Monster by Laura Belle Peters
I closed the door behind me and locked it, glancing at the windows as I slid the key out. Turning around, I almost bumped into someone.
I held my keys out like a weapon, squaring my shoulders and bracing my back against the door, my eyes darting around for anyone I could call out to for help.
The man took three big steps back and held up his hands, looking apologetic.
“Hey, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said. “I’m sorry about that.”
“What the hell are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m your new neighbor,” he said, sticking his hand out for me to shake. He jerked his other thumb at the side of the duplex that had been vacant for months.
I stepped forward and took his hand, not wanting him to think I was afraid.
Even though I clearly was.
His hand was broad and strong, feeling good in my own. I shut down that line of thought real fast. It had been a long time, but not that long.
He was an attractive man, though, I couldn’t deny it. His Captain America shield t-shirt strained over his broad shoulders, the material thin enough to hint at more defined muscles underneath the fabric. His blond hair was short, but still managed to look a little rumpled, and his green eyes were wide and honest, promising kindness and humor.
Not that that mattered.
I didn’t trust the promise of a strange man’s eyes. Not right now. Not here. Whoever was killing the girls around here probably looked plenty warm, to charm them away to their deaths.
“Hey,” I said, a little lamely. My instinct to be a good neighbor warred with my sense of self-preservation.
“My name’s Quinn Markham,” he said.
Something about the way he moved spoke of hidden strength. He reminded me of a panther, all coiled tension and power.
This man was dangerous. I didn’t think he wanted to hurt me – I didn’t miss him cast a quick eye down my body – but I didn’t want to be on his bad side, either. I wondered briefly if he was as good in bed as the quirk of his mouth and the confidence of his movement suggested. I had to be careful. A man like that could have me on my back in a hot second.
“Annie Watson,” I said.
“Nice to meet you,” he said. “Please, don’t hesitate to knock if you need anything. Anything at all.”
Was that a promise?
“I have a dog,” I said. It was abrupt, but I was still calming down from my fear. “Urso. He’s a watchdog, but he isn’t barky. If he is, let me know.”
“Do you want to introduce him to me sometime soon?” Quinn asked. “So he doesn’t bark at you every time I come and go?”
I half-smiled at the man.
“If you like,” I said, easily. Quinn didn’t need to know that Urso’s alert wasn’t a bark, and being introduced wouldn’t stop him from letting me know whenever Quinn was on the property. If Quinn thought he could come and go secretly, so much the better.
Couldn’t be too careful right now.
“In fact,” I added, “I have a few minutes now if you do.”
Quinn agreed, and I unlocked my house, whistling through the screen door before I opened it.
“Urso, come out here. Sit.”
I smiled privately to myself as my new neighbor bit off a curse at seeing my dog for the first time.
I’d gotten Urso when he was a puppy, only about ten pounds, but he’d quickly blossomed into the enormous dog that padded out of the house.
“My friend was about to breed her Great Pyrenees when the neighbor’s Rottweiler came to visit,” I said. “The fence was pretty sturdy, but not enough for two dogs that big who were interested in one another.”
“That’s quite a mix. How the hell much does he weigh?” Quinn sounded incredulous.
“About a hundred and thirty pounds,” I said. “He’s a big boy.”
“I’ll say,” Quinn muttered.
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