It started with a baseball...
Which shattered Lauren Russell's perfectly ordered life. Lauren's new neighbors were about to see the Southern lifestyle columnist's temper! Then she met Cole Donovan, the sexy single dad. He was not the man from her husband list; he was too tall, too sexy--and definitely had too many kids! But somehow, looking into his blue, blue eyes, she forgot all that....
Lauren was too elegant, too prim and didn't understand that his three rambunctious kids were the focus of his life. But his tempting neighbor smelled delicious, looked luscious and cooked like a dream. Cole wasn't looking for a wife, but he couldn't stay away from Lauren. Was it a recipe for disaster--or marriage?
Something hit the side of her house, right outside her office. Lauren Russell jumped half out of her skin, jarring against the desk and sending hot tea sloshing over the edge of the cup and running under the stack of articles she'd printed out, as well as coming dangerously close to her optical mouse.
She leaped up and grabbed her napkin--high quality linen, of course--and swabbed at the spill. When she'd rescued the mouse, she left the rest for a moment and hot-footed it over to the window to see what the heck had happened. She was just in time to spot a little boy pick up a baseball and hurl it to his sister in the yard next door, then race back into his own territory.
She should have known. The monsters were loose again.
Lauren immediately felt guilty, because in general she liked children. Maybe the pertinent phrase was in general, because these particular children were driving her nuts.
Going back to her desk, she finished mopping up, drying off the papers as best she could, then taking them into the bathroom and using her blow dryer to finish the job. They were crisp and wrinkly, but readable. She didn't like the fact that they were now less than perfect, but it would take too much time to go to each and every website and reprint everything. Later, maybe.
She sat at her desk again and did her best to tune out the happy screams and shrieks of what sounded like fifty children romping around a sprinkler on a hot summer day, as well as the occasional thump of a ball hitting the side of her house. Every time it hit, she jumped. How could three kids make so much noise? Weren't children supposed to spend hours indoors playing video games these days? How was she supposed to work with this going on?
She had a deadline, an article to finish and send off by noon. The first thump had alarmed her, but now that she knew what was going on she should be able to dismiss the noise and concentrate on her work. Though it was tempting, she didn't march outside to tell the kids to take it easy. Yesterday she'd had to tell them not to tramp in her flower bed, and last week she'd had a talk with them about Frisbees in her tomato garden. She didn't want to be that neighbor, the grumpy woman all the neighborhood children were afraid of, the witch who did her best to squelch the kids' fun. Might as well get herself a pointy hat and construct her house out of candy. No, thanks.
Still, a very tall privacy fence was looking more and more like a necessary investment. That would ruin the ambience of her carefully landscaped backyard, but if this continued she might have no choice. Her office was on the newly noisy side of the house, as was the spare bedroom. Unless she wanted to try to move her bedroom furniture into these rooms and convert the master suite into a large office, she was out of luck. Yeah, like she wanted to try to sleep on this side of the house.
The Garrisons had been such good, quiet neighbors! Why had they moved? Lauren was happy that the older couple now lived closer to their eldest daughter and their two grandchildren, but why couldn't the daughter have moved here? Why did being close to family mean going to Arizona, of all places? Maybe Alabama was hot in the summertime, even if Huntsville was about as far north as you could get and still be in the state, but it couldn't be any hotter than Arizona. Worse, the Garrisons had sold their house to a family with three children. At least, she'd seen three so far--two boys and a girl. Good Lord, she hoped there weren't more.
Lauren stared at the computer screen, concentrating diligently in an effort...