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...


3. There Must be Something in the Water


Chapter Three

        "Julian Carter? Are you sure that's a good idea?"

        It was Friday, early afternoon, and Olivia and I were sitting at a table outside of a small restaurant we'd come to often. Things had been so crazy, and both of us had been so busy, this was the first time we'd been able to get together in over a week. And while she was planning to help me move the next day, we'd decided to grab lunch to catch up on everything that had been going on. It was a nice day for early September – there was no cloud in sight to block the sun's warm rays, but a gentle breeze had kicked up, cooling our skin as we sat across from each other, talking in between bites of our meal.

        I dipped a French fry into the ketchup on my plate, and sighed, pointing it at her as I said, "The only thing I'm sure of is that this is probably the only way I'll be able to stay here. No one else has even sent me an email. Alex has been my only offer." I bit into the fry, and a deep frown pulled heavy at her mouth, making her almost look cartoonish.

        "I know I left you in a crappy position," she said, taking a bite of her pasta. "But that doesn't mean you have to go for the first thing that comes up. I mean, the last thing I heard you say about Julian before he offered you this room was that he was, and I quote, an 'arrogant douche who clearly thinks wearing his own ass for a hat was trendy'. And now you're moving in with him?"

        I smirked. "I said that? I should write that down, that's a good one."

        "Ellie, be serious." Olivia's frown had deepened as she scolded me, and I rolled my eyes before taking a huge, very unladylike bite from my cheeseburger. "I've had Tyler ask a few of his friends to keep an eye out," she continued, taking advantage of my mouth being too full of food for me to talk, "And there's some pretty good deals on the West End -"

        "The West End?" I repeated, interrupting her, and she let out an exasperated sigh. "I might as well move back in with my parents if I'm going to move to the West End – that's two hours away." I shuddered. "I am not riding the bus for two hours one way, five days a week. And besides, if I move in with Alex – which I am – I can ride my bike to work and school."

        Olivia shook her head. "Fine," she said, growing tired of arguing. "Just... Be careful. I don't want you to end up kicked out and homeless because you don't when to bite your tongue."

        I laughed. "Fair enough, but I'll be careful," I promised, and a small smile formed on Olivia's lips.

        The conversation was lighter after that. Olivia's mood softened as she told me about how busy she'd been decorating the apartment, and the apartment finally felt like a real home. And I was just glad she had dropped the subject of my moving in with Alex, because her points had been very valid. And I didn't want to second guess my decision.

        We grabbed our checks a little while later and said goodbye, and I headed back to work. As I sat at my desk, updating a few spreadsheets for the end of the week, my thoughts drifted to all of the stuff I had left to pack. It was mostly my clothes, but I hadn't realized I'd had so many until I started packing them away in boxes. And Lucy wouldn't stay out of the boxes, so every time I packed clothes into a box, I'd have to unpack Lucy immediately after.

        I sighed, printing off the updated copies of the week's reports. There was still so much left to do, and I was just ready to have it all done and over with. When it was time for me to go, I dropped off the reports in Mr. Johnson's mail slot, then headed out the door, going over my checklist in my head. It was going to be a long night.

        Olivia met me with coffee the next morning, and I could've kissed her right then and there. I was running on only four hours of sleep, and I was sure that I looked like an ugly mix of groggy and bitchy. Olivia had borrowed Tyler's truck, and with the help of one of my neighbors – a tall, middle aged man we'd only spoken to a couple of times before, though he was quite friendly – we loaded my belongings into the bed of the pickup. I sipped my coffee quietly as Olivia chirped happily, jumping from talking about Tyler, to her parents, to Lucy as she drove along. When we finally got to Alex's house – my new house – she cooed excitedly, her eyes growing wide.

        "It's so cute!" She said, looking around. Her eyes followed from the fence, down the cobblestone pathway, pausing for a moment at the little garden, and then stopping finally on the porch swing. "I take back everything I said. If you don't move into the house, I will."

        I ignored her, and downed the last of my coffee hoping it would kick in soon, before swinging the door open, and hopping down from the truck.

        "Stay here, this should only take a minute," I told her, and she nodded, still looking around at the house.

        I made my way to the front door, and before I even made it up the porch steps, Alex swung the door open, gesturing for me to come inside. He was well dressed today, but his hair was again disheveled, and the stubble on his face was making a reappearance. I stepped into the house, and he shut the door firmly behind us before leading me into the dining room.

        "The lease is here," he gestured to the stapled papers laying neatly on the dining room table. "And here is your key." He produced a silver key from his pocket, and I took it from his open hand. I glanced up at him, only to awkwardly meet his gaze, which he held firmly. I looked back at the table quickly.

