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)
5. SECOND SIGHT
Rating 5/5 Word Count 5033 Review this Chapter
I was standing in my tuxedo and looking out the hotel window at Central Park. I waited while Jasper messed with his tie. All the people in this city made me slightly anxious. I had hunted last night before leaving Ireland, but I knew if this took long, Jasper and I would have to leave for Upstate where their was plentiful wildlife. I took a deep breath. At least if I had to be in New York, Park Avenue was the place to be.
The dinner had started at 7:00, but Jasper and I, for obvious reasons, were arriving after the dinner was over. Also, I didn't really care to sit around a table making small talk with pompous individuals and smiling politicians.
The night was pleasantly cool. The sidewalks were wet from the recent rain, and the city smelled clean and fresh. Our hotel wasn't far from the Waldorf, so we decided to walk. Park Avenue was full of action, with honking taxis and people out on the town. Limousines were lined up all along the street. I glanced sideways at Jasper. It was good to see him again. He had come as soon as I called him. His thoughts were so much calmer than I remembered.
"You know, Jasper," I said as we walked. "Your restraint has improved considerably in the last several years. I'm sorry I haven't been around much to notice it."
Jasper smiled and said proudly, "Thank you. I have been working very hard at it, and I am feeling much more confident about myself." He glanced quickly at me and said, "Alice has been a tremendous help. I don't know what I'd do without her. She really misses you."
I sighed deeply. "Jasper, I couldn't take all the looks and her sneaky way of giving me updates on Bella every time we had a conversation. No one had to tell me what I was doing. I was fully aware of my choice . . .and its consequences." I felt my insides seize at the familiar pain.
Jasper laughed slightly. "I am aware of the tenacity bottled up in that tiny little body, but Edward, she had only your best interests in mind. And Bella's."
I swallowed the anger and frustration. I did not want to lash out at Jasper. I spoke calmly as I said, "Jasper, to put it mildly. . .having Bella with me, well, that ship has sailed. It is out of the harbor, somewhere lost and sunk in the deepest part of the ocean never to be seen again. Please, don't bring it up anymore, okay?"
Jasper began to say something, I could read what his mind was thinking and I interrupted him.
"Look, it's not your fault. That night was just a precursor to what our lives would have been. Bella was not meant to be part of my world. I saw her, I wanted her, I took her. This is my fault, Jasper. No one is at fault here but me."
Jasper looked at me and said, "Alice seemed pretty excited about something when she called today from Denali. She wouldn't tell me what it was, but I know it had something to do with you."
I chuckled. "Well, let's hope she saw us putting an end to this ugly situation in one night." Jasper smiled encouragingly. I stopped walking and said, "Look, I know that I hurt Bella. But I am sure that she is long over it by now. I am sure that she is living the life she was meant to live. I am sure that she is happy and sees her future before her and is probably even grateful that I let her go." I cleared my throat and said, "I am sure she hardly ever thinks of me."
Jasper could feel that I was in terrible pain. His eyes tightened as he looked at me. "We're here for you, Edward," he said with sincerity. I nodded my head, not sure of my voice, and began walking again.
The closer we came to the Hotel, the thicker the crowds became. Many were not going to the party, they were just standing outside in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the President. We slowly pushed our way through the crowds. There was considerable security and they were checking everyone to make sure that their invitations were legitimate. We then had to pass through metal detectors and wand searches. Jasper and I had finally made our way through the hotel and into the lobby just outside the ballroom when Jasper's eyes narrowed.
"Isn't that Sterling Hathaway?" he asked.
I followed his gaze and saw a man with a drink in his hand talking to another who was smoking a cigarette. Jasper and I had been reading a recent article on him from Business Weekly. His picture had been on the front cover. I nodded and said, "Yes, it is him."
Jasper grinned and said, "It's time to earn my keep, I am going over there and talk to him and see if I can't find out more about our little mystery woman you are meeting here tonight."
I slapped him on the back and said, "That's a great idea. Go right ahead."
I was able to watch for a time and listen in on their conversation but the crowd gradually became thicker and thicker. The dinner must be about over. Many were spilling out of the ballroom to refresh their drink, or make small talk. I glanced at my watch and saw that it was 7:50. I would go in to the ballroom and look for her in just a few minutes.
