Here we go again … the plot bunny just couldn't stay away. Persistent little fucker. Originally, this began as a dream. When I woke up, I wrote down as much as I could, but it's morphed into something different.

Jake came back and he's a sick little boy and his family is a bunch of douchebags. Just saying … There were also some more earth quakes, but Edward got to snuggle Bella during that. So, bonus for that! Anyhow, we're going to celebrate Bella's birthday a few days later … some adult entertainment. And yes, Dr. Masen will be there.

Chapter Seventeen

Alice wandered down the emergency department. Bella was off today, but she was determined to find a few of her roommate's coworkers for a party for Bella's thirtieth birthday. Yes, it had been a week ago, but it was her thirtieth birthday. It was kind of a big deal and Bella ignored it.

Alice, however, would not.

"Alice Brandon, as I live and breathe," cooed Shelly. "What are you doing down here?"

"I'm on a mission. A secret mission. I'm planning," Alice snickered.

"Who's birthday?" Shelly laughed.

"Bella's," Alice nodded. "I know it was last week, but she deserves more than what she got. So, I'm planning a surprise party at Game Works."

"Oooh, when?" Shelly asked.

"Saturday night, meeting there for dinner at six and games until it closes. I'm off, as is Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie. Marcus Volturi and his husband, Felix, are coming, too," Alice nodded.

"Damn it. I'm on," Shelly grumbled. "Grace is off. She's close with Bella."

"Pass the word onto her, will ya?" Alice asked. "Oh, and is Dr. Masen here?"

"In his office," Shelly smirked. She leaned forward, her brow arched. "I think he's sweet on Bella."

"Me, too," Alice giggled. "But, I'm going to invite him. It'll be up to him if he wants to come. I'll give you the deets if he does show up. Laters!" Alice walked toward Dr. Masen's office. The door was opened and she heard typing. Gently knocking, she poked her head inside. "Dr. Masen?"

"Yes?" he said, sounding exasperated. He blinked up, seeing Alice's face. "Nurse Brandon, what a surprise to see you down here in the emergency department. Are you floating today?"

"Oh, no. I'm on break, but I wanted to talk to you. Well, invite you …" Alice blushed. He arched a brow. "Look, I know that you and Bella are kind of friendly-like. I'm throwing her a surprise party, even though her birthday was a week ago, but it was a milestone birthday. Anyhow, a bunch of us are going to Game Works. To celebrate, Bella's birthday. It's happening on Saturday and perhaps, if you're not working, you'd like to go?"

Edward schooled his looks, trying to appear impassive. "I'm working on Saturday, but if I get off early enough, I could stop by. I don't know," he shrugged.

"What shift?" Alice asked.

"Seven to seven," he answered.

"Send me a text if you're coming," Alice chirped, jotting down her number and putting it on Edward's desk. "I'll see you on Saturday?"

He picked up the number and nodded jerkily. Alice danced out of his office. He hesitantly put Alice's number into his cell phone, unsure if he would go to the party. But, their schedules hadn't aligned since the whole Jake debacle. Edward missed her, honestly. He was tempted to send her a text, just to see her, but shook his head. He turned back to his laptop, finishing up his notes for the case he'd worked on with Dr. York that ultimately ended with the patient's death. They were going to have an M&M, or a morbidity and mortality conference, to discuss what had gone wrong in the seemingly healthy patient. They were just waiting on the autopsy results before the M&M would occur. It was nerve-wracking, but a necessary evil in the medical field.

When he was finished with his shift, he drove back to his home, but dialed his mother. "Edward, darling, it's so good to hear from you," she cooed. "How are you?"

"I'm okay," he replied. "Um, I need your advice, if you don't mind."

"Are you ready to talk about why you won't give me grandbabies?" she quipped. He didn't respond and Elizabeth felt guilty. "I'm so sorry, Edward." He was still quiet. "Are you there?"

"Yes," he said, his voice steely. "Never mind. I'll talk to you later." He hung up before Elizabeth could respond and she growled lowly. Edward drove around the city before he arrived at home, so angry at his mother. She knew he was sensitive about children. She didn't know why, but she usually was more tactful than that. His cell phone rang repeatedly with his parents' home number, but he ignored it. When he got home, he turned off his cell and changed into his running clothes. He needed to get his mind off his mother's flippant question.

If I was normal, I'd laugh it off.

