Logan spent two years paying for the mistakes he made. Now, he’s ready to start over. He has a great apartment, a good job, and plenty of women to distract him from his past. And one woman who is driving him to distraction…
Grace escaped her manipulative family by moving to a new city. Her new life, made to suit her own needs, is almost perfect. All she needs to do is find her Mr. Right—or at least figure out a way to ignore her irresistible yet annoying womanizer of a neighbor.
Grace is determined to have nothing to do with Logan until a life-changing surprise slowly begins turning the wild heartbreaker into exactly the kind of strong, stable man she’s been searching for. Only just when she begins to give into his charms, her own messy past threatens to derail everything they’ve worked to build…
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
PRAISE FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES AND USA TODAY BESTSELLING ON DUBLIN STREET SERIES
ALSO BY SAMANTHA YOUNG
I stared at the bright pink thong draped across the hand railing on the landing I shared with the new neighbor I had yet to meet. My first semi-introduction to him was last night when my work was ground to a halt by the high-pitched squealing coming from next door.
My neighbor’s girlfriend was loud during sex.
Very, very loud.
Although frustrating, there was nothing I could do but wait for it to end. It took so long (I had to give them points for stamina), it was time for me to go to sleep and I’d gotten hardly any editing done.
Now the squealer’s thong was drip-drying on my handrail.
Aghast at the thought of my clean and well-maintained stairwell suddenly turning into the set for Shameless, I could do nothing but stare at the offending item in horror.
The sound of my neighbor’s door opening jerked my attention from the thong to his door.
Stepping out of the doorway, phone to his ear, was an exceptionally tall man. My eyes roamed over the broad shoulders and muscular biceps and stopped on the black tattoo that took up a good part of his right forearm. It looked Celtic in design and appeared to be a sword with a semicircle arching over it and connecting on either side of the hilt.
“Talk to Dad,” the man murmured, drawing my gaze from his tattoo to his face. “Whatever you decide, I’m on board.”
His dark hair was close-shaven, and he was sporting heavy scruff that only made his rugged features that much more so. His large build and the scruff were too much in my opinion. I preferred my men leaner, clean-cut, and far less intimidating.
Suddenly I found myself trapped in his gaze as he looked up and spotted me.
I froze, flustered by the heat that suffused my cheeks under his perusal. He had the most extraordinary eyes I’d ever seen. They were clear and light. Beautiful, unusual violet eyes rimmed with black lashes. Those eyes softened his looks somewhat.
I found myself released from his gaze as he dragged it down my body and back up again. From there I received a polite nod that made me bristle. Perhaps my reaction had something to do with how dismissive he was. Altogether irritated and not at all good at handling it, I glanced back at the thong and bit my lip. I couldn’t have underwear drying on my landing.
I just couldn’t.
I looked back at him as he continued his conversation. “Excuse me,” I said quietly, annoyed, wanting to interrupt but still somehow too well mannered to do it forcefully.
Still, my quiet words brought his gaze back to me, and he frowned. “Shannon, I’ll call you back . . . Aye . . . ’Bye, sweetheart.” He lowered his phone from his ear and slipped it into his pocket. “Can I help you?”
I stuck out my hand and formally introduced myself. “I’m Miss Grace Farquhar.” I pointed to my door with my other hand. “Your neighbor.”
Lips pressed together in a hard line, he slipped his large hand into mine and engulfed it. A shiver rippled across my shoulders, and I immediately regretted offering my hand to him. “Nice to meet you, Miss Grace Farquhar.”
“Hmm, quite,” I murmured, tugging my hand back and trying not to appear as flustered as I felt. “And you are?”
“Mr. Logan James MacLeod.”
He was making fun of me. I ignored it. “Well, Mr. MacLeod.” I tried for a pleasant tone, but I could feel the thong glaring at me from the hand railing and fueling my annoyance. “I would greatly appreciate it if your girlfriend would desist from air-drying her unmentionables in the public stairwell.” I pointed a finger at the thong, not attempting to hide my distaste.
Logan stared at the thong. “Shit,” he murmured.
“Logan!” a female voice shouted from inside his flat. “Do you fancy going out for breakfast?” The voice was suddenly accompanied by a body.
A young woman stepped out onto the landing wearing nothing but a man’s shirt. It was buttoned just below the ribbon on her bra, revealing a rather impressive cleavage. Everything about the woman was curvy and feminine, and her short but trim legs were tan, her long hair was dyed a shiny platinum blond, and she had what appeared to be mile-long fake eyelashes expertly affixed to her eyes.
She was my opposite in every possible way, and I suddenly realized why Logan MacLeod had dismissed me upon sight.
“What’s going on?” She blinked her wide baby-blue eyes up at Logan.
Logan sighed. “Did you put your thong out here to dry?”
She nodded. “The air’s drier out here than in the bathroom. I thought it would dry quicker.”
I watched the two of them, fascinated by my neighbor’s growing annoyance and his girlfriend’s obliviousness in the face of it.
“Are you nuts?”
She wrinkled her nose. “No. What’s wrong with you?”
“We just met last night, and you’re air-drying your knickers on my landing.”
Logan looked at me as if asking for help. I could only stare at him in bemusement. He turned back to what I now gathered was a persistent one-night stand. “It’s rude and it pissed off my neighbor.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder toward me. “Not to mention it’s a little too soon for doing your laundry here. As is breakfast. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve got stuff to do.”
Affronted by his less-than-diplomatic brush-off, his one-night stand grabbed her thong and dashed back into the flat, yelling out a stream of expletives. By the time she’d changed into a formfitting pink dress and high heels and was tottering angrily out of his flat on unstable feet, Logan was visibly angry.
He looked almost menacing.
I shivered at the air of danger around him.
“Fuck you, you bastard!” She stomped down the stairs and then threw another look over her shoulder, this time at me. “And you, you snobby cow!”
My lips parted in shock as she stumbled out of sight. “Well, wasn’t she delightful,” I said, stunned.
“She was a Class-A cling-on.”
“Perhaps you should be more selective when choosing a sexual partner for the evening,” I suggested helpfully.
