Read an Excerpt
Tempting Her Neighbor
A Small Town Temptations Novel
By Laura Jardine, Nina Bruhns
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Laura Jardine
All rights reserved.
It was one of the rare times Cole Sampson wished he didn't hate the human race. Usually he was content as a loner, but right now, he could use some help.
He shuddered at the thought.
Moving was not a one-person job. That was quickly becoming obvious. He'd carried most of his stuff into his new apartment without a problem, but the queen-size mattress and the couch were presenting some difficulty. Especially the couch. The mattress wasn't heavy, but it was awkward for one person to carry.
To make matters worse, he didn't know anyone in Georgeville. He was moving here, to this tiny speck of a town, to get away from the city. To have some blasted solitude.
And now, on his first day in town, he needed someone's help.
There weren't many places to rent in Georgeville, population 1,200. There were a few apartments above the businesses on Main Street, and several units in this rambling house, which had multiple additions in a hodgepodge of styles. He was rather fond of it. Surrounded by houses from the sixties with white aluminum siding, it looked out of place. His apartment was at the front and, thankfully, on the first floor. Otherwise he might have had even more trouble doing this alone.
Cole wiped the sweat off his forehead and eyed the mattress in the back of the truck he'd rented. It was a hot June day, even though the weather report had said it would be cool, and the heat was starting to get to him.
A man and his son glanced in his direction as they walked by. The man raised a hand in greeting, and Cole debated whether to ask for his assistance. It would take only a few minutes, but he didn't want to impose, and the kid would be bored as he waited. So Cole decided against it.
An older woman, maybe in her sixties, came out of the house next door.
"Hi," she said. "Moving in?"
"Yes." Cole said nothing more. The woman walked awkwardly, and he doubted she'd be capable of helping him.
Maybe he should just try to do it himself. He lifted the corner of the mattress and —
"Need help with that?"
He dropped it and spun around, coming face-to-face with a pretty young woman. Wavy blonde hair, blue eyes. Pink T-shirt, jean shorts that were a little on the short side. She looked amused, perhaps by the idea of him trying to move a damn bed by himself.
For the second time in five minutes, he wished he were better with people.
But he was no charmer. He was not the man who hit on the most beautiful woman in the bar and got her to go home with him. No, he was the guy who sat alone in the corner and snarled at people unless they were serving him alcohol.
His demeanor would probably seem more appropriate if he were sixty-eight rather than twenty-eight. He'd always thought he would make a great old man. Unfortunately, he still had a few decades to go.
He had a level of cynicism that usually developed with advancing age, but he'd been this way since he was a child. He'd watched his father act like the doting parent and partner in public then become a complete ogre at home; he'd learned not to trust people who were nice. Especially those who were magnetically charming, like his dad.
In fact, Cole prided himself on not being a charmer. On not hiding his inner ogre. With him, what you saw was what you got. No one would ever call him twofaced.
He looked the young woman up and down, trying to determine whether she was strong enough to help with the couch. Or just checking her out. Or both.
He certainly approved of her tight T-shirt, which clung to her breasts. There was a hint of cleavage at the neckline, and he itched to touch the bottom of her shirt and pull it down even farther. Then lick a trail from her neck to the valley between her breasts. He wondered how she would taste.
He might not like socializing, but he still had physical urges.
"I'm sure I can manage," she said, glancing at the mattress. "If that's what you're wondering."
"Some help would be ... great." He didn't try to inject any enthusiasm into his voice. But he did try to drag his attention away from her breasts.
"I guess we're neighbors." She pointed at the door around the corner from his unit. "I'm Rachel."
They got the mattress into his apartment without any difficulty, and with minimal conversation. Moving the couch was trickier, and he bumped into the doorframe as he walked backward, but they didn't do too badly with that, either.
Yes, a little help was a necessary evil sometimes.
He didn't mind so much right now, not when the help came in such a hot package. And Rachel was surprisingly strong for a petite woman. She was slender and about four inches shorter than he was — and Cole was only five-seven.
When she bent over to put down her end of the couch, he had a better view of her cleavage, and he took full advantage of it. Though despite the clothing that clung to her curves and showed a generous amount of skin, she had this sort of fresh-faced, girl-next-door look.
After they finished with the couch, he wondered if he should offer her lemonade or some shit like that. However, that option was off the table, considering he had no groceries whatsoever. And she lived in the same building as he did — she could get her own lemonade or iced tea if she wanted some.
But he wished he had something to offer her. They could sit on the couch for a few minutes in silence, sipping their iced tea, and then he could kiss her.
