RYDER (Antagonist to Lovers)

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C H A P T E R | 37

J U L I E spent most of her day moving in and playing podcasts, finding herself just standing and looking around with a smile on her face, feeling like she might be at home for once. The house was a two bedroom, completely renovated home with a fenced-in backyard and all. It clearly cost more than her apartment, but her loans only had two-thousand left, and the rental wasn’t that expensive, all things considered.

Either way, she signed a six month contract just to see how she felt about the place, giving her the option to move out in six months if she had to. She felt like the price would be worth enjoying six months of living in a home remolded with that modern farmhouse look; she absolutely loved it.

In the next week, they’d release everything from her apartment and let her see if she wanted anything that survived. Otherwise, a cleaning company would come and pitch what was left.

If she had to be honest with herself, she wasn’t even worried about it. She had her dad and Dolores here, and the texts with Ryder were more than enough to remove her from everything that happened so far.

She went out to the kitchen, her dad and Dolores unpacking some of the dishes and silverware that she bought.

“Seriously, I owe you guys,” she said, running her hand on the stone countertop. “Let’s get pizza, or something. My treat,” she said, wanting the delicious food after texting Ryder.

Her dad waved a hand and said, “Oh, I can get it, bear.”

Dolores placed the white mug on the counter and faced her dad. “Bear. I like that. Why do you call her that?”

He grinned, pushing up his glasses while he rolled up the sleeves of his gray sweater. “Oh, when she was a toddler, it was the cutest thing. Her hair was so thick and wild,” he said, gesturing with his hands to his head. “And her eyebrows were so bushy that she was just a little teddy bear.”

Julie shook her head, tearing up the boxes once they unpacked them. “Yeah, and I still have to pluck those things every day.”

Dolores laughed, beaming. “That’s adorable.”

Her dad and Dolores had already had their greetings, and he asked if she had kids, and he quickly understood how Dolores filled a need for Julie, and Julie filled a need for Dolores; the two of them got a long like a thirsty flower in a rainstorm.

Her dad said, “It’s really sweet of you to take care of Julie out here, Dolores. If you ever need anything, just let me know. It’s the least I can do.”

Dolores shook her head and waved her hand, just like her dad had, “No, don’t worry about it, Ned. She is a great person and a treat to have around.”

Julie grinned, not used to having two people that were parental figures speaking so kindly about her in the same room. The only thing missing was Jeremy, but even then, Julie was able to put aside those thoughts as she was just so happy in this moment. “Alright, you two are going to make me blush.”

Dolores smiled at her, wearing a brighter red lipstick today than normal. “I can stay for another hour, dear, but I do have a meeting with my group later.”

Her dad asked, “Oh, the gardening group?”

“No,” she said, laughing and waving her hand. “It’s a Dungeons and Dragons group. It’s a bit odd, I know, but my ex-husband played and I got hooked.”

Her dad laughed. “I used to play in college.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah, I loved it. Had a small group that Julie used to help with,” he beamed brighter than normal, and it reminded Julie of when she found out Dolores appreciated MMA, except now it was her father appreciating the kindred, nerdy spirit. “She’d help play the role of the characters like the random strangers. Jeremy liked being the barkeep.”

Dolores laughed. “That’s lovely.”

For a moment, Julie swore she saw a hint of flirting, and added, “I still can’t believe you both play that.”

“I was considered a Satanist by some in the eighties. They had no idea it was just a game,” Dolores said. “It’s a good escape. At least when you have the right people. The wrong people can really ruin a session.”

Her father laughed again. “I went to school for chemistry, so I never really was around a circle that bought into the Satanist rumors. Although, Tommy had to be kicked out after a time. The guy just couldn’t play as a team member.”

“Oh, chemistry?” Dolores asked, now focused only on her dad. “What did you do with that degree?”

“Got a doctorate in it and am a professor at a local college,” he said humbly. Julie grinned, as when their parents got divorced, he used to say it was a ‘lack of the right chemistry’ to make light of it.

She always looked up to him for how well he led his own life, nothing ever truly bringing him down.

Except for Jeremy’s death, respectfully. Those months blanketed a darkness over everyone, as if the curtains to the sun had been permanently shut.

“Oh wow, that’s very impressive,” Dolores said, standing a little taller, even for her short height.

“Oh, it’s not as nice as it was ten years ago. So much paperwork and litigious factors,” her dad bemoaned.

Julie brightened up as a memory crossed through her mind. “He used to make chemistry experiments for me and Jeremy when we were kids. It was the coolest thing ever.” She grabbed a bag from Target with the new shower curtains and rings and said, “I’m gonna go hang these up. You two enjoy chatting.”

She walked to the tiled, master bathroom as she heard Dolores and her dad engaging in a full blown conversation in the background, and in that, she knew she might finally be able to start moving on, like the curtains to the sun opened up just ever-so.

