Excerpt - Sex, Lies, and Beauty Aids
CHAPTER 1

“Ow, ow, ow!” tears of pain misted her eyes as she looked in the bathroom mirror trying to douse her lips in cold water from the sink. “Red lips, naturally? Got ‘em, only now they’re redder than the highlights I put in my hair last week!”
Of all the hare-brained gimmicks--how could I have possibly thought mixing paraffin wax, petroleum jelly, and jalapeno extract would result in a perfect lip color?
Bending over the tiny bathroom sink, Sabrina Thompson cupped cold water and brought it to her mouth, her eyes taking in the red, pucker of her lips.
Four handfuls later, she gave up trying to take down the swelling and rushed out of the restroom, stopping by the coffee station and grabbing a cup from the stack on the counter. She filled it with cold filtered water from the cooler. With barely a minute to spare, she spurred herself on, forcing herself to ignore the increasing pain to get to her meeting on time.
She attempted to convince herself she could survive yet another failed beauty experiment, while trying to keep the water from splashing onto her crisp, Prada ensemble.
The recipe sent in by a reader had said the jalapeno oil extract worked along with the skin’s own blood supply, but it hadn’t mentioned anything about swelling.
“This is what I get for placing my trust in the Internet.” she muttered.
She found her boss' office empty and dropped into the elegant, rust-colored leather chair across from an impressive mahogany desk, and let out a sigh.
Taking advantage of what little time she had left, Sabrina tipped the cup to her mouth, dunked both lips in the water.
Ahh...that's better.
"Sabrina…right on time as usual.” her boss, Kat Grantham Complimented. “In case I haven’t told you, I really appreciate your punctuality--especially today,” as she bustled over to a file cabinet, obviously looking for something.
Startled, Sabrina jerked, sloshing water down the front of her favorite power suit.
Flustered, she slid her tongue over her plump, burning lips, to lick any excess water. She was mid-lick when she came face-to-face with her worst nightmare.
No. No. No. Not today. Not now. What's he doing here? I, am so dead! This is so not the time for me to be in the same room with the man I've been dreaming about for the last four years.
Sabrina swallowed, set her cup on the edge of the desk and smiled as if nothing was wrong. Just maybe, she could pull this off without completely embarrassing herself.
As she watched them exchange a significant look, their silence sent her over the edge.
Hurry up and say something so we can get this over with. My mouth feels like there's a blow-torch reshaping my lips, Sabrina silently implored.
With her lips not quite touching, she continued to puff as silently as possible, praying Kat and Kat’s cousin, Trent, would get to the point. She needed to hightail it to the cafeteria for some ice before her lips began to blister.
Her mouth dropped open when Trent, not Kat, took the seat behind the desk. What the heck is going on? She looked to Kat, her boss, her roommate, her best friend--, who suddenly wouldn't look her in the eye.
Somebody just get on with it...I'm dying here! Sabrina silently pleaded, willing her mind to ignore the pain.
Despite Sabrina’s best effort, her patience slipped another notch. Not only were her lips on fire but a fine mist of perspiration now covered her upper lip. Her nose began to run and tears welled up in her eyes. All thanks to the fumes from the disastrous lip gloss experiment. She opened her eyes as wide as she could, hoping to prevent the tears from falling. Oh God, not that too!
Determined to stay in control, she forced her mind back on Trent.
Con-cen-trate!

