Burn (Naughty Neighbors 4)

Jaclyn Westfall thinks summer can’t get worse—her sister lost their summer share so she’s stuck in the city while everyone she knows frolics at the beach. And when Manhattan loses power one Friday afternoon, Jaclyn knows it won’t get any better…unless she finds a blackout buddy. A handsome stranger she meets standing on a line at the market just might make waiting in the dark oh-so pleasurable.

Warning: carrying groceries up the stairs has never been sexier. This erotic romance includes two naughty neighbors who, after finding creative ways to beat the heat, burn up the night together.

BURN Naughty Neighbors 4

Release Date: July 28, 2015

 

Excerpt

Chapter One

“What do you mean ‘Oops, I let the summer share fall through the cracks this year?’”

She was going to throttle her sister. Or scream bloody murder at the very least. Absolute bloody, sororal murder.

Jaclyn took a breath, held it, counted to five, and tried to release it slowly through the nose. It didn’t work. She was still pissed.

There was silence on the other end of the phone. Which was good, because on Jack’s end there was furious pencil tapping loud enough to have her assistant peek her head in. Jack waved her off and focused again on forcing the calm breathing exercises.

When she felt her voice wouldn’t shake with pure ire, she opened her mouth to speak. “Susan Gates Westfall, please tell me this is your idea of a hilarious prank.”

Jack sounded like their mother on the verge of a tirade. So much for forcing calm.

There was more silence. Maybe a fake sniffle or two. Oh, her little sister would get zero sympathy. Zero! They’d had this summer share for almost a decade. It had taken years to perfect the group—minimize the weird interlopers, maximize the fiscally responsible.

Oh, Christ. They were now the fiscally irresponsible. Why hadn’t Corey, their summer share banker, called her sooner? That might have prevented this calamity. Unless the group was relieved she and Susan were out and hadn’t wanted to say anything?

“Jack, it’s like this—”

“No. Never mind. Save it.” It was her own fault for trusting Suz with the details this year. But the first quarter had been agony—wasn’t work supposed to get more fulfilling the higher one advanced in one’s career?—and she’d been grateful to have one fewer item on her endless agenda in February.

But now it was coming up on July, and, instead of heading out east with all of the other city dwellers lucky enough to escape the punishing summer temperatures, Jaclyn would be cooling her heels (metaphorically!) in the cesspool that was Manhattan.

“I’ll see what else is available. Neill said he might know of a place still open.”

“Neill wouldn’t know shit from beans, Suz, and you know it. He probably has a bead on some north of highway place with vermin and air mattresses in the hall.”

“You’re such a snob, Jaclyn.”

She pinched the bridge of her nose. Forget killing Susan; Susan was going to be the death of her. “Okay. You might be fine with couch surfing and sharing a bathroom with four strangers and going to gross bars and subsisting on takeout bagels, but I actually work—”

“No fair!”

“You didn’t let me finish,” Jack said evenly. “I actually work while I’m out east, and besides, I’m thirty, and life is too freaking short to spend it wishing you weren’t spending thousands of dollars on a miserable summer share.”

“What if I could get Neill to promise you’d have your own bedroom?”

Oh no, she didn’t like the sound of this. “Susan.”

“And en suite. Your own bedroom and en suite. We can totally lock down this place if you’re in.”

Jaclyn’s pencil went flying across her office. “Are you telling me you purposefully let our beautiful, luxurious Montauk hideaway—with beach access—slip through the cracks because your skeezy boyfriend of the month knows a guy who has a friend who—”

The sniffles got a little more pronounced on the other end, this time of the righteous indignation variety. “Neill and I have been seeing each other since Christmas and you know it!”

Yes, she did know it, and in some small way she was proud of her sister for sticking with something—anything—for more than a few weeks. But the Montauk house!

Breathe. Just breathe gently and your spirit will gentle.

One of her clients had written that mantra for her. Hippy-dippy bullshit.

“Okay. If you can email me the details in the next”—Jaclyn checked her watch—“thirteen minutes before I’m on this conference call for the rest of the afternoon, I’ll think about it.”

“But we won’t be able to get it if you aren’t in!” Her sister was whining now, and Jack felt like turning her down flat just for the hell of it. But she wouldn’t. Because Susan was just about all she had left of her family, except for a small, elegant prewar apartment her grandmother had left her.

