Read Actually Love - Jessie & Zach Online

Authors: Melanie Shawn

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary

Actually Love - Jessie & Zach (6 page)

BOOK: Actually Love - Jessie & Zach
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Still, if their attraction was the only issue, Zach could pretty easily overlook it. The brownstone was perfect for his needs. Even more perfect now that they would be splitting the rent. There was no way he was going to let her pay more than fifty percent, no matter what bedroom she had.

Zach had no issue with the fact that Margie thought he and Jessie were a couple. She had jumped to that conclusion all on her own and then Jessie had decided to run with it. He’d basically stood by silently. He would be a good tenant, and going purely off instincts, Jessie would be too. Definitely a lot better than the frat boys or daddy’s girl he’d seen today.

So the real issue was not that they were going into this under false pretenses. It wasn’t that Jessie’s body made him want to do things that would make grown men blush. The problem was Zach
liked
her.

He wanted to get to know her. He was intrigued by her. He was already looking forward to the next time he saw her.

How in the hell could he live with her and keep his distance?

“Zach?” Jessie’s sweet voice cut through all of the thoughts that were rioting in his brain.

Suddenly, he had clarity. He was an up-front guy. If they were going to do this, he wanted their cards on the table. “Are we going to talk about what happened in the basement?”

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Jessie snapped, her arms crossing in front of her defensively.

Zach smiled at how damn cute she was when she got all snippy. “So you weren’t about to kiss me before Mabel and Margie interrupted us?”

Jessie’s mouth fell open with an audible exhale before she shut it. After opening it to speak, she just closed it again. She repeated this several more times without actually saying anything. Then, leaning back against her chair, she spread her fingers out, laying them flat on the table as she took a deep breath.

Her eyes locked with his, a look of steely determination in them as she said, “What happened in the basement stays in the basement.”

Zach’s head fell back as he burst out laughing. That was the last thing he’d expected her to say. She was basically admitting that something had happened but in a way that showed she wasn’t taking it too seriously, nor did she want to discuss it further.

When he stopped laughing, he looked back at her to find her smiling broadly. The sight of her looking happy, relaxed, and open caused a catch in his heart. Damn, this was not good.

“Look,” she said, leaning her elbows on the table. “Whatever attraction that we may feel for each other is really not an issue for me.
Nothing
is going to happen between us. I can handle that. Can you?”

She really was good. He’d met his share of manipulative girls in his life. Zach wouldn’t say that Jessie fit into that category, but she definitely used what she had to her advantage. He just had one more question.

“What do you do for a living, Jessie?”

“I’m in PR.”

That made perfect sense. No wonder she had been able to come up with the story of how they’d met on a dime. She spun things for a living.

“So… Do. We. Have. A. Deal?” Jessie spoke each word deliberately.

“Yes. We do, roomie.” Not knowing if this was the best or worst decision of his life, Zach extended his hand. The second he felt her smooth skin touch his, his body tightened with need.

Holy shit
. The scales were definitely leaning towards worst decision.

Chapter Four

J
essie could not process what her eyes were seeing. She moved her mouse and clicked on the icon to at the bottom of the page that read ‘show more results.’ The page populated with more pictures of Zach.

Zach with models. Zach with actresses. Zach in the boxing ring. Zach in shirtless publicity shots.

After typing ‘Zach Courtland’ into the Google search bar, she’d done a double take when she’d seen that instantly there were over
ten million
results. Countless articles had been written about him. Jessie had been poring over them for the last two hours and had learned that, not only was Zach a light heavyweight world champion, he was also undefeated and had the nickname “Playboy.” From what she’d been able to glean, he’d picked up said nickname because, when he was training in a gym, the “ring bunnies” multiplied
exponentially
.

Part of the reason that Jessie was having such a hard time processing all of the information she was seeing and reading was because the person in these pics and articles was not the person she’d met in the basement, stood next to in the sunny kitchen, or gone to Rise and Grind with. That Zach was nothing like what these images and words depicted.

Being in marketing and advertising, Jessie obviously knew that all of this “press” could just be hype. After working at SPC for only a few months, she’d been promoted to vice president of public relations. They had several athletes on their roster, and Jessie knew that athletes, much more than actors, could be very difficult to market. It was obvious that, whoever Zach’s publicist was, they were doing a damn fine job. He was everywhere. On lists. In magazines. Featured in entertainment reports. There was a delicate balance between good exposure and overexposure, and Zach’s team was walking that line beautifully.

Jessie’s eyes scanned down the page, landing on a shot of Zach hitting a speed bag. Every single muscle on his bare chest, shoulders, and arms was chiseled to mouth-watering perfection. Right-clicking the thumbnail, Jessie let out a little sigh as his image filled the entirety of her eighteen-inch screen.

She looked over every inch thinking that this pic had to have been Photoshopped. There was no way a man with
that
face could have
that
body. Jessie could spot a Photoshopped picture from a mile away, and after carefully scrutinizing every inch, she came to the conclusion that Zach had not been digitally enhanced. The only way she could rationalize what she was seeing was that God must have been in a really good mood the day he made Zach.

“Daaaayamm! Who’s the man-candy?!” Krista’s voice startled Jessie, and she jumped about an inch off the kitchen chair.

“No one.” Jessie clicked the corner of the screen, closing the page, trying her best to regain her composure before Snoop Doggy Dogg, a.k.a. her sister, picked up on how rattled she was.

“Oh good, there’s coffee!” Krista exclaimed as she made her way over to the fresh pot of coffee sitting on the marble countertop beside the sink.

Of course there’s coffee…because I made it. Just like I do every morning.

