The Guy Next Door (Love Inspired Series)

The Guy Next Door (Love Inspired Series)

by Missy Tippens

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Overview

The Guy Next Door (Love Inspired Series) by Missy Tippens

From Friend to…Fiancé?

Stalwart and steady, Darcy O'Malley has been by Luke Jordan's side since childhood. She has seen him through trials and tragedies, romances and breakups. They've been everything to each other—except boyfriend and girlfriend. Why ruin a good thing? What Luke can't explain, however, is why suddenly Darcy's presence is making his heart beat so hard. Something has changed since he left Appleton, and it's making him uneasy. Is it possible his best friend is meant to be something more? Dare he risk their perfect friendship in the hopes of finding his perfect wife?

Stalwart and steady, Darcy O'Malley has been by Luke Jordan's side since childhood. She has seen him through trials and tragedies, romances and breakups. They've been everything to each other—except boyfriend and girlfriend. Why ruin a good thing? What Luke can't explain, however, is why suddenly Darcy's presence is making his heart beat so hard. Something has changed since he left Appleton, and it's making him uneasy. Is it possible his best friend is meant to be something more? Dare he risk their perfect friendship in the hopes of finding his perfect wife?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780373879175
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 09/16/2014
Series: Love Inspired Series
Edition description: Original
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Born and raised in Kentucky, Missy Tippens met her very own hero when she headed to grad school in Atlanta, Georgia. She promptly fell in love and has lived in Georgia ever since. She and her pastor husband have been married over twenty-five years and have been blessed with three children. After ten years of pursuing her publishing dream, Missy made her first sale to Love Inspired in 2007.

Read an Excerpt

It's about time.

Darcy O'Malley sat on the front porch steps as the hot afternoon sun headed westward, watching her best friend's car pull into the driveway next door. She sucked in a deep breath, tension easing out with it.

Six months. Six long months since Luke Jordan had been home—the longest they'd ever gone without seeing each other. Having his car parked where it belonged brought a sense of normalcy.

Of course, these days, he called Tennessee home.

Darcy waved, but he couldn't see her from behind the overgrown boxwoods.

He climbed out of the car and stretched. As expected, his hair had grown shaggy. Unruly brown hair that begged a girl to push it off his forehead.

Darcy gave a derisive snort. It was ridiculous how many girls had held that honor. Too many to count.

She stepped out on the sidewalk. Luke spotted her and waved, his face lighting with a big goofy grin.

"Come on over," he called, motioning her toward his car.

He met her halfway and held out his arms. She fell into his embrace, wrapping her arms around his neck. When he lifted her off the ground and gave a brotherly squeeze, she felt as if she were the one who had come home. She'd missed him.

"I'm so glad to see you," she said against his cheek, breathing in the familiar scent of his Prell shampoo. "But you need a haircut."

"Glad to be back in Georgia where you can hound me into going to the barber." He set her on her feet and smiled, but his eyes looked shadowed.

She should have anticipated the sadness. This was his first visit home since his mother's funeral. "Tough coming back?"

"Yeah. Seeing the house…" He sucked in a deep breath and glanced up at the two-story brick home he'd lived in from birth.

She waited, knowing better than to push him to talk about his mom.

"I'm surprised to see you here in the middle of the afternoon," he said, effectively changing the subject. "Thought you'd be at one of your many jobs."

Typical of him to slip in a jab about her over-packed schedule, though Luke was simply spouting what everyone else around her had been spouting. He always joked about her overcommitment, but underneath, he was being protective, worried about her stress level and health.

"I only have two jobs," she said. "Finished one for the day and am about to head to the other."

"Only two." He shook his head. "You're finally living your dream of being a microbiologist and have the luxury of living rent-free. Why put in so many long hours?"

The muscles in Darcy's neck tightened with nagging concerns over losing that rent-free status before she was ready. "I don't remember asking your opinion," she said, snippier than she'd meant.

One corner of his mouth tilted up in a grin. He'd always loved riling her up and blaming her temper on her red hair.

"Hey, I just want you to have a life," he said. "Maybe go out, have fun, find that Prince Charming you've always dreamed of."

For now, her life was consumed by work and paying off student loans. Even if by some chance Prince Charming did show up, she couldn't squeeze in a moment for him.

She'd missed their banter, though, and couldn't help returning his smile. "Once again, I don't remember asking for your opinion."

He laughed and nudged her shoulder with his.

"So, how long are you staying?" she asked.

