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by Marie Rochelle
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Romance
Description: True Williams thinks she has it all: An excellent job, intelligence, and a wonderful boyfriend that loves her more than anything in the world. That's why his betrayal cuts her to the bone and she flees town, wanting to put her ex-boyfriend behind her. She vows to not let another devastatingly handsome man into her heart or life. Her promise is put to the test when she moves next door to the amazingly sexy Hayward Campbell. Hayward Campbell moved to Montana to get away from the life that still seems to haunt him. He isn't interested in any woman until a pair of shapely mahogany legs gets out of a flashy red sports car. Will Hayward and True be able to get over their tormented pasts and find love with each other in ... Loving True?
eBook Publisher: Phaze, 2008
eBookwise Release Date: October 2008
75 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [554 KB]
Reading time: 358-502 min.
Construction industrialist Hayward Campbell walked across the porch of his newly remolded home and squinted in the bright morning sunlight. It was July and up in the mountains, it means scorching sun and cool breezes. He let his robe hang open, enjoying the breeze across his naked chest and the slight flapping of his green silk boxers against him. He sighed and stepped on the dew-covered grass. It felt wonderful to his bare feet as he sauntered along.
He was in no hurry; the peacefulness of his home was just the thing he needed. Hopefully, in time, it would help to mend his battered heart. Nothing could ever fix the damage that she'd done. If what everyone had said was true, maybe he could learn to live with it.
Hayward slowed his gait. Unconsciously, he caught the edges of his robe and pulled them together. Someone had moved into the house next door because the 'For Sale' sign was gone. He felt a burst of anger towards the intruder; this was his piece of heaven. Who would dare invade his paradise?
How could he have not noticed that someone was moving in next door? Was he so isolated inside his house that he not once noticed the sound of a moving truck echo through his ears? Just how long had the 'For Sale' sign been missing from the yard? He really couldn't remember. His real estate broker had made the owner an offer for him, but the guy never accepted it.
He had lost count of how many females had rented the house only to leave after two months. Rural Montana wasn't a place most women wanted to live in the first place, so he still didn't understand why so many had moved next door.
There weren't any clothing stores or restaurants for miles, and he loved that. The unfortunate women who had moved next door had found that out rather quickly.
The further away he was from the fast-paced speed of the city, the calmer his life was. That kind of life had cost him something precious, and he wasn't about to fall back into the lifestyle again, for anyone, no matter how much his family wanted it.
His brother called him last week and tried to coax him into coming back for a little visit, but he turned him down instantly. He loved his brother; however, it was past time for Clinton to stop trying to heal his wounds. He relished the pain. The memories made him realize that focusing only on the money had shattered his life.
Rubbing his dark blue eyes with the back of his hand, he blinked some of the sleep from them and wondered about his new neighbor. Would it be another woman this time? The last two females who had lived there within six months of each other thought he might need a little 'extra' neighborly hospitality, but he shot their ideas down very quickly. He didn't move out here to find a hot body to warm his bed during the winter months.
Hayward couldn't wait to find out whom the next person was that decided to take on the challenge of living in that huge house. It didn't matter if it was a family, a man, or a woman. As long as they left him to his own devices, he would be the best neighbor that anyone could ask for. He was about to turn and go back into the house when the sound of a speeding car coming down the street caught his attention.
A firecracker red mustang pulled into the driveway next door, and the roaring engine became a soft purr before it turned off. Well, his question was about to be answered in a few seconds. Please don't let it be another lonely female looking for a man, because he wasn't about to fill that role ever again.
The car door swung open as he watched a pair of well-toned cocoa legs appear followed by a nicely firm bottom encased in blue jean shorts. She crawled out of the car, stretched, took in a long full breath, and his blood warmed at the sight. He would swear a plain white t-shirt never looked so good. * * * *
True Williams paused in the middle of her new, blacktopped driveway. Her ebony eyes stared at the two story custom-made house, the beige siding completed the distinctive style. Her vision shifted to the forest of trees, blowing lightly in the warm late July air. Can I do this? Am I crazy for leaving all my friends back home?
