Blaze (Naughty Neighbors 1)

Event planner Laurie Maxwell has a contingency plan for every situation—except the one that leaves her hanging half-naked from her second-story window when her personal pleasure device vibrates its way to the feet of her very sexy downstairs tenant.

Warning: The mercury isn’t the only thing rising when a heat wave moves through this southern city. This erotic romance includes two naughty neighbors who, with the help of a vibrator and their feverish fantasies, dial up the sexy to level blaze.

NAUGHTY NEIGHBORS BLAZE

Release Date: May 26, 2015

 

Excerpt

Chapter One

It was one of those late-summer nights when even wishing for oblivion took too much effort. The air pressed in so hot and wet that thinking was too taxing. Breathing, next to impossible.

If death were to come, it wouldn’t be by her own hand.

The air-conditioning unit had gone out approximately seven hours and forty-three minutes ago. And now it was Friday night and all the tricks she knew to play on the fussy old thing had failed, and getting someone out on the weekend had failed too. It was August. During the third consecutive week of one-hundred-degree temps. The last AC repair dispatch operator had suggested she’d have more luck flying in an entire rocket ship full of glacier ice from the moon.

Her apartment was on the second floor of the graceful old duplex. That meant she was closer to the moon, right? So why was her place so freaking hot?

See, impossible to think.

Laurie let her eyes drift closed and meditated on frosty images. A Swiss chalet. A mountain stream in winter. Being buried under a glacier of moon ice.

She sucked in a particularly hot breath and almost choked. A puny misting from the water bottle she’d filled earlier served to cool her for only the moment her ceiling fan evaporated it on her skin. It had been seven hours and forty-five minutes since she’d felt like anything but a disgusting mess.

Too bad she didn’t have hot Friday night plans. Of course, hot wasn’t a word she wanted in her vocabulary right about now.

Maybe she should just suck it up and book a hotel room.

She’d spent a good hour looking at prices online earlier in the afternoon, about three o’clock when temperatures hovered around 102 and she’d been almost willing to put a dent in the nest egg she’d been working so hard to build back up after buying out her brother’s share in the duplex.

But knowing that, come Monday morning, Laurie would have to bite the bullet and replace the piece of crap air-conditioning unit, she couldn’t justify two hundred dollars for a night at the Omni. And even eighty bucks at the skeevy place by Love Field was too much to spend. No, she’d just lie here with her trusty ceiling fan, a spray bottle of water, and meditate on the luxury of cool.

Lord help her if the electricity went out, too.

It was quiet without the ancient AC unit running nonstop, though through her open window she could hear the soft whir of the other unit. It had been replaced last summer. She now regretted the frugal and prudent decision to not replace them both at the same time. Laurie gave a brief thought to using the master key and hanging out in her downstairs tenant’s still cheerfully air-conditioned apartment. She spent a somewhat longer time thinking about the ice maker her brother had installed in the kitchen in the last renovation. And that king-sized bed she’d seen the movers lug in took up an extra-large space in her fantasy. Just think of all those miles and miles of cool cotton to roll on.

Maybe she could—

No. Grant Everton didn’t strike her as the accommodating type. In fact, in the weeks since he’d moved in, they’d exchanged possibly fourteen sentences in passing. Most of them at their siblings’ wedding last month. Most of them hey, how are you? Good. Good, I’m good, too. Good.

Did it count as conversation if they just said the same words to each other over and over again?

And even if they’d been on the best terms, she wouldn’t dream of violating his privacy—and the rental agreement—by going into his apartment without cause.

Although maybe she should check his AC filter just in case.

Curses, he wasn’t even home to enjoy the perfection of chilled air. Probably wouldn’t be home tonight at all. He seemed to be a fan of working late. And by working late, he was probably working some graceful, statuesque blonde over while the steady whir of her penthouse apartment air conditioning brought chill bumps to their sweat-slickened bodies.

She’d feel the heat of his lips feasting on the soft underside of a breast, a kiss of wet heat followed by a lick of—

Okay, no. Nope. Not going to happen. Laurie was most certainly not going to fantasize about that. Was definitely not going to let her hand wander down a body slicked by the non-sexy kind of sweat and wallow in the center of her heat.

If it was too hot to breathe, it was too hot for that.

And certainly not to fantasies of her new neighbor! A sort-of-kind-of-not-really-but-almost relative. When her brother married his half-sister, what did that make them?

People who barely spoke to each other. That’s what it made them.

Laurie peeled herself off her bed and moseyed into the bathroom. Mr. Rochester had claimed a coolish spot draped over the lip of the old cast iron tub. He peered balefully at her through his one seeing eye.

“Well, you’re just going to have to move or get wet,” she said to the big grey beast, leaning over to turn the lever entirely to the right and push in the stopper. No sense in messing with a shower again. The three quickies she’d taken already today clearly hadn’t done much to cool her. She drew a bath and plunged herself in before it had filled halfway.

