I tore the paper out of my typewriter and crumpled it up. I hadn't even written three lines, but I could already tell it was headed in the wrong direction. How was I supposed to write a romance novel when the romance in my life had become so monotonous? My publisher definitely didn't want a manuscript about a boring married couple in their late twenties whose idea of a romantic evening was cooking a TV dinner and watching an episode of whatever procedural happened to be on that night.
The sound of the front door opening gave me the perfect excuse to procrastinate.
My husband, Connor, was downstairs in the kitchen making himself a turkey sandwich.
"What brings you home so early, stud muffin?" I said as I walked over behind him and ran my hands over his abs. I had forgotten how nice they were.
"Stud muffin?" he asked with a laugh. "Are you trying to get me to make you a sandwich or something?" He turned to look at me.
"I was thinking about having something else for lunch." I bit my lip for added effect.
"Oh yeah, I forgot about the leftover lasagna. Is there enough for both of us?"
"I was kind of in the mood for some afternoon delight." I ran my hands down to the waistline of his pants and yanked on his belt loops.
He quickly kissed me on the forehead. "Sorry, honey. I'm going to have to take a rain check on that. I have to be out of here in ten minutes if I want to be on time for my meeting."
And that's exactly why I'm struggling to write a romance novel. "Okay, no problem. I'm going to..."
A loud beeping sound interrupted my sentence.
"What was that?" I asked.
"Sounds like a truck backing up. They better not be starting more construction out there."
"I'll go check it out." I walked to the dining room, pulled back the curtains, and looked outside. There was no construction. Instead, the beeping was coming from a moving truck backing into the driveway next door.
"Well, what is it?" called Connor from the kitchen.
"Looks like that house finally sold."
"Which one? Next door or across the street?"
"Oh yeah? Can you see who's moving in?"
I put my face closer to the window to try to get a better angle. There were at least three guys covered in varying degrees of sweat moving furniture out of the truck. One of them was decent looking, but the other two were awful.
"Sweet Lord," said Connor, who had finished making his sandwich and joined me at the window. "Does that guy have a mullet?"
"It would appear so."
Just then, a black BMW pulled up in front of the house and a girl stepped out of the passenger seat. She was wearing jean shorts and a tank top and had her dark hair pulled back into a long ponytail, but she still somehow managed to look glamorous.
"Oh thank God," said Connor.
A pang of jealousy ran through me. "Calm down there, Tiger."
"Relax. I wasn't checking her out. I was just excited that those frat guys aren't our new neighbors."
"Who said anything about you checking her out? But now that you're getting defensive about it, I kind of think you're guilty," I joked.
"So what's the etiquette for meeting new neighbors?"
"I'm pretty sure the people moving in are supposed to bring us an apple pie or something so that we accept them into the neighborhood. After all, we were here first."
Connor laughed. "I think you have that backwards. We should probably go out and introduce ourselves."
"I really think I'm right on this. But she looks like she's kind of dumb, so she probably won't bother to greet us properly. That's okay though, she's probably horrible at baking. Definitely wouldn't make for a good housewife. Anyway, we should just stay away from her and never talk to her unless she brings us a pie." The sight of the guy stepping out of the driver's seat made me lose my next thought. He was at least six feet tall and his t-shirt showed off his perfect arms. His blondish-brown hair was shaved close on the sides and then longer on top and combed towards one side. Five o'clock shadow covered his strong jaw line. "On second thought, maybe you're right. It would be fun to go meet the new neighbors."
"I see how it is. Now that a guy gets out of the car you want to go right over and meet them." Connor glanced down at his watch. "Whatever we decide to do, it'll have to wait until tonight. I'm late for my meeting."
My meeting seemed to drag on forever. Was it really necessary for all twelve of us to be there while my boss reprimanded Frank for always leaving the coffee pot empty? No, it wasn't. But my boss said we had to be there, so that was that.
Things finally wrapped up about 4:30 and I hurried back to my office to do a little research about our new neighbors. A quick search on Redfin revealed that the house next door had sold yesterday for $140,000. Geez, I didn't realize it was a fixer upper. Or did the real estate market tank without anyone knowing? I had thought our houses were worth closer to $700,000.
I started scrolling through the pictures, expecting to see the house in total disrepair, but I found quite the opposite. The foyer was tiled in marble with a curved staircase leading to the upper floor. The gourmet kitchen had new granite countertops, beautifully tiled backsplashes around the counters, and even one of those fancy stainless steel hoods over the range. The master bathroom was almost more lavish, if that was possible, featuring a glass two-person shower, a separate tub with jets, and double sinks.
How the hell did this house sell for so cheap?
I looked back at the top of the page and realized my mistake. It sold for $1.4 million, not $140,000. Next I had to see what kind of people could afford such a house.
I scanned the rest of the info on the site, but it didn't list the buyer. The county website, however, did.
Sean and Phoenix Sullivan.
I'm sure I could have just asked Sally, our super nosy neighbor, everything about them, but looking them up on Facebook was a lot easier and not nearly as annoying. Sean didn't appear to have one, but Phoenix had a page for her fashion blog with over a million likes. I flipped through some of the pictures. She looked incredible in all of them. There were even a few where she showed off her perfect body in a bikini. I wish Rosie would wear bikinis like that.
