Chapter 7

I'm sitting in front of my desk ready to pound my head on the keyboard when there's a knock at the study door. Every time I stand up my head begins to spin, so I take the lazy rout and yell for Helen to come in. I go back to looking up random facts about birds until Helen clears her throat and I turn around and see Leo. I roll my eyes and turn back to the screen with a sigh.

"Not to happy to see me I guess?" He says with a laugh as he scrapes a chair from by the fireplace to my desk.

"Not at all", I mutter under my breath as I scroll down the page of the majestic creatures in front of me. The dang novel is due in two months and I had yet to incorporate the bird theme.

Again I ask; really, birds?

"What are you doing?" Leo says as he tries to pier over my shoulder to see the screen. Automatically my defenses go up; I hate it when people look over my shoulder. It's been a pet peeve of mine since adolescence that got completely worse with age.

"Please stop trying to look over my shoulder", I say in a strained voice. I click to the next page and save a picture of an eagle swooning over her nest.

"Well can you tell me what you're doing?" He asks in a somewhat whiny voice. Frankly he's bothering me and acting like a child. I don't know if it's the fact that he kissed my head the other day that's bothering me or if I'm just in a foul mood. Helen has been hiding something from me and it's driving me crazy. Or maybe it's the fact that he thinks I'm a freak.

"I'm researching some information for a novel", I reply curtly. I look over my shoulder at him and cant help but lose the frown and lines I had embedded into my face since I began my research at nine this morning. Leo is leaned back in the chair, his eyes closed and his boyish brown hair tousled on his head. When I begin getting the strange urge to run my fingers through it and see just how soft it is, I turn back around.

"What kind of novel are you writing?" He asks softly. I know I'm not going to be able to get anything accomplished with him talking to me so I save my work and bookmark the page I'm on before turning around in my computer chair.

"It's suppose to be a romantic novel with an underlying bird theme." I say as I watch his eyes flutter under his closed lids.

"You write those trashy romance novels?" He asks, opening his eyes and staring deeply into my plain boring ones.

"I um", I stutter as I turn away from him with a light blush on my face. "I don't write erotica or anything if that's what you're asking. But I do write for a company that knows what they want and they pass it on to me." I can feel his eyes on me even though I'm not looking at him. His gaze feels like feathers gently rubbing over my body, It makes me sensitive and over aware of everything I feel. I tuck my legs under my butt and turn back to look at him in his silence.

"Why do you write them?" He asks, a puzzled look on his face. "Wouldn't you rather write what you want?"

"It's safer for me to have constant work, rather than looking for someone to publish my own writing. Plus if I didn't work for this company I might be expected to do book signing and things of that nature. I cant leave this house." I say, the last part and let out a tiny sigh. I look down at my hands, which haven't had a proper manicure in years. Not that I mind, considering I was never a girly girl, but I know my mother would disapprove of how raggedy I had let them get.

"I bet you were one of those lazy kids in high school that only did enough to get by?" He says, quirking a brow. I cant help but notice how sexy the act looks on him.

"No, actually I was the direct opposite." I say with a smug smile. "Maybe one day I'll look to find a different publisher, but for now this pays the bills."

Just as Leo was about to say something Helen pocked her head in the door and scolded at Leo. The paleness of her usual vibrate brown skin didn't go unnoticed by either of us. Leo looked at me with a mixture of anger and sudden tiredness.

"Hey ma", he said plastering a fake smile on his face. "How are you?"

"Leonardo, there is something making horrible sounds in that box you left in the front. Get it before I open it and have to beat you in the head." She scolded with mock anger. Leo let out a laugh so loud and roaring that Helen joined in that I couldn't help but laugh at the weirdness of it all. Leo stood up and walked out of the room with Helen shuffling behind him and muttering things in Spanish. I sat patiently wondering what was in the box. Soon my thoughts drifted back to my book and how I was going to incorporate everything into it. I already knew the basic plotline but the bird theme was really throwing me off.

"I have something for you", Leo said as he popped his head back into the study. A gentle glitter sparked in his eyes that had my heart pounding as loud as the drums in the Congo. "Close your eyes."

I obeyed and waited as I heard him come in the room and shut the door behind him. There was some scuffling and a tiny whimper before he told me to open my eyes and I was met with the most beautiful puppy I'd ever seen in my entire life. Tears sprang up in my eyes as I recognized the familiar golden fur of my mysterious guide during my mini concussion.

