Disclaimer: The great Stephanie Meyer owns all things Twilight. I'm just using her amazing characters to tell you a story.

It's taken me forever to post this, but this was my entry for this year's Pick-a-Pic Challenge. I'm a sucker for Bella and Carlisle and when I saw the banner, I had to do it. Thanks to Mina for creating it and giving me my inspiration. And, as always, thanks to AgoodWITCH for her being the best beta in the world.

Well… on with the story. I hope you like it.

Why is starting over so hard?

I'd never planned for this. I'd never wanted it, but I couldn't live with the memories any longer and this house was full of them. As I stood at the front door, staring into the empty room it was as if our whole lives together flashed before my eyes.

Our first date.

Our wedding day.

The day we moved in.

Rosalie's first words.

Jasper's first steps.

They were all there, pushing their way into my mind as if trying to tell me that leaving was wrong. We were happy in this house. The kids grew up in this house. And then she left me and I was alone in this big house built for a family. It was all too much.

"Dad," Rosalie spoke softly as she wrapped her arms around my waist from behind, "it's time to go."

"It's like I'm leaving her behind." I sniffed, trying to hold back the tears threatening to fall again.

Rosalie loosened her grip and turned me around to face her. Her eyes were soft and sympathetic, so much like her mother's.

"Mom wouldn't want you to sit around and be miserable for the rest of your life." She kissed my cheek. "She's been gone for nine years now. It's time you start living your life again."

"I know but…"

"No buts. You've got a whole new life to live now, a new home, a new job and new experiences just waiting to happen." She touched my cheek, those soft eyes staring intently into mine. "You didn't die with her, Dad. You can be happy again if you just let yourself go. And you know mom would have wanted this for you." Rosalie smirked. "I'm sure she's up there right now, yelling at you to get your butt in gear and get on that plane."

I couldn't hold back my laughter. "I'm sure she is."

"If you don't watch out, she's gonna send the lightning bolts down to..."

"All right, that's enough." I pulled her in for a tight hug and exhaled loudly. "When did my baby girl get so smart?"

"I always have been." She poked me in the side and pulled away. "Now let's go. Emmett's already going to have to drive a hundred miles an hour just to get you there on time. And you know Jasper will kick my ass if you're not on that plane."

"Language, young lady."

"Sorry, Dad." She grinned.

Emmett jogged up the sidewalk, then, to take my last suitcase from me.

"Let's go, Carlisle. There are beaches and hot women in bikinis just waiting for you."

"I'm too old for girls in bikinis." I rolled my eyes.

"Women, Carlisle." He wiggled his eyebrows at me as he clapped a hand on my shoulder. "Nice, hot California women," he said slowly before jogging back to the car.

I glanced sideways at Rosalie. "Are you sure you want to marry him."

"Sometimes I wonder that myself," she said with a laugh.

She kissed me on the cheek again and walked to the car. I turned, took one final look at the house and said goodbye to Esme before I closed the door on that chapter of my life.

/ xXx \

"Dad. Dad!"

I heard Jasper's voice but couldn't find him in the crowd of people waiting in the baggage claim area. Pushing my way through the masses, I found an opening and just as I turned, two strong hands gripped my shoulders.

"Ah hell. What did that girl do to you?"

Jasper turned my body from side to side like a ragdoll as he examined my new hair color. The dark brown was definitely a change from the blond I was born with.

"Could I at least get a hello first?" I chuckled nervously.

"Hi," he murmured before ranting again. "Why did you let Ro do this to you? She acts like you're going through some midlife crisis or something."

"Come on, Jazz. It doesn't look that bad."

My eyes slid from my son to the man to his left as he held out his hand to me.

"How are you, Mr. Cullen? It's nice to see you again."

"Oh yeah…Dad, you remember Edward, right?" he asked.

I rolled my eyes. "Jasper, you do remember bringing Edward home six times in the past three years, right?" I teased him before turning my attention to Edward and taking his hand. "How are you, Son?"

Edward beamed at the word. In the beginning, he had been insecure about my acceptance, but he'd been with Jasper long enough now that he was just as much a part of this family as Emmett was.

"I'm fine, Sir. Just waiting for the new semester to start."

Releasing his hand, I laid a hand on both their shoulders. "Final year, huh. You both ready?"

With big grins, they answered in unison, "Hell yes."

I laughed at the relief I could see in both their faces. "Glad to hear it."

The three of us talked as I waited for the crowd to thin. Seeing my suitcases circling the carousel, I excused myself and grabbed my bags.

As we walked to the car, Edward spoke, "You know, Mr. Cullen…"

"Edward," I cut him off, "please, call me Carlisle."

He blushed. "Sorry, Sir…I mean, Carlisle." He shook his head. "Anyway, I was going to tell you that I'm signed up for your class this term."

"Great. Having you there will keep me on my toes."

"Like you need the extra help," Jasper chimed in. "Now let's get you home."

/ xXx \

My new beachfront home was a bit of an extravagance and nothing I would have ever seen myself living in before moving to San Diego. I had allowed Jasper to talk me into it, saying I deserved the best. Now that I was here, standing on the deck and watching the waves rolling in, I was glad he had showed me the property.

The view was amazing; the majesty of the ocean, the beach which stretched for what seemed like miles on one side and gave me a perfect view of the docks on the other. The whole picture before me was beautiful, making me thankful for the first time since making the decision to move. I finally believed I was where I belonged.

"Want a beer?" Jasper's voice startled me.

