Authors: Ginger Voight
He conceded the point with a slight nod of his head. “If it is attention you want…,” he started, but I cut him off.
“I don’t want your attention, Big Shot. If my being fat means I keep assholes like you disinterested, then that definitely counts as a pro in my book, not a con. There are plenty of men out there who see me for me. They count. You don’t.”
He was amused by my impassioned speech. “So what’s the problem?”
I practically growled in frustration. “The problem is you’re a fraud! You don’t mean the stuff you sing. You’re doing it to get famous. That’s it.”
“So?” he countered again.
“So?” I repeated, incredulous. “People believe you, Eli. They think you’re this romantic hero when you’re nothing but an opportunistic egomaniac.”
He laughed as he sauntered into the closet, standing so close to me I could smell the scent of the body wash he had used to scrub himself squeaky clean.
He still hadn’t put on any clothes.
“I’m not any different from any other guy, Cathy,” he said. By now I knew he was getting my name wrong on purpose, just to piss me off.
It was totally working.
“Carly,” I grated.
“Whatever,” he shrugged, which only made me madder. “This is the way the world works, sweetheart. I didn’t make the rules.”
“You’re so full of shit. Every guy is not like you. What about Jace Riga? Isn’t that why you got this brilliant idea to dupe all the fat chicks? Because you saw how famous he got actually falling in love with one?”
Again he chuckled. “Jace Riga is not a regular guy. Believe me. If he hadn’t lost his leg in the war, he would have ended up with that Shelby chick.” He brushed a finger along my nose, booping the end of it, and pulling away just in time for me to swipe the air as I tried to knock him away.
“You’re an asshole,” I spat.
“But I’m right. That’s the real reason why you hate me. And you know it.” He patted me on the butt before turning me towards his clothes. “Now dress me like you would dress your dream guy. That’s your job,” he added, before he leaned forward to whisper, “Carly,” near my ear.
I spun back to read him more of the riot act, but he had already exited the closet. With a growl, I grabbed the nearest pair of jeans I could find, along with a blue cotton shirt that matched the color of his eyes. It was soft, softer than skin, so I knew it would mold to every muscular contour. He would look amazing in it, but the fucker had the annoying habit of looking amazing in anything he wore. God had made him extra pretty to make up for all his other shortcomings, which made it easier for him to get away with being a jerk.
He was in the bathroom, putting the finishing touches on his hair, when I finally went to find him. He was still naked, but by then it was old news. Thankfully I was reminded why he was a ginormous dickhead, so I was no longer distracted by his ginormous dick. I tossed the clothes onto the counter. “I didn’t know where you kept your underwear,” I stated simply.
He grinned at his reflection. “I don’t wear any.”
“Of course you don’t,” I mumbled.
Again he chuckled. I spun on my heel and returned to the real task I was hired to do. I carried two boxes out to the limo by the time he was finished. The transformation was simple but striking, and if I found him at all attractive, it would have done a number on me. His fans were going to love it.
His dirty blond hair was two-toned with platinum streaks, also courtesy of natural sunshine. His toned biceps were cut and defined even in a resting state, which the shirt complimented by stretching thin across his impressive torso. He followed me as I carried my last box.
“Need any help?” he asked when we were practically at the car.
I glared at him. If I had been Julie, he would have never let her lift a finger. But because I was voluptuous, zaftig, Rubenesque—fat—he let me do all my own heavy lifting. The driver of the limo, however, was quick to assist me, putting the last heavy box into the trunk while Eli scooted inside. He was pouring himself a glass of champagne when I joined him.
“Care for a glass?” he asked, surprising me.
“No thanks,” I muttered. “I’m working.”
He toasted me with the plastic flute. “As am I.”
I rolled my eyes and stared out of the window, waiting for this charade to mercifully end. Eli, however, had other plans. He tapped the privacy pane after the driver got back into the car. “Can you stop us by a drug store first?”
I smirked at him. “Forget your condoms?”
He chuckled. “Maybe.”
It was only after our impromptu stop that I realized what he was really up to. He handed me the bag, which was filled with makeup. “What’s this?”
