Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mike's book

Hi everyone, since announcing I'd be writing a book about Mike, I got lots of requests for more information on Mike. Heavy Issues had a subplot about him, but the publishers decided to delete it. Ever since, I've had Mike's story in my head and frankly, I'll go bonkers if I don't get it out on paper. I'm still writing Max's book (basically I'm writing both books at the same time), but I think I'll get Mike's published first. Here you have the first chapter. Keep in mind this is a rough, unedited version that is subject to change. I hope you'll enjoy it.  

                                                                       Chapter 1

“This is a bad idea, grandma,” Mike said as he got out of the dressing room at the community center, wearing nothing but his boxers and an intimidating scowl that, unfortunately and as usual, had no effect whatsoever on the old lady.
“Nonsense. The girls are waiting. Let’s roll,” she said as she pushed him forward and down the corridor.
His grand mother was barely five feet tall and 100 pounds when drenched. How she got the strength to push his big frame while he was literally dragging his feet was beyond him.
“Besides, you promised you’d do it.”
He snorted. “No I didn’t. I promised I’d help you with your senior courses. Meaning I’d drive you around, do your shopping or some shit like that. I didn’t agree to pose for any male anatomy painting lessons. You know I’m too busy for this.” He’d stopped working as a foreman almost two years ago to run the family gym full time with his dad, but last month Cole had taken on the renovation of the town’s library pro bono, and Mike had volunteered to help. That plus the gym and the martial art classes in the afternoons had taken up all his time. Fuck it if now that the library was ready he was going to invest whatever was left of the summer in this. “Can’t you guys use, I don’t know, a statue? Or better yet, a picture. There are plenty of books and—”
“Live human anatomy painting, Mike,” she interrupted, emphasizing the word “live”. “And one is never too busy to help his grandmother.”
Well, it depended on how nutty the grandmother was, didn’t it?
“What about Mr. Honbacker or Mr. Stilt from Bingo nights?” he asked, trying to get out if it. “I’m sure they are free and willing.”
His grandmother clicked her tongue. “The idea behind these classes is for us senior citizens to enjoy ourselves. We do know we have a foot in the grave. We have enough of a reality check every time we look in the mirror, honey. Besides, Mr. Stilt’s prostate is acting up again. He couldn’t stay still 15 minutes to save his own life. And about Mr. Honbacker,” she added lowering her voice, “Rita had a ...fling with him. They are not on speaking terms. Some kinky thing he did with his false teeth I hear.”
Oh man. There was an image he wouldn’t be able to erase from his mind even if he lived to be hundred. That was what he got for being nice—permanent brain damage.
“You’re a flawless specimen. In the prime of your life,” she continued, reaching for his arm and squeezing his biceps appreciatively. “Handsome and fit. A perfect Michelangelo’s David.”
He turned his head to her. “You kidding me, right? Come on, do I look to you anything like Michelangelo’s David?”
She pondered his words as her gaze travelled over his bulk and tattoos, then settled on his face. “Well, your hair isn’t curly.”
He rolled his eyes. Trust her to focus on the most insignificant things.
The fact that he was heavily tattooed, weighted around 220 pounds and a life-time of practicing boxing and martial arts had granted him a body that had little to do with that of an effeminate boy hadn’t registered.
“You’re a bit rougher than Michelangelo’s David,” she finally conceded, “but you’ll make do nicely, I’m sure of it. The girls will be pleased.”
For the love of God.
“I’m your grandson, and you’re pimping me out. Don’t you see anything wrong with this picture?”
“Just humor us. We’re a bunch of women in our late seventies, early eighties. Half of us are blind; the other half won’t remember tomorrow what we did today. And you only have to pose. The girls voted for body oil to highlight your muscles, but they couldn’t agree who should help you rub it on, so I vetoed.”
“Fuck me,” he muttered as he dug his heels in.
Fucking hell.
That’s what happened for going along with his grandma’s wacky ideas. For not putting his foot down on time. Like when she decided her girls needed self-defense classes. They needed an extra edge, she'd said. Extra edge for what? What were those grandmas going to be doing? Strolling around Southie sporting colors? Considering their age, the best bet if anyone tried to rob them would be to hand out the purse. Better that than risk any injury. His grand mother hadn’t agreed, of course, and now, every Wednesday, there was a self-defense class for seniors down at the gym, where Mike was supposed to teach them how to knock down a guy without breaking any bones of their own.
“Come on, Mike, we’re harmless.”
Yeah, harmless his ass. He’d rather face a firing squad or better yet, the Hulk in a no-holds-barred underground fight than deal with his grandma’s goonies and all their guilt tripping tricks.
Next time Mr. Bowen came for a visit, Mike was so bribing him into taking her to Eternal Sun Resort in Florida. For what he’d heard, the senior community was more than adequately equipped to keep his grandmother entertained and the rest of the world out of trouble.
In the mean time, he needed to exercise some damage control.
