Windows In Time [MultiFormat]
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eBook by M. Jules Aedin
eBook Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
eBook Description: Fate added injury to insult when Jonah Sellers's live-in boyfriend left him: while moving out his ex's belongings, Jonah fell down the stairs and broke his leg. Now his house is a prison, and he's working from home while his sister checks up on him. The only diversion in Jonah's routine is catching the odd glimpse of a man in the apartment across the way taking off his clothes in front of the window. But then Jonah is distracted by Liam Brooks, the nurse his sister sends over when she goes on vacation. As they dance around their growing attraction, Jonah and Liam begin to wonder about the man in the window. Why is he always dressed in the same clothes? Why is he there one minute and not the next? How is it that he lives in an old woman's apartment? It's while trying to answer these questions that they stumble across a fifty-year-old missing persons case they can't resist trying to solve.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, Published: 2009, 2009
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2009
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75 Reader Ratings:
...an enjoyable read full of suspense and steamy erotic play with a tiny dose of action to balance things out. 4/5 Angels Nene @ Fallen Angel Reviews
It was a dark and stormy night.
"Of course it was a dark night, you dumbass. Is night ever anything else?" Jonah Sellers grumbled to himself as he deleted the opening of his novel for the thirtieth time. The fact that he was already resorting to Snoopy parody was a bad sign.
"Sometimes when the moon's full, it can be pretty bright."
Jonah jumped in surprise at the voice behind him, his right leg giving a throb of protest at the motion. He half-turned in his desk chair to glare at his sister, who was standing in his doorway with grocery bags in her hands.
"Jesus, Stephanie. Don't put me back in the hospital with a heart attack. I can't afford the bills."
Stephanie just smiled sweetly at him and hefted the bags in her hand. "I can't help it if you get so engrossed in your writing that you don't even hear when your talented, brilliant, adorable sister brings your groceries in." She leaned to the side to peer under the desk at the cast on his right leg. "How's the bone?"
"Mending. Hurts like a bitch. Gets these spasms every now and then."
"Try to remember to elevate it while you're sitting down, okay?" Before he could tell her that he knew his post-op care, thank you very much, she was digging into one of the reusable cloth bags she was holding. "I got you the pizza bite things you like so much, but try to eat real food at least once a week. There's plenty of stuff in here that's easy to cook. I also brought you leftovers from our house."
She pulled out a tupperware container and waved it at him. The inside looked like radioactive yellow goop.
"What the hell is that?"
"It's squash casserole, Joni, and it's good for you. Shut up and eat it."
Jonah scowled. "There are too many objectionable things in that statement for me to pick just one to respond to."
Stephanie ignored him and traipsed into his kitchen with the grocery bags. "By the way, we're leaving next week to go on vacation for Genevieve's summer break." Her voice was muffled as she opened his refrigerator and leaned in, rearranging things to make room for the new food.
"Yeah? Where you headed?"
"Spain. She's learning Spanish next year, so we thought we'd get a head start."
"It's just a shame how underprivileged my niece is," Jonah said wryly, grabbing his crutches as he pushed himself out of his chair. He fitted the crutches under his arms, wincing at the tenderness, and hobbled to the kitchen. He leaned most of his weight against the counter as he put away the dry goods in the overhead cabinets. "How long are you going to be gone?"
"Two months. We'll get back a few weeks before she has to go back to school."
Jonah dropped the box of Honey Nut Cheerios he was holding. "Two months?"
Stephanie didn't so much as look at him as she continued to arrange perishables in his fridge, stopping to examine a small block of cheese that was beginning to grow mold before she threw it away.
"Don't worry," she said. "I've got one of my nurses coming over to check on you and bring you groceries."
"Are you promising her a promotion or something?"
"Cash money. Even better."
"Stephie, as you've reminded me so many times during this entire ordeal, you are a pediatrician, not an orthopedic doctor." He picked up the cereal again and managed to put it in the cabinet this time.
"I still have good nurses who are capable of making you take your medicine and eat," she said, finally standing up and closing the fridge door. "So don't cause trouble, got it?"
"When do I ever cause trouble?" Jonah asked, giving her a falsely innocent look.
"All the time," she told him fondly, kissing him on the cheek. "Especially when you're falling down stairs and breaking your leg."
"Pffft." He grinned at her. "I only do that when I want to make your life harder." Or when he was tripping over the boxes of his ex-boyfriend's things as he stacked them outside for the bastard to come pick up.
Stephanie tweaked his nose before slinging her purse over her shoulder and walking to the front door of his apartment. She gave him a motherly kind of look, full of worry and love and something that always made him feel a little guilty. She had to have learned that from their mother while the woman was still alive. When Stephanie hesitated, as if she might stay a little longer to fuss over him, he glanced at the clock.
"Better go if you're picking up Genna at school."