        I picked up the lease, reading over the terms. It was a standard lease, much like the one Olivia and I signed for our apartment. I was surprised there were no ridiculous stipulations – perhaps a curfew for every third Thursday of every month, or a ban on bringing meat into the house past a certain time of day – I knew how strange writers could be, especially Alex, with his weird defect about seafood. But there was nothing. I finished reading it quickly, then signed my name at the bottom of the last page, turning to Alex when I finished. He took the papers from my hand without a word.

        "I have errands to run today," he said, pulling his keys from his pocket. "I trust you will get moved in with no problems?"

        It was a long moment before I realized he was waiting for my response. I'd gotten used him to just stating things, then walking away before I could say anything. I nodded. "Oh, yeah. I'll be fine."

        He nodded. "I thought so," he replied. "Try not to damage the carpet." And, true to his usual self, he headed out of the front door without waiting for me to answer.

        I let out a sigh, shook my head, and headed back out to the truck.

        It only took Olivia and me a few hours to get everything moved into my new bedroom. Moving the bed proved to be hardest part – It was much easier to do when we had a third, stronger person to help lift the weight. But we managed, and I stood smiling happily in the middle of my messy bedroom. Lucy had immediately starting running around the house, sniffing all of the furniture, and exploring in general. By the time Olivia and I had finished moving everything, my adorable little cat had found her a spot to sleep, stretched out across the back of the living room couch.

        "I would spend all day on this balcony if I lived here," Olivia said, leaning against the glass doors as she looked out to the backyard. It was a small backyard, I noted, with no trees or furniture, and on the other side of the white picket fence that surrounded our house, was the neighbor's very tall, brown wooden fence that reached so high, I could only see their roof.

        "I'd offer to trade rooms with you, but I don't really think I'd want to live with Tyler, or he with me," I joked, and she rolled her eyes playfully.

        "Considering the fact that Tyler and I share a room... Probably not."

        "Good point. I like Tyler, but not that much."

        Olivia let out a light chuckle, tucking an unruly strand of her blonde hair behind her ear as she turned to me. "Well, sorry to just duck out and leave you with all of this to sort out," she said. "But I promised Tyler I would meet him on his lunch break in an hour, and I still need to shower."

        I nodded, standing up from where I was crouched by a box, pulling out the random odds and ends that I'd be decorating my room with. I walked with my friend to the door. "Thanks again," I said, following her outside, and to the truck.

        She waved me off, before giving me a hug, saying, "No problem. Give me a call tomorrow. I want to know all about how your first night with Mr. Brooding Writer goes."

        There was a certain twinkle in her green eyes as she looked at me, a twinkle I'd seen plenty of times before when she'd tried setting me up on dates with one of Tyler's friends that I would "just absolutely hit it off with". I tilted my head at her in suspicion, quirking an eyebrow.

        "I'll call you," I said, slowly. "But I doubt anything interesting or unusual will occur. What are you up to?"

        "Me?" She feigned shock, placing her hand dramatically on her chest, and I shot her a glare. "I'm not up to anything. But I saw how he was looking at you when he opened the door."

        "Like he looks at everyone and everything else?" I offered. "Uninterested. Annoyed. Like life itself is the most boring and inconvenient thing he's ever had to take part in?"

        Olivia's smile dropped from her face as she rolled her eyes. "No," she said harshly. "I think maybe he likes you a little more than he lets on."

        I almost laughed in her face at that. As if Alex was capable of liking anyone or anything. And beyond that, he didn't even know me. I shook my head. "Don't you need to go shower or something?" I said, instead of continuing this ridiculous conversation.

        Olivia smirked. "Yes, I do. But this conversation isn't over."

        I started to object, but she climbed into the driver's seat of the truck before I had time to reply. I watched as she backed out of the small driveway, then waved as she rode off.

        And I was left alone.

        It felt weird to be walking into Alex's house by myself. Even though I had a right to be there – I lived there now, after all – but it still felt as though I was trespassing on someone else's property. Like Alex might come home at any moment and yell at me for being in there.

        I shoved that thought aside, and stopped to admire the small pink flowers that had blossomed in his garden. No, this is my house now, too. It was a thought that I would need to get used to.

        "Uh, hello there!"

        An unfamiliar voice rang out suddenly, and I jumped a little at the sound. I looked up from where I was crouched by the garden, and saw an elderly lady standing just on the other side of the white fence. She was tall and thin, and her long white hair hung over her shoulder in a messy braid. She stared at me curiously, her eyes searching my face for a very long moment, as her mouth formed in a thin line.

        Oh God. I hope she doesn't think I'm some creepy fan, stalking Alex outside of his house.

        That would be twice in one week someone thought that of me.

        But her mouth suddenly broke into a broad, friendly smile, as she said, "You must be Alex's new roommate."

        Oh. So she knows about me.

