One Hit Wonderful--Out now from Ellora's Cave Romantica™ Publishing
Lily Michaels is happy to help her cheated on best friend cancel her wedding. But since the groom with the broken nose is also her landlord, it means she’s looking for a new apartment. Enter Nate MacIntyre—former boy-band member —his mostly St. Bernard dog Beau and the apartment over their garage. Nate is sexy, Beau is adorably charming and the apartment is gorgeous. Things are looking up! But complications ensue when Lily's apartment is broken into. Now Nate thinks she's in danger, Lily thinks Nate is silly, and while she’s enjoying her attraction to him, her independent streak simply won’t let her lean on him too much. What do you get when you mix an overprotective man, an independent woman and the confusion that comes with falling in love? Whatever it is, it’s not dull.
BUY e-book | Read Excerpt | Behind the Book
This one was just for fun...one of those times when an idea pops into your head and you have no idea where it's going to go until you get there. Getting there took a while - I actually wrote the first draft of this back in 2008! But these characters kept bugging me to pull them out of a drawer and do something with them, so I did. I like the result - I hope you do, too.
Nate cursed the weather and the dog in equal measure.
“Come on, you furry jackass!” He shook the rain-soaked hair out of his eyes and yanked on the leash. Beau dug his ass even further into the puddle he was sitting in and gave a pitiful whine.
Nate bit down on exasperation. Force wasn’t working, perhaps cajoling would. “Come on, Beau, don’t you want a cookie? Let’s go home and get some cookies, okay?”
The dog’s ears perked up and he gave a hopeful woof. Encouraged, Nate tugged again and was rewarded with two cautious steps. “Yeah, that’s it, boy! Let’s go home and get a cookie!”
Beau woofed again and took two more steps forward, but before Nate could even finish the mental Yes!, lightning split the sky over their heads and thunder boomed. Nate swore ripely as Beau’s forward movement halted immediately, but even as he braced himself for the dog to pull back, lightning struck again and instead of burrowing in, Beau leapt forward.
The leash flew out of his hand as the dog flew past him. Caught flat footed, Nate cursed as he ran to catch up. “Beau! Beau, heel!”
He stopped cursing because it was costing him breath. He chased the dog through the park, past the swing sets and the merry-go-round, the softball fields and the picnic area. He felt a burst of relief when he realized Beau was headed for home, but his heart all but stopped in his chest as he watched him run across the street in front of a pickup It started again with a painful thump as the truck swerved, missing the dog by inches, and Beau ran on with barely a hitch in his stride.
Nate ignored the shouted curses of the driver and ran across the street, eyes straining to catch a glimpse of the dog. It was getting darker, and he could hardly make out the wet mass of panicked canine as he raced across the lawn. He put on a burst of speed when he realized Beau was racing past the house without even a pause, but by the time he made it up the hill, there was no sign of him.
His head whipped around as he scanned the yard, calling Beau’s name at the top of his lungs. It was only on his second scan of the yard he noticed the bottom door to the carriage house apartment was ajar.
He leapt forward, spanning the distance in two strides, and immediately noticed the huge muddy footprints on the front of the door. He was pushing the door open when he heard the crash and the scream.
Fearing the worst—though what the worst was he had no idea—he flew up the stairs and through the open apartment door. Part of his brain made note of the muddy footprints and puddles of dirty water on the floor, and used them as a trail. He flew down the hall and, noting the lights on and music coming from the bathroom, bolted through the door at top speed.
He had a glimpse of Beau, muddy and wet and scrambling for purchase on the plastic-draped floor, and of Lily, arms pinwheeling, paint flying off the roller in her hand as she fought for balance. He stepped forward, arms outstretched to catch her, steady her, but the heel of his worn and muddy sneaker caught a puddle of spilled paint. His legs shot out, his arms shot up and he went skidding into both of them like a bowling ball aiming for the last two pins on the lane.
Beau yipped, Lily screeched, and they all went down in a pile of arms and legs and paint roller and fur.
“Fuck.” Nate’s head bounced off the tile and had him seeing stars. Beau whined and tried to get up, pushing the bulk of his considerable weight into Nate’s lower abdomen. He cursed again, groaning as the dog slipped and fell back into his lap, and in self-defense curled a hand into his collar.
