"Living is anxiety and pain. It's continuing to think, continuing to choose." –Alcor, Devil Survivor


She stepped into his office with bated breath, her eyes slowly glancing up only to see him typing away at his computer, Jasper by his side. Jasper looked up as she entered, giving her a polite nod, while Edward simply said, "Tomorrow's itinerary."

She cleared her throat once, a weird feeling coming over her…his ignorance made her feel insignificant, it was like a thousand pins were pricking at her from the inside. She took a deep breath.

His eyes lifted towards her and her breath caught in her throat. She opened her mouth to respond but nothing was coming out.

"Is there a problem?" he raised his brow impatiently.

"No" she spoke quickly moving forward pulling out her notepad shaking slightly. She was rattled at his indifference, growing more and more angry each second at how flustered she was when he was as cool as ice.

She cleared her throat before starting to list out all the arrangements.

Jasper raised his hand and she glanced at him, smiling slightly at how innocent he looked.

"Yes?"

"Will everyone be required to wear a mask?"

"Yes," she spoke.

"You approved this?" Jasper asked Edward who suddenly looked irritated.

"Yes. The Head of Marketing gave me an in-depth explanation on the metaphor of 'everyone's the same, hiding behind a mask, treat everyone with respect'." He coughed once. Bella was amused at how much he spoke, it was the first time she heard him act like a normal human being. Jasper's presence seemed to create a buffer of comfort for him. Like a soothing balm against the burn of her company.

She had thought it was a stroke of genius on her part coming up with a masquerade. Jess had thwarted that quickly by assuring her that it was a 'lovely idea but used everywhere'. Nevertheless it was approved and matched the theme of human rights somehow…She now knew why Jessica was head of marketing.

"Will you be wearing a mask, Edward?" Jasper finally cracked a small smile, it seemed Robo-Jazz had blood running through his veins.

Edward glanced at her once before looking back at Jasper. "I will not"

"What?" She spoke suddenly, all that hard work for him to be ruining it by being his usual pompous self?

"You can't do that, it'll ruin everything!" she raised her voice.

"I will not be adhering to this foolery." he simply stated.

"So you're not attending?" she questioned boldly.

"I will attend. But as myself"

"That won't work. Everyone is paired up, that's how the auctioning system needs us to be!" she was trying every trick in the book to no avail.

"I will do as I please, I didn't hire you to question me," he glared at her, and for a second she thought she would burn to the ground from the heat emanating from his eyes. Ashes dispersing into the wind like she never existed.

"Miss Swan, do you have a date?" Jasper interrupted their tirade with an empty look.

"I um-" she glanced at Edward who seemed to be concentrating on his work. But somehow his head was tilted slightly upwards, as if he couldn't help but listen in. "I do not"

"Well would you like to go as my date? I have a hard time socialising because of Edwards' schedule." Jasper asked, an odd look forming on his usually blank face.

"I.." she couldn't help but glance at the other man in the room, whose face seemed to take the shape of a dark cloud.

"I would love to," she looked back at Jasper. If he was going to ignore her, so was she.

"Great then-"

"If you're done I'd like you to go and do your work," Edward looked up at her, an unpleasant emotion filling his eyes. She flinched at the hatred she saw behind them. It was crushing, palpable.

She nodded once at Jasper, promising to talk later, before walking out without a glance towards Edward Cullen.

—-

The sun broke out into a brilliant mix of oranges and reds as Bella stepped out of her bus, determined to make today the best party she ever threw. She was nervous beyond belief considering this was the only party she ever threw. She was determined to prove her worth.

The morning went in a blur, everyone ran to her packed with questions, some she had no answers to, some she fixed right away and some increased her headache. Her eyes flitted around the massive ballroom, decorated to near perfection, her eyes watered suddenly, the massive room, this room full of rich and accomplished people will be here and enjoy it because of her efforts. The water in her eyes burned as she choked up, gulping down air, she felt important standing in that large room, her frame minute.

"Bella", Angela jostled her as she looked sideways, "I need you to go and pick up suit and take it to him," she spewed quickly as her eyes ran over a notepad scribbled with information.

