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Sweet, shy Mara Hanover is in love with her neighbor. For four years, she has secretly watched her dream man from afar. Handsome police detective Mitch Lawson is way out of her league. She’s a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, and there’s no way a guy like Mitch would want anything to do with her. But when Mara has a leaky faucet that she can’t fix, it’s Mitch who comes to her rescue.
Mitch has been eyeing his beautiful neighbor for a long time. He jumps at the chance to help her, and soon their formerly platonic relationship gets very hot and heavy. But when Mara gets a disturbing phone call from her cousin’s kids, she gets pulled back into the life she’s tried so hard to leave behind. Can the hot law man convince Mara to let go of her past-and build a future with him?
Table of Contents
A Preview of Motorcycle Man
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Upon asking a friend to give me names of the male and female offspring of a loser, he asked, "What's their dad's name?" I answered, "Bill." He immediately replied, "Billy and Billerina." I found this so hilarious, Billy and Billie were born. Hopefully, you can tell them apart. As for me, every time I read their names, I giggle. But still, I fell in love with them.
"HELLO, THIS IS Mara Hanover in unit 6C. I've called three times today and I really need someone to come over and look at my bathroom tap. It won't turn off. Can you please have the maintenance guy come around? Thanks."
I shut down my cell after leaving my voicemail message and stared at my bathroom faucet, which hadn't turned off after I was finished with it that morning. I had called the management office of the complex before going to work and left a message. When I didn't get a call back, I called at lunch (leaving another message). Now I was home after work and it was past office hours, but someone was supposed to be on call all the time. I should have had a callback. I needed a callback. What I didn't need was a water bill out the roof or to try to go to sleep listening to running water while thinking of my money flowing down the drain.
I sighed and kept staring at the water running full blast out of my faucet.
I was a woman who had lived alone her entire adult life. I'd once had a long-term relationship with a Five Point Five that got nowhere near living together. This was because I was a Two Point Five and he was a Five Point Five who wanted a Nine Point Five. Therefore, we were both destined for broken hearts. He gave me mine. He later found a Six Point Five that wanted a Nine Point Five. She got herself a breast enhancement and nose job, which made her a firm Seven (if you didn't count the fact that she thought she was a Ten point Five and acted like it, which really knocked her down to a Six) who broke his heart.
Regardless of the fact that I was now thirty-one and had lived alone since I was eighteen, I knew nothing about plumbing or cars. Every time something happened with my plumbing or my car, I vowed to myself that I would learn something about plumbing or cars. I would get that said something fixed and I'd totally forget my vow. Then I'd lament forgetting my vow in times like I was experiencing right now.
I walked out of my master bath, through my bedroom, down the hall into my open-plan living-slash-kitchen-slash-dining area and out the front door. I crossed the breezeway and knocked on Derek and LaTanya's door.
Derek knew something about plumbing. I knew this because of two things. First, he was a man and men had a sixth plumbing sense. Second, I knew this because he was a plumber.
LaTanya opened the door, and her big, dark eyes widened with LaTanya Delight.
LaTanya Delight was different than anyone else's delight and therefore deserved a capital letter. It was louder, brasher, brighter and cheerier. The look on her face communicated her joy at seeing me like she and I had been separated at birth and were right then being blissfully reunited. Not like she'd just seen me the night before when she came over to watch Glee with me.
"Hey girl!" she squealed through a big smile. "Perfect timing. I'm about to mix a batch of mojitos. Get your ass in here and I'll pour us some cocktails!"
I smiled at her but shook my head. "Can't," I told her. "Something's up with my faucet, the office hasn't returned my calls, and I really need Derek to look at it. Is he around?"
I sensed movement at my side and LaTanya did too. We both looked that way to see Detective Mitch Lawson walking up the stairs carrying four plastic grocery bags.
If I were a Seven to Ten and in his zone, which meant I could be in his life, I would lecture him about plastic grocery bags. Considering the state of the environment, no one should use plastic grocery bags, not even hot guys who could get away with practically anything. Since I was not in his zone and I didn't know him and couldn't know him for fear of expiring from pleasure should he, say, speak more than a few words to me, I'd never get the chance to lecture him about plastic grocery bags.
