Read an Excerpt
The Redhead Revealed
I pulled my orange scarf a little more snugly around my neck and knotted it again so it tucked right under my chin. The air was cool this morning, and the first leaves of autumn fell around me, blown about by a blustery breeze. Sheltered from most of the wind, I took the opportunity to gaze at the scene before me.
Brownstones. Concrete. Yellow cabs. A deli advertising both pastrami and falafel.
I sipped my coffee and marveled at my life, where it had taken me. I loved New York.
The last few weeks had been amazing—and difficult. It was now late September and fall was officially on its way. The air was growing crisp, the early birds had pumpkins on stoops, and I was having the time of my life. I was insanely happy.
Except, I was really missing my Brit.
Let’s go back a bit.
When I first got to New York, I immediately went into rehearsals for a show in a small West Side studio space. After meeting the cast, I realized just how unique and special this show was and how grateful I was to be a part of it. The music was magical, and the character Michael had created in Mabel (enter me, Grace Sheridan!) was exhilarating to explore. She was in her thirties, a former beauty queen, and having an early midlife crisis as she struggled to define herself after a failed marriage. The show was witty, irreverent, and brilliant. We’d been workshopping for only a few weeks, but the investors and producers were already discussing the possibility of mounting a full production.
I was maybe about to be in my very first off-Broadway show! This was an ensemble piece, with a cast of fewer than ten, and we had grown exceedingly close. When a brand-new show is put together, everyone inhabits characters who have never been given life before. This lends itself to a lot of introspection and analysis.
Learning, working, growing . . . I was eating this shit up.
I spent my days in rehearsal and my nights exploring the streets of Manhattan. I was utterly enchanted with this city. Having spent time here on business throughout the years, I thought I knew it fairly well. No, ma’am. That’s nothing like when you can call New York your home. And though I didn’t know how long I’d be here, I was determined to get the most out of my time.
As soon as I arrived, I’d begun using my daily runs as self-guided tours. I ran through the Village (East and West), NoHo, SoHo, the Bowery, and made myself quite at home in Central Park. I felt freshly and more deeply acquainted with my new town, and I was keeping my butt in top form for the show.
I went to museums, shops, and parks, and I saw a show at least twice a week. I still had the same feelings when I went to see live theater that I had when my friends back home took me to see Rent all those months ago: I was emotional to the point of tears, my heart raced, and my palms got sweaty. But this time, when I saw the actors onstage and heard the music and applause, I was filled with pride. I’d made it back into the community I had never—in my true heart of hearts—really left.
Also, Michael O’Connell (the show’s writer and creator and the friend who’d broken my heart in college) and I were spending a lot of time together. After not speaking for so many years—the result of an ill-timed one-night stand and the subsequent I-can’t-be-friends-with-someone-I-slept-with game he played wholeheartedly—we were slowly but surely beginning to know each other again. He was still delightfully funny, and he made my transition to New York a seamless one.
When the rest of the cast found out we’d gone to college together, they were fascinated. We all spent evenings at least once or twice a week having cocktails at different bars around the theater district and telling stories about our wilder days. Michael and I never acknowledged our night together. Speaking about it in a group setting was obviously unthinkable, but we never spoke of it privately either—we just didn’t go there. I simply relished having my good friend back, and he was one hell of a tour guide.
In addition to my self-guided tours, I had his suggestions, and I was experiencing the city as an insider. It was enthralling. Spending time with Michael made it easier to deal with being away from home, and he definitely helped me focus on the show and my part in it.
And Jack Hamilton, my much-missed Brit? Well, this was a bit of a pickle . . .
We spoke on the phone at least once a day, usually more. We sent buckets of texts back and forth, usually laced with enough smut to make us blush if we read them in the company of others.
He tried several times to come for a visit, but between MTV appearances, countless interviews, and meetings for the upcoming movie he was starring in, we just couldn’t get it worked out. I tried to get back to L.A. a few times as well, but my rehearsal schedule was so intense, there was no way for me to leave. We both understood the demands our careers were making, but that didn’t make it any easier.
