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Officer Next Door(3)

By:Ranae Rose



“How are you liking it here, so far?” he asked.

“Oh, I love it.” The words tumbled out of her mouth as images from that morning whirled in front of her mind’s eye, the view of his beautiful body obstructed by nothing but the steam that rose off her coffee.

“It’s gotta be a big change, after DC.”

That snapped her back to the present. “How’d you know I moved here from DC?”

Had her landlord been talking to her neighbors about her? Of course, Liam was her only close neighbor; the next house was nearly half a mile down the road. If not for him, it would’ve been like living all alone in a pine forest – so peaceful, she hardly knew what to do with herself, sometimes.

“Your tags,” he said, nodding toward her car.

“Oh.” A minor wave of mortification washed over her as she eyed her brand new North Carolina license plate. It hadn’t been long since she’d swapped out her old DC tags. “Right.”

A lone cicada began to sing, a normally pleasant sound that now seemed designed to intensify uncomfortable silences.

“I don’t really miss the city,” she eventually said, and it was true. She’d moved because she’d craved a change of pace, and that was exactly what she’d gotten. Despite the mega-prison, Riley County was steeped in charm, from its beaches to its wisteria-swathed forests. And if she ever got the urge to be surrounded by people, she could always drive to Wilmington or down and across the South Carolina border, to Myrtle Beach.#p#分页标题#e#

“Don’t blame you,” he said. “Life’s pretty good here, if you ask me. Did you buy this place, or are you renting?”

“I’m renting.”

“You might wanna talk to your landlord about that window, then.” He nodded toward the nearest one, which afforded a view into her kitchen. “There’s a crack in the casing. He should fix that for you.”

At the mention of windows, Alicia nearly suffered a heart attack. Did Liam know what she’d been enjoying along with her coffee, most mornings – was he some sort of exhibitionist?

His expression was serious, his blue eyes sober as he apparently studied her damaged window.

“Thanks for the tip,” she said, barely glimpsing the crack before she turned her gaze back to Liam. “I’ll mention it to him.”

“I’ve gotta go, or I’ll be late for my shift,” he said. “Let me know if your landlord gives you any trouble about that window. Air leaks caused by cracks like that’ll run up your energy bills like you would’ve believe, but they’re not hard to fix. If you want, I could come over with a tube of caulking and fill it in for you.”

She swallowed a knot that’d formed in her throat and was threatening to cut off her breathing. “Thanks a lot. I’ve got to go too – I’m supposed to show Wisteria to a bride-to-be in forty-five minutes.”

She leapt into her car, careless of her broken heel, and sped away before Liam could say anything else about windows or caulking or filling things in. Between his words and the heat that was rising along with the sun, she was in serious danger of spontaneously combusting.





CHAPTER 2





There was something magical about Wisteria. The pathway that wound through the looming house’s grounds was lined with trees steeped in the stuff that had given the place its name, and Alicia took any excuse to walk down it. Sheltered from the May sun by the trees’ foliage and the vines blossoming with purple flowers, she made her way away from the main plantation house and toward the restaurant that’d been built in a converted carriage house.

Inside, she found Sasha in the kitchen, busy with prep work. The restaurant wouldn’t open for another two hours, at noon.

“Hey,” Sasha said, her blonde ponytail bobbing as she looked up from the cutting board where she’d been busy slicing cucumbers.

“Morning,” Alicia said. “That bride getting married here next month e-mailed me her menu selections last night – thought you’d want a heads-up as soon as possible.” She held up a couple printed pages detailing what would be served at the reception.

“Thanks,” the curvy blonde said without so much as glancing at the type. “Now more importantly, how did it go this morning?”

“How’d what go?” Alicia asked, doing her best to sound nonchalant as a creeping sense of certainty made her wish she’d held onto the papers so she could’ve used them as a fan. She’d only known Sasha for a couple weeks, but even before the other woman replied, she knew exactly what she was talking about.

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