Arrogant Neighbor: A Navy SEAL Romance (4 page)

BOOK: Arrogant Neighbor: A Navy SEAL Romance
3.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Chapter 8


’ve called
every body repair shop in town. They all say the same thing; it has to be completely repainted.”

“That sucks. What about insurance?”

“They’ll pay for it, but it’ll take weeks before they pay out. I need to have it fixed before next week. I’m having dinner with my dad. When he sees it…”

“He gave it to you, didn’t he?”

“As a graduation gift. If he sees it, or if Mom sees it, they’ll make me move back home.”

“You’re twenty-one, Sloane,” Kyle said. “Your parents can’t
you do anything.”

“Yeah, but they can make me miserable until I cave.”

“Sorry, kid,” he said, real sympathy in his voice. “Do you really think it was your neighbor?”

“Who else could it be? It’s not like I have a lot of enemies. I don’t even have a lot of friends. Just you. Maybe Sara.”

“Well, be careful. Someone who would do something like that, you don’t know what else they might do.”

“I know. I will.”

I disconnected the call and sat back, frustration bubbling in my chest. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I’m out of the house and on my own for two days and someone keys my car. I really hoped it was just some random asshole from the neighborhood, not Major. But something deep in my gut told me that was unlikely. It felt personal.

And when he pushed me up against the wall…didn’t that prove that he had a temper?

Never mind the fact that his lips that close to my ear made goosebumps rise on my arms. Never mind that the heat from his body, the awareness of his near nakedness made me feel things deep in my belly that I don’t think I’d ever felt. Or that fact that my knees went weak and my thighs loosened and…

Shit! Why couldn’t I stop thinking about it?

Was I just that lonesome? I mean, it had been a while since Philip and I…but there was Ryan. And he was really charming and handsome and everything I thought I wanted in a guy. Why wasn’t I having these thoughts about him?

It was the noises. It had to be. Listening to Major have sex with girls who screamed—the girl last night had screamed his name over and over until I heard it in my dreams—ignited my imagination, made me think of things that I was pretty sure only existed in erotic novels. It was like getting that first glimpse of a centerfold or a porno film. It woke something deep inside of me that I didn’t know was there, some need that wouldn’t have existed if not for those sounds.

I wished it would just go away.

* * *

my car on the street and walked half a block to my mom’s house so she wouldn’t notice the scratches. I’d settled on a body shop—they were going to charge me almost everything in my savings account—but they couldn’t take the car until the next day. At least that gave me the evening to find someone to give me a ride home from work tomorrow. Sara, this girl Kyle and I used to hang around in high school, was back in town after going to college in Austin. I thought maybe she’d be willing. She’d been calling, suggesting we get together. What a better time than now?

Was that wrong? Taking advantage of someone because I needed something?

My mom’s face nearly split, the smile she gave me when she opened the door was so wide. She hugged me tight, like I’d been gone years instead of two days. But, to be honest, I was pretty happy to see her, too.

She led the way inside, and we sat at the kitchen table. She had homemade banana bread and coffee, my favorite after school treat. I was so excited to be an independent adult, but there were some things about being a kid I would definitely miss.

“Your dad said the two of you are having dinner next week.”

I nodded. “At

She smiled. “Always your favorite.”

“I didn’t realize you and Daddy were talking again.”

“We always talk. We’re just not always cordial.”

She was blushing a little. My heart sank. I knew what that meant.

They were seeing each other again.

My parents had dated off and in all through my childhood. And every time my mom was floating on a cloud while things were good, but when he broke it off again—as he always did—she would fall into a depression that would sometimes last months. She did her best to hide it from me. She still got up every morning to go to work, still paid the bills and did the grocery shopping. But these little moments of mother-daughter time would stop. During those times, I would be lucky to get three words out of her that didn’t include some sort of demand: Get dressed! Take the trash out! Vacuum the living room!

I liked my mom. I didn’t like when she disappeared.

“It’s different this time,” my mom said, touching my hand lightly. “He’s different this time. I think he really is ready to settle down.”

I was still thinking about those words as I made my way back to my apartment. She said that quite often. Every time, in fact. And I would argue with her and she would argue back and we would usually end up not speaking for a few days. I didn’t say anything this time. What was the point? If she hadn’t listened once in twenty-one years, she wasn’t ever going to listen.

I was never going to be like her. I was never going to sit around and wait for some guy to decide he was ready for me. If I ever fell for a guy who didn’t want the same things I wanted, I hoped that I would be strong enough to walk away. I never understood how my mom could put herself through all the crap my dad did. There was one time when he got with this other woman—even got engaged to her—while he was leading my mom on, letting her think that he was ready to be a family, all three of us. I thought my mom would finally end it all then, but six months later, when the other woman walked out on my dad, he came crying to her and she welcomed him back like nothing had ever happened. And you know what she said?

