This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The Author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited. Copyright © 2013 by K. L. Watters. All Rights Reserved.

A/N: The story is meant to be a guilty pleasure, not an awe-inspiring love tale. Chapters are meant to be short (aiming for a 1,500 limit per chapter). I appreciate those who take the time to read, and especially those who leave feedback. And to those who give it a look and decide it's not their cup of tea, thank you as well! :)

Chapter 1

Thea Saunders bobbed her head to her 90s playlist. She had been working hard to pretend she didn't notice the man that sat across from her on the crowded bus. So far it seemed to be working; he had stopped calling for her attention about four stops ago and was now staring toward the front of the bus. Now if he would just get off, she could stop plotting her extended trip home.

Curtis was his name. She never did catch his last. He was the first man to be totally forward with her. Unsurprising, really. He wasn't much more confident than she was when she first moved to the city, so she imagined he had been less intimidated about approaching her. He seemed like a nice guy, but he was just too clingy for her liking.

"Lincoln Fields Station," the bus's automated alert declared, and then repeated the information in French. To her relief Curtis stood as the bus rolled to a stop, and seconds later he exited along with many of the other passengers.

"Next stop, Lincoln Heights Mall," the automated voice announced once the bus was moving again.

She tilted her head back and finally allowed herself to relax. She didn't regret the drunken one night stand that claimed her virginity over a year ago. It had been her one "bad girl" decision, and as awkward and clumsy as it had been, it gave her a sense of freedom. Of course, like everything else freedom came at a price. In this case, the price was a man who couldn't grasp that she wasn't interested in him as a partner. Easy letdowns and direct rejections hadn't worked, so finally she settled for ignoring him. Sooner or later he would get tired of the game and meet a girl better matched for him.

"Bayshore and Carling."

With a start she struck the little red Stop button and braced herself for the turn. Almost as soon as the bus had left the artery street it came to a halt. After wrestling to get a grip on the bags of groceries she exited the bus.

It used to be an eleven minute walk down the street to the apartment complex she lived in. She glanced at her watch and noted that it was 7:32 in the evening. She balanced the bags, and then began the final stretch of her journey home. To her delight it was only 7:40 when she reached the apartment. The hours at the gym were paying off.

She paused when she saw the elevator opening, and then became giddy when she saw it was her neighbor, Dmitri Crawford. When he disappeared into the alcove where the mailboxes were kept she wriggled her shoulders, coaxing the straps of her bra and cami to slide down, and then let herself into the building.

"Hey, Dmitri," she said cheerfully as she peeked around the corner.

He looked to her with that smile she liked to think was reserved for her. Friendly. Intent. A hint of something that sent her adrenaline into overdrive.

"You're home early."

"Grocery night," she answered. "I'm going to the gym after dinner."

His smile grew wider, allowing her a glimpse of the laugh lines that made his plain, square face irresistible. "Why don't you come over for dinner? I'll be heading that way in a while, so we could go together."

She held back a girlish squeal. She considered herself a stronger, more confident woman than she had been two years ago, but some of her sillier habits, like the excitement she felt in Dmitri's presence, had yet to be tamed. "What can I bring?"

He eyed the bags before lifting his gaze back to hers. "Surprise me."

She felt herself at a loss for words as they moved to the elevator, so instead she focused on her posture. She straightened as best she could under the weight of the groceries and pulled her shoulders back to allow him a glimpse of her cleavage, should he choose to look. In the mean time she glanced at the back view of him as he pressed the button for the fifth floor.

He'd softened up a bit since she moved in. A little more butt, a little less definition. A perfect in-between that not only made him seem more obtainable, but reflected exactly what she craved in her fantasies. Someone strong and in charge, with a naughty little twist.

"Do you need any help?" he asked when the elevator doors opened.

"I'm good," she answered. She waited for him to exit, and then rushed through the doors when they began to close.

"Dinner will be ready in half an hour," he told her as they walked down the hall.

"Sounds good." When they reached the door to her apartment she fumbled with her key, then gave him a quick smile before entering her home. When she looked back she was disappointed to see he had already moved on to his own apartment. With a heavy sigh she closed the door.

Half an hour.

Not enough time to whip together a dessert, but she did have the mini cheesecakes in the freezer. He had a weakness for them, so she decided they would be perfect. She rushed to get the perishable groceries put away. Once the chore was over with she went about getting herself ready.

She never understood why she put so much effort into preparing for a visit with him. The dabs of cucumber lotion. The low, casual pigtails. The simple t-shirts that offered the observant eye a glimpse of the patterns of her brassieres. In the end she supposed it was a waste of time, but she couldn't help enjoying the idea of gussying up for Dmitri. Maybe it was her way of preparing for when she finally let go of her fantasies of her neighbor and actually developed a relationship with someone.

She glanced at the clock. Fifteen minutes.

She went to the kitchen and retrieved three of the tart-sized cheesecakes from the freezer. She paused to go through her mental checklist. MP3 player and keys were in her pocket. Desserts in hand. Her tote was in the closet by the door, waiting to be grabbed when they left for the gym.

She glanced twice at the clock. Growing antsy with anticipation, she decided it wasn't too early to leave.