Hustle Sweet Love [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Maggie Davis
eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: Leaving Tulsa, Oklahoma behind for the glamorous life of a fashionista in New York City, model Lacy Kinsgley find herself on an adventurous journey of self-discovery. Lacy's all-American good looks and sexy fashion sense not only help her land a job at fabulous Fad Magazine, but also get her into mischief when she's mistaken for a high-priced escort by a charismatic and powerful publishing magnate. One passionate encounter with charismatic yet cool-headed Michael soon grows into something much more, as Lacy's life is changed in ways a small-town girl would have never dreamed.
eBook Publisher: E-Reads, Published: 1988
Fictionwise Release Date: April 2002
103 Reader Ratings:
"How much?" the little fat man in the sequin-decorated beanie asked breathlessly.
His wide eyes traveled upward from Lacy's nonstop legs, in black embroidered stockings, to her tiny waist and temptingly revealed breasts, and his gaze locked, jammed, and couldn't move.
"That is," he said, obviously awe-struck, "if your schedule isn't all filled up for tonight."
Good grief, Lacy thought -- whirling around on her bar stool to face the group of conventioneers in matching sequin-decorated beanies who were avidly watching -- it's the dress!
She had floated into the hotel bar in a daze of happiness to order a split of champagne and celebrate the most wonderful thing that had happened to her in a long time: getting a new job as fashion writer for Fad magazine. She was still wearing the black Claude Montana that she'd modeled on the runway in the hotel ballroom for the Western States Fashion Wholesalers' show.
The Montana number was the wildest of the wild, something not really intended for Tulsa, Oklahoma; it was only included in the fashion show to top off the finale. The Montana was made of black silk crepe with exaggeratedly padded shoulders and the neckline plunging to the waist. It was also slit up the front from the hem almost to the crotch in a style more suited to New York or the more far-out boutiques of Rodeo Drive. The fillip for the wholesalers' fashion show -- guaranteed to bring gasps of delight -- were embroidered black-on-black silk stockings attached to an equally scandalous black satin garter belt that managed to reveal a naked pearly strip of Lacy's delectable inner thigh. That is, unless Lacy had her knees together and demurely pointed to the wooden panel of the bar. Which she'd had until a few minutes ago, when she'd thoughtlessly crossed her legs and attracted fat little Mr. Beanie.
The Claude Montana was the latest "tarty" look from Paris. It had knocked 'em dead, dress wholesalers and retail-store buyers alike, when Lacy had pranced down the hotel-ballroom runway in it, her smoky-blond hair teased and sprayed into a fantastic curly cloud around her head. At five feet nine inches, she'd carried the whole thing magnificently. The show's coordinator had agreed that only Lacy Kingston, with her face and figure virtually a clone of top models Cheryl Tiegs and Christie Brinkley, could wear the Claude Montana black crepe extravaganza and not have it turn into a vulgar disaster. With Lacy's All-American Girl body, brilliant green eyes and wide, mobile mouth, she was provocative, wanton, and had impeccable class.
That is, except in the old-West-style bar called the Grand Saloon. Mr. Sequin Beanie and his friends seemed to have been so impressed with Paris's haut monde "tarty look" they had taken her for a real tart!
Lacy was famous for her zany sense of humor, but she felt a very real twinge of irritation. Hookers often passed themselves off as models; she'd run into that more than once when telling people what she did for a living. Which was one reason she wanted to get out of her present line of work. Being gorgeous and outwardly sophisticated didn't really mean that one was that way to the core, even in the competitive fashion business known as the rag trade. At twenty-three, Lacy had definitely grown somewhat cynical, as she fended off passes from wholesalers, retailers and fashion photographers. Right now, she told herself, she had a right to celebrate her new job without being pestered. She'd waited for years to be a fashion writer. She'd earned her quiet little split of champagne; ordinarily she'd never touch a drop of alcohol because it could do the most horrible things to the complexion, like robbing it of precious moisture and causing wrinkles. Now here, she thought, staring at him, was Mr. Beanie People, wanting to know how much of her evening time he could buy!
Good grief, Lacy thought, what a nerd! How could she get rid of him?
Lacy's devilish sense of humor stirred restlessly. She'd had a split of champagne on a stomach that had had breakfast but no lunch or dinner. Some perverse demon, at that moment, seized her tongue.
Lacy scooped up her smoky-blond teased curls with one hand and shot Mr. Beanie a look from under her fake inch-long model's eyelashes that should have melted his shoelaces.
"It'll cost you, honey," Lacy said in her best imitation of Marlene Dietrich in the classic 1930s movie The Blue Angel.
