chapter one.

clearwater college. jasper, michigan.

"You remind me of my ex-girlfriend." Lemon mumbled, sprawled on the gold office sofa as I fell, sweating and spent in the folding chair behind my desk. "Always. Fucking. Late."

"Have you even had a girlfriend since '04?"

He targeted a tennis ball toward the water damaged stains on the ceiling. I promptly targeted his head with an empty sports bottle, wincing through the after burn in my leg.

"These morning runs of yours are on the school's dime you know. You fuck this gig up and well… you know…"

"His morning runs keep him from firing or possibly killing you," Mia spoke truth, rushing through the door, sundress, heels and hair. Her style forever out of place in our trailer office, our pseudo war room, looking circa 1970. The Clearwater Saints basketball budget was busted. Lemon bounced the ball off the portable, paneled wall to the right of her. And again. A single blonde brow raised in warning, she had foot on him easy, plus heels. The game inched closer until her midair catch.

"Damn, Mia!" He jumped, failing a high five. "You should've taken an administrative position with the baseball team instead of with us basketball losers."

"Yes, well I have a soft spot for basketball losers."

"Since you're one too? Tell us the story again about the epic fail at State." She ignored his mock basket attempt and sexist ass wiggle.

Mia edged onto the desk corner, handing me her phone. "This was new this morning. It's a regional online deal. Writing is amateur hour, but I don't hate it."

At the University of Michigan, Cullen couldn't be contained in the open court and his control in the half court with an either hand attack from the bounce was a masterclass in ballin'. After a few tumultuous, injury riddled seasons in the NBA, Coach Cullen, now 30, is the youngest head coach in the history of NCAA Basketball. So, while he definitely offered solid expertise on the court with a fresh Division II Clearwater Saints team, leaving them with a decent albeit soft first season, it remains to be seen if he has his reckless, self-destructive off court behavior completely under control.

"It's more of the same, but she's right, not horrible. You'll atone til death for all that sinful douche behavior, my tumultuous friend."

"What a ray of sunshine you are, Lemon. Remind me, Mia, why did we rescue him from that free, take one boxoutside the Pick 'N Save?"

"It's his endlessly optimistic personality and brilliant ball wisdom." Mia winked, handing me the July 1st itinerary.

"You forgot fuck hot in bed…" he shouted, falling on the sofa again.

Rolling her eyes, Mia continued, "Okay, today is ridiculous. So campers are in the gym and I saw at least two wearing your jersey, which I think is just…"

"Oh, Jesus. Knee high squirts who can't even dribble yet, armed with type A parents just wanting a glimpse of the Edward Cullen… We have actual serious work to do this summer with dudes over four feet."

"Well, those type A parents bring their check books so…" Mia, again with the truth. "And this is Edward's call. It's important to him." I'm simultaneously nodding at Mia, eye rolling Lemon and booting my computer.

"Have our senior guys… Declan, Murphy, Noah… start light running drills with the kids to warm up. I'll head over soon." Mia quickly texted my directions to the team.

"Two hundred dollars and Coach Cullen will tell you your first grader's gonna play in the NBA one day!"

"Are you done?" I pointed from him to the door.

"Never."

Another knowing wink from Mia."Okay. And you have Sara for lunch at 1:30."

"Sara for lunch… now that's something I can get behind." Lemon bit his knuckles, Mia glared and shot a rubber band at his crotch.

"So, did Sara finally take the job?"

"She did," I mumbled, distractedly deleting emails in mass, eager small town coaches with lame bullshit stats. Lunch at 1:30 was a farewell formality. I was a pro. Nothing I couldn't weather with another solid run along the lake. It probably lasted a month too long. One blurred into the next with easy conversation and decent sex. I couldn't do extras. Couldn't. Wouldn't. No Sunday mornings. No weekend road trips. I met Mia's stare. "It's all good. I promise. She needs to move on and I've got this cool crowd to keep me company."

She sighed, smiling her pity. "Your commitment phobia is depressing. We aren't getting any younger you know and I really liked Sara. Better than Kate… Sorry, just saying." She shuttered, the memory of Kate for all three of us too much this early in the morning.

"Or Morgan. Remember her? Uhm… her Cullen fan status was… bold." They busted at my expense, deservedly so.

"Okay, Okay, there's a department meeting with the Athletic Director at 3:00, he wants names and films, and so on of at least four possible recruits."

"Fuck."

"Yeah, I know. And… Dr. Welch at 4:30. And don't be late. She said she's charging for every minute past ten. But I know you'll want to run back to the campers for a closing speech before your department meeting but after lunch with Sara…"

"Can I just spend the day in the gym with the kids?" Nothing grounded me more.

"And…" she paused, reading a pen scribble on her right palm. "A Bella Swan called. Actually twice."

"Bella Swan?" Bella Swan… I dug deep. Back a year. Two… Bella…

"What port was she on the gigolo journey?" Jealous Jay Lemon tucked his Saints polo into his gym shorts and brushed past Mia. "Peace out, kids. I'm headed to the weight room with some eager freshman."

"Wait! I'll walk with you." She shouted after him, I grabbed her wrist to read Swan's number. "I'll have my cell if you need me. See you at the department meeting. Be sweet to Sara, lover boy." She hurried out, leaving my office door wide open. In the haze of the Bella mystery recall and my full plate day, witnessing a tip toed Lemon whispering in Mia's ear, her flirty lip bite and giggle barely phased me.

Bella. Swan. Bella. Swan. Huh. I grabbed a box of extra-small Saints t-shirts and headed towards the gym, dialing as I went.

Hello?

Ms. Swan?

Yes, this is Bella.

This is Edward Cullen. Clearwater College. You left a voicemail with my office.

Hi there! Yeah! Thanks so much for calling me back. Wow! How are you?

Good. How are you?

Great! Thanks!

So is there… was there something I can help you with?

Oh my god. You have absolutely no idea who I am. You don't remember me do you?

a/n.

as soon as he does remember, he's going to be so excited.

easy fun and sweet love to distract us from the hard stuff outside.

always love your thoughts.

t, thanks for this. xo