A tickling sensation wakes me the next morning, and it takes me a second to realize it’s Edward’s fingers trailing back and forth along my side. With a hum, I stretch as I roll onto my back and open my eyes in search of him. He’s propped up on his side, watching me with a content look on his face. His smile widens when his gaze meets mine.

“Morning, sleepyhead. Guess I tired you out pretty good, huh?” He chuckles and his smile turns into a smirk as I narrow my eyes and huff.

“How long have you been awake?” I ask, rolling onto my side to face him.

He wrinkles his nose and laughs. “Fine, you caught me. I’ve only been awake for a couple of minutes, myself.”

“That’s what I thought,” I mumble as I pull him closer for a kiss. “Morning, by the way,” I whisper against his lips.

Edward chuckles, caressing my cheek with a finger. “Do you want some breakfast?”

My stomach rumbles in answer, causing us both to laugh. “Yeah, I’d say I do. Want me to help?”

“Sure.” He smiles, kissing me once before getting up. He walks over to his dresser and opens a drawer. Reaching in, he grabs two pairs of sleep pants and tosses one to me. “These should fit you. I think we’re about the same size, or close enough, anyway.”

“Thanks.” Pulling them on, I find that I don’t need to tie them as they fit snuggly. Edward, however, does tie his, making me snort and shake my head at myself for comparing us.

Edward looks up, quirking a brow in question. When he sees me he bites his lip and grins. “I like that.”

My eyes widen slightly in surprise. “Like what?” I ask, not entirely certain what he means.

Walking over to me, he wraps his arms around my waist and nuzzles my neck as he whispers, “Seeing you in my clothes.”

Another snort escapes me, and I smack his ass lightly, causing him to snicker. “What? I do,” he says, kissing me. “Come on, let’s get some grub.”

I follow him into the kitchen where he begins to looks through his fridge and cupboards. After a minute, he turns to me and asks, “How does sausage casserole sound, babe?”

“Sounds good to me. Just tell me what to do.”

He starts handing me the ingredients and asks me to brown the sausage. He points to a pan on the stove. “You can use that one. I’ll be right back,” he says, kissing my neck on the way out. Not long after, I can hear music play in the background and then he’s back.

We work side by side, talking easily about various things and that same feeling of peace from last night settles over me again as we put breakfast together. Once the casserole is in the oven, Edward pours us both coffee, and we go sit down on the couch. Just like the other night, we sit facing each other with one leg tucked underneath us in mirorring positions, holding hands on the back of the couch.

Edward lifts our hands, pressing his lips to mine briefly and smiles. “Thank you for last night, by the way.”

Raising my eyebrows I look at him. “Shouldn’t I be the one thanking you, since you took me out?”

He laughs, nodding once in acquiescence. “Perhaps. Still… I’m glad you came… happier still that you stayed.”

Placing my mug on the table, I shift forward and cup his cheek. My heart beats a little faster as I lean in to kiss him tenderly. I was right about last night and about sleeping with Edward. Things aren’t the same and there is no going back – not that I want to. I need him too much. Crave him, in every way.

Pulling away just enough to grab his mug and place it next to mine, I decide to take a page from his book and straddle his lap. Edward shifts to accommodate me, wrapping his arms around my waist as he gazes up at me with a smile. Cradling his face in my hands, I brush his cheekbones with my thumbs and whisper, “I should be thanking you, sweetheart, for taking a chance on an old man like me.”

My heart stutters as I use the term of endearment – the first time I’ve consciously done so, even if Edward’s used them several times already. I’m aware that things between us are going fast, but it feels like they’re going right for us.

Edward’s smile brightens exponentially at my words. His hands roam my back, grounding me and thrilling me in equal measures. “Not just any old man, Carlisle. My man.”

His voice holds just a hint of question, and I can’t help but smile at the idea of being his, and he mine. I nod, pressing my lips to his. Before things can go any further, the ding of the timer goes off, letting us know our food is ready. Edward heaves a sigh, then kisses me once more before tapping me lightly on the hip, urging me to move.

While he pulls the casserole from the oven and toasts bread, I set the table, pouring us both another cup of coffee as well as some juice. Sitting down to eat, I wonder how long this feeling of rightness and bliss can last, even as I hope that it’ll never really end.

