So originally I wrote this as a short story for the GrindHouse challenge back in October. With some great feedback I've decided to make this into it's own book. It has taken me a while to get to this story. If you follow me on facebook then you know why. (wink wink)
But I'm ready to dedicate the time and get this going. I hope you enjoy the read. As always I can't wait for your feedback.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
The city has no pulse tonight. The lights. Where are all of the lights? It’s just darkness everywhere. And on tonight, of all nights, the last thing it needs to be is dark. I gather my trench coat tighter around my body. The Chicago wind still seeps in. It is cold and biting. Nothing can hold it back. I’m almost there; I conclude, staring down the long hollow street. Just a little further.
I’ve been living in the Chicago area all my life. Two years ago I graduated from the School of Art Institute of Chicago, as an architect. Then after calling Arlington Heights home for twenty-five years, I finally decided to leave the nest. I’ve been living downtown and working everyday ever since.
In a short time, I have become the most sought out architect in the Midwest. I have clients all over the country. Just a preliminary consultation with me has a waiting list of a year. All of my clients come to me. Except tonight. Tonight my firm is pimping me out to Garrin Riemelt, a German businessman.
Besides his name, and the fact that his bank account has enough commas in it to give an English teacher an aneurysm; I don’t know anything about him. In my world that’s more than enough. Mr. Riemelt is big game. If I land a contract with him, it will propel me toward my own firm.
It’s a quarter to ten, when I stop in front of the Art Institute of Chicago. I’m just in time. Mom and Dad used to bring me to this museum as a little girl. It’s where I first fell in love with design. I’ve been here to conduct research, to explore, and just to have a quiet moment to myself. I have never come here for a Halloween party. Who in the hell rents out the AIC? Rich, over compensating, German men, that’s who.
My name is shouted, as I make my way into the Indian Art of Americas exhibit. I smile apologetically at a few patrons watching me curiously. By the time I weave my way through the ghouls, witches and other sexy versions of monsters, the redness in my cheeks has died down. I roll my eyes at Jessica and come to a stop in front of her.
“Get your ass over here, girl.”
“Shhh, Jessica. You’re embarrassing yourself. I think I just saw your boss Jean-Paul.”
I glance over my shoulder and meet a pair of angry brown eyes. Yes, her boss is watching us from his conversation circle. Is it possible for the infamous fashion designer to look anymore pissed? I mean his face is just so damn red. I give him a quick nod and shrug. It’s to say that I will try to tame her. But who can tame Jessica? She lives to be the center of attention.
I, on the other hand—I live to blend in. Under normal circumstances, Jessica and I wouldn’t be friends. She is about as extraverted as they come. As for me, I hide inside of my work. What I create is an extension of me. It speaks in ways that I can’t. It’s about as close as anyone gets to knowing the real Nomi Turner.
Jessica and I met when she was dating Ryan, another architect at the firm. After one of their many fights she simply plopped down at my desk and cried about their long list of problems.
Jessica took my silence to mean that I was listening. I really just didn’t know how ask her to not get my tracing paper wet. Since then, I’m Jessica’s quiet and trustworthy friend. She can tell me anything. She knows that I won’t tell anyone. If I’m not talking about my work, I don’t have much to say.
I chuckle and catch Jean-Paul’s eyes again. I decide in that moment to ignore him for the rest of the night. This is a party right? So what if she may have done some pre-gaming before it started? He can’t fire her for having a good time. She isn’t on payroll right now anyway. For her, this isn’t business. Jessica just happened to score tickets to the most talked about party in town.
Everyone is here. Yes, they’re all dressed up in various customs. But I’d recognize the Mayor and his wife anywhere. And I’m pretty sure the giant men dressed as superheroes, play for the Chicago Bulls. Mr. Riemelt has quite the guest list. I’m impressed.
“Get over here, girl.” Jessica throws her arms around me. Without a second thought she effectively ends her conversation with the older stuffy gentleman drooling over her.
“Are all the undead walking around looking this hot?” I tease. “Was slutty nurse out of stock, so you decided to go with half naked zombie?”
“Don’t hate, Nomi.”
Jessica flashes her pearly whites and does a quick spin. She is the only one I know who can make a zombie look like a runway model. Even with fake blood seeping out from the “gash” in her forehead, my friend is hot. Well she is an aspiring fashion designer after all. I guess it’s in her blood.
I laugh and peel my trench coat off. “Oh you thought I was hating? Not even a little bit, Jess.”
