Colette Munsel is a thirty-something freelance editor who lives alone, well, not alone if you consider a cantankerous feline named Henry Miller a roommate. She certainly talks to him like he’s human, not to mention he’s her main source of entertainment.
That is until Sam Griffin moves in next door. Sam seems to embody every hero she’s ever read about in the romance novels she edits. He’s tall, dark, handsome, and built like a brick––you get the idea. It’s too bad Colette has zero skills when it comes to meeting the opposite sex. Less than zero. Maybe the reason she’s had difficulty finding love is because she prefers eating cake over exercising and enjoys reading over going out on the town which means meeting her new neighbor is never going to happen.
Things change when Henry Miller wanders into Sam’s kitchen, forcing Colette to sneak in to retrieve him. Too bad she didn’t change out of her salsa stained “#1 Cat Mom” tee. Luckily Sam finds her tee amusing and the redhead intriguing, especially her curves.
I’m peeking through the blinds, doing my best not to be discovered perving on my new neighbor who’s level-ten hot. And right now, he’s shirtless and a little wet due to the fact he’s hosing down his big truck. “Oh yeah, scrub that truck. Do it harder.” I giggle at myself because Lord knows Henry Miller isn’t going to laugh. Cats do not find humor in anything.
I lean closer to the window, and my hot breath hits the glass and starts to steam up my little corner view of Mr. Sexy. I know his name, thanks to the mailman accidentally delivering his mail to my box a couple of weeks ago, but the nickname is perfect for him. With a sigh, I say his name. “Sam Griffin.” God, isn’t that rugged sounding? I pause, knowing I shouldn’t say shit like this, but what the hell? Henry Miller won’t tell. “Colette Griffin.” Wow. I like the sound of that. It’s much better than the one I was born with—Munsel. Ugh, no matter how you say it, it sounds depressing. Go ahead, say “Munsel” aloud.
A griffin is a mythological beast, and let me tell you, Sam fits that to a T, because the man is b-i-g, and I’m not talking about dad-bod big. Peeking out again, I raise my thumb and move it from side to side and up again like artists do to see if I can estimate his size. I look ridiculous, but luckily it’s just me and Henry Miller, and he doesn’t give a rat’s ass if I act like a dork.
I’d guess him to be six three or four, so a foot taller than me. His legs are long and muscular, and his shoulders… God, his shoulders make me swoon. I know some women like a guy’s butt, but I’m a shoulder girl all the way. I could just picture myself hanging on to those as he….
Oops, never mind.
On top of all that yumminess is a face that could launch a thousand orgasms. Square jaw that’s always got a little scruff like he wakes up, shaves, and bam, it grows back. Thank you, testosterone. As for the rest of his face, I can only say that from a distance, he’s handsome. I wish I could tell you about his eye color or how soft his lips would be, but I can’t. I haven’t actually met him in person.
Why not just go introduce myself to him? Well, because level-ten hot doesn’t mix with level-five meh—and that’s after I’ve showered, done my hair, and put on makeup. Since I’ve done none of those things, it means I’m currently level-three scary.
Anyhoo, he moved in about a month ago. I wasn’t here when the truck arrived to set him up in the home attached to mine. I live in a duplex. I only rent, but I like renting. I mean, if something goes wrong, I just call the management company, and two or three weeks later, it’s fixed, pretty much, which is good because I don’t have a handy bone in my body.
Outside, I see Sam use some kind of soft cloth to buff his truck to a glossy shine. “I’d like to shine his…” I mumble to myself. Then I crack up because sometimes my dirty thoughts … well, they’d make a sailor blush.
The way his back muscles flex and contract are making me dizzy. I need to pull away from this and get back to work. “Shit’s not going to edit itself.” And Mama needs a new vibrator, apparently.
I plop back on my butt and crawl the short distance into my small living room. Once I make it to the coffee table, I use that to help push me up and walk the five steps it takes to get it back to my desk.
My little place is perfect for me. It’s one bedroom, one bath, with a living room big enough for a loveseat (side note—no love has ever been made there), chair, and tiny television stand for my even smaller TV. There’s what I call a dining nook off the kitchen that I’ve set up as my office. It’s an ideal spot for easy coffee refills and access to life-sustaining snacks. But the best part is the sliding doors that lead to my deck—my little slice of heaven. It’s small, only about eight-by-eight feet, which means I’ve got room enough for a chaise lounge and a tiny side table.
Three steps down from the deck leads to a decent-sized grassy area I share with Sam’s side of the house. It’s big enough for Henry Miller to roll around in when the sun is out, like it is today. It’s finally nice enough outside for me to leave the slider open so the slight breeze can come through the screen door.
Yeah, I like my little place. And now with the new neighbor, I love my place. Granted, it’s not as big as the place next door. I saw it a time or two when the last neighbor lived there. That place is set up in a similar manner as mine, but it’s much bigger. Even the deck is twice the size.
I sigh, imagining what Sam’s place is like. Probably super manly with black furniture and gray walls. I just need to figure out a way to introduce myself to him, but I suck at meeting guys. I’ve always wanted one of those meet cutes I read about all the time.
After the excitement of my afternoon watching my neighbor wash his vehicle and editing a sexy romance novel, I decide to take advantage of the evening by sitting out on my deck with a glass of wine. I love it. Watching the birds and squirrels scamper around my yard is always entertaining. This evening is no exception.
