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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)



Rating 5/5   Word Count 4785   Review this Chapter

Bella's POV

I sat at my desk nursing a headache from lack of sleep. I had laid in bed tossing and turning most of the night thinking about Edward and dreaming about Ireland. I had never even been to Ireland, so how I was having a dream about that place was beyond me. Why did he explain to me that he was alone? I wasn't sure what bothered me more, the fact that he told me, or how happy I felt inside when I knew he wasn't with someone.

I was getting scared. I had been able to control my feelings for so long. It was absolutely imperative that I be in command of my emotions. I had to dominate. All my hard earned discipline just couldn't leave me now when I needed it most. I absolutely had to keep this wall up high, strong, and impenetrable. He was going to turn and leave at the end of all this, and if I didn't arm and protect myself . . . well, things would end badly for me.

I shook my head vigorously to clear away all the uncertainties. My mind had to be clear for the meeting I was about to have with him. I grabbed my papers and began walking to my door when Sally's voice came over the speaker.

"Mr. Vaughn is on line one for you, Ms. Swan."

I let out a frustrated blast of air and turned back to my desk. He called to say he was back in town and wanted to have lunch with me. I told him I would be in a meeting until 1:30, that I would meet him here at my office, but I really had to go because everyone was waiting for me.

Saying yes to him felt like, if that one aunt you didn't know very well invited you to Disneyland. You would be crazy to say no, but you wished it was with someone else instead.

I hurried down the hall, and when I opened the conference room door, I could feel the tension in the air. I was taken aback when I saw that Edward was seated right next to my chair, with Jasper beside him. As soon as Jasper saw me, a rush of calm filled the room. I set my teeth and slapped down my papers and pulled up my sleeves and said, "Okay, let's get to work."

We worked all morning, and we were getting nowhere. For every motion we put forth, the C- CORP lawyers had a counter motion and a way to extend this for 10 more years. My side was losing today. There were two reasons for this: First, there was no excitement in the room, no drive to get into the mud and get things done. Jasper's gift was working, but apparently not on me. I was seething.

The second reason was Edward. His eyes were dark and intense. He kept changing his focus from person to person on my team, then he would whisper to Harry, or hurriedly writing down notes to other lawyers. My team was smart, but even I wouldn't be able to keep my mind clear for hours on end. They had to think about what they fighting for at some point during the proceedings. We were being blind sided at every turn. I kept glancing nervously at Simmons. He was definitely a buffet of information for him to pick through. And it wasn't just legal strategy I was afraid he was getting out of Simmons' head.

I was having a hard time concentrating as I watched Edward's focused gaze, wondering and panicking every time he looked Simmons' way. Edward once again had the upper hand. And I again felt vulnerable. Just like that brokenhearted little eighteen year old girl that was left devastated in the forest. I was beyond angry.

To top it off, Edward's lawyers had just submitted another piece of paper, an injunction stating that we were barred from checking their bank statements for a company in a place called Volterra, Italy. What was so important about some little Italian city called Volterra? These were all just stall tactics.

It was nearing 1:30. Vaughn would be waiting, and my team was tired and hungry. I turned to look at Edward and said, "How long do you plan to keep up these futile, silly games?"

Harry spoke up and said, "We are trying to demonstrate to you just what kind of fight you are in for C- CORP."

I was now very mad. I looked directly at Harry as I leaned in on the table and said acidly, "Let me tell you something. I would say that you don't know who you are dealing with, but you do. I took you down last year and left your client crying out in the hall wondering what had happened to his life's work. I will suck you dry and leave nothing but the bones for the vultures that are circling for your precious assets."

I leaned in farther and pointed my finger at Harry Banks. "You lengthen this process unnecessarily and I will make you suffer. The hammer will fall on these proceedings and all politeness will disappear and you will be left holding nothing." My voice had risen the farther I got. By the end of my speech, I had filled the room with my voice.

I heard Jasper whisper to Edward, "It looks like she became a vampire after all."

Mr. Banks was outraged. His face was red and he pounded his fist on the table and bellowed, "You will never have this company!"

