A/N: I hope it doesn't suck. Let me know what you think. This chapter was beta'd by Project Team Beta, but I would like to find a beta that I can converse with directly. The 5 day wait might kill me. If you're interested, please let me know.
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight or these characters, SM does. What I do own is an unhealthy obsession with all things baseball.
My face was on fire, there was no doubting that. In my haste to make the train, I'd run into a complete stranger. Even better, I'd dragged him down to the ground with me in an attempt to get away without harming either one of us. Now my belongings were scattered across the platform and the ridiculously beautiful man I'd run into was standing over me, holding out his hand.
"Can I help you up?" Shit, even his voice is beautiful.
I shook my head, mortified, as I started scrambling around on the ground in a sad attempt to gather my things before another train came through and blew them everywhere.
When he realized that I wasn't going to let him help me off of the ground, the Beautiful Stranger knelt down and started gathering up some of my paperwork. I watched as his eyes flitted across the documents, growing wide. "You're a sports writer?"
My voice stuck in my throat when I tried to answer him, so I just nodded.
"Wow, that's pretty fantastic." The Beautiful Stranger was smiling at me, attempting to make me feel better about this ridiculous situation, I assumed. He held his hand out to me again and this time I let him help me up.
"Thanks," I mumbled, unable to meet his eyes. "I'm so sorry. Such a fucking klutz…." I heard him chuckle and realized I'd said the last part out loud. My face flushed an even darker shade of scarlet.
We gathered the rest of my papers in silence and I gave an audible sigh of relief as the train approached.
"No need to be embarrassed. Accidents happen," Beautiful Stranger told me. His green eyes were dancing with amusement as he ran a hand through his hair. It was a unique bronze color, something I knew most women would kill for, and standing up at an alarming height.
"Is it that obvious?" My face burned hotter. At some point, I was going to have to find a way to keep the furious blushing under control or just bury myself in a deep hole and never come out.
He chuckled again, a genuine, crooked smile crossing his face. "It is obvious, yes."
We stood in an awkward silence for another minute. The train slowed to a stop in front of us and we stood back, waiting for people to disembark. If I had thought running into Beautiful Stranger in my haste to make the earlier train was embarrassing, what happened next was just a nightmare.
It felt like it happened in slow motion. The last person to get off of the train stepped past me and I started through the doors at the exact same moment Beautiful Stranger stepped toward the doors. I slammed into his chest again, this time knocking his cell phone out of his hand. I watched in horror as it clattered around on the ground, bouncing this way and that before falling through the narrow space between the car and the platform.
Kill. Me. Now.
My feet were frozen to the platform as I waited for the rage I knew was coming. After what felt like an hour, but was more like 30 seconds, I heard laughter. I opened my eyes and was met with the sight of Beautiful Stranger doubled over, holding his stomach as he laughed so hard tears streamed down his face.
"I'm so sorry," I started, face once again on fire. "I'll replace that for you. If you just let me know how much it cost, I can give you –"
"No, no. Don't worry about it. I'm due for a new one anyway," he choked through his laughter. He waved a hand in the air and took a deep breath, trying to compose himself. Ten seconds later, he was doubled over in laughter again.
I stood there like an idiot, just waiting for him to finish laughing. The sound was contagious, though, and eventually I started laughing too.
"I'm sorry. I'm such a klutz, such an idiot," I sputtered through rounds of laughter. "Seriously, you can't write this shit."
He was still laughing as he looked at me and shook his head. "You're right. You can't write this kind of thing."
As quickly as we'd laughed together, the awkward silence was back. This was the second train I'd missed and it wasn't lost on Beautiful Stranger. "So do you make it a point to miss several trains a day or is today a special occasion?"
The damn blush was back. "Missing the train is not normal. Making a complete ass out of myself, on the other hand… That I do a million times a day."
The next train pulled up and Beautiful Stranger motioned for me to get on the train before him, giving me a playful smile and a wide berth. I held my head high in an attempt to look confident and in control.
I tripped over my own feet and fell into the back of an elderly man.
Beautiful Stranger – was it weird that I kept calling him that in my head? Of course it was. Anyway, Beautiful Stranger stepped gracefully onto the train behind me, shaking his head and laughing again.
I settled into an open seat, hoping that I would cause less damage that way. For five excruciating stops, Beautiful Stranger watched as I managed to trip a woman carrying a massive stack of books, bump coffee out of a teenager's hand, knock over a baby carriage (sans baby, thank God) and blush a brand new shade of red. I was relieved when he stood as the train slowed, indicating this was his stop. I took a deep breath and started to ask him where I could find him to pay him back for the lost cell phone. Instead, I spilled the bottle of water I had been taking nervous sips out of for the last three stops all over his charcoal dress pants.
