Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. I am in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise, I just use their creations to have my wicked way with them. No copyright infringement is intended.


A word of thanks is in order to my dear friends The Real Teacher and Ange de l'Aube for beta'ing this oneshot and creating the awesome banner. I love these two girls with all my heart!


Since work and illness are keeping me from updating LDV this week, I thought I might as well post this one. It was part of the Fandom4LLS charity compilation and based on a real DYA entry.


Damn you autocorrect!

A oneshot by Miss Baby

"Hey, Cullen?" I looked up from the book I'd been reading – a very interesting volume on the nature of domesticated plants I'd stumbled across at the local library – to find Emmett McCarty, PE teacher and king of the jock squad staring back at me with his usual slightly vacant smirk.

"Huh?" I pushed my glasses back up my nose, my eyes blinking as they readjusted to a world without letters.

"Don't you have a class to teach?"

Shit!

"I thought so," he snickered, looking rather amused by the awkward situation I found myself in. Again. "Well, you'd better run. Take it from someone who knows his stuff that you don't want the old scarecrow to get the idea you're slacking off already, don't ya?"

"N-no," I stammered, pushing my glasses back up my nose as I hastily gathered my book and the few pages scribbled with notes beside it and ran from the staff room like my backside was on fire, Emmett's burly guffaws following me as I went.

I sighed, almost tripping over a half-eaten slice of pizza carelessly discarded on the floor by one of the students on my way to my classroom, tucked safely in the back of the main building, where no living soul would come unless he or she had to.

People like Emmett McCarty had been the reason why I'd expressly requested this particular room and why, on most school days, I chose to spend my lunch period in that very room.

He unnerved me.

I'd never been a people person, which might have been why everyone who knew me had been completely astounded when I announced my intention of becoming a high school teacher. Those who merely knew me had been amused by the prospect of me – shy, introverted and lacking the skills to converse easily with strangers – trying to keep a classroom full of lively teenagers under control while those who actually cared for me had been downright fearful for my sanity.

I didn't have a choice, though.

When my mother called me, two weeks before graduating college, to announce that my dad was 'feeling a little under the weather, I knew something must have been terribly wrong. As far as I knew dad had never been sick for a day in his life. On the contrary, as a doctor it had been his vocation to cure the diseased with a steady and unwavering dedication to his job.

He'd been only four months into his retirement when his body simply started to give out.

I'd caught the redeye out of Boston that same night, wishing my parents had remained in Chicago – where I'd been born and raised – instead of retiring to some remote speck on the radar in Washington State.

It had been the best decision I'd ever made, since it gave me some very precious years with my dad as he slowly slipped away from us and help my mom get settled in her life as a widow in a strange town with only her son to comfort her.

However, it had also left me with quite a conundrum as to what my future might hold.

Newly graduated from Dartmouth with a degree in biology, there was precious little else a man could do in Forks except for waiting tables at The Lodge or the cozy diner serving the less fortunate or apply for a position at the Newtons' outdoor equipment store.

I only had to take one look at Bob Newton and I knew I'd never get the job, even if I wanted it, and with me being far too shy and clumsy to ever make for a decent waiter, that option was out of the window as well.

Teaching was the only option open and – not unimportantly – one in which I could actually make use of my college degree.

So teaching it was and after a short and quite steep learning curve I found myself a newly minted teacher of Forks High; as astonished as my friend and family were to find that I could bear the obnoxiously loud and boisterous behavior of the 'popular crowd' quite easily if it meant that I could make a difference to those few students who were genuinely interested in my chosen field.

In fact, as I started to get more and more used to my new routine and life in small town America, I found that I was beginning to like teaching more and more.

My colleagues not so much, though.

The majority of the teaching staff at Forks High consisted of people who'd grown up around there and either never wanted to leave or tried and failed to built up a life for themselves in the big city (which nine times out of ten was nearby Seattle).

Like Emmett.

He'd been some big shot sports dude who'd made it to U-dub on a football scholarship only to see himself superseded by most of his fellow jocks, young men who came from much more competitive environments than Forks had ever been and were much more apt to deal with the cutthroat environment of college sports.

