Esme misses her flight to visit her niece, Alice in Washington DC for Valentine's Day. Due to an injury, she is forced to visit the clinic at the airport instead. There she meets the devastatingly handsome Carlisle Cullen. Sparks fly, but they only have one night together. What will happen?
Special thanks to the ladies at Project Team Beta for taking a gander at the first half of this.
All characters belong to Stephenie Meyer, the plotline is mine.
"Ouch!" I gasped after burning my tongue. I made a face at the label on my coffee cup that read "CAUTION! HOT!" That burned tongue sensation was going to bother me all day. I was sitting in the coffee shop at the Orlando International Airport, one of my stops on the way to Washington DC. My temporary workspace, the table at said coffee shop, was covered with magazines, catalogues, and sketches of my mother's living room.
The coffee shop was covered in pink and red hearts in celebration of Valentine's Day. I had every reason to be bitter, but I just couldn't be. I loved love, even though I had never had anyone love me, not to my knowledge anyway. It was sort of sad, seeing as my name, Esme, meant "to be loved".
A while back, my ex husband, Charles Evenson, served me divorce papers, claiming irreconcilable differences. Honestly, he was cheating on me. I knew it, and he knew I knew it, but he didn't care.
So how did I end up with such a wonderful slice of heaven? My father, feeling bad that I hadn't found someone, set me up with one of his friend's sons. To please him, I pretended to love him, and even married him. I knew he didn't love me, but I thought we could learn to love each other, like they do in the movies. It seemed that he married me to please his father also.
After the divorce was final, I figured I needed a break from the looks of pity around town, so I decided to visit my niece in Washington, DC. I'd been meaning to get out there for some time. Alice had just gotten out of a bad relationship herself, so we decided to spend Valentine's Day together.
I picked up one of the catalogues and started flipping through it, searching for the perfect look for my mother's living room. Back in Phoenix, the home I shared with my husband…er ex-husband (that was going to take some getting used to) was my pride and joy. Whenever we held a dinner party, people would always ask who decorated our home. I'd modestly say I was responsible, and brush home decorating off to watching too much HGTV.
Looking away from my magazine to check the time, I picked up my cell phone and almost dropped it when I realized I was about to miss my flight.
"Oh, no!" I shouted and shot up to my feet.
I hastily stuffed all my things in my shoulder bag, gulped down the last of my coffee, and burned my tongue again. Damn it!
My tongue tingled lightly as I brushed it over the roof of my mouth. I tossed my duffle bag over one shoulder and my shoulder bag over the other and headed out.
I weaved in and out of large crowds, throwing apologies behind me if I stepped on someone, or pushed them aside rudely. My soft jog turned into a full sprint as my shoulder and duffle bags cut into my shoulders.
Almost there! I said in my head. I'm almost th-SPLAT!
Flip flops were probably the worst shoes to run in. I knew this. Everyone knew this, right? So I shouldn't have been surprised when I tripped over them. I hit the tile hard, smacking my wrist on the cold flooring. The pain instantly soared through my wrist throbbing all the way to my ears and clouding my vision with stars.
I sat up and held my wrist to my chest protectively. As I fell, all my papers, catalogues, magazines scattered haphazardly all over the place. My laptop, however, remained in my bag and I prayed that it wasn't broken. My duffle bag was still next to me, although upside down.
"Are you alright, Miss?" a strong, but gentle male voice asked.
I closed my eyes and shook the stars away. When I opened my eyes, I saw two security guards kneeling in front of me. One of the guards had sea green eyes, and reddish-brown hair that looked like he stuck his head out of the window on the way to work, but somehow it worked for him. The other guard had dark, wavy hair that would curl if he let it grow, with a baby face, and gentle blue eyes that reminded me of the ocean. His size was a contradiction to his baby face-even in a kneeling position, he was a big man. The muscles under his shirt fought against the fabric. They were both dressed in matching uniforms, navy polo shirts and pants.
"I think so." I moved my wrist and the pain brought tears to my eyes. I sucked in a few deep breaths that breezed over my scorched tongue.
"No you're not," the big one spoke again. As gentle as he could, he held my wrist in huge hands that looked like bear claws. It was surprising that this big, muscle bound man possessed such a gentle touch. Over his heart, printed on his shirt in bright, yellow lettering was the name Emmett.
After Emmett released my hand, I held my wrist to my chest and looked disheartened at my scattered belongings over the floor.
