Tasha Taylor was an average woman with an above-average waistline, but one night all that (except the waistline) changes when she’s attacked in the laundry room. Her savior is a large shadow with glowing golden eyes, and her new enemies are a group of hanky-wearing thugs who want to go through her to get at her hero. Now she has to juggle assassination attempts, crooked cops, the attentions of her reclusive apartment manager, Greg Garrison, and a growing desire for cut meats.
Can she keeper herself alive long enough to find out who saved her? What does the gang really want with her? Will she ever have time to use that Thigh Master?
I learned a lot that night, but mostly how to faint and how hard the basement floor was. I was an office worker by day and a crime-fighting hero by night, or so I wished. I don’t think they made hero costumes in size fifteens, and even if they did I didn’t have any special powers or abilities, anyway. That lonely Friday night found me in my dingy apartment building with a basket of laundry in my arms. I lived on the fourth floor out of five, not counting the basement or roof, and was wandering down the hall to the staircase when a shriek startled the basket out of my hands. Dirty laundry flew everywhere in a multi-colored rainfall of toxic material.
I whipped my head this way and that, and found a familiar door ajar not more than five feet away from me. I rolled my eyes and peeked into the apartment. An elderly woman sat in her comfortable old chair watching the television with the lights off.
She was watching a black-and-white film, and the scene playing on the scream was of a woman screaming and running from a monster that looked like it’d spawned from cardboard and poor set design. “You rang, Miss Peabody?” I called to her over the blaring sounds.
The woman whipped her head up from the television and gave me a toothy grin. “I’m fine, Tasha, just watchin’ one of my favorites.”
“Try to keep your door closed next time,” I lightly scolded her. She was already back to watching the television, so I shut the door and glanced at my clothes strewn about the hall. I bent down, picked them up and followed the trail until I reached a pair of familiar boots. I glanced up and frowned at the tall, broad-shouldered man of thirty-five who lecherously grinned back at me.
“Good evening, Miss Taylor,” he drawled.
I stood straight and noticed a pair of my underwear in his hands. He twirled them around on a finger and I had to keep from shuddering. “Good evening, Cartwright. Mind giving me those back?” I grabbed at them, but he was a lot taller than me and whipped them above my head.
“Don’t I even get a reward for finding them?”
“Thanks?” I suggested.
He frowned. “That isn’t much of a reward. What about a kiss?”
“What about not?” This was a usual dance for us. He’d try to get into my pants, in this instance succeeding all the way to the underwear, and I’d have to tell him off. My salvation came in the form of short, bumbling man of about thirty with thick glasses and slicked-back hair who climbed the stairs behind Cartwright. He was Greg Garrison, the apartment manager.
“Miss Taylor, Mr. Cartwright,” the man pleasantly greeted us. He noticed the underwear in Cartwright’s hand. “Laundry day for you, Mr. Cartwright?”
“Get lost, shrimp,” Cartwright growled.
The nerdy ‘shrimp’ smiled and pushed the bridge of his glasses up his nose. “I’m afraid I know this building better than you, Mr. Cartwright, so I’m not liable to do that. Is that piece of clothing the young lady’s?”
“Yes,” I spoke up.
“Then you’d better give it back, Mr. Cartwright,” the small man demanded.
Cartwright leaned down and menaced Garrison with his ugly looks and breath that could stun a yak at a hundred paces. “And if I don’t?”
The small man held Cartwright’s gaze without flinching. “Then I’m afraid your sink won’t be fixed anytime soon.” Cartwright sneered, but shoved the underwear into the man’s hands and stalked off down the hall to his apartment.
I beamed at my hero. “Thanks for the save, Mr. Garrison. If it weren’t for you half of us would have to form a vigilante group just to keep him at bay.”
“No problem. You just need to put a little leverage on these fellows and they run away with their tails tucked between their legs.”
I pointed at my underwear in his hands. “Speaking of things between legs, could I have those back?”
