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KISSING WITH FANGS
Kissing with Fangs
By Ashlyn Chase
ISBN: 978-1402275753
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Release date: March 2014

 



Scene 1

Anthony closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose in front of the burnt-out wreck that used to be his bar, Boston Uncommon. Even in the darkness he could see the destruction too well. His dear "aunt" Sadie rested her hand on his shoulder. Neither spoke for a few reverent moments.

At last, Sadie said, "I know it's bad, but at least no one died . . . per se."

Anthony slowly opened his eyes and stared at her. "Per se?"

His only living relative pursed her lips. "I don't know if I should tell you this."

Anthony sighed. "You have my attention now. Tell me whatever it is, whether you think I ought to know or not."

"It's Claudia. She's in trouble."

Now his psychic aunt really had Anthony's attention.

Claudia had been on his mind too, but not because he thought anything was wrong with his beautiful, stylish bar manager. He assumed a smart woman like Claudia would find another job in a snap—and he would miss her terribly.

He'd trusted her completely with his business, and not just because she had an MBA. She was always there during the daylight hours when he couldn't be. He missed her cheery smile and their private conversations in his office, and if he were honest, he'd admit to missing her more than his lost income.

She'd never know that, though. He had to hide every emotion he had toward Claudia from his psycho ex-girlfriend, Ruxandra, for Claudia's safety.

"Come to think of it, she hasn't called to ask for a reference. What's wrong?" he asked.

"I'm not sure. I get the sense she's in emotional turmoil. It's more than an unhappy feeling I'm picking up. Possibly, she's very depressed—or worse. Call her."

Anthony dug his cell phone out of his suit jacket pocket. As he pushed the number 1 on his speed dial, he realized again how important she had been to him. If she was depressed, he needed to give her more than a phone call.

It rang a few times before she picked up. Her garbled hello alarmed him.

"Claudia?"

"Who wans to know?"

"It's Anthony. Are you all right?"

After a long pause, he repeated the question.

"I'm jus' fine an' dandy."

"You sound drunk."

She snorted. "So? I'm over twenty-one. I'm in my own 'partment. Don't I have the right to drown my sorrows?"

He gentled his voice. "What sorrows, Claudia? What's happening?"

She laughed. "I los' my job. I thought you knew that. You were my boss."

It had to be more than that. "Claudia, I'm coming over."

"No! I mean, please don't. I'll be fine."

"I'm on my way." He hung up and dropped his phone back into his jacket pocket.

He touched Sadie's arm. "Thank you for telling me."

"Call me later and let me know how fucked up she is."

Anthony raised his eyebrows.

She raised hers right back at him. "You can't be shocked at my language. You've heard it before. Listen, I wouldn't have had a vision if all was well. Oh, and be sure to tell her I'm thinking of her."

He nodded and jogged around the corner to a deserted side street before he took off at top speed. After all, he couldn't let the constant crowds on Charles Street see him virtually disappear. They weren't supposed to know vampires existed—along with dragons, werewolves, and any other number of supernaturals. Boston Uncommon had been a safe haven for all of them. Anthony couldn't help wondering where they'd all go now.

He had Claudia's address memorized. Even though he had never been to her high-rise apartment overlooking the river, the big sign bragged, "If you lived here, you'd be home by now." It took him about two seconds to reach it.

A doorman. Shit. If the gentleman opened the door without asking him to come in, it didn't count as an invitation into someone else's home. Without it, he couldn't get in. So, Anthony tried for a little small talk.

"Nice evening."

"Yes, sir." As predicted, the man opened the door but didn't invite him in.

Anthony spotted the concierge behind the desk inside. "Uh, I don't live here, but I'd like to see someone who does. What should I do?"

"Speak to the concierge inside."

That sounded like it might be an invitation. Better to be sure. "So, I should go in?"

The gentleman's brow wrinkled. "Yes, sir."

"Thank you." That was a trifle awkward, but it did the trick.

The concierge offered him a welcoming smile but when asked to notify Claudia Fletcher that she had a visitor, he gave Anthony the unexpected news that she had moved out.

"Where is she now?"

The concierge looked uncomfortable and said, "I'm not at liberty to give anyone that information."

Anthony leaned in until he held the other man's gaze. "If you have the information I just asked for, you will give it to me, and you won't remember divulging it."

"Yes, sir." In slow motion, the gentleman reached under the desk and drew out an old-fashioned index-card box. He thumbed through the alphabetical tabs until he located Fletcher, Claudia, and offered the card to Anthony.

A Cambridge address in Claudia's handwriting occupied the space for forwarding mail. At the bottom she'd scrawled, "If I continued to live here, I'd be homeless by now."

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