Tucker was a little worse for wear. That had clearly been Kingsley's intention. Kingsley dropped him off at his house with a little wave and went zooming off with the silver Porsche. Tucker frowned after him. Kingsley could be damn clever when he wanted to be.
����������� Sighing, Tucker turned to the front door, struggling a bit with the key in the old lock before swinging it open.
����������� He was exhausted, he thought. He let the door swing closed behind him and straggled to his bedroom, dropping onto the bed with relief.
����������� The bed moved underneath him, screamed in his ear, and pitched him off of it. He landed on the floor with a solid thud that briefly knocked the wind out of him.
����������� "What the hell-?" Tucker muttered, a little slow on the uptake, trying to struggle into a sitting position.
����������� "Don't move!" a woman's voice shouted at him. "I am calling the police right now."
����������� "The police?" Tucker echoed, squinting. The room was dim. He could make out nothing more than a figure in front of him. He shook his head to clear it and tried to figure out what had happened. "Oh," he said, realizing. "I must be in the wrong house." He pulled himself to his feet with an effort. "Sorry. No need to call the police. My mistake. I apologize." He turned and walked back through the living room, out the front door, which he pulled closed behind him.
����������� The shock of the cold air outside snapped into him, and he stood on his porch and realized that, no, he was clearly at the right house. His key had opened the door. Kingsley had dropped him off here. He had recognized it, for God's sake.
����������� Eyes narrowed, he stalked back into the house, switching on the light in the living room, and into his bedroom. "This is my house," he announced to the shape on the bed. "So who the hell are you?"
����������� "What?" The woman sounded shocked that he had returned.
����������� Tucker flipped the light switch and got no reaction. So he reached forward, grabbed the figure on the bed, and lifted her.
����������� "Hey!" She struggled, kicking against him, but he carried her into the living room and let her go, where she stood, wrapped still in a blanket, and said, "Who do you-It's you."
����������� Tucker was ignoring her. He swept his hands around the living room, looking up at the familiar molding, at the mural of water nymphs that he'd memorized as a boy. "This is my house. That is my bedroom." He pointed toward the room they had just exited. "So who-It's you." The blonde from Pat O'Brien's was gaping at him in astonishment. Her silvery blonde hair was falling over her shoulder in torrents. The blanket she was wrapped in had slipped a bit, revealing pale blue pajamas. Her eyes, in the bright lights of the living room chandelier, were hazel. Tucker stood, transfixed, looked toward his bedroom, then looked back at her. "Wait. How did you figure out I live here?"
����������� "What?" Tinsley stared at him, unsure what to do next. He was sexy beyond words, all that tousled black hair. And his eyes were an inky blue that she had not fully appreciated in the bar. And even looking worn and tired he was radiating a sexual energy that would stop women in their tracks. Maybe he was even more attractive looking slightly worn and tired.
����������� Dammit, she thought. It had been the first time in her entire life she had ever done something completely crazy, taken Aimee's dare and gone back and kissed him, and the guy had turned out to be psycho, had followed her home, was babbling about it being his house.
����������� Maybe if she was gentle and logical with him, no sudden movements, he would leave without doing anything else.
����������� "You don't live here," she told him, slowly and clearly. "I live here."
����������� Tucker scowled, annoyed at being spoken to like a two-year-old. Then, slowly, an idea began to dawn on him. "You live here?"
����������� "Yes." She nodded, looking relieved that he was beginning to understand.
����������� Tucker folded his arms and raked his eyes up and down his very ravishing tenant. What, he thought, were the odds? "You've been living on the first floor? I don't believe that was part of the lease."
����������� Uh-oh, thought Tinsley, starting to feel more uncertain. This wasn't going the way it was supposed to. He wasn't leaving. "What are you talking about?"
����������� "I knew Arabella wasn't your name. I knew it the instant you said it."
����������� "You need to leave," Tinsley told him.
����������� He shook his head. "Not leaving. This is my house. And I'm trying to think of your name. Tamara? Tabitha?"
