And now, ladies and gents, begins the exciting inevitable—teasers from my HOT, EDGY new novel. (Yeah, I said it…my blog, my horn, I’m tooting it.) I wanted to do this gently, with elegant fanfare, like tender lovemaking in a room filled with candles and the sweet smell of, oh, I don’t know, maybe lavender and crushed rose petals. But nooooo. My book insisted on a fast, furious, Tina Turner/Beyonce’-styled booty shake—an intense chapter filled with hot-boiled action just to get you started and riled up. And so, being but a slave to the word…
I must comply with its wishes. There’ll be no slow-paced lead-ins and tender caresses today. This is going to be a quickie against the wall.
And so, herewith below…a sample chapter from Sex.Lies.Murder.Fame. Again, I was going to excerpt something subtle, something nice and easy. But around here we never do anything…nice and easy. No, uh-uh. On this blog, we like to do it…ROUGH.
*cue music: Luther Campbell’s Shake What Ya Mama Gave Ya*
The sample chapter starts right NOW…
People could talk all they wanted about designer drugs, heroin, and crystal meth, but the powdery stuff—blow, snow, white girl, yeyo, toot, whatever one’s term of fancy—it was stalwart, as reliable as the sunrise. It had stood the test of much, much time. Nations had been founded on it, while others had become war torn over the stuff. It was the bread of life, both the giver and taker of dreams. Cut just right, it could deliver a blast of I-don’t-give-a-fuck-inducing numbness that was as liberating as a divorce decree.
Snuffed up in the right dose at a party, and it was on.
Snuffed up in the wrong dose, and the party was over.
Cocaine had gotten a bad rap in the nineties. Almost overnight, it had gone from being the rock star of narcotics to a shameful leper, much the way cigarettes were falling from grace. It was generally seen as an uncool habit for uncool people, even though the powerful and successful continued to do it on the sneak. For a moment, even heroin had become chic and crack wasn’t as whack, yet cocaine was the dirty whore with a dirty past. But there was a new generation of Hollywood hipsters, musicians, and celebutantes who were unabashed about letting the world peek into their sexual antics and recreational drug choices. Rappers and rockers alike bragged in interviews and videos about how much they loved weed, blow, and group sex, and piles of white stuff were once again making appearances on the mirrored tables and plates of the better house parties, alongside big fat blunts and rounds of X. People were once more dipping into their little vials of toot with their tiny silver spoons. “It” girls were photographed with insouciant traces of powder around the edges of their noses. Yeyo had been relegated to the bastard position behind Ecstasy and other amphetamine- and methamphetamine-based designer drugs for nearly a decade, but now it was stepping back into the spotlight to regain its rightful, time-weathering position.
Cocaine was, once again, the king of the room.
“Cooooooooooooke…is a many-splendored thing.”
Sharlyn was singing as she dip-dip-dove her schnoz into a fluffy white mini-mound of the stuff in a folded piece of plain white paper she’d taken from her purse. She didn’t snort often. Miles didn’t know she did it at all. He’d never seen that side of her and would disapprove if he did, same as he frowned on the cursing.
Fuck Miles, she thought.
Diamond and Aurora didn’t know, either. At least, they never let on that they did. No one had ever seen her do it. Well, practically no one.
There was a knock on the door of her stall.
It was her friend Tina, who was also her stylist. Tina was the one who’d hooked her up with the supplier of this most primo cocaine, a guy called Titty. Really. Titty Mebane. Miles didn’t like Tina. Natch.
“She’s too much of a free spirit,” he said, “and she’s always cursing. She’s good with clothes, but there’s something rather seedy about her.”
Shar opened the door and let Tina in.
“All I want is a little,” Tina said, scooping a teensy bit with the glittery-blue acrylic nail of her pinky. She snuffed it up. “Yum.”
“I didn’t know you were coming,” Shar said, wiping her nose.
“I heard there might be cute boys here.”
“But you’ve had all the cute boys.”
“Not nearly enough,” Tina replied.
Sharlyn smoothed the front of her low-rise Frankie B.s and opened the stall door. She walked out into the always packed bathroom and squeezed her way over to the mirror. Tina followed her.
“That’s a cute top. Did I pick that out for you?”
“No, I got it today. I wanted something that made me feel good.”
“That oughta do the trick. Are your tits warm enough?”
“You’re such a whore.”
They both laughed and made their way out of the bathroom.
