A/N: This one-shot is a belated Valentine's Day present for Kitschisme, who deserves all the love in the world.

Thank you to Irritable Grizzzly for catching all of my grammatical errors with her beta-brilliance and to Fangbang, my one and only amazing English bb, who helped me with the English-isms in this :)

Lastly, I must give credit for the title of this to Lamorducache, who mentioned how "imperfectly perfect" a scenario was in one of my other one-shots, and the phrase stuck with me.

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight.



Imperfectly Perfect

"When you smiled you had my undivided attention. When you laughed you had my urge to laugh with you. When you cried you had my urge to hold you. When you said you loved me, you had my heart forever." – Unknown



The rain poured against the windshield with loud, watery smacks. The wipers sloshed it back and forth and my hands gripped the wheel in consternation. The thick glass of the windows barely muffled the slapping water outside and the sky was a foreboding gray.

My little Volkswagen crawled down the road, engulfed in a torrent of the worsening storm. I hadn't worked at the university of Cambridge in a while. Every time they received a new shipment, I would restore artifacts for their exhibitions for weeks to several months—depending on the project.

However, today was the day before Valentine's Day and I was requested to do a rush job for a special Saint Valentine exhibition that opens tomorrow. What I preferred to do was rent films, order in dinner, and sit on my shabby couch in my shabby flat, wallowing in the simple fact that I didn't have a date on this silly holiday. But the university needed me and I couldn't refuse. I also figured that maybe I would see him. It was a slim chance, but I couldn't help the small glimmer of hope that sprouted inside me.

As I pulled into the familiar car park, I looked up at the old monumental building of the university. It was a formidable presence and towered over my little Volkswagen. The storm was even louder outside when I pushed open the car door and the rain immediately soaked my sleeve. With one arm around my box of tools and chemicals, and the other holding my briefcase over my head, I ran across the concrete, up the stone steps, and through the doorway of the University Library.

By now my raincoat was soaked through, my leather shoes felt soggy, and my hair dripped, creating watery pools on my shoulders. I shook it off as best I could and drifted toward the information desk where the guard was seated.

"Morning Clive, It's Isabella Swan here to see Victoria Le Feuvre." I smiled at the stout man who wore a thick, bristly mustache and thin sandy hair, combed back. As I waited, I stretched my arms, hoping to dry myself out.

It was only a few minutes later when a tall woman with flowing, bright red hair came to meet me. Her creamy red lips spread into a smile and her heels lightly clicked on the shiny floor.

"Well, Isabella Swan, I'm so glad you made it here in one piece. It's absolutely dreadful out today. My name is Victoria Le Feuvre, the new Director of the Department of Manuscripts and University Archives." She held out a manicured hand to me, but relinquished it with a small laugh when she noticed that my arms were full. "Please, follow me," she said, turning and walking back in the direction from which she had come.

I tried not to stumble as I adjusted to keep my belongings. The Cambridge University Library certainly had a prestigious, well-deserved reputation and its appearance represented its accomplishments and status. The ceilings were magnificently high like that of a church, littered in crosshatched moldings and painted cream. The walls were covered end to end with thick, oak bookshelves, filled to the brim with endless publications. The dark cherry tables in the center gleamed under the dim yellow lighting and the oversized stained-glass window at the end allowed gray light to filter through in weak streams. The library was two stories, with ornate black iron railings bordering the edge, which overlooked the spacious room that I was currently headed toward.

My short Mary Jane heels caught on the rugs just as I was led to a large table. I prevented my fall by hauling my equipment onto the table, which made a loud thump against the hard wood surface.

"Sorry," I mumbled, wiping the residual raindrops away from my glasses.

"Let's get you dried off now," Victoria suggested, gingerly peeling my raincoat off at an arm's distance and draping it over a nearby chair. "We don't want any of the texts getting spoiled

I nodded appreciatively and excused myself to the restroom. After I placed my glasses beside the sinks, I twisted my hair at the nape of my neck to wring out the extra water. With a paper towel, I dabbed the wet spots on my cardigan where water had leaked through my coat. Then I leaned down by the hand dryer and hung my hair forward. Once I felt it was dry enough, I put it up with a clip. My work required me to be diligent and detailed so I never wore my hair down.

It was an unwelcome distraction. When I resurfaced, Victoria approached me with another warm, anxious smile.

