Genre = Contemporary Romance, Sweet Romance, Romantic Comedy
LENGTH: 38,000 words, 190 pages
What could she possibly have in common with a man whose watch costs more than her car?
Georgia may be slowing down a bit at sixty, but she isn’t stupid yet. The idea of her genuinely dating Dr. Brentwood Colombo, aka Hollywood when he poses in her doorway… well, that’s just totally insane.
Where is her dignity? Where is her pride? How did she let her snickering friends dare her into giving him a chance?
And where is the kind, caring daughter she raised? Mariah’s been replaced with an evil version who keeps insisting she give the womanizing plastic surgeon who dates twenty-year-olds a fair chance. A fair chance at what, Georgia wonders? Breaking her heart?
No, thank you. She would rather keep her womanly dignity than see it trampled under Hollywood’s expensive, polished shoes. Now if he’d just stop talking about her perfect, perfect breasts, she might forget about him completely.
Read Chapter 1
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 moneymaking 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 over 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 only 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 to 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 promised him a date 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 for Mariah. You need to get honest with yourself,” Trudy said, 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 step stool 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 anything really dumb, like salt and pepper shakers, or gravy boats. Can you imagine having a room full of either of those? People would think I was crazy.”
“Were all these clothes for your TV work?”
Trudy shrugged. “Some were for the show. I put getting to keep them in my contract. 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 to 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. “And I have 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 want some advice. I was planning to buy something new if necessary. I’m not trying 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 pick something for me?”
Trudy shook her head. “No. It doesn’t work that way. When I wore this stuff, I hired a personal dresser who helped me buy and coordinate everything. Now I 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 could tear herself away from Cal long enough to help me?”
Trudy sighed as she rubbed Georgia’s shoulder. “No. 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 as she frowned at Trudy. The woman was the most jaded person about love that she knew—worse even than her. Even her own daughter, 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 really don’t want to screw up their happy buzz by whining about my stupid date.”
“And I still can’t believe a renowned plastic surgeon helped you chase down Calvin Rodgers for Ann. Sounds like your Hollywood is a good man too, Georgia. 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, ancient 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 fasten around your ankle.
“Not on your life, Hollywood. Not even if you turn out to kiss as good as you look,” she said as she put them back.
Read Chapter 2
Who met for coffee to plan a first date? This was so stupid. Didn’t the man know how to send a text? They’d done that a lot when he’d been helping hunt down Cal. She didn’t understand the need for this get-together or why it was important to planning the real thing.
Since Trudy had obviously bought stock in black cashmere sweaters at one point in her life, Georgia had absconded with one of three identical cardigans she’d found on her scavenger hunt, as well as a surprisingly well-fitting, dark red, silk blouse that she’d worn outside her new black slacks. The new pants were slim cut, ankle-length, and tapered at the bottom. The style of the pants made them look great with her favorite black ballet flats which she promised herself she didn’t care about Hollywood judging as old and well-used. She’d bought the shoes at a great outlet, and in several colors, because they had looked so good on her narrow feet.
She’d topped off her mostly borrowed outfit with a dark red jasper necklace Jellica had made for her. Jellica said the stone was worn by warriors for protection. That had sounded good to Georgia because she needed all the protection she could get from Hollywood, or at least from her own feelings for him. The man seemed to know exactly how to push the wrong buttons. He kept her on edge and she didn’t like being there—not at all.
She sighed as she walked into the café in his building, frowned as she looked around at the blandness of it, and then swore at feeling so tricked. This wasn’t a café. It was a cafeteria. She’d expected a coffeehouse opulence befitting his expensive gold watch, not serviceable plastic chairs and scarred Formica tabletops.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Georgia said under her breath, but evidently all those standing nearby heard. Raising her chin in the air to hide her embarrassment, she tried for lofty. “I’m here to meet Dr. Colombo. Allegedly. I believe he’s expecting me.”
It came out sounding pompous and churlish, and being nervous wasn’t helping her tone any.
“Of course. Dr. Colombo’s table is this way.”
“Table? Who reserves a table in a cafeteria?” The woman’s quick frown clued her in that she’d actually spoken the rude thought aloud. “Sorry,” Georgia said. “I’m just… surprised. Yes, I’m surprised. He has a habit of doing that to me.”
Nodding, the woman patted the well-used tabletop. Georgia raised an eyebrow but managed to tap down more comments. “Thank you,” she made herself say instead.
