Saturday, April 15, 2006

Meet Brad O'Malley - The Hero from THE FINE ART OF KISSING

"A kiss should be blissfully unhurried..."
That's what I told Julie Wilson, America's favorite relationship guru and author when I kissed her for the very first time during one of her book signings. You see, Julie Wilson refused to make an appearance on my talk-show, 'O'Malley's Corner.' To tell you the truth, I NEEDED her to come on my show to boost sagging ratings.
Her book, The Fine Art of Kissing, took off like a rocket and people everywhere were clamoring to meet her. But I put my guests in the 'hot seat,' and Julie didn't like that. She claimed I would
trash her book, so she just kept refusing my requests...
Until I kissed her that day in the bookstore. I did it as a publicity stunt, knowing that she couldn't possibly refuse to come on my show after that. Our kiss made the six o'clock news that day. Julie's popularity soared even higher and now, she had to make an appearance. I showed her! I'm the master showman, the best in the business.
There's only one problem: I didn't expect to feel the way I did after I kissed that beautiful, bowshaped mouth of hers. And now I'm hooked...I want more, but I'm not falling for another woman, not after what my ex-wife did to me. And now Julie claims she kissed a hundred men to do research for that book of hers, but I'm not falling for it. In this scene, we're sharing a nice, cozy dinner together, but my mind's definitely NOT on food when Sam, my producer barges in...
"You know, I think I'll join you and order some dinner." Sam slid his chair closer to Julie's chair. "By the way, Brad, I meant to tell you, the network likes that idea we discussed about `the kissing challenge.'" He reached into the breadbasket and popped a piece of bread into his mouth. Then he ordered a beer from a passing waiter.
"Get lost, Sam."
"Is that how you treat your friend…and your producer…your hungry
friend and producer?"
"Did you just say the network likes the idea?
"Yup," Sam answered. "They sure did."
"Which means you went right over my head. After I specifically told you last week that my absolute, final answer on it was an unequivocal no?" Brad's lips thinned. He'd let Sam order dinner all right, then gladly help him choke on it.
Sam took a pull of his beer. "Yup."
"Don't you know any other three-letter answers?"
"Nope," Sam smiled.
Julie looked at Brad. "Would you mind telling me what you're talking about?"
"Nothing," Brad grumbled. "Just a stupid, silly idea."
Sam turned to face her. "A great idea, actually. All based on what you said during that very first interview you had with Brad."
"Something I said? What?"
"When Brad asked you about your research for the book. What you
said about kissing those hundred men."
"Oh, that statement." She bit down on her lower lip. "I forgot about that."
"Well, your viewing audience didn't, that's for sure. I told Brad we're still receiving hundreds of calls and emails about that segment. The network wants us to go ahead and have this `Kissing Challenge' thing."
Her eyes shot to Brad's eyes. "You never told me about this `Kissing Challenge.'"
"I didn't tell you because I don't like the idea-it's stupid."
"Here we go again." She threw both hands up in the air. "You don't like something, so it's stupid."
He aimed his thumb at his chest. "It's my show, honey. I'm in charge."
"Don't call me `honey,'" she huffed. "I told you I don't like it."
What he didn't like was Sam's presence…and his big mouth. Brad was enjoying his delicious dinner, some good jazz and a bonus. He was having a delightfully erotic fantasy about Julie Wilson. If she ever got an inkling of how many times he had played back that mind-
blowing kiss they shared in the bookstore, and the fantasy he was having about her right now, she'd probably walk off the show and sue the pants off him. Tonight he had come close to hauling her out of her chair and right into his lap. Brad wanted to run his hands over those pointy little knees of hers and work his way up her slender thighs. He wanted to kiss her nose and all those freckles sprinkled across it. If he had his way, he'd kiss a hell of a lot more than
that, too.
Now Sam had to bring up that stupid Kissing Challenge thing.
Brad shook his finger at him. "To go over my head the way you did was dirty and underhanded."
"Yup…it was." Sam winked at Julie.
