A/N: Finally. It's been so long that I've forgotten how to put paragraph breaks in. Thank you so much to Iambeagle who checked in from time to time to remind me I'd made a promise; to Spanglemaker9 who gave me a little much-needed confidence the other night; to Wonderwall, for always reading whatever I send her no matter how random; to HoochieMomma and Domysticated for keeping me sane; and to HappyMelt, who read and re-read and advised – seriously, guys, you have no idea how many versions of this she's been tortured with - even though her life is full to bursting. And thank you too for all of your kind words.

So, here's what happened...

Jasper and I sat across from each other in the dining hall. He'd been freeloading on my meal card since freshman year. I didn't particularly want to leave, but it was time to wrap things up. Get on with my life. School had been so easy up to this point, but it pissed me off that just as things should have been coming to a decent close everything felt out of fucking control.

He focused on something over my shoulder. "Have you ever screwed a tall chick?"

"Pretty tall."

Jasper jerked his head as a girl in basketball shorts passed by with her tray. "No, like her. She's as tall as I am. How do you think that works?"

"It doesn't. She's like 15."


I shrugged.

He thought for a minute. "Okay, but in theory."

"In theory, whatever. In fact, she's in high school."

He raised his eyebrows at me, wanting me to make the connection. I concentrated on my food. Two slices of pizza, a thing of salad, a piece of cake and a chocolate milk. He had the same with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy.

I had the pizza halfway to my mouth when he said, "Well, I'll say this about Bella, she doesn't look 17."

"Because she's almost 18."

He laughed. "Got your tux rented?"

"Fuck off."

"You know how some freshmen girls always wind up going?" He whistled to himself. "Imagine if you accidentally danced with one?"

"I wouldn't."

"What were you thinking?"

That unpleasant fact lodged in my gut, so I told him the truth. "I wasn't."

"No shit." He shook his head and forked some potatoes into his mouth.

Two more girls passed by, laughing. He turned around and focused on the food line. "The chick at the end is six feet easy. Are you sure?"

I nodded. "They're on the 5th floor. Maggie's got 'em."

"Maggie with the mouth?"

Maggie was the RA on floor under mine. She was all right looking, kind of plain, but with these full lips which didn't go with the rest of her. She sat at the table with the basketball girls, talking to a redhead with freckles. Maggie waved at me and I gave her a nod. I liked her. She seemed nice. The redhead leaned over to her and whispered. They both turned to me and smirked.


He gave a short sharp whistle. "Hey."

I turned around. "What?"

"I'm studying this."

"Teenage basketball players?"

"No. Human sexuality. Do you know the average sixteen-year-old is capable of the same logical reasoning as an adult?"

I ignored him and focused on my food, which now looked disgusting.

"However, the emotional maturity of a sixteen-year-old is only half that of an adult. Like, they can't deal with the aftermath of the decisions they make.


"So, for instance, a girl behind you keeps giving me the eye and — "

I turned and saw the redhead looking at me again.

"Can you fucking pay attention?"

I turned back to him and he continued.

"She could make the decision to be with me…"

"Who, the girl over there?"

"Any sixteen year old girl — logically — would make the decision to hook up with me."

"Logically, of course."

He grinned. "But afterwards the whole thing might go wrong — like, she might get too attached or freak out and want nothing to do with me."

"Or maybe you just have a tiny dick."

"I'm trying to tell you something." He waited until he thought I was taking him seriously. "As a guy, I have a biological imperative to fuck as many girls as I can in order to perpetuate my own genetic legacy - and the younger the better, within reason, of course.

"Of course."

"You don't get it."

Whatever. I needed to call Bella, and he was giving me anxiety. I pushed back from the table to leave. "Jasper. This has been a very enlightening lunch, and I just want to say — and I hope you'll take this in the spirit in which it's intended — this is the kind of reasoning sociopaths use."

He moved his hand back and forth between us excitedly, but I didn't get what he wanted me to say.

"Listen Jasper, do what you gotta do."

