** Please be aware that this extract contains some strong language of a sexual nature **
“Rebound sex. You need rebound sex.”
“I do not need rebound sex.”
“You do.” Kat takes a swig of beer and raises an eyebrow. “Believe me. It solves everything.”
It’s my turn to raise an eyebrow. “In your world I suspect it does.”
“I could take offence at that. Just because you’re about to start a new job in one of Manhattan’s most prestigious law firms doesn’t mean you have to have the attitude to go with it.”
“Shut up and dig out your best dress. We’re going out.”
“We are? You start that new job, tomorrow, and you want to play out? No early night with a mug of cocoa and Netflix?”
“That’s only going to make my nerves even worse. I want something to take my mind off the fact I’m about to start a new job in one of Manhattan’s most prestigious law firms, so, let’s go drink cocktails.”
“You don’t have to ask me twice.”
Kat clambers off my bed and practically runs to her own room. I love Kat. She’s been in my life for almost ten years now. I met her in a deli in SoHo just three days after I arrived here in New York from the U.K., although, I was actually born in Brooklyn. We left the U.S. when I was just three years old, when my dad’s job took us to Manchester, England. And that’s where I stayed until I was almost thirty, which probably makes me way more British than American, despite what my passport says, but I wanted to come home. And Kat – meeting her was fate, almost. We got chatting while waiting in line for fresh bagels; she needed a roommate, I needed a place to stay, and within days we were best friends forever. No word of a lie. She’s like the sister I never had, and I love her. She’s loud, she’s got way more sass than anyone I’ve ever known; she tells it how it is. She’s everything I wasn’t when I arrived here. She’s everything I’m still trying to be. But sometimes things happen that set you back; that derail you. Professionally my life is looking up. I’ve made a name for myself as one of the best legal secretaries around. I’ve worked in some of the biggest and best law firms in the city over the past few years, but when I saw the post of legal secretary and Personal Assistant to Evan King, one of the managing partners at Cavendish King – one of the most prestigious, top-tier law firms in Manhattan – I wanted it. I really wanted it. I needed something to get my teeth into, and this job – that’s going to do it. Now more than any other time I need to throw myself into my work because, like I said, professionally my life is on the up. Personally, though, it’s just one huge, hot mess. Hence Kat’s advice. But I’m not sure rebound sex is the answer.
“How do I look?”
I swing around to see Kat standing in the doorway dressed in a curve-skimming red skirt and black shirt, her red hair piled high on top of her head. “You look amazing. How can you look amazing in five minutes? I hate you.”
She comes over to me and tucks a strand of my blonde hair behind my ear. “You don’t look so bad yourself, kiddo.”
“Yeah, but I’ve been getting ready for twenty minutes. You achieve that in five.”
She holds me at arm’s length and surveys my strapless emerald-green tube dress and matching high-heeled strappy sandals. “That color is incredible on you, do you know that? Goes so well with your hair.”
“Good to know, because it cost me a small fortune to have a personal shopper at Barney’s tell me the exact same thing.”
“Updating your wardrobe, huh?”
“This new job is costing me an arm and a bloody leg.”
“You can’t be hanging round the offices of Cavendish King looking like a pauper, though, can you?” Kat winks at me and I roll my eyes, smile, and grab my purse from the dressing table. “Okay, missy, let’s get out of here. Rebound sex. Believe me, you’ll feel a whole lot better for it.”
He was too young.
Maybe he just didn’t love me enough.
The age gap killed it.
The age gap was only six years.
He killed it.
He killed us…
Kat’s voice drags me back from everything I can’t stop thinking about. And she knows that, I can tell.
“Don’t start, Kat.”
“You’ve got to stop this, Lola. I’m telling you, girl, it’s gonna drag you down… Rebound sex.”
“Will you stop with the rebound sex? Please?”
“Look around you. Go on. Look. The men in here, they’re powerful, successful… some of them are even hot. But I reckon they’re all loaded.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“You don’t just have rebound sex with anyone.”
“I thought that was the whole point.”