He loves me.

Yeah, well, not enough.

I was so lost in thought that I didn’t see Major coming out of his apartment as I rounded the top of the stairs.

“Watch it!” he barked as I nearly ran straight into his chest.


I backed up, my hands raised to show him I meant no harm. But the way he was glowering at me, I could see my body language meant nothing to him.

“It was really great, you sending the cops to my apartment this morning.”

Heat rushed over my cheeks. “I had to file a police report for the insurance.”

“Yeah, well, you didn’t have to tell them that I was your prime suspect.”

“I didn’t say that. But when they asked who might have had a reason to do it, you were the only one I could think of.”

“I’m sure. You’re such a little princess that you’ve never pissed off anyone else in your entire life.”

The contempt in his voice was so thick that it felt like a wave of poison washing over me. I wrapped my arms around my chest, feeling beat up in an odd sort of way. First my parents, and now this.

“My car was vandalized. I’m sorry if you feel unfairly accused, but I can’t imagine who else could have done it.”

“Yeah, well, you don’t know shit about me. You should probably get to know people before you begin throwing around accusations.”

I inclined my head slightly. “And maybe if you could stop partying every night, I could get some sleep and think things through before I make accusations.”

He shook his head, his eyes so narrowed that I felt like a bug he wanted to squash.

“Fuck you, lady.”

He stormed off down the stairs, taking them two or three at a time. I watched, feeling like he’d slapped me. Like he’d just torn my flesh away and left me here, vulnerable and alone. Like the last guy on Earth had just rejected me.

I don’t know why I felt that way. What did I care what some party-happy guy thought about me? I’d bet my last dime that most of the girls he brought home every night were waitresses and bartenders, the kind of people who couldn’t be bothered to get an education and make something of themselves. People like him couldn’t care less about the future. They made the money the needed to pay for a weekend of partying, only looking ahead as far as the next party. He probably didn’t even know what a Roth IRA was or why he might need one. It was people like him who ended up on the streets at fifty because he had no education and no means to support himself.

Fucking jackass.

I turned away and locked myself in my apartment, determined to be more careful in the future. The less I saw of him, the better.

Chapter 9


hy did
I let her get under my skin? Stupid girl had no idea what it was like to be accused of something you didn’t do. I was not the kind of guy who would stand back and pretend I wasn’t guilty. If I did something wrong, I would stand up and admit it. I don’t hide behind excuses. I hate excuses, explanations, or anything that’s designed to take the sting out of the truth. If a person told enough excuses, they would come to believe it and they wouldn’t live up to the consequences of their actions. That wasn’t me.

But being accused of something I didn’t do? That was an insult to everything I was and everything I stood for.

I gunned the truck as I pulled out of the parking lot. I needed to get away from her, away from here. I needed some time to get my head straight.

Things had been complicated recently. Even before her. The dreams began again a few weeks ago. I thought I’d beat them, but they were there, torturing me every time I closed my eyes. I’d wake up calling his name sometimes, or I’d surface with her name on my lips.


She was his sister. Beautiful, gentle Anna. He showed me a picture of her, and I was a goner. When she agreed to write to me at boot camp, I thought I was the luckiest guy in the world. All the other guys in our division thought Anna was the hottest girl they’d ever seen and most of them had asked Sean to let them write to her. But I was the one she chose. And when we met during liberty, I knew she was the one for me. She knew it too.

I touched my chest where I once had her name tattooed over my heart. It was still there, just buried under more ink, under swirls and circles, hiding it, hiding my shame.

I knew the moment that IED took Sean out she would never forgive me. I was supposed to protect him, to keep him safe. I should have stopped him from moving so far ahead of the rest of us, should have warned him. I should have been paying more attention instead of laughing at some joke one of the other guys had told. I should have…I should have done something. Jack tried. He saw something, a warning of some sort that he couldn’t remember afterward. He grabbed Sean’s shoulder, but it was already too late. In seconds, Sean was gone and Jack was left with a permanent limp.

And I lost everything I’d anchored my future on.

That one second in time haunted me. I was here, living my life like nothing had ever happened when Sean, a guy who had never hurt a fly, who’d never broken in to the local high school because he thought it would be funny to pull up porno sights on all of the computers in the computer lab. A guy who never stole a carton of cigarettes form the local convenience store because it was more exciting than actually paying for them. A guy who never drank so much whiskey the night before his graduation that he ran the new car his mother gave him for graduation up a tree and spent the actual day of the ceremony in the hospital. Sean didn’t join the Navy SEALs because he had something to prove or because it was the Navy or prison. Sean joined because he believed he could make a difference. And he might have if it had been me to step in that IED instead of him.

