Authors: Ginger Voight
“That’s more like it,” Eli murmured as he cuddled me closer. “I can’t wait to see you in that one,” he murmured, grazing his lip against my cheek near my ear. “Or, more accurately,
I nearly bit the inside of my cheek clean off to keep from screaming.
Ashley wasn’t done. She had everything to show us, from cocktail dresses to athletic wear. “My baby does like to stay active,” he said as he grinned at me.
“You have no idea,” I promised just under my breath, plotting my revenge accordingly.
Eli made his next request to Ashley, though he looked straight at me. “Maybe we should see some lingerie, then.”
From negligees to baby doll nighties, each and every model paraded past us in silk, satin and lace. There were swimsuits, bras and panties, everything one might need for a year-long romance with one of the most desired men in the world.
It took at least two hours for us to finish our business there at Cabot’s, but if I thought he was done, I was seriously mistaken. The next stop we made was to a salon, where he suggested we do something a little more exciting with my chestnut brown hair. “Blonde highlights,” he told the stylist, who proceeded to wrap me up in so much tin foil I was pretty sure I could pick up communication from the International Space Station.
After that, it was a couple’s afternoon at a spa, where we got plucked, pampered and groomed. I very nearly brought the whole thing crashing down when it was time for our dual massage, since I had to strip down to just my panties underneath my robe.
I could tell from the cocky look in his blue eyes that he was just waiting for me to buckle. Maybe he thought I should be ashamed of my body since it wasn’t “perfect,” and he was just waiting for me to agree. So I walked into that room and let the robe fall right off my shoulders, revealing myself almost entirely for his curious stare. I wore no bra, so naturally that was where his eyes first fell, taking in every inch of my breasts as they swayed heavily before him.
Yeah, fucko, this is what natural, unenhanced tits look like.
He wanted to shame me, but I wasn’t ashamed. Like the great Eleanor Roosevelt once said, no one can make anyone else feel inferior without their consent. I simply refused to consent—to the world at large, and to Eli Blake in particular. So I wasn’t shy at all when I climbed up on my table and waited for a rub-down.
Eli was so taken aback that he didn’t say much during our massage. I made a mental note to get naked more often.
Afterwards, when they had placed hot stones along our bodies, they left us in the softly lit room, illuminated only by candlelight, with gentle music playing in the background. Finally Eli spoke.
“I have to admit, I never thought you’d go through with all this,” he murmured.
I turned my head to look at him. “Told you I wasn’t shy.”
“You’re full of surprises, Carly Reynolds,” he said, his eyes closing as he enjoyed his hot stone therapy.
“Just wait until tomorrow. You might want to wear a cup.”
He opened one eye to look at me. I just chuckled and looked the other way.
Our time at the spa relaxed me so much that I didn’t resist when he pulled me closer as we were leaving, keeping me in the crook of his arm as we headed back out towards his car. Of course PING was right outside, waiting for us, snapping our photos to sell far and wide to every celebrity news site in the country. How they kept track of our every move was anyone’s guess.
I figured it out in about two seconds, once I checked my phone for any new updates. Eli had posted a photo of me, lying on the massage table, smooth black stones curved along my back, as I wore a blissful smile, eyes closed. I had no idea he had even snapped the photo. He had tagged it #beautiful, because that was part of the plan, as was—apparently—thanking the spa, by name, for a wonderful afternoon.
“Always leaving breadcrumbs, I see,” I said as I put my phone back in my purse.
“Gotta leave a trail if you want people to follow.” He offered me an incorrigible grin. “I didn’t figure you’d mind the photo. You know, given you’re not shy or anything.”
“Nope, don’t mind at all,” I chirped happily. “Maybe you’ll stop testing me now.”
“But testing you is so much fun.” He threw his sexy little sports car into gear, zooming past traffic on Sunset Boulevard.
I glanced around. We were headed west, not east. “Where are we going?”
“Home,” he said with that same arrogant smile.
“Eli,” I started, but he was quick to cut me off.
“Chill out. I’m not kidnapping you. I just had your new clothes sent there instead of your apartment. I figured you’d like to change into something new before dinner tonight. I’ve got us reservations at eight at
Vue Sur La Mer
I slumped against the seat. Our day wasn’t over? “You’re really making me earn every penny, aren’t you?”
