Hiya, hope you all had a great Christmas. Hope you like my latest offering, feel free to let me know. Cheers. (No schedule for updates, will try to do so weekly if it's popular.) xxx

Chapter One

BPOV

"This is insane," I repeated as Rosalie Hale did her magic on my too long for my age brown hair. "I'm thirty five years old, not a teenager. I could adopt this guy and feel more comfortable than I do going on a date with him. I must be crazy letting you talk me into this."

Rose glared at me, and paused to refill my glass yet again. I guess she knew by now I was much more amenable to her outrageous ideas when I was well on the way to being plastered.

"The world's a crazy place. Sit still, please or you will end up looking like a middle aged Shirley Temple. Hand me that straightener."

I sipped my vodka and cranberry and sulkily complied.

"My point exactly, Rose. Middle aged. And this Jacob Black is what? Twelve? Don't you think he will feel like he's dating his babysitter?"

Rose laughed.

"He is twenty five years old chronologically but he is very mature for his age. He's an artist, Bella, age means nothing to them. Not to forget, he's rich and famous. You could do a lot worse. Oh wait, you already have."

"Rose, be nice."

It's fair to say my best friend has unresolved issues with my ex-husband.

"Jake fancies you, that's the main thing. Name one other male who is eager to wine and dine you and I will call the whole date off."

She had me there. Men wanting to interact with me in any way at all were pretty sparse these days.

"But it just feels..." I couldn't quite grasp the right word to describe my feelings.

"Oh for Heavens sake. You have to attend this dinner dance, correct?"

"You know I do," I moaned. "If there was any way out of attending, I wouldn't be here having you rip half the hair out of my scalp. I should have let Alice cut my hair short like normal women my age have their hair these days. I don't know why I give in to your bullying tactics. Look where it got me..dating a kid barely out of Junior High ."

"Oh get over it. Renee has always like her men young and fit, take a leaf out of her book."

"I guess there is that. If Jake and I don't hit it off, imagine that, I could always hand him over to my mother. She is between boyfriends at the moment."

"Don't think she'd have any issues with his age. Once she got a look at his hot body you would have to pry her off him with a crowbar."

I shuddered at the thought. Bad enough I was dating a twenty-something. I really did not want any images in my head of my Mom walking around with this 'hot young guy' Rose had arranged as my blind date.

"Anyway, with a bit of luck you two will get photographed and Edward will see the picture in the society pages and kill himself when he sees you are managing to survive without him."

"You still don't like Edward, do you?" I laughed. "You don't even try to hide how happy you are that he is no longer part of my life." Not that it was funny.

My life was a tragedy, really.

Edward Cullen and I dated in High School for two years and back then, I guess we were young with stars in our eyes and no concept of what it was like out there in the real world.

We soon found out when our love affair led to a hastily arranged marriage five minutes after we graduated, and the birth of our baby daughter just six months later. You want to know the recipe for disaster?

We found it.

Two kids at the ripe old age of seventeen, struggling to keep their romance alive with a screaming infant in the next bedroom. The odds had been stacked against us from the start but we had tried.

Tried and failed.

"So, have you heard from Scarlett lately?" Rose inquired as she tried to asphyxiate me with hair spray.

"Sure. She is saving up to buy her first car so naturally she called," I replied, jaded. " She knows there will be no pocket money from her parents unless she plays nice and keeps in touch every week. This is Carlisle's idea of 'tough love'. Scarlett has to save ten per cent of the cost then he will put in the other ninety per cent."

Rose raised her eyebrows.

To say our daughter seemed happy living with Edward's parents was a gross understatement.. Carlisle and Esme were handing Scarlett everything on a plate. She only had to bat her eyelids at her grandfather and whatever she wanted was hers.

That may sound like the ideal way to be raised but Edward had been somewhat spoiled in his teen years and it had not worked out for the best when suddenly he was hit with the responsibility of a wife and child.

Both sets of parents had pushed for the 'easier solution', and even though now I can see they just thought it was the best 'quick fix" for us, Edward had reacted badly. He wanted his child to be born. He didn't need them or their money.