Apparently it wasn’t helpful. Logan MacLeod turned his intimidating glare on me. “Are you judging me, plum?”
Cheeks blazing, I whispered, “Plum?”
“Plummy.” He raked his eyes over me, and his lips twisted into a grimace before he explained. “Posh.”
“I’m not posh.” I stopped myself from stamping my foot in indignation that he would even mention it. I was raised in Kensington in London, and it was true I was very well-spoken, but that had nothing to do with the fact that for whatever reason, he was being very antagonistic.
“You’re the poshest person I’ve ever met, plum.”
“I am not.”
“I think I’d know,” he said.
“Do you have a distaste for the English, Mr. MacLeod?”
He narrowed his eyes. “I don’t have a distaste for anybody because I don’t judge people.” There he went again insinuating I judged people. We’d only just met!
“Neither do I.”
“Oh? So you weren’t judging me based on the knickers drip-drying on the banister, then? Or that those knickers belonged to a one-night stand of mine? Are you judging me for having casual sex, Miss Farquhar? Or merely on my choice of casual-sex partner?” He took in my blouse with the floppy bow tied at the neck and my high-waist, wide-leg trousers. “Was she not classy enough for your liking?”
“I’m com-completely confused,” I stuttered. And mortified! I hated confrontation.
“Let me make it clearer. A friendly neighbor would have introduced herself when I moved in. A friendly neighbor would have welcomed me to the building before rattling on about a pair of knickers. So what is it? Are you not friendly, or did you hear something about me that got your own judgy little knickers in a twist?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I shook my head. “I just didn’t want a thong on my landing.” Feeling my blood heat, my cheeks blooming ever brighter, I had no recourse but to turn around and shove my key in my door to get away from the brewing argument. I had no idea why he was so defensive or why he irritated me to melodramatic levels, but he did, and I didn’t know how to deal with it.
“’Bye . . . Miss Grace Farquhar.”
I slammed the door shut. Leaning against it, I discovered I felt out of breath, like I’d just run all the way up the stairs. I huffed at the ludicrous pounding of my heart.
My stairwell was no longer a safe place.
* * *
I was exhausted.
It was sheer fortuitousness, then, that when I lifted my foot to step out of my door, I was actually aware enough of my surroundings to spot the pile of vomit on my doorstep.
I jerked my foot back and wrinkled my nose in disgust.
My gaze shot across the hall to Logan’s door.
That bloody swine.
Not only was he the reason I was exhausted, but he was now the reason I had to step over bodily waste to get out of my flat.
Last night I’d heard the ruffian outside on the landing, trying to shut up his cackling female companion. It had been two weeks since our encounter, and in that time I’d spotted him with three different women. Player. Absolute Player with a capital P.
After hearing him shush his lady friend, I’d waited for the inevitable noisy bedroom gymnastics to begin. To my delight there was silence, and I managed to work through three chapters of the romance novel I was editing.
I thought all was well and fell into bed around three thirty, setting my alarm for eleven thirty. I was shamefully awoken at six o’ clock in the morning to ‘OH GOD, OH GOD, LOGAN, OH GOD.’ Like the man needed to be compared to God. His ego was already biblical.
Logan MacLeod was an arrogant pain in my arse.
Two rounds of OH GOD later, I was wide-awake and could not get back to sleep.
Now I was a walking zombie, and I’d almost zombie walked my way into the vomit he or his companion had deposited on my doorstep.
All morning I’d argued with the arse in my head about him keeping me awake with his sexual antics, but like always, I’d eventually calmed down. I hated disagreements with people. The therapist I’d seen in my early twenties had told me my aversion to confrontation was born from the fact that I was constantly seeking the approval of others. For years I’d sought to win both of my parents over with little success, and that need for them to like me filtered into my relationships with everyone. I hated to be hated and so I avoided making people unhappy in any way.
I’d worked hard to overcome it because it could be damaging, and my job as a freelance book editor certainly helped, because as a good editor I had to be absolutely honest in my constructive criticism. I’d grown a thicker skin when dealing with my clients, but I still had a hard time pissing anyone off in my personal life.
And I really didn’t want the hassle of dealing with a pissed-off neighbor.
But now I was pissed off.
Well and truly.
Imagine vomiting on my doorstep and not bloody well cleaning it up!
I glared at Logan’s door.
It wasn’t as though I actually wanted anything to do with the man. Airing my complaints to him wasn’t going to have an adverse effect on our relationship because we didn’t have a relationship and we never would.
Logan MacLeod was going to clean up the mess he made, and I could give a damn if he thought me the most irritating woman in the world.
Anger simmering in my blood, I hopped over the vomit, locked up, and marched to his door. I pounded on it.
I pounded harder before I could regret my decision to confront him.
Two seconds later I heard movement inside, followed by a muffled curse. The door suddenly swung open, and there he stood in all his glory. I blinked, fighting the heat that bloomed on my cheeks, but failed. Logan MacLeod had opened the door in nothing but boxer briefs, and I had never seen a man like him in real life. There was not an inch of fat on him. Just pure, hard muscle.
Cut. My friend Chloe would say he was cut.
Logan rubbed a hand over his short hair, drawing my attention from his six-pack to his sleep-roughened face. “It’s Sunday fucking morning,” he said, squinting at me. “If you’re going to speak, speak.”
The heat in my cheeks flared hotter. Despite my blushing, I mustered on. “I am well aware it is Sunday morning,” I said in my quiet voice, wishing for once that I’d inherited my mother’s authoritative one. “After working into the wee hours, I was rudely awoken at dawn by your inconsiderately loud antics. I then stepped out of my door and missed the pile of vomit on it by inches. I can only assume it was deposited there by either yourself or the cackling female you brought home last night.” I was shaking badly, and I didn’t know if it was from anxiety or anger.
No one had upset me like this in a very long time.
“Fuck.” He dragged his hand down his face and then peered past me. “It was . . .” He frowned. “My friend.”
I rolled my eyes, realizing he couldn’t remember his one-night stand’s name.
