Stephenie Meyer owns the copyright to Twilight and all its characters
The original characters, plots, and storyline contained within this derivative work are the property of Brits23 and Lazykate
(Translation: if you steal it, we will send Bitey after your ass…and not in a good way)
Chapter One – No Regrets
Okay, at this point, I just needed some "Fuck y'all and this popcorn stand, I'm heading to Miami!" music.
I really should have made a playlist ahead of time. It was a 3300-mile drive, after all.
Yeah, I was driving. Everyone and their brother had told me I was nuts, Jackass included, but I didn't really have much of a choice. I didn't have enough stuff to justify paying someone else to move me, so I was hauling all my worldly possessions in a tiny U-Haul behind my truck. The truck that Jackass informed me probably wouldn't make it over the Rocky Mountains. The bitch of it was that he was probably right, but I was short on options.
I scrolled through my iPod, considering my choices. Poe? No, too angsty. Duran Duran? Hmm, maybe later after I got over the Rockies safely. No, I needed some "Fuck You Seattle and Fuck You Jackass" music.
Nine Inch Nails' Broken album. Raaaaaaaaage. Perfect.
I was singing along to "Wish" when I pulled onto I-90 and headed east.
It turns out the six-day road-trip was the best thing I could have done for myself. Six days of quiet solitude (when I wasn't cranking the stereo), plenty of time to think, plan, and yeah, reflect on the past. Six days to think back over all the stuff I would do differently, all the stuff I should have seen coming. Stuff I never wanted to do again.
Like kidding myself into thinking there was nothing wrong with my relationship when it was practically written in six-foot red letters on the wall. Jacob had started spending more and more time at work and never seemed regretful about it. The time we did spend together was awkward, so we just found ways to do it less often. He would spend the first twenty minutes after walking in the door complaining about work anyway, and after listening to his bitching I wasn't in the mood for sharing anything about my day. He complained about why we needed to pay for a maid once a week when I was home all day, completely ignoring the fact that I was working from home. Working, as in earning a paycheck. Not sitting on my ass eating bonbons.
The sex, when we had it, was more annoying to me than anything else. Jacob wasn't the greatest lover in the world, but at least in the beginning he'd made up for his lack of finesse with enthusiasm. Didn't change the fact that he'd never gotten me off once. Not once. In five years of dating he'd never once successfully made me come, but I'd sure gotten good at faking it. I was used to slipping off to the bathroom with my five-year-old plain-jane vibrator to finish myself off.
I wanted to like sex with him, I wanted to crave it. Because I liked orgasms, that much was true. I liked to feel sexy, I liked feeling aroused, and I definitely liked a happy ending as much as the next girl. But sex with Jake…eh, not so much.
It didn't help that he had a pretty small dick.
I knew that it shouldn't matter, that it was all about how he used it. But the problem was either he didn't know how to use it or I just needed something bigger than a dill pickle. So I smiled and faked it whenever I couldn't think up a good enough excuse to duck his half-hearted attempts at seduction.
Yeah, the writing had been on the wall for a year, and yet I'd stayed, we'd both stayed. It was safe, it was comfortable, it was routine. I'd still felt a fondness for him. Plus we lived together: he owned the condo, and I was technically self-employed, which tended to make getting a lease or mortgage on my own a little difficult. So I wasn't entirely blameless in the situation, I recognized that now.
Still and all, that didn't justify him coming home nine days ago and essentially giving me an eviction notice. Right after he told me he'd met someone new, and that she'd be moving in with him in two weeks. In other words, I needed to be out.
Alice had called the next night as I was packing, sniffling and working my solitary way through one of Jake's treasured bottles of Kosta Browne pinot noir. Jackass hadn't made an appearance yet, probably realizing it was in his best interest to steer clear of me for a day or two. The more I packed, the more depressed I got, the more I drank…it probably would have gotten ugly if Alice hadn't chosen that moment to pick up the phone.
Alice was my best friend and had been since I moved to Forks my junior year of high school. When she'd transferred to Miami seven months ago for work, we'd both cried like babies, and she'd been begging me to take a vacation and come visit pretty much since she got there.
She'd listened to me rant about Jackass for a few minutes and then interrupted me with a squeal.
"Bella! Move down here with me! I have a guest room with its own bathroom just sitting here, empty. You'd love Miami, we can be roomies again, just like in college!"
"I don't know, Alice…"
"Oh come on! Give me one good reason for you to stay in Seattle!"
"You can't! You can do your job from anywhere, Charlie's remarried, and now that you're free of Jackass, you can do whatever you want! You've got to move down here!"
After a little more persuasion from Alice, I'd agreed to pack up and move across the country. I'd never even visited Florida, even though Renee lived there, and I'd wondered more than once over the past few days if I had gone completely nuts.
As I drove, I thought about regrets. I would be twenty-five in three weeks, I was way too young to be having so many regrets about my life. I'd spent the past five years of my life making everyone else happy, being polite instead of honest, saying yes when I wanted to say no. Hell, I'd been doing all that practically since I was born. Maybe it was about time I put Bella first for once. No more regrets.
Now, early in the morning of the sixth day of driving, I started thinking maybe the breakup with Jake and having to move cross-country was a sign. A golden opportunity to start living my life the way I wanted to, so five years from now I wouldn't still be wondering "what if." I didn't want to go on a bender or have a radical personality change, that wasn't me. But I did want to say yes to the things I really wanted to do, especially now that there was no one to stop me. And I didn't want to feel guilty about it.
Well, there was no time like the present to put my new philosophy into practice. I was about a half hour outside of Jacksonville, and Renee had all but demanded that I stop in and spend the night with her and Phil. As much as I missed her, I really did want to get to Miami today. I was exhausted from five days of driving and the thought of having to keep up with Renee's incessant chatter made me feel even more tired. She'd probably want to go out, and once she had me in her grasp, she always found a way to guilt me into going along with everything she wanted to do.
