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The White Hat

Summary:
"The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection." Bella unravels the mystery that is Edward Cullen. A world of art, lies, and a white hat. Edward/Bella. AU.


Notes:
Hi all :) I originally started this story with a different plot line but the other day, a plot bunny hopped into my lap and refused to leave. So! I'm merging two plot lines and I'm hoping that you enjoy what I have planned. This story is AU but vampires still exist. The prologue and epilogue will be in third person but the rest of the story will be told from Bella's POV. Enjoy! -Janet


1. His Golden Eyes

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Prologue

Bella Swan was not an artist.

She could not paint. She could not draw. She could not sculpt. Those who can’t do, teach. Bella, however, chose to study. She was not a teacher. Ever since she was young, she had a voracious mind that continuously craved for more. She supposed that was the reason why she chose art. There was an endless supply of art that she could learn and reach out for tracing all the way back to the beginning of time and it was something that had no ceiling or limit. There would always be art. Artists would always exist to create something new whether it be out of passion, boredom, or curiosity. She would be the first person in line, ready and overzealously prepared to study it. If she could, she would’ve gladly been a student for the rest of her life but at some point, she needed to graduate. At age 26, she was two years away from completing her doctorate in Art History and had a very comfortable job as a research fellow at the leading art museum in Boston.

Art was simple. She found that she could always lose herself in the gallery space and in the brushstrokes, textures, and colors of a work. It had a history and meaning and to her, it just made sense. It was safe and it was a shield away from life and reality.

She had grown up in the small town of Forks, Washington where for two weeks straight, she baked her famous chocolate fudge cookies as a bribe for the entire registrar department so they would add AP Art History into the curriculum. By her senior year, they finally caved and it was in that year, she discovered the beauty and pain of Goya, the humor of Velazquez, the passion of Turner, the pride of David, and the eroticism of Greuze.

In that year, she also discovered that people were complicated, stressful, and deceitful. Mike Newton, the star basketball player and boyfriend of three years had broken up with her only a month before graduation, deciding that the separation was necessary before college. It was purely out of care for her. She, after all, was going places and he was staying in Washington. She wanted to believe him and she would have if she didn’t find him making out with Jessica a few scant hours later.

She shouldn’t have trusted him. After all, he could never understand her budding obsession. She had dragged him to the Seattle Art Museum once and the entire time, she had to listen to him point out the naked women and make fun of their ‘boobs’. There was only so much a girl could take.

That night, while Jessica and Mike were happily devouring one another’s faces at a party, Bella came to two conclusions. One, boys were stupid. And, two, you could easily figure out someone’s personality based upon their artistic inclinations and tastes.

She first applied her theory to her mother, Renee, who had always loved Monet and Pollock. On the surface, they were two polar opposites yet based upon their artistic styles, they fit her personality quite well. Pollock was known for his seemingly haphazard style yet his paint splatters were oddly musical, smooth, and flowing. Though his work appears to be chaotic, he always maintained a strict control over his brushstrokes, creating a symphony of colors and splatters on canvas. Monet was an extremely prolific painter who spent most of his later life living in a small town outside of Paris amongst his endless gardens of luscious flowers and ethereal water lilies and pond. He captured light and movement and the essence of natural beauty in his works. Their paintings described Renee perfectly. She was as free as Pollock’s brushstrokes yet never lost control of her own life. She exuded light and had always loved nature and the outdoors that were depicted in Monet’s works.

As she began to apply it to the others in her life, she quickly realized that she had stumbled onto something brilliant yet painfully simple. It became all too easy for her to read people and she grew uncannily perceptive and undeniably confident in her ability to deduce a person’s character.

Then, she met Edward Cullen.

-*-

BPOV

I hated mornings.

I could barely keep my eyes open as I struggled to maintain my balance as the subway car swerved around a corner. I nearly spilled my coffee onto the person next to me. I offered them an awkward smile, flushing with embarrassment as they scooted away from me.

Perfect. It seemed as if I utterly repelled people nowadays. I let out a sigh of relief as the conductor announced my stop.

It was another overcast day and I silently praised my good sense to bring an umbrella this morning. Boston weather was almost as bad as Forks. At least it was always fairly predictable back home – rain, rain, and more rain. Boston was a tad trickier. There would be patches of sun throughout the day that gave you some ray of hope at good weather but by mid-afternoon, it would always pour like no other.

I hated the rain. I hated the wet, cold, damp feeling that it always left in my bones but yet, I found myself comfortably situated in another dreary and rainy city.