Long-distance relationships typically work best (if at all) when the couple has been together a lot longer than we had. We went from a brief intense period of cuddle and sex and love to zero face-to-face contact—and it was proving more difficult than we’d thought it would be.
But we kept things spicy as best we could. The phone sex, the online sex, the pictures sent on the iPhone: hot. If anyone ever stole my phone . . . oh man. His fans would implode.
Nighttime was the hardest. I really missed having my Sweet Nuts in bed next to me, warming my skin with his sweet breath as he kissed on me, his hands around my breasts as we snuggled in for sleep. I missed that the most, and I was having trouble sleeping, even though I was usually exhausted after a day of rehearsal.
I had made some new friends, and I bonded instantly with Leslie, who played my nemesis in the show. Her character was everything I used to be: young, pretty, young, talented, young, and a bitch. Leslie was also hilarious in real life, and when we realized we were both entertainment-gossip junkies, we had something else to bond over. It killed me to not tell her who Jack was, but I knew it was best that he and I keep our relationship under wraps. As far as the cast knew, I was seeing an actor who lived in L.A. Only Michael knew the exact truth. And he was strangely silent about the whole thing.
But something was up with my Brit.
He was going out—a lot. Which was fine, because frankly, at twenty-four, that’s what you do. He was playing a few open-mike nights, and I was sick over not getting to hear him. I really missed listening to him play, especially the action soundtrack he’d compose each morning as I got ready. With the three-hour time difference, I usually talked to him at night, before I went to bed and before he went out. I was also in occasional contact with Rebecca, his costar in the soon-to-be-released movie Time, which was guaranteed to make them both household names. We texted from time to time, and she informed me that while she remained on full Skank Patrol, the masses were definitely starting to covet the Hamilton with a frenzy.
Jack starred as Joshua, a time-traveling scientist whose cinematic escapades were based on a series of wildly popular erotic short stories. The stories’ fans had begun to transfer their affections to Jack, and they were getting quite . . . hmm . . . excitable. Women were really into him, which I totally got. The fact that he shared my bed made my understanding that much more complete.
Heh-heh, you sleep with him.
Yes, yes, I do.
He was always dealing with fans, and from what he told me, they were generally polite and kind but the constant scrutiny was beginning to get to him. One night he called late, really late. Or I should say really early. It was after 4:00 a.m. East Coast time.
“Hello?” I mumbled.
“Hello, yourself,” he whispered thickly.
I rolled over to look at the clock. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?” I asked, sitting up in bed.
“Nothing’s wrong. Does something need to be wrong to call my girlfriend in the middle of the night?” he asked, his voice a little rough.
“No, of course not, but it’s crazy early here, Jack. Are you sure nothing’s wrong?” I pressed as I lay back down.
“Wrong, no. Weird, yes, definitely,” he said, his voice still sounding strange.
“What happened, love?” I asked, pushing back a yawn.
“Some girl grabbed my ass tonight! And then another girl— Oh hell, Grace. Are you sure you want to hear this?”
“Hmmm, I don’t know, do I? Tell me—you didn’t grab her ass back, did you?” I laughed, letting him know I was okay and he could share without judgment.
“I was walking out to the car after leaving this club, and there were cameras, of course,” he muttered.
This was a fairly new development. Paparazzi were taking more and more pictures of him, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to see him on E! or TMZ at least once a week. It was weird seeing your guy on Entertainment Tonight, but that’s how we rolled.
“Okay, so there were cameras. Did you keep your ball cap pulled down low?” I asked, trying to get him to laugh. It was standard for him to wear the ball cap every freaking day now, and if the cameras caught him in it, I teased him mercilessly.
“Ha-ha. I did have it on, yes. Anyway, I was walking out to the car, and this girl came out of nowhere and tried to . . . well . . . she tried to . . .”
“Did she kiss you?” I asked.
“She tried to, yes. But she didn’t. Grace, I swear I did not kiss her,” he said firmly.
