Randa stopped in front of the doors but they automatically swung open. The music notes on the doors were probably a nod to the gates of Graceland. They weren’t so bad. She decided to take a picture and think about it before she made a recommendation to replace them. But the air conditioning that wafted out was as beautiful and welcome as the smell of fresh-baked cookies. If she were a cartoon character, she would have floated in with her eyes closed in ecstasy.
Sam nodded as she waved and she stopped to absorb the lobby of the Rock’n’Rolla. It was green. Really, really green. And not like green paint or carpet. Green like the rainforest. Plants exploded along one wall of the lobby and she could hear the faint trickle of a waterfall. Heavy wood chairs were scattered around and the floors and walls were some kind of natural stone. What she could see of them. She could feel the cool stone through her shoes and she wanted to sigh with relief.
But she was distracted because right in the middle of the lobby floor was what appeared to be a dead dog. Well, not dead, but surely dead to the world. Every now and then the loose lips would twitch. Randa approached it carefully because while she loved dogs, she didn’t really have much practical experience. Dogs didn’t work with the all-white, all-designer, all-expensive Whitmore design aesthetic. Her mother had told her that often enough. Eventually, Randa had stopped asking.
Randa squatted and teetered on her four-inch heels for a minute before she reached out to pet the dog’s long, silky brown ears. Little green bows fluttered as the dog drowsily stretched and moved closer to her. She knew she was wearing a stupid grin, but the softness of his—no, her droopy ears—and the satisfied “hmph” she let out before she went back to sleep were reasons to smile. Randa didn’t care who saw it.
“Can I help you?”
Randa glanced up across the empty lobby to see a thug in another ugly Hawaiian shirt standing behind the front desk. Thug might be too harsh. He was tall, dark, and not handsome but . . . attractive in intensely focused kind of way that made her nervous. Randa froze as her eyes locked with his. Close-cut hair gave him a military look, but the dark ink that ran from his wrist to the sleeve on his left arm said he was dangerous. Or different. Or both, but he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt after all. Unless he was robbing the place, he was part of the staff.
She’d spent most of her life swimming in deep waters where the sharks were hard to see behind designer labels and expensive haircuts. This man was so different that he might have been a whole new species. One with really nice muscles, big hands, and enough controlled power to merit a second and third look. He watched her like he knew her, knew everything about her because he saw her. He didn’t give her the obvious leer that she’d seen and dismissed a million times. This guy, when he looked, saw more than most people. Randa had spent a lot of time blending in with the perfectly bland Whitmore woodwork. Being the subject of that much focus made her restless. She knew exactly how a fluffy bunny felt when it looked up to see a hungry mountain lion. Well, except the bunny would run away. She wasn’t sure which direction she’d run if he crooked his finger right this second. Away was definitely safer, but all of sudden she was tired of safe.