This is an excerpt from the novel Dream Girl by Alexis Alvarez.
Chloe Barnes smiled as she examined her reflection in the mirror, checking her teeth for lipstick smears, and fluffed out her golden brown hair onto her shoulders. Her stomach butterflied and her pulse was doing a sprint, so she took a deep breath, and then another, inhaling the scent of designer plumeria air freshener.
This glamorous restroom at KRC Television Studios was acting as her personal green room, because today – in just a few minutes – she would interview for a spot on the popular reality “Dream Girls” show.
Funny blog posts were one of her specialties, and this whole experience would probably be excellent fodder for an especially hilarious one. She didn’t think she had a chance of getting chosen to be a contestant, because come on – statistics, anyone? Think of all the thousands of women who would interview — but Chloe always loved a good story to share with her friends.
Bright brown eyes and smooth skin shone back from the glass; her face was clear and flushed with excitement. Her curly auburn hair was pretty, even if it was sort of fly-away and hard to control. And she did look good in the fuck-me heels and short black dress…because nobody said you had to be a size two to be pretty.
Twelve was more like Chloe’s number when it came to clothing, and although she was packed with muscle from her vigorous exercise and weight lifting regimen, she had a rounded tummy and curvy hips. She usually tried to think of herself as sexy and voluptuous, and encouraged her brain not to worry that the typical magazine model was a scant size zero, or that the new memes of Strong Is The New Thin were always accompanied by photos of girls who were unaccountably muscular, fit, gorgeous, sexy and still thin.
And she was doing this to travel and fall headlong into adventure, not into some ridiculous lovesick frenzy over a self-absorbed pretty boy who chased those model-perfect girls, so it didn’t matter, anyway. Chloe took a deep breath and walked up to the reception desk.
“Hi!” she said with a bright smile, “I’m Chloe Barnes. I’m here for an interview for the Dream Girls show. They said to ask for Greg Harkins.”
“Really?” The receptionist raised her eyebrows. “You’re interviewing for Dream Girls?”
“Yes. Really. Me.” Chloe spoke the words slowly, as if to a small child, and bit back a laugh.
ID, please?” asked the receptionist in a cool robotic voice, and held out a hand with such a perfect manicure that Chloe was almost unwilling to sully it with her dingy rough-edged driver’s license.
The lovely creature in front of her had a long elegant neck . I could snap it like a twig! Chloe imagined. Or twist it into a pretzel.
Plump lips pursed, the receptionist regarded her without speaking.
Botox much? Chloe wondered, although – it wasn’t Botox that made lips full and fat like that, was it? Didn’t people inject something else into there? Maybe butt fat? Yes. She was going to imagine Receptionist Girl doing Butt Fatt injections, and that was going to help her stop feeling inadequate. Not that she actually felt inadequate. Because self esteem.
“Um, this doesn’t exactly look like you,” the Receptionist Girl insisted, stabbing a nail at the picture on Chloe’s license.
Chloe flushed and kept her voice even. “I’ve lost weight since that picture.”
RG stared with big eyes. Chloe could almost see the cogs forcing themselves into action. She imagined rusty thoughts squeaking in pain as they tried to push their way out of cobwebby storage bins in Receptionist Girl’s mind.
“And, ah, you don’t exactly look like the — I mean, the other girls are — “
Chloe tilted her head. “I don’t look like what?” she said in her sweetest voice.
“Well, it’s just that the other girls who have been interviewing?” the receptionist explained, her voice cool, “are, you know? A little,” and she smoothed her hands together in the air, outlining an hourglass body, “more like – ….” Her voice trailed off. “Younger,” she finished, giving Chloe a smirk. She paused and glanced down at her paperwork, then looked back up with narrowed eyes. “And I don’t see your name on the list anyway.”
Let it go, Chloe ordered herself. You’re pretty, you’re smart, you’re wonderful. She’s just being mean. She has the IQ of mayonnaise, and a life devoid of insight and love. She needs your sympathy, not your ire.
