Chapter Four: We're Even

I inhaled deeply, sighing contently as I snuggled deeper into my pillow. There is something uniquely beautiful about not being woken up by an alarm clock and just lying lazily in your bed – a real bed that is, with a real mattress.

Home sweet home.

I inhaled again, unwilling to open my eyes. It was then that something brushed across the side of my face, tickling me. I could have sworn that I heard a snicker.

I moaned a little bit, waving my hand uselessly in the air. Sleep…

Whatever had tickled my face came back with a vengeance, brushing against my nose and the inside of my ear. Slightly annoyed now, I rolled over to face the other side of my room. Sleep…

Something else tickled my neck and I scowled, bringing up one shoulder and trying to dislodge it. Sleep…

And then…


The upper half of my body flew upright and my eyes flew open wide. "WHAT?!"

I was absolutely frantic, and I'm pretty sure that all the blood in my body rushed to my head. My vision finally focused, and I squeaked. A pair of gray-blue eyes were two inches away from my face.

"Holy shit!" I screamed, jumping backward. "How the hell did you get in here?"

So much for waking up peacefully. Oh well, the thought was nice while it lasted.

It was about then that I realized that Landon was straddling over my body. Somehow, I didn't think that Javier would appreciate our current position much.

Landon smiled smugly.

"What the hell are you doing here?" I asked, suddenly hyperaware of the fact that all I was wearing was a pair of tiny shorts and an equally tiny tank top that didn't even clear the top of the shorts. I sank a little lower into my sheets, my face turning bright red.

Why didn't I listen to Javier when he told me to 'put some damn clothes on!'

"I'm waking you up," Landon replied easily.

What the…?

My eyes narrowed as I take note of the object in his right hand.

"Is that BLACKIE?!" I squealed again, completely indignant as I lunged for the stuffed panther. "Give him back!"

Well, now I knew what he'd been tickling me with.

'Blackie,' as I so creatively named my black panther, has been my companion since I turned two many years ago. If you want to keep your head, you don't mess with Blackie.


"What is your problem?!" I cried, bringing Blackie protectively to my chest.

I swear he found my indignation amusing, and it only succeeded in pissing me off further. I was fully awake by now, and so Landon had no qualms about lowering the full weight of his body onto my legs and sitting down on top of me. "I was bored," he said with a shrug.

"So?!" I sputtered. I reached behind me for the hardcover copy of Wuthering Heights that I'd left on my dresser and waved it around menacingly. "Get out of my room, Landon, or I will beat you to a pulp with this book."

"No need to—"

"I'm serious, Landon. This book is hitting its target in five, four, three, two—"

He leapt off my bed and lunged for the bureau. "I come in peace!"

I rolled my eyes before squinting at whatever he picked up. I tucked Blackie under the covers, leaning forward to make sure that I wasn't hallucinating.

When I realized that I really was seeing what I thought I was seeing I think I started drooling. "Is that tea? And cheese Danish?" I tried very, very hard to keep my tone even, but I was pretty sure he could read the eagerness in my face.

He smirked, "You have to share."

"I am not sharing!"

"At least the Danish!" He exclaimed, holding up two forks. "It's the last piece."

I pouted, but nodded. "Fine."

Landon sat back down at the edge of my bed, handing me the mug of steaming tea and one of the forks. I put the tea down and snatched a piece of Danish, relishing in the taste. God, I love life.

"What are you doing here?" I asked again, although this time I was much calmer. The fact that I had food in my system helped considerably. Still, I couldn't help but marvel at just how weird it was that Landon was sitting in my room having breakfast with me. When I was little, Landon invading my room wasn't a big deal. After I hit puberty, it became an issue. Javier and my father made that pretty clear.

He shrugged. "I told you, already. I was bored, so I came to wake you up."

"You thought a near death experience would be kind of fun?" I asked, swatting his fork out of the way and taking another bite.

He grinned. "Naw. I can handle you. I just find it amusing to watch you freak out."

I scowled at him. Landon wasn't doing himself any favors. If he thought I had forgotten about yesterday's little stunt, he was sadly mistaken.

"Whatever. But be serious, what are you doing here? Where's Javier?"

