Ender’s Curiosity Chapter 1

Chapter 1
Ender

“He’s coming.”

What the fuck had we done?

As I panicked, face still pressed against the window as I watched our life unravel before my eyes, Leif called out from the bathroom, obviously not grasping the severity of the problem, “What do you mean? You said you’d wait for me.”

“I lied.” He’d been taking too long. My patience hadn’t held out. “But the crazy one saw me and he’s coming.”

That finally got Leif out of the bathroom as he dried his hands, but he was barely frowning and still didn’t get it. “Maybe he’s going for coffee or something. It’s still early for a photo shoot.”

Leif never knew when to panic. He was entirely too laid-back sometimes.

“No, he’s crossing the street.”

Oh, what had I done?

We.

What had we done.

This was definitely a we situation even if I was the one who’d gotten caught.

Leif paused, understanding finally dawning on his face as he tossed the hand towel back into the bathroom. “How did he see you?”

“I don’t know.” We’d been watching the photo shoots for months and hadn’t done anything different. It was one of the benefits of working from home. “What should we say?”

We’d have to say something to the crazy man, right?

“Nothing.” Frowning, Leif looked serious and in control, helping my panic finally recede. “It’s not illegal to look out our windows, and if they wanted privacy, they should’ve closed their curtains.”

That sounded logical but laws weren’t always logical.

There were whole websites devoted to the silly laws that were still on the books, and if we weren’t careful, we were going to end up as an example on one of them.

“I won’t do well in prison. I’m too soft.” And too curious about stupid things to end up in jail. What if I got some big brute who wanted to help me explore the ridiculous things the photo shoots had put in my head?

“Neither of us are going to prison.” Leif rolled his eyes and somehow that made him seem much more confident. “Who do you think a jury would believe, two boring-looking, mid-twenties guys who look like they should be playing golf, or the lunatic in lingerie who’ll just end up screaming at everyone in the courtroom?”

Good point.

“We need clothes that don’t make us look like forty-year-olds going golfing.” It wasn’t until he pointed it out that I realized I’d put on nice pants and a polo shirt to hang around the house on my day off.

When had my wardrobe turned into middle-aged bland?

I wasn’t ready for a midlife crisis yet.

“You wanted to look like a real adult, remember?” Leif was glaring at me like I was an idiot but that might’ve been because he was dressed just like me, except he was wearing nice jeans.

Clearly, I’d thought real adults were boring.

“You shouldn’t have let me do this to us.” He was the one who was supposed to keep us from doing stupid things, not me.

Leif needed to up his game, but before I could tell him that, the doorbell rang.

“Shit.”

“Shit.”

Yep, it was bad if he was frowning and cursing.

When the doorbell went off again, I turned back to Leif. “We have to open it, right?”

He just shrugged, which didn’t help the whirling in my stomach. “He might get bored and go away?”

The guy who seemed to thrive on drama?

Was Leif delusional?

Leif’s sigh as the doorbell went off again said he was regaining his sanity. “I think this means we have to open the door.”

Great.

“I’m too young to die.” And I had too much social anxiety to survive being yelled at by the crazy model for very long.

Leif snorted. “He’s not going to kill us. Just make threats and scream. Pretend he’s just another relative and tune him out. You do that great.”

He had a point.

“I can do that.” I had plenty of insane relatives, so it might work. “He’s just another cousin.”

Taking a deep breath might’ve helped my nerves if a slightly shrill voice hadn’t come through the door. “God help both of you kinky fuckers if I have to ring this bell again.”

We weren’t kinky.

Well, Leif wasn’t.

I wasn’t so sure about me, but I wasn’t going to voluntarily tell that to the crazy man.

“I don’t think he’s going to leave.” Whispering to Leif, I felt my stomach knot as he sighed. “What do we do?”

“Open the door?” Leif took a deep breath and straightened. “We’re going to open the door. If he accuses us of anything nefarious, we’re going to point out that they never close their blinds. I’m pretty sure that will be the bigger legal issue because we’re not the only one in the building who can see into that studio.”