"I hope you don't mind setting up in this area." She gestured with a graceful arm to the room behind me, which was off to the side of the Manuscripts Reading Room. "I have another guest coming later to take negatives of the manuscripts before the crowds arrive tomorrow and you certainly won't be in the way over there."

"Wherever works," I said, gathering my equipment.

"Superb!"

After she hurried away, beaming with satisfaction, I approached the illuminated manuscript very carefully. It was a singular page of parchment with Saint Valentine facing the viewer, accompanied by black fluid, curling script that tangled intricately with gold leaf. Parchment had a tendency to expand and contract from temperature changes over time. This case was no different.

I got to work setting up my microscope and hot plate, alcohol solutions and gelatin before removing the protective case. I took a moment to appreciate its age and beauty. With my latex gloves fastened, I checked my hot plate and sat down with my brushes and tools. The parchment whispered in the silence as I transferred it with utmost care to the plate below the microscope, and turned on the spotlight in order to see it better.

Under the magnification the distressed areas where pigments flaked seemed to lift off the page. I sighed as my trained eyes continued to study it. The damage was slight in comparison to the rest that had been preserved thus far with variations of organic paint. Technology had changed in recent decades and one could no longer rely on restoring illuminated manuscripts with that medium. Some paints tended to wither over time and didn't always react well to new chemical solutions—the chemical solutions I currently used in the twenty-first century.

I treated the area with small doses of warm ethanol before even considering the leaf gelatin. Had the damage been worse, I would mix pigment solutions together to replicate the color as close to the original as possible.

I worked for most of the morning with my concentration glued to my beautiful parchment as I applied the thinned solution of gelatin. When I thought about taking a small break to rest my eyes, Victoria's light voice carried over, along with the sound of footsteps.

"I do hope she's close to finished by now, but one never knows how long it will take," she sang.

I craned my stiff neck to see her approach as fresh as spring with two dripping persons in tow. My heart jumped, and my pulse hurtled into an unsteady, rapid pace. Tall and long-legged, carrying a briefcase was Edward Cullen. His usual bronze hair was dark, wet, and dripping. The thick black-framed glasses resting on the bridge of his nose were cloudy and peppered with droplets.

A friend was with him I didn't recognize. He was shorter and thicker, carrying a large photograph box, camera, and tripod. They trailed drops of rain behind them as they tried to keep up with Victoria.

My eyes widened as they neared and placed their luggage on the large table where my coat was still air-drying. Edward and I tended to cross paths frequently, since Cambridge took on our services intermittently. He was an up-and-coming historian and researcher who gave lectures in the great hall when he wasn't doing his own projects. He usually had his nose in a book and seemed entirely oblivious to all the flirting looks and smiles from girls at the university. However, he was intriguing for more than his looks. I admired his accomplishments and sweet nature.

He was a very quiet person though, so I tried not to come on too strongly when we conversed. He would approach me sometimes, but seemed pretty nervous or standoffish, and he could never hide his blush. Our talks usually weren't long because of this. He would fumble and escape and I always stared after him. Still, I felt my whole disposition brighten at the sight of him. It hadn't been more than a month since we last saw each other, and he was always much better-looking in person than in my dreams. Yes, I thought about him quite a lot, but never made a move, and Edward was always polite and agreeable—if a bit enigmatic. I liked him too much and didn't want to scare him away.

His eyes met mine through his foggy wet lenses and his cheeks blushed. He hid his surprised expression by looking down and taking off his glasses to clean them.

"Isabella, allow me to introduce Edward Cullen and his associate Riley Thompson from the Association of Art Historians."

"I believe we've already met," I told Victoria and glanced back to Edward.

He adjusted his glasses back on his face and almost smiled, but his shyness prevented it. "Hello, Miss Swan… It's good to see you again, as always…" He swallowed hard and blushed further as he glanced to his friend. "This is my new…"

Riley extended his hand and gave me a jovial shake. "Riley Thompson, fine art photographer, and it's a pleasure to meet you," he said with a wide smile.

"These gentlemen are here to study Saint Valentine and get a new photographic record of the manuscript, so whenever you'd like to step away…" Victoria trailed off kindly.

I took that as my cue and abruptly stood to take that break I'd been vaguely contemplating just moments ago. "Um yes, of course." My legs were so cramped from crouching at the table for so many hours that I fell back into my chair after half-standing, and I yelped.

