Maddie had a predicament. She needed a place to stay, and she needed one fast. If she didn't get out of her parent's house, she was going to kill someone. It wouldn't be pretty.

She loved her parents, and she had been happy to stay with them when she first returned to the coastal Maine town she had been raised in after spending five years in Chicago. That had lasted about a week. After days of having her mother ask her where she was going, whom she was going with, and when she would be coming back, Maddie had been ready to scream ... or strangle someone.

She had to find another living arrangement, and she had to do it soon. Lives depended on it.

Sophie, her best friend in the world, had offered to let her stay at the town house she shared with two other women, Janie and Lara. Maddie got along great with Janie. Lara, on the other hand, hated her guts. The feeling was mutual.

Maddie had scoured the want ads, searched on Craigslist, and asked around wherever she went, but it was useless. No one was looking for a roommate. She was destined to live with her parents forever. And she just couldn't do it. She knew she couldn't do it.

"This is useless." Maddie groaned as she slammed the lid of her laptop down. "I am doomed. I am twenty-seven years old, and I am living with my mom and dad. I did not move back from Chicago for this. Seriously, Sophie!"

Janie exchanged a look with Sophie as she stood and started to clear away the empty bottles of beer the girls had finished off. "Refill, anyone?"

"Absolutely!" Sophie exclaimed. "And get Maddie one, too."

"No, don't get Maddie one," Maddie interjected. Three beers really was her limit. "I have to work tomorrow." She might not feel the alcohol now, but she would at four in the morning when her alarm clock summoned her out of bed. "I'm doomed," she repeated.

"You're not doomed," Sophie assured her. "What you need is another drink." Maddie opened her mouth to protest, but Sophie cut her off. "We all have to work tomorrow, sweetie. I have to open at the salon. Janie has to be at the library before dawn, too. You don't see me or her turning down another drink, do you?"

Maddie just sighed. "Have you ever tried to teach a Bikram yoga class with a hangover?"

"Can't say that I have," Sophie said. "Can't say that I've taken a yoga class of any sort, actually, drunk or sober. All that yoga jazz is too trendy for me."

"Well, just the thought of the overly heated room and a pounding head ache while doing a downward facing dog has my stomach turning. I'll pass on the fourth Blue Moon."

"Suit yourself," Sophie replied.

"I need to find a place to stay. This is really getting ridiculous. Somebody in this town has to be looking for a roommate." Maddie could feel herself getting overly dramatic about the situation. It was another good reason to pass on another beer.

"I told you, you can stay here. Janie doesn't mind at all. We love having you here." Sophie didn't mention how her other roommate felt about the situation, which was that she hated having Maddie at the town house.

"She's right," Janie said as she returned to the table with another bottle for her and Sophie. "Lara wouldn't be too thrilled, but really, what does that matter?"

"She hates me," Maddie pointed out.

"We could kick Lara out and let you take her place," Sophie said with a smile for Janie. "I could totally live with that."

"If only Lara would agree to it," Janie said with a sigh. "I'd take you, Maddie, over Lara any day, but she did live here first."

"No," Maddie mumbled. "I need to find my own place. And I will." Her mind drifted back to the troubles she had been having finding a place to live. "Or not. Oh, just fuck it." She stood up quickly, wobbled a little as the beer finally started to kick in. "Maybe I will have another drink."


The next morning dragged for Maddie. She knew she should have skipped that fourth beer the night before. It probably would have been a smart idea to have not gone for a fifth one, either. As a result, she was paying for it now. She had made it through her first class of the morning, the Bikram yoga class, with no problem. It was the step aerobics class she taught an hour afterwards that she had struggled through.

Sophie and Janie had both offered to help her find somewhere to live that wasn't her childhood home the night before, but Maddie wasn't feeling so optimistic about it. She had spent days, and hours, looking, but nothing had come up. What else would they be able to find that she hadn't?

She was just starting to work herself into another funk when Margo, the director of the rec center, approached her.

