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Authors: Talli Roland

Tags: #Humor, #romantic comedy, #talli roland, #Romance, #Chick Lit, #Contemporary Romance, #womens fiction

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BOOK: Build a Man
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The man lifts
his hands and looks at me. “I don’t know. For everything, I
guess.”

“Everything?”
Without meaning to, my gaze drops to his crotch again.

His round face
colours and he smiles. He isn’t bad-looking – late twenties, I’d
say, with a decent crop of dark hair and bright green eyes against
lovely tanned skin.

“Well.” His
smile widens to a grin. “Not everything.” His voice has a soft lilt
to it, different from Peter’s crisp accent.

“Come sit
down.” I motion to the leather chairs. “We’ll go through the
consultation form together.”

It’s not normal
practice – usually I just give the Botox Wannabes the paperwork,
then watch to see if they can actually grip a pen with their
talon-like nails. But this guy couldn’t be further from our usual
clientele if he tried, and there’s something about him that makes
me want to help.

“So.” I give
him my best competent-receptionist smile and position the pen over
the first question. “Name?”

“Jeremy
Ritchie.”

I scribble it
down with my big, loopy letters that never seem to stay on the
line. “Age?”

“Twenty-eight.”

“Kind of young
for cosmetic surgery, isn’t it?” I ask, before I can stop myself. I
should know better – we’ve had women as young as twenty in here for
their first bout of Botox. Purely preventative, of course, as Peter
would say.

Jeremy shakes
his head. “Look at me. I’m a fucking mess.” He glances my way.
“Sorry, but it’s true.”

“You’re hardly
a mess.” I have to say that, but honestly he
is
a bit of a
mess. Still, he doesn’t need surgery to fix that. A new haircut
over at the Aveda on Marylebone High Street, some clothes that fit
properly, and he’d be fine. And – if he lost that extra twenty
pounds or so – quite cute.

Jeremy sighs.
“If that’s really true, why can’t I find a girlfriend? Someone who
wants to stick around; who likes
me
?”

I reach out and
touch his arm, feeling sorry for the guy. “Maybe if you just
exercise?” I bite my lip, hoping I haven’t gone too far. Peter’s
always telling me Americans are way too direct.

“It’s not
enough.” He shakes his head determinedly. “No. This is it. I mean,
I’ve got the money. I just need the looks. So why not use my money
to buy them?”

It’s hard to
refute his logic, but it just seems . . . wrong. I don’t know quite
what to say, though, so I carry on with the consultation. “Let’s
start from the top. Rhinoplasty?”

“Is that the
nose?”

I nod.

“Oh, yes.
Definitely.”

“Blepharoplasty? That’s eye bag removal,” I explain quickly. No one
ever knows that one.

“Yeah.”

Half an hour
later, we’ve only made it as far as the neck. My sheet is full of
checkmarks, and Jeremy’s perking up more and more as we go through
it. I can’t help noticing the gleam in his gorgeous green eyes.

I’ve seen this
so many times I can almost predict it. It’s like when you go to
IKEA, and suddenly you realise how much you’ve been missing; how
many wonderful possibilities exist for your home. Before you know
it, that horrible blue shopping bag they give you is cutting into
your shoulder, filled to the brim with ten thousand tea-lights
you’ll never use and muffin tins you don’t need.

This
consultation form is IKEA for the face, and women who start off
wanting just a squirt of Botox end up like a pin cushion.

“All finished?”
Someone clears their throat and we both swing around to see Peter
standing in the corridor.

“This is a new
patient, Jeremy Ritchie,” I say. “Give me five minutes and I’ll
have his consultation form completed for you, Doctor.”

Peter peers
over my shoulder at the paperwork, his eyes lighting up when he
sees all the checks.

“No, no, that’s
okay, Serenity.” He shakes Jeremy’s hand. “Nice to meet you,
Jeremy. Come on through. We’ll finish your form together.”

Jeremy smiles
back at me and the pair heads into the consulting room. The door
closes behind them and silence descends. I climb up on the stool,
kicking off my high heels. Evil things! Nine-thirty and already I
can feel a blister forming on my heel.

