Dreams No More
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I stepped out of my Camry, popping the trunk as I did. I was arriving home a little later than normal today as I’d stopped by the store for milk and the rest of my semi-weekly shopping. As I raised the trunk lid the man that lived in 301 rounded the corner, running in my direction. He was still moving at a good clip and it was hard not to stare. I sometimes noticed him running from my bedroom or living room window, but when I did, he was on one of the many roads that weaved their way through the apartment complex, there was only a narrow gap between apartment buildings where I could see him, and he was too far away for a good look. Less often he was running when I returned home from work, but again, because I was driving, I couldn’t study his physique in the way I wanted. This time it was different. Shirtless and wearing running shorts, his well-developed chest, arms, and legs were on clear display. Making it even harder to not stare was the fact he was dripping with sweat… a long-time kink of mine.
I rounded the final corner into the parking lot that fronted our group of three apartment buildings. The woman that lived in 303 was just opening the trunk on her car and she paused when she noticed me. I couldn’t help my smile as she took a bit too long to turn away to begin pulling plastic bags from her car. This was my chance. I’d been living in my apartment for several years, but she’d moved in only three or four months ago, and though we’d engaged in the idle chit-chat of passing neighbors, I wanted an excuse to do more… without appearing like a creeper. I put on a burst of speed, trying to close the distance before she completely unloaded her car.
It was apparent that I was going to have to make at least two trips, so I returned a bag from each hand to the trunk to lighten my load. I was turning from my car when my neighbor pounded to a stop.
“Need some help?” he panted.
“Thanks, but that’s okay. I don’t want to interrupt your run,” I replied.
“Then you’re in luck. I just finished.”
I’d wanted to do more than mumble greetings to the man since I moved in, and I’d even been scheming to have him over to help me with some minor problem to break the ice, but this was a perfect opportunity and didn’t require any deviousness. “Are you sure you don’t mind?”
“Not if you don’t mind that I’m all sweaty.”
I grinned. The only thing I minded was I hadn’t helped him get that way. “How can you not be in this heat?” I asked.
“Good thing it’s a dry heat,” he replied as he took the bags from my hands, added three more to each hand from the trunk, leaving me to manage only three bags… and the light ones at that. “Of course, so is an oven.”
I snickered at his teasing, liking how the muscles in his arms and chest bulged as he hefted the bags. “Thank you,” I said as I slammed the trunk lid and pressed the button on the car’s fob to lock it.
I followed her up the flights of steps to the third, and top, floor. I’d picked up enough bags to ensure we could make it one trip, and if I was honest with myself, to try to impress her a little by carrying most of the weight. The bags were damned heavy, but I refused to show any strain.
“I’m sorry, but I’ve forgotten you name. Is it Breanne or Breanna?”
“Breanna. Breanna Walcott.” She looked uncomfortable. “I’m sorry… but…”
I grinned at her embarrassment. “Mark. Mark Hosey. I’d offer to shake your hand, but…” I shrugged the bags.
I paused in front of my apartment, the misters, fans, and shade making the temperature bearable. Fussing with the three bags, I fumbled with my keys before I shoved the dark-red metal door wide.
“Do you mind setting them on the counter?” I asked to invite him in.
I smiled to myself as Mark briefly angled away from the kitchen out of habit before adjusting his path. When he reached the kitchen, he grunted softly as he lifted the bags, the muscles in his chest, arms, and back rippling with effort. He gently lowered the plastic bags as I corralled them so they wouldn’t fall over or slip off the counter.
“I can’t thank you enough,” I said as he released the bags and stepped back.
“Always glad to help a neighbor.”
As I’d climbed the steps, I’d decided to ask him for one more favor. One of my three-way lamps worked on only one setting. I knew it was the bulb, something I could easily fix myself, but I’d been saving it as an excuse to ask him over. Now I didn’t have to pretend to be helpless because I really did have a problem.
“Would you mind terribly if I imposed on you a bit more?”
“Not eryaman genç escort at all,” I replied, eager to help her in any way I could.
