Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight.

This one-shot was written as part of the Help for Haiti auction at lion_lamb's livejournal. cblotnicky donated for the cause. Thank you Christie!

This is her story. She asked for Vetward, and here he is. Rated M


Sixteen Hours

I stood still in the doorway of the stark white room. It always appeared this sterile, smelling like a mixture of bleach and pet food. Everything was exactly the way it always was, except for the person who was welcoming us.

"Hey kid," the man in the white coat said to Beau, reaching a hand out to let my dog give him a wet-nosed sniff, before scratching behind Beau's floppy ear. Beau's long fur was red over his head and back, fitting like a puzzle piece over his white face, legs, and tail-end. It reminded me of rust over snow. Beau whimpered at the man's touch.

"Where's Dr. Cullen?" I asked, glancing around as if she might come out from one of the cabinet doors or from under the table.

"I'm Dr. Cullen," said the man who I was sure wasn't Dr. Cullen. He straightened up - so much taller than me - offering me a shake of his hand. His eyes were greener than my dog's right eye. I say his right eye, because Beau was bi-eyed. His left eye opened to an icy, aquamarine. And just like his eyes didn't match, neither did his ears. One stood up straight as would be expected, while the other one flopped forward. I loved him all the more for his uniqueness; those were the very qualities that compelled me to choose him out of the litter eight years ago.

I scratched his head, barely having to bend over to reach him.

"No, I mean Dr. Esme Cullen?" I said.

"My mother's on vacation. I'm filling in for her. Siberian Husky?"

"Yes," I nodded, though I'd started backing out of the room.

"He's a beauty. Where are you going?"

"I'll come back… next week? Will she be back next week?"

"Isn't your dog ill?"

"Not exactly."

"Not exactly? So, why did you make the appointment? Someone else could have taken this time slot."

I was either going to have to leave like an unfit pet owner who let her dog suffer and took appointment spots for no reason, or help my sweet and loyal dog by coming clean with this man - whom I should not have been as attracted to as I was - and explain why I was here.

I decided to put my dog before my dignity.

"All right. His stomach hurts because… Could you not look at me when I say this?" It was cooler in here than it had been outside, and still I was perspiring.

His laugh was followed by a confused frown. "Okay…" He turned to look at the wall. "His stomach hurts because?"

I walked farther into the room, and shut the door behind me. "Because..." I whispered. "...he ate my panties."

Dr. Cullen laughed again and started to turn toward me.

"Don't look at me yet. I'm too embarrassed. You were supposed to be a woman. Dr. Cullen is a woman."

That made him laugh harder. I looked at the side of this Dr. Cullen's head - his brown, wavy, unruly hair - as he kindly kept his eyes off me. From this angle, I could almost forget about how attractive he was and work on reining in my embarrassment.

I thought of my mother then, now on a honeymoon with her new husband and his ever-flowing pockets. All my life growing up, she'd flitted from man to man, dealt with her share of heartbreak and embarrassment, I'm sure, but had she ever been in a situation quite like this, I wondered? And, if so, what would she have done? She probably would have kissed the doctor's laughter right off his lips.

"Are you finished laughing?" I asked.

"I'm sorry. I'm not laughing at you. This is more common than you might think. Did he eat your panties when you left him home alone?"

"Yes."

"How do you know his stomach hurts?"

"He cries a little when he gets up from a lying position, and he rubs his stomach against the ground sometimes."

Dr. Cullen reached down, still keeping his eyes off me, and felt Beau's abdomen. Beau whined.

"There's no obstruction. I think it will pass regularly." He opened a drawer and pulled out a pill container, dropping a tablet into his hand. Out of another door he opened a jar of peanut butter, scooped some out with his finger, slipped the pill in the middle, then let Beau lick it all off him.

"I gave him something to clean his system out quickly," Dr. Cullen said as he washed his hands. "But if this happens again, I suggest you give him pumpkin to eat. You can get it canned. That'll clean him out."

"Thank you," I said, and Dr. Cullen slowly turned his eyes toward me.

"Is it all right if I look at you now?"

"Yes. I'm okay." But when he looked at me, I felt my cheeks heat up again.

"You're welcome, Miss Swan."

Back in the lobby, the receptionist printed out a bill, then pushed it over the counter at me with her false fingernails, each painted a different color, like Easter eggs.

"Seventy five dollars? For the doctor to feel my dog's stomach and give him a pill?"

"It's our minimum fee," she said.

"It's no charge, Lauren," said Dr. Cullen, coming up behind me. He took my bill and tore it up. "I didn't do anything at all for Miss Swan."

I gave him a smile and a nod and turned to leave, tugging on Beau's leash, embarrassed now for the second time because the doctor had caught me complaining about the money.

"Miss Swan?" He followed me out of the building. "Beau was my last patient of the day, so technically I'm off duty. I just want to tell you something that I couldn't say inside."

"What?"

"You shouldn't deny people from looking at you."

"Why not?"

"Because you're amazing to look at."

I crossed my arms, rolled my eyes, and shook my head at him.

"I'm being honest. It's no line. Although, I'm sure you're used to hearing them. Lines, I mean." He swallowed. "And… that wasn't a line either. I am really batting a thousand here, aren't I? I should have just asked you if you come here often and called it a night."

"It just so happens that I do come here often."

He gave me a smirk and then sneezed into his hand. He sneezed again, and his eyelids were quickly becoming red and puffy.

