Hollywood was turning out to be every bit as much trouble as Georgia had feared he would be. He’d already reduced her to begging.
“You have to help me. It’s not like my phone is full of stuffed-shirt society matrons I can call. You’re the only rich person I know.”
Georgia bit her lip at how pathetic she sounded. Trudy sniffed at her request as she refilled her coffee mug. Was that a yes sniff or a no? She couldn’t tell.
“I’m not sure how you think I can help, Georgia. I suppose we could visit my red room. I’m sure there’s some things in there you might be able to use,” Trudy said, shrugging at her thoughts.
Georgia stiffened on her bar stool. “Red room? Are you saying all wealthy people are into kinky sex these days? Okay, that’s a show stopper. I’m too old to get hung up by my wrists.”
Trudy barked out a laugh and spilled her coffee on the floor. “Who said anything about chaining you up? I’m saying you need to learn the proper etiquette for chaining a handsome plastic surgeon to the wall. Did you know that you have to use the fur lined handcuffs so you don’t damage his evil money-making hands?”
“Are you serious?” Georgia demanded.
Trudy laughed harder and then shook her head slowly. “You have some strange ideas about wealthy men, Georgia. Have you ever considered getting professional help for that neurosis?”
“No. I raised a head shrinker from scratch. Mariah’s been laying mental guilt on me since she was a teenager. When she left home, I decided I’d had enough therapy for one lifetime.”
Trudy rolled her eyes. “I love you like crazy, and I guess I have no room to talk. Heaven knows, I’m no better in the attitude department when it comes to men. Not a single one has ever stayed with me more than a year or two. But don’t rule out the kinky stuff. You may need to do some of it. You and I have to be damn good in bed for a man to put up with our level of shit.”
“What are you talking about? I was happily married for a very long time. And I’ll have you know it’s taken me sixty years to hone this attitude.” Georgia pushed away thoughts of Hollywood staring at her breasts before she answered the rest. “We will not be getting far enough on our bogus date to have sex. I just need to fulfill my obligation without embarrassing me or my daughter. The man is used to dating younger women and I’m in over my head. Now are you going to help me or not?”
“What do you expect from me, lady? I’m not a freaking miracle worker,” Trudy declared.
Georgia lifted both hands. “I’m nearly triple the age of his typical dates, Trudy. A couple of his other wives were Mariah’s age. I still don’t know how I got myself into this mess, but I damn well don’t want to show up looking like I feel. I need to create an image he’ll believe for a night.”
“What are you talking about? Are you calling yourself an old, grumpy ass, granny Cinderella?”
Georgia thought about it and shrugged. “I can live with that. So will you play my fairy godmother?”
“Well, just you showing up to ask for help at all is a shock. I can see you faking a severe illness before I see you giving in some man’s emotional blackmail. Damn, you must really like him. Come on, Granny-ella. Let’s see what I can do for you.”
Georgia grunted at Trudy’s nickname, putting all the indignation she felt into it. “I do not like Hollywood. I made a promise and he’s going to do something amazing for Mariah’s business. I’m being altruistic for my daughter’s sake.”
“Bullshit. You’re acting all female because he’s handsome and charming. You obviously like him well enough to care what he thinks. You’re not doing this just for Mariah. You need to get honest with yourself,” Trudy declared, walking briskly away.
Georgia followed Trudy through her huge house which still managed to feel homey. Chef Trudy Baker had a lot of friends—famous friends—who liked to come for the kinds of visits family only did in Georgia’s world. Entertaining semi-strangers for weeks on end wasn’t something Georgia could imagine doing, but Trudy seemed to enjoy turning her home into a bed and breakfast stopover once in a while.
Trudy’s house was a u-shaped, well architected ranch. She followed her down one long side until Trudy stopped in front of a closed door. Taking a big breath, Trudy let it out slowly as she pushed the door open and walked inside. She flipped on the overhead light and sighed in disgust.
Georgia stood back, afraid to go in after watching and hearing her friend’s reaction. What the hell was in there? Trudy wasn’t afraid of much.
“Don’t hover in the freaking hallway, Granny-ella. You wanted my damn help, so get your cranky, old ass in here.”
Georgia rolled her eyes to the hallway ceiling, swore under her breath, and then braced herself. It still hadn’t been enough to prepare her.
