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Copyright © 2019 by Celia Crown
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are from the author's imagination or folklore, legends, and general myths.
The book or any portion of the book may not be reproduced or used under any circumstances, except with the written permission from the author. Public names, movies, televisions, and locales, or any references are used for atmospheric purposes. Any similarities and resemblances to alive or dead people, events, brands, and locales are all complete coincidences.
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by Celia Crown
New city, new apartment, and new neighbor.
A very sizzling hot, grouchy neighbor with an impatient demeanor. He is what he looks like: mean, no-nonsense, and bitter. I run a dessert blog, and I’m all about sugar and sweetness, something he obviously lacks as evident from our first meeting.
In contrast to popular belief, I neither met him as a damsel in distress nor did I knock on his door to ask for some sugar.
I met him in the elevator and thought he was a serial killer.
I had my reasons, and no one can fault me for thinking of this massive hunk of muscles as a bad man, but it turns out he’s the Chief of the Fire Department.
I don’t recommend this type of meeting with anyone.
Though, he seems oddly fixated on me.
Living a life of solitude and a job involving high-risk events, I know how to take care of myself.
I face burning buildings and vicious crashes every day, and nothing makes my blood boil more than seeing a young girl carrying moving boxes by herself in the dark.
She’s a sweet and gorgeous little thing; Anna doesn’t know the effect she has on men, and it makes me wonder about the poison of her addiction leaking into my blood. My body craves for her, and my soul ignites a fire of obsession; I have never felt anything this intense.
All I know is that I want Anna.
When an opportunity drops on my lap, I couldn’t pass it up.
I’m a greedy man, older and much bigger than her; I’m too possessive for this girl who’s so naïve and inexperienced.
That doesn’t mean I’m not embracing that trait.
Baking is my escape.
Eating the fruits of my labor is my safe haven.
However, when those two are threatened, I have the right to be upset.
Moving into a new apartment is tough. The hard work of carrying boxes up to the fifteenth floor takes a toll on my body. Granted, I have the elevator to do most of the work, and I just walk towards the apartment complex with my number on it.
It becomes a pain in the butt when I do it ten times. I didn’t think I would have that much stuff in the previous apartment, but then I didn’t live alone, so my roommate also has her stuff. We decided to move away when our lease was up, and she had a job transfer to another city. I happen to work from home, so it doesn’t matter where I go.
I just need a roommate to split the rent; big cities aren’t cheap to live in, and it’s preposterous that rent can be more than half of my paycheck.
Moving didn’t give me much time to relax. I desperately need to sleep because Leslie and I have been packing into the middle of the night before we went to bed.
She’s a firefighter, so she has more stamina than I do. She didn’t even break a sweat after three trips up and down fifteen floors.
Here I am, lifting up a heavy box of something in my arms and waiting for the elevator. I haven’t seen anyone come in and out of the apartment complex yet. I don’t think I can be nice to anyone right now. I just want to finish this and hibernate for the rest of the week.
The box slips from my fingers due to the lack of friction on my grip; it goes tumbling down and drops right on my foot, and that’s the final nail in the coffin. I yelp in pain; the sharp throbbing from my foot shoots tremors up my spine as I drop down to press on my foot.
My shoes did not absorb any of the impacts, and my foot suffered greatly. Normally, I would be fine, but I’m so tired, and I’m going through the side effects of sugar withdrawal. I haven’t had any sugary treats since the first night Leslie and I started packing.
Speaking of Leslie, she said she would ask someone to come help me since it’s nighttime and her shift is at night.
I don’t know whose idea it was to start moving at night, but then I remember that her previous firehouse shift was in the morning and her last day is also our day of moving.
What a nightmare.
“What are you doing?” a deep, velvety voice growls from behind me.
I sniff loudly and look over my shoulder to see a pair of legs that’s way too thick and way too long to be normal. Who the heck has legs the size of an Amazon tree trunk? Whoever he is, he can go stub his toes on the elevator door.
He can be a decent human being and ask if I’m okay, but his big hand is yanking me up by the elbow without even slight remorse for causing more pain in my foot.
“You’re in the way,” he grunts and bends his back to get the heavy box from the floor.
Good thing it’s not the one with the plates in them or Leslie is going to rip me for being clumsy. She says that a chef cannot be clumsy in the presence of knives, but I always have to correct her that I’m a pastry chef and my knife collection isn’t as extensive as those who work with main courses.
The elevator dings to signal its arrival, and he’s pushing me in. I stumble with pain bursting through my foot, and I spin around with the intention of yelling at him. My voice dies at the unusual structure of his face; the chiseled cheekbones and sharp jawline with facial hair give him a grumpy expression as his eyes are the shades of my death as he glares at me.
