Living with Mr. Reed

When Ellie's best friend decides to move in with her boyfriend, Ellie has no choice but to find another place to live. But Alex Reed is hardly the roommate she was looking for, and the last person she expects to get along with. He's rude, entitled, and an overall ass. Still, as time goes on, Ellie begins to see that there's another side to the jerk she shares a house with. And learning more about his troubled past may be enough to change her mind about him. Perhaps, even enough to make her fall in love...

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8. A Drunken Night Out

Chapter Eight


        The club was dark, the only lights in the room were pulsing in time to the music that was pounding in my chest. The whole building was loud, and the smell of alcohol, cigarette smoke, and sweat was thick in the air as people danced, moving too close to each other for my comfort, spilling their drinks everywhere. I sat perched on one of the bar stools, my right leg crossed over my left leg as I sipped on a drink, watching as Olivia and Tyler swayed together, and Dylan and his boyfriend made out sloppily.


        I'd only been there maybe an hour and the club was already busy, alive.


        And I was bored.


        The night had started out well enough. After a very long workday, I rushed home, eager to start the fun. I had taken my time in the shower and getting dressed, but by the time I was finishing up my makeup, it was still only seven o'clock, and Olivia wasn't coming to pick me up until about eight-thirty. So I sat at the dining room table, looking over my psychology book as I waited.


        "I'm ordering Thai for dinner."


        I heard Alex's voice before I even realized he was entering the room, and I glanced up at him, only to see he had stopped short in the doorway that connected the dining room to his half of the house. I stared at him blankly for a long moment, as he stared down at me. His eyes combed over my face, and down my body, and it was a few seconds before I realized he was staring at the slightly more revealing dress I was wearing.


        Of course, it was no oversized t-shirt that let my ass hang out, but it was a very fitted black dress that hugged every curve of my body, and stopped quite a ways above my knees. And the neckline dipped down a little lower than what I normally wore, revealing a bit of my chest. Nothing too crazy, but just enough to grab attention.


        I stared at him with my eyebrows raised, trying not to laugh as I waited for him to finish ogling me. When he finally looked back up at my face, and our eyes met, a deep red blush flushed his cheeks, and he cleared his throat, quickly looking away.


        "I forgot you said you were going out tonight," he said, finally, and his voice was a little low, quiet.


        "In about an hour and a half," I answered, closing my textbook. "I could still eat." My stomach let out a low grumble in agreement.


        Alex nodded before disappearing back down the hallway, and I assumed he'd gone back to his writing until the food arrived. But he reappeared a short time later, his leather-bound notebook in hand, and sat down at the dining room table across from me. Without a word, he flipped open his notebook, looking over a few pages and jotting down little notes in the margins. And I just sat watching him in silence, wondering if he'd only settled in here because he was waiting for the food to arrive. Any other time, he'd been content to wait for it in his bedroom or his office.


        "Miss Graves," he said suddenly, and glanced up at me.


        "Yes?"


        "Will you be out late?" The question was a simple one, yet it had still caught me off guard. It was a bit out of the blue, unexpected.


        "Probably," I answered, wondering where this line of questioning was going.


        He nodded, looking back down. "And I suppose you'll be drunk." This wasn't a question, but a frank statement, and seemed to be right back in his normal range of perfectly mixed condescension and annoyance. I quirked my eyebrow at him in surprise, though he was still nose deep in his notebook, and couldn't see it. And to think, I had foolishly thought he was finally starting to warm up to me.


        "I suppose so," I replied slowly.


        "Well, try not to wake me up, please." He said it like it was a request, but the tone of voice made it pretty obvious it wasn't. "I have a meeting tomorrow morning, and I'd like to get some sleep."


        "You have a meeting on Saturday morning?"


        "Yes. With the illustrator that designs my book covers. It's the only day she has free."


        "Oh." That made sense, though I would think one would make time for Alex. He was a best-selling author, after all.


