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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1. Somtimes, Plans Change


 

Chapter One

        "Olivia, tell me you're joking."


        I stared at my best friend, waiting for her to crack her familiar smile – the telltale sign that whatever she'd just said was a lie, a silly joke. But her green eyes stared at me for a long moment, unblinking, and her mouth stayed in a thin line – not quite a frown, but definitely not a smile.


        "Olivia," I said again, grabbing her hand. I willed her to give me any sign that the words that had just left her mouth were anything but true, implored her with my own eyes as I searched her face, but she continued to sit across from me with the same grim expression. Finally, she let out a heavy sigh.


        "I feel so terrible about this, Ellie," she said, biting her lip nervously. "I've gone back and forth about it, you can ask Tyler." She looked up at her boyfriend, a tall brunette who, at first glance, didn't look much different than any other guy, but the more time you spent around him, the more you'd notice how handsome he actually was. His dark brown eyes were soft and apologetic as he stared down at me, then looked back at Olivia.


        "But Tyler and I have been together for two years," my best friend continued. "I really think it's time he and I move in together."


        I let out a heavy sigh. Had she delivered this news at literally any other time, I would have been thrilled for her. Tyler was everything a girl could ask for when it came to boyfriends. And they were living the college dream – they met in their freshman year, and he was completely, irrevocably enthralled by her beauty. Sickening, really, but he was good to her, and she adored him. If this news had come just a few weeks earlier, I would have had plenty of time to get on the list to be assigned a dorm at my college campus. But the Fall semester started in less than a month, and the deadline to get assigned a dorm had come and gone. I couldn't afford to live in this apartment on my own, and I certainly couldn't go back to living with my parents – they lived five hours away from my school. And my job.


        My job.


        Oh no.


        If I didn't figure out a new living situation, not only would I have to drop out of school for a while, I would have to quit my job. I loved my job.


        I ran a hand through my short dark hair, closing my eyes, and taking a deep breath to suppress the anxious thoughts that were running through my mind. No. I would figure this out. It wasn't right for me to expect Olivia to stay living with me forever – even if we had agreed to continue living together through this school year. And I couldn't be mad at her. She was in love.


        "Ellie?"


        Olivia's voice suddenly intruded into my thoughts and brought me back to reality. I opened my eyes, and fixed my best, most believable smile on my face.


        "Olivia," I began, and she looked me nervously. "Don't worry about it. I'm happy for you!" I pulled her into a tight embrace, and I felt her shoulders sag as she exhaled the breath she'd been holding.


        "You're really not mad?" She asked, pulling away from the hug, and holding me at arms'-length. Her dark green eyes were searching my face, looking for any sign that I was lying, but I shook my head.


        "I'm not mad," I promised, and a relieved smile spread across her lips.


        "Good," she grinned. "Because I want you to come over all the time, and I want you to help me decorate the apartment. Oh! You have to come see the apartment, it is absolutely the cutest thing. And Tyler says we can get a dog, and..."


        Olivia continued to talk excitedly, clearly buying my slightly fake enthusiasm. And the longer she went on about it, the less upset I became about the situation – her happiness was contagious.


        I'll just put out an ad for a new roommate tomorrow, I thought, still halfway listening to Olivia. Or maybe I'll look for something closer to school and work. Olivia and I always talked about moving closer. Then I wouldn't have to keep taking the bus. I tried not to shudder at that thought. Taking the bus every day was nearly the bane of my existence.


        Yes, I thought decidedly. First thing tomorrow, I'll begin looking for a new place to live.
        Maybe this won't be so bad after all.



                                                                                        *


        "This. Is. Horrible."


        I let out an exasperated sigh as I continued clicking through the thousands of ads from people looking for roommates that were displayed on my computer. I'd been looking at different profiles since I'd gotten to work at 9 that morning. And nearly three hours later, I was no better off, and no closer to finding a new place to live than when I'd woken up that morning.


        "Jill Newman, 38, not married, three dogs," I read aloud, scanning over the next profile I'd clicked on. "Nope, that won't work. Poor Lucy couldn't handle three dogs." I imagined my small, nearly all black cat (except for her little white paws), trembling in terror under the couch as a large Rottweiler growled hungrily at her. I shook the thought from my head and clicked off of that profile.


        "Megan Lloyd, 27, allergic to cats." I rolled my eyes, immediately clicking off of that profile, and groaning. "I'm never going to find a new place to live. I'm either going to have to quit school and move back in with my parents, or live in the park down the street. Maybe Olivia would let me use her shower. And she'd have to take Lucy..." I stopped when I came across an application that caught my eye.


