"Hey, waitress! How about a refill over here?"
I knew that voice too well. I sighed and turned back to the outside table I had just passed. "What are you doing here?"
The handsome face of Max Lawson, my neighbor, was smiling up at me. It was a site that would make most women's knees go week, but I was immune to his charms. This was the guy who once saw me struggling with my grocery bags outside my door, asked if I needed help, and when I had said "yes", replied "I guess you should call someone then," and walked away laughing. But even I had to admit that he's handsome. With his perfectly tousled brown hair, grey eyes, high cheekbones, and a chiseled jaw, it was hard for anyone to deny that. We had been neighbors for over a year now. I moved in to the apartment building after I graduated from college.
"I'm enjoying my breakfast, of course. Seeing you is just a lovely bonus, Candy," he said with a big, charming smile slapped to his face. He's the only one that calls me Candy. He does it because he knows how much it annoys me. I'm Candace. Not Candy.
"Don't try to aggravate me, I'm working."
I turned away from him and headed over the trash can to throw away the dirty napkin I had picked up. I groaned when I saw who was walking down the sidewalk.
"Hello, Stuart." Stuart Wilton worked at the same publishing company that I did. I only worked at the café a couple of days a week for the extra money. He has recently taken it upon himself to harass me whenever possible. He's completely harmless, though, so I've never done anything like file a report, but he's been really getting on my nerves.
"You're looking quit delectable today," he said, while obviously leering at me.
"When does your shift end?"
"Not for a while." It actually ended in about 25 minutes.
"Well, how about you give me a call when it's over and we can go have some fun," he said, eyebrows wagging above his glasses at the end.
"Stuart, I can't go out with you." I've never said it to him so bluntly before. I usually just ignore his suggestions or say that I'm busy, but I was just so tired waiting for him to take a hint.
"Why not?" he asked, totally unconcerned.
"I have a boyfriend." The lie just came out of my mouth from somewhere desperate.
"That's not that good of a reason," he shrugged. "It's not like he has to find out."
"He would find out. I'm always with him. I'm totally crazy about the guy." I hoped I wasn't laying it on too thick.
"He's not here right now, is he?" He stepped closer with a grin I assumed was supposed to be seductive.
I took a hasty step back, and even while my brain was yelling Don't say it! What are you doing, don't say it! I heard myself say, "Yes! Yes, actually he is here."
"Oh, really," Stuart smirked, clearly not buying it. "Well, where is he then?"
"He's um…um…," I looked around, trying not to appear frantic, when my eyes fell on the only person I knew: Max. "Right there! That's him!" I dashed over to him. "Hi…honey," I said, awkwardly placing a hand on his shoulder. "This is Stuart. Stuart, this is Max." I paused to keep the pained look off of my face. "My boyfriend."
Max looked puzzled for a moment but then a slow, evil grin stretched across his face. He got up from his seat and put an arm around my waist. "Nice to meet you, Stuart. How do you know my Candy-kins?"
"We work together," he answered with narrowed eyes and pinched lips. "We're very close." My mouth dropped open in disgust at the implication.
Max looked amused at my expression. "Are you? It's always nice to meet one of my sweetie pie's friends."
"So you're going to the office party then? Every ones going to be there." The party was for my boss' birthday.
"Oh, no he's-," I started, but Max cut me off.
"Of course I am."
"But honey bear, I thought you had that thing to do that night?" My voice sounded pleasant but I was threatening him with my eyes.
"Nothing is more important than spending time with you, snookums." He flashed me with that evil grin again.
"I couldn't possibly keep you away from business, pookie."
"Nonsense. My job is to be there for you when you need me, baby cakes."
I grinded my teeth and resolved myself to giving in before Stuart picked up on what was going on. "Fine."
Stuart looked back and forth from Max and me suspiciously. "Hmm. Well I guess I'll see you tomorrow night then."
"I'll be there!" Max said with a big grin.
I watched Stuart walk off and then turned my head to glare at Max.
He looked very amused. "Don't give me that look. You got yourself into this."
I took a step back so his arm would drop from around my waist. "Why would you say you're going to the party?"
"Because I am going to the party." He stated.
"Says who?" I demanded and placed my hand on my hips.