He had no idea what it was like, being a working man on minimum wage.

He had wanted to prove he was responsible and mature, and had insisted we make a go of it alone, with no parental help, so we'd struggled along practically penniless for ten years before The End, when it all just became too hard. By that point any love between us was long smothered by the harsh realities of life. We had both worked at dead end jobs but being unable to afford childcare, we had to do shift work so one of us was always at home with Scarlett.

Scraping by together might sound romantic to the young and naive but it sucks big time when you are never sure you will even have next weeks rent. Life was all about stretching every dollar as far as possible. Shopping for groceries just before the store closed for the weekend so we could get our perishables cheaper. Going without and making do. There was never any money for luxuries or outings, let alone vacations away somewhere nice to break the monotony, and anyway, we had to be on hand in case one of us was called in for an extra shift.

Extra shifts meant extra dollars.

Extra dollars meant our daughter could have the cheap copies of the toys and clothes other kids had.

Even if we were both in the house at the same time, there was no romance left. Constant exhaustion was all we shared in common. All we looked for in bed was sleep. It had been inevitable that the gulf between us would just widen year by year.

Then Esme suggested Scarlett go stay with them for a while so Edward and I could concentrate on saving the dregs of our marriage and guess what? She loved it.

Loved the big fancy house with the stables outside. Loved the swimming pools; yes, I did say pools. One outside, one heated to a comfortable temperature inside in it's own cavernous room beside one's gym. One cannot give up one's daily swim in Winter just because it's snowing. Before she had only visited, and even then she'd had to be dragged home screaming and kicking to be taken away from such luxurious surroundings.

School vacations with her grandparents had only fueled the fire. It had been like staying at a luxury resort, then back to the little one bed apartment we called home, situated above the local post office in town.

Scarlett had the bedroom, while we slept on the pullout in the kitchen/dining/loungeroom. The only other room was the bathroom/laundry.

Once Edward and I had called it a day and found our own spaces, there was no way Scarlett even wanted to live in the pretty little guest house in the Cullen's yard that they had built in the hope their son would see sense and take us there to live right from the beginning of our life together. It was ironic to me that Edward had decided it was suddenly okay to live there, once it was too late to save us.

The even tinier loft 'studio' above my father's garage where I moved to was never a contender for her. Charlie had offered Scarlett my old bedroom in the house but to her eyes, it was just a cramped little room that had needed redecorating for years, not the sanctuary it had been to me growing up. It could never compete with her other grandparents house, where she had a bedroom larger than both of our new homes combined.

At Esme's, she had her own en suited bathroom and a sitting room as well, not to mention the balcony off the French doors with a view to die for.

The rest of the mansion, with it's media rooms and all mod cons, with a housekeeper who cleaned up after her, was paradise to a deprived child. After ten years of poverty suddenly she had been transformed into Cinderella, why on Earth would she leave?

She loved her new life and neither her father or I had yet managed to convince her to live with either of us.

In the last seven years since our split, Edward had bettered himself and become a doctor, but even the beautiful house he had recently built high up on the cliffs overlooking La Push beach was not enough to lure Scarlett away.

He never stopped trying to win her over and no doubt she loved that. He had let her design the bedroom she occasionally agreed to sleepover in, and he had duplicated the rooms she had at her grandparents house in an effort to get her back, but I knew she was enjoying the power of knowing it hurt him for her not to comply to his dearest wishes.

We had not been good enough parents and she knew it, and even once our circumstances had changed over the years, she had simply refused to let us try and make up to her for the hard times. I guess all she remembers are the arguments over money or the lack of it, and the fact she rarely ever saw both Mommy and Daddy at the same time.

Once Carlisle and Esme took over our roles, she had blossomed with all the attention and love they showered on her.

