Home > Life's Too Short (The Friend Zone #3)

Life's Too Short (The Friend Zone #3)
Author: Abby Jimenez

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

 

HEARD CRYING FROM NEXT

DOOR, WHAT I FOUND WAS SHOCKING!

 


ADRIAN

Wailing.

Banshee, demon-baby wailing from the apartment next to mine for the millionth hour straight. I lay in bed, looking at the ceiling in the dark.

Rachel groaned from beside me. “You have to do something. Go over there.”

I scoffed. “I’m not going over there. I don’t know her.”

I think I’d seen my neighbor in the lobby getting her mail once, but she was on the phone and she didn’t make eye contact with me, so I didn’t say hi. Now I wished I’d at least gotten to know her well enough to be able to text her and ask her to please move to a room that didn’t share a wall with my bedroom.

Rachel let out a frustrated breath, and I rolled over and hugged her back to my chest.

She tensed up. She’d been tensing up since she got here three days ago, actually.

“What’s wrong?”

She spoke over her shoulder at me. “Nothing. I’m just tired. I’m two seconds from getting a hotel room so I can sleep. Without you,” she teased.

I chuckled tiredly. She knew how to poke me, that was for damn sure.

I only got one weekend a month with my girlfriend. Losing the last night with her to a hotel before she went back to Seattle was a price I was not willing to pay for my neighbor or her baby.

Fuck.

I begrudgingly climbed out of bed, put on a T-shirt and slippers, and let myself out into the hallway of my apartment building.

No idea if she’d answer the door. It was 4:00 in the morning, and I was a stranger. Rachel probably would have called the police if she’d seen a man she didn’t know knocking on her apartment in the middle of the night.

“Who is it?” a woman’s voice called over the wailing.

“Your neighbor.”

The chain raked from the other side and the door opened.

Yup, the woman from the mailbox. She looked like hell. Baggy faded black T-shirt with a hole at a seam on the shoulder and some drawstring sweatpants with stains on them. Dark circles under her eyes, wild frizzy hair.

“What?” she said, looking at me over the tiny, loud bundle she had pressed to her chest.

I’d never seen a baby that small. I had bricks of cheese in my fridge bigger than this kid. It didn’t even look real.

It sounded real though.

She eyeballed me impatiently. “Yeah?”

“I have a deposition in four hours. Is there any way you can—”

“Any way I can what?” She glared at me.

“Any way you could maybe move to another side of the apartment? So I might be able to sleep?”

“There is no other side of this apartment. It’s a studio.”

Right. I knew that. “Okay…Well, can you—”

“Can I what? Make it stop?” She cocked her head. “Maybe put her in a closet? Because I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered it.”

“I—”

“This isn’t a trumpet I’m playing in here. It’s not a TV I have turned up too loud. It’s a tiny human being. It can’t be reasoned with, and it’s not responding to negotiation attempts so I don’t know what to tell you.” She bounced the shrieking infant, and it cried on. “She’s fed, and clean, and dry. She doesn’t have a fever. She’s too young for teething. I’ve given her Tylenol and gas drops for colic. I’ve bounced her and rocked her and I’m coming to the conclusion that she’s simply playing out some cosmic karma-based retribution for crimes I committed in a past life because I cannot for the life of me understand what I’m doing wrong.” Her chin started to quiver. “So no, I can’t make it stop. I can’t help you, or me or her, and I am truly sorry if my own personal hell is inconvenient for you. Get earplugs.”

She slammed the door in my face.

I stood there, blinking at her peephole.

Great. Now I was the asshole.

I dragged a hand down my beard and let out a long, tired breath and knocked again. I knew she was peeking through the peephole because the wailing was pressed right to the door. She opened it. “What?” She had tears running down her face.

I made a give-it-here motion with my hand. “Give me the baby.”

She stared at me.

“Go take a shower. I’ll hold her.”

She blinked at me. “Are you kidding me?”

“No, I’m not. You obviously need a break. Maybe it will help.”

Continuing to do the same thing was going to yield the same results. What she was doing wasn’t working, and it was clear that this situation wasn’t going to resolve itself without outside intervention.

She looked at me like I’d gone mad. “I’m not giving you my baby.”

“Why? Are you afraid I might piss her off?” As if she intended to illustrate my point, the wails went up an octave. “I’m going to hold her until you’re done. If neither of us are sleeping, it makes no sense for both of us to suffer. And you have vomit in your hair.”

She looked down on the hair gathered over her shoulder and saw the white goop. She rolled her eyes like it didn’t surprise her and came back up to me. “Look, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but this isn’t your problem.”

I rubbed my forehead tiredly. “Well, I beg to differ. As long as we’re sharing a wall, we’re in this together. Sometimes a change of circumstances can change behavior. Someone new to hold her while you go and lower your anxiety might make the difference.”

She bounced the baby uselessly and it kept crying. I could see the frustration around the woman’s eyes. She looked exhausted. “I don’t know you,” she said.

“My name is Adrian Copeland. I live in apartment 307, next door to you, and I own this building. I’m thirty-two years old, no criminal history, I’m a partner at Beaker and Copeland in St. Paul. I’m harmless and I’m standing here in the hallway at”—I looked at my watch—“4:07 in the morning, trying to help you. Let me in and let me hold her.”

I watched the deliberation on her face. She was going to crack. I could read people. She was that deadlocked juror who was going to fold—and she did.

She pulled open the door and let me in. I stepped inside.

Fuck, her apartment was a disaster.

It looked like the place used to be nice. It had that Pottery Barn thing going on. But the studio was small and completely cluttered with baby paraphernalia. A car seat, a crib by the king-size bed at the back of the apartment, a swing. Bottles were piled on the kitchen countertops and the place smelled faintly like shit. Actual shit. Dirty-diaper shit.

She eyed me. “Just so you know, I have my little stabby thingy so don’t try anything stupid.”

I arched an eyebrow. “Your stabby thingy?”

She jutted her chin up. “Yeah. You know, the keychain thingy? I’ve got cameras too. Tons of them. And a gun,” she added. “I also have a gun.”

I crossed my arms. “Okay. And do you know how to use this gun you have?”

“No,” she said matter-of-factly. “Which makes me more dangerous.”

I snorted.

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