Authors: Mimi Strong
Tori, a recent college graduate, is battling unemployment with odd jobs. Nothing's quite as odd as hiking up to a secluded cabin to work for a mysterious writer. Tori accepts the typist contract through a temp agency, and has no idea who the client is. The man who opens the door is Smith Wittingham, a self-made billionaire who started in biotech and is now trying his hand at bestselling novels. He's divorced, eccentric, and dead sexy. The contract is for two weeks.
Novelette of 13,900 words, or 56 book pages long.
Erotic, some rough sex and roleplaying. M/F, for adults, 18+ only.
1: One Hairy Beast and One Sexist Beast
The temp agency was tight-lipped about the typing assignment. Stranger yet, they sent me for a full medical before they booked the contract.
I'd never been to Vermont, and I'd never worked as a typist for someone writing a novel, so I was curious. Being new to the work force and just out of college, what did I know?
Most importantly, I needed the money for rent, and the job paid well. Suspiciously well.
It was a pretty day in July when the cab driver let me out at the edge of the woods. The Vermont trees smelled different from the city. Fresh. Suspiciously fresh.
I pulled on my backpack, heavy with two weeks' worth of clothes and toiletries, and stepped boldly into the woods. As per the instructions I'd been given, I followed the trail that led up the mountainside to the secluded cabin that was my destination. The lush forest on either side of the trail was fresh and magical, with ferns of all sizes on the ground, and tall coniferous trees mixed in with sugar maple and paper birch trees. Everything was emerald green in the summer sun, but I could imagine the spectacular warm colors that would appear in the fall. The air was cool and moist, like rain was on the menu but not a guarantee.
After an hour of hiking and a bunch of mosquito bites, the forest lost its magic. My legs quivered, and I was reevaluating the items I'd packed. Did I really need hairspray?
The bottle did weigh half a pound.
I stopped and sat on a stump, rifling through my things. Why were my blue jeans so heavy? Something rustled and snapped in the old-growth forest behind me. It was not the sound of a person sneaking up on me and stepping on a twig by accident. Rather, it was the sound of a large beast who didn't care if a puny human detected it.
I froze, my breath squeezing in and out of my lungs through a constricted throat. The forest-crunching sound was coming closer. My nostrils wide, I could smell the beast—a musky, rotten smell. Slowly, slowly, I turned my head, and found myself face to face with an enormous, hairy creature.
In retrospect, it was foolish of me to think that a moose, a chewer of grasses and leaves, would want to eat me. However, I looked into those black eyes, embedded in that shaggy, block of a head, and I promptly lost my mind.
My legs, no longer tired, sprung into action, and I took off at a full-on sprint, up the trail. I'd nearly made it to the cabin, so the run was only five minutes, tops, but for the previous few months, the only cardio exercise I'd had was strolling to and from the cafeteria between classes and study sessions.
I flew up the three steps to the door of the cabin and banged on it like a madwoman. The door opened, and I nearly knocked over the man in my rush to get inside.
The cabin interior was dark, compared to the sunny outdoors, and I couldn't see his face.
The man spoke, his voice deep and calm, with a neutral American accent, possibly a West Coast transplant. He said, “I presume you're the one the agency sent? Tori, is it?”
“Unusual name. But I like unusual. I'm just making some grilled cheese sandwiches. Would you like one, Moose?”
I caught my breath and with it, my thoughts. “I'm Tori, but I saw a moose out there. On the trail. Scared my pants off.”
He took a long, appraising look down my body. “Nope.”
We were in a mudroom, a vestibule with rubber boots and plenty of hooks for jackets. The man turned and walked through the interior door, toward the scent of grilling bread.
I followed, bumping into the door frame because my backpack was still slung over one shoulder.
I smacked myself on the forehead for having terrible survival instincts. If I'd actually been in danger, say if the moose had been a
flesh-consuming zombie moose
, those seconds I spent picking up my backpack and letting it slow me down could have cost me my life.
I kicked off my dirty sneakers and dropped the backpack, then got a good look at the place. The interior was larger and more sumptuous than I'd expected. An enormous chandelier made of antlers and a thousand tiny lights hung from a vaulted ceiling, lighting the spacious open-plan interior. To my left, a wood-burning fireplace that was large enough to walk into dominated one wall, with three good-sized sofas placed around the hearth, as well as chairs and wood side tables. To my right was a long dining table with a dozen tall-backed leather chairs, and beyond that was my dream kitchen.
My apartment kitchen, the one I'd had a hurried piece of toast at that morning, featured about six inches of working counter space, between the stove and refrigerator. This so-called “cabin” had a kitchen that could service a neighborhood restaurant.