I looked up at the sky and silently prayed for sun by the time I left. I went through my morning tasks without giving much thought to them. Swiped in, said hi to the morning guard, walked down the hallway and entered the Art of Europe office. I set my coffee down on my desk, turned on my computer and proceeded to sift through my mail. I was halfway through an auction catalogue when Angela, the department assistant, rushed to my desk, hair frazzled and eyes wide.

“Bella! Thank god you’re here.”

I furrowed my brow and looked at her curiously. “Something wrong, Ang?”

“You need to get to the staff entrance right now.”

“What? I just got here-“

“Mr. Cullen and his son are here for a personal tour that should’ve started,” she looked down at her watch before saying hurriedly, “five minutes ago.”

“I’m not scheduled for a tour. I don’t-“

Yet again, I was cut off.

“I know. Martha was supposed to give the tour herself but apparently Gavin ran into a table corner this morning and started bleeding and needed stitches. She called me practically in hysterics twenty minutes ago telling me she couldn’t do the tour and that she was heading to the emergency room right now.”

“Oh my god, is he okay?” I loved Gavin. He was quite possibly the cutest three-year-old around and he was notorious for being even clumsier than me. It was nice to give up that title every once in a while.

“He should be fine but enough dallying around. You have a tour to give.”

“I can’t. Ang, most of that stuff isn’t even what I study-“

“No excuses. You have to go, right now.” She pointed her finger at me in consternation and I couldn’t help but smile. It was so strange seeing sweet Angela this disoriented and nervous. I stood up and followed out of the office and tried my best to listen to her fast-paced briefing.

“Mr. Carlisle Cullen and his son, Edward, are two of the biggest donors on the market right now. They just recently moved to Boston and have yet to see the special exhibition or the museum.”

“How big are we talking?” I asked curiously.

“Do you remember the anonymous donation the Met received last year?”

“You mean the one that funded their latest Sargent acquisition?” I spat bitterly. “Oh yes, I remember.”

“Are you still mad about that?”

“Considering how that painting was one of his greatest works and we lost by one freaking bid, yes, I am still peeved.”

“Well, try and get over it in about 30 seconds because they’re the ones that made that acquisition possible.”

“They donated 40 million dollars to the Met?”

“On a whim.” Angela said with a shake of her head. “So, you need to make this tour absolutely phenomenal so that they will like us and give us that kind of money. We need it—especially with the expansion.”

“Wow. No pressure at all.” I muttered before plastering a bright smile on my face as we entered the waiting area.

Then I saw him.

Vaguely, I heard Angela make the introductions and I was fairly proud of myself for keeping the smile on my face. He was stunning. Absolutely and completely breathtaking and I could literally feel my knees get weak. His golden eyes seemed to pierce straight through my skin and I couldn’t help but feel like I’ve seen his face and that same bronze hair somewhere.

Before I could dwell further on it, Carlisle smiled and greeted me warmly. I shook his hand and then Edward’s, noting their cold hands but thought little of it and chalked it up to my own nerves.

Angela gave me a wink and turned on her heel. I clasped my hands together and teetered slightly before speaking, willing my voice not to quiver. “Thank you so much for taking the time to visit the museum. Martha, the senior curator had a family emergency so unfortunately, she won’t be giving the tour today.”

“I hope everything’s alright,” Carlisle said kindly. His voice was so deep and rich. I shivered inside.

“Everything should be just fine and I’m sure she will be in later on in the day if you’d like to meet her.”

“That would be lovely.”

I smiled and walked towards the stairs. “Is this your first visit to Boston?”

Carlisle and Edward exchanged a look before Carlisle said with another blindingly beautiful smile, “It has been awhile since our last visit and both the city and museum has changed so much.”

“It certainly has especially with the addition of the new wing.”

“When is that slated to finish?”

“Late 2010, hopefully,” I said, crossing my fingers. I glanced over at Edward curiously, expecting him to contribute to the conversation. His hands were clenched into fists at his side and he seemed to be leaning away from me. I furrowed my brow and tried my best to ignore his standoffish behavior. “Are you familiar with the show? I don’t want to bore you and prattle on about facts you already know.”

“Please give us the full tour. We’re interested in everything.”

“Well, the basis of the show is truly unlike any other that we’ve done before. We focus on a single period and span many countries, artists, and cultures. Romanticism was truly all-encompassing. It was widespread all across Europe and America and it was a movement that was found in literature, music, and art. It was incredibly powerful. For this project, we worked very closely with many departments in the museum to create a show that could truly do this movement the justice it deserves.”