“I meant to come out and clean it up first thing. Sorry. I’ll do it now.”
His apology deflated me somewhat. I stared dumbly at him.
He blinked sleepily, looking much too attractive for someone who was just awake. “Is there anything else?”
“No. I appreciate you cleaning it.” I turned away and had put only one foot on the stairs when he stopped me.
“You don’t have to be so antagonistic, you know. You should consider removing that stick from your tiny arse.”
And just like that I was enraged all over again. I stopped and looked at him over my shoulder. “Excuse me?” I wasn’t quite sure I’d even heard right.
“You talk down to me. And there’s that pinchy-mouthed look you give me instead of a smile every time you pass me in the hall.”
Pinchy-mouthed? I sniffed at the insult and turned to leave again, not deigning to give him a response.
“And that,” he called out to me as I descended the stairs. “That haughty little sniff is extremely fucking annoying.”
I halted, shocked.
Because it suddenly occurred to me that I wasn’t my usual pile of anxiety over the fact that this person found me wanting. No. Instead triumph coursed through me that he was just as aggravated by me as I was by him.
I looked up to find him standing out on the landing scowling down at me.
Despite my red cheeks, I managed an irritatingly haughty swish of my hair over my shoulder and snapped out, “Good.”
There was no possible way I could manage to hide my distaste and I didn’t even want to. This was in response to Chloe’s, “He sounds hot.”
She was referring to Logan MacLeod. I’d just spent the last ten minutes complaining about his antics and what he’d said to me that morning to my friends Chloe, Aidan, and Aidan’s fiancée, Juno. How Chloe managed to pick “hot” out of all I’d just said, I had no clue.
“Oh, please.” Chloe huffed at my expression. “You secretly think he’s hot.”
“I think he’s appalling,” I said, appalled.
“Well, I’m proud of you for sticking up for yourself,” Aidan said, and Juno curled deeper into his side on their sofa.
I’d met Aidan eleven years ago, during our first semester at the University of Edinburgh. He, more than anyone, knew what a big deal it was for me to speak up for myself, and he knew exactly why. Chloe was my roommate in first year, and the three of us had grown close during our four years at Edinburgh. A bit of a chatterbox, flirtatious, and energetic, Chloe was our opposite, but together we worked. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Chloe, Aidan would never have met Juno.
Juno was a postgrad student from Canada. She was here working on some engineering . . . thing . . . that I still didn’t understand and had met Chloe on a night out. During one of her moments of utter perceptiveness, Chloe recognized something in Juno that she thought would appeal to Aidan. She introduced the fresh-faced, shy, exceptionally intelligent Canadian to Aidan, and it was pretty much love at first sight. They’d been together for five years and were planning to marry when Juno finished her postgrad. For now they were settled happily into the somewhat swanky Stockbridge flat, courtesy of Aidan’s income as a professional rugby player.
I was the single one among us, as Chloe was also engaged. Her fiancé, Ed, worked in energy efficiency. He’d spent the last six months in Sweden working on developing some brilliant new technology that would help reduce energy costs in everyday housing.
Chloe was lonely without Ed. And when Chloe was lonely she liked to play matchmaker. For me. Not that it was such a hardship to put up with her matchmaking. I was single and “looking.”
Plus . . . it was Chloe. I’d do anything for Chloe, Aidan, and Juno. As they sat around me in Aidan and Juno’s lovely flat, I looked at them and I saw my family. They knew me better than the one I’d severed all communication with seven years ago.
“Thanks,” I said to Aidan. “It actually felt good to stand my ground.”
“If he gives you any more problems, you just tell Aidan,” Juno said, offering his services up. “He’ll deal with it.”
Aidan didn’t protest, because the truth was, he would deal with it. Despite his reserve, he took shit from no man, and he didn’t allow any of us to either. Plus, he was huge, even bigger than Logan. No one—unless an idiot—would try to mess with him. Excluding one extremely drunken night at uni, I mostly thought of him as an overprotective big brother. He was more family to me than my own brother, Sebastian, who was never protective. In fact, he was the opposite.
I threw thoughts of Sebastian aside and gave my friends a reassuring smile. “It will be fine. I’m just tired and cranky. I have that date tomorrow night, and I really hope I manage to get some sleep so I don’t end up looking like the walking dead.”
“Date?” Aidan said.
“The guy from my gym.”
Chloe snorted. “I still can’t believe you made a date with a guy who pervs on women in a yoga class.”
“He wasn’t perving. He was thinking about joining the class.”
Aidan grinned. “Right.”
I glowered at them. “You all think the worst of everyone.”
“And for someone who was raised by Dracula and one of his brides, you see the best, even when it’s not there,” Chloe said.
“Not always,” I grumbled, thinking about my neighbor.
“So where is the yoga perv taking you?” Juno said.
I ignored her teasing. “His name is Bryan and he’s taking me to dinner.”
Chloe grunted. “You don’t sound that excited about it.”
“Of course I’m looking forward to it. Bryan seems very nice.” And he did. He was also quite good-looking.
“Nice?” Juno gave me a confused smile. “Sweetie, nice? No. Your first thought about this guy should be ‘wow.’” She shrugged. “When I met Aidan, it was very much a ‘wow’ for me.”
Aidan smiled down at her. “Back at you, darlin’.”
“Ugh. Stop.” Chloe waved her hands at them. “No cutesy, lovey-dovey crap right now. I haven’t had sex in five weeks, and Miss Farquhar here hasn’t been laid in three months.”
I colored. “Thank you for sharing that.”
“Just because you haven’t gotten laid in a while doesn’t mean you should settle for this guy,” Juno opined.
“Who says I’m settling?” I threw my hands up in disbelief. “None of you have met him.”
“We don’t need to,” Aidan said. “Your last five dates have all borne a scarily similar resemblance and the personality of a wet blanket. You keep selling yourself short, Grace. Can you blame us for being skeptical about this guy?”
“And when Aidan says ‘scarily similar resemblance,’ he means guys who are punching way above their weight dating you,” Chloe added.
“No, they weren’t. That’s such a shallow thing to say. It’s not all about looks, you know. I’m not exactly Angelina Jolie myself.”
