Authors: Kristen Ashley
Table of Contents
Mara Hanover has fallen in love with her tall, handsome police detective neighbor. But Mara knows who she is and where she came from and she knows Detective Mitch Lawson is better than her. Mitch disagrees and he has to convince Mara to let go of her past as he sets about building a family at the same time he finds he also needs to protect them all against adversaries that would tear them apart.
Published by Kristen Ashley at Smashwords
Copyright 2012 Kristen Ashley
Discover other titles by Kristen Ashley:
Rock Chick Series:
Rock Chick Rescue
Rock Chick Redemption
Rock Chick Renegade
Rock Chick Revenge
Rock Chick Reckoning
Rock Chick Regret
The ‘Burg Series:
The Colorado Mountain Series:
Dream Man Series:
The Fantasyland Series:
The Golden Dynasty
Other Titles by Kristen Ashley:
Fairytale Come Alive
Heaven and Hell
Play It Safe
Smashwords Edition, License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Upon asking the hubster to give me names of the male and female offspring of a loser, he asked, “What’s their Dad’s name?” I answered, “Bill.” He immediately replied, “Billy and Billerina.” I found this so hilarious, Billy and Billie were born. Hopefully, you can tell them apart. As for me, every time I read their names, I giggle. But still, I fell in love with them.
To Chasity Jenkins, who proofread this book and does many things to keep me sane. Gratitude, sister.
And to my readers, thank you for making a dream come true at the same time you keep that dream alive. You rock my world!
I walked out of my apartment into the breezeway and saw her.
At least a Seven, maybe an Eight, to give her a score, I put her at a Seven Point Five.
She was standing outside an open apartment door smiling inside at someone.
I knew who she was smiling at.
Detective Mitch Lawson.
I also knew that my neighbor Detective Mitch Lawson was at least a Ten, maybe an Eleven so to give him a fair score; I put him at a definite Ten Point Five.
In other words, he was beyond perfect from the top of his dark brown-haired head to his usually boot-clad feet.
He was the man of my dreams.
I was in love with him and I didn’t know him and he definitely didn’t know me. This was not in a sick-stalker-type way because I was too shy to be a stalker and I liked him too much to put him through something like that. This was in an ohmigod he’s got the perfect body, perfect bone structure, perfect smile, most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen way. It was totally benign, admiring from afar except that we lived across and one down the breezeway from each other so it wasn’t that far.
I turned and made certain my door was locked. When I turned back Detective Mitch Lawson was out in the breezeway, his Seven Point Five standing so close she was pressed against his side. He too was checking to make certain his door was locked.
It was morning and I was going to work. I suspected that he was going to work too. I also knew Seven Point Five had spent the night. I’d noticed, since I ran into them on occasion, he had a lot of Sevens to Tens who spent the night or who came over in the evenings, the afternoons, or other times. Being a Two, maybe a Three, so placing myself at a Two Point Five, there was no way in hell I’d ever be standing out in the breezeway pressed to Detective Mitch Lawson.
In this world, Sevens to Tens gravitated to each other and rarely, if ever, dipped below the Seven mark. They might try a Six or even go slumming with a Five but they’d settle in for the long haul with someone in their zone. Then the Fours to Sixes gravitated to each other. There was more workability here for those under Four to get in but it was also rare. And my zone, Ones to Threes gravitated to each other. If you were of my zone, only the foolish aimed higher than the Three. Higher than the Three equaled heartache.
I walked toward them since I had to get to the stairs that led down to the parking spaces at the side of our unit. As I did, my heels clicked and echoed loudly on the cement landing of the breezeway. Four apartments were off that breezeway, two by two next to and facing each other. Detective Mitch Lawson’s was closer to the stairs that led to the parking. My apartment was closer to the stairs that led to the greenbelt and creek that ran through our complex.
Unfortunately, as he always did when I ran into him in the many years we’d been living in the same unit, when he noticed me, his head came around, his dark brown, soulful eyes caught mine and they warmed.
This was another reason I knew I loved him. His eyes warmed anytime he saw me. I was shy and therefore not overtly friendly, at least not to him. I was very friendly to Brent and Bradon, the gay couple who lived next to me. I was also very friendly to Derek and LaTanya, the not gay couple who lived next to Detective Mitch Lawson and across from me. But he scared the hell out of me so I tried to give him a wide berth.
Even so, anytime he saw me his eyes always warmed and right after he’d smile.
Just like he did now.