“Last week my disposer quit working. I called the management company but I haven’t heard back from them yet. Would you mind taking a quick look at it?”
“Sure,” I said. “What’s wrong with it?”
Breanna shrugged. “It won’t run.”
I stepped past her, being careful not to touch her, and flipped the switch. Nothing happened. “It worked before?” I asked.
I nodded slowly. “I have an idea of what to check, but I’m a mess. If it’s okay, I’ll go grab a shower so I don’t get sweat all over the place, then I’ll come back and see what I can do.”
“Are you sure you don’t mind? I can wait on the maintenance guys. It’s no problem.”
“Not a bit. If it’s something simple, I’ll take care of it. If I can’t figure it out, or it has to be replaced, they can still come out.”
“Thank you. You’re so very kind.”
This was as good an opening as I was going to get so I decided to take the plunge. “Afterwards, would you like to join me for dinner?”
A rush of excitement washed over me with Mark’s invitation. “Thank you, but I should be cooking for you.”
He grinned. “See, here’s the thing. I set out some of my world-famous spaghetti sauce to thaw last night, so all I’ll have to do is cook the spaghetti. You’re just getting home.” His smile spread. “I’ll run next door and shower while you put your stuff away, then I’ll come back, wave my hands over the disposer, and then you can join me for dinner. Quick, easy, and no fuss.”
“World-famous, huh?” I asked with a smile of my own.
“My grandmother’s recipe… and she was Italian. It makes a ton, so I always have some in the freezer.”
I paused. “Can I bring the wine?”
“It’s a date. I’ll be back in fifteen minutes or so to see about your disposer.”
“You’re sure you don’t mind?” I asked, hoping he wasn’t using the shower as an excuse to get away.
“Not a bit.”
I smiled again. “Okay, I’ll see you then… and thank you for helping with my groceries… my disposer… and dinner,” I said as I escorted him to the door.
I closed the door behind him, unable to wipe the smile from my face. He was so damned sexy. I wondered if the line about his grandmother being Italian was a stretch. With his sandy-blonde hair and blue eyes he didn’t look like the stereotypical Italian man, and Hosey sound more English than Italian to me, but I didn’t care. If he was preparing me dinner, I’d eat bottled spaghetti sauce and enjoy the hell out of it.
Still smiling, I returned to the kitchen and began putting my groceries away.
I paused in the kitchen to poke at the gallon bag of sauce I’d put in the refrigerator last night before I went to bed. It was completely thawed and ready to reheat. Leaving my keys on the kitchen counter, I hurried to the bathroom.
I wasted no time starting the water and stepping into the enclosure. As I lathered and scrubbed, I made sure to throttle my expectations. I was going to fix her disposer, if I could, then we were going to have dinner, and that might be it. I’d welcome more, if she wanted it, but I wasn’t going to push her. I’d never tried to coerce a woman in my life, and I wasn’t going to start with her.
I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was about Breanna that I found so appealing, but her draw on me was more powerful than any women I could remember. With her deep black hair, large brown eyes, and lush body, any man that didn’t find her attractive had to be dead. But more than the way she looked was her voice. Soft and slow, with a pronounced southern accent I’d noticed the first time I spoke to her, I could listen to her talk for hours, and I was hoping to do just that tonight. I didn’t know where she was from, but we didn’t get many Georgia Peaches here in Tucson.
Finished with my shower, I quickly dried, brushed my hair and teeth, and shaved—just in case—and dressed in my work pants and shirt. I was dressing like it was a date without looking like I was dressing for a date. Satisfied with my appearance, I hurried from the bathroom, pausing to stuff a couple of condoms into my pants pocket from their box in the bedside table—just in case—grabbed my keys in passing, and then walked the sixty feet or so to her apartment.
When I opened my door, Mark was standing there wearing kaki Dockers and a bright blue polo with TEP under a yellow swoosh of Tucson Electric Power on the left breast. The shirt was damned sexy because the color looked good on him, but even better, the stretchy fabric clung to his chest and arms in a most appearing away.
