The "AwkWard" Contest
Story Title: The Write Stroke
Pen name: BittenBee
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight.

To see other entries in the "AwkWard" contest, please visit the C2:
www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/community/AwkWard_Contest/78356/


A/N: Endless thanks to IrritableGrizzzly and kimpy0464 for beta'ing and cleaning up my act. This would be rambles and word confusion without them. And to beegurl13 for being clever with this title and sweet as pie.


After flashing her badge at the bouncer, Detective Rita Malone entered the bar. She eyed the crowd speculatively as she sat down at the nearest stool and ordered a cranberry juice. As she sipped the tart beverage, her flat gaze landed on the oversized hunchback with the scar through his left eye. He sat back in the shadows, the dim light gleaming yellow over his thick, white scar. Rita set her drink down and… hmm… and—

"Rurururoof! Woof woof! Rarrgh…"

Edward startled, almost knocking his coffee all over the keyboard. There was that damn dog from down the street, barking and growling hysterically again. He had been anchoring his tenuous idea to the tip of his mind, desperately hoping to align his thoughts. He'd been struggling to get past this writer's block for a week and wanted to feel renewed inspiration that flowed perfectly into seamless clarity. He hadn't been mentally stuck like this in a very long time.

And then the dog barked, violently disrupting him from his concentration. Edward growled back from his desk and peeled his eyes away from the document on the monitor. Ever since his neighbors moved in, Edward cursed the pet tethered to their deck and named him the Maniacal Yapper because his bark was an irritating yap and he would snarl at anything that blew in the wind.

Still, on occasion he'd managed to tune out the awful beast with music as he drove toward his next best seller. At thirty-four years old, he resigned himself to a comfortable, regimented routine of a life. Edward possessed a superb publishing deal based upon his genius in the art of story telling. His own story, however, illustrated that he was both socially inept and reclusive. He wasn't a risk-taker or a smooth-talker, a powerfully skilled athlete or a Casanova with women; his characters were. Sometimes he thought he could possess those carefree skills, but every time he was faced with a happy stranger, his mind seemed to jumble and his body tightened in panic.

Since the Maniacal Yapper wasn't going to let up anytime soon, and his train of thought had already skimmed away, Edward slid his chair back and got up. He took off his black-framed reading glasses, rubbed his eyes, and scratched through his disarrayed hair. He tried to control his fresh wave of grumpiness as he grabbed his coffee mug and headed back into the kitchen for a refill.

Just as he was settling back into his chair, the phone rang. "Damn it, can't a person have some peace and quiet?" he yelled under his breath and angrily flipped his cell phone open. "What?"

"Eddie! How goes it bro?"

His agent's boisterous voice boomed on the line. Emmett wasn't exactly compatible with Edward's personality. Truthfully, no one was compatible with Edward's introverted personality, but Emmett was the best agent he'd ever had. The man was large and friendly and just had an incredible natural talent for networking and making everyone happy. Edward silently envied how easy it was for his agent to socialize, but the admiration ended there. During his openings and book signings, Emmett was loud and practically thunderous in his interactions, while Edward loomed off to the side, trying to blend in with the curtains, but his uncommon shade of bronze hair usually prevented that entirely.

"Again, I do prefer that you use my full name."

Emmett chuckled at Edward's moody disposition. If they were talking in person, Emmett would have smack-squeezed his rear, locker room style. Edward flinched out of habit.

"Something you want, Emmett?"

"Yeah, you. Tell me you're free tonight," he said more urgently.

"Pardon?"

"I know, I know it's completely out of the blue, but I had Jasper rounded up for a date and the twat canceled on me at the last minute."

Edward's butt cheeks clenched shut in response and he swallowed nervously. "Look, I didn't... I had no idea that kind of thing was your… preference, but I must refuse. As flattering as it is..." He trailed off, too uncomfortable to continue. He hadn't seen the signs, didn't know that Emmett's habits tilted in that direction. I should have, he thought. A man that put together and friendly...

"Flattery my ass," Emmett said, cutting through his speculation. "I know you're not doing anything except sitting in front of that computer pulling your hair out." Edward touched his hair, feeling the mess he'd unconsciously made of it. "Now, put yourself together and throw on a tie. Believe me, it'll be worth your while."

Edward panicked and breathed unevenly. "I... I can't do this."

Emmett sighed. "It's not a big deal, don't worry buddy, I got your back."

"N- No! I don't need you to get my back or flatter my ass or anything else you're planning tonight. No, no, no. Apologies, but I don't swing that way. Now if you want me to find another agent, I understand—"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Emmett cut in. "What do you think I'm asking?"

"Uhh, I… Aren't you asking me out on a date?" he spit out, flustered and wanting to crawl back to his computer.

There was a pause. He didn't know if Emmett hung up or not.

"Dude... what the—" Emmett started in shock. "Fuck dude, what the hell do you think I've been talking about all this time?! I need you as my wingman. I told you Jasper cancelled on me. I've got two women lined up. Just... I'm not fucking GAY! WHAT THE FUCK! WHAT. THE..."

