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Officer Next Door(9)

By:Ranae Rose



“This is Henry,” he said, nodding to his blond companion, then the dark-haired one. “And this is Grey.”

“Nice to meet you both.” Her voice came out funny-sounding – a little too high. “This is Kerry, and I see that you’ve already met Sasha.”

The three men nodded, and silence descended, making Alicia long to smack some sense into Sasha. Unfortunately, the other woman was safely inside, protected from the perfect storm of awkwardness she’d created.

“You know what – I’d better go get three more glasses.” Alicia leapt up and hurried inside before they could accept or reject the offer.

She found Sasha rifling through her kitchen cupboards. “What are you doing?”

Sasha whirled, a sack of flour in hand. “Making brownies.”

“I don’t have any brownie mix, you know.”

Sasha gave Alicia what looked like a pitying glance. “A boxed mix? Blasphemy.” She kept pulling things out of the cupboard, setting a salt shaker and bag of chocolate chips on the counter. “Where’s your sugar?”

Alicia shrugged. “If it’s not in there, I must not have any.”

Sasha tsked. “I’m going to need you to borrow a cup from your neighbor, then.”

“What?”

“Ask to borrow a cup of sugar. I’m sure he won’t mind.”

“No way. I’ll just run to the store.”

Sasha spun, planting her hands on her hips. “Either you ask your neighbor for a cup of sugar, or I will.” A wicked smile crept across her face. “The choice is yours.”

Alicia sighed and turned for the door. “Don’t you dare come out of here – I’m officially confining you to the kitchen until I return.”

“It’s all part of my strategy, anyway,” Sasha said, shrugging and seizing a mixing bowl. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder. By the time I emerge outside with a tray of brownies, Henry will be wondering what took so long.”

“So you’ve set your sights on Henry?”

“I like blonds. Plus, he seems like the strong, silent type. I like those too.”

Well, at least that meant Sasha wasn’t preying on Liam. That fact might not be enough to save Alicia from all potential embarrassment, but it was something. “I’ll be back.”

She was halfway out the door when she remembered to turn back for glasses.

“Here we go,” she said, setting the tumblers down on the patio table when she returned to the porch. Pouring drinks for the guys barely took a minute, and then she had little choice but to face Liam. “Would you mind if I borrowed a cup of sugar? For the brownies.”

He blinked, and a split second of silence followed.

“Sure,” he said, relinquishing his hold on the glass she’d just handed him and pushing back his seat.

She breathed the world’s tiniest sigh of relief as she followed him down the steps and across her lawn, toward his house. Thank God for Southern hospitality, or charm or whatever it was that had Liam holding the door open for her as she traipsed into his kitchen. Back in DC, her next door neighbor had had a penchant for playing loud music and walking his dog in her tiny yard just so the creature could relieve itself there. Not exactly the sugar-lending type.#p#分页标题#e#

“Wow, this kitchen looks just like mine,” she said, noting the similarity in design. There was even an island in the middle of the room, just like hers. The only thing that was different was the fact that Liam’s cabinets were stained a deep green, whereas hers were the light, natural color of pine wood.

“Our houses were made by the same builder,” he said, opening a cabinet and reaching inside. “Back in the 50’s.”

“Really? I didn’t know that.”

He nodded, his back to her as he reached for a sack of sugar. “There aren’t many differences between the two.”

“You’ve been inside my place?”

“Yeah, but it’s been a while. It’s been a while since I’ve had a neighbor, actually. The last person to live in your house was an elderly guy, and the place got kind of rundown after he died. Took his son a few years to decide to fix it up and rent it out.”

“To me?”

“Yeah. I’d gotten pretty used to not having anyone next door.”

Heat flushed Alicia’s face, and she counted herself lucky that he wasn’t facing her. She knew firsthand that he’d gotten very used to not having a neighbor.

“It’s pretty secluded out here, huh?” Pine Hollow Road wasn’t quite as out of the way as it seemed. The small community of Cypress – Riley County’s only actual town – was just a five minute drive away. Still, her and Liam’s homes were tucked away on the tree-lined road, surrounded by its towering namesake pines. The effect was so charming it was almost otherworldly, or at least that’s what she’d thought when she’d first laid eyes on the home she was renting.

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