First scene from The Bliss King: I have no idea who he is – but I want him to be mine
A man took the chair across from me that Mr I’ve Got A Story To Blow The Lid Off Basketball had vacated.
Unexpectedly, I needed an eye-test or a brain scan, because I see nothing else except this new man. Not the fifty other people in the cafe, not the hundreds of others dragging suitcases on their way past to the gates, just him, with his eyes so dark they might not have any colour at all, his perfect suit, and his obscene good looks.
I am so aware of him and so distanced from everything else I feel like I’ve been sucked through a hole in the world and flung out into space where there is nothing but him and me and rude shallow breathing.
I have no idea who he is but I want him to be mine.
He stares at me intensely and I resent how he makes me feel. I’m a successful businesswoman, an icon in my industry. I command enormously generous payments for the work I do. I don’t sit in cafes wondering if I might be drooling over a stranger.
Am I drooling? It’s entirely possible. He is the gold standard of drool worthiness.
“There are plenty of other free tables. I’m working at this one.” What am I doing, sending him away? I’ve gone mad from oxygen deprivation. Madder still, if he dares to move, I’ll follow him. I don’t ever want to be somewhere I can’t see him.
“I’m right where I wish to be.”
For a nanosecond I hear this as a declaration of his undying love for me and then a child screams, a jet-lagged parent scolds, someone drops a tray of food. Then his odd inflection registers. He’s softly spoken and he has no discernible accent at all. He has that international newsreader voice going on, deeply authoritative and utterly seductive.
My fingers are on my bottom lip. I’m unconsciously checking for drool. I want to bite my own knuckle to stop myself saying something else that might make him leave, to get him to say more in that divine intonation. Instead what comes out is, “Have you never heard of the concept of personal space?”
He inclines his head and because I’m lust-dazed or otherwise without any sense, I say, “It’s where people who don’t know each other stay a respectable distance away.”
Fortunately he ignores what comes out of my mouth, but he’s not ignoring me. He’s doing something with those raven dark eyes to make my temperature spike.
There’s a steel cafe table between our torsos, but his knees are so close if I slid forward a little I could brush mine against his. I think about doing that while I straighten my spine in opposition to the desire to pull my chair closer to the table and lean in. I want to know what this extraordinary god, devil, man smells like. It has to be something exotic. Everything about him is exotic and foreign and familiar all at once. All I can smell is airport fast food, my own empty coffee cup and the cheese toastie that’s delivered to the next table.
He looks at me as if I’ve spoken in another language. A treacherous half-smile tickles his jaw. That jaw says don’t try my patience. He says nothing and forget sliding, slumping and leaning in, I want to reach out, grab the lapel of his million dollar suit coat, reef him towards me and kiss that smartass leer right off his face.
Then he puts his hand on my knee and I nearly up-end the table. My other thigh smashes its underside and my cup tips and rolls into the saucer, spreading coffee dregs on my laptop.
“Look what you did.”
I grab napkins from the dispenser and mop the lid of my laptop. I’m so lucky it was closed. I’m an idiot to blame him, because I’m not ready to lose him.
He doesn’t move his hand from my knee. “Do I make you uncomfortable, Miss Gibson?”
If he didn’t with his physical perfection, with his lobbing into my personal space and his thumb stroking the inside of my knee, he does by knowing my name. This is not a random encounter. My heart climbs up my ribcage and sits in my throat.
“Who are you?”
“I’m your next client.”
He’s not. Because that makes no sense. Mr Basketball is my next client and I only take on one client at a time. I’m monogamous like that. But he knows my name, so does he know what I do?
“You can enquire about my services on my website.” On which there is no photo and certainly no personal details. I’m giving him nothing because I might slip up and give him everything from my shoe size to the exact location of my G-spot.
“I’d rather arrange things personally with you.”
He still has his hand on my knee and I’m taking that very personally. A professional would’ve slapped him, removed his hand at the elbow with a butter knife, made a scene or simply stood and walked away.
I’ve put my pelvic floor into spasm I’m clenching so hard. I will clamp my knees around his fingers in a previously unknown mixed martial arts move if he tries to remove his hand. I’ve got no idea what he just said.
“I’ve got a proposition for you, Greer.”
I gasped. He used my first name. It moved across his exquisitely formed lips and came at me in his sexy book narrator voice. The god, devil, man, made in the image of a Michelangelo statue, but new and improved, blended and warm, his hand is warm. Oh. My whole body just sighed and no, no, oh, his mouth opens and his breath catches. Something I’m doing has made him freeze.