I click back to
Gawker
and try to focus on Lady Gaga's latest crazy outfit,
but Jeremy’s face keeps floating through my mind. By the looks of
his consultation form, he really
does
want to be a new man.
All to make himself more attractive to women? I shake my head. Then
again, look what women do to attract men. I’ve seen it first-hand,
courtesy of Mrs Lipenstein's new rack.

Talk about
turning a cliché on its head. Men, going to extremes to get with
women, rather than the other way around.

Hmm, might make
a good pitch – even better than the Portobello one.

I tap my bare
foot against the cold metal rungs of the stool. How many other men
out there have had cosmetic surgery? Of course male celebs
certainly have. But what about normal men? Men like Jeremy?

My foot taps
faster. Jeremy could be a source. I could do an exclusive
interview!

I click open a
new Word document and start typing.

 

Every day,
hundreds of women in Britain go under the knife, looking for
transformation through cosmetic surgery. Now, men across the nation
are flocking to clinics, too.

 

I’m not exactly
sure men are ‘flocking’ to clinics, but it needs to sound dramatic.
If the impossible happens and I do get this commission, I’ll just
throw in some stats from Google. You can find anything on there if
you look hard enough.

 

In my article
Man Up, I’ll interview a man about to undergo multiple surgical
procedures, desperate to make himself more attractive to women.

 

I’m sure Jeremy
won’t mind if I ask him a couple questions. I quickly type a few
more lines, add that I’m a receptionist in a cosmetic surgery
clinic for that ‘inside scoop’ intrigue, then skim it for typos. (I
learned the importance of proofreading the hard way: just last
month I sent out a pitch on how I could infiltrate Britain’s
biggest
pubic
relations firm to see if that world really was
as sleazy as everyone suspected. It was the one time I actually got
a response – the editor at
Snap!
was interested in learning
more about
pubic
relations. Was it a new trend? D’oh.)

I scan my email
contacts list. Who should I send this to?
The Sun
? Maybe
even
Metro
? My heart jumps as I spot the name Leza Larke,
the health and beauty editor at
The Daily Planet
, Britain’s
biggest tabloid.

Do I dare? I’ve
never pitched
The Daily Planet
before – it seemed too far up
there, way beyond even my
Metro
aspirations. But I know
Leza’s interested in cosmetic surgery. Earlier this year she was a
judge on
Botox or Bust
, the hit TV show where contestants
had to choose between boob jobs or Botox injections, then parade
topless in a beauty pageant. This is right up her alley.

Worst she can
say is no, right? And even then, my
Metro
dream is still
intact. I double-click on her name and hit ‘Send’, watching as the
email flies off into outer space.

“Serenity will
set you up with an appointment for the injections.” Peter’s voice
drifts toward me as the door to the consulting room opens.

I sit up on the
stool and hastily switch the Word window back to the appointment
screen. I wonder what Jeremy’s decided on? I don’t want him to do
too
much, of course; he doesn’t really need it. But the more
procedures he has, the stronger my article will be. Already I’m
picturing Jeremy’s dramatic before and after shots, along with a
little photo of reporter Serenity Holland inset . . .

“Serenity.”
Peter’s voice jerks me back to reality.

My head snaps
up. “Yes?”

“Book Jeremy an
appointment for Botox next week, please.” Peter turns to Jeremy and
claps him on the back. “We’ll discuss the other procedures and set
a schedule when you’re in next. In the meantime, have a look
through the patient leaflets and give us a call if you have any
questions, all right?”

Jeremy nods.
“Thanks, Doctor.” He puts a stack of papers on the desk and smiles
at me. Already his face looks brighter and more hopeful – and he
hasn’t even had the Botox yet.

“So what did
you decide?” I nod toward the brochures.

“Botox next
week, to start off,” he says.

I hold my
breath. I need more than that to make my story good.

“And then” – he
jabs at the bags under his eyes – “I’ll get rid of these, have a
new nose, and maybe some chin liposuction.”

Good, good.
“And?” I don’t mean to prompt him, but if he really wants to
transform himself, he should go all the way, right?

Jeremy looks at
me uncertainly.

“I don’t know,”
he says, thumbing through the leaflets. “There’s so much
information here. Maybe a bit of liposuction on my stomach, too?”
He pats his belly. “I’ve always wanted one of those six-packs.
Women like that, don’t they?”

