by Gerri Hill
When Laura Fry returns to her childhood home to care for her mother, she hopes the writer’s block that has swallowed her writing career will disappear. She doesn’t plan on turning into a “yard girl”, but her mother’s long neglected lawn beckons her to return it to the lush and colorful display it had been before her mother’s accident. Laura also doesn’t plan on making friends with the “nympho lesbian” next door—but she finds it impossible not to watch the parade of playmates that show up at her neighbor’s pool.
Cassidy Anderson likes pool parties and female company. And while the pool remains the same, the female company changes nearly every weekend. As her mid-forties approach at an alarming speed, she’s still searching for the love of her life. When she finds herself seeking out the company of the cute tomboy next door, Cassidy starts to think that maybe she’s been looking in all the wrong places. Could it possibly be the neighbor who holds the key to her heart?
GCLS Goldie Awards
The Neighbor — Winner, Contemporary Romance: Short Novels.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"So, yeah…it was blistering hot and I was mowing the lawn. We have about four acres to maintain and as I was riding along, sweaty, hot, parched…I thought (again)… “Sure wish we had a pool.” My thoughts tend to ramble and bounce around when I’m mowing and I recalled a friend in Austin who used to “sneak” into her neighbor’s pool on hot summer days. I also remembered the few times I was invited to join her. One thought led to another and The Neighbor was born! Unlike Laura, my friend’s neighbor wasn’t “tall, dark and handsome” Cassidy Anderson who liked to go skinny dipping! No…her neighbor was a sixty-something bald man with a pot belly. Unfortunately, he also liked to skinny dip. Thankfully…I never had to witness that!
I hope you’ll enjoy The Neighbor…a steamy, wet, fun, summer romance that just begs to be read out by the pool (or the lake or the beach or the river)!"
It’s funny… Normally in the books I read I get why the characters would fall in love. Now on paper (excuse the pun), Cassidy and Laura should not work… but let me tell you, that’s the reason they do. I actually loved this book so hard. It was light, cute and gave me all the feels. It was exactly what I needed after the emotionally hard book I read before. Cassidy and Laura together are hot stuff and I reckon it’s the build up to them being together that got me all flustered when it did actually happen. Yes it’s a slow burn but so beautifully written and worth the wait in every way.
Lesbian Reading Room
This is classic Gerri Hill at her very best, top of the pile of so many excellent books she has written, I genuinely loved this story and these two women. The growing friendship and hidden attraction between them is skillfully written and totally engaging. This isn’t a new story or a clever plot, but it is so exquisitely done that it is totally absorbing. Laura needs to accept who she is and let go of who she thought she was. Cassidy has to work out who she’d rather be; a conflict reflected in her friendships, real and false. A 40 something romance, genuine and real, women we can relate to and empathize with, laugh with and relish. This was a joy to read.
The Lesbian Review
I have always found Hill’s writing to be intriguing and stimulating. Whether she’s writing a mystery or a sweet romance, she allows the reader to discover something about themselves along with her characters. This story has all the fun antics you would expect for a quality, low-stress, romantic comedy. Hill is wonderful in giving us characters that are intriguing and delightful that you never want to put the book down until the end. If you’re lounging by the pool, on the beach, or just soaking up the last days of summer in some tropical location, this is definitely the book to read. Follow Laura and Cassidy as they see, truly, just how close love can be.
Lex Kent’s Reviews - Anyone that has read a Hill book knows she can write. I found myself hooked into the story and didn’t put the book down. This is the perfect example of a slow-burn, sweet romance. The angst is very low and it’s just filled with good feels. Not only that but I really enjoyed the dialogue. It was witty and just well written. If you are a Hill fan, I don’t think you will be disappointed. I’m glad I read this and can’t wait to see what Hill has in-store for us next.
Pin’s Reviews - A sweet feel-good romance with great characters and a fine dose of humor by the master writer of lesfic—just what the doctor ordered!
Gaby’s Reviews - To say that this is a slow-burn romance is an understatement, Ms. Hill creates their chemistry painstakingly slow but the wait is so worth it. One way the author builds the main characters' relationship is through food. There are a few mouthwatering moments that show the author's ability to depict the sensuality of cuisine and its common ground with love. Overall, a slow burn, feel-good romance that highlights the eroticism of food and challenges some lesbian stereotypes.