"Are you all right?"

"It's allergies. I'll be fine." Just as he'd done for Beau moments ago, Edward poured his own tablet into his hand and swallowed it down without any liquid.

"Does the pollen get to you?"

"It's year round for me. I'm allergic to pet dander."

"But you're a vet."

"Hence the anti-" he sneezed "-histamine."

"You," I said, "are very interesting."

"So are you."

As he looked at me through puffier eyelids, half closed, he appeared even more attractive. He became attractive in such a way that I didn't want to walk away from him.

"Dr. Cullen?" I said, taking a cue from my absent mother. "Would you like to get a cup of coffee with me?"

"Call me Edward, and I'm relieved you asked, because between my rambling and sneezing, my courage was long out the window. It's probably in another state."

"Is that a yes?"

"It is. But I'm buying."

"I don't think so. If you lack the courage to ask, then you don't get to buy. But I walked here and I have to get Beau home first. Do you want me to meet you back here?"

"I'll walk with you," he barely got out before sneezing again. "It'll stop soon, I swear. In about twenty minutes, I won't be sneezing all over you anymore." He went back inside to tell the girl to close up, left his white coat, and joined me outside for our walk.

It was the time in late March when the winter season didn't quite want to let go, but summer, close on the heels of our always barely-there spring, was demanding it. We'd have hot days interspersed with windy, cold, or even rainy days. This day was hot and the evening was warm, but the cooling breeze warned us that another cold front was coming. Our spring was too delicate - like the petals of an old rose, easily blown away by the wind or scorched to a crisp by the sun. Or maybe our Spring was lazy. But whatever the reason for her short stay, I always wanted our temperature to remain in the low eighties much longer than it ever did before the sun beat on us with nineties and beyond.

Beau set the pace, pausing to sniff bushes and lawns, marking his territory. Every so often, his nose to the ground, he'd give a low bark at nothing Edward or I could see.

Ours was the type of Northern California town that was big enough to not know everyone and their affairs, but small enough to get anywhere by foot as long as you lived close to downtown. The people you knew well lived near you or were those you were somehow already acquainted with. The townsfolk you didn't know, the strangers, were happy to remain strangers, minding their own most of the time, and even loving to feel superior to you or anyone else. Many of these strangers, however, did congregate together to protest the building of a Target store in town last year. They held signs, started petitions getting any signature they could. You don't live here? You're not from around here? You like our town, though, don't you? Support local businesses. Sign on the line, please.

Their efforts paid off, working in the peoples' favor, and for a year, Target was held at bay. It was only a postponement of the inevitable as it turned out. Now, as I walked with Dr. Cullen toward my house, hard-hat wearing construction workers were walking away from a day's work of building the structure that would, in a few months time, be our very own beloved Target.

Edward and I picked as much of each other's brains as we could on our five block walk. I learned that he'd recently finished Veterinarian school and had, mere months ago, joined his mother's practice. He learned that I'd been a child in Phoenix with a single mother who couldn't afford air-conditioning. And to go without air-conditioning in Phoenix in the summer was as close to hell as I ever wanted to get. By the time I was eight, my mother and I were moving all over. She had trouble sticking to a job and a man. When I graduated college, my mother was living here in California, and I fell in love with this beautiful small town. It was the perfect place to clear my mind and write. When it came time for my mother to leave, I stayed.

"What do you write?" Edward asked, and Beau chose that moment of all moments to start his business. He found a square of dirt under one of the sidewalk-lining trees, and arched his back with a whine. Slowly, but smoothly, out came my pink lacies. My hand leapt into my purse in search of my plastic bag, and I scooped up Beau's grossness before Edward had too much time to process what had just happened. Although, it did dawn on me that Edward didn't need time or any amount of processing to realize what he was looking at. The smile on his face told me he knew, and the blush on my cheeks, I'm sure, told him I understood.

"What do you write?" he asked again, still smiling. "Beau, don't answer this time."

"Well, Beau's kind of right, because what I do write and what I want to write are two different things. I do write advertisement copy."

"And, what do you want to write?"

"The next great American novel, what else?"

"High aspirations are good to have," he said.

The truth was, I hadn't written a single thing for myself since I started working four years ago. But at least I was paying the bills.

Beau, back at home and feeling better-all my underwear safely out of his mouth's reach-curled up on his cushion by the door. I gave him a pat and a kiss goodbye, then, with my hands freshly washed, Edward and I strolled back to his car, where he insisted on driving the next six blocks to the diner. It would be too cold later for walking, was his practical-minded reasoning.

We both ordered dinner instead of coffee, since neither of us had eaten.

The classical music of his ringtone interrupted my first bite of steak. I looked around the restaurant instead of at Edward, while he had his conversation. The diner was rather empty for a Thursday evening, but it was only a bit after 5:00, still early for the dinner rush. I tried not to eavesdrop, but I heard him tell whomever was on the other line that he was at Quill's Diner.

"I apologize in advance for this," he said, slipping his phone back into his pocket.

"For what?"

"My sister. She's coming by, and that can only mean one of two things."

"Which would be?"

"She either needs money or wants me to do something for her."

Less than fifteen minutes later, a big glass tank slunked onto the table, rattling the plates and glasses. But what startled me more than the quick movement, and the loud bang, was the huge green lizardy thing inside it.

"What is that thing?" I asked, scooting along my booth as far away as I could get from the tank.

