I guess it's a "Slow News" day, here at Casa Forte
. Or did you really want to hear about my plumbing crisis instead?
Yeah. Didn't think so. lol!
So here's a promo and excerpt. You know, sometimes I forget how much I really like this book and these characters. Enjoy!
Let Me Count The Ways
By: PG Forte | Other books by PG Forte
Published By: Liquid Silver Books
ISBN # 9781595784070
Word Count: 66391
Available in: Adobe Acrobat
, Microsoft Reader
, HTML, Mobipocket
About the bookAs the owner of The Body Electric, LA's hottest new exercise studio, sexy, former film star Claire Calhoun has her pick of studly young men eager to do her bidding. Small wonder she's used to calling the shots, both in and out of bed. But everything changes the night the actress-turned-entrepreneur has one mojito too many at a party and decides it would be fun to pick up her accountant, Mike Sherman. She's thinking fling. He's thinking forever. Claire has been Mike's fantasy since the first time he saw her bare it all for the camera. Now, she's in his bed and he'll do whatever's necessary to keep her there. But he's not a stalker, right? He's just a devoted fan.
An excerpt from the book
I guess you could say I fell for Claire Calhoun the first time I saw her up there on the big silver screen. I don't know what it was about her that affected me so strongly. Maybe it was the Titian hair. The sultry shimmer in those hazel, hellcat eyes. The curve of her lips when she turned and smiled right at the camera--right at me
. Whatever it was, it was simply ... stunning. Literally. It hit me hard and low and just wouldn't quit.
She looked like an angel with all that California sunshine spilling down around her; like sweet, lust-inducing innocence dipped in honey. A vision straight from some Garden of Earthly Delights.
But if her face was made for heaven, everything south of that had been built with a far different destination in mind. Her body was sinful enough to tempt even a saint into straying. Happily. Right through the gates of Hell. And I'm far from being a saint.
Despite my on-going fascina tion with the woman, I'd just like to state for the record that I never deluded myself into believing we had a relationship. Claire could have been as fictional as any of the characters she played for all the good I figured it was ever going to do me. There had to be at least a million other guys in the world who wanted her as badly as I did and I knew any number of them were more likely than I to even meet her. Not that it stopped me from dreaming, of course. But dreaming, fantasizing, collecting memorabilia--along with copies of every one of her films I could get my hands on--that's as far as it went.
For a while, Claire's name was box office magic. Everything she touched turned golden. But then a string of unsuccessful movies and even less successful relationships caused her star to plummet. These days, her screen appearances are mostly limited to round-ups subtitled 'Where Are They Now?
To me, however, Claire would always be a major star, a full blown fantasy, a lush and lovely dream come true. Which is why I could scarcely believe my eyes the day she walked into my office hoping to secure my services as accountant to her new exercise studio, The Body Electric.
To say I was star-struck in her presence is to understate the case by a very, very wide margin. I was hopelessly tongue-tied, socially inept, and all but physically impaired by the kind of hard-on most men my age have given up expecting to achieve without pharmaceutical assistance. It still surprises me that we both made it through that first meeting; that I didn't embarrass myself any worse than I had; that she didn't bolt for the door after spending less than five minutes in my bumbling presence.
Luckily for me, I had come highly recommended by Claire's attorney, Dave Gillen. Dave, who'd recently extricated Claire from marriage number six and brokered the deal that allowed her to walk away with enough money to start her business in the first place, w as also one of my oldest clients.
Claire trusted Dave, Dave trusted me, and the rest, as they say, is history...
* * * * Chapter One
Yoga is not easy,
so the Bhagavad Gita
warns, for those whose minds are not subdued
. But I can tell you, it's pretty damn hard for any of us. Especially after forty.
I suppose I shouldn't say such things. After all, Yoga did save my life. I turned to it in much the same way Tina turned to Buddhism after Ike. Married to a cruel, emotionally distant man, my career, my health, my looks, my self esteem had all hit the skids. Yoga offered me a way out, a way back. It offered sanity, peace of mind, discipline, and the courage I needed to pick myself up and turn my life around.
