A little drama, romance and humor – hope you enjoy this new one.
A million thanks to my awesome pre-readers and their advice, it was well heeded, for the name of this fic, and to my best ever beta Rhi. Love to you all.
Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and its characters. I own the contents of this story.
Jar of Hearts
I rolled my eyes as he came strolling into the campus library. He was always here it seemed like, "studying" with some pretty girl. He had his arm flung around the shoulder of some blond bimbo co-ed- probably named Kandy or something equally stupid. I shrugged. As long as they were quiet and not making out in the stacks up on the second floor, then I would ignore them.
I found it hard to ignore him, though. He was handsome, yes, but something about him drew my eyes constantly. For some reason, he always sat at a table close to the front desk. It was as if he knew I couldn't quit looking at him and was taunting me. That was stupid, though. He didn't even know I existed, or if he did, I'm sure he dismissed me as the non-entity that I was.
I sighed and blew a hunk of hair out of my face that never seemed to want to stay in my twisted sort-of-ponytail-bun thing. That annoyed me mightily that my thick, unruly hair refused to be contained.
I straightened my sweater, looked down at my turtleneck and my slightly too large cardigan, then glanced at my black dress pants, and then at my only indulgence, my shoes. I loved shoes. I was wearing a pair of black leather pumps that were both beautiful and expensive. I looked up from my boring clothes and then to the skin tight revealing clothes of the bimbo as she and him walked by and realized there was a reason men didn't notice me and I never got asked out on dates. Compared to girls like her, I dressed like a grandma. But this was all I knew.
I wasn't good with things like clothes and hair and…people.
His eyes darted to mine for one brief glorious second, and then he continued on, and he and the bimbo sat down at a nearby table. I mentally smacked myself and went back to checking in books in the computer and putting them on the cart for reshelving. Busy work to occupy my hands and mind that took my thoughts off my sad little life and kept my eyes off of him.
I loved working in the library. I loved books. I loved the smell of books; I loved the comfort of being here amongst the written word. Here, amidst the endless shelves of knowledge and stories that take you away to a different place or time, I felt safe. I thought of all the exotic places I'd read about and wished I could visit them, instead of just reading about them.
But fear kept me here. I was never one to spread my wings and fly. I held myself reserved and contained and lived a small, quiet, boring life. Maybe someday I would find that butterfly inside of this cocoon I lived in, but so far, she'd not emerged. Too afraid and shy to face the world, I snuggled deeper inside myself, and tried not to dwell upon my empty life.
I wasn't good talking to people, my shyness almost a crippling trait, so I'd never really had close friends or a boyfriend. I didn't think I'd ever even had a whole conversation with a guy, except about school or here at work about books. Guys kind of scared me. They were big and muscular, and from what I'd observed from working on a college campus, only interested in sports, beer, and sex. Mostly sex.
I skimmed my eyes around the library to check on things, alone here now that Megan had left early for the night, but everything seemed quiet. My eyes fell last on his table, and as I was studying him and the bimbo who was talking animatedly, his eyes suddenly met mine. Caught looking, I quickly darted my eyes back to my computer screen with a slight blush and pretended nothing just happened.
I hated that my eyes always sought him out when he was here, but how could they not? He was extremely handsome and looked like some sort of male model or movie star. But beyond that, there was just something about him that drew my eyes to him.
I'd heard about him. Around campus, the nickname they have for him is 'heartbreaker.' I'd even heard that he kept a little 'jar of hearts,' so to speak, in his apartment with all the girls' names he'd dated and dumped.
Girls can be really stupid, I decided.
It was getting closing time, so I stood up from my chair. I started clearing out the stragglers so I could lock up for the night. I made my way around the library and sent a few students on their way. As I made my way back to my desk, I was startled to see him standing there, one arm on the desk, leaning casually there as if he owned the damned place. I marched over behind the desk and pointedly ignored him.
"Excuse me, but I need to check this book out," he said in a soft voice.
I finally looked up to find him with both forearms resting on the desk and his face far too close to mine. I sucked in a breath. Oh, my God. He's even more handsome up close.
"No? Uh, this is the library, and you do check out books…"
I looked down, shuffling papers, unable to hold those blazing green eyes. "No. It's late. I've already shut down the system for the night. You can come back in the morning and check that out."
He placed a fingertip on the counter and drew it back towards him. I watched that fingertip slide across the desk and thought, imagine that on my skin. I slowly lifted my eyes to his. He held mine for a second and then darted his eyes down as he spoke, "Oh. Maybe you could make an exception for me?" he asked.
