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Authors: Talli Roland

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

Build a Man (7 page)

BOOK: Build a Man
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I shouldn’t let
the Botox Bitches get to me, I remind myself, straightening my
spine. I’m a reporter now. This clinic – and Jeremy – is my ticket
to a better life.

The day passes
in its usual trance-like state, with women traipsing in and out
like a Botox beauty parade. The only bit of fun was when Madame
Lucien threw a tantrum after spotting a lump of cotton wool I’d
done up to look like a dust bunny underneath the water cooler.
Might seem like a lot of trouble to go through for ten seconds of
entertainment, but when you’ve got nothing better to do and you’re
faced with hours of uppity women, fashioning a dust bunny from
cotton wool isn’t so crazy. Plus, it’s a welcome distraction from
the ‘will he, won’t he’ stalking my mind whenever I think of
Jeremy.

Finally, at six
o’clock, Peter emerges from the consulting room. His face is pale
and his eyes are red. It’s been a crazy day – I’ve barely seen
him.

“You off,
then?” he asks, loosening his tie.

“Yup.” I pat my
bag, making sure I’ve got the interview questions I printed out
earlier. I’ve even put them on a clipboard so I’ll look all
official and life-advisor-like.

“Have fun.”
Peter pecks me distractedly on the cheek before wandering off down
the hall to his office.

“I will,” I
mumble to his retreating back. I know I’ve lied about where I’m
really going tonight, but maybe he could show a little interest in
my lie? He hasn’t even asked where the session is, or what time
I’ll be back.

I should be
thankful he’s not too bothered with my movements, I tell myself as
I push out the clinic door and hurry toward Oxford Street. It will
make working undercover much easier. Still, I can’t help feeling a
twinge of disappointment that my boyfriend doesn’t care more about
my out-of-office activities.

After spending
twenty pounds I can’t afford on the dinkiest digital voice recorder
known to man (or woman), I rush back over to Providores. No chance
of asserting my dominance this time, either; I can see Jeremy
through the window.

“Hello there.”
My heart starts beating fast as I approach his table and slide into
a chair.

“Hi, Serenity.”
Jeremy smiles at me and I relax a bit. He wouldn’t smile so nicely
if he was about to say no, right?

There’s a
moment of awkward silence. “Would you like some wine?” we both ask
at the same time, then laugh.

“I’ve got
this,” Jeremy says easily, signalling to the waiter. “Red
okay?”

I nod as he
orders a bottle. “Thanks. So.” I almost don’t want to ask him, but
I’ve got to get this over with before my head explodes. “Have you
given any more thought to the life advisory service?” I hold my
breath.

Jeremy looks
straight at me. “Yes. I had a think about what you said last night,
Serenity. You’re right. The whole point of doing the surgery is to
increase my chances of meeting the right woman. If you have other
tips to point me in that direction, then . . .”

“You’ll do it?”
I’m almost afraid to look at him.

Jeremy nods.
“I’ll do it.”

I let out my
breath, a smile spreading across my face. Oh, thank
God
. I
mean, I knew I’d get him on-board somehow. But now that he’s
official, I can finally let myself believe I’m a real live
undercover reporter.

“That’s
awesome,” I say loudly, pumping my fist in the air before
remembering I’m supposed to be a professional. I lower my voice and
clasp my hands in front of me. “On behalf of Transforma, I’d like
to thank you for your participation.”

Jeremy shoots
me a grin. “My pleasure, I’m sure. I can’t wait to see what you’ve
got in store for me. So how does this work, anyway?”

“Well, I
thought today I’d ask a few background questions. You know, try to
understand your motivation for the upcoming surgeries.” I lean down
and rummage around in my bag for the voice recorder, then try to
free it from the packaging.

“Is this a wine
therapy session?” Jeremy’s voice drifts under the table where I’m
still fumbling with the plastic, and I can’t help noticing it
sounds like he’s smiling. That’s not good – I need him to take me
seriously, to really trust and invest in my role as an advisor.
Arranging my face in a solemn expression, I sit up quickly, banging
my head on the table.

“Ouch!” Rubbing
my head, I stare disapprovingly at Jeremy’s twitching mouth. “Wine
therapy is recognised by the Institute of Life Advisory Services,”
I say primly. “Of which I am an accredited member.”

