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Unwritten Rules

M.A. Stacie

  First published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop, 2011

  Copyright © M.A. Stacie, 2011

  The right of M.A. Stacie to be identified and the author of this work has been asserted by her under the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000

  This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part maybe reproduced, copied, scanned, stored in a retrieval system, recorded or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

  The Writer’s Coffee Shop

  (Australia) PO Box 2013 Hornsby Westfield NSW 1635

  (USA) PO Box 2116 Waxahachie TX 75168

  Paperback ISBN - 978-1-61213-022-4

  Paperback ISBN - 978-1-61213-022-4

  E-book ISBN - 978-1-61213-023-1

  A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the US Congress Library.

  Cover image by: Sophieso

  Cover design by: Jennifer McGuire

  M. A. Stacie has tried out a few different jobs, never quite finding the right fit. After her second son was born, she discovered writing. While then being a needed outlet, she now feels rather unproductive if she hasn’t written something each day.

  M. A. Stacie is a voracious reader, much to her husband’s annoyance, because books all are over the house. When she is not reading or writing, she enjoys knitting, listening to loud music and playing the Wii with her two sons. M. A. Stacie is a native of Manchester, U.K. and continues to live there with her husband and children.

  For my three amazing men.

  Without your patience this would not have happened.

  For Maylin, my bottled positivity.

  I saw him every day.

  I watched. I wondered.

  I saw him each morning when I returned from my run as he collected his mail from the metal slots in the foyer.

  My brain processed his actions and mannerisms without me even realizing it. I knew it would take numerous tries before he could get the key into the lock. His cheeks would tinge pink in embarrassment. He wouldn’t utter a word or make eye contact.

  Each day we stood almost shoulder to shoulder, occupying the same space, breathing the same air, but we remained strangers. I didn’t even know the color of his eyes. He intrigued me. He wouldn’t look my way; his hair obscured my view of his face. The redness to the back of his neck was all that gave away his nervousness as he quickly collected his mail before disappearing back up to his apartment.

  I asked some of the people that lived in our apartment building, wondering if any of the other residents knew about him, but the information was limited. Mrs.

  Kindle, who lived in the apartment across from mine, told me he’d lived in this building longer than she had. She moved here just over two years, and in all that time she hadn’t heard him speak a single word. She was convinced he was mute.

  Two mornings ago I’d discovered that she was wrong.

  He had said, “Hi.”

  His voice had been the perfect pitch to get my heart pounding. It was a reaction I was thoroughly ashamed of. He’d spoken one word, and I’d acted like a teenager, blushing and stuttering. I hadn’t even managed to get two actual words out before he turned and fled back upstairs.

  Then yesterday, I was positive his lips had curled into a small smile when he saw me approach the wall full of metal mailboxes. I retrieved my mail and turned to talk to him, but he’d already gone. His feet were just as silent as the rest of him.

  Though our interactions were odd, I looked forward to them, and Sundays became my least favorite day of the week.

  There was no mail.

  I shook my head free of my musings, panting from the exertion of the jog as I entered the building. I hunched over and rested my hands on my knees as I tried to catch my breath. My red curls flopped in front of my face, sticking to my sweat dampened skin. I’d woken up late and pounded through my run with alarming speed, all so I could get back here in time for my elusive neighbor’s daily appearance.

  I stood, trying to check myself out in the glass of the front door. From what I could see, I didn’t look as exhausted as I felt. There weren’t any wet patches on my tight top and shorts, but just to make sure I looked decent, I pulled the elastic tie from my hair and let it tumble around my shoulders. Nerves swirled low in my stomach as I realized just how creepy it would be for him to find me waiting around the mailboxes. I opted to do some small stretches, hoping the breeze flowing through the front door would tone down the blush on my cheeks.

  All the while I waited.

  I paced the hallway, checking my watch on each return step. I was thankful there was no one else around to view my wanton foolishness. The fact that I had been waiting for fifteen minutes, just to check someone out while they collected their mail, would get me locked up. The police had a name for people who did that.

