Fire and Ash (Immortal Touch) (4 page)

Kelly’s eyes softened sympathetically. “It wasn’t you, Sam. It had nothing to do with you. Men are selfish, insensitive tools. Don’t you know that by now?”

“You’d think I would, wouldn’t you?”

“We’ve all been there. You know that saying, somethin
’ about having to kiss a lot of frogs before meeting a prince or some crap like that? Well, you just gotta pucker up and keep kissing.”

“Oh, I’m not
gonna be doing any kissing for a long time. I can promise you that.”


Hey now - don’t make any rash decisions here.”

“I just…I feel so…” She shook her head and her voice lowered to a
tremulous whisper. “I feel like a defective item that’s been shoved to the back of the shelf because nobody wants it. He did that to me. And I hate him for it.”

Kelly threw an arm around her. “Me too. Let’s go kill him.”

Sami laughed and wiped her eyes with the back of one hand. “Not a bad idea. You know what, I have a better one. How about we go catch a movie tonight? Get the hell out of here for a while.”

“Now you’re talking.” Hearing her roommate’s familiar ringtone,
Kelly frowned. “Speak of the devil, that’s probably
him
again. I wonder what number he’s calling to harass you from this time. He better learn to take a hint or I swear I’ll have your brother bust a cap in his ass.”

Snatching the cell phone out of Sami’s hands,
she snapped into it, “So help me God, if you call
one more time
…oh. Oh, sorry. Um…no, this is her roommate. Hang on just a sec and I’ll get her for you.” She handed the phone back. “My bad. It’s not him.”

“Who is it?” Sami wanted to know.

“I dunno. Someone named Stuart from Vestal Sands.”

~*~*~*~

Asher paused by the glass door before entering the office, appraising the woman with a keen eye. Once again professionally dressed, she was focused attentively on whatever it was that Stuart was saying, smiling politely and responding every once in a while in that oh-so-animated manner that humans and vampires alike reserved for situations which called for the ability to make a good impression. All of it was contrived and everyone knew it but nobody ever admitted it. When you got right down to it, what could those poor saps do anyway? Look their interviewer in the eye and admit they were bored out of their skull, that they’d rather be fishing than listening to this drivel? Hardly.

Although if anyone had ever had the brass to do that, he’d be willing to bet this chick was the one.

He pushed the door open, trying to conceal a smile as he thought to himself,
this should be interesting.

“…won’t be reporting directly to him, though
,” Stuart was saying. “You’ll be…oh, here he is now. Mr. Reid, this is Samara Porter. I’ve just hired her on as our new IT administrator. Samara, Asher Reid.”

She turned to face him then, the gracious smile freezing on her pretty face as she recognized him and he caught the
oh-shit
expression in her golden eyes. It was priceless, more delicious than an aristocrat’s blue blood.

Recovering quickly, she only said, “Very nice to meet you.” To her credit, she was doing one hell of a job keeping her composure.

He took her hand and shook it, allowing a sly smile. “Miss Porter. Haven’t we already met someplace before?”

“No, I don’t believe so.” Her tone was polite if slightly cool. She wasn’t amused by his game.

“So she’s accepted our offer then?” He directed this question to Stuart.

“Yes, she has. She’ll move in over the weekend and be on call
starting Monday.”

“Did you show her around yet?”

“Yes, sir.”

His eyes returned to her. “And the one-bedroom ground floor unit…will it be adequate for your needs? It was my understanding that you have no children, is that correct?”

“It’s just fine, thank you. I’ll be living alone. No children.”

“Excellent. Well, if you need any help moving in just let
Mr. Sedgwick here know. We can arrange for whatever you need. I’m late for a golf tournament, but it was a pleasure meeting you, Miss Porter. We’re glad to have you with us.” He kept his conduct aloof, professional. There was time enough to put this bitch in her place later. No need to scare her off already.

“Thank you.” Her smile seemed genuine.

However, it wasn’t. To the unpracticed eye,
Miss Porter
appeared perfectly calm and collected, the epitome of polished efficiency and competence. But there was an underlying uncertainty there. Oh, she was adept at hiding it, but it was there nonetheless. He was going to have some fun with this one, he could feel it. She was stubborn, a fighter. The idea sent a surge of anticipatory adrenaline through his body.

She thought she’d had the last word when she’d insulted a stranger on the boardwalk.

But nobody defied Asher Reid and escaped unscathed.

~*~*~*~

Sami dropped another armful of clothes in the dresser drawer and looked around the airy bedroom for the hundredth time with a giddy grin. She still couldn’t believe her luck had changed so fast and so freely. An incredible new job, awesome pay and benefits, and free accommodations to boot. In a
beachfront condo
, for crissakes! No matter how many times she pinched herself, she still couldn’t believe this wasn’t all a dream.

She thought she’d blown it when Mr. Reid turned out to be, of all people, a man she’d cursed in a fit of
I-Hate-The-World-And-Everyone-In-It
bitchiness. What a time for her to lose her temper! And he’d recognized her right away. That much was obvious. What completely floored her was the fact that he’d chosen not to bring it up and allowed her to be hired on anyhow. Apparently the man wasn’t easily offended - fortunately for her.

So should she apologize? Or just pretend the incident never happened?

Well, if he wasn’t going to bring it up then neither was she. Least said, soonest mended, that’s what her grandmother used to say.

