Series: Stupid Awesome Love #1
Cover Design: Sofie Hartley, Hart & Bailey Design Co.
Release Date: June 7, 2018
summers are hot and sticky, which only makes what I’m feeling for the asshole
in my new building even messier. Usually, I quietly reserve my opinions for my
news articles, but when Tony argues with me, he tempts me to give in to my
crazy. I yell back. He smiles. Something in me melts.
to be one time, but we can’t get enough.
person, brave and unashamed. But anything between us can only be a fling. He’s
offered a job in Rome. That’s good, right? With a long history of unreliable
relationships, messy emotions are a complication I don’t need.
off to climb the ladder at my company, even threw away my passion to prove I’m
worth something. When they offer me a high position, I should be focused on my
work. But no one’s ever spoken to me the way Sophie does. She pushes buttons I
don’t know I have. Forces me to confront a dream I gave up long ago.
In two months, we go
our separate ways. No hurt feelings. No misunderstandings. That’s the deal. She
doesn’t need to know I’ll be playing for keeps.
time we argue, I feel alive. I’m sweating, my blood’s pumping, and my hair is
sticking to my face in the stinking New York City humidity. I don’t know what
life really is until some asshole starts screaming at me to move my van from his spot, because it feels so damn good
to yell right back at him.
U-Haul out of my parking spot!”
hollering at me from across the street.
me?” I call back, convinced he isn’t speaking to me. No one ever yells at me.
I’m unassuming and introverted. I’m a wallpaper ninja, blending so well people
can’t even find me to yell at me.
across the street sees me, clear as day.
deaf?” he yells with slow and exaggerated articulation. “Get your damn moving
van out of my spot.”
type of person to engage in a verbal fight. I’m quiet-even when someone pisses me off. I
roll with the chaotic nature of my beautifully harsh city: a strand of seaweed
in the ocean, riding the tides. But after surviving the day from hell, only to
be accosted by this bear of a man? I fight back, like I never have before.
assigned to people on this block, or anywhere else in Brooklyn.”
earlier tone, hitting every consonant and unleashing my New York accent to
embellish the attitude. “If you couldn’t tell, I’m moving into the building and
there’s an actual written rule that
if I double-park the U-Haul, I’ll get a ticket.”
my problem, baby.” He steps into the street, waiting for a break in traffic to
cross. “Find a new spot.”
drop the moving box in outrage before remembering it has wine glasses mom sent
from Napa. Breaking them would be a crime. I’ll need them before this shit day
is over, especially after getting a look at the man charging at me like a bull
crosses the street I expect to see a guido with a beer gut, and while I imagine
he’s got a decent percentage of Italian heritage, there sure as hell ain’t no
beer gut. Instead I’m greeted by a fit
and trim physique, tanned skin, and biceps I could drool over. The muscles in
his arms tense and roll with every word, every wild gesticulation. He levels
with me on the sidewalk and removes his sunglasses, revealing dark eyes flecked
with gold. He’s shockingly handsome—like runway model handsome— combined with
the grittiness of a rock star and the best parts of a native New Yorker. I’m
wearing the tank top I slept in last night, a ratty old sports bra, and shorts
I haven’t washed for two weeks.
your stupid van, I had to circle the surrounding blocks for twenty minutes to
find a spot for my pickup truck. A paid, limited-parking, spot.”
your poor car choice my fault? Who in their right mind has a pickup truck and
lives in Brooklyn? You’re just asking for endless nights searching for parking.
What do you do when it snows?”
challenge in his eyes is like a book I have to devour. One flexed bicep, an
arched eyebrow, and I’m hooked.
disparaging glance at my van before asking, “You’re moving into this building?”
He points at my new place.
propped the outer foyer door open and there are boxes preloaded onto a dolly at
the top of the stoop.
the sarcasm on thick. “I’ve come here to unload this van with the sole purpose
of pissing you off. I thought, ‘who in all of New York can I make the most
miserable today?’ ” I raise one arm in a fist pump. “I won!”
widen like he can’t believe I’m not backing down, and I might be hallucinating
from the heat, but I swear I catch a smile before he starts laying into me
again, our voices getting louder and louder.
care what you’re doing; I need this spot for my truck, and you need to move.”
move my truck when I’m good and ready.”
it?” I repeat, dumbfounded. As if the world revolves around this asshole’s
giant ego. “I’ll tell you what’s it. It’s
ninety-eight degrees outside. I had to take a day off work to move because the
management company of this stupid new building insists I move one week after
signing the lease, much to the dismay of my boss, who was kinda pissed I didn’t
come in today.”
his mouth to speak and I cover it with my hand, unwilling to break my stride. I
haven’t unloaded like this in years.
the rental company loses my reservation for the van, and proceeds to send me to
two consecutive branches ’till I found one that has the size I reserved. Two branches.”
narrow as he crosses his arms, but he doesn’t stop me. I’m on a damn roll,
releasing pressure built by an awful day, and years of containing my opinion to
the written word. I keep my hand on his lips, not because it feels nice or
anything, but because I need to get this off my chest and he’s the unlucky
bastard who’s gonna hear it. Not even an introvert of my level can keep it cool
after the shit storm of my day.
