I'll only post this disclaimer once; it applies for all subsequent chapters:

Stephenie Meyer owns any Twilight characters that may appear in this story. No copyright infringement is intended. The remainder is my original work. Please do not post it elsewhere without my express permission.

WhatsMyNomdePlume graciously betas this for me.


I can hear the music from out in the parking lot of the Gaslight Lounge, and it just feeds into the adrenaline running through me. I'm humming with energy and anticipation. I want to get inside where it's dark and loud. I want to drink. Maybe meet a girl. I want to feel this tense anticipation, this easy euphoria, all night long and it's all about making it last.

Jasper slams the driver's side door shut and rounds the back of the car. We fall into step beside each other. We're both walking a little faster than normal, in a hurry to get in there and get started. In a hurry to get to tonight and all its endless possibilities. He flashes me a sideways grin and I know he's thinking that, too.

We pause at the door to flash our i.d.'s and then we're inside. We don't come here too often. We're more about the bars, and there is one that's closer to our apartment that we usually hit. But lately it's been an endless cycle of the same tired faces, the same worn-out conversations, the same stupid music playing on the jukebox in the corner. The pool of eligible women that hang out there has been completely depleted. If we spend any more nights there, one of us is going to do something we regret, with someone really unfortunate, just out of sheer boredom and lack of options.

We've been here before, but not often, so the possibility of something new and different is strong. It's more of a club than a bar—it's darker, the music's louder and there's dancing, even this early. Not exactly my scene, but at least it's a break from the usual.

Once we're inside, we stand off to the edge of the dance floor for a few minutes and just look around. It's Saturday night, so it's packed already. I see a few familiar faces; girls that have come into the bookstore where I work, or girls that I've seen around town, out on other nights in other bars. Jasper elbows me once and tips his head towards a girl across the room, Maria, who he was hooking up with for a couple of weeks last year. Crazy. We both make a note to avoid her at all costs.

I make eye contact with a few girls, pretty ones. Everywhere I look, I see long, loose hair and bare shoulders, short skirts and high heels. I feel a thrill of anticipation, hoping that if I play my cards right, the night might end in lots of skin-on-skin with one of them. It's been forever since I got laid.

We turn away from the dance floor and head to the bar, which stretches for half of the wall on the far right side of the building. It's packed, two and three bodies deep, and I'm reminded why we usually spend our time at our neighborhood bar. I hate scenes like this.

Jasper elbows his way through and I squeeze into his wake, shrugging out of my jacket, since it's too warm in here for it. A flashy redhead in front of us finally gets her drink and spins away from the bar, almost colliding with me. Some of her drink splashes out on my arm.

"Oh, fuck! Sorry." She laughs, drunk or on her way to it. She reaches out and rubs her hand up and down on my forearm, not doing a thing to get rid of the vodka cranberry she spilled on me. I'm going to have to go to the bathroom and wash it off or it's going to get all sticky when it dries.

"It's cool," I say, making to move around her into the space she left at the bar.

"Such a waste," she says, this time her voice is lower and sexy. I pause to give her a once-over. She's tall. In her heels, she's almost as tall as me. She's pretty enough but it's all a little overdone and obvious. There are light freckles under her makeup that say the red hair is real, but the color is chemically amplified and almost garish. It's a curly cloud that reaches halfway down her back. She's got that kind of hair that inevitably invades other people's personal space, which kind of creeps me out. On the other hand, it's not a deal-breaker. Like her hair and her makeup, her clothes are pretty obvious. Tight, revealing, advertising all she's got on offer.

She's still rubbing her hand up and down my arm, her nails scraping lightly on each pass. I look down at her nails then up at her. She's got her chin tucked in and she's giving me her very practiced sexy stare. As I lock eyes with her, the tip of her tongue snakes out and swipes across her bottom lip.

I open my mouth to respond to the obvious signals she's sending me when Jasper elbows me hard in the side.

"Edward, what are you drinking?" he shouts over the din of the bar.

I turn to answer since he's finally gotten the attention of the bartender and if I miss him, I could be waiting forever for another chance to order.

Except the bartender is not a him. It's a her. She's got her hands spread wide and braced on the bar, watching me expectantly. She's small, dwarfed behind the wide, heavy wood of the bar. Her long brown hair is swept off her pale face with a thin dark band. As I stare back at her, her dark eyes flick to the redhead still gripping my arm. The corner of her mouth hitches up a tiny bit and her right eyebrow cocks. She's really cute.