I reached over, grabbed my Blackberry from off the seat next to me, and speed-dialed my mother. She answered, sounding sleepy.
"Hey Mom, it's Bella."
"Hi honey. Why in the world are you calling so early? Is everything okay?"
"Yes, everything is fine, I just wanted to let you know that I'm going to head straight down to Miami today. If I keep going I'll get there before rush hour and be able to start unpacking too. I'll drive up to see you and Phil after I get settled in."
"What? No, Bella, that's silly!" She sounded more awake now. "You're driving right by here and I haven't seen you in ages!"
"I know, but I'd rather spend quality time with you when I'm not exhausted from driving. Miami is only five hours away, I'll get moved in and settled, then we'll figure out when I can come up for a long weekend. Or you can come down and see me, if you like."
"Come on Bella, just stop in for a little bit?"
I rolled my eyes. I knew my mother well enough that once I got there she'd really pour on the guilt if I tried to leave. "Sorry, Mom. Listen, I don't like to talk on the phone and drive, so I'm going to let you go. I'll call you this week and we'll figure something out then. Tell Phil I said hi. I love you!"
"Well…okay. Love you too!"
I hit the end button, feeling oddly pleased with myself. I never stood up to Renee, with her usual pouting and cajoling it was always easier to just give in than to have her harass me into whatever she wanted. She was probably stunned that I'd said no, and she hadn't been able to formulate a better argument on the spot.
Grinning, I called Alice.
"Let me guess, you're bypassing the Jacksonville stop?" she asked without a hello.
"Damn, how did you know that?" Alice scared me sometimes. I'd been telling her for years she could make a fortune as a psychic.
"I just had a feeling," she replied airily. "So where are you now?"
"Just north of Jacksonville."
"Perfect! I'll be leaving work early so I can help you unload and unpack, I figured we can take the U-Haul back and then crash for the night with pizza and martinis at home. We've got a lot of catching up to do!"
"Hell yes we do!"
"You've got the directions?"
"Yep, I'm good. I'll call you when I'm about forty-five minutes away, okay?"
She squealed. "I can't wait! See you soon!"
I bounced a little in my seat, suddenly feeling invigorated despite the fact that I still had several hours of driving ahead of me. Pizza and martinis were already sounding good, even at ten o'clock in the morning, and I clicked the iPod over to some Greatest Hits of the 80's to celebrate.
Six hours later, my buzz had worn off and I had one anxious eye on the engine temperature gauge as I sat in traffic, eight miles north of my exit. Jesus, was traffic always this bad here? Seattle was congested but this was just nuts. I'd cranked down the windows in a desperate attempt to catch a little breeze through the truck's cab, but sweat was running down the back of my neck in steady rivulets and my hair would have been a giant halo of frizz around my face if I hadn't tied it down a couple of hours ago. Seattle was humid, sure, it rained a lot. But this humidity was like trying to swim in a cinched corset with a couple of rocks tied on for good measure. I should have double-checked with Alice to make sure she had central air before agreeing to this.
Twenty minutes later, traffic finally began creeping forward again, and I almost cried with relief, having already turned on the heat in the truck in an attempt to cool the engine. Had I asked Alice about mass transit in Miami? Even though I worked from home there was no way I'd venture out into this mess again anytime soon.
When I finally pulled up to Alice's little house in Coral Gables, I was wound tighter than a clock and ready to just collapse in the drive. Luckily Alice exploded out the front door as I took my first unsteady step out of the truck.
"Grab your shit and come inside, I've got a martini sitting in the freezer waiting for you!" she screeched, just before she launched herself at me and wrapped her arms tightly around my sweaty torso. I couldn't help it, I hugged her back just as fiercely, even getting a little teary-eyed. God, I'd missed my best friend so much.
"Hi Alice, sorry I'm late."
She rolled her eyes and grabbed my hand, tugging me towards the house. "I saw the traffic report, sorry you had to find out that particular joy of living in Miami on your first day." As she towed me through the front door I was greeted with a welcome blast of air conditioning, and I felt the first knots of tension start to relax a little.
Half an hour and two martinis later, I was feeling much more relaxed, sprawled out on a sinfully comfortable couch, shoes off, tank top hiked up to just below my bra.
"So I take it we're not turning the U-Haul back in today?" Alice giggled from her chair.
"Fuck no. I'll pay for an extra day, there is no way I'm going back out into that mess. I'll drag my shit in tonight and take it back first thing tomorrow." I groaned and wiggled down deeper into the couch. "Have you got any munchies around? I haven't eaten since this morning and I'm going to pass out at this rate, if I don't eat soon."
"I'll call for the pizza now!" Alice reached for her cell phone, ordered a pizza with our favorite toppings and informed them yes, we did want it delivered. I groaned and set my martini on the floor, pulled my hair out of its rubber band and tried to run my hands through the frizzy knots. At least I had Alice, makeup and beauty expert extraordinaire, to pick out an anti-frizz serum for me.
"I'm so glad I'm here," I finally muttered.
"Me too. I know you're going to love Miami! We're going to have so much fun!"
"I just need a fresh start."
Alice tossed back the last of her martini. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"What is there to talk about? I told you things hadn't been good for a long time. He knew it, I knew it, but I didn't think he'd toss me out on my ass like that."
"Hmm…" She eyed me speculatively. Do you really think it was a bad thing, though?"
"Bad timing, maybe."
"Was there ever going to be a good time?"
"No," I sighed, shutting my eyes. "It was a long time coming. I guess I just didn't have any clue about what would come afterwards, so I didn't let myself think about it."
"No time like the present to start over again!"
I sat up straight on the couch. "Funny you should mention that. I was thinking the exact same thing."
Alice grinned at me. "Oh really? Meaning?"
