A contemporary beauty and the beast themed romantic suspense.
After an explosion leaves detective Grant Caldwell scarred he quits his job and tries to hide from his well-meaning family while he heals. When Belle Manikas, a beautiful new neighbor, moves in next door with problems of her own he finds himself drawn to her even while he tells himself she’s nothing but trouble. Even though he knows he’d never have a chance with a woman like her—not with his disfigurement—he can’t stay away.
Thanks to severe health problems as a child Belle grew up sheltered and smothered by her loving, if overbearing, family. Now that she’s finally out on her own she plans to wring everything she can out of life. When she sets her sights on her brooding neighbor nothing can stop her from getting him into bed—until a madman fixates on her.
With Grant now working for Red Stone Security, he sees it as his duty to protect her at all costs. Unfortunately a violent criminal is stalking Belle and will stop at nothing until he’s destroyed her.
Grant opened his eyes at the sound of his cell phone buzzing across the nightstand. The insistent hum was going to drive him insane. Grabbing it, he looked at the caller ID then shoved the phone under his pillow.
It was Porter. Again.
He loved his oldest brother—okay, his whole family, but he wished they’d leave him the hell alone. If he decided to take the job at Red Stone Security and work with both his brothers and father he’d do it when he was damn well good and ready.
And not a minute sooner.
He rolled onto his side, ignoring the stiffness in his shoulders. Right now he was just trying to keep it together. After leaving the Miami Police Department he felt lost for the first time in his life. Not something he was used to. Right out of high school he’d joined the Marines just like his big brother had done. Four years later after an honorable discharge he’d joined the Miami PD. His first two years as a rookie he’d gone to night school while working as a patrolman. When he’d made SWAT he’d spent the next two years finishing up with his Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. And for the last two he’d been working as a detective and he loved it.
Well, had loved it.
Now he was on temporary disability and trying to figure out what he was doing with his life. Half a year ago things had been so clear. He’d had his entire life mapped out. Now, not so much.
Forcing himself to get out of bed and to stop the fucking pity party he was about to have, he took a quick shower and didn’t bother looking in the mirror before or after. Seeing his scars only reminded him of what a deformed monster he was. No thanks. He thought about it enough and didn’t need the visual aids.
Making his way to the kitchen he avoided glancing at picture frames dotting his hallway walls or anywhere else. They were all filled with pictures of his happy smiling family. His brother Porter and fiancé Lizzy. Or his brother Harrison and gorgeous wife Mara. Or his brothers, father and Grant, before the accident.
When he’d been a normal guy. Not Hollywood handsome, but good looking enough to get laid on a regular basis. Now…fuck, he hated the bitterness welling up inside him.
He was alive and had a great family. He’d get over it. Just not today. As he started making a pot of coffee he glanced out his kitchen window and into his neighbor’s window and froze.
He had the perfect view of his new neighbor. She was beautiful. Scratch that. The word didn’t even come close to describing her. There’d been moving guys in and out of the two-story house all day yesterday but he’d had no clue who was actually moving in. Holy shit, if that was her he’d probably scare the hell out of her the first time she saw him. Gorgeous women like her did not associate with someone like him. It would only make her self-conscious or worse—pity him.
But she wasn’t even aware of his presence so he could drink in his fill right now. Even if he did feel a little like a peeping Tom.
She didn’t seem very tall, though it was hard to measure. Her dark wavy hair cascaded down over her shoulders, reaching just below her breasts. Very full breasts. Definitely enough to fill his palms. And the tight tank top she was wearing left very little to the imagination. It was obvious she’d just woken up as she rubbed a hand over her face and reached for the coffee pot.
Look away, he ordered himself.
But he was rooted to the spot. There was a lot of natural light shining into her kitchen from the windows at the back of her house. He couldn’t see the other windows from his angle, but he’d been inside the house before his former elderly neighbors moved out, and it was bathing her like she was some sort of goddess.
Yawning, she stretched her arms over her head and showed off a nice expanse of toned, tanned belly and—yep, he was walking away now.
Before he really did turn into some sort of pervert. Time to work out and do his leg exercises and not think about the beauty next door. He’d never walk completely normally again but damned if he wouldn’t get close. After completely blowing his knee out when he’d tackled that kid, he’d since had two surgeries. Now there was nothing more doctors could do. He had pins in his knee and he just had to work on getting used to using all his muscles again. Spending time gawking at his neighbor wasn’t going to do him any good.
A couple hours later he’d worked out his upper body and had spent some serious time on the treadmill. Sure he wasn’t jogging, but he wasn’t slowly walking anymore either. Knowing when he’d pushed himself to the limit he changed into his bathing suit and found relief as he descended the steps to his swimming pool.
Immediately the pressure on his leg eased, giving him that weightless relief. Floating on his back, he savored the way his muscles pulled and stretched as he slowly did the backstroke. It wasn’t quite noon yet, but the sun was high and bright in a cloudless sky. Since it was April there was a cool breeze but spring in Florida was more like early summer than anything. As he glided through the water he paused at the sound of shouting.
Lifting his head out of the pool, his feet touched the cement in the shallow end. A raised male voice came from the direction of next door. Then the sound of a distressed female voice—with a healthy dose of panic.
Not caring enough to stop and cover up he got out of the water. The voices grew even louder. Cursing his limp, he yanked open the door to his privacy fence, then tried his neighbor’s. It easily swung open.