Emmett continued to yell as Edward hung his head down in humiliation, gripping the side of his face with his phone while his other hand pulled at his hair.

"I- I'm sorry," he stammered quietly, too low to hear over Emmett's shouts. An immense rush of heat flooded his complexion and he was glad that no one else was there to see it.

"I. Like. Women. W-O-M-E-N," Emmett repeated slowly.

Edward's hand rubbed down his face. "I'll never make that mistake again. I'm sorry. I almost fired you...but I believe in gay rights, don't get me wrong."

Emmett scoffed, more concerned about his sexual orientation than his job. "Whatever. Clean your ass- yourself up," he corrected. "And meet me at Adesso Restaurant at eight, got it?"

"You still want me to go?"

"Jesus, have you been listening to a word I've said? Jasper canceled! Adesso. Eight." Emmett hung up.

Edward stared at his phone for a moment in disbelief. He placed it back on the desk and noticed his now lukewarm coffee and sighed. Yapper's barking was no longer the immediate reason for his distraction. This day had just gone from bad to worse. Edward didn't want to go out and entertain Emmett's ladies. He had a long-standing bias against beautiful women. As soon as they realized that he wasn't Mr. Charming, they treated him either like a gnat to be flicked away, or the latest rack of meat on the menu. They just didn't understand him.

He should have come up with an excuse like watching a football game. Yeah, like he'd even believe that, he thought sourly. Still, he couldn't concentrate on his manuscript anymore, which made him frustrated all over again.

He dumped his coffee down the kitchen sink and went to his closet, furiously pushing his shirts around. After settling on a clean white shirt and maroon tie, he "put himself together" as Emmett demanded, tucking his shirt into his jeans and flattening his hair as best he could. He had even shaved, grumbling as he ran the blade down his skin. He liked his light, grizzly scruff; it felt more comfortable and natural. Even when he had book signings he hated to shave, but did anyway at Emmett's insistence. His agent could certainly throw a tantrum when Edward didn't comply.

His jaw was now clean and smooth, the air tingling the newly exposed skin. Another irritation, he thought. Then there was that one little tuft of hair that wouldn't obey and stuck straight up, so he finally gave up on it. Who was he trying to impress?

He glared at his manuscript - which was mocking him now - logged off his computer, locked up, and drove to Adesso with anxiety clawing at his stomach.

The restaurant was busy and he looked around for Emmett, but he was nowhere in sight. He felt out of place and uncomfortable in his own skin as couples pushed past him to be seated, and his hands were clammy with nervousness. He looked around again and his eyes landed on two women sitting at a table for four who were staring at him with interest. The redhead winked at him and curled her finger, beckoning him to join them. Emmett must have described him to the ladies, but he was still nowhere to be seen. It was just like Emmett to be late.

"How many this evening?" the hostess inquired expectantly.

"It's all right, I'm meeting these women for dinner," Edward answered, and walked toward their eager smiles.

He sat down at their table, the bleach blonde smiled as her redheaded friend gave him bedroom eyes.

"Uh, greetings," he said, looking back and forth between them.

"Well aren't you yummy?" the redhead said, licking her teeth. "I'm Victoria, and this is my girlfriend Kate," she introduced, leaning forward to reveal cleavage under the low neckline of her dress. Was it a dress? It looked more like a long shirt and very tight.

Edward gulped, feeling like a mouse caught between two cats. He snapped his gaze back up to her hungry, blue eyes. "Nice to meet you," he said politely, hoping Emmett would get there soon. "And how do you know Emmett?" he asked both women.

"Any way you want us to know him," Victoria simpered.

Edward gulped again at her predatory expression. They seemed to collectively lean closer to him.

"So, do you like to party?" Kate asked, sizing him up.

He backed up in his chair a bit and cleared his throat self-consciously. "I'm a writer..."

Both women cast a glance at each other, confused. Edward assumed that would be a dignified enough answer for "no" and might make him look distinguished in front of these strangers.

"Perhaps you'd like some more content for your next book, say... of the sexual variety," Victoria suggested, leaning forward more, her heavy breasts almost spilling out onto the table. They were enormous and she emitted a strong, noxious perfume.

His staring eyes blinked at her prominent cleavage. He was baffled for a moment and hadn't expected them to be so direct and willing.

"Eddie!"

He jumped in his seat as his agent appeared out of nowhere, towering over him.

"What the hell are you doing?"

Edward cleared his throat again. "I'm entertaining your ladies..." He trailed off as two different, beautiful women popped out from behind Emmett's massive form.

He looked back at the two felines across the table, leering at him. "I'm- my mistake," he stammered, suddenly realizing that this was the wrong table. His face felt hot again as he clumsily removed himself from the chair, pushing it away like it had burned his hands.

The hostess peered behind her to see what the hold-up was. The four of them were presented with a fresh table, the beautiful women sliding on the same side together. He watched Emmett as he held out the blonde's chair and quickly went to do the same for the brunette.

