“IT’S THERE again! I told you it must belong to someone around here!”
Will winced as Niki slammed the door and threw his bike into the hallway. In most aspects, he was the ideal flatmate, but he didn’t take the same care of the flat that an owner would, as proved by the growing number of scars on the paintwork.
Niki popped his head round Will’s office door. “Did you hear me? It’s back! That glorious orange Lamborghini Gallardo.”
Will smiled and shook his head. “You and your sports cars. I really don’t know what you see in them.”
“Philistine,” Niki grumbled good-naturedly. “Want a coffee?”
“Thanks,” Will said, concentrating once again on his laptop screen, where his latest article was finally beginning to take shape. Life as a freelance journalist was not always financially comfortable, and he’d been rather reluctant to take on a flatmate when his relationship had unexpectedly imploded just over a year ago. But Niki had his advantages: he was out of the house most of the day, either working long hours as a Web designer or trawling the streets of London in search of the most fantastic cars with his fellow car spotters.
Additionally, when he was home, he supplied Will with plentiful hot drinks and ordered takeaway. His music wasn’t too loud, and he rarely brought girls home. Furthermore, Will was absolutely not attracted to him, thereby sparing any additional heartbreak. The last thing he needed at this point in his life was to fall for a straight guy.
As for his own relationship status, Will was resolutely single. The day Jason had suddenly decided their life together, including a shared mortgage and plans for a civil partnership, was far too suburban for him and had thrown it all up to move to Bangkok, Will had decided he’d had enough of love. After a month of moping, checking his e-mail obsessively, and expecting the door to open any minute to let Jason back in, he’d made up his mind. Free from Jason’s allergies, he’d gone straight to the RSPCA to see about adopting a cat. Fred, fat and fluffy, now sat on top of his printer, enjoying the heat and the company and glaring at him whenever he dared actually lift up the scanner or print out a page.
For a couple of months, he and Fred had shared the flat companionably. But after looking in alarm at his rapidly dwindling bank balance, he’d finally advertised for a flatmate. Niki had been the third person to visit the small first-floor flat but the only one Will had felt he could actually put up with. Niki, who looked even younger than he actually was, turned out to be a breath of fresh air in what had become a rather claustrophobic atmosphere. Will was content and was dreading the day when his flatmate decided to move on to the next stage of his life.
As for his own love life, post-Jason, Will gave it up. After persistent nagging from his friends, he’d reluctantly gone out a few times, to a club or the local wine bar. But somehow it just seemed empty and pointless. So he’d decided to stay home until the day came that he needed it. Home with Fred. And Niki.
Niki came into the office, two mugs of coffee in his hands and a packet of biscuits between his teeth. Putting them down, he gave Fred a scratch between the ears, then smiled at Will. “Had a good day?” he asked, munching through two biscuits at once.
Will shrugged. “Nearly finished this week’s assignment. And if Fred allows it, I’ll be able to print it tomorrow.” He reached out and tickled the cat’s thick, furry stomach. “So, tell me more about this car.”
Niki’s eyes were shining. “It’s parked just round the corner, in the Crescent. Orange. Absolutely beautiful. I never thought to see a car like that way out in the suburbs. And it’s just sitting there.” He took a big gulp of his coffee. “I think I’m going to take my camera out and see if I can catch a glimpse of the owner. I know it’s dark out, but my flash is pretty powerful. I’ll have to—”
“Go! Enjoy! And if you have time, bring back some milk. We’re out!” He waved Niki off and tried to concentrate on the laptop screen. He wrote mainly for a newspaper group, features and interviews, and the work was beginning to build up in a rather satisfactory way. Who knew? Maybe soon he’d be able to afford the mortgage on his own. Although he’d miss Niki….
By the time he’d gone through his draft article and was happy with the result, he was beginning to feel hungry. Standing in front of the fridge, debating between cheese on toast or calling for a pizza, he heard Niki come back in. The youngster tumbled into the kitchen, then stood by the door, his eyes glazed, a dreamy smile on his face.
“Don’t tell me. You’ve lost your heart,” Will said. “So is it still the Lamborghini, or are you two-timing her with an Aston Martin?”
Niki shook his head. “I’ve never seen anything so gorgeous in my life. Tiny, with masses of long brown hair and big blue eyes. And a figure….”
“I take it we’re not talking about the orange Lamborghini anymore?”
“Oh yes! It’s hers! She came out of one of those houses in the Crescent and drove away. Her bag matched the car. Beautiful!”
“Show me, then?” Will asked, nodding toward the ever-ready camera. “Although as you know, if I’m lacking in appreciation when it comes to sports cars, that’s nothing compared to how little interest I have in girls….”
But Niki shook his head. “I didn’t even take any photos of her. It would have been… sacrilegious.”
Will laughed. “Okay, Romeo. Fancy a pizza?”
Once again, Niki shook his head. “Not really hungry, mate. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Will was left looking in amazement as his flatmate headed for his room. Niki, the human dustbin, had never been known to turn down food before. This could be serious….