“No, this is…” He shook his head. “Very kind of you.” We stood in the kitchen, just a foot apart, smiling at each other. “What would I do if you hadn’t come into my hospital room?”

“It’s nothing, really. I enjoy having you here.”

After he cleaned the kitchen and bathroom from top to bottom, he dusted and vacuumed the entire apartment. Then I heard him banging around in the kitchen and since I was mentally unable to read another half-witted paper on theories of personality, I went to see what he was up to.

He had filled a pot with water and was preparing to drop pasta into the steaming pot, but paused to smile at me. “I hope spaghetti will be okay. That’s about all I could find in the cabinets.”

“That’s perfect, thank you.” I stretched my arms over my head, realizing it was already early evening. A small sauce pan of tomato sauce simmered on the other burner, and the rich smell of tomatoes, garlic and basil teased my senses. I couldn’t remember the last time someone had cooked for me.

“Sit down.” Logan led me back into the dining room. “Let me get you a glass of wine.”

We ate dinner at my newly cleared off dining room table, which I hadn’t seen the top of in months. The meal was delicious and after dinner neither of us was quite ready to move away from the table, so we stayed sharing the bottle of red wine.

“I was thinking more about your tattoo,” I said, swirling the crimson liquid in my glass.

He rubbed the name on his bicep. “Logan or the Latin phrase?”

“The one in Latin, it’s something an intellectual would get. Not everyone would think to get a dead language permanently inked on their body.”

“Good point. What do you think it means?”

“That you’re smart. Probably college educated.”

He nodded thoughtfully; liking the direction I was headed.

“I was thinking you could take some tests online, like an IQ test, or a college placement exam. It wouldn’t prove anything; it’d just give us a bit more information about you.”

“Yeah, I like that idea.”

After dinner, we settled on the couch and turned on the TV. I didn’t have cable, and only got a few channels, so I opted for Jeopardy.

The category was History of the 1200s, and I was just about to change the channel when Logan leaned forward in rapt attention.

The host read the answer, “He was the Italian philosopher and priest who died in 1274.”

“Who was Thomas Aquinas,” Logan responded without hesitation.

When the host announced that Thomas Aquinas was indeed the correct answer both of our jaws dropped open. “You knew that.”

He nodded, his pulse racing in his neck. “How did I know that?”

“I don’t know. You’re good with history?”

He held up his hand. “Wait, he’s reading the next question.” We turned our attention back to the show, and Logan answered each of the questions in that category correctly. By the time he was done, he was up on his feet, pacing the room.

“Okay, that can’t be a coincidence, can it?” he asked.

“I don’t think so. I couldn’t have answered any of those questions. I think you’ve studied history pretty extensively.”

“History. Latin.” He rubbed his temples. “Fuck,” he cursed loudly. “I don’t understand.”

I stood and crossed the room to him. “It’s okay. This is a great start. Think of what we just discovered in the last ten minutes. We’ll figure this out, I promise.”

He released a sigh and pulled me into his arms.

I nestled my head against his chest, loving the feeling of his arms around me, and his masculine scent. He seemed to crave the closeness, even if it did scare him.

“Thank you, Ashlyn.”

“For what?”

“For believing in me. For trusting me. I know I don’t deserve it, this tenderness from you, but damn, if I don’t like it all the same.”

I couldn’t explain why I trusted him so explicitly. Maybe it was the tattoo we shared, or the way I felt when I was near him. It was like I was meant to find him. But I didn’t explain any of that to him. “You’re welcome,” I murmured into his chest instead.

I left early on Monday morning, after a pleasant weekend with Logan. I packed up my laptop and notebooks for a long day of grading papers for Clancy’s graduate classes, administering office hours and, of course, the endless research work for my thesis since Professor Clancy had pointed out that I needed to strengthen my strategy for the sources I planned to cite.

When I returned to the apartment, exhausted and starving, it was after dark and I secretly hoped that Logan had cooked dinner again. Sadly, when I opened the apartment door, it was dark and empty inside.

