- Pub. Date:
“An enjoyable romance involving entrapment, shopping sprees, crevasses, and ugly hiking boots.” –KIRKUS REVIEWS
A remarkable emotional, sensual and visual journey.
Mark Bell is a top Beverly Hills criminal defense attorney. He becomes obsessed with proving his wife Kat's loyalty after discovering a hidden cache of journals and intimate photos which document a sexual appetite she has never shared with him, even though they have been married for ten years.
Mark broods over Kat's journals – until fate provides a way for him to test Kat's loyalty.
It's brilliant – as long as Kat never finds out.
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|Publisher:||Black Rose Writing|
|Edition description:||First Printing ed.|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Claire H. Kim is a Los Angeles based attorney and the co-author of K-Town Confidential.
Read an Excerpt
Mark Bell's wife, Kat, seemed like an afternoon breeze, floating in unannounced, interrupting the staff with her easy smile and gentle ways. She would bring Mark lunch every day and was often seen counting out his vitamins and placing them precisely next to her picture in a sterling silver frame. That was just how she was. She took good care of him. Then, one day, Mark removed the photo. Kat never came by after that.
There was much speculation about what had happened, but nobody dared ask Mark. The one person who seemed to know anything was Sesami Lee, his law clerk. But she was the type who kept a secret well, never gossiping about her boss.
The cleaning lady discovered Kat's photo face down in the bottom of Mark's waste bin. She had never met the lady but she must be somebody to have her picture in such a fine silver frame, she thought, as she cleaned the glass and set it on the counter in the ladies' room.
It is fair to say that nobody knew Kat Connor enough to gauge the truth, but there was one certainty. The trouble had all started on their tenth wedding anniversary. Kat did not buy Mark a gift, even though they were celebrating that very evening. The fact that she put up with him was gift enough as far as she was concerned.
Mark Bell was a sharp-eyed crow who had no major complaints about Kat, but was quick to find fault. He was handsome enough, capable of charm, yet ultimately unpleasant, with arrogant eyes that shone like shiny coins. The glint matched the sheen of his even, naturally large white teeth. But when he smiled, that smile bore no warmth. He was the type of man who was demanding, shrewd, and believed his money could solve all his problems. If you took his money, you had better be able to deliver.
That evening Mark stood outside Mastro's restaurant with his hands in the pockets of his midnight blue suit. He reached into his breast pocket for an orange Tic-Tac, the toe of his polished black shoe tapping. He was annoyed. Kat was late. She has no idea how hard it is to get a good table and now they are about three minutes away from losing it, his expression showed. Mark didn't like waiting for anyone, including his wife.
At last, Kat pulled up to the curb and she was there — impeccably turned out except for one thing. Mark felt a flash of irritation as he looked at her shoes — classic pumps, with heels a mile high.
"I was the same height the night you proposed," Kat murmured as she gave him a peck on the cheek.
Kat was almost two inches taller than her husband. Barefoot, she was five feet ten inches. Mark loved her long legs, her posture, the way she walked, and particularly the way her ass tilted up in high heels — but he didn't like to stand next to her when she was wearing them. It made him feel, well, short.
"You do want me to look my best, don't you, sweetheart?" Kat murmured in a voice which softened even his blackest moods.
"By the way darling, I saw the blinking service light on your car — where have you been that the car needs servicing?" Mark complained. "And why is the mileage so high?"
"I don't know anything about cars," Kat answered, totally perplexed.
"Why is the mileage so high?" Mark repeated.
Kat did not answer and walked ahead, shoulders back, chin parallel to the floor, eyes straight ahead. She gave a sweet smile to the Maitre d', turning heads as she cat-walked to the best table in the room.
Kat was a classic and natural golden blonde with wide almond shaped eyes, an unusual pale blue-green color, and beautiful high carved cheekbones. There were only two slight flaws to her face. Her nose was a tiny bit too wide at the tip and she had faintly puffed chipmunk cheeks.
But she had long legs, a long torso, and the most perfectly proportioned natural breasts. Even her neck and fingers were long and slender and graceful like a dancer. Her skin was a pale porcelain and her body thin. The restaurant was full of admirers tonight.
"Why didn't you pick up my call, dear?" Mark kept his eyes glued on the menu as he spoke in the same patronizing tone he used with his clients. He was annoyed because he had called twice and Kat hadn't picked up.
"I went into Starbucks for a chai tea latte after dropping Quinn at your mom's. You know how loud it gets in there," Kat murmured, also looking down. Mark drank some of his sparkling water then placed the menu to the side. He looked around the crowded dining room and was satisfied as he noticed the other patrons looking at his wife, who was often mistaken for a model or celebrity. Mark sat a little taller and smiled.
After a wonderful ten years, the only two complaints he had about Kat were the high heels in public, and her refusal to change her last name. Hence, while she remained Kat Connor to most of the world, she answered to "Mrs. Bell" at their five-year old son Quinn's school and at Mark's many social events.
