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Perfect Timing

Perfect Timing, November 2013
by Laura Spinella

Berkley
Featuring: Isabel Lang; Aidan Roycroft
384 pages
ISBN: 042526730X
EAN: 9780425267301
Kindle: B00BC254L0
Trade Size / e-Book
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"Beautiful Romance With Real Life Drama"

Fresh Fiction Review

Perfect Timing
Laura Spinella

Reviewed by Samantha Randolph
Posted January 23, 2014

Contemporary | Romance

Isabel Lang and Aidan Roycroft were the best of friends growing up, both burying and sometimes suppressing their love for the other. Aidan hid it through strings of dates, and Isabel hid it behind a calm, collected face. When one night takes an unexpected turn, the two go from friends to husband and wife to lovers to separated in hours after Aidan is falsely accused of a crime. Seven years later, Isabel and Aidan have no contact with each other and both are with other people. When Isabel needs help, she tries contacted Aidan again, but no one could imagine what would happen next.

PERFECT TIMING by Laura Spinella is a warm, exciting love story that heavily succeeds in gripping your heart. It switches from past to present with clever style and grace, and it spins the drama of the story beautifully. I never found myself bored or disinterested in the story at all. Spinella uses dialogue and an enchanting author voice that hooks you every page and makes you extremely eager to find out the finishing plot.

While the practical, but still somehow mesmerizing, relationship between Isabel and Aidan takes center stage, the individual character depth in shines. Aidan and Isabel, in different ways, both struggle with non-traditional families. You see Isabel struggle to accept her father, and Aidan struggle to not become his. The side stories with their families and their attempts at not defining themselves through them are completely gorgeous and tear-worthy. Next to the ending, the family dynamic is my favorite part of the book.

I do wish the length it takes to introduce adult Aidan and move the present story further was shorter. It is in no way a severe fault or even a moderate one in my eyes (especially once you learn the rest of the plot), but it would have been nice to see him a little sooner in the story. After spending so much time with him in the past, I wanted to see his side of the present more and more. It is all very much worth it in the end, but I still think it deserves to be noted.

All in all, PERFECT TIMING is one of my favorite romance/drama novels I have ever read. I love the power in the character and the beauty of the story. This is the first novel by Laura Spinella that I have read, but it definitely won't be the last or only one.

Learn more about Perfect Timing

SUMMARY

There's rock, there's a hard place, then there's Aidan & Isabel.

What's a Jersey Girl to do when she moves to Catswallow, Alabama? Isabel Lang finds the answer in an unlikely bond with the musically gifted Aidan Roycroft. The two share everything from a first kiss to startling family secrets. But when Aidan is accused of a violent crime, the two flee to Las Vegas where Isabel's future comes tumbling down.

Seven years later, the past is buried, including any relationship with Aidan. Isabel is busy running a radio station and closing in on commitment with Nate Potter, a guy who defines ideal. Life seems cozy until new station management demands a sudden-death ratings grabber, putting everyone's future on the line.

What should be a simple solution leads to a stunning revelation as Isabel is forced to call on the past and the only rock star she knows.

Excerpt

Chapter One

Providence

              

There¬†was¬†nothing¬†enticing¬†about¬†waking¬†up¬† to¬†a¬†three¬≠-hundred¬†pound¬†man¬†who¬†smelled faintly¬†of¬†cheese‚ÄĒ even¬†if¬†he¬†was¬†a¬†silver¬≠ tongued¬†veteran.¬†¬†Worse,¬†he‚Äôd¬†managed¬†to¬†utter¬†the name¬†Aidan¬†Royce¬†before¬†Isabel¬†could¬†untangle¬†mascara¬≠

laced¬†lashes,¬†prying¬†open¬†an¬†eye.¬†¬†Her hand¬†groped¬†for¬†the¬†volume¬†as¬†radio¬†DJ¬†Chip¬†Wrangle¬†wrapped¬† things¬†up,¬†Isabel¬†hearing¬†a¬†velvet- timbre¬†mention¬†of¬†the¬†Grammy¬†winning,¬†mega¬†selling¬†music¬†ico n. But¬†that¬†couldn‚Äôt¬†be¬†right,¬†she wagered,¬†sitting¬†upright.¬†¬†‚ÄúHey,¬†did¬†he¬†just¬†say‚ÄĒ‚ÄĚ

              

