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Dream Date (Dare to Dream1)

Book By: Bea LaRocca
Erotica



Erotic romance author Kate Nichols wins a Dream Date with her celebrity crush, rock star, Jason Grey.


Submitted:Jun 24, 2014    Reads: 290    Comments: 3    Likes: 1   


~~ Katherine Nichols sat at her desk, staring at the flashing cursor on the screen of her laptop, the page before her completely blank. With a frustrated sigh, she pinched the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger. Briefly closing her eyes, she counted to ten. Sighing again, she tilted her head first left and then right until she heard the crack in the back of her neck
that was supposed to signal a release of tension.
Deciding that a little fresh air and a brisk walk was just what she needed to clear the cobwebs or whatever it was that was muddling her brain, she
stood and walked over to the heavy drapes that covered the sliding glass door that led to the deck.
She pulled the drapes back, disappointed by the subdued light that entered the room.
Rain, big, fat, wet drops struck the planks of the redwood deck with a loud splat, although the heavy glass doors remained tightly closed. So much for that idea, she thought to herself as she let the drapes fall back into place.
Maybe she should head upstairs for a nice long run on the treadmill? There was nothing like the release of some endorphins to stimulate her
foggy brain.
She returned to her desk instead, plopping down into her ergonomically designed office chair, not even glancing at her computer, just staring off into space as she set the chair in motion, spinning half-circles from left to right and back again.
This was how her literary agent and best friend, Claire Brady, found her when she entered the office.
"Hard at work, I see," she said with just a hint of sarcasm.
Kate spun to face her, startled. "Jesus, Claire! I didn't even hear you come in!"
Claire shook her head as she strode purposefully into the room, the bottoms of her dark-gray dress slacks damp from the rain. Her pretty face was tight with irritation as the high humidity had her shoulder-length red curls kinking wildly all around her head.
"You should keep your door locked, Kate," she scolded. "I could just as easily have been an escaped convict looking for a long overdue piece of ass."
Kate ignored that. "So, what brings you all the way up here on a day like this?" she asked suspiciously.
"The answer to your prayers." She removed a newspaper from its plastic baggie, unfolding it as she approached the desk. She laid the paper out right in front of Kate, an expertly manicured peach fingernail tapping impatiently against a particular article. "Check this out!" Claire half sat on the edge of her desk as Kate began reading the article:

"10th Annual Auction to Benefit the Homeless"
Break out your checkbooks, ladies! Triple-platinum recording artist Jason Grey has agreed to auction himself off for a night of dinner and dancing with one lucky winner. For a mere $5000.00 per ticket, you will be entered into a drawing, conducted by the man himself, this Saturday, May 17th, at 3:00 p.m. at the auction site in Central Park West.
The winner will receive a complimentary room at The Ritz and a limo ride from the hotel to one of Manhattan's five-star restaurants, where she
will enjoy a five course meal with Mr. Grey, who will then accompany her on a brief tour of the sights before the limo returns her to the hotel.
Ticket sales begin at 8:00 a.m. and close at 12:00 p.m. sharp on the day.
All participants must be at least twenty-one years of age, have two forms of valid ID, and a certified check made out to "Friends of the Homeless," in the amount of $5000.00.
All proceeds from the event help to finance homeless shelters and soup kitchens across the Tri-state area.
Other events will include an auction of pieces of fine art donated by many philanthropists across the region as well as an auction of free passes for hotel stays, limo rides, and fabulous dinners at many of Manhattan's premier spots. These auctions will be conducted in the traditional manner, by bid…
Kate's attention was drawn to the too-small photograph of the recording artist mentioned. The man was too hot, and unbelievably talented. She'd had a huge crush on him ever since the first time that she'd seen him in concert, five years ago when she and Claire were in their sophomore year at college.
She refolded the paper, removing his face from her vision.
"And how exactly is this the answer to my prayers?" she asked skeptically.
"Easy. You're going to buy a ticket. You're going to win. And you're going to get to spend some quality time with the object of your desires!" Claire grinned broadly, her green eyes dancing with amusement.
"You're psychic now?"
"No…but, I can't explain it. I just have a really good feeling about this."
Kate was all too familiar with Claire's "good feelings." Those feelings had gotten Kate started on the career path that she was on right now. "Okay, but I still don't see why you'd want me to get involved with this type of thing. Sure, I support a lot of charities, but this seems kind of silly."
"A lot of charities have been enlisting all types of celebrities to donate a few hours of their time for stuff like this. Apparently people are more willing to make large contributions if they're getting something in return."
"Sure, and a lot of celebrities donate their time because it's good publicity."
"True, but who cares what motivated him to donate his time?" Claire said excitedly. "The point is that this time, it's your celebrity who's offering himself up for a few hours. That's why you should be involved!"
"He's not my anything." Kate reminded her. But, God, what wouldn't she give? She sighed wistfully.
"Listen, girlfriend, I've done my best to try to get you out of this rut."
It took Kate a second to follow the change in topic. Claire was referring to the series of blind dates that she'd roped her into over the past year.
"I know. Please stop," Kate begged earnestly.
Claire glared at her, then said, "All of those men that I set you up with were single, successful and attractive, and still you dismissed each and every one of them without even giving them a chance-"
Kate cut her off. "Sure they were attractive, but I wasn't attracted to any of them. Why would I want to date someone that I have no interest in
sleeping with? Or going to bed and not sleeping, to be more precise."
"That's a valid point, which is why I've brought this to your attention. You are still hot for this guy?"
"Who isn't?" She shrugged. "But that's just a fantasy, it has nothing to do with the real world."
