Speed Dating

Bella Swan had finished law school and joined her closest friends in New York, just as they'd always planned. They each had their own pursuits, but they shared one dream…Moving to New York and living their dreams. When they agreed to accompany their friend, Angela, to an old-school, speed dating event, they were all skeptical. That was until a cute bartender stepped up and mesmerized Bella more than she'd ever anticipated. He was gorgeous, and she was smitten. When the rest of his secrets were shared, she was blown away.

Rated M. Language, lemons, and lessons learned. Cannon-ish couples. Angst, turmoil, love. How could you resist?

##

Okay, so this one has been in my head for a while, and I'm sure some of you will like it and some of you will hate it. If you hate it, please just dump it because I don't want the nastiness that comes from haters. If you love it, please let me know.

SMeyers owns the characters, and I've been playing with them, yet again. No infringement.

\\\

Chapter 1. The Beginning.

"Why are we doing this, again? Didn't this go out as soon as Match and e-Harmony came on the scene?" Rosalie was complaining, and I was right there in her camp. It was a ridiculous endeavor, to say the least, but we were standing at the bar waiting to be directed to our seats by the flamboyant moderator of the event. It was a Monday night which should tell you everything you need to know about the probability of a positive outcome.

"I'm writing an article on it for the 'City Paper'. That guy, Eric Amasening is bringing it back, and he's got a friend who works at the paper. Come on, this is my first solo article, so please stick with this? You four are my posse, and we stick together, right?" Angela reminded as she slurped the remainder of her drink, placing her glass on the bar and ordering another round from the extremely hot bartender.

He was six-foot-plus of heaven, and after I looked at the men walking around the bar, he was best thing they had to offer that night.

"Here we are. A Cosmo. A Jack and diet. A vodka tonic with lime. A Bee's Knees, and a SoCo rocks with a lime. Anything else?" he asked as he placed our drinks on the bar.

"Your number would make this whole night worthwhile," Jessica replied as she took her Bee's Knees, whatever the fuck that was.

I grabbed my vodka tonic and turned to the room, surveying it carefully.

Okay, maybe I hadn't had a legitimate date for a while, but hell. The guys I saw meandering around the room tended to make me think my celibacy was the best idea in the world.

"Sorry, ladies, it's verboten for me to hit on the participants of a speed dating event. If you don't find your particular Prince Charming, come back and we can talk," tall, hunky, and definitely oozing sexy commented with a wink to none of us in particular. Obviously, he was used to these events, and I'd be willing to bet my fallopian tubes he was independently wealthy from tips alone.

We heard a bell ring…like the kind at an unattended counter…calling the horrible affair to order.

"Welcome, everyone! I'm so happy we have such a great turnout. Unfortunately, we're short a few gentlemen, so here's how we'll improvise. There are fifteen women and ten men, so five women will have a round without a date. You'll meet every guy, but you'll have a round without a guy. Any volunteers?"

Rosalie, Alice, Jessica, Angela, and I raised our hands at the same time. Angela mumbled it would give her an opportunity to take notes, and when the rest of us looked around at the palpable desperation in the room, we looked at it as a potentially, much-needed, break in what I was sure would be a boring night.

"Thank you, ladies. If you'll put a crimp in the cards, I'll call the round when you sit out. Take seats behind your name placards, and let's get started."

I found my name between two women I didn't know. We greeted each other, both of which appeared to be sizing me up for a pair of cement shoes. Yep, the desperation was as thick as the make-up on the redhead to my left.

Drinks were delivered to the women, and when the bell rang again, the men took their seats. I looked at the guy across from me, finding him so completely not my type I wanted to laugh. The open-necked black shirt which had two buttons opened with the gold chain in place against more chest hair than was acceptable in public was my first clue.

"Hi, I'm Bella." I extended my hand to shake, but the "Situation" wannabe kissed it with a smarmy smile.

"Oh, yes you are. I'm Aro. It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm a thirty-year old Pisces. I work at a premium men's clothing store, as you can probably tell. I live in Brooklyn Heights. I don't smoke. I drink socially. I work out, as you can see for yourself. I have dinner with my parents every Sunday, and I think you're gorgeous, just as your name suggests." Aaaand he was completely cheesy.