With a soft sigh, she slid her hands into the back pockets of her snug denim shorts. Turning from her car, she spotted her next-door neighbor staring at her from his yard. His dark eyes traveled the length of her body; a tingling sensation started in the pit of her stomach and worked its way up. He bent over to pick up the rolled newspaper, and he greeted her with a nice view of a tight firm butt pressed against a silk robe. He looked over his shoulder, and she arched one eyebrow at him, his brows drew together as he gazed back. He was gorgeous; his dark eyes flashed with curiosity, and his thick black hair brushed back from his face, enhancing a powerful jawbone. Then she did it; she winked at him. His brows shot up in response.
Without saying a word, he turned away and retreated into his house. She glared at him. He didn't seem too pleased with her moving next door. She lifted her shoulder, a small snort slipped from between her lips. Well, that will teach him to stare at me. She strolled toward the trunk.
Hell, she didn't care if he wanted her as a neighbor or not. She was here, so he would have to deal with it. In the last two years, she had moved three times. Every place she moved never felt quite like home to her. Hopefully, living out here in Big Sky Country would change that. At the back of her car, True unlocked the trunk and flinched when the smooth, slick, freshly waxed surface burned the tips of her fingers.
With the tips of her fingers, she lifted the white banker box with the word 'bears' scribbled across the side. Balancing the box on her hip, she took small steps toward the front porch so it wouldn't slip. Her hands held five years of yard sales, thrift stores, and late night eBay searches. Her mother started her collection with her very first bear at her eighth birthday party, and she had been collecting them ever since.
"Okay, Baby, we are almost there." She rubbed the side of the box with her left hand and glanced down, making sure there wasn't any kind of debris in her way. "Thank God." She breathed a quick sigh of relief and raised her foot toward the first concrete step when a noise behind the wicker chair drew her attention. She almost jumped out of her skin when out of nowhere, the flying squirrel from Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons flew over her right shoulder.
The furry-tailed creature hit the ground with a loud thump and dashed across the grass, back into the dense forest. The creature shocked her. Her tight grip on the box slipped and it crashed to the ground then rolled away from her, stopping by the edge of the grass.
"Shit!" True cursed, looking over at the dented box. She sent out a silent prayer that the contents in the box were still intact. She lifted the box off the ground and carried it inside the house. Once inside, she placed the damaged box on the antique, ebony glass table her aunt left her.
"I pray the bubble wrap worked," True sighed, reaching for the box cutter next to the damaged box. She carefully ran the knife across the packing tape and flipped open the box. Taking out one of the K' Collection bears, she untaped it and let out a sigh of relief. It wasn't broken. She unpacked the rest of her bear collection to make sure they were all undamaged. "Thank God none of them broke." She rewrapped the bear statues and placed the box under the table out of her way.
Standing with her hands on her hips, she surveyed the difference between her new home and the over-priced one bedroom apartment she had rented in California. Four bedrooms with a large master suite and a whirlpool bath was a lot, even for her, but she had the money for it, especially, after the half a million-dollar lawsuit settlement from Starr Technology.
Her eyes narrowed in the spacious living area that her old apartment could have fit in. A residence in the mountains wasn't her forte. She felt a little out of her element; however, she loved a challenge. Living in a new town, where no one knew her name or the scandal linked to it, left the possibilities for a new life wide open. "Well, nothing will get done if I keep daydreaming." She wandered in the direction of the four unopened boxes underneath the bay window.
Biting her bottom lip, she cringed at the boxes positioned by the cream-colored walls. It would take her a while to separate the contents. She didn't mind the extra time it might take, but she still had to go grocery shopping.
Hours later, True brushed the remaining clingy packing peanuts from her hands. Her eyes glowed with satisfaction at the neatly arranged room around her. Family pictures of her parents hung on the walls along with an older, faded picture of her aunt. Several African artifacts covered the area behind her black couch and a medium white shelf displayed her unique bear collection. A small smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. Finally, she could start on that grocery list and head to the store. She hurried from the living room to her favorite part of the house, the breakfast nook.
She adored how the sunflower wallpaper added a warm, sunny feeling to the spacious room. Taking a seat at the granite table, she pulled the ladybug notepad towards her. The low rumble of her stomach echoed in the kitchen. "I'll feed you soon so stop all that noise." Her fingers brushed her empty stomach; she hadn't eaten since breakfast.
