A single mom by day and ER nurse by night, Emma kissed her wild past goodbye to focus on raising her two young daughters. Nobody with kids has the time to be chasing orgasms. Juggling work and laundry is tricky, but she’s keeping it together—mostly.
Single dad Will Taylor hauled his collection of concert T-shirts and carpentry tools to New Bedford expecting to build a new life with his young son. A fresh start with great schools, good friends…and the hottest mom he’s ever seen, living a scant ten yards from his front door.
From the very first time they touch, Emma and Will’s connection is electric. Soon stolen kisses and dirty texting aren’t enough—they need adults-only alone time. And lots of it.
This book is approximately 22,000 words
The Dirty Bits from Carina Press give you what you want, when you want it. Designed to be read in an hour or two, these sex-filled microromances are guaranteed to pack a punch and deliver a happily-ever-after.
One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!
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Read an Excerpt
My new neighbor ... was a dead man.
The sharp, rapid tap of a hammer started up again below my window, and I groaned and rolled onto my stomach, smushing my face into my mattress and dragging my pillow over my head.
Only thirty minutes earlier, I'd wrapped up a sixteen-hour shift of broken bones, bad IV sticks, arrogant doctors, and terrified family members. I'd stumbled through the door, mumbled my thanks to my overnight nanny, gotten my two girls dressed, fed, and on the bus, and collapsed on my bed. I needed sleep. Desperately. And for sleep to happen, I needed quiet.
The cacophony of noise invading the sanctity of my bedroom had never been an issue in our quiet neighborhood before. Partly because the majority of my neighbors worked normal jobs with normal hours, and partly because my old next-door neighbor, who'd relocated to an assisted living facility across town, had been in her eighties and, well, courteous.
A wood saw rang out between our houses with a high-pitched, rasping whine, and I grabbed the stuffed lobster Lola had left on my bed and hurled it at the window. Her plushie's plastic eyes clicked against the blackout shades, but had little noticeable effect on the asshole outside.
Typically, the seven p.m. to seven a.m. shift I'd picked up when we first moved to New Bedford was a perfect fit for my little family. I had a bit of time with my girls in the evening and got back from work early enough to see them off to school before crawling into my bedroom cave. I reserved the middle of the afternoon for chores and errands I preferred to do alone.
Much as I loved my babies, a simple trip for groceries took five times longer with them in tow. Mostly because of Lola, and her need to touch absolutely everything. Which kids do, so I let her do her touching on our weekend outings, when I wasn't pulling my hair out because our laundry mountain had avalanched.
But while small town hospitals are wonderful for many reasons, they're awful for others. Namely, there's a limited pool of on-call nurses to draw from, so when someone calls out for a shift, you've got about a one in four chance of being asked to cover. And, honestly, everyone thinks the overnight shift is the busiest. It isn't. The evening shift is when the maximum level of crazy happens.
People suck at transitions. The transition from work or school to home is the worst. They get into accidents on the way back from soccer practice or have heart attacks after dinner ... Or decide the ingrown toenail they've had for eight months is suddenly an emergency. Which is not to minimize their pain, of course. Ingrown toenails are the devil's business.
The hammer started up again.
With a frustrated roar, I flipped the covers off my legs and stormed down the stairs to the kitchen. There, I flung open the kitchen door, squinted against the too-bright early-spring sun, fisted my hands at my sides, and hollered, "Would you please shut the fuck up?"
Silence. Blessed, blissful silence. Even from the birds.
A throat cleared, and a deep voice said, "I'm sorry. I didn't know you were sleeping."
I blinked my exhausted eyes, and my new neighbor came into focus.
He wore old work pants, a holey flannel, a waffle weave henley, and a tool belt, slung low on his hips. A ginger. Or gingerish. His full beard was red, but his hair was more a warm, brownish auburn, like sunlit oak leaves in autumn.
Wait. What? Brownish red. His hair was brownish red.
Cautiously, he approached the kitchen door, moving slow, as if I were some kind of wild, irrational animal. A few steps away, he held his hand out for me to shake. I gave his palm a narrow-eyed glare but didn't reach for it.
"Will," he said. "William. I just moved in."
Will? Not Magnus or Titus or Finn. It seemed so pedestrian for someone so hunky.
Hunky? W. T. F.?
"Exhausted," I answered, struggling to maintain my dignity at the same moment I realized I was wearing shorty-shorts and a tank top — nipples at attention thanks to the chilly April air. My restless twenty minutes of sleep had not been kind to my night clothes. Side boob galore. "I work nights."
"Again, I apologize." He dropped his hand, tucking it into his back pocket.
I glanced at the mess on his side of our shared driveway. Pressure-treated posts stuck straight up in the ground beside the three concrete steps and landing that led up to his own kitchen entrance. They stretched along the side of the drive, and the first hints of framing lined the last section.
A lump formed in my throat. "You're building an access ramp."
He scrubbed the back of his head. "Ah, yeah. Permit's in the front window."
Did he think I'd be angry? About an access ramp.
"Is it for your ... wife?"
I waited a moment to see if he'd offer up any more information. When he didn't, I sighed. "Okay — "
"It's for my son."