There were loud noises and voices happening all around me and it was increasingly more difficult to focus on just Jasper. I tried to be nonchalant as I looked at each woman's dress for the ruby broach. It was hard not to be confident and optimistic about my chances of ending all this in one night. I reasoned I would probably need to do little else than look into her eyes and dance with her. I was anticipating my phone call to Carlisle and the pride and relief I would hear in his voice. I checked my watch. It was 7:55. It was showtime. I would have to go in with or without Jasper.
I began gliding past people to walk into the ballroom, when suddenly, Jasper caught up to me and his eyes were wide. I felt panic as I misunderstood his look to mean he was thirsty. But then he began to speak.
"Edward, there is um, a slight complication."
"What do you mean?" I questioned.
We were still walking into the ballroom as he said, "This woman you are meeting tonight, Hathaway gave me her name and well, Edward . . . you already know her."
I raised my eyebrows. I was surprised. I had never had any friendships or relationships for that matter with any females . . .except . . . at the same moment I heard Jasper's thoughts, we stepped into the ballroom and from up above me I was hit with that terrible, wonderful scent I never thought I would experience again. My throat burned and I painfully swallowed back the venom. How could this be? Bella was the woman, the she-devil, Harry Banks had been talking about? Bella was the mystery woman? My stomach tightened in painful spasms as I looked up and saw her and breathed out her name.
It was just before 7:00 p.m. when Simmons and I made our way into the ballroom. This was a huge event. I was glad that I came if just for the networking if nothing else. I had already talked to two clients and made an appointment with a third.
"You know Bella," Simmons moved his head towards my ear so no one else could hear him. "You really do look absolutely ravishing. You went above and beyond for tonight. This "C" guy doesn't stand a chance." His face was a little red from his comment.
I looked at him surprisingly. He had never said anything like that to me.
He smiled and said, "Hey, I am a guy, you know. You hired me because I am extremely talented at seeing the obvious."
"So, where is your date?" I teased. It wasn't like him to show up to a party such as this without a date.
He smiled wickedly. "Well, Giselle is planning on meeting me. We couldn't come together, there is way too much paparazzi here. I would soon be dubbed, "Giselle's new man" on the front of STAR magazine."
I nodded my head, like I knew what the heck STAR magazine was.
His phone rang. When he saw who it was, he swallowed nervously and put up his finger to tell me he'd be back in a moment and moved away from me to talk. He came back a few moments later and I questioned him as to who he had been talking to. He shrugged it off and said we should go to our table.
There were tables spread all throughout the ballroom. Our particular table was at the top of the grand staircase and over to the right. Most of the guests were already taking their seats, and our table was nearly full when we arrived and introduced ourselves. It all added up to boring. The Senate Minority leader and his wife, a Senator from Tennessee, and the ambassador of Greece. Nobody that I cared to know further. We heard a large commotion down on the floor and realized that someone of importance must have just arrived. I didn't care about any important person tonight except "C".
I felt someone standing beside me and I looked up from the table. I was shocked to see Vaughn standing in front of me.
"Hello," he said with a nervous smile.
Simmons stood up and said, "Thomas, it's great to see you again. So, where are you sitting?"
Vaughn smiled and said, "I believe this is my table right here. I looked down at the place cards, and sure enough, seated right next to me in lovely cursive lettering was the name, "Thomas Vaughn".
Simmons looked at Vaughn in innocent surprise. "You don't say? Well, isn't that a coincidence. Wouldn't you say so Bella?"
I was shooting daggers at Simmons face. If looks could kill, he would be lying on the floor right now with his tongue hanging out of his mouth.
Simmons swallowed hard and in a shaky voice said, "It looks as if dinner is about to start, shall we all sit down?"
When we were seated, Vaughn leaned over and whispered, "I knew you would be at this party. This was all my idea. I bribed your assistant to tell me what table you were at so that I could strategically place myself beside you."
"And what was the bribe?" I asked dryly.
"Tickets on the 50 yard line for the next three games," he smiled.
So Simmons had a price for selling me out. Good to know.
"I actually thought I'd end up at this party alone. All week long, Simmons has been telling me you weren't coming," he said.
"Yes, well . . . I received a little motivation today," I said flatly.
"You look amazing," he said breathlessly.
"Thank you," I replied.
They began serving dinner then and the conversation turned to small talk. I tried mightily to include the others seated at our table so that Vaughn could never create a private conversation between just the two of us. I kept nervously checking my watch. It was now 7:45.
"You seem on edge about something," Vaughn said. "I hope that my plan of sitting next to you has not made you uncomfortable."
