The Bad Boy Next Door(3)

By: Jody Holford


Or tried to.

He didn’t budge but just looked down his nose at her. His slightly crooked nose that added to the mystery of his good-looking face. Had he broken it? In a fight?

“Go hold the door open, and I’ll bring this desk in for you,” he said.

Shay pressed her lips together. His wide shoulders said he’d be able to cart the items in with far less effort than she could. Realistically, she knew she wasn’t getting it in alone, but she didn’t want to owe this unfriendly man anything. She’d come here to start over, to start fresh. She didn’t need, or want, anyone’s approval. Or disapproval.

“That’s quite all right. I can manage on my own.”

An engine revved as a car turned into the lot, but neither of them looked away from the other. His eyes were dark, a mix between green and brown, but not really hazel. The way he looked at her, Shay couldn’t tell if he was amused or exasperated and didn’t want to care. She definitely didn’t want to acknowledge the spark of attraction that seemed to flash in his eyes.

A car door slammed. His frown deepened and tiny creases around his eyes made him look more frustrated. “Suit yourself.”

He walked past her, the sexy scent of his cologne invading her space as he had. Only it stayed with her after he’d picked up his duffel, grunted a greeting to someone, and walked away. Shay leaned against the tailgate and steadied her breathing.

She jumped at the sound of Brady’s voice. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare you. You’re wearing yourself out,” he said as he looked her over. Wearing a long-sleeve shirt with several grease stains, he walked to the truck and looked inside. “Wow. You’re a workhorse. You need help with the desk?”

Tension she hadn’t been aware of released from her shoulders, and she smiled at him. Despite being similar in height to the mystery man, Brady didn’t feel nearly as imposing. In fact, his happy smile and laid-back vibe put her instantly at ease. This was the kind of man she needed to fall for, one who wouldn’t think he always knew what was best for her. One who would roll beside her rather than bulldoze over her. A man she could enjoy without losing herself.

Shay nodded. “Yes. Please. I really do,” she said.

Brady turned out to be funny and helpful. Once they got the last of her things inside her apartment, she offered him a beer. They stood on the balcony, overlooking a gorgeous courtyard. Water splashed gently in the round fountain below. The building was shaped like an incomplete, three-sided rectangle. A block letter U. With the brick and stonework facade, it had an old-school vibe that she loved.

Good things will happen here.

Brady tipped his bottle toward hers, clinking them. “To new neighbors.”

Shay grinned and took a sip of her beer. Dark green eyes popped into her mind, making her stomach jump.

“May they all be as nice as you.”

Leaning his forearms on the rail, Brady gave her a sideways glance. She could see from the scruff on his face, he hadn’t found time to shave. Or maybe laid-back and carefree was his style. It suited him.

Brady’s blue eyes were happy and a little flirtatious. “I can guarantee most of us are a hell of a lot friendlier than Wyatt.”

Shay’s heart jumped. Wyatt. She stopped herself from saying it out loud just to feel the sound of it on her lips. Wyatt. It suited him…and his annoyingly sexy eyes. Stupid heart. She was standing outside on a cool, starry night, with a good-looking, genuinely nice man. One who didn’t make her stomach feel like she’d disturbed a nest of butterflies. But who needed butterflies anyway? Not Shay.

Not anymore.

“Oh. Well, that’s good to know.” Shay ran her hands up and down her arms. Despite the heavy sweater she wore, the chill seeped through.

Brady noticed and nodded toward the sliding door. “Let’s head back in. You’re probably exhausted, and I still need to shower.” Considerate and perceptive, too. Wyatt probably wasn’t any of those things.

Focusing her thoughts, Shay turned to the door. “I am, actually.”

When they came back in, Brady gestured to the boxes stacked against the wall. “If you have some stuff that you want out of the way, there’s a shared storage room downstairs. None of us put anything of real value down there, but it beats keeping your Christmas tree in your closet.”

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