I glanced at the clock and frowned.

Ten minutes to go.

I smoothed my hand over my red dress nervously and bit my lip. I looked okay, I guess. The dress was a deep red, with short sleeves and went down to mid-thigh. The high neck contrasted nicely with the low back. My hair was up in a messy bun and I had applied minimum makeup. Mascara, gloss and eye shadow were all I needed to bring out my muddy brown eyes.

I bit my lip and patted my hair down. Why was I so nervous? I was going out with a guy I didn't even like. But…why did my stomach feel like it was about fall out my butt?

I walked out of my room, only to find Quinn splayed out in front of the TV. Her long legs were hanging off the arm of the sofa and in her hands was a bowl of pretzels. I pushed her legs out of the way and took a seat, stealing some of her food.

She glanced at me. "You look nice. Hot date?" She turned her head back to the show.

I rolled my eyes. "Yes, I have a date. No, he's not hot. He's just an annoying, pain-in-the-derriere colleague of mine."

But she wasn't even paying attention to me anymore and I could see why. Brad Pitt's biceps were a great distraction. I sighed and stood up, fetching my laptop from my bag. Might as well get some work done.

About five minutes later, the doorbell emitted its loud, annoying buzz. Slamming the computer top down, I walked slowly to the door. Ian stood outside, a coat in one hand and a bouquet of flowers in the other.

"Hi, you look great, Claire." He raked his eyes slowly up and down my figure. Pervert.

"Thanks." I grabbed my coat and joined him on the porch. I stood in front of him and could easily identify the height difference between us. While he probably stood at 6', I barely passed 5 feet. It was intimidating and scary to have to look up so high at a person.

My inner voice decided to speak up at that moment.

Claire, just try to make the best of this evening. He might actually turn out to be a nice guy.

Okay, okay. I will.

Please let me enjoy this night.

The restaurant Ian took me to was one of the most expensive and secluded restaurants in the city. It was called Mancini's and was owned by an Italian couple. It was not very well-known, and from the outside, it looked like quite a rundown building with only a bright flashing sign as its indicator.

It was quite pricey, and one had to make reservations in order to secure a table. I was surprised that Ian was willing to go to such a nice restaurant for our date. It showed that he really did want to make amends and be friends. And, besides, staying mad at him over a stolen bracelet was stupid, especially when he didn't even steal it.

I snapped out of my daze and realized that we were already sitting at the table. Ian was perusing the menu and I took the opportunity to examine him. He looked good. He had taken off his suit jacket and his pale blue shirt was unbuttoned at the neck, showing off his strong neck. His brown hair was neat and his hands were dry and slightly bloody around the knuckles.

Did he get into a fight or something?

I decided not to mention anything and glanced at the menu. The cod sounds good, but so do the ribs. Wow, this place really is expensive. Maybe I should order the salad. That way I won't run the bill up too high for Ian. Wait…he is paying, isn't he?

I snapped my head up and voiced my question. As soon as I realized what I had said, my face immediately reddened and I mumbled a 'sorry. Ian blinked at me, before shaking his head and chuckling.

"The link between my mouth and brain has obviously connected." I mumbled apologetically.

He chuckled again. "You can pay for your own half, if you want to. I won't force you to let me pay. Besides, you don't really seem like the type of person to take no for an answer."

"No, I'm not."

Stay cool, Claire. Stop embarrassing yourself!

After the uneventful dinner—during which conversation was scarce to nothing and he payed!—Ian thought it would be nice to go to a Broadway play. I was surprised! I only thought we were going out to dinner.

As Ian drove through the crowded streets of downtown Manhattan, I found myself dozing off. Every few seconds, I'd fall asleep and then jolt awake.

"Claire…Claire." I felt something jostle my shoulder. A warm hand smoothed my messy hair away from my face and I smiled. I heard a faint chuckle and then I felt arms pull me out of the car. I snapped my eyes open and screamed.

Ian screamed, staring into my wide, frightened eyes and dropped me on the frigid ground. Did I mention that it was the middle of October and was getting quite chilly out?

I glared at him, reaching back and rubbing my sore butt. I attempted to get up—with the help of the parking meter since I wouldn't accept Ian's help—then fell flat on the ground once again.

Stupid heels! I tore off my death heels and threw them as far down the sidewalk as I could. Ian was smiling nervously at the small crowd gathered around us.

"It's okay, folks. Just a little tumble, that's all." Oh, right, make me look like the clumsy one!

He leaned down to my level. "Claire, it's starting to look really odd that you're voluntarily sitting on the ground and that you're not wearing any shoes. Get up."

He reached out and grabbed my hand. I stood unsteadily on my feet and leaned all my weight on the meter while he ran down the sidewalk and fetched my shoes. I reached down to fix the hem of my dress when a sharp pain shot through my arm. Startled, I pulled up the sleeve of my dress. A long, bloody scratch was etched into my skin. Crimson blood surrounded the wound, but the scratch itself had a brown crust forming over it. I touched the bottom of the scratch and felt a warm, sticky substance meet my cold, dry finger. I sighed inwardly and bit my lip. I really hated blood!

Ian jogged back to me. "Here, your shoes." And in true 'Prince Charming' fashion, he knelt down and slipped my delicate—ha!—feet into them.

He did notice my scratch. But, not until after we had entered the theatre, paid for our tickets and sat down. I wasn't going to say anything because I was already fuming inside. If I was a cartoon character, I would be all red in the face and would have smoke churning out of my ears.