"Hey Rose," he said into his cell phone.
When Red began the mission of collecting my things, I moved to help him, but Emmett's bear claw held me in place.
"I've got a 'slip and fall'," he said in the phone. "We'll be there shortly."
"I'm fine." I struggled to move even though it was obvious that he was stronger than me. "I need to go. My plane leaves at three-forty-five."
"Well, it's five 'til four," he answered, slowly closing his phone. "We're going to take you to the clinic and have the doctor look you over."
"I guess it doesn't matter now since I missed my flight," I muttered, slowly shaking my head. "My niece is going to be so upset."
Emmett lifted me to my feet like I weighed nothing at all. "It's not that far of a walk," Emmett reassured me. Seeing him right in front of me, standing up confirmed my assumptions: he was a very large man.
The man with the crazy hair gently put my things back in my bag.
"Thank you," I said to him. He wasn't quite as thick and burly as Emmett, but he had lean muscle and was very handsome. Edward was printed on his navy shirt in yellow letters.
"No problem," he smiled crookedly. Yep, definitely a heartbreaker.
The two of them walked along with me like guards, making me feel like I was being escorted to the back for carrying a suspicious package.
The clinic wasn't busy at all when we got there, which was a surprise to me. The empty chairs made the room look bigger than it was. Hearts and roses tastefully covered the walls in celebration of Valentine's Day.
"Hi, Rose." Emmett's normally prominent voice suddenly sounded rich and sweet. "You look beautiful today."
I looked up at him and saw the unmistakable goofy look of love on his face.
The lady behind the counter stood up, tossing her long blond hair over her shoulder. She had to be one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen, standing tall and thin with stunning violet blue eyes. The same goofy look crossed her features as she looked at him. Well at least someone's Valentine's Day was going to go well. I couldn't help but smile. It was really sweet to see them give each other googly eyes.
"Thanks," she swooned, twisting a lock of hair through her fingers.
"Hello," another friendly voice spoke. I looked around and saw a woman dressed in teal scrubs and a stethoscope wrapped around her neck. Her dark brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail.
"Hi." I smiled politely.
"My name is Angela." She smiled and laid a tender hand on my shoulder. "Follow me."
I hadn't noticed Emmett leave my side, but there he was leaning over the counter, flirting with Rose.
"Come on." Edward rolled his eyes as he followed Angela and me. We went down a long hallway to an empty exam room, passing by a few other doctors and nurses on the way. Edward placed my things down in the chair and helped me get on the examination table.
"Thanks, Edward," I said.
"No problem." He nodded his head and left the room.
"So." Angela turned to me. "Tell me what happened."
"I was running late for my flight and I tripped and landed on my wrist."
"Ohhh," she hissed through her teeth, and walked toward me. "Sounds like it hurt."
"Oh, yes." I nodded and held up my swelling wrist.
"Okay, let me just get some information." Angela sat down in the chair and started asking all the normal questions: name, contact information, if I was allergic to anything, what medications I was on, if I had any major surgeries. Then she took my blood pressure and pulse rate and scribbled the results on my chart.
"Okay, Esme," she said, placing the stethoscope back around her neck. "Dr. Cullen will be in momentarily."
"Could you do me a favor?" I asked, leaning back and resting my injured hand over my leg.
"Sure." Angela held the clipboard over her chest.
"Can you hand me my cell phone?" I pointed with my uninjured hand to my bag. "I need to call my niece. If it's still in one piece, it's in the front pocket."
Angela walked over to my shoulder bag and pulled a silver cell phone.
"Thank you," I said, after she handed it to me.
"You're welcome." She slid the privacy curtain closed and left the room, closing the door behind her. Using the one hand that wasn't in pain, I hit number two on my speed dial.
"Hello." I heard Alice's voice.
"Hi, Alice, it's me."
"Esme!" she screamed, and I pulled my phone away from my ear. "Why aren't you on the plane?"
"How do you know I'm not on the plane?"
"I've told you over and over, that I'm psychic," she retorted.
I rolled my eyes. "If you say so."
"What's wrong?" her voice was frantic.
"Don't freak out." I exhaled. Too late for that, right? "I had a little accident, and I'm at a clinic?"
"You're in the hospital?" her little voice shrilled through the phone.
"No," I answered calmly. "I'm in a clinic at the airport. I slipped and fell, and security brought me here to have me looked at."
"There's a clinic in the airport?" She sounded surprised.
