This is the 2nd stop on my short blog tour, and I'm doing things a little differently this time. At each stop I post an entire scene. They're in chronological order, so if you follow the tour you can read the first two chapters free! Scene one and the entire blog tour schedule is on my website: http://www.ashlynchase.com
Vampire Anthony Cross is surveying the burnt wreckage of his bar when his aunt gets a psychic 911 and tells him that his former manager, the lovely Claudia Fisher, is in trouble. He immediately calls Claudia and alarm bells go off when she slurs sarcasm at him.
Nope, Claudia isn't herself at all, but nothing matters since her job went up in smoke and Anthony is no longer the boss of her. Not seeing him every day is worse than losing her income, because she's been secretly in love with her mysterious boss for years.
Will there be a contest? Of course! Even that is a little different. One random commenter at each blog will win all three published books in the Flirting with Fangs series!
Scene 3 ~ Kissing with Fangs
Stepping out of his flashback, he found the street he’d been looking for near Central Square and stopped to catch his breath—what there was of it.
At the brick apartment building’s entrance, a few buzzers showed names of tenants. He located the one for C. Fletcher and pressed it. No answer. She wouldn’t have left because I said I was coming over, would she? He leaned on the buzzer and didn’t take his finger off until Claudia’s voice shouted, “Cut that out!”
“Claudia! It’s Anthony. Let me in.”
“I tol’ you not to come,” she slurred.
“Well, I’m here, and I’m not leaving until I see you.”
After a few tense seconds, a third-story window slid open. When Anthony looked up, Claudia leaned out. “There. You’ve seen me. Now go away.” She swayed and he was afraid she might fall out.
“Let me in, Claudia.” He was tempted to jump up to that high window, but she didn’t know what he was.
It might scare her straight, but I couldn’t enter without her permission, so I’d just wind up hanging off the side of the building and that wouldn’t attract attention at all.
A young man stared as he walked by. Anthony couldn’t help feeling a little stalker-ish, standing on her doorstep and begging to come in.
At last, Claudia let out a loud sigh and said, “Oh, all right.” She slammed the window shut, and a few seconds later she buzzed him in.
Now what? Is a buzzer enough of an invitation when someone doesn’t want you to enter? He opened the door and cautiously extended his foot past the threshold. Whew. I guess it is. Either that, or Claudia really did want to see him. He went with that assumption and genuinely hoped he was right.
Jogging up to the third floor, he wondered what he should say to her. I miss you? I can’t believe I won’t see you every day?
She opened the door just a crack, but it was enough for him to see her face. Her eyes were red, puffy, and ringed with smudged black mascara. He never dreamed he’d see her like this. She always seemed so smartly put together, but clearly she was falling apart.
“Claudia,” he said softly. “May I come in?”
She hesitated but eventually let out a deep breath and opened the door. “Why not?”
It wasn’t much of an invitation but would have to suffice. She didn’t look like she was going to welcome him with open arms.
“Thank you,” he said as he stepped into her living room. She had always kept his office immaculate, so he was shocked to see her apartment looking like a Tasmanian devil had torn it apart.
A pizza container, empty glasses, and paper plates littered the coffee table and floor around it. Empty beer cans and liquor bottles were strewn across the open kitchen counters. Pillows lay on the floor and sported black stains.
“Have you been crying?”
She swiped at the smudges under her eyes. “No.”
“Don’t lie to me, Claudia. Have you been depressed ever since the fire?”
She wandered over to her sofa and plopped down on it, dropping her head into her hands. Anthony followed and sat beside her. When she didn’t answer his question, he softened his approach.
Rubbing her back, he said, “Tell me what’s wrong, Claudia. This can’t all be because the bar is gone. Even I don’t feel that bad about it, and I owned the place.”
It was a welcome sound. Maybe she still had her sense of humor. If Anthony could get her to see things in a lighter way, he might be able to save her. He picked up a beer bottle from the floor and set it on the coffee table. “I see you decided to open your own bar.”
She raised her face and frowned at him. “I drink when I’m upset. What of it?”
“I’m sure you know this, but alcohol won’t help. If anything, it will make you even more depressed.”
She sighed and sagged against the colorful pillows. “I missed the smell of Boston Uncommon. I know that’s nuts, but it’s the truth. So, that’s why…” She made a sweeping gesture toward the well-stocked kitchen-counter bar. Only then did he notice that all the bottles were open and most were empty.
He doubted that was the only reason why, but now was not the time to discuss a possible drinking problem. The thing was, he’d never smelled alcohol on her at work. They shared an occasional brandy when they discussed business before she left for the evening, but he’d never seen her have more than one.
Claudia’s eyes shimmered with new tears, and she turned her head away from him.
Anthony couldn’t refrain from touching her any more than he could fly to the moon. He reached over and pulled her into his arms.
She leaned against him and sighed. Then she turned her face into his shirt and inhaled deeply. If she knew I ran all the way here, she might not want to do that. As it was, she seemed to melt into him.
“Claudia, Claudia, Claudia…what am I going to do with you?”
She leaned away from him and looked up into his eyes, searching, yearning—but for what?
Could she have harbored feelings for me and hidden them so well that I never recognized them? Well, why the hell not? He had done the same thing around her for the last five years.
From the day she walked into his office to apply for a waitressing job, he had felt the instant pull of attraction. If not for his jealous ex-girlfriend, Ruxandra, showing up, he might have considered acting on it. For Claudia’s safety, he had kept her at arm’s length. Now here she was safe in his arms, feeling like she’d always belonged there.
Claudia’s blond highlights might not be natural, but they made her hair shine like spun gold whenever she stepped under the lights of the bar. He cherished the memory—especially now when it looked as if she hadn’t brushed her shoulder-length bob in days.
She seemed to be fading fast. Her eyes fluttered closed, and eventually her breathing took on the long, slow rhythm of sleep. She might have passed out, but Anthony chose to believe she felt so safe in his arms that she could finally relax and let go.
He vowed to hold her until just before dawn, if she didn’t wake up before then. At that point, he’d have to leave. Otherwise, he would appear to be the one who’d passed out cold…more like dead. He didn’t think she could handle that in her fragile condition.
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