Anytimeby Kim Louise
At the Chocolate Chateau, nothing is offlimits It's known as the Chocolate Chateaua topsecret resort with an Alist clientele. Rumor is, guests at the luxurious mansion explore their deepest sexual fantasies with the help of the sultry "Dr. G." And an undercover exposé on the exclusive retreat is exactly the/b>… See more details below
At the Chocolate Chateau, nothing is offlimits It's known as the Chocolate Chateaua topsecret resort with an Alist clientele. Rumor is, guests at the luxurious mansion explore their deepest sexual fantasies with the help of the sultry "Dr. G." And an undercover exposé on the exclusive retreat is exactly the career boost reporter Marlowe Chambers needs.Gena Biven cherishes the business she's built. Yet behind her persona as the sexy, confident Dr. G, her own love life is in disarray. Only in disguiseand only with Marlowe, the chateau's gorgeous new guestcan she release her inhibitions. And suddenly, the woman who helps others embrace their sexuality is realizing the raw intensity of her own desires The connection between Marlowe and Gena is explosive. But so are the secrets between them. And when the masks come off, the naked truth could destroy everythingor turn fantasy into sizzling reality
- Kimani Press
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They say hindsight is twenty/twentybut that's only if you're brave enough to look back and learn.
Marlowe Chambers's long, thick fingers tapped rhythmically against the keys of his laptop. The motions sounded like slow rain in his hospital room. Oxygen from the tube in his nose made a faint, thin, whispering sound, the way fog might if you could hear it settling to the ground.
Marlowe would swear that hospital rooms were getting smaller and smaller, along with everything in them. The bedside table on his left was barely large enough for a water pitcher and tissues. The visitor's chair was barely larger than a card table seat, and the TV above the chair couldn't have been more than seventeen inches. Marlowe had to squint to see Wolf Blitzer's hairy face. A thick, white pull curtain separated his bed from the next bed, which was less than five feet to his left. If he'd had a "roommate," they would have been able to hear each other blink.
By the time we are wise enough and brave enough to look back at the lessons learned from the levees, it may be too late for us to see clearly. Until then, we must
"You look like death in a white sheet," a voice from the doorway pronounced.
Marlow recognized that voice. Tuck Milsap, his current client. Marlowe's teeth clenched. A muscle throbbed in his jaw. He kept typing.
Stop doing what Leila DuPont called "humming with our ears covered."
"I'm surprised you aren't hooked to more tubes," Tuck said.
Marlowe watched his own words form sentences on the screen. "I was when they brought me in."
And start doing what the Village Vanguard suggests: "Acknowledge the absurd."
He was close now, he could feel it. Like the end of a good meal or the sweet release after making good love, Marlowe was about to wrap up another prize-winning story. It was writing itself now, making the case for due diligence and activism. Most days, Marlowe wished he could type faster, get the stories out of his head quicker, get paid sooner. But, at the end, at the sweet spot, where all his sweat, research, long days and pavement pounding came together, he'd slow down, take his time, drag it out until the last syllable "Chambers!"
"Yeah," he said, looking up for the first time.
Marlowe hadn't seen Tuck in months. As usual, the man was a long swatch of precision, from his shadow-fade haircut to his clear-polish manicure and mirror-shine shoes. Not one defiant hair, loose button, or wrinkle. Marlowe suspected the man had OCD and used a portable steamer to press himself throughout the day. "Yeah?" Marlowe repeated. His face tightened like a fist, and he realized his client hadn't come to check on him. He'd come to check on the story.
"I'm writing the end now."
Tuck hiked up designer pants so stiff they looked as if they could stand by themselves and took a seat in the chair across from him, careful not to scrape his knees on the foot of the bed. Tuck scratched a spot at the top of his head and glanced pensively out the window.
Omaha was waking up. From Methodist Hospital, he had an unobscured view of the eastern bulk of the city. The better part of seven hundred thousand residents locked into their morning commute. Dodge Street, the main artery of the city running parallel to the hospital, was choked with traffic. On the horizon, the sun's orange-red glow peeled away the dawn.
Tuck glanced back at Marlowe. His face much less tight and sour. More as if it had taken a pity bath and was still damp. "We need to talk."
Marlowe's fingers left the keyboard. He sat back against the thin, flimsy pillows behind him and breathed carefully from the oxygen tube.
"I need your advance," Tuck said. The words rolled out of him like sharp-edged boulders.
Marlowe was sure he hadn't heard correctly. "Say what?"
"They're pulling your story."
Marlowe lowered the breathing tube from his face. If he suddenly had to jump up and strangle the bull out of Tuck, he had to make sure he wouldn't be yanked back by an air hose.
"They or you?" Marlowe asked, already knowing the truth. At Hughes Enterprises, Tuck green-lighted all stories. He had a board he reported to, sure, but he had had that board wrapped around his pinkie for years.
"Let's just start with the basics. Your stories never come in on time, man."
"Whose do? Name one investigative journalist in my league who actually gets a story in on time."
"Man, kiss my ass. When has that close-up hog put his life on the line for anything?"
"That's what you don't get. He doesn't have to. He's a jour-nal-ist. Not a caped crusader. He reports the news. He doesn't become part of it."
Of course Tuck would bring up Anthony Howard. Another newsman who was just too tidy for his own good.
"I'll bet he's never even gotten a splinter from any story he's covered."