Edward approached hesitantly, keeping his head down and offered a large, slender hand to me. "Do… would you like some help, Isabella?" he mumbled in a low voice. His hair fell across his forehead and he looked shyly at me. His mouth was parted slightly as if he wished to say more, but was waiting for me to answer.

I shook my head to refocus. "I, um…Thank you," I murmured, taking his hand. It was cool from the chilly weather against my warm one, but it felt strong and clasped mine firmly.

I allowed him to assist me until I was fully upright and not wobbling on my feel like an idiot. I looked up to thank him, but my breath choked back in my throat. Our faces were closer than I was expecting.

"I've told you that you can call me Bella," I said quietly. His cheekbones stained pink with a rush of embarrassment and his gaze quickly fell from mine.

He cleared his throat. "I- yes, I remember," he answered just as quietly and then dropped my hand like he forgot he was still holding it.

Edward stepped to the side as I moved to get out of the way and we lightly bumped into each other. "So sorry… Bella." He pushed his glasses back up with his forefinger, his cheeks blushing deeper.

Riley emphatically cleared his throat behind us. "I hope you'll be kind enough to give us a moment to get this beauty on record for a bit." He smiled at me and set down his tripod to position it.

"Of course. Absolutely," I answered hurriedly as we broke from our little spell. "I'll just wander around and look through the magnificent collection of books."

"Perfect! Enjoy darling. I'll come find you later," Victoria exclaimed.

I was still feeling lightheaded—whether it was from long hours of working or seeing Edward again—I couldn't fully discern. My face felt warm so I went to the restroom to gather myself.

My appearance was a complete wreck.

The lenses in my thin-framed, red glasses were all smudged and my hair… It was a disastrous wild nest. The strands that had fallen out of my bun hung limply around my face and down my neck. It was no wonder that Edward took pity on me when he offered to help me stand.

I was annoyed with my disheveled state and went to putting myself back together. Despite my efforts, I still looked mousy and my skirt was permanently wrinkled.

I re-entered the warm glow of the library and was overwhelmed. I didn't know which section to look through first. Though the old-styled facility was expertly maintained and routinely cleaned, I could still smell the worn leather—the scents reminding me of sawdust, molasses, and musky doilies. The gold-dipped pages of the older texts caught the light of the low lamps and shimmered in places. A lingering scent of newly-printed books had a fresh-off-the-press smell that mixed with the old.

I found myself in the poetry section. My finger trailed over the tops of books to a soft red leather spine and I paused. A Collection of Classic Poems. I pulled it from the oak shelf. The binding was loose with age and use and the book parted easily at the halfway mark. This was the section of Emily Dickinson.

A charm invests a face

Imperfectly beheld.

The lady dare not lift her veil

For fear it be dispelled.

But peers beyond her mesh,

And wishes, and denies,

Lest interview annul a want

That image satisfies.

Without warning, my thoughts fell to Edward and how close we had been. His appearance was extremely pleasant. Unexpectedly breathtaking. Our glasses had been like a veil between us… Perhaps that was too literal. It was more like our timid behavior that veiled my true feelings. I smiled, reveling in my silly thoughts for a moment. Poetry could reflect so many variations of meaning and thought.

I continued reading through poems, enjoying each one privately.

I caught movement in my periphery and my head snapped up. I gave a soft gasp at the disturbance and the book of poems fell to the floor with a dull thud.

Edward stepped back unsteadily with wide eyes. "Isabella, once again, I am so sorry. I feel like such a prat," he stammered, and bent to retrieve the heavy red book.

"You should be sorry. I think I told you I prefer Bella." I smiled so he knew I was being lighthearted.

Edward's cheekbones flushed and his eyes wandered without purpose. "I offered to search for you for Miss Le Feuvre… I didn't mean to disturb your reading." He handed the text back to me with a forced smile.

"It's not a bother. I was just enjoying these poems. It's been a long time since I've read good poetry," I commented, thumbing back to the page where I had left off.

"I admit I haven't either. I've immersed myself in art history for years, but I haven't given the appropriate attention to this art form." He nervously pushed his hair off his forehead, seemingly interested in the other titles on the shelves.

