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Authors: Louise Bagshawe

Tags: #Romance, #Chick Lit

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BOOK: A Kept Woman
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‘That would be great.’ Mira stared at him coldly. ‘There’s a coffee place not far from here that I like.’

Without a word, Ernie gathered up his notes and followed Mira out of his office. Through the opulently decorated lobby, she kept up a loud stream of chatter about brand management and focus groups and Internet presence. Ernie told his assistant they were stepping out for a meeting. He wasn’t listening to what the woman


was saying. His gaze kept trickling down her hard legs to the spiked metal stilettos. He found his throat was dry.

She kept up the talking until they were a block away from the coffee house. Ernie sprang to open the door for her. She didn’t thank him. She indicated a banquette away from the window and he sat there, quietly. The place was gloomy, although it was noon outside. Looking up, Ernie saw that there were erotic prints set against the black walls, x93os maybe, ink etchings of women - semi-nude - with whips, restraining men. Homoerotic pictures, too. The ambience was dark and, as he looked around, he saw the patrons were well dressed, but furtive. It felt secret and forbidden and terribly exciting.

A waiter materialised into view from nowhere and turned to Mira.

‘I’ll have herbal tea. He’ll take black coffee,’ she said, shortly.

As the man sidled off, Ernie looked at Mira. The expression in her eyes was such that he didn’t say a word. He swallowed, dryly.

‘I don’t take my coffee black,’ he muttered, after a while. She looked him over with contempt and reached under the table. Ernie felt her talons dig into his hand as she grabbed it, waiting just a second to feel if there was any resistance. Then his hand hit something cool and smooth and firm. Her skinny thighs, as tight as a man’s. He gasped with excitement. His cock hardened, he was suddenly afraid to move, afraid that anybody could pass by and see the state of him. Damn, she was a bitch. And a slut. His fingertips, squeezed so tight in her grip that the blood was cut off, were feeling her pussy now. No

panties, and she was shaved totally smooth.

Ernie groaned.

‘You’ll take your coffee exactly how I tell you to take it,’ Mira hissed.



Chapter 5

The days rolled on, and Diana was satisfied. At least, she kept telling herself that. Her little dinner parties, given with lan and verve, were the talk of the town, not least because Diana made sure to invite all the gossip columnists, flattering them shamelessly. Ernie’s business was going well, too, from the looks of things. The stock price of the company had risen after his first month in charge, and that was all she wanted or needed to know. Diana was more concerned with digging out the right - it was her new favourite phrase. There were many stylists dotted around the soaring skyscrapers, but Diana wanted to find the right one - the man with the best razor cuts to trim her long hair, to keep it glossy and perfect. The right dinner guests, the delicious mix of celebrities, socialites, big businessmen, and one or two scandal-hit divorcees, with perhaps a poverty-stricken but talented poet thrown in somewhere. She had already picked the right decorator, and with the help of her friends, she was aiming to find the right everything. From pedicurists to psychics, New York had its favourites - but, Diana thought, sighing, it was so boring to follow the crowd. As if she would be seen dead in a pashmina shawl, for example. There was a very fine line between stylish and fashion victim. Perhaps it was the incessant sameness of New York moneyed life that had her … well … restless.

She was meeting Natasha, Jodie and Felicity at L’Urbane, the newest hot spot, run by two Frenchwomen who promised to steal all the crowds away from Bliss.




There was a three-month wait for an appointment, if you were one of the peasants. My girlfriends don’t fall into that category, Diana thought smugly. And apparently the hour-long oxygen facials would give you a complexion to die for. She studied her own smooth skin in the mirror of the solid-gold Cartier compact Ernie gave her after her last dinner party got him a great write-up in the papers. He was revelling in being a social lion, getting the kind of acceptance in the States he could never get at home. Back there, Diana thought, her husband would always be second to her. It was the quietly inflexible class system that Ernie would never be able to buck. In America, with . the right kind of press, he could make it.

And America was all about status. Ernie drew a lot of satisfaction from it, Diana mused, why couldn’t she? She was doing everything right. So what was missing? Love? That was a fairy story girls should grow out of when they grew out of Cinderella. The best thing you could hope for was to find a guy who you got on with, who didn’t bother you overmuch, and who didn’t paw you in bed. She had no complaints about Ernie in that regard. Since the job had kicked in, he hardly ever wanted sex, and when he did, it was dutiful, fast and distasteful. Diana gritted her teeth and just prayed he would keep away from her. She’d read in Glamour that 80 per cent of women never had an orgasm. Was that true? She looked at her rich girlfriends’ husbands and thought it might be.