That smile. I felt it in my belly. His eyes were the most beautiful eyes I’d ever seen but when they were warm and his beautiful lips turned up into a smile making his whole face warm; it was too much to take. Four years ago, when he first moved in and I first experienced that smile, it nearly brought me to my knees. Luckily, I’d practiced my control and it only made my knees wobble.
“Hey,” he said as I got close to passing them.
This sucked. Not only did he have beautiful eyes and beautiful lips and was very tall, he also had very broad shoulders and dressed really well. He also had a nice, rich, deep voice.
“Morning,” I muttered, my eyes slid to his Seven Point Five who was looking at me for some reason like I’d slithered out from under a rock (it was my experience sometimes that when a Seven or Higher looked at a Three or lower they got this look). To be courteous I repeated, “Morning,” to her. She returned a partial chin lift and did it in a way that made that minimal effort seem taxing.
Then I looked to my feet mainly because I needed to concentrate on not tripping and also because if I caught sight of him again I might start to stare. I knew if I stared at him too long my eyes might burn out of my head.
To focus on something that did not include him or his Seven Point Five, I lifted a hand to capture the thick tendril of hair at the front of my face that always escaped the chignon at the nape of my neck and tucked it behind my ear. Then I scurried passed them and down the stairs, praying I wouldn’t tumble down. Mostly I didn’t want to look like a fool but I also didn’t want a broken neck.
I successfully made it to my car and focused on getting myself sorted by stowing my purse and travel coffee mug. I connected my MP3 player, finding a good song that would put me in the mood to work and hooked my seatbelt. I did this so I wouldn’t look at Detective Mitch Lawson and his Seven Point Five coming down and driving away. I could watch him for hours. I knew this even though I’d never done it. Doing that would make me a sort of stalker and even insignificant stalker-type behavior was creepy.
It took me awhile to get sorted. Unfortunately by the time I had Grand Funk ready to shout out “We’re An American Band”, I was belted, the ignition was turned and I looked up to back out, Seven Point Five was gone.
But Detective Mitch Lawson remained. I knew this not because I looked for him but because I couldn’t miss him. There was an empty spot next to mine and his SUV was in the next spot. He was also in that spot, standing outside the driver’s side door to his truck, his hips to it, his arms crossed on his chest and his eyes were on me like
This had never happened before and was also against all the laws that ruled my universe. Therefore, I may have stared for a second before my mind started tripping over itself trying to figure out what to do.
I decided on a little wave which was what I did. This earned me another smile from Detective Mitch Lawson that I felt whoosh through my belly in a
Okay, that was it. That was all I could take.
I looked away, hit play on my MP3 player, Don Brewer started beating out the intro to “We’re An American Band” and I did my best to back out without hitting anything.
And I just managed to drive away without looking again at Detective Mitch Lawson, his perfect body, his great hair, his fabulous lips or his beautiful eyes.
“Hello this is Mara Hanover in unit 6C. I’ve called three times today and I really need someone to come over and look at my bathroom tap. It won’t turn off. Can you please have the maintenance guy come around? Thanks.”
I flipped my cell shut after leaving my voicemail message and stared at my bathroom faucet that hadn’t turned off after I was finished with it that morning. I called the Management Office of the complex before going to work (leaving a message). When I didn’t get a call back, I called at lunch (leaving another message). Now I was home after work and it was past office hours but someone was supposed to be on call all the time. I should have had a callback. I needed a callback. What I didn’t need was a water bill out the roof or to try to go to sleep listening to running water while thinking of my money flowing down the drain.
I sighed and kept staring at the water running full blast out of my faucet.
I was a woman who had lived alone her entire adult life. I’d once had a long-term relationship with a Five Point Five that got nowhere near living together. This was because I was a Two Point Five, he was a Five Point Five and he wanted a Nine Point Five. Therefore, we were both destined for a broken heart. He gave me mine. He later found a Six Point Five that wanted a Nine Point Five. She got herself a breast enhancement and nose job which made her a firm Seven (if you didn’t count the fact that she thought she was a Ten point Five and acted like it which really knocked her down to a Six) who broke his heart.
Regardless of the fact that I was now thirty-one and had lived alone since I was eighteen, I knew nothing about plumbing or cars. Every time something happened with my plumbing or my car, I vowed to myself that I would learn something about plumbing or cars. I would get that said something fixed and I’d totally forget my vow. Then I’d lament forgetting my vow in times like I was experiencing right now.
I walked out of my master bath, through my bedroom, down the hall into my open plan living-slash-kitchen-slash-dining area and out the front door. I crossed the breezeway and knocked on Derek and LaTanya’s door.
