Her motion activated lights cast faint shadows near the house, but the light didn’t nearly reach the back of the yard. She searched the dense brush along the back, saw movement and fired a warning shot into the air, then another.
She heard the rustling of an animal scurrying away then the sound of leaves crunching and twigs breaking behind her and to her left. She swung around, gun raised.
“Nope, just me.”
Dallas stood just a few yards away, stock still, chest bare, in a dark shade of boxer briefs and his hands up in surrender.
“That’s a good way to get shot.” She lowered the weapon. “Sorry.”
He took a step forward toward the faint light she stood in. “I thought you were getting shot. What the hell are you doing?”
“Scaring away whatever was snooping around the chicken coop. Raccoon maybe, or a fox.”
“I guess you know how to use that?”
“I do.” Her lips twitched. “I have a permit and everything, officer.” She lifted the butt a few inches off the ground.
Still looking distressed, he rubbed the heel of his hand up his forehead and into his hair.
“I’m sorry if I scared you. And woke you up.” Obviously, because again, he was standing there in his boxers and…yeah. Just boxers.
“You didn’t wake me. I was outside. With my popcorn.”
“Do you always come outside in your underwear to eat popcorn?”
“I burned it.”
“Ahh.” She grimaced. “That’s a bad smell. Guess you weren’t kidding when you said you couldn’t cook.”
“Mmm. Is this a usual thing?” he asked with a nod to the gun, closing the distance between them even more. “Scaring away predators?”
“Oh. Every now and then. I lost one last year.” She kept talking, kept looking at the man. Her gaze skimmed over a muscled chest, sculpted arms, over a tattoo on his upper right bicep that she couldn’t make out.
“Holly’s not much of a guard dog,” she went on. “But her hearing’s still good, so when her ears perk up I know something’s amiss. Were you coming to save me?”
“I didn’t know what I was coming to do, but I heard gunshots and—”
“And you came bounding over. I hope you didn’t um…scratch anything.”
Dallas glanced down, winced, then looked back up. “Nah. I’m good.”
Uh, huh. Well. She forced her attention up to his face and not on the dark boxers that hugged his thighs…annnnd… she was staring. How could she not?
But when her eyes finally met his she saw he was staring too. And it dawned on her that she was also barefooted and in her underwear. She tugged the tank top she slept in, stretching it until it covered the juncture between her thighs.
A cool breeze rippled over her and she shivered. Or maybe that was the man now just a couple of feet away giving her chills. What had she been about to say?
And when had he gotten so close? Or had she? Just an arm’s length apart now and she found herself imagining all kinds of things. Like what would she do if he moved closer? If he touched her?
The feeling changed like a coin flipping from heads to tails and even with the cool wind she felt hot. It was uncomfortable and also layered with a ripple of nervous excitement. Standing in her backyard at night with a man—this man. And both of them barely dressed.
When Holly barked from inside the back door, she glanced toward the house. When she looked back, the moment was gone. “Guess I should go back in. Holly’s probably worried.” She shifted the gun hanging at her side.
“Probably so,” he said. “I’ll get myself back. Finish airing out the house.”
“Yeah. Maybe try another bag. Listen for the popping. More than a second between pops and it’s done.”
He still wasn’t moving and she swallowed hard. Had a ludicrous thought of asking him in. To make popcorn. To watch Downton Abbey?
He nodded toward her house. “I’ll wait until you’re inside.”
“Oh. Right. Thank you.” She turned, went inside, locking the door behind her. It’d been a long time since she’d been in the position for someone to care about her getting safely inside. She had to admit it didn’t totally suck.
Dallas Walker is
haunted. He won’t ever forget the horrors he witnessed while working
undercover to bust a human trafficking ring, but he has a plan to start a
new life. Coming home to his family is step one. Getting to know his
alluring new neighbor could be step two. If only she’d give him a
Maggie Ellis just wants to be left alone. She’d
rather spend her days spinning clay into art and feel nothing than open
herself up to another devastating loss. But her sexy new neighbor with a
lonely look in his eyes isn’t giving up. And he makes her question
Together, Dallas and Maggie might have a shot at happily ever after. But only if they can let go of the past and hold on to each other when it matters most.
About the author:
Claudia Connor is an award winning New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary Romance, including the beloved McKinney Brothers series. Claudia writes, warm, heartfelt romances with a bit of steam, a lot of family and always a happily ever after.
Claudia attended Auburn University, where she received her undergraduate and masters degrees in early childhood education, and completed her studies in Sawbridgeworth, England. When she's not writing, she enjoys movies, reading, and travel, with a heavy dose of daydreaming during all three. Claudia lives near Memphis, Tennessee, with her husband and three daughters.
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