“Well, that was thoroughly disheartening,” I grumbled.
I was currently sweeping up the mess left by the brick, that had smashed through our window, over an hour ago. The police had already been and gone. Politely informing us, that there was no way to track down the person who had thrown the thing.
I felt safe knowing there was a brick thrower out on the loose. It was going to make sleeping tonight so much more enjoyable. Especially, considering my bed was right beside the window. Who knew what kind of wake up call I might be getting in the middle of the night.
“Didn’t you call Teddy?” Sarah asked from her designated position on the couch. She had tried to help for all of three-seconds before she cut her finger and was banished from the disaster zone. Blood always seemed to make me woozy.
“He didn’t answer. I left a message.” Then, as if on cue the door to our apartment crashed open followed by rapid, heavy footsteps.
“Annie,” his familiar voice roared and I calmly tossed the remaining glass shards in the bin. I had no doubt that he was going to be worked up enough for the both of us.
I’d calmed down nearly half an hour ago but that wasn’t to say that I had been calm after the incident had occurred. It had taken Sarah and me 20 minutes to come out from behind the couch and another twenty for our hands to stop shaking enough to make the call to the police. Needless to say, our attacker was long gone by the time we got into action.
“Hey Teddy,” I greeted. He didn’t look any happier than he sounded. I’d say, given the deepening frown on his forehead, he didn’t appreciate my chipper tone either.
“What happened here?”
“Just a neighbourhood delinquent, with an alarmingly good aim,” I answered. “Or really poor aim, depending on what he was going for.′
“Your window is broken.”
“He did throw a brick,” Sarah muttered, slumping down in the couch. Probably to dodge the glare that Teddy was now shooting her.
“Pack your bags.”
“Excuse me,” I frowned, putting the broom away before I rounded on him again.
“I said, pack your bags. I’ll get some guys over here in the morning to fix this mess but tonight, you’re staying with me.” He announced, walking over to survey the now, glassless, window frame. It still had some jagged shards left but I wasn’t game enough to pull the rest out. ‘You too, sparky.’
“I told you never to call me that,” Sarah hissed, shooting up from behind the sofa. “Annie, I told him never to call me that.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Teddy. This is a perfectly safe neighbourhood and I’m not going to be driven out by some wise guy with a brick.” I frowned, ignoring my childish roommate. Sometimes, it was the only way to handle her whining.
“It’s not up for discussion, Annie. Either pack your bags or I will.” I eyed him challengingly but, I knew the look in his eye, and if I didn’t do what he wanted he would just carry me out of here.
I released a defeated sigh before pushing passed him and heading for my room. My roommate hot on my heels, still mumbling about being called sparky, again. Teddy was never going to let her forget her hair teasing phase. She really had looked like she had stuck her finger in a light socket.
“Two minutes, Annie,” I heard Teddy warn and begrudgingly, I tossed a change of clothes and my toiletries in an overnight bag before heading back out.
I was standing beside Teddy, with a sour look on my face, as he glared down the hallway shouting at Sarah to hurry up.
When she still didn’t emerge, he marched down the hall and disappeared inside her room.
Seconds later, I heard an indignant scream and something crash. Then Teddy emerged with a limp Sarah over his shoulder, her surprisingly small overnight bag in his other hand.
He scooped mine up as he walked passed, grunting at me to follow. I stumbled over my feet in my haste, too shocked to laugh at Sarah who was dangling upside down over his shoulder.
“Shut up Annie,” she grumbled. She let out a painful gasp when Teddy repositioned her on his shoulder.
“Sorry, sparky,” and I could almost hear the smug grin in his voice. He was enjoying this far more than his captive. Who was muttering about the many colourful ways she would like to remove a certain body part, or pair of body parts, from the overly confident man.
“Why does she get the bed?” Sarah complained.
“Because, I like her.”
“Your sofa is like sleeping on a bed of rocks.”
“Then why would I let my angel sleep on it?” Teddy laughed, disappearing inside his own room and coming back out with extra blankets.
“Please Annie, let me share with you,” Sarah pleaded but I was shaking my head before she even finished her plea.
“No way. The last time I shared with you I woke up with bruises on my legs. Not to mention you had kicked me on the floor in the middle of the night.” She was the worst bed partner. I had accidentally left my window open one day and my bed had been soaked when I returned home after a freak downpour. Meaning, I needed to share with my monster of a roommate.
“Angel gets the bed, deal with it sparky,” Teddy smirked, unceremoniously dropping the blankets onto the couch.
‘This isn’t fair. I’m the one who needs to get up early for work in the morning,’ she grumbled.
