Express Lane Ch. 05byRaLaWrites©
Walking hand in hand with Rory, Noah was escorting the energetic little guy from daycare. They were still far away from home and Rory had not yet run out of stories about the day's misadventures. Lately, Rory was the only thing that put a smile on Noah's face. Crystal had gone on vacation -- which was a very good thing, in his opinion -- but she told him that it was only temporary. She would be coming back tonight, and her first stop would be to "spend time" with him. More like badger him.
"Noah, I'm tired," Rory whined, rubbing his eyes with balled fists. Noah picked his little brother up, resting his head on his broad shoulder. As he cradled him into his chest, Noah made no attempt to lie to himself. He was incredibly busy with work and watching Rory with little to no help, but he couldn't go around Larissa while he felt this way. It wouldn't be right to her. He wouldn't be surprised if she hated him for not contacting her; he'd seen the calls over the past few weeks and so desperately wanted to return them but his conscious wouldn't let it happen.
His cell phone was ringing. Larissa? In an effort to break the cycle of avoiding her that he had fallen into, Noah hit the 'talk' button without looking at his caller ID. Fuck, the one time he should have checked, he didn't. Crystal.
"Yeah?" he answered dryly.
"Hi, snookums!" Crystal shrieked. She must have been in a good mood; otherwise she would have grilled him for such a lackluster greeting. "Just got back from St. Croix and I have got great news for you!"
Please let it be that you want to break up with me, he thought with false hope. "What's that?"
"Well um, my dad needs someone for his new business. Someone to be in charge of, well, everything."
Not Russell's. The only way Noah would commit to willingly working there is if someone held him at gunpoint. Hell, even then, it would still be up for debate. "No thanks. I'm fine with the position I got."
"Not at the grocery store!" she scoffed. "Dad's business in Nevada. It's a little town, just on the outskirts of Las Vegas. I know you're handy with computers and stuff, so you'd be doing a lot of IT work, mostly. Keeping track of the business's finances. I think he said something about close to 100k a year, if I'm not mistaken."
Holy shit. Noah stopped in his tracks and almost dropped his phone. Fumbling with it, he put the receiver back up to his ear. "One hundred-thousand a year?" he asked.
"Yeah," she giggled. "You wouldn't have to worry about living arrangements, since we own a few properties there. I think you'd have fun living in the condo we own. It has a lot of space and there's an elementary school nearby for Rory. That way he would be out of our hair most of the time!"
Our? "What do you mean, Crystal? And I'm not calling you Silver, so just get to the point."
"Fine," she sighed. "Well, I'd be living with you, naturally. I'm tired of this town just as much as you are. The only reason my Dad even moved here was for all of the business opportunities. Won't it be fun?"
Noah's shoulders shrugged. 10ok a year was the best offer he'd gotten since... well, ever. But living with Crystal? Having to see her face from sunup to sundown was the one thing that fucked up the whole deal. That and leaving Larissa behind. "Look, I'm almost home," he explained. "I'll call you back when I get situated." Flipping his phone closed, Noah barely managed to keep walking without stopping. Jesus, he was looking for some kind of break; even close to praying, though Noah was not what you would call a devout Catholic. Noah guessed this was God's way of answering his prayers. But was it the right choice for he and Rory?
A crackle of thunder above was followed by heavy raindrops. Noah managed to get the umbrella open just before the fat drops of rain got a chance to drench them. He knew he was almost at home and tried to walk as fast as possible. A medium-sized woman was walking towards him, but he paid her no mind. Even if he tried to, the rain would obscure his view. The closer the woman got to him, the slower his pace became. The gait of that walk. The switch of those hips. Her rubber boots and raincoat were the same she wore that day in the park. She looked delicious.
"Larissa," Noah called out.
When Larissa realized who it was, she stopped to a halt, then tried to hightail it past him, but he grabbed her arm. "Wait!"
She shook her head and pulled away from his weak grasp. "No, Noah. I'm busy and minding my own business. I have nothing to say to you."
First Crystal with her bombshell, now running into a livid Larissa was enough to drive Noah crazy. He clenched her arm again, this time holding on so tightly he could hear her whimper. "But I have something to say to you and goddamn it, you will listen to me."