Of course, he'd never actually attempt to seduce her. She was his neighbor, and he didn't want any awkwardness. And being who he was, it was pretty much a given she wouldn't be interested anyway. No point in trying. Plus it wasn't like he wanted anything more than rolling around in bed with her a few times. He didn't want to talk or go on a date or — God forbid — cuddle.
"You need help with anything else?" she asked as they headed outside.
"Want to come over for lemonade? It's hot. A break might be good." She smiled at him.
Disturbingly, her thoughts seemed to be similar to his. Well, some of them — the lemonade ones. Probably not the kissing part.
He didn't smile back. "No time. Got to get the truck back to Toronto tonight." Then he would drive his car to Georgeville. It was two thirty, and he still had a long day ahead of him. Three hours there, and three hours back.
"You sure? My grandmother just gave me a big pitcher. Homemade." Before he could reply, she held up her hand. "I'll make it even better. I'll add a generous amount of vodka to yours."
"Right," she said. "How about tomorrow?"
"My God, you're awful friendly."
She laughed, then walked over and laid a hand on his arm. The simple touch made heat pump through his veins, and his groin tightened. Lemonade wouldn't cool him down, not if he drank it around her.
"Whenever you're not busy," she said, "you're welcome to come over."
Rachel probably just meant to be nice, but his brain interpreted that another way.
"Small-town hospitality," she added with another smile, tossing her hair over her shoulder.
He shook his head. She was a little flirty, that was all.
Maybe moving to Georgeville was a mistake. Maybe he wouldn't get the peace and quiet he wanted, but instead would be bombarded with visits from busybodies who couldn't mind their own damn business.
When he didn't say anything more, she walked to her door, and he stared at her ass in those tiny jean shorts.
"Thank you." He'd remembered to say it just as she put her hand on the doorknob.
* * *
Rachel Malone's new neighbor couldn't take a hint. Otherwise he'd be drinking lemonade with her in the kitchen. And if he wasn't doing that, he'd at least have promised to stop by tomorrow.
She'd caught him checking her out. She'd noticed the way he licked his lips before looking away, and despite his scowl, he hadn't withdrawn at her touch.
She knew he was interested.
But maybe he had a wife or girlfriend. No wedding ring, but maybe he was taken, and he was behaving himself. Good for him.
Cole didn't seem like the relationship type, though.
She took a long sip of her spiked lemonade and sighed. She stretched out her legs and put her feet up on the chair across from her.
Rachel Malone had a reputation in Georgeville. A reputation for being easy.
But Cole was new, and that was part of the reason he was so appealing. Unlike everyone else, he didn't know about her reputation. He'd probably figure that out soon enough — people in this town liked to talk a lot — but for now, she was just his neighbor.
The cute girl next door. That was what she wanted to be, for a change. She was tired of people thinking about her in only one way.
She hadn't had sex in a couple of months. That was a long time for her. She liked sex, and she didn't deny herself that pleasure just because she wasn't in a relationship. Wasn't like there was much else to do around here anyway — she really ought to make her escape from this town.
Too bad she wasn't a man. Then she'd be admired rather than sneered at. She had a healthy sex drive — so what? The sideways glances in the grocery store ... She could do without those.
And that was part of the reason for her drought. She was sick of sleeping with guys who were happy to jump into bed but talked shit about her behind her back. Sex with those men had definitely lost its appeal. She didn't need love; she just wanted a guy who respected her. Sure, there was always Darrell Summers, with whom she'd shared a comfortable, no-strings, friends-with-benefits relationship since graduating high school, but she was growing tired of him.
Cole, at least, didn't seem like the type to gossip. And she suspected he wouldn't treat her differently than the way he treated everyone else. He seemed like the type who was always cranky.
And perhaps when he heard what people thought of her, he'd be more open-minded, since he came from Toronto rather than a run-down small town.
A new guy in Georgeville. That happened ... almost never.
Even better, he was pretty freaking hot. Not handsome. Not cute — she bet he'd hate to be called cute. No, just hot.
She felt a rush of heat as she thought of him lifting up the end of the couch and grunting. His unruly dark hair that was a little too long, his dark eyes. He looked like he hadn't shaved in a couple of days, and that turned her on, too. How would it feel to kiss away his frown? She wondered what he'd be like in bed. Perhaps he'd be rough. Or maybe sweet and tender, a different man in the bedroom.
She wanted to end her drought, but he intrigued her in other ways, too.
No, she wasn't going to give up on him yet.CHAPTER 2
A few days later, Rachel did something for Cole that she'd never done for a man before.
She made him a lasagna.
Then she knocked on his door and waited.
While she was debating whether to leave it on the porch or come back later, the door finally opened.
"What do you want?" he demanded.
He was just as hot — and grumpy — as she remembered. She figured he was about thirty, but there was a deep groove between his eyebrows from when he knit them together ... like he was doing now.
