"Hey, baby. I'm Isabella Swan. What's your name?"

"H-hi. I'm Edward Cul—OW! Darn it, Ali—AAH!"

"Your name's Masen, not Edward, and Masen Cullen doesn't say "darn it." The tiny bespectacled girl rolled her eyes and went back to work. "Try again."

"My friends call me Masen, but you can call me—DAMMIT!"

"Hmm. That was progress, but next time, say 'fuck.'" Alice brushed off her tweezers and then went in for another hair. "Jeez, you men are such pussies. All this whining over your eyebrows. Imagine if you were getting a Brazilian."

"I still don't see why this is necessary," Edward grumbled. "They weren't that bad."

"You're right. They weren't bad. It was fucking scary. It looked like a hairy caterpillar crawling across your forehead."

"How can you be so mean? I don't think that—FUCKING SHIT, ALICE! Did you just rip out a chunk of my skin?"

"Ha! I knew you could do cuss like a normal person. You just needed the right motivation." She lay down the tweezers and stepped back. "I amaze myself. Check it out."

"Um, I can't."

"Oh! Right. Let me get the contacts."

It took twenty minutes and a lot more swearing, but Edward finally managed to slide in both lenses.

"I have to say, your eyes are absolutely gorgeous. When you've got those thick-assed, horrible plastic glasses on, I don't even notice how pretty and green they are. But now…" She smirked. "Is it gross that I want to lick your eyeballs?"

Edward blanched. "Yes, that's disgusting. Please don't ever say that again."

"No promises. Now, let's go over the plan again. I've put too much effort into this to let you screw it up by bad timing. So, it's nine now…"

"At ten, I go up to the bar and order a drink—"

"What kind?" Alice interrupted.

"Rats, I mean, uh, fuck. You didn't tell me what kind. I'm assuming it's not a wine cooler."

"Hell no! I told you if I ever catch you drinking one of those nasty things again, I will dump it over your head. I'd say go with something like Jack and Coke, but you're such a lightweight. Better stick with a beer. Maybe a Sam Adams or Blue Moon. Just don't you dare make any weird faces."

"Okay, beer. Sam Adams. Got it." He took a deep breath. "Then you'll come in and make a pass at me, but I'll decline."

"Good lord, Edward, what century are you from? I will hit on you, and you will blow me off."

He tried his best but couldn't contain the nervous giggle that squeaked out.

Alice grabbed her short black hair with her fists and yanked. "Ahh! You're killin' me. I mean, I'm good, but I'm not a fucking miracle worker. You can't even hear the word 'blow' without cackling like a 12-year-old? Edward, unless you step up your game in the next ten minutes, we're not even going to bother going down there. Got it? Now do this: say 'tits, ass, pussy."

Edward's eyes widened as heard Alice's words. For a moment, he considered calling the whole thing off, but then he thought about Isabella's dancing brown eyes and her long, silky hair. He pictured her pouty lips and sensuous curves, and just like that, he was filled with resolve.

"Tits, ass, pussy," he repeated, his face indifferent, his eyes locked on Alice's.

"Dick, cock, ballsack." "I want to fuck you, Isabella." "Take off your clothes." "Suck my cock." "I'm gonna come inside your tight pussy."

He said every single one of Alice's phrases without flinching.

"Better," she conceded. "Though, it would probably be best if you didn't say much at all. Pulling off dirty talk during sex without sounding stupid is hard enough when you've had plenty of experience. In your case, well…"

At his stiff nod, Alice moved on. She knew he didn't like to think about the few times he had less-than-stellar sex with a rather mean-spirited girl in his college Literature class. And unfortunately, that was the extent of his experience. It was such a shame; Edward deserved some first-rate lovin'. Hell, if she wasn't ecstatically married, she give the poor man a ride just so he'd have at least one good fuck for his mental spank bank. Which reminded her…

"Did you jerk off like I told you to?" she asked.

"Alice!" he hissed, his ears starting to redden.

"There's no time for modesty here. If you haven't yet, you need to before we leave. It's non-negotiable."

"I did," he answered through gritted teeth.

She nodded in approval. "Good. You'll need to do it again just before her shift is over."

"How the hell am I supposed to do that?" He couldn't believe he was having this conversation with her. Yes, Alice had been his best friend since elementary school, but she was a woman, for god's sake! Then again, he couldn't imagine talking about this sort of thing with Jasper or Emmett, either.

Alice rolled her eyes. "Is that a rhetorical question? Men's room, hand, toilet paper. It's not rocket science." She paused then chuckled. "Okay, maybe it is, but you know what I mean."

Edward just groaned. "I'm not allowed to act like a teenager, but you are?"

"My show, my rules," she smirked. "Seriously though, you don't want to be a rodeo cowboy."

"What?"

"Only give her an eight-second ride before you get off."

Edward dropped his head into his hands. "This is going to be a disaster, isn't it? It's crazy to think that I can pull this off. She's so sexy and young and confident…there's no way she'll go for an ancient sci-fi book nerd like me. Even if I manage to talk to her without making an idiot of myself, she'd never want to…to…do anything…with me."

A not-so-gentle smack across the face stopped his disparaging commentary. Shocked, he lifted a hand to his stinging cheek and gaped at his friend.

She was mad. "There are so many things wrong with what you just said that I hardly know where to begin. Edward, you are not old! Men are in their prime at 30, and since we know Nevada bartenders have to be at least 21, then you two aren't even 10 years apart.

"Also, you're not a nerd, you're a geek, and there's a huge difference. Geeks can be sexy…and dammit, you are! Look into the mirror again and really see yourself."

Edward stared at his reflection while Alice told him exactly how he was to see himself.

"We already talked about your amazing eyes, now check out the hair! All tousled and crazy and just…yum. The best part is that I didn't have to do anything other than keep you from touching a brush and that stupid gel you love so much. Seriously, Edward, you need to lay off the product. Hair is supposed to move when you touch it.

"As far as the rest of you, well…you really are raw male hotness! I can't put it any other way. But you have to be confident enough to let it work for you. The sharp jawline, kissable lips, cut body from your secret side job as a landscaper…trust me, with my minor improvements, you've become a veritable chick magnet!"

"H-how did you know about my job?" he sputtered, ignoring her lavish praise.

Alice snorted. "Please. Did you really think that your brother could give you a job to earn extra money for a Star Trek Convention and not gloat about it?"

"I am going to kill Emmett," growled Edward. "I am going to mess—no. I am going to fuck. him. up. He promised not to say a word to anyone!"

"Relax, Edward. There's no shame in nepotism, even if he's younger than you. Besides, when you score later, you'll have bragging rights for the rest of your life. Emmett will build monuments to your studliness." She winked. "Now, where were we? Ah, yes, you were telling me to go to hell and putting the moves on her instead."