"In this one, there is." I looked around the room at all the pictures of internal organs on the wall.
"What did you slip on?What did the doctor say?When are you flying out?" she jumbled all together.
"Okay, take a breath." I heard her breathe in and out. "I slipped on my own two feet, I haven't seen the doctor yet, and probably not until tomorrow."
"Tomorrow!" Alice was getting worked up again. "But we were supposed to spend Valentine's Day together!"
"I know, and I'm sorry, but I have no idea how long I'm going to be here."
More heavy breathing. "This sucks!" she finally uttered. "Where are you going to stay? Maybe I can fly out there."
"There's a hotel in the airport, and no you're not flying out here. We can pretend that tomorrow is Valentine's Day."
"But you're there all by yourself!" she whined.
"I know, but I'll be fine." The creaking from the door made me jump. "Alice, I gotta go. The doctor's here. I promise to call you later on tonight, okay?"
"Okay," she mumbled, her voice filled with disappointment. "I love you."
"I love you, too." I hurriedly ended the call and sat up. The curtain was pushed aside and I looked up, and almost fainted. The doctor breezed in the room like a breath of fresh air, with a face of an angel. The hallelujah chorus rang in my ears as he approached. He ran a hand through his blond hair and it fell back in place, perfectly framing his face. His tall and lean build was visible even under his white lab coat, white button down shirt, and black slacks. He stared at me and took a few steps forward.
"Hello…" He paused and looked down at the clipboard. "…Miss Platt, I'm Dr. Cullen. Tell me what brought you here." His voice alone was as sweet as one of Beethoven's symphonies. He could recite the Constitution and I would be mesmerized.
"Hello, Dr. Cullen." My voice cracked. "I…uh…slipped and fell." I focused on my swollen wrist.
"Did you slip on something?" He walked closer to me. The scent of cotton and his aftershave swirled around in my head, almost knocking me out.
"Just my own feet," I answered. "I'm usually not so klutzy, but I guess there's a first time for everything."
He moved the end of the stethoscope over my heart and pursed his lips as he listened. "Are you in a lot of pain?"
"A little bit." I looked into his hazel green eyes and lost all train of thought.
"Your heart's beating a little fast." He looked down at me, but not just looking. He was staring at me, locking my eyes with such intensity it sent a fleet of butterflies to my stomach. "I'll be gentle, Esme. I promise."
My name sounded so sweet coming from his lips. He moved the stethoscope to my back and asked me to take a few deep breaths.
"I'm sorry, Dr. Cullen," I said, once he was out of my line of sight. "I'm just not a fan of hospitals or doctor's offices."
"I can understand that." It sounded like his lips were right at my ear when he spoke. "Let me take a look at your wrist."
With his stethoscope back around his neck, he very gently held my wrist. His fingers traced over the bones of my wrist. My eyes roamed to his Adam's apple which bounced up and down as he swallowed, then to the curve of his neck. Suddenly a vision of the two of us in a passionate embrace flashed in front of me, and I gasped.
"Does that hurt?" He looked up at me, curiously.
"A little." It wasn't a complete lie; it did hurt, even though that wasn't why I gasped.
"Okay, we should get some x-rays." He looked back at me and trapped me once again with his intense glare. "It shouldn't take long."
"Not really a fan of x-ray machines, either," I muttered.
He laughed lightly. "It's painless, I promise. We'll have you fixed up in no time. It shouldn't ruin any special plans you have tonight."
"I don't really have any." He was eyeing me curiously, waiting for me to continue. "I was supposed to spend today with my niece, but I'm here alone." I wanted to take the words back as soon as I let them out. They sounded so desperate.
"You don't have anyone to spend today with?" He moved a hand over my wrist again. "I guess that makes two of us."
"I guess so." My hand was resting on his open palm, which was enough to give me a stroke, but he had laced his fingers loosely between mine. His hand was warm and soft, and I nervously glanced at our fingers. He followed my eyes, and pulled his fingers away, being conscious not to hurt me in the process.
He cleared his throat, and then called Angela in the examination room. "Can you take Miss Platt to get some x-rays on her wrist?"
What happened to calling me Esme? I protested in my head. He wouldn't look at me, just kept his eyes on the chart, and he was gone. I wondered what I could have done, but then I remembered that this man was probably used to thousands upon thousands of women hitting on him. How could I even compare to any of them? Angela helped me off the bed, and took me to the x-ray room.