Ten minutes later, she tossed the pen on the table. Her eyes scanned the rose-colored paper for any missing items. Brown's grocery was a long drive, and she didn't want to make another trip into town for a small item if it wasn't necessary. "Well, I guess I better hit the road." She snatched the car keys off the table in the hall and rushed out the door. * * * *
True pulled into the nearly empty parking lot, turned off the car, and got out. Brown's combined a corner deli with a regular grocery store, but the candy cane curtains that hung from the windows added a certain cuteness. However, the leather booths on the inside gave it a fifties feel. A small area near the front was set up to make sandwiches for the customers during the cold weather.
From the corner of her eye, she noticed a young teenage couple holding hands at one of the three round tables with a colorful umbrella positioned in the middle. She shook her head at their innocence. If they only knew that fiery passion didn't last. It never did after that age. Young, problem-free laughter drifted from their table, the light sound brushed her ears in the semi-dark parking lot. She wished for the pure, joyous feeling of love in her life again, but it wasn't going to happen. Tossing them one last glance, she grabbed a shopping cart from outside and walked through the sliding doors.
She paused at the produce section for fresh fruit for her breakfast tomorrow. Reaching across a bag of walnuts, she grabbed bananas, strawberries, and blueberries. Tossing the items into her cart, she headed toward the back of the store. Her pace slowed as she stopped in front of the hot sauce display. "Okay where's the Frank's?"
Her eyes scanned the bright colored bottles arranged above her head, but she still didn't see the medium size bottle of tangy hot sauce. She swallowed down a curse and continued searching the variety of containers. "God, I know its here. Why can't I find it?" True shoved the cart in front of her. Her body froze as the sound of metal crashing echoed down the cramped aisle.
She raised her eyes to apologize, but the words lodged in her throat. Her gaze connected with a pair of ocean blue eyes framed by thick, black, long lashes. She gawked at the gorgeous hunk as he glared down at her. He stood around six feet four inches tall, and jet-black hair covered his head. True let her eyes travel down his body for a better look. The well-defined muscles in his arms stretched the black t-shirt across his wide chest and displayed a flat stomach. The earthy scent of his cologne drifted around them, tickling her nose.
"Lady, watch where you're going," he growled.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, moving her cart to the side. "I didn't see you in front of me." He came closer, looking at her with an annoyed expression.
"Well, maybe next time if you aren't daydreaming you'll see me." He brushed past her and stormed off in the opposite direction.
Is he for real? He couldn't be that upset over her cart bumping his. True gazed at the guy until his broad shoulders rounded the corner. "Damn, what a rude man," she hissed. She wiggled her banged up cart back and forth, making sure it still moved. The left wheel wobbled for a second or two then stopped. "Well, I don't have much shopping left, so it will have to do." She stole another quick glance down the empty aisle and frowned. Why does he look so familiar?
Ten minutes later, True paid for her items and strolled out the sliding doors to her car. On the drive back home, her mind burned with the memory of the guy from the grocery store. He was drop-dead gorgeous. His most striking feature was his deep blue eyes. What am I doing? She moved here to start a new life, not lust after a man she had just seen.
Parking her car in the driveway, True got out of the car, grabbed her groceries from the back seat, and slammed the door shut with her hip. An owl, hidden in the forest, hooted behind her, and her body flinched as its lone cry startled her. Hurrying across her driveway, True paused by her front door and glanced over a shoulder at her neighbor's house. She noticed that his car was gone. "Hmmm, I wonder where Mr. Personality is." She unlocked the door and went inside the house.
Pitching her keys on the table beside the door, she went toward the kitchen. Standing in the entranceway, she looked around the bright room. Patterned blue and yellow tiles defined the wall behind the range, creating a beautiful focal point. The far-left wall had the same patterns used on the island and cook range hood. Copper dish racks positioned close to the stove held her mother's antique dish set collection. She decided, at the last minute, to add it for a dramatic impact. When she cooked, a bright, cheery environment always made the experience more pleasurable.
