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Who Wants to Be a Sex Goddess?
By GEMMA BRUCE
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2007 Gemma Bruce
All right reserved.
Chapter One"You want me to what?" Ariadne McAllister paced in front of the sofa where her mother, Galena McAllister, her younger sister, Liz, short for Lysandra, her brother, Lucian, and their housekeeper, Betty, sat shoulder to shoulder, looking like four evil genies.
"It's the only way to find out what happened to her," insisted Galena. "She went to this Terra Bliss place and disappeared."
"You don't know that she's disappeared."
"Then why hasn't she come back?" Galena rolled the section of newspaper she was holding into a tube and began tapping it on the bentwood coffee table in front of her.
Liz looked up from the couch. Dark curls spilled Medusa-like over her forehead, a perfect curtain for the penetrating look she fixed on her sister. "I'd go, but I start filming in three days."
"And I can't go," said Lucian. "I'm damn good, but not the goddess type."
Andy stopped pacing and looked down at the people she loved most in the world. "And I am? Look at me."
They all dutifully looked at her. Scuffed desert boots, severely distressed jeans, out at both knees and one pocket, and a spaghetti-strapped T-shirt that was still encrusted with fake blood. Both elbows were scraped, and she was bruised in places no one outside the business even knew about.
"If you took a bath and brushed your hair, you would be," said her mother.
Andy sighed."You said emergency. I left straight from the set as soon as we wrapped and drove two hundred miles to get here. I didn't have time to primp. But if I leave in the next ten minutes, I can get home, pack, bathe"-she emphasized the last word-"and still make my flight to Acapulco."
"I've been on location-in the desert-in the summer-for the last six weeks. I've nearly drowned in a flash flood, fell off a cliff, crawled until sand is permanently embedded in my knees, and wrestled a sidewinder-for seven takes. I deserve a vacation."
"So does the snake," said Lucian.
"He only worked one hour. He belongs to a better union."
"You can go on vacation later," said her mother.
No, I can't, thought Andy. Banshee, the Sequel began filming at the end of the month. She really needed two weeks of pampering herself. Basking in sunlight that didn't give you skin poisoning. Floating on waves that weren't made by a machine. And indulging in several days of hot sex with one of the film's costars, Jason Hill-before Jason's eye and dick roved to someone who would be more beneficial to his career.
Andy sighed and picked up the Terra Bliss brochure from the coffee table. She knew it was useless to argue with her family once they got "the look." And they all had it. It had been perfected over three generations of Hollywood stunt people and brooked no argument. And when you threw Betty into the mix ... She might as well start driving to Lake Tahoe.
She began to read the brochure, unconsciously pulling out the elastic band that held her hair in a long, thick braid. Unlocking Your Inner Goddess. Three-week sensual-training workshops in the glorious Lake Tahoe mountains. She opened the trifold to the course list: Focusing Your Eternal Feminine; Getting What You Deserve; Retraining the Man in Your Life; Sexual Secrets for Lasting Relationships; and a special workshop, The Eternal Orgasm.
"You've got to be kidding."
"Got to the Eternal Orgasm part, didn't you?" asked Lucian.
Andy tossed the brochure back onto the table. "Good old Aunt Mac. She's probably locked in an eternal orgasm and can't get out."
Lucian snorted. "But what a way to go."
"This is not a joking matter," said Galena. She whacked the newspaper against her palm for dramatic effect.
"Oh, Mom," said Andy, sneaking a peek at her watch. She could still make the flight if she gave up the bath. "Maybe she decided to stay for the second session. Sometimes, hang gliding, car chases, and bull riding just aren't enough. We'll probably find her staggering down the highway-"
"With a smile on her face," added Lucian.
Sister and brother grinned at each other.
"How can you two be so awful," snapped Liz. "We called the retreat and they said she'd left. Aunt Miranda's life may be in danger. Show her the article, Mom."
Galena stopped whacking the newspaper and began to unroll it. She spread it out on the coffee table. "There," she said, pointing to the center of the page.
Andy leaned over to get a better look at the crumpled article. "Heiress Leaves Fortune to Sex Group." Imogene Southwaite, widow of-Andy scanned through the family particulars-fell to her death Tuesday night. It is said that the Chicago heiress left her considerable fortune to Goddess International, an organization that professes a system of turning women's inner sensuality to outward power.
Owner of the company and television sex guru, Dr. Fiona Bliss, was unavailable for comment.
"Coincidence," said Andy.
"There's no such thing," said Galena. "Miranda has probably been murdered in her sleep."
"Mac isn't an heiress," said Andy, her vacation panning to a long shot in her mind.
"She's not poor," said Betty. "But if your vacation and some hit-and-run pretty-boy actor are more important than your aunt's life ..." She heaved herself off the couch and dragged herself away.
