So, I have decided to post the first five chapters in one because it just made sense to post it this way...I love this story and these characters so please refrain from plagiarizing. This book is still a work in progress. I started it because I heard someone say that black girls don't cut themselves because those are "white people problems". It pissed me off to no end because there are too many girls out there period who need help and don't get it. This is not just about romance, but life, and acceptance and dealing with a life that you have no choice but to live to the best of your ability. Welcome to Eden Matthieu's world. I also loved the idea of a beautiful brain. Because the main character is Haitian, there will be some creole in the story and I do tend to forget to post the translations....just remind me. I have another idea brewing in my head ….and since this story is so far along, I think that I will try to post this at the same time. Just tell me what you think of this first and I would drop the concept of the next one on you.....Love, Kiss, and Bliss......Artamiss!

BTW Word count is at 13,433!!!!!!!!!!! and much more to come.

PROLOGUE

It was way too early to be up, much less out of the house. I was so not a morning person. I walked into the office with the plastic container of blue berry muffins tucked under my arm.

"Good morning, Eden."

"The only things that are good about mornings are sex, coffee, and muffins." And in that order.

"Well, you have the muffins and I already have the coffee." She said handing me a black mug of hot liquid before gesturing for me to sit down on the couch. The office was spacious and lit brightly by the sun. The damn rays shone through the large bay windows like all was right in the world. Setting the muffins down on the glass coffee table, I placed the mug on a black coaster and took off my coat. It was pretty chilly this morning in Tallahassee, Florida; another reason why I thought it was asinine for me to be up this early. It was mid-March and I expected the weather to be a little warmer than the thirty-four degrees that greeted me at the front door.

"That just means I'm two for three." I said making a rude noise before picking up my mug and letting the hot liquid dance down my throat and soothe my attitude. She sat across from me in the center of the office; choosing a high back chair that had her back to the enormous floor to ceiling windows. The glow from the early morning sun gave her an almost heavenly glow.

"I hope you don't mind," She pressed a button on a grey mini-tape recorder and set it on the table between us. I shook my head and took another sip of the black coffee. It was the only way I drank it.

Leaning back against the soft leather couch I stared at the brunette across from me. She couldn't be but a few years older than me. It annoyed me to no end that she looked so alert; too damn alert for seven-seventeen in the damn morning!

Her hair was pulled back in a severe bun and the nape of her neck. A light dusting of make-up covered her face and a soft shade of gloss on her lips. She was a pretty woman. Not at all like any classic beauty but she had this air about her that was all too serious but you still wanted to talk to her. I couldn't stand it.

Everything about her said she was in control. Not a thread on her grey pinstriped suit seemed to dare be out of place. I took another sip of the scalding beverage, letting the liquid heat wake my senses.

"So where do we begin?" She asked pushing her small frameless glasses up her freckled nose. I sat back and inhaled deeply before closing my eyes.

"Did you know I was afraid of the dark?"

CHAPTER ONE

I could hear them through the door; they didn't know that I was there but I could still hear them. Manmi was screaming at him again and he was shouting back. He wasn't yelling at her because of what she was accusing him of. No, he was yelling back because she had the audacity to raise her voice to him. I turned to see my older brother, Fritz, at the top of the stairs behind me. He was motioning for me to come back upstairs so they didn't catch me. I ran as fast as my feet could carry me. Just as I made it around the corner at the top of the stairs, their bedroom door came flying open and my father stepped through. He was like a raging bull that had just been taunted by an arrogant matador. He reminded me of a cartoon character; steam was practically coming out of his ears.

Fritz and I slowly backed into our room at the end of the hall. We closed the door lightly so they wouldn't know that we had been listening all along. "Eden!" My father called out my name. I could hear him bounding up the steps. He was the big bad wolf tempting Little Red Riding Hood to come closer.

I was frozen in my spot. It took me back, momentarily, to when I would watch those scary movies with my brother and we'd say how if we were ever caught in a scary situation we would run and hide. I couldn't have ever been more wrong in my entire life. My mother was calling out behind him, but it sounded more like fading background music. Our bedroom door flew open and slammed against the sliding closet door behind it.

"Eden, I know you heard me calling you..." He said in his thick Haitian accent. The fury was etched across his face; he was out for blood. I clutched the purple blanket on my bed to keep from shaking. I didn't dare look him in the eyes. Instead, I kept my eyes focused on my brother, sitting across from me on his bed. "Yes, Papi?" I answered him quietly. My voice was so small, I hadn't even recognized it. I know that the way I answered him pissed him off even more from the way he came flying across the room. The weight of his heavy frame knocked all the wind out of me. I was a very skinny twelve year old, my aunts had nicknamed me Olive Oil, for goodness sake. His huge calloused hands closed around my neck. The sweat poured down his face and fell onto mine. It was hard to breathe and I was seeing spots. Fritz screamed for him to leave me alone. I could see my mother's fading figure behind him, trying to pull him off of me.

Then it was dark. So dark that it reminded me of the summer we spent in Haiti when the lights went out at night and we waited for the generator to kick in. It was dark, and I was alone. Fritz, my mother, and father were nowhere to be found. Was I dead? Was this what it was like to die? Where was the white light that was supposed to at the end of the tunnel? Where was the tunnel? God, can you hear me?

CHAPTER 2

Beads of sweat trickled down the back of my neck and spread at the collar of my blue Happy Bunny t-shirt. I had been standing on the stone steps of Miami-Dade's North Campus for the past seventeen minutes waiting for my older brother, Fritz, to pick me up from practice. I was the third chair in Miami's Youth Symphony Orchestra. Damn magnet school kids. I despised them just as much as I despised the weight of the heavy violin case in my hands.

Every Sunday for the past two months had been the same thing. Fritz just didn't understand what it meant to stand out in the summer sun in Miami. Of course he couldn't sympathize with me because he had a license, which made him my parents' official errand boy. I wasn't going to chance sitting down on the steps because I couldn't trust that my skin wouldn't stay behind. I knew that the gray cotton miniskirt, I'd let my mother talk me into wearing, was a bad idea. I was reluctant to retreat into the shadows because Fritz was jerk enough to just leave if I wasn't standing where he could see me.

Adjusting the strap to my backpack, I shifted my weight and propped the black rectangular case against my leg as I tried to keep the salty sting of the sweat out of my eyes. Before I could decide whether or not to hunt down a pay phone, I could hear the familiar bass pumping of a car stereo turning into the nearly bare parking lot. Waves of heat could be seen coming off of the pavement before I could actually make out my brother in the driver's seat. The red Isuzu Trooper had seen better days before my brother had inherited it from our father, earlier that summer.

I thought I heard him say "my bad," over Talib Kweli's voice streaming lyrics about the miscommunication between lovers on the radio. I just threw a wadded piece of sheet music at his head. I had been reserving it especially for him when the first bead of sweat mamboed down the back of my neck. I was grateful that I had pulled my hair into a bun before I left the practice hall. I hated when my hair smelled like sweat and the sticky summer heat wasn't helping.

The summers I lived in Miami were nothing like the tourist brochures. It was hot and humid. It rained when it wanted to and my parents' house was so far from the beach that the only day breeze we got were exhaust fumes from passing trucks on the interstate.

