It had been a shitty day. A long, shitty day. I had never been more grateful to be off work. I stepped through the doors of the building where my office was located and took a deep breath. Despite being in downtown Seattle, the air was warm and fresh smelling. It had rained earlier, but the sky had cleared and a there was a spectacular sunset. Rolling my shoulders to release the tension I'd been holding, I struck out at a quick walk toward home. I lived just a handful of blocks from work, and I was looking forward to getting home and unwinding.

I only made it a block toward my apartment, when I was stopped by a barricade across the sidewalk. Apparently, they were tearing up the water mains in that section of street. I cursed, irritated that I was going to have to take another route home. I turned at the intersection and went down a block only to find the sidewalk there blocked off as well. I was nearly four blocks out of my way before I found a street that would take me in the direction I needed. In my haste to take it, I rounded the corner too quickly and tripped over the curb, landing hard on my hands and knees, and cursing loudly. This shitty day was never going to fucking end.

Spotting a bar nearby, I picked myself up and brushed myself off before heading toward it. At least I could wash up a bit and see how bad my scrapes were. I realized my mistake the moment I stepped inside: it was an upscale bar and, despite my tailored suit, designer shoes, and handbag, I looked woefully out of place. The hostess gave me a look of distain when I asked her where the restroom was, but she pointed to it and I made my way there.

Once in the bathroom, I removed my trench coat and washed my hands. They were faintly pink, irritated from my landing, but not scraped or cut. My pantyhose were ripped at the knees and completely ruined. I quickly removed them and then stepped back into my heels before wiping the dirt from my skirt, grateful that it was long enough to protect my knees from too much damage. I glanced at myself in the mirror, horrified to see that my hair, which had been so nicely curled this morning, was now limp and lifeless. I was tired looking, my lipstick worn off, and my cheeks pale.

I dug through my bag, pulling out a small makeup kit and brush. I gathered my hair into a neat bun and secured it with some bobby pins, sweeping my long bangs to the side. I touched up my lipstick and brushed a bit of translucent powder and blush onto my face. I smiled at myself in the mirror, glad to feel a little bit more pulled together. I gathered up my things and left the bathroom, gratified at the double take the hostess gave me when I stepped out. There were several people waiting for the restroom and I momentarily felt guilty for tying it up when I wasn't even a patron. I glanced over at the bar. I could always stay for a quick drink, which was sounding better and better by the moment.

I found an empty spot near one end of the bar and took a seat. I had hardly even taken my seat before the bartender was asking for my drink order.

"Dirty martini, please."

"Of course," he replied with a wink. I rolled my eyes when he turned away. Truthfully, this was not really my kind of place. I preferred a hole in the wall with a shitty jukebox, scuffed tables, and cold bottles of beer. I didn't really fit in here, although pulled together, I looked like I did. My expensive suit and pricy but tasteful jewelry fit right in. Truth be told, I would have been happier in jeans and a sweatshirt, but dressing appropriately was a necessary part of my job. I took my drink from the bartender and sipped it gratefully; I needed it.

Normally, I enjoyed working in the mayor's office. It was an exciting, challenging job. But today had been frustrating. I worked as the Assistant Director at the Office for Civil Rights for the City of Seattle and for the first time in my career, I wondered if it was the right job for me. After complaints of harassment by city employees, we got called in to help make changes to the code of conduct and have been working hard for weeks to train city employees. Normally, training went well, and most people were unaware of the biases and more subtle ways they created a hostile work environment. But some people were completely set in their ways. There were several particularly difficult managers we were working with, who were disinclined to go along with the new guidelines. Every day it seemed as though we hadn't made any progress at all.

I was halfway through my martini when I saw him. I caught a glimpse of him in the mirror behind the bar and I nearly knocked my glass over in shock. Edward Cullen. We had gone to high school together and back then, he had been a huge part of my life. Sadly, he'd barely noticed me at the time, and I doubted he would recognize me or even remember who I was, now. My crush had been monumental. The fact that he'd barely even noticed I was alive didn't stop the adrenaline that rushed through my body. I was back to feeling like a nervous seventeen-year-old, jittery and aroused from just a look at him.

