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Role Play(Plaything #4)

By:Tess Oliver

Chapter One


I smeared away the condensation on the mirror. The face looking back at me made me regret that I'd cleared the glass. Two jobs and constant auditions were making me look old and tired. I heard Brock's footsteps in the hallway. He barged right into the bathroom without knocking, one of a million annoying habits on a growing list.

I leaned forward to put on my mascara. "I told you to knock first."

He spun the broken knob on the bathroom. "Why don't you get that lazy ass apartment manager to fix this door and all the other crap that's broken?"

"That's not the point. I need privacy in the bathroom, and it's not the lazy ass manager who keeps bursting in on me."

He stood directly behind me and wrapped his arm around my stomach, holding me tight against him. "I've seen every inch of you. What privacy could you possibly need?" He lowered his head to kiss my neck, but I leaned away from his mouth.

"I need to get ready."

He lifted his arms away with a dramatic flourish. "Fine. Fuck, you didn't want me last night either."

"I was asleep, and I didn't even know you were coming. You scared the crap out of me when I woke to a tall figure looming over my bed. So I'm sorry if nearly dying of fright didn't put me in a romantic mood."

He turned to the toilet to pee. Another annoying habit.

"I'm almost done in here. Can't you wait?" I turned to look at him, and that's when I noticed them, four faint red lines on his shoulder. I put down my mascara and walked over to him. My touch startled him.

"Shit, Jane, I nearly just pissed all over the wall."

"What are these red lines from?" I was pushing every possible scenario through my mind. Maybe he squatted down in front of an angry cat, or a garden rake fell against him, or he leaned up against a sharp fence. But none of those outlandish excuses seemed as plausible as the obvious. They were scratches from a woman's fingernails.

He craned his neck as if he could possibly see his shoulder blade. "What red lines?" he asked, and there was a certain amount of alarm in his voice. Which brought me back again to the fingernail conclusion.

"Look in the mirror, and maybe it will jog your memory."

I walked out of the bathroom, no longer wanting to stand in the same room with him. Anger, hurt and jealousy were the emotions I should have been portraying. If I was on stage or lucky enough to be cast in a film or series and the same scene had just played out, I would have been upset, frozen by despair at the thought that my lover had cheated on me. But I wasn't feeling anything but a cold chill.

Brock came into the bedroom and pulled his shirt on quickly, as if that could make me forget the scratches. "It's nothing. I must have rubbed up against something."

I pulled on my work shirt. "Looks to me like you rubbed up against a woman's fingernails." I picked up my phone off the nightstand. There was a text from Russell, my agent.

"Sorry, Jane, you didn't get the part. The casting director said you did a great job."

Russell always tried to end the rejections with a positive note. At first I'd taken those little encouragements as a sign of hope. But with each rejection, I felt my dream of acting floating entirely out of my grasp.

Brock came up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. "Another rejection?" There was just enough lightness in his tone to assure me that he wasn't feeling any empathy. The opposite, in fact.

"Look, Jane, the company really wants me to manage the Midwest branch. You could find a steady job. Just think how nice it would be to not have to wake to these rejection texts from your agent."

I looked up at him. "I'm not going anywhere with you, Brock. You've got another woman's fingerprints on your shoulder. As far as I'm concerned, this relationship ended a few minutes ago in the bathroom, a fitting place for it."

"Come on, baby, you can't be serious. I don't know where those marks came from. Look, I'll pick up some food on my way home from work tonight, and we'll talk about it over dinner."

"No, I'm getting my new script for the murder mystery weekend today, and I have to study. Let's just give all of this a break. I need it. And it seems you need it too."

Brock was good at looking kind and pleading one second and angry the next. He should have been an actor, I thought wryly. His softened brows sharpened to a point, and that little muscle in the side of his face began to twitch.

"Fuck, you overreact to everything," he snarled.

"Seriously? You have four fingernail marks on your back. Now, I can use my vivid imagination to figure out how that came to be, or I can just face the fact that you are sleeping with someone else. Which means I don't want you in my bed anymore."