I’m happy to remain in this little bubble we’ve created, but reality soon comes crashing in by way of a knock on the door, followed immediately by an excited bark and muffled words. Edward and I exchange surprised glances before he pops the last bite of his toast in his mouth and goes to answer the door. I remain seated, sipping my coffee as I watch him.

Edward opens the door, only to be accosted by his black lab, Brutus, who hops up against him, paws resting on Edward’s shoulders as Brutus licks every inch of skin he can find. “Mom? Down, Brutus. What are you doing here? I thought you and Dad weren’t coming home until tomorrow?”

Pushing his dog down, he ushers his mother inside. She doesn’t seem to have noticed me yet, as her eyes are intent on her son and the dog as they’re reunited. After a second, she registers his state of dress and casts a glance around the apartment. I’m rooted to the spot, my mug lifted halfway to my mouth as I gape at them, my face heating in embarrassment.

“Oh! I’m sorry, Edward, I didn’t realize you had a… guest…” She clears her throat, refocusing her attention to her son, though I can see her glancing my way frequently – and still, I can’t seem to move a muscle. The way she said “guest” has me wondering what she’s thinking, whether she disapproves of me on principle, or…

I’m barely aware of their conversation, though I gather that they’re home early because his father managed to break his ankle and had had to go to the ER, so they decided to just come home. Edward’s concern for his father is clear, even though he’s kneeling next to Brutus and petting him.

Edward’s, “It’s alright, Mom. Carlisle and I just finished breakfast,” snaps me out of it enough that I can place my mug on the table and get up, walking over to them. I try not to feel too self-conscious about only being half-dressed, but there’s nothing I can do about that now and I’ve already made enough of an ass of myself.

Edward smiles at me and his mother watches me with scrutinizing eyes. “Mom, this is Carlisle, my boyfriend.” He casts me a careful glance, as if making sure I’m okay with the term and at my slight nod, he smiles wider and continues, “Carlisle, I’d like you to meet my mother, Elizabeth Masen.”

Swallowing hard, I reach out a hand and manage a, “Pleased to meet you,” as she shakes it.

Her eyes flicker between Edward and me, as if appraising us. Brutus comes up to me, tail wagging like mad as he sniffs my hand, my leg, then barks once and then licks my hand. Edward laughs, walking on his knees over to us and ruffling Brutus’s fur, placing a kiss between the dog’s eyes. He looks up at me and grins. “Looks like you’ve got his seal of approval, baby.”

My smile is wavering at best, because Elizabeth is still watching me like a hawk, and it’s starting to unnerve me. The fact that Brutus seems to like me pales by the need I feel for her to accept me, too, and I’m by no means certain that she will.

Edward gets to his feet, wrapping an arm around my waist and says, “By the way, Carlisle’s the one that made your anniversary present.”

“Is he?” she murmurs, watching me carefully. I can’t quite stop myself from fidgeting under her scrutiny. Right this second, I’m wishing I could just disappear, because this woman has me coming unhinged with nerves. For the life of me, I can’t get an accurate read on her, and I’m at a loss as to what to say or how to act in order to win her approval.

After what feels like an eternity, she finally smiles, though not as warmly as I would have liked. She nods to herself, and with a quick glance at Edward’s face, she turns to me again and says, “Thank you. Both Ed and I love what you did with the pictures. It’s already hanging in the living room.”

I do my best to smile, to ignore the fears and doubts creeping back. “It was my pleasure. I’m glad you liked it. Congratulations on your thirtieth anniversary.”

She nods, then with one last, long look at me she turns her attention to Edward again, who’s gently rubbing my side with his thumb. Glancing at him, he seems the picture of ease and confidence, and it helps a little.

“Anyway, Edward, since we were back, I thought I’d bring Brutus. I have to run several errands for your father, and with him being in a cast…”

Edward nods. “No problem, Mom. Thanks for taking him with you. I’m sure he had fun.”

Elizabeth looks down at Brutus with a genuinely warm smile, one that shines through in her voice as she says, “Oh, we had lots of fun, didn’t we Brutus?”

Brutus barks twice in response, his tail wagging as if he’s on speed, causing us all to laugh. “Alright, dear, I will leave you two to it. I’ve got to go pick up a few things for your father, so I will talk to you later?”

Though she ends her sentence with a question, there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s anything but. I gulp, only barely refraining from closing my eyes as I pray silently that she won’t make things difficult. She steps up to Edward and kisses his cheek, murmuring in his ear. His own whispered, “Love you, too, Mom,” is only just audible.