I liked that.

Leif could handle it.

He was amazing and had a point about the building. The old warehouse-turned-lofts was beautiful and in an amazing location, but it faced the craziest photography studio I’d ever seen. Yes, we wouldn’t look like the problem if it came down to courtroom drama.

“Okay, we can do it.” And by we, I meant Leif, but his snort said he knew that, so I didn’t feel the need to clarify it.

“Let’s get this over with.” Frowning, he kept up the steel backbone look and headed for the door. “But if you leave me with the crazy man, I won’t cook you dinner for a month.”

Oh, that would suck.

“You’re not supposed to fight dirty when I’m traumatized.” That just wasn’t nice.

Leif didn’t look very guilty, though, so I took him at his word and followed carefully behind him. I was ready to run and lock myself in the bathroom if it came down to it, but I was hoping it wouldn’t get that far.

Both of us wouldn’t fit for long and it was the only space in the apartment that had a locking door. We’d be screwed if the crazy man stormed the castle and held us captive.

“You started staring at the models and dragged me into your dirty peeping. This isn’t my fault.” He sounded so sure of it that I decided not to point out how big of a liar he was.

I’d do that later because I’d started staring at the pups, he’d found the models fascinating.

“Look confident, not guilty.” Leif turned and glared at me. “Do better. You look very guilty.”

I was very guilty…but he was right, that wouldn’t help at the moment. So I mimicked his stance and tried to imagine that I was lying to my family.

“Better.” Leif’s nod made it easier to keep going. “Good job.”

I could do it.

“One.” The crazy man started counting making us both wince.

“He’s just as dramatic in person as he is at work.” Leif’s dryly delivered comment made me want to smile. He’d spent the last couple of months saying it had to be an act for the camera, but clearly, it wasn’t.

He owed me five bucks and he had to clean the bathroom for the next month.

I was really hoping being right would be worth it.

Leif unlocked the door.

“Can I help you?” His snobby tone sounded very real, but I was close enough that I could feel him shaking. “You seem lost.”

He was very good at pretending to be a snobby asshole…even the drama queen stopped glaring and gazed at us quietly and seemingly slightly confused.

“I’ve seen you naked.”

Oh, I wished he’d kept screaming because that one was aimed at me.

Leif barely managed not to laugh, but I knew him well enough that he couldn’t hide how funny he was starting to find the situation.

His sense of humor was going to get me in trouble.

“Where have I seen you naked?” The crazy man cocked his hip, resting one hand on it as he studied me more thoroughly. “I remember you having a very nice cock when it was soft. Most men just look like they have small rats hanging from the front of them when they’re not erect. It’s not their fault. It’s usually a show-er versus grower problem.”

How did it keep getting more and more insane?

“Thank you?” Was that the right response?

He’d complimented me, right?

Leif was almost shaking he was trying to hold back his laughter so hard but that didn’t help me to know what to say.

“You’re welcome.” The crazy man took my response seriously and nodded like he’d deserved it. “But that doesn’t tell me where I’ve seen you naked. Did you send in an audition tape?”

Leif turned to me and raised one eyebrow like he was wondering the same thing.

“No.” I was impulsive but not that stupid. “I was an art model for a while?”

I knew I’d never slept with crazy man and there weren’t dirty pics of me floating around the internet, so that seemed to be the most obvious answer.

Crazy man’s eyes lit up. “I saw sketches that were done based on you. That’s right. You did a very good job according to a friend of mine. You managed not to get hard and ignored the girls in the room.”

Well, that hadn’t been difficult.

“I’m gay.” I hadn’t been completely sure before that point, but the whole situation had fixed my lingering confusion. I liked talking to girls and even flirting with them sometimes, but actually being naked with them had not been interesting in the slightest.

“That was probably helpful.” Crazy man looked much less nuts as he sympathized with me. “I’ve met a lot of people who did that in college and the inconvenient erections make conversations and sitting still hard. I know a guy who produces a lot of precum when he’s turned on and it was a fucking mess.”

Good grief.

