Tom sighed loudly, “Look you two, it’s the start of the new semester, we never have anything for this time of year. I am very sorry. We will throw in this half-month for free and next month. So August and September will be free. If you can just adjust and be okay with a couple weeks together, we are bound to find a few suitable places. I will reimburse the rent you’ve paid for August and September. Then, starting in October you will only have to pay half of your rent for each of the months that you’re together. Surely a compromise is possible. Act like adults for God’s sake. I’ll send over new contracts for this month and we will go month to month from there, until you’re comfortable signing a full-year lease together or we find another apartment. Lochlan, your lease will supersede hers, still though. I’ll have something added that if you forfeit on the new leases, the old ones are reinstated. I don’t know what else to suggest.”

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I was about to lose it, so I stood and paced, “This is unacceptable. I’m a law student; I don’t need some hood rat bringing home women. I paid the money and we have a contract. I could sue you…”

Lochlan cut me off, “I’m in. I want my rent back; I’m in for sure. I’ve always liked having a roommate. Least this one’s easy on the eyes, Tom.”

Tom chuckled into the phone, “Well, good luck with that, Lochlan, not that you’ll need it. Goodbye Erin, let me know what you decide.” With that he hung up.

I stood there staring at the phone, wondering what in the hell had just happened.

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I dropped back onto the couch, “This can’t be happening.”

He rolled his eyes, “It’s alright, princess. You’ll get by. It’s six—maybe eight weeks tops, like the man said. How hard can it be? Surely you had roommates in North Dakota.”

I felt a loss of control. I didn’t like that feeling. I stood up abruptly and walked to the hallway to get my bags. I snarled, “I guess I’ll take the other room, since you already had a friend sleep over.”

He put his hands up but never stopped smiling, “Hey, I got here today too. She wasn’t my friend and she didn’t sleep over. She was my waitress. Now since you ran her off, I’d be more than happy to let you take her place. You can pay me back for macing me.” He winked and gave me a one-sided smile.

I growled and lifted the mace again. He put his hands in the air, “It was a joke, princess.”

I made a guttural noise, “Stop calling me that. I’m not a princess.” I turned and dragged my crap to my room. When I closed the door, I felt like everything was spinning out of control.

How had this become my reality?

I plunked on my bed and texted my brother.

‘I have an issue.’

He didn’t respond. I felt my lower lip creeping out as the pout took over. Instead of being a baby and letting it get me down, I started unpacking. I could control this space. This was mine.

I set up everything and checked the bed to ensure it was actually clean. Part of the payment of the damage deposit had been professional cleaners and fresh linens. It had been the ideal place the rent. I sat on the bed and sighed. Everything had been perfect for five whole seconds. But now I couldn’t let myself get too comfortable. The blue-eyed devil with the cocky grin was no doubt getting this place. I would be packing and moving all over again.

A knock startled me. I looked at the door confused, did he want us to talk and be friends… like he wasn’t stealing my home. “What?”

He opened the door, “Come with me,” he said it expectantly.

I felt myself pulling backwards, farther into the bed, “What?” I asked disgustedly.

He put a huge hand out. I noticed the callouses on the tips of his fingers, “Come with me. I have an idea.”

I looked at his hand, like he was holding something dangerous out for me to look at. I stood but didn’t move towards the door. He laughed and stepped back so I could walk out. When I got into the hallway, he just looked down on me, like he was studying me. Being close to him in the hallway, made me clutch my mace and try to ignore how hot he was.

His look turned shady as his eyes traveled every contour of my face. I sneered, making him smile. “Hmm,” he made a sound and walked away. I followed him to the front door with my key in my pocket, and mace in my hand, in case he got any funny ideas. But he left first and locked it when I stepped out.

I walked in his shadow and tried to ignore how tall and big he was or how good he smelled.

He was the enemy. The sexy enemy.

I grinned bitterly, “You know the gentlemanly thing to do, would be to let me stay.”

He looked back and winked, “I know, that’s why I am.”

I hated him, even if he smelled good and looked like sex on a stick. He was tall, six-foot-two maybe, with a thickness to him that made his tee shirt tight in the chest and arms. But he wasn’t bulky, lean and strong looking. His dark hair was cut and styled in a fohawk, with some of it hanging in the back almost like a mullet, but somehow on his cocky, sexy body, it was hot. I noticed a huge, sun tattoo at the base of his neck, sticking out the top of his shirt. His back flexed as he walked. I mentally slapped myself. It was hot in the stairwell and I hadn’t had sex in a while. That’s all it was. I didn’t sleep around, and not with guys who had already done it once that day with someone else. I shuddered, imagining it.

