- Author: Nikki Sloane
Book online «The Architect (Nashville Neighborhood Book 3) Nikki Sloane (sight word books TXT) 📖». Author Nikki Sloane
A loud, insistent banging came from my front door, caused by an angry fist, and I froze.
First of all, it was dark and pouring rain outside. There wasn’t an overhang or porch to cover whoever was knocking on my door. And second . . . what the actual fuck? I lived in the guest quarters behind my parents’ house, and their property was surrounded by a fence.
So, I didn’t get visitors. Anyone coming here would go to the main house first.
It meant the owner of the fist pounding on my door in the dead of night—and during a storm—had come onto my family’s property without permission.
Every hair on my body stood at attention with alarm.
“Lilith?” a male voice asked, sounding urgent. “Are you home? It’s Clay Crandall from next door. I need your help.”
Like the snap of a pair of fingers, the tension in my body shifted and I couldn’t get my door open fast enough.
He stood on the concrete path with his head tipped down to keep the worst of the rain from falling into his eyes. He was drenched, and the water molded his clothes to his body, showing off every perfect inch of him. Clay was in his late thirties, meaning he was at least ten years older than I was . . . and exactly the type of guy I preferred.
Jesus, he was so fucking hot. Even with anxiety stricken across his face.
I stood stock-still with one hand on the doorknob, ignoring the rain splattering my legs, and gawked at him. Behind his dark-rimmed glasses, his eyes were the same shade of brown his hair was when wet, as it currently was. He was fit and toned, and had a body made for sex. The kind I was sure could turn a smart girl like me stupid.
Which it had, because I hadn’t invited him in to get out of the rain. I stepped back and gestured inside. “Come on in. What’s going on?”
He shook his head. “No, I—” He struggled to find the words. “You’re a veterinarian, right?”
“No, I’m a technician.” It wasn’t the first time someone had made that assumption. I was more like a nurse, who assisted the doctors at the animal hospital where I worked.
But this answer must have been close enough because he nodded and backed up, urging me to follow him out into the storm. “I need your help . . . at my house.”
There was something odd about the way he’d said it. His voice was full of discomfort, like he was reluctant. Or perhaps he was shy.
I’d only had one conversation with my next-door neighbor since he’d moved in more than a year ago. Once he put up his curtains, I never saw him again. The guy was rarely home, and when he was, he stayed hidden. The rest of our neighbors were friendly and chatty, or nosy, or all of the above. Everyone knew each other’s business. But Clay?
He was a ghost.
No one came by to see him. There weren’t visiting cars parked in his driveway or the street beside his house, not even on holidays. A lawn service took care of his yard.
My mother joked he was probably a serial killer.
No way. He was too good looking for me to believe that, even when I knew serial killers could be attractive.
I put my hand up to shield the rain from my face. It was a feeble attempt to save my eye makeup as I tried to dart out into the storm, but his hand came up to stop me.
“Wait,” he said.
“What is it?”
His gaze dropped to my feet. My open-toe pumps had a summery floral print and four-inch heels. I’d bought them off-season last year for a total steal.
His face took a dubious cast. “Don’t you want to change shoes?”
“No, I’m good.” Because I loved my shoes. Stilettos, or sandals, or any kind of sexy heels . . . My closet was full of them, and I took every opportunity I could to wear them.
We didn’t talk as we hurried across the path that led to the gate in the fence, and my shoes were slick on the stones. The rain was cold as it pelted me, soaking my ivory shirt and squishing between my toes, but I ignored it and did my best to keep up with Clay’s fast clip.
The exterior lights surrounding his large house were on, making raindrops glint, and his garage door was open. We went through it, passing by his Ford pickup truck and up the two steps to the door that led into his home.
I stood in the side entryway, dripping on the tile floor, waiting for him to explain, but he didn’t. Instead, Clay’s gaze bounced around frantically as if he wasn’t sure where the emergency was.
“There’s a cat in here somewhere,” he said.
I blinked. “Um, okay . . .?”
He rubbed the back of his neck, and his expression was full of embarrassment. At least, I assumed it was, based off his tone. I was totally distracted by the flex of his bicep peeking out from under his shirt sleeve.
He said it quietly. “I think I hurt it.”
Everything in me went still, and my voice flash-froze into ice. “What?”
“It was an accident.” His eyes filled with remorse. “A few weeks ago, this cat randomly showed up at my place. Maybe you’ve seen it? A black and white one?”
I hadn’t. He peered at me, waiting for a response, but my stone-cold demeanor didn’t change, and it forced him to continue.
“It keeps trying to get into my house. Every time I open a door, the cat’s there, like he’s been lying in wait. It rushes for the door.” He hesitated. “When I got home, I didn’t realize he’d followed me into the garage.”
“Oh, no.” I tensed. “You hit him with your car?”
Thankfully, he shook his head. “I’d just come in when I saw the cat charging for the steps, so I tried to shut the door before he made it in.” Clay swallowed a breath. “I . . . wasn’t fast enough. His tail got caught in it, and—shit—the