A/N: Thank you so much goes to ShearEnvy and KhariZZmattik for hosting a wonderful contest. I will also want to send thanks to my wonderful beta and friend broduergirl30. Without her encouragement this story would not have happened. Check out A Picture Says It All Contest community for all the other great stories. This was inspired by picture #15.

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight, but the rest is all me.

My mother is my best friend. And my father, is someone I admire and look up to. They are my family, my life.

Leaving for college was the hardest thing for me to do in my short almost-18 years of life. Mainly because I felt as though I was pushing them away, but in reality they were letting me go to start my own life. Sure, they'll be included. But they know that I am an adult, now. Well, I will be in a couple of weeks. And as much as they would have loved for me to continue to be 'their little girl', it was a chapter that must be closed, so I could start anew.

I was lucky my parents wanted the best for me and so that is exactly what I got... the best clothes, the best car, and even the best college. Yes, getting accepted into Duke University was awesome, but that was all my doing. I studied my ass off during high school to get accepted. Even became the class valedictorian. But my parents are the ones who were making it happen because they were paying the tuition.

"Study hard. Don't focus on finding a part time job while going to school. Graduate with high honors so you can accept a great job. And by all means, become someone you are proud of." Those were the parting words my mom told me as they left me standing in my dorm room.

I was so blessed to know that they could afford me all the luxuries in life. Truth be known, I don't take it for granted, at all, because in a blink of an eye, the fantastic life I live could come crashing down. Just like it did for Billy Black. He was my fathers best friend. But a few months back he lost everything because of a deal. Even though his family was close to mine, I didn't even know his line of work. It was all so secretive. My dad felt incredibly bad watching his best friends world crumble from living in a fancy house and driving expensive cars to that of renting a one bedroom shack and driving a beat up ole truck.

To come here, I'd chosen to leave everything behind - my friends, most of my belongings, and even an old boyfriend. I think he was someone I used to pass the time from high school graduation until the start of college. As the days grew closer to when I had to leave for college, I chose to end our relationship. It wouldn't make sense to have a cross country relationship. If we're meant to be, we will be. He and I are still friends, though, which is how I would prefer.

As I became acclimated with my new 'home', my roommate and I became glued at the hip. We went to the various 'Welcome Back' parties. How we got invited to them was beyond me, especially since we were the 'low man on the totem pole' so to speak. But, Alice had connections, so I let her drag me from one party to the next.

It was at one of those parties I met Riley. We went out for about a month. Looking back, I wouldn't even call it dating. We talked on the phone. We wandered around campus holding hands. And we found ourselves enjoying parties together. He was usually drinking excessively. I was not, although, I would have an occasional sip from his beverage.

On one particular party night, I ended up taking a few mores sips than normal, finding myself a little on the loopy end. Therefore my body and brain didn't speak as well as normal. Once we left, we found ourselves making out on my dorm room bed. Before I knew it, our clothes were in piles on the floor, each of us breathing heavily.

I didn't really want to take our relationship to the level we were heading. I knew it would feel good, but did I really want to have sex with him so soon in our relationship?

My answer was made for me when I heard the sound of the wrapper. He took the condom out and rolled it down his shaft, before giving himself a few strokes so that he could remain erect in his drunken state. Sure I could have told him to stop, but my body really wanted it.

Who cares what my heart and mind have to say, right? I thought sarcastically.

But his hands feel so good! Now I was beginning to have an internal debate. I guess we will find out which side wins.

I was on my back, Riley towering over top of me. He slowly entered me, but once inside, the animal side of him came out - hard, fast and rough.

I could tell that I was getting closer, and so was he and then...

"Oh God!" he said, pausing long enough to push one final thrust into me. "Damn that felt good."

It was a quick lay. He didn't even allow me to finish.

What an ass!

After cleaning up he dressed quickly, walked over to kiss my forehead, and headed for the door.

Wait, What?