It must have been a hard pill to swallow for someone as convinced of himself as Emmett but instead of letting it get him down, he did the next best thing: married the prettiest girl he could find, return to his home town as the 'savior of the PE section' and produce a handful of kids who were as loud and obnoxious as he was.

His whole outlook on life was about as different from mine as night and day.

And it showed.

Emmett and most of my other colleagues only had to take one good look at me to slot me in with the rest of the socially handicapped crowd, consisting – apart from me – of Katherine Novak, math teacher, Alexander Sloane, Science teacher and Jasper Whitlock who taught history.

Together we formed a sort of silent alliance against the popular crowd (don't let anyone fool you, the teaching squad is about as similar to the student population and its cliques, gossiping and petty rivalry as two identical twins) headed by the inescapable Emmett McCarty and Janet Payne, resident English teacher.

Which brought me back to the present….

"Hey teach!" a sneering voice echoed through the nearly empty corridor. "You're late! Did you forget your watch again?"

Royce King.

I pulled my shoulders back as I took a deep breath through my nose, ignoring my natural tendency to crumple into a ball whenever someone tried to make fun of me as I leveled his stare, hoping he didn't notice the fear behind my eyes. "Unless you want to find yourself in detention yet again, Mister King," I addressed him, making my voice sound as haughty and self-assured as I could muster, "you might want to change the tone in which you address me."

His eyes narrowed into spiteful little slits. "My parents….."

I barely resisted the urge to snort. His parents indeed! When would the boy grow up and quit hiding behind his parents and start acting like a man instead of the Kindergarten playground bully?

"Your parents might carry some weight outside of this building," I warned him, "but inside these walls, Principal Denali is in charge and you know as well as anyone else that she won't stand for your insolent behavior any more than I will."

If his eyes would have narrowed any further they would have been closed as he tried to stare me down, probably planning my slow and painful demise.

"Come on, R," Jacob Black, a recent addition to his circle of friends (or better said: fiends) muttered, the friendly hand he placed on Royce's shoulder meant more to pull him back into the crowd than to show his support. "It's not worth missing practice for."

"I doubt coach McCarty would have let that happen!" Royce sneered, just audible over the hum of teenage voices as I unlocked the door and ushered my students inside the classroom.

I sighed, letting the soothing smell of previous lab assignments, disinfectant and the two green Iguanas I kept in a big terrarium on top of my cupboard soothe my nerves as I realized bitterly that Royce was probably right.

As the most successful coach in the history of the school, there was precious little Principal Denali would deny him.

"Okay. Class," I announced as soon as everyone was settled, "we'll be picking up where we left off yesterday. I trust that everyone has completed his or her homework so I don't want any questions from people who don't know what they are supposed to be doing…."

I looked around sternly, seeing the usual suspects squirm in their seats as they realized it probably would have been wise to do their assigned reading instead of slacking off yesterday afternoon. "As soon as everyone is settled I want one team-member to collect a microscope from the cupboard while the other comes forward to pick up the glass slides."

I waited, looking over to the tables at the back where my top students – Angela Weber and her boyfriend Ben Cheney – were nodding, their attention fixed on me like I held the answers to all of life's mysteries. "Now, I don't have to repeat how you'll be handling costly school equipment which should be handled with care, do I?"

"Believe me, teach," Jacob grumbled, looking rather bored as he fiddled with his hair. "We know."

"Good," I nodded, wondering as I'd done so often over the last couple of weeks why a bright young man like Jacob would ever settle for being friends with a creep like Royce. I guess it was the old tune of high school popularity….

"Then get to it." With a wave of my hand everyone rose,

I sat back in my chair as soon as things calmed down again, my eyes fixed on the room as I unlocked my desk drawers, the little blinking light on my phone indicating that I had a new message awaiting me.

Hello Mr. Cullen, this is Bella, Jacob's mom. Just making sure we are still on for tonight's parent teacher conference.

My heart skipped a beat when I recognized the name in the message.

Bella.

Jake's mom.

Isabella Black.

The woman I'd been secretly in love with ever since I set eyes on her but whom I never dared approach for fear of being shut down.

It wouldn't have been the first time something like that happened.

