So I wrote this last year, then pulled it due to being in a super low place with seasonal depression and grief and just yeah. Blah. Now I'm feeling like a dummy for pulling it when I should've just left it up, but it is what it is.

I had only posted 11 chapters on FFn, so I'm going to post daily until we hit that. If you read this when it originally posted, chapter 12 will be new stuff for you.

Hopefully, some of you will join me on this story again! If not, I totally get it. This won't interrupt my posting The Way I Wanted by any means, so no worries there.

Thanks to the lovely ladies to pre-read last year, and to Lizzie Paige for the amazing banner! :3


"Bella? Bella!"

The voice of my boss, Jane, sounds throughout the office, and I scramble from my desk to rush over to her door.

Working as an assistant to the editor of the online sports magazine, Swoosh, is rewarding.

It's also grueling, demeaning, and a pain in my fucking ass.

Referring to myself as an assistant is being generous, though. Puppet might be a better word. If I were being dramatic, I might refer to myself as a servant. Victim sometimes works, too—


"Yes?" I stand tall in Jane's doorway. I blink. I smile.

She stares impatiently at me. It's late—just after nine o'clock at night. We're the only two left on this floor.

"Well?" she prompts.

"Well…" I echo. I fucking hate this game. The one where I'm supposed to read her mind when I am not, in fact, a mind reader.

"Where's my dinner?"

"Your dinner? You said you didn't want—" The look on her face lets me know what she said hours ago no longer applies. Obviously. "What would you like?"

Her attention is off of me now and on her computer screen. "Order from that place up the street. The one that has the crispy egg rolls that I like."

"Right. I know exactly which one you're talking about."

I have absolutely no idea which one she's talking about.

"But I don't want egg rolls," she says before I turn away.

Of course, she doesn't.

"What would you like?" I ask again.

"Something healthy. I need to fit into my dress for New Year's Eve. Speaking of, did you decline the invite to my sister's party?"

"Yes," I reply, knowing I finally did something right.

"Reach out, and tell her I can go now."

"Of course. Great." This is the fourth time I've reached out to change the answer to the RSVP. "What would you like me to order for your dinner?"

She inspects her nails. "Something healthy," she says again.

Something healthy from a Chinese restaurant? My mind goes blank. Everything is doused in sauce and sodium. But Jane knows this. This is just another one of her tests, and if I pass, she'll eventually promote me.

This assistant job was the only available position a year ago, which is why I applied for it. Working for Swoosh long-term doesn't interest me, but once my foot is in the door with the company, it'll be easier for me to snag my dream job writing for the women's magazine, Glow. Their lifestyle column is what interests me the most. I want to write about real things. Feelings and ideas and grief and love. If I do eventually get promoted as a journalist for Swoosh, I just have to spend a year writing sports articles and proving myself before I can weasel my way into writing for Glow.

After that, my life will fall into place. I'll live happily ever after, and all of my student loans will disappear because that's what happens to good people. You put up with shit, and it's eventually worth it.

I think.

At least, that's what I heard happened with Jane's last assistant, Emily. Not all the crap about student loans and a happily ever after, but Emily's end goal wasn't to work for Swoosh, either. There wasn't even a journalist gig available at the time, but Jane worked some magic, and now Emily's living her best life writing for Glow and has her own assistant to torture.

It's the dream, really. The writing gig, I mean. Not having another human to torture.

Jane's looking at me with a blank stare.



Healthy food.

"Would you rather I just order from the vegan restaurant across the street?" I offer, gritting my teeth together in a smile.

Please, I beg internally, make my life easier.

"No," she says simply. "If I wanted to order from the vegan restaurant, I would've asked for it."

"Right. Okay."

I nod and walk slowly out of her office. When I round the corner and she can no longer see me, I break into a run toward the elevator. As I wait for it, I search Google Maps for nearby Chinese restaurants. Nothing in a five-mile radius shows up, which is not fucking cool. I know there used to be a restaurant over here. It was definitely—

"Another late night?"

I hadn't realized the elevator doors had opened and Edward is standing there. He's a delicious, disheveled mess with his sleeves rolled up and his hair a wreck. His navy wool coat hangs over his arm, and a brown leather messenger bag hangs from his shoulder.

"Shh!" I push him back in, and the elevator doors close as I press the button for the lobby.

