Uncorked

By: Lois Greiman

Chapter 1





If love is blind, why is Victoria’s Secret still making a killing?

—Christina McMullen, while eating red velvet cupcakes and agonizing about her expanding waistline





I picked up my cordless on the third ring. Since the demise of my caller ID, answering the kitchen phone always felt somewhat like playing a fun- filled little version of Russian roulette. The call a few minutes earlier had been from my mother, one Constance Iris McMullen. The ensuing conversation had made me as skittish as a scalded cat and a little breathless. “Hello?”

There was a slight pause during which I wondered about the identity of the caller. Maybe one of those sleazy heavy-breathers, I thought, but I wasn’t that lucky.

“There’s only one thing I can think of that makes you that breathless.” The voice belonged to Lieutenant Jack Rivera, police officer, ex-lover, jackass. I had, at one time, been deluded enough to believe we might someday pick out china patterns together, but six months ago I found him slapped up against a bleached blonde with a triple-digit bra size and a double-digit IQ.

After that, I considered picking out a nice hit man who knew how to keep a secret.

Not that I’m bitter. I’m a trained psychologist…and classy as hell. I don’t do bitter.

I pursed my lips and concentrated on being haughty. So what if his voice was as deep as a Dostoyevsky novel and shadowed with a shitload of mouth-watering innuendo? So what if just the sound of it conjured up a hundred lurid memories that burned the back of my mind like a George Foreman grill and sent my nerve endings into a feeding frenzy? I’m an adult. I’m a professional.

“What’s the matter, Rivera? Skank Girl busy on her street corner this evening?”

Okay, maybe there was a teeny bit of bitterness.

I heard him draw a breath and imagined him leaning back, chest expanding. “You know they have pills to help with that pissy PMS problem, don’t you, McMullen?”

“Do they have pills to get rid of cheating bastards, too?” Maybe there was a lot of bitterness. I closed my eyes to the sound of it, letting an errant draft from my little desk fan cool my rancor and soothe my thoughts. But he spoke again.

“I thought you’d have the answer to that one. After all, you’re a trained psychotic.”

“Psychologist,” I corrected irritably. “And if you continue with this obsessive pursuit of me, Mr. Raver, I’m afraid I’m going to have to report this harassment to your superiors.” Doing my woefully inadequate best to ignore the memory of his blistering betrayal, I pushed a wet tendril of hair behind my right ear. It was currently a deep mahogany hue. No one knows what color it would be without chemical assistance. It’s highly probable that even fewer people care.

“I wouldn’t bother calling Captain Kindred if I were you,” Rivera said. “No use confirming his suspicions regarding your mental condition.”

“Ahh,” I said. “How I would love to sit here and listen to your slanderous invectives, Lieutenant Riot, but I have a date.” I gritted a plastic smile. Still damp from the shower, I was as naked as a jaybird, but the weatherman, bastard that he was, had dished up a hundred and eight degrees in L.A.’s dubious shade and I didn’t plan to wear clothes again until the morning commute. And maybe not even then.

“A date?” He spoke the words slowly. “Tonight?”

Was there a tightness to his tone? Could that tightness be jealousy? Be still my evil little heart.

“Yes, tonight,” I said. I was lying, of course. It was 10:27 on a Tuesday night and I had just finished watching McLintock. I was on a John Wayne kick. Hell Town would have to wait until tomorrow. “I just got out of the shower.”

“What are you wearing?”

My heart did the happy dance in my chest. I’m not too proud to admit that I would have paid in plasma to make him jealous.

“I usually shower naked,” I said. “A little eccentricity I have, but that’s the way I am.”

“You’re naked in the kitchen?”

I raised my brows and almost laughed out loud. He was jealous. I was sure of it. “I’m hanging up, now,” I said.

“Are your curtains closed?”

“Stooped to being a Peeping Tom, have you, Reaver? Or just—”

“Are the damn things closed?” he asked.

I lowered my brows, some of my glee disappearing at the memory of him saving my ass on more than one occasion. “Of course they’re closed,” I said, but there was something in his voice that made me glance at each one, just to be sure. And maybe there was an inch or two of window showing beneath my rust-colored kitchen blinds. Still, it surely wasn’t enough for anyone to have seen me. Nevertheless, I pulled a napkin from the table and draped it in front of my body.

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