Some people would say I’m a recluse. Some would say an introvert. And they’re all right. I like to keep to myself and I love being in my own little world. One day, maybe I’ll be a cat lady. No, scratch that, I’m not a cat person. Dogs? Fish? Whatever. Point is, because of my past, I don’t do well with people.
Then one day, in the only place outside of my home that I feel comfortable, my world is turned upside down. In walks a man, in his police uniform, who stops me dead in my tracks. Which, of course, I proceed to stare at him, and he catches me. Awesomesauce.
Think he left me alone? Nope. On his way out, he even said goodbye and get me to notice him one more time. And now the one place I loved and felt safe is tainted. Guess I’ll have to just work at home now.
At least I’ll never have to see him again.
Trigger warning: May contain triggering content for some readers. Neighbors is a friends to lovers romance book. 80,000+ words. This is a standalone novel with a HEA.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I wanted to write a sweet love story, but still put an important spin on it. Kat's experiences, her social anxiety, most of those past bully stories actually happened to me. I wanted to show how being bullied can affect someone but they can still rise up and grow stronger.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Vicki and Kat are actually the two sides of me. Kat is my very socially awkward and anxiety filled self. Vicki is the witty and outspoken person I am when I'm comfortable and trust those around me. I speak my mind, not afraid of what those around me will think. Bryce is written with a little bit of my husband in him. I wanted Bryce to be very alpha but still have a romantic side to him. A side that wants to protect those he loves.
“Kat! Your drink is ready!” a barista calls from the pickup window. I walk up to the counter, passing the delicious treats that sit and tease me from their little display window. The theme here is very industrial with a bit of rustic and I love it. The walls are decorated with reclaimed wood and metal. The ceiling is exposed and painted black. The light fixtures are simple drop down lights with Edison bulbs.
“Thank you,” I collect my vanilla latte and saunter back over to my laptop. I sit down at my spot next to the door and resume my work, humming along to the low music they’re playing over the speakers.
I love coming to OneShot Coffee to get stuff done. It’s a small place, but the atmosphere is great.
This place is made for people to just hang out. The back wall has a long counter for people to plug in and work. There’s little table tops with plush seats for people to gather and hang out. There’s also some hightop tables with stools for people to sit.
Outside they have a patio where you can enjoy the Las Vegas weather. Though, I don’t recommend it in the summer time in the Las Vegas heat.
I need a comfortable environment to do my job, as I’m a freelance book editor. So, sitting and editing pages is more enjoyable because of my surroundings. My apartment is usually where I work, but sometimes I need a change of pace.
My go to option is OneShot Coffee. Plus, they have the best avocado toast. That’s always a bonus.
My latest project is keeping me busy, and I’m truly in the zone. It’s my favorite genre: romance. You know the deal; girl meets boy, they fall in love, something happens, they break up, and then they forgive each other and live a happily ever after. You know, not actual life. There’s a good side to all this, though. My work allows me to live in imaginary worlds.
Staying single in this town is also very easy to do.
It’s Las Vegas, after all. Tourists are everywhere. People can come and go so easily. Meet someone on the Las Vegas Strip one night, hit it off, then you find out he’s from New York. Maybe they’re here for a bachelor party for a weekend.
It’s always a variation of that. Same story, different day. Like I said, it’s extremely easy to stay single in this town.
My social anxiety also keeps me single.
I’ve had it for quite a while. Things happened to me when I was younger, and it really makes me fear being around people I don’t know.
That’s just one reason I like this place, OneShot Coffee. People mind their own business. I can sit in the corner and do my work, and no one will even give me a second glance. It’s one of the few public places I actually enjoy going to.
This place is my home away from home.
I’m okay with being single, too. At twenty-five, I don’t really need to get married or anything. Someday, it might be nice to have someone to go home to, but it’s just not in the cards right now. One day, maybe, I’ll give my parents the grandkids they so desperately tell me I need to give them. One day. Maybe. Honestly, I’m still undecided.