On pure looks Kat was way out of Mark's league, but fortunately for him, he had enough money and sophistication to catch her attention. Kat had once posed for Playboy, Miss November, a fact that had turned him on at the time he dated her. Once they were married, however, it had become something Mark hated because he didn't like the idea of other men looking at his naked wife.
However it still pumped up Mark's ego immeasurably to have Kat on his arm. Socially, Mark Bell became a larger than life figure whenever they entered a room. Scoring Kat was a grand slam and he knew it. It was an added bonus that her natural charm, sincerity and common touch helped Mark socially whereas his instinctual abrasiveness created problems. Kat was the type of woman who could say "no" with a smile, without in fact saying the word, yet leave the supplicant feeling like they'd been given the moon and the stars.
Mark Bell smiled to himself, as he looked round the opulent restaurant. He had come a long way since the Stuyvesant Town days of New York. 'Stuy Town,' as it was called, with its 89 sprawling red brick buildings, all identical in height from 14th street to 20th street running North, and from First Avenue going East to Ave C with its eight thousand apartments, parks and thousands of people living their lives. He wondered if the town could fit inside his Beverly Hills estate, with its cabanas, statuaries, pools and fountains. Who says you can't have it all? Mark was in a self-congratulating mood as he sat ruminating about his life, and the past ten wonderful years.
Mark admired the magnificent trees, all uniform, lined up like soldiers. He thought of his stays at The Beverly Hills Hotel — the images of the green banana leaves in the pink halls. How the years had passed. Clients changed. Stories to tell and stories to forget. Then, Kat had appeared and the most wonderful time of all began.
Mark looked down at the menu and gestured at the waiter.
"Any specials?" It always sounded like Mark was shouting, even when he wasn't.
"The chef's special today is veal piccata, finished with a three citrus chutney, baby carrots and petite courgette, each stuffed with their own tiny flower blossoms," the waiter said with a flourish. He was old school, wearing a white starched jacket.
"We'll both have that, with the avocado salad to start and a bottle of the Avelsbacher Reisling, the 2011." Mark snapped the wine list shut, pleased with having nailed the guttural sound in the second syllable of 'Avelsbacher.' He looked at Kat to see if she noticed, but she was busy looking elsewhere. Kat knew Mark tended to order wine based on the difficulty of the name.
Kat had wanted to select her own meal for a change, but Mark was too busy muscling the waiter, so she set the menu aside accepting his decision. Mark handed back the menu and wine list with a dismissive wave and turned to Kat and gave her his full attention.
"You look amazing, my darling," Mark declared, facing her with his eyes glimmering, assessing his greatest work product to date. Kat was, in fact, the walking culmination of his finest efforts. Mark Bell had exceptional taste in fashion and lots of his time and money had gone into dressing Kat.
Kat wore a grey Loro Piana cashmere turtleneck with a matching cardigan. She was strung with white pearls and a darker gray Cucinelli cashmere pencil skirt, textured Wolford stockings and classic heels. Her clothes draped like a waterfall, yet she looked as if she had just got out of bed no matter what time of the day it was. She had cleverly tied a Hermés scarf to her handbag. Her outfit complimented her thick and soft blonde hair which fell in loose waves over her shoulders. Kat smiled. She never tired of being admired, even if the compliment came from Mark.
An awkward silence followed. Kat looked around, amusing herself as she often did by checking out the other diners. She wondered which couples were happy and which were not. Who was married and who was having an affair?
Finally relaxed, Mark pulled a small, heavy red box with gold trim from his pocket and slid it across the table.
"Happy anniversary, darling." When Mark smiled, his big white teeth always reminded Kat of oversized pieces of Chiclets gum, but now her eyes danced with excitement at the idea of a gift. Kat reached for the box and tipped open the lid.
Inside the box was a spectacular ring in the image of a panther. The eyes were aquamarines, the color of Kat's eyes, with black onyx encrusted with a pavé of white diamonds. It looked like a creature hidden in a snowy backdrop, beautiful, elegant and ready to pounce.
The panther just stared back, jarring her. Kat thought there must be some mistake but the look on Mark's face said it all. He was pleased and so busy congratulating himself that he didn't notice Kat's disappointment.
"It's very pretty, but have you ever seen me wear animal jewelry?" Kat sulked, wrinkling her nose. She slid the ring on her finger, not hiding her disappointment. It was not her style at all and something she would never have picked.
Later that night, Kat lay back on their bed and pulled up her skirt so that Mark could see the expensive lingerie she wore and her pale, well-toned thighs above the grey stockings. As she lay there, she thought of their son, Quinn, wondering what he had eaten for dinner at grandma's.
Kat could still feel the wine pulsing through her veins, and she concentrated on that while Mark touched her. Sex with Mark was predictable and not at all exciting, but soon enough he would be asleep. At this point in her marriage everything about her husband annoyed her. Especially sex.
In the early morning, Mark reached over for Kat but she stiffened and pulled away. It was clear that the honeymoon was long over and all that remained were Mark's deficiencies.CHAPTER 2
"You didn't tell me why the mileage is so high?" Mark questioned Kat again as he poured fresh coffee in their kitchen.
"Don't interrogate me! I'm not one of your clients, Mark," Kat snapped.