“A little over dressed ankara escort bayan for fixing a garbage disposal, aren’t you?” I teased, liking the way he flushed.
“It’s comfortable,” he said with a shrug as I closed the door behind him.
I followed him into the kitchen. He again flipped the switch, but just like before, nothing happened. He turned the switch off, opened the doors under the sink as he removed his phone from his pocket, and then stretched out on the floor. Using the light on his phone, he peered at the device a moment before touching it.
“Try it now,” he said, still lying on his back.
I turned on the water and flipped the switch. I heard a brief buzz then a snap. “That’s what it did the last time,” I said as I turned off the water.
“I think I know the problem. Switch off?”
He flashed the light around under the sink before he pulled an L-shaped tool from somewhere, stuck it in the bottom of the disposer, and then with a soft grunt, spun it around. He removed the tool, touched the bottom of the disposer again, and then nodded.
“Try it now.”
I turned on the water anew and flipped the wall mounted switch. The machine began to snarl and gargle as it ground up the food waste I’d pushed into it before I realized it had stopped working.
“It works! What was wrong with it?”
“Something was jammed and it was tripping the overload breaker,” he said as he reached back under the sink, my heart leaping with fear that the disposer running would hurt him somehow, but before I could switch it off, he pulled his hand back and stood. “That’s wasn’t so bad.”
“Thank you. Thank you so much,” I said as I turned the disposer off. I turned it on again, and when it began to run, I returned the switch to the down position.
“Ready for dinner?” he asked.
“Are you sure I can’t cook for you? Can I pay you?”
He chuckled. “No and no. What did it take… two minutes?”
“Well… I at least owe you a dinner.”
He smiled. “Careful… I might take you up on that. Shall we?” he asked, motioning at the door.
“Let me get the wine.”
I waited as she pulled the wine from the freezer. “It wasn’t cold,” she explained.
“No problem. We’ll pop it in the freezer so it can continue to chill while I heat the sauce and cook the spaghetti.”
I opened her door for her while quickly glancing around the apartment to get a better sense of her. Breanna’s apartment was a mirror of mine, so the kitchens and baths shared a wall, and it sported the same cream and earth tones of my space. Her furniture appeared to be well made, the chair and sofa in a color that couldn’t decide if it was brown, taupe, or tan, with splashy, colorful throw pillows in a jumble to add color. On the walls were large white prints that may have had dark brown flowers on them, or maybe the flowers were simply abstract patterns, I couldn’t decide. A stark white table supported a large television, and plants filled the room. The room was attractive, feminine, and decorated with taste. I liked it.
She locked the door behind me before I led her to my apartment. Opening the door, I entered then held the door for her, closing it behind her. “Make yourself comfortable,” I said as I gently pulled the wine bottle from her hand.
She followed me to the kitchen, watching as I placed the wine in the freezer before I turned to my small pantry where I pulled out my canister of spaghetti. Setting it aside, I reached reaching under my cabinet and pulling out a large pot.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked.
“Nope. I’ve got it.”
“So you work for Tucson Electric?” she asked as I went about the task of meal preparation.
“Yes. I’m an engineer for them.”
“That sounds interesting.”
I grinned. I could tell she didn’t know any more now than she did before she asked her question. “When someone, usually commercial, needs new or upgraded electrical service, I make sure the system can handle it, design or spec any upgrades, and then inspect the work to make sure it was done right.”
“Yeah. It really torques people off when we flip the switch and it knocks out power for the entire neighborhood.”
“Has that ever happened?”
I grinned. “Not to me.” She snickered. “Where do you work?”
“Banner… I work in the Imaging lab.”
“X-Ray or MRI?”
“MRI. I’m one of the techs. You been there?”
“No, thank God.”
I watched as Mark warmed the spaghetti sauce, heated the water for the noodles, buttered bread, and prepared our salads. He clearly was comfortable in the kitchen, working with swift sure strokes as he ripped lettuce and sliced tomato and eggs for our salads, no motion or time wasted, all the while carrying on sincan escort a conversation with me.
