In The Dark


August 25, 2015
Series:
The girl next door isn’t what she seems…

Stuck spending the summer with his screwed up family, Gabriel Walker is bored out of his mind and looking for an adventure. And he seems to find it with the hot girl who lives next door. The attraction between them is instant. Electric. Soon they’re spending every stolen minute together. Talk about the perfect summer fling…

Lucy isn’t what she seems. She doesn’t live next door—she’s the girl who’s been hired to house sit for the summer. If Gabe wants to believe she’s a spoiled rich girl looking for some fun, she can go along with that. After the summer, she’ll never see him again.

They don’t count on running into each other at college. Now Lucy must keep up the pretense of being a rich girl—and it’s exhausting. She knows she’s falling in love with Gabe and she’s scared he feels the same. Will he still care about her when he discovers the truth?
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Excerpt

Chapter One

Gabe

 

I never thought I’d admit this, least of all to myself, but I’m man enough to realize…

I am head over heels in love. Like, a complete goner. Sprung over a girl. A gorgeous, sexy as hell, makes me wanna lose my mind girl who just about fucking slays me every single time I look at her.

And when I say she’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, I’m not lying. Not even close. With her golden tan skin and long, dark brown hair that falls in glossy waves down her back. A body to freaking die for, with curves that look made for a man’s hands. My hands. A real woman’s curves, with flaring hips and full breasts and a narrow waist—a body she casually flaunts in a tiny string bikini that should be made freaking illegal. I could stare at her all day.

I do stare at her all day.

The problem?

I don’t even know her name.

“God, you perv, are you watching her again?

My sister’s whiny voice pierces my eardrums and I turn to glare at her for a long, quiet moment before I resume my position. “Go away,” I mutter, sounding like I’m twelve. I used to tell Sydney exactly that when I was twelve. Back when she’d been a seven-year-old pest constantly trying to get up in my business.

Nothing much has changed. Only now, she’s an eighteen-year-old pest trying to get up in my business.

“Seriously, she’s going to call the cops if you keep this up.” She sits on the lounge chair next to mine, acting like she has nowhere else to be. Considering we’re both trapped in this elaborate fortress of a house that my parents have rented for us for the entire summer, I guess Sydney really doesn’t have anywhere to be. Not like we have any friends in Santa Barbara. We’ve gone out to dinners. We’ve gone to the beach. We’ve gone to the country club as guests of our parents and I chatted up a hot girl—not as hot as my newfound love but she was decent—until my father came along and cock-blocked me by saying it was time to go home. Making me look like a loser who still lives with his parents.

He’s definitely not what I would call a proper wingman.

We’ve been here almost three weeks and my sister and I are slowly going insane.

“Maybe I should be the one to dial 911 and end this stare fest once and for all,” Sydney says, crossing her arms in front of her chest. She’s practically pouting, not that I can blame her. I’m climbing the walls here. I’m falling in love with a woman and I don’t even know who the hell she is.

Clearly I’m losing my mind. And irritable about it too.

“Are you purposely trying to be a bitch? Or does it just come naturally?” I glare at her again, just in time to see the hurt fill her eyes before she leaps to her feet and takes off without another word.

Sighing, I return my gaze to my newfound love interest. I’m sitting on the balcony of the second floor, gazing down at the backyard of the next-door neighbor’s. That’s where my girl hangs out every afternoon by her pool. Her curvy body stretched out on a lounge chair, sunglasses covering her eyes. She jumps in the water approximately every twenty minutes to cool off. Doesn’t bother drying herself with a towel, just lies back down, usually on her stomach, her skin glistening with little droplets of water, her ass absolute perfection and barely covered by the black bikini bottom that haunts me in my most perverted fantasies.

Yeah. So I’ve jacked off to thoughts of her late at night. Early in the morning. Sometimes in the shower. This is what happens when a healthy twenty-one-year old male is cooped up with his family for too long. He resorts to jerking himself off instead of gathering up the balls to go and talk to his temporary neighbor so he can get to know her.