Probably sensing he was about to hightail it out of there, she pulled out the big guns. “You promised, Mike. You can’t break your promises to me. For all you know I could drop dead tomorrow and you’d have to carry the guilt of breaking my heart in your conscience for the rest of your life.”
God grant him patience.
“Oh please, you’d been using the same I-could-drop-dead-tomorrow line to get away with whatever you wanted for the last 20 years.”
She shrugged. “I’ve been just lucky, but clearly I’m running out of time. The probabilities of that happening become higher and higher with every passing day. You should not risk it.”
Right. She was in great shape, not only for her age but for someone 10 years younger than she was.
“A shameless blackmailer, that’s what you are,” he muttered as they approached the room, from where the animated chatter was coming out. “No oil. No rubbing. Hell, no touching at all. And the boxers are staying on, are we clear?” He wasn’t sure if Michelangelo’s David was a complete nude or if he had something covering his junk, but Mike had his suspicions and damn if he was going to risk it.
She patted him condescendingly. “Of course dear, it’s not our intention to make you uncomfortable in any way.”
Really? Thank fucking God, because he’d been nothing but damn uncomfortable since he’d set foot in the community center.
“For the record, Mike; none of us has had sex during this century, granted, but equipment wise, I doubt you have something we haven’t seen before.”
He choked on the breath he was taking. He wouldn’t bet on that.
The second he entered the room, a perfectly heart-shaped ass clad in an extremely short boy shorts that left the underside of both ass cheeks in plain view greeted him.  Well, maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all. The girl was bent over, so he couldn’t see her face, but what he could see was damn promising.
“I thought you needed a model for the male anatomy painting class,” he whispered as he lifted his chin, greeting his grandmother’s blue-haired posse.
“No, I needed a male model for the anatomy painting class.”
She should have started with that. As an incentive if anything else. He was still pissed he’d be spending every the other Tuesday posing in his damn underwear—hopefully—, but at least he wouldn’t be alone in his misery and could entertain himself with eye candy.
He caught his grandmother’s gaze drifting away to the floor, a flash of unease on her face, and his joy took a nosedive.
Oh boy, why did he suddenly have a shitty feeling about this? Before he could ask anything, the owner of that glorious ass straightened, turned around and his fucking heart jumped to his throat. And stopped.
He froze. Literally.
There, standing in those sexy like hell shorts and a sports bra, showing off her toned and curvy and mouth-watering body, looking surprised as all fuck, and displeased as all fuck too, was Kyra.    
His Kyra.
No, not his Kyra anymore, he corrected himself.
He instinctively took a step back, the air suddenly too thick to breath.
She’d been back in Alden for several weeks now. This was the closest he’d been to her since her return.
Much closer than what he wanted to be ever again.
“A word?” he said to his grandmother while moving back to the corridor, dragging her along.
Hoping he was out of ear shot, he stopped and turned to her, his jaw clenched so tight he had trouble getting any words out. “You crazy?”
She thought for a second. “Is that a trick question? Because I warn you my admission won’t have any legal validity. In case you’re thinking about having me committed.”
He ignored her. “Kyra? Really?”
She lifted her shoulders. “I had nothing to do with that, I was in charge of bringing a male model. Rita is the one that got Kyra.”
Sure she had nothing to do with Kyra being in there.
“Not doing it. No fucking way.”
“What’s the problem? You told me you were over her.”
Sure he was over her.  
Over and fucking done, but that didn’t mean he wanted to spend any time around her. Or breathing the same air. For one, because even now, seeing her or hearing her voice still send a surge of pain through his chest, which, considering how fucking badly she’d crushed him all those years ago, pissed him to no end. That, of course, he wasn’t going to explain to his grandmother. Not that she needed any explanations.   
“I thought we could be mature about this,” he heard her say.
Fuck mature. He was running for the hills.
If it hadn’t been for the fact that he’d promised Cole he’d help with the library’s renovation, he would have gotten the fuck out of Alden the very first day she came back. Then again, his father couldn’t manage the gym by himself, so he was stuck. 
Since her return, and out of pure self-preservation, he’d become a master at avoiding her, which in a place the size of Alden was a damn feat. Posing with her for a couple of hours would blow to hell and back the frail status quo he’d managed to achieve, not to talk about how he would loose whatever little was left of his frigging peace of mind. He’d have nothing to do but stare at her. At those gorgeous dark grey eyes of hers he, once upon a time, used to wake up to. At that bee stung, luscious mouth he used to spend hours kissing. At that sexy little body he used to love fucking.
She sighed. “I understand. If you can’t take it, you can’t take it. I’ll walk right back in and say you can’t do it. You shouldn’t feel like any less of a man for it. It’s okay your feelings are still tender, my boy,” she said patting his chest. “Nobody will think less of you.”
He groaned in exasperation. Fantastic. Now he’d look like a fucking pussy if he backed down.
Whatever. Worse things to look like in life than a pussy, even for a born fighter like him. Not sure which ones were those, but he was sure there ought to be.
