Sweet, shy Mara Hanover is in love with her neighbor. For four years, she has secretly watched her dream man from afar. Handsome police detective Mitch Lawson is way out of her league. She's a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, and there's no way a guy like Mitch would want anything to do with her. But when Mara has a leaky faucet that she can't fix, it's Mitch who comes to her rescue.
Mitch has been eyeing his beautiful neighbor for a long time. He jumps at the chance to help her, and soon their formerly platonic relationship gets very hot and heavy. But when Mara gets a disturbing phone call from her cousin's kids, she gets pulled back into the life she's tried so hard to leave behind. Can the hot law man convince Mara to let go of her past-and build a future with him?
About the Author
Born in Gary and raised in Brownsburg, Indiana, Kristen is a fourth generation graduate of Purdue University. Since, she has lived in Denver, the West Country of England, and she now resides in Phoenix. She worked as a charity executive for eighteen years prior to beginning her writing career.
Read an Excerpt
By Kristen Ashley
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2013 Kristen Ashley
All rights reserved.
"Hello, this is Mara Hanover in unit 6C. I've called three times today and I really need someone to come over and look at my bathroom tap. It won't turn off. Can you please have the maintenance guy come around? Thanks."
I shut down my cell after leaving my voicemail message and stared at my bathroom faucet, which hadn't turned off after I was finished with it that morning. I had called the management office of the complex before going to work and left a message. When I didn't get a call back, I called at lunch (leaving another message). Now I was home after work and it was past office hours, but someone was supposed to be on call all the time. I should have had a callback. I needed a callback. What I didn't need was a water bill out the roof or to try to go to sleep listening to running water while thinking of my money flowing down the drain.
I sighed and kept staring at the water running full blast out of my faucet.
I was a woman who had lived alone her entire adult life. I'd once had a long- term relationship with a Five Point Five that got nowhere near living together. This was because I was a Two Point Five and he was a Five Point Five who wanted a Nine Point Five. Therefore, we were both destined for broken hearts. He gave me mine. He later found a Six Point Five that wanted a Nine Point Five. She got herself a breast enhancement and nose job, which made her a firm Seven (if you didn't count the fact that she thought she was a Ten point Five and acted like it, which really knocked her down to a Six) who broke his heart.
Regardless of the fact that I was now thirty-one and had lived alone since I was eighteen, I knew nothing about plumbing or cars. Every time something happened with my plumbing or my car, I vowed to myself that I would learn something about plumbing or cars. I would get that said something fixed and I'd totally forget my vow. Then I'd lament forgetting my vow in times like I was experiencing right now.
I walked out of my master bath, through my bedroom, down the hall into my open- plan living-slash-kitchen-slash-dining area and out the front door. I crossed the breezeway and knocked on Derek and LaTanya's door.
Derek knew something about plumbing. I knew this because of two things. First, he was a man and men had a sixth plumbing sense. Second, I knew this because he was a plumber.
LaTanya opened the door, and her big, dark eyes widened with LaTanya Delight.
LaTanya Delight was different than anyone else's delight and therefore deserved a capital letter. It was louder, brasher, brighter and cheerier. The look on her face communicated her joy at seeing me like she and I had been separated at birth and were right then being blissfully reunited. Not like she'd just seen me the night before when she came over to watch Glee with me.
"Hey girl!" she squealed through a big smile. "Perfect timing. I'm about to mix a batch of mojitos. Get your ass in here and I'll pour us some cocktails!"
I smiled at her but shook my head. "Can't," I told her. "Something's up with my faucet, the office hasn't returned my calls, and I really need Derek to look at it. Is he around?"
I sensed movement at my side and LaTanya did too. We both looked that way to see Detective Mitch Lawson walking up the stairs carrying four plastic grocery bags.
If I were a Seven to Ten and in his zone, which meant I could be in his life, I would lecture him about plastic grocery bags. Considering the state of the environment, no one should use plastic grocery bags, not even hot guys who could get away with practically anything. Since I was not in his zone and I didn't know him and couldn't know him for fear of expiring from pleasure should he, say, speak more than a few words to me, I'd never get the chance to lecture him about plastic grocery bags.
"Yo Mitch!" LaTanya greeted him loudly with Delight.
"Hey LaTanya," Mitch greeted back, then his beautiful eyes skimmed to me and his lips tipped up further, "Hey."
"Hey," I replied, locked my legs, ignored the whoosh I felt in my belly and looked back at LaTanya. She was checking out Detective Mitch Lawson—as any woman should or she would be immediately reported to then thrown out of the Woman Club. I heard the rustling of bags, but I ignored it and called her name to get her attention. When I got it, I repeated, "Is Derek around? I wouldn't bother him but my faucet won't turn off and I really need someone to look at it."
"He's not here, Mara, sorry, babe," LaTanya replied. "You said the office hasn't called you back?"
"No," I told her and was about to ask her if she would send Derek over when he got home when I heard from my side:
"You want me to look at it?"
