FAGE 007

Title: Senseless acts of beauty and random moments of kindness

Written for: Blueeyedcherry

Written By: Rebadams7

Beta: Tammygrrrl

Rating: M

Summary/Prompt used: Divorced 30something woman's humorous adventures in online dating bring her to a cautious stance with regards to the antics of the opposite sex. In the last place she expects, a Southern gentleman sweeps this now "New York" woman off her feet whilst she's on a business trip.

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Sunny. Her eyes shrank from all the blue. It would be a clear, sunny morning today. Well! It is Los Angles after all, and rain would be a rarity. It's a drought here, for Pete's sake. There are probably people doing rain dances in Griffith Park right now. Her mind filled with images of women dressed in gauzy maxi gowns of all shapes and sizes, whirling around the sundial at the observatory, heavy bracelets encircling their arms. She imagined those bracelets clinking and twinkling in the sunlight as the ladies twirled like the Outlander dancers on Starz.

In two days this set of meetings would be complete and Bella would have time to re-connect with her former college roommate, Charlotte, and Charlotte's husband, Peter. Cosmic karma had made their schedules cross for the past few years and finally, over the coming weekend they would just hang out as they had promised to do so many years and so many disappointments, last minute changes and tears ago.

Pulling the knit navy suit from the awkward hotel hanger, she put on the mental armor that had held her together for the recent past. On the sidewalk, while waiting for her Uber ride, she thought she saw a familiar pair of shoulders, but the woman with him had short red hair and Rosalie would never, ever go red. Blondes always have more fun darling…. Slamming the door on a past that should just stay there, she entered the car, determined to make the most of her day.

Nine hours later, she found herself surrounded by the oddest marriage of decor to a purpose. Snow White's was a charming hole in the wall bar with cheap - by Hollywood standards - beer and decent fare. It sat across the street from where Laurent, of the accounting department, was now meeting his wife and kids before going to see something with the family at the El Capitan. Laurent had gone on all day about how that theater always has an extra event before the movie, how he could treat his wife with Ghirardelli ice cream and chocolate from right next door, how there would be a special display for the kids, and on and on. He was now at some Disney show with all the bells and whistles. It was clear to see Laurent was smitten with his wife and their kids. Charlotte too had mentioned Snow White's and she decided to duck in here, and then perhaps stroll down the tourist trap way. It wasn't too far from her hotel and she wanted to see the stars on the pavement and the hand prints in the courtyard of Grauman's Chinese.

It was dim, cool and quiet as soon as she stepped through the door. There were a few groups at tables, and one other gentleman at the far end of the bar, tapping away on his tablet. Isabella noted his cowboy boots as she sat down and pointed to a tap.

Cowboy boots. The sight of them brought out a memory and a wry smile. Ambrose had worn cowboy boots with jeans and a polo when she'd met him at the Starbucks in Naperville. That was the first place she'd moved… after, and just wanting to meet a few more faces, she'd dived into the pool of online dating.

One night stands were supposed to bury hurts, replace old memories with new ones and fix feelings too. In some ways, it might have worked. Ambrose had been a bit quirky, a considerate man, but so clumsy in those damn boots. If he just hadn't tripped in them, sending a Venti Caramel Macchiato down the front of her favorite new Free People shirt, maybe, just maybe…but no. Starting off so…handsy. The mopping up was more embarrassment than care. The mere thought suddenly made her shudder. Her mind continued down date disaster drive.

Then there was Wade. Oh, Wade and his toys. Wade of the wouldn't shut up about his boat, his jet ski, his dirt bike and his convertible. In the spring, in the summer. In the winter. In the snow. The top being stuck down for their second meeting - the first real date…..heated seats couldn't fix that one. It was a light drizzle according to the weather report, but the snow flurries did the damage of a hurricane to her new haircut at 40 miles an hour.

Next there was - Jake, a guy's guy, wanting to trade up to impress his family, his sisters really, by bringing home a professional woman. At least that was her interpretation. He'd indicated he was in contracting. They'd actually managed to date for a few weeks. Eventually she did learn he was really a fine carpenter, but his family didn't seem to value that. Jake was probably very good with his hands. He had a better than decent build and a charming, killer smile. Maybe she was the odd duck. His kisses and touches really didn't light her fire. An out of state promotion had offered an easy escape.

