Socially awkward Emma “Spider” Fisher prefers her laptop to people, so she’s more than happy to oblige her boss when he asks her to pet- and housesit while he honeymoons in London.
It doesn’t take long for accident-prone Spider to lose a dog, get locked out of the house, and set off the house alarm. Thankfully, her hot new neighbour is more than happy to come to her rescue.
But Noah West is a mystery to Spider—and one she intends to solve. Because either the man is seriously living in a haunted house, or he’s a serial killer. Either way, he’s a total hottie, so Spider will have to guard her heart while she and the animals sniff out the truth.
Oh yeah. She was gonna kill that mutt when she got her hands on him. And the cat too, just because.
Emma “Spider” Fisher rattled the locked doorknob one more time and glared at the animals watching her from the other side of the front window. Costello, the dog, panted happily and gave her a tongue-lolling, open-mouthed grin. Abbott, the cat, stood in the bay window beside him, watching her with disinterested, narrowed eyes as if she were the stupidest human he’d ever met.
Which was a distinct possibility.
“Ugh!” She rattled the front doorknob again and slapped the doorframe. Yeah, as if that would make it open.
It was the morning after her first night of house-sitting for Zach and Hannah, and she’d already locked herself out. Correction. One of the dogs had escaped the fence, she’d given chase in her jammies, and when she’d ran back to call for help after not being able to catch Charlie, Costello had bumped shut the door she’d left open.
Locking her out. Without a key. Without a phone.
Without a hope of not being killed by her boss when he returned from his honeymoon.
His beloved blind dog had disappeared after she’d chased him into some trees on the other side of the street. No telling where Charlie was now. God forbid, he could be lying dead on the highway. Might have fallen down a well somewhere. Joined a gang. Who knew?
In fact, who knew a blind dog could run so darn fast to begin with? She’d bet that dog had some cheetah in his genes.
Heaving a half laugh, half sob, she turned and slid down the door until her bottom met the cold concrete of the front doorstep. A quick scan of the other houses and manicured lawns lining the quiet subdivision was no comfort. Well, maybe it was. No one seemed to peek out of curtains or be aware of her humiliating predicament, although she’d have to start pounding on doors soon to see if someone would let her use their phone.
Who would she call? One of the so-hot-they-could-melt-her-panties-off guys she worked with? She groaned.
This could not be happening to her.
A flash of brown movement to her left caught Spider’s attention and sent her heart thumping wildly against her ribcage again.
Charlie was sniffing the grass and following an invisible trail beside the sidewalk in front of the house. Near the freaking road! Uttering a squeak, Spider sprang to her bare feet and hurried down the driveway, muttering “owww” and “ouch” every time she stepped on a rock or something sharp in the grass.
She had a hard and fast policy against swearing, but she was seriously reconsidering that rule this morning.
“Charlie!” Her voice carried down the street. She clicked her tongue. “Com’ere boy!”
The dog lifted his head but kept prancing forward as a car came around the curve toward him. Panic seized her chest, releasing its grip only when the vehicle slowed and turned down a side street. The too-smart-for-his-own-good canine perked his ears up and looked in that direction. Ohmygosh, he was blind and following sounds. She had to catch him. Shehad to. If he got out of the subdivision and found a main road--
She whistled and jumped up and down, hoping the noise would divert his attention. “Charlie!”
He turned and took three slow steps toward her.
“Good boy!” She whistled again and patted the front of her thighs.
The long-legged retriever mix lowered his head, wiggled his raised butt, barked, and darted in the opposite direction.
“No, no, no!” Spider gave chase. “Charlie!”
He thought they were playing a game. Oh, for the love of—!
At least he was running in circles, not straying outside the neighborhood. She had no idea how long they ran up and down the suburban street lined with a mixture of classic Georgian, English cottage and modern houses. It was mid-morning, and no one had come outside to see what she was causing a ruckus about. Geez. She didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. What kind of neighbors were these?
“Char…Char…Charlie!” Winded, she had to slow down until she was barely moving at all. Hands on her thighs, leaning over, she watched helpless as Charlie plowed headfirst into a neighbor’s bushes. Startled, he hunched low and took slow, careful steps around the hedge. His tongue dangled out of his mouth but, otherwise, he looked ready to resume his marathon sprint. What the heck did Hannah feed that dog? Crack cocaine?