She pulled back, rubbing her arm lightly. Her eyes went to Rory and she picked up the sleeping toddler along with the umbrella. Noah was so pissed he was shaking, and didn't want to chance dropping his little brother. With a deep breath, he looked into Larissa's honey brown eyes and a torrent of words followed.
"Ris, I've been busy. I haven't had any help with Rory. This old lady next door to me baby-sits him sometimes but she's probably had her lifetime's worth of childcare experience, so she's sick of him. I've had to work full-time AND train new employees, including Joanna."
"If all you're going to do is give me excuses --"
"They're not," he interrupted. "There is no excuse. I have been busy, but it doesn't mean I couldn't have taken five minutes out of my day in the past two weeks to contact you and let you know how I feel. Let's just stop the bullshit, Larissa. I've had a relationship's worth of bullshit. I don't want anymore. I feel something for you and I already know you do too."
"Who says?" she spat. This girl was stubborn down to the very end.
"Fine." Noah stepped forward, his line of sight focused directly on her, his stare more intense than usual. "Look me in the eyes and tell me you don't want anything with me. I'll fuck off, let you live your life."
Larissa shifted uncomfortably. "But that's stupid," she whispered, looking at the ground.
"Even if it is," he reasoned. "Just do it. Look at me and tell me you don't want to be with me."
Slowly her gaze lifted. When her eyes met his, she quickly closed them again. "Noah," she sighed, "So what if I do want to be with you? You have a woman. You have a girlfriend. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to see if I can have some form of a love life too."
"Who? With Rico Suave?" Noah scoffed.
"His name is James," Larissa snapped. "And yes. James is sweet, loving, kind, everything you --"
Putting his coat over Rory to block him from the rain, Noah snatched the umbrella out of Larissa's hand. He was already drenched from the spring rain, and the second the water began hammering down on Larissa, she gave him a look that told him how much she loathed him for doing that. "The hell is the matter with you?"
With both hands, Noah cupped Larissa's face. He stared into her eyes, his pale hands caressing her light, golden brown skin. His left thumb lightly brushed against her bottom lip, tracing it. "You are what's the matter with me," he whispered. "Look, I don't know what you think. I'm not some hot-shot Don Lothario looking to fuck anything that moves. I've dated people other than Crystal, I've felt love and before that, a strong connection. A strong desire."
Larissa trembled under his touch. He didn't know whether it was from the rain or his words, but he didn't want to chance her getting a cold. "Rory and I are almost home. You obviously weren't going home but I... I want you to come back with me. Even if I didn't feel this way for you, I'd still want to talk to you. You're an ideal person to confide in," he confessed. "Please."
Larissa's straight brown hair was beginning to curl from the rain's moisture. Nodding softly, she bent down to pick up the umbrella. "I'll come back, but I have to get this out of the way. It's important. Here."
Noah looked at the ground, shaking his head. "Keep it. I'm a soldier, after all. You know how I am about rain." He forced a small smile and made one last intimate gesture towards Larissa by lightly touching her hand before he continued on his journey back home.
The load on his shoulders suddenly got a little lighter. Now all he had to do was deal with Crystal.
Which would be no easy feat.
With her raincoat over her head, a very shaken Larissa wandered down the road. Her destination was not far but the exchange she had with Noah sent her into a tailspin. Pissed was not the word to describe how she felt towards Noah for not talking to her for weeks. No, it was much too tame. Incensed was a better fit.
After that very awkward, tension-filled night with Noah, and the sweet kiss that made up for it all, she hadn't heard from him since. The few calls she made to his cell went unanswered, her voicemails ignored. Why would he not talk to her? She replayed his responses in her head.
Ris, I've been busy. I haven't had any help with Rory.
Why not drop Rory off to me? She thought. He knew she would have no objections; she adored that little boy.
Let's just stop the bullshit, Larissa. I've had a relationship's worth of bullshit. I don't want anymore. I feel something for you and I already know you do too.
Of course she did, but was ignoring her for two weeks the right way to show it? She didn't know the true motive behind his actions and didn't want to press him for it. Hopefully he would explain on his own accord. Larissa's thoughts switched gears as she buzzed apartment number 201. "J. Vazquez" was written next to it.
"Hello?" a garbled female voice answered.
Larissa arched a brow. "I'm sorry, I was trying for apartment 201. Must have hit the wrong button."