I was not a virgin, but I didn't sleep around with every Joe Schmo. He was actually the third guy to sleep with me. After he left, I realized the past month was just a game to Riley - one in which I lost. I cried. I don't willingly give it up that easily. At least, I didn't think I did. And the last month was fun. I thought he and I could go farther. I thought that he was really into me. But his game was to see how long it would take for him to get inside me. I thought I had good judgement of character.

Apparently not.

After crying most of the evening, I made it to my classes the next day but left my sunglasses on to shield the redness from others.

It was my birthday. My 18th birthday. I was officially and legally an adult. It would be the first that I spent without my parents. I cried some more.

As the day carried on, I finally got over myself. Over the fact that a guy I truly like had dumped me once he had sex with me... Over the fact that my parents weren't here to celebrate my birthday... and over the fact that I was now an adult. It was a rough start of a day.

I returned from my English Lit class to a message from the local police department.

Why would they be calling ME?

I returned the call, requesting to speak with Detective McCarty.

"Isabella?"

"Yes, that's me."

"I am Detective Emmett McCarty. I am sorry for your loss, but it is unfortunate that I must inform you that your parents were involved in a serious accident."

"Oh my God. What hospital are they at?"

Detective McCarty didn't immediately answer. In fact, he never did answer. He was silent.

"Detective? I asked about the hospital?"

"Isabella. I again, I am sorry for your loss, but your parents didn't make it."

What? Surely he is mistaken.

"I am sorry, I think the connection is bad. I didn't hear the name of the hospital."

"Can you hear me?"

"Yes, I can."

"Do you need me to send an officer to your dorm?"

"What? No, I don't understand." I was almost yelling into the phone.

"Isabella, is there someone with you?"

"Yes, well no, but my roommate is due back any moment."

"Ok, good. Once she returns, please call me back. In the meantime, I will send an officer to check on you."

And with that, we ended the call.

Seriously, what a sick joke of a birthday present!

Alice, my roommate, returned a few minutes later.

"Happy Birthday!" she said as she entered the room. Her usually cheery face became instantly concerned. "What is it?"

"I just had the strangest call." I filled her in on someone claiming to be the police department screwing with me. She chose to call them on my behalf. When she hung up the phone, she turned to me with a sad look in her eyes.

"Bella. They weren't joking. I am sooo sorry, but your parents died last night. They took a weekend trip sightseeing down the Pacific coast and their car sped over the edge of a cliff. They died instantly."

I didn't know what to say. My world came crashing down. Alice gave me a hug, but that did nothing. Why do people hug in the first place? Especially after receiving horrific news such as this. Her hug did nothing to me. It didn't erase the fact that my parents were dead. It didn't give me that 'feel good' feeling. It only gave proof to the fact that I was going through an emotional situation, thus requiring a hug in the first place. But the tears never came.

What the hell?

I packed quickly and flew home to Forks, Washington. Those of my friends from high school that were still in the area attended the funeral.

At the end of my parents' funeral, a man approached me. I didn't want to speak to anyone, but I really had no choice. I was the host, for lack of a better word. I found out he was my parents' lawyer and wanted to speak to me about my parents' estate, which was how I found myself at his office the next day.

"Isabella..."

"Please call me Bella."

"Ok, Bella. I have looked over your parents estate. Your parents had a will, but none of that really matters. Your parents owed a lot of money, to a lot of people, and I can already see that once their debts are paid, there will be nothing left."

"But my parents had a lot of money. They had a large house. Fancy cars. Hell, I even drive a Lexus SC430. A convertible for God's sake. They have money."

"They had the appearance of having money. But that doesn't mean that they actually had money. As a matter of fact, the car you drive is on lease for over a grand a month and you have almost three years left on the payments."

"They gave that to me as a graduation present. They told me it was paid for."

"I realize that, but the payments must continue otherwise it will be repossessed."

"What?" I yelled.

"I know this may come as a bit of a shock to you. Your father and I have been friends for quite sometime, so there is validity in what I am telling you. What I do know is that this semester is paid for. But, I unfortunately don't know where the money will come from for you to pay for the remainder of your college years. I just wanted to give you a heads up on things to come."

