Naïve, country girl, Cynthia Freitas, moves to the big city with high hopes, but her starting salary barely makes rent in a run-down tenement. Newspaper headlines warn of a serial killer in the neighborhood, and the article grabs her attention when she recognizes the victims bear a striking resemblance to her. Alex Carlyle is assigned to assist detectives in one of the toughest cases he’s ever experienced as a cop. Despondent over a recent break-up with his fiancé, he buries himself in his work until he meets the cute new tenant next door who gives him something else to think about except kidnap and murder. The aftermath of their first “jolting” kiss places the burden on Cynthia to solve Alex’s case and keep him from potentially becoming the next victim.
Previously published as Beside Myself
In this excerpt, the hero meets the heroine"
Maybe today was the day he’d clean up the pigsty he lived in. Maybe not! He stretched and yawned, feeling the need to pee.
Alex rolled to the edge of the bed and sat for a moment, then swaggered into the bathroom to
relieve himself of the six pack he‘d polished off before bed. As he stood at the toilet, he stared through bleary eyes at his reflection in the medicine chest mirror. His dark shock of hair lay flat on one side while the other looked like a tornado had rumbled through. Rubbing the palm of his hand against his stubbly chin, he longed for the days when he didn't have to shave every morning.
"I guess being tall, dark and handsome has its drawbacks," he quipped, while slapping both his
cheeks. Too much alcohol always made waking up tough.
"Hmm!" He leaned in closer, recalling an old re-run of a favorite cop program. “Maybe I should
forego shaving and see if I can pull off that Miami Vice-Don Johnson look." He studied the image staring back at him. "Ah, maybe not ... then I'd have to get one of those white, linen outfits like he wears." Alex backed away and cocked his head.
How would that famous TV cop solve Alex’s current case? The hot water always took at least
five minutes to reach his apartment so Alex turned on the shower. While he waited, he sauntered back to the bed and pulled his covers back into place and straightened the pillows. Satisfied he’d done something to improve his housekeeping, he dropped his boxers on the floor, stepped out of them and went back into the bathroom where the water had finally turned warm. Taking a shower in The Cairns was more like walking in a light rain, but Alex stepped in the tub and quickly soaped and rinsed. The one thing he could always count on: the hot water never lasted very long.
He yanked the towel from the wall rack, sending the securing hardware flying in all directions.
Amidst the tinkling of scattering screws, the entire bar clattered to the floor. He shook his head and sighed. "Shit! What next?"
Terrycloth wrapped around his waist, Alex left the mess lying on the floor and went into the
bedroom. Should he fix the bar or call the super? Such important decisions made Alex laugh. He
decided to fix the bar later, right after he picked up all the bottle caps on the living room floor.
He donned his sweat suit and tennis shoes. Images of the missing women spun through his
mind, along with a faceless man who heaved a snide laugh at the police‘s inability to catch him.
Overcome with the need to escape his cramped quarters and sickening images, Alex decided a quick run around the nearby park sounded like just the ticket. Besides, a little exercise would counter-balance allvthose calories from his nightly beers, a habit he’d acquired since the breakup, and one he needed to discard.
He picked up his IPod and clipped it to his waistband. As he opened the door, the heaping
trashcan in the kitchen corner caught his attention. The contents overflowed the container and spewed onto the floor. He donned his headphones and cranked up the volume of his all time favorite song, Travis Tritt's, Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof.
Singing along and not caring that he wasn't in tune, he picked up empty beer bottles, potato chip
bags, and all the caps that missed their mark and stuffed them all inside the garbage sack. After tying the top, he hefted the bag over his shoulder and strode out into the hallway, keeping step with the musical beat.
While passing Apartment 2A, the door opened. The tenant backed into the hallway, two garbage
bags in tow. Not watching where she was going, she bumped right into him.
Obviously shocked by the sudden impact, she spun around. "Excuse me, I'm so sorry. I should..."
Her widened eyes traveled the length of his body.
Her mouth gaped.
He towered over her petite, maybe five-foot-three frame.
She gazed up at him. "Uh ... I should have been watching where I was going."
Alex dropped the trash bag on the floor and removed his headphones. Unable to resist, he
returned her once over, but with a much slower scan. Blonde hair drawn back into a ponytail presented a youthful appearance, but her clingy, terrycloth outfit did a great job outlining assets that proved she wasn't a child. The way she licked her full bottom lip, maybe a nervous habit, made him want to savor a taste for himself.
Realizing he had missed most of what she said, he forced himself to stop ogling her and pay
attention. He'd heard her apology and needed to respond, but his mouth turned dry as dust. He cleared his throat and smiled. "No problem," he managed to croak.
Puberty and voice change passed through his mind, but that took place a long time ago. He
swallowed hard and pointed to her trash bags and then to his own. "Looks like we're both headed for the same place."
"Yep, it's Saturday, my cleaning day. Same routine every weekend."
Her head tilted in a way that made her beautiful hazel eyes sparkle. His palms turned sweaty, and he wiped his right hand against his pant lengthen extended it.
"Name's Alex Carlyle. I live in Apartment 2E."
Her tiny hand disappeared inside his. "Hi, Alex. I'm Cynthia Freitas. Looks like we're neighbors.
How long have you lived here?"
Why did she make his knees weak? He adjusted his stance. "Going on two years already. Time
flies when you're having fun."
I got carried away and gave you more than a few snippets. This is one of my favorite stories, and you can't imagine how hard it was to write about two characters who really, really become entwined.
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