Innocent Next Door
Military Men, Book 1
Adventure is Summer William’s mission!
Life in a small town is comfortable, but living with her loving but overprotective family means it lacks adventure. And forget romance with interfering brothers around. It’s time to leave the cozy nest. Her grandiose plans come to a grinding halt when she becomes innocently involved with a crime boss. Then she bumps heads and lips with her uncle’s sexy but very bossy neighbor.
Special Air Services soldier Nikolai Tarei owes his neighbor and friend a favor, but looking out for his twenty-two year old niece is stretching friendship too far. She is young but her sex appeal, sassiness and brazen disregard for safety have Nikolai scrambling to protect both her and his battered heart.
Summer is a librarian who’s a whiz at research. Now she’s ready to try out the sex toys and sexual positions she’s researched. She is tying Nikolai in sensual knots and driving him nuts in and out of bed. And blast it all-he’s enjoying it. Suddenly he’s thinking about making the Summer babysitting assignment a full time commitment-if only he can persuade her to see things his way.
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Read an Excerpt
“I want you to look after Summer.”
Summer’s bare feet froze outside the door to her Uncle Henry’s study. Her hand slid from the brass doorknob. A babysitter? Indignation stabbed her mind, robbing her of the sense of accomplishment she’d felt only seconds earlier. At age twenty-two, why did they think she needed a babysitter? Her eyes narrowed as she placed the package she carried on a wooden pedestal table then pressed closer to hear the details.
“Do I look like a babysitter?” a masculine voice snapped. “Try the yellow pages.”
Summer nodded emphatically, giving a silent cheer for the owner of the low, husky voice. Way to go, mister . But while she waited for Uncle Henry’s comeback, she fumed. She knew exactly where the idea had originated. Her family. Or more specifically her mother who thought danger lurked behind every corner in sinful Auckland City .
“Think of it as a favor,” Uncle Henry said.
The blunt, uncompromising answer made a smile surface. She liked this man. And she agreed with him. One hundred percent. Yes, she’d been a sickly child, but she’d outgrown the bad asthma attacks. As long as she used her preventer, there was nothing wrong with her health. Summer glanced down at her bust and hips, her expression turning rueful. Thanks to her mother’s excellent cooking, her body-well, the polite word was curvaceous.
“Nikolai,” Uncle Henry groaned. “My sister will make my life miserable. She’ll hunt me down on my honeymoon.”
Summer suppressed a snort as she flipped the end of her French braid over her shoulder. Why did Uncle Henry think she’d come to Auckland , the city of sails? Although her mother meant well, she was overprotective, especially when it came to the baby of the family. And now she was doing the smothering thing by remote control, all the way from Eketahuna. If Summer allowed this, her bid for freedom would end before it started. It was time her family let her make her own mistakes and let her fix any stuff-ups by herself.
When her boss at the Eketahuna Library had suggested further training in big, bad Auckland City , the possibilities had made Summer breathless. Eager. At last, a chance to spread her fledgling wings. Despite her parents’ protests, Summer had grasped the opportunity with both hands.
And she wasn’t about to let anyone take the experience away from her.
“Tell someone who cares,” Nikolai said. “With my track record, I’m the last person you should ask.”
A shiver goose stepped down Summer’s spine. That voice. His voice did things to her. She thought about easing the door open a little further to check out the body that matched the sexy rumble. Meeting men was high on her to-do list. No time like the present.
“I didn’t want to do this,” Uncle Henry muttered. “But I’m a desperate man. You owe me . That time I saved you from the broad in-”
The heartfelt Anglo-Saxon curse made Summer’s brows shoot toward her hairline.
She hadn’t heard her brothers use that one before.
“All right, dammit! I’ll check on her now and then, but if I see one girly tear, I’m outta there. And our debt is square once you get back.”
“That should do it,” Uncle Henry hastily agreed. “Just check to make sure her car is there and get a visual every couple of days.”
Get a visual? Summer thought, puckering her forehead. Good grief. Nikolai was one of Uncle Henry’s military friends. He’d take his duties seriously. This was not good.
“All I want is a peaceful honeymoon.”
“All you want is to get laid,” Nikolai muttered.
Uncle Henry chuckled-a smug masculine sound that made Summer ache to deck him on Veronica’s behalf. “Yeah, that too.”
Right, that did it. If she allowed this, she’d never escape her family’s well-meaning influence. Yeah, she loved them, knew they loved her in return, but enough was enough.
Summer shoved the door open and strode through. “I’m back. Oh-” She stopped in front of her uncle’s large wooden desk. Her hand fluttered to her left breast. “I didn’t know you had a visitor.”
“Summer, this is Nikolai Tarei. He’s my closest neighbor.”
Summer’s gaze had already snapped to the man with the sexy voice. Physical awareness floored her, made her tongue stick to the roof of her mouth. Luckily, her brain continued to function and nothing impaired her twenty-twenty vision. Oh, boy! Tall, dark and sinfully sexy was welcome to guard her body any time.
Her uncle stood and rounded the desk to stand at her side. “Nikolai, my niece Summer. She’s up in Auckland to do a six-month course at Central Library.”
