Authors: Mary Martinez
Tags: #General Fiction
True he did. He really didn’t have any idea of what she was about to say. Sighing, she gave him a break. “I know. Sorry. Can we talk? Please?”
Without waiting for an answer, she went to settle herself on the couch for the coming discussion. She heard the ding of the microwave and a few minutes later he cuddled in next to her with a bowl of popcorn.
“I brought a cool sci-fi for us to watch.” He reached for the remote, but she grabbed his hand.
“Fine, talk first. Then we watch. I get it.” He sounded like a pouty little boy.
What had she ever seen in him? She honestly couldn’t remember. Not wanting to be side by side, she shoved at him and pointed to his ratty addition to her home.
in a mood.” He reluctantly changed chairs, careful to take the popcorn with him. “What?”
“You can’t move in with me.”
“Why not? You said I could.”
When? “No I did not. You just brought up the subject a few days ago.”
“Yeah, well I’ve been thinking about it a long time. It just makes sense. I’m always here all the time anyway.”
How could she have been so blind? He had been there every night for two weeks. And there had been evidence he hadn’t left after she went to work.
“Did you lose your job?”
He turned his head slightly not meeting her gaze. About the time she’d been ready to repeat the answer he gave a brief nod and a, “Yeah.”
He hung his head; nonetheless he kept popping kernels into his mouth.
That was why her cupboards were always bare too. “Did your roommate kick you out?”
“Reggie found a girlfriend and since I couldn’t pay the rent and she could…” He shrugged as if it wasn’t that big of a deal.
She shot to her feet and strode to the kitchen. Which was actually a corner of her living area then swung around to glare at him. “Are you going to pay
“Why? I thought you were my girlfriend.”
“Am I? When was the last time we went on a date?” Had they ever gone on one? Now that she thought about it, no.
“Dating is so old-fashioned.” He shrugged at her, his hurt expression seemed contrived. Almost as if he’d practiced his pitch about what he’d say when she found out.
“You think since you’ve been leaching off of me for about six months you can move in here and let me take care of you. Buy the food. Provide you shelter. Take you under my wing like you were a stray kitten?”
Bewilderment settled over him, he clearly didn’t understand. “I haven’t been leaching. We’ve been seeing each other. You invited me to come over for dinner, remember?”
“Yes I do. And now that I think of it, you never actually left.”
“I left. I didn’t stay here.”
They’d watched movies all the time. Liked the same ones, same food. At first, it had been fun. She’d given him a key a few months into their relationship since she had to work late. He’d made himself at home ever since. Once he did she’d spent more and more time in her room working on her designs.
Because he’d taken over the rest of her apartment.
“Look Conner, I admit we had fun at first. We were friends.”
“We are more than friends.”
She thought about it for a moment. “Our relationship has never been more than friends. I’m not even sure it’s even friendship. You’re using me for somewhere to stay. You need to find another place. I don’t mind you as a friend, but the roommate part or whatever…”
She used her arm to encompass the room. “…this is, is no longer an option.”
He finally pulled himself away from his popcorn, plopped the bowl on the side table and hopped to his feet. She raised a brow at the abundant show of energy.
“I resent you thinking I’m using you. I’m in love with you.”
Shock tingled over her head, slid down her spine and bit her in the butt. She hadn’t experienced this much sensory astonishment in her life, let alone one day. Could her poor body take any more?
“That is such a crock. You’re trying to play on my sympathies.” Pausing, six months flashed through her mind. “And I bet you’ve been doing it from the beginning. Truth Conner, how long ago did your roommate kick you out?”
He had the grace to look sheepish and mumbled something.
“A couple of weeks ago.”
“When did you lose your job?” She asked.
“Couple of months ago.”
“What? No wonder you’ve been eating here every night.” She paced back to the couch and dropped into the cushions. “Wait a minute, where have you stayed?”
He looked over her shoulder, then picked up the bowl that had been all but forgotten and took it to the sink.
“On the couch.”
Now she understood why her apartment seemed messier than usual. She’d immersed herself in her own work so deep she’d brushed the signs off.
“Yeah, where else was I supposed to go? And then Reggie told me I had to pick up the rest of my junk. Can you believe he called it junk?”
Regarding his ratty chair, she could believe just that because she felt the same. “That’s when you asked if you could move in because you couldn’t pull the wool over my eyes anymore.”
“Never mind.” Inhaling as much air as she could, she let it out to calm herself. As Darlene would call it, a cleansing breath. “We seem to have a problem.”
