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It was Sal who came up with the idea of insuring my butt. As my manager, he’s devised any number of crackpot schemes to get me column inches in the press. Amazingly, some of them have actually worked.
But this was his most outrageous suggestion yet. ‘Think of it, Ciara,’ he said, chomping on the Brazil nuts that’d become his vice of choice once smoking was banned in public places. ‘Betty Grable insured her legs. Keith Richards, his hands. He has an accident and loses them – well, knowing Keith it might take him a day or so to realise, but he’s covered for the damage and the loss of his career. All the stars take a policy out on their best assets, and after all, babe, you’re the gal who puts the “ass” in “assets”.’
Sal had a point. My bottom had gained me a ridiculous amount of attention since I’d first hit the music charts. I’d always felt I was out of proportion, with tits that were only modest handfuls in contrast to my jutting, generously curved arse, but the first time I was persuaded to squeeze into a tiny pair of cut-off denims for a photo shoot, my CD sales almost doubled overnight. My face – or, more accurately, my backside – featured in every glossy celebrity magazine, every TV entertainment round-up for days on end.
Men, it seemed, dreamed of nothing more than getting up close and personal with my arse. They wrote it fan mail, sent me skimpy thongs and booty shorts in the post and begged me to send them back a photo in which I was wearing them. I made an advert to promote a new range of designer lingerie, where I was featured bouncing on a bright orange Space Hopper in a flimsy pair of chiffon knickers. It was immediately banned for being too suggestive. Within 48 hours the clip had gone viral, e-mail systems around the world almost being brought to a standstill as men forwarded it to each other for their private viewing pleasure.
Sometimes, I grew uncomfortable with the attention, but only when I felt someone had crossed a line, like the time I stayed in a top hotel in Tokyo on a tour to promote my latest single, and every single pair of underwear went missing from my laundry. I knew lots of Japanese men had a panty fetish, but that was taking it a little too far.
I’d be lying, though, if I said there weren’t times when I got off on the thought of having my bottom worshipped and adored. At nights, I would lie on the bed in my Malibu beach house, looking out at the ocean, and jill myself off with my favourite vibrator, thinking about a man’s tongue snuffling up into the groove of my bottom. With my cheeks spread wide, he’d make himself at home, telling me how much he loved surrounding himself with my soft, curvy flesh. As the fantasy progressed, he would lick my tiny brown arsehole, pushing his tongue through the tight ring of muscle and rimming me till I came, imagined orgasm and real one combining to make my body quake with lust. One day, I would make that fantasy into delicious reality. In the meantime, only my vibrator ever experienced the sensation of being buried deep in my bottom.
‘So how will this work, exactly, Sal?’
The bartender placed another whiskey sour in front of Sal and refilled my glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice. Sal liked me to keep off the alcohol as much as possible. He’d read somewhere it could help give a girl cellulite, and he didn’t want anything to ruin the smooth perfection of my arse. He was keen I should eat a healthy diet and take plenty of exercise. ‘Though don’t overdo it,’ he’d caution. ‘We don’t want you literally working your cute little butt off, now do we?’
He took a long sip of his drink, relishing the bite of bourbon. ‘Well, I’ve already spoken to the insurance company, and they’re going to send an assessor round to see you tomorrow afternoon. Based on his report, they’ll insure your butt at what they feel is the appropriate level, though I’ve already told them the amount of cover I’m looking for – and it’s more substantial than those shorts you’re wearing.’
‘Yeah, very good,’ I murmured. I’d been trying to catch the eye of the bartender, a cute guy with skin the colour of espresso, his hair woven into thin chin-length plaits. The look he’d given me when I settled on the high bar stool in my buttock-skimming cut-offs suggested he was very much an arse man. Maybe I could slip him my phone number when Sal wasn’t looking. That was another area where he was always doing his best to manage my life, figuring it would hurt my image if I hooked up with guys I barely knew. I kept telling him he was just my manager, not my father, and at 25 I was more than capable of handling my sex life with discretion.
Sal realised where I was looking. ‘Come on, let’s drink up and get out of here. We’ve got to be over at the record company in 20 minutes to approve those new publicity shots of yours.’ He drained his glass. ‘But I tell you, they’re going to love it once the insurance policy comes through. They’ll be able to bill you as Ciara Keane, the girl with the million-dollar butt.’