Some background about this story-I'm a senior in college in a Research Methods class that is essentially all review with a very boring professor. To keep me from loosing my mind in that class, I have started this fantastic and not at all cheesy story. Enjoy! And keep in mind that I do indeed know it is terribly written, there continuity errors, all of that. I just thought I'd put it in an easy to read place for all my loyal fans (lolz).

Olivia sat at a table meant for two in the small Italian café feeling incredibly awkward. She crossed her legs and watched the flickering candlelight. Her face rested in her hands as she leaned on the surface of the table. Alone. On Valentine's Day. Again.

Olivia looked down and realized her glass of wine was still full. She picked it up and cradled the bowl and swirled the liquid inside. Ah. Merlot. She sampled the bouquet delicately before downing the entire glass. Hooray for Cupid.

She looked back into the candlelight. What the hell had she been thinking, coming here? Not even six weeks out of a relationship… True, it hadn't been a real relationship. She didn't love him the way she wished she could. But still. She missed having a warm body to sleep with. She missed meaning something to someone.

But did she ever mean something to him? Was she ever more than a means to an end to him? He had told her he loved her on their first date, but he never showed it. She knew deep down that she had never been more to him than a baby-making machine and a means to bridge to gap between him and his estranged mother.

Olivia's wine glass magically refilled itself. Either that or the wait staff was fantastic. She downed this second glass of wine before noticing the Adonis before her. She stared at him, holding the wine in her mouth before swallowing slowly. She cleared her throat. "Uh… Hello."

The man had a concerned look mixed with something like bemusement on his face. "Hi. My name is Timothy, and I'll be your waiter tonight. Can I get you anything to eat?"

Olivia stared at Timothy. He was fair, but not pasty. His eyes were a dark blue that contrasted with his jet-black hair. He stood at about five seven with a muscular build. In short—he was Olivia's dream man.

Olivia realized that her jaw had dropped during this perusal of the incredibly attractive man before her. She closed her mouth, but opened it again to speak. To her surprise, she seemed to have forgotten how to talk. "Uhhhhh…." Olivia shook her head and came back to her senses. "Yes. Yes, please. I would like the chicken marsala."

Timothy nodded and wrote something down in his black bad. "Excellent choice. Will anyone be joining you…?"

Olivia looked down and tears filled her eyes. Damn wine. She gave an incredibly unattractive sniff. "Uuhh… No."

Timothy's expression melted a little. "I'm sorry. I'll put that order in for you. Another glass of wine?"

Olivia nodded and meekly said, "Yes, please."

Timothy left, and Olivia was left alone again. If there was something she hated worse than being along on Valentine's Day, it was the pity she was in Timothy's eyes. Pity for the young woman and her inability to find any kind of a date on Valentine's Day.

What was Olivia's problem with finding men, anyway? It wasn't as though she was hideous. She wasn't what one would typically think of as gorgeous, but she wasn't unattractive. She was a size 10 in a dress, C cup, with nice calves. Her nose was slightly large, but then so was Barbara Striesand's. She had blue-green eyes and light brown hair that was thick and slightly wavy. She loved high heels.

Olivia glanced down at the bottom of her shoe. There was gum on it. Of course. Her favorite red pumps… Olivia felt as though she had finally lost it. She grabbed the dainty knife next to her plate and began sawing at the pink, bulbous sphere on the heel of her shoe. Suddenly, the overhead lights darkened and the candles were left flickering.

Someone dropped a glass. A woman gasped. People shuffled around. "Everyone please! Don't panic!" The matri'd raised his voice above the murmurs.

"No, go ahead. Panic. You need to." A darker voice with a somewhat New York or Bostonian accent cut through the air as everyone in the restaurant fell silent. "Panic because if a certain waiter here doesn't do exactly what I say, all of you will be blown sky high." People started looking around, panicking just as the man had said. Olivia herself glanced around attempting to find the source of the voice. She found him.

The man who had spoken was wrapped in a black raincoat. He was an average height with light brown hair. He squinted as he observed the room, almost as though he was nearsighted and needed glasses. He was balding, creating a somewhat C-shaped pattern from a superior view of his skull. His mustache did not quiver as did the mustaches of villains of old; yet, it was just as disturbing. Olivia couldn't help but be struck with the thought that he must have been a college professor in another life—a very dry, boring college professor. She was inexplicably struck by a feeling of compassion for his students and the many boring lectures they must have had to endure.

"Dick. Stop." It was Timothy the waiter from earlier! What was he doing, walking towards the man with the nondescript accent and the eerie mustache? "Why the hell are you here? Why are you threatening these people? Didn't you have a date for Valentine's Day?"

If Olivia had found Timothy attractive before, she was ready to marry him now. He was so strong, so confident in his handling of this situation. She could almost see his muscles rippling underneath is waiter's uniform… If only they were alone together on an island. Wading through the ocean water, rolling around in the sand, kissing as the tropical sun set… Wait. Olivia's heart raced. She was actually in danger. Hadn't the man with the strange mustache said that they would be blown sky high…

All of a sudden, Olivia felt cool steel against her temple. Damn. While she had been daydreaming about Timothy and his rippling muscles, the man with the sparse mustache had crept up to her (undoubtedly drawn to her spaced-out face) and put a gun to her head. So, there was not only a bomb, there was a gun as well. Perfect.

"Dick. Come on. She has nothing to do with this. This is between you and me, not her."

The man with the mustache's mouth curved into an evil grin. "Ah, Tom. Do I have you worried now? I know that you are always concerned about others—I've been following you see. I've watched you volunteer at the soup kitchen and walk homeless dogs affected by AIDS at the puppy orphanage. I know you won't be able to stand having this girl's life on your conscience. What are you going to do about it?"