  On that thought, I felt it.

  It started out as a small tingle across my skin, as if my hairs were all standing at attention upon his arrival. My heart thundered in my chest, and my palms began to sweat as I reached out to open my mailbox. He came to stand beside me, heat radiating off his skin. The tang of his cologne filled my nostrils, making me light-headed. I had to resist the urge to inhale deeply; to rest my head on his shoulder and revel in the scent at the crook of his neck.

  Oh God, help me!

  My hand shook as I flicked through the envelopes in an attempt to prolong my time with him. I was pathetic; this was pathetic. Words failed me. My inability to speak to him threw me off kilter. I’d never struggled to speak to anyone like I struggled with him.

  I turned toward him, taking in his profile. He hadn’t shaved, so his chiseled jaw was rough with stubble. His shaggy, dark-brown hair was wet as if he had just showered. I noticed a hole in the lobe of his ear; a piercing with no jewelry. This didn’t surprise me, because a few weeks ago he was wearing a sleeveless T-shirt. I found myself salivating at the two inked stars he had flashed on each collarbone.

  I swallowed, my body responding to his closeness, as he startled me by clearing his throat. I froze.

  Would today be the day he finally introduced himself to me?

  It wasn’t as if I didn’t know his name. During one of my chats with Mrs. Kindle, she had kindly let it slip that his name was Jonah Quinn. How she knew anything about him was a mystery, being he never talked to anyone.

  Jonah Quinn.

  I smiled as I repeated his name in my head and had the stupidest of smiles on my face as he turned his head. I would have been thoroughly embarrassed when he turned to stare at me, had I not been transfixed on his eyes.


  They were blue. The eyes that I had only imagined were the clearest azure I’d ever seen and, before I could stop it, a sigh escaped my lips. Mortification flooded my system as his eyes went wide in shock. In an instant, his back was to me as he ascended the stairs. Kicking myself, I tried to think of something to say. I wanted to stop him.

  “I’m Elle, by the way,” I finally blurted out before he disappeared.

  My heart stopped, and I hung my head in shame. “I know.”

  I froze, holding my breath. I wasn’t even sure he’d spoken, but I hoped he would continue. After five minutes of waiting, he had still not returned. I was panting and completely mortified by my actions. I wasn’t a child. I’d propositioned my fair share of men in the past. So why the hell couldn’t I talk to Jonah without stuttering or blushing?

  I stomp
ed my feet on the floor, berating myself as I stalked upstairs. I couldn’t even bring myself to look Mrs.

  Kindle in the eyes when I saw her standing outside her apartment. She was holding a bag of kitty treats and waving them at me. I thought about opening the front door and pretending I hadn’t seen her. I just could not been that cruel.

  “I bought these for Meow, honey.”

  I plastered a fake smile on my face, graciously accepting them. She meant well and had a fondness for my black cat. She often bought him fresh fish from the market, not the cheaper cuts either. I’m not sure if she had family in the area as I never saw anyone come by, so whenever she stopped me in the hallway I made sure to give her some of my time.

  “Meow will love them, but you’re spoiling him. He’s going to get fat.”

  “Nonsense,” she said, brushing the comment off with a flick of her hand. “It’s not like I have anyone else to treat.”

  She looked down at her floral dress, smoothing the fabric for want of something else to do. Hurt laced her words, and the ever present sympathy I felt for her began to surface. I reached out and patted her shoulder.

  “Well, Mrs. Kindle, I know Meow will adore them.

  Thank you.”

  I pushed at the door, waving goodbye and strode into my apartment. I tossed my keys on the small glass table next to the door, and pulled off the armband that held my iPod. It clunked on the glass top and right away Meow started to make himself known. He prowled across the wood floor, his tail twitching in greeting, as he purred loudly.

  “Hello, Puss,” I crooned, picking him up by scooping him up underneath his fat belly.