Bungalow 8 was one of, if not the, most private nightspots in the city. Located in West Chelsea, it was the spawn of that entrepreneurial maven of club savvy, Amy Sacco, who also owned Cabana at the Maritime Hotel and the popular bar Lot 61. Lot 61 was a fun, funky, supercool lounge, with exquisite food, drinks strong enough to choke an ox, and damn good deejays playing damn good music. Over time, it had become less a gathering of the who’s who of the celebrity world and ultrahip scenesters, and was now more bridge-and-tunnel, full of non-Manhattanites and regular folks trying to flex as though they were actual denizens of the city. Imposter was written all over them, but no one gave a fuck. People could get loose and have a good time. If one didn’t mind hobnobbing with the hoi polloi, Lot 61 was a great place to be.
For those who wanted to leave the unwashed masses behind, Bungalow 8 was the antidote. Getting inside was a feat akin to winning a hundred-million-dollar lottery, although rumors (urban legends, perhaps?) were beginning to circulate of superattractive nobodies getting in on less-challenging Monday nights, the apparent Achilles’ heel of the doorkeeper’s week. There was a No Vacancy sign flashing in the window, lest anyone got the idea that they might have a chance at entry. Modeled after the glamour and style of the famous lair to the stars, Bungalow 8 at the Beverly Hills Hotel, this Bungalow 8 was an intimate setting filled with potted palms, murals, lots of big furniture, and skylights, all mixed with a tropical poolside theme. The place brought to mind images of everything from old Hollywood to something out of Brian De Palma’s Scarface. One would not have been surprised to see Tony Montana and his “liddle fren” burst into the room at any moment. (Big-time Tony, of course, after he became a major drug lord; the doorman would have never even made eye contact with Mariel boat lift Tony.) There was a concierge and a nearby helipad for the truly important who needed to lift off at a moment’s notice. Bungalow 8 put the “clu” in exclusive, and those who didn’t have a clue and insisted on trying to pry their way in were doomed to doing the walk of shame, back, back, back to the nobody worlds from whence they came, back to the tar pits and asphalt of the cruel city, back with the rest of the non-Amex Black Card-wielding, no-helicopter-having human dreck.
There would be no unwashed masses in Bungalow 8.
It was strictly the playground of the unwashed elite.
Penn was standing a few feet down the block, calculating his move. A crowd of idiots hovered near the door, soon-to-be walk of shamers all, blocked by a bouncer whose forehead looked as though it could crush stone. These people had no chance of getting in and they knew it, but this was New York, and people liked to dream, and for some it was enough to be able to say they saw so-and-so going inside or coming out of such-and-such club. Mindless frivolity. Penn had greater things at hand, and it didn’t involve crowding around a door, begging entry. This would be a breeze. This kind of thing always was.
Sure enough, a small group of two beautiful girls and three men of assorted size and persuasion passed by him amid a cloud of cigarette smoke and laughter. Penn noticed that one of the girls was the actress Chloë Sevigny. He fell into step along with them as though he belonged and walked toward the club. Chloë and her friends realized what he was doing and welcomed him in. As they passed effortlessly through the door, Chloë turned to him and said, “You’re beautiful.”
“You owe me,” said Chloë. “I’ll collect later. Not tonight.”
“Done,” he replied with a nod, and disappeared into the party.
“I want a lobster club sandwich,” Shar said.
“No you don’t. You want another Wardrobe Malfunction.”
Sharlyn burst into a profound round of giggles. She couldn’t stop herself. She kept laughing and laughing and laughing. Then she saw Diamond DeLane dancing with her husband.
“Look at them go,” Sharlyn said, growing somber. “At least she’s got her man.” Her eyes began to well up and her lip was in a pout. “Where’s Aurora?”
“I don’t know. But we need some more drinks.”
“Noooooo,” Shar whined.
Tina raised her right brow.
“All right,” Shar said, snapping out of her instant funk. “Just a couple more. Hey, I can’t feel my nose. Is it still there?”
“Oh yeah,” Tina said, pressing the tip of her client-buddy’s snout. “You definitely still have it.”
“And my cheeks. What about my cheeks?”
“Cheeks are in effect.”
Sharlyn went into her tiny purse and pulled out a compact. She still had her cheeks, even though she couldn’t feel them. And there it was. Her perfect brown nose. Not too wide and Negroid, but not so narrow that it looked retouched, which it wasn’t.
“Miles loves my nose.”
“Of course he does,” Tina concurred in a deadpan voice.
“What?” Shar said, snapping the compact shut. “Are you saying he doesn’t?”
“I’m saying you need another drink.”
“He loves my nose. He loves everything about me. And I love him.”