The little man in the red hat seemed to tremble visibly. "How much?" he asked hoarsely.
Lacy also did a good imitation of Mae West in her famous old movie with Cary Grant called She Done Him Wrong. She stared at the little man, fighting down the urge to giggle. She didn't want to kill him outright.
She had no idea what price hookers were asking either in New York -- where she'd just come from -- or in Tulsa. She looked over Mr. Beanie's head and saw the bar's patrons were nearly all men, a seemingly affluent lot in expensively tailored Western-style clothes. At the moment they all seemed to be looking at her.
The same reckless devil prodded Lacy again. "Fifteen hundred dollars," she said throatily.
She never knew where the words had come from; they just seemed to jump out of the air. Lacy lifted the almost empty champagne glass to her lips and watched the little man literally stagger backward.
"All night?" he sputtered. "Gotta be all night at that price!"
Ugh, Lacy thought, watching him. She was realizing that she hadn't the faintest idea of what a big-time, worldclass hooker would do to earn fifteen hundred dollars. In spite of her sophisticated veneer and the Claude Montana, Lacy was still a well-brought-up lawyer's daughter from Long Island.
Mr. Beanie was dumbfounded, too. As he tottered away to report back to his friends, Lacy turned back to the bar. The next time, she promised herself, she'd watch what she was wearing when she bolted out of fashion-show dressing rooms to celebrate. Fifteen hundred dollars? Of all the sums she could have named, why that?
She supposed she knew the answer. Underneath her lacquered, professional beauty, Lacy was a girl who'd had only one disastrous sexual experience, in the front seat of a Buick convertible at age seventeen, and she'd been running ever since. Fifteen hundred dollars seemed like the right figure to keep away short fat men in sequined beanies looking for hookers, that was all.
She finished the last of the champagne in the bottom of her glass, studying her reflection in the bar mirror behind the lighted liquor bottles. She had to admit the dress was really awful, but she'd gotten used to wearing crazy, shocking clothes, because of her basic, hard-to-hide All-American Girl image. Lacy studied her hair. The dark-blond curls springing out from her face in wanton, teased, high-fashion were too much, she thought morosely. It was going to take her a full hour to wash out the hair spray and setting gel. Nobody appreciated all the trouble that went into professional modeling; it would take another hour to cream her face, because her skin had a tendency to acne when exposed to the West's hard water. It would be midnight, even as tired as she was, before she could finally creep into bed. Thankfully, the show moved on to Scottsdale, Arizona, then New York and oh, glory -- her job on Fad magazine! She was really going to be a writer, she thought, mentally pinching herself to be sure it was true.
"I'll buy," a low, quiet, very male voice said.
Lacy lifted her inch-long fake lashes slowly. She'd forgotten what the subject was. "Hmmm?" she murmured abstractedly.
Whoever he was, he was tall. So tall that Lacy, five feet nine and tall even sitting down, had to look up. Six feet four or more, her mind registered. Dark hair expensively styled -- at least a forty-dollar haircut -- framed a taut, authoritative, good-looking face with a strong jaw, high cheekbones and a determined slash of a hard mouth. And what a body! Her eyes passed up and down it quickly, noting that he was not only tall but wide. The last time Lacy had seen a physique like that was at the circus. The broad-shouldered V that tapered to hard, slim hips and long, muscled legs belonged to a circus aerialist -- big chest, big biceps and forearms, strong, tough-looking hands.
Lacy felt a very peculiar tingling all the way down to the pit of her stomach. There was nothing about this stunning man that reminded one of a circus. He was encased in a magnificently tailored tuxedo, with black tie and a conservative starched white shirt. A big, very expensive Rolex gold watch rode a wrist lightly speckled with fine black hairs. A gold ring with a fine blue-white diamond adorned a finger on the same hand. The exposed French cuff had a square cuff link, expensive and tasteful.
Wow, Lacy thought weakly. What a lot of power, what a lot of carefully stated authority! He looked about thirty-six or -seven, she judged as she lifted her eyes slowly and met patiently waiting, powerful gray ones, like a poker player's. There was a distinct shock as that look connected with hers; his eyes seemed to be wired for 220 rather alarming volts.
"What?" Lacy said between suddenly stiff lips.
"I said you're on," he told her quietly.
"Urk!" It was all the response Lacy could allow herself. She knew he wasn't referring to buying her a drink.
"I assume it is all night," he added smoothly.
One of his large hands, the one with the gold ring on it, grasped Lacy's arm lightly but firmly in the soft flesh above her elbow. His movement was intended to politely guide her from the bar stool, but to Lacy the grip was as inexorable as a pair of handcuffs.
