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April 2009- Seattle
I was looking forward to the evening. Jasper and I were going on a date. I needed a night out, as my week had been hectic at work. Jasper and I had been dating for a couple of months, but things were moving slowly. He was very nice though and despite our many differences, I liked him.
I didn't date a lot. I spent most of my free time in my art studio. It wasn't that I didn't want to date, it's that every guy that I met had some major character flaw and it just wasn't worth going through the motions when I knew that nothing would come of it. My friends all thought I was too picky, but I knew what I wanted. I was starting to think maybe I had unrealistic expectations so was evaluating my choices and trying to be more open minded. Maybe the lightning strikes I was looking for weren't realistic.
Jasper seemed different from some of the losers I seemed to attract since college. He is really nice and extremely good-looking. He is tall with blond curls that frame his face. His eyes are the most vibrant color blue and offset his tan skin.
The fact that he was employed at all was a step up from the last guy I dated. He was a new doctor at Harborview Medical Center and had just moved up here to Seattle not too long ago to start his residency. My friend Kate and her boyfriend Felix set me up with him. He and his friends live in her building.
He was taking me to a really nice restaurant downtown and then to a bar to meet his friends. Wanting to make a good first impression, I put on a fitted black dress with spaghetti straps and some high strappy heels. I wore my long brown hair down and wavy. I rarely wore much makeup but I wanted to look good, so I spent some time doing up my eyes and lips. Overall, I thought I did a pretty good job.
He showed up right on time wearing black pants and a gray fitted shirt, which accentuated his gorgeous physique.
"Bella, you look amazing," he said, leaning in for a one-armed hug and a polite kiss on the cheek.
"Thanks Jasper, so do you," I replied, pulling out of the hug to grab my purse.
We arrived at the restaurant and Jasper checked us in. The restaurant was fancier than I normally go to so I was a little self conscious that I wasn't dressed appropriately. I hadn't realized it would be quite that nice.
We were seated at a beautiful table by the window and I couldn't help but appreciate the view. Jasper ordered each of us a martini, which I was all too happy to enjoy.
Once we got our drinks, Jasper raised his glass to toast.
"Here's to a beautiful woman agreeing to have dinner with me," he said, looking at me intensely with a smile on my face.
I smiled as our glasses clinked together, feeling slightly uncomfortable. I couldn't explain why I felt uncomfortable. He was very nice, but too intense. I didn't feel like I could relax around him. It was like he could sense this and was trying too hard which made it worse. The chemistry between us had never really gotten going and I felt a bit like I was on a date with my brother. On paper, Jasper was everything I could ever want, but there was something missing with us and I couldn't put my finger on it.
Maybe the drink will help.
"So, how's work?" Jasper asked.
"Well, this week has been hell. The gallery is getting ready to show a new artist and he's a nightmare to work with. It's been so busy that I haven't had any chance to paint at all," I said as I picked up my martini.
"I know what you mean. This week has been hard for me too. I had no idea that hospitals had so much political bullshit going on. Everyone is jockeying for position and it feels a bit like high school," Jasper lamented.
"I'm sure you're doing great. Don't let the political stuff get to you," I said, trying to comfort him.
"You never told me how you got into art," Jasper said, changing the subject.
'I've always loved art and different forms of self-expression. I majored in fine art in college. There's something about each artist's interpretation of beauty that appeals to me. No two pieces are alike and each tells a specific story," I said, smiling.
"I'd like to see your work someday," he said.
"Well, I don't know. I've never shown my work. I'm not really comfortable with that. I'm much better at showcasing other people's creations," I admitted, playing with my glass as I blushed.
I loved what I did, even if the money wasn't always that good. I was made to work in the art world. I had been told that I had quite an eye for talent too, which helped.
"What's your family like?" he asked, keeping the conversation going.
"There's not much to tell, really. I'm an only child. My dad lives here in town and my mom lives in Phoenix."
"Wasn't it lonely growing up an only child?" he asked with sympathy in his voice.
"No, not really. I had my friends and my parents are great. I don't need a lot of excitement to be happy," I said bluntly.
"It's hard for me to imagine, I'm so close to my siblings." He smiled sweetly at me.
"So, do you have any plans for the summer?" I asked.
"Me? No. I'm lucky to have two days off in a row. They work us pretty hard as residents," he sighed.
"I've heard that. It must be hard but it'll be worth it in the end."
We ordered dinner and the conversation was light and easy. He really was a very nice person, even if he was incredibly intense. I just wished there was more chemistry.
After dinner we headed out to meet up with his friends at a chic bar around the corner. I was looking forward to it. I hadn't had a chance to meet many of his friends and I didn't know if he was being secretive about most of his personal life for some reason or if he was just wrapped up in his career. Either way it helped with the slow progression of our relationship and neither of us pushed.
We walked into the swanky bar and Jasper saw that his friends were already there. We walked up to a small table where two guys and two girls were already sitting. The girls looked like supermodels and I immediately felt frumpy. The guys had their backs to me and stood up when they saw Jasper.
"Bella, I'd like you to meet my friends. This is Emmett and his friend Lauren and this is Edward and his friend Tanya," he said, motioning to each of the guys.
Edward? Is it really Edward?
I didn't even have time to register that he was actually standing right in front of me for the first time in five years.
Pulling myself from my daze, I stuck my hand out to shake his outstretched hand, careful to avoid eye contact.
"Actually…we've…uh…met before. It's been a while though," I said, my voice shaking.
Emmett rescued me from my shock.
"Bella!" he bellowed, pulling me into a bear hug and lifting me off the ground into his big muscular arms, "it's good to see you again."
Emmett's joyful attitude was contagious as I smiled up at him, "Emmett, it's really good to see you again too, but I can't breathe."
Emmett carefully put me back on my own two feet. I turned to look awkwardly at Edward.
His voice was as velvety as I remembered when he spoke, "It has been a while. It's nice to see you, Bella."
I felt the ever-present blush creep into my face. I couldn't bring myself to look at his face any longer than was polite, afraid that I'd burst into tears. He, on the other hand, was looking intensely at me as though he'd seen a ghost.