"A week, two at most. I brought some work, and Roger's covering for me."

"Not long, but I'll take what I can get." She hooked her arm around his and looked up. "So when can we hang out?"

Their gazes locked, and his teasing smirk faltered. "Um, I may be pretty busy." He glanced at their joined arms, then at his parents' house.

The action felt like a snub. Had she somehow made him uncomfortable?

"You're not going to like why I'm here," he said.

"Oh?"

"Dad's been talking of downsizing. I'm here to help get the house ready to put on the market. I'm hoping he and Granny will join me in Nashville."

Her heart stuttered. Surely Luke didn't mean it.

He didn't laugh. Didn't bump her shoulder like he usually did when he was joking. Her stomach sank to the sidewalk, and the excitement that had fueled her for days tumbled along with it.

Her best friend might stay in Tennessee permanently?

Stunned, Luke looked into Darcy's eyes—had they always been so blue? Had her auburn hair always been so shiny and silky, her fair, freckled skin so smooth? When she'd wrapped her arm around his, every inch of that smooth skin touching his ignited his nerve endings.

What was wrong with him? This was Darcy. Darcy. And she was simply acting like she always did.

He needed to get control of this sudden, weird…attraction. Hadn't he learned the hard way that going from friend to anything beyond friend would end in a mess?

Remember Chloe, he thought, repeating his and Dar-cy's long-ago mantra. Darcy's sister, Chloe, barely spoke to him nowadays. He couldn't imagine the pain of losing Darcy's friendship.

"It's been six months since you were home, Luke." Darcy glared at him, playful, yet chastising. "Your family can't move away. We'd never see each other."

The hurt tone of her voice made him want to pull her close, to comfort. Instead, he eased his arm out of her grasp. At the moment, even incidental contact left him reeling. "Dad's been depressed, so I need to do something. He's obviously lonely, says the place is too big for him since Mom died."

"It wouldn't be if you moved back to Appleton." The pleading in her eyes was all too familiar. They'd had this conversation several times.

Hands jammed in his pockets, he put extra space between them. "You've missed me that much, huh?" he teased.

"Dream on." She laughed and hitched a thumb toward the house. "I can't believe your dad would abandon so many memories."

"Once we have a plan in motion to sell the house, I'll ask him to come to Nashville and become a partner in what will soon be my law practice."

She stilled. "You're really going to do it? Stay in Nashville and ask Burt to join you? He's been building his practice here in Appleton for decades. Why don't you join him, prove yourself like you wanted to do when you were a kid."

That dream had died when his dad had told him he wasn't cut out for law school. When he'd said Luke should probably consider another career. Granted, Luke had goofed off in high school, but midway through college, with Darcy's help, he had buckled down. He'd applied and been admitted into law school the following year. He'd headed to graduate school without his dad's support, and had worked hard to prove Burt wrong.

Looking into her eyes, Luke said, "You know how strongly I feel about making my own way." He nodded toward his car and headed that direction.

"Yeah, I know." She sighed and followed. "I just wish Burt would recognize how good you are at your job. And that you would let go of the past and come back here where you belong."

Luke had been working as an associate for Roger Young for nearly a year, had thrived on the challenge and done well. Once Roger retired, Luke would take over. "Business is great. There's more opportunity in the city."

She arched a brow. "Your dad has been very successful in Appleton. Together, you could be more so."

Of course she and the townspeople would assume Luke had gone off on his own and refused an offer to join his father's practice. They didn't know the painful truth. Dad himself didn't even realize how the snub had hurt. "He's never asked me to come work with him."

Darcy's face scrunched in disbelief. "What?"

Luke wished he could take the humiliating words back, but this was Darcy. He could tell her anything. "It's true. Dad never once mentioned having me join his practice, even when I told him about other job offers."

Which had been the death of Luke's dream—Jordan & Jordan, Attorneys at Law in the big Victorian house on Golden Street.

Darcy laid a soft hand on his arm. "I can't believe that."

"You know he doubted me every step of the way, which is why I plan to stay in Nashville." Luke reached in the backseat and pulled out his luggage.

"Then why ask him to join your practice?"

"I've been worried about him, have been thinking for weeks about asking him to move closer. Figured a new start might help."

She sighed. "I understand your concern. I've been there with Mom."

"I also want to bring in a partner with experience, someone who'll inspire confidence in the clients Roger is sending my way. I'd like to think Dad and I could work well together, especially if I get a chance to show him I'm capable."