Laura Fry stood at the edge of the driveway, looking at the two-story house she’d grown up in. Memories flashed through her mind quickly—like playing on the swing on the old oak tree in the back—bringing a smile to her face. Unfortunately, the swing was long gone. Then her eyes landed on the wheelchair ramp, and her smile vanished as quickly as it had come. With a sigh, she closed the door to her car, not even bothering to take anything with her. The car was packed to the gills with her stuff but…she could always change her mind. Couldn’t she?
“No, you can’t,” she murmured. Her sister would kill her.
She still couldn’t believe that Carla had talked her into this. Guilted her into it was more like it. Yeah, yeah…Carla was married. Carla had two kids. Carla had a real job. Laura? Not so much.
She took the steps to the front door instead of using the ramp. She noted the house was badly in need of a paint job. The flowerbeds were filled with weeds, not flowers. The yard needed to be mowed. She paused at the door, hand raised. Should she knock? Should she knock and wait or should she knock and go inside? Frankie wasn’t here, she reminded herself. No need to be hesitant about going inside. She took a deep breath, then tapped her knuckles three or four times on the door.
“It’s unlocked,” a voice called from inside. Her mother’s voice.
With another deep breath, she turned the doorknob and pushed the door open. Her mother was in the short entryway, waiting. Not using her walker, which Carla said she should be using. No, she was in the wheelchair. For effect. For sympathy. For guilt, maybe.
Well, this is getting off to a fine start.
“Hello, Mom,” she said dryly.
Her mother pursed her lips together. “Laura. I hardly recognized you. Have you gained weight again?”
Again? I’m going to kill Carla for making me do this!
But she forced a smile to her face. As much of one as she could muster, that is. “No, I haven’t. At least I don’t think so. My clothes still fit.”
“And what have you done to your hair? It’s certainly not flattering on you.”
Laura reached up, touching her now shorter locks. Dare she tell her she had a breakdown one day and cut it herself? No. As she’d told Thomas, she needed a change. It took him an hour to fix her mess. She liked it now. But she voiced none of that to her mother. Instead, she walked closer. “Are you having a bad day? Carla said you weren’t supposed to use the wheelchair. She said you could get around with the walker.”
“How would she know? She’s come by only once since…since the funeral, as if I can manage on my own.” Her eyes narrowed. “But at least she bothered to come by. You? How long has it been?”
Laura mentally threw up her hands. She wanted to scream. She wanted to run. But, no. She could do neither. Her mother was in a wheelchair, for God’s sake. She couldn’t just walk out on her. She wasn’t however, going to play games.
“I don’t know how long it’s been, Mom. How long were you married to that jerk? Seven years?”
“Laura Sue Fry! The man has been buried less than a week. Have you no decency?”
Laura rolled her eyes. “I hated the man, Mom.”
Her mother raised her chin. “He was my husband,” she said, as if that mattered.
“He was an obnoxious jerk! Nobody liked him! Nobody could stand to be around him!”
“You never took the time to get to know him. He was a good man.”
“No. Dad was a good man. Frankie didn’t come close.”
“Your father left me a widow at fifty-eight. What was I to do? Live the best years of my life alone?”
“No, Mom. But you didn’t give it a chance. You grabbed the first jerk that came along. You let him move in with you!”
“I’ll not have you talk about Frankie that way!”
She pointed at the wheelchair. “He’s the reason you’re in that chair! He’s the reason you can’t live alone at the young age of sixty-five!”
Her mother stared at her in disbelief. “How dare you?”
“I dare because it’s the truth.”
Her mother spun her chair around. “You are simply too hard to get along with. You always were. Your father spoiled you rotten! I told Carla this would never work.”
“So did I! She made me come anyway,” she yelled to her mother’s retreating back. She grabbed the bridge of her nose and squeezed it.
Well, that actually went better than I expected.
“You knew that was going to happen. Mom knew you were going to talk trash about Frankie and you knew she was going to yell at you. It’s over with. Now go unpack your car and move into your old room.”
“You live forty-five minutes away,” Laura complained. “Why the hell am I moving in with her? Ever since Dad died, we haven’t gotten along.”
“No. Ever since Frankie, you haven’t gotten along,” her sister clarified.
“Yeah, funny how that happened at exactly the same time!”