"You're not listening. I can't."

"Why not?"

"Because I'm a gentleman, and a gentleman doesn't press his advantage."

I picked up my tray. "That's what this is about?"

"Doesn't mean I can't think about it, though," he yelled after me as I walked out.

I was really not feeling this prom thing. I didn't want to hang around with a bunch of kids. I didn't want to rent a tux. I just wanted to see her. We didn't even have to go to the dance. We could have the entire night to ourselves to fool around, or not fool around, or whatever. But how were we going to do that? Get all dressed up, pretend to go and get a room instead? I was capable of some pretty fucked up shit, but that was just not happening. We could tell her parents we were just going to hang out for the evening, skip the whole thing all together. I couldn't be that big of a dick either. Charlie Swan had played his cards well on this one. Somehow I'd entered into a pact with him to protect his daughter, even though we both knew that the only danger she was in was from me.

I was just strapping on the balls to call her, when my mother called me.

"Hi, honey. Everything okay?"

"I'm good."

"I didn't ask if you were good, I asked if you were okay."

"I'm fine."

She laughed. "Coming home the first week in August?"

"That's the plan."

"I've got a surprise for you!" she sang. "Remember the Copes?"


"From the lake? We're going to spend the week —"


"— there when you get home. Their daughter —"


"— is coming too. Won't that be nice? Just like when you were —"



"Do not try to fix me up."

We both started in at the same time.

"I'm just —"

"I don't need —"

Neither of us spoke for a minute, but I couldn't take her injured silence.

"Mom," I said a little more softly. "Give me a break."

"But she's fun!" she blurted. "The girls you date are always so grim."

My mom had a really precise way about her that was usually pretty awesome, but this was out of control. "Are you fu — for real?"

She sighed. "Shelly's daughter is so easy-going. You'll see when you —"

"I won't see. I already have a girlfriend."

"You do? Why didn't you tell me?"

"I don't know, maybe I didn't want to subject you to any more grim girls."

"My god, you're touchy."

"Mom. Please." I decided to just get it over with.

"Remember Rosalie? The girl I dated last fall?"

"The blonde one?"


"I'm taking her sister to her prom. And I have to buy flowers."

"Like a favor?"

"No. I'm —"

"Is she funny looking? That happens sometimes, when the older one is so —"

"She's not funny looking."

"Is she chubby? It's awfully sweet of you to —"

"No it's not sweet of me. We're dating."

"You're dating your girlfriend's sister?"

"Rose isn't my girlfriend anymore, remember? We broke up last year."

"How long has this been going on?"

I wasn't sure how to answer. A couple weeks? Six months? "I don't know. A while?"

I heard a shuffling noise, like she might've stuck the receiver into her sweater, but her muffled yell was clear enough.

"Carlisle! Your son is on the phone!"

My father picked up on the downstairs line.

"Hello there, stranger!"

"I'm dating an old girlfriend's sister. She's a senior in high school, and I know it sounds weird, but actually it's fine." I rushed to get it out before my mother did.

"Oh, Edward," She chastised.

"I got it, Esme!" he yelled up to her and waited for the click. She huffed on the upstairs line, and hung up.

"Your girlfriend's sister?" He sounded kind of amused.

"Old girlfriend's sister."

"And she's in high school."

"She's graduating."

"So are you."

"In a year."

"That's a big difference in age, son."

"You're five years older than mom," I whined like a jackass, because I knew where this was going.

"Well, we met when we were older. It's not such a big deal down the line."

I was listening to my own advice, and it sounded horrible.

"Sounds complicated."

"It's not." I said, but I knew I didn't sound convincing.

"You're serious about her." It wasn't a question.


"Interesting." He thought for a minute. "Coming to the lake on your way back from school?"

"That's the plan."

"You good for money?"

"Yes, sir."

"Alright, then. Thanks for the call," he said with his typical sign off, but before he hung up he paused. "You know, Edward, like everything in life you're going to have to make some choices, so if you like her a lot, be a gentleman."

