Lance Packhard, sex therapist, the world’s number one G-spot sleuth and premier undercover man, was flummoxed. Never in his long career had he been faced with such a challenge.
Millicent Deafly—his mark—ignored him. Him. It seemed almost impossible. Instead of eyeing his magnificent body, Millicent was lasciviously fondling a cucumber. Her eyes misted. Her delicate pink
tongue flicked over her pouty lower lip.
“Yes. Oh, yes!” she whispered. “Tonight, yes . . .”
Lance had spent the last hour following her through the local supermarket trying to get her attention, to no avail. Millicent ignored him at the fruit and vegetables section, and at gourmet cheeses he deliberately brushed up against her back, murmured an apology in his huskiest bedroom voice, and accomplished nothing.
Undeterred, he followed her to the wine section, where he attempted prolonged eye contact. Alas, she always seemed to be looking in another direction, and Lance found himself trailing her into the Seafood Court.
There, he liberally doused himself with a powerful pheromone spray he usually avoided using because of the unpleasant side effects. But again nothing happened. Nada.
All he got was a serious skin rash from the pheromone spray and a multitude of lustful supermarket attendants—not all female—insisting on giving him a “hand.”
Lance should have known when he first saw Millicent that she was trouble—big trouble. In fact, he should have known before. He’d never been hired by a mother. Husbands hired him, lovers, concerned friends, even someone’s boss once, but never a mother.
Something in the almost always competitive mother/daughter synergy precluded a mother from fixing her daughter up with a man she fancied herself, and let’s face it, Lance was well aware that all women fancied him.
From his dark, silken hair to his sinewy—and talented—toes, he was regarded as prime genetic material, and he had improved on nature’s bounty. He worked out four times a week—running for an hour each morning before sun-up—and rigorously watched his diet. He used a moisturiser, a hair conditioner, and carefully barbered his muscular chest and abdomen, while cultivating a becoming three-day scruff. All this was in addition to a six-foot-three lean and mean frame, a sculpted face with dreamy green eyes, and a sulky, sarcastic mouth.
Everything about him screamed absolute bastard and he came across as absolutely irresistible.
And what happens when an irresistible object collides with an indifferent target? Something’s gotta give . . .
If you have never explored the hidden depths, or valiantly searched for the Holy G, fear not . . . the cavalry is here!
—Sensual Secrets of a Sexual Surrogate
Lance struggled valiantly with inspiration and was deep into chapter twenty-three, “Go for the G-Spot,” of his revolutionary how-not-to book, Sensual Secrets of a Sexual Surrogate, when his phone rang.
“Mr. Packhard, it’s Gwen Spencer from the Willow Bend Clinic.”
“Mrs. Spencer? My gran is . . . is something wrong?”
“No, Mr. Packhard, not at all. Mrs. Pecklise is as well as can be expected for a woman of her age, and in her clinical condition. The problem . . .” She paused, trying to word things delicately. “Um . . . I really hate to do this, Mr. Packhard, but you’re overdue by two months. We have a rather strict policy. We provide the best care, and that is most costly. We cannot carry patients. If the settlement is not made by the end of the week, we shall need to ask you to remove Mrs. Pecklise from our facility.”
“Mrs. Spencer, please, I just need a little more time! I have some assets I’m trying to liquidate, but I can’t acquire the funds overnight. Would you consider depositing my art collection with you as surety?”
“I’m afraid not, Mr Packhard. Settlement in full, for the last two months, and don’t forget next month is due in two weeks’ time.”
“Thank you, Mr. Packhard.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Spencer. I’ll be there on Friday.”
“I look forward to seeing you then.”
Desperate, Lace ran his hands through his hair. Three months? That came out to a little over nine thousand pounds. He already had his car on the market, and he had been trying to sell some of his art collectibles for several months now, but in this financial climate, people just weren’t buying.
Busy as he was with his clients, he just wasn’t making ends meet. His last hope was tied into the self-help book he was writing. When he handed in the bloody edit, he would get the first instalment of his advance, but he was at least two months away from that.
