*Now continuing this one-shot written for the Meet The Mate contest, hosted here on fanfic-dot-net under the author name MeetTheMate.
Thank you to the judges for hosting the contest and granting this story an honorable mention.
Whoever told Noah to save a male and a female of each species might've set evolution back a thousand years. Surely, we could've managed to survive and reproduce without men. We'd figured out how to walk on two legs, after all.
Yeah, right. I loved men. It was my tragic flaw—or maybe not so tragic, I guess, depending on the day.
Today wasn't a great one. I didn't blame Seth for moving on; I should've put a graceful end to our tryst myself. Sure, he was a sweet, young cub—sexy and eager and hot—but we'd pretty much run out of things to talk about weeks ago. The sex was good, but I'd taught him everything I knew; the boy held no challenges for me.
Maybe I was looking at this the wrong way. Instead of looking for a mate, perhaps I should simply provide a public service. Cougars 'R' Us. Bring me your wild child; I'll make him a man.
Right, because that was going to fulfill my heart's desire.
Seth could not have been lovelier about the whole goodbye, but our breakup this morning had left me raw. There was a hole I needed to fill, and if a man wasn't going to do it, then I'd at least cook myself a decent meal.
I turned the key in the ignition, and the Roadster roared to life. Seth's hip-hop funkytown rap crap ambushed me before I could grab the volume knob. I took a deep breath and tuned into the acoustic oasis of the Coffee House station. If the virile boy's absence was my cloud, then listening to my own music again was my silver lining.
Speaking of clouds, a dark mass gathered overhead as I made the short drive to Nature's Bounty. Had they forecast a storm today? Perfect. My Burberry raincoat was safe and dry in the mudroom closet. With a sigh, I pushed the button to engage the roof. I always loved the looks I got—especially from the young guys on the road—when I put up my top while traveling twenty-five miles per hour. The metal clicked into place as I pulled into my usual out-of-the-way spot at the grocery store, far away from the careless door-dingers and parking space hogs. I'd probably get soaked getting back to the car, but a change of clothes was less of a hassle than body work on the Z4.
I yanked a cart free from the corral inside and wheeled it through the produce section. What to make, what to make . . . Something healthy, I decided. It's just as easy to drown your sorrows in something that doesn't require an extra Pilates class, my friend Rose would say.
I found Javier arranging organic peaches into a perfect pyramid, and I reached a greedy hand straight into the middle of the pile. "Mmm, this one looks good."
He whipped around, his whole face breaking into a smile when he saw it was me. "You tryin' to give me a heart attack, Bella?"
"Buenos días, mi amigo."
"Hola, mi bella dama. You wan' peaches? Here, I give you my best ones." He picked through his crates and presented me with two perfectly ripe, unblemished peaches. "Beautiful peaches for a beautiful lady."
"Aww, I bet you say that to all the customers."
"No, jes' the pretty ones. What are you making me for dinner tonight?"
I smiled at our longstanding joke. "I haven't decided yet. Something with a lot of vegetables."
"No problem. I'll bring my own steak."
I gave him a friendly tap on the arm. "Good thing your wife is not a jealous woman."
"Pshh, she'd be happy for a night off." He waggled his eyebrows and laughed at his own joke.
"Have a good day, hot stuff!"
A loud rumble of thunder reverberated through the store. "Stay dry, Bella!"
I left him chuckling as I filled the cart with a pile of fruits and vegetables I thought I could eat before they went bad. I rolled past the bakery and deli. Nope, don't need to go down the snack and soda aisles; breakups did have their advantages.
Maybe I'd stay unattached for a while. Yogurt, milk, eggs . . . I bypassed the tub of cookie dough I would've bought for Seth. Health and beauty aisle, let's see now . . . We ran out of condoms last night, but clearly I wouldn't be needing more now. Hell, I might not even shave my legs for a week.
Live dangerously, Bella.
I zipped by the frozen foods case. No more ice cream sandwiches late at night, no more pizza rolls while watching the next "best show ever—I swear!" I was gonna drop five pounds overnight. Yes, this was a good plan. A penis-free zone. Maybe I'd even call up Rose and see if she wanted to go to the movies—something super chick flicky.
By the time I reached the register, I'd warmed to the idea. This would be good for me. A little break.