Edward squeezes me lightly before letting go in order to see his mother out. Holding my hand out to her once more, I do my best to smile. “It was nice to meet you, Mrs. Masen.”

Her eyes linger on mine, and it strikes me how much of Edward I see in them. Shaking my hand, she nods slightly and murmurs, “And you, Mr. Cullen.”

I can’t make out her tone or see anything beyond the cool exterior she projects. It’s making my palms sweat, and it takes great effort not to wipe them on my pants where she can see. Instead, I walk back to the table and leave Edward to say goodbye to his mother while I attempt to steady myself and take a sip of my now cold coffee.

Brutus’s nose nudges my hand, and he gives a low rumble of pleasure when I scratch him behind the ears. Kneeling down next to him, I look at him with a sad smile and whisper, “At least you like me, huh, boy?”

Edward’s fingers run through my hair, startling me. “Don’t worry, baby. Mom’s just being a mom. She’ll come around,” he murmurs.

Raising my eyes to his, I swallow back the sense of hopelessness that threatens to surface. Edward crouches down until he’s eye-level with me. Cradling my face in his hands, he sighs. “Don’t. The only people that matter are you and me. Well, and Brutus, but he’s obviously in love with you already, so we’re good there.”

The last makes me grin in spite of myself, and when Edward brushes his lips against mine, I let my breath out slowly. “You’re right. I just…”

I shrug, not even sure myself how I was going to finish my sentence. Edward appears to understand though – something he seems to have a particular knack for when it comes to me. “I know, baby. It’s okay,” he murmurs and kisses me tenderly again.

Brutus barks, then licks each of our faces in turn before darting off to investigate his new space. We sit and watch him for a while, right there on the floor, but neither of us is inclined to move just yet. Edward shifts to sit behind me with his arms wrapped around me. He kisses my neck and rests his chin lightly on my shoulder.

“Do you have any plans for today?” he asks quietly, his fingers brushing idly over my stomach, making me twitch slightly.

“No, not really. I have some paperwork to catch up on for the shop this weekend, but aside from that…”

“Good,” he murmurs, squeezing me tightly. “I was hoping you wouldn’t have to go in today.”

I laugh, glancing at the clock. “Nah. It’s my free weekend, thank God, or else I’d be running really late. Shop would’ve been open an hour ago.”

After Brutus has sniffed his way across the entire apartment, he runs over to us, then to the door and back again, barking and wagging his tail excitedly. Edward laughs and extricates himself from me. “Alright, boy, alright. Give us a minute.”

Brutus barks again. Edward holds his hand out to me and I take it, allowing him to help me to my feet. Pecking my lips, he smiles. “Want to go for a walk with us?”

Tilting my head, I frown. Normally I’d be going for a run right about now, but I don’t know if Edward’s into that. “Do you run?” I ask, pushing a lock of hair behind his ear.

Edward chuckles. “I’ve been known to, yes. Want to do that instead?”

I nod. “I’ll have to go up to change, though.”

He pulls me closer, pressing his lips to my neck with a soft sigh. “Why don’t I go change, and then we can go up and wait for you? Don’t feel like letting you out of my sight yet.”

Grinning, I kiss his temple as I wrap my arms around him. “I know how you feel. Not nearly ready for life to intrude on us, either.”

He looks up at me then, with such an odd mixture of relief, self-assurance, and a hint of insecurity that it makes my heart stutter. “So I’m not crazy for not wanting to miss out on a second of being with you?”

He tries to make it sound like a joke, but something tells me he’s serious. Resting my forehead against his, I smile softly. “Not at all. I feel the same way,” I murmur.

We stand like that, hugging each other until Brutus makes his objection known and we part, laughing. Following Edward into his room so I can put my clothes on, I find myself thinking on how to spend the rest of the weekend with him, despite the paperwork that awaits me. It’s both a strange and welcome feeling.

It doesn’t take us long to both get changed and head out for our run. Brutus seems overjoyed at the prospect of a good run, bouncing around both of us and only narrowly avoiding getting us all entangled in his leash.

Whether consciously or not, we end up running side by side with Edward staying to my right and Brutus either on his other side or slightly ahead of him. It’s as if we’ve always run together like this – easily keeping pace with each other. It’s comfortable.