Annoyed, I tossed back the rest of my drink and reached for my purse to pay for it. I wanted to get out of there and head back home. I signaled for the bartender and rummaged through my purse for some cash. When I looked up, he had placed another martini in front of me.

"I didn't order that. I actually wanted my bill."

"No charge. It's from the guy down at the end of the bar." My head snapped up and my eyes met Edward's in the mirror. He lifted his drink to me and winked. Warmth spread in my lower belly and I clamped my thighs together at the rush of arousal. Damn him. I wondered if he'd recognized me or was simply hitting on someone who he thought was a complete stranger. It was flattering to think that he might actually want me. I nodded to him and polished off the drink he sent. I paid for my first martini and when I turned around to leave, I was face to face with Edward. Startled, I wobbled a little on my feet. With a slow smirk, he grabbed my upper arm to steady me.

"Careful, Beautiful."

He didn't recognize me then. I felt smug, realizing that he had hit on me because he was attracted to me.

"Thanks." I smiled back at him and his hand slowly moved from my arm to rest on my hip.

"You aren't leaving, are you?"

"I am."

He pouted, and it was adorable. I wanted to take his lower lip between my teeth. "Are you sure I can't convince you to stay?"

I was fairly certain if I gave him the chance he could convince me to do just about anything, but I kept my mouth shut. "No, it's been a long day. I just want to get home."

He stepped closer to me and leaned in to speak quietly in my ear. "I can think of a better way to help you unwind."

I turned my head slightly until our mouths were just inches apart. "Oh yeah?"

"Yeah. Maybe start with another drink…"

I shrugged, acting completely indifferent. "Alright, a drink. But I promise nothing beyond that."

He smirked at me again. "Trust me, you'll be feeling much better by the time we're done with drinks."

He leaned in to order them from the bartender and I took a moment to examine him. He was still absolutely lethal. I'd never seen anyone else like him in the ten years it had been since we graduated. Suddenly, I wanted to take advantage of the situation we were in—tease him, seduce him, and then leave him wanting more. Delicious revenge after all the years I'd spent panting after him, and the fact that he didn't remember me at all.

I took his arm after he'd acquired our drinks and he led me to a secluded table in the corner. I made sure to let my skirt rise a little higher on my bare thighs as I sat, tucking my legs to the side. I reveled in the fact that his eyes followed every little movement I made. I sipped my drink and he brought his eyes to meet mine. He didn't blush or stammer an apology, just gave me a slow, confident smile and held out his hand.

"I haven't had a chance to introduce myself. I'm Edward Cullen."

"Hello, Edward."

He smirked. "Aren't you going to tell me your name?"


He leaned forward. "But I want to know what to call out when I'm inside you."

He was still a cocky little fucker, that was for sure.

"No." I stared at him impassively.

"You aren't going to tell me your name?"



"Call me Beautiful when you cry out my name." I leaned toward him. Technically, it was the truth—Bella was Italian for beautiful—and I momentarily wondered if I had given too much away, but he didn't so much as blink.

"Alright." He took a long gulp of his drink and tried to get back into his usual game. "So, what is it you do?"

"I'm Assistant Director for the Office of Civil Rights."

His eyes flicked down over me in surprise. "Impressive."

"What do you do?"


"Do you enjoy it?"



"No, not really. That's why I stopped in here."

"Not to pick up someone?"

His laugh came out as a short cough of surprise. "No."

"I'm not sure I believe that." I finished my drink.

"I'm not saying I couldn't, or that I don't sometimes, but that wasn't my goal tonight."

"What made you change your mind?"


"I was that irresistible?"

"Frankly, yes. There was just something about you…" I waited for some bullshit line about my eyes to come out of his mouth, but he turned surprisingly serious all of a sudden. "You looked like you'd had a long day, but you looked feisty, too, like you'd keep a guy on his toes. I was intrigued."

"Hmm, not the answer I was expecting."

"What were you expecting?"

"The typical crap about the depth of my eyes, or my smile, or even maybe about my body."

"You have a spectacular body, your smile is beautiful, and I do happen to like brown eyes, but no, that wasn't it."

Yep, still smooth, I thought.