I couldn't blame them. They loved their only grandchild from the first moment they saw her, and had tried to help out over the years. Esme was forever inviting whoever was home with Scarlett to eat dinner with them, and sending us home with the leftovers. She had wanted to buy our child everything we couldn't, but of course, Edward's pride would not allow that. Sometimes I had cheated and taken the money she offered if it meant keeping the heating on all Winter, or if Scarlett needed to pay for a school outing.

My acceptance of a modestly priced new car had been the straw that broke the camels back. Edward had been furious but my rusty red truck that I'd driven since back in High School had finally died, and Forks is not known for it's public transport system, so even knowing my husband would be angry, I had taken the keys from my Father-in-law's hand and driven home defiantly.

Edward's reaction had been predictable, but none the less draining, and I'd given up, packed my bags and left him.

At first living alone had been almost fun.

With only myself to feed and care for, I'd managed to study and better myself as well, and now I had a great job working for Emmett McCarty as his PA.

"So, that's you done," Rose said with a smile. I knew she had already moved on in her mind to what she would be wearing herself tonight. One perk of my job was that Emmett had soon noticed the gorgeous blonde who often dropped by the office to go to lunch with me, and predictably they were now dating.

Good for her.

Rose had not had an easy life either. Her first husband had been a player, and although she had known it, for many years she thought she could change him. I'd watched her heart break over and over after she had repeatedly forgiven Royce yet again for his latest dalliance only to find the next lot of foreign lipstick on his collar.

Finally she had decided she deserved better, and now she had it.

Emmett was adorable, and the fact he was friends with my ex-husband didn't matter at all. It wasn't like I joined Rose and Emmett when they double dated with Edward and whoever his latest girlfriend was. I didn't even ask Rose anything about these girls. Edward had introduced me to the first one, Irina Somebody, out of some sense of politeness I guess, five years ago when he put himself back on the market. She'd only lasted a matter of weeks before he had replaced her with another girl so similar she could have been her twin sister. Since then, he was often out and about with further clones. They were pretty much interchangeable. Tall, buxom, and blonde. My opposite.

Why I had not dated earlier escaped me now.

Divorce means never having to consider your ex's feelings, but I guess it had taken me far longer to move on than he had. The ghost of the early days of our marriage still lingered in my head and when anyone asked me out on a date, I had compared the asker to my still stunningly gorgeous Edward and found him a pale imitation.

But those days are over.

Tonight I'm going on my first post divorce date with a hot, fit, younger man and I am damn well not going to let anything spoil that.

I drained the glass because my nerves needed that extra boost, and was wowed speechless when Rose appeared, twirling around to show off her new frock. What there was of it. She still looked the same as she had in High School, with no pregnancies to mar her body or child to turn her hair grey.

She was still the most gorgeous women in Forks and she always would be.

I was still amazed that Edward had chosen me over her back in the day. She had wanted him, but for some reason plain and mousy had trumped over movie star beautiful. To this day she hated him for that.

"Okay. Emmett is probably going to pull you straight into the back seat of his car and ravish you before we even get to the venue," I sighed.

"That's fine. He's hired a limousine so there will be plenty of room for ravishing," she laughed. "Room for you and Jacob to get into a little struggle of your own," she winked.

"Rose, it's all I can do to go to dinner and maybe dance with this guy," I admonished her. "I'm not going to sleep with him."

"Live a little, Bella. You are young, single and free and so is he. It's called hooking up. No strings attached. Maybe you will like it. Maybe Jake can be your toy boy and put a smile back on your face."

xxxx

Jacob announced his arrival at Rose's house by the loud purr of a Harley engine. I had insisted on doing the sensible thing and not having him learn my actual home address before I was ready for him to know it, and to be honest, I was pretty sure tonight was a one off. I held no hopes that it would lead to Jake and I becoming anything at all. He was simply the date I needed to avoid attending tonight's party alone as usual.

"Bella, come look. He rides a motorbike," Rose said from her vantage point at the window. Normally I wouldn't have rushed to join her, but the ratio of alcohol to blood in my system had lowered my normally high standards.

"Okayyy," I breathed out at the sight of the six foot six inch piece of pretty that was striding towards the front door. Think Chris Hemsworth in the Quileute version. Rose certainly had not lied or exaggerated the beauty of Jacob Black.