The man buttering two slices of bread for a grilled cheese sandwich was not at all the type of boss I was expecting. I figured this mysterious novelist would be chubby, bald, and hunched—hobbit-like. Before I left home for the assignment, my mother and I had joked about me pushing a dresser in front of the door while I was sleeping at night, alone in the woods with some neckbeard goober.
A thought came to me, sharp and clear, like a voice in my head:
He's the one who'd better barricade
room at night!
He had light hair, the kind of ash blond that hid gray hairs, and it was just long enough that it feathered at his temples. His hair was thick and his hairline came down low on his forehead, into a small widow's peak. His jaw was wide and square with a crease in his chin—the kind of handsome bone structure it would be a shame to hide under any more than a few days' stubble. His eyes were not the gray-blue you'd expect with his fair coloring, but a golden brown.
Did I know him? His face was familiar, as though he resembled a well-known actor, though I couldn't think of which one for the life of me.
He looked up from the grilling sandwich and smirked, seemingly aware I'd been checking him out. Being an author, he was probably good at observing people, plus he had life experience points on me. The crinkles around his eyes and the lines on his forehead would make him about forty or so. It was hard for me to guess his age, as I'd been hanging out with nobody but college students the last four years.
I wondered if all that life experience made him a better lover. We were to be working closely together for two weeks. I'd dismissed the idea of fraternizing with my boss, but now that I saw him, everything changed. He had no ring on his finger.
He was still looking at me, and smiling. Could he read my mind? I felt dirty and guilty, my cheeks growing hot as I blushed.
He flipped the sandwich, spanked it with the spatula, and said, “How fast are you?”
He nodded down at my hands, which I was wringing together nervously. “As a typist. How fast do you type?”
I spread out my fingers wide and stared at my hands, my prized tools. “One hundred words a minute, though my accuracy's better at about ninety.”
He quirked up one eyebrow. “Sometimes a slow hand's good. Sometimes hard and fast is the way to go. Or a mix.”
I held back my response for a second to think. The man was a bestselling novelist, who worked with words for a living. His double entendre was not an accident, not at all.
Oh, but I could give as good as I got. There was a reason my girlfriends got me to write their flirty emails and text messages for them, and why my nickname was
Tori the Torrid
I took a deep breath, leaned up against the counter so my cleavage showed at the top of my blouse, and said, “Some people would swear I'm ambidextrous. That's how good these hands of mine are.”
He mouthed the word
and spanked the grilled cheese sandwich a few more times.
I said, “Thanks for making lunch. I am ravenous. That hike and my oh-so-awkward meeting with the moose worked up my appetite.”
He chuckled as he put the sandwiches on plates and led me over to the long dining table. After setting the plates down, he reached his right hand out to shake mine.
“Nice to meet you, I'm Smith Wittingham.”
His hand was hot and firm, his eye contact unwavering. Those gold-brown eyes had a ring of green around the pupil.
“Smith?” I took my seat directly across from him. “I wonder if I've read any of your books. What's your most popular one? I've mostly been into textbooks the last four years, not a lot of time for fiction.”
“That's too bad.” There was a bowl of mixed greens on the table and he served us both some salad instead of answering my question.
He was so familiar, from his looks to his name.
A bird outside flew past one of the windows, and he turned to look. As I saw him in semi-profile, everything clicked into place. That was the pose he used in his author photo, and I
read his books.
As he turned back, he raised his eyebrows, his forehead furrowing.
“Everything okay?” he asked. “That was just a bird, not the killer moose coming back to finish you off.”
Of course. His mocking tone. His I'm-so-wonderful attitude.
He was Smith
Wittingham, author of the
detective series. He'd actually named the main character after himself, boldly owning up to the fact his character was his own disgusting fictional avatar. Smith Dunham bedded one or more ladies in every novel, sometimes at the same time. He made
look monogamous. And people loved the books, of course.
My own mother read them and swooned over fictional Smith Dunham, discussing with her girlfriends what actor might play the detective if and when they made the inevitable movie or TV series.
read Smith Fucking Wittingham's books—while sitting on the toilet at my mother's house. The bathroom was where his books belonged.
And now I was stuck in the woods with him? For two weeks? The generous paycheck didn't seem at all adequate anymore.
“Moose do kill people,” he said casually. “In Alaska, some say moose kill more people than bears. The death toll includes vehicle accidents, but a few deaths are by trampling.” He paused, staring contemplatively at the antler chandelier above us. “What a novel way to kill someone and make it appear to be an accident. You wouldn't want to leave it to chance, of course, but find some implement that matches the hooves … perhaps through a taxidermist.”
“Oh, no,” I said.
“No? Oh, of course not. Then the taxidermist would know, and you can't have a perfect crime if someone knows. Good point. The killer would have to kill the moose as well.”