"Bagger, register two!"
Whoa, cash register girl. How about a little warning before you rattle those pipes?
One of the baggers appeared at the end of the lane. The poor boy must've been caught in the downpour, and he was drenched from head to toe. His yellow, long-sleeved button-down clung to his shoulders. His store-issue brown tie hung like a limp noodle from his neck, and he didn't look the least bit happy about it. The sodden khakis left nothing to the imagination; he didn't appear to suffer from shrinkage. Yeah, I looked.
Long, wet clumps of hair fell across his eyes. That might be a good thing, I decided when he pushed his hair out of the way. Wow. That was a definite don't-fuck-with-me glint aimed directly at the cashier. I wouldn't have wanted to be on the receiving end of his glare even if his eyes happened to be the most striking shade of grey-green I'd ever seen.
Then again . . . unf! The passion!
Right, Bella. Remember that plan? Staying unattached? Chick flicks?
Sigh. I looked him over with a critical eye while emptying my groceries onto the belt. His height was balanced by a sturdy set of shoulders that were doing a fine job of holding up his wet shirt. His torso had more going on than just sitting on top of his hips; he sent out a restless energy, a coil of potential waiting to spring. I wanted to be there when it snapped.
His jaw was a fucking work of art, even set as it was in a hard line. I had a feeling that when he wasn't sneering, his mouth was actually quite nice. I might just have to make him smile and see.
This boy had spunk, and dammit, he was cute.
Yep, the penis-free ship had left port and caught a mighty wind under its sails. I wouldn't be seeing that sucker again for a long while if this boy was even half the stud he appeared to be.
Now, to give the mouse a cookie . . .
Being the new kid sucked monkey balls. Tanya wasn't the only one who owned my ass at the Bounty—it seemed everyone did. "Cullen, cleanup on aisle four! . . . Price check on register three! . . . Round up the carts!"
Rounding up carts, not a terrible job on a sunny day. But being the human caboose on a metal shopping cart train during an electrical storm? Not the safest place to be. From the bitching and moaning the carts did as I rode them in, it seemed they weren't having the best time either.
"Bagger, register two!"
Tanya Fucking Denali. She'd wanted my ass all through high school, and ever since I'd flunked out of Syracuse and taken this shit job, she'd treated me like her own personal slave.
Soaked to the bone from my apparently-not-waterproof boots to the mop on top of my head, I'd stepped inside to dry off for two precious seconds when Tanya bellowed for a bagger. Tanya or not, dry beat the hell out of soaking wet, and I practically ran to her register.
She gave me a smug smile as she keyed in the code for the large zucchini sitting on the glass. "Is it wet enough for ya, Cullen?"
I grabbed the zucchini as she transferred it to the belt. I don't know, Tanya. Is this big enough for your overused, stretched out twa—
"Don't they give you boys a raincoat?"
I followed the voice to the most gorgeous pair of fucking-perfect lips I'd ever seen, delicate on the top and full and kissable on the bottom. Luxurious but not shiny with the crap gloss girls my age wore. Hers were natural—only better—and when she smiled at me, I felt a jolt deep in my groin.
"Um, not really. They have these plastic ponchos, but I'd rather get soaked than pull that garbage bag over my body in this heat."
"Huh, macho man."
I couldn't tell if she was impressed or teasing, but either way, I had the lady's attention—and she had Tanya's, not in a good way either.
"Paper or plastic?" There was a definite snarl in her voice that wouldn't win Tanya any "Employee of the Week" awards.
Our customer heard it, too. Disregarding the cashier, she turned her head in my direction and smiled. "Would I be one of those customers if I troubled you for both? I need the paper bags for my recycling, but it's raining cats and dogs out there."
Yeah, I noticed.
"No trouble at all." I stretched a plastic bag over the metal frame, flicked open a paper bag, and stuffed it inside the plastic, accommodating my customer's request like the pro I was.
The contents of her shopping cart appeared on the belt, mostly fruits and vegetables—girl food. Hmm, was she single? No wedding ring, I noted with irrational joy. Right, because if she's not married, she's obviously going to jump right into bed with me.
"Oh, shucks! I forgot something. I'll be right back."