"Don't you understand? It's a lease. You get 10,000 miles a year, which should be plenty. Every place you go is within five miles of our home. It makes no sense. There are all kinds of penalties if you go over the mileage," Mark said, shaking his head.
"I can't figure out the mileage for wherever I'm going," Kat explained, exasperated. "You know I'm no good in math!"
Mark started again, trying to be patient. "These car leases are impossible to terminate, and now you've used the second year's miles up in the first year. You technically have no miles left until year three."
"Why can't I use the year three miles now in year two? And we'll worry about the rest later?" Kat reasoned.
It wasn't the mileage per se, Mark fumed. If Kat had offered a reasonable explanation as to where she was going he would have been fine. It was her refusal to answer a simple question that left him stewing. It occurred to Mark that Kat never volunteered any details about herself. He had once questioned a gold crucifix she always wore on a thin chain.
"Why do you wear that thing all the time?" he asked. They had been in bed and Kat had sat up flustered and pulled the sheets up around her, and just sat there, mute.
"It's cheap looking," Mark added, yanking it.
"Don't!" Kat looked away. She had clammed up then the same way she was now, refusing to give a simple answer.
It was almost noon. The California sun beat through the high office windows and carved a sharp bright rectangle on the thick carpet. Mark sat away from his lawyer desk, always with client files covering every inch. He turned a bit toward the sun, in a modernist chair made of simple white leather and chrome. He hadn't accomplished a thing all morning. Most mornings he was in court, so a morning in the office was a chance to catch up, but his heart wasn't in it. Then a sharp knock on the door, and his law clerk, Sesami Lee, walked in. She was smart as a whip, pretty and into Korean and Hong Kong action movies, which gave her, as far as he was concerned, an off-the-chart cool quotient.
Many young lawyers at the firm had tried to date her and, while she always sounded willing, she was never free. She was the only one Mark trusted to take calls and perform arcane yet critical errands for him. Today she was wearing lime green glasses and carrying transcripts piled high.
"Good morning Fearless Leader." Sesami glanced over at her boss as she placed the transcripts down.
"Good morning, Sesami. Any calls?" As Sesami listed them, Mark absently strung the paperclips together.
"And Mr. Bailey would like a return call this morning," Sesami finished.
"Okay, you have to lie and say I'm out for the day." Mark paused. "Sterns got suspended," he added. Sterns was his old law school friend.
"That would explain your irritable mood this morning, Sir." Sesami walked over with an empty waste bin and set aside the full one and stood next to her boss.
Mark seemed blind to Sesami's actual corporeal presence. After fighting with Kat, the morning had gone from bad to worse when Agnes Mayflower walked into the courtroom for disciplinary proceedings before the State Bar of California, where Mark was defending his friend, Bud Sterns. She was a skinny, black elderly woman with coke bottle glasses. She walked in wearing a floral dress and carrying the Bible.
"I can't control her," Mark told the bailiff. "Nobody knows what she is going to say." Mark just wasn't in the mood to take her on.
The bailiff swore Agnes Mayflower in and she primly took the witness stand.
"What's that book in your lap, Ms. Mayflower?" Mark asked.
"It's the Holy Bible, sir." Agnes smoothed her skirt and patted the book.
"Did that man tell you to bring the Bible?" Mark asked, gesturing to the prosecutor.
"He did not," Agnes Mayflower answered, indignant. "I carry the Bible wherever I go. Let the lying lips be put to silence which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous," she declared.
"Did you see my client, Mr. Sterns, slow down at the intersection?"
"He did no such thing. His eyes were glued to his phone. Sir, that poor man in the wheelchair didn't stand a chance. Mr. Sterns never saw the body until it was high in the sky because he was texting, clear as day." Agnes Mayflower shook her head, emphatically.
That had been the end of Bud Sterns.
How do we manage during that nano-second that is our time on earth before we join the endless stream of history? Mark wondered. Bud Sterns' career had spanned thirty years. It ended in the blink of an eye.
How would he be remembered? Mark contemplated the fate of his friend as he absently extracted paper clips from the trial binders and crumpled the exhibits and threw them in the trash. He made a string of the paper clips. He dangled it in the air, long and skinny. It looked like a map of Fire Island. Mark smiled and laid the paperclips on the table.
Fire Island had once seemed a remarkable place ... a thin strip as narrow as 500 ft, to as wide as 1300. It was 31 miles long and hugged the underside of Long Island just east of New York City. So close, but worlds away. He wished he was there now with its permanent population of just 292, though in summer, it swelled to many thousands. A special kind of playground.
One would be hard pressed these days to find anything like Fire Island, he thought. Sand and ocean, scattered houses, pathways for wagons, but no cars, just a few bicycles, and very few shops ... but most importantly, just sand and ocean, the breeze off the Atlantic. He remembered the stories the old-timers told of how the original settlers had set lamps to lure passing ships aground. The locals would kill the sailors and ransack the cargo. Ironically, the inhabitants were very proud of the first real lighthouse in 1825.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Kat & Maus"
Copyright © 2018 Brad Chisholm & Claire Kim.
Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
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