Lovin' Blueby Zuri Day
Thanks to a stroke of bad luck, Eden Anderson's childhood tormentor, Jansen McKnight, is now her temporary roommate. He's also a badass, gun-toting cop who relishes a steak dinner. As a peace-loving vegetarian, there's nothing Eden hates more than guns--and meat. And
In her sexiest tale yet, Zuri Day delivers a tempting double-dare that breaks every rule. . .
Thanks to a stroke of bad luck, Eden Anderson's childhood tormentor, Jansen McKnight, is now her temporary roommate. He's also a badass, gun-toting cop who relishes a steak dinner. As a peace-loving vegetarian, there's nothing Eden hates more than guns--and meat. And there's nothing she'd love more than to deflate Jansen's overblown ego. So when Jansen bets Eden that he can seduce her within two weeks, she can't wait for him to lose. But as Eden learns more about the man beyond the badge, their teasing turns tantalizing. Soon, Eden starts to believe that opposites may indeed attract, and she can't stop thinking about the man in blue. . .
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By Zuri Day
DAFINA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Zuri Day
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe police! Eden Anderson's heart leaped into her throat as she pulled behind the police cruiser parked in front of her brother's Baldwin Hills residence in southern California. "What's going on, Michael?" she whispered as she fumbled with her seatbelt, then the lock button, before scrambling out of her packed Acura SUV and rushing to the front door. Her concern had been growing for the past three days—ever since her phone calls and e-mails to her older brother had gone unreturned.
At first she'd shrugged off her worry. After all, her brother, Michael "Big Mike" Anderson, was trying to make a name for himself in the music game. He'd produced a couple B-level acts while working for a major record label. His work often went late into the night, and reaching him wasn't always easy. But when Eden had left two "call me right now" messages, followed by texts marked with the same urgency, she'd experienced the first twinges of fear. And now, looking at the black-and-white squad car sitting at the curb of her brother's front door, Eden's anxiety went into full throttle.
Eden knocked on the front door. No response. She repeatedly rang the doorbell but didn't hear the chimes that usually sounded when the button was pushed. Eden knocked harder, first on the door, then on the window. The living room was dark; she could detect no movement. But lights were on upstairs. Eden's fear increased.
You've got a key. Out of her panic came a voice that reminded Eden she had a key to her brother's house. He'd given it to her months ago, when she'd come house hunting and stayed at his place. She'd meant to give it back but hadn't. Remembering that she'd placed it in the zipper compartment of her large Junior Drake purse, Eden walked purposefully back to her car to retrieve it. Her steps were measured and much slower than before. Eden wasn't sure she wanted to find out what was happening on the other side of the door.
Jansen McKnight turned off the shower. Did I hear a knock? He waited a beat, and then another, before turning the water back on and finishing the long, hot shower. He turned to let the water pound against the knots in his shoulders. I need to see Dakkar, he thought dispassionately. Dakkar was the masseuse trained in Swedish massage who had rubbed away tension, stress, and frustration from Jansen's body for years. For now, however, the near-scalding hot water pulsating from the heavy-duty showerhead was serving as a viable alternative. Jansen rested a large palm on either side of the stall, hung his head, and let the water work its magic.
A loud thud interrupted Jansen's serenity. His just relaxed muscles tensed, his entire body rigid in alert. He lessened the water pressure, straining to hear beyond the guest bathroom he'd used since agreeing to house sit for Michael the previous week, and beyond the stereo playing in the bedroom across the hall.
Thump. There it was again, unmistakable this time. Either the sound of footsteps, or something being dragged across the floor, or both. Jansen's officer instinct went into auto mode, and for good reason. A recent rash of burglaries in the upscale, central Los Angeles neighborhood was why Michael had asked his friend to house sit. Jansen loved the comfort of his home in Gardena, and agreed to his best friend's pleas only after Michael promised that a home security system would be installed immediately upon his return. Well, brothah, Jansen thought with a resigned sigh, looks like I'm getting ready to earn my keep.
With the stealth of a panther, Jansen turned the shower back to full blast, eased out of the stall, soundlessly wrapped a towel around his waist, and reached for the 9mm Glock that was never far from his reach. Tonight he'd unstrapped and rested it on the closed toilet seat, before the rest of his navy uniform ended up in a heap on the bathroom floor.
Jansen eased the gun out of its holster and crept down the short hallway to the top of the stairs. Taking a deep breath, he placed his foot on the top step and prayed the old maple wood wouldn't creak under his weight.
* * *
Eden walked into the living room and dropped another load onto the hardwood floor. Her first thought had been to leave everything in the car until morning, but a chance glance at a crime-watch sign nailed to a post nixed that idea. Even in what she felt was a fairly safe neighborhood, a car packed with clearly visible goods may be too much for either a hardened criminal or a bored teen to pass up. So with the last ounces of energy she could summon after driving for ten hours, she walked in with her beloved stereo system—the final load.
