Setting: Lessons Learned universe during the college years.

AH, Mature content, Over 18 please and I own nothing Twilight related…

This is a brand new story that my girl, Maria helped me come up with in our love of all things Brady from Lessons Learned. It's sort of a Lessons Learned spinoff. This is Brady's story and it will be set during the college years of all the boys, so you can get a peek into Eddie and Jay during these years since the sequel will be set after college. I don't know for sure how long this story will be or anything yet but I can say that I had a blast writing this first chapter and can't wait to write the next.

Also, I will still be doing outtakes for E/J and already have a couple of them partially written. I've partially written the next chapter of MC too.

Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy this!

Songs: Brick By Boring Brick by Paramore, Strut by Adam Lambert

Brady's POV

I had been waiting for this all of my life…college, a fresh start, a life all my own in a brand new place…

Oh the possibilities!

Sure, Seattle wasn't as exciting as New York or Paris, but it was a real city far away from the backwoods hicks in Forks and even better, it was further from my mother and father. Those years that followed the day of my demise to my parents were probably the most difficult I will ever have…at least I really hope so because it had been very hard on me.

Were it not for my friends, I can say with reasonable conviction that I wouldn't be here to begin college and relish in the possibilities my new life has to offer.

My life had been a walking nightmare until the night I met Jay.

Being gay is one thing, but being a very effeminate boy who preferred making Barbie look presentable for that douche bag Ken instead of playing sports or doing things that would wrinkle my clothes…it was Hell.

I've always been different and never really had a problem with it, outside of my parents, until the sixth grade when 'my friends' began singling me out as the sissy boy or queer. It really hurt because I hadn't changed any, I still acted the same way, dressed the same…it was them that changed.

Apparently the beginnings of puberty marked the unspoken need to defend their masculinity by challenging everyone else's. Hormonal, prepubescent, teenage boys are a freaking nightmare…

I'm so glad I never was one.

Not saying that I'm a girl or anything because I most certainly am not. I enjoy some typical boy things like video games and…well, I can't really think of anything else right now.

But anyway, even when the kids had befriended me when we were young, my parents had always made it clear the shame that I brought upon them.

My father's words still ring clear in my ears from having heard them almost everyday since as long as I can remember…

"Why can't you be normal? What's wrong with you? Nobody likes a sissy boy. What did your mother and I do to deserve this?"

For a long time, I tried to figure out what it was I was doing that caused them such embarrassment and shame…as I grew older I realized that I wasn't doing anything…it was because of who I was and how in the world could I fix that?

I mean, I didn't even know I liked boys yet, they just hated the person that I was.

So I briefly tried to change who I was, I tried out for the baseball team but have you seen how fast they throw those balls at your face? It was frightening so that didn't last long. And then in the summer before seventh grade, Neva Monroe offered to make out with me, to straighten me out…so I tried again but the closer her lips came to mine, the more I wanted to throw up.

She was very upset when I turned my head and she kissed my cheek. And then she told all the other boys that it was confirmed…I was a faggot.

From then on, it was locker slams and being knocked to the ground every chance they got. But then when I met Jasper and saw the way he looked at Edward…I didn't feel so alone anymore.

I mean, here were two totally gorgeous, sweet boys who were obviously head over heels crazy for one another and they were both very popular…at least Jasper was, Eddie was more popular by default but still…

It gave me hope.

And then when Edward called me and said he wanted to be my friend, I must've done a happy dance in my room for an hour.

I can remember how nervous I was, the first time I stayed at Rosalie's house and met all of their friends…I just knew there was no way these beautiful, rich, totally cool people would accept me.

But they did with open arms and they never judged me for my voice that was a little higher than it should be or for the way I wanted things to be pretty and neat.

I can honestly say, that I've had huge crushes on all of my boys at one time or another. It started with Edward before I even met him, seeing him play his piano at a school recital that Jacob had attended with some of the Quilette boys.

And then on him and Jasper both after the bonfire party on the beach. And then on Emmett after he kissed me and I woke up to feel myself in his big strong arms being carried to the guest room bed…when he slipped off my shoes and glasses, I fell head over heels for him.

The more I hung out with him, the more I liked him. And I think he knew that I had a crush but he never made me feel bad about it.

When Tommy showed up and we became friends, I started hanging out with Em more and more until I practically lived at his house instead of Uncle Billy's. Eventually the crush turned into a deep respect and love for the big bear of a boy who treated me like a little brother.

We actually became very close and he trusted me with his inner most secrets about feeling inadequate in his father's eyes and how he worried so much for his Rosalie, and I trusted him with mine, how I thought I'd never find someone to love me.

I mean, all I want is to be with someone who lives to do nothing but worship the ground I walk on and adore me like no other.

I don't think that's too much to ask for because I would absolutely reciprocate, right?

It's not like I needed the fairytale, I just wanted something real…something solid, like all my friends.