"No, this is it," the mystery woman replied.
Huh. "Is James Vasquez there?" No answer, only the hum of the buzzer that signaled the door was now open. Hesitating for only a second, Larissa grabbed hold of the doorknob and turned. The distinct smell of the apartment assaulted her senses. Although it wasn't crude, it had sort of a heavy musky scent that wafted throughout the entire building. As she walked up the steps, she stopped just before stepping in front of James' door. She could hear two voices, slightly arguing with one another.
"Why didn't you ask who it was?" the male voice urged.
"James," the woman sighed, "How was I supposed to know it wasn't Helena coming to hang out with Drew?" James' brother. There went the theory that the mystery chick was Drew's girl. Larissa pressed her ear closer to the wall, straining to hear. The girl's voice sounded very familiar, but she just couldn't place it.
"What am I supposed to tell her, Danni? That I'm dating her best friend?"
Larissa's hand went to her mouth. Danni was dating James? They saw each other not less than an hour ago, taking notes for one of the upcoming final exams. Larissa didn't now how to feel. Should she even feel upset, angry, betrayed? She didn't think so. James was hot, no mistaking that, but she didn't want him. Crave for him. Not like she did with Noah. This last-ditch effort to get over Noah failed miserably, and she was surprised but happy with the end result.
She stepped in front of the door and, when James finally opened it, blurted out her feelings.
"I could hear you guys through the wall and I want you to know that I don't care that you're dating, in fact I think it's great. You should have told me earlier, you know. Hi, Danni! Bye Guys!" Larissa took off down the hall, leaving a stunned James and Danni standing at the door.
Time to get back to what she really wanted.
With Rory long gone to sleep, Noah had spent the last half-hour or so flipping aimlessly through TV channels. What was the point? His mind couldn't focus on anything but Larissa.
He tossed the remote on the couch next to him. Raking his fingers through his messy brown hair, he couldn't believe what Crystal dropped on him today. In his heart of hearts, he knew if there was any other way out, he could do without Crystal and her father's offer. Then again, passing up the chance to make One Hundred Thou a year was just damn stupid. He had no idea of what to do. He needed Larissa's ear. And lips. Neck. Breasts. Nipples...
"Fuck," Noah grumbled. Screw the money. How could he leave a queen like Larissa behind? She was perfect in every way. Well, except for being hard headed. But he could happily look past that. Speaking of that tasty little treat, where was she? He hoped she didn't go back home. Or worse, she and Rico Suave reconciled. Pulling out his cell, he hit one of the speed dial buttons he'd saved Larissa's number on. The phone rang a few times before someone picked up.
"Yeah? Who is this?" Joanna. After training her and listening to her whining for the past two weeks, her voice was one that he would not soon forget.
"It's Noah," he said. "Ris at home?"
Silence on the other end. Did she hang up?
"No," she sighed, "In fact she's headed your way. What are you --"
"Thanks, Jo. Bye." He hated to be curt, but it was obvious from day one that Joanna was into him. He had no time to be annoyed by barely legal bait, who just happened to be the sister of the one woman he desired most at the moment.
He needed to get his mind on something other than his troubled thoughts. Sifting through his CD collection, he slid a CD marked "Favorites" into the player. Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers played first. It was fitting; his mood was very somber and lost, much like the song's theme.
"Sometimes I feel like I don't have a partner..." Anthony Kiedis' brokenhearted voice seeped out from his speakers.
"You and me both," Noah huffed. He looked at the clock. Almost 10:00pm. She wasn't coming. If she came this late, she'd have to spend the night. Probably went crawling back into what's-his-face's arms.
"Take me to the place I love... Take me all the way..."
With closed eyes, Noah began to sing along. He sympathized with the song's message; a lonely man abusing drugs spends his time underneath the freeway, just to get that one fix and escape it all, despite the friends and family he left behind. Noah had been there. Not necessarily under the bridge, but at god knows who's place passed out, drunk off of who-knows-what and after smoking countless blunts. Marijuana, or as everyone else he knew called it, Weed, had been his saving grace. While he didn't dabble in some of the stronger and harder to shake drugs his friends took, one blunt he snuck in his room at home turned into two. Then three. Four. Five. Until he lost count.