“I got all pretty for this shindig. I figured you might want to do the same.”
I thrust the bag back at him. “No, thanks.”
Undaunted, he handed it back. He glanced over my dressed-down appearance, from my sensible ponytail to my natural face and comfortable work clothes. I was all practical, all the time. This, apparently, was not good enough for the Great Eli Blake. “You’re not an ugly woman. You just need to try a little harder, that’s all.”
My teeth ground together. “God, you’re such a dick.”
He withdrew one of the packages. “Come on. A little lipstick at least.” I refused to take it, so he added, “This is part of your job in marketing, Carly. You look good, I look good.”
If nothing but to provide positive reinforcement for his getting my name right, I grabbed the lipstick from his hand. It was a much bolder color than I would ever wear, given I had pretty full lips myself. But the deep merlot color matched my top, which surprised me that he had even taken notice. I took a compact from my purse and applied the lipstick, the only compromise I was willing to make. This seemed to please Eli, who remained (blissfully) quiet for the rest of our trip to Universal City.
In fact, he seemed to get “in the zone” from the time we made our turnoff from the 101. He did some breathing exercises to prepare, singing just in mid-range to warm up. He had switched from wine to water, practically killing a full bottle before the limo came to a stop. As much as I despised the man, he did work at his craft. He never missed any small detail—or opportunity. He took the business of singing seriously, if nothing else in his life. He could have such integrity if he only tried.
As if he felt me soften, he spared me a big smile as the car came to a stop. “Let’s go kick some ass,” he grinned.
I nodded and placed my hand on the door handle. Before I could open it, I felt him shift closer, as though he was going to exit through my side of the car instead of his own. Instead, his hand snaked across my lap and pulled the door closed and kept it there. I gasped in surprise as I faced him, realizing in that moment how close his face was to mine. My eyes widened. “What are you doing?”
Those blue eyes were as clear as cool water. “Kiss for luck?” His gaze dropped to my mouth as he whispered, “Carly?” And just like that, with no preamble, he leaned forward and crushed his lips to mine.
If you had told me just that morning that I’d end up lip to lip with Eli Blake, I would have had you committed. But there he was. And there I was. And it was happening.
And it kept happening. He pressed me back against the seat, his mouth covering mine, luxuriating in this stolen kiss. Those full lips tried to nudge mine apart slightly so that his eager tongue could snake its way inside.
It was a step too far. I pressed both hands on his chest, and his muscles rippled under my fingertips. Finally I shoved hard and broke away. His face hovered over mine, his lips swollen from the kiss, my freshly applied lipstick smeared around his mouth, telltale evidence to our unexpected encounter.
“Now you have lipstick all over you, Einstein."
My snarky comment was met with a smirk. “I know,” he continued to grin before he swung open the door without wiping his mouth. He shoved me out first, jumping out after me. Before I could turn to grab the merch from the trunk, he wound a powerful arm around me and kept me plastered to his side as paparazzi snapped photo after photo.
I was still shell-shocked as the press yelled for him, but he kept us moving down the line, answering only one question as we went.
“Who’s your friend, Eli?”
“Carly!” he shouted back. He even spelled it out for them, just to make sure they’d note it properly.
, I thought.
he gets my name right
Every click of their cameras sounded like an indictment. I had lied for months about Eli Blake, but it had always been a lie of omission. Now, with my own swollen mouth and smeared lipstick, I had become an unwitting contributor.
If he hadn’t have kept a death grip around my shoulders, I would have run right back to the car.
Things didn’t get any better the closer we got to the venue. He kept me close in the crook of his arm, his own personal teddy bear, as he both shielded me and paraded me in front of the press. We didn’t part until we got backstage, where he sent me on my way with another playful swat to the behind. People openly inspected me as I set up the Meet & Greet table for him, something I had done many times in the past—though never once wearing the evidence of his kiss all over me like an ugly Christmas sweater.
The first opportunity I got, I wiped my face clean. Regrettably, the lipstick had been so dark that it still left a stain of color behind on my pale skin. It was like I had been branded.