In the beginning, I hoped it was Tommy that would be my one and only but after being around him for any length of time, his depression would get to me and so I decided that he was definitely not the one. But we did become good friends and he did give me my very first hand job so he would always hold a special place in my heart.

It was sad when he moved back to California but he wanted to be with his mom and I understood that. Hell, I ran into my mother at least a dozen times around Forks and she wouldn't even look in my direction.

And each and every time, it stung a little worse.

But then I met Suzie and I think I found my soul mate. She and I are so very different but more so alike. If she had a penis, she would be perfect for me. She's strong, and sweet and so loyal but she doesn't take people's shit the way I do sometimes.

In fact, the very last time I ran into my mother at the supermarket, she was with me and I'll never forget how she stood up for me.

"Babydoll, what's wrong with you? Why you hidin' behind me like you seen a ghost or somethin'?"

I ducked even further behind her and thanked my lucky stars that she was taller than me, "My mother is over there by the fruit, ironic, I know but I don't want her to see me."

Her eyes narrowed as she scanned the aisle and pointed, "That woman with the long braid?"

I nodded and grabbed her hand, "Yes, can we just go somewhere else…"

But she just smiled and pulled me the other direction as her hand tightened in mine, me protesting all the way as she whispered, "You just let me do all the talkin', darlin…"

My mother raised her head and the moment she saw me, that scowl that I had known my whole life came to her face.

Suzie stopped in front of her and squeezed my hand, "Mrs. Seneca?"

Mother put down the orange and crossed her arms over her chest, "If you're here to try and get me to talk to him, then you can just forget it…"

The way she said him, with disgust on her tongue sent shivers through me and brought tears to my eyes that I desperately tried to fight.

Suzie smiled sweetly and I knew that look, she was getting ready to tear my mother apart with her words. It was kind of awesome to me how Suzie could look like an angel as she tore people down, but she was always sticking up for me when she did it so maybe she was just my angel, as Edward would always say.

"Oh, I'm not here for that, ma'am, I'm actually here to thank you. You see, if you hadn't been such a dirty old cunt that abandoned her only child when he was just fourteen years old, then I might never have met him and I think he's the sweetest, most perfect boy in the whole wide world…"

My mother's face was as red as a tomato as she hissed through clenched teeth, "How dare you ta…"

But she didn't get the chance to finish as Suzie let go of my hand and hissed back as that sweet look vanished into her 'I will fuck you up' look, that I know equally as well and loved just as much.

"No, you shut the fuck up cuz you're gonna stand here and listen to every fuckin' word I have to say! You're gonna show me some god damn respect or I'm gonna hit you so mother fuckin' hard in your big, ugly mouth that you ain't gonna be able to talk right for a week, got it?"

The look of shock on mother's face was one I had never seen before and people had now started to gather around the little scene…I smiled as I watched mother's worst nightmare come true as the snickering and gossiping started amongst the ladies in the supermarket.

But Suzie didn't miss a beat, "Your son is a good boy, a smart boy…ya know he's goin' to college on an art scholarship? He's really talented and all he wants is to make the world a prettier place cuz all he seen growin' up was ugliness…and one day when that worthless little prick of a man you got, runs off or dies on your ass, you're gonna be all alone in your pathetic hate-filled life and my boy's gonna be livin' a beautiful life without givin' you a second thought ever again…so I didn't come to make you talk to him…I came so that he could walk away from you this time…for good…like the common trash you are…"

Tears were streaming down my face as Suzie walked up and used her thumbs to brush them away, "Shh, now darlin…you're much too pretty to walk away with your head down…raise it up high, brush that bitch off and sugar, we're not gonna walk away from her…we're gonna strut…"

I sniffled and a strength came from somewhere I didn't know I had as I nodded, squared off my shoulders, and linked arms with Suzie, "To hell with her, we're much too pretty to be around ugliness like that…"

She giggled and I tossed my hair as we strutted out of there, the shocked gasps and giggles of our audience around us, causing the sway in our hips to just get a little bit sassier with each step.

Laying my head on her shoulder, I sighed, "I love you Suzie…thanks."

I felt her lips against my hair as she squeezed my hand, "Love you too, Brady."

I loved Suzie and had a respect for her that was deep. It was going to be hell being away from her while she finished her Senior year. We promised to talk every single day though and see each other on the weekends as much as possible. She could stay the night with me and Alice sometimes and I would stay with her at Peter's, that way I could see him too.

And while I was really excited about starting college, I was really scared too. For the last three years of high school, I always had my own personal pack of protection amongst my girls. They never left my side and I always had someone to back me up if anyone said anything to me. Now, I was going to have to face classes alone and do this part of my life by myself.

I suppose that's what was the scariest about it. Having all of my friends around me all the time had made me feel indestructible…like I had a little force field around me that kept out all bad things.

Now I was exposed.