Olivia's wine-soaked mind swam. Holy crapsicles. What was going to happen to her? She knew she was going to die. She knew it. Thank goodness she had at least had some wine before passing on to whatever was next.

"What do you want, Dick?" Timothy's eyes blazed with anger. Could he possibly be feeling that anger towards the man with the mustache because of her? "I've told you before. I'll tell you again. I'm an honest man. Let's not have someone get hurt because you can't accept that."

"You know exactly what I want, Tim. You know. You've always known. You know that I'm just the messenger here, bud. Its not my fault you did what you did."

Timothy swallowed. "Its not your fault. That's correct. But its also not her fault. Don't do something stupid…" He took a step towards Dick, the man with the mustache. "You don't want the attention of the police here, do you?" Another step. The mustache quivered. "Just imagine that. Imagine the press that that would cause." Another step. "I'm sure your boss wouldn't like that very much at all." Dick's hand shook for a second. Timothy was about three feet away from the man now. Olivia's heart stopped. Could this attractive man also be her savior in addition to her soul mate?

Timothy looked Dick in the eye and lowered his voice to almost a purr. "Yes, Dick. Your boss may have sent you to rough me up, but he didn't send you to make a scene and attract a lot of attention to yourself and your potential ties to questionable organizations…"

The man with the mustache's grip on his revolver loosened for a split second. Timothy saw this, and knew it was his chance. The athletic waiter pounced and travelled a lateral distance of about two feet, knocking Dick and Olivia to the floor. As they fell, Olivia felt the man's mustache wish by her. The floor was hard and hit her suddenly. The air was knocked out of her, but so, too, seemed the wine brain. She knew she had to move fast. The revolver lay on the ground a few feet behind her. She flipped onto her stomach and crawled quickly towards it. The men were wrestling, Timothy attempting to hold Dick down. Olivia continued towards the gun, a sharp pain in her shoulder. Her hands closed around the cold steel, and Timothy shoved Dick off of him.

"Stop." Olivia's voice was terrifyingly cold and intense. "Mustache Dick, get up. Slowly." Whether the man did it because she had a gun or because he was terrified of her voice, neither Dick nor Olivia knew. All that they knew was that Dick was on his feet with his hands in the air.

"Steady, girly. Steady." Dick looked nervous. "You ever even held a gun before?"

"Nope. But I watch a lot of 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.'"

Dick swallowed slowly. "Hey, how's this. You give me the gun, I skedaddle, and you never see me again."

Olivia shook her head. "I don't think so, sweetie. You'd probably shoot me or Timothy in the back. And we can't have that, now can we."

Timothy was looking at her now with awe in his eyes. Obviously, he never expected a tipsy customer to save his sorry butt.

"Well, what do you want, then? What can I do for you to let me off the hook here?"

Olivia shook her head. "Hmmm. Timothy." She turned to him, the gun still aimed at Dick. Timothy looked up from where he was sitting on the floor and raised his eyebrows. "Do you have something like a pantry this rat can go in?"

Timothy scrambled to his feet. "Yes, yes, we do. And it locks from the outside. No way to get out when that puppy is locked."

"Perfect." Olivia jerked her arm slightly, and Dick jumped. "Turn around and walk. If you so much as breathe suspiciously, I'll shoot. You understand?" Dick nodded slightly. "Time to move. Walk."

Olivia marched Dick down the hall towards the pantry Timothy had mentioned. Timothy held the door to it open as Dick stepped inside, then he slammed it every hard. He took a set of keys out, fitted on into the lock on the door, and turned it. Hearing the click of the lock and after testing the door to make sure it was shut, Timothy turned back to Olivia who was leaning against the wall breathing hard with her hand on her heart, her hand clamped tight around the gun.

"Are you okay?" Timothy looked very earnest, taking in the form of the woman hyperventilating.

BREATH. "Yeah, I just…" BREATH "Need a minute…" BREATH. "To catch my breath."

Timothy firmly opened Olivia's hand and removed the gun from it. Seeing a chair in the corner, he pulled it over to her and gently eased her down into it. Remembering her fondness for wine, he found a bottle and, not bothering to pour it, handed it to her. Her hands shook as she uncorked the bottle. She put it to her lips and chugged half of it at once. After a minute, her color returned to her and her breathing slowly returned to normal. She turned to Timothy, her savior. Instead of saying what she was thinking (something along the lines of, "I love you, let's get married today"), she blurted out, "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?"

Timothy's eyes widened. "Woah…"

Olivia continued. "I come here to have a meal by myself on Valentine's Day and end up with a gun to my head, then I get slammed to the floor, then I hold a guy at gunpoint, and I've never even held a gun before in my life!" She took another swig from the bottle. "Again, I'm asking you, WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!"

Timothy swallowed and looked at Olivia. "First, let's call the police. Then, take a walk with me. I'll explain some of it. It's a rather long and convoluted story."

Olivia sat for a minute and pouted, then realized the logic behind Timothy's statement. There was still a man who had wielded a gun like it was an everyday activity for him locked in the storage closet. "Okay. But you're not off the hook. You owe me a big explanation."

A sad look came over Timothy's face. "Yes. I know." The look disappeared. "Police. Let's do it. You have a cell phone?"

Olivia remembered her purse sitting out in the restaurant. "It's in my clutch out at my table." She added drily, "I didn't have time to grab it before I was held hostage."

Timothy winced. "Yeah, I'm sure that wasn't fun." He offered his hand to Olivia, who was still sitting and clutching the wine bottle. She placed the bottle on the counter and stood up, teetering in her heels, the gum on her shoe making an unfortunate sound like that of a plunger being inserted into a toilet. So much for those adorable shoes.

