Hard to Please, page 1
Keep Up with Cynthia
Keep Up with Hildred
HARD TO PLEASE
Cynthia Dane + Hildred Billings
HARD TO PLEASE
Copyright: Cynthia Dane & Hildred Billings
Published: Septmeber 28th, 2019
Publisher: Barachou Press
This is a work of fiction. Any and all similarities to any characters, settings, or situations are purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, copied in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise transmitted without written permission from the publisher. You must not circulate this book in any format.
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The midnight hour chimed from the German clock hanging on the wall. The thrum of deep house music played at a respectable volume from the stereo. The TV was left on mute while talking heads debated the state of the political theater in the country.
Nadia’s silk robe swished as she paced back and forth before her bed, her slippers scuffing against the hardwood floors and her cuticle losing its form against her teeth.
She looked at her phone again. No texts. No calls. No sign of life from the woman who was supposed to check in four hours ago… not to mention be home two hours ago. Didn’t that same somebody have work in the morning? So did Nadia. It was midnight on a Thursday – or was it Friday now? – and instead of curling up in bed to get up at six, she was staring at her phone and begging Evangeline Warren to call her.
This wasn’t like the early days of their relationship, when Nadia’s nervous heart thumped with anticipation of love. This was domestic bullshit. This was Nadia worried that the girlfriend she lived with was in danger or, worse, pissing her life away and lying about it. Eva might have been plenty old enough to know when to cut off the partying for a night, but she was an heiress. A wealthy heiress, with a hundred supposed best friends who knew how to blow up a club, bar, or lounge with booze and cocaine. Eva swore she never touched the hard stuff, but that didn’t stop her from drinking.
That’s what she was out doing tonight, after all. A friend’s birthday. This was hot on the heels of the last-minute bachelorette party in Thailand she threw for her bestest bestie Kathryn Alison. Eva had come home with a tan, souvenirs, and a few tear tracts on her face. She never told Nadia what had made her cry in Thailand.
She didn’t tell Nadia a lot about how she was feeling. Wasn’t that part of the problem?
“Where are you? Are you okay?” she texted Eva, like she had texted every twenty minutes. All Eva had said was that she’d be “nearby.” Not close enough she could walk. Oh, no. She took out her latest Jaguar from the garage to go to this party. She had to show up in style, after all. That’s why she had thrown on the Versace pantsuit and slung the Givenchy sunglasses onto her face before marching out in sky-high Louis Vuitton heels that took her from 6’5 to 6’10. The dumbass smacked her head on the door frame on her way out.
“I’ll check in around eight so you can get ready for bed.” That’s what she had said before leaving around 6:30. “By then I should know how long I’ll be out and what’s going on. Bye, babe!”
Four hours. Four enough hours for Nadia to imagine every shitass scenario that would keep Eva from texting her at a reasonable time. She could forgive a long-past-due text if there was a good reason and Eva was sufficiently sorry. Except it was midnight now. What was Nadia supposed to think?
She’s crashed her car.
She’s been kidnapped.
She’s doing drugs and passed out overdosing.
She’s out there cheating on me…
In the long list of “Terrible Things That Could Happen to My Girlfriend,” that last one was the worst. Of course Nadia worried that Eva might be hurt, whether by her own fault or someone else’s. Yet what if she was late because she forced herself to forget about the Ball & Chain for a while? They had been together for three years. That was a whole age for a player like Eva, who swore on her mother’s life that she loved Nadia and no one else.
But Eva hated her mother. What kind of promise was that?
She’s totally out there cheating on…
The front door slammed open. In their three-bedroom apartment overlooking the downtown core, it didn’t take Nadia long to travel from the master bedroom to the living area. Sure enough, there was a bedraggled diva tripping over her Louis Vuittons and almost faceplanting on the oak flooring.
“Eva!” Nadia was trapped between chastising the woman who reeked of pot and alcohol and running to her aid. Once the shoes came off, Eva regathered some of her bearings, but she was so out of it that Nadia’s second thought was Did she drive like this?
How angry should Nadia be, exactly? She knew better than almost anyone how logic went out the window once someone grew up with a billion dollars in their family’s bank accounts. Considerations like, “Hm, maybe I shouldn’t drive drunk because I’ll kill a bunch of people,” didn’t exist. Exceptionalism and self-absorption did. Eva had shared plenty of embarrassing stories about her youth, from passing out drunk in somebody’s gilded bathroom to joining mile-high orgies flying between New York and London. She wasn’t particularly ashamed of those when she told me about them. Why would she be now?
These were the moments when Nadia Gaines realized what planet continued to separate her and her girlfriend – the woman pushing herself up on unsteady feet and attempting to take off her jacket without tearing it.
