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CUDDLY
A Story for a Dark Night
By Dee Lloyd

The minute Sam left the shelter of the parking garage, the biting North wind hit him full in the face. He shoved up the back of his collar and shrugged a little deeper into his leather jacket to try to keep the chill drizzle from dripping down the back of his neck. It didn’t work.

Lord! He was tired. Tuesday nights were usually slow in Emergency at Memorial. But, for some reason, tonight all the crazies had come out. The grand finale had come when one gang of kids got their hands on some automatic weapons and decided to eliminate as many of their rivals as possible. For the last four hours, Sam had tried to piece the torn bodies of half a dozen twelve-year-olds back together. Not all of them had made it.

He was so sick of the smell of blood… and of failure. He needed company. Yes, cheerful, uncomplicated company and a stiff drink. By this time of night, there should be a lot of relaxed cheer at The Embers. If he was lucky, there might even be a friendly woman. Wouldn’t he love to finish up this depressing night with a good-looking blonde cuddled up to him!

That hope kept him striding through the black night. His boots skidded a little on wet asphalt and slippery leaves that glistened in the red light from the Embers’ Sign.

A big red banner reading "GRAND OPENING! Under New Management," hung over the door. That hadn’t been there when he’d dropped in two or three weeks ago.

Sam didn’t like to think of The Embers changing. He hoped the new owners could maintain the free and easy atmosphere of the bar. But he didn’t slow his pace. He was ready for a good time. Was he ever!

He blamed the damp wind for the shiver that slithered up his spine.

He pushed open the varnished oak door.

The air was wonderfully warm and smelled of good liquor and a blend of expensive perfumes. He always marveled that so many people could be laughing and talking without creating an unpleasant din in this solidly-built old hotel.

Everything looked almost the same. The new lighting fixtures didn’t seem to emit as much light as the old ones but the the place looked much the same. The piped in music was unfamiliar but not unpleasant. Although some of the customers who were relaxing in the old comfortable red velvet wing chairs at the low lounge tables were familiar, Sam was in no mood to make conversation with them. He headed for the relative privacy of a perch on a tall leather stool at the mirrored bar.

He was relieved to note that the new owners had not replaced Dan as bartender. Although he and Dan did not have a particularly friendly relationship, Sam was always glad to see him. Dan caught his eye, reached for a glass from the rack above his head, and waved him down to an isolated seat at the far end of the bar. His bourbon on the rocks was in front of him as soon as he sat down.

"My goodness," a soft voice murmured. "You must come here often."

The smiling blonde who somehow was sitting on the next bar stool sipping a half-finished drink could have come out of his dreams. Her brown eyes were warm and friendly, her nose straight and a little short, and her mouth a bit on the generous side. From what he could see of her body, it was generous, too. In her fuzzy, white sweater, she looked wholesome and sexy as hell.

He swallowed hard, then smiled back. "Often enough. But mostly, I get the service because the bartender is my cousin."

She leaned forward. Her angora sweater almost grazed his arm.

"Yes," she murmured, looking deeply into his eyes. "I should have seen the resemblance right away. Dark hair. Dark eyes. Square chin." She smiled that ingenuous smile again. "He’s good-looking, too."

Sam had difficulty pulling his eyes away. This woman was something special.

"Sam Faber," he said, reaching for her hand.

"Hi, Sam. Call me, Cuddly," she replied with a husky little laugh that he found unusually appealing. "Alicia sounds so formal."

Now if that wasn’t an invitation, what was? And she hadn’t taken her hand back either.

"I’d love to, Cuddly." He began to make lazy circles on the back of her hand with his thumb. "Can I buy you a drink?"

The heat generated by the friction of his thumb on her hand was becoming almost uncomfortable. And an electric charge was carrying it deep down into his body. He’d never really believed the reports he’d heard about unusually strong reactions of body chemistry between a man and a woman. Could they be true? He had come here looking for a warm woman but this attraction he was feeling for Cuddly was stronger than he was prepared to deal with.

He took a deep breath and told himself to relax. He deserved to let go after the trauma of the shift he had put in. As the background music of violins swelled and filled his mind, he felt the stress drain out of him.

Cuddly’s warm brown eyes grew hotter and darker. Sam felt himself being drawn into their depths.

"I’m staying here at the hotel. Why don’t we have our drink in my room?" Her husky voice seemed to come from a great distance.

Sam did not answer. Cuddly threw some bills on the bar, took his hand and led him out the door that led to the hotel lobby.

Minutes later, he found himself half-sitting, half-lying on a quilted, purple satin chaise lounge. Cuddly’s whole suite from what he could see was a symphony of purple and ivory satin. Sam was aware that his denim and leather were totally out of place. That hardly seemed to matter because he had his leather-clad arms full of soft and affectionate woman.

Cuddly moaned softly as she pressed open-mouthed kisses along his jawline. She zeroed in on his mouth. Her taste was sweet and tart and intoxicating. Her sharp little teeth nibbled at his lips.

"Let me help you take off your jacket, Sam," Cuddly crooned.

The barrier of the jacket was gone in seconds. His shirt followed. The moment he felt the softness of her breasts and her hardened nipples through the thin layer of her sweater, Sam was lost.

Twinges of common sense told him that he, Sam Faber, should get his ass out of there as fast as he could. There was something wrong… much too easy about this wish fulfillment. But he had never been as quickly frantic to consummate a relationship with a woman. Her voice hypnotized him, her soft body was a powerful magnet that he could not resist. Soon they were both naked and writhing on the large bed that had loomed in the background.

No woman that he had ever been with had wanted him this badly. Cuddly kissed and sucked and bit him. She tantalized him until with one mighty thrust and one deep bite on his neck they reached the goals that they had set themselves.

When Sam awoke some time later, Cuddly was still in his arms. He tried to remember how he had convinced her to let him take her to bed. Almost everything leading up to the moment she had begun to remove his clothes was a blank.

"Hello," she said, with that slightly innocent, mostly knowing smile of hers. "Are you all right?"

"All right?" He beamed the smile of a well-satisfied male. "I couldn’t be better."

She sighed. "No, you couldn’t. You are definitely the best."

Slightly uneasy, he raised himself on one elbow to look down at her. She was truly a wonder… lush and sexy and beautiful. However, he was aware that she was totally in control of whatever would happen with them.

"This isn’t over, is it? I mean we will see each other again?"

"Oh, yes," she said with a little twisted smile. "We will see each other for a long, long time."

There was a long pause.

"Why did you choose me?" He knew she had done all the choosing.

"I couldn’t resist your scent."

The look on her face frightened him. "Scent? I don’t wear any scent."

"The Blood!" she purred.

He touched one of the spots where she had bitten him.

Oh, Lord! What had he done?