Authors: Melody Banks
The Boy Next Door
Cougar Heights Novel)
By Melody Banks
Text Copyright © 2013 Girl’s Night In Books, LLC
All Rights Reserved
I’m about to do a bad, bad thing.
I’ll hate myself for this later
and I know it. But, still, I just can’t stop. The temptation is too great.
“Order ready for
Jane,” the barista says, handing me a triple caramel latte and double chocolate chunk cookie.
“Thanks,” I say, taking it from his hands.
Day three of my diet and already I’m already cheating. I grab the drink and the cookie, and sigh, inwardly promising myself I’ll go to the gym for twice as long tomorrow. Right now, all I want to do is find a table in the corner where I can peacefully enjoy my treat.
I jump at the sound of my name. I whirl around and there, standing only a few inches from me is one of the hottest guys I’ve ever seen.
Make that one of the hottest
I’ve ever seen. He’s barely looks legal. He’s smiling intensely and staring at me as though we’re friends.
I blink, doing a double take. Where do I know him from? He looks familiar, but I can’t quite place him.
I watch as his grin slowly changes to a smirk. He’s obviously enjoying the confusion on my face.
recognize me, do you?” he asks. “I guess I didn’t make much of an impression on you, did I?” he says, folding his arms across his chest in mock accusation.
feel horribly rude – I’m usually so good with names and faces – but I have no earthly idea who this guy is.
Austin,” he tells me. “Austin Gates. Chad’s friend from next door. Ring a bell now?”
Gates?! I nearly drop my coffee and cookie.
I’m sure my mouth is hanging wide open, but I’m powerless to hide the shock.
this guy standing in front of me – with muscles that go on for days– could actually be Austin Gates.
Scrawny, tiny little
Austin Gates from next door – the boy who was joined at the hip with my son, Chad, before they both went away to college two years ago. Austin Gates, the definition of a “computer nerd,” who was so short and scrawny they used to call him Screech, like after the character from
Saved by the Bell
Austin?” I ask, still uncertain. “I’m so sorry…I…I didn’t recognize you.”
“I get that a lot,” he says.
Yeah, I’ll bet,
“I always forget that people from
Pine Heights remember me the way I used to look. Since I haven’t been home in so long nobody’s seen the new me.” He laughs. “I guess it is kind of big a change.”
Yes, it’s quite the change,” I tell him.
“So how’ve you been, Mrs.
” I tell him. “And it’s Ms. Selby now, not Mrs. Rick and I got divorced a while back. But you can call me Jane.”
raises his eyebrows. “Really? So you and Mr. Selby are no longer together?”
I shake my head. “Not anymore. Rick cheated on me with his dental hygienist.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“It’s fine. Our relationship had been over for a while, anyway. We were basically living together as roommates.”
Why am I telling him this? The words are just tumbling out. I bite my lip to keep from talking.
“Well, if it’s any consolation, Ms.
Selby, I imagine a woman like you won’t stay single long.”
Jane,” I correct him. “And thanks.” I don’t tell him that I’ve
been single for a long time – longer than I care to admit. It’s been eighteen months since Rick left, and in that time I’ve been on a grand total of one date…and that date was nothing to write home about. I’m thirty-six years old, which is hardly ancient, but it can feel that way sometimes. Being single for eighteen months wouldn’t be so bad if I at least had something exciting going on in my life, but my days and nights are totally routine. I won’t even tell you how long it’s been since I’ve had sex.
,” Austin says, enunciating my name in a way that makes my heart race, “Did I tell you I’m moving back to Pine Heights?”
“You are?” I ask, trying to keep my voice steady. I’m having a hard time breathing properly, although I’m not sure why. There’s something about the way he’s staring at me that’s making me slightly nervous. “So, um…uh, does that mean you’re transferring to the local college,” I stammer. Last I heard he was at Notre Dame.
No,” he says. “I’m taking a year or two off. I started an internet company my freshman semester and it’s been doing well…really well, actually. Well enough that I was able to buy my parents’ old house. I just closed yesterday.”
You mean the house next door to me?
I don’t have time to say it out loud, before he adds, “So I guess this makes us neighbors again. Assuming you still live there.”
“I do,” I answer, balancing my coffee in my hands. My grip has gotten suddenly unsteady, and I’m nervous that I might drop the hot beverage on the floor.
I’d seen the Gates house go up for sale a few months ago when Austin’s parents moved out. It’s been sitting on the market empty ever since. The economy’s tough right now, so it’s not easy to move property. When I saw the for sale sign come down, I assumed the Gates had decided to lease it out. I never even considered they might be selling it to their son.
” Austin says. “Well, neighbor, you and I have to get reacquainted.”
That sounds good,” I say.