I shook my head as I grabbed the bottle from him. "You know, it's still going to take me some time to get used to you being old enough to drink."

"Twenty-one, Old Man," he said proudly as he clanked his bottle against mine. "Better get used to it." He smirked just before taking a drink.

"And you wonder why your sister thinks I'm going through a midlife crisis."

Jasper laughed. "I still can't believe you let her dye your hair. What the hell does she have on you anyway? I know you wouldn't have just let her…"

"Jazz, leave him alone." Edward cut him off as he stepped out to join us. "Brown looks good on you, Mr. Cullen." I narrowed my eyes a bit. "Sorry, I mean…Carlisle." He nervously ran a hand through his hair. "Damn, that's gonna take some getting used to."

Jasper and I laughed as he pulled Edward's hand out of his hair. I changed the subject, hoping to make him feel better.

"So do you boys have any big plans in the next couple of weeks before school starts up again?"

"Jasper found a great apartment for us not too far from here," Edward said excitedly. "We've been packing up and we'll be moving next week."

I raised an eyebrow. "First my house and now this great apartment, did you change your major from economics to real estate without telling me?"

"Hardly," he snorted. "I just know a great deal when I see one."

"So, tell me about your new place."

They spoke over each other as they described their apartment and I grinned. It was nice to be near Jasper again. I'd missed him after he moved away. The two continued talking as I turned to look at the waves again but my eyes never made it to the water.

My body froze when I saw her running along the beach; lightly tanned skin, toned body and long brown hair, swishing back and forth behind her with each stride. From a distance, she was pretty and, for the first time since my wife had passed, I felt myself wanting to approach another woman.

I hadn't felt a single impulse that strong in more than twenty years and, with every stride she took, I wanted nothing more than to walk onto that beach to stop her. I wanted to see if she was as beautiful as I was suddenly imagining her to be. I wanted her to see me and maybe…maybe she would want to…

"Dad." Jasper's grip on my arm brought me out of my trance.

"Huh..." I shook my head to clear it. "What?"

"Going somewhere?" Jasper could barely hold in his laughter.

Looking around, I realized that my body had moved to the second stair leading to the beach, at least five feet from where I'd been standing before I saw her.

I looked back up to Jasper and saw his wide, mischievous smile before looking back to Edward who was trying to hide his grin behind his beer bottle. My eyes were instantly drawn back to the beach to see that she'd past the house and was now running away from me.

/ xXx \

The next two weeks had been busy. Between helping Jasper and Edward move into their new apartment and getting ready for the start of the new term, I had very little time for myself. When I did, though, I found myself sitting in one of my new deck chairs, waiting for the pretty brunette to jog by my house again.

I had seen her a few times since that first day but each time, I had been on my way out and couldn't take the time to talk to her.

"Yeah right," I said to myself as I grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator. "Keep dreaming, Carlisle. You know you wouldn't have done a thing."

It was the truth. As pretty as she was, I would never approach her.

Meeting new people was never easy for me and meeting women was worse. Esme had been the one to make the first move when we first met. When she died, I had closed myself off to all female interaction, not wanting to make that move with another woman.

Until now.

Sitting on my deck, I thought about the girl who, without a single word or even a look in my direction, had completely captured my attention. I had imagined scenarios in which I'd walk out onto the beach just as she was passing by and stop her so we could talk. Then there were others where we wouldn't talk at all.

She would run close enough to the house that I could stop her with a look, pull her close and then lean in to kiss her with all the passion I had in me. She always kissed me back, matching my intensity. Then, when we would part to breathe, she would smile, grab my hand and lead me into the house, straight to the bedroom where we…

Loud barking and a piercing scream broke me from my thoughts before I'd gotten too carried away. My eyes snapped to the beach to see a small woman attempting to pull a large, growling dog away from my dream girl, who was on the ground holding her arm close to her body.

Jumping out of my chair, I flew down the steps and ran to her. Within seconds, I was kneeling in the sand next to her.

"Get that dog out of here," I yelled at the woman holding the leash.

She apologized and struggled to get the dog back under control. I had dismissed her the second the words left my mouth, my full focus now on the girl in front of me.

"Are you okay?"

My hand reached out to touch her but fear brought it back.

"Yeah." Her struggle to speak that one word told me she was lying.

"Do you mind if I…?"

My breath caught in my throat as she looked up at me with tears sliding down her cheeks. She hadn't made a sound, not a sob, not a whimper… nothing. I didn't realize she'd been hurt so badly but when I noticed the white knuckled grip she had on her arm, I saw how wrong I was.

"Your shoulder… I think it's..."

I reached a hand to the arm hanging at her side. She winced in pain as she jerked away from my touch.

"Dislocated," she grunted and her pleading eyes found mine. "Can you help me?"

"No, I… I can't," I stuttered. "I don't know what…"

"I'll tell you. Please."

The plea in her eyes was too much to resist. "Can I take you inside first?"

She nodded and I gently helped her to her feet. I wanted to carry her but didn't know how she would react to that. So I settled for an arm around her waist, supporting her as she walked with me to my house.

I sat on the coffee table as she laid out on the couch and explained what she needed me to do. I tried to keep my cool but I was panicking inside. I didn't want to hurt her even if it was the only way to help her. She was in so much pain already that I didn't want to make it worse.

"It'll be fine. Just a bit of pain to fix it," she assured me as if she'd read my thoughts.

A nervous laugh escaped me. "You sound like this is a normal thing."