We are staring at each other. I’m sure he can see the bruise on my hipbone courtesy of a cab door through fifty layers of coat, shirt, skirt, lining, lining, lining and comfortable for travel underwear. And I want him to tell me if it’s gone purple yet.
He shakes his head, blinks slowly and before I can think what to do to keep the intensity of his attention on me, he sits back and removes his hand.
I feel like a relative died. And I don’t have any to spare.
“I’d like you to come and work for me,” he says.
Why didn’t he ask me to dance? I’d have done it, who cares who was looking. Why didn’t he simply lay me back over the table and molest me? I’d have let him. But I can’t work for him. Not now.
“I need two weeks of your time,” he says, and it’s liquid heaven but physical torture.
I don’t have a spare two weeks for more than two years. That’s how booked out I am. I have commitments and I always keep them. It’s how I earn the big dollars. It’s why, amongst the slim echelons of ghostwriters in the world, I’m famous. It’s why Mr Basketball has waited twelve months to meet me and agreed to sandwich it into a day we were both flying to other cities. My flight left in an hour.
“I’m very sorry.” I was devastated. I don’t know this divine man’s name or care what it is or what he does. I couldn’t afford the energy for the regret knowing would bring. “My time is fully booked. I don’t have capacity for another client for several years, and even then…” I could afford to pick and choose my writing assignments. I didn’t write about people who weren’t already household names and as impossibly beautiful, as irreverently lush as this man was, he wasn’t a celebrity or an A-lister or I’d have known him.
“I will, of course, make it worth your while.”
How did he not know he could do that simply by touching me again? He has an arrowhead shaped tattoo on the back of one hand. He has warm caramel coloured skin. I can’t have him. I sighed. “I’m sure you mean well, saying that. It’s not simply a matter of money.”
“You pretend to be other people to write their stories.”
He made it sound like a bad thing. “Writing is a craft. Not everyone has the time to learn it in a way that makes it commercially viable.” Not everyone knew where to put a semicolon, or in the case of the pop star whose biography I’d just written, that it wasn’t a body part.
“You’re a puppet master. You make unworthy, uninteresting, vapid people sound like paragons of virtue.”
“I’m a writer and a successful one, and I’m sorry I can’t help you.”
Whoever he was, he was used to getting what he wanted, and Christ on a buttered hot cross bun, he wants me for my ability to form coherent paragraphs and compelling narratives. And oh, my aching, wet insides, there is nothing dreary or weak about him. He has charisma crawling all over him. Enough to infect everyone in his orbit. How was it we weren’t all staggering about and falling down drunk?
He lowers his chin and hooks my eyes with his. “I will have you, Greer.”
He makes the sun rise in my face, blush my cheeks, flush my neck. If I could write about him, I could make him a king, a president, a dictator. If I could touch him I could make him my religion.
Of course, he was being an arrogant, pig-headed, pushy, dick. “If you look at my website you’ll see I’ve recommended other writers who may be more readily available.”
“If I wanted another writer I’d be sitting across from them now.”
Narcissistic, beautiful bully. “I am not a tool for your ego, sir.” I need a stiff drink and it’s only 10am.
“Aren’t you? I think that’s exactly what you are. You whore out your clever words to make others look good.”
He was impossible in every way. I already regretted knowing he existed, knowing I’d never forget him. “I’d like you to leave, please.”
“I’m not done with you. And you’ve only begun with me.”
“You presume too much. I’m a ghostwriter and I am not available for hire.” I had to end this. I had a plane to catch. I had a life to live that didn’t include negotiating with this nobody who didn’t have the grace to introduce himself, the manners to take no for an answer, or the thoughtfulness not to haunt my dreams.
I stood. He doesn’t move, except to watch me pack my laptop and phone away. I fumble with the zip on my bag.
I refuse to look at him. He stands up and I step out from the table. My gate is at the other end of the concourse. We move together, he brought his body into contact with mine. He stopped my breath. His eyes were beyond dark chocolate, he smelled of cinnamon and hard liquor and fantasy. Something pinched my upper arm. I was instantly dizzy with his nearness.
I thought he said, “I need you to save my life,” but that can’t have been right because I wasn’t well. I tripped, he caught me and I did something I’ve never done before.