Okay, I’m not a heroine, I’m a flesh and blood woman and I’ve made a lot of dumb ass mistakes in my life. So if you’re looking for someone to emulate I would suggest that you close this book and find someone else. I am not the one you’re looking for.
This is not a pretty little romance where all of the characters will do what you want and you will be left with a feel good feeling. I have no idea how this will play out.
It’s my life we’re talking about and it’s real. Most days it’s so damn real that I want to rewrite it. It’s ugly and it’s brutal but it’s me. If you can handle real life then you might just be able to handle what I’m going to write.
If you’re still reading, good. You’re the one I’m looking for. What I will tell you will be an honest story of my life and I won’t pull any punches. I’m not asking you to root for me and I’m definitely not asking for sympathy. If I were the one reading this story and learning of my bitchiness for the first time I would definitely want to slap the hell out of me and fling the book across the room.
But even bitches have a reason for being that way. Trust me. Just don’t judge until you have all of the facts.
If you’re still with me, I suggest we get started.
Simon laid the page back on Janice’s desk and walked up the stairs to see if she was ready. He wondered what the hell her book was going to be about. He knew one thing for certain: She was definitely starting it out differently from any of the others. Another thing he knew: She had left the first page there for him to see. If she had not wanted him to read it she would have closed the door to her study, a signal that she wanted her office to remain private, or she would not have not printed it. But now he’d read it and she had him curious, as always.
Janice gazed in the mirror, surveying her appearance. Everything had to be perfect. She was about to be in the public eye. Again. And no matter how often she was, she always felt butterflies in the pit of her stomach.
As a writer she was used to the attention paid to her but this time would be different. This would be the first time that her relationship with Simon Kohl would be the main focus. It would also open the flood gates to questions regarding her meteoric rise to fame in the last two years. Had she slept her way there? And the answer to that was yes. Well, in a way.
For the past three years she’d been sleeping with the most powerful man in publishing. While he was mostly unknown to writers, agents and editors, the powers that be, the money moguls, knew exactly who Simon Kohl was. He owned more than half the publishing houses in the world and kept his anonymity by allowing those companies to operate as though he didn’t exist.
He owned everything from the tree farms where the trees were harvested especially to make the paper for his printing presses to a plastic factory that distributed the tiny holders that the reporters who tried unsuccessfully to catch a glimpse of him used to carry their name badges.
And she was about to be brought full force into his world. There would no longer be the whispered rumors or innuendos. Today they would announce their engagement. After today there wouldn’t be one single person left who would believe that she had a smidgen of talent. Though she’d made a name for herself long before Simon, she couldn’t deny that it was Simon that had boosted her career. Not for one second could she allow herself to forget that he held the authority to easily take away what he’d given her.
A shiver ran down her back and she frowned slightly, looking at her image in the mirror. Her long hair, soft and curling, framed her honey brown face to perfection. Her deep set brown eyes tilted up a little, giving her a bit of an exotic look. And her five-foot-nine frame gave her a regal bearing. Janice tilted her head to the side, allowing what she knew to be true to seep into her pores and become a part of her armor.
She was a beautiful woman; there was no doubt about it. But she’d given up a lot to get to this point in her life. Her very large and vocal family including siblings, uncle, aunts and cousins thought she’d given up her heritage. As they often said, she no longer acted black, whatever the hell that meant.
There had been a time in her life when she’d worn her feelings on her sleeve and accusations such as that had cut deeply. A shiver passed through her as she thought about Tommie Strong. Look what that relationship had gotten her.
“Hey, aren’t you ready yet?”
Janice’s eyes slid back to the mirror to peer over her shoulder at Simon, who’d just come to stand behind her. Simon was the final proof to the black world that Janice Lace was a sell-out. He was white.
Despite what her family thought she’d not set out deliberately to become engaged to a man outside her race. That had just happened. And why shouldn’t it? Simon was an extremely handsome man who’d chased her until she’d allowed him to catch her. He was a well built man in his late thirties, tall enough that she didn’t have to resort to wearing flats. Simon swore he was six-three, but she thought he was just a little under. He had the thickest, softest hair she’d ever felt on a man. It always made her think of dark chocolate. His smile never failed to cause a slight hitch in her chest, though she kept that from him. He had deep dimples in each cheek and when his lips were pulled back into a smile, she could just imagine falling into those dimples. As attractive as she found him, it was his eyes that enthralled her.
He had startling gray eyes that could shoot fear into the deepest marrow of her being. Filled with lust, they almost made her believe that the two of them were right for each other. Almost. But it really didn’t matter. In spite of her doubts she would stand beside him at the podium when he announced to the world that they would be getting married. And she would smile as though she’d won the top prize. It was, after all, what she’d wanted, what she’d worked her tail off to achieve.