I pregamed with a glass of wine before leaving my condo. So I'm in rare form and Jess knows it. I don't fuction at big parties like this well. So the wine, doesn't get me drunk but it at least calms my nerves.
Jessica’s black slanted eyes bulge forward. I’m dressed as a sexy, but very creepy Alice, from Alice in Wonderland. I’m not normally one for Halloween but if I wanted to get Mr. Riemelt’s attention, I needed to sell it. And it’s obvious that Halloween is his thing. So here I am. Mask tightly in place, pretending to be that girl. The outgoing go getter. The standout beauty.
“Wow, you look good. Almost as good as me.” She boasts.
“I am going to get you so messed up tonight, Nomi. You’re going to take at least three of these guys home.”
“Not a chance.” I blush.
We lock arms and mingle around the room. The entire museum is open to us. I hate to admit it, but I love this. Being in the museum at night is secretly one of my dreams. Of course I didn’t want this many people here, but I’ll take what I can get.
It isn’t long before Jessica spots Ryan—I mean the Phantom—in the corner with a fake red headed Poison Ivy. When Jessica sneaks off to be with her on again off again boy toy Ryan, I’m left alone. Three hours have gone by and our gracious host has yet to make an appearance. So, not only is Mr. Riemelt an over compensating ass, he likes to waste people’s time.
I empty my fourth cranberry and vodka and check my work phone. No calls or texts from Mr. Riemelt. Not even an e-mail. Really, men like him make me sick. He has no regard for other people. I’m pissed. Monday morning I’m going to have to report back to my boss Mr. Connors, that I didn’t close the deal. Even though it isn’t my fault, he isn’t going to be happy.
James Connors is jealous of my recent success. He hasn’t admitted it but things have changed between us at the office. He rarely speaks and steers most clients away from me. The only reason I got this client, is because Mr. Riemelt requested me personally. Which makes all of this even more annoying. I shoot Jessica a text message and decide to head home. I want my own architecture firm, but I’m not going stand here all night like an idiot.
Before leaving I make my way to the museum’s lower level. Down there is the Architecture and Design exhibit. It’s my favorite part of the museum. On my lunch break I often come down here to feed my creative mind.
Thankfully I’m alone. No one from the party has ventured this far. With my mini sketch book open, I get lost in the newest exhibition on Zaha Hadid. I admire her work and her contribution to the art world. Many of my latest designs are inspired from her concepts. So I’m at peace here.
Another hour goes by before I realize that the night is getting away from me. When I’m alone, and in my head, I lose all concept of time. If I don’t intend on spending the night in the museum, I should get going.
I pack up my pencils and papers, determined to take a cab home. That’s when I see it. It’s an outline of a man watching me from behind a model building. My supplies crash to the floor. Suddenly sitting in the lower-level of a museum doesn’t feel like the most intelligent idea.
From behind the structure he steps forward. A man testing the height requirement of every door that I’ve ever seen and dressed far better than all the men I know. A jet black suite and a Scarlett red tie. That suit is Armani right? If he doesn’t cut me up into tiny pieces, I’ll have to ask Jessica. She would know.
His rough masculine voice erupts in the quiet space. It’s heavy and thick. “You’re alone.”
I don’t confirm or deny. I am frozen solid. Crap. Why didn’t I take a self-defense class in between some of those art classes? I could run but I’m five feet tall and barely four inches. And I’m a thick girl. I rock a size sixteen better than any size four. But I know my personal limits. I don’t run. Not because I can’t. I just hate running.
“You’re alone.” He repeats.
Is he asking or telling. I can’t tell. “No.”
“No?” he looks around once. The questions me with a look that questions my sanity.
I am alone. So obviously alone and this man knows it. I stand up and strategize a plan, while my fingers shake uncontrollably. My brother would chase me around the museum when we were kids. I know this place better than my own one bedroom apartment. There are two ways out. One will lead me further into the museum the other will take me back to the party. That exit is behind the man in the shadows.
“I meant that I was just leaving.”
I step back as he comes forward. He notices our little dance and stops short of me. A lazy smile cracks his chiseled features.
Again is that a question or statement? His voice is so steady, it’s hard to tell. Because of that, I still don’t know how to answer.
“I apologize, may I start again?” he begins. “Guten Abend, I’m Garrin Riemelt. You are Nomi Turner, ja?”
