Thanks to my beta, Maddux for helping me out with this one! It was written for a competition, but it's looking like that didn't follow through. So, here! I'm posting!

The University of Illinois had been damn awesome.

Alice Brandon and I had moved to Chicago to get away from two things: the small town of Forks that we grew up in, and our overly-protective, rule enforcing parents, whom lived there for their entire lives.

We hadn't even been in Chicago three weeks when Alice was arrested for disorderly conduct. Who knew skinny-dipping in the main water fountain on campus was illegal?

Fortunately, I had enough money in my wallet to bail her out without having to call her parents. Unfortunately, bail was so expensive that Alice and I both ended up bartending to earn back what the state had cost us. Our parents never knew, but serving alcohol was legal in the state of Illinois at the age of eighteen, and Alice and I made fantastic tips. We worked at Fuzzy's Bar for the next three years.

In those three years, we went a little wild. We couldn't technically consume alcohol, but working at a bar had its perks. So we partied a littleā€¦ or a lot. While we focused on our studies during the day, we focused on our peers come nighttime. By the time our senior year hit, Alice and I knew how to have a good time.

It had been a hot, sweaty night in Fuzzy's Bar. Beads of moisture ran from the top of my forehead all the way down the front of the skin-tight white t-shirt I had to wear while working behind the counter.

The uniform, while ridiculous, made me feel sexy. My shirt cut off two inches before my skirt began, leaving a sliver of my pale skin and dangling belly ring visible. The skirt was red, leather, and extended about three inches past my panties, which were black and ruffled. Luther, my boss, wanted something seductive to show if we bent over. My feet were precariously placed in sky-high, jet-black Steve Maddens, which Alice had made me buy with the money my dad had sent for my birthday.

The uniform was why I first spoke to Edward Cullen.

"You know, that skirt would look better on my floor."

I spun around from the tall shelf that held the peach schnapps I was reaching for to see the most striking man I'd ever set eyes on. A chiseled jaw was the first thing I saw. Soft skin was dusted with bronze stubble, looking completely effortless and delicious. His lips were bright maroon, full, and holding a smoldering cigarette. His hair was a mess of deep bronze, long, shaggy, and oozing sex. I had been fully prepared to yell at him and eventually call security until I met his jade green eyes, surrounded by dark, long lashes. Suddenly, my skirt on his floor didn't seem like such a bad thing.

"I think it would look better wrapped around your face," I replied, turning away from him as soon as I said it so he wouldn't see my blush.

Was I drunk just from touching alcohol?

"Well, damn," he said, letting a loud breath pass through his lips. "I think that calls for a drink." The mirror on the wall behind the bar allowed me to watch as he stubbed out his cigarette and ran a hand through his hair.

I served him a Jack and tried to ignore him as I tended to other patrons at the bar, but he didn't leave. I had almost forgotten about him when my countertops flooded with college students desperate for their weekend escape. Drink orders filed in left and right and I found myself overwhelmed with demands.

"Where the hell is Alice," I asked myself aloud.

"Is that Alice?" I spun around to see the man from earlier still sitting at the bar. He smirked at me and pointed to my best friend, who was currently pushed up against a wall outside the bar while some blond guy sucked the life out of her. I almost raced to pull him off her, until I saw her hands latching on to his belt loops, pulling him closer to her body.

I groaned and looked back to the bronze-haired god sitting at my bar, rolling my eyes before reaching for some ice.

"I'm afraid my friend Jasper is keeping her occupied," he chuckled, stretching over the bar and filling a few cups with ice for me. "I'm Edward."

"Bella," I replied, grabbing a few of the glasses he had filled. "Thanks."

"No problem. You look a little overwhelmed."

"I'm not supposed to be doing this on my own," I replied with slight annoyance.

Without another word, Edward hopped over the bar, grabbing more glasses and filling them with ice.

"What are you doing?" I raced over to him and attempted pushing him out of the bar. I gasped the second my hands touched his evidently toned chest, feeling jolts of electricity race though my body.

"You said you're not supposed to do this on your own. I'm going to help."

"You're going to get me in trouble," I fought. "Besides, you don't work here and I don't have a uniform for you."

Edward smiled at me and reached down to the hem of his shirt. He winked at me once before he pulled the shirt off himself. My mouth went dry when I looked at his chest.

His abs were perfection. Six squares sat in the center of his stomach, rippling with every movement he made. His chest was strong and void of any hair, leaving the small bronze path below his belly button the only trail of fur on his upper-half.

