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Liz Alden

Riesling with My Roommate (EBOOK)

Riesling with My Roommate (EBOOK)

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Chris Rächer: brooding recluse, a member of Europe’s hottest band, and…my new roommate.


Main Tropes

  • Roommates to Lovers
  • Secret Rockstar
  • Opposites Attract


Chris Rächer: brooding recluse, a member of Europe’s hottest band, and…my new roommate.

I’ve pinched too many pennies. I’m in a foreign country, desperate for a decent place to live to stay close to my daughter.

Enter my hero: Chris offers me a room at his house. Turns out, he’s a goth-punk musician who’s just launched into super-stardom and is striving to write the band’s next hit.

I’m struggling to pay the bills by teaching yoga while trying to navigate living with a grumpy heartthrob.

His gravelly voice and tortured-artist vibes shouldn’t be so sexy, but as the temperature drops outside, things heat up inside.

He may not treat his body like a temple, but he worships mine.

Our lives are complete opposites, and a widowed mom like me has no place in his. This can only end in heartbreak.

Intro into Chapter One

I will not panic. I am healthy and safe and comfortable.
For now.
I sip my steaming tea and close my eyes, taking an enormous inhale, holding it, and then slowly and steadily releasing it. It’s not working super well because there’s still a moderate buzz of anxiety in my head.
I pick up my phone and open the screen to the photos of my new apartment I had taken less than half an hour ago. With each swipe, I lose my cool even more.
Mushrooms growing out of the drywall. Swipe. A bathroom that’s not sparkling white like the listing photo but is, instead, grimy and old. Swipe. The inside of the filthy refrigerator.
I can’t swipe anymore. I think a good, solid panicking is in order.
Actually, it’s an entire apartment emergency!!!! HELP!
My messages shoot off via WhatsApp to my three best friends: Tessa, Emma, and Jade. The four of us moved to Europe for a year of chasing our dreams and, in my case, staying close to my daughter while she studies abroad.
Unfortunately, that year is not starting well. I helped my daughter, Zoe, move into her apartment in Munich, which was even worse than when I dropped her off at college at the start of her freshman year. She’s the one who suggested we both follow my best friends to Europe, and I’m so proud of her for taking a huge leap. While Zoe was excited, she was also nervous and clingy, which made it hard to say goodbye.
Thank god I flew to Paris for a weekend with my best friends after that. It was two days full of French pastries, dancing in nightclubs, and walking past amazing landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Seine River. We’re going to meet up every month for a weekend in a new city.
Then I went back to Munich, checked in on Zoe one more time, and was relieved to find her happy and settled in.
Things aren’t looking so great now. The cute little house that I rented in Baden-Baden, a German spa town, is not living up to its promises.
I’m here! What’s your emergency?
Relief washes over me, and I’m so glad I have someone to talk to. Jade is at work in her new office in Madrid, and Emma, who’s living with Jade for a month, is out sightseeing. Tessa, on the other hand, is in Tavira, a coastal town in The Algarve of Portugal that’s popular with tourists and expats. She’s just moved into her new apartment too, but she works remotely, so I had hoped that she would be free to talk.
I respond with pictures that are worth a million words. When the three dots pop up, telling me Tessa is typing a response, I click the video icon and put my headphones on.
She answers right away, her face filling the screen as she puts her earbuds in. Tessa’s forty-two, one year younger than me, but it’s hard to tell because her golden hair hides her gray ones, and her heart-shaped face and fair skin are smooth and perfectly made up. She’s pulled her hair back to reveal simple diamond earrings and her earbuds in place.
“Hey,” Tessa says and then frowns at me. “Where are you?”
“I’m at a café,” I say and sniff. Just the sight of Tessa’s familiar face is making me well up. I know I’m having a crappy day when even seeing a friend digitally is emotionally triggering. I focus on the real problem: where am I going to live? “My apartment is horrible. Horrible, Tessa! There’s a huge water stain on the ceiling, and the bedrooms are much smaller than I thought. And the mushrooms! Tessa! I can’t live with mushrooms in my bathroom. I like to eat them, not live with them!”