"So, how is it you typically pick up women?"

"A lot of the time it doesn't take much. Buy them a drink, compliment their eyes..." He smirked at me and cocked an eyebrow. "Ask them out to dinner."

"What if I told you that you didn't need to bother with all of that? Just tell me what you want and chances are I'll say yes."

His eyebrows raised in surprise. "What I want? Hmm... I want to take you back to my apartment," he leaned forward and spoke quietly in my ear, "where I want to bury my face between your legs until you scream my name, and then bend you over the bed and fuck you until you forget about your bad day. In fact, I want to fuck you until you don't even know what day it is."

"That sounds promising."

"Was that a yes?"

"You didn't ask me a question."

"Beautiful, can I take you back to my apartment and fuck you senseless?"


He threw back the rest of his drink, tossed a few bills on the table and stood up, holding his hand out to me. I finished at a more leisurely pace and then took it. When we walked out of the bar together, the hostess gave me another nasty look. Apparently, I had not made friends with Lauren today.

When we were on the sidewalk, I paused. "Where to?"

He pointed across the street and several buildings over. "Right there."


He gave me a crooked grin. "I think so."

The walk into the building and the ride in the elevator was a blur. All I could focus on was the idea that, in just a few minutes, Edward Cullen would be fucking me. Every stupid, idiotic, high school fantasy I'd ever had about him would finally be fulfilled. It felt surreal. I'd spent high school completely obsessed with him, and even turned down a number of dates from other guys who just didn't measure up. Finally, in college I realized what an idiot I had been and began dating. I'd had a few semi-serious boyfriends and a couple of one night stands; I knew what I was in for. As long as I could keep from turning into that insecure little sixteen-year old I used to be, I would get the night I always dreamed of with him, and then I could walk away, leaving him wanting more.

I snapped back to reality when his hand touched my upper arm. "Hey, why are you chewing on your lip like that? You're going to make it bleed."

I turned to him in surprise. He pulled me around in front of him, so my ass was nestled right up against his cock, his arms locked tight around my waist. I gasped and had to fight to keep from grinding back against him.

"Are you okay?" he whispered in my ear. "We don't have to do this."

I turned my head, realizing that the handful of people in the elevator with us probably didn't want to hear our conversation.

"I want it. Just anxious," I admitted.

His palm slid around to grip my hip and pull me tighter to his body.

"Me too," he breathed in my ear, his words forming a puff of warm air that tickled the back of my neck and sent a shiver all the way down my spine to my toes. "Are you wet for me yet?" His voice was barely even a whisper, but I could hear him.


"I am so hard for you. Can't you feel my cock throbbing against your ass?"

I swallowed hard and nodded. I rocked my hips gently, just enough to torment him and he groaned quietly in pleasure and pain.

"I bet you're so wet, it's dripping down your thighs. I can't wait to find out what kind of underwear you have on. Is it something satin and lace that cups your pussy and is soaked through? Or maybe it's a tiny scrap of a thong that I'll have to peel away from your body where it's nestled between your lips. Do you know what I'm going to do once I get it off you? I'm going to bury my head between those thighs and devour you."

I shuddered and nearly let out a loud moan. Thankfully, the elevator stopped and Edward gently pushed me forward towards the door. The few people moved aside and he hurriedly made his way down the hall and quickly unlocked his door. He nearly shoved me inside and slammed the door shut, locking it in one single, fluid motion.

In moments, I was pressed up against the door, his tongue and teeth on my neck and his hard cock nestled right up against my pussy. We were still clothed, but barely. I ripped at his suit jacket, shoving it off his shoulders and onto the floor. He toed off his shoes, his mouth never leaving my throat. I ripped his shirt open and, with a satisfying ping, the buttons dropped to the floor. I growled in frustration when I realized he was wearing a soft white undershirt.

He pulled back just enough to work my coat off and unzip my dress, shoving it down to my waist. His lips moved to my collarbone and then down to the slope of my breasts, his tongue wetting the lace as he sucked my nipple into his mouth. I pushed him back and tugged on his undershirt until he shrugged out of the ruined dress shirt and pulled the t-shirt off. My hands met warm bare flesh and I sighed with pleasure, trailing my fingers down to his belt.

