Reading NOW is always better than waiting to read, right? Of course it is! Which is why I'm giving you this sneak peek of Chapter 1 today instead of when the book goes live on 4/29 (preorder HERE). You're welcome:
Neighbors With Benefits
Her next-door neighbor was, in fact, Satan.
There was no other scenario Ridley Lennox would entertain. Why else would the bastard be coming home at 3:30am on a Monday night, slamming his car door, and triggering the motion-detecting flood lights on his porch? The ones that pierced right through her sheer bedroom curtains to poke her in the eye while she was trying to sleep?
And what the fuck was he doing that required slamming his screen door three times? Three!
With a groan, she flopped over on her stomach and pulled her comforter over her head.
Ridley had wanted a house in the upper-middle class Elmwood Terrace neighborhood in the small town of Ridgeland Falls, Indiana, since she was eight years old. Back then, her family had lived in the ratty trailer park on the outskirts of town, so the sprawling river rock ranch homes in Elmwood looked like nirvana to her as she biked past them on her way to school every day.
She’d scrimped and saved nearly every penny she’d made since college to afford a solid down payment on her move-in-ready, three-bedroom, two-bath ranch house on a quiet cul-de-sac in the middle of the subdivision. It had taken her nearly two years to furnish the place, which she’d done on a shoestring budget by frequenting consignment shops, thrift stores, and Goodwill to find beautiful, serviceable items that were also a little funky and stylish. Everything was finally exactly how she wanted it.
And she couldn’t enjoy any of it because a complete douchenozzle had moved in next door and ruined everything.
Six weeks ago, Finn Doyle bought old lady Harrison’s house. Apparently, none of the Harrison sons wanted the place. Ridley didn’t blame them. The old bat had been a heinous bitch who threatened to throw pots of scalding water on trick-or-treaters on Halloween if they didn’t get off her lawn. She’d made Christmas carolers cry on more than one occasion. And the Jehovah’s witnesses? Well, no one ever saw them again. Foul play was suspected.
So, it wasn’t any surprise to Ridley that the Harrison boys had no fond memories of their mom or her home. Their lack of emotional attachment to the place was Finn’s gain, because according to the real estate website she’d stalked, he’d gotten the place for a song, and he’d moved in right after the closing in a whirlwind of activity—way more activity than this neighborhood was used to seeing.
He’d arrived with the biggest U-Haul Ridley had ever seen. The giant beast had blocked her driveway all damn day while Finn unloaded every box and piece of furniture by himself.
That should’ve been her first clue that being his neighbor wasn’t going to be a pleasant experience. Who moved by themselves? Didn’t he have any friends or co-workers who could be bribed into helping him with beer and pizza? And who blocked their new neighbor’s driveway all day without even checking to see if she had to go anywhere?
Fortunately for him, Ridley worked from home and rarely went anywhere other than the grocery store, the nursing home where she volunteered, the office supply store, or the post office. (OK, fine…or the liquor store.)
That wasn’t the point, though. The point was that he didn’t know she worked from home and rarely had to go anywhere. For all he knew, she was a bigshot surgeon or some shit and had to go save lives at the drop of a hat.
She wasn’t a surgeon, though. Ridley was a copywriter for a local ad agency, and there were hardly ever any copywriting emergencies that required her to rush out of her house. Unless she was out of chocolate and Diet Coke.
But that was another story entirely.
She also liked to read romance novels in her spare time. Happily Ever After endings were her jam. Which kind of explained why initially, she was willing to overlook the red flags that Finn’s entrance into her quiet community had raised.
See, Finn Doyle was hot.
Not like normal, boy-next-door hot. Finn was movie star hot. Underwear model hot. Bad-boy-biker-with-a-heart-of-gold hot. Ruin-you-for-other-men-and-leave-you-weak-and-dehydrated-after-fucking-you-for-three-days-straight hot.
Romance novel hero hot.
Ridley had watched him haul every one of his boxes and pieces of furniture into his house.
Every time his muscle-y biceps and forearms flexed, every time he swept his too-long, messy, dark hair off his brow, every time he bent down to lift something, putting the most perfect, round, sculpted male ass in history on display…she’d seen it. And maybe drooled a little. The way the man filled out a pair of ragged, faded jeans and a gray Henley should be illegal.
She’d made the mistake of going over to welcome him to the neighborhood a few days later.
It wasn’t something she normally did. She was usually a I’ll-call-911-if-your-house-is-on-fire kind of neighbor, not a let-me-organize-a-cookout-for-the-neighborhood-block-party kind of neighbor. She kept to herself, mostly. Peopling wasn’t really her thing.
But Finn was so, so pretty that in a moment of weakness, she pretended she wasn’t an introvert and played welcome wagon for the day.
She was a little ashamed to admit that she’d even taken time to straighten her hair, swipe on some mascara, and put on a pair of jeans instead of her work uniform of a ratty Star Wars sweatshirt that said “Pew Pew Pew” across her chest and a pair of threadbare yoga pants. It was normal for a single woman to not want to look like she was a natural disaster survivor when first meeting a hot new neighbor, right?