"Jesus, what?" He laughs, undoing the top button of his collared shirt. "Did you just rob the place? Sometimes you give me klepto vibes, Swan."

"Don't let Jane hear you," I whisper harshly.

"She couldn't hear me. I was speaking low. Almost seductively. You weren't turned on, were you?"

"In your dreams." I frantically type on my phone. "I don't want her to know we're friends. She'll use it against me somehow. She completely loathes junior journalists."

"Isn't that what you're hoping to become?"

"Correction: she loathes male junior journalists." I look up from my phone. "Males in general, really."

"Hey," he brightens, ignoring my dig at his gender. "Did you finally refer to us as friends?"

"Yeah, sure. Friends. Pals. Comrades who bond over their mutual torture. Whatever you want to call it."

"Our mutual torture being…"


"Ah, got it." He leans over to peek at my phone. "What's going on?"

I look at him, tilting my phone out of his nosy view. "I need to find that Chinese restaurant, the one with the good egg rolls, but I need to order something healthy."

"Watching your figure?" he teases.

I flip him off. "I like my body just the way it is, thank you very much."

"Me too," he agrees, and I quirk a brow at him. "Objectively speaking."

His cheeks turn a little pink, and I smile.

"How sweet. You find me objectively attractive. Just what every girl wants to hear."

He pulls on the back of his neck. "I shouldn't have commented on your body. Sorry."

"Whatever. It's fine." I press the lobby button again as if that'll make the elevator move faster. "The food is for Jane, not me. I already ate dinner. A frozen entree that had to be reheated four times because I didn't have time to eat. It eventually tasted like cardboard."

"Spoiler alert, those things taste like cardboard after the first microwave," he says dryly. "Also, the good Chinese place shut down a month ago. And it's after nine, so most places Jane will tolerate are closed around here."

"Fuck," I groan, kicking the elevator doors.

"That'll show 'em."

The doors I just assaulted open, and I rush through the lobby and out the sliding glass doors, realizing too late that I forgot my jacket upstairs. It's freezing out, but if I run fast enough, I can probably warm up. There has to be something open.

Edward stands next to me on the sidewalk, watching skeptically.

"Do you want my jacket?" he asks, and I eye it.

It's wool and worn and so him.

If I put on his coat, I'll never take it off.

"I'm good," I say. "Thanks."

Reluctantly, he pulls on his coat. "Look, just order from the vegan place across the street. Call in an order of steamed rice and veggies."

"Great idea. But they're closed."

"Only as of fifteen minutes ago. If you mention my name, they'll do it for you."


"I have packets of soy sauce in a drawer upstairs. Chopsticks, too. Jane will never know it wasn't from the Chinese place."

"Lifesaver," I breathe. I almost want to hug him.

"I was the assistant to an asshole for three years, remember? Sometimes you have to think outside the styrofoam box."

I balk at the thought of being in this position for three years.

"I owe you, Cullen."

He just grins in response. "Make it up to me by going to the company holiday party next week."

"Okay, I don't owe you that much."

"Free booze, office gossip, and mediocre catered food? What more could you want, Swan?"

"My bed, a bottle of wine, and trash TV for starters."

He gives me a look. It's a rather cute one, too, despite the condescending expression that lingers beneath the surface.

"Live a little," he says.

"I am. I do! I already have plans that day. A date. With someone."

"You have a date on Christmas Eve Eve," he deadpans.

"Yeah, so what? It's not like it's on Christmas Eve."

He's not buying it. "Why didn't you say something before?"

"I forgot. I've been under a lot of stress." It's not a lie. This time of year fucking sucks.

He eyes me. "Are you making this guy up?"

"No." This time it's a lie.

"What's his name?"


"What are y'all gonna do?"

"Go bowling."

"What dating app did you use?"



"Gruber?" He barks out a laugh. "Never heard of that one before."

"It's new?"

"You're fucking lying, Swan. Give it up."

"Ugh," I groan. "I was thinking of Grindr and Uber, and accidentally said Gruber."

He's still laughing. "Yeah, I put that together."

"I don't want to go to the holiday party. I hate everyone we work with."

"Me too. That's why it'll be fun to get drunk and talk shit about them."

"Fine, whatever. I'll go."

He smiles. "Really?"

"I was gonna go all along—I just wanted to hear you beg for it. It's fun."