"Yo Mitch!" LaTanya greeted him loudly with Delight.
"Hey LaTanya," Mitch greeted back, then his beautiful eyes skimmed to me and his lips tipped up further, "Hey."
"Hey," I replied, locked my legs, ignored the whoosh I felt in my belly and looked back at LaTanya. She was checking out Detective Mitch Lawson—as any woman should or she would be immediately reported to then thrown out of the Woman Club. I heard the rustling of bags, but I ignored it and called her name to get her attention. When I got it, I repeated, "Is Derek around? I wouldn't bother him but my faucet won't turn off and I really need someone to look at it."
"He's not here, Mara, sorry, babe," LaTanya replied. "You said the office hasn't called you back?"
"No," I told her and was about to ask her if she would send Derek over when he got home when I heard from my side:
"You want me to look at it?"
This came from Detective Mitch Lawson, and I sucked in breath and turned my head to look at him. He was standing outside his open apartment door still carrying his bags and his eyes were on me.
My mind went blank. I lost the lock on my legs and my knees wobbled.
God, he was beautiful.
"Mara," I heard from far away, and even though I heard it and it was my name, I didn't respond. "Mara!" I heard again. This time louder and sharper, my body jolted and I turned to LaTanya.
"What?" I asked.
"Mitch'll look at it, that cool with you?" she asked me.
I blinked at her.
No. No it was not cool with me.
What did I do?
I couldn't have him in my apartment walking through my bedroom to look at my faucet. That would mean he'd be in my apartment. That would mean he'd walk through my bedroom. And that would mean I'd have to speak more than one word to him.
I looked to Detective Mitch Lawson and said the only thing I could say.
"That would be really kind."
He stared at me a second then lifted the bags an inch and muttered, "Let me get rid of these and I'll be over."
I swallowed then called, "Okay," to his closing door.
I watched his door close and then I kept watching his closed door wondering if the weird feeling I was having was just panic or a precursor to a heart attack. Then LaTanya called my name again, so I looked at her.
"You okay?" she asked, studying me closely.
I had not, incidentally, shared my love for Detective Mitch Lawson with LaTanya, Derek, Brent, Bradon or anyone. This was because I thought they'd think I was a little insane (or a stalker). They often invited him to parties and such, and if he came, I would usually make my excuses and leave. They'd never cottoned on. I figured mostly because he didn't often attend their parties due to his being a police officer with long hours, but also because he had his buds over for games and his babes over for other things. He wasn't the type of man who went to gay men's parties or LaTanya's cocktail extravaganzas. The ones he went to I suspected he did just to be neighborly. Though Derek, more often than not, went to his place to watch games. Usually in order to escape LaTanya's cocktail extravaganzas, which were frequent occasions.
"Yeah, I'm fine," I lied to her. "Just had a tough day at work," I continued lying. "And I'm not happy the management office didn't call me back. They don't pay my water bill." I wasn't lying about that.
"I hear you," LaTanya agreed. "Service around here has taken a turn for the worse even though they upped our rent three months ago. You remember our fridge went out last month?"
I remembered. I also remembered it took three weeks to get it replaced. Derek had been none too happy, and LaTanya had been loudly none too happy.
"Yeah, I remember. That sucked."
"It sure did. Buyin' ice all the time and livin' outta coolers. I don't pay rent for that shit. Fuck that."
Fuck that indeed.
Detective Mitch Lawson's door opened, and I realized my mistake instantly. I should have run to my house and done something. I didn't know what. Nothing needed tidying because I was freakishly tidy. There was nothing I could do with my appearance, but I figured I should have tried to do something.
He started walking our way asking, "Now a good time?"
No, no time was a good time for the Ten Point Five I was secretly in love with to be in my apartment.
I nodded and said, "Sure." Then I looked at LaTanya and said, "Later, babe."
"Later. Remember, a mojito is waitin' for you, when Mitch gets your faucet sorted out."
"Thanks," I muttered, smiled and then glanced at Detective Mitch Lawson before looking down at my feet, turning and walking the short distance to my door. I opened it, walked through, and held it open for him to come inside.
