I totally blame it on being a Pisces, and not on being a scatter brain. Or it might be that it’s so damn sunny here, and all I could think about this morning was getting in the pool one last time before I had to go back home.
Whatever the reason, I totally spaced out on today’s post. Ack!
But look at it this way–no post means teaser, so here’s a scene from The Tenant (which comes out August 18 and you can totally pre-order now now now).
Derek, only without the frosted tips
Derek stretched, scratched his chest, and flipped onto his stomach without bothering to even glance at his watch. He didn’t care what time it was. He had absolutely nothing to do, and there was no way he was getting out of bed before his stomach started rumbling. Even then, he’d just have to roll to the edge of the bed to order something in; his cooking days were over.
Of course, opening the door for the pizza delivery would require a bit of effort on his part, but he’d cross that bridge when he came to it. For the time being, he was staying put. He covered his head with the extra pillow to shield his ears from the annoying sounds of the outside world that didn’t respect his need for more sleep.
There. Perfect. Nothing would bother him now.
Except for his cell phone.
Closer started blasting full force, and Derek’s hangover made him feel like Nine Inch Nails were actually playing inside his head, kicking its walls from inside for good measure. He slid closer to his bedside table, grabbed the phone, and fumbled blindly for the off button. Mission accomplished, quiet was finally restored. For a couple of seconds.
Derek mumbled a curse under his breath when the first notes of his ringtone played again, this time right by his ear. Whoever was calling wouldn’t give up. He pressed the little green button with all the fury he usually reserved for fantasies that involved kicking Catherine on her ass after she came groveling for him to take her back.
“What?” he yelled into the receiver.
“I see you’re even politer over the phone than you are in person.” The female voice was irritated and condescending.
The tone more than the voice sounded familiar, yet Derek couldn’t identify the caller. “Who’s this?” His body had an instinctive reaction to the woman on the other end of the line, and it wasn’t a positive one. His fingers tensed on the receiver, his eyes squeezed shut, and the headache the song birthed now threatened to make his skull explode.
“Amanda Murphy. Your landlady.”
Amanda? “Oh. Mandi.” No wonder he felt like punching something. “Morning, Sunshine. What’s got your panties in a bunch this fine day?” And why on earth did he have to pay for it?
“You. You’re the reason I’m not enjoying this fine afternoon, and I want you to fix that.”
Derek smirked against his pillow at the impatience lacing her words. Infuriating as she was, baiting her would be delightful. “I’m honored to be the one bunching your tidy-whities, but don’t you have a fiancé who’s supposed to take care of that?”
There was silence over the receiver for a couple of heartbeats, before she obviously caught on to what he’d said. “You insufferable ass—”
“Not that I don’t enjoy a little dirty talk in the morning, but again, is there a reason for this phone-call other than to get me hot and bothered?” He was neither hot nor bothered, to be honest. Miss Hissy-Fit didn’t do it for him; he liked his women darker, inside and out. He was, however, more amused than he’d been in a while.
He heard her take a long breath and let it out slowly. When she spoke again, she sounded a lot calmer—he might have believed she was completely composed, if he hadn’t heard her impatiently tapping her fingers.
“Derek,” she said, “I’m sure you’re a rational person deep down. You do a great job of hiding it, but I’m sure you’re nicer than this. I mean, my mother and father seem to think you’re a kind, decent man, and I admit the way we met was awkward. I’ve been under a lot of pressure with the wedding, and I’m willing to apologize for being rude. If you could move out by Monday—”
He laughed. She was willing to apologize for being rude, if he was willing to go out of his way to accommodate her. That sounded so very much like Catherine’s willingness to unburden him of his restaurant. What was it with women wanting to take advantage of him? “That’s very magnanimous of you, Blondie, but I already told you I want things done the proper way. You send me the notice, and I’ll be out of your hair in sixty days.”
She sniffed indignantly. “Why are you trying to be difficult about this? There has to be another place you could crash until you find something more permanent. Don’t you have any friends?”
Bargaining really wasn’t her strong suit. “Don’t you? You seem like such an easy-going person. I bet people are swarming to offer you accommodation.” Derek couldn’t even convince himself of the sincerity of his words, so he pressed on before she could protest his mocking tone. “Can’t you shack up with that great big man of yours?” Jokes and baiting her aside, he was in no condition to lose the apartment too. Not after everything else. Not yet.
Something told him her sigh wasn’t entirely because he was being exasperating. “Not that it’s any of your business, but Mason is old-fashioned,” she said. “He won’t agree to our living together before we’re married.”