His eyes are so dark that they are black under the yellow lights from the elevator.
He’s going to kill me, my mind unhelpfully supplies, and I had to shush that voice from distracting me.
I remember reading about serial killers, and it’s the super attractive ones that everyone needs to be careful of. He may not be as approachable and charming as the ones in the documentaries, but it’s the danger that lurks in his black eyes that makes my foot throb harder in pain.
“What floor,” he barks.
My heart creates a lump in my throat, and I tell him the floor in a choking voice, but then I realize that I just told a serial killer about my safety zone. Also, he’s holding my stuff in his arms, and it’s two boxes. Both of them have my name on it, and at the back of my mind, I remember that I only had one more trip up and down the elevator.
He shortened it with one trip, and the two boxes in his arms are the proof that I will not make it out of the building alive. When getting up to my floor, I have to take the boxes from him, so he doesn’t know which unit Leslie and I live in.
That’s going to be difficult because the elevator is already opening and I still haven’t come up with the solution yet, so I stall as much as I can with excuses.
“I-I can take it from here. Thank you, sir. I have a lion in m
What the heck did I just say?
When I panic, the stupid Anna comes out, and it’s the worst thing I can do. It doesn’t stop me from digging a hole so far that I reach the other side of the earth, maybe I’ll be burnt to a crisp by the earth’s core, but my stupidity is stronger than Captain America’s shield.
Not even Thanos can punch through the defense of idiocy.
I’m on a roll. I might as well keep going.
“He’s really malicious, you’ll get eaten alive, and he’s going to use your left fibula as a toothpick! And, he’s going to use your thoracic vertebrae as a throne!”
Glad to see that my anatomy class is coming in handy at the most inappropriate time, I could have used the knowledge on my final exam and pass with flying colors.
“Don’t be fucking stupid,” he said with the most exacerbated tone I have ever heard.
I feel offended.
“I’m not stupid!” I huff angrily at him, “You’re stupid.”
This is as mature as I can be on caffeinated fuel, but I don’t care right now. If I’m going to die in the hands of this handsomely crass man who can crush my head with his massive hand, then I might as well voice my opinion before I die.
Although very discretely in my head, I don’t want to prolong the inevitable by having him torturing me.
“Are you coming or not?” he snaps impatiently.
My nose itches and I wonder what I did to deserve meeting this angry bear, and he still has my boxes and walking down the hall where my unit is.
The panic in my hammering heart is escalating from the mild dread to full-blown terror. He knows where I live. There is no possible way he knows what apartment I live in, and this is not a fair way to die when I haven’t even made the chocolate chip cookies yet!
He stops at my door, and I yell at him, “Please don’t kill me!”
He looks at me as if I had lost my head or grown another one, but I think the first option is the more viable one because I’m not making sense and two heads mean I have more brain cells to stop this utter disaster.
“Just open this fucking door, and I’ll leave,” he sighs as his muscles ripple when he shifts the boxes in his muscular arms.
I want to nuzzle in them. Wait, no, I don’t. No, I absolutely do not want to bury my face into those burly, strong, inked arms—
“What are you waiting for, a fucking invitation to your own home?” his clipped tone smacks me in the face and my body is moving on autopilot as I juggle out the keys from my pocket.
The key misses the keyhole a couple of times and a woodpecker is hounding its beak at the back of my skull from his heated stare. If I didn’t know any better, he’s trying to light a fire at the top of my head.
I swing the door open with a sigh of relief and turn towards the good Samaritan with an impatient temper. I hold out my hands for him to drop the boxes into my waiting arms. He makes it look like the boxes are filled with feathers, but I know from first-hand experience that one box has a weight of an SUV car.
“Do you want your weak arms to break?” his lips turn down into a frown.
I mentally scoff at that because it’s not possible to frown even deeper than his permanent scowl.
He comes inside my home without being invited, and he’s walking into the living room without one ounce of confusion as to where everything is. He knows the layout of this apartment like the back of his hand, and oh my gosh, I think he’s been inside my apartment.
Serial killer alert!
Abort, abort! I need to get out of here before I become a victim of his crimes.
“Luke,” his voice is too close, and it snaps me out of my thoughts, “Remember it, and I live right next door.”
Well, there goes any big girl act that I have because I just misunderstood this man for a serial killer when he’s doing me a big favor by saving me legwork.
He doesn’t need to know what had been running in my mind. Luke will never know how embarrassing I have been in my own world.
“If I wanted to murder you, I would have done it before we got on the elevator,” he offhandedly mentions as if he just told me the price for the watermelon.
He’s a mind reader. I need to be careful about what I think around him.
