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I'M BACK AFTER A LONG DELAY! THIS IS THE SEQUEL TO LOST. THESE ARE MY AWARDS FOR LOST:#1 MOST FAVORITE STORY AND HAS BEEN SINCE OCTOBER 2007! #3 MOST READ #7 MOST REVIEWED Summary: Simmons is introduced to a certain female vampire that we all know. He has been a player, but what happens when he meets her? ~~~~~~LAST CHAPTER AND EPILOGUE~~~~~~~ Chapter 15:MAGNIFICENTChapter 16:(EPILOGUE) HEADLINE

Wow! This sequel has been a long time in coming. I want to thank everyone for keeping this story alive. I have loved reading every single one of your reviews! I have had everything from awesome people translating LOST into other languages, to yucky people plagiarizing my story and calling it theirs. No kidding! I started this just a few months after LOST, but I didn't think anyone would want to read it. It was just for me. But, I kept writing and many asked for a sequel, so . . . . . . . . If you hate it, I will understand. 3 REASONS YOU SHOULD NOT READ THIS STORY: 1. SIMMONS IS THE MAIN CHARACTER, EDWARD AND BELLA ARE ALL THE WAY THROUGH IT, BUT IT IS IN SIMMONS POV. 2. IT HAS BEEN LIKE A YEAR AND A HALF SINCE MANY OF YOU HAVE READ LOST. FOR SOME IT WAS JUST YESTERDAY, BUT FOR THE ORIGINAL READERS, YOU MAY NOT EVEN CARE ANYMORE! 3. I CAN'T THINK OF ANOTHER REASON. SO I GUESS THERE ARE JUST TWO. Lost is long, and I would never make you read it again. To help the original readers, I have given you a quick summary: Bella and Michael Simmons worked for a NYC firm called Berkshire-Hathaway. Bella was heartless and vowed to take down C-Corp Edward was C-Corp (yikes!) Bella had started to date a hot guy named Thomas Vaughn Bella ended up breaking Vaughn's heart Bella gave Edward back his company - after she put Edward through a lot Bella left to be with Edward after she quit the Firm Bella and Edward got married (yay!) E & B set Vaughn up with his first love from High School - Kristin Roberts Alice is very mad that she was not Bella's bridesmaid - it was Simmons Lola is the boutique owner who helped Bella pick out her dresses Rosalie wants Bella's awesomely expensive shoes - - - - - - - Simmons is a player, but he is also sweet and intelligent He is a 6'2 surfer boy from California He is very hotly handsome *Lucky for you this story is about 20,000 words shorter than LOST *THIS STORY IS ALREADY DONE. I WILL UPDATE EVERYDAY!


Rating 5/5   Word Count 6183   Review this Chapter

Chapter 3 - CHANGE OF FATE

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When we walked outside, the valet was standing next to Edward's car. I let out a long whistle when I saw it. It was sweet.

"This looks a lot like the Audi that Robert Downey Jr. drove in Ironman." I said with admiration.

Edward hit the button that unlocked the doors. "More or less," he said. "I made a few modifications to make it go a little faster."

A little faster? I froze with my fingers on the handle. Bella put down her window and said, "Are you getting in?"

I climbed in the back seat, and ran my hands lovingly over the upholstery. I heard the engine purr to life, and then, Edward began to drive. As a general rule, I drive fast. I consider the speed limit merely a suggestion. Still, as I sat in the back seat, I noticed my hands were a little clammy. Edward wove in and out of the lanes effortlessly, and although he spent most of his time looking at Bella, he never came close to hitting any of the cars he was continuously dodging. I let out a sigh of relief when the car finally came to a rest in front of the Woolworth Building.

We entered the ballroom at the top of a large staircase that looked down over the dance floor. The orchestra was playing and the floor was full of couples dancing. We descended the staircase and were led to our table, where we saw Emmett seated there alone. I prepared myself to see Rosalie again. Bella came and stood beside me.

"Thank you for coming, she said to me. "I know that you really wanted to back out when Lanita couldn't come. I remember the last time we were at a dance together, and the great time you had with Sasha. I hope you have a nice time tonight."

I looked at her knowingly. "I remember that you came to that same dance with Thomas Vaughn, but spent the night dancing with Edward and his brothers."

