Private Luauby Devon Vaughn Archer
Raquel Deneuve prides herself on her ability to make any bad-rap celebrity look good. But the Honolulu image consultant takes on the challenge of her career when she's hired by former NBA hotshot Keanu Bailey. The hard-partying playboy has a rep for never getting serious with any woman. That spells trouble for Raquel when she starts falling for her seductive… See more details below
Raquel Deneuve prides herself on her ability to make any bad-rap celebrity look good. But the Honolulu image consultant takes on the challenge of her career when she's hired by former NBA hotshot Keanu Bailey. The hard-partying playboy has a rep for never getting serious with any woman. That spells trouble for Raquel when she starts falling for her seductive client.
To the world, Keanu is the ultimate bad boy. But he's determined to prove them wrongespecially when he meets Raquel. The part-time hula dancer and sultry beauty soon has him moving to the age-old rhythms of passion and romance. Transformed by Raquel's sensual touch, the infatuated sports star knows he's become a one-woman man. As pleasure flames into love in their private island oasis, can Keanu turn Raquel into a one-man woman?
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Raquel Deneuve sat at her desk on the third floor of the Mele office building in downtown Honolulu, wondering where the year had gone. It seemed like only yesterday she was ringing in the New Year with her mother and friends. Now it was only four months till January first rolled around again. She would love to toast champagne with a love interest this time. What could be better than that to start a new year, and in beautiful Hawaii to boot? The problem was that time was running out, and there were no real prospects on the horizon. Certainly not her last boyfriend, who she had dumped six months ago, because of his lack of initiative and decidedly weak work ethic. She hadn't built up her career as a professional coach and personal consultant only to support someone who was going nowhere fast.
Oh well, live and learn. If there was someone else out there waiting to steal her heart, she was available and willing to meet him halfway. If not, she wouldn't cry about it. At thirty-three, there was still plenty of time to wait for true love to blossom, even if her mother begged to differ and believed that her biological clock demanded that she think in terms of sooner than later. As far as Raquel was concerned, the here and now was just fine, even without a man in her life. Aside from an occupation that was keeping her very busy, she had a part-time gig as a hula dancer. She considered it a great way to unwind, have fun and stay in shape.
Raquel's reverie was interrupted by the phone ringing. She lifted the handset and saw from the caller ID that it was her assistant.
"There's a Richard Brock on the line," she said. "Do you want me to put him through?"
Raquel recognized the name, having done business before with the mega agent of athletes, albeit not recently. "Yes, please," she responded.
Raquel took a breath and readied herself to speak to the man she had been slightly intimidated by, given that he was old enough to be her father and was worth a mint, thanks to those he had gotten lucrative contracts for.
"Aloha to you over there in Honolulu," Richard said in a gravelly voice.
"Aloha, Richard." She was pretty sure he was still based in New York City. "It's been too long."
"Yes, it has."
Raquel recalled when he'd come to Hawaii a couple of years ago and hired her as a corporate image expert to speak at a seminar he was giving. By his account and others, she'd earned high marks.
"How can I help you?" she asked professionally.
"Being a longtime Hawaii resident and sports fan, if memory serves me correctly, I'm sure you're familiar with basketball star Keanu Bailey, aren't you?"
Raquel smiled. Local boy makes good. First at a local college and then in the NBA as an all-star guard for a couple of teams. Who in Honolulu hadn't heard of him? Even though not everything she'd heard had cast the man in a favorable light.
"Yes, I'm well aware of Mr. Bailey," she said, though their paths had never crossed. "He retired recently, didn't he?"
"At the end of last season," Richard told her. "Personally, I thought he could still play at a high level for a couple more years, but that's just me. Anyway, Keanu is one of my clients and he's just moved back to Honolulu where he kept a summer home."
"Good for him." Raquel ran a hand through her wavy, long hair with envy. She'd seen Keanu's "summer" home on a TV news program and could only imagine what his year-round place must have looked like.
"You probably know that throughout his career, Keanu has been portrayed as a bad boy, hard partier and womanizer, among other things," Richard said.
