Kyra opened the fridge, got a beer, and popped the top, unthinkingly taking a
deep drink while she pondered her neighbor.
Really, had she thanked him enough for the new hinge? Sure, sheâ€™d said thanks,
but she really ought to thank him.
Okay, she was not going to do thatâ€”she was not going to find an excuse to go
over there and bother that man. Or was she? Because it wasnâ€™t the worst thing to
be neighborly and say thank you.
Enough. Sheâ€™d already sort of said thank you, and to say thank you now would be
. . . flirty. Yep, flirty. And she was not the flirty type, even though Deenie
had urged her to be more flirty. â€śYou have to at least try,â€ť sheâ€™d said one
afternoon at the bistro when an older guy who smelled like cigars and sweat was
hitting on Kyra. â€śYouâ€™ll make better tips. And are you really going to wait
until youâ€™re, like, forty before you date again? Because thatâ€™s too late. Youâ€™re
practically done by then.â€ť
Forty did sound a little too late to reenter the dating scene. Ruby would be
eighteen when Kyra was forty. Kyra could well imagine that all the good guys
would be taken by then, and sheâ€™d be left with those who drove around in old
pickups with campers on the back and giant antennas bouncing around on top.
Maybe she should just go and say thanks. Maybe just practice her flirty skills.
Kyra opened the window in case Ruby should wake up and call for her, polished
off her beerâ€”liquid courageâ€”then grabbed two more beers from the fridge and
She had made it to the fence before Dax looked up and saw her coming. He
straightened up and eyed her with his usual suspicion as she hooked one leg over
the fence, and then the other. As she neared him, his gaze fell to the two
bottles of beer.
Kyra hiccupped. â€śThat was involuntary,â€ť she said.
The dog hopped up and sauntered over, and stuck his snout in her crotch.
â€śOtto!â€ť he snapped. The dog ignored him as he moved his snout down her leg and
studied her flip-flops pretty intently, snorting once or twice, before trotting
back to his spot beneath the big plank of wood.
â€śOkay, well, now thatâ€™s overâ€”â€ť She hiccupped again. What the hell? She could
feel heat flooding her face. â€śSorry,â€ť she said, touching three fingers to her
mouth. â€śI have the hiccups.â€ť
â€śI gathered.â€ť She held out a bottle. â€śWould you like a beer?â€ť
He peered at the bottle. Then at her. â€śWhy?â€ť
â€śWhy?â€ť she laughed and hiccupped. â€śYouâ€™re a funny guy, Dax Bishop. Why does
anyone offer a beer? Iâ€™m being neighborly, and I want to thank you for fixing
that door. Itâ€™s so much better now.â€ť
He nodded and wiped his hands on a dirty towel. â€śWhereâ€™s the little coconut?â€ť
â€śIn bed,â€ť she said. â€śI have a window open so I can hear her if she wakes.â€ť Did
that make her a bad mother? He probably thought that made her a bad mother.
Well, she wasnâ€™t a great mother, Kyra was the first to admit. She smiled a
little self-consciously and managed to choke down another hiccup.
He tossed down the towel. â€śYour hair is different.â€ť
â€śWhat do you mean?â€ť she asked and put a hand to it. â€śI set it free.â€ť It was
probably really frizzy now. Why, oh, why couldnâ€™t she have used a little hair
product? And so what if it was a little off-putting? Sheâ€™d brought the man a
beer, for Godâ€™s sakeâ€”that ought to make up for being offended by frizzy hair.
â€śOkay, Dax, are you going to take this or not?â€ť she demanded, dropping her hand
from her hair.
â€śWhat?â€ť He dragged his gaze from her hair to the bottle. â€śSure. Thanks. By the
way, I like it,â€ť he said, his gaze traveling up to her hair again.
Kyra instantly smiled. â€śWhat, my hair? Really? Thank you.â€ť
He walked around his project and took the beer from her hand, his fingers
brushing carelessly against hers. He took a swig of it, nodded as if he
approved, looked at the labelâ€”Budweiserâ€”then at her again. He took another drink
as he studied Kyra, as if he didnâ€™t quite know what to do with her.
The feeling was entirely mutual. â€śWhat are you making?â€ť she asked, stepping
She could appreciate a man of few words, but he didnâ€™t seem to know how to have
an actual conversation. â€śFor anyone in particular?â€ť
â€śSome clients of John Beverly Interiors.â€ť He took another sip. â€śI make some
pieces for them.â€ť
â€śI love that store. I canâ€™t afford even their bath toys, but I like to look. So
when you said you make furniture, you were talking furniture.â€ť
â€śWell . . . yeah,â€ť he said, sounding slightly mystified. â€śWhat else would I be
â€śI mean high-end pieces.â€ť
She was going to need a pair of pliers to have any semblance of conversation
with The Grump. Her look must have conveyed how she felt, because he said
sheepishly, â€śI donâ€™t know what to call the stuff I make. I just like to make
Okay, then. She could go with that. Kyra moved to have a closer look at the big
plank of wood and brushed past him, shoulder connecting lightly with his chest.
Did I just do that on purpose? I did. I damn sure did. And I liked it.
â€śSo this is a table,â€ť she said. Heâ€™d already said that, obviously. She sipped
her beer and noticed that she felt a little buzzed. How many beers was it now,
anyway? That six-pack was supposed to last her all week.