But she opened her mouth anyway. “Oh, I get you,” she said in a mock apologetic voice, “I’m so sorry that nobody’s explained this yet. Let me see how to put it. Real women come in all sizes. Sometimes we’re even bigger than a size two.”
“I know, I know,” she added quickly, “It sounds crazy, but please hear me out. And don’t hyperventilate. Oh, and that means to breathe…too…..fast. I’ll use small words from now on so I don’t confuse you.” She took a breath and smiled as she got into her stride. “Also? Women continue to exist after the age of, oh, say, twenty-four. Crazy! But someone’s gotta do it, and I guess they think I’m the one to show the world that you can still be viable even when you’re as ancient and ragged as I apparently am. Thirty-three, big number, right? And by the way? That’s my name right there. The last name is listed first.”
Chloe looked at the printout in front of RG and pointed her own non-expertly-manicured nail at Varnes, Chloe. “It’s just spelled wrong. But I used my Einstein-like skills to figure it out. Brains are awesome. I recommend that you try one sometime.”
“Well, I don’t think someone with that kind of attitude is going to make it very far,” the receptionist shot out in a snippy voice. “And I don’t know if my phone is even working right now to call back.” Her eyes flashed fire up at Chloe, and she adjusted her skirt over her thighs with a smile, then turned her gaze to the desk and began flipping papers.
Chloe’s heart sank. Then, to the receptionist she added – since there didn’t seem to be a point in holding back now, “Hey, can I bribe you with a pretty penny or a smooth piece of tinfoil? Do you like shiny stuff?” She was thinking about just heading down the hallway and calling out, “Hey! Dream Girls Interview? Anyone?” but was stopped when she felt a presence behind her.
“What seems to be the problem here?” said a smooth powerful voice behind her shoulder. An electrical current zinged through her as she caught a faint whiff of his cologne mixed with his undeniably male scent. As she turned to look at the man who owned this deep drawl, she caught her own breath, because he was the sexiest man she’d seen. Ever.
He was tall and lean, and she could see muscles rippling beneath his shirt sleeves where they were rolled up. His dark brown hair was short and mussed, and his chiseled jaw held a scruffy five-o’clock shadow which suddenly made her want to run her tongue over his cheek and then to his lips. He looked to be a few years older than she was, and she felt such an immediate attraction for him that she nearly felt dizzy. His eyes were a light brown, and his lashes were thicker than a guy deserved to have, and his gaze was trained on her like a laser.
This man was potent. She felt a lick of warmth in her belly and tried to not think about what it would be like to have his strong hands on her shoulders, on her waist, on her ass; what it would be like to have that demanding mouth on hers, those eyes looking just at her, urging her to —
“The problem?” she said, her voice coming out low and husky. She cleared her throat. The problem was that she was concurrently:
- A) lusting over a complete stranger who might or might not be a security guard about to toss her out on her ass for verbally assaulting a brain-dead and therefore obviously helpless receptionist, and
- B) entirely trashing her chances at her Dream Girls interview by setting into motion the events listed in A).
Before she could continue, the hallway disgorged a busy- looking man with a frown and a sweat-dampened blond comb-over, an even more harried looking assistant in very colorful clothing, and a duo of a photographer and a videographer.
“So, just get a few shots of him here,” the moist man in charge ordered, “and then we’ll get him sneaking a peek at the girls in the room as they interview, and maybe we can even get some footage of him meeting a girl. Make it look provocative and sexy. Something that viewers will love.” His voice dropped off as he looked first with suspicion, then smug understanding, at Chloe. He gestured to the videographer, who silently put her camera to her shoulder and pushed some buttons.
Chloe sighed. Why shouldn’t someone be taping her now? It was like Murphy’s Law, if Murphy were a complete asshole. Which, in her experience, he typically was.
“You were saying?” The man urged Chloe.
“She’s not on the list, Kyle,” interjected the receptionist to the hair-impaired man, shooting him a wounded look.
“We’re having a slight disagreement,” Chloe explained to the Sex God Slash Possible Security Guard in front of her. “I’m here to interview for a tawdry yet potentially very lucrative game show. And she doesn’t want to let me have that interview, because I maybe insulted her intelligence.”
