When I unlocked the door to my apartment and pushed it open, I breathed a sigh of relief. Everything was still and silent. Thank God. Logan wasn’t here.
“Here Tommy boy,” Liz snickered. She loved cats, and had two of her own, which I’d always complained about, making the fact that I had a cat all the more unbelievable.
Oh crap, the paintings. Even though Logan wasn’t here, unless I could convince Liz I’d suddenly taken up painting, as soon as she entered the dining room, I was fucked. And since she knew I didn’t have an artistic bone in my body, the jig was up.
“Well hello there, Thomas.” I heard Liz talking from the other room. “You’re a pretty kitty.” I walked back into the living room. Maybe I could just keep her in this room. Thank God for that damn cat.
“Yep. That’s him, the new man in my life.” I smiled. He was a cute cat I had to admit. He was soft gray and white. The best part about him was that he didn’t use a litter box, he scratched at the door when he needed out so there was no mess to clean up.
She sat the cat down at her feet. “I’m just going to use the bathroom before I head out. Too much coffee.”
I breathed a sigh of relief the moment she disappeared down the hall. Maybe I could pull this off.
A second later, Liz burst down the hallway. “Call the police!”
“There’s a man masturbating in your bathroom!” She grabbed an umbrella from the foyer and held it in front of her like a weapon, poised for battle. “Ashlyn! Did you hear what I said? Call the police!”
I swallowed my pride. “Logan. You better come out here,” I called down the hallway.
Liz’s eyes widened in shock. “Lo-Logan?”
He emerged from the hall a second later, a white towel draped around his hips, his chest still damp and glistening with water droplets from the shower. His cheeks were flushed and I suddenly remembered Liz’s claim that he was masturbating. I filed that mental image away to inspect later.
“What the fuck is he doing here?” Liz shouted, motioning to Logan.
Logan looked uncomfortable and ashamed. A protective urge swelled up inside me. No one would make Logan feel bad for being here. “Liz, chill. I’ll explain. Logan, why don’t you go in my room and get dressed?”
He disappeared down the hall without another word.
“What the hell’s the matter with you?” Liz whispered loudly as soon as he was gone.
I held up my hand, stopping her mid-rant. “It’s not what you think. He’s just staying here until he gets on his feet. And there’s nothing going on between us.”
“Right. And that’s why he’s jacking off in your bathroom, because nothing’s going on?”
“Yes. Exactly. He’s not getting any action from me. I know it sounds crazy to you, but he’s my friend.”
She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. When she reopened them, she seemed a little more relaxed. “You’re lucky I love you girl, because otherwise, I would be calling the police.”
“Thanks, Lizzie, but you can’t tell anyone about this. Especially not Clancy.”
“Obviously,” she scoffed. “At least you do still have some sense of right and wrong.”
I removed the umbrella from her hands. “Drop the weapon. I promise he’s nice.”
Logan emerged a few minutes later, dressed in jeans and a worn gray T-shirt.
“Hey, I’m Logan.” He extended a hand to Liz. I smiled at him warmly, thankful that despite this awkward situation, he was polite and well mannered.
Liz smiled at him too, seeming to notice for the first time how attractive he was. I’d seen that smile before, and it was usually reserved for a man she was trying to impress. “Nice to meet you.” She grinned.
“And I see you’ve met Tom?” Logan looked down at the cat who had snaked himself around Liz’s ankles.
“Ah. Now it makes sense. Tom is your doing.”
He nodded and bent to pick up the cat, holding him against his chest. “Yeah.”
“Ashlyn hates cats,” Liz remarked.
“You hate cats?” Logan asked, turning to me with a look of concern.
“I don’t hate them.”
Logan turned to Liz for the truth, already aware that within thirty seconds of meeting her, she was not one to hold back. “She hates them. Which means she must really like you.”
Logan smiled at me warmly. “Go outside, Thomas.” Logan walked the cat to the door and herded him outside.