"You drinking? Because if you're not, thirty other people are waiting."

"Ahh…" I fumble in my head for a second. "Vodka tonic," I finally spit out. I don't know where that came from. I drink beer. Bottled imports. I guess it was the smell of the redhead's drink that made me say vodka. Whatever. The cute brunette wordlessly retrieves a glass from under the bar and spins on her heel to grab the vodka off the glass shelf behind her.

"So," the redhead says, still trying to engage me. Her voice is really close to my ear and she smells strongly of alcohol already. "You here with anybody? Your girlfriend or something?"

My eyes glance over her—over the cleavage she's pressing up against my bicep, and over her tongue licking her lips again. This would be easy. So easy. I glance over to Jasper. He's staring down at the bar, but the huge shit-eating grin on his face tells me he's heard and seen this whole exchange. As I try and make up my mind about what I'm going to do here, the bartender, that pretty, dark-haired girl, reappears in front of me. She whips out a cocktail napkin and sets my drink down on it with a snap and says, "Seven dollars," without even glancing up. She wipes her hands on a bar towel and her hair falls forward in front of her shoulders.

She's completely disconnected, not paying me an ounce of attention, but it doesn't matter because I've made up my mind. As I reach for my wallet, I lean towards the redhead and talk into to her ear so she can hear me.

"I came with my buddy. His girlfriend just dumped him so we're gonna hang. You get it, right?"

Understanding blooms across her face. "Oh, sure. I get it. But hey," She trails off and starts digging in her little purse for something. I look back to the bartender. She's looking at me now, all impatient to get her money so she can move on. The redhead has fished a pen out of her bag. Then, much to my horror, she leans across me and slides my drink off the cocktail napkin, sloshing a bunch of it across the bar in the process. As she's scrawling her number across it, and pressing her torso across my chest, the bartender gives me one brief, annoyed side-eye before wiping down the bar with her towel. I plop a ten on the counter right next to her hand and try to shoot her a smile, but she doesn't look up. In seconds, both she and the money are gone.

The redhead straightens up and tucks the wadded-up napkin in the pocket of my shirt and gives it a little pat. "For later." She gives me a drunk, bleary smile that I think is supposed to be sexy and then she wobbles away.

Jasper's head is hanging down and his shoulders are shaking with silent laughter.

"Shut up, man. Now I reek of that chick's perfume. And she spilled her drink on me. Then she spilled my drink."

"But she was so into you!" Jasper says, doing this fake-sigh and an eyeroll. I laugh and elbow him. He busts himself up laughing, which gets me going. Just then, Cute Brunette is back with my change. She slides three ones across the bar in my general direction, eyes elsewhere, face vacant.

"Hey, thanks," I say, a little too loud and forcefully, just to make sure she hears me. She startles a little and looks up, puzzled. I push the change from my drink back towards her for a tip. She doesn't say anything, she just tips her head in a little nod of acknowledgement before taking the change and turning back to the wall of shoving customers.

I smile at her back as she goes. The person to my right has vacated the barstool and I slide onto it, leaning forward on my elbows to watch Cute Brunette walk away. When I glance back to Jasper, he's staring at me and not laughing anymore.


"Seriously?" he says.


"The bartender? You're gonna waste your time on the bartender?"

"She's cute."

"Yeah, she is. She's also the bartender."


"So… everybody knows hitting on the bartender is like whistling in the wind."

"Oh, yeah? Everybody does, huh?"

Jasper scoffs. "Bartenders have heard it all. Every lame and brilliant pick-up line there is, and all the ones in between. They've heard them delivered by bastards way smoother than you. And they hear it all the time. Absolutely nobody ever gets anywhere with the bartender. Don't waste your time."

The bartender in question is about ten feet away, taking an order. Her hands are already busy, flipping a highball glass upright and reaching for the seltzer nozzle, even as she listens to the request. Her movements are quick and practiced, assured, no wasted energy, no fumbling. I like watching her.

"Maybe I want to waste my time."

Jasper blows his breath out in a disgusted huff and settles back on the barstool next to mine, which just vacated. "Fine. At least we have seats."

I grin and take a long swig of my drink. I want to down it fast, both to feel a little looser, but also to have an excuse to call her back over to me. That drunk redhead spilled a lot of it, so it doesn't take too long. Jasper is laughing under his breath when I slide my empty glass across the bar and lean forward to get her attention.