Andy winced. Even Betty knew about her serially disastrous love life. "Come back and sit down," said Andy.
Betty lurched around, scowled at Andy, but made her way back to the couch. She'd come to live with them ten years ago after an aerial accident had left her partially paralyzed. She was slow, but she was still lethal.
Andy's vacation faded to black. "What do you want me to do?"
"There's another workshop starting Saturday," said Galena. "I've reserved you a place."
Dillon Cross unpacked the duffel bag the human resources department of Goddess International had issued him on his arrival at Terra Bliss. Three pairs of powder blue silk gym shorts with matching T-shirts. Two pairs of sweats in the same color, and a shear white, pleated-skirt.
Great. Grayson Talbot was going to pay for giving him this assignment. He didn't do skirts. And this one was ridiculously short. Some kind of Greek slave wear, he supposed.
He shucked off his jeans and wrapped the skirt around his waist. Then he looked in the mirror attached to the back of his dorm room door. The skirt barely covered his crotch, and it left the jagged scar from his latest knee surgery exposed. He pulled it down, until it hung low on his hips. That was a little better. He turned around and looked over his shoulder at his reflection. Now the scar on his back was showing. Shit.
He thought he'd blown his "audition" when he had to strip down to his underwear. But to his surprise, he passed with flying colors. Evidently, some women thought scars were a turn-on. Some women-but not the ones he knew. Those women could turn from randy she-devil to Mother Teresa at the first touch of rough skin. It brought out their nurturing instincts. He hated nurturing types. Which explained his lack of a sex life. At least, partially explained it.
He was jarred from that train of thought by a knock on the door. It opened, and Rusty Slayton's curly head appeared in the opening. This was Rusty's second summer at Terra Bliss, and he'd offered to show Dillon the ropes.
"Shorts and tees for afternoon. The kilt is for dinner." His gaze fell on Dillon's thigh. "Jesus."
Dillon stepped behind the bed and gritted his teeth. The look of horror he could take; it was the following sympathy that made him see red. It was his own fault for pulling this dickhead assignment. But hell, it was the only kind of assignment he was good for.
"Better shake it," said Rusty, regrouping and giving himself a quick once-over in the mirror. "The bus will be here in ten minutes, and all the slaves-attendants, I mean-have to be lined up for the welcoming address. Wear your tightest jockstrap. Some of these 'ladies' think a sensuality workshop is one long sex orgy."
Slaves? Dillon shuddered. He owed Grayson a lot. The man had saved Dillon's carcass on their last assignment and had convinced the agency to keep him on, even though he was no longer of use in a war zone-or anyplace else for all Dillon knew.
He looked down at his powder blue outfit. Before the accident, he'd been a damn good covert operator. Now he was nothing more than a covert boy toy.
Andy stared out the window at the blur of scenery as the bus climbed up the mountain road to Terra Bliss. She should never have let her family talk her into this, especially after they insisted on the disguise. But here she was, her hair pulled back in a tight bun. Her feet stuffed into "sensible" shoes. And after a five-hour car ride and another two hours on the chartered bus, her conservative, gray linen suit looked as if she'd slept in it.
She'd balked at the idea of bleaching away her tan. She'd earned every UV ray-induced inch of it. And she'd absolutely refused to wear the prosthetic buck teeth. But when she'd tried to nix the glasses, there was a general outcry.
"Come on, Andy," Lucian had pleaded, the devil in his eyes. "You'll never pass as a plain Jane if anybody gets a good look at your face."
She'd put them on and swayed. "I can't see a thing."
"Sure you can," said Lucian. "They're just props. You'll get used to them after a minute. It'll add to your credibility."
Except they were Coke-bottle thick, and hours later, the scenery was still a blur. She knew they had driven through the town of South Lake Tahoe and circled the lake to climb higher into the mountains. But the woman sitting next to her was a blob of green and navy blue. Probably just as well she couldn't see, thought Andy. She had a sneaky suspicion that the woman was wearing a golf outfit.
The bus slowed down, and the driver announced that they were entering the Terra Bliss grounds and would have no further cell phone or Internet service. Andy heard the scurry of last minute calls starting up around her. She didn't bother. Everyone who mattered knew where she was, and the others would be too busy partying to care.
The bus passed through what appeared to be a stone arch. The deep forest gave way to a wash of lighter green. Andy slid her glasses down to the tip of her nose and looked over the tortoiseshell frames-an extensive, perfectly manicured lawn that stretched for acres and was surrounded by a high stone wall.
To the far left was a large, Greek-styled building with entrance columns and an ornamental frieze that ran between two stories of rectangular windows. To the far right sat a swimming pool and two buildings that looked like a gym and a dormitory. In between, the lawn was sprinkled with copses of trees, white marble fountains, and smaller structures that suggested ancient shrines and made Andy think of vestal virgins dancing in the moonlight.
