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Strong Enough (Family, #2)
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When a casual hookup turns into the potential for love, staid Spencer realizes he wants to build a life with vibrant Emilio.
When twenty-two-year-old Emilio Sanchez sees handsome Spencer Derdinger walking by his construction site, Emilio makes it his goal to seduce the shy professor. Getting Spencer into bed isn’t difficult, but Emilio soon learns that earning the trust of a man deeply hurt will take time and patience. With a prize like brilliant, sweet Spencer on the line, Emilio decides he is strong enough to face the challenge.
Spencer is surprised when he’s approached by the gorgeous construction worker he’s admired from the safety of his office window. Acting spontaneously for the first time in his thirty-eight years, Spencer takes Emilio home. When the casual hookup turns into the potential for love, Spencer realizes that if he wants to build a life with Emilio, he’ll need to be strong enough to slay his personal demons and learn to trust again.
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“AHEM. What are you doing?”
Spencer Derdinger jumped away from his office window at the unexpected sound of a voice behind him.
“Nothing!” he shouted defensively as he turned toward the door to see Maria Lee, his colleague and friend, watching him with a smirk on her face. The wooden blinds clanked loudly against the window, making Spencer flinch.
Maria raised one eyebrow, slowly walked over to the window, placed a perfectly manicured finger on one slat, and pulled it down.
“When did you turn into such a cliché?” she asked without looking away from the window.
“I don’t know what you mean.” Spencer skittered over to his desk and started stacking the randomly strewn-about papers into equally random piles.
After turning around, walking over to an empty chair, and sitting down with her thin ankles crossed, Maria flipped her hair back over her shoulder and said, “Spencer, please don’t insult my intelligence by pretending you weren’t staring out the window and drooling over the men working on the new addition to the math building.”
Spencer blushed and started rearranging the papers. “Well, technically, the cliché would be construction workers checking out women walking by, not men checking out construction workers from the privacy of their offices. So you see? I wasn’t being a cliché.”
“Fine,” Maria said. “It was an inverse cliché.”
“Is that a real thing?” Spencer asked, furrowing his brow.
Maria crossed her slender legs, causing her skirt to move up her thigh. “I have a doctorate in applied mathematics, not English, same as you. I have no idea whether it’s real or not. Now quit deflecting and tell me which of those men caught your eye.”
“Did you wear that outfit to class?” Spencer asked as he looked his colleague up and down.
“Why, yes, I did.” Maria tilted one corner of her mouth up and tugged on the bottom of her tight sweater, causing the V-neck top to dip low enough to show impressive cleavage.
“What did you teach this morning?” he asked.
“Introductory Algebra,” she answered with a glint in her eyes.
Spencer didn’t bother holding back his laugh. “How many football players are in the class?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Maria held her hand up and inspected her long nails. “I’d say at least half the team.”
Spencer snorted. “You are evil.”
“I’m strategic,” she corrected as she raised her eyes to meet his.
“You tortured a bunch of eighteen-year-olds on the off chance that they’ll talk about you in front of their coach.”
“Like I said,” Maria drawled. “Strategic. And, honey, after the number of times I turned around and stretched, there is no off chance about it. I can guarantee you those boys will talk about me in front of Thom. But that’s enough talk about me. Tell me which of the builder babes has you all hot and bothered.”
There was no way Spencer would give Maria any more ammunition than she already had, so he said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Maria crossed her arms over her chest, pushing her breasts up and halfway out the top of her sweater. “Don’t be coy, Spencer.”
Spencer crossed his arms over his significantly less endowed chest and raised his eyebrows. “I’m not an eighteen-year-old straight boy, Maria.” He tilted his chin toward Maria’s breasts meaningfully. “Those don’t hypnotize me.”
“Fine,” Maria humphed. “Don’t tell me which one you’re into. I’ll figure it out on my own.”
Fear trickled up Spencer’s spine at those words. Maria was sharp, shameless, and stunning. When she set her sights on something, she succeeded every single time. Thom Bramfield, the head coach of the football team, didn’t know it yet, but he didn’t stand a chance against her advances. Spencer, on the other hand, knew enough to realize he had to protect himself from Maria’s schemes.
“There’s nothing to figure out,” he said in a rush. Then he forced himself to take a breath and calm down. Maria would recognize his panic otherwise. And if she smelled blood, she’d know she was on the right trail and Spencer would never be able to shake her from her newest mission. All hope would be lost. “I mean, fine, I was looking at the men working outside,” he conceded. “They’re attractive and muscular, and there’s no crime in looking. End of story. There’s nothing to figure out here.”
For the first time since she’d walked into his office, Maria’s expression softened. She now looked genuinely concerned rather than calculating. “Spencer, since you and Peter broke up, I haven’t seen you take an interest in any man. And even before then, I have never known your interests to be purely carnal. You’ve been looking out that window every day for two weeks. Those men out there are attractive, but not more attractive than lots of guys you can find online wearing less clothing.” She leaned forward and took in a deep breath before continuing. “You’ll need to take a chance sometime, honey. You can’t live your life holed up in that little house all alone.”