Aidan made an irritated noise and reached for his mug of coffee. He took a drink rather than saying something that might upset me. Chloe, however, cursed and snapped, “I could kill your bloody mother.”
“Yes, well, get in line,” I muttered, taking a sip of my own coffee and avoiding eye contact with her. I did not want to have that particular conversation.
“My brother’s friend Joe saw your photo on my Facebook page. He said he thinks you’re beautiful.” Juno grinned at me.
I blushed and squirmed uncomfortably. “He did not.”
She laughed. “He did so. I asked Ally to bring him to Scotland next time he visits me.”
“Don’t be silly.” I huffed at the thought.
“Is this Joe hot?” Chloe asked.
“As much as I appreciate the compliment, I think I’ll still go on my date with Bryan, if that’s okay. I can compromise on a lot of things, but having an ocean between me and my boyfriend isn’t one of them.”
“How about a landing?” Chloe teased.
I wrinkled my nose at her wayward thoughts. “Logan MacLeod is the least likely candidate for boyfriendhood of any man in the entire world.”
She raised an eyebrow at me, and I flushed again when I realized I’d practically shouted it. “Famous last words.”
“No, not famous last words,” I insisted, feeling that immediate aggravation ignite in my very blood at the thought of my neighbor. “Logan MacLeod is uncouth, probably riddled with sexual diseases, and he’s not at all to my taste. And I am definitely not to his taste. You should see the women he sleeps with. They’re all sexy, tan, blond hair and big boobs. He thinks I have a stick up my arse because the hem of my skirt sits below my crotch and I do up the buttons over my cleavage.”
Chloe’s eyes were round as I ranted on. She turned to Aidan and Juno in seeming wonder. “I have to meet this man.”
“Why?” I snapped.
“Because he’s clearly got something intriguing about him if he can do this to you.” She gestured to me in a vague way.
“This,” she insisted, repeating the vague gesturing.
I clenched my teeth together. “What is this?”
“I don’t know what it is. I just know it’s something.”
* * *
It had been suggested in the past by people who didn’t really know me at all well that as an editor who spent her days editing romantic fiction, I might have unrealistic expectations of men. Anyone who knew me—really knew me—knew that wasn’t true. Although I was actively looking for the man I wanted to spend my life with, I wasn’t looking for a fantasy man. I was looking for someone understanding, protective, and funny. I didn’t expect perfection. I just wanted to like the person I was dating, and I wanted him to be kind.
Bryan was neither funny nor kind.
“So the bitch took the fish, even though she never bought the fish,” Bryan finished, his nostrils flaring.
I blinked, wondering how my mentioning that my hake had been delicious had somehow gotten us onto the topic of his ex-girlfriend. Again. So far Bryan had turned all of our conversations on this abysmal date back to his last two ex-girlfriends.
He seemed to be a very angry little man.
Bored, I somehow found myself kicking the hornet’s nest. “But didn’t you say you won it at a fun fair for her?”
He scowled. “That’s not the point.”
“Surely a gift once given cannot be taken back?”
“Ugh, that’s such a fucking female thing to say.”
I stuck my hand up at the passing waiter. “Check, please.”
* * *
Exhausted from the terrible date, all I wanted was to get home and snuggle up to watch the latest episode of my favorite reality singing contest, which I’d recorded from the weekend.
I was hurrying up my stairwell when, to my horror, his door opened.
Logan stepped out, surprising me with his attire. He wore a beautiful black suit and a black shirt. The top button was open on the shirt and he wore no tie, but still he was very smart—it was the most civilized I’d ever seen him. I had to wonder if he worked at night, and if so, what exactly it was that he did.
I drew to a stop at the top of the stairs, and Logan jolted when he saw me, his gaze raking over me, his lips parting slightly as though he were in shock. Like him, I was wearing black. A black Alexander McQueen dress with a pleated knee-length skirt and a V-neck that showed off a modest amount of cleavage. The dress was a remnant from my previous life, and it was pure class. I loved it. I’d loved it for almost ten years. For once my honey brown hair hung loose over my shoulders, and my makeup was soft in dusky pink shades, which suited my light complexion.
I flushed when those extraordinary eyes of his connected with mine.
“Back from a date?” he said, sounding surprised by this.
“Yes,” I answered out of politeness.
“I take it the date didn’t go well?”
“Why would you think that?”
“Because you’re home alone.”
Feeling my cheeks redden, as they had a tendency to do around him, I slipped past him, rummaging through my clutch for my keys. “It may come as a shock to you, Mr. MacLeod, but not all of us sleep with someone on the first date.”
I jerked around at his teasing tone and found his eyes glittering at me. “It’s called respecting a woman.”
“It is called not living life to the fullest.” He started to descend the stairs. “Maybe if you got yourself laid, you’d relax a wee bit.”
I sniffed, denying even to myself that his perception of me stung. “I am perfectly relaxed.”
“Oh, you sound it,” he called up, his infuriating chuckle trailing up to me as his head disappeared from sight.
“Argggh.” I smacked my clutch against my door before throwing it open and slamming it shut behind me. The clutch went sailing down the hall of my flat in my anger. “Damn the man!”
Next time I was bloody well going to get in the last word.
“Bugger, bugger, bugger,” I muttered as I attempted to retrieve my keys from my purse while trying to juggle three shopping bags filled with food.
A large hand suddenly tugged on the handles of one of the bags and I jerked my head up in fright. My gaze clashed with Logan MacLeod’s. “Wha—”
The bag was in his hand and the second and third followed quickly into his other.
I stared up at his serious expression, bemused. “I didn’t even hear you come up behind me.” He certainly moved quietly for a big man.
Instead of speaking, he gestured to the front door of our building.
Flustered, my hands shook a little as I tugged my keys out and selected the right one. I let us inside. “I can carry them now. Thank you.”
His blank face and refusal to give me back the shopping bags forced me to keep walking. I stopped at flat one on the ground floor and knocked. Logan halted in confusion. Before I could explain, the door to the flat opened and I was faced with my favorite neighbor, Mr. Jenner, and his cheery disposition.
