A Note to My Readers: Before you get lost in the first installment of my week-to-week short story, Barely Contained, I just want to say a few things!

First off, thanks so much for giving this story a read. I know it is being done a little bit differently, but I wanted to give my readers something to look forward to while things are so uncertain right now. Secondly, I want to let you know that this story is along the lines of flash fiction. I took the prompt “when quarantine strikes, who would you want to be stuck with” and ran with it. Details and backstory are sparse, but it does not make the story any less relatable and (hopefully) funny. Lastly, I am not making light of current events. I am doing what I do best and taking a shit sandwich and making it tolerable with wit, humor, and a whole lotta steam!

I hope you enjoy Liam and Honey’s story <3

XO,
Brit (B.L.) Olson

CHAPTER ONE: THE HOUR OF QUARANTINE

There are four things of which Liam Turner is absolutely certain.

  1. He was born with the inherent need to argue, thus his successful career as a corporate lawyer.
  2. He would do anything for his little sister Tamsin, as they are the only family each other have.
  3. Tamsin’s best friend Honey Montgomery is a juicy apple, growing in his garden of Eden and meant to tempt him to the side of sin.
  4. Due to item number two, he must never, ever give in to number three.  

            “Stay with me while your new place is getting ready,” my little sister, Tamsin, told me over the phone three weeks ago.

I had called to let her know my relocation went through and I would be joining her in Seattle, except my place wasn’t ready yet.

“I’m leaving for London for three months and since you and Honey work such long hours, you really won’t be seeing much of each other.”

            Right. What my little sister couldn’t foresee was that the week after I moved in, this Beer Virus would cause the damn country to go on full lockdown. I just got the call from my boss not fifteen minutes ago that we would be working from home, effective immediately.

            This is the Hour of Quarantine. The moment we all knew was coming, but one I was dreading, given my current living situation.

            No court. No face-to-face interactions. Construction on my place stalled indefinitely. No getting out of the God damn house.

            Worst of all, no escaping the woman who, despite being the exact opposite of everything I usually look for in a partner, knocks me senseless just because she fucking sings everything she does.

            Currently, she is singing a little ditty about ways to keep herself busy while the dental practice she works at is closed for the next several weeks.

Maybe I will read a new book, or three or five,
Perhaps sing to my plants so they really thrive,
I could always wipe out the kitchen cabinets,
Or dig around in my closet for my old clarinet.
Oh, I have a puzzle!
What a grand time to be had.

            I chance a glance at her and realize immediately it was a mistake when my breath is stolen from my lungs and my stupid dick twitches.

            He is forever betraying me when Honey is around.

             Her long, blonde locks are thrown up in a messy bun on top of her head, her blue-gray eyes sparkling as she sings her tune. I don’t even know if she realizes she is doing it, but her fucking hips, the ones I am constantly stopping myself from grabbing, are swaying slightly along with her lyrics.

            A low groan escapes my throat and I get up from my place on the couch to escape to my sister’s bedroom for a little bit. Closing the door quietly behind me, I flop onto my back on my bed and interlock my fingers behind my head.

            I take a moment to give myself a little reminder. A taste of what will happen if I give into temptation and take a bite out of that juicy red apple dangling on the branch before me.

            It was last June, the day of my sister’s graduation from the University of Washington, when she told me she would be accepting a position in Seattle and continuing to live with her best friend, Honey.

            Because of my schedule, I hadn’t met Honey until that point. She had only just been a name my sister mentioned on the phone or when Tamsin came to stay with me for some of her holiday breaks.

            But the day we met is permanently etched into my brain. My sister saw something on my face. She must have, because she put down an ultimatum.

            She waited until Honey had excused herself to use the restroom and made her feelings clear.

            “Don’t even think about it, Liam,” she admonishes me.

            “Getting Thai for dinner? We can get something else.”

            “That is not what you were thinking about. I know you’re my brother and I am stuck with you for life, but Honey is my chosen sister,” she pokes me in the chest. “Which makes her your sister by default, so do not fuck with her. Do not be a Lannister.”

            “Am I supposed to get that reference?” My eyebrows rise in confusion.