"What? I don't know what you're —"

"Think about it. I'm sure you'll understand."

Her cell phone rang, and while it did, I thought about that stupid fucking "gentleman" comment. It pissed me off, especially since it was the second time I'd heard it in an hour. If the conversation with Jasper made me feel like a pervert, the one with my father made me feel like a complete douchebag. I wasn't using this stupid fucking prom as an opportunity to get laid. I hadn't gotten a hotel room. We weren't going to a party after. I would open doors. Pull out chairs. I'd be the perfect fucking date, and I had no intention of taking advantage of her, but god I wanted to.

I remembered the night on her porch, the way she pushed her tits together. The way she knew her ass was tight. I imagined what it was going to be like when I was buried in her, to pull her hips back and forth when she slid onto me. I knew without a doubt that this could be happening soon, but when someone asked her where she lost her virginity the answer absolutely could not be "In the backseat of a Toyota Corolla." Never mind that I had an old Volvo, it wouldn't be right. I was going to be a gentleman, and a gentleman did not fuck his virgin girlfriend in the back seat of his car.

I sort of lost track of how long the phone was ringing and was just about to disconnect when she picked up.

"Hi. Hold on a sec." She was breathless when she answered. "I have to take my shirt off."


She laughed. "Don't get your hopes up. I just got to the studio and I'm late."

"Call me back later."

"It's okay. Talk to me while I'm getting dressed."

"Well, that's definitely distracting."

She laughed.

I couldn't tell what she was doing, but her breath on the phone was hypnotic. I focused on the dance instead. "I was thinking about this weekend."

In the space of silence I heard her wariness. It occurred to me to tell her I had to work all weekend, but that sounded lame. I thought about her undressing. I thought about telling her that my grandmother was really sick, then quickly switched to my grandfather. I thought of him in the house alone. I was making myself so fucking sad and had just resolved to suck it up when she said, "It's fine. Don't worry."

"What's fine?"

"You don't have to go."

"Bella, that's — "

"It's fine, Edward."

"Are you sure?" Never in my life had I initiated a "we should talk" conversation with a girl, and it felt fucking terrible.

"It's okay. Honest. I'm over it." I imagined her twisting her hair into a bun, the phone stuck between her ear and shoulder. That smug bratty-girl look on her face I'd seen a couple of times before.

"What do you mean you're over it?"

Dead silence.

I was on the verge of insisting I come down and take her to her fucking prom whether she liked it or not when she said, "This is probably for the best."

"What's for the best?"

"I shouldn't have asked you. Whatever, okay?"

"No. Not okay. What's going on?"

"I have to go. I guess I'll see you when I see you."

That felt fucking final. "What are you talking about?"

"I have to go."

"Okay, fine. Just... call me when you're done. Okay?"


How had I lost control of this conversation without even saying a word? I didn't know whether to feel relieved or rejected.

In any event, she didn't call.

So I didn't call.

Then she still didn't call.

So I didn't call some more.

But I got a text and a photo from her a week later.

She was wearing a bikini and inflatable armbands, standing on tiptoes doing some ballet move. One of the straps of her top had fallen onto her arm. Her shoulder looked bare and vulnerable. I pressed my index finger and thumb together onto the screen, then spread them to make the picture larger. Her stomach was smooth and flat. I brought the phone closer to my face. I fucking loved her belly button. It was hypnotizing, even though I was irrationally angry with her for blowing me off. It bent me out of shape every time I thought about it, which was too often, not to mention I was pissed at myself for being such a dick and for thinking it could work out with her. It was too soon for stupid jokes, but whatever. Maybe she just didn't know how to apologize.

Funny. I wrote back.

A second later, she responded.

Michael is the most awesome Swan. He did not write this.

I didn't write back.

He sent me a couple more pictures from her phone over the next few days: Bella and someone I assumed was her grandfather at a baseball game; the whole family at a picnic table. Bella was looking away. Her hair had sunbeams in it.