Rabbit guys I hired to load the truck were an hour late and on the drive over
no less than three cabbies-three-cut me off on the bridge, and I’m
pretty sure I heard one of my boxes fall over and break as I swerved to get out
of the way. And now, to put the icing on a great big turd of a cake, a
loudmouth jackass is ordering me to move my van after getting a spot directly
in front of my new building. He wants to shit on the one good thing that’s
happened to me today. You want to know what’s it?” I’m panting it’s so hard to get the last words out.
in various spots around New York City my entire life but until this moment I’ve
never adhered to the loud-mouthed-I-don’t-need-a-filter culture. With this guy
and his amber-streaked hair and gold cross around his neck-I let go of all my insecurities and
worry over what people will think and just let it fly. Over a parking spot, of
takes my hand away from his mouth, cradling my wrist with an almost shocking
tenderness, making my skin itch, I ask, “Who the fuck do you think you are?”
draws the attention of passing pedestrians. I think I see a smartphone or two
recording us. He sees them too, a frown pulling his features into severity. It
transforms his smooth edges into a creature of rougher origins, a true piece of
him I find both unnerving and intriguing.
your van, so I can park my pickup truck here, in the only spot on this block
that fits it.” His voice is low, but there’s a definite heat behind it. Whether
it’s the same annoyed tone from before or something new I can’t tell, and after
the scene I just made, I don’t think I want to know.
holding my hand, swiping his thumb back and forth across my wrist.
verbally attack every unsuspecting person who parks in your spot, or am I just lucky?”
don’t know what lucky is, but I’d be more than happy to show you.”
be a warning or a come on…or both.
on him, my bravado knowing no ends today. “Don’t call me baby, asshole.”
me step for step. “Till you move out of my spot, I’ll call you what I want, baby.”
kick him, but the way he says baby flashes through my body like a heat wave. A
deliciously sexy heat wave.
should kick myself to get my good sense back.
still holding my wrist. I’m starting to think I don’t want him to let go.
the block, go pump some iron, take some steroids, or do whatever it is you
guido types do.”
guido like it’s a bad thing. Where are you from that you can cast aspersions on
my character?” He laughs when my eyebrows shoot up, casually leaning toward me
as if I didn’t just spit my entire day up on him.
lets go of my wrist, and I feel the loss of his heat, even in the humid air.
does fighting with him feel so good? I should want to smack him, and I do, but
having his lips so close to mine makes me want different things. Sinful, sexy,
and dirty things.
perpetuate that stereotype yourself. You’re doing it now, yelling at me like an
clutches his heart. “You wound me, baby. I should take you inside, throw you
over my knee and teach you a lesson.”
immodest threat makes me blush, but not because I’m scandalized, but because
now I know I kinda want it. And God, he sees it. He sees the shift from anger
to lust. He sees my skin flush in color from something other than fury, and he
before he can interject with another baby.
you whatever I want; it’s up to you to behave and actually do it.”
need to behave?”
screaming at an innocent woman like a madman, and you have the balls to call me
balls for many different scenarios. I keep them in a velvet-lined drawer and
take them out when such occasions arise.”
laugh. Don’t fucking laugh.
mouth to start another round, but before I can get a word in His Almighty
Dickishness turns on a dime and flashes a roguish grin, the asshole gone in a
flash. The result is devastating. His body is all fully-grown man, but his
smile is whimsical and childlike, more open than what I’m prepared for. I was
raised on cynicism and sarcasm. Pure honesty is alarming.
the longer we stand here, the hotter and crankier I get. I’m gonna speed this
up for us. What floor you movin’ into?”
hands through his hair, seeking an outlet. I know the feeling; I’m as jittery
as kid with A.D.D. “I’m gonna help you move so you can get your ugly van out of
combined with the sudden change in his demeanor, throws me so far off balance I
answer without thinking, “Third floor.”
coincidence. I’m on the fourth. Welcome to the building. C’mon, baby, show me
what you need moved.”
peers into the van, seeing all the boxes and furniture pieces I could cram into
it. “Were you gonna move that loveseat by yourself?”
here.” I point at my new address, making it obviously clear which building I
mean because I need to know absolutely, without any doubt, that the man I’ve
just screamed at, like a an unashamed weirdo, like I’m never gonna see him
again, lives one floor above me. “At this
accompanied by a sparkle.
singularly unfair that a man so annoying can be so profoundly attractive. He’s
checking all my boxes. Which only makes me angrier.
need your help.” What I don’t need is this big gulp of man in my apartment.
