The last thing Vaughan Hewson expects to find when he returns to his childhood home is a broken hearted bride in his shower, let alone the drama and chaos that comes with her.
Lydia Green doesn't know whether to burn down the church or sit and cry in a corner. Discovering the love of your life is having an affair on your wedding day is bad enough. Finding out it's with his best man is another thing all together. She narrowly escapes tying the knot and meets Vaughan only hours later.
Vaughan is the exact opposite of the picture perfect, respected businessman she thought she'd marry. This former musician-turned-bartender is rough around the edges and unsettled. But she already tried Mr. Right and discovered he's all wrong-maybe it's time to give Mr. Right Now a chance.
After all, what's wrong with getting dirty?
Heavy footsteps roused me from my stupor. I don’t know how long exactly I’d been sitting in the bathtub, staring off at nothing, pondering the catastrophe my life had become. Couldn’t have been too long since sunlight still lit the room.
The footsteps came closer and closer. And then they entered the room. Oh, shit. I froze, not even daring to breathe. There was a loud yawn, followed by the cracking of joints. Then a large hand reached in beside the closed shower curtain and turned on the tap. A torrent of ice cold water poured down. It was like a billion itty-bitty knives stabbing at my skin. All of the scratches and raw patches from earlier stung like shit. I gritted my teeth, shoulders hiked up to around my ears as if that would provide any protection.
Yep, I sat there, all huddled up, listening to the man take a leak.
Awesome. Just plain awesome.
Wasn’t like I could jump out and interrupt the man midflow. And say what? I knew this was not a good situation to get caught in.
1. I’d basically broken into this guy’s house.
2. And had then gone on making myself right at home, having a messy emotional breakdown in his bathtub.
Normal, rational people didn’t do this sort of thing. I didn’t even have a criminal record, had never particularly done anything outlandish or interesting until now. This was all Chris’s fault, the bastard. I’d just have to make the best of it and hope this guy had a sense of humor.
Just as the water began to warm, he flushed the john and freezing cold water drenched me anew. I’d been about to open my mouth and announce my presence, but that put an end to that. Needles of icy cold water pelted down on my skin. I fucking froze. Teeth gritted, I suppressed a squeal of pain and rage.
Then the shower curtain flew back.
“Shit!” The man was very tall, very naked, and very surprised. He stumbled back a step, a hand clutching at the bench behind him, eyes furious and wide. “What the hell?”
I opened my mouth, closed it. Language skills had apparently abandoned me. In total silence, the man and I stared at each other.
Even with no clothing to take cues from, the dude was clearly the epitome of cool. He looked about my age, or maybe a little older. He had longish red-blond hair, dark blue eyes set in an angular face, a lean but muscular torso covered in tattoos, and a rather large cock. Not that I meant to check him out, it’s just kind of hard to ignore a penis and scrotum when they’re dangling right in front of your face. I tilted my head, trying to get some perspective. Every viewpoint, however, was equally shocking. There was dick as far as the eye could see.
And I should stop ogling him. Right.
“Hi.” With a calm I didn’t even vaguely feel, I reached up and turned off the tap. Much better. His monster penis had momentarily derailed me, but I was back on track now. Time to talk myself out of this mess. “Hey.”
“What the fuck are you doing in my house?” he asked flatly.
“Right. Well . . .” I neatly tucked my dripping-wet shoulder-length blond hair back behind my ears. As if that would help. My winged eyeliner and false lashes were probably halfway down my cheeks. “I, um, I . . .”
“I’m Lydia,” I said, the first thing to come to mind.
No reply. His handsome face, however, took on a distinctly pissy expression. Even his strawberry-blond hair seemed a fiery hue. Fine, so we weren’t swapping names and getting cozy. Fair enough. You wouldn’t believe how hard it was, keeping my eyes on his face. The struggle was real. It might have been due to my not seeing one in so long, but his dick seemed almost hypnotic. The thing had magical powers, I swear. It was so big and mobile, subtly swaying every time he moved. My gaze kept darting down despite my best efforts.
Finally he put me out of my misery, grabbing a towel off a nearby rack and wrapping it around his waist. It made for quite the hot-looking miniskirt. Not just any man could have pulled off such a look.
