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What's Cooking?

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Maddy grunted at the stiff packaging and sat on her twin-sized bed, which was two feet off the floor.  She stared at the purple object just beyond her grasp.  Why did two slivers of plastic have to be so durable? She just wanted get out the damned vibrator, but it was like breaking into a bank safe.

She sighed. If only she could get it open, she could relieve some of the tension that had been building in the past week.  Not to mention the tension that had been building since she last had sex two months ago.

She yanked on it again, and the whole thing flew out of her hands, nicking her forefinger in the process.  She rose from her bed, which was against the wall because she liked sleeping in corners (they made her feel safer), and bent over to pick up the vibrator.

Behind her, she heard a soft knock on her bedroom door.  Then the door opened.  She froze, realizing she hadn’t locked it, and waited for Morrigan to say whatever she wanted. And then the both of them could pretend this never happened.

“Oh! God! I’m sorry!”

That wasn’t Morrigan.  Maddy spun around, package in her grasp, to find herself staring at a tall blond man in her doorway. Who the hell was he?

“I-I-I was looking for the loo,” he stuttered, gawking at her.

She clenched her jaw, and tightened her grip on the package until the hard plastic edges pained her palms.

“Do you see a toilet in here?” she demanded, stomping forward--well aware she was dressed only in her bra and panties--and slammed the door closed in his face. If only he’d been staring at her underwear. Typically, it was her height that people first noticed, since she was no taller than four feet, and then they stopped seeing anything else. 

She sighed and sat down at her desk, which was in the corner opposite her bed. Now her mood was dampened considerably. She set the package on the edge of her desk, found her cell phone, and texted her roommate. A strange man was just staring at me.

A moment later heard Morrigan’s laughter bubble up from the living room, and Maddy decided to be angry with her, too.

Morrigan’s reply came seconds later. That’s Alistair. He’s harmless. And apparently can’t follow simple directions to washroom.

Maddy stared at the message.  That still didn’t explain what the hell he was doing in their apartment.

Daylen’s friend.  Morrigan supplied before Maddy could ask. Didn’t want to leave the simpering idiot alone. You know how convincing D can be.

Maddy sighed and locked her phone.  She rummaged through her clothesbasket, and pulled on some wrinkled teal sweat pants and a matching hoodie. 

She was hungry anyway, she realized.  It was Friday, so Daylen, Morrigan’s boyfriend, no doubt had filled their fridge with fresh ingredients for the weekend.  In return, Maddy would cook and Morrigan would clean up. 

Maybe if Maddy ate, she’d feel better, since cooking did usually calm her nerves.

Besides, once this oblivious man left the bathroom, she could corner him and give him a piece of her mind for barging in and staring at her. For Stone’s sake. How did he get lost in the fucking hallway of a two-bedroom apartment?  He was a lecher and an idiot.

Maddy stepped out of her room, and realized maybe hallway was a bit generous. The doors to her room, Morrigan’s room, and their bathroom formed a semicircle, with the bathroom in the middle. Opposite that, was a slightly wider doorway that led to their living room.  If Maddy were feeling gracious, she would have given this Alistair the benefit of the doubt.

But she was not feeling gracious.

She scowled when she found Morrigan and Daylen sitting side by side on the cream-colored sofa in the living room.  It was already dark outside, Maddy noticed, looking through the wide paneled windows opposite the couch.  No wonder she was hungry.

Daylen was reading some hardcover book and Morrigan was tapping impatiently on her phone.  However, they both looked up when Maddy stood in front of them, one hand on her hip.

“Who is that?” she demanded. Rather than wait for a reply, she stomped her way through the living room and into the kitchen.  Once there, she flung open the fridge, taking a deep breath as she surveyed all the fresh meats and vegetables she had to work with. Daylen was a treasure, she had to admit, even if he had questionable friends. 

Maddy grabbed chicken, fresh vegetables, and wine from the fridge and carried them over to an empty space on the counter. By then, Daylen and Morrigan had followed her into the room and sat at the square table next to the doorway.

Her back to them, Maddy washed her hands and then took out the longest, sharpest knife from the block before finally turning to look at them. “Talk.”

Daylen tried to hide his smile from Maddy, but she could see his blue eyes sparking with amusement.  He’d once called Maddy adorable, and while Maddy hated that sentiment, she couldn’t deny that she probably looked ridiculous standing barely four feet tall and halfheartedly threatening them with a kitchen knife.

Morrigan giggled and raised her eyebrows at her boyfriend, who was nice enough not to laugh. 

Daylen cleared his throat. “Alistair is one of my good friends, and he’s having a bad…day.”

Maddy waved the knife in the air, as if to say, “So what?” Then, she turned and stepped onto her stool, which raised her about six inches higher so that everything on the counter was within easy reach.

Daylen lowered his voice, “His…stepmom told him not to visit for the winter break, and he’s…not taking it well.”

Maddy faced the counter and began chopping carrots and celery. “So?”

Morrigan scoffed.  “That boy is sensitive to everything.”

“Family’s important to him,” Daylen replied, his voice resuming its normal volume.

“I haven’t seen Mother for two years. You don’t see me having a break down because of it.” 

Maddy smiled over her growing piles of chopped vegetables. Morrigan’s mom, Flemeth, was backpacking across the continent, of all things.  Their fridge was covered with postcards from the strangest places.

“Morrigan,” Daylen hissed.  “He’s not having a break down, I just didn’t think he should be spending Friday evening alone.”

Maddy stepped down from her stool and retrieved a pan from under the oven. “So you brought the fool here?”  This time she glared over her shoulder at Morrigan.  “Couldn’t go one weekend without this one, could you?”

To Maddy’s surprise, Morrigan’s face flushed the slightest shade of pink. “Don’t complain, my friend. I see you have no problem with Daylen being here every weekend.”

It was true; Maddy didn’t mind it at all.  Aside from stocking the fridge, Daylen took care of other things around their apartment: burnt out light bulbs, leaky faucets, the bothersome frat boys who lived downstairs.

“Daylen’s not the problem,” Maddy murmured, spraying the sheet pan with butter and carrying it over to her vegetables.  She climbed onto her stool again, imagining life in a dwarf-sized apartment rather than a human-sized one.  But that meant living in Orzammar with Mama, and Maddy decided she was fine using her stool.

Morrigan cleared her throat, and without turning, Maddy felt the atmosphere in the room change.  She scraped the celery and carrots, along with a diced onion and minced garlic onto the sheet pan. Frowning she turned on her stool to find the blonde idiot standing in the doorway, his hands fisted into the pockets of his jeans and his eyes trained on her.

“I’m really sorry,” he said, sparing Daylen a glance, almost like he was begging for help.

Maddy blinked at him. Even hunched and ashamed, he was large enough to span the width of the doorway. He had a chiseled jaw; his cheeks and chin were dusted with just the right amount of stubble.  Add to that his broad shoulders and piercing eyes, and she wondered why she hadn’t invited him to her bed instead of kicking him out.

Then she noticed how he was dressed: stylishly with brown loafers, relaxed fit jeans, and an untucked, long-sleeved, navy blue, button-down shirt. He was undoubtedly some rich boy with four parents (two biological, two step from his parents’ inevitable remarriages). He’d probably never worked hard in his life, and now he was in her kitchen because he couldn’t handle not going home for the winter holidays.