Stolen Innocence

Book Cover: Stolen Innocence

The paranormal has a way of creeping up on the least prepared. For Faith Luvena it strolls through the doors of the flower shop where she works. The pale gentleman has a dark allure around him that draws her to him and draws out a hidden, lustful animal within her. She decides to follow him into the shadows of the night, and her decision leads her from the highest society to the darkest alleys of the city, and among the undead. Undead that have every intention of making her permanently dead.

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The paranormal has a way of creeping up on you. For me it strolled through the doors of the flower shop I worked at.
The old shop was a few blocks off the downtown business district of the busy metropolis. It was one of those window-front shops with faded lettering over the single, mostly-glass door. The sidewalk outside was cracked and the potholes were large, but the old company kept a brisk business. And we delivered, too. That was a perk I would regret existed.
It was just after sunset on an early winter evening when the door opened. I stood behind the counter at the rear of the small shop area. The vases brimming with flowers on a round table in the center of the room prevented me from having a perfect view of the entrance. On either side of the door were wall-to-wall coverings of roses, carnations, lilies, and dozens of other plants that would make an allergenic miserable.
All I saw of the new customer was a black top hat.

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I leaned to one side to catch sight of the figure and glimpsed a black cloak move to the other side of the table. I frowned and leaned to the other side. I had my first full view of the man, and I didn’t quite know what to think.
His age was about thirty with jet-black hair and pale skin. He was tall, a little over six feet, and carried himself with a confident step. He was dressed like he just walked out of a black and white movie. There was the black dress pants, a dress shirt with coat, and a long, flowing cloak that buttoned at the front. The guy wore a top hat and held a cane with a silver top in his left hand.
His eyes flickered to me without he head turning. He faced me and removed his hat. I blinked at him as he bowed to me. “Good evening. I’ve come for some of these wonderful flowers.”
The vibe I got off the guy was weird. He was a little strange in that old-fashioned getup, but he gave off an unnatural creepiness that made me wary. Usually I got the owner to handle the customers, but I wanted this guy out fast.
I slipped around to the front of the desk, but didn’t approach him any further. “Were you looking for something in particular, sir?” I asked him.
He stepped up to the display against the wall and examined the flowers on either side of him. “I was looking for a very special flower.” His wandering eyes fell on me and a sly smile slipped onto his pale lips. “One that blooms once every century.”
I frowned and shook my head. “I don’t think we have that kind of flower here. Maybe you could come back tomorrow and ask the owner for some numbers.”
The man walked over to me, and I retreated until my back hit the front of the desk. He stopped a half foot from me and his clear blue eyes swept over my face. His lips curled back in a crooked grin that showed off a fine pair of chompers. He leaned towards me. His breath brushed against my cheek. He lowered his voice to a soft, sensual whisper.
“Or perhaps you will do.”
“No way.” I ducked underneath his bent self and scooted around to the other side of the desk. “You go find yourself another shop, mister, because I don’t play that way.”
The man blinked at me for a moment with wide eyes, but his grin soon returned. There was interest in his eyes now, and I regret to say it was all on me.
He chuckled and straightened. “Perhaps you really can help me,” he mused.
My eyebrows crashed down. “I told you we don’t have-”
“What’s going on here?” a voice spoke up.
I inwardly groaned as my short, pudgy employer, Mr. Vorax, waddled through the rear door. He took in the scene and naturally misunderstood it because he turned his angry eyes on me. “Miss Luvena, I have spoken to you before about treating our customers with proper respect.”
“On the contrary, she was treating me with all the respect I deserved,” the stranger spoke up. I looked askance at him, but his attention was on my employer. “I was too forward with her, but I will make it up to both of you.” He turned towards the rose section and nodded at the five sets of a dozen red ones that were left. “I’ll take those.”
My employer perked up and gave the man his widest grin. “Which bouquet, sir?”
“All of them.”
My employer’s eyes widened. “All of them, sir?”
The stranger nodded. “Yes, and I wish to send them to-” I felt a strange tingle in my head, “-Marvin Apartments, apartment sixteen, Gardens Street.”
I started and my eyes widened. That was my address. My employer, not knowing nor caring where I lived, smiled and nodded.
“Very well, sir. My delivery boy has gone home for the evening, but they might be delivered tomorrow evening,” he offered.
“That will do,” the stranger agreed. “I would also like two dozen yellow roses. One dozen to be sent to this address-” he pulled a card from inside his overcoat and handed it to my employer, “-and the other to Park Place Penthouse, suite 30, Park Place Avenue.”
My employer’s mouth dropped open. I couldn’t blame him. The Park Place Penthouse was the swankiest place in the city.
“My goodness, sir! You honor us with such a delivery.”
“You would do me a greater honor if this young woman-” he nodded at me, “-performed the delivery. Let’s say around this same time?”
Vorax raised an eyebrow. “Her, sir? But she’s only an assistant, and I have a very dependable-”
“I would like this woman to make the delivery, or I would like all the deliveries canceled,” the man insisted.
The color drained from my employer’s face. “B-but sir, this is very irregular-”
“I am a very irregular gentleman, sir. If you’ll oblige me this once I’ll pay you very well,” the stranger promised. He pulled out a thick wallet and opened the top.
My employer’s eyes widened as he glimpsed the long line of hundred dollar bills. The denomination bounced through his eyes and broadened his smile.
“My good sir, we can certainly oblige your-well, your request,” my employer assured him.
“Then I will settle my bill tonight and look forward to the deliveries tomorrow,” the stranger agreed.
The money was exchanged, and the cash tendered, reluctantly on the part of my employer, to me. The stranger watched me put the cash in the register with that peculiar smile on his face.
“Could I have the name of such a lovely young woman?” he asked me.
“I’m just another employee in a small shop,” I replied.
My employer glared at me and turned to the stranger. “She’s modest, sir. Her name is Faith Luvena.”
The stranger smiled and bowed to me. “Good evening to you, Miss Luvena. I hope to see you tomorrow.”
“Maybe,” I replied.
I was never so relieved as when that man left. Vorax shut the door behind him, but paused and glanced after the man.
“A limo!” I heard him gasp. He locked the door and turned to me with a shake of his head. “I wish I would’ve marked up those flowers.”
I ignored his greedy ramblings and grabbed my coat off the hanger behind the desk. Vorax’s eyes fell on me and he frowned.
He marched over to me and shook his chubby fist under my nose. “What the hell were you doing? Trying to run me out of business?” he growled.
I leaned away from him and frowned. “He was hitting on me.”
Vorax’s face grew red. “I don’t care if he proposed to you on the spot! You treat the customers like they’re kings!”
“What if it’s a woman?” I teased.
He jabbed a finger in my face and shook with rage. “One more stupid remark like that and you’re out of here!”
I pursed my lips, but lowered my eyes. “Yes, sir.”
“All right. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He marched past me and through the back doorway.
I maturely stuck my tongue out at him and went out through the front. The early-winter evening was dark with a hint of chill in the air. The bare trees along the wide sidewalk swayed in a slight breeze. I wrapped my coat around me and marched down the sidewalk and onward to home.

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