“Of course you do. Now let’s have another drink.”
Tina shined her pearly whites at Shar. The diamond stud in her left front tooth twinkled in the light. Shar stared at the sparkling jewel, cocking her head to the side.
“Did that hurt?” she asked.
“C’mon, Shar, you know it didn’t.”
“Are you sure?” She reached over and patted Tina’s shoulder with concern. “It looks like it was painful. You can tell me.”
“I was stoned when I got it. You ready for that drink? I told him to keep them coming.”
“Oh, awwwwwriiiiiiiiiight,” Sharlyn said. “Gosh, Tina, you’re such a bad influence.”
Shar wasn’t quite sloshed, but she was close. And she felt gidddddddddddyyyyyy, supergiddy, like maybe she could fly (or, at the very least, float around the room).
It was that weird feeling that came from mixing drugs and drink. It was a combination that required great care. Too much, and a person was apt to do very bad or embarrassing things.
Their libations arrived.
A Wardrobe Malfunction, or WMD (the D was for “drink”), was a chocolate martini with a splash of Everclear and a Hershey’s Kiss (faux nipple) floating on top. All it took was a few of them and bras inevitably came off. A fair share of starlets, A-list actresses, and their hangers-on had flashed their superbowls after one WMD too many.
Sharlyn grabbed one and drank it at once.
“Shar, slow down. You’re gonna get sick.”
“No I’m not,” she said with a burp. “And you’re a fine one to tell me to slow down when you’re the one that’s making me drink, you little skank.”
Shar sat back against the seat, her brow furrowed.
“I can’t stand Miles,” she said.
“Miles isn’t here,” said Tina. “So party, bitch. Like it’s 2005.”
Shar gave Tina a prolonged blank stare. Then she brought her legs up on the banquette, stood on the seat, and funked to the music until her Giuseppe Zanottis punched a hole in the upholstery and she went crashing, laughing, onto the floor.
He spotted her across the room, over the sea of celebrity heads and reality-show throwoffs. Overpriced liquor was being sucked down like air and the scent of fame was rich, thick, and heady.
This is what it will be like, he realized. This is what it will be like to be one of them.
Random hands were feeling him up, faceless voices coming on to him at his ear.
Someone snapped his photo.
“You’re delish,” the girl said as she clicked away. “Who are you?”
“You’ll know soon enough,” Penn said as he smiled and pushed past her. There was his dark horse, heading toward the bathroom. She’d been dancing on the seat in her booth for the longest, flinging her arms around, her breasts barely contained in a strappy silk top. And the way her jeans hugged her ass. Penn had a rock in his pants and just watching her made it grow more granite by the second. Sharlyn Tate, right there in front of him, a sexy beast in the worst fucking way. It would be fun to nail someone this beautiful, this powerful. He reached into his pocket for some Kiehl’s, squeezed it on his finger, and smeared it on his lips. And then he was off.
Now was the time.
Shar was wiping her nose when she walked out of the bathroom right into a solid body in a solid black shirt. The force of the impact knocked her back a little and she stumbled. A strong hand caught her by the wrist to keep her from falling.
“My bad,” she said, still not looking up. “I should watch where I’m going.”
“No, it’s my fault. I guess I was distracted.”
Sharlyn glanced up into the face of the guy talking.
He was smiling. There was a twinkle in his pupils as he held on to her wrist.
“Whoa,” she said. “Shit. Whoa.”
She staggered back a little, teetering on the stiletto Zanottis. He was still holding on to her hand as she ended up with her back against a wall. He was standing so close to her, right in her face.
Shar’s head, the room, her emotions, all of them were atwirl. She was so fucking high, and drunk, and horny, and this kid, this kid, ooh-wee, this kid was hot.
“You sure you all right?” he asked.
Sharlyn’s eyes were fixed on his lips. They were so moist, succulent even, like the flesh of some kind of juice-laden fruit. He had his hand pressed against the wall as he leaned over her. His hair was thick and blonde. She wanted to touch it, but those lips were calling first.
“Hey,” he said, his voice low and seductive, “you looked really good dancing over there.”
“Oh yeah,” she said, her eyes still on his mouth.
“Fuck, yeah. You’re gorgeous. But you know that, of course. I probably sound stupid even saying it. Everybody tells you that, right? You hear stuff like that every day.”
“Not as much as I’d like to,” she said. Which brought back thoughts of Miles. Miles and his mergers. Miles and his this, that, and everything else. Miles didn’t have lips like this, hair like this, eyes like this, skin like this. Miles was sexy, granted, but Miles was gone. She’d never wanted anything but her husband, but her husband obviously wanted more things than just her.
