His Secret Superheroine ONLY
$3.99

a St. Louis Superheroes novel by Patricia Eimer

All kindergarten teacher Peyton Pearson wants is a nice, quiet life. Unfortunately, quiet isn’t something she’s had a lot of after tainted medicine turns her into a superhero. She’s single, and saving the city from criminals—which is increasingly dangerous as the anti-superhero movement in St. Louis gains traction. Then there’s her hot next door neighbor who makes her think super-dirty thoughts, and has no idea who she really is.

Police officer Dylan Wilson is trying to make the world safe by working to unmask all superheroes. When his sexy neighbor, Peyton, is evicted, Dylan offers her his spare room, unknowingly opening his home—and his heart—to the city’s most reluctant superhero.

Can love survive when the masks come off?

 

Information:

Title: His Secret Superheroine (A St. Louis Superheroes Novel)
Author: Patricia Eimer
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Length: 238 pages
Release Date: August 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62266-596-9
Imprint: Covet
 
 

 
Pricing is not guaranteed 
 

Praise for His Secret Superheroine:

“Sexy superheroes and hot next door neighbors! This imaginative and action-packed read left me wanting more, more, more!” – Boone Brux

 
 
Excerpt from
His Secret Superheroine
by Patricia Eimer

Copyright © 2014 by Patricia Eimer. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Chapter One

“Cool isn’t it?” the cart boy roaming the lanes of the Schnucks parking lot asked as Peyton was dumping the groceries she really couldn’t afford into the trunk of her rusted out Toyota.

“Huh?” She glanced over at the pimple-faced teen closing her trunk.

“The sign.” He nodded toward the billboard that overlooked the grocery store’s parking lot.

Super Sports with St. Louis’s Own Superhero. Her ex leered out at her from the billboard, dressed in full, American flag blue Captain Fantastic costume, hands on his hips with a red cape billowing out behind him, a cheesy grin on his enormous face. The sunlight caught the billboard and one of his teeth actually began to sparkle.

God, she fought the urge to groan. Really? She’d always known he was a narcissist, but a freaking billboard?

She looked closer and saw that they’d painted the tooth with glitter paint. Which might be one way to disguise the

fact that he had chipmunk teeth.
“It’s…” She swallowed, still staring at the smarmy grin

and trying with all her might to resist the urge to fly up there and commit some superhero-related property damage.

“Great right?” The kid sounded awed as he leaned on the back of her car, his carts standing forgotten in the middle of the row. “I mean, I always thought the guy was a douchebag when I saw his used car dealership commercials on television, but after he came out and defeated Malignant last year when he tried to kill the president? Crazy. I still can’t believe the government kept mutant superheroes a secret for all these years.”

“Yep.” Peyton raised an eyebrow as she stared at the sign. “Crazy is the word for it.”

If the military had its way then supers would still be hiding. It wasn’t like the government would admit that all the super-secret projects they’d been working on had led them to make a few mistakes.

Your idiot of a superhero husband switched your birth control out for super pills? Oh well, that sucks, but the military would sure like to watch you throw another tank for a hundred yards. Please and thank you.

Did the government care that she’d been violated? No way. What they were interested in was whether or not her super strength would work well in an urban combat setting.

Peyton got into her car and took off. Before long, she pulled onto her street and let out a sigh of relief. Almost home.

Then the Tuesday from Hell would be over.

All she wanted to do now was call and order a pizza, crack open a beer, and then take a very long, very hot bubble

bath. Three more days until spring break. Just three more days and then she’d have a whole week—no kindergartners. It would be nothing but peace, quiet, daytime television, and a whole lot of junk food.

When she passed the Piscatores’ house on the corner, she waved and both of them smiled and waved back before turning back to their garden.

Would they wave if they knew what I was? Would Mrs. Piscatores still bring me tomatoes from her garden in the summer?