"Dr. Cullen will be back with your x-rays shortly," Angela said after dropping me off in my exam room.
"No problem." She walked to the curtain. "Sit tight."
She exited the room and all was silent. My wrist still ached like crazy, but I was almost used to the pain. Using my right hand, I pulled out one of my catalogues to browse through while I waited. I was almost at the last page when I heard the door open. Dr. Cullen walked in, looking as handsome as ever, but his friendly demeanor seemed to be missing. He was still polite, but almost somber and ashamed.
"Okay, Miss Platt." He placed the films on an x-ray light box. "It looks like you have a minor hairline fracture in your wrist."
I stood next to him as he spoke, watching his mouth move. "Do I need a cast?"
"No." He took a few steps away from me. "We'll give you a brace; just make sure to keep it on."
Geez, do I smell? Maybe Charles was right. Maybe I was as worn as an old shoe, and just as useless. The squeaking cabinet caught my attention, and he motioned for me to sit in the chair as he lowered down on a stool with wheels.
A series of emotions seemed to cross his face as he pulled the Velcro of the brace. He was angry and disappointed. It was strange. I didn't think that he had known me long enough to be upset with me.
"Dr. Cullen," I said, as he gently slid the brace over my injured hand. "Is there something wrong?"
He paused for a moment, and breathed out heavily. "I need to apologize to you, Miss Platt."
"Esme, please." I found myself leaning in closer to him, and instinctively, I touched his forearm with my right hand. Even more surprising, he didn't pull away from me.
"Esme." Slowly, he looked at me, staring at me with hazel eyes so dark with despair, a storm raged inside. "I am very sorry for my behavior earlier."
"What do you mean, Dr. Cullen?" My hand began making gentle circles over his arm. He was close to me now, and seeing the sadness in him made me want to pull him in my arms and tell him everything was going to be okay even though I didn't know if it would be.
"I feel as though I crossed the line with you." The sincerity in his eyes was mind blowing. "If you will allow me, I will be completely honest with you."
I nodded my head, curious to what he needed to honest about.
"My entire life has been about being a doctor, and helping people. I love helping people; it's the one thing I've always wanted to do. But lately, I had been wondering if there was more to life."
He looked at me warily, with a little embarrassment. "Go on," I encouraged him.
"I was at the coffee shop this afternoon when you walked in." He ran a heavy hand through his golden locks. "When I saw you sitting there looking over your books and magazines I couldn't stop thinking about what I was missing. I'm ashamed to say, that I was watching you a little more than just as an observer. What were you looking at?"
"Oh." It was my turn to be embarrassed. "I really like interior design. My mother wanted to redecorate her living room and she hired me. My husband…" I heard his breath catch, but he didn't say anything. "…my ex-husband didn't really like me working, so I spent most of my time decorating our home."
"It makes you happy." His bright smile made me smile. "You are a very beautiful woman, especially when you smile. As soon as I got the nerve to approach, you shot out of the coffee shop like a bullet. I thought I'd missed my chance. Fate would have you in my sights again, under my care. From a distance, you are very lovely, but up close, you are stunning. You seem to have a kind heart, too."
The look on his face told me he hadn't meant to reveal everything to me. My mother said it was both my strength and curse. She said that somehow, being around me made others feel safe, allowing them to open up to me completely.
"Dr. Cullen," I started.
"Carlisle." He placed his hand on mine that rested on his forearm. What a unique name, like mine.
"Carlisle, if I am to understand correctly, you were watching me?"
"Yes," he sighed. "I was surprised to see you again. Honestly, I couldn't believe you were here. I wanted to talk to you, but the closer I got to you, the more muddled my thoughts became. The next thing I knew, my hands were touching you inappropriately. My behavior was very unprofessional. I know better than that. Doctors are sued for things like that."
"Really, Carlisle I wasn't offended at all." I shook my head. "Since you were honest with me, I will be honest with you, also. I am very attracted to you, too. So to hear what's going on in your mind is a pleasant surprise. I never in a million years thought that someone like you could ever be interested in someone like me."
"I would like to make it up to you. What can I do?" He still felt guilty. Ladies, they don't make them like this anymore.
"Well, since I'm stuck here for the night, it would be nice to see a little of the city. I've never been to Orlando before. Would you mind showing me around a little?" I couldn't believe that I was actually asking him out. This was so out of my character, but I would be leaving tomorrow and I didn't want any regrets.
