Read How to Love Online

Authors: Kelly Jamieson

How to Love

Dedication

To P.G. Forte, who brainstormed this book with me when I was totally lost, and to Nara Malone (once again) who told me to put my writing frustrations into the story—thanks to you, Jules’s creative dissatisfaction comes from a very real place. Also, thanks to editor Christa for pushing me on this one.

Chapter One

What more could a girl ask for than a handsome new neighbor with a body worthy of a
Men’s Health
magazine cover?

Jules’s neighbor, who’d just introduced himself as Mike Lacasse, stood on her tiny front doorstep, his muscular self taking up a lot of space. Hazel eyes creased attractively at the corners when he smiled, and wow, that smile—boyish but super sexy. His golden brown hair stood in all directions, either carelessly casual or carefully styled, Jules wasn’t sure which. From his black T-shirt, wrinkled khaki cargo shorts and worn leather flip-flops, she was going to guess he hadn’t spent an hour in the bathroom using hair products.

Well, wasn’t this nice. She smiled back at him. “Hi,” she said. “Nice to meet you, Mike. I’m Jules Stockwood.”

He nodded. “I knew that.” He glanced at the magazine in his hand and held it out to her, tapping at the address label with his other hand. “This was…uh…delivered to us by accident. I found it in the mailbox this morning.”

She took the magazine, her monthly copy of
Nude Photo
. She looked up at him and caught the faint color that washed into his face. Aw…was he embarrassed by her reading material? She smiled.

“Thanks. I appreciate you bringing it over.”

“No problem.”

“I’m a photographer,” she told him, holding up the magazine. “I do some nudes. This is a good resource.”

“Oh. Well. I didn’t even look at it…”

She laughed. “Yes you did. But don’t worry, it’s not porn and I’m not some crazy perv living next door to you. Although…” She paused. “Maybe that’s what you were hoping for.”

He blinked and then he smiled too, dimples flashing in his dark gold-stubbled cheeks. She almost sighed. What a smile.

He shoved his hands into the front pockets of his cargo shorts and shook his head. “Nope. Wasn’t hoping for a crazy perv. There’s nothing wrong with looking at a little soft porn once in a while.”

“I couldn’t agree more.”

“Not that that’s what that is,” he added, nodding at the magazine. “But I’m not going to claim I’ve never picked up a
Playboy
magazine.”

“And not just for the articles.”

They stood there smiling at each other and Jules felt it…a slide of heat through her veins, a tingle down low inside. She could read the interest and attraction in his eyes too, those green eyes with flecks of brown and gold.

“I was going to come over and introduce myself this weekend,” she said. “Are you getting settled in to your new place?”

“Yeah, getting there. The house needs a lot of work, though.”

She nodded. “Yeah. Mrs. Kedding who lived there couldn’t keep up with a lot of the things that needed to be done. Matt and I tried to help her out as much as we could, but it’s good for her that she’s living in a condo now.”

“Matt? Is that your husband?”

She laughed. “God, no! I’m not married. Matt’s the neighbor on the other side of you. I guess you haven’t met him yet.”

He shook his head. “No, not yet. Mrs. Kedding seemed like a nice lady. We knew the place needed some work but I don’t mind. I like doing stuff around the house. Hey, I should tell you—we’re going to paint the fence between our yards. Do you want us to paint your side too?”

“Us?” Damn! Was
he
married? She hadn’t seen a woman around since he’d moved in last weekend.

“Me and my roommate. Housemate, I guess. Carlos.”

“Oh.” Her smile returned. “You don’t have to paint my side. I can do that. Or my landlord.”

“Well, we could help. I’ll let you know when we’re going to buy the paint, and we can pick up an extra gallon for you.”

“That would be great.” She tipped her head to one side. “Um. Do you want to come in for a cup of coffee or anything?”

“That’s okay. I have to get to work.”

“Actually, me too. What is it you do?”