"Mister Cullen?" Lauren purred from her spot in the second row, batting her lashes in a way that was probably supposed to be seductive but, to me, just looked like an insect had just flown into her eye. "Could you help me with these slides please? I think they are all wrong."

I groaned inwardly, knowing she'd probably hadn't placed them under the microscope correctly even though I'd only explained them about a dozen times and instructions were plainly written out on the blackboard behind me. "I'll be with you in a minute."

I typed out a quick reply, confirming Mrs. Black's appointment at seven before rising from behind my desk to check on Miss Mallory and her equally inadequate lab partner.

"It just looks all wrong…' Lauren repeated in a whiny voice, pointing at the microscope as if it had done something to offend her.

Which it hadn't.

"Well, let me see…." I mused, trying not to let my eyes get drawn to the chest she so blatantly advertised in her low cut top as I stood behind her. How could a parent ever let their child leave the home dressed like that? The poor girl looks like a prostitute and a cheaper one at that.

Even from a mile away I could see that she'd stuck the slide under the microscope in completely the wrong way, almost breaking a valuable piece of school equipment in the process.

"Miss Mallory?" She looked up sweetly, probably expecting me to step in and do her assignment for her. Not this time. "Can you read the first part of the instruction from the blackboard for me?"

Her brows furrowed with confusion, her eyes squinting as she stared at the board, reading what she was supposed to have been doing without falter.

"Now, do you see where you went wrong?" I asked, my impatience making me squiggle in place like someone who desperately needed to pee.

Though in my case I just desperately needed to get the hell away from Miss Mallory before her ignorance would infect me and render me unable to do my job.

"Did I put the thingy the wrong way again?" Miss Mallory pouted, yanking the slide free in a way I was sure would cause permanent damage to the microscope. It wouldn't have been the first one she'd wrecked either.

"Yes, Miss Mallory," I snapped, my voice a little sharper than I intended it to be as Lauren's lab partner, alerted by the brusqueness of my voice, finally looked up from the glossy pages of Seventeen she's been clandestinely perusing under the table and gawped at me like a fish on dry land. "Now if Miss Stanley would be so kind as to hand me her magazine, the two of you can get on with your assignment."

Jessica – Miss Stanley – looked like she was going to say something but I beat her to it. "Remember, this particular subject is going to make up thirty percent of your grade. You do not want to fail this class." And with that I snatched the magazine from in between Jessica's claw like nails and dunked it in the trashcan next to my desk.

"Can he do that?" Jessica furiously whispered, her words intended for Royce (who, rumor had it, was the boy she had a not-so-secret crush on even though he had fooled around with Lauren Mallory behind the bleachers after last Friday's football match – yes, the most popular topic of conversation in the staff room was the never-ending soap opera of our students' tumultuous love lives ). Unfortunately for her and the few students who were still paying attention to their microscopes, sharp, unpleasant voice carried through the room like a foghorn.

Royce, leaned back graciously in his chair, assured that he had the attention of his fellow classmates, his smile silently challenging to say something about it as he answered her. "Maybe not," he rasped in his usual pompously self-important drawl. "But then again, do you really want to go to the principal's office and explain how you find it unacceptable that your teacher trashed the girly magazine you were reading in his class?"

Apparently not since Jessica sat back, her face pulled into a deep scowl as she reluctantly set back to work on her assignment.

Royce King-in-more-than-just-his-name had spoken and everyone – even I – knew that his word was law around these parts.

Because his family was the law.

The Kings were the richest family in town, the father the CEO of the local branch of JP Morgan Chase (if such accolade could actually be applied to the man in charge of a small town bank) and the mother a big shot lawyer.

As their only child Royce could pretty much do as he pleased around town as long as he didn't stray too far from the law and made sure that the good name and reputation of the Kings was preserved.

Which, in short, meant that the boy was completely and utterly insufferable.

And what was worse: he got away with it.

Once I was satisfied that everyone was, again, at work completing their assignment my eyes were drawn once more to the still slightly open drawer desk, the red blinking light indicating that I had a new message.

From Bella.

Wow. I think something may have gone wrong with your last message.

I frowned, staring at the letters on the tiny screen. Something went wrong with my message? What then, seeing as it had apparently been sent to the right recipient.