And because if she didn’t grab this summer share, she’d be stuck in the city all miserable summer long.

“Twelve minutes. And do not send it to the office email.”

“You’re a peach, sis!”

Let’s hope she wasn’t a gross, rotting peach at the bottom of the farmer’s market bin.

* * *

Jaclyn didn’t know enough curse words—and that was saying something since she’d lived in New York City since high school.

The power had gone out in her office building forty-five sweaty minutes ago. A rolling brownout, they said; should be back on in a jiffy, they said; nothing to worry about, they said. As if sitting in her office on a Friday in July wasn’t painful enough.

Her floor was a barren wasteland. The principals hadn’t shown their faces in a few days and even the juniors were scarce. Hell, Jaclyn had given her assistant the day off so she could catch the Jitney to whatever place she’d wrangled for the summer.

It was a sad state of affairs when one’s assistant was halfway to being tipsy on some bustling beach when one was stuck in a horrifyingly hot office. And to add insult to injury, it was Fourth of July weekend! Jaclyn should’ve been on the road at the crack of dawn, loaded down with provisions and sundries to last the holiday weekend plus some. But even the skeezy place Neill had tried to book for them fell through.

She pushed back from her desk, wincing when her slacks stuck to the backs of her thighs. Her firm might have summer Fridays, but they wouldn’t dream of granting casual Fridays. She’d long since ditched her suit jacket—she didn’t give a flying fuck if some office busybody complained she was standing in front of her office windows in bare arms. At least this camisole was cut simply in black silk, so it didn’t look too much like lingerie.

Her little office was normally a meat locker. Now she wished her chic bob were a teensy bit longer so she could put it back in a ponytail. Like it would help.

She should leave, she told herself as she tried to squint through the building across the street, past it and through innumerable others, to her little slice of Manhattan. Did she have power at home? There was no way she was cabbing it if the power was out everywhere; that would be a nightmare. If she left now, she’d have at least an hour, hour and a half walk to get there.

And then twenty flights of stairs to climb.

Oh, God. She didn’t even have a place to crash closer to work—everybody she could call was at present sitting on the deck at the Montauk house sipping mojitos in bikinis and board shorts. Jack couldn’t sleep at work—even if it weren’t a billion degrees in here, she had only two plush guest chairs in her office, and there was no way she’d sleep on the floor. And there was no way she was calling her stepmother.

She rested her forehead against the glass. It was warm, and she winced when she pulled back and saw the smeared, sweaty forehead print she’d left behind. “Gross.”

Wiping at it with the side of her wrist didn’t help. Made it even worse, if such a thing were possible. Turning to find a tissue—or maybe some hand sanitizer—she almost tripped over her stiletto when a voice boomed out her name. Like she’d been caught in the most compromising position.

And it was. The grease print was at her back, and she willed eyes to grow in the back of her head so she could tell if she was shielding it with her body. Bad enough to get caught daydreaming in a sleeveless top, but to have evidence of her humanity on display? Bad for the corporate image.

Not that Smith Palmer-Rhys would notice anything other than her boobs. Which normally might have given Jack a small thrill, but she was too irritable today to even take some small pleasure in teasing him.

“Smith, is there something I can help you with?”

“No, no. Just packing up here. Catching the Cannonball later. You have a seat reserved, Jaclyn?”

She tried to smile like a human being and not just show Smith a sick grimace. In another world, maybe an alternate universe where her sister was not the biggest fuckup on the planet, Jack would, indeed, have a seat on the Cannonball reserved. And a crisp white, indifferent though the vintage may be, with her name on it.

With a toss of her head—and maybe an extra jiggle of cleavage—Jack laughed. “Not today, I’m afraid. I have a client thing—”

“Good, good.” Smith was nothing if not predictable. He was leering at the hint of visible breast in the modest vee of her camisole, and, at the barest mention of a client thing, he moved on. God forbid he be more than a figurehead of the firm his grandfather had started almost a century ago, but at least he came to the office.

But it served her well. No awkward confessions of shame and sororal aggravation.

“Be sure and stop by on the Fourth if you do make it out east. Marguerite and the girls would love to see you.”

Jaclyn made a noncommittal noise, and he turned to leave. Once she’d counted to ten, she slunk back to her desk chair and plopped down. It was almost two in the afternoon. On a Friday. And if she had to walk home, she might as well get started. There was nothing left for her here—not without electricity.

