Authors: Tiffany Allee
Tags: #romance series, #vampire, #romance, #Don't Bite the Bridesmaid, #neighbors to lovers, #Tiffany Allee
Don’t Bite the Bridesmaid
Sons of Kane
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
2013 by Tiffany Allee
. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
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Edited by Lauren Ruth
Cover design by Fiona Jayde
Ebook ISBN 978-1-62266-804-5
Manufactured in the United States of America
The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
Coke, Starbucks, Johnnie Walker Blue, Accord (Honda), YouTube
To my Aunt Ida, who not only makes the best lasagna around, but who also introduced me to the wonderful world of romance novels. Love you, Auntie!
the door opened, Alice Shepard suddenly wished she’d had
Noah Thorpe peered at her from behind hooded eyes. And if his bored expression hadn’t told her he wasn’t interested in talking to her, his tone would have.
She straightened her dress and then ran a hand over her hair, smoothing it. She could do this. Four appletinis and enough outrage bottled inside her chest to choke a bear virtually guaranteed enough courage.
“Hi, Noah,” she said, forcing a smile. She could do this. The worst he could do was say no, right? “Can I come in and talk to you for a minute?”
He paused for a moment, and the humiliating thought that he’d deny her even that simple request flashed through her mind. But finally, he nodded and stepped back.
She steeled her spine and walked past him into his foyer, glancing around even though she’d seen it several times in the five years she’d lived next door. But that had been for silly requests or neighborly things. Asking him to get a tree trimmed was one thing, and didn’t really compare to what she intended to ask now. And it hit her how very nice his house was. What did the man do for a living to afford such a place at his age? He couldn’t be much older than thirty. Family money?
Noah walked past her and his dark grey dress shirt brushed against her bare shoulder. She suppressed a shiver, smoothed her sundress, and followed him. And she did her best to keep from staring at the smooth line of his wide shoulders, and the way his pants revealed one of the nicest butts she’d seen in…well, ever.
. There was no doubt about it, Noah was attractive. Her sister had asked once if Alice’s neighbor was cute. The word didn’t apply. Even the word handsome didn’t do him justice. Erotic. Sensual. Dangerous. But never simply handsome. And certainly not
With dark hair cropped close, a sharp jaw, and a Roman nose, he made her breath catch every time she saw him. But the chiseled features had nothing over his eyes. Dark and impenetrable, he had the bluest eyes she’d ever seen.
She half tripped on his hallway rug, but managed to catch herself before she fell. Noah glanced back, and her face burned.
“Fine,” she squeaked.
It wasn’t fair. Not only was he handsome, but he had a body that promised to be lean and perfect, even though it had been covered in expensive clothing every time she’d seen him.
Well, every time she’d seen him close-up. A glimpse or two from her balcony while he took a midnight swim in his pool hardly counted. She couldn’t make out much detail in the moonlight.
Besides, fantasizing about him was pointless. She wasn’t ready to move on yet, anyway. She
being alone. Sure, she got a little lonely sometimes, but she could deal with that a lot more easily than she could the alternative. On her own, she didn’t have to worry about keeping her guard up, or what anyone else thought of her choices. She didn’t have to go to the constant string of parties Brent enjoyed, didn’t have to watch out for his dark moods.
“Would you like something to drink?” he asked when they reached the kitchen.
She leaned on the granite breakfast bar, ignoring the barstools tucked beneath it. He’d obviously spent a lot on redoing the home with the nicest finishes around. Granite and marble abounded, and the floors were some sort of dark, exotic wood.
“No, thank you.”
She had to get this over with quickly. Before she lost her nerve. Before the alcohol content in her blood got any lower.
“What can I do for you, Miss Shepard?” He stepped away from the refrigerator and turned those brilliant eyes on her. She lost her train of thought. Her stomach clenched, and she could only stare.
“Miss Shepard?” he asked again, but his tone was different. Lower.
“What do you do for a living?” The kitchen smelled clean—almost
clean and fresh. The man didn’t cook much, she would bet.
“That’s what you came to ask me?”
“No, I—this is a nice place is all. A little impersonal though.” She glanced nervously at her surroundings. “It could use some clutter.” Had she just told him his house could use some clutter? What the heck was wrong with her? There weren’t enough drinks in the world to excuse the comment…at least from her mouth. They weren’t exactly close.