Next stop was all-city, Brooklyn, after slightly sleepy suburban Naperville. She had been there for four months, overwhelmed in her new position and not even considering doing anything more online. Hell, some of her recent hits hadn't even read her profile carefully enough to realize she'd left the Midwest for the Atlantic seaboard. No matter how much she craved a Lou Malnotti's Special, that part of the country was a closed book to her now.

Here she sat. Two years divorced. Two weeks past thirty. The eye candy and hot cars of Los Angeles over the past few days had rekindled the fire in her veins. This was Hollywood. Land of dreams…and of lies and those that lie for a living…according to Tom Hanks at least.

She'd survived and lived through the worst of those. But there were happy endings in most of her favorite movies. There really was all this eye candy… Now there was a cold beer in front of her. She reached for her wallet.

"No need." The bartender waved away her cash. "The gentleman at the end said the first round was on him." The bartender then turned and moved toward the kitchen area at the back. Her eyes followed him and then slid over to the brilliant green eyes that were smiling toward her.

"I don't mean any trouble, miss. I think we may be colleagues of a sort. I saw you at Children's today with a purchase officer, Jasper Whitlock."

"You know Jasper?" Her eyebrow arched with a hint of mischief as she replied.

His drawl was more pronounced than that of the southern gentleman she'd been dealing with off and on over the past few years. Jasper's voice would have been good nighttime fodder if it wasn't for the fact he'd met his wife out east, and told Bella a story about her almost each and every phone conversation. She supposed it was Jasper's way of breaking the ice, but at least, it was always funny and made a point to whatever they were working on.

"Jasper and I go back to football days in High School. We were what you'd now call frienemies - or so my nieces tell me."

He spoke with such a sweet cadence to his drawl. Shouting seemed impolite, so with a gesture of his hand, he asked permission to sit closer. She acquiesced with a nod of her head. He'd moved with an easy grace to the seat next to hers. His hands had long fingers and no rings, she noted, as he picked up his beer, touching his glass to hers.

Formal introductions completed, they continued to chat. They did turn out to work in the same field, and they made some small talk as she kept staring at his hands, noting the movements of his long, elegant fingers.

He was smitten by the curl of her hair, the way it framed her face and her curves, mostly hidden by the power suit, but not entirely disguised. She had the habit of tapping her lip with her glass as she considered her responses.

He considered the glass to be the luckiest object at the bar.

"So, with all this time on the road it must be hard to keep up the happy at home?" Bella asked right after they placed their orders.

"Well, I haven't had much company at my place since my middle sister and her husband completed the renovations, that and my last dog passed away summer before last. My schedule won't make anyone happy at home - not that my dear mom and my big sister don't keep trying."

"Blind dates?"

"You'd call some blind leading the blind. The thought does cross my mind to send them presents next holiday in keeping with their level of understanding and connection."

"That bad?"

"Sister's co-worker's husband's sister. She'd gone goth. Decided to spring it on me that first date. I'd wanted to take her to a club with some decent Jazz."

"Oh no, - it was a short night?" Bella couldn't help but chuckle as they traded stories about dates of doom. Edward continued on, moving from social life into his passion, his work.

Edward is an engineer. That thought drilled in, chilling her right down to the bone. He whose name shall not be mentioned had been an engineer too, but he hadn't been a southern gentleman. He'd been a cad, and his partner in crime, the seemingly harmless blonde, who turned out to be a grad student, joining his firm and partnering….Bella realized she hadn't heard a word since Edward's confession he was an engineer. She glanced up through her lashes, an old school move that hadn't meant anything to her until this moment. She realized she wanted to play the game with him for a bit. She wanted something and the self knowledge hit her like a snowball to her stomach.

Edward for his part was used to the glazed look that many, especially women, got as he got a little too into explaining his work. He stopped and took a long pull from his mug, considering that he'd just perhaps misjudged the beautiful eyes, but it wasn't the glaze he was used to seeing - there was a sad sheen there.

"I'm... I'm so sorry I spaced for a minute. Edward, I have to confess - I tend to run from engineers and that crowd."

"Sorry, I know I get too wrapped up. Maybe I will end up just married to my work."

"No, don't say that. I did hear you mention art galleries and children - so you can't be all figures and stress tolerances." Bella mustered a weak smile as a traitorous tear slid out of the corner of her eye.

