This particular story contained a lot of those same elements, but like always, Seth's beautiful writing and quick, witty dialogue kept the material captivating. In another trend consistent with his characters' behavior, O'Neill almost always got involved with some beautiful woman, though Seth's last book had turned this pattern on its head, letting Cady finally see some action. The story I read today fell into old ways, and O'Neill, in his ever suave manner, made the moves on a stunning museum curator:
Genevieve sauntered through the halls, a queen among subjects, surveying people and displays with both calculation and command. With those green-flecked hazel eyes, she put him in mind of a cat sizing up its next meal. He felt exactly like prey as she paused in front of him, favoring him with a languid look that oozed over his body, her tongue lightly moistening bee-stung lips.
Oh God, to be a mouse, he thought.
"Mr. O'Neill," she purred, brushing a lock of that shining hair away from her face. Faint streaks of honey laced those pale brown strands, like gold veins in ore. He wanted to bury his face in it. He wanted to taste it. "You're late."
Despite nearly a foot separating their heights, he felt like the underling here, like he should do penance for his tardiness and kneel in her presence. Not that he would mind that so much, he decided, trying not to stare at the way her dress's thin material molded itself to her hips and full br**sts. Those br**sts, he decided, were perfect. Definitely impressive in size, but not grotesquely out of control. And their shape...ah, even a master sculptor could never have duplicated those exquisite curves...
Realizing she expected a response, he filed his base thoughts away under L for Later and gave her an unruffled smile.
"My apologies." Now probably wasn't the time to mention the attack back at his hotel. "But I never rush anything. At least not when a woman's involved. "
With that being only the mildest of the suggestive dialogue, I wasn't surprised when things escalated between them near the end of the story. After all, I thought dryly, it wouldn't be a true Cady and O'Neill experience if someone didn't score. And man, did he score. The feline comparisons were right on because Genevieve was a cat in heat. She ended up tying O'Neill up in an elevator, performing an array of kinky acts on him that made even me raise an eyebrow. I was surprised American Mystery hadn't edited them out, though I'd be lying if I said it wasn't sort of a turn-on to realize such sordidness had come from mild, complacent -
We do have an elevator, you know, Warren had told me.
Light brown hair. Hazel-green eyes. Petite. Nice br**sts.
"Ahh!" I cried, dropping the magazine as if it might bite me. It landed next to my now-empty bowl, and a passing waitress gave me a startled look. Hastily leaving a wad of cash on the table, I grabbed my coat and purse and sprinted back to the bookstore. Doug was still playing Tetris in our office, but I was too upset to speculate much on what was again an amazing performance.
All those looks. The whispers and smirks. It all made sense now.
"They think it's me!" I told him, making him jump for the second time that day." Genevieve. They all think I'm some sort of horny, rope-wielding, elevator-fetish dominatrix!"
Doug raised an eyebrow. "You mean you aren't?"
He shrugged. "It's not a big deal. I mean, it's pretty hot, really."
"But I didn't do those things. It's not really me."
"She sounds just like you. Her name begins with a Gtoo."
"But it's not..." I swallowed, noting the similarities as well.
Doug watched me appraisingly. "You can't really blame them. Description-wise, you two match, and everyone knows you and Mortensen are chummy - not to mention what a zealous fan you are and all. After they read the story, Casey even made the brilliant observation that you guys came in together yesterday. You should have seen the speculation that started."
"But...that was nothing." No one at work even knew Seth and I were dating. I hadn't wanted that widely known. "We hadn't done anything."
Doug shrugged again, rising from the computer. "Too bad. I wouldn't have thought less of you if you had, you know. It's your business anyway." I groaned. "Not when it's in print for everyone to see."
"I thought it was all fictitious," he reminded me with a sly grin, putting on his coat.
"It is! Doug, what am I going to do?"
"Don't know, Kincaid. I'm sure you'll figure something out. Maybe start with asking Mortensen why he's putting his fantasies on display for everyone to see." He tweaked my cheek, and I squirmed out of his reach. "As for me, I've got a rehearsal to get to. Big night tomorrow. Later."
My shift proceeded miserably after that. Now that I knew what the looks were for, the experience moved into a whole new realm of humiliation. I hated idle speculation, hated people thinking terrible things about me. I mean, it wasn't like I hadn't ever tied someone up before or had sex in an elevator, but come on. It wasn't the kind of thing I wanted people to consider publicly. I liked to keep my intimate affairs discreet.
I therefore stayed in the office as much as possible, only going out to help when absolutely necessary, and to check if Seth had returned yet. Finally, a couple hours before closing, I saw him back at his table. I sat down opposite him in a rage, not even caring what others would think of us being together.
"Why did you do it? Why did you write me in like that?"
Seth looked up from his laptop, his expression clearly implying whatever writing he was working on still held his attention more than I did. For all I knew, I was at the center of an orgy in some novel now. "What?"
"The story!" I threw American Mystery onto the table loudly. "You wrote me in. I'mGenevieve."
He blinked. "No you aren't."
"Oh yeah? How come both our names begin with a G? How come we look alike?"
"You don't look anything like her," he countered.
"That's not what half the store thinks. They think she's me! They think you've written up a fling we had in an elevator."
Realization flashed across his face, and to my horror, he actually smiled. "Really? That's funny."
"Funny? It's terrible! They all think I'm a bondage freak."
"Thetis," he began gently, still damnably serene, "I - "
"Don't 'Thetis' me. It won't work."
"I wrote that story, like, six months ago. Long before I met you. The publishing world doesn't move that fast."
"Well, the others don't know that." I hovered on the verge of tears.
"I'd never write in anyone so blatantly."
"Yeah? Well, they don't know that either," I said, slouching back against my chair miserably, arms crossed.
Seth sighed, his amber brown eyes compassionate as he regarded me. "Look, do you want me to say something? Tell them that it wasn't you?"
"Lord, that would just convince them even more that it was me. Besides, what are you going to do, call a press conference to clear my name?"
"I'm sorry," he told me seriously. "I never thought anything like this would happen." A hesitation. "Do...do you still want to go out tomorrow night? I mean...if you don't..."
The old adorable shyness fell over him, and I couldn't stay mad.
"No," I told him. "I still want to go, but...I think we should, you know, show up at the concert separately. Most of the staff will be there, you know."
He opened his mouth to speak but then reconsidered. I suspected he had been about to accuse me of overreacting, but apparently my radiating fury made him think better of it. Seth wasn't exactly the confrontational type. Or, considering the mood I was in, perhaps he just wasn't the stupid type.
"Okay," he finally said. "We'll meet there."
Looking up, I saw Paige standing over us, disapproval all over her face. I hadn't even noticed her approach. She wore another of her beautiful power suits, this time in an electric violet that looked stunning with her dark skin.
"Can I speak to you for a few minutes?" she asked, tone grim. "In private?"
I followed her to her office, letting her close the door behind us. Not surprisingly, a copy of American Mystery sat on her desk.
"So," she began crisply, "I've been hearing some rumors - "
"Damn it. It's not me."