Authors: Helenkay Dimon
Other titles by HelenKay Dimon
No Turning Back
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A SIMPLE TWIST OF FATE
An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author
InterMix eBook edition / July 2013
Copyright © 2013 by HelenKay Dimon.
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Sophie Clarke glanced out the window of the second-story sewing room at Shadow Hill, the crumbling stone house she’d been cleaning and searching for a month. Two of the three Hanover brothers stood on the lawn below, pacing around a wood chipper and apparently trying to stare it into working.
Just business as usual for Declan and Callen, the two oldest members of the ridiculously blessed Hanover male gene pool. They’d found something that didn’t work, which was almost everything on the estate they inherited from their grandmother, and paced around it, assessing and head-scratching. If experience were any indication, sooner or later one or both would cave in and drag out the toolbox. Then anything could happen.
But they were not her concern at the moment. The younger, sexier and currently unaccounted-for youngest brother, Beckett, was the problem. For her, Beck was
the problem. He entered the room and her stomach performed a perfect backflip, something completely foreign to her and, she suspected, abnormal in general.
Of course she’d found guys handsome before. But that thing where her mind buzzed and words stammered in her throat . . . yeah, that was new.
She dropped the curtain and moved away from the window. She didn’t have time for nonsense and what she felt for Beck was most certainly nonsense. And not at all welcome.
He wasn’t in the room but she could call up his image without even trying. He stood tall and lean with a smile that highlighted a drop-your-panties dimple in his cheek.
Not that she got to see the smile all that much. He spent a good amount of the workday following her around and frowning. She was starting to wonder if that was some sort of lawyer thing, because he was one, which became obvious whenever he launched into a droning argument about something. Man, the guy could talk.
Though she had to admit he also was pretty good at standing around looking sort of irresistible in faded jeans. The way his soft brown hair lay against his collar and dropped over his eyes tested her control. She spent most of the time around him wanting to brush the overly long bangs off his face . . . and the rest wanting to kiss those lips. Then there were the times when she wanted to strangle him.
Yeah, she needed to finish her search of the house and get out of town.
She rubbed her hands together as she tried to gather her focus again. Shadow Hill was big and beautiful, with acres of land and miles of potential, but thanks to the recent decision of the Hanover boys to stay in Sweetwater, Oregon rather than sell the place and head out, her time was almost up. Add to that the sudden and constant presence of Declan’s girlfriend, Leah, and Sophie dreaded having her secret discovered.
She eyed her bucket filled with cleaning supplies sitting in the middle of the floor and couldn’t believe she’d picked this cover. She hadn’t dusted her apartment in . . . wait, had she ever dusted? But here she was, acting like the Hanover brothers’ cleaning lady and scrubbing this and that and generally gaining huge respect for anyone who did this type of work for a living. Cleaning those stupid grout lines between the kitchen tiles was backbreaking work. She didn’t even want to think about what sort of germs lurked under that mop she swished around.
Dumping the paper towel roll into her bucket, she headed for the door to the hallway. With the men shuffling in and out of the house every two minutes, she’d slipped her lock-picking kit in the main bathroom’s cabinet under the sink when she stepped in the room a half hour ago.
And who thought she’d own one of those tool sets? Not her. Two months ago she worked as a receptionist in an insurance firm in Seattle. Now she snuck around, opening cabinets and checking floorboards for hollow spaces.
Her aunt owed her big-time for this.
In the hall, Sophie glanced around for any sign of Beck. The clanking in the kitchen on the floor below had her smiling and thinking about him making scrambled eggs for the umpteenth lunch in a row. Eyeing the grand staircase that curved down to the first floor, she waited for one of the brothers to spring up. When none appeared, she started moving.
With one hand she pushed the hall bathroom door open, ignoring the creak as she spun and jumped inside. Her back hit the door and her eyes closed in relief. It took her a second to realize her sneakers slid across the black-and-white checkered tile beneath her and a wall of steam smacked her face.
When she opened her eyes again, she came face to shoulders with bare skin. Her gaze trailed over the broad chest and light sprinkling of hair that ran the deep groove to his flat stomach then down to . . . yowsa.
