Authors: Melanie Shawn
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary
But somehow, from the second they’d met, none of that mattered. Before he even knew her name, he felt a stronger connection to her than to any of the hundreds of women he had had in his bed. No matter how hard he tried to fight it, the more time they spent together, the stronger he felt for her. Which only made him want to keep his distance even more.
He just couldn’t see how anything between them could work, even with their intense connection and the insanely hot sex. Maybe if they could just be here, together, then they’d have shot. But that wasn’t reality. Zach came from the real world, where real shit happened.
Relationships were a long shot. Even if you were perfect on paper and off, they just rarely worked. The thought of her walking out of his life as a roommate when their lease expired, was bad enough. The thought of them being together—really together—and her leaving because it had ended badly, was more than Zach could face.
The most he could honestly offer Jessie was friendship. It wasn’t what he wanted, but Zach was well aware that, in life, you didn’t always get what you wanted.
* * *
Jessie closed her eyes and drummed her fingernails on her steering wheel as she visualized walking into the house, going up the stairs, walking straight to her room, and going to bed. She’d learned this visualization technique in a success seminar she’d taken last winter. All week, she’d instituted it before entering into the den of temptation, which was how she was now classifying the brownstone. After what she and Zach had done in there, ‘
seemed like much too mild of a term to use. So far, the visualization had worked like a charm.
Two deep breaths in through her nose and out through her mouth and she was as ready as she was ever going to be. After getting out of the car, she rushed up the back staircase. The air was so cold that it stung her face and chilled her to the bone as she placed her key in the lock and turned it. She stepped inside quickly, shutting the door behind her, and shivered as she turned the deadbolt and it clicked into place.
Not like the first night she’d arrived when the deadbolt had been broken and Zach had insisted that Jessie sleep upstairs. He hadn’t insisted the way a lot of people would have—by arguing—which would have only served to make her dig her heels in even further. Nope. He had his own way of doing things, and those ways were all kinds of sexy. Not in an in-your-face, controlling way at all. No, Zach operated in a ‘I’m totally capable and can protect you and take care of you in ways you never dreamed of’ way that was nearly impossible to resist.
Actually, scratch that—it
impossible to resist, and she hadn’t been able to. Which was why she needed to visualize
going into his bedroom, climbing into his bed, and doing very, very naughty things to him. Because that was all she wanted to do, all the time.
Even when they’d been at her cousin’s house, surrounded by a houseful of family members, all she’d been able to think about was how amazing his hands had felt on her body. How his tongue had made her quiver and cry out. How it had felt so perfect when they’d made love that she’d actually cried when he slid inside of her.
. She was not a crier! But the tears had just welled up. Then, when Zach had seen them, had he freaked out or gotten all weirded out that a girl he was having sex with was crying?! Nope. Of course not. Not Zach Courtland. Once he knew that he wasn’t hurting her and she absolutely
want him to stop, he just kissed her damp cheeks and continued on his sensual mission. Which, of course, he accomplished with flying colors.
If someone would have described Zach to her a month ago, she would have thought that they were either delusional or on drugs. Or maybe they had a fun drug-delusional combo pack going on. Because he was too good to be true. And yet he
A small part of Jessie kept waiting for him to be like one of the villains in the
cartoon and take off his mask, revealing that he was really an asshole or a pervert or a psycho or…something. She was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
But it hadn’t. She’d been working with Maxi for a couple of weeks now. The young go-getter had known Zach for a decade and didn’t have anything but the best things to say about him. Which was not true of all of her clients. That girl only had bad things to say about Billy Marshall. So much so that Jessie had to wonder if the girl protested too much where Billy “Bad Boy” Marshall was concerned.
Jessie smiled as she finally was warmed up enough to take off her coat and shoes. She’d been slipping them off each night so she could be as quiet as a church mouse when she crept up the stairs. Because if Zach opened his door wearing nothing but low-hanging sweats, which seemed to be his preferred wardrobe, Jessie knew that all the visualization in the world wouldn’t be able to stop her from jumping on him like a spider monkey.
She was only human.
Shoes and jacket in hand, she crept quietly across the kitchen floor and was a few steps into the front room when she saw a huge figure in front of the window out of the corner of her eye. Screaming, she jumped up in the air and her shoes flew out of her hands.
She heard a grunt and looked over to see what looked like Zach’s shadowy silhouette sitting up on the couch, holding his head in his hands.
Flipping on the light, she saw that it was indeed Zach on the couch. He had one hand pressed to his forehead. The other held one of her black stilettos.
“Are you okay?” She rushed towards him, and when she did, she saw bright red blood dripping down his forehead. The room began spinning and she saw stars all around his frame, but she tried to push through. Stumbling backwards, she did her best to put on a brave face as she said, “I’ll get you a towe—”
Then her legs gave out and her vision faded to a pinhole of blackness. She was vaguely aware of an arm wrapping around her and the sensation of being lowered down onto soft cushions.
“Breathe, Jessie. In through your nose. Out through your mouth. Slowly.”
She no longer felt the solid strength of an arm holding her, and Zach’s deep voice sounded farther and farther away as he kept repeating those words over and over.