Jansen kept his back against the wall as he noted the shadow passing along the living room's far wall. Whoever this fool is has a lot of nerve. Normally, especially when it was obvious that someone was home, a burglar would do one quick, thorough sweep—get in and out. But Jansen wanted to catch this perpetrator, believing that in doing so he may nab the person or ring of persons behind this neighborhood's woes. That's why he'd left the shower running, to give the thief a false sense of security. The criminal had obviously taken the bait and made himself at home. You may be nervy, but you're not too bright, son. Jansen quietly cocked his weapon. It was about to go down.
Eden gingerly sat her stereo on the coffee table and then reached for the suitcases she'd tossed on the couch. She couldn't wait to get in the shower. Her head hurt; her hair—stuffed under an Orioles baseball cap—was in desperate need of shampoo, and the secret that was strong enough for a man but made for a woman was about to become public news. Oh, I'm funky, she thought as she used the sleeve of her long-sleeved Bison Blue T-shirt to wipe her face. As she did so, her earring caught on the sleeve and came out of her ear. She'd planned to replace the clasp on her favorite hoops before leaving DC, but like many other plans she'd made in the past two weeks, these, too, had changed. Ever since resigning her job on Capitol Hill, her life had been a series of unexpected interruptions. Part of what she was hoping for with this move back home was a life without surprises.
"Freeze! Don't move!" Jansen eased off the last step onto the floor, assumed a strong, wide-legged stance, and pointed his gun at the back of the scrawny, ball-capped thief who'd been wreaking havoc on the neighborhood. "Get your hands up and slowly turn around."
Eden stood frozen, unable to speak or move. What's going on? Where's Michael? After hearing the music, and the water running, Eden had assumed it was Michael upstairs. But these strong, authoritative commands had definitely not been uttered from her brother's lips, and her womanly intuition, along with a rapidly beating heart, told her this was not a joke.
"Do it now!" Jansen took another step toward his suspect.
Eden began to shake as she slowly turned around. She took one look at the huge man whose face was hidden in the darkness, noted the gun that—unlike his countenance—was clearly visible from his outstretched hands, and did what any normal, law-abiding citizen would do under such dire circumstances. She fainted.
Chapter TwoJansen frowned as he slowly eased his finger off the trigger. He'd seen a lot of reactions from suspects in his near-decade of life as a cop, but he had to admit—this was a first. Are you bluffing? Huh? We'll soon find out. "Stay on the floor. Don't move," Jansen commanded, even though it seemed quite clear that the suspect had no intention of changing positions. Jansen moved the coffee table with his foot and, with the gun in his left hand still trained on his target, used his right hand to turn over the intruder so he could see his face. As he did so, the baseball cap came off, and a head of long black hair cascaded over the hand clutching the suspect's shoulder. Jansen's frown deepened. He kept his weapon trained on the unconscious female and hurried over to turn on the overhead light. As the harsh, bright light flooded the room, the suspect groaned and opened her eyes.
Eden! Jansen's heart clutched in his throat. He'd thought often of Michael's younger sister in the past few days, especially since staying here at her brother's house. Michael had told him that Eden was moving back to Los Angeles, but he'd mentioned nothing about her staying at the house. In fact, he'd assured him that they'd probably not cross paths at all because the condo she'd found was in a totally different part of town—Santa Monica, an area Jansen rarely frequented. Yet here she was, sprawled on the floor. Jansen hadn't seen the girl-turned-woman he used to mercilessly harass in at least ten years, and he quickly took in the curves he'd missed in the heat of the moment, and the onion that begged to be peeled. Jansen had to admit ... she looked good lying down.
"Girl, you sure know how to make an entrance," Jansen scolded to cover his concern and unexpected attraction, even as he hurried to her side to help her up. "Breaking into someone else's home, even your brother's, is a good way to get shot!" Eden's eyes narrowed as reality dawned. She hadn't seen Jansen, otherwise known as her childhood tormentor, in ages, probably since marrying her college sweetheart. After the divorce, she'd buried herself in work, and her trips back home became infrequent. Except for the house-hunting trip, Eden hadn't been back to LA in three years, ever since her mother relocated to Phoenix. The last she'd heard of Jansen, he was married and living in Chicago. She also remembered Michael saying he'd become a police officer. But still ... what was he doing here? And why was he one towel shy of being naked?
"You!" Eden spat, her ire part anger, part chagrin, but mostly relief. "What are you doing here?"
"Well, now, little sis," Jansen responded, his voice soft but firm. "I could ask you the same question." He assumed his favorite wide-legged stance, crossed arms across a massive chest, and noted Eden's eyes were larger and more almond-shaped than he remembered. And were her lips always so full and luscious?
Jansen's arm-folding action caused Eden's heart to flutter a bit as she watched his pecs ripple with the movement. Her eyes slid to the wide, muscled shoulders, down the six-pack to a narrowed waist, inverted navel, and over the strong powerful legs that held up a man she determined had gotten finer with age. And why was she imagining what lay just beyond the beige-colored towel shielding his manhood? Eden closed her eyes and licked suddenly dry lips.
A lazy, knowing smile crept across Jansen's face. "Liking the view?" he asked cockily as he leaned against the stair banister. "I can part the, um, curtain, if you'd like."
