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Recipe for Seduction
A Madewood Brothers Novel
By Gina Gordon, Nina Bruhns
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Gina Gordon
All rights reserved.
The single spotlight illuminated the stage, leaving Veronica Whitfield with nowhere to hide.
The ting, ting, ting of the cymbal alerted her to the beginning of her song. Her eyes focused on the beams above the medium-size stage as she held her hands — encased in white satin — over her head.
The brass section of the band wailed and with that intro she cocked her hip to the right and pulsed, letting her body move to the beat of the music. When the music surged with an abrupt note, she kicked out her leg and thrust her arms down hard, straight to her sides.
With each sharp sound, her body matched the beat with quick staccato movements until the trumpet played a long note and she swiveled her hips, making sure to stick her ass out as far as she could.
Engage every muscle, Miss Trixie Treat — her instructor — would say in every lesson.
The crowd hollered, obviously liking the sexy sway of her body. Veronica smiled. Not out of happiness, but out of relief. She'd gotten a reaction. That's all she'd wanted out of this journey. That's all she'd wanted the moment she'd decided to sign up for a six-week burlesque workshop. But she had gotten so much more.
Stepping down from the riser with long, wide movements, she approached the front of the stage. She bent, grasping the zipper at the bottom of her red, calf-length wool skirt, but before she pulled, she looked out into the audience and bit her bottom lip. Catcalls encouraged her to reveal just a little more skin.
She pulled the zipper, revealing her long legs encased in sheer red stockings. It was her own personal dichotomy. She wore a two-piece skirt suit with short white gloves and a matching pillbox hat. But underneath was a whole different story. On the outside, she was a respectable mother figure, but on the inside — her inner vixen clawed to be set free.
The crowd loved the modest flash of skin and she gave them more, peeling off her gloves one at a time with her teeth. She sashayed around the stage a few minutes longer, then removed her skirt to reveal a black garter attached to her red stocking. Then she flung her jacket to the side, showing a matching black bustier that pushed up her barely-there breasts. And what burlesque costume wasn't complete without a little bling? The garter and bustier were both adorned with rhinestones.
The bright stage lights made it difficult to distinguish faces in the audience, but she'd made sure they wouldn't be a distraction. She'd purposely left her glasses backstage.
She shimmied and shook, stepping up on the riser, giving the crowd a little shoulder drop for good measure, then slowly, seductively, releasing the garters from her stockings.
Inhaling deeply, she did her best to forget she was on stage, half-dressed, and about to become even more naked in the next two minutes. She unhooked the silk garter belt and let it fall. When it pooled at her feet, she slowly, deliberately, rolled off the stockings, then let her hands glide up her bare legs. The crowd screamed, loving the jiggle of her ass cheeks.
Veronica turned and faced the audience. This was it. The final item of clothing to be removed. I can do it.
She unhooked the fastenings at the back of the bustier. When both sides were free, she held it with one hand, teasing the spectators. She sat in the middle of the stage and leaned back, her legs seesawing out in front of her. It had taken the entire six weeks of class to be able to do this move without groaning — her abdominal strength had been severely lacking. Finally, she ripped the bustier away, letting it fly to the side of the stage.
The music slowed and the lights dimmed. Her eyes settled, no longer having to squint. She came up on her knees and lifted her arms, her torso swaying, the tassels of her pasties moving in a perfect circle.
This close to the front of the stage, her eyes focused on a few faces in the crowd. Her heart fluttered. This was exactly what she had needed to get her sexy back. She felt confident, beautiful, and comfortable in her own body. She was ready to focus on herself — on her life — and what lay ahead. The possibilities were endless.
She smiled wide and turned to the right, her gaze locking with a man in the front row. He didn't look mesmerized by her performance. More like a rush of shock and awe had settled on his face. And she knew that face anywhere. She'd seen it every day growing up as a kid in the foster care system, and had dreamed of it every night once she was old enough to have those kinds of dreams.
The man was Finn O'Reilly.
And he'd just seen her get naked onstage in front of a crowd.
Veronica's stomach churned. She looked away and shook off her embarrassment. She had lost a beat or two in her split-second freak-out, but she soldiered on. Eventually, the music stopped, the crowd roared, and she exited stage left.
"Fan-freaking-tastic, Ronnie, babe! The best version I've seen you do yet," her classmate — and now friend — Madison Malone greeted her.
"You look like you're going to puke. Honey, it's over. You're done," Madison said with a frown.
"He's in the audience," Veronica said on a groan.
Madison shot her a confused look. "Who's in the audience?"
"He's there. Him." Veronica pointed out toward the crowd.
From the stage, Miss Trixie clapped, her voice filling the room as she fulfilled her MC duties and introduced the next act. "Thank you, June Beaver. Wasn't she wonderful, ladies and gentlemen?"