That's why I used the money I got in my divorce settlement to open The Body Electric. I wanted to give something back, to share the blessings I'd received, to support myself by working a t something I could still believe in. Still, as the Gita says, it's not easy. Of course, the same can be said of pretty much anything; business, relationships, life itself. There are days, and today was definitely one of them, when it all seems damn near impossible.
Standing in front of the floor-to-ceiling smoked glass that lined one entire wall of my second-floor office, I watched the class working out in the studio below me. A dozen and a half youthful beauties--mostly female--twisted their bodies into pretzels. Willingly. Eagerly. Effortlessly.
The first two were something I could completely understand and totally empathize with, given that their instructor was Derek Novello. Derek has some of the most beautiful musculature I've ever seen. And I've seen a lot. What woman wouldn't be eager to give her all for a piece of that? But the effortless part--now, that's where they had me beat. That's what had me feeling every last year of my age today.
How many years, you wonder? Well, sorry to disappoint you, but there are some things I just don't share. Age is nothing but a number, you know, and a girl's entitled to keep a few secrets.
Derek is the most popular teacher we have here, which is saying rather a lot. Especially when you consider that his classes are also among the hardest we offer. He's tough enough to challenge the men to push themselves to their limits, charming enough to make the women want to melt--into those same willing pretzels I've mentioned.
Tireless, talented, passionate, intense. Derek brings everything he has to his teaching. For almost five months, he brought most of it to our lovemaking, too. All but his heart. That, I suppose, was par for the course, and frankly I wasn't expecting anything more. These older woman/younger man things rarely last long and are almost never about love. I knew the moment it was over. Probably before he did. I could tell right away that Derek's heart had been lost to a pretty blonde pretzel.
Still, I really can't complain. I've been dumped before, but never so discreetly. To the casual observer I'm sure it appeared that I'd tired of him, rather than the other way around. I think even the pretzel was confused. And, in the months since our affair ended, I'd discovered another reason to be thankful. I no longer have to take even one of his classes. I can't tell you what a relief that's been!
At least I still look fit,
I thought, taking a step back so that I could see my reflection in the glass. I sucked in my tummy, tucked in my buns, pivoted from side to side. "Not bad," I murmured as I thrust back my shoulders and studied my breasts, wondering how much longer I could get away without having them lifted. "But you're not what you used to be, that's for sure." Still, things could be worse, and no doubt they will be, in time.
"Nonsense," a male voice insisted from somewhere behind me. "You're as beautiful as ever."
I spun around, startled to find Mike Sherman
watching from the doorway--which just goes to show you the kind of funk I'd been in all day. I'd totally forgotten his standing, bi-monthly appointment to go over the books, three p.m. every other Thursday.
"Sorry," he mumbled, his face flaming. "I didn't mean to intrude."
"Don't be silly." Calling on all my training to hide my own embarrassment, I rolled my eyes and grimaced slightly. "Actors, you know." I waved my hand in a negligent gesture as I seated myself--not in my chair but on the edge of my desk--where my crossed legs would appear to their best advantage.
"We're always so focused on appearances." And ain't that the truth?
"Well, you have to be, don't you? The same way singers have to take care of their voices." He looked so sincere as he said it too. As if he really might mean it.
"What a nice way of putting it." I beamed at him as he crossed the room to his own desk. "How are things with you, Mike? How's your day going?"
He didn't answer right away. A small smile played over his lips as he slid his briefcase beneath the desk and seated himself. Then he glanced up at me, his eyes twinkling. "It's always a good day when I know I'm going to see you, Claire. Don't you know that?"
"Flatterer." Laughing, I leaned forward a little, just enough to flash some cleavage in his direction. Call it a reward, if you will. "You have all the right answers today, don't you?"
If they ever make a movie of my life, no doubt they'll get someone like Danny DeVito
to play the part of Mike, which will be a shame. Don't get me wrong, I think Danny is a fine actor and he's got the bald head, the soulful brown eyes and the teddy bear physique the part calls for. He'll do a fine job of catching the nervous, slightly awkward exuberance Mike exhibited when we first met. But there's so much more to the role than that.