"Never is an awfully long time," I said gravely. I began to pack up my papers in my briefcase. Edward's face shot up to mine at my comment. Very softly so no one else could hear me I whispered, "It is exactly as long as forever."

I didn't want to, but my eyes grazed past Edward's face. It was full of sentiment and feeling. His eyes were like liquid gold, unwavering and almost fierce as he leaned out of his chair. It was obvious he wanted to say something to me.

I looked away, clenching my teeth and mentally pulled myself as far away from him as I could. I set my jaw, turned my eyes back on him, and stared him down while I said flatly, "Meeting adjourned."

I left the room without looking back. I was flushed and angry at myself that I couldn't just let go. That I couldn't just be in the same room with him and just be normal. I was a grown-up now. It shouldn't be this hard.

I was stomping down the hall to my office as fast as I could go when I heard his velvet voice beside me, "Bella."

I never broke stride. Without turning to look at him I said dryly, "It's been almost a week since you saw me again. That's pretty long for you. Isn't it about time you reminded me how I'm no good for you and made it as if you never existed?"

Edward slowed down, flinching at my biting words. As I turned the corner to my office, I saw Vaughn waiting for me. His smile was large and genuine. He walked up to me quickly and kissed me on the cheek.

"I missed you, are you ready?" He asked with expectation.

I was about to answer when I heard that beautiful velvet voice coming around the corner, "Bella wait!"

Then he saw me, and stopped.

Vaughn turned around and saw him and I saw his eyes narrow slightly. He put his hand out and said, "Cullen, right?"

Edward swallowed hard and said flatly, "Yes, Hello Mr. Vaughn."

They stared at each other. It was deceiving to watch. Vaughn looked slightly angry and to the unknowing eye, appeared to be much more powerful than Edward. His tan rugged features set tight on his face. Edward's face was a clear mask with no trace of emotion. It took someone who had experience with his temper to recognize his black eyes and balled fists as a sign of his anger. I wondered why Edward seemed to feel unfriendly towards Vaughn. I could find no plausible explanation for Edward's hostility.

"We should get going," I tried to sound determined, but it came out halting and uneven. I handed my briefcase to Sally and turned towards the elevators. Vaughn took my hand as we started to walk.

I looked at Edward as we passed him. I could see his jaw was clenched tight but now that his eyes were turned away from Vaughn and on me, they seemed to have a look of deep pleading.

I forced my eyes away, and as a reflex I tightened my grip on Vaughn's hand. Vaughn misinterpreted my actions and answered it with a squeeze of his own and brought my hand up to his lips and kissed it.

The elevators were at the end of the long hall. I could still feel Edward's eyes on me, and it made me self-conscious. I didn't look where my feet were taking me and I tripped on a tile that was slightly higher than the others. I lurched forward ungracefully and both my feet came out from under me. I braced myself to hit the floor, but when I opened my eyes I saw that Vaughn held me snug in his arms. He was holding me very tightly as he looked into my eyes. I smiled slightly and started wriggling myself free.

"Wow! Nice save." I said with a nervous laugh. "You should be catching those footballs instead of throwing them." He smiled large and set me back softly on flat ground. He grabbed my hand again as we started walking. We stepped in the elevator and turned around. As the doors slowly closed, I raised my eyes. I could see Edward still staring at me.

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

Vaughn had made reservations at Scalini Fedeli. It was one of Manhattan's most expensive Italian restaurants, and it was only about a mile away from Wall Street. I rarely ate at Italian restaurants, for obvious reasons.

"I picked someplace close because I know how nervous you get when you are away from your office," he joked.

We settled down in a private booth and looked over the menus. After we had ordered, I looked at Vaughn and he was staring at me with concentration on his face.

"So, you had a meeting with Cullen today, the guy at the party that upset you. I believe his name was Edward."

I took a drink of my water. It gave me a chance to think of something to say.

Thankfully, he didn't wait for my response. He swallowed hard and said, "Actually, I have been thinking a lot about the party at the Waldorf and how different you were when those two guys joined our group. I don't know you very well yet, but I had never seen you act like that before."