"Hey, don't sell fantasy short. It's how we make our living."
"You know what I mean."
"Speaking of…how's the book coming?"
"It's coming along," Kate mumbled, fiddling with the folded newspaper, not making eye contact.
"You are such a liar!" Claire accused gently. "How are you supposed to write about sex and romance when you're not getting any?"
"Gee, thanks ever so much for putting that out there!" Kate glared at her.
Claire sighed. "Listen, Kate, I've known you for a long time, and I know that it's not in your nature to discuss your private life, but I need to ask you something." She paused for a minute. "What exactly happened between you and Brian?"
Brian had been Kate's boyfriend junior and senior year at school and for the first year following graduation. But they had parted ways soon after Kate's granddad had passed away.
"You're worried that I'm nursing a broken heart?" Kate asked astutely.
"Are you?"
Kate sighed. Claire was right when she'd said that she didn't like to discuss her private business with anyone. More specifically, she didn't discuss her intimate relationships with her friends, much to their annoyance. But if talking about Brian would get Claire to stop setting her up with every available man that she could find…
"Brian and I decided to call it quits after Granddad died, and I told him that I would be moving out here and not selling the property like he wanted me to." Kate's grandfather had willed her the lake house and property, and although her family had used it as a vacation getaway for years, she had made it her home. She loved it here.
"Can you blame him?" Claire asked frankly.
Claire was New York City born and raised and shared Brian's opinion that she was crazy to give up her Manhattan apartment and move out here to the woods.
Kate sighed heavily. "That's not really the point. Brian and I were never…it was all very…lukewarm, if you know what I mean?"
Claire raised a perfectly waxed brow at this bit of information.
"He didn't support my decision to turn down the job with the petroleum company and he didn't think much of my writing either. And when I told him that I wanted to move out here permanently? Well, we just agreed that we wanted different things out of life. The break-up was mutual and painless."
"I see," Claire said quietly.
"So, no, I'm not heartbroken or pining away for him, believe me."
"Well, that's good news."
Kate's smile was a little sad. "That was two years ago, Claire. You really thought that I was still hung up on him?"
"I didn't know what to think," Claire said, just a little defensive.
"You're notoriously closemouthed."
Kate began to squirm with discomfort as she watched the expressions chase across her friend's face. She could tell that Claire was puzzling something out and that she wouldn't be satisfied until she'd confirmed the conclusion that she'd obviously come to.
"I know that you haven't been in a relationship since Brian… Does that mean that you haven't gotten laid…in two years?" Claire asked incredulously.
"God, you say that like it's some kind of tragedy!"
"For a young, beautiful woman such as yourself it is a tragedy!"
Uh oh, Claire would never give it a rest now. Kate sighed with exasperation. "Why are we talking about this, again?"
Claire must have sensed that she was making her uncomfortable because she backed off. Changing the subject suddenly, a teasing grin lit up her face and she said, "Let's talk about your celebrity crush instead."
"I don't want to talk about him, either."
"Now, Kate, there is nothing to be ashamed of. God knows that I've indulged in a few steamy fantasies about the man myself. Not to mention
that action star from all the martial arts films. Do you ever wonder what a man who can move like that is capable of in bed?"
"We're not talking about a few steamy fantasies. You make it sound like I'm some starstruck adolescent running around in his photo-T and writing our names inside little hearts all over my manuscript!"
"You have a photo-T?"
"It came with the deluxe edition CD," she said defensively.
"Please tell me that there's no poster in your bedroom?"
"Well, technically it's in my bedroom."
Claire shook her head sadly.
"It's not on my wall," Kate continued. "It's all rolled up in the back of my closet."
"Thank God!"
"Well, it wasn't a very good picture."
"How is that even possible?"
"Bad hair day?" Kate postulated.
Claire giggled. "See? You've made my point for me. You are still hot for the guy."
"Yeah, me and at least half the female population of the planet." Kate decided to humor her. "So let's just say, hypothetically, that I enter this drawing. The chances of my winning would be like hitting the Mega Millions."
"The chances of that are like one in a gazillion. You'll only have one or two hundred competitors, tops."
"Are you kidding? A middle-aged housewife from the suburbs would hock the family mini-van on eBay in order to buy into this."
Claire laughed out loud. "Wow! You got it bad!"
"You think I'm joking? Just you wait and see."
Claire shook her head, still chuckling.
"Now where was I? Oh yeah. Let's just say, by some miracle, I win this thing. It's just dinner. There will be security people and reporters lurking around, watching every move we make. Not to mention the fact that I would probably end up making a complete fool out of myself."
"Why do you say that?"
"He's famous, Claire, and unbelievably attractive. I seriously doubt that I would be able to maintain my composure in his company."
"At the end of the day, Kate, he's just a guy."
"I know that." She sighed heavily. "And by all accounts he's a pretty terrific guy, but he's so far out of my league that it's ridiculous, and my social skills are sketchy, at best."
"Hey, any guy who is willing to prostitute himself for a good cause is pretty terrific in my book."
"It is just dinner," Kate pointed out, again.
"And what you are, dear friend, is incredibly gorgeous. That goes a long way in making up for your lack of social skills. Trust me on this."
"I'm not talking about using the wrong fork or knowing what topic of conversation is appropriate, I'm talking about making a fool out of myself by staring or possibly even drooling." Or being unable to resist the urge to crawl under the dinner table so that she could drool all over his lap. The corner of her mouth twitched as she pictured herself doing just that. She had always had the ability to laugh at herself.
"He really gets to you, doesn't he?" Claire seemed a little worried.
"The truth?" she asked.
"Please."