They exchanged a quick glance. Both knew this was the weakest part of their plan. Alice had done her best to coach him on being a suave player, but Edward hadn't been very convincing.

"Listen," she encouraged, "Isabella's forward enough that, once you get her attention, she'll probably do all the work. In fact, I bet you'll be a sight for her sore eyes after all us Trekkers she's had to deal with this week. You just concentrate on making the most of it."

"Right, make the most of it," Edward muttered under his breath in an attempt to psych himself up. "Let her do the work."

"But remember not to get carried away. You've gotta leave the other hotel room by two. If we want to make sure you're at that 7 a.m. meeting in L.A., we can't risk hitting the road any later. We're already counting on not running into any major traffic or me not falling asleep at the wheel and killing us both."

When Edward heard Alice's words, the sheer inanity of what he was about to do struck him for the first time. His priorities were completely out of order.

He had been writing science fiction since high school, and finally, finally one of his stories had been noticed by a publishing company in the L.A. area. He'd received a call yesterday from an assistant of an assistant to one of the acquisition editors. The woman, Ms. Carlton, said his manuscript initially had been rejected, but she felt that, with a few revisions, it had the potential for success. There was a last-minute opening in her boss's schedule on Monday, and she had talked the assistant editor into meeting with Edward during that time. Ms. Carlton would prepare him for the appointment before the workday started, and if Edward could impress the assistant, he would get the opportunity to revise his work for submission to an acquisition editor.

This was it: his big break.

So why in the world wasn't he already in an L.A. hotel, getting a solid night of rest before the undoubtedly stressful day to come? What possessed him to try being something he wasn't to get a girl he'd never see again, and then—should he succeed—have to dash away to a car that would be driven all night by an overgenerous friend?

It was crazy, made no sense, and was so unlike him…which was exactly why Alice pushed him to do it.

Edward had always played it safe in life—with school, his job, his relationships (or lack thereof). He plodded through his workday processing medical insurance claims and made just enough to pay the rent on his single-bedroom apartment. His one and only hobby, form of entertainment…passion…was science fiction, and he dedicated most of his free time to immersion into the subject.

But over the past year, he began to feel something was missing, like he needed more in his life. He had always held onto the dream that someone would take interest in his writing, but eventhat wasn't enough to keep him going any more. His entire day seemed dissatisfying, even when working on a new Star Trek fan fiction or taking part in raging online debates over which TV series was the best.

About six months ago, he decided that his writing—and his life—needed a better source of inspiration. Although he'd always fantasized about attending the huge four-day official Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, the expense of tickets, travel, and hotel accommodations had always been beyond his limited mean. But he felt like it was something he needed to do and so asked Emmett for a job in order to fund the trip.

When Alice found out about his plans, she immediately included herself in them. While not the diehard Trekker that Edward was, she enjoyed watching reruns with him and harbored a serious crush on Patrick Stewart. Also, to help ease Edward's financial burden, she insisted they split the costs of gas and a hotel room.

The first day of the convention was everything that Edward had dreamed it would be. While he hadn't planned on going in costume, Alice surprised him with the black and grey "First Contact" movie uniform with a red command undershirt. She swore she got them at a discount, but even then, he knew those things weren't cheap.

Dressed as Kes, an Ocampa in the Voyager series, Alice tagged along happily as he walked through the Rio Suites Hotel, just taking in all the sights. There were so many events going on—lectures, meet and greets, panels, contests, and, of course, the autograph signing taking place on massively busy vendor floor.

After a whirlwind day, Edward and Alice returned to their room to get ready for an evening party at the hotel's VooDoo Lounge, which was located at the top of the 51-story building and offered spectacular views of the city. Tickets were part of the Gold packages they had purchased, and Alice dictated that he was to escort her.

The woman didn't need an excuse to get dressed up, but she readily took one when available.

Edward had carefully slicked down his hair, donned his thick glasses, and shrugged his only sport coat over his broad shoulders. He wasn't sure whether or not to be happy about the tight fit. It probably counted as a positive that the strenuous landscaping work had filled out his previously gangly frame, but now all his clothes were constricting, and he didn't have money to buy a new wardrobe.

Despite the smallest tickle of self-consciousness, Edward gallantly held out his arm and took Alice to the party. He knew that they were a mismatched pair—she was polished perfection in her new red cocktail dress, his slacks were slightly frayed at the cuff. Still, he resolved to make the most of this escape from his life's tedium.

While the party had been touted as an exclusive event, the VooDoo Lounge teemed with bodies. Edward was a little surprised at the apparent wealth of the other guests—if their expensive clothes and flashy jewelry were any indication—but then again, many geek jobs paid well, and these packages hadn't been cheap.

"I'm going to grab that table," Alice said loudly over the din. "Go get me a Sex on the Beach, would you?" She shoved their complementary drink tickets in his hand and whirled away.

Dutifully, Edward fought his way through the crowd and waited for his turn at the bar. The line was long, and by the time he made it up to the counter, he was lost in a potential plot for another story.

"Hey, hot stuff, how can I serve you tonight?"

Of course he paid no attention to the sultry voice—surely it wasn't addressing him. But when an angular elbow nudged him in the back, he startled out of his reverie.

"Tell her what you want," said a thin, elderly man behind him.

Edward focused his eyes on the figure in front of him and suddenly lost the ability to speak. He was stunned senseless by the beguiling creature who waited for his order with a mischievous smirk on her lips.

"So you're the quiet, brooding type, huh?" she winked at him, causing a severe decrease of blood pressure in his head…well, one of them, anyway.

"Son, if you're not ready, step out of line," complained the old man. Edward let himself be pushed aside as he blinked dazedly at the brown-eyed goddess who was now turning to reach a bottle from the top shelf. A sliver of creamy white skin showed in the space between her tight black pants and the silk vest she wore.

Edward turned and ran before he embarrassed himself in a very obvious way.

By the time he made it back to the table, he had imagined enough naked Emmetts that his problem wasn't quite so prominent.

"Where's my Sex?" Alice griped when she saw his empty hands.

"Oh, darn! That's what it was. I couldn't remember the name. But now I really need to use the restroom, so could you get the drinks for me?"

He was proud of his cover story, but apparently, he didn't sell it well enough. Alice gave him a dubious look.

"Hmm, I guess. What did you want?"

"Uh, cranberry juice is fine."

"Cranberry juice and what?"

Now it was Edward's to wear a puzzled expression. "Um, ice?"

With a light chuckle, she patted him on the shoulder and headed for the line. Edward went to the men's room just to keep up the charade.