"It's not the first time." She laid a hand on mine. "Now, please…do it quick. One hard pull should do it."

I positioned my hands where she'd told me and she braced herself for the pain. I didn't want to do it but I knew I had to. She was counting on me. Her head turned away and I counted to ten before I pulled as hard as I could.

Her scream had me on my knees next to her.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry," I repeated as I stroked her cheek.

"It's fine. I'll be fine." When her breathing slowed, her hand covered mine, holding it to her cheek. "Thank you."

Her gaze left me speechless and I simply sat with her while she rested.

Now that I had her so close and I could really look at her, she was stunningly beautiful. The deep brown eyes that held mine, the skin that felt like silk under my touch and those soft lips that felt like heaven as I grazed them with mine.

For a split second, I was in heaven. She opened up to me but the instant my tongue touched hers, her entire body tensed and she pulled herself away from me so quickly I nearly fell face first into the couch.

"I'm sorry," she muttered as she rushed to the door, still holding her arm. "I just… I can't… I have to go."

She was out the back door and halfway down the beach before I cleared my head enough to move. By the time I made it to the deck, I could only watch her run farther and farther away from me. I wanted to call after her, beg her to come back but I couldn't. I didn't even know her name.

/ xXx \

The first day of the new term was torturous. Thankfully, I only had three classes to teach because I hadn't been able to concentrate through the first two lectures. My mind was occupied with the beautiful woman and the kiss I never should have taken the day before.

I didn't even realize I'd done it until it was too late. The touch of her skin, the feel of her hand on mine…it was all too much. But then her eyes pulled me in, hypnotized me, and I was lost. I had no control over my body as it moved to claim her lips and, for a single second, I'd found pure happiness.

I had never felt anything so strong, not even when I'd met Esme. I didn't know how to process the feelings running through me. I wanted nothing more than to find her again, to hold her and kiss her. Talk to her and tell her that we could really have something if she just gave me a chance.

The murmur of voices as the students filed in for my last class of the day refocused my attention on the present and the job I had to do. Shuffling my notes, I readied myself for the short lecture I was about to give.

"Mr. Cullen," an excited voice called out, getting my attention.

Looking up, I saw Edward walking toward me and smiled. I'd forgotten he was taking my class but it was working out perfectly. After the day I'd had, the joke about him keeping me on my toes didn't seem too far from the truth.

"Mr. Masen." I remained professional while holding out a hand to him.

"Last class of the day," he said after he released my hand. "Make it count, Sir." He winked and turned to take a seat.

He knew how much I hated being called Mr. Cullen or Sir and by the look on his face, I knew he was teasing me. It was enough to ground me, though, and turn my thoughts back to the lecture I was about to give.

I took the next few minutes to read over my notes and get myself organized. When finished, I looked at my watch. It was time to start.

"Good afternoon, everyone," I began. "Welcome to Psych 416. I am Professor Carlisle Cullen and I'll be leading you through the final stage of your scholastic career as you prepare to become full members of our illustrious profession."

My eyes scanned the large room as I continued.

"You will work hard in this class, analyzing case studies and using what you've learned to give a detailed patient profile and your professional opinion regarding treatment."

I found Edward in the crowd and grinned as I saw him already taking notes.

"Now, I'll give you fair warning…"

My sentence died in my throat and I lost all ability to breathe when my eyes landed on the beautiful woman who had taken control of my every thought. My heart sank as the realization dawned on me.

The most beautiful woman I'd seen in twenty-five years was practically a child.

No…worse. She was young enough to be my child.

I remembered her lying on my couch, staring up at me; she looked like a completely different woman. But that was just it, in that moment with her, she was just that…a woman, not the wide-eyed girl sitting in front of me now. In a room full of twenty year olds, I could see how wrong I was about her. Seeing her face now, she looked no older than Jasper.

How could I not have seen it? She was right there… so close, how could I not have noticed?

I couldn't catch a breath and I needed to get out of there. I needed to get away from her.

"Mr. Cullen." The voice sounded distant. "Carlisle."

A jarring shake to my shoulder snapped me back to reality as I gasped for air.

"Carlisle, are you okay?"

Finally regaining my senses, I looked up into my students' faces and realized I was on the floor with Edward kneeling next to me.

"Edward, I'm…" I shook my head and sat up slowly, meeting his eyes. "I'm fine. Let me…"

"Dad!" Jasper's voice cut me off as he pushed through the crowd of students.

"Jasper? What are you doing here?" I asked as he kneeled and tilted my head up to examine my eyes.

"Edward texted me. What happened?" He was worried.

"I couldn't breathe," I pulled away from his hands, "but I'm fine now. Just help me up."

Jasper grabbed one arm and Edward grabbed the other and they lifted me to my feet.

"Are you all right? Do you need me to take you the health building? They can check you out; make sure you don't need to go to the hospital or something."

I was still a little lightheaded but able to brace myself on the table in front of me. After a few deep breaths, my head cleared and I fully recalled what happened and how I ended up on the floor.

My students were still gathered around the desk, looking concerned but I didn't care about them. There was only one person that mattered right now. I found her standing a few feet behind the crowd, tears in her eyes, a hand covered her mouth and a look of concern on her face.

Her expression tore at my heart and, as wrong as it was, I needed her to know I was okay.

"I'm fine, Son," I said, answering Jasper's question while staring directly at her.

Her hand dropped a little and she gave me a small smile.

Glancing around the room, I looked at my students and exhaled.