I shook my head as I sighed. "No, Vaughn, it's not you. I am meeting a very important client here in about 15 minutes. I have never met him before and I don't know hardly anything about him, and I am just a little on edge."
I wanted to go the bathroom to freshen up before I talked with "C". "Would you excuse me for a moment?" I said as I stood up. Vaughn stood up with me and smiled. "Sure," he said.
Once in the bathroom, I checked myself over. I Looked at my hair and make-up and nervously assured myself there was nothing in my teeth. This was a big moment for me. I got some strange looks as I stood in front of the mirror and gave myself the "killer" pep talk, but it helped me clear my head. I put on my game face and took a big breath.
"Showtime," I muttered. I straightened the broach, then headed out to the ballroom. I checked my watch, it was still a few minutes before 8:00. I stopped before reaching my table and looked out over the railing scanning the crowd and the dance floor for a sign of this mystery man. Suddenly, I noticed Vaughn had come and stood beside me.
"Bella," he looked at me intently. "Before you go to meet your business associate, I need to talk to you." He licked his lips nervously and said, "I am not used to being put in the position of the pursuer. Not that I mind, but I am just not used to having to work so hard to get to know someone I am interested in, and I am definitely interested in you. I am probably handling this all wrong, but I am not giving up on the possibility of us yet."
He then reached into his inside suit pocket and pulled out a long blue box. Another Tiffany box. Two in one day. Unbelievable. I started to stutter and stammer. I felt very uncomfortable about this. He put a finger on my lips and said, "Bella, relax, it's not that bad."
He opened the box and pulled out a bracelet. It was a silver chain that was very shiny and thin. On it was a charm. I fingered the charm and saw that it was a carousel horse. It was covered in diamonds.
He began speaking as he put the bracelet on my wrist. "This is a reminder of our first date. I couldn't find a yacht, but I haven't given up looking." He took his finger and put it under my chin and lifted it up so I was looking at him. "I want to fill this bracelet with charms of all our dates. Then, I will buy you another bracelet and fill that one up too. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
I swallowed hard. I didn't know what to say. I opened my mouth to make an attempt at something intelligent when Simmons came running up to me breathless.
"Bella, an intern just called, it's not big, but you said you wanted to know about any lead. The intern found a record of a phone call from C- CORP to a business in France made eight years ago. The phone call was traced to a little hospital in Northern Washington."
My eyes narrowed. "What was the name of the hospital?" I breathed.
"Forks Hospital," he answered.
I reeled back. I blinked at the shock. My mind was racing. All of the sudden everything made sense. My pulse was thudding hard in my ears as it all came together. The "C" was for Cullen. The business was started in the early 1900's, all the money . . .the secrecy . . .why had I not realized it before? I was trying so hard not to think about him, that I completely disregarded the most obvious person . . . I heard a strange wheezing sound, and then realized it was me. I felt my chest tighten. Then I froze as I thought of something that made the room begin to spin. The question screamed in my head.
Who was sent here to meet me?
I whirled around and wildly and frantically began searching the ballroom for the topaz eyes I used to know so well. My breath was coming too fast. I couldn't fill my lungs with enough air. My hands were tightly gripping the railing, and I could feel myself begin to shake. Somewhere far away I could hear Simmons calling my name.
Then, I saw him.
My eyes rested on the bronze hair and the excruciatingly lovely face. My dreams had not remembered his beauty anywhere near well enough. I felt my chest cave in. It was Edward. It was really him. His pale skin had a gentle radiance against his dark tuxedo, and his eyes bore into mine even though he was 30 feet away. I tried to shake my head and tell him not to come any closer. I tried, but I was frozen, rigid, mesmerized.
I had done all I could to forget. I had told myself countless times that I would never see him again. Yet, here he was, after seven years, standing halfway up the staircase, staring directly at me.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I was standing in the doorway to the ballroom when I looked up and saw Bella. She was at the railing looking out at the crowd. She was wearing the ruby broach.
I exhaled sharply. She was a vision. I remembered her as an eighteen year old girl, but she had grown into a ravishing, incredibly breathtaking woman. Jasper grabbed my arm.
"Edward, are you okay?"
I couldn't swallow. I couldn't speak. I just stared up at her. After seven years, my reason for existing was mere feet from me. Suddenly, there was someone standing beside her. He was a large man, striking with dark black hair who looked to be about her age. My chest felt very heavy. Was this her husband?