I told myself this feeling would fade if I just stopped fixating on her, and I did a pretty good job of stuffing my head full of school. I ran longer distances. I even subbed in as a coach for the lacrosse session. I forgot how much I liked sports, but as predicted, the middle-school girls were fucking slashers, and the goalie took a shot to the leg that had her crying for two hours after practice. I knew just how she felt.

No matter how tired I made myself, I still thought about Bella every night when I went to bed. I'd lie down and she'd appear. I figured it was just out of habit and tried to think about anything else. I convinced myself that I'd thought about her so much she'd carved a groove into my brain, but no matter what I tried to imagine — a new position, someone else's mouth, even thinking through an assignment — a thousand what if scenarios went through my head, which in the end were all about her.

When the summer session was over, on my drive to the lake, I decided to man up and clear the air. Get it over with. We hadn't spoken since June. The constant ache in my muscles pissed me off. I was ruining my life over a girl I'd seen four times. In total. In my entire life. Four times. Maybe I'd stop by and see her. Show her what's what. I could swing by and set things straight. I only needed to see her, and it would be okay, either way. Maybe she would be happy to see me, and we could start where we left off - or at least, where we should've left off. Maybe I would realize it was all in my imagination. An immense sense of purpose settled on me, and I felt better than I had in a long time. In fact, I felt kind of adult about the whole thing, but when I called, Rose answered Bella's phone. She was already laughing when she picked up.

"You are such an ass," she said. The amusement in her voice pissed me off. "You just missed her. She's gone for the weekend with some friends from dance. She forgot her phone. You two are a perfect pair."

"What do you mean?"

She sighed. "Nothing."

I wanted to ask why we were a perfect pair, but there was no way I was having a chick conversation with Rose about her sister.

"Is she okay?" I asked.

"She's good."

"When's she coming back?"

"I don't know. Sunday or Monday, I guess." She paused. "Are you okay?"

"I'm good." I said, and because I felt like I should ask, "Are you okay?"

She laughed. "I'm okay. Bella's okay. Everyone is okay, okay?"

"Tell her I called."

"I'll tell her."

She didn't. Or she did. But Bella still didn't call.

It all started again in the fall.

I was a senior. It felt less important than it should, but that was okay. I lived in the same place. A lot of the same guys were on my floor. All of my classes were at the business school. So what that I was expected to be in my room almost all of the time? Or that I had to sort through the wreckage of other kids lives? Or the fact that they'd implemented this stupid "Where Am I?" board that appeared on my door, to let people know where I might be every second of my fucking life? I was supposed to write: "here," "in class," "running," "getting food" every time I went anywhere. None of that mattered. The hard part was over. I just needed to clear my head. Start the year clean. Finish up big. No distractions.

Bella was not going to be an issue. I'd never see her, for one thing. Her classes were across campus, for another. More significantly, she'd been assigned to one of the freshman dorms on a restricted floor. Single-sex. No guys. No exceptions. There were only two reasons girls lived on that floor: either they requested it or they were underage. I wondered if her father had anything to do with it. It would take me five minutes to get there if I walked, about a minute-thirty if I ran, but there would be no running to Bella Swan's dorm. Unless she called me. Not that she was going to call me, but if she did I could be there in ninety seconds. Maybe a little less.

I saw her walking with her sister one day. I was walking back from the Collis Center and they were headed back from somewhere and seemed entirely caught up in whatever they were talking about. Both of them had long legs, both in jeans, Bella had her arm around the Rose's neck. They were laughing, their heads close, dark and light. They were beautiful, even from a distance, and looked enough alike so that you could tell they were sisters, even if they weren't twins. It wasn't my fantasy, but I could see how other guys might think it was like hitting the jackpot, the fucking American dream. But I knew without a doubt it would more likely be twice the work. Catering to one, trying to keep up with the other. Still, a guy couldn't help but wonder. Although in wondering, it also made me suspicious of every guy that walked past them.