Mrs. Piscatores jolted upright and glared at her husband. A quick second glance showed that his hand was on her large, pumpkin-shaped butt. Peyton shook her head. Eighty- year-old retirees were getting more loving than she was.

Not that she could blame anyone else for that. After all, she was the one who filed for divorce from Captain Fantastic. She’d had a good reason for it, sure, but at the end of the day, the reason she was sleeping alone was because she’d chosen to.

Not that the marriage would have lasted much longer anyway. Once Blake outed himself, they’d have gone down in flames. They had lived through a lot together, but they wouldn’t have been strong enough to make it through that.

She didn’t have the courage to face the public with her chin held high and declare that she had superpowers.

Peyton pulled into her driveway and threw the car in park before letting her head drop back against the seat. How the heck had she ended up here? Living like this?

How did someone as boring as me end up a freaking superhero?

Peyton lifted her head and then reached over to grab

her ratty black gym bag out of the passenger seat. Pizza, beer, bubble bath, bed. That was her mantra for tonight.

Grading could wait. Good Job! smiley faces and stickers could be applied to coloring pages tomorrow during her grading period. Something white fluttered on her door as she peeled herself out of the car and she hoped, deep down in her heart of hearts, that it was new pizza coupons. Or maybe the flyer for the new Chinese place they were building. She could murder for some mu shu pork right about now.

Mmmm. Mu shu pork.

“Miss Pearson!” A high, girlish shriek tore through the air. Peyton turned to look across the street at the little girl frantically waving at her as she stood on the front porch of house watching her dad cut the lawn, an oversized picture book in her lap.

“Hi, Liza.” Peyton waved back at her. In the tiny strip of yard along the side of their house, Liza’s dad was mowing the grass in nothing but a pair of very well worn jeans.

Officer Dylan Wilson, otherwise known as the reason she’d agreed to rent this house instead of looking for something cheaper. The bane of her existence—in and out of uniform.

Peyton tried to keep from drooling. Hot damn. How she’d love to see him out of uniform and not wearing anything.

He turned the mower toward her, and her knees weakened as he bent forward to give it a push. Must not whimper at her former student’s father’s butt. She let out a sound that was a mixture between a sigh and a moan when she caught sight of the tattoo inked on his chest.

God, what she wouldn’t do to get close enough to see what that elaborate red heart had written across it.

Right, okay, enough checking out the hot cop across the street. It was pizza, beer, bath, bed. Alone. Completely and utterly alone while he was across the street. In bed. Just him and the tattoo she fantasized about licking.

He would be alone. She’d be alone. He was hot. She could—

Stop it, Peyton warned her inept inner seductress. Hands off the hottie. She’d given up on men. Remember? They weren’t to be trusted. Not anymore. Especially not guys who wanted to see you locked up in a lab where people in white coats could jab at you with sharp, pokey things.

“Hey!” Dylan stopped mowing long enough to raise his hand in a friendly wave.

His jeans shifted lower on his hips when he straightened, and Peyton had to will her eyes not to linger. She focused on his face instead, but that wasn’t any better. The dimple in his left cheek made her heart cha-cha as every single one of her pores spontaneously began to sweat. Sweet and merciful Superman, the man was too hot for his own good.

“Hey.” She tried to keep her voice even. Nothing to see here. Really. Just ignore me and the way I can’t keep my eyes off your tattoo and, oh yeah, could we possibly arrange a time for me to lick your abs?

“Looking forward to spring break?” Dylan asked. “Yep. What about you? Any big plans?”
“I’m going to Grandma and Grandpa’s,” Liza squealed

and then bounced on her toes. “They’re going to take me camping in the trailer and we’ll roast marshmallows and Grandpa’s going to take me fishing, but he’s promised I don’t actually have to touch worms. Or make them die. We’re going to use bologna instead.”

“Good for you.” Peyton nodded, trying desperately not to think about the fact that her gorgeous neighbor was going to be alone for an entire week. Maybe it would be neighborly of her to stop by? Just to see how he was doing.

