Log 001

There was a gorgeous shirtless vampire in Ember's bed. She didn't know he was a vampire yet. But she did know there was a black man sprawled out next to her where a beautiful blonde woman was supposed to be. And she couldn't remember his name.

She knew something was up when she snuggled into the warm body next to her and felt coarse hair where there usually was none. But it wasn't until her hand ran over a sculpted, toned pectoral instead of a nice weighty handful of boob that Ember's eyes shot open in alarm.

Ember's pulse ratcheted up as she reached through the hangover haze for her memories and found them scattered like stray beads. Her breathing evened out as she strung enough of them together to recall the past day.

Bridget dumped her yesterday. By text. After two years together. Ember was completely blindsided. Her relationship with Bridget was the longest one she ever had. They had been talking about moving in with each other and weaving together all the various pieces of their lives. They were going to sign a lease together on a house in a suburb just outside Duluth.

Then an hour before they were due to sign the papers, a text appeared on Ember's phone. I'm sorry Ember. I'm in love with someone else. Goodbye.

Then nothing. Texts and voicemails went unanswered. Emails bounced back saying Ember's address had been blocked. All connections to Bridget on social media vanished. Ember felt like she was a switch in an app that Bridget decided to move from ON to OFF.

Ember had been dumped before. A lot. Aside from her two years with Bridget, her only other longish-term relationship had been two hot summer months with a Puerto Rican named Juan. The rest of her love life was a stream of lackluster dates, ravenous hookups and sultry one-night stands that almost always ended with the "it was fun but..." conversation. Ember was out of practice though. She had forgotten what it was like for her body to function with a blob of gloom in her chest where her heart was supposed to be.

That's why the first thing she did when she got off work was get drunk. Then, once she was numb enough not to feel the black hole floating around inside her ribs, she went to Aerial Pages to soothe herself with a new book.

Apparently, she decided to soothe herself with a guy she met in the poetry section instead.

The man shifted next to her and two coppery eyes blinked open. As he took in the sight of Ember tucked under his arm, he grinned and said, "Good morning."

Then Ember blurted out, "Uh, remind me...did we bang?"

The stranger gave her a tight, devious smirk. "Almost."

"Well that's a shame," she said. "What did we do then?"

The man arched an eyebrow at her. "I didn't think you were that drunk..."

"I wasn't," Ember told him. "But my memory is terrible enough without alcohol. It only takes a couple drinks for me to forget things."

"What do you remember then?" he asked her.

Ember reached for more memories and found one of him in the bookstore, casually flipping through a book called Lake Limericks. The first thing she appreciated about him was the way his locs cascaded down over broad shoulders barely contained in a form-fitting gray t-shirt. He was blocking her way to the science fiction shelves. But she didn't care because she got at least thirty uninterrupted seconds to stare at his fabulous ass before he noticed her.

He offered to read her a poem. Ember's felt heat rise in her cheeks as she remembered her bold, alcohol-charged response. "You can read me any poems you want as long as you do it with your shirt off."

Her face turned as bright red as her hair as she stared at the marvelous bare ebony landscape that was laid out in front of her. This man's muscles were so tight and well-sculpted, Ember was pretty sure she'd break her teeth on them. The dentist bill would be so worth it.

"You offered me a private poetry reading," Ember said as she strung more memories together. "We came back here...and, ugh, is poetry really all we did?"

"Mostly. You lit some candles while I was reciting some Emily Dickinson for you. Clothes were coming off in between verses. You seemed pretty into it. Then I got to the line about flowers and you fell apart."

Mortification surged across Ember like a raging wildfire as she recalled how his words had triggered an uncontrollable cascade of wailing and tears. The line had reminded Ember of how Bridget often tucked flowers into her briefcase in the mornings, and all Ember's emotions about her ex had hit her as though every cargo ship in the Port of Duluth-Superior had rammed into her at once.

What she didn't understand though was why this man was still here. Most men who came to a woman's apartment expecting sex would have noped out as soon as the first tear spilled onto her cheek. Did he really not take advantage of her?

Ember glanced around her bedroom, taking inventory of the available evidence. Scents of sage and citrus hung in the air from her favorite candles. An earmarked book of poems was set out on her dresser next to a discarded belt and a pair of blue jeans. There was a foot-high pile of tissues on the floor next to the bed where she vaguely remembered rambling on about Bridget dumping her as this hunk of a man held the tissue box for her and she filled each one with tear-riddled snot.

The usual signs of drunken hookup sex were also missing. The supply drawer in her nightstand wasn't flung open like it usually would be. There were no discarded condom wrappers. Also, the pinching beneath her breasts told her she was definitely still wearing her underwear. There was no lube between her legs or soreness that would come from being with a man for the first time in years. He could have touched her in other ways, but it seemed like all this guy really did was cuddle her and let her cry on his magnificent chest until she passed out.

Who was this freak?

"You're wondering why I'm still here, aren't you?" the man asked. He turned on his side and propped his head up. A silver chain slid into view with a silver pendant on it. It looked like a snake in the shape of an infinity sign but Ember didn't get a close look at it before the man leaned in, his face hovering just a breath away from hers. He had just a hint of stubble at the base of his chin. He smelled like spices and mint.

Ember propped her own head up, making him back away. His eyes sparkled like he was enjoying the fact that she was bold enough to make him retreat. "Yes. I'm wondering what you were hoping to get out of this. A shot at finishing that poem?"

"Mmmmmmm, yes," he said. "But maybe not that poem since it dredged up so many feelings for you. I could recite another one for you tonight though."