"I know you have another class at noon, but you're free until then, right?" Margo wasn't one to waste time with greetings. It didn't matter that she and Maddie hadn't even said so much as good morning to each other, yet.

"Free as a bird," Maddie said. She cringed as the words hit her ears. "I mean, I sure am."

"Great. Can you clean up the community bulletin board for me? It tends to get over run from time to time. Just weed out what you think is old. I'll handle the front desk."

With not another word of instruction, Margo walked off and left Maddie wondering how the hell she was supposed to determine what was old on the bulletin board that all members of town could post stuff on and what was new. She had never even looked at the bulletin board.

"This should be fun," Maddie mumbled as she shuffled over to the six foot long cork board that hung just inside the front doors of the center. It was completely covered in paper. The entire thing was covered in flyers, and they all looked brand new to Maddie. She was going to have to read every single piece of paper that was affixed to the board ... and there looked to be millions.

"This is why I don't drink," she muttered as she read the first flyer, advertising 'Puppies! Free to a good home!' "This is going to take forever."

Maddie was fifteen minutes into the job when she hit the jackpot. After scouring through flyers boasting guitar lessons, a Spanish tutor, catering, and more puppies, Maddie had found what she had been looking for over the last few weeks.

"Renter wanted," she read. "To share house with two men. $600 a month, utilities included. Call Ryder Kent for additional information." She ripped the paper down from the wall before anyone could walk up behind her and get it first and grasped it in her fingers giddily. This was what she had been searching for, and she had found it. She felt like that poor kid who had found the golden ticket to the chocolate factory; she wanted to run and tell Sophie.

"Hey, Margo," she called. "I'm going on break."


Maddie found Sophie behind the salon she worked at, Chic, sharing a cigarette with Cary Gregory, one of the other stylists.

"You're looking pretty chipper," Sophie commented as she took a drag and then passed the cigarette back to Cary. Maddie was smiling; she wore a big, goofy looking grin. She knew she looked like an idiot, but she couldn't help it. She was that happy. "You look like you did something naughty and got away with it."

"Look!" Maddie exclaimed as she thrust the flyer she'd stolen from the rec center into Sophie's hands. "I've found it. You were right. I'm not doomed."

Sophie glanced at the flyer for a moment and then looked up. "How old is this?"

"I have no idea. It was on the bulletin at the rec center, and not buried under a ton of shit, so I'd say it's pretty recent. What do you think? It's perfect, right?"

"Hmm ..." Sophie took the cigarette back from Cary and took another puff.

"That is the nastiest habit ever," Maddie told her, waiting for Sophie's opinion. "You are slowly killing yourself, you know."

"Yes, I know, Mum." Sophie laughed. "Call Ryder Kent," she read. "Have you called him?"

"Not yet. I'm too nervous. I needed you to talk me into it."

"Hmm ..." Sophie said again. "Ryder Kent? Ryder Kent? The name, it's so ... Cary, you know Ryder Kent, don't you?"

"Who doesn't?" Cary asked as he took a drag from the cigarette Sophie had just passed back to him. "He's Jeremiah Kent's son."

Maddie just gave him a blank look. "Who?"

"The state senator," Cary offered as a hint.

"Oh, right, him ... nope, still don't know who he is."

"I've heard of him," Sophie said. "He uses the salon, I think. He's a client of yours, Cary, isn't he?" Cary nodded and started to stub out the cigarette. "Hey! Give me that."

"He is, yes. Why?" Cary asked suspiciously as he ignored Sophie's last request and tossed aside the burnt butt.

"Maddie, this is perfect!" Sophie exclaimed. "You are so right. Now you have an in with Ryder. Call him, Cary. You have to tell him you have the perfect housemate for him and this other man he shares the house with."

"No," Maddie said quickly.

"No?" Sophie and Cary spoke at the same time, echoing Maddie.

"Are you sure?" Cary asked. "I don't mind calling him. And he does owe me for making him look so fucking fantastic. You'll like him, Maddie. Not bad on the eyes, and not a total asshole."