Madison howled. "I still fucking love your name."
Veronica's burlesque name. June Beaver. June the respectable 1950s mother who gets naked and shows her beaver to the audience. She thought it was brilliant if she did say so herself. But congratulating herself on a good stage name wasn't priority number one right now.
"Honey, I don't know a 'him.' You're going to have to be more specific." Madison huddled her away from the stage wings. "Wait." She pulled them to a stop. "Are you talking about Chef Hottie?"
Although those would be the two best words to describe Finn O'Reilly, Veronica shot her friend a withering look.
"It is Chef Hottie." Madison squared her body. The flowery tattoo inked on her bare left shoulder was now hidden under the dim light backstage. "Oh, fuck me. If he's out there, then he saw your act. He saw you take off all your clothes."
He'd had a front-row seat for the peep show. And Veronica had recognized it — the mortification on his face — because it was exactly how she'd felt.
"Honey, you've got it bad. I've never met an adult who actually doodles her crush's name."
Madison was right. Veronica had it bad and she still doodled his name. It was as if she'd never grown up when it came to Finn. Despite graduating from college, starting her own wedding planning business, and unexpectedly raising her two teenaged half siblings, she was as adult as it got. But Finn never failed to make her feel like a silly little girl.
"If he didn't have sexual thoughts about you before, then he certainly does now."
She shook her head in an attempt to focus. "What are you talking about?" Finn O'Reilly couldn't possibly have sexual thoughts about the woman he still called "Little One."
Threading an arm through hers, Madison directed them to the dressing room. "You rocked your routine. Your body is smokin'. And you had every man in there watching, waiting, for you to get naked."
Madison was the sexy siren, with her fire-engine-red hair and curvy figure. And she was even more beautiful because she had an edge. Tattoos littered her body, big ones and small ones; even her nose and belly button were pierced, which made it a little intimidating to take in at first glance. But they had become fast friends six weeks ago, a friend Veronica had needed desperately.
Madison had already performed her act — a photographer who gets naked to take pictures. Fitting, because she was a photographer in real life — mostly weddings, but she dabbled in boudoir, which had prompted her search for Intro to Burlesque with Miss Trixie.
"Not Finn. With Finn I will always be the little girl he had to indulge because my brother could never leave me on my own."
They walked into the dressing room. The rest of her classmates ran around like maniacs, fixing last-minute costume glitches, adding more sparkles to their bodies. When she was noticed, two of her classmates rushed over and engulfed her, knocking Madison out of the way. The rest of the class joined in; the shrieks and squeals were music to her ears. She'd never felt such camaraderie before. It was inspiring, and made her feel as though she belonged, when for so long, she hadn't.
Madison huddled her into the corner of the dressing room near a mirrored station that was littered with brushes, eye shadow tins, glitter, and bronzer. "Why did you take this class?"
Veronica sighed. There were so many reasons. Over the last eight years, she had lost herself. Had completely submerged herself into being a substitute mother and role model for her two teenaged siblings. It was the hardest thing she'd ever done, and would continue to do, but in a few short weeks both of them would be off to university and she would finally have her life back.
Dating. Men. Fun. Friends. Growing her wedding planner business. It was exciting and overwhelming at the same time, but if she was honest, she didn't like who Veronica Whitfield had been pre-siblings. Quiet, reserved, always watching from the sidelines, dreaming of something she could never have. Now that she was pushing thirty, it was the perfect opportunity to reinvent herself. She just needed help in one specific area.
"I need to get my sexy back." Back? She'd never had it to begin with.
"I think you've found it," Madison assured her.
Veronica wouldn't disagree, but any strides she might have made in coming into her own body would never translate to her interactions with Finn.
"But just in case you need some help, I bought you something." Madison sifted through her bag that sat on the one of the makeup tables and pulled out a book.
Veronica's mouth dropped when she read the title. "You bought that for me?"
"Hell, yes, I did. I'm not going to let you chicken out on your plan."
The bright red book with oversized black lettering taunted her. Veronica grabbed it and tucked it against her body, and whispered, "Why the hell do I need a book about arousing men?"
"Honey, you said it yourself. You're out of practice." Madison sighed. "No offense, because you know I love you, but I have a feeling you were never in practice." She leaned her ass against the table and gripped the edge. "You're going to find a man who will help you play out some of those scenes, build up your confidence, and then you'll kick him to the curb. We're not aiming for forever here."
Forever. Veronica had wanted her forever to be Finn. Even before he was adopted by the rich socialite Vivian Madewood; before the money, restaurants, and the legions of gawking women. He had been her fantasy.
But she'd given up on the dream the minute two very cute, very troubled little kids had shown up on her doorstep.
