NEAR TO YOU Excerpt!

Turned in edits today for my debut novella, Near to You–and I can’t wait for you to meet Niara and Brady on March 20. Want to know how it all gets started?  See below!

Chapter One
If the weeds weren’t taken care of by today, Niara Morgan was certain
the lot of them would rise up in the night, arm themselves, and attack her
They wouldn’t need to do much, either. The house was the fixer-upper
even fixer-uppers avoided. New insulation around the windows needed—new windows
needed. There was a persistent leak in the upstairs bathroom. She didn’t want
to think about the potential flooding in her basement with the house situated
this close to the lake. If the weeds laid siege, they’d win by sunset, and too
few people lived in the general area to hear her scream.
But the place was hers—all hers, paid for with the divorce settlement.
And at least the weeds would be tackled today.
If her gardener ever showed up, that is.
The woman she spoke to at Red Rose Home Help Services said someone would
arrive between 8:00 a.m. and 8:30. Her watch said 8:22. She’d sat on the
sagging step of her front porch, sipped her coffee, and waited. The drink had
long since gone cold, and watery spring sunlight crept over her house, drying
dew on the grass.
She had been watching dew dry. Seriously. How boring was that?
It would just be her luck, too. Her appointment yesterday with a
contractor to look at the inside of the house had postponed and she still
didn’t know when he was showing up. Here only a week and already nothing was
going smoothly.
Her cordless phone sat beside her, next to the empty pink coffee mug,
and chirped a new call. She was expecting someone from the gardening place to
cancel or make up excuses for being behind; instead, a familiar name and number
Niara sighed. “Hello?”
“I guess he’s not yet tilling your garden if you’re answering the phone.”
She rubbed at her temples. “Hey, Deena.”
“C’mon, that one was funny.”
“Once again, I’m not going to sleep with the gardener.”
A pause, and then genuine confusion. “Why not?”
“Because, dear, this isn’t a porn flick.”
“You’re right,” her best friend conceded. “He might be fugly.”
“And also, I’m not going to have sex with a stranger.”
“It’s a small town,” Deena said. “And you grew up there. You really
think that many new occupants entered the rather stagnant gene pool in the past
eight years? I bet you totally know the guy.”
It was far too early in the morning to be having this conversation. “The
only gardener I knew growing up was Mr. Tansey. He was in his fifties.”
“Maybe he had a son?”
“Gay and childless.”
“It’s rather hard to live vicariously through you when you don’t
actually live.”
When “living” had come to mean seducing gardeners like a lonely old
married woman, Niara couldn’t say. She rubbed tiredly at her eyes. “Let’s not
talk about me. How’s things?”
“I saw Ron the other day and almost ran him down with my car.”
Niara smiled wryly, even as her heart thumped a little harder. “He’s not
worth the jail time.”
“True. Plus I think he’s going bald. Definitely has a beer belly. And
the way he was moving, I suspect hemorrhoids.”
None of it was true—Niara had last seen her ex-husband two months ago,
randomly bumping into him at the grocery store, which was what set her on a
mission to just leave town and start anew. And he’d looked good, even then—good
in a way that twisted her gut and pierced her heart. Unlike the movies where so
often an ugly person was the bad guy, his smooth exterior and expensive suit
hid a lying, cheating, emotionally abusive asshole. Just that brief glimpse,
the awkward moment when she’d caught his gaze, sent her out of the store and
unable to eat for days, wanting nothing more than to hide out from the world as
every insecurity he’d carved in her flared to life again.
“You okay, Nia?” Deena said softly.
She shivered, shut her eyes, and drummed her fingers on her temple. “Yeah.
Just picturing him with syphilis.”
“I do that sometimes too.” Deena sighed dreamily and Niara chuckled. “So.
Gardener—when’s he coming?”
Possibly never. She avoided
checking the time again—it would just depress her—and kept her eyes closed,
away from the rising sun and the bright green grass and this whole new life
that threatened to overwhelm her. “I don’t know. I’ll start pulling weeds
myself soon if he doesn’t show.”
Brady Trewin had cut his van’s engine ten minutes ago, but hadn’t left
the vehicle.