We had been caught up in small collisions thus far and I hadn't had the opportunity to take in the rest of him. Edward certainly looked like a dedicated, refined scholar in his beige slacks, white oxford shirt and navy blue sweater vest that fit closely to his frame. He wasn't wearing a tie though—the only casual detail to the sophisticated ensemble—with the first button open at his throat cavity. I swallowed thickly and refused to think of my rumpled skirt. I looked away before I could be caught rudely staring.

"Um, well feel free to refresh your mind with this one. It's a collection of the classics," I offered, holding the opened book out toward him.

Edward smiled and peered at the faded black text on the page. His hand reached out and I looked down, realizing that the book hadn't exactly brought me back to the Emily Dickinson section.

His fingertip moved down the text and stopped at the beginning of a poem. His hands were slender, the middle finger adorned with a writing callous. He was left-handed. My gaze settled on the poem he pointed out, written by Hartley Coleridge. He drew a fresh breath, reading quietly.

She is not fair to outward view

as many maidens be;

Her loveliness I never knew

until she smiled on me.

Oh, then I saw her eye was bright,

a well of love, a spring of light.

But now her looks are coy and cold,

to mine they ne'er reply

And, yet, I cease not to behold

the love-light in her eye.

Her very frowns are fairer far

than smiles of other maidens are.

His voice was low, taking its time, and sliding above a whisper over my eardrums. My skin broke out in goose bumps as the last word left his tongue. We both remained quiet for a moment, absorbing the simple beauty of the verse. Edward was awkwardly frozen in place as I thought about turning to the next page. I looked up with a frown, which triggered a small spreading smile on his face.

My nose was inches from his, and the air stilled in the space between us. My eyes felt crossed from looking at him so closely, then widened as his gaze dropped to my lips, which parted unconsciously. His smile vanished and his complexion flushed again as he took a step back. The air seemed to naturally move again and I realized that my own cheeks felt warm.

He adjusted his glasses and said, "Have you ever read the story behind Saint Valentine?" I was about to reply that I hadn't when he rushed on, "It's fascinating actually."

1"Fascinating you say?"

1"Yes. Well, because there is so much mystery surrounding his life. We only have theories and there just aren't enough facts from the third century to piece it together. Most of our information comes from the bible and Roman Catholic texts," he explained.

1"Really?"

Admittedly, I'd never stopped to think about the origin of the Valentine's Day Hallmark card. "I can't imagine that the church is very accurate..." I commented.

1Edward chuckled ruefully. "Not only in their texts, but they tend to change their minds about a lot of things."

1I smiled, the heavy book forgotten in my hands and committed his low laughter to memory. He was really quite adorable as he adjusted his glasses again. "So what are the theories?"

1He straightened up to his full height, slipping into his element like he was preparing to give a lecture.

"None of them end well I'm afraid, despite the romance of the holiday. It is understood that he spent his last moments in prison. Some say that was because he broke Roman law under King Claudius the Second by performing marriages in secret.

1You see, King Claudius was ambitiously building his army for war between..." he paused, thinking, "between two-seventy and three hundred A.D. and wanted to recruit only single men so life back home could remain stable. Clearly he needed to adjust his laws to keep strong, young men unmarried."

"Goodness, that's terrible," I said with an indignant scowl. I was inherently a romantic and a firm believer in passionate love. I couldn't imagine someone telling me that I wasn't allowed to marry the man I loved.

"So, you would only marry someone who you really cared about?" he asked, shifting in place with a shy, curious expression. "Someone…exciting and rich…"

I had never really dwelled on marriage for myself simply because there was no one I thought about that way. Well, until I met Edward, and scholarly historians weren't usually rich. "The only good reason to marry is for love," I remarked with my own curious smile. "I don't care about rich living and expensive things."

He almost smiled back. "What about having things in common? That's important, too."

I shrugged. "That's why you have to get to know someone and grow to love them. And the things you don't have in common can still be appreciated. God knows I've got plenty of quirks…"

"You seem rather perfect," he blurted quietly. My eyes flew to his as he averted his gaze to the floor. "I mean, I hadn't noticed any quirks." His face flamed and he cleared his throat. "Anyway, it was rumored that Valentine fell in love with a girl while he was in jail."

"Really? That's so romantic." I envisioned a young Valentine, who was a poetic martyr among his dirty inmates, and every week a beautiful woman would bring him fresh water to drink.