I stood to leave. I was done listening to all of this. I didn't want to hear that my rich parents were in fact broke as hell. I didn't want to hear the fact that my wonderful parents were in debt up to their eyeballs. And, I certainly didn't want to hear the fact that my world as I knew it was about to come crashing down.

"Isabella, I mean, Bella? Here, your father wrote you a letter a few weeks ago and asked me to give this to you at the time of his passing. I just didn't think that I would be handing it to you so soon."

"Uh, thank you."

I shoved the letter into my purse. In all honesty, I just wanted to throw it in the trashcan. How could they lie to me like they had? I was led to believe we were rich. And, not just I-want-to-prove-to-the-world-I'm-rich. No, I was led to believe that the house was paid for, that my car was a gift - and paid for, and they had the money to spend on a private college.

Boy was I in for a rude awakening.

When I returned to campus, Alice greeted me with a box of Chocolate Chip Cookies - the best kind ever made.

"You'll get through this!" she said to me as she dipped one into a full glass of skim milk.

"But at what cost?"

"I know it may seem hard now, but it'll all work out in the end." Alice really is my best friend! I am not sure how I would be able to go on in life if it weren't for her.

It was a month later that my parents lawyer informed me bills were coming due and included was my car payment. He said that I needed to send to him $1089.63 so I could continue to drive it. There was no way to pay it. I had no job. No savings account. Hell, my parents had set me up with a checking account so they could transfer money to me. But now I believe the money they sent to me was a farce.

And the account only had $198.21.

There wasn't much left. Without a job, I had no idea where to turn. I was depressed. So I did the best thing I knew - I opened my mouth.

With all the parties Alice had taken me to, I was able to get to know one of the girls. She was very confident and by her appearance I thought she had everything going for her. I didn't think she attended the school, and I wasn't entirely sure what her background was, but she always had on the perfect outfit to go with her perfect hair and makeup. She was a magnet for attention - everyone knew her.

We were in the kitchen fixing our drinks making small talk. I decided that it wouldn't hurt to ask her.

You know what they say, it's not what you know but who you know.

"Tanya, I am in a bind and need to earn some quick money, fast. Any ideas?"

"Seriously, you're asking me?"

"Uhm, should I not?"

"Well, my job isn't all that glamorous." Truth be known, I had no idea what she did. It didn't really matter at this point. I felt confident in the fact she wouldn't lead me astray. Like I said, she appeared confident. "And working at McDonalds, or Subway, or even a place on campus won't cut it?"

"I am not asking for it to be glamorous. I just need the money. And a minimum wage job won't give me enough. I have tried applying at several places, but with the economy the way it is, no one's really hiring."

"Well, ok. How about you meet me at my job on Thursday?"

"Ok, I can do that. Where do you work?"

"Here's the address." I watched her scribble something down then she said, "Fast money?"

"Yes, that's what I need."

"Ok, meet me there. I will let my boss know you are coming."

"Great, thanks so much!"

I didn't tell Alice what I was up to. It's not that I didn't want her included in my 'new' life. I just know that her background was similar to the one I thought I had. She doesn't have to work. Her parents give her money. She is able to buy clothes from the expensive stores. My new life is drastically different.

Thursday night before I met up with Tanya, she sent me a text message.

Be sure to have a beer, or a glass of wine before you meet me.

Uhm, ok. I am underage, but what the hell. Alice was able to obtain some wine coolers from a friend of hers, so I took one of those.

Great. Now I am 'stealing'.

I drove down the street, looking for 125 S. Greene Street. At least, that is what I thought I was looking for. When I found it, I pulled into the parking lot to look at what Tanya wrote down.

Yup, 125. I am in the right place.

But, it didn't make any sense. I knew she was pretty, I just didn't think she did that to earn money. And I remembered asking for the name of the place where she worked, but I guess she never told me, or didn't want to tell me.

I downed the wine cooler.

After walking in the door, the bouncer greeted me by checking me out, making me feel very uncomfortable. I really thought I read the address wrong.

