This is a work of fiction intended for adults only, as it contains explicit scenes not appropriate for minors. By continuing to read, you are acknowledging you are of legal age to do so. All Rights Reserved. Copyright © 2012 by AJ Rose
Veronica, it seemed, had ample amounts of time to spend, whether sitting in a bar people watching, streaming horrible movies on Netflix while sprawled on Ty’s living room floor surrounded by empty Chinese food containers, or just keeping Ty from wallowing alone. She’d taken to coming over and dragging Ty out of the house, a feat that at first had been akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. He’d fought her, telling her to leave him alone, that he didn’t want company. She ignored him, and after his initial irritation every time she did, he appreciated it.
The first time she’d shown up at his house, several days after their second drink – he didn’t think of them as dates, just a way to temporarily lift the rock of rejection and despair he carried on his shoulders – he’d opened the door in surprise and she’d breezed into his house uninvited.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, scratching his bare chest, suddenly self-conscious in just the running shorts that made up his uniform in recent weeks.
“I’m here to make sure you get some vitamin D, some oxygen, and a healthy amount of pain. Come on, Stull. We’re going jogging.” She looked him in the eye, daring him to refuse, her chin set to challenge any excuse he made. He promptly did so.
“Uh… no. I don’t feel like it.” He pulled the door open and stood to the side, dismissing her.
Veronica just smiled, unmoving. “No one ever wants to go running at first, until they do it. It’s getting to stop doing it that’s so orgasmic.” She crossed her arms over her tank top, pretending to ignore his eyes taking in her Body Armour gear, expensive shoes, and the Body Bugg device on her arm that measured heart rate and recorded all kinds of data that could later be downloaded to a computer. Avid runners used them to track pace improvements, stamina, overall heart strengthening and other useful information. Given that she came from a wealthy family with doctors for parents, he wasn’t surprised to see her with the latest flashy toys. He was surprised though, when she pulled out a second Body Bugg from the small bag she’d brought and tossed it to him. He caught it instinctively.
“You still going to refuse now that you know I’ve spent good money on you? That’s just fucking rude.” A slight smile played at the corner of her mouth, but her eyes were wide and innocent.
“So return it. I didn’t ask you to do that for me.” He tossed it back to her, again gesturing out the open front door for her to leave.
Her eyes narrowed. “You want to die holed up in this house with its stale air, ghosts of memories, and pain you can’t escape? Or do you want to live again? Because the guy who told me about his situation at a bar after I bought his groceries seemed to decide that living was worth it, or why the hell would it all hurt so much? Tell me now, Ty, if you want me to disappear forever so you can wither away, forgotten except as another Hollywood tragedy, a young stud swept away by the seedy underworld of L.A. I can turn around and forget you just like the rest of them will.” Standing stock still, arms hanging at her sides, she emanated calm, as if his choice mattered little to her, as if he were the one with something to lose. Apparently she missed the memo: he’d lost it all.
But her words brought caustic pain to his chest, leaving acid in his mouth and stinging his eyes. Yes, a big part of him wanted to tell her to leave, just so he could fade into the loneliness he railed against in his heart, in his nightmares. It was his punishment, his crutch to keep from doing the work of resuming real life, whatever the definition real life would take if he went after it again. But he knew he was incapable of suicide by neglect, and she was the one person who seemed to give a shit. Pissing her off would leave him alone again, and so he dropped his eyes to the floor, shook his head, and shut the door.
“I knew it would be a mistake to tell a stranger where I live,” he muttered as he turned to his bedroom to change into his long forgotten running gear. She laughed, a musical tinkling that almost made him smile, which he covered up with a fiercer scowl. “Just this once. What I really want is a drink.” It was said under his breath but she heard it anyway.
“Maybe if you keep up with me, I’ll take you for one. But you have to earn it.”
“Seems counterintuitive to go running only to reward me for it with alcohol,” he called from his bedroom, emerging in a t-shirt with a medic symbol on the front and the words Orgasm Donor, his shoes in his hand.
She burst out laughing. “Maybe I’ll reward you by burning that shirt and buying a replacement.”
This time, he did smile, as foreign as it felt on his face. “I’d like one that says ‘Rock Out with Your Cock Out’. A red one.” He stood up after lacing his shoes, holding his arm out while she strapped the Body Bugg onto his bicep. He watched her choose options for him, set her own, and then held the door open for him. She removed his last hope by following him out instead of preceding him so he couldn’t slam it and throw the bolt behind her, locking her out.