"He is my fantasy guy. All of my heroes are based on fantasy versions of him, in one form or another. He inspires me, gets me in touch with my inner, horny teenager." There was just a hint of laughter in her blue eyes as she watched for Claire's reaction.
"When you say, 'Get in touch with,' you are speaking figuratively, right?" Claire had a straight face, but her eyes were filled with laughter.
"That is so not your business." Kate glared good-humoredly.
"There's no need to be embarrassed, Kate. Self-gratification is a perfectly healthy way to satisfy your needs, especially given your unique
circumstances." Claire bit the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing.
"Ouch!" Kate looked around for something to throw at her, but she came up empty handed. She quickly changed the subject.
"In any event, this conversation is pointless. I haven't agreed to enter this contest, and if I do?
My chances of winning are slim to none."
"What have you got to lose? You donate anyway. I know for a fact that this is one of the charities that you support."
"True, but as I said, it seems silly, and maybe even a little desperate."
"Desperate? It's not speed dating, it's a 'dream date,' a fantasy come to life for a few hours at least. I mean how often do any of us little people get to hobnob with the rich and famous?"
"My point exactly. I'd probably just end up embarrassing myself."
"Kate." Claire sighed with exasperation. "Would you please just take a chance? Just this once?"
"I don't know Claire…"
"I am not going to enter the drawing, just to increase your odds."
Kate was suitably impressed. "Wow, that's big of you. How can I ever repay you?"
"Cheer up. Get laid. And finish the damn book on time! But, if not, I'm sure that I can get you an extension."
Kate was sure of it, too, considering the fact that Claire's dad owned Premier Publishing, the publisher that handled about eighty percent of the authors that Claire's agency represented, herself included.
"Maybe…"
"Come on, Kate, live a little! Life is too short, and please, tell me when an opportunity like this is going to present itself again?"
"Okay."
"You'll do it?" Claire was practically jumping up and down.
"Yeah. You know what this means don't you?"
Claire raised a quizzical brow.
"I'll need to go shopping. Just in case."
* * * *
Once the decision was made, the women headed into the kitchen for coffee. Kate brewed a fresh pot, and the two of them sat at the island that was in the center of the room and made plans for the upcoming weekend.
They talked for an hour or so before Claire left to meet with another client that lived further upstate. Kate closed the front door behind her, smiling to herself as she turned the lock.
She thought about everything that Claire had said as she headed back into the kitchen for another cup of coffee.
The auction really was for a good cause and she would have written them a check anyway. But this contest? She would never enter something like that if Claire hadn't talked her into it. Sure, she'd give anything to actually meet the man, to talk with him and get to know him, even a little, but there was no way that that was going to happen. She wasn't going to win.
But…what if she did? She couldn't keep her overactive imagination from considering the possibility. What would she say? Would she even be able to string two words together? Would she be able to keep her hands off of him?
She giggled to herself. Of course she'd be able to keep her hands to herself. It didn't matter how hot the man made her, she was not an aggressive person sexually, or at all, for that matter, despite the erotic musings that she'd entertained earlier.
She rinsed the coffee pot and mugs and set everything in the drainer before she made her way back to the office, stopping on the way to turn on the stereo in the living room, Jason Grey's CDs already in the changer.
The man had a beautiful voice, even when he was belting out a powerful rock song. She loved his ballads, though, the majority of which he wrote the lyrics and music to himself, with other members of his band. And, God, what he could do with a guitar. It was no wonder that his albums still debuted at the top of the charts, although the first one had been released nearly a decade ago.
She'd always been a fan of his music, but hadn't developed the huge crush that she had on him until the first time that she'd seen him live. Her physical reaction to him had been instantaneous and powerful and had taken her completely by surprise.
He'd made her so hot that her panties were soaked by the time she'd left the concert grounds, and he hadn't even noticed her. Well, of course he hadn't, there had been thousands of people in attendance. Literally.
Claire had noticed her reaction to the man though, but hadn't said anything about it at the time. It had taken her several weeks to drag the details out of Kate, and then she'd done a complete one-eighty, never again teasing Kate about her celebrity crush. Until today, that is. A few months later, she'd started dating Brian, and the entire incident had been dropped, by Claire at any rate. And Kate had never admitted to anyone that it was not her handsome boyfriend that held her tight in her dreams.
She sighed heavily as she continued on into the office, stopping to pull the drapes all the way open before she sat in her office chair, staring mindlessly at the rain streaking down the door to the deck as that sexy voice filled her head.
She was standing in the front row, surrounded by women screaming, whistling, singing, everyone's attention focused on the gorgeous man on the stage. He smiled and thanked the audience time and again, his seductive voice and laughing eyes drawing everyone in.
His gaze seemed to settle on her again and again as the night wore on, and when the concert came to an end, his eyes met hers, filled with curiosity and heat. He raised a brow in inquiry and she simply nodded, anticipation throbbing through her as he turned to ask one of the security men to escort her backstage.
Kate sighed with frustration as she realized how even that much of the fantasy had affected her. Her panties were just as damp as if he'd been standing right in front of her. What was wrong with her? That this man, this stranger, had such an effect on her, it just wasn't…normal.
Her body had prepared itself for sex, her womb clenched with need, her clit throbbing painfully against the material of her panties. This was ridiculous. She was going to have to see to her body's needs. She unbuttoned and unzipped her jeans as she headed back into the living room. She stretched out along the sofa, using the remote to hit replay on the CD before she cranked up the volume.
Her hand slid between her legs, beneath the crotch of her panties, and she sighed with relief as she began stroking her aching clit, her eyes drifting closed as she picked up the threads of the dream.