“I’m ready,” she answered finally.
“What took you so long in here?”
She turned to face him. “I wanted to look perfect for you.”
“You’re always perfect. Are you nervous?” He narrowed his eyes and surveyed her coolly. “Are you having second thoughts?”
“No second thoughts.” She lowered her gaze. “What would make you think that?”
“The way you looked down just then and the fact that you didn’t want to marry me before. It’s almost as though you’re somehow ashamed of me.” He grinned. “That’s stupid, though, isn’t it?”
“Why would I be ashamed of you? Look at you. You’re a handsome man, smart and funny.”
“And don’t forget rich,” he teased. “That’s the real reason that you’re marrying me.”
His words made her wince and she turned away, wanting to withhold the truth from him, even if she couldn’t from herself. She had not told him how she felt. What good would it do to tell him that she loved him? She’d given her heart to one man and told him that she loved her. He’d left her knowing how she felt. Janice glanced at Simon. She wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. Saying the words would only give him power over her, so she didn’t say them. She believed that was part of the reason he stayed interested. She allowed him and the world to believe it was his money she was after. After all, she’d not bothered to talk to him until she’d known exactly who he was.
“Come on, Janice, we both know you’re with me for what I can do for you. You’re not in love with me.”
“Are you in love with me?”
“I want to marry you.”
“That wasn’t the question. Are you in love with me?”
“I love having pretty things and I like the finality of marriage, knowing that I’ve closed the deal, so to speak. I don’t like what shacking up represents—instability, no commitments. It’s just a nice way of having someone available for a ready screw.”
He was being deliberately crude. She knew it was because she hadn’t admitted to being in love with him. Whenever the subject of love came up, Simon always behaved this way. If Janice didn’t know better, she would think he did love her. But she did know better. He didn’t love her; he wanted to possess her.
For the most part he did. He controlled her career completely. But apparently that wasn’t enough. He’d almost demanded that she say yes to his endless proposals. Sometimes she wondered why it mattered so much to him.
She watched in the mirror as he toyed with the Rolex around his wrist. His jaw was set firmly and his brows furrowed. There was something up with him. What? she wondered.
“I read the beginning of your new book.”
She wanted to turn around, to face him, read his thoughts. But she’d play it cool, behave as though what he thought didn’t matter. “So what did you think?” she asked finally as she fluffed her hair around her face.
“I noticed you wrote it in first person. Is it going to be autobiographical?”
“I guess it could be.” She smiled. “I’m not sure. I just wrote what came out. What do you think of the beginning?”
“I don’t like giving my opinion on a book until I’ve read the entire thing.”
“Okay, it’s different.”
“That was my intention. I’m sick to death of writing stories with an end the reader can predict from the first paragraph. I want to write about characters that are, for lack of a better word, evil and mean. I want them to do stupid things. I want them to be human. I don’t want a hero and I don’t want a heroine.” She tilted her head just a tiny bit and smiled into the mirror. “I want the protagonist to be more like me.”
“Am I going to be in it?”
“I didn’t say it was going to be a true story. It’s a work of fiction.”
“In that case I’ll hold off on my critique. I have a surprise for you.” He came closer, turned her around and kissed her.
A flutter ripped her sense of calm and she hesitated before asking, “Where is it?”
“Surprises are not to be just lightly given. There has to be something leading up to it. You’ll get it, don’t worry.”
His gray eyes suddenly looked cold and he moved away from her, giving her the sense that her surprise wasn’t going to be pleasant.
“What’s up with you?” she asked, feigning a curiosity she didn’t truly feel. She’d made her deal with the devil, so to speak, and there was no going back. She’d come into this relationship with her eyes wide open. They each served a purpose for the other.
For Simon, she was exotic arm candy, entrée into the black world, his way of proving that he was a man of the people. She almost laughed at the thought. He truly thought he was, but he would never be able to buy his way into being black, same as she could never buy her way into being white. They served as passports for each other, allowing each to travel the other’s world. At any time they could each cross back over into the world they’d come from.
But for Janice there was no going back. She was in Simon’s world for a reason, a reason known only to her. And she’d kept it deeply buried in her heart.
“Is there a chance that you could at least pretend to be happy when we make the announcement?” Simon asked, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Sure, I can pretend if you can.” She squared off with him. “I don’t get it. You’re behaving as though you’re angry with me and I have done nothing to provoke your anger, so either tell me what’s going on or knock it off. I swear, you’re worse than a woman having PMS.”
“Why do you risk what we have?” Simon said as he sidled up next to her, fingered the double strand of expensive pearls around her throat and frowned. “Sometimes I think you forget who I am and what I can do.”