I just stared at him for a moment, and then wondered, what's so special about his book? I glanced at the title: History of Ancient Greece. Hmm, he really didn't strike me as a history major.
"Pretty please?" Edward asked with a full crinkly-eyed smile that made his eyes dance.
Holy shit. No wonder he was so popular on campus. One smile and this man owned your ass. Well, not me. I had already shut down my computer, and I was not logging back on. For some reason, he didn't frighten me at all like most men.
"I know who you are and I've heard all about you, Edward Cullen. Using your wiles, your handsome face and beautiful smiles to try to get your way with me won't work. I bid you goodnight and ask you to leave now so I can finish up and go home."
He stood there, his face registering shock, and then he began to chuckle.
"Handsome face? Beautiful smile? Wow. I'll take it. I have a feeling you're not the kind to give compliments easily, so that makes them all the more precious. I do believe you have me at a disadvantage here. You know my name, but I don't know yours."
"What does that matter?" I asked in annoyance.
"Because I like to know a woman's name- especially one as pretty as you- when I speak to her." He gave me another small smile.
I shook my head and rolled my eyes. He really, really wanted this book to call me pretty.
"Well, I'll just have to remain a mystery. Goodnight," I said firmly and pointed to the doors.
"All right," he said with a grin. "But I'll be back tomorrow, and by then I'll hopefully know your name."
"Whatever," I said with a shrug and turned away from him and started piling books, rather forcefully, on top of each other.
I heard a soft chuckle and a sound like he rapped my desk with his knuckles. Now that really, really annoyed me for some reason. I kept ignoring him until I finally heard the door close. I sighed in relief and went and locked the doors, then came back to the desk and flopped down in my desk chair, hugging myself.
I wished one day a nice guy, a genuine guy, would talk to me and like me for me. I wished I wasn't so awkward with men and knew how to be all cute and flirt, but I had none of those skills. I couldn't even fix my hair properly.
Edward hadn't been flirting with me, he'd just wanted something from me. But just for a moment, I'd wished that he had been. I shook my head. Silly girl. I had work to do before I closed up. Best get to it.
The next day, I came in for my afternoon shift and was surprised to see Edward sitting at one of the tables right in front of my desk. He had a small dark haired girl with him today who was the tiniest woman I'd ever seen. She reminded me of a fairy. He must be playing the protective caveman today. I shrugged. If his string of women were dumb enough to fall for his fake, dubious charms, then they deserved whatever they got.
I sat down and logged onto the computer and did my best not to look in Edward's direction.
"Hi!" A cheerful voice said brightly to me from in front of the desk. I glanced up.
Oh, the fairy girl.
"May I help you?"
"I'm Alice." She stuck out her hand for me to shake. I tentatively shook it and looked at her in curiosity. "And that's my brother, Edward," she said, pointing back at the table.
"Okay," I said in feigned disinterest and started looking at what Angela had been working on before she left for the day.
Sister? No one had ever said anything about him having a sister. I felt a little bad for thinking unkindly about her. She seemed friendly and nice.
"And what's your name?" she asked me, still annoyingly cheerful.
I sighed. "Did he put you up to this?" I asked, while indicating Edward with my head.
"Yeah, and if I get your name, he has to do all the dishes and cleaning at our place for the next month. I really, really hate to do dishes, so please let me win this," she asked pleadingly with sad eyes.
He lived with his sister? That must really put a cramp on his social life. How odd. Did he bring all his girls back their place with her there? I thought he was some sort of lothario, but he lived with his sister? That made no sense.
"You live with your brother?"
I wondered at myself and the ease I was conversing with Alice. Her open friendliness seemed to override my fear of speaking to people. Just like her brother. How strange. Was there something about these Cullen's that was different? Something about them that took away my fear?
"Yes, we've shared a place since I moved here. Our brother, Emmett, used to live with us until he got married to Rosalie."
Hmm. What should I do here? I really didn't want to give him the win of knowing my name, but I did love the thought of that handsome man scrubbing a toilet. I grinned to myself at the thought and decided to ally myself with his sister. Make him pay a bit for being such a player.
"Will he really be cleaning?" I asked mischievously.
Alice grinned at me. "Yes, and I plan to be as messy as possible the whole month just to annoy him."
I smirked and looked at Edward. He slowly lowered his book and blinked at me.
I just stared at him for a moment, the smirk falling from my lips. Cocky bastard who I hear can have any woman he wants just by beckoning them with a finger. Cocky bastard. I hope you enjoy cleaning and washing dishes, I thought with relish.
I rolled my eyes at him and looked back up to Alice. "Okay, then. It's Bella. Bella Swan. Nice to meet you, Alice," I said softly, and she offered her hand again which I shook briefly.
