‘I beg your pardon,’ Dr. Maurice Strong, London’s top plastic surgeon, says with a perfect mix of British snobbery and scathing contempt.
Anybody else would have cringed, but not Britney. She has absolutely no problem repeating her certifiably weird request.
‘I want you to make my eyes look like a cat’s. You know, going upwards, like this.’ She lays both her pointer fingers on the outer corners of her eyes, and pulls the skin upwards, as high as her seventeen-year-old skin will stretch.
Dr. Strong glances at me as if he suspects this whole thing is some sort of a schoolgirl prank.
I’ll admit it’s a feat not to laugh at the crazy scene unfolding before my eyes, but I’m * good at keeping my expression *-hot blank. It’s more than my job’s worth to express even a hint of mockery at Britney’s frequent forays into lunacy. I’m paid by her father to follow her around, fetch, carry, and generally baby her.
How can I describe my job?
Well, I guess it’s a bit like the *-wipers of ancient China. No, I’m not kidding. Straight up serious. Apparently, every great emperor had a manservant whose sole duty was to carefully clean his master’s * after he’d done a number two, then carry away the precious royal droppings and dispose of them. You’d think that would have been considered the most horrible occupation a man could have, wouldn’t you?
The best part of this little nugget from the past is since the emperor was believed to be a god in human form directly from heaven, it was considered an awesome job, and eagerly fought over by many candidates. Only the luckiest guy got to smell and possibly touch a god’s poop.
Unfortunately for me, other than the silent laugh factor of my job, there is no such satisfaction in mine. Getting nada from me, Dr. Strong pushes his gl*es halfway down his nose (strange how plastic surgeons never have great noses) and peers frostily at Britney from the top of his gold-rimmed gl*es. It’s obvious that he thinks she’s in need of professional help.
‘You want me to operate on your eyes to make you look like a … cat?’ he enunciates each word slowly, but drops the last word like a brick into the frigid air of his c
‘Yes, that’s right,’ Britney confirms, flashing a heartbreakingly happy smile and nodding her blonde head eagerly at him.
Dr. Strong sighs, as if he has done this way too many times, or he might actually prefer the * wipe job. He clasps his hands on his desk and looks at her grimly. ‘I’m sorry, Miss Hunter, but I’m actually here to make people look better, not turn them into ridiculous freaks.’
That floors Britney. This never happens on her favorite TV program, Botched, where even the bizarre people asking to be turned into dolls and aliens are mollycoddled and treated with kid gloves by the two resident plastic surgeons. For a few seconds she actually looks alarmed. Her eyes widen and her mouth drops open. Then she sits forward hastily.
‘No, no, no, you don’t understand,’ she says, sheer panic of not having what she wants turning her voice into the high, whiny drone that always hurts my ears. ‘I won’t look like a freak. It will be brilliant.’
‘Regardless, I’m afraid I’m not the doctor for you.’
‘Oh, but I want you to do it. You’re the best,’ she wails. He doesn’t know it, but we’re this close (half-an-inch between thumb and index finger) to a full-blown tantrum.
Dr. Strong takes on the expression of a man who is sitting on a toilet and has not eaten enough fiber to make it a worthwhile exercise. He sighs.
‘Then take my advice and stop trying to ruin a perfectly good pair of eyes.’
‘I’ll pay more,’ she offers suddenly.
Oh! Britney, Britney.
For the first time, a flash of anger shows on the good doctor’s face. He spears her with a stink glance. ‘If there is another issue you wanted to discuss then please do so, otherwise this appointment is over.’
‘But …’ Britney cries petulantly. ‘You did my nose and my boobs. You have to do my eyes.’
‘I don’t have to do anything.’
‘Oh please,’ she begs, her hands clasped under her chin.
‘I will not do it, but if you insist on having cat eyes there will, no doubt, be other surgeons interested in making you happy.’
‘I don’t want to go to anyone else. You’re the best.’
Dr. Strong shakes his head, closes the file on his desk, and looks at her with cold finality.
‘This is so unfair. I want cat eyes. I’m not asking for something unreasonable … and I’m paying. You can’t just turn me away,’ Britney rages.
‘Miss Hunter,’ Dr. Strong reprimands sternly. ‘Kindly do not waste any more of my time, young lady.’
Britney jumps up. ‘Come on Tori,’ she orders huffily, and stalks out of the office, her nose held high in the air.
I shrug apologetically at the doctor and quickly follow her out.
She runs past the waiting room and rounds on me in the middle of an intersecting corridor. ‘I have to find a way to make him operate on me,’ she cries desperately. ‘Can you help me to convince him?’
‘Me?’ I ask, startled.
‘Yes. You. You’re always so sensible, Tori.’
‘To be honest I think your eyes are beautiful as they are.’
She looks at me the way I always imagined Cesar looked at Brutus after the knife was planted in his back.
‘What?’ I ask, bewildered. It’s not like we’re best friends or anything.
‘You don’t want me to be beautiful,’ she screeches suddenly, and streaks off in the general direction of the toilets.
I stare after her for a few seconds before I turn around and slam into a perfectly solid wall of cologne-scented, honest to goodness, male muscles. Strong, wonderfully warm hands curl around my forearms. I look up. OK, long tanned brown throat, unshaven jawline …
Oh! My! God!
Amused, bright green eyes fringed by eyelashes that rightly should have belonged to a girl; straight, black, *ed eyebrows; disheveled hair, and a bad* smile curved on the *iest most deliciously full lips. The kind you just want to sink your teeth into. Oh, and just before I faint, a chin dimple just made a late entrance to the party. This is exactly the kind of man my best friend, Leah, calls ‘a happening guy.’ Things happen around him.
‘Whoa, babe,’ he drawls.