As he reached to help the brunette take her coat off, she started to sit down and his fingers caught at the edge of her breasts. She gasped and he jumped back, shocked by his accidental pawing.

"I… I," he stuttered, frozen. He'd never done anything like this before. "You have a low collar." His face turned bright red, unsure what else to say.

"Um, thank you," she mumbled, giving him an incredulous, affronted look before slowly turning to face the table.

Edward's face was still burning and he sat down in silence next to Emmett, feeling horrible. These women must think I'm a sleaze, he thought. First the wrong table of women, now inappropriate groping and violating a total stranger. There was still time to excuse himself to the restroom and slip out of the restaurant to make a clean escape. But he couldn't. Emmett looked so happy now, his curls gelled and his dimples deepening with delight.

"Eddie, this is the lovely Rose I was telling you about, and her friend Bella," he said, his dimples turning into saucers with his wide smile.

The two women smiled back. Rose was a beautiful, natural blonde with sumptuous red lips, who seemed to glow under Emmett's extra attention. She extended her hand to Edward, receiving a wet noodle shake from him.

He was glad that Emmett had better taste than the two creatures that had almost devoured him, but he was still too embarrassed to muster any skill for conversation. He mumbled a greeting, catching the eye of the brunette. For the life of him, he couldn't remember the name Emmett had just gave him.

Her long, shiny dark brown hair hung around her face, partially obscuring her features. But from what he could see, she was beautiful in an uncommon way, unlike most of the cookie-cutter city girls. Her top lip was plumper than the lower and her nose was petite with a little curve at the bridge. And her brown eyes… the mysterious depths seemed to sparkle so much that Edward wasn't sure if he could handle looking into them directly. It only discouraged him further. She was the one that he was supposed to entertain while Emmett had his fun, but the task was suddenly overwhelming, intimidating. He sighed inwardly, taking a drink of the ice water in front of him to curb his anxiety.

Rose chatted easily, her voice light and velvety as she tossed her blonde waves over her shoulder and smiled. Emmett was leaning forward with his elbows on the table, entranced by her mouth.

Edward knew he'd need something stronger than water if this continued.

"Isn't that right, Eddie?" Emmett's voice filtered through, snapping his attention back.

"It's Edward," he corrected for the umpteenth time.

"Loosen up Eddie, I'm telling Rose here about our work." He turned back to her as he continued explaining, "I'm the agent of one of the best damn writers in the country. This kid's been downright spoiled by all the deals and press I've been getting him."

Kid? He was older than Emmett. Edward winced at his agent's shameless bragging. He was laying it on thick for Rose.

"Not the best..." Edward cut in quietly. He knew he was no Stephen King.

Emmett clapped him on the back. "Listen to this modest son of a bitch," he chuckled, giving Rose a demure smile.

Her sapphire eyes brightened with interest. "I think I've heard of you, but I admit I'm more of a steamy romance kind of girl. What do you write, Edward?"

He shifted in his seat, looking around the table quickly. "Mystery thriller novels."

"That must be fascinating. Doesn't that sound fascinating, Bella?" she asked, turning to her friend.

Bella. At least he knew her name now.

Bella seemed to be lost in her own private thoughts. She looked up at the sound of her name, not quite smiling, but not quite frowning either, and nodded.

"So where do you get your ideas from?" Rose continued, facing him again.

Edward tore his eyes away from Bella, and tried to prevent them from rolling. Everybody asked writers that question and he'd usually let an automated, light-hearted joke fall from his lips, leaving his readers dissatisfied.

But he was annoyed that Bella wasn't even paying attention. Despite being used to women moving on as soon as he opened his mouth, she seemed altogether disinterested. For some reason, his ego was offended that she didn't even give him a chance to screw up first. Was she still annoyed by his accidental grope? He tightened his jaw with determination to gain her attention back. "You have to get inside the mind of a killer," he proclaimed, giving the women a steely look.

Rose's expression lengthened, caught off-guard by his intensity. "That's..." Bella froze, eyeing her friend before meeting Edward's loathing stare.

To his surprise, Bella glared back, not at all impressed by his outburst.

Truthfully, she'd rather be at home, curled up on her couch with a good book. She never had good luck, or any luck at all. When she agreed to go out on this double date with Rose, she never thought her date would already be hitting on a couple of girls upon her arrival. To top it off, he couldn't wait to start man-handling her breast before they'd even sat down to order.

Now he was giving her a hard stare. She returned the favor.

The silence almost crackled as Emmett laughed out loud, bringing in his charm to soften the tension. "Eddie's real dedicated to his work," he smiled, jabbing Edward in the ribs. "Try to act normal," he said from the corner of his mouth.

Rose's laugh was a light, tinkling sound, bringing back Emmett's cheeky grin.

At that moment, a waiter arrived to take their orders, salvaging the mood. They went around the table and Edward barely glanced at the menu, ordering the first thing he saw. "And a scotch on the rocks, please," he added. Emmett ordered a bottle of wine for him and Rose, really pulling out the expensive perks, and Bella ordered a fruity cocktail that looked like pure alcohol content.