I shook it off. I needed to get myself laid at the earliest possible opportunity. The more I thought about it, the more right it sounded. Pick someone attractive. Pick someone sane. The logic finally made complete sense: take control of it, before it took control of me. There were three thousand undergrads on campus, half of which were female. It had never been a problem before, and it wasn't going to be a problem now. I was good at girls, and even though I wasn't good with two in particular, it didn't mean I wasn't good with the rest of them.

The redhead's name was Victoria.

She was on the tennis team and in the same sorority as Maggie. It was Homecoming Weekend, and the campus was packed with alumni. There were parties everywhere. Jasper wasn't unenthusiastic when I told him we were double dating, because he was good like that, being an opportunist and all.

"No more Bella?"


"You sure?"


"So you wouldn't mind if –"

"Fuck you."

He put his hands up in surrender. "I'm only kidding. Lighten up."

"I'm not kidding."

He laughed and shook his head.

"I'm not fucking kidding, Jasper. Don't even think about it."

"Good to know you're over it. Just wanted to be clear."

We decided to meet at his frat because it was the quickest and cheapest way to find alcohol, then head to the parade and bonfire. There were a bunch of different things we could do afterwards, though there was only one thing I hoped to do. It was all good. Easy. Easy was awesome. Easy was fucking incredible. How had I ever thought it wasn't?

I told Maggie and Victoria we'd meet them at seven. I got there first and followed the smell of stale beer to the basement. The dark paneling and the antlers on the wall gave it a clubby feel, but it was mostly a shithole. The music was loud and it was already packed, but I could see above the crowd. I scanned it for Jasper, but the sight of Bella Swan standing at the bar talking to a girl with a red cup in her hand hit me in the knees. It just fucking figured she'd be here. The entire campus was out tonight. Homecoming was the biggest event of the season. Why wouldn't she be here? She leaned in like she was telling a secret to the chick next to her. When she reached across the bar to take a cup from the guy manning the taps, her shirt rose up and I saw the skin at her waist. I watched her mouth say "thank you" then smile. He held on to the cup a second more than was strictly necessary and winked at her. She laughed.

My first thought was to leave, but I was meeting everyone here. And, it wasn't like I could be a pussy and ignore her, not to mention, this was the worst fucking place for a freshman girl. I didn't especially want to be standing with Bella when Victoria showed up but reminded myself that we were done. It was what it was. I'd just go say hello and get it over with. I'd already practiced what I would say when I saw her again, but none of that seemed possible in a crowd, so I decided just to wing it.

I walked up behind her and leaned down. "Come here often?" I asked just behind her ear. She smelled incredible. Not like perfume. Just like her. I had to stop myself from touching her.

She turned around and tucked her hair behind her ear, then crossed her arms over her chest. "Hi. Wow. I'm so happy to see you."

I studied her face and every gesture for meaning. Her cheeks were pink. She had mascara on, and her eyes were big and bright. She tucked her hair behind her other ear.

"So here you are."

"Here I am," she shrugged and ran her hand through her hair.

"How's it going?"

"It's okay."

"Just okay?"

"A lot of work. You know. You okay?"

"I'm okay."


"Yeah. Okay."

It was excruciating.

"This is my roommate Maria."

We shook hands. She had dark curly hair and was taller than Bella. Her eyebrows were thick. Maybe she was pretty, but it was hard to tell under her scowl. Her grip was limp. She rolled her eyes at Bella and immediately turned her back on us to talk to the girl on the other side of her.

"Going to the bonfire?" I asked, like there was any other possibility.

She nodded. "You?"

I nodded. She nodded again and looked around the room. She smirked at something and I followed her eyes to see a guy hitting on a girl. It wasn't even prime time yet, and he was going about it all wrong.

I turned back to Bella. "You have to give him credit for trying, but that's not how it works."

"You know how it works?" she said skeptically.


"Let me see."

"You want to watch me pick someone up?"

"Not for real."

"You want to see me pick you up?"