He followed my pointing and his face took on a nice shade of red. “O-oh, sorry!” He hurriedly handed them over.
“Thanks.” I stuffed the underwear into my basket and smiled at him. “Well, guess I’ll see you later.”
He held out his hand toward me. “Um, maybe we can have a cup of coffee?”
I glanced down at my laundry basket. “Um, right now?”
Garrison sheepishly smiled. “Oh, right, I guess I just forgot about your, um, errand.”
“I meant this late.”
“I always have a cup this late in case I get a phone call from the tenants,” he explained to me.
I looked at my watch and sighed. It was only seven o’clock, plenty of time to have a cup of coffee and clean off the brown stains in the downstairs laundry. “All right, just as long as this doesn’t take too long. I have some radioactive material here that needs to be cleaned to its half-life so I can safely wear it.”
Garrison snorted and led me down the stairs. “Not a bad joke.”
“You mean for a lowly office worker? I’ve seen enough of Miss Peabody’s movies to know my way around nuclear monsters and killer toasters from outer space.”
“She is a unique lady,” he agreed. We passed down the four floors and to the basement. There was a single hall that separated the boiler and laundry rooms on one side from his own apartment on the other. I followed him inside and looked around. This was my first time in his rooms, and I was glad to see it had a modern look with clean floors, a simple but nice kitchen, and an open living room with a dining table. He gestured to one of the table chairs. “Take a seat. How do you like your coffee?”
I slid into the chair. “Hot and strong, if you can.”
He slid into the kitchen. “Definitely. So how was your day? Anything exciting at your office?”
“Not really. Any catastrophes in the apartment building?”
“I averted a disaster with Mrs. Brooks’ clogged toilet and saved the world when Miss Peabody’s television broke.”
“You’re a brave soul risking your life in such perils, especially with how deaf Mrs. Brooks is. I’m surprised you were able to tell her your success,” I teased.
Garrison chuckled. “It’s all in a day’s work for us superhero apartment managers.”
“Is your day always so riveting?”
“The same for me.” He set our cups down on the table and seated himself opposite me. I glanced down at the cup. The contents were a thick sludge of keep-awake-till-you’re-half-dead goodness that was blacker than an unlucky cat. I spooned myself some of the glob and shuddered. “You don’t like it?” he worriedly asked me.
“When you said it’d be strong you weren’t joking,” I squeaked out.
He smirked. “Nope. I pump this stuff into my veins to keep myself going through the day.”
The glop slid off my spoon and plopped back into the cup. “Have you ever had this stuff tested for use as car fuel?”
“I thought about it, but then I realized it would eat clear through the engine block.” I snorted and he seemed to appreciate my humor. “Finally someone who knows a good joke when they see one. I tried something like that on Mrs. Brooks and she nearly bored a hole into my face with her glare.”
“She’s probably the last person to-damn it!” I’d foolishly been playing with fire by stirring my coffee, and some of the organ cleaner spilled out and onto my shirt. I was surprised when it didn’t eat through the cloth, but it did make one ugly brown stain between my breasts.
“Here, let me help you.” He grabbed a towel off the kitchen counter and wiped furiously at the stain.
“Um, Garrison?” I spoke up.
“Stop fondling me.”
Garrison paused and glanced from breast to breast, and a sheepish grin slipped onto his lips. “Oh, he-he, sorry.”
“First take the hand off, then apologize.” He still had his hand and the cloth between my breasts.
“Oh, right.” He whipped his hand behind his back and stepped away from me. “I guess I just got carried away.”
I stood up and grabbed my basket. “Well, I’d better carry myself and my laundry away to the laundry room,” I replied.
“Maybe I’ll see you later?” he pleaded.
I sighed. This guy was really nice, but I just wasn’t looking for another disappointing relationship. “Probably. We live in the same building, remember?”
“Well, um, goodnight.”