“I think you’re really…”
Sharlyn cut him off as she pulled his face toward hers and pressed her mouth against those juicy lips. They were soft, fleshy, moist, delicious. And then his tongue was tangoing with hers and she was breathing him in and she was sure he could taste the WMDs on her breath and she couldn’t feel her face because her whole sinus cavity had gone numb, but miraculously her lips hadn’t, and neither had her tongue, and neither had that freshly bald place between her thighs because his hand was there now, pressing between the Frankie B.s, and she was wet, and getting wetter, and she was grinding against his hand and she didn’t even care, because she needed this, needed this night, needed to be felt up and sucked on and dry-humped by someone who seemed liked they at least might give a fuck, at least for a second, and although Sharlyn Tate had never cheated on Miles Tate before, right now, in this moment, it wasn’t about him. This was going to be all about her.
Fuck Miles, she thought.
“Fuck me,” she said.
And he was about to.
He didn’t care. He would fuck her right there on the floor, in front of an Olsen twin, and all these celebs, models, and fashionistas. That would surely make a mark, get some attention. Look at what it had done for Paris.
But Sharlyn was apparently gathering her wits. He stroked his thumb across the jean-covered nub between her legs and she buckled a little, moaned a lot.
“We can’t do this here,” she said, looking around. “Too many people know me. I shouldn’t even be kissing you like this. It’ll be in the Post in the morning.”
He stepped back from her, following her eyes. Everyone seemed to be into their own thing. There was Naomi in the corner, showing off her legs. The Olsens were laughing and shouting over the music. Owen Wilson or Luke Wilson or that other brother of theirs, whatever, in any case, one of the assorted working Wilsons was talking to one of the assorted working Baldwins. Alec maybe. Maybe not. There were a lot of well-known faces around. So far, what Sharlyn was doing seemed to be slipping under the radar.
“What’s your name?”
“Penn. Penn Hamilton.”
“Penn Hamilton. I could eat you up.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“Shit,” she said, talking to herself. He could see her thinking, could tell she was weighing the matter of next moves. He could touch her right now, touch her in a place of weakness, but that might be a bad move. Just let her be, he thought. Let her sort the what-ifs out for herself. This had to be her decision. It had to be all on her.
She reached into her tiny purse and pulled out a pen.
“You got some paper?” she asked.
“All right. This is so high school, but here…”
She grabbed his right hand and jotted down a number.
“That’s my cell. Can I trust you to have my cell?”
“Of course, but don’t you think you should have asked me that before you wrote the number down?”
“I’m a little discom…”
“Yeah.” She smiled, her lip pressed into a tight curve. “I’m a little discom-that.”
He cast his eyes toward the floor, a practiced move of sudden coyness, then lifted them again and gave her the full-on gaze. He knew his lashes would be framed just right, showcasing the inviting luminosity of his baby blues.
“Are you a spy for anybody?” she asked. “Page Six? Gawker.com?”
“Do I look like a spy?”
“Yes. You’re too perfect. This must be a trick.”
“I suppose I should say thanks, but I’m not sure that’s a compliment.”
“Well, I think you’re pretty perfect, too.”
It was Shar’s turn to cast her eyes to the floor. He could tell she probably hadn’t done the flirting thing in years. Penn realized this was a woman who was used to getting what she wanted and always had her needs attended to. Something must be missing. Her pupils were dilated when she glanced up at him. Just how high was she? Was she completely aware of what was happening, or would this be a blip, the dregs of an afterthought when the hangover kicked in? He’d tasted the chocolate and vodka on her breath and her tongue. She was steeped in drink. But Penn didn’t believe it was just the drugs and alcohol making her behave like this. This was a deliberate woman, a very intelligent woman, a woman whose work he’d read and recognized within that writing a shrewdness and an eye for detail that meant not much got past her.
There was something more going on here. Despite the fact that he needed something from her, Sharlyn Tate obviously needed something from him, too.
“Hold out your arm.”
She rolled up his sleeve and wrote the following:
I, Penn Hamilton, want nothing from Sharlyn Tate and have no plans to exploit or sue her.
The writing was wobbly and crooked, but legible. She was high, but not so high that she didn’t want to cover her ass.
“Now write the same thing on my arm,” she said. “Verbatim.”
“Damn. This is pretty elaborate, don’t you think? Next you’re going to want me to sign my name in blood.”
“That’s a thought.”