She sees me flag her and lifts her chin, to let me know that she saw me, before finishing up her order. Maybe I'm imagining it, but I think she comes to wait on me quicker than she has for a lot of these other losers.

"What can I get for you?" she asks, hands planted on her hips. She's smiling now, which is nice, but it's a practiced, professional smile, all polite and distant. I think for just a second. If I switch over to my usual beer, all she'll do is pop the top and leave.

"Another vodka tonic, please. With lime," I say with a smile. I look straight at her as I do it, holding her eyes just a little longer than I would for any regular bartender. I see a flash of something in her face, an awareness, and her smile slips a little.

"You got it," she says, ducking her head and getting to work.

"Sorry about that earlier."

"Excuse me?" She glances up.

"That chick who spilled my drink all over your bar. Sorry for the mess."

That hint of a smile at the corner of her mouth returns. "Oh. Spilled drinks pretty much come with the territory."

"Yeah, I guess they would, huh?"

Her hands have been busy mixing my drink. She straightens up and starts to put down a fresh cocktail napkin, but I hold up my hand to stop her. She looks up at me in surprise. I pull the wadded up one out of my pocket, the one with the redhead's number scribbled on it, and plop it down on the counter. It lands in a ring of condensation and immediately the numbers start to go blurry. I look back up at Cute Brunette, who's still looking at me, now with a little more curiosity. She doesn't look away, she just sets my drink down square in the middle of the napkin, where it obliterates what's left of the number. I smile at her, never looking away from her eyes, which are brown and really nice. She responds with a tiny smile, just her lips curling up a little, but it's genuine, and it's just between her and me.

"Seven dollars," she says softly.

I reach for my wallet, keeping my eyes on her. I slide my credit card across the bar. "You'd better open a tab for me."

She reaches for it and I hang onto it for just a second, our fingers close enough to touch. Then I let it go and she slides it away. She heads to the register without looking back up. The last thing I should be doing is running up a bunch of shit on my credit card, but fuck it. I'm enjoying this.

I settle in to chat some with Jasper. It amazes me that after spending all week in the same apartment, Jasper and I can still find shit to talk about for an entire night out too. I keep one eye on Cute Brunette and he keeps one eye on the rest of the bar, looking for possibilities. The dance floor gets crowded, which means the bar empties out some, giving us a little breathing space. Jasper strikes up brief conversations with a couple of girls waiting for drinks, but nothing seems to be going anywhere.

I'm ready to talk to Cute Brunette some more, but my drink is still three-quarters full. If I down it as fast as I want to, I'll be too drunk to be of much good.

"Watch my seat," I tell Jasper as I slide off my stool. I head to the bathroom and dump my drink in the sink. As I return to the bar, I catch Cute Brunette's eye at the end farthest from us and raise my empty glass. She sees me almost immediately and nods in understanding. She's aware of me. Like, really aware, which is good, I'm thinking.

She shows up in front of me almost as soon as I sit down.

"Another," I say.

"Thirsty," she says.

I smile and shrug. She takes my empty glass from me with one hand and wads up the wet cocktail napkin, the one with the redhead's phone number with the other. It makes me chuckle a little and she smiles, too. She starts making my drink.

"Worked here long?" I ask. It's a lame opener, but I can't think of a better one.

She shrugs, eyes on my drink. "Long enough."

"I've been in here before and I don't remember seeing you."

"Guess you missed me. I'm part time."

"Student?" It's a fair guess. We're near the campus and she looks young enough. Her eyes flit up to mine, assessing, then back down.

"Grad school."

She's finished my drink and sets it down, sliding it across to me. I reach out to grab it and manage to brush her fingers just as she pulls her hand back. She keeps her eyes down and grabs for the bar towel, wiping her hands.

"I'm Edward," I tell her. She looks back up, surprised that I'm going there, that I'm attempting this. There's a kind of bored wariness to her face, and I know Jasper's right. She must get this day in and day out from guys at the bar. If I'm going to succeed, I'll need to be persistent.

"Hi," she says with her fake polite smile again.

I roll my eyes and drop my shoulders. "Now comes the part where you tell me your name."

She smiles, and it's more genuine now, and shakes her head a little, turning to move away.