The four settled back into their seats, attempting to get comfortable and pick up casual conversation again. At every turn, the conversation seemed to deflate with Edward's terse answers, so they eventually stopped speaking to him. Emmett and Rose seemed to talk non-stop to each other while Edward's mind wandered to the characters he'd left at home—Rita Malone and her sidekick Deputy Lizzy, on the hunt for the murderer of Senator Rex Johnson. They were all much more interesting than the woman sitting across from him.

Bella continued to slowly sip her drink, resistant to warming up to him. She couldn't imagine bringing a man like him home to her parents, lest he grope her mother in greeting.

Despite their silent spat, Edward couldn't help staring at her glossy lips. They looked creamy and fruity when she pressed them together into a frown, and then relaxed her mouth into a pout, allowing the fullness to jut out. There were little lip smudges all over her glass. He licked his own lips, imagining that she would taste like a cherry snow cone. Then he remembered that she apparently detested him because he wasn't charming and flattering enough.

Eventually he felt the stiffness in his back yield against his seat as the scotch started taking effect. He played his finger across a water ring on the table. The details sparked and lingered in his mind as to how he could make Rita Malone more interesting. He thought of the scene where he'd left off with the hulking scarred man in the corner, and then it abruptly switched to Bella's mouth wrapped around the rim of her cocktail glass, as he catalogued details for Rita. He couldn't wait to go home and write up new notes. Then his mind wandered to other places that Bella's lips could wrap around, like the rim of his—

His undisciplined gaze met hers again across the table, and immediately, his posture went rigid. She was staring at him over her cocktail. For a moment he could almost see the wheels turn in her head as she looked at him, and for some reason he was worried about what she might be thinking.

When the heat of their glaring contest had worn off, she noticed that his face was still subtly flushed. His pink complexion made his green eyes seem greener so when he caught her watching him, the intensity startled her. Her gaze fell from his.

Was she waiting for him to say something? Edward knew he wasn't terribly unattractive and he stayed in shape… He could try to improve her impression of him, make a fresh attempt.

"So, how do you know Rose?" he asked, setting his glass down.

Her eyes focused on his, probing his expression before she answered. He shifted in his seat. That was a normal question, right?

"We're friends," she replied, almost defensively.

He pulled at his collar, trying to loosen the uncomfortable, strangled feeling at his throat. "Um, what… what do you do for a living?" he tried again.

1She looked him over again, mentally weighing how much to share. He looked worried now, and she decided to try to be herself—but hopefully not giving in to her tendency to ramble. "I used to do food photography for restaurant magazines. From that experience, I got to taste a lot of dishes. I guess I developed a talent… a palate, and opinions. Somehow I ended up trading in my camera for the opportunity to pair food and wine together."

Edward was expecting…he didn't know, but not someone so creative. Earnest excitement expanded in his chest that he'd gotten her to open up a little, and he wanted to know more. Maybe they did have some things in common. Perhaps the night could still be salvaged...

"So you're a taster?"

"Obviously," she answered, tilting her head to the side slightly.

He grew nervous again by her clipped tone, and his brain froze up and muddled. She watched him with curiosity and he knew he had to say something soon or he would lose her attention altogether.

"That sounds like a fun job. It used to have a very different meaning. Not even a century ago food and wine tasting was necessary in wealthy societies to check for poison..." he chuckled nervously, but trailed off in silence when her expression tightened. He had offended her somehow with his little joke.

"Do you always talk about murder and death?" she asked incredulously.

He opened his mouth to speak, but no words formed. No one had ever said anything like that to him, or even implied as much. The people he conversed with the most were his agent and his editor. And now, he was sitting across the table from a beautiful woman and he couldn't even engage her in the simplest conversation topics without appealing to his own morbid sense of humor. He felt so… limited.

The simple realization hit him hard, and his face burned under her puzzled frown. Never mind his years of scholarly knowledge and hard work, a monkey could entertain her better than he. Edward had thought that any conversation would be better than none, but he was so wrong. Filled with self-loathing, he acknowledged the answer was "yes", but he wouldn't admit that to her. He was practically trembling at this point, and they weren't even halfway through dinner.

"I just meant that you're lucky," he assured, feeling his forehead tingle with light perspiration. "To live in the twenty-first century…" Stop. Talking. Now, he scolded himself. What are you even saying, Edward?

"No, you're the lucky one, Edward," she stated suggestively in an even tone, "that more dishes don't get poisoned nowadays."

Despite her simmering annoyance toward this handsome man who had cracked a bad joke about her profession, she was inwardly hurt. For a second, she thought that underneath the expensive clothes and perfect bone structure lay something different. That he could possibly be interested in her.

Emmett shifted closer to Edward, speaking under his breath and out of earshot from the women. "Yeesh, stop being a smarty pants and just make her laugh."

Edward swallowed loudly; the prospect of making a simple attempt at humor was suddenly daunting. Trying to get this woman to laugh seemed impossible, uncomfortable, and made his stomach twist and churn. He knew that whatever he said, she would just look at him like he was an imbecile.