Unfortunately, the air condition had just gone out so it meant riding with the windows down or I would be sweating for the next fifteen minutes. Conversely, I wouldn't be tone deaf once I got out of the car. Fritz had a habit of playing his rap music at the highest volume the law allowed while driving.

"She wants you to go to the doctor with her today." My brother said without preamble.

"Did she say why?" I turned down the volume a bit, much to his silent dismay.

"No, she just said that she wanted you to go with her. Guess she wants you to go do your hair with her or some shit." He said shrugging his shoulders. Fritz knew that I never really was the go to the salon and play pretty princess type. It was a fight just to get me to leave the house in this skirt today. My mother just couldn't stomach the fact that I would never be as girly as her or her sisters. She was every bit of the traditional Haitian woman and I was her total antithesis. I was virtually the bane of her feminine existence. My aunts often teased her about having two sons instead of one and a daughter. I went along with it because I really didn't feel like arguing with her that morning. I had given her more than enough grief over the past ten years; I still say the first five weren't my fault. Fritz fully took advantage with his Jedi mind tricks. As soon as I was capable of dressing myself, I hadn't let her near me with anything more than a comb. Until I was eight, the barrettes and ribbons Manmi insisted on putting in my hair were my only concession. She had promised that she give up on the hair accessories the day I started my cycle. She was eating her words two months after my ninth birthday; thank God for early cycles running in the family. I knew it made her sad because I was the only granddaughter on her side of the family and we really didn't have anything in common.

Fritz didn't ever really pay attention to the music he listened to when he was driving; he just moved his head with the beat. I just shrugged my shoulders and continued to look out the window. After an eternity in North Miami summer traffic and Fritz's music, we pulled up in front of our house and mom was already waiting outside.

"I smell like chalk and rosin, can I at least shower first?" I asked. I had been standing out in that sun for what seemed like forever and the least she could do was let me shower and change first.

"You don't have to shower; I just need you to drive." My mom said while tossing me the keys. I almost dropped my violin but luckily Fritz caught the keys. I traded him the keys for my violin and backpack, started Manmi's black Volvo and cranked up the air conditioner.

Traffic, especially during the summer, was packed as usual; it didn't matter what time of day it was; it was Miami. We rode in silence to the doctor's office. Mom and I didn't really talk about much unless we were fighting about why I had no interest in wearing dresses or skirts unless it was for a concert; which I only wore black for those anyways.

Normally, it should have been a fifteen minute drive from North Miami to the office on Biscayne Boulevard; we got there in thirty-five. I easily maneuvered the car into a parking space; she told me to just wait in the car.

"I don't know why you didn't just come with Papi." I said to her as she was getting out. She didn't answer me and just went on her way. I had a concert coming up that would determine our new positions; I was aiming for first chair. I could be home practicing, but no; she just had dragged me all this way in the heat for God knows what.

I hadn't noticed when she returned to the car almost twenty minutes later. She had to knock on the window for me to unlock the door.

"Here, I'll drive." She offered. I shook my head and told her I was fine to drive. I had gotten my permit a few months earlier and wasn't ready to pass on any chance to take on the infamous South Florida traffic. I started the car and was ready to pull out of the parking space when she stopped me.

"I want you to read this first; tell me what you think it means." Manmi said while handing me a thick white envelope. I took it from her and unfolded the contents inside. I wasn't seriously reading the papers. I was actually more like skimming through until five dangerous words burned into my brain forever: CANCEROUS LUMP FOUND IN LEFT BREAST. I must have read the words thousands of times. I felt my palms getting sweaty; my legs were shaking, even if I wanted to switch places with her, I wasn't sure if my legs would support me. I held my breath for what seemed like forever. The world was spinning, and those spots were back again. I don't understand, what does this mean? This has to be a mistake! My mind was screaming and my heart was racing. I looked up at my mother with tears and my eyes and I wanted to hit her. How could she do this to me? Why would she make me read this? I barely heard her tell me that I was the only one who knew.

I didn't want to know. Vomit was rising in the back of my throat and my back felt tingly. I would have much preferred to have been doing my hair and trying on summer dresses; anything but this. My lungs were about to burst from lack of fresh air but I couldn't let go of the stale air that was already there. It seemed like the only way to hold on to her forever. There were those spots again, this time they were bigger and spreading faster. I felt everything begin to slow down until everything was black.

CHAPTER THREE

"Are you sure they would mind if I killed one of these damn birds?" Kasey glared at the white and grey pigeons that danced around our table looking for scraps of food.

"Kasey you survived four years with these birds, I think you can survive another four months." I assured her popping a piece of stringed cheese into my mouth. She rolled her eyes and went back to eating her turkey sausage trying hard to ignore the winged beggars.

Our high school boasted an open courtyard, outside the cafeteria, where only members of the senior class had privilege to eat. Tables made of concrete and metal were scattered throughout the yard. We sat at our usual stone table near the trees in the far end of the courtyard near the student parking lot and gym. We didn't sit there for any particular reason. Sure our school was divided into cliques like every other school in America was. But unlike a lot of schools we all got along pretty well with each other and bounced around to different groups. This was because on the basest of levels, we all shared a common bond and it didn't come from the fact that we would all walk across the same stage together. It was for our common love of weed. When one group needed, another provided; and vice versa.

Kasey and I chose our table because we always had aerobics after lunch; it was simply a convenient location. We could take our time when the bell rung, rather than have to scurry across the courtyard, making our way through eight hundred rushing bodies.

"Hey girlies!" Came a voice shouting in our direction. I turned to see Diana coming our way with her lunch. Like me, she didn't trust school food, even the catered kind, so she always brown bagged it. Kasey on the other hand liked to live on the wild side. "Hey you." Kasey greeted her but was too busy enjoying her sausage to really pay any attention to us or the birds anymore.

"Hey Deedee." I said sliding over on the bench to make room for her. She sat down and bumped my left side with her elbow.

"So what bet did you lose this time?" She asked me while pulling her sandwich from the paper bag and giving me a sideways glance.

"What do you mean?" I asked clearly confused. She yanked on my skirt and then it dawned on me. "No bets. I just felt like wearing it." I said smoothing out my yellow cotton skirt.

"Yeah, but you're wearing it with kitten heels and you actually took the time to do your hair this morning, which means you probably lost a bet. Seriously E, since the first grade, the only time we have ever seen you in a dress or a skirt are when it's concert time." Kasey said clarifying. I guess I hadn't really thought about it before. I mean I knew I wasn't Miss Runway like Kasey and Diana, who wore dresses and heels religiously. The only time I really had dressed up was for my orchestra concerts.

Today, Kasey was wearing a blue halter sundress with white open toed pumps and Diana had on white miniskirt and a blue V-neck and blue stilettos. At home it was always me and Fritz. It wasn't easy beating him up in a skirt.

I shrugged my shoulders and smoothed out the invisible wrinkles on my yellow skirt and brushed the lint off my pink happy bunny wife beater. "I just felt like something different today." I was hoping that they would drop the subject. Diana seemed to let it go, but Kasey was a totally different matter. She leaned forward and wrapped a strand of my hair around her finger and tugged lightly with a sinister grin on her face.

