Scroll down to the end of the excerpt to see the cover of THE VAMPIRE NEXT DOOR.
Notice me. Notice me. Notice me!
Janna glided down the hall toward her apartment door, a grocery bag in each hand. She slowed as she padded behind her undeniably hot neighbor Cade. He stood in front of his door, his head bent over the mail in his hand. He still wore his dark blue police uniform and was probably just coming home from his overnight patrol. It was a testament to her recent goal of smarter decisions and more restraint, with just a dash more truthfulness, that she didn’t jump up and down to get his attention. And to be perfectly honest, she wasn’t entirely sure what would happen if she got too excited. The last thing she needed was to expose the fact that strange things, unexplained, almost magical things, had happened to her and around her lately. No one else had noticed yet, but she didn’t like taking chances, especially with her sexy new neighbor.
Over the past month, since he’d moved in, they’d spoken several times. They’d even become a little close, and as far as men went, he was a Louisville slugger among broomsticks. Her last disastrous relationship had brought her to a momentous decision. Every woman deserved a good man, even her. Of course, she had to get his attention first. She should probably just say hi, but each time she spoke with him, she was afraid the intense attraction she fought so hard to hide would shine big and bold in her eyes. And that would ruin the fun for everyone, especially since he’d clearly put her in the friend-only zone and would probably run screaming in the opposite direction if he knew her feelings had moved way beyond that.
Oh, well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. “Hey, Cade. Just getting home?”
He looked up, and she nearly melted as a sexy smile slid onto his gorgeous face. His deep blue eyes looked a little tired but lit up as he turned toward her. “Yeah, long night. You?”
“I’ve been running errands this morning. I’ve got class in an hour, so my day’s just starting.”
“Well, somebody’s got to learn how to relax people in this world. When you’re working your massage magic, less people will go crazy on the roads. Make my job easier.”
She laughed lightly, but soon grew serious, her breath caught in her throat, as he took a step toward her. A ribbon of heat enveloped her mid-section when he reached her, but rather than wrapping around her like she’d fantasized all too often, he just took the bags from her hands and stepped toward her apartment.
“Thanks, you don’t have to do that.”
“Just being neighborly.”
Oh, her thoughts were anything but neighborly as she watched his fine ass in his uniform pants. Despite the seemingly universal attraction to men in uniform, not every man could actually look hot in one. But Cade did. Too hot--that was if she wanted to keep the drool in her mouth and off her chin.
When they’d first started hanging out on weekends occasionally and in the evenings every once in a while, one of the first things they’d almost-discussed was past relationships. It had come up briefly because of Gertie, Cade’s beautiful white Maltese. Gertie was with him because after his ex- and he split, they’d put the choice to the dog, and Gertie had chosen him. Janna wasn’t at all fooled, though. He loved that little dog.
In the end, he hadn’t elaborated other than to say the relationship ended a year ago, but she’d gotten the impression he’d sworn relationships off for a while, so it must have been a rough finish. Janna decided to slow-play her attraction, but it was getting harder and harder to hide.
He stopped in front of her door. She unlocked it and tried to think back to where she’d dropped last night’s pajamas--in her living room floor or the hamper in the bedroom. Had she put her dishes in the sink? Maybe, if she were lucky, a fairy had whisked in while she was gone and cleaned things up for her.
As the door swung open, she saw her hot pink sleep shirt and black thong between the coffee table in front of her couch and her flat-screen. Yeah, no fairies here.
She rushed inside and picked them up. “Oops. Guess I was in a hurry to get out of here this morning.”
A quick look in his direction floored her. He was framed in her doorway, his gaze roaming down her body, lingering around her abdomen and breasts, and back up again. The heat in his eyes was anything but friendly. It sizzled with lust, but just as quickly, it was gone, replaced with an easy-going smile as he walked inside. “No problem. I’m not exactly Mr. Organized. Where do you want these?”
“Um, just set them down there. I’ll take care of them.”
He set the bags on the hardwood just inside the door but didn’t immediately leave. “I’m off duty the next couple days and there’s a game on tonight. You want to come over?”
The idea she was a professional basketball fan persisted still. But in her defense, she had been to a game once with an easily forgettable date, and though she wouldn’t officially qualify as a fan, so much as a spectator when it was convenient, she couldn’t really confess the truth now. Of course, it didn’t hurt that watching a game gave her an opportunity to spend time with Cade.
“Sure, I’d love to.” She cringed and suppressed the heated glow low in her abdomen that signaled a craptastically paranormal activity was imminent. She couldn’t get too excited or who knew what would result. Things would be donions before they even got started. She should have played it a little closer to the chest anyway. She’d probably sounded like he’d just sprinkled pepper on her brain. She needed to keep the crowd to a whisper. That’s cool…sure, dude. Couldn’t take it back now. Hopefully he wouldn’t read too much into it, and she could control these weird new happenings before they…well…happened.
“Great. I’ll see you around seven or seven-thirty.”
He left and she carried the grocery bags to the kitchen. That could have been eagerness in his voice. And what was with that lustful look? Could he be attracted to her too? No way. He’d probably run screaming if she even so much as sat too close to him. One thing she knew for sure, if she didn’t get a grip on this fascination with him soon, she was going to be headed for a check-up from the neck up.