Taking a deep breath, I hugged the strap of my bag tight as I walked into my first class. Scanning the huge lecture hall, I could feel my palms beginning to sweat and that tingly itch came to them that always happens when I'm nervous.

"Hey, are you okay, man?"

I opened my eyes and let out a breath as I looked up into dark blue eyes, "Uh…um, yeah, yes…I'm okay…"

Looking down I could feel my cheeks heating up as I started to walk away but then he was shuffling up next to me, "We should sit in the back because Professor Marcus talks at an obscenely loud volume…"

I followed his lead and sat close to the back and began pulling out my books. The stare of the gorgeous blue eyed boy was making the hair on my neck stand when he leaned over and whispered, "I'm Joshua, by the way…and you are…"

He trailed off and I tried to remember how to speak, "Um…I'm…uh…B…Brady…that's my name…"

Chuckling he grinned at me and I had to bite my lip to keep from audibly moaning, "Well, Brady, I can tell that you're new around here, Freshman right?"

Unable to do much else, I just nodded. He leaned back close and whispered, "There's a party this weekend, would you like to come with me?"

Now I couldn't help the smile that came to my face, "Yeah…"

Nodding, he smiled at me before the deafening shrill of the Professor brought me back to reality.

Maybe I could do this by myself…maybe college was going to be different and I could finally find a boyfriend.

The first week of school was over and I was on cloud nine. Joshua was amazing. He saved me a seat everyday in class, walked me to my next one and on Friday, he even brought me coffee…it was made with regular creamer though instead of the nonfat but I figure he could learn that kind of stuff about me once we became official boyfriends.

I was hoping he would ask me tonight at the party and I couldn't wait. Edward was helping me get ready at his place so I rambled on as he sat at his kitchen table with a glass of tea, smiling at me.

"Edward, he's just so sweet and God, he's so cute….I can't wait for you to meet him and I think he may ask me to be his boyfriend tonight at the party…"

Now Jasper walked in wearing nothing but an old pair of sweats as he leaned against the doorframe and scratched his belly, "What party?"

I grinned, "Joshua asked me to a party tonight, he told me the name of his friend but I can't remember…"

Folding his chiseled arms across his perfect scarred chest, he raised an eyebrow, "Who else is goin' with you cuz I know you ain't goin' alone…"

I looked at him in confusion, "What? Why? He's a nice guy, Jay…"

He walked over and pulled out a chair next to me, "I'm sure he is, Brady but I don't think it's safe for you to go to some big wild ass party without at least one of us with you…"

Edward piped in now, "He's right, Brady, why don't you give us a little bit to get ready and we'll go with you…"

Shaking my head, I stood up and smiled, "Look, guys, I know you're just being all protective and I appreciate that but I'm a grown man now…Joshua is perfect and tonight is going to be the best night of my life so far…so I'll call you later but don't wait up…"

With a giggle, I left to go meet Joshua with visions of dancing together and sweet soft kisses…it was going to be perfect.

Josh looked gorgeous as he picked me up and I felt like the luckiest guy there as we walked in hand-in-hand. The music was blaring and the half naked drunk people everywhere were a little off-putting but I could look past those minuscule blemishes in an otherwise beautiful night.

I didn't plan on drinking very much but all of his friends were so sweet and friendly, bringing me drinks all night long until I finally lost all of my inhibitions and Josh pulled me out on the dance floor.

I had danced with Eddie and Jay and even Jeremiah at their bachelor party but I had never danced with a boy who actually wanted me…the way he rubbed up against me and caressed my skin while sucking on the back of my neck made me feel like the sexiest boy in the world…and I had never felt that way before.

It was even more intoxicating than the alcohol.

I swayed as he put his arm around me and whispered in my ear, "Let's go upstairs and find a room…it's too loud to talk down here…"

Somewhere to lie down sounded perfect and with him all cuddled up next to me, I knew it would be.

I let him lead me upstairs, squeezing past the crowd of people that littered the stairs and hallways until he pulled me into a dark room. The room tilted as he pulled me over until I fell onto a bed, giggling with him pressed to my lips.

He kissed me passionately as his hands explored my body. It was exhilarating to feel so wanted but my head was spinning just a little as I pulled away breathlessly when his hands began working on my belt.

"Josh…Josh, wait a minute…"

Smiling at me, I got lost in his eyes as he whispered, "I promise I'll be gentle, baby…"

His hands now opened my belt and began sliding down my zipper as I grabbed his wrist and rushed out, "I'm a virgin…I've never…"

But then I felt my jeans being yanked down my legs as soft kisses tickled my hips and stomach, "Relax, Brady…everybody has to lose it sometime, right? Why not with me? Don't you like me?"

