tagErotic CouplingsFalling for a Stranger Ch. 04

Falling for a Stranger Ch. 04

bybob_socket©

Author's note: Longer chapter this time. Hope you enjoy. Keep the comments coming. It's always good to get feedback.

-

Tom woke slowly. Some wise part of his brain knew that it was a Sunday and that he didn't have to get up for work. That selfless act of vigilance by a tiny part of his consciousness allowed the rest of him to relax, free from care, and gradually emerge from slumber.

As his cognitive faculties booted up, he became aware of the sunlight streaming through the window and the birds singing outside. But a nagging feeling began to stir in the back of his head. Something was missing wasn't it? Sitting up, Tom looked around. Same old bedroom. Nothing amiss here.

Rising slowly to his feet, Tom stretched out his back and drew back the curtains. The sight of Nikki's flat across the road instantly brought memories flooding back. A sly smile crept to his lips as he remembered the sight she had put on for him the previous night. But when he realised that it was her presence in his bed that he'd missed when he woke up, he slapped himself on the forehead.

"Get a grip of yourself Tommy-boy. You've only just met the girl." He muttered out loud. "Don't start turning into some soppy idiot."

Still shaking his head, he hit the shower. When he ambled back into his bedroom, still towelling himself dry, he noticed that it was ten o'clock -- fairly late by his standards. Still, his day was now looking pretty empty since his plans to take Nikki out to lunch were obviously stymied by the arrival of her parents. Tom was just contemplating what to do with the unexpected free time when the doorbell rang.

Wrapping the large towel around his waist, he scrambled downstairs and opened the door. He was careful to keep one hand on the towel to avoid any accidental exposure. It was just as well he did because it was Barbara at the door. It probably wouldn't have made the best of impressions on Nikki's family if he'd flashed her mother. She seemed a bit flustered at his state of undress as it was.

"Sorry, just got out of the shower." Tom explained.

"Oh, sorry to disturb you." She replied. "Ted and I just wanted to invite you to lunch. We're taking Nikki out and thought it would be nice to treat you too. As thanks for helping out."

"That's very kind. No thanks necessary, really. But, since food is involved, how can I say no?"

Barbara smiled. "I thought you wouldn't say no to food. We're going for Sunday roast at the pub round the corner. What's it called? The Fox and Hounds? Is it any good?"

"Mmm, if you don't mind a slightly longer walk, The Hare's better. It's just at the top of the high street. You might have to book though, it gets pretty busy for Sunday lunch. It's up to you though."

"OK, I'll try to book at the Hare then. Either way, we'll call on you on the way. Shall we say twelve thirty?"

"Sounds good to me, I'll try to put some clothes on next time you call!" Tom said. "See you later."

Barbara waved goodbye and headed back to Nikki's flat.

-

Tom pottered around for the rest of the morning. He was surprisingly nervous. He spent most of his time shaking his head at how silly he was being. Like some kind of love-struck teenager.

He was just telling himself to man-up for about the tenth time when the doorbell rang. He checked his watch: bang on twelve thirty as promised.

This time, the three of them were there. They briefly reminded Tom of a group of Trick-or-Treaters.

"Mornin' all." Tom greeted them. "Where are we going then?"

"The Hare." Barbara replied. "Looks like we got the last table so that was lucky."

"I hope it doesn't disappoint then." Tom glanced at Nikki as they started walking. "How are you feeling today Nikki?"

"Much better thanks. Pretty much back to normal now. A good night's sleep seems to have sorted me out. I wasn't sure I'd sleep well after all of that sleeping during the day but I got off pretty quickly."

Tom's eyes snapped to her face at that comment and, although she didn't meet his look, her subtle smile told him that her innuendo was entirely intended. Tom had to suppress a smile of his own.

-

The food and conversation were both good and Tom enjoyed himself thoroughly. Tom was pushing a last piece of apple crumble around in its bowl, trying to decide if he could manage to fit it into his straining stomach.

"What time are you going to have to head off?" Nikki's question was directed to her parents.

"Well, we don't want to leave it too late." Ted replied. "I've got work in the morning and I've got a few bits and pieces to sort out at home. So I guess we'll head back around three." He looked across at Barbara who nodded in agreement.

"What do you do for a living Tom?" She asked, shifting the conversation towards him.

