ON A WHIM - CHAPTER 1

I needed to get laid.

It was the only thing that made sense.

My mom told me to. My best friend shouted it in my ear. Even my daughter told me to. But with her, it was probably only because she enjoyed repeating everything Uncle Chaz said. Add to the fact that she was five.

Chaz Hartley, my best friend since we were children and uncle to my daughter, enjoyed reminding me how dried up my bits were. Especially right then as he stared at me across the table on our usual afternoon date at Romina’s.

“I’m serious, Kiki,” Chaz said around a mouthful of salad. “Those little bits of yours are going to shrivel and die before they even know what’s hit them.”

“Nothing has hit them,” I muttered, taking a sip of my white wine and savoring the sweet but bitter taste on my tongue. It wasn’t my fault my ex-fiancé stood me up on the day I was supposed to lose my virginity. My bits have been dry ever since because I was too damn busy and I just didn’t care anymore.

“Exactly.” Chaz swallowed, pointing the fork in my direction. “I love you. We need to go out. I can do your makeup. Put you in one of those hot as hell dresses you keep at the back of your closet.”

I rolled my eyes. “There are no dresses in my closet. I have gym clothes, leggings, and oversized shirts. So nope, no dresses.”

“Yes there are.” He leaned forward, taking the glass of wine from my hand and brought it up to his lips. “You know I’m right.” He winked over the rim and took a sip.

“Are you keeping tabs on my wardrobe now?”

He waggled his perfectly manicured eyebrows. “Of course. I have to keep tabs on my girl’s fashion status.”

“I have no fashion status, Chaz.” I held out my hand.

He handed me back the glass. “You need to go out. We need to get you out.”

I finished the last of my wine before wiping my mouth with the napkin. “I have Ava. I can’t go out,” I pointed out, reminding him of the very daughter he helped me find the donor for.

“You can. And you will.” Chaz reached for my hand. “Listen, baby doll. You need a man. Those toys of yours aren’t cutting it anymore.”

“Why do I feel like this is some sort of intervention?” I frowned, pulling my hand free from his grasp.

“Well it isn’t.” His eyes twinkled. Taking another forkful of salad, he changed the subject and started talking about his newest client. Some up and coming Hollywood starlet. Being a makeup artist to the celebrities, he always gave me the down and dirty details. Not that I overly cared what they did in their daily lives. They were people. Just like us. They just had more money to blow.

While Chaz talked, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe my best friend was right. I was almost thirty, a single mother, and a virgin. Those words didn’t go together often. My daughter was five, but yet I had never experienced the physical act of sex. No penis had ever entered this vagina.

Thanks to modern medicine, my baby girl was part me and part sperm donor. After months and months of research, thanks to Chaz, I finally found the one. And voila! Ava was born. She was perfect. Even though I didn’t have her the traditional way, she was everything to me. All sass, attitude, and the little diva that she was. She was the perfect companion to Chaz, seeing as she loved it when Uncle Chaz tested out his new makeup techniques on her.

“You’re not listening to me,” Chaz said, pulling me from my thoughts.

“Of course I am.” My cheeks burned and I brushed it off with a wave of my hand. “I always listen to you.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Sure. What did I say?”

“How awesome I am and how you’re going to forgive me for not paying attention?”

He rolled his eyes. “You’re lucky I love you.”

“You better.” I signaled for the waitress and asked for another glass of wine.

“Another glass?” Chaz asked, leaning back in his chair and ran his fingers through his lavender faux hawk.

I shrugged. “I’m caught up with my work and Ava’s at her grandparents.”

Chaz checked his watch. “It’s only three. This means we can grab Courtney and Justin and have adult time. We’ll need to get you into that dress and do your makeup.” His eyes searched my face. “And do something with that hair as well.”

“We’re not going out tonight.” As much as that sounded like fun, I wanted some hours to myself before my clients made new requests. “And what the hell is wrong with my hair?”

“Nothing,” he said slowly, glancing at the messy bun on top of my head. “It’s perfect.”

“Right.” I tapped his hand. “You’re a worse liar than I am.”

“I’m not taking no for an answer,” he said, ignoring me and holding his phone out for me to see. “Justin and Court are already in agreement. If we’re not going out tonight, then we’re going out this weekend and you’re coming with.”

I sighed, pinching the bridge of my nose.

Justin and Courtney Banks were mutual friends of ours. The fraternal twins, who acted nothing alike, were the newest additions to our duo. It had always just been Chaz and I until we met the siblings in college. Ten years later and we were still hanging out on a regular basis.