“We had six months with her. You two were as close as ever, if you recall. Frankie is gone now. Maybe it’s time you grew up and gave her a second chance.”
“Grow up? Says the woman who still sleeps in Mickey Mouse pajamas.”
Carla laughed. “How do you even know that?”
Laura sighed. “You’re probably right. I’ll give it one month.”
“And then what? We can’t afford to have someone check in on her daily. She can’t manage on her own. Since the accident—”
“Which he caused,” she interjected.
“Frankie did everything. He cooked, he did laundry, he cleaned the house. He even—”
“Look, I didn’t come here to be a damn maid.”
“Laura…we talked about this. You’re leaving an apartment you could no longer afford. This is a win for you. Mom pays the bills, Mom pays for groceries…you cook and do her laundry.”
“Just because I’ve hit a rough spot doesn’t mean I need to mooch off Mom. This is a temporary arrangement. As soon as I get another book deal, I’m out of here.”
“You said that too quickly,” she accused.
“I did not. This will give you more time to write.”
Laura wrinkled up her nose. “More time? How do you figure? I’ll be cooking—which I hate—and cleaning and doing the freakin’ laundry!”
“Well…you’re in a mood.”
“That’s because I’m stuck here against my will!”
“Can I help it if I have a family to take care of? A husband? Twins? A job?”
“You’re patronizing me!”
Carla laughed. “Okay, yeah. I guess I am. But you’re overreacting. You just need to give it a chance. It will do you good—both of you—to spend time together.”
“I hate you.”
“Now I know you don’t mean that. You have a good week, a good weekend. I’ll see you next Thursday. I’ll bring pizza or something.”
“I still hate you.”
“I love you, sis.”
“Love you too,” she murmured as she tossed her phone onto the passenger’s seat. She leaned back, staring at the house. She could do this. Carla was right. She and her mother used to be close. She and her mother used to talk. In fact, in those six months after her father had died, they’d talked almost daily.
Then Frankie came into the picture. She honestly didn’t know if she hated him because he was an obnoxious jerk or if she hated him because he was living in her dad’s house, sleeping in her dad’s bed.
Well, she couldn’t hide in her car forever. She got out, then grabbed a couple of clothes bags. She hadn’t been here in seven years. Who knew what her old bedroom looked like? Frankie probably turned it into a game room or something.
But no. Her old room looked the same. Same bedspread, that’s for sure. That would be the first thing to go. She tossed her bags on the bed, covering some of the hideous roses. She went back out into the hallway and peeked into her sister’s old room. It, too, looked the same. The bathroom between the two rooms was different, though. New tile. New fixtures. She stood in the hallway and surveyed the upstairs. Yes, this might just work. She’d have the second floor to herself. Her parents’ bedroom—now her mother’s—had always been downstairs. Now that her mother could no longer manage the stairs, she’d at least have some privacy up here. Perhaps she could turn her sister’s room into her writing room.
She went back into her own room, pulling open drawers. Everything was completely empty, including the closet. That seemed odd to her. Surely she hadn’t taken everything when she’d left. She pushed apart the drapes that covered the large back window, hoping to get a view of the woods she’d loved as a kid. She frowned. The once familiar view of trees—woods—was gone. A house was there instead. A huge house. A house with a pool, which she could just see a corner of. A tall privacy fence separated her mother’s property from next door. When had that gone up? She’d been so dreading her move here, she hadn’t even noticed it earlier.
But who the hell had bought the woods? Who would tear down those beautiful trees and put in a house and pool?
She hurried back down the stairs, finding her mother in the kitchen, attempting to reach the microwave. A frozen Weight Watchers dinner was on the counter.
“What are you doing?”
“What does it look like?”
“Mom…I’m supposed to cook, remember?”
“Yes, well, Frankie’s been gone six days. How do you think I’ve managed thus far?”
She took the dinner and tossed it back into the freezer but not before she spotted the six or eight additional dinners that were in there.
“You’ve been shopping?”
“I haven’t left the house. Carla got those for me.”
Laura put her hands on her hips. “I know you can get around with the walker, Mom. Why the chair? Or is it just for my benefit?”
“I don’t know what you mean. The walker is difficult. Slow.”
“At least you’re on your feet.” She bent down to eye level. “The doctor said the more you walk, the stronger you’ll become.”
