"You have got to be fucking kidding me," Marissa Cooper complained profusely as she stepped out of the hot taxi into the scorching, humid South Texas air. "This is where I'm going to be staying for the whole weekend? Where's Lippy, the piano player with a hole in his stomach? I feel like I just stepped into the pages of Lonesome Dove."

Heaving a sigh, the taxi driver set the last of her bags down on the side of the street after removing them from the trunk. "I have no idea what you're talking about there, Miss, but I don't know what you were expecting….the Four Seasons perhaps?"

Flinching when she realized she and her new Prada open toed pumps would be walking across a desert of a driveway to reach her hotel….no, motel…..for dust was everywhere, Marissa began grumbling under her breath as she loaded her bags unto her petite shoulders. "The four seasons would have been nice, but hell, at this point, I would settled for a Hilton." Turning to the bewildered taxi driver, she glued on her biggest, fake smile and turned up the charm. "Would you just point me in the direction of the nearest café with wireless, high speed internet? I have work to do, and I need some caffeine after that miserable, no offense, ride in from the city."

Making her jump, the driver slammed the trunk of the car before walking back around to get into the driver's seat, talking the entire time. "There's no café and there ain't no wireless, high speed internet in this area neither, but there is a nice little diner there across the street which serves up a mean plate of ham, grits, and homemade buttermilk biscuits. Have a nice stay." And with that and a cloud of choking dust, he was gone leaving Marissa to silently curse to herself as she made her way to the rundown, dark, and depressing motel she would be calling home the weekend.

Ryan Atwood was sitting in his usual stool at his usual diner eating his usual breakfast as his usually quiet self. Each and everyday was the same; his life a simple, soothing routine, and that was exactly the way he liked it. Smiling slightly to himself as he contemplated what the day had in store for him, he was not prepared for what the ring of the bell in the doorway, signaling a new arrival, would bring to his morning. The first thing he noticed about the person….a woman….was their voice, void of a southern accent and definitely annoyed as she talked to herself.

"I cannot believe that I just saw a tumbleweed blowing down Main Street. If I wake up in Oz tomorrow morning, those damn ruby slipper better be updated to today's standards, because they were atrocious." He snickered as he noticed that she sat down beside him, and without letting her detect, he snuck a glance of her out of the corner of his eye and was surprised when he felt an instant attraction. "I'll take a cup of hot tea please with lemon and honey," the visitor requested as the waitress just stared at her, confused and immobile.

"The lady will have a coffee, Helen, thanks," Ryan ordered for the stranger beside him, finally looking up from his plate of breakfast and turning to the beautiful woman occupying the space to his right to find her staring at him with animosity and exasperation written plainly across her tanned and flawless face.

"Excuse me, you just did not order for me, did you? I don't know how they treat women here in Texas," she spit out, the disdain and dislike apparent in her tone, "but where I'm from, we're allowed to speak for ourselves! I'm not some little damsel in distress you can ride in and rescue; I take care of myself."

Smirking at her, he nodded to the cup of coffee the waitress had just placed in front of his sparing partner. "Put that on my bill, Helen, thanks, and as for wanting to rescue you," he said as he turned to face the blonde haired, blue eyed beauty, "I wasn't trying to. I knew that the only thing you'd get here was coffee, and I figured I'd save poor Helen there the trouble of telling you over and over again what you wanted they didn't have." Putting his hand out for her to shake, he finally greeted her. "Ryan Atwood and you are?"

Begrudgingly, Marissa put her hand out as well and shook the strong one he had offered her. "Marissa Cooper and I'm normally not this big of a bitch, I swear."

"So I take it the ambiance of our little town here was what put you in this mood?" Marissa stared at him, shocked. Here she was in this hole in the world diner being flirted with by what she could easily term the cutest cowboy she had ever seen….and he seemed smart, too. Deciding to take her fun where she could get it, she nodded her head towards a table away from the counter where they would have some relative privacy, picked up her coffee, and made her way towards it.

"Helen," Ryan called out to the MIA waitress who had disappeared into the back of the restaurant, no doubt to gossip that the town's most shy citizen was chatting it up with a gorgeous, out of town visitor, "when you get a chance, would you please bring us a pot of coffee to our table. Thanks!" Sitting down in the chair across from Marissa, he smiled at her once again, his eyes twinkling with mischievousness. "So…."