Edward was suddenly behind Bella. He put his arms gently around her waist and brought his mouth to her neck.

"Now, every dance will be mine. I'm not sharing you with anybody."

He then took her hand in his and led her out to the dance floor. I self-consciously scratched the side of my head as I stood out like a sore thumb in the middle of all the couples. I felt like a third, fourth, and fifth wheel. I walked over to the table and slouched down in a seat across from Emmett.

"Hey Mike, how ya doin?"

I tried to swallow my fear. Did he know that I had tried to pick up on his wife this morning? I couldn't have been the first.

"Ju . . . just fine, Emmett. And you?"

"Great," he said with a large smile. Yeah, I thought. I would be doing great too, if I was with someone that looked like Rosalie.

As if on cue, she came into view as she made her way to our table. That undeniable feeling of passion started to rise and build. Her dark red dress plunged down to almost her navel, and there were cut-outs on the side of her dress that made me wonder just what was holding the dress together.

Emmett stood up when she arrived, and I followed suit. She looked over at me like she had never seen me before, and said flatly, "Who are you?"

Emmett began to answer before I had a chance to begin. "This is Michael Simmons. He and Bella worked together at that firm."

She nodded her head without even looking at me and held her hand out to Emmett. "Let's go dance," she said. He took her hand and they were gone. The back of her dress plunged down so far that my mouth actually fell open. Any of the models I knew would have been green with envy at the sight of her in that dress. I was sure of it.

I sat down and tried to look as inconspicuous as possible. I felt foolish. I counted seven songs as I sat there becoming more and more restless. I slouched down in my seat and dropped my head back on the chair as I decided to pass the time counting ceiling tiles.

Tonight, this place was definitely designed with the purpose of being romantic. The only light in the room came from large candelabras spaced around the floor, and dimly lit chandeliers set high in the ceiling. I sighed in frustration. The only thing that kept me from leaving and not standing up this Tanya person, was my goal of talking to Bella. I checked my watch for like the fiftieth time.

I turned my attention to the dance floor and looked for Bella. What I found wasn't encouraging. They were staring deeply at each other as Edward held her as tightly to him as possible. She was melted against him as he bent to kiss her and they never stopped looking at each other through the kiss. Her hands were running through his hair. He grabbed the back of her dress and somehow brought her even closer to him. I wasn't sure they were even aware of the music. The building could fall down around them and they would probably never know. I was never going to get the chance to talk to her.

The eleventh song had ended. I had just finished counting ceiling tiles, again, and I had begun to make a design out of the wax from the candle burning in the middle of the table, when I glanced up to the top of the stairs.

There was a woman standing there, looking slowly from one end of the room to the other. One hand came up to put her hair behind her ear and I felt my heart stall for just a moment. Almost as clearly as if someone was speaking to me, I heard a voice coming from inside me. It spoke one word. Just one word. I blinked in surprise, but without a doubt I knew I couldn't question it.

I suddenly had that strange feeling like I was falling from a great height. I let out a large gush of air and leaned forward in my seat. Please, oh please. Letthis be Tanya, I begged. Eventhough somehow, I already knew.

More graceful than any runway model, I watched her come down the staircase. Her hair flowed around her face and I inhaled with growing anxiety as Edward and Bella, then Emmett and Rosalie, met her at the bottom of the stairs and began talking to her. As they made their way across the room, I was able to see her more clearly. With every step I seemed in greater disbelief.

She had strawberry blond hair that fell long past her shoulders, yet framed her face perfectly. I had never seen hair quite that color before. She had high cheekbones and eyes that glowed in that golden tint I recognized from Edward's family. That should have registered with me on some strange level, but I was too far gone to let that fact sink in very far. I watched her smile as she approached the table, and I was amazed at the grace with which she walked. I knew I should stand, but I didn't have complete faith in my legs. My heart was pounding so madly. I grabbed the table, and somehow rose up to greet them. The four of us stood there for a moment until Bella broke the silence.

"Michael Simmons, I introduce you to Tanya Ivanova."