***

“Good Morning, Sabrina. I'm Travis Wellington. It's nice to finally meet you. I've heard so much about you from my cousin, Kat.”
When Sabrina's jaw dropped, he realized he'd managed to pull off his con after all. She thought he was his brother.
Trent Wellington remembered their first and only meeting, Kat's twenty-first birthday party at the family compound in Massachusetts. They'd been on the same volleyball team at the pool party. Sabrina jumped to spike the ball over the net and he couldn't resist pulling the string on her bikini top--, which fell off when she dropped back into the water.
He, in all his suave and clever brilliance, had winked and muttered, “titillating.” She'd had a fantastic body then. Still did, from what he could see of her figure. She'd managed to keep it together and still zinged him the way she did. She’d ducked under water in the guise of embarrassment, only to pants him, as she swam by, evening the score.
She'd surfaced, pulled off an impressive Baywatch Babe hair flip move, then hit him with a wild comeback, “I prefer tit to that,” nodding towards his naked front.
The comment had won his admiration, and he’d wanted to find out more about her. Unfortunately, she'd avoided him the like the plague the rest of the trip. He couldn't blame her. Thank God that was four years ago, and he'd grown up since then. He hoped. The only problem, in his opinion, was that he was still looking for a woman just like her.
Maybe that’s why he jumped at this chance to work with her when his twin brother, Travis, begged him to play one last game of “sexcapades” and pretend to be him while he dried out in rehab.
The difference in this instance is that rather than testing a girlfriend's loyalty, they would be pulling of the biggest con ever. On the family.
Travis has started to drink when the magazine began losing money. So, when the board of directors called a meeting and both Travis and Trent were expected to attend, Travis made a case for himself that Trent just couldn't ignore. Travis was his brother, after all.
Only he was completely out of his element. Travis was the one with the journalist background. Trent, was the family joke--the playboy who never grew up, never took anything seriously.
Yet, he was here to take over the magazine from Kat, so she could go back to school. Again. Maybe someday that girl will finally find her calling. She was his cousin, and he loved her, but he just didn't understand what she was looking for.
Family--can't live with'em, can't kill'em.
He couldn't believe it. He was about to be the editor and chief of Skin Deep magazine and he had no idea how to do that, much less what all it entailed. But, he was going to have to learn--and fast.
Sabrina, according to Kat, was a genius as the natural beauty editor. In the two-and-a-half years she'd been with the company, subscriptions had doubled thanks to her popular column.
No matter how much Trent looked forward to becoming reacquainted with Sabrina Thompson, nothing had prepared him for the sight that greeted him.
He locked eyes with Sabrina and tried to remember he was suppose to be standing in for his brother. “What would Travis do now?”
“Would you like some coffee?” he offered.
She shook her head as if he'd just offered her arsenic. He watched her a moment longer, saw her blush. Then she picked non-existent lint from her blazer.
“Are you all right? You seem a bit nervous.”
God he hoped she was buying this act and not thinking about that scene in the pool. He wanted to apologize, but he couldn't without blowing his cover.
Taking the chicken-shit way out, he opted for getting right to business. Taking a seat behind the desk, thankful for the barrier between then, he pulled a file from his briefcase and stowed it under the desk.
He avoided eye contact with Sabrina as he spoke, "Let's get started. As you know, the board of directors met last night. While I know Kat hoped to deliver some good news to you today, I find myself in the precarious position of dishing out the good news-bad news schtick to everyone today."
He shifted in his chair, trying to get comfortable, then continued. "Due to a shaky economy, Skin Deep magazine is on the verge of being sold and the funds turned over to its parent company. Thanks to you, and a significant increase in circulation, Kat and I were able to convince the board that another six months is all we need to pull the company out of the red."
He flipped through Travis' notes that monitored Sabrina’s success for the past several months during which family started talking about selling the magazine. Thanks to a private conversation with Kat, he was fairly certain what kind of reaction to expect from Sabrina when she learned she'd be taking on an additional columns. While he had practiced most of his speech to her, he was unprepared for the sight that met him.
Her lips were swollen.
He didn't mean to stare, but if he tried to speak now, he was sure it would come out as babble. She looked as if she'd spent hours making out. Hmm. There must be some hidden coat closet designated for office rendezvous. He ducked his head and took a closer look at the file before him.
Her face took on a sudden deathly white quality as if she were in pain. Must be nerves due to my announcement.