After some consideration, we decide to follow one of my longer routes, pausing here and there to allow Brutus to do his business. Edward, being the considerate dog-owner that he is, makes sure to pick up after him. It’s always been something that’s grossed me out, but I appreciate his diligence more than I can say. Somehow, it makes him even more endearing to me.

When we finally return home, we’re both sweaty and exhausted. I really don’t want to tear myself away from Edward, but my conscience won’t allow me to ignore what little work I have to do. We’re leaning against my doorframe, neither of us really wanting to leave. Finally, Edward tucks a lock of hair behind my ear before tracing his fingers along my cheek with a smile and says, “Why don’t I make us dinner tonight? I can even cook here, if you’re okay with it?”

The hopefulness in his voice warms me and I nod before thinking twice. Catching his hand, I turn my head and press my lips to his wrist. “That sounds perfect,” I murmur. Brutus barks his approval and I smile. “You can come, too, Brutus,” I add, earning another pleased bark.

Edward bites his lip, smiling. “Anything in particular you like?”

I shake my head. “Surprise me. As long as it’s not beets or Brussel sprouts, I’m good. Oh, or liver.” I shudder involuntarily, causing him to laugh.

“Promise. Okay. I’ll go shower and then figure out what to make. Be back in about an hour?”

“Alright. See you then.”

With one final kiss, he leaves. Knowing he’ll be back soon makes it easier to go through my door and take a shower myself before delving into my paperwork. I’m determined to finish as quickly as possible, not wanting to waste any time with him, but it’s far more difficult to concentrate than normal so that by the time Edward knocks on my door again, I’ve only barely made a dent in it.

Surprisingly, once he’s there things become a little easier. It feels almost domestic as Edward putters around my kitchen while Brutus makes himself at home under my desk and over my feet. Edward’s put music on again, and his choice of one of my favorite CD’s – Dancing Through The Skies, by André Rieu – makes me smile as I work my way steadily through my paperwork.

Edward comes in every now and then to have me taste something, offer me something to drink, or just to talk for a bit. It’s nice, and every time he does, it’s as if he’s burrowing deeper inside of me, and I find myself wishing it’ll never end.

After a while, he comes into my office and settles down on the settee with a book. I don’t even notice it at first, especially since Brutus hasn’t left his spot on my feet the entire time they’ve been here, so when I look up I’m surprised to see Edward curled up and reading.

“Hey,” I say quietly.

He looks up and smiles. “Hi. Hope you don’t mind?” he says, holding up his book. I can barely make out the cover, but I can make out some kind of bird in a circle on the black background, and the words The Hunger Games.

Definitely not one of mine, then.

At my questioning look, he grins, flipping the book over so he can look at the cover himself. “Yeah, not my usual choice either, but Alice gave it to me, insisting I give it a go. She wants to go see the movie and plans on dragging me along, I think. She usually makes me read the books before seeing the movie versions, anyway. So far it’s actually pretty good.”

We talk for a bit about the book before he has to go back to the kitchen, and I finish up my work. I’m just wrapping up when Edward knocks on the door, smiling. “Dinner’s ready.”

Taking a deep breath, I close my eyes and smile. The smells emanating from the kitchen are mouthwatering. He refused to tell me what he was making, and I cannot place the scents wafting through the apartment. Edward’s chuckle has me opening my eyes and raising an eyebrow at him. He winks, gives a short whistle and says, “Come on, Brutus. That goes for you, too.”

Brutus gives a low rumble as he stretches and gets up, though he doesn’t move until after I’ve scratched him behind the ears a bit. Shaking my head, I mumble, “Silly dog,” as I make quick work of putting everything away before walking over to Edward who’s still waiting by the door. When I reach him, he holds out his hand, and I take it gladly, pulling him in for a soft kiss.

“Hungry?” he asks quietly.

I nod and we head to the dining table where my eyes widen in surprise as I take in the candles, wine, salad, and another casserole dish I can’t identify. “Wow,” I breathe out.

Edward kisses my cheek and grins. “I even remembered dessert this time.”

Chuckling, I shake my head, but before I can say anything, he adds with a wink, “All part of the master plan.”

Quirking my brow, I look at him. “Master plan?” I ask as I take a seat.

Pouring us both a glass of red wine, he grins again. “Of wooing you,” he says playfully.