“Would you like coffee or tea?” the young woman asked.
“I have to watch my caffeine these days. Water with lemon, please,” Georgia answered.
A head nod later and the young woman was off. Georgia sighed under her breath and wished Ann had warned her about this place. All she’d heard about was the cozy chat and the dancing at the end of it. Hollywood’s smarmy charm had probably kept her impressionable friend from noticing the worn-out atmosphere of this place.
The water soon appeared, along with a carafe in an ice bucket for refills, plus a dish of extra lemon slices. A second trip brought an assortment of finger sandwiches and petit four desserts, which she recognized primarily from being Trudy’s guinea pig for her fancy baking stints. Baking had never been her thing. The only dessert she’d ever served in her house came from a local grocery store.
Georgia sipped her water, called herself crazy for being here, and worked to settle down her nerves enough to at least appear to be waiting patiently. Some forty minutes later, after she’d played two rounds of her favorite game on her phone, she promptly decided she’d been polite long enough.
Leaving the food untouched, she rose from her seat, put her unused napkin by her tiny unused plastic plate, and started across the room. An out-of-breath Hollywood nearly knocked her over as he propelled her backward into the cafeteria. A tittering of laughter from those watching them brought out her worst reaction possible.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing? Let go of me.”
Hollywood had the nerve to look at her and laugh. He turned loose but didn’t move away. “I’m trying to stop you from leaving. I was with a client. We ran a little over.”
“You’re forty minutes late. That’s more than a little. The ice in my water glass melted completely while I was waiting.”
“Melted ice? Is that your timer for abandoning your dates?” Brent asked.
Georgia crossed her arms, which made her breasts press against the snug shirt because she really was a bit bigger up top than Trudy. The action of serving up her girls for his eager gaze earned her a chuckle, and a leering you’re-the-only-woman-in-my-world smile that would have made any female of any age forgive the bastard.
“Since I don’t do dates outside of those I get blackmailed into, I can’t properly answer that question. You’re the only dating expert here.”
“I’m not the expert you think I am,” Brent insisted.
He reached out a hand and put it on her arm. It felt really good to her, so Georgia stepped away. His bad behavior would not be rewarded with her total capitulation.
Partial capitulation maybe… but not total.
No way, Jose. She was not buying his charming bad boy routine ever again.
“Please, Georgia. Stay at least for coffee. I still have an hour before my next appointment. I’m sorry I kept you waiting so long.”
Glancing around, she saw concerned glares directed her way. She wondered what kind of female riot a total brush-off would cause. And what fresh hell was this shit? Did Hollywood have every woman in existence under his spell?
“Maybe I’m the only woman in the world who would chastise your bad manners, but I don’t give a rat’s ass. Didn’t you think of sending me a text to let me know you were detained?”
Her retort had him taking a step back. Hollywood thought about it for a moment and then shrugged. “I guess I didn’t think of it, but you’re right. I could have taken the time and let you know what I was doing.”
And now what was she supposed to say to that straight-up admission? Georgia hadn’t expected a mostly sincere apology.
Couldn’t he simply and consistently be the ass she thought he was? It would make this so much easier.
“Fine,” Georgia said tightly. She turned and trudged back to the table, ignoring the whispering sighs of relief going on. Her eyesight might be going as she got older, but nothing was wrong with her hearing.
A fresh glass of ice water appeared in front of her before Hollywood even had the chance to get seated. Her begrudging thank you drew a wicked smile from the woman serving it. A cup of coffee and a cream pitcher was put in front of her very late date. Hollywood said nothing as he fixed it the way he wanted. She watched, her gaze mesmerized by his elegant fingers stirring the cream into the fragrant black liquid.
Brent lifted the cup and took a sip. “Hello, Georgia,” he said softly, lowering the cup to the table.
“Hello, Hollywood,” Georgia said back automatically.
“You look very nice today. Red looks as great on you as blue does. Your choice of hair color is very flattering with all those shades of gray and silver. You’ve put together quite the package for me. I’m honored you took the time.”
Tempted to lie that she hadn’t gone to any trouble at all, Georgia squirmed in her chair to keep from fibbing. “I prefer to let God choose. He’s the ultimate stylist.”
Georgia was grateful when Hollywood chuckled at her comment. Usually, only her closest friends laughed at such irreverent snark. He could have easily seen it as a subtle dig at his near godlike profession, and she was suddenly glad he hadn’t.
