Riya’s divorce gift to herself is to adopt a dog. Bad Larry and Riya meet at an animal shelter and quickly bond over their mutual hatred of men. Riya promises the little dog that she’ll never let anything bad happen to him again, if he promises to make it hard for her to bring any men back to her apartment, in a moment of weakness.
Jaden is investigating the murder of one of Riya’s high school classmates and after a strange first encounter in a public bathroom, he asks her out. She shoots him down but he’s determined to get to know her better, despite her warnings of owning a dangerous, man-hating dog.
Riya has no choice but to let Jaden into her life when she starts getting threatening letters from the killer but are she and Bad Larry ready to give Jaden an honest shot?
Mexican Hair Remover
This was my first official outing since the divorce. A former classmate died the week before and my class of seventy-four was holding a memorial service in our local Knights of Columbus hall.
I normally didn’t go to these things, since high school hadn’t exactly been the time of my life. I’d known very little about the guy who died, beyond one date at the movies that ended abruptly when I’d assaulted him with candy but I was sick of hiding in my run down crappy apartment just thinking about my ex-husband and his shiny new girlfriend.
To be quite honest I’m not great with death in general but I’m not really great with life either. So, unlike the majority of people going up to speak a few words about their memories of a guy very few of them really knew, I sat quietly in the back, next to my best friend from high school. I thought about the time the deceased and I went out for a movie and he behaved himself after nearly being concussed by a king sized Charleston chew. This apparently classified him as being nice, so I thought nice thoughts about David Bogs, the nice guy that I went on a date with, that one time.
I was currently sporting my favorite little black dress, which only fit again because when one gets a divorce you not only lose your dream house, half your stuff, your pride, your faith in the opposite sex and all of your couple friends, but you also lose a few pounds in the process of having your heart ripped out and set on fire.
To complete my post-divorce ensemble I was also wearing some sexy little four inch vixen pumps and my last pair of clean underwear…which weren’t really underwear as much as they were bikini bottoms. My new apartment, on the wrong side of town, didn’t have laundry, so between my work schedule and the fact that I hated the Laundry Nazi that ran the only laundromat in town…it was bikini bottoms or commando.
At least I wasn’t here alone. Pam sat beside me wiping tears from her glittering blue eyes with the corner of a designer silk scarf. I glanced over at her, dabbing daintily as not to mess her perfect makeup and was nearly blinded by the glittering stone on her ring finger. I tried not to glare at her but as the laser etched four-carat princess cut stone caught the low light of the room again it made me wonder if carrying that thing around all day would cause long term damage to her spine.
In grade school Pam and I had been equals. We’d been inseparable since kindergarten and nobody ever questioned why we were best friends until puberty hit and Pam turned into a supermodel overnight. As to whether or not this had anything to do with her perfect marriage to a rich scientist or not, that was left to be seen but they’d met in college and seemed to lead an almost magical existence together as beauty and the geek.
I squelched my jealousy. Pam was a great person, probably a better person than I was and she deserved to be happy with her husband who invented microwave bacon. She deserved to be happy living in a Malibu mansion complete with its own elevator and faux British butler.
I felt myself hunch down in my seat as the weight of my envy started to crush my inner awesomeness into a sticky paste of self-loathing.
I noticed this and straightened my spine in defiance of my own self-doubt. I was happy. Well, at least I was happier than I had been when I was married to that glorified ambulance chaser.
My life was great now… Okay, life wasn’t great but it was better than the poor guy we were remembering here today. I wasn’t even sure how he’d died and a morbid part of my brain was very curious as to how a thirty-year-old guy suddenly drops dead. This of course led to thoughts of my own mortality and the very real fact that life wasn’t forever and thus far, I’d done nothing with mine. Top off this fun fact with the current (possible medical emergency) going on between my thighs and my okay life was taking a nosedive into crappy fast enough to break the sound barrier. I needed very badly to go to the bathroom but doing so at this point in time would seem rude, and the tears streaming down my face were not for the deceased.
Sadly, I was having said emergency because of cheap Mexican hair removal products that I bought on eBay. More specifically, it may have been used on a location on my body not suggested by the manufacturer. That little red warning label wasn’t just there for decoration after all.
The twentieth girl David Bogs dated in high school was standing up to take the stage and I was starting to think nice guy was a bit of a player but more importantly, I was pretty sure my vagina was about to spontaneously combust.
The thought had me squirming in my seat. “I have to go to the bathroom!” I hissed in a panicked tone, grabbing Pam’s hand and nearly slicing my hand open on her wedding ring.
She met my urgent gaze and nodded once. “Okay…do you want me to go with you?”
I thought that was unspoken girl code anyway but instead of answering her I shot to my feet and dragged her to hers.
Everyone stopped and turned around to face us with expectant expressions on their tear-streaked faces.
