Neighbors (Twin Estates #1)

Neighbors

 

STYLO FANTÔME

Table of Contents

DEDICATION              5

1              7

2              9

3              15

4              28

5              32

6              36

7              46

8              62

9              69

10              71

11              75

12              85

13              93

14              100

15              111

16              116

17              118

18              120

19              125

20              129

21              135

22              136

23              143

24              157

25              162

26              173

SOUNDTRACK              176

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS              177

THE NEIGHBORHOOD              179

The Kane Trilogy Excerpt              181

Published by BattleAxe Productions

Copyright
©
2016

Stylo Fantôme

 

Critique Partner:

Ratula Roy

 

Editing Aides:

Barbara Shane Hoover

Ratula Roy

 

Cover Design

Najla Qamber Designs

http://najlaqamberdesigns.com/
Copyright © 2016

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.

It is the copyrighted property of the author,

and may not be reproduced, copied, re-sold, or re-distributed.

If you're reading this ebook and did not purchase it,

or it was not purchased for your use only,

then this copy must be destroyed.

Please purchase a copy for yourself from a licensed seller.

Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

DEDICATION

 

To dreamers and weekend getaways and sunny shorelines and not giving a fuck.

Neighbors

A Twin Estates Novel

1

 

Describe Your Perfect Date.

“I mean, c'mon,” Katya grumbled, blowing a hank of hair out of her face. “What kind of question is that?”

“It's just to get an idea of the type of girl you are,” her roommate, Tori, tried to explain.

“If I had an idea of what the perfect date was, I wouldn't be making a profile for an online dating site.”

“Shut up and just say something generic, like long walks on the beach … or hand jobs in the backs of theatres.”

Katya burst out laughing and went with the long walks on the beach suggestion.

Online dating wasn't really her thing, but she was finally willing to admit that whatever her thing was, it wasn't working. She was twenty-three and had a good career, great friends, and a nice life. But zero love life to speak of – her boyfriend had dumped her eight months ago, and she'd barely spoken to another man since then.

She knew she was somewhat … vanilla. She'd grown up in the suburbs, with a normal family, and a normal life. Katya didn't mind boring. Boring was … secure.

Boring paid the rent.

Yeah, but boring doesn't get you laid.

And somewhere, deep in the darkest corners of her mind, she'd begun to admit to herself that boring simply wasn't good enough anymore. She wanted something different for herself, though she wasn't quite what she was looking for – someone who would let her escape her life a little bit. Someone who could open her eyes to new experiences. Someone who could make her feel comfortable in her own skin, and comfortable with stepping outside of it sometimes.

She might have been vanilla a good deal of the time, but there were other times when she wanted to be rainbow sherbet. With sprinkles on top, dammit.

“Okay, there, done,” Katya closed her laptop. “I am officially one of the sad and lonely many on the interwebs, desperately looking for love.”

“It's not so bad, Kat. Remember Jenna from high school? She met her husband online. So did Thad, the guy from downstairs – he met his boyfriend on some app. It'll be fine,” Tori assured her.

“I don't even think it's necessary. I have my work, my clients – I'm satisfied,” Katya tried to convince herself while she collected her belongings.

“Satisfied is lame. You want to be blown away. Knocked off your feet.
Overwhelmed,
” her roommate insisted.

“Just watch. Nothing will come of it. That profile will sit untouched. I'll probably forget I even have it.
Byeeeee
,” Katya sang as she waltzed out the door.

Tori sat there for a couple minutes, staring at the table top. Her bestie was a great girl, she just needed to live a little. Her idea of a good time was having a second Cosmo after dessert. She'd led a somewhat sheltered life, then had kept herself sheltered ever since high school.

She needs this, I'm helping her.

With that thought, Tori opened the laptop and was pleased to see when the screen came back on, Katya was still logged into the dating website. Smiling big the whole time, Tori decided “updating” the profile wouldn't hurt anything.

 

*

 

Holy shit. Is that …

Liam Edenhoff stared at his phone's screen. The happy face of a woman looked back at him. She had a big smile with great teeth, surrounded by full lips. Apple cheeks perfectly showed off a pair of soft blue eyes. She had dark hair, but the photo wasn't doing it justice – it was a deep auburn, he knew, and would shine like garnet when the sun hit it just right.