“Ah, Gracie, there you are.” He grinned at me, his smile faltering a little when he glanced beyond me. “Oh, you have company?”
“Mr. Jenner, this is Mr. MacLeod. He just moved into the building. He very kindly offered to carry your shopping.”
I heard Logan’s grunt behind me and didn’t know whether it pertained to my diplomatic retelling of the situation or the fact that the shopping bags weren’t for me.
“Oh, how kind.” Mr. Jenner smiled at Logan. “Come in. Come in.”
I looked at Logan and he stared at me, his eyebrow raised in question.
“I do Mr. Jenner’s shopping for him every week. I can carry them inside if you like.” I held out my hand for the bags.
“I’ve got them.” He brushed past me, and I followed him into Mr. Jenner’s flat.
The elderly gentleman lost his wife a few years ago, only a few short months after I moved into the building. His son had arranged for a cleaner to visit once a week, but she wanted more money to do the shopping, so I had offered to do it for free because the Jenners were kind and welcoming to me from the moment I moved in.
I watched Logan as he glanced around the small, well-kept flat, wondering if he was really listening to Mr. Jenner’s chitchat as he followed our neighbor into his kitchen.
I realized I had been so busy watching Logan I hadn’t heard Mr. Jenner’s chitchat and was thus confused when Logan offered, “I’ll take a look at it.”
“Look at what?” I said, immediately diving into the bags Logan had placed on the counter. I started putting the perishables away in the refrigerator.
“Mr. Jenner’s washing machine is playing up. I’ll have a look at it.”
“Are you qualified to do that?” I said, still curious about exactly what it was he did for a living.
“Yes. I have a Ph.D. in washing-machine technology.”
I rolled my eyes at his sarcasm.
“That’s very kind,” Mr. Jenner said, clearly oblivious to the undercurrents of tension between me and Logan.
“I’ll do it now, if that’s okay?” Logan shrugged out of his jacket at Jenner’s grateful nod.
I didn’t particularly want to stick around to see Logan do a good deed. It might put a dent in my annoyance, and I wanted nothing to penetrate my dislike for my new neighbor. One good deed did not outweigh the growing tally of complaints I had against him. “Well, I’m off, then.”
Mr. Jenner smiled. “Thanks again, Gracie. You’re an angel.”
I returned his smile but found mine wobbling a little under Logan’s fierce regard. Ignoring his quizzical, burning stare, I waved good-bye without looking at either of them and dashed from the flat.
* * *
All those moments would be lost in time . . . like tears in rain.
I stared at the sentence for the fifteenth time, trying to think what it was that niggled at me about it, why it was so familiar, but I couldn’t concentrate.
I couldn’t concentrate because U2 had been screaming at me from next door for the last two hours. Every time one of their songs faded into the next, the lull was filled in by the sounds of laughter.
Logan was having a party.
“All those moments would be lost in time like tears in rain,” I muttered, tapping my finger against my computer mouse. “All those moments. All those moments . . . All those . . . Arrggggh!” I pushed back from the computer and glowered at the wall connecting my flat to his.
It occurred to me that earlier I’d let myself soften a little toward him when he’d casually offered to help Mr. Jenner.
Well, never again.
He was an inconsiderate oaf.
* * *
Last night I’d started thinking that it would take visiting a therapist again to deal with my gradually mounting resentment against my new neighbor. But I made the decision in the morning that it would be much cheaper for me to change my work schedule than to visit a therapist. I’d have to work in the afternoon from now on, and that was that.
Okay, so I wasn’t really as blasé about having to rearrange my schedule as I was trying to convince myself I was. I knew it would take me days, if not weeks, to come around to a new work and sleeping pattern, but I could see no other choice since a hell-raiser had moved in next door.
Upon that decision, I was up in the morning to run my errands so I could get back in the early afternoon to finish a manuscript that was due back to one of my authors that evening. It was a Saturday, and I’d much rather spend my Saturday with Juno and Chloe, who were buggering off to St. Andrews for the day, but I had work to do.
I was tired, I was disagreeable, and I wasn’t in the mood to face any annoying neighbors. So of course I was delighted when my neighbor Janice appeared on the stairs just as I was locking my door.
Janice climbed up the stairs to my landing and stopped at the sight of me. “Did you hear?” she snapped without preamble.
I pulled on my patience like a winter cloak against her icy chill.
Janice lived on the floor above me with her long-term boyfriend, Lukash. I rarely saw Lukash, and thankfully, I didn’t have that many run-ins with Janice. She was a defense lawyer for the Scottish courts, she was humorless, and she was . . . Well, there was no other word for it. She was a bit of a bitch really.
“Hear about what?”
“Your next-door neighbor.” She gestured to Logan’s door, eyes blazing with fury.
So he’d pissed someone else off. I wasn’t surprised.
“The ex-con,” she spat.
Now I was surprised. “Excuse me?”
Janice stepped toward me. I immediately wanted to back away from her. “Mr. Jenner told me that Logan MacLeod mentioned to him that he’d done time. Apparently, the idiot assumed we all knew of his prison time. That bloody old goat downstairs doesn’t even seem to think it’s a problem. He just went on and on about that thug fixing his washing machine.”
I curled my hands into fists. “Mr. Jenner is not an old goat.”
“That’s not the point.” Janice waved my defense off. “Aren’t you terrified you’re living next door to a convicted criminal? I went straight onto the phone to Mr. Carmichael, but he insists that thug is a friend of his and that we’re actually safer with him as a neighbor. Can you believe it?”
Mr. Carmichael was our landlord. Although I’d never met him personally, he was a very good landlord. If anything went wrong in the building or our apartments, it was fixed immediately. “Perhaps he’s a good judge of character. And maybe we are safer with Mr. MacLeod here.” I couldn’t explain why I found myself defending Logan. He was certainly a very inconsiderate neighbor, and I was intimidated by him on occasion. But truly frightened?
Janice grunted. “Oh, you’re all idiots. You forget I defend people like that man. I know exactly what kind of person he is. I’ll be looking for a new place to rent.”