He turned around and began walking away.
“Michael, if you leave, we have to cancel the class. The whole course probably. If we cancel, she won’t get paid. She needs the cash. She’s in trouble, my boy. I heard in two days—”
“Don’t want to hear it,” he said through gritted teeth.  
He didn’t want to hear a damn fucking word. Not a one. The sight of her and Sam was painful enough. He didn’t need a soundtrack to go with it, thank you very much.
He got in only a handful of steps more before he stopped and let out a low, pissed-off growl.
“Mike, please,” he heard his grandma say.
He slung his head forward.
Fuck. Shit. Crap.
He hated being played, but for the life of him he couldn’t walk away knowing he would be directly responsible for making Kyra’s situation more difficult. And why that mattered to him after all that had gone down, he couldn’t fathom. Well, he could; he was a moron in dear need of an express lobotomy. Pronto.
After a long pause, his back still facing his grandmother, he muttered, “I thought you said this was volunteer work.”
“For you it is. I’ve donated your pay to the Church.”  
He shook his head. He was so going to regret this.
God protect the unsuspecting soul that would spar with him in the gym later on. He was going to have so much pent-up aggression he would annihilate the poor bastard.
He turned around. “Just this once,” he said as sternly as he could muster. “You better find a substitute for next time. I don’t care if you have to make do with Mr. Honbacker and his kinky teeth or Mr. Stilt and his prostate. You either get someone else next time, or your classes will be cancelled. You hear me?”
She beamed. “Yeah, yeah. I hear you.”   
He drew in a deep breath, and walked back inside.
He could do mature.
The second his gaze landed on Kyra, he felt his cock stir. Jesus fucking Christ. Didn’t the little fucker have a smidgen of dignity?
Apparently not.
He should not only be lobotomized, he should be castrated too.
They stared at each other for a long second.
Man, she was still the most beautiful woman in the world.
How the fuck was he going to pull this off?
“Mike,” Kyra greeted, her voice clipped.
She wasn’t happier than he was at this moment. She was standing stiff, throwing glances to the door as if she were to bolt at any second. But he knew she wouldn’t. Like him, she’d always had a soft spot for his grandmother. She might need the money, but he bet she would be running out the door if this little gig didn’t involve his grandmother. Or maybe not. Who the fuck knew her now. Certainly not him. He wondered if he ever did.
Shaking those thoughts away, he nodded in her general direction. His cock too. 
Fuck, shit, crap. He had to get the fuck out of here.
He threw a dirty glance to his grand mother, who now was shamelessly smiling.
“Let’s get cracking,” the evil woman said, grabbing him by the arm and pushing him forward. “Come stand here in front of Kyra.”
He looked up, chanced another look at Kyra and his dick twitch again. Oh hell. These boxers were no barrier. At all. They were going to start tenting in three... two... one.
Well, if his cock burst straight through his pants and gave a collective hard attack to her friends, his grandmother would have no one to blame but herself. Then again, sending half the senior population in Alden to the ER would be a hell of a way to end his Friday. He would never live that one down.
He took in a slow breath, and reaching deep inside into the place where he kept it all locked away, he released every ounce of pain that came hand in hand with Kyra, allowing the memories to flood into his mind. And with that, he felt his dick retreating into himself.
Now, he could do this.  
Copyright © Elle Aycart 2013

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Max's book

 Hi everyone, I got tons of requests for this, so here you have it. Just keep in mind it's a rough, unedited version that may be subject to change. I hope you enjoy it. Kisses, Elle

                                                           Chapter 1
 "You know, if the idea behind a midnight wedding was to discourage people from attending, I think we can fairly say it hasn't worked," Annie heard coming from behind her.
 Shit, she'd been already made out. Damn.
 She whirled around so fast, she not only got a dizzy spell but lost her footing and almost fell from the hammock she was sitting on.  
 Thank God someone with a very strong grip reached to steady her. "Wow, careful there."
 As she regained her balance, Annie lifted her gaze to find Max Bowen, the groom's younger brother, smirking at her.
She brought her hand to her thumping heart. "Jeez, you scared me, Max."
"Sorry," he said sheepishly, his eyes sparkling with amusement. "What are you doing here?"
 They were in the unlit part of the garden, as far away from the wedding reception as possible without actually leaving the Bowen's property.
"I'm in hiding. Go away," she shooed him, peeking behind him to make sure no one had followed Max. "You always have a string of girls attached to your hip. Soon they are going to be all giggling around here, drawing attention, and I don't want to be discovered just yet."
 Her duties as bride's maid were all done, Tate and James were already on their way to their honeymoon; she could disappear in good conscience.
"Hey," he said, sounding offended. "I may be in need of hiding for a while too."
She gave him a disbelieving look. "You? Why?"
Max went around the hammock, loosened his tie and unfastening the first button of his shirt, sat beside her. "Why? Because my ass has been pinched so many times tonight I swear I can barely feel it anymore."
Annie stifled a giggle. "Your ass is sore?"