Why can't I be normal?

Why do I let Tanya still run my life? She's out of it.

But, she devastated you. Humiliated you. And she continues to do so.

I want to be normal. I want to feel again.

I want to be loved.

He stopped when his mind fixated on that. He was at the bridge where Bella had fallen. He gripped his knees and stared at the raised buckle in the asphalt. "Why can't I be loved? Why can't I open up my heart to someone?" he mused out loud. Idiot, you are. Bella? The hot doc with the cute ass and perky tits? "But, does she feel the same way?"

The skies opened up and he was drenched within seconds. He leaned against a tree, thinking about his life and how empty he was. He hated what Tanya had done to him. She'd taken his trust and threw it into his face. She'd exposed him to countless diseases, but he came back clean and four years later, he's only now considering opening up his heart. But, could he ever trust someone, a woman, with his heart? Would it blow up in his face again?

Then, he remembered how Bella felt in his arms and how right she felt in his bed. She was soft, kind, determined, dedicated, smart, and beautiful. Was she worth the risk?

Shivering, he didn't know the answer. He clenched his fists, ground his teeth and ran back to his home, which was as empty as he was.

xx SG xx

"I can't believe you managed to pull this together, Mary Alice Brandon," Bella deadpanned as she ate her dinner. "And without my knowing it."

"That's because I'm the shit," Alice laughed. "I'm just glad that you're here and I know that almost everyone in the hospital is happy with your work. See all of the nurses and doctors that love you."

"I'm revered by all," Bella snorted.

Alice ordered Bella another drink and her phone chirped from her purse. She tugged it out, seeing a text from an unknown number. I'm planning on being there. Finishing up my notes now ~ E.M. Alice smiled when she read it. It must be from Dr. Masen. She tapped out a reply, tucking her phone back into her purse. She tugged on Bella's hand, dragging her out into the game room. Using their cards, which had twenty dollars' worth of tokens, they started at some dance game. People paired off, bringing Bella drinks or refilling her card.

Outside, Edward sat in his car, tapping on his steering wheel anxiously. Next to him, he had a gift bag with a tiny gift for Bella. It wasn't a lot, but he thought it was a nice gift. He got her a beautiful sapphire-colored scarf. It seemed appropriate since sapphire was the September birthstone. He picked up the gift and wrinkled his nose. Would she hate it? Shaking his head, he tucked it into his jacket pocket and slid out of his car. He smoothed his hands down his button-down and went into Game Works. Almost immediately, he saw Alice Brandon.

"About time!" she snickered. "I was worried that you'd blow us off."

"No," Edward said, shifting on his feet.

"Have you eaten?" Alice asked, guiding him to a private room. There was a buffet of appetizers. He hadn't really eaten much since his rushed lunch. "We're able to leave our shit here. Oh, here's your card."

"Thanks," Edward said, slipping off his jacket and putting it on an empty chair. "Drinks?"

"Those you have to buy," Alice giggled. She slugged him in the shoulder. "Relax, Masen. Have fun. Smile. Get drunk. Flirt with your girl." She smirked, dancing out of the room and she didn't see Edward's blush. He walked over to the appetizers, eating some before heading out onto the floor. He ordered a beer and wandered around.

"Edward Masen, as I live and breathe. You're out. In public. Having fun?" Jasper cackled. Emmett was standing beside him, his eyes wide.

"I'm out, but I wouldn't push it with the fun part," Edward replied wryly. "Alice invited me. She knows that I work with Isabella."

"And you came?" Emmett snickered. "You must like this girl."

Edward didn't reply, just taking a sip of his beer. "I've never been here."

"It's like an arcade, but for adults. Obviously, you're partaking with the adult beverages," Jasper said, clinking his pint with Edward's. "But, you need to make a fool of yourself. Play Dance, Dance, Revolution or something." Edward snorted. "Can you dance or would that make you wither away?"

"I can dance," Edward retorted. "But, not on some arcade game."

"Prove it," Jasper taunted. "Winner buys the next round." He tugged on Edward's arm. He followed, a scowl on his face. "Come on, Edward, live a little!"

"Stepping on some arrows to a steady beat is not living, jack ass," Edward said, handing his beer to Emmett. Using his card, he swiped it and Jasper programmed the game. "I can't believe I'm doing this."

