CHAPTER ONE

Jacoby

There she was: Alicia Blake. The object of Jacoby's supposed affection. She sat with impeccable posture at a round, granite top table. The Chasse Chalet was an extremely classy restaurant; a hot spot for the rich and uptight. This was no place for the likes of Jacoby Pierce.

This woman managed to be many contradicting things at once. She was small; she was long. She was gorgeous, yet terrifyingly sharp and angular, as if she were ready to slice his skin with just the lightest brush of her fingertips. In contrast, she was rounded—quite pleasantly, in fact; her face was heart-shaped, exuding a sort of demure pleasance Jacoby was positive she was incapable of, and her golden, almond eyes were a mixture of the two. Alicia had hair of the hardest gold, complementing her eyes, and stopping in blunt layers just above her shoulders, giving an effect, as though it were floating, just above those well-structured bones of hers. Alicia was as opulent in her hard beauty as a yellow diamond. Jacoby was…Jacoby. Like he needed this inferiority complex.

Wanting to waste whatever time he could—putting off meeting Alicia until the final possible moment—Jacoby peered around the establishment as if he were searching the many cluttered tables for the date that would make his life.

There was a soft, dim glow emanating from sleek white bubble sconces that lined the walls at very exact intervals. The booths were of the finest wine-colored velvet, and the tables were the same as the one Alicia waited at: white granite. The chairs were a delicately wrought iron, curled into expensive shapes, and even the floor had a deep black, velvet carpet.

At the far end of the restaurant, there were two swinging doors that led to what Jacoby accurately assumed was a white, spotless kitchen. It was sure to be so clean and sterile that it would have a fine place in any hospital.

Finally, when Jacoby could no longer put off the inevitable, he sauntered up to the host's podium where an older man stood, looking very stuck up and snobby. "How may I help you," the man paused, looking down his turned up nose at Jacoby, before ending with, "sir?" The man had a faint English accent. Or was it French? It was probably both.

"Yes, the name is Pierce. I've got a reservation for two at eight o'clock; my date is already here."

The man looked down at his reservation book and nodded slowly. "Sir," he replied, with his undistinguished European accent, "I'm sorry to inform you that there is no 'Pierce' anywhere on here. Are you positive that you have the correct restaurant?" He smirked, clearly pleased to keep what he considered the riff-raff out of his restaurant. Jacoby tried to remain unaffected.

It pissed Jacoby off, but it was a good enough excuse to turn and leave Alicia sitting at that table, alone, until the staff would make her relinquish the seat.

"Excuse me, sir? Hi, I'm Alicia Blake; the famous model? Yes, this is my date, so if you could kindly let us get to our table that would be wonderful." The man looked upset and seemed about to protest when Alicia smoothly ended the scene with a lie. "My boyfriend, he got stuck in traffic. You know Manhattan has too many cars—it'll probably sink if it gets any more crowded!" Alicia grinned sweetly at Jacoby and the host. Jacoby was flabbergasted; Alicia had practically bounced up, appearing out of nowhere, and spoken in such a silky sweet voice that it made a man like Jacoby want to hurl.

She smiled at the man some more until he finally smiled back—as he stared at her rather unnaturally perky breasts. Jacoby was sure that she had enhanced them, just as she must have with those Angelina-Jolie-full lips of hers.

"Yes, yes, of course. My apologies, Miss," the man said.

Alicia turned her attention to Jacoby now, and he felt very small and vey unworthy. That made him angry. He had no reason to feel such a way just being around this woman, and he was surely worthy of someone far better! Jacoby rolled back his shoulders, standing tall, putting himself a few ego-inflating inches above her.

"Hi, Jay!" Alicia shocked him by leaning forward to peck him on either cheek before smacking one right on the kisser. He barely recovered enough to press back against her mouth with surprising ease. "Come on, let's go order." She grabbed his hand of her own volition, and led him to the table she'd been at for what must have been the last forty-five minutes; Jacoby had made sure to be as late as he could without receiving an angry call from Alexander. If only she had felt stood up and left. She'd be the kind to save face like that, except she hadn't. She'd smoothly fallen into an act that made even Jacoby believe in their supposed—and expected—relationship.

Jacoby studied her from behind, like he was appraising one of his models before a photo shoot; he noticed that the animal-like prowl she adopted for the catwalk was natural. It revolted him.

They sat opposite each other and smiled. Fake. The smiles were fake, and the feelings behind them were anything but admiring. They were somewhat predatory—evaluating and calculating—in nature.