"This wouldn't happen to have anything to do with a certain intern would it?" She asked looking at me with a raised brow. Diana nearly choked on her coke and turned to look at me. I could feel the heat rising to my face.

"Wait a minute, you don't mean that intern in your English class, Eric Stone, right?" Diana asked clearly interested in this piece of information. I yanked my hair back from Kasey's grasp. "I didn't wear this for him. I told you I needed a change." I said defensively. Thank God for my complexion. I knew that they could tell I was blushing anyways, because they just started laughing.

"Now isn't that cute?" Diana teased, "Our little tomboy is growing up." I just stuck my tongue out at her.

"Cute? The guy is twenty-two. She just turned sixteen in September. He has six full years on her." Kasey argued. She was ultra-protective of me because I started school early, making me approximately two years younger than everyone in our grade; my very own Amazon Barbie.

"Lighten up Kasey, this girl hasn't shown interest in a man that wasn't a GI Joe, Anime or in a video game since we were in middle school. It's about time she got pulled out of that fantasy world and into the real world. And what a fine piece of real world Eric Stone is." Diana said in a voice that clearly said she was fantasizing about doing very worldly things to him.

"Can you two divas just drop it, please?" I pleaded. "Mr. Stone is just nice to me that's all, and yes he is fine." I added shooting a pointed look at Diana. "But Kasey is right, I am only just sixteen. It doesn't matter if I graduate with you all. I would still be considered a minor." I sighed.

Eric Stone was like something that stepped out of one of the many trashy romance novels I kept hidden in the floorboards under my bed. He was six feet and three inches of lean muscle with broad shoulders; jet black hair fell into disturbingly green eyes. Eric insisted on us calling by his first name. He never treated us like children, but more like we were one of his regular hang out friends. However, he was twenty-two in his last year of college, interning at our school and our advisor for Book Club.

At first, it pissed me off that the girls that had never been interested in our Book Club all of a sudden arrived in droves. He never paid them any attention though, but he was always nice to me. Before his fan club found out about him being the new Book Club advisor, I was the only girl there surrounded by eight other guys from the freshman and junior class. We didn't just talk about books; we concentrated on writing our own as well. But that was two months ago. Now our club was full of Eric worshippers that presented him with short stories of their sexual fantasies that featured him as the main character.

The bell rang signaling the end of lunch period, effectively pulling me out of the cocoon of my own thoughts. "As long as this change isn't for some man, then I'm good with it." Kasey said and tossed the remnants of our lunch.

"I know you aren't talking Ms. Thing. Who was the one who insisted that we get those fake IDs and sneak off to the Hard Rock and party it up at Spirits during Christmas Break?" Diana tossed back at her.

Kasey wrinkled her nose at Diana and I shook my head. Those two were always at each other's throats. "Yeah, and remember how we ended up losing sight of Eden?" She countered.

"Hey, I don't need a babysitter!" I said bitterly. "Besides, I told you Fritz called and told me that my parents wanted me home ASAP. How many times do I have to apologize for bailing?" I asked, clearly upset that they felt the need to bring it up all the time. Kasey put her arm around my shoulders and kissed my cheek. "My bad, I know babe."

We made our way into the girls' locker room and changed for the final period of the day. In the gym, we stretched and warmed up before Coach Monday, a fit, petite, bouncy blonde who moonlighted as a personal trainer at Bally's, came out and took us through our routine.

After two hours, the final school bell mercifully rang. I felt as if my arms would fall off. "Who was it again who said that this was an easy class?" I complained after getting out of the shower; the warm water was a balm on my aching muscles. Coach Monday worked us like runaway slaves. Kasey was already dressed and waiting for me and Diana to finish. I sluggishly pulled on my clothes after rubbing apple and pomegranate scented lotion on my skin. Kasey ran the flat iron through my hair one last time because my arms simply hurt too much to lift them.

"I thought Coach Avila would be back this year. All she did was show tapes and didn't care whether we followed them or not." Diana defended. "And even though we hurt now, think about the wonders this class is doing for us." She added, and then looked me up and down. "Well, for me anyways. You have never had a weight problem."

"Well y'all got tits before I did, so I guess that makes us even." I retorted. Being two years younger than everyone else meant I didn't fill out at the same time as everyone else did. My breast didn't make their grand entrance until two months before my sixteenth birthday, and my hips flared out a little too. "If you too keep going at it, we will be late." Kasey warned looking up at the clock. I got up and checked my hair in the mirror. My hair fell just past my shoulder blades in layers; I never really could get rid of my bangs. They just never seemed to grow out. I ran my hands through my hair and put some light lip gloss on my lips. "I'm good to go." I declared and went back and pulled my messenger bag onto my shoulder. Diana put her hair up in a ponytail and grabbed her purse.

When we got back to the main building, we went our separate ways. Diana and Kasey went off to Psychology Club and I went to my Book Club meeting. I was hoping that it wasn't going to be packed considering it was Friday the thirteenth and the Valentine's Day Dance was tomorrow. I knew that most of the girls that had joined Book Club would be out doing their nails and getting their hair done. I walked into the room on the second floor in the back wing of the building.

The room was empty. I hadn't been expecting that. Taking a seat at the desk nearest the teacher's, I pulled my laptop out of my bag and plugged the adapter in to the wall and hooked it up. I had been working on a series of related short stories that I wanted to someday publish. I put my reading glasses on and got lost in my work. I hadn't even noticed anyone walking in until someone cleared their throat.

I almost fell out of my chair in the most ungraceful of ways, when I looked up to find Eric leaning against the teacher's desk. He chuckled at my clumsy behavior but didn't move. Dear God, if he didn't look like Adonis personified. I straightened myself in the chair. "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you like that."

"Says you."

"What are you doing here? I thought you'd be out with the masses picking out a dress for the dance. You know what all high school girls do before a big dance; primp and polish those nails." He teased; a slow smile spreading across his perfectly shaped mouth. I physically cringed at the thought of getting fake nails. I was a writer and I played the violin. Fake nails had no place in my world.

"You know I don't do the prom queen thing." I said sitting back and folding my arms on the desk in front of me. He raised a doubtful eyebrow and looked me up and down.

"Could have fooled me Princess." He said leaning forward.

"Yeah? See something you like?"

He looked down at my legs. Thank whatever powers that be, that despite being five feet and six inches, I had long legs. He grinned and leaned closer to me before lightly brushing his lips with mine. "Most definitely." He leaned back and I licked my lips savoring the brief taste of him.

I smiled like a Cheshire cat and sat back in my seat once again. All of a sudden, his face turned serious. "But seriously, Eden, it's after four o'clock. School let out at two thirty. Shouldn't you be getting ready to for the dance tomorrow?"

When we started seeing each other over the break, he was worried that I would miss out on, what he considered, all the adventures of my high school career. We argued about it before, but clearly it still bothered him. I sighed and pulled off my glasses and slipped them into the case and powered down and closed my laptop. I glanced at my watch and saw that it was going on four thirty. I had been so engrossed in my work that I hadn't noticed two hours slip entirely past me.