"Act like what?" I had a large lump sitting in the middle of my throat. I just wished everybody would leave me the heck alone about the way I acted that night.

He seemed to be searching for the right words. "You were off center, unsure of yourself, perhaps afraid."

"I was just a little nervous," I said defensively. "I got over it."

"Well, I have a theory," he said while raising one eyebrow.

"Oh yeah? Let's hear it," I tried to sound playful, but I didn't think I pulled it off.

He paused a moment. He wasn't playing as he looked at me seriously and said, "You had a history with that Cullen guy, and I think you had some pretty serious feelings for him."

I didn't say anything. I am sure all traces of humor were gone from my face.

"Your silence tells me I'm right," he said confidently. "And believe it or not, I am encouraged by that," he said.

I looked at him surprised.

"You see," he continued, "Now I know you are capable of loving someone, and I'm hoping that given time you could love a real man."

I laughed a little, "Wow, you know a real man? When do I get to meet him?" This conversation was uncomfortably serious for me. I felt the need to inject humor.

Vaughn's expression didn't change, in fact, he became more serious. He leaned across the table and said, "I have a proposition."

"What is it?" I asked. I was more than a little tense as to what he wanted.

"Give me five dates and then decide if you want to see more of me," he looked at me expectantly.

My insides seized up. I had planned on telling Vaughn today that I didn't think we should see each other. I was going to tell him that my life was a little complicated right now, and that I didn't have time to put into dating anybody. I had a strong impulse to stand up and walk away from Vaughn and never have to see him again. But why? Vaughn was perfectly, well perfect. As far as humans standards went, anyway. He was kind and smart. He was that rugged kind of handsome that made women's mouths fall open. He treated me with respect, and he didn't like, have two heads or horrible body odor or anything like that. Why did I want to run away?

Was it because I didn't like him? Because I wasn't attracted to him?

Edward's lovely face invaded my thoughts. My hands went around my middle. The hole, as always, was ready and waiting. Edward's beauty was always going to win. But, it didn't matter how lovely Edward's face was. As soon as all this was over with C- CORP, he would leave again. I knew that.

I didn't know how this was supposed to work. With Edward I was in love with him before he had ever even touched me. In the real world, was it supposed to be hard to fall in love with somebody? Was it supposed to take time and not come instantly?

Being human was harder than it looked.

I looked up at Vaughn and said, "Look, you are better than I deserve, and I would be crazy to say no to you." I bit down on the words. I was preparing to let him down easy. Fort Bella was armed and operational. Edward is going to leave again, I reminded myself once more. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. It was almost like diving in the deep end for the first time.

I opened my eyes and looked at Vaughn with a doubtful look on my face. "If at any time you decide to bail out on me, I will completely understand."

His eyes flashed brightly and a huge smile spread across his face, "Are you saying yes?"

"Yeah, I think so," I thought he had been hit one too many times in the head with a football. He was crazy to pursue me.

He reached across the table and held on tightly to my hand. "I am very happy you said yes." He wasn't lying. His face was bright with happiness. "I don't want to wait for the weekend, could our first date be tomorrow night?" he asked.

I tried to return his smile. "Sure," I said.

"I was thinking that a Broadway show would be fun. The front office for the Giants has connections. Is there a show you have been wanting to see?"

I had been in New York three years and I had never been to a Broadway show. They all seemed to be love stories. "I have no idea what's playing. I trust you to choose well."

"I have the perfect show," he said with confidence. "Jennifer Garner and Kevin Kline are starring in "Cyrano". The show starts at 8:00 p.m. so it would be good to do dinner before the show. I'll make reservations for 6:00. Can I pick you up at 5:30?"

He wanted to pick me up at 5:30 on a week night? I still had a good six to eight hours of work left at that time. And it was a love story, great. I would put some of it on Simmons. He was the one that got me into this mess anyway.

I agreed. When I got back to the office, I would let Simmons know that he was saying good-bye to his social life for a few weeks.

"Can I ask you one more question?" He asked with a sincere face.

"Okay," I said warily.