Liz stayed most of the afternoon to chat with Logan and me. We shared a glass of wine and I turned on some music, the blues that seemed to speak to Logan, but had yet to spark a memory. I was relieved to see Liz was polite to him, even though I could tell she’d voice everything that was really on her mind later.
When she was ready to leave, she asked me to walk her out, which was code for; I’m going to pump you for information out of your company’s earshot.
Great. I slid on my shoes and followed her into the hall. She stayed quiet as we descended the stairs, but I could tell her wheels were turning. That only frightened me more.
Once we reached the street, we stopped in front of her car. “So there’s really nothing going on between you and Logan?”
I nodded my head.
“Prove it to me.”
I cocked my head, trying to understand. Did she want to inspect my lady parts for signs of entry? “How?”
“Like for instance…if I set you up on a date, you’ll go?”
Oh crap. “Of course.”
She took a deep breath, obviously pleased with herself. “Great. Its tomorrow night. Eight o’clock with Jason, the guy you met at the club. He’s been asking about you.”
She had this set up all along, that sneak! I opened my mouth to protest, when Liz patted the top of my head.
“And wear a dress.”
She hopped into her car and drove away.
That night sounds of incoherent mumbling woke me from a deep sleep. It took me a moment to realize Logan was having another nightmare. I heard him gasp and shot straight up in bed. He thrashed his arms and legs, and his breaths came in heavy gasps.
“Logan,” he mumbled. “No Logan….”
I shook his shoulders, trying to pull him from his nightmare. “Wake up, Logan, wake up.” I continued to grip his shoulders and when my eyes wandered the length of him, I noticed he had an erection.
His eyes opened and he let out a gasp once he saw it was me hovering over him.
“Are you okay?
He nodded, still staring up at me.
“What was the dream about?”
He closed his eyes just briefly, then opened them again. “I don’t remember.”
For the first time, I didn’t know if I could believe him. I had the nagging feeling that he was keeping something from me. His dream was about someone named Logan. Maybe it had been a bad idea to start calling him by that name. It clearly belonged to someone else.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” I asked. I didn’t want to tell him that he had called out the name Logan any more than he wanted to admit to me what he had been dreaming about.
His breathing had returned to normal. “I’m fine. It wasn’t a nightmare this time.”
Oh. “Okay. Goodnight then.”
“Night.” He curled onto his on side of the bed, facing away from me.
I hugged my pillow against my chest, feeling for the first time that I truly was sharing my bed with a stranger.
The next morning neither of us spoke about last night’s dream, but it weighed heavily on my mind as I made our coffee. The dream had turned him on sexually, and he’d called out the name Logan. I knew I was developing real feelings for him, and I was beginning to suspect that this wouldn’t end well for us. There couldn’t be a happily ever after for someone who didn’t even know who they were.
I poured myself a cup of coffee and heard Logan get up and head into the shower. His new job was starting today. Having finished with the roofing job that had kept him busy over the past few weeks, he’d secured a job painting a mural on one of the buildings being made over as part of the renovation process. With his earnings from the construction job, he’d bought more clothes, and a nicer set of paints and brushes. His wardrobe now consisted of a few pairs of jeans, boxer briefs, socks and T-shirts.
Other than the nightmares, he was an easy houseguest to have around. He was neat and tidy, and did more than his fair share of the chores. Once he realized that I either skipped dinner altogether or ate a cup of instant noodles after arriving home, he also began cooking dinner for us. Other nights he’d call for takeout so at least we could sit down and eat together.
In other ways though, I could tell he wasn’t entirely comfortable living here. Every day he packed up his toiletries from the bathroom, his shaving cream, razor and toothbrush, putting them in the backpack in which he kept his belongings. I told him several times he could leave his things in the bathroom, since I was certainly no neat freak. A few extra things left out wouldn’t have bothered me, not to mention I’d come to enjoy the smell of his shaving cream and aftershave in the steam filled bathroom after his shower. I had even cleared out a spot in the drawer, but he seemed content with packing them up every day, like he didn’t really live here, but was only staying temporarily.
