“I can’t believe you agreed to live with a woman,” Cash said, sitting down on the couch in my living room with a beer in his hand.
It was Saturday afternoon, and most of the gang was over at my place, waiting for Tessa and her brother to arrive so we could help move all of her stuff in. Maverick and Harper were at home with their baby girl, Seghen, and Paige had a work function with a client.
I really couldn’t believe it either. I’d never had a roommate before who wasn’t some sort of family member, but I knew I didn’t want Tessa living in some dilapidated hole in Grand Concourse again. Just hearing her talk about growing up there pissed me off.
“Living with a woman isn’t so bad,” Carter stated proudly, with his arm slung over Elly’s shoulder. “They make the place smell good. They’re nice to look at.”
“They cook,” Fletcher added, rubbing Bayler’s thigh. They weren’t living together yet, but they stayed together enough that he enjoyed the benefits of Bayler’s excellent cooking skills.
“Not all of them cook,” Carter retorted, nodding his head toward his wife.
“Hey!” Elly exclaimed, smacking him in the stomach. “I’m cooking your baby right now.”
The room filled with laughter as I paced over to the window and looked down at the sidewalk. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure whether or not Tessa would like living with me. I’d had the place cleaned twice this week in anticipation of her arrival.
“But Tessa loves cooking,” Elly continued, smiling up at me. “You can finally stop eating out every night.”
I scoffed, glancing over my shoulder at her. “I don’t eat out every night.”
Bayler laughed. “All you have in your fridge are takeout boxes and condiments.”
“And beer!” Carter said, clinking his bottle with Fletcher’s.
“Ladies,” Fletcher stated, shaking his head at the women. “Jameson has the necessities. Lay off him.”
“Tessa is going to freak when she sees the fridge,” Elly said, laughing along with Bayler.
I turned to face the gang as anxiety tumbled in my stomach. “What do you mean? Why would she freak out?”
“Because Tessa enjoys cooking,” Bayler explained.
“Yeah,” Elly said, nodding. “She’s used to having a stocked kitchen, especially since she’s cooked for her and her brother most of her life.”
Now I felt bad about not going grocery shopping. The truth was, I did order takeout often, only because it was easier than attempting to cook a meal. I’d grown up with either a maid cooking for me or my grandma, but no matter how many times Janice Jameson tried to teach me how to cook, the meal never turned out the way she made it.
“You guys can go grocery shopping later,” Cash said, running through the television channels. “That way she can pick out whatever the hell she wants.”
“Maybe she’ll even teach you how to cook,” Elly teased, nudging my arm.
“Yeah,” Bayler continued, pointing her beer bottle at me. “Every guy should know how to cook. Women love a home-cooked meal they don’t have to make themselves.”
“I’m not trying to find a woman,” I stated, furrowing my brows.
The gang laughed at my candid response, despite the fact that it was true. I’d practically given up on finding a good woman during my college years. The girls I seemed to attract back then only wanted my help passing a class. The only date I’d been on since was a few years ago when my grandma set me up with her neighbor, Elly. The chemistry wasn’t there, so we became friends instead, which was perfectly fine with me. She was still in love with Carter, and I’d been a loner most of my life. When Carter moved back to New York, he and Elly started dating, and I gained another friend. Our group of friends continued to grow after that with the addition of Carter’s sisters, Harper and Bayler, falling for two of our own, Maverick and Fletcher.
“I call bullshit, Justin,” Bayler exclaimed, rolling her eyes. She leaned into Fletcher’s side and rested her feet up on the coffee table.
The laughter quickly died down at her blunt retort.
“Excuse me?” I asked, deflecting my surprise.
“All men are predisposed to think with their penises,” she explained, entertaining everyone with her words. “I don’t care how much of a genius you are; you’re still a man, which means that brain of yours down south is focused on sex just like every other man’s.”
Laughter grew louder around me as I stared her down, the smile spreading wide across my face. We got a kick out of giving each other a hard time, and I enjoyed dishing it out just as much as everyone else. Leaning down next to her ear, I said, “No, Bayler, what I meant was, I don’t have to try to find a woman.”
She nearly spit out her beer as she smacked me on the arm and laughed. “See! Just like every other guy! I knew you had a dick in there somewhere, Jameson.”
“Is this the part where I tell you I know how to use it, too?” I asked sarcastically, laughing along with her.
A knock on the door sounded before she could reply, so I walked over to answer it. Opening the door, I found Tessa and a younger guy standing behind her, with three suitcases resting at their sides and a duffle bag slung across his body. She wore an old pair of ripped jeans and a hoodie. Her long brown hair was knotted on top of her head, but it was her light blue-gray eyes smiling back at me that caught my attention the most.
“Hey,” I said, grabbing one of the rollers. “Come on in.”
“Thanks,” she said, crossing the threshold into my apartment.