Hinder- Better Than Me
It has been almost two weeks since Ray and Stace toured the house and I am on edge. Grounded is booked to play The Moon tonight and I know Ray will be working. I play it off to Charlie like I am not looking forward to it. On the inside I am stoked. I have changed my shirt four times. I thought only chicks did this shit. I take off my blue Blink-182 shirt and change back into the Disturbed shirt I started with. I take a final look in the mirror and I leave the house.
At the bar Jordan is already setting up the drum set and Brando is a few drinks in sitting in the corner with the triplets. I see Ray when I come in talking to Charlie at the bar. I walk right past them. I am surprised Charlie hasn’t brought her by to meet the guys. On second thought she shouldn’t meet any of them until after she has moved in. They will scare her away, especially Brando, he’s like a badly trained dog. Jess gets up from her seat and greets me. Although, like I told Charlie, Jess and I have been sleeping together but it is far from serious. I am pretty sure she is seeing other guys and I sure as shit am not holding myself back of another opportunity comes around. I can’t help but notice now that both Jess and Ray are in my line of site, she doesn’t hold a candle to Ray. Charlie waves to Ray and then she takes off out the door. I thought she was working tonight? I guess I changed my shirt three times for nothing.
“What’s up?” I ask him hoping he will shed some light on where Ray disappeared to.
“Ray’s shift is over, she was just saying goodbye. She wants to meet us for coffee tomorrow to coordinate her move in. I guess her dad is coming up to help her move furniture and stuff.”
“Oh,” Her dad? That should be good times. I can only imagine what her father will do when he realizes his daughter is going to live with two musicians that are at least five years older than his precious private school daughter. “I’ll come, what time?”
“Ten thirty, she said she’s not a morning person.” He laughs at this and walks up to the stage. I know I have to improve my image in Raychel’s mind if I have a chance of ever being friends with her. That’s what I want, to be friends. Even though my dick is telling me differently. I want to be someone she can trust. Someone she relies on. Charlie has no interest in her as woman and I want to be like that. I want to not want her. My mind is all about that plan. My body argues and I have myself so twisted up about her that I act like an asshole every time I’m within her vicinity, or even when she is mentioned in conversation. The show is over before I know it. No party tonight I have to work and Charlie has class at eight. I will have to skip out on dad for an hour to meet Ray for coffee, but that shouldn’t be a problem, if Karl shows up tomorrow. I text him to remind him of that.
Me: You going to show tmrw? I have a few things to do around 10. Need you to b there by then.
Kbro: Yea, what kind of things you got going on?
Nosey little prick. It’s like I am asking him a favor to show up for his job.
Me: Meeting the new RmMate for coffee.
Kbro: Sounds more like a date to me
Me: not your business
Kbro: ya right I’ll be there.
I will have to keep Karl away from our house as long as I can once Ray and Stace move in. He has charm and looks but he is a snake. I am sure he will become a problem once he knows there are women moving in with us. Even more when he sees Ray. I would hate to have to kill my little brother.
I am surprised to see Karl at eight the next morning. Not only is he here in time for me to go, but he is actually on time for his shift. He might be here in body but he looks like shit.
“What rock did you roll out from under?” I ask him noting the dark circles under his eyes and his rumpled clothes.
“No rocks just a girl I met last night.” He gives me a knowing smirk and I am semi-ashamed. I am no angel but I can only imagine what kind of woman would sleep with him looking like he does. I bet he hasn’t slept in a couple days, smells like he has been chain smoking too.
“Right, well you have an hour or so before I need you out front Dad might need some help in the workshop. He is finishing that cello today.” I say while walking to the back of the store with him.
“So who’s this new roommate? Anther no brain jock from the U?”
“No a couple kids from the Arts College.” I try and appear as nonchalant as possible, so he has no reason to come snooping around.
"Uh huh.” He says suspiciously. “Okay well have fun on your coffee date.”
I am sitting at The Bean, waiting for my male roommates, and I am furious. Not because the guys are late,although they are,but mostly because I am here alone. Which I will be all summer apparently. Stace dropped the bomb on me yesterday before I went to work. She will be spending the summer with her mother. She is not even going to be able to help move into our new house tomorrow. She spent the entire day yesterday packing the rest of her stuff into her truck and is driving home now. So am moving into a house with two guys I barely know, all by myself. Fucking great. At least my dad was coming up to help me move tomorrow, since I will have to take Stace’s furniture and some of her boxes too. That’s why I have to talk with the guys today and see if they will be able to help me. I know it’s a Friday and Josh for sure has a real 9-5 job but I will need some extra muscles. My dad is only one person and I am not much help when lifting heavy furniture.