The rest of the night was pure torture for him. He did his best to stop his eyes from glancing in her direction, but he slipped more than once. During the few seconds that he gaped before being able to wrench his gaze away, he felt a strange sensation of numbness mixed with vertigo. It was like his brain was spinning inside a body that didn't exist.

It was disconcerting, to say the least.

Despite the implied geekiness of the convention on the whole, the lounge party was quite an elegant affair, and Alice was in her element. The empty seats at their table had been filled by other guests, and she kept up a steady stream of conversation that included everyone at one point or another. Even Edward, in his disoriented state, was drawn into a rousing discussion of television stereotypes.

Finally, around 1 a.m., the party began to wind down, and Alice declared that she was ready to retire for the night. As Edward guided her to one of the exits—which happened to be conveniently located near the bar—he was able to hear some of the gorgeous brunette's conversation as she cleaned up the station.

"The blond guy in the blue suit and tie? Nice catch, Carmen. You coming back to the apartment tonight?"

"Probably not," giggled her friend. "Give me a ring at nine, though, if I'm not in. I want to go to the gym before work. What about you? Did you make plans for later?"

"Nah, I need to sleep. I didn't get much last night. That law student had the endurance of a marathoner, and I'm taking Gianna's lunch shift at The Grille tomorrow."

"Good stamina, huh? You sure can pick 'em, chica…"

Edward's heart beat furiously as he waited for an elevator car. Part of him was crushed that his newly-appointed dream girl seemed to…enjoy herself…on a frequent basis. A more dominant part, however, wondered that if she had no objections to one-night stands, then maybe…

The next day, Alice was agreeable when Edward declared a craving for a burger and suggested they have lunch at the hotel's All-American Bar & Grille. Luck was on his side when the hostess seated them at a table with view of the bar. It was also situated near a large floral arrangement, so when Edward leaned forward on the table, his face could be hidden behind the greenery.

And so Edward surreptitiously watched her again. Isabella, her nametag read. It seemed the smile never left her face during the 45 minutes that he dined. She laughed, she winked, she flirted. She was a playful kitten and a seductive minx all at once. Because of Alice's presence, he could only glance at her out of the corner of his eye, but it seemed she was never without male company. Their interest was obvious, and Edward felt like he was watching a nature show on the mating rituals of wild primates as they metaphorically thumped their chests in attempts to win her affection.

Although, perhaps Isabella was less a prize to be won than she was like an exotic, carnivorous plant—a sun pitcher, to be exact. She lured her smitten, unsuspecting prey close, where they fell and drowned inside her. Edward shifted uncomfortably. It didn't seem such a bad way to go, really.

Saturday proved to be a challenge. He had no idea when, where, or even if she was working that day. He couldn't convince Alice to eat at The Grille again—she wanted to try as many different venues as possible—but he did manage to slip down a few times to see if Isabella was at the bar.

Despite his frequenting of any and all drink stations located in the hotel, he didn't locate her. Edward never had so much liquid in one day. At one point, Alice wondered aloud if he should be checked out for diabetes with his apparent excessive thirst.

Edward knew his infatuation was irrational, pathetic, and rather creepy, but he couldn't control it. He never wanted anything so much in his life before, and he barely knew the girl! The convention and all its wonders had ceased to capture his attention; he feigned excitement only to keep Alice in the dark concerning his strange obsession.

Even when he received the call from the assistant's assistant—an event that should have had him doing cartwheels—his overwhelming emotion was panic. The upcoming appointment served as a reminder of reality, of a world that would exist again when he left Las Vegas the following day.

A world without Isabella.

Alice noticed his uncharacteristic behavior. In fact, she had been aware of his progressively worsening mood throughout the day, and his reaction to the good news confirmed her decision to press for information.

Using almost every tactic and weapon in her formidable arsenal, Alice finally got Edward to confess. At first she was surprised, then she danced a happy dance, and then she schemed.

She conducted reconnaissance and discovered that Isabella would be working in the Lounge's restaurant, the VooDoo Steakhouse, on Sunday from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. Her late working hours made success difficult to achieve, but not impossible.

Edward was prepared as much as possible given the tight time constraints. While Alice loved him for the person he was, she knew he'd have to venture far out of his comfort zone for her plan to work. The first thing she did was give him a new name. Technically, Masen was his name, but it was the middle one, and Alice thought it had a sexy, confident ring to it. She hoped its use would remind him not to give into self-doubt.

Perhaps she needn't have worried so much. Edward embraced her suggestions and tried to comply with every one. He didn't even throw a fit when she demanded to buy contacts, clothes, and shoes for the occasion. He gamely endured getting his hair styled, being plucked, and sticking his fingers in his eyes. His overpowering desire for Isabella had kicked any sense of pride or shame out the window. In fact, if he thought the beautiful bartender wouldn't call the police on him, he'd offer to pay for an hour in bed with her.

"Hey, Masen. Are we doing this or not?"

A quick glance at the bedside alarm clock clued him in on the reason for the question. It was 10:02, and Alice was standing outside of the bathroom door and securing a diamond pendant around her neck. She gave him an encouraging smile and winked.

"Let's get going. It's time."

They were about to enter the final phase of her master plan: the execution.

"Oh, darn. Oh, shit. Oh, goddamn son of a bitch. Oh, fuck." Edward kept up a constant chant under his breath that became more explicit the closer he got to the Lounge.

"My man's got dedication," Alice bragged. "Practicing until the very last second."

"Practicing?" Edward echoed, looking a little green around the edges. "Uh, yeah. That's what I was doing."

Alice stopped and spun on her heel toward him. "You'll be fine! Just play it cool. Look, in this situation, what would Captain Kirk do?"

"Kirk would never be in this situation. He's not afraid of women. Really, really hot women with silky long hair and incredible bodies…" Edward's eyes glazed over as he mentally ogled an image of Isabella. Then he reddened and dropped his chin to his chest.

"Alright, fine!" Alice cried, exasperated. "I give up. I'm going back to the room to try and get an hour or two of sleep before we have to leave. Are you coming with me? If you rest, too, we can take turns driving."

Edward inhaled a long, shaky breath and then let it out forcefully. "You're right. I'm being a dumbass. I'll channel my inner Kirk and get the girl."

She folded her arms against her chest, her expression blazing with challenge. "Prove it, Masen."

The air seemed to crackle around him as he stared back with narrowed eyes. He didn't understand why, but somehow he knew this moment was enormously important. The decision he made had the potential to be life-changing.

His face relaxed into a lazy grin as he reached forward to grab Alice's waist.

"You bet I'll prove it, babe," he planted a kiss on her lips and winked. "See you in twenty."

The atmosphere at the VooDoo Lounge was much more electric than it had been three nights ago. Dim magenta, blue, and black lights provided a seductive glow that seemed to pulse in time with the DJ's music. Through the outside windows, Edward could see the crowded rooftop patio where eager bodies moved and pressed against each other.