Scrolling upwards I wondered if maybe I'd gotten the time wrong when finally my eyes landed on the words I'd so hastily scribbled out.

Hello Mrs. Black. Yes, we're still on. I will come fuck you at 7. Until then.

Oh.

My.

God.

I gasped, almost dropping the phone from my hands as I stared at the illuminated message.

How could this happen?

No, strike that, I knew perfectly well how this had happened. I was an idiot of the kind that clandestinely typed out messages while I was supposed to be teaching a group of seventeen years olds how to differentiate between the six phases of mitosis and then send it without even checking to see if I'd spelled everything correctly.

Or, as was the case here, whether or not my phone's autocorrect feature had changed a perfectly polite message into a pornographic overture.

I groaned, suddenly feeling the desperate need to bang my head against the desk really hard. I was going to lose my job as well as the prospect of ever inspiring the only woman I'd ever felt a deeper attraction for to give me a chance.

This was definitely not a good day.

"Are you okay there, Mr. Cullen?"

I looked up to find twenty faces staring at me inquisitively, my cheeks already giving off the telltale heat as I pushed my glasses back into position to win time while my mind was frantically looking for ways to save face. "I'm f-fine," I muttered, pulling my shoulders backwards as I pushed myself into a standing position. "Is everybody done with this part of the assignment?"

A few students nodded while other kept on staring at me with bemused looks on their faces, those including Jacob Black.

If only he knew….

"Tomorrow we will elaborate on this subject," I announced, turning my back to the class as I rather brusquely wiped the board clean of my previous instructions to write down their homework assignments. "In addition to the assignment you will also read pages 216-235 in preparation for the class."

"Aw, teacher! That's just not fair!" Jacob groaned jokingly as next to him the insufferable Royce King muttered (not so jokingly) something that would probably have put in him detention yet again if I'd been able to hear him over the grumbles of discontentment reverberating through the class.

"In light of this burden, I see it as only fair to dismiss you a little bit ahead of time." And fix the mess I've unwittingly made. "So you're free to go as soon as you've copied your assignment from the board."

I waited until the classroom was empty before grabbing my phone from the drawer again, this time meticulously checking over my words before I hit send.

Mrs. Black, I sincerely apologize. I meant to write "I will come find you at 7." That was my phone's autocorrect.

I breathed in and out in deep even breaths, trying not to hyperventilate as I waited for Isabella's reply. Please don't report me to the principal. Please don't report me to the principal. Please don't report me to the principal. Please don't report me to the principal.

I squeaked (I wish I could have said it was a very manly squeak…..but it wasn't) when the red light started to blink again, my hands trembling and my nose so slippery I was starting to give up on pushing my glasses back into their just position.

Wow. Yeah, that could have happened to me as well. I guess I will see you at 7, then.

My shoulders sagged with relief the minute I saw her answer. Sweet, angelic Isabella. Do you have any idea how much your kindness means to me?

I knew that after this afternoon's texting fiasco my chances at every winning her heart were even slighter than they'd ever been before (and they had never been really bankable) but the kindness of her reply allowed me to hope as a few minutes ago I hadn't dared to.

Beautiful Isabella; always so close and yet so far out of reach…..

As my heart lamented the unforgiving differences between the belle of the town and the unsociable geek who wasn't even worthy to dwell in her shadow, my hands were already at work typing out their reply.

7 It is. Once again, I am incredibly sorry.

Crisis averted.

For now.

Ω

The hours between the end of the school day and my meeting with Bella were spent in the same way they usually were; finishing my prep-work for next day's classes, going over to the general store to pick up some things my mother needed and driving home for a quick bite to eat and a change of clothes (okay, that last one might not have been part of my usual routine but I figured a woman like Isabella Black deserved more than day-old sweat and the quite distinct smell of the senior class' frog dissection lab.

Entering the private lane my parents' house stood on I made a mental note to head on out into the woods that weekend to stock up on some more samples for my study on exotic plants infiltrating the Hoh Rainforest. It had been a project I'd started years ago when I first moved in with my parents but which had been pushed more and more to the background as my dad's condition started to worsen. I was only now starting to slowly pick back up where I left, only realizing how much I'd missed my research when I was knee deep in the plush greenery of the forest looking for plants no one else would ever give a second look.

