Emergency Engagement (Love Emergency, #1) - Samanthe Beck Page 0,1

of his jeans, and walked out his door.

The music gained volume as soon as he stepped into the hall, and he immediately understood why it seemed especially loud today. Her front door hung open, with a Post-it note on the outside reading, “Come in.”

Not smart. They lived in a secure building, with nice, normal neighbors, but still. Why court trouble?

“Hello?” He barely heard himself over the sound of Carrie Underwood and her Louisville Slugger. After pushing the door all the way open, he tried again, louder. “Hey?”

Still nothing, although judging by the scents of cooking turkey and cooling pie filling the apartment, the chef hovered nearby. Her living room and kitchen, which were mirror images of his in terms of layout, but universes apart in terms of color and texture and…stuff, were empty. Empty of people, at any rate. Her floors sported the same neutral wood laminate as his, but the rest of the room looked like a combination of Buckhead estate sale and third-world bazaar. Yet it worked. A slipcovered white sofa and a couple of matching armchairs provided a blank canvas for red throw pillows, a wrought iron coffee table straight off a French Quarter patio, and a blue-and-white ceramic garden stool stacked with old books. Atop the coffee table sat a huge glass bowl full of fist-sized marbles swirled with every hue imaginable. The arrangement made him think of exotic planets suspended in a crystalline galaxy.

An eclectic collection of art covered the walls. Large abstract oil paintings surrounded by black-and-white photographs, a few pastel watercolors, and even some framed architectural renderings.

The envelope in his back pocket started to feel less like junk mail.

The music blasted from a digital speaker dock on a long mirrored table against the wall opposite the sofa. He let that be for now and made his way down the hallway.

The bedroom door stood ajar, and he could hear her singing on the other side. He might have hesitated, but a woman with a welcome note stuck to her open front door on Thanksgiving Day clearly expected company.

“Hello…?”

He pushed the door open. It slammed into something and swung back at him. His shoulder took the blow, and instinct had him shoving through. Whatever was on the other side gave way under the force of his momentum. He heard a scream over the last ominous lines of “Before He Cheats” and stepped into the room in time to realize he’d banged into a ladder—one on which his neighbor perched, now struggling for balance. Time slipped into a frustrating slow motion as he reached out to grab the rungs and stabilize her. Another scream assaulted his eardrums and the ladder lurched out of his reach. His neighbor fell hard on the white tarp covering the floor. She looked up at him with wide blue eyes and opened those fantasy-worthy lips to speak just as yellow droplets showered down on him.

Then the lights went out.

Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats…

The thunk of a nearly full can of paint meeting skull echoed in the silence between “Before He Cheats” and “Hit the Road Jack.” Savannah Smith watched, stunned, as her hot neighbor’s eyes glazed, and then slowly rolled up behind the descending curtains of his eyelids.

He took one swaying step backward.

Shit. She lunged forward, hands skidding through puddles of paint as she tried to catch him. One palm bounced off a hard-muscled thigh, and the other brushed the front of his jeans. No good. The man fell like an uprooted redwood.

“Oh my God!” Adrenaline helped her hurdle the capsized ladder, and she crouched beside him.

One minute she’d been painting an accent wall of her bedroom Mitchell Prescott III’s least favorite color and fantasizing about slashing holes in all four tires of his pampered Audi coup. The next, she’d been strangling a scream as a looming figure swung through her door and knocked her off the ladder. An instant after she’d hurled the paint can at his head she’d recognized the intruder as her strong, silent neighbor across the hall.

Drops of yellow now spattered the planes and angles of a face she usually sneaked a second glance at when they passed. It was worth a second glance—the masculine slant of his forehead, the straight slope of his nose, and the angle of his jaw. He owned the kind of bone structure that made her wish she sculpted.

Once upon a time she might have felt a twinge of guilt at how easily his guarded eyes drew hers, or