It was too late to be professional, so she might as well entertain herself. She could imagine telling the story to friends later. Well, I did get kicked to the curb by the sexy security guy, but at least I got in a few good lines during my verbal cat fight with the bitchy receptionist, so all in all, I’d call it a draw. Then they’d do tequila slammers and scream with laughter.
Sex God Slash Possible Security Guard had her eyes on lock-down. “You’re interviewing to be on a show?” he asked. “Which one?”
“Dream Girls,” Chloe replied, flushing. “You know. This single man, the Dream Guy, meets twenty women, and he eliminates them until one is left – his, well, soulmate. It’s dumb. But it seems like a great way to travel and have fun.”
“I’ve heard of it,” said the Sex God, still focused on her. “So,” he added, “You’re trying to get on the show, even though it’s…dumb?”
“Well, yes,” defended Chloe, crossing her arms. “If they pick me, that is, which I’m sure they won’t.”
“Although they should,” she added, with a pointed look at the haughty receptionist, “because I’m fun. And smart. And I’m really very interesting.”
“So you’re not hoping to meet your true love on the show?” he asked.
“God, no,” exclaimed Chloe. “Everyone knows that’s crap. But I want to visit Costa Rica. I’m a photographer and I’m dying to take pictures of hummingbirds in the cloud forest.” She smiled, thinking of it. “And, hey, maybe I’ll have a quick fling with the guy, if he’s sexy enough,” she threw out as a brash afterthought, just to wind him up.
The Sex God held her stare. “A quick fling with the guy,” he repeated, and his tone sounded contemplative. He regarded her with his dark eyes, a long assessing look, and then he smiled. Chloe felt herself getting hot.
Chloe tried to look unaffected, but the truth? She wanted to grab this man by his hard arms, dig her nails into his biceps, and run her tongue over that sexy groove under his chin. And over that dimple in his cheek. And into his mouth. She winked at him, hoping to gain the upper hand. “But mostly I want the travel.”
He shot his reply back. “What if the Dream Guy is looking for love? Does he really deserve to have a poser like you on the show?”
Chloe replied with feeling. “Please. He’s going to be a dick-head poser himself who just wants to screw a few stupid girls and further his own second rate has-been career. What kind of a tool seriously looks for love on national TV?”
There was a brief silence, and then the assistant hustled up to Chloe, his tight pink pants a perfect match to his pink crew cut. “You must be Chloe Barnes, yes? I’m Greg Harkins, from the Dream Girls reality show. I’m the one arranging the interviews. You’re late.”
“Yes. Yes, I am late, and also Chloe Barnes.” Chloe grimaced. “Um… Would this be the right time to say that, ah, I have nothing but respect for the Dream Girls Show, and I’ve been extremely grateful for this opportunity to insult everything about it, thereby completely ruining any chances I had at the interview? Unless you maybe have an incredibly humorous sense of forgiveness?”
Greg opened his mouth to speak, but the Sex God beat him.
“Chloe Barnes,” he said. To her surprise he closed the distance between them and took her hand. She started when his thumb rubbed her palm, but he tightened his grip just enough to keep her captive. “A pleasure,” he continued, and a small smile played at the corners of his lips.
“I’m sure it has been,” Chloe said. She tugged at her hand, but he continued to hold it, half dominant, half caress. Her fingers begin to sweat and butterflies swarmed her lower stomach.
“You have me at a disadvantage,” Chloe said imperiously. It sounded like something from an old British film, and it seemed perfect for the spectacle in progress. “You know my name, but I don’t know yours.”
“I’m Dominic Harrington,” he told her and his smile turned predatory. “I’m the dick-head poser who’s looking to further his second rate career and screw some stupid girls on TV. I’m the Dream Guy on the Dream Girls Show. It is so nice to meet you, Chloe.”
Chloe’s face burned and she grabbed her hand back, and Dominic crossed his arms over his chest.
Did he assume she was going to start fawning over him now and babble an apology? Well, she was not. This was a traffic wreck, sure, but hell, she was going to see it through, Chloe style.
“You forgot tool,” she replied, crossing her arms in mimicry.
