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One year ago-ish
Saratoga Springs, New York
Holy shadoobie. This guy is hot.
No, scratch that. He’s the kind of hot teenage girls spell out as H-A-W-T. He’s that kind of hot. And he’s applying to be my roommate, which means only one thing.
I have to send him packing.
There’s no way in h-e-double hockey sticks I’ll be able to maintain any self-control around a guy like this. I mean come on, people. It’s like the moment you decide to diet, and you catch a whiff of pizza or walk past a bakery when they’re putting new pastries in the display case.
Temtorture at its finest. I know, I know. I made that word up—a mix of the word temptation and torture. It’s accurate, though, isn’t it? You know you shouldn’t have it because it’s so bad for you, but you know once it touches your tongue, it will be so gooooood.
Wow. That sounded more sexual than I expected. Because I wasn’t exactly thinking of having this guy’s anything touching my tongue. But now, the seed has been planted, so …
“I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me.”
Ryland’s voice brings me back from my not-so-G-rated thoughts. I am a terrible, horrible, no-good person, just like that Alexander kid in those children’s books they turned into a movie. I nod, trying my best not to let his lips mesmerize me because, whoa, they’re so nice and full and soft looking. And his hair makes me want to run my fingers through the short, light brownish-blond strands.
Sigh. Long, long sigh. There I go again.
“I admit”—he leans in, and I find the sparkle in his eyes captivating—“I was grateful you chose to meet in this spot since my company’s offices are right above here. I had a few things to take care of this morning. And the fact that your apartment building is within walking distance is another plus.”
Flattening my palms against the small table as we sit across from one another in Starbucks, I let out a slow exhale. Because it has to be said.
“I have to be honest with you, Ryland. You have great references.” I gesture to his résumé and list of references, both work and personal, he submitted to me when he’d contacted me about the room for rent a few days ago.
After printing off a sheet with some key information about the room for rent as well as photos of the spare bedroom, I’d posted it on the corkboard located in the lobbies of a few of the large, well-known office buildings—both mine and a few others I was familiar with nearby. I had hoped that would decrease my chances of ending up with some college kid who would end up being a slob and skip out on rent. I had a few decent applicants, but Ryland James had stuck out amidst the others.
He’s not only educated but also quite successful, as was clear from both his résumé and company’s website. He’d explained he had been renting a room, but the guy had recently gotten married, and he didn’t want to cramp the newlyweds’ style, so he’d been temporarily staying with another friend. Ryland wasn’t interested in buying anything—house or condo—at this point as he wasn’t entirely sure his job would keep him local and didn’t want the hassle of trying to sell a property or rent it out if he relocated.
Everything had checked out with him. Everything. He seemed like he had his act together. And his photo from the Eastern Sports company website didn’t disappoint. Which was why I had been planning to nix him altogether. He was exactly what I didn’t need right now. So why am I here, meeting with him face to face?
Sarah. She’d coerced me to meet with him. She went over each applicant’s information with me, and she kept coming back to Ryland’s. She’d hassled me about giving him a shot.
Inhaling deeply, I continue, “But I have to be honest with you. I’ve recently broken up with my dirtbag fiancé”—I break off with what I hope is a lighthearted laugh, but I swear it comes out sounding strained and a touch maniacal—“and I’m not interested in having a roommate who’s a guy and—”
I jerk, startled by his interrupting admission. And if I didn’t know better, I’d swear I detected a little hint of surprise in his eyes.
My eyebrows arch. “Really?” Shoot. That’s rude because even I hear the tinge of disbelieving doubt in my voice.
“Yes.” He nods, clasping his hands together and leaning forward to rest his forearms on the table. “Jack and I have been together for years now.” One of his hands reaches up to tug on his earlobe. “We still have a bit of an”—he pauses, lips pressing thin as though he’s trying to word it correctly—“open relationship, and I feel it’s best … to have a separate place and not be continuously underfoot.”
Huhhhhh. I’m still processing this information when he continues.
“So”—he flashes a smile that makes my insides all gooey—“you wouldn’t have anything to worry about with me.”
“Okay,” I say slowly, “but what about guests and sleepovers? Because I’m not a huge fan of having to listen to moaning and—”
“Not a problem.” He waves a hand dismissively. “I can totally stay at Jack’s place. He doesn’t have a roommate. It’s no big deal.” He flashes me another smile, and I feel my ovaries weep his name.
It’s a good thing he’s gay. Otherwise, let’s be real. I’d likely end up being that roommate who accidentally-on-purpose “sleepwalks” into his bedroom—naked—and has sex with him.
Holy crap. Did I really just think that? Bad, Maggie. Baaaad, Maggie.
Glancing over his paperwork, I say, “If you don’t mind, I have a few other applicants to interview.” Lies. I’m totally stalling. Raising my eyes, I find him watching me expectantly; that gaze centered on me in such a way that I feel like I’m the only person who exists right now. “But, tentatively, I’d like to offer you the room for rent.”
