Excerpt from THE FABULIST by Dawn L. Chiletz
As I exit the room and make my way to the elevators, I notice Cocoa talking to Hogan. He’s smiling and nodding while her hands move about dramatically. She reaches out and touches his arm and he takes a step closer to her. I glare at them briefly before turning away, shaking my head. I hope he gets in trouble for making passes at the contestants.
I jump on the first elevator that arrives. It’s heading down. Dammit. Oh well. Better than having to stand there and watch the Cocoa and Hogan Show.
The doors reopen back on the dining floor and Hogan and Cocoa step inside. Fantastic. His hand is on the small of her back. I cringe, pursing my lips and moving to the back of the elevator.
“You said six, right?” he asks her.
“Yes, please. Thank you. My room is 625. You wouldn’t happen to know if that’s to the left or the right, would you?”
“I believe it’s to the left.”
“Good to know.”
Could she be any more obvious?
“Courtney, have you met Sam?” He motions to me and she shoots me daggers framed by a half-smile.
“No, I haven’t. Nice to meet you.”
I simply nod. This is the slowest elevator in the universe.
The doors open on six and she steps out. “See you tomorrow?”
“I’ll be there,” he replies with a wink.
“If you’re looking for something to do, you know where to find me.” She blows him a kiss as the doors close.
I clear my throat and lean forward, pushing seven two additional times.
“In a hurry to get away from me?” he asks.
“You have no idea,” I respond, averting my eyes and wrinkling my nose.
“Did I do something to upset you?”
“Not at all. I don’t like elevators.” I need to up my lie game. It’s so weak. I decide to be straightforward. “I’m surprised you didn’t jump all over that.”
“Her,” I say, inclining my head at the door. “She was clearly giving you an invitation.”
He eyes me curiously, then smiles. “Nah. I have something better in mind.”
The door opens on seven, and he places his hand in the path to hold it for me. I move, eager to get away from him. As soon as I step out, he steps out behind me.
“Where are you going?” I ask, pausing to turn and face him.
“I thought we were going to bed. After everything that went down tonight, I think we deserve it, don’t you?”
“Excuse me?” I lurch forward and give him a push on his chest. He’s a little too close for comfort. His chest is hard as a rock. “Um, if you think you have a shot with me, you’re sadly mistaken. I don’t do man-whores. Even if you’d saved me from a burning building, I would never feel I owed you anything, much less sex.”
He licks his lips and raises his eyebrows curiously. “I see. You seem pretty set on that opinion.”
“I will not now or ever go to bed with you. I suggest you march back onto the elevator and see if you can catch up with Cocoa.” I air-walk my fingers toward the elevator and his lips clamp together.
“Cocoa?” He laughs.
“She’s more your type. And for the record, I didn’t need you flying over to my table with your superhero cape flapping behind you. I can take care of myself. I don’t need you or any man to fight my battles for me.”
He widens his stance and plants his feet firmly on the ground. His expression is filled with amusement. If he takes a single step toward me, I may knee him in the balls, show be damned.
“Noted. I guess you have me all figured out, don’t you?”
“Unfortunately, men rarely surprise me.”
He yawns and covers his mouth. “While I find this conversation extremely fascinating, albeit confusing, I have a very early morning tomorrow. I’m exhausted. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to my room, 712 to be exact, to get some rest.”
My eyes bulge. “Your room? I thought you were, well, I mean you said…”
He’s holding back a smile as he strolls to his room, two down from mine. He slides his card in the lock. Holding the door open, he turns back to me. “You have a little something in your teeth right here.” He motions to his bottom lip. “Goodnight, Samantha.”
The door closes behind him and I stand there for several seconds, trying to process what just happened. I am a monumental idiot on a divine scale. I touch my teeth as I slide the key card through the lock. Inside, I rush to the mirror, and sure enough, I have an herb of some kind between two lower teeth. I close my eyes and press my forehead into the wall. I pace the room and decide I’ll never be able to sleep if I don’t make things right. Why does this keep happening with him?
I slowly amble toward his room, then circle back to mine. I wander over to his door again and lift my hand to knock but shuffle away, biting my lip. I have no idea what to say. I never apologize, yet I’ve had to twice with him. I should just forget it and go to bed.
After a few seconds I realize I can’t let it go. I need to get this over with. I rush to the door and pound on it forcefully. He doesn’t answer. I hear no movement. Maybe he went to sleep. I take that as my cue to forget it and mosey my ass back to my room. As I’m about to swipe my key card, his door opens. His hair is wet; he’s attempting to dry it, and he’s wearing the hotel robe.
“Is there something you need?” he asks as he drapes the towel around his neck.
I sigh as I move slowly toward him. “I need to… apologize. I was way out of line.”
He squints. “I imagine you get hit on a lot.”
“Not really. I guess I’m just used to a certain type of guy. I suppose I need to work on not assuming the worst in everyone.”
He leans on the doorframe. “Do you need to talk? Do you want to come in?”
I wave a hand. “No, no, but thank you. I hope you can forgive me for being presumptuous. I promise it will never happen again.”
“There’s nothing to forgive. You’re a breath of fresh air. I’d take twenty unnecessary confrontations with you over one serious flirtation with a woman with less backbone.”
“Thank you for being so generous. Anyway, I promise you I will stop jumping to conclusions.”
“Don’t worry about it. I don’t hold grudges and I wasn’t offended in the least. Just know that I take my job very seriously and would never cross an inappropriate line. I have goals here, just like the rest of you.”
I nod my head. “I totally get that. Well, goodnight then.”
“In the future will you please tell me immediately if I have something in my teeth? Don’t let me go on camera like that.”
“You got it.”
I smile and close the door behind me, leaning the back of my head against it. I will not cross that line ever again. He’s obviously way more professional than I give him credit for. I wish I could say the same for me. The whole time I was speaking to him, I kept wondering if he was naked under that robe and what it would feel like to have a body that hard pressed against mine. Why does he have to be so damn hot? I keep saying I need to avoid him, but the truth is, I’m drawn to him. I can’t help it.