"Sounds perfect, but I'll call myself."

Lara poked her head out the back door. Seeing Maddie, she didn't bother hiding her frown. "Your next client is here, Sophie." She fixed Maddie with a disapproving look.

"She hates me," Maddie whispered to Cary. "She fucking hates me. I should be going, too." She gave a small wave and turned to head back to the center.

"Call Ryder," Sophie called after her. "And call me, too." Lara turned her hard glare on Sophie. "Hey," she whispered to Cary as they slipped through the back door of the salon. "Call Ryder, will you. Maddie really needs a place to stay. If she stays at my place one more night, Lara will throw a hissy fit, or worse ... we don't need that shit around here."


Before Maddie could call him, Ryder called her. Though, he and his housemate had already found a new renter to replace the one who had just moved out, Ryder had been moved by Cary's pleas to at least meet Maddie before making a final decision. They set up a meeting for that afternoon.

Ryder was just as Cary said he would be. He was charming, so not an asshole, and a treat to look at with his dark hair, and deep, chocolate brown eyes, and perfect smile. He warmed to Maddie instantly.

"This is going well," Sophie, whom Maddie had brought with her, along with Cary, whispered.

Maddie rolled her eyes. "It was just a tour of the house," she muttered. "Of course, it's going well." Ryder had finished taking them through the entire house, and they now stood outside on the back deck.

"So, Jacob isn't here right now," Ryder commented. "He's the other renter," he added when Maddie gave him a questioning look. "But he's easy to live with. He's our resident import."

"Import?" Maddie questioned as she exchanged a look with Sophie.

"He's from Sweden," Ryder explained.

"Ryder is a huge ... Swedeophile," Cary said uncertainly. "Isn't that what you say?" He frowned slightly. "Is that even a word?"

"Doubt it," Maddie replied.

"Well, you know what I mean. They call those people who love all things British Anglophiles. Anglophile, Swedeophile, same thing different country, you get the idea."

"So, you love all things Swedish?" Maddie asked, turning her attention back to Ryder. "That's so ... neat." It actually sounded a bit creepy to her, but she wasn't about to say that aloud.

"I'm a huge fan of IKEA," Ryder told her.

Maddie laughed, but stopped quickly when Ryder looked nonplussed. "Oh, sorry. I didn't ..." She trailed off, not wanting to embarrass herself any more than she already had done so. She wanted this to work, and laughing at Ryder's interests wasn't the way to go about that. "They make great furniture."

"They do," Ryder agreed. "I'm also a huge fan of Greta Garbo, amazing actress, and ... and ..."

"Swedish Fish," Maddie joked. "Those are awesome! I'm a big fan of those. Hey, maybe we have something in common."

Ryder frowned, and Maddie bit back a groan, but then he laughed. "Sure, we can agree that Swedish Fish are great." Maddie breathed a soft sigh of relief. "Um, that was the whole house. The room would be yours and yours alone and then the rest of the house is pretty much common area. Jacob should be back later, around six. Did you want to come back and meet him before you decide whether this is the right place for you?"

"Oh, well, sure."

"I'm ready to offer you the room now," Ryder told her. "What were your thoughts? Of course, you'd probably want to meet Jacob first, I would think."

"I probably should," Maddie agreed. Or not, she thought. If Ryder was willing to have her move in without consulting the other renter, why should she need to meet this other guy first?

"You may have met him already, I suppose," Ryder mused. "Cary mentioned that you work at the rec center." Maddie nodded. "Personally, I don't use the center, but I'm pretty sure that Jacob does. You really can't miss him."

Maddie gave Ryder an odd look. It was an odd comment to make. "If you say so," she replied. "I mean, it's a pretty busy place."

"What does he look like?" Sophie asked, unable to keep back the question. Ryder was going on and on about Jacob and what a standout he was. She had to know what he looked like.

"He's tall," Ryder said simply.

"Tall, you say?" Maddie questioned. "Of course, him. The tall guy. Yes, I know just who you're talking about. Seriously? There are a ton of tall people in this city."