She takes a sip of her mojito and shakes her head. “Uh uh. Doesn’t work like that. You have rebound sex to make yourself feel better, and having some rich, powerful, handsome man fucking you hard while he tells you how beautiful you are… don’t tell me that’s not gonna make you feel great?”
I just look at her for a couple of beats. “Seriously? How many times, exactly, have you had rebound sex?”
She shrugs and drains the last of her drink. “Enough to know it works.” She slides down from her stool and leans in to me. “He isn’t worth it, Lola.”
“I still love him, Kat. That doesn’t just go away, I can’t switch those feelings off like they were never there.”
“He broke your fucking heart. Forget him. Tomorrow’s a new start for you, so, why not make that new start happen a little earlier than planned, huh?” She throws me another wink and heads off in the direction of the restrooms.
I turn on my stool to face the bar, and I stare down into my glass, absent mindedly poking at the mint leaves in the crushed ice with my straw.
“How about I get you another one of those?”
I look up to see who that deep and somewhat sexy voice belongs to, and I’m not disappointed by what I find. “Yeah. Okay.” What the hell. No harm in a little conversation with a handsome stranger, is there?
I watch as he leans over the bar and orders another mojito for me and a bourbon for himself. And then he slides up onto the stool next to mine, and he smiles the kind of smile that actually floors me. Seriously. It’s one hell of a smile. And he’s one hot-as-hell son-of-a-bitch, if not a little arrogant, because he’s definitely giving off that kind of vibe. He’s wearing a dark suit like he was born to do so; an expensive suit, even I can tell that. So I’m guessing he’s come straight from work, whatever it is that he actually does. His light brown hair’s swept back off his face showing off deep, dark, slightly hooded eyes that don’t seem to want to leave mine, and a light dusting of stubble covers his strong, slightly squared jaw line. Yeah. If I was going to even entertain Kat’s idea of rebound sex, this guy would do just fine. And then I feel a tiny shiver speed up my spine, and I hope to God I’m not blushing!
I give myself a mental shake and smile at him. “Yeah, sorry, my mind keeps wandering a little bit, that’s all. I’m starting a new job tomorrow and I guess the nerves are beginning to set in now.”
“And you’re playing out on a school night, huh?”
He arches an eyebrow, and I swear that makes my stomach knot up like it hasn’t done since… I drop my head and take a deep breath. Fuck it! Kat’s right. And I hate the fact that she’s right, but she is. I need rebound sex.
“You sure you’re okay?”
He hands me my drink and I take a sip, thankful for the alcohol hit. “I’m fine. Like I said, I’m just a bit nervous about tomorrow.”
“That accent… you’re not from around here, are you?”
“Well, actually, I am. I was born here. Brooklyn, to be exact. We moved away when I was three, over to the U.K.”
“But now you’re back, right?”
“It would seem that way, yeah. Almost ten years now.”
Our eyes lock, and I watch as he takes a sip of his bourbon and – Jesus! How can one man make that look so damn sexy?
I’m about to say something when Kat returns from the restroom, leans over me to retrieve her purse, and then moves in to whisper in my ear, but not before she’s glanced quickly over at my new companion.
“Remember what I said, missy. Gonna make you feel a whole lot better. And I’m waiting up, so, I want details. See you at home.”
She backs away, leaves me with a knowing smile and heads out of the bar. And all of a sudden I’m alone, in an up market Manhattan cocktail bar with a handsome stranger, and I have to almost stop myself from laughing out loud. It sounds like some scenario from a romance novel, but it’s happening. To me. This is the situation I’m in. Shit! I’m not Kat. What do I do now?
I take another sip of my drink and turn my attention back to the man beside me. “I don’t make a habit of this. Accepting drinks from strangers, I mean.”
“I find the whole concept of strangers quite fascinating, don’t you?”
