Authors: S. Gilmour
S. A. Gilmour
First Original Edition, May 2015
Copyright © 2015 by S. A. Gilmour
Cover Design by ShutterBit Photography
This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is entirely coincidental. Names, characters, places, incidents, brands, businesses, organizations, either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners. All songs, song titles, and lyrics mentioned in the novel Take My Dress Off are the property of the respective songwriters and copyright holders.
All rights reserved. No parts of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without written consent from the author.
This book is intended for mature readers due to language and adult content. It is a parent’s/guardian’s responsibility to know and consent to what their minor child is reading and does not hold the author responsible for said minor’s exposure to inappropriate content.
I Y U
Table of Contents
has one, Mom, you’ll love it.” Ashley pulled up her Facebook page. Her warm chocolate eyes smiled back from the screen. It was a picture from the homecoming game last month. She was in a skimpy cheer uniform that barely covered her ass, her small frame dangerously suspended from a human pyramid.
“You’re on Facebook? What happened to MySpace?”
“MySpace is so over, Mom.”
“This isn’t safe, Ashley, any weirdo could be looking at you.”
“It’s fine, Mom, relax,” Mason called from behind his laptop at the end of the dining table. “Only people you friend can see your wall.”
“Friend? Wall?” I asked, suddenly feeling really old.
Ashley giggled and scrolled through a rolling commentary under her picture. “You ask people to be your friend. Then you post comments about whatever you want. See?” Ashley’s eyes reflected the screen as she clicked on her
page. “Do you want me to set it up for you?” she asked eagerly.
“I don’t know,” I hesitated.
“C’mon, Mom,” said Mason without tearing his eyes from his smartphone. “Live in the now.”
How did we live without smartphones and internet?
“Lots of older people are on Facebook.”
“Excuse me? Older people?” I barked.
He smirked through his tousled bangs, “You know what I mean, Mom.”
“I’m thirty-eight. Seriously?”
With speed and precision Ashley’s fingers fluttered over the keyboard and within minutes she had set up my profile.
“Where on Earth did you find that picture?” I asked.
“Your phone,” she grinned.
I was gloriously tan and windblown, sitting atop a white Arabian horse from a beach in Costa Rica. My husband was producing a movie and we had taken the whole family along for a much needed vacation.
“Now, let’s find you some friends.”
“I don’t need any more friends,” I muttered and leaned over her shoulder to get a better view of the screen.
“You have to have lots of friends, Mom, or you’ll look lame.”
Mason laughed, “You don’t want to look lame, Mom.”
Ashley typed Danielle’s name into the search bar and my best friend popped up on the screen in a tight, sparkly, black bustier, her dark curls pouring out from under a fedora.
“Of course Danielle has a page,” I snorted.
“She looks hot,” said Ashley.
It was a picture from our trip to Vegas last spring. She was making a pouty face, holding a cocktail, her arm around that young, hot, Italian guy we had met in the Venetian.
Ashley quickly scrolled through Danielle’s friends, asking if I knew this one or that one.
“What are you doing now?” I asked.
“Sending friend requests.” She scrolled through the faces. Some I knew, some I didn’t. Then I saw… him.
“Scroll back up!”
“Who’s he?” asked Ashley. She clicked on his name.
His emerald green eyes flashed back at me. He was wearing a coat and scarf, his arm around his mother, Carlene. The background looked like a busy mall at Christmas.
“Danielle is friends with him?” I murmured more to myself.
And why didn’t she tell me she had found him?
“He’s hot. Who is he?” Ashley’s big brown eyes scanned the picture.
“Old friend from school.”
“Does Dad know about him?” grinned Mason. He rose and shoved his phone into his saggy back pocket.
“Yes, Dad knows about him.”
“Well…let’s see if he remembers you.” Ashley clicked the mouse.
“No Ash! Don’t!”
“Too late,” she giggled.
