OK, so… The response we've gotten to this is already overwhelming. To all the reviewers, and also the readers who have story alerted and/or added this to your fav's : THANK YOU!

Nic: Dawn, you ready?

Dawn: Oh, mah lord. YES. FINALLY.

Our thanks and mad, mad love to our betas! There aren't enough words, but we'll try!

Thanks and love to AHealthyAddiction, our Grammar Queen. She rocks our polka dotted socks (Dawn: and makes sense out of my ramblings)! MWAH, lady! What dance will it be this time?!

To Vixen1836, many, many thanks for the masterful job and all the pointers. We love you so hard, lady!

Well, grab a drink and settle in! It's time for EPOV, by way of the mucho funny Dawn.

We don't own ANY of this… SMeyer does.

Nic: I own a pair of plaid high heels and an iPod that needs more tunes! (I'm open to suggestions… just sayin')

Dawn: I own a pair of brown, polka-dotted, peep-toed flats, and an iPod that loves me. (But I'm a music junkie, so I'm always lookin' for more tuneage!)

"What I'm looking for cannot be sold to me. I wish they all would stop trying. 'Cause what I want and what I need, is and will always be free." -Incubus, "When It Comes"


"Wake up, shit heeeaaad!" a voice boomed from the other side of my door, which rattled with the pounding of fists for about ten seconds.

I groaned angrily into my pillow, my eyes still refusing to open. My arm dangling over the edge of my bed automatically groped around for one of the tennis shoes I knew sat there. My hand finally gripped it and I flipped onto my back, chucking it at the door. It slammed against the wood as I yelled, "You're gonna break my door, asshole!"

My only answer was a throaty chuckle retreating down the hallway.

"Fucking Emmett," I muttered before throwing the covers off my body and stumbling to my bathroom to shower.

How was someone like that a morning person? I wondered to myself, completing what had turned out to be an almost daily ritual for me: older brother disturbs slumber in obnoxious manner, fling shoe at door, roll out of bed ruing the day said older brother was born, etc. I growled to myself again as I twisted the shower knob.

Don't get me wrong, I love Emmett. He's always looked after me. He'd been great at getting me into the whole 'college life' scene. I mean, for fuck's sake, he even talked me into pledging the fraternity he'd joined the year before I got to U-Dub, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. I didn't regret it. Not really, anyway... I'd made a lot of friends, had a shit-ton of good times on Greek Row, met a lot of fucktastic girls... And let's face it: if I hadn't joined SAE, my social life would be dead in the water. Partying and dating would have been relagated to the back burner with how focused I could get on my school work.

Then again, I do live with Emmett.

When presented with the choice of either living at the SAE house with my fraternal brothers or living with my jackass of a blood brother, for reasons that escaped me now, I had chosen the latter.

With Emmett being who he is, all of the brothers had the notion to accept me before I even showed up to the first rush event. James Roman, a good friend of Emmett's mostly because of their similarities in being 'life of the party' types, had taken me as his 'little brother.' It had been a helluva ride since, trying to balance that aspect of my life with my pre-med track.

I was wary at first, not quite sure how I'd fit in with the 'Greek life'. Emmett? Sure. He was a natural. He had a loud, easy-going personality. He made friends easily with his colorful sense of humor, then earned their respect when they realized he was actually an intelligent guy. Growing up with a brother like that, I'd developed more of an introverted and level-headed nature. To 'balance him out', so to speak.

But when I moved to Seattle, any semblance of a shell I had formed for myself through my grade school days had been forcefully chipped away at by Emmett and his... boisterous tendencies. I finally discovered the effect of the 'Cullen Charm,' as Em liked to call it. Which led me to the discovery of college girls.

I laughed quietly while smoothing my collar in the mirror over my sink, recalling a memory of Emmett as he prepared to leave for his first year of college.

I sat at his desk chair while he finished grooming at his bathroom mirror, his car already loaded with boxes of his belongings. "You see, Ed," Emmett began, glancing at me in the mirror through the open door, "we've got this thing called the 'Cullen Charm'." He popped the collar of his Polo. "We're born with it." He flashed a wink and a dimpled smile at his reflection. "And the ladies can't resist it."

I smiled to myself while shutting off my bathroom light, remembering his warnings not to 'over-do' it.

"'Cause some chicks just can't handle it," he said. "Besides, you don't want to go wasting it on all the wrong ones."