Thank goodness she had planned to go to her afternoon barre class and had something to change into. She’d cripple herself walking home in her current shoes.

But they were gorgeous monsters, she noted, as she bent to nudge them off after closing and locking her door. Four inches of sleek leather heel and signature red sole in a half d’Orsay-style pump that made Jack feel as glamorous as her grandmother in her heyday. And Gram had probably routinely climbed all twenty flights of stairs to the apartment in four-inch-heels without huffing and puffing one bit. While smoking a cigarette.

The cardio would probably kill Jaclyn.

After stashing her suit in the teeny closet hidden cleverly behind her assistant’s desk, she set off for the elevator. Only to hit the button four times, fruitlessly, before remembering there was no power.

How in the hell had poor Smith gotten down the stairs? She hoped she wouldn’t find him huddled in a corner, sweaty and pale, somewhere around floor eleven. Her cell was living on fumes, and, as uncharitable as it was, she didn’t want to use the last of her battery calling emergency for him.

Jack bounded down the stairs, and, many flights later, was only partially chipper when she did, in fact, run into Smith taking a breather with some guys she recognized from the firm down on ten.

Pretty good guess, she congratulated herself, and waved as she quickly avoided getting sucked into small talk in the close stairwell. She didn’t want to be responsible for any cardiac problems. If Smith had been a boob-leerer while she was in a loose silk cami, her formfitting yoga tank would probably make him spontaneously erupt. Though she did put a little extra shimmy in her step for the sexy silver fox from ten whom she’d once let grope her in an otherwise empty elevator.

The fire door on the ground floor was propped open. There was no cross breeze. At all. And the sun was bright enough to blind her, momentarily, as she stepped out onto the pavement. Her workout top was already pretty sweaty, and she resisted the urge to unpeel it from her lower back. Wouldn’t help. The world was airless.

And rank.

It smelled so absolutely foul. It wasn’t like the breeze from Battery Park was normally fresh and invigorating, but this was downright fetid.

Welcome to New York.

On the best day, the city was a noisy mess of humanity and machines. It was strange that the underlying hum wasn’t there. So much for just hoping it was her building with the outage and not the entire city.

She could do the almost-five miles from the Financial District to the Upper West Side, no problem. Had walked it a hundred times before—usually when temperatures hovered somewhere around fifty and were just brisk enough to help clear her brain after work.

Today, by the time she hit Herald Square, Jaclyn was ready to admit defeat. Why had she thought walking up Sixth would be a good idea? Crossing over to head up Broadway was even worse.

Ha! And she had she thought most of Manhattan would be somewhere else.

Why had she forgotten about the billions of tourists on every street corner, looking lost and forlorn? Their careful plans—crafted, no doubt, in some quaint Midwestern kitchen around a Formica table—ruined. No subway service. No service at overpriced tourist trap restaurants. Hotel elevators unresponsive. Whatever would they do? Wherever would they go?

“Out of my fucking way,” was her hope, voiced aloud.

But no one paid any mind to just another muttering, sweating human in the morass of bodies jostling for a small bit of air. Normally, Jack would love the confusion of bodies. The accidental press of breast on arm when the A train rumbled through a dark tunnel. Hand brushing thigh. Eyes meeting in the blue-white light of the station. Sly grins. A wink. And maybe an invitation to impromptu after-work drinks and some nice, anonymous adult-type fun.

The kind of fun that sometimes resulted in the glint of a gold band laughing up a few hours later in a Spartan executive apartment.

There was no laughter in this trek, and no A train flirtations, either. Only hard eyes and harsher language as she powered her way through mile after mile.

And there would be no more anonymous adult-type fun, either. Along with the new mantra (that absolutely didn’t work), Jaclyn had promised to find someone steady. She was getting tired of the incessant rumor mill at work implying all kinds of things about her sexuality. Namely, that she must be as cold a bitch in the bedroom as in the boardroom.

Oh, she burned hot, but she shared that with only the nameless few.

By the time she hit Columbus Circle, all hope of her building’s power being restored was dead. It had died in the painful birth of a blister rubbing over her right Achilles, and she was burning another kind of hot altogether. She hadn’t sweated this much since that disastrous attempt at hot yoga.

Her doorman Burt confirmed the worst: “No idea, Ms. Westfall, when power will be restored. Heard someone say it could be late as tomorrow evening. Maybe Monday. Haven’t seen anything like this since Sandy.”