“Jeez Ray what did that napkin do to you?” Charlie’s voice breaks my train of thought and I look up to see a little pile of paper napkin pieces on the table in front of me.
“Just a little worked up.” I say to him. Josh walks in behind him and motions to us that he is getting drinks.
“Looks like Josh is paying, what would you like to drink.”
“Coffee, one sugar, two creams.” I say automatically. Charlie takes the rest of the napkin from my hands and picks up the pieces on the table. He gives me a calculating look.
“Definitely decaf for you, I think…” He says while walking over to Josh.
I don’t know what I am going to do all summer. Max will still be here so at least I have one person I can escape to if it gets to be too much in my new living situation. As I look at them in line I can’t help but think most girls would jump at the chance of living with these two. They are seriously easy on the eyes. Charlie is really a nice guy too, from the phone conversations we have had over the last two weeks. Only two weeks since I met these guys, and tomorrow I am moving in with them. When I told my parents I was staying up here this summer and not coming home to the farm they were a combination of horrified and disappointed. Then I broke the news that the house we were living in was already inhabited by two grown men they hit the ceiling. After a 45 min lecture on the dangers of living with unknown men and the specifics of a dateline story where college girls went missing in Mexico on spring break, which had absolutely nothing to do with my situation, I finally got my parents calmed down enough to explain. Yes we had done background checks on the guys, yes we had character references from one of Josh’s professors, and Max was close enough. I made Stace call them last night after she told me she would not be joining me in said house. I don’t know exactly what was said but she had to promise to email our background check on Josh and Charlie, and she was a little green when she got off the phone.
“Your parents are seriously off their rockers protective of you.” I can’t help the snort that pushes it’s way out of my lips.
“Ya think? They sent me to an all-girls catholic school for all of my life. I didn’t have my first date until I came up here. The only reason I had any fun in high school was because my best friend was a gold medal winner in lying to parents and getting away with it.” Hannah my best friend from high school, was a favorite of my family in general. My parents loved her like a daughter. In fact she is going to marrying my brother Chad if my mother has any say in it. She stayed in our small farm community after graduation and was currently working for her dad at the insurance company in town. We really don’t talk much anymore. Just as well, the only reason Stace and I have stayed so close is because she lived with me. Max I couldn’t get rid of even if I tried.
“So now your dad is coming to help with your move in.” she said sheepishly
“He was coming anyway, but now he will for sure bring a gun in the truck. Rope too most likely. To drag my sorry ass home once he sees the two virile men I will be spending months living with... alone.” I say defeated. I had some hope Daddy Doug wouldn’t be super overbearing and protective when Stace said she was staying the whole summer, but now that she is not it’s a toss up. Dad could be normal and show concern and roll with it or he could go super crazy and drag my ass back home against my will.
“Virile, ten dollar word props.” we give each other the customary high five.
" Anyhoo I told Charlie I wanted to have coffee with him and Josh tomorrow to get my key and warn them about Daddy Doug.” My father was a simple farmer but he is about 6’7” and around 300 pounds. He’s a teddy bear but no guy I have ever introduced him to saw that. When Mark first met him dad didn’t even speak; he just glared. Dad really didn’t like Mark. Max on the other hand had been amused with dad’s glare, asked if he was using some sort of mind reading ability that made him look like that. Dad had laughed so hard tears welled up in his eyes.
The chair across from me pulls out with a loud screech and I am interrupted from my thoughts. Charlie sits across the table with a to-go cup in his hands. Another cup appears in front of me I look up to the man holding the cup out to me and meet a large smile from Josh.
“Charlie thought you might need decaf, but I got you full strength.” Wow two weeks had really improved his attitude towards me. His smile is bright and welcoming. It makes him even more gorgeous than when he wore a permanent scowl.
“Thanks Josh.” I return with a smile of my own and take a deep breath mentally preparing myself for the next conversation.