She reached her hand out to me and I bowed slightly as I took her hand and kissed it. I was surprised to find her touch as cold as ice, just like Edward and his family. Her skin was as hard as granite as I kissed her, but it only served to intrigue me further. Somehow, I got out the words.

"I am so pleased to meet you."

We all sat down around the table. I held out Tanya's chair for her. It was the one right next to mine, just so that there would be no mistake of where I would like her to sit. As she sat down, her hair floated by me, and I caught a scent of the most fragrant perfume I had ever smelled. It intoxicated me. I swallowed roughly as I sat down harder than I intended. I was a little dazed and surprised at the emotions that were churning inside me.

"Blind date tonight, Tanya?" We all looked up to see Rosalie smirking at Tanya with her arms folded.

"Yes, Rose," Tanya replied. "Edward called me an hour or so ago, and asked me if I would like to come to a ball tonight. I have not been to a ball since . . . ." She smiled and looked down, and then finished. "I have not been to a ball in a very long time."

"Besides," She looked at me now, and I felt my bones turn soft. "I have wanted to meet the famous Michael Simmons that Bella has told me so much about."

"Yes, I think we all know how you feel about men with a heartbeat," Rosalie said acidly.

My eyebrows furrowed with that comment. I wondered what Rosalie meant by that.

Tanya's hands came up from her lap and rested on the table in tight fists. She leaned forward and said flatly, "Nice dress, Rose. Are you wearing the rest of it tomorrow?"

I liked this girl.

Rosalie began to rise from her chair and Emmett grabbed her arm and chuckled. He whispered something in her ear, and she sat back in her chair with a huff. Tanya's hands were still balled into fists. She was wearing a beautiful ring on her right hand. I had never seen one like it. There were two jewels, an emerald and a ruby encased in silver and surrounded by tiny sapphires. I wanted very much to cut this tension, and bring back the smile that I was burning to see again.

I took a hold of her hand and straightened out her fingers. Her hands were still so cold. I brought her hand closer to my face as I said, "That is a very interesting ring. It is very unique."

"Thank you," she said softly. "It is the birthstones of me and my sisters. We all have identical rings."

I liked hearing that she was close to her family. I looked deeply into her eyes and felt my throat tighten. I still had her hand in mine. I didn't want to let go. I pulled her a little closer to me and said, "Would you dance with me?"

She smiled and something in me almost hurt.

"I would love to, Michael."

My name had never sounded so good. I led her out to the dance floor and intended to keep walking until we were at the far end of the room. It was darker there and more private. I tried to steal looks at her as we walked. Her dress was light pink, and it set off her pale skin in an almost inhuman way. It was strapless and I had to restrain myself from running my hand over the skin on her collarbone and shoulder. Her dress flowed behind her as she walked.

I found the spot I wanted, and I turned to face her as I stepped closer. I slowly put my arm around her tiny waist and pulled her in. My eyes closed for a small moment and I took her other hand and held it close between us. As I began slowly swaying to the music, I silently thanked whomever thought up the idea of dancing.

As I held her hand at my chest, I was aware that she would feel my heart pounding, but for some strange reason, I wanted her to know what she was doing to me. I wondered if there was any possible way that her heart was pounding hard for me. Was it really possible that I could be feeling this way and her not feel anything? I searched for any hint in her eyes that she could be affected by me.

"You're from California," she said with a playful smile.

"Is it that obvious?" I said with a tight throat.

"Yes, it is that obvious." She said it gently, with a smile that shone through her golden eyes.

She tilted her head as she asked another question. "Did you spend much of your time near the ocean?"

Thinking of my childhood and how much I loved the beach calmed me down a little. I smiled as I said, "I practically lived on Newport Beach. I was surfing before I could walk." She knew I was exaggerating, but she smiled anyway.

"I grew up near an ocean too. I lived quite close to the beach. It was a little different than Newport Beach, but I loved it so much. I spent my days in the sun and lived to feel the sand on my feet and the salt water on my skin." She paused slightly. "It seems like another lifetime ago."

Hey eyes were far away as she finished. I felt the urge to take care of her. To take away everything that could or ever would hurt her. I also felt a strong need to pull her closer. I obeyed it.

"Where was this beach, did you grow up in California?" I asked a little too eagerly. I wanted to know everything about her.