"Maybe I want to hear a poem now," Ember said as heat stirred between her legs. "Why wait?"

"Because I saw the name of the law firm listed on your business cards," the man said. "And it's Wednesday."

"Shit!" Ember scrambled for her phone. She found it stuffed in the pocket of her discarded suit jacket. "Nooooooooo! How is it 8:02 already?"

Her first client meeting wasn't until 9:30 but she had a stack of briefs that needed to be copied and annotated. This strange poetry-loving man might not have murdered her in her sleep. But after she dumped this hot mess of paperwork on them, her firm's paralegals definitely would. She could already see them teaching the case at the local police academy with students marveling over how someone actually succeeded in killing another human being with binder clips and a highlighter pen.

As Ember frantically shoved case files into her briefcase, the shirtless poetry fan left her bed and strolled over to her closet. Ember was too busy sorting through files and trying not to be distracted by just how low his boxers hung on his hips to care when he started flipping through her clothes.

"You should wear these," he said as he brought over a navy blue suit and a sky-blue blouse. "They match your necklace and bring out the blue in your eyes."

"So you do fashion as well as poetry?" Ember said as she fought with the zipper on her briefcase.

"Fashion, no. I'm terrible at sewing. Let's just say I'm a connoisseur of the human form."

The way his eyes slid over her body like silk made Ember long to call in sick. Surely, the firm could go on without her for a day. But she was in enough trouble with her boss Colleen as it was. Ember grabbed the hangers from him and swept into the bathroom. Damn Bridget. If only she had been considerate enough to break up with her on a weekend.

By the time Ember emerged with the suit on, the minimal amount of makeup she could get away with and her blazing red hair tamed into a quick updo, her mystery man was dressed and waiting for her in the living room. He was holding a granola bar in one hand and a bagel slathered with peanut butter in the other.

"I didn't know your preference," he said and Ember nearly melted on the spot. Nothing was hotter to her than someone who made breakfast.

"My hero," she said as she shoved the granola bar into the side pocket of her briefcase then bit into the bagel as she fumbled around for her keys.

All her stuff was together and Ember was ready to dash out when a realization struck her like cold water to the face. Her car was still in the parking garage at work.

"Crap! how did we--?!"

"Relax," the poetry man said, holding up a set of keys. "I'll drive you."

A part of Ember was yelling at her. Call a rideshare you idiot! That was the part of Ember that recalled a harrowing first date with a semi-pro wrestler who took a left turn into oncoming traffic. But that part was quickly overruled by another part that knew Colleen was going to fire her if she was late to one more meeting.

She followed Poetry Man out to a mid-sized SUV parked on the street. The silver car was pretty unremarkable on the outside but the inside was decked out with just about every slick computer gadget a car could have.

"Did you order the whole Internet just for this car?" Ember asked as she buckled in.

"No," Poetry Man said. "One of my associates did."

He hit the push start and techno music blasted them back into their seats. Ember couldn't help smiling as the man swore and frantically jammed buttons until he found the right one to silence the head-pounding bass.

"Sorry about that," he said. "Somebody thinks it's funny to change music settings on me."

"No worries," Ember said. "I didn't have time to make coffee. So that woke me up real good."

There were two things you could always count on to be consistent in Duluth, Minnesota: Frigid winters that could freeze tears to your face and the perpetual maze of road construction that made you cry in the first place. Ember's heart sank when she saw that new lane closures had popped up on the interstate overnight. But Poetry Man just pulled off at an exit said, "Don't worry. I know another way."

"You aren't even going to check the GPS?" Ember asked as dread tingled through her.

"I have a great sense of direction," he said with a wink. "Trust me. I know the roads."

Ember was starting to wonder if she really should trust him. All she knew about this guy was that he loved poetry and looked incredible in boxers. Maybe she should have called that rideshare.

But for the relatively few hours she knew him, Poetry Man hadn't let her down yet. That was definitely more than Ember could say for most men she shared her bed with and some of the women too.

So Ember took a deep breath and ignored all the weird, winding turns he was making so she could focus on frantically sorting through her inbox instead. She tapped off as many messages as she could then called in a favor with the paralegal she was hoping was feeling the least murderous toward her.

By the time Ember hit SEND on the last email, the car pulled up outside the boxy, sand-colored office building that was home to Bradshaw, Cooper and Smeeks. With only fifteen minutes to spare until her first client meeting, Ember slung her heels on and launched herself from the car like a champagne cork shooting out of a bottle.

"Hey! Hey!" Poetry Man called after her. "Don't forget your jacket!"

As she snatched the jacket off the passenger seat and shut the car door, Ember realized something. She spun around and tapped on the window until it rolled down.

"How are we supposed to meet up later?" she asked. "Am I going to have to go back to the bookstore and you send smoke signals?"

The man chuckled and said, "That would get you banned from the store, so how about you just text me? You put my number in your phone last night."

"Oh," Ember said, her cheeks flaring. "Right. I knew that."

"You have a good day at work Ember O'Sharp," he said, his eyes gleaming at her like fresh-cut pennies. "I'll pick a poem that will make your toes curl. Multiple poems if you feel like it."

Oh boy did Ember feel like it. The man winked at her and heat lightning went off in her belly. How the hell was she supposed to get work done today after a promise like that? It wasn't fair.

After he drove off and Ember was scrambling to catch a closing elevator, a jolt of hope struck her. She had his number in her phone! She must have asked him what his name was.

Ember dug her phone out of her pocket and started scrolling through the contacts list. When she found the entry, it took all her self-control not to weep into the screen.

It said Poetry Man.

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