â€śBig enough to seat twelve. The wood came from a barn they razed to install a
pool.â€ť He leaned over the plank and ran his fingers lightly over the surface.
â€śSee how the grain is raised here?â€ť
â€śGive me your hand,â€ť he said.
Kyra held out her hand; he took it and pressed her fingers lightly to the plane
of the wood, sweeping them across the surface. â€śFeel it?â€ť
She was feeling something all right, and she was pretty sure it wasnâ€™t the
He let go of her hand. â€śPeople pay crazy money for that raised grain. Iâ€™d be
surprised if the clients who commissioned this even know what theyâ€™ve got.â€ť
â€śNice,â€ť she said, nodding at the carved piece of wood.
â€śThanks,â€ť Dax said. He moved his arm and himself away.
Okay, sheâ€™d gotten too close, so sue her already. Was it her fault that she was
a single mom with an extremely limited social life and starved for physical
contact? Okay, yes, it was technically her fault, but surely the statute of
limitations had to be running out on that one. Was it her fault that he happened
to be an astonishingly sexy grouch? Nope.
He was squinting at something on the thick plank, flicking it off with his
The thing was, Kyra hadnâ€™t been with a guy in so long, and her supergrouchy
neighbor, who was maybe a little off in the mental department, was really very
hot. Hot hot.
She walked around the end of the sawhorse and set her beer down on the corner of
it. She shoved her hands into her pockets to keep from doing something stupid
with them, like twirling her hair around a finger like Ruby did. She turned her
back to him and looked at Number Two. â€śYou live here by yourself, huh?â€ť she
asked. He didnâ€™t answer. She glanced at him over her shoulder.
He was watching her now, holding the beer loosely between two fingers. â€śNo.â€ť
â€śNo?â€ť she asked with surprise and turned around to face him.
â€śOtto lives here, too.â€ť He pointed to his dog and received two thumps of the
tail for it.
â€śOh yeah, of course,â€ť Kyra said. â€śYou and the dog.â€ť
Dax gave her a tiny bit of a smile and tilted his head to one side. â€śYou donâ€™t
have to say it like that.â€ť
â€śLike Iâ€™m a shut-in with a therapy dog.â€ť
Kyra smiled. â€śIf the shoe fits.â€ť
He smiled, too. And then he began to move toward her. â€śHereâ€™s the thing about
that, Kyra,â€ť he said, saying her name for the first time, and wow, did it ever
trickle down her spine when said in that low-timbre voice. He was moving slowly,
his gaze, dark and intent, locked on hers. The closer he drew, the more Kyra
felt a little like bacon on the inside, everything sizzling. Is he going to
kiss me? He is totally going to kiss me. Kyra was a little nervous, and a
little hopeful, and yeah, a little crazy. But she kept smiling, because suddenly
kissing The Grouch seemed like the perfect idea.
But when Dax reached her, he swept her beer up off the sawhorse and pressed it
into her chest. His gaze fell to her mouth, and he said, very softly, â€śOtto
couldnâ€™t be a therapy dog if his life depended on it. Heâ€™s too lazy.â€ť He smiled,
lifted his beer, and drank. â€śThanks for the beer,â€ť he said, tapped his bottle
against hers, and stepped away.
Single mother Kyra Kokinos spends her days waiting tables, her nights working
on her real estate license, and every spare moment with her precocious
six-year-old daughter, Rubyâ€”especially when Ruby wonâ€™t stop pestering their
grumpy next-door neighbor. At first glance, Dax Bishop seems like the kind of
gruff, solitary guy whoâ€™d be unlikely to offer a cup of sugar, let alone a
marriage proposal. But thatâ€™s exactly what happens when Ruby needs life-saving
Dax showed up in East Beach a year ago, fresh from a painful divorce and looking
for a place where he could make furniture and avoid people. Suddenly his life is
invaded by an inquisitive munchkin in sparkly cowboy bootsâ€”and her frazzled,
too-tempting mother. So he presents a practical plan: his insurance will help
Ruby, and then they can divorceâ€”zero strings attached.
But soon Kyra and Dax find their engagement of convenience is simple in name
only. As their attraction deepens, a figure from the past reappears, offering a
way out. Can Kyra and Dax let go so easilyâ€”or has love become a preexisting
[Montlake Romance, On Sale: July 25, 2017,
Paperback / Kindle, ISBN: 9781477848616 / ]
Born in Canyon, Texas, and raised on a ranch, Julia London didnâ€™t have her
eye on writing romance right away. After graduating with a degree in political
science from the University of Texas in Austin, she moved out to Washington, DC,
eventually working in the White House. She later decided to take a break from
government work and start writing. Today, she is the New York Times, Publishers
Weekly, and USA Today bestselling author of more than thirty novels. She writes
historical romance and contemporary womenâ€™s fiction, and her most popular series
include the Secrets of Hadley Green series, the Cabot Sisters series, the
Desperate Debutantes series, the Lear Sisters series, and the Pine River series.
She is a recipient of the RT Book Reviews Best Regency Historical Romance award
for The Dangerous Gentleman, and a six-time finalist for the renowned RITA Award
for excellence in romantic fiction. She resides in Austin, Texas.