Well, that was a lot to take in. I didn't have time to dissect it because he asked me about myself.

"I, uh, I'm twenty-five. I just graduated from law school at Dartmouth and moved to the city about a month ago. I actually do smoke, and I don't work out. My parents are divorced, and I'm not close to either of them. I have an older brother, but we're not close at all. Do you have siblings?" I was sure it would definitely turn him off, so I went with it.

"I have four sisters and two brothers. I'm close to my family. Any girl I become involved with would be expected to meet my family and spend time with them. So, a lawyer? That's a pretty busy profession," he observed as he stared at my chest, the ass.

"Yes, it is will be, if I can get a job. I don't know how much time I'd be able to commit to a relationship because I'm determined to put my career first, but you know, it's nice to meet people." I could see him cringe at me and look around, waiting for that damn bell as much as me.

When it dinged, he picked up his cards without giving me one, and walked away. Thank the good Lord.

Over the next thirty-six minutes, I met a very cute teacher (I was sure he was gay, but he was teaching at a parochial school, so I couldn't blame him for searching for a beard), a Wall Street stockbroker (complete dick, only to be outdone by Aro), a bike messenger/dancer (nice guy, but a little on the too-fit side for me), a musician (very promising, but he kept looking at Alice who was seated two chairs down on my right), and an orthopedic surgeon (a real cutie, but definitely someone I could only be friends with because I was sure the man could crush me with his thumb). I had no chemistry with any of them, so when my blank came up, I sat back and watched my friends endure the hell I'd just experienced.

Angela seemed to be having a delightful discussion with the teacher, which surprised me. Rosalie was talking to the doctor and appeared quite happy. Jess was talking to the broker guy, and she was just about to jump the table and climb him. Alice was talking to the musician, and it didn't appear he was willing to give up the chair, which made me laugh.

Just as I was making my astute observations, there was another drink in front of me and a very attractive ass in the chair across from me. It was the hunky bartender, and he had a huge smile on his face. "What, um, what are you doing…" It was no wonder I was single. A stammering idiot wasn't generally attractive to the male of the species.

"Eh, you have six minutes free, and I'm guessing after the loser parade, you'd appreciate a decent guy to talk to. So, from what I've been able to gather, you're Bella, a twenty-five year old, almost lawyer, who doesn't like pets, music, movies, finance, your own family, or puppets of any kind. Does that sum it up?" He was laughing as he crossed his arms over his broad, attractive chest. I laughed along with him because the last guy I'd talked with mentioned "Muppets Take Manhattan" was his favorite movie of all time. My response was that puppets of any kind scared the bejeesus out of me.

"I'm a Virgo," I added, remembering Aro.

"I have no fucking idea what I am, astrologically. I have a dirty mouth. I'm thirty-eight, and I own this bar. The flamboyant organizer of this affair is my little brother, Eric, and after this ends, he's going to hit on the teacher. I host this event once a month out of familial obligation, but I get a kick out of watching it all play out.

"I'm single, and I see the only remote competition I'd have for your interests are my two best friends, Jasper, the musician who plays here on Friday and Saturday nights which he's probably already beaten into your friend's head, and Emmett, the doctor who's ready to marry your blonde friend tomorrow. So, will you hang around after this is over?" He was like a rapid fire machine gun, but I was completely intrigued. He seemed to be interested, which surprised the shit out of me, and there was no way in hell I wasn't going to hang around.

"I came with my friends," I responded like a fucking moron.

"Okay." He reached into his pocket, pulled out a dollar bill, and plucked a pen from his shirt placket. He wrote on it and shoved it over the table to me as the bell rang again.

"I'm Edward, by the way." With that, he walked around from table to table taking orders from the women.

I picked up the dollar and saw his name and phone number written on it along with a note.

"I'd like to get to know you better. These clowns won't interest a smart girl like you. If you don't want to stay, call me. Edward."

