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Beware of Doug
By Elaine Fox
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Elaine Fox
All right reserved.
"Someone's moving in."
Nathan made the statement as if he and Lily were parked in a dark alley, wearing night-vision goggles and staking out someone's house, instead of standing by the fence in their respective front yards on a sunny spring afternoon. They were watching several large moving men unload a leather couch from a truck into the right side of Lily's Victorian "twin house," the nineteenth century's version of a duplex.
From inside her half, Lily's French bulldog, Doug, could be heard barking as if the four horse-men of the apocalypse were galloping up the driveway. Through the closed window he sounded like a cartoon character underwater. Bwoop-bwoop. Bwoop-bwoop.
"My father's really happy with this tenant," Lily said, watching two of the movers bend an enormous mattress through the front door. It looked even bigger than a king size. Who in the world needed such a big bed? "That's why he wanted me to be here when the guy moved in, in case he had any questions. The guy's being bankrolled by a billionaire, as my father put it, so he won't be a deadbeat like Hugh was."
"It's a guy?" Nathan asked sharply.
Lily nodded. "Don't worry," she added. "I'm sure my father read this one the riot act about loud parties and beer cans in the backyard. You and your mother can rest easy. Besides, this guy works. He's not in college like Hughwas."
"What does he do?"
"He's a pilot. He'll be flying Sutter Foley's private jet. Apparently it's a full-time job." Despite herself, she was impressed with this. A pilot. It seemed so . . . adventurous.
Nathan nodded. "Nice, working for a billionaire. So I guess your friend Megan knows him. I mean since she lives with Foley and all. Did she say what he was like? Is he, like, old or anything?"
"I'm not sure she does know him." Lily leaned slightly sideways as the movers manipulated the long leather couch first one way, then the other, in an attempt to get it through the door. "She isn't very involved in Sutter's business stuff." She gazed down the street again, expecting that any minute a car would pull into the driveway. "Where is he, anyway? I don't have all day. You'd think the new guy would be here, directing the movers, so they know where to put stuff. Doesn't seem very responsible."
"Maybe he's on a flight," Nathan said. "Maybe he's gone a lot. Could be he'll never be around."
Lily glanced at him. "That would be great."
Even as she said the words, a motorcycle roared up the street, rattling the windows on nearby houses, then slowed to a crawl and pulled into the driveway. It didn't stop there, however. With a twitch of the driver's wrist the cycle gave a gratuitous growl and pulled right up alongside the moving truck, partially on the lawn, over the front walk to a patch of grass next to the flower bed lining the right side of the porch.
It was out of the way of the movers, she gave him that. But it stood in the front of the house like the prized possession of a redneck in a trailer park.
The motorcycle's rider wore a brown bomber jacket, faded and frayed jeans, a sweatshirt that seemed to fit snugly across a wide chest and drape loosely over a trim middle. He pulled off his helmet to reveal straight brown hair with a side part and dark sunglasses over a lean face.
He straightened his legs, swung one easily over the saddle, and settled the helmet on the seat of the black-and-chrome beast.
"A bomber jacket on a pilot," Nathan said sourly. "What a cliché."
Lily laughed, but could not take her eyes from the pilot. "At least the sunglasses aren't mirrored."
He looked like trouble, she thought. Had her father actually met this guy in person? There was no way he'd be less difficult than Hugh had been, she could tell just by looking at him. Hugh at least had been nineteen and intimidatable. This guy was an adult who worked for a billionaire, and it was obvious simply from the way he moved that he had confidence enough for several normal men. Besides, he was a pilot. Didn't everyone know about pilots? They were all cocksure and obnoxious. She knew. She'd seen Top Gun.
In addition to everything else, he was good-looking. That was immediately obvious. In her experience, that meant a parade of bimbos through the house, not to mention parties and drunken revelry on a regular basis. Then there was that motorcycle. He might as well have been landing the jet in the backyard for all the noise that the bike made.
"Oh Daddy." She sighed, shaking her head. Why didn't he let her rent the place out? She'd offered, more than once. He always told her not to worry about it, that he'd take care of it, that she should just concentrate on grading papers or whatever the hell it was she did at that college.
The new tenant chatted with one of the movers a minute, gestured toward the house with broad, casual sweeps, laughed, then turned and headed for Lily and Nathan.
"One of you Lillian Tyler?" he asked, nearing them with a loose-legged stride. He removed his sunglasses in a smooth, practiced move.
His smile was pleasant, she had to admit. And he had hazel eyes that crinkled appealingly. A man who went into every situation knowing he'd be liked.
"That would be me." She raised her hand. "Most people call me Lily."
He reached out to shake. "Brady Cole. Nice to meet you."
She took his hand, and their palms met, his was warm and dry, hers cool in his grip. The guy exuded confidence even through his skin, she thought.
"And this is Nathan Williams." She gestured toward Nathan. "He lives next door with his mother, Edie."
Excerpted from Beware of Doug by Elaine Fox Copyright © 2007 by Elaine Fox. Excerpted by permission.
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