I was walking back to the apartment/my office, when I saw her. This glorious young thing, with auburn hair down to her elbows and pale skin like porcelain. I couldn't help it. I had to go talk to her.
"Excuse me, miss, did you drop this?" I shouted, holding out a ten dollar note. I had no idea what I was doing. I'm not good at spontaneous decisions, okay?
"Huh," she said, approaching me (always a good start) and plunging her hands in her bag, pulling out a glamorous looking wallet. She unbuttoned it, tapping the top of each bill inside, and shook her head. "No, I don't think that's mine. I have everything I should have. That was very generous of you, sir."
"Oh, I would do the same for anyone," I lied. In all honesty, if some suit dropped a wad of cash, I'd pocket it. I'm broke; he'll live!
"That is so kind," she said, grinning hugely. Wow, she had some amazing teeth. I don't normally notice teeth, but wow. "Who are you? I don't think I've seen you here before."
"Harry Dresden, at your service. I'm, uh, in the book."
"Oh, I know who you are. The magic man, right?" she smiled, the corners of her smooth pink lips curling up. Damn, I need to get laid more.
"Wizard, yes. And no, I don't do parties."
"Of course not," she said seriously. "Could I possibly make an appointment? It seems so hasty really, but since we're both here-"
"You can come over now, if you're free. I, er... I think I'm free this afternoon." More like, I haven't had an appointment for three weeks and I really need some rent, or a beautiful woman to wake up to in the morning so I can forget the imminent debt for a little while longer.
"Really? Well, if you're sure – lead the way."
We weren't far from my building, which was in part a disappointment. I studied her in my peripheral vision, wondering what she could possibly need with me.
"So... here we are. You don't have any problems with lifts? It's a bit rickety and has a tendency to break down," I said, leaving out the part that it only breaks down when I'm in it.
"No problem," she said coolly. I raised my eyebrows and jabbed the button, tapping my foot while we waited. The doors trembled their way open and we entered the cramped tin can, watching the doors judder shut again.
"I didn't actually catch your name," I said, as the lift started upwards with a stomach destroying swoop.
"Miss DeTamble," she said, staring vacantly ahead. I was starting to wonder if she was such a good idea, when the lift doors opened. She moved out, looking at me expectantly.
"This way," I said, walking her to the door. I gave her a "two minutes" hand movement as I struggled with the lock.
"An unusual place for an office, Mr Dresden," she said, leaning casually against the wall. I worried for her fancy coat, but the lock had finally given in and the door was open.
"Do come in," I said. "I've had to move my office into my apartment due to... lack of funding. Not to worry, I keep it clean," I said, guessing she might be a prude.
She stepped in and looked around curiously, eyeing my bookshelves.
"Do you mind if I take a look?"
"Not at all," I said, slipping my coat off and hanging it up. Normally I would kick my shoes off into the corner, but... well, not today. "Can I get you a drink?"
"Coffee, black, thank you," she said, sliding out a leather bound tome and running her slender fingers along the spine. I got it, and a large Coke for myself, and sat down behind me desk, popping her coffee opposite me in a "hey, I want you to sit down now" kind of motion. She drifted over, picked up the cup and drifted back to my books again, sipping happily. Exasperated, I flopped back in my seat and gulped down my Coke, waiting for her to remember I was here. In the end I faked a coughing fit until she looked at me.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
"Yeah," cough a couple more times for good measure, "just you take your time browsing before your appointment." Just a smidgen of sarcasm so she takes the hint without being offended...
"I suppose I can peruse them when we're done," she said. My stomach knotted itself, as it seemed like she actually enjoyed my presence... and I hadn't even miserably failed to woo her yet.
She sat down opposite me, placing her cup on my desk, and laced her fingers together, looking at me deeply. I struggled to avoid eye contact – she had such beautiful eyes – and cleared my throat.
"What appears to be the problem?"
"Could I possibly ask of you, to put up some sort of screen? It sounds unusual but-"
"I have heard much weirder requests," I said, grabbing a clothes horse and draping towels over it. "This do?"
"I guess," she said, standing behind it and looking at me... wow, was she looking at me seductively? "You can come look after, but be sure to be on that side of this within thirty seconds or I will break your nose."
I didn't even have time to reply before she disappeared.
I gaped at the space where her pretty head had been. I edged towards the clothes horse; behind it there was nothing but that expensive coat, a sleek red dress and a pair of shoes. I didn't dare move the clothes to look for underwear, in case she came back. Instead, I hurried back to my desk to sit and wait for her to return.
When she did, there was no spark; no bang; no puff of cloud. One second there was nothing, the next, she was standing there, her bare shoulders visible over the clothes horse.
"Excuse me one moment while I dress," she said. When she bent down to pick up her clothes I saw the slightest glimpse of arse and then she was upright again, slipping her arms into her bra and shimmying back into her dress. She didn't put the coat back on, but draped it over a chair before coming to sit opposite me again.
"I would imagine then, that the problem is your, er... lack of clothing? You haven't really clarified what you did," I said, drumming my fingers on the desk.
"Time travel. I went about five minutes into the future, right here. Don't be too afraid when I pop up," she said. Her cheeks were very flushed, which made me wonder what exactly I should expect when she "popped up".
"And you would like to stop time travelling naked, I take it?"
"Yes. Is there anything you can do?"
"I can't say I've met a time traveller before. I really have no idea how you even do that, never mind how to stop aspects of it. I would like to study you more closely, along with doing some research with my – er – my research partner Bob. Of course, if you don't want me to help-"
I was cut off by the appearance of a very naked Miss DeTamble in front of me, looking mildly disorientated. The clothed woman leapt up and stood in front of her naked self, and I suddenly felt very bemused. In a moment, the naked version was gone and the clothed one sat back down.
"I'm sorry about that," she said, looking horrified. "I guess I misjudged it; I don't always have the best control over exactly where I appear."
"I would very much like you to study me, Mr Dresden. Please, do not be offended, but since we are both humans much unlike any other, I think I would take a bizarre kind of solace in spending time with you."
"Is that a fancy way of asking me out on a date?"
"Pretty much," she said, shrugging. "I can pick you up, at seven. Tonight? For dinner?"
"Wow. Yeah, sure," I said, stunned. I don't know what I did differently, but damn does it work.
"One last question before I leave, Mr Dresden. Why do you always avoid my gaze? You have not once looked me in the eye."
"Oh, that's a long story. Very long. I'll tell you all about it tonight?"