How can I describe his voice? Warmed up chocolate sauce poured slowly down my naked back. Swoon, my *, I *ing shiver.
‘Whoa, yourself,’ I croak.
He bares his straight white teeth. It’s one of those magic grins that begs any rational girl to * it off his face.
‘Was that my sister I just saw bolting into the toilet for a quick meltdown?’
I swallow hard. This is so not how I expected to meet Britney’s famous brother. ‘Could be, if you’re the pop star big brother.’
Cash Hunter’s green eyes look like they’re on fire. ‘That’s me, babe. Pop star big brother.’
‘Great. Er … now might be a good time to let go of me.’
‘Give me one good reason why I should?’ he counters lazily.
My eyebrows fly upwards. ‘My knee’s reckoning on an upwards trajectory?’
Grinning, he lets go of me and raises his hands as if in surrender. ‘Looks like I caught me a wildcat.’
My legs play up a little as I take a shaky step back.
He watches me. ‘Where the * have you been all my life, Beautiful?’
I give a fake laugh. ‘Are you deliberately using bad lines to save on contraceptives?’
The leather-clad, powerhouse of *y goodness throws his head back and laughs. This early in the morning the vodka fumes that hit my nostrils are strong enough to make me dizzy.
‘What’s going to work on you, wildcat? My * wants to say hello to your *.’
‘Breath mints might help,’ I retort.
‘Damn girl, you sure know how to * the juice out of a tender moment.’ He rummages around in his pocket, finds a mangy mint, and pops it into his mouth. ‘Now unless you don’t like a long, thick *, we’re good to go.’
I look up at him with frosty eyes. ‘Personally I think size is overrated. Cock doesn’t have to be big to be good.’
His eyes gleam. ‘Baby, we’re in luck. There’s a man on the other side of the corridor who can customize my dong into the right shape and size for you.’
‘Hilarious,’ I say unenthusiastically.
‘I bet I can make you call me Daddy,’
‘Thanks, but … ugh, no.’
‘Right. Change of tactics. Not that I’m giving up on getting you into my bed or anything, but want to have dinner with me tonight?’
He’s too beautiful to be real.
‘Cash,’ squeals Britney.
Cash winks at me before he turns his attention to the figure flying at him. He catches her as she wraps her arms and legs around him like a big kid.
‘How did you know where to find me?’ she asks.
‘Isn’t this your second home?’ he asks dryly.
‘Not anymore. Dr. Strong won’t do my eyes,’ she grumbles.
‘Oh yeah. Why not?’
‘He’s says I’ll end up looking like a ridiculous freak.’
‘Hmmm … what did you want done?’
She climbs off him. ‘I want cat eyes.’
Cash’s gorgeous eyes widen. He nods slowly as she tells him about her disastrous appointment with Dr. Strong.
‘Well, Sparkles. I think cat’s eyes are a great idea.’
Jesus. Madness must run in the family.
‘You do?’ Britney asks brightly, her whole face shining with hope.
‘Absolutely. It’s a great look. It’ll make you look like one of those beauties from the fifties and sixties.’
‘What?’ She frowns.
‘Yeah, you know like Zsa Zsa Gabor.’
‘Zsa Zsa Gabor. Who’s that?’
‘She’s from dad’s time,’ he supplies with a wise nod. ‘Oh, and like … er … what was the name of that comedienne who died recently?’ He snaps his fingers and looks at me.
‘Joan Rivers?’ I suggest h
He stops snapping and points at me. ‘That’s the one.’ With a smile he turns towards his sister who’s looking at him with dismay. ‘Definitely a great look,’ he says approvingly.
‘But they’re both so … old.’
‘So what. They had style. Style never dies. Come on, let’s go and see Dr. Strong together. I’ll help you to convince him.’ He takes her arm.
Britney holds back. ‘Hang on a minute. I think Dr. Strong might have been right, after all. It’s a big step and I should think about this a bit more.’
‘Oh,’ he says innocently. ‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes,’ she replies lamely.
‘In that case,’ he turns to me, ‘how about introducing me to this lovely creature?’
Britney turns to me. ‘Oh, this is Tori Diamond. Dad hired her to be my PA.’
He extends a hand out. ‘Hello, Tori Diamond. Cash Hunter, Britney’s pop star brother. How nice to meet you.’
I step forward and put my hand into his ridiculously strong hands. Damn, these are some hands. Must be all that guitar strumming. My imagination runs away with me. One finger inserted deep inside me, and curling to stroke me. Oh hell! Phew! Is it hot in this corridor or what? Heat creeps up my neck. I wipe my brow as surreptitiously as I can.
He smirks. The smarmy *.
I clear my throat. ‘Charmed, I’m sure,’ I say in the poshest voice I can muster.
‘We really should be getting back,’ I announce awkwardly, looking at Britney.
Britney turns to her brother, her voice wheedling. ‘Can I go back in your car, Cash?’
‘Sure, I’ll take you home, but I can’t stay for long.’
‘Oh! Why?’ she moans.
‘I’m bushed, Brit. I’ve been up all night. I just want to get back to my apartment and crash. I’ll come around tomorrow.’
‘Well, you can sleep back at ours. We won’t disturb you. Dad’s not in, Cora never comes out of the kitchen. I’ll be real quiet, and Tori here is more silent than a bloody tomb.’
He glances at me interestedly. ‘A silent one, huh?’
‘Say you’ll stay,’ she begs hopefully.
He looks down at her, his expression undecided.
‘Cora’s making your favorite smoked chicken pie tonight,’ she says cunningly.
I know for a fact Cora is doing no such thing. It should have been a silent observation, but I hear words I never intended to say go flying out of my mouth.
Georgia Le Carre