He titled his head in a condescending way. "I'm your boyfriend now-"
"You are not!"
"-and wouldn't it look odd if you didn't bring you're boyfriend as you're date to a party?"
"I guess, but-"
"I'm just trying to help you out," he said matter-of-factly.
"When have you ever tried to help me out?"
"Maybe I'm turning over a new leaf," he said, sounding thoughtful.
"No you're not. You're up to something."
He shrugged. "Maybe. But there's no way I would tell you if I was." He swiftly bent down and kissed my cheek. "See you at home, puddin'!"
"Hi honey, how was your day?"
"Oh, my God!" I jumped and turned from closing my front door. "How did you get in here?" Max was sitting at my kitchen table, feet propped up.
"That's not important," he waved off. "I figured we needed to talk about our relationship."
"Oh, gosh, are you breaking up with me already?" I asked sarcastically.
"Cute. We need to come up with some details."
"What details?" I put my purse down and sat across from him at the table.
"Like the answers to questions you know everyone's going to ask. How did we meet? How long have we been dating? Stuff like that."
"Why are you so eager about this?" I asked, all suspicious.
"It'll be entertaining. Everyone needs some drama in they're life. Especially you, Candy."
"What do you mean? I have drama," I said, defensively.
"Living vicariously through soap operas doesn't count."
"I do not watch soaps." I scoffed, but broke eye contact.
He just stared at me.
"I just put them on for background noise sometimes."
He stared at me some more.
"Oh, shut up!" I crossed my arms and pouted. "Let's just get to work."
He gave me a superior look but let the matter drop. "Ok, so how did we start dating?"
"How about: You kept following me around like a lost puppy until I finally took pity on you?"
His lip curled in disgust. "Yeah, that's not going to work for me."
I laughed, "What do you think our story should be, then?"
"I like: You walked in on me naked and couldn't resist throwing yourself at me.'"
On their own accord, my eyes flicked down and did a quick scan of Max' broad shoulders and toned chest. When I forced them back up to his face, he was wearing a smug smirk.
I cleared my throat and said, "That would never happen." He just smirked wider. "Why don't we just tell everyone that we kept bumping into each other in the hall and you finally offered to take me out?"
He shrugged, "Not very romantic, but it'll do."
"As for how we know each other, we might as well just stick with the truth."
"You mean, you ran into me outside my apartment door, and when you hit the ground your skirt came up?" he asked with another smirk.
"I think we should leave out that part and say 'We're neighbors.'"
"You know, I've always admired the way you can talk through your teeth like that."
I flicked him off.
"You're a classy broad."
I sighed. "Moving on."
It took us only another half an hour to come up with the rest of the details to our fake relationship.
"I'm glad we got that all worked out." He leaned back in the chair he was sitting in and folded his hands over his toned stomach. "How about you make me dinner now?"
"I'm not making you dinner." I said, focusing on keeping my eyes firmly on his and not anywhere lower.
"Because you're the man who's making my life difficult." I stated.
"Entertaining," he corrected. He sat up straight in the chair again to plead with me. "I don't want to go back to my apartment. It's lonely over there."
"So call someone." I said, trying to ignore his big, grey eyes.
"Please? Don't make me leave." I would have stayed firm, but then he gave me a look that said, "I need you. I need you and I will never be able to survive without you. Please take care of me."
I folded. "Alright, I'll make you dinner. But you're getting spaghetti."
"You're an angel."
I was stirring the spaghetti sauce when Max came up behind me and placed a hand on my hip.
"Mmm, smells good." But I noticed he was smelling my hair, not the sauce.
I cleared my throat, and stuck with a simple, "Thank you," because I didn't trust my mouths ability to form anything more complicated than that.
He rubbed my hip a little and I was definitely finding it harder to breath. "So, do you like cooking?"
I cleared my throat again. "Not really. I just stick to the basics."
"I love to cook."
"You do?" I whipped my head around to glare at him. "Then why am I the one slaving over a hot stove right now?" I momentarily forgot about the burning hand on my hip in my ire.
"I hardly thing making spaghetti can be classified as 'slaving'," he told me with an amused smile.
"Humph. Spoken like a man."
