This is a stand alone story, though characters from the first 2 books play a part of this new story. It does have a HEA and no cliffhanger.
Enjoy Damien Fitzgerald and Robert Wyler.
Robert Wyler couldn't think of one thing to say as Damien Fitzgerald walked away with Justin. Nothing. Not one snappy comeback. Not one sardonic syllable. What the hell was wrong with him? Why did this man always affect him this way?
Thankfully, the man would probably be in and out of the hotel before Robert caught sight of him again. The best thing to do was get back to work and let it go. There was only one little thing that was stopping him. Something was wrong. Robert felt it in his gut. And if Robert had a fault, it was this desire to help whenever he saw someone was in a bad place.
Damien Fitzgerald was always a well groomed, sophisticated man. The man Robert crossed words with was anything but. His normally neatly trimmed Van Dyke was in need of care. The meticulous style of clothing was replaced with jeans and a stretched out of shape sweater. Granted the steel blue of the sweater made the paleness of his eyes deepen in intensity. It was the dark circles under those eyes that bothered Robert and the man's thinness. Damien's trim and toned physic was something to admire. He was the total opposite of Robert and his bulky heaviness. But Damien was thin now, he hadn't been eating, and it was plain to see.
Peter passed by Robert loaded down with a try of food headed for the office. He smiled at Robert and nodded toward the door. Robert opened the door but didn't go join the group inside. He overheard Damien arguing with Marcus and Justin trying to calm them both down. Not wanting to intrude Robert closed the door behind Peter and headed down the hall to the lounge. There was work needing to be done.
"Hey, how's it going down there?" Peter's cheerful voice called out as he leaned across the bar in Robert's direction.
"I'm counting stock to gage how much I need to add to the order this week," Robert said as he stood to his feet. "Actually, since traffic has been kind of slow, the order will low this time week."
Peter looked over the order sheet that Robert passed him. Counted to himself and wrote his initials on the bottom of the form.
"I don't think we're going to be very busy the next few weeks. If that weather forecast proves to be true, anyway."
Robert sat two glasses on the bar and filled both with Coke. It was still too early in the day for anything else. Peter picked up his glass and took a drink.
"You mean all that talk about a snow storm headed this way," Robert chuckled as he drank from his glass.
"You don't think it's possible?"
"Of course, anything is possible. But snow here? Come on Peter. Can you remember the last time it snowed in Beaufort?" Robert doubted Peter remembered a snowfall in their home town. He didn't.
"Well, not here this close to the coast, but it's possible in the mountains. That would make driving pretty rough. God, do you remember when Atlanta shut down two years ago because there was an inch of snow on the highway and a little ice."
Robert laughed remembering the local news stations and most of the nation having a laugh at Atlanta and the mess the highways were. Nobody knew how to drive in the stuff and there were accidents everywhere. They eventually chose to close the main roadways because service trucks unable to get stranded vehicles and motorists.
"Let's hope they learned their lesson from the experience. They will be a little better prepared, if it does snow this time."
Robert lifted a basket of clean glasses from the washer. As he dried them and set them on the sideboard behind the bar, his mind drifted back to Damien.
"Did you see Damien?" Peter asked interrupting his thoughts about the man.
"Yeah. We spoke." Robert didn't want to admit that he was curious, but he was.
"Is he okay?"
"I'm not sure what is going on. Marcus didn't say a word while I was in the office. He kept writing in some notebook," Peter sighed. "That means he's on a case. So he must be helping Damien with something. They arrived early this morning. But did you get a look at Damien? I've ever seen him so disheveled."
"I didn't really notice." Robert hoped he sounded convincing.
Peter's stare heated his skin. Robert didn't blush, but he didn't like having anyone contemplate his feelings either. He learned the hard way not to give his trust to another person. It always ended badly.
"Well, I need to get back to work," Peter said as he slipped from the stool he was sitting on. "See you later."
