LAURENCE ROCH WORE FANGS, but he was not the strangest client Sarah Martin ever had in her car. She was vaguely curious if the fangs were implants or the temporary glue-on kind, but not enough to ask. One might not even notice them, except Laurence unconsciously rubbed his tongue over his left canine as he read the listings she had printed.
By his retiring quietness and the number of geeky clubs in Seattle, she assumed he was a LARPer. Of course, it might be some kind of kink. If he got off pretending to be a vampire in a Seahawks hoodie, it was no concern of hers.
Laurence’s blue shirt accentuated the veins under his pallid skin. His dark hair, though quite full and curly, appeared strangely monotone and without highlight. In their initial meeting, he had claimed “to suffer from intense polymorphic light eruptions,” and was required to view homes after sunset, which was why they were starting their showings at 5:30 pm, rather than earlier in the afternoon. Sarah could believe he never went into the sun.
She had warned she might show him homes after sunset in February, or perhaps even March when the days were shorter, but once the sun set after eight, they wouldn’t be able to extend it much more than that. And, by inconveniencing homeowners, they might miss quality properties within his budget. Though the city had a population of over 700,000 people, and the sprawling metropolitan area was over 3.8 million, Seattle was still a city that slept.
Her concerns made him more optimistic. He had replied: “Yes, I hope to find and close on a house quickly as my lease is up on April 1st. I really need a place for my studio.”
A self-employed painter, Laurence recently exhibited in several shows, but most of his income came from painting book covers “the old-fashioned way.” With the recent surge in independent authors catering to niche markets, the work was steady.
When he spoke about painting, he became animated, but he seemed reticent about personal matters. However, she also learned his husband recently passed away, and he’d lost his home. Sarah knew it was a bad habit, but these facts created a story in her head of a young man who had married a wealthy older man whose children inherited his property.
Laurence preferred a single-family residence with a basement but was looking to keep it under $500,000, so he didn’t need a mortgage. He could go to $550,000 if need be, but she understood stretching his budget worried him. He was fine with a fixer-upper. Though financially times were good, he was apprehensive about having debt on top of the ever-rising property taxes. There was so little inventory in-city under $550,000, but Sarah was excited. She loved finding her clients the perfect home, almost as much as she loved earning her commissions.
“Some of these seem pretty far south.” Laurence scanned the listings. His voice sounded nervous.
“Your budget goes farther in the south end than the north, so we’ll start in Beacon Hill, head to the Central District, then southward tonight.”
By the warble in his voice, Sarah could tell something didn’t sound good.
“Is there a listing you don’t want to see?”
Laurence held it. “This one in Georgetown.”
He looked visibly relieved.
Trying to keep Laurence comfortable, she asked, “What genres do you work in?”
“Whatever people want. Romance sells the best.”
A dark flush spread over his ivory cheeks, and he dropped his eyes to the listings, then out the window. He seemed to have no need to fill the car with chatter. His stillness set her on edge, but, on the plus side, he bathed and wasn’t trying to convince her about his political stance, dietary choices, or new-found religion.
About the Author