"Hell, if the wind blew and an eyelash got in his eye, he'd probably be on the next plane back to Atlanta."
"What?" Marlowe hollered back. He was so tired of people questioning his professionalism. It was bad enough when it came from random clients. But Tuck was a friend as well as a colleague. If he was going to get on his ass, too .
Tuck got up and paced under the TV. Blitzer's Situation Room marched on like a war story across the screen. "All I wanted was a follow-up. Six years later. And I sent you in because you're the best reporter I know. And I prayedI prayedyou wouldn't let me down."
"Man, I got the story."
"And almost killed your lungs. The nurse said when they brought you in, you were coughing up tar."
"No. Not whatever. Whenever? As in when are you ever going to stick to the news? Focus on the story?"
"I helped clean out some office space. The whole area was like Beirut, man. Or the apocalypse. Even after five years. I had to do something." He left off the part about Leila. That he had to do something for Leilathe beautiful woman from the Seventh Phoe-nyx whom he spent most of his time withday and night. At least he thought he was just spending time until he found the L word jumping off the tip of his tongue. The thought of being in love so fast scared both of them. Soon they were backing away from each other, and it was all business and interviews until the day he left.
"You got involved again. I don't even want to know her name. The only thing I need to know now is whether you can write a check for the advance now, and if not, how soon I can expect it."
Marlowe stared at the masterpiece on the screen in front of him. Tuck was right. He was the best journalist he knew. He was one of the best in the industry, and he was one paragraph away from what his gut told him was his finest work.
"Tuck, one hundred words. No, ninety-nine. Just be still for a minute. Shut up, okay? I'll be finished in thirty seconds. Sixty tops."
"You're not hearing me. I came down here to do this face-to-face. You deserve better than a phone call or an email. It's done, Chambers."
"Tucker man "
"I mean it. I can't keep sticking my neck out only to have the very person I'm protecting chop it in half."
"Okay, I get it. But, you know me. I report from the inside out, but I always get the story. Always."
Tuck sat down again. Took another look out the window. "Yeah, but they take too long to come. And they're too expensive. Your week's stay in this hospital has already cost us fifty thousand dollars. That's what Dan the copy chief makes in a year."
For a moment, Marlowe wondered why Tuck would bring up Dan's salary. Then it made sense. Tuck's gripe might be with Marlowe to a certain extent, but it was mostly about the bottom line.
Marlowe's chest tightened. He couldn't tell if it was from his weakened lungs or the thought of his friend's newsmagazine going under. The economy had been hard on everyone, everywhere. Newspapers and magazines had taken hard blows. People didn't want to wait for news, and they weren't so willing to pay for information they could get instantly on the internet. Freelance reporters like Marlowe had compensated by trying to give the editors they contracted with more engaging stories. Some had even resorted to features that were more like reality TV on paper. It may have slowed the hemorrhage of the print industry, but it hadn't stopped it.
"How many?" Marlowe asked, seeing the layoffs riding his friend's tidy features. Tuck sighed heavily. He sounded as though he could use an oxygen machine, too. "Twenty-three to start. The board wants to 'incrementally decrease the negative pecuniary strain on revenue.' That's corporate speak for we're looking at close to a hundred over the next seven months."
"Too bad you can't send me in on that. I could do a story on Hughes Enterprises. You can call it 'Black Business in the Red.'"
"As usual, that's a brilliant idea. But you'd end up spending more time with LaKayla in Accounting than you would on the story."
"Man, she's hella fine."
"Tell me about it," Tuck admitted.
Marlowe grinned. "I know you hit that."
"Hit it and quit it."
The two men chuckled, and the tense air between them loosened up. "Seriously," Tuck said, "this habit you have of getting caught up with one-time-use women is going to get you in big trouble one day."
"One-time-use? No, man, I loved Leila."
"Leila? Is that who it was this time?"
Marlowe couldn't lie. "Yeah."
"And before that it was Shauntina, and before that Tomika, and before that what's her name? The gal with the big hips"
"Sally," Marlowe said with reverence. She was the best "no strings attached" fling he ever had. Mattresses were made for her movements. If he thought hard enough, he could still feel her on top of him.
Tuck grunted. "Yeah. Ride, Sally, ride. Her big hips cost me a thirteen-thousand-dollar video camera."
"And they got me the Ellie award. Don't act brand new. That California wildfire story put Hughes Enterprises on the map and turned LifeWire into a magazine people actually read."
"Maybe," Tuck mumbled.
"Maybe? Is that all you got for me?"
"Okay, all right, man. Damn. You did it. You've always done it. But the world has changed on us."
Tucker sounded far away, as if he were talking to that sun he kept staring at and not Marlowe.
"I can't send you off anymore and wait for you to finish your story whenever you get around to it which is usually well after you come up for air after being buried between some woman's legs and right before you cost me something above and beyond what I'm paying you for the story.
"I'm sorry, man. And I know you've burned your bridges with other editors. I'm one of the last ones who would even take a chance on your ass."
Marlowe started typing again. He forced himself to focus away from what Tuck was saying. He shut out all the thoughts rushing into his mind about the balloon mortgage he could no longer afford and the advance money he'd already spent to buy the supplies he used to clean up Leila's office building after a terrible fire. His fingers tapped the keys, faster now. The words came as he knew they would, sliding into place like mortar-free blocks.
"Forty-five," he said. "Thirty-nine."
"It doesn't matter. They don't want your story."
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