Robert heard Peter's words, but he never looked up. He was trying to regain control of his mind and not let it run to places Robert did not want to visit.
"Hey Peter. How's Sally doing today?"
Robert recognized Krystal Smith's voice as she greeted Peter on her way into the lounge. She was Peter's girlfriend's cousin. She came to work at the hotel shortly after it reopened. Much like Sally, she was an attractive woman with a strong personality and a great smile. Customers loved her.
"Hey, Krystal. She's doing a lot better. The morning sickness seems to be finally coming to an end," Peter laughed. "Now she complains about her clothes not fitting. But don't tell her I said that."
Krystal joined in the laughter and reassured Peter that things would get a lot worse before they got better. This was Sally's first baby. She and Peter were overjoyed. They were planning a summer wedding after the baby came in early May.
"Give her my love," Krystal added as she kissed Peter's cheek.
Peter left and Krystal went to the small office behind the bar to put her things away. She came out tying her apron around her waist. Robert really enjoyed working with Krystal. She quickly became a good friend who easily read his moods like a book. This time he hoped she'd just drop it and not pick up on how he was feeling today. She grabbed a rag and headed out to the tables. Lowering the chairs to the floor, she rubbed the table tops down as she went. Every once in awhile, Robert saw her glance up and observe him. She moved onto the next table and the next. Eventually she finished with the tables and walked to the bar where she sat down on a stool in front of where Robert was working.
"What gives?" She asked.
"I have no idea what you are talking about." Robert said, hoping she'd let it drop, knowing she wouldn't.
"Something is wrong and don't tell me it's nothing. I can see it in the way you are moving."
She stepped down from the bar stool and moved behind the bar where she turned the mini Keurig on and waited for it to heat the water. She drew a pod out of the drawer under the coffee machine, popped it in and hit the blue light to brew the coffee. She brought her cup and sat back down on the bar stool again.
"Okay, I've got my go juice, now talk."
She wasn't going to let go and Robert didn't know how to put into words what he felt.
"Got anything to do with that hot looking guy in Justin's office this morning?"
"How did... never mind. Sometimes I think you are a witch or something." Robert said. He fixed his own cup of coffee then joined her on the other side of the bar.
"Or something." Krystal laughed.
Robert sighed, saying, "The guy in Justin's office is Damien Fitzgerald."
"Wait — the guy you saved when the hotel was blown up?" Her eyebrows shot up, and she stared at Robert.
"Yes. He and I don't see eye to eye on most things. Not even when it came to saving his life." Robert sipped on his coffee smiling as he remembered Damien's reactions that night.
"He's hot." Her smile was knowing.
"He's not my type. Too pretty. Too smart. And too self centered."
" I was wondering, what is your type? I mean I haven't seen you with anyone since I've been working here. It's a simple question."
Robert wondered how she did that? Hit right at the heart of something so easily.
"I don't have a 'type'." Robert offered. "I haven't met anyone in awhile who interests me."
"So what 'interests' you?" She asked, then added, "You're a great guy Robert, you deserve to have someone special in your life."
Robert wasn't sure what to say to that. He wanted someone in his life but he didn't want the kind of attention that men usually paid him. Because he took care of his body and he liked tats didn't mean he wanted to rule over someone. He wanted give and take in a relationship. Most guys looked at him and assumed he would be up for things he wasn't the least bit interested in.
"I don't know what kind of man is my type because I haven't met him yet." He answered honestly.
"Maybe you have but you're letting stereotypes cloud your vision." Krystal offered. "You don't like it when someone makes the wrong assumption about you because you have muscles and tattoos and a gruff exterior. Aren't you doing the same when you say someone is too pretty or self centered? Could be they are protecting themselves too."
Robert had never thought of it like that. He was attracted to Damien. Had been from the beginning but the man's mouth always got in the way. Could he be using sarcasm as a defense? Robert wasn't sure that was it. Mostly, he figured Damien Fitzgerald really was a self centered son of a bitch. That thought made Robert smile.