Edward continued more slowly. "It was rumored that the girl was the jail keeper's daughter and he refused to have her fall for an imprisoned man who was technically guilty." I scoffed quietly at that. Treason for marrying couples… ridiculous. "So, eventually he was sentenced to death, but beforehand he sent a note to his girl of his undying love and signed it, 'from your Valentine.'"

Edward looked down at me with a shy smile. "And that's where the expression supposedly came from."

It took me a moment to reply after hearing the sadness of the tale. "That is so tragic… Poor Valentine."

"Oh! I didn't mean to upset you, Is- Bella," he said, tentatively placing his hand on my shoulder and then quickly shied away from the bold gesture.

"No, I'm all right," I assured, giving him a warm smile. "You just told it so beautifully that I got caught up in the story."

We stared wordlessly at each other for a moment.

"There you two are!" Victoria exclaimed as she came around the corner. "I send one duckling after you and two ducklings get lost," she said, her long mouth spreading into a questioning smirk.

I closed the book of poetry and slid it back into its place on the shelf. "Edward was just telling me about the story of Saint Valentine," I explained as the three of us walked back to the manuscript reading room.

Riley greeted us with a satisfied smile as he organized his negatives into slots within a separate box.

I resumed my seat in front of my beautiful manuscript and transferred it back under the microscope. I adjusted the knobs and re-focused the lenses to check my work. I made sure the gelatin was set and the edges were clean. My work seamlessly blended with the original and I was satisfied that it would last for years.

When I shut off the spotlight and closed down my equipment, I found Edward watching me. He straightened abruptly and appeared embarrassed that he had been caught in the act. His stare made me uneasy, but in a good way.

"I didn't mean to startle you," he apologized, running a hand through his hair quickly. "I was, um… interested in the work. It's remarkable that century old art can be restored without altering the original mastery entirely."

He was conversational again, speaking in a mildly clinical tone. My cheeks warmed, recognizing traces of that tone from his art history lectures.

I loved being in the audience when he lectured—if just to look at him for an hour at a time. He had very expressive hands. They were large and slender, unscarred and clean. I remembered the first time I saw him on the pulpit with the slides projecting on the wall behind him. I had just finished my first project in the Manuscript Library and was lost in the maze of hallways when I heard his voice. It was gentle, yet full of authority. Edward was bent over his papers, organizing notes, and the projection light caught on slivers of his hair and reflected on his glasses. He described each slide from a textbook point of view before adding his own interpretation, and then asked students to find theirs. It was certainly thought provoking and his voice carried over the expanse of the hall. I sighed to myself.

"Bella?"

"Oh yes, we try our best to preserve art objects with these special treatments," I agreed, packing my equipment into the toolbox. My hands trembled a little, knowing he was still staring.

"It's very creative," he said with a trace of reverence.

My cheeks warmed further. "Not really… I'm a copier, to put it simply."

He neared as I clicked shut the toolbox. "I know that a lot of dissection of methods and research, chemistry, and a delicate hand must be requirements for art restoration," he said in a low voice.

I looked up at him and a flutter in my stomach occurred when I saw quiet admiration in his eyes. I didn't care how mousy I was. In that moment, I wanted to lean in and kiss him.

"Where's Victoria and Riley?" I asked suddenly, noticing their absence.

He stepped back and cleared his throat. "Miss Le Feuvre mentioned something about giving him a special tour of the library."

"Oh…" My fingers tugged and flexed together nervously. I was alone with Edward again. I could feel some kind of warm energy and awareness between us that heightened when we were close.

"Um, do you…"

Edward didn't finish his thought because suddenly there was a crash of thunder that pummeled through the heavy rain and the yellow lights above flickered, emitted a strained buzz, and snuffed out.

Complete darkness engulfed us. The hum of electricity from lights, computers, everything ceased and the sudden silence was startling.

"Edward?"

A spear of lightening trembled outside the window, illuminating him for a split second.

I lunged at him in fright.

"Christ, we've had a power cut," he said, grappling to put his arms on my shoulders to support my unexpected weight against him. "Bella... It's okay."

My forehead grazed his chin stubble before my cheek fell against his sweater-covered chest. He was surprisingly solid and warm, and I heard his heart beating rapidly. I pushed off from him to steady myself and fix my glasses.

Edward's hands slid hesitantly over my upper arms as I stood upright and recovered from the initial shock of the storm.