“What?” Dominic raised one eyebrow.
Chloe enunciated, raising her eyebrow back. “I also called you a Tool. If you’re not familiar, tool – although it refers to something useful if you’re in the construction business – is not a compliment when it comes to describing men.”
“I’m familiar with the colloquial meaning,” said Dominic, thinning his mouth into a line.
“Good,” she exclaimed with a bright smile. “That saves me the trouble of having to explain the tricky words, like I had to do for some other people,” and she hitched her shoulder backwards at the reception desk.
She added, “I just hope you’re not going to be a total Tool Box. I don’t want to be dealing with the entire inventory of the Craftsman Line at my local KMart. I mean, I signed up for dating, not home improvement.”
Dominic took a step closer. It was small, but it felt predatory, and Chloe felt her neck prickling. She casually took a step backwards.
“So…” Dominic said, “Let’s review your goals, shall we? Basically…you’re a user. You just want free travel? Maybe I should call you Miss Trip Advisor.” He shot her a dangerous smile that made her heart flutter.
“Not fair.” Chloe glared. “Why should you get to enjoy a big paycheck, publicity and perks – regardless of whether you find true match — and in the same breath denigrate me for honestly saying that I want something more than true love? Hypocrite much?”
Dominic scowled and Chloe soldiered on. “I’m here for interesting opportunities. I don’t think that’s wrong.”
“Interesting opportunities?” He drawled it out, sounding sexy and dirty, and suddenly Chloe could think of nothing but what an opportunity would be like with Dominic.
“Oh, that’s right. You did mention an affair, didn’t you?” His smile was intense. He looked her up and down.
I said a fling,” Chloe shot back. “And that doesn’t mean I’m a slut. The last thing I planned to do was come on this show and sleep with someone, okay? I was thinking some flirtation. Maybe a few kisses before I got booted off. But believe me, I’m not going to throw myself at you.”
Dominic’s lips curled into another smile. “Why would you think you’d get kicked off after a few kisses? Are you that bad at kissing?”
Chloe made an unintelligible noise. “That’s not — I’m an excellent kisser. I just mean that , I didn’t even expect to make it onto the show, and – you know, this is not really any of your business.”
She could feel her face all hot and flushed as she looked at his lips, then back to his eyes, then at the floor.
Dominic mused in a low voice, “Seeing as how you’re a contestant for my show…wouldn’t that make it my business?”
“No,” she said haughtily. “Because I’m not planning to kiss you. You’re being a total arrogant rude…jerk. And I don’t kiss jerks.”
“I think you want to kiss me a hell of a lot more than you’re willing to admit.” His eyes locked onto hers and for a moment Chloe could see nothing but her desire reflecting from the dark depths of his pupils.
“Maybe we should do a test run,” he murmured, his smile wicked. “Just to see how bad you really are. I’d be happy to give you some pointers.”
And for one crazy moment, as his face drifted closer, she almost thought —
Kyle cleared his throat, sending guttural phlegm bullets ricocheting around the room. Chloe jumped, and Dominic pulled his head back with a small smile.
“I think,” Kyle said, “You are a perfect candidate, Chloe Barnes. Greg, please take her back and get her started on the paperwork. Did you get that footage, Michelle?”
The woman with the camera did an A-OK sign and Kyle smiled.
Greg’s brow wrinkled. “Please follow me, Ms. Barnes,” he called, gesturing down the hallway with his clipboard. “We’re on a tight schedule.”
“Okay,” Chloe agreed, then turned to Dominic. “I guess I’ll see you around, Tool Box.”
“Oh, I’m counting the minutes, Trip Advisor,” he replied in a low voice, a smile tugging at his lips.
Chloe tried not to flush or stumble as she followed Greg’s pink glow down the hallway. Her mind was consumed with erotic images of exactly what she wanted to do the next time she was alone with Dominic Harrington – and how, especially if she somehow got herself onto the show, she absolutely could not allow herself to do them while being filmed and still maintain any decent level of self-respect.
(To continue reading the novel, please buy it on Amazon. The link will be updated once the novel is released in July 2015.)