"And blonde," Ryder added. "He's a tall, blonde, giant of a man."

"Just your type, Maddie," Sophie teased. "She loves tall, blonde, Swedish men."

"Really?" A hint of disappointment edged into Ryder's voice as he asked the question. Maddie didn't pick up on it, too amused by the conversation, but Sophie did.

"Oh, sure. What perfect luck for you, Maddie." Sophie elbowed her playfully. Maddie elbowed her back.

"So, like I said, Jacob'll be back later tonight," Ryder muttered, trying to pull the subject off of Jacob. He clearly wished he wouldn't have brought up his other renter. "Is there anything else you'd like to know?"

"What's his sign?" Sophie asked as Maddie shook her head.

"Sophie, no." Maddie groaned, slightly frustrated. Nothing that Sophie was asking had any impact on her decision, and she could care less what her other roommate looked like, or what star sign he was born under.

"It's important information to have. Astrological compatibility is extremely important in a housemate, Maddie."

"It isn't," Maddie insisted. "Ryder, really, you don't have to answer. Sophie is just being silly."

"Jacob's sign?" Ryder asked, a bit perplexed. He didn't seem to hear Maddie. "His astrological sign?" Sophie nodded. "I have no idea."

"Of course, you do," Sophie tutted. "You live with him. How can you not know that?"

Ryder just shrugged. "I don't care about that shit. His birthday is in August. Does that help?"

"Sophie, come on," Maddie urged, taking her friend by the arm and pulling her towards the deck steps. "I'll come back later to meet Jacob ... alone. Really, that's not a problem."

"Early August or late August?" Sophie just ignored Maddie.

"Late," Ryder responded, obviously interested in the conversation now.

"Maddie!" Sophie exclaimed. She glanced from Maddie to Cary, who seemed to know exactly what had caused Sophie's outburst, and back to Maddie. "This is just perfect! You need to move in right away. Seriously! A Pisces and Virgo in the same house, you couldn't ask for a better match. It's gonna be explosive. The sex is gonna be unbelievable."

Ryder's mouth opened in surprise as Maddie flushed a deep shade of red. "How about sex with a Cancer?" he asked.

"Meh," Sophie responded with a shrug. "A Pisces really isn't your best match, Ryder. Now a Capricorn ... that's what you need. You could really tear up the sheets with a Capricorn. I know one if you're interested."

"But since I'm not looking for a lover, that isn't important," Maddie mumbled to no one in particular.

"Everyone is looking for a lover," Sophie told her. "And you just found the perfect one, and you haven't even met him yet."

"So, I'm gonna think about it for a bit." Maddie turned to Ryder, ignoring Sophie. "It was lovely meeting you. I'll call you in a few hours, okay?"

Ryder nodded as Sophie grabbed Maddie by the arm and pulled her down the stairs. "Think about what?" Sophie asked urgently. "You have nothing to think about. This is what you were looking for. It's perfect. What are you thinking, Maddie?"

"I'm thinking that I can't be screwing around, or thinking about screwing around, with the people I live with, literally. I need this to work, and screwing around fucks everything up. I can't go there. But, thanks, Sophie. You just saved me from making a really terrible decision."

"Wait, what are you talking about? You're not moving in?"

"Yeah, I can't. You just made that extremely obvious."

"Oh, well, you're welcome, I guess," Sophie mumbled, a bit disheartened. "It's your loss. I bet Jacob is hotter than fuck, too. Tall, blonde, and Ryder didn't say it, but ten bucks says he has blue eyes. So your type, Mads, and you know it."

"Stop it, Sophie!"

"I guess we can have the next girls' night in your mom and dad's basement," Sophie continued. "That should be a crap load of fun."

Maddie turned away from Sophie with a sigh and was walking back up the stairs before she realized what she was doing. "You know, I'd love to live here. I don't even need to meet Jacob first."

"I knew she would cave," Sophie whispered to Cary, loud enough so everyone heard.

Maddie just ignored her. "When can I move in?"