The Sex Whisperer: Book 1 in the Whisperer Trilogy (7 page)

BOOK: The Sex Whisperer: Book 1 in the Whisperer Trilogy
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hapter VIII: Staged Love



Olivia reached into her yoga bag and pulled out a silver thumb drive. She
laid it on the metal table with a click and slid it toward Charlotte.

“I got you something,” Olivia said.
The two women sat on the patio outside Panera drinking coffee and picking at pastries. They were both in their yoga clothes, but thankfully, it was one of those off hours at the Greene, a posh outdoor shopping center. Few cars drove by and the women had the patio to themselves — almost to themselves anyway. A giant golden retriever lay on its side panting heavily where it was leashed to the fence.

“What’s this?” Charlotte asked.

“It’s my latest Whisper from Thomas,” Olivia said. “I wasn’t going to share, but this one’s too hot for me not to have
to talk with about it.”

“I’m going to go straight home and listen to it,” Charlotte said. “Should I have my vibrator handy?”

Olivia grinned. “Just call me when you’re finished,” she said. “I’m dying to hear what you think.”

“You know
have an opinion on it,” Charlotte said.

Olivia nodded with a big smile. Charlotte always managed to have opinions on things — even if
she didn’t know anything about them.

“So what’s the
news on the Iams gig?” she asked.

“He’s going to take it,” Olivia said.

“Damn right,” Charlotte said. “He’d be insane to turn down an opportunity like that; I’m talking
off-the-walls, file-for-divorce insane.
If my husband were too scared to take on a new job that offered the possibility of a $1 million bonus, I think I’d be filing papers with the nearest divorce lawyer.”

“Yeah,” Olivia said. “It’s too much money for anyone to turn down, isn’t it?”
She paused. “But I feel like the money’s not enough. I don’t think Mike will ever have enough money. He already works like a mule, and I know it’s going to get worse now.”

“If he gets that bonus, though, he could retire young,” Charlotte said. “You two could move to Africa and dig wells and build nurseries and kill rampaging elephants.”

“I’d never kill an elephant,” Olivia said.

“You would if it was trying to stomp a child,” Charlotte said.

“Maybe,” Olivia said.

“It’s all about perspective.”

“It’s a moot argument,” Olivia said. “I don’t think Mike would step foot in Africa, retired or not. He seems to think $1 million on top of what we’ve
saved and invested
wouldn’t be enough to retire.”

“Maybe there’s
a male complex where guys feel like if they’re not working, they’re not manly,” Charlotte said. “It’s obviously not the money when he’s making that much.”

“I don’t think Mike has a clue what to do when he’s not working,” Olivia said. “It’s like part of him is hiding. I actually asked him what he’d want to do if money and careers weren’t an issue, and he didn’t have an answer. He stared at me like I’d asked him what the meaning of life was.”

asking him that in a way,” Charlotte said. “But I think that’s typical for guys. They’re not all that deep, Liv. They want fast cars, BJs and a high-paying job. You do have me wondering what Kenneth would say if I asked him the same question, though.”

“Do it,” Olivia said.

Kenneth was a computer engineer at Lexis-Nexis, and he’d always been able to do what Mike couldn’t: keep his work life separate from his personal life. When he wasn’t working, he was having fun. He had hobbies: a motorcycle, a Jet Ski and a bunch of hunting buddies he took to a cabin in Adams County some weekends. Olivia imagined there were all sorts of things Kenneth would do and build if he weren’t leashed to a cubicle.

should ask him while we’re in Hawaii,” Charlotte said.

“Ooohhh, God, I can’t wait to get there,” Olivia said.

She was surprised how much she meant the words. She was dying to get out of Dayton. And a small part of her was afraid it was because she wanted to get away from Mike.



There was one man Olivia could open up to about her photography. They called him Hope, short for Dr. Hope, Olivia’s former photography professor at Wright State. When she went to him with artistic problems, he’d perch atop a barstool, legs crossed, stroking his white moustache and listening patiently. Then, he’d ask her a simple question that would radically change her assumptions. Suddenly, she’d see her problem in a new light. There’d be solutions where before there’d been walls.

Olivia met him in the same dusty studio she’d studied in five years earlier. He was little changed, thinner, grayer, but with the same elfin face. When he wasn’t using his camera, he painted, and Olivia smiled when she noted he still stank of oil and paint thinner.

“Someday I’m going to visit when I’m not stuck with my work,” Olivia said.

“You’d be the first,” Hope said, laughing.

“I’ve got a new show coming up, and I’m short several pieces,” Olivia said. “Actually, I’m short 15 pieces.”

Hope wanted to know all the details, the theme, the content, how she felt about her pieces and who the director was.
“Wait,” Hope said, “let me guess: it’s Klaus.”

Olivia nodded.

“He always wants more photos,” he said.

“Yes, 15 more photos on
and I’m drawing a blank,” Olivia said.

“Well, you might have picked an easier theme,” Hope said, smiling. “Deception’s one of those opaque, shadowy states of mind that’s hard to capture on film. It’s a feeling. It’s nebulous and remote. To capture deception — to capture any emotion — you need to understand what it

Hope proposed they do an exercise.

“Let’s imagine there’s a robot in the corner there,” Hope said, pointing at a bank of lockers where students could store their gear. “Tell that robot what deception
like. What colors does it evoke? What sensations? What metaphors can you use to talk about it?”

Olivia frowned as she thought.

“It’s dark,” she said. “It’s a feeling like panic. It’s the sense that the floor you’re walking on is about to collapse. It’s like wearing a mask.”