By contrast, the indoor portion of the lounge seemed deserted except for a cluster of people in front of the bar. His heart began to race, and upon joining the group of waiting patrons, he slipped his hands in his pockets to dry the dampness from his palms.

As casually as possible, his eyes searched behind the counter for Isabella. He counted three bartenders…she was not among them.

The teeming throng enveloped him the moment he stepped past the door to the patio. Not brushing inappropriately against someone was impossible, so Edward settled for hurrying as fast as he could to reach the outdoor bar. The divide between those waiting to be served and the general milling crowd was indistinct, but he had no time for such trivialities. For once, his experience at remaining inconspicuous proved useful; he dodged and weaved in front of others without their notice.

Once he broke through a particularly dense mass of people, he discovered the area in front of the bar was slightly less congested. Just as Edward maneuvered his way into an open spot at the small counter, a familiar voice addressed him.

"What's your pleasure tonight, sweetie?"

"You." It slipped out automatically. Alice would have been proud.

She tilted her head and arched a perfectly shaped eyebrow. "Oh really? What if I already have plans?"

Her appraising gaze made a quick sweep over his body and then settled on his face. For the briefest of moments, surprise showed in her sparkling brown eyes, and then it was gone.

Edward's thoughts tumbled over themselves. Did she like what she saw? Was she considering his unspoken request or merely toying with him? He couldn't leave tonight without knowing for sure.

"Make new plans. With me."

She laughed. It was somehow both innocent and seductive at the same time, and the sound sent a jolt of desire directly to his groin. He had started getting hard the moment he had seen her, and now his fully stiff dick was trapped in an uncomfortable position. He needed to adjust himself, but there was no chance of doing so without her noticing.

"Maybe. Now, let me rephrase. Can I get you a drink tonight?"

Edward fought to keep confusion out of his expression. What did "maybe" mean? Besides the obvious, of course. Should he keep pursuing her?

"Beer. Sam Adams, please."

"We just have the Lager in bottles out here. If you want it from the tap or the Summer Ale, you'll have to go inside."

"Uh, the Lager's fine."

She reached into a cooler and placed the beer in front of him. Edward was about to take out his wallet when a twenty was laid on the counter.

"You'll open that for him—won't you, dear?" came a haughty voice.

Edward could understand the indignation that flashed in Isabella's eyes, but he saw an undertone of amusement, as well. In any case, he was puzzled why Alice would question such a routine gesture.

A spinning glow caught his eye as Isabella reached into her back pocket and brought out a thin, flat luminescent bar. It twirled in her fingers until it came to an abrupt stop over the lid of the beer bottle. With a provocative smirk, she lifted the bottle in the air using only the bar in her hand and made it dance rapid, yet smooth circles though the air in front and then behind her head. As the bottle came into view on the other side, she trapped it between her neck and shoulder. A flick of her dainty wrist sent the cap flying to the side, and at the moment she released the bottle from its hold, the same hand whipped to the front again and caught the now-falling drink on the flat part of what he now knew was a bottle opener. She extended her arm so that he could take his beer.

Edward nearly came in his pants.

"Thanks," Alice commented dryly, smoothing an extremely tight-fitting silver dress over her hips. Another twenty appeared in her hand, seemingly from nowhere, and she laid it atop the first. "A Cosmo for me."

Unadulterated lust burned through him as Isabella flipped glasses and bottles of liquor around her lithe body. The shimmering blouse she wore highlighted her plentiful curves as she made each deliberate movement, never spilling a drop of liquid, even while twirling an uncovered, half-filled steel shaker in her hand.

A stifled groan escaped his throat when she sensuously squeezed lime juice in the drink. What nearly made him lose it again, however, was the addition of the lemon garnish. Isabella held the rind of the wedge over a lighter and, after a few seconds, a short plume of fire leaped from her fingers. Her eyes found his and never wavered as she drew the rind slowly around the rim of the glass, leaving a glistening trail of moisture. The tip of her tongue peeked out from the corner of her lips, and she pushed the drink to Alice without breaking her smoldering stare.

It was the hardest thing he had ever done, but Edward took the drinks, one in each hand, and turned to Alice. "Let's go find a place to get to know one another." He tilted his head toward Isabella but didn't look at her. "Keep the change, babe."

Alice's eyes widened almost imperceptibly, but that was her only reaction to his deviation from script. She followed him mutely past the dance floor until he located an open spot along the roof parapet. Careful to angle herself with her back to the bar, Alice finally let loose.

"What the fuck, Edward?" she fumed. "Now she probably thinks you're not interested! You've ruined everything. It was obvious how much she wanted you!"

"I think she was just messing with me." He kept a disinterested expression on his face while answering his best friend. The bar was in his line of sight, and he could see Isabella tossing more glasses into the air as she filled another drink order. "Call it a hunch or whatever, but I have a feeling that she prefers a bit of challenge."

"Who are you, and what have you done with Edward?" Alice gasped.

"Edward who?" He smirked. "My name's Masen."

"You rat bastard! You've been holding back on me."

"Hardly. I just really, really want this to happen. I want her."

Alice leaned forward and studied his face. The frenzied light she saw in his eyes made her worry.

"Do you think you might be getting a little too wrapped up in this…in Isabella? You do realize that this is a one-night deal, right? You'll probably never see her again after tonight. Seattle isn't exactly within commuting distance."

"I don't care. It doesn't matter." His jaw tightened, causing Alice to shake her head.

"Just be careful, please. The last thing I want from all this is for you to be hurt." She placed a hand on the side of his face. "I'm going to grab a nap. Two o'clock at front of the hotel. Don't be late, or you'll turn in a pumpkin."

Edward watched as she departed. An odd calm settled over him. Any doubt over his present course of action was gone. Regardless of how the night turned out, he had already succeeded by pushing his boundaries, by breaking his mold. Something in him had changed, and he like the feeling.

Leaning back against the railing, he took a drink of his beer and watched the crowd in front of him. He'd never been to a club, unless one counted Chess Club, and the scene was fascinating to him. Men, women, drinking, dancing, wanting, hoping. Everyone seemed confident and experienced—as if they were seasoned artists performing a well-rehearsed choreography.

The corner of his mouth twitched in a reluctant grin. When he was school age, dances struck him as silly and primitive. He had never been asked to one, but he would have declined, of course. He always envisioned a bunch of awkward animals pawing over each other. Now, he wished his younger self had seen the adolescent social functions for what they were: practice.

"You look like you're ready for another."

A blond-haired woman stood in front of him, holding up a new bottle of Sam Adams. She wore a clingy, low-cut dress that left very little to the imagination. Her appearance did nothing for him, but he accepted the beer with a smile. Even if she might have an easier time of it than he, Edward could appreciate the courage it took to put oneself on the line.