"Like you wouldn't believe it," he said, breathing out slowly and running his hand through his shoulder-length hair.
She locked eyes with his, realizing too late he was currently smiling less than three inches away from her face, and the sight of him all but knocked the wind out of her. Jeez, Max in faded old jeans and a tee was breathtaking. In a tuxedo? A total heart stopper.
She wasn't too fond of blond men, but Max was in a league all of his own. With model-perfect masculine factions, wicked green eyes and his usual five-day golden stubble, Max was sexy like hell. Add to his Hollywood looks his laidback disposition, his kick-ass body and rogue smile, and well, it was almost impossible not to drool in his presence, which the charming devil knew very well and played to its full advantage.
She managed to break eye contact. "I think the Eternal Sun resort senior contingent from Florida might be the one primarily responsible for your ass condition." She got both Mister Bowen and Tate's mom lived down there -- were neighbors actually--, but they should have never told the other residents about the wedding. The Bowen brothers were popular enough in the Boston greater area, no need to bring reinforces from the south.
 "Probably," Max mussed. "I guess I should just count my lucky stars those ladies are on the short side and can't reach my nipples, huh?"
Annie broke in laughter. God, Max was such a clown. Although on that one he might be right.
"I hear they catered a bus and made regular stops along the way from Florida to Boston to pick up their granddaughters and nieces."
 And who could blame them? It was not every day that one of the Bowen brothers got married so the standard guest plus1 had transformed into guest plus10. Not to mention the groom's wedding party alone was a sight to behold. All those hunks in tailored tuxedos. Standing tall and proud and yummy. Talk about eye candy.
 Max sighed. "I bet they did. This is the first wedding I attend where are more people crashing the damn event than actual guests. James should have hired his own security company to guard the place."
He should have, but he was so over the moon lately, he probably hadn't thought about anything else besides putting his ring on Tate's finger.
Max seemed to be able to read her. "Yeah, I know my brother is in married-man bliss, but there is Cole and I to protect. Well, ok, just me now that Cole is engaged," he conceded with a rueful grin. "But seriously, with how fiercely protective Cole is of Christy, and the mean right hook she's developed against certain bitches, I'd say some guests would have thanked the extra protection too."
"Please, Christy is a pussycat." Although Annie sure relished the yellowish remnants of the black eye Rose was still sporting, which, by the way, she'd totally deserved. "And you don't need protection from women, Max."
 If anything it was the other way around. He was the ultimate ladies' man. He'd never hurt for female attention before, but now with James married and Cole engaged, Max was getting so much action he was gorging on it.
His cheeky grin broke over his face. "True, under normal circumstances, but that back there is a bit overwhelming, even for me."
Annie rolled her eyes, and was about to answer, when suddenly Max moved, making the hammock rock like crazy. "What are you doing?" she squeaked, gripping the net hard.
"Lying down. I need to give a respite to my poor, abused ass. Come on," he said patting the spot near him. "Lay down with me. I don't bite."
Oh, she wasn't so sure about that.
She eyed warily the net. OK, forget the spiky high heels she was wearing and the skin tight bridesmaid dress, which was the shit yet didn't allow for much movement, but she'd spent 3 hours in the beauty saloon getting her unruly mop of hair all pinned up and adorned with dozens of tiny white flowers. "If my hairdo gets entangle in that, I won't be able to yank it free without looking like the modern version of Medusa."
"Here." He stretched his arm and offered it as a pillow.  
Annie wasn't sure this was a good idea, but she was so tired. "I'm not that great with hammocks. I may roll us both over."
He chuckled. "I'm a professional stuntman, Annie. I think I can handle a hammock."
 Well, he had a point there. She'd seen him on the big screen doing the craziest things. Not to mention his fondness for extreme sports.
"I'll keep us steady. Come on, you're messing with the gravity center sitting there."
She faltered for just a second, then shrugged. "Fine. But I'm a klutz. Don't come crying to me when we find ourselves on the grass, mister Hotshot Stuntman," she said as she slowly moved to lay besides him.
It was a two-person hammock, but he was so big and his shoulders were so damn broad, he took more than his fair share of space. She rested her neck on his muscular arm and tried to keep her body at a distance from his, but he was much heavier and her whole left side ended up glued to his right.
"Comfy?" he asked.
Actually, yes, but that was beside the point.
"Hmm..." She tried separating herself from him, but gravity and his massive body worked against her and the more she moved away, the more the net bounced her right back against Max.
"Not that I'm complaining, but you're rubbing against me. Anything you want to tell me, miss Shawn?" he asked, his words laced with laughter.
This was the closest she'd ever been to Max, and in spite of herself, his low deep rumble had all her girly parts tingling, which was totally inappropriate because Max was eight years younger than she was.
She cleared her throat, trying to sound outraged. "Of course not. Besides, you're way too young for me." Not to mention that at age 35, Annie was a good decade older than the women Max usually dated.