The room was spinning as I struggled to stay conscious, "Yes I do like you very much, Joshua, but I…I don't know…"

Stars were clouding my eyes as he took me into his mouth and I groaned out, "Oh God…ugh…Josh…just like that, baby…just like that…"

It was moving way too fast but I couldn't bring myself to stop. I wanted to take the time to relish my very first blow job but the feeling of his finger being pressed inside me caused me to gasp out, "Josh…Josh, I've never…"

But then it curled and brushed a spot somewhere deep inside of me and I was crying out in pleasure as he sucked me down his throat.

I came within minutes of him adding another finger, the stretch burned at first but he reassured me that it got better and he wasn't lying.

And that moment after, I was lost in the most euphoric dream I've ever had…I could literally feel the world moving underneath me…

Though that could just be the alcohol...

The sound of tearing foil awoken me from my beautiful dream and plummeted me head first back into reality.

I panted as he rolled it down his dick and started coating it with lube, "Josh…a little fast…"

But then his lips were on mine as he mumbled, "You feel so good, baby…want you so bad…please…please, baby…"

His cock was sliding against my ass as he moaned into my open mouth and I wrapped my arms around him, feeling how much he wanted me.

And I decided that love stories didn't have to be long and slow burning…this was what I had been waiting for…

He obviously had strong feelings about me if he brought me here to meet all of his friends and he spent the whole week chasing after me…

So I nodded and buried my head in his shoulder as I felt the tip of his dick push inside me. It felt like I was being ripped in two and I silently cursed Edward for telling me how incredible this felt because all I felt now was blinding pain.

I screamed out and felt tears sting my eyes as he tried to console me but he never stopped pushing, "Shh…it's okay, Brady…don't tense up, you gotta relax, baby…the worst part's almost over…there, I'm all the way in…relax, baby…"

It hurt so bad and I wanted him to stop but I couldn't get the words out as the room kept spinning faster and faster and I felt helpless to stop it.

All I could do was gasp for air every time he pulled out and slammed back in. He was still moaning and telling me all sorts of things I had waited to hear all of my life but I couldn't even think straight because of the pain.

I wanted to scream or cry or throw him off of me…but I did none of those things. The tears came but I couldn't get my voice to work and my arms just tightened my grip around him instead of pushing him away.

It had to get better so if I could just hold on a little longer…

But moments later, he grunted a few times and collapsed on top of me, causing all the air to leave my lungs as I finally tried to push him off.

He rolled over with a groan and pulled out of me, the sting of him leaving me was just as bad as when he entered me.

Finally, I lay there and start to get the tears under control as he gets out of bed and throws the condom in a small trash bin.

The brunt of the pain was over now and I knew that the really good part was coming, the cuddling together and talking all night…

Only he bent down and started gathering his clothes off the floor and getting dressed. I sat up and winced at the pain that shot across my backside, "Aren't you coming back to bed?"

Pulling his shirt over his head, he smiled, "Nah, I'm going back to the party…"

I was confused and feeling embarrassed about my still naked body, so I grabbed my shirt off the ground and tried to cover myself, "But I thought…I mean…just wait a minute for me to get myself together and I'll go out with you…"

Now he laughed, "That's alright, man…I don't think we're gonna work out…"

Again, it felt like I was being crushed as my eyes started to sting again, "What? Why?"

He came over and knelt down in front of me, taking my chin in his hand, and smiled, "This is college, Brady…we're supposed to fuck around…and quite frankly, you were a little easy and kind of a bad lay…"

My mouth dropped as he crushed me into nothing and I could literally feel my heart shattering, "W…what? How could you…do th...that to me?"

I was shaking so bad and the tears wouldn't stop as he stood up and walked to the door. I never wanted to see that smile again but the jerk couldn't stop himself from turning and giving it to me once more with a laugh, "Welcome to college life, man…"

Once he left and shut the door, I dropped my head between my knees and sucked in as much air as I could get while I tried to get myself under control. I had felt shame and humiliation almost all my life but nothing had ever cut as deep as this did.

How could I be so stupid? Did I just make up everything in my head? Did he ever really even like me? What's wrong with me?

The room felt like it was closing in on me and I knew I had to get out of here fast so I threw my clothes on and couldn't stand to look in the mirror before I ran down the stairs and to the door…but not before I saw him dancing with some other boy…some other boy much more beautiful than I would ever be…

I walked for a little while, not even really paying attention just not wanting to face reality about what just happened to me. But the pain in my ass and the way my whole body ached finally forced me to pull out my phone.

"Hello?"

I managed to rasp out, "Edward?"

I sniffled and he sounded worried now, "Where are you? I'll come get you…"

"Um…Lewis and Main…can…can you come alone? I don't want Jay to get involved…"

"I'll be there in ten minutes."

A few minutes later, his silver Volvo pulled up and I took a breath before I carefully sat down in the front seat.

He pulled off his seat belt and turned to me, "What happened, Brady?"