“How would you know what the doctor said?”
“I did come to the hospital,” she reminded her.
Her mother waved her hand in the air. “That was three years ago. That doctor didn’t know what he was talking about. Why, if not for Frankie, I’d practically be an invalid.”
Laura bit her tongue. If not for Frankie, she wouldn’t be in the damn wheelchair to begin with. What was it? He blacked out? Or he swerved to miss a dog? She’d heard both stories. Somehow, she suspected neither was true. Regardless, he’d smashed the car into a tree. He walked away from the crash with nothing more than a few bruises. Her mother? Broken back. Broken pelvis. Broken legs. Broken body.
But…she wasn’t going to go there. Not now. So she took a step away and held up her hands.
“Truce, please. Let me get a few things in from the car, then I’ll see about dinner. Do you have anything here other than these frozen things?”
“There’s a chest freezer out in the garage. I don’t know what’s all in there. Frankie did the cooking. And the shopping.”
And the laundry and the cleaning, Laura added silently. Maybe she’d been too hard on old Frankie. He lived with her mother. He did everything around the house. The man was apparently a saint. Except he wasn’t.
“Oh, who bought the lot next door?”
“Some woman from Dallas. Not friendly in the least. Frankie tried to make friends. Several times he went over there while they were building. She would hardly give him the time of day, he said. Next thing we knew, that huge fence was put up.”
Again, she bit her tongue. Frankie was always rough around the edges. Obnoxious. One of those guys who had been there, done that—only much better. Loud. Laughed at his own stupid jokes. A jerk. Yeah, she’d have probably put up a fence too.
“So how long has she been there?”
“Sometime in December. I remember she had a Christmas party. That house was under construction for more than a year. Constant noise we had to deal with. But from what Frankie was able to get out of her, she won’t live there. A weekend place, she said.”
“I’m going to miss the woods.”
“Why? I used to play in them when I was a kid. I loved to walk there. Dad always said he was going to buy it.”
“Yes, well, your father was going to do a lot of things that he never got around to.”
Laura shook her head. “You’re still so bitter. He’s the one who died, not you.”
“And left me a widow.”
“I’m sure if he had the choice, he’d have rather lived.”
Her mother’s expression softened. “I’m…I’m not over it yet. I miss him every day.”
This time, Laura was unable to keep her thoughts to herself. “Yet a mere six months after he died, Frankie moved into your bedroom. And two months after that, you married the man!”
Her mother stared at her. “Six months is a long time to be alone. I had no one. All my friends had someone. I was always the odd man out. I stopped getting invited to places because…because it was couples and I was no longer a couple. I was lonely.”
There were tears in her mother’s eyes, and Laura cursed herself for being so blunt with her.
“We tried to be here for you, Mom.”
“I know, but it wasn’t the same as having a partner. Someone to do things with. Someone to talk to in the evenings. Someone to share meals with.”
“I’m sorry. I can see your point.” She held her hand up. “Truce, remember. Let me unpack.”
After three days, Laura had settled into somewhat of a routine. That routine, unfortunately, did not involve writing. Writer’s block was a terrible thing. A horrible thing. She must have started and stopped ten or twelve different outlines in the past month alone. Not a one of them had the makings of a novel.
“Breakfast on the patio again?” she called to her mother.
Her mother shuffled into the kitchen, using her walker. Since the first day, the wheelchair had come out only in the evenings, when her mother was tired.
“We should take advantage of the spring weather. It’ll be too hot before long.”
“I don’t have anything fancy today. Oatmeal with fruit and toast,” she said as she buttered a slice.
“I don’t expect fancy, Laura Sue.”
Laura had stopped complaining of her mother’s use of her middle name. It had fallen on deaf ears. “Can you make it out or do you need help?”
“I can manage.”
Laura resisted the urge to open the door for her. The more independence her mother had, the better it would be for the both of them. She loaded the serving tray with their bowls of oatmeal and toast and two glasses of orange juice. She had found that her mother, unlike her, was a one cup a day coffee drinker, which she usually had while she watching the morning news. Laura, on the other hand, took her first cup outside with her, usually before dawn or right at it. The empty bird feeders had been filled her first day here. The low branches of the oak tree by the fence—where three feeders were hung—were a flurry of activity and she enjoyed the sights and sounds as the new day began. That was her quiet time, before her mother got up. If it was a particularly pleasant morning, she’d have two cups outside before going back in to start breakfast.