"Thanks," he replied, bending forward at the waist to accept her offering. As he did, a lock of his un-gelled hair fell over his brow. Not used to the sensation, he huffed a bit as he pushed the offending piece back with his hand.

The woman's eyes grew bigger, and then she took a step closer. "Hi, I'm Jane. What's your name?"

"Masen." He was surprised how easily it slipped out of his mouth. "Good to meet you."

"Do you live in Las Vegas, or are you visiting?"

Edward and Alice hadn't discussed him talking with other women, but again, he had no problem fabricating a story on the spot. It didn't matter to him what Jane thought, so there was no pressure. In fact, he was rather enjoying himself.

"I'm in town for business. What about you?"

They chatted while Edward worked on his drink, and then Jane asked him to dance. He would have declined—he'd look ridiculous trying to move to house music—except that the DJ put on a slower song just before he answered. It was barely after eleven, and he had time to kill.

So why not?

One reason for not accepting, which Edward hadn't considered, was that Jane seemed determined to take advantage of the situation. She pressed her body into his and swung her hips seductively across his groin. It wasn't arousing in the slightest and only served to cause chafing.

He tried to create some space between them, but her hands slid down his back and onto his ass. Using him for leverage, she pulled their bodies together again.

The song lasted an eternity, and when it was over, Edward excused himself to the restroom. He needed to let Jane know he wasn't interested, but he had no desire to hurt her feelings. Rejecting someone was not something he had done before—perhaps one of the few positives in being unpopular.

As slowly as possible, Edward washed his wands and dried them. It occurred to him that, according to Alice's plan, he should have relieved himself in more way than one during the trip to the men's room. He snorted at the thought. With Jane waiting for him on the patio, there was no way he could get in the frame of mind to rub one out.

Edward still hadn't come up with a decent let-down when he pushed through the exit door. The dilemma weighed on him so much that he almost missed the soft greeting.

"Hey."

Although the owner of the voice was not immediately visible, he knew it at once.

Isabella stood under a soft blue light, one leg bent with her foot on the wall behind her.

At the sight of her, Edward's heart leaped up into his throat and threatened to cut off his air supply. He could only nod in acknowledgement as he stopped in front of her.

She used the toe of her shoe to push off the wall and shortened the distance between them. That simple movement was all it took for his cock to spring to attention again. He was struck with wonder at the powerful attraction he felt.

"Are you making a night of it with the blond chick?" she asked, barely restrained laughter in her voice.

"No!" he wanted to scream at the top of his lungs.

Instead, he shrugged. "Depends on if I get a better offer." It was his turn to eye her up and down. "Do you have one?"

She reached out and placed a hand on his chest. Edward was somehow able to repress a full-body shudder of desire and flicked his gaze to her hand with a questioning expression.

With her other hand, Isabella curled her finger in a gesture for him to lower his head to hers.

"My place or yours?" she murmured in his ear, her lips brushing against the skin there.

Holy. Shit.

Everything in his brain—his name, where he was, how to breathe—it all left him for one long moment as he struggled to accept the meaning of her words. When he finally realized that what he wanted so much was actually going to happen, he experienced an equal and opposite reaction. His head exploded with a hundred different Edwards, each consumed with a separate worry. What now? How should he act on the way back to the hotel room that Alice had reserved expressly for this purpose? What about when they entered the room? What if she didn't make the first move like Alice suggested? Could he take charge? How long could he hold it together when she got undressed? When he touched her naked body? When he, oh god, pushed his dick inside her?

It was truly a miracle that he didn't pass out from the figurative circles in which his head was spinning. Somehow, even though he was trembling inside, he managed to put his hands on her waist and drag her body across the remaining inches that separated them. When her abdomen pressed against his throbbing erection, he rocked his hips into her.

"I have a room here," he said huskily. "When is your shift over?"

It may have been the product of an overly hopeful imagination, but Edward thought he heard a soft whimper from Isabella before she answered. "I've already clocked out for the night. I'm ready to leave."

They had already walked out of The Lounge when Isabella squeezed the hand of Edward's she was now holding. "Should you've said goodbye to the other girl?"

A moment passed before he figured out what she was talking about. "Yeah, probably." He chuckled. "Honestly, I forgot about her the moment I saw you waiting for me."

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a satisfied smirk playing on her lips. "I have to wonder, though," he mused aloud. "How did you know about Jane?"

"Oh, please. That hag reeked of desperation. She was drooling over you the whole time you were at the bar. I'm surprised it took her as long as it did to buy you a drink." Isabella flipped her hair over her shoulder in dismissal of Jane's attempt. "You looked miserable when you were dancing with her," she commented casually as they entered the elevator.

"So you were watching that, too?" He smiled at her unabashed nod. "I don't want to talk about her, though. I want to hear about you."

"Not much to tell. I live in Las Vegas and work at the Rio."

"And you're a bartender. How did you learn all those different moves? Is there a school or something?"

She chuckled. "Believe it or not, there are. But most of the people that take flair bartending classes are college students wanting to pick up some party tricks. Really, it comes down to hours and hours of practice."

The more she revealed about herself, the more he wanted to know. He was like a starving man at an endless buffet. "What made you want to become a professional bartender?"

"Well, it certainly wasn't my dream career when I was five," she said, laughing. "There wasn't much to do in the small town where I grew up. In high school, most of our parties took place outside around a fire. We'd sit, drink, and burn weird shit. When the guys were really bored, they'd build small fires and put a plastic chair over their own flame. The chairs would start to melt, and then it was a challenge to see who could stay in their seats the longest." She shook her head and laughed again. "Boys. Such dumbasses."

"So you went to these parties, and…?"

"Oh, right. Like I said, there wasn't much to do. I started playing around with cups, glasses, and bottles just to pass the time. In college, I got a job as a bartender to pay the bills."

"What college did you go to?"

"UDub, in Seattle."

"Really? I work…" He stopped. Alice said not to give out any information about himself. "I used to work there a few years ago." He found it difficult to lie outright to her. "What was your major?"

"Fine Arts: Painting and Drawing," she scoffed. "Not the easiest way to make a living, let me tell you. When I graduated, I couldn't find a decent-paying job related to my degree, so it made sense to bartend instead."

Edward had been so absorbed in what she was saying that he thought of nothing else…until the elevators doors opened onto the room's floor. He jammed his hand into the pocket containing the card key and closed his fingers around it as tightly as he could. The pain from the thin edge of the plastic helped keep him from having a panic attack.

"Do you think you'll stick with it? Bartending, I mean." He stopped in front of room 3108 and slid the key into the reader.