        We sat in silence for the remainder of the time, and when the food finally arrived, Alex took his back to his office.


        I suppose he was just waiting for the food, I thought.


        I ate my dinner in silence, going over my conversation with Alex in my head, wondering what had caused him to revert back to his old, normal behavior, when things had started to get less antagonistic between us. But I didn't give it too much thought. The problem was with him, not me, so there was nothing I could do to fix it. And when Olivia finally text me to let me know she and Tyler were waiting outside, I completely pushed the thoughts out of my head altogether, eager to begin our evening out.



        But as I sat at the bar, boredly drinking my way through my third margarita, (thanks to Dylan being friends with the bartender) my blurring thoughts slowly returned to Alex. I couldn't figure him out. One minute, he was ice cold and unapproachable, and the next he was buying me coffee mugs and dinner. He was back and forth so often, my emotions and mental health were starting to get whiplash. I wanted to like him. I wanted us to be friends. But it seemed like every step we took forward was followed by three steps backwards. I was starting to wonder why he even let me move in at all. Or had he been so sure that he wouldn't get along with anyone that he just let the first person who applied for the spare room move in?


        I let out a heavy sigh, downing my margarita in one swift gulp.


        "You look like you are having a terrible evening."


        I looked up as a stranger's voice suddenly appeared next to me, and was met with pale blue eyes, and a crooked smile. A guy around my age – perhaps slightly older – had taken the seat next to me, and was grinning as he looked down at my empty glass. I had seen him around the university a couple of times, talking with Dylan in between classes. He was cute, with light brown curly hair, and those gorgeous pale blue eyes.


        "No, I'm fine," I answered. "Just..."


        "Bored?"


        I nodded, and he chuckled lightly.


        He signaled to the bartender for a couple of drinks, and I offered him a smile of my own. The bartender placed two beers and two shot glasses filled with a golden liquor in front of him, and he looked at me, his smile only getting bigger.


        "Here," he said, sliding one of the shot glasses over to me, and I looked down at the tiny cup. "To being bored." We clinked our glasses together, and swallowed the shot in one gulp, and I resisted the urge to cough as the liquor burned my throat, and warmed my whole body. It wasn't long before I could feel my head starting to get a bit cloudy, and my body began to feel weightless as the alcohol did its job.


        I wasn't drunk, but I was certainly not as sober as I was when I'd first arrived.


        "So," he said, taking a long sip from his beer. "Why aren't you out on the dance floor?"


        I shrugged lazily. "I've never been much of a dancer," I laughed, realizing just how much the alcohol had loosed me up. I had all but forgotten about Alex, and I certainly wasn't as bored as I had been just a few minutes ago. "What about you?"


        He took another swig of his beer, then turned so that he was leaning closer to me while he looked out at the dance floor. "The girl I came with," he answered, pointing to a blonde girl who was dancing with a tall, really muscular guy, "found someone else to keep her entertained." There was a hint of disappointment in his voice, and I felt kind of sorry for him.


        "That's terrible," I replied, and he nodded, then shrugged.


        "Oh well. The company is better over here, anyway."


        I smiled, then chugged my beer, before hopping off of my stool.


        "Come on," I said, grabbing his arm, and pulling him toward the dance floor.


        The two of us moved together with the music, as the alcohol fully took over us, and I closed my eyes as I leaned into him, riding out the feeling of being completely carefree. I was the perfect amount of drunk, where anything more probably would have made me sick, and anything less would have left me just tipsy. And the stranger I was dancing with – Caleb, was his name, I found out – was a perfect gentleman the whole time, never letting his hands wonder past my swaying hips. It had become pretty evident early on that the chemistry between us was akin to nothing more than a good friendship, not something romantic, and that was perfect. Time seemed to slow as we both melted into each other, letting the music and atmosphere take us away. I didn't even realize how long we'd been dancing, or how late it was until Olivia stumbled up to me.


