Starting over. She was young enough that it should not even be a thing. Starting over at 25 years of age was insane, yet here she was despite that thought. The rental was nice and she had paid in advance the first two months rent having no idea how she would pay for the third month. She could work that out later once she found a job as a veterinary intern. Her credits had transferred to the veterinary college in a new state thankfully and she was determined to finish her final year internship so she would never have to think about money again.

Or him.

Looking over the small house, Monica sighed. She had very little to decorate with as there had been very little that had been hers, but looking over the last year as she had begun to put her plan into place, there had been no room for "stuff". Every penny had to be carefully accounted for and tucked away out of sight for fear he would find it and realize what her intentions were and if that were to happen, she would have been a prisoner in her own private hell for the unforeseeable future. There had been no room for mistakes.

Over the last week, she had managed to thrift around the city to find herself some of the basics; a bed, a dresser, a loveseat and a desk for her studies. Anything more would simply have to wait though she checked each night on the Free sites on the internet for anything of use that would fit into or on top of her 1991 Volkswagon Beetle, which she had purchased with cash after selling the car he had bought for her. The car had brought a hefty selling price as she had barely been able to drive it. No, he had preferred to chauffeur her everywhere, so the car had under 500 miles on it and she only paid a fraction of the profit from that for the Beetle. He had always underestimated her abilities to say the least.

Monica checked her reflection in the mirror once more, knowing that the time for her interview with the emergency veterinary hospital was growing closer. She looked herself over critically, seeing all the things that were wrong with her and that had been pointed out to her since she had been twenty years old. Nibbling her lower lip, she made a decision to sweep her auburn hair up into a ponytail as that made more sense when working with canine and feline patients. Emergency medicine is not what she wanted to do long-term as she knew how expensive it was for many pet parents, but they had been the first to call her for an interview for an internship. She knew the reference letters from her professors back home had been filled with glowing remarks as Monica worked diligently to keep up her 4.0 GPA.

No more room for mistakes. Not anymore. The last one had cost her five years of her life.

The interview had gone swimmingly well and it had only taken them three days to call her with an offer. It was about what Monica had expected but if she worked hard enough, she could make the frugal salary work for her circumstances. She had spent the late afternoon meeting her colleagues and had been pleased to find out that three of the veterinarians were female. The only man, Adam, had placed her almost immediately at ease with his contagious grin and animated talk as he had shown her around the hospital. Monica had instantly loved the energy of the clinic and commitment everyone had to trying to save the lives of their furry patients. When she had gotten back into her car, she had the feeling it was all a good fit for the next year. Though there were things she was not confident about, her ability to excel in this field was not one of them.

The sun was just setting as she drove across the city heading for home. The only thing that dampened her mood was knowing she was going back to a quiet home with no one to celebrate with. Monica had not been able to keep many friendships over the last few years, but her best friend in Veterinary School, Ericka, had stuck by her, despite the complications in Monica's life. But prior to her departure to Washington State, the two had agreed about no phone calls, emails or text messages for two months and then only if Ericka contacted her first. There was no telling what he was capable of and neither of the two young women wanted to place the other in danger. Ericka would be acutely aware of what was happening back on the East coast and Monica had no choice but to follow her lead.

Maneuvering the city streets, her dark eyes looked over at the local bar closest to her home. Already, people of various ages were filing into the place and for a split second, Monica contemplated stopping. It had been a long time since she had been able to come and go as she pleased and she pondered if maybe inside of Birch and Barley there could be a new friend waiting for her. Other than Ericka, she had been lonely for a long, long while and before she could think of all the reasons she should not do it, she was pulling into the crowded parking lot.

Killing the engine of the bug, Monica grabbed her purse and weaved her keys in between her fingers before exiting and locking her car. The feeling of the keys in her fist made her feel less afraid but she was able to walk inside without incident, even though her heart was pounding in her chest as she approached the bar. She ordered a Stubborn Mule and once she had paid for the Irish whiskey, lime and ginger beer, her eyes perused the bar, hoping for a little booth she could wedge herself into just to enjoy her drink and to watch the locals.

Spotting a booth in a dark corner, Monica headed to it but froze when she heard her name shouted from across the room. For a split second her eyes closed and she felt as if the room were closing in on her. No. It wasn't possible, her mind tried to reason with her as her heartbeat accelerated once more, fear and dread creeping into the darkest recesses of her mind.