"Not cool."

"I know." I grin. "Wait, why are you here so late?"

"I was waiting for you. You didn't come by to annoy me today so I wasn't sure what was going on."

Edward works on the floor below me, with the other journal journalists who write for Swoosh. I realize now that he was going up in the elevator instead of going down.

He was coming to see me.

Whenever we interact during work hours, I always go to him. And anytime we're both here after hours, it's his floor we hang out on mostly because Jane would raise an eyebrow with him hanging around.

"Awww." I say it jokingly, but his gesture does make my stomach flip. "Why were you waiting for me?"

"I was feeling nice, I guess. It's late. Didn't want you to walk home alone."

"You're gonna make some woman happy one day, Cullen, you know that?" He rolls his eyes, but I'm being serious. "I'll be here for at least another hour. Go." I wave him off. "Live your life. Be free." He turns to leave, and I yank the back of his coat to keep him in place. "Wait. But I do need that soy sauce and the chopsticks."

He laughs. "I got you."

Edward heads inside to grab the goods, and I step into the lobby to stay warm while I call the vegan restaurant. The line rings and rings and goes to an automated voicemail. So, I hang up and call again. I can see the lights are still on across the street, so I know they're still there, even if I can't see anyone inside.

"Answer, you fuckers, I can see—"

"Turnip the Beet, us fuckers are closed right now." An irritated female voice sounds in my ear.

I laugh nervously into the phone.

"Hi. Sorry. Um, I was told by Edward Cullen that if I called in and mentioned his name you'd be able to throw some food together for me?"

The line is silent and then I hear a long sigh. "What do you need?"

"Steamed rice and veggies?"

"Easy enough. Come by in ten minutes."

"Really?" I wasn't expecting this to work.

"Really," she says flatly.

"Thank you so much. And sorry again for calling y'all fuck—"

She hangs up.

But that's fine.

Moments later, Edward walks out of the elevator and hands over the chopsticks and soy sauce. He even throws in some unopened fortune cookies.

"Damn, you're just all kinds of prepared," I muse.

"You sure you don't want to walk home together?" he offers. "Can get a little rough out here at night."

"I'll be fine."

"I'm not worried about you. I'm worried about me."

"You're such an idiot." I laugh, shaking my head. "Hey, can I ask you something?"

"Go for it."

The smallest twinge of jealousy ignites when I ask, "Who are you fucking at the vegan restaurant?"

He barks out a laugh, glancing across the street. "Way to beat around the bush."

"No, apparently that's what you're doing," I say with mock sweetness.

He scoffs, pretending to be offended. "If you must know, my sister owns it."

"Huh, okay. Not as scandalous as I thought."

"But I mean, there is someone who works in the kitchen that I went out with a few times."

Instead of asking for details I don't need I say, "I didn't know your sister owned Turnip the Beet."

"Why would you? It never came up."

"I've seen you nearly five days a week for the last year. You didn't think to mention that your sister owned the restaurant across the road?"

"No. I didn't. It's kind of embarrassing actually."


"She picked the worst name ever. It honestly caused strife in my family."

I laugh. Loudly. "A pun caused strife in your family?"

"Laugh it up, but this is bringing up a lot of unresolved trauma for me," he says with a grin, so I know he's fucking with me.

"Oh, there, there." I pat his back, and he chuckles. "You poor thing."

My phone dings with a text.

Jane: Food?


"Okay. I need to go see if my order's ready. And then, run back upstairs, go over edits with Jane, cross my fingers that she lets us out before ten, and then go home and cry myself to sleep."

"Sounds like a solid plan."


He hesitates. "If you want to come over after you get off, let me know."

"Oh! I didn't realize people were meeting up tonight."

A beat passes before he says, "They're not. I was just inviting you over to my place."


We've never done that before. Every time we've hung out after work, it's been at other people's places or bars. Of course, we always end up alone somehow, lost in tipsy conversation. Sometimes it's light and playful. Other times it's deeper. But those times we spend together aren't the same as being alone behind closed doors.

It's tempting to take him up on his offer because I'm nosy as fuck and want to check out his place.

"Might be kind of late," I say.

"Just text me. I have alcohol, pumpkin pie, and—"

I bring a finger to his mouth. "Say no more. I'll see you in a bit."