Dazed Page 6

Setting the picture down, I notice the red light blinking on my phone and glance at it.

Just wanted to say bonsoir.

The metal of the lamp reflects on the screen and with a grin across my lips, I snatch it from the table and assign the number a name Jagger Kennedy. He\s now an official contact in my list.

Goodnight and thank you for the cupcake

***

After running three miles on my treadmill in the morning and showering, I stand in front of my closet in my thick terry cloth robe and just stare at its contents. It\s a showcase of clothes, but staring at the right side, I can\ decide what to wear. I\m a shopper. I love the thrill of finding the perfect pieces that complement one another. I never buy just one piece always an ensemble. My outfits are perfectly coordinated pants hang with their perspective matching tops, but today nothing seems to suit the occasion. I untwist my wet hair from the clip on top of my head and decide to check the weather. Pulling open the French door, I step outside on my balcony and breathe in the cool air. I haven\ been on a date in months and that one didn\ go so well.

Zane Perry, the new lead singer of the Wilde Ones, and I met at River and Dahlia\s wedding. He had a smile that made me look twice and when he asked me out, I said yes. I met him at a movie theater in LA. It was the most awkward date I\d been on in a while because we hardly knew each other and the movie had many over the top se* scenes sitting there listening to the woman\s moaning made me want to slide down my chair and fade into the darkness. Once the movie ended we went to dinner. That part of the date went much better, but not great. We ate and talked, but the conversation was forced. So when he invited me back to his place, I was surprised, but wanting to give him a chance, I went. After a few glasses of wine, he moved closer to me and I asked him to turn the lights off. Once he did, he kissed me, but there was no spark. I was used to that, as it seemed to be the norm for me. When his hands slid inside my blouse, I allowed it. When his fingers trailed up the inside of my thigh, I encouraged it. When he unzipped his pants and hovered over me on the couch, I craved the human contact. But as his c**k slid inside me, and he thrust over and over, I failed to feel even a hint of desire stirring. I made the noises I needed to make and he assumed I was just as into it as he was. That\s why I prefer the dark. It\s easier to fake it. Once we were done, I got dressed and told him I had to leave. He called me a few times after that, but I was busy with work. Sometime later, I\d heard from Dahlia that he and the label\s representative for the band had been having a thing on and off and that was all I needed to know we wouldn\ be going on anymore dates.

Shivering, I step back inside and decide on denim. I pair my favorite skinny jeans with red high-heeled booties and a tight white sweater. I decide to leave my hair down I\m not sure why, but I did like the way Jagger wrapped his finger around a stray strand yesterday. Next I decide on an Art Deco 1930s-style necklace from my grandmother\s collection. Its red glass pieces tilt back like butterfly wings. Clasping it and selecting simple gold earrings, I\m ready to go.

***

Butterflies swarm my stomach as I pull into the restaurant parking lot. I see him instantly the wayfarers cover his gray eyes, the tattered jeans fit snuggly on his narrow hips, the scuffed boots with the orange laces, the messy but somehow perfect dark hair, and that blue vest. He\s got one leg canted against the brick wall of the building and the other planted on the ground. His head is bowed, and he\s got earphones in his ears. God, he\s se*y. My pulse races and I smile as I park my car next to his.

Guys don\ have this kind of impact on me ever. Men have actually always been a bit of a struggle in my life not that I\m into girls. It\s just I fell in love for the first time when I was sixteen and that ill-fated relationship kept me away from other guys until my freshman year of college. Then for the next four years I dated a handful of men each year. But I was always subconsciously looking for a reason to break up and easily found one. se* is also something that\s always been a struggle for me. I don\ see what it is that women find so enticing about it. I\ve been with probably a dozen men, so it\s not like I don\ know what I\m doing. I get the mechanics;I just don\ understand what it is I\m supposed to be feeling.

He opens my door before I even grab my purse and stretches out his hand. I take it and he tugs me out of the car. ’’Hi.’’

’’Hi,’’ I say back. My fingers are tingling from where they were wrapped around his hand.

