There's a lot going on here, '45 days in Europe with Mr. Darcy' is almost published, almost... Giveaways, birthdays, hallmarks......
But as promised, here goes Chapter 2 of my erotic romance 'Image or Likeness'. Chapter 1 is here.
Lana fingered the lapel of her black dress nervously.
“Figure out what to wear to such an odd date is such a hard task.”
She considered her smart jeans with spiky heals but thought it too casual. Then she considered white linen trousers and a colorful top but thought it too cheery. One does not want to give the wrong impression to the enemy.
Enemy? Was this woman really her enemy?
What she knew of this woman, besides her reflection on Lana’s mirror?
‘Anais Robinson’ said her business card but Lana thought it was probably not real. A cell phone number, but frankly, it could be disposable. “What a waste to print business cards if the data was disposable.” She thought and then chuckled at her silliness. How stupid! Business cards were as disposables as prepaid cell phones. For a few moments she lost herself in this useless reasoning.
‘Try to compose yourself, Lana. Find your wits.’ She rallied herself.
She would need every help she could get this afternoon. And she wanted an outfit that would give her a boost of confidence. After throwing the contents of her luggage on the hotel room’s floor, she settled for the long black dress with an elegant cleavage. A beautiful big leather necklace, flats, nice drop earrings. It would have to do.
She twirled in front of the mirror one more time and frowned at her belly. Pushing it inwards she straightened her spine to suck it in. Her baby girl was almost one year old and had just stopped breast feeding, she was practically back to her pre-pregnancy figure and although Lana felt beautiful, her stomach was still distended. She always flirted with size six and at the moment she was a solid eight. She sighed.
Maybe she should keep wearing the girdle… but Sam said she was hot so she decided to break free of that torture. Lana wondered if her husband was telling her the truth or if he was just being lovely as he always were. He was so happy with their baby that maybe he just told her anything Lana wanted to hear.
‘You look beautiful, my Queen.’
‘You never looked more radiant! I can see how happy you are.’
‘Your scar makes me hard, Lalie. Throw that ugly girdle away.’
With another deep sigh she let her stomach free and shook her head. Ten to.
Time to get down to the elegant hotel’s restaurant. She checked her makeup, sprayed a little perfume on her neck and left her room.
Vaughn’s annual college reunion was over and the hotel was much less crowded. The organizing committee had elected this hotel as the official lodge even though it was not close to the campus where the meetings usually took place. Lana’s third time attending this reunion, she was already used to the weekend’s schedule. Friday had meet and greet event with drinks, fake laughs and then guys’ night at the fraternity. Saturday had late brunch and casual families’ night. Sunday had business brunch and official farewells. Three days of social gatherings where people compared their success in life by their kids and bank accounts.
At least this year Vaughn had little Eddie’s pictures on his cell phone to show off. Alone in the elevator, Lana smiled remembering his proud grin showing people the baby’s first steps’ video. Eduarda was so very cute in a leopard onesie and toddled heavily to his outstretched arms over the Persian hug. She sighed and decided to call home one more time before entering the restaurant.
Vaughn picked up on the third ring.
“Hello, my Queen!” He said happily.
She groaned smiling. “Do you really have to be that corny, Sam?” Lana complained again of the silly pet name. They had just met when he started calling her ‘Queen’ and it gave her butterflies how much this naming suggested. She was really scared when time confirmed that in reality he was as intense about her as she had first guessed. Although she still thought it corny, she loved the pet name. And she loved to tease him.
“Queen, queen, queen!” He answered.
“Working?” She asked.
“Just got here at the office, actually. How are you enjoying your free days?” He asked good humored.
“I woke up just now, Sam!” Lana celebrated and her husband chuckled.
“I have to tell you that – Hello, Bernadette. Any messages for me? Thanks – Sorry, Lalie.” He said.
“You have to tell me…” She urged him, smiling. His good mood was contagious.
“Ah! I have to tell you that I had another woman in my bed last night.” Samuel said and Lana could hear the smile in his voice.
