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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:


6. PROBLEM

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4799   Review this Chapter

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 as he straightened his tie and 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.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

(Bella's POV)

I held on tightly to the railing as I made my way down the ballroom stairs. The last thing I needed was to trip and fall down after what I'd said to Edward. I just wanted to get out of the ballroom as quickly as possible. I felt the tears so dangerously close. Suddenly, Simmons came up beside me.

I set my teeth and hissed, "Set up a 7:00 a.m. meeting for C- CORP on Monday." I kept heading down the stairs. A few tears had escaped down my face. Simmons was, to say the least, very shocked. He turned back up the stairs without ever saying a word.

Then, Vaughn was there.

"Bella, I am taking you home."

I had safely made it down the stairs by then. I kept my face down until we were safely out of the ballroom. Once we were out in the lobby I finally spoke.

"I'm okay Vaughn. I will be just fine," I said roughly.

He sighed hard as he wiped a tear off my cheek and said, "Nothing you say will convince me to leave you alone right now. So, do you want to go home, or do you want to just walk around a while?"

I didn't know where I wanted to go. I had no idea which direction to take. I wanted to run, but to where? I was lost. I was standing in a city of millions of people, yet I felt so alone. I stared out at nothing and said, "I just want to go home."

We walked out of the hotel in silence. Once we were outside, I could smell the rain. I inhaled deeply and closed my eyes. I could hear the familiar honks of cars and hear people traveling hurriedly down the sidewalk. It brought some sanity back to me and I finally felt like I could exhale.

I opened my eyes and Vaughn was standing in front of me, looking at me with an alarmed look on his face.

"Bella, you're shaking. What happened while you were talking to that Cullen guy?"

There was no way for me to answer that question. I ignored him and just started walking down the sidewalk. I kept my arms folded as we walked.

There was a deep silence between us for a time and then very cautiously he said, "It seems to me that you had a history with him."

Yes, I was going to be with him forever. He was my destiny, my soul mate, and then he told me he didn't love me.

"It was a long time ago," I breathed.

We were approaching my building. I was very distracted and jumpy. I glanced at him and said, "I never thanked you for the charm bracelet. It is beautiful. Thank You."

He smiled and said, "You're welcome."

As we walked into the lobby, he held up my chin and said softly, "I'll call you next week, okay? I leave in the morning for our game in Philadelphia."

I nodded absentmindedly and turned for the elevator.

The last person got out on the 47th floor, and apparently, that was exactly how long I was able to hold it together. I slid down into a corner of the elevator and began to sob. I found my way to my door and tripped my way into my apartment. I cried, I screamed, I hit a wall and hurt my hand. I ended up in front of my large window sitting on the floor weeping, and staring out at the night.

I had sometimes fantasized how I would act if I ever saw him again. I had planned on being callous. I imagined that I would laugh and roll my eyes in a flippant manner as we talked about the good ol' days in Forks. I had planned on giving him the impression that I had barely even thought of him over the years. I had promised myself that he would never, ever know how much he hurt me.

I had failed miserably.

I had been angry, defensive, and biting in my remarks. I flinched at the dramatic comment I had made before I stormed out of the room. He didn't care one bit about what kind of human I had turned out to be. I wished I could take it all back. If only I'd had some advance warning. I would have been prepared. I would have been ready. Maybe.

I saw his face again and I realized why I had not been able to move on. His beauty was woven into every part of my life from my dreams, to my drive to constantly work, and how I treated everyone around me. I thought I had committed every part of him to perfect memory. I hadn't remembered exactly how impossibly long his eyelashes were, I had forgotten precisely how the light played with his hair, my memory was no where near accurate on the angle of his chin, and the roundness of his lips, and how his shoulders, even in a tuxedo, looked so powerful and steady. Somehow, even after all this time, his voice had remained the loudest and clearest sound in my head.

I was still desperately in love with him.