"I'd be happy to." His mood lightened, and his eyes moved to my wrist. "Are you in pain now?"
"It hurts, a little."
He stood up and walked toward a locked cabinet. Pulling out his set of keys, he opened it and pulled out a few blue boxes of medication and his prescription pad.
"Here are some painkillers." He handed them to me along with a piece of paper with his letterhead and his handwriting, which was very neat for a doctor. "The samples should last you a couple days and this is for when you run out."
"Thanks so much, Carlisle."
"We're about to close up, so if you would like, I can walk you to the hotel so you can get settled. Then we can meet up later for your tour of Orlando."
"That sounds great."
He picked up my bags for me and led me out into the waiting room. Rose had already closed the gate and was sorting a bit of paperwork. Carlisle placed my things in an empty chair next to me and I sat down and waited. Soon, he returned, his own bag hanging from his shoulder. He picked up my things and together we walked to the hotel located inside the airport.
"You have a date?" Alice shouted through the phone. Thank God it was on speaker and not next to my ear.
"The doctor that took care of my wrist is taking me on a tour of the city." I was dressed in one of the hotel robes, my wet hair wrapped up in a towel. Clothes were scattered on the bed as I decided what to wear.
"O…M…G!" Alice shouted, each letter raising a key. "What's he like?"
"His name is Carlisle, and he's very handsome, smart, and such a gentleman." A smile slowly crept over my lips.
"Esme, this is so awesome!" Alice's excitement was contagious. "So what are you wearing on your date?"
"I don't know, yet. What do you think?" Alice was always good at finding what would look good on anyone.
"Okay, did you pack the light pink v-neck shirt with the quarter length sleeves?"
"Yes," I said as I pulled it out of the pile.
"What about jeans? Which ones did you pack?"
"Uh…" I quickly searched through my duffle bag. "The dark blue ones, a lighter pair, and the regular colored ones."
"Okay, wear the light pink shirt, and the dark jeans. What kind of shoes?"
"I have my flip flops, but those are the ones I tripped in. Besides it's a little cool outside tonight."
"What about boots? I told you to pack some. You did, right?"
"Yes, the black boots you gave me for Christmas."
"Good, wear those, with the gold stud earrings, and the gold necklace you got from Grandma. Oh, and make sure you wear your hair down."
"Alice, what are you going to do tonight?" I asked, pulling out the jewelry that she suggested.
"A couple of the girls invited me to go with them to this new bar that opened a few blocks away. Live bands play there every night. The band playing tonight is called Whitlock. They say the lead singer, uh Jasper...Jackson…something is so hot."
"That sounds fun," I said and glanced over at the clock. "Alice, I should get ready. I have to meet Carlisle in an hour."
"Okay," she said. "You scheduled your flight, right?"
"Yes," I said. "It's the first thing I did when I got to my suite. Check your email. I sent you my new itinerary."
"Okay, I will. Happy Valentine's Day."
"You too, I love you."
"I love you, too."
After I finished getting dressed, I tossed a few essentials in a small purse that I packed, grabbed my black sweater and headed to the elevator. When I arrived at the first floor, I looked around and I saw Carlisle sitting in an armchair, his left ankle resting on his right knee. He was casually dressed, wearing a white polo shirt and khaki pants. He stood when he saw me, and when he smiled, I thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest.
"You look beautiful," he said to me as I approached.
"Thank you," I answered, smiling like a little girl. I had only known Carlisle for a few hours, but somehow I felt safe with him. He held out his arm and I linked mine through it and we headed to the parking garage.
"How's your wrist?" he asked as we walked.
"It's fine." I held it out for him to examine, showing him I was wearing the brace just like the doctor ordered. My black sweater rested over it.
It was a little bit of a trek getting to the parking garage, but I enjoyed being close to Carlisle. We talked a little on the way, but mostly walked in comfortable silence. Like the gentleman he was, he opened the door for me and held the door for an elderly couple that walked out behind us. The sun was almost down turning the sky dark blue. A cool breeze passed over me and I threw my sweater over my shoulders.
"It's really cool out here." I shivered under my sweater. "Is this what winter is like here?"
"I've only been here about six months, but most of the employees here agree it's been an extraordinarily chilly winter." Carlisle held his arm out again for me and we walked to his black Mercedes. He opened the door for me and once he was settled in his side of the car we were off.
"Where are we going first?" I asked, watching the streets curve around like a tangled web.