Penn gazed long into her eyes. He really did want to fuck her something fierce.
And a plan was a plan.
He took the pen and wrote the same words on her arm.
“Now sign them both. My arm and your arm.”
He shook his head and laughed.
“People are crazy. I’ve got to protect myself.”
He signed both arms.
She reached into her purse and took out her Sidekick.
“Now hold up your arm.”
He did. She snapped a picture of it.
He was still laughing. This woman was smart.
She snapped a picture of her arm.
Then she snapped a picture of him. His face.
“I need something to look at to remind me why I’m doing this,” she said.
“And what, exactly, are you doing?”
She glanced around.
“Meet me at the Sherry-Netherland in thirty minutes. You know where it is, right?”
“Ask for Tina Turner’s room. They’ll give you a key.”
“Suppose it’s the room key of the real Tina Turner?”
“Then lots of luck. She’s got legs of steel.”
The Sherry-Netherland was a landmark in New York City. Located on Fifth Avenue across from the southernmost entrance to Central Park, it was a historic piece of architecture from the Jazz Age, a gorgeous testament to luxurious living.
Sharlyn’s suite, the Grande Deluxe, was a study in moneyed elegance. There was the (standard) chandelier, a sumptuous cream-colored sofa, chairs done in a delicate salmon, an inviting chaise in a rich burgundy brocade, and a desk, the desk where she wrote, facing the window overlooking Central Park. A vast mirror hung over the fireplace, and a short-legged coffee table in deep mahogany sat just in front of the sofa. Fresh flowers were everywhere—just inside the door, by the window, on the mantel, in the center of the classic round dining table, in the bedroom, next to the sumptuous king bed, and inside the marble bathroom.
This was a place where she could find comfort and creativity. A place that brought out the best in her, when the best was there to be found. She hadn’t been very creative at the Sherry of late, but things, it seemed, were about to change.
They were in the bathroom. She was standing on the toilet, the agile minx, in the Zanottis and nothing more.
His face was between her legs. She was biting her lip, moaning, her eyes tightly closed.
He was wet with her, pressed into her satiny brown hairless netherloins of wonder. He was eating book pussy, movie pussy, superstar pussy, and it was soft and scrumptious and should have come with a glass of nicely aged tawny port, because this was dessert, sweetness, heaven, the antithesis of the bony hell of Beryl’s mean snatch with its alien labia and sideshow clit. Penn realized that it was going to take everything in him not to fuck Sharlyn tonight. He had to wait, do this exactly right. Tonight he would eat her, there in the bathroom of her hotel hideaway, eat the shit out of her, and then leave her there, wobbly kneed, but just turned out enough to want to know him more, to need him more, to buckle every time she thought about his tongue darting in and out of her tight wet canyon, and lapping around that sea of brown softness. He would do what he had planned to do to Beryl, only this time he would get it right.
She was coming now, coming loud, on his cheeks, in his mouth. He grabbed her legs and carried her, crotch still in his face, into the bedroom and laid her down on the coverless bed, onto the cool, welcoming sheets. She was gasping, choking, spastic, reaching at him and his incredible hair, coughing, coming, and coughing some more. He was on his knees at the foot of the bed, still working on her, even though she was in the throes, in many throes, throes and stilettos, all kicking in the air.
Sharlyn couldn’t feel her face.
None of it.
All the sensation had traveled out of her head and was down between her legs, which felt like some sort of dormant volcano that had at long last erupted.
When was the last time Miles had eaten her? She searched her mind, but couldn’t remember. It was a long time ago, whenever it was. So much time had passed, cunnilingus almost felt brand-new.
“You all right?” the handsome boy asked. He wasn’t a boy, Shar thought, correcting herself. He was a man. God. And what a man. He was lovely, golden, glowing, and he had a magical tongue.
The Magic Tongue. Yes. That could be the name of her next book.
No. That was silly.
The Magic Boy.
A tune danced in her head.
Try, try, try to understaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannd…
The Magic Man!
That was better.
“Hey,” he repeated. “You all right?”
He was stroking her face, her breasts, her thighs.
“You’ve inspired me,” she whispered. She was in a reverie, her body throbbing and her mind refreshed. It was the first creative moment she’d had in months. She wanted to run to a computer, a laptop, some paper, something, and write it all down.
“Inspired you?” he asked. “How’s that?”
He was lying alongside her nakedness, but he was still clothed. Sharlyn realized she hadn’t even seen his dick. Hadn’t even felt it. Yet she was happy, sated, had experienced tremendous, necessary release. And he was so pretty, this guy.