The write up that I was given contained a picture of a much older man. One who didn’t have such cold, and distant gray eyes. Eyes that were somehow magnetized, chasing my gaze, no matter where I look.
“You’re not who I was expecting. I was told that I would be working for a Gunnar Riemelt.”
“Gunnar is my father. As it seems, you were misinformed. I require your services.”
“Yes. As it seems—,”
“You’re very pretty, Nomi.”
“T-thank you...I think. Mr. Riemelt”
“Ok. Garrin, I’ve been waiting for you for four hours. Whether you hire me or not, I’m counting this as a part of our consultation and charging you for the time.”
“Just like that? No push back?”
“I apologize, Nomi. An unforeseen problem arose. I couldn’t ignore it. It took longer than expected to handle. For the inconvenience, I’ll double your fee. Fair?”
“Um yes. I guess so.”
“Good. Have you been down here long?”
“A little over an hour. This happens to be one of my favorite places. And it’s just nice sometimes…to be alone.”
I pick up my pencils and notes. Garrin hands me a few of my sketches that got loose. I want to rip them from his hands. I’m very sensitive about my work. Especially when people view it prematurely.
Garrin studies a sketch of a building I was working on for downtown. I dreamed of the building a few nights ago. When I woke up, I sketched it from memory. It has harsh lines the dimensions are off. It isn’t a good representation of my normal work.
“You like to be alone then, ja?” he asks.
“Yes. More often than not.” I answer truthfully. “Things are easier when I’m alone.—Wow, that sounds depressing doesn’t it?”
Garrin shifts to one side to allow me to gather my remaining pencils. All of my things have their assigned place. When they aren’t organized it frustrates me. So beneath Garrin’s rock hard stare, I make sure every pencil, ruler and sticky note, is accounted for.
He has been quiet for a long time, when his deep timber echoes throughout the exhibit. I take my sketch book back, which is still open to the sketch from my dream.
“‘My imagination functions much better when I don’t have to speak to people.’” He says to me, from behind stale gray eyes.
“Patricia Highsmith. She was an American novelist. One of my favorites, actually.”
The quote rings true in my mind and heart. I eye him suspiciously for a moment. There is something that strikes me in the way his eyes roam about. It feels like they see something or know something about me. Something that, I don’t even know about myself.
“Mrs. Highsmith and I have something in common, then. When I’m alone I tend to be more creative. I actually prefer my solitude, if I’m being honest. I could go days without speaking to anyone. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work well with society. So, I try…to blend in. Make friends. Go out. Date.”
“And how does that work for you? Do you find that you blend in well?”
Garrin is closer now. He is towering over me with a commanding energy. And he leads with his masculine scent and his intense presence. And those eyes, they are like a stormy night. Fear inducing, and yet, awe inspiring at the same time.
“No. I have friends but they don’t understand me. To be surrounded by family and friends and still feel alone it’s—sad.”
But it is how I feel all the time. Alone and misunderstood. Damaged. I sling my bag over my shoulder and shake my dark thoughts. My mother is always trying to help me be more positive. She is the most optimistic person I know. I don’t think she has ever had a bad day.
When I look at Garrin, his face is stone and totally expressionless. I am boring my new client to death.
“I’m sorry I don’t know why I’m telling you this. I doubt that a man like you has these problems.”
“A man like me?”
“You know. Rich, well educated,…handsome.”
I have know idea why I added that last bit. It must be the glass of wine. surely. Jessica spiked it with something.
“All reasons why I am alone, Nomi. Generally people only want to be around me for one of those three reasons. Occasionally all three. Fortunately, I am not the type of man who finds pleasure in fulfilling social obligations.”
“What do you find pleasure in? I-I mean what do you like?”
Garrin’s gray eyes burn wickedly. His lips curl into a pleasant smile. Something dangerous passes over his hard features. Before I can read it fully, it’s gone.
“I’ve wasted enough of your time. We should be discussing business. You are charging me double by the minute, ja?”
I forgot why I was here. I’m too busy studying the man before me. All of a sudden I feel incredibly stupid dressed up like Alice and he looks like a runway model.
“You throw a Halloween party and don’t dress up?”
Garrin’s laugh is deep and seriously hypnotic. It’s unexpected. I don’t expect him to laugh. Ever. He lowers his head to me. I get another good whiff of his expensive cologne and have to force myself not to swoon.
His cheek brushes mine as his the warmth of his breath teases my ear. “I am under disguise tonight, Nomi.” His tone is not threatening but it isn’t playful either. “I am a killer.”