She reached mindlessly for a box of cereal and turned to put it into a cabinet hanging next to the refrigerator, but came to a screeching halt, dropping the box to the floor as she took in the view before her. Every cabinet door was standing wide open, as if by magic. What the hell was going on?
Had the darkness found a way inside? A haunting was completely out of the question, wasn't it? Or was she going completely crazy? Note to self: head-check, not a bad idea.
She picked up the cereal and glanced around cautiously before setting the box into the cabinet and closing it. She carefully closed all the doors and went back to pulling groceries from the bags. Nothing else strange happened the rest of the morning, but the damage was done now. Now, she was sure something was off, like off inside her. So unfair. She’d met the man of her dreams, and now she was losing her mind. Wasn’t that always the way it went?
The minute she stepped out her apartment door, Mia was nearly blinded. She fumbled for her sunglasses and quickly set them on her face. Was it just her, or was this whole global warming thing happening, like, now. Stinging prickles dotted her skin wherever the sun hit, and the thought occurred that maybe she should forget her classes, go back inside, pop open a bottle of wine, and wait for some clouds to roll in.
Wait! Was she really hoping for a rainy day? Something was seriously wrong with her brain.
She released a heavy sigh, adjusted the bag slung over her shoulder and locked her front door before walking toward her Chevy Traverse, parked in one of the covered slots in the row of spaces assigned to her particular section of the complex. She felt a little relief when she stepped into the shade of the structure covering the cars. As she approached her own though, the car next to hers drew her attention. It was a Jeep Wrangler, but more to the point, it was new. She’d never seen it here before. It was probably just a guest, visiting someone in an apartment close by, but guests were given specific spots to park. This space was reserved for residents only.
She was probably just being paranoid, so she shook off her concern and unlocked her car. It wasn’t like she was going to the management to complain or anything. And it wasn’t like whatever creeper was in her apartment the other night was going to move in next door and become her neighbor. That was too far-fetched to even consider.
As she was climbing in, a large rumbling sounded from around the side of the building. Too drawn out to be thunder, it didn’t look like she was going to get a break from the sun today. She looked up just as a large moving truck rounded the corner and began to slow right behind her in the parking lot, blocking her exit.
Aaah, c’mon! Timing was everything. A few seconds earlier and she’d have been on her way, but such was the way things were going lately.
Two men climbed from the cab, one short and rotund, the other slant-shouldered and skinny and walked toward the apartments, passing her car in the process. Hello? Didn’t they see her? Couldn’t they hear the foul words flying through her mind right now? Couldn’t they feel her desperation? Clearly her mental telepathy was broken. She’d just have to do this the old-fashioned way and threaten them within an inch of their life if they didn’t crawl back into that metal behemoth and move it the hell out of her way.
She flung her door wide and stepped out, standing in the vee made by the door and the car. “Excuse me! Hey! You’re blocking me in.”
They didn’t even pause in their strides, just continued to walk toward the apartment next door to hers. She growled in frustration and slammed her car door a little hard as she gritted her teeth and braved the sunshine again to stomp after them.
“Hey! Could you move your truck? I have to be somewhere, like, now.”
They finally turned and stared wide-eyed as she made her way toward them, and at the same moment, the door to the apartment opened. Mia stopped in her tracks at the sight in the doorway. Arms crossed over his black t-shirt pulled tight across a muscled chest, his gaze met hers immediately, like he’d known she was there before he’d opened the door. His eyes were golden-green, so focused on her, she could almost feel his stare, and there was intelligence there, as if he already knew all her secrets. The thought he was nothing like other men jumped to the forefront of her mind. Like a lord of the underworld, he gave off the most dangerous vibe she’d ever felt, and in that moment, the urge to run was strong. It didn’t help that the sun was burning her skin to a crisp, and she needed to be driving away at this very moment anyway.
“Something wrong?” His voice was rich and smooth, like cool water over her parched skin, and her feet moved toward him without thought until she stood between the two deliverymen. He gently gripped her upper arm, sending wild, electrical pulses chasing throughout her body, and pulled her through the door of his apartment. The relief from the sun was instant. “Maybe I can help you.”
She nodded and for the first time, noticed features other than his eyes. He was tall, probably well over six-feet. His blond hair was a little long, falling soft and straight to his ears and to the back of his collar, and the thought of feeling the silk of his hair sliding through her hands sent a thrill through her mid-section. His sculpted cheekbones paired perfectly with his aristocratic nose and his prominent jaw, highlighting the symmetry of his tasty mouth. She wanted to lick his lips and see if they felt as soft to her tongue as they looked to her eyes. The thought brought a rush of heat across her chest and up her neck. This time she couldn’t blame it on the sun.
He’d asked her something and said something after, but she couldn’t for the life of her remember what she’d needed from him. He smelled so good. Her nose filled with a rich, delicious spice that was familiar, and she couldn’t get enough of it as she pulled it into her nostrils again and again. Like the worst kind of chick flick, all she could do was stare, and a little laugh escaped at the picture of the surreal movie-moment she was currently living popped into her head. This was so unlike her. She didn’t get rattled by anything. She rattled first.