Tempting Beat (Hearts of Metal Book 6)
by Brooklyn Ann
Gwen bit back a cry of despair and closed her eyes against the hideous sight before her. Maybe she’d imagined it.
Nope. When she opened her eyes, the abomination gleamed in the soft, white light above her bathroom mirror. Still, Gwen reached up with tentative fingers, hoping the hideous thing would vanish.
It was long and crooked and had a stiff and unyielding texture. Her first gray hair; a blight among the blonde.
“Happy birthday,” she muttered to her reflection.
The desolation in her voice made Gwen roll her eyes. The gray hair wasn’t a herald of doom. Turning thirty-five wasn’t the end of the world. She’d been through worse things, and other people endured far more terrible fates every day. Besides, she had two days off for the first time in months and had a relaxing day planned before a night out with her friends. All in all, a much better birthday than previous years. Like the first time her second ex-husband forgot her birthday and she’d sat at home, dressed to the nines, suffering in silence as he’d spent the afternoon in his office and then went out for a late meeting without even a kiss goodbye. It wasn’t long after that Gwen had learned he was having an affair. He never did remember her birthday after.
Gwen shook her head and stormed out of the bathroom before she started looking for wrinkles. More gloomy thoughts. She resolved to shrug them off as she tied the belt of her fuzzy bathrobe and went to the kitchen to make tea.
Once she was settled in her favorite chair with Alfredo, one of her four cats, on her lap, Gwen brought her favorite mug to her lips and sighed with bliss at the relaxing purring and the sweet taste of Earl Grey. Maybe staying single and being a crazy cat lady wouldn’t be so bad. After all, there were benefits to life without a man. She didn’t have to clean up after him. The TV wasn’t constantly blaring; she didn’t have to waste long hours wondering who he was with and when he’d come home. There was no one to criticize her body, or guilt trip her into catering to his whims, no one to squander her savings.
But there was also no one to talk to. No one to hold at night.
The screech of a semi-truck outside made Alfredo jump off her lap, stabbing her legs with his little claws. Tortellini and Ravioli scampered to the window while Linguine fled from Alfredo. Gwen tightened her grip on her mug as her tea sloshed in the cup and rose from her chair to investigate this disruption of her peace. Big trucks rarely came through her nice neighborhood in Lilac Grove, a secluded suburb outside of Denver.
When Gwen stepped out onto her porch, it seemed her neighbor, Mrs. Kersh, had the same idea. Gwen saw her striding across the street before Gwen looked over and saw the moving truck next door.
“Our new neighbor has finally arrived,” Mrs. Kersh said in a somewhat scolding tone, as if the new homeowner was tardy in taking up residence. “I do wish I’d been home to see more of the prospective buyers touring the property.”
Gwen nodded. As an ER nurse, she worked twelve-hour shifts alternating between three and four days a week and almost always on the weekends, when most people perused houses for sale. She’d been working during the open house, and also missed the people who came after to look at the home. “I hope whoever bought the place is a nice person.”
Mrs. Kersh huffed. “I hope they’re quiet and don’t have a dog. The last people were atrocious, leaving that mutt in the yard to yap all the time.”
The last people were also major jerks, Gwen thought as she watched the movers pile out of the truck and begin unloading furniture. Their barking dog and loud children had cost her precious hours of sleep. Still, she couldn’t help but give Mrs. Kersh a sideways smile and glance down at Molly, the little terrier that was ever at Mrs. Kersh’s side.
Mrs. Kersh’s eyes widened with blatant terror. “Oh no.”
An older silver Honda CR-V pulled behind the moving truck and a man got out with a happy smile and a proprietary gleam in his eyes as he met the moving truck with a fob of jingling keys.
Holy hotness. Gwen almost breathed the words aloud as her belly tilted at the sight of the man striding up the walkway of the house next door. Shoulder-length chocolate-brown hair framed a face that was worthy of a magazine cover. Gray eyes danced with a touch of mischief. His lips were arched and full, making it impossible not to think of kissing.
Which was something Gwen could never do, because aside from that not being neighborly, he was clearly too young for her. If he was older than twenty-five, Gwen would eat her scrubs.
“Oh no.” Gwen echoed Mrs. Kersh, though for a different reason. Was Gwen turning into a cougar?
As her eyes traced the tight curve of her new neighbor’s ass while he unlocked the front door, Mrs. Kersh harrumphed. “I hope he’s not a bachelor. Young men like that are always noisy. Throwing parties, having visitors at odd hours. He probably smokes marijuana.”
“It’s been legal here since twenty-twelve,” Gwen said in his defense. However, she agreed with her neighbor’s concern about loud parties. She’d lived next to bachelors before. But she’d never been tempted to pull their shirts over one of their heads and run her tongue down the length of their bodies. With shaking knees, she sat on the little bench swing and patted the cushion beside her in invitation for Mrs. Kersh to join her.
“Maybe he has family moving in as well.” Gwen struggled to maintain common sense. Surely a man that luscious wouldn’t be single.
“Maybe.” Mrs. Kersh latched onto Gwen’s words and pointed as a second car pulled up behind the man’s. “That could be them.”
Gwen’s gut instinct was almost certain that Mr. Hotness was the sole owner. Still, she watched the newcomers exit the vehicle with rapt curiosity.
Oh wow. Another good-looking man strode across the lawn toward the house. And this one was more what Gwen should be going for, even if he wasn’t as gorgeous as the first guy. The second man was super tall and thin, with long blond hair streaked with a few strands of silver. His blue-green eyes radiated a kindness that made up for the subdued handsomeness. Just as Gwen began to consider going over to introduce herself, a petite woman in her early twenties came up behind the tall man and threaded her arm around his waist, peering up at him with adoration. An engagement ring large enough to be seen from Gwen’s porch glittered on the adoring fiancée’s finger.