Olivia did not drop Timothy's hand immediately once she had regained her balance. Instead, she made the mistake of looking into his sapphire eyes. She was lost. She felt as though she were a ship at sea, being tossed in a dark blue tempest, salty wind blowing through her somewhat curly hair. The feelings it inspired were somewhat contradictory—she felt as though this tempest was dangerous and terrifying, but at the same time, it was thrilling. She didn't want to look away.

It was Timothy who did, dropping her hand, glancing sideways, and clearing his throat lightly. Olivia touched her hair and was surprised to feel that it was not indeed salty or windblown as she had felt just a few seconds before. She dropped her gaze to the ground before meeting his gaze again. Who was this man who had such an effect on her? Surely he felt the electrical current that ran between them as well…

Regardless of that electrical current, the two young adults walked back down the hall towards the dining room. Timothy seemed to be attempting to put as much space between himself and Olivia as possible. Perhaps it was plausible that he, too felt the connection.

"Ready for the craziness?" Timothy glanced down at Olivia, a crooked smile that seemed to be covering up a wince on his face.

"Oh… I didn't think about that. Well. This should be interesting." Olivia swallowed. She had always been nervous in front of crowds, and now she was probably going to be all over the eleven o'clock news tonight. She took a deep breath. On the exhale, she and Timothy pushed the door open.

The dining room exploded with flashbulbs and excited chatter. Olivia couldn't see if the police were there due to the surging of reporters around her, thrusting small cassette and video recorders in her face. Timothy put his arm around her, squeezed her shoulder affectionately before leaning into her and placing his lips by her ear. Olivia involuntarily shivered. Timothy spoke in a very soft, husky voice. "I'm going to go see about the police, maybe give them a statement. You'll be okay here." And because he had spoken it so confidently, Olivia believed it to be true.

Timothy disappeared into the crowd, and Olivia felt her resolve and confidence begin to wane. She was suddenly tired and exhausted. She didn't know how to answer these reporter's questions. A man was still in the storage pantry! Olivia's mind began to race. Too much, too much, too much. The room swirled. The reporter's voices blurred into one dull roar. Olivia was suddenly very hot. Her skin felt clammy. The reporters were too close.

The last thing Olivia saw was a concerned male reporter with a concerned look on a young male reporter's face.

Olivia blinked her eyes. There was so much… white. The room was white and bright. She sat up quickly, not remembering where she was. An incredible headache washed over her, forcing her to lay back down. Her mind raced, putting together the last pieces of what she remembered. A man… a storage pantry… an incredibly attractive waiter… She sat up again, "Timothy?" He still owed her an explanation.

A nurse bustled into her room, apparently having been summoned by Olivia's call. "You're awake!" The nurse walked to the machines Olivia was hooked up to and examined the measurements on it. "Hmmm. Well, your heart rate seems to be somewhat normal now. We gave you some tranquilizers to calm you down and some stuff to lower your blood pressure because it was incredibly low. You did hit your head pretty hard as you went down, though. You had to get stitches, and you have a concussion." A doctor then came in and performed the customary ablutions concerning concussions. Olivia spaced out for the majority of that exercise, coming back to herself when the nurse asked her if she understood what the doctor said.

"What? Oh sorry. I was spacing out."

The nurse laughed. "Yes, that doctor has a way of doing that to people. He said that you have a rather bad concussion. He wants you to stay here a bit longer so we can continue monitoring you just t make sure things aren't worse than they are."

Olivia used her hand to flick her bangs out of her eyes. Perfect. Just perfect. "What happened after I passed out?"

The nurse looked up from Olivia's medical charts. "You hit the ground hard and the media seemed to converge on you. There was one young man, a writer I believe, who pushed the crowd away and told them to give you space. Someone called the ambulance and they loaded you into it. The young man actually travelled with you. He said that you didn't want you to be alone. It is, of course, against HIPPA for him to do that, but he caught a taxi and got here soon after you did. He's actually still waiting outside."

"How long have I been out?"

"Two hours."

Olivia sat up suddenly, disregarding the pain in her head. "What about the man?"

The nurse looked surprised. "What man?"

Olivia heard the beeps indicating her heart rate increase. "The man who held me hostage. The man who we locked in a storage pantry."

The nurse looked uncomfortable. "I had better let you talk to a police officer."

The nurse left, and Olivia could feel the hammering of her heart within her chest. She and Timothy had been the only people who knew about the man in the storage pantry. What if he hadn't told the police? She knew that she didn't before she passed out…

A lumbering policeman came into the room and took a seat at the foot of her bed. He looked nothing like Elliot Stabler or Captain Kragen. Olivia found herself somewhat disappointed.

"The nurse said you had a statement for me." His voice was deep and authoritative, not unlike Morgan Freeman if he was Hispanic.

Olivia nodded, ignoring the pain in her head. "The man in the pantry. Did you find him?"

The officer's dark brow furrowed. "What?"

"The gunman. We locked him in the pantry at the restaurant. You need to arrest him!"

The officer shook his head. "Ms. Hale, you don't understand. We searched that place up and down. We even searched every pantry. There was no one there. No doors were locked, no doors were broken. There was no one there."

Olivia's face darkened. "Oh no. He's still out there."

"Don't worry ma'am," the officer reassured her. "We have men stationed outside your door. No one will get in without going by us first."

"What about Timothy?"

The police officer's brow furrowed again. "Who?"

"Timothy! The waiter! The man who helped me through this! He said he was going to talk to you when we came out of the restaurant!"

The officer shook his head. "That man hid his face from every camera that was there, and he definitely did not talk to us." Under his breath, he said, "I think we may have someone we need to investigate." He reached into his belt and pulled out his walky-talky. Speaking into his walky-talky, he said quickly, "Look into the man alias Timothy. He's more involved in this than we had originally thought. I want to know who he is and what connection he had to the event tonight."