"I'm very sorry, everyone. I don't know what came over me." I glanced quickly to her and back again. "Now that the excitement is over, please, let us continue."

I turned to Jasper and saw his disbelieving look.

"You can't be serious," he whispered angrily.

"Jasper, I'm fine. It was nothing, don't worry about me." I grasped his arm to reassure him a little. "You, on the other hand, need get back to class."

"Are you sure you're okay? I can stay and…"

"Jasper, stop worrying. I'm fine," I repeated, shaking my head. He was so much like his mother.

He glared at me and I knew he didn't believe me. I was truly fine, though. He didn't need to worry about me. Finally, he nodded and turned to leave. Before he did, however, he grabbed Edward's hand, staring directly in his eyes.

"Watch him for me," he ordered as I rolled my eyes.

Edward agreed and Jasper hurried out of the room. I thanked Edward and sent him back to his seat so we could continue. Luckily for me, class wasn't too draining after that. I usually spent the first day getting to know my students anyway and giving them my expectations so they were fully prepared for the semester.

After my lecture on class expectations was over, I began going through my roster and asked each student to tell me a little about themselves. I grew more and more nervous as each name was called because, at any minute, she could have been the one to speak up.

I kept a close eye on the clock, ready to dismiss the class the instant our time was up. I was nearing the end of my list and I was hoping the clock took pity on me before I was forced to focus my attention on her.

"Isabella Swan," I called.

Unfortunately for me, the clock didn't move fast enough and a voice I recognized immediately answered. After avoiding a single look in her direction for the past hour, my eyes were forced to meet hers.

"Ms. Swan."

I fought the smile that wanted to form just at the sight of her. I couldn't think about her the way I wanted to. She was too young. She was my student. She was off limits.

"Please, tell us a little about yourself."

She looked a little scared. "I'm not quite sure what to say, Professor."

"Well, you can keep things academic and tell us why you chose a degree in psychology or you can share something a little more personal like where you're from, about your family or what you like to do when you're not studying."

I knew I shouldn't have asked for personal details but I couldn't resist. I wanted to know as much as I could about her.

She exhaled. "Well, I was born in a small town in Washington and moved here about a year ago." She relaxed a little, leaning back in her chair as she continued. "I knew I needed to get away from there and this seemed like as good a place as any. So, when I was accepted here, I packed up and left. Now…"

She paused for a second before her eyes fixed on mine, and I thought I saw a brief flash of determination there.

"…I know it was the best decision I've ever made."

There was no question that I wanted her, but I knew I couldn't have her. Sitting in front of me with her eyes fixed on mine, I could see she had other ideas.

I swallowed hard. This wasn't the face of the hesitant woman on my couch yesterday. The look she gave me now made me nervous.

Unable to tear my eyes from hers, I choked out two words.

"Class dismissed."

/ xXx \

A few weeks had passed and I'd done everything I could to stay away from her. I was forced to see her twice a week in class but once my students were dismissed for the day, I rushed out the door and went home. I would still see her running on the beach but before she came near the house, I went back inside and shut her out.

She did try to talk to me once that first week but I told her, in no uncertain terms, that it would be completely inappropriate for us to speak about anything that didn't relate to the class.

When the smile left her face, I wanted to kick myself for hurting her but I didn't have a choice. What she didn't know was that, as hurt as she looked by my rejection, she had no idea how much it killed me to see her every day and not be able to act on my desires.

Especially when she worked so hard to bring those desires out of me.

It started two weeks ago with a few innocent touches.

To anyone watching, it would have just been an innocent exchange; a simple touch to my hand or my arm as she stood at my desk before class, asking about the case study she was working on.

Last week she'd become bolder, resting a hand on my back and gently rubbing tiny circles with her fingertips as she asked her questions. Her touch sent shivers down my spine and I'd caught her smirk just before she thanked me for helping her and walked away.

Today, however, the touch was different – even bolder and infinitely more dangerous – as her fingers brushed over my leg, coming to rest on the inside of my thigh.

My breath hitched and the muscles in my leg tightened. She was driving me crazy and I wanted nothing more than to bend her over the desk and have my way with her.

"Isabella," I whispered her name for the first time since the first day of class five weeks ago.


Her voice was just as quiet as she also said my name for the first time and, God help me, I wanted to hear her say it again.

Panic and desire warred inside me as I felt her hand slide higher. I swallowed hard as I fought against the urge to just let her touch me. I wanted it so much but I couldn't let it happen and it took everything in me to drop a hand on top of hers to stop her advance.

"Please stop." I could barely get the words out.

She squeezed just before pulling her hand away.

"Yes, Professor."

The smirk was back on her face as she thanked me again for my help and returned to her seat. She knew exactly what she was doing to me. I just wondered if she knew how close I was to giving in.

Thankfully, two weeks passed since the last incident and I was able to function through a day without the added temptation her touches caused me. And it couldn't have come at a better time. Heading into our mid-term break, I had been able to relax, believing she'd finally taken my words to heart and realized nothing could happen between us.

Unfortunately for me, as I watched her walk into class today – five days after I'd last laid eyes on her – I realized I had been completely wrong. She hadn't given up. She'd only chosen a different form of seduction.

The tight shirt she wore hugged every curve and the low neckline succeeded at putting her breasts on full display. Her tight jeans rode low on her hips, giving me the tiniest glimpse of her bare stomach.

My breathing sped and my pulse quickened at the sight of her. I was lost, unable to take my eyes off her. Then, as if she hadn't tortured me enough, she bent over to pull something from her bag, putting her perfectly rounded ass out there for me to see.

