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Roommate Wars: Chapter 4


I was standing on the landing outside my apartment, attempting to clear my head, when Max sauntered down the stairs in a three-piece charcoal suit. My best friend dressed to impress every day, but he reserved the three-pieces for special clients. “Big meeting?”

He straightened his tie absently. His dark hair was combed back—a stark contrast to his light eyes. “I’m wooing a group for a project south of Market.” He paused. “What’s going on? You look stressed.”

I was normally the even-keeled type. “Elise moved in.” I tilted my head toward the apartment. “She’s taking over Sophia’s old room.”

Max’s eyes widened. “Is that a good idea?”


“I see… Is she okay?”


Max nodded. “When are you going to tell Sophia?”

“I’d hoped Elise would.”

Max checked his watch. “I’m late for the meeting. Make sure you let Sophia know, or I’ll tell her. Either way, she should know.” He lifted his chin. “Catch me up later on how this all came about.”

I waved without looking and leaned my forearms against the banister. My head was about to explode. I’d been standing out here for nearly an hour and was no clearer on what I was doing.

I waited until Max disappeared down the stairs, then took a deep breath and headed back into the apartment. Elise should be showered and settled by now.

Only, she was nowhere in sight. I closed the door, and my chest loosened. Considering how Elise had handled the aftermath of our one-night stand, she was going to avoid me as much as I avoided her.

Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. We could keep our distance if I planned things right.

I headed into the kitchen, hankering for something salty. Sophia had kept the salty garbage stocked when she lived here. I suspected she did that for my benefit, as I hadn’t wanted to venture out back then. I’d been dealing with the aftermath of my ex nearly destroying the building and my ass-poor taste in women, and for a less obvious reason that I hadn’t shared with anyone yet.

With Sophia living with Max, I was forced to buy my own crap food these days, and I’d been remiss in keeping up supplies. Hence the absence of salt and my current dilemma.

I pulled out my phone and ordered groceries from a delivery app. I couldn’t miss my meeting this afternoon, but now that Elise was living here, I should make sure there was food. At least for this first week.

Until she got settled.

And had a chance to shop.

Then she was on her own.

“Shit.” It was going to be hard to not want to take care of Elise. I didn’t know why I felt protective of her, but I did.

“Why ‘shit’?” came her voice as she swept around the corner carrying the clothes she’d worn to my apartment. And wearing my boxers and T-shirt.

My mouth went dry and my eyes nearly bugged out of my head—which I promptly cleared, because controlling myself was essential to this scheme.

The boxers were loose on her waist and slightly fitting over curvy hips. She’d tied one of my holey T-shirts into a knot at the front so it didn’t drape to her thighs. Her hair was still wet, loose strands dripping water onto the thin T-shirt and leaving almost transparent patches over her chest, making it clear she’d ditched the bra.

I slammed my eyes closed. This living arrangement was going to be hell.

Elise dropped her things near the front door. When she turned and headed for the couch, I stealthily kicked the clothes outside.

I feigned searching the fridge. “I see you found something to wear.”

“Yep. Thanks, by the way.” There was a pause, then, “What kind of laundry detergent do you use?”

That caught me off guard. I looked over. “Huh?”

She was sniffing my T-shirt, her expression unadulterated pleasure.

And she might as well have licked my cock.

“You always smell so good, but I can’t place the detergent. I better get familiar with it if I’m to do the laundry.”

I don’t know why her liking the way I smelled got my blood pumping, but it did. “I have no idea,” I said, acting like I didn’t care.

She shrugged. “I guess I’ll use whatever.” She plopped on the couch Max had shelled out ten grand for because he “needed something comfortable” on his daily visits, and kicked her bare feet up onto the coffee table, crossing her lightly tanned, sexy-as-hell legs. She’d done this a million times when her sister lived here. But never while wearing my boxers that barely hit mid-thigh.


Someone rang the doorbell, and I wiped the bead of sweat that had formed on my forehead. Thank the grocery gods. That was quick even for the neighborhood food delivery, who were pretty damn prompt.

“I’ll get it,” I said, but Elise was already surfing the TV, not paying attention.

I opened the door, but it wasn’t the grocery person. “Thalia?”

My new CEO smiled in a way that made the corners of her eyes crinkle, and I suspected it was her secret sauce for making power deals and coming across genuine. She had shoulder-length, no-nonsense, light-brown hair, and cut a fine figure in the professional world. She was young but not too young, and not so good-looking that people (men) didn’t take her seriously. Sadly, those things mattered at her career level. Though I would have hired her regardless.

I checked the time on my phone. I wasn’t running late, despite my impromptu new housemate. “I thought we were meeting at the office.”

“Oh, we were, we were,” Thalia said and swatted the air congenially. “But I was in the neighborhood.” She glanced behind her, smiling as though she found the street charming. “I know you prefer working from home, so I thought I’d pop on by.”

Elise’s neck was stretched like a meerkat as she watched us. I couldn’t tell if she was curious or if there was more behind her scrutiny.

I stepped back and let Thalia in. This wasn’t the best time, but I’d be spending weeks getting her up to speed. Might as well introduce her to Elise, because my new CEO was correct: I vastly preferred working from my home office. “Thalia, this is Elise, my new roommate. Elise, this is Thalia, the CEO of my VR company, Environ.”

Elise greeted Thalia, then flashed me a questioning look. “VR?”

“A virtual reality company that predicts the impacts of natural disasters.”

Elise’s forehead scrunched. “Is this the company you own with Max?”

I shifted and tucked a hand in my pocket. “No—that’s another company.” I glanced between the two women uncomfortably. I liked to have my hands in multiple pots to keep from getting bored, but it was unusual. “There are a few.”

Thalia nodded and winked.

Given how thoroughly she’d reviewed Environ, I wouldn’t be surprised if my new CEO knew everything about my other businesses. The woman was a shark.

Elise stood. “Can I get you anything to drink?” she asked Thalia.

I winced. Should have offered first. “Do you need anything?” I said belatedly.

Thalia shook her head. “No, I’m fine and ready to get started.”

“Okay, well…” I rubbed my jaw. “I guess we can head back to my office.” I really hadn’t thought this through, considering my office was in my bedroom, but it would have to do.

“Certainly,” Thalia said brightly.

I felt Elise’s gaze as I walked to my bedroom.

My apartment wasn’t the idyllic location for professional meetings, and I wished Thalia had given me a heads-up. I would have instructed her to keep the meeting at the office. But I did have numbers on our newest prospective client handy. And my bedroom was a large master suite, with a separate nook that fit my office furniture and a small couch. It wasn’t entirely unprofessional.

And then I remembered Elise had been the last woman in my bedroom…

This was a business meeting. Why was I feeling guilty? It wasn’t like Elise and I were dating. No way would I get involved with another roommate, and especially not her.

Thalia entered the room and passed the bed I’d remembered to make this morning. She headed straight for the nook that housed my large desk and three massive computer monitors. The desk stood in front of a window overlooking the street, with a distant view of the bay.

“I can see why you enjoy working here,” Thalia said. “Nice view.” She pulled out a folder and sank onto the couch that faced the window and not my bedroom.

This wasn’t so bad. I could make it work.

Besides, I’d needed the distraction from Elise and her legs, so in a sense, Thalia’s timing was perfect.


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