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Thank-you for taking the time to read chapter two! I highly suggest you read 180 Degrees part 1 before this or you’ll be lost.
A shout out to my favorite ‘beta reader and editor’ Thank-you for always pre-reading, giving me input and for just being a great friend!
As always please favorite, rate, comment, and send me some feedback if you are so inclined. I love hearing from everyone!
My breathing was shallow as I watched her disappear down the stairs. My heart rate had skyrocketed as we sat on the deck together and was now thudding in my ear mixing with the heat I was feeling from being so close to Tasha. Had felt from the moment she sat down and said, ‘gorgeous night’.
All we had done was sit near each other and talk. Everything I was feeling was throwing me off, my head was a swirl of uncharted emotions. I didn’t know what to make of these feelings, or what, if anything, to do about them. This was not what I expected when I put the ad in the paper.
Not what I expected when she came up and sat next to me on the deck.
Or was it?
I couldn’t deny I had noticed her from the first moment she showed up on my doorstep for her interview. Really noticed her. Maybe could even call it attraction. I offered her the job after knowing her for minutes. Let her move into my house. Had my subconscious been working at this since moment one?
Or had a switch been flipped with the information that she was potentially gay?
Working at what Abby? What switch had been flipped? Not a damn thing has happened except some weird feelings you are having.
Lying in bed after a hot shower, I was thinking about the way the light from the flames danced across her face. Making her eyes even brighter, her smile better. The way the heat seemed to waft from the table to my core. None of this was okay. She worked for me.
Was Kris right in her assessment of Tasha? I wanted to believe she was and believe that what I thought I saw in Tasha’s eyes was the same desire I now felt coursing through my body. The type of desire I hadn’t felt in decades and had never felt for another woman.
Something I could never act upon, I was her employer, nothing more.
The clock flashed 6:30am and I was up, changed into the closest thing to running clothes I owned and was waiting for 7am to come. I was pacing my kitchen like an anxious teenager going on a first date. It was silly and I was well aware of that. I grabbed a banana and ate it while I paced. Heartburn hit me almost immediately.
The sneakers on my feet were years old. I only wore them when I was playing in the yard with the grandkids now. There were scuffs of green along the soles from mowing the lawn at the old house. I had someone who did that here. I used to love to mow the yard. The physical activity and watching the lawn slowly get tamed was a satisfying experience. New sneakers were going to be needed if running became a thing. And more running clothes. I made a mental note to order new stuff if I survived this first run.
Chill. You haven’t even run once and you’re already buying a whole new wardrobe.
At 6:55 I looked out the window. Tasha was just walking from the side of the house to the front. She looked so good as she stopped and did some stretches. My heartrate jumped instantly as I watched her for longer than I should have. Quickly, I attempted to calm myself, then opened the door and stepped outside.
“Morning.” She spoke before I had a chance to. She stretched a few more times, my eyes lingered on her.
There were so many things I wanted to say to her. Ask her, like did she sleep well? Everything inside my head sounded too familiar, like we had a relationship outside of employer/employee so instead of saying anything I wanted, I just said, “Good morning Tasha.”
I nodded my head and we started out. Her stride was much longer than mine. Just as I was going to speed up she slowed down, and we matched pace. “Sorry.”
I liked the view more than I should have for those few moments she was in front of me. The way her thigh muscle gave way to the gentle curve of her butt. I could have run behind her the whole time.
Stop being a perv Abby. What has gotten into you?
I chuckled, “Not your fault I’m short.” That would be genetics. My mother was short but not as short as I was, my father was well over six feet. I didn’t win the height lottery that was for sure. My brothers were both tall like my dad. Sam and Jonah were too. Kris was short like me. Drew was average. Neither tall nor short for a guy.
That comment earned me a laugh from her. She had a sweet laugh. It filled the air and settled on my skin giving me delicious goosebumps. We ran in silence for a few miles. This had more to do with the fact I would not have been able to run and talk at the same time than anything else. My lungs and legs were burning by the time we had completed what I figured was a mile. It was as if Tasha could sense this and didn’t want to point it out, güvenilir bahis so she kept quiet and kept the pace easy.