As Darcy glanced at her watch, the sun shone on her hair, highlighting coppery strands that brushed well past her shoulders. Most of her life, she'd worn a ponytail. When had she started wearing her hair down? Had it been down the last time he saw her?

"Time to head to the mall job." Eyes so deep blue they sometimes looked violet sparked with frustration. "It doesn't sound as if I'll be able to change your mind about coming back home for good."

Luke shook his head. "I closed on the office building last week. Roger has sent out letters to all his clients informing them of his pending retirement, inviting those who haven't yet worked with me to drop by."

Darcy frowned. "What about your grandmother? You really think she'll move, too?"

That part of his plan didn't sit well with Luke. He hated to uproot Granny after she'd lived in Appleton her whole life. "I hope she will."

"If you ask me, dynamite couldn't blast her out of her home." Her eyes heated before she glanced away, angry. "But, you didn't ask me."

"Come on, Darcy, be happy for me."

"If anyone can persuade Burt and Grace to move, it's their beloved only child and grandchild." Her gaze darted everywhere except directly at him, silently voicing her disapproval, pricking at his conscience.

He hadn't come home looking for approval, though. He'd come home with a goal to help his dad while securing his own future. And he intended to see his plan through.

Luke pushed aside his sadness with each step he took up the ladder leaning against his childhood home. He wouldn't dwell on saying goodbye to the place where he'd grown up. The house was just brick and mortar, full of material stuff. He would always have the memories of his mom.

Darcy would probably disagree. For some odd reason, their earlier conversation had left him rattled. Probably because he'd disappointed her. He'd always hated letting her down.

"What are you doing up there, son?" Burt Jordan, home from the office, stood in the front yard in dress pants and a button-down shirt, sleeves rolled up, arms crossed.

"Trying to get a good look at the roof," Luke said. "Probably needs to be replaced."

"Wish you would've talked to me before you bothered. I've got someone lined up to replace it next week."

Laughing, Luke climbed down. "Good. You're jumping on repairs."

"Noreen has encouraged me to get out of my cave and start living again." Burt held out his hand. "Welcome home."

Luke turned the shake into a brief half hug. "Thanks." He pulled away and took a good look at his dad.

For months after Luke's mom died, Burt had sounded despondent on the phone. The past few weeks, though, he'd sounded stronger, more upbeat. Now, Luke saw a hint of the old spark in his dad's eyes, the way he'd been before Joan got sick. Apparently Darcy's widowed mom, Noreen, had helped Burt begin to deal with the loss.

With a familiar stab of guilt over not being around much the past couple of years, he gave his dad one last pat on the shoulder. "I'm here to help with the house. Tell me what you need."

His dad winced, looking off in the distance, wrinkles crinkling around his brown eyes. He'd aged a lot since Mom's passing. "Been meaning to talk to you about that."

"I saw the load of pine straw beside the house," Luke said. "Want to spread some mulch while we talk?"

"Sure. Let me change first."

Luke took the ladder to the garage and then located the wheelbarrow. In a few minutes, his dad reappeared in a pair of old jeans and a polo shirt—about as casual as he ever dressed. No faded T-shirts for Burt Jordan. In fact, he rarely wore jeans.

Burt grabbed a shovel and two rakes and handed one to Luke. "Had that load delivered a few weeks ago. Haven't had a chance to spread it."

Either that or he'd been so depressed he hadn't felt up to going outside to work in the yard. "Let's do it, then."

They filled the wheelbarrow and made several trips dumping piles of pine straw around the shrubbery and flower beds, spreading it as they went.

"So are you still wanting to sell the house?" Luke asked.

"Well, the thing is… " Burt raked pine straw around an island of azalea bushes with white blooms almost past their peak. "I've been having second thoughts."

Letting go of the house would be difficult, but if his dad changed his mind about selling, he probably wouldn't consider relocating to Nashville.

Luke stopped raking and rested his arm on the handle. "Is it because of memories of Mom?"

Burt paused and stared off toward the house considering the question, as if unsure how to answer. "That's part of it."

He'd never seen his dad indecisive, but that probably went along with the grief. "Has something changed since you told me you wanted to downsize?"

A look of consternation drew Burt's brows downward. "Selling the house feels so final. It closes the door to the past, and I'm not ready for that. I'd like to do something, first, that'll be a testament to your mom, to show what Joan meant to us and to the community."

Without warning, Luke's throat tightened. "Any ideas?"