How about I buy you a drink?” he asks.
already got one, thanks.” I hold up my coffee.
I wasn’t talking about a coffee….I meant a
What? Now I’m totally thrown off. Is
Austin Gates asking me out? No, it can’t be. Before I can answer he says, “Just kidding! I don’t turn twenty-one for another t(hree weeks. So coffee’s about the strongest drink I can buy.”
Oh, God. I feel like a fool. Of course he’s not asking me out.
I’m sixteen years older than, his mother’s friend. I remember how old people in their thirties seemed when I was in my twenties. To Austin, I might as well be a hundred.
“Anyway, I should probably get going.”
“Me too,” he says. “I’ve got to hit the gym.”
“I just came from there,” I admit. “Of course, I’m completely undoing it at the moment.” I hold up the
“A little splurge now and then doesn’t hurt. Where do you work out?”
I tell him I’m a member at the gym downtown.
“You ought to come by my gym sometime,” he says. “
I just joined Xpedia Fitness and they gave me a bunch of free passes. We could work out together.”
Sure,” I say, not expecting anything to come of this. I certainly don’t expect him to suggest a specific time.
“How about Thursday?
I’m moving in the morning, but I could meet that evening if you’re free?”
This catches me off guard. I truly thought this was one of thos
e empty offers people make, kind of like suggesting “let’s get lunch” when you know it will never happen.
I’m tempted to say no. The idea of meeting
Austin to work out is more than a little bit intimating – he’s half my age and he’s got muscles that go on for days. There’s no way I’ll be able to keep up. I’m about to invent an excuse, when I think,
Oh, what the hell? What have I got to lose? It’s just a harmless workout.
And from the looks of Austin he definitely knows he’s way around a gym – I’ve been wanting to step up my diet and exercise routine, so there’s no reason
to go for it.
I’m free Thursday,” I tell him. “Although, you have to promise not to leave me in the dust.”
“Hey, don’t knock yourself.” He gives me a quick once over. “For all we know this might be the other way around, you might be the one leaving
in the dust. I hope this doesn’t cross a line, but I have to say, Ms. Selby, you’ve got an incredible body for a woman your age,” he says approvingly.
“Thanks,” I say, trying not to bristle at the “for a woman your age” part. I’m sure he means well, but this just reinforces the fact that there are sixteen years between us – that I’m the mother of his
high school best friend and that I am, technically, old enough to be
mother, too. I also note that he’s started calling me Ms. Selby again.
ll see you on Thursday then,” Austin says. “Six o’clock?”
“Sounds great,” I tell him.
“I’m looking forward to it.” He waves as I walk out the door. “Bye, Jane.”
I wave back. “Goodb
# # #
“I believe the official
term is cougar,” my friend Lisa says. It’s later that evening and we’re knocking back Coors Lights at Raylan’s, a cute little bar located a few blocks away from my house.
I’ve just finished telling her about my run-in with
Austin that afternoon, and Lisa, per usual, is giving me her no hold’s barred opinion. It’s what I love best about her.
Forget cougar,” I say, groaning inwardly. “I believe the official word is jailbait. The poor boy’s not even twenty-one yet! I could get arrested.”
“Nothing illegal about
a twenty year old. Just so long as you don’t bring him here and order him liquor,” Lisa says. “And, besides, he’ll be twenty-one in three weeks. That’s not very long. You could definitely date him.”
“Who said anything about dating!” I exclaim. “I bumped into
him at the coffee shop, we had a little friendly exchange and agreed to meet up to exercise. That’s all.”
“That sounds like a date to me.”
“He said he was kidding about the drink part.”
Lisa takes a few sips of her Coors Light. “But he wasn’t kidding
about working out with you Thursday, was he?”
“No. We’re meeting
“Listen, guys don’t go ou
t of their way to do things with women they aren’t interested in. That’s just a basic fact. If he wants to hang out with you – and made a firm date – that definitely means something.”
“Maybe it just means he feels sorry for my fat ass?” I laugh. “He did catch me pigging out after hitting the gym.”
Lisa rolls her eyes. “Come on, will you quit it with that already? You have a fantastic body, Jane. Don’t sell yourself short. I’d kill to look like you do.”
I know she’s being nice, but I can’t help but break down the compliment in my mind. Despite what she says,
I know what she really means is,
I’d kill to look like you do, considering we’re almost forty years old
. I don’t have the body of a nineteen year old girl – not even close. And despite spending countless hours in the gym, I’ve yet to attain anything even resembling flat abs. I know my body is good-to-decent, but we’re grading on a curve here: compared to girls half my age – the kind of girls Austin would date – I don’t stand a chance.
And why am I thinking about this anyway? It’s not like I’m going to go after
I take another swig of my beer, and
try not to think about the guy who’s not even old enough to order one.