“Of course.” I
mean, not me
personally
– I prefer a bit of a cushion when I
rest my head on a man’s tummy – but most women love it.

“So definitely
that, then.” We smile at each other over the desk. “I need to have
a think about the other stuff.”

I book him into
an appointment for Botox next week and say goodbye as he walks out
of the clinic. Taking a deep breath, I flash a look at my inbox.
Nothing from Leza – yet. But inside, my heart is pumping. I have a
good feeling about this.

Watch out,
tabloid world. I’m on my way.

CHAPTER
TWO

 

 

“Crikey, what a
day. I’m exhausted.” Peter comes into the reception area a few
hours later, loosening his tie. “Ready to go?”

I nod and shut
down the computer after checking my inbox for the millionth time.
Still nothing. It’s only been three hours, I tell myself. Leza’s
probably busy getting the lowdown on aging rocker Zip Johnson's hip
replacement, this week’s hottest story.

“Kirsty and Tim
invited us out for a drink. The Prince Regent.” I lock the cash
drawer and slide down off the stool, looking forward to seeing my
best friend from back home in Maine. We’d been joined at the hip
since primary school, so when she got a swanky job in London, I was
determined to go, too. It was the perfect place for someone with my
tabloid ambitions. Along with soccer and cricket, humiliating
celebrities is a national sport.

Peter shakes
his head. “I’m knackered, Smitty needs to be fed and have his meds,
and you know I like to eat promptly at seven. You go on,
though.”

“Okay, I think
I will. Just for a quick one.” With all the nerves and excitement
juddering around inside me right now, if I don’t do something to
take my mind off Leza Larke, I’m going to scream. And that
something is
not
cooking plain chicken fillet and green
leaves for dinner, while our anxiety-prone kitten dines on a
trillion-dollar combo of organic pet food and the feline equivalent
of Prozac.

My mind drifts
back to the first time I met Peter, a few weeks after landing in
London. I’d sent out hundreds of résumés to everyone and their dog,
desperate for a job to get me started on my new life here; a
temporary post before revving up for tabloid stardom. After
spotting Peter’s advert in
Metro
(where else?), I’d emailed
over my rather sparse CV. Shockingly, Peter had rung a few minutes
later, and since the clinic was so close to where I’d been crashing
at Kirsty’s, I’d rushed over for an interview during his lunch
break. His receptionist had resigned without notice, he’d said, and
he needed someone immediately.

I remember
sitting across from Peter, in awe of the perfectly fitting suit and
expensive-looking tie. He’d been so pulled together, so efficient
and ambitious . . . so different from the bumbling boys back home
who smelled of fertiliser, not Hugo Boss. This is the kind of man I
want to be with, I’d thought. Funny, I’d never imagined that man
actually would be Peter.

We leave the
office and head into the little mews, me struggling to keep pace
with Peter’s giant steps. The shrieking sirens and rumbling buses
are music to my ears after the tomb-like quiet of the clinic. God,
it’s good to be out of there.

“Any news on
your writing lark today?” Peter asks as we turn onto New Cavendish
Street. I clamp down on the irritation inside. He asks me the same
question every day, and he always calls it ‘your writing lark’, as
if he can’t seriously believe an English Literature graduate would
strive for publication in
Metro.

“No, no news
today,” I chirp, trying to sound as upbeat as possible. I learned
the hard way not to let Peter know about my pitches: whenever one
ended in rejection, he’d pounce with his ‘maybe you should think
about’ speech. As in, maybe you should think about giving up on
tabloids and getting a real job, at something respectable like
Rheumatics R Us
or
Beer Matt Collectors of the
UK
.

I shudder now
just thinking about it. That would be like dying a slow death, and
I didn’t endure four years of analysing the crap out of Milton
and
travel across the ocean to waste away in a smelly beige
office.

We turn onto
Marylebone High Street, following our usual route. I love that we
can go from office to home in ten minutes, and Marylebone is such a
gorgeous place to live, all red-bricked buildings, chi-chi shops,
and organic grocers where even the bananas look like they’ve been
polished. Back home in Harris, the veggies are covered with dirt
and resemble country bumpkins next to these crown jewels.

BOOK: Build a Man
7.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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