Before I could even take a breath, a guy sat down with a huge smile on his face. "Hi, I'm Marcus. I'm a lawyer. I have a four-year old son, and I think you're stunning."

I glanced at the bar where Edward was making drinks and saw him squint in my direction. He leaned forward and took in the sight of the man across from me and laughed, giving me a thumbs-down gesture.

"Oh, a four-year old son? That must keep you busy?" Seemed like a safe topic…that was until he went off on his ex-wife explaining in great detail what a horrible, money-grubbing whore she was. That didn't exactly make me warm up to him, and when he handed me a card with his contact information to go with the three others I had, along with the dollar-bill from Edward, he seemed smug and determined I'd contact him because we had a profession in common. I hated to burst his bubble, but…No. Fucking. Way.

After what seemed like an eternity, the bell rang on the final round of hell. I was never so damn happy to hear a bell ring in my life. It wasn't an angel getting its wings…it was me getting a fucking reprieve.

I'd endured ten dates (not counting Edward's little drive-by), and I had five cards and a dollar bill to show for it. I looked around the room and didn't see anyone else with a dollar, which made me pretty damn happy.

"So, now, ladies, if you're interested in spending more time with one of these gentlemen, write your name at the bottom of the card and drop them off. We'll take a break, and I'll circle the room setting Cupid in motion. Please, order another cocktail and enjoy yourselves." With that, he was off, walking from table to table.

When he stopped at mine, I wrote my name on the dollar and handed it to him. "Which one of these asses…Oh, I see. Well, good luck with him. He's not a total asshole." He handed the dollar back to me and moved on.

I walked up to the bar and sat down as Edward the Gorgeous served drinks and waiters carried in appetizers and placed them on a table at the back of the room. It wasn't really a surprise to see all of the guys make a run for the food table. They seemed like the types. Only two didn't…Musician Jasper and Doctor Emmett. They were speaking with Alice and Rosalie, and both of my friends had smiles on their faces.

Jessica had cornered the broker, and Angela was still talking to the teacher. I hoped he wasn't gay because she'd have her heart broken quicker than any of us if she fell for him, only to find out the truth later.

I saw the handsome barkeep in front of me with a smile, so I smiled in return. "Can I have a beer? I'm not really a liquor drinker," I asked. He smiled and walked away, returning quickly with a good old Budweiser.

"My favorite, by the way. Let me make the rounds, and I'll join you. The place is actually closed tonight, so I can sit and have a drink with a beautiful girl." He walked around the room and took orders, quickly filling them before he walked back into the kitchen.

A young guy came out and began mixing drinks as Edward sat down next to me. He looked around and laughed. "What's with your friend in the glasses? She seems pretty shy. That guy, Riley, he's not right for her at all."

"Oh, she's Angela. She's doing an article on speed dating for 'City Paper'. She's a journalist, and you're right, she's really shy. Why so concerned?" Seemed like a good question.

"I've got a buddy who'd be perfect for her. He works at the Times, and he's pretty shy as well which is why he refuses to attend these things. Excuse me for a second." He pulled out his phone and dialed quickly, turning his back to me.

When he turned around a few minutes later, he was laughing. "It's 8:30 on a Monday night, and he's settled in to watch 'Pawn Stars' on the History Channel. He'll be here in a little bit. Can you get her to stay?"

It was one of Angela's favorite shows, so I was pretty sure she'd hang around to meet a fellow enthusiast. "I'll see what I can do," I responded as I rose from the stool and walked over to where the teacher seemed to be trying to extract himself.

"I'd, um, I'll call you," he commented when I approached the two of them. He quickly slipped away, which disappointed her but made me smile.

"He's gay, you know," I informed her quietly, seeing the surprise on her face quickly morphed into disappointment.

"Really?" she sighed miserably. God love her, the woman had no ability to judge men.

"Come have a drink with Edward and me. I think Edward's little brother, our host, has designs on the teacher. We'll find you someone, Ang…let's make sure he's straight though." I felt horrible for her because in my group of close friends, she was the only believer in love at first sight. She wasn't nearly as jaded as the rest of us, and for the life of me, I couldn't understand why she was still single.

