Provocation (18+)

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13. Strings

Nate moved into the bottom floor of the duplex like a thief in the night. It helped that most of the stuff that was going to be in the home had yet to be delivered, and Nate only had his bed so far to furnish his new home.

His living room set arrived on Thursday, so until then he didn’t watch any TV, not that he was a frequent worshipper of the boobtube. Some news channels and maybe a movie on occasion, but he otherwise spent his time engaging in other sorts of diversions.

Nate listened to a lot of music, and when he wasn’t wearing out his iPod, he was strumming on his guitar. He may have mentioned a passing love of the instrument to Leila, but his love for acoustic guitar was much deeper than that. He found it was the best relief for any stress he accrued during the work day, and tended to sit in his bedroom after dinner, strumming idly or trying to mimic popular songs by ear.

By the end of the first week living at Leila’s, Nate hadn’t seen her much except in passing and had found a familiar rhythm to his day. Work, music, dinner, and guitar. In that order and without fail. He was a creature of habit.

He had also gone to pick up a car at a local Audi dealer, and was finding the parking in the area of his new home quite challenging. He had never had to worry about parking when he had a lived at home and it was just easier taking the tube when living in London. Parking in the densely populated Bay Area was certainly a challenge he hadn’t anticipated. But for some reason, it felt good to be normal for once. Not privileged, with servants at his beck and call. Just an average Joe making his own way.

Saturday found him having to see the tailor for the wedding. It was only a week away and he had received a voice mail from the shop that his tux had arrived after some alterations had been made.

Nate knew Leila was already gone for the day. He had heard her leave a couple of hours previously without a word and she had taken her car to wherever she had gone obviously.

Locking up behind him, Nate walked to the end of the block where his metallic blue Audi RS 5 Sportback was located and thanked God this was a safe neighborhood. He wasn’t used to parking on the street and it always made him a bit nervous when he walked up to his car after leaving it for longer than five minutes. Parker had had his car broken into once several months back. Granted, the idiot had also left some electronics in the trunk, so it was probably inevitable that the constant car burglars would hone in on the man’s car. It was a Mercedes with tinted windows and was practically screaming ‘smash and grab’ to the passing miscreant.

Fortunately for Nate, the tailor was only a twenty-minute ride and he would be meeting his father and the prospective groom there. The best man would be coming in a few days and would be bringing his own tux from a bridal store that carried the same clothing line. It would have been a pain in the ass had Elliott had to fly in and out of San Francisco just for a monkey suit.

As far as Nate knew, besides Carl’s brother as best man, the groomsmen consisted of Aiden and Ramon. They had decided a small bridal party would be best since Carl’s only other close friend would be giving the bride away.

Nate had no idea who the females in bridal party would be except for Leila. Not that it mattered. He was not in the bridal party so he wouldn’t have to participate in any significant way. That was a relief. He hated being the center of attention, even if it was peripherally. He’d probably elope to Vegas for his own wedding to avoid the hubbub of his own nuptials. If they ever occurred.


After meeting with his father, Carl, Aiden, and Ramon at the tailor’s, they all tried on their tuxes. All seemed to be going well until Aiden found a small tear under his arm that had probably been made when taking in the sleeves. The seamstress on duty realized it was a quick fix and went to work on it straight away. It would only take her twenty minutes at the most, so the men stuck around and decided to have drinks afterward before heading home.

“Nervous yet?” Nate asked, walking over to Carl as Aiden spoken with Ramon and Harry.

“Not at all,” Carl told him. “After seeing Violet give birth, I don’t think anything could scare me again. I’m telling you, the shit that goes on down below when a watermelon’s being squeezed through a hole the size of a-”

“Dude,” Nate warned him, eyes wide. “I really don’t need to hear about what went on when my sister’s vag was being stretched to max capacity. I’ll have nightmares if you continue.”

“Sorry,” Carl said with a smirk. “I suppose I’d feel the same way with my sister as well, though there’s no love lost between us.”

