156,640
07.03.2019

My heart felt like it was going to explode. I pulled my cell phone and dialed 9-1-1 as I sprayed. Screams rose from the bed as I hosed them in mace.

“What the fuck?” the guy screamed.

I turned and ran down the hallway to the bathroom. I closed the door and locked it. In a low tone, I whispered, “Hi, I need police, I live at seventy-three Hemenway Street. Apartment 521. There’s someone here. Intruders. Please hurry.”

I turned off the phone and sat on the edge of the bathtub. My heart was pounding, my mouth was dry, and my hands clutched the mace so tight, I couldn’t feel it in my grip anymore.

Hands started pounding on the door. Shouts and screams and footsteps were everywhere, making the small bathroom so tiny it felt like a coffin. I closed my eyes. Names were called, sentences were screamed, but I didn’t stop rocking and clutching the mace. The door sounded like it was going to be ripped off the hinges.

I looked at my phone. I wanted my parents. I wanted Danny. I wanted anyone who would solve the dilemma and make it go away.

My brain taunted me. It laughed almost at how right it had been. How I had made such a mistake. How I wasn’t strong.

“You open this god-damned door and get the fuck out of my house! Crazy-assed, stalking bitch!” the guy screamed.

I trembled but then I heard it, the sounds of rescue. The sounds of people shouting for them to get down on the ground. I started to cry; tears of joy streamed down my cheeks.

I got up and banged on the door, “I’m in here. Is it safe?”

A man shouted at me, “Miss, are you the one who called?”

I turned the lock on the door and nodded.

A police officer greeted me in the small crack space I let the door open, “Miss, you okay?”

I started to cry heavily, “Noooooo.”

I let him open the door all the way and pull me into his arms, “It’s okay. You’re safe now.”

He led me from the bathroom to the living room where two half-naked people were cuffed and on their bellies on the floor.

The guy turned. His face was puffy and red from the mace. He glared, “She’s crazy. This is my house. Jesus. You idiots arrested the wrong person. She’s in my fucking apartment. What the fuck? Do you know who I am? she’s a stalker.”

The cop gave me a look. I ran to my bag and fished out the lease agreement that I had printed out.

“See—my house,” I said defiantly.

The cop looked it over and shook his head, “She’s got a lease, man.”

The girl was crying on the floor with no shirt on, and her obviously-fake boobs holding her up in the air, like she was doing ‘upward dog’ without hands.

I looked at my watch, it was 5:00, I wasn’t on schedule, the way I wanted to be. I wanted to be running and unpacked by 5:30.

Chapter Two

Roomies

I felt considerably worse when the tattooed guy produced a lease agreement, identical to mine, from a cupboard. He ranted and pointed at me, cussing up a storm when the cops removed the cuffs from him and the girl. They tried to calm him down, shaking their heads and muttering, “This is a civil issue. You need to hunt down the property-management people.”

The guy rinsed his eyes at the sink in the island and pointed his middle finger at me, with water dripping from his red face, “This is bullshit. I want her escorted off the property. Use the cuffs.”

I felt sick. My whole plan was taking a huge turn down a road I hadn’t been prepared for.

The cop shook his head, “It’s as much hers as it yours—in our eyes.”

One of the other cops motioned for the guy to come over, “Lochlan, can I get you to sign this?”

Why didn’t he want my signature? I was the one who called? Maybe it was a witness statement for his defense, and I didn’t need one ‘cause I had called. I hugged myself and paced the living room.

The sobbing girl ran and grabbed her shirt. She slapped the dark-haired guy when she left.

The guy took the hit, staring daggers at me, “Guess there’ll be no happy ending at the end of that meal.” I noticed the red was starting to lighten in his eyes, flashing dark-blue hatred at me. I hadn’t noticed his eyes were blue before. They had looked black—with hate. The way he furrowed his brow, took away all the light from his eyes.

The cop laughed with the guy and pocketed the thing he signed, “This is pretty funny. You have to admit. You being you and whatever.”

The guy didn’t look like he felt like laughing. He looked savage. I didn’t feel like laughing. I hugged myself and dialed the property manager’s office… again. When I got the answering machine, I felt homicidal.

The guy pointed to the door, “Well, now that we’ve determined this is both our place, can y’all leave and let me and her figure it out, before we get evicted? And I’d like to get my shirt on.” He dried his dark hair with a tea towel. His ripped and tattooed body had droplets of water running down it. I tried not to look, but he was incredible to look at, like watching athletes or seeing a celebrity. He had a rough edge but there was so much beauty.

