Accounting for Cole

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Romantic comedy/chick lit

Note: Accounting for Cole was first released under the title “Impersonating Dad” in the The Dad Plan anthology issued by Rebel Ink Press, and then as a stand-alone novella. Accounting for Cole is a revised and slightly longer edition.

Published 6/29/13

Series: Set in the Natural Beauty world

Length: 18,000 words (novelette)
Setting: Northeastern North Carolina
Heat level: Behind closed doors
Warnings: Bawdy language and sexual innuendo


Summary

Prudish accountant Macy Vickers couldn’t have predicted she’d end an evening freezing cold, soaking wet, and sans panties in a female impersonator’s hotel room. However, twenty years of friendship with the two most irresponsible party girls in Eastern North Carolina has taught her to expect the unexpected. While playing chaperone to the ladies at a drag revue, Macy gets served a roach appetizer, doused with cola, and tossed into a pool by a rampaging cross-dresser.

Cole Pearson is happy to play rescuer. In fact, he sees the frazzled number cruncher as a kindred spirit. Unless he’s willing to hang up his high heels, though, Macy doesn’t see their affair going anywhere. He’s a rolling stone…in fishnets.

Still, life was a drag before she met him, and no other man has ever made her cheeks burn just with a grin. She’d never accounted for a man like him, but who could have?

Excerpt:

PROLOGUE

I was somewhat disoriented when I awoke, facedown on a mattress that was far too firm to be my own with sheets of too high a quality. Furthermore, a heavy arm draped over my naked waist and the smooth hairless leg nestled between my two spread ones were components atypical of my normal, solitary waking contortion.

I turned my face toward the breath that had been previously tickling my neck. I had expected morning to deal a blow to the desirability rating I had assigned the man the previous night, and held my breath as my bleary gaze focused on the chiseled jaw darkened with stubble, slightly parted lips, and his elegant nose. I exhaled my relief and my heart rate slowed to a more healthful pace. He was still as beautiful in the mottled light as he had been when we’d crawled into the bed of his hotel room the night before.

He stirred and rolled onto his back, and his long black hair mussed from sleep fell over closed eyes. I put my hand back to pat my short ponytail. He’d given me his hair elastic.

I leaned in and held my breath once more, reaching out a hand to gently brush the wayward strands of his hair from his cheek. There he was—living, breathing, perfection and next to me by choice. My cheeks burned as I squirmed out from his hold and pushed the hem of my borrowed shirt down over my scandalous bits.

“This can’t really be happening.”

His eyelids fluttered at the sound of my voice, but remained closed.

“Jesus,” I whispered.

In the daylight, the sleeping man seemed approachable and almost mundane. For much of the previous night he’d been flashy, glamorous, worldly, seemingly off-limits, and female.

Perhaps I should explain.


CHAPTER ONE

I’d been working as an accountant for six years. I figured it’d be my life’s work. Accountancy is a good, respectable field and as far as I could tell, a recession-proof one. I worked Mondays through Fridays and some Saturdays. I would have worked Sundays, too, but small towns in the Bible Belt tend to close down on Sundays.

The Saturday before Father’s Day, I was in the small office I rented from Mercedes Garcia catching up on quarterly tax reports. I was behind on the chore because I had a knack for attracting clients who couldn’t get their shit to me in advance of their due dates. I thought about cutting them loose and saving myself the frustration, but I’d been eyeing some office space in the old elementary school recently turned into a strip mall. I was squirreling away my pennies to save up for a security deposit.

My office at the moment had in the past been Mercedes’s beauty salon supply closet, but seeing the potential for a sideline of income, she bumped the closet into the shop a bit so the space could accommodate a desk, three hard wooden chairs, and a few file cabinets. A peeling vinyl sign proclaiming MACY VICKERS, CPA was adhered to the shop’s back door. You couldn’t see the sign from the road, but most people knew where I was, anyway. Edenton’s a small town.

I never knew who to expect would pop into the office, so I always tried to dress professionally…which is to say modestly, even on Saturdays. On that June day I paired a tan skirt suit with sensible black flats and my favorite white blouse. The shirt had ruffles at the neck, and I confess I always felt a bit like Mrs. Slocombe when I wore it, minus all that Brit-com sass. My friend Beth, owner of Edenton’s only dance studio, made a habit of telling me every time she saw it that the suit was hideous and that I should give it back to my mother.