* * * *
She was out the door by 6:00 a.m. Friday morning, an overnight bag riding shotgun in her cherry-red Jeep. It was an hour from her place to the train station and another three hours to Manhattan. It would have been quicker to drive, but she hated city traffic, so she left her Jeep in the Park-N-Ride and boarded a southbound train.
The trip was uneventful and she was in a pretty good mood when she arrived at Penn Station. Maybe Claire had been right after all. She'd been spending too much time in isolation.
She made her way to the subway tunnels, boarding another train that would take her closer to the suite of offices that housed Claire's agency as well as Premier Publishing. She was supposed to meet her at her office and then the two of them would have lunch and do a little shopping. Claire had made arrangements to take the afternoon off.
Kate was surprised that she was actually looking forward to this. She hated shopping, which was a complete contradiction, because she loved new clothes. She had to laugh at herself and the odd quirks of her personality.
She had been feeling bored and restless, maybe a little lonely, she realized as she exited the train, probably the reason why she'd been struggling with the manuscript that she was working on. Suffering from a severe case of sexual frustration wasn't helping either, she admitted to herself as she climbed the stairs that would lead her up to the street.
She was looking forward to seeing Jason in person again, too. She hadn't been to a concert in over a year and watching him doing interviews and a performance on TV wasn't the same. He wouldn't be performing at the auction, but he would be there selecting the winner. That was good enough for her.
The sun was peeking through the clouds as she strolled along the sidewalk, and this cheered her up even more. She was so tired of all the rain these last few weeks. Considering everything, she was really glad that Claire had talked her into this.
She made it to the suite of offices just before noon. Entering the building, she immediately strode over to the information desk.
"Hey, Ms. Nichols. It's been a long time. What brings you in today?"
Michelle, the short and bubbly brunette who manned the desk, greeted her cheerfully.
There were at least two dozen businesses in the building and there must be thousands of people passing through here each week. Kate was surprised that the girl remembered her.
"Hey, Michelle, how have you been? I'm actually amazed that you remember me."
"I'm a fan, loved your last book!" She giggled and winked.
Kate smiled. Her work was hardly the steamiest stuff out there, but it was still classified as erotic fiction.
"I actually have plans with Ms. Brady this weekend. I'm meeting her for lunch."
"I'll announce you." She picked up the desk phone and called upstairs, letting Claire's assistant know that Kate had arrived.
"Okay, gorgeous, I'll send her right up." Michelle turned back to face her. "Marcus says that Claire got called into a last-minute meeting, but that she shouldn't be too much longer. He asked me to send you up."
"Thanks, Michelle. It was good seeing you again." Kate smiled and turned to walk toward the elevators.
She exited on the fourteenth floor and turned right, pushing through the swinging glass doors, three doors down, that bore Claire's name.
Claire's assistant, Marcus, sat behind his desk in the reception area, and she smiled in greeting.
He stood and came around the desk, walking up to her, he placed first a hand, then a kiss on each cheek, right before he planted a wet kiss smack on her lips.
"Hey, gorgeous," he said, grinning.
"Hey! Don't kiss me with those lips. God only knows where they've been!" She had a huge grin on her face, to take the sting out of her words.
"Uh…like you've never…"
"Not by proxy." She grinned wickedly.
"I adore you, do you know that?" His light brown eyes were alive with laughter.
"I do." Her grin turned affectionate.
"So, let me have a look at you?"
She rolled her eyes as she did the customary turn around.
"Ah, Kate, you look so good, I almost wish that women did it for me." He half-sat on the edge of his desk, arms crossed over his chest, his grin bigger than ever.
"A compliment, I'm sure." She took a seat on the comfy sofa that was directly across from his desk. "So, will Claire be much longer? We have plans," she added, unnecessarily.
"Yes, I know, and let me tell you that I'm beyond envy. An afternoon of shopping in high-end boutiques! Can you imagine anything more blissful?"
"A root canal?" she suggested half seriously.
Marcus laughed out loud. "You are truly the strangest female!"
She just smiled and ignored the act. He was playing it so far over the top that it wasn't funny.
He sighed wistfully. "Still, I so wish that I was coming with, but we couldn't both of us take the afternoon off," he said, referring to Claire. "I would have loved to help dress you up for your big day."
Kate's face fell in dismay. "She told you?"
"Sure. And let me just reiterate that I'm green with envy. I would be entering that drawing myself, but rumor has it that he's a card-carrying heterosexual. What a waste!"
Kate simply glared at him.
"Did I say that out loud? My bad!" He grinned and winked.
"Do you know what amazes me? It's the way that you two seem to think that I'm going to win this thing. I'm sure that I'll only be one of many. The odds won't be that good. Yet, still, here I am, about to spend an obscene amount of money on outfits that I may not even need."
"Oh, pooh! So what if you don't win? Save the clothes for the next event. It's not like there isn't always another opportunity for dressing up, right around the corner."
"Did you just say 'pooh'? Seriously?"
"Never mind that. Well, I'm rooting for you, dear heart. One of us deserves to be blissfully happy."
"It is just dinner," Kate reminded him.
She switched the focus of the conversation to him. "So I can tell by your tone that your love life is about as exciting as mine at the moment."
He sighed dramatically. "Men."
"You should meet us for drinks later. We can commiserate."
He cheered up considerably. "I am so there!"
Claire returned from her meeting right then. "Sorry, Kate, let me grab my bag out of the office and we'll be on our way." She strode past the two of them and Marcus called out to her retreating back.
"Hey, boss? Kate invited me out for drinks with you two later. That cool with you?"
"Sure."
He turned back to face Kate. "Okay, beautiful, it's Friday, so I'll be outta here by five sharp. I'll give you a call, and if you're still shopping? I'll be happy to help out. If you're done? We'll talk about dinner and drinks. Deal?"