I’ve turned into the world’s biggest weenie, I swear to God. I miss my friends. Shep and Tristan wouldn’t stand for this. They’d tell me to man up. Encourage me to go talk to her. Hell, they’d probably abduct me out of this hellhole and take me back home. This sterile mansion-slash-summer house sure as hell isn’t home.

Like clockwork I watch my girl take off her sunglasses and rise from the lounge chair. She reaches behind her, running her fingers beneath her bikini bottom, tugging the fabric as if she’s trying to cover her ass completely but it doesn’t work. The bottom curve of her ass cheeks hang out and my cock twitches at the sight.

I’m starting to believe she was put on this earth just to torture me.

She walks to the edge of the pool, her toes curling as she raises her arms above her head. It’s like a little ritual she performs with her every pool break. She goes into position. Pauses for a moment. Her chest rises as she takes a breath, drawing my attention to her full breasts and then she jumps. Executing a perfect dive into the pool. She barely makes a splash and I watch with a dry mouth as she streaks beneath the crystal clear water, popping up at the deep end as she slicks her hair back with both hands. Even from this distance I know little drops of water cling to her thick eyelashes and she blinks. Licks her lips and I stifle a groan.

Fuck, she’s gorgeous. I lean closer to the railing, the metal hot as I press my bare chest against it and I let out an unexpected yelp when I come into contact with the scorching metal.

The sound makes her whirl around and I go completely still, praying she doesn’t notice me.

Praying that she does.

She slowly turns in a circle, treading water, her expression one of quiet alarm. I swallow hard and ease back. Thankful she doesn’t look up. Wishing that she would look up, internally arguing with myself because I’m not one hundred percent sure if I want her to see me or not.

What if Sydney’s right and my neighbor does think I’m some sort of perv ogling her every chance I get? Because that’s basically the truth, as ashamed as I am to admit it. I’m not one to ogle. I see a girl I like I go talk to her. Get to know her. Eventually get in her panties. That’s how I roll. That’s how I’ve always rolled. There’s no point in falling. No point in dating. Ultimately I won’t be able to choose the one I want so why bother?

She lifts her head and our gazes clash. I freeze in place as I stare into her dark brown eyes, the air stuck in my lungs making it hard to breathe.

The seconds tick by as we continue to watch each other but they feel like minutes. Hours. My skin tightens. My blood runs hot and there’s a dull roar in my ears. I’m fully prepared for her to glare. Maybe even to yell and tell me to fuck off.

But then she smiles. A sensual curve of full lips, a dimple appearing on the right side of her mouth just before she tosses her head and floats on her back, her feet kicking, her breasts rising above the water that gently laps at her skin.

Fuck me, she is seriously the sexiest woman I’ve ever seen.

Without thought I stand, letting my gaze linger on her for one more minute before I leave the balcony.

And go claim what I want.

Her.

 

Lucy

 

He’s been staring at me for weeks. The pretty rich white boy has no shame, what with the way he’s been openly spying on my afternoon swim sessions. For the last week I’ve put on an extra show just for him. Lying out on the cushy lounge chair, wearing my skimpiest bikini, one I wouldn’t dare wear out in public but knowing he’s the only one watching me?

That dark thrill running down my spine every afternoon when I feel his hot gaze on my body is incredibly addicting.

Mama would have an absolute fit if she saw me flaunting my goods. She’d throw me a towel. Or a robe. Or a blanket. Demand that I cover myself up in that don’t-you-dare-argue-with-me tone of voice she does so well. She prefers one-piece swimsuits. Would probably like it best if I never wore one at all.

She’s a little overprotective, my mama. I’m her only child and she had me when she was just a child, barely sixteen. Dumped by the boy who got her pregnant, she raised me on her own. We’re close. Sometimes too close. It feels like she’s more a friend than my mother but then something will happen and she’ll turn into that snarling mama bear that both embarrasses me and makes me proud.