Finally donning my usual button-down and jeans, I tied on a pair of new Adidas and grabbed my bag before heading downstairs to the kitchen. My style was something I didn't allow Emmett to affect, even though he consistently claimed I was some kind of 'Emo Douchenozzle' because I rarely wore the typical Polo's and carried around a messenger bag.

Upon reaching the kitchen, my footsteps faltered at the sight of three plates of food set out on the table piled high with scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. I looked questioningly at Emmett, who was pulling a carton of orange juice out of the fridge. He opened his mouth to say something, but a soft yet strong voice interrupted from behind me.

"Don't get used to it," the tall, gorgeous blond said with a smirk as she stepped around me, placing a sound smack on my ass. She sauntered up to Emmett, wrapping one arm around his waist, the other snaking up his chest. She planted a long kiss on his upturned lips before turning back to me. "What?" she asked, taking in my quirked eyebrow.

There was nothing out of the ordinary about arriving downstairs to see a smokin'-hot blond wrapped comfortably around my brother in our kitchen. Rosalie was, after all, his girlfriend. They had been together since shortly after meeting their freshman year while rushing for the fraternity and sorority next door to each other. What was unusual was the meal sitting on the table that had obviously arrived there without me preparing it myself. As long as Em and I had lived here and Rosalie had been staying over, I'd never known the two of them to put effort into much else in the kitchen besides a frozen meal or mac and cheese. That, and other illicit activities I'd rather not think about...

"Not that this isn't a lovely surprise..." I treaded carefully, "but since when do you make us breakfast? Or anything at all, for that matter?" I placed my bag on the counter before heading to the nook and taking a seat before one of the plates.

Rosalie grinned up at Emmett, who still had a self-satisfied smirk in place. I automatically questioned my desire to know the reason.

Emmett's dark blue eyes glinted. "Rose and I had a deal that she'd fix us a nice breakfast if I could break my record for how many times I could make her c-..."

"Never mind!" I interrupted loudly before he could finish. He barked out a laugh as Rosalie playfully smacked his chest. He swatted her on the ass in return before they both joined me at the table. "Thanks, Rose," I murmured. I shoveled a forkful of the scrambled eggs into my mouth, struggling to force out the images that had sprung into my mind.

"No problem. The pleasure was all mine," she drawled. I rolled my eyes as she tenderly stroked my brother's arm, sipping a glass of orange juice. He grinned at her before shoving a piece of bacon in his mouth with a wink.

I needed no more reminders of my brother's active sex life. I had enough just seeing their casual interactions, let alone the fact that, even though his bedroom was clear on the other side of our modest three bedroom home, I was still privy to the fact that Rose is quite the... vocalist. I wouldn't put up with that shit, but I just couldn't blame him for wanting to screw her brains out as often as possible-Rosalie was the epitome of the blond bombshell. She was tall with long, naturally wavy blonde hair. Despite Seattle's rainy disposition, she had a nice tan. Steel gray eyes and a killer rack completed the package. I'd decided that, although she was most men's fantasy, she was totally not my type.

Sure, I'd gone the Rosalie route before, looks-wise. You know, the generically hot sorority type. As soon as I'd become an SAE I'd had all sorts of those types throwing themselves at me. It'd been nice at first, but I quickly realized a trend. All of them had been attractive by most average guy's standards. With the ones who I'd progressed into relationships with, while they would all be fairly decent lays, they'd left me feeling sort of…empty. Each short-lived, bland 'relationship' blended right into the next, lacking anything of real substance. I couldn't bring myself to really become serious with any of those girls.

Tanya had come the closest to really meaning something to me, but that had only lasted four months. I eventually felt uncomfortable in the relationship and came to the realization that in the time since I'd met her, she hadn't come to truly know me at all. She never bothered to find out why I wanted to be a doctor like my father, never really understood my musical tastes, and never quite warmed up to my brother. Plus, she ended up being needy as all hell. Since being in a fraternity basically did all the work for my social life that I needed, I didn't really make time outside of preparing for my courses to go looking for companionship elsewhere.

Sometimes considerations flickered through my head, always centered around the suspicion that everything might be just a little too easy going for me. I didn't have to keep up with a job to cover my rent—Mom and Dad had bought our house the month after I got accepted to the University of Washington. They even took care of the furnishing and utilities expenses, offering to let the financial situation stay that way with the understanding that they expected nothing but the best results from our studies. My tuition was taken care of by scholarships and a little money out-of-pocket—no debt accruing there. I didn't have to fret over fitting in and making friends in a new place—Emmett's existence alone had pretty much taken care of that. No worries over finding girls to... assuage my needs. The girls found me. Even if, for the large part, the needs they fulfilled were purely physical.