’’I\m glad you didn\ stand me up.’’ His mouth stretches into a slow grin.

’’I thought about it, but decided I couldn\ do that to River,’’ I joke.

He bites his lip and the sight takes my breath away. ’’That makes me one lucky bastard to be his cousin.’’ He\s teasing me back. I\m already catching his stride.

’’Yes it does.’’

Looking around over the top of his sunglasses, he glances toward the restaurant. ’’Ready to go in?’’

I nod and he puts his hand on the small of my back, guiding me toward the door. The Loft is a casual bistro-style place with spectacular panoramic views. It has the best food around with a six-foot rotisserie and the most extensive cheese selection in all of California. We enter and he removes his sunglasses and tucks them in the slight V of his sweater. I watch his eyes as he evaluates the place. Today they\ e like gray storm clouds deep, rich, slow moving, even languid.

His gaze swivels to mine. Those eyes sweep over me in a now familiar way and send a shiver through me. ’’You look beautiful. Red really is your color,’’ he says fingering the faceted glass squares around my neck.

’’Thank you. It\s a piece from my grandmother\s collection.’’

’’May I help you sir?’’ a voice says from behind me.

His hand drops from my neck, but finds its spot on the small of my back. I like it there.

’’Table for two?’’ the hostess asks.

’’Yes,’’ he answers.

’’Would you like to sit inside or out?’’

I say ’’inside’’ at the same time that he says ’’outside.’’

He leans forward. ’’It\s a beautiful day. What do you say we enjoy it?’’

’’Sure, why not,’’ I answer, although I\m thinking I never eat outside. The noise and the wind are just too distracting. The hostess leads us up to the second floor and we\ e seated at a round table with four chairs circling it with a beautiful view of the beach. Jagger pulls a chair out for me and I sit. He selects the one next to mine, facing the ocean.

The hostess hands us our menus. ’’Your waiter will be right with you,’’ she says before leaving us alone. We\ e the only people sitting outside and I notice it is actually really peaceful. We sit close and look over our menus.

Jagger leans forward. ’’So what\s good?’’

’’I always order the grilled salmon. But I hear the flatbreads are amazing. Dahlia gets them sometimes when we eat here.’’

’’The vodka infused halibut on parmesan flat bread it is then. What about you?’’

’’The grilled salmon.’’

’’Maybe you should try something different today?’’

I look at him trying to figure out if he\s making fun of me or maybe teasing me, but his expression stays neutral and his eyes remain focused on mine.

I sit up straight. ’’Sure, why not. Live a little. Right?’’ I\m not sure why I say yes, but I think it has something to do the se*y, smoldering smirk I knew it would put on his face.

He leans even further toward me and an incredulous smile plays around his lips. ’’Right!’’ And there it is it makes my stomach somersault and my pulse race.

’’Are you ready to order?’’ the waiter asks.

’’Yes,’’ Jagger replies. ’’The lady will have,’’ he pauses and looks at me.

’’A sparkling water and the grilled flank steak sandwich,’’ I say.

With a grin on his face he orders a sparkling water with lime and the flatbread. Then he inclines his head toward the sun. The view from the table is amazing. The water crashes against the rocks, the sky is bright, the clouds are fluffy and serene, and the wind stirs around us at just the right speed.

’’What made you decide to change from modeling to acting?’’ I ask.

He chuckles. ’’That still sounds so strange, almost pretentious.’’ He runs his hand through his hair and bows his head then looks up with a crease in his brow. ’’I never had supercharged aspirations to be a model and since there\s an expiration date on that career, I thought it was time to start down the path I\d paved.’’

I look at him quizzically.

’’What I went to college for film.’’

’’That\s right The New York Film Academy.’’

He nods. ’’Don\ get me wrong, I loved modeling and if I don\ succeed in Hollywood, I\ll go back to it. It\s just I\ve toyed with the idea of acting for a while and when I heard Tom Ford was directing a movie, I went for it. Now that I\ve had a little taste, I\d say I\ve been bitten.’’

’’I have no doubts you\ll be a success. You\ e motivated to go the extra mile. In Hollywood that will carry you far,’’ I tell him.

