Roommate Wars: Chapter 35


Jack

Elise moving out sucked. I’d wanted her to either stay or move into the building I’d bought, but that wasn’t what she wanted, and I realized my entire world came to a screeching halt if Elise wasn’t happy. So Max and I, with Elise and Sophia’s direction, helped her move into the shoebox-sized apartment she’d found, and I dealt with the change. I also visited often.

I jogged down the steps to her basement apartment in the Haight District a month after she’d moved and knocked on the pale blue door.

Elise answered wearing my boxers, tee, and a sweatshirt from my closet she’d declared was hers before she moved out, because it smelled like me. “Hi!” She jumped into my arms and kissed me all over my face, and I carried her back inside.

The queen bed from the second bedroom of my apartment now sat beneath the main window of Elise’s new place. I’d insisted that window needed bars because the apartment was on the lower level, and the owner was happy to allow me to pay for the extra security. Elise lived in a decent neighborhood, but you could never be too safe, and I wasn’t taking chances with my girlfriend.

The rest of the furniture in her apartment consisted of a small used loveseat her mom had helped her find and a two-person dining table she’d bought from IKEA. No TV—not enough space. We watched TV at my place, or Elise used her phone if she was in the mood. We also routinely visited my dad and his mancave for episodes of whatever reality television he was into that week.

Sophia’s contribution to Elise’s apartment was a small hanging plant Elise babied like a child. But it was a happy child, with bright green leaves that made the place cheery. The shoebox was growing on me, and I found myself coming over as often as I could. Or maybe I just liked being wherever Elise was.

“Where’s my dinner, woman?” I was teasing, and she knew it, or I’d have lost a testicle with that statement.

She slid down my chest until her feet hit the ground. “Coming, boyfriend.”

Elise grabbed oven mitts off a kitchen counter that barely fit a microwave and pulled a glass dish from an oven that looked about half the size of a standard. This was what you called “efficiency living,” but she had everything she needed, despite my bitching.

I peeked over her shoulder and breathed in deeply at what looked like a breaded chicken dish. “Going fancy on me? Nothing frozen tonight?”

Elise didn’t make frozen food anymore, because if either of us wasn’t up to cooking, we ordered takeout. I also suspected she enjoyed cooking fresh meals now that she knew how. And I enjoyed being fed, so it was a win-win.

She eyed me haughtily. “I made you something special so you wouldn’t forget the woman who feeds you and warms your bed when you’re off on your trip with Thalia tomorrow.”

She placed the dish on the stovetop, and I wrapped my arms around her from behind. “I think about you all day, every day. Would be hard for me to forget you.”

She twisted her head and smiled. “I must be special.”

I turned her around and tucked a lock of hair that had fallen out of her bun behind her ear. “Pretty special. There’s a chance I’d do anything to make you happy.”

She beamed up at me. “You would?”

I dropped my forehead to hers, taking in a deep breath and letting it out slowly. It had been a long day at work, with Environ ramping up, and I’d missed her. When I lifted my head, she was looking at me with concern.

I smiled, basking in her expression that showed how much she cared. There was no one more warmhearted than this woman. “I love you, Elise. Even if you choose to live in a cube.”

She pressed her lips together, and her eyes widened and turned glassy before she blinked. “I love you too.” She reached up and hugged me, wrapping her arms tightly around my neck. She leaned back, smiling. “Even if you’re a money-hoarding billionaire.”

Sassy as ever.

I’d tell her I loved her a thousand times a day if that was all it took to make her smile. I wasn’t sure why I’d waited so long to express my feelings. I’d had them for months.

I picked her up and set her cute rear on the counter before sliding between her legs and kissing her. “I love you,” I said between kisses.

She grabbed my head, kissing my mouth and cheeks and eyelids, then back to my mouth. “I love you too.”

The food grew cold.

Elise grew naked.

And we ended up in her bed.

Some forty-five minutes later, I padded back into the kitchen wearing nothing but my birthday suit to retrieve forks and the casserole dish for sustenance.

Elise sat up, and her face twisted as she reached for a fork and speared a chicken breast, taking a bite and staring off thoughtfully. “You better not have been trying to distract me with your love declaration, because I was serious about tomorrow. Don’t let Thalia take advantage of you.”

I sent her a disbelieving look. “Like that would happen. As for the declaration, it was past due. Being in love is new for me, so there are a few kinks to work out.”

Her eyes twinkled for a moment, then she frowned again. “Thalia is going to try to take advantage. It’s a gut feeling, and I’m worried about my cinnamon roll boyfriend.”

“Cinnamon roll?”

She waved her fork absently. “You’re sweet and kind, and that woman’s a backstabbing, lecherous troll.”