Somehow, he had to come up with the money and fast. But since when did money rain from the sky? He sighed.
By three o’clock, he was busy juggling numbers in his accounts when his appointment arrived. They exchanged very short pleasantries before she got straight to business.
Mrs. Deafly, an elegant platinum blonde in her sixties who exuded perfection, deliberately leaned forward in her chair and fixed a cool, analytical eye on Lance. “Mr. Packhard, I want a grandchild and I am prepared to pay handsomely for it.”
“I’m afraid you’ve been misled, Mrs. Deafly. I don’t do impregnations. I do Awakenings. You know, help women get in touch with their senses, unlock their sensuality, and awaken their libido. Whatever you may have been led to believe, I do not touch or engage in any sexual or physical contact with the client,” Lance explained.
“Mr. Packhard, my daughter is not interested in sex. Not with men, not with women. I even gave her a Great Dane three years ago to see if her inclinations steered that way, but nothing attracts her. If she’s not into sex, I can’t get her to procreate.”
“That’s unfortunate, but I fail to see how I can—”
“We are the last of our line, Mr. Packhard—a fertile and lusty line, I might add. I could tell you some stories . . . but the truth is that I am faced with the extinction of my way of life. Unfortunately, my late husband’s grandfather had the ridiculous idea of entailing his estate. Under the provisions of that entail, my children need to reproduce and continue our family line before their fortieth birthday. My son is forty-two, and has gone from being high on drugs to being high on God. My daughter is thirty-six. It’s now or never.”
“Mrs. Deafly, I’m sorry but—”
“Now you see, Mr. Packhard, if I don’t have a grandchild, control of Deafly Enterprises passes from my hands in four years’ time. I know all about your financial situation, and I am prepared to pay you handsomely for your services.”
Lance shifted uneasily. “Mrs. Deafly, my financial situation is not up for discussion—”
“Mr. Packhard, as profitable and successful as your practice is, it does not come close to your actual financial needs, does it?” Her perfectly shaped head swiveled on her long neck, taking in the pristine expanse of the office’s exquisitely decorated open space full of artwork: the early Francis Bacon on the wall, the Lucian Freud hanging opposite it, and the tiny Paula Rego of a girl kneeling with spread thighs, arched back on an artist’s easel in a corner.
“I regret you—”
“You have expensive tastes. Very expensive tastes indeed, but I must admit, quite exquisite!”
“Mrs. Deafly, thank you for your praise and the offer, but I must refuse. Unless of course you’d be interested in purchasing some of my art pieces.”
“I have no need for art, Mr. Packhard. I was commenting on your financial situation. You have, as I said, exquisite taste: refined and most expensive. Which is all wonderful, but you also have a huge mortgage on one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the world, a 1936 Aston Martin in a garage, a grandmother who has recently—and most inconveniently—been diagnosed with an incapacitating degenerative disease—”
“Mrs. Deafly! My family is not your concern!”
The lavishly elegant hand lifted in dismissal. “An absurdly expensive degenerative disease, requiring twenty-four hour care. The elderly are so inconsiderate! All that lovely lolly you’d so diligently squirreled away over the years—an impressive amount, or so my investigators informed me. How unfortunate it just vanished in that pesky financial crash everyone seems to go on and on about.”
“You are on the very edge of bankruptcy, Mr. Packhard. Within a few months you’ll lose all this, and your grandmother goes into NHS care—well if she’s still alive, poor thing.”
Lance stood up. “Madam, I must ask you to leave.”
Mrs. Deafly leaned back deliberately in her chair. “How unfortunate that you are counting on writing yourself a best seller. A dicey venture for a man who likes betting on sure things.”
Lance slowly sat down. Could this woman somehow be the reason why no one was offering to buy his artwork? “What do you want? It’s obvious you’ve gone to a lot of trouble over me.”