"I thought we might get something to eat first. It's a nice night, so maybe we could go to Downtown Disney and walk around."
"That sounds nice." I looked over at Carlisle as he watched the road. In the dark, his features were hard to see, but my mind filled in the blanks. His eyes cut over to me and he grinned then looked back to the road. I felt the full force of being caught as I looked out of my passenger's window and couldn't stop blushing.
We pulled into one of the biggest shopping centers I had ever seen. According to the sign when we entered, it was called The Florida Mall. We rode through the parking lot, following twists and turns until we reached our destination.
Carlisle came around and opened my door for me, holding a hand out for me as I exited. I tucked my tiny purse under my arm and looped my arm with his again. He led me to the mall entrance and then to an Italian restaurant called Buca di Beppo.
"We have a reservation," Carlisle said to the hostess after she greeted us. "It should be under Cullen."
The hostess looked down at her list, then popped her head back up. "Yes, here you are." She grabbed two menus, and walked us back.
According to Carlisle, it was one of the best Italian restaurants in the country. The restaurant looked authentic as far as I was concerned, seeing as I hadn't been to many Italian restaurants. The tables were covered with red and white table cloths, with a single candle in the middle. It was dimly lit, as soft music played in the background giving it a romantic feel. Carlisle explained that the entrees were designed to feed two to three people, so instead of individual plates being offered, everyone at the table shared their meal with each other.
After the server returned with our drinks and took our dinner orders, I asked Carlisle where he was born.
"Seattle, Washington." Gold flecks, caught in the currents of his hazel green eyes, sparkled under the light.
"Is it true that it always rains there?" I asked while fiddling with my napkin.
"Not always," he replied. "It rains a lot, though. It can get depressing sometimes, but it can also be soothing listening to the rain."
"What made you become a doctor?" I rested my head in my right hand, and laid my braced hand across the table.
"When I was a little boy, I fell off the front porch of my home and broke my arm. My father took me to the hospital and I was fascinated with all the ways doctors and nurses fixed people. I must have asked the doctor a million questions." He held his fingers out to count them down. "How did he become a doctor? What does this type of medicine do? How come some people don't come out after they went to the hospital? Since you work here, do you have to pay hospital bills?"
I laughed at the last question. "You really love it. I can see the way you talk about it."
"I do, and it's important to do something you love." He smiled. "There are days when I have to tell families that their loved one didn't make it, or that they need to see a specialist, but there are good times, too. Like when we save a child's life, or the impossible happens and someone's heart just starts beating again."
"So being a scientist, do you believe in miracles?"
"Absolutely." He was adamant in his response. "We see them everyday. When I did my ER rotation, people often came in the hospital broken beyond repair. But they fight and next thing you know, they are walking out of the hospital on their own."
"That must be an amazing feeling knowing you've saved people."
"Yes it is," he said, and took a sip of his water.
The server returned with our meals. She laid two empty plates in front of us, and placed a full plate of food in the middle of the table.
"So you like interior design, right?" Carlisle asked me, cutting a portion of the lasagna for me, and another for himself.
"Yes, I think so." I cut into my lasagna and wrapped the cheesy tendrils around my fork. "That's one of the reasons I'm visiting my niece. She lives in Washington DC where she's attending college. She wants me to move out there with her and enroll in school."
"When you mentioned your niece, I was expecting it to be a little girl."
I wiped my mouth with my napkin. "She's my niece, but she's more like my sister. She's only three years younger than me. She doesn't call me 'Aunt Esme' or anything like that."
"Are you going to move there?"
"I'm really thinking about it. There are some schools that offer courses in interior design and it would be a new start."
We talked a little while longer until it was time to go.
Carlisle insisted on paying for my meal, even after I protested. By the time we left the restaurant, the sun was completely down and the sky was dotted with stars. Arm in arm, we walked back to the car.
Downtown Disney was crowded with people. There was hardly any parking, but Carlisle didn't give up. He circled the parking lot, and finally he caught someone backing out.
"See, miracles can happen." He smirked as he pulled into the space. We exited the car, and instead of him offering me his arm, he took my hand as we crossed the street. The Planet Hollywood restaurant was much bigger than I thought it would be. The large orb was lit up like a bright blue star. Then I noticed a great big white tent, something that would be seen at a circus.
"What's that?" I pointed.
"That's where the Cirque de Soleil dancers perform." He squeezed my uninjured hand gently.
"I've seen them on TV." I squeezed his hand back. "Have you seen them here?"