He caught me staring at him. I quickly changed my look of awe to annoyance. He gave me a half-assed grin, shaking his head.

The cop nodded at me, “You guys okay, alone together?” he almost joked, as if he was implying something. I ignored his weird comment and clutched my mace in my hands. I looked at the tall, angry guy next to me and sighed, realizing there was no way out of it. I nodded, “I’m fine.” The guy left the room and came back with a shirt on. He rubbed his eyes, “My eyes are still fucking burning.”

The cops laughed again and left us standing in the living room, staring at each other. There was a darkness about him that scared me. He was stunningly beautiful but looked angry, like he might not be able to control it.

His murderous stare didn’t lessen when he lifted one side of his lips into a cocky grin, “You want a beer?” He sounded annoyed still but I caught something, a twang in the way he said beer. I could still see the hostility in his eyes. They were beyond expressive.

I nodded and sat on the couch. Angering him wouldn’t help the situation. I pinched the bridge of my nose and took deep breaths. When I felt better, I looked up at him, “Since it’s your house too, I’m really sorry for spraying you with mace.” I really wasn’t though. The girl looked like a hooker. I didn’t want hookers in my house. The thought of it made me want to clean everything. Yuck. My mother would have had a fit.

He gave me the same cocky half smile and pointed at me, “I call bullshit on that. I’m gonna bet you feel pretty good about hosing me with it. You seemed to enjoy it.”

I bit my lip and nodded, “I probably saved you from paying for whatever that was going to cost you, and whatever STD’s you would have gotten.”

He brought me a beer and sat across from me on the white couch against the wall, opposite me, “Funny. So where you from?”

I frowned, “Not here, obviously.” I wanted to unpack, clean my room, and make everything feel like home. I didn’t want to be having small talk with a sleazy, tattooed stranger, beautiful or not.

“You here for school?”

I nodded and took a sip of the beer, tapping my finger against the bottle, “So, you rented from T&N Property Managers, as well then?”

He nodded and took a long pull from his beer.

I ran my fingers through my hair and had a small sip of the beer. I processed it all as I wiped my mouth, “Who was the guy you spoke to, Tom?”

He shook his head, “Lady named Leslie.”

I crossed my arms and sat back, “So we spoke to two different people about renting the same place? Clearly a miscommunication.”

He gave me a look, “Obviously.”

I laughed, “Sorry, I have to say it out loud, it helps me figure it out. How much did you pay?”

“Fifteen hundred a month, all in, except my own cable and phone. But everything else is included.”

Tapping my fingers against the bottle, I nodded, “Me too.”

He winked at me, “Cleary this is a mistake; I’m sure they’ll find you a nice place somewhere else.”

A frown crept across my brow, “Why do you assume I’ll leave?”

He drank till it was empty and then sighed like he was refreshed, “Because my lease agreement was signed before yours.”

I had no argument for what he’d said. Technically, his contract would be the one that was valid. A sickening feeling was creeping around inside of me, when my phone rang.

“Hello?” I snapped it up fast.

“Hi, Erin, it’s Tom Banks at T&N. I got your message. We definitely have an issue. We don’t have anything in that neighborhood or anything that is that nice.” His voice was annoying, maybe it was his words.

I winced, “Can I put you on speaker, the other tenant is here as well.”

“Sure thing.”

I pressed speaker and held it out. He cleared his throat, “Like I said Erin, we don’t have anything for rent that would compare. Can you two hang tight for a couple weeks until something comes up? It’s a two bedroom, no different than having a roommate.”

My eyes shot up at the dark-haired guy. He shrugged but I shook my head, “You can’t expect me to live with a stranger?”

The dark-haired guy smirked, “My name’s Lochlan, Lochlan Barlow.” He said it like I might know him.

I scowled at him and sat upright, “Tom, you have to fix this. I came all the way from North Dakota. That’s a long way to come, for this level of unprofessionalism. I signed a lease for a two-bedroom apartment, overlooking the park. I signed for this specific apartment. You can’t think we can just live together.” My heart was racing. “He could be a pervert. I can’t share a house with him. He’s already had some strange woman here; I think she was a hooker. He’s probably on drugs or something.”

Lochlan’s dark eyebrows went up, “Whoa now. Hold on. I don’t need some prissy, little girl calling me a pervert, Tom. That hooker-looking girl happened to be a very friendly server at Cappy’s.” He gave me a cold stare, but I caught the slightest bit of amusement in it, “Now I signed the lease before she did. I rented this before her. If she’s gonna be calling me names and shit, or macing me again, well then, I think she has to leave.”

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