My frickin' adorable neighbor is on the Eros dating site.

He lived in the building next door to her and had noticed her, of course, because she was hot.  But she dressed like a librarian and acted like a Sunday school teacher, so he'd ignored her for the most part.

Looking at her profile now, on a dating site he lurked about sometimes, he was shocked to read her bio. She'd listed her job as professional baker, which didn't exactly surprise him, but under hobbies “s
trip-aerobics and pole dancing classes
” did throw him for a loop. Favorite past times? “
Indulging in my kinky side”
– before that day, he would've guessed she wouldn't have even known what that word meant.


EDEN!

The voice in Liam's ear was so loud, he gave a shout and launched his phone across the room.


Christ,
don't ever sneak up on me like that, Ricky!” he gasped for air, pressing a hand to his chest. “I nearly had a fucking heart attack.”

“Oh please. If I thought scaring you could kill you, I would've tried it a long time ago. You're fine, Eden.”


Eden
”, so nicknamed because of his last name, as well as the irony when juxtaposed with what he did for a living.

“Har dee har har,” Liam grumbled as he grabbed his phone off the ground. His business partner leaned over his shoulder.

“Online dating? Sad,” he made a tsk tsk sound with his tongue.

“Eh. Can't be any worse than the dates I've made in real life, I figure. Besides – see this chick? I know her. Kinda. She lives next door to me. This site cuts out the middle man,” Liam explained, holding up his phone so the other man could see Katya.

“Ah. She's gorgeous. Looks like a good time,” his partner's voice was low as he spoke, almost distracted sounding, but Liam didn't notice. He kept staring at his screen.

“Yeah,” he agreed. “Yeah, I think she might be ...”

2

 

Katya was glaring down at her cell as she walked across the lobby of her building. Her phone was blowing up with notifications from that stupid dating site. She hadn't opened any of the messages, but there were some pretty interesting subject headings scrolling across her screen.

“Why would you do this, Tori!?” she mumbled to herself as she looked over her dating profile. Or really, her
new
dating profile – almost everything she'd typed was now gone, replaced by a bunch of sexy garbage.

She wasn't looking where she was going, so even the sound of someone shouting wasn't able to stop her in time before she practically ran a man over. Lucky for him, he was a lot bigger than her. She ricocheted off his chest and only his reflexes saved her from falling flat on her butt. His hands grabbed her upper arms, keeping her upright, while her phone and purse fell to the ground.

“Sorry!” she blurted out automatically. “So sorry, I wasn't looking.”

“That's alright, cause I was looking for you.”

Creepy statement to hear, that was for sure. She stared up at the man, trying to place him. Did she know him from work? The building? He seemed vaguely familiar. Oh god, had she forgotten a client's face? That wasn't good. Then again, neither was a client showing up at her place of residence. Oh god, was he a stalker!?

“I'm sorry, have we met?” she asked, glancing around, glad to see there were other people around them.

“No, not officially. I'm Liam Edenhoff, I live in the building next door,” he explained, and she finally smiled. That's why he was familiar – she must have seen him around.

Katya lived in an apartment building just outside of downtown San Francisco – really it was
two
buildings, together called
Twin Estates
. Her building and the one next door were twins. Identical and managed by the same company, they shared an alleyway and dumpsters between them. She'd probably bumped into him while taking out the trash at some point.

But why was he looking for me?

“Oh, hello. I'm Katya,” she introduced herself, but didn't offer her last name.

“I know.”

Creepy just got bumped up to totally weird.

“Oh. Um ...”

“Sorry, I'm coming off totally weird,” he laughed, reading her mind. “I've seen you around the buildings, and then I was on this website, and I saw your profile.”

Oh. Jesus.
She was really going to murder her roommate. It was one thing to have a bit of fun and put some naughty stuff up on a website, but when it brought random strange men to where she lived, it was going too far.

“Ooohhh, yeeeaaahh.
That
website,” she grumbled, finally kneeling down to pick up her bag.

“Yeah. I gotta say, I've noticed you for a while, and I always thought you were …”

“Were what?” she asked, glancing up at him. He shrugged.

“I don't know. Just … I read that profile, and I had to meet that woman.”

Katya wasn't sure what to make of his statement – she was a little insulted that the woman he'd seen around the building hadn't been interesting enough to meet. But she was also a little flattered – and, admittedly, excited – that he'd sought out the woman from the profile.

