Miri: A Paranormal Romance (Plenty of Shift Book 1) (4 page)

BOOK: Miri: A Paranormal Romance (Plenty of Shift Book 1)
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Chapter Five

iri paced
the living room floor as she waited. For the hundredth time, she glanced over at the clock that sat on an end table by the couch.

5:58. Malcolm was coming around six. He’d said so.

Why the hell was she so nervous? Was it that he was incredibly handsome? Lots of men were handsome, but they didn’t make her sweat like this. No, it was far more than that. It was like he was a perfect storm of all the male attributes one could want: clever, gorgeous, playful, strong.

And, she reminded herself as her feet strode across the floor again, he was a flirt. He was a bartender, which meant that he met women all the time, and no doubt went home with them frequently, whatever Jenn said to the contrary.

He wasn’t the guy for Miri. He couldn’t be. And so she trusted herself to resist him if he became too charming.

She needed time. And after that, she’d need a guy who was stable. As she’d said to Jenn, she’d done the hot, flirty guy thing, and that had turned out to be less pleasant than a root canal without anaesthetic. The last thing she wanted was yet another man who’d drop her like a sack of potatoes the next time he saw a hot woman.

She’d get the sexy grizzly shifter to help tonight, then she’d send him on his way. That was it.

Well, except that she should probably feed him, if he was working for free. She had a chicken roasting in the oven. Yes, she’d feed him after the work was done. Then he’d be out of there, back to wherever he’d come from.

Unless he wanted a drink, too. She should really offer him a drink at the end of it all. Just one drink.

Maybe two.

“Miri,” she muttered, “You’re so fucked.”

alcolm paused
at the front door, his finger suspended, ready to ring the buzzer. In his left hand he held a large mallet that he’d owned for years. Something about the situation seemed comical; showing up at a woman’s place with a giant hammer was usually considered a little threatening, after all.

Finally, when he’d inhaled deeply a few times, he buzzed the intercom.

“Hello?” said Miri’s voice on the other end.

“It’s Malcolm, come to destroy your abode,” he said.

“Oh, good. I was just getting sick of having so many walls intact. Come on in.” He pushed the door open as soon as he heard the distinct click allowing him entry. With his first step into the brownstone he could already smell her; that sensual, feline scent lingering on the air. God, he loved how she smelled. Too much.

“This is going to be a rough night,” he muttered under his breath. Much as Miri flirted with him, there was no way that she’d invited him over for sex. She was a tough nut to crack, that one, and not the sort of woman who jumped into bed with a guy just because he dropped explicit hints her way.

So he estimated that by the end of it all, his balls would be an agonizing and intense shade of royal blue. But he couldn’t resist the invitation, or the chance to spend time with this woman in her territory. Just inhaling her was enough. Almost.

He knocked at her door to find it slightly ajar, and under his fist it moved inwards.

“Come in,” she said from somewhere inside.

As he stepped in, he could see into her small galley kitchen. She was checking something in the oven, leaning over so that her breasts and her behind showed to great advantage. Whether this was deliberate on her part or not, he could only guess. Malcolm skillfully held the mallet in front of his waist to hide the twitching that was taking place inside his jeans.

Miri stood and turned to him, smiling. “Just making sure dinner’s cooking,” she said.

“Dinner? I—is this a date?”

“God, no. But a girl’s got to eat. As does a boy. Are you still okay with doing some smashy-smashy to the wall? We should get started soon, so the neighbours don’t lose their minds with late-night banging.”

“Late-night banging sounds more appealing than you know,” said Malcolm, that smile of his doing amazing things to Miri’s body.

“You’re incorrigible,” she said. “And I have to admit that I like it. Though it won’t get you anywhere.”

“Well, listen—if you’re not going to invite me to bed, tell me what to clobber and I’ll do it. I need to get the frustration out somehow.”

Miri let out a chuckle as she led him into the living room and showed him the wall separating it from the office. “The goal is to install a two-way mirror here,” she said.

“Interesting. Not to mention the kink factor. Should I even ask why?” he said.

“I’ll have clients in the office, on the other side of the wall. They’ll be in there, watching, while I’m out here interviewing their prospective dates. Ignore the mess in there—I’ve been using the room as a temporary walk-in closet.”