"Do you really want to know why I'm here and why I'm in such a terrible mood," she asked him, surprised that he did appear to be interested.

"Trust me, if I wasn't I wouldn't be here right now," he confided, "so please enlighten me."

"Okay, so how about the why I'm here part first," she asked and to which he responded with a nod. "I work for InStyle Weddings, the magazine, and we're running a special issue next month about down home, family, small town weddings, and writers and photographers have been sent to various places around the country to report on them. Out of all the places people were sent, Hawaii, Maine, South Carolina, Colorado, I was sent here to this god-forsaken ghost town that does not have a decent hotel, wireless, high speed internet, or tea."

"Which are you then," he asked interested, "the photographer or the writer?"

"Both," she lamented, "which means I don't even have a co-worker to help keep me company. I'm going to go insane out here by myself for a whole weekend. I won't be able to get any work done because I won't be able to use my laptop, and there really is a lack of culture in this town to keep me entertained…..which is why I'm in a bitchy mood, but that's enough about me; tell me about you."

Showing her interest, she leaned her head on her hands and moved so that her elbows were resting on the table as she peered at him waiting for an answer.

"There's really not much to tell, and, trust me, you're much more interesting than I am."

"Why don't you start with why you don't have a Texas accent and look very much like a Southern California baby and not a Texas Cowboy? I mean, blonde hair, blue eyes, we're practically matching." She motioned between them to show their similar physical traits, making Ryan realize, again, just how well they do look together…..well she'd make any guy look good, he thought.

"I'm from Chino," Ryan began but Marissa interrupted him excitedly.

"Newport Beach," she exclaimed with a large smile. "We were practically neighbors once."

"The two towns might be separated by just a 45 minute drive," he conceded, "but they are worlds apart. For instance, my Dad went to jail when I was a kid, my older brother went to jail when I was 16, and my Mom was a drunk who let her boyfriends beat up on her. I stayed just long enough to graduate from high school and then ran here. That was 10 years ago."

"I'll see your jailbird Dad with one of my own. My Dad was a financial planner who stole all of his clients' money. My Mom wouldn't help him out by selling the house to pay back the debt, so he went to jail, and then my Mom proceeded to marry several times, always for money and always to much older men who died soon after the ink dried on the marriage license. She's called 'The Kiss of Death' but the old, rich tycoons still flock to her, why, I don't want to know. She's currently courting husband number five. Finally, there is my little sister who has been in and out of drug rehab facilities since she was 15, so, you see, our worlds….or I should say former worlds….are not so different."

Curious, he inquired, "former world?"

"I left home when I was 18 for college. I had not been the perfect teenager, some boyfriend trouble and a slight drinking problem, but I was determined to get away from my Mom. Four years later, sober and graduated, I moved from New York, where I went to school, back to LA for a job at InStyle Weddings. I'm obviously still there, just promoted a few times."

"Do you like it," he continued to question her, appearing to be hanging onto her every word.

"I do," Marissa said plainly, "it's not my passion, photographing weddings and/or bridal accoutrements, but it has its advantages. If I ever get married one day I'll have a lot of connections."

The thought that she was at least not married appealed to Ryan, but he would not say anything. She was just there for the weekend; he would never see this woman again for the rest of his life.

"What about you," she turned the conversation around. "What have you been doing for ten years in Texas, well, besides, rescuing bitchy California princesses who can't handle a little adversity with grace?"

Judging my the smirk on her face, he knew that her self-deprecating humor was showing, and he couldn't help but laugh out loud, making her giggle and a few heads turn to peer curiously in their direction. Ignoring the interested looks they were garnering, Ryan just continued to open up and share his life story with the woman in front of him, surprising no one more than himself.

"I worked in construction for a year or two for an old boyfriend of my Mom's who was actually a good guy, but I got bored and I didn't like working with others."

"Aw, don't we share well, Atwood," Marissa teased, letting her foot graze against his leg while she taunted him, a motion that did not go unnoticed by Ryan.

"Actually, I just didn't like having to talk to all of them." She looked confused, so he elaborated. "Normally, I'm not much of a talker, and I wanted a job where I wouldn't have to work with others."

"But you're talking to me after initiating the conversation," she asked slightly bewildered.

