Breathe in, breathe out.
Anna Lewis took a deep breathe and counted to five. She was composed. She was a professional. She could handle this.
"Auntie Anna I want my mommy and I want her now!" The last word came out of three year old Jesse's mouth in a shrill screech. Anna looked at the creature writhing in her lap. She would never understand why her best friend Emmy had wanted to have kids. It just seemed so… unnatural.
"Well mommy's not here." Anna tried to make her voice soft and gentle like she had seen Emmy do, but it just wasn't working. Fresh screams rose out of Jesse's little body and Anna wondered for a second how that could be possible. She'd already been screaming for a half an hour. She had to be tired by now.
"Hey… there, there…" she pat Jesse on her back but that only made her scream harder.
"Stop crying, damn it!" That didn't help either. Anna raised Jesse up to eye level.
"You can't have everything you want so you'll just have to accept that."
Anna got a little spittle in the face as Jesse coughed through the tears. She heard the door bell ring as she let out a groan of disgust. Pushing Jesse off of her lap and onto her couch she went to the door. As she opened it an angry voice from the other side exploded.
"Lady can you shut up your damn kid I'm trying to work in my apartment!" A man was standing in her hallway. He was kind of shortish, kind of roundish with messy brown hair. He looked like he was around her age, 22, maybe a little older. He was definitely angry if his flushed face was any indication.
"Who are you?" Anna blurted out, her nerves stretched to their very ends by a certain demon toddler.
The man pointed across the hall. The door was open to reveal stuff in the apartment across from her own.
"Oh," Anna said, glancing at the mail pile next to her door. Right on top of all the bills and the junk was a letter from her landlord, presumably about her finally getting a new neighbor.
"I can't stand this noise! What the hell are you doing? Are you even allowed to have children in this building?" The man narrowed his eyes at her.
The Garden Brooke apartments were two blocks away from Edirne University. Most of the residents either attended or worked at the school so it wasn't really a family place.
"She's not mine; I'm baby sitting for a friend. I'm so sorry. I haven't had any neighbors in that apartment for the entire three years I've been here—"
"Yea well, keep her quiet or take your work someplace else, otherwise I'm going to report you to the landlord."
What a jerk! Anna thought.
She jumped as her new neighbor slammed his door across the hall. It wasn't until she turned back into her apartment that she realized that there was complete silence coming out of her living room. She ran to the couch convinced that Jesse had broken her neck, stabbed herself, or something, but when she got there the little demon was fast asleep. Her thumb was in her mouth and she looked as innocent as could be.
Anna was hardly fooled.
"If you've ruined my chance to have a peaceful coexistence with my new neighbor I'm going to ring your evil little neck!" she hissed at her. Jesse sighed contently in her sleep.
Anna scowled and walked into her kitchen. Everyone liked her. Well, maybe not children, but every adult she knew definitely liked her. She was polite, generous, boring, and non-threatening in every way. Even if she didn't have an army of close friends who wanted to spend loads of time with her, on campus, she was known as the nice girl. She liked that and she wasn't about to ruin her record now. She pulled out the butter, flour and milk from her fridge. There were also apples on the counter. Anna smiled. In a few hours her new neighbor would be liking her too, just like all the others.
James Connor was standing in the doorway to his new bathroom wondering what the hell he had gotten himself into. He shouldn't have yelled at his father the way he did. He shouldn't have moved out so abruptly. Lord only knew what the repercussions would be. Everyone thought that they wanted his life. The money, the status, the extravagant lifestyle. James Conner could have anything he wanted as long as he was a good little boy and did everything that his father said.
James bristled at that. He was 24 years old and in his last year of graduate school. He got straight A's, didn't get into much trouble and yet his father was constantly on his ass.
With all the glamour and wealth came a lack of independence that James was sick of. So he had a fight with his father. Told him to go to hell and left the family estate.
Now for the first time in his life he was actually worried where he was going to get the money to pay for his new place. He'd wisely chosen an inexpensive apartment near campus, but even though $950 a month was a huge deal for this town, the deposit had all but wiped out his weekly allowance. He only had enough left for groceries, bills, another month's rent, and a movie or two. After that he'd be broke, but he'd be damned if he used his credit cards, trust, or asked his dad for another damned cent.
James walked into his living room to find his best friend Allen sitting in front of his television playing the X box and eating fruit loops straight out of the box.
"Don't you have somewhere to be?" James asked as he stretched out on his couch with his arms covering his eyes.