“I’m stronger than I look.”
leans against the hated van with his arms in his pockets. Unassuming. Harmless.
I yelled at you earlier.”
chin and stare at him with an eyebrow arched in sarcastic doubt.
sorry I made your day harder. Let me make it up to you. Let me help you move
wait for me to accept, of course, just turns back to the open van, eyeing it
like a mountain to be climbed.
you want moved first?”
genuine. He’s actually offering to help me, after spending a good twenty
minutes making an ass of himself by demanding I move for his benefit. And all
of sudden he’s helping me, like this is who he was all along. Like I’m not the
only one who’s had a shit day.
the ones labeled kitchen? That’s the best room in my apartment.” he chuckles to
himself. I figure it must be an inside joke until he proves he’s gotta have the
single most massive ego in all of Brooklyn. “It’s only the best due to my superb
cooking. Do you like linguine?”
mumble automatically, unable to deal with the shift in his demeanor. I’m
practically out of breath from hollering at him, and my body is on a knife’s
edge, tempted by this hunk of man, and he’s talking about fucking linguine.
There’s that word again. “You haven’t had linguine till you’ve had my
another word he gathers two boxes, one on each shoulder. He looks like a
textbook illustration of an ancient Roman hauling cement blocks to build a
me staring and winks.
let Lord Linguine show me up. I will prove I can do this by myself, and maybe
that will make him go away. I grab a box, then another, and another, balancing
them and forcing myself to smile. These boxes weigh nothing. I’m not killing
myself in the heat to prove anything. I perform heavy lifting on a regular
I grunt, hobbling up the steps to the building, the weight of the boxes turning
me slower than molasses.
elevator is out of order-don’t cry, don’t cry–so it’s pointless to use the dolly. We’re
forced to take the stairs.
sure?” he asks.
asking me,” I grunt.
this hurts so much. I’m going to die. My knees will break, and I’ll crumble in
on myself, forced to listen to Lord Linguine laugh as he steps over me.
catches on the top step, and the boxes start to tumble. Before I can even cry
out, he’s there, deftly placing his boxes down to help me, making sure I don’t
fall. One hand on my waist, the other supporting the three boxes.
The adrenaline from the near fall pulses through my veins as I look up at him.
We’re close, barely a breath apart, and I can’t catch my breath. I can’t stop
looking into his eyes.
possible for a man’s gaze to smolder and shine at the same time?
normal, no longer filled with false bravado, almost kind.
my Ma say if I let you land ass up?”
idiot I’ve come to know.
to the third floor, and I almost collapse when we reach my door.
unlocked?” Linguine asks, shuffling in front of me.
the door open, sets the boxes in the kitchen where I direct him to, as if
they’re light as a feather, then comes over and takes all three of my boxes
away. He doesn’t so much as grimace from the weight, and I hate him more than
there’s still more.”
his deep chuckles as we go back to the van.
him carry the heavier stuff to pay him back for being so smug. He doesn’t
complain, just lugs another two boxes onto his shoulders and places them where
I tell him.
behind him each time we go back down the stairs to the first floor. His back
muscles flex with every step, on display through the thin, white tank top. It’s
a nice view, and I don’t stop myself from raking my gaze down his waist to what
I can only describe as the most delicious bubble butt ensconced in pants
tailor-made for his ass.
once he hits the sidewalk, a self-satisfied smirk highlighting a mouth and
cheekbones I’m slowly starting to obsess over in my head, and I think he knows
I’ve been looking. I don’t care. I’m taking full advantage of the view while I
can, except when he calls me on it.
looking at my ass, baby?”
too quickly, cursing my lack of finesse.
your eyes on me.”
hallucinating.” We get to the van, and I’m surprised by how little is left to
worry, I’ve been looking at yours too.”
time for one more trip,” he says, his arm brushing mine as he reaches for more
shoots through my body. Our eyes meet. He licks his lips. I can’t have him in
my apartment anymore, filling it up with his raw energy and body so beautiful
I’ve come to appreciate it for the work of art it is.
stop right now, I didn’t need your help when I started, and I don’t need it
me, grabbing another two boxes.
don’t need your-” He
grabs two more boxes and runs up to the building, like a puppy stealing a shoe,
trying to instigate a play session. Except this is a grown man who I can barely
look at without thinking dirty thoughts. “-what a freaking asshole…”
apartment again, the space getting smaller and smaller with every second I’m
near him. We’re so close to each other, yet a million miles away.
boxes by the entrance and runs his fingers through his hair as he straightens
from a crouch, his slacks stretched taut over muscular thighs.
looks soft. Does he highlight it to get that color? Beautiful amber streaks
piercing through pitch black.
hands through my curly, pixie-length haircut, mussing it up to distract myself.
