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Authors: Lydia Rowan

Tags: #Contemporary Interracial Romance

When You Least Expect

BOOK: When You Least Expect
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Table of Contents

When You Least Expect

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Epilogue

I Hope You Enjoyed the Book!

Playthings Series

Lydia’s Books

When You Least Expect

A Thornehill Springs Novel

Lydia Rowan

 

 

When You Least Expect

Copyright ©2015 by Lydia Rowan. All rights reserved. Excepting brief quotations used for purposes of review, no part of this work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means including, without limitation, electronic, mechanical, recording, or otherwise without prior written consent of the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, businesses, and incidents are invented by the author or used fictitiously. Any similarities to real people, living or dead, businesses and business establishments, places, or events are entirely coincidental. Any trademarks or copyrighted terms used herein are for illustrative purposes only without intention of infringing on any owner’s marks.

Five years ago, Ariel Mallick experienced a devastating loss, and for a time, she didn’t know if she’d recover.

It took a while, but the widowed mother is in a good place now, focused on providing the best possible life for her four-year-old daughter and maintaining her career as a mechanic. Her life now is one that a few short years ago she didn’t think would be possible, and she won’t do anything to unsettle it.

Mathias Poole was born and raised in Thornehill Springs, and though many of the memories of his past are tinged with pain, he loves his town and is happy to be back home, especially since meeting Ariel.

To her surprise, Ariel feels a deep attraction to the handsome, reserved Dr. Poole. After an impromptu date, she finds herself caught up in a passionate whirlwind, one strong enough to make her wonder if she and Matt might have a chance at something real.

But not everyone in town is excited about Ariel’s new relationship, and to keep her daughter she might have to give up the man she’s come to love.

••••

The first two books in the Thornehill Springs series,
Where You Least Expect
and
Who You Least Expect
are out now. If you’d like to be informed of Lydia’s new releases,
join her newsletter.

Chapter One

“Relax, Dr. Poole. You’re in the hands of a master. Well, your car is anyway,” Ariel Mallick said.

Mathias gaped for a moment, not quite sure if he was reading into things or if Ariel had actually flirted with him. A glance at her eyes revealed a glint of humor, and though he hadn’t decided whether the statement was suggestive or not, he let out a little chuckle. Ariel responded with a quick lift of her lips and then she got down to business.

She kneeled down and faced the car, and all traces of humor faded, her face now shifted to a tight, serious mask of focus. Matt followed suit and bent at the knee and peered at Ariel as she worked.

She seemed very good, and he was impressed. Matt had always appreciated competence, and that she’d managed to be great and do so well in a male-dominated field was impressive. The woman herself was pretty impressive as well.

Matt usually liked girlie girls, but Ariel had an earthy naturalness that he found appealing. There was nothing fussy about her, and as he thought back over the times he’d seen her at events or just around town, he noted that he’d never seen her particularly dressed up or adorned.

Not that she needed to be.

Ariel’s attractiveness shone through without any help. Wide brown eyes that usually sparkled with good humor, high cheekbones, full and—he noticed for not the first time—kissable-looking lips. He let his gaze drop lower to her more-than-generous breasts, over her thick waist and hips, and down her strong, sturdy legs. Even dressed in coveralls, her thick, curly hair pulled back, she was as attractive as any woman he’d seen in a long while.

And their surroundings were the perfect background for Ariel’s particular brand of attractiveness. The body shop was several miles away from Thornehill’s main streets, so there was little background noise, the setting serene, almost cathedral-like, the feeling only made more so by Ariel’s razor focus.

“Um-hmm,” she said, though the sound was vacant, clearly not directed at anyone in particular.

He crouched farther, still staring at Ariel staring at the car, strong, sure-looking fingers caressing the tire and then something underneath the body expertly. After about a minute of watching, he broke the silence.

“‘Um-hmm’ is pretty vague,” he said.

She looked up from her stooped position, wide brown eyes shifting from focus to humor in a blink. Matt looked down at her, the small smudge on her soft-looking cheek stirring an impulse to wipe it away.

“You worried?” she tossed out, lips pursed and face shaped into a mischievous expression that would have made Matt uneasy were it anyone else. But when he looked at her, nerves were the furthest thing from his mind—his car was too.

He shrugged and cleared his throat, wanting to get back on track. “It doesn’t usually sound like that, so it could be cause for concern.”

The sentence was innocuous enough, but even he could hear that the voice with which he’d said it was deeper, more textured than a conversation about car repair called for. Ariel could too if the husky laugh that emerged from her was any indication.

Matt cleared his throat again. “What’s the diagnosis?” he asked, proud his standard even voice was back.

“You’re the doctor. You tell me,” she said, again lifting one corner of her mouth, voice still that playful, husky tone.

Despite himself, Matt felt a smile creeping across his face. At least he had confirmation that he hadn’t been hearing things.

“Psychologist,” he said. “So I’m better working on the mind than the body.”

Her eyes flashed, and the tilt of her mouth deepened. “I’m sure you’re not so bad with the body.”

Matt was momentarily silent, the suggestion in her words and voice sending his thoughts further down a path that ended up with him and Ariel on his backseat. Probably not what he should have been thinking, so Matt again tried to turn back to the topic at hand.