I’m deep in my editing process when I hear the bell for the front door. Two Las Vegas Police officers walk in. I look up when they pass me and do a double take. A legit double take. Of course, like an idiot, I’m not only gawking, but my jaw is on the ground.
I blink and try to refocus on my work.
But that is absolutely impossible. Especially after hearing officer “A” laugh at officer “B.” Yup, a laugh that can stop me in my tracks.
That laugh. Oh, that laugh. That deep, rough laugh that soaks into every bone in my body and gives me chills.
I look up as officer “A” laughs. At the last second, he turns and catches me staring, and my heart stops. He gives me a panty-dropping smile. My eyes go wide, and I feel my body heat rising.
Quickly, I glance back at my laptop and try to hide the blush that is definitely creeping up my neck.
Ugh. He just had to look. I feel a little nauseous. My palms grow sweaty and my breathing picks up a bit. I don’t like the attention. Of course, I looked at him first. Which I would not have done, if he wasn’t so fucking hot.
From the quick glimpse I got, officer “A” is a Greek god. He has dark brown hair that almost looks black. His hair’s shaved on the sides but longer on the top. His shoulders are wide, and his arms look powerful. He has a chiseled jawline with lips you could kiss for hours. He’s built like a warrior.
Oh, and the glimpse I had of his eyes when he caught me staring? As blue as the ocean. I could get lost staring into them.
All of this, of course, makes him look heavenly in his uniform. I’ve never been a fan of a guy in a uniform. Yes, I realize I’m strange. I’ve never been one to follow trends. A man in uniform has just never appealed to me—until now, that is. The sex appeal he radiates from across the shop now makes me a woman who likes a man in uniform. Well, at least that particular man in his uniform.
While trying to find my way back into my focus zone, I don’t notice that they moved. It’s only when I hear his voice that I realize they’re closer to me. Out of instinct, I look up and see that they’ve sat at the table right next to mine. Officer “A” also took the seat that looks directly at me.
Now, that might be a complete coincidence, but since he keeps looking my way, I’m going to say it was on purpose.
His eyes. Oh, his beautiful blue eyes. I very much want to get lost in them. Before I can continue with these thoughts, I realize I’m staring right at him again. I know this because I see him smile at me.
Immediately, I look back down at the project I’m working on. Fuck. I got caught. Under the radar, Kat. Under the freaking radar! My breathing picks up a bit, and I count to myself in order to bring my breathing back under control.
Honestly, I’m an awkward person. I haven’t had the best of luck with people in my life. I’ve always been an outcast, so being social is just not something I’m good at.
I have friends, or rather, a friend. Vicki. On a rare occasion, she can convince me to get out, but only at places we have deemed comfortable by my standards. She truly is a saint to put up with me and my bullshit. I just hate being around people. They’re cruel and will stop at nothing to cut you down and make you feel you’re less than human. Your body, your hair, your clothes, anything to tear you apart.
And so, I stray from the social scene, and to be honest, I like a good book and the comfort of my own home.
Right now, I’m definitely being awkward. Mostly because I am looking at a man who defines sexy, but also because my social anxiety doesn’t allow me to just be normal in the world. I can work myself up into a frenzy. I panic at the drop of a hat. Basically, I shut down. Fight or flight situations happen a lot, and I always choose flight.
Focus, Kat. I duck my head back down and return to my project. I’m not sure how long I’m working for, but I hear a shuffle near me. Reacting to the noise, I look up from my screen. Right into officer “A’s” eyes. Damn it.
“Miss, have a nice day.” Officer “A” nods to me as he and his partner leave OneShot.
My mouth drops open, I’m flustered, but I finally squeak out, “Um, yea. Bye.” Remember, I said I was awkward? Yup. I became so panicky I couldn’t even say, “Thanks, you too.”
When he and his partner leave, I try to regain some sort of composure and sit back in my chair. He caught me staring at him. How embarrassing is that? Then, of course he had to say bye to me. All the people in here and he had to point out that I was staring at him by saying bye. I wrap my arms around my stomach, growing dizzy. Ok, I need to count again.