“Hey, babe!” Eva snatched the credenza a few inches away, steadying herself. Her hair was so disheveled that she looked like she had fallen into a vat of gel and fell asleep. Her fly was down. Her fly was down! “Let me tell you… crazy party. Everybody was there.”
“Everybody, huh?” Nadia marched back to their bedroom in a huff. “Is that why you couldn’t message me when you said you would?”
“Oh, man! I totally meant to, except time flew by like you wouldn’t believe! I thought it was ten after eight when I decided to leave. Just had a… a few shots… you know? Then somebody told me it was almost midnight and I couldn’t believe them! It can’t really be midnight. Is it really midnight?”
Nadia removed her robe and tossed it on the back of the vanity’s chair. She sa
“Maaaan.” Eva stumbled into the bedroom, but did not immediately fall onto the bed. Thank goodness. She smelled so bad that Nadia wrinkled her nose and almost threw up in empathy. She’s such a heavyweight. I’ve seen her slam back three beers in an hour without a buzz. Except Evangeline Warren was a woman of fine tastes. She vastly preferred liquors with higher proofs. The more aged, the better. So if she could knock back three whole beers…
How many shots could she still do?
“Come on,” Nadia said with a sigh. She headed to the bathroom, where the bright lights and fan made Eva shut her eyes. “Let’s get you cleaned up. Can you still take off your clothes?”
“Pfft. No problem.”
There were problems. Many, many problems.
Eva’s long limbs were always her worst enemy, and that was when she was sober. Drunk, possibly high Eva? Good Lord. She was like a spindly spider flailing around the room and dunking herself in the hot shower. When her feet weren’t catapulting her into glass walls, her fingers were grabbing everything in sight. Sometimes that meant the towel that slipped off its bar. Sometimes that meant Nadia, who almost fell into the shower after her girlfriend.
Didn’t help that Nadia was far more petite than her Amazonian partner. When Eva lost control of her body, it took all of Nadia’s power, concentration, and low-center of gravity to keep from going down as well. Too easy for Eva to suffocate her in bed, let alone during moments like these. While Nadia was grateful this didn’t happen too often, it happened enough that she always went to bed angry and questioning her personal choices.
Like why the hell she put up with this shit.
“I swear to God, Eva,” an exasperated Nadia said as her girlfriend succumbed to the hot shower water, “you seriously test me sometimes.” She didn’t get a response. Eva was too busy falling asleep where she sat on a bench along the wall.
Nadia always walked the fine line between mothering her girlfriend and not taking things seriously enough. Eva was… different, both among “normal” people and among her fellow heiresses. Her appearance and sexual orientation often alienated her from the other rich people she grew up with. Her heiress-like view of the world, no matter how observant she tried to be, often meant she didn’t fit in with Nadia’s old “commoner” friends. Not to mention the appearance… The flashy, designer-heavy look fit in much more with the rich crowd than anywhere else, but few other women who were so stylish had the height or attitude of Eva Warren. People joked that she was the one to call when you needed someone to march into a room and scare the balls off a jerk. Or seduce the panties off a woman. Eva claimed to have one of the highest “straight girl” counts in her sexual history. Nadia had the shock of her life when she realized that so many of these rich lesbians sat around and compared how many heterosexual women they had scored. For experimentation’s sake, of course.
Looking at her now, however? With her head bowed, blond hair soaking wet, and feet bowed toward each other on the shower floor? She was simply sad. Despondent. Worrisome.
That’s what unlocked the maternal parts of Nadia’s heart. When she remembered how vulnerable Eva really was, she was inclined to do whatever it took to keep them both hale and healthy. And sane, she supposed.
Eva sobered up enough in the shower to make it to bed, albeit wet and naked. Nadia fished a large T-shirt out of one of the dressers and helped pull it over her girlfriend’s head and chest. It clung to her wet torso, nipples hardening to the point that Eva looked down and laughed. Her breath still stank of liquor. Tequila. Has to be tequila. Nadia pulled the covers up around Eva’s waist and turned off the light on her nightstand.
She set Eva’s alarm and fished a few breath mints out of her purse. Eva was in no shape to brush her teeth yet, so these would have to do.
With a sigh meant to diffuse the tension in her body, Nadia lay down next to her girlfriend and turned off her own light. With any luck, she might get five hours of sleep that night, but considering the excitement of a moment ago, it was more likely to be four. Good thing she could do her job with her eyes closed, because that’s what was about to happen.
“I love you, baby.” Eva muttered against Nadia’s shoulder. “Sorry I didn’t message you like I said I would. I really didn’t know it was so late.”
“Tell me you didn’t drive home drunk.”
“I took a cab with a friend. They’re gonna drop off my car at work tomorrow.”
