By: Lola Taylor

Ugh, couldn’t she count the five flights of stairs she’d climbed over and over as a workout? The independence rah-rah train was grand until times like this, when you realized how fabulous movers would have been. If she could have afforded them, that is. Thanks to utilities deposits, plus the deposit and first month’s rent she owed on this place, her bank account was pretty parched for cash.

Tired but not wanting to waste any time, she spritzed the wallpaper and peeled it off before she sanded the walls down and thoroughly cleaned them. She didn’t even want to think about all the black crap that came off on the towels.

Yeah, this place definitely hadn’t been cleaned. It broke her heart in a way, dumb as it sounded. Nobody had cared enough about this apartment to spruce it up. It was abandoned, just like she’d been after the incident that had nearly destroyed her. People tended to avoid negative things, and she’d been positively toxic. When she’d eventually tired of gargling her own negative thoughts and self-destructive behavior, she’d caved and seen a therapist on her mother’s tab.

It had helped in more ways than one, mainly because she had someone to talk to. It was so much easier to spill your guts to a stranger than to your best friend, because you didn’t give a damn what they thought. Besides, this stranger was paid to be nonjudgmental. Win-win.

Amy had already picked out the paint for the walls the afternoon she’d signed the lease, and got busy outlining the walls in green tape and throwing down massive drapes so the paint wouldn’t get on the floor. She turned on the little stereo she’d brought to a local rock station. Rolling up her sleeves, she slapped on some fresh rubber gloves, grabbed the roller brush, and went to town.

For a few blissful minutes, she allowed herself to forget how she’d ended up here. It was just her, her paint high, and the sound of her voice belting out the lyrics to one 80s rock tune after another.

She’d almost forgotten where she was, when the radio abruptly snapped off. The silence slapped her back to her senses, seeming louder by its abrupt termination.

Yelping, Amy whirled; paint slung all over the floor. She swore and brandished the brush handle in front of her like some kind of cheap silver staff. Blowing her bangs out of her eyes, she lifted her head—and stared.

The man behind her kitchen counter was hot, at least from the torso up, because that’s all she could see. The black T-shirt clung to his chest, revealing carefully refined muscles she’d love to run her hands over just to see if they were really as hard as they looked. Veins threaded along each arm, both of which were also impressively chiseled. The guy obviously took working out seriously, unlike she did.

She was a “work out only when I feel motivated” kind of girl, despite her best attempts at staying fit. This or that got in the way, mostly herself, and she’d just never stuck with it.

If this gorgeous piece of man candy was at the gym, however, she might have to reconsider her routine. She could definitely find an excuse to get out of bed to look at that.

The power cord for her radio dangled from his hand.

Her eyes rose to his neck, and she slowly drank him in. If a man was delectable, she’d be eating him right up. Warmth rushed between her thighs, along with a dampness that soaked her panties. Sexual fantasies played out in her head, mainly where he said, “I’ve been waiting my entire life for a woman like you,” swept her up in his arms, and made love to her on the countertop.

Holy shit, her hormones were out of control. It was a miracle she wasn’t panting.

Then her eyes traveled up to his face.

He was gorgeous in every sense of the word. From the straight set of his nose to the slight dimple in his chin, he was H-O-T. Stubble shadowed his jawline, somehow making his full, sensual lips seem more pronounced.

Or maybe it was the flames that leapt in his eyes as he pinned her with an incinerating glare.

It would have been hot if she hadn’t been so terrified. She gulped. Uh-oh.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, as if counting down. When he opened his eyes, a startling blue she could see from ten feet away, he looked no less pissed off.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he bellowed.

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