This is the moment you’ve all been waiting for.  Okay, so maybe I’m overstepping a tad but it is a moment and one out of two ain’t bad.  I mentioned in previous monthly updates that I would “soon” publish an excerpt from my current project.  That time has come.  The book is called Parlor City Paradise and, until now, no one has read a single word of it.  I’m not going to give you the storyline just yet.  All I’ll tell you is that the following excerpt is currently chapter 5 in the manuscript.  It’s a short chapter, and the reader’s first introduction to one of the primary characters.   Spoiler alert–He’s not a real nice guy.

Breathing hard, Andrew Cullen braked to a stop and slid off his sleek Eddie Merckx EMX-525 and removed his helmet and riding gloves.  There wasn’t a cloud visible in the predawn sky but he bypassed the curbside rack and wheeled his bike up the half flight of stairs, through the small, well appointed lobby and into the elevator.  Beautiful day or not, with a price tag north of  four thousand dollars, he wasn’t about to leave his prize possession out on the street.  Checking his gold Rolex, Cullen pressed the button for the seventh floor and leaned back against dark wooden paneling.  He had the elevator and probably the entire building to himself, unless there was a member of the cleaning crew still milling about.  They were generally gone by six.  He tried to time his arrival so he wouldn’t have to see or speak to any of them.  He was aware of the perception that he didn’t want to socialize with blue collar workers.  Really, he just wanted to complete his daily workout without interruption and his time was limited.

Steering the bicycle with one hand, Cullen dug for his keys with the other.  He used one key to unlock the door for Cyber Storm Technologies and a second unlocked his spacious corner office.  He ignored the blinking light on his phone and the neatly stacked message slips Carrie had left in the center of his desk.  He tossed his keys aside, propped his bike against the wall and dropped to the floor where he did a hundred push-ups, a hundred sit-ups and a hundred squat-thrusts.  Dripping sweat, he headed for his private bathroom.  Twenty minutes later, he was showered, shaved, and sitting behind his desk, dressed in a charcoal suit, cranberry shirt, and dark blue pin-striped tie.

“Coffee’s made,” he called when he heard Carrie enter the office.

“Good morning,” she said, sticking her body halfway through the door and bringing a wave of chill air with her.  Her cheeks were flushed and, not for the first time, Cullen fantasized about bending her over the end of his leather sofa.  She wore a long skirt, high boots and a tight-fitting leather coat, all of which serving to accentuate the best ass he’d ever seen.  Her skirt was a deep purple, and he imagined running his hands over and then under the soft fabric.

“You look cold,” he said, shifting in his chair, keenly aware that parts of his own body had gotten noticeably warmer.

“It can’t be more than twenty degrees out there,” Carrie said, rubbing her hands together and then hugging herself.  She glanced at Cullen’s bike.  “I can’t believe you rode this morning.  What is it; ten miles?”

“More like twelve,” he replied, making the conscious effort to look his office assistant in the eye rather than admiring the more interesting parts of her body.  She had a pretty face: big brown eyes, small nose and a heart-shaped mouth, all framed by thick, shoulder-length, curly, dark brown hair.  Her makeup and clothing were always impeccable, but it was her traffic-stopping body that had Cullen drooling into his desk drawer.

“What’s on the agenda today,” he asked, wondering how she’d respond if he asked her to clear his schedule so they could spend the day playing who’s your daddy in the luxury suite at the Holiday Inn.  Cullen had never made any attempt to act on his fantasy, not because she was half his age, not because of the boyfriend she talked about far too often, not even because he had a wife waiting for him at home, but because Carrie Flynn was the daughter of Leo Flynn, of Dwyer, Cartwright and Flynn, a large law firm most known for their constant litigation of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination cases.  Carrie had never given any indication that she might go running to papa if he stepped out of line.  She even flirted from time to time.  Did that mean she was really interested or merely yanking his chain, so to speak?  He didn’t know and wasn’t about to take the chance to find out.

Cullen hadn’t yet hit the Big Five-O but he had the milestone solidly in his sights.  Physically, he was in the best shape of his life.  He knew he looked good too, the bit of gray at his temples serving only to make him look more distinguished, more successful.  Attracting women had never been a problem.  He felt sure he could walk into practically any bar in town and walk out with the most gorgeous available female.  Still, you always want the one you can’t have, and Carrie had been driving him crazy on a daily basis from the moment he’d hired her eighteen months before.  She always dressed professionally leaning towards the conservative but he would have bet a thousand bucks and given five to one odds that she wore a thong.  Sadly, he’d never know.

“You have an eleven thirty lunch meeting with Leonard Price,” she said.

Cullen looked at her blankly and it was a few seconds before he realized Carrie was responding to his question.  “Leonard Price?” he asked, trying to get his mind back on business and out of her hypothetical underwear.

“Prime staffing….”

“Right,” Cullen said.  “The temp service.  And what’s this meeting for?”

“Mr. Price would like to discuss payroll software.  They’ve had some problems and he’s looking to upgrade.”

“Sure,” he said.  “We can do that.  Anything else?”

“I’ll have to double check but I think your afternoon is fairly open.

“Fine,” he said.  “Let’s try to keep it that way.  I may need to head out early today.”

“Sounds good.  Is there anything I can do for you before I get to work?”

Cullen’s eyes involuntarily flicked to the couch.  “Not right now,” he said.  “I’ve still got messages to go through and some other things to follow up on.  I will need your help later.”

“Sure thing,” she said, turning away and leaving him with a far too brief view of exquisite backside and the slightest hint of perfume in the air.

When she’d gone and Cullen could once again think straight, he turned his attention back to the stack of pink message slips.  He had appreciated the diversion, but knew it was just that.  He also knew that fantasizing, harmless as it may be, was not going to solve any of his problems.  For the better part of an hour, he’d gone through his messages one by one, responding to some and putting others aside for later consideration.  When he was done, he had just one message slip left.  It had been on top of the pile when he sat down and he’d immediately reallocated it to the bottom.   Now, it was front and center again and could no longer be ignored.  Cullen had known that particular message would be waiting for him.  That was one of the reasons he’d ridden his bike on such a frigid morning.  He’d hoped the combination of air and exercise would help clear his head.  It hadn’t.  He closed his eyes but could still see the message slip nd knew exactly what it foretold.  He was, by his own estimation, completely fucked.

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