Later that week, Julie awoke that Friday morning bright and early, unable to fall back asleep when she realized today was the day she’d go off on an adventure with Ryder. She made sure to shave very close to the skin in her shower, taking the time to lotion thoroughly to soften her skin, her heart always aflutter with thoughts of him.

She didn’t grab any condoms, as she wasn’t even sure what the hell he liked, and she was on birth control. Not that that replaced things like getting tested, but something about him seemed like he was a guy that would make sure he was clean. And she felt like he’d have the condom part covered.

Just take it one step at a time. Breathe, girl.

It was hard to control how much of a nervous wreck that she was, especially since she knew how difficult things would become with Andrew if they went public about their relationship...and yet, she didn’t care. She just wanted Joey; she grinned to herself. He was becoming Joey to her, rather than Ryder.

There was also a slight pressure with meeting new people, only made more intense since these were friends of Ryder. It mostly stemmed from worrying that this would all go wrong, when she so badly wanted it to go right.

She had her bags already packed from the night before, and by eight in the morning, she sat at her new island with a cup of coffee in hand, makeup on, and her left leg tapping up and down as she was ready to go. She was ready for it all – the intimacy, the sex, the banter, and even sleeping next to him at night, maybe even his arm casually draped around her.

Julie downed her coffee and rinsed the mug out when a white SUV parked in front of her house, a larger black truck pulling into her driveway. Her heart fluttered so much she thought it would spill out of her ears. Especially when she heard the truck door shut, watching through her front window. Ryder neared the house, eyeing it as he walked up to her door. He wore black jeans, leather boots, a gray shirt and a thick black barn coat.

With a her chest and stomach completely alive with nerves, she opened the door to greet him.

His gaze moved from the chrysanthemums that Dolores brought her and looked her over, his shoulders rising and falling with a deep breath, his eyes moving over her face.

“I just need to grab my bags,” she said.

“I’ll help,” he said, his rough, deep voice sending shivers down her spine; she missed it. He took a step in and she lightly shut the door but didn’t close it all the way.

He looked around with a smile. “This is nice, Julie.”

“Thanks. I actually love it. It’s a six-month lease, and I figured I might as well spoil myself a bit, you know?”

“It fits you,” he said genuinely, as if it mattered to him, while also walking closer to her.

“Yeah I’m really happy with it.” She beamed.

It didn’t take long before he was close enough to lean in and kiss her hard, breathing her in. She ran her hands over his thick body, the two of them quickly unraveling as they got lost in a passionate exchange.

She moaned when his tongue hungrily pressed on her lips, and he groaned as his hand moved further down to grab her ass. As if her body belonged to his touch, she felt a wetness between her legs already, ready for him.

If this was just a preview for the weekend, then she hoped time moved extra slow over the coming days.

He broke the kiss, his voice husky as he asked, “You got your suit?”

“I packed one,” she said, slightly lightheaded from the heat of their kiss.

He smirked, looking her over as he if wanted to see her reaction from what he said next, his voice low and vibrating in his chest against hers. “Good, because you’re definitely getting in that hot tub with me. Then we’ll shower, and then I’ll make you sore enough that you’ll need to sit in that thing the next day, just to recover.”

Her eyes widened with a wild look, and something deeply carnal overtook his, a greedy hunger creating the smallest movements of his lips, like he had to refrain from taking her then and there.

She was definitely slick now. She said, “Fucking hell, I’m gonna need new underwear.”

He grinned. “I love how dirty you are.” He kissed her again, this time slightly more aggressive but in a way that was the biggest turn on to her, grabbing her hard and pulling her close to him, like he’d make her his. Like he couldn’t control how badly he wanted to explore and feel her.

She wanted to get lost in him, but all she could think about was how people were waiting outside for them. “We should go,” she said into the kiss, chuckling. “They’re waiting.”

A growl and a groan escaped him, Ryder taking in a deep breath through his nose as he pulled away. He looked her over and stared her in the eye for a moment longer before parting, pulling on his face and languidly blinked to look at her bags on her dining table. A clear ridge was distinct in his pants, and that made her not only slick with desire, but also pulsing, knowing firsthand that he carried quite the erection.

He grinned as he caught her staring, his lips moving as if biting hard on the inside of them before relinquishing his gaze, reached to grab both of her bags, so she only had to carry her purse. She loved that he just went straight into helping her, in contrast to who he was when they first met.

“Let’s get goin’,” he said with disappointment although the smile still lingered on his full lips. He glanced at her one more time before heading towards the door

She gave a closed lip smile, her stomach alive with wonderful nerves.

Julie locked the door behind them as they left, and he put her bags in the backseat of his truck.

She had a feeling this would be one hell of a weekend.

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