            She rolls her eyes. “Get a life outside of work, Liam. It’s from Game of Thrones.”

            “You’re using Game of Thrones references and I’m the one who needs to get a life?” I scoff, my voice teasing.

            “I don’t think you’re getting the point I am trying to make here.”

            I sigh. “Honey. Sister. Got it.”

            Too bad the thoughts I have of Honey are very unsisterly.

            I am not looking forward to working from home for the foreseeable future, my only company the person I have been successfully avoiding until this point. Granted, there is still plenty of work to be done, calls to be made, notes to catch up on, research and background checks to go through, but I won’t be able to help being distracted by the presence of my roommate.

            A soft knock sounds on the other side of my door and I sit up quickly, calling out, “Come in.”

Speak of the devil.

            Honey cracks the door enough to poke her head in, her eyes flitting around my room and landing on where I am sprawled on the bed.

“Dinner’s ready. We should probably talk about you working from home and how I can help stay out of your way.”

            “Honey,” I take a quick moment to reflect on how even saying her name feels like honey. “It’s your apartment.”

            She shrugs. “I don’t have anything that I have to do like you do.”

            I sit-up slowly, and gesture towards the main part of the apartment. “Let’s have some dinner and talk then.”

I know I am being a bit of a masochist right now, tempting myself with just a little drizzle of Honey before I sequester myself back to my room, but I can’t really bring myself to fucking care.

            A man has got to eat, right? And being our cohabitating went from sporadic to endless, we should really narrow down our needs and work out some semblance of a schedule for consistency’s sake.

            I’m just being pragmatic, I stubbornly tell myself. If my subconscious could snort, it probably would right about now.

            As I approach the small dining area, my eyes survey the room and find that the table is set, and dinner is ready to be served. Probably for the best, two near-strangers not having to do the awkward shuffle of getting everything from the kitchen to the table.

            I slide a chair back and take my seat, surprised to find she has made my favorite comfort food, baked ziti with a side-salad and garlic bread. Is this a fluke or did she somehow know that just earlier I was thinking about this exact same meal when my boss emailed with the order to stay home?

            I glance at her, her sheepish expression a telltale giveaway that Tamsin must have told her. I sincerely hope Honey never has to take the witness stand, because her innocent demeanor and expressive face would be a real treat for opposing council.

“How did you know?” I ask her as I heap a generous portion on my plate.

            “Your sister, of course. She called as soon as she heard we were in lockdown and suggested we both drown our sorrows in some carbs.”

            “She would.”

I take a bite of the pasta and savor how the simple act of eating my favorite food when I am stressed out makes me feel. Pretty fucking comforted, I gotta say, and that fact alone should make me very uncomfortable since this is my sister’s best friend. But it doesn’t. Not at all. Because she made my favorite food.

            Honey dishes up a plate of her own and takes a hearty bite. She lets out a low groan, and my balls constrict at the sound.

            Shit. Masochist, indeed. I focus on my plate as I ask, “So, what does this closure mean for you since you work with the public?”

            Her shoulders slump, and I immediately regret doing anything to cause Honey sadness. She has this way about her, a visible aura of sunshine that seems to follow her everywhere she goes.

            Dulling the sunshine doesn’t sit well with me and serves as a reminder that acting on my infatuation may just dull her shine altogether if my sister ever found out I disobeyed her orders.

            That can never happen.

            She chews for a long moment before answering my question. “Unemployment for the foreseeable future. I have officially been laid off.”

            “Are you going to be okay financially, being laid off?”

            She nods. “I should, at least for a few months. Between savings, unemployment, and Tamsin still paying her portion of the bills since her work is paying her way in London, I should be okay.”

            I breathe an internal sigh of relief. I have plenty of money to help out, but how would that look? I am just her best friend’s older brother, a man as elusive as the Loch Ness monster for most of the duration of their friendship.

            I wouldn’t hesitate to offer if she needed it, though. The tension in her shoulders and furrowed brow makes me even more uneasy. We are steering in a dangerous direction and I need to redirect course and bring back that trademark Honey radiance.

            “What sort of things have you put on the back burner due to not having the time? What would you like to tackle while home?” I ask.