And she’d just cheated on Miles! And she didn’t care!
This was business, not personal. Her husband shouldn’t have been hunting down the Finlandian dollar and neglecting his business at home. See what happens when you set pussy free? Premium pussy? Ukrainian-yanked hairless pussy, the most exotic in the world? Miles had left his unattended. When you do what you do, you get what you get.
“How did I inspire you?”
“Huh? Oh. You’re making my brain work. It’s been stuck on stupid.”
“You? Stupid? Never. You’re the shit.” He placed fluttery kisses on the side of her neck. “You’re a goddess…(kiss)…a beautiful…(kiss)…amazing…(kiss)…delectable goddess.” His lips were against her ear, his voice a gentle, barely audible wind. “A goddess with a pot of honey so sweet, I could drink from it forever.”
A jolt of electricity shot through Shar. Was it the drugs that were making her like this? she wondered. The alcohol? She still felt lucid, and yeah, her face was numb, but she was aware of everything around her. She knew she had cheated on her husband, and she had done so willfully. There were no pangs of conscience.
Fuck Miles indeed.
He was getting up off his knees.
Shar opened her legs wider, expecting to welcome the rest of him in.
He went to the bathroom instead. Took a piss, checked his face in the mirror, turned on the faucet, washed his hands and splashed some water on his face.
He was fixing his clothes when he came out.
“What are you doing?” Sharlyn asked. “Get your sexy butt over here.”
“I’ve gotta go,” he said.
She bolted upward, her legs still splayed.
“What do you mean, ‘go’? We’re just getting started. Get over here.”
Penn walked to the bed. She pulled him closer.
“Now let’s get these slacks off,” she said, tugging at his zipper. “You have condoms, right?”
“No, seriously.” He took hold of her hands. “I have to go.”
Penn leaned down and kissed her on the forehead.
“So you’re just going to, to…,” she swallowed, “…to do what you just did and that’s it?”
“Believe me, I’d like to do more, but I’ve got to be somewhere really early…”
“Oh brother,” Shar said, flopping back on the bed, “tell me you’re not going to run that oldest of lines on me.” She clasped her forehead. “I can’t believe it. The first time I dare to do something like this, I get blown off.”
Penn sat on the bed.
“I’m not blowing you off. I so want to be here. I want to feel what it’s like inside of you…,” he ran his finger along her thigh, “…slide in and out of your…”
“Then why are you going?”
“Because I have some important business to take care of in the morning, and if I don’t go now, I’ll never leave. I know myself.”
“Shit,” Sharlyn said.
“But I’d like to see you again.”
She was looking at him, scouring his face with those dark, sexy eyes. He really did want to fuck her. Damn.
“You know I’m married.”
“My husband is a very…”
“I know who your husband is.”
She wriggled her nose.
“He’s a very powerful man.”
“He’s not the one I want to fuck.”
She sat up, her face very close to his.
“But you will be fucking him,” she said in a low voice. “We both will.”
Penn pulled her mouth to his and kissed it hard, his tongue playing with the tip of hers.
“I can taste myself all over you.” She exhaled, her shoulders going limp. “Why can’t you just do me and be done with it? Let me get this out of my system.”
“You really think one time would get whatever ‘this’ is out of your system?” He shook his head. “I don’t think so. Not for me, anyway, and I’d dare to guess that it wouldn’t for you, either. We’re attracted to each other. All you did was bump into me, and look where it got us.”
“You bumped into me.”
“We bumped into each other.”
“Right,” she said.
She was playing with her hands. She glanced up, her eyes full of gravity.
“Not in public. Never in public.”
“We can do this however you want.”
“And I’ll need to see an AIDS test.”
“So will I.”
She leaned back, surprised.
“I’ve gotta protect myself,” he said with a smirk. “I’ve heard how wild celebrities can be.”
He was at the door, about to leave.
She had all the pertinent information, where he lived, his phone number, his name, his cunnilingual abilities. She’d given him no further information of her own than what he already had: her cell number and her Tina Turner alias at the Sherry. She was a public personality. It wouldn’t be that hard to find her.
Her whole body was tingling as she watched him. She’d just had a tryst. That was the kind of stuff she wrote about, not the kind of thing she did. She was a bad girl, bad girl, such a dirty bad girl.
Beep, beep. Uh-huh.
“Keep the key,” she said. “Use it tomorrow. I’ll still be here.”
“Do you need me to send a car for you?”
“That’s not necessary,” he said. “The less spectacle the better.”
