All plot lines, backgrounds and details belong to the author. No copying or reproduction of this work in any language is permitted without the express written authorization of the author. Stephenie Meyer owns all things Twilight. Feb. 2011.

Welcome to the collaboration account between Carson1 and MizzezPattinson. You can also check out our personal accounts (Links on our profile page). This is our second collaboration together, our other fic Of Mustangs & Men can be found on Twilighted.

Thank you to the wonderful Coachlady1, our amazing beta. Check out her story, A Life Contrived. XO BB

Many thanks to our Twilighted beta xrxdanixrx. Go read her newest fic Washed Up. Much love, hun!

So, here we are, back with another fic inspired by real life events. It's not the type of story you are used to seeing from us. We're going to a darker place than normal at times, with themes that may be upsetting to some.

A Texas themed restaurant, a woman trying to find herself, and a man who doesn't want complications.

Come. Join us to see what happens, Down At The Lone Star.

Chapter 1

Bella

A breakup is supposed to be final. Kind of like a death, in a way. You should be able to close one door and open another without the first one coming back to hit you in the ass. I suppose for some people, it's like that. I'm, unfortunately, not one of those people.

I carry things around for a long time, wondering, analyzing, and debating with myself on what I could have done differently. In this case, I know I let it go on for too long. Fear of the unknown makes you do stupid things, stupid things that an otherwise intelligent and independent person would not normally do under different circumstances.

To be fair, the circumstances in this case were devastating-the unexpected loss of my father to a heart attack. He died doing the one thing he loved most in the world-fishing with his best friend. Being the daughter of a police officer, I've always had it in the back of my mind that some random person could come to the door and tell me my father has died in the line of duty. You don't expect that person to be your boyfriend, the alleged love of your life. You aren't prepared for those words to leave his mouth. And you sure as fuck aren't prepared for the numbness that takes over in the weeks and months that follow.

As darkness took over my life, so did Jake. I was unable to make a single decision about my father's funeral. Jake and Billy made all the arrangements. I couldn't decide what to wear to the service. I just stood in front of my closet and stared blankly at the clothes on the hangers, seeing nothing, feeling nothing, wanting nothing more than to wake up from the nightmare. I vaguely remember Jake pulling out a long, black, depressing dress and helping me put it on.

In the days that followed, I went where he told me, slept when he said I should, and ate what he put in front of me. He told me to sell the house, and I did. I couldn't even contemplate trying to figure out bills and mortgage payments. I was having enough trouble just trying to get up in the morning.

I moved in with Jake and Billy as soon as the house was sold and promptly became the equivalent of a maid. I welcomed it gladly at the time. Keeping busy was a good thing. I made meals. I scrubbed floors. I shopped for groceries from a list that Jake made. I helped Billy when he needed me to. I had sex with Jake when he wanted it. I was content to be numb.

That cycle went on for weeks until one day, while staring at but not registering the Mariner's game, it dawned on me that I was missing my final year of university. I didn't know what day it was. I didn't even know what month it was. I didn't know how I'd become a doormat. I only knew I didn't like it.

I distinctly remember the exact moment when the numbness wore off. Jake was sitting in his old, brown, tattered chair, his feet up on the coffee table, his eyes glued to the game. He barked an order at me to bring him a beer. He didn't even look at me.

"I'm supposed to be at school," I had said.

"Aw, Bells, we need you here. School can wait. It'll always be there. Are we out of beer?" He spoke the words without tearing his eyes from the flat screen.

"I need to go to school. I need to finish my thesis." My voice sounded harsh and alive, and it made me feel like I was in control for the first time in a long time.

He had narrowed his eyes, but still didn't divert them from the screen. It was apparently more important than I was. "It's the top of ninth, here. Can we talk about this later?" He actually sounded pissed off that I was interrupting a stupid baseball game.

"No, we can't. I want to talk about it now."

From there, things went from bad to worse. The emotions I'd kept bottled up inside exploded full force-there was screaming and yelling, followed by more screaming. He accused me of not appreciating the fact that they'd taken me in. I reminded him that he was the one who wanted me to sell Charlie's house.

He accused me of trying to break up our home. I laughed at him. This wasn't our home. A home is supposed to be alive and filled with memories you want to keep.

He insinuated that I was having an affair, which was ridiculous. He knew where I was every waking and non-waking minute.

And then, in the middle of his insane accusations, it dawned on me. He was trying to keep me here... to guilt me into staying. It's not as if I didn't love Jake. I did. He was my first love, and he'd been there for me when I'd desperately needed someone. But somewhere in between the funeral and the Mariner's game, our relationship had changed.

We'd fallen into a dangerous cycle of monotony. Breakfast cooked and served promptly each morning. Dishes washed and cleaned. House vacuumed and de-cluttered. Errands for Billy completed. Dinner put into the oven then eaten. TV turned on and left to fill the gaping silence between us.

