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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 love story that you will devour and swoon over!"

Fresh Fiction Review

Perfect Timing
Laura Spinella

Reviewed by Crystal Leach
Posted January 22, 2014

Contemporary | Romance

PERFECT TIMING is a book that had me up until the early hours of the morning completely engrossed. The writing is beautiful and the story is captivating. You will fall in love with Isabel and Aidan's love story right from the start.

Isabel Lang is from a small town, Catswallow, Alabama. She moved there with her mom as a teen and the only thing that made it better, surprisingly, was meeting Aidan Roycroft. These two are complete opposites but form an amazing bond. Isabel shares everything with Aidan, from her first kiss to some of the horrible things going on in her family. After Isabel and Aidan get caught up in a crime they run off to Vegas together and their story really begins. The future doesn't hold quite what Isabel expects and she finds herself, seven years later, with Nate Potter and running a radio station. Even though she isn't where she thought she would be, or who she thought she would be with, Isabel is happy and content, until everything starts to fall apart and there is only one person she can turn to, Aidan.

I adored PERFECT TIMING. When I started it I wasn't sure how I would feel about the Now and Then chapter switches, but they worked perfectly for this book. I loved being able to see how everything truly began between Aidan and Isabel and how they got where they were now. PERFECT TIMING also had switching point-of-views for Isabel and Aidan which I really liked. I loved both characters so it was nice to be able to get inside of their heads and see exactly what was going on. Their story really pulled me in and had me rooting for them the whole way through. Plus, Aidan is SUPER swoony!

One thing I really loved about PERFECT TIMING is that it was so much more than the typical Contemporary Romance. There were plots going on outside of just the relationship that I was just as invested in. The situation that occurs between Isabel, Aidan, Isabel's mom, and her mom's boyfriend really had me nervous at times and yelling at the book. Anytime my emotions are that involved in a book it's always a good thing. I also enjoyed seeing the character growth that happened for Isabel and Aidan. They both come a really long way in the book and seeing them both grow up, in a sense, I think is something a lot of readers will connect with.

I highly recommend this book to any readers of YA Contemporary or Adult Contemporary since you get a little mix of both!

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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