The Tenant

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Anal

Fair warning, there is anal sex ahead. And a whole lot more!

Thanks to LadyMireille for her suggested revisions.

SSW

***

Watch out for the quiet ones. That’s what my mother used to tell us girls. Maybe I should have heeded her advice.

Growing up, I’d had to share my house with three older siblings and a plethora of students who came to see either one of my elder parents, both of whom were professors at the university across the street. My mother would joke that she should have installed a revolving front door instead of a French one when they’d bought the place. And our den wasn’t used for entertaining guests but teaching advanced classes three days a week.

For as long as I can remember, my parents also took on two boarders each school year. All were graduate students, and several were in the foreign exchange program. I had always enjoyed talking to them the most. I learned more about different cultures and customs than one could get from textbooks.

With the constant flow of people coming and going on the lower level, which sometimes seemed like a hotel, I took to hiding out at the house next door when I wasn’t studying. The little Italian couple, the Bagginis, had no grandchildren and were always welcoming no matter the day or the hour. She was a kindly soul who liked to cook and bake. Her husband restored and resold antiques. Together, they taught me to appreciate both of their hobbies. When arthritis claimed their ability to do the work, I stepped in for them. As a result, Mr. Baggini’s customers grew to trust me. The older I became, the better I got and the longer my own list of regular clients grew who would find items for me to fix up for them or have me keep an eye out for special pieces.

After my mother then my father both passed from cancer—during my senior year at the university and then three years later, respectively—I inherited the house since my brothers and sister were already married and had established places of their own. Against my brothers’ wishes, I kept up the tradition of renting out the first-floor bedrooms to graduate students. To appease the boys, I made sure at least one of the tenants was female. And my best friend, Mallory, moved in, as well.

My job as a wedding and event planer kept me busy. During the winter months, I continued my hobby of working on the odd restoration projects. And then there was cleaning and upkeep on the house now that I was a homeowner.

The only lawn was a short stretch of grass out front between the flowerbeds and the sidewalk along the street. A neighbor kid mowed it for me at the price of a plate of homemade treats each month. The backyard was a large wooden deck that stepped down to narrow gravel beds on either side of the walk leading to the two-car garage. Other than planting, weeding, and watering the flowers, my main focus was on the majority of the ground floor and all of the second level inside. The four of us shared cleaning the kitchen, but the tenants took care of their two bedrooms and the shared bathroom at the back of the house. Upstairs, I had moved into my parents’ suite and converted my old bedroom into a workshop, using my father’s office to operate my business. Mallory occupied the third floor bedrooms and my mother’s office to do her fashion designing. All-in-all, we were a well-oiled machine.

Regardless of what went on in my life now as an adult, I chose to keep my mother’s tradition of Sunday dinners. She had always made a big to-do about having a large meal at noon where we all sat around the table together to recharge before a week of hectic schedules. The graduate students included. My roommate and rotating tenants, who were now my family, agreed to share the load and alternate cooking one weekend each month. It was nice to sit around the table again and catch up, if only for an hour.

With no more classes in the house, it was quieter. The front room had long been returned to its original intent. Sometimes, I sat on the couch in there staring into the empty silence. Seeing only the dust particles dancing in the sunlight while I remembered my father’s deep timbre or my mother’s lilting voice during their lectures while I would sit on the other side of the closed pocket-doors.

I had no trouble continuing my parents’ agreement with the university to board two students. At first, there was a waiting list that required me to sit in the dean’s office to vet the applicants each summer. However, the completion of a new dormitory two years ago had changed that. It was specifically designed to house those in the graduate program, provided each resident with their own small suite, and—most importantly—was considered “off campus.” My home became an insignificant option in that regard. As a result, my contract was revised to give me the option to board undergraduates, too, but I was hesitant to break tradition.

If I had thought last year’s list of applicants was meager, this year’s was slim pickings. I considered removing güvenilir canlı bahis siteleri myself from the list of available housing entirely as I didn’t need the money. But I enjoyed the company. Or at least the knowledge that there were other people in the house. Especially since Mallory had gotten engaged the previous winter to Joe, her long-term boyfriend, with whom she’d kept the relationship out of the house since he lived alone. She’d given notice this past summer that she would be moving out by mid-November when they were getting married.