"Deal."
Claire locked up her office and strode over to stand beside them, the strap to her purse slung over her shoulder. "Ready?"
"Yes, ma'am. See you later, Marcus."
"Count on it."
They rode the elevator down to the lobby but stopped in their tracks as the doors slid open. A rather large crowd of reporters, some with mikes, some with cameras, surrounded a tall, dark-haired man just inside the wide glass doors that fronted the building. Claire grabbed Kate's arm and dragged her quickly across the lobby until they stood behind the information desk. Michelle was busy dialing up security on her desk phone and Kate turned to face Claire.
"What's that all about? Who is he?" she asked, referring to the harried looking man in the center of all the chaos.
"That's Brandon Boyce, suspense author. His latest book just made New York Times Bestseller."
"Mr. Boyce, has your recent divorce affected your creativity at all?" A reporter shouted out from the back of the throng.
"Will you be suing your ex-wife for custody of your children?" A female voice rose above the general din.
"Any truth to the rumors that your extra-marital activities led to your divorce?" Another reporter chimed in.
"What the hell does any of that have to do with his novel?" Kate asked with disgust.
Claire shrugged. "That's the price of fame. The public will want to know anything and everything about you."
"Yeah? Well, do me a favor. If I ever become that famous? Shoot me!"
Claire grinned broadly. "No way girlfriend! You famous equals more money for yours truly."
Kate glared at her but she couldn't contain her amusement for long and the corner of her lips began to twitch as Mr. Boyce finally made it into the elevator, muttering, "No comment," just one more time.
"Is it even legal for them to be asking those kinds of personal questions?" Kate asked as the remaining reporters that were unable to cram into the elevator with him, all crammed into the one on the left as soon as the doors slid open.
Claire shrugged before she turned her attention to Michelle. "You called security, Michelle?" she asked.
"I did, Ms. Brady. Hopefully they can deal with them before they manage to disrupt anyone else's workday," she replied with a frown.
"Okay. I'll see you later then." They came out from behind the desk, strolling across the lobby to the front doors and Michelle threw a wave as they exited the building.
The sun was shining brightly as they stepped out onto the crowded sidewalk and Kate stopped to rummage through her bag for her sunglasses.
Once she put them on, she turned to Claire, who had slid hers on as well.
Still, Kate noticed the strain around her eyes and she asked if anything was wrong, and if it had anything to do with the scene that they had just witnessed.
Claire answered as they began strolling through the crowd, looking for somewhere to eat. "No, it's not that, and it's nothing bad either. That meeting that I was called into?"
Kate simply nodded.
"Apparently Premier Publishing is trying to acquire a smaller publishing firm that's been in the red for quite some time. Daddy called me into his meeting with the board, because if this thing happens? A lot of new clients will get shuffled my way."
She continued, "There's nothing definite and I won't begin to go into all the legalities of the thing, but it's looking like I'm going to be extremely busy for the foreseeable future. Of course, the merger will provide for the clients to either come over to us or seek other representation."
Claire had a good working relationship with her father's publishing company. She'd interned there during her senior year and could have been
hired on, but she'd wanted to do something on her own. So she'd opened her own literary agency, taking on a partner who was older and more experienced to bring in clients until she'd established a reputation of her own with other people in the business. Now, her partner and she represented about a dozen or so authors each. And Premier publishing, as well as a few others, usually recommended her agency to authors seeking representation.
Kate nodded. "Well it stinks to hear about another company going under, but at least the employees and clients will be offered some protection. That can only be a good thing, given the state of the economy."
"Agreed. Enough shop talk," Claire said as she shook off her professional persona. "Let's eat, then we can talk about the look that you're
going for and take it from there."
They strolled along the sidewalk until they found a restaurant with outside tables. They took a seat and a waitress came over to them with a pair of plastic menus, taking their drink order before hurrying off.
"So," Kate began, "for dinner in a five-star restaurant, high quality evening wear is required."
"Obviously," Claire agreed.
"Now for the auction itself, I've been toying with a few different ideas."
"Like?" Claire asked suspiciously..
"Well, I'm thinking that he's a rocker, after all, despite all those unbelievable ballads. So he may not be into the sophisticated look. He's probably into sexy fun. I'm thinking skin-tight leather dress, spiky heels. Ooh, and do you think that I have time to get a tattoo? I could get a temporary. I mean, I'll never see him again, so how would he know? Maybe get some piercings in strategic places…" She allowed her voice to trail off.
"Define strategic places, because you already have a belly-ring."
Kate just giggled.
"Ouch!"
The waitress returned with a tray bearing two waters and two Cokes. After setting their drinks in front of them, she removed an order pad from
the pocket of her apron. "Are you ladies ready to order?" she asked, smiling.
Kate chose a chef's salad with creamy Italian dressing and Claire opted for a turkey wrap.
The waitress smiled, retrieved the menus, and took off to place their order.
"Or," Kate continued, "maybe a pair of designer hip-huggers, leather boots, that photo-T…Oh shit, I left it at home." She looked genuinely disappointed.
"It's nice to see you in a better mood." Claire grinned at her.
"It's nice to be in a better mood." She grinned back.
"Still, we are pressed for time, so…"
"I'm going with the jeans and boots, but I want to pair that with a silk blouse. What do you think?"
"Sounds perfect. I know just the place."
The waitress returned with their lunch and they fell silent while they ate.
Kate watched the endless city traffic surge past in both directions, while a sea of pedestrians skirted the outside eating area on their way to wherever.