“I see. So the clients will be spying.”

“Exactly. Well, sort of. Is that bad?”

“Not in the least,” said Malcolm, stepping towards her. “Physical attraction is very important. I, for one, would certainly want to lay my eyes on a woman I might end up with.”

“Oh? And what might she look like?” asked Miri, who found her breath growing shallow as he inched closer to her. That scent of his—it was like an injection of pre-orgasmic sensations into her bloodstream.

“She might have brown hair,” he said, his fingers boldly twisting a strand that had fallen over her chest, so that they grazed her skin ever so slightly. “Brown eyes. And curves that make a man think he’s in the middle of a wet dream every time he looked at her.”

y goodness
,” Miri breathed. For a moment she looked into his eyes, which were narrowed, focused, exploring her.

Shit. What was she doing? With a sudden leap she moved away, turning once again to the wall.

“Do you think it’ll be hard?” she said. “I mean difficult. To pound the hole.” Everything, but everything, was sounding dirty this evening.

“No. But after we smash through, we’ll need to frame it out,” said Malcolm, studying the wall as though he hadn’t even uttered the previous words. “Have you hired someone for that?”

“No—I hadn’t thought that far ahead, to be honest.”

“Well, you’re in luck. It just so happens that I used to work as a dry-waller.”

“Look at you, Mr. Multitalented,” said Miri. “What else can you do?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

I would,
she thought. Now it was she who wanted to step towards him, to lay hands on that broad chest, to taste his neck. To seek out his talents.

“Let me get to work,” he said, once again seeming to focus, tearing them responsibly out of the moment. “Then, if you still think I’m talented, you can reward me with whatever’s in that oven of yours.”

“Sounds like a deal,” she said.

“I’m assuming that you know the size of your mirror?”

“Two and a half by three feet. It’s in the bedroom if you want to look at it.”

“That’s okay.” If he stepped foot in her bedroom, he’d never want to leave.

Instead, he took his first blow at the wall. The hit was precise, doing minimal residual damage. Miri watched his large arms bulging each time he lifted the heavy mallet, her breath catching in her throat as her heart rate accelerated. Now
was a man.

Within minutes, he had a large hole made, revealing the next room’s contents. She was almost sorry to see him work so fast.

“That was quick,” she said.

“I’ve had experience at pounding things.”

I’ll bet you have.
She kept the thought internal.

“Listen,” said Malcolm, “if you can be patient, I have some old materials in my truck. I can bring them in and get the framing started.”

“Really? That would be…amazing,” she said.

“Sure. I’ll be right back.”

He headed down to his pick-up, which was parked just outside. To his delight, he found a few pieces of wood as well as everything else he needed for framing, sitting in a steel box in the back.

“Got it,” he said when he’d returned. “It pays to be prepared, I guess.”

“Are you sure you’re okay with doing this? It’s a lot of work.”

“Well, if I don’t, I don’t get to spend time with an incredibly sexy woman. So I’d say it’s totally worth it.”

“I…I’ll get back to the kitchen, shall I?” she said as her face reddened. “I need to check on the food.” What she really needed was a very cold shower.

Malcolm spent the next hour using a drywall saw to rough out the rectangle where the mirror would fit, and then creating a frame out of wood to house it.

“The chicken and potatoes are cooked, if you want to take a break, Grizzly Man,” said Miri, stepping out of the kitchen at last, having cooled down somewhat. “Holy cow, look at all you’ve done.”

“I like to move fast,” he said, wiping the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. His shirt seemed to cling even better than usual to his chest, dampened by his exertion.

“In all things?” she asked.

“Not in all. In some, I like to move very, very slowly.”

“Good. I like slow.” Was she blushing again? “Come on, have some food.”

Miri laid two plates on the round coffee table. “Sorry,” she said. “I don’t have a proper dining table quite yet.”

“That’s okay. This suits me just fine.” Malcolm sat on the floor, grateful that the food might take his mind off other things for a moment.

“So, Malcolm. Tell me something about yourself,” said Miri, sitting across from him, her legs bent under her.

“What do you want to know?”

Do you taste as good as I think you do?