He did and I tried not to hyperventilate.
"Which one is it?" he asked as I closed the door behind him.
I turned, stood at the door and looked up at him. He was closer than I expected and he was taller than he seemed from afar, and he seemed pretty tall from afar. I'd never been this close to him and I felt his closeness tingle pleasantly all across my skin. I was wearing heels and I felt his tallness in the depth of the tip of my head, which didn't tip back that often to look at someone seeing as I was tall.
"Pardon?" I asked.
"Faucet," he said. "Which one? Hall or master?"
I didn't have any clue what he was talking about. It was like he was speaking in a foreign language. All I could focus on were his eyes, which I was also seeing closer than I'd ever seen before. He had great eyelashes.
Those lashes moved when his eyes narrowed.
"You okay?" he asked.
Oh God. I had to get a hold on myself.
"Yeah, fine, um… the faucet's in my master bath," I told him.
He stood there staring at me. I stood there staring at him. Then his lips twitched and he lifted his arm slightly in the direction of my hall.
"You wanna lead the way?" he asked.
Ohmigod! I was such an idiot!
"Right," I muttered, looked down at my feet and led the way.
When we were both in my bathroom, which, with him in it, went from a normal-sized master bath to a teeny-tiny, suffocating space, I pointed to the faucet and then pointed out the obvious.
"It won't turn off."
"I see that," he murmured. Then I stood frozen with mortification as he crouched and opened the doors to my vanity.
Why was he opening the doors to my vanity? I kept my tampons down there! He could see them! They were right at the front for easy accessibility!
He reached in, I closed my eyes in despair and wished the floor would gobble me up and suddenly the water turned off.
I opened my eyes, stared at the faucet and exclaimed, "Holy cow! You fixed it!"
He tipped his head back to look at me then he straightened out of his crouch to look down at me.
Then he said, "No, I just turned the water off."
I blinked up at him. Then I asked, "Pardon?"
"You can turn the water off."
"Oh," I whispered then went on stupidly, "I should probably have done that before I left for work this morning."
His mouth twitched again and he said, "Probably. Though you can't do somethin' you don't know you can do."
I looked to the basin and muttered, "This is true."
"There's a valve under the sink. I'll show it to you after I take a look at the faucet," he said, and I forced my eyes to his. "You probably just need a new washer. Where are your tools?"
I blinked again. "Tools?"
His stared at me and then his lips twitched again. "Yeah. Tools. Like a wrench. You got one of those?"
"I have a hammer," I offered.
One side of his mouth hitched up in a half smile. "I'm not sure a hammer is gonna help."
It took a lot of effort but I only glanced at the half smile before my eyes went back to his. This didn't do a thing to decelerate my rapidly accelerating heartbeat.
"Then no, I don't have tools," I told him, not adding that I wasn't entirely certain what a wrench was.
He nodded and turned to the door. "I'll go get mine."
Then he was gone, and I didn't know what to do, so I hurried after him.
I should have stayed where I was. I'd seen him move, of course, I just hadn't seen him moving around in my apartment. He had an athlete's grace, which I had noticed before. But it was more. He had a natural confidence with the way he held his body and the way he moved. It was immensely attractive all the time, but seeing it in my apartment was not going to be conducive to peace of mind. Something it was difficult for me to find on a good day, much less a day when my faucet didn't turn off and I was forced to endure an evening that included Detective Mitch Lawson having to be in my apartment.
He stopped at the door and turned to me. "I'll be right back."
I nodded, and he disappeared out the door.
I stood in my living area in my heels, skirt and blouse from work. Then I wondered if I had time to change before he got back. Then I wondered if he'd notice it if I'd spritzed on perfume when he got back. Then I wondered if I should do a shot or two of vodka before he got back. Then he knocked on my door, which meant he was back.
I ran to the door, looked through the peephole (you couldn't be too careful) and saw him looking to the side. I sucked in a calming breath then opened the door.
"Hey," I said, "welcome back."
I was such a dork!
