Chelsea Andrews can’t decide who’s more dangerous; the creep on the Toronto city bus, or the handsome stranger who rescues her. She doesn’t hang around to find out. Fate intervenes when her rescuer, out of work actor Matt Malone, sublets the apartment next door. Chelsea discovers the most dangerous thing about her charming new neighbor is the damage he’s inflicting on her heart. She’s had enough of men like Matt; her father was a handsome charmer who left devastation in his wake. But the more she gets to know Matt, the more she realizes he’s not like her father at all.
Success has eluded Matt’s acting career. His family is pressuring him to give up acting and work full-time as a chef at the family business, Malone’s Irish Pub. Matt likes to cook but acting is his passion. He’s in his thirties now, and meeting Chelsea makes him think of settling down. Should he give up his dreams for love’s sake?
Chelsea is starting to believe she can trust Matt with her heart when strange romantic notes begin showing up at the art gallery where she works. Then she’s followed home from the bus stop late one night, and her apartment is broken into. All the evidence points to Matt as the culprit. Is he the kind, funny, sincere man she’s falling in love with, or some kind of stalker? Will the real Matt Malone please stand up?
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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 didn't use the Toronto Transit system?
Matt's gaze landed on the pretty brunette the minute he stepped on the bus. Something about the way she held her head, and the way she lifted her chin as if she was above riding the bus, struck him as regal. He thought about saying hello, and maybe sitting in the seat next to her. But then she stared directly at him. Dark brown eyes quickly assessed him, but her icy expression told him she didn’t like what she saw. Matt moved past her. It was obvious she wanted nothing to do with him.
Just as well. This Princess was a cold one and he wasn’t wearing his thermal underwear.
He took a seat a few rows down from the Ice Princess. 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 that he can’t even support himself. What a loser! Opening the newspaper he’d brought with him, he turned to the classified section and began perusing the ‘For Rent’ ads.
The bus rumbled to a halt at the next stop and a wild-eyed man stepped on board. Matt sat straighter, his senses on full alert. The man had the look of someone who’d consumed one too many magic mushrooms, and Matt had seen before how unpredictable a person high on dope could be.
The man looked nervously around the bus, his glance darting from one occupant to the next before settling on the Ice Princess. Matt saw the feral curling of his lips and the lascivious gleam in his eyes, and his blood ran cold. The Ice Princess was in big trouble.
The Creep sat directly in front of her, then turned and stared right 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 Creep didn't budge. From the look on his face, he had no intention of limiting himself to just staring. If someone didn't step in soon, the Creep would 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 like this, someone would help them.
Finally the Ice Princess had enough. She picked up her things and moved to a seat on the opposite side of the bus. But the Creep merely followed her, taking up his position 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 Creep would follow her. He didn’t want to think about what might happen then.
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. It was up to him to play the hero.
And him without his cape and tights.
A plan formulated in his mind. Yes, that's how he'd handle it. It takes a loonie to recognize a loonie.
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. Matt ruffled his hair, going for the I'm-really-strange-and-I-haven't-combed-my-hair-for- a-week look. He then popped out of his seat and skipped over to the Creep.
"Hi Mister," he said, slipping into the seat beside the Creep. "My name's Norman, Norman Bates. What's your name?" The Creep bared rotting teeth at him, but said nothing.
Matt kept his focus solely on the Creep, 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 gave his eyes a slightly vacant look. The Creep relaxed, dismissing him as a harmless idiot. Matt smiled to himself. The less wary the Creep was the better.
"Do you like T.V.? I love 'I'V. 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 Creep recoiled in his seat.
"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 Creep's attention was now solely on him. He pressed himself against the window of the bus in order to get as far away as possible. Matt gave him a syrupy smile. Where was the Academy Awards committee when he did his best work?
Now to move in for the kill. He edged closer to the Creep, laying a hand on his shoulder.
"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 Creep another smile, one he hoped conveyed the message that he wasn't quite as harmless as he looked. The Creep got the message loud and clear. He jumped up, pulled the cord to signal the bus to stop, and leapt over Matt in his haste to get to the front of the bus. The bus pulled over and came to a stop. Just in case the Creep had second thoughts about leaving the bus, Matt let out a plaintive wail.
"Wait! Don't you want to play with me anymore?"
The Creep 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 dark eyes that told him she'd sooner have taken her chances with the Creep. Perhaps he’d played the lunatic a little too well.
"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. The Ice Princess merely stared at him, giving him the icy 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 skeptically. "So, you're telling me you're not a demented idiot and you were just pretending?"
"I was acting.”
"Whatever. If you were so anxious to help, why didn't you just throw him off the bus?"
Matt smiled. "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 had just
sprouted horns. Perhaps he’d chosen his words unwisely. Now she was convinced he was some kind of pervert.
"Okay, let me rephrase that. I always feel it's better to let words settle a problem rather than fists."
The Ice Princess looked unconvinced. She gripped her purse and briefcase with white- knuckled determination, and Matt watched her eyes, sure that she was calculating the distance between her seat and the exit. Slowly, she scooted across the seat of the bus, preparing to make a run for it.
"Thank you for helping me. I appreciate your concern." She rose and pulled the cord to signal the bus driver to stop. Matt rose as well, his protective instincts, now unleashed, taking over.
"You're sure you'll be all right? I could walk you to your house, make sure the Creep isn't waiting for you."
Matt saw the panic in her eyes, and sat back down in his seat.
"No," she repeated, with an obvious effort to remain calm. "Thank you, no. 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 a moment and looked directly at Matt. For a second, he saw vulnerability and a trace of uncertainty in her eyes. Without thinking, he rose and began to walk toward her. The bus stopped, the doors opened, and she quickly stepped out. As the bus pulled away from the curb, Matt watched the small figure disappear in the distance and the dark.
He hadn't even gotten her name.