"No, it wasn't California. I grew up in a seaside town in Russia called Sochi."

I remembered her last name was Ivanova. Very Russian name. I hadn't expected her to say she was from another country.

I frowned in confusion. "You grew up in Russia? You don't have even a hint of an accent."

She nodded knowingly as she said, "I worked very hard to lose my accent. Unfortunately, I still have a lot of family there that I visit rather frequently, and my accent comes back quickly as soon as I step off the plane."

I looked deeply into her face, as I tried to picture her surrounded by a large Russian family as they all quickly spoke a foreign language to each other. I liked the image I created.

A new song began. Her face was close to my neck and I could feel her cold breath on my skin. I felt a strange chill run through me. Then to my great joy, she moved in even closer. I heard a slight groan as she said in a low whisper, "You smell mouthwatering."

I stopped swaying to the music and moved my mouth to her ear. "Mouthwatering?" I questioned.

She bowed her head as if she were embarrassed. "I . . . um . . .what . . . I mean is . . . . that you smell truly amazing. I like your cologne very much."

That would have been a nice comment. If I were wearing any cologne.

Her eyes slowly lifted up to meet mine. We stared at each other for a long heavy moment.

The hair on the back of my neck raised. Far down inside me, fighting to be heard, was a voice telling me to be afraid, to leave. It was like a strange instinct that stops a person from turning a dark corner. I clenched my teeth, surprised at the pain I felt from the thought of leaving her. There was definitely a voice. Whether or not I would be able to submit to it was another matter entirely.

I pulled her back closer to me and began dancing again. As I held her, I marveled that five minutes ago I had not even known she existed, yet, now I felt like I had always known her. I wondered how it was possible that she had been on the earth all this time and somehow, I hadn't been aware of her. How could I not have known?

"So, you are the famous Michael Simmons that Bella has been raving about." Her voice was like a bell that could be heard from far in the distance, as it rang through a large valley.

My throat was thick as I answered her. I very much wanted to know what Tanya already knew about me.

"So, Bella has mentioned me?" I asked.

There was a twinkle in her golden eyes as she said, "Much more than mentioned. Bella speaks very highly of you. She considers you one of her closest friends. She thinks you have great talents and abilities that suit you perfectly for the finance world."

I would have to thank Bella later for the glowing appraisal. I didn't seem to have any comment other than to smile. She went on.

"Edward also feels an affinity towards you."

I looked at her quizzically. "An affinity?" I questioned.

She laughed and it was like a wind chime moving in a gentle breeze. "Edward doesn't feel much of any emotion for anyone other than his family, and of course, Bella. So, the fact that he spoke of you in such a kind way, well . . . . I must say that I was intrigued by you and hoped that I would have the chance to meet you."

I grinned. "What could Edward have said that would have intrigued you?" I hoped it was something really good.

She looked warmly into my eyes and said, "Edward told me he would never have been reunited with Bella, were it not for you."

I thought about that last week of drama. The image of Bella crying under her desk flashed through my mind, and how in the conference room, while Bella was away for Thanksgiving, I somehow "told" Edward through my thoughts that Bella was still in love with him.

I remembered Edward staring into Bella's face when the judge pronounced them as married, and thought I would never feel that way about anyone. I was envious that he and Bella were so clearly in love each other. It seemed more a matter of destiny, or fate than just a matter of love. I was so sure that I would never feel it. So sure that I wasn't the type. Now, in a matter of minutes, it was as if my world had changed completely. Like I had been changed in some irrevocable way. A permanent thing.

I felt a charge slowly surging through my body. It was building and I was trying desperately to keep my emotions in check. What if I was making a fool of myself? What if she was feeling absolutely nothing for me? What if I never saw her again after tonight? My stomach was burning with the pain of all the uncertainty. It was a new emotion, this pain. How could I be terrified of losing someone I barely knew?

I tried to answer her comment about Edward and Bella in a way that would give her some hint of what I was feeling. I looked intently into her eyes.

"I believe that Edward and Bella would have found their way back to each other with or without my help. There is clearly no one else for either of them. They were meant to find each other and be together." I looked deeper into her eyes as I said, "I believe that for a lucky few, there is that miracle of finding your destiny, your soul mate. Don't you think so?"

