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By MELISSA RANDALL
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2007 Melissa Randall
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Thank you all for coming," said the casting director, clutching his binder to chest. "You were all terrific, and we'll be in touch soon." He gave the six-foot blonde with the huge fake boobs a wide grin, which she returned with a flick of her long bleached hair. If this bimbo can convince the balding old fart that she finds him absolutely devastating, then she's an Oscar-caliber actress who deserves the job, I thought caustically.
I sighed, picked up my tote bag and trudged to the door with the other rejects. Another bomb of an audition. I couldn't even get hired for a tampon commercial. It had been two ... no, three months since my last job. If I didn't land a role soon, I'd have to go back to the grind of office temping.
As soon as I opened the door and stepped outside, the heat hit me like a blast furnace. I immediately felt sweat beading on my upper lip and trickling between my breasts. Oh, the joy of New York City in August. And now I had to take the subway, the stickiest, stinkiest sauna in the world.
I staggered up to my third-floor apartment, pushed my way in and kicked off my shoes. "Apartment" was a bit of an exaggeration. The ad had described it as a "charming, cozy studio" but "tiny rat hole" was really more accurate. I turned the ancient airconditioner to high; it immediately coughed, sputtered and died. "Goddamnit!" I shouted. I hauled out the floor fan, feeling tears of frustration pricking at my eyes.
Five minutes later I was sitting half naked in front of the fan, sipping iced tea. I tried to remind myself of all the good things in my life. My boyfriend of three months, Steve, was the sweetest guy I'd ever met-and extremely cute in the bargain. I was beginning to wonder if he was The One. Anita, my best friend since sixth grade, was supportive and fun and loyal. Even on a sweltering summer day, New York was infinitely preferable to boring Hanover, New Hampshire. And I'd had some success with my acting career; if I could just hold on until the big break came ...
My cell phone rang, and before I even flipped it open, my telephonic telepathy set in. I just knew it was Steve. We'd talked about getting together tonight, and now I really needed his company.
"Hey, Gillian," he said. "Have you melted yet in this heat?"
"No, but I wish I could. I had a thoroughly shitty day." I proceeded to moan and groan and complain, knowing Steve would be sympathetic. He'd been through enough lousy auditions before landing the plum role of Winston on the long-running soap Nights of Passion.
I finally ran out of complaints. "So, what would you like to do tonight?"
Steve was strangely silent. Usually he was an expert at pulling me out of a bad mood.
"Is something wrong, Steve?"
He hesitated. "No.... Well, yes. I don't know how to say this, Gillian.... I planned to get together with you tonight to discuss it. But I think it's better to do it over the phone."
I never understood the phrase "my heart sank" until that moment. "You want to break up with me," I said woodenly.
He heaved a long sigh. "I'm sorry, really I am. I like you so much, Gillian, and we had some great times together. But I don't think we're compatible."
My throat tightened. "I don't understand. We're interested in the same things, we're in the same business, we enjoy doing the same things-"
"It's not that. I just think we're not compatible ... sexually. In bed. It's never been very good for either of us."
I was stunned. True, Steve and I didn't have the best sex life, but, god, I had tried to spice things up. He had never seemed interested in trying anything new. It was the same routine every time.
"Look, Steve, I understand what you're saying, but we could work on it-"
"No ... Gillian, I'm really sorry. The truth is that I've met someone else."
My shock deepened. I couldn't speak. I just sat there as Steve rambled on, apologizing, swearing it wasn't my fault....
I finally interrupted him. "Okay, Steve, good luck." I hung up abruptly and burst into tears.
Once the worst had subsided, I called Anita's cell. Voice mail, damnit. "Hi, Anita, please call me back as soon as you can.... Steve just broke up with me." I hiccupped. "It came out of the blue. I'm feeling lousy right now.... Thanks."
I washed my face with cold water, praying Anita would call back soon. I hope she's not having one of her party-hearty club nights, I thought. When Anita was in that mood, she made Samantha from Sex and the City look like a shrinking violet. But Anita was so honest and grounded, the only person I could really talk to about deep emotional stuff. We'd met when we were both twelve and dreaming of fame and fortune in New York. A few months after high school graduation, we moved together to the city. My success had been modest, but Anita's modeling career had taken off. She hadn't reached single-moniker supermodel status, but she was well on her way.
My cell rang, and I snatched it up. "Anita?"
"Gillian, are you okay? I got your message. ... God, I'm so sorry. What happened?"
"I don't know. He just said we weren't compatible in bed. Then he said he'd met 'someone else.' That was it. The end."
"Well, it's his loss." Anita was indignant. "I'll bet this 'someone else' won't last more than a few weeks."
"Doesn't matter." I sighed. "It's true that our sex life was pretty mediocre. Not horrible, just not all that good. I had to fake it several times."
"Girl, you should never have to fake it! Find some guy who knows what the hell he's doing. Why don't we hit some clubs this weekend?"