Justin was Chaz’s secret friend with benefits even though we all knew about them. But of course, they weren’t dating.

Courtney was a different story. Married. Two kids. Best husband ever.

If only…I shook my head. Nope. I wouldn’t mull over that. I refused men. I didn’t hate them, of course. Just the ones who paid me any attention because I knew it would end in my misery.

“You’re stewing.” Chaz frowned.

I leaned over the table and pressed my thumb to his forehead. “Stop worrying so much. You’ll get wrinkles.”

He slapped my hand away before pulling out his compact. He checked out his reflection and blew himself a kiss.

I laughed, which earned me a glare.

“That wasn’t nice. Here I am trying to help you out and yet, you’re being mean to me.” He pouted.

“Aww, honey, you know I was only teasing. You’re still hot as ever.” And that was the truth. With his tanned skin, high cheekbones, and tall runner’s body…he was an artist’s wet dream.

He smiled, giving me a wink. “So any new clients I should start reading?”

I did graphic design for authors. Creating their covers, logos, websites, and anything else they requested of me. Every author I worked with knew Chaz helped me on the side and offered their books for him to read.

“Not yet,” I told him. “You’ve read all of my current clientele.”

“You don’t have any new clients?” he asked over the rim of his bottle of beer. “What did I say about promoting yourself?”

“I am promoting myself but business is slow right now.” With the holidays just ending a little over a week ago, I was giving authors the chance to get back in the game and on their feet. Valentine’s Day was coming up.

“Are you designing Valentine’s Day covers?” Chaz asked, taking the thought right out of my head.

“Yes. Already ahead of you on that one.”

“Good. Put some of your current covers on sale too. Maybe the older ones. Do you have any male clients? Are they hot?”

I laughed at the random questions. “I know some male authors but no, I don’t know if they’re hot. They’re private.”

“Well, girl, get to know them. Maybe one of them lives in this area.” Chaz waggled his eyebrows. “And you know…you can design many different things for him.”

“What man is going to want a virgin mother?”

“Girl, you’re not that much of a virgin. You’ve been probed.”

Now it was my turn to roll my eyes. “It’s called artificial insemination. I wasn’t abducted and probed by aliens.”

“You might as well have been with how your mother acted.”

I winced, a slight shiver trembling down my spine. “Let’s not go there.”

Even though it had been five years and my parents loved Ava, they were religious. Very religious. They didn’t understand the fact that I wasn’t looking for a relationship but wanted a baby of my own. So I did what any rational woman would do and said “Fuck you” to society and got knocked up by myself. Thank you, donor number 385928.

Chaz sat back, staring pointedly at me with those beautiful green eyes of his. He blinked once, twice, three times before he actually spoke again. “I love you, baby doll. We’ve been through a lot of shit together, but you need a man.”

“I have you, don’t I?” I smiled. “Remember that promise we made after Roman left me?” I put on a straight face, ignoring that flutter of unease over my ex-fiancé leaving me at the altar. That was such a wonderful day. Being left at the altar. Watching him walk back down the aisle by himself. Hearing him tell the whole damn church filled with our families and friends that I just didn’t do it for him anymore. Such a perfect fucking day.

Chaz let out a soft sigh but even he couldn’t stay upset for long. “I remember. How many years did we give each other?”

“Five. So we have to find a partner before 2022 or else we end up together.” I laughed. “I think Ava would love having Uncle Chaz as daddy Chaz.”

“Just call me Uncle Daddy.”

I threw my head back, laughing at the term. “Alright, Uncle Daddy, I have to head home. I have some covers to design before you steal me this weekend.”

“I’ll walk you out.” Chaz threw some bills on the table before wrapping an arm around my shoulders. “How would that work? I’m gay and pussy doesn’t do it for me but I am irresistible so…” He rubbed his angular jaw.

I laughed again, shaking my head. “You don’t do it for me either, baby boy. I need a man who doesn’t spend more time staring in the mirror than I do.”

“You need to spend more time. You’re gorgeous as fuck,” he kissed my head. “Now let’s get you home. Ava will be home soon from your parents’ place and I have a tea party to get ready for.”

“Please refrain from using the F-word around her. She likes to repeat everything you say.” I frowned, remembering when she told me that Uncle Chaz said it was okay to swear because it keeps mommy on her toes. I rolled my eyes.

“Again, irresistible.” He winked.