"I made an extra lasagna." She held it toward him. "Thought you could use it. With moving, you probably haven't had time to cook."
He looked at her for a moment, confusion etched on his face. "You brought me food?"
"This was a mistake," he muttered.
"Come on. It's just a fucking lasagna."
A hint of a smile appeared on his face, and she felt a prickle of heat between her legs.
And also, strangely enough, on her cheeks. This was not the way she usually reacted to a man, especially when all he was doing was smiling — barely.
He was wearing a pair of black athletic shorts and a gray T-shirt that stretched across his broad chest. His hair was a touch wet, the dark strands clinging together. He must have showered not too long ago. She felt like she was getting a glimpse into his private world, the one he tried so hard to keep people out of.
Maybe he'd taken so long to answer the door because he needed to make himself presentable. Maybe he hadn't been wearing a shirt ... Now that was a pleasant thought.
She wanted to get closer to him, wanted to pull him against her and kiss his mouth, feel his chest against hers, his breath on her neck.
She jerked the lasagna in his direction. "Take it."
He took it from her hands. Unfortunately, he didn't touch her in the process.
"You can return the casserole dish when you're done. No rush. If you don't want to talk to me when you give it back, just leave it on my porch."
"How thoughtful of you to notice I don't like human interaction. What gave it away?"
She reached out and brushed her thumb over his hand, which gripped the lasagna. Might as well make it clear what she wanted.
And once she'd touched his rough skin, she yearned to touch the rest of him even more than before, to get her hands all over this man who was so unlike all the other guys she knew. Despite his standoffish nature, there was something about him that drew her in.
"Surely you don't hate all human interaction," she said in a sultry voice.
"Pretty close to all of it. It rounds down."
She wasn't sure he got what she was hinting at. But then his gaze slid down her body. And oh God, the way he checked her out, ever so briefly ... She was practically blushing. How embarrassing. She never blushed.
When he said nothing more, she changed the topic.
"What are you doing in Georgeville?" she said, hoping she sounded normal.
He grunted. "Wanted to get out of Toronto."
She wondered why he'd left. Even if he found Toronto too big, too noisy, and too expensive, he'd probably be disappointed by Georgeville, where there was absolutely nothing to do.
"Where do you work?" she asked.
"Educational software company. But I work from home."
"That's ... interesting."
"Are you horrified that I indirectly work with children?"
"Not what I was thinking. But yes, it does surprise me."
He held up the casserole. "I think I'll go back inside and eat the food you've so thoughtfully given me."
"That sounded sarcastic."
"Well, it was thoughtful. I'd just realized there was no pizza in this blasted town, and I didn't know what I was going to eat for the next six months. So ... thank you." He started to close the door, but she put her knee in the way.
"Six months? Is that all you're here for?"
She couldn't help feeling a little disappointed.
"That's how long my lease is," he said. "If I like it here, I'll buy a place."
"There's a house on the edge of town for sale. Tall fences. Very private."
"Sounds like my kind of house."
"And there's a pizzeria in Ridgewood, the next town over. They'll deliver here to Georgeville."
He nodded. "I'm relieved I'll be able to eat."
"I'm sure you are. Wouldn't want you to get all scrawny." She placed a hand on his side, and his muscles tensed. And oh, she wished she could see what else they could do.
"What do you want, Rachel?" He dropped his voice. "You just being neighborly because that's what you do? You want to get to know me for some strange reason?"
"I'm surprised you need me to spell it out for you." She stroked her thumb up and down his side, then removed her hand.
"Well, maybe I do."
There it was again — a small quirk of his lips. His eyes were focused intently on her face, studying her, searching for something, perhaps. Her skin prickled once more. She wasn't used to feeling this way when a guy merely looked at her.
Yeah, she definitely wanted to get him into bed. See what else he could make her feel.
"I'll tell you if you invite me in," she said.
He shifted the lasagna to one hand and rubbed his other hand over the side of his face. "I don't think that would be a good idea."
He put his hand on the doorknob. "See you later."
She'd been hoping for a little more enthusiasm than that.
But she had six months.
* * *
Cole put the lasagna down on the stove and took off the lid. It smelled wonderful. He cut it into nine pieces, put one piece on a plate, and sat down at the table.
Jesus, he was afraid that woman wasn't going to leave him alone. It was only Tuesday, and he'd already had two conversations with her.
But she was sexy. Today she'd worn a pair of jeans and a black tank top, the straps of her bra peeking out underneath. It had driven him mad the way one strap threatened to slide off her shoulder.
Excerpted from Tempting Her Neighbor by Laura Jardine, Nina Bruhns. Copyright © 2017 Laura Jardine. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.