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Accidentally In Love With ... A God?
By Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
Grand Central Publishing Copyright © 2013 Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
All rights reserved.
Wasn't dating supposed to be fun? Because this was anything but. At any moment, a man I'd never met—approximately six foot three, brown hair, and soul-piercing blue eyes, according to his online profile—would walk through the door of the Conga Lounge, give his name to the hostess, and scream hysterically at the sight of me. Okay. He wouldn't scream ... aloud, anyway. Not that I was heinous, but anyone who looked closely enough might notice I was ... different.
I eyeballed the door, contemplating a mad dash before he arrived.
No, you can do this, I thought, while staring at the condensation channeling down my glass of water, my leg bouncing under the table. Why had my date picked a corny-themed bar that looked like Gilligan's Island threw up? What sort of man goes novelty on the first date?
Bad sign. Bad sign.
At least the other patrons seated around the faux torchlit room, leisurely sipping Bahama Mamas and mai tais were oblivious to my impending meltdown.
I felt the gentle whoosh of summer evening air as the door swung open, and the noise from the traffic-packed New York street poured in. A tall man with sun- kissed skin, broad shoulders, and tousled brown hair floated inside—yes, floated—as if he'd ridden in on a cloud straight from Hot Man Land. He wore a black, polished cotton shirt, which hugged his well-constructed chest, and low-slung jeans that molded to his lean physique. He wasn't just good- looking, he was Milan runway edible.
"Oh, sweet Virgin of Guadalupe, please be Jake," I muttered under my breath.
Like a cliché from a movie, our eyes met from across the room, and his face lit up with a dimple-framed smile. My heart nearly stopped. "Thank you, Virgin," I said, releasing my breath.
He strutted across the restaurant, a magnet for every female in the room.
"Emma?" he said in a deep, slow-churned voice, then smiled and held out his hand. I stood up in a daze, mentally pinching myself.
"You are Emma, right? Curly, shoulder-length, red hair, five three. Several crazed female stalkers for best friends?"
Oh no. What had my roommates done? Since the whole online-blind-date thing was their idea, they assured me they'd carefully "screened" the guy. But I thought they were just joking about breaking into his apartment and rummaging through his underwear drawer. And dammit, they hadn't even bothered to dish.
Tighty-whities or boxers?
I looked down at his outstretched hand. Oh, shoot. Shake hands. "Sorry, it's just—I wasn't expecting someone so ..." I swallowed and placed my palm in his. It was warm and inviting, like his eyes. "Um ... so tall."
"And I wasn't expecting a woman so"—he paused to look me over like a dog eyeing a giant juicy steak—"adorable."
"Adorable?" said the deep male voice inside my head. "What kind of moron compliments a woman with the word adorable? Does he think you're a goddamned puppy?"
Couldn't I have one, just one lousy day without the voice? My blood began to boil instantly, but I resisted the urge to snap back with something lame like, "Well, maybe Jake senses I want to lick him from head to toe. Maybe even have a go at his leg." But then I thought better of myself. Because tonight, I was on a mission, and nothing would stop me from climbing my own mental Mount Everest: convince myself that I, Emma Keane, could feel attraction for a real live man with ten fingers, ten toes, arms and legs, and the other necessary, dangly bits needed to make a relationship normal. All I needed was the right man.
The other person I had to prove this to wasn't exactly a person. Okay, truth be told, he was a mysterious voice only I could hear. Yes, a luscious, deep, velvety voice so intriguing and seductive it could turn me into a quivering mindless puddle of need with one little sigh. I couldn't get enough of it. Sound crazy? That wasn't the half of it. But it was why I had to do this. If I wanted a shot at normal, I had to take this first step and break this annoying, lifelong addiction.
Jake and I held hands for several moments before we sank into our wicker seats. "You must be Jake." Stupid statement, I know, but I had forgotten all of the witty icebreakers I'd painstakingly memorized.
He nodded and continued smiling.
"So." I paused, trying to think of something clever to say. It didn't happen. "My friends, they didn't do anything crazy, did they?" Other than a felony B and E?
Jake shook his head. "Aside from having me followed? No. They just sent an e- mail making it clear they'd remove both my testicles if I did anything wrong."
I cringed inside, but at least he didn't know about the home invasion.
"With a dull spoon," Jake added.
The voice snickered. "I've changed my mind. I now officially approve of your friends."
Jake continued, lowering his voice, "I'm glad I came. I thought your profile might have been exaggerating your looks. It didn't."
"What a cretin. You're not falling for this crap, are you, Emma?"
I felt my temper percolating, but I hung on. "Thanks," I said to Jake and then looked down at my hands.
"I hope you like this place." He opened up the piña colada–shaped menu. "The food, I hear, is tiki-licious."
"Right. That's it. This date ... is over!"
Percolate went to boiling over. "Jake, I'll be right back."
"Um, okay," I heard him say as I stomped off to the bathroom. I slammed the door shut and checked the two small stalls.
"You giant turd! You promised you wouldn't talk!" I hissed. "Not a peep."
