Samara Wynne thinks she’s finally found the perfect roommate, but Katie’s keeping a secret that could turn their dream home into a nightmare.
Samara Wynne was dreading getting a roommate, but Katie Hansen changed her mind. Katie is everything she could want—she likes Sam’s cooking, she shares her dog when Sam’s feeling low, and there are signs that Sam’s one-sided attraction to her renter might not be so one-sided after all. Katie is safety-conscious to the point of paranoia, though, and she won’t quite tell Sam why.
When a thoughtless mistake by Sam leads to their home-sweet-home being violated, it’s the beginning of the end of everything she had hoped for them. With no home, and no Katie, what does Sam have to look forward to anymore? Fortunately for her, Katie isn’t as ready to give up on them as Sam thought.
|Publisher:||Totally Entwined Group Ltd|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||4 MB|
About the Author
Cari Z is a Colorado girl who loves snow and sunshine. She is back in America, finally, and loves it, despite having to relearn how to use a clutch. Writing consumes the free time that isn't spent on a mat or playing with her husband, or both (wonderful when interests coincide like that), and she hopes you enjoy what she writes as much as she enjoys writing it.
Read an Excerpt
Copyright © Cari Z 2016. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Pride Publishing.
Oh, Denver. God damn you and your massive influx of newcomers, your skyrocketing rental rates and your inability to produce enough housing for everybody. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the new blood, but you know how many of them were looking for a place to live? Almost all of them.
You’d think that would be good, since I needed to rent half my duplex, but in reality? It just muddied the waters with so many candidates that I couldn’t tell good from bad on paper, because everybody was trying to make themselves out to be perfect. And separating the real McCoy from the pretenders was hard. I mean, like, destroying the Death Star hard. You could see the pinhole target you were shooting for, but none of the shots went in. It was kind of a phallic metaphor, which really wasn’t my thing at all, but it fit.
Sure, maybe it was easy if a girl didn’t have standards. For instance, I could have taken the guy who showed up smelling like an open bottle of Drano with everything he owned obviously stuffed into his car. He was willing to pay cash, three months up front, but he wouldn’t give me an ID. Hell to the no, and get your beater out of my driveway before someone associates me with your Ford Fiesta, pal.
Then there was Bachelor Number Two, who seemed nice enough until we got to the subject of pets. “Your ad didn’t say anything about no dogs,” he ventured, and I nodded.
“Right, a dog would be fine.”
“Cool, cool. What about cats?”
“How about a gator?”
“An alligator. I’d keep her in the tub, I promise. Except when she needs to stretch her legs, but I’d let you know before I let her out in the back. Is the fence solid?”
I didn’t know what a solid enough fence would be for an alligator, but I had a feeling that mine wasn’t going to do the trick. Thank God. “Actually, no. It’s completely porous, wouldn’t keep in a kitten, much less an alligator.”
Prospects three through six were turned away due to a previous eviction for setting her last apartment on fire, a previous conviction for robbing a marijuana dispensary, insufficient funds, which I hated to do but I had bills to pay too, damn it, and a disagreement over how many vehicles they could house here―four was three too many. By the time I got around to appointment number seven, I was this close to just slamming my door shut, slapping a hot pack on my shoulders and settling in for a Fast and Furious marathon, because nothing soothed my soul like the sight of Michelle Rodriguez behind the wheel of a muscle car. When the doorbell rang, I literally cringed before making myself get up and respond.
What I saw pulled my angst up short. It was a woman, with light brown hair, hazel eyes, and the kind of skin that looked as if it went red in under five minutes of direct sunlight, who was dressed in jeans and a sweater and wearing a Yankees ball cap on her head. She’d arrived riding shotgun in a black sedan, but the driver, an older woman in a dark suit, didn’t bother getting out of the car.
“Hi,” the newest prospect said, and held out a hand. “I’m Katie Hansen.”
I shook her hand with tentative hope. “Samara Wynne, but call me Sam. Come on in.” I led her into my little living room and pointed to a chair. “Please have a seat. Can I get you some water?”
“No, thanks.” She sat, and I hoped it wasn’t too obvious I was checking her out as I sat down across from her. She looked so…average. Normal, if one could actually put a face to something like that.
I tried to stomp on my enthusiasm. With my luck, she’d turn out to be a smuggler or drug dealer or something. I shuffled through the applications on my coffee table until I found hers. Huh. Good credit score for someone so young.
