My Sweet Demise - Shana Vanterpool

Chapter One

The ad has the wrong apartment number.

It’s one more wrong thing at the end of a long day. The sun is setting behind the apartment buildings as I approach, giving the seedy crowd of the neighborhood permission to leave their caves. A group of men wearing all black creep past me, leering through their dark hoods. I quicken my pace, attempting to not appear rude while still keeping a safe distance. I usually do my best to be nice; there are already plenty of people in this world who don’t. Right now, however, I’d channel my sister Becca and, as she so often puts it, kick some monkey ass if anyone messed with me.

I am wound up and hungry, and this heat is exhausting. It clings to the air like steam, sticking to me everywhere it touches. Summer refuses to release Florida from its clutches, squeezing every ounce of heat from it that it can.

I am hoping this next room wasn’t full of creeps and their sleaze. If it is I don’t have another option. As of this morning I’m homeless. I’ve been out all afternoon checking up on ads I found online. Each room progressively worsened. One belonged to a middle-aged man with a horde of cats. The cats had their own room and I would’ve been stuck on the fur-covered couch for an obscene amount of money. My waitressing position at Oblivion, a bar in downtown Jacksonville, only allots a minimum amount plus tips—and tips aren’t always reliable. I tend to focus on the reliable things in life. If it isn’t set in stone I consider it unattainable. Still, after nothing but disappointment, it would be nice if this room worked out. It’s within my budget and only a fifteen-minute drive to work. I don’t require much else. Perhaps I should, but it feels like asking for more than the bare necessities in life will only end with me being let down.

I blow a breath out in irritation and take the stairs, pushing my hair out of my face. It’s disgustingly hot out. My tank top is sticking to the small of my back and my shorts chafe against my thighs. I want a shower and a cold glass of something wet.

As I search for apartment fourteen—instead of one-one-four like the ad had specified, which got me a confused mother of four after knocking on her door—I start to let my despondent outlook take over. This room is going to be as bad as the last one. I’m going to be homeless. I curse my ex-roommate, the bubbly wannabe sorority sister, Camden, for finding me unfit. That was her description. So I don’t have a lot of money, Daddy isn’t paying my rent, and I don’t sleep with frat boys in the hopes they’ll assist my social status. I’m not unfit. After a huge blow-out this morning, upon my return from letting off some steam, I found all of my stuff out on the front lawn. I packed what I could fit into my car and would have to return for the rest as soon as I found a way.

Suddenly apartment fourteen looms over me.

I take a deep breath and knock tentatively.

Before the occupants answer I stand back, leaving me enough room between them and the stairs. After this morning I can’t be too careful.

Finally the lock sounds and light spills out of the open door. I examine the person on the other side of the threshold fearfully. He looks around my age, normal…and hot. I frown at him. Where are the cats? Where are the weird smells and that creepy I’ve got bodies older than you in my basement look the last guy gave me? I peek around him and spot a relatively decent-looking apartment. No fur, no plastic tarps, and his serial killer’s outfit must be at the drycleaners.

After establishing that my life isn’t in immediate danger, I examine him. After all, looks can be deceiving. Beneath his mussed light blond hair may be a man who is far more dangerous than one and his cats. He isn’t wearing a shirt. Considering this heat, I don’t blame him. His black jeans elongate his lean legs, emphasizing his height. I start at his toes for some reason, long, pale toes, and work my way up, noticing how his jeans hang off his narrow hips and how those hips lead up to a set of perfectly taut muscled abs set within the most delicious V’s I’ve ever seen.