That was…except for people like me.

"Edward, honey?" mother's voice drifted from the kitchen. "Is that you?"

I walked into the kitchen instead of yelling back, depositing the vegetables I'd picked up in the fridge before kissing my mother on the cheek. "How are you doing?"

She shrugged. "I'm fine. I'm keeping busy."

"Hmm," I hummed. I'd seen that already. The house was so clean you could eat from the floors, the ceiling and every other flat or upright surface you encountered and the fridge had been filled with just about every homemade jelly, sauce or preserve the Good Housewife cookbook - or whatever the hell that thing was called – had a recipe for. "Did the Stanley's call you back about that assignment?"

"They did!" mom's eyes lit up with joy. "And they want the whole house redone; not just a single room! It will keep my busy for a couple of weeks at least!"

To give herself something to do after dad had passed, my mom had set up a small interior design business. The sad state of the economy and the remoteness of Forks had meant that business was still relatively slow but at least it gave her something to put her mind off dad. Besides…it wasn't like we needed the money anyway.

"That's good news, mom," I smiled, pinching a few of the carrots she was scraping.

"It is, isn't it," she beamed back. "Now, what time do you need to be back at the school again?"

"Six thirty." That would give me plenty of time to set up the classroom and prepare….and fret, of course.

"So, dinner at five?"

In nodded. "Five is fine."

"I left your laundry on the landing," she called after me as I made my way upstairs. "Please pick it up on your way up."

I chuckled as I made my way up the stairs, picking the full basket of freshly laundered clothes up from the side table at the top of the landing. Some things never changed.

Some things did, though, and after my mother had caught me – a full basket of clean laundry in her hands – doing some….maintenance in the privacy of my room a few years ago, there had been a silent agreement on both sides that the washing was to be left on the side table from the on.

Yeah, I was a thirty five year old biology teacher who lived at home and let his mother fold his underwear.

It was no wonder I was still single.

Still, as much as my mother sometimes got on my nerves with her tendency to hover, I loved living with her and allowing her to take care of me. It would have sucked to do all of this on my own.

Ω

I made it back to Forks High with plenty of time to spare to stress over my imminent meeting with Mrs. Black and make my classroom as welcoming as I could given the limited resources and the very unromantic sight of Alfred and Isaac sticking out their tongues from their spot on the cupboard.

Then, all I could do was wait.

Wait and, for the first time in my career, regret that my reputation as a recluse meant that only a handful of parents would ever request a meeting with me and then only because their kids grades were slipping or because something else had happened.

6.45.

I got up and re-arranged the 'visitors' chair for the twentieth time even though I knew that probably the first thing she'd do was pull it up or push it back to make room for herself.

6.50

I jumped when a few doors down a door was slammed shut, agitated voices reverberating through the corridor as – on further inspection – the Kings left a very frazzled looking Jasper Whitlock behind.

A shared look of sympathy crossed between us before he pulled himself back together and again and called in his next set of parents. At least the Cheney's were likely to help him rebuild his self-esteem.

6.55.

I got up, figuring I might as well make it to the front door early just in case Mrs. Black had a different notion of punctuality than her son did.

Which was probably one of the reasons she wanted to talk to me today.

She was there already, my heart beating a little faster than it should as I caught her standing by the main entrance, her lips pursed with displeasure as she listened to something the Kings said to her.

"Ah! Mister Cullen!" her whole body relaxed with relief as she spotted me, a hasty excuse ending her conversation with the Kings before she crossed the room to join me.

"Mrs. Black," I muttered, hoping my blush wouldn't be too noticeable. "Please…if you'd like to follow me."

"It's so considerate of you….." she started, looking slightly uncomfortable as she sat down across from me, the chair never leaving its spot.

"W-what?" I stuttered, feeling more like a fish on dry land than a biology teacher conducting a professional conversation with a parent.

"To come pick me up at the door?" Isabella went on. "I know not many of your colleagues would have done the same."

I shrugged, smoothing a few pieces of paper that were already impeccably smooth. "It was a small thing to do, really. My classroom is tucked away so far from the main entrance that often people have a hard time finding it."