“I don’t like worms,” Liza said solemnly.

“I don’t either. But I’ve got to get inside and feed Superclaws and I bet your Daddy wants to finish the grass.” She gave Liza one last wave and started up her own

driveway, not allowing herself to turn around and give Dylan’s ass one last peek. The paper on her door fluttered again and Peyton stared at it. Now that she was closer, she could tell that it wasn’t a Chinese delivery flyer.

She opened the screen door and pulled the paper free. Notice of Eviction was stamped across it in bold, black letters.

Evicted? How? Mr. Chatterjee couldn’t evict her. She made sure she always paid her rent on time. Heck, she paid her rent early, and it wasn’t like there were any noise complaints. Not with her lack of a social life.

Peyton scanned the paper. Failure to Disclose Mitigating Information? What sort of mitigating information had she not disclosed? What the heck was mitigating information anyway?

Peyton fumbled in her purse for her cell phone and looked up his number. She pressed the phone to her ear and waited as it rang. Once, twice, three times. “Hello?” A meek, quiet voice whispered.

“Mr. Chatterjee?” Peyton asked, stunned to hear her normally vigorous, people person of a landlord sounding so timid. “This is Peyton Pearson.”

“I’m sorry you’ve got the—”

“Mr. Chatterjee,” she snapped, trying to sound intimidating. “I just got handed an eviction notice. It says that I have thirty days to remove my personal belongings or I’ll be evicted by the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department.”

“Well, yes but you see, some gentlemen from the Safer America Party contacted me,” he said, his voice wheedling. “And they brought it to my attention that you were once married to Blake Hughes. You know, Captain Fantastic?”

“And?” Peyton snapped, exasperated, as she fought the urge to try to reach through the phone and throttle the man on the other end. “Now I’m not. I told you I was going through a divorce when I came to look at the house. You said you understood how that went. Three ex-wives remember? You even offered to give me the name of your third ex-wife’s divorce attorney. The one that cleaned out your savings account and got her major alimony.”

“I know I did, but the problem is, even though you’re divorced from Captain Fantastic, your superhero sympathies are well known. They had copies of petitions you’ve signed, pictures of you at pro-super rallies. The Safer America Party? They aren’t okay with things like that Peyton.”

“No, they aren’t.” She sighed, all of her rage deflating like a kid’s party balloon after three days in a hot car. She did know just how Safer America felt about superheroes and just how rough they could play when they wanted to get their own way.

“Well, you’ve gotten yourself squarely in their sights. The men who came today were very clear about why I shouldn’t rent to a superhero sympathizer. I’m sorry. You’re a nice enough girl, but I can’t rent to you while you continue to consort with those people. If I don’t evict you, they’ll

boycott my stores and I can’t afford that. They’ll put me out of business. I’ve got alimony and child support to pay. I can’t lose everything because you’ve got ideals.”

“Fine.” Peyton swallowed. “I understand.”

She did too. That was the problem. The Safer America Party had grown too powerful for anyone to just blow off them and their anti-super agenda. They held the ears— and the purse strings—connected to too many judges and politicians. Not to mention being the biggest donor to the Fraternal Order of Police. They had too many powerful friends. Including her hot neighbor next door.

“You still owe me the last month’s rent and the security deposit though,” Peyton insisted. She might sympathize with him, but she wasn’t going to get cheated. “I’ll come over to your store and you can cut me a check for what you owe me. Fifteen hundred dollars for my last month’s rent and then the two thousand I paid you for a security deposit.”

“I can’t cut you a check for thirty-five hundred dollars,” Mr. Chatterjee protested. “I don’t have that kind of money just sitting around.”

“Yes, you can. That’s my money and I’m entitled to it.”

“I don’t have it, the men from the Safer America Party.” His voice broke. “They fined me for renting to a superhero sympathizer.”

“They what? They fined you? You mean they robbed you? Did you call the police?”