I plopped down into the chair next to her, my mind flooded with memories of the summer before my senior year of high school.
The summer I met Chaz.
I sped along
Highway 15, windows down, hot wind tangling my long chestnut hair. It was an unusually warm SoCal afternoon. I normally didn’t ride with the windows down for fear of putting my perfectly feathered Rave-Number-Three blasted locks at risk.
But today was different.
It was the summer of 1986 and I had
received a brand new red Firebird (with T-tops) for getting straight A’s on my report card. Or as Maddie liked to call it, a guilt present from my father. Evenly planted rows of lime trees blurred past the windows as the scent of fresh cut hay and damp mud blew into the car, Tears for Fears’
Everybody Wants to Rule the World
echoing through the speakers. Happiness was my passenger in the car that day and the world was waiting to see what I was going to do in this eighteenth year of my life.
I awkwardly shifted to a lower gear as I drove over the bumpy Bonsall Bridge leading through San Luis Rey. I pulled up to the community center and rocks flew as I abruptly brought the car to a halt. (I was still trying to master the art of braking gracefully).
I hopped up the steps eagerly anticipating the afternoon. Today was the day I was going to see him, the love of my life, the one who consumed my every thought.
Unfortunately, he was also the love of Jordan Stone’s life and presently her boyfriend.
And I didn’t get it.
Jordan Stone was one of those girls that always looked like she was having a good time. Her parents were filthy rich and they had a huge estate in Fallbrook. Her father claimed to be a director though it was rumored that he directed “adult films.” It was also rumored that the films were produced in their home and that Jordan’s mother was a porn star though I had never seen her mother to know if there was any truth to that. I didn’t think Jordan was pretty. She was too tan and too skinny with beady brown eyes that were too close together. She had short platinum blond hair and I thought she looked like a female version of Billy Idol. And she was a year older than Dillon,
a cradle robber
! What could she possibly have to offer him? I guess a ride, because she had a car and he didn’t.
I could hear Maddie’s voice echoing into the lobby as she shouted eight counts. Maddie was technically not my mother. My real mother had suffered a seizure which claimed her life minutes after I had made my entrance into the world. Sadly, she never got to hold me. Maddie moved in with Dad when I was two. They married when I was four and split up when I was eight. I had chosen to stay with Maddie, to me she was my mother. Everyone else thought she was my mother too as our noses and chins were the same but she had auburn hair and I had warm chestnut hair like my mother. In Maddie’s early twenties she had modeled with an agency in New York but now she was a trauma nurse and taught modeling classes at the community center on the side. She was coordinating a huge fashion show for the convention center and our first rehearsal was today.
I glanced into the dance room at the large group of young girls walking cautiously across the weathered wood floors.
A Different Corner
by George Michael was keeping them in time as they tried to balance books on their heads and glide gracefully to their images in the mirror. I shook my head and smiled as one clumsy girl’s book slid down the back of her head and crashed onto the floor.
“We’re meeting in the big room, Paige,” called Maddie.
I nodded and meandered down the hall into the larger dance room. The advanced ballet class was just finishing. Leotard clad girls were peeling off leg warmers, packing up toe shoes, and flocking around the dance teacher, Rory. Rory was a thin, lithe lady who’s springy brown hair was graying around her temples much too early for her age. Rory was working with Maddie to coordinate dance routines for the show. I was curious to see how this was going to go. Maddie liked to control everything and I wasn’t sure how she was going to be able to surrender some of it to Rory.
Rory and the last girl exited in heavy conversation and I walked to the middle of the room. Though it was warm in the room, a slight coolness brushed over me as all of the energy followed the dancers out of the double glass doors. I stared into the mirrored wall and raked my hands through my long, wind-blown hair. I had just come from the ranch in San Luis Rey where I boarded my horse and I was sunburned and dusty. I had wanted to change from my tank top and cut off shorts into something sexy and sophisticated but didn’t want to appear to be trying too hard on a hot Saturday morning. Plus, Danielle would have given me shit for primping. I kicked off my flip-flops and slipped my dirty feet into hot pink pumps.
