Author's Note: i'm back! thanks for the reviews! yesterday and today i've been crazy busy, of course... anyway,

Elemental Moon: yep we're starting where we left off ;-)

leila: thanks!

Hug a Tree: i'm glad you love it!

Alyssa Pires: oh you're welcome! yeah it's not really a sequel, persay... it's like... a companion? haha i dunno. and i'm glad you're going to be loyal!

buttshovingmonster: i'm glad you like it!

soi-distant writer: i know! i'd be so pissed if i was erik. and yep, you'll still see bits and pieces of izzy, ana, andrew, and david... i mean, we all know ana calls erik a lot

Kythia: i'm glad you don't hate anymore! i have a bit of free time... mostly at night... tomorrow i'm going to have a little... i'm going tothe movies and then saturday i'm hanging out with my best friend... we shall see, we shall see. i like that dance!

giRLAddiCted: well it wasn't like erik was exactly sweeping her off her feet :-/ ... and ben kinda jumped in there and led her off probably before she knew what was going on. and no, she didn't sleep with ben. that would be trashy! jake is so funny... definitely the weird best friend. i don't think i can handle it if it gets as complicated as the shadow so don't you worry your pretty little head. i'm glad you're religiously reviewing! forever fast paced, that's me.

.mind: i'm glad you're happy! i think he likes her... infatuated... we all know that love is a lot more then a first look. i think erik is crushing on her hard, if anything...

darkness-is-shiny: i'm glad you read the shadow! it's ok... not all of us can be super reviewers. questions, questions, questions! ...sidesteps them all since i never answer direct questions about the plot! yep! i like shinny things!

aqua-angel: haha i'm glad you liked it! jake is a crazy ass. oh yeah, i know what you mean about the guys sounding girly... it's like whoa, a guy would never say that hahaha! well i guess we all have moments... when erik first saw christine, he had a moment, when she first saw ben and vice versa, they had a moment... and he really is a nice guy! the party is the night of izzy's party so we're leaving right where we left off. hey it's almost 2:20 AM right now!

anyway, here's more!

Chapter 2

I pushed the door open and walked into work. My manager Paul, who is balding, cranky, middle aged, and has perpetual pit stains glared at me with his beady eyes. He made a big show of checking his watch. "Cutting it close, Erik," he announced snidely and then stared me down.

"Sorry." I mumbled, walking around to the other side of the counter.

"You're lucky I didn't call someone else.…" he told me with a long sigh as I clocked in. He went on with, "I thought you weren't going to make it." I silently checked the time on the computer.… I was three minutes early but I knew better then to point that out. "I'll be in my office," he snipped at me before turning on heel and walking into his office.

I sighed and then looked around the video store. Empty. It was a Sunday afternoon… hardly a busy time of day to rent a movie. I knew it would speed up some time later that day but for now, it was slow. I glanced at Paul's door.… shut. I pulled out my books and began studying.

The bell over the door of the store jingled as it opened. I looked up to see a mother pushing her three kids in. I automatically winced.… usually the kids were whiny and/or indecisive and then the tears came. If they didn't get what they wanted.… I glanced longingly at the bottle of Advil I kept hidden behind the cash register.

"Hi," the mom smiled wearily at me, pushing her teased blond hair behind her ear. She had to be either close to or my mom's age. No wedding ring on her finger.… no wonder she was tired, she had to deal with these kids all the time. Don't get me wrong, I like kids and all but.… sometimes they just irritate the crap out of me.

"Welcome to Video Warehouse." I automatically smiled back politely.

She turned to her kids. "What do you kids want to watch?" I heard her ask them as she pushed them over to the kiddie section.

"Barney!" they shouted and then ran over to the children's section, loudly bickering about what movie they wanted to see. I sighed quietly, rapping my pen on my notebook that I was taking notes with as I read my book. I waited for the tears.

"I want Barney and Friends!" the two little boys yelled.