I suppose that may have been why I was so disgruntled with the relationship aspect of my life. Everything else basically fell right into my lap, but this one thing—this whole... love business—completely fucking eluded me.

I stole glances at Emmett and Rose throughout the meal, wondering how the lucky bear of a bastard had done it. Because as much as they seemed only to be complete horndogs for each other, it took no effort at all to see the love there. To feel it, just by being in their presence. Then again, Rose had never made it 'easy' on Emmett. He dogged her footsteps like a lovesick puppy for weeks before she even deigned to show a shred of real interest in return.

I remembered Emmett calling me one weekend at the start of my senior year of high school. He had talked about this "hot-ass blond" who told him to "screw off." She called him a "brainless bastard just looking for some big-boobed Barbie to boink."

He was half in love with her already.

The fact that she didn't immediately turn into putty in his hands did nothing but intrigue him; Em liked the ones he had to work for. He almost shit himself when he discovered the "hot ass blond" was actually an "intelligent, hot ass blond." She was an Industrial and Systems Engineering major, and being a Mechanical Engineering major himself they wound up running into each other a lot on campus, much to Rose's initial chagrin. But when she finally realized the brainless bastard could in fact think with more than one head, it was practically a sealed deal. They were just too perfect for one another. With his broad, muscled frame, short, curly brown hair, and dimpled smile, they looked like the quintessential Star Football Player/Head Cheerleader duo.

But Emmett had done it. He'd found someone that complimented him in almost every aspect, including intellectually. And he'd somehow managed to accomplish that without even having to remove himself from the world of surface pleasantry that is the Greek system most of the time.

With a small smile, I shook my head and put a stop to my musings. Hell, if this goofy tool can do it...

A plateful of surprisingly edible breakfast food and four triggers to my gag reflex later (both thanks to Rose and Em), I said my thanks and was out the door, ready to kick off another week.

A short drive later, I pulled into the parking lot across from the Husky Union Building on campus, or rather, the HUB. Hooking my messenger bag over my shoulder, I headed in the direction of Frosh Pond, being able to see the waters of Drumheller Fountain at its center shooting several feet over the heads of other students swarming the campus.

Before I could reach my destination I glimpsed James, my 'big brother,' through the streams of people meandering in different directions. Propped up against a cherry blossom tree, his eyes were sweeping the faces passing by. At one point, I thought he met my gaze as I made my way over to him to say hello, but they kept roaming. A second later, his eyes widened slightly before narrowing with intent. A mischievous grin spread across his face—he'd obviously found his target. And judging by the look on his face, this one was obviously graced with tits and ass. I'd seen that look before... I followed his line of sight towards the parking lot beside the Business building, finally landing on... Oh.

A rather attractive brunette was making her way in James' direction. And who is this? I let my eyes roam over her figure—slender, but not without curves, which were nicely accentuated by her blue blouse and dark jeans.

Damn, did these girls know how to pick their jeans.

I let my gaze trace the curve of her backside and down her legs to the navy blue heels on her feet. Shit, hot shoes.

As I was busy... completing my assessment, the mystery girl's steps had faltered, finally noticing James a few feet away from her. Hmmm, interesting. She didn't exactly look pleased to see him. This surprised me.

Even though James had a girlfriend, it was clear that he wasn't afraid to flirt and fling his charm at unsuspecting girls. And they usually dug that shit, too. James could be an ass, but damn if he wasn't a smooth talker. For the most part, his girlfriend Victoria didn't really seem to give a rat's ass. I'd only ever seen her get really riled up when it appeared she sensed some actual competition. She mostly just enjoyed being seen on James' arm. They were both from good money, and let's face it—they made a pretty good looking couple. James with his short, blond hair and blue eyes, Victoria with her flaming red hair and devil's smile. They were a great social match, too. She was a Vice President of the Kappa Deltas, the biggest sorority on campus, and he was President of our house, the biggest fraternity.

I began to grow curious as to how James even knew this girl. James rarely socialized with anyone outside of the Greek system, and I was almost positive I'd recognize this girl if I'd seen her on Greek Row before. Or anywhere else for that matter.

