Unintended Guardian (A Mythos Legacy Short Story)

By Jami Gold

Romance, Paranormal, Fantasy, Short stories

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546
3 mins

Chapter One

Kala knelt next to the sofa and raised her voice to a loud, perky pitch. “Come on, Buster. Let’s do something fun. Want to go for a walk?”
Not even the W word was enough to stir the half-deaf old mutt from his nap. Drool bubbled along his mouth and threatened to join the wet spot already on the cushion.
So much for relieving her boredom with his help.
Maybe she could coax him awake by force. She scratched behind his ears, ruffling the bristly fur. “Please, Buster? I need an excuse to get out and meet people.”
In the few hours since she’d dropped off her parents at the Los Angeles airport for their who-knew-how-long trip to Japan to care for her ailing grandmother, emptiness had settled into her gut and begun putting up knickknacks. No more using them or her “just moved in” status as an excuse for her lack of local friends. Yet her so-called “faithful companion” remained unmoved.
“Sheesh. I rescued you from Death Row, and according to that shiny new lease agreement, I might be risking eviction for you too. The least you could do is show some appreciation.” Kala stroked his head a final time and pushed to her feet, a hint of a smile still stretching her face.
The doorbell buzzed. She lunged for the door before Buster chose that moment as the perfect time to wake up and bark. The last thing she needed was a neighbor complaining to the apartment manager about her “on probation” dog before she’d even finished unpacking.
She whipped open the door. “Yes?”
A package delivery guy stood in the hallway, his cap pulled low. He shoved a clipboard at her. “Sign here.”
“Good morning.” Or was it past noon already? With her screwed-up work schedule, she could never keep track of the time. “How are you today?”
The guy didn’t respond. Granted, that attempt at conversation had been pretty lame.
She tried again. “So…” She scrawled her name on the indicated line and pointed her toe toward the cubic-foot-sized package at his feet. “What is it?”
The guy gave her a how-would-I-know look and snatched the clipboard from her as soon as she finished signing. The metal board’s edge sliced the tender skin between her left thumb and index finger.
“Ow! Damn.”
The guy picked up the box and thrust it in her direction. “Sorry.”
He jogged down the hall fast enough to set the keys on his belt jingling, robbing her of the opportunity to chew him out. Yeah, real sorry.
She tucked the box under her injured arm and squeezed the cut to stop the bleeding. Crap, that hurt. Now she’d have to wear gloves in the kitchen at work, and her hand would sting for the next few days every time she moved her thumb, which was… Oh, constantly.
Perfect. Just perfect.
The box under her arm jiggled.
What the—? She didn’t remember ordering anything recently, much less something wiggly.
Heck, with how busy she’d been, preparing for the move across L.A., none of her childhood friends even knew her deficient love life required a vibrator.
The address label faced away from her, and she used her unencumbered right pinky finger to spin the box under her left arm. The delicate balancing act allowed her to keep pressure on her injury and glance at the sender information.
Ireland? That really didn’t ring a bell.
She searched the box for identifying marks and stopped at the addressee. GRIFF CYRUS. Crap. All that hassle with the stupid cut, and the package wasn’t even for her.
She juggled the box and her keys while locking her door. After sprinting down the hall and six flights of stairs, she flung herself out the front of the apartment building.
Nothing. Only an empty curb along Wilshire Boulevard, no idling delivery truck anywhere. Double crap.
She trudged back inside and up the stairs, sticking to her self-imposed rule to avoid the elevator. That insurance against putting on pounds was the price for working with sinfully rich desserts every day. Her breathing deepened at each floor.
Now what? The shipping label didn’t have a logo, and she drew a blank for the company name of his cap. Which delivery company was it? QuickShip? ParcelExpress?
Ugh. Her only choice was to deliver the package herself. No matter how much of a pain it was, she’d want someone to do the same for her.
She studied the label again, and a smidgen of annoyance drained off her shoulders. At least the delivery guy hadn’t bungled everything.
The address was for the apartment at the end of her hall—another neighbor she hadn’t yet met. Her new pastry chef job at the swanky Beverly Hills resort down the road was a dream come true, but the middle-of-the-night hours were proving disastrous for her social life.
The package shook again, and she swore she heard a squeak. Was there something alive in the box? It had better not be a container of insects. She held the carton at arm’s length and suspended the box between her fingertips, minimizing contact with the cardboard.
Although… What kind of bug squeaked?
She stopped at the correct door and angled her elbow toward the buzzer. A toy-like squeal ripped from the package, and she almost dropped the box. Freaky timing.
Echoes of the screech surrounded her from the hallway at her back, and she tossed a glance over her shoulder. Toy or not, anyone else would have left the carton and tiptoed away, but apparently she was that desperate for the opportunity to meet another soul.
Before she could change her mind, the apartment door whooshed open. A hand yanked her inside, and the door slammed behind her, shutting her in the stranger’s apartment.

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