye could see. An improvement of the Brazilian slums, to be sure. I stared at the white capped waves on the ocean just thinking. Always thinking. So much thinking.
I stood up to stretch my legs and clear my head. I had been sitting here most of the night, trying to do what Carlisle had asked of me. Get some direction. Get some purpose back in my life again. Figure out how to be a productive part of the family. I knew that everything he had said was true, I just didn't know how to go about doing it. Purpose, what was my purpose?
I went in the house and took a shower. I had returned from hunting last night and it felt good to get the grime off my body. It was comforting to let the warm water splash off my shoulders. I put my head directly under the spray and closed my eyes. Few things in my life were warm these days.
I turned on CNN to get the morning stock reports and find out the news of the world. Nothing new. Nothing to take my mind off the memories that were always patiently waiting for me to take one out and hold it like a fragile, priceless figurine.
Sometimes seven years seemed like forever, and sometimes it seemed like it had only been a day. When I really let myself fall and just thought about her for days at a time, the memories were so vivid that it seemed like I had just seen her.
I needed to start at a university, perhaps teach for a semester or two. Travel through India. I had never done that. I would do something soon, I just needed a little more time.
It was an ongoing inner conflict to convince myself that I had done the right thing in leaving her. Sometimes I had total conviction in knowing I had done the right thing in giving her a life free from me. Then there were other times I thought I was the stupidest thing there ever was for leaving her. I had walked away from the only being in the whole world, in all the history of time that would ever make me happy, that I would ever love.
I actually went back to her once. I winced as the memory came back to me again. On Bella's twenty-first birthday, I persuaded myself to believe that now that she was older she could make a more mature decision about her future. I thought she would understand why I wanted her to stay human and we could be together.
Actually, I had just spent three years living in the slums of Brazil trying to forget her and had realized it was futile. I just wanted her. Whether it was right or wrong, I just needed her close to me.
I had deluded myself into believing that she would still love me and had been waiting for me to come back to her. Not that I didn't plan on doing a lot of begging. I went back to Forks and drove straight to her house. It was night time and I tried to go in her window, but it was locked. The only way I could get in the window was to break the latch, so I went around the house and used the key to let myself in.
As I walked in, there was a faint scent of Bella, and it rocked me back on my heels. I closed my eyes and was assaulted by a million memories all at once. Watching Bella eat cereal, doing homework at the table, lying on the couch together. I took a breath and noiselessly went upstairs. I walked into her bedroom and she wasn't there. A few things were left scattered on the dresser, and her prehistoric computer and desk remained, but little else. I sat in the rocking chair and stared at her bed. Gran's blanket laid across the bottom. For once, her bed was made.
Where was she? I would find her and do all I could to win her back. What if she had fallen in love with someone else? I thought about the first time I had stole into her room in the night. I could still hear her say my name. I could still feel the electricity that shot through me.
I ended up lying on her bed for the remainder of the night. I buried my face in her sheets and drank in all I could of her scent. It intoxicated me as I held tight to her pillow and let memories of my sanctuary wash over me. All I wanted was to lay beside her in this bed and watch her sleep. I wanted to bury my face in her hair, nestle her close to my chest. I could almost taste her lips on mine.
Before sunrise, I made my way downstairs and saw the pictures she hated on the mantle in the living room. A new one had been added. Her Senior picture. My stomach twisted as I stared. Her eyes were lifeless. She wasn't smiling.
I left the house, and waited until I knew Charlie was up and knocked on the door. He looked the same, except for a slightly larger middle and less hair. He told me that she no longer lived in Forks, but if I ever came to the house she had a message for me.
Charlie, who never invited me in, came back to the door with a sealed envelope and handed it to me as he said coldly, "She never really thought you would come back, but this has been waiting for you just in case." I couldn't wait to read what it said. I ripped the letter open right in front of Charlie. It read:
I have moved on. Don't look for me, don't follow me, and do not under any circumstances come into my room at night.
I took a moment to compose myself, then I looked up at Charlie and said, "Please don't tell Bella I was ever here."
I could tell by his thoughts that it was very clear he never wanted me in Bella's life again. In his cold voice he said, "Oh, don't worry Edward, I won't."