She didn't need a computer printout at that moment to know that the towering hunk in the tuxedo had overheard her conversation with Mr. Sequin Beanie and was taking her up on it. She had to do something clever and intelligent. And quick! Lacy wet her lips. The gray eyes followed the movement with a sudden, powerful interest. "I'm all booked up," Lacy said helplessly.
Why, she wondered with a sort of horror, did her mind keep feeding her all these wrong lines tonight? She didn't know where they were coming from! Obviously the gray, commanding eyes didn't believe her. His next words proved it.
"I don't think so," he said. "You wouldn't be sitting here in the bar at this hour if you were."
Help, Mother, I'm being hustled by the Mob! Lacy's inner voice wailed as she stared at him. He did look something like the Mob, except that he was actually too tasteful. The Mob would have a bigger diamond ring. Two bigger diamond rings?
She had to get out of this somehow, Lacy knew. She was being mistaken for a hooker by perhaps a member of the Mob with a body like a six-foot-four circus aerialist in a perfectly tailored Savile Row tuxedo.
"No credit cards or checks," the devil in Lacy's tongue said smartly. The devil thought that would take care of it, but it didn't.
"Cash," the low, even voice replied.
The eyes like the Antarctic Ocean flowing under ice dropped to Lacy's black strappy sandals with their four-inch heels, went carefully up her legs in their embroidered black-on-black silk stockings to the entrancingly pearly strip of thigh and then to Lacy's admirably slender waist, to the nearly vulgar cleavage saved by her truly lovely breasts, to her blush-stained throat and finally to her face.
The look was one that should have raised Lacy's blood pressure a notch in spontaneous fury -- calmly calculating, the look of a sharp, perceptive buyer trained in stock manipulations, blackjack games or even bank embezzlements. Thoroughly appraising. Obviously very, very interested.
His free hand reached into the perfectly cut tuxedo jacket and drew out a handsome English leather wallet and laid it on the bar. He moved a little closer so that his big body blocked the view. Only the bartender in his red jacket a few feet away could see what was going on. Then the long, tanned fingers flipped open the wallet so that Lacy could see an array of fifty-and one-hundred-dollar bills packed in it. Just as quickly, the fingers flipped the wallet shut again and put it back in the inside pocket of the black tuxedo.
It looked, Lacy dithered, like he was carrying literally thousands of dollars! Her heart was pounding so, she feared it would do devastating things to the precarious Claude Montana cleavage. Like jump out and land on the bar next to the champagne bottle. "I can't," she heard herself say.
That was right, she couldn't. Newly employed fashion writers for Fad magazine were very vulnerable. The circus aerialist who looked somewhat like a large black panther thought she was a hooker. What was it going to take to make him go away?
"I'm waiting for a very important -- client," Lacy hissed. She thought that was the right word. "Now beat it."
The Antarctic-gray eyes rejected that, too. "Shall we go?" he said, exerting a little pressure on her elbow.
Lacy clung to the edge of the Western-style bar with one desperate hand. "There's been a misunderstanding," she babbled. Why not let him have it? Why not the truth? "Actually, I'm a model!"
The moment the words were out of her mouth Lacy knew it was another mistake. He'd heard that one, too. She saw the corners of his mouth turn up, then his gray eyes lifted, leveling on the bartender, who was now pretending to be polishing glasses.
"There's a city ordinance against soliciting in hotels." His voice was expressionless, unyielding. "Bill, the bartender there, will confirm that."
Lacy swiveled on the stool and saw the bartender nodding. She'd blown it, she thought frantically. She could just see the item in the New York Daily News: "Lacy Kingston, former New York fashion model and would-be Fad magazine reporter, was arrested in a Tulsa, Oklahoma, hotel bar last night for -- "
"Who are you?" Lacy squeaked, in the grip of sudden, mindless terror. "A cop?"
Policeman! her inner voice screamed instantly. Say, policeman, dummy! Or law-enforcement officer. Anything but cop!
"Let's get out of the bar, shall we?" the inexorable voice was saying.
Lacy's knees buckled as she slid from the bar stool, and it wasn't because of the champagne she'd been drinking. She'd been in worse spots before -- though at the moment she couldn't think of any. Pass it off with a few laughs, she tried to tell herself. Remember the time she'd punched out Peter Dorsey, the great fashion photographer, and blown the contract he'd offered her just because she wouldn't go to bed with him? Remember the I. Magnin buyer just last week? Remember --
None of them looked like this sleek, powerful Mob-type banker in his tux who was nearly dragging her by the arm away from the bar! Now they were sprinting across the lobby at a fast clip. Lacy saw two bellboys spring to open the elevator doors as though she and her escort were VIPs.