“I haven’t changed my mind. I don’t want you to move in. I guess I was wrong. It’s you who has the problem.”
He went back to settle into his chair, hung his head between his shoulders. His elbows resting on his knees, hands clasped in front. Vulnerable look, and very practiced. This was the part where she was supposed to cave.
My soul mates have just met and already they have an obstacle. Conner. Ari’s, boyfriend or whatever he is to her. She has left the door opened, which affords me a front row seat to the fireworks.
My biggest hope is, she doesn’t fall for his pitiful attempt at gathering her in as he might a waist of a skirt. If I had the power, I’d go kick the loser out on his double stitched jeans. My bride, or hopefully some-day bride is too kind hearted.
Conner finally looked up at Ari and even from here, I saw the pitiful picture he was trying to make. “I have nowhere to go Ari. You wouldn’t kick me out on the streets, would you?”
My bolero shivered in frustration, I wanted to shout a loud, ‘yes.’
“Your mother?” The hope in Ari’s tone stabbed at my ribbons.
“Has a new boyfriend. I can’t move there.”
“Why not, doesn’t she have an extra room?”
I sucked in my bodice and waited for his answer. It had
better be something dumb because Ari was wavering.
I’ve been around humans enough now to recognize their emotions. His expression actually caught me off guard, especially the pain in his eyes. This was
something even a seasoned gatherer like Ari’s lame boyfriend could contrive.
Her back was to me, but her pause said it all. She’d been caught by the same thing I had. What was his pattern?
“She has the room?”
He shrugged his shoulders but didn’t answer. The cushions from the old chair screeched with his restlessness, the sound grated against my beads.
“Conner, why can’t you move home?”
“I haven’t been home since I was fifteen. I only talk to my mom when she tracks me down.”
Even I knew in my limited experience, fifteen in human years was a very young age to be on your own. I sucked in my inseam. Ari was no longer wavering. I knew she’d invite him to stay.
“I think I already answered that.” Then Conner did an amazing thing. He shot to his feet and stared down at Ari, I hadn’t thought he had the gumption to move with such speed or purpose. “I get it. You want me out of here. You’re not the first.”
He reached to the side of the chair and grabbed a bag I hadn’t noticed and slung it over his shoulder. “When I find a place I’ll pick up my other things.”
“Wait, Conner.” Ari scrambled to her feet and followed until both were out of sight.
The door slammed so loud, my satin vibrated.
Ari stared at the closed door. What had just happened? Who knew Conner had secrets? Should she go after him? Already her conscience berated her for sending him to the streets.
What had his mother done?
She swung the door wide and stepped into a solid mass of chest. Stumbling back she blinked until her vision cleared.
Gerard from apartment ‘C’ filled her doorway. “We have to stop meeting like this.”
Shivers chased over her. “Sorry.” Oh, that was very clever. Why did she turn into a complete moron whenever he was around?
His chuckle agreed. “You dropped some mail. I noticed it when I got home.”
“Hey, how do you know Conner? He almost bowled me over just now.”
Ari stepped forward forcing him to move out of the way. When she looked over the balustrade though, Conner was nowhere in sight. “Yeah he lived here or sort of, anyway.”
“Sort of?” Gerard asked.
Ari turned in time to see his gaze glued to her ass. Warmth ran through her veins and muddled her brain so she couldn’t think of a comment. As she brushed past him, the same electric charge she’d felt early jolted her. She
didn’t need a flirtation right now.
His startled hop away from her indicated he wasn’t immune. What the hell? She wasn’t ready for an intense relationship. Hadn’t she just realized that with Conner? Hopping from bed to bed was not her style, maybe Darlene’s, not Ari’s. Not that she’d shared a bed with Conner, since… She’d think about that later.
“Would you like a beer?” Seemed like the thing to ask when her mind was a complete zero again. Soon she’d be stuttering
“Sure.” He sauntered in and over to her couch to sit down. “Conner helped me move in. We’ve had a few drinks over at the Social club. What’s your story with him?”
“Story?” Awkward didn’t begin to explain. Here she was with a guy she was fighting like hell not to be attracted to, talking about a guy who’d just walked out—or she’d kicked out, she wasn’t exactly sure what had transpired in the last ten minutes.
A vision of Bella draped over the dress dummy filtered through her brain. What was it about the dress that made her think of marriage? It wasn’t like she was in love with her sexy neighbor, she’d just met him. Lust and love were two different things.
Right now, she was head over heels in lust with Gerard from Apartment ‘C’. End of story. Not to mention the fact she was determined to keep the lust locked away and not act on it.