And deservedly so, it would seem. She recalled some of his antics and temper tantrums on the court, leading to a fair share of technicals and automatic suspensions. Keanu's penchant for partying hard and often was practically legendary. As for the womanizing, it seemed as if every up-and-coming gorgeous actress, singer and model had been photographed on his arm at one time or another.
"Yes, I'm aware," Raquel acknowledged.
"Well, real or not, Keanu would like to try and change that image now that he's retired," Richard said. "I've advised him that now that he's away from the game and older, he needs a makeover to maintain his marketability. He agreed." Richard paused. "Do you think you can help him?"
Raquel was admittedly piqued by the notion, though she needed to talk to Keanu first to see if he was really serious about revamping his image. Otherwise people would see right through it, and he might be even worse off.
"I'd love to try," she said. She thought of the possibility of future referrals from Richard and suddenly gained a burst of confidence. "Yes, I can definitely help Mr. Bailey improve his image!"
"Wonderful. Here's Keanu's private number. I'll give him a heads-up that you'll be calling and you two can work out the details."
"Sounds good." Raquel had barely hung up when her girlfriend, Lauren Newberg, called.
"Hey, I just wanted to make sure we were still on for girls' night out," Lauren said, as the sounds of her television echoed in the background.
"Absolutely," Raquel told her. Since they had planned this more than a week ago, she saw no reason to back out now. Besides, it would give her time to speak with Keanu before sharing the news that she would be working with one of Lauren's favorite basketball players. Though Raquel admired the undeniable talents that he'd shown on the court, admittedly her favorite basketball players these days were LeBron James and Derrick Rose.
"Great," Lauren said. "I'll meet you there at eightand don't be late."
Raquel smiled. "I won't be. Look, I hate to cut this short, but I've got to call a potential client."
"Don't let me stop you," Lauren said. "I'm on my way out the door to see if I can drum up some business." She was an account executive for an internet-based company. "Later."
Raquel disconnected and went to her computer. She used Google to search Keanu Bailey to see what other tidbits she could learn about the man before calling him to arrange a meeting.
Keanu Bailey drove his black Mercedes down Diamond Head Road, admiring the ocean even while his mind was absorbed with wondering what life had in store for him now that he'd officially retired from the NBA. He'd had a nice run of fourteen years, more than the average player, and made the most of itspending the first half with the Los Angeles Lakers before moving on to the Detroit Pistons and finishing his career there. It had been gut-wrenching to walk away from the only thing he'd ever done as work, if you could call it that. But even though he still had a deadly jumper and could occasionally put on enough speed to get by someone and go to the hole, Keanu knew it was time to hang it up. The younger guards were often taller than his six-four and quicker than he'd ever been, making it a chore to try and keep up with them. He decided it was best to go out on his own terms, while he was still considered by many to be near the top of his game and a perennial all-star.
Now he was back in his hometown of Honolulu where he was an All-American in high school and a starting point guard for the University of Hawaii before being drafted in the first round by the Lakers. Keanu drove onto 22nd Avenue while wondering what the hell he would do with his life now. He'd invested his money wisely over the years and would never have to worry about earning a living, but that didn't mean he was content to just sit back and do nothing. He wanted to make a meaningful contribution to society and also keep his brand alive.
According to his agent, Richard Brock, the Keanu Bailey brand had taken a hit in recent years because of a bad rap for his on-the-court competitiveness and his off-the-court romanceswhich had admittedly been many, though none had gone very far at the end of the day. He hated being compared to Rasheed Wallace and Tiger Woods, feeling that he wasn't nearly as hot-tempered as Rasheed or the reckless ladies' man Tiger turned out to be. Not to mention those who felt he was more self-centered than most, even if Keanu begged to differ. Try telling that to the media that made money by misleading images and exaggerated words. From what Richard told him, it was up to Keanu to improve his image for the better.
So Richard had hooked him up with a local image consultant. Keanu wasn't entirely convinced that was the answer, but since Richard had always done right by him and was still representing him, he decided to follow his advice and give this woman a try.
Keanu had reached the barbershop when his iPhone rang. He saw that it was the call he'd been waiting for and climbed out of the car, allowing the noontime sun to beat down on his chiseled, caramel-complexioned face before answering it.