“Tomorrow night? That’s terrible!”

“Yeah, my kids love the fireworks. Be a shame for those to get postponed.”

Fireworks. Right. “Oh. Yeah.”

He passed her a bottle of water and she almost jumped over the desk to kiss him on the mouth. “At least it’s a quiet weekend, that’s for sure. Most people left before the first outage.”

“There’s been more than one?”

“Yeah. Say goodbye to your TV if you didn’t have it plugged into a surge protector.” She drained the bottle and he handed her another, God bless him. “The noodle place is still delivering when I call; that’s about it.”

At Jack’s raised eyebrow, Burt shrugged and mumbled something about boiling the water, should be safe. But it wasn’t like she had any interest in food whatsoever. She wanted to let cold water fall on her head and maybe lie naked on her terrace in the shade, Peeping Toms be damned.

“You take care what you drink, Ms. Westfall. Nothing from the tap until I call up and give you the clear. City hasn’t issued boil orders, but can’t be too careful.”

So much for her dreams of a shower. “Thanks, B. I think I’m going to wait a bit before I make the long climb up.”

They shared a laugh when she suggested maybe the power would be on by the time she got up the nerve to conquer the stairs. Oh, why hadn’t she sold the classic six? Cashed in and moved to some Midwestern outpost where she could buy five mansions and still have a nicely padded nest egg?

“Remind me again why I love living here?”

It was a rhetorical question, but Burt, ever the philosopher, handed her this gem: “Cuz if you blow your nose in some other place, how you gonna know how much comes out if it’s not a little bit black?”

Right. She thanked him for another bottle of water and hit up the ladies’ lounge off the lobby. The reflection in the mirror confirmed she looked atrocious, so she didn’t linger. Just splashed a bit of precious bottled water on her face and swabbed down her neck and armpits as best she could.

She felt a little fresher when she stepped out into the sun, but that didn’t last long. Oh well, who the hell cared. Not like anyone she knew was trapped in Manhattan the day before the Fourth.

* * *

Hell was standing on line. That much, she knew.

And this was absolute hell.

The heat had turned her brain to mush. That was the only explanation for why she was on a line fifteen deep at the market down the street.

She’d avoided Central Park like it was full of zombies and had strolled down the Seventies, dodging panting dogs tied to railings and children too lethargic to need to be tethered—and had somehow thought it brilliant to pop in to her favorite specialty market and scavenge.

Jaclyn should’ve taken her chances with the zombie apocalypse in Central Park.

It was a madhouse—a full seven-eighths of the humans in this building were probably, in fact, zombies. Zombies who were shuffling around with handbaskets of artisanal cheeses that needed to be consumed immediately or perish in the heat. Pre-chilled bottles of white that would skunk if they came to room temp and chilled again when the electricity came back on—if it came back on. Please let it come back on soon.

She’d actually fought over five-dollar eco-soy tapers meant for an elegant dinner table—now needed for emergency use.

Nudging her basket with her toe as they inched up a place in line, Jack thought she’d happily pay a hundred bucks to have someone carry her stuff up twenty flights of stairs. No summer share meant a whole stack of cash to spare. Except it was imaginary cash, because it was safely padding her electronic bank balance and not actually in her slim wallet, good for only a few cards: credit, MTA, work access.

Which was why, when she heard the clerk shout, “Next on line! Cash only, people,” she almost lost what was left of her fucking mind.

Whirling around, she confronted the woman in line behind her. “Cash only. Did you see a sign posted when you came in? There is not a sign posted. I’m sure of it.” She flung her arm in the direction of the door and blasted the guy in front of her with the back of her hand. “Crap. Sorry. I’m sorry. I just… Cash only?”

She hoped she didn’t sound as pitiful as she felt. And stupid. How foolish of her to not carry an emergency bill folded up in her little card holder. Gram had taught her better than that. Hell, Jaclyn had taught her own clients better than that! And now she was hitting strangers in the back. Fabulous. She’d probably get sued.

“Sorry,” she muttered again, feebly.

When he turned, it was like it happened in slow motion. And she was dizzy, honest to God dizzy when his gaze landed on her. He had the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. Bluer than her own muddy blue. Bluer than the sky on the brightest summer day in the Hamptons. Bluer than—

“No, ma’am, there wasn’t a sign when I came in, but there’s one scrawled up there now.”

