Authors: Melanie Shawn
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary
“Thanks,” she said tightly, sounding like she’d rather eat glass than utter any appreciation for his gesture.
He smiled at the fact that, even though she was so blatantly furious, she was still the poster child for decorum. This girl was unlike any he’d ever met. Just before he turned to head over to the much more comfortable option of his sleeping destinations for the evening, he caught her shadowy figure flipping him the bird.
His head fell back as he laughed out loud.
“Goodnight.” Jessie’s voice sounded overly sweet as she shut the door the door to his room.
Zach was still chuckling as he lay down on the couch that had come with the brownstone. His large body sank deep into the old cushions. He felt the soft, worn fabric rub against his back as he shifted his position in an attempt to get more comfortable. The wooden legs of the ancient piece of furniture squeaked loudly beneath him. Closing his eyes, he tried to relax and get some sleep. He knew that he wasn’t going to pass out like he normally did. Usually when he turned off the lights and his head hit the pillow, he was dead to the world.
As he tossed and turned on the lumpy cushions, flashes of Jessie kept popping up in his head like a slideshow. Her lips. Her legs. Her voice. Her eyes. Zach knew that sleep was not going to come easily. It was going to be a long night.
ise and shine, princess.”
Krista’s voice drifted into Jessie’s sleepy consciousness, but she kept her eyes closed so that her sister would leave her alone and let her continue to sleep in blissful peace. Even in her half-awake state, Jessie knew that she was getting better sleep than she ever remembered having. No way was she going to let her sister ruin that.
“I saw your eyes twitch.” Krista’s voice once again sounded. “I know you’re awake.”
“If you’re still tired, we can let you sleep,” Haley offered. “The moving van won’t be here for another hour.”
Jessie’s eyes popped open. Her sisters were both dressed in sweatshirts and jeans. Each had her hair up in a ponytail. And they were both staring down at her, standing beside the bed.
Jessie’s eyes flew to the charcoal-gray comforter that was covering her body. Everything came back to her in a rush. Last night. Zach insisting she sleep in his bed. Her not being able to go to sleep because she was overwhelmed with more desire than she’d ever known existed in real life.
It had been bad enough that the imprint of Zach’s half-naked body was burned into her mind’s eye so that every time she’d shut her eyes, that was all she’d seen. Then there was also the fact that he’d bested her not once but twice. First, she’d conceded to the rent, and second, she’d agreed to sleep upstairs. Jessie had thought that would have pissed her off and made her borderline hate Zach, but instead, she found it kind of hot, and it made her want Zach even more than she already had.
On top of that, the sexy, deep sound of Zach’s laughter had been playing on repeat in her mental iTunes library. Every time she heard it, a little thrill would run through her at the fact that she’d caused him to crack up. It shouldn’t matter to her that he found her amusing. But somehow it gave her more pride than getting promoted to VP of public relations after only being at SPC for five months had.
All of that she still might have been able to ignore or suppress long enough to drift into sleepy-land, but the thing that had made slumber impossible was not the internal battle of good (represented by her) and evil (repped by Zach, of course!) that was waging in her psyche. Nope, the cherry on top of the sleepless sundae was completely external in nature.
It was the scent of Zach’s sheets and pillows. From the moment Jessie had slipped into his bed, it had felt like he was surrounding her. Which he kind of was. His smell, anyway. Every time she moved, even the slightest bit, his uniquely masculine, earthy aroma would waft up through her nostrils, and before she could stop herself she’d inhale.
. She’d lain in bed sniffing Zach’s scent harder than a druggie sniffs glue, and she feared it was probably more addictive.
“Hello!” Krista waved her hand in front of Jessie’s face. “Anyone home?”
“Sorry.” Jessie shook her head as she pushed the comforter off of her and sat up, her legs dangling off the side of the large, king-sized bed. “I’ll be down in a minute.”
Jessie gathered her hair up off her neck and twisted it into a bun at the top of her head. Standing up, she almost walked into her sisters, who were both staring at her wide-eyed, mouths open.
“What?” Jessie snipped.
Krista’s head ducked and lifted dramatically as she looked Jessie up and down in an exaggerated fashion. Then, raising her hands, she said, “Nothing. Nothing at all. It’s perfectly normal that we find you sleeping like a baby in Zach’s bed, in one of his shirts.”
Jessie had forgotten that she’d indulged herself last night and taken advantage of the offer Zach had made her. She could blame it on the fact that her dress had been tight and wouldn’t have been comfortable to sleep in, but that would make her nose grow longer than Pinocchio’s when he was lying. The truth was, she hadn’t been able to resist the opportunity to sleep in Zach’s shirt. Plain and simple.
Luckily, her sisters didn’t need to know that. It was none of their business.
“I’ll be down in a minute,” Jessie repeated, hoping that her sisters would take the hint and leave so she could have a moment to compose herself and get dressed. “Did you bring my suitcases?”
Last night, she texted both of her sisters to ask if they could bring the green suitcases she had sitting beside the door and planned to bring herself this morning.
“Yep,” Haley chirped happily. “They’re downstairs. I’ll have one of the boys bring them up.”
Jessie nodded. “Thanks.”
Her sisters both turned to leave—
. But a thought occurred to Jessie and she stopped them. “Wait. What boys?”
“Well”—Haley turned back around, a sheepish look crossing her porcelain-doll face—“I may have mentioned that you were moving in with Zach to Eddie, who may have mentioned it to Riley, who may have mentioned it to Jason and Alex. But only because they love boxing.”