She closed her eyes for a short second. She had found a newfound hatred for him after he coolly dismissed after rescuing her at the club…well more like kidnapping. She sometimes wondered if there was something down there beneath the facade, she lay awake some nights thinking of his careful hold on her that night she was drunk, she thought of his burning gaze that never seemed to leave her. People said there was a thin line between love and hatred. She scoffed at herself as she took the lift to his office, she was so starved of affection that the man who was blackmailing her looked appealing for a second.

She steeled herself before entering, placing the heavy suit on the sofa before looking around, the office was empty but her eyes landed on a photograph hidden under a book. She reached out to touch it, only seeing a familiar shade of off-white.

"Is Jasper coming to get you?" a voice startled her suddenly and she leaned back, cheeks burning. She took a deep breath, turning around to see Edward, a nonchalant expression on his face.

"I'm here", another voice came from beside her, and an arm came around her shoulders. Jasper was smiling slightly, eyes gleaming his face was towards Edward, they scrutinised each other as Bella stood awkwardly like a deer in the headlights.

"I've got your dress," Jasper lifted a bag up at Bella, looking down at her, she looked between him and Edward as she smiled slightly, taking the bag from him. She had planned to wear a cheap dress she had window shopped a few months ago, but she was so grateful for Jaspers kindness that she smiled brightly, giving him a side hug.

"Thank you, Jasper, I'll return it just like it is".

"No Bella, it's yours. Think of it as a welcome gift." He smiled slightly before glancing surreptitiously at Edward, who seemed to have gone eerily impassive.

"Aren't you hosting? Why are you not preparing? There's no time for such nonsense," Edward spoke angrily as he crossed back around his desk, refusing to look up and thrusting the paper around.

"You're hosting?" asked Bella as she looked towards Jasper confused. "But you're so quiet…"

Jasper simply smiled, "I can turn it on for the audience"

She felt a quick heartbreak at his phrase. She knew how that felt all too well. To be able to pretend like your life isn't falling apart or that you're in constant misery is a skill. She was suddenly excited to see Jasper's charismatic self.

"Also, Jessica is co-hosting" he spoke before exiting swiftly.

Ah, that made more sense she thought, smirking in amusement. Jess would definitely be doing most of the speaking.

"Miss Swan I'd like to run a few things by you, please take a seat," Edward spoke swiftly as she took in a deep breath and sat before him. Her eyes tried hard to adjust to the harsh sunlight in the room. He somehow had left the curtains open and the glass wall did nothing to shield her from the glare. She decided not to voice her discomfort. She knew she was not going to be heard.

"Sure what do you need?" she asked as he typed away at the computer. Today his tie was a dark purple, a shade between violet and crimson. It stood out starkly against his pale skin.

"Go over the emergency measures." he spoke hardly as he lifted a small remote. The room was suddenly bathed in darkness as the glass wall suddenly became a tinted shade of green. She marvelled at the mechanics. As she went through his demands her voice turned parched. She tried not to focus on his face, bathed only in the warm light of his desk lamp. This moment felt oddly intimate, like she was at a candle light dinner.

"Lift up your seat, it feels like i'm talking to a child," he interrupted, with a hard tone. She blinked twice and before she knew it he was at her side, she was utterly still as he stood to her right twisting around to pump up the stool, his breath against her neck. She gulped and tried hard not to show any visual change. Gripping the stool tightly.

After what felt like a millennium, he rose, pausing for a minute and she dared not look up, he retired to his seat and she let out a puff of air she was holding. No matter how much she hated this man her body was never under her control around him.

She gathered her thoughts and spewed out all the information she had memorised. She was determined to not make a fool of herself. Everything was perfect, she was saying all the right things as he nodded. That angry look on his face wasn't so angry anymore.

It was as if the universe didn't want her to be happy ten seconds later her stomach rumbled for the second time. Mr. Cullen seemed to ignore it.

What a psycho. She thought about his lack of empathy.

Her belief was firm and his actions proved it every day. With this recent memory of him being a cold bastard she could finally put to rest her betraying body and mind, screaming for a glimpse, so very curious. She would not be anymore, she nodded her head in triumph as she sat down at her desk an hour later, only to find a sandwich, an apple and what looked like a cold bottle of juice sitting in front of her.