Oh, finally some good news.
I just managed to stifle my smile. “Okay. Have a good day, then.” I skirted around her and hurried down the stairs before she subjected me to any more of her judgmental bile.
* * *
I had just entered the supermarket when Aidan called and asked me if I fancied grabbing a quick coffee. I knew saying yes was deliberate procrastination, but I talked myself around to it because coffee might wake me up a bit and thus give me more energy for my work later.
The low spring sun cast the outside of the coffee shop in a beautiful soft light. I shaded my eyes against it and saw Aidan sitting at one of the little metal tables. He’d already ordered me a coffee.
I smiled gratefully as I slipped into the seat across from him. “You are a rock star.” I immediately wrapped a chilled hand around the hot cup and sipped at the smooth drink.
Aidan squinted at me against the light of the sun. “You look knackered.”
I grunted. “Thank you.”
“Is it that neighbor of yours?”
I thought on the news Janice had imparted this morning and decided not to mention it to Aidan. It would concern him. He would jump to conclusions.
Perhaps . . . well, perhaps I should be jumping to conclusions, too, about the fact that my neighbor was a convicted criminal, but I didn’t know what he’d been convicted of, I didn’t know why Mr. Carmichael seemed so sure of the man’s character, and I’d always found it best to reserve judgment until I had all the facts. For instance, I did know Logan MacLeod was arrogant, annoying, and loud. I could judge him all I wanted about that. “He seems intent on living life to the fullest.”
“He’s very loud.”
Aidan shrugged. “Well, perhaps he doesn’t know how loud he’s being. Just say something.”
“If I do, he’ll just assume I’m being difficult.”
“You?” Aidan said. “Difficult? You wouldn’t know how to be difficult.”
“I don’t want to talk about Logan. Why are you lot so interested in my bloody neighbor?”
He grinned. “Because of your reaction to him.”
“Oh, not this again. Ever since Chloe introduced you to Juno, you’ve come to think of her as the queen of perception. I’ll have you know she gets lots of things wrong. All the time.” I sipped at my coffee and then deliberately changed the subject. “How’s Callum?”
Callum was Aidan’s teammate. I’d dated him a few years ago for a couple of months, until we both realized we didn’t have a lot in common and were actually very boring as a couple. We were definitely better off as friends. A few months after we broke up, Callum started dating Annie, a very outgoing, outdoorsy sports journalist. They’d been together ever since and were planning their wedding.
Aidan’s face fell. “Callum and Annie broke up.”
“Oh no!” I said, aghast. “Why?”
“Believe it or not, you and she share a very similar family situation, except she still talks to hers. Her parents are dominating and negative, and they’ve completely tried to take over the wedding. They also started putting pressure on them about grandkids, and not like other parents’ kind of pressure. It turns out they own Annie’s house. Callum didn’t know that. Her mum and dad have threatened to force them out if Annie isn’t pregnant within their first year of marriage. Apparently, they believe that having children will prove that Callum is serious about Annie. Unlike marriage.”
“Oh my gosh,” I murmured, feeling a deep empathy. Other people might think it ridiculous that any parent would act like that—perhaps even disbelieve that such parents existed—but I knew from personal experience that they did.
“Callum kept waiting for Annie to stand up to them. They had already discussed that they were going to have at least a year to themselves as a married couple before they’d try for kids. He could give a shit about the house. He’s ready to walk away from it all. But Annie . . . she won’t, and she keeps getting pissed at him when he asks her to stand up to her family. Finally Callum got sick of the arguments. He felt trapped by her parents, and he can just see that that’s what he’s in for, for the rest of his life, if he marries Annie.”
“That’s awful,” I whispered, my chest aching for Callum. “Bloody families.”
“They’re not all bad.”
“No,” I agreed. “Especially if you self-build them.”
Aidan chuckled. “I have heard that self-building is the smart thing to do.”
“As long as you choose good-quality materials, you can’t go wrong.”
“Am I the good-quality material in this analogy?”
I just grinned, because he knew he was.
I thought on Annie and wished I could go to her and tell her how much better her life would be if she took a chance on Callum and made him her family instead.
There would be relief.
Nothing but sweet relief.
* * *
It was around two in the afternoon before I eventually climbed the stairs to my flat, carrying my small bag of shopping. I was already editing in my head and was thus jerked out of my own little world at the sound of laughter as Logan’s door opened.
I paused in surprise at the sight of the tiny, gorgeous redhead stepping out of his door in front of him. She was not at all his type. She was wearing too many clothes, for a start.
The laughing redhead stopped at the sight of me. She smiled. “Hello.”
I was too polite not to return her smile. “Hello.” I moved toward my door, but she stopped me again.
“I’m Shannon. Logan’s little sister.” Her violet eyes gleamed at me in friendly amusement. She stuck out her hand to me.
I shook it. “Grace. It’s nice to meet you.”
“You’re Logan’s next-door neighbor, right?”
“Aye,” Logan grunted beside her.
I glanced up at his suddenly surly expression and felt a frisson of satisfaction. It was wonderful I annoyed him as much as he irritated me. It really was the only thing that made his inconsiderate noise levels bearable.
“You’re not at all how he described you.” Shannon grinned up at her brother before turning back to me.
I inwardly questioned the mischief in her stunning eyes and wondered what exactly Logan had said about me. “Probably not,” I concurred.
“So what do you do, Grace? Logan’s the manager at Fire, the nightclub on Victoria Street.”
I knew where Fire was. I’d been dragged there to dance several times by Chloe. Why on earth did Shannon feel the need to tell me what Logan’s occupation was? The job made sense, considering the late hours he kept. “I’m a freelance book editor.” I looked up into Logan’s eyes and added pointedly, “I work from home.”
“Oh, that’s great,” Shannon said enthusiastically.
Why, oh why, hadn’t this friendly sweetheart moved in next door instead of her grumpy older brother?
“It can be.” I took a deep breath, suddenly finding courage in Shannon’s presence—or her possible role as buffer. “I work late hours. I couldn’t last night, however.” I tried not to falter under Logan’s imperious expression. “Your party was very loud. I’m not a fan of U2 at three in the morning, I’m afraid.”