I love her fiercely but I need independence. When this opportunity came about, I knew I needed to do it, despite Mama’s protests. Spending the summer at this gorgeous mansion, pretending that it’s mine, I’ve never felt so free.

Glancing up, I’m oddly disappointed to find Mr. GQ isn’t on the balcony anymore so I start to swim laps, going as fast as I can, back and forth across the pool. I need to lose weight. My curves are too…curvy. Sometimes those curves get me in trouble, causing unwanted attention that always embarrasses me.

Not from GQ though. I like the way he stares. And he’s so pretty. His entire family is pretty, unnaturally so. They look like they belong in a fancy slick magazine, like that boring ass Town & Country I found in the house when I first got here. A whole stack of them sat in a basket close to an overstuffed chair in the immaculate living room and I flipped through them, weirdly fascinated. All those perfectly polished rich people with their sparkling jewels and expensive clothes, the broad, fake smiles stretching their faces as they clutch a drink or each other.

It’s a life I both covet and despise.

After ten laps I’m breathless and I stop in the shallow end, hanging onto the edge of the pool as I catch my breath, the sun warming my shoulders. The water is cold, the air warm and the contrast makes me shiver as I lean my head in, pressing my forehead against the concrete edge. I close my eyes and focus on my breathing, my inhales deep and even, slowly calming my racing heart.

I really need to get out and exercise more. I’m totally out of shape.

“You okay?”

The deep male voice startles me and I jerk away from the pool’s edge, water splashing everywhere as I push myself halfway across the pool. I lift my head to find Mr. GQ himself standing on the other side of the fence that separates our houses.

Well, it’s not really my house, but I’m thinking of it as mine for the summer.

“Um, yeah. I’m fine.” I stand straighter, barely finding my footing on the bottom of the pool. I tell everyone I’m five-foot-one but it’s a lie. I’m barely over five feet. Being so short and extra curvy, most of the time I look fat. Sort of dumpy.

I don’t like it. At all.

He leans his forearms on top of the low fence, casually gorgeous as the sun shines down on him, casting him in a golden glow like he’s some sort of god. Now it’s my turn to stare in rapt fascination, feeling a little breathless at having him so close. I never look at him for too long for fear he’ll know I’m staring—I leave that particular talent up to him—but now I look my fill.

He’s even prettier than I thought. Though it’s not fair, calling him pretty. He’s handsome. Striking. Square jaw and chin, straight nose, angular cheekbones and soft, full lips that offset all those sharp edges. I can’t tell what color his eyes are, he’s still too far away but I imagine them a bright, sparkling blue or maybe even green.

So ridiculously good looking, I wouldn’t doubt if he just walked out of a magazine ad or a fashion runway. It almost hurts to look at the guy.

“Swimming laps?” He states the obvious.

I nod, lifting my arms to smooth my hair back, feeling self-conscious. I must look a mess while he just stands there like some sort of flawless statue. He’s not wearing a shirt, his shoulders are broad and smooth, his chest sculpted, though I can’t check out his abs thanks to the fence.

His gaze drops to my chest for a lingering moment and I fight the urge to shield myself. I drop my arms to my sides and start treading water, thankful I’m covered from the neck down. “You don’t usually swim laps in the afternoon,” he says.

“Decided to change up my routine.” He just made it painfully obvious that he actually knows my routine but I don’t bother pointing it out.

“You here for the summer?” he asks.

“Yeah.” I pause, clearing my throat. I need to speak properly. I’m among the rich and classy. They don’t say yeah and uh huh in response to questions that require a yes. If Mama were here she’d slap me upside my head. “How about you?”

Nodding, he stands up straighter, his arms falling away from the fence. “We should hang out sometime,” he says casually. Too casually. His gaze is intense, his body stiff and I wonder if he’s…

Nervous?

Impossible. I mean, look at him. He’s just so…GQ. Like stepped straight out of a magazine ad. Why in the world would he be nervous to talk to me?

