Authors: Andrea Hopkins
For my husband, David Hopkins, I have loved you long before you even knew who the hell I was. And yes I know that sounds stalkerish but it’s the truth. You are everything to me. Thank you for being my rock and the greatest man I have ever known.
P.S: This book is indeed fiction. It is not about us nor will it be. So don’t get your panties in a bunch!
I’ve always been intrigued by The Love Triangle. I’ve watched movies, read countless books, and I have even written one myself concerning the notion. But I’ve never
understood how one person could be completely in love with two different people, totally and utterly torn between one person and the other. And maybe it’s because I have loved the same person since I was kid. I have always known who I was supposed to be with. The Love Triangle has always been a sort of myth to me. Never have I thought this was even close to being possible in the real world—only in fiction and daydreams. Never have I thought this could happen to me.
Until this man. Until he moved into our lives and made me question everything I thought was the way it was supposed to be. My forever was no longer a certainty. My life, my love, my heart. He turned my whole world upside down and inside out. Shook it like a damn Etch-a Sketch until all that was left was a blank slate. And a choice…
Or the only man I’ve ever loved.
“Someone is finally moving into old man Merrick’s house!” I shout to Cole while drinking my second cup of tea. I’ve been peering out the window, trying to catch a glimpse of our new neighbor for the last ten minutes. The house next door has been empty for well over a year. Old man Merrick’s son finally put him in a nursing home back in Eugene, Oregon where his family lives. Coincidently, that’s where Cole and I are from as well. But after tragedy struck—
which I won’t get into quite yet
—we moved to Portland so Cole could attend Portland State University. That was eight years ago, and we’ve been here ever since. The beautiful and beautifully weird city stole our hearts. It’s also where our little family began. Soon after we arrived, so did our twins, Cadence and Dylan.
“It’s about effing time. Hopefully they like noise and two mischievous little devils!” Matt says from behind me as our kiddos come pounding down the stairs. He’s dressed for work in dark washed jeans, a button down plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and sexy as sin black motorcycle boots. Cole is a history teacher and varsity baseball coach at Lincoln High School. He is also the object of many schoolgirl crushes at said school. Honestly, I don’t blame them. My man is mighty fine.
And all mine.
He squeezes my ass and after a loud squeal from me, he plants a deep kiss on my inviting lips. From the double set of “
” we get, it was probably too deep for our little ones to handle.
“I think I’m going to bake the new neighbors a cake. You know, welcome them to the neighborhood. What do you say, crazies? You wanna help Mom bake a cake?”
“Yeah!” Cady and Dyl scream in unison.
With a chuckle, Cole says, “Well, looks like you got your answer! I’m gonna grab some coffee and head on out early, babe. I have about a million papers to grade.” Pointing to the twins, he says, “Now, you monsters, just because you have the day off doesn’t mean you get to run your mom ragged!”
“Yes, Daddy!” they reply sweetly. A little too sweetly, which is never a good thing.
With another kiss to all of us, he heads off to work. Leaving me with our beautiful, six-year old heathens.
Two hours later, our kitchen is covered with flour and powdered sugar. But we made the perfect homemade chocolate-chocolate chip cake with buttercream icing and chocolate shavings. Yes, I am
good. With the cake in hand, the kids running around me and out the door, I head to our neighbor’s house, ready to dish out a hearty dose of hospitality.
Their front door is wide open. Burly movers are coming out of the house after what I assume is a job well done. Making sure my kids are still in eyesight, I knock three times.
“Just a minute!” A deep voice sounds from somewhere inside the box-cluttered house. I can hear footsteps, then a loud
, followed by, “Shit!”
I stifle a laugh just as the voice appears around a tower of cardboard. And everything around me stops. Completely.
This man is beautiful—as close to perfection as possible
. Tall. Taller than Cole by a few inches. I would say 6’4” maybe. Dark brown hair that’s a little shaggy. It curls around his ears, and he has that perfect side sweep bang thing that any girl would be jealous of—Tom Welling as Clark Kent-style.
. His mint green eyes even freaking twinkle, for eff’s sake. But as I’m looking at them, I can see a sadness deep in those irises. He tries to hide it, but I can see it clearly.
I see it because mine hold the same sadness. Pain that takes residence just below the surface.
This man is the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome. He’s wearing dark jeans that fit him like they were custom made and no shoes. Barefoot.
. And a black, fitted V-neck tee hugs his swimmer-like body perfectly.
I look back up to his face, and I see that I am in fact busted for checking him out, if that smirk of his is any indication.
Breathe. In through the nose. Out the mouth. And smile.
“Hey there, I’m Evangeline. Most people call me Evie, though. I live next door with those two hellions over there. We made this cake for you. I know it’s kind of corny, but I really love to bake, and I kick ass at it, so—” I trail off and laugh nervously. Stupid damn rambling.
