My roommate was a screamer. Through the thin, shabby walls, I heard Maddie and the mystery guy going at it for like the third time since I'd gotten home from work two hours earlier.
The guy was quiet. Maddie, not so much. Then again, she seldom was. But this guy was eliciting sounds that even by Maddie's dubious standards were just a shade over the top.
Huddled under the covers of my own single bed, I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to block out the noises.
It's not that I objected to sex. And it's not that I minded Maddie bringing back some guy to our cheap two-bedroom apartment. What I minded was the fact that I had to get up in three hours for my other job, and hearing Maddie scream out, "Yes! Yes! Fuck me! Oh yeah!" for like the millionth time wasn't exactly the thing for a restful night's sleep.
I'd never met the guy, but I had a pretty good idea who he was. She'd been talking about him non-stop for the past week. Jay, the guy with lickable, washboard abs. Jay, the guy with the hot, tight ass that she wanted to grip with both hands and never let go. Jay, the guy with picture-perfect pecs and a muscle-bound back of cryptic tattoos.
According to Maddie, he was famous for something or other. But with Maddie, claims to fame weren't exactly credible. She tossed around that phrase the way some people toss spare change into deli tip jars whether they ordered a sandwich or not.
Supposedly, the guy was rich too.
If there was any justice in this world, he'd have the face of a bulldog.
Whether I'd seen his face or not, this had to be the guy going at it in Maddie's bedroom. Returning from my six-hour bartending shift, I'd seen that unfamiliar vehicle out front, some exotic sports car way beyond the budget of anyone in this building.
It could only belong to him. Parked on the narrow street across from the twelve-unit where I'd been living with Maddie for the last few weeks, the car was blazing red with wide tires and shiny rims that probably cost more than what I'd made last month at both of my jobs combined.
In our neighborhood, the vehicle would be hard to miss. Obviously, the guy was an idiot. If the car was still there in the morning, it would be a miracle.
Who cared if the guy had a hot body? And who cared if he was eliciting sounds that weren't quite human? And who cared if he had gobs of money and didn't mind spending it?
He was a giant dog-faced, dumb-ass. Or at least that's what I told myself an hour later when I heard the promise of round-four coming from Maddie's bedroom. Groaning in frustration, I wrapped my pillow around my ears and burrowed deeper under the covers.
I definitely needed my own place, and not only because Maddie wasn't exactly diligent about paying her half of the rent, even if her name, not mine, was on the lease.
By the time I drifted off to sleep, Maddie's screams had subsided into giggles and moans. Two short hours later, I staggered out of bed and opened my door just a crack. The place was dark, and Maddie's bedroom door was fully shut.
I was dressed for work in a crisp white blouse and a plain black skirt that showed way too much leg, especially for a cold Michigan morning. It was late March. Technically, it was spring. In reality, snow wasn't exactly out of the question.
Even our apartment was freezing, whether from a faulty thermostat or Maddie's habit of paying the bills five days after the shutoff notice. As soon as I had the chance, I made a mental note to call the gas company. Again.
Shivering in the cold apartment, I stumbled on high heels toward the small kitchenette and flicked on the dim overhead light.
That's when I saw him, sitting alone at our small kitchen table. Shirtless and tousled looking, the guy was everything Maddie had claimed and then some. He wore no shirt, revealing a broad chest of sharply defined muscles, set off by bulging biceps and shoulders cut so fine they were almost a work of art.
When our eyes met, my mouth fell open. My purse thudded to the floor, and I didn't bother to look down.
Casually, he rocked back on his chair, cradling his hands behind his head. The guy looked utterly at home, not just in his own skin, but in the ugly little kitchenette, with its peeling wallpaper and cracked cupboards.
We locked eyes, and the silence stretched out. His face was all angles and shadows, with a strong jaw, chiseled cheekbones, and dark, probing eyes that made me swallow with an audible gulp.
His wasn't the face of a bulldog. Good for him. Bad for me. And not only because he was sleeping – or whatever – with my roommate.
It was because of the other thing. The thing that Maddie wouldn’t know. Couldn’t know.
His was a face I recognized.
When he spoke, his voice was low, not quite a whisper, but the next closest thing. It might've been a caress, except for the note of surprise was impossible to miss. "Luna?" he said.
I hated that name, even if was the thing on my birth certificate.
I bit my lip. Why on Earth was he here? To help me? To hinder me? I wasn't stupid. I knew it had to be more than a coincidence that he'd shown up here, in my apartment, two hours away from where we'd both grown up.
I lifted my chin and met his gaze head-on. "Jake," I said.
"You've got five minutes," he said.
"For what?" I asked.
"To pack your bags."
I glanced around. "Why?"
"Because," he said, "you're coming with me."