My heart rate speeds up. Is he asking me on a date? Of course not. He just wants to hang out. “We should,” I say with a little shrug. Like it’s no big deal. So the most gorgeous guy I’ve ever set eyes on is talking to me, says he wants to spend time with me. I can handle this. “Though don’t people usually know each other’s names before they hang out?”

His lips curve in a closed mouth smile. “Good point. So what’s your name?”

I flick my chin at him. “I asked first.”

His smile grows. “You did not.”

I raise a brow. It’s a look I’ve perfected over the years, one I picked up from my mother. I’ve scared many a boy away in the past with this signature move but GQ doesn’t even budge. “Tell me your name and I’ll tell you mine.”

“Gabe,” he says without hesitation.

“Short for Gabriel?” When he nods I continue. “I’m Lucy.”

“Lucy.” He says the name as if he’s testing it out, his voice deep and measured, making me shiver. “Nice to meet you, Lucy.”

“Nice to meet you too, Gabriel.” I roll the r a little bit like I can’t help myself, and he raises his brows but doesn’t say a word.

So stupid. I should act like a white girl. Like a proper, well-spoken, polite white girl who lives in a mansion and doesn’t have a care in the world.

In other words, I shouldn’t act like myself.

“What are you doing tonight?” he asks.

Oh, you know. Sitting around in this gargantuan house all alone, watching really bad TV, bored out of my skull.

Yeah, I can’t say that. I’ll sound like a complete loser.

“Nothing much.” I tilt my head to the side. “Why? You wanna hang out?”

He smiles, showing teeth this time and all the air gathers in my throat, threatening to choke me. How can I possibly spend time with this guy when all he has to do is smile and I feel like I’m going to faint from lack of oxygen? I don’t know if I can stand it.

“We should. I’ve got nothing going on.” He glances over his shoulder at his house before returning his gaze to me. “And I really need to get out of there.”

“Away from the family?” When his smile fades, I continue. “You seem to spend a lot of time with them.”

Gabe makes a face. A cute face. “They’re all driving me crazy.”

“I get it,” I say softly, though I don’t really get it at all. I don’t have much family. No siblings. I’ve only ever had my mother.

“You do?” He sounds hopeful and I nod. I can almost see the relief cross his face. “Can I come by around nine? Maybe ten?”

“Oh.” My feet hit the bottom of the pool. “You want to hang out at my place?”

“Well, yeah. I don’t want to spend any more time there.” He jerks his thumb toward his house. His expression softens. I’m sure he sees the alarm on my face. I mean, he’s moving sort of fast. I know he said he just wants to hang out but…what exactly does he want to do? Hook up?

I hope not. I don’t even know this guy. Granted, he’s hot. No denying that, but I don’t put out on the first date.

I don’t put out ever.

“Hey, if you have something else going on or uh, don’t want to do anything with me tonight, I understand.” Gabe starts to back away from the fence slowly, holding his hands up in front of him, an easy smile on his face. I wonder if he senses my apprehension. “I mean no harm.”

Okay, I’m being ridiculous. What is this guy going to do to me? He’s gorgeous. He could have anyone he wants. He’s just looking for an escape from his family. I can’t blame the guy. It must be exhausting, acting perfect all the time.

“It’s not that. I have zero plans tonight,” I admit and he stops in his tracks. “You can come over,” I continue, my voice soft, my head spinning. How am I going to handle this? What will I say when he comes over and sees a bunch of photos everywhere of a beautiful white family and not one of those photos includes me? That I’m adopted and they’re so ashamed of me they consider me an outcast?

Please. You’re renting the house for the summer. You’re such a rich bitch you prefer to go on vacation alone.

That sounds ridiculous. What twenty-one-year old wants to vacation on her own? I need to get rid of the photos. Thank God none of them are on the walls. I can just…scoop them up, hide them in a closet and pretend I live there. I need to come up with some sort of explanation as to why I’m by myself in this giant house but I’ll worry about that later.

“You sure?” he asks carefully.

“Yeah. Nine o’clock.” I flash him a smile, trying my best to ignore the nervous flutters in my stomach. “Don’t be late.”