So do I, thought Olivia. So do I.

Olivia was discharged a few hours later. She was stitched up, her concussion was under control, she hadn't gone into cardiac arrest. She was helped up from her bed by the nice nurse and found that, while she was slightly shaky, she could walk by herself. As she approached the lobby on her floor, a young man stood up. He had olive skin and dark, curly hair. His eyes were a dark green, not unlike an evergreen forest on a December night. His clothes were of the dressy casual variety—jeans, but a button down shirt and tie. Olivia felt as though he belonged on the front of one of those trashy Harlequin romance novels, the ones sold at Walmart for two dollars. She then noticed the badge around his neck. Ah. So this was the reporter who had taken her under his wing.

"Ms. Hale." The man extended his hand. "I'm Sebastian. Sebastian Castellanos. I'm a writer for the 'Mulgrew Examiner.'"

Olivia shook her head. "I don't want to do an interview. I'm not even out of the hospital yet."

"Oh no!" Sebastian dropped his hand. "That's not why I'm here." Olivia raised her eyebrow in a gesture that seemed to say, Tell me otherwise. I dare you. Sebastian's face softened. "There was no one with you when you fainted. I thought you might could use a friend."

Olivia was stunned. There were kind people still in the world?

Seeing the baffled and confused look on Olivia's face, Sebastian blushed slightly. "Or, if you'd rather me leave, I can do that, too. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. That was the opposite of my intentions."

Sebastian turned to leave when Olivia grabbed onto his elbow. "Wait." He turned back to face her, embarrassment still shining in his eyes. "I think that that is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me." He relaxed his body language and fully turned back towards her. "Thank you. Very much."

Sebastian shook his head. "Really, its nothing. I just wanted to make sure you had some support, even if you didn't know me. Now, do you have family in the city?"

Olivia shook her head. "I'm from a small town in the Midwest. I hightailed it out of there when I turned eighteen and never looked back." To Sebastian's questioning eyes, she added, "My parents both died when I was quite young. I lived with my grandmother growing up, but she is now deceased."

Sebastian's face filled with compassion. "I am so sorry, Ms. Hale. That can't be easy, not having family around."

Olivia shrugged. "I mean, it is what it is. I can't change it. There's nothing left to do but move forward."

Sebastian nodded. "Yes, I agree. Well, you certainly are a remarkable woman, Ms. Hale."

Olivia blushed and looked down. "Thank you, Mr. Castell…"

Sebastian laughed, a big booming laugh that filled the hospital corridor. "Castellanos. It's Greek. My mother's side. But please, call me Sebastian."

Olivia smiled a coquettish smile. "Only if you call me Olivia."

"I think we can do that," Sebastian smiled and nodded. "Now, here comes the fun part. Although some of the media has left, quite a few folks are still down in the hospital lobby waiting to pounce on you. I have no idea why they let me up here, but here I am. You still look a bit under-the-weather." Olivia started to protest. "No, no, you are. You need to take it easy today. So, here's what we're going to do. We're going to walk out the back door, you're going to hold onto my arm, and we'll make an escape in my car."

Olivia thought through this proposal. "I suppose that would work." She nodded. "Yes, yes. Let's do it. I really would love to go home."

Sebastian offered Olivia his arm, and she accepted it. There was warmth in his hold. It wasn't the electricity she had felt with Timothy, but it was warm. It reminded her of wearing a sweater on a cold winter's night while drinking warm apple cider. The two of them walked slowly to the elevator, Olivia very much aware of the muscles beneath Sebastian's exposed epidermis. She leaned forward and pressed the down button on the elevator. She wondered what the drive home would bring.

The elevator dinged, rousing Olivia from her thoughts. There was only way to know what the future held, and that was to ace it head on. Olivia held her head up high and walked slowly with Sebastian into the elevator. It smelled of hospital and nursing home, sterilely clean. The florescent light above flickered. Olivia swallowed and became very aware of Sebastian's closeness to her. She swallowed again as the elevator opened to the second floor. "Well Ms. Hale, this is our stop."

Olivia nodded and, with Sebastian's help, walked slowly from the elevator. "I told you, call me Olivia. Ms. Hale makes me sound either like a beauty queen or an old woman."

Sebastian chuckled. "I don't think you could be seen as an old woman. You are far too beautiful."

Olivia blushed. "Well. Thank you."

The two continued to the stairs at the end of the hallway. The nurses and doctors knew what Sebastian and Olivia were doing. They pretended not to notice the two as they snuck down the stairs.

Going down the stairs was a slow process, but Sebastian was very patient. When they arrived at the alley behind the hospital, Sebastian's large black Range Rover was waiting. Olivia felt a moment of trepidation upon initially seeing it, but pushed it away. This man was her personal savior. She had helped her through the crowd of anxiety that had pressed upon her so hard. Plus, he had a press pass. That meant he was legit, right?

Just in case, Olivia made a plan in case Sebastian tried anything. She had mace in her purse. She had her high heels that could be used as a weapon. She had sharp bobby pins in her hair. She had her ten years of karate skills. A chauffer opened the door and looked at Olivia expectantly. Taking a deep breath, Olivia entered into the large black car.

Sebastian entered the car on the other side a few second later. He leaned forward and whispered something quietly to the driver. The driver nodded and laughed slightly. Olivia felt her heart race. "Where do you live, Glykia mou?"

Olivia was briefly thrown off by the use of Sebastian's Greek. She suddenly came back to earth. "Uhh… Just drop me off at the corner of Holly and 37th." Like Olivia was actually going to let this man know where she lives.