"Still," Isabella persevered, "I think it was very nice."

"Thank you." I looked up to find her kind, deep brown eyes looking back at me like this afternoon's indecent proposal had never happened.

"I know this is not the place…." She muttered, fumbling with the bottom button of her cardigan, "but I'd like to say how sorry I was to hear of your father's death. I never really knew him that well but I know…." Her voice trailed off, all things that needed to be said already spoken.

"Thank you," I repeated myself.

"I know our situations are very different but if your mother ever wanted to talk to someone who's been there….."

Isabella's story was known throughout town, though hardly anyone ever spoke about it. Getting pregnant by accident while she was still in high school she'd seen her future – a bright one, if some of my older colleagues were to be believed – go up in smoke when instead of a scholarship at a good school she had to settle for evening classes at the community college while taking care of her little boy and her husband – James Black – as best as she could.

Things had to have been tough for them, with James barely making enough at one of the local lumber plants to support his family and Bella trying to juggle her many new tasks, which was why they'd both been very happy to turn a new leaf and get away from the town gossip when James had been accepted into the marine corps. They'd seen it as a new start for them; a chance to turn a fresh page and be happy.

Things went very differently.

In March 2003 James Black was killed during the American attack on Umm Qasr, his life snuffed out when he tried to drag one of his army comrades into safety. He died a heroe's death, not that it made much difference to the widow and the nine year old son he left behind.

Bella had come home a few weeks after it happened, occupying the little white house her dad had vacated when – upon his retirement from the police force – he'd remarried a woman from the Quileute reservation and set up home out there and using her degree in English to relieve some of the workload of old Mrs. Cope, the town librarian.

She was stronger than anyone I knew.

I smiled, reaching out to fold my hand over hers on top of the table before I could even think about stopping myself. "I'll let her know. I'm sure she'd like that."

"Good," Isabella nodded, her fingers twitching underneath mine.

I blushed, yanking my hand away. "Good."

"Soooo…." I looked up as she let her voice trail of. "Jacob?"

"Ah, yes." I could feel my blush deepen. "Jacob. I have to….." I took a few deep breaths, pushing my mind back into teacher-mode. "I have to admit that I'm slightly worried about the change he's gone through over the last couple of weeks. I know it's perfectly normal for a boy his age to go through puberty and change his outlook on the world….but the company he keeps and the way his behavior towards his teachers has deteriorated are starting to make me slightly uneasy."

I sighed, pursing my lips as I thought about the bright young boy who'd walked through my door two years ago and the man he was starting to turn into. He'd been such a kind, good natured and inquisitive young man, that was…until he discovered girls and threw himself at the mercy of the popular crowd.

It wasn't too late to save him and turn him around again but with his detention slate and insolence filling out in time with his muscles, I was worried that his extraordinary talents would go to waste.

Isabella sighed, her beautiful face looking heartbreakingly sad as she sat back. "Me too. It was why I was hoping…"

"Yes?" I asked, eager at the prospect of maybe being able to help her.

"Could you tell me a little bit more about what he's like here at school?" She bit her lip, the unintended sexiness of her gesture making my pants tighten in the front, much to my own horror.

This could not be happening! All lessons in biology and the nature of masculine arousal aside, there were some things that just could not be tolerated.

Sporting a boner – no matter how impressively hard – in front of a parent was definitely one of those things.

Even if said parent happened to be the most beautiful and seductive creature in the world.

"W-what do you mean?" I asked hoping she wouldn't notice the few drops of sweat that started to accumulate on my forehead as I tried to talk my obstinate erection down again.

"He looks up to you," she explained. "At least…he used to, before he fell into the clutches of that horrible boy and his friends. I know that if there's anyone who can get through to him it's you."

"Really, Mrs. Black…." I stammered, completely flabbergasted by her statement. "I don't think…"

"Please," she leaned across the table, her eyes swimming with tears. "I don't know what else to do. Shy of tying him to the radiator I've done almost everything I can but it's hard…so hard, with Jimmy's dad and my dad being…well, my dad. Jake's never had a real father figure to look up to and he always talked about you like…like…." Her voice was cut off as tears streamed down her face, her shoulders shaking with the full force of her despair as she sat in front of me.