“What happened to the apartment you were going to rent?”
“That was the apartment. Or, at least, I’m pretty sure it is. It’s definitely the same outside picture on the listing, and I spent a good fifteen minutes trying to compare the interior photos to reality and then another ten minutes arguing with the landlord, who conveniently doesn’t speak English. It’s much harder to argue in German when you don’t know German.” I highly suspect that my landlord does speak English, and he’s just being horrible.
Behind Tessa, I can see the trappings of her new apartment, which we got a video tour of a couple nights ago. I hear something in the background, and Tessa moves. A door opens, and another voice joins her.
“Hey, Sara, Luc’s here,” Tessa says. She turns to Luc, and I can see the edge of his face and his ruffled brown hair. To Luc, she says, “Sara’s having a crisis.”
Luc and Tessa met last weekend in Paris and hit it off. Technically, he’s her fake fiancé, but they’re so cute together, and now he’s visiting her in Portugal, so we have our suspicions that things aren’t as fake as Tessa claims. He’s white, French, and too charming for his own good.
While Tessa and Luc move around her apartment—it looks like Luc brought groceries—I discreetly blow my nose with the tissue I stuffed in my pocket earlier. “Am I interrupting your date?” I ask.
Tessa looks at him, and then Luc looks back at me sympathetically. “Put her on speaker phone,” he suggests.
Tessa does, and I catch Luc up, and Tessa shows him the photos. Luc grimaces. “That does not look good.”
“Right?” His sympathy encourages me to keep the rant going. “The Wi-Fi is supposed to be good, but I tried to video chat with Zoe, and it was laggy. That’s why I’m at this café. That and I had to get out of there. It smells. I’m pretty sure there’s meat juice coagulated into the grooves of the refrigerator. I can’t sleep there, much less do yoga or eat. How am I supposed to film my video for Wednesday?” I hear a strangled cough that doesn’t come from Tessa or Luc, and I glance up.
The lone patron of the café darts his eyes away from me and tries to cover his laughter with another cough.
Seriously? I’m having a terrible day, and this guy thinks it’s funny that my new apartment is a HazMat zone? My eyes well up, and I’m horrified and humiliated all at once. “Oh, you think this is funny?” I snap at the man.
“What? No! I’m not laughing,” Tessa says in my ear.
The guy’s face falls. “No, no, I’m sorry,” he says, waving his hands and coming to his feet. His blonde hair is pulled back into a bun at the nape of his neck. He’s got a thick accent, too, definitely German. “It’s just . . . I might have a place for you to stay.”
“Sara, who is that?” Tessa’s voice in my ear pulls me back to my phone. Luc and Tessa both crowd the screen, staring at me in concern.
My gaze flicks back up to the man now standing in front of me. “He’s another patron of the café, and he might have a place for me to stay. Tessa, can I call you back?”
“I want a call or text within the next ten minutes,” she says sternly, and I quickly agree and blow her a kiss before hanging up. Removing my headphones from my ears, I tuck them away and give the guy my full attention.
“If your apartment is terrible,” he says, “Germany has a lot of protections for tenant rights. You should be able to file a complaint and get your money back.”
That’s only one part of the problem. I’d booked this apartment months ago, and finding another two-month lease at the last minute was going to be expensive. Plus, I also needed a place to stay right now.
“Well, that’s good to know,” I respond. At least this guy is being helpful. “But I don’t have a lawyer. Or a grasp of legalese in German. Or a place to live.” Each point makes me slump a bit more. I knew I was biting off more than I could chew. What was I thinking, deciding to take a risk—financially and personally—to up my life and move halfway around the world?
“I can help you with that.”
Oh, right. I search his face for signs that he’s teasing me or joking, but I don’t see any. In fact, he’s dead serious, almost frowning, which does nothing to dampen how attractive he is.
“I have a house,” he continues. “I can let you stay in it at the same rate you’d pay for that other place.”
I look this guy up and down. I wear very casual clothes—I’m a yoga instructor, so my life is mostly yoga pants and sports bras and tank tops. This guy has a similar dress ethos of comfort over appearance because he’s wearing thin cotton pants and a long-sleeve T-shirt of a band I’ve never heard of.
