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Roommate Wars: Chapter 15


The entire second week of our four-week living arrangement, Elise was driving me absolutely insane. She’d finally washed the laundry, and she’d made a couple of decent meals, as though she was thinking about my cholesterol. And she’d also gone on at least a half a dozen dates.

Some might think she was avoiding me.

The food was no big deal, nor was the laundry. I could do those things just as easily as she could, though for the first time since I was thirteen, a woman had done them for me—and I’d liked it.

I never cared for a woman to do anything for me, but for some reason I liked it so much when Elise did that I’d turned into an asshole and insisted on it. I’d suggested the arrangement so she’d feel comfortable moving in and not paying rent, and here I was demanding she tend to household duties.

The frozen food tasted better when Elise prepared it. Maybe the extra toppings she put on the cheese pizza or the way she folded the clothes made the difference—I didn’t know. But I liked it better. I also liked the way the apartment felt with her in it. Which was why I was about to lose my mind with her going out every night.

And because she was spending her time with other men.

I’d just clicked out of email in my home office when she knocked on my open bedroom door. “Have a minute?”

“Sure, what’s up?”

She held up her phone with a spiderweb-cracked screen. I’d been eyeballing that screen, trying to figure out how I could get it replaced without her knowing, but figured that was impossible.

I squinted and finally took in the photo and description on the app she was showing me. Some dude in his early thirties wearing a bandana. “No.”


“He looks desperate. And douchey.” I motioned to my head. “The bandana is a dead giveaway.”

“Of what?”


Elise laughed, seemingly enjoying our battles over whom she should date next. “That’s ridiculous.”

I shrugged. “I call it like I see it.”

She’d been showing me profiles of potential suitors all week, and each time I came up with a different excuse for her to not date them. But some of the men squeaked through when I wasn’t around to veto.

She tilted her head while staring at the photo. “You’re right. He does look desperate. I bet he’s clingy.”

“Definitely clingy.”

I’d offhandedly asked Sophia if Elise normally went out this much, and she’d shook her head and said, “No, must be because she isn’t living at home anymore.”

Why living with me brought out her dating bug, I didn’t know, but I wasn’t happy about it.

Elise sighed and sank onto my mattress while scrolling through her phone.

I eyed her suspiciously. Elise on my mattress wasn’t a good image to get in my head.

She looked up. “Are you almost done working? Do you want to grab a beer?”

“At a bar?” I wasn’t sure I was up for that, but I’d go if she did. At least there I could cockblock.

She scoffed. “Hell no. The pajamas are on and I’m in for the night. I was thinking from our fridge.”

This would be the first time she hadn’t gone out in days. “No big date tonight?”


I didn’t know why that flippant one-word response made me so damn happy, but I wasn’t going to dwell on it.

I stood and gestured for her to go. “After you.” Elise sitting on my bed gave me ideas. Not that I needed help in that department. My mind had been wandering there a lot lately.

We headed to the kitchen, and Elise opened the fridge while I sat at the counter. She bent over, putting her ass in my direct line of vision.

I sighed. Her face was scrunched in concentration as she decided between the five different IPAs I kept on hand. She wasn’t flirting on purpose; her sexiness was simply a part of her.

Regardless of my attraction to Elise, I wouldn’t go there. I’d screw it up even if I was open to a relationship, which I wasn’t. There was a reason my previous relationships had failed, and it wasn’t always the women’s fault. Some of them had wanted more connection, and that need had shut me down like a Swedish vault. Beyond the superficial gifts and whatnot, I was a trash boyfriend. Which was why I’d been taking a break. I was beginning to feel guilty.

Elise opened a bottle of Anchor Steam—the ale I typically drank—and handed it to me. She pulled out chips and salsa and corn nuts and joined me at the counter with a Sierra Nevada in hand, propping herself on a stool.

The side of my body radiated heat at her nearness. And yet this little moment of domesticity was also peaceful. I liked the companionable crunching, no conversation necessary. Just enjoying each other’s company.

She reached for her old-lady word search book—the kind you find on grocery store magazine racks—and started a new page with words related to the Kentucky Derby.

I looked over her shoulder. “Filly—diagonal.” I pointed to the spot.

She circled it and crossed it out on the list.

A few minutes later, she was almost finished. I pointed out a few here and there, because I couldn’t help myself, but Elise was the master word searcher. She finished those pages in minutes.

She sighed. Then sighed again. She was stuck on “colt.” It was always the short ones that got her.

