His ride out to the lake had been a good one, but that many hours on his motorcycle could be fairly exhausting. Still, he knew if he got into bed now he’d only end up lying there fixating on the beautiful woman down the hall, so he started doing push-ups until he was dripping with sweat. Sit-ups were next, a hundred and then a hundred more, until his abs were burning as badly as his arms. By the time he’d finished his impromptu workout, then taken a much-needed shower and climbed into bed, he should have been burnt out enough to fall asleep.
But every time he closed his eyes, he saw Brooke standing, dripping wet in her bikini, her expression at once innocent and yet innately sensual. He’d taken the small guest room farthest away from her. The double bed barely left room for a dresser and one side table, but frankly, he hadn’t trusted himself to sleep only one wall away from her. Not if it meant he could hear every time she rolled over in her bed. Not if it meant he’d be unable to stop wondering if she had changed into pajamas...or if she slept in the nude like he did.
Reeling with full-on need that he hadn’t even come close to squashing, Rafe closed his eyes again and willed himself to sleep.
He’d need every ounce of focus tomorrow to keep his hands off Brooke.
The next morning, Rafe woke to the sound of the shower running. Even though it was fairly cool in the house, he was sweating. He couldn’t have imagined having this kind of reaction to Brooke, but that didn’t change the fact that he was.
Pissed at himself, he yanked on his jeans and pulled his cell from the pocket. His sister picked up on the first ring. "How’s the lake?"
"The lake is great. It’s the house that’s the problem."
He waited for her to exclaim with surprise, or to ask him exactly what the problem was. But all Mia said was, "When I finally got hold of the selling agent last night, she mentioned it needed a little TLC."
"TLC?" He might have laughed at that ridiculous understatement if his system hadn’t been so twisted up with impossible desire for the beautiful, entirely off-limits woman in the shower down the hall. "You should have seen the look on Brooke’s face when we walked in there, crunching over dead raccoon bones."
Of course, Mia didn’t comment on the animal bones, not when her ears had perked up for a completely different reason. "Wait a minute—Brooke’s still next door?"
"She moved in a few years ago after her grandparents passed away and willed the place to her." As Mia made a sound of distress at the thought of Judy and Frank being gone, he added, "Brooke makes truffles for a living."
"Chocolate truffles?" He could practically see his sister drooling over the phone. "Sounds like the two of you caught up last night," she said in a deceptively easy voice. One he knew better than to take at face value.
"She offered to let me stay with her until I fix up my place enough to move into it. I figure it will take at least a week if I work around the clock on it."
"Wow, that’s great that you’re staying with her," his sister said in a voice heavy with suggestion.
Suggestion he was going to ignore, just as he was ignoring his own brain’s suggestions for all the super-sexy things he and Brooke could do together. Knowing Mia, she’d use her annoying little-sister ESP to pick up on his inappropriate thoughts for their next-door neighbor over the phone, and he’d never—ever—hear the end of it.
He’d called his sister to mutter about the state of the house she’d bought with his money, not to talk about Brooke. But somehow everything kept coming back around to his beautiful new roommate no matter what he did. Turning his focus back to the house, he’d finally begun to walk Mia through its state of disrepair when his sister’s phone beeped with another incoming call.
"I’ve got to take this call, Rafe, but don’t worry, I’m not going to leave you hanging. It’s really good to know Brooke’s taking care of you. Say hi to her for me and tell her I can’t wait to see her."
The shower turned off at the same time his sister hung up on him. Rafe had a feeling Mia’s upcoming trip to the lake was going to have far more to do with spying on her brother and her old friend than it would with helping him fix up the wreck of a house.
Knowing better than to allow his brain any time to focus on the fantasy of Brooke getting out of the shower and drying off her wet, naked skin with a towel, he quickly pulled on a T-shirt and went into the kitchen to make breakfast for them both.
There were several loaves of dough rising—when had she made those?—and all he could think was that it smelled exactly the way a home should. His mother had always made her own bread, and the familiar smell reached down into him, past all the crap that he’d dealt with these past few years, into the childlike and innocent part of him he’d thought was completely lost.
How, he wondered, could nothing more than a smell do that?
He shook his head against the crazy thoughts. By the time Brooke walked into the kitchen looking fresh and gorgeous in a tank top and shorts, he had dished up scrambled eggs and bacon and toast on the kitchen island for both of them.
"You made breakfast." She looked as pleased as if he’d bought her a diamond bracelet.
"I couldn’t tell if you ate when you got up to make these—" He gestured to the bread rising on the kitchen sills. "—but it didn’t look like you had."
"God, no, who could possibly eat that early?"