Nikolai shoved away from the wall and stepped across the faded blue carpet. “Pleased to meet you,” he said, holding out his hand in greeting.
Summer realized her mouth gaped and snapped it shut. She stuck out her hand, and instantly it was engulfed in his warm grasp. Her heart tap-danced, did a jig-the whole works. She fought the urge to jerk her hand away. One thing stood out in her mind. This wasn’t the right man to practice Miranda’s Tips to Flirting on.
He finally released her hand and stepped back. Summer’s avid gaze followed as if attached by an umbilical cord. Big. Actually, make that huge. He towered over her by a good six inches. Broad shoulders gave his black T-shirt quite a workout. Summer took in his shoulder-length unfettered hair, the stubble shading his jaw. Under no circumstances would she call him tame. Dark eyes that reminded her of the richest, most expensive chocolate skimmed her face, her body, then settled back on her uncle.
Stupidly, Summer felt the sting of rejection, but she told herself it didn’t matter. Nikolai Tarei reminded her of her two brothers-extremely capable and over-protective. And one look told her it was likely he bore the bossy gene. She didn’t need another brother-figure looking over her shoulder, vetting boyfriends, putting a dampener on her quest for independence. Not when she intended to let loose and live a little.
“I wanted you to meet Nikolai before I left. If you have any problems you can call on him,” Uncle Henry said. His cheerful, gruff voice made Summer stiffen. Trying too hard. Did they think she was stupid?
“Most people would call that babysitting,” she said, baring her teeth in a smile. Summer intercepted the brief glance the two men exchanged, the quirk of brow, the silent grimace that said, “You deal with her”.
Oh, for goodness sake! “I’m not expecting any problems,” she said. “I’ll be too busy.” She paused a beat. “Going out on the town.”
Uncle Henry spluttered. His mouth opened and closed several times.
“I have to go. I’m expecting a call,” Nikolai said.
Summer choked back a laugh. In military terms that qualified as a strategic retreat. Wise man. She watched him saunter to the door and frowned. What should have been a loose-limbed stride had a distinct hitch, but his black jeans covered any evidence of the injury.
“Coward,” Uncle Henry muttered.
Summer turned her gaze on her uncle. “Did you say something?”
Summer heard a distinct snicker and whipped her head around.
Nikolai edged away, moving closer to the door. “Henry, see you when you get back. Give my love to Veronica.”
“Right.” The two men shook hands. “Thanks.”
The silent communication thing again. Summer watched Nikolai walk through the door and limp down the passage. Appreciation bloomed along with a grin. The man had a mighty fine rear end. He might be her babysitter, her jailer, but that didn’t mean she didn’t appreciate the view.
She turned to her uncle. “What’s wrong with Nikolai’s leg?”
“On active duty?”
Suspicion made Summer narrow her eyes. “Do Dillon and Josh know him?”
“Your brothers? Maybe.”
A tight sensation gripped her chest. “Don’t tell me he’s Special Air Service.”
“Okay.” Uncle Henry blinked rapidly. “I won’t.”
Nikolai limped down the uneven front path, heading for the gate in the boundary fence between his and Henry’s property. He would have stomped if it hadn’t been for his blasted knee.
A babysitter .
Hell, like he needed that sort of responsibility.
His foot skidded on a pile of damp grass clippings. Pain, sharp and jagged, lanced from his knee up his thigh. Nikolai glared at the green hose that spurted water into Henry’s rose garden. He sucked in a pained breath, cursed and staggered to the gate, leaning his weight against it while he rode out the pain.
Babysitting! Hell, Henry should know better. Incapacitated the way he was now, he was about as useful as a gun without bullets.
Nikolai tried a little weight on his knee and decided he’d make his kitchen without keeling over. The gate creaked open. He should have taken that damned painkiller before he went to Henry’s. At least then, he might have had an excuse for agreeing to Henry’s blackmail. But no, he’d been drug free, clear of mind and in total control. Yet he’d still managed to find himself looking after a green girl just out of high school.
He gritted his teeth as he limped the last few steps to his front door. Nikolai shouldered the door open, and headed straight for the kitchen and the bottle of pills. Five minutes later, he dropped into his recliner chair and stared out at his overgrown garden, past the knee-high grass and the scraggy shrubs. He watched Summer carry a suitcase from the house and toss it into the rear of the car. Henry followed with a smaller bag and a suit in a protective cover. Nikolai saw Summer say something, heard Henry’s booming laugh through the open window. His throat constricted with a feeling he didn’t want to analyze when Henry swept his niece into a bone-crushing hug.
Hard to believe his friend and mentor was married after years of the single life. Nikolai snorted. That was the kicker. Henry had sworn he’d never marry then taken one look at Veronica and fallen hard. They’d married secretly last week and were off on a cruise this evening. Hopefully, marriage would work for Henry. It sure as hell hadn’t for him.
Nikolai thrust aside past memories to study Summer again. Average height, long brown hair in a plait, on the chubby side, and a dazzling smile that made a man look twice despite the god-awful gray sack thing she was wearing.
His charge until Henry returned. Nikolai leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes. Hopefully, he’d never see her more than once a week. It couldn’t be that bad.