“Hey, it’s cool, George.” (His private nickname.) “I know how aggressive fans can get. You should have seen me the first time I saw New Kids on the Block, when I was in high school. My friends and I followed their bus halfway across town before we realized we were actually following a group of senior citizens on their way to Branson.” I laughed. We were so sad when we pulled in behind them at the Flying J truck stop and saw the shuffleboard set disembark.
“You followed a tour bus? Why are girls like that?” he asked, laughing along with me. I could feel him calming down. Jack didn’t like crowds, as a rule, and when he had a lot of people looking at him, it made him extremely self-conscious. Tonight he just seemed to need to hear my voice, and I loved that I could soothe him.
“I would explain it if I could,” I said. “All I know is when Holly and I saw them perform earlier this year, we screamed like we were fourteen again. I felt exactly like I did when I saw them the first time, like no time had passed. I think that’s why you’re cornering both the teen and the cougar market, too.” I giggled. “You remind us of when we were young enough that squealing was expected.”
“Hmm, and the press has called you a cougar, Grace. Are you just using me for sex?” he teased, his voice silky.
“I’m not quite a cougar yet, but I’m for sure just using you for the sex,” I teased back.
“I knew it,” he said, laughing.
We were quiet for a moment, and then he sighed.
“What is it?” I asked, sliding deeper into the covers.
“I just miss you. I miss being in your bed,” he said quietly, and I could hear the desperation in his voice. I felt it too. It wasn’t just the physical lovemaking but the simple touches we took for granted when we saw each other all the time. I missed him washing my hair almost as much as the intense orgasms he’d given me daily.
“I do too, love. I miss the way you hold me—especially where your hands always end up.” I giggled.
“You mean on your beautiful boobies?” he whispered. He teased, but I could hear his need building. It mimicked my own, which he could always bring quickly to the surface.
“Mmm, yes, please. I love how you know exactly how to touch me.” I moaned a little into the phone, my other hand beginning to travel restlessly under the sheets.
“Oh, you do, do you?” he asked, his accent getting deeper and thicker.
“Oh, God, yes. You have the most perfect hands. I love your fingers especially. They’re so strong,” I whispered, propping the phone on my shoulder.
“Where do you like me to touch you, Grace?” His breath was coming faster now. I could imagine where his own hands were.
“I love when you peel my clothes off slowly and then graze my nipples with your fingertips. Mmm,” I moaned, and I heard him moan in response. “And then when you touch me with your tongue, moving from one breast to the other—oh, God, that always feels amazing,” I said, my own breath coming faster now. My hands dipped beneath my panties to feel how wet I already was, just imagining his hands all over me.
“Grace, where’s your hand now?” he asked, his sexy accent now off the charts.
“Where do you want it to be, love?” I asked wickedly.
“Mmm, if I were there, I’d be running my fingers through your hot, wet . . .” And he moaned the word that made me ache. He made the word absolutely drip from his tongue.
“That’s exactly where my hand is, and as I’m touching myself, I’m imagining all the naughty, nasty things you do to make me scream,” I purred.
“God, Grace, you get me so hard,” he whispered, and I could hear him beginning to lose control. The thought of his elegant, strong hands gripping himself while talking dirty to me was almost too much to bear.
“I love making you hard. I love to see you get hard for me—just for me, Jack.” I moaned, my fingers beginning to rub my sex furiously, imagining his face buried between my legs.
“Nothing gets me harder than seeing you come, love—making you come with my lips and my tongue. Nothing tastes as good as my sweet girl.”
“Oh, God, Jack, you’re getting me so wet. If you were here—oh, God, you fuck me so good,” I panted, thrashing about on the bed as my orgasm began to build, strong and full.
“Grace, I think about you all day sometimes—the taste of you and the way you look when you lose all control. Oh, God, Grace, you’re so beautiful when you come . . .” He moaned, barely able to speak, and I could tell he was getting close himself.
Sweet Jesus, he’s good at this . . .
I needed to finish us both off.
“Mmm, I love when you come inside me, when I can hear you and feel you inside me . . . when . . . you are . . . deep . . . inside me . . . Oh, God . . . Jack . . . it’s so good!” I lost it, my fingers finally pushing deep inside me, and I imagined it was him driving into me, filling me.