His face turned a little green. "He went to pick up Lexi, and after last night…"

Ah, yes. Last night. Very awkward situation. We actually did end up going out to eat, but when we dropped off Lexi… Well, let's just say that I did not enjoy watching my brother and his girlfriend make out. They're cute, yes, but not that cute. Javier is my brother. Landon and I had both had to fight back sudden waves of vomit.

I didn't enjoy it.

"Please don't remind me." I took another bite of pastry. "My parents let you stay here alone?"

I was a little surprised that my father would be cool with that, what with me being asleep and vulnerable. Landon must have read my thoughts on my face because he shook his head, talking around a mouthful of Danish.

"Your dad wasn't home and your mom said it would be fine."

That explained it. My mother adored Landon. "Where'd she go?"

He shrugged one shoulder. "I think she said something about dropping stuff off at the post office and picking up your grandmother."

"What time is it?" I stifled a yawn as I reached over to my dresser and picked up my cell phone.

I was surprised to find that it was almost noon. "How long have you been here?"

Another shrug. "An hour, maybe."

I nodded, jumping when my cell phone started vibrating in my hand. I flipped it open quickly, checking the caller ID.


I sighed dramatically, picking up. "What do you want?"

"Hey, what's up?"

He definitely wanted a favor; it was the only reason he would try and make small talk with me. "What do you need?"

"Who said I needed anything?" He sounded indignant, but I knew better.

"Just because you're an idiot, Javier, doesn't make me one. What do you need?"

"Heh. Well, now that you mention it…"

See? I knew it. "Spit it out, Javier."

"Well, you know how Dad wanted to make some stuff on the grill today?"

My father has always been obsessed with grilling food. Honest to God, he was obsessed. I think if he could grill oranges before he ate them, he would.

"Yeah, sure. What about?"

"Well, he asked me to pick up the steak, but Lexi's parents wanted to—"

"Say no more. You want me to drop by the grocery store."

"Well, yeah." He sounded a little guilty, but again, I knew better. Javier knew he could exploit my love for him.

Ass. I wanted to tell him no just for spite.

"Yeah, sure. What am I getting?" Maybe next time then.

He spouted off a list of things that I didn't really listen to; all I caught was soda, steak, and potato chips. I hung up the phone quickly and slumped against my pillow. Landon arched an eyebrow at me.

"Grocery run?"

"Yeah," I nodded, a little disappointed. I really hadn't wanted to get out of bed. Although, with Landon there, getting up had been inevitable. "You coming?" I asked, pushing him off the bed and flipping back the covers. The cool air against my skin made me shiver as I slid onto the hardwood floor. I reached for the pullover I kept by my bed and was in the process of pulling it over my head when I realized Landon was staring at me.

Frowning as I struggled to tug the pullover on the rest of the way, I followed his gaze.

My face turned bright red.

I knew there was a reason I didn't want to get out of bed.

Damn it.

His eyes had been trained on the bare part of my midriff, but once my bulky pullover had covered that, they drifted to my legs. Remember how I said I was wearing a pair of tiny shorts?

My face turned several shades darker and I fumbled through my drawer, grabbing my towel and a change of clothes. "Uh, yeah, I'm going to, uh, go, shower, uh, ok?"

Not a very coherent sentence, but I couldn't help it. Landon was looking at me like he wanted nothing more than to push me up against the wall and have his merry way with me.

Not good for my brain, that look. I honestly wasn't sure if the idea frightened me or thrilled me. Either way, the situation wasn't good.

He didn't say anything to me, but his gray-blue eyes darkened until they were almost black. A lot like yesterday, actually.

I made a mad dash out of my room and down the hallway, flying into the bathroom and slamming the door closed behind me. Bad, bad, bad…

I showered extremely quickly, mostly because the idea of lounging in the shower with Landon hanging around was extremely uncomfortable. Once I was decently dressed, I stepped out of the bathroom, rubbing a towel across my hair.

Landon was sitting at the computer when I reentered my room, watching Transformers.

"Hey," I greeted softly, dropping the soaked towel onto my bed and reaching for my brush.

He paused the movie and glanced at me from over his shoulder, all traces of the earlier knee-weakening stare gone from his eyes. I'll admit to being a little disappointed. "You ready to go?"

"Go?" I blinked, "Oh. Right. Groceries." I rolled my eyes, "I'm on top of things."

Landon grinned. "I can tell."

