AN: You gets two today, because I like you all.

Chapter 1

I noticed the smoking first. He was blowing out perfectly round smoke rings into the atmosphere. Dark hair with aviator sunglasses shielding his eyes from the midday sun, the man lounged on one of the a picnic benches that sat near the entrance of the liberal arts building.

He would be considered ruggedly handsome by many, but I would place my bets on rakish ne'er do well.

I just continued on my way, as he called out, "Sweetheart, you looking for Creative Writing 102?"

I turned on my heel and looked at him grinning at me. He took another inhale of his cigarette and made another perfect circle. I answered with a curt, "Yes."

He patted the seat next to him. "Take a load off, doll. I'm having class outside. Today is far too nice to be inside that cramped classroom."

"Are you the professor?" I came over tentatively. He was obnoxious.

"God, no! I'm the TA." He glanced at the building in disdain. "You'll never see the professor. At this very minute, he's performing pretzel moves on a coed from English 101. He likes them young."

"Good to know about his interest in the youth of today." I sat down and pulled out a notebook. "Good to know so I can knee him in the balls at the appropriate moment."

"I like you, sweetheart." He took off his sunglasses. His eyes reminded me of ocean waves. "I'm Garrett. I shall be the one grading you."

He held out his hand.

"Isabella or Bella if I decide to like you," I shook his hand. "The woman you will not be grading. I already have a degree and taking this class for fun."

"Thank heavens! A real woman and not a simpering little girl looking for a husband. It's tedious, I tell you." He acted as if this was the worst hardship that one could be subjected to.

I started scribbling trees in the margins of my notebook. "So very tedious having to bang a new one every night. What a hard life you have, Garrett."

He laughed loudly. It filled the air like thunder. "It really is, sweetheart! I find you amusing. Those are beautiful drawings. I'm guessing you possess an art degree."

He was looking at my scribbles and I covered them with my hands.

"Don't you know a person's art is sacred? I'm not sharing, buddy." I looked into his seas of blue. The smoke from his cigarette framed his face. "You know those things can kill ya?"

"Have you suddenly morphed into my mother?" He blew another ring. "You are far too pretty to be like that woman."

"Stop with the flattery and put out the cancer stick," I demanded. When he made no move to do so, I plucked it out of his fingers and put it out in the grass.

"That was fairly sexy, sweetheart." He gave me an appreciative glance, that made me blush slightly from the heat of his stare. I bet that look made panties drop all over the state. It made me roll my eyes, after that momentarily traitorous blushing.

"You're getting on my nerves." I went back to scribbling.

He stilled my hand. "I'll be good. I was a Boy Scout."

"Probably a terrible one." He was probably sneaking cigarettes behind the tents and organizing panty raids on the poor Girl Scouts.

"Truth," he admitted. He looked over towards the parking lot and smiled. "Here comes my friend, Edward. He's a dick, but a fun guy when you ignore how he thinks he walks on water."

I glanced over to where Garrett was pointing and saw the most beautiful man that I ever had the privilege of laying my eyes on. Rusty copper hair and a chiseled jaw, he walked with a purpose and gravitas that was seductive. The simple jean and and tee combination he wore clung to his frame perfectly. His feet were bare. I wanted to kiss his lips. It was an unnatural reaction to a stranger and it must be squashed like a bug.

Garrett let out another big laugh. "Not you too! That guy has woman falling all over him."

"Sorry! I was just staring at his harem. Should I have one too? Is having a gaggle of groupies a prerequisite to this class?" I quickly covered my ogling. The attractive Edward had a large group of big chested and small skirt wearing followers. I wanted to mock them, but that would be hypocritical. I understood the appeal.

"Outside class, Garrett? It's the first day and you're already slacking?" Edward's smile was genuine.

Garrett grinned. "Professor Banner is already banging a freshman, so I decided why the hell not."

Edward looked over to me, "Garrett, you found a friend finally?"

"Sweet Bella is my new harem." He smiled at me. "She's only one, but her acidic tongue makes it feel like I have hundreds of them."

"Wrong answer. You were begging my acidic tongue to sit with you, so I think you might be my harem. I might keep you if you finally say something that had to do with learning. I did pay to sit here after all."

"Bella means beautiful," Edward said huskily.

I sighed and looked down at my notebook. It wasn't as if I never heard that one before. That was disappointing. "No shit, Sherlock."

I looked up to see his shocked face. Someone must be used to being fawned over. Too bad for him.

His vultures of a fan club descended on him. They gave me looks of disdain, which didn't bother me in the least. I wasn't here to make friends.

"Hey Eric! Mike! Over here, guys!" Garrett called out. He tapped my head. "You ready to learn about writing, sweetheart?"

"You ready to stop calling me 'sweetheart'?"



I could feel Edward's eyes on me. They were sparking emeralds.

He gave me a wink.

I gave him the finger.

It was a beginning of something. That something was a mystery.