“We—Carlos and I—own an adventure tour company. Intrepid Adventures.”

“Cool. Here in San Amaro?”

“Just outside town. We take people on bike tours, kayaking, climbing, hiking…all kinds of things.”

She nodded, impressed. No wonder he had such a great body. Her gaze tracked down again over the wide chest and the flat abs. She licked her lips. Yes, there was professional interest in her study of him, but there was also…sex. Attraction.

Their eyes met again and the air around them heated. Wow. This time it was his gaze tracking over her, and her nipples tingled inside her bra at his perusal. She was used to men looking at her, hell, she
liked
men looking at her, but for some reason Mike’s appraisal of her made her really, really hot. There was something about him…the physicality of him, the boyish grin with sexy dimples, the intelligence in those steady eyes. It all made him crazy appealing.

“And you’re a photographer?”

“Yup.” She stepped back into her small foyer and retrieved a business card from the table. She handed it to him. “This is my gallery on Deep Sea Drive. I have a small studio there where I do portraits. I do some framing too, and sell some of my photographs. You should come see my work. It’s very tasteful.”

He took the card. “Ah. Okay. Maybe I will. Sometime.”

“My hours are on the card. Today’s Friday so I’m open until nine tonight, but I’ll only be there until about six. Tomorrow from ten to five.”

“Okay.”

“Well. I’ll see you around,” she said. “Thanks again for bringing this over.”

“You’re welcome. See you.” With a casual wave he turned and lightly ran down her front steps. She watched him walk down her short front sidewalk, his shoulders broad under the black T-shirt, his ass tight beneath the shorts, his calves tanned and muscled.

Mrs. Kedding had been a nice neighbor, but whoa, having this guy next door was going to be even better. Jules glanced at her watch. Nearly ten o’clock. She’d better get her butt in gear and open the gallery. Weekends in the summer were busy in San Amaro, with hordes of tourists arriving in town for the weekend to enjoy the pretty beaches for sunning and surfing, the high-end shops along Deep Sea Drive, the extensive selection of restaurants from fine dining to brew pubs to the best pizza in Southern California.

And apparently adventure tours.

Hiking, biking, rock climbing…not her kind of thing. She definitely enjoyed being adventurous in certain settings, but more so in the bedroom than the great outdoors. Although sex in the great outdoors could be good too. She grinned as she grabbed her purse and car keys to head to the gallery.

She parked in the space behind her building, let herself in the back door and walked straight through the framing room and gallery and out the front door onto Deep Sea Drive.

She paused briefly on the red brick sidewalk and inhaled the cool morning air. The salty tang of the Pacific Ocean, the damp scent of Mr. Gunn hosing off the sidewalk in front of the physical therapy clinic, the freshness of the flowers spilling out of planters lining the curb and baskets hanging from the pretty vintage-style lamp posts filled the air.

Across Deep Sea Drive, a broad, smoothly paved boulevard, people walked, jogged and biked in the soft morning sun along the path that followed the curve of the ocean shore. Beyond the path, a wide beach of pale-gold sand stretched down to the water’s edge, and beyond that, the Pacific Ocean extended all the way to the horizon, blue water meeting blue sky in a hazy blur. The sun glinted off waves and whitecaps, and the bright sails of a few sailboats travelled briskly across the water.

Jules loved San Amaro.

She started down the sidewalk, an expansive feeling of satisfaction and happiness growing inside her. She’d only moved there two years ago, because she’d wanted a place to start over. She’d visited the small beach city a few times and loved the relaxed atmosphere and the pleasing aesthetics of the city, important to her artist’s eye. Sure, there were some not-so-nice areas, the northeast corner of the city home to an industrial area with some small manufacturing businesses and warehouses, and the homes near that area not as well-to-do. But most of the city had been planned with careful attention to detail that put beauty everywhere a person looked.