She nodded reluctantly, and that guilty feeling spiked again, but he shoved it down. He knew she was worried about more than his broken leg, that she was worried about the way he'd buried himself in writing after the accident--after the break-up. He knew she was worried that, after he and Sean had caused a minor nuclear reaction with the fight that had ended it all, he wasn't coping well. Hadn't properly grieved or some shit. He'd started to ask one day if she'd gotten her master's in counseling while he wasn't looking, but she'd pulled rank on him in the form of feminine intuition and older sibling privilege.
"I'll stop by one more time before we leave," she said, "but I'll be taking my PDA with me so you can call me anytime you need to. Don't worry about roaming charges."
"And I'll know if you're terrorizing my nurse, so don't even think about lying to me."
He laughed. "Yes, ma'am." He hobbled forward and kissed her on her cheek. "Go on, Stephie. Thanks for taking care of me."
She returned the kiss and gave him one more worry-tinged glance before she let herself out of the apartment and headed down the stairs, one last not-so-gentle nag to "Make a follow-up appointment with your doctor!" drifting back to him over her shoulder.
After he closed the door behind her and locked it, he breathed a sigh of relief and hobbled back into the living room and to his computer desk. He took one look at the mostly blank document on the screen and kept walking. He obviously wasn't going to get anywhere productive in his present state of mind. For a minute, he toyed with the idea of applying for a part-time job somewhere just to get him out of the apartment. Somewhere like REI or Outdoor Enthusiast, where he could discreetly ogle the rugged, sporty male patrons. Anything to relieve him of staring at his computer monitor all the time. If he wasn't attempting to write the Great American Novel, he was transcribing medical tapes to make enough money to pay the bills. Sometimes it was nice having a doctor for a sister.
It wasn't like he didn't enjoy the life of relative leisure working from home afforded him, especially now with a leg that wouldn't let him go up and down stairs in an ancient apartment building that lacked an elevator, but sometimes things could get ... stifling. He glanced at the computer, knowing he had at least five or six audio files available for download to transcribe, and wondered if he should do some work. Later, he decided. Let the other transcriptionists take them for a while. Right now, he needed a break.
With that settled, he hobbled over to the window. He didn't have much of a view--these old buildings were built close together to conserve space and maximize the number of people paying rent, and the view out his window was pretty much the window of the apartment across the alley. He didn't spend a lot of time staring out the window, despite his sister's oft-repeated advice that he should get a window box of geraniums to brighten the view, so he had no idea if anyone even lived in the apartment across from his.
On impulse, he leaned his crutches against the end of the couch and opened the window. He couldn't get it open more than a couple of inches before it stuck, and he sighed. He wondered if the sashes and glass had even been replaced since the fifties. The opening was enough to let in the sound of men shouting and the unmistakable clank and buzz of construction work.
Jonah leaned to the side and tried unsuccessfully to get a glimpse of the construction crew. And not just to see if there were any hot bodies, he promised himself. No, he was genuinely curious. He guessed the renovations were going on at the building next door since he hadn't heard of any new construction coming to his building. He wondered, on a purely academic level he assured himself, how much they were going to renovate and just how much his rent was going to go up when the neighborhood value was elevated.
Giving up on either seeing the construction crew or getting the window to open wider, he grasped the window sash and leaned his weight on it. He didn't want to risk it getting stuck open in case it rained. It groaned and creaked, resisting his efforts, but he pushed harder. He'd just gotten it back in place and was catching his breath, trying to ignore the way the muscles in his right leg were twitching and cramping, trying to breathe through the pain, when a flash of white in the window across the alley caught his eye.
The doctor's warning ran through his head--No strenuous activity, nothing that could cause the muscle to tense and shift the bone. It was a simple break, you got lucky, but it's possible to delay your recovery if you aren't careful.--and he did his best to force his leg muscle to relax. Breathing deeply and slowly, he distracted himself by focusing on the figure in the other apartment.
Once he finally got a good look, his eyes widened a little, and most of the pain in his leg receded into the background.
There, framed perfectly in the old wood-framed glass, was one of the classiest, most handsome men Jonah could remember ever seeing. The sunlight was hitting the pane at an angle that made it hard for Jonah to see clearly, but at this short distance there was still plenty visible, enough to see the shape of his face, his generous mouth, the neat cut of his honey-colored hair. He was wearing a fashionable suit of a style that made Jonah wonder what he was doing living in an old, drafty apartment on the "historical" side of town. Urban renewal hadn't hit his neighborhood yet.
As Jonah watched, the man slid the jacket off broad shoulders to reveal a crisp white shirt and suspenders. Actual suspenders! Jonah suspected he would laugh at anyone who actually wore suspenders--he associated them with pocket protectors and clown shoes--but this guy actually made it work. More than made it work, in fact. He made it look ... well, classy. When the man looked up at him, a smirk tugging at his lips, Jonah nearly stumbled back in shock. He caught himself on the window sash just in time to avoid putting weight down on the leg, but his heart pounded triple-time. His pulse was jumping as hard and quick as it had while he'd been lying in the stairwell the week before, leg screaming in pain and head throbbing.
The man was looking right at him. Long, elegant fingers went to the buttons of his shirt, starting at the top and slowly unfastening them one at a time.
Jonah was astounded. The man must have brass balls to be able to stand there and calmly initiate a strip show across an alley for a complete stranger. Of the same sex, no less. Jonah was pretty sure he hadn't had a bright rainbow G-for-Gay stamped on his forehead, so he could only assume the man was brave enough to take a chance on him not minding the come-on. Or maybe his neighbor was more observant than Jonah was and actually noticed his neighbor's activities. He might have seen Sean coming and going ... and then going. Anybody who'd seen that fight would know Sean hadn't been a casual roommate and that he wasn't coming back.
The man paused halfway through unbuttoning his shirt to arch an eyebrow, and it didn't take much for Jonah to read the expression. It was a challenge, and Jonah's heart thudded up into his throat. It had been a damn long time since he'd done anything remotely like this. He might have only been officially single for almost a month, but he and Sean had been over long before that. Jonah couldn't remember the last time there had been any spark of excitement there. Not like this, standing in front of his window, watching a gorgeous man strip for him and encourage him to reciprocate.
Oh, what the hell. You only live once, right?
Getting his balance as best he could on his left leg, Jonah let go of the windowsill and reached for the hem of his shirt. The man smiled and unbuttoned the next button. Jonah pulled the shirt over his head, blinded temporarily by the dark fabric. He tossed it to the side, shaking his hair out of his eyes and looking back to his neighbor--just in time to see a surprisingly vivid, solid, bent-backed old lady in a lime-green housecoat walk right through the man.
"Shit!" Jonah yelped, stumbling backward and catching himself on the arm of the sofa before he landed too hard on his right leg. The crutches went clattering across the floor, but Jonah barely heard them, focused as he was on the opposite window.
As he watched, the old lady made her way across the room, her hair shining silvery-white in the sunlight. The man wasn't there anymore. Jonah hadn't seen him walk away; he'd simply vanished.
Jonah shook his head. There had to be some explanation. He was tired; his pain medication was making him loopy. The woman hadn't walked through his sexy, stripteasing neighbor; it was just a trick of sunlight and shadow. The man hadn't disappeared; he'd probably beat a hasty retreat when the woman had come into the room, and Jonah just hadn't seen him leave, too shocked to register the transition between there and not-there.
He realized his legs were trembling right before they gave out on him, and he sat down hard on the sofa. He scraped his hands through his hair, rubbing his fists into his eyes to combat the feeling of dizziness and disorientation. He opened his eyes and caught sight of his crutches splayed across each other, forming an awkward, lopsided X on the floor.
Jonah stared at them for a long, long time before he moved again.
Medical transcription and attempted novel-writing didn't really provide a lot of distraction, not when it was just too easy to tilt his chair backward a little to peek out the window every now and then to see if he could catch a glimpse of his sexy neighbor again. He didn't, but he started noticing the old woman so much that he wondered how he'd ever not known she lived there. Her brightly colored housecoats should have at least caught his eye from time to time.
One time, after his chair had threatened to tip over with him, he finally got up and decided to move the desk and chair a little bit further back so he could see out the window without leaning back at all. For good measure, he angled it a little so all he had to do was glance to the side to be able to see clearly. If anyone younger and more masculine than the lady in the flamingo-pink housecoat showed up, he should be able to see it out of the corner of his eye at least.
After that, his productivity improved a little, though he still found it almost impossible to be creative enough to write his novel. That was all right; it didn't take any creativity to listen to audio files of doctors with impossible accents rattle through patient symptoms. It just took a little bit of concentration and a whole lot of background knowledge. And the very thick medical dictionary he kept on the desk, stacked right on top of the even thicker medical encyclopedia.
By the time Stephanie stopped by on her way to the airport the next week, husband and daughter in tow, he had decided that the whole thing had been a dream or a hallucination. He hadn't seen anyone in that apartment except an octogenarian female who didn't bear the slightest resemblance to a broad-shouldered handsome man with an exhibition fetish.
Ben, Stephanie's husband, greeted Jonah with his usual even-keeled good nature, and Genevieve gave her uncle an unenthusiastic high five. She was fourteen and perpetually gloomy, usually of the opinion that everyone was unfairly treating her like a child. Jonah hoped she grew out of it soon before he was tempted to start buying her baby dolls to make a point. Stephanie practically fluttered with nervousness, especially when she noticed that he'd moved his desk. She berated him at length for the exertion, and he nodded dutifully until she finally ran out of steam.
"You're gonna miss your flight, sis," he finally said, and she sighed.
"Yeah, I know." She reached out and touched Genevieve's shoulder, not reacting when the girl twitched away from her hand. "Come on, Genna. Give your Uncle Jonah a hug, and then we're going."
Genevieve did as instructed, though her arms were like limp noodles, and Jonah fought the urge to roll his eyes at her. Ben shook his hand, gave him a hearty slap on the back, and then guided his daughter out the door and toward the stairs. Jonah heard their footsteps echoing in the old stairwell and thought briefly about what falling down those steps had felt like. He remembered thinking that it was all Sean's fault, the bastard.
Then Stephanie was hugging him, and he almost stumbled back in surprise, catching himself at the last second before he put his weight down on his leg. He patted her back awkwardly, trying not to be as stiff as he knew he was.
"You okay?" he said finally, when she was still clinging to him.
"Yeah," she said, sniffling as she drew back. "I feel kind of guilty running out on you like this."
"Don't be ridiculous," Jonah said, chucking her on the shoulder. "I've known you and Ben had a thing going on for years. I admit, I tried to deny it at first, but I think Genna was the real tip-off." She gave him a half-hearted glare as reward for his lame teasing, and he shrugged. "Sorry. Off my game today."
"Yeah, well." She took a step back from him, headed toward the door, any signs of weakness firmly tucked away behind the capable-doctor face that she wore at the hospital. He smiled a little. "Take care of yourself. Keep your leg up, take your medicine, eat your veggies, and don't throw yourself down the stairs."
Jonah rolled his eyes. "Go, you dummy, before you're late."
"And make an appointment with your doctor." She gave him a wink and a smile and was out the door, leaving him behind with the snick of the lock and the thunk-thunk-thunk of her heels on the stairs. The sound reminded him oddly of the sound of Sean leaving, and he leaned against the door for a minute, just breathing calmly. He didn't want Sean back, would never want him back after the crap he'd pulled, but sometimes it still hurt to think about him leaving like he had. Just walking out without a second glance, as if two years and living together had meant no more to him than sharing a box of Cracker Jack. Jonah wondered, in a moment of whimsy, just who or what had been the treat at the bottom of the box.
Leaving his maudlin thoughts for a moment, he looked over at the clock and smiled. Three fifteen on a Tuesday afternoon. Sounds like it should be a song. Or the first line in a novel. His head jerked up. It was a better first line than he had so far. Fitting his crutches under his arms, he hobbled back to the computer chair, practically falling into it and wincing when his healing leg spasmed again. Goddamn broken tibia. Goddamn Sean.
He sat still for a couple of minutes, waiting for the momentary pain to subside. Then he minimized the transcription Web site and pulled up his word-processing program. It took what felt like forever, and he tried to think about what he was going to write after that elusive first line. Maybe he'd write something about that dream he'd had, the one of a stripteasing neighbor. That would be fun.
As he put his fingers to the keyboard and started typing, a flash of white in the window just beyond the monitor caught his eye. His eyes snapped to it before he could tell himself not to get his hopes up, and his breath caught in his throat. There, standing at his neighbor's window, smirking, was the man he'd seen before. He watched as the suit coat slipped off the broad shoulders, watched as the fingers went for the buttons again.
Jonah shoved himself to his feet, fumbling for his crutches, and swung himself over to the window. The man paused as Jonah got to the window, looking up again with that smirk and that raised eyebrow, and Jonah stood, indecisive. When the man started back on his buttons, Jonah reached for the window sash and shoved hard. As before, it only opened a few inches, but Jonah leaned over toward the opening and called out.
"Hey!" The man didn't pause, and Jonah wondered if he could hear him. It's not like the buildings were all that insulated. "Hey, guy!"
Jonah jumped at the voice, but then he realized it was coming from the street below, not from the apartment across from him. He stood up and looked down as much as he could. One of the construction workers was standing down there, shielding his eyes from the sun as he looked up toward Jonah's window.
"You need somethin'?"
Jonah bit back a sigh of disappointment. "No, just trying to get my neighbor's attention over there," he shouted back, pointing toward the apartment. He glanced back, but the man with the suspenders was gone again. Dammit.
"Oh, no problem. Good luck!"
Since his mysterious, stripteasing neighbor had vanished again, Jonah decided to cut his losses. He leaned on the window, but it didn't budge. Huffing, he hitched his weigh up a little higher and used the bulk of his body to help him push down. It creaked a little but stayed right where it was. A colorful curse found its way past his lips. His neighbor had disappeared again, and not only that, now his window was stuck open.
Jonah finally abandoned it and went back to his computer, hoping he hadn't lost the inspiration to write in all that confusion. He concentrated on putting it all out of his head, and by the time he went to bed, leaving his microwaved dinner plate on the computer desk, he had forgotten all about the window.