He actually sounded concerned and had apologized, like, thirty times for dropping me. But I told him it was fine—even though all I wanted was to go home and rant to Quinn about my crappy life. Thank god he decided to let it go! A trip to the bathroom was all I needed to clean up my wound. I pressed a damp paper towel to the wound, while watching The Phantom serenade the heroine. What was her name again? God knows I had seen the movie countless times, but could never remember the names of the characters. I actually really enjoyed the play and even cried a little.

"So, what now?"

Ian slipped his hands into the pockets of his pants and shrugged. He had given me his coat and it was wrapped snugly around me. It smelt like him—like a mixture of soap and pine. It smelt good, I could sniff it all day.

Good thing I stopped before I looked like a creep.

I spotted a park up ahead and without looking back at Ian, I ran towards the swings. I heard him catch up to me and he started pushing me from behind.

I felt like a kid again. The wind blowing through my hair and the familiar urge to go as high as I could overcame my body.

But, I also felt old at the same time. For one thing, my hips were beginning to ache because they couldn't fit properly in the small swing. As Ian kept pushing me, I wiggled my butt around, trying to find a comfortable position.

Nope. Nothing.

I jumped off the swing and fell face-first into the cold sand. I spit out the sand and began clawing at my tongue, desperate to rid my mouth of the salty sand.

"Eww, ewww, EWWW!" I jumped up and down, sticking my tongue out as if the cool air would sweep the sand off the surface.

I heard Ian chuckling behind me. What was with this guy? Am I funny or something? Is it funny to watch people spit out nasty sand from their mouth? Or maybe it's just me. Maybe there's something wrong with me. I am not a funny person! I am an independent and professional woman!

I glared menacingly at him, my eyes cutting holes in his face. He stopped laughing. I stopped glaring and smiled sweetly. Do not underestimate me!

I felt like crying. All I wanted at that moment was to go home and soak in the tub with a glass of wine.

I straightened up and walked stiffly to the car. Leaning against the door, I closed my eyes and sunk slowly to the cool ground. Resting my arms on my knees, I buried my face in my hands and remained like that until I heard the familiar footsteps.

He wasn't laughing or smiling—just a blank, unemotional face.

Was that good?

His big rough hands secured themselves under my arms and hoisted me up. Stumbling slightly, I grasped his shirt to keep from falling.

Wow, we're really close.

I noticed something else. His blue eyes had tiny flecks of gold around the rim, making his naturally dark-blue eyes brighter than normal when up close. They were beautiful.

Snapping out of my daze, I pushed him away from me and tried to control my irregular breathing. I opened the door and sat, staring stubbornly out the window.

I hear Ian get in, but I refused to meet his eyes.

What's happening to me? Why am I acting like this?

I guess I'd just have to find out.

Hey…wait, I never asked about his bloody knuckles.

Turning in my seat, I voiced my question.

"It's nothing, don't worry about it." His fingers gripped the steering wheel so tightly the blood drained from his hands turning them a sickly white.

Maybe he's in the mob and has to kill people to earn his keep. Oh my god, maybe it's a family thing and in order to get in you have to participate in some sort of duel thing.

Yup, that's my over-exaggerated mind.

I glanced at him. His face was scrunched, as though he was in deep thought. His mouth formed a tight line, but he had relaxed his grip on the steering wheel.

He pulled up in front of my house and ran around to open my door. He offered me his hand and pulled me out of the vehicule. I smiled in thanks and started to walk up the path.


I froze and slowly pivoted around.

He ran up to me and grabbed my shoulders.

Leaning down, he captured my lips in a chaste kiss. I couldn't breathe! How dare he!

Colour me shocked! And, being me, I did the only thing I could think of.

I slapped him.

He backed away, eyes wide and eyebrows all the way up to his hairline. He touched a hand to his tender cheek and glared at me.

I couldn't believe I had done that!

"I'm so sorry! I-I d-didn't mean to...do...that!"

"I guess I'm supposed to tell you it's okay. But, I'm not gonna say that. Yeah, I'm totally used to having girls slap me after I kiss them. Sure. See you at work, Claire."

I watched him as he sped off in his car and must've stood there for an hour. Quinn glanced through the window and quickly ushered me inside.

"Did you guys have sex? Was he good? Oh, I bet he was good! It must've been divine!"

"Did you use protection? WHAT have I told you about unprotected sex?! Claire, Claire, CLAIRE!"

"Wait, what's wrong?"

"He kissed me."

"H-he did?"

"He kissed me."


"He kissed me."

"I'm guessing it must've been good."

"He-wait, what? Why do you say that?"

"Because you keep repeating it."

"There wasn't much to it. It was very...appropriate."

"So, you didn't rip his clothes off?


"Goodnight, Quinn."

"Don't know what's wrong with you, with a fine hunk of meat there, you should've just..."

"Just...what? Fucked him in the middle of the street? He kissed me and you're just so hung up on the fact that I went on a freakin' date with him! No, you're hung up on the fact that I didn't sleep with him! I'm not a slut! He kissed me and I wanted to tell you all about it, but you're just assuming things that you think are true! Well, they're not, so come off it!"

"Sorry." Quinn mumbled and focused her attention on the tv.

I immediately felt bad. My friend was trying to make me feel good about myself, she was trying to make me realise that I was hot and that it was possible for me to go out with hot guys.

I reached over and hugged her rom the side, mumbling a "sorry."

She patted my head and smiled. All was forgiven.

As I drifted to sleep, my head resting on her warm shoulder, I heard her ask:

"Did he really kiss you?"