Chapter One-Beanie and Beautiful
The autumn air was bitingly crisp against her skin. Her complexion showed her excursion, how long she'd been running in the park that morning. Pale, smooth skin, a genetic gift from her mother, tinged a rose hue along her cheeks and across her nose.
Bella loved running.
The pavement beneath her shoes was brutal due to an old tendon injury. She pushed past the pain and continued well into her next mile. She kept to the same rhythm of the drums in the music from her iPod strapped to her arm. The sound was low, so she'd always be aware of her surroundings. Something her cop father taught her when she was a kid.
Since she moved into the neighborhood the week before, she had little trouble during her runs. It could be because she appeared too absorbed in her routine or maybe it was the taser clipped to her side.
The first time, a very persistent man tried to keep up with her, strike up a conversation, or get too close for comfort; she leveled him a look that clearly said, "Back off." If that didn't work, she'd gaze down to her taser and then his chest, as if gauging just where to hit him.
Worked like a charm.
She saw the curve ahead in the path, there was a new runner in front of her. At least one she hadn't seen before that late afternoon. His pace was even and steady, but the sheen of sweat still too thin. She thought that perhaps he was a newbie, since she hadn't met him yet. By the third day of running in her new neighborhood, she had met all the regulars. The newbie had expensive trainers on, with equally pricey shorts and jacket that looked fresh from the catalog. Unlike her old iPod, his was brand new.
Definitely a newbie, she thought.
He was trim, much taller than her five-five frame, with nice thighs. She found something incredibly appealing about a man with nice ones. It was tough to pinpoint his age, since she couldn't see his face or his hair since it hid beneath a dark beanie. She shrugged, since she didn't care. Age was just a number anyway.
It was then that she realized that her heart was decreasing since the man was a slowpoke. With a few steps to one side, she passed him easily, finding her rhythm again. She noticed when his head popped up from looking at the ground, and she could feel him watching her. There hadn't been time for her to see what he looked like, trying to remember that she wasn't in the market for a new man in her life.
A minute after passing Beanie, she heard his heavy footsteps closing in on her. She sighed, waiting for the inevitable questions she sometimes garnered. It wasn't that she thought she was beautiful. She lacked some of the confidence for that, especially after her last relationship. However, dressed as she was, in leggings and a fitted tank top, she would on occasion have to send creeps on their way. She hated the attention, but it was still too warm to her for sweats and sweatshirt. She liked the cold, and it helped to keep her moving.
"Hey," she heard Beanie say.
She offered a nod and pulled out an ear bud in case he tried to strike up a conversation. It was best not to be rude, and it didn't hurt to have someone else to watch her back while in the park. It was an unspoken agreement with the other regulars, so he would be no different, she hoped.
When she looked over, to offer a smile, she was unprepared for the beauty of his eyes. Bright, nearly glowing green, framed by dark, long lashes that most women would kill to have. She barely managed to control her reaction, her heart racing faster. She waited, but he said nothing and continued to move forward.
From the corner of her eye, she noticed Beanie suddenly smirk. In the space of a second, he passed her, tossing her a smug smile over his shoulder, punctuated with a damn cheeky wink. Her eyes narrowed when she realized he had only said something to slow her down, "Oh the nerve."
For years people said Bella had a competitive streak. She hated to lose and that she always played to win. Of course, her friends would say that, considering she always won them at everything.
All right, not everything, but almost.
She wasn't about to let Beanie out run her. She'd been doing it for too long to let some spoiled rich brat run circles around her. Lifting her chin up, her finger automatically reaching for her iPod to find her favorite song, she picked up her pace. Her long brown hair, secured in a ponytail swished along her shoulders and back as she caught up to the man.
She didn't look at him directly, but she could see his eyes widen as she passed him. Without a look back, she left him in the dust.
"It's a good thing I love the view," he called, his laughter following close behind her. She rolled her eyes, tugging on her ponytail while giving him the finger behind her back. His laughter continued and she couldn't help but smile.
An hour later, she ran in place near a bench as she took a drink of water. Almost a minute later, breathless and panting, Beanie stopped beside her, hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath. She passed him her squeezable water bottle without a word and he smiled as he drank from it greedily, thankfully not putting his mouth on it.
"Same time tomorrow," he said, and Bella caught the taunt in his eyes. "Hey, I'm new to this. You've been running here for what, a week?" She said nothing, but cocked an eyebrow as she ran her eyes down the length of him. "Give me a break. I see a gorgeous woman running in the park from my apartment window, what's a guy to do. I wanted a chance to talk to you."
"So, you buy new running shoes and clothes and take on exercise? Sounds like a lot of work."
Beanie smiled and shrugged. "Things worth doing sometimes are."
She tried to look annoyed. There was no way she'd admit she practically swooned at his words. "I guess we'll see if you can catch up." As she took her reusable bottle from him, she offered him some advice. "Soak in a bath tonight or else you won't be able to run tomorrow."
Edward watched her retreating form, admiring a damn spectacular ass. "Don't I get a name, beautiful?"
She smiled over her shoulder, fucking lovely natural pink lips framing perfect white teeth. "If you make it tomorrow, I'll think about it."
Edward pouted and feigned pain, clutching at his chest. "My manliness has been hit and challenged, but you're on!"
"We'll see, Beanie." Another smile graced her face at the strange name, her eyes on his head. Fuck, he was still wearing that thing.
"It's E—" but he was cut short by an enthusiastic golden retriever on a leash, who barreled right into Edward and sent him spiraling in the air and onto ground.
"And now my pride has been run over," he groaned, grasping for breath. He looked up, hoping that his Beautiful hadn't seen that spectacular dive. No such luck since she was jogging backward, as she laughed once he waved at her. Her whole face lit up, making her irresistible.
God, he wanted her.
"I'm okay," he said mostly to her.
"You're not off the hook," she sang, winking. Of course, she wouldn't give him a break.
As the dog's owner tried to help him up, Edward lost sight of her as she entered a building across the street. How he missed where she lived, he had no clue, but what were the chances they shared an apartment building. Already his mind tried to figure out how to see her again. The following afternoon seemed too far away.
As Edward assured the owner and Fido that he was fine, he decided that he needed to borrow a cup of something from one of his new neighbors. There were only four apartments recently rented out again, one had to be hers. He'd knock on each one until he found her.
"That's not creepy," he muttered to himself, dusting off his shorts. He groaned and settled to make another run at it the next afternoon.
She'd be worth it.
AN: Thanks to my pre-reader/beta Kim :)