“I’m really glad that wasn’t an issue then.” I was talking about the erection part but crazy man didn’t take it that way.

“You produce a lot of precum too?” For some reason, he stood straighter and smiled…nicely. “We’ve got a new line of panties that have more support up front for those kinds of situations. They’ll go live next week, but I can give you a sample now if you’d like. As long as the picture had accurate proportions, you’d fit perfectly in them.”

Oh God…

How did…

What had…

I must’ve looked like a moron because the crazy man turned to Leif. “Your partner seems slightly overwhelmed. I do that to people, so it’s okay, I’m not offended. But if you’d like to talk to him about the precum situation privately, you can just come over anytime over the next few days.”

Now Leif was wearing a similar stunned stupid expression.

Crazy man sighed and shook his head. “Look, I’m okay with the peeping thing since you’re just curious but no jerking off and nothing weird.”

Oh wow.

“I’m not jerking off.” I wasn’t sure that was where I should’ve started, but it was what came out first. “And we’re not partners, just friends and roommates.”

Now crazy man was the one who looked confused as he glanced back and forth between us and sighed. “Whatever you say.”

Huh?

“I don’t think you realize quite how clearly people can see in through your windows.” Leif ignored all the insanity and simply focused on the practical. It was a very Leif way to handle it. “It’s difficult to tune out unless we close our blinds all day long. We can’t predict when you’re going to have a shoot very well, so that’s not reasonable.”

And it was frustrating because I never knew if it was going to be a lingerie day, a pup one, or nothing at all.

Or if it was crazy man and screaming photographer have sex in the studio day.

We closed the blinds on those days.

Watching that seemed rude.

Crazy man shrugged. “We need the natural light, so like I said, no jerking off or anything weird.”

What would be weird in that situation?

Not that I was planning on doing anything weird, but…but I liked pup day.

“What are you going to define as weird in this situation?” Leif just had to be Leif and ask the question. “I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page.”

“We’re definitely not all on the same page.” Crazy man was back to shaking his head. “Alright, let’s start with what you’re watching.”

“The lingerie.”

“The pups.”

I really shouldn’t have answered that, but in my defense, I was still in shock from everything else. And when both men turned to look at me, I really knew I should’ve kept my mouth shut.

“The pups?” Leif’s eyebrow went up.

Crazy man frowned. “Why not the lingerie?”

Not knowing which nosy question to answer first, I automatically took a step back. “I…the lingerie. I meant to say the models. They’re very pretty and most seem to be very nice.”

Not that I knew that firsthand but most seemed to have a good work ethic.

“Invite me in.” Crazy man sighed just as dramatically as I’d always imagined it sounding. “I’ll take tea or water or juice. I’m at the overload point on caffeine, though.”

“I have some herbal tea?” For some reason, Leif thought that would be a reasonable response.

Crazy man agreed with him based on his polite smile. “That sounds lovely.”

When had I fallen through to an alternate dimension?

How was I supposed to get home?

“We’ll get this cleared up so you two can go forward in a healthier manner. Don’t worry.” Crazy man stepped into the apartment. “This is very nicely done.”

“Thank you.” Leif actually smiled. “That sounds like a very good idea, as well.”

What the fuck.

I still wanted to go home, right?

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Ender's Curiosity by MA Innes
Ender

No. It means nothing. I’m just curious. It’s certainly not worth blowing up my life over, no matter what the crazy man thinks. Watching the pups is fun. A pastime. They’re cute. I’m not imagining having a tail. I don’t need a Handler. There’s no way I want to curl up on Leif.

There’s no way he’d let me, right?

Leif

Wow. He wants to what? He wants me to do what? Well, friends help friends. That’s what best friends and roommates are for. The pups are cute. He’s cute. He’s nuts but I can see why he’d like a tail. But with me? There’s no way he’d want me to do that. Does he realize what would happen if we did?

Just because I like control doesn’t mean I’d like that…right?

Love and tails are in the air when two Peeping Toms get more than they bargained for…friends at Leashes & Lace and a new way to see what was there all along.