He stared down at me, his nostrils wide with rage. "I've got to get ready for work." He stomped down the hallway into the bathroom and slammed the door shut so hard, the broken doorknob popped off.

Chapter Two


My phone rang as I searched around for my keys. "What?"

"Is that any way to answer the phone?"

"It is when it says Chase is calling. I'm looking for my fucking keys. I still haven't gotten my routine down in this shit hole apartment." I walked over to the food wrappers wadded up on the table and pushed them around. No luck.

"Well, you picked the place."

"It was the only place I could find near work that still had vacancies. Now I see why. The walls are so fucking thin, I could hear the old guy next door fart in his sleep."

Chase had a good laugh while I continued the key search in my bedroom.

"Since they've got the foundation poured on your new house, it won't be long until you're picking out bathroom fixtures and kitchen cabinets. Shit. Can't even imagine what that will look like with your taste."

"I've got great fucking taste." I kicked the dirty pile of clothes around and listened for the keys. Nothing.

"Cinder blocks and plywood are not a coffee table, my friend. Maybe you should find a woman in between now and then to help you put the finishing touches on your new house."

"I haven't used cinder blocks and plywood for years. And just because Trey, Zane and you have your balls attached to a tether doesn't mean I have to follow suit. Although, if I had a woman right now she might be able to tell me where the fuck I put my keys."

"Anyhow, I'm calling to remind you that it's Wednesday, and it's your day to buy breakfast. The consensus is breakfast burritos. Don't forget the salsa or your name is mud."

I searched through the pockets of the sweatshirt hanging on the chair. "Yeah, as long as you don't mind eating breakfast burritos as lunch. Can't find my fucking keys. Wait. Shit. I think I used them in the kitchen to pry the cap off my beer." I headed into the kitchen and found the keys on the kitchen sink next to the bent up bottle cap. "Found them. I'll see you soon."

Chase hung up. I headed out into the hallway. It was lined with stained industrial carpeting that was so worn, I could see the floor through it. The elevator at the end of the corridor was just closing. "Hold the elevator, please."

A small hand curled around the door. I raced to the elevator and stepped inside. "Thanks."

"You're welcome." The woman wearing a light blue Bulk Mart shirt stepped back from holding the door. The man standing with her looked pissed off that I'd held up the elevator for those extra two seconds. There was some serious tension bouncing between the man and woman. I peeked sideways at her. She had straight auburn hair and a pouty bottom lip, which may or may not have been due to whatever the guy with big nostrils next to her had said or done. He was one of those guys who I hated just on sight. Or it might just have been because I'd decided immediately that he didn't seem worthy of the cute brunette standing next to him.

The elevator stopped at the ground floor. I nodded politely at the woman to let her go first, but the guy shot rudely past her.

She smiled weakly at me and stepped out. I stepped out behind her. She turned back to me and I noticed she had light green eyes to go with the great lips. "Are you the new tenant in number thirty-two?"

"Yeah, that's me. Aidan Swift." I put out my hand.

She laughed at how tiny her hand looked in mine. "Jane Briggs. I'm across the way in thirty-three." She looked down to my size thirteen feet and back up to my face. "Must have cost your parents a fortune to feed you." She covered her mouth. "I'm sorry. That was just totally inappropriate. It's just—you're so big." She circled her arms around once. "And again, a stupid comment from a neighbor. Please excuse me. I had a rough morning. Have a good day, and I'm sure I'll see you around."

She hurried through the lobby and glanced back at me as she walked out the glass doors.

I pulled out my phone and texted Chase. "Just realized this place isn't such a shit hole after all."

Chase wrote right back. "Let me guess—farting neighbor owns an ice cream truck and he promised you could have some of the leftovers."

"No, but that would make up for a night of farts."

"So . . ."

"There's a hot, little brunette living right across the hall." I decided the dick-wad boyfriend could easily be ignored for the moment.

"Score! Maybe you can get a tether for those balls after all."

"Yeah, right. Burritos in an hour. Later."