But back to my explanations.
“Ah, firstly, I’d just like to say sorry about this.” I waved a hand at him and his bathroom and, well everything, really. “For any inconvenience I might have caused here in your bathroom.”
The guy stood tall, looming over me with his hands on hips. Tattoos covered his arms to his wrists. Still, he had a whole lot of sinew on show. Definitely not the kind of man you’d want to mess with. Dude could probably snap me in half in a second. I bet he was a tattoo model, or a biker, or a pirate, or something. Something a lot hot and more than a little scary.
Shit. I really should have chosen another house.
“I don’t normally break into people’s places and hide out in their tub,” I babbled, on the verge of incoherency. “So I’m really sorry. Seriously. So very sorry. But you’ve got a lovely home.”
“Not that, I mean, that’s not why I’m here. I just . . .” Fucking hell, my mind was a disaster. I took a deep breath, letting it out nice and slow, before trying again. “I love the old Arts and Crafts bungalows, don’t you? They have such soul.”
His brows drew tight. “Are you high? What the fuck are you on?”
“You haven’t been popping any pills or snorting something?”
“No, I swear.”
“Nothing to drink?”
“I haven’t had anything,” I said, but the suspicion and anger still lined his face. Paired with the stubble on his chin and the shadows beneath his eyes, my unwilling host was one tired, cranky man. Couldn’t really blame him.
“So you’re completely sober,” he said.
“You’re thinking I’m bat-shit crazy now, aren’t you?” I asked, despite the answer sitting plain as day on his pretty face.
“Pretty much, yeah.”
Oh, god. “I’m not. I’m sane.”
“You sure about that?” He looked down the long line of his nose at me, distinctly unimpressed. “Seen a lot of weird shit in my years. Stuff like you wouldn’t believe. But I got to tell you, right now, this . . . you, are taking the cake.”
“Great.” And I was so definitely probably going to jail. Someone ought to give me a cookie. My ability to take a bad situation and make it worse today was amazing.
“You touch any of my stuff?” he asked. “Take anything?”
“Yes, your sofa is cunningly hidden down the front of my dress. You won’t believe where I fit the TV.”
Again, his eyes narrowed dangerously. “Between you and me, probably not the time to be funny, babe.”
Crap. “Sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. You have every right to be mad.”
“Damn right, I do.”
I nodded, contrite. “I haven’t touched any of your things.”
The dude just stood there, staring. Lots going on behind his eyes. None of which I could read.
A stray tear trickled down my face. It must have saved itself up just for the occasion. Gah. How pathetic. I sniffled, brushing it off hurriedly with the back of my hand.
“Fuck’s sake,” he muttered.
“I really am sorry about this. The truth is, I just needed somewhere to hide for a little while. I didn’t mean to freak you out.”
He sighed. It wasn’t a happy sound. “Lydia?”
“Yes?” Despite my best efforts, my voice trembled slightly.
“Look at me.”
I did so. He still looked cranky and crazy cool while I remained a hot mess.
“I’m Vaughan,” he said.
He tipped his chin and silence fell between us once more.
With the tip of his tongue rubbing at his upper lip, he looked at the wide open window, and then back at me. Yep, that’s how I’d gotten in. Houdini had nothing on my mad skills.
“What are you doing in my house, Lydia? The truth.”
“It’s kind of a long story, actually.” Along with being excruciatingly embarrassing. But then, what wasn’t about this day?
Vaughan crossed his arms over his wide chest and waited me out while I fussed with my ruined skirts and tried to come up with a way to spin the story to not make me look a complete fool. Christ, the holes in my stockings were huge. On one side, my entire foot stuck out. So screwed.
Vaughan crouched by the side of the tub, resting his arms on the side. Up close the shadows under his eyes seemed even bigger and darker against his pale skin. And there were bags big enough to use as carry-ons. Despite the strong lines of his lean face, the man looked done-in. Ready to sleep for a hundred years.
I knew that feeling.
“Looks like a wedding dress,” he said quietly.