I wanted to lick it.

I blinked and looked away from him, embarrassed to be staring.

"I think I fit in now, right?" His eyes glistened with humor and he laughed as he did a small shimmy to prove his point.

"Fine," I grumbled. "Grab that bottle of Absolut and pour a little in three short glass tumblers," I ordered, finally allowing him to just help. I was too far behind to turn down any help anyway. At least, that's what I told myself. "Have you done this before?"

"Not professionally." He awarded me a small smirk and grabbed the bottle of Absolut off the shelf, pouring it into the smaller side of the jigger before dumping the liquid into iced glasses. He looked over his shoulder, where I was again caught staring at him. "But I have had some practice." He laughed and returned to his drinks.

I shook my head and turned to my own list of orders.

Edward was an expert at mixing drinks. Within twenty minutes, we had caught up on the concoctions and I was filling orders as they came in.

We spoke idly as we mixed and shook drinks, and I found the banter we had going back and forth completely charged with innuendo and also quite hilarious.

"So his name is Jas-per," I asked, looking back over to the man that was still firmly attached to Alice. Jesus, were those kids ever going to come up for air?

"His parents were kinda hippies," Edward explained. "I'm pretty sure his mom was high when he was born. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure she was high the whole pregnancy. Jasper's a little quirky."

"Then he'll get along fantastically with Alice."

Edward laughed and returned to his drinks, letting silence fall between us for a few brief moments.

I was reaching for a bottle of vodka on the top shelf when his half-naked body pressed against mine.

I bit back a moan at the feel of his skin. One of his hands came to rest my hip and stopped my movements. "Let me," he whispered in my ear.

His breath smelled like Jack and cigarette, and the warmth of it on my skin made me shiver. He reached up and grabbed the bottle of vodka and handed it to me.

"Thanks," I muttered, not moving. His body was still pushed up against mine and I'd be damned if I was going to be the one to break the connection.

He pushed in to me before he pulled away to go grab more glasses. I stood still for a moment before recovering and filling a glass with coke and rum.

"What's the tattoo mean?" I spilled vodka on the bar, surprised by Edward's voice. He chuckled at me and the sound went straight to my black ruffled panties. I groaned and set the bottle down, determined not to look like an idiot again in front of this guy.

"Which one?" I asked, unsure what tattoo he had seen.

"The one on the back of your neck."

Ah, the sparrow. I had gotten the tattoo as soon as I moved to Chicago. "It represents freedom."


"Yes, it represents my freedom." Edward's eyebrows lifted and he rested on the bar next to me while I shook a martini.

"Freedom from what?"

"I was eighteen when I got it," I started off, trying to explain why the tattoo meant so much to me. "I had just moved here from Forks, which you've probably never heard of, but it's this tiny little lumber town in Washington where I grew up. It's one of those cities where talk is really all the people have. So basically, if your kid acts up, people are going to talk crazy shit about you. My dad was the police chief, and couldn't have a poor reputation, so my parents were very controlling, and my life was not my own. I got great grades, did all my chores, volunteered every weekend, and had no social life. But that was how my mom and dad wanted it. I got away for college, and finally became my own person. This tattoo represents that no one can tell me what to do anymore. I won't go back to that."

"Well, Miss Bella, you're quite the rebel aren't you?"

"I suppose I am," I giggled. "Even though my parents don't technically know about the tattoos."

"Well don't worry, your secret's safe with me."

"Why don't I believe you," I asked with a smirk.

"You wouldn't be the first." He offered me a sexy wink. "What other ink do you have?"

"I have one on my ribs," I replied, earning another raised eyebrow from Edward.

"I've heard getting a tat on the ribs hurts like a bitch."

"It does," I agreed, laughing at him. "It says 'Death be not proud.' Have you ever read the poem? It has always been one of my favorites."

"By John Donne," Edward mumbled, looking intently in to my eyes.

"You know it?" I was truly amazed that Edward had known what poem I was talking about. He smiled and shrugged at me and I swear my skirt fell off then and there. He looked away from me after an intense moment, and I turned away from him and started cleaning glasses one of the waitresses had brought to me. I tried hard to fight the blush that raged across my cheeks, but I knew there really was no way to stop it.

After a good ten minutes filled only with the noises of clinking glassware, I decided I was calm enough to talk to him again.

"So now you know all about my dark and broody past, Edward. Do you have one of your own?"

He laughed and handed an overly flirty blonde chick her drink. She smiled at him and flicked her hair over her shoulder. He nodded curtly at her and then turned to me. With a huff she walked away, and I did a silent victory dance in my head.