Edward rubbed the back of his neck, "Sorry, again, but you look like I'm the elephant that just stepped on your sandcastle." He opened his hands in a soft supplication. "I don't mean to pry, but I just want to know where I took the south fork?"

Bella took a moment to drink deeply and immediately sputtered and coughed as she choked listening to his words. Nothing was his fault, as he was the opposite of him in every way possible. He was tall and lanky, polite and had a certain charm. Her ex was more broad shouldered than statuesque, an over the top kidder who didn't always realize he'd gone too far. She shook her head as he patted her between her shoulder blades.

"I don't mean to be such a mess. You are so not what I think of when I think engineer. You talk about working with the children and then visiting art museums for inspiration. You see the form and then you figure for the functions." She dared a smaller sip and ran her tongue over her lips to capture the extra foam. "I'm used to the engineer types who expect me to remain cool and logical. While I appreciate what you do- the magic that takes the idea and figures out how to bring it to life - I've never appreciated those who want my reactions to be as clear and precise as a manufacturing diagram."

Edward set his mug down on the bar. "I'm not the magic - nor the magician. Hell, sometimes I don't even ken when to say something isn't currently possible. I just want what I can do to get to who can benefit. If I can make it softer, or more appealing - that's my bonus. I had a six year old girl, one of our first clients - she'd been badly injured in a car accident and she even at just six was desperate to get a little of her life back - to be able to help her mom again. I fitted her for one of our first prototype arms, - she was glad to be able to hold a cup again but she wanted to know if she would always be an ugly monster. I was there. I saw her baby brother bust out crying at the first sight of her arm…"

Bella touched his hand. "I get that - I too feel like a cross between a miracle worker and Frankenstein. We can't miniaturize everything far enough for children - but we can help them to be out of pain long enough to play."

At that moment the universe may have been conspiring against them. There was a small group entering as Bella and Edward's food was arriving. There was a pair of too high heels. There was a misplaced elbow and there was a Starbucks cup with a poorly attached lid. In a split second Bella went from cool and collected to semi-drenched.

Edward grabbed a napkin and noted that one of the plates was now affogado - but greatly lacking in taste and appeal. Thankfully it disappeared and a stack of napkins took its place. Knowing her history, he merely handed her the napkins as the mortified blonde whispered into Bella's ear.

"You're so petite — are you an extra small or small?"

"Oh, you don't have to, really." Bella and the blonde spoke, foreheads nearly touching, in hushed tones, really too low for Edward to understand. Next, quick as a wink she'd turned and dashed back out the front of Snow White. Bella leaned in to Edward. "She's so sweet. Oh, well you'll see in a minute."

The beautiful blonde several minutes later returned with a small bag for Bella, who excused herself. His eyes followed her, he couldn't miss the view – as Bella ascended that narrow stairway to the loft where the rest rooms were located… well that was absolutely not ADA compliant. He shook himself - was that really the first thought that the sight of her perfect derrière evoked? It really had been too long since he had sincerely enjoyed the company of a lady and hoped the evening had a chance to continue.

The blonde and her group settled into the couches at the front of the restaurant, their new position removed the chance of any further danger disrupting the evening.

Edward was about to signal for another round when he heard her footsteps on those steep stairs. If the view going up was grand, the descent, first her toned legs in those sinful heels slipping into view, to the final reward of her fresh top and shining eyes and smile - okay so the girls looked quite content in their new duds too. Edward at the bottom of it all was very much a man. This man was deciding that this evening was far from over.

In the end they shared the remaining omelette and then ventured out into the night life that is Hollywood Boulevard. Night is a relative term as the neon and spotlights keep everything bathed in a surreal glow. In the warm light they noted the well known and the quite to them unknown in the stars on the pavement. They wandered in the courtyard of Grauman's Chinese, comparing their hands to the famous prints. Bella found her own hand on Edward's proffered arm as they strolled

Along the way they shared more tales of dates from just flat to outright dangerous….

"So you took her to a bow and arrow range?"

"It was her idea. She swore she'd done it a lot in high school."

"You're brave, braver than I thought."

"I was in Iraq."

Bella wasn't sure just how to take that information. She could clearly imagine him in uniform. That thought alone sent another delicious shiver from her core to her heart. Before she could answer, Edward continued.