He watched Bella with unease as she laughed at something Rose was telling her. Truly, whatever Rose was doing, he didn't possess that kind of talent. He hated being unable to talk to her without sounding like a blithering idiot.

Both conversations stopped as the main course arrived. Everyone adjusted, spreading out napkins and grabbing utensils.

Edward looked down at his fettuccine Alfredo with a wrinkled nose. This will be impossible to eat without the sauce getting all over, he thought with dismay. He couldn't even get a nice meal in exchange for this dreadful evening and wished he had actually paid more attention to the menu. Everyone started eating, and he felt self-conscious just sitting there watching them. He slowly twirled the fork into the fettuccine and the noodles slipped over and dripped as drops of Alfredo sauce flew in every direction.

When he finally loaded the fork securely, he hunched to grab the soaking noodles with his tongue, stretching his jaw. As he precariously did so, he felt a foot nudge his leg before slowly brushing up. Edward's eyes widened and he perceptibly jerked in his seat, the saucy noodles escaping down his chin. He gnawed and lapped to save the mouthful, his face growing hot at the messy display he was currently making of himself. It was no use. He mopped up his mouth with a napkin and kept his head down as Emmett and Rose chattered away, resigning himself not to eat for the rest of the night. Was his presence even needed?

"Ya'll right there, buddy?" Emmett asked loudly, patting Edward on the back and drawing attention to him.

He chanced a glance at Bella who was giggling under her breath. At least I got her to laugh, even if it was at my expense, he thought with bitter irony.

"Fine," Edward mumbled with an edge, cradling his scotch like a security blanket.

Emmett turned back to Rose and began feeding her. Rose gladly accepted each bite, parting her lips and pulling the food off the utensil with deep moans.

Ashamed, Edward looked away, and moved his fettuccine around on his plate to pass the time. Again, the foot under the table traveled up his shin and he dropped his fork on the plate. His head snapped up. Bella continued to look at him, her thin brows now rose questioningly and actually offered a ghost of a smile. Her small smile surprised him, but he looked away, only to find Emmett feeding Rose with his fingers. The more he fed her, the more vigorous the foot rubbed up his leg.

"Do you like that?" Rose spoke to Emmett, flashing her eyes and a sugary smile.

"Oh yeah, baby," Emmett whispered at the feel of her little tongue on his fingers, unable to resist her for a moment.

"Maybe later we can continue and I'll show you a few more tricks," she teased.

Edward felt the foot slip under his pant leg now and his eyes bulged. Instead of shooting scared glances at Bella, he gaped at Rose, realizing her foot was currently humping his leg. His thighs started tingling and his heartbeat skipped around nervously. He tried wiggling away subtly, hoping she'd figure out her mistake. The last thing he needed was to tent his pants at the table. Whatever she was doing felt kind of good.

"What kind of tricks?" Emmett asked her with glazed eyes. He'd pretty much do anything for her at this point.

"I want to do more of this later," she emphasized, her foot shoving up Edward's leg further.

"Do what?" Emmett asked, leaning in with a smile.

Edward irritably tugged at the inseam of his pants to make room for the growing tightness in his groin. Bella giggled quietly at him again, and he pushed Rose's foot away with more force. With his sudden movement, he was finally able to catch Rose's eye.

She quickly observed his embarrassed, reddened expression and wide eyes, and felt a little embarrassed herself at the miscommunication. She cleared her throat and redirected her foot in the intended direction. "Uh, this," she said seductively, making Emmett's eyes widen and his face light up like Christmas morning.

Relieved, Edward looked back down to his glass and frowned when he saw that it was empty. With nothing to do, his mind wandered back to Bella. Dare he try at a conversation starter again? Maybe it was the scotch, but he wanted to connect with her now. He was feeling nervous, restless, and needy, and she was just sitting there looking beautiful with her small smile.

"So... what drink did you get?" he finally asked, rearranging his expression into polite inquiry.

"Long Island iced tea," she answered, stifling more giggles. She drained her glass with one last gulp. The residual alcohol pulled inside the straw, rattling the melting iced-cubes into a loud slurping sound which grated on Edward's eardrums. Bella couldn't get over the spectacle that had played out before her. She'd never seen someone eat so sloppily, and then get foot-molested by her friend. The humor of this situation lifted her out of her disgruntled mood, and in that moment, she saw how socially inept Edward really was. He looked truly uncomfortable, and not just with her, but his friend Emmett, too. With everybody.

Granted, she wasn't exactly a charmer, but to witness his discomfort to such an extent, caused her to suddenly feel incredible sympathy for Edward. She recognized the same skittishness in herself and had the urge to place her hand on his.

She did, and reached across the table, lightly putting her fingers on the top of his resting hand next to his plate. He startled at her touch, and his jaw hung open slightly.

"Oh. That must be... um..." Edward's tongue seemed to trip over non-descript words.

She smiled a little before her eyes fell to a stain. "You… you have sauce on your shirt," she stated reluctantly, hoping to save him from more embarrassment.