"Well, that was before ..."
There was a cricket-worthy pause.
"Fine. You listen to me, Guy." That was my latest name for him since he'd never shared his real one. "We had a deal. You promised you'd behave—"
"And you swore on your soul you'd pull the plug if I said so."
"Oh, no, no, my friend." I shook my finger at the air, even though he couldn't see me. "I said I'd end the date if you sensed anything wrong."
"Yes, and he's clearly deranged."
"Deranged?" I barked. "You're un-bel-ievable! He's said two words—"
"Eighty-five. Or was it eighty-seven? Hell, it doesn't matter. I knew on word three there was something ... off."
"Oh my God! You're completely full of it!" Hiccup! Hiccup! "Great. See what you did? My night is ruined." Hiccup!
"Do you have a paper bag?" he asked.
I continued hiccuping uncontrollably. "No. Doesn't exactly go with my new dress." Hiccup. "Besides." Hiccup. "That only works for hyperventilating. I'm working up to that next."
"New dress?" he asked, his tone a notch above angry. "You didn't wear the new green dress, did you? The tight one that shows every curve and 'makes a man instantly hard,' as your friend, Anne, so eloquently stated?"
The door to the restroom swung open. The woman gave me a nod as she went into one of the stalls.
Christ! I'd forgotten my wireless headset. Again. Without it, I looked like another New Yorker one step away from a Repent Now! sandwich sign. I scrounged through my matching satin evening bag and popped on my prop.
"Answer me! Did you wear the dress? After I expressly prohibited it?"
Should I tell him I secretly wish he could see me in it? No. No! What am I thinking? He could never know what went on inside my head; he'd only use my feelings against me. I hiccuped three times in quick succession. "Yes! I wore it, and it looks fabulous. You should see all the men walking around with colossal erections from looking at me!"
Just then, the woman emerged from the stall and scampered out of the bathroom. She didn't even bother to wash her hands. Ewww, I thought.
"You play with fire, little girl."
"No! You play with ..." I couldn't think of anything meaty to say. "Uuuh ... fire. I'm going out there, and I'm going to finish this date whether you like it or not. And if you make one more peep, just one more, you're going to ... uh ... get burned!" I so need to work on my threat technique. "Got it?"
"And if I don't do as you say?"
Again, I came up empty in the threat department, so I threw out, "I'll go home with Jake and sleep with him! That's right. Wild monkey sex, too! Hanging from the chandelier and everything." Does Jake even have a chandelier? I'll have to ask.
He growled. "You wouldn't."
"Try me! Not one more peep!" I smoothed down my curls, hiccuped five more times, then took a deep breath, and headed out into the dining area. The woman from the bathroom caught my eyes for a brief moment before looking toward her date and leaning in to whisper something. Her companion shot me a quick judgmental glance over his shoulder. I resisted blurting out that his date was disgusting and had cooties on her hands. Instead, I lifted my chin and walked over to the table where Jake was sitting back, completely unaware of the turbulence he'd invited into his life.
That's when the tsunami of guilt hit me.
I stopped and looked down at Jake, the most beautiful man I'd ever seen in real life.
"Everything okay?" he asked, obviously wondering why I hadn't taken my seat.
Jake's online profile said he was looking for someone special, someone to settle down with. That someone wasn't me. How could it be? I was ... complicated. My heart was trapped in some sort of bizarre purgatory, attached to a voice. Or, more accurately stated, attached to the endless images and fantasies my mind had conjured up to go with the stupid voice.
I couldn't go on with the date. There was simply no point. I had to get rid of Guy, or there would be no normal. No boyfriends. No husband. No wild monkey sex.
I hiccuped twice, making Jake jump in his seat.
He stifled a smile. "Oh, here. Try drinking some water."
I smoothed down the front of my dress, barely holding on to my tattered self- esteem. "I'm sorry, Jake, but you don't want me. I've got so much baggage even JFK couldn't handle it. But it was nice meeting you, and I hope you find that special someone."
Jake stared blankly and then nodded slowly.
I bolted outside onto the bustling street filled with people enjoying their Friday night, living their lives while I continued hiccuping uncontrollably.
"Emma, I'm glad you came to your senses. All this bickering is tiresome, especially when you know I'm right. That male was despicable. Why do you even bother to challenge me?"
That's when the doors flew off.
"You're a horrible, egotistical caveman! I'm done! Do you hear me? Done! You. Have. Got to leave!"
Several couples scurried past me. Although I was pretending to be talking to someone on my headset, I still looked like a detonating atom bomb in a green dress, mushrooming with toxic radiation.
"I'm not going anywhere, Emma. Besides, what would you do without me?"
"You can't be serious!"
"Why the hell not? If it weren't for me, some sleazeball would be using you for his sexual pleasure at this very moment. Is that what you truly want?"
"Yes! Wait. No ..." I sighed. "Don't you get it?" I need to move on. I need a normal life. I can't keep obsessing over you, I wanted to add and thanked my lucky stars Guy could not read my thoughts.