“I very much doubt it was good for you!” She laughed. “Eddie is a kicker!”
“My ribs are sore.” He said chuckling. “Maybe we should find her a soccer practice. There is too much Brazilian blood in her.”
“That’s why you’re arriving at the office by lunch time?” She asked inspecting her dark curls on the foyer mirror.
“I had a lunch meeting, Lalie. It’s already two pm.” Samuel said and closed his office’s door behind him. “You really slept in, my Queen.”
“Oh!” Lana startled. She was going to be late. “Love, have to go. I just called to check if you two were doing fine.”
“We’re great, but missing you. Eddie asked what you’ll bring her.” He said scowling at this laptop screen.
Lana laughed. Eddie was not even one yet, how could she be asking for gifts? She barely said ‘mama’! “I’ll find something. Maybe another book.” She said eying the restaurant’s door expectantly, hoping to see her date enter. Distracted, she didn’t realize the faux pas.
“Book? Are you going to a book store outlet?” Sam asked raising his head from his computer and frowning.
“Er… no. But books are always a good gift for a child.” She said recovering quickly. “For our child.”
“Lalie, are you up to some mischief?” Vaughn asked suspicious. Not for one second he doubted his wife’s fidelity but he started to give credit to his hunch that by asking to stay behind when he returned home from the reunion she had some surprise planned for his incoming birthday. “I got you!” He thought and chuckled.
“Not at all.” She lied.
“You liar!” He accused. “You hate crowded stores. Tell me, my Queen: you never planned to visit the outlets near my college campus, did you?” He smiled to himself, amused to have discovered her scheme so easily.
“These are not common outlets, I told you. These are special exclusive shops.” Lana tried to sustain her story. “Sam, I really have to go. Love you.”
“You are such a bad looser!” He joked. “Go, my Queen. Call me in the evening?”
“Sure.” She said anxious to disconnect.
“And you’ll still catch the morning flight?” He asked.
“I’ll arrive before lunch time tomorrow, as we planned.” Lana answered.
“Bye, my Queen.” He said and disconnected.
Lana took one last look at the mirror, arranged one rebel curl behind her ear and marched to the restaurant.
The posh hotel lobby was big and although not as crowded as it had been during the weekend, was busy on this Tuesday lunch hour. As she trudged her way towards the upscale restaurant, her mind in turmoil, Lana tried to command her breathing to a calmer rhythm. Why was she so worked up for a lunch date? How many has she already had in her life? How many potentially hostile women did she already meet? In her interior designer practice she had dealt with several business associates, clients, co-workers. Why was this woman so different from all the others?
“Because she’s a hooker who earns her living by pretending to be you.” She told herself.
When Lana and Samuel arrived at this same hotel only four days earlier to attend his college class’ reunion, the happy couple was sided by their good friends Kevin and Dorothy Lewis.
Kevin had been Samuel’s friend since high school almost thirty years before. The shy blond boy had seen on the tall, dark, cool guy a friend and someone to look upon. While Samuel was outspoken, funny and popular; Kevin was kind, good humored and very quiet. They attended the same college and although had different majors kept as close friends throughout the years.
Their friendship was solidified when Kevin’s longtime girlfriend befriended Samuel’s muse at first sight. At the time, Samuel shared only flirts with Lana even if he craved much more and by chance he introduced the women who instantly formed an almost sibling bond. The women got as close as to be maid-of-honor for one another what caused Dora some headache as she had three actual sisters.
The two couples got rooms at the same floor and Lana complained about not being closer to Dora as each room was allocated at one side of the elevator’s hall. By Sunday night Lana was glad the concierge hadn’t been able to find them rooms closer together, there was at least some physical distance between them.
For the families’ party Saturday night, Lana had dressed in a beautiful silk one shoulder dress that made her feel sexy and classy.