The alarm on my phone sounded to tell me that it was 4:45, which meant my boss had probably left for the day. That meant I could leave for the day too.
I hit every red light possible getting home, but eventually I made it. The moving truck was gone, but the Sullivan's black BMW had taken its place in their driveway. Hopefully Rosie would still want to go meet them tonight.
The sweet aroma of apple pie filled my nose as soon as I stepped in the door.
"Have you been baking?" I said loud enough for Rosie to hear me no matter where she was in the house.
"Is that you, honey?" she called from upstairs. She appeared at the top of the stairs a second later, wearing a tank top, skirt, and heels.
"What's the outfit all about?"
"Oh, you know. Just want to make a good impression on the new neighbors."
"And by the neighbors, do you mean Sean?"
"Who?" asked Rosie.
"Oh, that's the guy's name. I did some light stalking at work to see who they were."
"And by that, do you mean you wanted to see who the girl was?"
"No, but if you're wondering, her name is Phoenix."
"Phoenix? That's a stupid name." Rosie rolled her eyes.
"What's really stupid is that they bought that house for 1.4 million dollars."
"How is that possible?" asked Rosie.
"You'll see in a few minutes when we go over. Ready to go meet them?"
"Yup. Just have to get the pie out of the oven. What about you?"
"Let me go change real quick." I ran upstairs and rummaged through my dresser for something to wear. Besides for my business suits, it had been a while since I dressed up in something nice. Sweat pants and a t-shirt had become the norm around the house. I eventually came across a pair of some tight gray dress pants and a black v-neck Rosie had bought me a long time ago. Freshly brushed teeth, a spray of axe body spray, and a pair of loafers were the only other things I needed. I was dressed and ready to go in three minutes flat. And I hadn't even known what I was going to wear beforehand. Why did it always take girls so damn long? Maybe I could watch some of Phoenix's fashion videos to find out. And to see more pictures of her in a bikini.
"What's the outfit all about?" said Rosie as I came downstairs. She was already at the door with the pie all ready to go.
"Oh, you know. Just want to make a good impression on the new neighbors."
"Well, you look fantastic. I love your butt in those pants." She squeezed my ass with her free hand.
I returned the favor as we went out the door. She really did have a great ass when she wasn't wearing sweatpants. Maybe I can take advantage of that later tonight.
We rang the doorbell and waited. After a few seconds the door swung open.
Phoenix was standing there in the same tank top and jean shorts as she had on earlier, which looked even better when I was a few feet in front of her rather than peering through my dining room window. Just like Phoenix, the marble foyer and staircase looked more impressive in person.
"Hi!" she said with a big smile. Sean was a few feet behind her.
"Hi," replied Rosie. "We saw you moving in earlier so we just wanted to come introduce ourselves. And bring you this pie."
"I'm Connor, and this is Rosie," I added.
Sean stuck his hand out for me. "Great to meet you, Connor. I'm Sean, and this is my wife Phoenix."
"Did you guys want to come in?" asked Phoenix.
"Sure, we'd love to," I said.
We followed Sean and Phoenix into their living room, which somehow was already perfectly decorated with a baby grand piano and the most comfortable couch I'd ever sat in.
"I'm going to go cut up this pie," said Phoenix. "Rosie, did you want to come help me?"
"Great! How big do you guys want your slices to be?"
"That depends on what kind it is," said Sean. "If my nose is correct and it's apple, then I'll take a huge slice."
"Me too," I agreed.
"Alright. Two huge slices of apple pie coming right up." Phoenix took the pie from Rosie and they both walked out of the room.
There were a few seconds of awkward silence before Sean spoke up. "So what do you do?"
"Sports marketing," I said. "You?"
"I'm a contractor, but that doesn't sound nearly as exciting as sports marketing."
"It's pretty boring most of the time. Except when I get box seats to an Eagles game and get to hang out with the players afterwards."
Sean's eyes lit up like a kid in a candy store. "Holy shit, are you serious?"
"Yeah. Wait, are you an Eagles fan? I don't want to be rude, but if you're a Cowboys fan I'm going to have to leave right now."
"Dude, don't even talk about the Cowgirls here. The only time that word can be spoken here is if it's immediately followed by an insult."
"So if I said, 'The Cowboys play football like a bunch of dainty little girls,' that would be permissible?"
"Yup. Man, I can't wait for football season. I'm renovating the basement to be the ultimate man cave. Eight leather recliners, 150 inch TV, and a bar with a built in griddle to ensure we have a limitless supply of fresh cheesesteaks. Phoenix insisted on decorating the rest of the house, but the basement is all mine."
"150 inch screen? Do they even make those?"
"Yeah. It's gonna be epic. I was actually planning on starting work on it tonight. Phoenix was going to go shopping to get some stuff to review on her blog, so I figured I'd order some cheesesteaks and start ripping out some of the old drywall. You in?"
"Sure, let's do it."