Over the coming weeks we will be releasing teasers from the book, the first right now.
Excerpt 1 from Chapter 1:
THE PAPER WAS burning a hole in his pocket, and wasn’t that just the worst possible metaphor Riley Aylworth could have come up with? He glanced instinctively at the empty space on the wall where his favorite mirror used to hang and grimaced. Hideous. That was the thought that had flashed through the cute barista’s eyes as his voice had faltered and their flirting had ground to a complete stop when Riley dared to ask him out for a drink. What the hell had he been thinking? After a year of non-stop rejections, it should have sunk in that he was fine as a friend but when it came to sex, Godzilla would be preferable. Phantom of the Opera, that was the new fucking story of his life. At least he hadn’t killed anyone yet. Maybe he should think about getting one of those porcelain masks and just wander around pretending he was cosplaying?
“Yeah, ’cause that’ll make people stop calling you ‘freak,’” Riley muttered under his breath. The sour tang of the coffee lingered, fuelling his foul mood. The drink had tasted like humiliation after the barista’s rejection, but he’d paid for it, so he was damned if he was going to waste it. He hadn’t lingered at the table like usual, but that hadn’t prevented him from taking a quick look round before he left, a habit ingrained in him by twenty-seven years of watching his mother do it. That was when he’d noticed the folded page on the floor, the glossy paper and bright colors suggesting it had been ripped from a magazine. Since Riley had several such pages tucked into his writing notebook—magazine articles were a frequent source of inspiration—he’d stooped to pick it up, thinking he’d dropped it.
One glance made it obvious that it was not in fact his. It was a page of small ads, one of which was circled in red. Riley had flushed the same color when he’d realized what it was advertising and stuffed the paper into his pocket without realizing he was doing it.
Now, in the safety of his own home, he pulled it out and studied it again. Phone sex. It wasn’t something he’d usually consider—at least, not paying for it, and not with a stranger—but he’d been getting increasingly dejected and desperately horny over the last year. Hell, it had taken six months to get up the courage to go out in public more often than when he absolutely needed to, and another six months after that to build up to flirting again. He’d been something of a player before the fire, which just made the constant rejections he experienced now worse. On the really bad days, it was hard not to wonder if the scarring was some kind of punishment for his former casual attitude about sex. But that was just silly. God didn’t work like that, and really, wasn’t it selfish to curse the effect of this pure dumb luck on his sex life when there were children starving in Africa, and women in the Middle East dying in their pursuit of a basic education?
Two years though. That was how long it had been since he’d been touched by a hand other than his own. Phone sex wouldn’t solve that, but at least it would get someone else involved, and damn did he miss having a connection to another person while he was getting off. “Big Yellow Taxi” was the new theme tune to his life, and he had a newfound hatred of the cold hard truth of Annie Lennox’s “Keep Young and Beautiful.”
“Keep young and beautiful if you want to be loved,” he hummed mockingly, glancing at the naked patch of wall again. He should really get a picture to hang there or something. Because that wouldn’t remind him at all of how much he hated his own face . . .
The first call was more inconvenient than annoying. Cameron was just getting ready to head out of the office at ten past six—he’d be home early for once, and wasn’t it just too bad there’d be nobody there to benefit?—when his cell phone began to trill, alerting him to a new call from an unidentified number.
“Cameron Kirkwood.” Tucking the phone against his shoulder, he continued to sort through the files on his desk, picking out the ones he wanted to take home.
“Well hello there, big boy. Your voice is delicious.”
What the hell?
“I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong number.”
“Oh baby, are you sure? I’ve never misdialed in my life, and you definitely have the voice for the job.”
“I’m sorry, what job?” Put on the spot, only one phone-based job that needed a good voice came to mind, and the thought was not a good one.
“Phone sex, of course.” The caller sounded surprised, and Cam blanched.
“You definitely have the wrong number. I most certainly do not run a phone-sex service.”
And naturally, that was the moment he turned around and saw his boss standing in the doorway to his office, one eyebrow raised severely.
“You should consider it,” the caller advised him.
“Goodbye,” Cam responded, hanging up and dropping his phone on the desk. “Mr. Townsend, I—”
“Phone sex, Cameron? Don’t we pay you enough?” Isaac Townsend raised the other eyebrow, and Cam shook his head vehemently, cursing the terrible luck that seemed to be stalking him this month.
“Wrong number,” he responded earnestly, and Isaac laughed.
“Jesus, relax, Cam, you’re far too uptight for phone sex. Have you got a copy of the pitch for James Anderson? I’d like to give it a last glance through before the team presents it tomorrow.”
“I have a copy right here,” Cameron informed him, unlocking his filing cabinet to fish out the spare. Everything in there was duplicated in case of emergency, and he wondered sometimes whether he should keep the copies elsewhere in case the emergency happened to be a fire or something similar that would result in the destruction of the impeccably arranged cabinet. Right now, he should have been grateful that Isaac still had faith in his integrity after that unfortunate phone call, but the stab of hurt at the “uptight” comment killed the relief.
Isaac was barely six steps out of the room when Cam’s phone rang again, also an unrecognized number.
“Hi. Um, I’m kind of new to this—what services do you offer, exactly?”
“Whatever sort of advertising you require,” Cameron responded, settling back into his chair and relaxing. For a moment, he’d been so afraid . . . “We can design magazine and billboard ads, plan television campaigns, or draft radio ad scripts.”
“Oh! Role playing, I guess.” The voice was soft and unsure, and Cam frowned. “Um, advertising isn’t really something I get off on. Can you do, uh, emergency services instead? I kind of have a bit of a thing for men in uniform. You know, like, firemen?”
“This is an advertising agency. If you want the emergency services, I suggest you dial 911, though I’d advise you to have a genuine emergency first. Prank calling the police is a serious matter.”
“A-an advertising agency? I’m sorry, I guess I entered the wrong number.”
Shaking his head, Cam hung up. When his phone rang yet again within a minute, he could feel the end of his tether rapidly approaching. His patience had never been great at the best of times, and today he just wanted to get home and put his feet up, maybe order in some takeout and watch a movie.
Wow. He hadn’t realized he could get so sick of the sound of his own name.
Silence. Well, apart from an odd noise that may have been a nervous gulp.
“Hello? Can I help you?”
“I-is this the guy I just spoke to?” The same soft voice as last time, and Cam cursed under his breath, a suspicion niggling in the back of his mind.
“Yes. Why are you calling this number, precisely?”
“Because it’s the one in the ad?” The voice sounded unsure.
“N-never mind. I guess they misprinted. Sorry to bother you.”
The dial tone sounded before Cameron could press the guy further, and he cursed again. Well, if his suspicion was correct, there’d be another call sooner or later, and he could grill that caller instead. For now, he’d put the matter out of his mind, gather up his stuff, and head home.
Teaser 2 next week.