She didn't hate the city, exactly, she just preferred living in the country and always had. The summers that she'd spent at the lake house with her parents and then her grandparents had been some of the happiest times in her life.
She'd have to admit that it had been her desire to keep her family close, to keep those memories alive, that had driven her decision to move out there.
They were all gone now. All she had left of them was a collection of photographs and those memories.
Her thoughts drifted to the time right after her grandfather's death, when her relationship with Brian finally came to an end. The sad thing about it was that it had been a relief. She'd reached the conclusion that he was not the man for her long before he'd realized it himself, but she hadn't known how to go about ending it.
Brian was a good man, attractive, intelligent, motivated, but she'd always felt that there was something missing. She hadn't been sure exactly
what that was. She'd only been nineteen when they'd started dating, but by the time they'd graduated she was pretty sure that they were just too different to make it work, which was probably why she'd resisted his suggestion that they move in together.
They'd grown further apart after that until they finally admitted to themselves and to each other that it was time to separate and move on. They
hadn't stayed in touch, but there were no hard feelings. In fact, she wished him only happiness.
"Hey, where'd you go?" Claire's voice brought her back to the present.
"Sorry, I was reminiscing."
"Missing Manhattan, are you?" Claire teased.
"You wish!"
Claire grinned as she picked up the check with a "my treat" look, and they headed off to the shops.
The first one that they stopped in was small but upscale. They sat and waited for the stylishly-dressed sales assistant to lead them through the
store. They oohed and aahed over several dresses for about an hour until Kate declared, "This is it!"
She had chosen a cream-colored, satin halter dress with a matching jacket. Claire examined it critically.
"Let's see how it looks on you."
The sales assistant led them back to the changing rooms, before she glided off to help another customer.
Kate entered the changing room and disrobed, pulling the satin dress over her head and smoothing it down her body, reveling in the feel of the cool material against her skin. She only hoped that it looked as good on her as it felt. She stood before the mirror once she had adjusted the dress to her form.
The dress clung to her curves, ending halfway to her knees and molding to her flat abdomen. The only looseness in the material was the draped fabric that covered her breasts, descending from the scooped neckline. The halter straps ran up the sides of her chest and buttoned at the nape of her neck.
She focused her attention on the reflection from the mirror behind her, examining the back of the dress. It began just above the curve of her butt, leaving her entire back bare. She slipped into the jacket and turned in front of the mirrors to examine herself from every angle. The jacket was short, designed to end just where the dress began in the back, so that if the wearer were to stretch even the least little bit, a tantalizing view of bare skin would be revealed. She smiled with satisfaction and exited the changing room. Claire and the sales assistant had been patiently waiting.
"So, I love this and I'm buying it regardless, but do you think that it's appropriate? Or, does the color scream 'wedding party'?"
Claire spoke first. "I think that it could absolutely be worn to a wedding, but it looks amazing on you. My first rule of shopping is to go with your gut."
Kate turned to the sales assistant, who was supposed to be an expert on such matters.
"I agree with your friend. You look amazing and the coloring suits you."
"Okay, we have the dress. Now let's accessorize and find an outfit for the day." Claire wasted no time while Kate returned to the changing room to put on her own clothes. Kate handed the dress to her over the door and by the time she returned to the sales floor, the dress was boxed and bagged. She handed over her credit card and they were on their way.
By 6:00 p.m., they had matching satin stilettos and panties, a pair of hip-hugging designer jeans, calf-high leather dress boots, and a silk blouse that was nearly the same color as the dress. Kate really liked the blouse, too. It had three-quarter sleeves with wide cuffs and a plunging V-neckline. There were only three buttons in the front and then the material flared out. As she walked there would be brief glimpses of the diamond that she wore in her navel.
She had brought jewelry from home, so there was no need for any more shopping.
Marcus had joined them just before six and gave his stamp of approval to the entire ensemble. He paid for a cab to Claire's place, where they dropped off the packages and freshened up before heading out to dinner.
He chose a really nice bar and grill and they spent the next few hours talking and laughing over dinner and drinks. It was the first time that the three of them had been out together since Kate had moved out of her apartment.
They called it quits around eleven, Marcus agreeing to meet them at the Manhattan Avenue side of Central Park at nine the following morning.
Kate accompanied Claire back to her place. She was completely wiped out from the long day of travel and shopping, so she declined Claire's offer of a nightcap and headed off to the guest room. She slipped into her nightgown and brushed her teeth before she crawled into bed, falling asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.
****
Saturday morning dawned clear and warm, a perfect spring day. Claire was already showered and dressed when Kate entered the kitchen.
"Morning," Kate said through a yawn. "You look nice." Claire was wearing designer jeans with a sleeveless, green silk blouse, draped down the front as was Kate's dress. A matching pair of green flats covered her feet.
Claire took a quick sip of her coffee before returning the greeting.
"Morning, sunshine. You need coffee?"
"No thanks, just a shower. We're pressed for time, so I'll just grab something from one of the vendors once the deed is done."
She headed to the bathroom to shower and change, briefly drying her long, wavy black hair and leaving it loose, as was her preference. Make-up applied, jewelry in place, she returned to the kitchen, her bag slung over her
shoulder. "Ready?"
"Let's do it!"
They arrived at the park a few minutes before nine. Kate spotted Marcus immediately, dressed in casual slacks and a shortsleeved, button-down shirt. He was chatting up some guy who looked like the poster boy for fun in the sun.
He turned away from his companion when he spotted them making their way toward him. His face lit up like a Christmas tree.
"Gal pals! Don't you both look good enough to eat?" he said, grinning.
Claire just glared at him. Marcus was nowhere near as flamboyant as he was pretending to be.