“Perhaps, but I find the human mind infinitely more comprehensible than those,” he said, gesturing at his car.

Ariel laughed and looked back to the vehicle. “For starters, you have a nail in your tire.”

That explained at least a part of the problem Matt had been experiencing.

“And?” he asked.

“I’ll know for sure once I get it on the machine, but it sounds like you’ve got some undercarriage damage.”

“That’s bad, right?”

“Maybe, maybe not.” She stood and wiped her palms down her heavy coveralls, the motion emphasizing the shape of her thighs and making Matt imagine what it would be like to do the same. Ariel shifted, and Matt looked up to meet her eyes, and knew from the little flare in them his look hadn’t gone unnoticed. Her already bright smile turned supernova.

“Meaning?” Matt said.

“Meaning, I can fix whatever ails you and have you purring in no time.”

Matt didn’t doubt it.

“The car, too,” she added.

He didn’t doubt that either. Ariel was one of the most sought-after mechanics in Thornehill Springs, the reason he’d driven five miles out of his way with his tire half flat and his hood rattling.

“Give me twenty minutes. I’ll get this tire changed and pop the car up on the machine to make sure everything is in order. You can have a seat in the waiting room, if you’d like,” she said.

Matt was strangely reluctant to move, so Ariel added, “Or if you promise you can keep it our little secret, I’ll let you stay out here and watch the magic happen.”

Easiest choice ever, so he stayed and watched as Ariel changed the tire with practiced, efficient movements. It was a sight to behold, especially given Matt’s own lack of facility with cars.

As he watched, he reflected on the thoughts that seemed to have sprung out of thin air. Ariel was no stranger and though he’d seen her several times before, he’d never responded this strongly. He couldn’t help but wonder why he was now. She’d always been fun, lively, but this afternoon she’d been different, and he found he very much liked it.

The sound of a roaring engine broke the peace, and he turned toward the sound and watched as a big black car pulled into the garage. Matt was intrigued by who this new visitor might be. But that intrigue was short-lived and faded to faint unease when he saw the owner of the vehicle park and then emerge.

Matilda Mallick.

A woman in her midsixties, the preacher’s wife no less, shouldn’t have been the source of consternation, but Mrs. Mallick was a special case. She and her buddies, the self-dubbed Ladies’ Council, ruled Thornehill Springs’s high society with an iron fist, and Mrs. Mallick in particular could be unpleasant. Matt always chose to lie low around them and had mostly avoided any run-ins, but Ariel, sadly, didn’t have that luxury.

She’d looked up at the sound as well, and after the faintest nod toward the vehicle, Ariel continued changing the tire while Matilda walked around the car. The older woman’s face softened as she opened the back door and looked on the backseat. Matt couldn’t quite hear what she said, but the change in her expression from stern, upright citizen to almost happy looking was something to behold, and Matt knew who was responsible for that shift.

Mrs. Mallick reached into the backseat and a few moments later, Ariel’s daughter Dani got out of the car, practically bouncing with energy. Matt smiled, happy to see the little girl. Dani was a sweet kid, so sweet, that a few minutes with her were worth having to deal with Mrs. Mallick.

He walked over to say hello.

••••

It was odd, Ariel had thought as she’d watched her mother-in-law round the car and open the back passenger-side door, that she could go from feeling annoyance to pure joy in the blink of an eye. But that was exactly what had happened. As she’d changed the tire, the little fission of intensity Dr. Poole had sparked and stoked as he watched her work on his car faded into the defensiveness and near anger that Mrs. Mallick almost always inspired. But that feeling had been dashed away when she’d glimpsed the first flash of pink glitter, followed by chubby little legs covered with pale pink tights. And by the time her little girl had emerged fully from behind the car door, thoughts of Matilda had left her mind completely. All that had remained was the pure, unadulterated happiness that seeing her daughter inspired.

“Mommy!” Dani exclaimed as she ran toward Ariel.

“No running, Danielle,” Matilda said sharply.

Ariel pressed down her annoyance. Dani shouldn’t be running around the shop, so in that at least, Matilda was right. Ariel chose to overlook the fact that she’d asked Matilda not to bring Dani to see her at work several times already, something her mother-in-law seemed to forget and at the most inconvenient times.

“Hi, baby. Listen to Granny. Lots of dangerous stuff around here, so no running,” Ariel called.

Dr. Poole was a few steps ahead of her, and Ariel took a moment to watch the long, strong, confident strides she’d caught herself admiring a time or two. Then she let her gaze linger over his strong legs, trim waist, the tight muscles of his broad chest, slightly shaggy, longish brown hair that almost brushed his shoulders. And then she let her gaze linger on his face, the sinful-looking stubble that always seemed to cover his strong jaw, full, firm-looking lips, golden-brown eyes that were almost always serene and set in a face that was only made more handsome by the slightly weathered skin. There were no two ways about it: Dr. Poole was a heart-stoppingly handsome man. Not that she should be thinking about him, or any other man, least of all with her mother-in-law and daughter watching.

BOOK: When You Least Expect
8.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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