Mr. Right Next Door

Free Mr. Right Next Door by TERESA HILL

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    “Scary, Nick,” Harry said into his ear. “Scary, scary. Remember, don’t want to scare her.”
    Harry was a magician. He was everywhere at once. All-seeing, all-knowing. And annoying as hell.
    Nick hit a button, releasing him from the link that piped Harry directly into his head.
    Little Miss I’m-In-Love-With-A-Terrorist chose that moment to look up from the notebook she’d been scribbling in to see Nick and frown.
    It was quick, gone almost before it began, but Nick saw it and couldn’t blame her for it. He didn’t really want to be anywhere near himself, either, not in this mood.
    Unfortunately, nobody asked him what he wanted to do today.
    He was stuck with her.
    He smiled. He could do that when it was absolutely necessary.
    “Small world, huh?” he tried.
    She frowned up at him. “Are you following me or something?”
    “Who?” Nick looked around, feigning innocence as best he could. It wasn’t his best emotion, but he thought he could do a reasonable facsimile when absolutely necessary. “Me?”
    “Yes, you. You’re the only one here. You and I are the only ones here.”
    “No. I…I…” He looked around for some kind of answer and his gaze landed on a sign that said Magnolia Falls with an arrow pointing off to the right. “I came to look at the falls.”
    Were there falls?
    He hoped so, vaguely remembered something about them in the briefing report he’d read last night. The one he was supposed to have been studying while he made like a Peeping Tom staring into her window.
    She put her hand on her hips and cocked her head to the side, beautiful blond hair catching the light as she did so.
    “You came to look at the falls?”
    “Yes. I like…waterfalls. I mean…who doesn’t like waterfalls?”
    She looked at him like he might be the kind to enjoy tearing the wings off butterflies or something equally sadistic. Crossing her arms in front of her, she said, “With your bad knee, bad back and bad shoulder, you decided to take a hike this morning?”
    Nick, all but on death’s doorstep, gritted his teeth, imagining Mrs. Baker gossiping about his litany of health issues with a superbly-shaped twenty-four-year-old. “My doctor said exercise was a good idea for the knee.”
    As if a stroll in the damned park was something he’d ever consider exercise.
    She obviously thought it would be to a broken-down, old man like him. Because she accepted his explanation right away.
    “Oh. Well, they’re just past that clump of trees, but it’s about a mile from here. If you’d parked on the other side of the park, you would have only been about fifty feet away from one of the nicest views of the falls.”
    Nick nodded. “Must have gotten turned around on my directions.”
    Now she could think he was feebleminded as well as feeble-bodied.
    “Look, I’m sorry about this morning,” he said. “You just startled me. You and the cat. And I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, but that’s no excuse. I shouldn’t have taken my bad mood out on you.”
    “Is that an apology?” she asked.
    He hesitated, not sure of the right answer. “Yes?”
    She laughed.
    Nick frowned. “The apology needs work, too?”
    “No. It’s fine. You just reminded me of someone. One of my students.”
    She looked like she made a fine private joke, but Nick knew—she taught elementary school kids.
    He reminded her of a little kid? Worse, a little kid in a snit?
    And he couldn’t even let her know that he knew she was insulting him.
    “I remind you of someone who annoys you?” he said, trying not to sound too peeved. He had to try to get her to like him well enough to chitchat with him about the love of her life, the pirate, after all.
    “And amuses me,” she said, blinking up at him with eyes that were as clear-blue as the sky above their heads.
    “Oh,” he said.
    What could he say?
    She got to insult him if she wanted to, while he had to make nice to her and try not to think of her nearly naked.

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