He’s infuriating on purpose.
She’s too irresistible when she hates him.
There’s a million reasons why I should stay far away from him, the most obvious of which being that I hate him with the fire of a thousand suns.
Except that I don’t hate him.
I sometimes wonder if this back-and-forth between us is all just pretend. All part of a diversion, a line of defense against the heat we generate whenever we are near each other.
It's a reckless game we're playing, treading the edge of an attraction so intense it might as well be a grenade.
I eat slowly, my ears focusing on any noises coming from down the hall.
Julia's door creaks open. Past the frame of the archway, I catch sight of her as she walks into her bathroom with a towel in hand. Her hair's in disarray and she's dressed in her typical morning attire, a t-shirt and tiny, wrinkled pajama shorts.
She disappears behind the door with an unmistakable sound of a lock clicking into place. The shower cuts on and I enjoy images of her naked body in my mind's eye as I eat my breakfast. The grogginess of sleep lifts as I wait, replaced by the energy of anticipation. It takes a while, but when the sounds of water running cut off, I stop eating and look up.
A squeak of the curtain moving against the rod. Silence follows for a few minutes as I wait, patiently. Finally, a shrill scream rips through the house.
Julia barges out of the bathroom, footsteps trampling the wooden floors. First, she storms past the kitchen entrance, apparently headed to my room, before doubling back when she realizes where I’m sitting. She's got one arm wrapped around her chest, securing the towel wrapped around her. In her other hand, she's clutching her deodorant, holding it up in the air between us. For a moment, she just stares at me, face flushed, looking too angry to speak.
"What did you do to my deodorant?" she demands, in a low, controlled voice.
She's holding her left arm up at a weird angle, trying to keep it from rubbing on her sides. Even from a distance, it would be clear that the thick white substance smeared there isn't deodorant.
"Huh?" I fix an innocent expression on my face, aware of the spoon of cereal halfway to my mouth.
She brings the bottle up to her nose and takes in a whiff of the disfigured stick of white. "Is this…oh my God. Is this cream cheese?"
I pull my head back. "That's disgusting, Julia," I say. "Why are you using dairy as deodorant?"
Her mouth presses into a tight line and she takes in a deep breath that hollows out the base of her throat. There are beams flying out of her eyes and not knowing what she's going to do next sends a thrill through me.
She points the deodorant at me like it's a weapon, and I think for a second she's going to hurl it in my direction. I prepare to dodge a blow, but instead, she says, with eerie calmness, "Two can play at this game, Giles. Consider this war."
She still doesn't realize she started this, a prank war with a prank war master.
I hold up the confused, innocent facade until she turns around again and storms back toward the bathroom. Then a smirk tugs at my lips.
If she really wants me to quit messing with her, she should stop being so damn hot when she's angry.
Veronica Larsen is a contemporary romance novelist who aims to write layered characters and compelling story-lines. Her romance novels are equal parts angst-driven and steamy. They tend to feature strong, but flawed female leads who keep their male counterparts on their toes. Veronica has a thirst for understanding the inner workings of character's minds, a curiosity propelled by her degree in psychology. She's an avid reader of all genres, coffee addict, and an unapologetic Potterhead.