He began speaking to her and I could tell in his eyes that he cared for her. I tuned out everything else in the room and listened to what he was saying.
"I am not giving up on the possibility of us just yet."
What did that mean?
Then he put his finger on her lips and pulled out a box. A box from Tiffany's. I could tell right away, with great relief, that it wasn't a ring box. But, as he pulled out a bracelet he talked about their first date and all the dates he wanted to have with her in the future.
For one brief second, I tried to run away from her. But, I knew now that I had seen her, there was not a chance I would be able to do it. I couldn't take it another second. I had to get to her. I began walking as slowly as I could manage up the stairs.
Jasper caught up to me and whispered, "What are you going to do? What are you going to say?"
I knew what I wanted to say, "Bella I love you. I have loved you every moment we've been apart."
"I don't know," I admitted.
The dark haired gentleman wanted more from their relationship. He was waiting for Bella to reply. It seemed like hours while he and I both waited for her answer.
Suddenly, another man hastily joined them. He began talking to Bella about an intern finding a phone record of a call Carlisle made several years ago from Forks hospital to one of our companies in France. He was usually so careful. Now, Bella had to know who "C" was.
I saw her whip around and begin madly searching the crowd. Her face . . .I expected to see anger, but instead I saw fear. Here I am, Bella. Look this way, I pleaded. And then there were those dark pools I got lost in so many times, she was looking at me.
Without another thought I finished climbing the stairs and walked to her. She backed up a step and again, I could see fear. Her heart was flying. Not since that first day in Biology so long ago, had she ever looked on me in fear. But, I realized this was a different kind of fear. It was mixed with hurt and betrayal. The closer I got, the stronger her scent became. I momentarily closed my eyes as I let it wash over me. How I longed to hold her close and let my mouth linger behind her ear and touch her face. I wanted to take her somewhere, alone. Just the two of us and tell her everything that had been burning inside me for the last seven years. I was almost to her now. I swallowed and looked into the eyes of my love and said, "Hello Bella."
She stood there with her teeth clenched. I could see her jaw working under the tension. Suddenly, there was a calm resting over the group and I saw her glance at Jasper. When she looked back at me her eyes were glassy and I balled my fists to keep from reaching out to her.
"Hello Edward." It had been so long since I had heard her voice anywhere but in my memories.
The man beside her cleared his throat and said, "Bella, do you want to introduce these gentlemen?"
She was grasping the rail so tightly, that her knuckles were white and her veins were showing.
Her voice was thick as she said, "This is my assistant Michael Simmons, and this," she looked towards us, "is Jasper Hale. . . . and this is Edward Cullen." She looked at Simmons and said, "This is "C."
Simmons blinked in surprise. His thoughts told me he was equally shocked that not only was I a young man, but that Bella already knew me. His mind raced as he struggled to assess how big of a threat we would be. How strong an adversary he was now up against. But, he mostly seemed shocked at the way Bella was acting. Apparently, he had never seen her show this type of emotion.
The thoughts of the large dark haired man in the group invaded my mind. I scrutinized his face. I must admit, I was not in any mood to hear how this gentleman felt about Bella. He was staring at me with a look of contempt.
Jasper put his hand out to him, since no one in the group had introduced him. "Hello," he said.
The man shook Jasper's hand and nodded his head once sharply and said, "Thomas Vaughn."
Jasper smiled and said, "Oh sure, I recognize you now, I am a big fan."
I glanced sideways at Jasper. So this guy was in love with Bella and famous. Great.
We stood there in an uncomfortable silence. I couldn't take my eyes off Bella. She was looking anywhere but at me. Finally, Michael Simmons said, "Well, Bella, I believe you and Mr. "C", uh. . . Cullen have important matters to discuss."
I nodded my head in agreement and looked at her expectantly. "Um," she swallowed hard and cleared her throat as she motioned to the back of the room. "There is a small parlor off the ballroom over there."
She looked at Jasper expectantly and said, "Will you be joining us?" She looked as if she was pleading for him to come. If Jasper had any sense of self-preservation he knew what his answer should be.
"Oh, no. You go ahead. I'll be getting better acquainted with Michael and Thomas." He looked at me and then began walking off with the two men.
I walked up to her and said, "Shall we?"
She turned and I put my hand on the small of her back to guide her into the room. She bristled and moved to the side out of my reach. I struggled to keep my face impassive, and not show how much that hurt me. We walked into the parlor in silence.