"Does Tanya work here?" I hesitantly asked.

"Tanya? What do you want with her?" He was a bit harsh.

Yup, I am definitely in the right place.

"Uhm, I am supposed to meet her here?"

"Oh, you must be La Bella." The way he enunciated my name was a way one may say it in Italian.

"My name is Bella." I corrected.

"Just have a seat at the bar. I will let Aro know you are here."

"Ok. Thanks." I hesitated.

Could I really do this? Is this what I really want?

No, it certainly isn't what you want, but it may be what you need.

I was willing to give anything a chance. But, a strip club? Now that is where I draw the line.

I think.

Since I was there, and because Tanya went out of her way to let her boss know I was coming, I decided to stick around and hear what he had to say. I would not accept a job stripping. I couldn't bring myself to do something like that. If anything, I could become a bartender, or a hostess, or something that was less revealing than a stripper.

The bartender pushed a drink my way.

"Here, drink this. You look like you can use it."

"What is it?"

"Let's just call it a virgin daiquiri."

Virgin my ass.

The thing was loaded with alcohol. But, I drank it anyway. If nothing else, I would call a taxi to come get me.

But where would the money come from?

After consuming the intoxicating drink, I observed the bartender make a call. A few moments later, I was introduced to Aro.

"Come, follow me to my office."

I did as I was instructed.

Aro's red brick-walled office was small, but more intimate than anything. He didn't have the conventional office. In place of a desk, a table was pushed up against the wall. Papers littered the glass table top. But what caught my attention was the middle of the room.

A pole? Surely he doesn't expect me to use that thing?

"Isabella?"

"Yes?"

"Please, have a seat." He motioned towards one of the stools located in the corner. He sat next to me.

"Tanya tells me your are in a bind and need a job."

"Yes, is she here? I would really like to speak with her."

"She is, you can speak to her when we are done. Now, to work here we have a few prerequisites. Some of which you have already passed - your height will do, weight is not an issue - just don't gain any more pounds..."

"Excuse me?" I interrupted, falling on deaf ears.

"...and your look is perfect, very homey. Now, the only thing left is seeing how you will act."

"Act?"

"Yes, that is what all the ladies do here. They act."

"Oh, I am certainly not an actress."

"You do need money, correct?"

"I do, I am just not an actress."

"You can learn. Did you know that you can make more than enough for tuition in just a few months?"

"I can?"

Wait, I am intrigued about a stripper position, although I shouldn't be. What the hell was in that drink anyway?

"Yes, you can. All I need for you to do, is show me how you can treat that pole over there."

"Pole?"

"Don't play dumb with me. Show me what you got."

"You want me to touch the pole?"

"Isabella? I don't have time for games. Either show me your stuff or get out of here. I have girls lined up for the next hour and I am not about to waste my time on someone who doesn't want to be here."

I decided since I was there, I would at least act the part. When I die, people can add this to my many accomplishments...

...Isabella Swan, stripper, pleasing men with the movements of her body.

And, what will my parents think of this being my new job to support college?

They won't think because they are dead!

My parents were the ones that put me in this bind. I grasped the pole, more out of spite towards them. Hesitant at first, my left hand gripped the darn thing as if it was the only thing left keeping me alive. I lowered my body down in an effort to give Mr I'm-too-good-to-show-that-I-care-Aro a show, proving to him and myself that I could do this. My right hand rested on my knee. I slowly stood and turned, my back facing him now. I bent over then looked in his direction. I saw him checking out my ass with a slight grin.

What in the hell am I doing?

I decided I would imitate Jamie Lee Curtis' character in True Lies. She had to strip for her husband although she had no idea it was him. If I could just pretend Aro was my boyfriend, then maybe I could make it through this. But I don't have a boyfriend, and he certainly would not take the place of one.

I faced him, my hand unzipping my black pants, and allowing them to drop to the ground. Standing in a white button down shirt, I slowly and seductively undid one button after another. I really played the part pretending that I was stripping for my nonexistent boyfriend. When I finally reached the last of the buttons, I opened my shirt revealing my Victoria Secret bra and panties.