His apartment was masculine without being a cave, filled with rich brown leather furniture that was robustly built with simple lines, and he had bold, tasteful artwork on the walls in whites, greys, and blues, with small splashes of butter yellow. A large area rug in greys and blues softened and complimented the hardwoods, and I decided I needed to try to find something similar for my own apartment. The dominate feature of the room was the largest television I’d ever seen, flanked by shelves stuffed with books.
“How long have you lived in Tucson?” he asked as he carried our two salads to the table that shared his kitchen space. Like the rest of his furniture, it was elegant and flowing, with simple lines and rounded corners.
“About four months.”
“Where were you before that?”
“Accent that bad, huh?” I asked with a grin as I dialed my drawl up to 110%. “Alabama.”
“Actually, I like it.”
“Really? Most people hear my accent and think I’m a redneck hick. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard ‘Run, Forrest’ or ‘My momma always said life is like a box of chocolates’ since I’ve moved out here.”
He grinned. “Well, I like it, and you’re clearly not some dumb hick if you run an MRI.”
“Why thank you, kind sir,” I said, pushing my accent to full again.
“Ready?” he asked as he pulled the wine from the freezer and began to twist in the corkscrew.
He paused his work on the bottle to hold my chair as I sat, making my heart flutter a bit. Pulling the cork, he poured two glasses and then sat down across from me.
“What brings you to Arizona?” I asked.
“New job… and wanting a new start.” I said nothing, not sure how to respond to that. Breanna smiled, but it was slightly sad. “My marriage… as they say… had reached its natural end.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
She shrugged. “It was nothing he did… nothing I did. We… just grew apart. We did the whole counseling, and trial separation thing, but after a couple of years of that, I think we both knew it was over and decided it would be better for both of us if we went our separate ways. What about you?” she asked, clearly changing the subject. “Ever been married?”
“No. Thought about it once, but… I think we both knew it wouldn’t work out. Our relationship was… volatile. When the times were good, they were great, but then they weren’t so good, we were like oil and water. She wanted to fight, and I wanted to calmly talk stuff out.” I shrugged. “She would accuse me of not caring because I didn’t get mad and yell, and I thought she could be a drama queen.” I grinned to soften my statement. “Making up was fun, though.”
“So she was high maintenance?”
I rocked my head side to side. “I wouldn’t say that. Passionate would be a better word. She let little things get to her until she just exploded, but after she got it out of her system, she was fine again.”
“At least you had passion,” she said softly. “That was what was missing from our marriage. We were living like roommates, and either of us seemed to care.”
I said nothing, but her husband—her ex-husband I reminded myself—must have been an idiot. I knew practically nothing about Breanna, but there was one thing I did know… she’d have never doubted my desire for her, and there’d have been so much passion we’d have brought a whole new meaning to the term ‘bedridden.’
“The spaghetti should be about ready,” he said as he rose. I started to rise with him, but he waved me back to my chair. “I’ve got it. Keep your seat.”
He’d started the noodles cooking as we ate our salads, and now, as I watched, he quickly poured off the water, dipped the noodles with a special pronged spoon, and then ladled sauce over the top before adding a thick slice of bread from the oven. He placed the dish in front of me, then returned to the stove to repeat the process for himself.
As he worked, I couldn’t help but imagine him and the woman he considered marrying working off her pent-up anger with him in the bedroom. If I were married to him, with the way he looked, I’d pick a fight every day just so we could make up. I smiled to myself. Maybe we’d even skip the fight and go straight to making up.
I mentally crossed my fingers as he sat down with his own plate. “Do you still see her?”
He raised his glass, I did the same, and we touched them together. “No. Kind of like you, we decided we were better apart than together.”
He was watching me. “Nothing to be sorry for,” he said, but continued to watch me.
He smiled. “I waiting to see how you like my world famous spaghetti.”
“Oh!” I snickered as I began twirling my fork.
I popped the bite into my mouth then paused, savoring the flavors before I chewed slowly, an involuntary smile caressing my lips. I’d been prepared to eat bottled sauce and pretend it was terrific, but there was no reason to pretend.
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