Authors: Tyffani Clark Kemp
Tags: #romance, #vampire, #urban fantasy, #werewolves, #roman, #vampire romance, #mages, #lekrista
Published by Firstname SideStreet Cookie
Publishing LLC at Smashwords
Copyright 2012 Tyffani Clark Kemp
New Years Day
Why do I tolerate this place?
I ask myself that question every time I
clock into work. Edgar Appleton, the flamboyant owner of the
small-town floral shop
Arrangements by Appleton
, watched me
through the window as I pulled into my parking space. I shut off
the engine and gave a little wave and smile. Eddy shot me a dirty
look and turned away. I could see the day taking a turn for the
incredibly awful. Yay me.
is five minutes from my
house, which is lucky because my family lives in the boonies. The
shop shares its space with a wedding coordinator and a cake
decorator, so we get a lot of business. And in the small town of
Travelers Rest, South Carolina it’s often repeat business.
The sky was dark and menacing as I ducked
inside. The sweet smell of flora filled my nostrils and I took a
deep breath, filling my lungs with the fragrant aroma. I didn’t
even have a chance to blink before Eddy was on top of me with
“I need the backroom organized,
Scott. I just got an unexpected delivery of vases,” he pronounced
like he was actually from somewhere. “The
one that we had to reorder six times, as a matter of fact. It
I let out a heavy sigh and rolled my
“Exactly. Get to work.”
Surprised that we could actually agree on
our little moment of commiseration, I offered him a sarcastic
salute and marched to the backroom to fulfill my duties as the
floral shop grunt. I’m really very good at my job and Eddy knows
that, but he has to maintain some kind of face in front of his
women. There are four other women who work for him around the shop,
and only one of them is American. Even so, she’s from Hawaii and
very exotic. They’re all beautiful, thin, flexible, girls. And I’m
not guessing on the flexible part. Instead of working they like to
compare notes. And I'm the one who Eddy likes to yell at to "get to
I was only at my task for about twenty
minutes, wondering when the others would use their freedom of
passage to finally show up for work, when Eddy poked his head in
“LeKrista,” he whispered like he was afraid
someone would overhear. Eddy doesn't do afraid. He does cocky. I
might even go as far to say arrogant.
“Yeah,” I whispered back. “What?”
“I have a customer.” He didn’t even say
anything about my sarcasm. “A meeting. I need you to come man the
front room until one of the girls gets here.”
“Okay.” We were still whispering. My legs
began to tingle the moment I stood up and I followed Eddy out to
the main room on rubbery legs. The front room was empty and quiet
and the office door closed before I had a chance to see who was in
I wasn’t in the front room long before one
of Eddy’s girls walked in. Parashie pulled the front door open with
a flourish and grace that I never could have managed. She’s one of
the “blonde twins” as I refer to them in private. Her counterpart
is a German girl named Maaren. They both have long blonde hair cut
to one length with matching bangs, the cute kind that are tapered
to blend into the hair rather than cut straight across. They both
have ocean blue eyes that seem to change color with the seasons,
and they both are about the same height and size. They even wear
their clothes interchangeably. Add to that their similar facial
features and bone structure, and you would think they’d been
separated at birth.
Parashie addressed me in Russian with what I
know to mean something to the effect of “commoner” or “common
girl.” Whatever. I know for a fact that she was found wandering the
“Where is Edgar?” she asked. I would never
tell her that I thought her accent was beautiful.
I motioned to the office. “He’s having a
Parashie rolled her eyes and stalked to the
office door. She’s close to six feet, if not exactly, and
anorexic-skinny, though she’s a healthy eater. I think her favorite
is cheeseburgers. She’s not bulimic either. She just has one of
those metabolisms. You know, the kind that makes us average,
slightly overweight girls sick? Yeah. The “twins” are those girls.
She dresses like she thinks she lives in Hollywood - tight skinny
jeans, a white undershirt peeking out underneath a striped
red and black sweater,
and enough jewelry to accessorize a small country. Her stilettos
thumped on the carpeted wood floor, making it sound hollow
underneath, and it probably was.
I didn’t try to stop her from opening the
door. I have no qualms about letting her and the others know just
how little I care for them. It would serve her right for calling me
“common girl” for so long if she got in trouble.
Eddy looked up when the door opened and his
client whipped his head around. Shock and fear rolled off of him
and filled my head. My heart sped up like I was experiencing his
fear. I could feel his eyes locked on me. They were full of a power
I didn’t understand. I felt a niggle at the base of my skull and my
head ticked to the right in a sort of shiver. The man frowned at
me, blinked, and then it was gone.
Eddy was livid, his face flushed with anger.
He shouted something at Parashie in Russian and rose out of his
chair to block any view of his guest. Eddy looked and sounded the
most manly I’d ever heard him. I realized, if he wasn’t such an ass
- and gay - I might be attracted to him.
“I didn’t know you spoke Russian,” I said
quietly, mostly to myself than anything, but it seemed the wrong
thing to do. Eddy heard me and, when he turned to look, his face
had blanched to a creamy white. He looked sick, like he might pass
“Shut the door!” Eddy shouted one last time,
enunciating each word like Parashie was stupid.
Parashie screamed something in her native
tongue and slammed the door like a spoiled child. Then, she turned
on me and shouted, “Don’t you have some work to do?”