“No,” he snapped. “No police. I can’t risk the police.” “Mr. Chatterjee—”
“I’m very sorry, Peyton. You’re a very nice girl and I

hate that this is happening to you. That you’ve made choices that—”

“This isn’t just happening to me!” Peyton screamed and when she looked up, she saw Dylan was standing in his yard, not moving, watching her.

“You have no reason to—”

“Don’t you dare tell me there’s no need to yell! You’re evicting me because you’re afraid to stand up to a bunch of bullies, and now you’re telling me you aren’t going to give me the money you owe me.As far as I can see, I’ve got a whole supersized load of reasons to yell.”

She hit the disconnect button and glared at the phone in her hand. She couldn’t really blame him. Unless she was willing to go down to the Safer America Party headquarters unmasked and start throwing her powers around, she wasn’t going to get anywhere. And, even if she did pick up a few desks and toss them, all that would get her was her face plastered on the evening news with Fantastigirl Unmasked underneath her mug shot.

Now what the hell was she going to do?

She had no money, no love life, and now she was about to lose her home? She thumbed through her contacts again, looking for the phone number of the lawyer she’d used during her divorce. Maybe he could call and sound threatening enough to make Mr. Chatterjee rethink her eviction? Or at least get her security deposit back.

She hated to make the poor man’s life any harder, but she needed that money. With no other savings, her forwarding address was going to be the backseat of her car.

“Hello this is the office of Stuart, Standsfeld, and Klein, LLC,” the phone announced as it went to voicemail, “our offices are currently closed…”

A loud, thumping bass reverberated down the street a

second before a car turned around the corner and Peyton’s heart sank. Dylan’s ex-wife was here to pick up Liza for her visitation. Late as usual. Well, usual for when she managed to show up.

And that meant listening to them scream at each other in the front yard. She sighed.

The night had just gotten worse.

Peyton pushed her way inside the house and dropped her bag before heading into the kitchen. So much for a peaceful night at home.

Before she’d made it a half dozen steps, a tiny fist pounded on the door. “Miss Pearson! Miss Pearson!”

“Oh great,” Peyton muttered under her breath. She adored Liza Wilson. She did. Teachers weren’t supposed to have favorite students—especially not somewhere like kindergarten—but if she had a favorite, it would have to be Liza. Even without the hunky father who did yard work with his shirt off. But right now she really wasn’t in the mood to deal with perky little girls. All she wanted to do was wallow in her own misery.

Then again, she wasn’t about to let Liza sit there with a front row seat for her parents battling either. Even if her night sucked, she was still a better superheroine than that.

Peyton grabbed a bottle of water then hurried over to let the little girl in. “Liza? What’s up honey?” She took another drink of water.

“Can I stay over here?” She looked up at Peyton with bright blue eyes, trying her best not to cry, even though her nose was twitching with the first telltale sniffle.

“Sure sweetie, come on in. Does your Daddy know you’re coming over?” Not that it would be a big deal. She

babysat Liza in the mornings before school if Dylan had an early morning shift, and she’d even taken care of the little girl a few times when her dad had to work overnight.

“He’s the one who told me to come over.”

“You can’t show up here almost three hours late and—” Dylan’s enraged voice carried through the screen door and Liza winced as Peyton shut the door behind them with a sharp click.

“Are you hungry?” she asked, wrapping her arm around the little girl’s shoulders, coaxing her further into the house and away from the potential to overhear her parents verbally duking it out in the front yard.

“A bit.”

“Well…” Peyton went over to her kitchen counter and opened the TARDIS cookie jar sitting next to her coffeemaker. Liza smiled, her eyes fixed on the floor, as the container started to do the “whomp-whomp” from the television show. “I guess you can have one cookie. If…”

“I promise I’ll eat all my dinner.” Liza held her pinkie up and Peyton linked hers with the tiny girl’s, wiggling their hands back and forth.

