Authors: J. J. Salem
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Fiction
He felt his eyelids begin to grow heavy. By now, Aspen's snoring had become a soothing white noise. Sleep was closing in. If the tabloids ever got the tip that Dean Paul Lockhart did not get lucky on his wedding night, they would never print the story. Too unbelievable. He grinned. Then he leaned over to kiss Aspen's cheek and to cover her bare shoulders with as much blanket as he could stretch out without disturbing her. "Good night, Mrs. Lockhart," he whispered, content in the knowledge that this woman suited him so perfectly.
But a tiny realization prevented him from giving in to slumber completely. There had been a moment tonight at the reception. A brief but powerful one. It made him question everything. What had he done? What was he doing? Why had he been such a fool back in college?
Oh, yes, he'd felt it. And as he finally drifted off to sleep, Dean Paul could only wonder . . .
Had she felt it, too?
The It Parade
by Jinx Wiatt
Fill in the Blanks
If you think the Jenner sisters are trouble, then brace yourself for a monster import of something similar straight from Tokyo. These girls make Kylie and Kendall resemble Laura and Mary Ingalls from
Little House on the Prairie.
Here's the proof: Was there ever talk about the adjacent Kardashians engaging in a three-way with a certain polo-playing stud? And it can only get worse. Rumor has it that the Japanese Olsen twins are pitting PR girls against each other for the right to plan their birthday party. Not just any mud will do for this kind of wrestling. These women are high maintenance. Borghese Fango mud only.
SHE DIDN'T KNOW WHAT MADE her feel worse—the combination of the headache and nausea, or the look of consternation on Privi's face. Lara braced herself for another wave of almost sickness. It came on fast, nearly did her in, then faded. If only she could just throw up and get it over with.
"I'll make you a cup of herbal tea with milk and honey," Privi said tightly.
Lara raised a halting hand. Barely. This sapped her of much-needed strength. She would need everything she could muster to deal with the Kometani twins in a few hours. "It's no use, Privi," Lara murmured weakly. "I won't be able to keep it down. I just know it."
Privi shook her head. "A young lady should only have one glass of champagne at a wedding. Anything more is disgraceful." She sighed, then, having made her point, softened a little as she stepped toward Lara's bed and adjusted her pillow for greater comfort. "I suppose you'll just have to sleep it off."
"Not today," Lara croaked. "I have a client meeting."
Privi tossed up her hands in a pantomime of disgust. "Get as much rest as you can. If you need anything, I'll be watching my story."
Lara managed a faint smile as the tiny woman made a quiet exit.
Privi stood no taller than four-foot-nine. The Dominican woman was rotund but graceful. She had started with the Wards when Lara came home from the hospital as a newborn. A live-in housekeeper and cook, Privi had filled in as baby-sitter, too. The only years that Privi had not been a daily presence in Lara's life were those at Brown. But her parents' graduation present set into motion a surprising reunion.
Just minutes after parading in cap and gown to accept her diploma, Lara's parents had presented her with keys to an eleven-room condominium on New York's Upper East Side. Located in an elegant, full-service building on a quiet, tree-lined street, the place was magnificent. High ceilings. A Juliet balcony off the expansive living room. A formal dining area. An eat-in gourmet kitchen with laundry facilities. Three bedrooms and three full baths. A maid's quarters with a private kitchen and bath. For a single career girl just starting out in the city, it was beyond ridiculous.
And more indulgence was to come. The palace came complete with Privi, who had been anxious to relocate to New York to be closer to her sister, Yari, who was reeling from her husband's sudden death. At first, Lara had balked. It was all just too much. In the end, though, she realized that her parents were unstoppable. She was their only child and had never given them a moment's worth of rebellion. Plus, their dual careers as surgeons had generated enormous wealth. They had the money to spend, and it gave them great pleasure to reward Lara for significant achievements.
Privi was in her early sixties and not in the best of health, fighting both high blood pressure and diabetes. She managed all the cooking, cleaning, laundry duties, and day-to-day pet care. With just Lara and her little Maltese, Queenie, as charges, it was a light workload that gave her purpose and kept her busy, yet proved untaxing.