“So, Katie, tell me a little about yourself.”
She clasped her hands in her lap and took a deep breath. “I’m twenty-three, I’m taking courses at the University of Denver, I’ve never been arrested for anything and I can pay a month’s rent and the damage deposit up front.”
I smiled at her. “Not your first time giving this speech recently, huh?”
“No.” She looked a little sheepish. “I’m new to the area and I don’t have a job, since I’m going to school full-time right now. A lot of landlords don’t seem to like that kind of uncertainty.”
I could understand that, but I was also so done with interviewing people. “It’s not an issue for me as long as you can make the rent. Do you have any pets?”
“No, but I was thinking of getting a dog.”
One dog? Child’s play. “Cool. Are you up for signing a yearlong lease?”
She nodded. “Absolutely.”
“Do you play music over eighty-five decibels on a regular basis?”
“I don’t even know how loud that is, but I don’t think so?” she offered.
Oh yeah, we were cooking now. “What about a car?”
“I don’t have one.”
“No?” I raised one eyebrow. “What about the one you drove here in?”
“That belongs to a friend of the family.” She made a little wave toward the parking pad out front, as if indicating the woman who’d declined to come inside. “Personally, I prefer to take the bus.”
Seriously, was there anything wrong with her? “Great. Do you have any questions for me?”
“Yeah, a few.” She brushed a strand of hair back behind her ear. “Would you mind if I added another lock to the door and installed security cameras?”
“Um.” Weeeell… “No, not as long as I could still get into your half of the duplex, but is there any specific reason you’re so concerned about security? A psycho ex or something?”
“No, no,” she assured me. “No psycho ex. Just… I’m from Brighton Beach, back in New York, and there were some…crime issues I dealt with there. It’s left me kind of paranoid.” She looked at me closely. “If it’s a problem, that’s fine. I can—”
“Hey, no.” I wasn’t going to lose a lead on a decent renter just because she was safety-conscious. “It’s no problem, I was just curious. Any other questions for me?”
“Really just one important one.” Katie stared me straight in the eyes. “Are you a Red Sox fan? Because if you are, I’m afraid we can’t be friends.”
I couldn’t help laughing. “That’s your line in the sand? The Red Sox? Oh my god, I thought you were gonna ask me if I smoked pot or something. Which, yes, but not often. Red Sox. That’s baseball, right?”
Katie looked aghast. “You don’t know who the Red Sox are? I mean, great, because they suck, but you really don’t?”
“Not my sport,” I explained. “So no, I’m not a fan.”
“Yeah.” We stared at each other in silence for a moment longer before I pulled myself together. “You want to see the other side?”
Katie signed the lease half an hour later, and moved in over the weekend. Everything she owned fit in the back of a little U-Haul, which at least proved that she could drive even if she didn’t. I helped her move things in exchange for teasing out a little more about her, and over the course of a few days I learned a few interesting tidbits. Not as many as I thought I’d get, which was interesting in and of itself, but some.
I learned that Katie had been born and raised in Brighton Beach, that she had an older brother she rarely spoke with and a father she never spoke with. I learned that she was studying psychology with the intention of becoming a counselor, that she had absolutely no interest in drugs of any kind but didn’t proselytize about it, and that her favorite color was red. I learned that she had an amber ring on her right hand that came from her mother, that her favorite television show was Orphan Black, and that she would literally fight you if you said anything negative about the Yankees.
“This is Broncos Country, you know,” I mentioned as we got her television set up. “Nobody cares if you like the Yankees as long as you’re faithful to the Broncos.”
“I don’t know much about football.”
“Oh, you’ll learn.”
By Sunday evening she was all moved in and I was feeling good about my decision. Katie seemed as though she’d make a perfect renter, responsible without being a complete drag. If I was lucky she might even turn into a friend, although several conditions had to be met before that could happen. One concerned food.
“I’m making Indian tonight, you want to come over?” I asked as I brushed the dust from her futon off my pants. I was a little surprised by how dusty all of her stuff was, as though it had been in storage for longer than it took to drive out here from the East Coast. Maybe she’d taken some detours, done some sightseeing on the way over. God knows I would have.
“I love Indian food,” Katie said.
“Good.” First test passed. Now for the ringer. “How do you feel about watching Fast and Furious while we eat?”