"Yes, once." He pulled me across the street. "I won tickets in a raffle at work."
Large crowds of people congregated around the main entrance. Carlisle held my hand tight when the crowd thickened so he wouldn't lose me and held it just as firm when it thinned out. The wind blew in steady breezes, and I was glad I brought my sweater, although Carlisle being there kept me warm.
"Do you like sweets, Esme?" He tugged me in front of a candy store. Behind the glass, some of the workers were coating apples and strawberries in chocolate, caramel, and other assorted toppings.
"Sure, what woman doesn't?" I answered. He laughed and it sounded like heaven. It was very crowded inside, reminding me of the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Carlisle moved behind me and lightly placed his hands on my shoulders.
"Is there anything special you want?" he spoke in my ear. "A candy apple, maybe?"
"The white chocolate covered strawberries look good," I answered. His hands gently stroked my shoulders and I found myself leaning into his touch. Even though the line moved at a snail's pace, it seemed we were at the front of the line in no time.
"What can I get you?" the cashier asked politely.
"Can we get half a dozen white chocolate covered strawberries?" he asked.
"You are sharing those with me, right?" I looked up at him.
"Yes," he nodded.
"Anything else, sir?" the cashier asked with a friendly smile.
He looked down at me, and I shook my head. "No, thank you." He answered her.
I went into my purse to grab my wallet, which was a bit of a challenge with my wounded hand, but he stopped me. "Let me."
"Carlisle, you paid for my dinner."
"I know," he said as he handed the cashier his credit card before I could stop him.
"Fine, but I owe you," I remarked
"Deal," he said, wrapping his arms across my shoulders. We stood aside, waiting for our desserts. Even standing in the middle of the crowded store, it felt as though the world was spinning wildly, but we remained still and in the moment.
"Here you are, sir." Another attendant handed us the bag of strawberries. "Enjoy."
"Thank you," he said graciously. "Happy Valentine's Day."
She returned the gesture and we left the crowded candy shop. Taking a seat on one of the benches, we dug into our goodies. I watched as he placed the white chocolate fruit in his mouth and hummed at its flavor. I took a bite of my own and found him looking at me also. Just for a moment, a fire flickered in his eyes.
We walked around a little more, enjoying the night air. I saw a signature tourist trap and pulled Carlisle inside.
"I want to get a souvenir for Alice," I explained as we walked into the huge Disney store.
"What about a t-shirt?" Carlisle held up a lime green shirt with Tinkerbelle on the front. "This one's cute."
"Alice hates Tinkerbelle." I laughed as I imagined Alice's face if she saw that. "Kids used to call her that in school."
"Why?" he asked, placing the shirt back on the rack.
"She's barely five foot." I pulled out a cute shirt with Minnie Mouse on the front and put it back. "But she's loud and boisterous enough to be six foot seven."
Carlisle followed me around patiently as I weaved throughout the store. We reached the shelves of glasses.
"Maybe I'll get her a shot glass." I picked through them, looking for the right one.
"Here, they call them toothpick holders," Carlisle corrected me matter-of-factly.
"Seriously?" I looked at him incredulously.
"To make them feel better about selling shot glasses to minors, I guess." He shrugged.
"Oh, I see." I picked the "toothpick holder" with Mickey and Minnie Mouse on the front and a t-shirt of Cinderella's Castle and went to the register. We walked to the register and I refused Carlisle's offer to pay.
We headed to the car and I sighed at the thought of our date almost being over. I didn't want to think about never seeing him again.
"Wait, Carlisle." I dug in my purse for my digital camera. "Okay, stay there."
I stopped another couple passing by and asked them to take a picture. Carlisle drew me in close and we smiled. After a couple flashes of white light, we looked at our picture.
"Will you send me a copy of that?" Carlisle held me in his arms as we looked at the pictures.
"Of course." I tucked the camera back in my purse. I looked up at him and I saw sadness in his eyes. I hugged him and heard his heartbeat humming against my ear. He held me to him, resting his chin on my head.
We slowly trudged back to the car. The ride back to the hotel didn't take as long as I would have liked. My braced hand rested gently on Carlisle's on the center console. He walked me to my hotel room, and I held my things in my hand and looked up at him.
"Well, thank you Carlisle," I said softly, fiddling with the straps of my bag.
"There's so much more I wanted to show you, but we only had tonight." The sadness was unmistakable in his voice.