As we traversed the neighborhood, she turned her head every once in a while, to check on me I was sure. Little bubbles of heat hit my face every time she did. A few times I nearly tripped because I lost my focus knowing she was looking at me.
She knew the area better than I did. I had driven or been driven through but had never walked, never mind run through it. I tried to take it in, but it took all my focus to plant my feet on the pavement and breath at the same time.
I was starting feel like I was at the end of my ability to run for the morning and was going to tell her to keep going, I would walk the rest of the way home, if I could figure out exactly where home was. Before I could speak we made another turn and saw my house in the distance. I forced myself to stay on pace for the last little bit.
Back in the driveway, I was bent at the waist trying to regain my capacity to breath properly. Tasha watched. “You did great Abby. How long did you say it’s been since you last ran?”
“Like… a.. decade.. geez I’m… old.” I needed to take a breath in between nearly every word. If I thought my lungs had been burning earlier, they were an inferno now. I resisted the urge to sit down on the hot pavement, the embarrassment of needing to do that would have been too much. Especially with Tasha barely breathing harder than normal.
“You are not old. Stop. You just haven’t run in a long time. Wanna do this again tomorrow?”
I was unbending, bringing myself to a standing position again. My eyes had wandered her fully as I stood up. The definition of her thigh muscles was just perceptible through her compression pants. It would have been entirely too easy to keep my eyes where they didn’t belong. It took effort to move them up until I was looking directly into her green eyes. “Um. Can I let ya know later? Not sure I’ll still be alive tomorrow after this.”
Her hair was a shaggy mess. A sexy as fuck shaggy mess. She had the slightest sweaty sheen, not like what I had seen after she ran alone. It was still tantalizing, but it also told me this run was not the least bit hard for her.
Another laugh from her. Goosebumps filed my arms. If she was looking at them, she would have noticed. The realization that I wanted her to notice the way my body reacted to her hit me.
“Of course. Well I’m going to go shower. Thanks for this Abby.” She turned and walked towards her apartment door.
“Thank-you Tasha.” It took me a second to say that to her and I wasn’t sure if she even heard me. I made my way inside and into the shower. After that, I grabbed my phone and called Jan on speaker as I made myself a late breakfast.
“So, how was your run?” Jan was actually being okay about me running with Tasha. Likely she had some idea that this would benefit her somehow.
“I survived. Barely.”
“If you run enough, you will gain the stamina to take my girls for a few hours. You know, give yourself something to do.” And there it was, how me running would be to her benefit.
“Not happening Jan.”
She scoffed at me.
We continued to talk as I made myself eggs then tea. Her girls interrupted us more than once. Their tiny little kid voices filled my kitchen as if they were actually here. When our conversation finished, and my house was once again quiet, I found myself feeling down. There was still so many hours to fill between now and bed.
I looked at the door of the fridge. Sam had hung his game schedule with the tornado magnet I had picked up somewhere along the way, probably in some touristy gift shop. I didn’t remember where, but it was my favorite. It was strong, could hold multiple papers up without any issues, and looked good while doing it. I smiled at the memory of how many times that magnet had come through for me.
Looking at the schedule, I saw that Sam had two soccer games this week. That would fill up some of my evenings. I grabbed the book I was reading, ‘Born a Crime’ by Trevor Noah, and headed out on the deck. I read for a couple of hours, unaware at first of the slight chill filling the air. Dampness was settling in, and it looked like it might rain. I clicked on the fire feature, then went in to make myself a sandwich and some tea and grab a hoodie.
As I opened the sliding glass door to sit back down, there was a figure sitting in one of the chairs. It took me half a moment to not panic and realize it was Tasha. Her hair was neatly tucked behind her ears, which were filled with earrings. I felt a little leap of energy jump inside my belly as I stepped out and said hello.
Our morning run had been nice. Slower than what I would have done on my own, but just having company was good. Especially her company. Even if we barely spoke. Abby was winded sooner than I expected, so I kept the pace slow and cut the run down a bit. When we got back in her driveway, she could barely speak. When she finally türkçe bahis stood herself up from the bent over position she took in an attempt to catch her breath, I was almost certain her eyes had drifted up my body, even lingered a few times.