I couldn't take it anymore and rushed out of the room, saying I would be back soon.

I practically ran to the restroom down the hall and found myself at the sink, splashing cold water on my face. She was trying to kill me.

"Carlisle." Edward's voice made me jump. "Is everything okay?"

After another handful of water, I answered, "It's all right, Edward. I think I ate something earlier that didn't agree with me."

It was a bad lie but it was all I could come up with. Seeing Isabella in that outfit had muddled my mind and I couldn't think.

Shutting the water off, I glanced at Edward as I reached for a towel.

"I'm fine, Edward. Why don't you head back to the room and I'll be there in a minute."

He agreed hesitantly and left me to pull myself together.

During the next three weeks, the clothes she wore to class alternated from tightly hugging her body in all the right places to being just loose enough that I could see right down her shirt when she'd bend over.

Things got worse, however, when I'd see her running at night. Over the past ten weeks, her running clothes had changed from modest tank tops and shorts to tiny pairs of spandex and very revealing bikini tops.

It was impossible for me to even look at her any more as she ran by. I didn't know how much longer I could hold out before I finally snapped, dragged her into the house and ripped all the clothes from her body. Instead, I settled for relieving the tension alone in the shower at night. It was the only way I could make it through my days.

/ xXx \

Campus was buzzing today as I got to my classroom. The students had been talking excitedly all day about the Halloween parties that were happening this weekend. I'd even received my own invitation to Jasper and Edward's party a few days from now but as an instructor, I didn't feel it was appropriate to show up.

When I'd overheard Edward talking to Isabella about it in our last class, I'd fantasized about her in all the skimpiest costumes I could imagine and then I would picture myself with her, pulling those costumes from her body as I had her locked away with me in their spare bedroom.

After that daydream, I knew I couldn't attend even if I wanted to.

As I was getting ready for my last class of the week, I was writing a few corrections to the lecture I had planned for the day when a notebook placed on the table next to me stopped me. I didn't even have to look up to know who it belonged too.

"Yes, Ms. Swan, how can I help you today?" I asked without looking up from my papers.

"Sorry to interrupt, Professor, but I need some help with this case."

"Ms. Swan, your work has been impeccable for the past ten weeks and you're one of my top students." Remembering the case I'd given her, I looked up at her then. "I'm sure there isn't anything in that case study that would give you problems."

"You know what," a devilish smirk crossed her face, "I think you're right." Her voice was so low I barely heard it.

She picked up her notebook and walked away. I was confused until I noticed the tiny slip of pink paper on my desk. Secretly, I slid it off the desk to read it.

I want to see you, Carlisle.

Come to the party.

Her words nearly had me hyperventilating as I broke out in a sweat. Looking up at her, I saw her looking at me expectantly. I put the paper in my pocket and shook my head. My heart broke as her face fell.

For the next hour, I'd stolen glances in her direction and every time I looked, she seemed distant. Her pen moved slowly on her paper as if she was drawing instead of taking notes as I expected her to be.

I really felt bad for always rejecting her but she had to know it was the only way. Between her age and my status as her professor, there was no way anything could happen between us.

When I dismissed the class, she simply got up and left, not a single smile or a backward glance at me as she walked through the door. I had to admit to myself how much that hurt. She'd left me with a smile after every class and it really bothered me.

I was so bothered by it that I couldn't get her out of my mind for the next three days. The memory of her just walking out on me had me so upset that I almost contemplated showing up at Jasper's party just to see if she was okay.


I knew I wouldn't have control over myself if I went and saw her in some revealing costume. So I forced myself to grab another beer and hang out on the couch watching the Halloween movie marathon. They were ridiculous movies but I didn't have anything better to do with my night.

Just as the credits were rolling on the second movie, a knock on my front door caught my attention and I moved to answer it.

"Isabella," I said, shocked that she was standing on my doorstep.

"I had to see you".

My eyes traveled down her body and sure enough, she was wearing a tiny, brown two-piece that looked like something a cavewoman would wear. I felt myself harden just looking at her.

"Isabella, you can't be here," I warned.

"Carlisle," it was just a whisper, but I loved hearing her say my name again, "can I come in?"

I took a step toward her and she did the same. She was so close. I just wanted to reach out and grab her.

"Isabella, I…"

The words stuck in my throat as her hands reached out to touch my chest and, damn, it felt good.

"Don't," she whispered and her hands slid up my chest.

Her eyes locked on mine as her hands held the back my neck. My hands circled her waist and we stood there, lost in each other, unable to move.

"Don't push me away, Carlisle."

She stepped closer, pressing her body into mine. My eyes closed and I touched my forehead to hers as her fingers raked through the back of my hair.

"Not tonight."

She was so close; I could feel her breath as it passed over my lips. It was too much and I wanted desperately to give her what she wanted…what we both wanted. But the right word wouldn't come.

"I can't." I choked on the words, knowing they were wrong.


It was her last word. The only one needed to break my resolve.

My lips crashed into hers and we both moaned with the kiss we'd waited months for. It was frantic, passionate, rough and it felt so damn good to finally take what I wanted.

Everything was a blur, her hands in my hair, my hands on her ass, her legs tight around my waist, my body on top of hers as we fell on the couch.

There was nothing slow about this. We both wanted too much.

My lips left hers in a gasp for air but continued just as quickly as I kissed and licked my way down her neck.