I squeezed her hand slightly tighter than before. There had to be balance between communicating my emotions, and not scaring her away. She looked at me, searching my face for a long moment before she spoke.

"You speak of destiny only in terms of when something good happens, such as falling in love." Her voice fell to just above a whisper as she finished. "Fate can be cruel as well as kind. I have only seen the worst of what fate can do." Her eyes were far away from me. Far, far away. Her chin was set against some invisible foe, as her breath, cold and sweet, breathed out around my face.

What could have happened to her?

I felt a great need to protect her. To shield her from whatever would have made her feel this way. Her eyes were downcast. I had to see her eyes.

I almost stopped myself, but in the end, I couldn't. I let go of her hand and placed my finger under her chin and very gently raised her face up to mine. When she was looking at me again, I ran my fingers over her cheek. It was hard like granite, and so cold. I placed my palm against the side of her face and I watched her close her eyes against the warmth. I pulled her tighter against me as I looked into her eyes and said, "Fate can change."

She looked away, and I watched her breathe in deeply, then let it out slowly in a quiet sigh. When she looked back at me, she seemed slightly calmer. She wore a thin smile on her face, but it looked forced.

I wanted to change the subject, to take us in a different direction than this serious topic we had landed on. It was so strange to have someone else's happiness be a priority for me. I wanted to see her smiling and at peace.

The band continued to play quiet and slow, and I took a deep breath and pulled her back in close to me. I again took her hand and held it close between us and smiled down at her. I wanted to keep her on the dance floor. I didn't want to share her with anyone else. I wanted the conversation to be only between us.

I wanted to know everything about her. I wanted to know about her favorite book, if she had a favorite play, or movie. I wanted to know about her favorite Christmas as a child, and if she had a keepsake that meant the world to her.

I began with easy questions, that would not alarm her to my growing fascination with her. I asked her about her sisters. I learned that she lived with them, in of all places, Alaska. They lived near a small town called Denali, and I wondered what would make this magnificent person live so far away from civilization. It seemed to me, that she could be anything she wanted to be. I couldn't imagine anyone not being under her spell.

I asked her about her relationship with Edward and his family. She only stated simply that their families had been friends for many years. It was curious to me that Tanya and the Cullens had similar looks. I had assumed they were related.

We talked for the better part of the evening, as we danced alone, far in the shadows away from the crowds. She was warm and open with me and responded to each question with answers that would lead me to ask even more questions. I simply couldn't get enough of her.

She asked me questions too, thought provoking ones, that made me think and ponder on areas of my life in a new way. She challenged me and kept me on my toes and kept me guessing about what she would ask next.

We were silent for a moment, and I studied her. We just danced while I held her and took her in. I had a strange desire to watch her sleep. Just to hold her and keep her safe while she lay in my arms. I swallowed deeply and tried not to think about how I couldn't possibly imagine this perfection was meant for me, yet, not being able to fathom her not being with me, either.

I wondered what she had been like as a child. If she had ever been afraid in the night. If she had been close to her parents, or if she were close to them now. I wanted to meet her family. I laughed to myself as I thought back on how when any of the women I had dated suggested that I meet her family, that had spelled the end of the relationship. They were good for laughs and companionship, but that was it.

"What is so funny?" She asked with a smile.

I looked down with surprise, not aware that I had been laughing out loud. It would not go over well to tell her just how deeply I was already falling for her, or that I wanted to meet her family. I was so worried I would scare her away. I asked what I thought was a harmless question.

"I know about your sisters, but not your parents. Do they live in Denali, too?"

She immediately tensed and I watched her eyebrows pull together as if she were in pain.

"I apologize," I said gently. "Did I ask the wrong thing? Did something happen to your parents?"

"They died a long time ago." She answered quickly. Like it was a rehearsed statement that she had told people over and over again. I gripped her hand a little tighter, trying to communicate that I was sorry for her loss.

"I'm sorry," I said simply.

I looked away from her for a moment, and I saw that the crowd had thinned somewhat. I had no idea what time it was, or how long we had been dancing. I didn't care. I just wanted to keep holding her. I started to wonder what would happen when this night ended. I had to make plans with her. I needed to get her number, find where she was staying. . . be the one to take her home.

