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Stuck-Up Big Shot
Author: Sierra Hill

1

 

 

Sutton

 

The loud blare of a fire alarm wakes me from a dead sleep.

Jolting upright in an unfamiliar bed, my senses shift to overdrive from the sound of the nonstop alarm, along with the incessant barking of a dog. All I want to do is bury my head under this pillow and howl.

Speaking of howl, why do I hear a dog?

Flipping off my sleep mask, I stare sleepy-eyed and confused around the room, blinking several times to clear the cobwebs and fog as I slowly return from dreamy disorientation to wide awake panic.

“Oh my God! Blackie. Blackie, where are you?”

That’s right—there is a dog! And he’s not mine. Nor is the comfortable bed or cushy apartment, which is apparently on fire at the moment.

I jump out of the enormous bed, my bare feet landing on the plush carpeting, searching in vain for something to cover myself with. It’s early July in New York City, and I’m wearing only a tank and booty shorts I picked up at TJ Maxx at the end of last summer.

Code words: on sale and cheap.

I see a short robe hanging in the guestroom closet. After yanking it from the hook and draping it over my arm, I scan the floor for some slippers. Geesh, I’m very under-prepared for this type of event in the middle of the night.

Finding a pair of slip-ons, I shove my feet in one at a time as Blackie, the sweet old West Highland terrier I’m dog sitting for the next month—who is ironically all white—comes skittering from around the bed, looking up at me with anxious, petrified brown eyes.

“It’s okay, Blackie. We’ll be fine. But we need to find our way out of here quick.”

I bend down to lift the shaking fluff ball as he whimpers helplessly and trembles in my arms. Soothing him with a stroke of my hand over his fur, I jerk upright. As I do, the soft back of my head connects hard against the corner of the dresser, which has spike-like edges, and I yelp in pain. My hand instinctively touches the area, as I rub away the ache that emanates from the spot.

“Ouch! Damn it, that hurts.”

Holding the little-bigger-than-a-football sized dog in one arm and the robe draped over the other, I slowly regain my balance and begin maneuvering around in the dark hallway toward the front door. Good grief, can tonight get any worse?

When I accepted this dog-sitting job—a month-long, live-in gig in Graham and Soraya Morgan’s Upper West Side home—it seemed like an easy gig. A fire alarm and building evacuation on the second night on duty isn’t what I had anticipated in the slightest.

As I fumble with the security alarm and door locks, I realize I’m not sure where the fire exits are on this floor. Since arriving, I haven’t had time to explore the building much outside of their apartment. I haven’t used an exit other than the artfully-ornate elevator to get to and from this seventh-floor apartment through the main lobby.

Shaking off the concern, I will just follow the other apartment dwellers in search of the exit stairwells. I continue unlatching the locks when a loud knock on the outside of the door scares both me and Blackie. He yips as I let out a startled scream.

“Graham. Soraya. You still in there?” A booming male voice resonates through the wood-paneled door.

I’m not sure who it is, and perhaps under normal circumstances and if I weren’t half asleep, I wouldn’t open it, but considering the situation, I have no choice but to get out of this apartment. And in doing so, I’ll take my chances with the man outside this door.

I quickly punch in the security code to disable the alarm, unlock the final deadbolt, and with my hand poised on the handle, I turn the knob and swing the door open.

The man in the hallway pulls back sharply, taking an uneven step backward when I come into view. His gaze travels over me from head to toe, stopping ever-so-briefly at my breasts, before returning to my face. The bewildered look in his dark midnight blue eyes belies the question of why I’m standing here in front of him and not Graham or Soraya Morgan, who he clearly expected to see.

There is no spark of recognition or inkling of who I am.

I am apparently a complete stranger to him.

But I sure recognize him.

Oh, boy, do I ever.

It’s Miles Thatcher.

My childhood friend, Melodie’s older brother.

The very same man who kissed me in Melodie’s room the day of her funeral seven years ago.

A kiss he seems to have forgotten. And I’m a woman he doesn’t even remember.

Even with this weird and unexpected reunion, my heart strums wildly in my chest and out of control at the sight of Miles in the doorway.

Holy smokes.

Did I hit my head harder than I thought? Because why else would Miles have materialized in front of me out of the blue, as if I’ve just conjured him out of my dreams?

What in the world is he doing here?

Although his appearance doesn’t suggest it, maybe he’s with the fire department sent to rescue me. Like the way he rescued me from that tree so many years earlier.

“Button, how in the hell did you get that far up there?” Miles’s tone is a mixture of amusement, disapproval, and maybe even a little pride, considering the height of which I’ve climbed the big oak tree on the Crispin’s front yard.

I grasp tightly to the limb, afraid to look down, but also not wanting Miles to know I’m a scaredy-cat. He would tease me mercilessly for days, maybe weeks to come. As do boys his age to little girls nearly six years their junior. It’s the way of the world. As a skinny, brace-faced, skinned-knee twelve-year-old, I’m just an invisible pest to the hometown hero, Miles Thatcher.

Everyone in town worships him, as do I, which makes this an impossibly embarrassing predicament to be stuck in a tree while Miles and his sister, Mel, look on from ten feet below.

“Are you stuck up there, Button? Need my help?”

His loud bark breaks through my teenage memories, splintering them to pieces like broken glass. “Who the hell are you?”

 

 

2

 

 

Sutton

 

Blackie chooses this moment to bark, and it draws my attention down to the hysterical white fur ball in my arms. Or maybe I’m the one that’s hysterical. I mean, I’m standing in front of my teenage crush in my summer pajamas as an alarm sounds in an unfamiliar apartment hallway.

Or perhaps it’s just the alarm bells I hear in my own head at the sight of Miles.

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