For the past seven years there had not been one time that I had laid in bed at night and not thought of him. For the past seven years there had not been one time that I had watched the sunset and felt twilight upon me that I didn't think of him. Every time it had rained I had thought of him, every time I heard a love song playing in the elevator, every time I tripped, every time I saw a Volvo, every time I heard a piano, every time I saw a couple together, every time I felt my heart beating, every time I thought of Phoenix. every time I cut myself, every time I saw wildflowers, every time I touched cold stone.

I couldn't believe that after all the times I would have given anything to see him again, I had just left him there and walked away. Maybe, part of me wanted to be the one to walk away from him this time. My heart fluttered, and it made me angry how much it meant to me that he did see me in the blue dress and told me I looked beautiful.

I was going to have to see him in two days. How would I do it? Not ever seeing him and knowing he didn't love me, was apparently just as hard as knowing I would see him and that he didn't love me. I had no idea how many miles I was going to have to run to get mind off of what was happening in Ireland.

I didn't care about acquiring his company anymore. I was sure that Carlisle, with the help of his children, had put much care into building it, and it meant a great deal to them. I could never do that to the Cullens. I loved them too much.

Besides, if I went through with this, Edward would have to remain in town at least a month or two for meetings. I couldn't bear to see him all those times and then have him leave. I didn't have enough faith in myself and the person I could be around him. I had a reputation that I wanted left intact after this was all over. I wanted him gone now. Yes, I wanted him gone now, and then try to forget he was ever here. Business as usual.

So, now I had a new plan. I would tell Mr. Hathaway on Monday morning that I was no longer going after C- CORP. My designs had changed. I would find a bigger and more successful company to take down to appease him. There would be no Monday morning meeting with Edward, just his lawyers. I realized I had no idea how to get a hold of Edward or any of this team. I would put Simmons on that.

I was on my knees with my forehead resting on the carpet, my hands pulled tightly around my middle. I was still wearing the blue dress. I thought that Valentino probably never intended for his dress to be treated this way. I didn't have the strength to get to my bed. All I could do was hold myself tight and attempt to keep myself together. I was afraid to go to sleep. I knew who would star in every dream tonight.

You can do this, Bella. You can do this. If I repeated it enough it was sure to sink in. As my eyelids finally closed, I felt much better. Tonight at the party, would be the first and last time I would ever see Edward. I would make sure of that.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I was standing in the forest. It was a familiar place. My mind was used to coming here. I could feel the squish of the earth under my feet. No, please no. I was pleading. I turned and looked behind me. That's when I saw it. The vine maple tree. It's leaves were rustling ever so slightly. There was no wind. Why were the leaves moving? Then realization spread through me, hot and blistering. Edward had run away. He had made the breeze. He was gone.

I sat up quickly; jolted out of sleep. Great. Not that dream again. That's all I needed. I would take any memory but that one right now.

The sun was coming in the window and I had no idea what time it was, I just knew that even though it was Saturday, I should have been at the office a long time ago.

It went against everything that I had taught myself, but I laid back down. My eyes were sticky and swollen. It felt better if I closed them. I tried to calm myself down. No harm done, Bella. So, you saw him again. No big deal. You will never have to see him again. I tried to convince myself that was a good thing.

I had come this far. I could get through this. This was not as bad as before. Not as bad . . . .

For some reason, my mind traveled back to that stupid letter I left for him at Charlie's house, the day I left for college. The letter he would never see. I had been so angry when I wrote it. It was my last morning in Forks. I hadn't been back since. I had just taken the last few things out of my bedroom and sat them by the front door for Charlie to load in the cruiser.

I stood at the bottom of the stairs, wondering if I could handle going back up one more time, if I could handle saying good-bye to all the memories of my room. After several minutes of deliberation, I bounded angrily up the stairs and stood in my doorway. I woodenly walked to my window that I had never locked and made sure that the latch was shut tight. I ran my hand over my rocking chair. I laid down on my bed one more time and felt the shaking begin. I gritted my teeth and shouted to no one, "This is the last time I cry in my room for you!"