"Uh, yeah, just give me a second and we can get out of here." I grabbed an elastic for my hair and threw it up, too lazy to do much else with it.

"My car is at the shop," Landon hesitated. "Is that going to be a problem?"

I shook my head, "No. I have a car."

"Right," he nodded slowly, and I know he was trying to wrap his mind around the idea of little old me having a car.

I rolled my eyes. "When are you going to realize that I'm not a little kid anymore?" I muttered, stepping outside and turning around to lock the door.

I didn't even realize he heard me until I slid into the driver's seat of my car, and he turned around to look at me. "I know you're not a kid anymore."

I arched an eyebrow, and he rolled one shoulder.

"Well, ok. I'm still processing a little, but—"

"Whatever." I cut in, turning on the car and letting the engine run for a bit before pulling out of the driveway. "Are you going to be staying for the steak?"

Landon nodded, eyes scanning the road as I glanced over at him. "Yeah."


And that was the extent of our conversation until we got to Stop & Shop. He pushed the annoyingly squeaky carriage along as I surveyed the shelves and shelves of food, occasionally pausing and picking something out.

I'd be lying if I said that it wasn't even slightly awkward, and that I wasn't even a little indignant that he still saw me as a kid. I knew that it was the logical reaction. After all, he'd known me since I was in elementary school, and he'd grown up seeing me like a little sister. Mostly, I could deal with Javier's friends thinking of me as a baby, but with Landon…

I couldn't help it. I kept flashing back to when we were in the coffee shop, and then when we were talking in Javier's room. I groaned under my breath. Where was the justice?

"So," I began, deciding that I'd had enough of the awkward silence. "What've you been doing with yourself these days?" I picked a few bags of potato chips off the shelf and dumped them into the carriage.

"Not a whole heck of a lot."

I was coming really close to smacking him. Way to help the conversation along, Lan. "That's fascinating," I told him, rolling my eyes.

"Well, I finished college, got a job, started renting my apartment… Honestly, it isn't that interesting."

"Didn't you transfer to some college in Massachusetts?" I asked, vaguely remembering a conversation with Javier. "UMass?"

He nodded, "Yeah."

"And you were going for architecture, right?"

Another nod. "Yeah."

My hand inched toward the side of his head, but I pulled it back. I wouldn't smack him. At least, not in public.

I made a desperate reach for the Pepsi, which just so happened to be situated on the very top shelf. Go figure. I tried climbing up onto the bottom shelf and then reaching for it, but I nearly knocked the entire thing over.

Guess I gained a few pounds. Heh.

Landon made an amused noise behind me, and the next thing I knew he wasn't even an inch away from me, his loose shirt brushing my bare back as he reached past me and grabbed a bottle. In a move I'm sure he didn't even realize he'd made, he placed one hand on the side of my waist.

His arm was about halfway down when he realized what position we were in, and he hastened to step away from me. Judging by the look on his face, he was doing a relatively thorough job of cussing himself out just then.

I gave myself a little shake, and attempted to act like nothing happened. I'm pretty sure I failed miserably.

Landon fell back into step beside me, and I couldn't help but notice the way he seemed so conscious of the space between us. It was as if I might bite him if there was less than a foot of space between us.

It was as I was leaning over the lovely display of raw meat that he decided to finally say something. "I think maybe we should talk."

He sounded pretty disturbed by the idea, but I just nodded nonchalantly. "Sure, what's up?"

I could feel his eyes on me, asking me if I was really that dense.

Obviously, I'm not, but I wasn't going to jump for joy at the prospect of an incredibly awkward conversation with Landon Stryker which would basically come down to 'you are my best friends little sister; the end.'

"Andie," he sighed. "Please tell me you aren't going to make this difficult."

I looked at him wide-eyed. "Make what difficult?"

"The flirting has got to stop."

I felt my indignation flare. I hadn't woken him up by straddling him, nor had I called him 'pretty' numerous times. And even if I had, I wasn't the one who had gone all smoldering yesterday in the kitchen. I opened my mouth to say as much, but he continued on.

"You're my best friend's little sister. You're practically my little sister. You're… you."

I stopped my meat-perusal. "What's that supposed to mean?" I snapped, my hand coming to my hip as I turned to face him.

"It means that this…thing…needs to disappear."