            The transition before me is obvious. Honey sits up straighter in her chair, her smile grows exponentially as she takes a deep breath to get lost in what delights her, and her golden aura has returned. Crisis having been averted, I take another bite of ziti while Honey talks.

“I have this puzzle I started months ago when business was slow, and I wasn’t working as much. It’s a gorgeous Josephine Wall painting with glitter. I might try and finish putting that together if I can find my puzzle mat and then glue it together. I can also spend some time tending to my houseplants.”

            She gestures around at the apartment, a forest in its own right. It was one of the first things I pointed out when I first showed up. Honey just laughed and explained that they are the only receptive audience to her singing.

            Not true, now that I have heard her singing for myself. It is one of the sweetest things about Honey and one of the most endearing.

            Look at me, thinking things are endearing.

            She continues, “I also have a baby blanket I need to finish knitting because my sister Hannah is due in two months. Oh, my goodness, I hope all this madness is over by then!” She pauses to take a drink of water. “I have been putting off watching The Witcher on Netflix until I have time to devote to it, so I’ll probably watch that. I also have things to deep clean that I have been neglecting so I will probably do that at some point, and of course memes to look at to keep me sane. Some of the quarantine memes are absolute gold!” She exclaims, her direction changing course as quickly as her mood did. “What about you, though? I will try and plan my things around yours since mine aren’t all that important.”

            I shake my head vehemently. “Nonsense. The things you care about are important, Honey. My work will in no way impact everything you want to get done while you are off work.” And even if it did, I would try to make that impact as minimal as possible, I vow to myself.

            Her infectious grin grows. “I appreciate that, but I know you have an important job. What sort of things are you going to be doing while working from home so I can help accommodate?”

            “You don’t need to accommodate me.”

            “Liam,” she says in irritation, an emotion I didn’t know she was capable of. “I’ve asked you twice now. Don’t make me ask a third time.”

            Well damn, if Honey isn’t a little bit bossy. And fuck, if I don’t find that a lot hot.

            “The majority of my work will be mostly computer based. Emails and case research, those sorts of things. I might have to make some calls or Skype, but I can do that from Tamsin’s room.”

            “Okay,” she nods. “Just promise me that you’ll warn me ahead of time for calls and video conferences. I want to minimize noise as much as possible. Plus, I hear The Witcher can be pretty graphic. I don’t want them to think you’re getting head or something while on call with them. That doesn’t seem too professional and I know you have an image to maintain,” she says innocently.

            Fuck. Me. Sideways. The mere suggestion gives me a mental visual of her performing oral on me under my sister’s desk while I am on call with someone else. I turn my attention to the food before me and start mentally listing the things on my plate to calm down my dick at the thought. Noodles covered in a tomato red sauce, finely chopped onions with bits of ground beef, and perfectly cheesed and seasoned to perfection.

            By the time I have run through all the finer ingredients, I am in a much better place. Calm, stoic Liam has safely returned from the brink of losing control and I can answer, albeit gruffly, “I’ll make sure to let you know.”

            “Good.” Her phone on the counter behind her blessedly begins ringing, cutting off whatever she was going to say next. She grabs it to glance at the ID, her eyes shooting to my own across from her. “It’s your sister!” She yelps almost guiltily.

            What does she have to be guilty about? I’m the one having very Lannister thoughts, or whatever the fuck that is supposed to mean. I still haven’t bothered to find the time to watch Game of Thrones.

            She taps her phone and puts it to her ear. “Hey girl! What are you still doing awake?” Honey is silent for a long moment, and I watch her as she listens to whatever response my sister is giving her. I swear her radiance almost dims again; her shoulders droop a little bit more, and her smile appears forced.

            I focus on my dinner and try not to let myself ruminate on that implication. Their convo, albeit one way, filters through despite my best efforts.

            “There’s something you’re not telling me, Tami.”

Honey’s statement catches my attention fully.

            Her eyes shoot to me. “Yeah, we are eating dinner right now.” A pause as my sister responds. Her eyes begin to sparkle in amusement, and she responds. “I can leave the room if you want, but now he’s curious. He’s a lawyer, Tamsin. He’ll get it out of me eventually, even if it’s with his evil mind voodoo.”