I gnaw at my bottom lip and press down till I feel a pinch, a reminder not to
stare at him. It’s just so damn hard.
me looking again, and I glance away, coming down from the high of strong
emotions and physical exertion. But it’s not enough. I feel anxious and
incomplete, like I’m missing something.
whatever is passing between us isn’t over.
thank you, but I don’t think you helping me makes up for your dickishness
earlier.” I shrug, unrepentant.
move, just keeps looking at me as his hands slowly lower. No other response. My
heart beats a little faster when he licks his lips, and wet heat that has
nothing to do with summer humidity blooms between my legs.
go. I want him to stand in the middle of my apartment, so I can stare at him a
while longer. The last time I was near a man so beautiful was for an article I
wrote on the trials of the male model life. Those guys are paid to be gorgeous,
but they’ve got nothing on Lord Linguine.
though he hears and understands, but makes no moves to leave. He just keeps
looking at me, and now he’s touching his bottom lip with his thumb. Dear Lord,
his mouth is sumptuous. No, not just sumptuous. It’s fat and thick, made more
tantalizing by the way it plumps whenever he bites down.
carrying my heaviest boxes up and down the stairs without a drop of
perspiration, like some Greek god. I’m sweating worse than a roasted pig and am
most likely still flushed and red after our argument-thanks, Irish coloring. My clothes
are wrinkled and gross, and I can’t recall if I brushed my teeth this morning.
the look he’s giving me, like there’s nothing in the world he wants more. It
should scare me. I don’t know him at all, and yet…and yet…that itch in my skin is all from
him. One argumentative word from my new neighbor and I’ve unleashed more
personality on the world than in the past five years.
sun at high noon; no doubt I’ll get burned if I don’t protect myself. I would
usually feel uncomfortable, wary even, if someone I don’t know keeps staring at
me like he does, but after spending the last hour with him—feeling his hand on
my back when I nearly missed a step on one of our ascents, staring at his ass,
watching his muscles tense and roll with every step, watching his lips like my
favorite TV show—all I feel is an intense need.
realization slaps me in the face so hard I nearly take a step back.
Linguine. I want his beautiful body covering mine. I want his lips on places
that haven’t felt the touch of a man in longer than I care to admit. I want him
inside me. I want him to use my body till I’m wrung out and this awful day is
say is, “See you around the building.”
response, just staring, with the occasional lip licks or flickers of his gaze.
He’s looking at my body the same way I’m looking at his. Seeing him want me
only makes me want him more.
his humanity shows as moisture drips down the side of his tanned face, tripping
over a thin layer of manicured stubble. Shit, he’s beautiful, in a brutal, New
York City way. And considering the way he shifts, his tight-fitting trousers
stretching taut, a long hard line now highlighted at the front of his pants,
I’m pretty sure he’s thinking the same thing about me.
bottom lip deliberately to see what he does. He watches the move then finally
speaks. His voice is as far from the riotous nature of our initial encounter as
it can get.
stay, help you unpack some stuff.”
prevaricate, but decide to stick to honesty. We both know what’s happening
what would happen if you stayed.”
choice. If you don’t want me to stay, I’ll leave. We’ll nod at each other as we
pass in the hallway, like this was an unremarkable encounter. We’ll go back to
being strangers. I don’t want that, but I promise I’ll leave if you do.”
you care what I think?” Stalling. Stalling, I am so stalling.
past hour, and in no world would I ever want to make a woman uncomfortable, so
yeah, I care a whole fucking lot.” His body is tense, practically vibrating,
yet he stays put. Waiting for me.
what you want, baby.”
what he’s offering?
you feel so good.”
sex between strangers?
day I’ve had?
step forward. We’re nearly on top of each other now. My hands itch to touch
him. “Say yes.”
novels. She has a major weakness for sappy cuddle moments as much as hot and
steamy sex scenes, and a penchant for writing snappy and sarcastic dialogue.
She loves romance that isn’t afraid to be awkward and uncouth, and thrives on
flawed characters with big hearts.
cats, Mercy and Eugene Fitzherbert, who should be very thankful she didn’t name
him frying pan. She is a proud functioning introvert and lover of all things
geeky. You can find her haunting the Twitter machine or posting pictures of her
ridiculous cats on Instagram.