“I’m so glad you asked. I’m suggesting you use that talent of yours in a truly profitable way.” Mrs. Deafly ran a caressing hand down her own throat and smiled. “You come highly recommended, Mr. Packhard. Here is an opportunity to use your talents, all your talents.” The perfectly delineated lips curved. “It won’t hurt, Mr. Packhard. All that’s needed is one little prick, and all your problems will be solved. For life.”
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about, but my answer is—”
“Three million, Mr. Packhard. Payable on completion of your assignment. Here is ten thousand pounds, your monthly allowance for your time and expenses.” She handed him an envelope. “I don’t expect you to labour unrewarded. So do tell me, Mr. Packhard, are you the man for the job? Are you up for it?”
Lance gasped. Three million? And ten thousand right now? He could keep Gran at the clinic, wipe out his debt, and retire before his thirty-sixth birthday. He could have a life. Holy smoke, but a child? The thought of a child—his child—growing in a strange woman’s body was repugnant to him. And getting paid for it like a whore was worse. It would be the perfect solution, but no. He couldn’t. He shouldn’t.
But what if he took the money now, did an Awakening, and reneged on the rest of the deal later? He could treat the venture as a loan and as soon as the money for his book came in, he’d tell Mrs. Deafly she could go suck an egg, and throw the cash back in her face. But right now, Gran needed him.
Lance took a deep breath. “Well, Mrs. Deafly, I’ve never done this sort of thing before, but you have piqued my interest. I will certainly do my best to make an attempt to approach . . .”
“That’s all fine and good, Mr. Packhard, but I am a businesswoman. I pay for results. You will receive the rest of the money as a monthly bank transfer into your account. Don’t worry about giving me your banking details, I have them already.” She handed him another envelope. “Here are my daughter’s particulars: name, home address, and current photo.”
Lance stretched out his hand to take the envelope, hesitating for a second. “You understand, Mrs. Deafly, that there are, of course, no guarantees. There is a strong possibility I will not succeed, and I’d like to discuss my legal obligations? If there is a child?”
“As for legal obligations, rest assured you will have none. I intend to have full custody of my grandchild. All responsibility will be mine.” Mrs. Deafly dabbed carefully at the corners of her artfully made-up eyes and uncrossed her shapely ankles. “Please, Mr. Packhard, you are my very last hope.”
Lance noticed Mrs. Deafly had not once referred to her daughter by name. Curious, he slipped the photo of the daughter—Millicent Deafly—and ID form from the envelope.
Yikes. Poor girl. The photo was a ten by fifteen inch colour glossy. Millicent Deafly stood precariously balanced on her toes on a windy shingle beach, clutching a broad-brimmed white hat to her head. Yikes again.
Millicent had a round face with pretty, dark eyes and a sultry, pouty mouth. She was also not a low-fat-no-sugar person. Her five-foot-three frame was well fleshed, with full rounded hips and thighs, and she obviously didn’t go to the gym.
Well, Lance had faced bigger challenges. He winced. What is that peeking out from under the edge of her black fifties-style bathing suit? Yep. It was the dreaded bane of butts and thighs: cellulite.
He continued perusing the photo, but nowhere did he find any evidence that Millicent had ever had any kind of surgical interventions or improvements. She was, in fact, completely au natural from her small breasts to her very generous hips. It was unusual, almost unheard of, and quite unlike her very polished and well-tucked mother.
It was time to make a plan.
Lance started out by investigating Millicent’s background. Like any good detective, he set a search engine on her trail on the Internet. There she was. There were lots of references to her business, Guilty Pleasures. The site had no contact information. There was just one way you could get in and that was to be invited, through personal referral only. Weird. Very mysterious.
Customers’ comments on the site were mostly anonymous—with a sprinkling of famous entertainment-industry names—and looked like they were mostly from women. They featured gushy statements about how Millicent had changed their lives, broadened their sensual horizons, and braved new frontiers.
What in the world does this woman do?