"Well then maybe you should stop waking me up and mentally undressing me when you see my in my pajamas."

I could see the slight red that invaded his cheeks, but he glanced away quickly. "Whatever. I didn't know it was you at the café, if I had, I would never have said that shit. So forget it, alright? I didn't mean anything by it, I just thought it was harmless flirting."

"Harmless flirting," I repeated flatly.

"Yeah," he nodded. "Harmless flirting."

I know I can be slightly idiotic sometimes, but I'm not stupid. It wasn't 'harmless flirting.' If it had been, he would have had no reason to get all bashful when my brother was going to tell me what he'd said about me.

Even if it had been harmless flirting, the fact would have done little to suppress my now apparent frustration. I brushed past him and picked up two packages of steaks and some pork chops, dropping them into the carriage. "Let's go," I said shortly. The lines were insane, so I made for one of the empty self check-out machines. As I ran the food underneath the scanner, he bagged everything.

Landon made several attempts at making conversation with me, but I ignored him and fed the machine the appropriate amount of cash. It was as I was fishing out my change that he stepped up behind me.

"What's your problem?"

Idiot. "Nothing."

I shoved the change into my pocket, not waiting for him as I pushed the carriage toward the exit. He caught up with me easily, catching my wrist.

"You're being childish," he snapped. "I thought you could be more mature about this."

To say I was angry would be the understatement of the year. He was adding insult to injury with his words. "Obviously, I can't. I don't see why you're surprised, though. I'm a kid, right? The little sister?"

"Andie, I—"

"Shut up, Landon. I really couldn't give a shit." Of course, that was a lie, but I wasn't about to acknowledge the truth. I popped open my trunk and pilled the bags inside before sliding into my front seat. I was tempted to leave him there, but then I really would have been acting like a kid.

Landon slammed the door shut as he got into the car. "Why are you getting this upset?"

I rolled my eyes, pulling out of the parking lot. I silently thanked God that it only took ten minutes to get from Stop & Shop to my house. If it had been any longer, I might have killed him.


I ignored him the entire ride home. It didn't do anything, except maybe prove his point, but I wasn't going to talk to him. Not when I was feeling so very ready to strangle him and then dump him on the side of the road.

I pressed down on the accelerator a little harder.

When I got home, I opened the door and dashed up to my room. He could put away the steak himself.

It took me about a half an hour of sitting in my room and blasting my music, but eventually I was feeling in control of my emotions. I was still indignant, and I was still angry, but at least I had a plan of action.

I inhaled, and opened my door. Landon wasn't in Javier's room, and for a moment I thought he had left without me realizing. Further exploration proved to me however that he hadn't left, he was just sitting in the family room downstairs. He was slouched a little on the couch, looking incredibly bored as he flipped through the channels.

Landon looked up when he saw me. "What is it?" He turned purposely toward the television and I scowled.

Clearly, I'm not the only person being immature here. He doesn't even have a reason to be pissed at me.

I moved toward him slowly, and I saw him take note of my approach. Faster than he could blink, I'd settled down so that I was straddling his lap. I wrapped my arms around his neck, playing with his hair. Because of the way I was positioned, my head was actually hovering above his. I leaned down until I was a mere centimeter away from his lips.

"Andie, wha…?"

I'd be lying if I said I didn't find it completely satisfying that he couldn't seem to form a complete sentence.

"You remember what you said earlier?"


I shifted slightly, one hand coming down onto his thigh and tracing lazy circles on his leg. My other hand moves slowly up his chest, and I moved my lips from directly above his toward his ear so that my breath was hitting the sensitive area behind his ear and part of his neck.

I swear I felt him shiver.

"And you remember what you did yesterday?"


I moved my lips back to his, tightening my hold. The same way I did the day before, he leaned toward me. A teasing and playful smile on my face, I moved away. Because I could, I moved back to his ear, nipping at his ear lobe.

Another shiver.

Who knew that I would be so good at this?

I shifted again, so that my lips were moving in painfully close proximity to his as I spoke. "They both really pissed me off."

He lurched forward a bit when I abruptly picked myself up and made for the doorway. He looked adorably confused as he stared at me, mouth hanging open slightly.

I smiled smugly. Good.

"Consider us even."

A/N: Don't forget to drop in and let me know what you think! :)