Chelsea Andrews can’t decide who’s more dangerous; the creep on the Toronto city bus, or the handsome stranger who rescues her. Was he just acting as he claimed, or is he that weird in real life? She doesn’t stick around to find out. Fate intervenes when out of work actor Matt Malone sublets the apartment next door, and Chelsea discovers the most dangerous thing about her charming new neighbor is the damage he’s inflicting on her heart.
Or is it? Soon after Matt moves in, strange romantic notes begin showing up at the art gallery where Chelsea works. Then she’s followed home from the bus stop late one night, and her apartment is broken into. Despite her growing feelings for Matt, all the evidence points to him as the culprit. Is Matt the kind, funny, sincere man she’s falling in love with, or is he some kind of flowery-letter-writing stalker? Will the real Matt Malone please stand up?
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Heat Level: Sweet
This was a very good book and well written. I had a hard time putting this book down. I am looking forward to reading more by this author.
I obtained this ARC from the author as a gift. I did not agree to post a review but felt compelled to with this clean and witty story.
Who said Princesses don't use public transit?
Matt Malone’s gaze landed on the pretty blonde the minute he stepped on the bus. Something about the way she held her head struck him as regal. He thought about saying hello, and maybe sitting in the seat next to her. But then she lifted her gaze and stared at him with an icy “Don’t talk to me” expression in her green eyes. It was obvious she wanted nothing to do with him.
Just as well. This Princess was a cool one and he wasn’t wearing his thermal underwear.
He moved past the Ice Princess and grabbed a seat a few rows down. The city sped by in a blur of neon and flashing traffic lights. Cars filled the streets, and several people strolled along the sidewalks. Even at midnight, Toronto hummed with life.
Matt sighed and turned away, feeling out of tune with the city tonight. He had bigger problems than being rejected by the Ice Princess. His rent was going up and if he didn’t find a cheaper place soon, he’d be forced to move back in with his parents. He suppressed a shudder. Damn, it, he was nearly thirty years old, too old to live with Mommy and Daddy. He could hear the razing from his siblings already; Matt’s such a failure as an actor,he can’t even support himself. What a loser! With a sigh, he grabbedhis phone and perused online ‘For Rent’ ads.
The bus rumbled to a halt at the next stop and he looked up as a wild-eyed man stepped on board. Matt sat straighter, his senses on full alert. Something was off with this guy. His gut warned him of some sort of instability, perhaps drug addiction or mental illness.
The man glanced around the bus, his furtive gaze darting from one occupant to the next before settling on the Ice Princess. Matt’s blood ran cold when he saw the feral curling of his lips and the lascivious gleam in his eyes. So, not only unstable, some kind of pervert as well. The Ice Princess was in big trouble.
The Perv sat directly in front of her, then turned and stared at her, the scary smile still on his face. The Ice Princess did her best to ignore him, alternating between studying her magazine and staring out the window. But the Perv didn’t budge. If someone didn’t step in soon, he’d likely graduate to touching and beyond. Matt’s gut twisted. He had two sisters, and the thought of either of them in this situation made him sick. He hoped that if they were ever in trouble, someone would help.
Matt looked around the bus. A couple of teenagers were engaged in a lip-lock near the back. An elderly man determinedly ignored what was going on in front of him. The bus driver stared straight ahead, not sparing a glance for his passengers. Matt sighed. Apparently, he was the only one who gave a damn. A plan began to formulate in his head.
He was about to put his plan in motion when the Ice Princess picked up her things and moved to a seat on the opposite side of the bus. Matt relaxed. Hopefully, the Perv would get the hint and leave her alone. Instead he followed her, taking up a position in the seat in front of her and continuing to stare, his smile a little wider now, and a little wilder. Matt prayed the Ice Princess wouldn’t leave the bus, because as sure as God made little green apples, the Perv would follow her. He didn’t want to think about what might happen then.
The Ice Princess needed help. It was up to him to play the hero.
And him without his cape and tights.
Matt went over his plan one more time. Yes, that’s how I’ll handle it. It takes a pervert to recognize a pervert.
He could do it; he was, after all, an actor. An out-of-work, barely able to scrape by on the two voice-over commercials in the last six months actor, but an actor none the less. He ruffled his hair, going for the I’m-really-strange-and-I-haven’t-combed-my-hair-in-a-week look. Then he skipped down the aisle and slid into the seat beside the Perv.