He laughed. "Alright, alright. I'll just go sit in front of the TV with a beer, like we inconsiderate men are supposed to do." He removed his hand and went back to the living room. Part of me was relieved, but another part (the hormone driven part) was sad to see him go.
"Darling, you look lovely," was how Max greeted me the next night when I opened my door, looking extremely handsome in his black suit and light blue dress shirt. We were about to leave for the work party and I was feeling nervous.
"How did you ever manage to land a girl like me?" I joked, while smoothing down my shoulder length brown hair in an attempt to compose myself.
"Good looks, charm, and manipulation," he said with a charming smile. I couldn't help but laugh. He definitely wouldn't need manipulation to get a woman. I had to take another deep breath, feeling shaky for thinking such a thing. Max Lawson wasn't charming, and he wasn't datable.
"Relax, this is going to be fine," Max reassured me, totally misunderstanding my panicky expression.
"Yeah. Fine," I responded weakly. I had a feeling it was going to be anything but.
I was talking to Kylie Jennings. She was my best friend, and I had already filled her in on the Stuart and Max mess.
"Gosh, he's sexy. Don't you think he's sexy? Of course you do." She tilted her blonde head to the side and studied Max more. "I think it's something about his posture."
"Mmhmm." She had been making comments like that ever since we got here an hour ago.
So far, Max was acting like a model boyfriend. He was being attentive to me, not showing any interest in the other woman who were trying to flirt with him, and was polite to my friends. Everyone said we made a great couple, and everyone was interested in what our story was. I don't know how many times I heard "Aww, that's so cute!" when they found out we were neighbors.
Just then Max was talking to my boss, who was laughing at something funny he had said.
"I bet he's terrific in bed."
"Kylie!" That snapped me out of my thoughts.
"What? Don't tell me you haven't thought about it before. No warm-blooded, heterosexual female who has come into contact with that man, has not speculated about it. Right? I mean, right?"
"Fine, you're right," I agreed, exasperated.
"If I were a man, this would be the time where I tell you that you should tap that."
"But as a female you're far too sophisticated to state your opinion on whom I should or should not have sexual intercourse with?" I asked, rolling my eyes.
"Exactly," she laughed.
"Why don't you sleep with him if you think he's so dreamy?"
"Oh, Candace, don't even pretend that the idea of him with another woman doesn't bother you," she said, and gave me a serious look.
She's right. Just the thought of him in bed with someone made my teeth grind. Unless that someone was me. I experienced that slightly panicked feeling again.
"Oh, look, he's coming over here," I heard Kylie say. I looked up and saw Max on his way over. I saw other females watching and felt jealous, which I mentally berated myself for. It had to be because of the act we were doing.
"Hey, hon, you having a good time?" he asked and placed an arm around my waist.
"A blast," I lied, and gave a dazzling smile because people were watching.
"Uh huh," he said, looking amused.
"Heads up, guys. Stuarts on the move," Kylie warned us.
Max moved closer to me and tightened the arm that was around my waist. I tried to look semi calm while my insides were squirming from stress.
"So you came," was the first thing Stuart said when he reached us, speaking directly to Max and frowning.
"Of course," Max politely replied.
The two men couldn't be more opposite in appearance. Stuart was lanky, only a few inches taller than me, had short, dark blonde hair, and brown eyes. Max had an athletic build, almost shaggy, dark brown hair, light grey eyes, and had to be at least 6'3. Stuart was just so nerdy. And Max was…not.
"So what is it you do, Max?" asked Stuart, sounding snotty.
"Max owns a contracting business," I said, for some reason feeling the need to defend him.
"Co-own," Max inputted. "My brother, Ben, and I run it."
"You know, small businesses generally fail just starting off."
"We've had it for five years. We're doing fine," Max said with a pleasant smile.
"A contractor, huh? I have this bathroom-"
"Kylie." I sighed, exasperated with her again.
"What? It's really ugly," she said defensively.
Max laughed. "I'd be happy to talk to you about it later."
"How much money do you make?" Stuart asked bluntly.
"Stuart, that is so rude," I told him.
"How do you know he can support you?"
"I can support myself, thanks." He gave me a dubious look.
I heard a slow song start. Max heard it to and said, "It was nice talking to you, but I promised Candy a dance."