By Manhattan standards, Lara's lifestyle was pure fantasy. A huge condo. A live-in housekeeper. A glamorous career. Many people dismissed her as a spoiled princess. Okay, maybe she was. But she also worked hard. Getting Regrets Only up and running had been a job that required the strength and fortitude of an Amazon. With the deed to her condo in her name, she borrowed against it to raise the upfront capital for the business. Within eighteen months, she had closed out the loan. Exquisite details, high-profile connections, and smooth running events were her claim to fame, but Lara also possessed a precise head for numbers that routinely enhanced her profit margins.
She lay there, willing herself to sleep. But it was hopeless. The constant throbbing at her temples just wouldn't subside. She regretted all of it. Going to the wedding. Seeing Dean Paul. Encountering Aspen. Dancing with Joaquin. Drinking the champagne.
Especially the champagne. Privi was absolutely right. Not even if Dean Paul announced his annulment would more than one glass of the bubbly ever pass her lips again.
She put a hand to her unsteady stomach as the room dipped and swayed in another tumult of nausea.
How on earth was she going to rise up from the prone position, take a shower, get dressed, put herself in a car to the Mercer Hotel, and listen to the Kometani twins blather on about their party wishes, without dying in the process? It just didn't seem possible.
Privi padded back into the room with a steaming cup of beef bouillon and a glass of cold whole milk.
Lara raised up a hand in silent protest.
Queenie rose from underneath the comforter with great interest.
"You—put that hand down. And you—go back to sleep," Privi scolded both of them. "An old hangover cure. My sister Yari got her husband off to work after his all-night poker games for years with this same trick. Get every bit of it down. No matter how hard it may be."
"Every drop," Privi cut in. "It's your only hope of getting to that meeting. I don't think you'll make it downstairs otherwise."
Lara sighed in defeat and raised the bouillon to her lips. The aroma sent her reeling.
A stern Privi stood by the bed, daring her not to obey.
The first sip was the hardest. It seemed incongruous that Lara could feel so horrible this morning when only last night she had experienced the time of her life. Ironically, the champagne had been the reason for that, too . . .
It was only because of her altered state that she had agreed to join Babe and Gabrielle at AKA Bomb Threat's East Hampton home. But it was a safer bet than another dance with Joaquin Cruz. After tumbling into the white stretch limousine, the three of them rode the whole way standing up through the open sunroof, laughing hysterically, tasting the sharp tang of the air from the Atlantic.
Gabrielle had ordered the driver to pump up the volume on the music—her own, of course. It was a highly danceable track from Brown Sugar's first CD called "Super Bitch."
Yes, that's my Mercedes
No, you can't contain me
Cuz I make my own gravy
If my bling makes you feel less a man
Poor baby, this I understand
It takes a big star to say he can
Cuz I'm a Super Bitch
Rhymes with rich
One taste of me
Will scratch that itch
Yeah I'm a Super Bitch
You'll beg for more
I can be virgin sweet
Or a nasty whore
Against all normal impulses, Lara had found herself singing along to the vulgar lyrics. But the beat was infectious, the melody instantly catching. What a sight it had been—the three of them jutting out from the roof of the limo from their waists up, dancing and rapping a song called "Super Bitch."
Babe and Gabrielle had wasted no time in catching up with Lara, taking full advantage of the stocked bar. Not to be outdone, Lara had squealed in excitement at the discovery of a bottle of Cristal, and popped it open. And thus began the final infusion that had rendered her disabled a few hours later.
But before that, there were toasts. To Dean Paul's marriage. To Dean Paul's annulment. To Dean Paul's divorce. Done in the snarky way that only three ex-girlfriends could manage. Even in Lara's loopy state, she had been in awe as the limousine turned onto a narrow, dark gravel road that looked to be a dead end. It went on for more than a mile, providing refuge for about twenty houses.
She knew it well. West End Road. Some called it the street of dreams. On one side was Steven Spielberg's property; on another, a Gothic home that had once been the sanctuary of Jackie Kennedy's maternal aunt.