"Hi, this is Raquel Deneuve from Deneuve Corporate and Personal Communications."
He liked the soft, even pitch of her voice and wondered if she matched up in appearance. "Good to hear from you, Ms. Deneuve," he said coolly. "Richard told me he had spoken with you."
"Yes. So I understand you're in need of an image makeover."
He chuckled. "You could say that. I think it would be a good thing for me as I start the next phase of my life."
"I'd be happy to help you achieve your goals in that regard," Raquel said. "I'm available this afternoon at three to talk face-to-face if that works for you."
"Yeah, that'll work." Somehow Keanu couldn't imagine that she wasn't fine. He'd soon find out by checking her out online.
"I'm in the Mele office building downtown on Bethel Street. It's next to the Fort Street Mall."
"I'll see you at three," Keanu told her and disconnected. He was curious as to how she might improve his image without sacrificing his core principles. Whatever it took to make this succeed, he was willing to do his part. He headed inside the barbershop, ready to get his new image started with a haircut.
Raquel was eager to meet her new client, though in a way she felt as if she had known him for years. Or at least she knew his professional and public faces, along with his reputation. She would give him the benefit of the doubt that he was serious about this and that it wasn't just a publicity stunt on his part designed to get a little sympathy from an overzealous media before drifting back into his old ways.
She had learned from the internet that Keanu had averaged twenty-two points a game last season with the Pistons to lead the team in scoring. But his assists had gone down while his technicals had gone up. Apparently he was dating or had been recently involved with Cassandra Tucker, an award-winning actress currently starring in the hit TV crime series Dark Intentions. Somehow Raquel couldn't imagine being romantically involved with an athlete. How would she ever be able to trust himespecially when he had a bad track recordor compete with the groupies for his affection?
"Your three o'clock appointment is here," Raquel's assistant told her over the phone.
"Send him in."
Raquel felt just a touch of butterflies in her stomach. She was used to high-profile clients. But rarely had she encountered one who had almost become larger than life. Maybe that was part of Keanu Bailey's image problem. He needed to come back down to earth and be normal again. Or might that be asking too much from someone who was surely full of himself and had others giving him a free pass in life?
She glanced quickly at a mirror she kept in the drawer. It wouldn't do to have her makeup smeared. First impressions worked both ways. Everything looked just fine, including her hair, which had been styled just yesterday. She stood from her high-backed leather desk chair and smoothed the back of her pleated skirt and straightened her suit jacket. Matching slingback wedges added a couple of inches to her five-eight height, which she knew would still put her several inches below Ke-anu's height.
Raquel was halfway to the door when Keanu walked in, wearing a slightly crooked smile on a sexy wide mouth. Her first thought was that he was even better looking in person. How about extremely handsome? His black hair was cut in a skin fade hairstyle, bordering the brown sugar skin tone of his square-jawed face. There was a cleft in his chin, deepened with the grin. A white gold diamond earring was in his left earlobe. She glanced at the muscled contours of his body, covered in a Detroit Pistons gray jersey, along with the striped black athletic pants, and his own brand of sneakers.
Raquel watched her arm shoot straight toward him like a robot as she said, "Mr. Bailey, it's nice to meet you."
"You too, Ms. Deneuve," Keanu offered in a deep voice and covered her hand with his as they shook.
He stared down at her with probably the most compelling gray-sable eyes she had ever seen, causing Raquel to flinch as she took back her hand.
"Please call me Raquel," she told him.
"Only if you'll call me Keanu," he said suavely. "I'll leave the Mr. Bailey bit to my Uncle Sonny."
Raquel recalled reading about him being raised by his uncle, who was a celebrated local high school basketball coach and school athletic director before retiring a few years ago. She flashed a smile at him. "All right, Keanu. Please sit down."
She inclined her head toward the two chairs in front of her desk and waited for him to choose one before she moved toward the other. Raquel could see that he'd been checking her out just as she had assessed him. She wondered if he was comparing her to all the beautiful women he had no doubt bedded. Or had she captivated him all on her own?
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