Read an Excerpt
"When I was fifteen I was amazing, absolutely amazing! Dear Mummy was terrified to let me out on my own; she felt I was bound to come home pregnant, or something silly like that."
The speaker was Claudia Parker. The listener was David Cooper. Claudia was in bed. She was a very beautiful girl and she knew it, and David knew it, so everyone was happy. She had long, shiny ash-blond hair, which fell thickly around her face, and deep bangs down to her eyebrows, which accentuated her enormous, slanty green eyes. The face was perfect, with a small straight nose, and luscious full lips. She wore no makeup and no clothes, and was covered by only a thin silk sheet.
David sat at the end of the bed. He was forty and looked it. He had black, slightly curly hair, and a well-lined strong face. His nose was rather prominent, and he wore thick, horn rimmed glasses. He was a masculine-looking man and enjoyed a great deal of success with the opposite sex.
"So eventually I left home," continued Claudia. "I mean it was just all too impossible and dreary. One night I sneaked out, never to return. Actually, I met this marvelous boy, an actor, and he brought me to London with him, where I've been ever since." She sighed and wriggled around under the sheet. "Got a cigarette, darling?"
David produced a packet of filter-tips from his dressing-gown pocket and handed one to her. She took a long drag. "Want to hear more of my lurid background?"
"I want to hear everything about you."
She smiled. "You're so sweet. Not at all dull. I thought when I first saw you, you would turn out to be an absolute bore. But how wrong I was. I'm mad about you!" She leaned over to where hewas sitting. The sheet was left behind as she wound her arms around his neck and started to nibble at his ear. She had a quite fabulous body.
He pushed her back on the bed.
"Want me, baby?" she whispered. "Want me badly?"
He grunted his assent.
Suddenly she twisted herself free, jumped off the bed, and ran to the door.
"You're too much," she said, "but not now, darling. Maybe you can do it again so soon, but I need a little rest." She giggled. "I'm going to have a shower, then perhaps we can get some lunch out; and then, baby, then we can come back and make it all night long!"
She vanished through the door, and David heard water running in the bathroom.
He thought about Claudia, and the way they first met. Was it really only three weeks ago? He had had a particularly hard day at the office, and Linda, his wife, had been nagging him about all the extra work he seemed to be doing, and how she never saw him anymore. It was nearly six, and he was just getting ready to leave, when Phillip Abbottson darted into his office.
"Listen, Dave," Phillip said. "Do you have a spare moment to come down to the studio and make a decision for us? We've got two girls testing for the Beauty Maid soap product, and it's a dead heat. We just can't decide."
Reluctantly David went with Phillip to the ground-floor studio in the enormous Cooper-Taylor advertising building. It was owned by his uncle, R. P. Cooper, who had two sons, and Sanford Taylor, who had no sons but who did have a son-in-law. David was sixth in line of importance, which in a business of such a size was quite important, but not important enough as far as David was concerned. He was in charge of the television section, and since Beauty Maid soap was to be featured quite heavily on Channel 9, it was necessary to pick the right girl.
They entered the studio, and David immediately spotted her. She was sprawled in a canvas chair, wearing a white terry-cloth robe. Her hair was piled high on her head, and she was eating an apple. The other girl came into focus next. She was chocolate-box pretty, prim, and virginal-looking. However, her figure belied her face. She had a huge bosom, the largeness of which was emphasized by the flesh-colored swimsuit she was wearing.
"What tits!" muttered Phillip.
"Is that all you ever think about?" said David.
Phillip called for silence in the small studio and gestured to the girl with the large bosom. She made her way onto the small set where a fake bathroom was set up. She climbed daintily into a large, round marble bath, flesh-color swimsuit and all, and a prop man rushed eagerly over and sprayed her ample proportions with bubbles. Someone else thrust a large bar of soap into her hand, and then Phillip shouted, "O.K, let's shoot it."
The cameras started to roll, and David watched the scene on a small closed-circuit screen.
The girl flashed a toothy smile at the camera. "I'm a Beauty Maid," she cooed.