"Don't you have some clothes to put on?" Allen grimaced as he glanced James' way.
"Hey," James said from underneath his arm. "This is my apartment. Mine. If I want to walk around without a shirt, I'll walk around without a shirt."
"Yea well it just seems like a rude thing to do when you have guest thats all." Allen said with his mouth full. Tiny fruity flecks of cereal flew everywhere. James grabbed the box and closed it.
"You're not a guest, you're an annoyance." He said as he went to the kitchen to put the cereal away. As he closed the cupboard he heard a knock on the door.
"Can you get that?" Allen called. James sighed. The living room was closer the front door. Damned lazy bastard.
He walked in front of the television as he made his way to the door, ignoring Allen's curses. He opened the door to see the cutest girl standing there with an apple pie in her hands and a happy toddler wrapped around her left leg.
She was short, with a heart shaped face and huge dark eyes. She must have been mixed because her skin was the color of coffee with just a little milk added to it. She had a wide pretty smile that made James want to smile himself.
He did, and as his smile grew, hers shrunk away.
Anna was very uncomfortable. She didn't like men, well… most men were okay, but the Adonis standing in the doorway of her new neighbor's apartment definitely was not. She didn't like extremely handsome men. She hated the way they made her feel like an incompetent, bumbling fool.
She had been a bit startled when he had opened the door. He was half naked! Well, he had on sweatpants but that was it. His chest still slightly wet from the shower he had taken. His chest and arms were perfect, slightly tanned, well defined. She immediately shoved her gaze to his face which helped for a while. He was attractive in a very American-boy short of way. Brown waves in his hair, green eyes, square jaw, nice nose… then he smiled and it was over.
His smile took him from attractive to godlike status.
"Hello," he said in a voice so deep that it seemed to touch her in places it shouldn't have.
The Greek god wrinkled his perfect little brow and broke a bit of the spell he was weaving over her. Anna shook her head.
"Hey," she said, more breathlessly than she would have liked to. "May I speak with the man who lives here?"
"That's me, I'm James" he held out his hand. Anna just looked at it. There was no way she was going to touch him. She held her pie up a little higher and gave him a small smile. His own flared up again and she had to look away.
"May I speak to your roommate then?"
"Don't have one," James leaned against the side of the door jamb and smiled down at baby Jesse, who was actually batting her eyes at him. It should be illegal for a man's muscles to move that way, Anna thought.
"But the man," she pointed behind her. "Who came to my door…," She saw recognition flare in those beautiful green eyes.
"Allen!" he called behind him.
"What!" yelled a familiar cranky voice.
"That's him." Anna said and James ushered her into his apartment. She hesitated, but then decided that she wasn't likely to do anything embarrassing with Jesse by her side. Hopefully.
"He not your roommate?" she asked.
"Nope," James replied.
"Does he live here at all?"
"Have any claim on anything that goes on in this building."
James thought for a moment. "Nope."
Anna narrowed her eyes. It was very rare that her temper ever showed, but when it did…
She calmly placed down her pie and walked over the television. She pulled the controller cord out of the X box and watched Allen's face as his cars crashed into a series of others and his race was lost.
"You bitch!" Allen screamed in frustration. Anna shook the end of the cord in his face.
"Watch your mouth, there's a child present! You'd know that if you weren't so intent on your work." She got down closer to his face so she could look into his eyes. "And another thing, the next time you decide to come to my apartment and threaten to go to my landlord and report me you'd better make sure you pay rent here otherwise this cord won't be the only thing of yours I'll be ripping out!"
Allen visibly paled as Anna calmed herself down. She turned to James who was playing on the floor with Jesse and watching her out of the corner of his eye, her anger had allowed her to be bold, but seeing him playing with a little child made her feel weird all over again.
"I'm your new neighbor, Anna," she shook his hand as he smiled up at her. She wrung her hands and looked away.
"I baked you a pie to welcome you. There's a slice missing but I had to do something to shut this one up." She smiled at Jesse and picked up the protesting child. Jesse reached her pudgy little hands towards James and began to whine.
Little hussy, Anna thought.
Smiling once more in James' general direction she walked out of the door and to her own apartment.
The men were still for a moment, Allen shell-shocked and James looking thoughtfully out into the hall.
"What the hell did you do to her?" James asked, shutting the front door. Allen didn't answer, he simply glared.
"Well, whatever it was I wouldn't advise doing that again, she's a scary one."
Allen glared harder.
Chuckling, James went back into the kitchen to get a plate for some pie.