THIS EXCERPT FROM Dating Daisy.
“Let’s go,” said Michelle breathlessly.
“Have you taken your eyes off the man for even a second to check out that crowd? This is worse than when I spent half a day in line to get Kenny Roger’s autograph for my gran.”
“You were twelve.”
“And I’ll feel twelve losing my dignity with that lot. Anyway, you never know. Kate might bring him by the shop some time. So we can see him up close.”
Michelle stabbed the air with her finger. “Have you been inhaling body spray? What on earth makes you think for a second a guy like that would want to fight it out between the Zimmer frames and walking sticks for a cheap romance? Get real, Daisy. We’re losing us a little dignity and,” she added in a don’t-mess-with-me voice, “we’re damn well going in. Follow me, stay close and under no circumstances are you to diverge from the plan.”
“There’s a plan?”
“Just follow me.”
Against her better judgement Daisy followed and smartly realized that ‘going in’ had been no exaggeration. They were soon engulfed in a thick and sultry cesspit of seething female sexuality. A hint of Chanel No 5 here, a dash of Arpege there. The only scent she’d applied was her imitation musk underarm. The women brushing past her reeked of six-figure incomes, post-graduate degrees and a complete lack of self esteem issues. They were women who didn’t hold back in going after what they wanted and from the calculated way they were milling around Dr Benjamin, they wanted him.
Having never had the problem of too much self esteem, a university education and a healthy bank account, Daisy grabbed Michelle’s arm. “This is ridiculous. There’s no point hanging around here. Let’s-“
“Thank you for coming,” she heard him say to a woman in front of her. The woman, well into middle age, gazed starstruck as he shook her hand and signed a book.
“Thank you,” he said to a woman’s gushing admission she’d loved his lecture.
“Thank you for coming,” he said above Daisy’s head and Daisy looked behind to see who he was thanking.
“It’s you, dummy,” Michelle spat.
Daisy turned to find his hand outstretched.
She stared at his long fingers and his tanned hands. They didn’t look like academic hands. She’d met a professor in a cafe once and his hands had been white and freckly. Joel’s were strong and masculine.
She grunted as Michelle jabbed her in the back.
She took his hand.
He said, “Hello.” Blue-grey eyes looked down at her. Her gaze slipped to his mouth. A full bottom lip. A beautifully curved top lip. The lips moved. “You enjoyed the lecture?”
“Hi. Yes, I– “
“Dr Benjamin?” A 30-something suit-attired professional suffering a heady Opium overdose lay her manicured hand on the black leather sleeve of his jacket. “Could you clarify some of the issues you raised over the Greek influence on art in early Rome?”
His jaw tensed a fraction. “My advice is to read the book I mentioned in the hand-out. The university bookshop has copies in stock.”
“Dr Benjamin? Could I take you for a drink afterwards so we could talk more?” another asked.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized smoothly. “I’m meeting an old friend.”
More women approached and one of them tried to edge Daisy out of the way with an exceptionally bony hip. As she did, panic unexpectedly slammed in Daisy’s chest. He’d been talking to her. She needed him back, she needed an ‘in’, she needed an edge, she needed to take a risk in her tame and ordinary life, she needed–
“I know your sister,” she yelled.
His gaze zeroed in on her, settled there. It was intimidating. She wished she’d just kept quiet, and wished she could ignore the trickle of awareness itching up her spine.
But it was too late now. “I know Kate.” She felt stupid. Funny how that made her think of her ex husband.
Joel watched intently. “Do I know you?”
She shook her head. “No. But Kate’s one of the customers at my shop.”
A dubious smile graced his face. “Ah. You’ll be the one Kate told me she was giving the leaflet to. The one who needs to get out.”
Mortification blushed Daisy’s face scarlet. “She actually told you that?”
“Holy crap,” Michelle muttered.
“She says that about me so I wouldn’t get–” He visually raked her face up and down, his gaze settling on her burning cheeks. “Embarrassed by it. You’re the book shop girl, right?” He amended, “Woman.”
“Girl is fine,” Michelle interjected. “We’re not that evolved we object to you calling us girls.” She stuck her hand out. “I’m Michelle Bird. Daisy’s assistant and her very, very, very best friend.”
Joel took Michelle’s hand briefly then looked back at Daisy. “Kate’s mentioned your shop a few times.” He was thoughtful a second. “In fact, I was thinking that considering she’s taking leave from work soon to concentrate on this whole baby thing, I might get her some books.”
“She has quite specific reading tastes,” Daisy told him.
“I wasn’t thinking of fiction. More like…” He shrugged. “Things to do with – babies. Like cooking and sewing and – home type stuff. You’ve got a shop called Pansy’s, right?”
“Poppy’s,” Daisy corrected, and Michelle cut in, “When? What time?”
“Shop hours,” Daisy said above the sudden erratic pounding in her chest, “are Monday to Friday, nine to six. And I’m open Saturdays from ten to four.”
“I’ll remember that,” he said, and a moment later a woman thrust her arm around his and breathed her pleasure at his lecture.
Within seconds he was swamped and Daisy and Michelle found themselves on the edge of the crowd.
“Wow,” Daisy said. Wow at Joel, and wow at the affect he was having on these women.
Michelle shook her head wearily. “Do you see those women, Daisy?”
“Hard to miss.” It would take a year before the scent of perfume was free of her nasal passages.
“They’re ticking clockers,” Michelle announced. “Women who have given up love in the past to focus on their high powered careers and now their biological clocks are approaching midnight, they’re afraid their ovaries are nearly history, and they zero in on men like Joel Benjamin because he’s a genetically fine catch and they’re desperate. And you know what else?” Her eyes were wide with admiration. “They were jealous, Daisy. They were jealous of you.”
Listen to a reading of Chapter One – read by Diana Fraser.