Authors: Melanie Shawn
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary
Copyright © 2014 Melanie Shawn
All rights reserved. This copy is intended for the original purchaser of this book. No part of this may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission in writing from Melanie Shawn. Exceptions are limited to reviewers who may use brief quotations in connection with reviews. No part of this book can be transmitted, scanned, reproduced, or distributed in any written or electronic form without written permission from Melanie Shawn.
This book is a work of fiction. Places, names, characters and events are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Cover Design by Hot Damn Designs
Copyedits by Mickey Reed Editing
Proofreading Services by Raiza McDuffie
Proofreading Services by Melani Bruce
Book Design by BB eBooks
Published by Red Hot Reads Publishing
am in love
A crisp chill hung in the air as Jessie stood, motionless, her fingers wrapped around the wood-framed doorway. A warmth filled her from the inside out as she stared in awe, unable to speak. Love was not something that Jessie had ever expected to experience in her life, mainly because she had not truly believed in its existence.
The wooden floors creaked beneath her feet as she leaned forward, her eyes roaming over every single inch of the object of her heart’s desire. Sunlight shone in through the two large windows, blanketing the entire area in angelic light. Pivoting slowly, she spun around to fully take in the experience. After completing the three-hundred-sixty-degree turn, Jessie’s eyes once again fell on the source of her newfound love. A vintage Victorian clawfoot bathtub.
When she stepped forward into the bathroom, her heels clicked on the black-and-white-checkered tile. As she walked toward the deep tub, a shiver ran from the top of her head to her high-heel-booted toes. Winters in Chicago were no joke. Neither were summers for that matter. This place did have heating and air conditioning (thank God!), although she didn’t think they were utilizing it for the open house.
Reaching down, Jessie danced her fingertips along the bathtub’s edge. The surface was smooth and cold. After giving it a thorough visual inspection, even this close, Jessie couldn’t tell if it was an original tub from the Victorian era or if it was a perfect reproduction.
The plumbing was definitely not original. The hot and cold fixtures were four-pronged, silver, with a white ceramic button center—one with an ‘H’ and one with a ‘C’. There was a removable silver nozzle with a white ceramic handle and a round showerhead that looked to have several settings. This was the bathtub of her dreams.
She could already picture herself soaking in the luxurious tub, wine glass sitting on the sill of the window with the amazing view of the park across the street, bubbles floating around her. There was no better way to relax after a fourteen-plus-hour day than by immersing yourself in hot water.
Well, there was
sex. But since Jessie had always been able to take care of herself with infinitely superior results than she’d ever experienced with a partner, she was starting to lean towards the belief that
sex was just a myth perpetuated by society so that the species would continue. If women truly accepted the fact that they were far more capable of satisfying themselves by playing Solitaire rather than playing Poke-her, the entire human race may cease to exist due to lack of procreation.
The only small spark of hope Jessie had that there was even a kernel of truth to the out-of-this-world, earth-shattering, mind-blowing sex so many people “claim” to be having was the fact that all five of her cousins and two of her sisters seemed to have found partners that they had achieved that status with. If she hadn’t been a firsthand witness to the undeniable change in each and every one of them when they found their significant others, she would stand behind her conspiracy theory that good sex was as prevalent a myth as Bigfoot.
Muted sounds of an entrancing stringed melody drifted through the air. Jessie gazed down through the glass window facing the park to find a young man seated on a brick retaining wall strumming a guitar, its black case open in front of him for tips. Scanning the area, she saw several women jogging on dirt paths while pushing sport-style three-wheel strollers and four elderly men sitting on a bench playing cards. The scene instantly put her at ease.
Jessie loved people-watching. She always had. That was part of the reason she loved big cities and had left her small town of Harper’s Crossing as soon as she graduated high school. Well, that and the fact that there was anonymity in numbers. She loved the feeling of being totally invisible while surrounded by a crowd of people.
It had been six months since Jessie had returned to small-town living and she felt like a trapped animal. After graduating from college, she remained close to her alma mater for a year. Partly because, with such a large family, there were too many distractions in her hometown and partly because, whenever she went home, it felt like she was living under a magnifying glass of constant scrutiny.
Since her return, Jessie had begun to feel a little bit (a lot!) claustrophobic. Her family wanted to know where she was and what she was doing at all times. It wasn’t that they were overbearing, just overprotective. And it wasn’t so much that Jessie had anything at all to hide. Quite the opposite—her life was categorically boring. It was just that she hated
about her that she did not feel the need to share organically.