He draws back and places his index finger to his lips. “Don’t tell anyone. I trust that you can keep my secret.”
Garrin winks quickly. He is joking, playing along with the Halloween theme for the evening. Yet, I can’t ignore the chill that courses through me at his words.
“You don’t look like a killer.” I whisper.
“That’s why I’m so dangerous, little lamb. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. Shall we?”
Garrin holds his open palm to me. I hesitate. Something is off about this guy. He feels dangerous and sexy. Despite those two conflicting emotions I slide my hand into his. When he encloses it, I feel like an animal suddenly caught. I immediately meet his controlling gaze.
“Nomi, you should know that I’m a very peculiar man. I may be difficult.”
“I’ve worked with difficult clients before, Garrin.”
“I’m sure you have. But you have never worked with someone like me. I can guarantee it.”
He’s right. I know it. Garrin tucks my hand into the crook of his elbow. He leads us further into the exhibit, quietly. I can’t keep my eyes off of him. I never watch men this closely, or anyone else for that matter. In fact eye contact has always been difficult for me.
However, Garrin’s overall presences demands attention. I can see nothing else. His movements are relaxed and hypotnizing. Every part of him is pleasantly overwhelming. His touch, his eyes and that wicked smile they draw me in. They muddle my mind. I wonder if this is how all of Dracula’s victims felt before he consumed them. Dazed, overwhelmed and unbelievably horny.
“Do you have any ideas for the new space? Locations for example?”
“Yes, I’ve purchased some residential property in Naperville, Illinois. You will be constructing—,”
“Residential Property? Excuse me, but I am a Commercial Architect. I design buildings and other public structures.”
“I am well aware of your credentials and qualifications, Nomi. The space is below ground and large.”
“Garrin, there are other good residential architects, in the area. I could give you the numbers to a few, right now.”
“What I want is outside the realm of any residential architect.”
This new information peaks my interests. “Really?”
“Yes, Nomi. You are the best in your field. I will have no one else work on this if it isn’t you. What should’ve been included in the portfolio were several forms that require your signature. Including a non-disclosure agreement. You will sign it before any work is to be done. I will pay you upfront and nearly two times the amount your firm offered on your behalf.”
“That’s very generous. But I don’t think I’m what you’re looking for.”
“You’re wrong. You are exactly what I’m looking for. “
I’m flattered that he is so adamant about working with me. Although, I don’t completely understand why. The money I stand to make is more than I could have dreamed. Plus with a recommendation from Garrin I could easily start my own firm. This is crazy but I’m going to do it. It’s one job.
“If you’re sure, then I am happy to be working with you. What is the space exactly?”
His smile is so unexpected, again. It frightens me.
“It is a kill room. A place where I can be me. Where I don’t have to hide. Down there everything that I will ever need will be there. Once you build it, I may never want to leave.”
“That’s a funny way to describe a man cave.”
“Or a funny way to describe a kill room, I am a killer after all.”
He laughs again and holds my hand tightly. I offer a small smile and peer at a design model. I need to look at something else. Anything to keep me from staring at him.
“I have to see the space before I start any concept drawings.”
“Done. What are you doing tomorrow?”
My head snaps up. Tomorrow is Sunday. Even though I don’t have plans, I don’t normally work on Sunday. It’s a creative day off for me.
“I don’t normally work Sundays.”
“This isn’t work, Nomi. I want you for dinner.”
I swallow hard at his words. I’m sure that he isn’t going to have me for dinner. Though, I can’t help the strong visual that I get. Those chilling gray eyes looking up at me from between my thighs. Cumming while running my hands through his short blonde hair. This desire I have beating at my core is strong. I want to give in to him. But I haven’t come this far to mess up my career now.
“You’re a client. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“I’m not a client until Monday. Sunday, I am just a man.”
“Not a killer?”
He winks. “Sundays are my day off too.”
He is so charming, despite the awkwardness of his movements. And he is sexy, maybe because of it all. I’m attracted to him.
“It’s just dinner, Nomi. Just to celebrate our new business venture.”
“Ok, dinner tomorrow.”
“Very good. I’ll have a car pick you up tomorrow, around seven. Goodnight.”
Garrin releases my hand and flips it over. Then he presses a feather light kiss to my knuckles. All the while he watches my reaction. He smiles when I suck in a quick breath.
“Goodnight, Garrin. See you tomorrow.”