"'Cause I've been calling you Cute Brunette in my head all night. Your real name has got to be better than that. Unless it's Mildred or something, and then I'd recommend that you just stick with Cute Brunette."

She turns back, still smiling, which I'm taking as a good sign. She watches me for another second, like she's trying to gauge something. I grin back, trying to appear as winning and harmless as I can manage.

"Bella," she finally says.

"Nice to meet you, Bella."

"This," she waves a hand between us, "is not meeting. This is business."

I cock an eyebrow at her. "Noted. Guess I'll have to stick around until business is done, then, so I can meet you for real."

She shakes her head and turns away.

"So you're really all in on this one?" Jasper asks at my side, watching Bella go.

"Yup. All in."

He shakes his head. "Your funeral. Guess you won't mind if I see what else I can shake loose tonight?"

"Go. Just text me if you wanna leave."

He nods and disappears into the crowd. I sip my drink and watch Bella work. I watch her talk and interact with the other customers and try and get a read on her. She's blowing me off, I know that much, but I'm also pretty sure that there's a spark there. There's at least a little attraction, whether or not she's going to let herself act on it. I just need to chip away at her resistance until she does.

I leave my jacket across my stool, hoping that nobody steals my seat while I go dump another seven dollars worth of vodka down the sink.

I wait a few minutes after I sit back down to call her over. She's smirking as she approaches me.

"How much more of our vodka do you plan on throwing out?"

I grin at her. "Busted. But I'm paying for it, so it's my vodka now. I can pour it where I want, right?"

She shrugs. "It's your money. I guess so." She starts making me another drink.

"I'm not made of it, though. You could make this a lot easier on me by just talking to me."

She laughs out loud. Not a lot, but it's real. "I'm working."

"I see that. But when you're not…"


"Come talk to me."

She levels me with a look, no laughing now. "What do you want?"

I look back, just long enough for her to start squirming. I give her a long, slow smile and cock an eyebrow at her. "You really want me to answer that now?"

Her eyes go wide and she stills. I take in every detail. Her breathing picks up, her chest rising and falling with each inhale. Her nostrils flare slightly. That definitely had an effect on her.

Out of my peripheral vision, I see someone leaning over the bar to get her attention. "I have to go," she mutters, turning away quickly.

"Come back before I have to dump another perfectly good drink."

I sip my drink and wait. About fifteen minutes later, there's a lull. Another bartender has come on duty and it's not as busy. I watch her look up and down the bar for anyone waving at her. No one is. She wipes her hands on a bar towel, then she wipes down the counter. She checks the levels on the kegs and the soda dispenser. She checks all the liquor bottles on the shelf behind her. She gets a new bottle of Jack Daniel's down. She does a quick count of glasses and calls for one of the bus boys to bring her more. She checks again for patrons.

Then she glances at me.

I smile.

She drops her head and chuckles a little before slowly making her way down to me. She makes a show of checking the garnish tray, but since it's near me, it works out quite well.

"So…" she says.

"Hi," I reply. "How's your night?"

"It's okay, except there's this one pushy patron. Total stalker."

"Show me where and I'll kick his ass," I say with a smirk.

"No worries. I'm more than capable of taking care of myself."

"I'm sure you are."

"You bet I am."

"Okay." I exhale, leaning back on my stool, "Now that you've warned me of your ninja-like self-defense skills, can we talk? You're not going to break my wrists or something, right?"

She laughs. "Not if you stay over there where you belong."

"Consider me warned."

"So what do you want to talk about?"


She gives me a bored look. "This was your idea. I'm not doing all the conversational heavy lifting."

"So what are you getting your degree in?" Seems safe and impersonal enough that she might answer. If I can get her started talking, maybe I can keep her going.

"Comparative Literature."

"And you work here outside school?"

"Yeah. What do you do? You know, when you're not creeping on innocent bartenders just trying to do their jobs."

"I work in a bookstore. See? Perfectly respectable."

Her eyebrows shoot up, the first sign of genuine interest I've seen in her tonight. "Really? Like Barnes and Noble?"

"Ah, no. A little independent place near campus. Sunset Books."

She turns to face me fully, all her manufactured busy work momentarily forgotten. "You work there?"

"Yeah. I just said I did. Why?"

"So you know the owner, then?"

She's testing me—I get it. She's making sure I'm not really some stalker creep who's trying to worm his way in with her. Jesus, do I look like a stalker creep? I don't think so, but I make a mental note to reassess my haircut tomorrow.

