Home > First Comes Like (Modern Love #3)(9)

First Comes Like (Modern Love #3)(9)
Author: Alisha Rai

She got dressed quickly in tie-dyed sweatpants and a sweatshirt. “Sienna, where are Jas, Katrina, and Rhiannon?” she asked out loud.

There was a beat, and then a red pad next to her door lit up. “Jas has left the house. Rhiannon and Katrina are in the kitchen,” came the pleasant robot lady voice overhead.

It was a little past breakfast time, but Katrina had gotten more flexible since her boyfriend had started a master’s program. “Thank you.” She always thanked the AI, on the off chance the robot came to life one day and went on a murderous rampage. Sienna was the brainchild of one of the start-ups Katrina invested in, and she seemed to know more than Siri and Alexa put together.

“You’re welcome, Jia. May I say, you sound lovely today.”

Her lips twitched. Katrina had programmed Sienna to give compliments, and Jia was not above liking them. “You, too, Sienna.”

She had two options: avoid her roommates, or go right to them and blurt out all the deets on what had happened last night. Discretion wasn’t her strong suit.

She made her way downstairs to the kitchen. Jia had lived here for almost a year and a half now, and she still hadn’t lost her awe for the airy mansion. She’d grown up firmly middle to upper class, and though her work had left her with a solid savings account, there’d be no way she’d be able to afford a home like this on her own yet. She glanced out a floor-to-ceiling window at the view of Santa Barbara nestled below, the ocean a slice of blue in the distance.

Wealth disparity aside, Jia had wondered in the beginning if she’d be able to carve out a home here. This was Katrina’s house, and she and Rhiannon shared a history, a deep friendship going back years and a business partnership. Rhiannon might have grown up in Jia’s hometown, but she was closer in age to Jia’s older sisters than her.

It had taken Jia about two minutes to slip into a groove here, though. She had so many sisters she hadn’t thought she’d ever want more, but here she was, with two bonuses. Which was why she was dreading disappointing them. Sisterly disappointment was the worst.

She found her roommates in the kitchen, heads bent together at the counter. “Hey,” she said, then stopped when they turned. Whoa. “What’s that?”

Rhiannon raised a perfectly arched eyebrow. She was dressed in jeans and her signature hoodie, bright red today. The clothes were snug on her athletic frame. “Clearly it’s a hologram.”

“Not a hologram, exactly,” Katrina corrected. She hadn’t been a model in a long time, but she was still drop-dead gorgeous with her perfect skin and curves. She was also a shark when it came to pinpointing the next big thing or person to invest in. “Just a new kind of interface I wanted Rhiannon to see.” She made a swiping gesture and images of people started flashing across the transparent blue screen hovering in the air.

Jia walked closer, then around the screen. She could see her roommates through it. “Katrina, are you Iron Man?”

Katrina gave a delicate, tinkling laugh. “I wish. I think we can bring this into the fold and integrate it with Crush.”

Rhiannon folded her arms over her chest. “It’s too flashy. Nothing wrong with good old-fashioned finger-to-screen swiping.”

“Is that old-fashioned now?” Jia had spent too much time lately worrying about what was current and what was old. She walked back around the screen to stand next to her roommates. She stuck her hand into the apparition. “This is like VR without those ugly goggles.”

Katrina pushed a button on the remote in her hand, and the screen disappeared. “I’m telling you, we need to innovate. Before one of our competitors does.”

Rhiannon sneered, ostensibly at Crush’s competitors. “I don’t need tricks to beat them.”

“They can’t hurt.”

“They can if we shell out tons of money for an upgrade that bombs. More focus on keeping people in love and happy and safe, less on tech.”

Katrina shrugged, but there was a determined gleam in her eye that told Jia she wasn’t done. Katrina was soft in the heart, not in her instincts.

“We’ll see. Come on, let’s eat breakfast so you can get a move on to work.” Katrina pressed her palm on Jia’s shoulder and squeezed. “Hungry? I made eggs and toast.”

Jia leaned into the touch. Katrina was empathetic enough to understand when someone loved being touched. “I’d like that, thank you.”

Rhiannon tugged on Jia’s sweatshirt hood as they gathered plates and flatware. At first glance, she didn’t seem as squishy as Katrina, but Jia had come to realize she was possibly even more in tune with people around her. “Did you tie-dye this yourself?”

“Yup. Saw a thing online. You use bleach—”

Rhiannon held up a hand. “Please, I watched enough of those videos when I was working from home. Don’t need any more tutorials or hacks from the youths.”

“The youths are geniuses.” Jia bumped the drawer closed with her hip. It had been the right decision, getting breakfast. Her spirits were rising just being here with her friends. “I like any generation that’s, like, bleach, but make it fashion.”

Rhiannon snorted as they sat down. Katrina served them eggs and hash browns. Jia helped herself to a perfectly toasted piece of bread. She’d tried to take over cooking breakfasts in the beginning, partially because she’d been so grateful that these women had given her a home away from home, but Katrina loved making them food and had firmly declined her assistance. Which was good—Jia’s food wouldn’t taste nearly so good.

“FYI, I’m staying with Samson this week,” Rhiannon told them. Samson, Rhiannon’s gentle giant boyfriend, lived in Los Angeles. “We have a fancy gala he’s making me go to.” She sneered, though her words had been tender.

“You’re a nonprofit director’s girlfriend now. Get used to galas.” Katrina waved her knife at her friend, and the sunlight flashed off the diamond ring on her finger. It wasn’t an engagement ring, she’d informed them both a few months ago. Simply a gift from her boyfriend.

Jia was privately skeptical, but she was willing to let her friend come to grips with the fact that Jas may have sneakily put a ring on it.

“I’m Samson’s partner. Girlfriend sounds like we’re in high school. Partner is responsible sounding enough to stop people from asking when we’re getting married.” Rhiannon made a face, like the word married had left a bad taste in her mouth.

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