I flipped on the lights and checked the table for a note. Nothing. I was curious where Logan had gone, and since he didn’t have any belongings to leave behind, I had no way of knowing if he was gone for good. The thought was unnerving.

I grabbed the Chinese take-out menu from the drawer beside the fridge, and called in an order for us both.

A few minutes later, the door opened and Logan strode inside, filthy from head to toe, but looking pleased.

I was on my feet in seconds. “Where’ve you been?”

“I got a job on a construction site. I’m helping to roof a building down the road.”

“That’s awesome, Logan.” I playfully nudged his hip with mine. “I was worried though, leave me a note next time, okay?”

“Sure.” He studied me with guarded eyes. Despite trying to keep our arrangement casual, I knew I was developing feelings for him.

“Dinner will be here in a few minutes if you want to take a shower.”

He looked down at himself in his now grungy T-shirt and jeans. “Yeah, a shower would be great. The thing is I meant to pick up some extra clothes today, but I didn’t expect to get hired so quickly, so I actually didn’t have time.”

“Are you saying you don’t have anything else to put on?”

“Yeah.”

My mind delved straight into the gutter with delight. “I have some T-shirts that might fit, and I might be able to scrounge up a pair of sweats or something too.”

“Thanks, Ashlyn.” He crossed the kitchen and planted a quick kiss on my temple before heading for the bathroom.

His unexpected affection, along with his musky scent from the day spent working outside left me briefly stunned. “Leave your clothes outside the door and I’ll throw them in the wash,” I called to his retreating backside.

Chapter Seven

After dinner I helped Logan make the sofa into his bed, tucking the sheet around the cushions. We had shared my bed after his nightmare, but it didn’t seem like it was a good habit to get into, and Logan seemed to prefer the couch. I spread the comforter on top and added a pillow while he folded his freshly laundered jeans and shirt.

“I have to get some clothes tomorrow. I still have the money you gave me, don’t worry.”

“I wasn’t worried.” I smiled at him. “But that’s probably a good idea. I wouldn’t recommend wearing that outfit outside the house.” I looked him up and down, making my point.

He was dressed in the largest T-shirt I owned, a women’s medium from a 5k race I ran last summer. It was pink, clung to his biceps and chest and stretched only to the top of his waistband. At least the shorts seemed to fit okay. I’d stolen them from Liz after a sleepover and they no doubt had once belonged to a male. He looked down to survey himself, and placed his hands on his hips. “What, you don’t think I look good?”

“I didn’t say that.” I laughed. “Some poor girl would probably try to maul you in that form fitting T-shirt.” God, shut your mouth, Ashlyn. I needed to learn to filter and not blurt out every random comment I was thinking.

He frowned just slightly, and dropped his hands from his hips. “Actually this shirt is cutting off my circulation. I think I’ll sleep without it.” He pulled it over his head and handed it back to me. “Thanks anyway.”

“No problem. Goodnight.” I turned and fled to the safety of my room. Was he trying to torment me?

I climbed in bed and brought the T-shirt Logan had just taken off to my nose and inhaled. It still smelled like my fabric softener. I didn’t think he’d been wearing it long enough for it to soak up any of his intoxicating scent. Which was probably for the best. I was already way more interested in him than was healthy or sane.

I lay the T-shirt on the bed beside me and rolled over to reach into the drawer of my nightstand. If I hoped to get any sleep, I needed to relieve some of this tension. I found my vibrator rolling around in the drawer and turned it on. Its insistent buzzing seemed louder than usual and I quickly thrust it under the covers, hoping Logan wouldn’t be able to hear it. I slipped it inside my panties, easing them down with my other hand. Oh, God that felt good.

I lost myself in the sensation while I imagined what would happen if Logan did hear the telltale sound of my vibrator humming and came in to investigate. I wouldn’t let him go this time without touching his thick cock. I bit my lip to keep from moaning as the pressure built against my clit. Just as my release started to build, Logan knocked at my bedroom door.