Rico¬†ignored¬†her,¬†responding¬†to¬†the¬†DJ‚Äôs¬†vo ice¬†as¬†he¬†always¬†did,¬†lazily¬†stretching¬†and vacating¬†the¬†bed.¬†¬†Isabel¬†cocked¬†her¬†head¬†at¬†the¬†radio.¬†¬†As¬† the¬†content¬†manager¬†for¬†98.6‚ÄĒthe Normal¬†FM¬†for¬†Easy¬†Listening,¬†she‚Äôd¬†put¬†a¬†firm¬†morato rium¬†on¬†celebrity¬†gossip.¬†But¬†the¬†aromatic Chip¬†made¬†no¬†other¬†reference,¬†moving¬†onto¬†their¬†Monday¬†morni ng¬†salute¬†to¬†the¬†60s.¬†¬†‚ÄúJust¬†a dream,‚Ä̬†she¬†said,¬†flopping¬†back¬†onto¬†the¬†pillow.¬†A¬†hazy¬†gaze ¬†floated¬†upward,¬†Frankie¬†Valli¬†and¬†the Four¬†Seasons¬†crooning¬†Walk¬†Like¬†a¬†Man¬†as¬†Rico¬†and¬†his ¬†virile¬†gait¬†disappeared¬†into¬†the¬†kitchen. He¬†insisted¬†on¬†his¬†breakfast¬†and¬†she¬†rolled¬†into¬†reality,¬†ye lling,¬†‚ÄúI‚Äôm¬†coming!‚Ä̬†¬†The¬†two¬†had¬†met while¬†Isabel¬†was¬†vacationing¬†in¬†Key¬†West,¬†Rico¬†a¬†refugee¬†she ‚Äôd¬†picked¬†up¬†near¬†the¬†Hemingway house.¬†¬†He¬†was¬†the¬†definition¬†of¬†machismo,¬†excessive¬† manliness¬†an¬†inbred¬†trait.¬†¬†Dangling¬†her noticeably¬†more¬†feminine¬†legs¬†over¬†the¬†side,¬†Isabel¬†tucked¬†a ¬†thick¬†thatch¬†of¬†hair¬†behind¬†her¬†ear. She¬†did¬†a¬†fast¬†double¬†take¬†of¬†the¬†radio¬†before¬†rising.¬†On¬†he r¬†way¬†out¬†of¬†the¬†bedroom¬†she¬†grabbed¬†a robe¬†and¬†a¬†glance¬†in¬†the¬†mirror.¬†‚ÄúOh,¬†good¬†gosh!¬†¬†Seriously? ‚Ä̬†She¬†wet¬†her¬†fingertips,¬†only managing¬†to¬†smear¬†a¬†smudge¬†of¬†mascara,¬†doubly¬†relieved¬†that¬† it¬†was¬†just¬†Rico.¬†¬†

              

Following¬†the¬†sounds¬†of¬†his¬†disgruntled¬†dem and,¬†before¬†daring¬†to¬†fill¬†a¬†coffee¬†cup,¬†Isabel set¬†about¬†preparing¬†his¬†breakfast.¬†But¬†she¬†did¬†turn¬†on¬†the¬†t elevision¬†as¬†she¬†passed¬†through¬†the living¬†room.¬†There¬†she¬†picked¬†up¬†a¬†telltale¬†trail:¬†necktie,¬† camisole,¬†sport¬†coat,¬†flouncy¬†skirt, undershirt,¬†one black¬†high heel.¬†She brushed¬†by an empty¬†wine bottle,¬†a mediocre¬†merlot¬†that had instigated¬†last night.¬† Rico called¬†again,¬†squashing¬†an amorous¬†visual.¬†‚ÄúEnough¬†already!‚Ä̬† There was¬†a¬†death¬†stare¬†in¬†the¬†kitchen¬†where¬†two¬†sets¬†of¬†cat¬†green ¬†eyes¬†pulsed.¬†¬†The¬†TV¬†blared.¬†¬†Just¬†to make¬†her¬†point¬†she¬†smiled¬†and¬†hesitated.¬†¬†‚ÄúSay¬†again?¬†Matt¬†L auer¬†is¬†drowning¬†you¬†out!‚Ä̬†¬†But¬†it was¬†smell,¬†not¬†sound,¬†that¬†dominated¬†as¬†odor¬†penetrated¬†from ¬†beneath¬†a¬†popped¬†tin¬†top.¬†¬†She couldn‚Äôt¬†deny¬†him,¬†even¬†as¬†she¬†gagged,¬†Rico‚Äôs¬†cries¬†morphing ¬†into¬†a¬†loud¬†purr,¬†rubbing¬†lovingly against¬†her¬†leg.¬†¬†She¬†set¬†the¬†bowl¬†of¬†stinky¬†fish¬†on¬†the¬†flo or,¬†scratching¬†a¬†tufted¬†ear¬†as¬†he¬†gobbled hunks¬†of¬†vacuum¬†packed¬†sardine.¬†‚ÄúBueno,¬†Rico?¬†¬†Si,¬†bueno,‚Ä̬†I sabel¬†said,¬†having¬†mastered¬†a¬†couple of¬†words¬†in¬†what¬†she¬†assumed¬†to¬†be¬†his¬†native¬†dialect.¬†

              

From her squatted position Isabel listened.   She waited for national media to repeat local radio news and confirm that Aidan Royce was, in fact, dead.   It was the only fathomable reason for it to have made the 98.6 morning host chat.  Not dead, as it  turned out.  Just under arrest.  Rico wriggled out from ardent strokes as Isabel absorbed Lauer’s  words about Aidan Royce and a high speed chase, driving drunk, and assaulting an officer.  She  flipped him off, stalking back to the bedroom.               

