Home > Smiley (New Species #13)(3)

Smiley (New Species #13)(3)
Author: Laurann Dohner

He nodded. “It’s beautiful here in Los Angeles. I love the city lights I see from my room. It’s like a different world from where I come from.”

“Do you live at Homeland or Reservation?”

“Homeland.” He drank more of his soda. “I’m here on security detail. I just finished my shift.”

She nodded, deciding to change the subject. “You’re drinking Red Bull and vodka?” She glanced at the glass he held.

He shook his head. “Most of my kind don’t drink alcohol. This is just a soda.”

She’d heard so many rotten things from Carl’s father about New Species but talking to Smiley proved him wrong, so far anyway. It wasn’t a surprise that the pastor was a gasbag. She cleared her throat, trying to think of a topic to talk about.

“Take my advice and just enjoy the city from your room. This neighborhood is nice but I wouldn’t want to venture a few blocks over. The crime rate is horrible.”

One dark eyebrow arched as he peered at her with curiosity.

“That older brother I mentioned is a cop. He made me swear not to leave the hotel after doing a computer check of the area before I arrived. I got a lecture about carjackings, muggings and rape complaints that had been filed. He acted as though I’d take moonlight strolls down alleys or something.” She grinned. “I’m always going to be five years old to him, I swear. I’m hoping that one day he realizes I’m an adult but I’m not holding my breath.”

“He worries about you.”

She completely relaxed. “That’s what big brothers do all the way from New York. He moved there five years ago but Dad mentioned my trip so I got ‘the phone call’. I know he loves me, even though he’s kind of a pain.”

“Thank you for the warning about crime but we aren’t allowed to leave the hotel.”

That surprised her. “Why not?”

“There are a lot of humans who wish us harm or death just because we exist.”

She thought she saw a flash of pain in his attractive brown eyes but hoped he didn’t notice her guilty look. Pastor Gregory and his church were part of the problem. “They are idiots.”

“The hotel has good security so it’s safe for us as long as we stay inside. We also have our own security teams in place but we’re under orders to stick together.”

She glanced around the bar then back at him. “I don’t see any other New Species.”

He hesitated. “The two humans sitting at a table in the far corner are on our task force. They are keeping an eye on me. We travel in teams. I just wanted some alone time.”

“I’m sorry. And here I am chatting away at you. I’ll go.” She started to slide off the barstool to give him privacy.

“Don’t. I didn’t mean that how it sounded. I wanted to get away from them, not you. I’m enjoying our talk.”

Vanni settled back into her seat and drank some tea but couldn’t resist glancing at the far corner. Two big, burly men regarded her from a table. They looked mean and she knew without a doubt they were part of Smiley’s security team. She stared up at him. “I hope they don’t deem me a threat.”

Smiley chuckled. “I’ll deserve some pain if you attack and cause me harm. No offense.”

“None taken.” She laughed. “I know I’m intimidating at five foot three. This flower-print skirt really screams badass, doesn’t it?” She glanced at her lap. “God, I hate this thing.”

“Why are you wearing it?”

Because I was ordered to and thought it was easier to put it on rather than argue with Carl. “I had a dinner to attend earlier and it was appropriate attire.” She didn’t offer more of an explanation, just sipped her tea and tugged at her shirt. She had begun to sweat. “Wow. It’s really hot in here.”

“I was just thinking the same thing. It must be ninety degrees.”

“At least.” She bypassed the straw to take a gulp of her drink, hoping the coolness would help.

Smiley shifted in his seat and peeled off the jacket, revealing a black tank top and tan, muscular arms. She tried not to stare but it was difficult. He was built. His biceps flexed as he twisted enough to drape the jacket over the back of his chair. Somebody works out a lot. She had to admire his broad shoulders too since so much of them showed. They were wide and thick, the kind she saw at her local gym on body builders. He smiled.

“That should help.”

Stop gawking at him before he notices! She forced her gaze away from his body to stare up at his face. “You’re really fit.” Oh my god. I just said that aloud.

“I am Species.” He shrugged. “It’s genetics and I am in Security. What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a chair jockey.”

That eyebrow of his rose again. “What is that?”

“I work in an office sitting at a desk most days. My version of exercise is running back to grab the phone if I left my desk to send off faxes or use the copy machine. I get to deal with a ton of paperwork, for the most part. The technical term for my job is executive secretary but I prefer chair jockey. It sounds more exciting than what it really is.”

“I wish that was my version of exercise. We run miles a day and train all the time.”

“What do you train for? Like with guns and hitting what you aim at?”

“Fighting and yes, we know how to use guns but we want to keep our reflexes at peak levels. Hand-to-hand-combat training is what we mostly do.”

She glanced at his thickly muscled arms and those wide shoulders again. Don’t drool. Smiley was the exact opposite of her fiancé. Carl was a lawyer. The only exercise he got was swinging golf clubs at the country club. He was pasty white, just a few inches taller than she was and they were about the same weight. Smiley had to be well over a hundred pounds heavier and he appeared tall, even sitting. He was very appealing and she definitely noticed. I’d have to be blind not to. Don’t forget you’re engaged.

She gulped more of her tea but not even the icy drink could help her cool down. “Wow. It is really warm in here.” Vanni could feel perspiration trickling down her back and between her breasts. She shifted in her seat, wishing she wasn’t wearing a skirt nearly to her ankles. Her thighs felt damp too, as if they were sweating. “Maybe I should hang out in this bar more often. It’s like a sauna. Who needs exercise?”

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