"I did a lot of thinking on the way here," I started slowly. "There's a lot of shit I don't want to do over again. And a lot of shit I really want to try."
"Not like that, you perv. I just…I want to start doing what I want, instead of what everyone else wants. I want to actually enjoy my life for once, have fun."
"Well, you came to the right place!" Alice stretched in her chair and then stood up, wobbling a tiny bit. "This place is fun 24-7!"
"I don't mean that I want to party all the time. Make me another martini and I'll try and spell it out for you." I gulped the last bit out of my glass before handing it over to her, then followed her into the kitchen. "I just feel like I have all these regrets, and I'm way too young for that."
Alice dumped an arbitrary amount of vodka into a stainless steel shaker, topped it off with a watermelon mixer, and then began rattling it vigorously. "Just in your personal life, you mean?"
"Yeah, I think so, work is fine right now. Better than fine, I can't complain. I don't really know how to explain this…"
"Let me guess, you've decided you're tired of being a pushover and settling to make other people happy?"
I gaped at her. Alice could be a complete ditz sometimes, but she could also be incredibly insightful. "Was I always that obvious?"
"No, not obvious." She dumped the contents of the shaker into my glass. "You've just been very unhappy for a long time. I'd be disappointed if you didn't take this opportunity to start over."
"I don't want to start over, exactly. I just don't want to look back five years from now and have the regrets I have now. Does that make sense?"
Alice sloshed another martini into her own glass. "Sure. You're going to start living now, right? You don't have a dickhead boyfriend to be accountable to; you can find a guy that actually makes you come during sex. Unless something has changed since the last time you mentioned that?"
"No, not that it matters now," I grumbled. "I should just invest in a new vibrator, retire Old Faithful, and call it a day. Simultaneous orgasmic bliss is the stuff of trashy romance novels, not real life."
She shook her head in disbelief. "Bella, have you already forgotten where you are? There a million hot guys here, I'm sure we could find one or two that push your buttons."
"You told me right after you moved out here that they're all either gay or unbelievably conceited."
"I said that out of sheer frustration after a week on the job." Alice was an office manager and scout for a Miami Beach modeling agency, she'd worked for the same company ever since we graduated from college. When the Seattle-based company had opted to open a new branch in Miami, she'd been tapped to run it. I'd been jealous until she compared being surrounded by hot guys to working in a candy factory: after a while, even candy doesn't look good.
"Has anything changed?"
"Well, no…but I wasn't planning on hooking you up with one of the models! God no."
I took a long drink of my fresh martini, feeling my buzz deepen. "I'm not looking to 'hook up' with anyone. I don't have a specific agenda or a to-do list. I'm just living by the motto of No Regrets for a while."
She held up her martini glass to me solemnly. "To No Regrets, then." I clinked her glass just as the doorbell rang, and Alice went skipping away to get our pizza.
"So what about you?" I mumbled around a mouthful of cheesy goodness a short time later. "Have you met anyone interesting?"
She scowled. "I wish. I haven't had time, getting the new office up and running, and it's not like I wanted to go trolling for guys in the clubs by myself. It's been pretty lonely, actually. Yet another reason I'm glad you're here."
"I'm not going to be up for clubbing or going out for a couple of nights at least," I warned. "I've been off work for a week, I've got to get everything set up first thing tomorrow and catch up with all my clients."
"No problem, it's only Tuesday. Friday night, then?"
"What's the club scene like here?" Seattle had a fun nightlife, but I was sure it didn't hold a candle to Miami.
"Oh God, are you kidding? We'll head over to South Beach Friday night and I'll show you."
"We're not going to have to wait in line, will we?" Scenes from movies flashed through my mind: mobs of scantily-dressed women and desperate guys cajoling the bouncers; lines wrapped around the building.
Alice snorted. "Um, no, we will not wait in line. I'll call ahead for bottle service for us; I get to write that off as a business expense. Modeling scout, remember?"
"What's bottle service?"
"VIP, baby!" She grinned at me. "Table to ourselves so we can sit down and chill whenever we want and a bottle at the ready so we don't have to keep buying more drinks."
"Nice," I commented appreciatively.
"Yeah, I know you're not a big party animal so I figured you'd have a better time if we had a place to get away from the bump'n'hump set on the dance floor. And if you meet a guy…" She waggled her eyebrows at me.
"Good looking out."
We slowly finished off the pizza and Alice mixed up another round of martinis which were practically straight vodka with a little mixer for color. Mellow didn't even begin to come close to describing how I felt at the moment.
"So…anything else you want to tell me about Jake?"
"Nothing I haven't said already," I sighed.
"Were you fighting?"
I bit my lip. "Not as much as you might think. We just got…apathetic after a while. I mean, I'm pissed at him for basically throwing me out on my ass, but I know we'll both be happier now. So it's a good thing in the long run."
"No one should have to fake orgasms for five years, Bella," Alice intoned with a completely straight face.
"Yeah, I know…but that's kind of my fault too. I shouldn't have faked it, I could have worked harder at…I dunno…showing him what to do? I was basically letting him think he was doing it right so he'd hurry up and get it over with."
"Oh Bella," she said softly. "No more of that, okay? If a guy doesn't get you off, make sure he knows it from now on."
"I can't believe we're having this conversation," I muttered into my martini.
"Why not? Seriously, how big was the unsatisfying sex thing to you? Big! I know it was big because you've told me so more than once! So it obviously had a very negative impact on your relationship!"
"Thank you, Dr. Ruth."
"Okay, you're doing this No Regrets thing, right? Well this would be a great example. If a guy can't get you off with his dick, then make him get you off with his fingers. If that doesn't work, he's got a fully-functional tongue that he can put to good use. Any guy that's worth getting into your bed won't mind going the extra mile for you."