The¬†ride¬†to¬†work¬†was¬†work,¬†Isabel¬†listening ¬†for¬†another¬†98.6¬†update,¬†mentally¬†composing a¬†strongly¬†worded¬†email¬†to¬†Chip¬†Wrangle.¬†¬†But¬†the¬†7:15¬†chat¬† slot¬†was¬†filled¬†with¬†their¬†bimonthly visit¬†from¬†Eleanor¬†Papp¬†who¬†ran¬†the¬†Providence¬†Humane¬†Societ y.¬†¬†She¬†only¬†talked¬†about¬†adoptable pets¬†and¬†donations¬†the¬†shelter¬†needed.¬†While¬†98.6¬†listeners¬† were¬†old¬†school,¬†conventional¬†to¬†the point¬†of¬†mundane,¬†they¬†were¬†not¬†without¬†a¬†heart.¬†¬†Isabel¬†fou nd¬†the¬†radio¬†station¬†offices¬†quiet, beating¬†Tanya¬†and¬†Mary¬†Louise¬†to¬†work.¬†¬†The¬†sound¬†system¬†was n‚Äôt¬†on¬†and¬†she¬†made¬†no¬†effort¬†to correct¬†the¬†matter.¬†Whether¬†it¬†came¬†from¬†Chip¬†Wrangle,¬†CNN,¬† or¬†two¬†soup¬†cans¬†tied¬†to¬†a¬†string, Aidan¬†Royce¬†would¬†dominate¬†the¬†airwaves¬†and¬†Isabel¬†wasn‚Äôt¬†in terested.¬†¬†Before¬†shifting¬†gears¬†she crafted¬†an¬†email¬†to¬†Chip¬†where¬†she¬†bolded¬†the¬†words¬†miscr eant¬†media¬†blight.¬†¬†A¬†Sunday¬†night ratings¬†dilemma¬†would¬†dominate¬†Isabel‚Äôs¬†morning,¬†though¬†she¬† did¬†take¬†time¬†to¬†call¬†Nate.¬†He‚Äôd bounded¬†out¬†of¬†her¬†bed¬†at¬†an¬†ungodly¬†three¬†a.m.¬†leaving¬†most ¬†of¬†his¬†belongings¬†behind.¬†‚ÄúHey, sorry¬†you¬†had¬†to¬†run¬†away¬†to¬†the¬†hospital.¬†¬†I‚Äôm¬†guessing¬†you ¬†found¬†your¬†shirt.¬†¬†I,¬†um‚Ķ¬†I¬†had¬†a really¬†great¬†time,¬†Nate.¬†¬†Despite¬†some¬†miscreant¬†radio¬†busin ess,‚Ä̬†she¬†said,¬†brusquely¬†hitting¬†send, ‚ÄúI‚Äôve¬†been¬†thinking¬†about¬†what¬†you¬†asked.‚Ä̬†¬†Isabel¬†paused¬†in to¬†the¬†empty¬†air¬†of¬†voicemail.¬†¬†‚ÄúWe‚Äôll definitely¬†talk¬†about¬†it¬†later.‚Ä̬†She¬†hung¬†up,¬†smiling,¬†feeli ng¬†less¬†peeved¬†at¬†Chip¬†as¬†Tanya¬†breezed through¬†the door.¬† She was an impish¬†gust of human¬†energy.¬† With donut¬†in mouth,¬†she waved¬†a free¬†hand,¬†a double¬†whipped¬†cream¬†mochachino¬†in the other,¬†immediately¬†turning¬†the TV on. ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

‚ÄúHey,¬†Isabel,¬†mornin‚Äô,¬†sweetie.‚Ä̬†She¬†sat,¬†a djusting¬†a¬†leopard¬†print¬†scarf¬†as¬†she¬†arranged herself behind her desk.

‚ÄúLook¬†at¬†you,‚Ä̬†she¬†said,¬†an¬†overly¬†tweezed¬†eyebrow¬†archin g.¬†‚ÄúIs¬†that¬†a¬†little¬†Monday morning¬†after¬≠ glow¬†I¬†see?‚Ä̬†¬†Isabel¬†didn‚Äôt¬†answer.¬†¬†Tanya¬†was¬†always¬†on¬†the ¬†lookout¬†for¬†a¬†love connection‚ÄĒ Isabel‚Äôs,¬†her¬†own¬†or¬†anyone¬†else‚Äôs.¬†¬†They¬†exchanged¬†a¬†smile, ¬†Isabel‚Äôs¬†fading¬†as¬†Tanya raised¬†the¬†volume,¬†though¬†she¬†couldn‚Äôt¬†really¬†argue.¬†¬†Workin g¬†in¬†the promotions/scheduling/content¬†department¬†of¬†a¬†sizable¬†radio¬† station¬†made¬†current¬†events¬†relevant and¬†real¬†news¬†important.¬†Aidan¬†Royce¬†was¬†neither¬†in¬†Isabel‚Äôs ¬†opinion,¬†just¬†another¬†self-¬≠absorbed celebrity,¬†acting¬†contrite¬†for¬†the¬†cameras¬†and¬†aghast¬†when¬†t he¬†world¬†paused¬†to¬†gawk.¬†