I stood frozen, looking at all those faces from my past. A past I’d rather forget if given the choice.
Pam snapped to attention and flicked her wrist at them, like a monarch. “Continue.”
We burst into the handicap bathroom, which I noticed in passing was just as dreary as one would expect at a place like this and I immediately lifted my skirt and started scratching at the affected area. My eyes rolled back in my head and I blew out a sigh of relief as the itching/burning slowly dulled.
“Are you okay?” Pam’s eyes widened with concern.
“I don’t know. I need you to look.” I kicked off my heels and shimmied out of my bikini bottoms.
“Look at what?” Her eyes widened further.
“My crotch!” I hissed at her. “I think I might have chemical burn. Just tell me how bad it is.” I hopped up onto the counter between the sinks. If it’s really bad I’ll go to the hospital.
She rushed to the door and twisted the lock. “I’m not drunk enough for this, Rye.”
“It’s two o’clock in the afternoon. Why are you even drunk at all?” I lifted my feet onto the counter. “You don’t have a drinking problem do you?”
She snorted. “I hate these things. I’m only here because of you. Plus, I’m too rich to have a drinking problem.”
She had a point and who was I to judge? I was the one sitting on a bathroom sink with my legs open.
“You’re sure this isn’t a side effect of being married to your ex?” She asked, trying to seem casual about the fact that he’d basically put his dick on layaway at Walmart for the last five years of our marriage and I might have some sort of antibiotic resistant strain of Chlamydia.
Thankfully I knew that wasn’t the case. I’d been tested as soon as I found out and I’d luckily come back with a clean bill of health. On the not so bright side of the things, STD free or not, I’d essentially dumped battery acid on my coochie. “It was hair remover product.” I admitted timidly. I could no longer afford bi monthly trips to the best salons in town, just to have a complete stranger pour hot wax on my downstairs and rip the hair out by the roots.
She winced and lifted the edge of my skirt just in time for a man to walk into the room, through the supposedly locked bathroom door. We both froze as tall dark and handsome took in what he was seeing. Pam dropped the edge of my skirt and took a step back as I clambered off the counter.
“I thought you locked the door?” I asked her.
“I did,” she whispered back.
My face flamed dark red. “That wasn’t what it looked like. I’m kind of having a medical emergency.”
He slowly gave me a sympathetic smile. “I’m an EMT and a cop. I could call an ambulance?” He pulled out his badge, then his cellphone.
I narrowed my eyes at him. Of course I would run into Super Cop. I was starting to think I was the only one from my graduating class that hadn’t done anything worthwhile with my life. This guy had become Superman and I’d dropped out of college early, to marry a lawyer. Fat load of good that did me. Now, I was a secretary for a lawn mowing and pool cleaning company because I gave the workers something pretty to look at in the office and I was having my best friend give me armature medical advice because my co-pay was more than I made in three months. “Are you really an EMT?”
He smirked. “Part time, yes I am. Did you use a different soap or laundry detergent? You’re probably having an allergic reaction. I can take a quick look at it if you’d like.” Now it was his turn to blush.
“It was cheap Mexican hair remover cream, actually.” I mumbled then glanced at Pam. I wasn’t sure what the protocol was on this sort of thing. She shrugged, leaving it completely up to me as to whether or not I was going to allow a strange man to look up my skirt in the name of free medical advice. On the plus side, he didn’t mention STDs.
After a moment of thought I nodded.
“Do you mind watching the door?” he asked Pam who nodded like a bobbing head doll. Then he stepped forward, put his hands on my waist and lifted me back onto the counter, like a champ. I lifted my knees slowly as he got down onto one of his.
I snapped my legs together suddenly. “Um, my name is Riya,” I blurted out.
He glanced up at me and offered me his hand over my knees. “I’m sorry, how rude of me. I’m Jaden.”
Then he looked down and pried my knees apart gently before lifting my skirt. “Oh my god.” He glanced up at me, his face a little ashen.
“Am I going to die?” I whispered.
Pam’s eyes widened as she glanced at me.
He looked back down between my legs. “It’s pretty red and there appears to be some blistering.” He blew on the skin and my head thunked back into the mirror behind me. “Does that feel better?”
Sadly it felt better than anything I’d been able to do to myself in that last year and from the knowing smirk on Pam’s face she knew it too.
He lowered my skirt back down and I sat up. “I suggest you use a paste of baking soda and water to…prevent further damage to the affected area.”
He swooped down and picked up my neon yellow bikini bottoms off the floor and dangled them in front of me with one finger. “Laundry day?”
I hopped off the counter and snatched the underwear from his hand. “You know,” I said by way of changing the subject, “I don’t remember you from high school.” And he was hot enough to remember.
He seemed confused for a moment before nodding in sudden understanding. “You wouldn’t, I’m a detective for the case.”