Or maybe it was my imagination. It wouldn’t be the first time. It had been a long time though. Olivia and I had been together for ten years. Tens years of not noticing being noticed. Or at least trying not to. Before Liv, I had one other long-term relationship. And before that, I had played the field. Lived life. Enjoyed life, sometimes too much.
After the run, I made some food, then cracked open the gallon of paint gotten at Home Depot earlier in the week. Now that I was comfortable thinking of this as more than just a short-term solution, a change seemed in order. Abby told me right in the beginning I could make the apartment my own.
I poured the paint, aptly named ‘anonymous’ into the paint tray. Opening the windows to keep the place aired out, I began my project. It had been years since I had much input on the aesthetics of where I lived. Picking out the color I wanted in here, took longer than I thought it would. Olivia had made all the decisions on how things would look inside her house. Hell, thinking back now that I was more removed from ‘us’, I was sure she had made the decisions on a lot of my aesthetics too. That might be why I was growing my hair out for the first time in over a decade.
Two hours later, the living space was no longer the pale yellow it had been. Feeling accomplished, I cleaned up then made a quick lunch and jumped into the shower.
After getting into leggings and a tank top I needed some fresh air and went out on the patio. It was a little chiller than expected. I grabbed my grey Smith hoodie. The flames from Abby’s table top fire could be seen through the deck boards. I didn’t hear her though. I thought about texting her to see if she wanted some company, then decided to just walk up the stairs. We had run together just a few hours ago, maybe we were becoming friends. And friends could just drop by right? Especially when they lived in the same house.
She wasn’t on the deck when I got to the top of the stairs, but next to the flames sat a book, face up. I checked out the title. I had watched Trevor Noah more than once. He was so intelligent and insightful and funny. As I was about to reach over to thumb through the pages, the slider to her kitchen opened.
I could tell I had startled her, but she recovered quickly. For that moment in between, she had that same look on her face as last night. That adorable flustered look. Everything about her, told me she didn’t get flustered often, so to see it twice in twenty-four hours made me smile. And wonder.
She said hello as she slid the door shut with her foot. Her hands filled with a mug and a plate with a sandwich on it. Her feet were bare, but she had jeans and an oversized hoodie on. She nearly swam in it.
“Hope it’s okay I came up. I saw the fire thing on.” I was in the same seat I had been in last night, the one closest to the one she sat in.
Putting her drink and sandwich plate down she replied, “of course it’s okay. Do you want a sandwich or some tea?”
I shook my head no. “I’m set but thanks.”
She settled into her seat and started eating. There was an awkward silence for a few moments. Like neither of us knew what to say to the other. Noticing my hoodie, she broke the quiet first. “I visited that campus once.”
I cocked my head, “yeah?”
“Yep. Jan and I were shopping at Thornes Marketplace during a day trip to Northampton before the holidays and she wanted to see the place. So, we walked around. It’s beautiful. Very New England.”
“It is. I did my masters there. Undergrad at Umass Amherst.”
“I remember reading that on your resume.” She smiled as she took another bite of her sandwich.
“Ah right” I gave a slightly awkward chuckle.
Geez Tasha did ya forget she had your resume?
“Where did you go to college?”
She swallowed the last bite of her sandwich, took a sip of her tea and sat back in the chair. “School of hard knocks.” Then she laughed. Before I could ask what she meant she continued. “I didn’t go to college. I was just barely eighteen when I got pregnant with my oldest son. Life got…complicated after that and I never made it to college.”
She let out a deep sigh with the word complicated. I wondered what her story was. I hadn’t seen this older son of hers, the one that would be twenty-six in a few months. His kids had been here a few times. They were cute. The boy was blonde and the little girl a redhead. Both had ice blue eyes. I had only seen the eighteen-year-old once, he had the same eyes. Kris and Sam both had Abby’s mellow green-gold eyes. Kris was nearly the spitting image of her mom save the few lines that came with life that speckled Abby’s face. Gave her depth and character.
That reminded me, Sam had two games this week, he had given me his schedule before they left for their father’s.
“Are güvenilir bahis siteleri you going to Sam’s games this week?” The schedule for the week she gave me was sparse, lunch with Jan. Pick up the grandkids once. She had switched to using a shopping services for groceries, so we didn’t even have that to do. There had been no mention of Sam’s games though.
