Authors: Carlie Sexton
This book is dedicated to two special friends. First, Jacelyn Rye who wrote her own book simultaneously while I wrote mine. Your support was invaluable to me. This would have not come to fruition if it wasn’t for you. Second, Raine Miller who inspired me to go for it. You spurred me on to finish and gave me incredible advice. Thanks to both of you.
A smile the size of the Grand Canyon stretched across Roger’s handsome face as he hung up the phone, causing his dark brown eyes to crinkle a bit. The heavenly realms had opened up as a voice of an angel spoke on the other end of the line. If only he could have reached through the line and touched her. His stomach was doing backflips and somersaults and his feet didn’t seem to touch the floor. What did Kate look like? He would know soon enough since Kate and her roommate Charlie were coming to see the apartment he had for rent. This was going to be perfect since she’d be right next door and available for him to see any time he wanted. Hearing her voice had somehow made him forget that he had a girlfriend. How could the sound of a voice do that?
He had managed Rancho Verde Apartments for several years. It was an easy job that he enjoyed. He had always judged potential rental candidates with his gut feelings. His easy conversation with Kate on the phone had been enlightening. She was well-spoken and classy, never interrupting him a single time that he had spoken. Now all he had to do was see her in the flesh. Did her face and body match her sweet, sultry voice? She and her roommate would arrive in an hour. Time had slowed to a snail’s pace as he waited for her.
But who was this Charlie? Was he her brother, boyfriend, a friend? Roger would walk on hot coals right now to find out the answer. He wasn’t good at being patient and he didn’t like surprises. Hopefully, Charlie was a gay friend or her brother. He had honed his gaydar during the eight years he served in the Army. Even though there was the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, it was still easy to figure out if a guy played for the other team. All it took was a lingering look and the guy’s true desires were discovered.
Roger had worked in the Criminal Investigation Division, or CID, for most of his time in the military. He had enlisted in 1993, on his eighteenth birthday, and completed his service commitment three months before the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He began his career in Georgia and ended it Germany. He had investigated everything from soldiers going AWOL to domestic disputes and murders. He had especially liked investigating the homicide cases so that he could determine where the perpetrator had gone wrong. The evidence always spoke to him, giving him clues that the other CIDs sometimes missed. He had a knack for cracking the case. He should. He had been around crime his whole life. Finding mistakes made by the “bad guy” was the cherry on top of his job and a useful skill in solving cases. He had risen through the ranks thanks to his expertise and hunches that had paid off.
But murder cases were few and far between. He mostly dealt with domestic violence. He heard countless stories from heart-broken women about the abuse they suffered at the hands of their husbands. He would record the entire story of the events that had taken place. Most women wanted justice when they were angry, but by the next morning they usually recanted their story, typically blaming themselves for what had happened. It was a vicious cycle that he had encountered over and over again. Now he could spot the type of woman who would end up with an abuser. His current girlfriend had been abused by her husband. The lasting effect was that she was eager to please a good guy when she found one. But it also made it very difficult for her to spot a truly good guy.
The family he grew up with had done the dance with the police several times. He had picked up a few things along the way and may have headed down the wrong path. Joining the Army had saved him from following in his foster mother’s footsteps. He went to live with her family when he was four years old. His own family had fallen on hard times and couldn’t feed all five kids. He was the youngest and somehow it just made sense that he go to a home where he could be given the basics. His foster mother did love him in her own way. For all her faults, he was grateful that she had taken him in and fed and clothed him. In his own estimation, he had turned out all right because of her. But they shared a terrible secret. A secret that he had never uttered to another human being because he couldn’t bring himself to say the words. He would take their secret to his grave if he had to.
After serving his eight years, he got out of the Army and moved to San Diego. He had applied to be a CSI for the San Diego Police Department, but it hadn’t worked out. So he started his own business tinting car windows. It was an easy gig and paid the bills. Managing the apartment building made life very affordable. He didn’t pay rent since the complex had forty apartments. He collected the rent and made sure that everything went smoothly. Most of the tenants were older and kept to themselves. He was careful not to rent to college students who were in to partying. Everyone living here liked their privacy and that was just fine with him. He didn’t want anyone in his business nor did he care about anyone else’s business. He was a loner by nature. He had one good friend from the Army and other than Rick, he was only interested in women. Life couldn’t be better now.
