It was a beautiful day to find a new home. And a new roommate.
I stepped out of the damp, old stairwell of my Georgian apartment building to a stunningly hot day in Edinburgh. I glanced down at the cute, white and green striped denim shorts I’d purchased a few weeks ago from Topshop. It had been raining non-stop since then and I’d despaired of ever getting to wear them. But the sun was out; peeking over the top of the cornered tower of the Bruntsfield Evangelical Church, burning away my melancholy and giving me back a little bit of hope. For someone who had packed up her entire life in the US and taken off for her motherland when she was only eighteen years old, I wasn’t really good with change. Not anymore anyway. I’d gotten used to my huge apartment with its never-ending mice problem. I missed my best friend, Rhian, who I’d lived with since freshman year at the University of Edinburgh. We’d met in the dorms and hit it off. We were both very private people and were comfortable around one another for the mere fact that we never pushed each other to talk about the past. We’d stuck pretty close to each other freshman year and decided to get an apartment (or ‘flat’ as Rhian called it) in second year. Now that we were graduates, Rhian had left for London to start her PhD and I was left roommate-less. The icing on the cake was the loss of my other closest friend here, James, Rhian’s boyfriend. He’d run off to London (a place he detested I might add) to be with her. And the cherry on top? My landlord was getting a divorce and needed the apartment back.
I’d spent the last two weeks answering ads from young women looking for a female roommate. It had been a bust so far. One girl didn’t want to room with an American. Cue my ‘what the fuck?’ face. Three of the apartments were just… nasty. I’m pretty sure one girl was a crack dealer, and the last girl’s apartment sounded like it got more use than a brothel. I was really hoping my appointment today with Ellie Carmichael was going to go my way. It was the most expensive apartment I’d scheduled to see and it was on the other side of the city center.
I was frugal when it came to touching my inheritance, as if that would somehow lessen the bitterness of my ‘good’ fortune. However, I was getting desperate.
If I wanted to be a writer, I needed the right apartment and the right roommate.
Living alone of course was an option. I could afford it. However, the God’s honest truth was that I didn’t like the idea of complete solitude. Despite my tendency to keep eighty percent of myself to myself, I liked being surrounded by people. When they talked to me about things I didn’t understand personally, it allowed me to see things from their point of view, and I believed all the best writers needed a wide open scope of perspective. Despite not needing to, I worked at a bar on George Street on Thursday and Friday nights. The old cliché was true: bartenders overhear all the best stories.
I was friends with two of my colleagues, Jo and Craig, but we only really ‘hung out’ when we were working. If I wanted a little life around me, I needed to get a roommate. On the plus, this apartment was mere streets away from my job.
As I tried to shove down the anxiety of finding a new place, I also kept my eye open for a cab with its light on. I eyed the ice cream parlor, wishing I had time to stop and indulge, and almost missed the cab coming toward me on the opposite side of the street. Throwing my hand out and checking my side for traffic, I was gratified that the driver had seen me and pulled up to the curb. I tore across the wide road, managing not to get squashed like a green and white bug against some poor person’s windshield, and rushed towards the cab with a single-minded determination to grab the door handle.
Instead of the door handle, I grabbed a hand.
Bemused, I followed the masculine, tan hand up a long arm to broad shoulders and to a face obscured by the sun beaming down behind his head. Tall, over six feet, the guy towered above me as most tall people did. I was a smallish five foot five.
Wondering why this guy had his hand on my cab, all I really took in was the suit.
A sigh escaped from his shadowed face. “Which way are you headed?” he asked me in a rumbling, gravelly voice. Four years I’d been living here and still a smooth, Scots accent could send a shiver down my spine. And his definitely did, despite the terse question.
“Dublin Street,” I answered automatically, hoping I had a longer distance to travel so he’d give me the cab.
“Good.” He pulled the door open. “I’m heading in that direction, and since I’m already running late, might I suggest we share the taxi instead of wasting ten minutes deciding who needs it more.”