Shannon pinched her lips together and looked up at her brother. He stared back down at her, not saying a word in response to my “accusation.” Shannon shook her head in admonishment. “Try to be a bit more considerate, eh?”
He crossed his arms over his chest. “Take it with a pinch of salt, Shannon. Miss Farquhar here is a professional complainer.”
“Logan!” Shannon looked affronted.
I took even more courage from her reaction. “I complained about your one-night stand’s thong drying on my landing and about your other one-night stand getting sick on my doorstep. I haven’t complained about the numerous nights I couldn’t work because of the very loud sex coming from your flat.”
His sister stared up at him with round eyes filled with horror. “Logan?”
He glowered down at her but remained quiet. He didn’t need to speak. The words “I answer to no one” were written all over his face.
The sound of footsteps interrupted the tense moment, and we all turned as Janice walked down the stairs onto our landing. I braced myself.
The attractive brunette nodded at me. “Grace.” She then turned her chin up in such a haughty manner it was almost comical. She sailed past Logan and Shannon without acknowledging them.
As the sounds of her heels faded upon her descent, Shannon whispered, “What was that?”
I shifted uncomfortably, hating to be the bearer of bad news. Even if it was to Logan. “I’m afraid Mr. Jenner made the mistake of mentioning Logan’s time in prison to Janice. Mr. Jenner is so nice, you see. He doesn’t realize that people like Janice . . . well . . . aren’t.”
The news caused Logan’s whole body to tense. Even his facial features tightened.
Shannon paled. “We thought everyone knew already. Are you saying now they know?”
For some reason I could not fathom, I felt an unpleasant sensation in my stomach and suddenly realized I felt bad for Logan.
Who would have thought?
“It makes no difference,” I hurried to assure them both. “Janice . . . well, we all know how unfriendly she can be. I wouldn’t worry. Everyone else will be fine.” I shrugged, not knowing what else to say. “It was lovely to meet you, Shannon.” I turned toward my door and then stopped. I glanced over my shoulder at Logan, who was staring at me in a way that made my breath catch.
He looked . . . disarmed.
I shook off my reaction to his reaction and said in what I hoped was a diplomatic tone, “If you could try to be a little more quiet, I’d appreciate it.”
Logan gave me a sharp nod. “Party noise I can lower. However, how loud women are in my bed is out of my control.”
“Oh, Logan.” Shannon made a comically disgusted face at his arrogance, and her brother broke out into a massive grin.
Once more I felt breathless at the sight of him smiling widely down at his sister. It was the first time I’d ever seen Logan MacLeod smile in a way that was pure and real and not tainted by mockery.
What a sight it was to behold.
Suddenly he looked at me, and our gazes locked.
Frantically I searched for a way to release myself.
Breathe, Grace. Breathe!
I blew out air between my lips and forced myself to lower my gaze. I opened my door and stepped inside. “As always, I’m charmed, Mr. MacLeod,” I said, wishing I’d injected more sarcasm into it.
I closed my door before he could say or do anything to throw me off-balance again.
Just as I expected, Logan’s past became a nonissue once Janice moved out of our building. It seemed everyone, like me, was reassured by Mr. Carmichael that we were in no danger with Logan in the building. Despite my aggravation with my neighbor, I couldn’t help but wonder what it must be like for him in everyday society as an ex-convict. It would seem he’d fallen on his feet regarding a job—Mr. Carmichael owned Fire and had obviously offered Logan a position there. But surely that was about knowing the right person. Not everyone was a Mr. Carmichael. Janice was a great example. So whenever Logan had to fill out a form or explain absences for whenever it was he did his time, he had to face judgment.
In a way he was still doing his time.
I knew how deep the cut was when people refused to see beyond their own perceptions and judgments of you.
Despite myself, I think I really did feel bad for him. However, and I would never admit it out loud, I was incredibly curious to know what it was he’d been sentenced for. Clearly, it was a misdemeanor in conviction terms, right? Or Mr. Carmichael wouldn’t be so assured of his stability. Maybe that was naive of me, but I was blissfully ignorant in my naïveté and quite happy to be.
It helped that, as promised, Logan attempted to be more considerate with his noise levels. There was one instance over the next few weeks of loud sex, but there was no music or partying. When we passed each other in the stairwell, we offered a polite nod of acknowledgment, mostly because ignoring each other would be bad manners.
Life was returning to a sense of normality and I was even working at night again.
What I wasn’t doing was getting out much.
After the disastrous date with Bryan, which was really the fifth in a long line of disastrous dates, I felt more than a little gun-shy, but I was also bored. Chloe’s fiancé was home for a bit and Aidan was in focused “training mode.”
So when Chloe called me up at the beginning of the week to ask me if I fancied getting fixed up with a colleague of hers, I reluctantly said yes.
To my pleasant surprise, John was handsome in an old-fashioned kind of way and nervous upon meeting me in a way that was endearing. Half an hour into our dinner date, however, I was growing concerned by the quick rate at which he was consuming wine. It seemed he needed the alcohol as fortification to converse with me, and it also seemed he just didn’t know when to stop.
And John and alcohol apparently weren’t a good mix.
His dark eyes had been friendly and kind when he approached me in the restaurant. They were warm, even if his gaze did dart around the room anxiously as we chitchatted while deciding what to eat.
By his third glass of vino, however, a mocking light entered the backs of his eyes.
“I’ve seen pictures of you, you know,” he said.
I looked up from my pasta, wondering what on earth he meant. “Excuse me?”
He grinned, the smile off-kilter, lazy with wine. “On Facebook. Chloe shows me her pictures on Facebook. I’ve always thought you were very pretty.”
I blushed at the compliment. “Thank you.”
John suddenly ogled my chest, and I tensed. “You could dress a bit sexier though—don’t you think? You’ve got a cracking figure, but we can’t really see it.”