She pushed herself even deeper into the chair, chewed on her bottom lip. She looked, unsure. It wasn’t a look I had seen on her before. Another sigh came with her reply. “Oh right. Yes. The ex will likely be there. I blocked out the games from my mind for a bit I’m afraid.”
That’s right, given it was his two weeks with the kids that made sense. I had no idea if he had been at the games during the time they were with Abby. I pondered what their life together had looked like. I knew from what she had told me that she had simply played a role for many years. That had to be hard, to present to the world that way. I had lived with Liv for only a few weeks after our relationship was over, and we didn’t have kids and that was hard enough. I couldn’t even begin to imagine years of that.
I wasn’t sure what to say to her about that, if anything. If we had known each other longer, or if we really were friends, I would probably have words of wisdom for her. But we didn’t have history, so saying nothing seemed right.
Sam had asked me to come to a game though, and I didn’t think he meant for me to drive his mom and stand by her car like I had done before. It was harder to find the right way to ask to enter her world than I thought it would be.
Just ask her.
“Is it okay if I go to his game Wednesday? He asked me to go to one before he left.” I didn’t want to make things awkward for, or with her, but I also didn’t want to let Sam down. He had put a lot of work in with me on his skills and maybe it would already be paying off. I wasn’t sure if she understood that I meant to sit and really watch the game. My mouth open to allow me to clarify it to her, but she started talking before I could.
She looked at me and a slow smile formed. “We can sit together.” Her eyes got narrow for a moment, “If you want to that is. You don’t have to.” She pulled her legs up to her chest as she spoke, hugged them close as she put the hoodie over them, the size of it now made sense to me. She became one with the hoodie. I could almost picture her sitting like that on the beach, the water licking at her naked toes. Me sitting next to her.
Shit. Stop Tasha.
Entirely too quickly I answered her. “Sitting together would be great.” I pictured us up on that small hill where she always sits. Sharing a blanket. I wondered what the soccer moms would think of that.
“It’s a…” She paused and that flustered look threatened to fill her face. “plan then.” Her face went back to the gentle eyes and softness I was growing used to. “Want tea or coffee or anything? I’m going to make another cup.”
The thought of another cup of coffee from the Keurig made me shiver and I wasn’t a tea fan. “I’m set but thank you.” I got up head back down the stairs.
“Don’t go, unless you have to. I’ll be right back. Or you could come in while I make the tea.” She bit her lower lip again just slightly. She was up and walking towards the slider, not waiting for me to decide.
Going back downstairs alone any sooner than I had to didn’t really appeal to me. I stood up and followed her inside. It was the third time I had been in her kitchen. I sat in the same seat at the breakfast bar as when I interviewed for this job.
“Are you sure you don’t want anything?” The teapot was starting to whistle as she was getting her cup ready.
“I’m positive but thank you.” I looked around the kitchen, taking it in more than I had before. I knew they hadn’t lived here long. There wasn’t much in the way of decorations to be seen. A candle sat burning on her stove top. Its vanilla scent filled the area around us. It was nearly identical to the way she always smelled. A few mugs hung under the cabinets. They weren’t there the other times I had been in here. Those must be her favorite ones. Before I could make out what was on the different ones, she was taking the teabag out of the mug that she put down between us. This was black with Donald Duck on it and ‘Mad Genius’ written across it.
So, she had a bit of a kooky side.
Instead of taking her mug and heading towards the slider, she sat down across from me. “Sorry. My legs just suddenly felt like lead. Not sure I could walk out to the deck without tripping over air. I am going to feel that run tomorrow.”
“No worries. You should take a hot bath with some Epsom salts. And make sure you’re drinking enough water.”
“Hum. I think I have some of those. Think it will help?”
“Can’t hurt.” I hoped her feeling like this didn’t mean she wouldn’t want to run again.
There was a few moments of silence, which I didn’t want to become awkward, so I asked her about the book she was reading. And if she watched Trevor Noah’s show or his stand-up. The conversation continued and the next time there was silence I looked at the clock on her stove. It had been nearly four hours since I stepped foot on her deck. I tried to figure out where the day had gone.
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