"Goddamn it," he muttered, his hands moving around to grip my ass and push his cock between my thighs. I cried out and he pressed against me harder, his hips rocking and moving in a way that made me desperate and crazed. We were both breathing loudly, the sound harsh in the quiet room.

I needed to kiss him desperately so I grabbed a fistful of hair and brought his lips back up to mine. They were soft and needy and frantic all at once. He tasted faintly of scotch, and then more strongly of it as his tongue slipped inside my mouth. He kissed me like he'd been starved for it and I greedily responded until we were both breathless and panting. I pushed him away and dropped to my knees, unbuckling his belt buckle and hastily undoing his pants. He was hard and straining against the cotton of his boxer briefs, and I flicked my tongue out to touch the spot that was wet.

"I want you inside me," I begged.

"Fuck," he gasped, "I wanted to make you come on my tongue before I fucked you."

He yanked me up and crashed his mouth against mine, his tongue stroking deep and hard in my mouth. I shook my head and he pulled away, returning to my nipple. His fingers slipped up under the fabric of my dress between my thighs. The lace there was soaked with my arousal and he gasped and his teeth closed gently around my nipple again.

"Skip it. I want your dick inside me."

"Jesus Christ," he groaned in response. "Condom, I need a condom."

His fingers pushed into me—hard and insistent—and my body welcomed it.

"I'm on the pill, and clean," I blurted out. "If you are too, then forget the condom." It was stupid, trusting him, but suddenly, I wanted so badly to feel his bare skin against mine.

"Fuck yes."

He pulled away and dragged me behind him as he made his way to what I assumed was the bedroom. Once inside, he worked my dress and underwear down over my hips to the floor before turning me around and pushing me down so I was bent over the bed. With heels on, the bed was the perfect height. He rubbed the head of his cock over my wetness and I ground back against him. This was going to be spectacular.

"Fuck me, Edward!" I ordered and he slammed inside of me. It had been an awfully long time since I'd slept with anyone and the feeling of him inside of me sent me into a frenzy. I arched back, crying out loudly, and he groaned and tightened his fingers on my hips. It was raw and rough as he pounded into me. I'd never been that consumed by a desperate desire to come. Every time the head of his cock thrust back into me, I cried out, resting my head against the covers of the bed, just letting him take me.

"Harder," I gasped, reaching up to play with my nipples and he groaned.

"Take your hair down," he begged and I fumbled for the pins holding it up for just a moment before I got them worked out. When my hair came loose, he wound it in his fist and pulled—not harshly, and not enough to actually hurt me—he used it for leverage, thrusting deeper and harder into me. My back bowed and I cried out loudly as my orgasm hit, clear down to my toes. I shuddered against him.

"Just a little bit more, Edward, please."

He didn't let up, and I shuddered and shook with the force of the pleasure, my skin breaking out in a cold sweat at the intensity of it. I felt my inner walls milk his cock, and he let out a strangled groan and tugged once on my hair before sagging over me, his movements slowing and becoming erratic.

His breathing was harsh against my back and I rested my forehead against the soft fabric of his bed, struggling to catch my own breath.

"I really hope your neighbors weren't home," I panted and he chuckled.

"I may get some irate notes slipped under my doorway." He stood up and pulled me up with him, his arm going around my waist, surprisingly gentle after the rough fucking, "but I don't care; it was totally worth it." He kissed my neck and I hummed with pleasure.

I turned to face him and finished undressing him before pushing him down onto the bed. He didn't move a muscle as I stripped off my bra and stepped out of my heels. He did, however, start to get hard again, and I knelt on the bed in front of him before using my tongue to trace a path from the bottom of his cock to the tip. I watched him while I did it, and his eyes fluttered half closed, a throaty moan leaving him. "Jesus that feels good."

"Tastes good, too."


"Like my pussy and your come."

"Beautiful, if you don't climb on top of me and ride my cock right now, I am not going to be responsible for what I do. I will fuck you six ways 'til Sunday," he groaned, looking at me pleadingly.

