Disclaimer: Everything Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer.

Welcome to my new project! It's my Fandom Gives Back piece the lovely five ladies - ChrisRW, Jessica1971, jjuliebee, sessahhh & Sugar Rae - have waited a long time for, but finally it is done! Thank you again for never forgetting what FGB is about - helping sick children!

The story consists of 15 chapters plus epilogue, is just shy of 50k words long and will be posted Mon / Thu / Sat.

I know what people normally except from me is some ultra smutty, heart-wrenching mindfuck story - beware, this is not it! It is, as far as I can say, the closest to a canon fluffy romance tale as I get - with a few twists and turns of course, to spice things up. There might be a few subliminal messages in here, too. For those who know me and want to hunt them down, have fun! The rest of you, please enjoy!

Unlimited thanks to L, A and C for talking me off the ledge many many times. This is, without a doubt, the hardest thing I've ever written.

If anyone wants to follow my insane rambles on twitter - dariaABD is my new nickname. Just for updates you're better off with author alerts here and favs on TWCS. If you talk to me I'll follow you back

Lift Me Up, by dariachenowith

Chapter 1


Catherine steadied herself against the railing, a sigh escaping her as Don Marco's heated gaze scoured her petite form, lust raging in his dark eyes. She hadn't yet regained her balance when he took a step towards her, a ferocious hunter stalking his prey.

She tried to look away but couldn't find the strength to avert her eyes, too perfect was his manly chest, too powerful his stance.

"Long have you evaded me, fair lady, but I will suffer this torture no longer from your gentle hands!"

Another powerful step and he swept her up in his strong arms, causing her to melt against him.

"I will ravish you, fair Catherine, as no man has ever ravished a woman before!"

"Oh Don Marco!" she gasped as he lowered his face, planting a passionate kiss on her heaving bosom.

Heaving bosom. I couldn't believe that I was actually reading this book. I guessed the title and cover should have been a dead giveaway, but seriously, this was a new low. As was the flaming color in my cheeks. Not only was I reading a really bad romance novel in public, no, everyone must have been wondering why the quiet girl in the corner was as red in the face as a tomato.

Sighing, I closed the book and took a sip from my coffee - black, no sugar, no cream, just plain ol' coffee - as I let my haze roam over the street and park outside. I loved coming to this coffee shop, although I never ordered any of their fancy specialties. Just enjoying a few quiet minutes, watching the world pass by me in a bustle while I could relax and distance myself from everyone else - my version of five minutes of paradise. Or fifty.

I didn't know why I had picked up this book in the bookstore around the corner, but now I was stuck with it, and terribly ashamed that it affected me in any other way than sending tears into my eyes. I guessed that said a lot about my love life, or lack thereof, but the only other reading material I had with me was the project documentation I had grabbed to work on at home later, and I wasn't ready to sink to this new personal low yet. Percy's was the one place where I wouldn't let work intrude - ever. So back to Lady Catherine and her heaving bosoms it was.

"Excuse me, Miss, can you tell me how late it is?"

My heart leaped into my throat at the question, and I immediately slammed the book, cover down, onto the table. I wasn't sure if he had gotten a glimpse at it or not, but I felt even more embarrassed about my choice of entertainment, bad as it was. Fumbling with the cuff of my blouse, I glanced at my watch.

"8:20," I stuttered out, before I raised my head and cast a first glance at the inquirer.

If we had been in said romance novel, he would likely have been Don Marco's dashing younger brother, with at least five more flowery verbs to describe his youthful striking looks. As it was, he was probably in his early thirties, brown hair tousled in that 'just rolled out of bed' way that required more time than most women's make-up, and light brown eyes that regarded me with polite interest. His dark gray shirt was unbuttoned at the neck and the black bomber jacket set him apart from the conservatively dressed white collar crowd that normally frequented the coffee shop at this hour of the evening.

At my answer his lips curled into a slight smile, and he inclined his head.


Then he turned his eyes from my face down to the book lying in front of me, and I had to fight the strong urge not to put my fingers over it to hide the title.

"So someone actually reads these novels. I've always wondered who that might be."

His voice, rich but not too dark, held a certain amount of mirth, and while he wasn't really making fun of me, I felt a little insulted. That the sentiment was born of my own embarrassment, as unfounded as it probably was, didn't help.

"And I always wondered who judges people by the novels they read, particularly when they know nothing about said person."

His smile didn't waver, but he had the courtesy to look slightly chagrin.

"Actually, books say a lot about their readers, but maybe let me rephrase that statement. I was surprised to find someone as young and intelligent as you reading those bodice rippers. I'd rather have associated those books with elderly librarians or frustrated housewives."

"Intelligent, huh? Why does that sound like an insult coming from you?"

"Now who's all prejudiced?" he joked, but then sobered up slightly. "I'm sorry if my statement has offended you. I will now let your return to your doubtlessly captivating novel."

I was still taken aback by his directness when he got up, then inclined his head in a way that might have fit right into the novel if not for the gesture's mocking intent. Then he was gone, and I was left with a reeling mind and my mouth hanging open, at least as far as my emotional state went.

Even though he was no longer pestering me then I couldn't return to my insipid book, so I put it into my messenger bag and instead got my phone out to check my messages while I hurriedly slurped down the rest of my coffee. I was angry with myself and the way I let a random stranger insult me, and both didn't bode well for the rest of the evening.

