Bachelor in the Boondocks by River Ames
“Lookit,” he called. “I found another ball. Try and hit it.”
When the baseball came flying straight at her, Amelia swung at it in an instinctive act of self-defense. A solid thwack split the morning quiet, and she watched in horror as the ball flew off the end of the bat, heading in a deadly arc toward the neighboring house’s second-story window.
She closed her eyes, bracing herself for the sound of shattering glass. Instead, she heard a thump followed by a grunt. Her eyes snapped open and she looked upward. In lieu of a broken window, she found herself looking at a shirtless male torso through a partially-opened portion of the window’s casement.
Concern ricocheted through her. “Oh, heaven’s, are you okay?”
“I—I’m not sure.” A kind of husky wonder seemed to lace his words.
“I hit you, didn’t I? I’m so sorry.” Feeling as if she were holding a smoking gun, she dropped the bat and returned her gaze to the open window and the man standing there. “Can I get you anything?”
He reached down and rubbed his stomach. At least, she hoped it was his stomach she’d hit. The window sill blocked the lower portion of the stranger’s body from view. With the sun’s reflection bouncing off the window glass, it was impossible to discern any other parts of him. She had a clear view only of his lightly furred chest. And a very nice chest it was, she couldn’t help noticing.
“I’m all right,” the man called back. “The ball didn’t have much force on it.”
Immediately, she took umbrage at his dismissive remark.
That baseball had been a bullet, a bat-cracking home-run if she’d ever seen one. Prudently, however, she let the man’s statement pass unchallenged.
“Hey, mister, are you going to give us back our ball?”
Aunt Veronica had mentioned the Claxtons’ house was being rented out, and Amelia assumed the stranger standing in the second-floor bedroom was the home’s new tenant. She pasted an optimistic smile on her face and hoped he wasn’t going to say something obscene to her younger brother.
“Which one of you wants to catch it?”
Not waiting for an answer, he bent down to pick up what she sincerely hoped was going to be their baseball. Catching a quick glimpse of her new neighbor’s profile, she hoped there beat a gentler heart inside his rugged chest than his stern features suggested.
“I’ll catch it! I’ll catch it,” Weston cried enthusiastically.
The man in the window reappeared, leaning forward and holding their baseball prisoner. Inside his large hand, the ball looked puny, harmless.
An inordinate length of time seemed to pass while he stared down at them. Was he sizing them up? From his unfriendly expression, they evidently didn’t pass muster.
“Maybe you better stand back, son. I’ll toss it to the ground.”
With a smooth flick of his wrist, he sent the baseball spinning back toward them. It fell with impressive accuracy at Amelia’s feet. Her startled gaze flew from the ball back to the man’s face. For a moment, she simply stared. He was handsome in a rugged, virile way. She was caught off guard by the quick assessment. Heavens, she was not the kind of woman who went around noticing the attractiveness-level of each passing stranger.
His eyebrows were brown, the same deep color as his thick hair. And his eyes were dark, too. Dark and rich. Coffee without the cream. But it wasn’t their shade that brought a flush to her cheeks. It was the look in them.
Sexy as all get out.
Her breath quickened, and the absurd thought struck her that he had been less alarming when he’d been frowning. Unexpectedly, she found herself wondering what, if anything, her daunting new neighbor wore besides his grin.
She searched for something to say to break the unnatural silence stretching between them. “Uh, thank you for giving us back our ball.”
She had no idea how much longer they stared at each other before Weston tugged on her arm.
“Come on. I need to practice hitting.”
As she allowed herself to be turned around, she heard the distinct sound of the window being closed.
Her brother picked up the fallen bat. It took a moment for her thoughts to return to the business at hand.
“Okay, I’ll throw you the ball.” To be on the safe side, she positioned Weston with his back to the neighboring house. Self-consciously, she glanced up. Because the window has been shut, she only imagined the amused look she felt washing over her. The idea of being watched did nothing to make her feel more athletic.
“I’m ready. Throw the ball!”
She jerked her gaze back to Weston. Frowning, she tried to figure what was wrong with the way he was holding the bat. She certainly wasn’t an expert on the subject, but somehow, his stance looked a little peculiar. Oh, well, the worst thing he could do was miss her pitch.
“Here it comes, sport.”
She threw the ball. It surprised her by flying in a fairly straight path toward Weston. A hearty smack accompanied his swing.
Shock replaced surprise.
Defying every law of physics Amelia had assumed to be true, the ball bounced backward off the tip of his bat. Shock turned to disbelief. The sound of shattering glass exploded about them. Disbelief turned to despair.
Her gaze flew again to the second-story window. Horrified, she saw that a jagged window pane now framed her new neighbor. Broken shards of glass seemed to cover every part of him.
“Don’t move,” she commanded abruptly.
“I don’t think that’s an option. I’m barefoot and there’s glass everywhere.”
“Just stay put. I’ll be right over.”
She hadn’t realized she could run so fast. Her panic sent a surge of adrenaline racing through her system and in less than a minute, she had entered the Claxton’s house and was charging up the hall stairs. She’d been in her neighbor’s house many times and knew which door led to the bedroom facing Aunt Veronica’s backyard.
After flinging open the closed bedroom door, she came running full-steam into the room. Then she skidded to a sudden stop. Standing before her was an obviously naked, six-foot man wearing only a chagrined expression and a pair of Priscilla curtains wrapped around his hips.
From the bare drapery rod still vibrating above his head, she surmised he’d ripped down the curtains seconds before she’d entered the room. Visions of Scarlett O’Hara doing likewise to Tara’s portieres flicked through Amelia’s numbed brain.
“Don’t just stand there,” he said, flames shooting from his dark eyes. “I need help.”
“Are you...” She swallowed, fighting the suicidal impulse to laugh. Meeting his furious gaze, she could tell right off that an errant giggle could incite the man to violence.
She approached him cautiously and felt glass crunch beneath the soles of her tennis shoes. “Are you cut?”
“I don’t think so.”
Slowly, she circled him, wrinkling her brow. “How on earth are we going to get all that broken glass off of you?”
His eyes raked her over invisible coals. “One piece at a time?”
She knew he was being sarcastic, but unfortunately, he was probably right. “I’ll call 911.”
She took a step toward the telephone on the nightstand.
“Touch that phone and I’ll break your arm.”
Startled, her gaze flew to his glittering eyes. She felt her heart begin to pound. He didn’t look as if he were kidding. And other than the fact that he’d bought the Claxton house, she knew nothing about the man.
Meanwhile, Amelia is outside hanging up laundry and then helping her younger brother get the hang of playing baseball. An errant ball goes through a window of the house next door, coincidentally where Jared Sherman has taken up residence.
Later that day, Amelia has a meeting with Angus Sherman to discuss the possibility of Sherman Enterprises backing the finances for building a new town library. Amelia is surprised to discover her new neighbor is Mr Sherman's nephew and Mr Sherman has decided that his nephew will be handling the meeting.
A friendship is formed over the following months, which blossoms to a sweet romance. But Amelia is uncertain of their newly formed relationship as she knows that Jared wants to return to his big city life.
This was a fun read. The characters are well formed and the author has a keen way of writing detail that makes one feel as though they are there in the story watching it unfold (but not in a creepy way!) This is a first book for this author that I have read and I am definitely looking forward to reading more of her work.