Madison gazed at her speculatively. "I think your first mission is to proposition Chef Hottie and shake it how Miss Trixie taught you."
"Oh, no." Veronica dropped into an empty chair in front of a long mirror.
"Oh, yes. You're going to be an expert in male fantasies, and by the time our little experiment is over you'll be able to seduce any man you want." Madison grabbed the book and flipped through the pages. "Look how simple these are. Having sex with a stranger. Getting caught in the act. Oh!" She turned the book and pointed. "The shy girl who's a vixen in the bedroom." She poked a finger in her direction. "That can be you."
Madison swiveled her around and their eyes met in the mirror. "You're going to make him notice you. Though, I think you've already accomplished that."
Veronica shook her head. Fear crept its way up her neck and settled as a light flush of heat across her cheeks. "You don't know that."
"If he has a penis, he noticed." Madison gripped the arms of the chair, causing her biceps to squeeze together her D cups. A kindergarten class could go on a field trip in her cleavage and get lost. "Now all you have to do is let him know you're interested in a little slap and tickle."
"It's not a good idea. He's my brother's friend — his best friend. He's my friend. We've known each other forever. He's a celebrity chef known to virtually every woman in this city. The most eligible bachelor, and ..."
"And what?" Madison stepped back and crossed her arms over her chest. "How many more excuses are you going to add to your list?"
She only had two excuses. Ali and Cal.
Prior to the stork dropping them on her front doorstep, Veronica had wanted the family life — the husband and kids, the minivan, the pets, and the picket fence. She had wanted it all, and with Finn. But when her life was turned upside down with her instant family, the jarring light of reality had killed that dream, and was replaced by the certain knowledge that raising kids was damn hard. Something she definitely did not want to repeat. She'd been there, done that, and barely survived the teenage hormones. No thank you.
She'd done a good job, if she didn't say so herself, but now her "children" were going to be out of the house. It was time to focus on her. For the last eight years she had thought of herself as a mother. It was now time to retire that crown and reclaim the title of single woman.
"You need some fun," Madison urged. "Having uncomplicated, one-time-fling sex with a hot guy is exactly what you need to reenter the adult world."
Her friend had a point. And who better than her ultimate fantasy man?
It wasn't like Veronica presumed to think Finn would ever want an actual relationship with her. It wouldn't work, even if he did. He still desired that picket fence, but she no longer did. She had bulldozed the fence to the ground. Heck, she'd have lots of time to find a man who wanted the same lifestyle she did — which didn't include another family. She loved the one she had, and that was plenty for her.
Still ... Finn could be a nice test run in the sexy department. To make sure she hadn't forgotten how to use her most intimate of assets. The second step in reclaiming her womanhood. Step one had been signing up for the burlesque class. And Finn would be her next exciting adventure.
But there was just one problem. "What happens afterward?"
Madison shrugged. "You thank him and move on."
She made it seem so simple. But it was easier said than done.
"Yeah, except he's catering a wedding I'm planning next month. He'll be around a lot. It will be awkward."
"Only if you make it awkward."
How could it not be? It was bad enough Veronica had pretend images of a naked Finn inside her head whenever she spoke with him. What would happen when those images were suddenly real?
Hmmm ... Now, there was a tempting thought.
"I wouldn't even know what to do," she protested.
Applause filled the dressing room as one of her classmates finished her routine and was greeted with praise and hugs for a good minute before the noise level settled.
"Be confident," Madison told her, and winked. "Be dirty. Everything you think about him doing to you in your head, say it out loud. And most important ... show him how much you want him."
"I'll think about it."
How could she not? Seducing Finn O'Reilly was the opportunity of a lifetime. One that might never come again.
But did she have the courage to seize it?
The rest of the show ran smoothly, and Miss Trixie praised them all for a job well done. Looking around the dressing room at her friends, Veronica wondered if she was the only one who felt such a forceful transformation.
Her classmates were young, old, professional women, students, and everything in-between. A cross-section of females from every stage in life.
Her biggest fear in signing up for the class had been encountering someone she knew in the audience. There would be so many questions and wide eyes. But fear obviously wasn't a deal-breaker because it hadn't stopped her from stepping onto that stage tonight.
Over the last six weeks she truly had transformed. Even her siblings had noticed a difference in her. Their sideways glances at her out-of-character behavior was the biggest tip-off. Singing. Adding a hip thrust to everyday activities like making dinner — not that anyone would consider frozen pizza a dinner.
Madison left the dressing room with her classmates and headed out to the bar for an after-show drink. Veronica was the last to leave. She was hiding, and she knew it. But she wouldn't hide forever. She'd go out there and join the rest of them. In public.
Excerpted from Recipe for Seduction by Gina Gordon, Nina Bruhns. Copyright © 2014 Gina Gordon. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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