He offers me a glass and I take it, sipping my wine thoughtfully for a moment. “So this is something I can look forward to every time?” I ask, only barely stopping myself from asking every day instead.

Edward leans forward slightly, elbows resting on the edge of the table as he ponders. His smile is mischievous and his eyes dance with it, too, as he says, “Maybe. Guess you’ll have to wait and see, won’t you?”

“I guess so,” I say, rolling my eyes a little. I can’t suppress a smile, though.

Dinner turns out to be Moussaka – from scratch – and it’s delicious. It’s the first time I’ve ever tried it, and Edward is quite pleased with himself when I compliment him on his cooking.

“A man could get used to this,” I murmur as I polish off the last of the meal.

Edward chuckles. “Good. Just what I like to hear,” he says with a hint of mirth in his voice.

Brutus, who has behaved remarkably well throughout our meal, makes some noises – not quite barking, nor quite growling or whining. He looks almost pathetic as he lies a few feet away from us, his head resting on his paws, and his eyes gazing pleadingly at us.

“Is he alright?” I ask.

Edward rolls his eyes. “He’s fine. He’s just being a big baby, is all. He knows he’s not allowed at the table while I’m – we’re – eating, and he wants to get some lovin’, isn’t that right, Brutus?”

Brutus raises his head and half-sneezes, half-barks in answer before settling back down in his previous position. Edward grins at me, then tells Brutus to behave, dinner’s not over yet. I’m actually rather amazed at how well he’s trained his dog.

I get up and start picking up some dishes when Edward protests. “Why?” I ask, confused.

He shrugs. “Don’t want to give away dessert just yet, is all. I’ve got this. You just sit back and relax, babe, while I make us coffee and stuff.”

And I do, too shocked to even consider arguing the point. As far as I can remember, no one’s ever done anything quite like this for me before. Not even Liam. That realization has me sitting back in my chair, staring into nothingness as my hands fall limply into my lap.

Edward, whom I’ve only known for such a short time, is going to such great lengths to make me feel special. Loved. Cherished, even. And Liam… Liam did love me. I know that without a shadow of a doubt. And he liked to surprise me from time to time. He did. But it wasn’t usually something just for me.

Yes, Edward enjoys the same music as I do, at least some of it, anyway. So the concert was for him as well, but he’d chosen it solely because he thought I’d like it.

The few times Liam had ever taken me to a concert of any kind, it was usually because he was into a band and wanted us to have a night out, or because we both loved them and wanted to see them.

Edward had now cooked dinner twice for me – and put no little effort into the meals, either.

Liam… Liam hated to cook. Was terrible at it, so more often than not, I was the one cooking and when I wasn’t, we went out to eat. The one time he’d tried to surprise me with dinner, it had turned out disastrous, nearly burning down our little apartment. He never tried again after that.

The sudden wet nudge on my hand makes me look down, only to find Brutus nuzzling my hand and gazing up at me with worried eyes. He whimpers quietly then licks my hand once before resting his head on my thigh, his eyes focused on mine. I smile sadly at him as I quietly pet him, grateful for his presence as my mind wanders. Liam and Edward are very different in some aspects, but similar in others. They’re both open in their affections and while he couldn’t cook, I remember fondly the times Liam would pamper me in various ways – most of them physical, like massages and footrubs.

“Brutus, what-? Carlisle? Are you alright, baby?” Edward asks, voice filled with concern as he kneels down on my other side after putting a tray down on the table. He cups my cheek, his eyes searching mine as he gently wipes tears from under my eyes.

I blink, startled to realize I’ve been crying. Quickly rubbing my eyes, I give him a watery smile. “Yeah, I’m fine, sweetheart. I guess I was just… startled that you’d gone through all this trouble and it made me… think. Remember… I-”

Unable to really finish, I shrug. Edward sighs softly and rests his forehead against mine, his hand kneading my thigh lightly. Threading my fingers through his hair, I can’t help but smile as I breathe him in. My emotions seem to even out again as that peaceful feeling I’m starting to associate with him settles over me.

Pulling back slightly, I look at him. “You’re pretty amazing, you know that?”

Edward’s eyes flicker between mine briefly before his lips turn up in a grin. “I do. But I’m glad you think so, too.”

I snort, shaking my head. Glancing over at the table, my eyes widen even as the scent of Irish Whiskey registers in my brain. Turning to look at Edward again, I smile. “You made Irish Coffee?”