God I felt so stupid…

Looking out the window, I crossed my arms over my chest and tried to focus but the tears were burning my eyes, "I don't want to talk about it…he just…wasn't who I thought he was…"

But Edward wasn't giving up. His arm wrapped around me as he tried to pull me close, "Come here, Brady…tell me what happened…"

I tried to fight but the truth was, I really, really needed a hug right now.

So I found myself turning and burying my head in his chest as I sobbed, "H..he was s…so nice…I th…thought he l..liked me…"

Once I started talking, I couldn't stop until I had told him everything. He just listened and rubbed my back while he rocked me gently in his arms.

"W…what's wrong with m…me? Why can't anybody l…love me?"

His voice was soft as he spoke, "A lot of people love you, Brady. And I'm so sorry you fell for such a jerk but he's the loser, not you. You're going to find the right guy someday who's going to love you simply for being you because you're so special…"

I snorted in disgust, "Y…yeah right…I'm so s…stupid…I make up things in my head that aren't even really there…when I think of it now…there wasn't really anything th…there at all but I just wanted it so b…bad…"

Just then my phone rang and I pulled it out to see Jay's number. I groaned, "You told him?"

He just shrugged, "I just told him I had to come pick you up…"

I raised an eyebrow and he sighed in defeat, "Fine I told him you were crying your eyes out and sounded horrible but you know I can't keep anything from him…"

I took a deep breath and tried to keep my voice from cracking, "Hey, Jay…"

"What the fuck did that asshole do to you? I swear to God, if he hurt you, I'll fuckin kill him…"

Sniffling I croaked out, "No…I just did something really stupid…"

But then another line clicked in and I moaned, "Shit…hold on…"

"If that cock suckin' bastard touched one hair on your pretty little head, I'm gonna fuck him up…"

That caused me to chuckle, "I'm okay, Suzie…well, not really okay but…"

Then Edward's phone rang and he chuckled, "Good grief…hello, Em…"

He covered the phone and smiled at me, "Jeremiah is over at Em and Rosie's…they said they'd give him a beat down if you wanted…"

I giggled again and rolled my sore, dry eyes as Edward full out laughed now, "Oh for the love of…Em, hang on…Hi Alice…yes, he's fine…you're in New York so how exactly do you plan on inserting your foot up Joshua's ass from across the country?"

I couldn't stop from laughing now even though it hurt. We eventually settled on meeting at my apartment and would put Alice on speaker phone since she was away with her mother on a weekend trip to New York.

At first, I didn't really want to tell anybody but when I actually started talking about it to my friends, it did feel a whole lot better.

I sat on the couch in between Edward and Em as I now cuddled into Em's big strong chest and he tousled my hair, "It's okay, Brady…you're my little dude…Rosie's at home with JJ and Em J but she says that she loves you and she'd gladly rip his balls off if you want…would that make you quit being so sad, huh? If Rosie ripped his balls off?"

I giggled and sniffled at the same time, "Yes it would…"

They all stayed with me until Suzie showed up about an hour and a half later. When the boys left, Suzie and I dug into the cartons of Chunky Monkey ice cream she bought and sat in the middle of my bed as we talked, just like old times.

"I hate that he messed it all up for you, baby…your first time shoulda been perfect and beautiful…"

Sighing, I took another spoonful and shook my head, "It was my fault…I didn't even tell him no…I wanted to but I just…I just laid there and did nothing…I'm so humiliated…"

She reached over and took my hand in hers, "Don't feel that way, honey…we all make bad decisions sometimes and he took advantage of you, bein' drunk and all…he was in the wrong, not you…"

Groaning, I set the carton aside and flopped down on the bed, pulling the cover over my head, "I don't know how I'm going to go back to class on Monday…I can't face him…"

Instead of yanking the pillow off, she scooted underneath it with me until her face was close to mine, "I never told you bout my first time, did I?"

Shaking my head, I pulled the blanket over us and she sighed, "I was fourteen and his name was Ryan DeWitt…he was a couple years older and when he started talkin' to me…I felt like I was the luckiest girl in the whole world cuz he was the boy that everyone wanted…I hadn't filled out much yet and I was so used to bein' the scrawny bean pole that the boys made fun of and when he told me I was the prettiest girl at the party…I wanted so bad to believe him…"

Her eyes started watering now and she sniffled, "We were all partying hard…way too much liquor and a few too many pills…it was my first real party cuz Jeremiah would never let me go to any of them…but he was spending the weekend in jail so I took my chance…"

I reached out and took her hand as her baby blue eyes glistened, "We were just dancing and I remember feelin' so happy at all the jealous looks of the other girls at the party…before I even realized what was happenin'…we were on a couch, making out hot and heavy…I had saved up money and bought this pretty little red dress…I felt so sexy in that dress…I remember thinkin' it was like my magic dress cuz when I wore it, I felt beautiful and powerful…but when it ended up torn and bunched up around my knees…I found out that it was all in my head…"