  He nuzzled my neck, calming me in his own little way, as I walked across to my PC and turned it on. I needed to shower and get to work. I had two clients waiting on beta versions of the sites they were paying me to design, though I wasn’t sure how I’d concentrate after my altercation with Jonah. My body still hummed with an ache I hadn’t felt in a long time.

  I dropped Meow on the floor, and picked up my cell, dialing my mom’s number. After moving to New York from Cape Cod fourteen months ago, I still hadn’t gotten used to not seeing her every day. I missed her terribly but knew I needed to carve my own path. Our morning phone calls brought me solace.

  “Morning, baby,” my Mom’s gentle voice floated through the line.

  I smiled, feeling better at the sound of her voice. I couldn’t talk to her about Jonah, I had my best friend J.J. for that. J.J. would never pass up a good gossip session. She was a makeup artist and spent most of her day chatting with models about their love lives. Talking to my mom about something so new wasn’t an option for me, though a conversation about what she would buy from the store today would do just fine.

  “Hey, Momma. How’s your morning?”

  She proceeded to tell me about what the paperboy had done, how Mr. Lomas had purchased a new horse, and that the local store had employed a new cashier who did nothing but chat. I could imagine her sitting in her floral armchair, gazing out onto the beach as the sea breeze ruffled her curly hair. A wave of homesickness knocked the air from my lungs, causing me to gasp.

  Thankfully, my mom didn’t notice. She was still going on about the happenings in our small town.

  I closed my eyes, letting her cadence ease my longing, but something else distracted me from my thoughts. Music had begun to play upstairs, floating down from Jonah’s apartment and into mine.

  He didn’t tend to play his guitar in the morning; it was normally his piano. I was somewhat ashamed that I knew so much about him. J.J. had reasoned I was just being observant. I knew better. I wanted to know more now that he admitted he knew my name.

  My mom talked away while I allowed the muffled chords of Jonah’s guitar float around me. Even with the ceiling between us I felt connected to him. It was as if he played just for me; my own personal concert and I lapped it up. He was very talented. I would’ve liked to have seen him play-- to stand in front of him and watch his fingers, as they plucked at the strings. Just thinking of the possibility made me shiver, and though I’d never been one to be attracted to musicians in the past, I understood the allure.

  “Elle, did you hear me? Are you still there?”

  “Sorry, Mom, guess I’m more exhausted after my run than I thought. Can I call you back after I take a shower?”

  “Well, it would be better if I call you later. I need to go to the store. I hope I don’t get little Miss Chatterbox. You go and rest, baby. I love you.”

  “Love you too, Mom.”

  I ended the call and closed my eyes, letting Jonah’s soft music envelope me. It sounded as if he was sad; the notes haunting as they floated through the floor of his apartment into mine. He didn’t know it, but most mornings I would take a moment and drink my coffee as he played a private concert on his piano for me. I could sense his moods by the style of music he played, more so when he was playing the piano. I wondered if he even knew I listened, let alone sensed his sadness. Would he stop playing if he found out?

  I’d briefly entertained the idea that he must be a musician, but he rarely left his apartment. What kind of musician didn’t play to an audience?

  I shook my head, deciding I couldn’t spend all morning thinking of the gorgeous guy upstairs, and started for the bathroom. I was far too consumed with thoughts of Jonah Quinn. I needed a distraction. I needed to get laid.

  Jonah and getting laid? Today was going to be a long day.

  I stripped off my clothes and stepped under the cool spray, accepting that my lack of sexual release had to be the reason for my fixation on my neighbor. The moment the water began to sluice down my breasts all I could think of was Jonah’s hands doing the same. They’d be rougher than the water, calloused from his playing, but they would float across the swell of my breasts with as much grace. I tipped my head back, wetting my hair, as I wondered how his lips would feel on the hollow of my throat. Would he nibble when he kissed? Would he lick the droplets of water from my flesh, or would he be too busy devouring my mouth?