Kate watched them with a smile. Although, technically, they were employer and employee, Claire and Marcus were very fond of each other,
and the three of them had been friends since college, although Marcus had been a year ahead of them.
He wedged himself between the two of them, offering an arm to each, which they accepted graciously.
Once the introductions had been made, Mr. Fun in the Sun, or Michael as he liked to be called, begged off with a vague promise of, "I'll call
you…"
"I have to ask," Claire began curiously, "was that a brushoff? Because in the heterosexual world, that would be considered a brushoff, and I'm wondering if the same rules apply?"
"Gee, Claire, you can be so insensitive sometimes!" Kate scolded. "The man has feelings, you know." Kate patted Marcus's arm consolingly.
"It's all good, ladies," Marcus said, as if he didn't have a care in the
world.
"So," he continued, "who wants to hear about the shenanigans going on over at the Jason Grey ticket booth?"
"Tell us!" they said in unison.
Marcus began speaking as if he was divulging state secrets. "First of all, security has been dragging off young girls all morning. Apparently several of them tried to pass fake IDs."
There was a minimum age of twenty-one for participation in the drawing.
"But the real drama was when this guy came up and literally dragged a woman off the line." Marcus shook his head sadly.
"There are some truly crazy people in this world. Apparently the woman was his wife. I don't think it's serious though, he didn't look like the violent type."
Kate threw Claire an "I told you so" look and Claire just shook her head.
"How many women do you think will enter? Five grand is a lot to spend, especially in this economy," Kate said.
"I don't think that they'll be able to process more than two hundred or so. There's only a four-hour window to purchase the tickets," Marcus replied.
"I wonder why they limited themselves like that," Kate reflected. "They could have raised a lot more money if they'd allowed people more time."
"Yes, but the profits would probably be offset by the increased cost of security and crowd control," Claire chimed in.
"I guess that makes sense," Kate said. "There's a crowd of fans gathering already," Marcus pointed out. "All hoping to catch a glimpse of 'His Hotness.'"
It was Kate's turn to glare at Marcus, but he just grinned and shrugged.
"In any event, it's a real shame about all the drama," Claire reflected. "It'll put people off wanting to be involved in this type of fundraiser."
They arrived at the ticket booth and Kate got in line. There were about two dozen women ahead of her, so she didn't think that she'd have to wait
that long. She idly searched her surroundings, looking for an appropriate vendor, beginning to feel the effects of her skipped breakfast.
Marcus came up to her. "Listen, sugar, Claire and I are heading over to the fine arts pavilion," he pointed to the makeshift structure, a few hundred yards away. "They don't open until ten, but they have brochures available so that we can see what's being offered. Join us when you're done?"
"Sure." Kate watched as the two of them headed off, moving up in line as another woman completed her transaction.
She reached the booth a few minutes before ten, withdrawing her ID and the certified check from her purse, as per the article's instructions.
She noticed several security people wandering around. After all, there would be a lot of money changing hands today. And as Marcus had pointed out, a huge crowd of Jason Grey fans.
The booth attendant smiled politely as she verified Kate's ID and check.
Kate wrote her name and address on the back of the ticket that the woman handed her and the attendant tore it in half along the perforation, handing one half back to her.
An independent auditor verified that the number on the ticket that she held matched the number on the ticket that would be placed in the drawing, and then asked her to confirm the verification. Once that was done, she placed her ticket in her purse and left the booth, passing the three dozen or so women that had lined up behind her.
She went in search of a vendor, needing to eat something before she joined Marcus and Claire over at the pavilion.
Her breakfast ended up being a London broil skewer, a soft pretzel, and a Pepsi. Once she'd eaten, she disposed of her trash and made her way over to the pavilion, eventually finding her friends examining what was, in her opinion, a really ugly sculpture.
"All set?" Claire asked.
"Yes. Now I just have to figure out what to do until three o'clock."
Marcus linked arms with her again. "There's plenty to see, plenty to do.
What do you think of this?" he asked, referring to the sculpture.
"I think it's ugly," she answered truthfully.
Claire laughed out loud. "That's what I said."
"Well obviously the two of you are artistically handicapped, but I won't hold it against you." Claire took his other arm and the three of them spent the next few hours wandering around the auction.
Kate spotted a heavy, leaded crystal vase that she wanted and Claire was interested in a few of the paintings. When it was time to head over to the drawing, Marcus stayed behind to bid for them, having been given specific price caps not to be exceeded.
As they got closer to the drawing booth, they could see that a temporary stage had been set up and that the number of security personnel had more than doubled. A large area in front of the stage had been cordoned off and only those fans that held a ticket would be allowed into this section.
An enormous crowd of fans and by-standers had gathered around the barrier and a large section had been reserved for the inevitable crowd of newspaper, magazine and T.V. reporters who were assigned to cover this event. Kate squashed her displeasure at the sight of them, realizing that this was all for a good cause and that they could use all the publicity that they
could get. A black limousine with tinted windows was parked nearby and several plainclothes security people hovered around it, speaking into their headsets.
"Jesus," Kate remarked nervously. "It looks like the freaking Secret Service."
"Lifestyles of the rich and famous," Claire responded drily as the two of them slowly made their way through the crowd of women, all hoping to be the one holding the winning ticket.
* * * *
In the back of the limo, Jason sat, sipping from a glass of whiskey that he'd poured himself about ten minutes before. His manager, Caroline, sat across from him, frowning with disapproval. He smiled to himself. He swore the woman thought that she was his mother sometimes. A twinge of grief followed that thought, and he took another sip of his drink as he turned his attention from the past to the near future.