"Good point." My head was swimming from the vodka, but her words made sense. "Okay, I hereby promise I will never fake an orgasm again. And if I don't have one before he does, I will make sure he knows I expect him to give me a happy ending one way or another."
Alice patted my knee. "That's my girl."
After a couple more hours of girl talk, we'd sobered up enough to start unloading the U-Haul. I didn't even have any furniture, everything in the condo had been Jackass's, so we had everything dragged into my new bedroom within an hour.
"Feel free to redecorate however you'd like," Alice drawled, waving at the white-on-white guestroom. Even the sheets and blankets on the double bed were white.
"Yeah, that's not so high up on my priority list." I set my laptop down on the mirrored vanity in the corner and booted it up. "You have wireless, right?"
"Yep." Alice began hanging up my clothes in the closet, scowling a little at my wardrobe. "Bella Swan, in the seven months I've been gone, how did you manage to accumulate such ugly clothes? Didn't I teach you anything?"
"I work from home and I didn't do much warm-weather partying in Seattle," I defended myself. "And yes, before you say it, I know we'll need to go shopping before Friday night."
"Good God, yes!" She made a face at one of my skirts and tossed it on the floor.
"Um, Alice, you helped me pick that one out."
"When? Back in college?"
I rolled my eyes and opened up my e-mail program. I'd made sure to stay in hotels along the way that had free Wi-Fi, so the e-mails weren't too out of control, but I skimmed through today's and then gasped.
"What is it?" Alice tossed another garment to the floor.
"I've got an e-mail from Jake. Sent this afternoon."
She flew to me and peered over my shoulder. "Are you going to read it or just delete it?"
"I ought to just delete it…but I guess that's not the mature thing to do. Maybe I accidentally left something there." I hesitated and then clicked on it.
Bella, Just wanted to make sure you got to Miami safely. Please let me know. Thanks, Jake
"Hmm, and here I was all prepared for something scandalous," Alice commented, disappointed. "Are you going to reply?"
"Yeah, if he could bring himself to write it, I can at least tell him I'm fine."
"Put 'Do not contact me ever again, Jackass' at the end of it."
I laughed softly. "Nah, I doubt he'll contact me again. He and I are through." I typed out a short e-mail to Jake, telling him yes, I'd arrived safely, and then simply signed and sent it. "So these nightclubs we're going to hit…do any of them have websites?"
Alice laughed. "Bella, you're such a dork!"
"It comes with the territory! I guess I'll just let you dress me, then?"
"Yes, you will. In general, if we're going out, you'll be wearing a cute sexy dress and heels. We'll get in automatically with the bottle service, but there are a lot of hot women here, and you have to stand out."
"For what?" I yawned.
"For the future Mr. Right to notice you…okay, maybe the future Mr. Right-in-Bed?" she amended after seeing my glare. "I know you aren't looking to go out skanking around, but you need to get laid, and well…"
"I could say the same about you!"
"Oh, I know. I want to get laid too." She hung up the last of my clothes in the closet. "I had a couple of wholly unsatisfactory encounters right after I first got here. Our Mr. Rights are out there, we've just got to find them. Do you want to unpack anymore tonight?"
"No," I groaned. "I think I'm going to crash early. I didn't sleep very well in the hotels, I kept worrying about someone breaking into the U-Haul and making off with my meager worldly possessions."
Alice blew me a kiss. "All right hon, I leave for work right around eight, so I'll see you tomorrow evening around six if I don't see you in the morning. Sweet dreams!"
I crawled into bed after taking a quick shower in my own little bathroom. If I dreamed that night, I didn't remember it the next morning.
I did manage to get up in time to see Alice off to work, then after rush hour I got dressed and went to turn the U-Haul in. My truck's temperature gauge was still running abnormally hot and the engine was making a strange thumping noise I'd never heard before. With my luck, the cross-country drive had done it in, and God only knows what it would cost to fix.
I spent the rest of the morning and afternoon continuing to unpack and rearrange my new room. My computer equipment alone took almost an hour to set up, and after I was done I logged into my work e-mail account to touch base with my clients. I had a great job; I was an independent contractor to a company based out of California that built websites for small businesses. The guys in California did most of the code and basic build work, and then I worked with the client to get the final look and content right. It meant a lot of interactive videoconferences, fiddling with tiny details like font color for hours on end and staring at a computer screen all day, but I loved my job. I was good at it, it was flexible, and the pay was pretty decent considering I could make my own schedule, as long as the work got done and the clients were happy.
I kept one eye on the clock, and around 5:30 went in to start dinner. Cooking was one thing I was pretty good at, and I knew that Alice's idea of preparing dinner was throwing a Lean Cuisine into the microwave. I'd stopped at a little corner grocery on the way back from dropping off the U-Haul and gotten just enough for the next two evenings, I figured Alice and I could work out a food budget sometime this weekend.
After dinner I retired back to my room. The guy I reported to had been fine with me taking a week off but it meant I had a lot of catching up to do to keep from falling behind.
Thursday I was literally in front of the computer all day when one of my clients flipped out and decided they didn't like the format of the website we'd spent the last month building for them. I spent two hours in a videoconference with the client and my contact in California, trying to smooth things over. By the time Alice arrived home, I was sitting in the living room with a glass of wine and a cold washcloth over my burning eyes.
"I do love my job, you know," I groaned as she lifted up a corner of the washcloth and giggled at me.
"I forgot what a workaholic you are."
"I don't really have a choice. If it doesn't get done, I don't get paid." I downed the rest of my wine and sat up slowly. "I guess you want to go shopping now?"
"Nope!" she sang, and then tossed a heavy garment bag over my lap. "I had a feeling you weren't going to be up for shopping this evening, so I took the liberty of picking up a few things for you."
"Oh God, thank you!" Alice knew better than to bring home anything that I'd flat-out refuse to wear, she'd been my unofficial personal shopper for years.
