A/N: This is my first attempt at any fan-fiction, my first public posting of any of my writing for that matter. Please review and be honest, I can take it! I am always looking to improve my writing skills, and feedback is like a drug!!
I hope I have captured the essence of the characters, although this is AU/AH. I have a little bit of insight into the world of firefighters, as my full-time job is 911 dispatch...in other words, I get paid a lot of money to tell a lot of guys where to go...in their firetrucks!!
Hope you enjoy! And thanks a million to my wonderful beta NeverHadDreams...you are awesome!!
"Looks like it's your lucky night, Bella!"
My head snapped up and I stared at Julie, the restaurant manager, instantly wary of the sly smile spreading across her face. Forgetting the beer I was in the middle of pouring, I swore under my breath when the glass overflowed, flicking the drips off my fingers and grabbing a nearby cloth to wipe up the spill. Great. Yet another wonderful start to my bartending shift. Turning back to Julie, I could feel the blush in my cheeks, waiting for her reprimand, but the smile was still wide on her face.
"What?" I asked quietly, shrugging my shoulders, wondering what I had done now.
"New recruits have finally graduated. The boys have reserved four tables at the bar tonight to celebrate." She grinned again. "Let the games begin!" I could tell by the way her shoulders shook as she turned and headed to the kitchen that she was suppressing her laughter.
I hung my head. Ugh! Just what I needed, a full night of loud, unruly firefighters breaking in their newest proteges. Being that Mondays were usually our slowest nights at the restaurant, I was banking on it not being terribly busy in hopes that Mike might let me go early, but now there would be no such luck. Occupational hazard being that the restaurant was right across the street from the Fire Department Headquarters. Four tables meant that at least sixteen of them would be gracing us with their presence in...I glanced at my watch...a little over ten minutes.
Sighing loudly, I began unloading glasses from the dishwasher. Normally I wouldn't mind terribly having 'the boys', as we affectionately referred to them, show up at the bar. They were a lot of fun, tipped well, and hey, who doesn't mind a little 'eye candy' while they are working. But tonight I was already tired from a long day of studying, and with my mind pre-occupied with midterms, I was bound to be much more clumsy than usual. I had also not paid particular attention to my appearance, simply throwing my hair up in a ponytail and brushing on some mascara as I dashed out the door to work. Not that it mattered anyway; I was still just plain old, absolutely ordinary Bella, not much to look at. As much as the firefighters always flirted with me, I knew it was just something they did for fun.
I could hear them shouting and laughing before the door even opened, and I looked up to see them filing into the restaurant. Julie greeted them warmly, even catching a few hugs and chaste kisses on the cheek from some as they passed by her into the bar portion of the restaurant. I smiled in spite of my earlier misgivings as I caught sight of my favorite firefighter, Emmett, who was beaming with pride.
"Bella!" he hollered across the bar. "Four pitchers darlin', and keep 'em coming!" He winked and flashed that beautiful, sexy smile I was so accustomed to. Once again I could feel the blush in my cheeks as I got busy pouring their beer and grabbing a fist-full of mugs from the freezer. Loading up the tray, I took a deep breath before heading around the bar to their group of tables, silently praying that I wouldn't trip.
Sidling up to the first table, I busied myself with settling a pitcher and glasses while they were shrugging out of their jackets. I felt an arm snake around my waist and turned as Emmett crushed me playfully to his side.
"Bella, I'd like to introduce you to my newest set of fine, upstanding young firefighters," he started, acting all official, when I could tell he was stifling his laughter. "Paul, Markus..." I shook the outstretched hands as I went around the table, as the last one finished hanging up his coat on the hook behind and turned to face me. "And this is Edward." When I took the last hand, I noticed it was colder than the others who had come in wearing gloves on such a chilly, winter day, but when I looked up to meet his gaze, my whole body froze. The whole room, all the noise, the neon lights behind the bar, everything just suddenly fell away and it was just the two of us. Somewhere in my head I silently groaned at the terrible cliche, but I couldn't help myself. He was the most beautiful being I had ever laid eyes on, like a gorgeous Greek god suddenly dropped to earth as a firefighter. His features were chiseled, angular cheek bones and a square jaw that sloped into his pointed chin, all of which was covered in a light stubble that only added to his appeal. His hair was a deep red-brown, almost bronze colour, splayed in all directions as if he had just rolled out of bed and dragged his fingers through it, which he was doing again right this very minute, while I was silently wishing it was my own fingers deftly lacing through it, to feel the rich, silky locks myself. My eyes drifted down to notice the way his station t-shirt stretched taut across his chest and broad shoulders. Women would be falling all over themselves to grab his attention. But I found myself drawn back to his eyes, the most stunning shade of emerald green dotted with flecks of gold, which to my my surprise, were still locked on me.