For starters, Mike is big. Brian Denehy big. With Denehy's surprising gracefulness--when he's not acting all nervous. Mike, I mean. Then there's his impeccably trimmed beard, the wicked twinkle in his eye and his rare and wondrous smile, all of which bring Sean Connery
But, even though Sean would be a dream to work with, if I were casting for the part I'd go for something different. I'd pick someone like a young James Earl Jones, for example. For his eyes and his smile and his size. For his astonishing ability to shift from fearful to fierce, from stern to boyish, from gentle to regal to commanding to jovial--or back again, or all at once. But, more than anything else, for his voice. For that deep, dark, delicious river of sound that could never be anything but male and can't help but leave you wondering, why all the fuss about Tenors?
"It doesn't count as flattery if it's fact," Mike replied in that lovely, low rumble of his.
"Oh, fact, is it?" I couldn't help but smile as I recalled my recent conversation with Dave, my lawyer, over tapas and drinks. Dave had been pleased I'd taken his advice and gone to see Mike, but he'd seemed shocked by the deal we'd worked out...
"He's handling it himself?" Dave asked, looking up from his seared tuna, clearly having trouble coming to grips with the idea. "Didn't he assign you to one of the people who works for him? You don't have to bring your paperwork there? He just shows up at your office--himself--every month?"
"No, twice a month," I corrected, nibbling at the celery stalk that had come in my michelada. "Why? Isn't that what you told me to do--to hire someone reputable? Someone I could trust? You said he was the best."
"I know I did, but, damn it, Claire, he doesn't even do that for me anymore, and I was one of his very first clients! How much is he charging you, anyway?"
Surprised, I told him.
"Oh, hell, no," Dave replied, sounding almost insulted. "That's n othing!"
I sipped my drink and refrained from pointing out that, in my current financial state, it hadn't seemed quite like nothing to me. Then again, neither had Dave's fees. You get what you pay for, I suppose.
Dave's gaze had turned speculative. If he were anyone else, I know exactly what he'd have been thinking--that I must be giving Mike some additional form of compensation. Entirely too many people still confuse the terms 'actress' and 'prostitute'.
"He's a fan, Dave," I tried to explain. "It's not that uncommon." Although, these days, I'm afraid it really is.
But Dave had his own ideas. "You know what I think it is? He probably knows your business is too small to afford his usual rates yet. Probably he figures he can afford to give you a break because he's banking on the fact he can use your name to attract other Hollywood types."
"Well, that would be foolish," I sighed. I knew just how far my name would take him in Hollywood, even if Dav e didn't. It wouldn't even take him as far as it takes me. Which is close to nowhere anymore. "Maybe he's just being nice."
"Nice is no way to stay in business," Dave grumbled, which only made me laugh because Dave is one of the nicest people I know. "He probably doesn't want to pay one of his employees to work on an account he's not making any money on. I bet that's why he's doing it himself."
"I'm sure you're right," I murmured. One thing I've learned over the years is that there's no arguing with a man who's made up his mind about something. So why bother trying? Reason and logic are no match for sheer, pig-headed, male determination. And, when it turns out you were right all along, that'll just prove to him that you're a bitch. Directors are especially good at making that connection.
"It is," Mike insisted now. "Absolutely fact."
And I wasn't about to argue with him, either. Not just because he's a man. Not just because I didn't want him to re-think the great deal he was giving me, or assign my account to someone else. No, I had an even better reason than those.
Mike's a fan, no matter that Dave doesn't see it that way, and you never, ever argue with your fans. That's rule number one of being a celebrity. Fans are the lifeblood of our business. They're why we do what we do. They're the customer. They're always right. And you never
want to run the risk of their turning into Kathy Bates
* * * *
Amusement shimmered in Claire's eyes. "Whatever you say, Mike," she murmured as she slid off her desk. She stood there for a moment, staring absently, running her hands up and down her thighs in a way that couldn't help but focus my attention there.
All sorts of inappropriate thoughts followed. I had to clear my throat to relieve the tension there.