Aside¬†from¬†monitoring¬†real¬†news,¬†it¬†was¬†their¬†job¬†to¬†make ¬†the¬†yesteryear¬†station¬†go,¬†dream up¬†the¬†giveaways¬†and¬†organize¬†reunion¬†concerts.¬†98.6‚ÄĒ the¬†Normal¬†FM¬†was¬†an¬†anomaly,¬†their audience¬†thriving¬†on¬†AM¬†classics¬†and¬†an¬†occasional¬†tribute¬†t o¬†soft¬†rock¬†weekend,¬†a¬†dash¬†of¬†country before¬†country¬†went¬†mainstream.¬†Of¬†course,¬†she¬†did¬†wonder¬†wh at¬†might¬†happen¬†when¬†their¬†baby boomer¬†listeners¬†died¬†off.¬†¬†That¬†or¬†satellite¬†radio¬†squeezed ¬†them¬†out.¬†¬†Isabel¬†was¬†a¬†few¬†years younger¬†than¬†her¬†co¬≠ workers,¬†although¬†she¬†supervised¬†the¬†three¬≠ prong¬†department.¬†¬†While¬†their jobs¬†were¬†important,¬†they¬†didn‚Äôt¬†translate¬†into¬†talent,¬†mean ing¬†they¬†didn‚Äôt¬†rate¬†separate¬†offices¬†like the¬†DJs.¬†It¬†was¬†fine.¬†¬†They¬†were¬†a¬†great¬†team¬†and¬†good¬†frien ds.¬†¬†Isabel¬†liked¬†sharing¬†with¬†Tanya and¬†Mary¬†Louise¬†most¬†days.¬†¬†Maybe,¬†just¬†not¬†so¬†much,¬†today.¬†

Gliding in silent as a librarian, anyone’s first impressi on of Mary Louise would be prim and proper. But after three years at the radio station Isabe l was still peeling back layers. A kale and flaxseed smoothie was in one hand while clutched in her othe r was last week’s In Touch magazine.  She got it for free, aka swiped it from the recyc le bin at the convenience store on Madison.  Her polar opposite co­ workers filled each other’s gaps, the reckless squall that d escribed one, complementing the other’s curious albeit structured lif e.  Tanya was a three­-time divorcee that polite company might refer to as overly social.  Tanya had b een to church, been to bars, and been to bed in hopes of meeting Mr. Right there.  But she was als o adept at repurposing that well of emotion, making up as a mother what she lacked in man sense.  She had plenty of practice with a child from each marriage.  Mary Louise, on the other hand, was a serial monogamist, married and childless for seven years.  She’d married a man named Joe Bland.  No kidding.  They’d met while stocking up at the Dollar Tree in Woonsocket, though frugali ty had come at a price. Last month, Isabel rushed to meet an unusually frazzled Mary Louise in t he emergency room.  In an attempt to tap into mature audience movies, Joe took a tumble off the r oof and broke a number of bones. 

Like standard radio and last week’s gossip, Joe’s wife fe lt certain avenues of entertainment should be free. But as those layers revealed, Mary Louise’s naughty  habits ran deep, quickly joining Tanya’s tabloid television vigil.

‚ÄúHave¬†you¬†seen¬†this?¬†¬†The¬†drunk¬†driving¬†thing,¬†you‚Äôd¬†expe ct¬†that¬†from¬†somebody¬†like him,‚Ä̬†she¬†said,¬†crossing¬†to¬†her¬†neat¬≠-as-¬≠a¬≠ pin¬†desk.¬†¬†‚ÄúBut¬†a¬†high¬†speed¬†chase¬†and¬†assaulting¬†an officer?¬†¬†That‚Äôs¬†bad¬†behavior¬†even¬†for¬†a¬†known¬†bad¬†boy!‚Ä̬†Her ¬†arm¬†flailed¬†so¬†fervently¬†it¬†was¬†look or¬†be¬†struck.¬†Isabel¬†recognized¬†old¬†news¬†footage,¬†a¬†nightclu b¬†brawl¬†the¬†rock¬≠god¬†had¬†been¬†involved

