Tuesday, October 29, 2013
“I don’t believe that I asked you to have an affair. Actually, I haven’t even suggested you have sex with me. So relax.”
She buried her face in her hands and muttered curses. “What kind of alternate universe did I wake up in this morning? I am not here. This is some kind of erotic nightmare. I’ll wake up in a little while and discover that Mr. Larssen is a vampire or something.” She peeked through her fingers as he turned into an underground parking garage.
“Vampire? I was thinking more along the lines of a werewolf. An alpha werewolf, naturally. Alpha werewolves seem to be popular in women’s fiction if the books my mother reads are anything to go by.” He whipped the truck into an empty space and turned off the ignition.
“You’re insane. Who let you out of the asylum, anyway?” she snapped. Then it occurred to her that she was talking to her new boss—the man who would be deciding whether or not she received her raise—and she moaned again.
“Haven’t you heard?” he asked. “The inmates are in charge of the asylum this week.” Otis opened the truck door, happy that he’d chosen to bring the truck instead of his low-slung sports car when he agreed to fill in for Uncle Shamus. Clarice wasn’t likely to jump down from the truck and take off. When he made it around to the other side of the truck, she was still hunched over in the front seat. He opened her door, released her seat belt and lifted her down to the pavement making sure she had her purse, all without her saying a single word.
After slamming the door shut, he took her hand and led her to the elevator. When they were finally inside his condo with the door locked behind them, she stood in the living room uncertainly while he loosened his tie and slipped his suit coat off, tossing it over the couch arm. “I’ll make some coffee,” he said. “If you want to freshen up, the bathroom is just down the hall.”
She turned away, moving as though she was sleepwalking. Otis frowned while he made the coffee and set out sandwich fixings on the counter. If he wasn’t mistaken, Clarice was very close to the end of her resources. With her bank account depleted and no money coming in until payday, her options were nearly nonexistent. According to the employee notes Shamus had sent him, Clarice was alone, except for her younger sister, with no family network to fall back on.
By the time Clarice reappeared, still quiet and withdrawn, Otis had lunch on the table. “Ah, there you are! How do you take your coffee?”
“Cream and sweetener.” Her voice was low, a bare breath of sound.
“Fine. Have a seat.”
Following his brisk, no-nonsense direction, she set her purse and coat on one of the chairs and sat down. He deposited a steaming mug of coffee in front of her, added a cream pitcher and bowl of pink sweetener packets and went back to retrieve his own mug of black coffee. More to have something to do than because she wanted coffee, Clarice added cream and sweetener and stirred until it was a pale au laìt color.
With a small grin, he watched her stir as though her life depended on it. “If you don’t like the color of that mug, I have others,” he observed quietly.
“No need to scrape the color off. If you would rather have a different colored mug, I’ll be happy to exchange.”
Startled, she realized that she was nervously stirring the coffee so vigorously it sounded like she was mixing a cake. She froze, staring at him in paralyzed embarrassment.
“Clarice,” he said firmly. “Eat your lunch.”
Wordlessly, she picked up a sandwich quarter and began eating. When that portion was gone, she sipped at her coffee, apparently deep in thought while he ate his own lunch.
He finished and sat back with a sigh, regarding his guest with such intensity that she finally frowned at him and asked, “What?”
“Nothing. I’ve just been considering your options. You’re in quite a tight spot.”
He was deeply relieved when she seemed to snap out of her unnatural resignation. She set her mug down with a thunk on the table. “Really? What was your first clue?”
“Don’t you now Clarice me! You’re not the one with four dollars and seventeen cents to your name! You’re not the one sitting at this table with a broken bra and no panties! You don’t have to worry about whether or not you’ll have electricity!”
“No, I don’t,” he admitted. “That doesn’t mean that I’m not worried or concerned.”
“Concerned? Concerned? Are you crazy? What am I going to do?” Tears trickled down her face as she stared at him in bewilderment. “What the hell am I going to do?”
Otis swallowed the last of his coffee as he studied her thoughtfully. He suspected that she was not going to take his suggestion well but he wasn’t inclined to let her escape when he held all the cards. There would never be a chance like this again. Fighting the urge to gather her in his arms and assure her that everything would be all right, he sprawled back in his chair, folded his hands over his flat belly and dropped his bombshell.
“I think that you should marry me.”
And then things happened... Want to know more? It's now just 99 cents! Click on the book cover...