“Yes, it is. I was going to get married today.” I took a deep breath, wiping my face with my hands. Just as expected, my palms came away smeared with black eye makeup. “Ah, boy. I must look a wreck.”
Without comment, Vaughan reached out and grabbed a towel, handing it to me. It was sort of threadbare, old. Dated like the rest of the house. I hadn’t seen more than one room, but real estate agents got a feel for these sort of things. Minimal upkeep for the past five or so years would have been my guess. Perhaps it’d even been left empty. Bushes out front hid the house from view, so I’d never gotten a good look at it before.
“Thank you.” I patted myself dry with the towel as best I could. What remained of my beautiful dress was a sopping wet ruin. “I’m sorry I broke into your house, Vaughan. I swear I don’t normally do this sort of thing.”
“No,” he said, his voice deep. “Figured as much. Where’d you come from?”
“The big house at the back.”
His brow wrinkled. “You climbed over the fence?”
Tired, red-tinged eyes appraised me anew. “That’s a tall fence. Must have been one hell of an emergency.”
“It was a disaster.”
For a long moment he studied me, deep in thought. Then he sighed yet again, climbing to his feet.
“Are you going to call the cops on me?” I asked, my throat tight with tension. “I know you have every right to, I’m not disputing that. I’d just, I’d like to know. Mental preparation and all that.”
“No. I’m not.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that.” My whole body sagged in relief.
Then he clapped his hands together, startling the crap out of me. “Okay, Lydia. Here’s what we’re going to do.”
“I arrived late this morning, have only had a few hours sleep. If I don’t get some coffee soon, things are going to get ugly. And you probably need to get dried off.” With no fuss, he held out his hand. “Let’s get shit sorted out. Then we can sit down and you can tell me the long story of how the hell you ended up in my house. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” I said, voice lightening.
He pulled me up. Then, with strong hands on my waist, lifted me out of the tub. Immediately water started dripping off of my saturated dress, pooling on the scuffed wooden flooring at my feet. Chris would have been distinctly unimpressed. Chris didn’t like messes. But as Vaughan didn’t seem to care, neither did I.
“You’re really not going to call the police?” I asked.
“No. Hold still,” he said, carefully plucking a fake eyelash from my cheek.
“Your dress is kind of fucked.” He looked me over from top to toe.
“I know,” I said sadly.
“I’ll leave you to get changed.”
“Wait. Please. I can’t get out of it on my own.”
“It’s vintage,” I explained with a grim face. “There’s no zip, just a line of little buttons up the back.”
“’Course there is.” Without another word, he turned me around and got started in on said buttons. As he worked, he hummed beneath his breath, the song vaguely familiar.
“Aren’t you still mad?” I asked, perplexed.
“But I broke into your house.”
“Window was open.”
“I still trespassed.”
Busy fingers kept working on undoing the dress. “You sat in the tub and cried because some dickhead fucked you over.”
That shut me up.
“Or that’s what I’m assuming, given the dress and all. I take it he’s the one that gave you that shiner on your cheek?”
“No. No one hit me. And yes, you assumed right about the being fucked over.” I tried to look back at him, but I couldn’t see a thing beyond my wild-ass hair. Impressive how it’d survived the shower. The stylist clearly knew her shit.
“You sure no one hit you?” He did not sound convinced.
“Yes. I lost my grip and hit the floor when I was climbing in the window. My home invasion skills need work.”
“I’d suggest you try a different career.” He finished with the buttons and took a step back, scratching his head. “You okay with the dress now?”
“Yes, thank you,” I told his reflection in the mirror. “For everything, I mean.”
“Sure.” He almost smiled and gave a small shake of the head as if he couldn’t quite believe what was going on. Or maybe it was disbelief that he wasn’t kicking me straight back out the window through whence I’d come.
Lord knows, it’d shocked the shit out of me.
He turned toward the door. “See you out there.”
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Kylie is a long time fan of erotic love stories and B-grade horror films. She demands a happy ending and if blood and carnage occur along the way then all the better. Based in Queensland, Australia with her two children and one delightful husband, she reads, writes and never dithers around on the internet. Kylie is represented by Amy Tannenbaum at the Jane Rotrosen Agency, New York.