The X-rated monologues coming from next door are keeping Rafe Moore up at night—all he really wants is some sleep. How's he supposed to decompress from his EMT job when his sultry neighbor and her explicit fantasies have his blood pressure spiking?
Tightly wound Joy Clarke can't explain what's brought on these sizzling "somniloquies"—about a complete stranger, no less. She's already stressed, and there is no rest from her wicked, wicked thoughts. But when Rafe discovers that the object of all that steamy sleep-talk is him, he's set to make her dreams come true.
Problem is, in the light of day Joy doesn't recall a thing!
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Raphael moore tensed his body then relaxed it one inch at a time. He began with his toes, moving up his calves to his knees, and concentrated on releasing the strain in his lower back. Breathing evenly, he imagined floating on a warm, soothing ocean current, the heat of the sun hypnotically beating down on him, and drifted off into a dreamy half consciousness that soon would lead to sleep.
"Oh, that's so good…. Touch me right there…."
"Dammit!" he cursed as his eyes shot open. The agitation of being wrenched out of his relaxed state doubled his shock. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes again, trying to control his heartbeat. He flexed his fingers in an attempt to catch hold of what had almost been his—a good night's sleep.
"I love how you kiss me. I want your mouth everywhere…."
He sat up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed, planting his palms tightly against his ears, attempting to block out the woman's voice. He could still hear her moans and sighs.
Obviously she was having a very good time, and he had no problem with that, but couldn't she do it with the window shut? He felt like some pervert, for Chrissakes, listening in.
The action happening a few yards away wasn't the only thing that was hot. A freak heat wave had temperatures up near ninety for Christmas in San Diego. It was inducing weird behaviors in everyone, the unusual weather combined with the usual holiday madness. His neighbors, however, seemed to enjoy being all sweaty.
After just having left the bitter cold of New York, he welcomed the heat, too. Summer was his favorite season. Even the smothering, humid city air in July and August didn't faze him. He'd happily embraced the West Coast, which didn't look at all Christ-massy to him, in spite of the holiday decorations.
It felt like August, not December, and Rafe knew he'd made the right decision taking Warren up on his offer to stay here while his buddy was on his honeymoon in Thailand. Warren had grown up in the same Brooklyn neighborhood as Rafe. As kids they'd been inseparable and had served time on the volunteer ambulance together before Warren had decided that life wasn't for him. Now he had his own consulting business in sunny California. He'd been bugging Rafe to come out for a while, so Rafe had flown out for the wedding, then stayed to house-sit. It was great timing for both of them. Rafe had the place to himself for a month until Warren and his bride returned on January third.
If only for the neighbors, it would have been perfect. Warren had bought this little fixer-upper on a small residential street in North Park, and after the renovation the house was going to be fabulous. Rafe liked working with his hands, and it helped to have something to do. He was used to working, and he'd go nuts sitting around all day. He'd remodeled his entire apartment in Brooklyn, a relaxing activity in his off hours. Warren was happy to have him do some work on the house.
This was Rafe's first time in California, and he'd taken to it immediately. The sunshine and heat had lightened his mood as soon as he'd hit the tarmac. A native New Yorker, he hadn't been sure about leaving his home, but San Diego was heaven by comparison, at least at this time of year.
"A little lower…please…." a sexy woman's voice begged.
Rafe experienced a stirring in his groin that he had no business feeling, but hell, he was a man and he'd been listening to this monologue for three nights running. How many months had passed since a woman had talked to him like that? Insomnia was a libido killer.
Before his sleeplessness, his job had ruled his life, including his sex life. Being an emergency medical technician was all he'd ever wanted to do.
He'd thought about medical school, but he wasn't interested in the years of training it took to be a doctor. He liked the action of emergency services over being camped out in a classroom. Instead of spending the last twelve years studying how to help people, he'd been able to do it every day.
Despite the constant stress and pressure, for years he'd thrived on helping people when they needed it most. That was until this past year. Suddenly he couldn't sleep. Nothing helped, save the pills that he refused to take. Pills might address the insomnia issue, but they wouldn't solve the larger problem—why he'd burned out on the job after all those years, and why he couldn't handle it anymore.
All he could see was the endless stream of people in trouble and that they'd lost far too many of them. His last loss had been a five-year-old girl with asthma, alone at home in her tenement apartment. No one had been there to help her when she'd suffered a serious attack, and her parents hadn't been able to afford the costly medicines. Though the girl had been smart enough to dial 911, Rafe had gotten there too late.
Over the years, there had been so many cases like that he could barely keep count. Lots of good stories, too, but the bad ones were catching up with him. Like the husband and father of six children who had died right in front of him after being hit by a drunk driver, or the teenager shot on the street for no apparent reason while coming home from a graduation party. Their faces haunted Rafe as he lay awake in the dark hours of the night.
Something critical that had kept him sane seemed to have broken. The result was he'd lost his sense of purpose, his drive to do the work.
The insomnia might be a cause or a symptom, he still wasn't sure, but it had messed up his life for good. When he'd almost crashed the ambulance—with a patient on board—he'd been put on paid leave, and he couldn't argue with that decision. The company had taken his record into account and hadn't fired him—they were treating his break as accumulated sick and vacation time. However, if he couldn't solve his sleep problem, he knew he'd be in for permanent retirement.
The prospect made him feel hollow inside, and he pushed it away, knowing it would torture him for the rest of the night, at least. That was part of the problem, the endless thoughts that wouldn't stop, and the more he tried, the more they barged through, keeping him awake even when he was exhausted.
Rafe fell back on the bed, groaning, but not in pleasure. How long were they going to keep at it? It wasn't normal—these people went at it for hours every night. He wanted to be cool, to say, "More power to ya," but in truth he wanted them to shut the hell up and go to sleep.
Grabbing a pillow and heading to the sofa in the living room, even though it was about eight inches too short for his six-foot frame, he walked out of the room, slamming the door behind him.