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Destiny Brockman cursed a blue streak as she struggled out of the elevator with a box that was twice her size. Her arms burned and a painful cramp crept along her back.
"It's just a little farther," she encouraged herself in a shaky whisper. In the back of her mind she wondered: Where on earth was Lu Jin? She was supposed to be helping her.
She heard a sudden rush of footsteps, but before she knew what happened, she smacked into something hard and nearly lost her grip on the box.
"Damn, man," a male voice roared. "Why don't you look where you're going?"
"I'm doing the best I can," she snapped back. She shook her head and flipped a few errant strands of hair from her eyes so she could see who she'd bumped into.
Destiny's knees buckled at the unexpected vision of a gorgeous brother with strong chiseled features and skin the color of milk chocolate.
When his full lips widened, she experienced a strange flutter in her chest. His hair was a low, barely-there buzz cut which gave him a clean look, but it was his devilish hazel eyes framed by long, curly lashes that threatened to steal her heart. No man should have such beautiful eyes.
"Well, well. Where are my manners?" the man said in a sexy baritone that could make a nun blush. "The name's Miles Stafford."
Destiny gave her head a firm shake and broke the strange hypnotic spell she'd fallen under. "Hello. Excuse me." She stepped around him.
He quickly blocked her passage again. "I
uh, live in apartment fourteen twenty-seven."
"Congratulations," she said, cynically.
Miles laughed; it was a boisterous, husky vibrato that was as sexy as it was infectious. "My, what a sharp tongue you have. How intriguing." He winked.
She felt, as well as watched, his gaze roam over her again and that strange fluttering returned. "I'm sorry, but if you don't mind, I need to set this box down before my arms snap off."
"Oh, here. Let me help you with that." With what seemed like little effort, Miles took possession of the box as if it weighed nothing. "Just lead the way."
Although thankful, Destiny grudgingly rewarded him with a tight smile. She stepped around him again and as she led him to apartment fourteen twenty-six, she noticed for the first time the man's enormous size. He was an easy six-foot-four with broad shoulders and a narrow waist. His cologne tickled her nose and it took all she had not to lose herself in its light mixtures of musk and
well, she couldn't place her finger on it, but damn he smelled good.
"Don't tell me we're going to be neighbors," Miles said when she reached for her doorknob.
Destiny nodded. "Sort of looks that way." She wanted to hurry. The sooner he set the box down, the sooner he'd leave. Pushing open the door, they were immediately greeted with the sight of Lu Jin, her beautiful Black-Asian friend, laughing on the phone. The laughter stopped when Lu Jin turned toward them.
"Hello," Miles said.
"Monique, let me call you back. Someone has just popped in." Lu Jin ended the call without further explanation, and then turned her Hollywood smile on her friend. "Well, hello to you, too." She cast Destiny a curious look.
Destiny shrugged, then turned back toward her new neighbor. "Thanks for bringing that in for me. My friend here had disappeared, apparently taking an important phone call," she added with mild sarcasm. "You can set it down right there."
Miles turned and did as he was instructed. When he stood erect again, the entire apartment seemed to shrink around them. The man was gorgeous, no ifs, ands or buts about it. When he smiled at them, he showed two perfect rows of straight, white teeth.
Lu Jin navigated her slender body between Destiny and Miles and extended her hand in greeting. "My name is Lu Jin."
"A handsome name for a handsome man," Lu Jin said.
Destiny rolled her eyes heavenward at Lu Jin's flirting. She watched as he took her friend's hand and lifted it to his lips, but it was Destiny he winked at as he kissed Lu Jin's hand.
Destiny dropped her gaze.
"Handsome as well as chivalrous. Tell your girlfriend I'm jealous," Lu Jin baited coolly.
His rich laughter encircled the women. "I don't have a steady girl right now." He waited until he caught Destiny's gaze again. "But I'm looking."
Destiny's smile tightened as she stepped around her friend. "Well, we wouldn't want to keep you from your vigilant search."
Miles's brows rose with amusement. He followed her to the door. "Beautiful, and with a wicked sense of humor. Tell your man that I'm jealous."
Lu Jin spoke up. "Destiny doesn't"
"I'll make sure I do that," Destiny drowned out her friend and held open the door and waited until he crossed the threshold. "Thank you again for helping me with the box."
"Destiny, eh?" He lifted an inquisitive brow while another sly smile slid into place. "Interesting name for an interesting woman."
Something about the man's cockiness continued to rub Destiny the wrong way. "Again, thanks." She forced an amicable smile and hoped it didn't look as plastic as it felt.
"Hey, that's what neighbors are for, right? Maybe one day I can ask you to do me a favor."
Destiny frowned, and then opened her mouth to respond when a syrupy-sweet feminine voice floated toward them.
"Oh, there you are, Miles."
Destiny and Miles turned.
The first thing Destiny noticed was the woman's incredible legs. They were long, toned and seemed to go on forever. Next were the woman's breastsperfect circular orbs that seemed to be oblivious to gravity. They couldn't possibly be real, Destiny thought critically.
"You naughty boy," the woman cooed as she looped a protective arm through Miles's. "When I turned around at the party you were gone. I didn't know where you'd run off to until Wes said he thought you ran to your apartment to get something." She turned her bright smile toward Destiny. "Who's your new friend?"
Destiny, who was still scrutinizing the leggy woman, crossed her arms. "We're hardly friends."
Miles's smile grew wider. "True, but one never knows what the future holds."
"Well, my name is Celeste Silverman." She thrust out her hand.
They shook hands while Destiny looked over at Miles.
There was that damn smile of his again. He could have at least had the courtesy to look embarrassed for having a half-dressed hussy draped around him, but instead he looked perfectly at ease.