"I just got caught up in my work. I honestly didn't notice the time." I said shrugging my shoulders. "As for the dance, you know that's not my bag. A bunch of sweaty, horny teenagers rubbing up against each other in defiance of school authority under the watchful eye of Aventura Magnet Academy's finest educators is so not my idea of a fun night." I explained swiping my bangs out of my eyes for the hundredth time.

"It could be fun…Well maybe not the sweaty, horny teens part, but you could have fun with Kasey and Diana." He said trying to sound convincing. I looked at him for a moment, wondering why he was pushing the matter. The suddenly it dawned on me, "You got roped into chaperoning didn't you?"

He shrugged his shoulders like he didn't care but his red ears belied the gesture.

"Who conned you?"

"Dr. Green." He mumbled. Dr. Green was the school's head of disciplinary action and was always looking for new recruits.

"I got cornered in the teacher's lounge at lunch today while I was talking to Coach Monday." He said while straightening the papers on the desk. It was well known around school that Coach Monday had a thing for Eric and went out of her way to seek him out throughout the day. If I thought the new members of the Eric's fan club was bad, then Coach Monday was the President of said club.

"I see now. So you want me to be just as miserable as you tomorrow. What's in it for me?" I asked a slow grin spreading across my face. A few methods of payment came to mind and clearly showed on my face.

The grin that spread across his face lit up his eyes making them shine like emeralds in a sea of dark lashes. "I think I can think of a few activities to show my appreciation for you sharing in my misery." His smile sent small jolts of joy racing down my spine and settling between my legs.

"Can you get away this weekend?" He asked slinging his backpack over his right shoulder. I gathered my belongings and put them away and pulled out my car keys. "My parents have been in Jamaica since yesterday and won't be back until next Sunday. Something about trying to put the spark back in their marriage."

He closed the door to the classroom and locked it. "So, it's just you and Fritz?"

"Actually, I'm Fritz-free until Monday night. He took his girlfriend to a B&B in Orlando for the weekend. They left this morning." I told him while we made our way down the stairs.

"They actually left you alone in a new house with pots and pans?" He said sarcastically. It was also well known I couldn't boil water.

"Keep it up Mr. Funny, and I'll leave you to be miserable alone."

Eric feigned a hurt look and clutched his heart. "You wouldn't dare be so cruel." His ridiculous antics made me smile. "See you at seven tonight?"

"We'll see." I shouted over my shoulder, walking off toward the direction of the student parking lot. I depressed the alarm for my black Jetta and put my bag in the trunk and climbed in and pulled out of the spot and headed towards my worst nightmare, the mall.

CHAPTER FOUR

Aventura Mall was the complete and utter bane of my existence. I had gotten there just before five and it was eight twenty-seven p.m. when I left the mall; Fritz and my parents called me twice to check on me. I told them I would spend the weekend at Kasey's since we were all going to the dance together. I told my mother I had actually bought a dress on my own for the first time and I could swear that I could hear her crying on the other end. At home, I showered and changed into a pair of denim shorts and a white happy bunny t-shirt. Yes, another Happy Bunny shirt; I happen to have a highly addictive personality. Then I packed some clothes, toiletries, and my flat iron before heading to Eric's condo.

He owned a three bedroom condo in Turnberry Apartments and Condos in Aventura. It was where all the young, rich people in Miami lived. Right before my sixteenth birthday, my dad had gotten a big promotion for securing a government account for the computer company he worked for. It afforded us the new house we lived in, in a nearby Aventura neighborhood along with my new car. He apparently thought that all this money would solve most, if not all of our problems. Fortunately, he was half right.

It took five minutes to get to his place and I parked in a visitor's spot in the underground garage. I took the elevator up to his place on the eighth floor. I had grabbed everything but my new purchases. If he wanted to see those, he would have to wait until the dance.

I rang the doorbell even though I had a key. I didn't like feeling like I was invading someone's privacy. What we had was still new and I didn't want to take any chances, despite how intense things were between us. Eric opened the door wearing a pair of basketball shorts and a smile. I stepped into his arms and dropped my bag on the floor just inside the door. I wrapped my arms around his neck and stood on my toes and pressed a kiss to his soft lips.

I could feel his tongue slip past my lips and dance with mine. Heat streaked throughout my body as I pressed closer and savored the taste and the feel of him. He closed the door and before I knew it I was trapped between the hard wood of the door and the solid wall of his body. He lifted me in his arms and I wrapped my legs around his waist. I could feel his anticipation pressing in to the crotch of my shorts. I could feel my readiness soaking my panties. My body felt like it was on fire and I was a more than willing victim. Eric groaned and ground his hips into my center and I could feel the muscles of his arms flex around me. I licked his lips before slipping passed them mating our tongues together. Tendrils of excitement danced along my skin. Something about him always worked me into a frenzy.

The desperate need for oxygen reluctantly pulled us apart. We were both panting, chests heaving in enormous amounts of air, trying to slow our racing hearts. I pulled my legs from around his waist and set them on the floor. My knees felt like rubber and I seriously doubted that they would hold me for much longer. I leaned my weight back against the support of the door. Eric still had his arm firmly banded around my waist but said nothing as he rested his forehead against mine and took deep, calming breaths. His eyes were closed, so I couldn't guess what he was thinking.

Then his opened his eyes, sparkling, "You're late." He said kissing the tip of my nose playfully. "Yeah, well seeing as how I am apparently going to the dance tomorrow, I had to get something to wear." I explained straightening my clothes and hair. He let go of me and picked up my bag and took it into his room. When he emerged, he had a puzzled look on his face.

"Where's the stuff you bought?"

"In my car." I said shrugging my shoulders before plopping down on his black suede couch. The condo was tastefully decorated. He had clearly gotten helps from one of his sisters. Black wraparound couches faced a slate gray wall that boasted a black fifty-two inch plasma television. Underneath the television were three small shelves that housed his stereo equipment. Wireless speakers were strategically hidden around the sunken living room to give it that home theater feel.

Behind the wall was a hallway that led to two spare bedrooms and the guest bathroom. Directly behind me was the wide open kitchen. It was all very state of the art. Black granite countertops lay throughout the kitchen making the stainless steel appliances shine more than usual, dark cherry finished cabinets completed the modern look.

But that wasn't my favorite part. I loved the bay windows that led to the spacious terrace outside the apartment. At night the city lights sparkled and reminded me just how much life was being lived out there.

"I figured you went shopping, but why'd you leave it in the car?" He asked moving around in the kitchen. I shrugged my shoulders and got up from my spot on the couch and slid one of the glass windows open and stepped onto the terrace. I walked over to the cement railing and rested my arms on it, admiring the view. I pulled my hair free and it fell in brown waves to past my shoulders. I loved nights like this. It wasn't too hot, and I could still feel the breeze coming in from the nearby intercoastal. I didn't hear Eric come up behind me and when he put his arms around me, I didn't turn to face him.

I just closed my eyes and leaned back into his comfortable embrace, enjoying the breeze. He rested his chin on top of my head and I could feel the steady beat of his heart against my back. Suddenly, the breeze died and Eric let me go. "I kept dinner for you." He tossed back over his shoulder. I followed him back inside and slid the glass back into place. I sat down on a stool at the bar and Eric set a plate of steaming yellow rice, plantains and chicken. He was one hell of a cook. He fixed himself a plate and sat down beside me. We ate in silence for twenty minutes. It wasn't one of those intimate quiet dinners that I read about in my romance novels. It was more of a tense silence. He took our plates and rinsed them off in the sink and walked off to his room. The master bedroom was located down the hall off of the kitchen.

