Lunch was always an iffy proposition at the Glass House. Some days all of Claire's house mates were all in, most days nobody was; some days there was food in the fridge. Most days, not. Claire had made a fine art out of scrounging up crackers and cans of soup. Her favorite was cream of tomato. Yum.
She was slurping up her soup, alone as usual, when she heard a thump from upstairs. Odd. She knew for a fact that Eve was at her job on campus, and Michael was off teaching guitar lessons. Shane – well, she never knew for sure where Shane would be, but she'd looked for him before making lunch, and there hadn't been any sign.
Not another visitor through the portal. Honestly, having one of those mystic doorways in the house was getting to be a royal pain. "Grand Central Station," Claire sighed, and gulped down the rest of her lunch before dumping the bowl in the sink and heading upstairs. The house was a comfortable mess, but it was slowly creeping toward the oh my God who lives here? kind of mess, so she'd have to get on everybody's case to do a little picking up. Just to show she wasn't immune, she picked up a stack of books she'd left on the dining table and carried them upstairs with her.
Once she'd dumped the books on top of – well, all the other books she'd been meaning to find a shelf for, Claire grabbed the miniature baseball bat Shane had bought her – aluminum, but electroplated in silver. Good for vampire-whacking, should the need come up. It was surprisingly heavy.
The thump came again. Not, as she would have thought, from Amelie's private room upstairs, or from the attic.
It was coming from Shane's room.
Claire took a firm grip on the bat, and flung open the door. "Freeze!" she yelled. Stress made her voice sound too high, like a little girl on helium. Embarrassing. And kind of not intimidating.
There was a half-naked man standing in the middle of Shane's room.
Shane, in his underwear, tried to get into his jeans so fast he staggered and tipped over onto the bed. "Hey!" he protested. "What is it with girls busting in on me when I'm getting dressed? Out!"
Claire couldn't help it, she burst out laughing. It was ridiculously funny, the way he was rolling around on the bed trying to wiggle into those jeans, and also – well, yeah. Hot.
She lowered the bat and turned her back. "Sorry. I heard noises. I thought – wait. Girls, plural? Somebody else busts in on you besides me?"
She heard the bed creak, clothes rustling, and he said, "Well, yeah. Eve kinda of walked into the bathroom once while I was in the shower. Which is when I got rid of the clear shower curtain and got the dark one."
"Eve's seen you naked?"
"Um – behind a sheet of plastic with water all over it? There's no safe answer to this, is there."
Claire turned, unasked. He was just pulling on his old gray t-shirt. "Not really," she said. "Anyway. Why are you changing clothes?"
Shane tried for an innocent look, which didn't go well on his face. "Got bored?"
"Shane, I've never seen you change clothes in the middle of the day, ever. You were gone when I got up, and you just got back. What happened?" Because she was thinking the worst. She supposed that the worst, in other places than Morganville, probably had something to do with him seeing another girl. Here, she was assuming he'd gotten blood all over himself.
He thought about lying to her; she could see it flash across his face. But then he sighed, shook his head, and opened up the closet door. He took out a plastic bag and held it out toward her. Inside were his Nike cross-trainers, a pair of worn blue jeans, and a shirt that might have once been red, a hundred washings ago.
And they stank. Claire pulled back with a choking sound. "What the heck is that?"
"You know how I said I was going to get a job?"
"Yeah?" She found she was holding a hand over her nose and mouth, and her eyes were watering. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"I got a job ... at the city dump. Raking garbage. Hey, did you know there are seagulls out there? Kind of far from the ocean. Anyway, they have showers in the locker room, so I took one before I left, but I forgot to bring a change of clothes." He tied off the bag and pitched it into his closet. "Also, I've decided to look for a better job."
"Good idea." He looked so completely annoyed at the idea of another job search that Claire couldn't stop the giggles that boiled up.
"You laughing at me?"
Shane lunged for her. She squealed and dodged, and made a mock swing at him with the bat. He caught it easily in one hand, and pressed her up against the wall.
"How do I smell?" he asked her, very low in his throat. She felt her whole body tingle in response.
"Good." That didn't quite cover it. She took a deeper breath. "Great, actually."
"Glad to hear it." He brushed her lips with his, very lightly. "Let's be sure. Take a nice, deep breath."
She took one. "Maybe a little hint of old diapers."
She kissed him. He certainly didn't taste like old diapers. He tasted like cinnamon and spices, and his lips were soft and hot under hers, and she forgot all about the bat in her hand until it hit the floor with a heavy thunk.
"You taste like tomato soup," Shane murmured. "I came home to get lunch, you know."
"Well, get your own."
Claire took in another deep breath – he really didn't smell at all like old diapers – and pushed him back. She was nowhere near strong enough to do that, if he didn't want to be pushed, but he obligingly stepped back. "Now," she said. "And you're doing your own laundry, stinky. Don't even think about asking."
"Would I do that?" He did the puppy-dog thing with his eyes.
He totally would.
And she knew, as they went downstairs, that she really didn't mind that at all.
It must be love, she thought, and handed him a can of tomato soup.