Sebastian nodded. He somehow communicated through his eyes that he understood, that he didn't hold Olivia's lack of trust for him against her. He leaned forward and placed his hand on the shoulder of the driver. The driver tilted his head back. Sebastian muttered something in Greek including the address Olivia had given. The driver nodded his head and revved the engine, and they were off.

They passed the large crowd of journalists outside the doors of the hospital. Olivia was now thankful that the car possessed dark windows so that the reporters could not see inside. Olivia turned to Sebastian. "Why did you stick up for me?"

Sebastian's eyes widened, surprised. "What? What do you mean?"

Olivia shook her head, confused. "I don't know you, you don't know me. Why did you decide to become my personal protector? Isn't that a little odd? Isn't that how most Lifetime movies concerning women getting kidnapped and raped start?"

"Ah. I understand." He turned to Olivia. "Yes, that is how most Lifetime movies start most of the time. Don't ask how I know that." He chuckled. "And yes, this would be the perfect time to take advantage an unknowing, innocent woman. But rest assured, Ms. Hale." He looked deep into Olivia's eyes. "I am an honorable man. If you would prefer me to provide credentials stating so, I can. But, isn't a little to late already?"

Olivia gazed down, embarrassed at her foolishness. "I suppose so. I just didn't think. How did the nurses let you check me out?"

"I looked trustworthy, I suppose." Sebastian laughed this time, a robust, manly, testosterone-filled laugh. "I actually volunteer there when I'm free. I'm a medical writer. When they're short on doctors, such as during the local high school's football games, I'm on call."

"Oh." Wait, WHAT? He's a volunteer doctor?! Olivia began to blush and slightly slouched down in her seat.

"Ms. Hale, you shouldn't do that. It compresses your lumbar vertebrae. And you look a little red. Are you all right?" He leaned forward, seemingly with the intention to touch her face.

Olivia waved her hands at him. "Yes, yes! I'm fine." She was worried if he touched her, she would become totally unhinged at the seams.

Sebastian put his hands up. "Okay, okay! I get it. You're fine. No need to freak out." He shot her a smile. "Don't want to overstress you."

Olivia smiled back, sheepishly. "I'm sorry. It's been a long day."

Sebastian nodded and suddenly looked serious. "I know."

The two lapsed into a somewhat awkward silence until the Range Rover pulled up on the corner of Holly and 37th. Both sat still for a minute as though daring the other the make the first move.

"Ms. Hale—"

"Olivia."

"Olivia." Sebastian took a deep breath. "I really wish you would let me take you home. I know you think I am a stalker or a rapist or what have you. But I swear to you that I am not. I would love to walk you home."

Olivia smiled subtly. "Of course you would." To Sebastian's incredulous expression, she laughed. "As incredible as you may seem, I have known you for less than an hour, and I know that I am a weak woman in this state. If you wish to get to know me better, you're more than welcome to call me." She opened the door and placed one foot out.

"But I don't even know your number!"

Olivia placed her other foot outside of the car as well. As she stood confidently in her adorable pumps, she smiled coquettishly. "Use your resources, Mr. Big Writer." She shut the door firmly behind her and laughed as she saw Sebastian's astonished face.

As the Range Rover sped away and Olivia walked confidently down the street, she was proud of herself. Before, she might have been stupid and let him into her apartment, maybe even slept with him. No longer. Her brush with death (and all the therapy she had been attending in the past three months) had made her more careful and more confident in herself. She shook her hair proudly, like a lioness roaring over her bleeding prey.

She got to her apartment with no difficulties, having walked/bounced confidently to the high rise in which her place of residence was found. She shoved her key into the lock and opened the door.

Olivia's apartment was by no means tidy. She wasn't one of those women who had OCD concerning possessions and where they were placed. Instead, there was a sort of clean untidiness to the place. She knew exactly where everything was—other people wouldn't be able to find said objects, but what did that matter? She lived alone.

Olivia inhaled the scent of vanilla emanating from the plug-it-in in the foyer. She dropped her keys off in the dish sitting on the table next to the door and gingerly stepped over several pairs of discarded shoes, turning on the light to her small living room as she did so. Her apartment wasn't much, but it was hers, and it was in her budget.

She discarded her shoes near the sofa and hobbled over to the refrigerator. Damn, those heels were a bitch. Into the refrigerator she reached, extracting a bottle of hard cider. Her brief stint in the mountains of North Carolina had bequeathed upon her an extreme fondness for the drink. Olivia rolled the cider around in her hands, thinking. It had been a long day. She wasn't even sure how to process it, especially since it was almost 3:00 in the morning.

Olivia stifled a yawn and grabbed a bottle opener, finding immense satisfaction with the pffffft it made. She took a sip. It was crisp with balanced amounts of bitter and sweet. She smiled and sighed.

She hobbled back over to the couch and plopped down. Propping her feet up on the coffee table, she set down her cider and reached for the remote. She was suddenly hit with a wave of exhaustion. "So much for watching TV," she muttered as her eyes closed slowly. She was gone within the minute.

Olivia blinked her eyes against the light streaming through her window. "Ugh…" Olivia looked down at herself. Why was she dressed in her clothes from the day before? She blinked, and the fogginess of her mind evaporated slowly. Suddenly, it all came back to her.

Olivia sat up suddenly, a sickening pain running through her head. "Damn." She pulled the cell phone out of her pocket and checked the time. 11:45. "Double damn." She had forgotten to call in to work.

She quickly opened her cell phone and dialed the number. "Come on, come on, come on. Please let me still have my job…"

"Hello, and thank you for calling Blythe and Kelley Voice Over Artists! We are unable to take your call right now, so please leave your name and number, and our secretaries will get back to you as soon as possible!"