He chuckled. “Come on. Don’t you want to show off your new look? Sexy clothes, pretty hair, relaxed body,” he added as he slid a glance towards my now fully clothed chest. Clearly I had made an impression. I wasn’t so sure anymore that was a good thing.
“I just want to go home and take a long hot bubble bath,” I muttered as I stared out the passenger window.
His voice was soft. “We can do that, too.”
My eyes darted to his. “Eli,” I started again, but he silenced me easily with the car radio. The station he was listening to had rotated back around to one of his songs, and he cranked it up to sing along, all the fake words I knew he didn’t mean, words he now sang to me like he was in any way sincere, when it was all part of his act.
We arrived at the house in no time, thanks to Captain Lead Foot. He let us into the house from the garage entrance, which spilled out into his gourmet kitchen. Beau Jangles was right there to greet us with his raspy, throaty meow. He nudged against Eli’s legs and then against mine. I knelt to pet him and he rubbed his face over my hand, marking me instantly.
“What do you know? He likes you,” Eli commented. “He usually doesn’t like the women I bring home.”
“Might have something to do with the women you’ve been bringing home,” I dismissed. I scratched Beau behind the ears, which he loved. His coat was full and soft, which made the big cat instantly huggable. He tolerated it for as long as it took Eli to open a can of food, which took top priority for Mr. Beau Jangles.
It was top priority for me too. I never realized it could take so much out of a person to be pampered all day. It dawned on me suddenly that we had skipped lunch entirely. I was tempted to grab one of the shiny red apples sitting in a bowl on his kitchen counter. Instead, I simply followed him through the living room and towards his master bedroom, where apparently he had had the clothes delivered. Everything had already been unpacked and hung in his closet, on a couple of racks he had cleared just for that reason.
I turned back to him with an arched eyebrow. “I told you before I wasn’t moving in with you.”
He shrugged. “You also said you would never go with me for a meal at a fancy restaurant.” He stepped closer inside the closet, unbuttoning his shirt. “Not for a million dollars, right?”
I found myself taking a step back as he approached. From the look in his eyes and the way he was undressing, alarm bells were sounding in my brain like foghorns. “Certain things aren’t for sale,” I assured him.
He just chuckled, low and deep in his throat. “That’s what they all say… till you hit the right price.” He stopped right in front of me, shrugging out of his shirt and letting it fall on the floor. Those incandescent blue eyes nearly dared me to deny him as he ran a finger along my shoulder, down across my chest to that first button hole on my top. “So what’s the price to have you move in with me? A whole wardrobe of pretty things? A complete makeover, to turn you into a superstar? How about an orgasm?” he said softly as he easily unbuttoned that top button. “Or ten?”
I slapped his hand away. “I’m not a prostitute, Eli. You didn’t pay all that money for the right to sleep with me.”
He chuckled as his eyes drifted over my body, and I could tell he mentally was stripping away every last stitch of material. “No, just the right to see you half-naked.” His hooded gaze met mine. “No sense getting shy about things now.”
He stepped closer but I held him at arm’s length. “There’s no one here to see you kiss me, so what’s the point?”
He easily pushed me back against the wall. “Let’s dance over the line and find out.”
He bent for a kiss but I ducked away. I grabbed some clothes from the nearest hanger and escaped the closet, making a beeline for the private bathroom, which I locked behind me. I caught a glimpse of my flushed complexion in the mirror, from my wide hazel eyes to the rosy hue in my cheeks. My shirt gaped open from the first unsecured button, showing a hint of the silky skin I’d already bared for him. No wonder he was trying to hump me like a horny Labrador.
I stepped forward and doused my face with frigid water, effectively washing away all the makeup that had been layered there, washing the new sexed up Carly right down the drain where she belonged.
Still, I had a part to play, and a whole bunch of new costumes to do it. I took my time getting dressed in that snakeskin pattered pencil skirt and the silky white top that went with it. Makeup had already been delivered to the bathroom as well, but I opted for more subtle, earth-toned shades.