“Um, how long have you been bartending?”

“Oh, three months. Before that I was far away, working very briefly for the military.”

Miri’s eyes widened. “Jenn didn’t mention that.”

“Probably because she doesn’t know. I don’t talk about it a lot. I was only on one tour of duty when I was injured, and my career ended before it really had a chance to start.”

“I’m sorry. It must have been a serious injury.”

“Not serious enough to keep me from living life. Now I’m about to head back to school. On another path.”

“Doing what?”

“I’m going to be a doctor.”

Miri nearly choked. “Really?” This man was full of surprises.

Malcolm laughed. “You really do have issues with swallowing, don’t you? Lucky for you that I know the Heimlich manoeuvre. And yes, really. Does it surprise you?”

“You’re so…yes, it surprises me.”

“I’ve always wanted it. I did my undergrad in science. I’m working my way towards an internship now, and bartending to pay the bills.”

“So you must be seriously busy.”

“I manage to get out now and then. But yeah. I’m busy.”

“Why didn’t Jenn tell me about med school?”

“Because she might not know about that, either. I told Kor to keep it quiet. I don’t want women fawning over me because they think I’ll be rich someday.”

“Not all women are obsessed with money,” said Miri. “I’m not. I’m happy just getting by.”

“Yes, something tells me you are,” he said, smiling. “You’re a special woman, Miri. Beautiful, intelligent, independent. Something about you makes me want to open up to you, to talk to you about everything.”

“I’m glad.”

For a moment their eyes met, and Miri felt herself spiralling downwards, falling into a place that she wasn’t sure she could escape.

“I take it you’re not going to be a gynecologist,” she said, attempting to diffuse the mood, which was growing all too intimate. The fact was that she felt the same; she wanted to tell him about herself. About her aspirations, her failures. “Your patients would never leave if they had you to spend time with.”

Malcolm sat back, grinning. “I’d only want one patient if I had to look between a woman’s legs, and I’d sooner do it in bed than in an office. But no, I don’t intend to be a gynecologist. My injury was to my heart. After they operated on me, I became interested in cardiology.”

“You had heart surgery?”

Malcolm lifted his shirt to reveal his broad chest. Tanned, hard, chiseled, a few dark hairs defining its muscular shape. Once again, her body ached, her inner cat telling her to take this one for herself. He was beautiful, majestic. Strong and powerful. And so fucking sexy that it was killing her.

And as her eyes flicked over his torso, she saw what he was talking about. Nearly at his chest’s centre was a long vertical scar.

“They tore me open,” he said.

“So you’re telling me that I asked a guy with a weakened heart to smash holes in my apartment with a giant mallet.”

“You did.”

“You could have died, Malcolm.” Her voice was earnest, her own heart swollen with regret at her thoughtlessness.

“Don’t worry. I’m pretty strong,” he said, pulling his shirt back down. “And it’s not as though you knew.”

“True on both counts. Still—I wish you’d told me.”

“I don’t like for anyone to know that I’m flawed,” he said. “I keep it a well-guarded secret.”

“Well, I for one am relieved,” said Miri, taking a sip of wine. “I thought you were just about perfect. I can’t stand perfect people.”

“You must hate yourself, then.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “You’ll make a great doctor. Excellent bedside manner, I imagine. You always say just the right thing.”

“Not always. I haven’t asked you out yet, after all.”

“Are you going to?” Her heart was accelerating again. At some point she might need a cardiologist of her own.

“Only if you give me a proper signal. And I’m not so sure that you will.”

“Malcolm,” Her voice was intense, serious. “I’d like to. It’s just that…”

“I know. Jenn told me that you’re fresh off a break-up. It’s all right. I can wait.”

“I wouldn’t want you to. I can’t tell you when I’ll be ready…”
Or if I’ll ever be ready for someone like you.

“Well, then,” he said, pushing himself up to a standing position. “We’ll pretend it never came up. Now, I’m going to finish this job and then we’re going to finish this wine. Deal?”

“As long as you promise to crash on the couch. I don’t want you driving after drinking anything.”

“Fair enough. Wait—you said

BOOK: Miri: A Paranormal Romance (Plenty of Shift Book 1)
12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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