"Carlisle? Sure. I know his wife, Esme, too. Wait… have you been there?"

She nods. "Now and then. He special orders stuff for me sometimes."

"Really? How is it that I've never seen you?"

"Bad timing, I guess. I don't get over there too often. I usually order stuff online. But I like the store and it's better to spend my money there than Amazon, you know?"

"Yeah, I know. The store is great." It's blowing my mind that she's been in the bookstore, that she knows Carlisle. She said he's ordered stuff for her. That means I've probably handled her orders myself at some point. "Small world, huh?"


We look at each other for a second, and the distance between us suddenly feels much smaller. From the look on her face, I'm thinking she feels that way too. Then somebody waves and calls to her and she snaps out of it. She leaves to go fill their order without another glance.

I nurse my drink for real this time, letting the vodka loosen my joints and fuzz my thinking just a little. Jasper comes back over to get another drink and Bella comes to take his order but doesn't linger.

"How's it going?"

I shrug. "We're talking."

"God, that's so hot."

"Shut the fuck up."

He busts up.

"What are you up to? You've been gone a while."

Now he shrugs. "Maria."

"Jesus, are you crazy? I thought the plan was to avoid her at all costs."

"Whatever. She's single again. She seems kinda chill now. Anyway, we're just talking."

Bella appears with Jasper's beers.

"Bella," I say, "This is my roommate, Jasper. Jasper, Bella."

"Hey," she says with a little smile. I like being able to introduce her like that. It makes me feel like I have an in with her, like I've made some progress.

Jasper smiles in return and throws some money down for his beers. "Nice to meet you, Bella. Maria is waiting for these, so I'd better go."

I snort behind my hand. He elbows me hard and leaves.

"What was that about?" Bella asks.

"Just… Jasper's wandering back down a road best not traveled."

Bella raises her eyebrows at my cryptic shit but doesn't comment. "You ready for another?"

I nod. She starts to make it. "So what time are you done tonight?"

"Why do you want to know?"

I laugh. "Why the hell do you think?"

She sets a fresh drink in front of me. "I think you're getting way too far ahead of yourself."

I hold my hands up in front of me. "Hey, I'd just like a chance to introduce myself, since according to you, this doesn't count and we're still strangers."

She ignores my attempt at a joke and keeps on. "So you're just going to hang out here until closing and follow me home or some shit? You know my dad's a cop, right?"

"I didn't know that, but all your ninja fighting skills make more sense now. I'm just going to hang out here and talk to you. I won't go anywhere I'm not invited."

"You won't be."

"Why are you so sure?"

"Why are you so sure?"

"I'm not sure. I'm optimistic. There's a difference."

Bella shakes her head and wipes down the bar, which seems like some sort of automatic reflex for her when she's nervous. "I have no idea why you'd feel optimistic."

I lean forward on my elbows. She's caught off-guard and doesn't immediately back up. "It's simple. I'm attracted to you. A lot. And I'm pretty sure you're attracted to me, too."

She blinks once, barely breathing. Then, without a word, she turns and stalks off down the bar. I curse under my breath. That was a total failure. I mean, she's attracted to me, I've figured that much out, but Jasper's right; her defenses are dug in deep. At this point, though, I've spent most of my night sitting at this bar flirting with her. My only alternative is to give up and go home, which is unappealing. So I'll sit and wait till closing.

Twenty minutes later, Jasper texts me.

Heading out soon. You coming?-J

No, staying -E

Suit yourself -J

I chuckle. If this all blows up in my face, I'll just call a cab, or walk. It's not all that far to our apartment. Either way, I'm committed.

She avoids me for most of the next hour. She keeps her eyes averted and deals with the patrons at the other end of the bar. I even resort to dumping out my drink in the bathroom again, but when I try and flag her down for a refill, the other bartender, a short blond guy, steps in to wait on me.

The short blond guy seems to have as much of a problem as I do keeping his eyes off Bella. She smoothly skirts both me and him, but it's pretty obvious he's trying to engage her in chit-chat whenever things get slow. She smiles and gives him brief answers before moving away to another part of the bar. Watching the little dance she does around him is actually kind of amusing. Eventually, she's more desperate to avoid him than me, which gets her back in my orbit again.

She's refilling the garnish tray near me, eyes fixed on her hands.

"Don't be mad," I say.