“Exactly,” Hope said. “It’s like wearing a mask. That’s what’s really interesting about deception. So long as the deceiver plays his part, everyone else goes about their business none the wiser.”

“Now that I think about it,” Olivia said, “my work is filled with masks. I have photos from a circus shoot, from the Superhero ball, from Halloween; that’s what gave me the idea for the theme in the first place.”

“I haven’t seen your photographs,” Hope said, “but they sound journalistic, like photos someone takes when they’re capturing history. You want to capture
, and that means you might need to orchestrate your photos. You need volunteers, and you need to stage them like a theater director putting on a play. That’s how you can really capture emotion, by stitching reality together yourself.”

livia sat back in her chair. She hadn’t done staged photos in ages. “I only have a week,” Olivia said. “I don’t have a set, and I don’t even know where I’d get the volunteers.”

“I can handle the volunteers,” Hope said. “I’m a college professor, and college students are perfect. They love being on film, and, more importantly, they’ll plaster your photos all over Facebook. It’ll be the best free advertising in the world. I can probably get you some space on one of the practice stages, too.”

The wheels were spinning in Olivia’s head before she gave Hope a goodbye hug. “You’re brilliant,” she told him.

“I’m just experienced,” Hope said. “Old graybeards like me are the ultimate deceivers. We tell ourselves we’re young every day.”



Mike came home early that night,
and Olivia naively thought it meant he wanted to spend time with her. His mind was still on work, though.

“They’re easing me into the new role,” he said. “But they also gave me this.”
He pulled a thick three-ring binder from his briefcase and sat it down with a thud on the kitchen island.

“A little light reading,” Olivia said.

“Yeah, right,” Mike said, “data on more than 300 products in 20 countries. Just going through this alone could take me a year.”

“You’re the master of digesting data,” Olivia said. “You chew it up and swallow it like a T-Rex.”

“That doesn’t mean it doesn’t give me heartburn,” Mike said.

“How are the employees you’re in charge of?”

Mike shrugged. “They’re tolerable. Bauser had a thing for hot women, though. He valued that more than good resumes, I think. The department looks like it’s staffed by Abercrombie models.”

“Great,” Olivia said. “Now, I’m going to be imagining you banging a co-ed in your office when you say you’re working late.”

“That’s not going to happen,” Mike said. “I
have to figure out how to get them to do their jobs, though. And it’s not like I can go through and fire them.”

“Just find the good ones and promote them or give them raises,” Olivia said. “The rest will leave on their own, I’d guess. Will you be allowed to hire anyone new?”

“I can add an assistant and a VP,” Mike said. “I can also replace all the existing VPs if I really wanted to, but that’s probably not a good idea. It definitely wouldn’t win me any friends.”

Mike brooded on that thought
, and Olivia stared at her slippers.
Does he even have any friends at work?
The room grew uncomfortably quiet.

“I went to see my old professor, Hope,” Olivia said. “He gave me some ideas for my upcoming show.”

“You have a show coming up?” Mike said.

“Jesus, yeah,” Olivia said. “The Cannery, remember? It opens in two weeks;
a few days before I leave for Hawaii.”

“Oh yeah,” Mike said. “I’m excited to see your stuff. It’s been a while.”

“I’m actually going to shoot some new photos for it this week,” Olivia said.

Mike nodded. She’d lost him. He was flipping through the binder from work, and Olivia knew that meant they were done talking for the night. When her cell phone vibrated in her pocket, she stood up quickly — happy for an excuse to leave the room.

“Thomas is insane,” Charlotte said on the other end. “I’ll never be able to go to Franco’s again without imagining a guy under the table with his face between my legs. Seriously. I think your sex whisperer’s mentally disturbed. Who the hell
of things like that?”

“I don’t know,” Olivia said. “People who like dressing up
as Captain America?”

“God, it was weird, but it was good,” Charlotte said. “I started masturbating two minutes into it.”

“You’re kidding!” Olivia said.
haven’t even done that yet.”

“Well, you should,” Charlotte said. “Isn’t that the point? I finished twice!”

“It’s supposed to give you something to think about while you’re having sex with your husband,” Olivia said.

“I can do that, too,” Charlotte said. “It’s not like there’s an expiration date on it or anything. Once you’ve listened to it, you can think about it any time you want.”

Olivia smiled. “So, you don’t
think he’s disturbed, do you?”

“Obviously, he’s a little disturbed,” Charlotte said. “I don’t think normal guys dream up sex scenes like that. The
y imagine driving down the highway getting blowjobs in their Cameros. If you’re asking me if I think Thomas is dangerous, though, no. I think he’s probably a sex addict, and he’s damn good at dreaming up scenes about it, so he’s just capitalizing on it. It’s the American way. He’s like any other erotica book writer or maybe like people who work for those call-in sex lines.”

“He actually said he writes erotica for magazines sometimes,” Olivia said. “Is it weird that I want to know more about him?”

“Are you sure you’re not saying you want to meet him at Franco’s and let him get you off?” Charlotte asked, laughing. “Of course, you want to know more about him. I do, too. I feel like I’ve had sex with the guy after listening to that. It’s like seeing a famous actor or actress walking down the street. You feel like you know them; like you could go up to them and start having a conversation even though they don’t know a damn thing about
. You want to know about him because you’ve been intimate with him in a way. I think that’s pretty natural. That said, I think you need to forget about him as a person and just use him for his whispers. Pining over a stranger’s not going to help your marriage any.”

“I know,” Olivia said, quietly.

“Something about your tone says you’re going to find out more about him,” Charlotte said.

BOOK: The Sex Whisperer: Book 1 in the Whisperer Trilogy
13.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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