First, a note from the Author: Apparently Elona has a little trouble communicating with the great beyond (and I had a bit of trouble getting the message myself) because Brigitte Bardot is, indeed, very much alive and campaigning for animal rights (see the hair salon scene in ANGEL). Apparently when researching the perfect hair goddess for the hair salon scene in THE ANGEL TASTED TEMPTATION, switching out a few hair greats resulted in missing that tiny detail. As Elona says, “Honey, when the goddesses come callin’, I don’t ask ’em what area code they’re callin’ from. I’m just glad they dialed my number.”
And now, the excerpt from ANGEL!
One of the first things to greet Meredith Shordon to Boston was a man in a pair of Fruit of the Looms, playing a set of bongos.
She’d come here looking for a manbut not one like that.
Meredith stood in the middle of the bustling Airport subway stop and stared. Exactly like every other tourist beside her. If there was one thing she hadn’t wanted to do, it was look like a gaping Midwesterner who’d never seen a big city in her life.
Well, there went that plan.
Heck, she’d been gaping since she left Indiana. First, there’d been the quartet of Patriots’ fans who’d been on the second leg of her flight, returning from an out-of-town game. They’d brought the still ongoing celebration with them, from the red-and-blue stripes painted on their faces to the way they yelled “Go Pats!” at odd times, like they had a rare two-word form of Tourette’s Syndrome.
Then, the clouds had parted and revealed the massive skyline out the oval window of the jet. She’d forgotten the NFL fools behind her and stared at the massive stone behemoths of Boston’s skyline. It looked more like Neptune than Heavendale, Indiana, where she’d been a few short hours ago. There were none of the wide expanses of green land and patchwork quilts of farms she was used to.
She’d stopped staring long enough to get off the plane and through the overwhelming crush of people to meet her cousin’s friend, Maria Pagliano, and claim her baggage without looking too much like a bewildered farm girl.
The man tum-tummed on the two drums hanging from a leather strap around his neck, his long dark curly hair swinging in concert. He danced to the rhythm, a contented smile on his face, as if bongoing hit a high sex never could.
He caught Meredith’s stare, hit his bongos harder and thrust his slim hips to the left, toward a big white bucket with a handwritten sign that read, “Tips for the Hips.”
Meredith drew her caramel leather trench coat closer around her, resisting the urge to button up. She hadn’t seen a man this naked since she’d walked in on Bobby Reynolds getting his football physical at the end of senior year.
Unfortunately, she’d opened the locker room door right in the middle of his hernia screening.
For two years after that, she’d been unable to look Bobby in the face. Or eat pork products ever again.
“Don’t give a dime to Bongo Boy,” Maria said, grabbing Meredith’s arm and hauling her away from the skivvies sight. “He makes more than most investment bankers.”
“He does?” Meredith craned her head over Maria’s, casting one last look at Bongo Boy’s swiveling anatomy.
“He heard about that naked cowboy who plays guitar in New York”
“There’s a naked man playing guitar in New York?” Geez. She needed to travel more. Scratch that. Travel at all, considering this was only the second time in her life she’d left Indiana, if she even counted that trip to the Ohio State Fair.
And this time she hadn’t left. Exactly. More ran away. She’d abandoned a whole lot of people’s expectations, leaping at the chance for something new, exciting, different.
She just hadn’t expected the first exciting thing she saw to be a man in his tightie whities pounding out “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
“The Naked Cowboy isn’t really naked. I saw him once in Times Square.” Maria shook her head, clearly disappointed. “I tell you, there’s no truth in advertising anymore.”
The instant she’d met her, Meredith decided she liked Maria. Maria was one of the trio of business partners at Gift Baskets to Die For, along with Meredith’s cousin, Rebecca Hamilton, and another woman named Candace Woodrow.
A buxom Italian brunette, Maria wore a bright red dress and medium heels that set off her fabulous legs and made virtually every man in a thirty-foot radius stop and stare. The complete opposite to Meredith’s long, straight and uninspired blond hair and dark blue eyes, all about as exciting as a Honda in a lot full of Ferraris.
Brash, outspoken and unafraid of color in her clothes, Maria was everything Meredith was not. Most of all, Maria was a perfect friend for what Meredith wanted to accomplish while she was staying in the citya major overhaul of her life and her self.
“I think it’s great that you’re doing this for us,” Maria said, shouting a little to be heard as they made their way through the crowds. “Dropping everything to come and help Rebecca while she’s on bed rest. We were desperate for the extra help.”
Desperate was something Meredith understood. When Rebecca had called yesterday morning to ask if Meredith could help out while Rebecca was home working on a healthy pregnancy, Meredith couldn’t say yes fast enough. Undoubtedly, her blue ribbon past at the Indiana State Fair and familial loyalty made her the first choice for helping them out of a jam.