You develop a pretty thick skin in my business. I'd seen lots of things other people couldn't fathom and didn't want to, but we all have things that still make us uncomfortable, even as we have to face them. For some nurses, it's blood, oddly enough. For others, vomit or poop.
For me, it was children. I could treat them, effectively and efficiently, and with love and compassion, but it always made my heart ache to see them hurting.
I gave a tight nod. "Well, do you, um, need help?"
Will glanced down at his boots, and a tiny smile crossed his lips. "Not a good idea if you're tired. You might smash your thumb with a hammer."
"Or cut off my fingers."
He huffed a little laugh. "Right."
We stared at each other a minute. My new neighbor had shallow laugh lines and the first hints of crow's feet. Close to my age or a little older, then.
"I'm Emma," I said, finally extending my hand.
Will's fingers were warm and a little scratchy, marked with a few cuts and calluses. "Well, Emma, I'll find something else to do for a few hours. How does that sound?"
"It's fine. I'll go sleep in Lola and Maggie's room." Which I should have done in the first place, except that Lo hadn't quite gotten out of the habit of hiding her nighttime accidents, and there's nothing worse than crawling into a neatly made bed and landing in a cold, wet spot.
He shook his head. "Really, it's okay. I have a lot of unpacking left to do."
We stared at each other a moment longer. He had brown eyes. Brown eyes that matched his hair.
"It was nice to meet you, Will," I said in an octave lower than my usual voice. Clearly, I was in no condition to interact with other humans.
Will bit his bottom lip and looked a heartbeat from cackling. "Go get some rest, huh?"
I glanced back after I closed the door, once I'd shuffled halfway through the kitchen. Will hadn't moved on to unpacking boxes. In fact, he hadn't moved at all. He just stood staring at my house, a small, puzzled smile plastered to his lips.CHAPTER 2
Almost a week later, I'd only seen my neighbor a handful of times, and always from a distance. He'd kept his word regarding his construction activities, and I never heard his saw or hammer before one o'clock in the afternoon.
Not that I was looking for him specifically or listening for a time when he might be outside bent over in his work pants, sawing things and building things and generally acting sexy and manly. Not that men can't be manly doing just about anything, but there was something about the smell of sawdust and the way Will snapped his measuring tape that left me all kinds of wound up.
Which did not mean I had any interest in actually interacting with Will again. My life was a mix of hard won peace and relative prosperity. The last thing the girls and I needed was a complication with a cute ass who randomly broke into air guitar between two-by-four cuts.
And so, protecting my fragile life bubble, I rose at ten o'clock, well before he'd be outside, changed into shorts — in the hope of getting a little color on my legs — and grabbed my gardening tools.
My tools weren't expensive or high-quality, but Mags had picked them out for me with my brother's assistance right after we'd moved to New Bedford and bought our house. I loved that about Maggie. That in the middle of winter, in the snow and cold, she'd bought me tools for planting and packets of seeds. Thus began our tradition of planting sunflowers in the small garden boxes in front of the house.
Every March, the girls and I would stand at the seed display in the hardware store and sort through the sunflowers until we found our palette for the year. My favorite were the simple giants, but the girls liked to spice things up. Last year we'd had a sea of velvety red blooms with black seeds.
But you can't plant without prepping the soil first, and as much fun as Lo had helping with that part, she got filthy enough just sticking seeds in the dirt.
I knelt in front of the first garden and started pulling dead vegetation from the spring-softened earth. I'd made it about halfway down the rough- cut timber box when a maroon van pulled into the driveway and a woman around Will's age exited the driver's seat.
Beautiful and tall, she wore a purple cardigan over one of those dresses you buy in mall kiosks that sell incense and mood bracelets. Her long blonde hair poured down her back in thick, messy waves. All in all, the perfect opposite to my generally straitlaced, conservative appearance. I hadn't always dressed so ... normally, but it was something I'd adopted as a way to help me separate my old life from my new one.
I paused in my labor, my back aching from bending over so long, and watched as she opened the side door of her vehicle and stacked a couple of moving boxes on top of one another. Slowly, she made her way toward Will's side door, dodging his half-finished ramp, and, for some reason, my heart sank a little bit.
"Stop," I muttered to the dirt and sank the prongy thing back into the bed to loosen a ball of last year's roots.
I didn't know Will. At all. And occasionally spying on someone did not constitute the need or desire for any kind of relationship.
I ripped up another dead stalk. He could have been any man who'd just moved in next door, and I'd probably have had the exact same reaction. But that reaction couldn't change my reality. Girls and work. Those two things needed all of my focus.
A chilly spring wind whipped past my legs, making the skin there tighten and pebble. Get a little sun, my ass. And that right there said something. Pre-Will moving in, I'd never have worn shorts out to work in the garden in April. The snow had barely melted, and a person could still get hypothermia from walking too far without a coat on.
I'd almost made it to the end of the garden box when the woman came back outside with Will trailing behind her. They removed a couple additional boxes from the van, hauling them over to his kitchen landing before he walked her back to her driver's seat.