Taking this goddess theme a bit far, she thought. Then wondered hopefully if there would be any Greek gods in attendance.
All around her, chatter rose in excited trills. The woman next to her began talking in a thick Texas accent.
"Isn't it just like a real paradise?"
"Um," said Andy. It was about all she could manage, except, Are you nuts? It looks like a sound stage from the last "Xena" season.
The bus stopped and the doors whooshed open. The driver instructed them to step down and form a line to the right, where they would be greeted by the retreat's director, Katherine Dane. The forty women filed down the aisle. Andy stayed close on the heels of the wavering blue-green mass in front of her. Until it stopped suddenly and Andy plowed into it.
"Sorry," she mumbled. She was going to have to find a way to ditch the glasses.
"That's all right, hon. There's nothing to be nervous about. This is my third summer here and I love it to death. You'll see. You won't even recognize yourself when the session is over."
Not to worry, thought Andy. She was never wearing these clothes or glasses again.
"I'm Jeannie Jenkins."
"Nice to meet you. Now hurry up and let's see how yummy the slaves are this session."
Slaves? Andy followed Jeannie down the steps.
They formed a line along the side of the bus. Katherine Dane began her speech. Andy missed most of it. She was trying to see across the drive where a line of blue wavered in the sunlight. More people, she guessed. The slaves? Intrigued, she dipped her head and looked over the top of her glasses; she could see only halfway across the driveway. She pushed the glasses up and peered through the slit at the bottom. It gave her a crick in the neck.
Next to her, Jeannie wriggled her fingers at someone across the way. "I just love it here. Even the security guards are hunky." She pointed across the drive. "Yum, I think that's my slave. The tall one with black hair. He's a knockout. Yessiree bobtail. Sleek and trim, like a panther. Ooo-eee. Do you like yours?"
Andy crammed the glasses back up her nose so quickly that it made her queasy. "Uh."
"He's cute, too. Shorter and hunkier. I remember him from last session. Demetri. Definitely a keeper. You just keep him guessing and you'll drive him crazy."
The line started to move. Andy took a deep breath and stepped forward. She was about to flirt her way through a missing person investigation. Gloria Steinem would be appalled.
Dillon stood in line waiting to meet his goddess and schlep her luggage to her cabin. All the participants were assigned an attendant and a private cabin set back in the woods-for reflection and study-and, Dillon would lay odds, for clandestine meetings with the retreat's cadre of studs.
He was in the middle of a line of men all wearing the skimpy shorts and shirts.
Behind them stood a row of security guards, dressed in navy blue jumpsuits, all buff, good-looking, and trained to kill. Dillon had already run into two of them when he was jogging near the wall that enclosed the compound.
The wall was twelve feet tall and reminded Dillon of a prison camp. When he'd asked about it, Rusty said, "The wall? Keeps out grizzlies and the local Evangelists."
But once Dillon had seen the guards marching the perimeter, he knew they were doing more than bear patrol. Definitely serious stuff going on here.
Money? The whole setup was ludicrous. He was sure he'd seen something comparable to this on a late night Star Trek rerun. The togas, the fake Greek architecture, the orgies. And yet, the sex doctor was making a fortune. Maybe she did need armed guards. Because the security guards were definitely carrying.
The line moved forward, and he realized a woman across the way was waving at him. She was tall and skinny, with big red hair, and wearing green knit pants and a blue halter top. She had to be sixty if she was a day. She pointed to him and then to herself, and Dillon got a sudden sinking feeling. He quickly looked to the head of the line. She was his and she looked like she was ready for fun. He didn't have time for fun. He was on assignment, such as it was. He glanced back at her, but his eyes snagged on the woman in front of her. Tall and stoop-shouldered, in a god-awful gray suit that made her look like a scared mouse on stilts.
He bet that she wouldn't be making demands on her slave. She kept looking at the sky, then down to the ground, as though she were expecting rain.
Only on his parade, thought Dillon humorlessly. Then he got a flash of genius. He leaned over the shoulder of the serf in front of him, a stocky weight lifter, named Demetri.
"You want to trade?"
"Huh?" Demetri looked over his shoulder and gave Dillon an incredulous look. "You putting me on? You want the beanpole in the wrinkled suit?"
"Yeah. I do." The line advanced another spot. "You better decide before it's too late. Do you want the tall redhead behind her?"
"Like shit, yeah. We're gonna be stuck with them for three weeks. The redhead was here for the first session. Richer than God and ready to rock 'n' roll. Thanks, man. I owe you." He dropped behind Dillon, and Dillon stepped forward just as he reached the head of the line.
Excerpted from Who Wants to Be a Sex Goddess? by GEMMA BRUCE Copyright © 2007 by Gemma Bruce. Excerpted by permission.
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