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Authors: Rita Clay Estrada

Experiment In Love

BOOK: Experiment In Love
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Experiment in Love

BY

Rita Clay Estrada

 

 

Copyright 2013 by Rita B Clay (Estrada)

All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system without prior written permission of the publisher.

 

Cover Artwork by
Sweet ‘N Spicy Designs

Paradise Publishing

 

 

DEDICATION

This book honors
the amazing early members in the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America, who came together and helped so willingly to and support Romance Writers of America’s 2nd conference on board the Queen Mary. You worked so hard for our Second Conference - bridging the gap between the first conference and making possible all other conferences when we didn’t know if our baby organization would grow or not. Thank you for all you’ve done and all you accomplished.

 

 

 

Bonus!

At the end of this book is the first chapter of Amazon’s Summer Song,
another five star rated book and Winner of the Waldon Book Award by Rita Clay Estrada

 

 

 

 

 

Experiment
In Love

 

 

C
HAPTER ONE

 

It was a sunny, quiet California morning when the alarm jangled through the masculine brown and cream bedroom. Kurt Morgan stood naked at the window overlooking Santa Barbara harbor, ignoring the breathtaking view. He turned and quickly shut off the jangling machine, then continued his perusal of the sunrise.

When he first bought this home, he used to end his day by swimming in the sea, stretching the kinks out of his tightened muscles and enjoying the chilly crispness of the surf.

He had worked hard all his life, making his news and business magazine one of the best in the nation. He had achieved all he had set out to do. He had met the challenges of life and had won at an age that was still young for his position in life. He had accomplished so much in such a short time that others envied him and women were dripping from his arm.

So why was he so restless?

Bright sun niggled at his brain, stopping him from finding peace in the scenery any longer. He walked into the bathroom for his usual stingingly cold, brisk shower.

The large bathroom was tiled and decorated in the same color scheme as the masculine bedroom. Shiny oatmeal-colored tiles lined the walls and floor and crisp cream monogrammed towels hung neatly on a heated rack. There was nothing sitting out on the pristine counters to show what type of man he was. Everything was neatly kept behind mirrored doors and smooth sliding drawers. In fact, his bathroom matched his bedroom: plain and simple in decor, yet luxurious. Everything he could possibly need or want was there.

He had been staring out the window since before dawn, watching the small sloops sailing along the coast dip and bob in the water, feeling discontent wearing at his brain. At thirty-six he felt old and tired of his regulated way of life.

With a heavy sigh, he turned on the shower and promised he’d face the day no matter how unsettled he was.

Over an hour and a half later he strode into the office marked KURT MORGAN, PRESIDENT, NEWSTIME MAGAZINE, and politely growled at his secretary for the morning’s first cup of coffee. Margaret grinned and silently complied with his bidding. That should have warned him that something was up. She had always been vitriolic on the subject of waiting on him. After all, she never tired of telling him, he paid her to be his secretary, not his maid. But for the first time in six years she wasn’t griping.

He glanced over his shoulder, almost missing the small barbs that usually accompanied his command. His normal routine was suddenly off-balance.

“Are you feeling well, Margie?”

“I’m fine, Mr. Morgan. And you?” She held out his steaming cup, and then placed her folded hands on her more than ample stomach, waiting for… what was she waiting for?

“Good. Get me the Anderson Report files, would you?”

Her look surprised him. She actually seemed pleased by his request “Are you still going ahead with that project?”

“I’ve been thinking about this series for the last two weeks. Why should I stop now?” He felt the need to stretch mentally. He was tired of being tied behind the desk and now he had to break that routine, find enough enthusiasm to begin a new project.

“Because we don’t have enough evidence to make a story?”
Her voice was dry as tissue paper.

