*edited as of 9/2017


Chapter One

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love."

Mother Teresa

Isabella's POV

"Diego, stop looking at Bree's ass and get a move on. I can't carry these trays by myself." I growl. My wrists were beginning to ache from the strain of carrying four trays.

"Jeez Isabella, I'm just admiring the view. Is that a crime?" He mocks, brushing a solitary black curl from his face.

"It is when Fred fires your ass." I laugh. Diego just rolls his eyes at me and takes one of the trays from my hand and heads out the revolving doors of the kitchen with me following close behind him. In usual Bella fashion, I nearly stumble into his back as he stops once again to take a peek at Bree.

"I think you need to be more worried about yourself than me." He chuckles and grabs the remaining three trays from my hands before heading over to one of the tables. I sigh and rub the back of my neck. I could tell it was going to be one of those nights.

It was a cool and rainy Thursday evening and it was absolutely chaotic.

People were everywhere. Couples, friends, and family were strewn about, enjoying the music, the food and their company. Tables hungry patrons from all areas of life who seem to want their food right then and there as soon as they sat down and the ballroom dance floor was swarmed with bodies trying to grasp onto the warmth that only close contact could provide.

Working at Freddie's Fine Dining and Dance was definitely a beneficial job when it came to money, but not when it came to working long hours with sometimes crappy and bitchy customers who thought they were above you in life.

I had been here since twelve this afternoon and it was slowly approaching eight o'clock, which was considered our happy hour. My feet were aching, I was sweaty with a small gravy stain on the corner of my shirt and just pure exhausted. Today was supposed to be my day off, but a few waiters had called in sick and given the usual Thursday rush, Fred needed someone to take their place.

The owner Fred offered to tip us extra for working the extra hours and I happily obliged. I needed all the money I could get. Working as a struggling art history graduate in today's economy just wasn't happening and you had to get work where you could find it.

Freddie's was a pretty well known restaurant here in Seattle. Open every day except Sunday, people piled in here by the masses. The big wigs, the romantics, the loners; everyone.

The restaurant was known for its elegant French themed cuisines and décor. Not to mention the huge dance floor, that harbored a huge live band that played various genres of music well into the early hours of the next day. The attire here was pretty formal. All employees were required to wear white tops and black bottoms; button down shirts, slacks and loafer for the males, while the women had to wear a white blouse, black skirt and heels.

The clothes weren't a problem for me, but the heels definitely were. I was extremely clumsy and didn't a day go by that I hadn't nearly taken someone out. I wanted nothing more than to slip into my comfy flats, but George; our night manager (and resident kiss ass to Fred) was very strict when it came to dress code.

I had just finished delivering a tray of appetizers to a waiting table, when Diego came over and told me I could take a break. Breaks usually lasted forty five minutes, but when it was chaotic like this, breaks often turn into ten minutes; fifteen if you were lucky.

"Thank god. I feel like my feet are about to fall off." I grimaced, wincing as I hit a particular sore spot on the back of my heel.

"Well… let's just hope that's the only thing that falls today." Diego teased, causing me to glare at him.

"What? Today's been a pretty good day and you haven't fallen at all. That's an accomplishment for you." He tried to reason. I glare at him again and pinch his side.

"Okay, okay. How about you go get us a table? I'm on break as well and I'll see if Colin can whip us up a couple of salads and some wine. Sound good?" I nod my head.

"Salad sounds great and make sure it's white wine. I really don't feel like explaining to George why my white shirt has a huge red stain on it." I reply heading out the doors and into the front.

I quickly settle down at one of my favorite tables. Reserved for the waiters for their breaks, it was situated in the corner of the restaurant and gave me ample view of everyone else, but strategically hid myself from view.

It was the day after Valentine's Day, and the restaurant was filled with mainly couples. Some were looking into each other's eyes, some were laughing, and many others were wrapped in each other's arms on the dance floor. It was all so lovely and sappy.

Mush, mush, and more mush.

It made me sick.

I hated to admit it, but I was definitely pessimistic when it came to all of that romance mumbo jumbo. It just didn't make sense to me.

To see it constantly portrayed in movies or some cliché rom-com, where the female lead is swept off her feet by some tall dashing brooding man, who's suddenly head over heels for her and yet seems almost too perfect and has this hidden overbearing flaw that he somehow overcomes.

Or better yet, the two best friends who think they can become lovers with the whole no strings attached concept and yet they eventually do fall in love. It was all just crazy and I honestly didn't know what I wanted to believe in anymore. I had to be realistic.

A part of me ached to be like the other couples I observed, but I knew it was never going to happen.

I was just plain jane Isabella Swan, the hopeless romantic who didn't believe in romance. Such a contradiction right?

"Is, are you okay?" Diego asked waving a hand in front of my face. I shook my head to clear my thoughts.

"Oh, yes I'm fine. I guess I just spaced out a little." I answer as Diego settles one of the two Caesar salads he held in his hands.

"I can tell. You were glaring out at the dance floor as if it did you something; almost in a trance. Any longer and I was beginning to ponder the idea of smacking you silly, but then stopped myself knowing you were probably going to kick my ass for even attempting." He grinned, his dark brown eyes twinkling in amusement.