If I thought Ryland’s smile was ovary-lurch inducing before, this one trumps that. Big time. It’s blindingly bright and infectious, and I can’t help but return it. We sit there for a moment before he clears his throat, and I remember what else I have to tell him.
“So, as I mentioned earlier, the utilities normally run this much per month.” I use my capped pen to point at the sheet I had printed, which includes all the pertinent financial information. “We’ll split it fifty-fifty. Rent is due on the first of the month, and a late fee will be imposed if it isn’t in by the fifth day.” I recap a few other details and ask him if he’d like to look at the room.
He agrees, and when we stand, pushing in our chairs, he helps me slip into my coat once I pluck it from where I’d draped it over the back of my chair.
I repeat: Ryland took it upon himself to help me put on my coat.
I know, right? He has to be gay. Because no normal guy would take the initiative to do that for a woman. Especially not in this day and age.
Exiting the busy Starbucks, we fall in step along the crowded sidewalk full of the usual Saturday foot traffic as I lead him to my apartment building. He rushes up to beat me to the large, heavy doors to the building, reaching out to hold it open for me. Flashing him a smile, I thank him.
Such a gentleman, this one. Jack is one hell of a lucky guy.
“Hey, Mr. Charlie!” I smile, greeting our lead building attendant. He’s become like an adopted father to both Sarah and me. He’s sweet as pie and always watches out for us.
“Have to use your handcuffs on anyone recently, Chad?” I can’t resist teasing our security guard since an older woman on the second floor flirts with him shamelessly. It wouldn’t be as funny if she weren’t pushing ninety. I never knew women that age could still be hoochie mamas.
I introduce Ryland to them, and Chad steps around the desk where he was chatting with Mr. Charlie and walks with us to the elevators. I had already asked him if he’d be willing to accompany us up to my apartment in case I chose to show it to Ryland.
Chad waits in the hallway while I show Ryland around. After a quick peek in the spare bathroom, I lead him to the spare bedroom.
“Obviously, I still have a few more things to move out of here since it’s been used as storage more than an actual bedroom. But no worries, it’ll be cleaned out and ready to roll.” I gesture to a few small boxes I’ve yet to toss out—mainly mementos of my relationship with Shane—one, in particular, is a box of photographs of Shane and me from over the years. I’ve been putting off getting rid of it, which is dumb because it’s over and I know it. But those photos of us—especially the ones from early in our relationship—show us so happy and in love. It’s painful to think about throwing those away.
“Looks good.” Ryland’s deep voice behind me sends shivers down my spine.
“Well”—I turn, facing him—“that’s it.” I reach out a hand. “It was great meeting you, Ryland. I’ll definitely be in touch.”
When he slides his hand in mine, grasping it firmly but not too tight, I feel tingles. “Call me Ry,” he offers with a soft smile.
“Ry,” I repeat and inwardly wince when it comes out sounding a bit breathless. “It was great to meet you.”
He turns to leave, exchanging a quick good-bye with Chad at the door before I quietly lock up behind them. Leaning my back against the door, I let my eyes fall closed.
God just gave me an olive branch of sorts. A way to ease my financial situation a bit and eliminate any possibility of being tempted by a guy—just like I’d planned. No fear of getting involved with my male roommate because he’s not into women. I should be relieved.
I am relieved.
Maybe if I keep repeating that, I’ll start believing it.
Definition: the female equivalent of a cock block.
Example: You’re chatting with a guy you’re interested in and your friend comes along and lays claim to him.
That’s my life—except it’s worse. My friend who keeps “jamming” me is my gay roommate and if that isn’t a W.T.F. moment, I’m not sure what is.
Fact: He went home with three—yes, three—of the guys I had been so sure were into me.
Fact: He’s really pissing me off. I mean, hello? I’m trying to get back in the saddle, but I’ll never manage to get a boyfriend before the age of fifty if he keeps this up.
Fact: Secretly, I wonder what it would be like if he weren’t gay. Why do all the hot, sweet, tender-hearted guys have to be gay?
Fact: My gay-dar needs a serious tune-up.
The day I interviewed for the room to rent, everything changed. I knew I had met “the girl”, except there was one small problem: she didn’t want anything to do with men. I recognized a top-notch force field when I saw one. She’d been burned badly and didn’t want to deal with a heterosexual guy as a roommate. I could’ve turned around and found another place to live, but I wanted to live there—with her.
So I had to go “undercover”.
Fact: I’m in love with my roommate.
Fact: I’m a likely candidate for carpal tunnel surgery since all the action I’ve had for the past year has been my hand.
Fact: She’s going to hate me if I come clean now.
Fact: I’m not giving up. Which means, I’ll just have to continue to run defense until I figure out a way to get Maggie to see the “real” me.
The me that loves her.
The me that would never do her wrong.
Until then, I’ll keep running off every guy who shows any interest.
Until then, I’ll continue to Clam Jam.