I couldn't remember the last time he'd asked my opinion on something. I just followed instructions and did what he told me to. That was not the person my father devoted his life to raising. I've always been quiet and conservative, enjoying an evening of reading over spending time at ridiculous parties where too much alcohol tended to lead to regrets in the morning. In high school, people called me stuck-up, bitchy, even, because I didn't socialize with the in crowd. I actually think Charlie liked that about me. He always wanted me to be independent like he was. But I could feel that independence slipping away, and it scared the hell out of me.

I didn't want to feel like I relied on anyone anymore. I didn't just want my life to be doing Jake's laundry and cooking him dinner. I didn't want to lie underneath him, feeling nothing while he fucked me. I could feel the person Charlie had raised slowly disappearing, a ghost of who I used to be, and I knew I couldn't let that happen. I owed it to Charlie not to let that happen.

So, for the first time in months, I made a decision. I broke the cycle we'd fallen into, packed my clothes, and drove away. The really scary thing is he just let me. He didn't try to stop me or convince me to stay. He didn't tell me that he loved me or pretend that he could change. I actually think he was relieved.

I drive through endless random towns, sleeping in cheap motels to try to make the little money I do have last as long as it possibly can. After the house was sold and the mortgage and bills were paid off, there wasn't a whole lot left. A two-bedroom house in Forks is not exactly prime real estate.

I don't spend too much time in any one place. No more than a few days of wandering the nameless streets, staring blankly in shop windows, eating sporadically at roadside restaurants. I don't really know where I'm going, only that it's as far away from Forks as I can get.

I pass through Spokane into Montana, watching as the landscape changes. I spend a few days in North Dakota, but it still doesn't seem far enough away. I breeze through Iowa, and stay for a week in St. Louis. I'd actually started to like St. Louis until the front desk manager asked me out. I packed up and left within an hour of that. I'm not ready to date. I'm not ready to talk about my life. I don't even know what my life is supposed to be.

Spending time alone, driving in a beat-up truck that only has minimal radio reception gives you time to think about your life. I know that breakups are bad at the best of times. Having lived through my own parents' divorce, I know that things can get ugly. I think that I would've been better off if Jake was just some random guy who didn't have ties to my life and Charlie's. It was hard for me to think about one without remembering the other.

Thoughts of Charlie watching the Mariner's game while I cooked up his latest catch of the day only made me remember he'd been fishing with Billy, which made me think about Jake, which made me think about the game he'd been watching when I'd left. It was a never-ending circle that I couldn't break out of.

Somewhere between Nashville and Atlanta, I start to get tired. I'm tired of driving, tired of the cheap motels, tired of only having myself to talk to. Tired of the inevitable guilt I feel every time I think about Jake. Maybe he's right. Maybe I am being ungrateful for everything they did for me. Maybe I owe it to him to turn around and go back.

But as I drive into Florida and become amazed by the drastic change in the climate, by the houses and the palm trees that dot the road, I know the last thing I want to do is to go back. Going back means losing myself to numbness. I'm tired of not feeling anything.

Night has fallen when I pull up to a welcoming Hyatt sign. It's way more expensive than the dives I've been staying in, but I'm completely exhausted, and I can't even imagine driving for one more minute.

My room is generic. The view, however, is not. In my pajamas, I peer out the window, to a bridge that glows neon blue, a stark contrast against the blackened sky. The color reflects off the water, casting an electrifying glow and sparking something deep inside me. Maybe it's hope, maybe it's promise, I'm not entirely sure, but it's something other than numb. I stare at the bridge for a long time, at the skyline of the city illuminated behind it, and at the blur of the cars as they cross it.

As I move from the window and crawl into the welcoming bed, I wonder where all the people in those cars are going. Home from an exhausting day at work? Out to dinner with friends? Off to live their lives? I shut my eyes with the knowledge that tomorrow I will cross that bridge and start to live mine.

~DATLS~

Edward

"Thanks, sweetheart." I grab my coffee from the barista and wink at her for good measure. I walk out of the little coffee shop a block away from the restaurant that I own, trying to prepare for the hell that this day is going to be. I'm pretty sure that Rose already has a pot on, but there's something about Mrs. Cope's coffee that wakes my ass up in the morning. Lord knows I need the energy today. We're short staffed by one, but the impact it's going to have on the team will be unbearable.

Lauren quit after I broke the news to her that I wasn't going to be anything more than a friend... with benefits. Relationships aren't my thing. They fuck you over, leaving you unfocused and drunk for weeks after the split. Fuck that!

