He needs a roommate, she needs a place to live.
She needs a place to hide …
When charming firefighter Hunter meets a beautiful woman at the DMV, he wastes no time making her acquaintance. When she mentions she’s new in town and looking for a fresh start, he does not hesitate in offering to rent the extra bedroom in his house. After all, he’s never been able to resist a damsel-in-distress and helping those in need is what he does best.
What begins as an innocent, well intentioned arrangement, blossoms into a passionate entanglement neither one of them saw coming.
It all feels right. His tight-knit group of friends think the world of her. And he can’t imagine going the rest of his life without Edie by his side.
But when her past comes to call and their love is on the line, Hunter’s save-the-world complex faces the ultimate test. Is love enough to save them both?
**Hot and Dangerous Book One in The Fraternity Brothers Series, is the first of seven stories. The series is about a group of fraternity brothers who continue to be best friends long after graduation, and the women they fall in love with. Each book is a full length stand-alone romance with a happily ever after and no cliffhanger**
I snap my eyes open with a jolt and blink away the crappy dream. Long, misshapen black fingers wrapped around my bedroom door pushing it open slowly, the sound of someone slurping and chewing in the background, the hum of someone breathing down my neck behind me.
I’ve had it more times than I can remember, but this time has left me more unsettled than usual. I jump again when someone taps me on the shoulder. “Honey, we’re here,” May says. She’s a woman in her sixties whom I’ve been sitting next to on the bus since Colorado. I know more about May than I do members of my own family. She talks a lot.
“Thanks, sorry I fell asleep.”
“Don’t apologize, dear, you were tired, you needed the sleep.”
“Yeah, it’s been a long trip. Is Carol meeting you here at the bus station?” Carol is her older sister. May is visiting for the summer.
“Yes, she’s picking me up. She’s always late, though.”
“I’ll wait with you.” Nobody is picking me up. I don’t know a soul in California. I’ve got nothing but time.
“Oh, you don’t have to do that. I’m sure you’ve got things to do and people to see.” She smiles, and the tiny wrinkles around her eyes become more pronounced. Don’t get me wrong, she looks amazing for a woman in her sixties. She looks like she’s lived a happy life, smiled a lot, laughed a lot. I can only hope for laugh lines like the ones she has someday.
“Actually, I don’t have any plans.”
“Who’s picking you up?”
“Nobody, I’m on my own.” She steps out into the aisle and looks back at me with concern etched in her eyes.
“You came all the way out here, and nobody is coming to get you?”
“I don’t know anyone here.”
“But, you have a place to stay, right?”
“Nope. That’s okay, though, everything will work out.”
“You’re coming to my sister’s house with us then. It’s settled. You can’t be here in this big city with no plan and no friends.”
“No, I’ll be fine, I promise.” I feel like I’m talking to my mother. No, I take that back, my mother wouldn’t give a shit who I was staying with or if I had a place to stay. I feel like I’m talking to a mother, but not my mother.
“You’re serious? What are you going to do?” She takes my hand and pulls me down the aisle and out into the bright West Coast sunshine. Good question. I hadn’t thought this far in advance. I knew I had to get as far away from Kansas as possible, and California was the goal. I’m not sure I expected to make it a reality, and now that I have, it’s time to set a new one.
“I’m going to get a California driver’s license and find a place to live.”
“Just like that?”
She shakes her head and sighs. “Well, at least take down my phone number in case you get into a pinch.”
That’s a good idea. “Okay, thanks.” I take her phone number and call her, so she has mine as we stand outside the bus.
“And I want you to call or text me later on and let me know you’re all right.”
“Well, yes, of course. You’re what, twenty years old, alone in a new state with no place to live. I feel irresponsible enough letting you out of my sight right now, so at least let me know in a few hours if everything is okay.”
I don’t know why she feels like she’s responsible for me, but I don’t mind checking in with her later. It’s kind of nice. “I will, and you can call me if I forget.” I smile, and she looks worried.
“I have a daughter, she’s older than you, and do you know what happens when she forgets to check in with her mother?”
“I call her in the middle of the night and wake her up to chat.”
That would be fine with me. I’m a night owl, but I don’t want her to know her threat is worthless in my nocturnal world. “Okay, I’ll call, cross my heart.” I make an ‘x’ over my chest, and she gives me an awkward hug made awkward because I’m not used to being hugged and especially by strangers.