Playful chatter entered the room first then the stomping of feet and bodies. Behind me paraded a large group of young men. I turned, my eyes searching and scanning…for one.
He was holding a soccer ball and tossed it casually between his hands as he strutted into the room. His dark brown hair was a little longer than usual but I hadn’t seen him since the last day of school exactly four weeks ago. That familiar hot tingle rose up my neck, traveled down my arms, and settled into my sweaty palms. When his dark eyes met mine in the mirror that tingle dove back into my stomach and sank like a rock. He grinned and bent over to place the ball under the bench.
Why couldn’t I keep my cool around him?
We had been on again/off again for the past six months and this happened to me every time. My heart would race, I would feel sweaty, and my throat would tighten.
Groups of giggling teenage girls filtered in and I walked over and greeted a few of my friends, glancing often over Danielle’s shoulder as Dillon kicked off his Nikes and slipped on topsiders. He stood and stretched his tall frame, his green polo rising just above his navy plaid shorts exposing well defined lower abs and a light dusting of dark hair.
“Hey, Dillon. Where’s your brother?” called Danielle.
“He’s coming. He went to pick up some friends.”
“New guys?” asked Danielle as she leaned on one foot, her hand resting against my shoulder as she slipped on shiny black pumps.
“We need as many guys as we can find, this is a really big show,” called Maddie.
“I hope they’re cute,” Danielle smiled and struggled to stretch a ponytail elastic securely around her thick hair. “Goddamn it’s hot in here! This is total bullshit, no air conditioning in this place?”
Danielle Russo was my best friend. I had seen her around school or parties from time to time but we officially met spring semester of freshman year in AP English. I knew I wanted to be her friend because she dressed to kill and could quote Joan Didion. She always spoke with authority and spouted astute analogies during class discussions (though she confessed to me privately that she only reads the Cliff Notes). She was younger than me but we were in the same grade because I had repeated kindergarten (which she reminded me often) but she seemed much older. Maybe because she had an older sister and I had no siblings. But she was my official consult for anything fashion or sex related. No matter what the question Danielle had all the answers
the experience. She had big brown eyes and a mop of curly dark hair that usually had streaks of some shocking color that changed as often as her moods. She claimed we were the same height though I was an inch taller, (which I reminded her often).
Maddie and Rory gathered us together and put us into groups.
“Dillon, where’s Donavan?” Maddie scanned her clipboard, slight irritation in her voice. As if on cue Donovan pushed through the doors, several young men following behind him.
“Sorry we’re late.” He smiled down to Maddie and pushed the hair back from his face.
Donovan (who we called Donny) was Dillon’s older brother and went to Palomar, the community college in San Marcos. Girls swooned over him because he looked like John Taylor from Duran Duran. Donny had the same shy smile as Dillon but was taller, leaner, and much more into fashion. Don’t get me wrong, Dillon dressed well but Dillon was more
. Donny was Maddie’s shining star and everyone knew it. Maddie adored him and always centered the routines around him. She helped him get signed with Theresa, my agent at Plaza 3 Agency in Los Angeles. He had recently convinced her to take on Dillon (who I thought was way cuter) though Maddie didn’t like his aloofness or lack of rhythm. But she kept him on because of Donny and she knew he was the love of my life.
“My car wouldn’t start so we had to get Chaz’s. This is the guy I was telling you about. Chaz?”
Donny stepped aside and Chaz stepped from behind him. He was tall with broad shoulders, dirty blond hair, and smooth golden skin. He raised his hand, extending his fingers toward Maddie’s long red nails and she accepted his greeting gracefully.
“Chaz Serna. Pleased to meet you, Ms. Hanson.”
“Please, call me Maddie.”