One step. Two steps. Spider inched closer. Charlie turned, and she used all of her reserves to leap toward him.
Yes! Their bodies collided, and she rolled with him onto the grass, the forty-pound dog using her as his personal cushion, not that she cared. Not as long as she had a tight grip on him.
She laughed in triumph and then groaned when a wet tongue found her mouth. Ewww. Disgusting. Doggy slobber. So gross.
It took a few more minutes of her wrangling him on the neighbor’s lawn to get into a position where she actually could pick him up. New rule. The dogs were going to wear their leashes twenty-four seven while they were under her watch.
She’d once thought she might like to have a dog, but uh uh. Not anymore. Cats were so much easier than dogs.
The two of them lumbered back to the house and collapsed together inside the fenced yard. Oh, thank heaven. Now she just had to figure out how to get back inside the locked home she was supposed to be protecting.
Chest heaving, she sprawled on the grass for a few minutes, thinking about it.
Man, she had to pee.
Pushing herself up on her elbows, she considered each of the windows. She’d already checked most of them. Her gaze fell on one. The bathroom. Had she locked it back after cracking it open last night when someone whose name rhymed with Costello had pooped mushy stuff all over the floor?
Remind her to never give him part of her burrito again. Ever.
Struggling to her feet, she glared at Charlie as she made her way to that side of the house. He was happily prancing about the yard again as if the past hour had never happened. Insane dog.
Spider nearly burst into tears when she saw through the pane that the window wasn’t latched. Yes! She pushed it up as far as she could, lifted herself up, and…
A pulsating siren startled her so much she squealed and fell backwards, landing flat on her butt in the grass.
“Oh, no, no, no.” The house’s high-tech smart alarm system was programmed to automatically arm itself after fifteen minutes if the doors and windows remained inactive. Zach had warned her about it at least a dozen times. It was a new system he was testing for clients of his private security firm.
It took Spider a few tries to pull herself up so her waist was aligned with the windowsill. A pair of almond-shaped eyes were there waiting for her when she did. Perched on the sink, Abbott’s black and white feline body was drawn back and ready to spring as he stared at the opening in the window.
“No!” Spider yelled at him as she grappled to lift her left leg up. “Don’t even think about it, mister.”
With a growl, the cat took a leap in the opposite direction and darted through the bathroom doorway as she managed to get her leg over the windowsill. She was half in and half out. Basically. Almost. Her foot was inside the bathroom anyway. That was progress.
“Hello?” a man’s deep voice called from not too far away. “Everything okay back there?”
Oh, for the love of Pete.
Straddling the window, Spider wiggled, trying to swing her other leg over and into the bathroom. Much harder to do than she’d expected. Her left side was pressed to the pane of glass on the outside of the house. No matter how hard she pushed, she couldn’t get the window to raise high enough to let her maneuver inside.
The house phone began ringing and seconds later, the alarm stopped. Well, that was something at least.
Furry legs grabbed onto Spider’s calf inside the house.
“Hello?” the man called again.
“Uh, yeah! We’re okay.” Still trying to shove the window up, she glanced down and saw Costello humping away at her leg.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
She tried to jostle the dog off, which only managed to get her stuck in a more awkward position. Uh. She was wedged in there pretty good now.
The back fence moved inward. Spider reached a hand out and screamed, “Don’t let the dog out!”
A man she didn’t recognize grabbed Charlie’s collar just as the dog ran toward the gate. That mutt must have some superpower for detecting openings he couldn’t see. She’d swear her life on it. Her body sagged against the window frame on a loud sigh of relief that he hadn’t escaped again.
The stranger snapped the gate shut behind him and gave Charlie a generous rub on both ears. Spider snorted when Charlie lapped the man’s face with his tongue. Some guard dog he was.
“Are you sure you don’t need help?”
Seriously? He wanted to help her now?
The guy lifted his delicious green gaze, which widened when it found her. He swore. “Are you stuck in the window?”
She stifled a groan. He would have to be a total hottie, wouldn’t he?
Please, someone shoot me now.
~ Learn more about Angela Campbell and her books at www.AngelaCampbellOnline.com.