“I have to get my pills from my car,” I said
and hurried out of the building. I wasn’t in the mood for a fight,
and she was wearing stilettos, too? No, thanks. She could keep
I keep my Clonidine in the console of my
beat up Honda Civic. I suffer from Epilepsy and a mild case of
Tourette’s Syndrome. I haven’t had a seizure in years and I keep
the tics at bay with the pills. I don’t have vocal tics, the kind
where you shout random words for no reason. Instead I have motor
tics and sometimes my body will just shudder. It starts with the
weird feeling at the base of my skull then travels my spine like a
shiver. Those are mostly gone too, except for special
I popped the pill and swallowed without
water before I headed back inside. I ignored Parashie, who sat
sulking in the corner, not doing any work whatsoever.
The meeting was over before I made it to the
backroom. Eddy walked out first, his head down and his tail tucked
between his legs, so to speak. The client exited next, hands in his
pockets, head held high. He was attractive, too attractive.
“I will speak with you again soon, Eddy,” he
said in an accent I couldn’t place. Accent whore that I am I loved
Eddy nodded. We all watched him leave, even
Parashie was enamored with his backside. Eddy seemed to come out of
the stupor first, though he speared me with a look and said, “Back
to work, Mizz Scott.”
I hate the way he calls me that, but it’s
better than Kris or some of the derogatory terms the girls have
come up with. I sequestered myself in the backroom, hoping to avoid
Eddy and his women for the rest of the day.
My phone rang as I was finishing up.
Sneezing from the dust I’d managed to inhale, I answered on the
“Hey, Staci,” Pierce Wisely, my longtime
boyfriend of just over five years, said on the other end. His deep
voice was welcome at the end of a day spent in the flower shop and
I couldn’t help but smile.
“Hey, baby. I’m about to leave work
“Are you going to stop and get some drinks
before you head this way?” he asked.
“Yeah. It’s my turn.”
“Could you pick up some steaks too? I’ll
“Just steaks or do you need the seasonings
“Seasonings too.” He listed what he needed,
even though we both knew I wouldn’t remember all of it.
“Pierce, I don’t know that I have enough
money for all of that.”
“Just get what you can. I’ll pay you back
when you get here.”
I agreed and hung up, more ready than ever
to leave. I made sure I’d done what I could for the day then
stepped out to tell Eddy and his ladies good bye. They were all
there, the twins, Dayla the Hawaiian girl, the French actress and
her protégée, and the African Princess. She was a real princess
from what I could tell and I had no idea why she hung out with Eddy
here in Travelers Rest. But she did, they all did, and it was
“Later,” I saluted them all. I pushed my way
through the door and climbed into my car before anyone could say
anything or try to stop me. Next stop Wal Mart, and from there
Pierce, the highlight of my day.
It was as I passed the little girl’s pajamas
that I felt the eyes on me, something I’d grown accustomed to in
the last months. The skin on my arms perked up and my nerves
crawled like they were trying to get away. The spot between my
shoulder blades itched, begging me to turn and see who was there. I
stopped to inspect some bunny footy pajamas and looked at the price
tag while subsequently using my peripheral to see who was behind
me. A tall, lanky man with shaggy dark hair, dressed in loose
fitting, faded jeans and a black polo with brown loafers walked by,
but it wasn’t him. I would know those eyes when I saw them, and
this man’s were insecure. He held himself with confidence, but his
puppy-brown eyes spoke the truth.
Tucking my dark hair behind one ear, more
from habit than from necessity, I continued to the back of the
store where the refrigerators housed what I was looking for; a case
of Michelob Ultra for Pierce and a six pack of Bud Light for
The eyes bore into the back of my skull,
more intense than they’d ever been. I turned to leave with my
booty- the beer, not my butt- and caught the figure of a man as he
disappeared behind the shelves of the next aisle of wine bottles.
All I had time to notice was that he was sexy as hell, and clearly
foreign because Americans don’t dress that well. He smiled, I
smiled, and then he was gone, on his way to get some cream cheese.
Or milk. Or orange juice. Or cookie dough. I hurried to find the
things I remembered from Pierce’s shopping list and headed up front
to the registers. It didn’t take any time at all to find a register
with a line that wasn’t wrapped all the way around the store to
Women’s Underwear. January first tends to be a pretty slow day for
the most part, with everyone at home drunk or hungover. I fished a
wadded fifty out of the back pocket of my jeans, and handed it to
the cashier. She took it, though a bit reluctantly, and started
“Sorry about that,” I said.
“No problem,” she replied. The pink hoop in
her lip bobbed as she spoke and the tone she took said that it was,
indeed, a problem.
I let her ring me up and shoved the receipt
in my front pocket.
The sky was now a threatening grey-black
that I found beautiful. The wind had picked up too, as if it could
actually blow any harder.
That’s stupid. Haven’t you heard of
hurricanes? Tornadoes? Monsoons? Tsunamis?
I switched everything to my left had so I
could fumble for my key with my right, and told myself how stupid I
could be sometimes. Normally, I have my key out by the time I make
it to the car, but distracted by the wind and my own stupidity, I
hadn’t even thought of it until too late. Now, I stood at my car
door like an idiot, trying to get the right key out before the wind
blew me away.
Beer bottles hit the pavement with the
sickening crash of glass and the splash of amber liquid. They
crashed around my feet, soaking my faded yellow Chuck Taylors and
the legs of my skinny jeans
I blinked and looked down. It was like slow
motion. The bottles clanked and shifted and the cardboard bottoms
of the beer cases slowly gave way. I hadn’t even thought to check
them, or maybe the goth girl at the register sabotaged my beer
because of the waded bill. Either way, I was about to lose twenty