"Nice to meet you, Bella. Maybe we could get a coffee or something sometime?"
"Uh, yeah, maybe," I said uncertainly. I wasn't good with friendship or people in general, and I was sure she'd just said that to be nice.
"I'm holding you to that, Bella," she said and turned to walk back to the table and then stopped. "You're going to give him a little bit of a hard way to go, aren't you? Please?"
She gave me this pleading look of anticipation that almost made me giggle. I never giggled. What a weird reaction, I thought, but it felt right. I could almost feel camaraderie with her in that moment. Is this what friendship feels like? How nice to have that all the time, someone you can converse with easily who gets you and enjoys your company and makes you laugh.
"I'm not going to give him anything," I assured her, and Alice grinned widely.
"Oh, you're awesome. I like you already. We're totally having coffee tomorrow. Ten a.m. I'll meet you at the coffee house around the corner. See you then!" She did a little finger wave and danced her way back over to Edward before I could either reply or refuse her coffee date. Coffee? I had to go out and meet her for coffee? I didn't even have the excuse of work because I wasn't due in here until 3 p.m. tomorrow.
She went back to the table and had a whispered conversation with Edward, who looked my way the whole time with a victorious smile on his lips. I rolled my eyes at him again and tried very hard to keep my gaze on my computer screen. He and Alice left soon after, and I kept busy the rest of the afternoon reshelving books while Megan ran the desk.
I didn't mind this part of my job, actually, I liked it. I liked order. A place for everything and everything in its place. Neatness. Order. They were how I lived my life. Neat and orderly. Maybe that was the real reason I'd never dated or had a close friend. Relationships were messy, and I hated messy. I despised messy.
I finished in the fiction section and made my way upstairs. There'd been a rush of students today checking out poetry for term papers. I sighed when I turned the corner and saw the mess I had to fix. So much out of place. How annoying. I began reorganizing the books, stacking some on a cart and placing others in proper numerical order. Those English Lit majors had sure hit this section hard.
"Need any help?" I heard a voice say from behind me and almost jumped straight up in fright.
What was he doing back here?
I didn't look at him as I continued to try to put the books back in the correct order, my hands slightly shaking. I hoped he didn't notice that.
"You don't like me very much, do you, Bella?" he asked as he picked up a collection of Robert Frost poems and began to flip through it.
"I neither like nor dislike you. I don't know you. Why are you here bothering me?" I stopped and looked at him in curiosity. I really wanted to know the answer to this question.
"I wish the hell I knew," he said in frustration and slammed the book shut. I snatched it out of his hands and shoved it forcefully on the shelf.
"Is this a bet of some sort between you and one of your buddies to see who can get the first date with the most pathetic woman on campus? Because if it is, let me tell you, you're going to lose."
He did that thing again where he just looked at my face and blinked.
"Why would you say this? You, pathetic?" He frowned and seemed perplexed.
He could not be that dense, but maybe so. I would spell it out for him clearly.
"Edward, you're a popular guy on campus and probably the best looking one as well."
He shook his head and grinned to himself. I rolled my eyes at him again. It seemed to be a permanent condition when I was around him.
I skimmed my eyes over his tall, lean body. His handsome face with just the right amount of stubble. Dark green eyes framed with long lashes. His dark reddish almost bronze hair that was shorter on the sides, but a crazy, carefully tousled mess on top. Surely he bought hair gel by the gallon, I thought. He was gorgeous. There was no denying that, and he had to know it.
"I'm a librarian that's never been on a date. And I dress like this," I pointed to my huge sweater. "Guys like you do not give girls like me the time of day unless they want something like help with their homework or to check out a book past closing time at the library. So, whatever it is you want from me, forget it. I don't have the time or the desire to be messed with today."
I turned from him and dismissed him, going back to work putting back to order the middle shelf.
"Okay," he said so close to me that I jumped in surprise and dropped the two books I was holding.
I turned and leaned back against the bookshelf, because Edward was so close, invading my personal space.
"Okay, what?" I asked a little breathlessly. This man was making me more than a little nervous.
He slowly stepped up to me until he was leaning close, closer, closer. Then, his face was just inches from mine. I could smell the light musky scent of his cologne and see that he was even more beautiful this close to me, with flawless clear skin and full pink lips. He placed his hands on the shelf on each side of me and leaned a little closer, his eyes traveling over my face.
"W-what are you doing?" I asked in bewilderment.
He gave me little grin. "I'm trying to kiss you, Bella."
"K-kiss me?" What in the world was going on here?