Heading for the marble island, True stopped in her tracks, and the grocery bags slipped from her fingers, hitting the floor with a loud thump. She knew why the guy from the store looked so familiar. He was her neighbor! * * * *
Hayward brushed a lock of his hair off his forehead. His stomach clenched at the memory of the soft, sweet fragrance that came from his neighbor's body earlier. Whatever she had on should be outlawed. A light had smoldered in her dark eyes when she glared back at him. God, they reminded him of rich Hershey chocolate. He shook his head at the wayward thought. What in the hell am I doing? He had practically drooled in front of her, and she acted as if he was the rudest man in the world.
He didn't miss that she'd changed clothes from this morning. The t-shirt and denim shorts were gone and replaced with a sleeveless purple hoodie and a pair of boot-cut jeans that molded her thighs. Hayward shook the vision his neighbor made from his mind. No, a pretty face and a knock out body wouldn't draw him in again.
Tossing a box of Total cereal into his already full basket, Hayward mumbled, "I can't believe she tried that shopping cart trick on me." For some reason he was disappointed that she wasn't going to be any different from the other flirtatious women that had moved next door to him. Well he would ignore her like the others.
The scent of fresh fried chicken from the deli drifted toward him in the cereal aisle. His stomach growled at the oily, familiar smell, but he wouldn't buy any because tonight was Saturday, which meant steak night. Turning, he pushed his cart toward the checkout lanes. Halfway there, he stopped and blew out a deep breath.
Nicole Brown stared back at him from the first cash register. She studied him openly; he couldn't miss the desire in her light green eyes. No matter what he said or did, she wouldn't take no for an answer. Sighing, he walked the rest of the way and placed his food on the checkout counter. He hoped this wouldn't take as long as it usually did when she checked him out.
"Hi Hayward," Nicole leaned toward him, showing off an ample amount of surgically enhanced cleavage.
"Hello Nicole," he mumbled.
"Why don't you call me Nikki like everyone else?" she asked, running a fingernail across the back of his hand. "Nicole sounds so old," she pouted.
Hayward glanced at the Nicole's nail caressing the back of his hand and jerked it back. "I'm late for something, so could you please ring up my food and charge it to this." Pulling a platinum credit card out of his wallet, he tossed it on the small tray by the cashier register. He waited while Nikki rung up his groceries. Her silence was music to his ears.
"Here. I need you to sign this." She shoved the credit card receipt and a pen at him. Her emerald eyes held his a little longer than needed. "I get off in five minutes," she hinted.
He ignored the blatant invitation. Did she know how desperate she sounded? Why wouldn't she listen to him? If he wanted to start dating again, it sure as hell wouldn't be with her. He scribbled his name across the receipt and handed the items back to her. "Sorry, I've other plans," he answered.
"I know you aren't busy. So how about I fix you dinner at my house tonight," she whispered, touching his arm.
"Nicole, I don't want to have dinner with you," Hayward stated with a hint of anger to his voice. What would it take to get her off his back? He shoved his credit card back into his wallet. "You seem like a really nice girl, but I'm not interested in dating you or anyone else." Lifting his bags off the end of the checkout lane, he walked out the automatic sliding doors, his mind on the pile of paperwork waiting for him back home. * * * *
Hours later, True relaxed on her black couch. She watched two couples fight over each other on the latest reality show to hit the television. "I can't believe people signed up for this show." Reaching inside the box between her legs, she grabbed another handful of raisins, shoving them into her mouth. The phone rang as she reached for another handful. "Hello?" True mumbled.
"Hey sweetheart," the cheerful voice said on the other end.
"Stephen, why are you calling me so late at night?" she asked, wiping her hands on her pink panther night shorts. "Is there something wrong?"
Stephen chuckled. "Can't I call my best friend to find out how her move went?"
Picking up the glass off the table, True took a sip of her green tea and sat it back down. "I came back from the grocery store about two hours ago," she replied, sitting the raisin box on the table. "I still have a few things that need to be put away in the bathroom and living room."
Stephen snorted. "I won't be visiting Montana anytime soon. I don't know how you can live out there with nothing to do. Don't you miss the excitement of Los Angeles?"
Just the thought of going back home to Los Angeles sent a shiver down her back. "No, I don't miss the excitement," True replied, shoving down the bad memories. "You know the excitement was the reason I left there in the first place." She picked at the fuzz on her pink panther house shoes. "But I do miss you a lot, especially our late night talks. You were the only person who stood by me after all the lies came out."