“I’m not a mind reader,” he sighs, slipping past me to walk out the door.
My throat makes a strangled noise, it’s not pretty, but it conveys what I’m feeling perfect.
“You’re an open book.”
My fingers twitch beside me as I stiffly make way towards the door to shut it after he leaves. I’m going to bolt the door and put a chair against the doorknob in case he has a key to my unit.
“Lock the door and don’t open it for anyone,” he says with a hand on the edge of my door.
I frown with knotted eyebrows, “Of course I won’t! I know how to live by myself!”
And Leslie, but he doesn’t need to know any more about my living arrangements than he already does. This Luke guy is trying to find more information about me for whatever plan he has cooking up in his head.
He may not be a serial killer, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t dangerous.
“You would open the door for anyone,” he said, voice rumbling darkly as he glares.
It takes everything in me to not shrink under his gaze, “No, I don’t.”
“You didn’t stop me from coming in,” he leans in, his dark scent filters into my lungs and they make a home for a baseline of addiction.
He smells too good.
“You were holding my stuff hostage,” I whisper, peering into his black eyes and my breath comes to a shuddering stop.
“Learn to be wary of others, little girl,” Luke reaches for my face, and I’m expecting a strong lecture with a clench to my face.
He pinches my cheek and pain explodes on my tender skin. I yowl while my hands come flying up this thick wrist. His strength outmatches mine as he takes his time to abuse my cheek as if he has the right to do it; I can’t believe the audacity of this barbaric man.
“Not everyone is nice as me,” he says.
Nice? Nice? This man is not nice. He is a grumpy, old man with a hint of delinquency in him. How dare he uses my cheek as a form of amusement?
I pull his hand away and glare as furiously as I can, but it’s hard to look threatening when he’s more than two of me combined, and anyone who meets him would think he’s a Roman warrior that time traveled into the twenty-first century.
“Make sure you know who it is before you open the door, and don’t make me force you to learn how to be an adult.” He steps back from the door.
“I am an adult,” I hiss like a kitten.
“As if you could have fooled me,” he scoffs.
I open my mouth to retort back to him, but he’s pushing the door in my face and shutting it for me.
“Lock it,” his voice says over the wood.
I grumble under my breath and lock the door handle. My body shouldn’t do what he’s telling me, but it’s my safety that’s at question here, so I simply imagine him as Leslie telling me to lock the door when she goes to work.
“Top lock too.”
I want to yell at him through the door for him to go back to his unit and leave me alone, but that’s a small lie because I want him to stay a bit longer.
I listen to him and bolt the top lock too, and I don’t hear his voice or his footsteps moving away. He’s a giant man, and his footsteps should match his weight, but I can’t judge a book by its cover.
I hold back a squeal of fright as the door handle jiggles. I look down at the silver handle and the shadow of his body under the door that’s illuminated by the hallway lights.
“At least you’re good at following orders.”
What does he think I am, the metaphorical lion in my home?
He’s walking away before I can say anything and seconds later, I hear the door next to mine open and close.
I spin around and stomp towa
I get to work on making a tray of chocolate cookies. The apartment is filled with a scent of fresh sugary heaven that I can’t wait to sink my teeth into.
I am a big fan of desserts and have a sweet tooth. Thus, my profession is the best of both worlds for me. I can bake anything I want and eat it after photographing it for my blog. It’s an easy way to make money when my audience is housewives or baking enthusiasts that want new content every week.
My phone rings under all the boxes in the living room, and I pretend I don’t hear it. It’s probably telemarketers from across the globe since not a soul should be awake at a time like this.
Other than me and the beast next door.
The ringtone stops for a brief second before it starts again. I set the timer for my cookies in the oven and rush towards the boxes. I battle with the bubble wraps from the first truck of deliveries that Leslie and I brought up. We had already started unpacking when she had to go to the fire station for her shift, and I was left to fend for myself against the truckload of boxes.
The driver did not help, but this is what we got when we didn’t want to pay extra for movers to help. It’s too expensive, and I had the time. I sacrificed my tender muscles for money.
“Are you baking?” it’s the first thing Leslie says when I put her on speaker.
“Uh,” I stutter as my mind goes blank.
“Go give them to our neighbor,” she says.
I want to protest because they’re my treats, and they are for my tummy. I don’t want to share them with anyone. I deserve this treat for working my butt off. I’m not a superwoman like her, and she forgets that if I trip, I’ll most likely sprain an ankle.
It’s a miracle that I didn’t break my spine from all the bending I had to do when I picked up the boxes.
“This isn’t a movie, Leslie. We don’t go knock on our neighbor’s door at eleven at night.”
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