"I'm a programmer." He said. "Very geeky I'm afraid."

"Wow, you must be pretty clever to do all that computer stuff. I can't even get my emails without help!"

Nikki rolled her eyes at Tom and said: "She's not joking. It's painful to watch."

Tom laughed. Then he realised that he hadn't asked Nikki's profession.

"What do you do Nikki?" He enquired.

The change in atmosphere was noticeable; this was clearly an uncomfortable topic and Tom instantly wished he hadn't asked.

When Nikki didn't answer, Barbara replied for her: "She makes jewellery, don't you darling." She prompted. "Until the end of the week, yeah." She mumbled.

Tom's puzzlement must have been written all over his face because Barbara felt the need to explain.

"The place where she rents workshop space is re-developing and they won't have room for her in their new set-up. She's got to be out on Friday."

"Can't you find anywhere else?" Tom asked.

"Not that I can afford." Nikki picked up the tale. "It's a tough market for independents like me. I can't afford to rent a whole unit in a business park and I only need space for my workbench and a few tools. That's why my current place was so good. They just rented me out a corner of a workshop that was being used by carpenters. But now they're making it into houses or something. I'd just started making some breakthroughs too. I was asked to make some pieces for a cat-walk show and that's just the kind of break that can get me the publicity I need to hit the big-time. I guess I'll have to turn them down now."

Tom's brain was lurching into action. "So, let me get this straight: you need to find somewhere that's cheap and you only need enough space for a workbench and a few tools. Something like a single-garage in size?"

Nikki looked interested. "That would be perfect."

"So, if you knew someone who lived, say, opposite you who had a workshop in his garden that he never uses because he's too much of a geek to know how to use tools then that might be of interest?"

Nikki was smiling broadly now. "That would certainly be of interest -- if the price was right of course."

"You are turning out to be quite the find Tom." Ted said, also smiling.

"Well, don't get carried away, I do have some dark, dark secrets too. For example, we'll have to clear out all the bodies I've got in freezers in there before Nikki will be able to get her bench in. Plus I'll have to tell Big Tony that I won't be able to cook up his Crystal Meth in there any more. But he seems like the kind of guy that won't hold a grudge so we should be fine."

The four of them chuckled away until Tom's stomach reminded him of how full he was and he had to stop before his food made an unfortunate re-appearance.

After Ted paid for the meal, they waddled back home. Tom said his goodbyes to Ted and Barbara in the street and Nikki promised to call around to check out the workshop after they had set off home.

-

For the third time today, Tom's doorbell rang. This time, it was just Nikki, as expected. She was practically bouncing with excitement to see his workshop. Tom found her enthusiasm infectious, especially in contrast to how subdued she'd been after her seizure.

He lead the way through the house into the garden.

"I hope you're not disappointed. I don't like being your only hope!" Tom said. "Well, I can't be any worse off than I was this morning. Is that it?" She added, seeing the workshop. "Oh, that'll be perfect."

Tom wasn't much of a gardener but he kept the lawn tidy and the few trees he had didn't need too much maintenance. At the bottom of the lawn was the wooden workshop. The previous owners of the house had obviously used it as some shrine to manliness with god knows what sort of power-tools and equipment. There were a few power sockets and decent lighting in there but Tom wasn't joking about being useless with tools. He used it mainly as a dumping ground for odds and ends as well as for storing the lawn-mower and a few garden tools.

"We'll have to clear it out. There's a lot of junk in there that I've been meaning to get rid of for while. There's even a lock on the door so your stuff should be pretty safe in there. I've got a spare key you can have and there's access down the side of the house."

The lock was a little stiff but it opened without too much forcing. Nikki was like a kid in a sweet shop. Tom was right about the junk; there were a few piles of stuff ling around and some rickety old book-cases loaded with junk. But Nikki was already eyeing up the space thinking about where she was going to put her stuff. She seemed very pleased about the natural light that the two windows provided.

"How much of this stuff are you going to get rid of and how much space can I have?" She asked.

"As long as I've got a corner to put the lawn-mower and garden stuff in, you can pretty much have the rest. It's all junk as I said. Is it what you are looking for?"

In reply she grabbed Tom in a bear hug. Now that she was back to full health, she was surprisingly strong.