He was not looking forward to this "dream date" thing. He was a firm believer in giving back, he just thought that there had to be a better way to
do that, a better way than having to spend an entire evening with some lovesick fan.
He chastised himself for the ungracious thought. He would be nothing without his fans and he knew it. Most of them were terrific and he appreciated their continued support, but some of these women? The way that they threw themselves at him was a real turnoff. Of course, they'd take away his man card if he ever copped to that in public, not to mention the fact that he'd single-handedly tank his career.
He smiled to himself as he recalled his adolescent fantasies. What teenaged boy had never dreamed about becoming a rock star? Dreamed about having countless women at his feet, ready to do anything and everything just to spend a little time with him, just to be able to tell their friends that they'd been with him?
The problem was that teenaged boys grew into men, and although many of his contemporaries still indulged in the fantasy, living a life of promiscuity and debauchery, the novelty of all that had worn off for him real fast.
He was no saint. In the beginning when it was all brand new, when he'd been a horny teenager who'd let the constant attention go to his head, he'd been just as bad as anyone else in the same situation. He'd had more casual sexual encounters than he cared to remember. On one occasion, three women had accompanied him back to his hotel room after a concert, and although he'd come half a dozen times, he'd eventually ended up bored and unsatisfied.
His forays into a monogamous relationship had been just as unsatisfying, the last one in particular. He'd managed to convince himself
that he was in love with Megan and she with him. That was, until she'd moved on to bigger and better things, or more specifically, to the producer that she'd been screwing for months.
He sighed bitterly and polished off the drink, reaching toward the minibar to fix another.
Caroline stopped him. "You're on in five minutes. And try not to look so miserable, would you? To look at you, you'd think that you were headed off to your execution instead of a lovely evening spent in the company of one of your devoted fans."
"Jesus, Caroline, I don't know how I let you talk me in to this kind of shit," he said irritably.
"Because basically you're a decent guy, and that's rare in this business. So put on a happy face, and go on out there and make some lucky young woman's life, okay?"
He sighed heavily as one of the security guys rapped on the window, signaling that it was showtime.
* * * *
Claire had discreetly slipped a crisp one hundred dollar bill to the guard who was verifying ticket holders, and then accompanied Kate into the cordoned-off section. They slowly inched their way toward the stage and were only about three or four rows back when the announcer stepped up to the mike.
"Good afternoon, ladies! How are you all doing on this lovely spring day?"
There was a barrage of screams and whistles. Kate did not indulge.
"That's great! Well, it's about five minutes to three, so without further delay, I'd like to present Jason Grey!" The volume of the screams and whistles was deafening. As before, Kate did not indulge. She simply watched him as he jogged up the steps, striding across the stage to accept the mike from the announcer's outstretched hand.
Grinning broadly, his eyes hid behind dark sunglasses, he addressed the audience. "Thank you so much."
The screaming and whistling started again and it was beginning to annoy Kate. The din had drowned out that amazing voice of his.
When the crowd had quieted down some, he began speaking again.
"I've been told that we're on a tight schedule, so unfortunately, we'll be keeping this short."
A chorus of boos followed this announcement.
"Sorry about that, ladies. The good news is, it's time to get out your tickets."
The women, who weren't already clutching them in their hands, retrieved them from wherever they had stashed them.
Kate removed hers from her purse and Claire peeked over her shoulder, memorizing the number.
There was a great deal of fanfare as the independent auditor, flanked by his own security detail, crossed the stage to stand solemnly in front of Jason, holding a clear plastic bin full of ticket stubs.
A hush fell over the crowd and Jason wished everyone good luck before reaching his hand into the container. He grabbed a single ticket from somewhere in the middle, and handed it to the auditor, who made a note of the number before he returned the ticket to Jason.
"Everybody ready?" He grinned at the audience before he read off the numbers. "1-5-3-7-4."
"Holy shit!" Claire hissed beside her.
Kate glanced at her ticket again. 1-5-3-7-4. But how could that be? She was bombarded by the sounds of disappointed women, the ones not holding the winning ticket. She held the winning ticket. She said nothing, and Jason called out the numbers again.
Claire grabbed her hand and raised it into the air. "1-5-3-7-4, right here!"
Everyone turned to look at them at once, the crowd of disappointed women, the group of men on the stage, and Jason Grey.
She couldn't say that their eyes met. They were each wearing sunglasses, but still, a tingle of something penetrated her shocked senses. If Claire didn't have her hand in a painful grip she may have actually passed out.
No, that isn't right, she reminded herself. She wasn't one of those screaming, crying, passing out, or underwear-tossing fans. She was simply
someone who deeply appreciated his incredible talent. And his good looks, of course. And was someone who'd had more sexual fantasies about him than she cared to remember.
The announcer was back at the mike. "Congratulations! Please step on stage, miss, so that the ticket may be verified by our independent auditor."
Claire hissed in her ear, "Just breathe, dammit!"
"I got it!" Kate said weakly. "I mean, I'm okay."
Claire reluctantly let go of her hand and Kate had to flex her fingers a few times to regain feeling as she walked to the edge of the platform, climbed the stairs, and crossed the stage, smiling weakly at the group of men standing there.
She avoided looking at Jason directly, concentrating instead on inhaling and exhaling as she passed her ticket to the auditor for verification. He checked her stub against the ticket that Jason had pulled out of the bin, the
half that had her name and address written on the back. He asked her, her name and address and she responded, confirming that she had purchased the ticket. Satisfied, he nodded to the announcer who spoke into the mike.
"We have a winner! Congratulations again, miss."
The man shook her hand and she responded, "Thank you."
Kate turned to face the rest of the men as Jason stepped away from them. He stepped up to her and took her hand in his.





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