Evie Mitchell eBook The X-List (EBOOK)
Evie Mitchell eBook The X-List (EBOOK)
Evie Mitchell eBook The X-List (EBOOK)
Evie Mitchell eBook NSFW Cover The X-List (EBOOK)

The X-List (EBOOK)

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What kind of crazy person doesn’t read?
Apparently my new neighbour. She’s loud, sassy, flirty and infuriatingly, annoyingly cheerful.
And a non-reader. The worst kind of human.
So why is that when I dare her to enter the charity read-a-thon, I suddenly find myself carefully curating her list?
And those books… they’re definitely not your momma’s romance.

I’m used to people underestimating me. Normally I can brush it off with a laugh.
But Rune? He gets under my skin.
So when he makes an off-handed comment that a non-reader like me shouldn’t bother with the town’s charity event, I can’t help but accept the challenge.
Only these books are not what I remember from the school book list.
And Rune? Well I’m beginning to see him in a new light.
Or, should I say, hear him?

Warning: This sexy little number is inspired by hot books, men who read, and a slight exhibitionist tease. Get thee a man who knows how to handle you between the covers, and settle in — this steamy read will have you begging for more.

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"We're here," I whispered to myself as I pulled up behind the moving van, parking my car in front of the gorgeous duplex bungalow. A thrill of excitement ratcheted down my spine, sending the butterflies in my stomach fluttering with nervous anticipation. 

Gunnar, my boss, came from around the front of the truck, giving me a smile. I exited my car, coming to meet him halfway. 

"Welcome to Cape Hardgrave," he gestured at the bungalow. "Not much to look at on the outside, but she'll do for the next six months."

The bungalow was a single level brick and weatherboard home. It looked as if it were an original build, but had been divided up and updated at some point over the last fifty years. Whoever owned it was obviously a fan of yellow since the entire structure was painted the same shade as a sunflower. Only the roof, doors, and trim were different – a striking black. 

"The garden isn't pretty right now. But once spring starts in full, you'll find the house gets a little more palatable."

I threw a smile at my boss. "You mean the greenery tones down the loudness of the yellow?"

He chuckled. “More like the riot of flowers distract the eye. Come on.” He began walking up to the house. "Let's see how you like the place."  

I'd applied as a carpenter with Thor's Shipbuilding back in Capricorn Cove. Gunnar, the owner, had put me through my paces and liked what he'd seen. He'd offered me a job, asking if I was willing to apprentice as a shipwright. Considering the woodshop where I'd worked for the last two years had gone bust thanks to shitty financial management, I was more than happy to go back to school and get some new skills. The best part was he was still paying me at full wage while I did the bridging course. 

I'd left school early, apprenticing in order to set myself up for when the state would throw me out on my ear. 

I was a foster kid, bouncing around homes until I'd wound up in Capricorn Cove with the McKenney's. They'd been a nice bunch. Generous with their time and love, sharing their little town with me and the other kids in the home. When I'd said I wanted to become a carpenter, they'd helped me out, ensuring I still got my high school diploma even while I got trade certified. When I'd aged out of the system, they'd helped me out, setting me up with a little apartment, making sure I had food, telling me that I'd always had a place at their table if I ever needed anything. 

So, I'd stayed. Finding work with a local carpenter, designing custom pieces, working on houses, building cheap tables – in a small town like Capricorn Cove you had to be a jack of all trades. I'd enjoyed the work but loved the paycheck more. I'd been saving for a deposit on a home, still living in that first shitty apartment with its flaking walls and damp smell. It'd been cheap and a place to sleep. Nothing special but it worked for me. 

Or at least it had until the workshop had gone bust and I'd been forced to dip into my savings to continue covering rent. 

When Thor's Shipbuilding had bought the marina, the town had been a flutter of excitement. I hadn't expected to land the job, but Gunnar had liked my work and I wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Most people took one look at me and made judgments about my ability to perform. I didn't blame them, but it still pissed me off. 

Cape Hardgrave was the headquarters of the century old business. I'd done my research, looking into the Larsson's financial situation, what their employees said about them, client lists – the works. Thor's Shipbuilding were world-renowned, highly distinguished but small and boutique. The people who came to them paid top dollar for quality and name. 

When Gunnar had said he wanted me to apprentice I'd agreed, willing to suck up the cost of living and moving for the apprenticeship period at the established headquarters. And when he'd said that it would be all-inclusive? Well, I'd practically thrown myself at the opportunity. It was like all my Christmases had come at once. 

We walked up to the house; a ramp had been installed on one side of the stairs. I lifted an eyebrow in question. 

"Our grandmother lived here before she moved in with my parents. She used a stick for a few years before graduating to a walker last year, though she mostly uses a wheelchair in public these days. The ramp was easier for her to navigate than the stairs."

I nodded, tucking that info away for later. While Gunnar sprang up the stairs, I navigated the ramp, following him up to the entry. 

The entry consisted of a wide porch with sweetheart swings on either corner, little picture windows, and two black doors. 

"You're in the first apartment." Gunnar turned the key in the lock, opening the door and leading me inside. 

