Excerpt The Aussie Next Door by Stefanie London
Tears sprang to Angie’s eyes so quickly, they caught her off guard. Oh, hell no. She hadn’t kept herself together all through that meeting this afternoon only to lose it now.
She spun around to face the sink—now more concerned about her emotions than the big black dog in her tiny kitchen. Why did she have to act like a melodramatic teenager in front of Jace now? He was pretty much a level of adulthood she could never hope to achieve. He always had a cool head about him. He was quiet and composed, thoughtful. And hot…so hot.
Like, exactly what you think a sexy Australian guy should look like kind of hot.
Blue eyes, sandy hair. Crooked Hemsworth smile. Tanned skin. Shoulders broad enough to carry the world. She’d seen him in board shorts a number of times and knew that what he had going on under his usual T-shirt and jeans was the stuff of her horny dreams.
Holy freaking physical perfection, Batman.
Except that he most likely thought she was a mess of a human. Which, to be fair, she was. Call it a by-product of the fact that she had only one mode of operation in dealing with nervous energy: grin and bear it. Or, as was more accurate, grin and verbal diarrhea.
In the case of Jace Walters, that meant flitting around with a too-big smile and starting conversations about literally anything that popped into her head. Like that one time she suggested he plant cacti instead of annuals, because they were easier to care for. Except that he should be careful because this one time she fell on a cactus, and pulling the prickles out of her leg was torture. But that it would definitely be worse for a guy because their nether regions were so much more exposed. Which had been super awkward, so then she’d changed the topic and started talking about how strange it was that eggplants had nothing to do with eggs.
She cringed remembering how he’d stared blankly at her. Sometimes it seemed like he had no idea how to react to her or what to say, but who could blame him? She talked sixty miles a minute and changed conversation topics like the wind.
Jace cleared his throat. “Should I go? I don’t want to…intrude.”
“No, stay. Please.” She cursed herself for the desperation in her voice. Warning: stage-five clinger. She turned around and offered him one of her too-big smiles. “I mean…it’s been a long day. I could use some company, actually.”
Falling apart was not an option.
He absently scratched his chest, as if he wasn’t sure what to say next. Then he blurted out, “Want to help me look for the other dog?”
She blinked. “You lost him already?”
“I didn’t lose him,” Jace replied, frowning. “I…misplaced him.”
Angie let out a half laugh. “Sure. I can help with the dog hunt. We’re looking for the little one, right?”
“And you’ll lock up the big one.” She eyed Tilly warily.
“Yes, I’ll lock her up.”
“And you’ll let me make you a cup of coffee after.”
A crooked smile pulled at Jace’s lips, making a dimple form in one cheek. “Sure.”
“Give me a second to change.” She darted off to her bedroom and quickly wriggled out of her pencil skirt and blouse. She wanted to burn the damn things—useless talismans that they were. She reemerged in jean shorts, a white T-shirt, and thongs…which she still couldn’t say without giggling. Although now, not even the Aussies’ funny word for flip-flops could lift her spirits. The meeting today had left her feeling like a husk.
Like someone had hollowed her out and taken a match to her future.
You could always find a bloke to marry. I wouldn’t be totally opposed to the idea.
Paul’s words swirled in her head, but she shut the thoughts down. There was no way she could marry a guy for a visa. She’d always known she would marry for love—because her life would have been very different if she’d had love…from anyone.
No way would she shortchange herself where that was concerned.
Not even for the life of your dreams? Not even for the chance to live anonymously and happily?
No. She deserved more.
“I’m outside,” Jace called, and Angie jogged through the front door, then slammed it shut behind her. “Big dog is locked up.”
“Well, that is a giant relief.” She also didn’t love small dogs. Angie didn’t hate them, of course, but she’d had such a bad experience earlier in life that she’d never bonded with any other dog since. “Okay, Dr. Watson. What’s your read on the situation?”
“How come you get to be Sherlock?”
“Because Sherlock would never have lost the dogs in the first place.”