The Dream Guy Next Door (The Guys Who Got Away #1) by Lauren Blakely

“I’m not that kind of hacker.”

“Don’t be any kind of hacker. Unless you are hacking a recipe for boba tea,” I say, savoring another sip then glancing surreptitiously behind me. “Because Nina Clawson makes the best boba tea.”

Wednesday smacks her lips in agreement. “She definitely does. Also, did you know mango boba is about ten times better than non-mango boba? It’s a proven fact.”

I arch a skeptical brow. “Proven by whom? By sassy fifteen-year-olds who don’t have to suffer through late nights paying bills and therefore don’t need the survival boost only caffeine affords?” I lift my oolong tea with the yummy bubble balls to make my caffeinated point, then slurp noisily. A slippery ball slides into my mouth, and I catch it between my teeth then show it off to her. Then I bite into the tapioca and swallow. “Score!”

“I can do that too,” she says, then sucks on the straw, trying to capture the ball of bubble deliciousness right as it shoots into her mouth.

She’s victorious, showing off her prize before chomping down on it.

I sigh happily and pat her shoulder. “I’ve taught you so well, Spawn.”

“You have, Spawner, but you are also wrong. Coffee is gross, tea is gross, and this is heaven. All beverages are better with fruit. And that’s what I hope Nina says in her blog post.”

“Ah, to be young and innocent,” I declare, taking another life-sustaining sip of my beverage as we wander past the yoga studio where I’ve tried, I swear I’ve tried, to Savasana with LaTanya. “But if you continue to insist on this fruit-tea-is-better blasphemy, I’ll leave it to you to fend off all the questions about our new neighbor.”

She gasps. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“Try me.”

She points at me like I’m a death-eater. “You’re not that evil.”

“I might be.” We slow at the corner of Mallard Lane then turn onto our street.

“I refuse to believe it, even of you.”

I tap my plastic cup to hers. “Fine. You’re right. I still like you too much to do that. But remember, that can change at a moment’s notice—you’ve been warned.”

“Hmm. I think you’re bluffing. You won’t stop liking me, because I am literally the best.”

Confidence. It’s one of the many things I love about this kid, as well as how she makes my budding business look good online. “If you keep sassing me about tea, I make no promises,” I tell her. “Feel free to call me the worst mother in the world.”

“You’re the worst.”

We stroll past a yard so lush and green that it looks like a jewel. Betty Juniper is watering the poppies in her garden as she shamelessly peers at the yellow home next to mine. As our steps grow louder, she whips her gaze our way. Excitement shimmers in her eyes, and she calls out in a stage whisper, “Psst! January! I need to talk to you.”

Ooh, Betty always has good stuff to share.

“Hi, Betty. How are your flowers?”

“My flowers? Oh, they’re fine.” She waves her free hand, the garden hose in the other apparently forgotten as it soaks her peonies and poppies and spatters the white picket fence.

“Ahem, Betty.” I peer at the ground, which is becoming more of a lake. “You might want to reposition the hose.”

“Yes, I think your poppies are donning their life jackets.” Wednesday points to the vibrant orange flowers. Betty just blinks at her, so she tries again. “Because they’re about to be submerged.”

Yeah, this girl has no problem speaking her mind.

Betty’s slate-blue eyes bug out as she finally notices the flood, which has broken the banks of the flower bed and is quickly turning into a bog. She fumbles to twist the nozzle so the deluge is more of a trickle. Then she drops the hose, and this woman who is so committed to a green thumb tromps across the lawn, giving absolutely no fucks what her navy-blue wellies do to the wet grass.

She must have something vital on her mind, to put it mildly.

She forges past the fence and marches up to me on the sidewalk. “Listen. About eight minutes and ten seconds ago, I saw a red sedan that looked suspiciously like a rental car drive by.”

Oh, that’s how we’re doing this? We’re Miss Marple-ing the single man’s every move?

“The car slowed outside the yellow house next to yours, but I couldn’t discern whether it pulled into the driveway. But let me tell you, I got a look at the man behind the wheel, and oh me, oh my, he was a kalamata olive.”