"I want Barney's Birthday Party!" the singular girl said, voice full of tears.

"But WE don't!" her brothers yelled back at her.

And here we go.

"MOMMMMMM!" the girl wailed.

"I hate Barney's Birthday Party!" one of her brothers yelled at her.

Paul came out of his office. "Is there a problem?" he asked me angrily.

"No, sir." I replied. "They're just having problems choosing a movie." I pointed in the direction of the kid section.

"What seems to be the problem?" Paul began to stalk over to the section.

"I'm so sorry, we're just.…" the mother appeared and I watched as their eyes locked. ".…trying to find a movie," she finally finished, staring at him.

Whoa, was I seeing what I thought I was seeing?

"I want Barney's Birthday Party!" the little girl tugged on Paul's arm.

"Brittany, don't do that!" her mother scolded, glancing at her for a millisecond, and then dragging Brittany back to her side as she stared up at Paul.

Paul leaned over slightly and I winced as his massive khaki pants strained from his fat. "I'm sure you can watch both, Brittany," he told her sternly.

"Mommy said only one," she replied, looking up at him with big blue eyes. She really was cute, save for the huge tears in her eyes.

"Then this one is on me." Paul announced, gently taking the video from her.

"Oh no," her mother jumped in. "I couldn't ask you to do that!"

"It would be my pleasure," he replied in what I assumed he thought was a deeply suave voice. "Erik," he turned around suddenly. "Could you charge this to my account?" he asked me grandly.

"Yeah." I grunted back as I dialed in his employee number.

The mother kept saying that she couldn't let Paul do that but I could tell by the tone of her voice, and the way that she was looking at him, that she was going to accept it. They couldn't keep their eyes off each other. "I'm Laura, by the way," she finally introduced himself. I printed out the receipt, grabbed a pen, and waited for him to sign.

He threw down a couple of bucks and then signed quickly. "Paul," he replied. "Manager of the store," he announced magnificently, as though being the manager of this dump was something.

But apparently Laura thought so because she looked impressed. "Wow that's amazing!" she exclaimed.

"Mommy, I'm hungry," one of her sons tugged on her arm.

"Just a second, baby," she replied distractedly. Poor kid.… his mother was too busy flirting to feed him.

"Let me get this other movie checked out to you," he grabbed both cases and handed them to me. I busied myself with retrieving the movies so that I could smirk when they weren't looking. "So what are your plans for dinner tonight?" he asked her in the same gruff, deeply suave voice. Somehow I managed to choke back a laugh.

"Feeding my kids," she replied almost apologetically.

"Would you like to go out some time?" he asked her, voice deep.

I heard the pause and glanced casually up at them as I rang up her movie. "Do you come over and join us?" she asked with a small smile.

"Sure," he agreed. "May I have your number?" that was the lamest line ever.…

.…and she ate it up. "Sure," she replied. He pulled out his cell phone and took it down. She handed me a credit card and chatted with him for a few more minutes and then left the store, tossing a meaningful glance over her shoulder at Paul.

Paul glanced at me and then hurried into his office. I thought about mocking him but thought better of it.… too easy. I sat down on my stool and scowled down at my book. Even my fat obnoxious manager was getting more dates then I was.

The bell rang a little while later. I automatically looked up from my work. Two girls, probably 15 to 16, were looking at me with adoring eyes. Great. It would have been nice, except I'm 19 and they weren't cute. I forced a smile and then quickly looked back down at my work.

I heard them whispering as they looked among the shelves and waited patiently for one of them to gather up their courage. "Excuse me," one of them finally came up to the counter. "Do you have Legally Blond in?" she asked breathlessly.

Was I supposed to be impressed? "Let me check." I replied politely. One of the guys I used to work with was an ass to a girl who thought he was hot, she called Paul on his ass, and he got fired. I needed this job.… so I was forced to be nice to her. I typed it into the computer and then replied, "Yeah, it's in."

"I can't find it," she stepped back from the counter with doe eyes and jerked her thumb at the shelves.