Olivia quickly explained her situation—that she was held hostage, passed out, was exhausted, forgot to call in—and apologized profusely before hanging up. "And the wait to hear from them continues…"

Olivia enjoyed her job greatly. The voice describing delicious foods or great deals at Belk or layaway at Walmart on the radio? That was her. She loved her job. And in a city so large with so much advertising, she was never short for work. On the side, she did some arbitration for folks with disputes. She was like Judge Judy, but more awesome. She also had better hair.

Olivia yawned and stretched. She needed sleep. More sleep. She rubbed her eyes and stumbled through her living room, tripping on the leather ottoman, her cerebellum gaining control and righting herself. She continued to shuffle towards her room. Throwing back the covers, she fell into the beautiful bed like a lover coming home to his wife. She snuggled down and pulled the comforter up to her nose, turned on her side, and quickly fell asleep.

Olivia slipped into a deep, deep sleep. She was motionless for a while, but as her eyes started rapidly moving beneath her closed eyelids, she began to toss and turn and dream. Olivia didn't dream often—at least, she didn't remember her dreams. This time, the dreams were vivid and striking. This time, she knew they were not just the bits and pieces of her thoughts from the day. They were fragments of memories.

Olivia sat with Eli at a café table. She sank lower in his seat as he talked quietly but forcefully. "Seriously. Its always like this, Liv. Its always about you. Its always that I didn't do a good enough job. Come on."

"Eli…" Olivia murmured softly. "It's our anniversary…"

Eli hit the table with his hand. "And you dragged me away from my work to come here! You should be happy with that. Why aren't you? Why can't you stop being selfish?"

The setting shifted. Eli glared at Olivia from the driver's seat of the car. "She's asking you to come over just once a week, Liv. That's not that hard."

"Eli! I live forty minutes away! I'm on the bottom of the totem pole at work, I barely have enough time to breathe for me now! Plus, isn't it kind of weird that your mom wants just me to come over?"

Eli scoffed. "She doesn't have many friends here. You should make time for her."

Olivia shook her head. "Its not my responsibility to make friends for her."

Eli looked at the road, a cold, dark look coming over his face. "Its your responsibility to make me happy."

Again, the scene morphed. Eli was standing, bracing his hands against the doorframe of her bedroom. Olivia sat on her bed, a box of tissues clutched in her hand. "I mean… Liv, this just isn't working, you know? I need to work on myself. I need to be myself, be single me for a while." Olivia swallowed and clutched a shredded Kleenex. "I'm sorry."

Olivia sniffed and blinked, willing the tears threatening to spill forth from her eyes to go the hell back where they came from. "So. All of this past year. All of it was… nothing?"

Eli pinched the bridge of his nose. "I never said anything that was untrue, Liv."

"You said you wanted to fall in love with me."

Eli was quiet for a minute. Then, he took a breath and said, "I wanted to. I really did. That was me wishing I could."

Olivia cursed the complexities of multiple meanings of the same word. "So. What now?"

"What now. What now indeed." Eli walked towards Olivia and sat down next to her. "I need t be single. So we're not going to be together. I'd like to stay friends because I enjoy being with you. I enjoy your company."

Olivia sniffed. "So, is there any chance of us getting back together again?"

Eli took a deep breath. "Hmmmm," he exhaled. "If I decide I want a serious relationship, then perhaps yes. But we could just end up as really good friends. Or I could meet someone else whom I develop feelings for."

Olivia rolled her eyes. "Eli. Are you serious?"

Eli looked taken aback. "What?"

She stood up and raised her voice. "No. I'm better than that. I'm better than following you around, waiting for you. I'm not a consolation prize, Eli. I'm not. I am better than that." Eli looked startled. Olivia was speaking up for herself for the first time. "I deserve someone who thinks I am as much of a catch as I think he is. I deserve that. You don't deserve me. Get up."

Eli stood up cautiously. "Liv, what are you doing?"

"No. Don't call me that." She motioned to the door. "Get out of my house. Now."

Eli stood there. "Babe, what—"

"No! Don't 'babe' me. We are not friends. We will not be friends. You led me on and used me. Get out. Now."

Eli held his hands up. "Okay, okay…" He shuffled out of the door. Olivia sank down into her bed and clutched the Kleenex to her heart.

Olivia awoke with a start. All these new men in her life… Bringing her thoughts on older relationships to the surface. She needed to see her therapist.

Olivia shrugged her white sheets and molten charcoal comforter off as she stood up and glanced at her clock. 2:00 p.m. Dr. Steele might be in a session, but Olivia could leave a message. Olivia reached for her cell phone that had been left on the nightstand during her single's night out. As she wrapped her hand around the metal and plastic, her heart began to hammer in her chest. Why? Olivia shrugged. She had no idea. She opened her contacts and called her favorite therapist. Dr. Steele picked up within the first two rings.

"Olivia. I'm glad to hear from you."

"Dr. Steele! Wow. I wasn't sure you'd pick up."

The doctor sighed. "Actually, I was waiting to hear from you. I saw the news this morning. Are you alright?"

Are you all right… What does that even mean? I have no idea… "That's actually what I was calling you about." Olivia cleared her throat. "I don't know."

Dr. Steele gave a verbal nod. "Yes. After experiences like you have had, its difficult to even sort out what you're feeling."

Olivia nodded vigorously, then remembered that she was talking on the phone. "Yes. I don't even know where to start. Can I see you? Soon, preferably?"

"Olivia, of course. I have an opening at 3:30. Can you make it?"

"Yes." Olivia spoke fast. "I definitely can. I'll be there."

"Good. I'll see you at 3:30, then. Take care, Olivia."