“Your sister ever gonna tie the knot?” Nate asked. Violet and Carl had both mentioned that though the Smith men were the ones who would have been voted ‘least likely to tie the knot’ hands down, their sister ended up the only one not married or engaged so far. And it was looking like she would never get married. It was strange as the woman didn’t seem to want to have kids, but treated them for a milieu of psychiatric disorders.

“I doubt it,” Carl stated. “That man of hers is as interested in exchanging vows as he is in procreating.”

“Just as well,” Nate said. “An overpopulation of Smiths of your caliber would probably crash the housing market with your super sperm able to break through the most stringent of barriers.”

“That’s true,” Carl said proudly. “It could probably power the next spaceship to Mars.”

“Gross,” Nate grunted, his face twisting in disgust.

“What the hell are you guys still doing here?” a female voice called from near the front of the shop.

The men had been so engrossed in their conversation, they hadn’t heard the bell ring at the front of the establishment.

All of the men’s gazes wandered over to the flock of females at the door, their looks of shock making the atmosphere tense.

“Shoo! You’re not supposed to be here!” Leila continued to scold. “This is the final fitting for Vi’s dress and Carl can definitely not be here for that. It’s bad luck!”

“Well we’re not just hanging about because of the fantastic atmosphere,” Aiden told them. “I had a problem with my tux. It should be mended in a few minutes. I may be old and out of sync with the world, but I don’t frequent the tailor’s for fun. I still prefer bars. I’m a victim of circumstance, as we all are.”

Harry agreed and Ramon simply rolled his eyes, wishing that the tailor served booze as well as tears in expensive suits.

“We’ll be out of your hair soon,” Nate told Violet who was looking over at the group of them as if they were a bunch of fish riding unicycles.

“How’s the apartment coming along?” Leila asked, looking over at Violet who was now walking toward Carl and giving him a brief, chaste kiss.

“Good,” Nate told her. “I’ve only put a few dents in the walls and I finally am going to be able to purchase a TV.”

“Oh... that ruckus a couple of days ago was your living room being delivered?” Leila asked, arching a playful brow at him.

“What ruckus? The delivery persons were as quiet as babes asleep,” Nate told her with a grin.

“Were they constructing the furniture as well as moving it in?”

“Maybe a little bit,” Nate said with a shrug. “Sorry for the disturbance. I promise I’m much quieter when I don’t have the entire staff of Ashley’s Furniture dancing a softshoe in my living room.”

“I get it and it’s no problem,” she told him, smiling. “They were actually quieter than my previous tenant even when she wasn’t moving in. I don’t think she got the memo that dorm living stops after you leave the dorms.”

“She wasn’t part of a sorority?” Nate asked.

“No, I don’t think anyone would have been able to handle her frequent male visitors,” Leila said with some distaste. “I shudder to think what it would look like in there had I did my post-move-out inspection with a black light.”

Nate stifled a snort and tried to school his face.

“I mean, seriously,” Leila continued. “This is coming from me. I could spot semen at 20 paces with my eyes blindfolded and my nose stuffed with cotton, and that chick makes me look like a nun.”

If there was one thing that Nate could respect, it was a woman who could call a spade, a spade. And Leila had that in... uhm, spades.

Nate tried not to laugh, but his lips curved up slightly anyway.

“Oh, don’t worry,” she told him, misinterpreting Nate’s facial expression. “I had that whole lower unit disinfected. I bet it would pass a CDC inspection. And I added ten layers of paint. I would have burned the whole dakned place down but I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t be very accomplished at arson.”

“Leila, don’t worry about it,” Nate told her, finally cracking a grin. “It’s fine and I didn’t actually put any dents in the walls. I used those sticky hooks that don’t harm the four hundred layers of paint you seemed to have lacquered on in between tenants.”

“Oh, I wasn’t worried about that,” Leila told him. “For every dent you put in the wall, I make one in your face with my fist.”

Nate’s eyes widened, but Leila just smiled and winked. Kidding. She was definitely kidding.

After that, Aiden’s suit was presented to him by a very apologetic seamstress with a neck like a turkey and granny glasses, and the men were able to leave.