And it was obvious Mason held his outdated ideas above helping out his girl. The jerk could have offered to sleep on the floor for a few days. A lot of days even, if he truly loved her. Derek was no relationship expert, so he didn’t vocalize his thoughts. “And why don’t you get married? Or is he putting it off?” He accompanied the latter with a snort.
“We’re getting married in eight weeks, and I need to move there ASAP, to get things ready.” She paused. “Don’t you see why I need you to move out?” If he didn’t know better, he’d say she sounded pleading.
He saw. She needed to make sure everything was perfect for when she and the big lug finally shared a home. Because that was what doting fiancées did; they cared enough to help make a house a home. They didn’t stay up till all hours of the morning, doing God knows what, only returning home to sleep. No, not only doting fiancées. Decent women who loved the guy they were with did that. Catherine wasn’t a decent woman, she didn’t love him, and she’d damned him to a life of loneliness and misery.
And misery loved company—which was a funny saying, considering he’d more or less been avoiding all sorts of company since Catherine had left.
“Well, I understand the problem now, and I’d love to help you—anything for true love—but your ASAP ”—he pronounced each letter separately—“will have to wait a bit. Or maybe your man will have to shove those values of his up his ass, because I need to sort things out before I can end my stay here. I see it taking at least a month. Perhaps even two.” He was being mean and petty, and if he were sitting up instead of lying down, he’d be crossing his arms petulantly.
“Okay, you know what? You may have my mom and dad fooled, but I can see right through you,” Mandi hissed. And there went her polite façade. “I tried being nice, but you’re obviously enjoying making things difficult for me. My kitchen appliances are being delivered in two days, and I’ll be there, in my apartment, to sign for them.”
She stopped talking long enough to give him time to speak up, but he remained silent, which seemed to give her a second wind. “What’s more, on Friday—that’s six days from now, by the way—I am moving in. You need to clear the place before that.”
She sounded in control of her emotions again, and that simply wouldn’t do. Derek needed some fun, and in-control-Mandi wasn’t half as fun as crazed-Mandi was.
He smirked. “I don’t appreciate your tone, or the accusation that I’ve somehow lied to Carol and Kenneth. You’ve insulted me, and for that, I’m not going to move an inch from the apartment until the notice expires. You’ve filed for a notice already, haven’t you?” He buried his face in his pillow again, this time to stifle a laugh.
“When? When could I have filed a notice? Last night or this morning? It’s Saturday, you idiot.”
“Well, that’s tough. What’s tougher, I’m sorry to tell you, is that you won’t be here for your appliances or moving in on Friday, unless you want me to call the cops. Have a nice day, and don’t call me again. I’ll only be talking to your parents now on. Feel free to pass any messages to me through them.”
“But what about my kitchen appliances? Where will the deliverymen put them?”
He had a reply for that, but he refrained from voicing it, lest he be considered more vulgar than he’d already been. “I’m sure you have a storage room somewhere. Or they can leave them on my balcony.”
“It’s my balcony, Derek.” She spat out his name like it was an insult. “My apartment. My name on the papers. And if you don’t leave, I’m coming in and changing the locks.”
“Good luck with that.” He hung up the phone with a grin. Readjusting his position in bed, he clicked on his cell phone’s phonebook and scrolled down to M.
He was not losing this game.
In hopes of getting her fiancé to consummate their relationship before the wedding, Amanda convinces him they should check out the apartment her father gave her as a gift for their upcoming nuptials. Darkness and privacy are supposed to work in her favor, but there is one parameter she doesn’t know about: the apartment is not empty yet, and the current tenant has no plans of moving.
Derek has had a hell of a few months. His girlfriend turned out to be a cheater and then stole his restaurant. He’s not about to also give up the place he’s called home for three years—even if his hot but infuriating landlady threatens to move in by the end of the week.
When Amanda’s lease is up and her fiancé is caught with a half-naked woman, she and Derek need to find a way to survive their forced cohabitation. And sleeping with the enemy can be fun.
BONUS SHORT STORY: Furry Christmas
Alice has hated Christmas for a decade, and this year is no exception. She’s spending the holidays alone with her best friend’s cat, while everyone she knows is out partying. To add to the fun, a huge stray dog just made a mess of her parents’ living room, and her dreams are haunted by the sexy stranger she slept with almost six months ago.
Quinn wasn’t always a dog. At least that’s what he thinks, but he can’t be certain, because the killer migraines kick in. All he’s sure of is he knows Alice. And he’s running out of time.