“I’m Chris,” he says, offering me his hand. He doesn’t smile, and neither do I while I shake it. He looms over me, with wide shoulders and at least a few inches on my height.
“You have a house?” I prompt.
He crosses his arms on his chest and steps back to lean on the table next to me instead of towering over me. “You’d have your own space, but it’s out of town—”
“Wait, wait, I’m sorry. You said you have a house. You mean your house? Where I would live? With you?”
“I’m a good roommate. I work from the house, but I have a room for my office, and I’d keep to myself. I’m a nice guy, I promise.” His voice is kind, but his frown says that while he may be nice, he’s also not overly friendly.
“They all say that,” I say faintly. “Especially the murderers.”
“Well, I’m not a murderer,” he continues. “But seriously, it’s better than mushrooms, right?”
Is this a German thing? Are people that nice here? I feel like back in the US, if someone heard a grown woman crying over toilet mushrooms and shitty Wi-Fi, people would roll their eyes and think that it’s not their problem.
Hell, I would do that.
So how do I politely tell a stranger—maybe a murderer, maybe not—that I don’t want to live with them?
“You might be a good roommate, but what makes you think I am?” The words spill out, and I tick off my fingers with each point. “I’m vegan. I do yoga. My friends are coming to visit next month. And my daughter is living in Munich and is going to visit me. A lot.”
“That’s okay,” he says, a flicker of bemusement in his eyes.
“I don’t speak German. I have a lot of hair products. And clothes.”
“I’m pretty sure you’re trying to make up reasons to say no. But I will admit I’m intrigued by the hair products.”
With a glance at his bun, I’m not surprised.
“I can’t afford to pay rent since . . . well, since I’ve already paid rent, and I don’t know when and if I’ll get that money back.”
“You will. How about this,” he says, leaning forward, placing both forearms on the table, getting close to my face and even more serious. “You can take a picture of me. I’ll give you my address, a photo of my driver’s license, whatever you think you’ll need. Go back to the place you’ve rented, stare at the mushrooms for a bit, and then when you realize you definitely have to take my offer, call me.”
He is so confident that I’ll give in, I almost decline completely. But what’s the harm in taking his information, just in case?
I scoop up the phone and turn the camera around, taking a selfie with Chris. I grin because . . . well, because that’s what you do.
Chris does not smile.
“The least you could do is smile,” I tell him crossly. “You look like a murderer.”
“Sorry to disappoint,” he says, pulling out his wallet and shuffling around until he finds a license, and holds it up to me. “This is me.”
I take a picture, but the address is in London, so I have to write his local address and his phone number.
Chris has long, callused fingers, and the nail beds are darkened with something black—nail polish? Ink? I’m not sure.
I tap on the finger holding his ID. “What’s that?”
He flexes his hand, following my gaze. “Ink. I was drawing earlier.”
That leads to a dozen more questions, just further enforcing that I know nothing about this man.
“If one of my friends were telling me this story, I would tell them to run the hell away,” I grumble.
“But,” Chris says, “what would your friends tell you to do? Maybe you’re the overly cautious one in your group, and you need to live a little.”
I ignore that because . . . well, he’s pretty goddamn accurate. Maybe I am overly cautious, but since my husband, Kit, died seventeen years ago, if I wasn’t cautious, my daughter would become an orphan. Yes, she’s grown up now, but she still needs me. I pay her tuition, and aside from my in-laws, who still live in Argentina where my late husband grew up, Zoe has no other family—except for her three “cool aunts.”
I would do anything for my daughter, including upend my entire life. Over the last few months, I got a passport, put my stuff in storage, rented out my house, quit my job, and traveled all the way here to Baden-Baden.
As for my friends, Jade would tell me he’s cute, and I should sleep with him. Tessa, who is probably the most reasonable of the group, would tell me it’s better than staying in my cottage and I can always leave tomorrow.
Emma, mother of three, gets it, though. She’d probably be just as cautious as I am.
“I’m not going to call you,” I tell Chris instead of answering. “Probably. I’ll figure something else out. I’m still quite certain only serial killers offer to house strange women out of the blue.”
“Serial killers and perverts,” he agrees amiably. Then he raps his knuckles on the table. “Call me when you change your mind.”