"Well, if you insist." I gently pushed him back until he was lying flat on the bed, and then crawled up his body and positioned myself over him, slowly sinking down on him. "I think I might be able to accommodate you."

"You feel so goddamn good," he gasped as I rose up and then down again, slowly at first. My hands reached behind me to grip his thighs and I threw my head back. I lost track of time as I rode him, slowly and easily. My legs began to cramp but I didn't stop, liking the slow, sweet burn of pleasure that was taking over my body. His fingers moved to where we were connected and his thumb swiped across my clit. I came with a strangled scream and collapsed forward on his chest. He rolled me so we were on our sides and slid me under the covers. I wasn't sure how long we dozed for, but I woke up to him caressing my inner thigh. He took his time, stroking me gently until I gasped and writhed, begging him for more. Then I was on my back and he was on top of me. He slid inside and my back arched, feeling the length of him deep inside of me.

"Please, Beautiful, tell me your name," he whispered. "Please."

My resolve crumbled away and I heard myself whisper, "Bella. It's Bella."

"Bella," he said softly. "Yes."

I wasn't sure quite what he meant, but he moved inside of me again and I completely lost any train of thought I'd had. I closed my eyes and gave into it. I didn't think about how much I'd wanted him in high school, or how the night was going to end. It was just my body and his. It was the sweet ache between my thighs that only the movement of his cock could assuage and the taste of his tongue in my mouth. I shuddered and shook and cried out, mindless and needy for him. I came and he was still hard and moving inside of me. My head thrashed on the pillow, the pleasure building and building until I was incoherent from it, my fingers digging in to his arms, wanting him so badly I wanted him to crawl inside me and never leave. Tears fell onto the soft white linen when we came together the final time, hoarsely crying out our pleasure. In a tangle of limbs we lay there silently, our breathing the only sound in the quiet room.

He led me into the shower and it felt unreal, everything dreamy and hazy, his tongue between my thighs the only thing keeping me from floating away. I was drunk on his touch, dizzy with desire and need. After, he helped me into bed and, although I knew I needed to leave, I couldn't force my tongue to make out the words. Instead, I slept, cocooned in his arms, seamlessly sliding from reality into dreams.

Light was beginning to seep through the curtains when I woke and finally convinced myself I needed to leave. Edward was out cold. In sleep, he looked younger, more like the boy I'd lusted over in high school. It was somewhat gratifying to know that at least my lust hadn't been misplaced. He was a spectacular guy. Cocky, yes, but from what I could tell, intelligent, hard-working, beautiful to look at, and there was no denying that he was an incredible lover. I was sorry I had to leave. It wasn't revenge anymore, but self-preservation.

I frowned and brushed my finger across his full lower lip. What I wouldn't give for a few more hours of kissing that mouth. But, I needed to go. It would be too easy to stay and get my heart broken when he told me he wanted nothing more than a one-night stand. And it was ridiculous to think of anything more. I wanted to believe that the night before had meant something to him as well. That the connection I felt to him wasn't completely imagined. But if I let myself stay and I was wrong, it would shatter me.

With a regretful sigh, I crawled out of bed, freezing when I heard him softly say my name. I turned to look at him, but he was still asleep, clutching the pillow I had been using, and his breathing was deep and even; it had been just a hazy, half-dreamt utterance of my name. Perhaps he was dreaming about me. I dressed quietly and stood in the doorway for one last look. Before I could change my mind, I kissed his forehead quickly and left, closing the door to his apartment silently behind me. The quiet of the elevator seemed surreal when I stepped inside. I closed my eyes momentarily, my mind lingering over the aching wetness between my legs and the languid looseness of my limbs. I was a woman well and thoroughly fucked. Why did I feel so unsatisfied though?

I left the building and made it half a block down the street before I heard my name. I turned, shocked to see Edward running toward me, his pants hanging loose on his hips, shirt barely buttoned, and shoes flapping on his feet. I was so caught up in watching him that it took me a moment to realize he had called out my name. Thinking I had, perhaps, left my wallet or something behind, I reached for my purse. But it was there, and despite my overwhelming urge to turn and run, I stood my ground. He ran quickly, even though I had stopped, and he was panting when he reached me.