“Yup. I hope I did it right, since I used your French Press.”

“How’d you even know I like that?”

Edward shrugs, smiling. “I didn’t. But most people don’t use those sugar-sticks unless they drink something like this, and I saw them the other day when you made us coffee.”

I blink, letting out a huff of surprise. “You certainly do seem to pay attention to everything, don’t you?”

He cups my cheek, smiling. “Only when it’s important.”

I stare at him, amazed, hearing his unspoken message that I’m important. Leaning in, I kiss him slowly, reverently and sigh when he kisses me back with equal tenderness.

Edward pulls back with a pleased hum, pecking my lips once more before getting to his feet. As he walks awkwardly back to his seat, he grumbles under his breath, and I barely make out his complaint about his legs having fallen asleep and tingling.

I chuckle and Edward narrows his eyes at me, wrinkling his nose as he passes me my Irish coffee and a small plate with some sort of chocolate cake on it – something I hadn’t noticed before. At my raised eyebrow he grins, shrugging even as he says, “Brutus,” and snaps his fingers, pointing to the spot where Brutus was lying before.

Brutus huffs, nuzzling my hand once before doing as commanded. I sit back, amazed as I watch the dog turn in circles for a bit, then settling down to face us again with that same, pitiful look in his eyes as earlier.

Shaking my head, I pick up my glass and take a careful sip of coffee, earning a stifled chuckle from Edward. When I look at him questioningly, he tries hard not to laugh as he subtly brushes the tip of his nose. Crossing my eyes, I can’t help but laugh as I notice the dollop of whipped cream on my nose and hurry to wipe it off with my napkin. The coffee is good, though and I tell him so.

“I’m glad,” he says, smiling.

We both take a bite of the cake at the same time and end up laughing again at our simultaneous moans of appreciation. The cloud that loomed over me earlier has completely disappeared, and I marvel once more at how easy and right this thing with Edward feels. How strong.

After we’re both done with dessert and the dishes are done, it’s my turn to wrap my arms around Edward and whisper, “Stay?” I’m not ready by a long shot to end my time with him, and there’s still Sunday to look forward to. Especially if I can wake up to him.

“Of course,” he murmurs, kissing me languidly.

The world falls away for a while as we stand there, just holding each other and kissing. That is, until Brutus decides he wants some attention, too, and barks, bumping his head against our thighs. We pull apart, laughing as we kneel down and lavish Brutus with some lovin’ of his own. He ends up lying on his back, belly exposed and paws in the air, rumbling happily as we pet him. I can’t help but smile at Edward, who looks back at me as if to say, “I know.”

And I think he does feel as I do – like we belong, the three of us. Taking his hand, I bring it to my lips and whisper, “Let’s go to bed?”

Edward’s smile turns lopsided as he nods and gets to his feet. “Want to come with us for a short walk?” he asks.

We end up taking Brutus to do his business, enjoying the quiet of the evening as we walk the short route through the park. When we get back to our building and wait on the elevator Edward glances at me, looking a little uncertain. Pulling him closer, I cup his cheek, murmuring, “What is it?”

His eyes shift down to Brutus, who’s standing expectantly at our feet, before returning to mine with a frown. He bites his lip, his hand idly running over Brutus’s head. “Nothing. Just… did you want me to take him to my place, or find a place in the living room for him?”

Brutus lets out a disgruntled half-growl, half-huff as if in response to his master’s question.

My eyes widen in surprise. “Why? Where does he normally sleep?” I ask as we step into the elevator.

Edward’s cheeks flush slightly as he lowers his eyes. I don’t miss the fond look he gives his dog, though, as he mutters, “With me, most of the time. Either at the foot of the bed, or next to it. He likes to be close to me, and…”

He shrugs, laughing breathlessly at Brutus’s bark of agreement. Placing my finger under Edward’s chin, I lift his face and kiss him gently. “You know,” I murmur, smiling against his lip, “The very first time I saw you, I remember thinking that maybe I should get a dog.”

This time, Edward’s eyes widen in surprise as well as confusion. Pecking his lips again, I grin. “I saw the two of you in the park in the morning the day you came into my store.”

A light of dawning realization flickers in his gaze. “Ahh, so that’s why you were staring at me like that?”