We walked down the street, not talking. It was awkward and annoying. He slowed down when I fell behind, waiting for me, “You hungry?”

I shrugged and walked next to him, I had wanted to be done my run and drinking a smoothie, or whatever cool dinner I had made myself. He was messing with my plan. But for some reason, I didn’t mind as much as I was protesting and acting like I did. I felt safe being with him. He was capable, I let him lead me around. It was an odd new experience and I didn’t even know why I was doing it. I rationalized it, that we needed to get to know each other, but I knew I didn’t care about that. He was too close to me, smelling good and hovering. I liked it and I could rationalize the devil out of it, but something about him made me want to take my shirt off.

He stopped at a dingy restaurant and opened the door for me. Cool air blasted from inside. I scrunched up my nose and stepped in. He walked ahead of me, when I stopped and stared at the décor. I followed him, gazing all around me, stunned at the smells and scary-looking people.

I looked around as we neared a table. “We just seat ourselves?” I asked, a little confused. He laughed and plunked into the booth. I sat down slowly, trying to see if I was sitting in anything. It wasn’t my kind of place. I wasn’t a total snob; my favorite foods were truck foods like on Eat Street, but this was like a truck stop. The greasy-haired people seemed seedy and I felt like I stuck out.

“Relax, princess. They won’t bite you.”

I gave him a look. He winked, “I might though.”

We were interrupted by a waitress with big boobs and huge blonde hair. She was instantly sexing him up with her stare. He enchanted every inch of her too. Some people had behavioral ticks, Lochlan’s was sex appeal. Charm that made me want to touch him or be near him. The waitress noticed it; ladies on the street noticed it.

He played with the salt shakers, glancing up at her through his thick lashes, “We’ll have two mugs of draft and,” he paused and looked at me, “You eat meat?”

I nodded, feeling completely confused by him.

“And two of the house burgers with fries, please.”

She giggled and left, “Sure thing.”

He held my stare for a minute and then sat back confidently, like he was taking me in, “What’s your deal?”

I thought I misheard him for a second. I was still waiting for my menu. I looked at the back of the waitress and then him, and shook my head like I was losing my mind, “Did you seriously just order for me?”

He folded his arms and tilted his head, licking his lips. He didn’t answer.

I leaned in, “Are you insane? Who just orders a stranger food?”

He blinked his long, dark lashes at me flatly, “My name is Lochlan Barlow. I’m from Tennessee. I’m a Scorpio and I don’t really like long walks on the beach or romantic movies or anything like that. I like to shoot pool, hang with my friends and drink beer.” His voice dropped, “You wanna know a secret? I find gardening therapeutic, and chess with my grandpa.”

I had nothing. He was clearly insane and a sarcastic, entitled asshole to boot.

He waited for me to respond but I had nothing, so I looked around the restaurant—if you could call it that. I smiled at the waitress when she brought the beers, “Thank you.” She ignored me and grinned at him, “You aren’t really Lochlan Barlow from Thin Ice are you?”

He nodded his head once, “I am.” He said it like he might toss his fohawk about any second. She looked like she might pay him to do it. Thin Ice? I racked my brain but I didn’t know that. Was it a show? Was he a movie star? He looked like one.

Her eyes widened, like she was going to have a heart attack. She gushed, sliding a napkin at him, “Can you sign this?” Her voice was a squeak.

He chuckled, “What’s your name, darlin’?” He was very Tennessee when he said darling.

She bat her chunky, black lashes at him, “Darla.”

He gave her a subtle smile; it was sweet and sexy as hell. “Darla, that’s pretty darn close to darling.” She giggled again. I watched in horror. But he took the pen and scrawled some kind of chicken scratch on the napkin.

I drank my beer, shaking my head slowly at the spectacle. His cocky, shit attitude was somehow appealing to this woman for whatever Thin Ice was. She hugged it to her chest and ran to the back of the restaurant.

His charm shut off when he looked at me. I could see a difference in the way he spoke to me and looked at me, compared to her. He nodded, “What’s your deal?” He was almost rude to me.

I shook my head. I was completely confused, gripping my beer for fear I would throw it in his face.

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