“Tell me how you really feel,” I joked, but Elise was right. Thalia would probably try again, and not because she liked me personally but for the money and influence. Not that she’d get anywhere. I might have been a willing pushover in the past because I hadn’t cared back then. Now I had no time for that shit.

I’d managed to put off the Napa trip a few weeks and skipped work get-togethers, but I couldn’t avoid Thalia forever.

I leaned over and kissed Elise’s cheek. “Thalia can’t take what’s already been given away, and my girlfriend has me in the palm of her hand.”

Elise stopped chewing. Then she dropped her forked chicken into the dish and climbed on top of my lap. “Who would have thought Max’s commitment-phobe friend would give up his singlehood?”

I tossed my food in the casserole dish too and grabbed her sexy hips. “I seem to recall your skittishness with relationships.”

“It takes one to know one,” she said, then reached back and grabbed my dick. She shook her head slowly. “Still no refractory period, I see.”

“There was one, but once the sheet fell below your breasts, my libido roared back to life.”

She leaned over and kissed me, giving me the best view of her breasts in the house.


I met Thalia on the helipad the next morning, and she remained professional, going over preparations for the meeting and dinner party later that night. She’d memorized every family member and pertinent event for the attendees, as she’d been going to meetings in my absence and getting to know everyone. But I learned at the dinner party why giving her that much freedom had been shortsighted on my part.

Thalia looped her arm through mine as soon as I entered the dinner party, which was set in an underground wine cellar, with wine barrels lining the walls and blankets for the laps of the attendees because the place was kept at a cool sixty-four degrees Fahrenheit.

I tried to remove Thalia’s arm, but she tightened her grip and smiled at the owner of the vineyard, a billionaire who ran dozens of companies worldwide—the vineyard being a hobby and a convenient meeting place.

“Gregory,” Thalia said, getting the man’s attention, “my better half just arrived.”

The fuck?

She grinned up at me. “Jack has a bit of mad scientist in him and can be a little scattered. I told you,” she said to me, “the party was at six o’clock.”

I peeled her off my arm and reached across the space to shake the man’s hand. “I was told seven. My apologies.” I glared at Thalia, who was ignoring my look.

“Not at all,” Gregory Walton said. “I understand how these things go. My wife does the same thing to me. Tells me one time and forgets when it’s been changed.”

“That’s not—” I started, but Thalia cut me off.

“Our partners can be such a pain, can they not?” she said, laughing.

And I did not think she was referring to me as a business partner. Mostly because she wasn’t my business partner; she worked for me.

Before I could correct her, everyone in the room started sitting around a large mahogany table with crystal glassware.

I was irritated, but I’d deal with Thalia after the party.

I sat at the end of the table, next to Gregory, and we immediately began talking about the future of Environ. “This technology is on the cutting edge of climate readiness and would allow businesses like yours to grow with preparedness, saving hundreds of millions of dollars in loss prevention.”

He moved his hand off the table so the server could set down a salad. “It’s fascinating technology. Not sure how we’ve managed without it.”

I chuckled. “With expensive insurance premiums that continue to go up. Our technology won’t eliminate the need for insurance, but it can be used to plan better, preventing climate hazards from affecting businesses and communities the way they have been.”

“That’s what we like to hear,” he said and grinned at his wife beside him. She was attractive, wearing a sparkly black dress and gazing at him warmly. “My wife here wants more accountability. Wants us to leave more of a positive mark.”

I grinned and nodded. “That’s what I want too, and my girlfriend would agree as well.”

Gregory glanced at Thalia a few seats down. “She’s a go-getter, that one.”

“Oh no,” I said. “Thalia isn’t my girlfriend.”

Gregory turned to his wife, and they both looked over in confusion. “My apologies. We assumed by the way she spoke of you over the last few weeks, and then again tonight, that you were a couple.”

My chest tightened, and my head grew so hot I thought it might explode. First Thalia insulted Elise, and now she’d been plotting and convincing my business associates we were a couple?

It was the last straw.

“Thalia gave me her resignation today,” I told Gregory and his wife, whose eyebrows rose. “She’ll no longer be with the company. I hope that doesn’t change our informal agreements this afternoon?”

Thalia had been chatting with the CFO of one of Gregory’s companies down the table, but at my words, her head swiveled. “Excuse me?”

I took another sip of the rich Cabernet that had been served. “I’ve informed Mr. Walton you’ll be leaving us soon.” I glanced at Gregory’s wife and smiled. “Tomorrow, to be exact.”

Thalia’s mouth gaped, and she looked nervously around the table. Our conversation had drawn attention. Possibly because I was fucking furious and not hiding it.

Thalia stood, threw down her white cloth napkin, and left the room.

A gust of air escaped my chest, and I breathed freely for the first time in months. I hadn’t realized until this moment how stressful having Thalia around had been.

I turned back to Gregory and his wife. “Now that that unpleasant business is over, shall we talk about moving forward?”

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