"You know it Sanchez" I tease, grabbing one of the wine glasses he brought with him, and much to my chagrin it was indeed some red wine.

"Sorry Isa, the new shipment of white doesn't come in until tomorrow so we have to save what we have for the guests, and you know we're not allowed to touch the good stuff unless you're willing to push out 500 dollars for a bottle." He apologized.

"Whatever Di, just remember, if I get a spot on my shirt, it's all on you." I grin and I dig into the deliciousness of my salad.

Diego was my best friend. Born and raised in a small town in Spain until he was ten, he moved across the country to the little small town of Forks in Washington State, where I just so happened to be visiting my father the summer. It was one random encounter in a grocery store after I found myself separated from my dad that I crashed into him, nearly mowing him over with my clumsiness. I was six at the time and nearly in tears at the thought of being separated from my father to my humiliation was just an aisle over talking to his friend Billy about fish fry. Following a slew of Spanish expletives and some broken English, he nearly swung on me in response until he saw my teary eyed expression. Nearly a foot taller than me and four years older than me, he grasped my hand and stayed with me until we found my dad and we've been best friends ever since.

Diego knew me better than I knew myself at times. Things about my past and present; both good and bad and yet he never judged me and I did the same for him. I guess that was why we got along so well. We were practically joined at the hip.

There were never any romantic feelings between us, although it was often perceived that way by our coworkers, since we were so close with one another. With his jet-black curly locks, dark brown eyes and olive colored skin, he was definitely a sight for sore eyes.

Especially for our co-worker Bree Tanner, who was not so subtlety glaring at me from across the room while Diego and I ate.

I rolled my eyes. The two of them have been making goo goo eyes at one another for the past two years, but it seemed like the two of them were too stubborn to do anything about it. I even reasoned on how to get the both of them together, but it often resulted in being a failure on my part considering my past relationship history and Bree's obvious dislike of me. I'd finally come to the conclusion that I should just let things happen naturally and hoped that they would just fuck and get it over with so she could stop giving me the stink eye.

"Hey Di, why don't you go ask Bree to dance, so she can stop boring holes into my head huh?" I asked while he was in mid bite of his own salad. I fight a grin as Diego nearly chokes on his bite.

"She is not staring at you" He responds. I peek over my shoulder, using my hair as a curtain to sneak a glance over at Bree. Her glare was back full force. I really wanted to smack the look off her face and let her know that I was not stepping into her territory. I could have just told her that I didn't feel anything romantically for Diego in that way, but she was a just being a bitch. I ask him again.

"You think she would?" Diego comments and I notice the hopeful look in his eyes. I nod my head.

"I think she would love to." I whisper.

Yes, while I may not like Bree for no other reason than her glaring at me, I loved Diego and would do anything to see him happy. I just had to suck it up and grow a pair, at least in figurative means. I look through the curtain of my hair again to see her blue eyes brighten as Diego looks over in her direction. I watch as a soft smile spreads across her face and I was once again reminded that she had it bad just as much as he did.

"But I don't want to leave you alone." Diego replies softly. I swat my hand at him.

"Go I'll be fine. I'm twenty-six years old for crying out loud. You don't have to watch me twenty four seven." I reply. Diego gets up hesitantly and throws me a cautious glance. I push him over towards Bree, who suddenly thought that her plate was very interesting. I observe as he quietly creeps over towards her table and asks her to dance. She blushes and sweeps her long black hair behind her ears. She quickly nods her head and grabs his outstretched hand and walks towards the dance floor, where Siobhan was belting out a lovely jazz tune with the big band harmonizing behind her.

My food is soon forgotten as I watch Diego wrap his arms around Bree's waist and began swaying back and forth. There's a bit of distance between them for a moment until Bree rests her head against his chest and closes her eyes. It takes another moment before Diego does the same and rests his head on top of hers. I suddenly turn away from the two of them, feeling like I was intruding in on their little moment. I tried to ignore the pang in my chest and turned my thoughts elsewhere. I truly hoped they got together. If anybody deserved a happily ever after it was Diego.

I was the hopeless romantic who wasn't romantic at all. Quite the contradiction if I do say so myself.

I didn't necessary have high standards when it came to romance and tended to be a little bit pessimistic about it all, but I knew what I wanted.

I guess I just hadn't found it yet, or maybe was never meant to have it in the first place. That didn't mean I couldn't want it for others though.

You see I have sworn off men. I wasn't a lesbian by any means, but when you've had your heart broken as many times as I have, you just give up.

In every relationship I've had to date, I'd been cheated on.

No explanations or excuses and it always had been someone close to me that ended up breaking my heart, hence why I don't have many friends.

It all started with my first relationship, which took place in high school in ninth grade. It was the place where I met Eric Yorkie. He was the bookish nerd type, but he was one of the sweetest people I'd met….or at least I thought at the time. We dated for two years, before the hierarchies of high school got to him and once his braces and bad haircut were gone, he soon became the hottest thing on the scene. He dragged me along mercilessly (and I let him I might add) until I caught him cheating with my friend Jessica Stanley. Needless to say, he dropped me like a fly and suddenly by the end of our senior year, they were engaged and expecting. He didn't even apologize and neither did she. In fact she just shrugged it off as if it were nothing and outright told me it was my fault that I couldn't keep him. That was strike one.