I watch him walk away, tapping my fingernail on the tabletop. He’s got a swimmer’s build, those big shoulders that loomed earlier tapering down to a trim waist.
Hm. Cute butt, too.
When he disappears out of sight, I weigh my options.
This move was supposed to be an adventurous, try-anything, dream-big year for Zoe and me. I quit my job teaching yoga in the suburbs of Austin, Texas, to focus on offering classes and private sessions online. I wasn’t starting from scratch, as I’d been posting videos with Zoe’s help for two years, but my income took a significant hit.
For the first time, I wonder if this is all too much. It would be easier to go back home.
I’d struggled from the start with the logistics of this trip.
Jade, the first of us to decide to move abroad, had gotten an opportunity through her job as a chemist to work in Madrid for a year.
After getting dumped by her long-term boyfriend, Tessa got a digital nomad visa for Portugal where she could live as an expat and work for her magazine from home.
Recently divorced with three grown kids, Emma wanted to get her MBA. With the encouragement of her kids and us, she found a program in Rome that coordinated her visa and housing.
Zoe, inspired by listening to Aunt Jade’s stories of traveling her whole life, got accepted to the architecture school’s study abroad program, and the university in Munich made the arrangements.
I was the last one to make plans. I wanted to be near Zoe, but German visas and the rules of Schengen are complicated.
And now I have an apartment situation.
I could just forget it all and go home, but I’d miss a lot. I’d miss getting together every month in a new city with my friends. The yoga studio back home could only get me so far—I was limited by the hours I could teach and the number of students for each session. Sure, I was taking a hit financially now, but when my business gets rolling, I’ll be able to make more money and help Zoe chip away at student loans.
I down the rest of my now-cool tea and stand, throwing my tote over my shoulder. I pick up my phone and text my friends.
I’m fine. I’m headed back to the (shitty) apartment. I’m going to look at listings. Tessa, have a great date with Luc, and we can talk in the morning.
What would I be teaching my daughter if I just gave up, anyway? The lesson hiding in this is to make the best of any situation and stand on your own two feet. That’s what I did when her dad died, and that’s what I’ll do now.
How bad can a little fungus be?
* * *
The fungus is the least of my problems.
After returning to my apartment with a renewed focus, I find basic cleaning supplies and scrub until my back aches. I unpack, order a vegan meal from a delivery service, and eat dinner.
As soon as I roll out my yoga mat for an evening meditation, a heavy bass and screaming lyrics start up next door.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I grumble.
I sit for no more than ten seconds before I realize there’s no way I can practice mindfulness here. My resolve crumbling, I pick up my phone and send Chris’s information—address, selfie, photo of his driver’s license—to my friends.
Um, Sara, who are you stalking?
This guy, Chris, has a room for me to rent.
Wait, what happened to your apartment?
I fill Jade, and eventually Emma, in on the fungus-and-mold situation. Together, we weigh the pros and cons of the apartment and debate stranger danger versus the kindness of humanity.
What do we know about this guy?
I searched online, but his name is common, so the results are mostly about an MP in Britain’s Parliament and a goth-punk rock star.
Wait, how was your date with Luc? Is he still there?
It was great. He’s back at his hotel.
Did your date end with a bang?
Jade, focus. Sara’s housing crisis.
Yes, right, sorry.
I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I’m taking Chris up on it.
Are you sure? I know odds are tiny that he would hurt you, but still. Is it worth the risk? You could just come here.
Jade’s brushing her teeth right now, but she says there’s room, and she’d love to have you.
But she’s also asking if Chris is as cute in person as in the pictures.
It’s going to be fine. Just keep us up to date.
If anything feels off, dial 112 first.
Did you just look up the 911 equivalent for Germany?
Well, I wasn’t sure if it was the same in every European country.
A dot of white flutters past my eye. I glance up to see that the ceiling is flaking with every beat of the bass. I scrub my hands over my face and navigate to Chris’s contact info.
Staying with a stranger has got to be better than this.

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