I stood up and dried my face. I made my bed and laid Gran's blanket across the bottom, then I found paper in my bedside table drawer and scrawled the angry message. I sealed the envelope, along with my heart, and walked out of the room without turning back.

The problem was, I had turned back in my memory too many times. I didn't know which way to turn anymore.

The phone rang. I struggled to get up in the tight dress and stumbled my way to the table and answered in a thick voice, "Hello."

"Isabella, I tried the office first, you are usually there at this time on Saturday mornings. I'm glad I caught you before you head over. I want to know how things went last night with "C".

I blinked my eyes and forced myself to become coherent. "Yes, Mr. Hathaway, I did meet with him last night, and we have scheduled a meeting for Monday morning at 7:00 a.m."

"Excellent, I will be anxious to hear how you plan to proceed with the take-over. Stop by my office after you are finished."

"Ah, Mr. Hathaway, I may have been premature in thinking they were ripe for a split. I may use Monday's meeting to tell them we are abandoning our designs on their company." I flinched and prepared for his reply.

"Isabella," he growled, "I have been over all the documents and C- CORP is a textbook case for what you do best. The conditions couldn't be any more perfect for a take-over." There was a slight pause as he said, "You're not going soft on me, are you Swan?"

I straightened my back and stammered for a moment before saying, "No sir, I'm not. I just think . . ."

"I don't pay you to think Swan, I pay you to catch and kill." In a softer, more menacing voice he said, "I don't have to tell you what will happen to your future with us if you decide not to play ball. Names of those who go soft, never get placed on buildings. Word will spread that you have lost your edge, and no one else will hire you either."

My mouth was dry and I swallowed hard as I said, "There is another company I have been looking at that I believe to be a much sounder bet than C- CORP. We would stand to make double the money on the deal."

He growled low as he said, "You were the one who alerted me to C- CORP in the first place! We have been on this for a year now. Do you have any idea how much money we have spent in man power alone to flush this "C" character out?"

"I don't want to continue the takeover of C- CORP." I tried to sound more decisive and forceful.

"Swan," he sounded a bit more gentle. "I know you may be a little scared to . . "

"Scared?" I shouted into the phone. "I assure that I am not at all scared to take on C- CORP."

"Then what reason could you possibly have for not wanting to take them down?" He asked incredulously.

Because the company belongs to a family full of vampires and I am in love with their oldest son. I didn't really have a quick answer for him.

"Isabella," his voice was low and intense. "I have molded you and sculpted you into the perfect killing machine. I have been your mentor these last three years and I have always been on your side. I have never demanded anything of you, but I am telling you now, I want you to make me proud. I order you to finish what you started. Take this company down or you will not see your name next to mine on the building."

My stomach turned. "I won't let you down, Mr. Hathaway," I said firmly.

"That's the spirit, I will talk to you on Monday then. " He sounded much more jovial.

"Bye, Mr. Hathaway."

This was a problem.

- - - - - - - - - - -

After my "discussion" with Mr. Hathaway, I quickly showered and made it to the office about 9:30. Simmons was already there. He always went to the gym and had an early morning work-out on Saturday mornings, and then came into the office in sweats and a t-shirt.

He had everything spread out in the conference room. The huge table made working much easier. He tried to act like everything was normal, like he didn't see me cry last night. I knew I had acted a tad less than professional.

"Hey there," he said. "I hope you don't mind, I took the liberty of ordering breakfast. Sitting at the table was a steaming cup with Starbucks written across it.

"This is just what I needed, thank you," I said a bit too cheerfully.

I laid out my papers and said, "What section are you on. Bring me up to speed with what you are doing."

So, the day went on until about 1:00 in the afternoon when Simmons said he needed something to eat. I had forgotten all about eating.

"Can I get you something?" he asked.

I shook my head. "No, I'm fine."