Beautiful wood floors, high ceilings, and white blank walls. The place felt empty but warm.  

"It's your place," he said, leading me through the space. "Feel free to pop up art or pictures or move stuff around. We don't mind."

Those butterflies morphed into bats as I walked through the hall, grinning as Gunnar began the tour. 

"Master bedroom with ensuite to your left. There's a small guest bedroom to your right. Linen closet in the hall," he opened the doors showing me a well-stocked closet. "If you need anything else linen-wise just buy it and hand the receipt to Ma. She'll reimburse you."

He gestured to a door on our right. "Main bathroom and another closet." He opened a door on the left. "Office space," Gunnar threw me a grin. "You'll need it. Erik is rigorous in his testing."

I chuckled, following him into a small living room, complete with comfortable furniture, a tiny dining room with round table, and a small but completely functional kitchen. 

"You can open this up," Gunnar said, showing me how to open the large bifold doors onto the back deck. "Gets a great breeze year-round."  

Now I could see why the house had been built backward – with the bedrooms on the road. The backyard opened onto a sloping yard with a magnificent view out to the ocean. The back porch was completely covered and I could see there were sliding screens to keep the bugs out. The yard itself was flourishing, beautiful greenery, and budding flowers ready to bloom in the coming weeks. A slight breeze tickled the hairs on my cheek; salt and pollen heavy in the air. 

"This is beautiful," I told Gunnar, spreading my arms and sucking in a deep, satisfying breath. "'You're sure I'm living here rent-free?"

He chuckled, "oh, it's not rent-free. Erik's gonna work you hard. Don't have any doubts about that."

I laughed, following him back inside. "I look forward to it."

"Laundry's through here, all your utility access is in there too." Gunnar gestured at a door off the side of the kitchen. "Out the side of the house there's a single carport but it's got a small workshop at the rear. Feel free to use that however you want." 

I nodded, taking in the gloriously retro kitchen. 

"If you need anything else just call. Ma's put together a welcome pack, it should be around here somewhere. There are groceries in the fridge, and I have no doubt she'll be around later to visit." He knocked on the wall dividing my apartment from the one next door. "And my brother Rune should be done with work later. He's a little quiet, comes across as testy but he's a good kid." 


Gunnar laughed, "I mean, I guess not but—"

"Hello?" A voice called from the entry, interrupting Gunnar. 

"Hey, come on down. We're in the kitchen." 

What sounded like a stampede of people thundered down the hall. A woman, her dark brown hair streaked liberally with grey, a man who had to be Gunnar's father the resemblance was so strong, a woman who looked vaguely familiar held one baby, while a man who I assumed was Gunnar's brother Erik held another. They entered the kitchen in a jumble of limbs, smiles, and chatter. 

"Gabby, meet the family. Well, some of them."

The older woman came in, dropping a basket on the kitchen counter and opening her arms. "Hi Gabby, I'm Jemma. Sorry, I'm a hugger!" she wrapped her arms around me, pulling me close. 

I sent a deer-in-the-headlights look over her shoulder at the older man. He chuckled. 

"Jemma, let the poor girl breathe."

She let me go, stepping back and slapping a hand on the older man's chest. "Ignore him, Gabby. Sune has no manners."

"My mother and father," Gunnar said, gesturing between the two. "And this is my brother, Erik, and his fiancé Laura, and their two boys, Ulf and Leif."

"Hi," I held out a hand and Erik took it, giving it a warm shake. 

"Welcome to the Cape," he said, juggling the baby. "Hope you don't mind that we're intruding. Thought we'd pop out to help you move in."

"But first," Jemma pulled a sourdough loaf from the basket. "Lunch."

I was quietly but efficiently shuffled out of the kitchen and onto the back deck, a baby somehow ending up in my arms, while Erik, Sune, and Gunnar described the workshop to me.

"Obviously," Erik said, handing me a bottle of soda that had appeared as if by magic, "we're not expecting you until next week. But if you feel like coming and checking us out, let me know. I'll make sure I have some time to show you around."

"That'd be great," I said, dodging a flailing baby arm. "Gunnar said you were upgrading the workshop?"

Erik laughed. "Not the workshop itself, that'll have to wait till next winter when work slows a little. We're upgrading the office at the moment, adding a nursery." He nodded at his boys. "We're a family affair and these two have reminded me of that. We're adding the nursery so no one has to juggle family and work. They can do both happily."

"That's… wonderful," I said, lifting my drink in salute. "And super progressive."

"He just likes Ma's free babysitting," Gunnar said, knocking his shoulder into his brother. They both laughed and I smiled, watching them, already feeling at ease with my decision. 

"Besides, with Laura's film schedule, I like to have the back-up."

I froze, drink halfway to my lips. "Film schedule?"

"I'm the Queen of Clean," Laura answered, stepping onto the deck, a platter laden with sandwiches in her hand. Jemma trailed, her hands holding two pitchers of drink. 

"It's a reality TV show where I—"

"Clean people's houses. I've seen some of your social media clips." I leaned forward, glancing between her and Erik. "Did you meet on the show?"