But when she’d knocked on his front door, he’d practically ripped it off the hinges, narrowed his eyes at her, and crossed his arms over his broad chest like she was about to ask him if he wanted to buy Amway. In the glare of all that sexy intensity and disapproval, she’d giggled like a drunken hyena (nervous laughter was her cross to bear) and introduced herself.
His bluer-than-blue eyes had traveled over her in a way that made her think he did not appreciate the fact that she’d dressed up and said, “So, I guess that’s your dog shitting on my lawn?”
It had taken her a minute to register his words, because his voice was incredible. Deep and resonate and a little rough and grumbly, it was the stuff of wild, sweaty, dirty fantasies.
But when his words did seep into her brain, she’d glanced over her shoulder and saw that her Airedale/Irish Wolfhound mix, Sir Fitzsimmons FuzzyButt (Fitzy for short) was indeed taking a giant crap on Finn’s front lawn.
The nervous giggle had intensified at that moment, because Fitzy had obviously eaten something that disagreed with him. It looked—and smelled—like he was shitting toxic waste. A lot of it, because Fitzy wasn’t exactly a lap dog. He weighed one-ten on a good day, but after he was done emptying his bowels on Finn’s lawn, he was probably down to ninety-five.
So. Much. Yikes.
Ridley had somehow managed to stutter out an apology and promised to hose the lawn off—or call a HazMat team…whatever—but Finn hadn’t wanted to hear it. He’d simply muttered something under his breath and slammed the door in her face.
She’d called him a dick before she realized his living room window was open and he could probably hear her. He confirmed her suspicions by sticking his head out the window and raising a brow at her in a supremely dickish manner.
She’d flounced away after that, whistling for Fitzy as she went. She wasn’t about to apologize for calling a dick a dick. He could just sit there in his dickishness and…dick.
Since then, they’d only seen each other in passing. Terse looks were exchanged, but no neighborly greetings. Sometimes she stuck her tongue out at him or flipped him the bird when he wasn’t looking. But other than that, she only thought about him when he was mowing his lawn at 10pm on a Tuesday (what kind of psychopath did that?) or, like now, when she was trying to sleep and he was making enough noise to wake the dead.
The screen door slammed again. Son of a bitch!
Ridley threw her comforter off in a fit of temper, stomped through the house to the kitchen window where she’d be able to see what the bastard was doing, ripped the shades open and…
Sweet Mother of Hostess Donettes.
Satan was naked.
Never in her life would she have imagined seeing this much of her new neighbor.
Finn had obviously stripped in his laundry room, and was standing in front of his refrigerator, naked as the day he was born, chugging orange juice directly from the carton. The whole drinking from the carton thing would’ve really offended her—there were clean glasses right there by the sink, for crap’s sake—if she hadn’t been completely transfixed by the most perfect ass she’d ever seen in her life. Michelangelo’s David would be jealous of Finn’s ass. It was that great.
Then he turned around.
His abs had abs. And he had the perfect amount of chest hair—not too much, not too little. All that smooth, lightly tanned skin stretched taut over miles and miles of lean muscle…it was a little overwhelming. She told herself not to let her eyes dip any lower. Don’t do it. Don’t do it.
She let her eyes dip lower.
Now, Ridley was between boyfriends. It had been a long time since she’d been this close to a naked man. And, granted, her last few boyfriends weren’t what anyone would call well-endowed. But even given how out of practice she was, and just how few penises she’d seen up close lately, she was fairly certain Finn was impressively hung. Like, porn-star hung, if she hadn’t missed her guess. She leaned in a little closer to get a better look.
That’s when Fitzy shoved his cold, wet nose into the back of her thigh. Ridley shrieked and jerked forward, smacking her forehead on the window. “Motherfucker!”
She pressed a hand to her forehead, knowing she might very well have a goose egg there by morning, and glanced back into Finn’s house.
He was looking in her direction, frowning and squinting. Ridley dove to the floor like a live grenade had just been lobbed into her kitchen.
And that was the story of how she ended up on her kitchen floor at 3:30am, wearing nothing but her panties and ratty sleep T-shirt, with a lump on her forehead, feeling the kind of shame only someone who’d been caught mentally sexually harassing their hot douchebag neighbor could feel.
It was an epiphany moment for her. This had to stop. It was finally time to have another chat with her grumpy-as-fuck neighbor. How was she supposed to do her job when she couldn’t even get a fucking night’s sleep because he was wandering around his house, making enough noise to wake the whole damn neighborhood, all naked and hot and muscle-y and sexy like that?
She’d do it first thing in the morning. Ridley grinned evilly at the thought of interrupting his beauty sleep for once.
Fitzy shuffled over and laid down next to her, resting his big, fluffy brown and black head on her neck. He obviously agreed with her plan and supported her one-hundred percent.
Finn Doyle was about to find out that paybacks were a bitch.
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