He groaned, staying with me as I screamed his name, my fingers and his voice bringing me to the release I needed. I could hear his breath get heavier, and then he came too. I could see him in my mind’s eye: his eyes shut tight, his brow furrowed, his jaw clenched.
God, I missed him.
I trembled as I pushed the covers down. I was so worked up and hot, covered in sweat.
“Fuck, Grace, you’re amazing,” he whispered, still breathing heavily.
“Oh, love, I wish I was there. I’d scratch your head and let you fall asleep on me,” I said, almost able to feel his weight.
“Would you let me hold your boobies?” He chuckled.
“You don’t even have to ask, George. My boobies are your boobies,” I teased, my heart starting to slow to a normal rhythm.
“Hell yes, they are! I’m going to make a little sign for you to wear that says THESE ARE SPOKEN FOR and then everyone will know your boobies are mine.”
“Mmm, I love when you get all caveman on me. Will you throw me over your shoulder and carry me back to your cave?”
“Yep, and then I will ravage you before making you cook me up some T. rex.” He laughed.
“That sounds heavenly, Sweet Nuts, just heavenly,” I sassed, then yawned.
“Shit, Grace. I forgot how early it is there. I’ll let you get back to sleep. I’m sorry I called you in the middle of the night.”
“Do you feel better?” I asked.
“Well, yes. I do, actually,” he said sheepishly.
“Then you call my ass whenever you want. That’s what I’m here for—that and the blow-your-mind phone sex.”
“I miss the shit out of you, Gracie,” he said quietly.
“I know, George. I miss you too.” I smiled into the phone.
“Okay, I’ll let you get back to sleep. Love you.”
“Love you too. ’Night.”
I hung up the phone, sighing, and rolled onto my side. At this point in the program, had I been with my Brit, boobies would be held, sweet nothings would be whispered, and a Golden Girls episode or two might even be viewed.
A pang of loneliness washed over me, but I quickly pushed it aside and turned my thoughts to the scene I’d be working on the next day. Mabel was meeting with her ex-husband for the first time since the divorce, and my separation from Jack would help me create her feelings of isolation. I missed Jack, but I would use it.
And so it went. Days turned into weeks. I rehearsed and sometimes went out with my new friends. Jack did interviews and photo shoots and went out with his friends. We talked all the time and continued the frequent phone sex. He asked me lots of questions about the show and wanted to know everything about my new friends, the cast, and how things were going. I told Jack about everything, although I may have glossed over exactly how much time Michael and I were spending together outside rehearsal.
Some nights we met up to work on scenes he was rewriting, but we usually ended up back at my apartment, talking, reminiscing, and laughing, more than anything else. He said it helped with his rewrites to spend time with me, and I found more and more of myself showing up in the new scenes. He admitted once that he’d modeled some of Mabel’s character traits on me, especially the earlier scenes where Mabel is in college and falling in love with all the wrong guys.
One night we stayed late after rehearsal to work on a new scene, and when my tummy’s growling began to rival our rather loud discussion, I suggested we head back to my place and order a late dinner. I’d recently moved from the W hotel to a small apartment on the Upper West Side. It was clean, close to the rehearsal space, and already furnished—everything I needed in a temporary home. Since I’d moved in, we’d fallen into a habit of ordering greasy Chinese, and the restaurant around the corner from my apartment was our number one choice.
Secretly, this sometimes made me a bit nervous. Since battling my way back from a good deal of extra weight several years ago, I’d been dedicated to making smart food choices. But the noodles . . . oh my goodness, the noodles. I let myself pig out on occasion, because I knew now I could control it. I ate really well most of the time, I exercised like a maniac, and I was truly proud of my new body. This was what I was meant to look like. Nevertheless, when the noodles called, I answered. I just had to run an extra mile or two to combat them. It was worth it. Seriously, the best garlic noodles ever.