‚ÄúAidan¬†Royce¬†tied¬†to¬†the¬†whipping¬†post¬†of¬†fame‚ÄĒ go¬†figure.‚Ä̬†Isabel¬†rolled¬†her¬†eyes,¬†saved from¬†further¬†comment¬†as¬†an¬†email¬†from¬†Nate¬†popped¬†up.¬†¬†De finitely¬†did¬†not¬†want¬†to¬†run¬†away.¬†¬†An unavoidable¬†hazard¬†of¬†that¬†medical¬†oath.¬†I¬†was¬†looking¬†forwa rd¬†to¬†a¬†sleepy¬†you.¬†¬†More¬†important, I¬†was¬†looking¬†forward¬†to¬†an¬†answer.¬†You¬†know¬†how¬†to¬†keep¬†a¬†g uy¬†in¬†suspense.¬†¬†She¬†smiled, wondering¬†how¬†she¬†might¬†have¬†discretely¬†engineered¬†a¬†six¬†a.m .¬†makeover.¬†Admiring¬†the¬†email¬†for a¬†second¬†longer¬†Isabel¬†went¬†back¬†to¬†work,¬†but¬†not¬†before¬†see ing¬†Aidan¬†Royce¬†hustled¬†past¬†frothing media¬†and¬†into¬†a¬†police¬†station.¬†¬†It¬†was¬†only¬†the¬†half¬†of¬†it ,¬†a¬†boisterous¬†swell¬†of¬†female¬†fans¬†having assembled¬†in¬†his¬†defense.¬†Isabel¬†guessed¬†they¬†let¬†him¬†Tweet¬† the¬†call¬†to¬†action¬†from¬†the¬†cruiser.¬†¬†¬†

‚ÄúWhen¬†I¬†heard¬†Chip¬†say¬†his¬†name,‚Ä̬†Tanya¬†said,¬†coming¬†arou nd¬†to¬†stand¬†beside¬†Mary

‚ÄúI¬†thought¬†the¬†same¬†thing!‚Ä̬†she¬†gasped,¬†grasping¬†her¬†arm. ¬†‚ÄúCouldn‚Äôt¬†you¬†just¬†see¬†it?¬†¬†Sheer California¬†cliffs,¬†a¬†drug¬†induced¬†sex¬≠ capade,¬†maybe¬†an¬†encounter¬†with¬†a¬†deranged¬†fan‚Ķ‚Ä̬†¬†She paused,¬†finishing¬†her¬†smoothie.¬†¬†‚ÄúWhat¬†did¬†you¬†think,¬†Isabel ?‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúI¬†thought¬†it¬†was¬†a¬†fatal¬†fall¬†off¬†his¬†ego.‚Ä̬†¬†¬†¬†

‚ÄúWell,¬†there‚Äôs¬†no¬†excuse¬†for¬†driving¬†like¬†a¬†maniac¬†and¬†en dangering¬†other¬†people¬†or punching¬†a¬†cop.¬†I¬†wouldn‚Äôt¬†be¬†surprised¬†if¬†he¬†got¬†real¬†time. ‚ÄĚ

Reopening the email from Nate, Isabel debated a reply.  S he glanced up, half listening.

‚ÄúMaybe.‚Ä̬†Her slim shoulders¬†shrugged,¬†clearly¬†intrigued.

Isabel¬†looked¬†between¬†her¬†co¬≠ workers¬†at¬†the¬†TV.¬†¬†Media¬†outlets¬†were¬†already¬†on¬†the¬†scene, catching¬†a¬†probing¬†glance¬†of¬†¬†Aidan¬†Royce‚Äôs¬†backside¬†at¬†a¬†bo oking¬†desk,¬†his¬†hands¬†cuffed.¬†She sucked¬†in¬†a¬†breath¬†wondering¬†how¬†many¬†times¬†people¬†needed¬†to ¬†see¬†a¬†scene¬†like¬†that.¬†¬†How¬†many times¬†did¬†she?¬†¬†‚ÄúConfined¬†reflection¬†might¬†do¬†him¬†good.‚Ä̬†She ¬†wanted¬†to¬†type¬†YES!¬†YES!¬†YES!¬†¬†in reply¬†to¬†Nate¬†but¬†opted¬†for¬†a¬†winking¬†smiley¬†instead.¬†Big¬†mo ments¬†were¬†better¬†in¬†person.¬†¬†¬†¬†

‚ÄúHe¬†won‚Äôt¬†do¬†a¬†day¬†in¬†jail,‚Ä̬†Tanya¬†said.¬†¬†‚ÄúMaybe¬†some¬†cus hy¬†community¬†service.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúThat‚Äôs¬†true.¬†Celebrity¬†like¬†his¬†is¬†so¬†above¬†the¬†law,‚Ä̬†Ma ry¬†Louise¬†lamented,¬†more disappointed¬†than¬†miffed.¬†¬†She¬†filled¬†the¬†coffeemaker,¬†her¬†p eripheral¬†glance¬†on¬†the¬†TV.¬†‚ÄúBut¬†that‚Äôs what¬†happens¬†when¬†you¬†wear¬†the¬†triple¬†crown¬†of¬†fame‚ÄĒ talent,¬†looks,¬†and¬†filthy¬†rich.¬†¬†With¬†this,‚ÄĚ she¬†said,¬†gesturing,¬†‚Äúyou¬†can¬†add¬†the¬†fantasy¬†element¬†of¬†wic kedly¬†untamed.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúA¬†scandalous¬†lifestyle¬†suits¬†him,¬†that‚Äôs¬†for¬†sure.‚Ä̬†Tany a¬†remained¬†one¬†with¬†the¬†TV, absently¬†brushing¬†donut¬†crumbs¬†from¬†a¬†fuzzy¬†fuchsia¬†sweater. ¬†It¬†was¬†a¬†fitting¬†complement¬†to¬†her bright¬†red¬†hair.¬†‚ÄúAidan¬†Royce¬†is¬†a¬†textbook¬†man¬≠ crush¬†and¬†all¬†women¬†find¬†him¬†irresistible.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúNot¬†all,‚Ä̬†Isabel¬†insisted,¬†teeth¬†sinking¬†into¬†the¬†eraser ¬†tip¬†of¬†her¬†pencil.¬†¬†