A warm hand touched my lower back and pressed me gently forward. Dazed, I somehow let myself be manhandled into the cab, sliding across the seat and buckling up as I silently questioned whether I’d nodded my agreement to this. I didn’t think I had.
Hearing the Suit clip out Dublin Street as the destination to the cab driver, I frowned and muttered, “Thanks. I guess.”
“You’re an American?”
At the soft question, I finally looked over at the passenger beside me. Oh okay.
The Suit wasn’t classically handsome, but there was a twinkle in his eye and curl to the corner of his sensual mouth that, together with the rest of the package, oozed sex appeal. Perhaps in his late twenties or early thirties, I could tell from the lines of the extremely well-tailored, expensive silver-grey suit that he wore, that the Suit worked out. He sat with the ease of a fit guy, his stomach iron flat under the waistcoat and white shirt. His pale blue eyes seemed bemused beneath their long lashes, and for the life of me I couldn’t get over the fact that he had dark hair.
I preferred blondes. Always had.
Yet none of them had ever made my lower belly squeeze with lust at first sight of them. A strong, masculine face stared into mine—sharp jaw-line, a cleft chin, wide cheekbones, and a roman nose. Dark stubble shadowed his cheeks, and his hair was kind of messy. Altogether, his rugged unkemptness seemed at odds with the stylish designer suit.
The Suit raised an eyebrow at my blatant perusal and the lust I was feeling quadrupled, taking me completely by surprise. I never felt instant attraction to men. And since my wild years as a teen, I hadn’t even contemplated taking a guy up on a sexual offer.
Although, I’m not sure I could walk away from an offer from him.
As soon as the thought flashed through my head I stiffened, surprised and unnerved. My defenses immediately rose and I cleared my expression into blank politeness.
“Yeah,” I answered, finally remembering the Suit had asked me a question. I looked away from his knowing smirk, pretending boredom and thanking the heavens that my olive skin kept the blushing internal.
“Just visiting?” he murmured.
As irritated as I was by my reaction to the Suit, I decided the less conversation between us the better. Who knew what idiotic thing I might do or say? “Nope.”
“Then you’re a student.”
I took issue with the tone. Then you’re a student. It was said with a metaphorical eye-roll. Like students were bottom-feeding bums with no real purpose in life. I snapped my head around to give him a scathing set-down, only to catch him eyeing my bare legs with interest. This time, I raised my eyebrow at him and waited for him to unglue those gorgeous eyes of his from my bare skin. Sensing my gaze, the Suit looked up into my face and noted my expression. I expected him to pretend he hadn’t been ogling me, or to look quickly away or something. I didn’t expect him to just shrug and then offer me the slowest, wickedest, sexiest smile that had ever been bestowed upon me.
I rolled me eyes, fighting the flush of heat between my legs. “I was a student,” I answered, with just a touch of snark. “I live here. Dual citizenship.” Why was I explaining myself?
“You’re part Scottish?”
I barely nodded, secretly loving the way he said ‘Scottish’ with his hard ‘t’s.
“What do you do now that you’ve graduated?”
Why did he want to know? I shot him a look out of the corner of my eye. The cost of the three-piece suit he was wearing could have fed me and Rhian on crappy student food for our entire four years of college. “What do you do? I mean, when you’re not manhandling women into cabs?”
His small smirk was his only reaction to my jibe. “What do you think I do?”
“I’m thinking lawyer. Answering questions with questions, manhandling, smirking…”
He laughed a rich, deep rumble of a laugh that vibrated through my chest. His eyes glittered at me. “I’m not a lawyer. But you could be. I seem to recall a question answered with a question. And that,” he gestured to my mouth, his eyes turning a shade darker as they visually caressed the curve of my lips. “That’s a definite smirk,” his voice had grown huskier.
My pulse took off as our eyes locked, our gazes holding for far longer than two polite strangers’ should. My cheeks felt warm… as well as other places. I was growing more and more turned on by him and the silent conversation between our bodies. When my nipples tightened beneath my t-shirt bra, I was shocked enough to be plunged back into reality. Pulling my eyes from his, I glanced out at the passing traffic and prayed for this cab ride to be over yesterday.