Once inside, she moved about five feet away with her back to me and folded her arms. I saw her take a large breath and when she turned to look at me, there was no longer fear in her eyes. She stared me in the face and said, "Was this some kind of joke? Why even go through all the pretense of the flowers and the pin. Were you trying to dazzle me?" When she said the word dazzle she rolled her eyes and looked disgusted.
"No, Bella." I was shaking my head. "I had absolutely no idea who I was meeting tonight until I saw you at the top of the stairs."
She did not believe a word I was saying. This dress that she was wearing was however, dazzling and distracting me a great deal. It clung to her waist and hips, and her arms and back were made of a translucent material that showed her beautiful skin. It was just the color blue I had always loved her in most. Her hair was pulled back showing me her lovely neck. I could see her blood drumming, pulsating in a hard rhythmic beat and I had to swallow down the venom and the passion at the same time. The passion was much more painful to push away. The color on her lips was a deep red and made my mouth water for her. I wanted to take her in my arms and make us both forget the last seven years apart. Instead, I used all my restraint to calm myself and answer her question.
"I have only known about all this for about a week. Carlisle visited me and asked me if I would deal with this." I chuckled a bit and said, "I never saw your name on one document, and the lawyers had another name for you, I truly am as blown away as you are."
I breathed hard and said, "Bella, I am so glad it was you."
She whirled around and said, "Is it because you think I will just drop all of this because we had a high school romance?
Is that all she thought it was?
"No," I stammered, "I am just so happy to see you again. I have missed you so much. Bella, you look so beautiful."
Her hands were in fists, she bit her lip and in a hushed whisper said, "You're not going to do this to me again. This doesn't change anything."
This conversation was taking a turn that I wasn't ready for. I just wanted to talk about us. I wanted to find out if there was a chance for me. I was blown away by the lovely creature standing in front of me.
"Bella, how have you been?" I took a tentative step towards her. "I think about you so often. I had no idea that you were living in New York City and that you were involved in business. I think that's great." I was trying to sound supportive.
I decided to keep up the small talk a little longer. "My family is doing fine. They are living in New Jersey right now. Carlisle is a doctor at Johns Hopkins. Alice is visiting Denali and Emmett and Rosalie are on their honeymoon, again. Esme is fine, she will be so happy to hear that you are well."
She was looking down at her hands. She spoke in a small rough voice. "You said Carlisle visited you. Why aren't you with your family?"
I was relieved we seemed to be having a real conversation.
"I have been living in Ireland for a while." Trying vainly to get through the days without you, Bella. I wanted to tell her every part of what my heart was feeling.
Her brow furrowed for a small moment, then she looked far into my eyes. I desperately searched for any sign of what she was thinking. I saw a flicker of deep hurt and then her eyes became hard and distant. Her heart stopped for a moment and then began beating much slower than before. She smiled wryly as she stared at me, "Having fun with one of those ‘distractions'?"
I opened my mouth to reply, but she interrupted me. "Listen Edward, I will set up a meeting for 7:00 a.m. on Monday to discuss all of this. I suggest you bring your lawyers. Notice I said plural on lawyers. You will need more than one. We will be primarily discussing the financial records on your offshore markets for the last ten years. This will be the first in a series of meetings, so if you need to get back to your distraction, see if Jasper can stay."
"Bella, please, I . . ."
"And furthermore, in the conference room I would ask that you address me as Ms. Swan. I will return the courtesy to you, Mr. Cullen."
She turned and began walking out of the room. I followed after her and said, "I just want to talk. Can't we just sit and talk? I want to know what you have been doing? What your interests are. I want to know you as you are now."
She spun around and looked directly into my eyes. Her face was smoldering. "You want to get to know me? Well, you're looking at it. Stick around a while Mr. Cullen, and you will see just what kind of human I turned out to be."
With that, I watched her walk rapidly out the door. She walked swiftly past her table and Simmons and Thomas jumped up and began following her down the stairs. A moment later, Simmons came back alone. He stared curiously at me and straightened his tie as he said, "Well, it appears gentlemen that I will see you Monday morning." He then shook our hands and left us alone.
Jasper turned to look at me. "I am guessing that it didn't go well."
I ran my hands through my hair in frustration. "No Jasper, it didn't go well, not well at all."
Perhaps the life I had imagined for Bella wasn't quite what I had hoped.
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