Blushing, I nod. Stepping out of the lift, I make my way to my front door, unlocking it and holding it open for Edward and Brutus, then following through and locking it. “Yes. I couldn’t quite believe that the guy I’d checked out on my run was standing in front of me. Anyway, I saw you play with Brutus, and… I wanted that.” I pause, caressing his cheek. “Brutus can sleep in the bedroom. I don’t mind.”

I barely catch Edward’s whispered, “Love me, love my dog… guess that really is true,” before he kisses me deeply. It makes my heart trip and stutter, then begin to fly off rapidly at the implications, leaving me breathless when he pulls away with a smile.

“Come on,” he says quietly, taking my hand and guiding me into my bedroom. I follow him, slightly dazed. We undress in silence, both of us taking care of business before sliding under the covers. Once we’re snuggled close – me lying half over Edward, with an arm and leg slung across and my head tucked under his chin – I can almost feel contentment wash over me.

Edward’s fingertips trail lazily along my arm, humming quietly under his breath. It doesn’t take long for sleep to overtake me, even with Brutus clambering onto the bed and stretching out at the foot of the bed, covering both our feet. It only makes me smile and nestle closer to Edward as I drift off.

Sunday we spend together, just hanging out. Mostly we’re cuddled up on the couch, both of us reading, though there are plenty of interruptions – including a run to the store to pick up food as well as other supplies. Edward teases me on my blush as I pay for everything. I can’t help it, though, since the clerk gives us a knowing look that makes me want to crawl under something and hide.

I’m definitely not used to this anymore, but at least I know that we don’t have to stop any activities because I’m not prepared, so I deal. Especially when I know that I can make him forget all about teasing me once we get back home – and I do. Several times.

We also go for another run with Brutus, this time taking a shorter route since both of us have other things in mind. All in all, it’s a nice, relaxed day, and I feel happier than I have in a long while.

A feeling that persists through most of the following week. Edward and Brutus are over at my place more often than not, something I find I’m more than comfortable with even after having lived alone for so long. The only times Edward doesn’t stay the night is when he’s working in the bar, and on those nights he always stops by to leave a note on my door for me to find when I head to work.

Edward’s interviews appear to have gone well enough, though he admits that he isn’t sure on one of them. When he gets a call back for the non-profit, he’s thrilled, and I’m excited for him as well as nervous. I know he wants the job badly, and he definitely needs the work. He says he’s okay for now, but I’m all too aware of the cost of these apartments.

As for me, my days become a strange mix of time moving alternately too slow or too fast. My store, which I’d always enjoyed well enough, is now a job I need to get done so I can get through my days until I can see Edward again. The fact that I’m rapidly falling for Edward and how it makes me feel and act isn’t lost on me, but I cannot seem to help myself. I long to be with him, to hold him. To kiss him. Every time I see him, my heart warms and I smile. Whenever he’s not around, I miss him like crazy.

Even Esme notices the change in me, and while she tries to coax out the reason – beyond the obvious – I still can’t bring myself to actually tell her about Edward. Surprisingly, she lets me get away with it. At least for the time being. I know it won’t be long before she’ll insist on dinner, either with or without Edward there, and then there won’t be any dancing around the issue anymore. It’s not something I’m looking forward to.

Things between Edward and me go well, though. The weekend is spent in much the same fashion as the one before, leaving me feeling very content and loved. Judging by Edward’s smiles and the occasional look of awe in his eyes, I’m sure it’s the same for him.

It isn’t until the following Tuesday that something happens that shakes me. Garrett’s in the shop, looking for a frame for Kate.

Garrett grins as he leans on the counter and watches as I try to make sense of the ultrasound image he’s handed me. After a few moments he laughs and starts to point things out, like the baby’s head, her hands, her feet, and her definite lack of male genitalia. “You should’ve seen Kate, man. I’ve never seen her look like that. She was completely entranced by her; kept rubbing the side of her belly with tears running down her face.”

I smile, handing the picture back again. “I can imagine. With everything you’ve both gone through, this must be quite the experience for her.”

He nods, running his fingers through his hair. “You have no idea,” he says quietly. Clearing his throat, he adds, “Anyway, that’s why I’m here. I was hoping you’d have a fancy frame to put this in. I want it to have room for an actual baby picture, too, and maybe those footprints you see these days?”

I nod. “Sure, shouldn’t be a problem. Lets take a look, shall we? Have some right over here that should work.”