"Wait, Bella. Please wait."


My day had been frustrating. I desperately needed a drink to unwind and I knew the bar across the street from my apartment building would be just the place to get one. Honestly, on nights like this I preferred a little hole in the wall place with some pool tables and no one trying to impress anyone, but the bar across the street was convenient. Plus, I knew the bartender and he made killer drinks. I'd slipped him enough good tips to ensure strong drinks and quick service. I liked the place alright otherwise, although it was really best for picking someone up. It was the kind of place you went to find a hot chick to spend the night with, and nothing else. I'd been known to do that occasionally. I'd probably break a few hearts going home alone tonight, but I wasn't in the mood for a quick fuck. To be honest, I was tired of it. Tired of the games and the bullshit and the loneliness. But I knew I'd never find the kind of girl I was looking for in a place like that.

I flashed a smile at Lauren, the hostess, as I walked toward the bar. She was pretty enough—long blond hair, blue eyes and some pretty spectacular tits, even if they were fake—but she always came across a little desperate, and since she knew exactly where I lived, I wasn't about to hook up with her. I could tell was the clingy type. I took a seat at the end of the bar and ordered a scotch. It was damn good scotch, meant to be savored, but I gulped it down anyway and ordered a second. The second, I actually sipped more slowly. I was about halfway through it when I saw a girl take a seat at the other end of the bar. Not a girl, a woman. She was probably my age, or a bit younger. She carried herself well and looked put together. Her dark brown hair was swept up and away from her face in a neat twist. Her face was lightly made up, and there was something effortless about the way she looked. It wasn't until she had sat down and called the bartender over that I recognized her. Isabella Swan.

We'd gone to high school together and I'd always had a little bit of a crush on her. But her father was Chief of Police and she was smart as hell, both things I'd found incredibly intimidating, so I'd never talked myself into asking her out. She was the kind of woman I was looking for: smart, beautiful, feisty. She'd been reserved, maybe even a little shy in high school, but she'd occasionally get worked up about a topic in class. I remembered her arguing her point passionately, two bright spots of color burning on her cheeks and her eyes fiery and determined. I motioned for the bartender, whispering instructions to him quietly. He took the drink over to her just as she stood up to leave and I waited with baited breath to see if she'd accept it.

I caught her glance in the mirror and winked at her now, raising my drink to her. She nodded back, a hint of pale pink blossoming on her cheeks, and I wondered if she'd recognized me. By the time I paid my tab and made it over to her, she had stood up. She was startled when she saw me and I steadied her when she wobbled, not sure if it was the drinks or just surprise that had made her unsteady on her feet.

I convinced her to stay and have another drink with me, but I was surprised by the game she seemed to be playing. Did she really not remember me at all? I felt a little miffed, wondering if I was really so forgettable. The fact that she refused to give me her name, made me think that maybe she did know me, but didn't want to admit it for some reason; I couldn't figure out why though. Regardless, she was interested in me now, no matter who I was, and the thought of having a chance with her was too good to pass up.

I lost track of time as we talked, and it wasn't until I had her pressed against the door of my apartment that I came back to myself. She was eager and needy in my arms, and I lost myself in Bella, so eager to touch and taste and see all of her. I'd dreamed about her in my arms like this, but the fantasy seemed dim and far away, when she was here and so warm and needy against me.

After she came for the third time, I was nearly spent, but I wanted her to stay. She was silent, her body still intertwined with mine. I swallowed past the lump in my throat and finally managed to speak.

"Shower with me?" I asked quietly.

"Oh, um, sure." The sultry goddess who had seduced me earlier was gone. She seemed small and fragile, unsure of herself, and I wondered if she regretted telling me her name. If she felt what I felt when she came apart beneath me. Had those been tears of pleasure? Or of regret? Doubt twisted my stomach and I was afraid she'd disappear like a puff of smoke if I said the wrong thing.

She followed me into the bathroom and I wrapped her in my robe while we waited for the shower to heat. It only took a few moments, but I spent the time gently rubbing her shoulders, silently trying to convince her to stay in any way I could. Once steam was billowing from behind the glass door, I gently removed the robe and followed her inside. I continued to rub her shoulders and followed it with kisses, trailing my lips down her body; I had to taste her. Making my way to her inner thigh, she sighed when I lifted her left leg onto my shoulder.