He led me out onto the dance floor with Stuart glaring after us and Kylie smiling. He wrapped his arms around me and I hesitantly placed mine around his neck. We danced in silence to the song for a little while.
"So, when are you going to do it?" I finally blurted out my worry.
"Do what?" he asked, looking genuinely confused.
"Whatever it is that you're planning that will embarrass me."
He smiles and shakes his head. "Why can't you accept that I'm just doing you a favor?"
"Because you've never done me a favor. Not once."
"You've never asked."
I opened my mouth to argue with that, but closed it when I realized it was true. We danced for a few more seconds in silence. I was pulled from my thoughts when I felt something soft against my forehead. I blinked in surprise when I realized it was his lips. He moved them to my ear and said, "Stuarts watching," in explanation.
"Oh," I replied, more than a little dazed.
"He's really something else," he said, his mouth still at my ear.
"Who?" I asked blankly.
"Oh, right. Him."
I heard him chuckle. Oh, God. Did he know what effect he was having on me?
He leaned back, and was once again at a respectable distance. "So he bothers you, huh?"
I almost asked 'who?' again. I could have slapped myself. "Yeah, for the last month or so."
"Why didn't you just get a real boyfriend?"
"I'm not interested in anyone." Liar, my conscience said. I ignored it and told myself it was just my hormones. I was pressed against his very nice body, after all.
"Hmm." For a second I thought he almost sounded pleased, but I convinced myself it was just me being pathetic.
The song ended. I let my arms dropped. His hands skimmed my lower back and hips as he took them away, and it caused me to shiver. Was he doing this to me on purpose?
"I need some champagne," I muttered to myself, as I turned and walked away.
"My boss was so drunk," I laughed as we walked down the apartment buildings hallway.
"Hey, you're not so steady on your feet there either, missy."
I laughed again. "Ok, I'll admit I'm not exactly sober, but I'm far from drunk." After our dance, I did indeed got myself a drink. I finally relaxed after that. Partly because Stuart left us alone, and partly (probably mostly) because of the alcohol. I actually managed to have a good time at the party. Max and I even danced again, although it wasn't to a slow song. "Why aren't you tipsy at all?" I asked him.
It was his turn to laugh. "Um, because I didn't have three glasses of champagne?"
"They were small glasses. My company's so cheap," I muttered to myself.
"That's probably a good thing. I'd hate to picture you now if they were large glasses." Max opened his door and gestured for me to go in. I didn't even hesitate to follow it. I later blamed the alcohol.
"I'm a very charming drunk," I stated.
"I can't imagine you'd be anything but," Max said, smiling.
We just stood there smiling at each other as our conversation fell into silence.
"So, that was fun," I said, when I felt the silence had gone on for too long.
"Yeah, I enjoyed it." Another pause. I didn't want to leave. I don't know why I didn't, but I knew that if I did I would surely be miserable for the rest my life.
Max reached out and ran the back of his fingers down my bare arm. My breath caught in the back of my throat. He started to take his hand back when his fingers reached my wrist, but I didn't want to lose that contact. I took a step closer to him. He paused and looked at me hard for a moment. He slid his hand back up my arm, over my shoulder, along my jaw, and softly cupped my cheek.
Never losing eye contact, he slowly leaned down to me. When his lips finally landed on mine they were soft and gentle, but they certainly didn't stay that way. Within seconds the kiss turned hard and hungry. He had his arms around my back molding me to him, I had my hands fisted in his hair, and our mouths were trying to devour each others. I couldn't think about anything but how desperately I wanted him.
He separated his mouth from mine to press quick kisses and bites along my jaw. "Oh, Candace. Candace." I could barely hear him over the roaring in my ears. I pressed my hips harder against his. He growled and latched his lips back on to mine. Our tongues dueled, teeth nipped, and soon we were stumbling to his bedroom, clawing at each other's clothes.
It took approximately four minutes for me to get my breathing under control and my mind to come back to me.
"Oh, God, what did I do?"
"You just had mind blowing sex with me," was Max's lazy reply. He was lying next to me with his eyes closed.
"I know, but why?" I asked, becoming more panicked.
"Because the sexual tension was becoming unbearable," he explained, still calm.
I agreed, but kept my mouth shut.