"God, Carlisle, that… feels…"

Labored breaths cut off the rest of her sentence as her hands pulled on my shirt. Half way up, I reached behind me and pulled it off.

Her skin on mine was more than I'd dreamed it would be. The feeling of silk underneath me, caressing my skin sent a fire through me that I'd never felt in my life. I wanted more, so much more. I pushed up, pulling my lips away from her chest, and slid a hand under her. The arch in her back told me she wanted this just as much as I did.

Excited fingers fumbled with the clasp of the small piece of fabric separating us. I was desperate and ready to rip the offending piece of cloth when a ringing phone made her entire body stiffen.

Forgetting the clasp, I brought my lips back to hers. I wasn't going to let her be distracted. Nothing was more important than this…than us.

"Wait." Her hands pushed against my bare chest, breaking our kiss.

"Ignore it, Isabella." I kissed her again.

"I can't." She pushed me away again. "I have to answer."

"No, Isabella." My eyes begged hers. "I can't give you up now."

"Please, Carlisle."

Feeling rejected, I sat up and gave her what she asked for. She slipped off the couch and rushed to grab her phone from a small bag I hadn't noticed her drop by the door.


Her head dropped and she held a finger up at me just before she stepped out onto the front porch. I knew my chance with her was ruined the second she answered the phone. But when she felt the need to hide her conversation from me, I knew I'd lost her.

Frustrated, I left the couch and went to the kitchen to grab another beer. On the way back to the couch, I unintentionally overheard a part of her conversation through the crack in the door.

"I said I had plans tonight… No… You know it's not more important." Even though I shouldn't, I peeked and saw her with her hand on her forehead. "Okay, Mike, I'm on my way. Give me twenty minutes."

Thankfully, she stayed outside a few minutes after she ended her call, giving me time to get back to the couch and grab the remote. I was flipping through channels when she walked back in and settled herself in beside me.

"I'm so sorry, Carlisle." She tried to grab my hand. "I have to go."

I let her take it but I couldn't bring myself to hold hers.

"I know." I stared at the screen, trying not to let her know how much her choice to leave was hurting me.

"Can I see you tomorrow?"

"I'll be with Jasper tomorrow."

"Oh." She sighed. "Okay." She leaned in and kissed my cheek. "I'll see you later."

I stood and offered her a hand to walk her to the door. It killed me when she wrapped her arms around me one last time. I lightly brushed a kiss to her forehead.

"You need to go before you're late." My voice was flat as I let her go.

She gave me a strange look. "I'm sorry."

"You better go."

She nodded and walked out the door. I went back to the couch and nursed my broken heart with the rest of the beer in my fridge.

/ xXx \

I was a forty-six year old man but I felt like I'd regressed back to sixteen again.

Ever since Isabella walked out on me, I'd avoided her like the plague. Every night she'd run by the house and make a stop at my back door. I either cranked up some god awful music to pretend I didn't hear her knocking or I would just get in my car and leave. It didn't matter where I went as long as I was away from her.

In class, it was impossible to get away, but I had acted as if she didn't exist. I'd never ignored a question from her outright for fear of people making the connection between us. But I never sought her out for an answer to a question or for her opinion on a case either.

Not much had changed for her, though. She'd still left me little notes on my desk, though she had never tried to approach me. She still dressed in the most provocative clothing, trying to get my attention. And it worked. God help me, did it work. But I fought with every fiber of my being to not let her know she had gotten to me.

I'd admit I was acting like a child but I was hurt and not thinking clearly. I'd let my pain get in the way of something we both obviously still wanted. I was just afraid of getting rejected again.

So, we both played the game – her trying to get my attention and me fighting not to notice – for the rest of the term. It wasn't until after her final exam that she finally confronted me.

She was one of my brightest students, so it didn't surprise me when she finished her exam early. What did catch my eye, though, was her drawing on her scratch paper after she'd finished. She was stalling, waiting for the other students to complete their tests and leave. When I wished the last student a good holiday, she stood and brought me her test.

"A month and a half," she said as she slammed her paper on the desk in front of me.

"Excuse me, Ms. Swan." I looked up into her angry eyes.

"Don't 'Ms. Swan' me, Carlisle Cullen," she huffed. "We had something great that night but because I had to leave, you've felt the need to ignore me all this time."

I snorted. Of course, she knew I was avoiding her. But, rather than explain, I went with the same excuse I'd given her since class started.

"I've told you more than once, Ms. Swan, that it is inappropriate to form that kind of relationship with a student." My voice was harsher than I intended it to be.

"Oh really?"

As I gathered the papers on my desk, she moved around to stand next to me. She touched a hand to my back and the other rested on my stomach. Standing on her toes, she leaned in close to whisper in my ear.

"Tell me, Professor," I froze when the hand on my stomach inched its way down, "what would you have done if I didn't leave that night?"

The touch of her hands and her breath in my ear had me speechless.

"Would you have let me touch you, Carlisle?"

I was panting as her hand slid south.

"Wrap my hand around you?" Her lips grazed my ear. "Stroke your cock?"

"Isabella, stop."

She only had to be near me for me to get hard. What she was doing now was absolute torture.

Her hand moved back to my stomach. "Stop what, Professor?"

My blood was racing with every touch…every word.

"We can't do this." I groaned through heavy breaths.

"Why not?" Her sultry tone was driving me crazy. "Finals are over. Class is dismissed and you aren't my teacher anymore."

She used the hand around my back to pull herself closer. I jumped away from her the instant her hand covered the bulge in my pants.