Ma’am?

His voice was everything masculine and sinful and oh fuck why did hearing him talk make her want to lick that bead of sweat sliding down his neck?

The woman she’d lambasted a moment earlier cleared her throat, and Jaclyn—along with the sexiest man in New York, like capital T-H-E sexiest man—shuffled one place closer to the checkout. How was she supposed to pay attention to the line when there was such a man?

He had to be a fever dream. The man was probably a three-hundred-pound guy named Bruno with sweaty palms and a greasy forehead who’d told her to watch her fucking hands.

Wait, she had sweaty palms and a greasy forehead—sorry, imaginary Bruno.

“Allow me,” the fever dream said as he bent down to grab her basket.

It took five clicks too long for her to realize what he meant by the action, because she was busy staring at the way his grey t-shirt clung to tight, bunchy muscles in his shoulders, and he’d started to bundle up her things with his. “Oh, no. No. Please. I couldn’t possibly…”

I couldn’t possibly? Who the fuck did Jack think she was, Scarlett O’Hara?

“And I couldn’t possibly allow a beautiful woman to go hungry. Please.”

Oh, he was a charmer. Maybe she did have a secret Southern belle inside, because she found herself saying, “Well, if you insist,” as she accepted the compliment along with the provisions she’d collected: hard cheese, rosemary crackers, a loaf of crusty French bread, peanut butter, and a few liters of still water. Damn, she’d forgotten emergency chocolate.

Karma. It was all about karmic goodness. If she accepted this—

“Although,” the stranger added as he surveyed her foodstuffs, “I’m still not sure you won’t go hungry. That’s all the food you have?” Jaclyn started to nod, and he sighed and placed a hand exaggeratedly to his chest. It was a fine hand he had, too. Long fingers. Tanned. Free of laughing gold bands. “Don’t tell me you’re one of those New Yorkers who keeps her shoe rack in the oven?”

“Not quite that dire.” Like she’d risk her shoes by putting them near a heat source—even if it was infrequently used these days. “I’ve just been working a lot, and, well, I’d thought to be on my way out east for a few weeks…”

“Ah, summer plans fall though?”

Jack was reminded of karmic goodness, and rescinded the mental curse she’d just placed on her sister. “Something like that,” she muttered.

Throat-clearer behind them started up again, and Jack took it as her cue to move a step forward. But that only brought her closer to her handsome rescuer. Damn, how could a man smell so good when it was a thousand degrees?

“Sorry. Again.”

“This is all I have, too,” he said, gesturing to his basket. “And I don’t even have an oven to put shoes in. Was in the middle of moving in this morning when power went out the first time.”

“Oh no.”

“Oh yeah. Gets even better. I was on a freight elevator for an hour with no cell reception and a couple thousand boxes for company. All the rest of my stuff and the movers were downstairs. They’re gone now. So, liberating these beers was my only option once I was a free man.”

“You should come home with me.”

Surely she’d huffed his pheromones and was high on sex hormones—she couldn’t have actually said that. But she had.

“I mean, I can’t promise you much—but I do have a small terrace, which is more than your airless freight elevator. And at least you’d have a place to crash. Even if it is eleventy billion floors up.”

“Billion-floor walkup, eh? Swanky.”

Eleventy. And besides, our combined baskets make for a… pretty decent dinner.” What was wrong with her? She never invited randoms back to her place. Never.

No names, no phone numbers. Just a few—hopefully—screaming orgasms in a nice business hotel and a smile out the door. That was her routine.

“You’re right. If I don’t,” he continued, “I’ll just imagine you wasting away from hunger during the blackout, and we can’t have that. Wait a minute! It’s the big city; I thought y’all all had blackout buddies lined up. I won’t be poaching, will I?”

“About that…” She shook her head and looked up at him.

No, Jaclyn didn’t have a blackout buddy lined up, but she could definitely be persuaded to spend a sweaty night in the dark with this stranger. And stranger he was—New York men could charm the pants off a woman, no doubt, but this guy had down-home charm by the bucketful. All y’all? Poach away, sir. Plunder and pillage. Even if it meant breaking all her rules. If she were giving up random adult-type fun, she’d go out with a bang.

Lots of banging.

“At any rate, I’ll walk you home.” His gentlemanly offer was so foreign, and it had interrupted a very steamy mental envisioning of just how he could plunder her. “That way you’ll know at least a serial killer didn’t buy you dinner and breakfast.”