Olivia hung up and placed her phone back on the nightstand. She would now have to make herself appear somewhat put together. That meant a donning a somewhat matching outfit, taking a shower, make-up, hair… Olivia cursed the female gender role in American society dictating such ablutions before being seen in public. She stretched and headed to the shower. Her head still hurt. Poop.

Olivia walked the streets of her city quickly. She lived close to Dr. Steele's office. That was actually one of the reasons she had initially selected Dr. Steele as her therapist. She didn't have a car (living in a city, it would just be a burden), and she hated spending money on public transportation after having an unfortunate incident with an animal and a hot dog seller on the bust during her first week in the city. She shuddered remembering that. Dr. Steele's office was close enough so that Olivia could walk to it. Convenience and time saving? Yes, please. Plus, it didn't hurt that Dr. Steele was a pretty incredible therapist.

It was windy and somewhat chilly. Olivia pulled her peacoat closer to herself. When she pushed open the door to Dr. Steele's practice, the warmth felt like a lover's arms surrounding her. She sighed. Who knew if she would ever actually feel that with someone she loved?

"Olivia. Wipe that look off your face. Ever the pessimist."

Dr. Steele stood before her with a somewhat scolding look on her face. "Dr. Steele, how do you know what I'm thinking?"

Dr. Steele laughed and shook her head, her long brown hair cascading down her back. "You get this look on your face when you go into 'Ohmigod-I'm-never-going-to-get-married' panic. It's very distinctive."

Olivia shook her head incredulously. This woman was impressive. "Okay, I'm impressed."

Dr. Steele smiled. "We aim to please. Now, please, come in." Dr. Steele ushered Olivia into her office. Olivia sat on the fluffy couch that had, since her initiation into therapy, had become her personal confessional booth. Dr. Steele offered Olivia a bottle of water, which she gratefully accepted. Dr. Steele settled down into her blue IKEA chair across from Olivia, a notepad in her lap and a pen in her hand.

"So, Olivia. I asked you how you were, and you said you did not know. Tell me what brought you in today. No holds barred, just word vomit it out."

Olivia took a deep breath and started quietly. "I mean, I don't even know. Dr. Steele, I was held hostage last night, yet all that is lurking within my mind is this kind of fear of men and relationships."

Dr. Steele gave Olivia a wary look. "Olivia. You are young. You have your whole life ahead of you. There's no need to worry about that now. You know that."

Olivia nodded. "I know. I mean, cognitively, yes. I know. But I had a dream this morning while I was napping, a dream that pulled up all these memories. All these memories concerning Eli. Dr. Steele, it was so vivid. It was like being there again."

Dr. Steele nodded. "Yes, sometimes after traumatic events, our brains try to calm ourselves by replaying previous memories."

"Yes, but why memories concerning Eli?" Olivia's brow furrowed. "I suppose it could have to do with the fact that I met two incredible men with whom I had great chemistry."

"Mmm." Dr. Steele leaned forward. "Tell me about that."

Olivia related her story, starting from first noticing Timothy to the unresolved sexual tension between them to the strange appearance of Sebastian. Dr. Steele's face morphed while Olivia talked.

"Olivia, this is an incredible story. I doubt that a bored senior writing a story in a boring class could have written something more fantastical. No wonder you're all over the place."

Olivia nodded and sunk down into her seat. "I know."

"If I may conjecture…"

Olivia nodded. "Please. This is what I pay you for."

Dr. Steele stifled a smile. "Olivia, it seems to me as though this event shook you up because of your lack of control. You were held hostage, Sebastian wouldn't listen to you, you couldn't get the information you wanted out of Timothy. You've felt out of control before—your whole relationship with Eli. You are worried that, should you see these men again, you'll fall back into that pattern of not being in control. And that scares you."

Olivia was silent. Yes, that made sense. Quite a lot of sense actually.

"You're a feminist. I know this. Take that to heart. You will not let Eli dictate your life. You will not let what happened last night dictate your life. You will not be controlled by Timothy or Sebastian or anyone else. You are the master of your own destiny."

Olivia nodded. Yes. Yes she was.

"Remember that, Olivia." Dr. Steele paused, allowing adequate time for self-reflection. Olivia was yet again struck by Dr. Steele's ability as a therapist. "I'll see you next week."

Olivia walked home feeling better. She was the master of her own destiny. She was in charge of herself, not some hot waiter or some seemingly sweet but somewhat sketchy reporter. That was an empowering thought. She controlled it. Yes, she did…

Olivia stopped dead in her tracks. A couple was walking towards her, holding hands and laughing together. They paused and looked deep into each other's eyes before kissing passionately. It was surprising that the female did not drown, what with the amount of saliva being poured down her throat. Finally, the two broke apart, creating a sound not unlike that of a plunger being extracted from a toilet. It was then that the man caught sight of Olivia. His mouth opened slightly as if surprised.

"…Olivia?"

Olivia stared at his face passively as he strolled towards her. "Its been… what? A few months? I haven't seen you around." Olivia continued staring at him silently. "How are you doing? You okay? Olivia?"

Olivia shook her head and came back into herself. "Eli."

Eli's face broke into a wide smile as he whipped his aviator sunglasses off. "So, cat doesn't have your tongue! Glad to hear it!"

Olivia shook her head imperceptibly. What… is… he… doing… here…? She felt anger and anxiety bubbling beneath her cheeks.

Eli turned away from Olivia and held his hand out to the woman who had been walking with him. She grasped his hand, looked into his eyes with her perfectly-lined baby blue eyes, and smiled broadly. When her eyes caught Olivia's, the baby blues shrunk into slits. Olivia almost felt that an icicle passed through her core.

