“Not now, Viola.” His shoulders tense.
“Ooh, Viola. You must mean business,” I mock, ignoring his harsh tone.
He glares at me, not at all impressed with my backtalk. I turn back to my kindle, ready to ignore him once again. But then he surprises me and grabs my attention in a much softer, helpless tone.
“Any chance you know the common restrictive regulations for advertising in the European market?
“I might,” I say, not even looking up from my book.
“Do you think you could maybe help me out before I smash my fist through the screen?”
“You mean to tell me you actually don’t know something?” I ask, smug. “But I thought you knew everything?”
“Do you always have to be a sarcastic know-it-all?”
“Well, I don’t have to be, but I think it adds to my appeal,” I smile, gloating.
I finally look over at him and see a disheveled Travis. He looks more tired than usual, maybe even mentally exhausted. Hell, it’s only day three of this two-week roommate arrangement, and I’m mentally exhausted from whatever it is we have going on. The back and forth, the tormenting one another, the emotional exhaustion that comes with hating him one moment and wanting his hands all over me the next.
I clear my throat to distract myself from those thoughts. Showing any signs of vulnerability around him would only make things worse. He’d use it in any way possible to get back at me.
“All right, smartass. So can you help me or not?” His tone isn’t as harsh, but I can see he’s frustrated.
Hm…a little frustration and groveling might be good for him. “Well, I could…” I linger, not quite ready to give in.
He exhales roughly, tightening his grip on the chair rest. “Will you?” His features tighten and his jaw locks, frustration written all over him. I almost feel bad for messing with him. Almost.
“What’s in it for me?” I ask, using the opportunity to gain some of the household power back.
“Um…how about a roof over your head? A fridge filled with food? A bed to sleep in?”
“You mean, half of those things. Drew pays the rent, too. And face it, you’d still be paying for those things even if I wasn’t here, so your argument is invalid.”
He rolls his eyes. “Fine, whatever. What do you want?”
I turn slightly, facing him. I need him to know I’m serious. “I help you with whatever project you’re working on and you have to abide by all the house rules. No exceptions.”
His head falls back against the chair cushion and I can tell he’s rolling his eyes at me. “So you basically want me to be a monk in my own damn house?”
“Just while I’m here…” I correct. “The moment I leave, throw a naked kegger for all I care.”
He snorts, his face finally loosening up a bit. “All right. If that’s what it’s going to take, then fine.”
“Wow, look at us!” I beam, plastering on a wide, fake smile. “Compromising like an old divorced couple.” Or at least making some progress at making this work the rest of the time I’m here.
However, I have a feeling this weekend isn’t going to be so accommodating.
Viola may be a smart ass, but she knows her stuff. I study her mouth as she talks about the articles of the European Community treaty in detail. She notices me staring and stops.
“What?” Her eyes narrow, and I flash a little smirk and shake my head.
“The main point of this is to not have misleading advertising. It’s not like the American market where we can basically insinuate someone’s boobs will grow or they’ll lose a hundred pounds in a week. Or you’ll get chicks if you drink Bud Light. It’s stricter. We do have the Federal Trade Commission but the European treaty is that on steroids,” she continues on and then stops abruptly. “Are you even listening?”
“You have no idea.” My lips tilt up, holding onto her every word.
She fidgets under my gaze. “Anything else?”
“Actually, yes. Your rules. Aren’t they a bit ridiculous?”
Her mouth falls open then shuts. “No.”
“What are the rules anyway?” I ask, closing my laptop. “You might want to clarify since I’m supposed to be following them for the next week and a half.”
Viola stands and snatches her Kindle from the couch.
“Wear clothes. No skanks in the house. And I don’t want you to say anything that’s even remotely sexual. Basically, you stay away from me, and I stay away from you.”
“Other than when I need your help, right?” I arch an eyebrow and watch as her eyes stroll down my body.
“Did you just check me out?” I flash a knowing-grin. “That was a major eye-fuck.”
She gasps. “Rules!”
“Don’t make this a double standard. If I have to follow the rules, so do you, princess.” I’m amused by the way her face contorts when I’m right.