“I like that.”
“‘Awesome,’” she said with a laugh. “You’re such a white boy.”
“And you’re quite the black girl.”
“All right then. Woman.”
“That’s better. There’s nothing girlish about me, young man.”
He was contemplating her now, checking the whole of her out. She was suddenly aware of her nakedness and the Zanottis, and the way she was sitting at the edge of her bed with her legs open. This was a porn pose. She wondered if she looked the part as much as she felt it. With her legs showcased like this, she was even feeling a little like the real Tina Turner, a pseudonym she’d come up with after her stylist suggested she go with something more inventive than the name she’d been using, which was Ben-Hur.
“I get tired of asking for that,” Tina had said after she’d come up to Shar’s room at the Four Seasons in Milan so she could get her dressed to attend Roberto Cavalli’s fall show. “Every time I say the name, images of Charlton Heston dance in my head.”
“That’s not a bad visual,” said Shar. “He was sexy in that movie.”
“That’s not the Charlton Heston I picture,” Tina said.
“Yecchh,” said Shar, who had been standing in nothing but a bra, panties, and strappy heels at the time. “Perhaps I need do need to come better than that.”
Tina was opening garment bags and taking out clothes as Sharlyn pranced about the room, unable to keep still, high on a quick whiff of some local blow.
“Look at you,” Tina had said. “Look at those legs. What a tall drink of water you are, Mrs. Tate.”
And Shar had checked her reflection in the mirror and looked at Tina, and put two and four together and, like that, her next all-purpose hotel pseudonym had been born.
“So what happens when you wake up tomorrow,” Penn was now asking, “and realize you were just a little too high and maybe drank a little too much? How do you know you won’t regret all this?”
“Because I’m forty-three years old, Penn Hamilton, and at forty-three, you know yourself and take full responsibility for what you do. No matter how high or drunk I get, which isn’t often by the way, I don’t lose my sense of awareness. I’ll remember what I’ve done. If I’m not here tomorrow when you put your key in that door, it won’t have anything to do with regret.”
“That’s good,” he said. “I think.”
“You just hold up your end and I’ll worry about mine.”
He opened the door and turned.
“Tomorrow,” she said. “Hey, wait a sec. What are you, a model? An actor? You have to be someone to have gotten into the party tonight.”
“I’m a writer.”
“Yes. A writer.”
Sharlyn was laughing now, and shaking her head.
“Of course. Of all the men I could have messed around with, it’s just my luck to find another scribe.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
“Not necessarily. You published?”
Sharlyn laughed again.
Her Sidekick was ringing. At this hour? It was probably Tina, hunting her down.
“You going to get that?” he asked.
“I’d better,” she said. “Good night, Penn.”
“Good night, beautiful.”
The door was barely shut as she crawled across the bed and grabbed her purse from the nightstand. She pulled out the phone.
She laughed again, this time even louder.
She was zinging, every pore of her, full of liberation and rebelliousness and rich, rich thoughts. She waited until the call had rolled over to voice mail, scrolled through the directory, and found her assistant’s number. It was late, very late, but hey, that was what assistants were for. The groggy girl answered after three rings.
“Wake up, Brookie.”
“I’m awake, Mrs. Tate. Are you okay?”
“I want my laptop. I need you to go get it.”
“Yes, ma’am. Where is it?”
“It’s in my bedroom, sitting on the chaise. I need you to go over there and pick it up, and then bring it to me at my spot.”
“Your spot, ma’am?”
“You know, Brookie, where I hide out to write.”
“The Plaza Athénée?”
“I’m at the Sherry.”
“The Sherry, of course.”
Shar could hear the poor girl fighting back a yawn, trying to bring herself around. It was late. Or early, depending on how you saw it. After two in the morning. So what? she thought. It wasn’t like she made a whole lot of demands on Brookie (whose real name was Brookland, which ranked right up there with Milestone). Most of the time Brookie skated by, enjoying far more perks than she did practical labor. The girl, a twenty-three-year-old graduate of Spelman, was the daughter of one of Miles’s favorite cousins and was quite efficient and full of endearing charms and Southern ways, most of which Sharlyn appreciated, although she occasionally found that Southern graciousness grating when she needed to cut to the chase and Brookie insisted on being formal or going through unnecessary pleasantries.