There was not so much as a washcloth covering him. Nope. She got an open shot of skin, balls and, yeah, totally naked hottie dude. Looked like Beck Hanover excelled at something other than arguing.
Fingers snapped, breaking her woman-versus-penis staring contest. A deep male voice floated through the tiny room a second later. “Uh, hello?”
No, no, no.
“How about we try eyes up here for a second?”
She followed his command and the finger pointing toward his head. Ignoring the amusement in his voice, she glanced up to meet Beck’s ice blue stare. Water beaded on his chest, probably on every part of him. The ends of his dark hair curled the longer he stood there and one of his biceps twitched in a way she found oddly mesmerizing.
She drew an invisible line across his throat and mentally banned her gaze from dipping lower. Every body part but his eyes was off-limits. The stuttering thing started in her head a second later. It took a few deep breaths to get the oxygen flowing to her misfiring brain.
This was all about the shock and not about how good he looked naked. She’d expected to be alone in the room.
She kept repeating the excuse until she tricked her mind into believing it. “What are you doing in here?”
His eyebrow lifted. “Should I shower in the dining room?”
“There are five bathrooms in this house and some of those even work. You could go anywhere else.” In fact, anywhere outside of Sweetwater or any other part of Oregon would be good.
“Are you serious?” He did that frowning thing. Even naked, he fell back on the annoying expression. Didn’t bother to hide any part of himself either. Even though the towel was
right there on the bar above the claw-foot tub
She tried to grab onto an argument . . . and keep her stare from wandering beneath his chin, but seconds ticked by. She’d bet a full minute passed until a few words finally unscrambled in her brain. “This isn’t the bathroom you usually use.”
“But it is my house and as you can see,” he held his arms out to the sides, “this particular room is occupied.”
Her gaze did a little bounce that time. Really, he invited it, so she refused to feel guilty. She was desperate to search the house but not dead from the waist down . . . and clearly he wasn’t either. Any half-awake woman would look and he sure didn’t disappoint. Every last inch of him looked tan and fit, including a very prominent part of him that was now stirring.
“Hey there.” She held up her hands, careful not to block all of the tantalizing view while pretending to be horrified. “What are you doing?”
“I’m confused by the question. Are you looking for a biological explanation or something else?” Her act slipped as her hands fell. “What?”
He exhaled in that loud women-are-so-difficult way men did so well. “Okay, I think we can agree your reaction is a little extreme here. Mine can’t possibly be the first penis you’ve ever seen.”
“Of course not.”
“Because, really, if it is, feel free to look as long as you want.” He crossed his arms over his chest, leaving the view of the most interesting part of his body unblocked. “I can wait.”
At twenty-four she had what likely amounted to a less-than-usual wealth of experience in the boy-parts department, but there was that one fumbling guy right after high school who nearly strangled her while taking off her bra. Who knew the front-clasp concept could be so confusing to a horny boy.
Then that other guy, and how embarrassing was it she couldn’t call up his name from memory; then Kurt. They dated for a full year before his niceness combined with her extreme boredom to cause a break-up implosion so tame it ended with breakfast muffins and a trip to buy a lamp.
“Tell me about all this experience of yours.” If possible, Beck’s eyebrow inched up even further.
Now that was annoying. “I’m not a virgin.”
“Did I ask that question?”
“Seemed like it.” She swallowed, surprised she still could without choking on her tongue. “And, no.”
He wiped his hand through his hair, sending water droplets flying in her direction. “Meaning, no you’re not or . . . ?”
Oh, there was no way they were going down this road. “Are you done?”
He flashed that stupid dimple at her. “I thought you were opening a dialogue on the subject of nudity and its uses.”
He was doing a bit more than stirring now.
Not that she noticed.
“Here.” She reached over, bending past him and bringing her face far too close to his damp chest and the lingering scent of soap on his skin. Something fresh that reminded her of the coast a few miles away.
“Uh, not that I’m complaining, but what are you doing down there?”