Why was she always the worst version of herself with this man?
“Okay, I confess. Mariah’s responsible for the haircut and the highlights which account for at least three of the shades. I had to hold the woman back from the ten or twelve she’d planned on giving me. I’ve truly no desire to look like every other painted blonde.”
“You don’t,” Brent said. “Far from it. You look… perfect. That’s the only word I can think of that fits.”
His sincere sounding statement had her swallowing hard, especially when accompanied by his encompassing look of pleasure as his gaze roamed her face and hair. She didn’t find her voice again until his gaze dropped to her chest and then fled quickly. Much more of that sort of nonsense and her face would match her shirt.
“Does that sort of stuff get you laid as often as I keep thinking it probably does?”
Brent grinned as he lowered his cup. He grabbed a sandwich from the tray. “Wow, I am really late. The bread is already stale. These usually hold up a little better.”
“You’re spoiled,” Georgia accused, noticing he had deftly avoided answering her original question. She had no choice but to accept his redirect as a big, fat yes.
To her utter surprise though, Brent nodded at her spoiled accusation.
“I am. I’m spoiled and bored with females in general.” His gaze came to her as he finished the sandwich. “Except when I’m with you. Then I come alive. It’s the strangest damn thing.”
Georgia laughed at the wonder in his voice. She wasn’t even sure why. Maybe it was flattering. Or maybe it was just hilariously ironic. “God, you need serious help,” she told him.
Her heart beat hard against her ribs when he smiled and then laughed. His self-effacing nod was her undoing. “Damn you, Hollywood. I don’t want to like you.”
“Welcome to my world… except I’ve moved on in my thinking. I’ve gone from liking you to considering how on earth I’m going to convince you to get naked with me.”
“Stop that,” Georgia ordered, glaring without the anger she should have been feeling over his admission. For damn sure, her pulse should not be racing with excitement. “That is never happening.”
“Good thing I’m an optimist,” he said.
She watched him suspiciously as he lifted a petit four. “Do you like chocolate?” he asked, holding it where she could inspect it.
When Georgia nodded politely, he set the delicate pastry on her plate. He chose another and put a strawberry one on his plate before looking at her again.
“Chef Trudy Baker makes these for me. I did some work on a friend of hers. It was pro bono, but Chef Baker insists on paying me with food. I can’t refuse her offerings. I get personal delivery every month. They freeze well. The woman’s a magician in the kitchen.”
“Yes, she is. She’s also a tight-lipped hussy,” Georgia fumed. “Trudy never said anything about knowing you personally. I’m wearing her clothes today and she never mentioned knowing you when I borrowed them. Did you date her too?”
Her comment earned her a masculine snort. She had no idea what it meant, other than it didn’t seem to be any sort of admission. She was starting to read him fairly well.
“No. I didn’t date her, Ms. Paranoid. She’s friends, or used to be friends, with one of my ex-wives. Chef Trudy Baker is a great woman. And like I told you, I worked on one of her friends.”
Georgia lifted both hands in the air. “Then why aren’t you sitting across the table from her instead of me? She’s… she’s…” she searched for the nicest words she could think of to set him straight. “Trudy’s way more your type, Hollywood.”
The dessert paused for a full three seconds on its way to sliding between his perfect white teeth. Eventually Hollywood chewed, but the whole damn time he was staring at her. She didn’t like it when he looked at her that way, or at least she didn’t want to like it.
“We had no chemistry,” he finally said. “I never had it with any of the women I married after Henna’s mother. I wasn’t aware of that until after I met you. Like I said, you make me feel alive.”
“Chemistry?” She spat the word at him.
Brent laughed at her frown, leaned over, and picked up the dessert on her plate. He lifted it to her mouth.
“Eat,” he ordered gruffly. “Maybe the sweetness of this little cake will help with the sting of my honesty and your friend’s betrayal. I can’t imagine why Chef Trudy Baker would keep our illicit friendship from you. The nerve of her.”
“Stop making fun of me,” Georgia ordered, smelling the tempting chocolate. It was worse because she knew exactly how good it would taste.
When Hollywood waved it under her nose over and over, she finally leaned forward and took a tiny nibble. He laughed at her action, so she swallowed and leaned again to take the rest into her mouth all at once. His fingers scraped against her teeth and she drew sharply away at his shiver.