She walked into what had probably been intended to be a medium sized bedroom, but that had been converted into a giant walk-in closet. Three-tiered racks circled all the walls, and some required the tall stepstool standing nearby to reach the clothes on the top tier.
In the center of the room were two enormous, back-to-back dressers, obvious storage for folded items and accessories. Installed on either side of the dressers were department store looking shoe racks with dozens of shoes on each shelf. On nearby shelves against the wall, stacks and stacks of shoes were still in their boxes and towered to the ceiling. In the bare spots where the clothing racks ended, there were also two six foot tall jewelry armoires.
“Holy shit, Trudy.” Georgia’s wandering gaze took in the lavish clothing with astonishment. There was every conceivable color and style. Her mind couldn’t even imagine how much money had been spent to buy what was in this room. The thought of Hollywood having something close to this, filled with his watches and expensive suits, made her want to vomit. She had one black dress… well, two now after the dance she’d gone to with Ann.
“I bet I spent at least a half a million dollars on these clothes,” Trudy said, looking around. “That’s why I still have them. I tell myself that at least I didn’t collect something really dumb, like salt and pepper shakers, or gravy boats. Can you imagine having a room full of either or those? People would think I was crazy.”
“Were all these clothes for your TV work?”
Trudy shrugged. “Some were for the show. Then there were local appearances. Oh, and every time I was interviewed on a talk show? Well, that required a new outfit. And the schmoozing—God… the lunches, dinners, parties, not mention holiday galas. This is a decade’s worth of crazy clothing purchases. I’m not a real trendy person so most of this is classy. Since you and I are nearly the same size, I’m sure we can find you something suitable for your blackmail date.”
Ignoring the sarcasm, Georgia stared at Trudy’s body hard. “We’re not necessarily the same size. You merely borrowed a pair of yoga pants once and thought they fit you well. Spandex is very forgiving that way. I have way more boobs than you do.”
“The pants did fit well and I now own four pairs. I’d wear them every day if I never had to go out of the house.” Trudy snorted as she eyed Georgia’s breasts. “I have just as much boob as you do. Mine just aren’t as perky.”
“Hey, I’ve worked damn hard for these perky girls,” Georgia said, rubbing her forehead as she tried to ease the growing tension there. “I didn’t want to borrow clothes—I just wanted some advice. I was planning to buy something new if necessary. I’m just trying not to embarrass myself… or my daughter.”
“Or Brentwood Colombo wherever he decides to take you?” Trudy finished.
Georgia sighed and nodded. “Yes, damn it. Him too.” She looked around the room. “Can’t you just pick something for me?”
Trudy shook her head. “No. I hired a personal dresser who helped me buy and coordinate this stuff. Now I’d call Ann to come help. She has excellent taste.”
“You’re right. I should probably have called Ann, but she’s so busy these days. Do you think she can tear herself away from Cal long enough?”
Trudy sighed and rubbed her shoulder. “They’re still new to each other. We’ll get our friend back in time. That initial lust happens to everyone, but it doesn’t last. I’ve felt it many times and it always goes away.”
Georgia shook her head and frowned at Trudy. The woman was the most jaded person about love that she knew—worse even than her. Even Mariah hadn’t been this cynical about finding herself attracted to another cop… and she’d had good reasons to be.
“Lust lasted nearly an entire marriage with me, which was a fortunate thing for my military husband who wasn’t romantic by any stretch of the word. Cal’s a good man and he adores Ann. Hollywood was right about that. I don’t want to screw up their happy buzz by whining about my stupid date.”
“I still can’t believe he helped you chase down Calvin Rodgers. Sounds like Dr. Colombo is a good man too. Don’t you think?”
Georgia shrugged. “I wouldn’t know.”
Trudy chuckled. “Well, I hope you have a lot of fun finding out. Feel free to snoop around in here and pick a few things to try on. I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me. A cookbook writing friend is coming to dinner. I’m making something special for her.”
Still in shock over the contents of Trudy’s red room, named no doubt from the ugly wall paper peeking between the racks, Georgia looked around numbly after Trudy left her alone. Finally, she walked to the center of the room and picked up a three inch pair of red stiletto heels from a shelf. They had pointed toes and two thin straps to go around your ankle.
“Not on your life, Hollywood. Not even if you turn out to kiss as good as you look.”
Releases June 19, 2017 Pre-Order Now!