It’s not every day you wake up to a stranger getting into your bed. Only, he isn’t a stranger at all, he’s my best friend’s hot older brother…and apparently my new roommate. Having him in my space, driving me crazy, isn’t a problem at all. Nope. All I need to do is keep control of the situation…
But that’s easier said than done. Shawn Lassiter is the kind of distraction I don’t need. First he accidentally gets into my bed, half-naked, the night before my first day at my new job. Hello, muscles and tattoos! Then he’s there, in nothing but a towel, making me coffee in the morning. It’s more than any girl can resist. Right? But Shawn is off-limits, even if his eyes are saying differently.
Years ago, back when I still had my crush, he destroyed friendships with his reckless playboy antics. There’s no way I’m touching those perfectly formed abs now. I don’t care how nice and responsible he’s acting. I don’t want a boyfriend anyway. That’s what my trusty vibrator is for. I’m the smart girl—the glasses-wearing, book-reading workaholic. I can totally do this. After all, it’s only for two and a half months. I’ll be on my best behavior…even if Shawn isn’t.
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Jessie Santana clenched a fuzzy zebra print pillow in her fists. Deep breaths. In. Out. Wasn’t that supposed to be calming or something?
But there was no way she could make herself relax—not when she still hadn’t heard back from Talia. She tossed the pillow on the couch and picked up her phone.
Did you hear from the subletter? she wrote again. She said she can’t come anymore! What should we do???
She resisted the urge to send yet another barrage of texts to her best friend, along with that screaming emoji that pretty much summed up how she was feeling. Talia was probably in the security line or finding her gate. Or maybe she’d already met up with the rest of the dancers on their way to London for an entire summer of travel and performing with the New York City Ballet. She might not check her phone until she landed.
But Jessie could never sit around doing nothing. She went to work rearranging the mismatched throw pillows on the couch, fluffing the fuzzy zebra victim until it no longer looked quite so squished. Cleaning always made her feel better. When things were neat and organized and in their place, she could feel a little more in control.
Yeah, she knew that was crazy.
But it still kind of helped.
When everything was tidy, she peeked at her phone again. Nothing. Even Kathy, the canceled subletter, hadn’t written any more since her last text, when she said she was “soooooooo sorry” and “absolutely positive” they could find someone else.
Sure, Jessie knew they could find someone. But someone normal? Someone she’d want to live with for two and a half months? Someone who could move in on such short notice and cover their share of the rent?
When her phone vibrated, she dived to pick it up, bumping her shin on the coffee table. Please, have an idea for how to fix this!
But it wasn’t Talia, reassuring Jessie that they’d find someone soon, she could pay for any of the rent that wasn’t covered, Jessie needed to go to sleep, kick ass tomorrow, and not worry so much.
It was her mom.
Have a great first day of work, sweetie!
Her heart deflated.
But she made herself take another deep breath and wrote back a cheerful Thanks, Mom! followed by a whole bunch of hearts, so it wouldn’t look like anything was wrong.
Her parents had been pretty against her moving to New York. Add to that the debt from her master’s degree, plus the months it had taken her to find a full-time offer, and they were champing at the bit for her to move back to Pennsylvania and get a nice, stable job in a nice, stable town. At which point she could get married to someone nice, and, well, stable.
None of that actually sounded so bad. Especially the having a boyfriend part. And the stability. She could come up with a new life plan—one that didn’t involve astronomical rent, a bedroom the size of a toaster oven, and weird subway smells all summer long.
But then she got The Call. The one from Marlene Chen at Honeywell Press, inviting her to be the newest editorial assistant on her team. Maybe now her parents would stop fretting that she’d made a wrong turn, once she got her name out there and started putting a dent in her loans.
Her phone vibrated again. Be sure to impress Ms. Chen with your work, her mom wrote. Jessie groaned out loud.
New York publishing was notoriously cutthroat, and she already knew she wasn’t Marlene’s first choice. The whole office would obviously know it, too. The job had originally been offered to someone with more experience, but he was poached by a competitor right after he started, leaving Marlene scrambling to fill the spot. Did Jessie really need a reminder of how important it was to prove herself right off the bat?