I then drove out of her driveway for the last time.
Her birthday was a month ago. She was now twenty-five. I couldn't imagine how beautiful she had become. She would never want a seventeen year old vampire now. I knew she would be building a great life. Maybe she had a career . . . perhaps married, children. I closed my eyes against the familiar pain.
I was jolted back to the present by a voice in my head. Edward,I am coming to see you. It was Carlisle. Why would he come all the way to Ireland? I wondered if something terrible had happened that he didn't want to tell me over the phone. Had something happened to a member of the family? What if he found out that something had happened to Bella? I would never forgive myself for that. But then, maybe that would finally give me the courage to do what I should have done all along, just go to the damned Volturi and get it over with. Find a way to be with her in the next world.
A few minutes later, I saw Carlisle's car turn up the drive. I waited expectantly at the front door. Everyone is fine, Edward. I just cameto discuss something with you. I relaxed. Carlisle knew me so well. He didn't need a mind reading gift to know what I was thinking.
He came in and embraced me. He smiled. You look good.
"Thank you," I said.
We talked about the family and he caught me up on everything they had been doing. But, before long he cleared his throat and said, "Edward, I have some important matters of business that need to be dealt with, and I believe you are the best man for the job."
When he came into the house, he had been carrying a briefcase, but I had not questioned him as to what was in it. Now, he opened it up and handed me a paper. Across the top was a letterhead from a business called Berkshire-Hathaway. I had heard of them. They were a head hunting company that specialized in company mergers and buy outs. They were at the top of the food chain. I put down the paper and glanced at Carlisle and he said, "This is a memo we happened to get a hold of. Read it, we've got trouble."
I read the document quickly. It was written to a group of interns and they were given an assignment. Find out the secret behind C- CORP and who their financial backers were. The memo referred to the mysterious person as "C". They were given free reign and encouraged to use any means necessary to find out the secret identity behind the company. They were to spend at least a month investigating each company that had dealings with C- CORP, and the one who succeeded in exposing who actually owned the company would receive a fantastic promotion. It was signed by M. Simmons.
I put down the paper and looked up at Carlisle.
"We knew this would happen eventually, why don't we put up fake players to pose as us and let the whole thing drop?" I asked.
"I thought of that," Carlisle stated. "But the reason it won't work is because they are not trying to find us to make financial deals. I should have been more aware. This firm has been buying shares to our companies in small enough quantities that it didn't merit our attention. Alice wasn't alerted until they had acquired close to a majority. They are close to getting 51% and when they do they will begin proceedings for a hostile takeover and they will break the companies apart and sell them to whomever bids the highest."
I raised my eyebrow. Carlisle had been building this company long before he met me. It meant something to him, and as he brought each one of us into the family it had come to mean something to us. He had taught us and trained us and together we had built something significant and lasting. This money meant freedom for us, and stability. It assured that we did not have to depend on anyone. I would let this company be taken from us over my dead body. So, that meant there was not a chance in hell I would let it happen.
"What do you want me to do?" I offered. I would do anything he asked of me.
He looked at me with his wise, golden eyes. "I believe that out of all my sons you are the most equipped to handle this challenge. I would go myself, but I have lectures set at universities throughout the fall, and I start my new position in November. I could cancel it all . ."
I didn't let him finish. I had let him pull the weight of our family without my help for too long. I could do this.
"I will go Carlisle. Do not worry, I won't let you down."
Carlisle breathed a sigh of relief. "Please keep me informed as to all that is happening. I will come if you need me." He gestured at the briefcase. "That is full of all the information I have been able to get on Berkshire-Hathaway and the Simmons character who wrote the memo. Your brothers and sisters say they will help out in any way they can. Let me know if you need anything else."
"I will take it from here," I said confidently.
We stood up and he embraced me. "I love you and I am proud of you," he stated.
I swallowed the emotion. I hadn't done a lot to make anyone proud of me as of late, but I would not fail him on this.
