Home > SEAL Next Door (SEALs of Coronado #9)(3)

SEAL Next Door (SEALs of Coronado #9)(3)
Author: Paige Tyler

He was halfway down the hallway to his new place, trying to balance the stack of boxes in one hand while digging in his pockets for the keys with the other, when a woman came out of the apartment across from his. She immediately turned to check her door, twisting the knob to make sure it was locked, but in those few heartbeats that he’d been able to see her face, he decided she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever set eyes on.

He’d be the first to admit that the word beautiful gets tossed around a lot.

It’s a beautiful day.

Those flowers are beautiful.

That dress looks beautiful on you.

You have beautiful eyes.

It was so overused, it was almost meaningless these days.

But the woman in the hallway wearing shorts, a T-shirt with the name of a local college splashed across the front, and well-worn running shoes, was the true reason the word had been invented in the first place. That’s all there was to it. If he looked up beautiful in the dictionary, her picture would be right there next to it.

Her long, blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail that swung around in a mesmerizing way as she turned to walk down the hall. He tried hard not to gawk as he got a clear view of her face and plump pink lips, high cheekbones, and alluring hazel eyes. Damn, she could be a supermodel.

Apparently, he failed at the whole not-gawking thing, because one second he was standing there with a stack of heavy boxes precariously balanced against his chest, and the next, they were on the floor, two of them breaking open, letting the stuff inside tumble across the carpet. And he had no idea how it had happened.

He was pretty sure he’d just made a complete fool of himself in front of this goddess of a woman, though.

Maybe she hadn’t seen him.

Maybe he could pitch himself down the stairs before she did.

“Oh, no!” a sparkling feminine voice said, confirming she’d seen his clumsy move and that it was far too late to sink into the floor and disappear. “Let me help you with those.”

“That’s okay,” he said, quickly dropping down to one knee to upright the two boxes that had burst open, praying nothing too goofy and embarrassing had fallen out. “I can get it myself.”

“Don’t be silly,” she said with a laugh that had Sam wondering if it was too early to profess his undying love and devotion.

He opened his mouth to stammer out his thanks, but by then, she was already on her hands and knees, scrambling around to pick up some of the stuff that had rolled much further than Sam would have thought possible. The position gave him a perfect view of her perfect butt, perfectly displayed in those little running shorts. Besides the word perfect, that kept bouncing around in his head like a rubber ball, all Sam could think was Five Stars! Two Thumbs Up! Thank God for Women!

“Oh, my gosh! You have a Rubik’s Cube?”

Her heavenly voice intruded on his moment of worship as she turned around and held up the item in her hand.

As captivating as her butt might be, Sam still stopped thinking about it when he got a good look at what she was holding up.

“Yeah,” he said, a smile tugging at his mouth as he reached out to take the colorful piece of plastic from her. “My dad got it for me when I was a kid.”

“From the way you’re looking, I’m guessing it brings back some fond memories,” she said, her soft voice pulling his attention away from the cube and leaving him to wonder how long he’d been staring at it.

He chuckled, casually tossing the Rubik’s Cube up and down in his hand. “I guess it does. My dad traveled a lot when I was a kid, but we would sit for hours playing with it when he got home.”

When she didn’t say anything, Sam looked up to see her smiling at him. It made her look even more stunning than before.

“What about you?” he asked, handing it to her. “I know these things were before both of our times, but did you ever play with one?”

She laughed again, her hands starting to twist first one side of the Rubik’s Cube and then the next, over and over, almost faster than Sam could keep up with. “Oh, definitely. I loved these things when I was a kid. There is no better example of group theory, commutator, conjugation, and disjointed permutations. And it’s a wonderful way to explore the development of mathematical algorithms for basic problem solving.”

He was so busy attempting to understand what she’d said that he didn’t realize she wasn’t merely randomly playing with the cube. Not until she handed it back to him, with all six sides completed and a big grin on her face.

“My name is Poppy McCoy, by the way. And if you haven’t figured it out already, I love math.”

Sam stared at the Rubik’s Cube in disbelief. He and his dad had been thrilled when they’d somehow managed to get three sides done. He flashed her a grin. “Well, Poppy, I’m Sam Travers. And I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but I just discovered that I find brilliant women to be incredibly sexy.”

Poppy didn’t say anything. Instead, she sat back on her heels, gazing at him with an unreadable expression. Crap, had he pissed her off? But then she laughed.

“You know, coming from anyone else, I think I would have had a problem with that line, but for some reason, coming from you, it seems to work,” she said. “So, I’ll take the compliment in the way I think you intended it.”

“Well, that’s good.” Grinning, he dropped the Rubik’s Cube back in the box. “I was afraid I came off sounding like an idiot.”

“Is that an issue for you?” Poppy asked, still smiling as she leaned over to scoop up a bunch of old pictures of him. “Sounding like an idiot, I mean.”

He sighed as he straightened up the box closest to him, getting the last few items back into it and closing the lid. “Unfortunately, yes. But I’m working on it. Thanks for pointing it out to me, though.”

That earned him another laugh, and Sam chuckled along with her as they finished getting all the stuff back into the second box. He couldn’t help noticing that Poppy was taking her time, looking through the last of the photos she’d picked up from the carpet.

“If there are any naked pictures of me in the bathtub when I was in kid, I would like to point out that the water was cold.” Getting to his feet, he carried a box over to his apartment and unlocked the door, then glanced at her over his shoulder. “Just so you know, I mean.”

Poppy smiled as she tossed the stack of photos into the other box, then picked it up and walked over to join him. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Not that I’m complaining about the help, but I don’t want to interrupt your workout,” he said, opening the door, then stepping back so she could walk in ahead of him. “Looks like you were about to head out for a run or something.”

Poppy shook her head, that beguiling ponytail swinging side to side in a hypnotizing way. But when she caught sight of his dress uniform draped over the back of the couch, she did a double take. She spun around to look at him, her whole body suddenly tense.

“You’re in the Navy?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

She glanced at the uniform again, then turned back to him. “You aren’t a SEAL by any chance, are you?”

Sam had never used his job in the Navy to get girls and he never would. His father had always looked down on that, so it simply wasn’t something Sam ever considered. And if admitting it got him a date with the gorgeous goddess in front of him, then he’d be a damn fool not to. Especially since it was true. But he didn’t want any woman going out with him because of what he did for a living.

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