The next thing she knew, there was a cold compress being pressed behind her neck, and she opened her eyes to see Zach seated beside her, looking down at her, an ice pack on his forehead.
“Oh my God.” Jessie tried to sit up as panic bubbled up inside of her. She still felt woozy, but thoughts were racing through her head. What if she’d done permanent damage to his head or his vision? “I broke you.”
“No you didn’t. Just lie down and breathe.” Zach smiled as he assured her. He looked cool as a cucumber as he held the compress behind her neck and the ice pack to his gorgeous face.
As she started to get her bearings back, she realized that, because she was the one who’d hurt him, she should be the one taking care of him. But like always, Zach had come to the rescue and was taking care of her.
Honestly, if she found out that Zach was Superman—not in the abstract sense, but
Superman—it would make more sense to her than his just being a normal man who did not possess superpowers. Because right now, if someone tied her to a train track, she would lay down money that, not only would Zach find her, he’d stop the train with his bare hands. Then he’d fly her away, take her to bed, and make sweet, passionate love to her until—
“Jess? Are you okay?” Zach lowered the ice pack from his head, and she was happy to see that was blood no longer pouring from it. It also didn’t look like there was any serious damage done.
“I’m fine. I was just zoning out.” She was not about to tell him what she had been zoning out about. Jessie would keep her Superman fantasy to herself, thankyouverymuch.
As she sat up, Zach’s hand remained holding the compress in place, his eyes trained on her with concern.
“Thanks,” Jessie said sincerely as she took in a deep breath. “I’m feeling bett…” She stopped as the aroma of pine tickled her nostrils. Leaning to the side, she looked around Zach’s perfectly chiseled face. “You got a tree?”
The most beautiful Christmas tree, Jessie had ever laid eyes on, was sitting in front of the large picture window. It was totally bare and so green that it almost looked fake. Considering the strong smell of pine in the air, she’d wager to say it was the real thing.
a tree,” Zach said as he removed the compress from behind her neck.
“Me?” she asked, her eyes widening as they lifted up, her gaze following him as he stood. “You got me a tree?”
One side of his mouth turned up in a sexy half smile that spread through her entire body her like a shot of whiskey. “Yes. I got you a tree,” he confirmed, his green eyes filled with warmth as he reached out his hand. “It’s yours to decorate however you want.”
Jessie’s heart was beating wildly in her chest as she placed her small hand in his. Zach gently yet firmly wrapped his large fingers around hers as he helped pull her up. Jessie’s legs shook uncontrollably beneath her. She had no idea if it was leftover effects from nearly passing out or if it was that she was just so overwhelmed by this gesture.
His arm wrapped protectively around her waist to support her as she stepped towards the tree. In front of it, she saw a bountiful supply of ornaments, boxes of lights—both white and colored—tiny red bows, and candy canes. In the center of all the Christmas decorations was a beautiful angel tree topper with flowing, blond hair and large brown eyes.
“I picked her because she reminded me of you,” Zach said as his thumb gently in circles on her lower back.
A large knot formed in Jessie’s throat. Once again, Zach had done what she’d thought was impossible. She was struck with the desire to say something but had no words to say. Jessie was speechless.
“And the best part…” Zach moved away from her and she immediately missed his touch. She watched as he reached behind the tree and pulled out several large plastic containers. “This way, all the decorations can be organized in storage.”
That was it. Tears began falling from Jessie’s face and she threw her arms around Zach’s neck. As she buried her face in his shoulder, his arms enveloped her and she melted against him.
“Thank you,” she whispered against his now damp-from-her-tears shirt. “Thank you.”
“I’m glad you like it.” She could hear the smile in his voice as his large hands rubbed up and down her back.
She didn’t like it. She
“Oh, and before I forget. I think Margie and Mabel are going to Haley and Eddie’s wedding,” Zach said as he still held her close.
Maybe her life
was a romantic comedy.
moothing her hands down the soft fabric of her dress, Jessie turned back and forth in front of the square mirror in the small personal bathroom attached to her office. She had been so distracted the past few weeks that she hadn’t had time to go shopping for a dress for the Christmas party that started in an hour.
So this afternoon, she’d sent Martin out with her American Express card and dress and shoe sizes. He’d come back with three choices. One was fairly conservative. It was a classic black cocktail dress—safe choice. One was a tad flashy. It was blue and had sequins—
ummm, no thanks
. And then there was the dress that she was currently wearing. A Hervé Léger backless, figure-hugging dress. It was a deep shade of red, which Jessie thought complemented her honey-kissed skin-tone well. And it had a scoop neck that showcased just enough cleavage to be sexy without stepping over the line to being trashy.
There was a loud knock on the door. Martin’s voice rang out loudly through the thin wooden door. “Umm, hello in there! I’m not getting any younger out here, and the party starts in less than an hour. We haven’t even gotten you into hair and makeup yet, Honey Boo Boo.”
Jessie rolled her eyes. She had not been in the bathroom for more than a few minutes changing her clothes. Martin had the patience and attention span of a gnat.