Tanya rolled her eyes as the woman squeezed through the narrow lane, excusing herself and apologizing to the two customers behind her in line. I lost sight of her, but she returned less than a minute later and casually tossed a box of condoms on top of her pile.
Sure, doesn't everyone top off yogurt and pomegranate juice with a box of condoms?
Tanya grabbed the box and gave the customer a smug look. "Have everything you need now?"
If I could've reached the bitch with my boot, I would've kicked her in the leg to shut her fucking yap, but my chivalrous plans were unnecessary. If Tanya thought she could shame this lady, she had definitely misread her customer.
Nodding briefly at Tanya, she said, "Just about." That's when she turned her head toward me and smiled.
At least, I think she did. It's possible that may have been wishful thinking on my dick's part. That happened sometimes. Okay, it happened a lot. He was a hopeful fella.
Tanya ran the condoms across the glass and shoved them at my knuckles. Trojan Stimulations, premium latex condoms, ultra ribbed. Large. 36 count. Someone was gonna have a good time with those, and I was already jealous.
I glanced up to find the lady staring at me; she was definitely grinning now. I made like they were just another piece of fruit going into the bag. No biggie. But my face was on fire.
The lady pushed her empty cart to the end of the lane. I took a quick inventory of what was left on the belt and decided I could carry it all. One less fucking cart to slog through the parking lot.
"Here, let me take that for you." I gallantly swept the cart away, eliminating the barrier between us.
"Don't you think we might need that?" she said.
"Nah, I got this." I puffed out my chest a bit. I'm not steroidal or anything, but I have swimmer's shoulders and strong arms. A few bags of fruit weren't going to break me.
She smirked. "Just so you know, my car is reeeally far away."
Good! I chuckled to cover up how much I looked forward to being alone with this woman. Even if it was just to carry her bags across an asphalt parking lot in a storm.
She pulled a huge wallet out of her purse and swiped her platinum card through the machine. I wouldn't have minded being any of those buttons she pushed or even the card she fingered with those perfectly pink-tipped nails. As she slid the Amex neatly back into its slot in her wallet, I noticed at least fifteen more credit cards where that one came from.
I had a debit card with a perilously low balance.
I couldn't help but wonder where the money came from to cover all that plastic. She was grocery shopping at two in the afternoon; it was unlikely she held a nine-to-five job. There didn't seem to be a husband in the picture. Was she a trust fund baby? A bank robber? Sex kitten to a sugar daddy?
The wallet went in, and a lipstick came out. I tried not to stare while she puckered her lips and traced the delicate lines of her mouth with the phallic tube. I tried, but I failed.
I wanted to be that lipstick.
She let out a sweet, sad sigh, flicking her sexy, straight, brown hair out of her eyes. A faint flowery scent wafted my way, something sophisticated. It smelled like one squirt would've cost my entire paycheck.
"The rain is gonna do a number on my hair. Maybe I should get one of those ponchos."
"I can keep you dry."
She lifted her eyebrows as if I'd claimed I could stop the rain from falling. I explained.
"We have umbrellas for the customers."
She turned toward me full-on and blinded me with her low-scooping tank top. Her tits were barely contained inside the tightly stretched material, and there was a sheen on the surface of her skin that glistened under the fluorescent lights of the store—perspiration from the humidity. She was way too refined to sweat.
As hard as I stared, there was not a nipple to be seen. Frustrating—but classy.
She crossed her arms over her chest. Busted—literally. I glanced up to see if she was angry, but her gold-brown eyes were crinkled at the edges. "How are you going to carry all these groceries and hold the umbrella for me?"
I had no fucking clue, but I was getting a boner just thinking about it. "Don't worry, I'm a professional." I considered adding a wink but figured that might be a little cocky for someone like her.
Groceries pooled around the half-filled bag, and Tanya glared at me. Suck it, bitch. The customer digs me.
I palmed the cantaloupe, flicked it into my right hand, and laid it to rest in that bag as tenderly as humanly possible. I was showing off for my customer, and she smiled to let me know she was impressed.
I gave the job my all, but the gears in my brain were grinding on how those lush lips of hers would feel around my cock. Speaking of which, things were getting cramped inside my damp pants.