She had chosen this dress carefully since the last time these people saw her she was very pregnant, now she wanted to show off her figure that was (practically) back to normal. The delicate gray dip dyed pink scarf styled dress showed her curves but also gave her some space to hide anything she was not completely satisfied with, like her stomach. Sam hugged her from behind when she studied herself on the mirror to compliment her beauty but instead of reassuring her, his effusiveness made her consider once again if he was lying to make her feel good about her body.
There was only one way to be sure, so Lana pointed her ass back to rub it on his crotch. He groaned and let his hands dive into her dress to touch her panties. She was surprised to feel him already hard and turning she kissed him while reaching down. Several years together, Vaughn was well trained and he kept to her lips and neck avoiding smudging her careful make up. She pushed him backwards until he bumped on the table and turned them so she could take a seat. He smiled and took off her panties, arranged her kaftan short dress around her waist so not to crease it and entered her.
It was a balm to Lana’s insecurities. It didn’t last long, it wasn’t even necessary to last long.
When they arrived at the party, she felt sexy and powerful. Cocky even. And that was her weakness.
In reality Lana had one more reason to want to look fantastic at this party. Not only to look good after giving birth or to make her husband horny and proud of having her on his arm. But Gui would certainly be there. He had made sure she knew he would by posting cryptic notes on Facebook or Twitter. Last year she hadn’t seen him, but she learned later he had been there, just not in the same events Lana attended.
It wasn’t a nice thing to do to a very pregnant woman’s pride – to avoid seeing her – and Lana had made an effort to not let this bring her down. He was only her ex-boyfriend who she never considered much more than a lover, she had chosen Sam over him after all but estrogen running freely through her body helped blow his contempt out of proportion.
Tonight Lana Zaraki would show him what contempt was made of.
Guillaume Lefebvre was a very handsome French man; tall, thin, light auburn hair that he carried a bit longer than necessary, usually sporting a carefully cultivated five o’clock shadow. If not for her budding passion for Sam, Gui would have had a chance with Lana. They connected very well from the moment they met and some months later had a passionate fling after Lana and Sam broke up on a terrible fight. He was very attentive to her, Lana thought him a nice distraction that would do her good and so she let him warm her up in his bed. But Gui overdid his offer in a crazy delusion.
When this fling lost its zest, Lana had returned to Sam’s arms for good since Gui had taught her what she really wanted and, there was no more questions about it. Nevertheless, the Gui months had been great. He was a nice man, authoritative as well as good humored. Lana had had fun with him…
His maneuvering to avoid seeing her fat and bloated killed her ego.
The party was the same as always, nice but a little boring. A wedding band sang merrily, elegant waiters offered the women colorful drinks, men talked animatedly over scotch. All was fine until Lana saw a beautiful woman casually stroll the big ballroom far from where she was.
‘Dora, look at that woman.’ Lana said squinting.
‘Where?’ Dorothy said looking aimlessly around the room.
‘There, Dora! By the side windows…’ Lana pointed discreetly ungluing her pinky finger from the wine glass she was pretending to be sipping.
‘Horrendous yellow flowers in her dress?’ Dora asked in a sneer.
‘No!... The beautiful one, hair up in a neat bun. Black pencil skirt. There!’ Lana wanted to point the woman to her good friend but social skills prevented her.
‘Ah! I see her. A bit over dressed for the occasion, wouldn’t you say?’ Dora asked and sipped her own wine.
‘My thoughts exactly! I guess it’s the shoes… Too high. Or the designed stockings.’ Lana said and sipped her wine just to frown as the bitter taste hit her tongue.
‘You use designed stockings.’ Dora turned to look at her friend. ‘Lalie, you can drink now.’ She said.
‘No I can’t. I keep forgetting.’ Lana looked miserably at her glass.
‘Eddie is waned.’ Dora said patiently.
‘But my belly still has a mind of its own.’ Lana said wanly.
‘Damn it, what you need is therapy! You look wonderful, better than before getting pregnant. What’s wrong with you?’ Dora complained losing her patience with her friend and feeling like repeating herself for the last five months.