Nadia didn’t know who they was. Assuming Eva went to one of the many hangouts for the rich and snobbish, it could be arranged for a drunk guest’s car to be delivered somewhere, anywhere, the following day. Sometimes it was part of a membership package. One of the many “perks” Nadia had learned about long before she met Eva. She worked for rich assholes, after all. Two weeks into my receptionist gig, my boss pulled this same stunt. That was before Nadia knew what to do with people who came into the office saying, “I have the keys to Mr. Cole’s Lamborghini. Where should I drop them off?”
“As long as you’re okay. You know how much I worry about things.”
“You shouldn’t worry so much, babe.” Eva’s hand slipped from Nadia’s shoulder and toward her chest. Oh, my God. Are you kidding me? “It’s not good for you.”
“Um… what are you doing?”
Eva left her hand on Nadia’s breast. “Getting comfortable.”
“By copping a feel?”
“I mean… I am pretty horny right now.”
Of course you are. Because drinking always gets you randy. Eva was one of those. Some women passed out asleep when drunk. Others ate until they threw up. Some cried about their hidden traumas, and others laughed so hard they rushed to the bathroom. Eva, though? She got so tingly between the legs that she was likely to throw money until a lucky lady was there to soothe her ails.
That was Nadia, by the way. She was now the lucky lady.
“Eva, please…” Nadia shoved her girlfriend’s hand off her. “I need to sleep. So do you.”
“I’m not in the mood. You know I have a firm rule about one of us being intoxicated.”
“You and your ruuuules.” That slurring of words wasn’t from the alcohol now. That was Eva falling asleep. “So many ruuuules in life. My mom always had so many rules, you know.” She changed the tone of her voice to a false falsetto. “’Don’t run too much, Evangeline. It’s very unbecoming of a little lady. Don’t eat too many carbs. You’ll get fat and nobody will want to marry you. Evangeliiiiine.”
Nadia rolled away from her girlfriend. It always came back to Eva’s mother.
At least she fell asleep and gave Nadia some peace. For a few minutes, anyway. Once Eva started drunkenly snoring, there was no hope for a decent night’s sleep.
“Heeeey.” A snap of the fingers roused Nadia from her doze at her desk. “You there? Need me to call the medics downstairs?”
Nadia jerked up with a snort. Where was she? The office, with its bright beige walls, floor-to-ceiling windows, and humming air conditioner? God. Too much stimulation. Nadia’s ears and ears burned so much that one would think she woke up that morning hungover.
Not hungover. Incredibly sleep deprived.
“Sorry.” Nadia rubbed her eyes and slid her elbows off her desk. Before her stood Jasmine Cole, the closest thing she had to a BFF. Got enough glaringly bright colors on you there, Jazz? Jasmine wasn’t a stranger to perfectly pastel dresses or blazingly neon pantsuits, depending on the day. She had combined the two that Friday morning, however. A bright pink neon A-line dress with a gold belt cinched around the waist. It went well with the baby-pink coat that matched her pink strappy sandals. Hell, it looked like she had dressed to match Nadia’s red shift dress that day. Maybe that’s my problem. This dress is too comfortable. She didn’t usually wear baggier dresses that boxed in her curves, since she was of the opinion that it only made her pudgier, b
Apparently, that had backfired.
“Are we still getting lunch?” Jasmine asked.
“Is it lunch already?” Shit! Nadia had dozed for the pass half hour! She had slept through a small number of calls. Lights flashed. People awaited her to tell them that Mr. Cole was out early that day for a meeting. Not even his wife, standing in front of Nadia, could help them. “Oh, my God, please don’t tell your husband that I’m sleeping on the job.”
Jasmine held a finger up to her lips. “Secret’s safe with me. I only wanna get lunch. I haven’t eaten at all yet today.” She held a hand to her stomach, as if it were about to growl its way out of her body. “I called ahead and am having Bell Jar’s cater us in the meeting room.”
“Bell Jar’s, huh?” That got Nadia out of her seat. She left the lights flashing on the phone as she grabbed her bag and pushed in her chair. “I could really go for some soup right now.”
“I ordered us two specials, so here’s hoping it’s good!” Jasmine snickered. “I also put it on Ethan’s personal tab. Don’t worry. He’ll never notice.”
Personally, or financially? Both. Nadia knew how it worked.
There were three meeting rooms to choose from, but Jasmine clearly meant the best one with the grandest view of downtown and the river a few blocks away. They slumped into a pair of tub chairs with a square table between them, the very spot Nadia sometimes sat in when she had to fill in for Mr. Cole’s assistant and the man insisted on hosting a lunch meeting here.
This was her lunch break, though. Which meant the deliveryman bringing them their lunch five minutes later was the herald of all things delicious.
“Oh, my God. Potatoes with broccoli and cheddar soup? Fuck me up.” Nadia dragged her serving closer. “Glad I wore this dress today. I need all the room my waistline can get.”
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