A/N Stephenie Meyer owns all things Twilight.

I own a Blackberry that doesn't work when

I want to participate in SR's interview.

No copyright infringement is intended.

Retail Therapy Outtake #1

Cocktails and Conversations (EPOV)

Have you ever had a moment…a single, solitary moment transpire, and you knew your life would be altered completely? Me either. Not until that night. That night, my entire world changed and flipped on its axis. That night, in the most generic place, with the most generic people, the most extraordinary person pushed through the haze and fog that surrounded us…and she saw me. She really saw me. And I knew, in that moment, that I would never be the same.

***************

I stepped out of my car, grabbing my Blackberry and shutting the door. I looked at the screen and scrolled down to the text that Emmett had sent me an hour before.

"Meet me at The Top Shelf 8. Maybe you'll meet someone and get lucky."

"Bite me, Emmett," I mumbled to myself. He was always so fucking concerned with whether I was getting laid…or not getting laid, as was the case the majority of the time. I used to think it was because he was married and trying to live vicariously through me, but I knew that couldn't be the case. He and Rosalie fucked like rabbits. They always had. It didn't change because they got married. In fact, it only made them worse. They had never tried to hide their visceral attraction to each other. No, they liked to flaunt it. I used to piss me off, but I was honest enough to admit, if only to myself, that I only felt that way because I had no one in my life that affected me like that. I was alone, surrounded by people that were in love.

Except for Jasper. Jasper definitely wasn't in love, but he was never without female companionship.

Ever.

I guess that you could call him a man-whore. God knows I did most of the time, but I never really judged him. That's just not who I was. I wanted something different…something more.

I wanted what my parents had. Really, as much as Emmett and Rosalie loved each other, they couldn't hold a candle to what Carlisle and Esme Cullen shared. My mother and father fell in love at first sight. Really, you should listen to them tell the story. They both tell it the same way, just from different perspectives. But the outcome and feelings are always the same. They loved each other beyond reason. I had never known love like that.

It's not as if I hadn't ever been with anyone. I tried to find the right person for me. I always found that most women were shallow and trivial. Sure, they were attracted to me and often times, I was attracted to them. But they were never more than women of above-average looks and less than average intellect. Never more, usually less. They were in no way anything substantial. I wanted substantial. I didn't want a revolving door of women that were only interested in me because of how I looked or how much money I had. I wanted someone that would love me the same way that my mother loved my father. I wanted perfection. I just didn't think that the perfect person existed. If she did, I'd certainly never seen her.

I walked into the bar and glanced around. I knew that Emmett wouldn't be there for another twenty or thirty minutes. He was always fucking late for everything. I noticed a sitting area in the corner of the bar. It was slightly darkened and out of the way, so hopefully, nobody would bother me. I just wanted to have a drink and spend some time with my brother. I made my way over to the corner and sat down on the leather couch. I breathed in deeply and exhaled, trying to let the stress of my day and the state of my current situation escape with my breath.

I noticed a blonde cocktail waitress approaching. She was attractive, but in a plastic and high-maintenance kind of way. Her hair was obviously dyed. That color didn't really occur in nature. Her breasts were clearly fake, as they were too big for her small frame and altogether too perky. She was wearing a white button-down shirt that looked like it was a size too small because it covered her like second-skin…and not in a good way. As she got closer, I could see the outline of her erect nipples through the offending white shirt. I'm sure that got her plenty of tips, but it did nothing for me. I had to fight the desire to roll my eyes.

"Good evening, sir," she purred, leaning down closer to me. I could smell the too-sweet perfume that she was wearing as it mixed with the peppermint of her breath. "My name is Irina. Welcome to The Top Shelf. What can I get you to drink?"

"I'll have a scotch and water, neat," I told her.

"Oh, that's such a manly drink," she replied, her voice all breathy and seductive. Once again, I had to fight the uncontrollable urge to roll my eyes. "Any preference on the scotch?"

"Whatever you have in a single-malt will be fine," I added, curtly. I was not in the mood to engage with this woman.

"Absolutely."

