Noah Hale is an author suffering from PTSD related insomnia, needing peace and sleep. All he wants is to be left alone. A certain little dog has other ideas.
Amanda Bell, a teacher, is grieving the loss of her sister, Rachel. Caring for her sister’s dog is comforting until a new neighbor moves in the other half of her duplex. Suddenly, the dog starts escaping her yard, running off to the man on the other side of the fence.
Say something Noah. His mouth opened and shut without uttering a syllable, the words whirling around in his brain were hardly appropriate. Aroused, his body inched closer to the now slightly impatient woman, hoping to put his thoughts into action. Fortunately, common sense prevailed. He smiled and stepped back allowing her into his narrow hallway. “Sure, I’ll get my cell phone; the house phone hasn’t been connected yet.” Amanda, cast a fleeting look behind her. “Hoping for a more suitable knight errant?” The jibe tripped off Noah’s tongue without consideration and he instantly regretted it. A faint blush stained her otherwise pale face, which bore no or little make up, this wasn’t a contrived visit then.
With a slight shake of her head Amanda stepped into the dimly lit hallway. “I’m so sorry to disturb you, again but Gertie pushed the door shut whilst I was on the patio and I can’t get back in.”
Noah indicated that she should go into the lounge, wondering where he last saw his cell phone. “Quite a talented dog you have, a pity she hasn’t learnt to unlock doors too.” Remembering where he last saw his phone, he headed for his bedroom. “Sit down I won’t be a minute.”
Amanda perched her butt on the closest chair and sighed, her gaze drawn to Noah’s muscled legs and firm rear, as he headed out of the room. Amanda hated imposing but she had little choice in the circumstances. She shivered and rubbed her clammy arms, against the sudden chill. The tap pants and top she wore revealed more than they hid and were hardly suitable attire for visiting a strange man’s house. Gertie’s fault again. She appeared determined to throw them together. The dog’s clumsy matchmaking made her think of Rachel. Tears clouded her vision, as she recalled her sister’s persistent attempts to find Amanda the perfect man. Heavy footsteps echoed on the wooden floor, she wiped the tears away with the back of her hand, as Noah walked into the room.
He handed her his cell phone. “Help yourself, would you like a drink, I only have iced tea, milk or fruit juice, no beer I’m afraid.” Noah’s gentle voice revealed his concern; he must have seen her crying.
“Iced tea would be lovely; I don’t suppose you have a number for a locksmith?”
“Sorry, no, I haven’t but I could try my key, they may be similar?”
“The automatic lock must be on the door but it’s worth a try, if you don’t mind, thank you.” Amanda smiled.
“I’ll get your drink.” Noah brushed by her as he headed for the kitchen.
She shivered again. Amanda ignored the butterflies in her stomach; there was something about his eyes that made her think of white cotton sheet and hot steamy nights. Heat flooded her body in a blush that betrayed her thoughts, thankfully she was alone.
Noah opened the bottle of peach tea and poured it into a long glass; he took a juice for him and carried the drinks into the lounge. Slim, tanned legs filled his gaze, as he stood in the doorway. Long, dark hair cascaded over her bare shoulders, as she stared out into the garden. “It’s a lovely night; do you want to take them outside?”
Amanda started. “Could we take them next door? I’m worried about Gertie; she’s really needy since my sister…died.” Tears filled Amanda’s blue eyes and ran down her flushed cheeks.
The reason for her earlier crying explained; Noah placed the drinks on the coffee table and perched on the arm of Amanda’s chair. He brushed her tears gently away with his thumb, aware of how soft her skin was. She stared at him, her gaze full of pain. It was like looking in the mirror and he closed his eyes against his own fears. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you, I’m sorry for the tears, they creep up on me and…”
“It’s fine, she was your sister, and you need to grieve.” Noah’s thumb rested at the side of Amanda’s lips, he wanted to brush his thumb against their softness, taste their inevitable sweetness but the vulnerability in her gaze, made him stop. He stood up and passed her the iced tea. Her hands shook slightly but she took the glass. He drank his juice quickly, suddenly anxious to be alone again.” Let’s go and do battle with your door.”
Gertie anxiously pawed at the glass door as they approached. She jumped up and down and chased her tail in circles, yapping pitifully, when they didn’t immediately release her.
“It’s alright Gertie, you’re not alone now. Let’s try this key and see what happens.” Noah’s deep, calm voice apparently soothed the frightened dog and she lay down in front of the door, her chin resting on her paws.
“You obviously have the magic touch with animals. I’ve never had a dog before, I’m not even sure if she likes me, only the treats I give her,” Amanda said gloomily.
“I’m sure she likes you just fine, she’s maybe missing your sister too. Give her time, she’ll learn to love you and you her, I’m sure,” Noah offered as he wiggled the key in the lock, with little effect.” It’s not going to work, you better search on my cell phone for a locksmith, unless I can hoist you through that window, you’re small enough to fit through the gap. What do you say?” Noah’s smile reached his green eyed gaze and his face became even more striking, the pain Amanda glimpsed earlier absent.
“Well if there’s no other way, I don’t have much choice. Are you sure you can support my weight?” Amanda queried.
“What are you about one hundred and twenty pounds?” Noah said.
“Yeah about that,” Amanda confirmed, “Okay let’s get this over with.”
Noah placed his hand just above Amanda’s hips trying to ignore the silk of her brief tap pants and the tantalizing split that revealed more thigh than was good for his blood pressure. “Ready, when I say go, reach for the window frame and then twist your body into the open window. I’ll hold you steady until you get into the house.” Noah slowed his breathing and concentrated on his task. Amanda trusted him, even though she didn’t know him and he wouldn’t let her down.
“Okay, I’m ready.” Amanda leaned into Noah to make his task easier.
If only she didn’t smell so damn good. “Right, Go!” Noah boosted Amanda’s slim body, up the side of the duplex, level with the gap in the window.” Now try and ease yourself into the space, don’t worry, I’ve got you.” Noah’s veins stood out against his tanned skin, with the strain but his grip didn’t falter.
“I’m nearly there can you lift me a little higher?” Amanda said as she twisted and squirmed her supple body into the tiny space afforded by the open window. “I’m in”
Noah’s arms relaxed as Amanda’s weight left them. A loud bang drew his gaze. “Amanda? Are you alright?” Inside, Gertie jumped up and ran in the direction of the noise.
“Arghh.” Amanda’s screams echoed into the night’s stillness.
Noah fought against the dark shadows and screams ringing in his ears, he needed to help Amanda. Sweat drenched his T-shirt, as he judged the gap in the window, it was too small for him to get through but at least he could see inside. He stepped onto the window sill and pulled his body up the side of the house, nearly there, another scream. Numb, he let go, lost in the shadows and falling…