We never talked about him moving out and that was just fine with me. I had a feeling that without him and Tom my apartment would feel empty and depressing.
I pulled on my black shift dress, and slipped on a pair of heels. Giving myself one more glance in the mirror to be sure my makeup and hair were in place, I headed out to the living room.
Logan was sitting on the couch with my laptop balanced across his lap. He looked up at the sound of my heels clicking against the wood floor.
“Wow. You look nice. Where are you headed?”
“Thanks,” I mumbled, looking down. “I have a date tonight.”
“A date?” His face betrayed his confusion and another emotion I couldn’t quite identify…jealousy?
“Liz set me up,” I explained.
He nodded, regaining his composure.
“Will you zip up my dress?” I turned my back to him.
His fingers against my bare back as he zipped up the dress shouldn’t have excited me the way they did. Maybe this date would be good for me. I needed to stop fixating on Logan. Especially since it was clear he wasn’t interested in an actual emotional connection with me.
I grabbed my purse, and Logan went back to the computer, not looking up at me again as I gathered my things and headed out.
The date wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. Jason was nice, but something just felt wrong about dating someone who was still an undergrad. Rob the cradle, much? I knew Liz never had a problem with dating younger men, and that I looked young for my age so I shouldn’t either. But he was only twenty-two and more interested in keg parties than discussing world issues. I did my best to maintain the conversation, chatting casually with him throughout dinner, and the three glasses of wine I drank certainly helped to loosen me up.
After dinner he walked me to my apartment, and when he kissed my hand in the street and asked if he could come up, I could only nod. I was damn curious about how Logan might respond to me bringing a man home. If that was jealousy I’d caught a hint of before, perhaps seeing another man interested in me would force him to face his feelings for me. It might not have been the best plan, but with three glasses of Chardonnay down, my reasoning was shot. I lead Jason up the stairs and unlocked the door, my heart pounding in my chest.
I expected Logan to be sitting at the dining room table painting like he did every night, but the apartment was silent and dark. Oh. My anticipation died down and was replaced with a sense of dread. I now had an eager man who I wanted nothing to do with in my apartment and Logan wasn’t even here. That or he was in my room sleeping, but it wasn’t even eleven yet. He never went to bed this early.
I flipped on a lamp, and asked Jason to wait for me in the living room. I poured another glass of wine for each of us before I settled on the couch. We continued chatting for a little while, but when I saw him focusing in on my mouth as I spoke, I knew he intended to kiss me. I held my wine in front of me like a shield, hoping it would provide a buffer. But Jason knew what he was doing. He took the glass from my hands and set it on the coffee table. When he leaned in toward me I was too stunned to do anything but close my eyes and let him press his lips to mine. The kiss was nice, but I felt nothing, no spark, no passion like I did with Logan. I put my hands on his chest and pushed him back, breaking the kiss.
“Ashlyn?” Logan’s groggy voice came from behind me.
Jason leapt to his feet at the sight of Logan, shirtless, tattooed and looking angry.
I jumped from the couch, and placed a palm on Logan’s chest as a silent apology, or just for the chance to touch him, I didn’t know. He nudged my hand out of the way, and stepped closer, still staring down Jason.
“Logan, stop.” I gripped his chest again, silently chastising his macho behavior. “Jason, I think you better go. Thanks for dinner.”
“Yeah,” he said without another glance in my direction and stormed from the apartment.
Once the door closed, I realized how utterly tense the situation felt. I was standing only inches from Logan, my palm still pressed to his chest, which was rapidly rising and falling with his breathing. Our eyes locked and I could read the hurt and anger in his look as clear as day. He looked down at my hand still pressed over his heart and let his eyes fall closed. When he reopened them a moment later, his anger was replaced with something else entirely…desire.
“Tell me why you’re angry,” I prodded gently.
“I can’t.” His words were clipped and tight.