I hadn’t really thought about it, if I’m honest. But if I had, I’m not sure fascinating is how I’d describe it. Dangerous, maybe. Unpredictable… actually, that just makes it sound exciting. Okay. Maybe I should put the drink down now and think about going home. An early night, that’s what I should’ve had… No. I can’t disappoint Kat now, can I? And I think somewhere, deep down inside, I do actually need this. I need something to happen, something that might just force me to move on because, for the past three months, I haven’t really moved anywhere.
“The not knowing who that person really is, what they do; their innermost secrets… the mystery, it’s just so goddamn hot, don’t you think?”
I put down my drink and rest my chin in my hand as I look at him. Age-wise I think he’s somewhere in his mid-forties. A little older than me, but not by much. I’m nudging forty myself. There are a few lines around his eyes, but nothing significant enough to give too much away. Charm and success oozes from every pore, and I’m guessing he doesn’t even have to try hard at that. I’m guessing he’s a very successful man, a very charming man, and he probably does exactly what he’s doing here, with me, on a regular basis, but so what? I actually want to be a notch on whatever bed post he collects them on; I want him to take me and fuck the frustration out of me and I’m going to accept it and enjoy it and scream out every last ounce of pain and regret as he makes me come, over and over again, because I really do think I need that to happen. So badly. I need to get him out of my system. And this might just help make a start on that. But this is also not what I do, not usually. Not ever. But a girl can change her mind, can’t she?
“You sleep with a lot of strangers?”
He laughs quietly, and it’s obvious my bluntness hasn’t shocked him. “Only the beautiful ones.”
Oh. He’s a smooth-talker, but I don’t think he needs to use too much flannel. I’m sure there are plenty of women who would drop their panties for this man the second he looks in their direction. Five minutes in his company and I’m already getting that. Do I feel cheap? Because I want to be one of those women? Hell, yes! I feel cheap. And dirty. But it’s one night. He’s a stranger. I’m not going to see him again after tonight. And now I’m starting to feel quite liberated, Jesus, what am I turning into here?
“I don’t actually make a habit of this, either, just so you know.”
I look at him, and I arch a surprised eyebrow.
“Seriously. I don’t. I just like to avoid commitment. There’s no room in my life for that kind of relationship.”
“Yeah. I’m getting that.”
“But I like sex.”
He smiles, and his eyes bore deeper into mine. And I’m struggling to believe this is me, sitting here, talking to a complete stranger. About sex. This man, he could be anyone, and I’m actually considering sleeping with him? Because I need him to fuck away my past?
Turn the question around, he’s good! “Most of the time.”
He laughs again, and then he briefly drops his head before he raises his gaze and our eyes meet once more. “Someone hurt you?”
“I thought you didn’t want to know anything about me. Or my innermost secrets.”
“I don’t. I always feel too much knowledge spoils the intensity. It dilutes the danger.” He shrugs. “The question just slipped out, I’m sorry. Forget it.”
I wasn’t going to answer it anyway. But it makes him seem more human now, the fact he asked it at all. “I really don’t make a habit of this.” My voice is quiet, but it’s steady and unwavering even though I’m about to leave this bar with this man and go – where? Back to his place? A hotel? Oh, God, that just makes it sound even more sordid than it already is!
“Look, I’ve got a bottle of exceptionally good bourbon back at my apartment, and I hate drinking alone.”
I feel better – I think – knowing that we’re going to his apartment. But there’s still a part of me – now that this is actually moving forward – that feels a little scared. A little – disgusted? And then I remember why I’m here, why I even considered doing this in the first place, and I know I’m going to go through with it. I might feel dirty and used in a couple of hours but, hey. I’ve got a feeling this man’s going to give me orgasms that’ll make it all seem worth it. I certainly hope that’s going to be the case because I’ve kind of got my hopes up now.
“I’ll get the check.”
He doesn’t even wait for my response, and that’s his slight arrogance showing through again. But I was never going to turn him down. Not now.
He pays the check and turns to me, that smile making my stomach flip whether I like it or not. He’s giving me no choice here. “You coming?”
I smile back, and I slide down from my stool and pick up my purse and he knows the answer to that question. I think we both do…
© Michelle Betham 2016
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