"Hey, Monica, come and sit with us." A hand on her shoulder made her flinch and pull away before her eyes opened and she found herself staring into Adam's eyes. The veterinarian's eyes widened, taking in the sudden paleness of her complexion, "Hey, are you okay?"

Her relief was palpable as she struggled to find both her voice and her footing once more, "Y-yes. I'm okay. You just startled me is all." Monica found a smile as her heart slowed to a more normal rhythm.

"I'm here with a friend of mine if you aren't meeting anyone and I'd love it if you would join us." His expression was earnest and still a tad bit concerned. Something had scared the shit out of her, that much was obvious.

Managing a small laugh, Monica shook her head, "As you are the only one I apparently really know here, I am definitely not meeting anyone. Just was not ready to go home after such a good day."

"Well, c'mon then," He grinned, placing a hand on her shoulder again despite her reaction to the first time he had done so, to guide her to a table.

Monica followed him over to where he was sitting and she nearly felt her heart drop when her eyes met with those of Adam's friend.

"Monica, this is Andrew. Andrew, this is Monica, the newest intern at my veterinary hospital.'

She could barely look away as her eyes drank in the man sitting with Adam. Even in the dimmed lighting, she could see the intensity in those emerald eyes as he looked at her. His hair which fell right above his shoulders, was the color of honey wheat and the green shirt he wore had the first three buttons undone. The man was beautiful by anyone's standards, but those eyes….good Lord. They were incredible.

"Nice to meet you, Monica," Andrew spoke easily as he held her gaze. Christ, she was drop dead gorgeous but her aura told him she did not realize it about herself. There was a tiny bit of shyness in those dark eyes but he could tell she was trying to exude confidence despite her original reaction to Adam calling her name.

"Monica had her tour of our hospital today, as I was telling you. She starts the day after tomorrow." Adam explained as both he and Monica took a seat at the table.

Tentatively reaching for a sip of her drink, Monica nodded, trying to avoid those eyes for her own sanity and protection. She had never chosen men well and she was determined not to make another mistake. The Irish whiskey burned in her throat but she kept that fact hidden, "I'm so happy to have found an internship so quickly. I've only been in town under two weeks. It feels like things are really coming together."

"Adam told me you are in your last year. What school did you go to before moving here?"

She measured how honest she should be, wanting no trail to where she now was, "Virginia Tech," She decided on the honest answer, not feeling as if she had much to fear by that tiny bit of truth.

"She was at the head of her class!" Adam exclaimed, not missing the blush that appeared on Monica's cheeks.

Monica smiled faintly and took a much larger slug of the whiskey, the burn had now diminished and the beverage just felt warm as it swirled down her throat, bringing more of a warmth to her entire body and relaxing her a bit more, "I've wanted to go into veterinary medicine since I was a child. It's the only path I ever wanted to take."

That accent. Andrew wondered how she had ended up in the states but decided not to ask upon their first meeting. He secretly hoped there would be more meetings. Many more.

"And what do you do?" Monica tilted her chin up to meet Andrew's eyes, the whiskey making her feel much more bold than she generally would feel.

"At the college where I am sure you are registered as a student," He replied steadily, "Psychology. I also do mentoring of new students."

"Ah." Another long drink of the whiskey, "Would you be my mentor, I wonder?"

"I'll probably have an answer to that next week," Andrew answered, giving her a friendly wink. He had a feeling he would see if he could be her mentor. There was something about the little auburn haired female that made him want to know her better.

That wink. It had to be her cue to leave. Downing the rest of her drink, Monica smiled at both of them, "I think it is time for me to head home. Gentleman, thank you for inviting me to your table. Adam, I'll see you Monday."

"Are you okay to drive?" Adam asked, wondering how often she drank based on how quickly her beverage had allowed her to relax.

"I'm only a few blocks and I only had one," She assured them both, seeing the concern in Andrew's eyes as well.

"I think I'd feel better if we followed you home," Andrew stated slowly, immediately noticing a more guarded expression crossing her face.

"I assure you, I can take care of myself," She stated firmly as she rose from the table, forcing a smile, "Have a good night and it was nice meeting you, Andrew."

As she walked away, the two men exchanged a glance, "Follow her home in secret?" Adam asked pointedly.

"Agreed."