Jeremy shrugs.
“Okay. Well, I’m all for anything involving wine.” He pours us both
a large glass. “So how do you and Dr Lycett work together on this?
Does what I tell you have any bearing on his decision to
operate?”

I gulp – I
hadn’t even thought of Jeremy talking to Peter about these
sessions. “Oh, goodness, no,” I say smoothly, toying with the stem
of the wine glass. “Peter – er, Dr Lycett – and I have found that
our patients respond best when we keep their medical treatment
separate from the advisory service. That way, they can be as open
as they like without fearing any repercussions.” My heart is
pounding. If Jeremy utters one word to Peter about our meeting, my
tabloid career will be over before it’s even begun.

“That’s all
right, then.” Jeremy’s face sags in relief, and for a second, I
wonder what exactly he might say that could affect a doctor’s
decision to operate. I’ve never seen Peter turn down a patient for
surgery, but Jeremy’s worry means he’ll keep his mouth shut about
our sessions, thank goodness.

“So!” I finally
free the recorder from its packaging and place it on the table.
“Hope you don’t mind if I record our meetings? I’ll need the sound
files for future reference.”

“No, that’s
fine.” Jeremy sips his wine.

“Great, great.”
I nod approvingly as he swallows. “That’s perfect. You should take
another wine injection in” – I glance at my watch – “five
minutes.”

Jeremy raises
his eyebrows but he doesn’t question my methods.

“Let’s get
started.” Poising the pen over my clipboard, I cross my legs and
lean back. “First of all, I need your measurements for my
records.”

“Sure, no
problem. Which measurements?”

Oh, Lord. I
don’t know what men like to measure. Well, besides the obvious. I
cringe, remembering one of the questions on my clipboard about
getting
everything
done. “Um, just the usual, I guess.”

Jeremy rattles
off a string of numbers that mean nothing to me and I jot them down
quickly, nodding like I appreciate their significance. Right, that
part’s over and done with. On to the good stuff.

“So, Jeremy.
Why do you want to be a new man?” I tilt my head to the side and
take a sip of wine as I await his answer, grimacing as liquid
dribbles out of the corner of my mouth. Note to self: do not imbibe
with tilted head.

“Aren’t you
going to press record?” Jeremy asks, pointing to the recorder.

“What?” I wipe
my mouth quickly. “Oh, yes. Of course.” I squint at the metal
contraption on the table. How do you record on this thing? Pressing
a few buttons, I pray it’s working. God, maybe I should have bought
that stiletto-recorder, after all. I gulp more wine to calm my
nerves, noticing with surprise that my glass is empty.

“Wine therapy
dictates the advisor drinks, too,” I say, before Jeremy can
comment. “To create a relationship of trust. So, why do you want to
be a new man?”

“Well . . .”
Jeremy gazes out the window, a faraway look coming into his eyes.
“Have you ever dreamed of being someone who just snaps their
fingers and they get what they want, straight away?”

I think of
Kirsty. Um, yeah. “Go on,” I say, nodding.

“Women respect
those kinds of men. Men who have it all together, with their
appearance and life. Who make things happen and don’t just sit back
and go with the flow.”

I nod again,
thinking that’s exactly what drew me to Peter. I love that he’s so
in control. Granted, he might be a bit
too
controlled
sometimes, but still. “Right, right. And you suspect that’s why you
haven’t found your ideal woman yet?”

Jeremy’s face
twists. “Is five minutes up? I could really use some more
wine.”

I look at my
watch. “Sure, go ahead.” He fills his glass – and mine – and raises
it in the air. “Cheers! Aren’t you going to join me? Building a
relationship of trust and all that.”

My head already
feels a bit fuzzy, but I lift the glass to my lips and sip. “So?” I
prompt him.

“Well, I
thought I’d found my ideal woman,” he says, shaking his head.
“Turns out I wasn’t her ideal man.”

I make a mental
note to probe into that later; I don’t want to push too much now.
“And you think changing your appearance will help?” I smile quickly
to cover the sceptical tone in my voice. His appearance is fine,
really. And wouldn’t he want someone to love him for
him
?
It’s not my place to judge, though. I’m here to listen.

“Yes. That, and
this whole advisory service.” Jeremy’s smile is hopeful and a pang
of guilt shoots through me. Well, I
could
be a life advisor
– based on my internet research, there doesn’t seem to be much to
it. I can still be helpful, qualified or not.

