In Heat (Combustion 1)
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Copyright ©2013 Kate Hill
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The last thing Zoey expected to see when she stepped out of her friend Justin's apartment was a hunk.
But there he was. Tall. Lean. Sexy. He wore a black T-shirt and snug jeans that hugged the muscular length of his legs and did little to disguise his sizeable package. His hair was dark red, as was his trimmed beard.
Unfortunately, he was also quite battered.
One of his big green eyes was bruised and swollen half-closed. Scratches crisscrossed his angular face. His wrist was bandaged.
Standing outside the door of the apartment across the hall, he fumbled with the key. He dropped it and slowly bent to pick it up, as if moving hurt.
"Hey," Zoey said and his gaze riveted to her. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, thank you," he replied in a deep, smooth voice. She detected a slight accent. Maybe English.
"Just a little clumsy at the moment," he said and straightened.
Zoey wasn't short -- about five feet nine inches -- but she had to tilt her head a bit to meet his gaze. A strange feeling came over her. Maybe it was because even injured he was so damn hot.
She was surprised that Justin hadn't mentioned his neighbor, though this guy wasn't Justin's type. He was far too masculine. Justin preferred twinks. Still there was no way he could have missed his handsome neighbor.
They stared at each other for a moment, and Zoey got the feeling he wanted to say something. She wished he would. Though she wasn't the kind of woman who tried to hook up with a guy she'd just laid eyes on, especially not when he lived directly across the hall, she couldn't deny he turned her on.
He nodded at her, then unlocked his door and stepped inside, closing it behind him.
Zoey continued down the corridor to the stairs and finally out of the building. She and Justin had decided to meet for dinner at a restaurant not far from the hospital where they worked. Zoey was in research and Justin was a medical social worker. Friends since high school, they had gone their separate ways after, but kept in touch. Though Zoey had spent the past few years out of state, her new job at the hospital had brought her back home. She'd only been in town for a few days and Justin had graciously offered to let her stay with him while she searched for a place to live.
Instead of thinking about work or houses, on her way to the restaurant she couldn't keep her mind off the hunk in the apartment across the hall. What was his story? Had he been in a fight? An accident?
When she finally arrived, Justin was already seated. He waved to her and she walked over to the corner booth to join him.
Tall and athletic with dark hair and brown eyes, Justin was really good looking. He had no shortage of interested women and men, though he preferred the latter. Still, he wasn't ready to settle down. Right now his job took up most of his time. He wasn't the kind of guy to leave his work at the office, but often got emotionally attached. While this was lucky for the patients he worked with, it wasn't always good for him. Zoey understood, which was part of the reason she'd decided to switch to research. While she enjoyed her career and loved helping people, she found it difficult to distance herself from her patients.
"Hey, what's up?" Justin asked as they settled down to look at their menus.
"Why didn't you tell me about that fine-looking man living across the hall?" Zoey asked, a faint smile on her lips. She lifted her gaze to study Justin over her menu.
He blinked. "Pardon?"
"I saw him just before I got here. Lean, mean and mysterious. Looked like he was in a fight or something though. Probably got drunk and started trouble. Most guys who look like him are only trouble anyway."
Still, he hadn't seemed like that kind of guy, but what did she know about him after meeting him for thirty seconds?
"As far as I know the place across the hall is empty. He must have just moved in. I'll have to check him out."
"Get in line," she teased.
"Is he that hot?"
Justin's smile broadened.
"Down, boy," she said. "I don't think he's your type."
"Oh really? He's gorgeous and sizzling, but he's not my type? Convenient."
Zoey laughed. "Let's forget about him. Like I said, he's probably nothing but trouble and we have enough of that working at the hospital."
"Too right, but today was very good." Justin looked genuinely happy. "I got Mrs. Miller connected to an assisted living facility that I think will be perfect for her."
"Great. I know you've been worried about her."
At that moment the waitress came to take their order. Throughout the rest of the meal they talked about work and possibly going to the movies at the end of the week, if they had time. Neither mentioned their new neighbor, though to her annoyance, Zoey couldn't stop thinking about him.