He skimmed his lips over mine, the heat of his breath teasing me, making me tremble.
"You smell like flowers, like rain and sunshine and springtime," he said, as if in awe of that fact, and then, then…he tilted his head and captured my lips.
I felt the press of his lips on mine, the feel of him close to me, and his body heat mingling with my own and could only wonder at the feelings coursing through my body. I should stop this. I should smack him. I should…my eyes fluttered closed, and I just let myself enjoy this, my first kiss.
A soft, deep moan escaped Edward's mouth that seemed to travel down my body and settle right between my legs. I gasped and felt his arms wrap around me and pull me close against his hard chest. His lips continued their gentle assault of my own, and his tongue now took advantage of my open lips. I felt myself sway a bit at the touch of his tongue to mine, and now the throbbing between my legs was almost unbearable and seemed to radiate back up along every nerve in my body. It was astounding, powerful, and I felt alive, as if I had been sleeping my entire life, and now, suddenly, I was wide awake.
One hand of his was in my hair, pulling it free so that it fell around my shoulders, long and wavy. I was gripping the sides of his shirt, because I really had no idea what to do with my hands, then decided to slide them slowly up his back. I could hear a sound of approval from Edward as I skimmed my fingers over his taut back muscles. He seemed to want to kiss me forever, and I allowed him.
I had never felt anything like this in my life and maybe never would again so I let myself just follow where he was leading me. He finally, with his breathing ragged, pulled his lips from mine and gazed at me with wide eyes.
"Bella. Your lips."
He skimmed his thumb across my bottom lip, and I let out an unsteady breath. He leaned in, and his lips met mine again in a soft, sweet fleeting kiss.
His eyes now traveled over my face and down the length of my hair lying across my shoulders. He picked up a curling strand of it and played with it in his fingers.
"Your hair, my God, this hair of yours. It's enough to make a man weep." He stroked his hand over my scalp and down though its long length. He then simply placed his hands on my waist as his dark eyes held mine in contemplation.
I gazed up at him. "Why are you doing this?" I asked quietly. "If you're trying to add me to your list, for some game or something, I'll have to say no. I'm worth more than that. I may not be popular or beautiful, but I have respect for myself."
His eyebrows came together, and he looked slightly annoyed. "Bella. I have no idea what this image you have of me is, but I assure you I'm not what you think. And I don't know why I'm here. Why I'm holding you. Why I'm kissing you. All I do know is that I like how I feel when I'm with you, and I love kissing you, and would very much like to kiss you again."
Oh. "I think maybe that's enough kissing," I said in regret.
He gazed at my lips for a moment and then sighed. He then nodded at me, and with one last brush of his hand through my hair, he let me go.
"Perhaps, you're right. I should get going. Goodnight, Bella, and thank you for that, the best kiss of my life."
He had turned and started walking away, when he paused and slightly turned back and met my eyes.
"You may not be popular, but who cares about things like that? Not me. And as for you being beautiful, I wish I had a mirror right this moment to show you what you look like standing there. The woman I'm looking at right now is beautiful," he said quietly, but emphatically. One last look and he turned and left.
I clasped my hand to my chest and felt my thumping heart. No wonder they called him heartbreaker. He broke your heart with just a few simple touches and perfect words. I realized my hands and knees were shaking. I unsteadily sat down on the floor, my back against the bookcase and hugging my knees to me for some time until I could calm myself down. No matter what that was all about, I'd just been kissed by a handsome man who looked at me as if I was desirable. As first kisses go, that one was certainly a memory to be cherished.
Then confusion set in. Why? And those things he said to me about my lips and hair and about being beautiful. Lies or not, they were sweet and made me wistful for more. Someday a man would say those things to me and mean them. At least I hoped so.
Pathetic. Truly pathetic. Pull yourself together, Swan. One handsome man kisses you and says a few pretty words and you're putty in his hands. Ridiculous. I sighed heavily and picked up the books I'd dropped. I slowly stood up, and with one last glance at the direction Edward had just departed, I went back to shelving books and putting them in the correct order.
The work was calming me, soothing me. As I reshelved the books, I allowed myself briefly to dwell on Edward. He was smooth, very smooth, and I had never been kissed before, but he sure seemed skilled at it. I did enjoy it, I enjoyed it too much, but it wouldn't be happening again.
Mr. Heartbreaker could keep those soft, skilled lips, pretty words, and hands to himself. I was not going to be another conquest to be added to his little jar of broken hearts.
So…let me know if you like it. Thanks lovelies.
This chapter won Best Kiss in the Hidden Star Awards! Woo! The link to the cool banner I won is on my profile.