            She’s not wrong.

            “WHAT!?” Honey shoots back from the table, her face in shock while she listens to whatever my sister is saying in her ear.

            My heart picks up in pace and my bro senses begin tingling, telling me that my sister is very much up to something that I would not approve of. Thus, her need for me to leave the room.

“Kind of freaking out over here. What’s going on?” I say loudly, trying to get Honey’s attention.

            She waves her free hand irritatingly at my interruption and sticks a finger in her ear to block out further questions. My irritation is beginning to gather like a storm, anxiety and worry, plus a little bit of impatience combining for the perfect disaster.

            Thankfully, Honey hangs up the phone before the storm can break.

“Well?” I demand.

            I watch us Honey pulls herself together before dropping whatever news she has to convey. She sits up and regards me over the table, appraising my mental health. Her shoulders are pulled back, and she gives me a smile meant to calm me, but it only causes the dormant storm to rear its ugly head.

            “Before I tell you, I want to remind you that your sister is a grown woman. She is allowed to make her own choices, whether you see it as a mistake.”

            Well that doesn’t fucking help my heart beating a mad pace in my chest. I’m pretty sure I am going to be taken out with a heart attack at the ripe age of thirty, compliments of my fucking little sister’s actions.

“Tell me,” I demand again in my most frightening tone, one that usually makes people confess their darkest secrets to me when we are just meeting for some coffee.

            Honey appears unfazed, instead letting her bun loose from its place atop her head and dragging out the moment to rub her goddamn temple.

            “Honey!” I bark, causing her to jump in her chair. “You’re killing me here. What did she do? What am I not supposed to not overreact about? I am going to do that very thing if you don’t tell me,” I slap a palm on the table for emphasis.

            She speaks quickly. “Your sister is pregnant!”

            She. What? I blink at Honey a few times, trying to process what she said.

            “She’s what?” I ask tentatively. Maybe I misheard her?

            “Pregnant. With her bosses’ baby. Yup.” She takes a sip of her water and looks at it sadly. “This is definitely not strong enough for this conversation.”

            My chair hits the wall with the force with which I leave it. I round the table faster than I ever have in my life and grab Honey by her forearm and pull her out of her chair, her body flush against my own. “Explain. Now.”

            Honey refuses to meet my gaze, instead squirming against my hold on her and darting her eyes anywhere but at me.

I give her a slight shake and she shouts out, “They hooked up, just once, before they left for London. Tamsin was actually really nervous about the trip because of their one-time drunken hook-up, but they both swore it wouldn’t be a thing. And now she is stuck in quarantine with her boss in London. And she is having his baby, so you know. That’s fun,” she rambles nervously.

            I let out a hearty chuckle, surprising both of us.

“You’re… laughing?” Honey asks nervously.

            “Yeah, I’m laughing,” I release my grip on her arm and take a much-needed step back from her. The scent of her cocoa butter lotion was beginning to envelope me and if it clings to my clothes, I may find myself having even more unbrotherly thoughts every time I move and get a waft.

            “But… why?” She rubs the spot where I had grabbed and held on, and I worry for a moment that I may have hurt her, but when she drops her hand, there isn’t a visible mark.

            “Like you said, she’s a big girl. Plus, she is now in a worse position than we are, so I don’t feel so bad.” Shit, did I just say that?

            Honey looks offended. “Worse position? You think I don’t have better people to be locked up with, Liam Turner?”

            “No, I-” I attempt to backtrack and rectify the situation, but she cuts me off.

            “For that, you get to clean up the dinner dishes.” She stomps off to her room, leaving me stunned behind her.

            What the hell just happened?

            Quarantine just went into effect, and I already hate it.

            Life was so much simpler when I could worry about my sister from afar, but there she is across the pond, alone and pregnant.

            Well, not alone. She has her boss with her. If that isn’t a little karmic justice for having a one-night stand with your boss, I don’t know what is.

            And here I am, stuck with the one person who tempts me to do something very un-Liam like.

            Maybe that’s why I want her more than I need to take my next breath.

            This might not end well for any of us.

            Good thing we have nothing but time to figure it out the messes we have found ourselves in.

Check out Installment Two: Hour One Troubles