"Sorry, I can't. I'm spending this weekend in Easthampton with Aunt Mary. Steve was supposed to come, too. I guess that's why he broke up with me tonight-he couldn't bear the thought of an entire weekend with me."
She snorted. "Screw Steve. There are some great clubs out in the Hamptons...."
"Oh, Anita, I'm not up for that yet. I'll just spend a quiet weekend with Aunt Mary. I need to get out of this inferno of a city for a few days and relax."
"Okay, but call me anytime if you want to talk."
"Thanks, Anita, you really are the best. I feel a little better already. Let's get together for coffee on Monday."
The train ride to Easthampton seemed endless. I sniveled most of the way. I felt like the world's ultimate loser-I'd win a reality show based on that concept with no effort at all. I was a mediocre actress who could barely make a living in TV commercials. And apparently I was lousy in bed-couldn't even keep Steve's interest for more than three months.
Aunt Mary met me at the station, and just the sight of her silver hair, bright blue eyes and broad smile was enough to cheer me up. I had told her on the phone that Steve and I had broken up; she was tactful enough not to press for details. Aunt Mary and I had always enjoyed a close relationship; she was more like a much older sister than an aunt. She had retired from acting a few years earlier and had always been my mentor and most enthusiastic cheerleader. Mary had never been a hugely successful actress, but she had been well known in New York as a talented and hard-working professional.
I was sprawled on a chaise longue with her cat, Jasmine, purring on my lap when she came out to the patio with two glasses of iced tea. "Gillian, Jackie and Ken Williams are coming over for cocktails. Ken is bringing his golf partner, some guy named David. Sorry ... I know you're not in a sociable mood."
Damn! Jackie and Ken Williams were the most boring people on the planet. But they had always been good neighbors to Mary, and she was careful to keep their relationship cordial.
I smiled briefly at Mary. "No problem. Company might be a good distraction for me. I feel pretty skanky; I think I'll have a shower and change." I dumped Jasmine to the ground, ignoring her yowl of annoyance.
I felt almost human again after taking a long, hot shower and changing into a pale blue sundress. I looked at myself critically in a full-length mirror. God, I really had to drop ten pounds ... maybe fifteen. But my skin looked good, tanned to a honey shade, and the strong sun had brought out golden highlights in my wavy brown hair. Perhaps one day, after I got over the humiliation of Steve dumping me, another man might find me attractive and even enjoy me in bed.
The guests had arrived by the time I stepped out to the patio. Mary made the introductions. "Gillian, you remember Jackie and Ken ... and this is their friend David Wentworth."
"Hi, Gillian." He smiled and reached out a hand. I gave it a limp shake, trying hard not to gawk. He wasn't conventionally handsome, but he was striking. Somewhere in his early forties. About six feet tall, with the lean, hard physique of a marine-this man had discipline. Light brown hair just starting to go gray. Full lips, ordinary nose. His eyes were his most stunning feature-glacial blue and penetrating. I felt mesmerized. Powerful was the word he brought to mind.
I had a sudden attack of shyness. I dropped my eyes from his face and found myself staring at his crotch. I burned with my easily aroused blush as I looked away, praying he hadn't noticed.
The four of us exchanged the usual pleasantries. I sat on the wicker sofa to alleviate the weak feeling in my knees. David handed me a glass of white wine and sat next to me. Mary, Jackie, and Ken huddled on the other side of the patio, complaining about the hideous new McMansion under construction down the street.
"I understand you're an actress, Gillian." David's voice made me think of brandy-smooth and mellow but potent.
"Yes." Why did my voice sound so squeaky? I cleared my throat. "Although, struggling actress is more accurate. I've performed in a few off-Broadway plays, starred in a couple of commercials ... nothing really major. And nothing at all recently."
"It's a very tough and frustrating business. But I'm sure you'll make it. You're very pretty and obviously very bright."
It was a superficial and conventional compliment, but it seemed authentic to me when he unleashed his brilliant smile. Perfect teeth, of course.
"Thanks." My voice had spiraled into Minnie Mouse range again. His thigh seemed much too close to mine; I was sure I could feel his body heat through the thin cotton of my dress. "So what do you do?"
"Real estate. My parents owned a firm in Denver, so I grew up in the business. I came to New York for college, decided to stay after graduation and work in the industry here. It took a while, but eventually I started my own company."
"Well, it took a lot of work. I have to admit I'm a bit of a workaholic ... but I also take playtime very seriously." His eyes locked onto mine, and my mouth went dry.
At that point Mary, Jackie, and Ken joined the conversation, which promptly turned dull-the weather, golf, politics ... It was hard not to squirm like a fidgety five-year-old. I was still hugely aware of David sitting so close to me, frequently catching my eyes with his and sending me small, secret smiles. The pheromones were flying.
Finally Jackie and Ken rose to say their good-byes; David stood as well. I felt a wave of disappointment. How could this amazing man disappear from my life so quickly?
David saved the day. "I'm driving back to New York tonight. I'm parked at the end of Jackie and Ken's driveway." He turned his intense gaze on me. "Gillian, would you walk me to my car?"