        "Tyler and I are going home," she breathed into my ear, and the scent of alcohol was heavy on her breath. Her forehead was glistening with sweat – the two of them hadn't stopped moving since we'd gotten there. "You wanna share a cab with us?" Her words were a bit sloppy, and I was glad neither of them were trying to drive.


        I shook my head, glancing down at my phone. It was barely midnight, and I wasn't ready for the night to end yet. "I'll get one by myself," I answered, and she nodded, pulling me into a tight hug before Tyler finally pulled her away, and the two of them disappeared back out into the night.


        I turned back to Caleb, who wordlessly pulled my body close to him again, and the two of us resumed our movements just as a new song started. It was just a little after 1am when I finally turned to him, tired and just a little less drunk than I was before. I didn't even have to say anything before he nodded his head.


        "I'll call us a cab." And he disappeared from the dance floor to somewhere more quiet where he could make a phone call. I gathered my jacket and purse, and was ready to walk outside by the time he returned. "They'll be here in ten minutes."


        The club was only a little less crowded than it had been an hour before, but we were still able to easily navigate our way through the tangled bodies of drunk college students that filled the room. When we stepped outside, the cold night air took me by surprise – Had it been this cold earlier? I couldn't remember, but I pulled my jacket tighter around me, as a shiver crept up my spine. And exactly ten minutes later, a yellow taxi pulled up in front of the door, and Caleb and I both slid into the back seats.


        It was a short drive to my house, and I thanked Caleb over and over for the fun I'd had that evening. There was no doubt in my mind that had he not approached me at the bar, I would've ended up leaving early, and spent the night watching movies with Lucy. And this – sorry Lucy – was a lot more fun than that.


        I paid the cab driver when we arrived at my house, and Caleb asked him to wait for him before walking me to my door, both of us cracking up when he tripped over the first step trying to go up the porch. I fumbled with my keys, unable to make my hands work – evidently I hadn't sobered up much since we'd left – and Caleb's warm laugh as I kept dropping my keychain filled the night air.


        "You have to be quiet!" I half whispered, half yelled, and Caleb started cracking up again. "My roommate's asleep, and if he wakes up, he'll kill us both!" This only made Caleb laugh even louder, and I couldn't stop my own laughter at this point as I tried – and failed – again to get the door open.


        We were both leaning into each other, tears filling our eyes, and I knew we must've looked completely insane and childish, but at the moment I didn't care. But when the front door suddenly opened, the warm air from inside rushing out to greet me, both Caleb and I went completely silent, and I felt my stomach lurch as I stared up at Alex. His face was unreadable, as usual, but he glanced between Caleb and I quickly, before gently taking my arm and pulling me inside. I shot Caleb an apologetic look, and he gave a small wave before Alex shut the door in his face.


        "I am so sorry," I began, waiting for Alex to start yelling at any moment. He had pulled me into the house, but released his light grip on my arm as soon as we were inside. And I willed myself to sober up, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't lift the fog from my mind.


        "Are you alright?" He asked, completely ignoring my apology, and the question caught me completely off guard.


        "I – Yes," I finally answered, after staring up at him for a long moment.


        "That guy wasn't trying anything, was he?"


        I looked up at him, confused as I tried to figure who he was talking about. It was a long moment before I finally said, "Caleb? No! No, no. He's just a friend." I wasn't sure why, but I really wanted Alex to believe that there was absolutely no romantic attraction between Caleb and me. "Really," I insisted, swaying a bit, and Alex was quick to steady me.


        He cleared his throat, his gaze averting mine, and for some reason, I was desperate for him to look at me again. "You should probably get changed into something warmer. I'll get you a glass of water," he said, taking a step backwards, away from me, and I had the sudden urge to reach out and pull him closer.


        What the hell is wrong with me?


        Instead, I nodded, kicking off my heels, and picking them up as I made my way toward my bedroom. I changed quickly, pulling on my pajamas, and when I opened by bedroom door, Alex was already standing there, water in hand.