Hiding my flinch at the far-too-close-to-the-bone comment, I looked at his almost-empty wineglass and wished I had it in me to say something, but I didn’t want to cause a scene in the restaurant. I met his glazed stare with one of quiet reproach. “I like my style just fine.”
He held up his hands defensively. “Oh, I didn’t mean to be insulting. I was just suggesting that you might not be single if you dressed a bit better.”
I almost choked on my food.
“And you might look better with your hair down. You look a bit uptight with it up like that.”
I squeezed my eyes closed, trying to block him out, because unfortunately, his criticisms were a trigger . . .
* * *
The butterflies swarming in my stomach threatened to upend all the nothing in it. I’d never felt so nervous. I hadn’t been able to eat all day.
My first school dance.
I stared into the mirror, fidgeting with my hair and my dress and wondering if I should have worn my hair up and if I should have worn the black dress instead of the purple one.
“Why is there a boy at the door?”
I whirled around, my pulse instantly racing at the sight of my mother leaning against my doorframe. She was frowning at me as she swirled a glass of red wine in her hand.
“I thought you were having dinner with Mrs. Ferguson this evening.”
Mother scowled at me. “Clearly I’m not. What are you hiding? Why are you dressed in that hideous monstrosity?”
“I got asked to go the school dance.”
She snorted. “By the short boy at my door? He has acne.” She wrinkled her nose in disgust.
I flushed and looked away. “His name is Michael and I like him.”
“Does he come from a good family?”
“Why?” I looked up, scared because Michael’s dad was a dentist and his mother was an actress on a soap opera. It was hard to know if that made them a “good” family or not.
“Because,” she sighed impatiently, “I need to know if, despite the acne, this boy is worth my advising you out of a dress that makes you look like you have four thighs instead of two.” She stared at me suspiciously. “Have you been sticking to that diet I told you to start?”
I trembled. “The nurse at school said it’s not meant for a fourteen-year-old.”
“Why the bloody hell does the nurse at school know anything about your eating habits?”
“I—I fainted at school.”
Mother rolled her eyes. “Dear God, how maudlin.”
My finger curled into the fabric of my dress, crushing it. I was slender, and still it didn’t seem to be skinny enough for my model-thin mother.
“Well?” she snapped. “Who is this boy?”
“His mother is Andrea Leeds.”
“The actress?” Mother tilted her head in thought. “I suppose it could be worse. Well, you can’t wear that.” She put her glass down on my desk and sauntered over to my wardrobe. “Let’s see if we can’t find you something that gives the illusion of a figure. Boys want girls who look like girls, you know, Gracelyn. You won’t ever be sexy, but we can but try to make you feminine.” She stared doubtfully at my wardrobe selection. “We’ll also need to do something with your hair. You look like a bloody waif. You’re getting it cut next week.”
I touched a strand of my long hair. “I don’t want to cut it.”
Her head jerked around, her dark eyes flashing angrily. “As long as you’re under my roof, taking my money and representing my name, you will do as I say. Understood?”
“Bloody children,” she muttered, turning back to the clothes. “I’d never have had any if it weren’t for your goddamn father and his need for heirs to his bloody empire. But does he give a shit that it’s me who’s left to deal with your stupidity? No, he does not . . .” She trailed off, lost in thought.
Tears burned in my eyes, but like always, I fought against them and the painful lump in my throat . . .
* * *
“Oh fuck,” John groaned, running his hand through his hair in distress. “I’m just saying all the wrong things. I say these things, and in my head they sound helpful, but they come out all wrong.” He leaned across the table, and his elbow hit the bottom of his dessert spoon. It pinged up off the table. He didn’t even notice. “I think you’re gorgeous, Grace. I really do.”
I smiled weakly at my drunken date. “It’s all right. Let’s just finish dinner.”
Thankfully, John prattled on through dinner without critiquing me again, although he also never asked me anything about myself. He talked a lot about his job and his parents and his love of rugby. In fact, the only time he asked me a question was when he gushed, “What it’s like to be friends with Aidan Ramage?”
“Friendly?” I offered, not knowing how to answer the question when his tone bordered on sycophantic.
His “admiration” for Aidan didn’t salvage the date. I understood how hard it could be to meet new people and how nerves could make the nicest person act like an idiot. But dating a lush was just not for me. Especially not one who reminded me of my mother.
“Let me walk you home.” John swayed a little as we stood outside the restaurant. It had been a late dinner, so now the sky was dark and the moon was out. The restaurant was in Old Town and only a few streets away from my flat, and the area was still buzzing with people. I didn’t mind walking home alone despite the drizzle in the night air. In fact, I would have preferred it.
“I’ll be fine.”
“No, I insist. You’re by the university, right?” He turned and began walking.
I sighed and hurried after him. “You really don’t have to walk me home.”
“It would be ungentlemanly of me not to see you home. There are creeps out here, you know.” He threw me another lazy, drunk grin.
I just stopped myself from rolling my eyes.
“So.” John stuck his hands in his pockets and looked at me. “Do you like your job?”
I was surprised by the sudden interest in my life. “Um . . . yes. I love keeping my own hours and . . . well, I get to read and shape books for a living.”
He wrinkled his nose like a little boy. “Books. Yak. Aren’t you bored all the time?”
“No.” I huffed in annoyance.
“What about your parents? They still in England?”
“What do they do for a living?”
“My father works in the media, and my mother is a housewife.”
“A housewife, eh? Your dad must make a bob or two.”
Or a billion. “Hmm.”
“Got any brothers or sisters?”
I stared up at his profile, annoyed that he’d decided to get nosy. “A brother. You?”
“No, thank God. What does your brother do?”
“He works for my father.”
“What’s his name, then?”
“Oh, look!” I said a little too brightly. “We’re almost at mine.” I stopped. “Well, good night, then.”
What People are Saying About This
Praise for the novels of Samantha Young
“Really sexy...Highly recommend this one.”—USA Today
“[The] On Dublin Street series is a total winner.”—Dear Author
“Young is not an author you should miss out on!”—Fresh Fiction
“Will knock your socks off…[An] unforgettable love story.”—RT Book Reviews
“Young’s voice is riveting.”—Fiction Vixen