I observed them for a few moments. James appeared to be smug at first, and I assumed he was reeling off what could have been any number of his supposed 'panty-dropping' lines. However, it soon became apparent that there would clearly be no panties dropping here today. She remained standoffish, holding herself somewhat regally. She seemed to be trying to get away from him when something he said made her stop and spin quickly to look back at him. Her jaw was clenched, and even from where I was, I could see a spark light her glare. She was not pleased.

Wonder what that's all about...

Just as I was about to get closer to utilize my mad eavesdropping skills, a dark look covered James' features. He practically spat a retort to something the mystery girl had said. He then quickly turned and stalked away in the opposite direction. I almost called out to him, wanting to ask about a dozen questions… all of them centering on this beauty I didn't recognize.

I glanced around and noticed their exchange had caught the attention of a few other passersby. Good thing, or I might have seemed like some sort of creep the way I was ogling Mystery Girl. Okay, I could probably still come off as a creep with how hard I was staring...

I casually continued towards the Biology building while still surreptitiously stealing glances in her direction. She seemed rooted to the spot for a single moment once James had tromped off, scowling at his retreating form. I almost snickered at the look on her face. Not being on the receiving end of that glare, I thought she looked rather... adorable.

God, who the hell is she?!

She hitchedher bag on her shoulder and headed towards the Business building, anger clearly marking her steps. I resigned myself to just asking James about her when I saw him next. I started to walk toward my next class, but before I could take more than three steps my path was obscured by an image of blindingly white teeth set in a fake-n-bake tan.

Aw, hell.

"Hi, Eddie," Jane cooed and simpered. I inwardly cringed at that stupid shortened version of my name before muttering a hello. Jane was a devout lemming of Victoria. Wherever Victoria was, Jane was sure to be shadowing. I took a cursory glance around, wondering if Victoria was close by and had witnessed the debacle featuring her own boyfriend and the random girl. Not spotting her, I instead focused on searching out an escape route. I attempted to sidestep the little gymnast of a lady.

Jane had been all up on my junk for the past two years... or at least she'd certainly tried. I'd attempted the whole, 'let her down gently' thing, because I'm not really the asshole to behave otherwise.

And let's be real, as much as she tried to pull off the whole 'sweet' thing, I refused to be taken in. Suffice it to say... she kind of scared me. She was like a little woodland sprite lurking in the shadows. But not of the cute and frolicsome persuasion. She was more the, seems-innocent-so-you-step-closer-to-take-a-looksie-but-turns-out-to-be-fucking-demented-and-slits-your-throat kind of sprite.

Yeah. Creepy.

Before I could get too far, Jane laid a hand on my upper arm, a painfully wide smile on her face. I involuntarily shuddered again; even her sycophantic grin made my skin crawl. "How are you, Eddie? I haven't seen you around lately." She jutted out her bottom lip.

"I'm good, thanks. Been busy. Maybe I'll see you around later," I answered shortly, trying to drop a hint. I started walking again.

"Ohmigod," she continued, walking alongside me, "did you see James and that girl back there? I can't believe he still talks to her."

She was trying to generate a conversation to keep my attention on her, and I'll be damned if it wasn't going to work.

My steps automatically slowed. Could she actually know something about Mystery Girl? And what did she mean, "still talks to her"?

A spark of excitement began to grown in my stomach at the prospect of garnering some information. "So who-" I tried to edge in a question but Jane kept right on talking.

"I mean, did you see what she was wearing? What was with that fugly grandma sweater?" Jane shuddered.

Well, I had thought it looked good on her. Unique and feminine. Not played-out like the damn pink NorthFace jacket Jane was sporting now. I scoffed to myself while eying her out of the corner of my eye, feeling surprisingly annoyed and defensive.

"Victoria is going to flip her shit when I tell her he's been chatting it up with that weirdo again." And what's this? Mystery Girl is actually worthy of a reaction from Victoria?

I suppose it made sense. For one, that girl was beautiful. For two, I'd never seen ever-so-cool James react so heatedly to what appeared to be a rejection. James was definitely a, "Well, it's your loss," type of guy. And he usually truly believed it.

Undeterred, Jane continued to ramble like a damn train barreling down the tracks. So I settled on giving non-committal grunts appropriately in the almost-pauses and putting an extra pep in my step when I realized I'd never even be able to ask a single question. I eventually veered off the pedestrian towards the Biology building, not even remembering to bid Jane adieu until her high-pitched voice cut into my thoughts.