A combination of new paperwork and a mix-up with new staff at the housing office sealed my fate. Two students were scheduled to arrive for the fall semester. One boy, one girl. What showed up on my doorstep a week before classes began was one man.

Lachlan had the look of Jon Snow in “Game of Thrones” with his dark eyes and curly, black hair. But his quiet, brooding nature reminded me more of Jude Law in “Gattaca.” He was in stark contrast to my own outgoing personality, blue eyes, and long, blonde hair. I was an all-American girl. He said his family was from England, but he didn’t have the accent to go along with his British heritage. Such a shame. Still, he had a nice voice and an even better smile.

From our very brief conversations, I gathered that he spent a lot of his time in the library when he wasn’t in classes. In the house, he mostly kept to his room. But on the weekends, I would hear him come in late, which convinced me he was probably hitting the bars. I didn’t blame him. He would need a way to unwind after studying all week. I half wondered if he had a girlfriend at the university. It wouldn’t surprise me. He was easy on the eyes. But if so, he never brought her around.

Mallory was out of the house more often finalizing preparations for the wedding. When she had admitted she was using another planner because she wanted me—her best friend—as her maid of honor and to enjoy myself as a guest, I’d told her there were no hard feelings. So, I was all alone the day my sister Trish was in town and stopped by to get something out of the attic two weeks into the semester.

Trish expressed concern that I was by myself with a strange man in the house. That that there wouldn’t be another female living with me in a couple of months. I made her promise not to tell my brothers, who resided out of state. Then I reminded her I was a mature adult and had been doing this for seven years. I assured her that all applicants were strictly vetted, including Lachlan. She had nothing to worry about. If there was trouble, the campus police station was three doors down.

Little did I know, what I would need was the fire department.

For three months, I was able to keep our relationship professional as landlord and tenant. But I had unintentionally mixed up a irresistible pot. I was a successful woman at barely thirty-two who kept in shape. Lachlan was an attractive, younger man of five years with no other authority figures around. Over those twelve weeks, something was definitely brewing.

There were the sidelong glances or seemingly accidental brushes of a hand or arm I’d catch in passing. And sometimes, I had a feeling that I was being watched while moving around the main level. I’d turn to find no one there, but I was sure at least twice that I saw him departing the room.

When he’d first moved in, I’d asked him if he’d like to join the Sunday meals with Mallory and I. He hadn’t verbally accepted or rejected the invitation, but he’d shown up at noon the following day. It had been awkward, the three of us sitting there eating in mostly silence except for the brief request to pass a dish. My mind had suddenly gone blank with any topic to broach, and Mallory seemed to be afflicted with the same ailment. It had been one of our shortest meals. When I was alone with her again, she said she had an appointment and was out the door before I could ask her what she thought was up.

Lachlan avoided lunch the following Sunday, and Mallory was busy with her fiancé, so I ate alone. But later in the day, I saw Lachlan sitting on the couch in the living room reading a book. He slowly lifted his gaze to mine when I came in from the kitchen after returning from running errands. I said hello. He tipped his chin and continued to watch me while I crossed over to the stairs, but he remained silent. Then he shifted his gaze to his book.

He did not attend any more meals, though Mallory and I continued to eat together for the most part. Maybe it was for the best. The palpable tension in the air that first Sunday had made the food less enjoyable. At least for me.

Over the next three weeks, there were more strange encounters. I wanted to talk about them, but I didn’t know how to approach him. He wasn’t doing anything wrong. And I didn’t want him to think I was offended, because I wasn’t. I was just…confused.

On two separate occasions, he’d stopped while passing me. By güvenilir illegal bahis siteleri his inhale and how he opened his mouth slightly, it seemed he wanted to ask me something. But then his eyes would lower, and all I heard was his slow exhale before he continued on his way. Both times, Mallory entered the room immediately after.