They both chuckled, nodding. 

Jemma sat, gesturing at me to start eating. "Please, we're not formal here."

Around food and drink, I learned more about the workshop, the business, and their family. 

There were five children altogether, Gunnar, Erik, Liv, Astrid, and Rune, but only Gunnar and Erik were part of Thor's Shipbuilding. Gunnar was engaged to Ella, who owned a bar back in Capricorn Cove. I'd met her a few times, a lovely bubbly woman, confident and warm. She was the reason Gunnar had bought the marina and moved to the Cove. 

Erik and Laura had met on the set of her TV show when she'd been asked by Liv, who was a television producer, to help him out. Having just adopted twins, Erik had been overwhelmed by the responsibility and cleaning and needed some extra help. 

I couldn’t help but smile at the way they described their relationship, both of them 

Gunnar had driven me up to the Cape but would be heading back to Capricorn Cove later tonight. The way his family teased him; I had the impression that he didn't like being away from his fiancé for long. 

In addition to Gunnar, Erik, and Liv, there was Astrid and Rune. Astrid was away at college, completing her masters in architecture.

"And your other son?"

"Rune is—" 

Leif let out a screech, his hands kicking angrily as he demanded to be put down. We laughed, his momma rolling her eyes. 

"Let me just go swap out this kid's diaper."

"You want me to do it?" Erik asked, handing Ulf to his mom and moving to stand. 

"No, Babe. I got it." She touched his shoulder on the way out, and he captured her hand, pressing a quick kiss to her palm. 

I approved of both the intimate, tender gesture and his willingness to take on diaper duty. While I'd loved working with Gunnar, there hadn't been a guarantee that I would like his brother just as much. All that I was observing, from lunch to the way he interacted with his family, boded well.   

We chatted some more, settling back as the midday sun warmed the deck. I could just imagine summer days spent here, listening to music, pottering around the garden, the breeze cooling my skin, sticky from the hot sun. 

"-and you'll want to go to the Fire Ball which is coming up," Jemma said, interrupting my daydream. 

"Fire Ball?"

"Mm, every year the town raises money for the fire department. They often fly out to help some of our neighbors during the season. We make sure our boys and girls have the right equipment for that."

"Sounds good," I said, refilling my glass with the homemade lemonade. "Is there an auction? Or do we just donate or...?"

"There's always an auction. And the business purchases the table for our employees to attend," she fluffed her hair, sending Sune a grin. "It's an excuse for me to buy a new dress and look half-decent for a night." 

Sune leaned over, pressing a kiss to his wife's lips. "You always look perfect."

She chuckled, waving him off, a slight blush heating her cheeks. 

That kind of timeless love was so rare, my heart ached to experience something like that. Looking around at the table, seeing how loving they all were to each other, I ached to experience that kind of family. 

One day. 

"But aside from the auction and the Ball, there's all sorts of fundraisers in the lead-up. There's a pie drive, the local school holds a fair, and there's a fun run."

"Don't forget the readathon," Erik said, reaching across the table to snag the final chocolate chip cookie. "Rune, my youngest brother, runs it. You can sign up at the Literary Academy." He grinned, "it's a café-slash-bookstore. You'll want to go in the morning, Rune makes a mean cup of coffee."

"I'll check it out."

"Well, we should get you moved in." Erik pushed up from his chair, stretching. 

"If you get the spare key, we can pop them down in Rune's place," Laura commented, digging through the diaper bag. "I think I brought a spare baby monitor and it's about time for their nap anyway."

"Don't worry," Erik waved a hand. "Rune has one."

They trooped next door while Sune, Gunnar, and Jemma headed outside with me. 

The van was small, I'd only brought the bare essentials. When I'd decided to take up Gunnar's offer, I'd sold all my furniture, adding the proceeds to my dwindled savings. I'd done the figures - it would have cost me more to store my stuff than to sell it and buy new ones once I returned. The only things in that van were a custom cherry wood bed with beautiful matching side tables, a few boxes of clothes and some personal items. Two suitcases, a bike, and my spare prosthetics were in my car. 

We moved it all inside in a surprisingly short amount of time, Laura diligently cleaning every item. 

"You never know what it's picked up," she told me, brandishing a spray bottle and cloth. "Particularly in moving trucks."

Once my bed was rebuilt, and all the clothes and whatnot popped away, the family called goodbyes, Erik reminding me to check out the Literary Academy. "Seriously, best coffee in America."

I laughed, waving them off. 

In the silence of the house, I straightened a rug, dusted an imaginary piece of lint from the couch as I made my way through the house to the back deck once more. 

Stepping into the sunshine, I raised my arms, throwing them out wide, closing my eyes and tilting my head to the sun. Gentle warmth heated my skin, the breeze teasing my hair. I could smell pollen and damp earth as it mixed with the salty bite that came from the ocean in the distance. I heard birds trilling, the soft rustle of leaves as the wind brushed through branches, and, if I concentrated very hard, the very dim crash of waves. 

I opened my eyes, dropping my arms and resting them on my hips, grinning out at the view. 

"Welcome home."

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