SAMPLE SUNDAY: ‘Paid Companion’

paid companion

Washington, DC, Sunday, 4:47p.m.

 Nicki had chosen well.

Kevin watched Lia Hill out of the corner of his eye as she settled into her seat and arranged her legs demurely to one side as she strapped in. They were going to leave late, because Blake and Nicki were late, as usual. The plan had been for them to have gotten to the airport early, and been waiting on the plane by the time Kevin arrived with the model. But Blake had been partying the night before and overslept, and Nicki had been completely MIA until about an hour ago.

So now Kevin was sitting on the plane alone with the model, waiting in this awkward silence. He wondered what she was thinking, whether she thought they were a bunch of degenerates who had hired a woman for a week to do all kinds of debaucherous things to her. The agency said she was twenty-nine, but she looked younger. And though very attractive, she didn’t look like a model. For one thing, she was too short. She couldn’t be more than five-four, or five-five. And she had hips, and boobs and a heart-shaped rather than angular face.

Kevin noticed these kinds of things because when he was into natural light photography, he’d grown accustomed to assessing people and objects according to how the light hit them, and became adept at telling how they would photograph. Lia Hill was very pretty, but in her pictures, she would appear heavier than she was, which Kevin estimated was no more than about a hundred and twenty-five pounds soaking wet.

“What time do we take off?”

She looked up unexpectedly, and Kevin once again was struck by her eyes. They were cat-shaped and large, dominating her cute, pixie-like features—small pert nose and bee-stung, bow-shaped lips. Something about her face made him want to stare, and take in each feature one at a time, surveying them separately before putting them together again and appreciating the whole.

“Whenever Blake and Nicki get here. Which should have been …” He glanced at his watch. “About an hour and a half ago.”

“Blake Morgan is on this flight with us?” she asked.

At that, Kevin did smile. The way she called Blake by his full name was funny. “Yeah. If he makes it by six. Otherwise we’ll leave without him and he’ll have to fly commercial and meet us down there.”

“You could just … leave him?” Her eyebrows lifted.

Kevin grinned. “Yeah. If he’s late, damn right his ass is getting left. I’m not trying to sit in this hangar all day. You?”

Lia shrugged and then shook her head. “I guess not. But if you’re his assistant, I guess I thought you’d have to wait no matter how …”

“His assistant?” Kevin echoed. “Where’d you get the idea I was his …?”

“What’s up, fam?”

Kevin turned at the sound of Blake’s voice, and rolled his eyes to see that he was just barely dressed—in cargo shorts and a ratty t-shirt, a small duffle bag over his shoulder that Kevin would bet good money, carried only more of the same. The old man was bound to love this—seeing his first-born pictured in the Miami Times looking like a Gulf Coast fisherman.

“Blake, this is …”

“My girlfriend for the week, huh?”

Blake collapsed into the seat directly across from Lia’s and looked her over, shamelessly taking in every little detail while the poor woman blushed and shrank back under his gaze. When she looked up again, it was shyly, and like most women meeting Blake for the first time, reluctant to look him directly in the eye.

Blake turned on his hundred-watt smile. “You’re beautiful,” he said. Then he extended his hand, which she took, attempting a smile back. “I’m Blake.”

“Lia,” she returned, taking his hand briefly.

“Lia, I don’t know if Kev told you. It’s going to be family, mostly. My parents, a couple cousins, a few friends here and there. Formal dinner every night, a couple day-trips … and the sex, we’re willing to pay extra for.”

At Lia’s wide-open eyes, Blake laughed and lightly slapped her on the knee, while Kevin shook his head and looked. “I’m jus’ messin’ with you! Damn!”

Then Blake was leaning back in his seat and looked around the cabin fully for the first time.

“Nice choice, Kev. Didn’t like that rinky-dink plane you got last time. This joint is nice.”

“Glad you like it,” Kevin said dryly.

“This isn’t … your plane?” Lia asked.

Blake and Kevin looked at her and then at each other, smiling. People always overestimated the Morgan family’s wealth. They were rich, but not so rich that the old man would do something like buy a private jet just to sit around generating expenses. They chartered, they leased but it was not an item he would buy. Not unless, as he liked to put it, he was planning on “selling out his great grandkids’ tomorrows to live in lap of luxury today.”

“Nah, we rented it for the ride,” Blake answered. “Much as I would love to own one of these babies.”

“I’m glad you remembered that,” Kevin said. “That it’s a rental. And you know how that works, right? By the hour. So your late ass just cost the old man about three thousand dollars. And where the hell is Nicki?”

Blake shrugged. “Who the hell knows? Off on one of her mystery missions. Sometimes I wonder whether I’m not the only one pulling the wool over on …”

Kevin shot him a look to remind him they weren’t alone and Blake promptly shut up, turning to give Lia another of his dazzling smiles. Those smiles had gotten Blake out of many a fix, and helped people look past what Kevin thought was pretty damn obvious at this point. But hell, he was part of the conspiracy; and though she didn’t know it, so was Lia.

COMING SOON.

Perfect Romance

I tried to write ‘perfect romance’ but don’t know how . . .

Now that ‘Maybe Never‘ is done, and I’ve had some time to sit with it, I have to admit it was hard to let Brendan and Tracy go. When I first wrote about them in ‘Commitment‘, they weren’t a couple and only very gradually learned how to become friends. But it wasn’t their story, so I foreshadowed a little bit (without even knowing that that was what I was doing) to what would become their story. Tracy was Riley’s beautiful best friend who never seemed to have a man around, and seemed content to offer commentary on someone else’s love life rather than have one of her own. In ‘Unsuitable Men‘, we learned why–Tracy didn’t have relationships because she just couldn’t. And Brendan, the man she falls for, was barely able to do relationships himself. But somehow they found a rocky, painful, convoluted path to each other.

At the end of ‘Unsuitable Men’, Tracy was still working on some stuff, as was Brendan and there was always the lingering question of whether it was even possible that they might find a happily ever after. ‘Maybe Never’ was supposed to be a love letter, my Valentine’s kiss to readers who wrote to me, genuinely concerned that the ambiguity at the end of Unsuitable Men meant that maybe, somehow, Brendan and Tracy would break up. And so I set out to assuage those fears and give these readers a gift of a perfect romance.

messy loveBy now, if you’ve read ‘Maybe Never’, you know that it was many things, but it was most definitely not a “perfect romance” – not in the sense of its technical construction and execution and most definitely not in terms of the relationship between Brendan and Tracy. They have baggage, they have issues, they have problems and doubts and all kinds of shit to work out. And that’s because at the end of the day, as I work on this craft I’ve come to learn something about myself as a writer. I can’t do perfect. Not by a long-shot. I don’t know those people whose relationships end with a tidy HEA.  I know the people who love hard, who fight hard, who mess up, who have lousy relationships with parents that influence their love lives, or great relationships with parents that still influence their love lives in lousy ways, people who sometimes get horny looking at someone other than their partner . . . people who have messy, messy loves.

I tried to give the gift of perfect romance, but couldn’t. And fair warning for those who in future may be inclined to read what I write – I couldn’t do it in this instance and likely won’t ever be able to. I offer instead, stories about what I know to be true: that sometimes, through all the craziness and the chaos that we impose on ourselves, the drama and the messiness; sometimes we reach out and we find someone. Not someone perfect, but maybe if you’re lucky, they’re perfect for you . . .

Happy Reading.

-N-