Rather than embarrass her by asking what happened, he forced himself to concentrate on the monologue he’d practiced. But his gaze caught the way her mouth opened slightly, as she tried to subtly blow on her puckered lips. Strange. He lost his train of thought and looked to Kat to help him out, but she was still huddled over a file cabinet.
Trent shook his head, trying to gather some sort of semblance to his thoughts. That didn't help focus his attention.
Don't look up, don't look up, don't look up, he thought drilling the command into his brain.
Like a bystander at an accident, his attention betrayed him. His gaze centered on her mouth, which hung open now. He tilted his head slightly, leaned another inch forward and narrowed his eyes. Was she panting? Definite anxiety lit her sea-green eyes.
He felt a magnetic draw to her lips, an urge too strong to ignore. He tried to keep his vision glued to her eyes, but the memory of her freshly ravaged lips seemed a much stronger draw.
He found himself getting horny as a teenager ready to get his first taste of sex, and was grateful the desk hid the evidence. Trent didn’t know who he felt more perturbed with, Sabrina for kissing someone else or himself for caring so damn much. He swallowed hard and tried not to stumble over his words and thoughts even more.
“Uh, I seem to...” He let the sentence die as he shuffled papers and cleared his throat. And why should it matter now? Sure, he'd been enamored by her when they'd met, but that was years ago. He had a job to do now. To take over the magazine and turn it around so it wouldn't be sold. What did his feelings for her matter anyway? Yet he couldn’t help wondering who she’d been with to cause such vivid visual effects.
He glanced her way, then quickly dropped his gaze. Her lips were getting redder by the minute. Must have been some kiss. Damn it.
Leaning forward in his chair, Trent crossed his hands and tried to look the picture of authority expected from a man in his position.
"First off, I'd like to apologize to you because I can't give you the promotion you and Kat discussed. Secondly, there will be a number of layoffs among the staff.” He paused to take in the look of shock on her face, and realized she must have thought he was letting her go. He lifted a hand in an effort to stop her expected protest.
“On a more positive note, we were able to salvage your job, but only because of the wonderful success with your column. In order to maintain our high standards, and in light of the reduction in the work force, everyone will have to take on a second job, and possibly a third. Regardless, I look forward to working with you."
Trent took a deep breath as he rushed on, "I'll be speaking with the other employees today, but I wanted to speak to you first, so you can be prepared to work with the counterpart you’ll be replacing. I’m sorry to say, she’ll be leaving at the end of the week and you'll need to be up to speed for the upcoming February issue. Luckily, we’ve already put January’s issue to bed, and that should give you around three weeks before you’ll be facing your next set of deadlines."
Amazing. Sabrina didn't seem fazed by his tidings. In fact, she looked a bit stoic. That wasn't the reaction Kat led him to believe he'd get.
"I realize you will have a huge learning curve, but you'll still have the next three weeks to gain as much knowledge as possible for your new columns. I trust you and fully believe you will handle the new position with the same professionalism you've already exhibited in your current job.”
***
"Sure Travis. Kat knows I'll do anything she needs." Sabrina made an exaggerated show of glancing down at her watch, pretending to monitor the time. "I hate to be a deserter, but I'm expecting a conference call in five minutes." If she didn’t get out of here soon, she was convinced her lips would melt off her face. If that happened she’d rather be alone, and not in front of a replica of the man who haunted her dreams.
She stood up, calmly took her cup of water, and started to back out of his office, until she remembered Kat hadn't told her what her new job would be.
At the door, she stopped and asked casually, "By the way Kat, what's my new job?"
Kat’s head remained down.
“Okay, what’s going on? Kat, why won’t you look at me?”
Then Travis responded, a little too enthusiastically, "You'll be the new department editor for the Love and Sex columns, offering advice and encouragement. You should probably bone up on the language from the past few issues. I’m expecting a great Valentine issue from you.
Sabrina maintained her stance, but barely. Her fingertips, casually tapping the door frame, gripped the wood at his reply.
She didn't even realize she'd crushed the water cup, but she felt and heard its contents splash and her other hand had just smashed the water cup against the outer wall until the backsplash soaked her jacket sleeve.
"You want me to what?" she belted out.

4 comments

  1. Beth Trissel // September 29, 2008 at 5:02 PM  

    I already had the privilege of reading this and I loved it. Very funny and I enjoyed the chemistry between the two. :)

  2. Mary Marvella // September 29, 2008 at 11:18 PM  

    Good writing Deborah. You humor shows here, too.

  3. Arkansas Cyndi // September 30, 2008 at 12:16 AM  

    Oh her poor lips! LOL

    I love to laugh with my romance stories! well done

  4. Mona Risk // September 30, 2008 at 5:18 PM  

    Such a nice excerpt,Deb. So funny.