Kurt had been considering doing a series of exposé articles on a high circulation singles newspaper that carried ads intended for the eyes of lonely people. At first he’d thought it had to be filled with nothing but ancient men and women who didn’t know how to work a computer. But he’d been hearing that even some younger people were using it to connect. Ads hinting that they could turn into swinging, sophisticated singles just by writing to the box number of their choice. So far there had been no evidence of other, more profitable, money-making industries tied to the Anderson Report — other ways to meet people and make new “friends” — but Kurt’s gut feeling told him to follow up anyway. There were plenty of people who joined organizations on line to meet the people who would take away their loneliness so they could live happily ever after.  Why was this rag still around? There was undoubtedly something wrong with the entire setup. He just wasn’t sure what it was.
Yet.

“Just find the file, please,” he said in a “business as usual” tone that brooked no argument. Margie had been with him since he had first taken over the company and knew when to obey without further argument.

“If that’s the way you want it…” Her voice trailed off as she reached for the correct file drawer.

He stood in the doorway with his back straight, his lean, muscled body taut, crossing his arms. He gave a less than enthusiastic smile. “All right, Margie.
Out with it. What is it I’m supposed to ask?”

She glared at him before breaking into a smile. “You’re supposed to ask me for the solution to getting an inside report on the Anderson paper and I’m supposed to give it to you.”

He relaxed his stance a little, placing his hands on his well-tapered hips while Margie continued to stare at him. Even at her age she could appreciate a good build and fantastic looks: dark brown hair with golden streaks; high cheekbones; deep-set golden brown eyes; a coppery California tan. Thirty-six years old and he had everything. A house on Mulholland Drive, a beach house in Santa Barbara, several townhouses and condos in and around the Los Angeles area, a cliff house in Acapulco, total control over one of the top ten magazines in the country. Enough wealth to more than maintain his style of living, including his current mistress. Everything. But none had hadn’t brought him more than momentary happiness. It was a shame he had been so discontented lately.

“What’s the answer to the Anderson muddle, Margie?” He might as well play the game. He needed to keep busy.

“It’s very simple, boss. Answer one of the ads yourself and take a ‘swinging single’ out to lunch. Ask her about herself; find out why she advertised in the newspaper to get a date, what Anderson promised and all that stuff.” The cat that swallowed the canary couldn’t have looked more pleased with herself. She stood watching one expression after another pass over her boss’ usually impassive face.

“Impossible.”

“Why?”

“It’s out of the question.”

“Why?”

He grinned before finally answering, “The chances are excellent that the girl would probably be either a professional hooker or voted the ugliest girl on the block!”

“If she’s the former, then you’d have what you need for your story,” Margie stated calmly. “And if she’s the latter, then you still have your hook. So either way you have a story, and that’s what you told me you were after.”

“Some choice!” he snorted, glaring at her belligerently. “I either get a prostitute or an absolute dog!”

Marge attempted to look patient when they both knew she wasn’t. “I’m only suggesting you take her out once or twice and try to find out why she advertised herself in a singles newspaper. You don’t have to
marry
the girl. You could consider it an experiment.”

“We’ll see.”

She put on a sweet smile and “Or you could give the story to one of the younger reporters. They’d love to sink their teeth into something like this. I don’t know why you would want to do it anyway. You’ve got enough on your plate just running this magazine.”

Margie’s logic was as irritating as it was true, especially the part concerning the younger reporters. They’d love to get their hands on something like this, and it wasn’t as if they couldn’t do it, it was just that, once in a while, Kurt enjoyed working on a story himself. He had done it in the beginning of his career and he occasionally needed to prove to himself that he could still do just as good a job as the next man.

He turned and entered the inner office. ‘I’ll think about it,” he threw back over his shoulder.

Margie tried to keep her chuckle low. He didn’t like to be told how to do a story, especially by his secretary. The man was definitely a leader…in all things. His only problem was that he had never found a challenge big enough or a woman smart enough to test his mettle, so he was still a playboy bachelor. And if the past was any indication of the future, he’d probably remain so. Especially if the latest woman of his choosing was anything to go by, Margie thought ruefully. So far, his choices hadn’t been what he wanted, but what his libido needed.

She walked back to her desk and began the morning ritual of opening mail. If only he’d give her idea some thought. She glanced at her watch. If he did, he should decide to try it by noon. On a hunch Margie picked up the phone and called down to the mail room.