She pushed the door into The Black Bean Coffee Shop and inhaled the rich, dark aroma of Arabica beans, roasted and brewed to perfection. Being a bit of a coffee snob, this was another thing she appreciated about San Amaro. Well, not only the upscale coffee shop but
all
the little businesses that catered to a well-off clientele—designer clothing and jewelry shops, small cafés and a bakery. Her little art gallery and portrait studio fit right in, with a surprising number of people, both locals and tourists, willing to spend big bucks on her prints or her custom frames. Her portraits were her bread and butter, but she was working on doing more creative ones and trying to increase the framed prints she sold in her gallery.

Except that wasn’t going so well. She’d sold photographs that she’d taken on some of her travels to Indonesia and South America. She’d travelled locally, taking pictures of ocean and desert. They were selling okay, but she’d felt the lack of inspiration, the flatness of them. Then she’d gotten the idea to do some nudes.

Those
had sold spectacularly well. In fact she had only a few left on display in the gallery with people asking for more. But nude models weren’t that easy to come by when she couldn’t afford to pay them anything. She’d tried to convince her friend Neve to pose nude, but even when she’d assured Neve that her face wouldn’t be seen, she still wouldn’t do it. Jules herself would do it, but it was a little tough to take pictures of yourself.

“Hey, Jules.” Neve smiled at her from behind the counter, a tiny diamond stud glittering on the left side of her nose, a barbell piercing her right eyebrow. She wore her long, perfectly straight blonde hair in a low ponytail and the usual white shirt and black pants, so conservative compared to the kinds of outfits she wore away from work. Her usual eye makeup—lots of liner and shadow—emphasized pretty hazel eyes.

It still amazed Jules a little that she
had
a girl best friend. It had always been hard for her to make friends with other girls. Guys—no problem. With guys there was always the sexual layer, which was usually the
only
layer for her, because she didn’t do relationships, but with girls if you wanted a relationship, a friendship, you had to actually open up a little about yourself. Which wasn’t something she was good at.

With Neve it was surprisingly easy to talk about things, maybe because she accepted that there were topics Jules didn’t want to discuss and never tried to probe too deep. Jules liked that Neve was a bit of a rebel who didn’t try to conform to what others thought she should be. Neve accepted Jules for who she was, which included the fact that she liked men and she liked sex. Neve never made her feel like she should be ashamed of that. And it was nice to have a friend to talk to and laugh with and do fun things with.

“Hi, Neve. How’s it going?”

“Excellent. What can I get for you? The usual?”

“You bet.”

“What are you up to this weekend?” Neve asked as she steamed the milk for the macchiato.

“Not much. I’m working tomorrow, Min needed the day off for a wedding.”

“Tomorrow night the Surf Sisters are having a beach party.”

The Surf Sisters’ beach parties were legendary. “I guess I’m not invited.”

Bella Chesley still held a grudge about the fact that Josh Busher, one of the local police officers, had dumped her soon after he’d met Jules. Josh was a great guy and sexy as hell, and yeah, they’d gone out together for a while after that, but it wasn’t as if Jules had stolen him away from Bella. She’d never done a thing to cause their break up, but Bella didn’t see it that way. Months later, she still hadn’t gotten over it.

“Yes, you are invited,” a voice said behind her, and Jules turned to see Bella’s sister Jaden sitting at one of the small tables. Jaden gave Jules a sunny smile, her blonde hair pulled back into a high ponytail. Luckily Jaden didn’t carry the same grudge as her sister. As usual she was dressed in board shorts and a fitted tank top, ready for the surf lessons she and her sister taught at their shop, Surf Sisters’ Swim, Surf, Sun. “I told Bella I was going to invite you.”

Other books

Bob Morris_Zack Chasteen 02 by Jamaica Me Dead
No One Needs to Know by Debbi Rawlins
Redemption by Howard Fast
The Ladies by Doris Grumbach
The Brave Cowboy by Edward Abbey
HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt