Say You Want Me (Cesar Cruz #1)

By: Tara West


Sharra and Alex, thanks so much for your professional advice, and thank you for your service to our communities.

Alan, Ginelle, Kelly, Shéa, Sheri, and Tracy, you are such awesome beta readers. Thanks for helping make this manuscript better.

Theo, as always, you are the God of Grammar. Thanks for making my turd shine.

Chapter One

I really wanted to hate my neighbor. He was always knocking on my door unannounced, usually late in the evening after I’d already taken off my makeup and put on my flannel pajamas. Last week he caught me in the middle of my cycle. I had just plastered cream all over a huge zit right between my eyes. I’d also eaten Thai food and hadn’t brushed my teeth yet.

Anyway, different day but same old story, my neighbor was at my door after I’d changed into comfy sweats and cracked open a container of leftover Asian takeout. Did I mention he was hot? Yeah, totally hot. Ripped muscles, thick, dark hair, smooth tanned skin, large copper eyes framed by thick lashes, and a wicked smile. The kind of smile that said, “I’m going to carry you to my bed and do all kinds of nasty things to you.”

I imagined him mentally undressing me while a Latin guitar played in the background and a trail of rose petals led from my door to his. Most importantly, I imagined I still had on my makeup, and I was wearing something un-flannel.

Truthfully, though, I had no idea what it was like to be wooed into bed, since I’d never actually slept with a man. Well, unless you counted me alone in my bedroom with Bob. Bob took four batteries and had ten settings. He was a little noisy, but I preferred Bob to a real guy because he knew exactly how to please me, and I didn’t have to deal with his ego or bad moods. Yeah, Bob and I have a pretty good relationship, and I wasn’t about to mess it up with some other guy, no matter how wet that other guy made me.

But anyway, my neighbor, Cesar Cruz, that same guy who was the reason for many sleepless nights, dead batteries, and soaking panties, was still at my door, holding Macy, my traitorous little terrier, under his arm as if she was a white furry football. I swore Cesar and my dog had teamed up in some sort of conspiracy to get me laid.

“Found something of yours.” He winked.

“Thanks,” I said, though I really didn’t want to thank him. Sometimes I wondered if Cesar had dug that hole beneath the fence and planted a plate of beef liver in his yard so he could have an excuse to flirt with me.

I took Macy from him, gently scolding her for, once again, going to play with Nacho, Cesar’s mutt. Nacho barked at everything. If a car drove by, he barked. If a leaf fell in his yard, he barked. If he farted, he barked. Needless to say, I spent most of my time indoors so I wouldn’t have to put up with Cesar’s dog.

“Hey, my brothers and I are going to the lake tomorrow. Want to go?”

I backed up, holding Macy against my chest as if she was a barrier, making me immune to Cesar’s flirtations. “I’m sorry,” I lied. “I have plans.”

He crossed his arms, those biceps of his flexing beneath a too tight T-shirt as he gave me the once-over. It really was appalling how muscular men showed off their bodies. He could have just worn a flashy neon sign, saying “I go to the gym a lot,” and it would have had the same effect. Well, maybe not the exact same effect, but at least he would have saved me from needing to change my panties.

He was still giving me that smug look, as if he was my boss’s son or, even worse, my judgmental, chauvinistic father. Finally, he cracked a wide smile. “You don’t have plans.”

My spine stiffened. “Excuse me?” How dare he call me a liar! I did my best to keep my composure, though, as Macy squirmed in my arms. She’s a pro at sensing my moods. I didn’t need a smelly-breath tongue bath.

I wonder what Cesar can do with his tongue.

Wait. What? Bad, bad Savannah. Get that boy out of your head!

Cesar’s bicep bulged as he leaned against the doorframe. “You don’t have plans.” He waved at my sparse but otherwise clean living room. “You don’t do anything but sit in your condo all day when you’re not at work.”

I arched back, instantly regretting the movement as Macy started licking my chin. “That’s not true.” I pushed Macy’s snout away, getting a palm full of dog slobber in the process.