        I nodded, walking over to the fence and closer to her. "Yes, I'm Ellie," I said, extending my hand towards her. She took it, her smile growing.

        "I'm Maggie. Alex mentioned his new roommate would be moving in today," she answered, her gray eyes still looking me over. "I'll admit, I was a little surprised when he said he was looking for someone to share the house with."

        "Yes, he does seem to value his privacy very much," I replied. "Do you know Alex well?" I was surprised he told his neighbor about my moving in. I had assumed Alex didn't even know his neighbors, let alone spoke to any of them. He didn't seem like the type to get overly friendly with people who lived next door.

        She nodded. "I was the first person he met when he moved in," she explained, then added, "Come to think of it, I believe I’m the only person he met."

        Ah. That sounds more like him.

        "But he's a nice boy," she continued, as if she'd heard my thought. "Of course, you already know that."

        I nodded. "Oh, absolutely," I lied. I couldn't bring myself to damper this woman's opinion of my new roommate by telling her how, more often than not, he was a complete douche during the few run-ins I'd had with him. It was likely this was the only friend Alex had, and if that were the case, I wouldn't be the one to ruin it. Besides, he must've done something to make her think so highly of him.

        "Is he gone again?" she asked, cutting into my thoughts, and I nodded. She frowned slightly. "I tell you, the boy never stays home anymore, and he's out at ungodly hours. I've told him time and time again that it isn't good for young people to be out so late at night, but he doesn't listen. That will catch up with him when he gets older, mark my words." She let out a heavy sigh at the end of her rant, and a sly smile spread across her lips. "Although, perhaps he'll be more apt to stay home, now that a pretty young thing like you will be waiting for him."

        I felt my cheeks and ears burn red at that comment, and I shook my head emphatically. "No, it's not like that at all," I insisted, but her grin only got bigger.

        "Sure it isn't, dear. A handsome young man like that? If I were you, or just a little younger, I would go for it."

        Oh good God, there must something in the water today. Everyone has clearly lost their minds.

        "Anyway, I just made a fresh salad when I saw you over here," she said, and I was thankful she changed the subject. "Would you like to come over for lunch?"

        "Oh, thank you, but I still have so much unpacking left to do."

        I thought about the boxes spread around my bedroom floor, and the fact that I still hadn't decided if I was going to keep my TV in the bedroom, or if I wanted to put it in the living room. Will Alex even let me put it in the living room?

        "Ah well," she said, her voice hinting at her disappointment. "Next time then."

        I smiled again, and nodded. She was kind, even if she was a little confused about the context of Alex's and my living together.

        "It was very nice to meet you," I replied.

        "You too, dear," she said, giving a little wave. "And please, feel free to stop by anytime." She smiled, then headed back into her house.

        Once I started unpacking the boxes, I became very focused, and it wasn't long before I had my new bedroom arranged just how I wanted it. I looked around my bathroom, placing my shower stuff in the large bathtub, and noting that I would need to get a shower curtain. Other than that, everything was perfect. I dragged my TV out into the living room, frowning when I realized there was no entertainment center to sit it on, and nowhere for me to mount it on the wall. I sighed, opting to leave it sitting on the floor for now. I sat on the couch, looking around the room. The house was so... empty. It almost looked like a hotel, or a hospital room.

        I wonder if Alex will let me decorate it, I thought, leaning my head back against the back of the couch, and I heard Lucy stir before laying a tiny paw on the top of my head. I know I was paying rent there, but I wasn't sure just how much of the house I was allowed to consider my own. I wasn't even sure if he was going to have a problem with me having put my television in the living room.

        I let out a sigh. Now that everything was done, and I was officially moved out of Olivia's and my apartment, and into Alex's house, I had had time to think about everything. A part of me worried that I had rushed into this too quickly, though I had, in all honesty, been left with little choice. No one else had contacted me after my meeting with Alex. I'd even held off on having my mail redirected to this new address, just in case something better came up. But nothing had. Still, I wondered if this was going to be worth it. Alex had an attitude, and it was clear to me he had very poor people skills.

        Still, Maggie's praises and good words about Alex had seemed legitimate, if surprising. And though I didn't know the older lady very well, I had no reason to believe she'd speak so highly of him for any other reason than her belief that it was the truth. Which meant that there had to be something good under all of those layers of misery and overall annoyance at the general population. It might have been buried deep, but it had to be there.


        I stood up and stretched, then grabbed Lucy.

        "Enough thinking for tonight, Miss Lucy,"  I said, and she wiggled restlessly in my arms. "Now, it's time for bed."

        I put on my pajamas quickly, then climbed into my freshly made bed. Lucy padded around on top of the blanket before finally curling up near my feet. I turned off my bedside lamp, shoving out any more thoughts that would try to keep me awake, and gave into the exhaustion that was finally taking hold of me.

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