(this is the end of chapter Eight, a piece that I went back and added in. Chapter Nine will appear in its entirety tomorrow.)
The fight with the Fairy hound had destroyed our suite as thoroughly as a hurricane. They moved us to another at the other end of the building. I got the impression that it wasn’t the first time they’d had to clean up a mess of that nature.
“Are there hotels like this all over?” I asked Biggles.
He snorted. “You should get so lucky. No, just a few.”
The new suite was the mirror image of the first image that where the first had had green stripes to accompany the ivory, this one had blue. The art was the same. It was a little eerie after having seen how thoroughly the first suite had been trashed.
I checked my mail. Nothing new except a note from Coraline, asking me to have lunch sometime. I mailed back telling her I was out of town but left it vague as to why. Maybe she’d tell Manley and he would wonder exactly what it was I was doing and what I was up to. More likely, she’d keep her mouth shut and not tell him a thing out of loyalty. That was okay too. He had to be wondering what I’d be doing next.
Nothing from M. If I met with Coraline, I’d stop by her salon, see how she was doing.
I jittered around the suite, still tense from the aftereffects of the fight.
Down in the lobby, as we’d come in through glass corridors, shops had crouched on either side, one seeming to feature nothing but zebra print handbags, the other with a wider range of merchandise. Going down, I found the clerk in the process of locking up, but persuaded her to stay open long enough to grab a sweat suit from their rack, but not long enough to pick through what was available. What I ended up with was a baby blanket blue, trimmed with silver lame lightning bolts.
Still, a workout would calm my nerves.
I’ve traveled a lot on Bureau business and seen my share of hotel layouts. Hotels sometimes hide their exercise rooms as though they were something to be ashamed of. The hotel had squirreled theirs away on the eighth floor. It was an older hotel, and the exercise room had been added as an afterthought, jammed into a room that might have been a windowless guest room or might simply have been a very large closet. Mirror had been applied to one side in order to make it seem bigger and brighter. Jammed into it was an elliptical machine and a set of weights with a bench. It was already occupied by someone, I saw, on the bench with his nicely muscular back to me so I muttered “Sorry” and started to swing the door shut. Maybe I could take a run around the outer circumference of the hotel. Or something. I was still taut with nervous energy, that fierce little coil that winds up during a fight and then takes hours to release all that stored excitement.
But “Wait,” the man on the bench said, turning. “If I stand up, I think you can squeeze by to the elliptical, if you don’t mind the shared space.”
He sniffed, and I thought, “Shifter” but none of my internal bells were going off at his presence. He was no doubt smelling the aftermath of the fight, the sweat and adrenaline and blood, but he’d also be able to smell that it was over, that the threat level had stepped down.
He was exactly my height, with short, curly black hair and inquisitive brown eyes, his skin shaded with a Hispanic heritage, perhaps adulterated a touch with Caucasian somewhere along the line. A handsome man, well groomed even with sweat darkening the armpits of his worn red t-shirt, who carried himself with the assurance that said he knew exactly how goddamn good looking he was and didn’t really care much what you thought about it.
I hesitated, but I needed something to burn off that tension. He took a half step back against the mirror, raising an eyebrow and spreading his hands as though to show he was no threat.
I squeezed past and settled into the elliptical. When I work out, I work out hard, so I thumbed all the settings to their highest and set off, wishing I’d had the forethought to pick up a music player on my shopping spree or else that I’d joined the rest of the world in buying a smart phone. I started slow for a few moments, then pushed myself into it and started going hard and fast, the machine thumping beneath me in satisfying rhythm. I hoped that either there was no one in the room directly below us or that the hotel had incredible sound proofing.
The shifter went back to his own work-out, methodically going through the upper body muscle groups, working them as hard as I was. I hadn’t noticed before that the weights ranged further than any human set, going down to small ones that couldn’t be more than an ounce to hulking hand weights that must have weighed as much as I did. His back was turned again and I could see the muscles flexing, sliding supply under the thin cotton. It sent a flare of heat along my nerves and I licked dry lips.
There’s more than one way to burn off energy after a fight.
He turned, nostrils flaring, and I realized that his senses would be almost as good as telepathy in this case. He surely could smell the surge of arousal working its way up from my belly as I kept the machine working fast and hard.
He grinned. His teeth glinted in the mirror.
“I’m gay, chica,” he said. “But I’ll buy you a drink if you want to tell me the story of why you smell like blood and fairy dust.”
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