Her cell phone, set to vibrate, buzzed in her pocket and after confirming Kelly’s number she answered. “Hey, skank
!”

“Hey, tramp! You getting moved into paradise okay?”

“Holy cow, Kelly, I cannot get over this place! It’s un-freaking-believable! There are two pools here plus a gym and I can use them anytime I want…”

“Rub it in.”

“And you oughta see my room! The ocean’s practically at my
back door
- you have got to come visit me, and soon.”

“Oh, I plan to. You owe me. You get a
luxury condo and a highfalutin job on the beach, and I get Marcie goody-goody Derkins for a roommate.”

Sami grimaced. “Is she that bad?”

“Well…she’s not you. But I guess I can deal with her as long as she pays her half of the rent on time. Ugh, I just hate the way she always washes the dishes like,
right after
she eats. It’s so OCD.”

“You do realize that’s normal behavior, right? Not everybody piles their dishes in the sink and lets them sit there until they
look like chia pets.”

“Yeah, I gotta get a dishwasher. Preferably a Brazilian bodybuilder named Fernando
...”


Fernando?


Well, I’m flexible on the name. If you find anyone who meets the description send him my way, okay?”

“Will do.”

“You are so lucky. Hey, you haven’t heard from you-know-who, have you?”

“Nope.
And I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t tell him where I am.”


You know me better than that. Okay, so I have to go, I’m meeting Mom for lunch and she just walked in. Talk to you later.”

“Tell your mom hi for me.”

“Okey dokey. Bye.”

“Bye.”

“Getting settled okay?” The deep masculine voice caused her to jump nearly out of her skin.

Mr. Reid stood casually in her bedroom doorway, but how and when he’d gotten there she hadn’t a clue.

“How did you get in here?”

“Through the door.” He grinned insolently. “I knocked but nobody answered.”

“I didn’t hear anyone knock.”

“I figured.”

“Well. Um…in response to your question, I’m getting settled just fine. Thanks.” Something about the man grated on her nerves. He was too self-confident, too cocky. He was also the perfect specimen of the male ideal, tall and muscular with dark hair and shockingly bright blue eyes. Probably thought he was God’s gift to the female population.

“You’re quite welcome.” He continued to stand in the doorway, not moving. What the
hell did he
want?

“Was there something you needed?”

“Me? No, I don’t need anything.” He leaned against the door frame. “I do have a question for you though, Miss Porter.”

“Oh. Okay
, sure.”

“Do you remember what you said to me the other day on the boardwalk?”

Oh,
balls
. He wasn’t going to let this go after all. Time for some serious damage control if she wanted to salvage her first impression. “Look…I was in a really bad mood that day. So if it’s an apology you’re after, you’ve got it. I’m sorry. I was extremely rude and I apologize. All right?”

“You didn’t answer my question. Do you remember?”
His electric eyes pierced through her.

She might have known this was too good to be true. He was going to fire her before she even had a chance to fill out a W-2 form. “Yeah
…I remember.”

“Tell me what you said.”

“Excuse me?”

“I want to see if you really remember. What was it you said, Miss Porter? Refresh my memory.”

With a sigh, she relented. “I said, ‘Fuck you’.”

“That’s right, you did. So is that still what you want?”

“What?”

“For me to fuck you.”

Jesus, Mary and Joseph…did she just hear what she thought she heard? “I beg your pardon?”

“You
should
beg my pardon. You’ll be begging for a lot more than that.”

This was
n’t going well. Not well at all… “I said I was sorry, Mr. Reid. I don’t know what else you want me to say. Do you want me to leave? Is that it?”

“No, I don’t want you to leave. You signed a contract. You’re not going anywhere. I just wondered why you would say something like that to me. I have to assume it was an invitation. Is that what it was?”

Arrogant son of a bitch! “You know, there’s a name for what you’re doing. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It’s called sexual harassment in the workplace.”

“Are you
working right now?”


Well, no, but…”

“Then chill out. I’m not harassing you. Can’t you tell when someone’s joking?”

“I don’t find any of this funny. I’m here in a professional capacity, Mr. Reid. You better get that through your head right now.”

“Lighten up,
Miss Porter
.”

Why did he say her name so sarcastically, as if the mere use of it was some sort of veiled insult? “If you aren’t here to
terminate me, then I’d appreciate it if you’d leave now. I have unpacking to do.”


Terminate you? On what grounds would I fire you? You haven’t even started yet. I could hardly judge your work performance without observing it first.”

Was he trying to confuse her, or did he really have a sense of humor so
jacked up that he actually thought he was being funny? “I have no idea what to say to you right now.”

“Tell me what you’re called.”

“What I’m called?”

“Yes. Does everyone call you Samara?”

“Sami, mostly.”

“Al
righty, Sami, you can call me Ash.”

“Fine. You can go now

Ash
.”

“Why do you want me to go?”

“Because you’re making me uncomfortable!”

“In what way?”

“Do you want me to make you a list? Look, if  you aren’t here for any work related purpose, then kindly
leave!

“I never mix work with pleasure, Sami.”

“Good to know.”

“Here’s my card. Call me if you need anything.
Work related
, of course.” There was that sarcasm again. She accepted his card grudgingly.

“I’ll do that.” He wasn’t the only one who could be sarcastic.

“I really was just teasing, you know.”

“Okay.”

“I’m in 1608, so if you can’t reach me on the phone and need to…”

“Wait. Hold on. You stay here?” Oh
no.
Please,
no.

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