Friday, October 14, 2016

One More Week

The Girl Across the Hall releases next Friday. Time for another excerpt. Enjoy and have a good weekend.

     So certain was she that it was Felicia that Zoe didn’t even use the peephole before opening the door. “Good morn…” It wasn’t Felicia. It was The Pervert. Zoe gulped for air.
     For a pervert, he was damned gorgeous. The impossibly thick, dark chocolate waves of his hair shone in the dim overhead lighting provided in the hallway. His eyebrows were dark slashes over vivid aqua blue eyes framed with the sort of luscious lashes she only achieved when using that expensive special microfiber mascara Felicia insisted that she needed. Enough couldn’t be said about his eyes. They slanted at the corners, giving him a sleepy sensual appearance. His nose was straight and pretty but broad enough to look masculine. His lips were the full sort that made her question when white boys started being born with mouths like that. It was the kind of mouth that gave a woman ideas—ideas about what his lips would feel like pressed against her own or trailing over sensitive parts of her body. A plain gray t-shirt strained at the seams over his broad shoulders and chest. His jeans were faded and worn soft in all the right places.
     Zoe snatched her gaze away from the distractingly substantial bulge at his crotch and gripped the door in case she needed to slam it in his face. “Um…”
     “Morning, Zoe.” He grinned. “I was wondering if you had any of those dishwashing packets.”
     She closed her mouth. Okay. So not only were they on a first name basis in his world; they were also close enough to mooch off one another. “C-come in,” she invited reluctantly. She made a point of leaving the door open behind him.
     He stepped over the threshold and immediately shivered. “It’s like a meat locker in here.”
     Zoe wrapped her sweater closer around her body. She preferred shivering over sweating. “I hear it’s supposed to be almost ninety degrees outside today.” Shifting so that her back wasn’t to him, she searched the cabinet beneath her sink. She had two bags of dishwashing packs. The open container had only two of the squares left. She grabbed the almost empty bag and stood up.
     And then blinked in surprise. He’d moved while she wasn’t paying attention and was now so close she could smell his soap and aftershave. He smelled amazing. And she so didn’t. She hadn’t showered or brushed her teeth. Or done her hair! A self-conscious hand flew up to touch her hair. She hadn’t felt like doing anything more than putting her hair in a ponytail last night which meant her face was surrounded by flyaway frizzy curls.
     She pressed the bag of dishwasher packs to his chest. “You can have these.”
     He covered her hand and removed the proffered bag in a caressing manner, his palm warming her before he withdrew. “Thank you so much, Zoe. I forgot to buy more when I was out.”
     “No problem,” she said.
     “Let me pay you back. I’ll take you out for coffee.”
     She shook her head. “You don’t have to do that. And I don’t drink coffee.” She crossed to the door so that he would understand that this conversation was over and it was his cue to leave.
     “Zoe, please, let me pay you back. I really appreciate what you’re doing for me.”
     Frowning, she asked, “How do you know my name?”
     “I overheard your friend say it. My name is Noah, by the way.”
     He must mean Felicia. She was the only one who came over and Zoe was beginning to wish that she didn’t. “Nice to meet you, Noah,” she said automatically. Social graces weren’t her forte. In fact, if he didn’t leave soon, she would be out of things to say and then she’d start to sweat even though she had the thermostat set on seventy degrees.
     “We could go to lunch,” he suggested.
     Was he asking her out? She wasn’t good at reading people. She thought of the mistakes she’d made with Henry Thomas, one of the partners at the investment firm where she worked. Had that been her fault? She kept analyzing it afterward and she didn’t think so. His motives had seemed so clear. But she must have been mistaken. He wasn’t interested in her. And Noah wasn’t either. She’d seen the type of woman he dated and it definitely wasn’t her. He liked outgoing, confident women. Not women like herself who had to psych themselves up for any social interaction.
     When she didn’t reply, he continued, “What are you doing later?”
     Absolutely nothing. And she liked those plans. She intended to have a quiet day in, surfing the internet and maybe catch a movie marathon. “Um,” she faltered, trying to come up with a lie so that he’d leave her alone. She wasn’t interested in have a friendly lunch with a guy she was pretty sure was a pervert. She could give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he didn’t sleep with all the women she’d seen him with. But just because she was shy didn’t mean she was naïve or ignorant. So that meant he probably just wanted an introduction to Felicia. It was what most guys wanted.
     “I-I’ve got a thing…so-so, I can’t today. But thanks for the invite. You really, really don’t have to pay me back.”
     He frowned and tilted his head to the side like a confused puppy. “Okay. Maybe we can do it some other time.”
     Never, she thought. But she gave him a false smile. “Sure.” When he still didn’t seem to take the hint and get out, she said, “Well, I need to do a bit of cleaning up before…my thing.”
     “Yeah, sure.” He held up the dishwasher detergent. “Thanks again.”
     “Anytime,” she said, not meaning it for a second. Hopefully this would be the last time he invaded her personal space. If he wanted to hook up with Felicia, he’d do it without any assistance from her. Besides Felicia had a man. She and Henry were all but engaged.
     Zoe sighed in relief as she locked the door behind him. That would teach her to open the door without checking the peephole first. Then she grimaced. Now she’d have to go out so that he wouldn’t know she’d lied about having a “thing.” Well, she’d better get showered and changed for her pretend errand. This is what came of befriending neighbors, she thought grumpily.

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