After about ten minutes, he finally finds one he thinks Kate will like, and I go to put the ultrasound in the frame, adding the date it was taken in calligraphy script. Garrett’s still looking at frames while I work and I’ve just put the last flourish on it when the bell above the door chimes.

I’ve barely looked away from my work when I hear, “Babe, guess what? I got the job! They want me to start next week!” and Edward’s leaning across the counter, his hands grasping my face as he kisses me firmly.

My cheeks flame and my eyes fly wide, frantically trying to see Garrett’s reaction. When I spot him staring at us with his mouth open I have to look away. Clearing my throat, I take a wavering breath as I turn to Edward again. “That’s great news, sweetheart,” I say quietly.

Garrett moves closer, and I know I can’t avoid things anymore, so I straighten up and smile, though I’m not sure I succeed very well. “Edward, I’d like you to meet my cousin Garrett. Garrett, this is… this is Edward. My boyfriend.”

My heart is beating a mile a minute as the two men shake hands. Garrett looks surprised and puzzled, while Edward just looks extremely pleased.

“Hi, I’m sorry to barge in like this, but I just had to share the news. Anyway, good to meet you, Garrett. Carlisle’s told me about you and Kate. I hope things are going okay?”

Garrett’s eyes flicker from Edward to me and back again, seemingly unable to make sense of things. With a slight frown, he finally manages a somewhat subdued, “Edward. Nice to meet you, too. Sorry, but I can’t say the same. And yes, things are fine.”

He explains why he’s here, showing the picture of their baby. They make small talk while I try to remain calm. I know I’ll hear from Garrett about this, and I’m positive I haven’t heard the last on it from Edward, either, judging by the looks he’s casting my way. I’m trying not to even think about what Esme will say about this, because I know that I have no choice but to tell her now. If I don’t, then Garrett will.

“Right, well,” Edward says. “I’m afraid I have to get going. Just wanted to stop by and let you know. I’ll see you later?” he adds, looking at me questioningly.

Running my fingers through my hair, I nod. With one chaste kiss for me and another “Nice to meet you,” to Garrett, Edward leaves and I close my eyes. Unsurprisingly, Garrett murmurs, “Carlisle, would you mind telling me what that was all about?”

When I look at him, he’s staring out the door with a frown, his arms crossed, and his hip leaning against the counter. With a sigh, I tell him about Edward. How we met, how he makes me feel.

Garrett gapes at me when I reveal his age. “Carlisle! He’s still a kid! How could you even-?”

I groan. “I know! I know, alright! Believe me, I do. I just… I think I love him, Gar. And I think he loves me, too. I don’t even know how it all happened, it just did, and-”

Garrett’s eyes widen. “You think you love him? Carlisle, you barely even know the guy! Hell, I’m sure he doesn’t even know himself yet. For God’s sake, man, he’s half your age! He’s old enough to be your son! Hell, his parents are the same age as you.”

I nod, knowing only too well he’s right. “Trust me, I’m well aware, Garrett. It’s just… Edward makes me feel alive again,” I say quietly, unable to look at him. I feel nauseous, and I’m not even a hundred percent sure why. Guilt, maybe?

Garrett snorts, and he’s shaking his head when I chance a glance at him. His eyes are narrowed as he looks at me. “You haven’t even told Esme yet, have you.”

It’s not a question. The way he quirks his brow tells me he disapproves. Swallowing hard, I implore, “Please, Gar, don’t tell her.” He opens his mouth to object, but I hasten to add, “I’ll go over tomorrow and tell her myself, I promise, but please, let her hear it from me, okay?”

Garrett watches me for a moment, his fingers drumming rhythmically on his crossed arms before finally nodding. “See that you do, Carlisle.” His unspoken, “Or I will,” hangs in the air between us.

Nothing more is said between us as we finish up his transaction, and the satisfaction I felt earlier from picking the right frame for Kate and making it just so is gone as I watch Garrett walk out of my shop. Instead, I’m left with a tight knot of trepidation in my stomach as I count the hours until closing time – and seeing Edward again.

When I get home, there’s no sign of him. I’ve gotten so used to him being there when I walk up to our building that his absence makes me queasy. Edward knows exactly what time I’m done at work and how long it takes me to walk home, and he confessed that he tries to time his walks with Brutus so that they get back around the same time as me. It’s amazing how quickly I’ve gotten used to it and frightening to think I’ve managed to lose it so soon.