If he can make room in his life and his heart, an isolated medieval history professor might find a real life knight in shining armor.
A terrible breakup in his early thirties left David shying away from relationships. For years he’s been content with his solitary life, finding fulfillment in his career, books, television show marathons, and his cat’s companionship. When David meets his neighbor Zach, he can’t tell if Zach is just being friendly or if the handsome fireman might actually be interested in him. The more time they spend together, though, the more David questions his resolution to remain single. If Zach can extinguish the flames left by David's past, David might finally break away from his structured life and take a chance on love.
A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2015 Daily Dose package "Never Too Late."
“NO, NO, oh sweet Jesus, no! Astrid, get back here!”
A blur of orange streaked out the open front door and, his arms full of grocery bags, David Waterman could only watch helplessly as his orange tabby raced down the walkway, came face-to-face with Mrs. Pettifer’s shih tzu, and promptly scrambled up the nearest tree.
Which happened to be the twenty-foot maple on his front lawn he’d admired when he’d moved into the house three weeks ago.
It wasn’t very admirable right now.
“Oh dear,” said the tiny woman.
With a sigh, David set his bags down on the front stoop and turned to face her. His gaze traveled from her purple nylon tracksuit, down the hot pink leash, over to the still-barking, pink-bow-wearing terror, and all the way up the tree trunk to find Astrid perched on the fourth branch from the top, approximately thirteen feet off the ground. As David watched, the volume of barks increased and, with a glance at the dog, Astrid moved up another branch.
So, fifteen feet.
David pinched the bridge of his nose briefly, then turned to Mrs. Pettifer with a strained smile. “Mrs. Pettifer, why don’t you and Mitzy continue your morning walk?”
“Oh! But, David dear, your poor kitty!” She fluttered her fingers in the direction of the tree. “What was her name again? Heloise? Francine?”
A genuine smile, however unbidden, crept onto David’s face. “Astrid, Mrs. Pettifer. Astrid.” Brushing his light brown hair out of his eyes, David squinted up at Astrid, who still watched Mitzy with an unblinking stare. “And I think she’s a little more terrified with Mitzy around than she’d be without.”
Mrs. Pettifer raised a hand to her cheek and glanced between the two furry enemies. “Oh my, you could be right. But how in the world will you get her down?”
At that moment, a low chuckle rumbled from behind David, and immediately, the barking stopped as Mitzy swiveled her bow-bedecked head to take in the newcomer.
David bit his lip.
What a way to meet the new neighbor.
“Everything okay over there?” The low chuckle was accompanied by a rich baritone voice that sent shivers down David’s spine. He slowly turned and found Mr. Blue House crossing the lawn between their two homes. Mr. Blue House wore charcoal gray sweatpants low on his hips, and his chest was broad beneath a rumpled white T-shirt that looked like it had been hastily thrown on. His flat abdomen and trim waist had David unconsciously sucking in his own slightly rounded belly. The brown hair cut close to his neighbor’s head appeared somewhat sleep-ruffled, and he wore a curious grin as he approached their little group.
David swallowed hard.
He’d caught glimpses of Mr. Blue House in passing over the last few weeks, but Mr. Blue House was around at odd hours of the day or away for long stretches of time. In fact, this was the first time David had seen him up close. He had some silver at his temples, and the creases around his eyes suggested a quickness to laughter and perhaps a few more years of age than David’s own thirty-six. As he walked closer, though, his fit physique and strong features clearly proclaimed Mr. Blue House to be a handsome man.
“Hi, I’m Zach Ford.”
David shook himself out of his reverie and reached for the tanned hand. Warmth from the skin-on-skin contact made him clear his throat awkwardly. “Hello. Um, David. David Waterman,” he said finally, mustering up a smile.
“Pleasure, David. I’ve seen you around, but allow me to officially welcome you to Peachcorn Avenue,” Mr. Blue House—Zach—said with a friendly smile before he turned to nod at Mrs. Pettifer and Mitzy. “Mrs. Pettifer. Mitzy. Now, what kind of mischief have you all gotten yourselves into?” he scolded playfully, a teasing glint in his eye.
“Oh, Zachary, thank goodness you’re here! David’s poor kitty Millicent—”
“Astrid,” David murmured under his breath. Zach sent him an amused look.
“Well, she skittered right up that tree when she saw dear little Mitzy.” Mrs. Pettifer gestured toward the maple and the slightly visible fluff of orange fur bulging around the branch on which Astrid was perched. “It’s quite a pickle, but now that you’re here, it’s sure to be fine.”
“Hrmm, a pickle is right.” Zach looked up at the cat, and then turned to David, who was still puzzling over Mrs. Pettifer’s last comment. “And here I thought I’d have the day off,” Zach said with a quirk of his lips.
Even more confused now, David could only watch when Zach told them to wait there for a second, then turned back to open his garage. When he emerged hauling a twenty-foot extension ladder, David sprang into action and rushed forward, hands outstretched.
“Oh! Mr. Ford—Zach, I don’t think you should do that. It doesn’t look at all safe.” Clearly ignoring David’s words, Zach proceeded to carry the ladder past them. “I-I can just wait for Astrid to come down. I mean, she has to… eventually….” David trailed off when Zach finished setting up the ladder against the trunk of the tree, then bent to tie the loose shoelaces on his sneakers.