He shook his head, laughed again and stepped through the open doors. I was staring at my hands, refusing to move again until my stop when I heard him call out, "See you tomorrow, clumsy!"
Obviously my heart was fluttering because I'd made such an idiot of myself in front of him. Right? It had nothing to do with the note of hope I had imagined in his voice when he'd mentioned seeing me tomorrow. Or the knowledge that I would see those green eyes and that beautiful hair again. Right? Heart, shut up. You're as much of an idiot the rest of me.
The train finally reached my stop and I managed to make it off of the train and all the way home without another incident. As I unlocked the door to my apartment, I heard two familiar voices inside, my roommate Alice and our friend Rosalie.
"Lucy! I'm home!" I called, kicking off my heels, putting my bag down and shaking my head at the papers sticking out of it. It was going to take me at least two hours to get the paperwork I'd spilled all over the platform back in order.
"Rose? Alice?" I made my way into the kitchen, where the two of them were sitting with an open bottle of wine, laughing over something in the magazine they were sharing. Grabbing a glass out of the cupboard, I poured myself some of the cabernet and sank down into a chair. "How are you two?"
Alice glanced up from the magazine, an evil glint in her eye. "Fabulous, as always. What took you so long? Did you finally make a move on Mike Newton?" She was referring to one of the other writers in the sports department at the newspaper where I worked.
"No, Alice. I did not. I told you, he's involved with one of the entertainment girls. Jessica something."
"Oooh, Alice, look at this one!" Rosalie squealed. I looked down, realizing they were looking at a bridal magazine.
"So when are we going shopping for this dress, Rose? Do I need to clear my schedule? The Nats are out of town next week and the Redskins aren't going to give me any news for a few weeks…" I trailed off, waiting for her response.
Rosalie had met her fiancé Emmett while we were all at George Washington University together. They were the epitome of opposites when it came to everything but their beauty. Rose was a striking blonde; every guy at school's wet dream. She stood out in a crowd. Emmett was a tall – huge, really – dark and handsome guy who still shook his head when he realized that he'd proposed to Rosalie and she'd actually said yes.
They had met junior year at a social thrown by the GW Hatchet, the university's newspaper, in honor of the men's water polo team. Alice had been busy that night and I'd begged Rosalie for hours to go with me. When she'd finally agreed, I'd jumped up and down, thanked her, knocked over the pot of water she'd just put on to boil for our pasta dinner that night, and told her that I would love her forever. Rose had not been amused.
That night at the party, Emmett had charmed Rosalie so much that she told me I was off the hook on loving her forever, but I owed her a pasta dinner and a night alone in our apartment with Emmett. They'd been inseparable ever since and Emmett had proposed shortly after graduation. Alice, our resident party planner, had thrown herself into planning the wedding. I was going to be a bridesmaid, but was asked to do nothing but show up able to walk in heels.
"What a pretty gown, Rose," Alice cooed, looking at me. "So why were you late, Bella?"
I groaned and blushed again. "I had a bit of an accident. I was in a rush and I ranintoanabsolutelybeautifulmanandmadeanidiotofmyself," I rushed.
Grabbing the magazine out of Rosalie's hand, Alice slammed it shut. "You did what?!"
"I was in a rush to make the train because I have a huge article due on the Nationals tomorrow and I wanted to get some work done on it. I wasn't paying attention to where I was going –"
"Surprise," Rosalie said under her breath.
"I wasn't watching where I was going and I slammed into this guy." I chewed on the corner of my fingernail for a moment. "He was probably the most beautiful guy I've ever seen and all the paperwork in my bag went flying."
Rosalie and Alice were doubled over laughing the same way Beautiful Stranger had been after I'd sent his cell phone flying to an early death on the subway tracks.
"That's not even the best part, you guys. When the next train arrived, I crashed into him again and knocked his cell phone out of his hand. It was total slow mo – the phone fell out of his hand and bounced around for a minute before it slipped between the train and the platform."
Alice howled with laughter. "You… you knocked his cell phone…onto the tracks? PRICELESS, Bells! Only you!"
I tried to glare at her, but I just couldn't do it. I joined in on the laughter and told them about the rest of the embarrassing things that had happened. After a few minutes of laughing so hard we cried, we all managed to calm down enough to take a sip of the wine sitting in front of us.
"So what was this guy's name?" Rosalie asked. "I know that you didn't knock into him, lose his cell phone, and spill water in his lap without finding out his name."
I stared hard at the wine glass in front of me, examining a small chip I'd just discovered.
