Alpha's Irresistible Neighbor

By: J.P. Comeau

They ushered me into their sprawling kitchen, and I did my best not to gawk. They had really done a number on the place with their remodeling, and it damn near looked like something that had leapt out of one of my mother’s homemaking magazines. The white marble countertops matched the white marble flooring, and the shimmering white cabinetry was second-to-none compared to the plain white porcelain dishes Penny started heaving out of the multiple storage orifices the kitchen had in the first place.

“I don’t know how in the world you’re going to keep this place clean with a little one running around,” I said as I sat down at the table.

Penny cackled. “A maid. I told Mikael that if we weren’t getting a nanny, we sure as hell were getting a maid.”

I dug around in my massive purse. “Smart woman. I’m assuming you took that deal, cuz?”

He dropped into a chair in front of me. “You already know the answer to that question.”

I tossed him a playful wink. “Good man. Your mother raised you right.”

He smiled. “Never doubted that for a second.”

Then, I heaved my enormous scrapbook onto the top of the table.

“Now,” I said breathlessly as I brushed my hair out of my face, “I’ve already gathered a few ideas and color schemes that I thought might suit you guys. But, it’s completely okay if you’re not into any of them. Right now, I just want to get a feel for what you guys like and don’t like.”

My cousin chuckled. “Told you, Penny.”

I blinked. “Told her what?”

Penny giggled with delight as she set drinks in front of us. “I want to see every option your creative brain has come up with because I just can’t do stuff like this on my own. My brain simply doesn’t work like that.”

“Well, you’re in luck, because it’s just about all my brain does.”

The second I flipped open the scrapbook, the two of them were entranced. Penny gasped at every page turn and Mikael found something he liked in every theme I had laid out. There were winter wonderlands and Halloween bashes. Spring awakening weddings and beautiful fall layouts. I had something for every season, every holiday, and every major color scheme I’d seen in modern-day weddings.

And as I scribbled down what they liked and what they didn’t, a hefty knock came at the front door.

Sending booms echoing down the hallway toward the kitchen.

“Jesus Christ,” I whispered as I jumped at the sound, “who in the world is at the door?”

Penny and Mikael just looked at one another, though.

“I’ll get it,” my cousin said as he stood.

I furrowed my brow. “Is… something wrong?”

Penny reached for his hand and squeezed it softly. “Don’t take too long, okay? Our wedding is important, too.”

He dipped down and kissed her hand. “It’s the most important. I promise.”

I watched my cousin get up from the table and dote on his fiancée before he excused himself from the room completely, and I craned my neck over my shoulder to figure out who in the world had pulled him from our conversation. I mean, I had just gotten there. We had a ton of things to get done before I even went to check into my AirBnB!

And the gruff voice that quickly followed Mikael’s greeting prickled the nape of my neck.

“I’m so glad you’re back in town,” I heard my cousin say.

“Yeah, well,” the gruff voice said, “thought I’d stop by and say hey before I got to it.”

“Do you… have anything right now?”

“Got lots of stuff, but no way to piece it together. Just random facts and shit.”

“Right, right.”

I slowly got up from my seat. “Who is that at the door?”

“Detective Walker,” Penny said plainly.

I paused. “The guy that Mikael hired when--?”

She nodded. “That’s the one.”

I snapped my head back toward the sound of their voices as they drew closer. Mikael’s voice mounted, settling into a timbre I’d never heard before. He didn’t sound scared, but he sure as hell didn’t sound sure of himself. And as the gruff detective continued talking, he quickly emerged from nothingness into somethingness.

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