Do something, you idiot! My mind was screaming at me to take action as I just sat there, gawping at her life a fish on dry land. "I will….I will try."

She looked up, her beautiful face marred by worry. "You will?"

"I'll try," I repeated, like an idiot. "I can't promise anything, though." I knew my chances at success were slim to none. With the whole force of Royce's powers of persuasion working against me, little nerdy old me didn't offer much leverage but for Isabella, I would do my best.

"Thank you." Her voice barely registered above a whisper as she smiled a watery smile.

"Can I….can I get you a glass of water?" I asked, knowing that if I send her out into the corridor like that, there would be no end to the gossip.

I couldn't do that to her. Not after everything she'd already gone through in life.

"Oh, no I'm fine," she muttered. "I wouldn't want to impose….'

"You're not," I insisted, quickly making my way out to the sink, praising providence for always making me keep a few clean glasses in the cupboard.

When I got back to my desk she was thumbing through my book. "Do you only read scientific books?" she wondered, gratefully taking the glass I offered her.

"Mostly, yes," I shrugged. "How do you know?"

She chuckled. "I'm a librarian, I make it my business to know what people are reading."

"Of course." I laughed, happy to follow this lighter topic of conversation. "Well, my interest is mostly in scientific works, yes, but I have been known to indulge in some classic English literature every now and then."

"Oh really?" her eyes lit up. "That's good to know, though the Municipal Library is already fully stocked with them."

I drew in a sharp breath, my mind putting one and one together. "You mean….."

Was that a blush I saw?

Isabella looked down again, her hand once more fumbling with the buttons of her cardigan as she shrugged. "We didn't have much to offer in the science department and you seemed to be only interested in those kinds of books so I figured…."

I was speechless by her revelation, my mind swirling with all the possible meanings this could have.

"But enough about books," she spoke, her voice quickened by embarrassment. "Tell me something…"

I frowned. 'What?"

She shrugged. "Something I don't know."

From there on out we launched into an easy conversation, discussing everything and nothing as I shared things with her I'd never shared with anyone before – except my mother – least of all a member of the opposite sex.

And she listened – really listened, as if she was actually interested in what I had to say, her soft voice interrupting me to ask questions every now or then or laugh when I told her something that might be funny.

It was bliss.

And it made me fall even harder.

"Oh my God!" Bella gasped, her eyes wide with horror as she glanced at the delicate little wristwatch on her arm. 'Look at the time! I must have messed up your entire schedule!"

"Not at all!" I chuckled. "I only have three other engagements this evening and they aren't until nine. I still have plenty of time to spare."

"But then why…." Her mouth was slightly agape as she tried to figure it out, her plump lips so sweet and kissable that I had to do everything I could to keep myself from leaping forward and kissing them.

"I figured you would want to spend your evening at home with your son," I shrugged, rubbing the top of my desk with the tips of my fingers.

"But you would have had to wait for almost two hours!" Bella cried.

I shrugged again, feeling my cheeks heated up. "It's nothing, really. I still have to set up for tomorrow's labs and…." I cringed as the lies left my lips.

"I….thank you," she breathed, reaching out her hand as she rose from the chair. "I won't keep you, though."

I smiled. Of course not. She had better things to do with her time than stay and chat with the resident biology nerd. "I'll walk you out."

"One more thing, though," she mused, lingering in front of the door.

"Yes?" I asked, using the closeness of her body to mine to breathe in a few lungs full of her sweet, feminine scent.

"That text message you sent me…." Her voice trailed off, her lips widening into seductive smile.

"I…erm….yes," I stammered, my heart hammering in my chest to the point where I was afraid she was going to hear it. "I…..I cannot tell you, once again, how sorry I am for. It was an honest mistake, I swear."

"I know it was, Mister Cullen," she purred, taking a small step close. "I was just wondering…."

"Y-yes?" I squeaked, her body now so close to mine I could smell the sweet, feminine scent emanating from her skin.

She bit her lip, the sensory overdose almost making me blow my load right there and then. "I was wondering when you are going to make good on that offer?"


Thoughts?