Publication Year: 2003
Prim music teacher Erin Young is fed up with sharing a bedroom wall with her playboy neighbor Mick Armitage and he’s tired of listening to the screeching of beginning violin students. But when a reality TV show gives them the opportunity to redecorate each other’s apartment, will they reinforce the wall, or tear it down?
A rhythmic pounding woke Erin Young. At first she thought she had the mother of all headaches, but when her sleep-fogged brain cleared, she realized the pounding was coming from the wall behind her head — the common wall she shared with her neighbor, Mick Armitage. The common bedroom wall.
Great. Micky the Louse was still in action.
Burrowing under her covers, Erin kept her eyes closed as she listened to the amplified bass of Ravel’s Bolero — yes, the music from the movie 10, clichéd though it was. Erin once actually liked the driving rhythm and relentlessly building dynamics…until Mick started to use it to camouflage his bedroom activities after an embarrassing confrontation Erin didn’t want to think about.
Erin didn’t want to think about him over there having bedroom activities, either. She only wanted to sleep, but hours ago, the music had started and then hadn’t stopped.
Enough. Intending to kick the wall, Erin yanked down the covers, opened her eyes and blinked at the brightness.
With a gasp she grabbed for her clock. Eight forty-five? What had happened to her alarm? Normally, Saturday mornings were for sleeping in, but not this Saturday. This Saturday, she had to be on the phone by seven-thirty when the Jones Hall ticket office opened. Antonio Zamora, the Antonio Zamora, the violinist recently named one of America’s sexiest men, was coming to Houston in November. Ever since he’d made that list, tickets to his concerts sold out instantly.
Just thinking of being in the same room —okay, auditorium — with Zamora gave her a little thrill. Looking at the shirtless picture of him in People magazine gave her a bigger one. Still, as a fellow musician, Erin counted herself as a true fan and not one lured by his bulging biceps or the smoldering looks he gave the camera as he caressed his violin.
Squinting at the concert advertisement in the paper, Erin grabbed the telephone and punched in the number for the ticket office. Busy. She’d expected the line to be busy, but she’d expected to be trying to get through much earlier. She wanted a ticket. Just one. At any price. She was even raiding her dining furniture fund — that’s how badly she wanted a ticket.
And because of Mick Armitage and his late-night entertaining, she might not get it. She hit Redial. Still busy. She hung up and hit Redial again. And again. She got into a rhythm, but when she realized that she was hitting Redial in time to the beat from the apartment next door, she stopped.
Okay. There was no need to panic yet. She was going to dress, then try again from the portable phone in the kitchen.
Erin was tempted to scramble into jeans and a sweatshirt, but mindful of the violin students who’d begin arriving at ten o’clock, she dressed for a six-hour day of giving private lessons in case she got through to the ticket office and was put on hold.
During the week, Erin taught middle school music and supplemented her salary by teaching privately on Saturdays and Wednesday evenings. Though she loved her job, there were times when she craved real adult music amid an audience she didn’t have to take on rest room breaks and lecture on concert manners. Erin wanted a civilized evening in civilized company, something her uncivilized neighbor probably wouldn’t understand. Mick Armitage bore a strong resemblance to her hormone-saturated students.
Unfortunately, he also bore a strong resemblance to Antonio Zamora.
When she’d first seen Mick, she’d stared, momentarily disoriented, thinking that her fantasy man had appeared on her doorstep. Could she help it if she had the tiniest, er, maybe not so tiny crush on Antonio Zamora? Wasn’t it reasonable that some of that crush would transfer to her Antonio-look-alike neighbor? Completely understandable that he might stand in for Antonio in a fantasy or two? Say, the one where they were selected to be on the local show Single Design, and she finally got her elegant dining nook and as a bonus got to soundproof his bedroom?
Yeah, like that was going to happen. She’d entered — several times — dutifully writing a different one-page essay each week right up until she’d heard the first chorus of Mick’s nightly amorous serenades.
And then he’d had the gall to proposition her before his sheets had cooled — the very next day — the next morning — a Sunday when they both found themselves walking back from the corner convenience store with a copy of the newspaper.
“It looks as though I’m going to be staying in Houston awhile,” Mick had said. “Usually I’m sent from place to place and never get to know my neighbors. Now that I’ve got the chance, how about going to breakfast with me?”
Erin had been so embarrassed at having overheard him the night before, she couldn’t even look him in the eye. Then, she was aghast that he’d asked her to breakfast. Even though his overnight bed partner must have left — and why hadn’t he fed her breakfast? — Erin just…just couldn’t. And because she was embarrassed, she was sharper than she’d intended in turning him down. She’d said, “No.” Not “No, thank you” but “No, and I can’t believe you have the nerve to ask me.” Then she’d done a little riff on the general faithlessness of men and pretty much alienated him.
Not that she cared.
Even if he did look like Antonio Zamora.
Antonio Zamora. Erin closed her eyes and visualized his flowing black hair, full lips and heavy-lidded gaze. His face was on the cover of every CD he’d ever made. Erin knew because she owned every CD he’d ever made.
She was going to try to get him to autograph one after the concert. She imagined waiting by the stage door, invited to be there because she was a fellow violinist…their eyes would meet…he’d agree to come to her school and play for her students…he’d ask her to ditch her students and come away with him…
The phone was answered by a recording informing her that all ticket agents were currently helping other patrons, and Erin was put on hold.
For the next forty-seven minutes, the phone was glued to Erin’s ear as she cooked and ate breakfast, assembled a music stand and plugged in her electric keyboard. All the while Bolero pulsed in the background. She was making her bed when a voice sounded in her ear. “Thank you for calling —”
“Yes, I want a ticket for the Antonio —”
“— the Jones Hall ticket office.” A recording. “The Antonio Zamora concert has sold out.”
“No!” Erin shrieked.
“To be placed on a waiting list, press one.”
After doing so and laboriously keying in her telephone number, the recorded voice returned with, “Thank you. You are number one…hundred…twenty-three.”
“I can’t be number one hundred and twenty-three!” Aware that she was yelling at a recording, Erin disconnected and sank onto her bed, staring at the wall separating her bedroom from Mick’s. She wasn’t going to the concert and it was all his fault.
Bolero finished with a crash and there was a moment of silence. Then it began again.
Erin’s fist connected with the wall. Then her foot connected with the wall. Then she realized that connecting her foot and fist with Mick Armitage would be softer.
Driven by a rage she hadn’t known she was capable of, Erin stormed out of her apartment, took a giant step over the potted geranium between their two front entrances and beat on Mick’s door.
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