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Wednesday, February 25, 2015
"The Interview" (An Indecent Proposal) by J.C. Reed & Jackie Steele is LIVE!
"The Interview" (An Indecent Proposal) is LIVE! Join the Release party on Facebook. Read an exclusive excerpt of An Indecent Proposal below.
I needed a husband—and fast. Not literally, of course. Just for the weekend, or as long as my stepfather would be in town. A relationship was the excuse I had given for not visiting Waterfront Shore for the last three years. Three years of running away from the place of my dreams and nightmares, and a past better left buried forever. And now my lie was catching up with me, because there was no husband or fiancé in sight, not even a boyfriend or a date to play the part. “Hire an actor,” said Jude, who was looking up from her computer screen. “In fact, he's perfect.” She jumped up and headed over to me, her chiffon dress revealing long, tanned legs as she sat down on the sofa and tucked her legs beneath her. I stared open-mouthed at the half-naked model on the screen. He looked hot, no doubt about it, but he also looked— “Desperate,” I mumbled to myself. “I wouldn't exactly call you ‘desperate.' More like ‘inventive' or—” “Thanks,” I muttered, cutting her off. “But I was talking about the guy.” For a moment we remained silent as I read the text beneath the picture of a man with a strong chin, dark brown hair, and eyes the color of an ocean shimmering in the sunlight, a shade of eye color I'd never seen before. I figured it was either Photoshopped, or they were contact lenses, which only managed to fortify my first impression of him. Desperate. Plain desperate. And his description in his own words didn't help improve his image, either. Chase is a very nice, humorous, and down-to-earth lover of female beauty. He knows how to cook and offers to carry things when shopping. “He sounds dreamy,” Jude gushed. I fought the urge to roll my eyes at her. “He sounds like a bellboy with playboy aspirations. Either that, or he's a crook waiting for gullible women to fall for his creepy charm. I bet the profile's fake.” Oblivious to my sarcasm, or maybe she was just ignoring me, Jude picked up the phone and dialed the number in his contact details. I stared at her, not believing that she was going for it. I figured she'd come to her senses the moment she heard the guy's voice, which I imagined was old and cheesy, and even creepier than the fake profile. “Hey, is that Chase?” Jude held her breath as she listened, then gave me the thumbs-up. I shook my head in exasperation and dashed for the kitchen to grab a bottle of water, then pressed my back against the cold wall as I forced myself to take slow sips. Maybe Jude had time to waste on yet another one of her usual absurd ideas, but one of us had to keep her feet firmly planted on the ground. Hiring an actor to play my husband wasn't going to happen because it would only backfire. Just tell the truth, Hanson. How hard can it be? I swallowed. It wasn't an option. Not even a possibility. If the truth came out, it'd kill me, meaning I'd have to come up with a plan. “Guess who's got a date tonight,” Jude singsonged from the door. I turned my head wearily to regard her. Her cheeks were flushed, and there was a strange glint in her eyes, like she had just run a few miles, or had marathon sex. She grabbed the water bottle out of my hands and took a swig, then handed it back to me. “Come on, play along.” I shot her a desolate look. Please. Let this be a joke. “Who?” I asked halfheartedly. “You, Hanson. Chase is picking you up at seven,” she gushed, and I couldn't keep my shoulders from dropping. “You two are going to have dinner, during which you can talk about the job, and, who knows, one thing might just lead to another.” She winked, leaving the rest unspoken. Usually, I would have laughed at her dirty imagination, but right now all I could do was stare at her, open-mouthed. Cold and hot chills ran down my spine at the realization that with picking up she actually meant the guy was coming over. “You gave the creep my home address?” My voice sounded thin, but there was a menacing undertone in it that didn't escape even Jude. “How else was he supposed to pick you up?” She shrugged defensively, but there was unease in her eyes. “Besides, I didn't give him your real name.” “That's a relief,” I said, fighting the urge to shake some much-needed sense into her. “Let's hope he can't read the correct name on the mailbox or ask the concierge. Or remember my face and stalk me home from the grocery store.” “He won't. He sounds like a pretty nice guy.” She nodded, probably trying to convince herself as much as me. Yeah, like sociopaths didn't usually masquerade as nice guys. I sighed inwardly and changed the topic to more pressing issues. “All right. How much is he charging for the first hour?” I asked casually. “Surely, if he's a professional actor, he's mentioned his rates.” “Actually”—she looked so guilty I knew she was about to drop the next bomb—“Chase said the first hour is free so you can get to know each other. He's saving you money.” Jude beamed. “Isn't he great?” “It's free?” I said slowly. “Since when is something free? Jude, are you realizing how he sounds? He sounds like a major creep with that little extra killer factor thrown in. Like someone who—” “I think I got the message,” Jude said, cutting