I stole another glance at the man across the front desk in the dimmed light of the entrance hall. I didn’t get many check-ins during the night shift. The Burlington Inn focused on extended stay business travelers. Most of our rooms and small apartments were rented monthly to companies along the Route 128 corridor. Of course, sometimes we had late arrivals, but a guest walking in after midnight was unusual.
The guy’s skin tone was ashen. He looked like he hadn’t shaved for two, maybe three days. Dark shadows hid under his bloodshot eyes and deep lines etched into his face. There was a faint bruise on his left cheek. He’d barely looked at me since he came in. His gaze seemed to focus on a spot on the counter, and his hand kept pushing through his dark hair as if it was the only way to keep his eyes open. I knew the feeling too well, but six hours of sleep earlier today had helped a lot to restore my usual balance. And then, work was my happy place right now, so all was good again.
If I had an overactive imagination, my mind would jump straight to one of those vampire movies Skyler had been so crazy about for a while. They always started with a pale, hunky-looking stranger, all dressed in black. I verified with a quick glance. Oh my God. Dark, washed-out jeans and a black t-shirt stretched tight over his broad chest and shoulders. He was tall, too, at least six feet. If Skyler were here, he would probably be freaking out right now. The guy was total sexy vampire material.
Just that my pale stranger didn’t show up mysteriously and unexpected in the middle of the night—Cole Sawyer had a reservation. Impatiently he tapped his ID on the counter. I tried to shut down my runaway imagination and focused on my job.
“Did you ask for a room on the ground floor, sir?” I asked.
He looked up for the first time. “Huh?”
“Do you have a preference regarding the floor—for your room?”
“No.” His voice was low and all gravelly. “I don’t care which floor, but I prefer windows that can open.”
“All our windows open. That’s not a problem.” I checked the reservation again. Tilda had preselected a room during her shift to expedite the late check-in: Room 124—right next to the elevator. The whole place was more or less empty, but she picked one of the smallest rooms. Tilda was real cheap sometimes. Well, Sawyer was my check-in.
“Tell you what. I’ll give you one of the Executive Suites on the second floor. It’s a small apartment, two rooms, kitchenette, and a balcony with a large screen door. All guestrooms in the back are away from the main road, so it’s nice and quiet. This one faces west and can get a little warm in the afternoon, but there’s a tree in front, so it doesn’t heat up too badly, and you can always open the balcony door. Does that sound okay?” I always babble a little when I’m trying to impress somebody, just until now, I hadn’t realized I was trying to impress him.
“Okay, sure.” He nodded like a man who really didn’t care much.
“It has a King-size bed. More space for—”
Cole Sawyer looked up. His eyes shimmered icy gray.
Shit. I wasn’t even sure myself where I’d been going with that sentence. “You’re tall and…” I was about to say build but caught myself in the last second and ended lamely, “…there’s more space for legs.”
Mission accomplished—I had his full attention now. He slowly raised an eyebrow, and I could practically see him trying to decide if I was drunk or was just missing a few marbles. But then, he grinned, and my heart skipped a beat. Not only did my tall, dark stranger have a sense of humor, he also looked gorgeous with his slightly crooked smile.
“Thanks. I appreciate it,” he said.
Appreciate what? The upgrade. The compliment. My face on fire.
Luckily, I inherited my mom’s Italian complexion. I moved to the other side of the counter to program the keycard for the room. That gave me a minute to recover.
“One or two keys, sir?” I asked.
“One is fine.”
“Okay, this is your keycard. I can really recommend Katie’s Café next door. It’s a nice place. They’ve got a great selection of sweet and savory breakfast pastries. Two coupons for free coffee are included with your stay.” I handed everything over and after quick directions to his room, Sawyer strode down the hall. I checked out his broad shoulders and nice ass when he waited in front of the elevator. Why not? This was probably the last I would ever see of him. I worked at the hotel from eleven to five thirty in the morning, not really a good time to socialize with any of the guests.