"I told you we can't," I choked the words out as I grabbed my briefcase and rushed to the door.

"Tell me one thing," she called after me.

I stopped with a hand on the door.

"Would you have made love to me if I stayed?" Her voice was softer…vulnerable, and it nearly broke me.

"Yes." I couldn't look at her as I admitted my weakness. "But you chose to leave me for another man."

With that, I wrenched open the door and left campus as fast as I could.

/ xXx \

It took me longer to get home than I'd planned, but I just couldn't face walking into that house alone. In the years since Esme died, I'd never let myself get close to a woman. It hurt too much, as if I was still betraying my wife.

That was until I'd seen Isabella jogging down the beach.

She was the first woman to ever catch my eye. The first one I'd ever come close to caring about. The only person I'd ever wanted to get to know better. To have a relationship with. I could actually see myself having a life with her.

Before I ran away from her like a child, she'd asked me if I would have made love to her and that question drove a dagger through my heart. I wanted nothing more than to make that happen, but that was impossible. I was an old man compared to her, old enough to be her father.

Then I realized if that was our only issue, I could have eventually gotten past it, but it wasn't.

She had someone named Mike waiting for her. Someone she would obviously drop everything for no matter what. He was probably her age, too. And definitely a better fit for her. I couldn't compete with that.

Finally pulling into my driveway, I sat in my car for a minute to gain my composure before I stepped out and slammed the door shut. I was halfway to my front door when I heard her.

"I'm not letting you run out on me, Carlisle. We're going to talk about this."

"There's nothing to talk about," I said petulantly without turning around.

I left the door open as I walked in the house, knowing she would follow me in.

"That's bullshit. I've seen you with Jasper and even Edward in the last few months. You're an amazing father, Carlisle, and I know you would have done the same thing in my position."

I turned on her. "What does that even mean?"

"I didn't leave you for…" Her brow furrowed. "Wait, how do you even know why I left anyway?"

"I heard you tell…what was his name…?" I pretended to think. "Oh yeah, Mike. You told him you weren't doing anything important. You gave me up to go to him the second he called."

Her face dropped. "Is that what you think?" She took a hesitant step toward me, touching my arm. "Carlisle, please sit with me and let me explain."

I nodded, allowing her to lead me to the couch. I sat at one end, facing forward, unable to look at her and she sat in the middle, facing me with her leg curled under her. She grabbed my hand as she began to speak.

"Mike is my ex-husband. We were high school sweethearts, together for twenty years."

I could have broken my neck with the speed my head turned toward her. "Twenty years?"

I did the math quickly in my head. She had to be at least thirty-five, not the twenty-one or twenty-two year old I thought she was. I wanted her to confirm my theory but she continued as if she hadn't heard me.

"We had it all, a nice house, two kids, three dogs..." Her sentence died and she stood, facing away from me. "I thought we were happy but when I found out about the affair, my perfect world shattered.

"I couldn't live that way. I refused to be the type of woman to just accept it, so I grabbed my kids and left. But living as a housewife for so long left me with no real marketable skills and I was forced to live with my parents." She turned to me with tears in her eyes. "Do you know how humiliating that is?"

Seeing her so broken with her arms crossed over her chest in obvious pain at her confession forced me to move. I was on my feet in a second, wrapping her in my arms to offer her the only comfort I could.

"Isabella, I'm so sorry."

She nestled herself into my embrace, resting her cheek against my chest as she continued.

"It wasn't a lie when I told you I needed to get out of Washington. I couldn't stand to see them together and I had to try and make a life for myself and my kids. I knew I would have to go back to school so I took all the general courses I would need online before applying at San Diego State. I was packed and ready to go just a few days after I was accepted."

I led her back to the couch, settling her on my lap to hold her while she finished.

"Mike never believed I would leave and the day I took the kids to say goodbye, he begged me to stay. He told me he would change and we could get back together." She sighed. "I'll admit it was tempting but I'd worked so hard to stand on my feet again and I wasn't going to let him drag me back down."

"That took so much courage." I turned her face to look at me. "I'm so proud of you for standing your ground like that."

She smiled. "I was terrified. I'd never lived on my own before and I didn't know if I could make it. But I managed somehow. Honestly, it wasn't until Mike showed up on my doorstep that I realized how far I'd come."

"He followed you here?"

She nodded. "He said he wanted his family back, but I refused. I wouldn't put myself or the kids in that position again." She chuckled and shrugged. "It didn't take him long to show his true colors, chasing girls half his age. I'd accepted it and I was honestly happy being alone," she paused then added, "until I met you."

Her eyes fell to her lap and she took hold of the hand I had resting on her leg.

"I hadn't been with anyone in so long that the first kiss scared me a little. But then I was forced to see you every day and it was all too much for me. I knew you could get in trouble but I couldn't help myself. I wanted you so much and I didn't have your kind of control.

"The night I came here, Jasper practically shoved me out the door, telling me if I didn't take my chance, I would regret it."

"What?" She flinched at the word. "Jasper knew about this and he pushed you towards me."

"He said that you were here alone and I shouldn't wait anymore. He told me you would have never made the first move. So I had to do it."

"He told you what?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

She was quick to explain. "Edward and I became friends quickly when the semester began and it didn't take him long to figure out there was something between us. He'd drop subtle questions about you into our conversations and I didn't catch on until he finally introduced me to Jasper."

She looked up at me. "Don't take this the wrong way, Carlisle, but your son is very devious and a little manipulative."