"Sweetie, you didn't have to move because of Dalton," Stephen told her.
"Yes, I did," True hissed.
"True, I'm not the bad guy here."
"I'm sorry." Why can't Stephen leave Dalton in her past?
"Dalton was good at his job," Stephen stressed. "No one knew how well his corrupt mind worked."
True shook her head. "No, he smelled my stupidity a mile away and used it to his advantage." If she hadn't fallen for his deep brown eyes and sexy news anchor voice, she would still be at Starr Technology.
"Listen to me," Stephen snapped, drawing her back to the conversation. "You've got to stop blaming yourself. He planned to get that information from Starr Technology by any means necessary."
"Yeah, and the means was to use my superficial need to have a gorgeous boyfriend," True snorted, running her fingers through her hair. "Damn it, why didn't I listen to you?" She lost count how many times Stephen told her Dalton was using her.
"You were in love," Stephen replied.
"In lust is more like it," she snapped back. Sadness gripped her heart, causing a deep ache in her chest. She was the worst kind of fool. Not once did the thought cross her mind that Dalton's feelings weren't genuine. "Stephen, I was the first black woman to hold that position at Starr. My boss warned me someone had tried to steal the information before. Why couldn't I sense it was Dalton all those months we dated?"
"He knew you were attracted to him and used it to his advantage."
"Dalton used it against me alright," True snickered. "He stole my office key, made an imprint of it, then broke into Starr Technology, and downloaded all my files while I was on vacation with you."
"True, it wasn't your fault. How many times do I have to tell you this?"
"Fine, maybe that part wasn't my fault," she agreed, "but defending him to my boss after he fired me was plain stupid." Every fiber in her body had believed that bastard was innocent. "God, I loved him so much that I raced to his office. I wanted him to know I didn't believe those vicious lies. Do you remember what I told you happened next?" she asked, resting the back of her head on the couch.
"Don't do this to yourself," Stephen begged.
"Dalton laughed at you," he said with a growl. "He also informed you that he only dated you for the information. He never felt the same way as you did and he never would."
"How did you expect me to stay in Los Angeles after all that happened?"
"All your friends are here," Stephen remarked.
"You're the only friend I have left." True sighed heavily, glancing out the window over to her left. The night air was so hot and thick. She could smell the wildflowers from the driveway through the open living room window.
"I knew you wouldn't do anything like that," Stephen stated. "You're too honest to steal like Starr accused."
"Stephen, let's not talk about this anymore," True sighed wearily of her past mistakes. "How are things going between you and Michael? Does he still want you to move in?" She didn't care for Michael. She thought he was only using Stephen. However, Stephen was head-over-heels in love with the guy. She never even told Stephen about the time Michael confronted her in his living room about their closeness.
"He brings it up everyday. I do care about him, but I don't want to rush things." Stephen sighed on the other end of the phone. "I don't want to rush into things and then he turns out to be just like Dalton."
True heard when Stephen cursed on the other end of the phone. She knew he just realized what he said to her. Stephen didn't need to get upset about speaking the truth. She wouldn't wish Dalton on anyone.
"God, True, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean for it to come out like that," Stephen choked.
"Oh, don't worry about it," she sighed. "Listen, it's late. I need to go, and I'll talk to you later on in the week." She quickly hung up the phone and kicked off her shoes.
True hugged her knees to her chest. She took a deep breath and tried to relax some of the tension in her back and shoulders. Her body always stressed after she revisited her past mistakes with Dalton. She wouldn't allow another man to disrespect her like that. Her guard was up now. She chewed on her bottom lip and pushed down the memories burning in the back of her mind.
Swallowing down a groan, True stood, grabbed the empty ice tea glass off the table, and headed for the kitchen. Her bare feet smacked against the cool kitchen tile as she hurried from the room. "I'd better take a shower and call it a night," she said aloud, going up the staircase. She prayed tomorrow would be more exciting than today turned out to be. * * * *
Hayward tossed and turned in the tangled sheets on his bed. It's not going to come, so why keep hoping it will? He bolted upright and flung the damp, light blue sheet off his sweaty body. He had wished for a peaceful night sleep ever since the accident, but every time he closed his eyes, he saw Brooke's black Mercedes pulled from the murky river water.
