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January 01, 2011
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Excerpt from The Werewolf Upstairs by Ashlyn Chase
"Here are your keys, dear. Thanks for coming upstairs to get them. Now don't let your neighbor across the hall scare you."
Roz Wells took the key from Dottie, the apartment manager, and froze. "Scare me? Why would he or she scare me?"
"He's Nathan Nourie." She stepped closer to Roz and whispered, "I call him Nasty Nathan, and I assumed he might scare you because he scares me. I'm told he's harmless, but...oh, well, I don't want to influence your opinion by relating my own harrowing experiences."
"Harrowing?" Oh my freakin' God. "What's wrong with Nathan?"
"That's what I'd like to know. All I can tell you is he works in a morgue and has an odd sense of humor. Downright morbid, if you ask me."
Maybe she's just easily freaked out. "Okay, that doesn't sound so bad."
Dottie folded her arms and humphed. "You haven't met him yet. If I told you everything...but I won't. I wouldn't want to prejudice you."
"No, of course not." Roz rolled her eyes.
"In fact, most of the tenants here may take some getting used to. If I were you, I'd stay away from the women in 3B, too."
"Why? What wrong with them?"
"Well, they seem to have gotten better lately, but they used to scream and holler all the time. Oh, and don't get me started on my neighbor right across the hall here, Konrad Wolfensen, unless you like nudists. But you're on the first floor, so you shouldn't have to see what I've seen. I swear to God, my eyes can never un-see that." Roz wondered if leaving her comfortable apartment in Allston and moving to Boston proper had been a good idea, but she wanted to keep an eye on her best friend Merry, having learned her new husband's secret. She'd confided in her last winter. Merry said she was marrying a shapeshifter, and as crazy as it sounded, Merry was the most down-to-earth and stable person Roz had ever known. There had to be something to it, and Roz needed to know that her best friend in the world hadn't made a horrible mistake.
"Well, thanks for the warning." I think. "Oh! I almost forgot to tell you...you know that I'm Merry's friend, right?"
"Which is why you were standing next to her at her wedding and why you knew her apartment was available before I advertised it. Yes, I remember."
"Please don't tell her I moved in. I want it to be a surprise."
Dottie shrugged. "Suit yourself. She'll be in Florida with my nephew while he's in spring training. You know her husband, star pitcher for the Boston Bullets, is my nephew, right?"
Roz gave her a sardonic smile. "I may have heard about that." Like each time I've heard you talking.
The door across the hall clicked open and a familiar looking, gorgeous blond hunk stepped out of his apartment. A short-sleeved black T-shirt exposed luscious biceps and stretched across massive, taut pectoral muscles. When he turned around to lock his door, Roz noticed his tight butt and hair so long it almost reached his waist.
Don't drool, don't stare, don't drool...
"Oh, hello, Konrad," Dottie said with syrupy sweetness.
"I was just welcoming our new resident." Some welcome.
"This is Rosalyn Wells. Rosalyn, this is Konrad."
I wish I could shed thirty pounds twenty seconds ago. A hottie like him would never be interested in a lump like me.
"Oh, you're Merry's friend." He nodded at the key in her hand. "Are you moving into 1B, her old apartment?"
"Yes, I am." Why, oh why did I wear my oldest, rattiest sweatpants today?
"I remember meeting you at the burger restaurant a few months ago, and then I saw you again when you were Merry's maid of honor. You looked ravishing in that blue dress, by the way."
Roz was taken aback. Oh, no, he isn't gay, is he? Good-looking, sensitive, notices and remembers details; sheesh. It's always the good looking ones. But I'll take a compliment wherever I can get it.
Merry was usually the one who attracted male attention. Roz had never considered herself memorable in the least. Her figure was less than svelte, and her dark brown hair was too straight to hold a style. She usually just swept it back into a bun for work. At least she liked her eyes. They were big and blue, but her eyeglasses hid them. Wearing glasses gave her an authoritative appearance, good for the courtroom, but lousy for dating.
"You remember me?"
"Of course I remember you. Welcome to our humble abode, Rosalyn."
He extended his hand, and she grasped it. His big warm paw held hers in a surprisingly gentle clasp. Some kind of energy passed between them, something she'd never felt when shaking the hand of a colleague.
"Call me Roz."
"I'd hardly call this building humble," Dottie said.
"That chandelier in the foyer must have cost my nephew a fortune."
"That chandelier has been there since my hair was short. Your nephew just bought the building when? Last summer?"
Suddenly the crystals in the chandelier downstairs tinkled and clanged together.
Dottie jammed her hands on her hips. "For God's sake, Chad, haven't you gone into the light yet?" Konrad elbowed Roz's arm. "Chad is our resident ghost."
Dottie rolled her eyes. "Yes, God forbid I leave him out when telling you about the other residents."
"There's a g-ghost haunting the building?" What kind of fresh hell did I just get myself into?
"Yes, but he won't bother you if he likes you," Konrad said. "I didn't even know he was here until the s�ance." Konrad looked at the chandelier. "You leave the new woman alone, all right, Chad? She's a friend of Merry's."
Nice of him to intervene for me, but...The back of Roz's neck prickled. "You held a s�ance?"
"Sure, didn't Merry tell you?"
"No. I think I would have remembered that."
Dottie shook her head. "She was the only resident who couldn't make it, besides my husband. She said she had to work. My husband said he had to keep an eye on the building. I don't know where he thought it was going. Well, I have work to do now, but before I leave you, Roz, you should know that I'm not happy with loud parties or tenants who cause trouble. And I live right above you."
Konrad leaned toward Dottie. "Is that some kind of threat? I don't recall her saying she's a party animal."
Wow, is Konrad this protective of all the tenants, or is it just me? Nah, he and Dottie probably have some kind of history. "Oh, you don't have to worry about me," Roz said quickly. "I live a quiet life." Not by choice...
"Good. We'll get along swell, then." Dottie gave Konrad a dirty look, stepped into her apartment, and closed the door.
"Can I help you move in? I'm pretty strong." He flexed his sizeable muscles.
Holy Christmas! I haven't seen muscles like that in...ever! Whoa, didn't Dottie say he was a nudist? What I wouldn't give to see...but no. Even if he showed me his, I'd never show him mine.
"Weren't you headed somewhere else?" Roz asked.
"No. Would you rather I was?"
She chuckled. "Of course not. I just thought...oh, never mind. It'd be nice to have company while I wait for the movers."