Sex was for men. Sex for women was a huge myth. It was better to seek real pleasure from life, Diana told herself. She had a rich husband, a life of luxury, she was young, and beautiful, and envied, and never had to do a stroke of work. It was … she grinned to herself softly .. the American dream. The ennui would pass, she must just be tired. A life of leisure could be exhausting. Maybe this spa would be the thing to refresh her.

The limo pulled in smoothly to the kerb, her .driver




easily negotiating the Fifth Avenue traffic. L’Urbane’s frontage, a quietly opulent canopy of bronze silk, was spread out to welcome her. Diana slid out of the car while Richard held the door open for her. She tugged her tailored jacket closer around her breasts, snugly encased in La Perla mocha lace this morning, and gave a tiny smile to the hot-dog vendor who whistled as she strutted into the lobby.

The girls were waiting for her. Diana gave them a little wave.

‘Darlings, it’s so good to see you.’

‘Diana! At last.’ Natasha stood, all skinny blonde elegance, and moved to kiss the air at the side of her face. Jodie and Felicity waggled manicured fingers and gave her the small grimaces that passed for smiles among many New York wives since the press broke the story that smihag g.ave you wrinkles. Natty Zuckerman was married to a press mogul, Jodie Goodfriend to an investment banker, and Felicity Metson was recently divorced from a real-estate magnate. Felicity was the youngest of the three, just a little older than Diana, and was her closest friend over here. She was currently dating a US Marine major stationed at Fort Hamilton, and liked to give Diana all the juicy gossip. And wasn’t gossip the best thing in the world - after a nice designer sale at Bloomingdales?

‘Shall we go in? It’s the seaweed wrap to start with,’ Felicity said, eagerly.

‘Sounds good.’ Diana smiled at her friend, vaguely aware that Jodie and Natasha sometimes gave Felicity a hard time, just because she was divorced, which was unfair, of course. Some people were just tolerated. Diana tossed her newly platinum bob, her roots eliminated as of nine this morning, her head covered in a glossy cloud of corn-gold, shining hair.

‘Ladies. Please to come this way.’ A beautiful Indian




lady in a sari of rich crimson and gold appeared before them, bowing low. The changing rooms were individual, of course, and inlaid with mosaics on the floor. The taps were gold-plated, and the countertop solid marble in pale pink. L’Occitane shea butter and honeysuckle soap was laid out for her, next to a crystal vase crammed with roses and the delicate buds of actual honeysuckle blooms. Wow, Diana thought. The Americans certainly know how to pamper a woman.

She knew she ought to be thrilled at the thought of a half-day of massage in the company of her girlfriends. Impatient with herself, Diana struggled into her swimsuit and shook her head. She would enjoy this. New things, she found, always alleviated the boredom.


Michael Cicero stretched in the half light of dawn. His arms felt like they were on fire. Three sets of curls with thirty-pound weights had made his biceps scream, but he gritted his teeth and forced himself through it. Exercise was the physical stress that helped him cope with the mental stress of running his company. Besides, he didn’t intend to allow his muscles to slide. Guys today, many of them, looked like they could hardly lift a gallon of milk without panting. Just because he wore a suit didn’t mean that he was going to go soft.

He pushed himself up lightly on the balls of his feet and stepped into the shower. Getting up at 4 a.m. to sneak out of a girl’s apartment was tiring, but it had some definite advantages. He didn’t have to worry about hustling her out while not appearing rude. The chick had been attractive, too, Jessica, an old flame he called up periodically, a grad student at NYU, one of those cool chicks with an out-there CD collection and a nice line in little leather backpacks. She wore her hair too short for his taste, but she was very well endowed, and with those tits bouncing towards him, he could forget other aesthetic




considerations. Jessie was ravenous in bed. She didn’t want a relationship and neither did he. He enjoyed her simply, clutching her back as he thrust into her, making her buck and wriggle, his hand gently trailing over her pussy, teasing her while he thrust. Michael liked his women responsive and took the time to make sure they were. In his opinion there were no frigid women, just lousy lovers. He grinned at his steamy reflection in the bathroom mirror. Most guys were weak and couldn’t hit it. That helped him. When women found a guy who could make them pant, they’d do anything for him.

