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Authors: Nicola Marsh

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BOOK: Lucky Love
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Before I could respond, James pulled me toward Kittycat. “You choose.”

I had no idea what he was talking about until she flipped open the little black box attached to her leather belt.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m no prude. I’d been exposed to drugs in my teens, just never this close to a junkie’s smorgasbord. Unmarked pills of varying color and size lay in neat, little rows, ringed by tiny plastic pockets of powders.

“Want a Fantasy?” James whispered in my ear, caressing my butt at the same time.

If he was suggesting the average, everyday, garden-variety where a guy and girl get naked I might’ve thought about it. However, I didn’t do drugs. Ever. Call me old-fashioned but I subscribe to
my body is a temple and treat it accordingly
crap. Not that I would admit it to anyone. Besides, ingesting huge amounts of alcohol every Friday night kinda made a mockery of my belief.

I pretended to scan the pills while Kittycat studied me like I was a helpless little mouse.

James took the decision out of my hands and pointed to the tiny, round, white ones. “We’ll have two of those.”

“These’ll get things started,” he said, handing over a wad of bills to Kittycat and pocketing the pills before I had a chance to protest.

With trepidation making me want to bolt, he led me down the stairs into the basement. The music swelled as we descended into the seething mass of gyrating bodies. Strobe lights flashed as the dancers jumped around like toddlers overdosed on red cordial.

My first rave party. Woo frikkin’ hoo.

As James grabbed two water bottles from a nearby cooler and handed me one of the pills, I wondered what the hell I was doing. No guy was worth this. This wasn’t my scene and—newsflash—neither was James.

Okay, so maybe I’d brought it on myself by lying about my clubbing fetish. Just my luck he was into it, in a
big
way.

I shook my head. “No thanks. I’ll just have a coke.”

He frowned. “Why didn’t you say so? I wouldn’t have bought E if you were into that stuff.”

I cracked up, laughing so hard my non-existent abs twanged.

“What’s up with you?” He broke the seal on his water and took a swig, his frown deepening.

I laughed harder. He had the audacity to stare like I was from another planet when he needed a pill to get high? Sad.

“Hey, Jimboy, is this the one?”

A lanky guy wearing baggy pants and a ragged T-shirt deliberately bumped into James. His sidekick wore a similar outfit, complete with baseball cap turned backwards. They both stared at me with frank curiosity.

“Piss off, Tony.” James shoved him, having as much success as dislodging a brick wall.

“She’s not bad for an older chick.” Tony leered at me, his homeboy buddy doing the same as I resisted the urge to slug him.

Homeboy Two joined in. “Yeah, she’s sweet. What do we owe you?”

Clueless, I glanced at James. Did Homeboy want to
buy
me? And enough of the ‘older chick’ stuff already.

“Fuck off.
Now
.” James tried to grab my hand but I pulled away. I’d had enough. Time to make a break for it; thank God I hadn’t let my hormones rule my head completely and had brought my car.

“See you round.” I started walking without looking back.

“Hand over the money, Jimboy. You lose. No score, no win.”

That stopped me dead in my tracks. I marched back to James and the homeys.

“What did you say?”

Though I wanted to poke the creep they called Tony in the chest with my index finger for effect, I held back. I didn’t have the time or the inclination to find a bathroom on the way out to wash the slime off.

Tony smirked while his gaze drifted to my cleavage. Remind me to burn that damn push-up bra when I get home.

“Didn’t Jimmy tell you why he’s so hot to trot? Our bet to score with an older chick? A chick over thirty. Like
you
.” He leaned toward me and I wished I could projectile vomit on cue, like Nat could in preschool.

I glared at James, who looked everywhere but at me. I could’ve slapped him, kneed him, maybe shoved him around a little. Instead, I did the one thing guaranteed to make him feel half as bad as I did.

“You lucked out, so pay the dudes.” I could’ve substituted shitheads for dudes but they were seriously beefy and probably high. “Pity you couldn’t get it up. I’ve heard that can happen when it’s this big—” I held my thumb and index finger two inches apart, “—and gets stage fright.” I sniggered. “Limp dick.”

I ignored the homeboys’ laughter as I marched up the stairs, fighting tears. Over thirty? He’d thought I was
that
old?

I didn’t care about the stupid bet, his moronic friends or his druggie habits. But the age thing hurt. Real bad.