AKA Bomb Threat's place was a beautiful Greek Revival—deep green shutters, an old-fashioned porch, an American flag snapping in the night wind. She knew the view must be spectacular in the light of day. Georgica Beach was right there, arguably one of the best ocean spots in the world. Just beyond it she could make out the lights of houseboats and mansions.
The minimalist interior surprised her. Given AKA Bomb Threat's flashy lifestyle, Lara had expected a lavish, almost tasteless decor. Instead, the entire home had been outfitted with smooth restraint—everything in white or muted shades of sand and gray. Huge living, dining, and kitchen areas fed into each other seamlessly, anchored by four bedrooms, and flanked by an outside deck with a large terraced pool and a sunken hot tub.
Gabrielle had flung off her fur and started up the music and the hot tub right away. Babe had wasted no time in raiding the house bar. And Lara merely tried to remain upright on her Armani heels. The drinking in the limo had sent her over the edge. In fact, she had just stood there, tottering and weaving, as Gabrielle and Babe stripped to their undies and stepped down into the steamy, bubbling jets of the hot tub, screaming for her to get in.
Lara had wanted to. The water looked so inviting. But it seemed outrageous to just casually sling her Michael Kors number over a pool chair as if it were a blouse from Banana Republic. Oh, well. The day was already spilling over with outrageous moments. Off went the dress. People could buy one of those economy cars for less. Whatever. She was feeling no pain. So in her strapless bra, thong underwear, and sparkling diamonds, she slipped out of her dangerous stilettos and joined them.
She moaned out loud as she sank down. It felt so good to be away from those people at the reception, to be out of those shoes, to have Dean Paul's nuptials behind her. For a moment, she had closed her eyes, head bobbing, mere seconds away from passing out.
"No!" Babe shouted. "You are not fading away on us!" She jumped out and raced inside, dripping wet, returning moments later with a slim can of Red Bull, which she promptly pushed into Lara's hand. "Here. Drink this. It'll keep you going."
Lara had trouble flicking the tab on the can.
Babe took it back and did the honors.
Gabrielle laughed and drank up. It was a brown liquid, and she took it straight from the bottle, like a rebel gun-slinger in a hot saloon.
Lara forced down the Red Bull. It seemed to do the trick. At least she could keep her head up and participate in the conversation. The subject was Dean Paul. What else?
"It's every girl's rite of passage to date an asshole in her twenties," Babe had been saying.
Even drunk, Lara bad known how stupid this was. Babe Mancini was barely out of her twenties herself, and here she was holding court like a veteran of forty. "But Dean Paul isn't one," Lara argued. And she really believed that.
"Isn't what?" Babe asked pointedly.
Lara hesitated. "What you said."
"Princess, you're drunk, half-naked in a hot tub, and bonding with two other girls who got screwed over by the same guy. You can say 'asshole.'
won't get wind of it and confuse you with Courtney Love."
"Forgive me for being able to get my point across without using profanity," Lara said primly.
Babe kicked the water, splashing Lara in the face. "So how long did the doctor say that stick would be lodged in your ass?" And then she started to laugh. Hysterically.
Gabrielle had joined in with obvious reluctance. But she just couldn't help it.
Lara wiped the water from her eyes and glared at Babe. "If a guy like Dean Paul is an unfortunate rite of passage, then you're a very slow learner. Aren't you with Jake James now? He's much worse."
Babe's face registered the strong comeback. She paused a beat, then grinned. "It could be worse. I could be single and still pining away for my first college boyfriend."
Lara didn't back down. "I'd rather be pathetic and alone than end up with Jake James. What's wrong? Couldn't you tempt Geraldo away from his fifth wife?"
Gabrielle moved fast to defuse the ticking bomb. "Okay, that is enough! We're not here to claw each other's eyes out! We're here to forgive and move past the bullshit. Dean Paul is married. He made his choice. That bitch at the altar didn't look like any of us. Why can't we have five minutes of solidarity, mutual consolation, whatever?"
"Consolation? I didn't want to marry him," Babe snapped.
"Bitch, please," Gabrielle fired back. "If you were seriously over that man, you wouldn't be with Jake James, knowing full well that Dean Paul hates that fool. You expect us to believe that's a coincidence? Baby girl, you're not in a hot tub with two crackheads."