She walked away from me and over to the bar and I pulled out my Blackberry to check the time. Emmett would be coming any minute. As I waited for my drink, I emailed my father to let him know how my meeting went that afternoon. I saw from my periphery that the waitress was coming back over to me. I purposely kept my head down and my eyes on the phone so that she wouldn't try to speak with me again. She placed the drink on the table in front of me and quickly walked away. I smiled to myself that my attempt at avoidance had worked.

Once I knew that she was at another table, I looked around the bar again. It was still quiet, but more and more people were filtering in. You could just tell by looking at a person, what they were here for. Some people were here to relax with their friends. Some were here alone and needing to wind down. Most were here to find someone to fuck. You could tell who they were right away. It was the men that were either alone or standing off from the group they had come with, or the women doing the same, though they were dressed a little too provocatively for cocktails at eight on a Wednesday night. I wondered briefly if that was what people thought of me. Did they think I was here to find someone to take home and fuck? Probably, but they couldn't be further from the truth.

As I looked around, my eyes immediately went to the door as it opened.

That was the moment.

That was the moment my world changed. I watched the most stunning creature I had ever seen walk through the door of this ordinary bar. She was everything that was perfect and lovely in the world. She made my heart stop. She had long chestnut hair that hung in soft waves down her back. She had it pulled back in a clip and wisps of her hair hung loosely around her classically beautiful face and long, elegant neck. She was petite. If I were to have guessed; I would have said that she was a little over five and a half feet tall. That was before my eyes followed the length of her slender legs and found a pair of ridiculously high heels. She had to have been just over five feet.

She was wearing a black dress. It was fitted to her flawlessly, but not in a way that was vulgar. It accentuated each and every curve of her wonderful body. The neckline wasn't low but it exposed the milky-white skin of her chest and collarbones. The skirt slid fluidly around the curve of her round ass and the hem fell just below her knee. I watched as she made her way to the bar and took her seat.

Damn. Why didn't I sit at the bar?

I couldn't take my eyes from her. I simply could not force myself to look away. I found myself fascinated with the way she twirled and wrapped one single strand of hair that fell just below her delicate, little ear. I was enraptured by the full pout of her lips as she spoke to the bartender and even more so, when I watched her pull her bottom lip between her teeth and bite down. I wanted to kiss those lips. I wanted to suck and pull and bite those lips.

Christ! Do you hear yourself, Cullen?

I forced myself to look away from her mouth. Just the thought of her mouth was about to give me a very noticeable erection. I was better than that. I looked back up to her face and her eyes were down. She was looking at her martini and she had an obvious scowl on her face. She looked irritated, pissed off and maybe even a little sad. I wondered what it was that had upset her and I silently prayed that it wasn't because she was supposed to meet someone else here. Just the thought of her possibly belonging to someone else, both infuriated and devastated me at the same time. I felt the desire to go to her, to make her feel better. There was something inside me that longed to be the one who made her smile.

What was that about?

I watched her sip her drink. She was taking in her surroundings just as I had been earlier. Earlier, before she captivated my entire mind and all my thoughts. I wanted to talk to her…needed to talk to her. I wanted to know this woman. I had never felt like that about anyone, certainly not anyone I'd never spoken to. That decided it for me. I was going to talk to her. I picked up my phone and sent Emmett a text, telling him that something had come up and that I wouldn't be able to meet him for drinks. He would be mildly irritated, but he would get over it.

I placed the phone down beside me and I looked up at her once more, hoping to get a better read on her emotions. What I saw stunned me. I sat there, completely frozen, as her deep brown eyes stared back at me. I couldn't look away, but I found that she couldn't either. It was as if everyone and everything in the room around us ceased to exist. They all fell away to nothing. There was nothing…but her.

Her eyes were the color of chocolate. Soft and warm and rich and deep. I felt as if I looked into them long enough they would bear the secrets of her soul to me. I wanted to know her secrets. I wanted to know her fears and her thoughts and her joys. I wanted to know everything about her, but most of all, I wanted to know if she felt the same thing. Because, there she was…still holding my gaze.