Strike two began during my sophomore year of college. It was there where I met Tyler Crowley. He was the typical jock/football player of the campus. Tall, with a smile to kill for and skin the color of milk chocolate, he could have had any girl he wanted, but somehow he was interested in me. I ignored his advances at first, but he was very persistent and eventually wore me down. We dated for a year and a half and I thought everything was perfect. I'd even contemplated moving in with him despite us both having roommates and then like before…. shit hit the fan.

One night, I decided to surprise Tyler at his apartment with some Chinese food and a couple of comedies from red-box. I had a key to his apartment and was surprised to see that his door was unlocked. I knew he wasn't expecting me so I was a little curious as to why he would leave it unlocked like that unless he had forgotten in his usual rushing manner. I quietly knocked on the door to signal my arrival as I entered, but he was nowhere to be found. That was when I heard it; a soft groaning noise coming from Tyler's bedroom. My instincts were telling me not to go towards his bedroom but my body just propelled me forward. The moaning got louder and louder until I was now standing in the doorway watching what was going on in front of me. Not only was Tyler fucking another girl in his bed, but the same girl he was fucking just happened to be my roommate and now ex-friend Lauren Mallory. I stood there in disbelief and the two of them didn't even notice me until I let out a muffled sob.

Tyler was the first to notice. He abruptly pulled way from Lauren and began trying to throw on some pants, while Lauren just laid there in all of her naked glory. At least Tyler had the decency to try and apologize to me but he also told me in no circumstances did he regret his actions. He was in love with her and that was that. Lauren just boasted it in my fact that I didn't fit his lifestyle and that he needed a beautiful woman in his life with aspirations and not a ratty art student who was going to probably be struggling for the rest of her life. Last I heard, they had a nasty breakup when Tyler caught an STD from Lauren after he found out that she had been sleeping her way through his teammates.

Served them both right but the damage was already done.

Talk about a blow to a person's ego.

As if I wasn't feeling sorry for myself already by being cheated on twice…. I was basically being called ugly! Diego had a hard time getting me back from that one.

Strike three, was the straw that broke the camel's back.

I was fresh out of grad school and looking for job out in Seattle. I had made a promise to myself that I was not going to let myself get into any kind of relationship and that's was where fate threw Felix into my life.

To make a long story short, Felix was my "first" and everything and I honestly thought I loved him.

Again, I thought it was all peaches and cream until he of course cheated on me….with another man. Apparently I was just a test for him to really see if he preferred men and after our first time…my first time, he decided that he did not like the female anatomy at all.

I had a pretty nasty breakdown after that. I stayed in my apartment for weeks after that. I wallowed in myself pity wondering why did it have to happen to me and why was I so naïve and foolish to fall for jerks who just wanted to string me along. I'd essentially turned a man gay.

Suddenly, Seattle was becoming this suffocating place and I knew I had to leave or I was going to self-destruct. Diego being the life savior that he was, decided to accompany me. We blindly skimmed our hands across a map of the country and decided to move to various areas of the country and seven years later here I am.

Back in mother fucking Seattle….

This was my life at twenty-six. Alone, jaded, slightly bitter and working in a restaurant where my degree in art history that was slowly but surely going down the drain.

Seems perfect right?

I guess it was, at least to me it was. With the money I made here at Freddie's, I lived comfortably and spent most of my nights with my one-eyed cat Pattinson and dachshund Stewart.

Exciting wasn't it.

I had about fifteen minutes left of my break when I decided to make myself useful by gathering our dirty dishes. Diego and Bree were still out on the dance floor oblivious to everyone and everything in their little bubble.

Yuck….

After discarding the dishes in the back for the washmen to clean, I sat back down and began drinking the remnants of my wine. We were only allowed one glass to drink free of charge, but I determined to make it last, considering how sorry I was feeling for myself at the moment.

Closing my eyes, I mindlessly began swaying my head back and forth to the soft jazz undertones of the band when I could feel a presence looming over me. I opened my eyes to see a tall figure standing over me; a male to be exact. Dressed in black slacks that seemed to be contoured to his long legs, my eyes drifted higher up towards his chest, clothed in a white shirt with the first couple of buttons undone and accompanying black suit jacket. My eyes continued their travel upwards, bypassing his face to the mess of reddish colored hair that suddenly my fingers ached to touched. I stared at the top of his head for a moment before looking downwards at his face or more importantly his eyes.

Eyes that made my breath stutter in my chest and the wine I was drinking go down the wrong pipe.

Eyes the color of newly mined jade or fresh cut grass in the radiant sunlight.

I never thought green could be such a mesmerizing color.

Damn my father for making me inherit his muddy brown ones instead of my mom's green ones.

I continued to stare at him like a dummy when he suddenly spoke.

Deep, husky and smooth.

"May I have this dance?"


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xoxo Sylvia Cullen