He grinned. I stepped aside, and he came through carrying a toolbox. Learning from my mistakes, I immediately led him through the living area, down the hall, through my bedroom and to the bathroom. He put the toolbox on the basin counter and opened it. He pulled out what I figured was a wrench and went right to work.
I watched his hands, which I'd never really noticed before. They were a man's hands. There were veins that stood out that were appealing. His fingers were long and strong looking. He had great hands.
"So your name is Mara." His deep voice came at me. My body jolted and I looked to his head, which was bent so he could watch what he was doing.
"Yeah," I replied, and my voice sounded kind of high so I cleared my throat and stated, "And you're Mitch."
"Yeah," he said to the faucet.
"Hi, Mitch," I said to his dark brown-haired head, thinking his hair looked soft and thick and was long enough to run your fingers through.
That head twisted so I was looking into dark brown eyes whose depths were so deep you could lose yourself in them for eternity.
Those eyes were also smiling.
"Hi, Mara," he said softly, and my nipples started tingling.
I scanned my memory banks to pull up what underwear I'd put on that morning. I thanked my lucky stars that my bra had light padding, all the while thinking maybe I should leave him to it.
Before I could make good an escape, his head bent back to the tap and he asked, "How long have you lived here?"
"Six years," I answered.
Shoo! Good. A simple answer that didn't make me sound like an idiot. Thank God.
"What do you do?" he went on.
"I work at Pierson's," I told him.
His neck twisted and his eyes came back to me. "Pierson's Mattress and Bed?"
I nodded. "Yeah."
He looked back at the faucet. "What do you do there? An accountant or something?"
I shook my head even though he wasn't looking at me. "No, I'm a salesperson."
His neck twisted, faster this time, and his eyes locked on mine. "You're a salesperson," he repeated.
"Yeah," I replied.
"At Pierson's Mattress and Bed," he stated.
"Um… yeah," I answered.
He stared at me and I grew confused. I didn't tell him I was a pole dancer. I also didn't tell him I spent my days in my den of evil masterminding a plot to take over the free world. He appeared slightly surprised. I was a salesperson. This wasn't a surprising job. This was a boring job. Then again I was a boring person. He was a police detective. I knew this because I'd seen his badge on his belt on numerous occasions. I also knew this because LaTanya told me. I reckoned, considering his profession, he'd long since figured out I was a boring person. In my mind police detectives could figure anyone out with a glance.
"You good at it?" he asked.
"Um…" I answered because I didn't want to brag. I was good at it. I'd been top salesperson month after month for the last four years after Barney Ruffalo quit (or resigned voluntarily rather than face the sexual harassment charges that Roberta lodged against him). Barney had been my nemesis mainly because he was a dick and always came onto me, along with every woman that worked there or walked through the door, and because he stole my customers.
Mitch looked back at my tap, muttering, "You're good at it."
"Pretty good," I allowed.
"Yeah," he said to the faucet and continued, "put money down that ninety percent of the men who walk in that place go direct to you and make a purchase."
This was a weird thing to say. It was true. Most of my customers were men. Men needed mattresses and beds just like any other human being. When they came to Pierson's, since we had excellent quality, value and choice, they'd not want to go anywhere else.
"Why do you say ninety percent?" I asked Mitch.
"'Cause the other ten percent of the male population is gay," he answered the faucet. I blinked at his head in confusion at his words. He straightened, putting the wrench down and lifting his other hand. Between an attractive index finger and thumb was a small, round, black plastic doohickey with a hole in the middle that had some shredding at the edges. "You need a new washer," he informed me.
I looked from the doohickey to him. "I don't have one of those."
He grinned straight out, and my breath got caught in my throat. "No, don't reckon you do," he told me. "Gotta go to the hardware store." Then he flicked the doohickey in my bathroom trash bin and started to exit the room.
I stared at his well-formed back, but my body jolted and I hurried after him.
"No," I called. "You don't have to do that. The water is off now and I have another bathroom." He kept walking and I kept following him and talking. "I'll pop by the management office tomorrow and let them know what's up so they can come fix it."
He had my door open. He stopped in it and turned back to me, so I stopped too.