Well, I didn’t get it from my mother. I bought it off the rack at Peebles, and it wasn’t even on sale. The saleslady said I looked quite shapely in it, but in hindsight—and seeing as how she worked on commission—she was probably bullshitting me. I believed her compliment at that moment probably because I needed to hear it.

I’m five-feet four and weigh about a hundred and twenty pounds. Beth said I’m shaped like an Irish peasant woman and should never wear suits. When I gave her my patented stuck on stupid look about the peasant woman remark, she rested her hands on my hips and said, “Macy, honey, if you ever give birth, that baby is just going to fall right out without you pushing.”

I’d brushed her hands away and harrumphed. If I listened to hyperbole-prone Beth, I would have seriously considered renting out billboard space on my ass. Ten bucks a square inch.

“There you are!”

I looked up from the envelopes I was sealing and found the devil herself, Beth, and our friend Gretchen spilling into my doorway. Gretchen is our “lady of leisure.” Lacking responsibility of any sort, she’s frequently beyond the legal alcohol limit for driving. We’re working on finding her a passion.

On that day in my office, she wore a gauzy maxi dress that showed off her toned arms and sunken-in belly. She was even going braless, but since she had that California girl vibe about her, she could generally pull that off…although most ladies in town would prefer she didn’t.

Beth was usually well put-together, but that day she made my spidey-sense go off because instead of the sparkly flip-flops she typically wore when she wasn’t teaching, she was wearing hooker heels: four-inch spiked, purple-metallic, stiletto sandals with little rhinestones covering the heels. As it was only three o’clock, I knew something was up.

“What do you want?” I asked, not bothering to suppress the suspicion in my voice as I assessed Beth’s stretchy, slinky, mini-dress. Like me, Beth was unmarried at almost thirty, but in her case, her single status is due to a profound monogamy allergy. Me? I was single because I really didn’t date.

The dating pool in Chowan County—population 15,000—is pretty small so unless you like going to clubs and bars out of town to meet new people (which I don’t) you’re sort of out of luck. I hate crowds, so my luck is obviously at nil. Actually, Gretchen had once signed me up for one of those online dating sites. When I’d cancelled the service after a month with no qualms, Gretchen damn near attacked me for my criticism that my profile wasn’t getting any hits. She’d shrieked, “Of course it didn’t work! Look at your profile picture. Are you trying to be ugly?”

I had rolled my eyes at her and went back to scrutinizing the tax return I was preparing. I didn’t think it was that bad. It looked like me. Low-maintenance Macy. Gretchen had wanted to let her husband Marko do some photo manipulation in his computer program, but I figured I’d rather be disappointing up front than once I met whatever sucker decided to arrange a date with me.

“Can’t we just be stopping by to say ‘hi’?” Beth asked, jaw gaping in mock insult.

I tamped my envelopes into a neat stack. “No. The only time you come here is when you want me to talk Mercedes into giving you a discount on your brow waxing.”

“That’s so not true,” she said, voice flat, and her gaze on her perfect manicure.

“It so is.” I wrapped a rubber band around the envelope stack and bumped my desk drawer shut.

Beth turned to Gretchen, they shared an inscrutable look, and both shrugged. “Okay, maybe it’s true usually, but today we’re on the up and up.” Beth opened her little two-hundred-dollar clutch, pinched out three lavender-colored tickets, and slid them across my desk.

I leaned over and read the print without picking them up. “You bought tickets to a drag revue?”

“Uh-huh!” Gretchen said, nodding like a bobble-head doll and grinning so wide the folks at the twin cinema could have used the landscape of her bleached teeth as a back-up screen.

Beth gave our over-wound friend a calming pat on the shoulder. “I missed them last year when we were in Myrtle Beach at the same time, but I signed up for their e-mail newsletter to keep track of their tour dates. They’re going to be in Greenville for just two days and the only tickets they had left were for tonight. We couldn’t resist! Get your purse and let’s go. We have a dinner reservation at the sushi place before the show. We’re going to make a night of it.” She leaned her elbows onto my desk, effectively putting herself at eye level with me, and wriggled her brows.