In his spare time he played drums in a band on Thursday and Sunday nights. It was not only fun, it was also great way to meet the ladies. He was looking for the perfect woman to complete his life. He had a placeholder for right now. She was pretty and sweet. She met his needs, but she didn’t make his teeth sweat. He wanted the kind of woman who rocked his world and made other guys jealous. Maybe then he could overcome his past and not be haunted anymore. He hadn’t exactly been given a charmed life, but he was working on it.
Enough reminiscing. Back to the impending meeting with an angel. Waiting for who he hoped was a beautiful, unattached woman. A light sweat broke out on his brow as he conjured up her appearance. He wasn’t sure what it was about her voice that had intrigued him so much. Part of him felt a little guilty since he had a girlfriend. But he wasn’t married so he was allowed to look.
He fiddled around his apartment. A quick vacuum and dusting was in order. He loaded the dishwasher and stacked the magazines neatly on the coffee table. He freshened up the bathroom too just in case she needed to use it. He didn’t want to look like a slob. After all, she would be in his apartment to sign the lease. Right before she was due to arrive, he rinsed his mouth with mouth wash to be minty fresh. He checked himself in the mirror. Not too bad for 38. He had been blessed with a baby face and no one had ever guessed his age. Women swore he looked ten years younger.
He was wearing his Calvin Klein jeans and the yellow polo shirt that brought out his olive complexion. He liked how this shirt hung on him, displaying his broad shoulders. He wanted to make a good first impression since he worked hard to stay in shape.
The sound of the door-bell was like an orchestra coming to life. They were right on time. He liked being punctual and appreciated it when others were. The Army had taught him the value of being on time. It meant being dependable. He pulled the door open and was faced with two goddess-like creatures.
Someone up there must really like me.
Both women exceeded his wildest expectations.
“Hi, I’m Kate Simmons and this is Charlie Andrews,” she said with her hand outstretched.
Roger took her soft delicate hand. He didn’t want to let go of it. He wanted to kiss and caress it, but he didn’t dare.
“It’s nice to meet you. I’m Roger Wilkins, the apartment manager,” he said smoothly even though his heart was a flurry. He shook Charlie’s hand as well.
Kate was tall and voluptuous. Roger couldn’t help but notice her full, beautifully shaped breasts and tiny waistline. She had curves in all the right places. Her long, wavy brown hair with blonde highlights cascaded down toward her breasts. He could lose himself for days in those big brown eyes of hers. His heart melted when she flashed her smile at him. He was sure that she turned heads wherever she went.
Hopefully, she didn’t have a boyfriend. He didn’t really like competition. Not that he could make any moves since he was seeing Rose. He was pleased that his instincts about her had been right on the money. The sound of her voice had captivated him and now he wanted to know her heart, mind, body and soul. He didn’t believe in love at first sight. But he definitely believed in lust at first sight.
Charlie, to his relief, turned out to be a woman. But not just any ordinary woman. She too made his mouth water. She was petite with long, straight black hair. Her skin made him think of a porcelain doll. It was so smooth. Her high cheekbones would have given any model a run for her money.
He was going to do everything in his power to make sure that they rented the apartment right next door to his. His search for the perfect woman might just be over thanks to a fortuitous vacancy.
“Let me show you the apartment. It’s right across the way,” he said, pointing to the door.
Kate and Charlie turned and strolled to the door across from Roger. They stood off to the side, giving him room to unlock the door.
As he opened the door he said, “I think you will really like this apartment. It is west facing so it stays cooler than the apartments across the way. The kitchen is a good size and you can fit a small table and chairs out on the balcony. It’s really relaxing in the evening to enjoy dinner out there. I’ll let you look around. Come on back to my apartment when you are done.”
“Thank you so much,” Kate said smiling. “The apartment sounds terrific.”
“We’ll see you soon,” said Charlie. Roger turned and walked back to his apartment, leaving the door ajar. He felt confident that one of these beauties would find him attractive. He was six feet tall, muscular, with dark hair and eyes. He would describe himself as the tall, dark, and handsome type. He always did well with the ladies and rarely was there an instance when one that he wanted got away. He had also honed his listening skills in the military so that women naturally confided in him. He knew it was the quickest way to his desired destination: his bedroom.
As Kate walked around the apartment, it had a cheerful atmosphere. Maybe it was just the fact that she was moving out on her own that lifted her spirits. It was time to become a full-fledged grown-up and not live with her mother anymore. Their relationship had become strained since she was no longer a little girl.