Aha! Halfway down the commendation list he saw a name he knew: Jane De Mondio, who was an ex-client and current friend of his. Lance had met Jane when her current husband—her fifth—had hired him for an Awakening. Jane was a lovely, bright, and well-known television actress. At fifty-two, she was stunning and confident, and had responded astonishingly well to Lance’s methods. They became fast friends and did lunch regularly. In fact, a remarkable number of Lance’s new clients seemed to be Jane’s friends or acquaintances.
He could talk to her as she was very discreet and canny. Her insight would be invaluable. He reached for his cell. “Jane baby, call me. I need to chat!” He left the message on her voice mail and got back to studying Millicent Deafly.
Upon further investigation, he discovered that Guilty Pleasures seemed to be some kind of restaurant or dinner club. Enrolment was by referral only, according to the site, and subject to medical and psychiatric evaluation. Health issues were elimination factors, as were any kind of eating disorders.
Obviously Millicent had something going. Evidently, he would have to get onto that list to make her acquaintance. Lance was confident. He would do an Awakening, leave the rest to chance and nature. Soon, very soon, he would be hard at work building Millicent’s libido and releasing her pent-up sensuality. All he really had to do was worm his way into her confidence and buy some time before he finished his book, so he could pay back Mrs. Deafly in full. He was sure the harpy would be having him watched like a hawk and he needed to keep the cash flowing for at least three months. He would have to be seen to be hard at work.
Unaware that her peace of mind was about to be rudely shattered, Millicent Deafly proceeded with the tranquil routine of her well-structured and most satisfying life. Humming softly, she walked into her pretty little townhouse, placed her groceries on her kitchen counter, and turned on her radio. Kicking off her shoes, she poured herself a glass of red wine and walked to her desk—a lovely rosewood eighteenth-century antique, a gift from her father.
Millicent opened her diary. It was a large hand-bound linen-paper relic, with a fine-tooled Moroccan leather cover in deep red. She sat down and opened it, smoothing the page and rolling her pen between her slender fingers.
A huge black and white Great Dane wandered in and threw itself under the desk with a heartfelt sigh, rolling onto its back and groaning in ecstasy as she gently scratched at its belly with her bare toes.
“Hello, Horse baby. Come to share Mummy’s thoughts?”
The dog snuffled and licked her ankles. Nibbling on her full lower lip, Millicent ordered her thoughts, made ready her square-nibbed fountain pen, and proceeded to unwind the day’s happenings in graceful scrolled loops of lilac ink across the creamy page.
From the Diary of Millicent Deafly:
Today was a great day.
I found a supreme cucumber. It was firm, had perfect diameter and length, great colour, and absolutely no blemishes. It was perfect for accompanying ground slow-roasted lamb—with rosemary, of course, and a garlic yogurt dressing, saffron rice, topped with melted goat’s cheese, and with a side dish of caraway seeds and dates. Would wild honey and orange zest be too much? Or maybe pine nuts?
I must not overdo the condiments, though I must experiment. I’m really excited about the big do tomorrow.
Freaky thing happened, though. This really weird man followed me around the supermarket all afternoon—sleazy type, smelled bad, too. I was about to call security, but the supermarket staff must have caught on and chased him away.
I came home and puttered around in the kitchen, watered the orchids, curled up with that new book I was recommended, and took Horse out for a walk. The bloody animal nearly tore my arm off chasing a Chihuahua. Thank God he’s actually quite a gentle sort: all size, no rage. What on earth possessed Mother to give me a Great Dane, I’ll never know.
We walked to Nunhead Cemetery and put some lovely, sunny daffodils on Daddy’s grave. I miss him so much, more it seems with each passing year. Horse and I walked around between those lovely old mausoleums, and I could just imagine Victorian ghosts peering out through the lacy ferns with reddened eyes and skeletal fingers, weeping for dead lovers.
We went home and had a quiet dinner: roast lamb for me, a pound of steak tartare for Horse. I’ll admit to the better part of an excellent bottle of Shiraz . . .
All in all, despite the stalker, it was a lovely and quiet day off from work.