"This thing is Fluffy, my iguana," said the girl. The obvious insult in her voice drew my eyes to her. She was tiny. From the back, she would have seemed twelve or thirteen years old. But her pointed face and almond eyes showed she was perhaps in her early twenties.

"Fluffy?" I asked.

"Alice, what are you doing?" Edward asked.

"I need you to take care of him. He's sick again."

"You know I'm not a reptile vet."

"No, I know that, Edward, Jesus. I have to get on a plane in fifty minutes. Do you think they're going to let me bring him on the plane? I can't leave him alone in this condition. He'll die, Edward. He hasn't been eating on his own."

"Alice, do you see that I am sitting here having dinner with someone? Bella."

She turned to me again. "I'm sorry," she said. "I'm sure you're very nice. You seem really sweet, except for when you made fun of my iguana's name, but anyway, I hope you don't hold this against my brother. I wouldn't do this if I wasn't desperate." She turned back to Edward. "I brought him into a diner for Christ's sake, Edward. Are you going to help me or not?"

"All right, all right. What do I have to do for him?"

"He'll need the temperature warmer at night, and you'll have to spoon feed him his vitamins once a day." She scoured through her purse. "Except today. He's been fed today already." She set a plastic baggie on the table next to the tank. "It's just crushed up mixed greens, fruits, and vitamins."

I took a glance around the diner. Luckily no other patrons were occupying the tables within twenty yards of us.

"Edward, thank you so much." Alice kissed his cheek. "I have to go. Goodbye Fluffy, feel better." She brought her hand into the tank and pet his head with the back of her finger, then turned her tiny body around and traipsed out.

Our server came by in his regular round to see how we were doing, and his face morphed instantly from waiterly charm to humanly disgust.

"You can't have that in here! That's got to be some sort of health violation. You get that out of here right now!"

"We were just leaving," Edward said, covering his eyes, then peeking out from between his fingers. "I don't supposed I have a chance in hell of saving this night with an apology? Or is this over before it's begun?"

"His name is Fluffy?" I asked.

Edward laughed. "Thank you. I really am so sorry about this. I've never been this embarrassed."

"Now we're even," I said. "But I have a sudden, unexplained loss of appetite, and we've got to get that thing - Fluffy - out of here before our waiter physically removes us."

When we'd entered the diner, we were empty handed, and Edward had held the door open for me. On our way out, I held the door open for him, his arms full of a large iguana in a glass tank. I frowned at the absurdity of the situation, then quickly wondered how that little sprite of a girl with short dark hair had carried that tank by herself.

Edward secured the tank in his backseat like it was a child, then held the door open for me.

"It's her cat," he said as he pulled out of the lot.

"Pardon?"

"Her cat. Alice had a cat named Fluffy. He was hit by a car when she was eight, and when her boyfriend brought the sick iguana home, she took to him right away and wanted her cat to be the iguana's namesake."

"It can't get out of the tank, can it?" I peered back over my seat to make sure he hadn't escaped.

"No, you're safe." He grinned. "It would have been so much easier if she had just wanted money this time."

After a four minute drive, we were parked in the dark driveway of my little house.

"So... Do you still think I'm interesting?" he asked, cutting the engine.

"Even more than I did before," I said.

"I can't believe how well you handled that situation at the restaurant. I had visions of you running out of the place. I think I can safely presume that was one of the worst dates of your life. And on top of everything, you paid."

"Actually, it was one of the best dates I've had in a while." I didn't tell him that the last real date I'd been on was over three years ago.

"You are…" he looked at me "...like no one I've ever met before." Then he opened his car door. Time to go.

On my porch, next to my potted red geraniums, Edward leaned in and gave me a soft, quick kiss. I opened my eyes, a bit disappointed, wondering if that was all, but before they were fully opened, his lips were on mine again, his tongue in my mouth. I inhaled and held his face, afraid he might pull away and end this kiss.

"Bella," he said against my lips.

"Yeah?"

He kissed me again before answering. "I really enjoyed your company tonight."

"Me too," I said.

He kissed me deeper, and my breath wasn't mine anymore; it was his. "Maybe we can do it again some time."

"Edward," I said, calling him by his name for the first time out loud.

He moaned into my mouth what I thought was a, "Hmm?"

"Would you like to come in and see Beau?"

I opened the door and backed up, trying to reclaim my breath.

"That is a really intriguing offer," he said, following me in.

I closed the door behind us.

"Hi Beau," Edward said, taking hold of my waist and kissing me again. I heard Beau's paws tapping on the floor as he made his way over to us.

"Good boy, Beau," I said. "Give me a minute." He sat down and I turned my lips back to Edward.

His hands moved to my back as we kissed, and then under my shirt. His hands were warm as they rounded my ribs to my breasts, and I pulled back.

"Oh fuck," he said, "I'm sorry."

"It's okay. I just… I'm not used to this." My heart was pounding so hard in my chest that I felt it in my head. It made it hard to think.

"I didn't mean to assume anything. I usually have better control of myself, but you're so… you."

I pulled him down to kiss me again, and this time when his hands found my breasts, he was the one who pulled away. "God! I'm sorry. I just want to touch you."

I took a deep breath. I wanted to be touched by him, but I also didn't want to ruin whatever it was we may have been starting by moving too quickly physically. But was I sure that ruining things was inevitable? Was it really a rule that if you slept together too soon, your relationship was doomed? Or was it more of an assumption? Maybe those relationships wouldn't have worked out in the long run anyhow.

