In the three months since Cole’s parents left, they had settled into a routine, which is the way he liked things. He wasn’t a big fly-by-the-seat of your pants kind of guy. The fact that the “routine” involved two very cute and sassy neighbors wasn’t half bad either.
He and Landon had been studying for mid-terms all morning when his phone buzzed like clockwork. Dannie was texting and he welcomed the break. Her messages always brightened his day. She cheered him up so much, especially the first few weeks when he didn’t know anyone. True to her pinky promise she was staying in touch.
Evidently, Ryker wasn’t around a lot and she was filling her days writing. She said the writing classes were really helping her and she was loving that part. Sometimes she would text him some of the steamier passages she was writing for a “reality” check. Some of it was damn hot, and made him wonder what being with her might have been like and then he quickly put that thought out of his head.
He was sitting there reading her most current ‘scene’ and burst out laughing when it involved getting ‘blown in the bushes’.
Landon looked up curiously. “What’s so funny? Wanna share?” he asked.
“Just Dannie texting me some of her writing,” replied Cole still chuckling.
“Share dude. I could use a laugh.”
Cole was embarrassed. “Nah, you had to be there.”
Thankfully, Landon let it go.
Since he had stopped to read Dannie’s texts, he realized he was hungry and wanted to get something to eat. He stood up and opened the fridge. Three day-old dried out macaroni and cheese wasn’t appealing. “Let’s go grab a burger and take a break,” he said to Landon.
Landon turned off the computer and turned around. “Great idea Murdock. Let’s go.”
Landon and Cole got in line and ordered burgers. It was pretty busy even though it was cold out. But this place was always busy.
After they got their food, they found a table and sat down to eat. Landon patted his midsection. “Man I need to start working out. It’s just been so busy, I barely have time to do anything except study. Can’t have love handles when I finally break down little miss Blake.”
“I know what you mean,” said Cole, “I was working out when I was dating Laney. She had a the cutest little hard body and I didn’t want to be squishy.”
Landon burst out laughing almost chocking on his burger. “Yes, maybe we should invest in a weight bench so we won’t be squishy vets. We can be the Hot Bay Vets and create a calendar like Firemen do. Only we should be on horses and have dogs, instead of hanging on a fire truck. Chicks dig that.
Cole chuckled as his thoughts went to Mickey and what his dad said about not being able to take him. He was right and it embarrassed him. Maybe they should get a bench. “Sounds like a good idea,” said Cole, “We can stick it in the front room – move shit around.”
“Hey, isn’t that your friend over there? The sexy red-head?” asked Landon.
Nicky? Cole turned around and looked. It was indeed Nicky. And Mickey was wrapped around her.
“Yeah. It’s Nicky,” said Cole flatly.
“Hey Nicky!” called out Landon before Cole could stop him.
When Nicky saw them she ran over and wrapped Cole in a warm hug. “Hi! I was just telling Mickey we should call you and see how things were going.”
“They’re good,” said Cole, “you remember Landon, my roommate.”
“Oh, yes. We met briefly,” replied Nicky.
“Yes, we did. You are not as hard to forget as I am,” he said and winked at her.
“Watch out. She’s taken. No hitting on the prettiest girl on campus,” said Mickey as he sidled up behind her and snaked his arm around her possessively.
Nicky laughed. “Landon, this is Mickey Blake,” she said introducing him.
“Her boyfriend. In case you were wondering.” Mickey lifted his hat and smiled. “Nice to meet you Landon.”
“Why don’t you two join us,” said Landon, “We were just taking a break from studying. Damn midterms.”
Nicky snuck a quick look at Cole before answering. “Sorry, we are getting ours to go, then heading back to Mickey’s to do the same. Thanks anyway. It was good to see you Cole. Don’t be such a stranger.”
Cole avoided acknowledging Mickey. “Looks like you don’t need any extra company,” he grumbled. He knew he sounded like a jackass but he didn’t appreciate Mickey feeling the need to lay claim on Nicky.
Nicky blushed. “I always welcome your company Cole, you know that.”
“Looks like ours is ready Red, after you,” said Mickey.
They all said goodbye and Nicky and Mickey left with a bag of food.
Landon looked at Cole curiously, and he knew what was coming next. “Cole…you have a problem with Mickey? He seems nice enough, wish I could pull off a cowboy hat like that. I would look ridiculous.”
Cole laughed in spite of himself, imaging Landon in a cowboy hat. “Please, do us both a favor and don’t try. But, Landon, didn’t he seem a like an arrogant prick to you? And that damn hat.”
“Confident I suppose. But to pull off that hat, you would have to be I guess,” suggested Landon.
“No. Arrogant. Privileged. Asshole. He’s making Nicky think he gives a fuck about her. He’s going to hurt Nicky, I just know it. She’s not like other girls,” grumbled Cole.
“What does that even mean?” asked Landon with a confused look on his face.
“She’s not, well, experienced and he will make her think he is ‘the one’ and….I mean, dude, she was wearing COWBOY boots. Nicky doesn’t wear cowboy boots. He fucking bought them for her. I know he did. She is doing whatever he tells her to. And he’s taking her back to his house to ‘study’.”
“Calm down Murdock. She’s a big girl and she has apparently made her choice. So, dude, if you’re pining for her, you are wasting your time. You do know that Yasmine would be happy to spend a little quality time with you, squishy or not.”