The tears started falling and I brushed them away with my thumb, "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, honey…"

She shook her head and sniffled, "No, I need to…it just happened so fast…I was so out of it that I didn't even realize we were still in a room filled with people until I heard the catcalls…it hurt and I cried the whole time while everyone else laughed like it was the funniest thing in the world…but I never said no…I couldn't get the words out and it was like all the bones in my body had turned to mush and I just couldn't fight it…when he was done, I barely remember running outta there with my pretty little dress ripped and torn…just like me…from then on, I was known as just another trashy whore who let a guy fuck her in front of everybody…but I didn't let him…I just didn't have the strength to stop him…Seth was the first guy I've ever been with that made sex feel good to me…and it was cause he really cared about me and I cared about him…"

She smiled now as she brushed my hair back behind my ear, "So, what I'm sayin' here is…I know it was awful, baby…but you're strong and you're gonna be fine…and when you meet the right guy, sex is gonna be amazing…but make them work for it cuz you're far too special and beautiful to waste yourself on someone who ain't worth you…and that mother fucker ain't worth you, baby doll…"

I nodded and we wrapped our arms around each other and snuggled under the blanket.

"I'm so sorry that happened to you, Suzie…you deserved better…"

She smiled and sighed with her head in the crook of my neck, "I know…so did you, Brady…just remember…when you see that bastard, don't run away from him…hold your head up high…"

I giggled now, "And strut. I will, Suzie…we need to go shopping tomorrow because I need a new outfit…"

She giggled too and it was that sound that filled my senses as I finally drifted off to sleep.

The next day we went shopping and after the day with Suzie, I felt like I had some of my confidence back. We went over to Eddie and Jay's to show him my new clothes and I laughed when I walked into their living room.

Jay was sitting on the couch in nothing but a pair of cutoff sweats, with his Xbox controller and headset on so I figured he was playing Call of Duty with Emmett and Jeremiah.

I laughed, "Does he live in sweats?"

Edward rolled his eyes and shrugged, "He won't stay clothed…it was a fight to get him to put those things on before you got here…"

Jay smiled as he continued playing, "Don't act like you don't like seein' my naked ass walkin' around the apartment all day, Eddie…"

Now Edward smiled, "I do kind of like it…"

Jay laughed, "That's cuz I'm a sexy mother fu…god damn campin' son of a bitch! Revive me, mother fuckers…"

Edward just laughed, "Let's go to the bedroom…"

Suzie and I started following him when Jay called out, "Oh hey, Brady?"

I turned and saw him smiling at me, "Yes, Jay?"

His dimpled grin looked deviant as he giggled, "We got that asshole last night, by the way…"

My mouth dropped open as I looked at him, "What?"

He just laughed, "Yeah…we drove to the house, we got the guys address from Eddie's Biology partner, Riley…anyway, we walked straight up in that mother fucker and told him that for what he did to you, he deserved at least one hit from each of us…"

I looked now at Edward who was grinning from ear to ear with pink cheeks, "Oh my God…what did he say?"

Edward laughed, "He said his boys wouldn't let that happen but when Emmett and Jeremiah walked in, they all backed off and said that he should just take the shots…"

Suzie and I were giggling now as Jay continued.

"Dude, he was so fuckin' scared…we made him stand there and take a punch from each of us…"

I could hear Em and Jeremiah through the speakers on the TV now, "Yeah, dude, you should've seen it, the jerk pissed himself…"

Now Jeremiah laughed, "Dude, did you see his face when I took a few practice swings to work out my shoulder 'fore I clocked him…I said, 'Welcome to real life, bitch…' Those boys didn't know what to do…we punked all those hoes…did that son of a bitch just tea bag me? Oh hell no…ya'll better get that mother fucker and avenge me…"

Once my laughter died down, I wiped the happy tears from my eyes and thanked God for giving me my friends.

Monday still came way too fast and I was so glad that Alice had helped me get ready this morning. She had bought me the most fabulous pair of jeans in New York and I knew I looked good as I walked into class.

I saw him sitting at the back with two black eyes and a busted lip. With one last deep breath I pulled out my phone and looked at the text Suzie had sent me this morning that simply said, "Strut."

So, I held my head up high and tossed my hair back as I sashayed across the room. But luckily, Joshua wouldn't even look at me, let alone dare to speak to me.

The first week of school had been a very valuable lesson to me and whenever I wasn't with my friends, I kicked up my diva bitch attitude a few notches so that people couldn't mess with me…and even if they did make ugly remarks or snicker, I just acted as if it didn't bother me.

It took a little while, but after a few weeks, I finally felt like I was getting my groove with the whole college thing. I found a part time job at a local coffee shop and that helped keep me busy when I wasn't throwing myself into my studies.

But when the holidays came, I started getting a little sad again and wishing that I had a boyfriend. Alice had broken up with Trent just a couple weeks ago and she already had a couple of new boys and a new girl that she was dating.