“I see you and Leila are finally getting along.” Of course, Ramon was the one to notice that. The man missed nothing. “How is she as a landlord?”

“Pretty good,” Nate admitted. “Quiet, unobtrusive. It’s almost like living alone, actually.”

“I remember living alone,” Ramon said, almost wistfully. “No kids. Silence. Lots of beer and no wife nagging at me to take out the recycling.”

“Missing single life?” Nate asked, surprised. Ramon was a family man through and through.

“Nah,” he said, shrugging. “It was fucking boring as hell. Love my kids even if they are screaming maniacs half the time.”

“And the wife?”

“Even after three kids she still has the tightest, wettest pussy on the west coast,” stated Ramon with a grin.


Along with Violet and her maid of honor, Leila, Violet had Constance Kinsley and another friend in her bridal party. The third female was a woman she ended up befriending while working as a psychologist in her first year after graduating. Sharon Bledsoe.

Sharon was a few years older than Violet and got on well with all three of the other women and Mathilde. She was funny, blunt and honest. If you wanted the truth, she was the girl to see.

“I feel like a liar wearing white,” Violet complained.

“Why? Just because you had a child out of wedlock?” Sharon asked. “If the color of your wedding dress as a sign of purity for your future groom was actually realistic, most women across the country would be wearing red or black.”

“Hmmm... I don’t think they’ve invented a dark enough color for me,” Leila said as she smiled.

“LaLa, can you help me get this dress off in the back?” Violet asked, giving her friend a meaningful look. The kind of look that should come with a fucking cocktail and full spa treatment. It was heavy.

“The seamstress is back there and-”

“Now, please!”

“Fine,” Leila grumbled. She couldn’t wait until her maid of honor duties were over with and she could get drunk and dance with abandon at the wedding. Once her bestie was officially Mrs. Carlton Smith, she planned on celebrating her freedom from bridal duties with gallons of high grain alcohol and perhaps some fun with a single, unattached, male guest.

After Violet had pulled Leila into the changing room with her, she locked her eyes on her with an accusing look.

“Why didn’t you tell me that you and Nate were getting along now and he was living under your roof?” Violet asked. “I had to learn from my mother that he was moving out and I almost had a fucking stroke when she told me where he was moving to!”

“Well, with all the maid of honor duties and you being so stressed about the wedding, I didn’t want to overwhelm you.” It was indeed true, at least partially, but it was by no means the whole story. She actually enjoyed having Nate living beneath her. He was quiet except for the few times he had had the movers come in with his new furniture. Otherwise, it was like living with a ghost. It was a novel and welcome experience after her last tenant.

But Leila would never admit to Violet that she was happy to have Nate living underneath her.

“Bullshit, Leila,” she told her friend. “And it seems you two were cozy enough at the tailor’s. What’s going on there?”

Rolling her eyes, Leila explained.

“Nothing at all. He came over, apologized and asked to see the place.”

“That’s all?” Violet looked bemused and disbelieving.

“Well, we decided- mutually- that we would start over. Clean slate.”

“Wow.” Violet looked impressed. “Nate never admits he’s wrong. This is huge. Big bro is all growed up it seems.”

“Did you know he plays guitar now?” Leila asked.

“What? No!”

“Yes,” Leila confirmed with a smile. “Picked it up in England or whatever.”

“Guitar? Really?” Violet narrowed her eyes at Leila in disbelief.

“Yeah, really,” Leila stated. “Don’t know if he’s any good, but I saw him messing around on it one night when I took the trash out.”

“Well, he always liked his music,” Violet said, thinking. “But he never ever showed any interest in learning an instrument. I wonder why he just up and picked up the guitar.”

“Dunno,” Leila said, lying. “You should ask him about it when you get the chance.”

For some reason, Leila didn’t feel right about talking more about his reasons for taking up the guitar. They seemed personal, just like they had when he had mentioned to her when talking last week. She somehow knew that Nate would probably tell Violet when he was ready. If he ever was ready.

The look on his face after he mentioned the reasons for the guitar lessons flashed across the back of her eyelids again and she knew- just knew- there was more to the story.

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