After Carlisle's car turned on to the main road, I sat down and got right to work. I would find out all I could about this attempted corporate merger and shut them down. I smiled. This was a welcome distraction. This was just what I needed, for a small while, to get my mind off of Bella.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I spent four days learning everything I could about Berkshire-Hathaway. Carlisle had the names of only the top three positions in the company. I decided that was prudent. There was no need to learn the names of anyone else. I spent most of my time learning about the living partner, Sterling Hathaway, and his philosophy about business.
What I learned what that he was as old school and ruthless as they came.
He was a take no prisoners kind of guy and he surrounded himself with people that had the same philosophy. I studied his employers and found a Simmons on the list. He wasn't listed as very high on the totem pole, I was concerned that my information wasn't completely up to date. I checked my sources. It was three months old. Things moved fast in the corporate world, but this was good enough, and all I had to go on, anyway.
The phone rang, it would be the conference call I had been expecting. We had a team of lawyers at our disposal that handled all our legal dealings and they were paid well to keep complete silence on all our matters. They had never let us down. I had been on the phone with them everyday since Carlisle gave me the assignment.
Harry Banks, from Banks, Cranston, & Parsons began the meeting.
"Mr. Cullen, we have new information and I want to make you understand the seriousness of the situation. I have handled two other clients that came under Berkshire-Hathaway's radar, the first, we succeeded in stopping the buy-out, the second, we were not so lucky."
Harry sighed hard. "We knew it all hinged on who was handling the matter, and it's not good news, no, not good news at all."
I stood up and began to walk around with the phone. "I believe I have this Simmons character all figured out. He is impressive that's true, but not anything we can't handle."
Mr. Banks paused a moment and then said, "Mr. Cullen, I believe you have been operating under a false assumption. Simmons is the assistant. He carries out the orders for his boss, and let me tell you, she's . . ."
"She?" I questioned. I didn't remember seeing any woman close to the top rungs of the ladder at Berkshire-Hathaway.
"Well," said Banks," She is a woman in a matter of speaking. More of a she-devil if you ask me."
"What is her name?" I asked. I could hear lawyers in the room laughing.
"Her name is not important," said Banks. "All you need to know is that everyone that has ever dealt with her and lived to tell the tale calls her the ‘Bitch in Heels.' She is ruthless, Mr. Cullen. She is the best I've ever seen. She is the new Vice President of the company. She pushed out Terrence Morgan, who had been with the company for 35 years. She is young and beautiful and she uses it to her full advantage as she draws you in and dazzles you, then before you know it, it's too late. Her venom is running through your system and you're a goner. Rumor has it that at the first of the year her name will be up on the building right after Hathaway's."
Banks paused for a moment and said, "She has never lost."
I, on the other hand, felt much better about things. Knowing I was going to deal with a woman changed everything a great deal. A young and beautiful one only made things a little more interesting. I did not particularly enjoy using my "gifts" to lure in the female species, but I had to admit that when I needed to use it, I was, for lack of a better word, lethal.
And I had never lost.
"Harry," I began, "May I ask you, sir, are there any gatherings or parties planned for this next weekend that this ah, ‘you know what in heels' would be attending?" This was New York City. It was a given that there would be a party.
He chuckled and said, "As a matter of fact, a huge gathering sponsored by the State Department is planned at the Waldorf Astoria for November 9th, this Friday. It's purpose is to welcome the new Chancellor of Germany. Berkshire-Hathaway has substantial holdings in Berlin and she is almost sure to be there."
This was going to be all too easy.
"Thank you gentleman for your time," I said. "I will be in town by the weekend, and will contact you to meet personally. Please, let me know if you hear anything else, otherwise, I expect you to stay on complete secrecy on this." They readily agreed. They were paid rather well for their silence and didn't want to jeopardize our business. I was in much higher spirits after talking to them.
I decided it would be a good idea for Jasper to meet me in New York City. I might need him to work his magic in the boardroom, if it even got that far. He was lonely anyway, since Alice was visiting Tanya and her sisters in Denali. I did a little homework and got Jasper and I invited to that party on Friday. On the off chance she wouldn't be there, I sent a personal invitation to the "she-devil's" building just in case, and addressed it to the Vice President. Her name was of no importance to me.