“I hear music. Do you?”
Laura put the tray down, then tilted her head and listened. “Yes.” She scowled. “The neighbor?”
“I imagine. At least it’s not that godawful stuff those young people listen to.”
“Young people? How old is she, anyway?”
“Oh, I have no idea. Frankie didn’t say.”
“I don’t know. Frankie said there were some men over there sometimes. Maybe she has a husband. I never met her.”
“So was Frankie spying on her or simply being a nosey neighbor?”
“He wasn’t spying. No one has lived there—or even been out there—since we bought this house and you were three at the time. You’re almost forty now.”
Laura gasped. “I am not almost forty! I’m thirty-seven.”
“Only for a few more weeks,” her mother said with a smirk.
Laura narrowed her eyes and pointed a finger at her. “If you don’t want me to start slipping nasty things into your food, you better be nice.”
Her mother laughed and Laura thought it was the first time she’d heard her laugh since…well, since before her father had died. She couldn’t imagine that she’d have anything to laugh about living with Frankie.
Laura smiled as she put their food out on the table. They had actually been getting along. Better than she would have imagined, really. After breakfast, her mother would retreat to the living room to watch TV and Laura—after cleaning up the kitchen—would go upstairs to her “writing room.” She’d rearranged the furniture the first day and set up an office for her. So far, she’d done little more than sit and surf. Yesterday afternoon—after starting laundry—she’d gone to the grocery store. Frankie’s freezer had been stocked as well as the pantry, but fresh food had been sorely lacking. There wasn’t even an onion or potato to be found. She had immediately thrown out the box of instant mashed potatoes that she’d come across. Who ate that stuff? How hard was it to cook and mash real potatoes?
“I thought you didn’t like to cook.”
“I don’t. What gave you the idea that I did?”
“The pork chops last night,” her mother said. “Perfection. I hate to speak ill of the dead, but Frankie’s were always dry, even when he baked them.”
“He was cooking them on too high of a temp,” Laura said as she scooped up a strawberry with her oatmeal.
“You never cooked at all when you lived at home. I tried to teach you.”
“I wasn’t interested. I’d rather have been outside playing.”
“Or following your dad around. So how did you learn?”
Laura put her spoon down. “Remember Sandi?”
Her mother frowned and shook her head. “No, I don’t recall her.”
“Oh, yeah. That was after Dad died…and Frankie was here. Well, I was seeing this woman—Sandi—and she liked to cook. All the time. We never went out. I was forced to help…chop veggies and such. I may have picked up a few pointers. Not that I like to cook,” she added quickly.
“Well, that’s good. I take it she’s not around any longer?”
“No.” She held her hand up. “And before you ask, yes, I was the one who ended it, not her.”
“I wasn’t going to ask.”
“You always blame me.”
“Well, your track record is what it is.”
“I just don’t see the point in continuing to date someone when you already know that they’re not ‘the one,’” she said, making quotations in the air.
“I’m not sure you give them a chance,” her mother said with a wave of her hand. “Of course, the only tidbits of your life I’ve had lately have been from Carla.”
“It’s not like I haven’t called you in the last seven years.”
“Phone calls that lasted perhaps five minutes.”
She picked up her toast, which was now cold. “I’m sorry, Mom. I simply could not tolerate that man.”
“You never gave him a chance either.”
Laura held her hand up. “Please…let’s don’t go there again. We’re getting along fine. Let’s not bring Frankie into it, okay? Truce?”
Her mother took a sip of her orange juice, then seemed to study her. Laura sighed, then looked up, meeting her gaze.
“I take it you’re not seeing anyone now?”
“No. Not for a…a while,” she said evasively. As her mother had said, her track record was what it was.
She blinked at her. “I’ve been focusing on my writing.” Yeah, right.
“So you can’t date?”
“Yes, I can date. It’s just that the older I get, the choosier I get.”
Her mother stared at her blankly. “I would think it would be the opposite.”
Laura actually laughed. “It’s too easy. My comeback…it’s too easy. I won’t even say it.”
“I know you’re referring to Frankie. I was fifty-eight, not thirty-eight.”