"I want you to meet someone, Liv." Don't you dare call me that. Eli turned and looked at the female with the baby blue eyes, and Olivia found herself almost paused in time, analyzing the female's physical attributes.

She was short and petite. Very thin. Her breasts were small and perky. Her hair was blonde, but upon closer observation, Olivia realized that the woman's roots were very dark. Her skin was tan, incredibly tan for it being February. Olivia looked down at her well-endowed chest supported by an excellent pushup bra. She ran her hands over her voluptuous and curvy thighs and recalled that her prom date in high school had said that she had a "ghetto donk." This woman was obviously outgoing and popular. Essentially, this woman was everything that Olivia was not.

Time regained its meaning and Olivia once again met the woman's eyes. Eli cleared his throat. "This…," he paused and sighed happily. "This is Amelia."

Amelia's French manicured hand protruded and Olivia reached out to shake it in a daze. "Pleased to meet you," the blonde sneered through a pearl white, unkind smile. "Eli has told me so much about you." The emphasis that she placed on the word "so" made it obvious the kinds of things Eli had said.

Olivia cleared her throat. "I'm sure he did." She turned her gaze to Eli, confusion lurking in her eyes. "I don't understand," she murmured quietly.

Eli's smile fell slightly. "I don't know what you mean, Liv."

Olivia shook her head, firmly this time. She was frustrated. "No, you know what I mean."

Eli's eyes narrowed and gave a message of don't-talk-about-this-right-now. "No, I don't," he said emphatically, his hand feeling for Amelia's hand and grabbing it, rubbing the exposed skin gently.

"Eli. You told me you needed to work on yourself. You said that that was why we couldn't be together."

Eli shook his head. "That was before I met Amelia." A whimpering came from the small blonde next to him. He turned and looked at her in the face, his hand cupping her cheek. "Baby, I promise you. She meant nothing to me."

"Eli." Olivia's voice rose. "Seriously. You're doing this in front of me? While I am here? God, Eli. You haven't grown up at all." She turned and started to walk away. A thought struck her and she turned back around. "You breaking things off was the best thing that has ever happened to me." Again, she turned and began to walk away.

"At least I'm better in bed." The snarky voice of the blonde clearly rang out in spite of the wind blowing. Olivia stopped walking for a second, allowed the feeling of hurt to sink into her heart, and gathered herself back together before continuing to walk.

Screw Eli. Apparently the blonde already had. Screw her, too.

Olivia stomped into her apartment and threw her bag on the floor. She shut the door forcefully and dropped her keys in the bowl by the door (she had a notorious habit of loosing her keys). Sliding down the closed door, she rested her forehead on her knees and cried loud, heaving sobs. Why was she even upset? He was an asshole. She hadn't been happy with him. She knew that she was better off without him. And yet…

Wiping the snot from her nose with the back of her hand, she brought her head up and leaned it against the door. What would Dr. Steele say? Olivia breathed deep, trying to control the sobbing threatening to overwhelm her. What had they talked about last week? Olivia breathed. In and out, in and out. Some kind of support… Social support. Yes.

Olivia crawled towards her discarded bag and thrust her hand into its black hole that seemed to suck everything into it. After feeling around, Olivia grasped the dropped-many-times phone in her hand and extracted it from the debris in her bag. "I really should clean that some time…" She flipped open the phone and dialed a number.

"Yooohooooo!"

"Riley."

"Liv! What's up?"

Olivia felt her breathing rate increase. The last time she had been called Liv was by Eli not an hour ago.

"Liv? Are you there? I saw the news this morning. Are you okay?"

Olivia breathed deeply before saying, "I need you, Riley. I need some girl time."

Olivia could almost hear her friend nodding. "Of course. I'll be right there."

"No, no, don't take off early from work. I'm not that desperate." Olivia's voice cracked on the last word.

"Bullshit, Liv. I came in early today. Besides, you mean more to me than this desk job." Riley was an aspiring actress and didn't care much for her day job.

"If you insist." Olivia was sobbing now.

"Coming, babe. Just hold tight."

Olivia had calmed down somewhat when Riley's knocking came on the door. She was still sitting with her head against the door. She slowly stood up and opened the door. At her doorstep stood her best friend. Riley was short, just grazing five foot two inch if one was being generous. Her curly auburn hair grazed her shoulders and her usually piercing blue eyes were softened with compassion. If one were writing a cheesy story with Riley as the protagonist's best friend, she would be described as spunky. Extraverted and kind, Riley was quite well liked, and she had the incredibly ability to make nearly any man she met have feelings for her.

"Sweetie." That was all Riley needed to say before Olivia crumpled and began crying again. She opened her arms, and Olivia fell into them. "Let's go sit down, huh?" Olivia nodded, and the two women walked into Olivia's living room, Riley rubbing Olivia's back. They plopped down onto Olivia's leather couch. Riley let Olivia cry for a few minutes before she stroked her hair and gently murmured, "Do you want to talk about it?"

Olivia swallowed and told her story from the beginning—the awkward single Valentine's day date, the men, the therapist meeting. When she came to the part about seeing Eli on the street, Riley's eyes narrowed.

"What? I don't even…"

Olivia whipped her eyes and breathed into her core. When she spoke, it was very forcefully. "What I want to know is why the hell he's in my city." Riley nodded. "He lives two hours away, Riley. His mother moved. He had no friends here except for me. There is nothing tying him here. NOTHING. Why the hell is he here?"

Riley shook her head. Olivia could feel her anger bubbling beneath her porcelain skin. "Honestly, Liv… That's messed up. I don't know."

Olivia's cheeks were warm with anger as she said, "After we broke up, he said I ruined everything about Belden. WHY IS HE HERE?!"

Riley wasn't shaken by Olivia's exclamation.

TO BE CONTINUED!