I may have rushed a little to open that door and invite him inside.

"Bella. I am so happy to meet you at last. I have been an admirer of yours from afar ever since you and Rose attended my art showing at Jasper Whitlock's gallery last year, You bolted before I got the chance to formally introduce myself on that occasion."

I remembered that night well. It had been the first time any man had shown such an open display of blatant interest in me since Edward, and I'd panicked. I hadn't even hung around long enough to find out the man admiring me from the other side of the room was Jacob Black, the artist whose work I had been captivated by as I gazed at his paintings on the gallery walls.

"It's great to meet you, Jacob," I said as he gallantly kissed my hand. Something long hibernating stirred inside me. What had Rose said again about it now being no big deal about age gaps and one night stands? I blushed at the thought. This guy is twenty five years old! Nothing will ever happen between us.

I was already plotting how to avoid that awkward kiss at the end of the date. Jake may be kind of beautiful but he looked his age and I was not stupid enough to even imagine I could hold his interest for long. There's no fool like an old fool, as they say. Maybe he could possibly be thinking he wouldn't mind a night with a cougar, but I would soon make it clear that was not my scene at all. No, I would go ahead with this date but once it was over, I would make no further contact with this man. He was nothing like the kind of guy I could imagine having anything special with. I want special. I want a relationship. Something like Edward and I had so briefly. I want more of the romance I so barely got to enjoy, and the feeling of my heart missing a beat every time I saw him, and the bliss of laying beside a man I can imagine being with forever.

Jacob Black is definitely not that man.

"Hi Jake. I hate to interrupt but Emmett's limo just pulled up. Let's get this show on the road," Rose enthused.

I shocked myself by reverting to a sixteen year old giggling schoolgirl as Jacob took my arm and led me down the front steps towards the long black limousine waiting for us. I knew it was simply the alcohol, not the company.

Predictably, Emmett had jumped out and was trying to meld his body so closely to Rose's that it was hard to see where he ended and she began. His deep purple tuxedo exactly matched her gown.

"This pair need to get a room," Jake laughed and I felt myself blush. Somehow even the hint of anything sexual about someone else seemed inappropriate. I wanted to fake a sudden migraine and beg off but I had been raised to be polite and it is only one evening. I can do this. I can eat with him , have a few dances and bolt for the safety of my little studio apartment as soon as anyone else makes their excuses and leaves. Let's hope Rose and Emmett can't control their passion and want to leave straight after dinner.

Emmett reluctantly pulled back and released his lips from Rose's.

"Good evening Bella. Nice to meet you again, Jake. Please, step inside and we will start the party."

Jacob took my hand and I walked up to the car. My reflection in the tinted windows pleased me. Rose knew her stuff and the blue dress she had insisted I buy was worth every penny. I looked good, even I admitted that. Better than I had looked for years, in fact. Pity it was wasted.

Before my eyes could even adjust to the dark interior , a hand from within reached out and assisted as I stepped inside.

A pair of green eyes looked at me, then at the young man climbing in behind me. These emerald eyes widened in surprise and recognition.

"So Isabella, I see you have succumbed to the lure of dating a celebrity," Edward Cullen said, his eyes belying the smile on his lips. "It's always nice to see women showing their support for the youth of today. At first I'd thought you had hired yourself an escort for this evening and all the actual fully grown men had already been booked."

I regained my power of speech and smiled at the vacuous blonde at his side.

"It's nice to see you again, Irina. I'm so happy you and Edward are still dating."

The woman was instantly confused and Edward narrowed his eyes at me.

"Actually, Bella, this is Irina's sister, Tanya."

"You dated Irina?" the girl wailed.

I smirked and felt Jake pull me onto the seat beside him, Instinctively I meant to keep a distance between his body and mine but as Edward glared at me from the opposite seat, I defiantly turned and caught Jacob's face between my hands and leaned in to kiss him with far more enthusiasm than I had felt earlier.