“Are you all right?” he heard Lily ask from the vicinity of his knees, and looked down.
She was lying half under the dog and half over him, her neck arched over his shin and the top of her head resting on the floor. She had paint on her face. “Ah…fine,” he managed, and struggled up onto his elbows while keeping a vise grip on the dog. “How’re you?”
“Oh fine. Just hanging around.”
For a second neither of them said anything, the silence only broken by Aretha’s soulful voice crooning about Dr. Feelgood, then they both burst out laughing at the same time. Beau whined and tried to lick both their faces. Lily laughed harder, her whole body shaking with it.
Nate finally managed to sit up and lever Beau off his lap. “Sit!” he commanded, pulling up with the hand on his collar, pushing his rump down with the other, and with an oddly human groan, Beau complied.
Nate turned back to find Lily pushing herself up and quickly grasped her elbow, easing her into a sitting position.
“Thanks,” she said, laughter warming her voice. Her brown eyes danced, sparkling in the light as she pushed her hair off her forehead. Her full lips were unpainted and curved in a smile he was sure she had no idea was as sexy as it was silly.
It was the first and only time he could recall getting an erection with the smell of wet dog in his nostrils.
Think of something else, he ordered himself, and sat up. “What happened?”
She shrugged, a lock of paint-streaked hair falling over her forehead into her eyes. It made his fingers twitch to stroke it aside.
“I don’t know,” she said, and held up her hands in a gesture of helplessness. “One minute I’m grooving along with Aretha and painting, the next I’ve got a hundred and fifty pounds of wet dog trying to climb into my lap.”
He grimaced and eyed Beau, who had the grace to look sheepish. Jackass, he thought. Out loud he said, “I’m sorry, the storm spooked him and he got away from me in the park.”
“Oh, poor baby,” she crooned, and reached out to scratch Beau behind the ears. “Were you afraid the thunder would get you?”
“He’s lucky a Ford pickup didn’t get him,” Nate muttered. “I’m not sure how he got in the door downstairs though.”
“Oh, that might be my fault,” she said, still petting the dog. “I came in with my arms full earlier and kicked it shut. It might not have been closed all the way.”
“And the apartment door?”
She grinned at him. “I left it open, so I could get the cross breeze from the window on the landing.”
“Ah.” He grinned at her all of the sudden. “You know, you’re wearing a lot of paint.”
She grinned back. “Yeah? So are you.” She reached out and stroked her fingers down the side of his neck, holding them out for him to see the streaks of purple on them.
“Nice color,” he said, and glanced up at the wall she had half done. “It’ll look nice in here when it’s finished.”
“I think so,” she said then laughed. “I didn’t get as far as I wanted with it.”
He chuckled. “I guess not.” He got to his feet and held out a hand. “I could give you a hand with it tomorrow, if you like.”
“I’d like that,” she said, and put her hand in his. She shivered as he pulled her to her feet.
“Cold?” he asked with a frown. It was a warm night, even with the rain.
“No.” She laughed, the sound strained, and he noted with interest the blush that crept up into her cheeks.
Nate ignored the nudge Beau gave his hand. “You’re shivering,” he murmured, and glided his hands down her bare arms. The shorts and tube top left little to his imagination, praise be. Her nipples were clearly outlined against the thin fabric. “You certainly look cold.”
She looked up at him through the long sweep of her lashes, a half smile curing her lips. “Trust me,” she said, laying her hands on his chest. “I’m not cold.”
“Really?” he murmured, sliding his hands to her hips. His fingers flexed, digging in to her soft flesh for a brief moment. She gave a little lurch forward, a shifting, seeking motion of her hips that made his fingers tighten even more. His nostrils flared, picking up the fine and subtle scent of her under the sharp tang of spilled paint and the stench of wet dog.
“Really,” she sighed, a breathless little catch in her voice. He could all but feel his inner beast sit up and howl.
Testing, he lowered his mouth slowly, deliberately, until it was a mere breath from hers. “So if you’re not cold,” he breathed, delighting in the way her eyes darkened and the shiver that ran over her skin as his breath washed over her, “then what could be making you shiver like that?”
Her breath came out in a rush, and he had a moment to savor the sweet feel of it over his face before she said, “Oh fuck this,” and grabbed the back of his head.