"Whoopsie." Tanya's evil smirk stopped me cold. She'd "accidentally" dropped the last item, a jar of spaghetti sauce, onto the floor. "Cullen, mop!" She called out to the bagger on register six. "James! I need a jar of Ragu Meat Lovers' Sauce and a customer carry-out."
Fuck me! James Fucking McSlimedog was not carrying out my hot cougar!
Fresh resentment bubbled up inside my throat. Don't say it. You need this job. One more strike and you're out. My folks had made that much clear.
Mortified and pissed as hell, I couldn't bear to make eye contact with my wet dream of a customer. I lined up her three bags along the edge of the counter and turned to get the mop.
The customer's command brought me up short. I turned back cautiously and apologized. "Sorry, I have to—"
"—escort me to my car."
I glanced at Tanya, who was staring with her mouth wide open. "But he—"
"Excuse me. Whatever happened to 'the customer is always right'? Or should we find ourselves a manager?"
Holy shit, this lady had attitude! My dick gave an enthusiastic knock at my fly.
Stupefied, Tanya tried again. "What about your sauce?"
"Screw it. It's too hot for spaghetti tonight." She scrawled her signature across the display and jerked her chin toward the door. "Shall we?"
I snagged all twelve handles in my left hand and practically skipped to the umbrella stand near the exit. My customer huddled close as I snapped the umbrella open and lifted it gallantly over her head. I played it cool when her boobs brushed against my elbow.
"Need a hand?" she asked.
"Nope, I'm good." Stay exactly like that . . .
She chuffed, and her breath blew across my ear. "Of course. Macho man in action."
"At your service." I liked the nickname. I felt like a superhero.
"It's nice to have a man tall enough to actually hold the umbrella over my head. I'm always getting poked by the prongs."
A man! I stood a bit taller despite the heavy bags weighing me down. She was tall, I noticed for the first time, my gaze scanning her long, bare legs and coming to rest on her sexy-as-hell, high-heeled sandals. Her toenails were polished a midnight blue, and a silver ring encircled her middle toe. I wanted to suck on that toe. I wondered if she'd like that.
"So, what's your life plan, Mr. Cullen? Forgive me for being presumptuous, but you don't seem like a career grocery bagger."
Her serious question and use of my name jarred me. For some reason I couldn't have explained, I told her everything. "I made a royal mess of college—too much partying, not enough studying—"
"That'll do it." Her eyebrows lifted expectantly. "Girls?"
Hell, yeah, there'd been a parade of girls. Funny, I'd been so proud of myself at the time. Something told me this woman would not be impressed with my Big-Man-on-Campus routine, which for some reason bothered me.
"Yes." I met her eyes cautiously, prepared to elaborate but hoping she wouldn't ask.
Her expression softened into a gentle smile. "You're a handsome guy. I'm not surprised."
"Thanks." Distracted by her compliment, I stepped clumsily into a puddle, sloshing water into her sandals. "Shit! I mean, sorry."
"It's only water. I'm not gonna melt." She shrugged. Her breast rubbed up and down along my knuckle.
I gripped the umbrella with all my might.
"Okay, so school didn't work out. Now what?"
She didn't scrunch up her face in judgy disdain, and she didn't lecture me about my poor choices. She also didn't regard me as if I were a useless, spoiled kid who had squandered the chances his parents had given him though any of those reactions would've been reasonable. She was easy to talk to, this total stranger. I almost felt as if nothing I could say would shock her.
"Right now, I'm working on Plan B."
"Living at home for a while, proving to my folks that I can follow through and show some discipline."
That eye-crinkling smile returned. "How's that working for you?"
"I'm not gonna lie; it's not easy being home again under my parents' roof. The rules . . . I'm not eighteen anymore, y'know?"
"You have a curfew?"
Ugh, that sounded so junior high. "Not exactly. "If I won't be home by midnight, I just have to let them know so they don't wait up and worry."
"And are you often out past midnight?" Her eye held an amused twinkle.
I couldn't decide what she wanted to hear, so I went with the truth. "Sometimes. Rarely." The depressing reality was that my friends were all away at school, and there weren't a lot of people around that I wanted to stay out with.
A sudden breeze gusted under the umbrella. The metal arms bucked like a dozen wild broncos going in as many different directions. The black material fluttered, flapped, and finally flipped inside out.
