“It smells delicious, Mrs.…” A deep male voice, perhaps the sexiest she’d ever heard, reached Taylor from the hallway.
“Walker, but please call me Priscilla. We’re neighbors. There’s no need to be so formal.”
Mom and their new neighbor entered the kitchen, and Taylor did a quick assessment of the man. He appeared to be around her age, although the sexy, barely there beard could be making him appear older than he was. He had brown hair, the ends of which were almost brushing against the collar of his T-shirt. Even with the wire-rimmed glasses she could tell his eyes were an incredible shade of blue. His dark blue T-shirt stretched across broad shoulders, and the short sleeves revealed muscular arms. Even without X-ray vision she suspected the T-shirt covered a great body. Taylor didn’t let her visual inspection go any further.
“Curt, this is my daughter, Taylor.” Mom handed her the bottle of wine she held. “Can you open this while I go tell Reese dinner’s ready?” She didn’t wait for an answer before she glanced back toward their guest. “Please have a seat. I’ll be right back.”
Not very smooth, Mom. Despite their conversation weeks ago, it looked like Mom was ready to play matchmaker again. “You got it,” she answered, even though it wasn’t necessary. “Would you like some lemonade or water?” No matter how she felt about having a dinner guest, there was no need to be rude to him.
“Water sounds good, thanks.”
The sound of his voice could only be described in one way: sensual. It was the type of voice associated with a sexy late-night radio DJ. Listening to him talk over dinner wouldn’t be a hardship at all. Neither would looking at him. Wow, the man was handsome.
Reese dominated the conversation as everyone else started dinner, by filling the adults in on the excitement that occurred at recess. First, a boy in her grade decided it would be more fun to jump from the top of the slide rather than go down it. He’d been taken off the playground in a wheelchair, his arm at a funny angle. Not long afterward, a snake was found sunning himself underneath a basketball hoop. Many of the girls and a few boys ran screaming from it. Of course Reese, being Reese, had gone in for a closer look and only left when the recess monitor ordered everyone away from it.
With the day’s excitement shared, Reese worked on filling her stomach, leaving the adults a chance to talk for the first time since sitting down.
“Where did you live before coming here?” Mom asked.
Taylor knew Mom already knew the answer, but suspected she didn’t want their guest to know she’d talked to Kimberly Cranston about him. Although, from what Mom told her, Kimberly hadn’t shared much information about the man now seated at their table.
“I’ve lived in Boston for the past five years.”
She’d suspected he wasn’t originally from the Boston area. Normally people who’d spent their entire lives in the city had a distinct Bostonian accent. Working in the city, she heard it all the time. Curt’s voice held no hint of it. Actually, she couldn’t detect any accent at all when he spoke.
“Taylor used to live in Boston. Well, Watertown actually. Do you work in Boston?” Priscilla asked.
“I did, but I recently left the investment firm I worked for.”
“Auntie Taylor works in Boston,” Reese said, deciding she needed to join the conversation again. “She’s a DEA agent. She took me to her office once to meet her friends.”
Curt glanced her way, his surprise evident, then he looked back at Reese. “Your aunt does important work.” He turned his incredible blue eyes on her again. Even with the glasses he was an extremely handsome man, but she suspected he’d be gorgeous without them. “Have you worked for the agency long?”
“Almost eight years.” Wow, had it really been that long already? She quickly double-checked her math. She’d started her training down in Quantico a week before her twenty-sixth birthday, and in two weeks she’d be thirty-four. Yep, almost eight years.
“What brought you to Pelham? A new job?” Taylor asked. Conducting a background check was out, but she’d like to know as much as possible about the man now living next to them.
“I needed a change. Someplace quiet. I’m writing a book, and sometimes the city is too much of a distraction.”
“Mimi works at the library. Do you have a book there?” Reese asked.
Curt frowned and cleared his throat. Obviously, he didn’t like Reese’s question, and Taylor wondered why.
“It’s possible. But you’d find it boring.”
“An author living right next door. What’s the title? Maybe I’ve read it,” Mom said.
Unlike her, Mom was an avid reader. She devoured both fiction and nonfiction books. She’d tried to pass her love of reading on to both Taylor and her older sister, but neither had taken to it. Reading meant she had to sit down in one place. Instead, she’d been much more interested in math. In fact, both her parents encouraged her to study mathematics in college rather than criminal justice and psychology. Neither of her parents had wanted her to follow her in her father’s footsteps. But she’d decided in middle school she wanted to be a police officer like Dad. Only later, when Eliza got arrested the first time for drugs, had she decided to apply to the DEA.
Again, Curt appeared uncomfortable before he answered, “Fatal Deception.”
She’d never heard of it, but judging by her mom’s expression, she had. Her face reminded Taylor of a teen meeting their favorite pop star.
“You’re C.S. Hilton? We couldn’t keep copies of the book in the library. It was wonderful, by the way. Marion isn’t going to believe me when I tell her C.S. Hilton is living in town. Maybe you can come and do a reading at the library one night.”
“Actually, Priscilla, I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t share the information with anyone. When people learned where I lived in Boston, I started getting strange things in the mail. Random people would stop by and wait for me to leave my building. I’d really like to avoid that if possible.”
Mom nodded immediately. “We don’t want that around here. Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone. Right, Reese?”
Reese could keep a secret; you just needed to tell her upfront that whatever she’d heard couldn’t be shared, otherwise she’d tell anyone anything.
Reese paused between bites and nodded. “I wish you wrote kids’ books instead.”
While Mom had failed to instill a love of reading in her daughters, she’d succeeded with her granddaughter. Reese had learned to read before starting kindergarten and now devoured books written for children older than her. Thank goodness for a well-stocked town library, otherwise they’d be at the bookstore every other day buying more books.
“Have you started getting estimates for the work on the house?” Taylor asked. The man was obviously uncomfortable talking about his book. The house seemed like a safer, less intrusive topic. “If you haven’t already, you should give Baker and Sons Construction a call. They’re located here in town.”
She’d gone to school with Ryan Baker, the older of the two sons. Although Mr. Baker was still involved, Ryan had taken over the business after his dad suffered a heart attack. Unlike his younger brother, who’d moved to California, Ryan was one of the hardest-working people she knew, and thorough. He expected the same from the people who worked for him. When you hired Baker and Sons for a job, it got done right.
“Thanks for the recommendation. I’m hoping to do most of the work myself. It’s kind of a hobby of mine. But if I run into any problems, I’ll give them a call.”
“You’ll want to check out 38 Lumber and Hardware. It’s over near the grocery store. Dad refused to go anywhere else. And he was always working on something around here.”
Across the table, Mom gave a little laugh. “My late husband was always taking something apart and putting it back together. Often, Taylor would be working right alongside him. Taylor and her dad built the bookcase in the living room together when she was seven. And she helped him remodel the upstairs bathroom when she was in middle school.”
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