“So if you hadn't seen my profile, you would never have introduced yourself?” she double checked. He chuckled and rubbed at the back of his neck, looking a little sheepish.

“Honestly? No. I mean, don't get me wrong, you seemed like a really sweet girl, and you're gorgeous, but I'm not exactly a sweet guy. I didn't want to waste your time, or freak you out,” he said.

“Freak me out?”

“Yeah.”

“How? What do you mean?”

“Well, like I assumed you were a Sunday school teacher or something,” he explained. “I own and operate a club downtown. The two don't exactly match.”

“Sunday school teacher? Why?” she was a little surprised, then was even more so when she watched his gaze blatantly travel up and down her body.

“My other guess was librarian. You just always seemed … sweet. Innocent,” he said.

Sweet and innocent. Translation:
boring
. Tori was right. I'm dull, and it took a made up online profile to get a guy to notice me.

Katya should've been angry at him. For judging her before he'd met her, solely based on her outward appearance. For perpetuating the stereotype that a woman had to be overtly sexy in order to be interesting. For only giving her the time of day because of some ridiculous website.

But she was actually angry at
herself
. She felt like a prisoner of her own inhibitions, her own naiveté. She was angry that deep down, she
wanted
to be an overtly sexual woman, the kind that could draw men in with a single glance.

She wanted to be that woman from her profile bio.

She just didn't know how, and before her anger could boil over, all her carefully built manners and over the top etiquette cooled her off. She managed a tight lipped smile for him.

“Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I didn't write that bio,” she told him the truth.

“You didn't?”

“Nope. My roommate did.”

“Ah. Roommate. So I take it you don't do strip-aerobics,” he said with a chuckle. She shook her head.

“I didn't even know that was a real thing.”

He burst out laughing.

“Gotcha. So the whole sweet and innocent thing, that
is
the real you.”

She opened her mouth, then froze. Was that the real her? Or was that just who she'd convinced herself she needed to be? She was so sick and tired of everyone assuming she was this insipid goody-two-shoes. Tori telling her to get a life. This stranger assuming she was a librarian. It wasn't fair. She could be just as wild, just as fun-loving as the next person. All she needed was the chance.

Take a chance ...

“Just because I don't walk around in a thong bikini doesn't mean I'm all innocence,” she replied. He cocked up an eyebrow.

“I dunno. A baker, huh? You pretty much look like angel food cake to me,” he teased her. She glared at him.

“Was this your big plan? Stalk me down in my building and interrogate me? Is this how you ask out all your dates?” she demanded.

“Who said I was gonna ask you out on a date?” he replied.

“Oh, please. You didn't come over here to ask me about my strip-aerobics class, and we both know it,” she said, proud of herself for the quick and snappy come back.

“Touché. I was going to invite you to my club,” he said. She took a deep breath and for a split second, thought about how early she had to get up for work. Thought about the design she had to work on for a client. Thought about her big plans for the evening – reinforcing all the buttons on her dress shirts.

“I'm free after eight o'clock,” she blurted out. He laughed at her again, and she couldn't help but notice that he had a great laugh, and an even better smile. She'd known him for all of two seconds, but she was willing to bet “fun-loving” was his middle name. The man was made to smile.

“Whoa there, angel cake, I don't think this is such a good idea,” he said, holding up a hand.

“Why not? I love to dance.”

“It's not that kind of club.”

“What? Is it like a book club?”

He laughed again, but she hadn't been joking. She figured he didn't need to know that and she managed to laugh as well.

“Look, you seem like a nice girl. I'm sure you get asked on lots of dates, and if I was a tax attorney, or an insurance salesman, I'd for sure want to go out with you, but I don't want to make you uncomfortable,” he told her. She rolled her eyes.

“If anyone here is a '
nice girl
', it's you – I've made all the moves so far. If you don't want to go out, just say so, and I can move onto the next guy, and you can go to your little club house thingy,” she said.

This was so far out of her comfort zone, she wasn't sure she was still the same Katya anymore. Her Eros profile had come to life and body snatched her. The words coming out of her mouth, the tone of her voice, were completely foreign to her. Yesterday, Katya would have gotten embarrassed. Blushed at the way he talked about her, apologized for taking up his time – even though he'd been the one to stop her.