Derek knew something about plumbing. I knew this because of two things. First he was a man and men had a sixth plumbing sense. Second I knew this because he was a plumber.
LaTanya opened the door and her big, dark eyes widened with LaTanya Delight.
LaTanya Delight was different than anyone else’s delight and therefore deserved a capital letter. It was louder, brasher, brighter and cheerier. The look on her face communicated her joy at seeing me like she and I had been separated at birth and was right then being blissfully reunited; not like she’d just seen me the night before when she came over to watch
“Hey girl!” she squealed through a big smile. “Perfect timing. I’m about to mix a batch of mojitos. Get your ass in here and I’ll pour us some cocktails!”
I smiled at her but shook my head. “Can’t,” I told her. “Something’s up with my faucet, the office hasn’t returned my calls and I really need Derek to look at it. Is he around?”
I sensed movement at my side and LaTanya did too. We both looked that way to see Detective Mitch Lawson walking up the stairs carrying four plastic grocery bags.
If I was a Seven to Ten and in his zone which could mean in his life, I would lecture him about plastic grocery bags. Considering the state of the environment, no one should use plastic grocery bags, not even hot guys who could get away with practically anything. Since I was not and I didn’t know him and
know him for fear of expiring from pleasure should he, say, speak more than a few words to me, I’d never get the chance to lecture him about plastic grocery bags.
“Yo Mitch!” LaTanya greeted him loudly with Delight.
“Hey LaTanya,” Mitch greeted back then his beautiful eyes skimmed to me and his lips tipped up further, “Hey.”
“Hey,” I replied, locked my legs, ignored the whoosh I felt in my belly and looked back at LaTanya. She was checking out Detective Mitch Lawson as any woman should or she would be immediately reported to then thrown out of the Woman Club. I heard the rustling of bags but I ignored it and called her name to get her attention. When I got it, I repeated, “Is Derek around? I wouldn’t bother him but my faucet won’t turn off and I really need someone to look at it.”
“He’s not here, Mara, sorry, babe,” LaTanya replied. “You say the office hasn’t called you back?”
“No,” I told her and was about to ask her if she would send Derek over when he got home when I heard from my side:
“You want me to look at it?”
This came from Detective Mitch Lawson and I sucked in breath and twisted my neck so only my head was facing him. He was standing outside his open apartment door still carrying his bags and his eyes were on me.
My mind went blank. I lost the lock on my legs and my knees wobbled.
God, he was beautiful.
“Mara,” I heard from far away and even though I heard it and it was my name, I didn’t respond. “Mara!” I heard again. This time louder and sharper, my body jolted and I turned to LaTanya.
“What?” I asked.
“Mitch’ll look at it, that cool with you?” she asked me.
I blinked at her.
No. No it was
cool with me.
What did I do?
I couldn’t have him in my apartment walking through my
to look at my faucet. That would mean he’d be in my apartment. That would mean he’d walk through my
. And that would mean I’d have to speak more than one word to him.
I looked to Detective Mitch Lawson and said the only thing I could say.
“That would be really kind.”
He stared at me a second then lifted the bags an inch and muttered, “Let me get rid of these and I’ll be over.”
I swallowed then called, “Okay,” to his closing door.
I watched his door close and then I kept watching his closed door wondering if the weird feeling I was having was just panic or a precursor to a heart attack. Then LaTanya called my name again so I looked at her.
“You okay?” she asked, studying me closely.
I had not, incidentally, shared my love for Detective Mitch Lawson with LaTanya, Derek, Brent, Bradon or anyone. This was because I thought they’d think I was a little insane (or a stalker). They often invited him to parties and such and if he came, I would usually make my excuses and leave. They’d never cottoned on. I figured mostly because he didn’t often attend their parties due to his being a police officer with long hours but also because he had his buds over for games and his babes over for other things. He wasn’t the type of man who went to gay men’s parties or LaTanya’s cocktail extravaganzas. The ones he went to I suspected he did just to be neighborly. Though Derek, more often than not, went to his place to watch games. Usually in order to escape LaTanya’s cocktail extravaganzas which were frequent occasions.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I lied to her. “Just had a tough day at work,” I continued lying. “And I’m not happy the Management Office didn’t call me back. They don’t pay my water bill.” I wasn’t lying about that.
“I hear you,” LaTanya agreed. “Service around here has taken a turn for the worse even though they upped our rent three months ago. You remember our fridge went out last month?”