Sadly, Henry Miller hates the critters. When he sees a bird flutter over to my little birdfeeder that I’ve got suspended from my smallish tree, he hunkers down in the grass, getting as low as he can so he can slither closer like a soldier trench crawling. In the past, he’s nearly caught a slow-witted bird, but I do my best to shoo them away before Mr. Miller gets his paws onpoor creatures.
As for the squirrels, well, that’s another story entirely. They taunt poor Henry Miller. No amount of hunkering or slithering is going to surprise a squirrel. Instead, they sit on the tree limbs and say all kinds of rude things to my cat. Okay, I can’t speak squirrel, but I recognize the tone, and it’s not nice. Honestly, I wish I had the chutzpah of the squirrel that’s currently reading Henry the riot act. I swear to you, she—and I know it’s got to be a female squirrel—has her little paws on her waist and her head is bobbing back and forth. If I could speak squirrel, I’d imagine her saying something like, “Look here, asshole cat. You think you’re going to come up here into my house and eat me? Well, fuck you. That ain’t happening.” At the last minute, she practically spits, “Pussy!” I giggle at my thoughts. I’m crazy, I know. Probably due to the fact I spend way too much time alone.
I decide I need to capture the essence of the squirrel. I pick up my pencil and the tablet I keep with me for notes, ideas, reminders—things of that nature. I hold the small pad in my hand and draw the sassy little rodent. I’m not the best at drawing. Case in point, by the time I’m done, it’s hard to tell what I attempted to sketch. I mean, I know what it was, but if you saw it, you might ask, “Is that a cat, Colette?”
I’d shake my head.
Perhaps you take another stab at it. “A rat?”
“Nope.” I’d titter at the absurdity. “It’s a squirrel. See?” I’d point at the thing I drew at its little feet. “That’s a nut.”
I take a long swig of my wine and sigh.
I come by it naturally, but I don’t want to get into that right now.
The wine has gone to my head. I decide it’s time to step inside and cook myself something to soak up the booze. Standing up, I nearly topple over but catch myself on the arm of my chaise lounge. After pushing open the screen, I turn back to call Henry Miller, but he’s nowhere to be found. “Shit.”
Henry’s a good cat, mostly. He likes going outside, but he only goes when I go, and he comes inside with me. I quickly walk down the steps and scan the yard. “Henry,” I call, loud enough for him to hear, but soft enough it won’t disturb my neighbors. I look up into my little tree and see the squirrel glaring down at me. “What?” I snap.
She doesn’t answer.
I spin around in a circle, looking up and down in search of Henry. I stop when my eyes lock onto my neighbor’s deck. My new neighbor. My hot neighbor. Combined, that equals my hot new neighbor. His sliding door is ajar. Not only that, his screen door is open.
“Idiot,” I hiss. No, I’m not talking about Sam. I’m talking about Henry Miller. He’s such an asshole. I take in a lungful of air for courage as I trudge toward Sam’s deck, chanting softly to myself, “Please be gone or out front. Please be gone…” You get the idea.
When the second wooden step up to Sam’s deck squeaks under my feet, I freeze. What the hell is my problem? I should just stomp right up there and knock on the door—make my presence known.
Yes, I should absolutely do that, but I can’t. I’m not in any shape to meet my neighbor. The only thing I did today was shower and dress in my oldest pair of sweats and my most embarrassing tee. It’s the one my sister gave me as a joke. It says in bold print: #1 Cat Mom.
See what I mean?
I tiptoe up the rest of the steps, rushing to the spot next to the glass door like a cop trying to surprise a perp. I lean closer to listen for any sound. Nothing. Taking that as a good sign, I lean my head in further so I can actually look into the house. And there that little fucker sits, on the counter, licking his nonexistent balls like he owns the place. “Henry Miller,” I hiss.
The little bastard doesn’t even look up.
“Henry,” I snap again.
“Goddamn it,” I mutter to myself. I’m going to have to go in there. Looking down, I roll my eyes when I realize I’ve got something on my shirt, right above my left boob. Pulling the shirt up, I examine it more closely. I think it’s salsa from lunch, but I can’t be sure, so I do what any self-respecting person would do. I lick it.
“Can I help you?”
The deep voice startles me so much, I jump practically a foot off the ground. My landing is off-balance. I grab the first thing I can to keep from taking a tumble. It just so happens to be my neighbor’s chest.
Damn, his pecs are firm.
When his hands move up to support me, warmth runs through my entire body. Warmth so hot, it feels like fire.
Okay, it isn’t quite that hot, but it is super warm. Trust me.
“Oh.” I laugh because crying is out of the question. “I’m sorry. I, uh, think my cat ran into your side of the house.”
“Ah.” He looks back into his home and back down to me. “I wondered who he belonged to.” His eyes move from my face, past my lips, and down to my tee. “Number one cat mom, huh?”
Shoot me now. Then my sister. She dies next.
The only good thing about any of this is I now know his eye color. Gray. Steel gray. And they’re surrounded by lashes that are so long, it’s not fair. The rest of the stuff that surrounds his eyes is just as captivating. His nose I’d probably describe as Roman, and his mouth … holy moly, I want that mouth.
“Ha ha.” My laugh is fake. “My sister’s idea of a joke.”
“You must like it. I saw you lick it.”
I do my best to take control of the situation. I point to the spot that’s still moist from my tongue. “Spicy salsa.”
“Mm, I love spicy.”
I just bet he does.