The lobby was no place to scream for help. On the other hand, if he was a cop, this didn't look like the way to the paddy wagon, either.
They were almost at the elevator. Lacy dug her four-inch heels into the lobby carpet and skidded to a stop.
"I forgot my purse," she cried, looking up at the dark head that bent to her attentively. "I have to go back to the bar!"
"It's on your arm." Strong fingers tightened around her elbow, guiding her inside the elevator. The bellboys rushed to guard the doors as they closed.
"I wasn't soliciting," Lacy cried. She tried to get her arm out of that deadening grip. "Besides, the hotel won't allow you to -- "
"I know what the hotel allows and what it doesn't," he said as the elevator began its ascent.
Lacy slumped against the side of the elevator. "How?" she whispered.
He looked up to study the blinking lights over the doors. "Because I control enough of the hotel stock to say."
OK, now they were in an elevator, she told herself, numbly fighting down panic. She needed a game plan. But at the moment she was going to have to settle for going along with what was happening, to wait for the doors to open on the next floor and then to run like crazy. Even if she was a little dizzy with champagne, she bet she could beat him in a foot race if she took off the ludicrous heels. On the other hand, she really felt like throwing herself down on the floor of the elevator and crying hysterically.
Lacy stared at the right shoulder of the black tuxedo towering beside her. It looked as monolithic and unshakable as the granite hills of South Dakota. The jaw, the handsome, hard-cheekboned face didn't look like a lot of laughs. Neither did the firmly set mouth, with its slight indent at the corner that would have been a nice, shallow dimple on anybody else. There he stood, six feet four of muscle and purposeful concentration, looking at the floor-indicator lights.
He obviously heard Lacy take a loud, sobbing breath, because he turned to her. "Don't crouch down like that," he said. "I'm not going to hurt you. In contrast to some of your other clients, I suppose." He studied her with a slight frown. "You really are extraordinarily ... beautiful, for this sort of life." The eyes became rather steely. "You charge for it, of course."
"Glurg," Lacy breathed. She wanted to draw herself up and match him steely look for steely look, but she found all she could do was cower. Just as he said.
"Ah," he said, suddenly remembering. "The money."
The wallet came out again. Lacy watched, mesmerized, as tanned fingers opened the black silk purse still hanging by the strap from her shoulder. They counted off one-hundred-dollar bills. One. Two. Three -- At one point he lifted gray eyes to see her watching, and the corners of his mouth turned down. He took the wad of bills and shoved them abruptly into her purse and snapped it shut.
Where, Lacy thought wildly, was the game plan that was going to rescue her from this? She was getting paid in advance for something she was definitely not going to do!
"Be calm," he told her as she trembled. "The money's yours. There'll be nothing kinky, nothing rough."
Kinky? Rough? Lacy felt as though she were going to faint. How am I going to get out of this without landing in the newspapers? her inner voice wailed.
He watched her with a faintly inquiring expression. "You haven't been doing this long, have you?" he observed.
"Too long, actually," Lacy gritted, feeling weak.
He suddenly moved to put both his big hands on her shoulders, pulling her to him slightly to look down at her. Lacy couldn't move. The elevator slowed, purred to a stop, but the doors did not open.
The hallway, she thought frantically as she stared up at him. She would make a break for it. There were always fire stairs in a hotel. She could outrun him going downstairs. Even if he did look like a professional athlete. She braced herself to leap out into the corridor at the first move.
The elevator doors, however, remained shut. The tall man held her with one hand and reached over her shoulder to push a combination number on a bank of buttons to release the computer lock. With a lurch, the elevator started up again. The top button said, PENTHOUSE.
There were several long, terrible seconds while Lacy tried to realize there would be no hotel corridor, no fire stairs. Penthouse? The only way out of something like that was by parachute! The elevator came to a stop, and the doors pulled back.
Oh, God, she saw it really was a penthouse! It was not a hotel corridor but an elegant, small foyer decorated in smoked-glass panels, abstract paintings and chrome chairs against deep chocolate-brown carpeting. She saw a vast room in beige and black and brown, wrapped around by large windows that showed a spangled panorama of lights that was Tulsa, Oklahoma, at night.
"Here we are," he said, taking her by the arm again.
Lacy allowed him to steer her into the vast room. She could only think hysterically of escape.
And there was none.
Copyright © 1988 by Maggie Davis