Max snorted, amused. "Sure, you're ancient. Now stop squirming, Ace. You could break your femur, and at your old age any fracture could be fatal."
She saw the smirk on his face and went for elbowing him, but there was not enough space between them to get a good jab in.
 "Watch it. In your advanced condition you can as easily dislocate a shoulder. I hear all one has to do is sneeze and there it goes the hip."
 "Oh please. Just shut up," she said unable to contain her laughter.
Annie hadn't had much contact with Max before, but since Tate and Holly had started to hang out together, and Christy and Cole had become and item, the Bowen brothers and their crew had ceased to be a bunch of gorgeous guys you admired from afar, and had become a permanent fixture in her life. It was hard to get used to such overabundance of panty creamers, but she was copping. With the casual panic attack but she was copping.
Still chuckling, he pinned her by his side and turned his gaze to the sky. "Settle down and look up, Ace."
Bossy guy, she thought but she found herself obliging him.
"Wow," she whispered as took in the view.
"Everything looks better from a hammock, doesn't it?"
Sure it did. "I'm going to take one to the Friday night outdoors cinema instead of sitting on those wooden chairs. The Arnie marathon they are running won't be better, but at least the hammock will improve my viewing experience."
"Yep," he said. "I hear they are preparing a Mel Gibson marathon for next year."
"Well, that's marginally better."
His low voice rumbled in the night. "How you figure that?"
"More rom-coms, less commando shit. Plus I could stand to see his milky white ass once more in Braveheart."
She felt him turn to her and shake his head.
Max lowered a foot to the ground and kicked it, rocking gently the hammock.
They laid there in silence for a long while, enjoying the view.  She probably should be more freaked about lying there with Max Bowen, but the truth of the matter was she didn't have enough energy to get herself worked out.
Today had been a very hectic day. The wedding had been beautiful and everything had gone according to plan --more or less-- but it had been taxing, and for a while there she'd felt dizzy and out of breath from the excitement and the place being packed. And then it had been the cake too.  Annie loved cake, even riskee ones, but she must have eaten the poisoned piece intended for Tate -- or Christy-- because boy did the little sucker repeat on her. Now though, lying there away from the crowd, with her gaze up on the black sky and the gently rocking, she felt totally relaxed and at ease.
"The wedding was beautiful," she mumbled without turning to him.
"Aunt Maggie and Tate's mom really thought of everything."
Her lips quirked in a slow smile. "Except for the electrified fence around the yard."
Max chuckled. "Yes, except for that. I could have done without the impromptu conga line afterwards during the reception too."
 Annie laughed. "Come on, Max, you rocked the conga line."
He snorted but said nothing about that.
It had been one of the highlights of the night, only second to seeing Tate all but running down the aisle and kissing the living lights out of James before the priest had gotten a word in.  
 "So, why are you in hiding?" he asked turning his captivating gaze to her. God that the guy was stunning.  And of course at this close distance, there was all this olfactory and tactile data to deal with. Even in his relaxed position, Max's body was hard and rigged, oozing masculinity and testosterone. His smell, a mixture of aftershave, clean sweat and a hint of tobacco from the cigar James had given him, was so male it had all her girly parts jumping in excitement, which was so inappropriate in so many levels she wasn't even going to think about it.  
She sighed and turned her face up to the sky. "I've been long enough in the dating arena to know when your date starts talking about himself in third person, it's time to hide."
The hammock shook with his muffled laughter. His hard body too.
"Not to mention the more he drinks, the more arms he grows. And the more his eyes bulge every time he sees a pair of boobs. It's bad enough that he has spent the last two hours talking to my nipples, but ogling other women goodies on top of that? Gross."
Steven was a co-worker from her office with whom she'd gone out twice this last month. The first date didn't turn out too bad, so she'd given it a second go. Bad, bad idea.  
He tsked. "Moron. Doesn't he know your goodies are the best?"
She felt her face flame. Then she realized what he was probably referring to. "You are talking about the candy basket from the fundraiser, right?"
A couple of weeks ago, for the annual town's fundraising dinner, her candy shop had donated a basket of gourmet candy which Max had bid on and won.
He winked at her. "Those goodies too."
She shook her head. God, he was such a shameless flirt. Gorgeous, charming, easy going. Pity when it came to women, he had the attention span of a hummingbird on crack. Not that it mattered to her. Not only was he totally out of her league, but there was the age difference to contend with. 8 years might not seem much, but in mindsets, they were light years apart. At age 35 Annie was ready to settle and marry and Max was..., well Max was most definitely not. Max was not playing the field; he owned the damned thing.
"Behave," she admonished him.
"I am, Ace. I am," he said in a chuckle. "I have been meaning to tell you those chocolate things were fucking fantastic."
"You liked them?"
He nodded. "Don't misunderstand me, the traditional sweets are great, but this new shit you are bringing... mouth watering. I'm going to go to see you one of these afternoons to get more."