I called in an order to an upscale florist and went online to make a purchase at Tiffany's. I then called a reliable courier service. Oh yes, I thought. Everything would go just fine. I had never met a woman who didn't fall for gifts and intrigue. Well, there was one woman I knew that was never impressed by them, but I wasn't going to think about her right now.
I checked the weather report for the weekend. A cold front was moving in. Lots of rain. Lots of clouds. For once, everything was working out exactly according to plan.
It had been two weeks since project "C" with the interns began. I had never seen so much back-biting, brown nosing, and all out war in all my life. I was very proud of them. There was no way these interns were going to let me down.
I was going to win.
If nothing else, C- CORP was now alerted that I was on to them. That meant they were probably also looking into who had bought up a near majority of the shares of their stock. We were up to 48% of the ownership of the shares. The last 3%, however, was always the hardest. It never came without drawing blood.
Soon, I would hear from some law firm that was trying to hide the desperation in their voice. Whenever a company was warned I was looking at them, a batch of lawyers were usually sent to my office within twenty four hours to ward off the attack. This company had to be shaking in its boots. I loved the smell of fear. It was my favorite scent.
That next Monday, I received an invitation to a party being held at the Waldorf Astoria, one of the finest and most expensive hotels in the world. I knewit well. It was down two blocks from me on Park Avenue. The invitation was engraved on very fine paper. It was not addressed to me by name, but to the Vice President. My presence was "requested" that Friday to discuss an important matter of business.
I turned the invitation over in my hands wondering who and what this was all about. I brought in Sally and she told me that it was delivered by courier that morning, and was told to lay it on my desk.
I groaned. Not another party. I knew about the party this Friday. It was to be a large and grand affair. The President of the United States would be in attendance, as well as foreign leaders and dignitaries to honor the visit of the new Chancellor of Germany. I had already been invited, I didn't understand the additional invitation. Last week, I told Simmons to go without me. I didn't want any more parties for a while.
Two days later, I received the largest bouquet of flowers known to mankind. The letter read,
I am anxious for our meeting. I will be in the ballroom at 8:00 p.m. I assure you this business will be pleasant and extremely beneficial to you.
There was no signature. I did not like playing games. Chances were the person who sent the flowers did not have "business" on their mind. It wouldn't be the first time. I threw the letter away and gave the flowers to Simmons with the suggestion he give them to his supermodel of the week. My mind did not change about the party.
Two days later, on Friday, I had meetings from 7:00 to 10:00 in the morning. I knew there would a mountain of things waiting for me on my desk when I got to my office, but they were all forgotten when I walked in and saw a small blue box sitting on my desk. I recognized the color of the box, it was from Tiffany's.
I opened it and inside was a pin. I didn't usually wear pins, but this one was lovely. It was in the shape of a rose and was only about a half inch in diameter. It was encrusted completely in rubies. There was a card in the bottom of the box that read,
I am still counting on you being at the party tonight. I assure you this meeting will be beneficial to us both. 8:00 in the ballroom.
It was signed "C".
I just about went into coronary arrest right there at my desk.
"Sally!" I screamed. She came running in breathlessly. I met her at my door.
"How did this box get on my desk?" I cried.
She stared at me with wide eyes. "The same courier that brought the invitation and flowers delivered it earlier this morning."
I was clutching the letter in my hands. I didn't realize I had mangled it into a ball.
"Sally, get Simmons in here, now!" I ran back to my desk. All our work had paid off, we had flushed out the mysterious "C". Everything else could wait. Tonight, I was going to a party.
- - - - - - - - -
I was madly pacing around my office when Simmons came bolting in.
"What's wrong?" He was out of breath.
I held up the mangled note and the pin as he stared at me in bewilderment. "Remember the personal invitation and flowers I got this week?" I asked.
"Yeah . . . " He was still confused.
I straightened out the note with shaking fingers and said, "They are all from ‘C'".
Simmons snatched the note from my hand and his eyes widened.
"Simmons, I am definitely going to that party tonight," I said forcefully.
I put my hands on each of his shoulders and said, "Now, more then ever, I need something, anything, I can use to gain the upper hand when I confront "C" tonight. By now, he probably even knows what brand of lipstick I wear. I know absolutely nothing about him."