"Are you going to freak out now?"He finally opened his eyes and turned his head to look at me.
"No?" It was meant to be a statement but didn't come out that way.
He raised his eyebrows and looked unconvinced.
"I mean…I, ah…I gotta go."
And, like the coward I am, I grabbed my clothes and bolted.
"I slept with him."
"Kylie!" I was on the phone with her the day after the bedroom incident. I'd spent most of that morning and the night before pacing around my living room until I finally crashed from exhaustion.
"I'm just joking. I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. So are you guys official now?"
"No." I couldn't help but notice that I sound a little sad saying that. Which added to my confusion.
"What do you mean 'no'?" she asked, sounding surprised.
"I kind of…ran out…before we talked."
"You freaked out, didn't you?"
I didn't answer.
"You did freak out. I thought you liked him. Don't you like him?"
"I don't know! I'm so confused!" I cried in frustration. "Just a couple of days ago I didn't even like thinking about him. Now he's all I think about!"
"You love him," she stated simply.
My brain stalled. Did I? Did I love him? I pictured his face in my mind and my stomach cramped. But it wasn't a bad feeling. I felt nervous and excited and anticipation. And incredible warmth. I pictured his voice, his laugh, his smell, and my heart started pounding. I felt dizzy and there were butterflies in my stomach.
"Candace? Are you still there?" I vaguely heard Kylies voice coming through the phone.
Oh God, I did love him! What was I supposed to do now? Should I tell him? What if he doesn't feel the same way? We have spent the last year fighting with each other; he probably doesn't even like me. Plus, he can't be very thrilled with me for running out on him this morning.
I was back to pacing.
"I have to go, Kylie." I told her before rudely hanging up.
It's not like I could ignore him forever. We were neighbors after all. I had to go talk to him. I didn't have to tell him I loved him, but I had to at least apologize for the way I acted.
I went to my bedroom to change and freshen up since I looked like a complete mess. Then I left my apartment and walked over to the door for his. And stood there staring at it for a full minute. I mentally slapped myself, told myself to suck it up, and knocked.
He opened the door after a couple of seconds.
"Well, if it isn't Ms. Hit and Run." Clearly he wasn't going to make this easy for me.
"Can I come in?" I asked hesitantly.
"Sure." He shrugged and moved aside. I took a few steps into his apartment. "Do you want me to leave the door open to make your get away route easier?" He sounded pleasant, but I could tell that was an act.
I squared my shoulders. "I came to apologize."
He studied me for a moment and then closed the door. He leaned against it, crossed his arms, and waited for me to continue.
"I shouldn't have run out like I did. I handled it all wrong."
"Why did you handle it like that?"
"I was confused." I hedged.
"About?" he prompted.
"About…"I took a deep breath, "about how I feel about you."
"And how do you feel about me, Candy?" he asked softly, but stared at me intensely.
I tried not to squirm under his gaze. "I…I might…Oh, what does it matter?" The tears finally came, but I was too frustrated to care. "No matter how I feel, you'll still hate me!"
"Hate you?" he said incredulously, straightening up from the door. "Candy, I've been in love with you ever since you barged into my apartment in your pajamas, yelling that I was a rat eating lowlife becasuse I stole your newspaper for the third time six months ago."
"Wh- you are?" I felt my mouth gape open attractively from shock. "Why didn't you ever do anything about it?"
"Well," He paused to run a hand through his hair, looking a little embarrassed. "By then we were set in a pattern where we annoyed and insulted each other at every opportunity, and I didn't know how to break away from it." He paused to grin. "Plus, you're just so damn cute when you're angry."
I felt more tears fall down my face. But they were from happiness. "That is so sweet," I whispered.
He shook his head and looked amused by my reaction. "Do you maybe want to tell me you love me back?"
"Oh, Max, I do love you." He was smiling just as big as I was when he pulled me into the most romantic kiss I've ever had.
I pulled back and said, "By the way, I knew it was you stealing my papers, and you owe me a free subscription."
He chuckled and softly ran his thumbs over my cheeks to wipe away the wetness. "We can share from now on."
Thanks for reading my story! It took me forever to finish this but I'm really happy with how it turned out. I think it's my favorite out of everything that I've done so far. Please review, I'd love to hear what you think of it!