"Edward, do you have respect for me?"

"Of course I do. I know it doesn't seem like it right now, but I do."

"Because I like you."

"I like you, too. Really like you."

"But I don't know you..."

"Get to know me." He took my hand.

"And even though I don't do this sort of thing, I really want to."

"You do?"

I nodded. "I'm usually in more control of myself, too."

"Okay. So, are you saying we should do this?"

"Are you going to lose respect for me if I say yes?"

"Not an ounce."

"Would you be honest, though?"

"Bella, I really want to see you again, and if I thought I'd lose any respect for you at all, I wouldn't let this go a second further."

I looked into his eyes. I didn't even know him well enough to assess if he was lying or not. Was I really willing to take a risk I'd never taken before for someone I liked this much?

With his eyes on mine like that, my answer was yes. I reached up to kiss him, my hand at the nape of his neck, my fingers in his hair.

"Don't hurt me," I said.

He stopped. "I should go." He nodded as if agreeing with himself.

"Why?"

His hand came to my face. "When you asked me not to hurt you, the first thought that came to mind was that I'd never hurt you. The second thought was that I wouldn't let anybody hurt you."

"If you're not going to hurt me, then why do you have to leave?"

"Because that feeling was a shock to me. I've never felt so... protective of someone so quickly before. I can wait. We can do this right. Slow."

"Thank you," I said, because I had no idea what else to say.

"But I better go, because it's seriously hard for me to be this close to you and not touch you."

"Okay."

I followed him to the door, but before he opened it, I touched his shoulder. "Wait."

He turned around.

"I don't want you to leave. I like your presence here."

He laughed. "I like my presence here, too." He lifted his hand to my face and drew a finger down my cheekbone. "But how can I stay under these circumstances?"

I tugged on the hem of his shirt and brought my hand under it, feeling his stomach. He closed his eyes.

"What if we just forget about everything for a minute. And just… do this? If you hurt me, maybe it'll be worth it. And if you don't hurt me, it will definitely be worth it."

I lifted my hand up under his shirt to his chest.

The bang at the door and Beau's follow-up bark stopped me.

"Bella," came the voice, "I saw a guy go in there with you. Are you okay?"

"Who's that?" Edward asked. "Do you have a boyfriend?"

"No." My hand came to my forehead. "It's just my neighbor."

"Jake," I said, opening the door. "I'm aware that a guy came in with me because I invited him."

"Oh shit," Edward said. "I need to get Fluffy." He shook Jake's hand, then headed for his car.

"Beau!" Jake said, letting himself in and tapping his chest so the dog would jump up on him. He grabbed Beau's panting face and scratched. Beau was excited now, jumping and turning around, his tail flying. I pet his head, and he stilled.

"Are you sure you want that guy here?" Jake asked. "So soon?"

"Yes, I'm sure. You can go home now." I patted his shoulder like he was my pet, too.

Edward returned with the iguana tank, set it as far back on my desk as possible, plugged it in, and adjusted the lights. He spoke to it, but from where I was I couldn't hear what he said. Beau had lost all interest in Jake and was following Edward, sniffing the edge of the desk, but not quite reaching the tank, though it wasn't for lack of trying. He stretched his neck and Edward pushed Beau's head back gently.

"No, no," he said, then he moved the desk chair all the way to the other side of the living room.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I don't want Beau to get too close. Fluffy's used to being around other animals at Alice's, but with him being sick, he might feel more vulnerable. Beau's liable to scare the shit out of him without even trying. I just... don't want to take any chances."

"Beau," I said, "go to your bed. We have a guest."

He walked, paws tapping, and nose down to his cushion.

"You named your iguana Fluffy?" Jake asked.

"Not this again," I said. "Jake, it's time to go now. I'll talk to you tomorrow, okay?"

He left after a few glances back at Edward.

"Sorry," I said. "Jake's a little-" I cleared my throat "-over-protective."

"That's cool. I think it's great that we get all our baggage out in one night. Put all our cards on the table, so to speak."

"What baggage?"

"Your over-protective neighbor, my overbearing sister, and the fact that you've obviously been hurt. Maybe even recently."

I scoffed.

Edward shook his head. "I'm sorry. That was presumptuous of me. You may have notice my tendency to say whatever comes to mind."

"I noticed. You're right, though. It was pretty recent. And he was a close friend of Jake's, which is why he's so protective. He feels responsible. But I do not want to talk about that. That story ends badly, and I won't spoil tonight with it."

"Bella, if tonight hasn't been spoiled yet, I'm convinced nothing could spoil it."

"Tell me about your animals," I said, moving to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. We hadn't had any yet, after all, and it gave my nervous ass something to do. Beau followed us, pausing at the desk to take a sniff.

"Beau, stay back!" I said, and gave him a look. He whined before continuing into the kitchen.

"What animals?" Edward asked.

"The ones you work with. Why did you decide to become a veterinarian?"

He took the pot and filled it with water. "Asking about my animals and the reason I'm a vet are two completely different questions."

"Well, pick one, and answer it," I said, starting the coffee bean grinder. Its growl was much too noisy for me to hear what Edward said next. "Sorry."

He laughed. "Scooby-doo and my mom are the reasons I'm a vet, and at home, I have two Greyhounds."

"Scooby-doo?"

He shrugged. "He was the first animal I cared about that wasn't mine."