We picked up the order and settled into our usual spots: me on the couch and him on the floor next to me. He tended to make a mess, so I made him either wear a bib, or sit on the floor, where his mouth was closer to the noodle bowl. He chose the floor.
“Who was that guy you were dating sophomore year? The one who had the thing with no body hair?” he asked, shoveling in the noodles like someone was going to take them away from him.
“Um, Jason, I think? Ugh, I haven’t thought about him in years! He was odd—not one of my better moments. But fantastic in the sack, I must say.” I sighed, thinking of how happy he’d made me, but only when horizontal. He’d waxed his chest and legs, armpits, and even his bits and pieces. And this was back before anyone had ever heard of manscaping. He had zero body hair and, sadly, zero personality. He was equipped with nine inches of fantastic, though, which tended to make up for his little eccentricities.
“Yes, I remember you started taking yoga around that time . . . something about keeping yourself limber.” Michael winked mischievously, and I hit him on the head.
“Michael! Jeez! I can’t believe you remember all that. That was like, twelve years ago.” I laughed, spearing a broccoli and nibbling as I thought about how long ago it really was. Hanging out with Michael now felt like we were back at my old college apartment. He’d bring over his laundry, and we’d watch movies until we both fell asleep on the couch.
“Grace, I remember everything,” he said softly.
“Really? I bet you don’t remember the first time we met,” I challenged, pointing at him with my broccoli stalk.
“I’ll bet you the last egg roll that I do and you don’t,” he countered, his face serious.
“It’s a bet, sucker. So if you don’t mind, I’m going to mix up my soy sauce–hot mustard concoction so it’s ready for my victory egg roll.” I reached over him for the bag of condiments.
He grabbed my hand. “Why don’t we wait on that, since I’m totally going to win this bet,” he said, moving my hand back to my side.
“Hmmph, whatever. Okay, when we first met: Freshman year, first day of class. We were in Professor Miller’s Acting 1, lower level of the theater, room 301. We got paired up for scene work. I was wearing khaki shorts, Keds, and a Sigma Nu T-shirt. You were wearing a black ball cap, a Ministry T-shirt, jeans, and your Vans. I remember because at first I thought your shirt said ‘Minister.’ I thought, ‘Well, that sucks. I can’t very well bang a man of the cloth.’ ” I blushed, remembering that I really had been attracted to him from the start. “So there,” I finished, sticking my tongue out and blowing a raspberry.
He smiled, and I reached across him again to take my egg roll. He stopped me once more, though. “That isn’t the first time we met,” he said, grinning big.
“What? The fuck it isn’t. I remember it like it was yesterday, O’Connell.” I fought him for the egg roll, but he continued to hold my hands back, laughing now.
“The first time we met was the week prior to classes starting. I was at registration, and you were in line in front of me. I heard you telling the registration clerk you wanted to switch your Acting 1 class to a different section so you could take some astronomy class. When you left the line, you tripped over the rope and fell down.”
I felt my face grow red at the memory. “Shit, that’s right! I totally fell flat on my face, and some guy helped me get all my shit together. I was so embarrassed because my birth control pills fell out of my purse, and he handed them back to me with a huge smirk.” I’d hightailed it right out of there, convinced my entire college career would be marred by the incident. “And you saw that? How mortifying!” I laughed.
“I was the guy who handed you your pills, you dork! And then I made sure the clerk switched me into your acting class,” he said with that same smirk I remembered from registration. “And you were not wearing a Sigma Nu T-shirt that first day in class, it was an SAE shirt. And they weren’t khaki shorts, they were cutoff jean shorts,” he finished quietly.
We looked at each other for a moment.
“Take the fucking egg roll,” I finally said. “You totally won.”
He grinned and took it, eating half with one bite. Then he offered the rest to me. “We can share it. I can’t believe you remember the Ministry shirt.”
“Ya know, Holly was in that class too but we didn’t meet until later, when we all decided to grab a beer. I can’t remember what she was wearing that day,” I said thoughtfully, crunching down on my half of the egg roll.
“Neither can I, Grace,” Michael said softly, eyes on me.
My eyes locked on his.