"Okay, bye, Eddie! I'll see you later! It was def nice talking to you!" You mean talking at me.

I yanked open one of the glass doors with a relieved sigh and lightly jogged the rest of the way to my class, thankful that I wasn't late enough to warrant being locked outside.

As I sat through my biochemistry lecture, my mind kept returning to the Mystery Girl. How could I bring her up in a casual conversation with James?

"Hey, so I saw this chick totally shut you down in the middle of campus today..."

Yeah, that would be sure to go over well. And why did this matter so much anyway? She was one of dozens of other moderately attractive girls I saw roaming the campus on any given day. Hell, she was one of dozens of moderately attractive girls I saw talking just to James on any given day.

But this girl... she was way more than 'moderately attractive' to me. Her unaffected beauty and unique style intrigued me... coupled with her seeming 'take no shit' stance with James? There was obviously something worth knowing there.

I was practically begging for a more interesting lecture to derail my train of thought when I started remembering that look of fire in her eyes. Because although I may not have known who she was, that sure as hell wasn't going to stop me from becoming real familiar with her in my mind.

It was almost as if not yet knowing the details of her personality granted my imagination permission to take certain... liberties with her body...

Sliding that blouse up to reveal the smooth, ivory skin of her stomach... a little higher to examine what I'm sure would be a fantastic rack.

How in the hell had I neglected to check that shit out? Damn... Okay, let's skip to the part where there are less clothes... Ahh.

Mystery Girl bent slightly over the desk that was at the front of the room, clad in nothing but those damn Fuck Me heels, glancing over her shoulder at me with a grin.

Shit. Why was I trying to give myself wood in the middle of class again?

The way the heels would define the muscles in her legs and make her ass stick out a little bit... Hmmm... Me taking Mystery Girl on the professor's desk with those heel-clad feet up on my shoulders...

Fuck. Okay, gotta quit this shit now.

I tried to inconspicuously adjust myself in my jeans. Jesus, when did I become such a pervert? Luckily, I tended to stick to desks at the back of the classroom.

By the grace of God, I managed to pull my focus back to the professor droning on at the front of the classroom, focusing my eyes away from his desk and only occasionally slipping back into my MG-induced fantasies. When the end of the period arrived, I quickly snatched up my notebook and bag and exited the classroom, ever thankful for my untucked button-down.

I stepped outside the building and took in a deep breath, as if that would wash away the thoughts that had been left to simmer in my poor brain. I turned to head towards the Pond again.

I had about thirty minutes to kill before my next class, so I figured I'd enjoy the rare sunshine. I noted I was not the only one who had this idea, as there were several other revelers spotting the benches as well as the wide, stone edge of the fountain. I plopped down onto a vacant bench, setting my bag beside me and stretching my arms out over its back. I allowed my head to tilt back. When I closed my eyes, instead of a peaceful blankness my mind was met with more images of Mystery Girl. I immediately opened them back up.

Seriously. I don't even know her. This is ridicu—...

My mind went blank as my eyes were caught by a figure making its way towards the fountain. You have got to be kidding me. I blinked a few times just in case. Nope, still there.

Sure enough, it was her—M mother-effing G, settling into a spot on the ledge of the Pond, just a little to my right. She sat with one foot resting on the ground and the other bent up on the stone, her body angled towards me. She grabbed an iPod and a book from her messenger bag then set it down by her feet. As she straightened up, my breath almost caught.

Wow, she really is kind of beautiful.

My eyes swept over her features and I took a moment to admire the subtle hint of a dark red highlighted in her mahogany tresses by the sun overhead. Screw waiting to ask James, I thought to myself and made to stand to walk over to her.

Just then, she leaned over once more to grab a pair of sunglasses from her bag, and her top dipped along with her. I was coaching myself to be charming and gentleman-like when I introduced myself to this girl… but when she bent over, my eyes shot straight down her blouse and settled on a magnificent set of glory encased in what appeared to be a lace bra matching the deep blue details of her treacherous top.

Shit.

I leaned right back onto the bench, drawing one leg up to rest on my knee; I was in no condition to stand at the moment. I closed my eyes again and conjured up as many... deflating thoughts as I could. It took a while.

When I finally opened my eyes again, I was startled to find she was hastily packing things away. Shit, no! Not yet! Damn, how long did I take? In a near-panic, I shot off my bench, forcing myself to slow my steps as I made my way closer to her. She had turned in the other direction and was busy fumbling with the latch on her bag as she stood.