I dragged Angela over to the bar and plopped her on a stool between Edward and me. "Edward, this is my good friend, Angela. Ang, this is the owner of the bar, Edward." She shook his hand and began peppering him with questions regarding past experiences with hosting the event, taking notes the whole time. She was thorough if nothing else.

After ten minutes of a rapid-fire Q & A between them, a guy walked up and stood next to Edward. "Okay, Jackass, I'm here. Where's the drink I was promised? I Tivo'd the rest of 'Pawn Stars' to come meet you."

"Oh, you like 'Pawn Stars'? What do you think of the Old Man? He couldn't act his way…" And she was off. Five minutes of discussion over someone named Chumlee, and she traded places with me to sit next to Ben, as I'd come to learn was his name. They were chatting away, and I could see she was quite smitten.

"Aren't you the little matchmaker? So, what are your other talents?" I teased the handsome man as he ordered us two more beers. I was pretty sure one of his talents was seducing unsuspecting females, but I wasn't about to question it. He was gorgeous, and everything I observed about him was intriguing.

"Um, let's see. Oh, I can juggle." He grabbed three limes from behind the bar and proceeded to provide the evidence he could, indeed, juggle. I laughed because it was truly adorable.

When he finished, he yelled, "Seth, head's up." He hurled the limes at the guy behind the bar who dodged them like they were the big red balls from grade school, Edward laughing the whole time.

"You want me to break this up and toss them out?" we heard from behind us. It was Eric, our resident Cupid, and he had a mischievous grin on his face.

Edward turned on the stool and gave his brother an up and down look. "So, the teacher, huh? How's that going to help him keep his job? He's here looking for cover, E. Don't call me tomorrow and tell me he left without a note or a number. It's disturbing on too many levels."

I saw Eric give him an indignant look. "This one's different, and we'll find him a beard. Don't tell Mom yet, please. She calls and wants to meet them immediately, and you know it just doesn't bode well if I go out on one date and ask them to meet my mother. Give me some time, okay?"

"Little brother, I'm in your corner. You want a ride out on Sunday?"

We both saw Eric look at the teacher and smile. "I'll call you, Eddie. Thanks." He walked away after an endearing hug with his brother, and then the gorgeous barman turned his piercing green eyes on me.

"So, Bella…Is that your full name? There's nothing wrong with it, but it sounds like a nickname."

"Isabella Swan. Well, actually, Isabella Marie Swan. I have no siblings. My parents, who I talk to every Sunday, are still married and living in the Pacific Northwest. I'm looking for a job at some firms in town. Never been married, or in a serious relationship for that matter. My specialty is contract law, which is just as thrilling and intriguing as it sounds, and I just moved into a dinky ass apartment in Chelsea with the blonde girl talking to your doctor friend and the tiny girl talking to your musician friend. I'm giving myself six-months to find a job before I throw in the towel and go back to live in my parents' basement and practice law out of the bed of my rusty red pick-up."

It was quite easy to be open with him, though I didn't know why, but it had been a long time since I'd had a decent conversation with a guy who wasn't posturing, and Edward wasn't posturing at all. He was quite lovely and relaxed, which relaxed me as well.

"I own this building and live upstairs. Eric lives in Queens…you don't have to point out the irony to me. I offered to let him stay with me when he moved to Manhattan after he graduated college, but he made some stupid comment about spreading his wings and finding his place in the world. I don't ask too many questions because he's more than willing to share intimate details that have sent me running in all kinds of directions on more than one occasion.

"My parents took him in when he was thirteen. From what I know, he came out to his biological parents, and they kicked him out. My dad worked at Lenox Hill at the time, and when Eric was brought in after a brutal attack, Dad got to know him. He's really a great kid, and it really was a no-brainer for my parents to take him in as a foster kid. They adopted him when he was fifteen. I've known him for eleven years, and it seems like I've known him my whole life. He has a good and loving heart."

I saw him glance at his brother who was leaving with the teacher. He turned around in our direction and smiled, bringing a chuckle from Edward. I could see he loved his brother and accepted him without question. It was quite remarkable.