No, no, no, no, no. This isn’t happening.
is downstairs?” Jessie tried not to let the panic seep into her tone.
Haley’s face scrunched up in a worried expression as a wide smile spread across Krista’s face before she answered the question directed at their sister. “There’s quite a crowd.”
Haley shook her head, her blond ponytail swaying back and forth. “Just Eddie, Riley, Jason, and Alex. Oh”—she snapped as if she’d forgotten—“and Chelle, Katie, Jamie, and Joey. Emily was going to come, but she decided to stay and help Mom babysit Mya.”
Great. So not only were her sisters and one of their fiancés here, three of her cousins and their wives plus one of their sons were here as well. Perfect. Just perfect.
“Don’t worry. Everyone is getting along
,” Haley added cheerfully.
“Yep. Zach’s downstairs making everyone breakfast.” Krista informed her, grinning like a Cheshire cat.
“What?!” Jessie shrieked as she ran towards the door.
“You might want to put some pants on,” she heard Krista call out behind her.
Pants. Jessie did
have time for pants. She needed to end this little impromptu breakfast, and she needed to end it now.
As she ran down the staircase, she heard the distinct sound of Zach’s laughter filling the house. It caused that ridiculous flutter to return to her belly. She then heard her cousin Alex telling the story of how he and his wife Jamie had met.
It was actually one of the more romantic things Jessie had ever witnessed. Alex was a firefighter, and he was clearing a building when a beam fell on his head and knocked him unconscious. When he woke up in the hospital, the first person he saw was Jamie. She had just moved to Harper’s Crossing with her son Joey, and it was her third day on the job. Even though he was high as a kite on pain meds, he’d started flirting with her, and before the drugs knocked him back out, he’d asked her to marry him.
Sweet? Yes. Did Zach need to hear about it? No.
Jessie stepped into the kitchen to find Alex snuggling Jamie close as she stood in front of him. His arms were wrapped tight around her waist. All of her other cousins had their wives similarly close to them.
Yep. She was glad to be moving. She wasn’t the third wheel—she was like the fifteenth wheel.
“Hi, Auntie Jessie!” Joey yelled as he spotted her in the doorway. Technically, she was his cousin, but he was a kid, and when you were an adult in this family, you were aunt or uncle.
The eight-year-old was standing at the stove beside Zach, who, thankfully, was wearing a shirt this morning. And it looked like Joey was helping her new roommate cook. Joey’s big brown eyes looked at her with excitement brimming from them.
“It is so cool that you’re moving in with
He’s teaching me how to make eggs.”
“Great.” Jessie was rarely at a loss for words. She chose not to use them most of the time, but she had them in her arsenal if she needed them. Until now. She also did not usually charge into situations without a clear plan and exit strategy, but it seemed that Zach brought out the
in Jessie’s life.
Every single eye in the room was pointed at Jessie, except Joey’s since he had returned his attention to the eggs. Her entire family was looking at her like she’d lost her ever-loving mind. There she stood, in the middle of the kitchen, swimming in a shirt that fell to her knees, without saying a word.
Jessie calculated her options to come up with the best possible outcome. She could deal with her family, but that was difficult to do just considering their sheer numbers. So instead of that, she decided to deal with the other factor that made this equation disastrous.
“Hey, Zach, can I talk to you for a minute?” Despite her best efforts, her voice came out sounding strained and stressed.
“Sure.” Zach smiled at her, seeming way too comfortable surrounded by her big, badass cousins. He made some comment to Alex that Jessie didn’t catch as he handed him the spatula, and not only did Alex laugh, so did Jason, Eddie, Riley, Chelle, and Jamie.
What the hell could he have said that had been
Completely ignoring her entire family, she spun around and, for the second time this morning, almost walked right into her sisters.
When she stopped short, they both pivoted to the side, creating a path for her and Zach to walk through. As they walked out of the kitchen, she thought briefly about conducting their little meeting in the front room, but since she knew there would be ten sets of nosy ears—eleven if you counted Joey’s—that would be eavesdropping, she quickly decided against that.
Her other options were down to the basement or upstairs. Basement was quicker, but she was afraid it would still be in earshot. Decision made. Upstairs it was.
She saw her suitcases sitting at the bottom of the staircase. Perfect. She could kill two birds with one stone.
Wrapping her fingers around each handle, she was about to pick them up when she felt them jerked out of her hold. Her head spun around and she saw Zach standing there, holding her luggage, with the same expression he’d had on his face about the door.
. She did not have the time or the energy to go all women’s lib on him right now. If he wanted to be chivalrous and carry her bags up the steep staircase, who was she to stop him?
Jessie double-timed it up the stairs. She could feel the heat of Zach right behind her. Actually, it wasn’t so much body heat as it was body presence. Just his being within arm’s length was enough to make the tiny hairs on the back of her neck stand up and cause goose bumps to break out all over her skin.
It was irritating as shit!
Trying to get some distance, she took the last half of the stairs two at a time. The sooner she convinced Zach to leave the house, the sooner she could get her family to take their nosy asses back to HC.
Walking straight into Zach’s room, she noticed her red lace bra and dress were on the floor, and she quickly leaned and picked them up so he wouldn’t see her lacy delicates.
“Hmm, nice red panties.” His voice came from directly behind her as she heard the door click into place.
Damn. She’d just bent over right in front of him. In an attempt to keep him from seeing a bra that was lying on the floor, she’d flashed him the underwear that was on her
. Smooth. Real smooth. Standing up, she spun around, but by the look on his face, she knew the damage was done.
Good job, Jessie. Way to keep it classy.
* * *