At least they matched.

My right hand made its way down to my panties, my hips swaying to music I could not hear. My other hand cupped my bra covered breast.

I thought I heard him chuckle.

This is so humiliating.

I turned my back to him again, then reached behind me to unhook my bra. I let it fall to the floor. I looked behind me to see him eyeing me in an approving manner, his hand rubbing the top of jeans covering his erection. Still with my back to him, my hands clutching my panties, I began to lower them.

"Ahem." He allowed me to stop.

I turned facing him, practically naked.

"The job is yours, if you would like it. Just be here tomorrow night at 9 PM. Bring your costume."

"Uh..."

"And Isabella?"

"Yeah?"

"You need a stage name."

"Yes sir."

I quickly dressed, and walked out the door forgetting to talk to Tanya. I made it to the sidewalk at the edge of the property and found a bench. I sat down and cried. It was the first true cry since my parents death. I cried for them. I cried for the life I once had. I cried for the new life upon me. I cried because I needed to let it all out.

I heard some steps alerting me to someone approaching. I rubbed my eyes with my shirt sleeve.

"Isabella?"

"Tanya?"

"I am so sorry. I thought you knew what I did."

"No, but it's ok. I think I needed that."

"You think you needed to be treated like a whore?"

"Is that what you feel you are?"

"Sometimes. But the way that I look at it is that this is a means to an end. I want roses. I want Godiva. And I have learned over time to get what I want, I sometimes have to do things I don't want."

"That is an interesting way of putting things."

"Yeah, I know. Anyway, I know that you are feeling very... uh... exposed right about now."

"Exposed is an understatement."

"Well, if you still think you really need the money, and you don't necessarily feel comfortable working here, give this person a call." She handed me a business card.

"Jane, with V.I.C.?"

"Yes. She might be able to help you out."

"Ok. Tell Aro thanks for the offer, but no thanks."

"I will," she smiled at me. Although, there was something behind her smile. She wasn't telling me something.

The next day, I called Jane and we agreed to meet at her office after lunch. I probably should have listened to my gut when it said to google VIC, but this had to be better then becoming a stripper.

Jane greeted me warmly shaking my right hand in both of hers. She was young and her beauty spoke volumes. She exuded power and with every hair in its place, I could tell she didn't take crap. At all. From anyone.

"So, you would like to work for VIC?"

"I am interested in learning about the type of work that you do and how I would fit in."

"Tanya gave a glowing recommendation and suggested that I go easy on you. So, I am going to lay it out for you, cutting to the chase."

"Sounds good to me."

"I am always looking for new and exciting blood for my line up of girls. Some get old after a while, used even. Our regulars are very important to us and we do everything in our power to please them."

What the hell is she talking about?

"It's up to you to determine what to charge."

Charge? No No No No.

"There is the typical 80/20 split for when you have a date. But during said date, you are able to negotiate with your companion for the evening of any services."

Where did Tanya send me?

"So it's like you are setting me up on a date, that I get paid for?"

She laughed. And not a casual laugh in which we were laughing together. No, it was more of a belly laugh and it was directed at me.

"I am so sorry for that little outburst. That was incredibly rude of me. I am going to assume that Tanya did not fully explain my business model with you, did she?"

"No, I trusted her when she suggested that I give you a call..."

...as I had trusted her when she suggested I show up at a strip club.

"Then lets start at the very basics. VIC stands for Very Important Companion. I set you up with a high profile client of ours. They typically select you after reviewing our profile database. Once you are selected, you go on a 'date' with the client, but it is strictly business. You are forbidden to develop feelings for the clients, and the same goes for them. Essentially, you are their eye candy for the evening. And, if you end up in some hotel room, what you do next is up to you. And that is when the negotiating starts. Some men prefer to snuggle. Some prefer hardcore sex. You and Mr Companion will discuss what you will or won't do. It's that simple. And the money you make, is incredible."

Oh my God. I just turned down a stripper position for a fuckin' hooker job.