This came from Detective Mitch Lawson, and I sucked in breath and turned my head to look at him. He was standing outside his open apartment door still carrying his bags and his eyes were on me.
My mind went blank. I lost the lock on my legs and my knees wobbled.
God, he was beautiful.
"Mara," I heard from far away, and even though I heard it and it was my name, I didn't respond. "Mara!" I heard again. This time louder and sharper, my body jolted and I turned to LaTanya.
"What?" I asked.
"Mitch'll look at it, that cool with you?" she asked me.
I blinked at her.
No. No it was not cool with me.
What did I do?
I couldn't have him in my apartment walking through my bedroom to look at my faucet. That would mean he'd be in my apartment. That would mean he'd walk through my bedroom. And that would mean I'd have to speak more than one word to him.
I looked to Detective Mitch Lawson and said the only thing I could say.
"That would be really kind."
He stared at me a second then lifted the bags an inch and muttered, "Let me get rid of these and I'll be over."
I swallowed then called, "Okay," to his closing door.
I watched his door close and then I kept watching his closed door wondering if the weird feeling I was having was just panic or a precursor to a heart attack. Then LaTanya called my name again, so I looked at her.
"You okay?" she asked, studying me closely.
I had not, incidentally, shared my love for Detective Mitch Lawson with LaTanya, Derek, Brent, Bradon or anyone. This was because I thought they'd think I was a little insane (or a stalker). They often invited him to parties and such, and if he came, I would usually make my excuses and leave. They'd never cottoned on. I figured mostly because he didn't often attend their parties due to his being a police officer with long hours, but also because he had his buds over for games and his babes over for other things. He wasn't the type of man who went to gay men's parties or LaTanya's cocktail extravaganzas. The ones he went to I suspected he did just to be neighborly. Though Derek, more often than not, went to his place to watch games. Usually in order to escape LaTanya's cocktail extravaganzas, which were frequent occasions.
"Yeah, I'm fine," I lied to her. "Just had a tough day at work," I continued lying. "And I'm not happy the management office didn't call me back. They don't pay my water bill." I wasn't lying about that.
"I hear you," LaTanya agreed. "Service around here has taken a turn for the worse even though they upped our rent three months ago. You remember our fridge went out last month?"
I remembered. I also remembered it took three weeks to get it replaced. Derek had been none too happy, and LaTanya had been loudly none too happy.
"Yeah, I remember. That sucked."
"It sure did. Buyin' ice all the time and livin' outta coolers. I don't pay rent for that shit. Fuck that."
Fuck that indeed.
Detective Mitch Lawson's door opened, and I realized my mistake instantly. I should have run to my house and done something. I didn't know what. Nothing needed tidying because I was freakishly tidy. There was nothing I could do with my appearance, but I figured I should have tried to do something.
He started walking our way asking, "Now a good time?"
No, no time was a good time for the Ten Point Five I was secretly in love with to be in my apartment.
I nodded and said, "Sure." Then I looked at LaTanya and said, "Later, babe."
"Later. Remember, a mojito is waitin' for you, when Mitch gets your faucet sorted out."
"Thanks," I muttered, smiled and then glanced at Detective Mitch Lawson before looking down at my feet, turning and walking the short distance to my door. I opened it, walked through, and held it open for him to come inside.
He did and I tried not to hyperventilate.
"Which one is it?" he asked as I closed the door behind him.
I turned, stood at the door and looked up at him. He was closer than I expected and he was taller than he seemed from afar, and he seemed pretty tall from afar. I'd never been this close to him and I felt his closeness tingle pleasantly all across my skin. I was wearing heels and I felt his tallness in the depth of the tip of my head, which didn't tip back that often to look at someone seeing as I was tall.
"Pardon?" I asked.
"Faucet," he said. "Which one? Hall or master?"
I didn't have any clue what he was talking about. It was like he was speaking in a foreign language. All I could focus on were his eyes, which I was also seeing closer than I'd ever seen before. He had great eyelashes.
Those lashes moved when his eyes narrowed.
"You okay?" he asked.
Oh God. I had to get a hold on myself.
"Yeah, fine, um ... the faucet's in my master bath," I told him.
He stood there staring at me. I stood there staring at him. Then his lips twitched and he lifted his arm slightly in the direction of my hall.
"You wanna lead the way?" he asked.
Ohmigod! I was such an idiot!
"Right," I muttered, looked down at my feet and led the way.
When we were both in my bathroom, which, with him in it, went from a normal- sized master bath to a teeny-tiny, suffocating space, I pointed to the faucet and then pointed out the obvious.
"It won't turn off."
"I see that," he murmured. Then I stood frozen with mortification as he crouched and opened the doors to my vanity.
Why was he opening the doors to my vanity? I kept my tampons down there! He could see them! They were right at the front for easy accessibility!
He reached in, I closed my eyes in despair and wished the floor would gobble me up and suddenly the water turned off.
I opened my eyes, stared at the faucet and exclaimed, "Holy cow! You fixed it!"
He tipped his head back to look at me then he straightened out of his crouch to look down at me.