Of course. Gwen swallowed the bitter reminder that the dating market was shrinking for her every day due to so many men going for women half their ages. Who says she even needed a man anyway? They’d brought her nothing but frustration and heartache.
Another couple got out of the back of the newly arrived car and headed over to the moving truck. Gwen blinked at the third man’s calendar-worthy beauty and mane of dark curls. What was up with all these longhaired stud-muffins?
She got her answer as the men and women unloaded a drum kit from the back of the first man’s van. They were musicians.
“Oh dear,” Mrs. Kersh’s voice warbled as she clutched the handle of her teacup. “Drums?”
Gwen hid a sardonic smile with a sip from her own mug. It was doubtful that the older woman would hear them from across the street, but Gwen certainly would. “It could be worse.”
“I think it just got worse,” Mrs. Kersh whispered dramatically. “Look.”
After the movers wheeled the couches, chairs, and bed into the house, they began to unload enormous speaker cabinets.
The tall man approached the movers, and from his stern expression and firm gestures, he was clearly demanding caution and care.
Gwen’s eyes widened. “Do you think all five of them are moving into the place?”
“Lord, I hope not.” Mrs. Kersh’s lips thinned like a junior high schoolteacher’s. Suddenly she gasped. “The first one is coming this way.”
Sure enough, Mr. Hotness was striding up Gwen’s lawn with a smile that made her breath hitch. “Cheers, new neighbors. I’m Roderick Powell. I thought I’d introduce myself to you lovely ladies and get the rundown of the neighborhood.”
He had a British accent. Gwen nearly melted in her seat. It wasn’t fair. Her belly fluttered like an infatuated teenager’s as she rose on shaking legs and shook his hand.
“I’m Gwenda Mason.” Oh God, his grip was so warm and strong, and some delicious scent radiated from him. She fought to keep her head straight and not stammer. “I’m your next-door neighbor.” She cringed as his brow lifted with amusement at her stating the obvious. “I mean, ah…” She pointed at her other neighbor to clarify. “This is Mrs. Kersh. She lives across the street from me.”
Mrs. Kersh stiffened on the bench swing and gave him a stiff nod instead of a handshake. “Where are you from, Mr. Powell?”
“Los Angeles.” At her suspicious frown he added, “But I was born in Lancashire, England.”
“And what do you do?” she demanded, casting a baleful glare at one of his speaker cabinets being hauled up his walkway.
“I’m a drummer.” He confirmed their suspicions. “But don’t worry, I’m installing sound-proofing panels in my music room, which will be in the basement.” Roderick tossed the question back. “And what do you do, Mrs. Kersh?”
“I’m retired.” Mrs. Kersh said primly. “Are those others going to be living here as well?” She pointed at the other gorgeous men and the beautiful women beside them.
Roderick shook his head. “No, they’re only helping me move.” At Mrs. Kersh’s loud sigh of relief, he chuckled and turned to Gwen. “And what do you do, Gwenda?”
Her skin flushed under his gaze. “I’m a nurse.”
His grin broadened, revealing gleaming white teeth. “Hellooo, nurse!”
A startled laugh escaped her lips. “Did you just make an Animaniacs reference at me?” She’d grown up with that cartoon. For a moment she wondered how he knew about that old show, but then realized that it was probably streaming online somewhere.
He nodded, still grinning. “Sorry, luv. That was cheeky. Couldn’t help it.”
Mrs. Kersh sniffed in disapproval while heat flooded to Gwen’s face at the casual endearment. She should disapprove as well. Her young neighbor shouldn’t address her with flirtatious terms. That would get them off to a bad start. Yet she didn’t have the heart to reprimand him. Besides, it could be a Brit thing. It probably didn’t mean anything more than other English terms she’d heard like “ducky.”
Gwen changed the subject. “So you’re going to be living in that big house all alone?” At first it seemed like an odd thing, but then she remembered that she’d done the same. Yes, she’d been awarded the house in the divorce, but she could have sold the place and had a much smaller mortgage. For her, keeping the house was a matter of pride, comfort, storage, and the unspoken hope to maybe have room for someone else.
“I’ve had bigger,” he answered with a wink, though for a moment there was a flicker of pain in his gray eyes. “But yes, it will be only me, though my mates will probably come visit often since Kat and Klement,” he inclined his head toward the tall man and his fiancée, “are getting married when we’re done writing and recording our next album. Think it would be best to give the married couple a bit more privacy.”
Ah, so Klement’s place had probably been the party house for the band before he decided to settle down, and now the party would move to Roderick’s place. Right next door to Gwen. Dread weighted down her shoulders at the prospect of the noise and people vomiting in the lawn. Yet there was something else, a strange curiosity mingled with regret. The first time she’d married, she’d been only nineteen; the second time, she’d been twenty-seven. Between those failed ventures and the years it took to get her nursing degree, Gwen had never had the time to enjoy her twenties. They’d gone to waste.
Before the melancholy could recapture her, the rest of what Roderick said sank in. “You’re recording an album? I take it your band is successful.” She cursed herself for the idiotic words. For a career musician to be able to afford a four-bedroom house with a two-car garage in this neighborhood he would have to be successful.
Roderick shrugged. “We’re still composing the last few songs before we go into the studio, but yeah, we do all right for a metal band. We’ve had two gold albums and the last one went platinum.”
Gwen’s jaw dropped. She’d have a rock star living next door? “What’s your band’s name?” Maybe she’d heard of them.
“Bleeding Vengeance.” He looked amused as he answered. “Have you heard of us?”
Tempting Beat (Hearts of Metal Book 6)
by Brooklyn Ann
Romance Author of the Scandals with Bite series, Brides of Prophecy series, and Hearts of Metal series.
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