Foot, meet mouth.
Lightly chuckling, he grabs the cake from my hands and takes a deep inhalation while closing his eyes.
Holy hell, even he breathes sexy
. “Thank you. Not corny at all. Unexpected. I didn’t think people actually did this sort of thing anymore. But if it tastes as good as it smells, I would have to agree that it’s pretty kickass. Oh, and I’m Jake, by the way.”
Holding out his hand toward me, I take it and instantly feel a jolt of electricity. And when I say feel, I mean
, all the way down to my toes. I look up at him and see the same surprise on his face that I am sure mirrors my own. I take my hand back and shake it out.
What the eff was that?
I’ve never felt that before. I stare at my hand like it’s on fire. Breaking through my inner monologue, a cute little boy peeks around Jake. He looks to be around the same age as the twins.
“Oh, hey there, little dude!”
Jake looks down at the boy with such love and a tinge of that sadness—it’s heart wrenching. There’s a story there.
“This is Ben. Ben, this is our neighbor, Ms. Evangeline. Tell her hello.”
“Hello, Ms. Evangeline.” Ben mumbles as he looks over at the twins digging holes in my yard.
Those damn kids.
“Nice to meet you, Ben. Those rascals over there currently destroying my yard are my kids, Cadence and Dylan. They’re six. And I am sure they would love some help with the annihilation of my grass. If that’s okay with Jake, here.”
Ben looks at Jake, eyes silently pleading. With an amused smile, Jake nods and says, “Sure, kid. For a little while.”
Ben scurries over to the twins. It looks like they introduce themselves, then get right to digging. It’s amazing how fast kids make friends.
“Your son is so stinking cute!” I say as I turn back to Jake.
“Oh, thanks. But he’s actually my nephew.” From the look of confusion on my face, he adds, “His parents—my sister—died eight months ago.”
Shit. Deep breath. In through the nose, and out the mouth
“I would say I’m sorry, but I know from experience that sorrys don’t change a damn thing. I will, however, welcome you to the neighborhood and offer you my friendship right here, right now. I know you don’t know me, but I swear I’m not a psycho or just a lame-ass housewife. I’m actually pretty cool, if I do say so myself. Cole and I have been dying to have a neighbor our age. We’ve been stuck with a senile and grumpy old man with no respect for rock n’ roll or screaming children. So if you can excuse my ramblings—or just learn to tune me out like my partner does—I think we could totally be friends.”
I step past him and into the house. Yes, I am in fact trespassing. But I can’t stop myself now.
Just keep on going with this, Evie.
It seems to be wiping away that dejected look he had when he mentioned his sister. I don’t ever want to see that look again. I’m not sure why—
I just don’t
. “Besides, from the look of this place, you’re gonna need a helping hand, or at the very least, a sitter. You know what? Yep, it’s settled. You and Ben are coming over for dinner tonight, no excuses. We have wine. Lots and lots of wine.
He’s looking at me like I have gone clinically insane. Which with that spectacle, I quite possibly may have. And then he bursts out laughing. Like full on, hunching-over-belly laughter. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.
Wiping tears from his eyes, he tells me, “Wow, I needed that. Are you always like this? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I actually think your forwardness is pretty damn refreshing. And kind of adorable.”
I blush. Which, with my all year ‘round tan skin, is hard to do.
He thinks I’m adorable?
I don’t think I’ve ever been called that. Shit.
Are we flirting?
I don’t flirt.
At least not with men who aren’t Cole.
What the eff is wrong with me today?
Maybe I’m coming down with something.
Wait, he asked me a question didn’t he? I really need to get out of my damn head. Um. Oh, yeah.
always like this. Cole can attest to that. Did I mention Cole? He’s my partner in crime. Life companion. Baby daddy. He’s a history teacher at the high school down the street. He also coaches baseball.” I linger in the living room and move to the front window to check on the kids. Who are now using the hose to make mudpies, from the looks of it.
“You like baseball, right?”
. Well, if you’re going to be our friend, then you need to work on your sincerity of liking the greatest game in the world.” I turn my head toward him with a sarcastic smirk.
Jake comes over to stand at my side. He looks out the window, then turns to me and says, “I think we’re gonna be great friends, Evangeline.”
. Not Evie. But
. No one calls me that. I like the way it sounds coming from those beyond kissable lips.
Kissable? Where’d that come from?
. Maybe I need a nap.
I look into those mint green eyes again, but instead of sadness, I see something else.
Humor with a mix of…want?
No. No, it can’t be.
He smiles an honest to Goddess, genuine smile, then those eyes briefly land on my lips, moving back up so quickly I barely caught it at all. A sudden shiver runs through me as I look back to the kids.
I have a feeling Jake might be trouble.