I leaned closer, and she stiffened. Her chest rose and fell more quickly.

Normally, Elise didn’t seem all that interested in my presence. At times, she appeared almost indifferent, unless I was getting on her nerves and she called me Jackson. But despite her dating frenzy, in moments like this, I wondered…

“Bottom-right corner, one row up.” I stretched, creating distance and acting like our little moment hadn’t affected me. It wouldn’t be me making a move. I was keeping that shit locked down.

Her phone beeped, and she picked it up. A wide grin split her face.

My Elise Dating Radar went on high alert. Anytime I heard that beep, my heart raced and my head pounded, as though I were having a mild panic attack. I tipped up my chin. “What’s up?”

Her eyes sparkled as she stared at the phone. “I snagged a good one.”

My jaw clenched. “I thought you were staying in tonight.”

“He works in the neighborhood, and he’s on his way here.” She hopped down from the stool, ignoring my question.

I was the emotionally locked-up one, but here I was, upset that Elise was leaving when we were just getting comfortable. I had no right. But that didn’t change my feelings.

I mentally ran though the business establishments close by. “You’re going out with a waiter? What happened to me checking your app before you date another loser?”

“This one seems fine. And he’s not a waiter; he’s a flower deliveryman,” she said brightly.

I closed my eyes and sighed. “Yeah, he sounds great.”

“Hey.” She finally looked at me. “Being a delivery person is a noble profession. What would you do without your delivery people?”

She had me there. I was on a first-name basis with the delivery woman who worked at the Chinese restaurant down the street. Not that I was deterred. “And that’s a criterion for wasting an hour you’ll never get back? What will you talk to him about?”

She shrugged. “Plants? Sophia works in green space; I’m sure there are things we can chat about.”

“Sophia is a designer with a degree.”

Elise frowned. “Don’t be an intellectual snob, Jackson. This guy seems hardworking. And he’s cute.”

I let out a pained sigh.

She checked the time. “He’ll be here in five minutes.”

The back of my neck prickled. “What? I thought you were joking. He can’t really be on his way.”

“Well, he is. So you should leave.”

Were my eyes popping out of my head? “It’s my house!”

She shrugged. “Okay, stay. He and I will leave.”

I didn’t like that any better. “Forget it. I’m going to my room. But here…” I opened the junk drawer and shoved things around until I found what I was looking for.

Elise stared at the piece of metal I handed her. “A whistle?”

“Blow it if he tries anything.” I scratched my head. “Mace would be better, but I don’t have that on hand.”

She seemed to be holding back a smile. “Do you normally keep mace around?”

“Of course not; I’m a man. I may get hit on, but no woman has overpowered me and taken advantage.”

Her face turned bright red, and I realized what I’d said.

She was thinking of that night—the night she’d accidentally gotten into bed with me, and then not-so-accidentally kissed me.

Did she think I hadn’t wanted it? That she’d forced me? “Put my number on your speed dial.”

She rolled her eyes, her embarrassment fading. “Are you my overprotective older brother now?”

Yeah, right, older brother. I tapped my finger on the counter. “Can I trust you with this guy?”

She shook her head slowly as though she couldn’t believe my words, and then a knock sounded at the front door.

Her eyes widened, and she pointed to the back of the house. “Go!” At my stubborn glare, she said, “At least wait in your room until we leave. You’ll ruin the vibe with your cranky Jackson look.”

“He’d deserve it,” I muttered. No one called me cranky. I was happy-go-lucky. Except with Elise.

“Now.” She pointed again, but I waited until she opened the door, wearing my boxers that were too sexy to wear in front of other men.

The guy on the other side had longish dirty-blond hair, was built, and on the taller side. I didn’t like him. Not one bit.

Elise looked over her shoulder and saw me standing there, and her eyes flared.

I sullenly walked to my bedroom, where I lay on my bed, face up, staring at the ceiling until I heard Elise rush back to her room. She knocked around for a couple of minutes, possibly changing, and then pounded down the hallway and slammed the front door on her way out.

With the stranger, the fucker.

Fists balled, I closed my eyes, taking in deep breaths. I was pissed, and I had no right to be. I sat up abruptly and grabbed my wallet from the nightstand. I wasn’t about to sit around all night. Made me feel like a loser.

Loading a few beers in my arms from the kitchen, I left the apartment and made my way to Max’s place, where I planned to encroach on his and Sophia’s couple time.

This whole tantrum I was throwing would be smoother if I had any interest in my own hookups, but I didn’t. I was too focused on Elise’s dating life.


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