Katie considered the question for a moment. “Can we start with one that has Gisele in it?”
I grinned at her. “Sure, if you want. Four?”
“Let’s go with Five, it’s got her on the Ducati.”
I shook my head. “But that one has almost no Letty in it.” It was my least favorite for that very reason. No Michelle Rodriguez? Fuck that.
“Why don’t we compromise and watch Six?” Katie asked. “It has both.”
I raised an eyebrow at her. “Even though your girl dies in it?”
Katie shrugged. “She dies very heroically, though.”
Couldn’t argue with that. “Sure.” I cooked and Katie cleaned up afterward, and we drank craft beer from the new brewery down the street and watched a movie together on my couch. It was the nicest non-date I’d gone on in longer than I could remember. I had no idea if Katie was interested in women, and didn’t plan on asking just for the sake of it. I was pretty happy regardless—after weeks of looking, I’d finally found the perfect housemate.
It probably helped during the early days of our cohabitation that we shared a duplex. Separate kitchens, separate bedrooms, separate…well, everything, basically. There was a door connecting the two sides, but either of us could lock it. No too surprisingly, Katie did. I guess if she was concerned enough about security to add two extra locks to the front door—undoubtedly overkill, but I’d already said she could, so whatever—and video cameras to oversee the front and back lawns, then it made her happy. I wanted her to like living here, and I didn’t blame her for wanting to enforce a little privacy every now and then. I had my car guys coming in all hours of the day with concepts for their babies, and they weren’t always the most tactful bunch.
Apart from the movie nights, our real sense of understanding got going when Katie figured out that when I said I was an artist, I meant it in a very specific, very employed kind of way. “You paint hot rods?” she asked, her small fingers gently paging through the sketchbook I’d left out on my kitchen table.
“I do. It’s a bit of a niche, I know,” I said as I brought the palak paneer over to the table. “My father was a Formula 1 driver. Mum and I traveled all over the world with him going to races.” Bahrain, Singapore… I shook my head a bit to clear it. “I never got into racing myself, but some of his friends let me work on their cars after I graduated from uni and I’ve never looked back.”
“How did you ever end up in Denver?”
“That,” I said expansively as I tore off a corner of naan, “is a long and circuitous story, and I’m too hungry to monologue about it right now.”
Katie accepted my excuse with better grace than I’d probably have had if the tables had been turned. “No wonder you like racing movies.” She turned another page. “You paint an awful lot of flames, it seems.”
“Do I ever,” I muttered. “I try to talk people out of flames, they’re so cliché, but it’s hard to find an owner who’s willing to diversify his or her vision much beyond making sure all the sponsors are clearly visible these days.”
“I like the tombstones.”
I nodded my thanks, then swallowed so I could reply. “That was Mendoza’s idea. I thought it was a little morbid at first, considering the rep that drag racing has, but it turned out quite nice. I also do some designing on the side for a friend who owns a tattoo parlor, but that’s less reliable. I have to wait for someone to pick one of my pieces out of a book or off my Instagram, then go in and make adjustments for the individual.”
Katie’s gaze traveled to my right arm, where Ganesh’s head peeked out from between the petals of a bright red lotus blossom. “It’s my design,” I confirmed. “I got it done just after I moved here. Do you have any tattoos?”
“No,” she said quickly. “No, nothing like that. My family has always been pretty…strict about what they considered appropriate for me. Tattoos definitely don’t make the list.”
I grinned and nudged her foot with mine beneath the table. “That’s part of what going away to university is all about, figuring out what’s appropriate for yourself. Where’s your sense of rebellion?”
Katie’s lips twisted a little. “I’ve rebelled plenty. I’m here instead of back in New York, right?” She picked up her bottle of beer and took a long drink, and as soon as she set it down she changed the subject. I let her. I wanted to be her friend, not a pushy bitch.
The other thing that cemented our friendship was Katie following through on her desire to get a pit bull a month after she moved in. Denver had plenty of shelters, and when she invited me to go to the Dumb Friends League with her to get a dog, I jumped at the chance. Not that I could help teasing her a little. “You just want a ride to the shelter.”
“More like from the shelter, but yes. I’m using you for your muscle car. I figure we can pick up some chicks while we’re out and about,” Katie deadpanned.
I laughed. “Nobody gets to pick you up while you’re out with me, they’ll think I’m losing my touch!”