  Annie smiled, pleased as all hell. She'd inherited her mom's little candy shop two years ago, when she'd decided to marry Larry and move with him to Alaska. Although she already had an office job in Boston, she hadn't wanted to close the place down, so she'd hired a girl to work there in the mornings and Annie took care of the afternoons.
As the shop had been barely turning a profit, she'd decided to upgrade the whole concept and along with jelly beans and candy canes she decided to go for a more sophisticated line sporting gourmet chocolates and truffles from Brussels, strawberries with champagne and white chocolate frosting, and all sort of products for special occasions.
"Remember to come ready to tweet."
He winked at her. "Don't worry. Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, the whole shebang. How did you come up with the whole concept by the way?"
"Honestly? I didn't. Christy did."
  One day brainstorming while chatting through internet with Christy about how to reach more customers, her friend had come up with the idea of using Twitter, so the shop "Sweets" had become "Sweets and Tweets" and the clients got a 5% discount if they tweeted on the spot about the goodies they were buying.
Word got out about the new products and in no time they had people coming from Boston to get their sugar fixes or for special dates. Last year for Valentine's Day it had been crazy, the queue had gone all the way to the street and around the corner.
Max smiled. "My future sister-in-law is a charming geek."
"That she is." Annie and Christy had met in college and had kept in contact ever since. A bit over six months ago she took a sabbatical from her job as a software engineer and moved temporarily from LA to Alden to get away from her cheating fiance. Now she was engaged to Cole Bowen and run Alden's library. Funny how things changed.
They swung in silence for a while longer.
She'd been afraid lying with Max, playboy extraordinaire, was going to feel weird, but somehow and in spite of his flirting, it didn't.  
"So, I have to ask; how often you end up in hiding during your dates?"
She snorted. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
She would be hiding in the bathroom right now if she would be sure that Women Only sign would somehow stop self-absorbed Pompous Ass from entering.
Annie was an active dater, an optimist one would say. Yeah the world was full of frogs, but there were princes out there and you just had to persevere until you found yours. Easier said than done though. A romantic at heart, she'd always believed everyone got his or her happily ever after, but with the luck she'd had lately, and all the frogs she'd had to deal with, she'd begun to believe everyone just didn't include her.
"You're dating the wrong guys."
Didn't she know that.
Not that he would understand her predicament. The guy went through women like through potato chips. Charming girls out of their pants as if it were an Olympic sport. Although Annie hadn't heard a single complain from the female population. Far from it. 
"What about the stud gala? Did you end up in hiding there too?"
Annie stilled. "How did you know about the gala?"
"You kidding me? I heard Cole grumbling about you guys buying the gala invitation for Christy. Then I had to listen Tate complain about not getting one. And then James growling and threatening Elle if she did."
She cleared her throat. "That hadn't been a date but no, I didn't end up in hiding then."
No sir, not at all.
"Guys, what are you doing there?"
Annie turned her head to see Christy and Cole approaching.
"His ass was hurting and he needed to lay down," Annie blurted, tensing. Under somebody else's scrutiny, lying there with Max felt suddenly awkward.
"What?" Christy asked confused, letting go of Cole's hand as they reached Annie and Max.
"Never mind," she mumbled, clumsily hauling herself up and out of the hammock. Max followed her much more gracefully, holding her when her wobbly legs and the whole rocking made her falling on her face a very distinct possibility.
"How's it going?" Max asked his brother. "Is the party winding down already?"
Cole looked toward the reception and grimaced.
"Nope," he muttered. Then he turned to Christy. "We are eloping."
 She smiled wide. "Sure, let's elope to Vegas."
Cole's expression tightened. "I'm not getting hitched by Elvis, sweet thing," he warned, wrapping his arm over her shoulder and bringing her front to his side.
"Who said anything about Elvis, honey? I was thinking more along the lines of Captain Kirk."
"So not happening."
Christy, bless her heart, ignored him and smiled even wider. "Or Spock. We could book the Star Trek package, marry with a Vulcan and a Klingon as witnesses. And wire the chapel so that our friends could follow the wedding through internet. Wouldn't that be a blast?"
He kissed her hard, then whispered in her lips. "I love you, baby, but no fucking way." If his expression was anything to go by, it was a good thing Cole loved Christy to pieces, because sure as hell he wasn't a man to be led by his dick, much less into a Star Trek wedding.
"Elope all you want, but I'm organizing your bachelor party. Imagine all I could do with Vegas as the backdrop," Max said, to which Cole grimaced even stronger.
"Here you are," Annie heard coming from behind them.
Shit. Steven aka Pompous Ass. Her stomach roiled and realization dawned. Oh god, the spell of sickness she'd experienced during the reception? Apparently it had nothing to do with the crowded yard or the cake. She'd reached a milestone -- her dates were physically making her sick. Way to go. 
Max came closer and whispered. "Is this the guy?"
She nodded and turned to Steven, who was obnoxiously grinning.
 "Ready to dance with the king of the night, darling?"