        "Alex Reed, 24, works from home, but gone during most of the day." I scanned over the very short profile. "One bedroom for rent with private bathroom, large kitchen, dining area, and front porch. Well, hello Alex Reed." A small smile played on my lips as I began typing up an email to the email address provided. "Hopefully this one is a winner." I read over my email twice, making sure it included every detail Alex would need to know – my age, the fact that I was a full time college student with a good job, and that I had a cat – then sent it, willing, with every fiber of my being, that Alex Reed would email me back soon. I waited a couple of minutes, then clicked out of my email, just as someone walked through the front doors.


        I fixed my biggest smile on my face – the smile I used specially for our clients – and said, "Welcome to Brookes' Publishing, how may I -"


        "Get me Aaron Johnson. Now."


        I stared at the man standing in front of me, slightly shocked. He was tall and lean, possibly in his mid-twenties. His jeans were wrinkled, and he had only one of the sleeves of his black sweatshirt pushed up. His dark blonde hair was disheveled, as if he'd just rolled out of bed and walked in here, and slight stubble was starting to dot his neck, chin and cheeks. Hazel eyes stared down at me impatiently, and I cocked an eyebrow when I finally realized who was standing in front of me.


        "Ah, Mr. Carter," I said, regaining my composure. I'd only come in contact with Julian Carter maybe a handful of times since I had started my job as receptionist for Brookes' Publishing Co. a year before, but I'd quickly learned he was one of the most impatient, rude, and stuck-up individuals that walked the planet. He always came storming in, demanding this and that, and expecting people to wait on his every whim. People were supposed to just drop whatever they were doing to attend to his needs – including Mr. Johnson, our lead publisher. Granted, Mr. Carter had published a couple of best-sellers, and at his age that was quite impressive. But it still grated on my nerves the way he dictated orders and began demanding things as soon as he walked in.


        I forced myself not to roll my eyes at him as I picked up my phone, and dialed Mr. Johnson's assistant's number.
        "Hi Cynthia," I said, glancing up at Julian when he slammed his leather-bound notebook onto my desk – his new book, undoubtedly. Papers flew out onto the floor, and he scrambled to pick them up quickly. I had to stifle a laugh as I watched him run around frantically after the pages.


        "Hi Eleanor, what can I do for you?" I could hear Cynthia typing away on her keyboard as she spoke.


        "Sorry to bother you," I answered, "but is Mr. Johnson in? Julian Carter is here to see him."


        I heard Cynthia let out a tiny groan, before saying in a low voice, "He's late! Again! He always comes in late, and I already sent in Mr. Johnson's 11:30 appointment!"


        I opened my mouth to ask Cynthia if I should have Julian wait in the sitting area, but he picked up his notebook without a word, and headed straight for the elevator.


        "He's on his way up," I warned, and Cynthia groaned again.


        I shook my head and hung up the phone, looking after Julian as he picked up more dropped pages before hurrying to get onto the elevator before the doors closed.


        He is so terrible, I thought, then turned my attention back to apartment hunting.



                                                                                                                        *


        I got home from work around 5:30pm, and Olivia met me at the front door.


        "I ordered a pizza," she said, before I could even say hello. "And I rented a bunch of movies, and there's snacks and candy and cakes all in the living room. All you have to do is change into something comfy."


        I quirked an eyebrow at my best friend, and squinted my eyes at her in suspicion. "What do you want?" I asked, looking her up and down.


        She rolled her eyes and pulled me into the apartment, leading me to my bedroom by my arm. "To spend the night watching movies with my best friend!" She replied.


        "And..?" I pulled my arm out of her grip, and stopped dead in my tracks in the hallway. Olivia let out an exasperated sigh.


        "Fine. Tyler has to go into work tomorrow, and I really need help moving my stuff over to his place." She looked at me imploringly, her bottom lip poking out slightly in a pout. "Please don't make me beg."


        I folded my arms over my chest and looked her up and down, letting an uncomfortable silence settle between us, just for dramatic effect. When Olivia's gaze began to falter, and she began to fidget nervously, I finally said, "What kind of pizza?"


        "Pepperoni and banana peppers."


        "And movies?"


        "Comedies. Obviously."


        I dropped my arms, and a smile pulled at the corners of my mouth. "Fine, I'll help you move. But I get the biggest slice of pizza."


        Olivia grinned. "Deal."


        We parted ways long enough for me to change out of my very uncomfortable work clothes, and into warm pajamas. Then I met her in the living room, just as the movie was about to start. I settled into the couch, and let out a heavy sigh.


        This is what I'll miss, I thought, then pushed the sad thoughts out of my mind for the evening.

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