Tom wheezed: "I'll take that as a yes then."

Nikki relaxed her grip on him enough that she could look him in the eyes. Tom was surprised to see that hers were slightly wet, the emotion in them clear to see.

"You've no idea what this means to me." She almost whispered. "I really didn't know what I was going to do. Thank you Tom."

She kissed him firmly on the lips.

"You haven't heard my terms yet though." Tom joked.

"Uh oh. I though it was too good to be true. Is this where you try to charge me more than I can afford and I have to ask if we can come to 'some sort of arrangement'?" Nikki had that naughty look in her eyes again -- Tom was learning to really like that look.

"That's an idea, I hadn't thought about that." Actually Tom had thought about exactly that but didn't want to say it out loud. "Seriously though, I don't want any money for it but there will have to be some conditions. They say that you shouldn't mix business and pleasure so I'll have a think about a few rules and write them down so that you can agree them before you move in. No need to get the lawyers involved or anything, just a kind of agreement so we can set a few boundaries. Things like: no pissing off the neighbours for example!"

"Sounds fair enough to me. When can I move in?"

"Well, I've got a deadline at work for the end of the week. If I can get it finished by Thursday I can take Friday off and help you move the stuff. Is that leaving it a bit late?"

"That's perfect, I've got some bits and pieces I need to finish before I move anyway. I'm pretty sure I can get the guys I share the workshop with to load my stuff into one of their vans and drop it off outside your house on Friday morning. Then we can take our time moving it all in."

"Cool, sounds like a plan."

"Fancy going out for a drink to celebrate?" Nikki asked.

"I very much do fancy going out to celebrate but, if I'm going to get my project finished by Thursday, I'm going to have to put in some serious hours so I really need to get cracking on that." Tom hated turning down an opportunity to move their relationship forward but he really was going to have to burn the midnight oil to get Friday off and he thought that was the more important date to keep.

Fortunately, Nikki seemed to agree.

"Probably a good idea, I've still stuff to do at home too. This weekend's been a bit different to say the least!"

"Sure has!" Tom replied. "We can go out on Friday to celebrate after your stuff is in."

Nikki smiled. "That's a great idea. That'll give me something to look forward to when I'm carrying heavy stuff around all day! OK. Well, I'll leave you alone to work your geeky computer magic. Send me a text to confirm that everything's still OK for Friday when you know."

She paused for a moment before leaning forward and drawing Tom into a long, lingering kiss that left them both slightly breathless for a moment. Then she smiled and almost skipped away down the side of the house.

Tom watched her leave shaking his head slightly. He seemed to be doing that a lot this weekend. Then he plodded back inside and started getting his code head on."

-

It was just as well that he'd stayed in to work because he needed every bit of the time to get his code finished. He had several last-minute bugs that threatened to ruin his plans but he finally had a breakthrough late on Wednesday night and was able to set his tests running overnight. When he checked on Thursday morning, everything had passed. Much to his relief, this meant that he just had some QA to tidy up and he was able to deliver his project.

He even got to leave early. Given the late nights he'd worked, he barely managed to write a short text to Nikki confirming the next day before he crashed out in his bed and slept right through to the morning.

-

Tom's phone ringing woke him. It was Nikki.

"We're just finishing loading up the van. Are you ready for me?"

"I'll be out the front in five minutes." Tom was being a bit optimistic but he didn't want to keep her waiting.

"Ok, see you in five." Nikki hung up.

Tom barely had a chance to dunk his head in the shower and pull on some old clothes before he heard the sounds of a van pulling up out front.

Hoping on each leg in turn so he could put on his trainers, Tom made it outside in time to see two guys jumping out of the van closely followed by Nikki. On seeing him, she waved and offered him a huge grin. Tom's fuzzy head and lack of breakfast made him think that his return smile might not have been too convincing.

"OK chaps, let's just unload everything here then Tom and I can move it round the back and you can get on with sorting out your own move." Nikki said.

Soon, a substantial wooden workbench and about ten boxes, presumably with all of Nikki's tools and materials in, were piled up outside Tom's house. Nikki said goodbye and thanks to her two helpers and they jumped back in the van and hurried off.

"OK, a couple of the boxes have got some valuables in. We should carry them round first so they'll not be left here. Then we can come back and get the rest." Nikki announced.

