A sexy new romance about a heartbroken rockstar who moves to a small town in Northern California to find some peace and quiet, only to develop an unexpected friendship with a witty young woman living next door, is out this week from Kylie Scott, and I have a little sneak peek for you.
The rest of the day went much the same as always. Apart from the myriad questions about my new neighbor. To which I claimed ignorance on all counts. It was my memory of the photos they’d taken of him leaving his wife’s funeral that made me so determined to protect the man. How broken and lost he’d looked. That had resonated with me for various reasons.
After the funeral, he’d pretty much disappeared from public life. And while a case could be made that I was lying my little heart out to the population of Wildwood, I was also protecting his privacy. Once news of his superstar status broke, I’d pretend to be as shocked as the rest of the town. What a fraud. Though it was for a good cause.
The knock on my door came just after nine p.m. And there stood my neighbor with a scowl on his handsome face. I wasn’t used to being around beautiful people. He made me break out in a nervous sweat. I was sure to blurt out something breathtakingly stupid any moment now. How could anyone be coherent when confronted with such perfection?
Also, his timing was awesome. If only every rock ’n’ roll idol could see me with a messy bun, in a tank top and sleep shorts. This was why having a front door with a glass panel was a bad idea. But it was original, with colored glass in a pretty pattern. I couldn’t bring myself to replace it, despite the security risk.
After pulling the hair tie out of my bun, I slid back the deadbolt and the security chain before unlocking the door with a strained smile. Holding my hair down over the old scar on my neck as subtly as can be. “Garrett. Hi.”
“What do you want?” he asked, tone curious.
“You heard me.”
I cocked my head. “You knocked on my door. Which would suggest that it’s you who wants something.”
“I meant for covering for me today at the store.” He shoved his hands in his front jeans pockets. “What do you want?”
“What?” I asked. “Like payment?”
“You want me to sign some stuff or take a selfie with you or what?”
“Wow. Is that how things usually work in your world?”
He scowled and loomed over me. Though even that was disgustingly attractive. The man had to be well over six feet tall. I was average height and weight, and I still almost felt dainty beside him. He clearly wasn’t in a smiling mood, which made me wonder what his happiness levels were before his wife’s death. Not that it was any of my business. I’d never come close to finding a life partner, let alone experiencing the pain of losing one. I kept the pity off my face, however. Something told me he would not appreciate the sentiment.
“Not saying that we’re more pure or anything around these parts,” I said. “But we at least don’t expect something in return when helping someone out.”
He grunted. And kept right on waiting for my list of demands, apparently.
“Okay then. Thanks for the offer, but my show is on and I don’t want anything from you. Have a nice night.”
Before I could shut the door in his face, his big-ass hand rose to hold it open. “Wait a minute. Last night you were all but hanging out your window watching me—”
“I wasn’t hanging out of anything,” I scoffed. “And I apologized for that. You make me sound like some deranged stalker. But who wouldn’t be curious about a new neighbor? I get that it’s probably an issue for you. People not respecting your boundaries and so on. But did it ever occur to you that maybe you’re being a little bit oversensitive?”
“Then today it seemed like you were sort of trying to have my back by not saying who I was,” he said, carrying on as if I hadn’t spoken.
“There was no ‘sort of’ about it, I totally had your back. You’re welcome,” I said. “Though you should enjoy it while you can. Word will get around about you eventually.”
The furrows upon his handsome brow were beyond count.
“You might have been better off trying to hide in a big city, with a face as famous as yours . . .”
He licked his lips, like he was about to say something, only nothing came out. A perplexed expression crossed his face. Finally he confessed, “People have been leaving food at my door all day.”
“You didn’t answer when they knocked?” I asked, amused.
“Did you actually hide behind a couch or—”
“No. Of course not. I just didn’t answer.”
“You can relax. It’s not a coordinated attack. They’re just welcoming you to town. And yeah, maybe they’re a little curious about you. But there’s nothing particularly nefarious going on.” I smiled. “Though if you opened the door, one of them would have recognized you. Famous people aren’t the norm around here. You likely won’t stay anonymous for long. Unless you’re willing to become a shut-in for the rest of your life, like Miss Havisham.”
“She’s a character in a book,” I explained. “Look on the bright side: with all that food you won’t have to live on peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and ramen noodles. That’s a plus, right?”
He wasn’t convinced.
“Don’t they welcome people to the neighborhood in Beverly Hills?”
“I wouldn’t know,” he said. “Never lived there.”
Then his gaze wandered down me and paused on my chest, before darting away. No bra. A veritable booby trap. But he was the one who knocked on my door. I would feel no shame. I refused to. Though I did immediately cross my arms over my chest—for nipple-related reasons.
He cleared his throat. “I came here to get some peace.”
“When you finish the food, you can give the dishes to me and I’ll return them to their owners. That should buy you a little more time.”
“Thanks.” He paused. “I didn’t catch your name.”
“Do you need to know my name?”
“Is everything always this hard with you?”
I pondered the question. “No. Not everything. But you put me on the defensive. I think it’s that line between your brows when you look at me. It’s so judgy.”
He snorted. “But you like my band.”
“I like a lot of bands.”
He almost smiled. It was close.
Approximately a million questions sat on the tip of my tongue. But I didn’t ask even one. “My name is Ani.”
“Ani.” He nodded. “Nice to meet you.”
“Welcome to Wildwood, Garrett.”
Without another word, he turned and headed for home. There was something wary about the set of his shoulders as he disappeared off into the darkness. Made me wonder if he actually enjoyed being on his own, in that big old house. But, the truth is, you could surround yourself with people and still be alone.