From my current romantic comedy work in progress comes the first chapter of THOSE WHO CAN, DATE. My friend Kellar inspired this story with a hilarious anecdote about a date that went on much longer than expected. So long that she ran out of dating talking points. Dating talking points? I had never heard of such a thing. But that’s what inspired this story, so of course, I had to name the heroine after Kellar.
THOSE WHO CAN, DATE
Kellar Kennedy fought the urge to lick her lips, a habit she’d unsuccessfully been trying to break for years. It wasn’t her fault that God had gifted her with the driest lips in the world. She’d tried everything as a cure. Lip balms, moisturizing lip gloss, every treatment under the sun regardless of price. Nothing worked as well as good old petroleum jelly. She kept tubes of it in every purse and piece of carry-on luggage she owned and jars of the stuff in both bathrooms in her townhouse.
But the stylist and makeup artist had spent an hour making her look presentable enough to be a guest on Jamie Falcon’s late night talk show. She refused to be seen in anything less than pristine condition, so the urge to chew off the lip color that had been so carefully applied five minutes ago would have to wait. Even if it drove her crazy.
“Here’s the green room,” the production assistant said. She opened a door. “We’ll call you in about thirty minutes to get you miked up before your segment, okay?”
Kellar nodded. The assistant took off and all Kellar could think was thirty minutes? Already she wanted to take a damp paper towel and wipe off the lip stain the makeup girl had so painstakingly applied.
Kellar was in the big leagues now, so she’d have to suck it up and act like she belonged there.
She stepped into the green room which was kind of like walking into a bachelor pad circa 1995. Low slung black leather and chrome sofas and chairs were arranged like somebody’s idea of a living room. A wet bar took up half of one wall and a short buffet table jutted out to divide the space.
The buffet table held a variety of pre-packaged snacks: crackers, chips, pretzels and peanuts; as well as a tray each of sliced fruit (strawberries, pineapple and kiwi) and one of vegetables (carrots, celery sticks, broccoli florets and grape tomatoes). A bowl of gummy white dip sat in the middle of the tray.
Kellar had no intention of eating. Anything could happen if she did. Seeds in her teeth. A dribble down her carefully selected navy blue knit dress. Plus, eating would put her lips at risk of losing their carefully applied color. She had so much makeup on, she felt like she was wearing a mask, but she had to trust the people running the show. The last thing she wanted to do was make a fool of herself in front of a national audience. Not when so much hinged on her performance. Not when this was her make-or-break golden moment of opportunity.
Kellar thought a bottle of water would be harmless enough, however. Especially if she could find a straw to sip it through. Otherwise, she’d have to forgo until after the show. Her mouth became as dry as her lips just thinking about it.
She approached the wet bar and opened the refrigerator. Sure enough, an entire shelf of bottled water greeted her. She withdrew one and set it on the counter. Straws. Now where would they be? She opened the overhead cabinets of find an array of glasses in one and an assortment of drink mixers in another. Olives, onions, small bottles of tonic and soda water. Another cabinet held the makings for coffee and tea.
She tried the drawers. A variety of utensils greeted her. Strainers, corkscrews, bottle openers.
In another drawer she found a supply of cocktail napkins with the Jamie Falcon Show’s logo on them.
“There must be straws around here somewhere,” she said when she found swizzle sticks in a smaller drawer.
“Ah hah!” In the next drawer she found what she was looking for. She opened the water, stuck the straw in and sipped carefully with pursed lips before she caught sight of herself in the wide full-length mirror on the other side of the room.
She took another sip of water, puckering her lips as she sauntered toward her reflection exaggerating her imitation of a model on a catwalk.
“Ooh, baby, you look fantastic,” she purred. She studied herself critically. Her hair was her natural mahogany which she’d enhanced with a few honey-colored highlights. It fell in thick layered waves to her shoulders. She considered her hair one of her best features. She rearranged the ends but otherwise it looked perfect.
The layer of makeup was flawless, the liner, shadow and mascara showcasing her hazel eyes. The foundation covered every freckle or tiny blemish she might have had. The coating of blusher almost gave her the appearance of possessing cheekbones.
The blue dress was the right choice she decided. She’d carefully chosen silver jewelry to complement it. The neckline plunged into a vee that showed just enough cleavage to be interesting.
She was never going to be a runway model. She was never going to be thin enough nor would her proportions qualify her for a plus-size gig, either.
She was what she looked like. A well-fed girl from Iowa who’d grown up eating meat and potatoes. She had the sturdy frame and the curves to prove it.