me off, her lips pressed into a tight line that reflected her annoyance. I just couldn't figure out if it was aimed at herself or me. “You'll be okay, right, Laurie? If something happens, you'll call me, and I'll come and pick you up.” I laughed darkly. As emergency plans went, calling her was a no-brainer under normal circumstances. However, these weren't exactly normal circumstances. If something bad happened to me…I doubted I'd be able to call while he was busy harvesting my organs and selling them on the black market. “Besides, he looks too hot to be a madman,” she said. “I guess you're right,” I said sarcastically. I should have been angry with Jude for making this hole I had dug myself even deeper, but we had been best friends for a long time. We were never angry at each other—that was the secret of our friendship. Besides, the fear in her eyes told me she realized that she'd made a mistake, one she couldn't wait to rectify. “Phone him back and call the whole thing off, Jude.” Narrowing her eyes at me, she shook her head vehemently. “No.” “No?” I asked incredulously, realizing the glint in her eyes wasn't one of fear. She was proud of her brainless plan and excited to get the ball rolling. “I've just sorted out all your worries. Just like that.” She snapped her manicured fingers in my face. “And you're being an ungrateful little brat. Now, get a life, which you desperately need, Hanson, and start planning your outfit for your date with the most gorgeous guy you—or I, for that matter—have ever seen, because we want to make quite the impression. Come on, we have less than two hours left.” Before I could protest, she grabbed my arm and yanked me after her. I had no choice but to follow, albeit hesitantly, because the prospect of meeting a complete stranger both fascinated and terrified me. What if he turned out to be completely illiterate? Or arrogant to the point of being a complete ass? I didn't want to have to find a lame excuse to get the hell out of there, because I was the worst liar, and no one ever bought my bluffs. “I don't want to go.” It was a weak attempt at protest, but, truth be told, deep inside I had sort of made the decision long before I even realized it. Jude's plan, as odd and completely absurd as it sounded, was the only option I had at this point. If Chase was only half as good-looking and cultured as he gave the impression in his online profile, and as nice as Jude believed, he might just be fake-fiancé material…if he agreed to play along and didn't kill me in the first place. “What about this?” Jude retrieved my little black dress and held it up. I grimaced at her, mortified. “I want to hire him, not bed him.” “Or you could do both,” Jude said, grinning. Jude was a free-spirited soul, but not as free of inhibitions as she liked to pretend to be. Basically, she dated—a lot—but she never jumped into bed with any of the guys, because by the end of the second date she had already found a long list of things to fault, which she hid behind a sparkling smile and a run to the bathroom in order to call me in a desperate attempt to come get her. And every time it was my job to help her out by finding excuses as to why she couldn't see her dates again. It had been like this ever since we met in college and bonded over a watery chai latte served in the café across from her grandparents' townhouse. After telling hundreds of lies to cover for her over the years, I would have expected to be an expert in lying, but fat chance. Sighing, I threw the dress on the bed and squeezed into a pair of skinny jeans, a black shirt, and a suit jacket that was fitted but covered only half of my butt. Once I'd paired the outfit with flat boots and my fake diamond earrings, and with my hair piled up on my head, I thought I looked modern and fun, but also conservative—yet not too severe to give the impression I might have scared off every guy entering my life, and consequently might be to blame for my current unattached status. Unattached status. I despised those two words strung together because they sounded like an incurable disease. Given that I was only twenty-three, there was still hope. Unfortunately, some people in my life thought differently, which was why I had fled across the country to be far away from Waterfront Shore. Far away from high expectations and an old life that harbored too many dark secrets. Regarding myself in the floor-to-ceiling mirror, I couldn't help but give an approving nod at my reflection. The jeans emphasized my butt, drawing attention away from the wide hips I used to hate as a teen. The shirt sat tight around my bust, but slightly loose around the waist area so I wouldn't look like a stuffed turkey. And the jacket gave me an academic flair that screamed “business administration professional.” I might not be as tall and thin as Jude, or as stunningly pretty, but I knew how to complement my strong points, which were my eyes and my full lips painted in a sheer burgundy red. I was so pleased with my choice of attire that I turned to Jude proudly. “How do I look?” “Well, you certainly won't have to fend off any advances, if that's what you're so worried about. It's, simply put, hideous.” Jude pointed at my suit jacket, grinning. “You sure you want to wear that? I wouldn't hit on you dressed like that.” I turned back to the mirror to give myself a critical once-over. “What's wrong