I could hear him moving around in his room, opening and closing drawers. I walked around the living room for a couple seconds wondering what in the world I was going to say to him. I didn't know what had caused the sudden shift in his mood. He was like this more and more the past two weeks. I didn't know what caused the sudden change in him but I was ready to find out. I made my way to his room and leaned against the doorframe. Eric was sitting on his bed, staring at a medium sized brown box.

"You going to tell me that you suffer from mood swings and bouts of depression or are you actually going to tell me what's going on?" I asked. He looked up at me with really sad eyes. He smiled but I knew he didn't mean it. I straightened my spine, preparing for what I knew was coming.

Eric dragged his hand through his inky black hair and patted the space on the bed beside him. I went to him on shaky legs. I tried to keep it together and prayed to the powers that be that I didn't fall apart.

"I wanted to give you this for Valentine's Day, but I didn't know how you would take it so I was debating on whether I should or not." He said still staring at the box in his lap. I stared down at my white socks then looked at the box that he now held out to me. I took it with shaky hands and sat it on my lap. "You plan on finding out what's in it through osmosis?" I gave him a dirty look and turned my attention back to the box. My palms were sweaty and I was grateful to be sitting down because I didn't think my weak knees could support the weight.

I mentally took a deep breath and pulled off the top of the box. I dug through the white tissue paper and found a small black box. My heart jumped up in my throat as I pulled the box out. "I didn't know what to get you for Valentine's Day. I hope you like it." He set the brown box aside and took the black jewelry box out of my hand. He dropped down on one knee and my eyes went wide and my I could swear that he could see my heart thumping through the thin layer of my Happy Bunny t-shirt.

I looked up at him and could see the happiness and contentment flooding him at my surprise. "So, I decided to give you something that means a lot to me and I hope it means the same to you." He opened the box and inside was a high school class ring. "Eden, will you do me the honor of officially being my girlfriend and wearing my class ring?" I could hear the laughter in his voice and if it weren't for me being paralyzed from the shock of it all, I would have kicked him. I closed my eyes and tried to slow my racing pulse. All in all, it was the sweetest thing anyone had ever given me.

"I would love to." Was all I could manage to say before he kissed me. It was a soft and brief meeting of the lips but the intensity was still there. He took the ring out of the box; it was suspended by thin white gold chain. Eric placed it around my neck and kissed my cheek. When he pulled back he was grinning from ear to ear. I flipped him over onto his back on the bed and straddled his waist.

"This is what you were moping around about the past two weeks? I could kill you!" I said punching him playfully in his side. He flipped me over and pinned me down to the bed. The seductive pressure of his body on top of mine, took all of the fight out of me.

"What did you think it was? Did you think I was letting you go?" He said nuzzling my neck. I couldn't help but purr like a love sick kitten. "Yeah, well just for that, you will have to wait until tomorrow night for your gift."

"Come one, E, don't be so mad. I really didn't know what to get you. But I figured you would appreciate this more." He said trailing his tongue along the v-neck of my t-shirt. My nipples hardened and I felt a rush of excitement between my thighs as my body arched up to meet his.

I appreciated it alright, I said to myself, mentally admiring my gift. And I was about to show him just how much I did. I pushed him off of me and told him to lay on his back. Reaching into his shorts, I pulled his already hard flesh out and stroked it with my right hand. He gripped the sheets and took a deep breath. Never breaking eye contact, I circled the tip with my tongue. I muscle in his jaw jumped and the muscles in his chest visibly bunch. I closed my eyes and took him in my mouth inch by inch as I let the taste of him take me over. I felt his hand grip in my hair and he growled my name.

CHAPTER FIVE

It wasn't really that hard to get Eric to agree to go on ahead of me. I needed the time to myself to get ready. Besides, I knew that he had gotten roped in to playing decorator. He would just have to wait to see my dress like the rest of them. I shifted just a little trying to get comfortable in the roman tub. The hot water was relaxing and it soothed my aching muscles. A small smile played on my lips as I recalled the morning we spent together in bed.

Things were going well, I didn't know where I wanted them to lead but I liked where things were now. It's not like I believed in Happily Ever After. After witnessing the crap that my parents put each other through, I wasn't likely to go down that road. But still, there was something about Eric that just made the world suddenly make sense.

In the beginning, things were a little crazy, to say the least.

Two months earlier

I couldn't believe they had me out here waiting for them. I impatiently tapped my booted foot on the cement floor of the Hard Rock parking garage and leaned up against my car watching the party people go by. Kasey and Diana were twenty minutes late; this was their idea in the first place. I played with a strand of hair as the doubt crept into my mind that we were going to get caught and thrown into prison.

I was already uncomfortable in the tight denim miniskirt and halter top that Kasey dropped off in my room earlier. The miniskirt barely went mid-thigh and the halter top, if you could call it that, was more like a fancy napkin. It was black and low cut in the back and front. The front was held together with a strand of rhinestones. She argued that it matched the black knee high suede boots my mother had gotten me for my birthday.

My thoughts were interrupted when I saw Kasey's car pull up in the parking spot next to mine. She and Diana came tumbling out of her car laughing and singing to No Doubt.

"You heifers are late." I stated crossing my arms over my chest. Kasey was wearing a leopard print tube top dress with black stilettos and Diana was wearing a white cropped halter top paired with denim miniskirt and black ankle boots.

"Sorry, someone had to change her outfit twelve times only to end up in her original choice." Kasey said sending a fake glare at Diana.

"Well, perfection mustn't be rushed." Diana said haughtily. She slung an arm around my shoulders apologetically and air kissed my cheek.

"Well, then maybe you should have taken and extra ten minutes." I said crabbily poking her in the side. We all laughed and I ducked down into my car and reached for my keys and tucked the fake ID Kasey gave me earlier and my credit card into my back pocket. When I stood up I heard some guy whistling in our direction. Diana, Kasey, and I turned in time to see a group of guys staring openly at us; one guy with them had his back to us. They guy who whistled had a wolfish grin on his face. He kind of reminded me of that wolf that was always salivating over Jessica Rabbit.

We smiled back before flipping him the bird. Making our way towards the casino, I attempted to pull my skirt down a little only to be smacked on the hand by Kasey.

"Stop fidgeting dumbass." She whispered to me. I just made a face but complied anyway. We handed our IDs to the bouncer at the door of Spirits and were rushed in less than two seconds later.

It was dark and pretty cold inside the club. Nelly's "Hot In Here" was blasting through the speakers. We got to the bar and ordered three tequila shots. After we were sure that we weren't going to get caught, six shots later, we converged on the dance floor. I couldn't remember what song was playing, just that I had gotten lost in it. It was good to finally let go.

When the song cut into a slow dance, I opened my eyes to find that Kasey and Diana had made a couple of new friends. I smiled and signaled that I was headed for the bar. I ordered a long island ice tea and looked back at the crush of bodies melding together on the floor. When I turned back, the bartender placed my drink down in front of me on a napkin. I handed him my credit card when he waived me off and pointed at some guy at the other end of the bar. I was taken off guard by the startling handsome face. Green eyes sparkled at me in the dim light. I felt my face getting hot and nodded my thanks and took a sip of my drink.