He frowned and stretched out his shirt to look for the sauce and sure enough, he found a drip of it slowly oozing just to the right of his tie. He swiped it away with a napkin, irritated and wishing the floor would instantly swallow him up. Fuck this whole night! He felt horrible and almost barreled over Emmett as he excused himself from the table. He had to get some air, needed to escape this disappointing, awkward atmosphere. Instead of fleeing the restaurant, he headed to the men's restroom.

Bella untangled herself from her seat and hurried after him. She saw the anguish on his face and instinctively went to comfort him, hoping to make amends or start over. More importantly, she didn't want to be left at the table with Emmett and Rose.

Edward escaped quickly though. He let the door softly shut behind him and closed his eyes to regain more control over his helpless frustration. Thankfully, the bathroom was empty, giving him some time to himself. He strode over to the sinks to gently splash water onto his face, hoping the soothing ritual would clear and settle his nerves. The door swung open behind him as he tightly cupped the third pool of water in his hands, splashing the liquid over his face.

His expression twisted as he grabbed a paper towel from the dispenser and dabbed at his wet face. Edward always felt uncomfortable when others were in the restroom. He didn't understand the men who politely small-talked while urinating, and he never liked to hang around when others had more serious business.

When he balled up the paper, the back of his mind noticed that he'd heard no footsteps after the swing of the door. He tossed the paper into the trash and turned, suddenly face-to-face with Bella. Surprise shot up his body as he backed away, so startled that he tripped over the trash bin.

Adorable, she thought. They seemed to be at a silent impasse, equally experiencing a horrible moment. She nervously stared at him as she neared, but the way the remaining drops of water darkened the edges of his hairline and temple, the apology died on her lips. He stared down at her, his eyes dropping to her lips, and his cheeks flushed all of a sudden.

"What are—"

Bella kissed him. Her lips were warm as they closed over his silent stuttering mouth. Lightly at first, and pressed firmly when his lips yielded to hers. She sighed and curled her fingers around his shirt collar, pressing him gently against the wall. It was a relief to just act and not think about their differences and miscommunications.

Any man would have passionately embraced her, but Edward was so stunned that his arms stuck out awkwardly, afraid to touch her. But he couldn't control his dick, which—despite the rest of his confusion—hardened and lengthened against his inseam.

He paused, detaching his mouth from hers, breathing unevenly. "What are you doing? This is the men's room and—"

"I know but… you looked like you needed some comfort," she said huskily. Perhaps the comfort was also for her. She hadn't felt this kind of spark of hope and energy before. What surprised her more was how gentle and unassuming he really was; she could see all that now.

When he didn't say anything, she moved her lips to his throat, kissing a small path down his heated skin. Edward tried to squirm away from her, but she was a lot stronger than she looked and he didn't want to hurt her. He wasn't sure he really wanted to leave either, but was afraid someone would walk into the restroom.

Edward placed his hands on her hips lightly, hoping to put space between them, but mistaking the gesture, she moved in closer, and moaned softly at his neck. His senses reacted wildly, absorbing the way her fingers played over the edges of his tie and how her breath tickled his ear. He swallowed hard, his heart hammering beneath his ribs, the blood thudding loudly in his ears.

"Don't- Don't you think this is highly inappropriate?" he stammered breathlessly.

"Do you?" she asked, her brown eyes widening. Her warm gaze was guarded but eager, and when she nervously pulled her bottom lip between her teeth, he choked out a groan at how innocent, yet sultry she appeared.

His mind clouded over. He'd forgotten the feeling of female intimacy. The softness molding to him with the smallest pressure, the scent of her perfume, the tickling of her hair, and the creaminess of her lips.

This time, he bent his head and kissed her, his eyes fluttering closed. It was hesitant and he almost drowned in his own nervousness as his lips trembled clumsily over hers. Her body relaxed more, her curves naturally filling his unsteady hands, and the kiss intensified as she pressed against him more urgently. His heart raced and his breathing picked up, shocked by the increased pressure. Edward hadn't felt anything like this in years (as sad as that was ). He usually made quick work with his hand, but that was a fraction of what he was feeling now. He groaned again, confusion leaving and desire spreading through him.

Bella moaned in return, instinctively pressing her pelvis against his, and they moved hard and slow together. She whispered unintelligibly, brushing her tongue along his lower lip. Her tongue was small and indescribably soft…

It was nothing short of an onslaught to his senses. She was too much for him, exciting urges that he hadn't felt in a very long time. Much too long. His body was hard, stretched, and vibrating like a taut wire. Edward thought he might have an anxiety attack.

One of her hands trailed down his shirt and slipped between them, skimmed his belt, and hovered lightly over his erection beneath his jeans. He twitched at the sensitivity and his body tightened. His eyes flew open, feeling the rush of arousal center and build between his legs.

With sheer panic, his fingers dug into her hips reflexively. She moaned into their kiss, rubbing her palm down the length of his shaft, and his entire body stiffened. Oh fuck, his hazy mind yelled. Quick like a snapping twig, his orgasm broke and shuddered through his frame.