She grinned and turned to face the deejay. It was strange to notice her posture, but it was really straight. I checked her out. She sipped her drink from the stirrer while pretending to ignore me. My heart went out to her. She was trying so hard to be cool and collected. I realized I was staring, so I leaned over and whispered. "First thing I'd do is let you know I wanted to talk to you by glancing your way." I leaned back against the bar and propped myself up with my elbows. I looked out at the tiny dance floor. There were a few older guys out there jerking around in khakis and starched shirts. They looked like they were already hammered. Tonight was going down hard.

When I figured it was time, I looked over and checked her out from head to toe. She caught my eye and turned away with a blush. It was like I was hardwired to her and couldn't keep my eyes away for long. She looked back at me, and it was my turn to focus on the dance floor. She looked away again, then looked back too quickly and gave me a big smile. Total rookie move, absolutely adorable. I fucking loved that she wasn't good at this.

"Too fast," I said, not addressing her directly. "You have to maintain the tension – get my curiosity going."

She nodded and kept her eyes on the DJ, while I watched her in my periphery. The next time she looked, I let her catch me before looking away, then every once in awhile I'd keep my gaze on her for a fraction of a second more. We played that game for a bit, until I decided to take it to the next level.

I leaned over and whispered, "If I was with friends, I'd try to focus on them even though I was distracted by you. I'd probably rub the back of my neck and try to look a little awkward, like I was preoccupied. The next time we made eye contact, I'd smile. If you smiled back, I'd get myself closer to you, like it was an accident."

She was still looking away from me but tucked her hair behind her ear. Her cheeks were burning, and she was trying not to smile.

Good girl, I thought, then wondered why the hell I was teaching her these things.

Still no sign of Jasper or Victoria, and Maria was involved in whatever she was doing, so I moved nearer and watched the mayhem on the dance floor. I leaned toward her. "Maybe I would tell you that you're the most beautiful girl I've ever seen."

She turned to me and laughed. "God, Edward. That is so cheesy."

But I stuck it out. "How do you know my name?"

She looked surprised. "Oh, um, I heard one of your friends say it?"

"You were listening to our conversation?"

"No, but... maybe —" She stopped and looked at me dead on. "Hold on. I thought you were supposed to be charming me?"

"Not if you're creeping on me."

"What about me being beautiful?"

"The most beautiful."

She grinned. "And then what?"

"More than most beautiful?

"I'm not going home with you just because of that."

"Who says I'm taking you home?"

"Super charming."

I laughed. She got serious.

"Is this your way of warning me about stranger danger?"

That hadn't occurred to me, but it was a good point. "Possibly."

She shook her head and looked away. I jumped in again quickly in case I was losing her.

"Are you here with friends?"

"Uh yeah," she said, still looking away. "They're... dancing." She fanned herself. "I'm too hot."

Same as if she was a stranger, I was having a hard time figuring out a response that wouldn't get me thrown out on my ass. "If you were interested, you'd probably let me know you were single. Like, tell me your friends are dancing with their boyfriends."

She laughed and looked at the alums. Some sorority girls had joined them. "My friends are dancing with their boyfriends."

"But not you?"

She grinned. "I don't have a boyfriend. I used to, but he was cranky."

"Okay, so first off, this is a mixed message. I can't tell whether you're available or not with that answer. And second, I'm not cranky."

She looked up at me. I looked down at her. She bit her lip. Goddamnit she was right there. It felt so fucking, fucking, fucking right.

"Can I buy you another drink," I asked, though the drinks here were always free.

"What if I don't drink?"

I nodded at her cup, and she tipped it so I could see. "Water."

"Okay, more difficult, but not impossible. Maybe I'd ask you to dance."

"Even with the cranky boyfriend?"

"What's he going to do? Kick my ass for talking to his girl?"

"He might. He's kind of jealous."

"He should be. You're at a bar picking up guys."

She snorted. "That's me alright. Hanging at bars and picking up guys."

"If you were my girlfriend, I'd never let you out of my sight."

"Talk about creepy."

"More like careful."

"Still not really seeing the charm."