"Bella." He stated simply in a remarkably smooth, velvet voice, as if he was testing out the sound of my name, and my knees went weak. If Emmett hadn't still had his arm firmly around my waist, I'm sure I would have dropped to the floor with a thud. My sudden weakness was not lost on him as I felt him tighten his hold on me while he rumbled with laughter.
"Easy there slugger," he addressed Edward. "She's off-limits till you get past probation...and then of course, you still have to get past me!" Ah, Emmett. Ever the protective, brotherly type, but I was thankful for the momentary distraction to pull myself together, rolling my eyes at him and playfully punching him in the shoulder as I turned back to the bar to fill the beer orders for the rest of the guys. Very aware of the flush in my cheeks, I wanted to just crawl behind the bar and stay there all night. What was wrong with me?
I couldn't pull my eyes away from her. Try as I might to keep up with the conversations going around the table and those next to us, my gaze kept flitting back to her, watching her every movement, as if she held some kind of magnetic pull. A few times I was even lucky enough to find her looking back at me, which inevitably resulted in that magnificent blush of her cheeks and she would quickly duck her head and look away, but I swear there was the slightest hint of a smile crossing her lips each time. Those lips. It was all I could do to rivet myself to my seat and not fly across the bar, take her in my arms and ravish those lips with my own. I had never felt such a powerful, unyielding attraction to someone before, and it both excited and scared the crap out of me at the same time.
Clapping me hard on the shoulder, Emmett drew my attention away from her, and when I looked at him, I could feel my own cheeks flush with embarrassment, as my fingers swept through my hair again, resting my hand on the back of my neck.
"I meant what I said earlier, Edward. Bella is off-limits," he stated, rather sternly.
I gestured to him and raised my eyebrows questioningly. "You and her?"
"No, no way. Rosie took me off the market a long time ago, bless that woman of mine," he fired back, and I let out a breath I didn't realize I had been holding. "No, I just meant that we all love Bella like a little sister, and there is no way we are gonna let any hot-shot probie start stalkin' her. Just 'cause you're a firefighter doesn't get you any points in her book, that novelty wore off a long time ago!" He shook his head, laughing, but shot me another glance when he caught my gaze wandering back to her again.
Grabbing my glass, I took a long swallow of beer. "So, is she seeing anyone?" I asked hesitantly, my voice low, deliberately staring at the table to avoid his glare.
"You're seriously going to disobey a direct order from your Captain? Well, Edward, this isn't the best way to make a first impression." My eyes went wide with horror and I quickly looked up to back-pedal my way out, but his face was drawn into a huge grin and he slapped me hard on the shoulder again. "Gotcha!! Man, are you ever gullible! But no, I don't think she's seeing anyone. You better be damn serious though; you hurt her and at least half the department will be lining up to kick your sorry ass!"
Emmett turned away to answer one of my co-workers at the next table, just as Bella rounded the bar with another pitcher of beer. My breath caught in my throat when she passed me, heading to one of the other tables, as she glanced sideways at me and that now familiar blush crept into her cheeks again. Damn serious was an understatement. I would pull out all the stops to get this girl's attention and sweep her off her feet, into my waiting arms. I was now officially a man with a mission!
First impressions are important, and right away I wanted to let her know just what an impression she had left on me, and my window of opportunity would be short this week, considering I started on shift the very next day. Calling it an early night, amid the raucous ribbings from a few of my co-workers, I excused myself from the bar, flashing my best smile at Bella who waved in return, and shaking Emmett's hand as he shot me a knowing glance. He tightened his grip and pulled me closer so that he could speak in hushed tones.
"Her roommate, Alice, works at the Starbucks over on Fairway. Tell her you're one of my guys. If she likes you, she might just give you some tips on Bella. If she doesn't like you, well, then you may as well give up. Little pixie is a pitbull in disguise, and there's no getting past her."
"Thanks Emmett, I'll make you proud." I'm sure he recognized the double meaning in my statement, both as a firefighter and now as Bella's suitor.
At the door, I paused and asked Julie if Bella drove to work, and which vehicle was hers. She smiled a knowing smile and pointed out the '58 Chevy at the end of the parking lot. Knowing there was a florist in the strip mall down the street, I quickly made my way there and purchased a single lilac rose, and returned to the restaurant parking lot and slipped it under the windshield wiper on her truck, smiling when I thought once again of the beautiful blush I hoped would light up her cheeks when she finished her shift and headed home.
A/N: Just a note...I've been working with a bunch of great firefighters for 11 years now, and as much as I love them, yeah, that novelty wore off about 10 years ago. I can't even look at them as eye-candy anymore...sigh!! So go review and let me know if it works for you!!