And I’m sure if some nosey bitch had accused him of keying her car, Sean would have responded a hell of a lot more compassionately than I did. He always was that guy who played devil’s advocate, forcing everyone to see the other side of whatever argument broke out during down time. He kept us together, kept us from wanting to kill each other. Without Sean, our team probably wouldn’t have made it through that first tour. I know without him, we barely made it through the second.

So, fuck Sloane Graham. She didn’t know shit about me, didn’t know who she was accusing. I don’t know why it was bothering me so much. When she came charging up those stairs, so lost in thought, a part of me wanted to slam into her and laugh as she fell down the stairs. The other part, though…there was something about her. It wasn’t just the way she filled out that white blouse she was wearing, or the way her hips were accented in that tight little skirt. It was something else, something undefinable that got under my skin. And that pissed me off more than anything else.

I didn’t want to be attracted to her. I was much happier pretending she didn’t exist.

Chapter 10


a laugh as Ryan melted into a gale of giggles. Normally, I would say that men don’t giggle. They chuckled. They guffawed. They laughed, wholeheartedly, from the gut. But they didn’t giggle.

Ryan, on the other hand, giggled.

And it was kind of annoying.

This was our third date in a little over a week. And I was beginning to think it might be our last. There was just something about him that was beginning to get on my nerves.

He talked almost incessantly about himself. His job. His family. His friends. It was always about him, always about how great he was. I didn’t mind at first, when we were first getting to know each other, but it seemed like he had no interest whatsoever in me. I’m not even sure he knew what I did for a living or even what I had to eat for dinner tonight. The man couldn’t see past the tip of his own nose!

Dinner had only just been set in front of us, and already I was ready to go home. A quiet evening in front of the television seemed so much better than this.

“So, I was thinking that it might be nice to take a trip down to Galveston this weekend. My family has a beach house down there.”

“Really?” I asked, pushing a piece of limp lettuce off the edge of my plate with my fork.

“Yeah. You’d like it. It’s one of those grotesquely painted Victorian houses, not unlike the building where you live.”

I glanced at him, my eyebrows rising. “My building isn’t grotesquely painted.”

“No, but it’s got that Victorian feel to it. But this house, it’s really authentic. My mother had the designer look up the colors that it was originally painted and ordered that those colors be used on both the inside and the out. So the house is yellow and blue and pink. Really awful, but mother loves it.”

I actually thought it sounded nice, but I didn’t argue with him. There was no point. I’d learned that he never really heard me when I spoke. All he wanted was someone who constantly agreed with him. So he blocked out anything that went opposite to that. There was really no point in my even being here. I was pretty much convinced that he wouldn’t even notice if I disappeared.

“We’ll go next weekend.”

“I think I have plans.”

“Yes, you do. With me.”

He smiled as though it was all settled. What was the point in arguing?

I was so relieved when he drove me home early, saying something about an early meeting in the morning. There was still time to catch something on Netflix before I went to bed. And then, thank God, tomorrow was Sunday so I could sleep in as long as everything was quiet over at Major’s. There hadn’t been any more problems the last four or five days. I wasn’t even sure he was there most nights. Only once or twice had I heard anything through the thin walls and that was just the thud of movement and once I thought I heard the television. But no more screaming girls.

I found myself wondering if that was because of me, or if he was just going through some sort of slump. I found it hard to believe that a guy like Major would have trouble finding women to keep him company. I mean, between those impressive muscles and those intense blue eyes, he was better looking than the hottest guy in Hollywood. Who needed Chris Hemsworth when they could have someone like Major Rutherford?

“Hey, where’d you go?” Ryan reached over and shook my shoulder a little. “We’re here.”

I sat up a little straighter, happy to see we were sitting in the little lot in front of my apartment building.

“Thanks,” I said, reaching for the door handle.

“Hold on. I’ll walk you up.”

Ryan came around the front of the car and held out his hand. I had no choice but to take it. I hadn’t asked him in the last two times he dropped me off and he’d never said anything about it. But he seemed determine to come up tonight. As we walked slowly up the stairs, I tried to think of some excuse that would make him leave the moment we got to my door. But my thoughts were too scattered to conjure up with anything concrete.

I pulled my keys out of my bag and immediately dropped them.

“Here, let me get it,” Ryan said with a charming smile that reminded me of the first time we met. What had happened to that guy?

He unlocked the door and pushed it open, waving me inside with a chivalrous bow. I stepped around him, still trying to think of an excuse to get rid of him. But I came up blank.