Daily she said a prayer of thanks to Kim Kardashian and Nicki Manaj for making curves cool. Kellar had firmed up every one of hers with regular workouts in the gym, hiking in the summer and skiing weekends each winter. There were no jiggly parts except where they were supposed to be. Her breasts were a hundred percent natural and she’d been told they were awesome by past male admirers.
All in all, she was pleased with her appearance. She set the water aside and smoothed the dress along her thighs. She bent and lifted the hem of the dress. Even though it fit perfectly and she had no body image issues, she adjusted the edges of the body-shaping undergarment.
“Why do women wear those?”
She whirled, allowing the dress to fall back into place, to discover a man stretched out full-length on one of the sofas. He was dressed in black. Perhaps that’s how she’d missed his presence before. He had his arms crossed under his head and a lazy, but amused smile on his lips.
“From what I can see, you really don’t need anything at all under that dress. Explain it to me.”
Kellar stared. Rarely was she at a loss for words, but none came immediately to mind. Instead her brain was flooded with a memory dating back to her senior year of college when she’d first met this particular man. Her small college town had been the setting for his second movie and she’d been awarded the honor of interviewing him for the school newspaper. They’d clicked. Or so she thought when he’d made a date to meet her at a local pub. Then as now, she’d dressed carefully. She’d wanted to look her best. Make herself memorable. To impress him.
He hadn’t showed. She’d waited an hour thinking she knew how unpredictable the movie business could be. He could have got held up for one reason or another. Then she’d walked back to her dorm alone. But along the way she’d passed the best restaurant in town. Laughter and light spilled from inside. She saw him at a table, surrounded by movie people, his gorgeous blond co-star whispering in his ear.
“Sorry if I startled you.” He unfolded himself from the couch and came toward her.
She had no idea why. It wasn’t something she normally did upon introduction to a man. But she backed up a step. Into the edge of the countertop behind her. Where she’d set her bottle of water.
He extended a hand in her direction. “I’m—”
Cold liquid hit her back. Her eyes went wide with alarm, propelling her away from the spilled water and straight into his chest. A move for which he was not prepared. In an attempt to maintain his balance, he grasped her upper arms as he staggered backward. Into a glass and chrome coffee table. The glass shattered under their combined weight and the frame folded around them.
Kellar was neatly wedged on top of the man. She was acutely aware of her breasts smashed against his chest. Her thighs pressed snugly against his. The entire length of his body secured against hers. His eyes were closed.
Her first thought was she’d killed Dayman MacDay. Day-Day. Big Mac. DMD. The entertainment press had a hundred nicknames for him it seemed and they were always coming up with a new one. Especially when he was entangled in one of his famous romantic relationships. DayLee when he’d been with super model Lee Masters for a few months. DayLo during his brief engagement to rock star Lorrie Foster. DayLight because of his on again off again relationship with actress Julie Lightner.
If she’d killed him her name would be linked to his forever. DayKell. Knowing the press they’d probably add their own twist and make it DayKill. Forever after she’d be known as the Day Killer.
Oh God oh god oh god. “Please don’t be dead,” she whispered. She couldn’t tell if his heart was still beating beneath hers. He lay so absolutely still. Was he still breathing? She managed to disentangle one of her hands from the wreckage of the coffee table. She pressed her fingers to his lips. He didn’t so much as twitch. If he was breathing surely she’d feel his exhaling breath on her fingers. Wouldn’t she?
Desperately she tried to remember the lifesaving techniques she’d learned in a long-ago Red Cross class. How to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. No wait. That was for drowning victims. Wasn’t it? Or for anyone who’d stopped breathing? Had he stopped breathing? She couldn’t tell.
She wiggled against him so she could press her ear to his lips and nose. She detected something. Didn’t she? A swirl of air against her lobe. No wait. That wasn’t air. Was it? It felt more like…the tip of his tongue. And those were his goddamn teeth. He nipped playfully at her earlobe. She pulled back, bracing herself on his shoulders too stunned for a moment, too relieved if she was honest with herself, that he was alive. That she wouldn’t be known as DayKill for the rest of her life.
His eyes were open now. Those silvery gray-blue eyes that had seduced millions of women on screen and hundreds off screen. She wanted to smack that lazy grin off his face. “I thought you were dead.”
“If I was, you’d be the most popular woman in the world.”
“I’d be notorious. Tarred and feathered and run out of town. I’d never be forgiven for killing every woman’s dream man.”
He snorted. “Hardly. Do you have any idea how many women never want to lay eyes on me again? How many wish I was dead? How many have told me to drop dead?”