’’Yeah, I hope so. The decision wasn\ easy, but it was the right time.’’

’’What do you mean, the right time?’’

’’You know what, that\s a long story for another day, but I can say it just felt right.’’

’’Here we go.’’ The waitress arrives with a long thin plate in one hand and a sandwich in a bamboo basket in the other. She sets our food down. ’’Anything else?’’

Jagger looks at me. ’’Some ground pepper.’’

I\m touched that he remembered and can\ wipe the smile from my face. The waitress brings a large wooden grinder and adds pepper to both our dishes.

’’Anything else you need?’’ she asks.

I swear she bats her eyelashes at Jagger. He looks at me and I shake my head.

’’I think we\ e good for now,’’ he replies.

I pick up a sweet potato fry and smile sheepishly. ’’I have a feeling these just might be addicting. Would you like to try one?’’

’’Absolutely,’’ he responds.

I don\ know what comes over me. I\m not the flirty kind, but I lean forward and dangle the fry near his face. He opens his mouth and I slowly feed it to him.

He makes a low purring sound. ’’Mmmm . . . those are definitely addicting.’’

My fingers were on his lips and although the air is cold, I feel warm, almost feverish. I sip my sparkling water and lift my eyes to watch him eat. He pauses and looks up. His hair isn\ as styled today as it was yesterday, but it\s still equally attractive with pieces falling over his ears and eyebrows. ’’So what about you? Your career?’’

I laugh, shaking my head. ’’Your profession is much more interesting. Tell me what Fashion Week is like.’’

He reaches for his napkin and wipes his hands. ’’Nothing like you\d think. A typical day would start with me riding the train to the studio to take a test shot for any new campaigns, and then I\d hurry to a fashion show, and then hurry from that show to the next, then to a fitting. By the end of the day I\d be exhausted and fall asleep in the cab back to my apartment.’’

Picking up a piece of flatbread, he offers it to me. ’’Try this.’’

I open my mouth automatically and take a bite. ’’Mmmm . . . that\s really delicious.’’

His grin makes my toes curl and then he pins me with his gaze. ’’Your turn now. Tell me about you.’’

’’Well, it\s really not that . . .’’

The crash of glass breaking grabs our attention as both of us twist our heads toward the noise. A waitress dropped a bunch of plates. Jagger rushes toward her and helps her pick up the pieces.

When he sits back down he leans toward me and I can smell his scent of lavender and sage combined. ’’Sorry about that, you were saying?’’

I breathe him in and then exhale before deciding to share the basic details of my life with him. I start by telling him about my grandmother the actress, my parents the film advocates, my college years with Dahlia, and that it was the impression my uncle left on Josh Wolf that got me my job at Sound Music Magazine.

Our conversation flows easily and time flies by. When Jagger glances at his watch, I do the same. It\s after five and I look around realizing the waiter must have long ago cleared our plates. Jagger flags the waiter and gestures that he\s ready to pay the bill.

As the sun starts to hang low, he stands and extends his hand. With a slightly sly smile he says, ’’Come with me. There\s something I\ve been dying to do.’’

I give him my hand and at the touch of our skin that flutter in my stomach turns into a pounding.

’’Give me your keys.’’

I blink at him over and over. ’’Why?’’

’’We\ e going to do something.’’

I hand him my keys, again not sure why, but his commanding tone just mesmerizes me. He clicks the key fob then ushers me into the passenger side of my own car. He darts around to the driver side and he unclips the handle above his window and then reaches across me to do the same.

’’I don\ think this is a good ’’ I start to say, but he cuts me off by placing his finger over my lips. I think about how my insurance policy doesn\ cover other drivers, but decide not to fret over that.

’’It\ll be fun. I promise.’’ He winks.

He hits a button and, just like that, the top of my Audi is down. I twist my hair and knot it into a bun, and before I know it we are cruising onto the Pacific Coast Highway. He takes the dizzying twists and turns with the same ease he displays in his confident walk. I take the time to appreciate the view.


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