Just this Thursday, Mallory and I had spread out her gathered ideas for reception decorations on the dining room table. She ran upstairs to get something, and I turned to find Lachlan in the living room again—this time in a chair by the window—using his laptop. He lifted his eyes just when I opened my mouth to say hello, but Mallory returned at that moment, picking up our previous conversation. She didn’t even seem to notice him sitting there, or at least didn’t acknowledge him.

Then there was Saturday. I threw a cookout for Mallory and Joe, inviting some of our friends. We were all standing on the deck out back, one of the guys manning the grill while the rest drank beer and told horror stories of being married. Us ladies were sipping cocktails, relaxing and enjoying the autumn weather from our chairs under the umbrella. I looked up to see Lachlan leaving the garage. Mallory had insisted on him parking in her spot since she was rarely here anymore and could park her car on the street when she was around. I knew he had left sometime this morning, and it was almost dusk now. I wondered where he had been. I watched him pull the side door shut. He was walking up the stepping-stone path when he raised his head. Our gazes seemed to meet before he glanced around and must have realized there was a party going on. Then he turned on his heel and departed to the garage again. A moment later, I saw his car driving down the alley.

Later that night after the guests were gone and the deck was cleaned up, I pondered on a conversation I’d had with Mallory. I was in the mood to bake a whole chicken for Sunday dinner. Unfortunately, she was unavailable. It was a long shot, but I wrote a note and taped it to Lachlan’s closed bedroom door. Worst case, I’d just have a lot of leftovers. To my surprise, he showed up at noon just as I was pulling the bird out of the Dutch oven. The first time with just the two of us was even more awkward than when we’d eaten as three. It felt like a first date that we’d been forced to go on, and I’d regretted even suggesting the meal.

I was floored when he left me a note the next day saying that he had enjoyed eating with someone else for a change. He knew the first time hadn’t worked out, but he would like to try having Sunday dinner again next week…and could he cook it? That same day, Mallory told me that she was going to have to bow out of the dinners as she was going to be spending Sundays with Joe from now on. The news wasn’t surprising, and it was a bit of a relief. So, I wrote back on Lachlan’s note saying I accepted his offer, and I looked forward to having lunch with him. It was an unusual way to communicate with someone living in your own house, but everything about our arrangement seemed unconventional.

That first meal he cooked? I’d never eaten so well in my life. My mother and Mrs. Baggini, bless their hearts, had nothing on this guy. If he was trying to impress me with his culinary skills, he had succeeded. Of course, I expressed my appreciation in a note. His response was to offer alternating weeks. I wrote back that I agreed.

Though we both tended to be silent while we ate, he sometimes offered me a glimpse of his endearing smile. As the weeks went on, he opened up more about his thesis, which discussed the effects of music on the youth and society since 1950. He asked my opinion on various groups and genres that I’d grown up with. Had I thought what I had listened to affected who I was? My siblings? My parents? By Halloween, we were openly debating the British Invasion.

And I learned his father was British. He’d married an American woman while temporarily working in the states. Lachlan was born here but had lived with his parents and his younger brother overseas for the most part. They’d returned to the U.S. after he graduated high school to take care of his maternal grandmother. When she passed, he’d stayed with his family stateside, although his brother went back to England to finish his education. And now, Lachlan was living with me.

Mallory hadn’t quite moved out yet, but she had become scarce by mid-November. Lachlan seemed more relaxed without her around. I hadn’t really considered that my best friend could be the reason my tenant was an introvert. I was tempted to ask him about it, but it didn’t matter now. I was just glad he was feeling more at ease…that he could be himself.

At one time, I had begun to regret letting him live here. But now, I looked forward to seeing him each day, even if in passing. He laughed at my lame attempts at jokes. Seemed to linger while we both cleaned up the kitchen regardless of who had cooked. güvenilir bahis şirketleri Not to mention, the daily interactions were more frequent. Whenever he smiled at me, it lifted my spirits.

It occurred to me that I was starting to see him as more than a tenant. More than a friend. That maybe his actions were because he felt the same way about me. But I told myself I was imagining it all…I was only desiring him because we were two apparently single people living under the same roof. And we had a good, professional relationship. We shouldn’t screw that up.