Isabella walked through the door he held open for her. "I dunno. I have a good time, and the money's not too bad. I'll do it for another year or two, at least, to build up my savings, then I'll think about if I really want to stay behind a bar or not. Unless I go into management, there's not much room for career progression, you know?" She continued to the king-sized bed and sat on the mattress. "Of course, it's even worse in the art world. I do miss painting, though. My mom told me to snag a rich husband so I could concentrate on my art. She may think that's a practical solution, but she's not exactly an expert on viable marriages." Isabella rolled her eyes and gave him a sheepish smile. "So, what about you? What do you do?"

Standing a few paces in front of her, Edward tensed from the shot of adrenaline that raced through his veins. He had to make a difficult, but quick decision. The digital clock by the bed showed a time of 11:47p.m. Since she wasn't supposed to be off work yet, they were ahead of "the schedule." He could let himself spend a few more minutes in enjoyable conversation, even if what he said wouldn't be the complete truth. Edward still wasn't sure he could stomach telling her bold-faced lies, though. It just seemed wrong.

On the other hand, his current act was just as deceitful. He certainly couldn't expose his real self—an introverted, struggling science fiction writer who worked a low-paying job and had come to the hotel for the Star Trek convention. She'd walk right out the door—and take with her the chance to have what he wanted most.

The risk was too large, and his need was too great.

Edward took a step closer and held out both his hands. Her expression was puzzled only for a moment, and then she let him pull her to her feet. Trembling slightly, he loosened his grip and cupped her face in his hands.

"Instead of telling you what I do, how about we talk about what I'd like to do?" He bent his head down toward hers.

"Yeah?" she breathed, her eyes wide. "What's that?"

He was so, so nervous and felt like running terrified out of the room, but he called on every reserve of inner strength he possessed.

"This."

She must have reached up to meet him; their lips touched much sooner than he expected. He wasn't at all ready for the nearly painful shock of arousal that swelled his dick and caused it to throb. He hadn't prepared himself for the animalistic urge that overwhelmed his senses and demanded he take what was so desperately needed.

He heard a gasp and wondered how the sound could have come from him when his mouth was still closed. Then he realized it was Isabella who was breathing heavily and forcing her tongue past his lips. She put her hands on his chest and clenched his shirt within her fists.

Edward didn't need any more encouragement than that. His rational mind had officially departed his body, and he was acting on instinct alone. There was no room inside him for doubt and insecurity, nor fears and worry. There was only Isabella—her touch, her heat, her scent. All that he could think of was her; she consumed him.

His hands moved to her waist as he guided her backwards. Without breaking their kiss, he lifted her onto the mattress and climbed up beside her. His baser self wanted to tear her clothes off and thrust into her immediately, but he still had enough control to slide his fingers under her thin blouse and caress the soft skin there.

Isabella shivered and grabbed his hips. She tugged at his body in a clear indication of where she wanted him, but he resisted.

"Not yet," he panted in between frantic kisses. "I have so much to do before then."

"Yes," she moaned, pulling even harder. "I've been waiting too long. I want you now."

Although he wasn't sure what she meant by that, it didn't matter. He tore his lips away and sat back on his heels. "No," he repeated. "We're doing this my way."

She gaped at him in astonishment, and honestly, he was also surprised by the declaration. Ever since Isabella first enchanted him, he had been acting uncharacteristically. All of it felt right, however, and he decided that he would never question it again.

"Undo your shirt."

Her eyes still wide and round, she put her fingers on the top button and began to push it through. Edward released his, and they worked in synchrony until Edward finished his extra two buttons. He let the black dress shirt fall off his shoulders, then removed and tossed it on a chair. Isabella sat up to do the same, but he clasped her hands.

"Let me."

She seemed to stop breathing when his thumbs touched the sensitive skin between her breasts as he opened her blouse. With agonizingly slow, deliberate movements he followed the satin curves of her bra up the sides of her chest and then pushed her arms back to slip the sleeves off them.

Before he could free her wrists from the material, he glanced down and saw an opportunity he couldn't pass up. Having her hands bound behind her caused Isabella's breasts to jut outward, straining against her bra and demanding attention.

Edward was very happy to provide it.

He lowered his head to her right nipple and placed his lips over it. Positioning her body for the best angle, she pushed her breast further into his mouth, but he didn't react—didn't close his lips or stroke with his tongue or apply any suction. Simply resting his mouth over the satin, he waited until his warm wetness seeped through material.

Squirming a little and trying to create friction against his lips, Isabella whimpered again. Edward couldn't help but smirk at her frustrated expression. He was thrilled both that she felt that way and that he managed restrain himself enough to cause it.

But he wouldn't tease this part of her any longer. Using the hand not securing her wrists with the shirt, he took hold of the moistened bra cup and drew it down under her breast. The exposed nipple immediately reacted to the cooler temperature and stiffened, making Edward's mouth water as he watched. He needed to taste her skin, immediately. Fastening his lips around her breast again, he gave long, hard pulls, as if he were drawing up a thick milkshake through a tiny straw.

"Oh god!" Isabella cried out, arching her back even more and clenching her thighs together.

Edward had no idea how he did it, but although her sounds made his aching cock weep, he was able to chuckle at her reaction. Of course, he did so with a large mouthful of an extremely sensitive breast, and the resulting vibrations caused her to moan, long and low.

"Please…"

He loosened the hold on her flesh and allowed it to slide from between his lips. "If you insist," he replied, placing a feather-light kiss on the tip of her swollen nipple.

Chest rising and falling rapidly, she stared into his eyes as she was laid down on the bed, hands still held captive behind her back. Edward didn't break their gaze as he moved to the opposite side, and in doing so, transferred the twisted blouse to his free hand. He pulled down the other bra cup.

Isabella expected equal treatment for her left breast, but he had differing ideas. Instead of drawing her nipple into his mouth, he swirled his tongue around the outside of her areola. He did, however, keep the same maddeningly slow pace. He took his time as he sucked on smooth skin, didn't hurry when his tongue traced spirals in between the two mounds, maintained a leisurely tempo while lapping at the crease under her breast where it joined to her torso.

"Please, I can't…I need you…please…" She was writhing now, winding over the comforter and begging for more.

Edward, himself, was extremely uncomfortable and wondered if his dick would bust through his pants if he kept them on much longer. In a swift, spontaneous action, he crushed his lips over hers and ground his erection into her thigh.

"Fuck!" she groaned into his mouth as he held himself up on elbows braced on either side of her head. She moved under him in an effort to align their bodies, not even realizing that her hands were free.

When his cock first rubbed against the apex of her thighs, his arms almost gave out. Even through the layers of material that separated them, he could feel the heat radiating from between her legs. Now it was his turn to swear.