Twenty minutes later I found myself walking into the bar I had promised to meet my friend at. Rose had insisted on spending our weekly girls night out instead of plundering the contents of her secret stash at home, and back then it had felt like a really good idea. But a day of discussions with imbeciles over how I should do my work, combined with random hunks insulting my intellect on the basis of a freaking novel made me rue that decision thoroughly.

The bar turned out to be everything I expected – slightly dingy but well kept, dark wood, polished surfaces, even at nine full of people who made a veritable racket. Five steps into the establishment and I had found my friend, as always drawing a crowd of admirers around her like moths to a flame. The comparison was even apt as I knew she was more likely to chew them up than take any of them home, but for some reason they always kept trying.

I first met Rose on a job – to be precise, the business she had been working for then had hired my company, and we had bumped heads over the project planning. I had instantly disliked the gorgeous blond who was clearly holding the job as project manager because she was humping her boss – until I had the luck of walking in on her ripping said boss a new one when he dared criticize her presentation style. In the end the project had been a disaster, she had been fired, but endless evenings spent bitching together had formed a bond that was still strong eight years later. By now she was running her own freelance operation, and whenever she needed someone to crank out a program or two over the weekend, I was her girl. And sometimes that also included hanging out at bars.

"Hey bitch, you're running early!" she greeted me heartily, then hugged me hard enough that I thought I heard some of my ribs creak.

"Yeah, what can I say, I just couldn't stay away from you any longer."

She grinned brightly as she flagged the bartender for two beers, while I took my seat next to hers at the bar.

"So, tell me, what are you up to these days? I called Marty the other day to talk him into loaning you out to me, but he said you were really busy."

I sighed, then slid out of my jacket to dump it onto my bag at my feet.

"Don't get me started! Last month this insipid group hired us for a minor project, but since then it's blown totally out of proportions. We had to re-assign three people, put another project on hold, and I don't think I'll see the sun face to face any time soon unless the roof collapses over my head!"

Rose chuckled, then accepted our arriving glasses and slid one over to me.

"To trustworthy code monkeys and the cunts who are burning to hire them for more slave labor!"

"To us!" I laughed. As crass and abrasive as she sometimes sounded, Rose was a good egg, and about the only female friend I called my own that I saw on a regular basis.

"So, bring me up to date, what's going on in the exciting life of Miss Bella Swan?"

Sighing loudly, I snorted.

"Exciting my ass! I think the only noteworthy thing that happened since we last saw each other was that Ms. Julie had another fit when she had to accept another package for me. I told them to deliver it on Friday, but of course it got there on Thursday afternoon – and you can guess from there."

Normally my neighbor was pleasant enough, but having to sign for my parcels sometimes sent her into a fits of Tourette's the likes I had seldom heard before.

"That bad, huh? Heard anything from Jake?"

My heart clenched for a moment when she mentioned his name, but I let the beer wash the sting away.

"Nope. As far as I know he's still happily diving in Hawaii, and before you ask, no, I do not spend my restless nights pining after him or contemplating where else he might go diving than in the ocean."

Rose briefly made a face when I cut her off from her number one teasing topic, but for once she let it slide.

"Be my guest. I still insist that you need to get laid. Working sixty hours a week and spending the rest either asleep or gunning down space bunnies is no way to live your life."

"And adding treatment for some STDs to the list is?"

Her derisive snicker was nearly drowned out by the din of the other patrons.

"You still don't know if you got the chlamydia infection from that guy in Florida or not. You could have caught it in numerous ways, you know?"

"And how are the odds of that? Seriously, the last thing I need now is to become dependent on tetracycline or something. My rabbit can take care of any itch that needs to be scratched, and doesn't leave me in need for medical attention afterwards!"

I got an eye roll for that, but again, she didn't dwell on the topic. I was slowly growing suspicious of that behavior as usually such oversights on her part meant she wanted to lull me into complacency so she could whack me over the head with something later.

"It was just a suggestion. But maybe you should get new batteries, you sound a little too grumpy for that poor, overworked animal to do its job well."

"Yeah, what can I say, we can't all keep human fuck bunnies locked up in our bedrooms."

"Too bad, really! I would offer to lend you mine but as you explicitly declined in the past I won't waste my breath on that."

That was Rose to you, always the Good Sexual Samaritan.

"Thank you, I appreciate that," I quipped back, which drew more laughter from her. "And I'm so glad to amuse you, by the way."

"You're always fun to hang out with, B," she confided. "Even if I were going through a dry spell, which I am certainly not at the moment, I'd always know you'd be worse off than me!"

"Rose, ew! Condescension doesn't suit you!"

"What?" she complained, then grinned. "I wasn't being condescending, just making an observation."

I took a long sip from my drink instead of answering, letting her get the hint. She kept on smiling, then set down the empty beer with emphasis.

"Let's go, the new club around the corner has some awesome After Work Happy Hour deals and I think I really need to get smashed tonight."

And there it was, the c-bomb. Rose knew I hated crowds, and I hated clubs even more, but somehow she always got me tagging along with her.

"Do we have to? This bar here is nice, the beer's good, they don't have any insane sports events broadcasting -"

Just as if to taunt me, that very moment two of the screens at the other end of the bar came alive, loud sports commentary blaring from the speakers. Sighing once more at her triumphant grin I reached for my bag and put down some cash on the counter.

"Ah, whatever, let's go."