"Sorry," I said, still mentally floundering. "What are we going to do?" I tilted my head up toward him in the darkness, imagining his face looking down at me. I couldn't see anything.

We heard footsteps from somewhere far away and then the reassuring voice of Clive.

"Everybody all right?"

"Yes, we're managing," Edward answered, keeping a large hand at my lower back.

"The back-up lights are supposed to kick in. Not to worry then, I'll be back shortly." The guard's footsteps lightened and disappeared, and the silence moved in again.

Edward stepped away from me. "Maybe we should find a place to sit down for now," he said, slowly maneuvering his way around in the dark.

"Wait!" I rushed forward in my haste and collided with him head-on. We both yelped in surprise. "Sorry, just hold my hand, okay? I don't want to lose you."

There was a pause before he found my outstretched hand and took hold of it firmly. "There's a sitting area next to the non-fiction section…" We awkwardly inched forward in some direction, though it seemed like Edward had a vague sense of where we were going.

My eyes gradually adjusted to the darkness, but it didn't help much. Everything was still in shadows. Several times I stepped on the heel of his shoe and bumped into him when I didn't realize that he'd paused. I was practically hanging from his arm by the time we got to our destination.

Edward plied his hand from a shelf as we slowly turned a corner and I sensed we were approaching a small space. My other hand reached out, expecting to feel a solid surface, but found air instead.

"There's supposed to be some lounging chairs here," Edward said quietly.

My fingertips brushed over a smooth and supple fabric. "I think I found one," I whispered excitedly and yanked Edward closer. I stumbled into the leather chair and Edward hit his knees on the side of it before crashing partially over the arm and on top of me.

His face was planted into my shoulder as he breathed a surprised, apologetic noise. His hot breath seemed to bleed through the wool fibers of my cardigan, but the frame of his glasses pressed almost painfully into my collarbone.

A zipping hum sounded and the lights flickered on. I felt as if Edward and I were in the belly of a whale as the place reawakened around us. The back-up lights were dull and golden, and the place seemed to vibrate low.

Edward pulled himself halfway up from the crook of my shoulder and paused, stunned that we were suddenly face-to-face. We could see each other again and we were so close that our cheeks brushed when he moved away. The pale shades of his complexion flamed and his eyes widened. The urge to gasp choked back in my throat. All I could do was stare at him, my thoughts racing in wonder at what he might be thinking. Almost imperceptibly, he began to move in closer until his lips hovered above mine.

"Edward," I said breathily.

He jerked back, waking from our hypnotic stare at the sound of his name. "I'm so sorry I fell on you. Are you hurt?"

I shook my head, saddened that the moment was broken, and giving myself a mental kick that I was the one who had ruined it. I found myself sitting on a couch instead of the chair I thought it was. He settled into the leather cushion next to me, yet careful not to touch me this time.

I felt embarrassed. Edward didn't see me in that way, and he was too polite to be forthright about it.

"Um, are you hungry, by anychance?" he asked, pulling a small bundle wrapped in plastic out of his pocket.

Instead of answering, I looked dubiously at the bundle. "What is that?"

"It's my peanut butter and jam sandwich. I always eat lunch at noon, but I seemed to have lost track of time today. Would you… like to share it with me?" He blushed as he peeled away the layers of cling film, uncovering a very sad sandwich that looked like it had seen better days.

I would never turn down a chance to eat lunch with Edward Cullen. "Do you always keep your lunch in your pocket?" I asked with fascination and curiosity that one normally gives to scientific discovery or watching the stars through a telescope.

He pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose, shyly looking back to his sandwich. "Well, yeah…"

"It looks delicious," I proclaimed with a broad smile.

His expression smoothed out and relaxed, and he offered me half. He took the other half for himself and bit into it. I saw his jaw flex when he chewed and I looked away, somewhat abashed at my growing attraction for him over such a small thing.

We munched quietly for while, casting glances back and forth. There was a moment when our gazes connected again. Edward looked at me with alert eyes and a somewhat slack-jawed expression. Like he was feeling sick, yet happy. I smiled at him and he looked like he wanted to say something, but once again looked away quickly and finished the last bite.

I finished slowly and looked around the library for a moment to clear my thoughts. I wanted to confess that I liked him, but I was too nervous.

"Do you know the origin of the sandwich?" he asked.