Smirking at his eye roll while he locked up and put the key in his shoe, she waited for him to join her on the sidewalk before setting a stunning pace. Only his sense of pride, tattered though it was, saved him from lagging behind, and when they made it back to his house forty-five minutes later, he could barely see to get the key in the lock for the sweat dripping in his eyes, having to grip it in two hands to steady it from his shaking, overtired limbs.
Inside, he bent over at the waist, groaning.
“Stand up,” she wheezed. “Bad for your heart.”
“Shut up,” he growled, but his tone was light, and he did as he was told. Peeling off his shirt, he threw it down the hall toward his bedroom where it landed on the hardwoods with a sodden slap. A detour to the kitchen for two water bottles made her quirk a brow at him as he handed her one.
“I didn’t think you had anything to drink in this house that wasn’t loaded.”
He peered at her from the corner of his eye as he drank, watching her delicate throat as she swallowed. She seemed so fragile, until she opened her mouth to speak. He’d always gravitated to the type of people who were strong enough to handle his inappropriate comments, his rude jokes, and his brash manner. People who weren’t afraid to tell him to get fucked if he needed to be told. Where he managed to find them, he’d never know, but it looked as if he’d found another one, albeit one who didn’t care about his career, his Hollywood status, his bank account, or with whom he rubbed shoulders. Veronica treated him like a regular person, and he realized how much he missed that. It had been so long… and he found he liked that feeling of normality. Hollywood hadn’t held out much in the way of respect for him when he’d denied having any drinking problems, and even those who knew him had let the rumors taint their opinion without bothering to talk to him about it. The only person who hadn’t was Grady and… well, look where that got him. There was only so much faith a person could expect in the face of those pictures.
Draining her water bottle, she lowered it, cheeks bulging until she swallowed the mouthful, her breathing still coming in gasps.
“What?” Her eyes were bright, cheeks flushed, hair matted with sweat despite the ponytail she’d pulled it into.
She’s kinda cute. The thought astonished him, not at the fact that she was, but that he’d even noticed. But he wouldn’t say it out loud. Instead, he opened his mouth and something wholly unplanned came out.
“I was just thinking that not many of my other friends would have gone to this much trouble to get me out of the house.” His voice was quiet, embarrassed.
She looked at him, sympathetic. “Well, I’m not going to fix you, because only you can do that. I don’t do charity cases. It just so happens I have some free time on my hands, and I plan to use you to get to my parents.”
She said it so deadpan, carried it off so perfectly that he wasn’t sure he believed her or not, but it made him snort. Which was unfortunate, because he’d just taken in the last swallow of his water and the snort shot it out his nose before bending him over into a coughing fit.
“Oh, and I am not cleaning up your Neti Pot emissions.” She made a face at the water on the floor and swatted him on the back a couple times. “Better?” she asked, when he could finally breathe again. He nodded, still clearing his throat. She held up the small bag she brought. “Do you care if I use your shower? I’d go home to my own, but I have a feeling your afternoon is just as free as your morning, and so is mine. I figured maybe we could go get that drink that you earned, or some graphically gory video game from the rental place around the corner and see how many people we can kill in one afternoon.”
His expression clouded over, her assumptions of his free time pissing him off, mainly because she was right. She saw it and her own expression softened. “Ty, would it really be so bad to not be alone for once? I meant it when I said I’m not going to fix you. I’m not trying to. I just find your company, shitty as it is, different and amusing and it scratches the itch in me to be a decent human being.” She looked down at her hands, which gripped her bag. “I don’t have that many friends myself, so maybe it’s not just for you. Maybe I’m tired of trying to figure out which people are interested in talking to me only to get the scoop on those my parents have as patients. Maybe I’m too brash for those around me to take seriously. Either way, I do enjoy being around you. It’s not just for your benefit, but if you really don’t want company, I’ll go.”
For the second time that day, Ty looked at the floor and shook his head to her offer to leave. “No, it’s okay. We can hang out if you want to. But I’m not going to promise to be good company. It takes a lot of effort that I’m not sure I have the energy. But if you can handle that, let’s go get a disgusting video game. After you shower, though.” He waved his hand in front of his nose. “You stink.”
Mock offended, she flounced to the bathroom and shut the door after saying, “You’re no bouquet of roses yourself, Prince Charming.” Smiling into the mirror, her face morphed into something feral as she dropped the mask she wore for him. Grinning, the deadness in here eyes would have scared anyone else. She looked up to the air vent in the ceiling, raising one hand and waved her fingers. Smile for the camera, my dear.
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