I drove home in a daze, blocking out the taunting laughter of the creeps. I didn’t cry until I’d made it safely inside my home. Fan-freaking-tastic, two a.m. on a Monday morning with a big week at work ahead and I was crying like a baby over some barely post-adolescent guy.

Time to get a life.

Of course, that’s the time Flo chose to Skype me.

I could’ve feigned sleep but the fact she was contacting me at this time on a Sunday night/Monday morning meant something was up.

I dabbed at my eyes and quickly changed into my PJs before she saw me. Date clothes would elicit more questions than I wanted to answer.

“Sorry to bother you so late, love, but I need your advice.”

If Flo asked me about Karma Sutra positions, I’d disconnect.

“Sure, what’s up?”

Flo tugged on a wiry curl, winding it around her finger. “That man I mentioned to you? Seems he wants to date me.”

Despite the shitty night I’d had, I smiled. “My best advice? Don’t forget the condoms.”

Flo frowned. “This is no time for jokes, girlie. Look at me. I’m a wreck.”

I tapped my bottom lip and pretended to ponder. “Yet he likes you anyway.”

“I’m getting one of those makeover thingies.”

“Good for you.”

Flo sighed. “Not good. What if the old fart laughs?”

I’d never seen my aunt anything but brash and loud and confident. This dithering woman? A stranger.

“Easy. Knock him out.”

At last Flo laughed. “Remember my friend Olivia I mentioned? She’s getting married on Christmas Eve. The whole town’s coming. Sure would be nice if you could come, then spend Christmas with me—”

“I can’t,” I said, surprised by a sudden, intense yearning to do just that. “I’ve already made plans.”

Good one, Pinocchio.

“Why were you crying?”

Her change in topic gave me mental whiplash.

“I wasn’t—”

“Those dark, puffy circles under your eyes?” Flo tsked-tsked. “Whoever it is, he’s not worth it.”

To my horror, tears stung my eyes again and I blinked before I blubbered.

“You know, I have a feeling there’ll be a job opening here real soon. My neighbor Sierra, the one who runs the famous Internet dating site Love Byte?”

I nodded even though I had no hope of keeping all of Flo’s friends straight.

“Things are heating up between her and Liv’s son, Marc, and I reckon she’ll follow him to LA if he asks. Maybe you could run her agency? Wouldn’t be all that different from planning weddings, right?” She winked. “Both involve hooking up deluded folk.”

Had to agree with her there. “One word for you. Green-card.”

Not that I had any intention of staying in Love long enough to work.
If
I ever made the trip. And that was a mighty big if. Considering Flo’s Skype sessions were becoming more frequent, I may need to travel there to shut her up.

“Your mom’s American so that green-card? Not a problem,” Flo said, her tone surprisingly somber. “You need to visit, sweetie. Please.”

Her uncharacteristic vulnerability almost undid me completely.

“My month’s not up yet,” I said, trying to lighten the mood. “We’ll see then.”

Was it wrong to give her false hope? Maybe. But I glimpsed a glint of sadness in her eyes, a sadness reflected in mine.

“Big day at work tomorrow. I really need to sleep.”

She smirked. “Then maybe you shouldn’t be out gallivanting so late on a Sunday night in the vain hope of latching onto some stand-in boyfriend in order to win the bet and prevent you from visiting Love.”

“Goodnight,” I said, disconnecting her chuckles.

I didn’t want to visit Love let alone work there, but as I tumbled into bed, I couldn’t help but wonder if my shitty luck with guys would transcend international borders or was a trip to Love worth a try?

 

Thankfully, no one bothered me at work on Monday so I hid in my cubicle and composed verses. Verses I could never use in any invitation. With a distinct lack of love and roses, I doodled on my pad, finding as many words as I could to rhyme with dick, like stick, or nick the prick—with a machete, preferably.

Brody must’ve sensed my mood because he avoided me all morning. Smart guy. However, Nat couldn’t wait to hear the details of my Sunday night date and my cell rang around eleven.

“How’d it go, Jaz? Tell me
everything
.”

I resisted the urge to fling my over-worked stress ball at the wall. “No details.”

She paused for a second, picking up on my ‘
don’t give me any shit
’ tone. “Uh-oh. Want to talk?”

“No.”

“That bad?”

“Worse.”

“We can do lunch? I don’t have to be in court ’til two.”