‘I have mirrors at home, Dora!’ Lana counteracted.
‘Muffled mirrors. You look great, friend. Believe me.’ Dora said and intent on changing subjects she continued. ‘Look! Miss Fancy embroidered stockings is talking to French Gorgeousness…’
Lana turned and felt a tingle in her spine. There he were, Guillaume Lefebvre, looking as good as ever. A bit older, maybe a little bit fatter, but all beautiful. And he was talking to the Stockings woman as if they were acquaintances.
‘I guess he knows her.’ Dora said, her eyes intent on their conversation.
‘Maybe she’s attended college with them.’ Lana shrugged but failed to avert her eyes.
Gui leaned down his head to hear what the woman was telling him, his hair fell on his eyes and he smiled charmingly. Lana felt her spine tingle again, but now it also burned dully.
‘Oh, pretty smiles for one another!... Miss Fancy stockings will soon be Miss Pantiless…’ Dora sneered again.
Lana felt a weird twist in her stomach but before she could comment the couple raised their eyes scanning the room until they found her. She felt awkward and restrained from shifting from foot to foot. Distracted by Gui’s eyes on her figure, she failed to notice the woman doing the same. Finally he smiled at her; he smiled her favorite smile at her, and raised his glass. Her nostrils on fire, Lana forced herself to recompose, nod haughtily and give him a sideways smile. Then she turned her back to them.
At the same time, Kevin approached and with a hand on the small of their backs, urged Lana and Dorothy to their designated table as dinner was about to be served. Lana felt ashamed of her exchange with her ex-lover thinking that her husband’s best friend had witnessed it and that’s why he was fidgety. He looked over his shoulders twice while escorting them to their table but didn’t comment or made any communication with Vaughn.
During dinner, Lana rationalized that she didn’t do anything wrong. Just a nod and a half smile. If Sam found himself offended by that, he could bite his own ass. She still had to rename an occasional contact on his phone as his previous conquests’ offered him booty calls. When she found one, she renamed the bitch’s contact to:
‘Last: Get this call
First: and your dick
Company: shall never rise again’
Or some mean variation of that. She always knew when those bitches called him because he guffawed out of the blue. Nowadays, years after their marriage, the calls were not as frequent but some women were diehard.
By the end of the meal she had relaxed. The band was starting to warm up again and soon the dancing would resume. Maybe she could convince her handsome husband to join her on the dance floor for a few songs. He was such a smooth dancer but avoided public shows, only giving her the pleasure of dancing when alone or in family gatherings.
She needed to check her makeup, retouch her lipstick and visit the restroom before using her charms on him. Lana invited Dora and as they headed for the bathroom the wife of a friend of Samuel’s and Kevin’s approached them. As any women who only met once a year they chatted for a while until Lana’s bladder called for attention. She excused herself and continued to the bathroom that had a small line of women waiting.
Her bladder wouldn’t last that long so Lana asked a passing waiter for directions to another restroom and he pointed a small toilet down the foyer. Her bladder still had the pregnancy months’ memory, a brisk walk was less risky than standing in line, she thought.
Finding the restroom empty was a blessing. Once relieved she left the stall to wash her hands and see to her makeup. She inspected the vanity to deposit her cute clutch to the side and when she raised her eyes to the mirror, Lana saw the Stockinged woman behind her. She frowned and waited.
‘Hello.’ The woman said politely.
Lana nodded and washed her hands as if not affected by the woman’s presence. Why would she be? She was just another human being, a beautiful woman who was talking to a man she knew… and on that train of thought she raised her eyes to the mirror once again.
The woman had a small smile on her luscious red lips, eyes neatly painted black, exquisite make up really; enchanting pink mother-of-pearl scales earrings, hair tied up.
‘You see it now?’ The woman asked in a silky voice.
They stared at each other’s eyes in the mirror for a while. Lana believing herself insane; the woman smiling sweetly.
‘Hello, Lalie. I’m Anais.’ The woman said.