"So, Isabella, I'm going to throw out most of these people, but I hope you and your friends will stay around for a while. I'm usually closed on Mondays, but I'm not ready to go home yet. Can you hang around?" I nodded, and he rose from the stool next to me, patting my hand before he walked around the room to spread the news it was time to take it somewhere else.

After the place emptied except for four other couples and Seth, the bartender, he shut down a lot of lights and turned on music. I saw him speak to the young guy, and after a fist bump, the kid was gone. The kitchen lights were still on, but Edward didn't seem to care. He sat back down after grabbing us two more beers, and he smiled a glowing smile at me.

"So, you're single? Always single or recently single?" I asked. He was too good a catch to have always been single, especially at thirty-eight.

"Well, now, aren't you astute. Okay, here's the history. Married young. Divorced eight-years ago after eight years of trying to make something more out of a very good friendship, I guess. We still get along well, thankfully, but we had different ideas of what a happy life would be. Being married to someone who was happy to serve food and tend bar wasn't what she wanted for her life, and it was all I've ever wanted to do.

"She wanted to live in California because she's a writer, and I didn't. I enjoy the change of seasons. She's married to a pretty great guy, and they're happy. I have a thirteen-year-old daughter who spends summers with me at my parents' place on Long Island, and she comes for Christmas, but now there's some kid named Taylor in the mix so Vanessa is trying to give me the brush about Christmas this year. I was sure it would happen, but I'm not really ready for it quite yet."

I laughed and squeezed his knee for no reason whatsoever. "Everyone grows up, you know. I remember last Christmas when I told my parents I was moving to New York after graduation. My parents were so pissed off they didn't speak to me for most of the break. They've finally adjusted, and I think they're actually doing better now than they were before I moved to Seattle for undergrad. Letting go has to be hard, but it's what parents are supposed to do, isn't it?"

He seemed to contemplate what I said and smiled. "I guess. I just didn't know I'd become irrelevant when she was thirteen. I thought I'd be her hero for a few more years."

I remembered when my dad was replaced by a kid named Jason. Dad hated him, and as I'd find out later for good reason, but it was the separation he was pushing against. Jason and I both ran on the junior varsity track team, and the Saturday morning practices took place of the fishing trips I took with my father. That was the beginning of the end for my dad, and he didn't fade into it gracefully. I could see Edward was the same kind of guy.

"I remember when it happened with my dad. I was fourteen and running track. Jason was fifteen, and we used to go to practice together. My father wasn't happy about it. He thrashed against it, forbidding me from seeing him, which only made me want to see him more. When it fell apart because Jason was a dick, my dad was right there to pick up the pieces.

"As hard as it might be for you, I'd say let it play out. If your ex-wife is keeping tabs on her, she'll be fine, but you getting pissed about her relationship will only cause her to want to see him more. If he breaks her heart, the way Jason the jackoff broke mine all those years ago, she'll need you."

He laughed a bit and took my hand, kissing my knuckles. "That's very good advice, Miss Swan. I think everyone's ready for a coffee drink. How about you?" I nodded, and he walked into the kitchen.

He came back with a carafe and a smile. "Hey, coffee drinks? Specialties of the house. I can judge your drink of choice just by looking at you." I saw my friends and their new friends step up to the bar and take seats.

Edward set up mugs on the bar and started at the far end. "Name and age, please."

"Alice Brandon, twenty-five."

"Okay, Miss Brandon. Welcome to Irish Eyes. I'd say you're a bit of a chocolate lover, right?"

Alice giggled. "I love chocolate."

He perused the bar and pulled up two bottles of liqueur. One was chocolate and the other was white chocolate, and after he poured whiskey in a mug, he added the liqueur and topped it off with coffee, adding whip and a chocolate drizzle. Alice showed her appreciation by clapping and squirming in her seat. He handed it to her and then poured a shot of Jameson's with a cup of coffee for the musician.

He moved to Rosalie. "Rosalie Hale, twenty-six."

"Welcome. I'm going to guess you're a bit more hardcore than your friends. Let's see…do you like a bit of orange?"