She lathered the soap in her hands and spread it luxuriously up her arms, first one, and then the other. "Beauty Maid was made for me. It's so creamy, so smooth, so datable." She drew one long leg out of the bubbles and lathered that too. "Why don't you try Beauty Maid, and then you can be a Beauty Maid too!"
She smiled at the camera again and shifted slightly, so that her huge bosom was well in focus.
"Cut," shouted Phillip. "Miss Parker now, please."
David turned to watch as Claudia changed places with the first girl. She had a pantherlike grace all her own. Her voice was low and sexy as she read her lines. When she was finished she casually shrugged her way back into her robe and sat down. The other girl still bounced around the set.
"Choose Claudia Parker," David said to Phillip. "There's no contest."
As he left the set, Claudia caught his eye. She smiled, and he felt more than a hint of promise in her smile. He returned to his office, packed up a few papers, called Linda to say he would be home for dinner, and left.
Claudia was standing outside the building.
"Hello," she said. "Small world."
They talked for a few minutes about the tests, and Beauty Maid soap, and the weather, and then David suggested dinner. Claudia said she thought that was a great idea.
They went to an intimate Italian restaurant in Chelsea, where David knew he was unlikely to be spotted by any of his or Linda's friends. He called Linda on the phone and made his excuses. She sounded upset but understanding. Claudia called a boyfriend and canceled him out. They ate cannelloni and talked and held hands, and there it all began.
Claudia returned from the bathroom. "Darling, what have you been doing?" she questioned.
David pulled her down on the bed. "Thinking about you, about how you picked me up."
"That's not true!" she protested. "You're just a dirty old man who fancied me as soon as you saw me in that bath!" She was wearing her white terry-cloth robe again. David ran his hands underneath it. She shivered. The phone rang. "Saved by the bell," she giggled, and rolled across the bed to answer it. It was her agent.
David dressed slowly, watching her all the time. She spoke animatedly on the phone, occasionally pausing to stick out a small pink tongue at him. Finally she hung up. "Oh, you're dressed," she said accusingly. "I've got simply marvelous news. I have an interview with Conrad Lee tomorrow. He's over here looking for a completely new face to star in his latest film; it's all about the Virgin Mary or something. Anyway, I'm to see him tomorrow night at six in his suite at the Plaza Carlton. Isn't it exciting?"
David wasn't pleased. "Why do you have to see him at night? What's wrong with during the day?"
"Baby, don't be so silly. My God, if he wants to get laid he can get it just as well in the morning as any other time." She marched crossly over to the dressing table and meticulously started to apply her makeup.
"All right, I'm sorry I spoke. I just don't know why you want this stupid career of yours. Why don't you-"
"Why don't I what?" she interrupted coldly. "Give it all up and marry you? And what do you suggest we do with your wife and kids, and all your other various family entanglements?"
He was silent.
"Look, baby." Her voice softened. "I don't bug you about things, so why don't we just forget it? You don't own me, I don't own you, and that's the way it should be." She applied lip gloss with a flourish. "I'm starving. How about lunch?"
They went to their favorite Italian restaurant and good humor was soon restored.
"Sunday's such a dreary day," mused Claudia. "It just sort of sags along." She drank her red wine with relish and smiled at the short, fat proprietor, who grinned happily back. "Do you know, everyone believes they're beautiful; I'm sure of it. They look in the mirror, and they see two eyes, a nose, and a mouth, and that's it, they think -- what a gas!"
Her laughter lit up the restaurant, and David laughed with her. She was such a beautiful, vital girl. He had had many affairs outside marriage before, but this was different; this time, for the first time, he wished he was free.
"I met this man once," said Claudia. "He promised me a yacht in the south of France, a villa in Cuba, lots of jewels and all that jazz, and then he just disappeared. I heard later he was a spy and got shot. Life sure is strange."
After lunch they drove through the West End looking for a film they both wanted to see.
"Look at all those nuts," exclaimed Claudia, watching a large procession heading toward Trafalgar Square. "Can you imagine spending all your spare time rushing around tying yourself to embassies, and sitting down all over the place? And all the fellas have beards, I wonder why." She snuggled up closer to David. "Let's forget about the movie. Let's go back to my place and screw. I feel like getting laid again, don't you?"
Who was he to argue?
Copyright © 1968 Jackie Collins