I looked back to him. "There's an origin to the sandwich?"

He nodded vigorously and cleared his throat. "Yes, well, see it was named after an aristocrat by the name of John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich in eighteenth-century England. Well, he didn't invent it, but always asked his servants to bring him meat between two slices of bread. The request became legendary—"

"Edward?" He hadn't been looking at me as he nervously rushed through this history lesson, but down at his hands or around the room. His eyes seemed to dart around quickly, everywhere, and a blush was crawling up his neck.

I was so attracted to him and affected by our closeness, I could hardly stand it. Edward Cullen shared his sandwich with me. I couldn't stop myself from inwardly smiling. I'd never seen him share a meal with anybody at the university and hope swelled within me. What I had taken as polite disinterest seemed to be nervousness instead. Perhaps… Edward Cullen liked me, Bella Swan.

"Yes?" he asked, but another question lurked in his green eyes.

My mouth parted, but no words came out. I wanted to know if he returned my feelings, but I didn't know how to approach the subject.

"So… it was very useful because everybody ate meat with their hands and for the aristocracy, the mess was an inconvenience." He glanced at me again and I was still staring at him with want. He swallowed loudly. "Um, but Sandwich was actually an English town, Sandwic, also known as a sandy town or village—"

"May I kiss you?" I blurted, my face heating up. I didn't know where that came from or what had emboldened me. And apparently my mind had lost its filter.

He paused and looked down at his hands resting on the couch. "Um… I don't know," he mumbled quietly.

"Oh." I felt horrible that I had mistaken his looks and signals. Was I so alone and immersed in my work, desperate for intimacy with Edward, that I was just imagining things? He was too polite, too nice, and I had just ruined it.

I stared at the floor. The weather outside was still whipping furiously, adding to my mood.

I felt him shift on the couch beside me and he said, "Look at me?" in a tone that seemed like he was going to remove a piece of lint from my hair or tell me I had peanut butter on my cheek.

I tilted my face up to look at him as his hand rose to my jaw in a gentle movement. Before I knew it, his lips were on mine, pressing, soft and warm. I was about to kiss back when he pulled away, looking embarrassed.

"I um, perhaps I should not have…just…"

"It was perfect," I cut in, smiling widely. He smiled too, and I slowly leaned closer to kiss him again. The energy between us seemed to shimmer and stretch and when our lips connected, the heat of his mouth over mine sent a shiver down my back.

He really was a gentleman; his hands stayed at my upper back and at my waist. His kisses were soft and passionate and I became less restrained, opening my mouth a little. My hands went into his hair at his neck and he groaned softly, kissing me with enthusiasm. The earlier fluttering in my body was dancing now and the sweeping heat of our kisses shot down to my toes.

Our lips were insistent but our lungs were begging for breath. We broke apart, flushed and breathing heavily. He smiled a little and I grinned. Coincidently, we both removed our glasses and cleaned the lenses with a spot of our shirts.

I put my glasses back on and saw Edward still slowly cleaning his. I observed how he looked without his glasses and when he glanced up, I saw for the first time how radiant his green eyes were. I stared rudely, awed by his good looks. Edward didn't notice though, having just put his glasses back on, and ran a hand through his hair.

"It looks like I'll be here overnight until the storm lets up," he commented, eyeing the window where buckets of water were crashing around outside.

"You didn't travel here by car?"

"I rode my bike and met Riley here. He has a car but I have no idea where the chap disappeared to."

"I would offer you a ride, but I'm afraid that my little Volkswagen would drown in the storm," I said apologetically and wished I could be of more help. My car was old and set low to the ground so it could barely get through puddles. Not to mention that the tires skidded on the slippery pavement and my wipers weren't fast enough to keep the rain from blinding me.

"Perhaps you could keep me company then…" he mumbled, glancing up at me.

I smiled. "It looks you'll have to keep me company too."

We sat together on the couch more comfortably, closer and more at ease.

"So you were telling me about the Earl of Sandwich?" I prompted.

His features brightened and he continued to explain the origin of the sandwich and about all the journal entries that were found concerning the famous meal throughout the eighteenth century.

He spoke of many historical aspects of England and I listened with interest and asked questions. We were growing very cozy and I leaned into his side, my head tucked into his shoulder and his arm around me. Our conversation throughout the night veered off into more personal subjects about our families and about ourselves.