“How can I? You remind me constantly.”
“Is that the reason you don’t love me?” he asked pointedly.
“What is all this talk of love? What’s with you?”
“I’m thinking I’m too old for this charade. I want to be happy. I want a family, I want love.”
“You have to love in order to be loved.” Janice started to walk away but felt strong hands reach out, grabbing her and holding her in place.
“Let me go,” she ordered.
“Or you’re going to wish that you had.”
“As you wish,” Simon replied, releasing her, smiling at her and shaking his head in wonder. He wished he knew what the hell it was about her cold disdain that had made him fall in love with her, kept him trying to please her, trying to make her love him.
Well, actually, he knew in his heart that she loved him even if she refused to say it. And despite her public persona she proved it in the privacy of their home. No woman touched a man the way she touched him other than in love. He thought about the times in the still of the night when he held her in his arms, caressing her, and she softly shared her dreams, telling him without the actual words that she loved him. When they made love she always kept her eyes open, and for sure he saw her love reflected there.
Now Simon was after two things: He was going to make her tell him that she loved him and he was going to discover why she had thus far been unable to do so. In the next couple of hours the game would begin.
Though in the beginning he hadn’t been altogether sure that it was love he felt for Janice, it had angered him that she’d didn’t admit to feeling love for him. Maybe that was the reason he’d chased her until she ended up in his bed. At first he’d wondered what would happen if they both cared. Now he wondered what would happen when they both admitted to caring.
One thing for sure, Simon didn’t want Janice for an enemy and she sure as hell didn’t want him for one. They would settle their differences in the marriage bed. But he wasn’t marrying her until they resolved her past. He believed he’d discovered the reason why she went cold when he talked of love, why she substituted fighting for admitting her feelings for him. Well they’d fought for over three years. It was time to end the war.
He had a test for his soon to be fiancée. He demanded one thing and one thing only from her and that was fidelity. Her verbal abuse and disdain he might tolerate as long as it stayed behind closed doors, and so far Janice had played her part well in public, pretending that she adored him when they both knew that wasn’t the case. Loved, maybe. That he stood a shot at. Adored? No way in hell would Janice Lace ever adore any man.
At least he was hoping that part was true. He didn’t want her giving to any man something that she couldn’t or wouldn’t give to him. In the past he had tolerated many things from her. But now it would be different. He was marrying her.
“This is supposed to be a happy occasion.” He smiled inwardly as she eyed him with disdain. “You’re treating me as though I’m the enemy. Anyone watching this display of temper might think it was only my money that you’re interested in.” He braced himself for her expected answer.
“I have my own money,” she sneered.
“Money that you wouldn’t have if it weren’t for me.”
She glared at him and he grinned. He loved getting a real response from Janice, even if it were only one of anger. God she was beautiful when she was angry. Simon could feel himself growing hard with wanting her. He watched as her brown eyes flashed red fire. Then she suddenly looked toward his crotch and smiled.
“You always manage to get me, don’t you?” To Simon’s surprise she walked back to him, plastered her body to his, and slid her hand down the length of him, making him groan with need. His chest tightened and his arms went automatically around her, pulling her close. She didn’t move away. Instead, she kissed him, sliding her tongue between his lips. He felt her tremble, felt the fire in her and for a moment he thought they would make love. Then she pulled away, eyed him up and down, and grinned.
“Admit it, Simon, you like our relationship just fine the way that it is.”
She tossed that wild mane of hair and walked out of her bathroom, leaving him with a hard-on. And the moment faded. She’d been merely teasing him, showing him that regardless of his money, she was in control.
Simon licked his lips. He could buy women and all the sex that he wanted. He could even buy his way into a culture that wasn’t his, but that he loved. And he could do that without Janice on his arm. But he didn’t want to. He wanted her and God help him if it wasn’t love. Still he wanted her and he wanted a stable family with her. He just had to make sure that her feelings for the man in her past were dead.
He took a deep breath and walked out of the bathroom. Janice wasn’t a stupid woman; she wouldn’t risk everything.
A little voice whispered into his brain that he should leave well enough alone but he’d never done things the easy way and he wasn’t about to start now. No. One thing Simon wasn’t, was a coward. He allowed the sigh to escape and glanced down at his now semi-soft erection. That woman could make him hard as steel with but a touch and she could also deflate him quicker than a child could release air from a balloon.
What a life we’ll have, he thought as he walked out of the bathroom and into his future. He smiled at Janice and she smiled back and again he wondered. Maybe if he said it first. He took her arm. Maybe after they were safely married he’d tell her he loved her. Maybe.