He picked me! He picked me over the blonde with an amazing rack!

"I grew up here in Chicago. My parents were pretty cool, so I just stayed here for school. They don't know about my tattoos either." He winked and I blushed again.

"What tattoos do you have?"

He stuck his hand out to me and flipped it over so I could see the inside of his wrist. I instinctively reached forward and touched his blackened skin. The jolt of electricity shot through me again, but I tried to ignore it to look at the design permanently marked on his body.

"A phoenix?" I turned his wrist around in my hand, viewing the ink from a few different angles. It was a simple black outline of the bird with thin gray shadowing on the inside of the shape. It was simple, understated, and completely wonderful.

"I got it before Harry Potter came out, by the way. Don't think I'm some obsessed fan."

I laughed hard at him and he chuckled at me while I doubled over. "I'm so glad you don't have an addiction to Harry Potter," I admitted, drying tears from my eyes. I finally fell silent and returned to my questions. "So what's it mean?"

"I just like the idea behind it. No matter what happens to a phoenix, it can always rise from the ashes as a new being. I try to live like that. Come back from everything."

I still held his wrist, but looked up to meet his eyes, which were staring back at me.

My breath caught in my throat, and the charged atmosphere between us intensified from where my over-heated flesh met his.

"We both have birds," I observed, trying to fill the silence with something.

"We do," he agreed, smiling the faintest grin before his face became serious.

Edward leaned forward, just the tiniest bit, and I found myself tilting towards him as well.

His lips were fiery passion, dominating and strong. I gasped when the electricity multiplied in force, leaving no doubt in my mind that Edward felt it to. He groaned against my open lips and slipped his tongue inside my mouth, tasting every inch of me he could reach.

Two strong hands landed on my hips, squeezing me so hard I was sure I would bruise, but I didn't care; I loved the feeling. He lowered one hand to cup my ass, patting me softly before he picked me up. I squirmed with delight when he set me on the bar top and positioned himself between my legs. I could feel the heat radiating from him, and I knew he could feel mine as well.

My hands snaked up his back and grabbed the hair just above his neck. He moaned again and the hands he had placed on my lower back moved to just inside my upper thighs, reaching under the line of my short skirt. I gasped in pleasure and tightened my grip on him. His thumbs made slow, tormenting circles on my skin, and I realized I had never been more turned on in my entire life.

His face pulled away from mine just before I would have happily died of asphyxiation. He placed a few small kisses on my neck and collarbone before he took a deep, shuddering breath and rested his forehead on mine.

His green orbs met my eyes and we both smiled at each other from the close position. I felt a blush heat my face, and his right hand left my thigh to touch it. I looked down to his lips and he smiled even brighter at me.


We both jumped up and looked away from each other as Alice came running up with the same blond guy, Jasper, from earlier following behind her.

She jogged behind the bar and gave Edward the same look she gave to a guy who accidentally walked in to the girls' bathroom at school.

"Hey, man," Jasper said to Edward, shaking his hand. Edward nodded in his direction and looked back to me.

"Oh, so you're Edward," Alice nearly cheered. "Jasper was telling me about you." She offered a small hand forward and he shook it gently, giving her a crooked grin. I found myself lost in his expression, and the now swollen lips that had gotten me wetter than a swimming pool. "Earth to Bella, Luther said the next shift is here, so we can go home," Alice said, causing me to break my gaze away from the gorgeous, captivating man who had occupied my night.

"Oh, okay. Let me just grab my things," I mumbled back in a daze. I turned and walked to the opposite end of my bar where my purse had been hidden for the night.

"Bella, wait!" I looked towards the voice and saw Edward following me. "Um," he mumbled when he caught up to me, "would you like to go out sometime? Like a date?"

I blushed. "I'd like that. Where are we going?" I reached under the counter and grabbed my purse and Alice's, unable to hold his gaze.

"I was thinking the Warped tour next week?"

I laughed. "Oh, hell no. The last time I went to a Warped tour, I woke up with AC/DC lyrics tattooed on my boobs." I turned from him and wrote my number on the first dry napkin I could find on the bar top. "Call me if you get any other ideas."

He had a glazed look on his face, but took the paper from me. I smirked and walked past him to Alice, who was saying goodbye to the man that had kept her from helping me all night.

We walked out of the bar together, both smiling like idiots.

"Hey," Alice started, "you never told me you had your tits tatted."

"I don't," I laughed. "But now he's thinking about me naked."