Suddenly Engaged (A Lake Haven Novel Book 3)(10)

By: Julia London

The dog didn’t sit; it lay down to chew its tennis ball.

“I’m sorry,” he said to Kyra. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Yeah well, what did you think would happen, sneaking up on a woman looking the other way?

“I was walking my dog and saw you and thought I’d say hello. Name is Dax, in case you’ve forgotten. Dax Bishop.” He stuck out his hand as if he was offering to shake hers, but glanced at her armful of books and pasta and quickly withdrew it, awkwardly shoving it into his pocket.

“I remember,” she said, as if she could forget that strange first meeting. “I’m Kyra Kokinos.” His weird, almost nerdy vibe didn’t go at all with the way he looked. He was a very good-looking man. He should have been a GQ model. Not an ax-murdering nerd. She would bet herself that he was good at sex.

“I, um . . . I was caught a little off guard when we met the other night,” he said.

Caught off guard? So when a guy stands outside a cottage looking totally deranged, that’s caught off guard? God, she hoped this wasn’t going to be one of those where are you from chats. She wanted to go inside, pay Mrs. Miller, and kick her shoes off. She didn’t want to be neighborly.

His gaze was locked on hers, as if he expected her to say or do something. His eyes were an unusual color of blue—they reminded Kyra of rain clouds. His tea-leaf-brown hair was neatly trimmed, and he was clean shaven. It was kind of refreshing, really—so many men came into the bistro with beards these days. He was tall, too—a couple of inches over six feet. She thought he was surprisingly young to be living in the East Beach Lake Cottages. She had the idea this place was where old people came for the summer.

He frowned lightly. “Okay, well, I won’t keep you,” he said.

Praise Jesus.

“But I wanted to mention that I’ve met your daughter.”

“Wait, what?” Kyra said, startled. What did that mean, he’d met her daughter?

“The girl with red hair,” he said, as if Kyra had dozens of daughters and didn’t know which one he meant.

“Right, my daughter has red hair.” How did he meet Ruby? He wasn’t some kind of freak, was he? Wouldn’t that be just fantastic, to find the only affordable rental in East Beach only to discover some pervert was living next door? If he was nosing around Ruby, Kyra would go to the owners and complain. She’d go tonight. She’d given the McCauleys a full month’s rent, and she wasn’t going to put up with a weirdo this close to her daughter while she was at work. “How—”

“That’s the thing I wanted to mention,” he said. “I work out of my house, and she . . . well, apparently she likes to climb fences. Or go under them. And she’s really . . . friendly,” he said, as if mystified by that.

Oh. Well then. Not a pervert after all. Potentially still a nerdy ax murderer, but not a pervert, which was a relief, because of the ridiculously cheap rent. Furthermore, as Kyra had a bad habit of secretly sizing up every man she met as a potential sex partner, she would not like to know she’d pictured this guy as really good at sex only to find out he was a sicko. “Ah,” she said, nodding and wincing apologetically. “Sorry about that. I’ll talk to her.”

“Yeah,” he said and ran his hand over the crown of his head as if he was uncertain about the whole thing now. “Cute kid, but, you know, I have to work.”

“Sure. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll nip it in the bud,” Kyra said and smiled as she took a step forward. Would he go now? Please?

“Great. Thanks.” Now he shoved both hands into his front pockets. He didn’t move, just stood looking at her.

Kyra’s arms were starting to ache. “If there’s nothing else, I’m going to get these things inside . . .”

“Yep. Right. Thanks again,” he said and turned, as if he meant to leave. But he hesitated.

She waited for him to speak.

He didn’t speak, just sort of nodded, then whistled for his dog, who was now half under her porch, his butt in the air, his tail wagging. The dog scrambled out and raced after his owner. Kyra watched the two of them go around the fence that stretched between their cottages.

Her neighbor had a very strong and broad back. She wished she’d known someone with a back like that to help her lug stuff when she’d moved in last week.

He paused at his back porch and glanced back at her, as if he thought she might have called out to him. Only then did Kyra realize she was still standing there, ogling him.

She lurched forward and strode for the front porch. She tried to dash up the steps like she was Holly Golightly carrying a Tiffany bag. But she wasn’t Holly Golightly, she was a woman who’d worked all day and was carrying too many things at once to save a second trip, and she misjudged the top step. As she tried to catch her balance, her knee collided with the porch railing. “Ow, ow, ow,” she gasped and hobbled to the door. She didn’t dare look back to see if her neighbor had seen that, and hastily and precariously balanced everything on her knee and up against the wall so she could pull open the screen door. She used her foot to hold it as she fit herself through, then let it bang shut behind her.