"Why don't you stay here and guard it while I ferry the boxes to the workshop. Then we can both lift the bench round at the end." Tom countered.

"OK, if you don't mind doing most of the work."

"No problem. You'll have plenty to do later helping move all the stuff around in the workshop."

It didn't take Tom long to get the boxes moved and the two of them managed well enough with the heavy bench. Then they spent a few moments contemplating where all the stuff was going to go.

"I think I want the bench there, under the window so I can get the best light for working. We'll have to move that bookcase to the side. Then we can clear all the junk out and I should have plenty of space for my tools."

Tom nodded his agreement and Nikki was already bounding over to the offending item and trying to push it to the side. It was a big old, solid wood, bookcase and she was obviously surprised by how heavy it was. It didn't move at all on her first push so she leant into it was more force as Tom walked over ready to help.

It suddenly shifted enough that the sudden movement caused Nikki to stumble. As she half-fell it began to topple over on top of her.

"Look out!" Tom shouted and then his reflexes took over. He just managed to grab onto her sweater and pull her out of the way as it fell over. Although he pulled her away, he was left in its path and it had enough momentum by this time that he was unable to stop it from crashing down on top of him.

The next thing he knew, he was lying on the hard concrete floor with his right arm and leg pinned under the weighty furniture. And it hurt!

"Ow!" He groaned. He tried to slide himself free but that made two things obvious: he was trapped, and trying to move was very painful.

"Oh my God!" Nikki cried. "Are you OK? Let me try to help."

She managed to take enough weight off that Tom was able to wriggle himself free. He sat up but the relief of being released quickly turned worry when he realised that he couldn't move either of his injured limbs.

An element of shock must have kicked in because the pain wasn't too bad.

"Um, I think you'll have to call an ambulance because I can't move my arm or my leg."

"Shit Tom. I'm so sorry. I'll call them. Just sit tight." She dug out her phone and started dialling.

"Yeah, like I'm gonna be doing anything else." He mumbled.

-

Fortunately, the X-rays showed that nothing was broken; just badly bruised. Tom was soon discharged with a crutch, some strong painkillers and instructions to "rest, ice and elevate".

Nikki had stayed with him and insisted on paying for the cab home. Tom tried to dispel her guilt but was only partly successful.

He hobbled through his front-door, which Nikki held open for him. He could just about walk using the crutch with his left arm but every step hurt and he was glad to collapse (not too quickly) onto his sofa.

Tom couldn't think of anything to say and Nikki obviously wanted to help but didn't know what to do.

"How about I make you some lunch? You must be hungry." She offered.

Now that she mentioned it, Tom realised that he was starving.

"Sounds good." He enthused. But then he remembered that he hadn't had time to go to the shops. In fact, he'd been living off junk food while he got his project finished so a good meal really was just what the doctor ordered.

"I don't think I've got any food in though." He admitted.

"Well, I guess I owe you at least a meal after your heroics last weekend so why don't you relax while I go to the supermarket?"

Tom wasn't sure she'd done her arithmetic correctly; as far as he could work out, he'd cooked her breakfast, she'd paid for pizza and then her parents had bought him lunch. So, if anything, he owed her a meal but he certainly wasn't going to argue with her and there was no way he could make it to the shops in his current condition so he just said: "Thanks, that would be perfect."

"Do you need me to get you anything else while I'm there? I'll try to get a few meals' worth of food; I don't think you'll be going anywhere for a bit."

Tom managed a smile. "I think you're right. But I'm pretty well stocked apart from food so that should be all I need. Here, take my house key so I don't have to get up to let you back in."

He flung her the key and she caught it nimbly.

"OK, see you soon then." She seemed happier now that she'd found a way to help and left with some of the morning's bounciness returned.

-

Tom felt a little better with some bacon sandwiches inside him. And Nikki did a good job of distracting him with her company all afternoon. Tom asked to see some of her jewellery and she fetched a box from the workshop that contained some finished pieces.

Tom was really impressed. Most of the work was in silver, with precious and semi-precious stones set in places. Some were just abstract shapes but others had animal themes. Tom's personal favourite was a butterfly broach with incredibly delicate wings studded with stones that added a subtle suggestion of colour to them.

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