After leaving heartache in the Midwest, Jessamine Davis ventures to the mountains of New York City to pursue her dreams of editing best-selling novels. At the top of her game, Jessie sees no pitfalls in her future until a wedding invitation makes its way from Colorado. After her assistant mistakenly sends her RSVP, which includes a plus-one to attend her ex-fiancé and sister’s wedding, Jessie searches for a picture-perfect date to drag across the Rockies.
Asher Whitaker is in a writing slump. The words that usually flow screeched to halt a year ago. Hoping to gain inspiration, he takes a part-time job at his favorite coffee shop. Nothing could have prepared him for the unusual meeting with a gorgeous tea fanatic. Despite his reservations, Asher agrees to accompany Jessie to a week of family time on Mount Princeton.
Hilarity ensues as the two strangers attempt to pass off their faux relationship to the onslaught of her family. Torn between wanting to keep her distance from the ex-Army Ranger turned barista, Jessie begins to feel something other than repulsion for the opposite sex. Asher isn’t the typical Wall Street type, so her attraction to him startles her. With his bold tattoos and teasing demeanor, Asher mirrors everything she didn’t think she craved in a man. His dimpled smile and tall stature puts her at ease and creates havoc in her celibate mind.
Between fishing and four-wheeling, Asher’s connection to Jessie deepens along with the tall tales he spins regarding the real reason he left his mundane side job. Every hour he spends at Jessie’s side only furthers his desire to be more than a boyfriend. Yet, his secret identity holds him back from fully disclosing the truth.
Though they had ulterior motives for their hiatus, the two discover something greater in each other.
In a moment of irony, Jessie discovers who the tattooed barista truly is—a well-known author of novels that leave women weak in the knees—but more importantly, the man she was supposed to sign with her publishing house before leaving New York City.
Jessie’s time spent with Asher forces her to choose between being scorned by love or transforming her heart for the future.
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The commercial airplane taxied down the runway while Asher studied the sports magazine in his hands. It was opened to an article about baseball, a subject that enraptured him a majority of the time. Any words he read were lost to him. He couldn’t keep his attention fixed on anything with Jessie so close. She smelled like books. Freshly printed books with a hint of lemon. He might have been able to handle karma’s bitch-slap if she wore her hair up in a bun again.
Swiveling his eyes to her in a stealthy manner, he steadied his breathing at the sight of her mildly curled hair, which fell below her shoulders by a good four inches. That, coupled with her deep blue blouse and tan capri pants that exposed toned calves, sent him reeling. Today, Jessie didn’t look like the uptight executive who spilled her tea over them both. She looked normal. Well, normal for a New Yorker. The knowledge that she wasn’t born and raised in the city startled him at first. Her go-getter temperament and drive was typical for the bustling hub. Not many outsiders thrived under the circumstances. Many moved to the suburbs to escape the havoc, but she admitted to living in the heart of the city that never sleeps.
“What did you say you do for work again?” he pestered when he realized they never touched on the subject other than her offering to get him a job. He was shocked at her proposition, but then again, she knew him as a barista and that was all. He would never accept her job offer, but she didn’t need to know yet. Though he didn’t want to divulge his mainstream of income, he was interested as to hers.
Jessie tucked a curl behind her ear. “Oh, I um.” She stumbled as if in search for the right words. “I work in the publishing sector. Nothing too fancy. Books, magazines, websites, etc.”
Asher let his face relax, but only slightly. The little research he did online of her was somewhat satisfactory. In her personal life, she was an internet ghost, save one social media account which was marked as private. As to her occupation, Brecon Books boasted her as an established editor. Her titles varied were predominately romance, but a few mystery, and non-fiction titles had her name attached to them. A stray thought filtered through his mind, but he shoved it aside. Jessie didn’t recognize him, so she couldn’t be the editor who was supposed to meet with him from the publishing house.
“What about you? Is barista your sole job title?” Jessie asked, shuffling through pages of the latest fashion magazine.
“As a matter of fact, no. I’ve dabbled here and there with other professions,” he clarified, skirting the whole truth. She didn’t need to know the reason behind his coffee shop experiment. It would make things awkward.
“So a nomad hippie?” she asked with a disconcerting tone. “They will love it.”
The seatbelt sign flipped off, so Asher turned in his seat to face her. If she knew the truth, her family would love him. He didn’t like to deceive her, but the exposure on the other end was a far cry from the quiet getaway he longed for. “Yeah, it’s not a very stable occupation, but I’m fond of it.” She flipped another page. Her cavalier nature unnerved him. “Since you’re not a fan of me being a barista, what should we tell your relatives? Should we make up a profession? I can play along.”
Closing the magazine, Jessie eyed him from head to toe. As a rule, he would encourage such exploration, but the way her icy blue eyes slid over him was in no way seductive. “You’re an actor too? I guess it works to our advantage.”
Asher opened his mouth to explain, but slammed it shut as she continued. “Nothing pretentious. My mom will look you up online the instant she hears your name, so a quiet profession would be best.”
Asher grinned at the thought of a maternal form of Jessie. He pictured her now as a warm and nurturing type who had a bit of a stalking tendency when it came to the men her daughters dated. “Don’t worry. There isn’t much online to find about me. I’m not very active on the social media platforms. I like my privacy,” he concluded in partial truth. Her mom wouldn’t find anything about Asher Whitaker that wasn’t positive. Without a doubt, she would discover his military history, but it wouldn’t be so bad.
“So do I.” She unbuckled her seatbelt. “It looks like we have one thing in common.”
“Oh, I’m sure there’s more than one.” He plastered a grin on his face and it deepened when her face turned a shade of red. “Anyway, my occupation.”
Jessie tapped her index finger against her knee, deep in thought. “You were in the military, so what about a facet off that? A security company or military recruiter?” she proposed with a hopeful smile.