‚ÄúYour¬†average¬†movie¬†or¬†pop¬†star,¬†it¬†wouldn‚Äôt¬†be¬†such¬†a¬†bi g¬†deal.¬†¬†But¬†when¬†it‚Äôs¬†someone like¬†Aidan¬†Royce,¬†it‚Äôs¬†way¬†‚Ķ¬†way¬†more‚Ķ‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúTitillating?‚Ä̬†Mary¬†Louise¬†suggested,¬†Tanya¬†nodding.¬†¬†‚ÄúBa rring¬†an¬†international¬†crisis¬†or freak¬†weather¬†phenomenon¬†it‚Äôs¬†all¬†we‚Äôll¬†hear¬†for¬†days.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúSuper,‚Ä̬†Isabel¬†muttered,¬†studying¬†the¬†segments¬†for¬†Sunda y¬†Evening¬†with¬†Country‚Äôs¬†Best.

              

‚ÄúWho¬†knows¬†what¬†else¬†will¬†turn¬†up?¬†¬†I¬†heard ¬†they¬†strip¬†searched¬†him¬†and¬†his¬†car.¬†There could¬†be¬†drugs,¬†maybe¬†a¬†sex¬†tape.¬†Camera¬†equipment¬†is¬†so¬†dis creet¬†nowadays¬†and¬†user¬†friendly.‚ÄĚ

While,¬†‚ÄúYou¬†work¬†in¬†radio,¬†you¬†would¬†know¬†that¬†how?‚Ä̬†ticked¬†through¬†Isabel‚Äôs¬†head,¬†she prudently¬†stayed¬†on¬†task.

‚ÄúWouldn‚Äôt¬†surprise¬†me,‚Ä̬†Tanya¬†said.¬†¬†‚ÄúDid¬†you¬†see¬†the¬†wom an¬†he¬†was¬†with?¬†¬†Last October‚Äôs,¬†Miss¬†October.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúI¬†saw¬†the¬†dress¬†she¬†was¬†wearing.¬†¬†I¬†own¬†dishtowels¬†made¬† of¬†more¬†fabric,‚Ä̬†Mary¬†Louise said,¬†mashing¬†the¬†remote¬†only¬†to¬†come¬†up¬†with¬†the¬†same¬†loop¬† on¬†channel¬†four.¬†‚ÄúHis¬†publicist¬†said she¬†wasn‚Äôt¬†anybody,¬†that¬†Aidan¬†was¬†just,¬†‚Äėgiving¬†her¬†a¬†ri de.‚Äô¬†¬†But¬†FOX¬†News¬†reported¬†that¬†he kidnapped her!"

Tanya‚Äôs¬†head cocked.¬† ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs¬†Aidan¬†Royce.¬† Why would¬†he have to kidnap¬†her?‚ÄĚ

Riding¬†the¬†tidal¬†wave¬†of¬†sensationalism,¬†Mary¬†Louise¬†paus ed.¬†¬†‚ÄúGood¬†point.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúAnd¬†his¬†publicist¬†can¬†spin¬†it¬†however¬†she¬†likes.¬†¬†Nobody ‚Äôs¬†going¬†to¬†believe¬†the¬†‚Äėgiving¬†her a¬†ride‚Äô¬†story,‚Ä̬†Tanya¬†said,¬†punctuating¬†the¬†air¬†with¬†quo tations¬†marks.¬†‚ÄúCertainly¬†not¬†his¬†current girlfriend."

‚ÄúOh¬†that‚Äôs¬†right.¬†¬†I¬†forgot¬†about¬†her.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúSo¬†did¬†he,¬†apparently,‚Ä̬†Isabel¬†said,¬†a¬†hand¬†gripping¬†aro und¬†her¬†neck,¬†vigorously¬†erasing segments¬†for¬†Sunday¬†Evening¬†with¬†Country‚Äôs¬†Best.

‚ÄúAnd¬†she‚Äôs¬†no¬†centerfold,¬†a¬†lawyer¬†from¬†New¬†York,¬†I¬†think .‚Ä̬†

Isabel glanced up, though the eraser kept moving.