Moving his leg so that it brushed up against hers, returning her favor from just the moment before, he shot back without batting an eye, "well, it's not everyday that a guy just happens to have someone that looks like you sit down beside them at the local diner. Who knows if I will ever happen again, so I had to take advantage of it while I could."

"And now what," Marissa pondered out loud. Turning red, she realized that he could interpret her question to mean that she wanted something else to happen between them. "I meant what do you do now," she corrected without meeting his eye.

"I own a small ranch and work for myself, by myself. There's nothing like being able to ride on your own property all day long and never come in contact with another person."

"Yeah, I'll have to take your word for that," she chuckled, "because there is no way I'd ever live somewhere like that. What do you do if you have some kind of emergency?"

Standing up, he threw some money down on the table and waited for her to stand up with him. "I guess Helen decided I didn't need any more coffee today, but to answer your question, there was this amazing little invention a few years back called a cell phone. I always carry one on me."

"Oh, you have cell coverage out here," she practically squealed, digging through the large bag thrown carelessly over her shoulder and pulling out her phone, kissing it when she saw it did indeed have reception. "You have no idea how happy you just made me. Thank you!"

"If you think that's exciting, wait till you see this." Guiding her out of the restaurant by placing his hand gently on the small of her back, noticing that it fit perfectly there and liking the feeling of her skin on his hands, he pointed down the street to a rather old building that was still in good condition. "I don't know who told you we didn't have the internet here, but they were wrong. You see that building there," he asked to which she nodded to signal she was aware of which one he was pointing out, "that's our library and rumor has it they have high speed, wireless internet available."

What she did next shocked the hell out of Ryan. Jumping up and down, she impulsively threw her arms around him and kissed his cheek. "You can be my white knight whenever you want to be. This is amazing! Maybe it's even open 24 hours and I can just hide in there and skip the bed bugs at the flea bag motel."

Laughing at her enthusiasm and description of the local motel, which he realized he had to agree with her on, Ryan headed off towards him truck to go back to the real world, but her voice stopped his progression and made him turn around once more. Wanting a better view of her, he put his hand up and shielded his eyes to peer at her, the sun behind her making her golden hair glow in the late morning light.

"Where are you going," she asked him perplexed.

"As much as I'd like to hang out with you all day and rescue you from all your Texas induced woes, I have work waiting for me back home," Ryan explained.

Not wanting this to be the last time she saw him, Marissa surprised herself and inquired about his future breakfast plans. "Will you be at the diner tomorrow or Sunday morning so I can pay you back for the cup of coffee you bought me?"

"I'm going out tomorrow night, so I have to get my chores done early. You wouldn't be up even if I did come into town. As for Sunday, I'll be sleeping in and completely skipping breakfast. I guess we'll just have to leave it up to fate as to whether or not we'll see each other again." Moving up to her, he put his hand out once more, and this time she eagerly accepted it. "It was nice to meet you, Marissa Cooper."

"The pleasure was all mine, Ryan Atwood," she laughed at his formality. Leaning in, she kissed his cheek and pulled away. "Here's to fate then," and with that, he watched her saunter down the road, talking to herself and cursing the dust the entire way to the library.

Marissa Cooper was bored. After getting her work out of the way, she had taken pictures both of the wedding ceremony and the reception, she was now left to sit and watch perfect strangers enjoy themselves at the wedding. Not wanting to intrude upon the festivities, she sat in a quiet corner of the lawn not wanting to be there but yet not wanting to go back to her room at the motel either. Unfortunately for her, the library did not stay open 24 hours a day.

Startling her out of what might have been her hundredth self-pity session since she had set foot in Texas, she felt the slightest touch on her hare shoulder and a warm breath on her ear.

"Looks like fate was in our corner," a familiar voice, a voice that belonged to Ryan Atwood, the cowboy she had met the morning before in the diner, whispered to her. Moving around so she could see him, he took her hand without asking her and pulled her towards the dance floor, wordlessly.

He looked good, she thought to herself. Sure, he had looked nice in his tight jeans and t-shirt the day before, but no one could accuse him of not cleaning up well either. He looks good enough to eat, her mind silently commented as the corners of her mouth turned up in a pleased smile. He had on black dress pants and a basic, white oxford shirt, the top few buttons undone. His suit jacket had obviously been discarded earlier, and his sleeves were rolled up to give her a nice glance at his toned forearms. Tearing her eyes away from his body, she refocused her attentions upon his face, noticing he was watching her just as closely.

