Roommate Wars: Chapter 19


Jack

Normally, the homemade stuffed manicotti of my favorite neighborhood eatery put me in a good mood, but not tonight. Because Hot Stuff hadn’t texted me back, and I was about to lose my mind.

Where the hell was she? Had she ignored my text and gone out with that guy? What was wrong with this woman?

I’d held off running home, but only just, because I didn’t want her to think I cared that much. My reconnaissance with Max on the floor above suggested Elise wasn’t at his place either. So I stayed behind and watched my dad’s new favorite reality show with him, worrying over Elise the entire time and disturbed at how entertaining the show was.

I should tell Elise about it. She’d get a kick out of the family drama in this one…

What was I thinking? Elise wouldn’t be around long enough to finish the series with me. Episodes were streaming weekly, and she was moving out in two weeks.

For some reason, that reminder soured my mood further.

I checked a few things around Dad’s place—bulbs all looked good and the place was clean, thanks to the cleaners I sent over weekly. Only one bill was sitting on the kitchen table, which I stuffed in my back pocket.

When I couldn’t hold out any longer, I said goodbye to my dad and headed home.

All was quiet in the building as I made my way up. I punched in the access code and entered the apartment, hoping to find Elise in my boxers and T-shirt, sitting on the couch with her feet kicked up. A smile pulled at the corners of my mouth. She looked good in my clothes. I should burn hers more often.

But the living room and kitchen were mostly dark, illuminated by the stove light I’d left on. It didn’t seem like anyone had been home, and my pulse kicked up a notch. Had something happened to her?

“Elise?”

And then I heard it. The sound of her giggling in her bedroom. I sighed in relief.

Until her giggles were followed by a man’s voice. She wouldn’t bring that douche here, would she?

My skin prickled and my head pounded. I hated the idea of another man in my home. Especially one who was two-timing Elise.

I stormed to her bedroom and knocked once, then I swung open the door.

Elise turned her pretty head to me, her expression surprised. “Jack? What’s wrong?”

My gaze zeroed in on the man sitting casually on her bed. He wore jeans and a black T-shirt, and his hair was slicked back with some kind of ridiculous hair product. He wasn’t touching her—and that was all that saved his ass.

Because it was the delivery fucker.

“Did you get my text?” Heat rose up my neck, and I glared at the guy.

Elise glanced between us, seemingly wondering whom I was talking to. She figured it out because she said, “Oh, um, no. I forgot my phone when I left to help Sophia, and I haven’t been back. Why? What happened? Is your dad okay?” She hurried into the bathroom, grabbing the phone where I’d last seen it.

Who the hell went on a date with a stranger and didn’t bring their phone? Anything could have happened to her. Did she have no survival skills?

Without giving her a chance to read the text, I stared at the douchebag and said, “He needs to leave. Now.”

She glanced at her date, who was beginning to look nervous. Possibly from the flexing I was doing. “Jack, what the hell is wrong with you?” She stepped closer and tried to push me out of the room.

I crossed my arms, not budging.

Elise struck a similar pose. “Just because we live together, that does not give you the right to tell me who I can and cannot see,” she said. But I was too busy glaring at Dickhead, who’d had the good sense to stand and move toward the door.

“If you’d read my texts,” I said slowly, angrily, “you’d know why this guy must leave. I’ve sent you six, by the way.” I glared at the man who’d stopped a couple of feet from me because I was blocking the door. “He’s the neighborhood gigolo. I caught him kissing 2240.”

Elise scrunched her nose in confusion. “Twenty-two… Oh, across the street? The well-preserved wife?”

I nodded.

“I’ll call you later, Elise,” Dickhead said and scurried out of the bedroom after I grudgingly stepped aside.

“Wait!” Elise called after him. “Is that true?”

The front door slammed shut.

He’d reached it fast. Must have run.

I peered down at her, arms still crossed. “You don’t believe me?”

Her expression was one of confusion and exasperation. “How do you know it was him?”

“He was wearing his work uniform—the hot-pink Luscious Stems shirt. And I saw his face.”

Her chest deflated, and she stepped back and sank onto her bed. “Damn, we had fun tonight. I guess it’s back to the drawing board.” She pulled out her phone and opened the dating app that was the bane of my existence.

The sound that came out of my throat was more animal than human. “Stop, just stop.”

“What are you talking about?” she said, but she was still scrolling through the faces of nameless men.

I grabbed her phone. “Quit dating. At least until you move out.”

She stared at me like I’d lost my mind. Which I had. “What are you talking about? What’s wrong with me dating?”

“Men are assholes. Except for me.”

She just stared, a look of disbelief on her face.

“Fine, sometimes I’m an asshole too…with you. Normally, I’m the one getting screwed over.”

She rubbed her eyes. “I don’t see what this has to do with me. Look, I appreciate you telling me about the delivery guy. He was fun, but not worth that particular headache, though I can’t fault his taste. Maybe I should date our neighbor and give up on men for a while.” She seemed totally serious.

I tipped my head to the side. “Can you do that?”

She pouted. “No. I’m straight as an arrow, and it really sucks because I might have better luck with women.”

“I doubt it. Your taste in partners sucks.”

She huffed out a gust of air. “And yours doesn’t?”

Fuck, she had me there.

Her eyes narrowed, seemingly seeing through me. “You can’t honestly expect me to stay home for two weeks.”

“Why not?” I said, like it made the most sense in the world.

She compressed her mouth as though she couldn’t believe how I was behaving. I couldn’t either, so we were on the same page there. “I don’t know why you’d want me to not date, but the answer is no, I won’t stay home. I need to get out.” She said that last part cryptically.

I rubbed my neck. I wasn’t making sense—I knew that. But I couldn’t seem to help myself. Shit, even my dad was on Elise’s side.

None of this made sense. Unless… “You don’t need to use apps. I’ll take you on dates.”

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