"Thanks again for your help." She cast Celeste another glance, and then shut the door.
Destiny turned and rolled her eyes heavenward.
Lu Jin fanned herself with her hands. "Now that brother is fine. Are you sure that I can't convince you to take me on as a roommate?"
"Please. We can do a lot better than become another notch on that man's bedpost."
Lu Jin laughed. "Whatever, girl. I'm not the least bit surprised that women are coming out of the woodwork for him. Did you get a good look at him? Jeez, I think I need a drink. Do you have anything in this place?"
"Sorry. Stocking the bar wasn't high on my priority list today. Besides," Destiny said, stomping past her, "aren't you suppose to be helping me with this move?"
"I am helping. I've already unpacked a box of dishes in the kitchen."
"That was over an hour ago."
"I had to take a phone call, slave-driver. Besides, I thought you said Elliott and Zack were supposed to be helping."
Destiny frowned and glanced at her watch. "Yeah, they should have been here by now."
Lu Jin extracted a box cutter from the back pocket of her jeans and slit open a nearby box marked LINENS.
"Frankly, I hate that Elliott didn't get a chance to see Mr. Fine checking you out. I think it's just the push he needs to make his move on you before someone else snatches you up."
"What are you talking about?"
"Come on, girl. Everyone knows he has the hots for you. Everyone, that is, except for you."
Destiny reached inside the linen box and removed a stack of pink bath towels. "Elliott and I are just friends. That's all."
"And why is that?" Lu Jin jabbed her fist against her hips. "Because you are too stuck up for your own good."
"What?" Destiny exclaimed with an incredulous half laugh.
"You heard me. I'm only telling you this because I'm your friend."
Destiny frowned. "With friends like you"
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Look, I'm telling you that you need to loosen up. Get your nose out of your law books and have a little fun."
"I have plenty of fun."
"Oh, yeah? When? I can't remember the last time you went out on a date."
"There are other important things in life besides dating, you know."
Lu Jin rolled her eyes. "I don't want to hear another long soliloquy about how important your job is again. I swear I'll barf right here on your new rug."
Destiny's eyes narrowed. "You know, you can be an ass at times. I never made fun of your aspirations to be some grand Broadway actress, especially since you've never even been within a hundred miles of New York."
Lu Jin held up her hands. "You're right. I'm sorry." When Destiny didn't respond, she draped an arm around Destiny's shoulders and pulled her close. "Come on. Who loves ya, baby?"
"Well, we hate to interrupt you two lovebirds." A male voice chuckled and penetrated the women's private sanctuary.
The two women jumped and turned to face three men standing at the front door: Elliott, Zack and Miles.
Zack, a long-time friend of both girls snickered as he moved farther into the room. "Too bad we didn't bring our video camera. Sounds like we interrupted the makings of a good adult film."
Lu Jin shot Zack the bird and directed him to "Go to hell."
"I just came back for this," Miles said, stooping over to pick up a watch near the box he'd delivered. "It must have come off earlier." He glanced at Destiny and allowed his gaze to swing between her and Lu Jin.
"Well, what can I say," Lu Jin swung her arm back around Destiny and joined Zack in his little joke. "Destiny is the only woman for me."
Destiny's eyes rounded as her mouth dropped open.
"I better get going," Miles said, and then turned back toward the men he'd entered with. "It was nice meeting you two."
Elliott nodded as joyful tears glistened in his eyes. "It was nice meeting you, too." He shook Miles's hand.
Miles smiled and rushed to slip out the front door.
Destiny's friends roared with laughter.
"I can't believe you guys just did that," she said. "He probably believed y'all."
Lu Jin trembled with mirth as she dropped onto the couch.
Destiny grabbed one of the throw pillows and smacked her, which only seemed to further tickle her friend.
Zack and Elliott joined Lu Jin on the couch. None of them looking too concerned about the joke they'd embellished in front of Destiny's new neighbor and at her expense.
"I don't see what the big deal is." Lu Jin wiped at the corners of her eyes. "You just said a few minutes ago that you didn't like the man. So what difference does it make if he thinks you and I are an item?"
Destiny opened her mouth, but didn't have an answer.
Her friends laughed.
"See?" Lu Jin said, triumphantly. "It's no big dealunless, of course, you were attracted to tall, dark and handsome."
Elliott's smile vanished.
"Of course not," Destiny answered.
"Good. Looks like we just did you a favor." Lu Jin jumped back to her feet and slapped her hands together. "Let's get back to work. Now that the whole gang is here, we should be finished in no time."
Elliott jumped up. "Zack and I will bring up the boxes while you two unpack."
"Sounds like a plan to me." Destiny smiled, but couldn't help picturing the shock on Miles's face before he'd leftor had it been a flicker of disappointment?
Delicate fingers snapped in front of Miles's face and jarred him back to Celeste's beautiful face. They had returned to Wes's party. The large condo was packed with wall-to-wall people. The music was good, the food was wonderful and everyone was having a great time, which was the norm for Wes's infamous parties.
Celeste inched closer to Miles. "How come I get the feeling that dreamy expression on your face has nothing to do with me?"
Miles slid an arm around her small waist and whispered against her ear. "I wouldn't be too sure about that if I were you."
Her face glowed with anticipation as she stared up at him and he knew her next question long before she gave voice to it.
"How about we cut out of here early and go back to your place?" She rubbed against him for dramatic emphasis.
Miles lowered his gaze and was pretending to mull the proposition over when a heavy hand slapped him hard on the back.
"Everybody having a good time?" Wes Cunningham squeezed in between Miles and Celeste and draped his arms around their shoulders.
Miles took one look at Wes's glossy eyes and knew that his best friend was drunk.