“Joey, run out to the nearest newspaper stand and grab one of those Anderson Reports, would you? And bring it straight up! The boss wants it — pronto.” She chuckled as she placed the phone back on the cradle. One thing about this job, it was always different. She’d worked at
Newstime for twenty years and no two days had ever been the same.

 

***

 

Victoria Branden Brown absently chewed on the eraser end of her pencil for a full minute before she realized she had a mouth full of rubber. Again. Her mind had been working furiously all morning. She needed a new story with which to impress the city editor of the Los Angeles Messenger, something that would make him beg her to work full-time instead of just on an occasional freelance story. She had decided that The Messenger was the perfect newspaper to support her while she pursued her fledgling career as a great writer of fiction.

“While you’re finishing your notes I’ll just run this over to copy,” Gina, Victoria’s friend and lunch-mate, said, giving a big smile as she dashed out the door and disappeared around the comer.

Victoria nodded absently, her mind still on her immediate problem: how to earn money on a regular basis.

Ever since that morning an idea had been buzzing around in her mind.
Maybe this would be the one to put her on the map as a full-time employee.

She had been working as a freelancer for the past year while she secretly wrote a book, her book, at home. The only reason she had come to the
Newstime offices today was that she had just finished a story on the different types of privately owned vessels that sailed the Pacific coast and decided to treat Gina, who worked a desk at Newstime, to a celebration lunch. Gina got a regular paycheck and consequently picked up most of the checks when they went out. This was her time to pay back Gina instead of paying off bills. She didn’t want to be known as the mooch of writers.

Victoria’s article had been short, sweet, to the point and not too terribly interesting. But it paid the rent and the cost of erasers. She was dying to find a good article to sink her teeth into, but those assignments usually went to the regular full-time employees, not to freelancers like herself. In fact, the regular
Newstime staff was so efficient and well-trained that even stories that were used as fillers or human interest were never handed to reporters like her.

She stiffened her back, setting the pencil back down on the desk and staring straight ahead, her mind working rapidly.

What if she found an unexplored topic for an in-depth article? A great article? What if she got an inside story on the Anderson Report? The topic was certainly juicy enough. Swinging singles meeting other swinging singles had to be controversial, and that’s what the L. A. Messenger liked. Food for thought and let the reader make up his own mind.

She grinned and picked up the phone.
“Information? Give me the number of the Anderson Report, please.” Her fingers beat out an impatient tattoo as she waited for the number. Wouldn’t her boss be impressed!

“Anderson Report?
I’d like to place an ad in the ‘Male Wanted’ column of next week’s edition.”

Her normally smooth brow was knitted in concentration by the time she replaced the receiver. Step number one was complete, but what about step number two? How could she go on a date with a man who probably thought she was easy and stay hard to get? There had to be a way to find a date through the ad and still keep herself in one piece by the end of the evening. Her mind worked furiously as she thought of and discarded several methods. Then a thought clicked and she smiled.

Of course! Why hadn’t she thought of that before? She’d have to get a new outfit, and that would make a dent in her day-to-day income, but she should be able to handle it. Her contact lenses would have to go; she’d wear her glasses instead. That was something she hadn’t done in a long time! She mentally went over her existing makeup, discarding earthtones and light colors. She’d have to be terribly drab-looking from the neck up and sexy from the waist down. That way she could scare them with her intelligence and still stir their interest with her softly rounded form. Sort of a “come-hither” virgin! Perfect!

Gina walked back into the office. “Whew! I’m glad that’s finished for the day. That assignment was a real stinker. What the mayor of a small city thinks are big issues for his next campaign is just petty crap.” She grabbed her purse. “Let’s go. I’m starved.”

Victoria stood and reached for her own purse, then followed her friend out of the office and down the hall. Her dark hair fell long and straight to the middle of her back as she walked with lithe, unconscious grace toward the elevator. Several men turned to give the gamine-like woman a well-deserved second look, but she never noticed.

BOOK: Experiment In Love
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