I glance down
at my clipboard. The next question on the list is: Will being a new
man make you better in bed?

How on earth
did I think I could ask that? It was different when I was back in
the clinic, focused only on getting the dirt. Now I have an actual
person in front of me.

“Time for more
wine therapy!” I chirp, taking another mouthful of liquid for Dutch
courage. I squint at the label. Italian courage, in this case.

I stare down at
the question then up into Jeremy’s expectant eyes. Come on,
Serenity. Come on! I need to do this. I’m a reporter now. I must
have professional distance from my subject. Thank goodness that
wine is making me feel like I’m floating above my body.

“So, um, will
being a new man make you better in bed?” My hand slides over my
mouth as if of its own accord, and the latter half of the sentence
comes out like I have a Jaffa Cake stuck in my cheek.

“What? Sorry, I
didn’t get that.” Jeremy raises his eyebrows in that cute way of
his.

Professional
distance, I remind myself. I take my hand away and sit up straight
in the chair.

“Will being a
new man make you better in bed?” I repeat, louder this time. The
couple beside us glances over and starts giggling, and Jeremy’s
cheeks colour up. For a second, I feel bad for embarrassing him,
but I steel myself against it.

“Well . . .”
Jeremy looks down at the table, then up at me with a mischievous
glint in his eye. “I can’t say anyone has ever complained.”

I keep the
smile off my face and move straight on to the next question before
I lose my nerve.

“Is that why
you’re not getting
everything
done?” The words come out
smoothly but when I attempt to do the meaningful look at his
crotch, I find I can only drop my eyes to belly level. “You’re
confident with what you’ve got?”

Jeremy follows
my gaze to his midsection. “What? You know I’m getting my stomach
done. What do you mean?”

I force my eyes
to crotch level. “No, there.” I point for extra emphasis, feeling
ridiculous.

“Oh!” He shoots
me a look as if he can’t believe I’ve just asked him that. I can
barely believe it either, but in a strange sort of way, I’m proud
of myself. It doesn’t matter that I’ve sucked back half a bottle of
wine in the process.

“Well, yeah. I
am pretty confident, I guess,” he says finally.

“Great.” I
glance down at my clipboard, full of scribbles I hope I can
decipher later. Thank God for the recorder. “Those are all my
questions. See, that was painless, right?”

Jeremy laughs.
“Relatively. I think I like wine therapy! Anyway, if you reckon
this will help me find someone for real, I’ll do whatever it takes.
I’m so bloody tired of getting together with someone, thinking this
is it, then having them take off.” He leans forward. “What do you
think? How do you know if someone is ‘the one’?” His eyes meet mine
and for a second – for just a split second – I feel like he can see
inside me. Like he actually
knows
me. Sounds dumb, I
know.

I jerk my mind
back to Peter, sipping the last bit of wine as the question echoes
in my head. How did I know I wanted to be with Peter? Well, he does
have everything I ever dreamed of: handsome, good job, stable –
none of the hippie, live-and-let-live flakiness I grew up with. On
paper, he’s ‘the one’ material, for sure. I’m about to answer when
I remember my advisory role.

“No, no, no.” I
wag a playful finger at Jeremy. “We’re supposed to be talking about
you, not me. Anyway, we’re done for tonight,” I say to put an end
to any more questions.

“Great. So when
will we meet up next?” He actually looks excited at the
thought.

“Um, well, I’ll
let you know. Probably later this week?”
If
Leza likes my
column, I add in my head. God, I hope she does.

“Great.” Jeremy
shoots me an easy smile and gets to his feet, seemingly unaffected
by my alcohol-heavy therapeutic methods. When I stand, however, the
restaurant sways before me.

We say goodbye
and I watch him walk away, the events of the day running through my
mind. Jeremy’s signed up to my little scheme, I asked the tough
questions without flinching (I may have blushed, but I definitely
didn’t flinch), and everything is going according to plan.

Even a
table-induced knock on the head and the beginnings of a red-wine
headache can’t drag down my spirits as I head for home.

CHAPTER
SIX

 

 

The clinic is
quiet and deserted this morning, so I have just enough time to put
the finishing touches on my column. It’s due today, and even though
Leza didn’t specify exactly when she needs it, I want to send her
the copy by lunch at the latest. Not only will that show her I can
meet deadlines, I can beat them.

BOOK: Build a Man
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ads

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