“Goodbye, Edie. Good luck with your new adventure,” she says.
“Bye, May. Thanks for keeping me company. Have fun with your sister.”
She turns to walk toward the bus station, and I sling my duffle bag over my shoulder and walk to the nearest sidewalk and google the nearest DMV. When I have the address, I order an Uber and sit down on a bench in front of the station and wait.
It’s hot, hotter than I’d expected California to be. I thought it was always temperate here— sunny and seventy—but today is unseasonably warm at a whopping eighty-eight degrees. I need a shower more than life. I’ve been riding in a bus for two days using wet wipes on only the most important areas, and I haven’t brushed my teeth yet today. I fish out a mint and pop it into my mouth and brush my hair back into a ponytail. When I check my mirror, I cringe. My usual wavy, mahogany hair is a greasy dark brown and stick straight, the bags under my eyes make me look like a drug addict, and I’m in desperate need of some sun. This is going to be the ugliest driver’s license photo ever, but I don’t care, nobody will see it anyway. I don’t go out to clubs, and I always drive carefully. Those are the only two times anyone ever shows their license to a stranger, so I’m good.
A black Jeep Cherokee pulls up to the curb in front of me, my Uber. Thank God. I need air conditioning. I stand and remove my light jacket tying it around my waist but keeping my arms close to my sides in case I smell.
I open the door, and the driver asks, “Hey, DMV girl?”
“Uh, yeah, can I put my bag in back?”
“Sure, just toss it in.” He points at the back seat, and I open the door, throw in my bag, and climb up front with him wondering how much an Uber driver earns. Not that it matters, I don’t have a car, and I’m not much for chit-chat with strangers unless they are sixty-year-old ladies named May.
“So, you get off a bus and head straight to the DMV for a license, huh? Way to be efficient.” His head bobs ever so slightly like one of those bobbleheads when he speaks. He talks slow and drawn out like a surfer. In fact, I think he is a surfer. His hair is longer than mine, blond from the sun, and he’s wearing board shorts, a threadbare t-shirt with words I can’t make out, and flip-flops.
“Yeah, efficient, that’s me.” I laugh nervously because I’m not efficient at all, more like spontaneous and flighty lately.
“Cool, well, if you need a place to crash, I live on the beach, and you can hang anytime.” He points at a business card holder glued to his dash. “Take one, my number is on it. I give surfing lessons, too, if you’re interested. And hey, if you get a car, I can hook you up at Uber. It’s a pretty sweet gig, work when you want and all that.” He glances over at me with a giant goofy grin, and I give him a small, shy smile in return.
For a moment, I was wondering if he’s hitting on me, but I put the idea away as soon as I see that smile. It’s relaxed and brotherly and genuine. I consider myself lucky to have found two genuinely kind and generous people on my journey so far. I hope that luck holds out.
“Ever been to SoCal before?”
“No, I’ve never been anywhere.”
“No way, this is your first time out and about?” he says. I imagine myself taking a walk around the neighborhood when he says ‘out and about,’ and not driving to the edge of the country to start over.
“Yeah, guess so.”
“Where ya coming from?”
“Kansas,” I say, but I think hell.
“Cool, cool. I could never be a land-locked dude, gotta have the big pond, ya know?”
I don’t, but I nod my head in agreement. I’ve never even seen the ocean much less needed it like this guy does. “So, wait… like you’ve never seen the ocean then, have you?” He looks at me like he just discovered a unicorn.
“Nope, it’s third on my list of things to do.”
“Dudette, it should be the first.” His tone is serious, a total contradiction to his surfer slang.
I point my thumbs at myself and smile. “Efficient, remember?”
“Yeah, right. Well, you can toss that to-do list after you get your license if you stay with me. I got a girl, so I’m not trying to hook up or anything, but dude, I never got to intro anybody to the ocean before, you gotta let me.”
“I’ll probably be waiting in line all day. I’m sure you have other things to do.”
“Nah, take the card, and I’ll come get you, no charge.” He points at the cards again, and I slip one into my purse. He bobs his head a little harder now and murmurs, “Cool.”
I’m beginning to feel like California wasn’t such a reckless and wild decision to make after all. So far, I’ve been here for two hours and had as many offers to stay with new friends.
