Guest Blogger Deborah Coonts is the author of the Lucky O'Toole series. The following is an original short piece to introduce her latest, Lucky Stiff:
Leave it to me to fall in love with a guy who looks better in my clothes than I do. My name is Lucky and, in love, I am anything but. Or maybe my luck is a little off, who knows? So, my guy wears dresses for a living. I know, I need to be in a home, but it's not as crazy as it sounds. Really, it's not.
It all started when I went to the Flamingo to check out an act that was getting a bunch of buzz around town?he styled himself as The Great Teddie Divine, Las Vegas' foremost female impersonator. To be honest, men making themselves all pretty and prancing around like divas don't exactly set my heart afire, if you know what I mean. But when someone separates himself from the pack in Vegas, everyone notices. And, since it's my job to book the best talent for my employer, the Babylon, I scored a center orchestra ticket two rows back and settled in for the show.
That night, Teddie was channeling Cher to a packed house. Closing my eyes, I can see the whole scene as if it was on a continuous celluloid loop in my brain. He was wearing a long, black wig, a silver sheath with a split up the side that bordered on indecent, full makeup-eyeliner, lashes out to there, lipstick, the whole shebang. And the show was amazing. No, he was amazing. Flowing seamlessly from one number to another (my particular favorite was I Got You Babe, but I did miss Sonny). If I hadn't known that Cher really hadn't lowered herself to play such a small theatre, I would've bought into the whole act. Teddie was that good.
After the show, I flashed my ID, which didn't mean anything to the guards at the Flamingo, but I guess I looked intimidating enough and the guy let me backstage. Teddie had his back to me as I approached. I started to say something, to draw his attention then stopped. Normally, 'shy' would not be a word anyone would use to describe me, but at that moment it fit, and I had no idea why.
He'd just come off stage. The applause was thunderous. He was a little sweaty, and energized, feeding off the crowd. Someone handed him a towel. He took a long drag from a bottle of water. Then he pulled off his wig and ruffled his, short spikey blonde hair.
When he turned his baby-blues my direction my heart stopped.
And I was appalled. Most men left me curiously deflated. Don't get me wrong; I'm as appreciative as the next gal of a guy with a great smile, broad shoulders, and a good butt. Cynical would probably be the best label to slap on my feelings towards men. Spending one's formative years in a whorehouse being raised by a madam can do that.
And now I get hot-and-bothered by a dude in a dress? I had officially gone 'round the bend. And I couldn't do anything about it. I was rooted to the spot, determined to see how the whole thing played out. Curious in a slightly twisted sort of way. I mean, I didn't see a whole lot of upside to a relationship with a guy who had better legs than mine. And who was probably gay, to boot.
Can I pick 'em, or what?
Sauntering toward me, Teddie shot me a thousand-candle-power grin, making me go all warm and gooey inside. Clearly tonight there was going to be no limit to my humiliation. In five-inch heels (I'm pretty sure they were Manolos) he had me by a couple of inches, which I found a bit perplexing...and intriguing. At six feet with kick-ass shoes of my own (Jimmy Choos, thank you very much), I'm not used to being up-staged.
Standing in front of me, he took another swig of water then let his smile fall into a lopsided grin as he waited, his amusement evident.
I tried to form thoughts, words, but my IQ had flatlined. Surreptitiously, I wiped my sweaty palm on my slacks. Christ, I felt like a schoolgirl at her first Cotillion. Not that I had any experience with fancy parties-the daughter of a former prostitute is rarely on the guest list-but I imagined this is how one would feel.
"Can I help you?" Teddie finally broke the ice and rescued me from complete mortification.
"I want you," I managed to squeak, then colored as I realized how it sounded.
"I like a direct woman, one who knows what she wants." If he was making fun of me, he hid it well.
"Innuendo is an ice-breaker, isn't it?" I countered as I found my footing. The stark cold shot of reality jump-started my brain. I was flirting with a guy who probably wanted to sleep with as many women as good old hetero me did-that would be zero. I had reached a new low. "I'm Lucky O'Toole from the Babylon," I said as I extended my hand. "I'd like to talk to you about moving your show to our hotel."
Just mentioning the Babylon usually caused most entertainers to genuflect and seriously consider kissing my feet, which was sort of fun. Teddie wasn't playing that game. Instead, he took my proffered hand, tucked it through his elbow, and said, "Over dinner, perhaps?" as he led me further backstage. He didn't wait for my answer. "Let me change. I know the greatest little bistro. You like basic American food." It was statement, not a question.
He could see into my soul even then.
Deborah Coonts's latest Lucky O'Toole novel, Lucky Stiff, is available for pre-order now.