The sweet slow burn felt good on its way down my throat, while over the rim of my glass I could see Bright Eyes making his way towards me.

"Thanks for the drink!" I yelled over the music.

"I felt like I owed you for my friend being a jackass in the parking garage." He spoke close to my ear. His warm breath sent delicious shivers down my spine. I raised a questioning eyebrow at him. "You came with the caveman crew?" I asked.

He held up his hands in mock surrender. "Don't be too harsh, they were already drinking before they got here."

"And you?"

"Am the designated driver, Eric." He held out his hand.

"Eden." I shook his hand and jolts of electricity shot up my arm. I couldn't tell whether it was from him or the alcohol.

"The forbidden garden?" He asked an amused smile spread over his face. Jet black hair spilled forward into his eyes.

"You have no idea." I said finding myself smiling before taking another sip of my drink. The music jumped beats until Sean Paul's voice could be heard blasting through the speakers.

"Dance with me." I said before setting my drink down and pulling him onto the dance floor. With his hands on my hips we moved fluidly to the rhythm of the music. I closed my eyes and rocked my hips to the beat, enjoying the feeling of being held. Before I knew it, four songs had passed and we still clung to each other, we were both covered with a light layer of sweat but Eric still managed to smell like mint. I pulled my hair down from its ponytail and the waves fell over my shoulders and my bangs fell into my eyes but I didn't care.

Desperate for air, we went stepped out on the back balcony, which was surprisingly empty.

"You dance very well." I said staring out at the lights of the casino.

"Is that supposed to be a joke, because I'm white?" He said laughing. My face heated and I was beyond mortified.

"I didn't mean it that way. My family is from the islands, dancing is supposed to be in our blood, but my brother, Fritz, couldn't dance to save his life." I explained hurriedly, hoping to rectify the situation. Eric stared at me for a moment before leaning back on the rail laughing at my expense. I pouted and turned to walk away but he hooked his finger onto one of the belt loops of my skirt and pulled me back against him.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to laugh, it was a joke." He said sobering up. I looked up at him with a skeptical eye but could still see the clear laughter dancing in his eyes. I bit down on my bottom lip nervously. Those eyes of his were doing something to me and I wasn't sure that I didn't like it. His thumb traced my lower lip.

"Don't bite."

"You might like it." I whispered boldly. He brought his face closer to mine and I could smell the rum on his breath.

"I just might." He whispered back before kissing me. I didn't know a man's lips could be so soft. He turned me around in his arms and wound his arm around my waist while his left hand held my chin place. I moaned and I felt the heat gathering in my stomach and liquefying between my legs. I pressed into him and wrapped my arms around his neck and slid my fingers into his soft hair. I tasted the rum on his lips before he took over and deepened the kiss.

My body was trapped between his and the rail I could feel him growing hard against my stomach, and when I rubbed myself against him he growled before pulling his mouth away from mine and kissing his way to the sensitive spot behind my ear. Before I knew what I was saying the words tumbled out of my mouth.

"Let's get out of here." He looked down at me questioningly, his breath just as ragged as mine. I pressed my body up against his and lightly bit his neck; he growled and his eyes turned a darker shade of green. "I told you, you might like it." I twirled my keys around my finger. He smirked and took the keys from me and grabbed my hand.

Twenty minutes later, we were in his bedroom, his body pressed against mine. All the sensations and feelings tunneling their way through my body were so deliciously foreign. I couldn't tell whether it was the alcohol or his hot mouth on my nipple that set it off for me. Sparks went off between my legs and behind my lids as a strained upward. He sucked harder and twirled his tongue around the stiff peak. I couldn't think or breathe; all I could do was just claw at his back and chant his name. He lifted his head and trailed kisses down my stomach and curls of pleasure danced beneath my skin where his lips touched. He undid the fastening on my skirt and pulled it over my hips and down my legs, and tossed it on the floor with the rest of our clothes. He smirked at the white thong I wore and I thanked the powers that be that Kasey talked me into waxing.

Eric smiled down at me with a raised brow. I pushed up on my elbows and looked down at what he was smiling at. My white thong had a cherry on it that said "bite me". I shrugged a shoulder and winked at him.

"I might like it." That was all the encouragement he needed before ripping off my thin material with his teeth and spreading my legs. He looked at me like a hungry man about to eat his last meal. And with just one stroke of his tongue, my world came crashing down around me. My hips strained forward to meet him stroke for stroke, while his hands firmly grasped my hips to hold me in place. The onslaught continued for what felt like forever before my body gave in to another set of spasms and fireworks and flashes went off in my head; my toes curled, my fingers gripped tight in his hair as I screamed his name out over and over again like a prayer.

I was struggling to regain my breathing while Eric pulled his body over mine. I hadn't realized that he had shed the rest of his clothes until he settled his body on top of mine and hooked my legs around his waist. I could feel him hot and hard burning into my very core. He kissed me and I could taste myself on his tongue and the effect of the moment was drugging. His hand played with my nipple as he adjusted himself and sunk himself deep inside me with one deep stroke. My body froze from the sharp pain. I told myself to concentrate and the pleasure of his hands on me and my alcohol muted mind followed. I barely registered his shock. Eric began to pull out when the sweetest fire licked at my spine.

"You're a virgin." He stated, the shock clearly written in his eyes now, but I didn't care. All that mattered was that slow simmering heat that was building up from the invasion of his body into mine. I lifted my hips to press him deeper into me. I looked up at him and could see the ecstasy still there smoldering. The pleasure written all over his face, so I repeated the action until he forgot about my untouched state and began moving inside of me.

Taking control and establishing a rhythm for the both of us he drove faster and deeper as one hand fisted in my hair and the other bit into my hip; his kiss was fierce and demanding. I bit and sucked on his lower lip and as the fiery excitement built up inside me and exploded into a raging inferno. He moaned as my body bowed beneath his and he pounded into me one last time before his body locked up in a tangled orgasm and he growled my name before rolling over and collapsing on the bed. Our bodies sated and desperate for air, we lay there for a few minutes in total silence.

"I told you, you might like it." I said trying to sound as casual as possible. I had read plenty of trashy romance novels but pillow talk was completely new to me; besides, this was real life and a lot harder than it looked.

"So when were you going to tell me?" He asked turning onto his side leaning up on his elbow. I burrowed under the sheets but refused to look at him; I suddenly felt cold.

"Don't be shy now," he said tugging on the sheet. "It's a little late for modesty."

"Does it really matter?" I grumbled; irritated that after such incredible sex he wanted to play twenty questions.

"What the hell do you mean, 'does it matter'?" he mimicked. I jumped and gripped the sheets a little tighter; my heart was beating so hard and fast, I thought my ribs would break. "Look, we both had a great time; can't we just leave it at that?" I asked finally looking at him. I steeled my composure and straightened my spine and sat up with as much dignity as I could muster.

I dropped the sheet and pushed myself off the bed; I winced from the soreness between my legs. I knew there would be pain, but I didn't think it was going to be that bad. My knees shook and gave way, but before I could hit the floor strong arms surrounded me and helped me onto the bed.