“You want some milk?”

“Yes, please.” Liza gave a gap-toothed grin before settling down at the kitchen table, her legs kicking back and forth.

Peyton pulled out two glasses from the cabinet and then opened the fridge for the milk. After pouring two glasses, she snagged a couple of cookies and handed Liza one.

“Who’s the other one for?” Liza asked.
“That’s mine. Duh.”
“I didn’t say you could have a cookie, Miss Pearson.”

Liza giggled.
Peyton gave her a small smile, trying to look like there

was nothing bad going on outside. Or in her own life for that matter. “We’re not at school anymore. You don’t have to call me Miss Pearson. Remember? When we’re at home and you come visit me, I’m just Peyton.”

“Okay,” Liza muttered and began breaking her cookie into small pieces instead of inhaling it.

“Liza? You okay?”
“Yeah.” The little girl didn’t even meet her eyes.
She pushed her own issues into the back of her head

and focused on the problem at hand. Upset little girls were something she could fix—homelessness was not. “If you’re not okay, we can talk, right? Just you and me. Anything you say will be a secret between us.”

“Uh-huh.” She still wasn’t looking up from her cookie, and it didn’t take seven years of teaching kindergarten for her to recognize a miserable kid when she saw one.

“So you want to hear a secret I’ve got?” Peyton asked, trying to distract her.

“I guess.” She scooted the crumbs of her cookie around the table.

“It’s about Superclaws.” Peyton glanced over to the corner of the living room where the ginger tomcat was busy shredding the carpet. Peyton would have stopped him, but it wasn’t like she was getting her security deposit back. “He got out last night,” Peyton said, leaning closer, acting as if she was about to let Liza in on a scandalizing secret.

“He did?” Liza’s eyes widened.

“And when he came back this morning through his cat door, he climbed into the shower with me.”

The little girl tittered, her hand coming up to cover her mouth and for an instant Peyton had a clue of just how cute Dylan must have looked as a kid. Not that he wasn’t undeniably gorgeous now, but back then he must have been almost as darling looking as his daughter. “He wanted a bath after sleeping outside.”

“That’s not all,” she said and Liza clamped her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide. “He was carrying a huge mouse in his mouth.”

“Ewww!” Liza shrieked in delight.

“And it was still alive!” Peyton began tickling her and Liza howled with laughter as the cat in question decided to make a break for it and headed to his hidey-hole in Peyton’s bedroom.

“Superclaws,” Liza called out. “Save me.”

“Too late kiddo, he’s already gone. You’ve been left to suffer the wrath of the tickle monster!”

“No,” Liza laughed. “No, please, no tickle monster. I have to pee!”

Peyton promptly stopped tickling and sat back. One thing she’d learned teaching kindergarten—never assume a kid claiming they had to pee was bluffing. Not unless you were wearing a plastic poncho.

“Haha!” Liza slipped off her chair and grabbed her cookie. “Fooled you, Peyton. I don’t really have to pee. I tricked you.”

“Uh-huh,” Peyton said, lifting her nose as if she was angry, even though Liza and she both knew she was playing. “I’ll remember that next time I decide to let Superclaws get out the laser pointer.”

“Oh. Can we? I’ll go get Superclaws and the pointer and

I promise I won’t let the light get in his eyes and I’ll be super careful. Please?”

“I don’t…”
Pleeeeeeeaaaaaaassssssse?” Liza wheedled.
“Fine.” Peyton shook her head and sighed—the little

girl had gotten much too good at manipulating the adults in her life lately. “But remember the rules.”

“No laser pointers in the eye.”
“All the rules,” Peyton said, her voice slightly sterner. “And don’t pick Superclaws up,” Liza said with an

authoritative nod of her little head, her blond ponytail swinging forward at the head bob.

“And?”
“No cat kisses.”
“That’s right. Remember, Superclaws never brushes his

teeth.”
“Ewww,” they said at the same time, wrinkling their

noses at each other, before Liza slid off her chair and ran into the bedroom after the cat.