"And your Greyhounds don't bother your allergies?"

"Their shorter hair isn't so bad."

I poured some Bailey's cream into my cup, then wagged the bottle at Edward, my eyebrows raising in question.

"I love you," he said. "I mean, I don't love you. Obviously I like you a lot, but not love, because we just met, but yes, I'd love my coffee spiked. Sorry, too many loves... in that statement. "

I laughed at how nervous he'd made himself. "Don't worry. I knew what you meant."

He took his coffee cup from me and went back to Alice's tank, giving it a tap. "I'm going to have to take him to a Herp vet tomorrow. We can't be force feeding him, or he will die."

Beau whined, and I pointed toward the back door. "Go on outside," I told him. "You don't need permission to pee, goofball." Beau left through his doggie-door.

Edward turned toward me, took a sip of his coffee, then set the cup behind him next to the tank. "Before I wanted to be a vet, Scooby actually inspired me to be like Shaggy. Just not caring about anything really, maybe a dog walker. I wanted my best friend to be a dog."

I took a step closer to him. "I could call you Shaggy if you want."

"Please don't," Edward said, taking my hips. I set my cup down next to his and reached up to run my fingers along his hair, around his ear, to the back of his neck.

"What's so wrong with Shaggy?"

Edward leaned down, his lips closing in on mine. "His best friend is a dog, and he never gets the girl. And he doesn't even care. I want to care."

His lips touched mine. They were soft, and slightly wet, but I wanted his tongue. I wanted more wet. I gave him my tongue, and he gave me his back, and then we were holding each other's faces and moving backwards until my back hit the wall. His lips traveled across my face down the side of my neck, and around to the base of my throat. I tilted my head back with a sigh, which evidently called his lips back to mine. Our lips only parted so we could pull each other's shirts off. We took a moment to look at each other.

His arms were lean, but well-defined. I reached out to touch his shoulder, following the curves of his muscles down his arm to his elbow and back up again. Both of his hands were drifting up and down my waist, and then his lips were back, and his hands were on my breasts over my bra. He kissed down my neck to my chest, and I wanted my bra out of the way, but he didn't remove it. He took my nipple into his mouth through my bra. I couldn't help but moan and lean into him, as I reached around my back to unhook my bra myself, but he stopped me, lifting my arms over my head against the wall and linking our fingers. His lips still held my nipple, and when I felt his teeth, I bit my own lip.

"Edward... You know what you're doing."

"Yes." He moved his mouth slowly to my other breast, and one of his hands left mine to warm the breast left cold and lonely.

"Please let me take off my bra."

"Not yet." His lips rounded the skin of my breast where the silk lining met. "Patience, Bella. It will be so much better when I get there." I felt his tongue slip between the lining, and I squirmed. Still, he wasn't removing the encumbering material, so I decided to start getting even. I brought my hands down to his shoulders and let my fingertips drift down his chest and abdomen, feeling his stomach inhale. I brushed the backs of my fingers up his stomach, and then turned them over as they slipped down again. I slipped my fingers into the waist of his jeans and tugged him closer, then my hand moved over the front of his pants and I cupped him. He pushed against my hand, and I drew it back. Then I pressed my palm against him, moving it in a circle, before yielding again when he pressed into me.

"Okay, okay," he said in a pant, and finally removed my bra for me, his hands and lips going straight for my naked breasts. His tongue circled my nipple, and I moaned my thank you.

His arms wound around my waist, lifting me up, and he stepped into me, pressing me against the wall. I held on around his neck, and the work he was doing back and forth on my breasts made me lift my head and give in to him, letting him do whatever he wanted at his own pace.

But he built my desire up to the point where I just needed him in me. I was feeling so achy and empty that I pushed away from the wall and against him to show him what I ached for. He stumbled back a bit, my legs and arms wrapped around him.

"Bella," he said, his lips making their way up my chest and throat. I dropped my head to find his lips. "It's our first time. Let's be boring and do it on the bed."

He carried me to the wrong room, but it didn't matter. He let me fall to the guest bed, and kissed me down my stomach, undoing my jeans.

"This is so far from boring," I said.

"I know," he said to my belly button, circling it with his tongue. His kisses inched down my stomach. "I didn't mean it like that."

My pants were somehow moving from my body. He must have been pulling at them, but all I felt were his lips and tongue on my inner thigh. I reached out and undid his pants, giving them a push over his hips with my hands, and when I couldn't reach anymore, I finished the rest with my feet. He stepped out of them, then lifted my leg and licked the back of my knee, and I was squirming again.

"You're so good at this that it worries me," I said.

"Don't be worried." His lips were on their way to my ankles. "I just want to make you feel better than anyone else has ever made you feel." I responded with a sigh. "And I want it to last."

His lips were at my thigh again, my leg resting on his shoulder, and I felt the back of his finger gentle and slow over my panties. I knew that his finger had to have been nearly soaked, even through my panties. That assumption was confirmed with his next words.

"You need these off."

And I was grateful that he hadn't planned on panty-torture like he'd done the bra-torture. One hand removed my panties, while the other hand pressed two fingers against me and moved at a slow pace that began his next form of torturous pleasure.

"Take off your boxers and come onto the bed with me," I managed to say, although I couldn't be certain he heard or understood me through my heavy breaths and moans. He heard and obeyed, but without even a pause in his fingers. I was lifting myself against his fingers, moving along with him.