����������� "What?" Tinsley was somewhat stunned.
����������� "It's some sort of strange 'T' name. I remember that, because I have a strange 'T' name. Tallullah? Trixie? Come on, give me a hint here. Am I close?"
����������� "How do you know my name?" she asked, falteringly.
����������� "Because I'm your landlord," he answered, grimly.
����������� Tinsley stared at him. There was no way James T. Trenier, III, looked like...this. "You're not," she denied, in shock.
����������� "Oh, I absolutely am."
����������� Tinsley narrowed her eyes. "Then I'm not the only one who lied about my name, Tucker."
����������� He looked surprised. "I didn't lie about my name."
����������� "Then you're not my landlord. My landlord is James T. Trenier, III."
����������� "Right. James Tucker Trenier, III. The 'T' stands for Tucker. And I have always been called Tucker. You, however, aren't called Arabella. Trilby?"
����������� "Arabella is my middle name," she said, defensively.
����������� "And do people call you Arabella?"
����������� "It's late. You're drunk. I'm going back to bed."
����������� "Not so fast. It's my bed. Unless you're suggesting-"
����������� "Absolutely not," she shot back, firmly, clutching the blanket more tightly around her.
����������� Tucker raked her with another gaze from this ridiculously sinful eyes. "Hmm. Too bad. Anyhow, it's been a long...I need to go to sleep. You should go back upstairs."
����������� "I can't go upstairs," she snapped at him, affronted a little by the blatantness of his male interest. So what if she may have put the idea in his head at Pat O'Brien's? It was time to nip that interest before it went any farther. And, she recalled, she was furious with James T. Trenier, III. Even though it turned out he went by Tucker and was rather rakishly handsome.
����������� "Why can't you go upstairs?" he asked, wearily, with very little interest.
����������� "My heat doesn't work."
����������� "Your heat doesn't work?" he echoed. The woman looked livid at him.
����������� "Yes. I told your doctor friend all about it."
����������� "He didn't mention it. I'm sure you're exaggerating."
����������� Oops, he thought, as she straightened even more and flashed disapproval at him. He was a bit too drunk to remember how delicately you needed to deal with women. "I am not exaggerating!" she informed him, haughtily. "It is freezing up there. It is uninhabitable." She stalked toward him. "And you don't fix anything." She poked his chest with her finger.
����������� "I didn't know it had to be fixed."
����������� "Well, then, you have very bad friends. If they can be called your friends."
����������� "What does that mean?" Tucker realized he was looking down at her. "You're not as tall."
����������� This gave her pause. "What?"
����������� "You were almost my height at Pat O'Brien's. You're not anymore."
����������� She had been wearing heels at Pat O'Brien's. Sky-high stilettos. Tinsley tried not to think about Pat O'Brien's. She realized she was standing far too close to him. She could feel him. "I'm going back to bed," she announced, heading toward the bedroom.
����������� "Hey." Tucker turned to follow her in annoyance. "I told you-"
����������� She paused in his doorway, turned back to face him. "Sleep upstairs. You're so convinced I'm exaggerating." She walked into his bedroom, then threw over her shoulder, "Oh, and the oven doesn't work!" before slamming his bedroom door. He heard her turn the lock with that ancient scrolled key.
����������� Tucker blinked in disbelief at the closed door. What the hell had just happened here? This woman he had just met had just locked him out of his bedroom. Dammit. His head was too fuzzy to deal with everything. Rather than arguing further, he traipsed upstairs, into her bedroom, collapsing on her bed. It was noticeably colder, he realized. The girl had a point. He would have to look into this. He pulled the blankets over him and waited to fall asleep.
����������� Except that he was freezing. No wonder his tenant-what was her name? dammit. Another thing he hoped came to him by the light of morning-had resorted to sleeping downstairs. He was not giving her the satisfaction, he thought, firmly, staring at the top of the bed's canopy. He was going to sleep here tonight.
����������� He gave it an hour, until he started shivering, before he pulled the blankets off her bed and trailed downstairs and collapsed onto the couch in the living room.