I reached into the cardboard box and brought the tiny dog into my arms and pressed him against my chest. I pressed my lips against his fur and laughed as he wiggled and let out a tiny bark.

"I made the right choice then?" Leo asked, snapping me from my trance. I placed the dog back inside the box. He let out a bark as he scuffled around, trying to get out.

"What are you talking about? I asked as I watched him run around trying to find an exit. He was so tiny and fluffy and cute and I couldn't wait to get a tag with his name on it.

"I was going to buy you some jewelry or something, but I decided on the dog at the last minute. Was it a good choice?"

I look up from the box at Leo with a frown on my face. His face is calmly composed as my confused eyes take him in to see if he's serious.

"Why would you be buying me jewelry?" I ask him. His eyes smile at me and he reaches over and takes my hand. My automatic response is to pull away from him, though it has nothing to do with him in particular. His eyes show the hurt of me pulling away from him, but only for a moment before he goes back to smiling and looking as if nothing is wrong.

He confuses me so much.

"I wanted to apologize for how I was treating you." He says with a shrug. The caring notion has gone out the window and fallen three stories to its death.

I shake my head. "No, if you wanted to say sorry you could have just said it, you didn't need to buy me anything." Against my protesting heart I push the box back towards him with a sigh. "You can take this back, I don't want him."

Leo pushed the box back towards me as the dog lies down on his paws and lets out a yawn. I watch as he closes his tiny eyes and drifts to sleep. I reach out and stroke his beautiful clean fur as soft as possible without waking him.

"You're lying I can tell you want this dog as much as I want to give him to you." I look up and smile.

"I love him already", I say. "I don't know how I'm going to pay you back for this, but I will." I pick him up softly and cuddle him in my arms.

"How about this?" Leo says making me look back up at him. "The same way you love that dog, love me one day."

I make a face at him and when I look in his eyes I can tell he's serious. My mind is screaming a thousand different things at me and telling me to be careful. However my mouth as a mind of its own. "Okay", I mutter looking down.

I don't know where that came from or why I even said it. I feel like I'm getting into something I shouldn't but I cant help it. Something about him entrances me and feel almost alive again.

Plus its nice to have more than two friends.

"I don't mean love me like I'm your pet, I mean love me enough to look at me in admiration and joy." He says as he reached over and tilts up my chin. I try and swallow past the lump in my throat, but it feels like I'm suffocating. I stare into his eyes and wait for him to release me and stop making me feel like a high school girl with her first crush.

"Okay", I mutter again, causing him to release me. I bask in the gentleness that has filled the room and made it feel more homey than it has in years.

"Can you tell me more about your book?" Leo asks softly. Maybe I'm not the only one that feel the change in the room. Maybe I'm not the only one that fears something will break the peace that has ascended over us and wrapped itself safely around us.

"Well, it's about a woman."

Leo lets out a tiny chuckle. "Well duh. I mean it's a romance novel."

I smile at him, "Well it could always be slash and I was just saying that to make you feel better." When Leo's face pales and he makes a face of morbid disgust, I let out a chuckle myself.

"Ugh, you've hurt my poor stomach." he clutches at his stomach for emphasizes.

"Anyway", I say rolling my eyes. "She's a woman who loves bird watching and lives in a New York. She knows all these useless facts about birds and one day she meets a guy and they fall in love."

Leo gives me the strangest look before he burst out laughing. "Wow, no offence but that sounds like a horrible novel."

"I haven't worked out all the details yet." I say with a huff. "It was just a basic foundation."

"If you say so." He says with a smile.

"What do you do for a living?" I ask curiously as I put Ryan the dog back inside the box and stand up to stretch,

"I'm an artist." He says proudly. He watches the space between my shirt and pants as I stretch and I feel the familiar flush come over my face as I finish and sit back down. My heart is pounding loudly in my chest. I haven't felt like this in a long time.

"Maybe one day you'll let me paint you."

"As long as I can be clothed", I reply with a laugh.

"I'll try and convince you otherwise later", he says as he stands up and presses a kiss to my forehead. He chuckles when I let out a shaky breath from the feel of his lips on my skin again before turning to go. I'm so stunned from a combination of his kiss and his words that I don't reply when he says bye and leaves the room.

"In your dreams", I retort lamely and far to late before I turn back to my computer and look up things for my book.