“Regardless, you’ll wake up one day and you’ll be fifty and alone. And your problem all along has been that you’re too choosy. You were always that way, even in high school. You’re looking for this perfect person. They don’t exist, Laura Sue. You’re going to have to lower your standards.” Her mother’s spoon clanked into her empty bowl. “Although I did like that cute fellow you dated in college.”
“You only liked him because his parents were rich.”
“Filthy rich,” her mother corrected with a grin.
“He was kinda nice,” she admitted. “He was my last attempt at being straight.”
“Well, you are what you are.”
Yes, that was one thing she always respected her mother for. When she came out to her, to her father, her mother hadn’t blinked an eye. She’d said those very words to her. Even her father hadn’t been thrown by the news. Perhaps it’s true what they say; parents know long before you do.
They heard laughter coming from across the fence and she swore she heard a splash in the pool.
“It’s still April,” she said. “Even in Texas, who swims in April?”
“Well, the days have been warm, but I bet the pool is heated. It sounds like they’re having a party.”
“It’s barely nine o’clock in the morning.”
Her mother shrugged. “Sounds like fun. Maybe you should go meet her.”
“I will not. I’m mad because the woods are gone. I might say something ugly to her.”
“I think the reason her house is so close to us rather than in the middle of the property is that she left a lot of the woods on the other side. That’s where most of the big trees were. It’s one of the large lots, Laura Sue.”
Yes, Laura had already seen that from her bedroom window. The lots here ranged in size from one and two acres up to ten. Her parents were on a two-acre lot. She guessed the neighbor’s was the larger, at ten. At least from what she remembered when she was a kid, the woods had seemed to go on forever.
She leaned back, looking at the backyard. It had been neglected. Her mother’s flowerbeds were crowded with grass and weeds. The neat cobblestone walkway had been encroached upon by the lawn. The lawn that needed cutting. Badly.
“You used to keep this so tidy, so colorful with all your flowers.”
“For everything Frankie did for me after the accident, he was not into gardening. He kept the lawn mowed, that’s about it.”
“Is the riding mower still working?”
“Frankie bought a new one just last summer. That old one finally went to the junkyard.”
“Well, I guess I’ll tackle the yard this afternoon.”
“It’s Saturday. Our new neighbor is here. It would probably be polite to wait.”
She nodded. “I’ll wait until they go inside. How’s that? I don’t plan to schedule my chores so as not to disturb the neighbor.”
At the time, Cassidy had thought it extravagant to heat the pool. This was Texas and the few months of winter could be tolerated. However, after watching not two, but three ladies—all clad in bikinis—take the plunge on this April morning, she was glad she did. Well, Deb would be better served in a one-piece rather than a bikini, but who was she to complain.
“Come on in! It’s fabulous!”
Yes. She already knew it was. She’d tried it last night after everyone had gone to bed. She turned her eyes to Claudia and smiled. After bed and after sex, she clarified. Claudia waved her in and she paused, pulling her T-shirt over her head and tossing it down before going to the board and diving in.
Oh, yeah, heating the pool had been a great idea.
“I can’t believe we got to come early,” Zoe exclaimed. “This is such a cool house, Cassidy.”
“Thanks. It’s my dream home, that’s for sure.” She swam over to where Claudia was holding on to the side of the pool. “Thirty guests might be pushing it, though.”
“With more than an hour’s drive back to Dallas, you might have every bedroom filled,” Deb warned. “How are you going to feed everyone?”
“It’s catered. There’s a crew coming out about five to set up. We’ll do it outside on the deck since the weather’s good.”
“Then we’ll do it inside later,” Claudia purred as her tongue snaked into her ear.
“Oh, yeah,” Cassidy murmured. “Maybe even before that.”
Claudia moved her mouth to Cassidy’s. “Maybe right here. Right now.”
* * *
Laura stared in disbelief as the anorexic blonde shoved her tongue into the dark-haired woman’s mouth.
“Oh my God! They’re lesbians! Are they going to have an orgy or something? There are four of them!”
God, I have got to buy some binoculars!
Staring, she couldn’t pull her eyes away. But no orgy, no. They seemed to be coupled up and on opposite sides of the pool. But they were doing much more than swimming.
She finally turned away.
“That’s disgusting,” she murmured. It wasn’t even noon yet! “Who does that?”