The water was cool…ish. Texas ground water was never truly cool after a summer of skyrocketing temperatures, but if she moved her legs every so often, a pocket of cool water would fill the space. A kind of flip-side-of-the-pillow effect. Probably placebo. But it worked. Even if it hurt her to think how much water she was wasting.

But dying of heatstroke would kind of be a waste, too.

Tipping her head back, she imagined ice baths. Or just ice cubes. Melting, dripping, cooling and pooling on her hot skin. Starting at her temple, easing down her cheek, anointing her lips with a kiss of frost before a hot mouth licked and sucked at her full lower lip.

A thumb would rub the moisture away, beckoning her to open her lips, and a sliver of ice would replace its intrusion. A quick swallow and then a duel of tongues, numb to everything but pleasure. Such pleasure there would be in an ice cube held aloft by a strong hand, a thumb and forefinger guiding its path down, down, down—

Laurie came up sputtering. Cursing. Terrorizing poor old Rochester with a tsunami of bathwater. Okay, this was getting completely out of control if she was taking a trip back to fantasyland while in the tub.

Clearly she wouldn’t be satisfied until she was, um, satisfied.

She was already perspiring after a naked walk from the bathroom back to her bed, and way too keyed up over her bathtime imaginings, so she might as well do something about it.

Something that required next to no effort.

She opened her nightstand drawer. “Ah yes, hello, purple one.”

Once upon a time she had laughed at the vibrator, part of a sample basket vendors at a bridal show had been given to cross-promote. Because what her burgeoning upscale events planning company really needed was a referral from a sex-toy company. Uh huh.

But she wasn’t laughing at the purple wonder now. No, she wasn’t laughing at all. Without much direction from her, it found just the right spot to make the sauna of her bedroom disappear, to make visions of sparkling light appear at the outermost corner of her mind.

“Mmmm, yes.” She dipped it down to tease her opening, gathering up her slick arousal, and brought the tip back up over and around her clit. “Yes, so good.”

She pressed a button and the pattern switched from a low, persistent buzz to an intermittent thump.

When she closed her eyes, she didn’t see stars, but she did see Grant. His face above hers. Imagined his fingers lazily sweeping over her breasts, circling around and around her taut nipples, but never quite giving them the attention they deserved. She’d cry foul, and he’d smirk in some truly naughty way, but then his head would work miracles down along her body. Sucking at her stomach, biting at her thighs. And licking, long, strong swipes of his tongue. There, right where the skin was silky and smooth. He’d lick and probe and make her cry out his name.

Laurie swiped a thumb over the controls, dialing it up higher and higher, placing the tip at the very top of her clit. Ooh, right there, where the thumping vibrations pressed and retreated, the light was growing closer and closer. Shimmering and undulating, building to a beautiful—

Nothing. A beautiful nothing.

“No!”

The sound of her shout startled her almost as much as the complete cessation of her satisfaction had. Laurie frantically tapped the buttons. A weak death rattle was all she coaxed out of it. “Ugh! No, no, noooo—”

She pressed again. The purple one gave one last, lame shudder, then nothing.

A rechargeable vibrator was awesome for the environment, but damn it, could they not make some kind of warning sensor so a girl knew when it was about to die? If she’d been keyed up before…

“Fuck!” Frantic and restless, knowing she’d never be able to finish what she’d started, not without the purple one’s mighty vibrations, she flung it on the bedside table.

No, she’d need something else to make it happen. Someone else. Someone like the mysterious and taciturn Grant Everton.

Laurie turned her head at a thud. Crud. Must’ve tossed the vibe a little too hard and it had careened off the nightstand onto the floor. She tried to muster enough energy to hope it hadn’t bounced under her bed. She would have cleaned the sucker anyway, but she didn’t relish a trip to dust-bunny land to retrieve it.

Bracing one hand on the floor, she lifted the hem of the dust ruffle. Blood returned to her head in a painful whoosh after being so recently and futilely pooled in other places. Nope. No personal pleasure object in sight. Not that she could see much. Dang it. She’d have to get the flashlight.

Righting herself again, more blood whooshed and flushed through her sluggish system.

But it wasn’t enough. There was no way she could walk to the kitchen and get the flashlight. It was just too far. And she was just too frustrated.

It was almost more than she could bear to get on her hands and knees and search under her bed. Would the night never cool off?

The light of her phone’s flashlight app didn’t make the purple one magically appear under her bed. Or between the nightstand and the wall. Or anywhere in her bedroom at all.

She sat back on her heels and surveyed her bedroom. “Where could it have gone?”

A swish and flick of silver drew her eye to the window. Mr. Rochester was perched regally on the windowsill, surveying the backyard he wasn’t allowed in anymore, and most unconcerned with his mistress’ abject distress. “You’re totally useless as an attack cat and for search and rescue. Remind me again why I feed you?” His tail swished in aggravation and he jumped down from the window.