Cole liked Yasmin, a lot, but not like that. “Uh – yeah. So she has insinuated at least a dozen times. And I have told her, at least a dozen times, I’m not looking for a girlfriend. And I’m not pining for Nicky either. She’s just a childhood friend.”
“Bad breakup? You mentioned a hard-bodied ex.” said Landon.
Cole really didn’t want to discuss Laney. “I just don’t want a relationship. Not now anyway. Relationships are messy.”
“Suit yourself. I think Blake is just about ready to succumb to my charm and good looks. AND hard body, once we get that workout bench.”
“I like Blake. And for what it’s worth, I think she’s into you, maybe playing hard-to-get. She certainly isn’t like Yasmine. Yasmine knows everyone and has never met a stranger. She could go anywhere and in five minutes, she knows everyone there and all about them. Come on. Let’s get outta here.”
Cole and Landon went back to their duplex with full bellies and got right back to their studies. No sooner than they settled back into studying, a knock came on the door and in came the two girls they had just discussed. Keys had been shared before the end of the second week of the semester.
Blake made a beeline for Landon while Yasmine carried in a bag of groceries and sat them out on the bar. She flashed Cole a warm smile. “We brought snacks. Thought we could all take a break and then finish studying together.”
“Awww. We already ate,” said Cole, which earned a glare from Landon.
“What you got ladies? I could use a snack,” said Landon.
Cole sat down at the bar, a little perturbed that his studying appeared to be done for the day. Yasmine sat out two wine glasses and a bottle of wine. “Wine or beer boys?” she asked cheerfully, “I have either.”
“Beer,” came the simultaneous reply from the guys. Yep, no more studying today, thought Cole.
The four of them sat around the table and ate snacks and drank beer. Cole knew he really was going to have to get a weight bench if they kept eating like they were.
Two hours later Blake brought up a problem with her closet door. “Landon, can you come over to our apartment and see if you can fix it. It’s stuck and it doesn’t open or close right,” said Blake.
Cole and Yasmine exchanged a knowing glance.
“Sure. I can do it now,” said Landon, rising out of his chair so quickly, he nearly knocked it over.
Cole looked at Yasmine and she was holding back a laugh.
“Oh…thanks,” replied Blake, and the two of them headed out the door.
As soon as the door closed, the laughter both Yasmine and Cole had been holding in bubbled over.
“Oh Landon, could you please help lil ‘ol me?” said Yasmine, and they both laughed some more.
“So, Cole? Wanna watch a movie? I somehow figure it’s gonna take the rest of the night to fix that door,” suggested Yasmine once they stopped laughing.
“No doubt. He’s crazy about her. I am surprised they took this long,” said Cole. “And sure, a movie’s fine, but no chick flicks….please….”
Yasmine laughed. “Okay. You choose, just no war movies?”
Cole cleaned up the mess while Yasmine poured another wine and popped some popcorn.
Cole sat down and turned on the television and began to hunt for something to watch while they waited for the popcorn. When it was done Yasmine turned out the lights and sat down on the couch.
She promptly plopped her feet in Cole’s lap to watch the movie.
“Hey,” said Cole when her feel landed in his lap.
“Move then,” she said unfazed.
“Yasimine, No. This is the best TV spot, you can sit up.”
“Nope,” she said with a pop at the end. “Move or deal. Here, have some popcorn.”
“Fine, you can have the popcorn,” replied Cole resigned to have her feet in his lap. It doesn’t mean anything, he thought and looked over at her. She was frigging smirking at him.
“Watch the movie, Cole. Unless you maybe have a closet door that needs repair.” She curled her lip as if it were distasteful before going on. “You know, that one’s pretty lame. You can only use it once, maybe twice and then everyone’s on to you. You folks have it figured out. Tiramisu. That’s awesome. Do you think they have it copyrighted, because I really do want to steal it!”
“Oh my god, Yas…” scolded Cole, “I don’t have a broken door or any Tiramisu!”
“Such a shame too. Look the movie’s coming on.”
As they watched the movie, Cole realized he had been absently rubbing her feet and abruptly stopped.
“Ohhhh. Why’d you stop? That felt sooo good.”
Landon came back through the door keeping Cole from having to answer. “Man, we need a door between our apartments like they have in hotel rooms. It’s gets damn cold outside after it gets dark,” he said, with his hands tucked under his arms to keep them warm.
When he noticed how Cole and Yasmin were situated on the couch he said, “Ohh…maybe I should come back later?”
“No Landon, that’s fine,” said Yasmin as she swung her feet around to the floor. “I gotta go to bed. How’s the door? Still broken?”
“I never kiss and tell,” said Landon smirking at Yasmin.
“I didn’t mention kissing. See you boys later,” said Yasmine, and left.
“Well, is the door still broken?” asked Cole laughing.
“It might need a little more work, but it’s almost there,” said Landon taking Yasmine’s spot on the couch next to Cole.
“Sorry dude,” said Cole laughing.
“Looked like you two were cozy…” replied Landon.
“Nah, she just wouldn’t sit up. She’s a couch hog.”
“We suck,” said Landon shaking his head.
“No. YOU suck. I coulda fixed the damn door, I just don’t have all the instructions yet, and I didn’t want to screw it up. I’m done. Let’s get to bed.”
Landon laughed all the way up the stairs to their rooms.