She slammed out of her room and went into Carla’s…the writing room. However, Carla’s room had a much better view of the pool than her own room. She was drawn to the window.
The large, rectangular pool was now empty.
Well, at least they took it inside, she thought as she let the drapes fall back into place. But who was that? Was there a nympho lesbian living next door? She groaned. How cruel would that be? She hadn’t been on a date in eight months. She hadn’t slept with anyone in…well, in a while.
“Of my choosing,” she murmured as she opened up her laptop.
To say she was in a rut was an understatement. She was simply tired of the endless dates. Tired of meeting new people and none of them living up to her expectations. She was tired of pretending to be interested in someone when in reality, she was bored to tears. She’d told her friends to stop setting her up on blind dates. And they had. But like her mother, she often felt like the odd man out…and even some of her friends had stopping including her when they did group parties and such.
So yeah, she was in a rut. And living out here, more than an hour away from Dallas and her friends, she suspected that rut was going to get deeper. It wasn’t like she knew anyone in the area any longer. She’d moved away when she was eighteen, losing touch with her old high school friends within months as she made new ones in college. She stared at the wall, trying to remember some of her friends from back then. While names popped into her head, the faces remained fuzzy. Oh, well. She turned her attention to her laptop and the blank page staring her in the face.
If only she could write.
* * *
“Do you have binoculars?”
“Why on earth would I have binoculars?”
“You live out in the country. Everyone has binoculars.”
Her mother motioned to the closet. “Look in there. Frankie may have had some. And why do you want them?”
“I want to spy on the neighbor,” she said as she rummaged in a very cluttered closet. “What is all this stuff?”
She found the binoculars and pulled them out from under a stack of fishing magazines. Did he fish?
“So we can throw all of this out now, right?”
“I spoke with his nephew at the funeral. I told him to come by if he wanted anything, but I haven’t heard from him.”
Laura closed the closet door. “Did he have much family?”
“None that live here, no. The nephew was the only one who bothered to come to the funeral. Terrible.”
“Was there anyone at the funeral, Mom?”
Her mother sighed. “Not many, no. For some reason, my friends didn’t warm up to Frankie.”
Laura snorted. “Really? For some reason? Maybe it’s the same reason your daughters didn’t warm up to him.” She held her hand up. “But we’re not talking about this, remember? Truce.”
“Truce. Now, why are you spying on the neighbor?”
“Because they’re having a party.”
Laura grinned. “Women in bikinis.”
Her mother laughed and waved her away. “Well, by all means, spy away.”
She turned all the lights out upstairs, then pulled her chair closer to the window in her writing room. She hid behind the drapes, only opening them enough to stick the binoculars out.
“Oh my God,” she murmured. Definitely lesbians. Hordes of them. Oh, okay. There were a few guys. Kissing. Great! Her neighbor was having a gay bash. Half of the people were in swimsuits. Some of them should not be in swimsuits.
Oh…there’s that anorexic blonde again. God, she’s pasty white.
“Who’s she kissing now?”
I wonder who the owner is.
She scanned the crowd and the pool, trying to determine who their neighbor was. It had to have been one of the four women in the pool that morning. Surely to God not the anorexic blonde. No, not her. She spotted a woman—dark hair—making the rounds. She nodded. Yes, same woman from the pool, the one the blonde had been latched onto.
Tall, dark…handsome, almost. Certainly too handsome to be called pretty. Her dark hair was a little shorter than shoulder length, parted on the side. Oh…she’s got bangs. How cute. Not young, though. In her early forties, she guessed. She rolled her eyes. Forty was sounding younger and younger, wasn’t it? Should you still have bangs when you’re in your forties? She had a nice body, though, regardless of her age. Skimpy bikini top, white shorts. Tan legs…firm. Really nice legs. A runner, maybe? Definitely athletic. She made the return trip up the woman’s body, back up from her legs to her face, then gasped as the woman seemed to be looking right at her.
She froze in place, not even daring to breathe. Surely she couldn’t see her. Surely to God she couldn’t see her spying. Then the anorexic blonde approached, getting the attention of tall, dark and handsome. As soon as her head was turned, Laura literally dropped to the floor, below the windowsill.
“That was close,” she murmured. Then she smiled. “But kinda fun.”