"I was just being honest. I figured you'd appreciate that."

She closes her eyes and blows out a huge breath. "I do appreciate it," she says. "But you… I don't do this."

"Don't do what?"

She turns and leans on the bar and she's there again. Not the brusque polite professional. Her.

She waves a hand at me. "This. Cute boys in bars. I don't do this. Don't get me wrong, I have before. But yeah… I'm a grown-up now and I've had enough of the charm and the swagger and the empty flattery. I've seen it all and I've heard it all and it just isn't going to work on me. You're not going to sweep me off my feet."

I lean forward, just watching her for a second. "Unless you want to be swept."


I shrug. "Unless you want it, too. You're allowed to want it, you know."

She opens her mouth to respond, but nothing comes out. She snaps it closed again, looking flustered, out of sorts, pissed.

"You ready for a refill yet?" she finally says, pointing at my glass.

"No, actually. Your friend over there hooked me up."

She rolls her eyes. "Mike."

"Yeah, Mike. He seems nice."

She snorts dismissively. "Very."


"Look, I have to get back to work."

"You do that. I'm just going to sit here and drink my drink."

"You do that."

"I will."


After that, we don't really talk much. But she's hovering. Every now and then she looks up and catches me watching her and she doesn't look away. Her façade of impersonal politeness seems to shift slightly. She chews on her bottom lip and it's like I can see the wheels turning in her head. She's thinking about it.

At last call, she finally heads in my direction with my credit card and the slip for me to sign. I do, and then I push it back towards her.

"So was it worth it? All that liquor you poured down the drain?"

She grabs the credit card slip and I brush my fingers over the back of hers. I don't grab her or linger, I just touch. "I don't know yet."

She rolls her eyes, but there's a ghost of a smile now and she doesn't snap at me.

"Hey, Bella, don't leave until I close out the register," the other bartender, Mike, suddenly calls out.

She turns to look at him over her shoulder in surprise. "What? Why? I'm not closing."

Mike shifts his weight. "Just… I don't want you walking out to your car alone. It's not safe. Just wait for me and I'll walk you out."

I sense my opening and I walk right through it. "It's cool," I say, loud, so he can hear me. "I'm heading out, too, so I'll make sure she gets to her car okay."

Bella's head whips around to look at me and I just smile.

"Who are you?" Mike asks, too surprised to even pretend to be polite.

I turn to look at him, just a little bit challenging. "I'm Edward. Bella knows me from work."

I look back at her to see if she's going to contradict me. Her eyes flicker between me and Mike. That guy must be some kind of serious creep because suddenly she shrugs dismissively and decides I'm the better option.

"It's cool, Mike. Edward can walk me out. I'll see you on Monday."

He stands there staring but he can't argue without showing his hand, so he doesn't. I'm resisting the urge to grin like a madman. I stand up and wait with my hands stuffed in my pockets, the picture of casual nonchalance, as Bella retrieves her jacket and purse from under the bar.

"You ready to go?" I ask her as she lifts the pass-through and ducks under.

She turns her back to Mike and hisses at me. "What the hell? What about your friend, anyway?"

"He left."

"How are you getting home then?"

"Remains to be seen."

She shakes her head and slips past me. I follow her through the bar and out the door. There are still patrons scattered across the parking lot, standing around their cars, not ready to let go of the night just yet. She leads me through the lot and around the left-hand corner of the building. We almost run into a couple folded around each other, making out in the dark. Bella stops short and I almost run into her. I put a hand out on her waist to steady her a little.

"Sorry," she mutters to the couple, skirting around them with her head down. "You really are something," she says, turning her head to look at me over her shoulder, her voice lighter. "Do you make a habit out of this? I mean, is this how you meet girls? And I have to know, does it ever actually work?"

We're crossing the employee lot now. It's dark, and mostly empty. Mike was right—she really shouldn't be out here alone. There's an old white Toyota Camry by itself across the lot that Bella seems to be heading for.

I sigh. "No. Actually, you should know, I don't make a habit out of this. So I guess I don't know if it actually works or not. That's for you to decide."

She groans. "Why do you keep saying stuff like that? How am I supposed to… You never stop, do you?" Her head is down as she fishes her keys out of her bag. We're nearly to her car now.

"Not when I want something."