I remembered. I also remembered it took three weeks to get it replaced. Derek had been none-too-happy and LaTanya had been loudly none-too-happy.
“Yeah, I remember. That sucked.”
“It sure did. Buyin’ ice all the time and livin’ outta coolers. I don’t pay rent for that shit. Fuck that.”
Fuck that indeed.
Detective Mitch Lawson’s door opened and I realized my mistake instantly. I should have run to my house and done something. I didn’t know what. Nothing needed tidying because I was freakishly tidy. There was nothing I could do with my appearance but I figured I should have tried to do
He started walking our way asking, “Now a good time?”
No, no time was a good time for the Ten Point Five I was secretly in love with to be in my apartment.
I nodded and said, “Sure.” Then I looked at LaTanya and said, “Later, babe.”
“Later. Remember, a mojito is waitin’ for you, Mitch gets your faucet sorted out.”
“Thanks,” I muttered, smiled and then glanced at Detective Mitch Lawson before looking down at my feet, turning and walking the short distance to my door. I opened it, walked through and held it open for him to come inside.
He did and I tried not to hyperventilate.
“Which one is it?” he asked as I closed the door behind him.
I turned, stood at the door and looked up at him. He was closer than I expected and he was taller than he seemed from afar and he seemed pretty tall from afar. I’d never been this close to him and I felt his closeness tingle pleasantly all across my skin. I was wearing heels and I felt his tallness in the depth of the tip of my head which didn’t tip back that often to look at someone seeing as I was tall.
“Pardon?” I asked.
“Faucet,” he said. “Which one? Hall or master?”
I didn’t have any clue what he was talking about. It was like he was speaking in a foreign language. All I could focus on were his eyes which I was also seeing closer than I’d ever seen before. He had great eyelashes.
Those lashes moved when his eyes narrowed.
“You okay?” he asked.
Oh God. I had to get a hold on myself.
“Yeah, fine, um… the faucet’s in my master bath,” I told him.
He stood there staring at me. I stood there staring at him. Then his lips twitched and he lifted his arm slightly in the direction of my hall.
“You wanna lead the way?” he asked.
Ohmigod! I was
“Right,” I muttered, looked down at my feet and led the way.
When we were both in my bathroom which, with him in it, went from a normal-sized master bath to a teeny-tiny, suffocating space I pointed to the faucet and then pointed out the obvious.
“It won’t turn off.”
“I see that,” he murmured then I stood frozen with mortification as he crouched and opened the doors to my vanity.
Why was he opening the doors to my vanity? I kept my tampons down there! You could see them! They were right at the front for easy accessibility!
He reached in, I closed my eyes in despair and wished the floor would gobble me up and suddenly the water turned off.
I opened my eyes, stared at the faucet and exclaimed, “Holy cow! You fixed it!”
He tipped his head back to look at me then he straightened out of his crouch to look down at me.
Then he said, “No, I just turned the water off.”
I blinked up at him. Then I asked, “Pardon?”
“You can turn the water off.”
“Oh,” I whispered then went on stupidly, “I should probably have done that before I left for work this morning.”
His mouth twitched again and he said, “Probably. Though you can’t do somethin’ you don’t know you can do.”
I looked to the basin and muttered, “This is true.”
“There’s a valve under the sink. I’ll show it to you after I take a look at the faucet,” he said and I forced my eyes to his. “You probably just need a new washer. Where are your tools?”
I blinked again. “Tools?”
His stared at me and then his lips twitched again. “Yeah. Tools. Like a wrench. You got one of those?”
“I have a hammer,” I offered.
One side of his mouth hitched up in a half-smile. “I’m not sure a hammer is gonna help.”
It took a lot of effort but I only glanced at the half-smile before my eyes went back to his. This didn’t do a thing to decelerate my rapidly accelerating heartbeat.
“Then no I don’t have tools,” I told him not adding that I wasn’t entirely certain what a wrench
He nodded and turned to the door. “I’ll go get mine.”
Then he was gone and I didn’t know what to do so I hurried after him.
I should have stayed where I was. I’d seen him move, of course, I just hadn’t seen him moving around in my apartment. He had an athlete’s grace which I had noticed before. But it was more. He had a natural confidence with the way he held his body
the way he moved. It was immensely attractive all the time but seeing it in my apartment was not going to be conducive to peace of mind; something it was difficult for me to find on a good day much less a day when my faucet didn’t turn off and I was forced to endure an evening that included Detective Mitch Lawson having to be in my apartment.
He stopped at the door and turned to me. “I’ll be right back.”
I nodded and he disappeared out the door.