Simmons looked up at me and smiled. "Don't worry, we'll find something." He turned to leave, and stopped. He turned back and said, "I knew we'd flush him out. We'll get him."
I nodded my head confidently and turned to get my purse. I was on my way to do something so painful that it proved all the more how much I wanted to win this battle. I was going to the salon for my hair and shopping for a killer dress.
I made an appointment for 4:00 p.m. at the salon and paid dearly for it. These guys were always booked out months in advance, but wisely left a few appointments open on the weekends for those desperate and rich clients that just had to get in. I was desperate, and thankfully rich.
I headed to the boutique where I usually got my dresses for events such as this. Lola, the owner, always knew what looked best on me. I walked in and she could tell by the look on my face that this was important.
"Lola," I breathed. "I have asked for dresses before, but this time, I need something special. I need to be a knock-out tonight."
She stared at me with her eyebrows raised. "Tonight must be special. You have never cared so much. You actually look nervous."
"Just work your magic, Lola." I begged.
She turned to look at me as she walked, "With you it is not a matter of magic, but putting it all together for the desired effect." We stopped and looked at the dresses.
"All right," said Lola. "What is the desired effect, that he will fall in love with you, I hope," she said with a smile on her face.
"Love?" I choked. "No, I mean absolutely not. I am not looking for this man to fall in love with me, I am looking to stun him in submission. I am going for "operation shock and awe."
She laughed and said, "Okay then, let's get started."
We spent the next few hours trying on many different dresses; all beautiful, but none exactly right. The hour was growing later.
I saw her looking at me with one finger tapping her jaw and her eyes narrowed as she said, "We got a shipment in today and my girls are probably just finishing unpacking it. There was supposed to be a vintage Valentino in the order. Let me go check."
I was struggling out of the shoes that I had tried on with the last dress when she walked out smiling, holding a dark blue dress in her hands. I could tell as soon as I saw it that it was what I had been looking for. I was smiling as I took it into the dressing room. When I walked out, she began to clap.
The dress was made of a rough satin material that held tight to my body all the way down to the middle of my calves where it flared out just enough to make me look even slimmer than I was. The bodice was very tight and form fitting and the arms were made of the same color blue but they were a stretchy, see through material that started just barely on my shoulders and clung to my arms all the way down to my wrists. The back of my dress had the same see through net material that went down all the way to the small of my back. At the waist, the satin gathered just off center in the back and created a bit of a bustle making me look extremely curvy and slim.
"Stay right there," Lola said.
She came back holding a necklace and she put it up to my neck. It was a choker on a dainty silver chain holding a Sapphire in the shape of a teardrop. It was perfect. She also had matching Sapphire teardrop earrings.
"You did it again, Lola," I breathed.
"No, you did it Bella," she smiled. She put her hand on my shoulder and said, "This is definitely shock and awe."
Two hours later, with my hair and make-up done, I took a taxi home to get dressed. I fussed and pushed my way into the dress and stood in front of my mirror, staring at myself. I took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. The salon had curled my hair and then put it in a loose ponytail with a few loose tendrils hanging down. It just matched the dress and the earrings. I looked beautiful. But it didn't matter. What good was it to go to the party tonight just to dazzle someone into submission?
If Edward could see me tonight, would he love me then?
I imagined him staring at me in this dress with his hypnotic topaz eyes and telling me how beautiful he thought I looked. I imagined him telling me he loved me. That was all I ever wanted.
Why did I push away every other suitor? I knew why.
I was afraid I would never feel it again. Never again know what it felt like to be in the arms of someone I truly loved. That when you were with him, you were left breathless, and it was the only place in the world you wanted to be. It was better to not even try. I had chosen to stay far away from any chance at a relationship than to think that I would be 92 years old and still trying to get back true love that was lost to me.
I already knew the end of this story. True love didn't happen twice. I would always be alone. A distant second was so distasteful to me that I could scarcely even think it.
So, I looked beautiful tonight even though Edward would never see me. He would never see me or love me again. This was all just a masquerade to make it through this thing called a life. I attached the small ruby pin to my chest, turned out the light, and headed to the party.
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