"Um, excuse me, do you happen to know the time?" I croaked out. What the fuck, Ed? Is that really all you've got? And when in the hell has Edward Cullen ever croaked?

I mentally kicked myself in the ass over the fact that I hadn't thought of a single thing to say to this girl. But when has that ever mattered? The Cullen Charm usually flowed pretty effortlessly from these pouty lips when I wanted it to. And honestly, I rarely had to do much approaching of my own.

"Ten forty-three," she answered politely, not looking up. She began to walk away from me.

But—wait, what?

"Thanks!" I called out as she was moving further away, hoping she'd at least turn around for a glance. Say something MORE, you jack ass! All I got was a casual wave in acknowledgment over her shoulder. Surely she would have stayed if she'd just looked at me at least once.

Wow, where did this self-assured asshole come from?

My mind slowly stopped scrambling for more as I realized she was getting too far away for it not to result in me awkwardly shouting or running after her. I forced myself to believe that it was better for me to wait to ask James about her instead, thus giving myself time to find my fucking brain again.

I shook my head a little, finally becoming conscious of the fact that there were more moving bodies on campus as the next class period was about to start. I tried not to be obvious as I watched until her form melted into the streams of people around her. Realizing in my haste to talk to MG that I had left my bag, I finally turned back to the bench to retrieve it before moving on with my day.

I glanced down at my watch as I made the trek back to my car after finishing with my Biochem lab, my third and final class of the day. It was only 3:30; this was usually the time I took to meet up with some of my frat brothers at one of the campus gyms to play a couple pick-up games of basketball. But today... meh. I wasn't really in the mindset to go horsing around with a bunch of sweaty dickheads.

I usually reserved Tuesdays and Thursdays for meeting another friend of mine at a small coffee shop a couple miles from campus. But right now, I craved its relaxing atmosphere. I climbed into my Volvo and made my way to the familiar destination.

I parked in a lot a couple of blocks away from The Daily Grind, opting for a short walk that would take me through the park that bordered it. The day had remained surprisingly sunny, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to take advantage of that.

The walk led me to the cafe from the opposite direction of the path I was used to traveling. I saw the familiar mug-shaped sign ahead of me, just beyond the circular one of the over-sized record marking the entrance for the music store next door, Trax. I'd often contemplated dropping in to look for the more obscure albums by artists I favored. It appeared to be a place of the off-the-beaten path variety.

I peeked in to Trax's store window, noting the customers milling the aisles and waiting in line with their purchases. I wonder if they have that old Kings of L-

The cashier popped back up from behind the counter, where she had apparently bent to retrieve something. I nearly choked on my tongue when I realized who it was.

How...How is this possible? I pushed my sunglasses up to rest on top of my head and gawked through the window.

After a day of missed notes due to wandering thoughts and unintentionally ignoring professors with questions directed at me, there was no way I could mistake the girl that had starred in my over-active imagination through it all. MG. Huh.

A strange excitement shot through me and I had to pause for a moment to keep myself from yanking the door off its hinges in my haste to get inside. As if she would disappear if I didn't get in there fast enough.

Really. Get a hold of yourself.

I reached out to grasp the handle of one of the glass doors, satisfied when I was greeted with a light tinkling of the bell over the door and not the shattering of the door itself. My eyes immediately went to hers, almost surprised to find her staring at me already. Her slightly dazed expression didn't help me stop the small smile from curling my lips. Finally, it's not just me seeing you.

I didn't realize how awkward it must have been for me to be just standing inside the door, staring at her, until she broke her gaze away, effectively snapping me out of my stupor. What am I doing in here again? Right. Music.

I made my way down the aisle in front of me, my eyes roaming the CDs in front of me. I only vaguely registered their titles as my focus was on my peripheral vision.

I could tell she was watching me, could practically feel her eyes as they followed me. When a customer stepped up to the counter and demanded her attention, I allowed myself to look at her again. I lost myself in admiring her features and forgot to look away when she finished with the woman, meeting her gaze once again. Her face immediately reddened and she turned her head away.

How refreshing. A girl who blushes. At that moment, a short, dark-haired girl emerged from the back of the store. She grinned and said something to Mystery Girl that made her face darken in color, something about a 'fire engine impersonation.' Ha, seems appropriate enough.

I went back to pretending to look for a CD, feeling a little guilty that I may have added to her discomfort. I heard the phone ring and was hoping the other store worker would take the call and possibly disappear again so that I could approach the counter. When she actually did, I said a small prayer in thanks to the Trax deities.