To counteract my wayward thoughts, I concentrated more on what I wore and how I acted around him. Making excuses to be more in my office than downstairs, all the while hoping I hadn’t been subconsciously drawing his attention. And desperately praying that he didn’t see me starting to become the recluse that he had once been.

###

It all went to pieces the Friday night before Thanksgiving when I came home a little tipsy from Mallory’s wedding. Usually, I didn’t mind going to events alone since I was busy being the wedding planner; making sure everything went smoothly. Not having that responsibility tonight and my maid-of-honor’s duties mostly fulfilled by the reception—not to mention the best man was dancing with his wife most of the night—there was a lot of time for my thoughts to wander. I focused on my singleness, instead. My loneliness. Hence the imbibing.

After the third glass of champagne, I was glad I hadn’t driven to the reception hall. My displeasure about my relationship status was gradually numbed…as were my senses. By the time I took a cab home at midnight, I’d had eight glasses, which led to me standing at the backdoor playing whack-a-mole with my key and the doorknob. My snickering didn’t help things. When the key finally engaged properly with the keyhole, I grinned stupidly at my reflection in the decorative window in the door and licked my lips to make sure they were still there because they had lost feeling at least an hour ago.

I clumsily kicked my shoes off in the kitchen. My purse and keys joined them on the floor, though I swear I aimed for the counter. Impaired common sense further convinced me I didn’t need a light on to get around my own house. Which is why I bumped into the living room couch and a bookshelf then mistook the floor lamp for my long-term guest, wishing it, “Good evening, Sir,” in a bad British accent and asking why he was standing in the dark.

I was giggling loudly at my faux pas when I saw Lachlan standing just outside of the guest bathroom, the wall sconces above the sink blinding against the rest of the darkness. I stumbled toward him, abandoning my zigzagging path to the stairs. I repeated my greeting with a big grin then went to take another step, but my entire body pitched forward instead.

He caught me by my arms. Gravity tumbled us into the hallway wall. I slurred something about him being a light in shining armor.

I tried to focus on his eyes, my hands gripping his biceps for support. I knew somewhere in my addled brain that he was heading out for the night, and I suddenly hated that. I wanted him to stay home for once. To stay with me. I tried to tell him, but all that came out was a garbled, “D’ go,” that matched my wonky state.

He smelled so good. He felt even better. And I was pretty sure he was single, like me.

I didn’t care anymore that I was his landlord. Being in his arms felt good. I leaned my head back a little more. If he wanted to kiss me…

But he silently led me up to my room and helped me into bed where he tucked the covers around my fully-dressed body. Then he softly closed the door. Damn him.

In the morning, Lachlan found me nursing my second cup of coffee at the dining room table under a ray of warm sunlight. A headache and the vestiges of an unsettled stomach reminded me why I didn’t drink often, and even less frequently to the excess I had the night before. He didn’t look any worse for the wear, and it was a struggle not to growl at him. How did he do it? Was it a guy thing? I didn’t remember ever being able to pull an all-nighter at the club and wake up looking as good as he did. Then again, I half-doubted he’d been to bed yet.

He gave me a brief, “Morning, Jemma,” and then disappeared behind me. I assumed to either hit the hay or go out the front door into the land of the living. I think I grunted a reply. I hadn’t paid much attention to what he was wearing last night, so I was unable to determine if he’d been home and changed or was just coming in. He probably didn’t even remember our encounter…or had brushed it off as just another drunk girl throwing herself at him. Literally.

Ten minutes later, I got up to refill my cup. I was at the kitchen counter, waiting on the machine to heat up the water so it could run it through the pre-filled cup in the dispenser, when he came in. I heard his footsteps stop. Then I felt his eyes on my back.

I gave him a weary gaze over my shoulder. “Something I can help you with?”

His mouth was twisted in a contemplative frown. His left hand rested on the counter beside him. I couldn’t hear his fingers tapping, but they moved up and down in that unconscious way they sometimes do when one is lost in thought.

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