"No problem! Just don't think it gets you out of trying them on…come on, I want to see you in them and then we can just walk downtown for dinner. There's a great Cuban restaurant called Havana Harry's that I'd love you to try. I mean, you've been here two whole days and you haven't seen anything except your computer monitor!"
Alice didn't disappoint, I loved all three of the dresses she'd picked out for me, and we mutually agreed that the flirty little red wrap dress would be perfect for my first "real" night in Miami. Luckily we still wore the same size shoes because Alice had a pair of strappy heels that matched the dress perfectly.
After the fashion show I changed into something more comfortable and we walked to downtown Coral Gables for dinner. I was enchanted by the mini-city within Miami: Alice hadn't wanted to live anywhere trendy or busy since she worked in Miami Beach all day, and her company had found her house on the auction block. It was an unfortunate result of the faltering real estate market in Florida, but Alice had promptly snatched it up. My half of the mortgage was more reasonable than what I would have paid by myself back in Seattle.
We wobbled back home after an enormous meal and a pitcher of sangria, I changed into my sleep shorts and a tank and fell asleep before I managed to crawl under the covers.
Friday was even worse than the day before, work-wise. I discovered that the guys back in California had somehow neglected to build in a crucial feature on an almost-finished website for one of my most important clients. I spent an hour on the phone with them before I called the client, and everything went downhill from there. Alice came home to find me on the couch with wine and the cold washcloth again.
"Oh no no no no!" she shrieked, leaping onto the couch next to me. "You are not bailing on me tonight!"
"How about we put it off 'til tomorrow?" I asked hopefully.
"Nope!" She plunked down next to me. "Remember the bottle service I told you about? Well it's already paid for, and unless you want me to actually tell you how much that costs, then go get your ass into the shower."
"Alice, I'm just not really in the mood for going out…"
"Shower. Now. I'll bring you something that'll get you in the mood."
I grumbled and shoved myself off the couch, tossing the washcloth towards the kitchen sink. "You're awfully pushy, you know that?"
"I have a feeling that you're really going to thank me for being so pushy. You need to get out and have fun, trust me on this!"
I stripped down and climbed into the shower, turning it up as hot as I could stand. I heard Alice push the bathroom door open and a moment later her arm snuck around the shower curtain, gripping a large margarita glass. "Here, drink this."
I grabbed the glass and took a healthy swig, then choked. "Jesus, Alice, is this all tequila?"
"Mostly!" Her disembodied arm took the glass back and I heard her plunk down on the closed toilet seat for a chat. After rooming together for four years in college, neither of us worried too much about modesty.
"So where are we going? And what should I expect?"
"It's a brand new place on South Beach that just opened, hmm, a month ago? It's called Secrets and it's got three levels. First level is the actual club and dancing and all. Second level is VIP. Third level is a lounge-type restaurant. We'll be on the second level, so we can dance and then go chill whenever we want to." I heard her take a hit off my margarita. "Whoa, damn, I did put a lot of tequila in that. Anyway, I figure we can go out to dinner first, and then head over there. We'll just take a cab. Don't forget your ID, all the places here card you no matter what."
I leaned out around the shower curtain. "Here, gimme that." I took another healthy slug of the margarita and winced at the bite of the tequila. "Okay, so tell me about the guys. Because you tell me something different every time I ask."
"There's a lot of really good-looking guys here. Problem is, most of them know it, especially the ones that live and party here. The tourists stick out like a sore thumb but they tend to be a little less into themselves than the locals. South Beach is a blast, it's not the super-crazy celebrity club scene that it used to be, but there'll be lots of people all looking for a good time. And speaking of a good time…"
I chuckled, I knew where she was going with this.
"Your Blackberry has a camera on it, right?"
"You bet. Are you really counting on one or both of us getting lucky tonight?"
"Always be prepared!" she chirped.
I let Alice do my hair and makeup, after we were dressed and ready she called a cab and we went to another one of her favorite restaurants. It was almost ten o'clock when she called another cab and we headed off to Secrets. The scene outside the club was exactly as I'd imagined it: long lines; women in tiny dresses; thumping music spilling out the double doors whenever they opened. I hesitated a bit but Alice linked her arm into mine, dragging me towards the unknown. In no time we were being escorted towards a table on the second floor, a small Reserved sign marking it as ours.
Alice grinned at me and mixed up the first of what I knew would be many martinis. "Bottoms up, baby, we're going to have fun tonight."
We sat at our table for a while, sipping our martinis and checking out the crowd. Truth be told, I was drinking myself brave enough to get down on the dance floor. I'd never been a great dancer, I was naturally klutzy and never seemed to be able to stay on-beat. A few drinks never hurt, especially when we were surrounded by a VIP set of the beautiful people.
Finally Alice grabbed my hand and tugged me towards the stairs.
"Don't leave me!" I hollered at her.
"I won't!" she yelled back, and then we were in the midst of thumping beats, flashing lights, and a mass of bare-skinned humanity all moving as one. Alice dragged me out into the center of the floor, and we danced there for a while. Or more accurately, Alice danced and I tried to keep my bopping in time with the downbeats. The crowd was pressed tightly together, and more than once I felt the edge of a hand scrape along the curves of my ass. I was glad when Alice took my hand again and we went back upstairs to our reserved table. She mixed up another martini for each of us and we relaxed.
"Good to know you can still dance," she laughed, and I flipped her the bird.
"I moved to the music, what more do you want from me?"
She leaned towards me conspiratorially. "See any guys you liked?"
"Are you kidding?" The crowd tonight was well-dressed but I had the disconcerting feeling that most of the men had spent more time in front of the mirror than I had.
"Geez, that's too bad…because there's a guy a couple of tables over that's looking over here right now."
I looked down at the tiny skirt of my wrap dress. "I'm sure plenty of people have looked tonight, God."
"Yeah, but this guy is hot."