Instead of counting, though, when I close my eyes, all I can see are his eyes. Those eyes. Those blue eyes. He has me so agitated I can’t think. His laugh, his eyes, his face. It’a a trifecta of awesomeness that leaves me completely speechless. The other thing that comes to mind is I didn’t run. I normally bolt at the first sign of being in an uneasy situation. Instead, I sat there and became locked in his orbit.
There is no way I’m going to finish working. I start packing up my laptop and all my notes and place them in my bag. After that, I walk outside to my car and decide I’m going to head over to Vicki’s house for a bit before her shift at the bar, Feisty Dragon.
Vicki Newman and I became best friends in high school during our freshman year. Since then, we’ve been attached at the hip. We went to the same college and both majored in English. She, however, decided she didn’t want to do anything with her degree and wanted to work her nights at, Feisty Dragon. It’s a popular bar in the valley for locals that isn’t on the Las Vegas Strip. She does well, and she’s a social butterfly compared to my hermit lifestyle.
“Hey, Kat. I’m in the bathroom getting ready. I’ll be out in a second.” she calls out to me after I unlock the door and walk in. I have a key to her place, and she has one to mine. We also have a system to make sure neither of us ends up in compromising positions if the other one comes over while we are “hosting.” Though, there are reasons I don’t have to worry about that happening. Besides, she usually texts me whenever she has a conquest she’s bringing home for the night. Usually, she’ll text me in the morning to let me know all about it.
When you walk into Vicki’s apartment, you are immediately greeted with the smells of whatever food she had been cooking that day. Vicki loves to cook. Thats one of the reasons she loves this apartment. Her kitchen has an amazing stove and double oven.
Her little one bedroom apartment is an open floorplan. From the front door you can see every room but the bedroom and bathroom. A kitchen island is all that separates the kitchen from the rest of the apartment.
Vicki’s sense of style is much different than mine. She prefers more clean lines and modern styles. I’m more eclectic and if I like it, I take it and use it even if it doesn’t match everything else.
“No worries. I’m just going to lie on the couch and pray for this day to be over.” I throw myself onto the couch face first.
She comes out of the bathroom.“Uh, what happened?”
Sitting up, I place my hands in my head and I tell her the story about my run-in with officer “A”. Also how embarrassed I was that he caught me looking and even down to the goodbye he said before he left.
She looks at me, pursing her lips, holding back any judgement. “Well, he was cute, right?”
I shake my head. “Not cute. Painfully hot as fuck. I mean, if what I could see outside his uniform was any sign,” Kicking my feet up on her table, I lean my head back against the couch. “Hot. As. Fuck.”
“Well, I wouldn’t worry about it. I mean, he’s probably used to the staring, if he’s as hot as you say he is.” She tilts her head to the side, flashing a smile.
I shrug. “Yeah, I guess.”
The thing about Vicki is she is very confident in herself. She works at a bar and she’s absolutely gorgeous. Vicki gets hit on by guys every minute of the day. She is everything I am not. Being complete opposites, she sometimes doesn’t get what I find uncomfortable. So, for her, even the idea that I was staring at officer “A” made sense, since that happens to her all the time.
“I wouldn’t worry about it. He probably forgot all about it when he left.” she says as she walks into her kitchen.
“Yeah, you’re probably right.” I get up and scroll through my phone. “I just hate being in the spotlight like that.”
Vicki gives me a sympathetic look. “I know.”
Why would he even have a second thought about some random weirdo in a coffee house? He wouldn’t. I’m sure he and his partner got a solid laugh about the crazy OneShot Coffee girl who couldn’t take her eyes off him, when they went back to their patrol vehicle. After that, I’m sure I was a fleeting thought.
Besides, I should do the same. Completely forget that hunk of a man. I mean, it’s not like I will ever see him again.
Lynn Rhys is a wife and mother of two children and they currently reside in Las Vegas, Nevada. She recently graduated with her Masters in Hospitality Administration all while working and taking care of a family. When Lynn isn’t writing, she is spending time with her family or picking up a book to read.
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