"Fuck! I want you so much…"

The words hadn't finished leaving his lips before they were tearing at each other's clothes. Their shoes, her stockings, his socks, their pants, her bra, his boxer briefs, her oh-so-tiny satin panties. Edward had no idea who took off what, but he figured she removed her own bra or there had been some sort of divine intervention on his behalf—he had never gotten the hang of undoing the damned hooks. Either way, the first thing he did when her breasts were completely free was to capture one in his mouth and the other in his hand.

"No no no," Isabella cried, once again trying to slide her body down the mattress. "I need you inside me."

Then he felt it. A hot, constricting pressure around his shaft. Fuck. She had his dick in her hand, and she was squeezing, tugging, pulling him into her. The tip of his cock glided through her wet slit, and only a Herculean effort restrained him from shoving into her and pounding her sore.

"Wait…" he rasped feebly as the room seemed to spin about him.

Even as the word formed on his lips, his foggy brain couldn't comprehend why he would say such a stupid thing. What could be so important…?

"We have to…stop…" he panted, trying to find some mental mooring to hold onto. "Condom…"

Now her hands were in his hair, wrenching his mouth back to hers.

"I'm good…the Pill…" she gasped against his lips.

It was so hard to understand what she was saying, so difficult to think in the thinned atmosphere of the peak he was climbing.

Her tongue swept a wide arc in his mouth. Double fuck. "Good…yes, but…your others…?"

What he said made no sense to his ears, but after a momentary faltering of her steady rhythm, Isabella replied, kissing harder than ever.

"Always…used condoms…" She pulled away only to take a breath and then dove back into him. "But you…I want to feel…you." Her hips swung, and once again, he was right there, pressed against her entrance.

He knew he shouldn't. He shouldn't stick his unprotected cock in her, no matter how incredible he imagined it would feel. He shouldn't come inside her, regardless of how perfect that release might be. And he shouldn't trust a woman he just met who didn't deny she fucked around, simply because every part of his being believed she wouldn't lie to him.

But, like Captain Picard's nemeses, the Borg, said, resistance was futile.

He pulled back to look into her deep, shadowless brown eyes. "You're sure you want this?"

"Yes. I want you." Her voice was low, but strong.

Nodding his assent, Edward took a deep breath and pushed forward, slowly, savoring each new depth he reached, marveling at the tumult of sensations that flooded his body. When his length was completely buried inside her, he stilled completely.

It was good. So, so good. His cock was one giant, pulsing nerve, and he could feel everything—the tightening of her pussy around him, the twitching of her smooth walls, the gyrations of her hips, each and every time her chest expanded to draw in air. He felt like a part of her—as if they shared one body between them.

And then her part of the shared body clenched firmly around his part, and he lost his mind.

Edward had intended to fuck her slowly, to draw out sex before his orgasm as long as he could, to increase his chances of causing hers. But after one single stroke—one withdrawal and its partnering thrust—he knew that would be impossible.

"You'll need to hold onto this," he hissed, before pulling out of her completely. He grabbed her hands and steadied them on the headboard above her.

When he entered her again, it was not slow or gentle or sensuous. The force behind his thrust was so powerful that her body was propelled several inches up the mattress. She had just enough time to brace herself before he slammed into her again.

"Oh…god...yes…" Isabella gasped as her body absorbed his jolting thrusts. She threw a leg over his hip, and he sunk into her even deeper.

"Fuck." His eyes rolled behind heavy lids as he tried to deal with the rapidly building pressure in his cock. "You just…feel so…good."

Although conscious thought had abandoned him some time ago, a vestige of rationality remained to slow his frantic drive toward relief. The incredible woman beneath him was amazingly generous, so willing for him to take what he needed, but he understood his pleasure wouldn't be fulfilling if she didn't experience her own. And despite his unbelievable luck up to that point, he knew better than to risk her completion on his woeful lack of experience.

Immediately, Isabella took notice of his decreased pace. Her other leg joined the first around his hips, and she yanked her arms free from his grasp to wrap them around his back.

"Keep going, just like that," she breathed into his ear, as if somehow knowing he needed her guidance. "I want it hard, fast…rough."

A growl rumbled through his chest in response, and Edward pushed into her with renewed vigor. She dug her fingers into his skin, and the stinging bite of her nails served to amplify his urgency. When he felt her teeth on his shoulder, his whole body tightened painfully. It seemed impossible, but his engorged dick got even harder, bigger.

"Ah!" Isabella cried out in surprise, jerking her hips up along the path of his onslaught. She began to swivel her lower body against his, and he could feel her clit—wet from their combined arousal—sliding over the skin above his cock.

God, he wanted to last, he wanted to hold out, but he was already beyond his physical limits. Only sheer force of will kept him from exploding inside her.

"Don't stop, I'm so close…"

Her breathy plea was nearly his undoing. Knowing she was right there with him, realizing that they could finish together, gave him the additional restraint he needed.

Sweat dripped off their bodies and the sound of ragged breathing filled their ears. Edward's hands clenched the bedsheets, and his teeth tore at his lips. He knew he should concentrate on maintaining his rhythm, think of nothing but what was to occur, but he couldn't stop from pulling back and stealing a glance at the writhing woman below him.

He was awestruck.

Isabella once again lay with arms above her, hands braced against the headboard. Her long brown hair was tangled and clinging to her damp shoulders, her breasts shook with each clash of their bodies. A rosy flush spread over her chest and gave color to her cheeks, her swollen lips were parted slightly, her dark lowered lashes made a sharp contrast against the white cream of her skin.

Edward couldn't imagine a scene more beautiful, more perfect, or anything…more.

But then her eyes opened and met his, and there was more.

He experienced what had been missing from his life—when he sequestered himself in his office cubicle to avoid the busy lunchroom, all the occasions he declined joining his few friends for a drink after work or dinner over the weekend, during the late nights when he sat in front of his computer and conjured imaginary people in fantasy worlds that interacted with one another, built relationships, loved their families and friends.

It was that true connection with others that he had avoided—his life was gray and flat because of it.

The epiphany ripped through him and, with it, came his orgasm.

"Isabella!" He didn't even realize her name burst forth from his mouth as he grabbed her hips and plunged into her with all the pent-up desire that had been collecting in his body over the last three days. His cock heaved and shuddered and released everything inside him that had ever been held back out of fear and uncertainty. And just when Edward thought he was spent, she tightened around him with long, rolling spasms.

"Oh god, I'm coming!" Isabella cried and dug her heels into backs of his thighs.

Amazingly, the pulsing sensation of slick heat around his dick caused him to thrust once more, and he felt one final, glorious eruption surge from his groin.

Supernova, indeed.

