“You were the Juice Me girl.”
Julie’s head jerked up before the door to the Shooting Star recording studio clicked shut. The strap of her overstuffed tote slid off her shoulder. The weight yanked her forearm down and, like a ball shot from a pitching machine, her key ring flew through the air. Her gaze followed the trajectory, marveling at the bizarre ballet the keys executed as they end-over-ended.
Vaughan snatched the ring from the air without a flinch, but Julie was stunned. This was not the greeting she expected. For months she’d wrestled with her attraction to the tall, tattooed man seated behind the battered wooden desk, and today—the day she decided to give in to temptation and live a little—he chose to hit her with a blast from the past.
He’d Googled her.
Vaughan Hatch had Googled her good.
Worse than her fascination with a man who appeared to be the polar opposite of her type was the trickle of girly giddiness lighting her up from the inside out. She knew exactly how deep he had to dig to unearth that little gem of a factoid. “Juice me” was the tag line she’d made famous two decades ago, but the Screen Actors Guild card she’d earned at the ripe old age of four carried the name Julie Joyce, a stage persona created by the ambitious mother of a precocious toddler. These days, she was just plain old Julie Poplin, but the fact that he went to the trouble to find out more about her made her feel like an A-list star. Even if her childhood brush with fame was something she tried to keep firmly in her past.
The keys jangled in Vaughan’s hand. He studied the ring as if she’d lobbed a live grenade at him. Taking advantage of his momentary distraction, she straightened her shoulders and cleared her throat. His head popped up. The mists of puzzlement cleared from his forest-green eyes, and a now-familiar smirk twitched his mouth. Harsh overhead lighting glinted off the silver barbell in his brow.
Julie fell back on her standard defenses—deflection and denial. She fixed him with a haughty stare and brushed her hair off her shoulder. “Excuse me?”
“Well, juice me,” he drawled as he rose from his seat, unfurling a wicked smile as if he were rolling out the red carpet to greet her. “You never told me you were famous. Here I thought you just read dirty books for a living.”
Just read dirty books.
She shook her head, annoyed and astounded by his willful ignorance. His casual dismissal of her career landed like a blow. For the past three years she’d been laboring under the assumption that immersing herself in the characters’ foibles and flaws made her a success as an audiobook narrator. Perhaps she should feel silly for thinking that learning them inside and out would give her the heart she needed to give them voice. In Vaughan she thought she’d found a kindred spirit—a creative type who’d found a way to salvage a dream and build a career based on reality. She’d been foolish enough to think she’d earned his respect as an artist in the hours they’d spent laboring over the editing and engineering of each project. She never realized that her favorite producer seemed to think all she needed was a fifth of tequila and her trusty vibrator to get the job done right.
Straightening her spine, she shot him a pointed glare. “Yes, well, the agency pays for this studio time by the hour, so I should probably get to reading my dirty book, huh?”
He grabbed her elbow as she tried to brush past. “Are you ashamed of it or something?”
Her step faltered and she glanced up at him. “The book?”
“The commercial,” he clarified.
She shifted her focus to his hand, trying to muster the wherewithal to tell him to keep his paws to himself, but the heat of his palm weakened her defenses, and the genuine bafflement in his gaze turned the words to dust.
He was disappointed in her. She saw it in his eyes. She’d somehow fallen short. She thought of all people, Vaughan Hatch might understand.
She’d been four for two whole weeks when the commercial was shot. How could she explain she was not the little girl who’d become a pop culture icon? She barely remembered the filming and detested wearing her hair in adorable pigtails. In the twenty-four years since the camera stopped rolling, not once had she ever held up an empty glass and demanded someone juice her. Never.
“I’m not ashamed.”
A bold-faced lie. Or it would have been if she’d worked up the nerve to look at him while speaking it. Julie had known from the first day of elementary school she’d never escape “Juice Me.” Tiny pebbles of resentment began to gather in her belly each time a kid shouted it at her. Every occasion her mother pulled her out of school to go on another audition, guilt piled in on top of the resentment, filling her throat. The weight of the embarrassment, antipathy and shame attributed to one sixty-second spot pressed on her, making it hard to breathe. And yes, she was ashamed. And frightened. Nothing she had ever done lived up to her early success, and lately, she was beginning to question her every choice.
Like the one standing in front of her. She’d chosen him, whether he knew it or not. The man she wanted despite her better judgment dared to judge her, and his gall pissed her off.
Reeling, she tilted her head to look him in the eye as she struck back. “I just figured you, of all people, would understand what it’s like to have your career crash and burn on the launch pad.”
Hope you enjoyed it! Be sure to look for all six volume in the Love Letters series:
Love Letters Volume 1: Obeying Desire
Love Letters Volume 2: Duty to Please – Available now!
Love Letters Volume 3: Wicked Whispers – Available now!
Love Letters Volume 4: Travel to Temptation – August 5, 2013
Love Letters Volume 5: Exposed – September 9, 2013
Love Letters Volume 6: Cowboy’s Command – October 14, 2013
Verbal foreplay goes a long way in these four steamy stories in Love Letters Volume 3: Wicked Whispers.
I Is for Indecent by Christina Thacher
Annie Forrest doesn’t think flirtatious Stefan Cox is seriously interested in her—until he starts describing what it will be like when they strip away their inhibitions and their clothes. But do they have anything in common besides their gift for dirty talk?
J Is for Jaded by Maggie Wells
Voice actress Julie Poplin secretly thinks about rocker-turned-sound-engineer Vaughan Hatch when she needs to make passion leap from the page while narrating a steamy audio book. But their recording session takes a seductive turn when she accidentally speaks Vaughan’s name instead of the hero’s…
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L Is for Lessons by Emily Cale
When Chloe turns to her friend Bethany for help earning some extra cash, she’s shocked to discover that Bethany is a phone sex operator…and is intrigued by her offer to teach Chloe the ropes. But neither of them is prepared for the unexpected desire their lesson unleashes.