 He was now close enough and his sugary smell reached her. Nausea rose in her belly. Trying not to cringe, she took a step forward, frantic for an excuse, when suddenly someone tugged at her hand from behind.
 "Sorry man," Max said. "The prettiest girl in this wedding owes me a couple of dances and I'm ready to collect."
 Max twirled her around, and wound her in, a wink in his face. "Let's give him a show," he whispered to her. Before she could react, Max wrapped his hand around her neck, the other around her waist and bending her exaggeratedly backwards, placed his lips over hers.
She hadn't regained her breath and her bearings when he pulled her back up and spun her around again.
Oh God, too much movement.
"I'm not feeling too good," she managed to let out a second before bending over and throwing up all over Max's shoes.


"OK, spit it out, Annie," Holly prompted. "If memory serves me well, Ben switching teams on you had been a DEFCON3 emergency, I truly have no clue what possible planetary disaster DEFCON1 could refer to."
 Trying not to hyperventilate, she let out those two tiny words, the ones that had her freaked out of her ever loving mind.
Holly's ass plopped unto the chair, Sophie's eyes all but popped from her sockets and Christy's jaw dropped to the table.
 "Definitely DEFCON1," Christy mumbled.
“Pregnant? What do you mean pregnant?” Holly asked, stupefied.
“Pregnant,” Annie choked out. “As in knocked up.”
“Oh God,” Sophie let out.
“How? When? Who?” Then before Annie could answer, not that she was too eager to answer anyway, Holly continued, "Please don't tell me it's Steven's."
At least there was that; a positive side of this whole mess she hadn't thought of.
"Eww. You nuts? I didn't have sex with Steven."
 Her friends let out a collective relieved breath.
"Thank God," Holly muttered.
 She'd been about to chide them for even thinking she'd had sex with him after just two dates, but she saw the irony in her predicament and decided to bite her tongue.
"If it isn't his then...?" Christy asked, motioning with her hand for her to go on.
Annie cleared her throat. “Remember the gala a while back?” she mumbled in a grimace. "The nice Italian escort I met there? Luigi?"
Complete silence.
Annie had attended in Christy's place to the yearly gala that, the most prestigious escort agency in Boston, had hosted a month ago in the Ritz Carlton downtown. The girls had managed to buy an invitation for Christy's birthday, after her vow of getting professionally laid, but once Cole had heard about it, he'd put a damper to the whole plan, so they drew straws and surprise, surprise, Annie had won.
"You're shitting me," someone mumbled.
Annie shook her head. No, she wasn't shitting them. She wished she was, but she wasn't.
It had been a great night. A magical one with all those candle lights, the fine food, the expensive champagne, the great company. It turned out was much more than a gigolo agency. Their escorts were highly sought after and traveled all over the country accompanying clients, some of them very powerful people, to high profile events. They were not only gorgeous, but they were extremely well educated and charming.  One of the escorts she'd met that night was a dark-haired handsome man by the name of Luigi. One thing let to another and well, she did most definitely not end up hiding in the bathroom.
Holly cursed. “What about the whole stash of condoms I placed in your purse? Didn’t you think of using them?”
“I used condoms, I swear I did.”
“How did you exactly use them, sweetheart?”
“What do you mean how did I use them? How does one use condoms? Are there several different ways of using them?” Annie asked, out of breath, her tone of voice rising. She was freaking out. Big time. But all and all she thought she was entitled to. “I certainly didn’t put them on my head as new-age hats.”
"Did it break?"
She shook her head. Of course it didn't. If it would have, she would have gone to get the Morning after Pill and she wouldn't be currently about to pass out.
Sophie tried to calm her down. “Are you sure it’s not a false alarm?”
Annie shook her head. “No false alarm. Five predictors and two blood tests confirm it. I’m pregnant up to my eyeballs,” she said as she, very ineffectively, gave herself air with a napkin. Damn hot flashes. For the past 2 weeks, she'd been having so many of those she'd even considered going to the doc to make sure she hadn't entered some sort of freaky early menopause. Talk about irony, uh?
“How did this happen?” Holly asked.
“The usual way?”
"Not helping, sweetie." Holly chastised Sophie with a look, and then turned to Annie. “If you used condoms, how did you get pregnant?”
And here it was when it got embarrassing. “Well, it seems there’s an infinitesimal chance of getting knocked up if you start rolling the condom on, realize it’s inside out and then turn it the right way. Drops of precum get onto the outside of the condom, and voilĂ , if the semen is of quality and has great mobility, you’re in deep shit.” Annie looked at them, fidgeting. “I was a bit nervous, and there wasn’t too much light…”
Man, she should have left the logistical details to the pro.
After all the head shaking she'd done when women in her office got pregnant out of carelessness and look at her; knocked up on a technicality.
Sophie whistled. “Wow, some super-duper power sperm those studs have, uh?”
“Tell me about it,” Annie mumbled. Well, at least they could say for sure Tate and James's wedding cake hadn't been poisoned.
“Could it be someone else’s?” Christy asked.