"I am bringing up that Edward guy again." He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Is it hard to go up against someone you have a history with?"

I laughed cynically. If he only knew.

I took a deep breath and prepared to show Vaughn "Tough Bella". I made my face impassive and said, "There is no history with Edward Cullen. It didn't even last a year. It makes no difference to me who my opponent is. There is nothing special about this fight. He is just like any other adversary I have gone up against. He is in my past, and that is where I want him to stay." I wasn't sure if I was trying to convince me or him.

His eyebrows raised as he said, "Corporate world, dog-eat-dog, that sort of thing?"

"Absolutely." I stated with confidence.

The waitress came with our food then, and the subject was over. We stayed in the safe realm of small talk for the remainder of lunch. Saying the words out loud like that, was a good thing. It actually made me believe and accept it all the more. Perhaps life, after seven years, was waiting for me.

(Edward's POV)

I watched Bella as the elevator door shut behind her and Thomas, and I felt desolated. I had started to run and catch her when she tripped, but then I had stopped myself. I used to be her hero. I loved to be the one that caught her when she inevitably fell. Now, I had been replaced. I looked for the stairs and began, slowly for me, making my way down the 42 flights.

I couldn't stand here and watch her fall for this guy. But then, helplessly I knew that if wasn't Thomas, it would inevitably be someone else. She was so beautiful. I heard the thoughts of every guy who passed her. If there was a chance they took it. She constantly shot them down, but eventually, she was going to meet someone different. I felt my insides twist painfully.

I was such an idiot to leave her. What would these last seven years have been like if I had stayed? It would have been everything to me.

Through all this, a troubling thought kept nagging at me. She had grown into such a lovely woman, if I had never given in to her demands that I change her, maybe she would have felt she had outgrown me and left me anyway. What could she possibly see in me? To the world I was forever seventeen, and she had grown, changed, and progressed. Sure of herself, commanding, perhaps a bit overbearing, but altogether. . . amazing.

I turned my head. Jasper was coming swiftly down the stairs to meet me. He greeted me with a sad look. He knew I was following Bella.

"So uh, Edward. . . . the way Bella had acted in there was rather interesting." He was doing his best to sound diplomatic and polite.

Jasper was right. In our meetings, she was a different person. She had changed considerably.

"Jasper, I swore to myself I would never do this, but I need to ask you a question." I remembered Bella as warm and trusting, but now she was angry, resentful, cynical, and frightened of ever showing too much of herself. I couldn't understand what would make her change so much.

I looked at him and took a deep breath and said, "I need to know what emotions Bella is feeling for me."

Jasper flinched and said, "Are you sure?"

I laughed darkly. "No, not really."

Jasper shook his head slightly and said, "There is such a . . . wall, is the only word I can think of. I have never experienced anyone so conflicted. Sometimes, I know you can hear her heart beat in that way it does when she sees you, and I can feel she has very strong emotions for you, then I feel intense fear. She has a lot of anger, but she channels it into a desire to win. She is, as we have seen, extremely competitive. But, what I find strange, is that she isn't trying to win for the fame or money that comes from it. She wants to win because that will ensure that she will be able to keep working hard and not have to stop. She is terrified of ever having to stop." He took a deep breath and glanced at me before he said, "There is one overriding emotion. I was puzzled because it took a great deal of time for me to figure out what it was. I finally realized that the reason it was so hard to figure out, is because she has covered it with so many other emotions trying to hide, or mask it. She has probably done that to protect herself. She is trying to hide it so she can survive."

I steeled myself for his answer. "What is that overriding emotion, Jasper?"

He looked deep in my eyes and said simply, "Pain."

I fell back against the wall behind me and closed my eyes. I never expected Jasper to say what he did. Alice had kept insisting that Bella loved me more than I ever really knew. Perhaps she was right. It was supposed to be as if I never existed. Just like Bella said when she threw my words justifiably back in my face, but it seemed that I had lived on to make her suffer.

Jasper looked at me apologetically.

"Thanks," I whispered. I couldn't say anymore.

I descended the remaining stairs, and headed out into the gray November afternoon.