        "Thank you," I said, taking the glass from him. I chugged the whole thing, realizing just how dry the alcohol had made my mouth, and Alex just stood there, watching as I tried desperately to quench my thirst. When I was finished, I looked up at Alex again. The fog in my head had thinned out a little. I could still feel myself swaying a bit, but I was at least able to correct it when I realized I was doing it.


        "I really am sorry for waking you up." I tried apologizing again, and again, Alex averted my gaze.


        "You didn't," he answered, after a long, silent moment, and I tiled my head up at him in confusion.


        "It's nearly two in the morning," I replied. "Why were you still awake?"


        This stretch of silence seemed to go on and on forever, and I noticed Alex let his poker face slip just a moment, and a look of embarrassment quickly replaced it. "I wanted to make sure you were alright." His voice was so quiet that I barely heard him, but I felt my heart dive into my stomach when I finally realized what he'd said.


        "You waited up for me?" I blurted out, immediately wishing I hadn't said it out loud.


        His face stiffened before his poker face quickly returned, and he huffed, "I just know how irresponsible college kids can be. Especially when they've been drinking."


        I rolled my eyes. "I wasn't going to drive, if that's what you were worried about." I folded my arms over my chest. There's that condescension that can make a good deed seem so rude.


        "Yes, well, I was more worried that you were going to get into a car with one of your drunk friends driving." His tone was one of anger, and annoyance, but all I heard in that moment was that he'd been worried about me. And he'd apparently caught what he said, too, because he scratched at the back of his neck uncomfortably, before finally mumbling, "I'm going to bed."


        "Alex." I wanted to say something to keep him there – sorry again, maybe? I took a step towards him, not realizing Lucy had settled at my feet, and in an attempt to not step on my cat, I stumbled forward. Alex reached out, wrapping his arms around me as I fell into him, and he quickly turned his body so that his back was to the wall, keeping us both from falling to the floor.


        We both stared at each other, eyes locked, both of us keenly aware of how close we were. His right arm – more muscular and toned than I had originally thought it to be – was still wound tightly around my waist, my hand still resting gently on his chest, and my stomach was doing somersaults while my heart pounded loudly in my ears. He dipped his head down so that our faces were level, and I could feel his warm breath on my cheek. And I couldn't take my eyes off of him. Our lips were so close to touching, I could practically feel his on mine, soft and warm, and I willed him to just close the gap between us.


        Instead, his stood me upright, creating an even bigger space between our bodies, before muttering, "Goodnight," and slipping back down the hall.


        I stood in the dark hallway for a long moment, suddenly very sober as I replayed the scene in my head over and over. We'd been so close to kissing, that was shocking and unexpected enough. But the part I was having the most trouble wrapping my head around, the part I just couldn't seem to clear from my head was the fact that as I stood in that hallway, alone, I could feel a stomach-churning disappointment building inside of me. My heart had all but stilled, and I let out the breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding.


        Because in that brief moment, Alex had been about to kiss me.


        And in that brief moment, I had absolutely wanted him to.


        I turned back toward my bedroom, making sure Lucy wasn't anywhere near my feet as I made my way back inside. I climbed into my bed, pulling my comforter up to my chin as I stared up at the ceiling, my thoughts running together until they were just one giant, indistinguishable blur. I recounted the entire evening – drinking and dancing with Caleb, saying goodnight to Olivia, and then coming home to Alex. And only one thought seemed to be clear and sharp, and pressed to the front of my mind, despite my attempt to dismiss it.


        I think I'm falling for Alex.


        I shook my head. No, I must still be drunk. Alex is an asshole. I'll go to sleep, and when I wake up tomorrow, everything will be back to normal.


        I squeezed my eyes shut, willing sleep to overtake me.


        It has to be the alcohol. There's no way I'm falling in love with Alex.


        Right?

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