The room was really warm, and it was getting more and more crowded near the bar. I closed all the space between us, then leaned down and whispered in her ear, "Do you still want to dance with me, Bella Swan?"

For the first time, she looked unsure of herself. "I'm… I really am meeting someone."

"One dance."

"It's okay, Edward. I really am. I promise. I'm meeting someone. It's okay."

"Who are you meeting?"

"I doesn't matter."

"I just want to know."

"Don't be like this."

"Like what?"

"Like this"

"Because I want to know who you're meeting?"

"This is really not charming."

"I'm not charming, in case you haven't noticed."

"I've noticed."

Cold fingers pressed against my eyes. "Guess who?" a soft voice purred.

I pulled the hands away and looked behind me. Victoria's eyes were expectant. Maggie raised an eyebrow. Jasper looked amused. I turned back to Bella.

"I'm sorry. This was a mistake," she hoisted her purse on her shoulder.

"I need to talk to you," I said to her and put my hand on her arm.

"There's nothing to discuss," Bella said and pulled her arm away. "I get it, Edward. Okay? I get it. I'm not an idiot." She turned to her friend, "C'mon."

I started after her, but she stopped dead when a tall guy in a green jersey appeared and smiled down at her. His hair was dark. His shoulders were huge. I should have seen it coming. When Jasper put his hand on my shoulder, I flinched but stopped short. "Edward," he said. "Stop."

I stared at the scene in front of me in disbelief.

"Sorry I'm late." The guy leaned down to kiss the side of her face.

"It's okay," she said. "I was just hanging out."

He scanned the crowd. "Can we leave? It's getting crowded out there and I want to stand with the guys."

She nodded but looked at me.

This whole fucked up situation was incomprehensible. I turned to Jasper and saw Victoria. She cocked her head toward the back, and I took off first. Victoria followed and said something warm into my ear. I slung my arm around her waist and pulled her into me.

This was easy. So fucking easy.

Plan B was a no brainer. It was October. The semester was in full swing and I was focused. I doubled down. My grades had always been good, but now they were spectacular. I just needed to avoid her. I hung out with Jasper, though he'd hooked up with some chick from town that he was all emotional about. I spent some time with Vic, though that was wearing thin. I interviewed for an internship and was feeling good about making the second round. I started really running. Things were set. Class, dorm bullshit, more school, and done. Life was good. Life was fucking great.

I went to the frat house on occasion to blow off steam and met the guy she'd gone to the pep rally with. He was a sophomore on the hockey team. I tried to find out if they were together, though I couldn't exactly ask for specifics. He didn't act like he knew anything about me, or mind if he did. He even seemed like he might be a good guy. I guess I hoped so, but really I thought, fuck this shit. This is my school. For four years I owned this place, and I'm wasn't about to start hiding in my room because some little girl was giving me a heart attack. I'd been taking the long way to everywhere so I could avoid passing by her dorm, walking around the quad in case I bumped into her, keeping to the side at school functions in case she might show, but now I decided to take the opposite tack. I'd go out of my way to walk past her window, hoping to bump into her and prove to myself I wasn't a complete douchebag.

By the middle of the month, I'd hit a stride. I was averaging about an hour and twenty for a ten mile run. It wasn't world class, but it was faster than I'd ever been. I headed out early one morning. The sky was blue. Perfectly. The leaves were starting to change. The air was cool, but nice. A perfect fucking day. The kind of day they sell colleges on. Ivy league, red brick, white columns, blue sky perfect fucking day. I was turning a corner around the pharma building and ran smack into her.

I had to grab Bella to keep from knocking her to the ground, but next thing I knew she was in my arms and she was up against the side of the wall. I had one hand around her waist and one behind her head to keep from pressing her into the brick. She smelled like maple syrup and fresh air and fall leaves. Her cheeks were cold, her breath was sweet, and one of her arms went around my neck. My mouth went to hers like a magnet. Her lips melted against mine. It all happened so fast, I had to pull back to get a look at her.

A/N: I'll have the next one up soon. xxxooo