Thinking over those options, Asher figured they were safer than business. He was horrible at business. He had Mike to deal with the money side of things. “I could pass for a recruiter.”
“Perfect.” Jessie produced a book from her oversized satchel and handed it to him. “This should give you a rundown on what you need to know, although, I’m certain you already know most of it.”
Staring at the thick book, Asher held in his surprise. It was apparent that she’d thought this through last night. She managed to find a book on his fake career named The Basics of Recruiting. The humor wasn’t lost to him on the title either. Opening the bright green cover, he sucked in his breath. He could pass as a recruiter without reading this mumbo jumbo, but she seemed adamant he read it. “Thanks, Mina. It was real nice of you.”
Jessie’s blue eyes darted to his face at the nickname derived from her full name. “It’s Jessie not Mina.”
“Whoa, calm down there, Mina. Why the temper? It’s part of your name after all,” he prodded, skimming her features with his eyes. She was frustrated at his attempt at a nickname. He’d never met a girl named Jessamine before, and though he was surprised she chose Jessie instead of Jessa as a nickname, he liked to play with names. It was one of his favorite parts of his real job. The way her eyes turned to fireballs was irresistible.
“Because he called me Mina.” She somehow seethed through clenched teeth.
Asher understood the dilemma, and right off hated the man who turned Jessie to stone. It wasn’t fair of her ex to monopolize her future. He liked the nickname and he wouldn’t stop because another man tainted it.
Leaning toward her, he lowered his voice. “The best revenge is to move on and be happy. If your ex sees a new man calling you the same name, one I know you secretly love, he will accept the fact you’re over him.” Opening his mandated book to a new chapter, he added, “Plus, I like the name.”
He watched as her face went from prissy to understanding. “My dad wanted boys, but he didn’t get them, so he named us. Jessie for me and Bobbi for my sister. My mom was the one who fancied the names up so people knew we were girls.” She slapped a hand over her mouth. “I don’t know why I told you. Just forget it and read your book.”
Asher watched with vigilance as she jammed ear buds into her diamond-studded ears. The accidental tidbit told him quite a bit about his week-long girlfriend. She didn’t want to be a woman with a flowery name. She wanted to be mistaken for a man. A woman whose desire was to run with the big dogs of New York City.
He smirked when she all but scooted to the edge of her seat as though her insight somehow changed his perception of her. It did, in reality. Her slip up still resonated through her slender frame. The more he learned about her, the more Asher was enthralled. She would make an excellent story character.
Settling back into his seat, he skimmed the pages of the book which was altogether worthless. He was positive his date had also stuffed a book about the security profession in her bag, in case he opted for the other route. Holding in a grin when she mouthed the words from the song playing in her ears, Asher did his best to mind his own business. When she crossed her legs and sat upright like a jolt of lightning hit her, his focus was on her alone. “Everything all right?”
“The list. I forgot to go over the list with you,” was her stammered reply.
Her hands dove into her carryon and produced a notebook with scribbled handwriting in black ink. “I wanted to go over some ground rules for this week.”
Intrigued by her incentive to write out rules, he set his homework aside. “All right, shoot.”
Jessie licked her lips and kept her eyes on the book. “No ifs and or buts on not sleeping together.” She looked up and explained, “My family has this rule where you can’t sleep in the same bedroom unless you’re engaged.”
Asher couldn’t help but insert, “We could pretend to be engaged.” The flush on her cheeks was worth the glare that followed.
“No.” She ticked the sentence off her list. “I’m not a real touchy feely type of person, so limiting our physical interactions would be appreciated.”
Crossing his arms, he shook his head. “Well, I’m a very hands-on person. If your relatives are supposed to believe we’re together, some touching will be required.”
She narrowed her eyes but then relinquished her prude statement. “Fine, but minimal.”
“Unless you beg for more,” he said under his breath.
“What was that?”
Asher hid a smirk. “Nothing, Mina. What’s next?”
It was clear the use of his nickname aggravated her, but she didn’t correct him. “My mom is nosy, so try not to make up some outlandish story about us.”
“Duly noted.” He pointed to the next one. “No showering together? What? Now, that’s just irresponsible.”
Jessie’s face smeared in panic. “What? It’s not on there.”
“Oh, so we can shower together to conserve water? I know it’s important in the mountains.”
Her eyes flashed annoyance. “Not what I meant when I put ‘abide by mountain rules.’” Lickety-split, she scribbled more words after the sentence. “Yes, we need to conserve water and the like, but not by doing so together.”
“Mhmm, you say so now.”
“Asher, be serious.” Jessie offered him a stern glance.
“Proceed.” He held out his hand, giving his approval.
For the next five minutes, the beauty next to him rattled on about the dos and don’ts of the week ahead. Well, five days, but who was counting? It was clear Jessie was a control freak, and her tendencies didn’t stop when they flew over the Midwest states.
By the end, he was somewhat peeved at her requirements. “If I’m getting this right, you want a perfect boyfriend for the week. Sound accurate enough?”
Jessie stuffed her notebook into her purse. “In essence, yeah. I mean, not too perfect though, because they’ll see through you.”
“Right, because that would be horrible.” He let out a frustrated breath. “I don’t know why you want perfect, Mina. No one is perfect.”
“It’s what I want,” she said, her mind obviously set on that fact.
“And now I know why you’re single,” Asher pointed out, settling back into his seat. He didn’t bother to look over at the expression of malice which covered her face. It was an intentional jab. She desired perfection in an imperfect world. Though sad, it opened his mind to the real reason why her fiancé cheated on her.
The pilot announced their turbulence over the intercom and Asher buckled his seatbelt. He was in for one hell of a ride, beginning with navigating the dicey waters running through Jessie’s veins.