I couldn't stop the grin when she said that. Jasper had been that way since he was five years old. Even being the younger of the two, he could always get Rosalie to do whatever he wanted.

"He is, isn't he," I conceded.

Suddenly putting together everything she'd told me, I steered the conversation back to why I was upset in the first place.

"So you didn't walk out on me for Mike?"

"God no! That part of my life is over, you have to believe that."

Her eyes held mine and I could see the truth in her words.

"He had the kids that night but decided he would rather be out with some girl than home with them. He called and gave me a choice, either pick them up or let them stay home alone."

"Are you kidding me? How could he…? What kind of father does that?"

"He knew I'd drop everything and come running. Not that I had to or anything…" She shook her head at my confused expression. "What I mean is, David is fourteen and very capable of staying home alone but I didn't want them to feel like neither of us wanted to be with them that night."

"Oh god. I thought that you and Mike were… and I treated you so…" I felt sick.

Her hands held my cheeks as she looked at me with such an understanding expression.

"It's okay. I know why you did it."

"It's not okay."

"Carlisle," she kissed me quickly, "I hated what happened between us after that night. But I'm here now and I'm not going to let you give up on us. I want you just as much now as I did then and I'm going to fight for what I want."

The kiss caught me by surprise but my lips were moving with hers in no time. My hand was on the back of her neck, holding her to me as I took control and deepened the kiss. Her moan spurred me on and I felt myself harden underneath her.

She obviously felt it too as she broke our kiss long enough to turn and straddle my lap. Her lips touched mine once before moving down my neck. I shivered as she began to grind herself against me while kissing her way back up the side of my neck to my ear.

"Can I touch you, Carlisle?" she whispered then grazed her teeth over the soft skin of my ear.

"God yes," I said loudly.

"I want to see you, Carlisle." Her breath fanned over my ear. "Take your shirt off."

My shirt was on the floor before she finished the sentence and she giggled. "Eager, are we?"

With my hands on her cheeks, I held her as if she was the most precious thing in the world. "I can't be without you anymore."

"I'm yours, Carlisle."

I crushed my mouth to hers and her mouth opened to deepen our kiss. My tongue swept across hers causing a moan to escape me.

I was so lost in her that I didn't realize she'd undone my pants until her hand was wrapped around me, stroking me. I gasped, breaking our kiss.

"God that feels good."

Her only answer was to kiss her way down my chest, moving until she was kneeling in front of me. She pulled her hand away to grip the waist of my pants and I lifted so she could pull them off.

Breathing heavily, I couldn't take my eyes off her as she stroked me and licked the tip once before taking me into her mouth.

I bucked my hips into her. It had been too long since I'd felt anything like that.

"Isabella… god that… unh so good…"

I felt the clenching in my stomach as she slid me in and out of her mouth and I nearly lost it when she hollowed her cheeks, sucking hard as she pulled up. I pulled her off of me before I came right there.

"It's been too long for me, Sweetheart. I'm so close. I need to be inside you. I want to make love to you."

I kissed her and stood up, pulling her with me. I picked her up and carried her to my room. Her clothes were gone in seconds and I laid her gently on the bed, kissing and worshiping every inch of her body. When I finally settled between her legs, I panicked and backed away.

"What's wrong?"

"I wasn't thinking." My head fell and I silently chastised myself for being so careless. "I don't even have protection. I'm so sorry, Sweetheart, but we c-"

Her hand covered my mouth, cutting me off.

"It's been so long for both of us and I can't have any more children." I just stared at her, processing her statement.

"I'll explain later." Her smile was beautiful as she laid me back on the bed. "I want this."

She straddled me again.

"I want you."

She kissed me hard as she reached down and guided me to her entrance.

"I'm yours, Isabella." I repeated her words as she took me inside of her.

After a second to adjust, she moved up so slowly and back down again, over and over until I couldn't take it anymore. Gripping her hips, I pushed up hard and her body fell on top of mine. I held her there, thrusting into her harder and harder until she was screaming.

"Unh… unh… harder, baby, harder."

Flipping us over, I pushed into to her hard, giving her what she wanted. I wanted more, so I hooked her leg on my arm, changing our position to go deeper inside of her.

"Yes… feels so… oh god Carlisle."

I could feel her clenching around me as she neared her end. The feel of her tightening around me pushed me to the edge.

"So close, sweetheart," I panted as I pushed harder.

A few more thrusts and she screamed my name as she fell over the edge, pulling me with her. I clenched my eyes shut and my body jerked as the most intense feeling washed over me.

Both of us breathing heavily, she pulled me to her as I released her leg and she held me tight. I kissed her shoulder, her neck and finally her lips. It was slow and deep, showing her all the feelings I was unable to express in that moment.

Needing to breathe, we both pulled back and her smile was radiant. I didn't want to break our connection, but I had to. I kissed the tip of her nose before climbing out of bed and going into the bathroom.

Returning with a warm washcloth, I helped her clean up before climbing under the covers with her. She snuggled into my arms and it felt so right holding her like this. I placed a kiss on her forehead.

"Thank you," I whispered.

She shifted her body to look up at me. "For what?"

I touched her cheek. "For not giving up on me when I tried so hard to push you away."

"I'm too old to let the things I want pass me by." A smile settled on her face. "And I want you, Carlisle Cullen. I want us. We can make this work and we can be happy together."

"You're not old. You're beautiful." Thinking back on all I'd learned today, I knew she was right. "And we will be happy for as long as you'll have me," I said as I leaned in for one more kiss.