A soft knock at the kitchen door startles me. Edward pokes his nose against the window and waves.

I open the door and snap the towel at his chest. "You scared me!"

"Sorry, sorry." He laughs as his hands fly in front of his midsection—as if I'd risk harming him there. "I texted you when I left Shady Acres. You knew I was coming."

"It's dark out, and you never use this door."

"I didn't want to wake Mrs. Cope."

"So instead, you take ten years off my life?"

"Four more and we'll be even." He pulls me into a kiss before I can protest further. I have to admit, kissing beats fighting.

"How did your drop-off go? I don't see any bruises." I give him a good looking over just to make sure.

"Raoul was on a break, and Mom was fast asleep before I left the floor."

"You dodged a bullet there."

"Mmhmm. She says to thank you again for organizing our little makeshift-family gathering."

"Did she say anything else?"

"Are you fishing for compliments, dear?"

"No! And by the way, I can't believe you didn't tell her about Thanksgiving! That was awkward."

"It's not an issue. I'd already discussed it with Alice. Mom's fine with it, just wants to make sure I"—he air quotes—"'put my best foot forward' with your parents."

"I take it you didn't mention the drunken pervert thing?"

He chuckles. "Nope. And yes, Bella, she waxed on and on about how sweet you are and how beautiful you are and how you're such a good influence on me…"

"I'm a good influence, huh?"

"She thinks you're domesticating me."

"Oh my god, me? I seriously doubt I can take any credit for your domestication."

"Hey, I came back to help with the dishes, didn't I? Hmm, looks like I arrived at just the right moment; everything's all put away."

"Nice try, mister. I saved the roasting pan for you. It's soaking in the sink."

"See? Mom's right!"

I snap the towel at his backside as he scurries toward the sink. "Don't make me hurt you."

He rolls up his sleeves and attacks the pan. "Did you get a chance to have that talk with Mrs. Cope?"

"Actually, I did. Figured I should bring it up while the pinot was still flowing through her veins."

He keeps scrubbing but looks over at me. "And?"

"As predicted. She loves me, she loves you, she loves us together. She says everything is working out fine from her perspective, and she doesn't want us to worry about her."

"No surprise there."

"She also said she wouldn't say no to the occasional visit from the handsome gentleman down the street if I'm going to be out all day and night, but she seemed concerned that you might feel obliged, and she doesn't want that."

"Noted." We both know his sense of duty would oblige him regardless of what anyone says or promises.

"Also, she asked me to implore you not to bring any more baked goods of the store-bought or home-made variety."

Edward laughs. "Have flowers been outlawed as well?"

"Nope, no mention was made of flowers."

"Okay, at least I don't have to show up empty-handed." He lifts the roasting pan out of the sink and I step to his side with the towel. "Oh, so that's what you're supposed to use that thing for?"

I give him a watch-it-buddy glare, and he holds up his hands and laughs. I dry the pan, and Edward takes it from me and returns it to the cabinet over the oven. I toss away the towel and step into his arms.

"Did you know your mother invited Mrs. Cope to her duplicate bridge class at Shady Acres?"

"No, really?"

"Yes, apparently she and Mr. Cope used to play all the time. She's been wanting to play but hasn't had the courage to venture out and find a game. It seems your mother has been looking for a partner. They were both ecstatic about it."

"Wow, who would've thought…?"

"Who would've thought," I echo, "I'd bump into an old-fashioned guy with a bad habit of saving damsels in distress—"

"And I'd bump into a girl who didn't have the good sense to wear a raincoat in a monsoon—"

"And we'd end up here, in this kitchen, taking off each other's clothes…"

"We're not—" The light bulb switches on, and Edward chuckles at himself. "Oh."

"Better get cracking, Old School. You've got a lot of buttons to undo."


Author's Note: Sigh. These two were VERY hard to let go. In fact, the moment I left them at the P.S. I Love You Contest, I dove right back in again! To all you readers, and especially you who stopped by at some point to review or PM me, thank you for your support and feedback. I sure love your insights and questions and issues and smiles and personal anecdotes. You make me laugh and think and wonder and want to write more stories!

And now, the thank-you's: To my contest team-Ladyeire, Shell Taylor, and Chayasara-thank you so much for helping me launch this story and find a cool, new audience! Many thanks to the contest hosts, Sri and Chrissie Purple (purpleC305). To my newest partner, Patrizia Adamo, you somehow made the time for these extra chapters I threw at you fast and furious. I deeply appreciate not only your honest reflections on the story and your guidance on where to dive deeper, but also your truly inspiring photos of hot photographers at work in all stages of undress! My files runneth over. Thank you for your heart, your mind, and your energy. To the generous bloggers who picked up this story at ADF and TLS, I thank you so much for your kind words and for bringing new readers to my stories.

What's next for me? *grins* Stay tuned here or on Facebook (Kaye P Hallows).

*LATEBREAKING NEWS* Check out the "Old School" sequel, "A Big Enough Umbrella" right here!