“I don’t really have anything to drink,” I said. “Just water bottles.”

“No problem. I’ll just have to remember to bring a bottle of wine next time.”

Again that charming smile. I tried to smile back, but it felt fake on my lips.

Go home!

He walked slowly around my living room, running his fingers over surfaces like he was checking for dust. He had never been inside my apartment. No one had, really. Kyle was supposed to come over this morning, but he canceled at the last minute. Ryan was not the visitor I’d envisioned being the first to see how well everything had come together. I unpacked a little at a time, finally emptying the last box this afternoon. I was really proud of it, proud of my first home away from home. But it felt like such a small accomplishment as I watched the emotions play over his face, everything from amusement to something very much like disgust.

“Did you want some water?”

He didn’t answer. Instead, he wandered over to my bedroom door and pushed it open, leaning against the doorframe like he had every right to see inside my private sanctuary.

“You haven’t lived here long?”

“I told you, I just moved in last weekend.”

“You unpack quickly.”

“Yeah, well, it’s inconvenient to live out of boxes.”

“I like your bed,” he said, not even pretending that that wasn’t the focus of his attention. And then he went inside the room, disappearing from view.

I so wanted to tell him to leave. How do you ask an unwanted guest to leave your house without pissing him off? That wasn’t exactly something that was covered in any etiquette manual. Or maybe it was, and I was just looking in the wrong place. I know my mom had never told me how to handle a situation like this.

It briefly crossed my mind to call Kyle and get him to come over and get rid of him. But Kyle had been a little standoffish lately. I’m not sure how quick he would have been to rush to my rescue.

I finally sighed and crossed the room, deciding I should probably see what he was up to in my bedroom. I almost wished I hadn’t.

He was standing at my dresser, digging through my underwear drawer.

“These are cute,” he said, holding up a pair of thong panties that a friend had given to me in college as a joke. “I bet you look nice in these.”

“I wish you wouldn’t do that.”

“Why don’t you put them on? Or are you already wearing something like them?”

He glanced at me in the mirror above my dresser, a leer in his expression that made my heart skip a beat.

“You should go,” I said, forgetting all about any sort of etiquette. “I really just don’t want you in here.”

“Why? We’ve been on three dates. Don’t you think it’s time we get to know each other a little better?”

“I think you should go.”

“Come on, Sloane. Don’t be a prude.”

I opened my mouth to argue, the words right there on my tongue. It would have been beautiful, too, the perfect tongue lashing for a guy who had no idea how to treat a lady. But then he was in front of me, grabbing my wrists so tightly that I thought for a minute that he might break them.

“Most girls are more than happy to jump into my bed by the third date. Hell, I’ve been known to get lucky before the first date had completely ended. But you…I’ve never been left with a kiss on the cheek at the front door.” He moved closer to me, brushing his lips over my jaw before nibbling at the bottom edge of my earlobe. “I thought it was quaint at first. But now it’s getting a little boring.”

“Please go,” I said, forcing as much steel into my voice as I could.

“I don’t think I want to.”

He slid his lips slowly down my throat, nibbling here and there as he went. I stiffened, pulling back as far from him as I could get. His grip on my wrists just tightened, and he pressed his body against me until there were no secrets between us, until I knew he wasn’t just teasing me. He was serious, and I was paralyzed with fear.

He pushed his hips against me, his erection rubbing obscenely against my hip. He lifted his mouth to mine, forcing his tongue between my lips. There was something about it, something about the invasion that woke me, that broke my paralysis. I lifted my chin, made him think I was responding to his kiss. Then I lifted my knee and slammed it into the pathetic bulge in his expensive slacks.

He jerked back, the movement forcing my wrists harder against the wall. I cried out, jerking my arms down. I was free. I turned and ran into the living room, grabbing for my bag and the cellphone that was tucked inside. But he recovered much quicker than I thought he would. He was behind me, throwing out words that made my ears burn. He pushed me, and I fell forward, skinning my knees on the carpet as I slid into the couch. My bag fell from where I’d abandoned it on the coffee table, the contents spilling. I just caught sight of my cellphone sliding under the front edge of the couch when he landed on top of me, slamming his knee into my back. I screamed, and my last thought before he rolled me over was a prayer that someone had heard me.

BOOK: Arrogant Neighbor: A Navy SEAL Romance
3.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig
The Protectors by Dowell, Trey
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Just Another Damn Love Story by Caleb Alexander
Secret Prey by John Sandford
Beautiful Wreck by Brown, Larissa
The Getaway Man by Vachss, Andrew
Bottled Up by Jaye Murray