"No, I'll go by the management office tomorrow and tell them how I feel about them lettin' a single woman who pays for their service and has lived in their complex for six years go without a callback when she needs somethin' important done. And tonight, I'll go to the hardware store, get a washer, come back and fix your faucet."
"You don't have to do that," I assured him courteously.
"You're right, but I'm doin' it," he told me firmly.
Okay then. Seeing as his firm was very firm, I decided to let that go.
"Let me get you some money." I looked around trying to remember where I put my purse. "You shouldn't be out money on this."
"Mara, you can buy about a hundred washers for four dollars."
My head turned to him. I stared at him then asked, "Really?"
He grinned at me again, my breath caught in my throat again and he answered, "Yeah, really. I think I got it covered."
"Um… thanks," I replied without anything else to say.
He tipped his chin and said, "I'll be back."
Then I was staring at my closed door.
I did this blankly for a while, wishing I'd shared with someone that I was in love with my Ten Point Five neighbor so I could call them or race across the breezeway and ask them what I should do now.
It took a while but I decided to act naturally. So Mitch had been in my house. He'd grinned at me. I'd discovered he had beautiful hands and beautiful eyelashes to match all the other beautiful things about him. He actually was a nice guy in a way that went beyond his warm smile, what with turning off my water, going to get his tools, finding my shredded doohickey, planning to have a word at the office on my behalf and then heading out to the hardware store to buy me another doohickey. So what? After he fixed my faucet, he'd be back in his apartment and I'd be alone in mine. Maybe I might say something more than "morning" to him in the mornings. And maybe he'd say my name again sometime in the future. But that would be it.
So I did what I normally did. I changed my clothes, taking off my skirt, blouse, and heels and putting on a pair of jeans and a Chicago Cubs T-shirt. I pulled the pins out of my chignon, sifted my fingers through my hair and pulled it back in a ponytail with a red ponytail holder to go with the red accents in my Cubs tee. Out of habit, I lit the scented candles in my living room and turned on music, going with my "Chill Out at Home Part Trois" playlist, which included some really good tunes. After that I started to make dinner.
I was cutting up veggies for stir-fry when there was a knock on the door and my head came up. I spied the candles, heard The Allman Brothers singing "Midnight Rider" and immediately panicked. I burned candles and listened to music all the time. I was a sensory person and I liked the sounds and smells. But now I wondered if he'd think he'd walked into a Two Point Five setting the mood for an illegal maneuver on a Ten Point Five.
No time to do anything about it now. The scent of the candles would linger even if I blew them out, and he had to hear the music through the door.
I rushed to the door, did the peephole thing and opened it, coming to stand at its edge.
"Hey," I greeted, trying to sound cool. "You're back."
His eyes dropped to my chest and I lost all semblance of cool. There wasn't much to lose but what little existed was quickly history.
Then his eyes came back to mine. "You're a Cubs fan?" he asked.
"Yes," I answered then declared, "They're the best team in the history of baseball."
He walked in and I closed the door. Through this neither of us lost eye contact. This was because he was smiling at me like I was unbelievably amusing and this was because I was staring at him because he was smiling at me like I was unbelievably amusing.
He came to a halt two feet in, and I turned from the closed door, which meant I was about a foot away from him.
"They haven't won a pennant since 1908," he informed me.
"So?" I asked.
"That fact in and of itself means they aren't the best team in the history of baseball."
This was true. It was also false.
"Okay, I amend my statement. They're the coolest, most interesting team in the history of baseball. They have the best fans because their fans don't care if they win or lose. We're die-hard and always will be."
His eyes warmed like they always did before he'd smile at me, and I felt my knees wobble.
"Can't argue with that," he muttered.
I pressed my lips together and hoped I didn't get lightheaded.
"Colorado bleeds black and purple in spring and summer, though, Mara. Careful where you wear that tee," he warned.
"I like the Rockies too," I replied.
He shook his head, turning toward my hall.
"Can't swing both ways," he said as he moved into the hall.
I watched him move. I liked watching him move. I liked it more as I watched him move down my hallway toward my bedroom. I knew I liked it so much I would fantasize the impossible fantasy that such a vision would happen so often it would become commonplace.