“Sweet dreams, sparky,” I teased, disappearing inside my room before the remote she had thrown could hit me. She was definitely going to be cranky in the morning.
I was suddenly jolted awake when I felt a sharp pain in my rib. When I felt it a second time, I was pushed so harshly that I landed heavily on the floor. Disorientated and sore, I looked around remembering that I was staying at Teddy’s place. Glancing at the bed, it was easy to see what, or in this case, who, had kicked me out of my bed.
She was a monster.
Groaning, I clumsily got to my feet before stumbling from the room. I glanced at the lumpy couch in the centre of Teddy’s apartment before changing direction for his room. It wouldn’t have been the first time I slept in his bed.
Slipping silently into the darkened room, I shuffled across the threadbare carpet as Teddy snored blissfully in his sleep. His body was like a huge mountain beneath the covers, rising and falling with every snort.
Smiling to myself, I pulled back the cosy covers to his bed and slipped inside. Immediately, feeling the warmth of his body press against my back as I snuggled further down. I was out in seconds.
“-crying on my doorstep.” Teddy’s low, rumbling voice dragged me from unconsciousness. For a moment, I was disoriented in my half-conscious state before my surroundings started to come into focus.
I was in Teddy’s apartment and more specifically his bed because the kicking machine next door couldn’t handle the couch.
“This is my apartment and I have the right to my privacy. You aren’t welcome here, pretty boy.” There was another low, smooth, rumbling voice but it was too soft to hear.
“Good luck getting through me,′ Teddy scoffed and I could almost imagine the smug look on his face as he smirked at whoever was talking to him.
There were very few people on this planet who would ever dare going up against Teddy and worst of all, he knew it.
“Just let me speak to her.” I knew that voice instantly and seconds after hearing it I was up and out of the bed. Charging for the bedroom door and slamming it open.
“What is wrong with you?” I demanded, cutting Teddy off as he tried to make a grab for me. “Wasn’t it enough that you insulted me at your apartment, now, you have to come to my friend’s homes and ridicule me here too?”
“What are you wearing?” He frowned and I couldn’t help but notice the slight edge in his tone despite the anger building in the clenched fists of my hands. One wrong word from him and I was going to be in line for a very expensive lawsuit.
“Whose shirt is that?” Suddenly, my face flushed and I glanced down at Teddy’s shirt. I had completely forgotten that I was barely wearing any clothes, save Teddy’s oversized t-shirt. “What are you even doing here? Why aren’t you at your apartment? I went there and no one answered.”
“T-that’s none of your business,” I floundered, like a chicken attempting to fly. I glanced up and saw a strange expression on Xander’s face before it was neatly covered by an emotionless mask. I was beginning to realise he was an expert at using it to keep his emotions secret. I, however, didn’t have this off switch he seemed to possess and I could tell my discomfort was plain to see for everyone in the room.
“We need to talk,” he announced, all warmth from his tone evaporating faster than a puddle in the Australian summer.
“I don’t have anything more to say to you,” I said, trying to be as firm and unruffled as possible. Although, the tremble in my voice undermined any attempt I was making.
“You can’t hide from this Annie. I need to squash these rumours before they are allowed to grow. I won’t let this ruin my career. You’ll help me because otherwise, this media circus will do nothing but escalate at a rate you couldn’t even imagine.”
“Don’t threaten her. You’re the reason she’s been put in danger in the first place,” Teddy growled, shifting so his body covered most of mine from Xander’s view.
“Look, I understand the press are hard to handle, at times.” Xander began and I pulled uncomfortable at the hem of Teddy’s shirt.
“The press isn’t the problem here. Some loon tossed a brick through her apartment window. You brought this danger to her doorstep and I’ll be damned if I let you anywhere near her, again.”
Xander seemed shocked for a moment. At least, that was the emotion I thought I saw from the small portion of his face visible around Teddy’s hulking form. All I could think about, however, was finding some pants.
“Annie, are you hurt?” Xander asked and I almost believed it was real concern I could hear in his voice.
He tried to step around Teddy but he grunted at naive movie star in warning and puffed out his chest. I nearly rolled my eyes at his antics. Sometimes, men were nothing but parading peacocks.
“I’m fine,” I grumbled, crossing my arms and glancing down at my feet. “Teddy helped.”
“I’m sorry, Annie. I should have expected that someone might try and get to you. I wasn’t thinking.” He scolded himself.
I snuck a peek, to see him running his hands through his hair in frustration before his eyes landed on me. Despite, the Teddy wall standing between us. “This is why I need to talk to you. Please, just give me a minute. If you hear me out and you still want me to disappear, I will.” I doubted there was anything he could say that made me want him to stay but the desperation in his voice made me hesitate. Stopping myself from sending his away immediately.
