The Boys Next Door
SynopsisAt seventeen, Tommy Ambinder was Annie Parsons' first love, the center of her world. Almost. There was a secret spot reserved for Judah, Tommy's elder brother. On the day she discovered Judah wanted her, as well, the aftermath drove Annie out of town—and a wedge between the men she loved.
Now, haunted by guilt, Annie has returned to Melgrove, Montana, with one hope in her heart—that twenty years has overcome the rift between the Ambinder boys. If they've mended fences, maybe she can repair her own life too.
Tommy's missed Annie all these years, but he never realized how much until one glimpse reignites the passion that time hasn't quenched. Something else hasn't changed, either—half of her heart still belongs to Judah.
Now, with Annie poised to run again, history is threatening to repeat itself—unless one of them has the courage to break free of the pattern and blaze a new trail that's wide enough for all three.
Reviews4 1/2 Fairies! "I couldn't put it down! With sensual cowboys and love everlasting, what more could you ask for?" -- JPB Reviews
4 Cherries! "Wow, talk about some emotion-filled choices! The sex scenes were hot with twenty years of pent up feelings... I wanted more!" -- Whipped Cream Reviews
4 Stars! "A beautifully written story..." -- Sensual Reads
4 Hearts! "Good quick read, featuring strong characters struggling with a love that has lasted through the years." -- Romance Book Scene
ExcerptJudah froze in shock as Annie buried her face against his chest, her arms wrapped around him so tight he could feel her heart thudding. "Oh God, Judah!" Tears were streaming down her face as she babbled, "I thought you were gone, I didn't know what happened, the house was all empty and I didn't know where you were!"
She looked up at him finally, a frantic sort of happiness shining in her eyes. "How are you? How's Tommy? Is he okay? God, I've missed you!"
He wanted to shake her. He wanted to hit her, almost. For twenty years she'd been gone, vanished off the face of the earth, and now here she was smiling at him, telling him she'd missed him?
How in twenty years could she have changed so little? She was still as impulsive, still as heedless of consequences, blissfully unaware of how her actions affected others.
He wanted to kiss her so badly he almost couldn't breathe.
He held himself rigid, not returning her embrace. Uncertainty bloomed like a shadow in the hazel depths of her eyes, and she dropped her arms, looking away.
Judah felt his heart lurch back into motion as her gaze released him, the sudden rush of blood making his head spin.
Annie Parsons. If she'd changed at all in twenty years, he couldn't see it. Oh sure, there were a few wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, and the lustrous brown hair which her mother had always kept neatly trimmed now hung in a careless shag cut he wasn't sure he liked. Unthinkingly, he started to reach out and brush the dust from her hair—then Judah stopped himself, fisting his hand at his side.
What in hell did he think he was doing?
Gritting his jaw, he jerked his chin at the hillside. "Came over to see what spooked the livestock. What are you doing here, Annie?"
She gave him a quick, almost guilty sidelong glance, then shrugged, her gaze tracing the low, weathered hills. "I just…wanted to see how you were, I guess. I'm sorry I panicked. When I saw the house..."
He nodded to himself. He knew that panic. It had flared in his own gut the day she'd disappeared, making him push past her crying mother and storm up the stairs, determined to see for himself.
Her abandoned room, her empty closet, had hit him like a hard punch straight to the stomach. Even now, the memory could still rock him if he wasn't careful.
"It just got to be too much to keep up, after Dad died." His terse explanation didn’t begin to carry the weight of grief of those days, the way everything had seemed to fall apart all at once. Even her parents had moved away shortly thereafter.
But Annie must've caught an echo of his emotion anyway—she looked at him, soft concern showing in her hazel eyes. "When did it happen?"
It was his turn to shrug, looking out over the pastures. "Fifteen years ago." Five years after you left. Where did you go, Annie? He kicked at a clump of dried leaves clotting the porch, making them rustle. "It's amazing how quick things go to pieces out here."
She was still watching him, her gaze seeming to cut straight through the wall he was trying so hard to keep between them. The warm compassion in her eyes stroked him in a way that both angered and soothed him.
Damn it, Annie, stop looking at me like that.
"I'm sorry, Judah."
"Yeah, well..." He nodded briefly, pushing away her sympathy. "Ma's doing all right. She's sixty-three now, can you believe it? Sixty-three and still gets up at five a.m. to feed the chickens."
"And Tommy? How is he?"
Judah froze at the question. Annie's eyes were wide, direct, the concern shading their hazel depths not only for him now. Her voice was so gentle, damn it, asking about Tommy. As if she still loved him. As if she still cared.
Anger flared inside him, along with the old, twisted jealousy. If she'd ever truly loved Tommy, if she'd cared about him at all, she would never have let Judah kiss her beneath the bleachers. Never would have let him touch her as he'd dreamed of doing. Never would have run to his arms in the night...
Judah cleared his throat. Against his will his gaze flicked downward, tracing the line of her thighs through her faded jeans. "He's all right. He's in Washington these days. Bought a farm there. He's married now." He watched Annie closely, wanting to see her reaction.
If his words surprised her, she hid it well. "That's great. When was this?"
"Seven, eight years ago. Something like that. He's got kids," Judah elaborated. "Two boys and a girl."
Something flickered briefly in her eyes, but she only smiled. "That makes you an uncle. Congratulations."
"Yeah, I guess it does." He cleared his throat again.
"And you?" she asked. "How about you?"
Her eyes were too soft. Too warm. Too lovely. Judah shifted uncomfortably and pushed back his Stetson. "Me? I'll never leave Montana." He snorted. "You know me."
Two words, one little question, and suddenly it seemed like there wasn't enough air for his lungs. Never mind the vast blue sky above them, or the miles of open, rolling hills all around. Judah moved closer, his voice dropping half an octave. "I'll always be here, Annie. You know that."
Her gaze rose to meet his, full of shadows. Maybe longing. Something thrummed in the air between them, and Judah stepped away quickly.
Christ, what was he doing?
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Happy reading! -- Sierra
"All I can say is WOW!"
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-- Paranormal Romance
CAPA nominee: Best contemporary erotic!
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