‘Lalie?’ Lana raised her eyebrows and dried her hand in a paper towel.
‘I’m sorry. Lana. Mrs. Vaughn.’ Anais corrected herself.
‘Zaraki.’ Lana said.
‘Ms. Zaraki. I apologize.’ Anais acknowledged.
‘I’m sorry, Miss?’ Lana asked, her throat suddenly parched.
‘Robinson. Anais Robinson.’ Another sweet smile on her familiar face.
‘Ms. Robinson. You seem to know a lot about me but I’m at a loss here.’ Lana squinted. ‘I didn’t have anything to drink today, still…’
‘How is your baby daughter?’ Anais smiled more openly. ‘She’s almost one, right?’
Lana raised her brows once again and for the first time felt afraid.
‘Don’t get me wrong Ms. Zaraki. I saw your lovely belly last year. By your waddling, I guessed you were close to term and if you are not drinking, the baby must still be breast feeding.’ She risked a sideways smile.
Lana groaned and hung her head. ‘I was so big… Wasn’t I?’ She asked rhetorically.
Anais giggled and nodded. The sweet sound took Lana out of her self-pity.
‘I haven’t had more than a sip of wine and still…’ Lana squinted again. ‘Don’t we look alike?’ She then turned to face the woman for the first time.
Anais nodded and raised her brows smiling cynically as if Lana had finally noticed the obvious.
Actually, Lana had noticed their similarity a few hours earlier when her ex-lover’s body language towards this woman had been the same he used when with her. Seeing them she had remembered a particular picture taken by friends in common where he was bending forward to level his ear to Lana’s mouth and smiling sexily to what she was whispering. It was a Twilight zone, out of body experience: She watched herself talking to Gui.
‘We do. I’m a little shorter than you so my Louboutins are higher.’ She bended one leg to show her spiky heels. ‘My hair is straighter than your curls so when I don’t spend hours with the curling iron I use a bun.’ Anais said and twisted her head so Lana would see the hairdo. ‘Also I’m two years younger and a little thinner.’ She finished.
Lana didn’t have to be facing the mirror to be assured her face had fell.
Anais frowned and leaned her head to the side ever so slightly while Lana examined her.
She was thinner and leaner than Lana. Her facial features were slightly sharper and maybe she wore green contacts. But aside from that they looked very similar.
‘It was not a snide remark, Lal- sorry, Ms. Zaraki. I just pointed our similarities. I tried to gain a little body but gave it up and returned to my normal size. It proved to be unsafe for me.’ Anais said cryptically. ‘You are a stunning woman, and you have excellent taste in fashion.’ Anais pointed to both their outfits.
Lana felt another ‘zing’ run through her spine: Anais’ black pencil skirt, her light mauve flounce front halter top, her black stilettos and even her fancy embroidered stockings could belong to her own closet.
‘Should I be worried?’ Lana asked.
‘Absolutely!’ Anais said seriously.
‘Too late.’ Lana answered.
‘I wanted to present myself to you.’ Anais said as Lana raised one eyebrow suspiciously. ‘I was curious. You look stunning tonight so I didn’t resist.’
Lana didn’t know what to say. Was this a weird dream? Could she wake up?
‘Here’s the thing.’ Lana said still eyeing Anais suspiciously. ‘I’m in the foyer bathroom alone. Suddenly you materialize behind me looking very much like myself and making cryptic remarks as if I should understand exactly what’s going on.’ Lana frowned. ‘I don’t.’
‘You don’t know who I am?’ Anais asked.
‘Anais Robinson. Shorter, slimmer, straighter hair; otherwise looks very much like me as I said.’ Lana said annoyed.
Anais smiled saucily. ‘You have no idea who I am… How extraordinary!’
Lana crossed her arms on her chest and waited, trying to keep a poker face.
‘I’m a call-girl.’ Anais locked their eyes. ‘A very expensive one.’
Lana raised her brows surprised.