"Hey," she shot out in mock annoyance as she realized he had played her this whole time, "what was all that talk about fate when you knew that I was going to be at this wedding the whole time and obviously you knew you had been invited?"

"It was up to fate," he said with all the innocence he could feign. "We might be a small town, but there were two weddings going on this evening, this one here and the one over at the bar. I wasn't sure which one you'd be covering."

"Very cute," Marissa teased as she rolled her eyes.

"I try," he flirted back, "and speaking of cute, look at you. You know, I don't think it's proper etiquette for the journalist to outshine the bride at the wedding."

Pulling away from him so she could properly explain herself, Marissa was too preoccupied with her reasons and didn't notice that he was just playing with her.

"Look, my boss said formal, and in LA formal means a floor length gown not a sundress like everyone else here seems to think."

"Hey, I'm not complaining," Ryan admitted as he gazed at her again, pulling her back into his arms so that they could continue dancing. "You look…..well….um….uh….perfect."

Giggling, she replied, "Aw, Ryan, I believe that somewhere inside of all that mumbling there was a compliment, so thank you."

She really did look amazing, and Ryan couldn't help but feel a sense of pride that she was dancing with him….and a little possessive when he saw the other men there looking at her. Her gown was a nude color, strapless, with a tight bodice to her knees where the dressed flared. Her hair was down, cascading down her bronzed back; her makeup was delicate, letting her natural beauty shine. In one word, she was flawless.

"This party is kind of lame, don't you think," he asked her. "Have you finished your work?"

"Hours ago."

"Well then," he said as he stopped dancing and wrapped his arm around her waist and started to walk with her off of the dance floor, "what do you say we get of here?"

Sighing out of relief, Marissa couldn't believe her own forwardness as she let her body lean into his, grateful for this very welcome distraction and loving how just his simple touch could send chills down her spine.

"I guess we only have two options," he said ruefully. "I can either take you back to your motel room…"

"Oh god no," she interrupted him. "I don't care where we go, but I cannot go back there yet, and I already know that the library isn't open this late."

Laughing, he opened the door to his truck for her. "Sorry about the truck. This wasn't really part of my plan for the evening, and even if it was, it's not like I have another vehicle I could drive."

"This is fine, Ryan. I might be from Orange County, but I've ridden in a truck before."

"You probably weren't dressed like that though," he pointed out regretfully. Before she could say anything else though to defend her stance that the truck did not bother her, he held up a placating hand, shut her door, and climbed in the other side of the truck. Starting it up, he pulled out of the parking lot and turned to her. "I guess we could always go back to my place…..not that I'm trying to….or not…..um….."

"Ryan," Marissa spoke up, "your place sounds good." Turning to him, she smiled, letting him know that she had ideas as well, before she unbuckled her seat belt, slid across the seat of the truck, and let him wrap his arm around her.

At first, he just ran his hand up and down her arm, savoring the feeling of her smooth skin against his work warn hands, lighting tickling her and making her blush, but soon he needed a more enjoyable diversion. Removing his arm from around her shoulder, he let his hand gently rest on her knee, the fact that he couldn't feel her skin beneath the dress driving him mad. When she didn't protest, he let his hand drift up her leg further and further until it was on her upper thigh. Not satisfied yet, he looked up at her face where he saw that her eyes were closed and a small grin was dancing across her utterly kissable lips betraying the fact that she was enjoying what he was doing, so he slowly, tantalizingly started to rub her thigh, massaging it and wishing that they would reach his house soon.

By the time they pulled into Ryan's driveway, he knew they were both nearing the edge; her breathing was ragged and his arousal was painful. Shutting off his truck, and not even hesitating for a moment, he jumped out and picked Marissa up, carrying her with him. Shocking him, in a pleasant way, Marissa leaned up and wrapped her arms around his neck and took his mouth in hers before they even reached the door. Refusing to tear his lips away from hers, he only deepened the kiss, mingling their tongues together in a dance of wild, unbridled passion while he struggled to open the door.

Finally getting it open, he stumbled into his living room and went to set Marissa down when he heard her lightly protest by moaning into his mouth.

"What," he asked incredulously, "here?"