I didn't know what to think. I was pissed at Tanya for leading me astray. I was pissed at myself for trusting someone I hardly knew. And so, I just stared at her as I stood from my seat then walked towards the door. Before I reached it, she spoke again.

"I tell you what. I can see that you are still undecided."

Undecided my ass! The answer is Hell NO.

"I have a client that likes to meet with new girls such as yourself. From what the other girls have shared, I have learned that he typically doesn't expect sex. As a matter of fact, I don't think he has ever requested sex from the girls. I do think this would be a good opportunity for you to test the waters, so to speak. I will call him to see when he might be willing to meet with you. How does that sound?"

No sex? Maybe I can handle the no-sex guy and walk away with a little cash.

"Can I think about this? It's all so very sudden for me. I wasn't expecting this when I walked through your office doors."

"Sure, I can understand your position. But please understand mine. Should you decide not to pursue this, you must never mention my name or my company again. If you do, I will deny that we ever spoke."

"Ok."

"And Isabella? Please let me know something by the end of the day. That is plenty of time for you to decide."

I walked out of her office and ended up in my dorm room. Alice was there studying.

"Hey, where've you been? You look like you have seen a ghost."

"Nowhere. I actually think I am going to take a walk."

"Seriously? You just got here. And we haven't spoken much since..." but she didn't finish the sentence because I knew as well as she did, ever since my parents died, my relationship with Alice changed. I no longer saw her as an equal, she was now someone whose status I wanted, someone who had it all. As a result, I tried to stay out of the room as much as possible.

"I know, I promise, we will get together and hang out, soon. Saturday?" She nodded. And with that, I walked out another door.

I heard the afternoon train as it cruised by our dorm. The tracks were right next to our dorm's parking lot. For some crazy reason, I chose to 'follow' that train, even though it was long gone by the time I reached the tracks.

I walked along side of the tracks for about a half a mile and then stopped. I could either continue on the tracks across the bridge, turn around, or follow the river. I chose to continue on the tracks. Halfway across the bridge seemed like a 'great' place to sit down. In all honesty I have no idea why I chose this particular place to think. But, think I did.

I thought about my parents. They raised me to be the prefect child in their perfect world. But it was all make believe. Because of the choices they made, I was now at a point in my life to make a major decision. I was much too young to be making a decision of such magnitude. The options must be weighed.

First, I could just end it all by jumping the 50 or so feet down into the river below. But what will that accomplish? I would leave my few friends behind and join my parents. I was not ready to see them again.

I could go back home to see what I could salvage of the mess they created. But there really wasn't anything left for me in Forks. We were a small family, so there were no distant relatives. And, I didn't know who of my parents friends I could trust. So, that option was scratched.

I concluded the best decision was to start a life for myself here. The semester would be over soon, and I wouldn't be able to enroll without a job. My credit was shot because I already ran up a bunch of debt on the credit cards. Without money to pay for college, I wouldn't be returning for the spring semester.

Which led me to my next major decision. My job. Minimum wage just wouldn't cut it. Even though Tanya was a bit of a deceiving bitch, I decided that being a stripper might not be all that bad. I could go to the club, dance a little, but then I would have to fend off the drunken rednecks. Or, I could be a companion to a client and have nice dinners or outings. And when the negotiating about sex came up, I could use the excuse of being on my period. I would still earn a decent amount of money, and not sell my body. Sounds like a winner to me.

Once back in my room, I called Jane to inform her of my decision.

"Great. Why don't you come by tomorrow to sign the contract. At the end of six months, we will re-evaluate if this is the right career for you."

"Six?" I coughed out. "No way. One date maybe, but not 6 months."

"How about one month?"

"Fine."

"Good. From now on, you will be known to me and the other girls as Izzy. I personally like to keep your companion name as close to your real name, that way, you won't miss a beat when you hear it. Thank you so much for giving this career a chance and as soon as I have spoken with this important client, I will give you a call to alert you of your meeting time. Great negotiating by the way."