"Sure, I'd love to." Damnit-squeaky voice again, plus I sounded way too eager. "I'll be back in a little while, Mary."
Mary raised one eyebrow and gave us a brief, enigmatic smile. "Sure, that's fine. Dinner can wait a little bit longer."
Jackie and Ken decided to walk the beach back to their house, thank God. I couldn't have endured their incessant chatter bursting the bubble of attraction that surrounded me and David. We walked slowly down Mary's driveway and even more slowly down the road to Jackie and Ken's driveway and his car. A midnight-blue BMW convertible.
"Nice car." Great, I sound as inane as Jackie and Ken.
"Glad you like it. We should go for a drive sometime."
"I'd love to." My confidence was rising; this amazing guy really seemed to like me.
"I enjoyed meeting you, Gillian. I'm just sorry I have to leave so soon."
"Business in the city?"
"Yeah, I have to prepare for an early breakfast meeting on Monday. But I'd love to take you out for dinner sometime. Could I have your number?"
I rattled it off as he wrote it down-with a gold pen in a leather-covered notebook. Apparently his real-estate business was doing pretty well.
"Great, I'll call you soon." He tucked the pen and notebook into his jacket pocket. Then he reached out and touched my hair ... skimmed his fingers along the curve of my cheek. I thought I'd swoon.
"You're such a pretty little thing," he whispered. "I wish I could take you home with me." Then he was leaning down, pressing his warm, full lips against mine. The kiss was gentle but firm, practiced but somehow surprising. I wrapped my arms around his neck, caressed the taut muscles of his back and his chest. He smelled wonderful-a spicy-sweet scent I couldn't quite identify.
He kissed me harder, more urgently. I felt lost....
I'm kissing a stranger in the middle of the street! I dropped my arms and pulled away.
David wasn't fazed; he just gave me a lazy, sexy smile. "I'll call you soon," he said again and brushed his fingertips lightly against my breasts. My hard nipples were clearly visible through the sheer cotton of my sundress. I felt a slow burn rise in my face.
He quickly got into his car, started it up and put it into gear. "Bye, Gillian."
"Bye, David." I watched his blue convertible turn the corner and drive out of sight.
Over dinner, Mary studied me carefully. "David is certainly an attractive man ... and he was certainly attracted to you. Are you going to go out with him?"
I shrugged, pretending nonchalance. "I gave him my phone number, but I'll doubt he'll call. He's a flirt-probably just likes to collect digits."
"Oh, I think he'll call," replied Mary. "And if you do go out with him, be very careful. You're in a vulnerable position right now, and David has a reputation."
"Reputation? What do you mean?"
Mary took a sip of her wine and fiddled with the glass stem. "I've heard gossip, and I see his name sometimes in the tabloids. After all, Wentworth Properties has made him very, very rich. He must be worth tens of millions."
I nearly dropped my fork. "Oh, my god, he's that David Wentworth? I never made the connection."
"Yes, he's that Wentworth. People say he's ruthless, used to getting what he wants by any means. And I heard that his divorce-I think it was about three years ago-was pretty messy."
"Well, thanks for the warning, Mary. I will be careful. I doubt anything will happen with this guy anyway. He must be used to having gorgeous women throw themselves at him."
"You're not the type to throw yourself at anyone, Gillian. I'm sure that's very appealing to David."
I thought of our passionate kiss in Ken and Jackie's driveway and fought hard to keep an embarrassed blush at bay. Thank God Mary hadn't witnessed that little scene.
That night I lay in bed, unable to sleep, my mind whirling. I thought about calling Anita-meeting David definitely fell into the "major news" category-but it was very late. And for some reason I wanted to keep this stunningly wonderful development to myself for a while.
I tossed and turned in bed for hours. I kept reliving every moment of our meeting-his electric-blue eyes and lazy smile, that unbelievable kiss. My heart was pounding. Please, God, let him call me.... I have to see him again.
Suddenly Miss Prudence and Miss Hornypants popped into my head. These two voices had first appeared during my adolescence, when my hormones and my good sense were constantly engaged in battle.
"You acted like a complete slut," said Miss Prudence. "Letting a stranger kiss you and touch your breasts-in public! What were you thinking?"
"He wasn't a complete stranger," Miss Hornypants pointed out. "She'd known him a few hours."
"A few hours!" Miss Prudence was outraged.
"It was just a kiss and a little fondling. It's not like she dropped to her knees and gave him a blow job."
"It was bad enough! He probably thinks she's an easy piece of ass."
"No, he doesn't. He was very attracted to her, and she felt the same way. Why pretend otherwise? They simply acted on their feelings."
"She's going to regret-"
"Oh, both of you leave now!" I demanded.
Once they had disappeared from my mind, I turned my thoughts back to David. What would he be like in bed? I immediately knew the answer: amazing.
Excerpted from Sexually Satisfied by MELISSA RANDALL Copyright © 2007 by Melissa Randall. Excerpted by permission.
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