He loved women. The trouble was, he reflected, that he loved too many of them. Settling down with just one? Impossible. Maybe, someday in the future. But if Michael was honest, he sometimes doubted that day would ever arrive. He shrugged and towelled himself off. Romance wasn’t hi style. He had work to do.

Outside his apartment it was very cold. New York’s snap into winter couldn’t be far away. A bitter gust whipped down from West Broadway and into his jacket. Shivering, Michael ducked into the subway. Whatever people said about the New York subway, it was warm.

He arrived at the office to find Susan already there. Today she wore a smart, short red shirtdress that buttoned up atorg the front, with a fitted jacket over it. Jessica had concentrated his mind against her temptations, though. Michael nodded a brisk good morning to his assistant and asked for his schedule.

‘You have a ten thirty uptown, at the Blakely’s headquarters, with a lunch to follow. And that’s all today, Mr Cicero.’

Michael had made it quite clear: in the office, it was Mr Cicero from the staff - which was Susan, at this

point. Susan said to herself this was totally arrogant. ‘You’ve got my files?’ ‘Right here, sir.’




She felt a little tingle in her skin as she said that. Her nipples tightened sweetly. No wonder Leslie thought she was on fire in bed lately, she spent her whole day at work dreamily frustrated.

‘Wish me luck,’ Michael said, grinning at her.

Oh, my. Susan steadied herself with one manicured

hand. ‘Oh, I do, Mr Cicero, really, I wish you the very best of luck, there’s no way you’re not going to wow them—’

‘Thanks.’ He cut her off, absently. She could see his

mind was already on the meeting. ‘I’ll get a cab on the

street. Make sure Seth has the artwork he needs, OK?’ ‘OK, Mr Cicero.’ Susan sighed. He walked out.


Damn, Michael thought. The chick this morning had made him forget he had this meeting. He was getting old. He walked hastily away from Zabanda’s, so the moussaka reek didn’t cling to his suit, and jumped in a cab on the corner of Madison. It was a pretty big morning this morning. He had pitched their latest list to a new group of buyers last week and got some good orders.., major bookstores, even an order placed by It seemed that the clean, crisp, old-fashioned editions with his own special typeface and sweet illustrations were making waves.

He’d expected some interest from the big houses, and he hadn’t been disappointed. Everybody was singing the same tune. Michael settled back into the black leather seat, and got ready to wince at the fare. If he took any one of these job offers, he wouldn’t have to watch cab fares ever again. They had different voices: the young, hip, book mogul, the old lady known as a killer editor, the crisp accounting type with the seductive figures. But the trip was the same. Give up Green Eggs and work for us. Commissioning editor, right off the bat. He co.uld pay




off the student loan and stop dressing off the peg, Hell, he could buy his own apartment on the West Side someplace.

Michael turned them all down flat, even the lady who cme to his office. Not interested. He didn’t branch out on his own so he could report to some other asshole. He liked being called sir. He hated calling other men the same thing. In fact, he refused to do it. Taking a salary? That was for guys without balls. He was going to make his own path.

The sixth call had been from Blakely’s. Michael had read about the changes there in a trade magazine, but he hadn’t paid any attention. What the big firms did couldn’t impact on Green Eggs, so why would he care?

Ernie Foxton, the new president, apparently had his own ideas as to why Michael should care. In the call his assistant had made last week, she hadn’t mentioned a job for Michael, no salaried post at all. Mr Foxton, she informed him, wanted to talk about a ‘joint venture’.

Michael was instantly suspicious. He had a tiny, two person Mom and Pop outfit; he was just on the verge of hiring a salesman to make it three people, and the biggest publishing house in New York wanted to set up a joint venture? Why?

But there denying it. Blakely’s were the big time. If he could work something out … Michael saw financing. He saw distribution, not himself and his staff of one in a beat-up old van but fleets of shiny new trucks. He saw a national, not a local catchment area. He saw printing costs plummeting. He saw … he didn’t know what, it was cloaked in a vague, golden cloud.., a vision of opportunity.

BOOK: A Kept Woman
6.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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