Claire started and smiled. "Well, I guess I'd better stop wasting your time
and let you get to work, huh?"
Her voice was tinged with regret as she said it. As though she really was
sorry. As though she'd like nothing better than to spend the rest of the day chatting with me. I loved that. Even though I knew it was an act, I loved the tinge and the implication that went with it. And I loved her all the more for that small gift of pretense. For taking the trouble to sound like that for me. For allowing me the tiny pleasure of pretending right along with her.
I nodded with mock gravity. "Yes, well, you know what they say. Time is money
." And was rewarded again when she flashed a swift smile in my direction before she turned and slipped into her seat.
Silence settled over the room as we both settled into our work.
I'm good at what I do. That's not bragging, it's just a fact. And Claire's account is simple, straightforward--boring work really--nothing I can't do ... well, pretty much in my sleep at this point. Which was lucky for both of us since, wi th the best will in the world, I still could not manage to keep my mind completely focused on what I was doing. Not with Claire seated in the same room with me, constantly re-igniting every fantasy I'd ever had about her.
She'd caught me off-guard with her question about my day. Since taking her on as a client, my life had become a surreal, slightly pathetic routine of counting. Every morning when I got up I automatically counted the days until I'd see her again. When every other Thursday rolled around, I counted the hours, and then the minutes. Finally, I counted the blocks I had to drive to get to her studio, the stairs I had to climb to reach her office.
And then there were most of my evenings. Nights when I could find no better way to occupy my time than to spend them conversing with her shadow in my mind. Or replaying our actual conversations. Remembering in detail each word, each look, each nuance. Weaving her every gesture into the fantasies I'd already spent years honing.
Well, what did you expect? I said it was pathetic, didn't I?
But I couldn't help it. I reveled in the knowledge that when she spoke my name, when she turned her head and saw me and smiled in greeting--her eyes shining, her whole face lighting up--that it was really me she was talking to and smiling at.
She hadn't been smiling when I arrived today, however. Her face, reflected in the glass, looked sad, vulnerable. I was pretty sure I knew why. It was him. Derek. Her former lover. The ... kid ... she'd recently broken up with. Or who'd broken up with her, if my suspicions were correct.
Which is not to say she didn't put on a great act, just like always, but I'd seen the way she looked at him--the way she was looking at him today through the windows in her office. I know what it's like to watch and want and worship from afar; to long for something you can never have. He'd moved on--that's how I read it--and Claire was putting the best f ace on it that she could. But it was all for show When she thought no one was looking, when she was alone, unobserved, that's when she let down her guard. That's when her real feelings shone though.
I would have liked to have said something more to comfort her, but what could I have said? Should I have told her it was all for the best? That she should have known better? He was too young for her. She was too good for him. It was doomed from the start. All true, but hardly likely to make her feel any better.
I could have told her that a woman like her shouldn't have to waste her time playing with boys. Not when there was a man around who could understand what she wants, what she needs...
But, no, what was I thinking? A woman like
Claire? Impossible. Such a creature doesn't exist. There's no one
like Claire. She's an original. She's in a class all her own.
"Are you doing anything later this evening?" Claire's voice broke into my reverie.
Startled, and pretty certain I was hearing things, I glanced at her. "I'm sorry ... what did you say?"
"I was wondering if you were busy tonight?" she said and then shook her head and smiled. "Sorry. I guess I'm thinking aloud again. It's just that a friend of mine has a new gallery. They're having an opening party tonight. She's sent me a bunch of invitations and I was wondering if you would be interested in attending?"
"A gallery opening? Tonight? Will you be there?"
Claire nodded. "I try to attend as many of these things as I can. This seems like a nice one ... cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, live music. But, it's short notice. You probably have other plans..."
"No, actually, I don't." The only thing I had going tonight was the start of a new countdown. Fourteen long days until the next time I'd see her. Or thirteen days, twenty-one hours and change, if you want to be exact. But so what? It would feel like a long time, that much I knew. Why would I not want to shave even a few hours off that total? "I'd love to go."