I couldn't even find one boy.

Jeremiah was dating a girl now that I finally met at Christmas at the Cullen's. She was very sweet, a little short and a little thick which kind of surprised me because most guys as hot as him, wouldn't date chubby girls…but he said that he liked those curves because it gave him something to hold onto and he felt like he wouldn't break her.

I kind of understood that because I always pictured my dream man as a big, kind of burly guy with huge arms and a strong chest but just a little bit of a belly for me to rest my head on.

And then I knew I was really in a funk because that little comment from Jeremiah didn't elicit even one little erotic fantasy…in fact, since the whole Joshua fiasco, I hadn't even been able to self love myself because all of the fantasies I had in my head for so long about sex were just sort of tainted now.

For so long I had dreamed of the perfect man…he would be big and strong like Emmett…and sweet and kind of shy like Edward…and he'd be a little ghetto with a sexy southern drawl like Jeremiah and Jay…he'd be funny like Jeremiah and have Jay's sense of loyalty and passion…he'd be a real man, like all of them were.

But there was no such thing as a dream man…I had to live in the real world and in the real world, a real man wouldn't give me the time of day.

By the time Spring Break was coming, I was certifiably depressed. I loved my friends and knew that they would always be there for me and I loved being in school and in the city…but I still felt like such an outsider sometimes when I would be around all of them and they were all cuddled up with someone and I was left to cuddle with my cheap wine cooler.

The only break I got from couple-dom was when Suzie would come up and stay every other weekend or so and we'd cuddle together.

I mean, I would settle for a man not worshipping the ground I walked on but who just wanted to sit on the couch and snuggle for awhile…

The door bell chimed and I looked up to see Eddie walking into the coffee shop, "Hey Brady, do you think you can go on break for a few minutes?"

I forced a smile, "Sure, have a seat, I'll be right there."

Grabbing him some hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel, and my nonfat decaf latte, I told Sandy I was taking a break and made my way over to him.

He moaned when he tasted the hot chocolate and licked the cream from his lips, "You make the best hot chocolate, Brady…"

I was too depressed to even comment about the licking of the white creamy stuff from his lips, "What's up, Eddie?"

He sighed and started playing with the napkin on the table, "Do you remember last weekend when Jay and I were arrested?"

Nodding, I took a sip of my coffee and hummed, "Mmm, hmm…"

It was silly really…Jay had gotten really jealous of Edward's biology partner, Riley and I guess the guy said something to him and Jay snapped…messed him up pretty good but then Riley's friends jumped in so Eddie jumped in and then Jeremiah and Emmett joined and it was chaos.

When Jeremiah and Jasper got together, it was like they fueled the ghetto in each other and Em always jumped right in and Edward usually got dragged along…

Anyway, it wasn't serious and they were released the next day with no charges filed but that had led to Edward and Jasper's first real argument as a married couple.

Edward sighed, "Well, Jay's been getting really close with his cousin, Brandon, in Texas and yesterday he called but Jay was asleep so I answered to tell him that he would call him later when he woke up…but then we started talking and he seems like such a sweet guy…anyway, we talked about how Jay has been in two fights now since we got married and he said that he'd try and talk some sense into him and Jeremiah both about the kind of fire they're playing with…so I kind of made plans for Spring Break to go visit him in Texas since he can't leave the state because of the whole parole thing…"

I nodded, "That's good, maybe he can talk to them…"

He smiled as he took another sip, "Yeah I hope so…anyway, everyone's going to go, Suzie, Em and Rose, mom and dad, the boys, Jeremiah, Alice…so do you think you can get the week off?"

A week in Texas with 100 degree weather didn't sound much like a vacation but I really didn't want to go a week without my friends so I reluctantly sighed, "Yeah, probably…"

We took a plane that next week and I was actually kind of excited about seeing where Suzie and Jeremiah grew up at, although I was already given a thorough warning that I was never to go out without Jay, Jeremiah, and Emmett with me. They were up front about the little town they came from and the bigotry I might face but it didn't really sound much different than the dirt poor reservation that I came from…just hotter and spat out with a southern twang.

When we landed, Carlisle got three rental cars that we split everybody up in and we went to check in at the hotel. But Suzie, Jeremiah, Alice, and me were going to stay at their mom's house instead of at the hotel, though we planned on chilling there a lot and maybe going swimming.

Alice had been excited because her and Jeremiah were both finally single again so she was hopeful that they'd finally get together this week. She absolutely adored him but knew that he hadn't been ready for a relationship and she didn't want to be the first girl he dated since Candace. So she bided her time and waited and since he had broken up with that other girl and went out on a few dates since, she figured he was ready.

Once they checked into the hotel, Esme and Carlisle took Em J and JJ for the night, since it was starting to get dark outside and we all piled in two of the vehicles to drive over to his cousin Brandon's house.