I was going to end this now. Bella was in pain, and I would now end it. I certainly wouldn't give Thomas Vaughn the opportunity to take it away.

No one else in the history of the world would ever make me feel the way Bella did. I had to believe she felt the same. This was never going to happen for us again.

If I got her back, I would do whatever she wanted. That included making her a vampire. I would do anything. The thought of having her forever, unbreakable and mine, made my breathing quicken and my muscles instinctively tense from the surge of excitement.

Perhaps I had put too much importance on Bella staying human. Even though she had things that I always hoped she would have, why did she look so unhappy? I had watched her closely this last week. I never saw her smile or laugh. There used to be a light that shone from those beautiful dark eyes, now they were dim and troubled. I could tell she wasn't eating well. She also wasn't sleeping well. The circles under her eyes were witness enough, but I would also watch her leave her office after midnight and then wake at 5:00 a.m., sometimes even earlier, and run. To me, she looked lost.

If we weren't meant to be together, then why were we in so much pain when we were apart? I didn't just dream of her being by me, I dreamed of her as my wife. I missed her so strongly that it overshadowed all other emotions. I no longer cared about her blood, or worried I would lose control. I just knew I wanted her. Forever.

There were only two options open to me now. The first, was I would try and win her back, and spend forever with my only love. The second option was, I leave and never go near her again. A third option of watching her like a ghost for the rest of her life loomed out there. I hoped I would be strong enough not to take that option. I walked faster. I didn't need to worry about option two or three. I just had to tell her how I felt, then we could begin to work everything out.

I followed her scent to the Italian restaurant on the corner. Images of La Bella Italia invaded my thoughts. How innocent we both were then. It was hard for me to picture myself innocent about anything, but I was definitely naïve about the precious girl that was sitting across from me in the booth that night. I had no idea how much she would change my existence.

I focused on Thomas and I heard him say that he wanted to take her on five dates and then let her decide if she wanted to keep dating him. I could hear his intentions and they made me sick inside. If she wanted to keep seeing him, he planned on changing the nature of their dating considerably. He wanted them become much more serious. His fantasies of her made me want to kill him.

I stood there in agony waiting for her answer. She paused, but then she gave it to him. She agreed to the five dates, and in turn I felt a knife twist where my heart had once been. I wasn't giving up. I was not going to give her to Thomas. I would fight for her and let her know exactly how I felt.

I then heard Thomas mention my name. "I am bringing up that Edward guy again." Again? I wished I had been listening to the first part of their conversation. Has it been hard to go up against someone you have a history with?"

She laughed a callous, harsh laugh and said, "There is no history with Edward Cullen. It didn't even last a year.It makes no difference to me who my opponent is. There is nothing special about this fight. He is just like any other adversary I have ever gone up against. He is in my past, and that is where I want him to stay."

My head fell. I let out a gust of air. I began walking away from the restaurant. I didn't really want to hear anymore.

I had been fooling myself.

If Bella was in pain, it wasn't because of me. Everything was as it should be. I knew there was no way that Bella wanted to even be near me now, and there was certainly no chance that she wanted to spend eternity with me. It didn't matter that fate may have meant for us to be together, seven years ago I had forced a new outcome for us both. I now had to live with that choice.

I walked away a little too swiftly and I had to adjust my pace. I wanted to get out of range before I was tempted to listen again.

My plan had not changed. Before this was over, I would tell her I loved her. But for now, I wanted to help her with her pain, whatever the cause may be, in some small way if I could. Perhaps another member of the family needed to come and visit.

I so wanted to see the Bella I knew and loved. I knew she was really in there somewhere, but I doubted I was the one that could bring it out again. It needed to be someone that didn't leave Bella feeling threatened, but had always made her laugh. I would take a few days and think it through.

I had no idea how I was going to tell her how I felt. If Bella did take our company, it wouldn't change one bit the way I felt about her. I just had to let her know somehow. Somehow.

Perhaps having another member of the family here would also help me find a way to get close enough to her that I could tell her.

I turned and headed down the bleak and windy street.

Option three was getting closer and closer all the time.