He looked a little bemused. “You think my home could use some clutter.”
“Well, kind of. I mean, it’s nice. Just not terribly homey.”
Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.
“Sorry. I’ve had some appletinis and—”
“Yes, I can smell them,” he said.
Did she smell that bad? But his neutral expression didn’t support that theory, and if anything, he leaned toward her.
“You were going to ask me something? You’re not only here to insult my decor?”
“Um…sorry. Yes, I did want to ask you something.” But asking him then felt very wrong. She’d already made a fool of herself. Her stomach swirled.
Oh God, too many drinks
He raised an eyebrow.
“I think I’m going to be sick.” The words escaped her before she could stop them.
. The room churned.
Noah stared at her, apparently dumbfounded.
“Excuse me?” he finally asked.
“I’m sorry,” she muttered, then turned away.
She practically ran out of Noah’s and across the short distance to her own home. Her front door slammed behind her, and she turned back and pressed her face against the hard wood. After a few seconds, her nausea lifted, but it was too late. Damn those appletinis. And damn her nerves.
It didn’t help that Noah was gorgeous and always seemed so polite. Since she’d come to live at her grandma’s home, he’d been a constant presence in the large house next door. And from the very day she moved in, she’d noticed him. Who wouldn’t? The man was over six feet of pure hunk.
She had to do something—and fast. She couldn’t afford self-pity. A backup plan, that’s what she needed. Maybe she could ask someone at work to go with her. Her fellow accountants might not match the muscly goodness of Noah, but there were a couple who were handsome enough. And they’d be a much safer option anyway.
She grabbed her cell phone from her purse and fumbled around with it until she found her sister’s name.
“Hidey-ho,” her sister, Cindy, said. Their usual silly greeting never failed to bring a smile to Alice’s face, but tonight she couldn’t seem to muster a grin.
“Oh boy, you sound depressed. What’s up?”
“I totally embarrassed myself in front of my neighbor. I went to ask him to your wedding.”
“The big guy you told me about? Wow. How many drinks did that take?” Her sister’s voice was laced with amusement.
“Enough. I’ll have a hell of a hangover tomorrow. And worse, I didn’t even ask. I lost my nerve.” She took a deep breath. “And, I almost threw up on him.”
“But it doesn’t matter. Maybe I’ll ask someone else.” She kicked her sandals off and trotted into her kitchen. Unlike the spacious room Noah’s house sported, it was cozy and homey. And covered in flowers. Flowery wallpaper and rugs. Just like Grandma left it.
“You almost threw up on him?” Cindy laughed. “Too many appletinis?”
“That and too many nerves.”
“So why don’t you ask someone from work, then? You haven’t threatened to puke on any of them, I hope.”
Her sister’s words echoed her own thoughts, but a niggling of worry held her back. “I don’t know. It seems like that could make work awkward.” Even as she said it, she knew it was true. She couldn’t ask one of the passable men from work. That was just begging for trouble. She had to be smart, put her emotions aside. If she had to, she’d grin and bear it. Go to her sister’s wedding alone and look like a dateless loser in front of her ex.
“Just come by yourself. It’ll be fine. I promise.”
“Is Brent bringing a date?” Alice asked.
“I’ll have to check the guest list—”
“All right, yes. He’s bringing a date. And yes, it’s her.”
. The words pinged through her head like a pinball. Suddenly, the appletinis pressed against her stomach again, full force.
“I have to go.”
“Sorry sis, I’ll call you tomorrow.” She hit the
button on her phone and took a deep breath, grateful for the solid wall under her hand when she reached out to lean on it for support.
Slowly, she made her way to the couch and plopped down. She had to come up with a plan, but her thoughts didn’t want to come into focus. Cindy’s words reverberated, smiting any attempt she could make at a fully-formed thought.
He was bringing
. That meant they were still together. They weren’t just a fling. He really cared about Kristen.
He never cared about me
No. She couldn’t let herself go down that line of thought. She had to pull it together, get her mind straight, and figure out a new plan. Going down without a fight wasn’t an option.