She whipped the towel off the bar, shaking the wall with the force of her tug, and held it up to him. When he didn’t take it, she pressed it against his chest. Heat radiated through the thick cotton and into her palm. “Put this on.”
He replaced her hand with his but didn’t bother to wrap the towel around his waist. Oh, no. Beck being Beck, he just held it until it draped down the front of him, covering his penis and part of his thighs but little else. “Happy?”
More like breathless
She opened the door to the hallway and let some of the room’s heat spill into the hall, not all of it coming from the shower. No matter how much she wanted to believe that it was.
It wasn’t as if the naked male body was all that attractive anyway. It was a bit weird with the hanging outside parts and all. At least she used to think so. But the Beck version without any fat and with those lean muscles and that hot part of him where his hips, thighs and that ripple thing on his stomach met? Not bad.
He chuckled. “Look at that smile. What are you thinking?”
“You should have used another bathroom.” Then she saw his smirk. She didn’t trust that one bit. “Why, what are
“That I live here and can take a shower wherever and whenever the hell I want.”
She tried to focus on his talking because that seemed to dim his hottie vibe. “It’s the middle of the day.”
“Which is why I made the previous comment.”
“I don’t—” At the thud of footsteps on the stairs, she stopped whatever comment would have come out next and hoped if it was brilliant it would come around again.
Callen filled the doorway a minute later. He glanced at his baby brother, at her, then back to Beck. “You lose your pants?”
“I tend not to wear them in the shower.”
“That’s probably a good plan.” Callen shifted his focus to her. “And you’re doing what, supervising?”
The full impact of joint Hanover male attention always made her a little dizzy. Where Beck possessed a boy-next-door sexiness, complete with firm jaw and a face that could sell just about anything to anyone, Callen had a rougher edge. Taller with darker hair, the oldest and only brother with deep green eyes.
He didn’t scare her. Not exactly. But he was definitely the least welcoming of the brothers and had an ironclad rule that she refrain from going onto the house’s third floor where he was living. A rule she planned to violate the second she knew he would be out of the house for a few hours.
She rushed to come up with an explanation and fell back on a version of the lie she’d been telling for weeks. “I was trying to clean the bathroom.”
“And it made sense to do that while Beck was using it?” Callen asked.
Beck nodded. “Apparently.”
“Of course not,” she said at the same time.
“Then I’m confused.” Callen’s gaze traveled over her, not heated or in a sexual way. More like in a judging, I-will-destroy-you way. “And you’re missing something.”
Yeah, a few thousand brain cells that might be helpful right now
. “Excuse me?”
Callen looked at the space around her feet. “Your bucket of cleaning supplies.”
. “I thought you and Declan were working in the yard.”
Beck sighed. “What exactly are you responding to?”
The brothers had her flipping her gaze back and forth until her vision blurred. “What?”
“Your answer to Cal made zero sense.”
The light-headedness evaporated in a giant poof. She blamed Beck. Sometimes he opened his mouth and she had to fight the urge to shove something in there.
“I was just making a comment.” One he wouldn’t have had to hear if he were in another room, but she refrained from pointing that out.
Beck turned his frown on his brother. “For the record, it’s getting harder for a guy to find ten minutes of privacy in this house.”
“Please tell me you’re not still whining about us keeping the house instead of selling. It’s three stories, four thousand square feet and includes several outbuildings. Not exactly a shack. Hell, the thing has a name.” Callen shook his head. “Who names a damn house?”
Beck held out his hand, taking the towel to the side with it. “Yet despite the name and the massive size, everyone is in
room with me.”
“I’m trying to clean it.” Sophie didn’t bother to look away while she talked. Not that she could stop looking at his erection at this point anyway. And that’s what it was, a full-blown,
erection. She guessed the time for mere stirring had passed.
Beck dropped his arms and the towel but continued his all-naked-all-the-time thing. “Next time I’ll skip the shower and use the hose out back.”
Callen looked ten seconds away from rolling his eyes. “Man, could you take a second and put on some pants or underwear or something? Nobody needs a front-row seat to that.”