Once he was close enough, I felt down his waist, slipping my fingertips up and down the smooth length of him, and then wrapped my fingers around him. He pushed into my hand with a groan. His lips were at my jaw, and our hands and fingers matched each other in pace. When his finger entered me, I squeezed him in my hand, because it was either that or let go. He groaned an, "Oh," or an "Uh." Whatever it was, I wanted to hear it again, so I quickened and tightened my hold until I did.

"Edward, don't you want to be inside of me?"

"Yes, I fucking do," he breathed. "But I just remembered that I don't have a condom."

I sat up and smiled. It made me feel good that he didn't keep a supply of condoms with him. Not even one.

"What?" he asked.

"I have condoms in my dresser."

"Which drawer?"

"Not in here. This isn't my room."

He laughed. "Bella, I'm not leaving this room, even for a condom, until you've been… satisfied."

He kissed down my chest, over each of my breasts, and my stomach, until his face was between my legs.

"Edward?"

"What?" He looked up. "Is this okay?"

It was. It was more than okay. But in that moment, I felt the newness of our relationship more than ever, and my self-consciousness was growing. None of this was planned, and I'd never been in such an intimate position before with someone I hardly knew. My legs started to come together on their own accord.

"You don't… you don't have to do that."

"If you're uncomfortable with it, I won't. But I promise you, I want to." He pushed my legs apart again, and teased me with his fingers. "You're beautiful. Everything about you is beautiful. I want to do this for you. May I?"

After hearing that, saying no was an impossibility, but saying yes was still hard. Then two of his fingers entered me at once, and my hips raised as I moaned, my insecurities vanishing along with my sight as my eyes closed.

"Yes, Edward. I want you to."

His lips were on me, slow and evenly paced, sometimes a flick of his tongue, sometimes just his lips. My nails dug into the bedding and my legs pulled back. Then his tongue took turns with his fingers, pressing against me and into me.

"Oh god," I said. "Oh god." The last moan was hoarse and drawn out, and I couldn't believe that I'd almost stopped this from happening. This.

Soon his movements and exchanges were so fast that I couldn't tell the difference between his tongue and his fingers, and it didn't matter to me either, as long as he didn't stop.

"Edward…" I moaned, arching my back, and then I repeated the same moan louder. And then a third time, as he went even faster, bringing my orgasm completely out of me. It was part of the entire room, and it shook through me like an earthquake. My body was the fault line, and the quakes kept coming. His tongue and fingers didn't stop until I had to push him away, because it was too much for me to handle. He stilled his fingers, pressing them firmly against me, letting me come down, and his face returned to mine.

"I've been waiting to hear you say my name like that," he said, sweeping my hair back. "I was beginning to think I was doing something wrong."

My eyes were still closed, so it took me a few tries before I caught his bicep and pulled him close. My hand slipped down his chest, and I had no idea what I was doing.

"Nothing… wrong… Thank you."

He kissed me. I felt his lips on mine, but I didn't even kiss him back, because I wasn't back yet from wherever he sent me. As his kisses continued, I slowly started to return to myself. He took my top lip between his, and then my bottom lip, and by the time his tongue entered my mouth, I was kissing back.

"There you are," he said. He pulled away with one more peck. "Tell me where to find the condoms."

"They're in my top drawer. You'll recognize my panties in there, I'm sure."

I turned away from him, and brought a pillow under my head, my eyes still closed. He kissed me down my spine before he left the room. But as soon as he was gone, I missed him. I forced myself to get off the bed and stumbled to join him in my bedroom.

He froze when he saw me.

"Have I told you how amazing you are to look at?" he asked.

I nodded.

"Have I told you that it's even more amazing to look at you naked?"

"No, but I'd say the same to you as well."

"Your hair, your shoulders, your waist, your hips, your…" He sat down naked on my bed, the condom in his hand. "Come over here. I want to touch you."

I went to him with plans to climb on top of him and push him on his back, but he wrapped his arms around me and spun me around fast. He was on top of me with kisses and touches before I could even say his name.

He licked down my stomach and I felt his chest between my legs, and then he worked his way back up my body. His lips found mine again, and my legs wrapped his waist. The condom was on quickly, but his movements were slow and deliberate as he inched into me. Once he was all the way in, Edward was nowhere near as controlled as he'd been earlier in the evening when he'd refused to remove my bra, and every time I said his name, he had to stop his movements.

"Bella, if you say my name like that again, it's over for me."

When we started moving our bodies again, and I felt my peak coming closer, I repeated his name just because I loved having that control over him. And there he went, slamming into me with his release, and bringing my orgasm out of me for the second time that night.

Our bodies stilled, his weight on me, and our breathing seemed as though it would never calm again. I reached around his neck and hugged him close, and when he hugged me back I was relieved. I was relieved that after it was all over, I didn't feel uncomfortable or used or no longer wanted. The way he held me, his chest rising and falling on mine, made me feel wanted and made this night feel right, and that the risk I had decided to take with this man was most undoubtedly worth it.

"You're worth it," I said aloud, then bit my lip, hoping that didn't scare him.

"I'm not going anywhere, Bella. Next to you is the only place I want to be."

He rolled to the side without letting go of me, and we fell asleep for a little while. I don't know how much time had passed before he woke me up.

"Bella," he whispered.

"Are you leaving?" I asked.