"I'll help you." I had no choice but to get up and walk over to the comedy section. I scanned my fingers down the alphabetically stacked shelves (couldn't find it, my ass), found the movie in the L section, and handed it to her with another polite smile.

"Thanks," she leaned in as she took the movie from me and got in my face, looking into my eyes.

"You're welcome." I held back a laugh.… was I now supposed to be attracted to her now that she had looked deeply into my eyes?

"You know.…" she began quietly. I had no choice but to wait since the only way out was around her. "I think you might like this movie.… do you want to watch it some time with me?"

"No thanks, I've already seen it with my girlfriend." I replied smoothly.

The lie worked. Her face fell and her friend put a hand over her mouth, holding back a laugh. "Oh.… I mean.…" she fumbled.

"Let me know if you need anything else." I made a move to go around her and she flattened herself against the shelf as I slid past her, back to her.

They got some more chick flick movies and paid, leaving me alone in the store again. I heard Paul tunelessly humming along with the radio in the other room and smirked.

I was studying again when the bell over the door rang again. I looked up and watched Christine walk into the shop. She had changed her clothes into a soft white sweater and jeans. I felt my pen drop from my fingers as she stopped in the doorway and looked back out. "Hey Erik," she looked over her shoulder at me quickly, flashing me a dazzling smile.

Stunned, I blurted out, "Hey."

"Took you long enough," she teased someone outside.

"This woman was taking forever to get out of that parking spot." Ben replied, taking her hand after he walked in. "Hey dude," he acknowledged me.

"Hey." I nodded back.

"Jake's knee deep in cleaning up that shit," he said off handedly as he scanned the new releases.

"I bet." I replied, watching Christine's slender back as she walked down, glancing around the store.

"He might be done by the time you get off," he smirked as he walked out of the new release aisle. He turned to Christine, who had disappeared down one of the aisles. "What are you feeling, babe?"

Babe? He had known her for not even 24 hours and he was already going for the pet names?

"I told you not to call me that," she said distractedly from the depths of her aisle. I hid a smile at the backbone she showed.

"I know, I'm just teasing." Ben replied, walking down the aisle. They went quiet for a moment and I found myself pretending to read as I strained for noise. I heard a bit of smacking and winced.… they were kissing. "Yeah." I heard him mutter to something she whispered.

I leaned over the counter and called, "Finding everything okay back there?" I know, petty of me, but come on.

They reappeared, looking all smiley and red. "Yeah," he smirked and then asked, "Is Fight Club in?" I typed it into my computer and then nodded. "We'll take that," he put his arm around her and pulled her to him. She smiled up at him and I felt a jealous pang go through me.

"Okay." I went back into the stacks to look for the movie, grumbling silently to myself. I had seen her first, I wanted her first, and Ben had come over and grabbed her out from right under my nose.… I had no backbone, didn't grab her when I should have.… I finally found the movie, came out, and found them kissing. "And here it is!" I threw it down on the counter loudly and then mustered a smirk as they jumped apart.

"Thanks, man," he replied calmly, pulling out his wallet. He paid for it and then took the movie.

"Bye Erik." Christine flashed another dazzling smile over her shoulder as they left. I automatically waved back and then slowly sank down onto my stool. She was so beautiful.… I rested my elbows on the table and then buried my face in my hands. It could have been me. It could have been me.

Paul cleared his throat loudly later, coming out of his office, and shut the door, making a show of locking it. "I'll be gone for the rest of the evening," he told me gruffly.

"Okay." I nodded, pinching the underside of my leg so that I wouldn't laugh.

"Go ahead and call my cell if there are any problems," he told me loudly. The customers milling around the store looked up. "Or you can call Laura's house.… though it had better be important, seeing as this is a date," he slid the number across the counter to me. "See you Tuesday."

"Bye, Paul." I replied as he made a grand exit. I shook my head and finally allowed myself to smirk.