But heading back to Noah’s right away wasn’t an option either. Her stomach wasn’t reliable after the appletinis, and she needed to regroup. She itched to jump on the web and continue her genealogy research. Working on her family tree relaxed her. Something about researching her family’s history, finding interesting old snippets of their lives from so long ago, gave her a rush. But after all those drinks, she was in no condition to make sense of old records.
Instead, she got a few hours of sleep, and then formulated her plan of attack in the shower. Courage—not liquid courage, but plain old determination—was what she needed to ask Noah. And if he said no? Well, she’d cross that bridge when she came to it.
The next morning, the smell of coffee saturated the air, and she watched the pot fill impatiently. She’d just have to appeal to his good human nature. Noah was a nice man. He’d always waved at her when they passed on the street, and he even helped her that time she’d locked herself out of her house. Something about him made her comfortable, and she knew enough to trust her instincts.
That had been a hard lesson to learn.
A photo of her grandmother, taken when she was a young woman, caught Alice’s attention, and she slid her finger against the side of the frame. The picture was her favorite. Her grandmother had been so strong, and the turn of her jaw and determined eyes in the picture revealed the woman of courage she had been. And for some reason, looking into her grandmother’s eyes fueled her confidence. Like it always did.
She applied some makeup and threw on a new sundress and then checked herself in the mirror. The pretty dress hung just right over her suntanned body, maybe a bit more revealing than the one she’d worn the day before. Couldn’t hurt, right?
A cup of coffee burned its way down her throat, but it gave her back the bit of energy the alcohol had robbed her of. Radiating confidence she wasn’t entirely certain she felt, she forced a smile onto her face and headed back to her neighbor’s.
She’d convince Noah. She had to.
opened the door hesitantly, half expecting his pretty neighbor to be waiting for him with an unuttered idea gleaming in her eyes, and random insults on her tongue. He’d half expected her to return the night before, but either her embarrassment or the amount of alcohol she’d consumed must have gotten the better of her, because she hadn’t shown up again. Thankfully, he’d distracted her and managed to get her to leave before he’d had to answer her questions about his job, which would inevitably lead to questions about his life. Questions he couldn’t answer. But a very male face greeted him with an easygoing smile, and his stomach dropped in unexpected disappointment.
“Are you going to invite me in?”
“Of course. Come in, Charles,” he said, and then stepped back so the other man could enter. “You know you’ve been here a dozen times in the last year alone. You don’t need the formal invitation.”
“Oh, I know, but old habits. You know the drill,” Charles said as he wandered toward the kitchen.
Noah grimaced but didn’t reply. He knew how old habits became ingrained, if you let them. Noah was all about habits. All about keeping things safe and avoiding change.
“You could stand to loosen up on some of those old habits,” Charles said, his gaze surveying the house. His frown made Noah think of Alice’s assessment that he needed more clutter. “I don’t think a single thing has moved in here since you decorated a few years ago.”
“So what’s the word?” Noah asked. His decor was fine. And it wasn’t up for discussion with his friend or his pretty neighbor.
Charles opened the refrigerator door and pulled out two beers. “Let’s talk out back.”
“Because it’s a beautiful, cloudy day in California, my friend. Such a day shouldn’t be wasted indoors. Especially since your deck is shaded.”
Noah took one of the beers and nodded. This couldn’t be good. Charles wanted to go outside. Had offered him a beer. His own beer, but still. The news couldn’t be what he wanted to hear.
They went out to his back deck and he shot a quick glance at Alice’s house. Her second floor balcony offered her a bit of a view of his backyard. Not the whole area, she was at the wrong angle for that, and he’d had his landscaping designed for privacy. But she could see parts of his pool. And he could watch her read out there. Which she did, almost nightly. Sometimes with a glass of wine, and sometimes with only a book to keep her company.
Watching her was wrong. He had no right. But he couldn’t seem to help himself.
“Are you okay?” Charles asked, his smooth tone curious.
“So eloquent, my friend. So polite.”
“Dammit, tell me.” Charles was stalling. Great. That could only mean one thing.
Charles took a long drink of his beer. “All right. They’ve decided to go ahead with it.”
“I’m still working on it. So is Alex. We’ll get it fixed, but it might be best if you get out of town while we do.” He sat down heavily onto one of the cushioned outdoor chairs surrounding the large table. “Can you do that? Shouldn’t need to be gone for long. A couple of days to appeal the ruling. Maybe a week.”