"Well if he has any balls, maybe he'll come over and introduce himself. Jeez, Alice."
"I have to go to the ladies' room!" she declared suddenly. "You need to go?"
I would normally accompany her purely on girl-code principle, but the last martinis she'd poured were strong ones and my legs were starting to feel tingly. For the first time I wished I'd worn something other than Alice's sexy stilettos. "Umm, I think I'd better sit down for a few minutes and drink some water, if that's okay."
She giggled at me again, Alice was in full-giggle mode tonight. "I think I can manage by myself this time, I'll be right back."
After she ran off, I sank a little deeper into the deep red booth surrounding our table. I hiked my feet up onto the seat opposite and moaned as my arches gave a little throb of relief. I rubbed them together and wondered if I could get away with taking my shoes off in a place like this.
"You look comfortable."
Normally, an unexpected male voice intruding on my personal space would make me tense up, but I was pleasantly buzzed from our martinis and the uninhibited atmosphere of the club had relaxed me considerably. I looked up with a smile on my face.
He was dressed simply in black pants and a dark-blue pinstripe button-down shirt, sleeves rolled up, but the body underneath the clothes and the face above more than made up for it. He appeared to be well-built without being bulky, not quite lanky but tall nevertheless. A jaw that could cut glass, covered by just the slightest stubble, lips curved in a half-smile, and bright green eyes that glinted even in the dim light. Topping it all off was the most glorious bronze sex-hair I'd ever seen in my life. No gel or mousse on this guy…it was pure just-been-fucked hair. I wondered briefly where the lucky girl was now.
"Umm…I look comfortable to you?"
"Extremely. You're not?"
"My feet hurt."
He tilted his head, his smile growing. "May I join you?"
He sat down gracefully, his eyes still on me. "I'm sorry to hear that your feet hurt."
I shrugged, my heartbeat accelerating a little. It seemed like every guy in here had an agenda or was on a mission, but he was the first one to have approached me directly, and he'd refrained from prefacing it with "Hey baby…"
"It comes with wearing the shoes."
He glanced over at my feet, perched up on the seat next to him. "They're very nice shoes."
"Nice feet too."
I quirked an eyebrow at him and a self-deprecating grin spread across his face. Damn this guy was gorgeous! "Okay, you get one chance to redeem yourself for that line."
"That was pretty bad," he admitted. "Can I try another one?"
I tilted my head back and twirled my martini glass between my fingers. Oh yeah, Bella had her sassy pants on tonight. "Go for it, playboy."
He paused for a moment, then just the tip of his tongue came out and ran across his upper lip. I almost fainted. "How about…my name is Edward, what's yours?"
I took a moment to compose myself before replying. "Nice to meet you, Edward. I'm Bella."
"Bella…as in beautiful."
"Bella as in Isabella. Nice try, though."
He threw his head back and laughed. "My lines are all falling flat tonight, aren't they?"
"Maybe you should stop trying so hard."
His eyebrows lifted. "Are you telling me you're easy, Bella?"
I thumped my glass down on the table. "I'm telling you that you have ten seconds to redeem yourself before I plant these painful shoes up your ass."
"Only ten seconds? All right…how about, I've been watching you all night and you are the most gorgeous woman here?"
I stared at him without responding.
"Okay, fine. I came over here because you are the sexiest woman I have ever laid eyes on. And you looked like you could use a friend."
I kept a straight face for another few seconds before I snickered. "Did you seriously just quote Major League as a pickup line?"
He looked genuinely thrown for a moment. "Uh, yeah…I guess I did."
I couldn't help it, I burst into laughter. "Wow, I mean, I'll give you points for trying…"
Now he was attempting to smolder at me, and I wondered how many women had swooned before that green-eyed panty-busting gaze. "Edward, seriously…kill the cheesy lines already. They won't work on me."
He folded his arms on the table and leaned towards me. "All right then, tell me what will work on you. Humor? Sarcasm? Dirty-talk?"
I bit back the acerbic reply that rose to my lips and regarded the man in front of me. I didn't know this guy, he could be a serial killer for all I knew. But he was fucking gorgeous and kinda funny, and he was still trying after I'd shot him down at least four times. No Regrets, Bella…
"I'll tell you what, why don't we go some place where we can actually talk without the background noise, and maybe I'll clue you in about what works on me."
"Back to my place?"
I stared at him again. "No…"
I straightened up in the booth and put my feet down on the floor. "Okay, you blew it. Nice meeting you, Edward…"
"Okay wait, wait," he begged, throwing his hands up in front of him and giving me another crooked smile. "I was trying to be funny again and obviously it didn't work. Where are you staying? Let's pick something halfway between your place and mine, so if all my cheesy lines fall flat, you're halfway home. Fair enough?"
Butterflies had nothing on the winged behemoths flapping around my stomach right now. "Fair enough. I'm in Coral Gables."
"I'm downtown. There's a great jazz lounge in the Wind Tower, how does that sound?"
It was yes or no time, balanced on the knife edge between the safe sensible boring choice and the No Regrets choice. Was it really even a choice anymore?
"A jazz lounge sounds great. I just need to let my girlfriend know I'm leaving."
He stood quickly and offered me his hand. "Is she downstairs?"
"I don't know where she went, actually…" My brow furrowed as I scanned the second floor for Alice's tiny figure, I finally located her standing over by the staircase. "There she is. Come on…and get your ID out."
"Your ID, your driver's license?"
He looked completely perplexed but fumbled for his back pocket anyway, following me as I made my determined way over to Alice. It was only when I got closer that I realized she was deep in conversation with a cute blond-haired guy. She looked up and he pushed his wire-rim glasses up his nose as I approached, Edward rummaging around in his wallet behind me.
"Hey Alice…I'm gonna bounce." Our secret phrase from our college days, letting the other know that nookie may be had tonight. She grinned and whipped out her cell phone.
