“I guess you’re my neighbor too then.” Sid shrugged out of his enormous hiking backpack.

The twitch was back, and the taut line of Blake’s jaw made me question my grand plan.

“Great,” he said.

I walked over quickly, hoping to neutralize the situation that Sid had no idea he’d just walked into. “Yeah, Sid is going to crash here until we figure out the financing thing. Dorms close this week, you know.”

“Right,” Blake said, running his hand through his hair.

I’d fill Sid in on Blake’s association with Angelcom later. In the meantime, I had a kitchen to organize, a meal to cook, and an awkward dinner to host.

I showed Sid his room. All I had was the blow up mattress and bedding that would have to do until we got some real furniture. He didn’t seem to care much, so I returned to the kitchen and started prepping the meal. Before I knew it, Blake was behind me. He spun me around.

“You never told me about the roommate.”

His voice was low and serious enough to set my heart beating a mile a minute. Was he angry? I couldn’t really tell, but I felt like a child about to go to time-out.

Inviting Sid to be my roommate had been a rash decision, granted. I knew how he lived, typically in a pile of pop tart wrapper rubble, and it worried me a bit. But in truth, I wasn’t ready to live solo anyway, and I could use his presence at the apartment to deter Blake’s advances, though it wasn’t working at present.

I swallowed hard before replying. “You haven’t exactly been straightforward with me either, Blake. I don’t know what you expect.”

“It’s a complication. I suppose we’ll have to work around it.”


“We’ll just be spending a lot more time upstairs is all.”

He stepped between my legs and lifted my knee over his thigh with a single fluid motion. My breath rushed out of me, and I gripped the edge of the counter as he pinned me to it. He pressed a hot kiss on my neck before taking my earlobe between his teeth.

I gasped at the sensation and held on tight and squeezed my eyes shut, reminding myself of every good reason not to give in to him. There was a line with Blake. On one side of it, I wanted him desperately, but somehow I could muster the willpower to refuse him. We were on the other side of that line, where I was completely at his mercy, helpless against his determination to have me.

His hands crept under my shirt and stroked the bare skin of my back, the contact sending me into orbit. My nipples hardened and brushed against his chest as I arched into him.

“I need you, Erica. Tonight.” He pressed the evidence of his desire into me.

His mouth was on mine before I could say no, obliterating any remote ideas about putting him off again. He kissed me hard and deep, sucking and licking with an urgency I fully met. I finally released my hands and raked my fingers through his hair, urging him closer. He pulled back to catch his breath, and I gripped him tighter, willing him back to me.

There we were, Blake’s hands on their way up my skirt, each of us on fire for the other, when Sid shuffled out of his bedroom and stopped short in the living room.

I froze, petrified by being caught in the act. With Sid entirely out of his view, Blake slowly retreated. He gave me a little smirk, letting me know our little show had gone according to his plan. He adjusted himself before turning around and busying himself with something at the island.

Flustered by my desire and newfound irritation, I channeled my emotions into the food, ignoring Blake’s requests to help. We were obviously playing a game, but I was already growing tired of it. The only move I could think up was to ignore him, to not give him what we both wanted even though I was ready to combust with sexual frustration. If I could get a handle on that, maybe he’d learn I wasn’t someone to toy with.

Somehow we all made it through dinner. I ate at the counter. Both Sid and Blake devoured my mother’s chicken parmesan at the breakfast bar. We needed real furniture at some point. Buying furniture worthy of the space while on a budget would be a challenge, but not impossible. I resolved to do a little bargain shopping after I finalized my presentation notes in the morning.

Now more than ever, I needed this to feel like home, a safe place away from the rest of the world. Right now the apartment was barren and strange. Between that, Alli being out of my immediate life, and Blake’s mission to turn my world upside down, I felt as if I were dangling precariously, hanging on for dear life to any semblance of normalcy.

Blake must have picked up on my withdrawal, because when we finished cleaning up, he let me know he was taking off. I walked him to the door, and Sid disappeared on cue.

“Are you okay?” Blake’s eyes, not so long ago clouded with the heat of lust, were now filled with concern.

“I’m fine, just tired. It’s been a long day.” It was only half of the truth but I didn’t have the energy to talk it out or bicker with him.

“Do you want a ride to the office tomorrow?”

“No, thanks. I’d rather just finish up here. I have some errands to run.”

He nodded, and when he leaned in for a kiss, I turned my head, narrowly escaping his lips on my own. I closed my eyes. As much as I wanted to make a point, I dreaded the look in his eyes. When I opened them, he had disappeared up the stairs.

I shut the door and leaned against it. My face fell into my hands. How the hell had I gotten into this mess?


I spent the morning shopping IKEA online and picked out a bedroom set, figuring I would will my futon to Sid eventually. I also ordered a small dining room table and matching chairs, and a few other odds and ends. I scoured the classifieds and found a decent used couch that someone could deliver for an extra few bucks. Sid had already moved in his television and gaming systems, which sat in the otherwise bare living area.

This apartment might be the closest thing to a real home that I’d had since my mother passed. Of course now I was sharing it with Sid, but who knew how long that would last? I clung to the thought of this being home, my home, giving the word new meaning with this new chapter of my life that was filled with so many unknowns.

For the past four years, more even, I’d had everything planned out. Now I had no idea what to expect from my future. I had only my intuition to guide me. Unfortunately Blake was marching all over my intuition. I wasn’t expecting a man like him—and everything that came with him—in my life.

Unable to concentrate on work, I slapped down the screen of my laptop. I needed some fresh air. Thanks to Blake’s chauffeuring me around and the new living situation, I’d been cooped up inside most of the day.

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