Carlisle nodded as we entered through the glass doors and into the gallery. “Can you talk briefly about the Romantic era?”

“Of course.” I brushed my hair back and watched curiously as Edward seemed to stiffen even more. “It was mostly a reactionary movement against the Enlightenment and industrialization. Romanticism was incredibly focused on the aesthetic experience. It really stressed nature, power, the sublime, the picturesque, and heightened emotions.” I gestured towards the first painting, “We begin the exhibition with one of the most famous paintings that truly characterize the period before the Romantic era. Joseph Wright of Derby was an English painter that worked predominantly with landscapes and portraits though every now and then he did something as brilliant as this.”

I looked at the painting and took in a deep breath. It truly was amazing. “This painting is one of a series of candle-lit scenes that Wright painted. It depicts a traveling philosopher showcasing an air pump experiment. It’s rather gruesome, truly. The bird is placed here.” I pointed at the painting. “It’s deprived of oxygen and eventually, it dies.”

I snuck a glance at Edward, tearing my eyes away from the masterpiece before me. He seemed completely enraptured in the painting, his body truly relaxed in that moment. He eyes snapped to mine and I blushed, quickly averting my eyes before continuing. “What’s incredibly fascinating about this particular piece is the reaction on each individual’s face. You’ll notice that every single one is different. The young couple in the corner seems so completely enamored with one another that they don’t pay any attention to the experiment whatsoever. The girls in the center are my favorite. The younger one stares at the bird with childlike curiosity whereas the older girl can barely look, hiding in her father’s arms. The philosopher himself looks out at the audience, almost as if he’s gauging our reaction.”

Carlisle took a step closer and said quietly, “It really makes you reevaluate the price of life. What people and science are willing to risk for progress.”

“Exactly. These themes of mortality and struggle for life, they carry on into the Romantic era. Personally, I’ve always found this piece to be rather eerie especially with the style and the stark contrast between light and dark. Chiaroscuro was most famously used by Caravaggio but whereas he painted religious pieces, Wright applies it to a painting about science and makes it just as powerful and emotional. Emotions, in this case, however, are put on this perverse pedestal, used for experiment.”

I moved onto the next painting, watching as Edward lingered for a few moments before joining us. For the next hour, I led them through the exhibition, stopping at the highlights and my own personal favorites. I watched them both curiously. They were both mysterious though Carlisle was more open than Edward. I could tell he was a kind man, gentle. He cringed, quite visibly, at the Wright painting and as we moved through the exhibition, he seemed particularly drawn to those paintings dealing with mortality and death. Human life was precious to him.

Edward, however, was another story. He seemed to be only completely at ease when he stared at a painting, seemingly lost in the brushstrokes, but as soon as he snapped back to reality, he tensed. More than once, he caught me staring at him and every time, I looked away with a blush and a stammer. He was stunningly and heartbreakingly beautiful and a complete mystery. He seemed to love every single painting that I showed them but it wasn’t until the very last piece that I caught a glimpse into his mind and person.

“Our very last stop on this tour is Henry Fuseli’s The Nightmare. The painting draws a fine line between sleep and lucidity. In this painting, the woman is asleep, in the midst of her nightmare. An incubus sits on her body and there’s a horse in the background. There’s little differentiation between reality and the dream. The woman’s figure is abnormally long and she’s almost falling off the bed, her head hanging lifelessly, exposing her neck. She’s wearing white, the color of innocence, yet there’s almost an erotic quality to her pose and the flush of her cheeks. She is powerless, unable to stop the nightmare, the incubus, or the horse. She’s a victim.”

I gesture towards the painting. “The incubus sits atop her stomach and he really is a gruesome figure. In myth, the incubus is a male demon that lies upon women and have sexual intercourse with them. Sometimes they are depicted as beautiful and captivating creatures but here, Fuseli really represents them for what they are. They are manipulating, vicious, and truly frightening.”

Edward took in the painting with a long, hard look before he growled and stalked out of the gallery. He was gone before I could even protest or apologize and I simply stood there, blinking in confusion before Carlisle smiled at me and began to voice his apologies. Dimly, I heard his excuses but I could not forget the way his eyes burned into the painting and the look he gave me before he left.

For a second, I felt just as powerless, unable to stop the nightmare – like a victim and he was the incubus, the hunter and I the prey.

-*-