The girl couldn’t help it, she’d been trained by legions of suppliant Southern women who believed in catering to others with beguiling civility, always making sure everything was “okay.” Shar had heard the phrases “Are you okay?” and “Do you need anything?” come flying out of Brookie’s mouth more times than she could count. One of these days, she had decided, she was going to say “No, Brookie, I’m not okay,” just to see what would happen. The girl’s head would probably fly off. Or not. Ol’ save-the-day Brookie had more tricks than a Swiss army knife. It didn’t help that she spoke with one of those sickeningly sweet, eye-batting twangs. The kind that, outside of the South, enslaved any man within earshot and made an independent woman’s skin do a crawl.
“How long do you think it’ll take you to get over here?” Shar asked.
“Is an hour all right?”
“Try to make it in thirty, forty-five at the most.”
“Yes, ma’am. Is the laptop all you need? Would you like me to…”
“Just the laptop, Brookie, and make sure you bring the power cord.”
“Yes, ma’am. Do you need any…”
“You don’t have to bring it up to my room. Just leave it at the front desk. They’ll be expecting it.”
“For Tina Turner, Mrs. Tate?”
“Yes, Brookie, for Tina Turner.”
Why was the girl taking her through this? Tina Turner was the only fake name she knew. Brookie hadn’t been around in the Ben-Hur days. Shar was sure Brookie was purposeful when she did stuff like this. It was standard passive-aggressive Southern-girl nitpicking. Breaking your will with sweetness under the guise of trying to be helpful.
“Mrs. Tate, do you need me to…”
“Thanks, Brookie. Hurry, hurry.”
Sharlyn clicked off the call before the overaccommodating Brookie could squawk out anything else. She already knew the girl would come with more than just the laptop. There’d be some ghetto shit like an ice-cold pineapple Fanta and a bag of crab-flavored Utz from the bodega on the corner of her block in Harlem.
Shortly after her arrival a year before, Brookie had somehow divined that Shar craved low-brow stuff as much as she did high end, and the girl appealed to that yen with a quiet maliciousness that Sharlyn didn’t know how to fight against. Shar was mortified the day Brookie “accidentally” left a greasy sack of cracklins on her desk, tasty pieces of salted fried pork fat with thick crunchy skin (far more low income and lard laden than those popular bags of air-puffed pork rinds that had somehow jumped class and become Atkins favorites). Shar had scarfed the cracklins down in toto, only to be stricken with an abysmal case of shame immediately afterward. Brookie had tapped into a weakness Shar didn’t even realize she had, but Brookie never said anything, she just kept, literally, feeding the guttersnipe in Shar, taking a bit of Shar’s dignity every time she did it.
Since then, Brookie, who also possessed superb culinary skills, had left Shar everything from popcorn with hot sauce on it to fresh-cooked hog maws (Shar didn’t even know what a “maw” was, but, damn, it was good!). Shar never ate the items in Brookie’s presence, but she never sent them away, either. The exasperating girl was always doing something, anything, to show Sharlyn that she wasn’t just another assistant, but one who paid attention to the little things, the ones that mattered, like what Shar liked to munch on when she was writing, treats that had a surprising way of making Shar creatively better, especially when she was properly motivated and the sex was great between her and Miles. But the sex had’t been good, even though she was still eating all the snacks Brookie brought around.
Shar wasn’t a big fan of exercise. She was lucky she had good genes and a high metabolism, even though she had put on a couple of pounds since Brookie’s arrival. Not enough to cause alarm, still, those unsolicited, unexpected ghetto snacks had the potential to do real damage, not just to her appearance, but on the health front—all those fried pork skins and hoghead cheeses and pickled entrails, disgusting shit, really, if you considered it objectively—which was why she did her best to deter Brookie from bringing them anywhere near her.
Shar picked up the room phone and pressed the button for the front desk.
“Yes, Miss Turner.”
“I’m expecting a laptop to be delivered shortly. Will you ring me before you send it up?”
“Yes, Miss Turner.”
“Make sure you ring me first.”
“Of course, Miss Turner.”
Shar hung up the phone, her legs stretched out in front of her. She studied her calves, which were lean and shapely. Her skin was smooth and blemish free. Funny how she hadn’t noticed how attractive her legs were, not lately. She was almost as bad as Miles, the way she’d been ignoring herself. Diamond and Aurora had done her such a favor, getting her out of the house like that. She ran her hand across her thigh. It was butter-soft in the wake of her afternoon at the spa.
She could still feel a gentle throb between her legs. The thought of what she’d done made it throb some more. The alcohol/coke buzz had mellowed into something quite nice. And she had a title now (and, perhaps, a muse?).
The Magic Man.
It was a start. That was all she needed.
After that, the rest would come easy.