"I didn't use protection." He stated, I looked at him and shrugged my shoulders. "How could you be so damn casual about this?" He asked, clearly angry at my nonchalance.

"Wrong time of the month, and besides I'm on birth control." He looked at me clearly confused.

"You do know that there is more than one use for it right?"

"And what if I had some kind of disease?"

"Do you?"

"No."

"Then don't worry about it." I tried to get up again when I was sure my knees would hold me, but his hand on my shoulder stopped me. He looked genuinely worried about me. "Look, I'm alright. Clearly, I don't make this a habit, so don't worry about it." I brushed his hand off and got up, picked up my clothes and went to the bathroom to clean up.

In the bathroom I splashed some water on my face and took a few deep breaths before stepping out again. Eric still sat on the bed just staring at me. He had to have gotten up because he was wearing a pair of black basketball shorts and held up a torn scrap of white material that used to be my underwear. "I guess you won't be wearing these again."

I pulled on my boots and went over to him to try to grab my torn panties, but he just held them away. "I'll toss them for you, that way your friends won't ask any questions?"

"What I do with my panties has nothing to do with them. I am fully capable of disposing of them." I said reaching for them again, but he just leaned back and held them farther away.

He pulled me down on top of him and I could feel him getting excited again. Just the thought of it made me ache, ever so sweetly, all over again. He flipped me over so that I was pressed beneath him. He kissed that sensitive spot beneath my ear and I had to bite my lip to keep from moaning.

"Stay the rest of the night." He pleaded working his hand down the open side of my top and tracing the side of my breast. His touch made me shiver, but I pulled myself out of the trance and pushed him off of me.

"No can do."

"Why not?" He asked pouting like a child; clearly he wasn't as angry as he was before.

"Why the sudden change of heart?" I was curious to know. He shrugged his shoulders and helped me sit up. "I figured that we were both adults and both did what we wanted to do. I mean, I wish you had told me but, what's done is done."

"Glad you see it that way." I said trying hard as hell to keep from wincing when he said we were both adults.

"But…"

"But, I wasn't the only one who ditched my friends for a roll in the sack and I don't feel like being here when your friends come gunning for your ass in the morning." I partially joked trying to lighten the tension, which I was only feeling.

He cocked his head to the side and had the cutest grin, his green eyes light and shining. "So you are going to leave me helpless, oh virgin siren. You lured me in with the seductive call of your hips and you would leave me to the wolves, helpless." He said with as much theatrics as he could muster. I couldn't help but laugh.

"Sorry Bright Eyes, I got my own firing squad waiting for me." I said patting his cheek trying to sound sympathetic.

Eric smiled that dangerously alluring smile and winked at me. I got up and grabbed my t-mobile sidekick off the floor and headed towards the door.

"But if it helps, you can keep my panties and do the Sixteen Candles thing and charge them a buck a piece to see." With that I blew him a kiss and walked out.

In the elevator, I checked my phone and saw that I had fourteen missed calls from Kasey and Diana. I inwardly groaned and stepped out of the elevator when it stopped at the main lobby. I went out front and pulled out the ticket that Eric had handed me earlier and gave it to the valet attendant. When he turned around, the back of his vest said Turnberry Luxury Condos and Apartments.

"Holy Shit!" I cried before I could control myself. The attendant turned around and looked at me in confusion. "Everything alright, Miss?"

"Yeah, just fine," I held up my cell phone. "Just got a text, you know how girls are." He shrugged and found my keys and went off to get my car. 'Holy shit!' I kept screaming in my head, I was literally five minutes from my parents' house! The attendant pulled up with my car; I got in and reached into my emergency cash stash, in the glove compartment, and handed him a tip before I drove off.

My palms were sweating and my heart was beating faster than ever as I sped off towards the beach house my parents bought themselves for Christmas. I had told them that's where we were staying for the weekend; kind of like our last hoorah as high school seniors.

When I got inside, I left Kasey and Diana a message that Fritz called me saying that I was needed at home ASAP and couldn't get to my phone any sooner. Thankfully, they bought the story and said we would meet up on Monday in the school parking lot. I set down my phone on the coffee table and went in to one of the bedrooms. After a quick shower, I tucked myself in and fell into a very deep sleep; Monday would be full of questions.

Present

The phone vibrating on the marble counter snapped me out of memory lane. I reached back behind me and grabbed it, "This better be worth interrupting my soak in the tub." I grumbled.

"Just making sure that you weren't going to leave me stranded; I know how you get when you are left alone with a tub." Eric said laughing on the other end. "I was actually just getting out, thank you very much." I shot back settling back against the tub. "Well, I better finish setting up. I needed an excuse to get out of there for a minute; I had gotten cornered by Coach Monday." He whispered. Eric often complained about how the woman was always using an excuse to touch or talk to him. I didn't think it was a big deal because I knew who he really wanted.

"Tell her you have a jealous girlfriend." I laughed. He was too cute when he sounded so helpless.

"That's right Toots, laugh it up. While your lazy ass is relaxing in the tub, Coach Monday and half the female student body are trying to push up on your man!" He snapped playfully.

"I'll be there soon, promise." I told him sweetly and then hung up.

Sighing deeply, I let the water out of the tub and dried off on one of the oversized bath towels. I had gotten my purchases from the car right after Eric left. I rubbed on my favorite scented lotion. I pulled on a pair of sheer pantyhose that stopped mid thigh, white garters, a matching white lace strapless bra, and thong panties. After applying very light makeup, I unzipped the garment bag that was hanging on a hook in the spacious walk-in closet.

When I saw it, I knew it was THE dress and when I walked out of the dressing room with it, I knew that I had turned heads. The dress was an ivory colored strapless with a lace overlay and a straight cut neckline. A thin gold ribbon tied in the back underneath the bust and it fit snugly against the body, flared out a little at the waist and ended in soft layers just above the knees. The sales woman helping me out convinced me to get the cutest gold and BCBG stilettos to set off the whole outfit. I may not have liked girly but I knew good girly when I saw it.

I dabbed a light layer of Samsara on my pressure points and stepped into the dress. It felt like a silk glove on my body and it looked even better. My flat iron had worked magic. My hair was swept back off my face and held in place with a gold sparkling band slightly off to the side so that the curling ends were pushed forward over my shoulder; my bangs were swept off to the side and even they cooperated. I wore a thin gold chain around my neck, a gold cuff bracelet and slim gold watch. Putting on my shoes and grabbing my keys, I tossed my phone, lip gloss, and powder in a gold and white clutch and headed down to my car.

Our school had rented out the Doll House Club on South Beach for the dance. I pulled my car up into the valet and handed the attendant my keys and headed inside. Confidence marked my every stride. I knew my feet would hurt before the night was over but it would so be worth the look on Eric's face.

The girls weren't kidding when they said I never dressed up. I had skipped our sixth, eighth, and all our high school dances just to avoid dressing up. Doing it for Eric was different because, even thought I knew I was pretty, I didn't have to try with him. So getting a rise out of him, literally, was fun. Getting a reaction out of everyone else was just an added bonus.