"Oh, you're doing this," Jasper guffawed. "Emmett! Film this shit."

"Please don't," Edward whimpered as the music began and a countdown appeared on the screen. When it did, Edward's competitive side came out and it was pretty neck-in-neck, racking up an insanely high score and a large crowd. Edward was better than anyone expected, lithe and graceful as he played. Jasper stumbled and Edward held up his hands, a triumphant grin on his face. "Next round's on you, Jasper."

"Fuck me," Jasper grumbled.

"Nah. You're not my type," Edward snorted, taking his beer from Emmett and took a hefty swig.

"I am," Bella chirped, emerging from the crowd. "You've got moves, Masen. Care to try with me?"

"I'd hate to embarrass the birthday girl," Edward smirked.

"You're just going to let me win," she giggled, smacking his ass and swiping her card. "You ready?"

"What are the terms?" he asked, waggling his brows.

"To be determined," she answered, a coy smile spreading over her face. The music changed and the countdown began. It made the showdown with Jasper look like child's play. Bella, who was just as competitive as Edward, was determined to win. The liquid courage she'd had made her looser and cocky. Almost everyone was cheering for Bella, but Edward was taking the lead and a stumble caused her to lose. She scowled, her arms crossed. "Fuck. I want a do-over."

"What are we? Five?" Edward snickered. Bella smacked his arm. They got off the platform. Bella drained her girly drink, walking to the bar. Jasper pressed some money for his loss into Edward's hand, pointing to Pop-a-Shot with Emmett. The crowd dispersed and Edward got another beer, paying for another cosmopolitan for Bella.

"So, you won, though I think you cheated," Bella said, sitting down on the stool.

"Yeah, I cheated. I'm pretty much sober while you were a little wobbly," he said, arching a brow. Bella shrugged. "Now, we didn't agree to terms. I won."

"You did," she said, sipping her drink. "What do you want, Dr. Masen? I'm your obedient servant."

"Really?" he sang.

"Not like that, perv," she growled. "I'll do about anything, within reason. So, what do you want as your prize?"

Edward thought about it and one thing circled in his mind. He wanted to make love to Bella in his bed. He wanted her to spend the night, sleeping next to him, her naked body pressed to his. He was treading in dangerous territory. He looked around, not seeing any of their coworkers. He moved closer, his eyes catching hers. "I want you to come home with me. I want to take my time with you, bringing you and me as much pleasure as we can. I want you to sleep in my bed," he said, his voice deep, sensual and almost pleading. Bella blinked slowly, shocked at the intensity in his eyes. "I know we said no beds …"

"It's yours," she whispered. He gave her a slow, crooked smile, his hand brushing over hers as he slid back.

"What would you have asked for, if you had won?" Edward asked.

Bella bit her lip, crossing her leg and staring at him. She secretly wanted the same thing as Edward. One night, uninterrupted, filled with pleasure, naked bodies and hot kisses. She wanted to suck his cock. She wanted his tongue inside her pussy and she wanted to feel his weight on her. She considered being crass and saying something like bathroom sex, but her pinky caressed his hand. "I wanted the same thing," she said. He captured her pinky with his and his smile was soft and sweet. It took years off his face. "Thank you for coming, Edward. I know that … things like this … they make you uncomfortable."

"I wanted to see you," he said, shrugging his shoulder noncommittally. He looked blasé about the whole thing. Though, the way he said it, being here meant more than he let on and that made Bella's heart stammer against her ribs. "I have a birthday present for you."

"Just being here is enough," she replied. "You didn't have to get me anything."

"I know. I wanted to," he said simply. "Are you on tomorrow?"

"No, thankfully," Bella said, making a face. "It's a big part of the reason why Alice arranged for this to happen tonight. I can recuperate from any hangovers. Though, drinking doesn't seem like a wise decision. I want to remember tonight."

"Hmmm, me, too," Edward replied, winking at her.

"Come on. As much as I would love to ditch everyone and bow to your sexual whims, this is my party. I have to stay," Bella giggled, slipping her hand into his. "I've got to beat you at something. How do you feel about skeeball?"

A/N: I had every intention of putting a lemon in here, but the bet came up and yeah … it's giving them a chance to have some smexy times in Edward's bedroom, which means, the next chapter will be ALL lemon. A full one, with writhing naked bodies, tongues tasting and fingers teasing. Leave me some!