Instead he remained behind the wheel and stared at the small,
dilapidated house on the water, through the wild trees and bushes that
surrounded the property.
Niara Morgan. Jesus Christ.
His heart accelerated the more he stared, the more he thought, a swell
of memories rising up to drag him back.
She’d left town right after high school, eight years ago this June. He
knew because he remembered the last time he saw her, right after graduation. He
swore this was it—he’d ask her out. Finally. He’d prepared a speech or two so
he didn’t sound like a dork and spill everything he’d thought during his four
year crush on her. But that entire day, she’d never left the confine of her
friends. A week later, feeling an adrenalin high after a long bike ride through
the country, he’d shown up at her house, knocked on the door, ready to say
everything then.
Gone. Gone, her uncle said—gone from their small, redneck town for the
city, and not planning to come back. And now here she was.
The day before he was leaving.
He’d hardly believed it when Cynthia said one Niara Morgan had called
looking to hire help for her new house. A joke, he figured—something one of his
asshole friends set up, thinking to be funny. His goddamn bags were packed,
apartment closed up. He wasn’t even supposed to be working this weekend—he was
set to take off in the van, drive across the country, and see where he ended
up. Years, he’d been drifting along, saving, no clue in the world what
to do with his life, but just knowing he had to leave. Maybe find work out
west, maybe just travel for a while. He’d miss his sister but she had her own
family, and their dad…he just hadn’t been the same for the past two years.
There wasn’t anything keeping him here.
It would be just like his friends to play a prank this last day and
pretend his crush from high school was still around. Oh yeah, Nia Morgan,
he’d thought when Cynthia offered the appointment, cocking a brow and grinning
like she knew. He’d shown up just so he could prove them wrong.
But he stared at her now, still adjusting to the fact that she was real.
Nia sat on the steps of her sagging porch of peeling white paint, a
cordless phone to her ear. Her head was bowed, free hand massaging her temple
as if she had a headache. Hair was longer than in school, falling in relaxed
black waves, and the sun peering around the house gave her dark skin a healthy
glow. And though he couldn’t see it now, her face flashed to his mind
immediately—her lush lips, deep brown eyes framed in long thick lashes.
Beautiful. Of course she’d be, all these years later. In school he’d
been a lovesick jock, spurning the advances of girls while he pined over the
dark beauty running the school paper. And she probably hadn’t changed at all,
smart and gorgeous. Staring at her, he felt like an embarrassed teen again, who
didn’t know how to talk without babbling and waited until she left class before
rising to avoid anyone seeing the tent in his jeans.
He should get out of the damn van. Needed to. The clock on the
dashboard read 8:26. Whether she remembered him or not, he didn’t want her
first impression of him now to be of someone who was late.
But he’d been so goddamn sure it was a prank. Positive. So he
left his place wearing jeans that, while clean, had been scuffed up so many
times during work, they remained faded and torn in places. He wore a dark
hoodie over a black, sleeveless ribbed shirt, and his freshly washed hair was
mussed up under a baseball cap.
Shit. It wasn’t like he could show up in a suit, but…
But get your ass out of the van. Nothing’s changed. Apartment lease is
up and you’re leaving town.
Brady polished off his coffee and returned it to the cup holder. He
discarded his hat, tossing it onto the passenger seat, and met his own blue
eyes in the rearview mirror. Shit, he hadn’t even shaved. Oh well. He ran his
hand back through his dark hair and slowly cracked the door open.
Here we go.

I’m hard at work on Wild Horses and when the blurb is finalized, I’ll share information about it here.

About Asha King

Asha King likes good-looking men and hot books, and often strives to combine the two in contemporary, paranormal, and suspenseful romantic stories. She lives in the exotic land of Alberta, Canada, where she doesn’t ride a polar bear to work but does drink vast amounts of locally brewed beer and watches hockey.

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