"Yeah," she answered him breathless, "at least for this round." When he went to unzip her dress, she protested by pulling her lips away from his while her hands ran down his stomach to the clasp on his pants. "Just pull it up. I want you now!"

As he did what he was told and hiked up her dress, holding it over her waist, she freed him of the constraints of his pants and took his mouth into hers once again. There was no foreplay; they were not tender with each other. Up against the wall of the living room, Ryan slammed into Marissa as they had wild, crazy, hard sex leaving them both wanting more and feeling exhilarated.

Without saying another word, Ryan kicked off his pants, picked up Marissa, and carried her up the stairs to his bedroom. This time they were going to take their time. Turning her around so that her back was to him, he picked up her damp hair and let it fall over her shoulder as he leaned down and kissed down the back of her neck. Wanting to continue his way down her back, he slowly unzipped her dress and let it fall to the floor, revealing her entire body to his hungry and greedy eyes. Unsatisfied with not being able to see her beautiful face, he gently turned her around and let his eyes roam over her body, taking her breasts in his hands and slowly, painstakingly slowly, stroked circles into them.

Not to be outdone, Marissa made quick work of the rest of Ryan's clothes, stripping him bare in a few seconds time, not worrying about whether or not the shirt remained intact. While his hands worked miracles on her breasts, teasing and tantalizing her, she moved her lips to his neck, sucking on it playfully as she let her own hands wander his body in search of pleasure. Somehow, and Marissa was not exactly sure when in their heat of passion they moved, they ended up in Ryan's bed where for the second time that night, they had sex.

This time, however, it was slower, sensual, sweet. Lying in his arms afterwards as sleep started to make her drowsy, her mind kept flashing back to moments of pure ecstasy: the feeling of his mouth on her breasts, his hands caressing her core, his tongue teasing her. And of course there was the feeling of him inside of her, filling her, completing her. Sex had always been fun for her…..the few times she had been in a relationship long enough to reach that point with a man….but she had never experienced anything like this before; she had never been this flamboyant in bed or this wild in having a one night stand with a perfect stranger.

Ryan was exhausted. It had been a long day….and an even longer night, which was a very good thing, but he was spent. However, he did not want to go to sleep, for once he went to sleep he'd only wake up to it being Sunday, and Sunday meant she was leaving. Pulling her naked body in closer to his, as if he held onto her long enough she'd never leave, he leaned in so that his face was nuzzled into the crook of her neck, the scent of her floral shampoo delighting his senses. His hands soothingly moved across her abdomen, lazily tracing patterns into the flawless skin, and he watched her as she sighed out of contentment. He was almost as peace until…..

"Oh my god," Ryan exclaimed, sitting up in bed and startling Marissa. "We didn't…..I didn't…..twice. And now, what if…..oh my god."

Giggling at his reaction and inability to talk about the subject of protection, Marissa reached out her arms and wrapped them around Ryan's torso, drawing him back to her. Once he was flat on the bed again, head resting on his pillow, she shifted her body so that she could curl herself around him, entwining their legs and resting her head on his chest. "It's okay Ryan. We're safe. I'm not going to get pregnant." Using his taunting words from the day before, she toyed with him. "There was this amazing little invention a few years back called birth control, so don't worry. I'm not going to call you up in nine months and say, surprise, we have a kid, and if you're worried about anything else, I'm safe."

"Me, too," he said to quell any worries she might have about the same topic. "I mean….this is not something I normally do. It's actually been a while since…."

"Me, too," Marissa cut him off, relieving him of the embarrassing topic and ensuring him that she was not someone who slept around. "I'm actually a little embarrassed about how I acted before."

"Don't be. You were hot!"

"I aim to please," she shot back at him, but her comedic timing was ruined when a yawn escaped her lips.

"That's our cue, come on," Ryan whispered softly, "let's get under the covers and go to sleep." And that's what they did….well after one…..maybe a few…..goodnight kisses.

Marissa woke the next morning to the delicious smell of…..

"Tea," she shouted gleefully, opening her eyes to see Ryan arriving with a breakfast tray full of food for the both of them. Sitting it down on the bed, she held it in place so that he could get in and under the covers, taking her back in his arms, without anything spilling. "It's only been two days since I had my last cup, but I've missed it so much. Thank you," she said as she turned and kissed his cheek. "And a normal breakfast with no grits in sight! This is amazing."