"I don't know how much more of this I can take," he hissed in the dark bedroom. His family recommended counseling, but he didn't need a stranger in his head. He could solve his own problems. "I'm not wasting a hundred dollars an hour for someone to poke around in my head."
With a long, exhausted sigh, he rolled out of bed. If he kept his promise, his son might still be alive. He didn't know a single thing about being a good husband or father when he married Brooke. Back then, Brooke came into his life at the wrong time. Unfortunately, he remained caught up in his past and trying to prove a point. He had to show everyone in that town he was no longer poor white trash; especially, his fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Kelly. It was she who pointed out each and every day how much he and his brother lacked. His blood raced with uninvited memories as her Minnie Mouse voice still rung in his ears after all these years. I feel so sorry for Hayward and his brother. They're such handsome boys, but they'll never amount to much with the family they have. I can't believe their mother let her family disown her to marry that cop.
After overhearing her conversation with another teacher in the hallway as a child, he promised himself that he would succeed, no matter the cost. His eyes darkened with pain. He knew his family couldn't afford expensive things back then, but he and Clinton never went to bed cold or hungry. He paced back and forth in the air-conditioned room. The plush, beige carpet cushioned his heavy footsteps.
"Well, I showed all of them." He studied hard all through college. After graduation, he worked at corporate jobs that he hated, just waiting for his chance to succeed. When his employer wanted to retire for a better life in Florida and decided to sell his business, Hayward had made an offer and bought it.
Three and a half years later, he became the youngest CEO and founder of his own architectural firm, Campbell Construction and Design. A faint smile pulled at his mouth. Four years later, he had a successful business and became a billionaire.
Back then, he thought only one thing was missing from his perfect business plan, a trophy wife on his arm. God, I was such a fool. He didn't want to think about Brooke. Why won't she stop haunting him? He'd never forget the first time he saw her in the strapless red dress in the sea of black dresses. The silky, clingy dress drew his attention the second she walked in the crowded dining room. Her dress demanded attention, and his competitive streak didn't back down from the challenge. A light sweat broke out on his body as he took a deep breath, and the memory of the smell of Channel No. 5 filled his nose.
Brooke never went anywhere without it splashed all over her body. She wore it to seduce him. Sex was her weapon of choice when it came to him and getting what she wanted. His stomach turned at how many times he fell into her well-laid trap. His hands tightened into fists at his sides. Why had he married her? Hell, he knew why. She was the perfect asset to his business and bedroom. The perfect lady at work, but the sexy siren every man wanted at home in the bedroom. They got married in Vegas on the way back from a business trip. Seven months later, his precious son Tyler Brison was born.
His expression clouded with pain. He couldn't think about the last time he saw his son, lying on the cold hard ground by the river's edge. Hayward ran from the room, his bare feet pounding down the staircase into the kitchen.
Downstairs, he jerked open the refrigerator door and blinked as a cool gust of air hit him in the face. He shoved aside a container of leftover lasagna. Reaching in the very back, he grabbed a beer and pulled it out. The cool moisture felt wonderful to his warm skin. Twisting off the lid, he flung it into the trashcan. His lips took a long, deserving sip from the tall, thin green bottle. Scratching his chest with his free hand, he braced his bare shoulder on the wall by the window. His tired gaze noticed a dim light in his neighbor's house. Taking another sip, he wiped the extra moisture from his mouth with the back of his hand.
She was more beautiful up close than from a distance. He had never noticed African-American women before, but the beauty of her was exquisite, almost fragile. Yet, a hint of toughness shined through and called to the deepest part of him. Her smooth, flawless, rich, deep mahogany skin made his fingers itch. He wanted to see if she was as soft as she looked. He knew he should apologize for yelling at her. The incident at the store had been his fault, not hers. However, the second her deep brown eyes behind those adorable wire-rimmed glasses clashed with his, every rational thought disappeared from his mind.
They looked so dim and alone. For some odd reason, he wanted to put a spark back in them. He shook his head. What in the hell is wrong with him? He didn't want to get involved with his sexy neighbor.