In that respect, she was the black sheep in a family filled with over-sharers. At least in her immediate family. Her sisters loved to talk things out, share every detail of their lives. That had never been Jessie’s style. She’d always related to her older cousins, Seth and Bobby, whom people referred to as the strong, silent types. The brooding bookends of the five Sloan boys. They only spoke if they really needed to say something. Which, from the time she was a little girl, had made sense to Jessie. She never understood the appeal of telling people what was going on in her head or her life unless absolutely necessary.
“Daddy, I have to live here.” A girl’s shrill voice pierced the air.
Jessie glanced over her shoulder to see a blonde, who looked to be barely legal, wearing Armani sunglasses (indoors!) and a Gucci bag slung over her shoulder, speaking into a crystal-encased phone at an obnoxious level.
“No! I don’t want to live in a hotel anymore. I want to live
,” the girl said with an impressive mix of both pout and demand, stomping her foot on the wood flooring.
Jessie watched, fascinated, as the girl’s facial expression turned from looking like a spoiled two-year-old to a whiny preteen.
“I need a quiet place to study. College is sooo hard. There’s always so much noise at the hotel. And, Daddy, it’s waaay less than what you’re paying for the Waldorf, even after you get me a maid and cook.”
That must have done the trick, because the girl’s face lit up like she’d just seen a gift-wrapped Justin Bieber standing in front of her. She squealed, jumping up and down in delight.
Oh hell no!
It was not going to go down like that. There was no way Jessie was going to lose this place to College Barbie. It was not just that the one-and-a-half-hour commute—both ways!—was wearing on her, but the weather was making the driving conditions nearly impossible. Also, she had to get some semblance of privacy back in her life.
Then there was the small issue that she honestly couldn’t stand the thought of spending one more family function as the odd man out. Not only had all five of her cousins settled down and gotten married, but her older sisters Haley and Krista had
recently gotten engaged and were planning weddings. If Jessie had to sit through one more discussion about songs, cakes, dresses, or colors, she thought they might have to take her away in a straightjacket.
This place has to be mine.
There were no other acceptable alternatives. This brownstone was in her price range. It was actually on the low end of her budget. It was located only two L stops from work. The master bedroom had a walk-in closet. It came with a parking space. There was a gorgeous view of the park across the street from both the master and bathroom. And last but certainly not least, the pièce de résistance, it housed the love of her life—the clawfoot bathtub. Not to mention the fact that Jessie could not stand the thought of College Barbie living here while Daddy footed the bill.
Jessie quickly exited the bathroom on a mission to go find the owner.
“Excuse me.” Jessie scooted around the buxom blonde, who was frantically texting and did not even bother to look up from her screen to acknowledge Jessie’s presence.
You just keep texting, teeny-bopper
, Jessie thought,
while I go handle business like an adult.
When she arrived, Jessie had seen an older woman—who looked fairly spry for her age—talking to a few young, college-aged party guys. If Jessie had read the room correctly, which she
did, the woman was the owner and the boys wanted to put in applications. The woman did not look overly impressed by them, so Jessie wasn’t worried in the least that they would pose any real competition.
Still, she’d feel better once she herself had spoken to the landlord.
A quick peek in the small hall bathroom, which featured a pedestal sink and a glass-encased shower, did not get her any closer to completing her mission. It was empty. Jessie glanced into the bedroom on the opposite side of the hall, but two girls, measuring the space as they excitedly discussed who would get which room, were the only people she found.
Their efforts were all in vain.
Seeing her competition at every turn, Jessie headed down the wooden staircase with more determination than ever and began calculating a plan A and plan B. Plan A: She would offer the owner the first six months’ rent up front. If that didn’t make a difference, she would move on to the next plan—name drop. Plan B: Her sister Krista had just got engaged to Chase Malone, former front man of the massively successful band Midnight Rush. When Jessie had arrived, the first things that had caught her eye in the foyer were several Midnight Rush CDs and tickets to Chase Malone’s sold-out solo tour sitting on the table near the entryway. One glance told her that the seats were nosebleed. All it would take was one call from Jessie and those tickets would be upgraded to include backstage passes.
When Jessie wanted something, she got it. If she had to sweeten the pot to do it, so be it.
* * *