Alison Davies used to just be a trophy wife. Now she’s just flat broke. Thanks to an ironclad prenup, she’s worse off than she was before the day she rushed down the aisle with a wealthy jerk eight years ago. After her steep fall from riches to rags, Alison refuses to shackle herself to any man who treats her like a possession—no matter how good he looks in a pair of well-worn jeans, or how his muscles ripple while he’s carrying her couch.
Underneath his rugged exterior, Rob West is a gentleman. So when he sees his beautiful new neighbor moving in, he’s going to help her out no matter how loudly she protests. In fact, Alison’s determination to go it alone just strengthens his resolve—and his desire to find out what makes her tick. But after one spur-of-the-moment tumble in the sheets, it’s clear that their connection goes way deeper. And that Rob won’t be happy until Alison surrenders to the passion they share.
She was leaning over into the trunk to gather up as many bags as she could carry when a voice behind her surprised her. “You need some help?”
She straightened up with a jerk, turning to see a man beside her wearing faded jeans and a white T-shirt. He looked to be in his thirties. He needed to shave and his brown hair was too long, and he had the rough look of a man who worked with his hands. He’d startled her so much she just stared at him. “What?”
“Do you need some help?” he asked again, gesturing toward her trunk. “Carrying all that in?”
She frowned. Who the hell was this guy? And did she really look so helpless that she couldn’t unload her own trunk by herself. “Oh. No. I’ll be okay. Thank you.” Several bags were already hooked over her arms, so she gave him an absent smile and turned to walk up the steps to the front door.
She had some trouble getting her key into the door with the bags on her hand, but she’d almost gotten the door unlocked when she suddenly felt someone behind her, swinging open the storm door that had been propped against her back.
She gave a little squeal of surprise as she turned to see the man she’d thought she’d dismissed. He had twice as many bags hooked over his arms as she was able to carry.
“I’m Rob West,” he said with a slight mountain drawl in his deep voice. “I’m your neighbor across the street.”
She felt flustered now and annoyed that a strange man was walking into her house as if she’d invited him. “Okay, but I said I could get the bags by myself.”
“I was already over here. Why shouldn’t I help?”
Because she’d said she didn’t need his help. Any basically civil person would have respected her wishes. She really hoped everyone wasn’t as rude and pushy as this man was.
“Where’s all your furniture?” Rob asked, looking around the empty house after he’d dumped his load of bags on her kitchen counter.
“It’s in the basement. I just got here today.”
He focused his gaze on her, looking her up and down. His eyes were actually quite nice—a really deep, melting brown. “Are you Chris and Sharon’s girl?”
She was startled by the question, but then realized that, if he lived across the street, he’d probably known her parents. “Yes.”
“I thought you lived in the city.” He glanced down at her left hand, and she realized he was looking for a wedding ring.
She’d taken off her rings six months ago. “I’m moving here now.”
He nodded slowly, as if trying to piece together her situation, something he had no business knowing. “Well, welcome to town. I’ll get the rest of your stuff.”
“I don’t need any—” she began.
He just ignored her, striding back outside as if she hadn’t spoken. Arthur had done that all the time—completely disregard what she was trying to say. She hated it.
Rob might be a small-town, blue-collared guy, but he obviously wasn’t all that different from Arthur at heart.
He came back into the house a minute later with another huge load of bags. She couldn’t help but notice he had really good shoulders, and his biceps were very impressive, clearly visible beneath his shirt sleeves as he held the bags. He set them on the opposite counter and then turned to look at her. “That’s it from the car. Do you want me to haul some stuff up from the basement for you? You at least need a chair or two and a bed.”
“I’m fine,” she said, managing to smile although she really wanted to scowl at him. “Thank you.”
He frowned. “You can’t get it all up yourself. Do you have some guys who are coming to help?”
Now she frowned too. “I said I was fine. Thank you.”
“What are you all snippy about?” he asked, looking at her curiously.
She gave a gasp of indignation at his clueless rudeness. “I’m snippy,” she bit out, “because I’ve said several times that I’m fine, and yet you refuse to listen to me.”
His expression relaxed into almost a smile, as if he’d finally figured out her mood. “Oh, I get it. I’m not some creepy asshole, so no need to worry about that. I live across the street. I knew your folks. I just figured you could use some help, especially since you’re all dressed up and everything.”
She looked down at herself in surprise. “I’m not dressed up!” She wore a sleeveless pale blue top, black capris, and sandals. The sandals had heels on them, but almost all of her shoes had heels. In terms of her wardrobe, the clothes were very casual.
He chuckled—a surprisingly pleasant sound. “Okay. If you say so.”
Allison heard a familiar sound just then—that damned toilet was running again, after she’d spent five minutes jiggling the handle before she left.
Rob must have heard the sound and seen her expression. “Sounds like it just needs a new flapper. I can look at it for you.” He actually turned around and took a step toward the bathroom.
“That’s okay,” Allison said quickly, relieved when he stopped at her words. “I’m sure I can take care of it.”
He turned to face her again, not looking like he believed her, but fortunately he didn’t argue. “There’s a hardware store in town—just a block down from Dora’s. You can get a new flapper, and they can talk you through replacing the old one.”
There was he was, assuming she’d need help again, based on nothing but her appearance. He could have no idea whether she was capable of fixing a toilet, and he shouldn’t make assumptions.
She didn’t like this guy at all. She really wanted him to leave.
She took a deep breath, making sure her voice was polite as she said, “I appreciate your help, and it was nice to meet you.”
“You really don’t mean that, do you?” he drawled, an irresistible half-smile on his face.
She narrowed her eyes. “I’d like to unpack my bags now.”
“Got it,” he said, still smiling as if privately amused. “I’ll see you around.”
Finally, he turned to leave. Allison was very glad to see him go, and it wasn’t because her eyes drifted down to his very nice ass as he walked away.
Noelle handwrote her first romance novel in a spiral-bound notebook when she was twelve, and she hasn’t stopped writing since. She has lived in eight different states and currently resides in Virginia, where she reads any book she can get her hands on and offers tribute to a very spoiled cocker spaniel. She loves travel, art, history, and ice cream. After spending far too many years of her life in graduate school, she has decided to reorient her priorities and focus on writing contemporary romances. If you’d like to contact Noelle, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.