Alice waved her hand in front of my face. "Helllloooooo? Earth to Bella. Come in, Bella. What's Mr. Hot Stuff's name?"
"I don't know. I didn't get it. I was too busy making a complete ass of myself!" I sounded far more exasperated than I meant to. "I did all of that and he was too beautiful to talk to, way out of my league."
Rosalie shook her head. "No one is out of your league; get that out of your head. You know what you need?" She slammed her hands down on the table, planting her feet and looking like she was about to take on a room full of executives. "You need a night out. Let's go. It'll be fun. I heard there's a new bar open in Georgetown. We can go out, let our hair hang down and cut loose."
Alice giggled and sang, off key – on purpose, of course – "Footloose, Kick off your Sunday shoes!"
I tossed back the rest of my wine and nodded. "Of course, the best thing for me to do is go to a bar with alcohol and dancing and plenty of extra chances to make a complete fool of myself. Sure, no problem!" I grinned at the two of them to let them in on the joke, then headed to my room. "I'll be ready in twenty!"
Twenty minutes later, I was dressed in a pair of stretchy black pants and a shimmery blue top Alice had made me buy on our last excursion to the mall, twisting around in front of my mirror trying to figure out what to do with my hair. Rosalie and Alice barged into my room and smacked my hands out of the way, accomplishing in a minute what I'd been working on for the past fifteen. When they were finished, my hair was twisted low on my neck with a few tendrils slipping out of the pins my friends had artfully placed.
I smiled at the two of them in the mirror. "Thanks so much. I'm a mess. Look at you two!" Rosalie had picked out a simple black dress that fell to her calves with peep toed silver heels. Alice was dressed in a scandalously low cut fire engine red top and skirt that barely covered her ass. The heels that matched her top were about five inches high. "Alice, I have no idea how you walk in those things."
They grinned back at me, grabbed my hands and dragged me through the door.
We got to the bar and Alice groaned at the line of people waiting to get in. Rosalie batted her eyelashes at the doorman and before we knew it, we were being escorted through the door. Rosalie and Alice headed straight for the bar while I hung back a bit, taking in the sights. The bar was up a level from the dance floor and wrapped around the perimeter of two walls in the room. There were no stools here; people were meant to grab a drink and head back to the sunken dance floor. There were at least five bartenders taking orders, slinging bottles back and forth between each other and throwing fully poured beers across the bar.
The dance floor was packed and the DJ supplied the dancers with a steady stream of techno music. Not my style at all. Despite what Rose and Alice wanted to think, we weren't here for me. I glanced around one more time, spotting Rosalie and Alice and headed toward them. I made the mistake of not watching where I was walking, missed a step, and fell into the back of one of the men on the dance floor. I worked on righting myself without looking up and froze when I heard him laugh.
This can't be happening to me.
"That's the third time today you've knocked into me and the second time you've caused me to drop something." He gestured with his empty glass to the spot on the floor where the contents had pooled. I was face to face with the Beautiful Stranger again.
"I'm so sorry. You must think I'm a complete idiot. I can't believe… I mean, what are the chances…. This is so fucking typical of me…" Apparently clumsy wasn't my only problem when he was around. I also turned into more of a bumbling moron than normal.
And damnit all to hell if he didn't just stand there, smiling the same crooked grin he'd given me earlier today, until I fell silent. "Are you finished? Or should I grab a seat for this stunning performance in self deprecation?"
I opened and closed my mouth a few times, searching for the words to say. If he would just stop staring at me with those sharp green eyes, I might be able to form a coherent sentence. "I… I…. I…."
"Bella, you pain in the ass why are you over here and not with us?" Alice danced her way over to where I stood stammering like a moron at Beautiful Stranger and deposited a colorful drink on my hand. "What are you doing?" She caught sight of him standing behind me and I watched her face run through shock, surprise and awe. Her mouth formed a little 'O' and her eyes flitted back and forth between Beautiful Stranger and me.
I looked desperately at Alice, trying to meet her eyes to plead with her to wake me up from this nightmare. She wouldn't look at me, the little bitch. She's going to pay for this. Just wait until I get my hands on her.
"Bells," Alice trilled lightly, "who's your friend?"
In that instant I looked up at him, my eyes begging him to just go along with whatever I said, though I knew he owed me nothing. "No idea, Alice. I just made a complete fool out of myself, though."
Alice nodded, unimpressed. She was used to her clumsy friend. She stuck out her hand and gave Beautiful Stranger one of her signature 'You know you want this' smiles. "I'm Alice. Sorry about Bella. She has a little trouble walking across a flat surface without finding something to trip over."