Edward was able to push away the overwhelming fatigue until Isabella's quaking ceased, and then he collapsed beside her, his drained cock leaving a trail of cum across her upper leg. Neither of them seemed to care, however, as they lay on their backs, panting and sucking in quick breaths of the room's cooled air.

For quite a while, they remained beside each other, no words exchanged between them. But the silence wasn't awkward; it paid respectful homage to the incredible experience just shared. Eventually, Edward regained enough of his senses to check the time on the room's alarm clock.

One-thirty. Already?

Shit.

It almost felt physically painful to move away from her, but he forced his legs over the side of the bed.

"I'll get you a towel from the bathroom," he murmured. "Would you like anything else? A glass of water, maybe?"

Under the arm that had been flung across her eyes, Edward could see the corners of her lips turn up into a grin. "I'm good, thanks."

"More than just good," he couldn't help but whisper to himself.

Grabbing his boxer briefs along the way, he entered the bathroom and closed the door. He wetted a hand towel to wipe himself off, but paused before he touched cloth to skin. Even though it was a rather unhygienic decision, he didn't want to immediately remove the evidence of their passionate encounter from his body—the only souvenir he would take away from this once-in-a-lifetime night. Shaking his head in amused chastisement, he stepped into his boxers and pulled them on.

Edward did splash water onto his face and attempted to tame his unruly bronze locks. Before exiting the bathroom, he took a deep breath and stared at his reflection in the mirror. The image that gazed back at him was not one he was used to seeing, and the difference was more than just a new hairstyle and absence of thick glasses. No, something had changed, fundamentally. The tilt of his chin and calm expression on his face revealed a budding sense of confidence, and his green eyes held a spark he had never seen in them before—a desire to challenge his tedious lifestyle and search for meaning in his days.

The only shadow on his otherwise eager, optimistic outlook was the knowledge that he would soon walk away from the very impetus of his change. In a handful of minutes, he would have to say goodbye to Isabella.

Exhaling forcefully, Edward opened the door. He had no regrets, and time spent with her had been better than his wildest fantasies. Ignoring the rapidly intensifying ache in his chest as he contemplated his parting words, he sat down on the bed and looked at the woman who had altered him so irrevocably.

Isabella didn't stir when his weight settled on the mattress, and her steady, slow breathing suggested she had fallen asleep. Gently, reverently, Edward drew the warm towel over her body and then covered her with a sheet that had been pushed to the foot of the bed.

As much as he thought it cowardly to leave without a spoken goodbye, he wondered if the simple note he was penning would be better for her, as well. Even if, by some miracle, she had enjoyed herself enough to consider more with him than a one-night stand, she would have been sorely disappointed once realizing that the "Masen" persona he showed her was so different from his true character.

For a moment, Edward indulged in a fantasy world where they were not separated by hundreds of miles and he was someone interesting…someone special. Confidence would be a natural part of him, not an act put on to catch the eye of a woman far out of his league.

A wistful smile lingered on his lips as he laid the paper on the bed.

Thank you for a perfect night. -Masen

The sentiment was accurate, but something wasn't right. He stared hard at the words and frowned when he realized the problem. He retrieved the note and balled it up in his hand.

The revised message was the same, but now it meant something more.

Thank you for a perfect night. Yours, Edward

She never asked for his name, and he hadn't offered it. It should make no difference how he signed the note, but he still couldn't give her anything other than the truth, even in his absence. And though it was a meaningless gesture, he wanted her to know something of the "real" person inside…and how an important part of him would forever belong to her.

One final glance of her beautiful face, then he turned off the bedside lamp and pulled himself away from the one who had brought him to life. His phone displayed a text from Alice: the valet was bringing her car to the entrance. He fetched his discarded clothes and dressed slowly.

It seemed his legs grew heavier the closer he got to the door, and when his fingers curled around the handle, he nearly choked out a sob. He never thought it would be easy to leave, but he deliberately hadn't considered just how painful it might be.

Both his body and soul were screaming to take off his clothes, climb back into bed, and curl up beside Isabella for the rest of the night or maybe late into the morning, or even through the day and into the next night. For as many nights as she would grant him.

But it wasn't just nights he desired. He wished he could take her to dinner, to see a movie, go for a walk. He wanted to find out everything about her, to let her see who he was, and maybe in the process, discover more about himself, as well.

One more heavy, broken sigh, and he eased the door open.

"Are you leaving now?"

Her voice was soft and composed. Edward thought he could hear tones of longing but extinguished the lick of hope that sparked within him. Any desire she held was for Masen, not Edward, and he had to keep that in mind. Otherwise, he would never make it out the door.

"I've got an early meeting in Los Angeles, and I need to get on the road." He knew it was rude, but he couldn't turn his head to look at her. His resolve just wasn't that strong.

"Oh. That's a bit of a hike, so yeah…you should get going."

"I didn't want to wake you, so I…left a note. But since you're up, I want to say thank you sharing the night with me. It was…"

In keeping with Masen's cocky attitude, Edward was going to say "fun," but it seemed like such an insult to what the experience really meant to him. He angled his body toward the bed and shifted his gaze to her face.

"It was the best night of my life. I'll never forget it, or you."

The light from the hallway illuminated her features, and he thought she looked like an angel—one with the hint of a rueful smile shadowing her features. "I take it you don't live nearby."

"Not near enough," he answered honestly.

She gave him a small, resigned nod. "Okay. Well, I had a wonderful night, too, and I'm glad I met you. Take care of yourself…" she glanced at the note on the bed, "…Edward."

His heart clenched in his chest at the sound of his name on her lips. "Goodbye, Isabella." He turned to the hallway once more.

"Those I care about call me Bella," she murmured as he was halfway through the door. "And for what it's worth, Edward, I like the contacts, but the glasses are sexy, too."

He froze in the doorway. She knew he wore glasses? How was that possible, unless…

The alarm went off on his phone, and at the same time, a text came through from Alice.

I'm waiting for you at the main entrance, lover boy. Let's go or you'll miss your big chance!

Edward looked over his shoulder at Bella and then back down to his phone. Alice was right: he couldn't let this monumental opportunity pass him by. With a determined, yet happy grin on his face, he tucked the phone into his pocket and stepped out of the doorway.

As he closed the door to one future and walked toward his choice, Edward's inner geek poked his head out of the closet in which Masen had hidden him and began to chant an altered version of Star Trek's opening credits in his mind.

These are the adventures of Edward Cullen. His continuing mission: to explore strange new possibilities, to seek out a new life and find happiness, to boldly go where he has never gone before.

In the startlingly clear depths of Bella's eyes, he could see a beautiful universe waiting to be his, and he knew he would make it so.


Check out the song "In the Midnight Hour" by William Pickett and Steve Cropper. Good stuff.


As always, thanks for reading! :D