Even though the water had mostly washed her clean I could still taste her, a concentrated version of her scent. Lush, like perfectly ripe fruit. Passion fruit maybe, achingly sweet with the faintest sharp tang. I had dreamed about this for years, desperate to taste her and now that I had, I couldn't get enough. I licked her until she cried out from pleasure and my tongue was tired. Even then I couldn't stop, nibbling with my teeth, stroking two fingers in and out of her, anything to make her come again. She did, and I finally relented, washing her and practically carrying her to bed when she was too tired to move.

She had given me her name in bed earlier and I hoped it meant she had let me in a little. I was so tempted to blurt out who I was and that I recognized her, that I'd wanted her for years, but she fell asleep almost immediately. I watched her sleep for a while. My body was content, but the rest of me ached for more. I finally had a chance to look at her unobserved and I studied her face-her skin still pale and clear, her lips seemed a little fuller, her cheekbones more defined. Ten years had given her the look of a woman and, although she'd been a very pretty seventeen year old, she was even more beautiful now.

I fought sleep for a long time, afraid she'd vanish and I'd be unable to stop her. I ached for her still, but now the need was more than physical. Breathy and full of longing, she whispered my name in her sleep. I finally fell asleep with my arm draped over her stomach, my forehead pressed to the top of her head, hoping desperately that I'd wake when she did. I dreamed of a life with her, a white dress, a key to a house, our children. It was so real I could nearly smell and taste it, and when it began to fade, I cried out, reaching for her.

I gasped awake, unsure of what had ripped me from my sleep. It only took a moment for me to realize that the bed beside me was empty, although not yet cold. I stood up, hastily throwing on pants and trying to button my shirt while I called out her name, desperately hoping she had only gotten up to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. But the apartment was empty and her clothing was gone. I swore, frustrated and disappointed that I'd lost her. Jamming my feet into the first pair of shoes I found, I took off out of my apartment as quickly as I could. The elevator ride was interminable and I wondered what I could do if she had already disappeared. I could Google her first, and if that didn't pan out, start calling the Office of Civil Rights. It had to be listed somewhere. Christ, that was creepy and stalkerish, but the idea of letting her get away again was unbearable. I didn't understand; I had to know why she left.

Would it be too much to call Chief Swan and ask for her number? I wondered, quickly backpedaling. Yes, way too much.

I burst through the doors onto the street and saw that she was most of the way down the block already. I broke into a fast jog and when I saw I might not catch her in time I called out her name. She turned, a look of surprise on her face, but she stayed in place.

"Wait, Bella. Please wait," I begged, closing the distance between us. I let my body brush against hers as I wound my fingers through her hair. "Why did you leave?"

"I had to go." Her eyes were wide and apprehensive looking.


She pulled away from me and I let my hands fall to my sides, not wanting to push her. Frowning, she took a deep breath. "Did you want me to stay?"


"Oh. I…I didn't think you would."

"I have a confession to make." This time I was the one needing to take a breath. "I recognized you the moment I saw you."

"I recognized you, too," she admitted.

"Then why did you hide who you were?" I shook my head in frustration. She opened her mouth to speak, but I waved off her response. "It doesn't matter right now. Look, I'd really like to talk about this more, but it's unbearably early in the morning, it's cold out, and I would really like to go back to bed right now."

"Oh, um, sure. I guess we could meet later for coffee or something."

"No, Bella, I'd like you to come back upstairs with me to my apartment and back to bed."

"Are you sure that's a good idea?"

"I think it's the best idea I've ever had." I stepped closer to her, running my hands up and down her upper arms. "Please, stay a while longer. Give me a chance."


"Thank you," I breathed, kissing her on the forehead before taking her hand and leading her back to my apartment. Back in the warmth of my bedroom, I undressed her slowly and led her to the bed. She hesitated briefly before crawling in and I pulled her close, curling around her. I didn't fall asleep until her breathing was deep and even, and hours later, when I awoke, she was still beside me.