"I thought you might be a pancakes girl, but if you dare get syrup on me or my bed, you're out of here," he teased her. "Oh and when I went to town to go to the store…."

"You already went to town," she exclaimed surprised. "What time did you get up?"

Laughing, he playfully poked her in the ribs. "A few hours ago; not all of us get to sleep in until 11:00."

"But I thought you said you do sleep in on Sundays," her voice trailed off puzzled.

"Normally, I do, but you see if I wanted to spend the afternoon with the gorgeous, leggy blonde in my bed, I had to get the chores done early. Anyway, after I did the chores, I went to the store, picked up some food for breakfast and lunch later and stopped the by the motel and freed your belongings of their disgusting quarters."

"They let you take my stuff," she asked concerned. "Isn't that illegal, and do I have to go back and sign out of my room?"

"It is highly illegal, but they let me do it anyway, because, you see, the local gossip has it that you're my long lost sister from California who came here to see her brother. Oh, and they let me check out for you, too. I didn't want to be too presumptuous, but I wanted to spend as much time with you today that I could, and I didn't really think you'd mind not having to go back to the motel."

"I don't mind at all," she chirped sweetly, "but I do have a problem with this town thinking that I'm your sister. Hello, brothers and sisters do not dance the way we were dancing last night!"

"Maybe they do in Texas," Ryan quipped making Marissa almost choke on her pancakes.

After leisurely eating their breakfast, talking and flirting the entire time through it, Marissa suggested a shower….for the both of them, and Ryan, ever the proper gentleman, obliged. When they emerged from the steam of the bathroom, Marissa, still nude, went to make her way towards the bed, believing that they would spend the rest of the day there, but Ryan had other plans.

Grabbing hold of her arm and playfully drawing her back to him, he patted her on the ass as he pushed her towards her bags he had carried up for her.

"Nope, I don't think so," he chided good-naturedly. "You, sleepyhead, are not going back to bed. I have plans for you today. I'm going to prove to you that there are some good things about Texas. Now put on something casual, something you won't care if you ruin."

As he turned to get into his own drawers to get dressed, the sound of a camera going off startled him. Whirling around, he saw a concentrating Marissa taking pictures of him while he slid a pair of boxers on.

"If these end up in Playgirl," he joked with her, "I'm suing." Walking towards her, he grabbed the camera away from her when she was not expecting him to, and looked at the picture she had taken. It was only of his face. Surprised, he looked up at her only to be confronted with her tongue poking out at him before she turned around to get dressed herself. Not deterred, Ryan started taking his own pictures…..and they weren't just of her face. Just as she went to put on a pair of jeans, he pulled them out of her grasp and took her by the hand, leading her back to his bed.

"Ryan," she asked slightly nervous, "what are you doing?"

"You inspired me," he answered with an innocent look on his face. "If I have to let you go this evening, I at least want something to remember you by." He unsnapped the front clasp of her bra and then gently slid the straps down her delicate shoulders, baring her perfect breasts to him again. Taking his time, he tenderly removed her thong as well, leaving her absolutely naked on his bed and blushing from head to toe. He had never seen anything more beautiful. It was obvious that she was nervous, that she had never let anyone do this to her before, but she didn't fight him.

Moments later, he was finished dressing as she was putting her hair up.

"Thank you," he sighed into the dip of her neck as he wrapped his arms around her hips, letting his hands fall to caress her lower abdomen. "One weekend with you was never going to be enough, and although the pictures are a poor substitute, at least I'll know you weren't a fantasy."

"You're welcome," she cooed softly. All of a sudden, she becoming animated as her eyes light up and glow like sapphires, she twirled around to face him. "Now, what's this surprise you have planned for me?"

Holding a picnic basket in one hand and her camera bag in the other, Marissa stared at Ryan like he had gone insane.

"You want ME to ride one of those things," she spat out incredulously as she nodded towards a horse.

Not expecting this to be her reaction, Ryan just stared at her in confusion. "Yeah," he responded with a shrug of his shoulders. "It'll be fun."

"The only way I'm getting on a horse is if I'm riding yours with you and you hold onto me," she practically pleaded with him.

Moving towards her and unloading one of her weighed down arms, Ryan went back to his horse and packed her camera supplies into the saddle bag. "I think I like your idea better." He climbed onto the horse first and then held out a hand for her. "Keep hold of the picnic basket. You'll have to carry it for us, but I won't let you fall, I promise." And he didn't.