"Still arrogant, I see," Eden said, turning away from him and reaching for her suitcases—just for something to do.
"Arrogance is when a person thinks he's all that," Jansen shot back. "Confidence is when he knows it."
Eden ignored Jansen's comment. Dang, I was looking at him like he was a piece of chicken, and I was the colonel getting ready to fry. She picked up the ball cap from the floor and placed it back on her head, feeling a semblance of composure coming back. After all, this was her brother's best friend, the one she'd known since she was five years old. The one who had stuttered as a child, squashed bugs, and then picked up their remains and chased her with them. Who had collected the most Halloween candy but still stole the mini Snickers bars Eden received. Who had refused to take off his "Thriller" jacket Christmas gift for a whole week, but later scared the bejeebers out of her by donning a monster mask and jumping out of her bedroom closet. This was "germy Jansen"—the name she'd called him when they'd gotten older and Jansen and Michael had begun to play sports. They'd come home sweaty and funky, and Jansen would insist on nabbing a hug, giving Eden the willies. This was Jansen all grown up ... but Eden tried not to think about that now.
"What are you doing here?" she asked again. "Where's Michael? And can you put that ... thing away?"
"Are you sure you want me to?" Jansen asked, wriggling his eyebrows. Eden huffed. "Oh, you mean the gun." The Glock was almost an extension of himself. Jansen had forgotten he was holding it. He placed it on the third step, where Eden couldn't see it. "Is that better?"
Eden nodded. "A little. Where's Michael?"
"Out of town. Actually, out of the country." Jansen tightened the towel around his waist. "He asked me to watch the place."
Oh, so that's why I couldn't reach Michael. And why the police car is out there. "Well, if you're just patrolling the area, why are you taking a shower in his house?"
"I believe the official term for what I'm doing is 'house sitting.'"
"You're staying here?" Eden was surprised to hear a trace of panic in her voice.
"Yeah, why? Are you? I thought you got a condo over there in prime-real-estate Santa Monica."
"I did. I mean, I do. But there's a problem. It's not ready...." Eden's voice trailed off as her exhausted mind tried to process her predicament. When the contractor had begun the kitchen makeover, mold had been found under the sink and behind the refrigerator that had come with the house. Further inspection confirmed it had spread underneath the hardwood flooring and under the baseboards. The job that was supposed to take three days would now take two weeks to finish. Eden had planned to save her money by staying with her brother. But now ... "I can't stay here," she finally said, sighing, the thought of getting back into her car and looking for a hotel tiring her out more than she already was. Once again, she reached for her luggage.
"Don't be ridiculous. You can sleep in Mike's bedroom."
"Don't try to tell me what to do!" Eden snapped, feeling ten again.
"Eden, it looks like you drove here. That means you're probably exhausted, which is why you passed out."
"No, I passed out because I saw the shadow of the Incredible Hulk pointing a gun at my chest."
"Sorry about that, baby, but I thought you were a burglar. There's been a rash of them in the area, which is why I'm here at Mike's house. I'm sleeping in the guest room. You can either sleep in your brother's room or on the futon in the weight room. C'mon, now. You know you want to stay and soak up the charm of the knight."
"You are so full of yourself."
Jansen chuckled. "I'm just messing with you, girl. But on the real tip though ... you know you can't resist me."
"I'm going to take a shower." Eden grabbed her purse and began pulling her luggage toward the staircase.
Jansen raced to her side, quickly picking up the gun Eden eyed with disdain. "Don't worry, it won't bite you. Here, let me get that."
Eden batted away his hand. "I can get it myself."
"Oh, it's like that? See, I'm trying to be a gentleman, and you're acting all independent and whatnot. But I understand, baby girl. Things happen when I get too close to a woman, and even in that raggedy T-shirt and jeans, I can see that Mike's little sis is definitely all grown up!"
Eden hoisted the suitcase onto the first step and then the second. By the fourth step, her strength was drained. Why didn't I think to just get out what I needed and leave the datgum case downstairs? Now Eden felt she'd put herself in the position to prove that she could indeed carry the suitcase up the entire flight. She took a deep breath, grabbed the handle ... and suddenly felt the weight of nothingness as Jansen took the case from her and effortlessly mounted the stairs.
Eden raised her head to deliver a sarcastic comment but just as quickly lowered it. The towel around Jansen's waist was a short one that perfectly outlined his round, hard buns. Two more steps, and Eden knew there was a good chance that she'd be able to see the package Jansen was working with. And even though they would be under the same roof for only one night ... Eden knew life would be easier if she didn't know.
Chapter ThreeAfter a long, revitalizing shower, Eden realized she was hungry. She'd spent the night in Phoenix and then delayed her journey to spend the morning with her mother. Eden had pushed herself the last three hundred and fifty miles into Los Angeles—across the Arizona desert blazing with August heat, into the cooler, greener California, and finally into the burgeoning City of Angels. All the way up the 10 freeway, she'd tried to reach her brother and had promised her mother that she'd call as soon as she reached his house and found out what was going on.
Excerpted from Lovin' Blue by Zuri Day Copyright © 2011 by Zuri Day. Excerpted by permission of DAFINA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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