I wondered if I could call out to him that I really needed to run an errand. Like say, take care of an old relative who needed me to get her out of her wheelchair and into her bed. Then read her a bedtime story because she was blind. Something I couldn't get out of that would make me seem kind and loving but would really be an excuse to escape him.
Then I realized that would be rude and I followed him.
When I hit the bathroom, he said, "This shouldn't take long and you can get back to making dinner."
Should I ask him to stay for dinner? I had plenty. He was a big guy, but I still had enough. I just had to cut up another chicken breast or two. Add a few more veggies.
Could I survive a dinner with him? Would he think candles, music and dinner was a play he had to somehow extricate himself out of without seeming like a dick? Or would he know it was just my way of saying thanks?
I listened as "Midnight Rider" became America's "Ventura Highway," and I did what I had to do.
"Would you like to stay for dinner as an, um… thank-you for helping out?" I asked. "I'm making stir-fry," I went on.
"Rain check," he told the faucet, not even looking at me, and I was immensely disappointed. So much so I felt it crushing my chest at the same time I was relieved, because his answer meant all was right in Mara World.
Then he continued talking, making Mara World rock on its foundations.
"Knock on my door when you're makin' your barbeque chicken pizza."
Then I breathed, "What?"
"Derek tells me it's the shit."
I blinked again.
They talked about me?
Why would they do that?
Derek was definitely a firm Nine. LaTanya was too. Nines could be friends with Two Point Fives, but male Nines didn't talk to each other about Two Point Fives. They talked about other Sevens to Tens. If they were younger or were jerks, they made fun of Ones to Threes. But they never talked about Two Point Fives and the really great pizza Two Point Fives could make. Ever.
His head tipped back and his eyes hit mine. "Derek tells me your barbeque chicken pizza is the shit," he repeated and explained, "as in, really fuckin' good."
Derek was right. It was really good. I made my own pizza dough and marinated the chicken in barbeque sauce all day and everything. It was awesome.
Seeing as I was unable to respond, I didn't. Mitch looked back at the faucet and carried on rocking my world.
"Or when you're makin' your baked beans. Derek says those are even better. But tonight, I gotta take a rain check because I gotta get back to work."
They talked about my baked beans too? This meant they talked more than a little about me. This was more than a passing comment, "Oh you gotta try Mara's barbeque chicken pizza. It's the shit," or something like that. This meant more than a few sentences. My baked beans were so good they had to be a whole other topic.
I remained silent and tried to level my breathing. Mitch kept working. Then he kept talking to the tap.
"You got great taste in music, Mara."
Oh God. I liked my music. I liked it a lot. I played it a lot and sometimes I played it loud. Damn.
- "Ashley delivers a deeply emotional second installment of the Chaos contemporary romance series (after Own the Wind)... Punctuated by blistering-hot sex scenes and fascinating glimpses into the tough world of motorcycle clubs, this romance also delivers true heart and emotion, and a story that will stay with the reader long after the final page is turned."—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review, on Fire Inside
- "4 1/2 Stars! Top Pick! Sizzling-hot talent Ashley really knocks one out of the park with the third installment of her Dream Man series. Law Man has everything --- humor, sexy sizzle, gut-punching emotion and an element of danger - all wrapped up in an exhilarating package. The addition of heart-tugging kids to the mix elevates this story to a new level. This book really hits all the right notes; Ashey is on the fast track to becoming a superstar!"—RT Book Reviews on Law Man
- "A thread of mystery helps this fast-paced novel effectively deliver both romance and suspense."—Publishers Weekly on Law Man
- "[Kristen] Ashley captivates."—Publishers Weekly
"With Brock's raw side contrasted with Tess's innocence, Wild Man delivers a passionate, opposites-attract romance."
—Patricia Smith, Booklist
"I felt all of the rushes, the adrenaline surges, the anger spikes... my heart pumping in fury. My eyes tearing up when my heart (I mean... her heart) would break." (On Motorcycle Man)
—Maryse's book blog, maryse.net, 2012
"There is something about them [Ashley's books] that I find crackalicious."
—Kati Brown, DearAuthor.com
- On Sale
- Dec 17, 2013
- Page Count
- 544 pages