"Okay…where is it?"
I reached over and grabbed Edward's ID from him, holding it steady as Alice snapped a picture of it on her cameraphone. When I handed it back to him, his eyes were wide as saucers. "Sorry…standard girl-code protocol. Before I go anywhere with you, she's got your name and address in case I end up missing tomorrow."
"Ohhh…okay." He seemed genuinely thrown for the first time as he slipped his ID back into his wallet and then tucked the wallet into his pants. Pants which I couldn't help but notice fit him extraordinarily well…
"We're going to a jazz lounge in the Wind Tower, okay?"
Alice smiled and nodded as the guy with her looked at Edward, then at me. "Oh, sorry, Bella, this is Jasper. Jasper, this is my best friend Bella."
"Nice to meet you," I said politely. "This is Edward."
"Yeah, I uh…" Jasper started shyly, only to be cut off by Edward.
"Yeah, we've met. Jasper's my boy." Edward held up a closed fist and Jasper bumped it awkwardly. "You good, my man?"
Jasper nodded slowly as Alice grabbed his arm. "Yeah, everything's okay."
Edward winked at Alice and then looked down at me. "Should I grab us a cab?"
"I'm right behind you if everything is okay here." I looked questioningly at Alice and she waggled her fingers at me.
"Toodle-loo, see you in the morning!"
I rolled my eyes at her and followed Edward down the staircase, he paused at the bottom and gently rested his hand on my shoulder to steer me through the crowd. "You don't seem like much of a club girl, I think you'll like this jazz lounge a lot better."
"You're right on both counts," I replied as we walked out the door. Almost too conveniently, a cab was sitting there waiting and Edward helped me in. I watched his graceful movements as he slid in next to me, then directed the driver to take us to the Wind Tower.
The moment the cab pulled away, we were surrounded by the darkness, the soft mutter of the radio, and an occasional wisp of smoke from the driver's cigar. Wind from the open front windows made my hair puff around my face and I took a deep breath of the fresh air. Edward was sitting back, relaxed and calm as though he did this every day.
Well maybe he does! He could be a total manwhore, and you're going to go have sex with him?!?
Drinks at a jazz lounge, I reminded myself, not necessarily sex. Although sex with this gorgeous man was sounding more and more appealing…hopefully what he could do with his body would live up to the promise of his gorgeous face and smile. I didn't know if it was one final delayed reaction to all the martinis Alice and I had been drinking, but the last butterfly in my stomach disappeared. Instead I felt a surge of confidence and, yeah, lust.
"So Edward…you're buddies with Jasper back there?"
He shrugged and smiled. "He's one of my best friends. I was surprised to see him with your friend, though, what a coincidence."
"Indeed. So what's the name of this place we're going to?"
"Blue World. The Wind Tower has retail and a couple of restaurants on the lower levels, and then residential lofts make up the rest. You have a place in Coral Gables?"
I felt my Blackberry vibrate in my wristlet and I fished it out as I answered him. "Yes, Alice and I share a house there." I looked at my phone and smiled: Alice had sent me a picture message, it was Jasper's ID. The message underneath said I don't think it'll happen, but just in case.
"What are you smiling about?" he asked curiously.
"Your friend's drivers license picture." I held up my phone and his eyes went wide.
"You girls are better-organized than the Mafia." He reached out and wrapped his hand around mine, bringing the phone closer to his face. A tingle went over my skin as I watched him pull my fingers close to his face, to his mouth. "Hell, I didn't know he had it in him! My little guy…they grow up so fast, don't they?" He released my hand and pretended to wipe a tear away.
I tucked the Blackberry back into my wristlet and shot him a quizzical look, surprised at this playful side of him. "I guess…?"
"Never mind, you've just gotta know Jazz. So you were saying that the two of you share a house?"
"Yes, I just relocated here from Seattle. Alice was already here and she had a spare bedroom, we've been best friends since high school. It worked out. What about you, where do you live?"
"I have a loft in one of the downtown buildings. No roommate, unless you want to count my friends breaking in whenever their cable goes out."
"Huh…I bet that can be inconvenient at times."
The cab picked up speed as we crossed the bridge, heading towards downtown Miami, and the wind from the front windows became stronger. Edward's hand reached out and carefully tucked a few wayward locks of hair behind my ear, my skin tingled at his touch again. "It can be, yes. But I just so happen to know where both of them are tonight."
I studied him carefully. "Your friend Jasper, is he a good guy?"
Edward chuckled. "Yes, he is, I promise you he's completely harmless. One of the most decent guys you'll ever meet."
"More decent than you?"
He grinned and looked at me for a long minute before answering. "It depends on your definition of decent, I suppose."
My pulse immediately picked up at the innuendo in his words and voice. Oh yes, I had a very good feeling that tonight could be fun. "What's your last name, Edward?"
"Masen. Edward Masen. And yours?"
"I'm glad you decided to come out with me tonight, Bella." He reached out his hand as though to smooth my hair again, but instead he ran a single finger down my bare arm. "And that you trusted me to pick out a decent place for us to get to know each other better."
I shrugged and hoped he couldn't see my pulse hammering away in my neck. "I like jazz music."
"Do you listen to it often?"
"Only when I'm in the mood, and mostly on Pandora."
"Blue World has a lot of jazz fusion artists, it's a great place for conversation."
Our cab pulled up in front of one of downtown Miami's many skyscrapers, Edward paid the driver and then hopped out to open my door. He took my hand to help me out but didn't let it go, giving it a gentle squeeze as we went inside.
Hmm, playboy moves fast. I guess he's not convinced that I'm a sure thing.
Blue World was a gorgeous lounge with soft lighting, sensual music, and many inviting loveseats with just room enough for two. Edward smiled at the hostess and in no time I found myself sinking into a loveseat that was tucked into the corner. We ordered drinks and Edward held his up to me when they arrived.