"I'll try anything once," Rose answered, looking at the guy next to her, giving him a wink.

Edward poured her a cup of coffee, topping it off with a shot of Grand Marnier. He took a piece of orange rind, lit it with a lighter, and swept it around the top of the mug. He grated orange zest on top of it and handed it to her.

He poured a shot of Maker's Mark on the rocks for the doctor and pushed it over to him. The doctor laughed and toasted with Rosalie.

Edward moved down to Angela, and I was quite curious as to what he'd come up with for her.

"Angela Weber, twenty-four."

"Miss Weber, welcome to my bar. Let's see. You're not a coffee drinker are you?" She shook her head no. Myself, I was surprised by how spot on he'd been with his predictions to that point.

He walked back to the kitchen and after a few minutes, he came back into the bar with a small pitcher. He poured a shot of clear liquor into a mug, poured what smelled like hot chocolate to fill the rest of it, and then topped it with a bit of whipped crème and a drizzle of something green.

"I know it's not cold out, but it's a peppermint patty. Ben, I'll get you a cup of coffee when the fresh pot's finished," he responded pouring his friend a shot of Jameson.

I looked around and saw Jess had left with the stockbroker, and I laughed. The woman had no reservations about going home with a stranger, and it worried me because she didn't have the best taste, nor track record, with men. She was a friend of ours from high school who, like me, was new to Manhattan, and I'd had to pick her up from more than one one-night-stand even in high school.

"Which brings me to the lovely Miss Swan, twenty-five."

"She'll be twenty-six in about two hours," I heard Rosalie shout. It was September 12, and the next day was my birthday, but I wasn't too keen on celebrating it.

Twenty-six was a strange age to be because I was likely…well if I was lucky…at my quarter life. I'd accomplished a lot, but it seemed like I was missing out on something big. I had no idea what it was, so another birthday brought no great excitement for me….just a sense of impending doom.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, barkeep, what's my drink of choice?" I asked with a smile, hoping he ignored Rosalie's comment.

He reached into the cooler and pulled out another Budweiser, shoving it at me with a smirk. "Am I that easy to read?" I asked as I gladly took it. Their frou-frou drinks really held no interest for me, but I was a bit disappointed he didn't make more of a fuss.

"Not at all. Beer before liquor, never sicker. I certainly don't want you sick, Birthday Girl. I'll be back." He walked into the kitchen again, leaving me with a huge smile on my face as I watched his glorious ass walk away.

Since I had time to kill, I turned to Emmett, the doctor. "So, Dr. Emmett, why do you come to these things? Seems like you wouldn't have a problem meeting women, no offense Rosalie." I could see her getting wound up, and I wasn't going to entertain it.

"I've been friends with Edward and Eric for years, and Eric keeps promising to find me the right girl. Maybe he hit pay dirt this time," Emmett answered as he sipped his drink. Rosalie giggled, which told me he probably wouldn't be going home alone.

I looked down the bar and saw Alice and Jasper in deep conversation, so I chose not to interrupt them. I turned to Ben, who appeared very nervous. Angela wasn't saying anything either.

"So, um, Ben, you work for the Times? Ang graduated near the top of her class at Carter. She's writing for the City Paper until she gets discovered," I prompted with a smile.

He returned my smile with a wink and turned to her. "Get me some writing samples. You graduated Carter? I graduated from Columbia. I think I can help you out."

Maybe I had a little bit of Cupid in me as well. It was nice to see my friends find guys who maybe would be perfect for them. God knew we deserved great guys, having sorted through the rubble of bad boyfriends past.

Edward hadn't come back, and I was beginning to feel like a seventh wheel so I dared to go look for him, seeing him whisking and working around the immaculate kitchen.

"Took you long enough," he stated as he turned to see me walk into the kitchen.

I ignored the comment, though it left me intrigued. I walked over to where he was working and saw batter. "What are you doing? Shouldn't you be throwing them out of your bar so you can go home? It's your day off, isn't it?"

"Yeah, it is, but it's rare I get to make a birthday cake for a beautiful girl. Taste the batter and see if it's missing something." He seemed pretty confident, and I was already pretty hot for him. He didn't need to bake anything for me.