I thought it was kind of strange that they weren't going to see their mom first but Suzie told me that she did her chemo treatments for the day and didn't need to be bothered until morning so I guess we would just shack up in the hotel with the others for the night.

It was dusk when we pulled up in front of an old white double with a cement porch and a red rusted work truck parked out on the street. For some reason, I find myself nervous as we walk up and I think maybe it's because the dim street lamps barely illuminate the harshly cracked sidewalks…so I'm just chanting to myself not to trip.

Suzie's hand grips mine and she smiles down at me, "What are you so nervous about? Your palms are all sweaty…"

I smiled back and shook my head, "I honestly have no idea…"

The sound of a door swinging open causes my eyes to move upward to the porch and it was as if a million fairies started fluttering their wings because all of the breath was drawn from my body.

If this was Brandon, I was so screwed…

But I could tell from the dimple in his left cheek…the shaggy light blonde hair…and the palest blue eyes I had ever seen, that this was most definitely a Whitlock boy.

He was laughing as he pulled Jeremiah into a hug and said, "C'mere you silly mother fucker, I need me a hug…"

Jeremiah hugged him back and laughed along, "I need me a hug, you big ass son of a bitch…"

Brandon was definitely the biggest Whitlock boy…

Now is not the time to cue the erotic fantasies…

But he was a good three inches taller than Jay so that had to put him at about 6'5...and he easily outweighed him…he had the most spectacular arms of any man I'd ever seen. They were covered in dark ink that reached up underneath the sleeve of the simple gray t-shirt he wore…it stretched across his upper body and arms, revealing what can only be described as a chest of the Greek God Adonis…

He would be so fucking hot in a little loin cloth like a big Spartan slave boy…

He began greeting everyone else and Suzie ran up to him and jumped in his arms. Then Jay…then Jeremiah again…it was nice to see them all so happy.

Finally, Jeremiah started introducing him to everyone else and I still had images of him hovering over me, all tanned and sweaty muscles with that gorgeous grin and…

Reality, Brady…stick with the plan…

Shaking my head, I tried to break the daze but before I could even register what was happening, I tripped over one of the cracks in the sidewalk and fell to my knees.

Oh my God, did that really just happen? You've got to be freaking kidding me! Haven't I endured enough punishment from that spiteful bitch Fate…"

But the feeling of a big, strong, calloused hand on my arm brought me back from the internal dramedy that is my life…

"Hey, man, you okay?"

My heart was racing as I looked up into those clear pale blue eyes, "Uh…I'm fine…just a little embarrassed…"

I am not going to fall for this again…I am going to keep a firm grip on reality and not some crazy fantasy in my head…

Oh God, his smile was completely dazzling and I could hardly even feel the heat in my cheeks because I was lost in that gorgeous scruffy chin and plump dark pink lips and…

Oh God, Oh God, Oh God…please don't let me fall for another man that I can't have…please…

He just smiled as he helped me to my feet, "Why are you embarrassed? These fuckin' sidewalks suck…I've fallen probably twenty times since I moved in…"

I let out a breathless chuckle as he put his arm around me and pulled me up, "I fell…I just…I'm such a klutz…"

Did he just sniff my hair and sigh? No way, Brady…quit trying to put things in your head that aren't really there…

Once I was upright and steady, he raised a big muscular arm and scratched at the back of his neck before tucking his shaggy hair behind his ear, random strands still falling forward. And he smiled sweetly, "Well, that's the thing about fallin'…you don't even know it's happenin' till it's too late to stop it, so all you can really do is brace yourself and hope for the best…I'm Brandon, by the way…"

I know that, Brandon, because you're gorgeous and perfect and smooth as honeyed silk just like your other god damn cousins that I can't fall in love with because they're either taken or straight…fuck…

Okay, back to reality, "Um…Brady…"

He held out his hand and I almost whimpered when he squeezed my fingers lightly and grinned from ear to ear, "It's real nice to meet you, Brady…you wanna beer? It'll help the sting in your palms from scrapin' 'em on the pavement…"

I held my hands up and noticed that they were indeed, scratched up from my fall but I just hadn't noticed yet. But now I did and it started to sting as I hissed a little, "Ow…um, yes please…"

Suzie dragged me over to sit on the porch and Brandon handed me a beer as the boys just started drinking and talking about memories of them growing up together. I just sat there with my feet dangling over the edge of the porch and my head on Suzie's shoulder as they all chatted it up.

I took a long drink from my beer and made a face as I swallowed because I really didn't like beer but I figured with my current situation, a little alcohol to help relax me might be just what I needed.

Watching him laugh and wrestle and cut up with his cousins in the front yard underneath the dimly lit street lamp and beneath a clear Texas sky…I took a deep breath and slowly let it out.

All I could really do at this point was try to keep myself in the real world and hope for the best.