Her steps falter a little and she drops her keys. "Shit," she mutters, and freezes in her tracks. I stop and lean down to scoop them up. She doesn't turn to face me or even look at me. I hold her keys out to her side. Slowly, she reaches out and her fingers close around them. I twist my hand until it closes around hers. Her shoulders drop.


There's a long, low sigh as she breathes out, then she half-turns towards me. I don't let go of her hand. I brush my thumb back and forth over her knuckles.

"Yeah?" she says, but she doesn't look at me. Her eyes are on my hand wrapped over hers. I can feel how tightly she's gripping her keys.

"Can you disengage those ninja defenses for just a second?"


"I just want to try one thing. Then you're free to tell me to fuck off. Or you can gouge my eyes out with your keys, because I can feel that you've got them all properly aligned in your hand to do it just like your cop dad taught you."

She smiles a little then and so do I. "What is it?" she whispers, even though I'm pretty sure she knows what I'm about to do.

"I want to kiss you."

I pause, for just a second, to wait for her response. She doesn't say anything. She doesn't move a muscle. So I lean in and brush my mouth against hers. Not even a kiss yet, just the suggestion of one. I press in, pulling her bottom lip between mine just a little, before I release her.

I don't straighten back up, I just hover, my face inches from hers. Her eyes are closed as she pulls in a shaky breath. She opens them and her eyes find mine. She's still not pulling away.

So I lean in again. Another brush. Then a kiss, a real one, my lips pressed to hers. I take it so slow, mouth closed, just a gentle caress of lips on lips. Seconds later, I feel her respond, a whisper of movement under my mouth. Heat explodes in my chest, but still I restrain. I don't grab her. I'm not even touching any part of her but her hand and her mouth. Gently, slowly, I rub my lips across hers. I pull at her top lip, I press, I kiss the corner of her mouth. She starts to kiss back. Her lips slip against mine.

I open just a little and I can feel her breath in my mouth. Jesus, she tastes good and she feels good and I want this girl so badly that I think I might go out of my mind. Her mouth opens, too, and now there's no mistaking the give-and-take. I'm not pressing an advantage. I'm kissing her, and she's kissing me back.

I bring my free hand up to cup her face and tilt her head. She leans into me and I take a step towards her, closing the space I'd left between us. I let go of her hand and find her hip, fitting her up against me.

The kiss spirals on. I lick her bottom lip and she kisses harder. I slip in to find her tongue with mine. I groan; she sighs. I slide my hand back into her hair, gripping the back of her neck so I can make this deeper, more intense. No more exploring, nothing tentative. Her hands are on my shoulders, hanging on. Her body is pressed against mine. I step forward again and her back is against the side of her car. Her hand slides up the side of my neck, cupping my jaw, then back until her fingers are in my hair. It feels good. All of it feels so fucking good.

We break the kiss and I move to her cheek, the little hollow under her jaw, her neck. I cradle the back of her head with my palm as she bares her neck to me.

"Come home with me," I whisper into her skin.

She groans, a low sexy sound of frustration, and her fingers twist into the hair on the back of my head. I smile into her neck and lick her before pressing my lips to the wet, salty spot under her ear.

"Ughh," she sighs. I scrape my teeth along her neck on my way back up to her mouth, and she murmurs, almost to herself, "You're such a good kisser and you're so damned… pretty, and it's been so long…."

I shut her up with my mouth, hoping that another good five minute kiss will make up her mind. She's eager now, and we're all over each other with lips and tongues. Her hands fist into my hair and I pin her body between mine and the car. I press my hips against hers, digging my fingers into her ass to hold her there.

Her head drops back a little. I don't relent, kissing her earlobe, the corner of her jaw, her temple, her cheek. I press my lips against hers again, but soft. I brush them back and forth, hoping she's imagining the feel of my mouth on other parts of her body, because I am.

I move to kiss her cheek and whisper to her, "I'll make it so good for you. I promise I will."

She groans again, her eyes closed tight. "You are one smooth motherfucker."

I kiss her bottom lip, then the edge of her mouth. "I promise," I repeat.

She sighs, a long shuddering breath of air across my neck. "Get in the car."



Thanks to MsTallulahBelle and JLPinNYC for pre-reading this chapter and patting me on the head and telling me it didn't suck.

MsTallulahBelle made me a pretty banner for the story, which you can see on my profile.

WhatsMyNomdePlume came up with the nifty title for me.

This won't be very long. Maybe twelve chapters?

Thanks for reading.