with it?” “Better ask, what's not wrong with it. It reminds me of an eighties music video, and not in a good way.” Jude loved surfing YouTube for old and horrendous music videos. She said it helped with her job as an Internet entrepreneur. After watching her dabble in this and that for the last two years, building websites and blogging, I was still not sure how exactly she was doing it job-wise, but she made more money than I did and paid more than half her share of the bills, so who was I to complain? I loved this jacket and should have felt offended, but the beauty of our friendship was that whatever the other said was accepted as constructive criticism. Given that Jude was also a bit of a fashion fanatic, I knew I should listen to her advice, which I usually did. Just not today. “The jacket's staying. End of discussion,” I said, and began to apply a thin layer of lipstick. “I'm not meeting this guy to impress him. I'm hiring a professional actor, so he'd better be good and decent. If he so much as looks like a creep, never mind talking or behaving like one, I promise I'll hold you responsible for the rest of your life. After all, it was your idea.” “Relax.” Jude laughed. “Tonight isn't just any night. It's your big night.” No idea what she meant by that, and I certainly didn't want to know. By five to seven, I was more nervous than I cared to admit. I hadn't been on a date in forever. Come to think of it, it had been more than two years. It wasn't from a lack of requests and interest, but more that I was a busy person. There had been college and my search for work, which took up most of my time now. “I don't think it's a good idea. I don't even have time for Chase,” I muttered. His name rolled off my tongue so naturally, it was almost scary. Like it belonged there, with all the implications a sexy male name brought with it. There, I had said it. He sounded sexy as hell and even looked the part. And we were going to spend time together. This isn't a date, Hanson. Damn right it wasn't. We were talking a business proposition. A job—if he was half civilized and up for playing the doting fiancé bull. Unfortunately, the knowledge that he was an actor probably desperate to be hired wasn't helping in taking the edge off. “Hey.” Jude snapped her fingers in my face again. I flinched and shot her a WTF look. She glared at me, but there was something strange about her. She was laughing at me, I realized. Damn it! Jude knew I was nervous, and she enjoyed every torture-filled second. My cheeks caught fire. I could feel the onset of a blush crawling all over my face and neck, and spreading down to my chest. To my chagrin, the bell rang and Jude jumped up, dashing for the door before I could stop her. “Wait. No, Jude.” My voice came out all croaky and weak. My heart began to beat so hard I might just be on the verge of having a heart attack. Voices carried over from the hall. Then the tinkle of laughter. Turning toward the open door, I strained to listen. The voices were muffled, but from Jude's eager chatter, I could tell she was delighted and made no secret of it. Oh, my god. Any moment, I'd have to face him. I turned my head left and right, pondering whether I should maybe climb out the window and just leave. I could always pretend later that I had to pick up some milk and forgot all about the meeting. “Laurie!” Jude yelled. I flinched and jumped back at the prospect of having been caught eavesdropping. Two pairs of footsteps thumped down the hall. I froze to the spot. She couldn't possibly have asked him— In they stepped. I stared in horror at Jude's toned body and then at the brown-haired guy towering behind her, and for a moment the entire situation began to play in slow motion before my eyes. Jude said something, but all I could do was stare at the guy behind her as I broke out in a sweat. Fuckety hot! That was all my mind could come up with, even though my monosyllabic and simplistic description of him couldn't possibly do him justice. He was stunning. I should have been more articulate, but only six words came to my mind straight away. Unbelievably stalkable. Fuckably sexy. Simply tastylicious. He was so hot he couldn't possibly be real. Perfect in every way, with dark brown hair framing a masculine face with a straight nose, and the kind of bedroom eyes that invited you to gaze into them right before you screamed his name as you came over and over again. Hell, I wanted to scream his name, and he was probably not even that good. I mean, anyone who was physically that flawless must have an ego the size of the White House. The guy's impossibly blue eyes turned on me, and an amused flicker appeared in them. He stepped around June with a wicked smile on his lips. My heart dropped in my panties. Holy cow. He was smiling at me—as if knowing I was attracted to him. That was the last thing I wanted. I forced myself to look away from this impossible beauty, only for my gaze to settle on his chest. Unfortunately, my hormones didn't seem to care much just how unfortunate and awkward the entire situation was. I wanted to run. I wanted to hide. But all I could do was stay glued to the spot while staring at the way his shirt seemed to emphasize the strong muscles in his arms and draw attention to his flat abdomen and strong thighs. I wondered if they were as hard as they looked. “Laurie, this is Chase,” Jude said, pointing at him.