I snagged the first CD my fingers touched and made my way to the counter. MG was watching her co-worker disappear with what looked like relief on her face. I stepped up to the register at the same moment she turned back around.

Her face paled momentarily as she let out a surprised, "Oh!"

Huh. I was just about to say the same thing. My mind went completely blank. I had thought she was beautiful when I'd seen her on campus earlier in the day. But seeing her up close?

She was stunning.

From here, I could note the exact fairness of her clear skin. I wonder how smooth it must feel… I gripped the CD in my hand tighter, barely restraining myself from reaching out to stroke her cheek, which was currently turning a delicate shade of pink. My eyes flickered down to her lips, which were still parted in silent surprise. I groaned internally, noting their fullness. Don't go there, don't go there… Not wanting to embarrass myself, I snapped my gaze back up. I was immediately trapped by a pair of warm, expressive, doe eyes. I've never known brown eyes to be so… intense? Intriguing? Wonderful. For one crazy moment, I inexplicably thought of the comforting mugs of hot chocolate my mother used to make for Emmett and me as kids.

She recovered from her surprise more quickly than I could, clearing her throat slightly before finally speaking. "Find everything alright?" As soon as she asked it, a tiny grimace flashed across her features.

I could barely find my voice to answer. "I did." Yeah, really cued the Cullen Charm there. Her face flushed a deeper shade. Why is she so embarrassed? I was having a hard time understanding her facial expressions, but the blush was telling. I felt an odd yearning to just make her feel more comfortable.

"I've never been in here before. Nice place," I offered. Real smooth talkin', Ed. In fact, why don't you go ahead and throw in a, "What's your sign?" Or how about, "Do you come here often?"

"Huh? Oh…um… Yeah." Okay, I wouldn't know what the hell to say to that either. Seriously. What happened to my usual confidence? What happened to Mr. Smooth Operator?

She took the CD from the hand I still had stupidly extended in front of me. She seemed in a hurry to ring me up. I shifted on my feet awkwardly, trying to think of another stellar conversation-starter.

"Well, um… your total is $17.63." I grabbed the wallet from my back pocket, fumbling to extract my debit card. I handed it to her as my brain scrambled to formulate sentences.

She swiped my card and before my thought process could go anywhere productive, she was handing my bag over. What did I even just buy?

I swallowed, wanting to open my mouth and say something more, but all I could manage was what must have been an awkward smile. I guess I'll just be updating my music collection again in the near future. I gave an inward sigh of defeat before forcing myself to turn away.

Pulling my sunglasses back down over my eyes before stepping back outside, I turned right to head back to my car, not much caring for coffee anymore.

Each day for the rest of the week, I made sure my path to my classes brought me by the Pond; I told myself it was to enjoy the soothing qualities of the water. I scoured the faces of every person I passed; I told myself I was just avoiding more run-ins with Jane. When I couldn't make it to The Daily Grind at all on Tuesday or Thursday, I told myself I was upset because the friend I met there was one of the few I interacted with whose intellectual company I enjoyed.

But…really? Who the hell was I kidding?

I had been mentally absent from all of my courses since Monday, and even Em and Rose were noticing that I was acting strangely at home. I think perhaps I was becoming a little snippier when in the presence of the two of them. Witnessing their interactions seemed to be irritating me more than it had in the past. I couldn't even pretend to take on a cool nonchalance anymore.

So when Emmett begged me to go out to a bar with him and Rose that Friday (or rather, threatened me to within an inch of my life if I made him go out with her and Tanya on his own), I tried not to resist too much. Maybe a long night of consuming a copious amount of alcohol and having scantily clad girls inflating my ego would do me a bit of good.

Why was it turning out to be so hard to forget someone I didn't even know?


So, thoughts? Questions? Favorite lines? We'd love to hear them all, drop us a line via the review box, and we'll holla back! Perhaps we'll have a teaser from the next chapter worked up… ;)

Dawn's rec of the week: BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S! A lovely bit o' collaborative magic by ProfMom72 and HMonster4. You can find it here: s/4864973/1/Breakfast_at_Tiffanys

Don't forget to replace all the.s with real ones! :D

Also, this story has had a thread started for it over on Twilighted. Thank you, ladies… there aren't words 3 If you are interested, stop by and say hello! The people there are AWESOME, and there were extra teases given there along with other fun stuff!

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