Deacon Moses lives with the roommate from hell. Sure, Ludwig Dreck pays the bills on time, and he’s really easy on the eyes. But the rest of his behavior is frankly disgusting. Deacon would have thrown Lud out long ago, if he hadn’t needed help keeping a roof over his head. But there’s just something about Lud.
Beneath his roomie’s obnoxious behavior is a man Deacon discovers is more than he seems. When Lud comes to Deacon’s assistance early one morning, Deacon sees Lud with new eyes, and starts to pay attention to the reasons why he acts the way he does.
The fact that Lud sees Deacon, too, is either cause for celebration, or their worst nightmare. In the end, the truth about the baggage each man carries could break them apart before they even begin.
I showered and dressed, leaving the shirt with the ripped armpit to be fixed on top of my duvet. When I walked into the living room to make myself something quick to eat, Lud had a meal ready. He was still wearing the same clothes from the night before, and facial hair was growing in, but he had a tired smile on his face.
“You like lasagna, don’t you? I’ve seen you eat it often enough.”
Flabbergasted, I sat in the chair he pulled out and stared at the plate before me. A glass of water sat next to it. “What’s going on, Lud?” I asked, ignoring my astonishment in favor of eating, since I was starving.
“I was an ass and I wanted to make up for it.” He sipped at a bottle of root beer, attempting his usual carefree grin, and failing miserably.
“It’s more than that. You cook, clean, fight like Jason Bourne, and own a Hugo Boss suit. I need a better explanation.”
He was suddenly somber. “Maybe I’ll tell you someday.”
I ate in silence, digesting his words. Was his life that…complex? Did I really want to know? “You seemed unlike your normal, annoying self the other night. Something happen at work that got to you, more than usual?”
His eyes sharpened. “What do you mean?”
“It’s just ... your behavior after your get back from a job always seems to be ... desperate.” And now that I thought about it, that was true. “It’s like you have to be as disgusting and annoying and cheerful as possible, to keep you mind off something.” I cleared my throat. I probably sounded stupid. “Just a theory, but what do I know? This time, when you came home, it was as though you couldn’t even be bothered to try. And then you blew up at me.”
Lud smiled, though it seemed a little shaky at the corners. “I like that you said ‘home.’ I didn’t know you cared.” Then he shut up abruptly and looked away, scowling as if he’d said too much, perhaps. “It’s a job with ups and downs. You know how it is.”
“No, I don’t, not really. But I’m just an average guy, feeding people artery-hardening fare, and fermented barley, while knocking heads around from time to time.”
The stare he sent my way then could have bored through steel. “You’re so much more than that.” The way he said that, as if daring me to prove otherwise, was ... huh. “I know that you’re a kinder person than I deserve,” he continued, “putting up with me for this long. I know that you’re sad sometimes, with a faraway look in your eyes, remembering a lost love, maybe, and I know that you never give yourself enough credit for anything. I also know that any sane person would have thrown me out after the first month of my antics. You’re either crazy, desperate, or lonely. Or all three.”
“This from a serial filth-maker who rarely ever showers,” I snapped. That he’d figured out I had lost someone floored me. We’d never talked about it, and I had no pictures on the walls. I kept them in drawers in my bedroom. All the other stuff? I didn’t know what to say.
Lud got up and took my empty plate to the sink, rinsing it out before placing it in the dishwasher. “I’ll be gone again when you get home from work tomorrow morning.”
“But you just got back!” I said, and cringed at my lack of mouth control. What was happening to me? I mentally backpedaled. “I simply mean that you seem to need more time to, I don’t know, decompress.”
He smiled at me, and it was sweet, damn it. “I appreciate your concern, Deacon. This next job shouldn’t be as bad as the last one. I’ll only be gone a day or two, and then I’ll be back. Will you miss me?”