"No, but I want you to wake up. Will you wake up?" He kissed the back of my shoulder and I opened my eyes, turning toward him.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing, it's just that we need to get to know each other, and I don't want to waste this night with sleep. I want to make sure you know how real I want what's between us to be. Let's get up, okay? I'll make some more coffee if you want."

"You're not leaving?"

"Not unless you want me to."

"Then five more minutes. Just five more." I closed my eyes.

He laughed. "You can sleep. I'm sorry I woke you."

"I'll get up." I lifted a tired arm toward him. He was sitting up, and I caught his leg and tapped it. "I'm up. Coffee."

But I wasn't up. I must have fallen asleep again, because the next thing I heard was a "clunk" on the night stand next to me, and then I felt movement on the bed. I opened my eyes.

"Your coffee's ready."

I forced myself to sit up, pushed hair from my face and reached for the coffee. It burned my lips, but the smell was enough to revive me. My rejuvenation, and Edward's eyes on me, made me aware of my nudity. I pulled the sheet over me.

"You're shy," he said.

"No I'm not."

"Yes you are. You wouldn't let me look at you in my office when you told me of Beau's problem."

"All right. I'm shy in some circumstances. The kind where a very handsome man takes me off guard, or looks at me." With my laugh, coffee spilled over my hands and onto my white sheet. Edward took my cup from me.

"Did it burn you?"

"I'm okay." I mouthed the hot coffee off my hands. "I just realized something. If this 'us' turns into something that lasts, people are going to ask how we met. Oh my god. To have to repeat that story over and over…"

Edward leaned over and kissed me. "What makes you say 'if' this lasts? That's no attitude to have." He gave my arm a light brush with the back of his finger.

My laughter subsided. "None of my relationships have ever lasted."

"It only takes one," he said.

I stared at him for so long that I made myself uncomfortable. Then I pinched my arm. Was this happening? Yesterday I didn't even know this person existed, and now we were talking about our relationship in terms of it possibly being our last relationship.

"But you don't know me," I said.

"I don't know a lot about you, but I know a part of you, and that part, I'm drawn to. That part of you makes me feel lonely when I think of leaving your house."

I felt myself frown.

"You don't trust me," Edward said. "Do you honestly think that I would pretend to like you to get you into bed, wake you up to get to know as much as I can about you in one night, just to leave and never see you again?"

"In my experience, every man I've been involved with since high school has played games. Is this a game?"

"A game? Bella, I just opened myself up to you. I told you I was afraid to leave you like a lost puppy, and you think it's a game? It's not a game. I've never had feelings like this grow so quickly for someone, and I don't want to fuck it up. I'm aware you're unsure about me, and I don't know why, but I'm trying to appease your mind. I can't do that if you don't believe a word I say."

I tried to say something to prove him wrong, but the problem was he was right. Even as he said the words I'd always wanted the right man to say, it didn't seem real. A part of me was still skeptical. I must have been silent for too long because he got up and left the room. When he came back, I was in the same spot, brown coffee stain next to my leg, and he was dressed. He handed me two pieces of paper: his business card and his phone number.

"The cards are in your hand, Bella. If you want to see me again, you call me."

I followed him into the living room, hoping words would come to me. He was arranging Fluffy's tank. He was really about to leave. I glanced at the clock on the counter between the living room and kitchen. It wasn't quite 2:00 am.

"Edward, wait," I said. "Don't leave."

He turned and faced me, and I was naked with nothing nearby to cover me.

"Can you just sit on the sofa for a minute? I'll be right back." I started for my room, turning back once. "Don't go."

If I was going to reveal myself to Edward, I couldn't do it this exposed. I slipped into a nighty the color of red wine, of merlot. Then, un-naked, I joined Edward on the sofa.

"Are you ready for some baggage?" I asked him.

"Please," he said.

I tucked hair behind my ear, then played with my bottom lip before I worked up the courage to speak. "I was with Mike for four years. It took him two years to tell me he loved me, and two more years to say what you just said. That he felt lonely without me. After that, Edward, it took him two months to cheat on me; and it took me five minutes to break up with him; and it took him, I don't know-a second?-to get over me."

His fingers touched mine on the sofa.

"And it isn't only that he cheated, but it's the humiliation that comes with it. I put all of my trust in the wrong person."

"How long ago was this?"

"Last month."

Edward nodded.

"The thing is, Mike - someone I thought I knew inside and out - who supposedly loved me, said he never wanted to leave me, and he didn't mean it. He knew he didn't mean it when he said it. He lied. On purpose."

Edward looked away from me. He seemed to be staring at the empty television in front of him. When he faced me again he said, "The other thing is, Bella, I'm not Mike. I meant everything that I said to you." His eyes were narrowing; he was becoming frustrated again, like he had just before he left me in my room. "Maybe that was a mistake. Maybe I shouldn't have been so honest about my feelings this early on. I guess I can understand why you would have trouble believing me."

"Okay," I said, trying to talk myself into believing him. I looked into the eyes of the man who meant the words he'd said. I convinced myself to believe him. "The other thing is, Edward, I feel the same way. I feel like I don't want you to leave because when you do, my house will be emptier than it ever was before. And I feel like if I tell you that, it will scare you away."

"And the other thing is, Bella, you just told me." He smiled. "And I'm not scared. I'm not running."

"So then, I can do this, right?" I leaned against him, my head on his shoulder.

"You can do that whenever you want." He raised his arm, bringing it around me and holding me to him.

"Do you have to work tomorrow?" he asked.