This new-Katya, though, refused to be embarrassed. He had come there for a reason, to ask
her
out, so she had nothing to be sorry about, and hell, maybe she would move onto another man. She'd certainly gotten a lot of offers from the website. She squared her shoulders and looked him straight in the eyes, praying her bravado held out for a few more minutes.

“Club house thingy, huh,” he mumbled, his eyes wandering over her form again.

“Are we done? I have some messages to catch up on,” she said, then she went to step around him. He reached out and grabbed her arm.

“Alright, alright, calm down. You want to see my club?” he asked. She noticed he kept putting emphasis on that word,
club
.

“I don't know, now. You've made it weird. Am I going to show up and it's some football club? A One Direction fan club? I'm not so into those things,” she said.

“How about a sex club? You into that?”

She almost swallowed her tongue. A sex club? He owned and operated a
sex club?
Did those even exist in real life? And the way he'd said it. A perfect stranger, talking about a sex club with her. In broad daylight.

Maybe I never really woke up this morning and this is all a dream.

“I'm sorry,” she cleared her throat. “Are you saying you want to take me to a sex club?”

“Yes.”

“Is that where you take all your first dates?” she asked, still thinking he might be joking.

“No. Usually I keep it a secret. Freaks most girls out – just like I thought it would you, until I saw that Eros profile,” he explained.

“So let me see if I have this straight. Whatever you saw on my profile made you think I'd be interested in going to a sex club with you,” she spelled it all out.

“Yeah. Clearly, I was mistaken. It was nice meeting you, Katya.”

She was having a moment. A tidal pull on her conscience. This was a bad idea on an epic level. Going to a sex club with a man she'd just met? That's how women ended up on Dateline. Not to mention the fact that Katya simply didn't do things like that – she was more of a museum or opera house kind of girl.

But new-Katya, the woman from the profile, she bristled against old-Katya. Got mad at the way this handsome stranger was looking at her, as if she couldn't possibly be brave enough to try something new and daring. Something sexy and a little dangerous.

“Nine o'clock,” she blurted out.

“Excuse me?”

“I'll need more time,” she explained. “I can meet you down here at nine o'clock.”

“C'mon now, this isn't like truth or dare. No points for trying, it's okay. We can just pretend this didn't happen, go back to avoiding eye contact when we pass each other on the sidewalk,” he suggested.

“Awww, see? You're such a good little girl, trying to look out for me,” she spoke to him in a baby-voice. His smile finally reappeared and she had to will away the blush she felt creeping up her neck.

“Alright, angel cake. Let's see how far you'll take this cute little act. Nine o'clock,” he said, then he finally let her go. She nodded her head.

“I'll be down here,” she assured him, then she started for the elevator.

“Oh! And a suggestion,” he shouted after her. She turned as she stepped onto the lift and saw that his grin was stretching from ear to ear.

“Yes?”

“Don't change your clothing. What you're wearing is
perfect.

 

*

 

Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit.

“What!?” Tori practically yelled, following Katya around the apartment as she paced.

Shit, was I saying all that out loud!?

“Quick – is what I'm wearing sexy?” she asked, holding out her arms.

“Huh?”

“Sexy! Do I look sexy!?”

“What is going on!?” Tori demanded. “Calm down and explain to me why you're acting so strange!”

“I promise, I will. Just … is this outfit sexy? Be honest, tell me the truth,” Katya said.

Tori looked like she wanted to argue, but she finally huffed out a sigh and took a step back. Looked over her friend's outfit, then motioned for her to turn in a circle. When Katya faced forward again, Tori was frowning.

“Matronly,” she stated.

“Pardon me?”

“Your outfit is matronly. Did you get that shirt from a maternity shop?”

“This is Donna Karan!”

“Okay. Then … comfortable. You look very comfortable,” Tori amended her word choice.

Katya groaned and looked down at herself. She was wearing a loose fitting blouse, tan in color, with an oversized floppy bow that hung down at the neckline. The sleeves were wide, coming in tight at the wrists with long cuffs. Her slacks were also loose, in a shade of brown she thought had complimented the blouse, and she'd paired them with an ecru colored belt. But now looking at herself, she realized she was dressed entirely in colors belonging to the beige family.

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