“What case?” Pam and I asked simultaneously.
He held up a finger. “Your class stud. He was murdered.”
“Huh.” I pulled on my bikini bottoms and shimmied everything back into place. Jaden was watching me with amused interest. This was the look I got from most men. They always seemed interested but really weren’t sure what to do with me once they got me. I was funny from a distance but up close…I think I was just confusing. This little incident with the Mexican hair removal products was just the latest in a long line of embarrassing mishaps that controlled my life.
As if reading my thoughts he cleared his throat. “Does this sort of thing happen to you often?”
“It’s not my fault.” I explained. “My ancestor’s milk cow kicked over a lantern and burned down half of Chicago. It’s the family curse.” Pam and I nodded at him in unison.
He pinched his lips together and cleared his throat again. “I don’t know if you’re joking or not but I meant, do you ignore warning labels?”
I shrugged and pulled on my shoes with one hand on his very solid shoulder.
Pam’s eyes sparkled mischievously and she looked down at her phone. “I have to go.”
I gave her the same look Jesus gave Judas at suppertime but she smiled brightly and wondered out the door. “I’m staying at the Inn, call me later.” She yelled.
I slapped myself in the forehead. “I forgot my purse.” I was not going back in there. I hated those people and my support system had failed me as soon as she saw a potential candidate to fill the role of rebound boyfriend. I kept telling her I wasn’t interested in another man but she ignored me. She thought my lack of interest in the opposite sex had more to do with the fact that my only ever lover had been able to bring me to climax one time during our relationship.
Jaden raised his eyebrows at me. “Would you like me to help you out?”
For the briefest of moments I worried that he’d read my mind again, until I realized he was talking about the purse. I crossed my arms and assessed him carefully. “What’s in it for you?”
“I’ll get your purse but only if you give me your number afterwards.”
His charming smile withered into a slight grimace.
I immediately wanted to assure the ego bruised Adonis that my lack of interest had nothing to do with the fact that I wasn’t chomping at the bit to play doctor again. “No, it’s nothing like that. You’re very attractive but I’ve given up men.” I flashed him my tan line from where I’d worn a wedding ring for the last ten years.
Without missing a beat, he quirked an eyebrow at me, “We’re not all the same you know.”
I snorted. “Yeah but I’m allergic to green Skittles and I’m colorblind where Skittles are concerned…so rather than risk death, I’m not eating Skittles anymore.” The unspoken part was that I was really starting to crave Skittles. Funerals always made me crave Skittles. Don’t judge me.
He was obviously confused but unwilling to throw in the towel just yet. “I know that means something to you, but maybe you should explain it to me…slowly.”
“It means I’m colorblind when it comes to men and I always pick the green ones.”
“I’m not sure but that sounds a little racist,” he said.
“Okay, not colorblind, just asshole blind. Now, will you get my purse or not?”
He peered at me through narrowed eyes. “I’ll get your purse but just so you know, we’re still going out, at least once. I like you.”
“I can’t, I’m already in a relationship.” I said, desperately. I could feel my resolution dissolving very quickly under his blue-eyed stare.
“Are you in a relationship with a woman because you just told me you’ve given up on men?”
I chewed my bottom lip and his eyes darted down to my mouth. Just the fact that he noticed my mouth turned me on. What was wrong with me? “No, not with a woman. It’s actually more of a really jealous roommate situation, than an actual relationship.”
“Cats and goldfish don’t count,” he said, cueing in on my vagueness.
“Ha, joke’s on you, he’s a Doberman named Bad Larry and Larry likes men less than I do.” Bad Larry is actually a twelve-pound Miniature Pinscher but he really doesn’t like men and he doesn’t really know he’s only twelve pounds and he has a rap sheet to prove it.
I got Larry when the divorce was finalized. My ex didn’t like dogs so in an act of admittedly impulsive rebellion, I got Larry. Larry was a rescue from an animal shelter and when I saw him for the first time and discovered that he didn’t like men either, we became best friends. I promised to never let anyone hurt him again and he promised to make sure that in a moment of hormonal weakness, I didn’t let any men come back to my apartment.
I’d witnessed Larry in action twice. Once when the vet was checking him over before I brought him home and once when I was taking him out to pee and a construction worker tried to pet him. Larry is now on a city mandated bad dog list, meaning that he has to behave himself from now on or he could be taken away and put in puppy lifer prison.
Jaden shook his head at me and returned a moment later with my purse in one hand and his phone in the other. “I have to go right now but I put my card in your purse just in case you change your mind about Skittles.”
I winked at him. “You got it stud, but right now I have an emergency date with the box of baking soda currently deodorizing my fridge.”
He smiled broadly at me. “Tell Bad Larry I said hello.”
“Bad Larry doesn’t need to know about you. Trust me, it’s for your own protection.”
* * * * *