It was mid morning when I showed up at Jane's office. She handed me a stack of papers, most of which she said I didn't need to worry about because they were more informational on the business I was entering.

The contract itself wasn't long. Jane went over the highlights and I skimmed the rest pausing long enough to see the section titled 'Testing'. My breathing became slightly labored when studying this section.

I could get an STD by doing this! AIDS! Or even pregnant!

Jane pulled me out of my trance and said, "I am assuming you are looking at the Testing section. Every one of you girls stop skimming at the same point then scrutinize the hell out of the rest of the document. Look, it's not like you are truly signing up to contract something. Use your brain, and a condom, should sex be a part of the evening. You will need to go to a clinic to get tested, today, and then again every three months."

I have had sex with a couple of guys, and even though they were protected, it probably wouldn't hurt to get tested.

"And frankly, Izzy, I don't know what sexual experiences you've had prior to applying for this position. I don't know how many guys you have been with and to be honest, that is really none of my concern. What is my concern is a client contracting gonorrhea and bringing my whole business down. Understand?"

"Ok" I nervously respond.

After signing the contract, I walked out of her office and questioned what I had done. I was a disgrace to myself and to my family. Wait, what family? They were the ones that disgraced me. They were the ones that ultimately pushed me to this job.

I made my way to the clinic she recommended and got tested.

Friday afternoon, Jane called and informed me that the client we spoke about was free on Saturday evening. She informed me that I should dress in a black evening gown and sit at the bar located in the Four Seasons hotel.

"Izzy, do me proud. I know you will fit in with this lifestyle. Remember what I said about this client. Treat him with respect and call me when you return home, no matter how late."

"Yes ma'am. Goodbye." As I hung up the phone, Alice reminded me of our girls night out on Saturday night.

"Oh, no, Alice. I completely forgot," I lied. I didn't forget, I just didn't want to disappoint the client or Jane.

"Rosalie is gonna be pissed! And, what's so much more important than hanging with your two bestie's? A guy?"

"You have no idea," I tried to play it off. "And, I know Rosie will not be happy, but please, let me take a rain check."

"Fine this is your one pass, but you are joining us next time - no ifs, ands, or buts."

"Agreed. And thanks for not coming down on me too hard. I am still going through a bunch of shit right now."

"I understand, but I can't promise that Rosie won't throw a few verbal punches your way the next time she sees you," Alice joked, but I didn't think it was funny. Again, I lied to her by laughing it off.

Saturday came and I began to get ready for the evening. I was lucky I had a black dress. It was almost too formal, but the bar where I would be meeting this man was a bit classy so my formal attire would fit. At least Alice had already left the room so I wouldn't have to explain my choice in clothing.

The room was busy, but the bar itself was empty since everyone chose to sit at the tables. I was very uncomfortable sitting by myself. I had no one to talk to and no one to talk me out of what I was about to do. And no one to look out for me. I was utterly alone.

"He'll show up." The bartender confirmed.

"Excuse me?"

"The man you are waiting for."

"How do you know I am waiting for someone?"

"Because about once a month a beautiful girl such as yourself wears a black dress, similar to what you have on, looking nervous as hell, just like you. Then he shows up. It's always the same guy. Here, drink this. On the house." He passes me a glass of red Merlot.

"I am not ol...nevermind."

Was I about to pass on free wine by telling him I am underage? Sheesh.

"That's what I thought. Just relax."

Does this guy seriously know why I am here?

I think I am going to be sick.

No you aren't, you can do this!

Just as I finish the glass, a tall gorgeous man, dressed in a fancy suit and tie, pulled the chair out next to me and said, "I believe you have been expecting me. I apologize for running a tad bit late." I stood to shake his hand but he pulled me into a hug. It's the type of hug I couldn't quite explain. Certainly not a sexual hug... not an acquaintance hug. Brotherly? Maybe. But before I could officially identify the type of hug I received, he spoke again.

His smile reaching up to his luscious green eyes, staring straight into mine, instantly comforting me as he said, "My name is Edward Cullen."