I sighed. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with you.”

“Keep me,” he squeezed me, hugging me tight against his side, “because for now, I’m all you have.”

My chest tightened. He meant well but his words reminded me how depressing and lonely my life was.

I needed a man.

I just had no idea where to even begin to look for one.

 

***

(Bo)

 

“You have got to be fucking kidding me right now,” I boomed, slamming my laptop closed. I was seething, seeing fucking red over some shithead screwing me over. How dare my mother die and all my time be spent taking care of those arrangements? Excuse her for passing away when it wasn’t convenient for everyone else. I had shit luck when it came to working with people. I was too damn trusting.

“Fuck,” I yelled.

I needed a drink.

Stomping to my kitchen, I grabbed a beer from the fridge, popped the cap, and drank half the bottle before taking a breath. I needed something stronger and dirtier, but right now, this would have to do. I needed to get some work done before I allowed myself to play.

Taking a breath and then another, I drank the rest of the beer before grabbing a second.

“Alright, Bo, chill the fuck out.” And now I was talking to myself. I sighed, heading back to my makeshift work place on my kitchen table.

After being fucked over a year ago from a publisher who took hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients, I swore to double-check the reputation of people I worked with. Being a successful author, and a male one at that, I promised myself to be cautious. But when a designer came highly recommended, I didn’t check their history. Not that it was anyone else’s fault but my own, it still pissed me the fuck off.

I had requested a makeover involving over twenty covers. I was rebranding myself and getting royally fucked in the process. After dishing out over thousands of dollars to the designer, I found out that they had disappeared. Their social media accounts were closed, the emails I had sent coming back stating the email was no longer active. Money wasn’t the issue. My readers’ hearts were. I had promised them new books with new covers a month ago and I had let them down. That infuriated me. They were the most important part of being an author to me since they were supportive. I didn’t care about anything else. I had a book signing in just under eight weeks, my first one, and I needed to make sure it went well. It would be the first time anyone saw my face. Most assumed I was a woman. Writing under B. Vesper allowed me to be whomever I wanted to be. Unless they asked, I wouldn’t say. I learned rather quickly that you could never be too safe when it came to your own personal privacy. When a reader turned stalker threatened the lives of my family, I promised myself right then that I would remain private for the rest of my career. But after gaining a fandom, I realized that the readers were the most important, even though one from back in the day set a poor example for the rest of them. It wasn’t fair to chalk them all up under the same umbrella.

Taking my beer back to the table, I opened the laptop in search of a new designer. So many of them came highly recommended but I needed someone who could put up with my picky ass and not run away crying if I didn’t like the first mock-up they sent me.

Scrubbing a hand down my face, I clicked page after page. Some had grave reviews. Some had mediocre ones. And of course, some had none.

After searching for two hours and several beers later, I stumbled upon a reader who I had become friends with some time back. He had devoured my books and also mentioned in passing about his friend being a graphic designer, but I never thought anything of it until now. But when he posted a link to his friend’s business page, it caught my eye.

Chazva Designs.

Clicking the link, I made sure to like it and found that the owner had a pre-made cover group as well. It helped when the author didn’t know exactly what they wanted, but I did. I just needed someone to get inside my head and go from there. Being picky was good and bad.

I requested to join the group and waited for approval.

It happened instantly. Looked like they worked all hours of the day, just like I did.

Alright, let’s do this.

I cracked my knuckles and went in search of the perfect cover.

Scrolling through the pre-made covers, I didn’t find what I was looking for but I liked the work of the designer, so I sent them a friend request.

Kiki Smith.

Okay, Miss Smith. Let’s see what you got.

Almost as soon as I requested her friendship, she accepted and a chat window popped up. The three little dots bounced across the bottom of the screen indicating an incoming message.

Kiki: I am fangirling right now.

I chuckled to myself.

Me: Well thank you.

Kiki: I can’t believe you joined my group. Thank you. So so very much.

I was happy with her demeanor already.

Me: No, thank you. I’m in search of a new designer. You up for the task?

The dots bounced. Stopped. Bounced again. Stopped.

Kiki: Are you serious right now? Of course I would love to help you. You have no idea how happy this makes me. Thank you!!

I realized I liked her already. Although I had no idea what she looked like, her words radiated gratefulness and I couldn’t be happier to work with someone like her. After the shit I had gone through the past couple of months, I needed a change.

Elated that I finally found someone new to work with, I closed the laptop and grabbed my keys. It was time to celebrate.

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