"To a memorable evening...and a devastatingly beautiful girl."
"To a handsome gentleman...and no regrets," I agreed softly, clinking my glass against his. Our eyes met over our the rims and a sudden rush of heat prickled my skin as his green eyes bored into mine. We kept the connection until a crash of breaking glass and a far off, high-pitched giggle brought us back to reality.
"So...no regrets, hmm? Interesting toast."
"Just being honest."
The look of confusion flashed briefly over his face again, he'd probably figured I was going to play much harder to get than this. "Is that your life's motto or something?"
"It is now, yes. I'm finding it's a lot more fun than Say No to Everything and Be Pissed at Yourself About It the Next Day."
"Plus that one is kind of a mouthful." We both laughed and I couldn't help but let my eyes go back to his lips at the mention of a mouthful.
"Do you have a motto?"
"Not yet, but you're inspiring me to try and think of one. Any suggestions?"
I took another sip of my drink and eyed him over the rim of the glass. As he relaxed and became more playful, dropping the seductive exterior, he was getting even more sexy…if that was possible. "Hmm, how about…Here's to Making it Count?"
"Maybe," he agreed thoughtfully. "Who said that, Ayn Rand?"
I cracked up. "It's from Titantic, Edward."
He looked horrified. "Okay, there is no way my life's motto is coming from a movie about a sinking ship."
"I can't believe you thought it was Ayn Rand," I countered, still giggling.
"That does it, you're not allowed to suggest mottos anymore. I'll just go with the good old Boy Scouts' Always Be Prepared."
I hid my giggles behind my glass. "You were a Boy Scout?"
"Well, no, but I do believe in being ready for anything that may come up."
I knew it was partially the martinis talking, but I couldn't keep from teasing him a little more.
"Ready for anything, huh? Does that mean you're the type that carries condoms in your wallet?"
The expression on his face then was priceless and I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing again and completely disgracing myself.
"Not in my wallet, no."
"No, Bella. I keep them in my bedside table drawer. I'm not the type that drags women into a public bathroom or closet to fuck."
The breath was knocked out of my lungs as that word left his mouth for the first time since I'd met him. "I guess that's good to know. Where do you drag them?"
"I don't drag women anywhere. I generally invite them back to my place and hope for the best."
"So your pickup line at the club…was that my invitation?"
He leaned in a little closer to me and I could feel his hot breath, like cinnamon, against my wet lips. "I would be honored to have you come back to my place."
If I had been excited before, I was on fire now, feeling a long-dormant desire pulsing through my veins. "Why are we running all over Miami, then?"
I felt his body shift on the loveseat and then his finger, just that one finger, was running over my bare knee.
"I have a confession to make, Bella. I actually live upstairs, in this building. I had a feeling you and I would hit it off."
Ah-ha! A playboy indeed!
"You're pretty sure of yourself, aren't you?" I murmured. His face was only a few inches away now, and his finger skated up my leg, over my hip, and then he flattened his palm against my lower back.
"I prefer to think of myself as optimistic."
I licked my lips, noting how his green eyes flashed to follow the movement. "Edward, I'm going to tell you something, and then I'm going to kiss you."
"All right." His voice was as husky as mine now.
"When I said no regrets, I meant it. I came out to have a good time tonight, and we've obviously hit it off. I want to go upstairs with you and I want you to show me a very good time. Then I'm going home. Understood?"
Edward blinked but before he could say anything, I was already leaning into him, softly pressing my lips against his. He tasted like cinnamon too, and I couldn't help but let my tongue swipe quickly over his lower lip. He groaned faintly at the contact, and the hand on my lower back snaked around my waist until he was pulling me tighter into his hard body. He nipped lightly at my mouth before I felt his tongue slide insistently along my lips, obviously seeking entry.
I teased him a little, tightening my lips against the hot pressure of his tongue, recognizing that he was a guy who liked to be in charge. That thought by itself was enough to send a surge of desire rocketing through me, straight down to where I was already throbbing and wet under my pretty red lace panties.
He growled a little as I refused him admittance to my mouth, tilting his head so that his nose skimmed across my cheekbone and his hot lips landed against my ear. "Bella…you've got to let me in sometime."
I shivered a little, then whispered back. "I don't suck face in the middle of a crowded bar, Edward."
He hummed and I felt the tiniest nip on my earlobe. "Shall we head upstairs, then?"
It was a rhetorical question because he'd already signaled the waitress, throwing her a bill and telling her to keep the change. He took my hand in his as we exited the lounge and headed towards the elevators.
As we stood waiting, he wrapped his arm around my waist again and pulled so that my back was flush against his front, then rested his chin on my shoulder. To a casual observer it probably looked like a fond embrace, but he knew exactly what he was doing and so did I. I could feel the rock-hard erection he was pressing up against my ass, and the message was clear. It was going to be a damn good night.
Kate: Hi guys…
Brits: shoves Kate out of the way and waves furiously Hi!!!
Kate: Mmm, we hope you enjoyed the first chapter of Dirty Little Secrets! This story is a collaboration with Lazykate (www DOT fanfiction DOT net/~lazykate) writing for the gals, and Brits23 (www DOT fanfiction DOT net/~brits23) writing for the guys, so make sure you have one or both of us on Author Alert!
Sounds to me like Bella's new motto means a lot of fun…and Edward sure seems to agree! Make sure you let us know your thoughts…we happen to know that reviews get Brit's fingers a-typin', and she's got EPOV up next!
Brits: Edward does get my fingers a typing…amongst other things. snort yeah, like I wasn't going to go there. But seriously folks, there's nothing I like more than a confident, ruffled, sexy Edward dripping with the humidity of a saucy Miami night. Things are going to get mighty interesting, so stick around for my EPOV…it's right around the corner.
So will you review, pretty please with a sticky Edward on top?