"I work right over there." I pointed a lazy hand at my occupied desk. "Do you?"

"My first appointment is at nine. I have to leave by eight so I can go home and change."

"Where do you live?"

"Just outside of town."

"Have you lived here your whole life?"

"Except for college. My mom wants us all close, and I didn't have any reason not to come back."

"Any ex-girlfriends to lay on the table?"

"I haven't had a girlfriend in over a year. I've dated, but I haven't met anyone who interested me long-term. Until now."

I raised my face to him and he kissed me.

"I'm sorry you were hurt, Bella," Edward said between kisses. "You don't deserve to be treated that way." The next kiss he gave me brought me up to my knees, my hands in his hair, my breathing heavy. Pulling away, I looked down at him - saw the lust in his eyes. I stood up and walked to my desk. We were supposed to be taking time to get to know each other's minds, not bodies. Our bodies were well-acquainted.

I bent toward the tank that had somehow seemed to become a real part of my life. The iguana was as frozen as ever on his branch, leaves and greenery surrounding him, his warm light glowing down. I'd found myself throughout the night thinking about Fluffy even when I wasn't looking at him. Worrying about his health, wondering if he felt odd in this home he wasn't used to, or if he was afraid of Beau. I wanted him - as ill-at-ease as he made me feel - to feel comfortable.

I would learn later that Alice and Jasper, her boyfriend of six years, took in sick animals of all kinds, nursed them back to health, and found them a home. This iguana, however, was having a tougher time getting better than any of their other creatures. I didn't know any of that yet, though. Edward wouldn't share that information with me until morning. For now, all I knew was that Edward's younger sister's ill iguana was in my living room taking up my laptop's space on the desk. My poor laptop, still packaged as it had been for two days now, in its leather case on the floor at the base of the desk.

"Is it bad that I think Fluffy is ugly?" I asked, my nose nearly touching the glass.

"Well, I wouldn't exactly call an iguana cute, either," Edward said.

"It's not only ugly, it's scary."

"He won't hurt you. He'd let you hold him if you wanted to."

"Why's it so big? He has muscles. Lizards should be small, skittish creatures that stay away from you and hide under rocks."

"Bella." He turned me around, holding me at my upper arms. "You think this is big? He's not even an adult yet. He'll grow to be about five feet long, and he'll need a space nearly ten times this tank's size. Are you worried about him getting out of the cage and eating your big toe?"

"I am now."

"They're vegetarians, and as unhealthy as he is right now, he can barely move. Even if he somehow achieved the impossible and escaped, Beau would be all over his tail before Fluffy could tap a claw on your wood floor."

From over on his cushion, I heard Beau's metal tags on his collar rattle as he lifted his head at the sound of his name, and then again when he let his head fall back to his paws.

I looked at Fluffy, who was anything but. His skin looked rough or slimy or leathery, but it was multi-toned in some places, even pink around his neck, and he seemed to shimmer.

"His coloring is kind of pretty, I guess. Beau?"

He lifted his head from his paws again.

"You stay away from Fluffy the iguana, you hear?"

He gave me a whine and lowered his head, as if to say, Don't bother me. Let me sleep.

"You're a good dog, Beau," Edward said, going over to give him scratches where he loved them most. The dog groaned. "He does whatever you say, doesn't he?"

I nodded. "He's my crutch and I'm his. I don't know what I'd do without him."

Since I was eighteen it had been Beau and me, me and Beau. Through boyfriends, between boyfriends, we always had each other. Our constants. We'd grown to understand each other and could communicate in a way that only took a look. He was my protector and my nurturer-there for me when I cried over Mike. Beau's rust-furred head in my lap or on my shoulder, his lick on my face. He let me know he wasn't going anywhere.

"Do you think you should get some sleep?" I asked.

"I probably should for the sake of my patients."

"Come on." I took his hand. "Let's go to bed. If we're really starting something, then we have more than just one night to get to know everything about each other."

Edward got re-undressed, and we lay together, falling asleep in my coffee-stained bed. I'd clean the sheets later; for now it was time to sleep.

In the morning, a finger down the bridge of my nose woke me up.

"I have to go," Edward said.

"No," I mumbled and snuggled closer to him.

"I know," he said, kissing my forehead.

As reluctant as Edward was to leave and as reluctant as I was to let him go, he had to. We kissed by the front door.

"Are you sure you don't mind Fluffy staying with you?"

"It's fine. I have Beau to protect me." I smiled.

"I'll pick him up on my lunch hour. He needs a vet."

I offered to take Fluffy to the vet. I wanted to help Edward and his sister, and I wanted to keep Fluffy from dying at my house, but more than any of that, I wanted to free up Edward's lunch hour so he could spend it with me.

Edward's sneezes began again before he left. He popped an antihistamine, and once he was gone, my house felt as empty as I expected it to, and I even missed his sneezes.

I had a couple of hours before the iguana's appointment, so I thought I'd get some work done. I brought my laptop to the sofa, Beau following. He jumped up and curled up beside me, his nose touching my leg, and I looked at my blank Word screen, and Edward's face flashed before me. My fingers went to work, but instead of typing up the advertisement I should have, I began to write. For the first time in four years I wrote for me, and I wrote my story. Out of my fingers and onto the page came the past sixteen hours of my life.

I stood still in the doorway of the stark white room…


A/N: Let me know what you think with a review. :)

Thank you again, Christie, for your donation and story suggestion!