“Hi Mister. My name’s Norman, Norman Bates. What’s your name?”
The Perv curled his lip, but said nothing. Matt focused on him, alert to any sudden moves, or any sudden appearance of a weapon. If he handled this wrong, the Ice Princess wouldn’t be the only one who got hurt.
“Beautiful night in the city, isn’t it? I love Toronto, do you love Toronto? My favorite city, my favorite city.” Matt rocked back and forth in his seat and tried for a vacant look. The Perv relaxed, dismissing him as a harmless idiot. Matt smiled to himself. The less wary he was the better.
“Do you like TV? I love TV. My mommy lets me watch all I like. I like Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer.” Matt broke into his best lunatic rendition of the Sesame Street theme song. The Perv stared at him. At least he’d diverted his attention away from the Ice Princess.
“My favorite show in the whole wide world is ‘The Simpsons’. I love ‘The Simpsons’. Do you love ‘The Simpsons’? Homer is so funny.” Matt’s maniacal laughter echoed through the bus. The Perv slid as far away from him as he could, giving him a look of distaste. Where was the Academy Awards committee when he did his best work?
Now to move in for the kill. He edged closer to the Perv, laying a hand on his knee.
“Will you be my friend? My special friend? My mommy says I can bring home playmates any time I like. I like to bring home someone to play with.” He gave the Perv another smile, one he hoped conveyed the message that he wasn’t quite as harmless as he looked.
The Perv got the message loud and clear. He pulled the cord to signal the bus driver to stop and leapt over Matt in his haste to get away. The bus pulled over and came to a stop. In case the Perv had second thoughts about leaving the bus, Matt rose to his feet and let out a plaintive wail.
“Wait! Don’t you want to play with me anymore?”
The Perv pushed open the doors and ran down the street, disappearing into the night. Matt smiled in satisfaction. Too bad they hadn’t seen that bit of acting at his last audition.
He turned his attention to the Ice Princess, who sat rigid in her seat, staring at him with huge green eyes that told him she’d sooner have taken her chances with the Perv. Perhaps he’d played the lunatic a little too convincingly.
“I’m sorry, Miss. I didn’t mean to frighten you. I saw the way that guy was staring at you and I knew I had to do something”. He gave her his patented Matt Malone smile, the one he’d used on many occasions, both personal and professional, to melt a woman’s heart. In return, the Ice Princess gave him the same frigid glare she’d bestowed on him earlier.
But despite her cool demeanor, Matt sensed her fear. A wave of protectiveness flooded over him. He was the knight in shining armor to the Ice Princess’s damsel in distress.
“Really, I’m one of the good guys. Ask anybody.”
Her eyebrows rose. “So, are you telling me you were pretending to be demented?”
“I was acting.”
“Whatever. If you were so anxious to help, why didn’t you throw him off the bus?”
“Violence isn’t my style. I’m a lover, not a fighter.”
The Ice Princess’s already fair skin paled alarmingly. She stared at him as if he’d sprouted horns. Perhaps he’d chosen his words unwisely. Now she was convinced he was a pervert, too.
“Let me rephrase that. I feel it’s better to let words settle a problem rather than fists.”
She gripped her purse and briefcase with white-knuckled determination, looking unconvinced by his little speech. Matt watched her eyes, sure she was calculating the distance to the exit. Slowly, she scooted across her seat, preparing to make a run for it.
“Thank you for helping me. I appreciate your concern.” She rose and pulled the cord. Matt rose as well.
“You’re sure you’ll be all right? I could walk you to your house, make sure the Perv isn’t waiting for you.”
He saw the panic in her eyes and sat back down.
“No,” she repeated, with an obvious effort to remain calm. “Thank you. I’ll be fine.”
She moved to the front exit and waited for the bus to come to a stop. When the doors opened, she hesitated and looked directly at him. For a second, he saw vulnerability and a trace of uncertainty in her eyes. Without thinking, he stood and walked toward her. Panic flared in her eyes once more. She hurried down the steps and out the door. As the bus pulled away from the curb, Matt watched the small figure recede in the distance and the dark.
He hadn’t even gotten her name.