I don't know how long we stared at each other. It was probably seconds, but it felt like minutes. I felt the time pass with each beat of my pounding heart. I watched as the most flawless and beautiful blush covered her face and just like that, her eyes slipped from mine. I gasped at the loss of our connection. My eyes instinctively followed the pink trail of fire that crossed her apple cheeks, mesmerized as it crept down her neck and covered her chest.

She was shy…and it made her all the more special.

She brought her glass up to her mouth and I watched as her delicate hand trembled. She was nervous and embarrassed, but there was something so graceful in her quiet awkwardness. I needed to go to her. It wasn't rational and it wasn't logical, but something deep inside me wanted to make her mine. I was going to go to her. I had to talk to her. I had to hear her voice. I had to make her smile.

As I placed the money for my drink on the table, the piercing sound of shattering glass rang in my ears. My eyes immediately shot up to her and just as quickly, rage and jealousy filled my entire body. I was shaking with it. A man…some fucking, ridiculous man was touching her. He was touching her…and she was mine. I stood up, without thinking and began to walk across the bar. He was talking to her and she was talking to him. He was hearing her voice, the voice that I was supposed to hear.

And he was still touching her.

I kept my eyes on her as I walked. She looked upset and uncomfortable. I wanted to run, but I couldn't. I watched her stand and trip and then I heard her curse. It was the first time I heard her speak and even though I knew that she was angry, her voice was still the most alluring sound in the world. She was reaching in her bag and as I approached, I heard the man ask to pay for her as he grabbed her arm.

My arm.

"Let me get that. It's the least I can do."

I walked directly behind her and I looked at the man who was still holding her arm and I quietly but forcefully said, "It would be the very least you could do, but the lady said no."

I enunciated every word in a tone of voice that let him know I was completely serious. My eyes never left his and I watched as he visibly retreated from me. I looked at his hand and watched him drop it to his side. I thought he would walk away to avoid further confrontation, but I was sorely wrong. He looked directly at me and defiantly said, "Don't get your hopes up buddy. She might be hot, but she's a total bitch!"

Fury.

Fury and rage and anger coursed through me. My hands tightened into fists at my sides and I had never wanted to physically attack another human-being like that in my life. I would have done it. I was about to when I looked down and saw her eyes. Her stunning, chocolate and expressive brown eyes. And when I looked into them, I saw fear. I would never give this perfect creature a reason to fear me. She spoke to me then and I would never forget her words. I would never forget them because they were the first words she ever said…to me.

"Please, just let it go. I'm fine. I can handle myself."

It was with those words that she gave me the first glimpse into who she was. And she was strong and beautiful and perfect and fierce. I was in awe of her and I had only been in her presence for mere moments. She was blushing uncontrollably and I was captivated by it. I watched as she turned to place money on the counter, silently cursing myself that I didn't do that for her. Though, I was certain that she wouldn't have appreciated the gesture.

As she turned back to face me, I finally found my voice.

"Are you alright?"

She stammered her response, letting me know that she was okay. She was more than okay. She was perfection.

"Thank you," she said. "I could have handled myself though."

Yes. She was strong and independent. She wanted to make sure I knew that. It was a difficult situation I found myself in because I wanted nothing more than to take care of her. But she was right…she could take care of herself.

"You're welcome," I said. "I'm sure you could handle anything."

I was standing so close to her. I could feel the heat coming from her body. She was still flushed and I swear, I knew that she could feel the same connection that I felt to her, but she was speaking to me about needing to leave. I physically had to restrain myself from reaching out to touch her. I wanted to stroke her hair and kiss her cheeks. I wanted to take her in my arms and hold her close against my body. Instead, I settled for asking her if she was alright, praying that she would tell me her name. And then it happened.

"Bella. My name is Bella," she told me. "And yes, I'm fine."

Bella.

Bella was perfect. Bella was beautiful. Fuck. It was even the meaning of her name. I almost said it out loud. I wanted to, but she was trembling with fear and I didn't want to scare her anymore. She was looking in my eyes, but she suddenly looked away. I told her my name and that it was a pleasure to meet her. I watched as she put her handbag over her shoulder and everything about her posture told me she wanted to leave. I had to make this right. I had to make this better.