  My breath hitched as more and more pictures of Jonah dominating me in the shower raced into my consciousness. My temperature rose. I made the water cooler in hopes it would snap me back to the present.

  However, each time I closed my eyes I saw his blues ones, and my abdomen clenched in arousal. My reaction to him was intense in the extreme. Never once, in my thirty years, had I ever had such need burning through me. Each time I saw him it seemed to escalate. He’d shown no signs of returning the attraction. ’It was a one-sided crush like those I’d had on TV or movie stars when I was younger, the kind that are better with distance.

  Jonah may turn out to be a disappointment in reality.

  I scrubbed my skin with vigor, trying to cleanse all traces of my daydreams, but it didn’t work. I was still hot, and my skin still tingled for his touch. It was a masochistic addiction, because I couldn’t see myself ever getting a fix.

  He was just too shy. I could be my usual forward self, but that would just scare him away. I knew I should just draw a line under it and forget him. I snorted, knowing I was only fooling myself if I thought that was going to happen. There was something about Jonah that intrigued me; an invisible pull to know him.

  J.J. told me once to knock on his door and introduce myself, and honestly, with anyone else I would have, yet I couldn’t do it with him. It frustrated me. I tried to ignore it as I dressed and strolled back to my PC. I had work to do, and obsessing about my infatuation wouldn’t help me meet my deadline. So, in the interest of keeping a roof over my head, I put my glasses on and focused.

  My job was made that bit easier when Jonah stopped playing.

  When Jonah stopped playing, I missed it immediately. I groaned to myself as I realized I’d only managed to go two minutes without thinking about my blue-eyed neighbor.

  My crush was reaching epic proportions, and I was pretty sure there was only one cure.

  Sex with Jonah.

  I tossed my cell wi
th force onto my desk and growled. A disgruntled customer was something I could do without today. I’d barely slept last night, and not because of anything interesting. Since the incident in the hallway, my thoughts had been consumed with Jonah. It was ridiculous. I had a job to do, but I couldn’t clear his image from my head.

  I had tried calling my mom, knowing she’d help me to forget. It turned out I interrupted her weekly book club.

  I promised it was nothing important and that I would call her back later. I’d then sent a text to J.J., hoping she was working. If she was busy putting makeup on models then she couldn’t laugh at me for being so childish.

  I picked up my coffee and stared out of the window. I needed a night out. I needed hot sex with a guy I’d never see again.

  What I needed was a sexorcism.

  It had worked when Nathan and I split up. I was certain it would work now. I giggled, I hadn’t even come close to kissing Jonah, and yet, I was comparing him to Nathan.

  I sipped the hot brew wondering where I could drag J.J. to tonight, and more importantly, what I could wear that would get me noticed. It had never been an issue before because my red hair was like a beacon. After a guy noticed that, all it took was some tight clothing and he was hooked; mine for the night. I wanted that tonight. I craved the release.

  My fingers began moving across my keyboard, clicking onto clothing websites to get some ideas. I was browsing tight black dresses when I realized I was humming.

  Jonah was playing his guitar again.

  My body went into overdrive, every sense focusing on where Jonah was in his apartment and what he was playing. I was no longer interested in the clothes or going out to cleanse my mind and ease my libido. At least not with a random guy, because it was too late for that. I was a goner, hooked on Jonah Quinn.

  I cradled the mug in my hands, closing my eyes and letting his haunting music surround me. I was becoming addicted to the soothing sounds. I no longer turned on my iPod; I didn’t need to. Jonah continued to play his concerts for me, only he didn’t know it. The melody would encompass me and take me along on whatever journey Jonah chose. I was getting used to certain songs and would hum along with his strumming. I’d even hummed one to J.J., hoping it was a song I could download onto my iPod, but she just laughed. She’d insisted the song I’d relayed to her was from a cartoon, continuing to giggle until I couldn’t stand it anymore.