"A sweet tale of love, romance and understanding." Carly Phillips, NY Times Bestselling Author
Shay Matthews moved to Boston for a fresh start...new apartment, new job, new routine. After too many years being coddled by her overbearing older brothers, Shay’s ready for some freedom and maybe a nice, easygoing guy. She wasn’t expecting to literally run into the scowling, brooding, (and unfairly smoking hot) guy next door.
Fresh off a haunting undercover assignment, detective Wyatt Daniels is jaded about life, relationships, and especially happily-ever-after. But there’s something about the independent and beautiful Shay that makes him want to dig deeper. Or stay away, which is definitely the smarter option of the two.
But the more Shay tries to convince herself that her sweet building manager, Brady, is the guy for her, the more Mr. Completely Wrong-for-Her Wyatt invades her mind and her heart.
Each book in the Kendrick Place series is a STANDALONE story that can be enjoyed out of order.
* More than Friends
* The Bad Boy Next Door
* Hate to Love Him
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The Bad Boy Next Door
Kendrick Place Series
By Jody Holford, Stacy Abrams, Alexa May
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Jody Holford
All rights reserved.
If researching, enrolling, and dropping career prep programs were an Olympic sport, Shay Matthews could have taken the gold. Which was why, this time, she was going to follow all the way through. Everyone else may have let her off the hook, but Shay was done making excuses for herself. Standing in the lobby of what would be her new home, she tapped her pen against the countertop in quick succession. A new start in a new city would give her what she needed.
"Antsy to get going?" Brady, the acting building manager for her new place, asked. He had a wide smile and a handsome face that reminded her a little of Simon, the youngest of her three older brothers.
"Like you wouldn't believe," Shay answered. "I feel like I've been waiting forever."
Brady held two keys on a ring, letting them swing back and forth teasingly. "Sorry about that. I'm not really in charge of the building. I'm only helping out, and I have to do it around my real job."
Shay's cheeks warmed. She'd always suffered from foot in mouth disease. "No, sorry. I wasn't complaining. Really. I'm just anxious to get settled."
She followed him down the well-lit hallway toward the elevator, shifting her long-strapped purse so it slid behind her back.
Brady gestured for her to go ahead of him when the doors opened. "Your application said you're from Burlington? Relocating all by yourself?" "Yes to both. It was time for a change." More than time.
He didn't push for more, which she appreciated. She'd need to unload the U-Haul and return it by morning, which meant she had a long night ahead. The elevator stopped on the third floor, and Shay's stomach filled with butterflies. A fresh start. And this time she wouldn't mess it up.
Brady stopped at 302, her new home. From the online ad, she'd learned hers was one of eighteen units in the building. Brady had offered to show her around, but she just wanted to get inside her apartment.
He handed over the key, his blue eyes all but sparkling. "I have to head in to work — I own an auto repair shop about fifteen minutes from here. But I'll be home in a few hours. If you need help with your boxes or anything, just buzz unit 202."
Shay held the keys tight in her hand, closing her fingers around them like they were precious gems. She smiled up at him, and her gaze locked with his, pleased that his offer sounded genuine. There was no pressure in the statement or any hint that he didn't think she could handle it. She stared at him a moment longer, taking in his handsome features and friendly nature. He was exactly the kind of man that would mesh perfectly with the new life she was building for herself. Safe. Sweet. "That's really nice. Thank you."
"No problem. And if you ever need work done on your car, I give all the tenants a 10 percent discount," Brady said. Then he winked and added, "But I'd make it 20 for you."
Biting her lip, Shay tried to decide if he was being serious, silly, or flirting. After what she'd just been through, she knew better than to trust her own judgment on intentions. Brady's flirting seemed to be as much a part of him as his dark blond hair. "I'd need a car for that. I only have a bike."
His eyes widened. "Oh. Okay then. If you need some wheels, I have connections."
The keys dug into her palm. Wheels were not something she could afford right now, but it was a nice offer to put on her "someday" list. "Cool. Thanks again for your help."
"My pleasure. Welcome to the building, Shay." He gave a mock salute and ambled down the hallway, back toward the elevator.
Shay pressed an open palm to the dark wood door and just let herself breathe. In time, she'd not only be settled, but she'd have her event coordinating business up and running and she'd be able to tell her family the whole truth.
But for now, she had some heavy lifting to do.
Despite the chill in the underground parking garage, sweat dampened Shay's back. She yanked the elastic out of her hair and pushed back the strands that escaped, securing it into a ponytail once more. The bed and couch she'd ordered online would hopefully arrive within the week. Shay had been wary of spending the money to buy them new, but at the moment, with her breathing labored, she was glad she didn't have anything too big to carry. The small U-Haul held boxes, shelves, a coffee table, her TV, and her computer. Not a lot, but enough to start.
She'd pulled all of it to the front so getting it off the truck would be simpler. Her antique desk was the largest item in the truck, and she hadn't figured out how she'd get that upstairs yet. Her television sat on top of it. Maybe she should have taken one or all of her brothers up on helping her get settled. She dismissed the thought. As the baby of the family, she knew her siblings considered "help" when it came to Shay synonymous with "taking over."