‘I’m a lady of pleasure who is lucky enough to look like you.’ Anais continued challengingly.
‘Excuse me?’ Lana blinked.
‘I have excellent rich clients who pay me good money to have you.’ She said and Lana felt the jab in her chest.
‘I’m sorry. I don’t understand.’ Lana shook her head frowning.
‘You saw me talking to one of them. Mr. Lefebvre is one of my good clients. There are others but I don’t like to be approached by costumers in public, even though this is a work related event for me. Most of my clients avoid acknowledging they’ve met me and I like that.’ Anais said calmly as if discussing her business dealings was something very natural. ‘One of these special clients invited me here as he had the previous years you attended this reunion.’
‘Wait.’ Lana raised one palm in front of her and leaned on the vanity for support. ‘You are here because I am?’
‘Yes, Ms. Zaraki. In fact, I’m being paid to be here. You can call it… a research.’ She said failing to hide a mischievous smile.
Lana was loath of giving this crazy woman the satisfaction of seeing her discomfort but this story was too outrageous to be plausible.
'You are being paid to talk to me? Am I wasting someone’s money?’
Anais laughed. ‘No! I wasn’t supposed to approach you at all, just watch you from a distance. My client has a partiality for watching me- sorry, you act in public.’
‘Excuse me?’ Lana fidgeted with her belt, feeling offended and confused.
‘You know, he can only interact with you in public… Poor fool… You can see why I wasn’t supposed to talk to you. His poor head would explode seeing you who he can’t have talk to you he can afford.’ Anais shook her head cynically.
Lana eyed the beautiful woman in front of her and laughed. Suddenly she couldn’t hold in her mirth any longer.
‘I’m sorry…’ Lana said but couldn’t stop laughing. ‘No! I’m not sorry at all! This is hysterical!’
Anais smiled sexily back at Lana’s laughter.
‘You say you are paid to be me in bed and that’s luck!’ She laughed even harder.
‘I do.’ Anais nodded smiling.
‘This is precious! What a gaudy story!’ Lana held her breasts to catch some air, her tears of laughter were about to ruin her make up.
‘I don’t use that kind of bun, Fake Lana! Your clients should see through you!’ She said in mockery and fanned her face with her hands.
‘Men don’t care for these details. They want you naked and compliant, and I deliver that.’ Anais said and her saucy smile returned to her shiny lips when Lana’s laughter died in her throat and her eyes widened. ‘You are very yielding to anything that concerns their smallest impulses.’ Anais slurred her words and ran a well-manicured finger on her own lips.
‘You are suggesting?...’ Lana whispered.
‘You could teach me how to tie my hair.’ Anais avoided Lana’s question deliberately and enticingly while twisting her head to groom her hair looking at the mirror.
‘I don’t quite understand what you mean.’ Lana blinked, eyes glued to the woman’s hair.
‘Lunch? Mmmm, let me think…’ Anais looked up at the ceiling as if considering her schedule. ‘With you in town I’m fairly busy so… Tuesday?’ She directed her eyes to Lana’s again.
‘Lunch?’ Lana choked. ‘Why would I want meet you?’ She asked disdainfully.
‘Because I can see you are everything they say you are: stunning, enchanting, sexy, witty… and curious.’ Anais said.
‘Am I?’ Lana challenged.
‘Aren’t we?’ Anais answered and opened her classy purse to take out a business card. ‘Call me if something comes up. If you don’t, I’ll be at your hotel’s restaurant at two pm Tuesday.’ She handed Lana the card between her beautifully manicured index and middle finger.
Not sure why, Lana reached for the card and felt it sting in her fingers.
‘Thank you for your time, Lalie- Ms. Zaraki. I apologize for hinting an intimacy that we don’t actually have.’ She smiled and Lana thought that it was not sincere. ‘And you look even more beautiful this year. Maternity did you well, you are very arousing.’ She gave Lana a once over and turned to leave. ‘Good bye.’
This book is 15 chapters long and is available in Kindle or paperback.