Bella felt Edward relax with a shaky groan and his shoulders hunched. His mouth slumped against her as if he'd collapsed standing up. She pulled away from him, looking up into his unfocused, heavy eyes. Her hand squeezed experimentally between his legs, and she gasped with realization.

"I... I'm sorry," Edward stammered as the horror of his situation flooded into his freshly lucid mind. "I don't know what happened..." He glanced down, feeling his sticky release congeal in his boxer-briefs. This wasn't pre-cum; he'd fully exploded in his pants. Then he realized that his hand was cupping one of her breasts. He trembled with humiliation.

"Me neither." Bella backed away, looking him over with new eyes. She couldn't decide if she was that good or if Edward was that retarded. Something must be wrong with him, she thought. "Does that always happen with women?"

"There are no women," he blurted, resisting burying his face in his hands. "Do you always just throw yourself at strange men?" Embarrassed heat now swirled up his neck to the tips of his ears. He was so ashamed of himself, looking around the dingy bathroom and noting the sauce stain on his shirt with disgust. His shoulders hunched down further, as his chest caved, and his head hung slightly. At any moment, he expected her to laugh at him.

Instead, she looked at him with pity, like he was a boy who couldn't control himself, her lips pressing into a tight line. Edward thought he was going to throw up.

Bella was more shocked than amused by his rare innocence, and her own embarrassment at her brazen behavior crept in. She'd never thrown herself like this at a man before—and certainly not under these exact circumstances.

The door swung open as an elderly man walked in. He looked around confused, surprised to see a woman there, and wondered if he stepped into the wrong restroom. Then his gray eyes met Edward's and surly disapproval passed over his wrinkled features.

Before Edward could apologize to the old man, Bella slipped out. He pulled at his hair, still wondering what the fuck just happened. He'd heard that women were confusing and wild, but he never expected them to be this difficult to figure out.

He cleaned himself up as best as he could and eventually left the restroom, mostly composed. Emmett and Rose were already onto dessert, which looked mostly like a bootleg video featuring hand and food porn. Emmett fed her spoonfuls of decadent chocolate cake as Rose slowly squished plump strawberries into his football mouth and licked the juice off her fingers.

Dubiously, Edward returned to his seat across from Bella, who was looking in her compact mirror as if their bathroom encounter had never happened. He was starting to wonder if she had a split personality disorder. Then he looked at her more closely and observed that her pale cheeks were pinked and she wasn't simply fixing her appearance—she was avoiding him on purpose.

It was just as well. The night was winding down and Emmett and Rose looked like they were already having sex with every bite, swallow, and smile.

"You don't mind if we take off early?" Emmett asked in a low voice beside him. Edward shrugged, truly not caring at this point. I'm just a hermit that prematurely creamed in his pants from a little female touching. Emmett chuckled and patted his shoulder before throwing down some bills on the table. "Thanks, Eddie. I owe ya," he said, lifting Rose to her feet. They walked—more like ran—to catch a taxi.

When he turned back, Bella was already gathering her things, unlit cigarette hanging between her lips. Suddenly angry, he pulled out his wallet and tucked his debit card into the booklet.

"So, you're going to pretend that you didn't just throw yourself at me and then leave me here to close out by myself?" He couldn't believe he'd just snarled at her like that, but he couldn't control his feelings anymore. He was tired of being stepped on, tired of being Emmett's wingman, tired of embarrassing himself, and tired of people treating him like a puppet.

"I'm sorry I threw myself at you." Her expression was smoothed out and apologetic, no trace of loathing or pity. "Are you going to write me into your next book and kill off my character?"

He chuckled in spite of himself. "Do you always talk about death?" Unexpectedly, she gave him a real smile that brightened all of her beautiful features at once, and he couldn't remember what he was angry about.

"I'm not good with people. Not the real kind anyway," he murmured, holding her eyes with his stare. He felt another wave of shame as he admitted another weakness to her.

"Well, I can see that…" She looked uncertain for a moment, wanting to share more of herself, but then the nervousness overtook her. "I'm sure this evening didn't turn out how you wanted it to. Um, good night, Edward." She stood abruptly and walked out of the restaurant, leaving her words in a pile at his feet. He couldn't believe that she actually left him, and yet… it was probably for the best.

When the waiter returned, he quickly signed the receipt with a deep frown. After a long moment, he realized that her absence was uncomfortable. Edward wanted her around, even just to talk. The air was stale without her flowery perfume.

With his coat halfway on, he rushed to catch up with her. She was still outside, her back facing him as she stood by herself on the sidewalk. The door was within reach and he was about to exit Adesso when he tripped over a passing waiter and slammed into the glass door with an abrupt smack.

Unaware, Bella hailed a taxi among the loud, buzzing city and climbed into the backseat. Edward watched her leave as he slowly peeled himself off the vertical surface, trying to recover from the jarring collision. Red-faced and mortified, he muttered apologies to the waiter who was being helped up off the floor by the hostess. He wasn't usually this clumsy.