She was the perfect woman and I couldn't just let her walk away from me. I needed to know her.

"May I at least walk you to your car?" I offered.

I held my breath as I waited for her answer.

"That won't be necessary. I'm sure I can manage."

Yes, she was still nervous and very affected. But I knew that she felt this connection…our connection. It was thick and palpable. I could feel it in the air around us. I smiled at her as brightly as I could, wanting to put her at ease. I could almost see the pulse in her neck quicken. My god, she was beautiful!

"I believe I have already agreed tonight, that you are entirely capable. I wouldn't be doing it for you. I would be doing it for me. I want to leave as well."

Please don't say no.

Please don't say no.

I waited for any type of denial on her part and when she didn't disagree I headed to the door in front of her. I thought it would make her more comfortable and I knew that I would be able to hold the door open. I wanted to be able to hold every door for her. She stepped outside and I wondered if the cool air was too much for her. I wanted to give her my jacket. I would have, if I'd thought that it would make her stay there with me a little longer. I could have stayed with her all night, just standing there in the parking lot.

She led me to her car, which ended up being a blue BMW. I would never have imagined her driving a car like this. But knowing that she did made me want to know her all the more.

"Nice car," I told her, smiling.

She looked at me and then back at the car. I could tell she was thinking about something, though I would never be able to tell you what. She was like a puzzle. A complicated, beautiful puzzle and I wanted to figure her out. I stood and watched her, the moonlight illuminating her milky-white skin.

Exquisite.

"Thanks," she told me, smiling for what seemed like the first time tonight. Her smile was brighter than any light. I was so happy to see her smile that it made me smile more.

"The color suits you." I said it before I knew what was coming out of my mouth. She probably thought I was stupid. She blushed again and the sight of her and her gorgeous blush against the blue of the car was almost too much to bear.

"And now it suits you even more."

I watched as she looked at me and I felt like she wanted to say something. I found myself at a loss for words. I wanted to ask her if I could call her sometime, but I thought that might be too much. Before I could think of anything else to say she spoke.

"I really should be going," she said quickly.

She was leaving and I wanted her to stay. I saw that she held her keys in her hand. She was clutching them tightly and that let me know that she was still nervous and uncomfortable. I never wanted her to feel that way in my presence.

"Thank you, Edward," she said as she unlocked the car. The sound of my name coming from her mouth was beyond anything I could ever describe. It felt good. It felt right. I needed to show her that I wasn't like the other men in that bar. I didn't want to buy her drinks and take her home to have a night of meaningless sex. I wanted to know her and I wanted her to know me.

"No, thank you, Bella," I said. My voice was nothing more than a whisper.

I leaned forward and opened the car door for her. I made sure to maintain eye contact so that she would be sure of my intentions. I still felt the need to make her feel safe. Standing so close to her was nothing short of divine. I could smell her fragrance and I wanted to wrap myself in the scent. It was soft and sensual, entirely feminine. I needed to tell her something…anything to let her know much I loved meeting her. Despite the circumstance. I could find no words that could convey that to her so I simply said, "It has been a pleasure. Have a safe drive home. Goodnight."

Goodnight, my Bella.

She sat in the car and I watched as she put her handbag on the seat next to her.

"Goodnight, Edward," she said, looking up at me. Her voice was so soft and light, it was nothing more than air. But there was a longing that resonated within her words. For the first time that night, I was certain that she wanted to be there with me too.

And that gave me hope.

I watched her drive away and I felt her absence acutely. I didn't know how and I didn't know where, but I knew that we would meet again. I would come back to this place every single night, if I had to. I only knew her first name…Bella. She was perfect, and I think that even in those first few moments, on that first fateful night…I knew that I had met the woman that would change my life. I had found the perfection I'd been seeking.

Bella...

***************

A/N

This outtake is for all of my readers. I adore you.

Marvar, my ficwife and soulmate. You are so much more than my beta, but I am certainly glad that you hold that position as well.

*trying not to laugh at the word position*

You take my words and make the pretty. I love you almost as hard as Hot Toddy.

Please, leave me some love and review.

Tell me if you'd like to see more of Darcyward.

xoxo