I chewed my egg roll.
He scratched his nose.
Mrs. Kobritz’s yappy dog barked upstairs.
Our eyes stayed locked.
My cell rang. And rang. And rang.
Our eyes stayed locked.
Answer your phone, Grace.
My phone? Shit, my phone!
I broke away, grabbing my phone right before it went to voice mail.
“Hello? Hello?” I shouted unnecessarily into the phone. Michael chuckled and leaned back into the couch.
“Gracie? Hey, I was just about to leave you a raunchy message,” my Brit said.
“Do you want me to hang up so you can leave it?” I asked, a little out of breath. I pushed myself off the couch and went into the bedroom, out of earshot.
“Nah, I’d rather tell you what I wish I was doing to you—that way I can hear you react.” I could hear his voice change into Johnny Bite Down mode. I could never resist him when he nibbled on that lower lip—swoon-worthy for sure.
“You want me to react, huh?” I asked, wondering how I could get Michael out before Jack got me off. I was about to head back into the living room when Michael appeared in my doorway, leaning against the frame.
“I’m going to take off, Grace. I’ll see you tomorrow,” he mouthed, kindly keeping his voice down. I waved good-bye and followed him to the door, still listening to Jack.
“Yes, love, I’m dying for a reaction from you to my talented sexy ways, as I work my magic through your fingers,” Jack continued in a low voice.
My body responded, as it always did when I heard his voice get like that. Fuck, he could get me hot in 2.3 seconds. Three thousand miles couldn’t make a dent in his sex vibe. When he wanted a reaction from me, he got one—even across the Continental Divide.
“You’re dying, are you?” I laughed as I opened the door for Michael.
He stopped and looked back at me as if he were going to say something but then lifted his hand in good-bye. I waved back, smiling, and he disappeared down the hall.
“But first, Crazy, I have some great news,” Jack said as I locked the door, leaning back against it and sighing.
“You okay, sweet girl?” he asked.
“I’m good. I just miss you, is all,” I whispered, feeling a lump in my throat. Suddenly, I missed him so much I literally ached.
“Then you’ll be happy when I tell you my news, love.”
“What is it, please?” I asked, not daring to hope for what I wanted.
“I’m coming to see you,” he whispered.
I closed my eyes, leaned my head against the door, and said a silent thank-you.
“Gracie? Are you there?”
“I’m here, George,” I whispered, my throat tight. “And I couldn’t have gotten better news. I’m thrilled!” A grin broke across my face that rivaled Jack Nicholson’s Joker. Then I broke out in a fit of giggles, unable to stop. I laughed so hard I began to cry, and I could only imagine what it must sound like on the other end of the line.
Jack laughed along with me, indulging my outburst with the patience of a saint. Truly, no other twenty-four-year-old man on the planet had his tolerance, especially when dealing with me.
When I finally calmed enough to form sentences again, I sighed deeply, crawling toward the couch from where I’d collapsed in front of the door. When I finally lifted myself back onto the coach, I groaned dramatically.
“What the hell was that, Sheridan?” he asked, laughing again.
“Just a little emotional breakdown, Hamilton. So when are you getting here? Don’t tell me you’re already in the hallway!” I smiled, my heart leaping at the thought he might be that close.
“No, sorry. I’ll be there this Friday night, though. Soon enough for you?”
“You’ll be here in four days?” I squealed, arching off the couch as every muscle in my body clenched involuntarily.
“Yes, ma’am. Will you be ready for all that lovin’?” he teased, his voice getting lower.
“Oh, God, Sweet Nuts, I’m gonna work you over so good, you won’t be able to get back on that plane. How long will you be here?” I asked, my voice getting husky as well.
“What if I said you get to keep me until Tuesday night?”
I closed my eyes and bit down on my knuckles to keep the shrieking inside. “Four days? Do you have any idea the kind of damage we can do to each other in four days?”
“I have some idea. What do you want me to do first?” he asked, indicating the beginning of phone sex.
I smiled contentedly, imagining all the ways I could answer that question. They were spectacular in their promise.