Krista blew on her fresh, steaming cup of coffee as she padded back to the table. After setting her ceramic mug down, she wrapped her blue robe tighter around her as she slid into the light-oak chair on Jessie’s left and raised her brows suspiciously.

“I don’t know
who
that is, but he is definitely not
no one
. He is a fine piece of grade-A—”

Jessie interrupted what was sure to be a descriptive assessment of Zach’s assets by saying, “Don’t you have a fiancé you should be Skyping with?”

“He’s doing a morning show radio interview.” Jessie’s sister lifted her wrist and looked at her silver watch. “I have at least another hour or so before Skype-time.”

“So how are things going with Chase being on the road so much?” Jessie asked. Mainly because she wanted to get Krista’s super-sniffer as far away from the Zach Courtland trail as possible, but also because she really did want to check in with her sister.

Krista and Chase had gotten engaged a few months ago, and since that time, he had to be on the road promoting his first solo album. She knew that it must be hard on her sister. After spending ten years apart, they’d just reunited before he had to head out on tour.

A genuine smile of love spread across Krista’s face. “Things are going great. He has a week off for Thanksgiving, and I plan on keeping him occupied every second of it.” Her sister bounced her shoulders up and down as she wagged her eyebrows.

“TMI,” Jessie said flatly as she turned her attention back to her computer and opened her email.

“Since you are the reigning Queen of No Info, I don’t think that you get to qualify anyone else’s sharing as too much information.” Krista drummed her manicured nails on the kitchen table and waited several beats before asking again, “
Sooo
who is the man-candy?”

Part of Jessie wanted to tell her sister everything about Zach. She wanted to tell her that, since meeting him a week ago, she hadn’t been able to stop thinking about him. That her mind was cluttered with every single one of the sixty-two minutes they’d shared together. That she was going to be moving in with someone she had so much chemistry with that she had no idea how she was going to control herself around him.

Honestly, the way she was feeling was so out of character for her that she might have to advise him to lock his doors at night. If she woke up after having one of the h-o-t dreams she’d been having every night since they’d met and he was just down the hall from her, Jessie wouldn’t trust herself to not pay him a visit.

A concerned expression clouded Jessie’s oldest sister Haley’s face as she entered the kitchen of the house the three of them shared. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” The last thing she wanted was both of her sisters to start giving her the third degree.

Trying to ignore the glances that her two sisters were shooting to each other, Jessie opened the email marked urgent from her cousin Seth. Jessie had asked Seth, who owned Elite Security, to run a background check on Zach just to be on the safe side. Before she got a chance to read it, she felt the back of Haley’s hand pressing against her forehead as she checked to see if Jessie was running a fever.

Pulling Haley’s hand away, Jessie assured her sister, “I’m not sick,
Mom
.”

Haley was the oldest of the Sloan girls. Then came Krista, Jessie, and Becca, the baby of the family. Krista and Jessie always gave Haley a hard time whenever her nurturing got a little excessive and called her “Mom.”

“You look pale,” Haley said pointedly as she crossed her arms in front over her chest.

“I’m just tired.” Jessie wasn’t lying. She
was
tired. Exhausted really. Between fourteen-hour days at work, a commute that took an hour and a half both ways on a good day, and a week of restless sleep thanks to one very sexy boxer, she was running on fumes.

“It’s the commute.” Haley sat across from Jessie. “It’s too much.”

“Well, I won’t be doing it after tomorrow,” Jessie explained.

Both of her sisters looked like shocked mirror images. Eyes widened, mouths open.

Haley was the first to recover, asking simply, “Why not?”

“I got a place in the city.”

“You’re moving out? When?” Haley asked in disbelief.

“This weekend.” Jessie would have thought that was clear after she’d said that she wouldn’t be making the commute after
tomorrow
.

Her phone buzzed, and she looked down. It was her cousin Seth calling. She got a sick feeling in her stomach. Between the cryptic email and now the phone call, she figured that he did not have good news for her.

Jessie picked up on the second ring… “Hey.”

“Are you dating Zach Courtland?” Seth asked. Her cousin was not big on pleasantries. She appreciated that.

“No,” she answered honestly.

“Then why did I need to run a background check?” Seth’s voice did not sound happy, which only made the sensation of dread filling her gut to intensify.

“He’s a potential roommate.” Jessie had added potential because if Seth had uncovered something shady about Zach, Jessie planned on backing out of the deal. She wasn’t signing the lease until later today, so she was in no way contractually obligated to take the brownstone.

Disappointment rushed through her at the thought that she might not be moving in there on Saturday. Jessie wasn’t sure if it stemmed from having to continue her commute until she found someplace else, not being able to soak in the love-of-her-life bathtub, or not living with Zach. It was probably a combination of all of those things, but she was afraid that ninety-nine percent of it had to do with the last reason.

“Oh. Well,
if
that’s really all it is, then you’re good. Zach’s clean.”

Jessie did not appreciate her cousin’s tone when he said “if.” Also, what was the problem with Zach being more than just her roommate if everything had checked out in the background check? Only one way to find out.

“If everything is okay, then why did you seem upset about the possibility of me dating him?” Normally, Jessie would just let it go. Seth had given her the information she’d needed. What he thought about Jessie dating Zach shouldn’t matter, since that wasn’t going to happen. But as Jessie was quickly discovering, as with most things Zach-related, “normally” didn’t mean anything.

“He has a reputation,” Seth stated flatly.

Yeah, no kidding.
Jessie didn’t need her oldest cousin to fill her in on that fun factoid. She’d been able to gain that knowledge through her good friend, Google.

BOOK: Actually Love - Jessie & Zach
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