THE PERFECT GUY (excerpt) by Debbie Goelz
Jule Vandamme knows she’s in big trouble before her boss utters a word. The walls in Vesta Harper’s office vibrate in the grey-green of a storm-tossed sea. At Pinnacles Center for Sexual Rehabilitation, it is difficult for employees to hide their emotions as the building echoes them quite publicly ….
Jule nervously fumbles with the doorknob to the suite. Ridiculous, she chides herself. I am a trained therapist. Whatever’s in there is part of me and must logically be, well, logical. Just get this over with. Give them a show and get out as quickly as possible. She straightens her posture and throws the door open hoping there isn’t a half-starved lion waiting for her on the other side.
Jule wishes it were only a lion. This is infinitely worse—a fairy tale-worthy glass castle. Her heart speeds as she searches for the monitoring cameras. A quixotic tableau is all she needs. Everyone will think she is some kind of starry-eyed romantic like her mother—earth’s most famous romance author. How many times growing up had Jule been teased about her mother’s, um, work?
The air smells like roses and freshly cut grass, with a hint of garlic. The edifice, perched at the far end of a formal garden, beneath an enormous, swollen moon, is swathed in trails of rose vines. Dozens of classical marble statues of naked men guard a walkway to the castle entrance brimming with faceted rubies, emeralds and sapphires. Even though the statues’ eyes are blank, Jule shudders as if they are staring at her. Jule knows better than anyone about the truth of fairy tales. They are dark, filled with witches baking children and women slicing off parts of their feet to get a goddamned prince. She pivots. Time to cut her losses and let Just Becquee win. Naturally, the door she had come through disappears as soon as she makes this decision.
Seeing no alternative, she stomps down the walkway, trying to ignore the jeweled pebbles that accumulate in her horrid spa shoes. She arrives at the front door with extremely sore feet. Through the transparent walls, Jule sees a cavernous entry hall lit by a thousand white tapered candles flickering and illuminating hundreds of crystal vases bursting with long-stemmed red roses. She rings the doorbell while shaking out the pebbles. Of its own accord, the glass door opens to a high-pitched creak as if it is made of ancient wood with iron hinges. “Thanks,” she automatically mutters even though no one is there.
The entry smells like roses, candle wax, chocolate and garlic. Something purrs. Not the purr of an ordinary house cat, this purr is deep and dark and raises the hairs on the back of her neck. She follows the sound to an adjacent drawing room where she finds a lion lounging on a massive red leather sofa. The lion catches her in its gaze. It lets out an unfriendly roar and its wings, yes wings, unfurl and flap violently, upending a bottle of champagne in a silver ice bucket and a bowl of strawberries. Jule screams.
“What is it, bella?” rumbles an Italian-accented male voice. “Are you alright?” Rivulets of acid curl in Jule’s stomach. Why does the Italian accent scare her more than the roar of a winged lion? Jule loves most things Italian—the coffee, the linguine, the footwear. Okay, so the bloody religious art she could do without, but otherwise …
“Magellan, I told you to stay off the furniture,” admonishes a male figure wearing only a starched white apron over his muscled physique. The guy looked like the cover art for one of her mom’s books. “Outside. Now.” Several panes of glass disappear, and the lion stalks out, his erect tail twitching. The window re-forms. “Please sit, bella. Do not worry about him.” He lifts his chin toward the lion. “He is harmless. Your dinner is almost ready. I shall clean up this untidiness and replenish the Prosecco.”
Dinner? A cooking, cleaning Erotibot? Continue Reading »