**** This is my first story, any input would be greatly appreciated.****

"Listen, Marty, I really don't know." She said to one of her good friends. Although she trusted his judgment, she just wasn't sure. She had hoped this dinner party would just be a good chance to relax, and now, with Marty wanting to invite some unknown guy, it looked like it might become a tense situation.

"Oh come on Marie, he's a laid back guy. He's a lot like you in that respect. I guarantee that he'll get along with everyone. Just let me bring him. Since he's started teaching he hasn't had much of a life. He's lonely." The puppy dog sound in his voice nearly broke her will. "Have I ever led you wrong?"

She thought about that one. While this guy didn't sound like another 'life of the party' type like Marty was, she was also reminded of the numerous parties that had ended up in her room at school, because she trusted Marty. "Yes, you have. But if he's like you say he is, then I'm willing to forego the usual distrust. But I swear, if it ends up a nightmare... I may never speak to you again!"

"Like I believe that. You said that when we started dating, and now, we're broken up and best friends. So, I don't think you hold too tightly to your word." He chuckled.

"Okay, okay!" She was exasperated with him, he knew her too well. "Wednesday night, 7pm at my apartment, bring a nice bottle of wine or .. or something. And you can bring whatever-his-name-is along." She wished she had able to be strong about it. She had wanted a quiet night with friends, and now, who knows what it would become. It could even be some hair brained plan of Marty's to set her up, again. "I hope you don't want to set ..."

"Don't finish that. You might like this one." Click. He hung up on her. Red flags went up. It was another of his hair brained plans. She was just in the mood to call him back and tell him the deal was off, he couldn't bring his friend, when there was a knock on her door. Lucky bastard!

She got off her barstool at her breakfast nook and padded across the living room to her door. Pushing her dog, Hector, away from the door, she swung it open to reveal her best friend Kristen and her son Caleb.

"You are never going to believe what Marty wants now!" Moving so her friend could enter her apartment. Swinging the door shut she moved back towards the kitchen, on the way, swinging baby Caleb into her arms. She smiled at him and patted his round cheek. "He's looking cheerful this morning. How'd you sleep?"

Kristen had plopped down on her sofa and lain her head back against the head rest. "Yes, he does look cheerful. Give me time to shower, and so will I. He actually slept past 6am this morning. I was actually able to sleep! You wouldn't believe the wonders of sleep." Kristen looked around at Marie, "Maybe you would, since it's almost 11 and you're still in your pajamas!"

Propping Caleb on her hip, she reached into the fruit basket and grabbed a banana, which she started peeling, and fed small pieces to Caleb, who munched happily. "I know, I know. But I've been up since 8, I just haven't changed. So Marty seems to be setting me up, again. This one's name is Jake, teaches around here." She rolled her eyes at her friend.

"You know it's just 'cause he cares. Remember, I met Seth on a blind date, now we're married with a family. Don't you want that?" She stood up and stretched, then took Caleb back into her arms.

"You know I do."

"Then let him bring his friend over! At least it makes him happy!" Kristen smiled at her. "I was going to ask you, want to go to the grocery store later?"

"Yeah, in half an hour? Need to get food for the party anyways." Kristen nodded and headed for the door. "Come on over whenever you're ready." Then she left.

It was Wednesday around 5 o'clock. Marty had finished up her classes for the day, and was getting ready for the party at her apartment tonight. Kristen and Seth were coming, having procured a babysitter for tonight, along with her brother Sean, and Marty and this new guy, Jake. She set got everything ready for cooking, then she headed to her bathroom to get ready. She stepped out of her jeans and t-shirt and looked at herself in the mirror. While she didn't have the body of one of those waif models, she considered herself good looking. Shoulder length brown hair, nice eyes with eyelashes to die for (or so she'd been told), fair complexion. She scanned down her body, taking in the mild plumpness. Never being one for a hard work out, she did enjoy the occasional sports, but it wasn't her life. Her life was spent in books, and maybe her body showed it. Skimming her hands down her sides, she sighed. "Men just don't get it."Removing her bra and panties, she turned the handle for the shower and made sure it was just the right temperature. Then she stepped inside and let the steamy water wash away her stresses. She closed her eyes and pictured ... Damn, she thought. It never did anyone any good to picture that stuff. No use getting all hot and bothered, when there is no relief to be had. She sighed again, and got down to the business of showering. Lathering up her wash cloth, she ran it over her body, soothing her senses with the wonderful vanilla smell.

After finishing with her shower, she stepped out and smoothed her body down with lotion, to ensure the soft skin she loved. Looking at herself in the mirror, she decided to put extra effort into her appearance tonight. While she dreaded the thought of this new person, new man, she couldn't help but hope. Maybe, just maybe.

When Kristen and Seth arrived, looking a bit stressed after leaving their eight month old with a teenager, they both whistled at her appearance. "I knew it, as much as you bitched about Marty bringing a friend, you like the idea." Kristen hugged her and pointed out her perfume, nice earrings, and outfit.