I walked towards the sign in table where teachers and two girls on the dance committee sat collecting tickets. Eric had left my ticket on the dresser; it was sweet of him to think to get it for me.

"Are you here with someone from our school, Miss?" Coach Monday asked, looking me up and down. I raised a brow and put my hand on my hip,

"It's me Coach, Eden."

Coach Monday and the others at the table just stared at me with open mouths as I handed her my ticket. I walked past them and towards the double doors leading further into the club. The music was blasting and there were red and white balloons, flowers and streamers everywhere. The tables surrounding the dance floor were covered in red and white linens and had tea candles burning. The light was dim but I was still able to see. I caught sight of Kasey and Eden near the bar on the far end of the room, so I headed in their direction. To the left of the bar, Eric was surrounded by groupies. I smiled but kept walking towards my friends. He looked up and caught my eye; the shock that spread across his face seemed contagious as it spread to the faces of my school mates. I winked at him right before making it to Kasey.

"Didn't your mothers teach you not to stare?" I asked smiling; I couldn't seem to stop since I had put the dress on. They continued to stare but Kasey snapped out of it first.

"If you ever dare to wear one of Fritz t-shirts to school ever again, I am going to kick your sexy ass to Haiti and back; then I'm going to kick Fritz's ass for letting you." She threatened seriously. Diana just nodded her head in agreement. Diana was wearing a black skin tight mini dress with red heels and Kasey had on a red and white spaghetti strap dress with black pumps.

"You look lovely ladies." Eric's voice came out of nowhere behind us. I turned around to see him standing with five boys with huge, ridiculous grins on their faces.

"Why thank you, Mr. Stone. Hello boys." I said flirtatiously. Kasey and Diana snapped out of it and turned the flirt on high.

"I told you they were harmless. But I'd watch out for the siren in the white. I heard she's prone to biting." Eric said laughing before leaving the boys behind. I could see the amusement and desire sparkling in his eyes. He went off and stood next to Mr. Helmsly, my English teacher that he was interning for but kept his eye in my direction.

Nikolas Suuichiro stepped forward from the group and held out his hand to me. "Would you like to dance?" He asked nervously. I had known Niko since he moved from Japan in the third grade and he had never been nervous once, but he was always a good friend. But it was obvious that he didn't recognize me.

"I'd love to Niko." I said, taking his hand.

"Eden?" I was the only one he let get away with calling him that.

"What kind of friend are you? I practically taught you English and now Mr. Soccer Stud doesn't recognize me?" I asked laughing as he pulled me close and we danced to a slow song by Boyz II Men. Having him hold me wasn't the same as being in Eric's arms; it was definitely different. There really was no way to describe it.

"Hey, I resent that, I just have never seen you so…" his words trailed off.

"You have been to every one of my concerts, I have worn dresses then." I argued.

"That's different," he countered. "You always wore those long black shapeless things. Forgive me, nee-chan, but none of us ever imagined that all of this was hiding under there." He tossed his head in Kasey and Diana's direction on the dance floor. "Judging by the look of it, not even they even knew." He said grinning and poking me in the side, making me squirm, before pulling me closer. I could see Eric standing off to the side of the floor; he didn't look to be paying attention to anything Mr. Helmsly was saying. Instead, his hands were tightly fisted at his side, and I suspect it had something to do with the way Niko was holding me.

"That's a dangerous game you're playing little one."

I snapped my attention back to Niko, who was leading me off the dance floor and up to the second level where it was more secluded; we could still see everyone below.

"I don't know what you're talking about Niko." My composure belied my inner anxiety. I took the seat he held out for me. Looking down, I could see Eric constantly sending angry glares our way. I shifted my attention back to Niko, who never took his eyes off of me. Though he was only eighteen, he seemed to be wise beyond his years. His father often joked that he got it from his mother's gypsy side. His father was Japanese and his mother a Romanian gypsy. They met and fell in love when his father was on a business trip to Romania for his engineering firm.

He leaned his arms forward on the small two person table. "Of course you do. Who knows you better than me?" He gave a disgusted snort. "Besides, I'm surprised your friends haven't figured it out yet." He stared down at Eric and waved at him with a smile. Niko was goading him on purpose.

"How long have you known?" It wasn't worth lying to him anymore, not when he had always been so good to me. He shrugged his shoulders. "It wasn't all that hard to figure out. The first week he was there, the two of you fought like cats and dogs then all of a sudden you were his favorite pupil. Then there was the recital you had with the youth orchestra, last month. I went with my mother, and we saw him there. Mother said that he looked at you the way my father looked at her when he thought no one was looking. Then she saw how you looked at him. I put two and two together from there." I sat back and crossed my arms over my chest and contemplated what I had just heard.

"What are you going to do?"

"I am ashamed that you would ask me that." He scoffed. I knew he wouldn't tell anybody; Niko looked out for me the way Fritz did. Suddenly, I was glad that somebody knew. My shoulders slumped. "I know, and I am sorry. But do you think anyone else knows?"

"If they notice anything, then they probably just think it's a crush." He said. I nodded. "So what now?"

"I say that from the way he keeps scowling at us, we should go and have fun, take some pictures and piss him off even more." Niko said lightening up. I just shook my head and stood up with him and we headed downstairs to rejoin the crowd.

When I spotted Eric, an hour later, he was at a small corner table with Coach Monday hanging all over him. The bartender told me that they had both been drinking. I looked back at Niko and he just shook his head and took my hand and led me in the opposite direction. Honestly, I was having a good time. I had spent the majority of the time with Niko and we had taken pictures together. Kasey, Diana, and I got some shots in too before heading out to the dance floor a couple of times.

"I think you should go home and get some sleep and in the morning, you both will feel a hell of a lot better." Niko said rubbing my shoulders when we got to the double doors leading to the foyer of the club. I nodded silently and look back to see Eric headed our way with Coach Monday hanging on to his arm. I rolled my eyes and turned to face them when they stopped in front of us.

"Doesn't she clean up well?" Coach Monday slurred, waving her arm sloppily at me.

"You look incredible tonight." Niko agreed touching a hand to my cheek; Eric just nodded his head stiffly.

"I am going to head home. My feet are killing me and I have partied myself to exhaustion." I said rummaging through my purse for the valet ticket.

"In that case, Happy Valentine's Day." Niko said kissing me on the cheek and handing me a white rose from the one of the nearby tables. My face felt hot and I had the decency to blush; I knew it was all an act for Coach Monday.

"Be careful." Niko whispered before going back to the party. I said goodbye to a still fuming Eric and an inebriated Coach Monday. When I was settled in my car, my phone started to vibrate indicating I had a text message.

'I thought you were supposed to be miserable with me, not show up looking the way you did and teasing me the entire night with all these pubescent boys. ~ Bright Eyes' I smiled at the message and hit to reply. 'My intention was 2b miserable but u brought them over. What was a girl to do? Besides, Niko only stepped in cuz he apparently knows what's going on.' I hit the send button and started the car and drove to the beach house. When I pulled into the garage thirty minutes later, my phone buzzed again.

'What the hell do u mean he knows? Never mind…I am leaving now. Where RU?' The text came through on my instant messenger.

'Beach house.'

'Meet me at my place. Heard 2 many ppl saying they were going to the beach after.'

'K.'