Now that the last of the boxes rested on the opening of the truck bed, Shay jumped down and began to load the dolly. A couple more loads of boxes, then the big stuff and she'd be done.
A dark, four-door car with tinted windows crawled past the truck. A few other neighbors had come and gone in the couple of hours she'd been hauling her stuff, but she'd yet to meet anyone other than Brady. Not that she was itching to make a first impression in her grimy, sweaty condition.
She loaded another box onto the first one and was just placing the third down when footsteps made her look up. Her breath caught in her throat at the sight of the tall, dark-haired, scowling man walking toward her parking stall. Despite his menacing stare, which landed on her as he scanned the lot, she wasn't scared. She felt ... fascinated. And sticky.
There was absolutely no reason to smooth out her tangled hair, but she reached up and tried anyway. Shay's pulse sped up, and when Tall, Dark, and Frowny stopped in front of her, it skipped a couple of beats entirely. He wore dark jeans and a leather jacket. He carried a small black duffel bag in one hand and gripped his keys in the other.
Belatedly, Shay's sanity kicked in. He could be anyone — a murderer, a mugger, a thief. With her heart hammering, she took a step back. He arched one of his dark eyebrows.
"You shouldn't be down here by yourself. Why don't you have someone helping you?" His voice was gruff, like he didn't use it often. It made a shiver run down Shay's spine before she registered that his tone was accusing.
Her shoulders stiffened, and she sidled back toward the bed of the truck. "Because I don't need any help," she said, hoping her tone was more aloof than tired.
He leaned forward and glanced into the U-Haul, then looked back at Shay. "You're going to move those all by yourself?" He pointed to the desk with the TV on it, then looked back at her.
The disbelief etched into the lines of his face steeled her resolve. Still, she could have a backbone and manners at the same time. Letting out a breath, she gave in to the etiquette her parents had instilled in her. With a tight smile, she held out a hand and replied. "Yes, actually, I am. I'm Shay. I just moved in."
He'd likely guessed that, but she couldn't think of anything better to say. The combination of sexy and sulky was messing with her head.
He didn't even bother to extend his hand. "You're taking over 302?" Shay scrunched her brows together, waiting. When he didn't offer his name, she pushed down her annoyance and answered. "Yes. The last tenant left quickly, so the rent was paid until the end of the month." Which had basically been the deciding factor in where to settle.
His lips tilted further down, drawing Shay's attention. He gave a curt nod. "Yeah. Bet he left a mess."
Shay leaned against the truck, continuing to study him. "He did. How do you know that?" His eyes darted from side to side, then landed back on her. Shay hated the ripple of interest that danced in her stomach when that dark gaze locked on her own. "Just a good guess. Free rent makes up for that, though."
It was true, so she said nothing. Keeping quiet made it easier to prevent the whole foot in mouth thing, anyway. Good Lord. Did he need to be so sexy, standing there like he was ready for anything?
Stop it. You do not need another alpha male trying to take care of you. Especially not a sexy-as-sin one with an attitude problem.
The sweat was starting to pool at the base of her back now, and she shivered again. Mr. Moody set his duffel on the boxes she'd stacked and walked to the truck. Shay's heart rate spiked like she was carrying the heaviest box up a flight of stairs. With his hands on his hips, he shook his head and gave a put-upon sigh. The sound reminded Shay that she did not ask for help. Irritation replaced her momentary attraction. She nudged him out of the way.
Or tried to.
He didn't budge but just looked down his nose at her. His slightly crooked nose that added to the mystery of his good-looking face. Had he broken it? In a fight?
"Go hold the door open, and I'll bring this desk in for you," he said.
Shay pressed her lips together. His wide shoulders said he'd be able to cart the items in with far less effort than she could. Realistically, she knew she wasn't getting it in alone, but she didn't want to owe this unfriendly man anything. She'd come here to start over, to start fresh. She didn't need, or want, anyone's approval. Or disapproval.
"That's quite all right. I can manage on my own."
An engine revved as a car turned into the lot, but neither of them looked away from the other. His eyes were dark, a mix between green and brown, but not really hazel. The way he looked at her, Shay couldn't tell if he was amused or exasperated and didn't want to care. She definitely didn't want to acknowledge the spark of attraction that seemed to flash in his eyes.
A car door slammed. His frown deepened and tiny creases around his eyes made him look more frustrated. "Suit yourself."
He walked past her, the sexy scent of his cologne invading her space as he had. Only it stayed with her after he'd picked up his duffel, grunted a greeting to someone, and walked away. Shay leaned against the tailgate and steadied her breathing.
She jumped at the sound of Brady's voice. "Sorry. Didn't mean to scare you. You're wearing yourself out," he said as he looked her over. Wearing a long-sleeve shirt with several grease stains, he walked to the truck and looked inside. "Wow. You're a workhorse. You need help with the desk?"
Tension she hadn't been aware of released from her shoulders, and she smiled at him. Despite being similar in height to the mystery man, Brady didn't feel nearly as imposing. In fact, his happy smile and laid-back vibe put her instantly at ease. This was the kind of man she needed to fall for, one who wouldn't think he always knew what was best for her. One who would roll beside her rather than bulldoze over her. A man she could enjoy without losing herself.