Without a word, Jacoby picked up the menu. He scanned it momentarily before muttering under his breath, "The hell? It's all in French…"

"Que est-ce que je peux obtenir pour vous ce soir?" A tall, handsome man had approached the table.

"Monsieur, l'anglais, si vous plait?" Alicia grinned.

The man looked a bit frustrated and sighed dramatically. "Good evening, my name is Pierre, and I am your maître d' this night. Can I get you anything to drink?" His voice was dull and uninterested—deadpan—just how Jacoby was feeling at the moment.

Alicia launched into her order, listing, "Two glasses of your finest red wine, one of your finest white, a diet Coke Zero for myself, and whatever my boyfriend would like; how about you, Jay?" Alicia finished rattling off her insane drink order and looked expectantly at Jacoby.

"A beer and a glass of water." Jacoby coughed when Alicia poked his ankle and added a quick please.

"What brand of beer, sir? We have—"

Jacoby interrupted his robot-like drone. "Any kind from America is fine with me."

The maître d' suppressed an eye roll. "And what of your water? Sparkling? Spring?"

"Tap is fine," Jacoby stressed, suppressing an eye roll of his own. What was it with these people?

Pierre scribbled down their drink order, gave them a curt nod, and scampered off in a way that only little children and extremely homosexual men do.

"Well, Jay, you look very….hairy," Alicia noted.

Jacoby took that reminder to straighten the scraggly ponytail at the back of his neck and self-consciously scratched at the two-day old stubble on his chin. "Men do grow hair in various places that women do not." He shrugged nonchalantly.

Alicia wrinkled her delicate nose. "I won't be seen in public with you looking like some mountain man again. When you—" she corrected herself, "we get home tonight, please shave your face completely. And moisturize, for goodness sakes! Then I'm going to do something about that dreadful…hairstyle…of yours. Please make more of an effort to make yourself look presentable from here on," she mandated.

Jacoby scoffed. "Yes, my Queen Fashionista. Your wish is my command."

"Good. Now. What will you be ordering?" she asked, looking at the words that were utter gibberish to Jacoby.

"I'll just order a burger and fries; I can't make heads or tails of this menu." He folded it back and dropped it to the table.

"No, that won't do. We need to order things that complement each other. That's another thing: you need to take more care with your appearance because you must look good beside me in order to make me look even better. That is, after all, the purpose of this entire façade—this business venture."

Jacoby didn't hide the roll of his eyes.

"You'll just have to order fish, like I am. A nice side of soup to my side of salad." Alicia closed her menu as well and placed it back onto the table.

"I don't eat fish," Jay intoned through gritted teeth.

"Tonight you do. I feel like fish, so you do, too." Alicia shrugged, making the fabric of her gown shimmer like spun gold.

That was Alicia Blake: A study in the warm shades of tempered and raw gold—a study in contrasts—paired with the Ice Queen objectivity that she studied Jacoby with from behind her crystal wine glass.

Alexander had been wrong: Alicia didn't order a margarita.

Alicia

Alicia Blake may have been a complete ditz on the outside, but underneath that exterior of flexible, leaf-like transparency, was a business woman who bent as much as the thickest limbs of an ancient Redwood tree. Alicia was no idiot, and she didn't appreciate Jay's attitude.

She watched him as she sipped her red wine; she watched as he ignored the glass of water and guzzled the beer within the minute.

"What would you have to lose," asked Alicia, tacking her nickname for him on the caboose of her words as the maître d' strode by, checking up on their little table. Public appearance was everything and it was difficult when the other half wasn't pulling his considerable lump of conversational deadweight.

"My manly freedom; my ability to, excuse my French, screw a woman of my choosing," Jay smirked, seeing Alicia shift.

"It's not like I would stop you—I have my own desires to fill—and we aren't going to finish this conversation now, not here." Alicia swallowed her wine in quick sips. Their food still hadn't arrived and she was becoming impatient.

Of course Jay looked pleased with her obvious discomfort. She cleared her throat and said, "Why don't we get out of here? I'm starving and, honestly, I hate this place. The food is too rich." Alicia stood, gracefully tucking the side swept bangs behind her ear when they slid from their bobby pin moorings. Jay didn't know she had bangs. Huh.

Jay sat still, staring moronically behind her at the white granite bar. Alicia rolled her eyes and stalked like a cat to the host for their check.

Jay was hardly shocked to spot Alexander at the bar, keeping tabs on how he behaved on the date, but he certainly hadn't expected to see him with Diana, Alicia's best friend and publicity agent. Oh, hell.


AUTHORS' NOTE:…stay tuned, y'all!

-Tay & Cheltz