Then he said, "No, I just turned the water off."
I blinked up at him. Then I asked, "Pardon?"
"You can turn the water off."
"Oh," I whispered then went on stupidly, "I should probably have done that before I left for work this morning."
His mouth twitched again and he said, "Probably. Though you can't do somethin' you don't know you can do."
I looked to the basin and muttered, "This is true."
"There's a valve under the sink. I'll show it to you after I take a look at the faucet," he said, and I forced my eyes to his. "You probably just need a new washer. Where are your tools?"
I blinked again. "Tools?"
His stared at me and then his lips twitched again. "Yeah. Tools. Like a wrench. You got one of those?"
"I have a hammer," I offered.
One side of his mouth hitched up in a half smile. "I'm not sure a hammer is gonna help."
It took a lot of effort but I only glanced at the half smile before my eyes went back to his. This didn't do a thing to decelerate my rapidly accelerating heartbeat.
"Then no, I don't have tools," I told him, not adding that I wasn't entirely certain what a wrench was.
He nodded and turned to the door. "I'll go get mine."
Then he was gone, and I didn't know what to do, so I hurried after him.
I should have stayed where I was. I'd seen him move, of course, I just hadn't seen him moving around in my apartment. He had an athlete's grace, which I had noticed before. But it was more. He had a natural confidence with the way he held his body and the way he moved. It was immensely attractive all the time, but seeing it in my apartment was not going to be conducive to peace of mind. Something it was difficult for me to find on a good day, much less a day when my faucet didn't turn off and I was forced to endure an evening that included Detective Mitch Lawson having to be in my apartment.
He stopped at the door and turned to me. "I'll be right back."
I nodded, and he disappeared out the door.
I stood in my living area in my heels, skirt and blouse from work. Then I wondered if I had time to change before he got back. Then I wondered if he'd notice it if I'd spritzed on perfume when he got back. Then I wondered if I should do a shot or two of vodka before he got back. Then he knocked on my door, which meant he was back.
I ran to the door, looked through the peephole (you couldn't be too careful) and saw him looking to the side. I sucked in a calming breath then opened the door.
"Hey," I said, "welcome back."
I was such a dork!
He grinned. I stepped aside, and he came through carrying a toolbox. Learning from my mistakes, I immediately led him through the living area, down the hall, through my bedroom and to the bathroom. He put the toolbox on the basin counter and opened it. He pulled out what I figured was a wrench and went right to work.
I watched his hands, which I'd never really noticed before. They were a man's hands. There were veins that stood out that were appealing. His fingers were long and strong looking. He had great hands.
"So your name is Mara." His deep voice came at me. My body jolted and I looked to his head, which was bent so he could watch what he was doing.
"Yeah," I replied, and my voice sounded kind of high so I cleared my throat and stated, "And you're Mitch."
"Yeah," he said to the faucet.
"Hi, Mitch," I said to his dark brown-haired head, thinking his hair looked soft and thick and was long enough to run your fingers through.
That head twisted so I was looking into dark brown eyes whose depths were so deep you could lose yourself in them for eternity.
Those eyes were also smiling.
"Hi, Mara," he said softly, and my nipples started tingling.
I scanned my memory banks to pull up what underwear I'd put on that morning. I thanked my lucky stars that my bra had light padding, all the while thinking maybe I should leave him to it.
Before I could make good an escape, his head bent back to the tap and he asked, "How long have you lived here?"
"Six years," I answered.
Shoo! Good. A simple answer that didn't make me sound like an idiot. Thank God.
"What do you do?" he went on.
"I work at Pierson's," I told him.
His neck twisted and his eyes came back to me. "Pierson's Mattress and Bed?"
I nodded. "Yeah."
He looked back at the faucet. "What do you do there? An accountant or something?"
I shook my head even though he wasn't looking at me. "No, I'm a salesperson."
His neck twisted, faster this time, and his eyes locked on mine. "You're a salesperson," he repeated.
"Yeah," I replied.
"At Pierson's Mattress and Bed," he stated.
"Um ... yeah," I answered.
He stared at me and I grew confused. I didn't tell him I was a pole dancer. I also didn't tell him I spent my days in my den of evil masterminding a plot to take over the free world. He appeared slightly surprised. I was a salesperson. This wasn't a surprising job. This was a boring job. Then again I was a boring person. He was a police detective. I knew this because I'd seen his badge on his belt on numerous occasions. I also knew this because LaTanya told me. I reckoned, considering his profession, he'd long since figured out I was a boring person. In my mind police detectives could figure anyone out with a glance.
"You good at it?" he asked.
"Um ..." I answered because I didn't want to brag. I was good at it. I'd been top salesperson month after month for the last four years after Barney Ruffalo quit (or resigned voluntarily rather than face the sexual harassment charges that Roberta lodged against him). Barney had been my nemesis mainly because he was a dick and always came onto me, along with every woman that worked there or walked through the door, and because he stole my customers.
Excerpted from Law Man by Kristen Ashley. Copyright © 2013 Kristen Ashley. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
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