“Oh, it’s okay, dear,” Mrs. Pettifer said confidently, patting David’s hand. “He’s a professional.”
“That’s right, ma’am,” Zach said as he straightened, then tipped an imaginary hat at them. With a quick wink at David, he added, “Don’t try this at home.”
David gaped when Zach turned at that moment and climbed the ladder with sure steps. Zach reached Astrid’s branch, and David watched anxiously, wincing when a paw darted out and took a swipe at Zach. After a few tense moments, David was able to breathe more easily when it was clear Zach had begun a slow descent with the cat tucked into the crook of his elbow.
“There you go,” Zach said once he reached firm ground again. He turned toward their group with a good-natured grin, two of his thick fingers scratching the top of Astrid’s forehead. “Right as rain with no need to camp out and wait for the princess to come down on her own.”
“I-I don’t know what to say. Thank you,” David stammered as he took hold of Astrid’s pleasantly plump body. David’s eyes went wide when Zach drew his arms away in the transfer, revealing thin stripes of angry red on his forearm. “Oh God, are you all right?”
“Hardly feel it,” Zach scoffed. “Nothing I haven’t handled before, anyway.”
“Oh, Zachary, you were wonderful! Wait till I tell the ladies at bridge,” Mrs. Pettifer exclaimed excitedly. She looked between Zach and David for a moment, and her smile grew wider. “I’ll see you boys around.”
“You have a nice one, Mrs. Pettifer,” Zach said.
“Have a good walk,” David echoed, as the little lady and her dog continued down the street. He turned to Zach and tightened his hold on Astrid when she began to squirm. “I-I better get her inside before she makes another break for it. Thank you so much. You really didn’t have to, you know.” David glanced at Zach’s scratches and grimaced. “Are you sure those are okay? I have some Neosporin in the house somewhere.”
“I’ll just wash it off inside. Nothing to worry yourself over,” Zach said with an easy smile.
“Well, thank you, then,” David said shyly, returning the smile. “Thank you so very much for braving my little terror.”
Zach chuckled. “You’re very welcome. I’ll see you around, David Waterman,” Zach said, nodding. He moved to grab the ladder, and David turned toward his door. As he carefully walked back with his furry burden, David was reminded of something.
“Oh, hey! Zach!” David called over from his front porch.
Zach stopped with the ladder halfway inside the garage. “Yeah?”
“What did she mean by ‘professional’?”
Zach flashed a grin. “Zachary Ford of Station 18, Ladder 3, at your service.”
David’s eyes widened, and he watched as Zach gave him another quick smile and made his way back into his garage.
Suddenly, the odd hours and fitness at middle age made so much more sense.
Review by Lucy
Just OMG adorable. David has just moved to the neighborhood and hasn’t met many neighbors yet. He has, however, met Mrs. Pettifer and her barking dog. Said dog immediately scares David’s cat, Astrid, up a tree. And so David gets to meet neighbor Mr. Blue House, otherwise known as “hottie with a body” Zach the gorgeous fireman who promptly gets a twenty foot ladder to save the fearful Astrid. David is an academic who’s former relationship has left bad memories and made him unwilling to get close again.
There is an age gap between the two, although it’s a small one of about six years. One thing I absolutely appreciated was that the older of the two, Zach, is the one in better shape. “His flat abdomen and trim waist had David unconsciously sucking in his own slightly rounded belly.” Zach is everything David is not – he works out, is a firefighter, a football jock, a sports fan. Still, Zach is interested. Maybe.
Their experiences are so different in almost every area and they have to find common ground while they both deal with insecurities. I loved David’s nervous self talk, as he tries to convince himself he is still an island unto himself.
We need a special shout out for David’s friend and former coworker, Dolly. I loved her voice. She could tell by a change in David’s breathing, over the phone no less, that something was up. And she’s just funny. “And what kind of neighborly stuff are we talking about? Like, “whoops, you dropped your penis, let me help you put it away inside my mouth…” You tell him, girl.
This is a softly flowing story filled with sweetness and caring. There is little to no angst, just two men trying to find their way to each other with the help of Mrs. Pettifer. Again, adorable and fluffy. Plus – the author was able to realistically work the word “behoove” into dialogue!
David &Zach - A warm romance of moving from neighbors to friends to lover. With maybe just a nudge from helpful friends.
I love a Nico Jaye book, and here's why: I am guaranteed a great time and a happy ending, and that is exactly what this book gives you! It was a joy to read and I know you will think the same!
David recently moved into a new neighborhood and when his beloved cat Astrid gets out and is scared up a tree by a neighbors dog, he finally gets to meet sexy "Mr. Blue House" or the guy next door, when he rescues Astrid.
He is most impressed up close and would love to get to know Zach (aka Mr. Blue House) much better. David was in a bad relationship a while ago and it marred his self worth, so while he thinks Zach is super sexy, he just knows that there is no way Zach can be thinking the same about him.
This is a very cute, well written story of a lovely guy finding just what he needs where he least expects it, you have got to read it friends! Thanks Nico, for a wonderful story with just the right amount of fluff! ;)
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