"Once again, you ask this ridiculous question. The answer is no! I do not 'get it.' I do not 'get' your determination to throw yourself into situations that will only cause trouble. And as long as I exist, I have vowed to protect you ... even if it's from yourself."
"Protect me?" That was always his fallback line, but he never could explain why that was even necessary. What the hell did I need protection from? "You're not protecting me, you're hurting me and keeping me from having an actual life! And if you're not going to tell me why, there's nothing left to talk about."
"I've still got plenty to say, little girl."
"No! This is over! Do you hear me? I'm ending this." I stepped off the curb into the crosswalk, continuing to stomp my way home, determined to find the answer to my million-dollar question: How, dammit, would I get rid of him? I'd researched exorcists, psychotherapy drugs to block him from my mind, and shock treatment, but nothing gave me hope of extracting him without exposing myself and being locked away in a white padded room. Just then, from the corner of my eye, I saw a set of lights barreling down on me and felt my body fly through the air before everything went dark.
"Guy? What happened? Where am I?" I said aloud. I spun several times, looking up, down, in every direction. I was perched on a large balcony jutting from the face of a decadent three-story villa carved into a lush green hillside. Like a fortress, I thought. I feel safe here.
"Emma, honey? Can you hear me?" a familiar female voice called from beyond the rolling hills.
My head snapped up, canvassing the terrain. I saw nothing but miles of neatly groomed vines heavy with burgundy grapes and almost as beautiful as the red-and- pink bougainvillea bowing over the towering arched windows at my sides. Every inch of the place was breathtaking. But where was I? Heaven. Yes, must be heaven.
"Emma, please, baby. Come back." The voice carried on the wind. It was my mother I finally realized, but I didn't want to leave.
Just then, a low hum tumbled down the hills like an invisible avalanche and began sifting into the air around me, vibrating like a swarm of angry bees. The noise roared inside my head.
I cupped my ears and doubled over, but the sound only amplified. My skull quaked with pain as the buzzing burrowed deep inside and settled in my bones, causing me to collapse into a quivering heap. I could have stayed like that for minutes, hours, or days. Who knows? But when that luscious voice came crashing through the layers of crippling noise, I clung to it like a life raft. It was a voice so soothing, so deep and hypnotic that every cell in my body fluttered with euphoria.
Then the voice began humming, a message embedded in the melody, "Please, my sweet, do not leave me. I'm sorry." The voice repeated the same message over and over again, yet never paused from the melody.
Wait. I recognized that song. It was—it was from ... Madame Butterfly!
"Oh, God. No! Go away!" My eyes flew open. I wanted to scream, but tubes were wedged in my mouth and throat. I gagged and clawed, then heard ear-piercing beeps and screeches.
My parents, with ghostly pale faces, hovered over me, yelling for the nurse. I was in the hospital, and not just any hospital, but the one where my parents practiced. The powder-blue walls were unmistakable.
"Emma! Baby!" My mother slid the tube from my mouth, threw herself over me, and sobbed with joy.
I winced as someone flipped on the blinding lights directly above. "What happened?" I managed to croak.
My mother's bloodshot brown eyes told me it was something catastrophic. "You were hit by a cab, honey," she said as she smoothed the hair back from my forehead. "The driver said you just ... came out of nowhere."
Oh. That. "I was distracted." By an evil, disembodied dictator who's hijacked my head, I wanted to add.
"Yes, Dr. Keane?" The nurse entered the room through a panel of pale blue curtains and gasped, her eyes wide. She scrambled to my side and began prodding while my parents moved aside and began hugging each other, crying.
"How long was I out?" I grumbled to the nurse, who checked my vitals.
She gave me a nervous look before she flashed a light in my eyes. "One month."
One month? I'd been out one whole month? I wiggled my toes under the beige blanket covering my lower legs. My body was stiff and sore, but nothing felt broken.
"Blunt head trauma with no signs of brain activity. You were in a coma, but you beat the odds, young lady," the nurse elaborated, checking my IV drip. "A true miracle."
The word miracle jarred me. Was it really? Had getting hit by a cab and being in a coma been the magic key to getting rid of Guy? I remembered the dream I'd had before waking up, but it could have been just that, a dream.
I mentally held my breath, hoping the universe had taken pity on me, while the nurse spent the next few minutes observing me like a lab rat before she turned to my still-sobbing parents, who were alternating between hugging each other and making calls on their cells to family.
"Can I speak with you both outside for a moment?" the nurse asked. "I need you to fill out some paperwork."
Frantic, they each kissed me on the forehead. "We'll be back in two seconds, baby," my mom sputtered. "I love you. Oh, thank God you're okay. We—I, we just love you so much, honey. We'll be right back."
"I love you guys, too," I mumbled.
They disappeared behind the curtain out into the hall. The heavy door made a loud thug! as it closed behind them.
Crap! I jumped. "Holy Virgin of Guadalupe, not you." I covered my face with my hands.
Excerpted from Accidentally In Love With ... A God? by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff. Copyright © 2013 Mimi Jean Pamfiloff. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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