“You have no right to keep her from me.” Aria’s screeches came through her windows like there was nothing there.

Peyton got up and went to the front window to eavesdrop on their argument. They’d moved to the middle of the street, Aria halfway to her door with a determined—pissed off— look on her face. No wonder she was coming through loud and clear.

“You’re drunk,” Dylan said. “I should be arresting you right now for driving in your condition. I’m not letting you take Liza.”

“I have a court order that says I’m supposed to have

her every Tuesday night and every other weekend. You can’t keep her from me.”

Peyton stared in horrified amazement as Aria swayed in her cheap, bright-pink high heels, obviously blitzed. For Spiderman’s sake, all the other woman needed was a Marlboro hanging off her lower lip and one good fall in the middle of the street so she could flash her goodie bits to God and everyone and those daytime talk shows would give Aria her own television crew. They’d do nothing but follow her around all day, filming one long-ass season of “Intervention Failures: The White Trash Ho” edition.

“The court order doesn’t allow you to take her if you’re impaired,” Dylan snarled and Peyton stepped back from the window, letting the curtain drop so that he wouldn’t see her spying. “You have to be sober to get visitation.”

“Fuck you, Dylan.”

“Peyton?” She turned to see Liza standing in the hallway, holding Superclaws underneath his front legs, his back legs dragging the ground and his fat belly pouching out. “Are Mommy and Daddy still fighting?”

“They’re talking. They’re just talking really, really loud.” Peyton grabbed the television remote, flipped on Nickelodeon and turned up the volume like she used to when she was a kid and her parents were battling it out, ignoring the cat’s low growls as she took him from the little girl’s arms and dropped him on the floor. If he wanted to snuggle then he could climb his fat ass up on the couch like a regular cat. Besides, Liza carrying him around that way would aggravate the stupid fluffball’s hernia.

“I’m going to sue you for custody and with the crazy hours you work I’ll get it! Then I’ll make you pay out the ass,

Dylan Wilson. You’ll see. I’ll make you pay so much you’ll be bleeding by the time I’m done with you.”

“Peyton?” Liza’s voice was thick, so Peyton joined her on the couch. Pulling the skinny little body onto her lap, she wrapped her arms around the little girl while Superclaws let out a low snuffle and then hauled his bulky body up beside them, curling up on Liza’s feet. “She won’t keep me away from Daddy, will she?”

“No, baby.” Peyton started to rock back and forth. “No she won’t keep you from your Daddy.”

“I don’t want them to yell at each other.” A small whimper escaped Liza.

“I know. The thing with adults is that sometimes they don’t know how to talk to each other when they’re mad. You know how sometimes when you get angry or frustrated it’s hard to use your inside voice and you want to yell? Well sometimes mommies and daddies have the same problem.”

“I still don’t like it and I don’t want to go live with Mommy. I like living here with Daddy and coming to stay with you in the mornings and letting Superclaws chase the laser pointer. When I go to Mommy’s I have to be very quiet and I only get cereal and I can’t do anything but read books until she gets up. And that always takes forever.” A horrified expression crossed her tiny face. “What if Mommy hires superheroes to be on her side?”

“Your mom isn’t going to hire superheroes to take you away,” Peyton soothed, her heart tightening.

“She could. She could tell Frank’s friend Captain Fantastic that Daddy was a bad guy and then he would come and take me away.”

“Then I’d—” Peyton stopped. She’d forgotten that Aria

had been living with Firecracker. Talk about giving a kid mixed messages. One day her parents hated superheroes, the next her mother was shacking up with one. Or at least she had been until Frank lost control of his powers during one of their fights and torched the place.

Peyton took a deep breath. “Then I’d go get my own superhero mask and I’d fight him. I’d fight him so much that Captain Fantastic would run away and you’d never have to leave.”