"Morning, Emma," he called as they stood there.
I glanced at the pair and sent them a friendly wave I didn't really feel. Possibly, probably, I shouldn't have gotten out of bed so early. Two and a half hours of sleep wasn't enough for anyone. The woman returned my smile, although hers looked a little more genuine, and the two of them went back to their discussion. I caught the words my neighbor and seems nice as I scraped my prongs through yet another section of soil.
I peeked over a few moments later when their murmuring went silent. The two of them hugged, and it wasn't one of those light hugs you give an acquaintance. It was the kind of hug you give someone who knows all your deepest secrets. All your hopes and fears. The side of her face was pressed against his chest, and she closed her eyes as he rested his bearded chin on the top of her head.
A few moments passed, and Will pulled back fractionally, kissing the woman on the forehead and then the lips. Just a peck, but it was enough to shame me for intruding on their moment. Black dirt, rich and ready, stained my fingers, and I focused on the small pieces of it that gathered under my fingernails.
A car door closed, and the van backed out of the driveway in my side vision.
"Emma," Will said again, his voice closer than it had been.
He stood only a foot or so away in his work pants, flannel, and boots and cocked his head. "Aren't you freezing?"
The wind in my eyes made them tear, blurring his edges.
Honestly, it wasn't the wind. And it wasn't really Will either. I missed having the connection I'd just witnessed with another adult. I missed that closeness. But ...
"Girls and work," I said.
Will smiled. "What?"
I rose and reflexively moved to wipe my hands on my shorts, pausing before they made contact. I hadn't even brought a stupid towel out with me. Will reached into his back pocket and produced a blue bandana. He held it out to me, the soft cotton dancing in the wind.
"It's not so bad," I said finally, accepting the scrap of fabric. "I've been a lot colder."
Will eyed me skeptically. I knew what he saw — cold-reddened thighs and dirty knees. He couldn't seem to pull his gaze away from my hot mess legs.
"Are you sure? You've got goose bumps."
So, the shorts had been a really terrible idea. Especially since the front of the house sat in shadow at that time of day.
"I'm really okay."
"Your teeth are chattering. Do you" — he cleared his throat — "want to come over? I just made coffee a little while ago."
When the cat's away the mice will play. Irrational anger flooded my cheeks. Maybe not so irrational. I'd been the woman in the van.
"I have a little more work to do and then I need to go to the store, but maybe sometime when your friend is here?"
He paused a beat and his lips quirked, all knowing and smug. The dick. "Tiff is my ex. She's my son's mother. She was just dropping off a few boxes for his room."
I blinked. Bullshit. The ex part, not the dropping off boxes part. Exes don't snuggle and drop smooches in the driveway. Of course, my experiences with exes might have colored my assumptions as to normal post-relationship behavior.
"It's nice that you're so close," I said.
"Emma — "
I handed back his bandana. "I should really get back to work."
He studied me for a few seconds.
"Don't stay out here like that too long, okay?"
Whatever, buddy. "Okay."
He gave a slight, amused head shake and took a few steps back. "I'll be over here if you need anything."
"I'll be fine."
He laughed outright. "I know you will be."
* * *
An hour and a half and a near miss with frostbite later, I stepped out of a steaming shower and wrapped a towel under my arms. My knees were trashed. The bad thing about being that cold is that you don't feel the damage you're doing to your skin as acutely. I had a varied collection of bloody scratches and imprints from kneeling on small twigs and grass-hidden pebbles. But Maggie's beds were ready, and in a few days, when the thermometer climbed a little higher, I would go outside with my girls and we'd sow summer in our own personal solstice — a little later than the actual spring solstice, which happened when New Bedford was still half-frozen.
I paused as I passed my window. Outside, the sound of a running saw split the air, and I trailed my fingertips along the edge of my blackout curtain. It would take nothing to pull the heavy canvas aside and peek down at Will. Nothing to take five minutes to watch him work. He'd never even know.
But. But ... Girls and work.
Girls and work.
I let my finger fall away and turned toward my dresser.CHAPTER 3
"That's your new neighbor?" Lydia asked, ogling Will from behind my kitchen door.
I plucked a wad of chocolate chip cookie dough from my mixing bowl and devoured it while she surreptitiously perused my neighbor's blinding cuteness.
"Uh-huh," I answered, my voice doughy. "He's no Mrs. Wheeler, but I guess he'll do."
Lydia gaped at me.
I shrugged. "Mrs. Wheeler didn't build things at eight in the morning." To be fair, neither had Will since I'd spoken to him. "And she had the girls over for tea every Saturday so I could sit down alone for an hour."
Mags and Lola had adored their time with our elderly neighbor, and the three of them were painfully precious at play together. They'd dress up, blissfully pawing through Mrs. Wheeler's scarves and costume jewelry for their favorite pieces, and then stuff themselves with sweetened oolong tea and pecan sandies. More than once, I'd gone to collect my babies and found all three of them passed out on Mrs. W's pink velvet sofa. We needed to visit our friend at her new apartment ... just as soon as things calmed down a little.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Right Next Door"
Copyright © 2019 Delilah Peters.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
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