Her hand shot out and covered mine on the handle. Together, we maneuvered the umbrella into the wind and the prongs snapped back into place with a thunk!
I noticed she didn't let go. I also noticed she'd huddled closer to me. I didn't mind either one.
"So, what do you do for fun?" she asked.
"Fun, hmm." This was fun, more fun than I've had in months. "That's a tough one."
She bumped me in a friendly way with her elbow. "You know what they say about all work and no play?"
Sure, I knew. I'd become the dullest Jack on the planet since coming home. "Yeah, but I also know where 'no work and all play' got me, so I guess I'll try this for a while."
She nodded, and I felt like I might've passed some kind of test. A woman like her wouldn't bother with some waste-of-a-life stoner in a dead-end, minimum wage job.
We'd reached the far corner of the lot. There was one car parked away from all the others, a bright orange BMW Z4 Roadster. "Is this you?" I hoped she didn't hear the squeak in my voice, but fuuuck! The car was a wet dream on wheels. And with her inside? My mouth went dry despite the pounding rain.
"This is me." She touched the door handle, and the locks clicked open. I didn't blame them. I would fold like a cardboard box if she ever put her hand on me like that. I had a strong sense I'd be thinking about that possibility later. Sooner than later.
I handed her the umbrella. "Here, let me."
She bit her lip, clearly impressed with my chivalrous move. Tucked safely inside the warm, dry car, she started the engine and opened the trunk for me. Her beautiful, brown eyes filled the side-view mirror, watching as I loaded the bags inside and closed the trunk. Had this been any other customer, I would've already made it back inside the store by now.
Sadly, our transaction was officially over. I caught her eye in the mirror and waved, going for polite but not desperate—even though I was heading there quickly. She rolled down her window, stuck her hand out in the rain, and curled a finger. I jogged over and leaned my head inside her window.
"Why don't you hop in, and I'll give you a ride to the door?"
My gaze skimmed across the dry, inviting interior. Her long legs tucked in underneath the wheel. Hand around the gear shift. Butter-soft beige leather seats.
"Thank you, but I shouldn't. I'd get your seat all wet, and I don't think my boss would like it too much."
She smiled at me, and I forgot about the rain for a second. "You really are a good boy, aren't you?"
A lightning bolt struck me right between the legs. No, wait, that wasn't lightning. That was her. She made being good sound dirty as hell somehow, and I wanted so badly to be good for her. When I regained my wits, I answered with a humble, "I try."
"Well, that's about all we can ask, isn't it?"
"What's your first name?"
"Edward, but feel free to call me 'Macho.'"
She laughed, and I felt it inside my bones. "Thank you for seeing me to my car, Edward," she said, reaching for her wallet.
"Oh, thank you anyway, but we can't accept tips. Even if we could, I wouldn't. It was my pleasure."
She tilted her head and studied me. "Are you working tomorrow?"
Jesus. Was she coming in to see me? Muscles clenched and released inside my gut. "Yes, ma'am. Seven to three," I added. Just in case.
"Okay, Edward Cullen. You should go inside and try to stay dry."
"Yes, ma'am. You have a good night."
She smiled. "You too, Macho."
The only problem with giving the mouse a cookie was that the mouse became even more irresistible: the adorable blush, the killer smile, the macho act he put on to cover up the want in his eyes.
Toss in a box of condoms, a casual brush of boob, and a highly suggestive lipstick application? Unless that was a price gun in his pocket, he was very, very happy to see me. Edward Cullen was a kettle on the verge of boiling over, and I wanted to be the one to turn up the heat.
So much for my break.
Edward Cullen wasn't going anywhere, and that worked for me. A girl's gotta eat, right? In fact, I was already hungry.
I watched him jog across the lot, jumping puddles like the bionic man. I'd bet my last hundred that he had a huge smile on his face right now. If I had anything to say about it, that smile would stay there for a good, long time.
Author's Note: I'd like to thank my secret-keeper, Shell Taylor (shellshock81) for pre-reading this little story for me and helping me figure out how to squeeze my jumbo story into a contest-sized bag. And as always, a huge thank you to Chayasara for beta services and beyond. Congratulations to the all the contest winners and a hearty thank you for all the reviews over at the MTM page!
**NOW CONTINUING THIS STORY...follow here for updates!