I knew Teddy was watching me, probably pleading with me to give him the okay to thrown the superstar out on his arse but he probably knew as well as I did that I wasn’t going to do that.
“Just one minute,” I conceded.
“Annie-” Teddy stopped short when he saw the look I shot him. He heaved a defeated sigh before he bent down and pressed a gentle kiss against my forehead.
“You’ve got one minute, angel. Any longer and I won’t be held accountable for how I remove pretty boy here, from my property.”
“Thanks,Teddy,” I smiled, weakly before he turned around and glared at Xander. I nearly laughed when he took an unconscious step back but I restrained myself.
“I always make good on my promises, pretty boy. You hurt her and I hurt you, no arguments.” I saw Xander about to reply but at the last second, he seemed to reconsider. Instead, he nodded his head diligently.
Teddy walked from the apartment, probably headed downstairs to open up the gym but not before he sent Xander one more scathing glare. I could hear Xander audibly gulp before the door slammed shut.
“I’d be fast about what you want to say. Teddy won’t stay away long,” I warned, dragging Xander out of his daze.
“Right,” he muttered before he seemed to shake himself and continued. “I’m going to get straight to the point then. I need you to be my girlfriend.”
“Then you’re wasting your time. Nothing has changed from last night, Xander,” I dismissed.
“Annie, please,” he begged, reaching across the space between us and clutching both of my hands. No matter how I twisted in his hold he refused to let go. “I need this. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am and after this PR nightmare, I really need something to get me back on track. Forevermore, is thinking of recasting me.”
“My next project. It starts in a week and if I can’t fix this mess they are going to recast me. They don’t want an actor with domestic abuse on his record in a romance film. Their chief demographic is women and currently, my approval rating with them is freefalling.”
“I understand that but Xander, I have my own mess and helping you fix yours works to exasperate mine. The more time I spend in the media’s eye, the slimmer my chances become of putting this all behind me. The only option left for me might be to leave New York.”
“Annie, please, I promise to make this as painless as possible. Just a few outings here and there, to show the public and the paparazzi that the assumptions they made were wrong and try and quell some of the doubts people have about my character. I don’t want to be known as the guy who beat up his girlfriend,” he trailed off.
“Xander,” I began in a cautious tone but he seemed to sense my resolve weakening and quickly cut across me.
“You’re already in the spotlight, Annie. I suspect after that it’s going to be almost impossible for you to get a job. So, why not take up my offer? Use your time to think about your next move. You’ll still have an income and you can take the time to decide what’s next for you.”
“Teaching.” I almost shouted at him. How hard was it for him to understand? “I am trained to be a teacher. You self-centred, egotistical, moronic movie star.”
“Move in with me,” he replied causing me to choke on my next breath.
“Move in with me,” he repeated, nodding his head as if he was agreeing with himself.
“Have you been listening to me at all? Do you know what you’re saying?” My mind was spinning. I felt so light, I was certain I would float away at any moment. If only to get away from the madness that was the man standing in front of me. My life had been fine before he came bulldozing in and now it seemed there was nothing left for me to salvage but he was still intent on tearing down further.
“I know exactly what I’m saying. I need you, Annie. I need you to pretend. I promise I will make this easy for you, sweetheart.”
“It’s not easy, Xander.” I huffed, desperate to find an angle that would make him understand but the desperation in his eyes didn’t fill me with a lot of hope. “A brick was thrown through my window last night.”
“I know, but no one was hurt.”
“No, not this time but I don’t want to live in fear of the next loon launching something though my second story apartment window.”
“That’s why I want you to move in with me, you’ll be safe, I promise.”
I was resolved to stay away from him. At least that’s what I told myself but the more he watched me and the more he spoke, the more my resolve began to crumble.
Why should Teddy be burdened with me because of something he caused?
“Do you understand how insane you sound right now? I barely know you,” I reasoned but even I could hear the doubt in my words because the truth was I was failing to see the craziness of his proposal anymore.
“But the world believes we are madly in love, or at least they did before they heard I was an abusive boyfriend.”
“Xander,” I tried to protest but all I could think about was the sound of glass shattering as the brick landed with a thud against our kitchen floor. What if next time they throw something through my window, or Sarah’s?
“Just give it a try,” Xander coaxed and I could feel the last of my resolve slipping away. “What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Do you want the long list or the short?” I deadpanned, hating the triumph burning in his eyes. He knew he had me.
“So, what do you say, sweetheart?”