"So to get straight to the point I need my key for tomorrow. I plan on starting to move my stuff in around seven thirty. Well that’s when my dad will be up here with the truck. We will be moving both mine and Stace’s furniture in the morning then getting the rest of our boxes after lunch most likely.”
Charlie is the first to bring up the elephant I had left sitting in the room. “Where’s Stace gunna be?”
I take a deep breath. “She is actually heading home, to her mom’s house, as we speak. She’s not going to be up here at all till school starts. She sent this, it’s her rent for the whole summer.” I handed Charlie the envelope Stace gave me this morning before she left. I tried to pull the crying card on her and it hadn’t worked. She left before I even showered for my final this morning. I am officially done with school now so one less stress till moving day tomorrow. I look up to find Josh’s eye’s studying me.
“So she is leaving you alone here all summer?” He asks, it almost seems like he is mad about the news. Join the club buddy.
“Yea well her mom just got divorced again and she wanted company this summer. I guess she threw a serous guilt trip. Also it’s closer for Jake to visit Stace there than here. By like 200 miles or so.” Charlie is nodding his head and elbows Josh.
“Will you need more help moving stuff then? I am done with my classes too and I don’t start my internship for another week. I could drive up and help get furniture loaded at your old place in the morning if you want.” Charlie says. He pulls open his phone to check his calendar.
“That would be a huge help. My dad and I will be able to handle most the stuff, but not having Stace’s truck will make more trips for us. My little car can hold only boxes.” Charlie’s face lights up. He really is a sweet guy. He gives a pointed stare to our silent companion. Josh has taken up staring at his coffee cup instead of me. Thank god.
“Josh can I use your truck tomorrow or would you like to help too?” Charlie’s question seems to break Josh of whatever daydream he is living in at the moment and he sputters.
“Uh... yea I can help. I will just have to make sure Karl is at the shop in the morning.” He is not as enthusiastic as Charlie, but at least he said yes.
“Thanks Josh, it means a lot.” I reach out my hand and lay it on top of his. The gesture was meant to be friendly but Josh pulls his hand back as if my touch burns him.
“Yea don’t mention it.” He says and seems to relax again when I pull my hand back from his.
“Well there is only one other thing to address then.” Again I take a deep breath. “My parents are a little freaked about me living with two strangers without Stace there. So please don’t be offended by him tomorrow. He is a little intimidating and I am sure he will grill you both. I apologize ahead of time.” I can feel my face heating with a blush. God only knows what dad could ask these two tomorrow. Josh looks, worried. Charlie, of course the more charming of the two, shrugs.
“Don’t worry about it I have faced more than my fair share of protective fathers. We will make sure to let him know his little girl is safe with us.” He steals a glance at his cousin, “Won’t we Josh.” There was something behind the look he gives Josh but I am too wound up to put any real thought into it. Let them have their secrets it isn’t really any of my business. They are just going to be my roommates I don’t have high hopes in the friend department with Josh, he is too stoic and closed off.
Josh’s face takes a more convincing expression, “He has nothing to worry about. We won’t let anything bad happen to you while you live with us.” His words have heat flaring in my belly. Is this the kind of protective I thought Mark was? It might be, but look how that turned out for me last time a guy had said that to me. I stand and gather my messenger bag and coffee. I want to make a quick getaway now that I have said my peace.
“I don’t really need anyone to take care of me. Not that my dad will ever believe that.” I give both of them my best withering glare. “Well I guess I will see you both in the morning?” They both rise with me. Charlie comes in for a one armed hug, which I return. Josh tries scooting around me but ends up repeating Charlie’s gesture. I don’t expect the contact and almost spill my coffee on him. He blushes slightly, maybe he is just awkward around me as well.
“See you in the morning Ray.” Josh’s deep voice is still close to my ear. I make it out to my car before I am able to take a breath. Wow, was he trying to make his voice that sexy? I shake my head clearing all the things I would rather hear in that deep voice whispered in my ear and head back to campus. I still have the entire day to finish packing my things. Max will be over after his last final to hinder my progress and have dinner. Tomorrow night I will be settled into the house with Josh and Charlie. That is if my dad doesn’t make a spectacle in the morning. I really hope the guys make a good impression on him. I am not so worried about Charlie, I have no doubt he could charm a nun out of her habit. Josh is mercurial though. He could either turn on the charm like his cousin or scare my dad into dragging me back to the farm without a second thought.