I looked back at Tanya and she was staring off to the side with her mouth set in an angry line. I followed her eyes and saw a man standing about 20 feet away. I first noticed his eyes. They were, glowing, is the only way I could describe it. They seemed as if they were a deep red color, but I knew that couldn't be right. His shoulder length hair was dark, and he was looking at Tanya with deep disapproval. I could almost feel his menacing anger. Tanya looked back at my face, but I was still staring at the man. She took my chin and turned it back to face her.

"Who is that man?" I asked with perhaps a little anger. This jealousy thing was new to me. I was surprised at how badly I wanted to keep her with me, and no one else.

"No one important, Michael." She looked right into my eyes, as if to reassure me.

I turned back, and the man was gone. I turned the other way to see where he went, but Tanya took my face again, and gently pulled me to look at her.

"He's gone," she whispered.

I opened my mouth to protest, but she distracted me by wrapping her arms softly around my shoulders. I could feel her cold hands running up my neck. She was curling her fingers through my hair, and soon her fingers were entwined and pulling me closer.

I was dizzy, and breathless. I felt perspiration trickle between my shoulder blades. My head was reeling with thoughts about this woman that were new and so terrifying, and yet, I was so elated, so relieved to be experiencing them. I wanted these feelings. I wanted her.

I wanted her like crazy.

And I knew I would want her the next day, and the next, and the next.

Before I knew what was happening, she took me by the hand and was pulling me off the dance floor. We weaved through the couples and I didn't care where she was taking me. As long as she was holding my hand, I would follow her anywhere.

I then realized that she was leading me to the balcony. We stepped through the doorway and I felt a rush of January night air blow into my face. It felt good. I was way overheated. The cold air also cleared my head a little, and I breathed it in as I squeezed her hand. I was calming down. I was embarrassed that I had been so aggressive in there. I was sure my hands had been all over her. I felt ashamed thinking that she had probably brought me out here to calm me down after I had acted like less than a gentleman.

I was wrong.

She pulled me far into the shadows behind the decorative trees and bushes and yanked me tight against her. I felt a soft moan escape from me as our lips met. Her mouth was like granite. Her lips like ice. She pushed them hard against me and I answered her every time. Her moves were sensuous, yet tender, almost like she was trying not to hurt me.

Kissing her took me to a different place. She was everything. I didn't know it was possible to feel this way about anyone, or anything. I was powerless. I was fearless. I just had to be with her. Holding her.

I grabbed her and gently pressed her up against the wall as I tried to kiss her deeper. At first, she welcomed it, and then she stiffened as she pushed me away. I stared up at her in surprise and I saw what could only be described as terror on her face.

"I'm so sorry," I breathed. "Did I frighten you?" I placed my hand on her cheek, and she closed her eyes and shook her head.

"No," she breathed. "I can't . . . . you are so . . ." She ran her hands swiftly over her face. It was so fast that it startled me. She groaned and said, "You smell so . . . . but it's more than that. . . . it's so much more. . . . ," she whispered.

She all but nailed herself to the wall as she tried to put distance between us. I would have none of it.

"Hey," I said soothingly. "It's okay."

I looked into her eyes. They seemed darker. Her chest was heaving. "Michael," she whispered.

I moved in slowly and laid her head on my chest. I rocked back and forth as I ran my hand softly over her hair.

"Can you hear that?" I murmured quietly.

"Hear what?" She breathed.

"My heart. It's beating, just for you."

I felt a tremble run through her. She grabbed the lapel of my tuxedo jacket and held on tightly. I kissed the top of her head as I continued rocking her slowly.

I was still bewildered. I had kissed other women. A lot of other women. I had held them tightly. I had experienced many passionate moments with the most beautiful women this world had to offer.

Why was this so different?

Why did just holding her like this stir feelings in me deeper than the throes of passion with them?

I hardly knew her. I didn't care. It didn't matter. I couldn't imagine ever holding anyone but her, for, well . . . for forever.

We stayed that way for a long time. I don't have any idea how long it really was. I don't remember hearing the music or seeing anyone else. I don't remember feeling the cold. It was just the two of us. Just us.