"This was the best Valentine's Day I've ever had." Tears began to slide down my cheek and I quickly moved to wipe them, but Carlisle had already cupped my chin in his hand.
"Esme." His voice was soft and soothing as he moved forward. He leaned down, placing his lips on mine for a moment before pulling away. His eyes were intense as they stared at me, and I moved to kiss him again. His arms pulled me close to his body, as he moved effortlessly over my lips. I rested my injured hand on his chest and my other hand weaved into his blond hair. His tongue gently licked at my bottom lip and I opened my mouth allowing him entrance.
I was married to Charles Evenson for three years and in those three years, I had never felt anything like this. The spark between us blazed wildly, igniting feelings I had only read about. Carlisle pulled away from me and gently pressed his forehead against mine.
"This was the best Valentine's Day I've ever had, also," he breathed. "What time is your flight tomorrow?"
"Early, eight-thirty," I answered.
"Would you mind if I went with you to the gate?" I missed his warmth as he pulled away from me.
"I would love it if you were there." I opened my suite door and faced him again.
"Good night, and sweet dreams, Esme." He kissed me again lightly.
"You too, Carlisle." He turned to leave and I closed the door and tilted my head back against it. Slowly, I slid down to the floor and wrapped my arms around my legs.
Summer was just around the corner and I was finally settled in Washington DC with Alice. We lived in an apartment close to the University where she attended school. I was officially a student at the Art Institute of Washington studying interior design. As I left my last class for the day, my cell phone rang. I pulled it out of the front flap of my backpack.
"Hello," I said, catching it before the caller hung up.
"Hi, Esme." My heart jumped for joy and my feet considered joining in on the fun.
"Carlisle," I said, adjusting the strap of my bag, and walked outside. The weather had gotten warmer as the summer approached, but not so hot that it was unbearable to be outside.
Carlisle and I had stayed in touch, via phone, email, we even used the program Skype so we could see each other.
"So how was class?" he asked.
"It was great!" I said, unable to hide my excitement. "I was surprised at what I already knew and what else there is to learn. I love it! How are things in Orlando?"
"Hot and humid." Carlisle laughed a little. "It's starting to get really warm. The high today is supposed to be about eighty-five degrees."
"I remember those days," I said, thinking about summers in Arizona. "Minus the humidity."
I continued walking toward my car while talking to Carlisle. A lot of the students were taking advantage of the beautiful day by bringing their activities outside. Some were studying on the lawn, others getting rid of stress by tossing a football around.
"When do you think you'll be able to visit?" I asked, spotting my car.
"Soon, I hope. I'm still trying to get away. The clinic's still shorthanded."
"Carlisle," I said, not even attempting to hide the melancholy of my voice. "I miss you."
"I miss you, too, sweetheart." When he spoke, it sounded like he was closer than over the phone.
I stopped and looked around the parking lot, thinking someone was following me.
"Esme," he said. "Are you okay?"
"Yes," I said as I heard the echo again. I picked up my pace, feeling that someone really was following me.
"Why are you running?" he said, and this time the echo was right behind me. I spun around and looked up at Carlisle, snapping his cell phone shut and smirking.
"Carlisle, you're here!" I dropped my book bag and threw my arms around him. He spun me around a few times, before setting me down, but not releasing me. "What are you doing here?"
"You want me to go?" A smile teased his lips.
"No." I hugged him again. "I thought you said the clinic was really busy and that you couldn't get away."
"Well, I told a little fib." He leaned down and picked up my bag and threw it over his shoulder. "A while back I applied for a position at the George Washington University Hospital. I interviewed with the department heads, but I didn't make the cut."
"And…" I motioned for him to continue.
"Well, I got a call last week and they wanted to offer me another position here in Washington DC. So I took it."
"So you're going to live here?" My voice was just below yelling.
"Yes, I'm going to be living here," he answered, smiling brightly at me.
Before I knew what I was doing, I kissed him. His muffled chuckle vibrated against my lips. "Wait!" I pulled away abruptly. "How did you know what time I'd be here?"
"Alice," he said simply, and I nodded in agreement. She could take over the world if she put her mind to it. "She coordinated everything, even dropped me off."
"You want to go get something to eat?" I reached in my pocket for my car keys.
"Sure," he said as he walked to the other side of the car. "Besides, you owe me a tour of the town, remember?"
"Yes, I remember." I said, and couldn't stop smiling.
A/N: There's a lemon in Part Two. Take a look!