"I'll be back in twenty minutes." He stood up and left the room.

I knew I should keep working, but I was exhausted from everything that had happened last night. I laid my head on the table and told myself I would just close my eyes for a minute.

I woke up to see Simmons sifting through C- CORP's records of a company purchased in France in 1953. I bolted upright and looked at my watch and saw it was 3:30 in the afternoon.

"Crap, I'm sorry. Why didn't you wake me up?" I started blinking and shifting papers.

"It looked like you could use the sleep," he said dryly.

I rubbed my face and started back on the rough draft of the report I planned to give to C- CORP's lawyers on Monday.

"I brought you some food," he said.

"I said I was fine," I retorted.

Without looking up, he said, "Humans eat."

He handed me the styrofoam container filled with Chow Mein and rice. I pieced at the now cold food unenthusiastically.

"Bella, do you care If I ask you a question?" He asked hesitantly.

"Yes, actually I do," I said sternly, never looking up from my papers.

"You talked in your sleep," he said.

That wasn't really a question. I slowly looked up at him.

"You said "Edward" three times," he said softly. His brown eyes looked at me carefully.

I smirked. "I must really have this company on my mind."

"I don't think that's it." He was talking with a little more confidence in his voice.

I just kept my head down and continued writing. I heard him give an exasperated sigh. I ignored him.

"Bella, I can't go into this meeting on Monday not knowing where your head is at. You changed as soon as you saw Edward Cullen last night. If you don't want to talk to me, then so be it. But, you need to talk to somebody and as far as I know, I am your only friend."

My eyes shot up to him and I glared daggers at him as I said, "Oh, you're my friend? I wasn't aware that friends sold each other out for tickets on the 50 yard line!"

He backed up and winced. "I just told him he could sit by you. I didn't offer him your firstborn."

I rolled my eyes and said, "You are not my only friend. I have lots of friends."

He just sat back and looked at me. One corner of his mouth went up and he looked like he wanted to laugh, but he let it go.

"You obviously know this Cullen guy from somewhere, and you definitely have some kind of history," he said seriously.

"You're obviously in the wrong line of work, you should be a detective," I scoffed.

He shifted uncomfortably in his seat and said, "I saw something last night that I haven't seen once in the two years we have been working together." His eyes narrowed. "Your wall came down, not a lot, but some. I was under the impression that your wall was a fortress, completely impenetrable."

He leaned forward in his seat. "You were, or still are, in love with that guy."

I reared back in my chair. "You are wrong, totally off base, and totally out of line," I said angrily.

He did not back down. "Before Thomas Vaughn, when was your last date?"

I twisted my face and said, "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Just humor me, when was your last date?"

I just stuttered and stammered.

"Did you date in college?"

"No. I was too busy studying so I could be smarter than you," I shot back.

"Did you date in High School?"

"Sure," I tried to sound nonchalant.

"So, your last date was when you were like, 17 or 18?"

"Something like that," I muttered.

"You went to high school in Northern Washington and Forks Hospital is in Northern Washington, so . . . my guess is that your last date was with him." He sat back smugly in his chair acting like Sherlock Holmes solving a case. All he was missing was the pipe and funny hat.

I just stared at him and chuckled, "You don't even know what you're talking about."

"Oh, I think I do," he was serious again.

"I know plenty of guys," I said defiantly.

"Name two."

"Philip and Oscar," I said triumphantly.

"Who are Philip and Oscar?" he said while gesturing with his hand.

I muttered something unintelligible.

He stuck his ear out to me, "What was that? I didn't quite catch that."

"They are the doormen in my building, okay?" I sat back and folded my arms as I stared at my papers.

Simmons didn't move, he just raised one eyebrow.

He let out a big sigh and said, "Bella, before we go into that meeting on Monday, I need to know one thing. Are you in love with Edward Cullen?"

"No way," I replied.