"Not yet, although, as active as she was, it shouldn't be difficult. I'm sorry if I dragged you here too soon."

"Don't apologize," Luke said. "I want you to make the right decision for you." And he meant it. No matter what happened with the potential move or partnership, Luke wanted his dad to be happy.

"Life is fleeting," Burt said. "I know I need to move on. I just don't want to rush the process."

Luke pushed the wheelbarrow to spread mulch around the boxwoods in front of the house. "Six months isn't long, and selling is a big decision. I get it."

Burt clapped him on the back. "Exactly. Noreen said you'd understand."

Why would his dad share his doubts with Darcy's mother before he told Luke? The families had been close for ages…but still.

Raking pine straw around the hedges, Luke covered dirt, the occasional weed and remnants of last year's mulch. Noreen was just being supportive. She'd been a widow for a few years. Luke should thank her for being there for Burt. That was what neighbors in Appleton did. They looked out for each other.

Neighbors…Darcy. They'd always looked out for each other, too.

Stopping to wipe his brow, Burt looked around the yard. "I should start dinner soon."

"Go ahead. I'll finish this up."

Burt thanked him and headed inside. In the fading light, Luke hefted one last load of pine straw into the wheelbarrow and pushed it to the opposite side of the house to spread around his mother's rosebushes. He'd have just enough daylight to finish the job.

As he spread mulch around the fragrant plants his mother had tended as if they were her children, Luke imagined her there beside him. The sweet smell always reminded him of her. The previous week, he'd walked into the office and thought, for a split second, his mom was there. But a vase of freshly cut flowers from Roger's wife's garden had been the trigger.

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The Guy Next Door 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Janine_S More than 1 year ago
“The Guy Next Door” by Missy Tippens is a book that is full of family, friendship and that attraction between girl and guy that just makes a romantic, like myself, sigh with contentment. There is conflict, don't get me wrong, but this story almost felt as if I walked into the middle of something yet I didn't feel lost at all with how the story was told. Here is a story where two people have been the closest and best of friends for so long that one of them is blinded by what is front of them. It is that struggle between both of them that makes for the conflict. Then there is that long awaited kiss really which was worth the way until someone really needed a royal kick in the pants. Really I was on pins and needles for that first kiss for I knew it was going to be something really special when it finally happened and it was in my opinion until someone opened their mouth and ruined the moment which frankly made me laugh for it was such a special moment and the one who ruined the moment stayed true to form too. This is also a wonderful eye opener to stop taking loved ones (family and friends) for granted. We need to think of them, to be there for them, to forgive and love them no matter what. Sometimes things happen that out of our control, then there are the times when we think we have so much time that we put things off. However, this is a wonderful story to remind us to make sure we live for today, to spend time with loved ones and to stop being afraid and to take that risk for the pay off might just be worth it. It is was when characters stopped being afraid and took the time to grab the moment that so much was cleared up. Darcy is the typical girl next door who is not so much a girl but a woman who is warm, giving, loving, and overworked at the same time. She does all she can to stick to her self imposed plan but she is willing to make changes when something really important comes up. Darcy is a woman who knows how to value her family and friendships, where things have value and has a hard time just dropping something without having someone there to pick up where she left off. Luke is a man who values his family and getting his career going, though family comes first. Luke has plans for his future, with a lot of high hopes, yet he is not so set in those plans that he can't go with the flow when things are changing on him. His emotions go through some pretty big changes all within reason of what is going on throughout the story. I truly found myself glued to the book with the classic girl/guy next door story with some twists to where it seems as if I read this book in record speed. There was something about the attraction that was there in the book that just hooked me with the book, for this wasn't that typical sexual attraction but something deeper it seemed. The attraction seemed more to the inner self of the other person, and it seems as if the attraction is now being seen through new eyes. This attraction really did seem to jump off the page at times. Regardless of that I would still allow my neighbors young teen read this book if she wanted for there was nothing that I thought would be inappropriate. I hope all who read this book enjoys it as much as I did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome book of finding love i really enjoyed the storyline i was well pleased with the ending!
LindiP More than 1 year ago
I have yet to read a Missy Tippen's book I didn't LOVE. And this one in no exception. Missy has a way of making you feel like you live Appleton with Darcy and Luke. Missy draws the reader in emotionally and doesn't let go. The best friends to more-than-best-friends story is a favorite of mine and this story doesn't disappoint. Add in great secondary characters and you have a story you don't want to put down.