The apartment was on the second floor, so it would be safer than the downstairs apartment that she and Charlie had walked through earlier in the day. With the apartment building manager living right next door any problems that arose would be handled quickly. Roger seemed very approachable and friendly. The vaulted ceilings and balcony added a charming essence that she was looking for. Stepping out onto the balcony, she noticed the quaint courtyard with a grassy area, magnolia trees, and vibrant flowers that seemed to be smiling at her. The yellow daisies were especially welcoming. It was also fragrant, with the scent of jasmine and gardenia wafting up to tickle her nose. Drinking coffee out here in the mornings and sipping wine in the evenings would recharge her battery when it got low. The two bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms would work out perfectly for her and Charlie. She liked that they each had a bathroom inside their perspective bedrooms. The apartment had two master suites, which was a plus because they could both have a spacious area to retreat to when they needed some privacy.
Charlie, short for Charlene, liked the apartment too and pointed out that it had washer-dryer hook-ups, a dishwasher, and plenty of cabinets. She was very practical about these things. It was close to San Diego State University, where Kate would be attending college, starting her junior year. Kate had taken time off from school because of the “incident” while Charlie had graduated. Charlie’s job in the HR department of a telecommunications company was only fifteen minutes away. This was the ideal apartment for both women.
“Charlie,” Kate called out, “what do you think of this place?”
Charlie emerged from one of the bedrooms. “I love it. I think that it will work out great. It’s close to SDSU and has the amenities that we’re looking for,” she said. “Plus, I can get to work in no time.”
“That’s just what I was thinking. The balcony is a great spot for relaxing or studying. The bedrooms are huge. I can set up a space for studying and doing papers. It seems really quiet, too. Are you ready to give Roger a deposit and sign the lease?”
“I most definitely am,” Charlie said, nodding her head.
“I can’t believe that we can rent this place for only eleven-hundred a month. It’s a steal,” Kate replied. She hugged Charlie. “It’s going to be great for us to be out on our own.”
Their decision was made. They were going to rent this apartment.
Decorating was going to be so much fun. Creating a sanctuary for herself and Charlie was a top priority. She had been walking around on egg shells for long enough with her family. She needed a place to call her own more than she had realized. The space had great potential for creating the “ah” feeling that she so needed when she walked through the door. Since they each lived with their parents, they had flexibility to move in right away. They walked out of the apartment to find Roger’s door open. As they approached the threshold, he ushered them in. He was hopeful that they were going to sign a lease.
“So, what did you think of the place?” he asked with raised eyebrows.
“We both really like it,” Kate answered with a smile that reached her eyes. “We want to rent it.”
“Let’s sit at the table. I have your lease ready,” he said as he led them into his dining area. “I just need your first month’s rent and deposit.” They each wrote a check for $1,100.00 and handed them to him. Roger went over the lease and had them initial and sign the highlighted areas. He seemed very pleased to have them as neighbors.
As Kate was signing the lease she asked, “When is the earliest that we can move in?”
“You can move in tomorrow if you like,” he said. “The apartment is ready.”
“Excellent. That would actually work out quite well for us,” she said.
“Good,” Roger replied, standing up. “Follow me, I’ll show you where you can park your cars.”
The women followed him downstairs. He informed them that most of the tenants had lived there for a long time and were very quiet. They assured him that they liked the quiet and wanted to respect their neighbor’s privacy. They arrived at the parking spaces which were directly below the apartment, right next to Roger’s spaces. The storage units in front of their parking spots looked promising for their bicycles.
“Are one of these storage units for us? They would be great for our bikes,” asked Charlie.
“Yeah,” said Kate, nodding.
“Actually, I am already using those storage units. I own a car window-tinting business and I use these units for all of my equipment. Much of the work I do is here at the apartment. I also play in a band on Thursday and Sunday nights,” he said with a gleam in his eyes. “You can keep your bikes on the balcony or maybe in the hallway closet.”
“Mitch will help us figure it out,” Charlie stated.
“Who’s Mitch?” Roger asked.
“He’s my boyfriend. You’ll meet him when we move in. He’s a great guy. I’m sure you’ll like him.”
“Wow, it sounds like you must keep busy between having your own business, managing this place and playing in a band,” Kate said. “Charlie and I know about being busy with work and school.”
“Yes, it does, but I enjoy them immensely, especially performing,” Roger responded. “They pay the bills and provide a lot of freedom for me. I’m not the type to work in corporate America. I would be bored out of my mind if I had to sit at a desk all day. Well, if you don’t have any more questions, then I will see you when you move in. The place is yours,” he said, handing each woman her own key.