“Ashlyn? Are you okay?”

“Mm hmm.” I sucked in a deep breath, the orgasm rocking through me and pressed my lips together to keep quiet.

“I heard you call my name. Should I come in?”

“No!” I arranged the covers over my legs and flung the T-shirt from my bed. “I mean nope. I’m good. I was just…dreaming.” Crap!

“Dreaming? About me?”

“Yeah, it was one of those weird, random ones that don’t make any sense. But everything’s fine. You can go back to bed.” Or you could come in here and fuck me senseless.

“Okay, if you’re sure. Night, Ashlyn.”

“Night,” I grumbled.

Several hours later, I was still unable to get comfortable and turned over for the zillionth time and glanced at the clock. I’d been tossing and turning for hours. I got out of bed and headed to the kitchen for a glass of water when I heard whimpering coming from the living room. My heart thumped unevenly in my chest. Was Logan okay? I tiptoed down the hallway and into the living room. Logan was sound asleep, but his arms were thrashing around in front of his face as if he was fighting with someone in his dream.

“No, please, no,” he whispered.

He was having a nightmare. “Logan, Logan, wake up.” I rocked his shoulders back and forth. He jerked away from my touch and continued mumbling incoherently.

His eyes flew open and when he saw it was me, the anguish on his face vanished. “Oh God, Ashlyn…” He pulled me down on top of him.

“It was just a dream,” I soothed, rubbing my hands through his hair while he cradled me against his body.

It was then I noticed he was shivering all over. “Logan, you’re shaking.” I sat up, and moved off him.

“No. Please.” He reached for me again.

“What?”

“Lay with me.”

I nodded my consent and lay back down across his chest since there was no room beside him on the couch.

His skin felt warm to the touch and he continued to tremble. I held him until he stopped shaking and resisted the urge to ask him what he remembered from the dream. If he felt like telling me, he would. For now, I just tried to comfort him. I ran my hands along his chest and shoulders, gently massaging away his tension until he at last stopped shaking.

He patted my backside until I sat up and moved off him. “I need paint.”

“Huh?” I rubbed my eyes, wondering if he was delirious.

“I need to paint…I saw something in my dream, and I just…I know I need to paint it. I can’t explain why.”

“Okay.”

It was one in the morning, where in the hell were we going to find an art store open? Nevertheless, Logan couldn’t be persuaded to wait until morning, so we dressed and took the train out of downtown to a super store that I knew was open twenty-four hours. They had a minuscule arts and crafts section, but at least we could get some paint, brushes and paper.

When we got to the checkout, I offered him my credit card. I’d gotten it only for emergencies, but I supposed needing paint at one in the morning constituted as an emergency. We wouldn’t be here otherwise. He scrunched his brow, but eventually took the card and swiped it to pay for his purchases.

Logan gripped the plastic bag of paint supplies as if it was a rare treasure during the train ride back to my apartment. I lay my head on his shoulder and let the gentle motions of the train lull me to sleep.

When we got back to the apartment, Logan dumped the bag unceremoniously onto the dining room table. Oh. I hadn’t realized he planned to paint tonight. He opened the package of brushes while I went into the kitchen and got him a small teacup full of water, and covered the table in paper towels.

Once he was all set up with the paints, he hugged me and told me to get some sleep. I nodded, and told him to come and get me if he needed anything. I slept with my bedroom door cracked open and listened to the sounds of him humming while he painted until I drifted off to sleep.

In the morning, Logan was gone but the remnants of his night spent painting were hard to miss. Everywhere I looked large sheets of paper covered in paint decorated much of my apartment. His paintings were dark, somber, but well done.

I wandered through my apartment like it was a museum. He’d painted several versions of a darkened warehouse, with splashes of red and moonlight leaking in through the crevices. It gave me chills just looking at it. Another was of a hand, clenched into a fist, stained with blood under the fingernails. It was surprisingly realistic. Another clue about who he was had emerged. He was an artist.

Chapter Eight

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