Home > SEAL Next Door (SEALs of Coronado #9)(4)

SEAL Next Door (SEALs of Coronado #9)(4)
Author: Paige Tyler

“A SEAL? Nah,” he said casually, the lie popping into his head even as he asked himself what the hell he was doing. If he did manage to secure a date with her, she was going to find out what he was. “I’m just a plain old everyday machinist mate.”

Luckily, his uniform was face down on the couch, so it wasn’t like Poppy could see his SEAL Trident, if she even knew what it was. But he still held his breath as he waited for her to call him out on the fib. Instead, her shoulders relaxed, and she graced him with that smile he was already getting used to.

“Cool,” she said. “And don’t worry about interrupting my run. Getting in a little strength training before a I head out is good for me.”

Sam breathed a quick sigh of relief, still wondering what it was about his uniform, or the idea of him being a SEAL that made her so uncomfortable. “Well, if you’re looking for a little high-intensity circuit training, you could always help me carry the last few boxes up from the back of my truck. That way you could get in your lifting and cardio at the same time.”

Her lips curved as she set the box down on the floor beside the couch. “So, you get help moving it, but what do I get? Besides the workout, I mean.”

He chuckled, not sure he’d ever met a woman so quick-witted. He found it incredibly attractive.

“Pizza?” he offered, placing his own box on the floor. “Toppings of your choice. I’ll even throw in beer or soda if it helps.”

Poppy tilted her head to the side, pursing her perfect lips as she considered that. “Do I have to eat it here with you or can I take it back to my apartment?”

Sam grinned. “Sorry. One time offer. Must be present to win. Offer not valid in Hawaii or Alaska, cannot be redeemed for cash or combined with future offers.”

She laughed. “You’re on.”

He couldn’t describe how happy that made him.

“Pineapple or pepperoni?” he asked, pulling his cell out of his pocket.

“Plain cheese,” she said. “It’s my favorite. And I have beer and soda at my place…unless that violates the rules of your offer?”

He hit speed dial for the nearest pizza delivery place and put the phone to his ear. “I’m pretty sure there’s some wiggle room in the rules when it comes to getting something to drink at your place. Hell, you might even be able to convince me to stay there to eat, if you’re persuasive.”

“I think I can do that,” Poppy said with a smile as she walked out the door and down the hall, leaving Sam struggling to give the pizza place the order as her amazing butt bounced delightfully ahead of him. It was enough to make him completely forget about whatever deal she seemed to have with guys being in the SEALs.






Poppy walked down the hallway of the school’s physics and math building, waving good morning to the handful of students she knew out of the dozens she passed. Considering how few classes she taught, it wasn’t surprising she didn’t know more of them. But on paper, at least, she was a physics professor at San Diego Mesa College, even if she made a lot more money than one.

Of course, if anyone followed her past the tiny generic office with her name on the door to the unmarked metal door at the end of the corridor, they’d see the expensive key card reader mounted off to one side of the frame and wonder what kind of professor worked behind a secure vault door. Nobody would ever guess she wasn’t really a professor at all, but instead worked for a government organization. The super-secret facility was known as the San Diego Project, but she and her colleagues preferred to call it The Cave, which was much more appropriate considering the place didn’t have a single window. Which, when she thought about it, sucked.

The Cave was loosely associated with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, but only in regard to the focus on nuclear weapons. Beyond that, the two organizations had drastically different missions. Lawrence Livermore focused on the U.S. stockpile while Poppy and her coworkers worried about everyone else’s. And with all the countries out there that had nukes, it was a full-time job.

Glancing over her shoulder to make sure no one was watching, she slid her ID card across the face of the reader. There was a metallic click, then a buzz as the door unlocked. Once she got inside, she closed it securely behind her.

“Morning, Doc McCoy.”

Poppy smiled at the security guard’s warm greeting. For someone so big, Roy Booth had one of the softest voices she’d ever heard. “Good morning, Roy.”

Behind the desk, Roy sat back in his chair, swiveling back and forth ever so slightly. “You’re rather chipper this morning.”

Only Roy would use the word chipper. It was one of the things that made him so endearing.

Since she was, in fact, chipper, Poppy didn’t bother to deny it. Besides, Roy had a whole bank of monitors tucked away beneath the countertop that shielded the front of his desk, and she knew from experience that he watched everyone who approached the building. If he said she looked chipper this morning, then it was almost certainly true.

Poppy hadn’t thought it would be so obvious, but in her defense, she had a good reason. One who stood a little over six feet tall and had a face that could make a woman forget herself.

“You met someone, didn’t you?” Roy pressed, a huge smile crossing his face as Poppy moved over to the door near his desk and placed her hand against the biometric scanner there. “Someone who’s not a total jerk, am I right?”

“I’m not telling you anything about my social life one way or the other, Roy,” Poppy said with a laugh as she opened the door. “Everyone knows you’re one of the worst gossips in the building,” she added as it swung closed after her.

“Gossip? What gossip?” a light, feminine voice asked.

Poppy looked over to see Nyla Higgins standing there holding two mugs of coffee. Tall and willowy, her dark eyes were filled with excitement. “Don’t tell me you went on a date last night without telling me? You’re not allowed to do that.”

Grinning, Poppy gratefully took one of the creamy coffee-filled mugs, eager to inhale her dose of morning caffeine. There was no way she’d get out of telling her friend everything that had happened last night. There weren’t many women working in The Cave, and she and Nyla had become best friends since Poppy’s first day there. Nyla was a hopeless romantic and endlessly obsessed with getting Poppy into a long-term relationship. If there was even a small possibility that Poppy had met someone, her BFF would keep digging until she unearthed every tidbit of information.

“It wasn’t a date,” Poppy admitted, sipping her coffee and heading in the direction of her office, only for Nyla to grab her arm and turn her toward one of the classified briefing rooms. Okay. Obviously, there was something her friend wanted her to see.

“But Roy was right. You did meet someone, didn’t you?” Nyla pressed as they slipped into the conference room.

Poppy grabbed a seat near the stack of folders on the table, but ignored them for the moment. There’d be no work for either of them until she filled her friend in on all the details.

“I met a guy moving into the apartment across the hall from mine,” she said, choosing her words carefully. Not because she wanted to hide anything, but because she didn’t want to jinx anything with Sam. “I helped him carry up some of his stuff and we ended up getting pizza afterward. And before you ask, yes, we hit it off.”

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