The minute he hit the stage, I knew it had worked the same for him, too. He, however, didn’t seem to mind. He launched into his biggest hits, all the odes to the big girls, which he sang directly to all his biggest fans in the front row like the slimy, slippery snake that he was.
He acted as if Rhonda hadn’t completely blown his cover apart, instead doubling down on his lie that he would fuck any of the girls in that front row. He romanced, flirted, and seduced with his words and with his eyes until they openly swooned in front of him.
I also noted that, probably thanks to our make-out sesh in the car, he now sported a little wood, no doubt to swiftly and completely dispel all those “needle dick” rumors. I was no stranger to the art of “fluffing,” though I myself had never been a contributing party.
Either way it all seemed to work. His fans responded with their typical enthusiasm, which drew a crowd in the open area just under a big neon guitar. I kept my eye on social media, where everyone in the front row—his trusted street team—uploaded photo after photo on every website possible. He was still trending by six o’clock, when the sun had started to dip low on the western horizon, but positive tweets and updates now outnumbered the negative ones.
All that was perfectly fine by me. We did the job we set out to do. It was distasteful as hell, but the horses were all neatly corralled once more.
What was far more disturbing was the fact “Who’s Carly?” was now trending worldwide. PING not only posed the question but ran the photo of Eli and I stepping out of the limo, capturing forever that startled look I wore with my makeup askew and his victorious mile-wide grin.
After his concert, he focused on the fans. He was positively gentlemanly to every girl who stopped at the table for an autograph, he didn’t even charge as he gave away picture after picture. All he wanted was a kiss on the cheek, and—lucky me—I got to be the lucky photographer for all the single gals who shyly made their way up to the table. The heavier they were, the nicer he was, making every single one of these new fans fall head over heels in love with him.
I probably didn’t hide my disdain very well, but that didn’t stop Eli from smirking and winking at me, like he was trying to keep me engaged.
We stayed there for three long hours as he indulged every single one of them. We sold every CD and gave away every photo. He signed their clothes and their bodies after that, several of whom proclaimed they were heading right to a tattoo parlor to have that signature turned into a permanent fixture on their bodies.
“You better send me a picture, gorgeous,” he would tell them with that phony smile I detested.
It was nearly nine o’clock by the time we headed back to the car. “You must be hungry. Want to grab something to eat?”
I glared at him. “I must be hungry because I’m… what was the word you used? Zaftig?”
He chuckled, which only made me madder. Worse, he both seemed to know it and like it. We climbed into the limo and he closed the door behind us. “I already told you. I don’t care what label you use. I just figured I’m hungry… you must be hungry. We worked really hard today.”
I practically snarled. “We didn’t do anything but dupe everybody. Again.”
He shrugged. “People believe what they want to believe. Those girls want to believe a guy like me can love them just the way they are. What’s the harm in letting them have a fantasy?”
My eyes met his. “Because when you take it away again, because you have no intention to fulfill it, you make them feel like shit. I’ve seen it. When you come on to their thinner sisters or friends, but treat them like they’re invisible, it cuts them to the core.”
Again he shrugged. “Maybe it will motivate them to change. Let’s face it. Fat is voluntary.”
“So is being a jerk,” I shot back.
“Touché,” he agreed with that smirk of his. “So what do you say? Dinner? My treat. Fancy restaurant,” he offered, before adding, “Something intimate back at my place?” in a low voice.
“Not for a million dollars,” I snapped before I scooted away from him.
Again he laughed. “Whatever you say. Carly.”
To make my point, I tapped on the privacy pane. “Drop me off first,” I instructed, before I gave the driver my address.
Eli no longer hid behind his phone. Instead he watched me the entire drive to Hollywood; those blue eyes clear as fucking ice. I didn’t know what he was thinking, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t good. In one afternoon he had made me a social media sensation, which I knew because I had about ten thousand new followers, many of whom were media outlets trying to get an exclusive.
Even after they had sniffed me out in a New York minute, everyone still wanted to know: Who’s Carly? I was about ten seconds away from telling them. I was a prop. Just like every other fat chick in Eli Blake’s life.