Kate did a real number on me. She was my first real, adult relationship. I had women before her, it wasn't hard to find company when I needed it, but Kate was my world. Apparently, I wasn't hers. The problem was that I didn't know that until I caught her riding one of my college buddies on our bed. The bed that we had fought over and eventually picked out together. Talk about a major burn and a fucking reality check.

I met Kate in college. She was blonde, beautiful, smart, and full of life. She was majoring in visual arts, mainly photography. While I'd been sitting in The Cave, a common area in the college, studying like a mad man for my business degree, a flash from across the room had caught my eye.

Kate stood there with a shy smile on her face, holding a camera in her hand. Walking toward me, she extended her hand. "Hi, I'm Kate. Sorry about the picture. I can erase it if it makes you uncomfortable. I just liked the way you looked, sitting there, entranced in your book. I'm a photography major." She grinned at me sheepishly, raising the camera, and I was hooked.

Kate and I dated for almost two years. I thought I'd lucked out and found "the one." My parents, Carlisle and Esme, loved her and welcomed her to the family almost immediately. Every time I looked at my mother, I saw wedding bells in her eyes. The truth is, I did, too, but I was waiting for the perfect time. I needed to get things wrapped up with school and give the restaurant a good head start before I could seriously go out and buy Kate a ring. By waiting, I thought I was providing her with a good foundation to a happy future.

With the opening of The Lone Star and the stress of managing a business that exploded with success, I was busy. I had new responsibilities. I don't think it entitled me to be fucked over by the woman who supposedly loved me.

I had just finished a long-ass day working the bar, filing receipts, and whipping my employees into shape. Don't get me wrong; they were a good crew, but they were young and could get distracted easily. I was completely exhausted, but that night was the night. I was going to ask her to marry me and we were going to start our life together.

When I got to the house, nervous as fuck, the lights were out; a faint glow from the television illuminated the living room through the window. Kate wasn't expecting me home. I had called earlier and told her not to wait up, that I would most likely crash in my office at the restaurant.

Walking in to our home and seeing my girlfriend's ass bouncing up and down on my buddy's cock was not the welcome I was expecting. Needless to say, I threw Garrett out after a shot to the face. I also threw all of Kate's shit into an oversized duffle bag, firing it out the front door along with them. I never saw Garrett again, and I don't really give a shit about Kate and what she decided to do.

From that day forward, I swore to myself that no woman would ever break me again.

No relationships. It's kind of my mantra, something I keep telling myself as I soak up the warm Florida sun on my way to work.

~DATLS~

I sit at my desk and put my hands behind my head, leaning back in my chair. We haven't even started for the day and I'm already exhausted. Alice decided to come in early to make a "Help Wanted" sign to put in the window. I didn't even have the chance to put an ad in the Florida Times-Union, and the people were already pouring in to be interviewed.

Most of these "people" are college girls that want to take a ride on my dick. Nope, not gonna happen. Lauren was the only one who I crossed that line with and it will never happen again, I can guarantee you that. Too many shots one night after a long-ass day of work led to "the best night of my life." Her words; not mine!

Before I can get two minutes of some peace and fucking quiet, the door to my office bursts open. "Ever heard of knocking?" I ask dryly, eyeing Rosalie as she barges in.

Rose is the assistant manager here at the restaurant. Sometimes, I think she has bigger balls than Emmett, her significant other who also happens to be my brother.

"Listen, E. Maybe I should take over this hiring process. You've sent every single person who has applied packing and we really need the help. We're going to be fucking swamped tonight," she complains, looking at her perfectly manicured nails.

"You know what, Trigger? That's a great idea."

She smirks at me. "I knew you would eventually see that you can't do shit without me. It was only a matter of time," she fires back.

"Yeah, you keep convincing yourself of that. At least I'm not pussy-whipped like my brother. You can go ahead with the hiring. I have too much paper work to do, and I have to run the bar tonight. Go get 'em, blondie," I grumble.

"Well, maybe next time, you'll think twice before you whip your cock out and screw the next breathing female that walks by," she snarks, quirking a perfectly shaped eyebrow at me.

"You know me almost better than anyone else. It wasn't like that, and you know it. Lauren was crazy; she had china patterns picked out before I had my pants undone." I can't help but shudder at my lack of judgment at the night in question. "I don't do that relationship shit, not anymore," I mumble.

"Who are you trying to convince? Me or yourself?" she presses.

I furrow my brow. She's getting close to crossing the line. "Don't you have work to do, Rose?"

"God, you're turning into one miserable son of a bitch, you know this, right?" Flashing me her sarcastic smile, she walks out the door, slamming it to make her point.

"Yeah, I know," I whisper to no one in particular.

The lunch crowd isn't so bad. We're packed, as usual, but at least we're staffed enough to take care of our customers. Tonight will be a different story. Jasper came in early to help out, and after some promises of a weekend off with Alice when I'm fully staffed again, he agrees to work right through until close.