When Rory was born, it changed everything. Some people need actual parenthood to sober up; Noah's parenthood came early. It might not have been his child, but damn it, he was Rory's brother, father, mother, friend, caregiver, entertainment, and anything else that little boy wanted. Noah's father had left long ago, and though he didn't know him, he could not hold a grudge against him for getting out of dodge. His mother was insufferable. He enjoyed life and living, no doubt about that, but the fact that his mother was even allowed to reproduce was startling. She had never done anything motherly for him; even making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was a task he had to master at the age of five, because his mother refused to lift a finger.
A light knock at the door. He sprang from his seat, almost breaking his neck to answer. It was her, all right. Prepared with what he assumed to be a sleepover bag, she walked past him and looked around.
"Where's Rory?" she whispered.
Noah pursed his lips and put a finger to them. "Sleeping. Though," he said, sitting on the couch, "I don't expect him to get up anytime soon, it's been a long day for him. So um, how'd things go with..."
"Don't ask," Larissa chuckled. "Just don't ask."
Noah shook his head and smirked. Whatever happened obviously worked in his favor. He watched Larissa look around the large living room, first at the flat screen, high-definition TV, and then at the CD tower stocked with hundreds of the discs. She smiled at him, her full, juicy lips parting. God, he would love to kiss those lips. And lick the others.
"Thanks." It might not be mine for much longer. "But um, that's why I need to talk to you, Ris. Crystal called me earlier and her dad gave me a crazy offer. I want to say once in a lifetime, seriously."
Larissa looked puzzled. "Like what, Noah?"
God, this was hard. Looking into her brown eyes, his lips parted but his voice faltered. He couldn't form the words to accurately explain the situation at hand. "A job with an annual salary of 100k. Nice condo in Nevada, great school for Rory."
"At what cost, though?"
"Living with her."
Larissa stirred around on the seat cushion. Scratching her head, she looked at the ceiling in what Noah assumed was deep thought. Her golden brown skin always seemed to glow, and her beautiful tresses fell messily past her shoulders. Gorgeous without even knowing so. She was thinking of the perfect answer, he hoped.
"Do what you feels right. Do what you want, Noah," she said simply.
He was frozen. Do what he wanted? If he knew what he wanted, he wouldn't have asked for her help. "That's all you have to say, Ris? Just like that, you can't come up with anything better?"
"It's just like that, Noah." Her tone wasn't one laced with bitterness or carelessness, but simply someone who believed that their opinion was the best one. Noah leaned forward with his fingers laced, parting his legs and propping up his arms on his knees. His temples were throbbing, and he didn't need to see himself to know that his porcelain skin had turned a bright red. He was pissed.
"What do you want me to say?" she said, exasperated. "I can't tell you what to do, Noah. You do what's best for you and that beautiful little boy, that's all that matters."
Whatever, this is complete bullshit. Noah leapt to his feet, scowling as he made way towards the hallway, in route to the bathroom.
"Where are you going?" Larissa wondered.
He didn't answer. He looked back at her angrily, then continued to walk to his destination. He needed to cool off. His head was clouded in anger, and some of his boiling blood had inadvertently gone south. He was confused, angry, and so fucking horny.
"What a day," he grunted, turning the faucet handles violently. As the lukewarm water rushed out of the showerhead, Noah stripped off his clothes and kicked them out of his way. He looked around for his bar of soap. What luck -- no soap, only that bubble bath shit Crystal loved using so much. "Fuck it," he said, pouring a small amount into his hand. "Better than nothing." His large palms traveled his toned frame, spreading the watermelon-scented liquid everywhere, creating large, foamy bubbles. He spent the time in the shower, up until that moment, ignoring the quivering erection that stood at attention, pointing towards the shower wall that Larissa was on the other side of in the living room.
Jesus, it wasn't just his mind. His body literally craved for her.
Both fist slammed against the tiled surface, sending the relatively small bathroom a jolt. Fuck! Goddamn it, Noah, think! Now was not the time to not have an answer. He needed to always have an answer. Not for him, but for Rory. The last thing he wanted to give Rory was instability. He wanted nothing more than a stable life for him, and Rory was more than deserving.
He thought he'd heard something, but ignored it. The sound of his beating heart drowned out everything, made everything else so irrelevant. All he could think about was this fucked up situation he was in, and the woman he wanted to make love to like there was no tomorrow.