A/N: Oooooh, shiny new story. The hitch? This one is completely finished. It's four chapters in total (all to be posted at the same time) and was written totally on the spur of the moment. It really just wrote itself, to tell you the truth. There will be NO continuation of it … it's complete. (So fair warning: no one ask me to continue it. Okay?)

Reviews, as usual, are much appreciated. I'd love to hear what you guys think about this.

Oh, and 'Joie', in my head, is pronounced as 'Joey'.

Chapter 1—

Romance is dead.

Yes, the phrase has been used and reused to the point of it becoming a cliché—but that doesn't make it any less true. I wonder if romance ever really existed in the first place. If you think about it, marriage—an institution that is supposedly about love and commitment—has only been defined as such in the past hundred years or so. During the Medieval ages, marriage was about forming alliances between two families … two countries … whatever. It was about proving legitimacy for one's children and assuring that the family line continued.

Romance was never real. It was never tangible. It was something that wistful and unhappy people made up to make their lives seem less mundane. Love and romance was an illusion.

So my take on relationships is to see them for what they are. A way to overcome loneliness. To not feel as though you are completely alone in the world. All relationships will inevitably sour and the trick is to not get too invested. Enjoy it while it lasts, but don't kid yourself into believing that you'll always feel that way. You won't. People are constantly changing and the dynamic between two people can change at the drop of a hat.

None of it lasts. And that is the key.

I'm not cynical; I'm realistic. I'm looking at it from a practical standpoint. I don't swear off sex or even relationships—I simply don't kid myself into believing that they will last. Like everything else in the world, relationships are fleeting. Feelings are fleeting. That's just how it is.

My eyes drifted down to the open textbook in front of me and I realized that, once again, my mind was wandering. Nothing will set my mind wandering more quickly than studying for final exams. Most college students can attest to that.

I sullenly flipped the page and attempted to regain my focus.

Then I felt it.

You know how some people just have this overwhelming presence? They demand your attention for no discernable reason. I felt him before I saw him. I felt him standing behind my chair, peering over my shoulder. You would think it would make me feel uncomfortable to have a stranger standing behind me as though he had a right to be there.

For some inexplicable reason, however, it didn't feel like that at all. I don't know what it felt like, but I wasn't scared or uncomfortable. I just took it for what it was. A man standing behind me, apparently interested in what I was studying.

"Whatever it is, I'm not interested," I curtly addressed him, never raising my eyes from the book in front of me.

I could feel the wide smile spreading across his face. I could feel his amusement shining through.

When he sat down in the empty chair next to me, I immediately looked up at him.

The first thing that struck me was his eyes. They were so dark … almost black … and his gaze was so penetrating and intense. I'd never seen eyes like his. I'd never had anyone look at me in the manner that he was.

"Now, how can you say you're not interested when you don't even know what I have to offer?"

I rolled my eyes and laughed. "Oh, now that's a pick-up line. That's a beauty. Really, it is."

"But yet you're unimpressed."

"You're stating the obvious. Pick-up lines don't really do it for me. Now, if you'll excuse me, I am a little busy."

I then proceeded to ignore him. The problem was that he didn't take the hint and stayed firmly planted to that chair. I tried … I mean, I tried very hard … to just ignore him. But like I said, this guy just had an overwhelming presence. With his eyes bearing into me, I couldn't concentrate for anything in the world.

I don't think even a minute passed before I couldn't take it any longer.

"What?" I demanded. "What is so interesting."

"You don't like pick-up lines, so if I said that you were interesting, I don't think you'd take too kindly to that."

"Ahhh, correct assumption," I nodded. "Why don't you just tell me what you want so I can turn you down and get back to my life."

"Are you always like this?"

I loudly sighed. "Like what?"

He leaned forward and invaded my personal space. I resisted the urge to move back and regain the boundaries, but something inside me—the challenging part of my brain—held me back from doing so. If he insisted on trying to unnerve me, then I was determined to not let him accomplish that.


"Dismissive?" I repeated in sheer disbelief. "How am I being dismissive? What the hell have you given me to be dismissive about? Cheesy pick-up lines?"

"I'm Danny," he suddenly said. I looked at him like he'd just uttered the words of the Antichrist. "This would be a good time to tell me your name."

"Joie," I shortly answered. "Now that we've exchanged pleasantries, would it be too much to ask for you to go away and leave me alone?"

His smirk told me that it would, indeed, be too much to ask.

"You are something else," I addressed him. "I've known you for about three minutes but it's already apparent that you take arrogance to new and dizzying heights. What exactly were you expecting when you waltzed on over here? That I would fall at your feet and marvel at your supreme being? You thought you could bat your impossibly long lashes at me and I'd melt into a puddle of goo?"

I moved closer towards him and held the position. Hovering so close to him that I could feel the heat emanating off his body. It was dizzying and overwhelming and it took a lot to shake it off.

But shake it off I definitely did. I poked him harshly in the chest, smiling inwardly when he winced slightly.

"I told you that I'm not interested. That's not me being coy … it's not a tactic to get you lusting over me … it's the simple truth. I'm not interested. End of story."

"Yet somehow I don't believe you," was his answer.

I threw my arms up in frustration. "You are infuriating; you know that, don't you?"

He shrugged noncommittally.

"Listen Joie," he began, his voice taking on this deep and husky quality. I knew it was a ploy, but I'd be lying if I said that it wasn't just a tad effective. "Have you ever seen someone and been captivated from the very first moment? It doesn't make sense, but it's like this person has a … presence. They demand your attention for no apparent reason?"

I went pale; he was word-for-word echoing my earlier thoughts.

"I take that reaction as a 'yes', then," he surmised. "You see, that sort of feeling is worth exploring. Don't you think?"

"No. I don't. There is nothing I want to explore with you. You got that, buddy? Nothing."

"Are you absolutely sure about that?"

"Gah!" I angrily exclaimed. "This is harassment. I told you, under no uncertain circumstances, that your attentions are unwelcome. Now, I'm not the type of girl who likes to call in reinforcements, but if you don't leave me alone…"

"Alright, alright," he held his hands up in mock cease fire. "I'll leave you alone." He rose from his chair, before delivering the ominous add-on, "For now."

"Meaning what exactly?" I demanded of him.

He ignored my question all together and instead politely said. "It was nice to meet you, Joie. I'll be seeing you around."

Once he had left, I was torn between heaving a huge sigh of relief or one of disappointment. The thought disturbed me. Here was this pushy guy who couldn't seem to take a hint and I didn't know whether or not I was disappointed by his departure? I was beginning to think there was something wrong with me.

The entire encounter with this Danny guy was surreal. The fact that I gave him the time of day was surreal. The fact that I was still even thinking about it was surreal. I had to laugh at myself. It's not as though I was new to the art of men trying to talk me up. This guy was nothing special—the only thing he had was overwhelming confidence.

Well, if he was determined to break me down, then I was just as determined to not be broken down.