"I will say, it's not often I see you break out a nice ensemble!" Seth smiled and hugged her, kissing her cheek. "This guy must be something." He moved over and kissed his wife. "Can't let her know about our secret affair, can we, Marie?"

Marie laughed and went back to the kitchen, getting everything ready. It was ten to seven, and everyone else should be there soon. She also glanced in a mirror, checking her appearance.

When Sean arrived, he also complimented her, "Nice outfit, Little sis. What's the occasion? Me coming out of my whole to spend time with you? How sweet." He kissed her cheek and shook Seth's hand. Everyone chatted and laughed for nearly twenty minutes, when finally there was a knock at the door.

Before she could reach it, the door swung open to show Marty carrying a six pack of beer, and a nice bottle of red wine. "The life of the party is here! Let the festivities begin." He smiled at everyone, saying hello to Kristen and Seth, and Sean, before moving to admit his friend. "Everyone, this is Jake Harmison. He teaches over at Kennedy Elementary. He had no plans, so I thought I'd bring him along."

As Marie watched, a fairly gorgeous man walked in. Her smile faltered. He looked to her, like Russell Crowe. Very attractive. He was about 5' 10'', average build, with chin length brown hair. His green eyes sparkled at her from under his thick lashes. He was dressed quite nicely as well, like a teacher would. She had no chance, why had she gotten her hopes up. Yet, there was something in his smile that stilled those thoughts.

"Hi." He said tentatively, in a gravely voice. He moved into the living room and shook Sean and Seth's hands while greeting Kristen and smiling the whole time. Then he turned to Marie. Again, she saw something in his smile that made her pause. She closed the door and moved toward him.

"Hello, you must be Marie. Marty has told me a lot about you. I'm glad I finally get to meet you." Taking her hand, he squeezed it gently, then let go. "Marty said you were handling dinner, but is there anything I can do to help?"

"Um... yes... oh.. I need to serve it. You could help with that." She moved to the kitchen as all the others began to catch up on new news. She could hear them laughing and exchanging stories about work, family, relationships and all that old friends talk about.

"So, you're still in school, Marty tells me." Jake said from behind her, making her jump.

"Yes, I'm studying English and history." She pulled plates down from the cupboards and finished setting up for people to eat. "Could you take the pasta from the stove top and empty it into the collander in the sink? It's rather heavy, be careful."

"I will." He smiled at her again, and as he brushed by to reach the stove, his hip bumped hers, and she felt an electric shock race to her heart, and to... well.

Dinner was served, and eaten and enjoyed. The evening passed with laughter and friendship. The whole while, she kept noting that Jake stayed near her. He sat by her at dinner, then when the talking moved to the living room, he sat next to her on the sofa. Finally around 10pm, Kristen and Seth announced that they had to be getting home, to relieve the babysitter. Marie got up to hug them and said goodbye. Sean decided it was time for him to head home as well, kissed his sister and left.

"Well, looks like the party died. No more partying like we used to, eh, Marie?" He laughed and took her hand and kissed it. "I should be on my way. Early day at the office tomorrow. I'll give you a call around Friday, see what your plans are for the weekend. Jake, think you can find your way home?"

"Oh yeah, no problem. I live only a mile or two away. I'll talk to you later, Marty. I'm going to stick around and help Marie with her dishes." He shook Marty's hand, before Marie could interrupt and stepped into the kitchen.

"I told you he would fit in." Marty leaned in to kiss her cheek, "Don't do anything I wouldn't do." And with those parting words, he left.

Marie stood in the living room, a bit shell shocked. The evening had gone wonderfully, and now a brilliantly gorgeous man was in her kitchen, washing dishes. She shook her head and blinked a few times. Had she gotten that right?

"Are you coming, or should I just rearrange your kitchen, since I know where nothing goes." He laughed. Snapping out of her fog, she hurried into the kitchen, and saw that he had a towel over his shoulder and the sink full of steaming water. Steaming water just like in the shower. In the shower with the thoughts of... Oh no.

"I'll wash, you dry. Since you live here, you can put it away." Jake suggested. As they did the dishes they continued to talk about their lives. She found out he had grown up with Marty, and that he was from a large family. He had grown up in the Portland area, and had graduated from school, and come to Tacoma to teach elementary school. "You wouldn't believe the amount of people who think I'm gay because I teach elementary school. It's kind of sad."

"Well, you aren't, right?" Almost smacking herself for saying it, Marie blushed furiously for having been rather forward.

"No, I'm not." He smiled. He pulled back from the sink, and smiled at her. "And if I was, I'd be in serious trouble tonight."

"Why?" She asked, dumbfounded.

"I broke the rules."

"Which rules?" Again, it hadn't hit her. He had lowered his face, looking at her through sultry eyes.

"This one." He quickly moved forward, placing a hand under her hair, on her nape, he pressed his soft lips against hers. He moved from her top lip slowly to her bottom lip and gently caressed her neck with his hand. Moving her hands up to his chest, she felt the warmth from his body penetrating his shirt, and melted.

To be continued...

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