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Just because Chevelle wanted to remain cooped up in the apartment all day, didn’t mean I did. Now that I knew we had a world to explore, it was great to be able to get out there and actually explore it. If I couldn’t do anything around the apartment, then I would go out for a run. I needed to move. I needed to do. Sitting around was not something I ever enjoyed.
In the closet were some sweatpants and a T-shirt I could work out in. Once I changed, I headed to the balcony.
“You’re going out?” Lara asked from the couch.
“For a little while. Like I said, there’s fresh air, might as well enjoy it.” I made sure to shoot a pointed look at Chevelle when I said it. She scoffed, but I think she was getting the idea. I couldn’t push her to leave the apartment, but we both knew that if she stayed inside every time she was upset that she was wasting time. Doing nothing. Giving up. Quitting.
Not like going for a jog would free us from our fancy prison. At least I was moving and seeing the world around me, trying to understand it. When I first dove into the Hollywood scene I experienced a lot of the same feelings: confusion, overwhelmed, anxiety, and determination. It was a lot like going to an alien world. And I learned fast that the only way to survive a new surrounding like this one, was to become a part of it. There were a lot of ways of making it appear as though you have adapted to new surroundings without actually changing anything about who you are. I’ve always likened myself to an iguana in that regard.
I stretched in the elevator on the way down, or started to. After taking a few minutes in the grass to finish my stretches, I started down the paved path around the garden. Moving was a release. I got lost in the air blowing past me and how it cooled my sweat. Refreshing. All I needed was my music, but that was in my backpack down in the basement of the mall still, no doubt. Unless the police found it and gave it to my parents or sold it to the media, of course.
Music. I loved getting lost in it. Instead, I had to make due with singing my favorite songs in my head, hoping I could remember the lyrics right. Anytime I sing a song in my head, I tend to repeat the same lines over and over again while forgetting the rest. It never quite sounds the same. Eventually, the words spill out of my brain through my mouth. It’s hard for me to think about music without singing along.
“I haven’t heard that one for a while,” a female voice called out from inside the garden.
Startled, I tripped over my own two feet. Thankfully, I was able to catch myself before eating the pavement, so to speak. Walking toward me was a tall, blonde, woman who had to be in her late teens or early twenties. Close to my age. Pretty, but not what I would call a super model. Yet, something about the way she moved suggested she had more confidence than one. There was power in her strides and in the sway of her narrow hips.
I kept my legs moving, not wanting to lose the feel of the burn in them or let them rest for too long. “Huh?” I asked.
“You were singing a song I haven’t heard in a while,” she repeated. “It was nice. You have a nice voice, too.”
I offered a weak smile. I’d been hoping nobody was around to listen. She wasn’t just blowing smoke when she said I had a nice singing voice, I did, but it wasn’t a talent I enjoyed broadcasting. Mostly because I wanted to keep it for myself. Only my family and Talia knew that I liked to do it, that I craved to do more with music in general. At the same time, I didn’t want to be one of those actors who tried to break out into more than one realm and then fail. Not too many people could make the crossover and be successful in both areas. And I’ll admit, it was nice to have something for myself. There are few things in life that are just mine.
My silence must have surprised the woman because she arched a finely plucked eyebrow. “You’re not even going to thank me for the compliment?”
“Sorry,” I mumbled. “Yes, thank you. I just haven’t heard it often, I guess. Wasn’t expecting anyone to be around in general.”
She laughed in a condescending tone that I knew all too well. Then she asked the question I was dreading to hear. “Do I know you from somewhere? You’re awfully familiar.”
“Can’t say that we’ve met before. I definitely wouldn’t forget you,” I said, trying to remain coy.
Perhaps the charm was laid on a little too thick because she was smirking at me and giving me the bedroom eyes. She was undressing me with them. I could tell because her gaze wandered over my chest and she probably noticed my T-shirt was a little too small. The sweat on it made it cling to me and it was uncomfortable as hell, but I’ll be damned if I was going to let her get a free show. Then her gaze went lower, like down there, lower. I understand all too well sometimes why girls don’t like guys oogling over them all the time. Women could be just as degrading. My horror stories are plentiful.
I gestured upward. “My eyes are up here you know.”
Bad joke, but hopefully the point got across. Anything above my waist I could handle. When a girl decides to check out the junk, well, that’s when it gets awkward.
She brought one her hands to her chin. “My turn to apologize. I hadn’t realized I was staring. Hard not to.”
“Thanks,” I said stiffly. Mostly because I was concerned she’d give me another scolding if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that she was hitting on me.
“I suppose you’re claimed,” she said.
“Claimed?” I asked. Then it dawned on me. Chevelle and the Achlivans crazy plan for us to breed. I quickly laughed. “Oh, yeah, I got someone.”
“Pity, because I don’t, or I won’t soon.”
Don’t show her that she intimidates you. I hate being weak. Something about her made me nervous. Okay, not something, the way she so openly disrespected me made me nervous.
Trying to stay polite, I simply nodded and smiled and nodded some more. “I’m gonna finish my run and head back. Got things to do. The lady hates it when I’m late.” I offered a small wave, hoping it would sell the whole performance in a believable way.
She folded her arms in front of her chest, still checking me out. “You don’t even want to know my name first? Who taught you, your manners?”
“Pardon me for saying this, miss, but you haven’t exactly been all too polite with me,” I said, trying my hardest to not show how much I was seething inside. Her jaw dropped, and I shrugged. “I’m just saying.”
Stepping forward, she thrust her hand out in front of her. “We obviously got off on the wrong foot. There haven’t been newcomers here for a while. I’m Rumor. Yes, my parents were a little weird when they decided to name me.” She rolled her eyes.
Cautiously, I shook her hand. “Tim…”
It wasn’t a lie. There are some people who call me that. It’s a nickname of mine, and the one I used back home for reservations so I didn’t get stalked all of the time.
Her grip was firm, a little too much for comfort. “You still look familiar Tim.”
“So long as you don’t accompany that with a cheesy pick-up line, I don’t mind.” I forced a smile, this time making no effort to hide that I was doing so. Boundaries needed to be established, pronto.
“I wouldn’t dream of it.” She batted her long lashes. “But I will figure out why, you can be sure of that. Until then, I hope to see you again soon. Enjoy your run.”
I tugged myself free of her iron grip and pressed onward on my jog, adding more speed, and not looking back once.