When we arrive at my destination, I’m surprised to find the parking lot only half full. Back home, the Department of Transportation was packed on a Saturday morning, but it’s still early. “Looks like you won’t have to wait too long after all,” I say to… I don’t even remember my driver’s name. It was on the app when I requested a ride, but I wasn’t paying attention.
I slide the card out of the side pocket of my purse and glance down at the name. Bodhi Drake’s School of Surfing. He couldn’t possibly have a cooler surfer name if he tried.
“They open in like, fifteen minutes, people will start lining up quickly. Call me when you’re done if you want. I’ll be around.”
I open the door and retrieve my duffle from the back. “Thanks, Bodhi, I appreciate it.” He bobs his head and salutes me.
“Later, Kansas girl.”
I close the door and watch his Jeep disappear blending in with a million other cars. Looking around the parking lot, I notice a lot of people pulling in all of a sudden and feel a jolt of panic. I’d better get inside and secure my spot in line before all these people get out of their cars. I don’t want to spend my first day in the Golden State staring at the back of somebody’s head waiting for my number to be announced.
When I open the door, the cool air is refreshing, but after about fifteen minutes, I’m digging in my duffle for a hoodie to put on. There are about thirty-five people in line ahead of me when they open the doors. Thirty-five isn’t bad I think to myself until the narrow hallway opens up to a massive room where at least sixty people are already sitting in chairs with numbers in hand.
“I thought you just opened,” I say to the woman unlocking the door.
“Those are lottery winners. You can enter online for an early spot,” she says.
“Oh.” Wow, a lottery. Well, since I am California’s newest resident, I couldn’t have known that. Now I have nearly one hundred people in front of me guaranteeing me a long, boring day.
Finally, I take a number, ninety-six, and settle into a hard, uncomfortable chair next to a boy who is wiping sweat from his brow while flipping through the pages of a book titled Getting Your Learner’s Permit.
I smile when I sit down feeling sorry for him and remembering the day I went to get my permit. My mom didn’t take me, though. My best friend, Renee, her mother was taking her so I went along. I didn’t have an adult who would teach me how to drive, but I liked the idea of it in my wallet, official and grown up.
I place my duffle in the empty seat on my other side and start looking around for something interesting to look at while I waste my day away. There’s a woman with shocking purple hair in the front row pulled up into a high ponytail on top of her head. Her makeup looks like stage makeup, and I imagine her going to a theatre when she is done here to practice her lines with a handsome co-star.
There’s a man with thick glasses, a bald head, and shaky hands holding his paper ticket with his number on it in front of me. Why do people that old keep driving? Why does the state keep giving them a license? At a certain age, you need to give up certain things, especially things that could kill other people like driving.
That’s when I start to wonder who’s worse, the sweaty kid next to me getting his permit or the old guy who can hardly see the road. Maybe I should stick to the bus?
“Number twenty-six,” a robotic voice says over the intercom. Wow, that was quick, they’re already on number twenty-six, and I’ve only been here ten minutes. They do have multiple counters to help people, so maybe it won’t be so bad.
An hour later, my ass is numb, and my stomach is growling, but I’m afraid if I go to get a snack from the vending machine, I’ll lose my seat, and there are no more available. Sweaty boy is still on my left, and now a Rastafarian woman is on my right humming a pretty song in her bright rainbow dress.
I shift in my seat and pull out my phone to find something to read. I don’t know why I didn’t think about this sooner. I have hundreds of books to read on my phone for occasions just like this. When I find the sexy romance novel I’ve been waiting to start, I settle in and zone out.
I don’t even notice when the boy and his mother leave and someone else takes the chair next to me. The book I’m reading is by my favorite author, and she’s the best at sucking you in and making you forget the world around you.
I slide my thumb across the screen when someone nudges me. “Hey, you have number ninety-six, and they just called number ninety. I see you’re really into whatever you’re reading and didn’t want you to miss your turn.”
I look up still in the haze of my story. “I’m sorry, what?” I say to a guy who is about as opposite as he can be from that seat’s last occupant. He’s so tall, he doesn’t look natural sitting in the molded plastic chair. His knees are bumping the chair in front of him, his elbows are on his knees, and his hands are hanging limply between his legs.
He nods toward my paper number slip lying in my lap. “You’re getting close.”
I look down at my number and up at the LED screen glowing number ninety.”
“Oh, thanks. I got lost in my book.”