I shook my head, slowly and unambiguously before counting off on my splayed fingers. “Count me out. First, that’s a ninety-minute drive and I don’t have the mojo today. Second, I don’t eat raw shit. Third, I’ve got work to do. Fourth, the last thing I want to be doing tonight is sitting in some filthy, sticky club where the music is too loud, and sweaty people try to touch me.”

“That’s the best part!” Gretchen squealed. She walked around the desk and grabbed my wrists, giving a forceful yank upward.

I groaned, but stood. I needed to walk to the mailbox, anyway.

“Come off it. You were going to sit at home tonight and balance your checkbook again.” Beth uncapped a tube of orangey-red lipstick, and smoothed it over her pout. After smacking her lips, she raised my name placard to her mouth, bared her teeth at her reflection in the polished brass, and used an index finger to scrub off an errant smear of lipstick. “Who the hell does that every week, anyway?”

I raised an eyebrow.

“Anyway,” she continued, “we need you to drive, Miss Teetotaler. I plan on getting so wasted that when they throw me out of the venue for indecency at one a.m., I won’t have any recollection it. I’ve even booked a hotel room so we can sleep it off. We’ve got our overnight bags in the car.”

“Oh, I see.” I let my lips quirk up into a grin and batted my eyelashes like a coquette. “That’s too bad. I don’t have a change of clothes here. Sorry to disappoint.”

She gave my suit a long glare and her upper lip rolled back.

I was certain I was off the hook, and did a little jubilant bounce to celebrate.

Beth cocked her head to the side and narrowed her eyes. She sucked in a breath, and on the exhale, whined, “Damn, that thing’s ugly. Who buys puce anything besides you?”

I rolled my eyes, thinking Here we go again. “It was the last suit of its kind on the rack, so obviously someone.”

Gretchen sighed and lifted her auburn ponytail from her breast, studying the ends. “Suckers. All of you. The suit doesn’t matter anyway. Everyone’s going to look at me, because I’m pretty, and Beth because she has big tits. I don’t think anyone is going to pay you any attention, Macy.”

“Why don’t you just kick me in the head?” I put my shoulder to the outer door and pushed.

Beth followed on my heels and emitted a dry chuckle. “A-heh. Don’t mind Gretchen, sweetie. You know she’s never had a well-functioning filter.”

The door clicked shut behind us, and I turned my head to find that Gretchen had followed us out into the sunshine, too.

“Come on,” Gretchen said. “Do you want us to beg? We asked Nikki to drive us but she broke her accelerator foot.”

Lucky Nikki.

We were at the corner now, and I pulled the mailbox flap down and tossed my pile of envelopes into the maw. “Nice to know I’m not even your first choice third wheel,” I grumbled.

They didn’t have a response to that. They just followed me in silence back to my office, then stood a respectful distance away as I retook my seat at the computer. I had some e-mails to respond to.

After about three minutes of typing, I’d gotten into a groove and almost forgot the ladies were there.

Beth cleared her throat. “Look, Macy. Truth is, if you don’t take us, we can’t go. Marko said Gretchen can’t go out unsupervised anymore after that last stunt, and I don’t count as an adult influence. We even asked Nikki’s assistant Trinity, but she was supposed to go to the beach this weekend.”

Lucky Trinity.

Fortunately for my immaculate criminal record, I hadn’t been present for the stunt that got Gretchen put on spousal probation. I hadn’t wanted to know all the gruesome details, but the snatches I caught anyway seemed to indicate Gretchen had committed a little act of public nudity in a sacred place.

I forced out a ragged breath and closed my e-mail software, eyeing both women in turn. Beth looked hopeful, Gretchen expectant.

“Hey, I know we annoy the shit out of you, and have since elementary school,” Beth said with a cringe. “But there’s only a few people we trust to keep us on the straight and narrow, and one of you dropped a bowling ball on her own foot last week.”

Raking my bangs back from my eyes, I stared at Gretchen, who chewed on one of her immaculate cuticles, then Beth, who finally had the good sense to look apologetic. They were like helpless puppies in a way. I felt sorry for them.

“Dammit.” I snatched my keys from the corner of my desk, and stood. If anyone deserved pity at the moment, it was me. I would have rather been shredding seven years of tax returns than spending an evening babysitting the two most unpredictable women in Chowan County.

Old cover
Accounting for Cole


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