But she was lucky, she told herself sternly. Lucky to have landed a job at her dream publisher, lucky to live with her best friend—at least, most of the time. And lucky to have a mom who texted good night and remembered what a big day tomorrow was for her.
Lucky to have a mom at all.
“I need you to be strong for your brother and sister,” her dad had said when her mom got the news that the lump in her left breast looked bad. Her family had already been through so much. She wasn’t going to give them any reason to doubt that everything was going according to plan.
She texted back good night—with a few more hearts—and turned off the lights, still working on that whole “deep breathing” thing, even if it was obviously bullshit. She didn’t feel calmer at all.
It was dark and quiet without Talia making tea, bustling around the apartment, binge-watching cooking competition shows—which was hilarious, since Talia could make the smoke alarm go off by pouring cereal. Maybe Jessie could leave just one lamp on for the night, so as not to feel lonely…
But that would be stupid, wouldn’t it? She turned the switch decisively and padded down the hall.
At the door to Talia’s room, she paused and poked her head in. She wasn’t sure she’d ever seen the bed made, or everything so neatly put away. The only sign left of Talia was a picture on the dresser, with her and her brother making funny faces.
That was one aspect of her best friend’s life Jessie could live without.
Shawn Lassiter was two years older, so they’d overlapped some in high school. He was so hot, she’d once seen a girl literally smack into a locker after turning her head to check him out as he passed. Too bad having flat abs, nice hair, and the ability to hit a baseball wasn’t enough to make someone a good person.
Thank God she never had to see him anymore. She closed the door to Talia’s room, not wanting to waste any more time on that history.
In her own bedroom across the hall, everything was neat and organized and carefully put away, as usual. She changed into a pair of comfy shorts and a loose, strappy tank top, throwing her dirty clothes in the hamper where they belonged.
Most people would be thrilled to have an unexpected night alone without a roommate. She could blast music. Have a dance party in her PJs. Stay up all night watching Doctor Who without Talia hollering at her to keep it down because she had to practice. She could sleep naked, and no one would know.
Yeah, right. She had a routine: pajamas, clothes in the hamper, reading in bed. Lights out at a sensible hour.
But at the last minute, she decided to make just one small change and leave her door open a crack. That way she could hear the sighs of the building settling and the waves of Brooklyn traffic drifting through the open living room windows. It made her feel a little less lonely in the stillness.
And, okay, maybe there was one other thing she could do tonight…
She crawled into bed, opened her bedside drawer, and pulled out the best reason to be fine with not having a boyfriend: her very magical magic wand. It was loud, and it made Jessie extra loud when she used it. Which meant it was best to bring it out when Talia was at a late rehearsal. Or when Jessie unexpectedly had a whole night to herself.
Was there any better way to de-stress than an explosive, toe-curling, body-melting O? She pulled out the red vibrator and slid it under the sheets.
She started over her pajama shorts, getting herself warmed up and used to the sensation. Then she slipped the smooth wand under the elastic. She teased herself, playing with the vibrations, bringing the wand closer to the exact spot that would send her over the edge and have her sleeping like a baby.
But it was hopeless.
No matter how she touched herself, she just couldn’t get in the mood. Her mind was churning, thinking about Talia, the subletter, her new job, her checking account, an article she’d read that called Marlene “the toughest bitch in publishing today.” What if she couldn’t hack it? What if her life plan was…wrong? She’d have to go home a failure. She’d never live it down.
With a sigh, she put the vibrator away and turned out the light. She had to stop thinking and go to sleep. Deep breaths, right?
There was no need to stay up all night obsessing. She didn’t need to check her phone for the fifty-millionth time, only to see the empty inbox and feel stressed out all over again. Talia was probably over the Atlantic by now. There was nothing either of them could do about the roommate problem tonight.
Tomorrow, she told herself firmly. She’d work on fixing it tomorrow.
And she would fix it—there was no question about it. She was not a failure. She was the new editorial assistant for Marlene Chen, the biggest YA fantasy editor in the industry. She lived in New York Fucking City. She was a grown-ass adult—except for when it came to spiders.
Whatever life threw at her, she’d handle it the way she handled everything. First thing in the morning, she’d come up with a plan.
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