"Hello, Alice, I'm Edward." Beautiful Stranger shook her hand graciously but his eyes weren't on her. He was watching my face grow so red, it probably matched Alice's top. It had to, I felt like I was on fire, and he was grinning that beautiful crooked grin at me. "It's very nice to meet you, Bella." Beautiful Edward said.
Really Brain? Just stop. Shut up or I'll stab you with a Q-Tip later. Beautiful Edward my ass.
He put a hand out for me to shake. I reached out with the drink Alice had handed me still in my hand. As soon as I realized what I'd done, I jerked my hand back splashing the liquid all over myself.
"You have got to be fucking kidding me," I mumbled. "Alice, we need to go." I grabbed her hand, attempting to drag her back to where Rose was standing before the inevitable happened. I'd managed to make her take three steps when Rose called our names. "Bella! Alice. What the...? Why hello there!" She'd spotted Edward.
"We were just coming to find you, Rose! Look what our Bella did, the klutz." Alice pointed to my wet shirt, the puddle of liquid on the floor from Edward's drink and the fresh round of red coloring my cheeks.
"Well, at least you're in one piece. You should see what's left of the last guy Bella had a run in with," Rosalie winked as she smiled up at Edward. "I'm Rosalie, one of two resident Bella handlers. As a general rule we try not to let her go out in public on her own." She took his hand in her own and shook it vigorously. "Alice is available to do a once over for any injuries you may not have noticed right away."
"Rose, I don't think - "
He cut me off with a laugh. "I think I'm fine. Down a cell phone, but at least I have an interesting story to tell when I have it replaced tomorrow." His green eyes were twinkling and I blushed again when I noticed that he didn't look at Alice or Rose when he was talking to them, he looked at me.
"Oh, she destroyed your cell phone, too? You really should make her pay for that," Rosalie told him. I said a silent prayer of thanks that Rosalie and Alice had been engrossed in wedding planning when I'd told them about my run in with Edward earlier in the day. At the same time, I shot him an "if looks could kill" look. He couldn't possibly know that I'd told them about our earlier run in, but I wasn't taking any chances.
"Rose, Alice? Let's go. I want to dance." I did my best to ignore their laughter as I dragged them toward the dance floor. When I had finally managed to drag them back to the bar, I whipped around and glared at the two of them. "As if embarrassing myself wasn't bad enough, you two had to help me? Jesus! With friends like you who needs enemies? Screw this, I have an article due tomorrow, I'm going home." I started stalking toward the door.
I felt Rose's hand on my wrist and heard Alice's pleading, but I shook them both off. I had work to do and thanks to my antics on the way home, I had a lot to do before I could even sit down and work on my actual work. Walking out the front door of the club, I took a deep breath of the clean spring air.
I wanted to be furious at my friends, I really did. It was hard to be angry at them when I usually laughed as hard as them at me. My clumsiness was well known in every circle I ran in. People in the newsroom knew better than to get in my way if I was concentrating on a story, the athletes I interviewed on a regular basis were never not entertained when I was in the locker room because I almost always managed to fall over something inevitably flashing my underwear to the room which just broke their poor, testosterone enhanced hearts. Rosalie and Alice had been dealing with my particular brand of klutz for almost six years, so they normally had the decency not to laugh at me.
I zoned out so far on the ride home that the only thing that brought me back to the real world was the cab driver's voice as he told me the cost of my ride. I paid him and trudged up to the apartment slowly. After making sure I had locked the door behind me, I made my way to my bedroom and changed into my at home work "uniform," grey sweats, a faded GWU baseball t-shirt and my reading glasses. I was still sorting through the paperwork I'd scattered across the platform at the train station when Rosalie and Alice got home. It was after 11 p.m. Shit.
I ignored the sounds of their loud drunken conversation, opening my laptop and finding the article I'd been working on all day. Biting my pen cap between my teeth, I couldn't help but think about my father and his reaction when I told him that the Hatchet had assigned me to the sports beat.
Charlie had lost it. He'd tried my entire life to get me to watch sports with him and I was always so bored. I tried to explain to him that the actual watching of the sports still bored me, that I liked getting the story behind the game, writing about who the players really were behind the game, what they liked to do to better their community and what motivated them to be better players. Telling him that I'd been hired to write for a major newspaper in Washington had shocked him, but he'd gruffly congratulated me, which was his way of telling me he was proud of me.
I glanced over my notes, filling in a few spots in the article. I added a bit of fluff and a few extra quotes before saving the document and e-mailing it to myself at the office just in case. Rosalie and Alice were still talking loudly in living room, but it was late, I was exhausted and I had meetings all day at work tomorrow. I slipped into bed, clicked off my light and stared at my ceiling, thinking of Edward, the Beautiful Stranger.