‚ÄúNo¬†way,‚Ä̬†said¬†Mary¬†Louise.¬†¬†‚ÄúCenterfold¬†is¬†much¬†more¬†bel ievable.‚Ä̬†

‚ÄúIt‚Äôs¬†true.¬†¬†Actually,¬†I¬†read¬†they¬†were¬†engaged.‚ÄĚ

The¬†back¬†and¬†forth¬†motion¬†of¬†the¬†eraser¬†stopped,¬†Isabel¬†e yeing¬†them.¬†‚ÄúReally?‚Ä̬†she¬†said,¬†a droll¬†smile¬†curving¬†over¬†her¬†mouth.¬†¬†‚ÄúEngaged?‚Ä̬†

‚ÄúIt¬†was¬†all¬†over¬†the¬†tabloids¬†a¬†couple¬†of¬†months¬†back.‚Ä̬†

Isabel returned to her work and penciled in Delilah, thinking listeners might tune into the syndicated melodrama.

‚ÄúTriple¬†crown¬†or¬†not,¬†good¬†luck¬†to¬†the¬†woman¬†who¬†ends¬†up¬† with¬†him.¬†¬†Married¬†to¬†a¬†rock star,¬†it‚Äôs¬†glamorous¬†but¬†fatal.‚Ä̬†Mary¬†Louise¬†poured¬†herself¬† coffee,¬†smirking¬†at¬†the¬†TV.¬†¬†‚ÄúSeriously, when does that ever work out?"

‚ÄúAnd¬†don‚Äôt¬†you¬†mean¬†women?¬†Celebrity¬†marriages¬†are ¬†more¬†disposable¬†than¬†mine,‚Ä̬†Tanya said.¬†¬†‚ÄúThere‚Äôll¬†be¬†three¬†or¬†four¬†wives¬†between¬†stints¬†in¬†re hab.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúMaybe¬†he‚Äôll¬†do¬†a¬†reality¬†TV¬†show,¬†Polygamy¬†&¬†the¬†Rock ¬†God.¬†Heaven¬†knows¬†I‚Äôd¬†tune¬†in,‚ÄĚ she¬†said.¬†‚ÄúIt¬†would¬†draw¬†huge¬†ratings¬†when¬†two¬†or¬†three¬†end¬† up¬†pregnant.‚ÄĚ

On her words, the point to Isabel’s pencil snapped, pierc ing her paperwork.

‚ÄúSome¬†women¬†are¬†so¬†blind.‚Ä̬†Tanya¬†lamented.¬†‚ÄúClearly,¬†he‚Äôs ¬†a¬†womanizing¬†scoundrel.‚ÄĚ

Clearly, Tanya didn’t recognize her own lack of foresight  when it came to this particular character trait. Shifting restlessly, Isabel admonished the  unkind thought.   

‚ÄúYou¬†said¬†it,‚Ä̬†Mary¬†Louise¬†agreed,¬†swirling¬†Splenda¬†and¬†s kim¬†milk.¬†

‚ÄúI¬†mean,¬†just look at that tattoo¬†on his neck.¬† It only emphasizes¬†his twisted¬†boundaries.‚ÄĚ

The comment drew Isabel’s attention, her gaze veering from Tanya’s squint onto Aidan Royce’s latest mug shot, his blond GQ looks forever marred b y a coiled snake.  It traveled from the base of his collarbone upward, its sharp tongue splittin g at edge of a Boeing inspired jaw.  

‚ÄúReminds¬†me¬†of¬†a¬†Japanese¬†bondage¬†rope,‚Ä̬†Mary¬†Louise¬†said ,¬†tipping¬†her¬†head¬†at¬†the screen.¬†¬†‚ÄúAnd¬†not¬†a¬†very¬†realistic¬†one.¬†¬†He¬†probably¬†dabbles ¬†in¬†the¬†basics,¬†thinks¬†he¬†knows something."

‚ÄúAnd¬†if¬†he¬†was¬†really¬†into¬†it?‚Ä̬†Tanya¬†queried.

Mary¬†Louise¬†sipped¬†her¬†coffee,¬†shrugging.¬†‚ÄúHad¬†he¬†wanted¬† to¬†make¬†a¬†real¬†S&M¬†statement, he¬†could¬†have¬†gone¬†with¬†a¬†nipple¬†clamp,¬†combo¬†riding¬†crop‚ÄĒ maybe¬†a¬†slave¬†collar.‚ÄĚ

There¬†was¬†a¬†hum¬†of¬†wonder¬†from¬†Tanya,¬†Isabel¬†murmuring,¬†‚Äú Please¬†make¬†it¬†stop.‚ÄĚ

Abandoning Sunday night’s ratings she moved onto next mon th’s teasers, which led up to their big summer giveaway, Fruit-­of-­the-­Month Club for a year.