I learned that Edward had an older brother, Emmett, who played on a rugby team. And that Edward had quite a talent for playing the piano. I could already see how different they were. He told me that he would play the piano for me sometime if I wished, and I agreed immediately.

He asked how I had originally gotten involved in art restoration and Cambridge and I told him about my friend Angela. We had been college mates in the same field of study and she offered me her position at Cambridge when Ben asked her to marry him. Their plans were to settle elsewhere near London, so I readily took the job.

When things started to get more personal and I was relaxed and sleepy, I admitted that I really enjoyed his art history lectures. That surprised him and he blushed, admitting that he had seen me in the library a number of times without my knowledge, but didn't want to intrude on my work. Over the many times we had politely conversed, I assumed he wasn't interested. He told me that just wasn't the case and we kissed again for another indeterminate period of time.

I remembered talking and kissing with him into the early hours of morning, but I must have fallen asleep because I woke sometime later to natural gray light coming in through the stained-glass window.

My head rested on Edward's chest, which was slowly rising and falling with deep sleep. We were lying across the couch and I snuggled closer to him, hoping for a few more minutes of bliss. I heard Edward's breath rise unevenly and he groaned, waking too. I raised my head to look at him as he rubbed a hand down his face to wake up more. After adjusting his glasses, he blushed and I smiled, holding him tighter until he relaxed and smiled back at me.

Voices from a distance gradually carried toward our corner and I startled. It was then that I remembered the tour of the illuminated manuscripts of Saint Valentine was to take place today.

We slid off the couch and went to claim our coats and bags from the area before the groups infiltrated.

Victoria and Riley suddenly appeared and my mouth fell open at their appearance. Despite being completely dressed, they were rumpled and disheveled. Victoria's blouse appeared to be ripped at the cap sleeve and her red lipstick was faded like it had been rubbed off. Smudges of pink went down nearly to her chin and somehow… all over Riley's mouth. They both had a certain afterglow about them.

Edward cleared his throat emphatically. Their heads flew in our direction and Victoria looked stunned to be caught in the proverbial spotlight.

"Isabella, darling, how is the manuscript? So glad you were sheltered here from the storm," she prattled.

"Yes, thank you. It's all set… I'd better get going now. Have a pleasant day and thank you again," I said quickly.

Edward and I walked to the main entrance, embarrassed and silently amused. "Riley always did enjoy pulling redheads," he mused.

I chuckled quietly.

The morning air outside was breezy and a little chilly, but the storm had passed, leaving everything mushy and damp.

"Is that your car?" he asked, referring to the only old Volkswagen parked outside. I nodded and he helped me load my equipment into the backseat.

"Thank you," I said, pushing a strand of flyaway hair behind my ear. Edward straightened his clothes and smoothed down his sweater vest. We remained quiet for a moment. I fidgeted with my hands, wishing to lace them with Edward's. Last night was wonderful with him, even though we had just talked and kissed. It was perfect. How could I still doubt him?

His eyes widened as I abruptly wrapped my hands around his neck and gave him a small, sweet kiss. I didn't care if I had bad morning breath or if I was being too forward.

Edward surprised me by holding me firm and intensifying our kisses until I gasped for breath.

"Happy Valentine's Day, Edward," I whispered over his lips.

He planted a kiss on my cheek and smiled. "Happy Valentine's Day." We stared at each other, just looking and smiling idiotically. He finally broke the quiet and asked, "Um… Would you like to get breakfast with me in the cafeteria?"

I smiled hugely. "I'd love to. I'm kind of starving for Eggs Benedict."

His arms fell away and he took my hand in his as we walked across the wet grass. "Do you know the origin of Eggs Benedict?" he asked.

"No, what is it?"

"I haven't got a clue."

We laughed and I teased him about knowing every event in history. He came up with some humorous theories, but I hardly paid attention. I looked dreamily at his hair blowing in the breeze and the way his expressive hands moved when he spoke.

It was only early morning and this was already becoming the best Valentine's Day I'd ever had. I didn't care about the cliché romantic date with chocolates and flowers; my perfect valentine was Edward Cullen.


Sources for this are:

http://en{dot}wikipedia{dot}org, www{dot}heritagerestorers{dot}com, www{dot}leavesofgold{dot}org, www{dot}jstor{dot}org, www{dot}history{dot}com

Thanks for reading!