They had traveled around the estate at a leisurely clip, enjoying each others' company and sharing stories of their past, their ambitions of the present, and their dreams of the future. Soon the early afternoon turned into late afternoon, and Ryan was jolted from his melancholy thoughts of their impending goodbye by the sound of Marissa's stomach growling out of hunger. Conceding it was time to stop and eat, he found them a shade tree by a small creek to settle down beside.

Their meal had been quiet, both thinking that they had less than two hours left together before Ryan would have to take her into town to catch a taxi back to the airport. Once they had finished eating, Ryan quickly packed up the containers and garbage before turning to Marissa only to find her silently crying. He didn't have to ask her what was wrong; he knew. Taking her in his arms, he moved her so that she was sitting in his lap. After a moment of silence, he was startled when he felt Marissa turn to him and begin unbuttoning his shirt.

"I figured out one reason why I like Texas and why you like this whole no neighbors thing you have going on," she confessed softly, "because if you had neighbors we wouldn't be able to do this." With that, she pushed him back on the ground and blanketed his body with hers, tenderly kissing his lips as tears coursed down her face. Tenderly holding her body to his, he flipped them over so that he could look into her eyes.

"Are you sure you want to do this," he asked concerned. "You don't have to do this for me, and if it's going to make you even more upset…."

Placing a gentle finger on his lips, she silenced his worries by kissing him once again. "I need this, Ryan; I need you."

Without any more words shared between them, there under the shade tree, beside the creek, with no one close by for miles, Ryan Atwood made love to Marissa Cooper for what could very well be the last time.

They returned to his house, packed her bags into the back of his truck, and drove to town. Surprising her, he did not stop but drove straight through, holding her even more tightly to him as she was back in her customary location right beside him. His free hand laced with both of hers as she played with his fingers, gently tracing the lines on them and every once and a while bending down her head so her lips could kiss them softly, neither said a word as he drove her to the airport for the silence said it all. She was leaving, and this time it really was up to fate if they would ever see each other again.

In the course of the weekend they had shared what Marissa considered the best breakfast ever, the best dance ever, the best night together ever, and the best goodbye ever under the shade tree, but, now that she was going home to LA, away from the place she had cursed since the moment she had stepped foot in it, she knew that she had also experienced her best relationship ever as well. Something about Ryan just made sense, and the way they fit together….she couldn't describe it. It was as if they were made for each other.

He parked at the airport and walked her to her terminal, tears streaming down her face the entire time. She could literally feel his grip on her getting tighter with every moment that passed by making their goodbye even more inevitable. As he pulled away from their last kiss, he spoke just one word as he was incapable of saying more.

"Fate," and with that, he was gone.

It was one month later, and Marissa was sitting in her office in a terrible mood. Who was she kidding, she thought to herself, I've been in a bad mood since the moment I arrived back in this city. Her life consisted of work, that was it, except for the private moments she would grant herself every night to think and dream about Ryan. She had printed out the pictures she had of him and kept one at her bedside, though she mocked herself for being so sentimental. He had been a weekend fling; she would never see him again. She couldn't help wondering though what he had done with her pictures, the pictures he had so lovingly taken of her lying naked in his bed, the pictures she had downloaded off of her digital camera onto his computer so that he could print them out in the future; she couldn't help wondering if perhaps she now occupied a space on his nightstand, too. Startling her out of her thoughts, her secretary buzzed through the intercom.

"Miss Cooper," she heard the annoying girl say to her in her obnoxious, nasal voice. "There is a man here who demanded that I send a message in to you."

"What is it, Amanda," she snapped at the girl, her frustration with life making her a bitch to all who spoke to her.

"He said to tell you that his name was Fate…."

"Fate," Marissa interrupted her. "Did you just say Fate?"

"Yeah," the girl droned on, "you know F-A-T-E, Fate, as in, like, destiny."

"I know what fate means, Amanda! What did he say," Marissa demanded, so agitated, she had stood up at her desk.

"It's really weird," the clueless secretary rambled on, infuriating her boss. "He said to tell you that the pictures weren't enough and that he was here to test your theory on those wedding connections you supposedly had."

With that, Marissa Cooper fainted.