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Authors: Shirley Jump

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Mack Douglas wondered some days if Alexander Kenner even knew he was a man.

As far as he knew, she had never looked at Mack the way other women did. Every other woman Mack had ever known did indeed notice he was made up of testosterone. Some flirted, some just smiled. Others made their interest quite clear by a shifting cleavage or a bold invitation to dinner, but Alex—

Alex saw him as a friend. The ugly, curse of death, F word.

To her, he was just Mack. They'd been friends forever, since he saved her from a bee in kindergarten and in turn, she'd given him something to look forward to when he rolled out of bed.

Alex had changed his life when she'd become his friend, and for two dozen years he'd also seen her as just that—

A friend. Someone to tell his problems to. Another e-mail on his list to forward that one about the priest and the monkey that went into the bar. The first one he'd call when he scored Red Sox box seats, the last one he'd call at the end of a date when the woman had turned out to think she was the descendant of Marvin the Martian.

Then, somewhere along the way, Mack had started to notice Alex. Notice the way she breathed. The scent of her perfume. The shape of her hips, her breasts.

And he stopped thinking of her in friendly terms.

It had been, however, a one-sided thought road. For a guy, there were days when that particular avenue was pure agony. Like today.

Alex hoisted herself out of his in-ground pool and Mack had to remember to breathe.

The water cascaded over her breasts, running like a waterfall down every inch of her luscious curves, shimmering along her tiny waist, the curve of her hips, as she climbed up the ladder, then onto the concrete. She swung her long brown hair to one side, squeezed the water out of it, completely unaware of what such a movement made the rest of her body do in that teeny-tiny hot-pink bikini.

Mack swallowed. Grabbed the beer beside him and knocked back half.

“Thanks, Mack,” Alex said, finally grabbing a towel and wrapping it around herself, taking away the best parts from his sight. “I needed that.”

I did, too,
Mack thought. With a sigh, he put the beer back down. “My pool is open anytime.”

“You're the best. I needed to get away from my parents and their disappointment in my bad choices. And I always love your house. To find the best house on the corner, look for the one owed by the carpenter.” She grinned.

“One of these days, you'll let me build you one.”

“When I have a need for more than one bedroom.” She sat down on the lounge chair and he found himself starting to pray.

Take off the towel and lay back, go for a tan.

“I didn't know what I was going to do after that whole thing with Edward,” Alex said. “Why are men such jerks?”

That word got Mack's attention. Reminded him that he had descended into the depths of jerk-dom by standing there, praying for her to take off the towel so that he could sneak a peek at her body again. Some friend that made him. He sank onto the chair beside her, handing Alex a second, opened beer. “Because we have very tiny brains and we tend to keep them behind our zippers.”

Alex laughed. “Seriously, I'd like to meet one nice guy. All I want to do is settle down. Have a family.”

“Why?” Mack said, leaning forward, propping his elbows on his knees. “Why is that so important to you?”

He, for one, couldn't imagine that kind of future, not in a million years. The bachelor life suited him just fine. No one to answer to, no one to wonder why he came from work late. No one to question a damned thing he did.

Alex sighed, then put the beer aside. “I've grown up without much of that. My parents were never home, and when they were, their version of family time was turning on the TV. I'd like
something
that's normal in my life.”

“You've got me.”

She laughed. “You, my hulking friend, are far from normal.” Alex leaned back, turned her face up to meet the summer sun. “I'm serious, I've been writing that column for five years. Dating for God only knows how many years before that, and it seems like every month I turn in the same story. Single woman in the city finding jerk number seven hundred and sixty-two. All I want is to meet one good guy. Fall in love. Settle down. Write ‘and they lived happily ever after.'”

“I'd say you have the falling in love part down.”

She leaned over and smacked him. “You could help me, you know, instead of giving me such a hard time.”

Mack had to grab his beer so he wouldn't stare down her bikini top again. Why couldn't Alex wear a one-piece, like other women? Why did that damned towel have to keep slipping? “What do you mean, help you?”

“Help me find a man. That way, I can get married and finally get out of your hair. And even better, I'll finally stay out of your pool.” She grinned, then slipped off the towel and laid back on the lounge chair, totally oblivious to the effect she and that slim excuse for a swimsuit had on him.

Mack groaned inwardly and guzzled the rest of his beer. He shot to his feet. Alex was right. The best thing he could do was introduce her to a man who would marry her because Alex was never going to see him as anything other than a friend and the longer he stayed near her, the more he suffered. “You have a deal. I'll find a Mr. Perfect for you.”

Then he stripped off his shirt and drove headfirst into the deep end, trying to get away from her and the fantasies that bikini conjured up. Trouble was, he suspected he was already way over his head with Alex.

ZEBRA BOOKS are published by

Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10022

Copyright © 2007 by Shirley Jump

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.

Zebra and the Zebra logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.

ISBN: 978-1-420-12948-9

BOOK: Really Something
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