At some point, a light snow began to fall. I rubbed her frigid arm and realized she must be freezing in her thin gown. I took off my jacket and laid it over her shoulders as I said, "I better take you back inside. You'll catch your death out here, and that would be unfortunate since I intend to take you to dinner tomorrow night."

When did I get so bold?

Her shoulders fell as she pulled back to look into my face. She stared into my eyes for a moment and then she slowly began shaking her head.

I panicked.

"You don't want to go to dinner with me?" I said softly.

She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. She looked away from me and said, "Michael, I can't go to dinner with you tomorrow night."

I tried not to look overeager. It was understandable that she would have plans. I tried to make my voice sound light.

"Oh sure, of course. Is there a chance that we could have lunch together?" That definitely sounded overeager.

Too late now. I moved in and took her hand. I ran my lips over her fingers as I said softly, "I would love to see you tomorrow."

She squeezed my hand for a moment, and then her fingers stiffened as she pulled free from my grip.

"Michael, I . . . . ." She swallowed hard and took a step away from me. She straightened her back and tried to speak.

"Michael, I can't see you again."

I felt all the air escape out of my lungs. My head was shaking hard back and forth and I began speaking before I even realized what I was saying.

"No, no, no. You can't possibly. I know we just met, but I. . . . . but we. . . . . Tanya, why don't you want to see me again?"

It was then that I realized she was already seeing someone. That man inside had something to do with it. She had probably come tonight as a favor to Edward, thinking this would be just a harmless evening in which she was helping out a friend. But I just couldn't see. I couldn't possibly fathom that she had not felt something tonight.

I was not in this alone.

I just couldn't be.

I stepped closer to her and said in a low and forceful voice. "Whatever obstacle, whatever problem is keeping you from seeing me again, I'll fix it. I won't, I can't lose you. I just found you."

She just stared at me shaking her head. Her teeth were clenched and her hands were balled into fists as she spoke again.

"This is a problem you can't fix, Michael. I won't pull you in to my world." I reached for her and she put up her hand to keep me back.

She kissed her fingers and held them to my lips as she whispered. "Tonight was beautiful. Tonight was . . . . a dream. Good-bye, Michael."

I opened my mouth to protest. I closed my eyes for a small moment as I thought of what I could say to convince her to see me the next day. And when I opened my eyes, she was gone. I heard a thud as my tuxedo jacket hit the floor.

I looked wildly from side to side as I screamed her name. I ran from one side of the balcony to the other. For a crazy moment, I thought she must have jumped. There was no way she could have opened the door and escaped so quickly. I looked over the edge and to my relief I saw nothing. I tore through the doorway and began searching everywhere for her. I ran up the stairway and out the entrance, she wasn't there. I ran back into the ballroom and weaved through the dancing couples until I found Edward and Bella.

"Edward," I said breathlessly. "I have got to find Tanya. Did you see where she went?"

He looked at me for a moment in confusion, and then although he tried to hide it, I saw a momentary look of recognition in his eyes. He glanced at the stairway and I followed his gaze. I saw nothing. For a moment his head was down as though he were deep in thought, and then he looked up slowly. His face was a mask but his eyes showed concern.

"Michael, I'm sorry. Tanya is gone."

I was staring at him almost ferociously. Through clenched teeth I said, "What do you mean, gone? She was just here. There is no way she could have gotten away from me that quickly. Please, help me find her. Call her right now, please."

He swallowed and looked at Bella. She was staring at me with a mystified look on her face. She turned to Edward and said, "What happened"?

Edward looked back at me slowly and said, "She doesn't want me to call her. She doesn't want you to find her." He had a sympathetic look on his face as he said, "Michael, I don't believe you will ever see her again."

I reeled back from the shock. I stumbled a little and Bella grabbed my arm and held on tightly.

"Simmons, what's going on?" She asked.

I just kept staring at the stairway.

In the span of a few hours I had met a girl.

Somehow, inexplicably, I had been changed by this girl, forever.

I had touched her, smelled her, tasted her.

I had finally, finally, found her.

I, Michael Simmons, had fallen irrevocably in love with a girl.

I had fallen for her so hard that I wanted nothing more than just her, for the rest of my life.

Now, she was gone.