"I didn't, I mean I don't talk about it a lot. Jasper was an officer. I knew him and I met up with him when I got back stateside for surgery. He and I just got to talking. Texas boys out of water on the east coast - Walter Reed."

He stopped and took both of Bella's hands in his. He was heartened by her smile as she looked up. "I'm not all broken, Bella. It's just hard. There's things back there I just don't think on much."

"The past when it hurts can teach us things, but we don't keep our hands on a hot stove. I think the future looks pretty bright from where I stand." She raised his hand to her lips and brushed a kiss across the scarring she now recognized. "That's how you took your engineering into medicine…"

"You are so much more than just pretty brown eyes, Miss Bella." He repeated her gesture, after a soft kiss to her knuckles, he held her hand close against his chest. Bella could feel a rope of skin that pulsed beneath her fingertips. The rhythm was firm and steady, reassuring.

"Why Edward, are you trying to court me?" She whispered with a wink in her tone.

"Bella, if it were another time and place I might be able to be that old-fashioned gentleman. To be slow and patient and just wait to steal a kiss at your front door. But I know the cruelties of life and I wish to be a man of action. Frankly Bella I just got to know you tonight and I feel like I've already missed too much time with you."

"Then don't. Don't leave me to my own devices."

"Bella, is that a pun?"

"Edward, you are awfully bright for an engineer."

Edward took that opportunity to take his hands and gently hold her face, brushing butterfly kisses from the top of her forehead, down her nose and finally on her lips."It's not just how, my dear Miss Swan, but always factoring in the where and the when."

"I'm up the street. At the W."

He grinned as he gasped out the words. "Lord have mercy on me."

"Why?" She couldn't help but giggle

"So am I."

Rain, while rare, is not a complete myth in the city of angels, and as if to cover their tracks and hurry their feet the last few blocks, the occasional droplet became a full orchestra of water with a loud chorus of thunderous booms. They made the lobby as the first bolt of lightning flashed.

"Good night for staying inside" quipped a desk attendant

As the elevator doors closed, Edward called out "Exactly what I have in mind."

This time there must have been an angel on their shoulders as they found themselves on the same floor, across the hall from one another.

"My room is The Fabulous"

"Mine is, and it does have a Spectacular view."

"I don't think what's outside the window will matter. I think the interior view will be amazing."

The rain and the neon from the street below gave a luster of magic, set the large bed aglow. As soon as the door closed hands begin moving across previously unknown territories of skin. Shoes were kicked aside. The sounds were of cotton and silk, gabardine and knit, tossed off to parts unknown. Bella started at his toes, observing that Edward even had nice feet. Long legs up into grey knit boxer briefs, no need to imagine, the size of his interest was clearly visible. His torso and chest were toned, the ropes of scarred tissue didn't scare her - they seemed a tapestry to life. She knew exactly what was where and she was not frightened. He was made for her, or had she a hand in the makings that made him here tonight?

She ran her hands up his arms and left them resting on his biceps. "No matter what, this is…This is one of the best moments of my life that I couldn't even begin to imagine."

Edward, for his part was admiring the petite package of strength before him. Her pale panties and bra were a nice contrast against a blush that gave a rosy glow everywhere he saw skin. He slid his hands around her waist and brought his forehead to hers. "I ..thank you." His words caught in his throat. "I know it's a lot to take in."

"No, you're perfect." She pressed a kiss along the raised skin that curled under one pectoral.

"It's yours. Probably too soon to say it, but in all ways it is." He grasped one of her hands, kissed the fingers and placed it on the hard metal bulge in his upper left chest.

The human mind is far more creative than the best computers so far. In the space of a heartbeat, Bella realized everything, the hesitant almost shy demeanor, the inner strength and the edge of fear of being a machine, not a person any longer. No words were needed.

They fell to the bed, where kisses and touches divested them quickly of what remained of their cloth armor. Bella could not believe the moan that Edward's lips drew out of her wherever and whenever they kissed. Her torso or her breasts equally enjoyed Edward's attention . When they reached her nipple she felt herself melt into a luminescent puddle in the soft rain light.