A confident smile rose past high cheekbones to a slender nose and long dark lashes that framed sea-green eyes. It was that kind of moment, the one where everything changes in your life. Everyone else faded away into the background, even Dillon, and my eyes swept from Chaz’s bright yellow flip-flops to his tan Calvin Klein shorts and tight navy polo shirt accented by another yellow one underneath, (collars up of course). Donny introduced a few more guys that were with him but I didn’t hear who they were. I was too stunned and confused, trying to figure out why the parameters of my world were changing.
Rory began teaching a routine to Michael Jackson’s
Wanna Be Starting Something
and we all tried to follow along. Donny took the lead (as he always did) moving with confidence among the eyes of female adoration. Dillon became quiet as his brother took over. Chaz moved awkwardly, hiding in the back row as he tried to catch on, obviously conscientious about being the “new guy.”
We formed into pairs and worked on the partner dance. Dillon and I moved with a comfortable familiarity. For some reason when Dillon and I were working together I was able to shut off my emotions and stay calm. He made me feel safe and secure, like he only had eyes for me and I had no reason to doubt his affections. We were a local favorite for the bridal boutiques and often had photo shoots in prom gowns and tuxedos. He was good at convincing everyone (especially me) about how good we were together. We were never an official couple but our relationship (or whatever it was) had started with drunken kisses during impromptu make-out sessions at parties to almost “doing it” last month but I came to my senses before making a mistake I knew I would be sure to regret. I had a class with him last semester and sometimes we’d study or eat lunch together but it was usually with the rest of our friends. He called once in a while and I never turned him down when he wanted to hang out or go to the mall or movies. But it never progressed to anything serious and it frustrated the hell out of me. Danielle said I made myself too available for him and that I would always be “the rebound girlfriend.” Now he was with Jordan Stone and I was tired of waiting around for him to figure out how I fit into his life.
Danielle was paired with Chaz and I could see her tensing up, quickly becoming frustrated with getting her toes trampled and with Chaz’s apologies. Donny came up with some suggestions, Rory called for a water break, then walked away to consult with Maddie.
“It’s too hot in here,” complained Danielle. “I’m going outside, at least there’s a breeze out there.” The rest of the group followed in search of the water fountain and I collapsed against the wall. Chaz stood in the middle of the room and continued to practice with an invisible partner, cursing under his breath as he struggled with the steps. He glanced at me helplessly in the mirror.
“Want some help?” I called.
He nodded sheepishly and I walked over to him, my heels click-clacking on the wood floor. Our faces were shiny from the heat and I knew I must have smelled of horse sweat and dirt. Lovely.
“I really suck at this,” he grinned. “I’m sure Maddie is regretting asking me to join you guys.”
“You’re really not as bad as you think,” I smiled. “I’m sure it’s the flip-flops tripping you up.”
“Sure, like that’s it. Or that I totally have two left feet,” he laughed. “Do you mind?” he asked as he held out his hand. I wasn’t his partner, I was Dillon’s of course, but the steps were the same. I took his hand and he pressed me against him. His arms felt strong and he wrapped one around my waist as I began to count to eight. He tripped and I counted again, slower. Occasionally, he would pull us off balance and I would fall into him, the light scent of Ralph Lauren’s
cologne lingering on his neck. We practiced for the remainder of the break and he began to catch on.
“There, you’ve got it.”
He leaned down to me and whispered, “I work better with you. I think Danielle’s too tall…and way bossy,” he winked.
The group got back together and after about a million times of Rory yelling, “again” the routine was starting to take shape.
“I swear if I hear that fucking song one more time I’m going to puke,” Dillon whispered into my hair as we kept in step.
Finally, Rory was satisfied with our performance, reminded us of the next rehearsal time, and we were dismissed. Donny, Rory, and Maddie left for Rory’s office and most of the models started to gather back into their groups discussing what they were going to do for the rest of the afternoon. Danielle and I plopped onto the bench and kicked off our pumps.