He laughed. His glee seemed genuine. She felt his chest rumble beneath hers as if he couldn’t control himself. “The—the—cat’s—pa—pa—” He couldn’t get the words out he was laughing so hard. Kellar narrowed her eyes. She did her best to edit herself, to keep the old-fashioned Midwest euphemisms she’d heard during her formative years out of her everyday speech. But sometimes they slipped out anyway. Often when she was stressed. Or when she needed one to avoid the temptation to use profanity.
Often the reaction was the same as this. Laughter. Or a request for an explanation of the obscure term. Depending on the age of her audience, whatever she said was so completely over their heads there was no point in trying to explain where the term had come from. Kellar, like most people, did not like to be laughed at. Especially not by this guy. A mega movie star. A notorious heartbreaker. But still the guy every woman in America dreamed of having as her very own.
She had to get off of him. Now. She became aware of the water that had soaked the back of her dress trickling between her legs and landing on the inside front of her dress. If it soaked through…there between her legs…oh God oh God oh God. Please no. She’d prepared so meticulously for her appearance. She’d been so careful. And now, because of him, she was ruined.
She pushed herself up, using his shoulders, very aware of her position and his proximity to the vee of her dress. His laughter was dissipating and his eyes went where any red-blooded heterosexual male’s would go. To her cleavage.
She walked herself backwards down the length of his body, not caring how much weight she put on his chest, his rock-hard abs, his thighs and shins. He moaned and groaned while she did it. Said, “Hey, watch it there when her fingers came perilously close to his crotch. Until she was on her feet.
She stood to see he was surrounded by crushed glass and bent metal, his body neatly wedged in the table’s broken frame. He held his arms up. She didn’t want to touch him again. Not ever again. She was doing her level best to deny the impact of what being on top of him felt like. He’d upset the equilibrium and self-control she tried so hard to maintain.
But she couldn’t ignore the fact that he might be injured from all the glass beneath him and that perhaps she’d been the indirect cause of their accident. She stared into his eyes and thought she saw the challenge in his. Reluctantly she bent so he could grip her hands. She leaned back to counter his weight. She was a substantial woman but she was wearing not very substantial Louboutins. And he was a very substantial hunk of man wedged between four metal poles. She grunted with the effort of helping him extricate himself from the mess they’d made. His fingers gripped hers so hard she thought for a moment he might pull her back down. But then suddenly, he was free, he was on his feet and the momentum propelled him right into her. She fell back under his weight once more. Straight into the pool of water that was now dripping from the counter onto the carpet.
She tried unsuccessfully to turn, to avoid getting any wetter than she already was, but the heel of her Louboutin caught in the wet pile of the carpet. She went one way and her heel went the other. Somehow, this time, Dayman caught her and kept them both from crashing into any other pieces of furniture or to the floor.
His fingers were still gripping hers and he’d pulled her hard against him when she thought she might fall and take him with her once more. She looked up at him, into his eyes. She was breathless. Maybe he’d have to give her mouth to mouth. She looked at his mouth and realized she wouldn’t mind that at all.
She was very aware of her chest pressed to his, of her nipples tightening in awareness, of heat pooling lower in her body. Of a throat clearing.
It hadn’t come from him, that attention-getting, “Ahem.” And it hadn’t come from her. She tore her gaze away from his at the same time he turned his head toward the open door.
The production assistant signaled to her. “We’re ready for you Miss Kennedy.”
“All right. Just a minute.” Nervously she licked her lips as she glanced up at Dayman. She could see that smile of his playing around his lips. In other circumstances, she too would find what had just happened hilarious. It was hilarious. But it had happened to her. On a make-or-break moment in her career. Which made it slightly less funny.
She stepped away from the water unevenly, because of her missing four-inch heel. She grabbed paper towels from the holder next to the sink and began to dab at the spots of water on the front of her dress.
Dayman moved past her. She couldn’t focus on him right now. She had about two minutes to repair the damage to her appearance. She straightened suddenly when she felt pressure on her backside. She tried to turn to look behind her, but he had a firm grip on the hem of her dress. “What do you think you’re doing?” she hissed.
He glanced up. “Helping?” He pressed a wad of paper towels to her bottom and she was quite sure she felt that pressure through every nerve ending she had.
“Stop it. You’ve done enough.” She licked her lips again and looked beseechingly at the assistant who was lounging against the doorjamb taking everything in. Oh God. I’m ruined.
“Nice meeting you,” he called.
She turned, shooting daggers at him with her eyes wanting nothing more than to wipe that amused grin off his face once and for all.
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