Meredith circumvented a businessman with a lethal briefcase that kept swinging into her knees. “When Rebecca called, it took me about a half second to give my notice at Petey’s Pizza Parlor, hang up my uniform for good, pack my bags and hop on the first plane out of Indiana.”
Maria laughed. “A little eager to leave?”
“Oh yeah. I’d have crawled to Boston from Indiana to finally find a life that involved more than cows and corn.” She glanced back over her shoulder at Bongo Boy. “I just didn’t expect to have it thrust in my face, percussion complement included.”
“Hey, get used to the unusual. That’s part of what this city is all about.”
Bongo Boy’s native pounding was silenced when she and Maria stepped onto the subway car and the doors swooshed shut behind them.
Crowds shoved their way through the jam-packed Blue Line conveyance. Meredith thought of the hundredsmaybe thousandsof hands that had touched those silver poles today. She wasn’t so sure she wanted to hold one, not without some gloves and antibacterial gel.
“Come on, let’s grab a seat,” Maria said.
“But they’re all full.” And besides that, who knew what had sat in those seats? She was glad she was wearing long pants. Didn’t want anything…foreign crawling up her legs.
“Not for long.” Maria turned and flashed a flirty smile at two men with bright yellow construction hats sitting side by side on the long plastic bench seats. A second later, the two men rose and gave up their seats.
“I thought men didn’t do that kind of thing anymore. Chivalry is dead and all that.” Meredith said after they sat down.
“You just have to know how to work with men, Meredith, and they’ll treat you right.” She crossed one leg over the other. Above them, the two men watched her bare legs move with undisguised appreciation. “And remember to use the top view to your advantage.”
“It helps that you have a top. I’m a little barren up there.” Meredith glanced down at her 34Bs, looking flat beneath her jacket and white turtleneck, and sighed.
“Different strokes for different folks.” Maria winked. “I hope Bongo Boy didn’t give you a bad impression of Boston.”
“Not at all. Calvin Klein should snatch him up, though.”
Maria laughed. “Now that’s an ad I’d like to see when I open up my Cosmo.”
Meredith clutched her purse in her lap, holding it tight to her chest. For the third time since she’d landed in Bostonand the tenth time since she’d left her apartment that morningher cell phone vibrated against the inside of her bag. She peeked inside, glanced at the missed call list and let out a sigh.
She doubted even the Witness Protection Program could hide her from her mother.
The subway car rushed around a curve, sending the bench of people against each other like a human wave. The lights flickered. Across the aisle, a burly man in a winter cap and a holey gray sweater gave Meredith a toothless smile. The scents of humanssweat, perfume and desperationswept through the enclosed car.
The closest she’d come to such a confined space was Elmer Tyne’s annual Halloween hay ride. Most of the smells on that one came from Elmer’s plodding and gassy mare, Heloise.
“Boston is just a little different from what I’m used to.” Meredith shut her purse without answering the call. “But I’m still going to do what it takes to experience it all while I’m here.”
“I can show you the Prudential and the Aquarium”
“I didn’t mean that kind of experience.” Meredith started to lean back against the seat, remembered the germ quotient, and straightened. “I come from a town of three thousand people,” she explained. “I haven’t exactly lived yet. Heck, I’ve barely seen the “real world.”
Maria laughed. “If you want the real world, you’ve come to the right place. It doesn’t get any realer than this.”
The train continued its rushing path along the tracks, the riders journeying along, looking as passive and unanimated as the ads for safe sex and language schools that decorated the metal walls. No one here looked real. Heck, they didn’t even look alive.
“Good,” Meredith said. “Because I want…” She glanced around, then lowered her voice to a whisper. “A man.”
Maria blinked. “A…a man?”
“Yeah. I want to…well, fill in the gaps in my education.” She raised a brow to complete the meaning of her sentence. “Hopefully more than once.”
Maria leaned back in her seat, a smile of appreciation on her lips. She thrust a hand out to Meredith. “Welcome to Boston, Meredith Shordon. I’m definitely going to like working with you.”
Meredith’s phone vibrated again, as if her mother was sending a protest all the way from Indiana: Don’t think about sex. Doing it, watching it or even spelling it in a crossword.
Ignoring the call was cowardly, but it bought her some time. Time to figure out who she was, what she wanted and how the city of Boston could change Meredith Shordon.
For the better.
That little word grumbled inside her brain and sent an arrow of doubt through her hastily arranged plans.
If she’d found men playing bongos in their underwear here, what else did the city of Boston hold that Meredith hadn’t expected…
And wasn’t prepared to handle?