“You can’t fight Captain Fantastic.” Liza buried her head back in Peyton’s shoulder. “Captain Fantastic is a superhero. You can’t fight a superhero. It’s not allowed. Frank told me so. Superheroes and regular people can’t fight. Only superheroes and the really bad guys can fight. It’s the rules.”

“Right. The rules.” Peyton leaned down to kiss the crown of Liza’s head again and tried not to think about how unfair the rules really were.

A sharp knock on the door rang out and they both looked at each other. “I bet that’s your daddy. Let me up and I’ll go let him in.”

“Okay,” Liza slid off Peyton’s lap and onto the couch next to Superclaws, who curled up on her legs and purred.

Peyton hurried over to the door and opened it. Dylan stared at her, his shoulders tight and his face filled with barely suppressed rage. The horrible part was that, even seething, the man was all sorts of sinful. Her pulse rate fluttered as his ice blue eyes found hers and her inner bad girl started squealing as she rounded up all her trashy romance novels that involved blond-haired Vikings.

“Hey you. Want to talk about it?” She tried to keep her voice steady and ignore the naughty girl in her head

suggesting that she had the perfect way to release his stress involving whipped cream.

“It’s Aria.” He rolled his neck from side to side to release the tension, the heat of battle draining from his face and resignation taking its place. “Same shit, different day. Nothing that I haven’t learned to handle already.”

“Sorry.” She grimaced, trying to ignore the way his jeans seemed to dip lower on his hips every time he moved his shoulders. Naughty Inner Peyton sighed happily at the sight.

“What about you? Did you try calling Chatterjee?” “How did you know about it?”
He shuffled his feet and glanced down at the porch

before he cleared his throat. “I, um, I was the officer that put the notice on your door. I thought you would prefer if it was me rather than some stranger just showing up and shoving a notice in your hands.”

“Asshole,” she said, without heat. He was right. If anyone had to see her at the worst moment of her life she would rather it be him than some stranger. Not that she was particularly happy about him seeing her like this, but still.

“I looked at the papers when I posted them. Mitigating circumstances is a pretty grey area, if you talk to Chatterjee, maybe pretend to cry—”

“Nope.” Peyton shook her head as her inner seductress curled up and slowly died. Eviction—the world’s most potent mood kill. “It turns out that your friends at Safer America are much more persuasive than I am. I have thirty days to get out. Otherwise they’ll send you across the street to dump my stuff on the curb.”

“The Safer America Party…?”
“They stole the money out of his safe and threatened to

burn down his store if he didn’t evict me.”
“Shit. I’ll go to his store tomorrow and see if I can get

him to file a complaint. Whoever it was, they weren’t working under Party orders. Maybe I can get him to—”

“Change his mind about having some fanatics burn his store down? I don’t think that’s very likely.”

“Whoever those guys were, they weren’t Safer America,” he said, his voice low. “Safer America is all about upholding the law, not breaking it. I will get this straightened out with Chatterjee. Okay?”

She swallowed, trying not to snap at him. “Fine.”

“Look, I promise I’ll handle it, but first I need a huge favor. Can you watch Liza while I run Aria back to her place? It’s a lot to ask, but I don’t want her to see Aria like this. I could call her a cab—I should call her a cab—but if I do, I know she’s just going to end up in another bar and—”

“I can handle Liza. Just make sure Aria gets home safe.” She tried to give him a small smile that she was pretty sure turned into a grimace. Why did women like Aria always end up with the nice, hot guys while girls like her ended up with nothing but a cat and an eviction notice?

“Thanks. How about I pick up a pizza on my way back and we’ll put our heads together and figure out what to do about your eviction? I think I might have an idea that could work out for the both of us,” he said, his sparkling eyes flicking briefly down to her lips before he met her gaze.

“Really?” Peyton asked softly, her knees trembling as he glanced at her lips again and then licked his bottom lip slowly.

“A good one. After all, I can’t take the chance of losing you, can I?”