Edward now hovered above her, a tripod of elbows and forehead. He was nestled right there, she could feel him, his eagerness and readiness firmly apparent against the inside of her thigh. His deep breath and shudder instantly alerted her that something was holding him back, stopping the rhythm of their night.

"Bella, shit, I'm sorry…I never think I'll… I never thought, I don't…"

Once again that supercomputer between her own ears had the words forming before she concisely understood in full. "No, oh? No, we're good. I haven't been with anyone in ages and I've been checked. I'm on the shot." She almost chuckled as she spoke, her voice thick with desire and relief. "We're covered."

"Thank God." He breathed against her neck as he lifted her just so and sheathed himself as far as he could. Bella moaned at the connection she felt to her core. And they were one and there were no more words.

Deep in the night he spoke. "I'm a Marine. IED. Right by our Hummer. Next to a girls school." Her response was to hold him, his ear against the beat of her own heart.

Much much later, they woke to each others exploration. She was trailing soft kisses on each scar she found. His fingers slid over the curves of her back, her waist and then softly kneading her bottom cheeks, holding them softly. She lifted herself over him, her hair brushing his chest. She came to his face and kissed him, sharing a deep sigh of contentment as she took him, and they were one again.

Somewhere deep in the night, they had the presence to set an alarm, and to dreamily set their numbers in each others phones. They slept soundly,wrapped and entwined, one to the other, sharing the slumber of the newly cured, deep and healing.

Over coffee and eggs (Hers - poached, His - over easy), they compared notes on the rest of their week. He was slated on a red eye for Friday - his niece was having her birthday on Saturday and Edward promised to be there. She would fly out on Sunday, but they would have later tonight and dinner on Friday….

Charlotte had been expecting her longtime friend and sometimes partner in girly crimes to continue to wear her cloak of disgruntlement. She had detected this attitude from their emails and texts, and the tone of Bella's voice in each of their phone conversations. Now, here they sat at Bon Vivant, in comfy chairs in a cozy corner near the large fireplace, and Charlotte was astonished at the smile and the absolute sparkle radiating off Bella.

"So, you look good. Really good." Charlotte set down her mug and lightly arched her eyebrow. " Tell me, tell me all about him. Girl, you never and I mean never looked this good back then.."

Bella smiled, took a big sip of her own latte and began. "Char, it was as if he was made just for me…"

The Virgin flight was pretty full late Sunday night. She wasn't due into the office till noon, well, she could actually just skip the office on Monday. She had spoken to Edward briefly on Saturday, he was full of cake and ice cream from the party. It had been hard to say goodbye, but Charlotte had been a great diversion and she felt she'd been good company at last.

Today she'd contented herself with just listening to his voice , and leaving a short message. Jumping from two hours behind him to one ahead would be better. She found herself one of the last to board the plane.

Getting to her aisle seat, she put in her earbuds, closed her eyes and settled in to try and sleep. A soft touch to her shoulder caused her to open her eyes and gasp.

"I think that middle seat is mine Bella, unless you'd prefer it and I can take the point, I mean, the aisle?"

"I ..what? How?" And then, they kissed. Not a peck on the cheek or kissy-kissy air kiss hello, but she-slid over-and-he-held-her-face-in-his-hands-and -kissed-her-breathless kiss.

Nothing more could be said or done under the watchful eye of the flight attendant who was right next to them for the safety briefing. While it droned on, Bella found herself staring at those long, elegant fingers wrapped around her own. Edward was looking forward, with a soft smile emanating from his eyes.

The window seat passenger was already deep in dreamland and the flight attendant moved down the aisle as the plane started to move at last.

"I've been sent. I've been, I mean I've come to court and woo you, Miss Swan." Edward turned and touched his forehead to Bella's, before he continued. "I was informed last night by my family that it is my duty and honor to engineer a solution." He asked permission with his eyes as he slid his arm around her shoulder, brushing her cheek as he whispered in her ear "I'm at your disposal for the coming week."

"I can work with that."

"I have no doubt. Miss Swan, you are the senseless act of beauty that has lit my life."

"The rest we can figure." Bella rested her head against his shoulder, realizing that all the random bits of kindness she had performed had perhaps come round her way at last.

"We surely will figure, Miss Swan" and his smile broadened as he whispered…"for now. Semper Fi"


Author's note

As always it's a delight to participate in the exchange! Let me know if you think he really can engineer a solution!