“You certainly know the ropes of being a blackout buddy for someone new to the city,” she teased. “Breakfast?”

“Ah, your peanut butter?” He shrugged, and was that a blush high up on his cheekbones? Oh, she’d like to eat him for breakfast. A man who blushed. Dear God. “Peanut butter on a spoon, breakfast of champions.”

“Nice save.”

He shook his head and grinned down at her. “Educated guess. Here, have my chocolate chips. Pro tip—sprinkle a few of these on top.”

When he winked, Jack thought she might not care if he was a mass murderer clad in running shorts and a ball cap. Oh boy, this was going to be fun.

They sacked their groceries in silence under the evil stare of the throat-clearer, who was obviously put out with their flirtation. Poor thing probably had a houseful of bored kids and no help this weekend while her husband was away on business. Uh huh.

He handed the clerk crisp bills and Jack only felt the smallest twinge of discomfort. It was no different than a man buying her a drink or two, she reasoned. And it was no different than meeting a guy online, or chatting up a guy at a bar, and going somewhere later.

Didn’t all the romcoms have a meet cute in the produce aisle? This was practically the same thing.

Except she was envisioning something much less chaste than a romcom.

They walked out of the market after he’d insisted on carrying the sack with the heavy water bottles, and she gestured to the right. “I’m just this way.”

“You’ll have to send me home with directions. I didn’t have any breadcrumbs to leave. I’ve been wandering around for a few hours—just glad to not be in that elevator anymore.”

“I bet.”

He shuddered, and he reminded her of some great shaggy beast. Especially since a few curls peeped out from the band of his hat. He looked some wholesome ad for sneakers, or outdoor gear, come to life; she’d like to dirty him up a bit.

Okay, a whole lot.

Too bad this wasn’t a snowpocalypse, because she bet her earnest-looking Boy Scout could build a fire without matches.

“We’re just off Central Park West now.” She pointed in the direction of the big buildings that lined the avenue. “Just look for those; easier in the winter with no leaf cover, of course. I’m, um, over that way.”

“This street looks familiar. These brownstones look familiar.”

“Oh, you really are new.” She laughed. “Are you in one of the mid-rises over here?”

“Nope. Lucked out and a friend’s grandmother was moving out to Connecticut to be closer to her family, so they’re letting me rent the place—for a few years, anyway. That’s all the co-op will allow. She refuses to sell, and that’s fine by me, considering I’m not in the market for a five-million-dollar apartment.”

He named a building. Her building. And her heart thudded a little bit at the coincidence.

“In that building,” she said carefully, “you’d be lucky to get in for five. I think the smallest six went for three-eight, but it needed a lot of work.”

“Six?”

“Classic six. Two beds, living and dining rooms, kitchen, and”—she pulled a face—“maid’s room. I know. It’s a terrible throwback. But prewar appointment, prewar terminology.”

They crossed a street, heading home. He didn’t say anything about this street looking familiar. But he’d probably been wandering for hours. It was a miracle he hadn’t ended up in Hoboken.

As they walked closer and closer to the park, the sidewalks got busier, life got louder, if that made sense. And then the full measure of what he’d said hit Jack with stunning clarity. “Your friend’s grandmother doesn’t happen to be Mrs. Packard, does she?”

“Yeah. Small world. How do you—”

“My grandmother lived in 20B for fifty years. I practically grew up visiting with the Packards and their poodles whenever I was in town.”

So much for anonymous blackout buddy sex. This must be the guy Mark had phoned her about last week—his friend from undergrad moving to the city—a thinly veiled setup. Oh no. Oh no, no, no.

“I’m relieved, then. A friend of the Packards couldn’t possibly know a serial killer. Lead the way to your home; I feel much safer in your hands now.”

“You have no idea, do you?”

“Where we are? Nope. But I have until Monday to work it all out. I figure I’ll take a car to work until I get my bearings.”

Even with the power outage, the edge of Central Park was bustling. Tourists still thronged Theodore Roosevelt Park, looking forlorn because their plans to spend the day at the museum had been thwarted. Kids pouted. Parents looked frazzled. All in all, it was a normal day.

Except nothing about today was normal.

“Starting to look very familiar,” he said as they walked up Columbus. He shoulder-bumped her. “Hey, this is me. I think we might be neighbors.”

Oh, he had no idea.

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