I dipped a pinky in the batter to taste it, finding it was perfect. I could have just eaten it raw.

"Tastes pretty damn good." Oh, and I was sure he would as well.

"Okay, birthday girl. Cupcakes, layer cake, or sheet cake?"

"Baker's choice?" If he was baking me something for my birthday, it seemed he should have a say in it.

"Okay, cupcakes it is. The tins are on the top shelf. Pull two down and the liners are in the bin over there," he responded as he pointed to his left.

I did as he asked, and after he dipped the batter into the twelve tins, there was a little left in the bowl.

"So, would the birthday girl like to lick the bowl?" Oh, the bowl and anything else he was offering.

"Share?" It seemed like a nice compromise.

He slipped the pans in the oven and walked over to where I stood, lifting me onto the stainless table where I'd been watching him. He grabbed the bowl, dipping his index finger inside and gathering a bit of the batter. Without a word, he traced his finger over my lips. I stuck my tongue out to lick it, but he was a lot quicker than me.

His tongue swept over my lips before I could move. I opened my mouth to mingle with his, and the taste was incredible. It was vanilla, chocolate, and a bit of cinnamon. His tongue was soft, and when his hands caressed my neck, I was completely gone. Gone…Gone…Gone.

He pulled away with a sexy grin on his face, and I was barely able to breath. "So, what do you think?"

What did I think? I think I'm about to implode. He had that power over me, damn him.

"It's pretty good, from what I…" I started before he took his finger and swept it through the batter again, this time running it down my neck. He then proceeded to lick it off, which had me breathing pretty damn hard. Never in my life…

"Jesus," I gasped. I hoped it was quiet enough so he didn't hear me, but he laughed a little, so I was pretty sure he had.

After he cleaned the batter off my neck in a very slow fashion which made me very horny, happy, and did I mention horny, he pulled away and looked into my eyes. He was so fucking sure of himself and I was so fucking not sure of anything.

"Sorry. I couldn't help myself. You have a very inviting neck," he whispered as he continued to confirm it with his lips and tongue.

I exhaled and took a chance. "My lips are even more inviting, you know." I dipped my finger in the batter and when he moved up to face me, I glided my finger over his lips as he'd done to me, sweeping my tongue to clean away the batter.

"Where've you been, Bella Swan?" he asked as he pulled away from me with a stunned look on his face.

"Working at a legal clinic in Hanover over the summer, and living in Chelsea while I wait for the results from the bar exam here in New York. They come out in November." It was all I could think to say, and he laughed and kissed me, leaving me completely snookered.

"I don't play games. I've found it's not productive. I'll say what's on my mind, whether you like it or not."

"You might be the only honest guy in New York." It was all I could think to say.

"What if you don't like what I have to say?"

"Maybe I won't like it, but I'll appreciate the fact you're honest. Maybe you won't like what I say either. I have to tell you I've never had anyone make me cupcakes for my birthday."

"It's the first time I've felt compelled to make cupcakes for a girl I've just met on her birthday. What do you want for your life, Bella Swan, soon to be twenty-six?" He was gently stroking my cheek with the back of his fingers, leaving little trails of heat in their path.

He was a beautifully strange man, and he completely swept me off my feet in that moment whether he knew it or not. I didn't think I'd be swept off my feet on September 12, but there I sat, looking into the most gorgeous green eyes I'd ever seen in my life.

I was a foolish girl, and I was risking the worst heartbreak anyone could ever suffer, but after a few hours of conversation, I was falling head over heels in love with Edward. Call me foolish. Call me naïve. Call me stupid. I didn't care.

"I want a man…not a boy with stupid ideas and games regarding feelings. I figure people out pretty fast after meeting them. I can tell if I'm going to be drawn to someone quite quickly, and when I'm not interested at all. I'm not one to waste time on futile relationships. I want someone who will see it as a plus and not me being a bitch. What do you want, Edward Masen?"

\\\

So, what does he want?

Thanks for giving it a shot.

Till next time…xoxo.

(By the way, I've missed you all as well)