Sensual awareness ran through her instantly, too strong to deny as she held his sexually interested gaze. Bemused by her own reaction, she watched as the man across from her swallowed hard and put his now unsteady hand back on his coffee cup.
Her mental debate with herself over their attraction was not going well. Her conscience was shaking her head at her body’s denials and laughing hysterically.
“It’s a good thing I don’t have to do any surgery this afternoon,” Brent finally said, breaking the spell.
Georgia put her hand over her mouth as she chewed. There were a thousand retorts she wanted to make about what had just passed between them, but not one was possible with a mouth full of Trudy’s delicious cake.
Damn it. The woman was supposed to be her friend, not Hollywood’s.
And Hollywood was supposed to be a jerk.
Well, he was in some ways, but he was so much more too. It was the more that made her nervous. Just like now, when he was leaning back in his chair and staring at her.
“What we have is what I meant by chemistry. It’s been missing from all my relationships until you. I desperately want in your pants, Georgia Bates. It’s been a long damn time since I’ve felt that way about a woman. So here’s your out. If you aren’t equally willing to see where our physical chemistry takes us, then consider our date called off.”
Georgia picked up her water and drank, giving herself time before she tried to speak. This was the best possible outcome of this farcical coffee date. Wasn’t it? Hollywood was giving her an honest out. All she had to do was pretend to be unaffected by him.
She set down her glass harder than she’d intended. Probably not a good way to show she was calm. “What about Mariah?” she asked.
Brent shrugged. “I guess she’ll lose a client until I need a companion for some event again. I’ll still spread the good word about her business if that’s what you’re asking.”
“My daughter is hard to fool. If you quit getting dates from her, she’ll know I’m the reason,” Georgia complained.
“Woman, I’m giving you an out,” Brent declared, waving a hand dismissively. “Isn’t that what you want? To not go out with me?”
“No,” Georgia declared back. “I mean, yes… but… no. I want things to be like they were before you decided we had chemistry.”
Hollywood stared at her for long moments and then burst out laughing. It went on so long that it made her squirm in her seat again. His glare wasn’t mean when he got control of his mirth. No, it was determined… scarily determined. That worried her more and made her stomach flutter like it had the first time she’d laid eyes on him.
“Sorry to disappoint you, Georgia. That’s not how chemistry works. I want you. Obviously, only you. You’re the name I call out in the shower these days.”
“No!” Georgia denied. “No, I’m not.”
Brent leaned across the table. “Yes. Yes, you are.”
“I’m sixty-two,” Georgia hissed, leaning over the table. “Men don’t feel that way about women my age.”
“Well, you don’t know everything then. I feel that way about you, and you can’t control that. So… tough shit,” he said finally, sounding pleased he’d come up with a swearing answer.
Georgia leaned back in her seat, stunned further when he rose to leave. Hollywood got several steps away from the table before she finally found her voice.
“Wait… Hollywood. Wait,” she said quickly, needing to stop him. Why though? Why did her chest hurt at the idea that she might have truly offended him?
Georgia stood too and walked to stand in front of him. “Keep your out. I don’t need it. I’m not afraid to date you.”
She blew out a breath and glared. “Alright, I’m lying. Of course, I’m scared to death of this crap, but I’ll be damned if I let that be the reason we call off a simple date. I made a promise and I intend to keep it. So when do you want to do this…” Georgia waved her ringless hand in front of him.“… thing you want to do.”
“Are you talking about our date? Or me getting into your pants? The answer to the second question is now. I want to do that now.”
Her hand smacked his chest without thinking about it. “I’m talking about the stupid date,” she hissed between clenched teeth.
His disbelieving laughter traveled over her, getting caught by every nerve ending she possessed. Before she could process how weak it made her knees, Hollywood’s lips were brushing across hers with the sure precision of a man who’d been planning every nuance of it.
Then he turned and simply walked away from her.
“I’ll text you the details about our date,” he said wryly, calling the statement out over his shoulder.
Georgia stood there watching him leave with every female’s startled gaze locked onto her. Hollywood had kissed her—God, nearly frenched her—right in front of all the cafeteria workers.
“If I live to be a hundred, I will never understand that man,” she protested, touching her mouth.
It was the loud and very satisfied giggling of those watching her that sent Georgia back to her seat to retrieve her purse. Once again, Hollywood had played her for a fool and gotten his way.