Grant’s dog was losing its mind in the backyard. Yipping and running through all kinds of doggie vocalizations. She’d probably found a possum. Super. Now Laurie would have to make a call to animal control in the—

Oh no. It couldn’t have.

Laurie looked to the bed and tried to mentally chart the trajectory of the silicone. Aerospace engineering wasn’t her forte, but that one summer she’d bilked her cousins out of all their spending money playing ping-pong, and she bet if the purple one had hit just there, it might have bounced riiiiiight through the, “Oh no. No no no no—”

The press of the windowsill against her bare breasts registered a moment before a low chuckle vibrated in her ear.

With a gasp, and a flail of heretofore unimaginable proportions, Laurie managed to drop her cell-phone-slash-flashlight to the deck below and skin her left breast on the way back inside.

She sat panting underneath the window casing, rubbing absently at the abraded flesh. She was sweating in earnest now and, dang it, that stung.

No. She’d imagined it. There was absolutely no way she’d seen Grant Everton sprawled out with a beer in a deck chair, laughing, staring up at her half-naked body leaning out the window. And she certainly hadn’t seen him nudge the purple one with the toe of his bare foot before his dog claimed it as her very own.

It couldn’t be. She hadn’t heard him come home. And besides, she was almost certain the man was incapable of laughter.

There was more frantic yipping followed by a playful growl, and something—dear word—something that sounded like Grant saying, “Bess, you bring that back over to me now, girl,” and some piercing whistles.

Nooooo, Bess, no. Do not take the purple one back to Grant. Don’t do it, girl, don’t do it. Bury it. Bury it real deep. “I swear I’ll buy you the biggest damn steak in the world.”

Shirts, pants, where were her clothes? She couldn’t very well tear down the stairs and liberate the purple one (and her mortification) in nothing but sweat and skin.

“Well I’ll be damned,” and another warm chuckle wafted its way up to her open window. That sounded like, oh crap, that sounded like Grant had identified what had fallen out of the window. Looked like mortification was here to stay.

Calm. Be calm and cool, Laurie. Calm and cool.

And, if that failed, there was always plausible deniability.

“Grant? Is that you outside?” The tank top she’d abandoned long ago was a bitch to wrestle over her sweaty torso; the straps almost strangled her; and it stuck uncomfortably to her body. But at least she was covered.

Mostly.

She stuck her head out in time to see him wrestling with the beast for possession of her vibrator, but Bess, thank the good Lord, was a cagey beast and kept dancing just out of Grant’s reach.

“A big ol’ steak, girl,” she muttered.

He looked up, the motion lights illuminating him. Lighting him up like a gosh-darned angel. And it looked as if he’d forgotten about Bess and her new trophy.

“What was a mistake?”

Mistake, he’d said? Only everything that had happened today. “Nothing, Grant. What’s going on down there? I didn’t hear you come home.”

Super, now she sounded like a creepy stalker.

“Been out here a while. Nice night.” She tried to detect the barest hint of mockery in his voice, but there was nothing.

Nice night, her bare ass. Yeah, it was nice if you liked to breathe air laced with a thousand percent humidity. “My AC went out earlier. I checked on your unit, seems to be working fine. But do let me know if you have any problems.” Do let me know. And now she was a stick-up-the-butt schoolmarm. “You and Bess have a nice night now. I’ll, uh, be down in a sec to retrieve, uh, get…”

Plausible deniability. Don’t finish that sentence, Laurie. Don’t finish it.

“My phone. Uh, I was looking for something and Mr. Rochester must have knocked my makeshift flashlight off the window…” She should just shut up. She sounded like a nutcase.

She was a nutcase.

“It’s funny,” Grant said as he cocked a denim-clad hip to perch on the deck railing behind him. “My mom played that raining men song on long car trips, but it never dawned on me that cocks would actually fall out of the sky.” He took a long pull of beer, and for a moment she thought she was hallucinating. He hadn’t just said what he’d said, had he?

“Though I guess that’s not entirely accurate, since it fell out of your window, not the sky. And it was plastic.”

Oh crap. Oh crap. Oh crappity, crap, crap, crap. “It’s not a plastic cock. It’s an amorphous, medical-grade silicone shape.”

“Come again?”

Come again? Oh fudge, why had she argued?

Just as she was giving thought to going back inside, walking straight to the kitchen, and setting her entire house aflame so she could just walk away and never look back, Bess, bless her dumb doggie heart, proudly presented Grant with the purple one.

He nudged it again with his toe. She really, really wished he wouldn’t do that.

“Amorphous? Nope. No mistaking the shape, although the size is a bit…” He cleared his throat. “Though why is it purple? Creepy.”