I didn’t want to talk about the humiliation but if I couldn’t bare my soul to Nat, who else could I talk to?

“Okay. Meet you at Lu’s at twelve.”

Nothing like a good dose of MSG to drown my sorrows.

“See you then. And don’t worry. They’re not worth it.”

I harrumphed as I hung up. Easy for her to say. Happily married women drop comments like that without a care in the world, knowing their doting man will be waiting for them when they get home with a kiss, a
how was your day honey
and a hard-on. At this point, I would’ve settled for any of the above.

The next hour dragged as I shuffled papers around my desk in a vain attempt to appear busy. Apart from drowning in self-pity, I was so tired I couldn’t make sense of my In-tray’s chaos.

Lunch with Nat should soothe my soul.

It didn’t.

After we’d ordered the usual, Singapore fried noodles for me and stir-fried veggies for her, we grabbed two diet colas, settled into the crowded cafe and she hit me with her usual brand of lawyer bluntness.

“He turned out to be like the rest?” Subtlety was never one of Nat’s strong points.

I shrugged. “Who cares?”

“I do.” She poured the soda into a chipped glass; I’ve never seen her drink out of a can, ever. Personally, with the smudged fingerprints on the glass, I’d take my chances on the aluminum. “Let me have it.”

I drank half the can in one gulp, wishing it had been doctored with a liberal dose of Bacardi to get me through the day. Not that I usually drank rum; it would be for medicinal purposes only.

“Ever been to a rave party?” I inhaled deeply as a steaming plate of noodles was placed in front of me. Lu’s prided itself on fast, healthy food for the lunchtime crowd. It succeeded on the speed but if the layer of oil my noodles floated in was any indication, they had a way to go with the second promise.

Nat picked at her plate, sorting her veggies into tidy piles. Anal to the max. “A rave? What’s that got to do with last night—oh …”

I watched the corners of her mouth tilt up.

“If you laugh, I’ll kill you.”

I speared a shrimp with particular viciousness to lend weight to my empty threat.

“So the dream date wanted a party of a different variety?” She ate a piece of broccoli, chewing it thoroughly before continuing, “That’s what you get for cradle snatching.”

“Enough of the support.” I shoveled noodles into my mouth and chewed slowly to buy me time. “The age thing was a bonus with all that testosterone. And he could kiss.”

I needed to shed a positive light on the disaster; otherwise my best friend would think I was a total loser.

“What went wrong? No staying power?”

She’d done it again, ripping down my carefully erected barrier in less than a second. I couldn’t fool Nat for long.

“We didn’t get that far. He took me to some grungy mansion with a rave party in the basement. He offered me drugs, I met some of his friends and I left. End of story.”

I focused on my half-empty plate of noodles. I didn’t believe in optimistic half-full crap today.

“You’re not telling me everything.” Nat tapped her fork against the side of my plate, forcing me to look up.

“Damn, how do you do that?”

She smiled. “Honey, when you deal with crims every day you learn to spot a lie or an omission a mile away. So spill.”

I sighed. Mentioning my humiliation could set me off again.

“He only asked me out because of some stupid bet. Apparently, he had to score with a chick over thirty.”

“Bastard!”

“Yeah, go figure? I don’t look anywhere near it.” I blinked away tears; the noodles were salty enough.

Nat leaned over and hugged me. “Look on the bright side. Changing diapers gets tiring after a while.”

“He wasn’t that young,” I said, remembering the lack of stimulating conversation due to our age difference. Surprisingly, it wouldn’t have mattered if he’d stimulated me in other ways.

I really needed to find a decent guy before I did something equally stupid as last night. Like book a one-way ticket to Love.

Nat polished off the remainder of her meal before sitting back and delivering her advice like a wise sage. “You need an older guy. Someone who can spoil you rotten. Someone with similar goals.”

“Like getting laid before they’re forty?”

Nat frowned. “Sex isn’t everything.”

“Yeah? Since when did Marlon stop groping you?”

She had the grace to blush. “I’m just saying you need to concentrate on getting to know the guy before jumping his bones.”

I leaned back and folded my arms. “Great. Now you’re saying I’m a slut.”

She shook her head. “You know what I mean. All the guys you’ve gone for in the last few years have been good-looking, egotistical bastards only interested in one thing. And you give it to them in the hope they’ll fall head over heels for you.”

BOOK: Lucky Love
10.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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