He stood up exasperated and walked around the room. He stopped and leaned against the wall across from the table and ran his hands through his hair thoughtfully and then said, "You could do a lot worse, you know. He seems to be a really nice guy and apparently for being so young, he is quite successful and wealthy. Every woman in the ballroom couldn't take their eyes off of him. Lucky for me, he and his brother left before Giselle saw them. Thomas Vaughn was standing right next to Edward and no one even looked at him. . . ."

"Shut up, all right?" I had to interrupt him. Being reminded of Edward's virtues was the last thing I needed right now.

He came back to the table and leaned over it and looked right in my face. His voice got softer and he said, "Your meeting last night wasn't very long, and Jasper was extremely evasive when I tried to get information. When you walked away, you were cry. . . a little emotional, which tells me that long ago he did something to hurt you and you have spent the last seven years trying in your own way, to forget. I believe he is the reason for your wall. The one who made you not be human anymore."

I stared at him in shock. The irony of what he said was not lost on me. I just wanted him to stop talking and leave this alone.

"We still have a lot of work to do," I said roughly.

"Are you in love with Edward Cullen?" His eyes bored into me."

"I already answered that question," I said angrily.

He hit the table and said, "Damn it, Bella. Do you love Edward Cullen?"

"It doesn't matter anyway," I said painfully.

All the air went out of him in a frustrated blow. "If it doesn't matter, then just tell me." He looked at me with compassion. "If I know what's really going on, then I can help, make it easier. I have a lot of professional stake in this too, you know. We're a team. Bella, are you still in love with him?"

I bit my lip and felt the tears in the corner of my eyes. I defiantly swallowed them down. I couldn't say the words. I just nodded my head.

He stood up and looked relieved. He put his hands on his hips and said, "Thank you."

"Now, I need to know how you plan to take down the company of the man you love?" He looked at me warily.

I took a deep breath and said, "I had already decided that I was dropping the whole thing, but Mr. Hathaway called this morning and did not beat around the bush when he accused me of going soft and informed me that my future with the company was tied to this deal."

"What?" He threw out his hands and then put them behind his head as he said sadly, "Actually, I guess that doesn't surprise me."

"What are you going to do?" He asked me.

I sighed and said, "I have no future with Edward. I am sure that he and his family have numerous holdings in many other places. They would stand to make millions off this deal. I am going through with it. I will be as tough as I always am, and finish it quickly. He'll leave, and for me, it will go back to business as usual."

"Is that what you really want?" He asked doubtfully.

Without flinching, I said, "Absolutely."

I put my finger right in his face and said harshly, "And another thing, I will fire you on the spot if you try any more matchmaker business. If I find out that Edward Cullen has my direct phone number at the office, my home number, or my private cell number, I will blame you and you are gone. You will not tell him where I live, you will not let him in my office, you will not find a way for us to be alone. Get the word out to the entire staff that nobody is to speak to them."

I wasn't taking any chances. Edward and Jasper could dazzle a starving man from his last crust of bread.

His lips were a hard line as he stared at me and then simply said, "Okay."

"One more thing," I knew it was going to sound strange, but it was necessary that I say it. "Anytime we are around Mr. Cullen, you must not, under any circumstances think about what I told you concerning my feelings for him."

His face twisted in confusion. "You want me to control my thoughts around him?" He looked at me warily.

I struggled for the right way to phrase it. "He is . . . very. . . perceptive . . . to what others around him are thinking. Call it a gift."

I had to make him fear Edward just a little bit.

"I am concerned that if he finds out how I feel, he will try and use my feelings for him against me as leverage, so you must not even think about any of this, okay? It would be a good idea if you tried very hard not to think about our strategy either."

"All right," he said meekly. I could see that his impression of Edward was changing. That was good. He needed a little healthy fear. I was feeling a little better about things. Two months tops, and then back to business as usual.

Without another word, we both put our heads back down and got back to work.

I was now a world class problem solver who was about to go into the battle of her life.

I had never lost.

And I wasn't about to start now.