Emergency Engagement (Love Emergency)

By: Samanthe Beck

Or not. Today’s music selections suggested she and One-for-Three had parted ways. She’d stormed into her apartment last night and proceeded to bang around as if she were rearranging furniture and digging through closets. The back-and-forth of footsteps in the hall indicated she’d made several trips to the garbage chute. He didn’t need a degree in psychology to know there was a purge going on next door, both tangible and emotional.

Not that it was any of his business.

Her wild tumble of honey-blonde waves was none of his business either, but it always caught his eye, as did the playful bounce of her full, round breasts when she descended the stairs or the sway of her hips when she climbed them. Nature had stacked some truly awe-inspiring curves onto her slender five-foot-nothing frame.

Her smile usually made an appearance when they passed. She probably aimed for friendly, but something about the way those lips tilted upward in an inherently flirtatious greeting teased his cock, even on those occasions when she had One-for-Three on her arm.

Beau shook his head and went back to straightening up his kitchen. At a different point in his life, her distracting smile—or her equally distracting ass—might have tempted him to find out if she liked his smile, his ass, or anything in between, but that point had come and gone several years ago. He wasn’t looking to get involved, no matter how strong and persistent a pull he felt toward his sexy little neighbor.

His eyes strayed to the pile of yesterday’s mail he’d tossed on the counter. The mail carrier had accidentally included an item for number 202 in his box. He fanned the pile out until he spotted the embossed envelope from the Solomon Foundation for Art, which he’d never heard of. Not surprising, considering he knew fuck-all about art, but he knew a good strategy when he saw one. He’d wander over, knock on her door, and she’d have to lower the music to answer. While he delivered what probably amounted to fancy junk mail, he’d casually mention he expected his folks to arrive at any moment, and he looked forward to having a nice, quiet visit with them.

Satisfied with the plan, he folded the envelope, slid it into the back pocket of his jeans, and walked out his door.

The music gained volume as soon as he stepped into the hall, and he immediately understood why it seemed especially loud today. Her front door hung open, with a Post-it note on the outside reading, “Come in.”

Not smart. They lived in a secure building, with nice, normal neighbors, but still. Why court trouble?

“Hello?” He barely heard himself over the sound of Carrie Underwood and her Louisville Slugger. After pushing the door all the way open, he tried again, louder. “Hey?”

Still nothing, although judging by the scents of cooking turkey and cooling pie filling the apartment, the chef hovered nearby. Her living room and kitchen, which were mirror images of his in terms of layout, but universes apart in terms of color and texture and…stuff, were empty. Empty of people, at any rate. Her floors sported the same neutral wood laminate as his, but the rest of the room looked like a combination of Buckhead estate sale and third-world bazaar. Yet it worked. A slipcovered white sofa and a couple of matching armchairs provided a blank canvas for red throw pillows, a wrought iron coffee table straight off a French Quarter patio, and a blue-and-white ceramic garden stool stacked with old books. Atop the coffee table sat a huge glass bowl full of fist-sized marbles swirled with every hue imaginable. The arrangement made him think of exotic planets suspended in a crystalline galaxy.

An eclectic collection of art covered the walls. Large abstract oil paintings surrounded by black-and-white photographs, a few pastel watercolors, and even some framed architectural renderings.

The envelope in his back pocket started to feel less like junk mail.

The music blasted from a digital speaker dock on a long mirrored table against the wall opposite the sofa. He let that be for now and made his way down the hallway.

The bedroom door stood ajar, and he could hear her singing on the other side. He might have hesitated, but a woman with a welcome note stuck to her open front door on Thanksgiving Day clearly expected company.


He pushed the door open. It slammed into something and swung back at him. His shoulder took the blow, and instinct had him shoving through. Whatever was on the other side gave way under the force of his momentum. He heard a scream over the last ominous lines of “Before He Cheats” and stepped into the room in time to realize he’d banged into a ladder—one on which his neighbor perched, now struggling for balance. Time slipped into a frustrating slow motion as he reached out to grab the rungs and stabilize her. Another scream assaulted his eardrums and the ladder lurched out of his reach. His neighbor fell hard on the white tarp covering the floor. She looked up at him with wide blue eyes and opened those fantasy-worthy lips to speak just as yellow droplets showered down on him.

Then the lights went out.

Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats…

The thunk of a nearly full can of paint meeting skull echoed in the silence between “Before He Cheats” and “Hit the Road Jack.” Savannah Smith watched, stunned, as her hot neighbor’s eyes glazed, and then slowly rolled up behind the descending curtains of his eyelids.

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