Again, defeat washed through Edward as he walked to his car. The night had been one train wreck after another and he was relieved to ease back into his mundane solitary existence. Still, thoughts of Bella tainted his mind and he knew that Detective Rita Malone would take on a few of her qualities. He couldn't help it. Bella was a thought-provoking individual.

*

Weeks later he was sitting in front of his computer, unable to concentrate on account of the Maniacal Yapper barking up a tree again. His coffee mug was empty and he started feeling that familiar sluggishness creeping into his mind that ultimately led to writers' block. He set his reading glasses down and rubbed his hands over his face and into his hair, feeling truly stifled by his home office for the first time.

Edward thought that perhaps he should walk the streets and get some fresh air, like a normal person. He almost laughed to himself. Maybe he would magically run into Bella on the street and they would casually start up a delightful conversation. The rational part of his mind knew that kind of scene was meant for a fictional book, not his life. Things never fell into place like that for him.

Fuck it. With frustrated resolve, he set his coffee mug on the kitchen counter and shrugged on the same coat he'd worn that night,—just in case she happened to be in his path. As he searched for his keys, he put his hand in his pocket and felt a scrap of paper. With scrunched brows he pulled out the oddity to examine it. Edward never left receipts, papers, or garbage in his clothes.

In small writing was a phone number and Bella's name scrawled above it. Her handwriting was a little messy, like a teenager's.

He stared at the scrap for a long time, playing back that night. She must have slipped it into his pocket when he was still in the bathroom. Fresh embarrassment rose in his cheeks as he remembered his…accident.

Sure, he'd had sex with women - well, a handful of times in college - and every incident had been awkward as hell. The girls had been wild and overenthusiastic in contrast to his quiet nature. But Bella… she had been heavy and slow in her excitement. They hadn't even had sex! Yet his body responded simply by thinking of her in several comprising positions. And naked, definitely naked. That bathroom setting became his new fantasy when he needed some release. He had conjured up more steamy thoughts of her than he should have. Against the tile wall, on the counter, in a stall, and many more public areas.

It had all been in his head, but to see her phone number in his pocket at that moment was truly unbelievable to him. Had she been waiting all these weeks for a call? He was also still under the impression that she didn't think very highly of him, but he knew by this point that his negativity was a product of his own insecurities. It was difficult to overcome.

Slowly, he went back to his office and shut the door, even though he lived alone. He sat in his chair and looked at the number and his cell phone simultaneously, the questions and the panicked thoughts surfacing with every second. He could forget about it all and just go back to his manuscript and Rita Malone. Yet he was aware that after that night, his writing had more punch, more zest. However, his characters were just that, fictional beings. Bella was real and substantial and beautiful. Intriguing.

With a set jaw and a trembling hand, he dialed her number. His breathing was heavy and out of control, his heart feeling like it would fly out of his chest. She picked up on the third ring.

"Hello?"

It was her voice. Fear zipped through him and he flipped his phone shut. He closed his eyes to concentrate, chanting to himself over and over again that he was not going to be a thirty-four year old pussy.

He swallowed hard, already sweating, and sighed before finally redialing. This time, she picked up on the first ring.

"Hello?" she greeted more cautiously.

His own greeting was thick and garbled and he quickly cleared his throat. "Hi."

"Yes? Who is this?"

"Uh, this is Edward. You probably don't remember me… I was with Emmett, well not with Emmett…,at Adesso a few weeks ago. I was that guy who liked to… talk about death," he rambled, pulling at his shirt collar. He wanted to kick himself in the gut, even though that was physically impossible. It didn't matter; he was going to throw up anyway. The pausing silence stretched, and he was about to slam the phone shut again like a chicken shit. Grown men can cry, he feebly told himself.

"I remember," she finally answered.

He sighed, trying not to breathe heavy. "Why didn't you just say so instead of letting me ramble like an idiot?" Already, annoyance mixed with his nervousness.

"I don't know," she answered truthfully. "I guess I just wanted to hear what you would say."

The simplicity of her statement caught him off-guard. That sounded reasonable enough to him.

"So… would you like to um, well I found your number in my pocket. You know that, since you left it there." He vowed to kick himself in the gut twice. "Do you like coffee?" He wiped the sweat off his face with his shirtsleeve.

"Yes, I drink coffee."

He struggled for the right words. "Do you… want to get coffee with me sometime?" His voice unnaturally raised an octave and he pulled at his hair painfully, as was his habit.

"Sure. Are you free right now? Of course you are, you're a writer." He tried to ignore that remark and focus on the win. He would get to see Bella again. Those eyes, that hair, her lips…

"Correct…" What kind of an answer is that?

After a few more uncomfortable words were exchanged, they decided which coffee shop to meet at. Edward hung up and his lungs heaved in relief and filled with fresh air. That conversation was too painful. Maybe he could arrange a strict email correspondence with her in the future. He mentally caught himself. In the future? Was he really considering continuing seeing Bella many more times?

Yes, yes he was.

As he zipped up his jacket, he turned to his manuscript and said, "Detective Malone, I'm going out."