Likewise, I styled my new layered hair with just a tad of product to keep it from frizzing out, but left it as natural as possible. By the time I was done I looked more like myself, which made me more confident to leave the sanctuary of the bathroom, one that frankly smelled so much like his designer cologne that it was giving me a major headache.
That was the excuse I’d use if he tried to kiss me again. I shuddered at the very thought. The only thing more annoying than being ignored by Eli Blake was being pursued by him, especially since every single thing he said or did was a lie, and we both knew it.
It was going to be a long year.
I was afraid that when I emerged from the bathroom I’d find him naked on his bed. I could just picture him sprawled there, one leg bent at the knee, his hand, with the silver jewelry and leather cuff, placed towards his lap where his now legendary member waited for some special attention.
The fact I could picture this at all with such clarity made my stomach drop. Not one detail was missed, including that teasing look in his eyes that dared me to turn down the Great Eli Blake. Again.
I was prepared to do exactly that as I swung open the door and stepped out of the bathroom.
Fortunately he wasn’t in the bedroom at all. Instead he was in the living room, playing his piano, some classical piece I instantly recognized. As I got closer, I could tell he wasn’t playing from sheet music, but from memory. His eyes met mine as he finished the piece.
“Mozart,” he supplied as the last note faded. “
“Beautiful,” I said. I hated to admit that it was good, but I always believed in giving credit where credit was due. Eli Blake may have been an asshole, but his skill was undeniable. “I didn’t know you were classically trained.”
He shrugged. “I learned by ear mostly. Taught myself the piano and the guitar. The classical stuff came later, in college.” He patted the bench beside him. After only a moment of deliberation, I sat. He hit one of the keys. “Middle C,” he said, and nodded for me to put my finger there on the key, which I did.
“I didn’t know you went to college,” I commented.
“Briefly,” he grinned. “Failed right out of music theory first semester. Excelled at business, though.”
I had to roll my eyes.
He wrapped his arms around me, to put his hands over mine, guiding me through Chopsticks. He leaned closer, speaking softly against my ear. “Sitting in a classroom bored the shit out of me. I wanted to be out in the world, doing something, not hearing about theory from a bunch of dinosaurs who wouldn’t know commercial success if it slapped them right in the face.”
This sounded more like the Eli Blake I knew. “Why even bother to go?”
“My mother insisted. She wanted a much more conventional path for me. To get away from that I didn’t just fail, I failed spectacularly. It was the only way to buy my freedom. Left for L.A. within a week and I’ve never looked back.”
He pulled away and turned his attention fully back to the piano, launching into Randy Newman’s “
I Love L.A
.,” which he sang to me in a fake raspy voice. I had to laugh, despite myself.
After it was over, I just shook my head. “You’re a talented guy, Eli. You never needed a gimmick.”
He nodded. “You’re right. I could be making the music I want to make, selling them at pennies per CD right there on the Venice boardwalk with every other struggling musician in this town. I could sell coffee during the day and bust my ass gigging each and every night until someone saw something special. Or,” he added as he started to play “
Big Girl/Big Heart,
” slowed down as an instrumental, “I could do whatever it took to shine a spotlight on me and my music, just by tapping into a market that was previously ignored, and make some serious coin as a result.” His fingers danced quickly and confidently over the keys. “Then I get to do everything I wanted to do anyway, but I do it from a Malibu beach house.” He winked. “Like I said, I did much better in business.”
I sighed. “You’re shameless.”
“That helps,” he grinned wider. He finished the song and then closed the fallboard. “Now let’s go get something to eat. I’m starved.”
We arrived at
Vue Sur La Mer,
the swanky seaside restaurant in Malibu, just a hair before our reservation. The minute the maître d spotted Eli, we were ushered to our own private table just outside, right next to a couple of heaters to keep us warm as we ate precious steps away from the shoreline. Eli easily spoke French to the waiter, handing back the menu without looking inside, ordering for both of us.
As much as I thought I knew about Eli Blake, he was showing me all kinds of interesting new facets of himself I had no idea existed, which seemed to be the point of all this posturing. After the server nodded and disappeared, I turned to my date. “You didn’t order snails, did you?”