Shay nodded. "Yes. Please. I really do," she said.
Brady turned out to be funny and helpful. Once they got the last of her things inside her apartment, she offered him a beer. They stood on the balcony, overlooking a gorgeous courtyard. Water splashed gently in the round fountain below. The building was shaped like an incomplete, three-sided rectangle. A block letter U. With the brick and stonework facade, it had an old-school vibe that she loved.
Good things will happen here.
Brady tipped his bottle toward hers, clinking them. "To new neighbors."
Shay grinned and took a sip of her beer. Dark green eyes popped into her mind, making her stomach jump.
"May they all be as nice as you."
Leaning his forearms on the rail, Brady gave her a sideways glance. She could see from the scruff on his face, he hadn't found time to shave. Or maybe laid-back and carefree was his style. It suited him.
Brady's blue eyes were happy and a little flirtatious. "I can guarantee most of us are a hell of a lot friendlier than Wyatt."
Shay's heart jumped. Wyatt. She stopped herself from saying it out loud just to feel the sound of it on her lips. Wyatt. It suited him ... and his annoyingly sexy eyes. Stupid heart. She was standing outside on a cool, starry night, with a good-looking, genuinely nice man. One who didn't make her stomach feel like she'd disturbed a nest of butterflies. But who needed butterflies anyway? Not Shay.
"Oh. Well, that's good to know." Shay ran her hands up and down her arms. Despite the heavy sweater she wore, the chill seeped through.
Brady noticed and nodded toward the sliding door. "Let's head back in. You're probably exhausted, and I still need to shower." Considerate and perceptive, too. Wyatt probably wasn't any of those things.
Focusing her thoughts, Shay turned to the door. "I am, actually."
When they came back in, Brady gestured to the boxes stacked against the wall. "If you have some stuff that you want out of the way, there's a shared storage room downstairs. None of us put anything of real value down there, but it beats keeping your Christmas tree in your closet."
Shay grabbed his beer bottle and brought both empties to the kitchen counter. "Oh. Thanks. I'll see how it all unpacks. Actually, I might just put some of my storage containers down there."
He ran a hand over his short hair, which made his biceps flex noticeably. "Okay. There's a shelf with your unit number. We ... uh, we had a bit of trouble a couple of weeks ago, but the guy responsible moved out. Still, I'd label anything you put in there with your name."
Meeting his gaze, she nodded. "If I put anything in there, I will."
Walking him to the door, Shay waited until he put his shoes on before saying, "I really appreciate your help, Brady." She took a deep breath. If she wanted her life to be different, she had to make different choices: safer ones. "Once I get settled, I'll have you over for dinner."
As soon as the words left her mouth, she cringed. Did that sound like a lame come-on?
He moved aside as she opened the door. "Dinner sounds great."
Shay stepped back and smiled too widely. "Then dinner it is."
Brady stared at her for a moment, and Shay waited for her belly to do some sort of flip-flop. It remained as calm as an undisturbed puddle.
"You don't know anyone around here, so I can introduce you to a few other people in the building. It'll feel more like home if you have friends close by."
Was that some sort of hint? "Yes. For sure. Friends are good to have. I mean ... I ... yes. I like friends." Shay hung her head, wishing she could disappear. Or invent a rewind button — a magical way to take back the words that flew from her mouth without permission.
Brady laughed, a deep belly laugh. "I like friends, too."
She looked up through lowered lashes. "Thanks for your help today."
Brady squeezed her shoulder. "You're welcome, and you seem like a nice girl, Shay. We look out for each other around here. Which is why I'm going to give you some friendly advice. Steer clear of Wyatt Daniels. He's dark and not all that friendly."
Shay frowned. She'd come to that conclusion all on her own but couldn't say why she wanted to defend her neighbor. Something about him made her feel like people only saw the surface — what he wanted them to see. And if she wanted to see more, it was her choice. Just as a neighbor and friend, of course. Because she wasn't looking for more with a man who wouldn't even share his own name.
Shay tried not to let her tone convey irritation over Brady's not-so-subtle warning. "I'll take that under advisement." Her fingers gripped the door handle.
Still smiling, he gave a nod and headed out. "Night, Shay."
Closing the door behind him, she rested her head on the cool wood. Whatever choices she made, good or bad, from now on, were her own. She hadn't meant to be flighty, but as the baby in her family, she was pampered and protected, encouraged to do only what made her happy. Shay was taken care of, and when she didn't like something, her family understood, helped her resolve the problem and start fresh. Their steadfast willingness to smooth the way for her had let her believe the first man she'd fallen in love with would do the same. Despite all their hovering, her family hadn't been able to protect her from a broken heart. They'd said it wasn't her fault — she'd been taken advantage of. But Shay knew it was time to own up and be responsible for where her choices led her. In a new city, she could reinvent herself — become who she wanted to be.
Excerpted from The Bad Boy Next Door by Jody Holford, Stacy Abrams, Alexa May. Copyright © 2017 Jody Holford. 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.
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