Sometimes I can't be thankful enough for the friends and family in my life. Jasper and I have been best friends since we were in junior high, attached at the hip, until he discovered my baby sister, Alice.

Let's just say that in our senior year, when I caught him with his pants down to his ankles and Alice's head bobbing in his lap, our friendship almost didn't last. I was horrified. Who the fuck wants to see that shit? Good thing for Jaz, he proved his devotion to Alice and we moved on. He doesn't think that I know he talked to my father and asked for his blessing to marry Alice. I swear to God he should have been born in the 1800s.

As the day creeps closer to dinner, I realize that I'd better make sure the bar is stocked and good to go for the night. Being a licensed restaurant has its perks, and the money that rolls in just from the bar keeps us above in the profits. The college kids love it here, especially when the Jaguars have a game.

Of course, along with this comes a group of university girls that line up at the bar to persuade me to get my dick wet in there barely there tops and skirts. Who I am to complain? I love the visual; what man doesn't? Unfortunately for them, it's going to take more than flashing me their tits and smiles to get me really interested. I indulge the odd time... I am a man, a thirty-three year old man with needs that have to be met, but the thing with college girls is that they're clingy and automatically change their Facebook relationship statuses the second they have a roll in bed with me. That shit doesn't fly with me.

Case in point-Tanya. Last fall, I met her, a college regular that spent more time at the restaurant than she did on her schoolwork, I'm sure of it. She was beautiful, sexy as hell, and she wanted me. She tried too hard at times, but after a couple months of her nonexistent clothing and not-so-subtle touching, I gave in. One night after I closed down the bar, she was still lingering. She followed me to my office, and before the door was even closed, she was palming my cock and licking my neck. I let her suck me off. It was alright; I've had better.

It took almost two months to convince her that I was not, although she was skeptical, in love with her, and that I could in fact live without her. She still comes around every now and then. I think she still hopes for a repeat performance, or more, perhaps. Yeah, like I said before, no relationships... Not going to happen!

~DATLS~

"We need four Alabama Slammers and a round of shots-your choice-for the ladies at table six," Emmett shouts from the end of the bar over the blaring music.

"I'm on it, just give me a sec," I yell back.

The two college freshmen sitting at the bar in front of me have spent the last forty-five minutes arguing the reasons why I should indulge in a round, or five, of body shots with them. All I want to do is tell them to fuck off because I'm working, and it's busy like a motherfucker tonight. Being short-staffed really makes a huge difference in the quality of service we provide. The trays of drinks are sitting, undelivered, for longer than they should be, and the crowd at the front door is bordering on out of control.

"Ladies, two lemon drops," I announce as I set the shots down on the table.

"How 'bout a blowjob, Edward?" the redhead asks as she seductively licks her lips and stares at me through her mascara-caked lashes. What is it with all the makeup? Why does every woman feel the need to plaster it on? We're not turned on by it... at least, I'm not.

"Excuse me?"

Licking her lips, she continues. "You know, the creamy shot that tastes really good? It has the whipped cream top."

Subtle as hell. Real attractive. "Yeah, I know what it is. I'll be right back to get that for you." Much to her disappointment, I walk to the end of the bar and begin to mix the drink order Em requested.

As I'm pouring the Southern Comfort into the glasses, I glance up toward the sheer mayhem at the door, wondering where the fuck Rose is. Fuck, do I have to do everything? That's when I see her, a beautiful woman, not a freshman college girl. No, she's definitely a woman, shifting nervously at the entrance. Her eyes are darting around, and she looks so lost.

My eyes and dick do not fail to notice the blush that creeps up on her cheeks and the juicy bottom lip she is currently nibbling. Fuck, I want to nibble on it. Her outfit is not what most of the patrons would wear here, but goddamn if I don't find it hot as hell. A white shirt, a tight black skirt, and the fuck me shoes... don't forget those. She runs her hand through her long, dark hair nervously as Rose finally decides to take command of the waiting area again.

I finish making the drinks, lining them up on a tray for Emmett to grab while I try to remember what the fuck I'm supposed to be making next. I glance back at the entranceway, adjusting my dick, watching as she talks to Rose.

I have no idea who this woman is; she's not part of the usual Friday night crowd, that's for sure. Maybe she's that food critic Alice keeps trying to convince to come here. Yeah, great impression... welcome to my restaurant, can I introduce you to my cock? Holy fuck, Cullen, you need to stop this! Who gives a shit?

I decide I need to clear my head, leaving Emmett in charge at the bar. Not a wise idea, but it needs to done. I stalk back to my office and hope with any luck that when I go back out there, she'll be gone.

Chapter End Notes:

Visuals of the Jacksonville Main Street bridge:

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