“No problem, figured you’d been here a while. I’d be pissed if I missed my turn, even if the book was great.” He smiles, and I smile back resting my hand on my phone in my lap.
“You’re not from here, are you?” he asks.
I frown. Is it that obvious? “No, how’d you know that?”
“Your bag.” He points at the bag now on the floor between my feet. I moved it a long time ago when seats started filling up. “You’re lack of a tan,” he gestures at my pale hand. “And you’re KSU sweatshirt,” he says finally with a sly smile.
“Oh, uh, yeah, I guess I’m pretty transparent, huh?”
“It’s cool. Just get here?”
“Yes, this morning.”
“You got me.” I throw up my hands in mock surrender.
“Yeah? And the DMV was your first tourist stop?”
Why does that surprise everybody so much? “Yes, I figured if I were going to make California my home, I’d better get a driver’s license.”
“Oh.” His eyebrows shoot up. “So, you’re not just here on vacation then?”
“Nope, starting over. New place, new life.”
“What are you running from?” he asks, and I choke on my spit. How on earth could he know I’m running away from something? “Whoa, sorry, I was kidding. Are you okay?”
I sputter out a “yes, fine,” and he pats me on the back.
“Hey, I know I’ve only known you for like a minute, but I was wondering if you have a place to live yet? I was going to put out an advertisement for a roommate today, but if you’re looking for a place, you could save me the trouble.”
Can it be possible that I have options when it comes to where I’m staying tonight, and when I arrived this morning, I had none? I think it is.
“Strangely enough, you’re the third person to offer me a place to stay today.”
“Ahh, but a place to stay is different from a place to live. I’m offering you permanence and comfort, a home not a crash pad,” he says with all the enthusiasm of a car salesman making a TV commercial.
“That’s some pitch.”
“Better than the first two, I’ll bet.” He nods his head once as if to agree with himself.
“Actually, yes it was. Still, I don’t know you at all. I don’t even know your name.” I don’t know Bodie or May either, but they were only offering me a place to stay not a place to live as this guy put it.
“Hunter, Hunter Knight, I live at 28116 Swallow Lane. My parents own the house. They let me live in it while I was going to college, and now that I’ve graduated, I have to start paying rent. I can’t afford it alone, so you’d really be helping me out.”
“I don’t even have a job yet.”
“That’s okay, I know a lot of people. I’ll help you find something. The rent’s not too steep when you cut it in half.”
“You don’t know anything about me. Doesn’t that worry you?”
“I know you’re beautiful, you’re from Kansas or somewhere in the Midwest, you’re starting your life over, you’re responsible enough to make the DMV your first stop, and you read trashy romance novels. What else do I need to know?”
He’s a good listener, and I guess he has a point. If he had placed an advertisement, he wouldn’t know as much about an applicant as he knows about me.
“My name maybe?” I say and laugh.
“Okay, what’s your name?”
“Great, nice to meet you, Edie.”
“Nice to meet you, too, Hunter. So, what do you do?”
“I’m in fire science training.” I look at him with a blank expression. I have no idea what that is. “I’m going to be a firefighter. Well, I already am a volunteer firefighter and an EMT, but I want to make it my career.”
That’s an honorable career choice. He can’t be all bad if he wants to dedicate his life to saving others. “I thought you said you graduated college.”
“It’s a long story. Hey, they just called ninety-five, you’re next. So, do you wanna be roomies?” he asks it like he’s asking me to grab a cone at the Dairy Queen later, so casual.
“Sure, why not?”
“Excellent! Here, I’ll give you my number,” he says taking my phone and entering his number into it like we’re old friends reconnecting after years of separation.
“I’m number two hundred and ten, so I’m going to be here for a while. Can you meet me at my house later?”
“Um, yeah. My friend wants to show me the ocean anyway.”
“Cool, you better go. They just called your number.”
I stand and sling my duffle over my shoulder. I have a place to live. I have new friends. Hello, new California life. Goodbye old Kansas hell life.
I love summer, the smell of clean babies, lilacs and swimming. I'm a Midwestern mother of five, Mimi of two and owner of three fur babies.
I spend my weekdays writing full time and raising my family.
I write about intelligent women and the stubborn men who love them.
I write about turmoil and conflict. I write about the most complex, convoluted emotion we as humans experience.
I write about love.