“It’s either Luigi’s or an immaculate conception.”
The good thing about getting laid so seldom was that she could pinpoint with 100% accuracy the conception date, which meant that if her baby was as anal as she was, he or she should be born on the early hours of the 6th of April.
Holly cleared her throat. “I hate to say this, honey, and I know these guys are the best of the best, but did you get checked for diseases?”
“Yeah, no STDs." That was what she'd done first thing after she'd found out about her pregnancy. And hadn't that been fun, explaining to Alden's only doctor, the same one that had treated her all her life, why she needed testing for STDs right after he told her she was pregnant. "All I got from the super stud is a baby.”
"Well, at least you had a valid excuse for throwing up all over Max the other night," Christy mumbled.
 Annie cringed at the memory. So embarrassing. Talk about making an ass out of herself. The most sought after bachelor in the whole state was being sweet and offering her a way out so that she wouldn't have to go with Steven and what did she do in exchange? She'd puked her brains out all over his shoes, messing his pants with splatters too. Well, on the flip side, the second she'd started throwing up her so attentive date had all but run in the opposite direction.
Max had been very nice and understanding though. He'd even joked that if he would have been saddled with a date like Steven, he would have been puking too.
“Does Luigi know about any of this?”
“Nope. And I never got a last name, so I don't know how to contact him.” Or even if she wanted to.
 Annie had been high on the glamour of the night and she'd been dazzled by Luigi, who was so not what she'd expected. He wasn't a young buff stud with more muscles than brains. No, he'd been in his mid-late thirties, sophisticated, elegant and a great conversationalist. She wasn't a knock-out, but she knew she was pretty enough. And so far her body was holding its own against gravity and time, if one could ignore the expansionist tendencies of her ass. Still, Luigi favoring her company had kind of blown her mind and in between that and the alcohol, well she'd just let go. In the morning though she'd panicked and much to her shame, had run out on the guy before he even woke up, because how the hell was she supposed to face the proverbial morning-after when you sleep with a professional escort on his spare time? Well, at least she thought it was on his spare time and for free, she wouldn't even dare considering he'd been working and she'd skimmed him his fee. That was just too much.
"It seems Italian escorts are in fashion, because apparently have 46 Luigis on staff. I'm going to have to ask them for pictures," Annie said.
If the conversation at the doc had been fun, she shuddered to think about the one with the stud agency receptionist.
She may never find Luigi again, and she couldn't say she felt particularly sorry about it, after all, she didn't know the guy. But again, a man had the right to know he was a father. Not to mention the thought of raising a kid all by her own sucker punched her. Money was not an issue; she had a good job, the shop was doing well, and she still had almost untouched the trust fund her paternal grandparents had set for her. They hadn't trusted her flimsy father and thank god they didn't, because the man was already on his fifth bimbo wife, who was bleeding him dry like the others before her.
So financially she was covered, but there were more things to consider when having a baby and raising it by herself. Some mornings it took her forever to decide whether she wanted to have cornflakes or Honey Puffs, how the hell was she going to choose a school for the kid? He or she would be in junior high by the time she'd made up her mind.
  "You know, I somehow envisioned differently embracing motherhood. Not at age 35, without a partner, and knocked up by a gigolo that may or may not be called Luigi."
After all, maybe Luigi was just his stage name.
"Well, it beats the hell out of a sperm bank, which is what I can see in my future," Holly muttered.
They were silent for a while, then Annie sighed. “I’m so screwed, guys. I'm a forensic accountant. What do I know about kids?"
"Well, you own a candy store, I'd say you're already ahead," Christy offered.
Well, there was that too.
"I should have never gotten up on that flower pot after you. You got the good stuff. I got... backlash."
Annie covered her face with her hands. “This is so unfair; you and Cole are the ones humping like rabbits all the time. Me? It was just once. One little shag. Why me? The universe hates me.”
“Wait a second. What do you mean once only? Wasn’t he, you know, up for a rematch?”
“It was good, don’t misunderstand me, but let’s just put it this way; it looks like when an over-priced European escort isn’t working, he starts snoring after the deeds.”
“Are you sure he was a member of Studs® and not some nutcase impersonating a stud, like in True Lies?” Sophie asked.
Oh crap, she hadn't thought of that possibility. Annie panicked for a second, then shook her head. “No, can’t be. He knew everyone there.”
True Lies?” Holly asked.
“You know, the waiter in that Arnie movie True Lies, the one that got chicks by impersonating to be a spy?” Sophie explained.
Christy frowned. “A waiter? Wasn’t he a car salesman? I–”
“People, people. Concentrate,” Holly interrupted, out of patience. "I told you to cut on the outdoor cinema." She turned to Annie. “Are you going to keep it?”
She looked at her friends. “Forget the fact I'm 35 and my clock is ticking. What are the chances of getting pregnant like this? One in a frigging billion. This baby hasn't been born yet and it's already a damn superhero. Of course I’m keeping it.”
 Copyright Elle Aycart 2013