              

‚ÄúThough¬†I¬†will¬†say,¬†whatever¬†his¬†motivation ,¬†a¬†tattoo¬†like¬†that¬†took¬†nerve.‚Ä̬†Popping¬†on¬†her glasses,¬†she¬†peered¬†harder.¬†‚ÄúI¬†bet¬†his¬†record¬†label¬†made¬†him ¬†do¬†it.‚ÄĚ

              

‚ÄúNo¬†way,‚Ä̬†Tanya¬†said.¬†¬†‚ÄúEverybody¬†knows¬†the ¬†tattoo¬†was¬†a¬†symbol¬†of¬†Aidan‚Äôs commitment¬†to¬†Fiona¬†Free,¬†the¬†British¬†blonde¬†with¬†the¬†sitcom .‚ÄĚ

              

‚ÄúOh,¬†that‚Äôs¬†right.¬†How¬†long¬†were¬†they¬†toget her?‚ÄĚ

              

‚ÄúUntil¬†her¬†show¬†got¬†canceled¬†and¬†she¬†moved¬† back¬†to¬†London.¬†Two¬†episodes¬†in,¬†I¬†think.‚Ä̬†¬†¬†

Instead¬†of¬†just¬†snapping¬†the¬†point,¬†Isabel¬†snapped¬†the¬†pe ncil¬†right¬†in¬†two.¬†‚ÄúThat‚Äôs¬†not¬†true.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúWhat‚Äôs¬†not¬†true?‚Ä̬†Mary¬†Louise¬†said,¬†her¬†steaming¬†coffee¬† cup¬†frozen¬†midair.

"That's not how he got the tattoo."

  

She¬†smiled,¬†bemused.¬†¬†‚ÄúAnd¬†how¬†would¬†you¬†know¬†that?‚ÄĚ

"I...I read it somewhere."

‚ÄúNo¬†you¬†didn‚Äôt.¬†¬†You¬†hate¬†gossip¬†magazines.¬†¬†More¬†to¬†the¬† point,¬†you¬†don‚Äôt¬†know¬†the¬†first thing¬†about¬†celebrity¬†lifestyles,¬†particularly¬†someone¬†like¬† Aidan¬†Royce.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúI¬†might¬†know¬†more¬†than¬†you¬†think,¬†Mary¬†Louise.‚Ä̬†She¬†mean t¬†to¬†end¬†there,¬†but¬†found herself¬†caught¬†between¬†two¬†intent¬†stares,¬†her¬†mouth¬†moving¬†a head¬†of¬†her¬†brain.¬†‚ÄúMaybe¬†he¬†wasn‚Äôt always¬†what¬†you¬†see.¬†¬†Maybe¬†miscreant¬†media¬†blight¬†di dn‚Äôt¬†always¬†define¬†him.¬†¬†Maybe¬†once,¬†a lifetime¬†ago,¬†there¬†was¬†some¬†substance¬†to¬†Aidan¬†Royce.‚Ä̬†She¬† rose¬†as¬†she¬†spoke,¬†her¬†co¬≠workers looking¬†as if, maybe,¬†Isabel¬†had lost her mind.¬† ‚ÄúAnyway,‚Ä̬†she said,¬†sitting,¬†grasping¬†at self¬≠ possession¬†and a defense¬†theory¬†that would¬†have made his publicist¬†proud.¬†‚ÄúI can‚Äôt¬†speak¬†for high speed¬†chases,¬†drunk¬†driving¬†or¬†punching¬†a¬†cop.¬†¬†But¬†you‚Äôre¬†w rong¬†about¬†the¬†tattoo.‚Ä̬†¬†

‚ÄúHave¬†you¬†been¬†watching¬†Access¬†Hollywood,¬†maybe¬†sneaking¬† some¬†afterhours¬†TMZ?¬†It‚Äôs okay¬†to¬†admit¬†you‚Äôre¬†susceptible,¬†Isabel.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúDon‚Äôt¬†be¬†ridiculous.¬†I¬†wouldn‚Äôt¬†waste¬†my¬†time.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúSo¬†how¬†is¬†it¬†you¬†know¬†something¬†like¬†that?‚ÄĚ

"I just do."

‚ÄúBut¬†how?‚Ä̬†Mary¬†Louise¬†pressed,¬†skepticism¬†bearing¬†down.

‚ÄúIt‚Äôs¬†irrelevant.¬†¬†Can‚Äôt¬†you¬†just¬†take¬†my¬†word¬†for¬†it?‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúNot¬†really.¬†Besides,¬†you¬†brought¬†it¬†up.¬†¬†So¬†how¬†do¬†you¬†k now?‚ÄĚ

"Because..."

‚ÄúBecause¬†how?¬†Just¬†tell¬†me.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúIt¬†doesn‚Äôt¬†matter.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúOh,¬†but¬†I¬†think¬†it¬†does.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúI¬†know,‚Ä̬†she¬†said,¬†swallowing¬†hard,¬†grabbing¬†up¬†the¬†piec es¬†of¬†the¬†broken¬†pencil,¬†‚Äúbecause I¬†was¬†there¬†when¬†he¬†got¬†it.‚ÄĚ ¬†¬†¬†


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