"I swear, if you say `yup' one more time, I'll…"
"How's that gumbo, Julie?" Sam asked her, ignoring Brad.
"Fine," she murmured. "Spicy."
"Waiter!" Sam called over to a young man standing a few feet away from them. "I'll have what she's having." He pointed to Julie's half-filled dish.
Brad looked at it, too, but all he saw were the five giant shrimp and thick, brown gumbo sauce congealing in her plate. His stomach flipped at the sight of it, and at the thought of Julie Wilson kissing five different men each week during one of their segments, an idea he had turned down flat when Sam brought it up every day during the last three weeks. No way was he going to share Julie Wilson's delectable little mouth with his viewing audience. He wanted it all to himself and intended to keep it that way. Although why he wanted her so badly totally baffled him. She was attractive, but she wasn't drop-dead gorgeous like his ex-wife – the kind of woman he usually went for. He glanced at her face. He liked seeing that pretty face sitting across from him twice a week with that small, upturned nose that she stuck straight up in the air when she wanted to make a point… Like she did now. Oh hell, this was getting crazy.
"Don't get too comfortable," he growled at Sam. "You're not staying."
Sam grinned and looked at Julie. "You don't mind if I stay, do you?"
"No," she glanced at Brad. "Of course not."
"See?" Sam looked over at him. "She's nice."
Julie tugged on Sam's sleeve. "He hates that word, you know."
She propped her chin in her palm and nodded towards Brad. Her face bore a triumphant look. Brad felt like kissing her each time she got him back. Why did Julie Wilson continue to fascinate him? She didn't even travel in his professional circles like his latest on- again, off-again love interest, journalist Kristin Daley. Lately, all Kristin seemed to need was an "in" with someone so she could secure an interview. Now every time he looked at her, Brad saw a mirror image of himself in his early years-ambitious and selfish. He recalled that old saying about not liking someone because you saw something in that person that you didn't like in yourself.
"I hope you're enjoying yourself," Brad scowled at her.
"I can make life very difficult for you on our next segment."
"Oh," she waggled her fingers at him. "Like you don't already
do that," she huffed.
He liked those little hand gestures she always used, particularly when she was making a point…and that little huff she always made. Julie didn't seem to need or want a darn thing from him. Brad thought of all those times she had refused to come on his show. Most people wanted to appear on his show because of the publicity, no matter how much he badgered them. But not Julie Wilson. She didn't seem to care. And what baffled him even more was the fact that he truly liked her. It was a first for him…to actually like a woman. He could certainly claim to have loved a few in his lifetime but he could never say that he actually liked them…until Julie.
It scared him. He didn't need to add her to his pile of relationships-gone-sour. She was bright, witty and not afraid of him, a fact that served him, and "O'Malley's Corner," well. That's what this was all about, anyway. His show, and keeping it on the air – his way – not Sam's, and certainly not the network's.
"But everyone loved what she said, Brad. It also lends credibility to your segments, knowing that she researched her book so thoroughly," Sam cut into his thoughts.
Brad didn't want to know how thorough Julie's hot little mouth had been. She had buttoned up tighter than a clam about her own relationships when they were chatting during dinner. Maybe she had done far more than kiss those hundred men. Maybe they sampled her delightful little body. Felt those beautiful, pointy knees; let their hands ride up her thighs. Maybe they even felt those pert breasts of hers, too. This was ridiculous. She couldn't possibly have kissed a
hundred men. It was absurd.
"It's a terrible idea and I'm not going for it," Brad snapped.
"The network is. They love it," Sam said.
Julie tapped Sam on the shoulder. "Would you mind telling me exactly what this idea involves?"
"Of course," Sam smiled at her. "Then maybe you can convince this blockhead here," he aimed his thumb over his shoulder at Brad, "that it's a good one." He cleared his throat. "Your comment about kissing those hundred men sparked a lot of interest with our viewing audience. They'd like to see a sort of, well, demonstration, if you get what I'm saying."
She paled. "Do you mean to tell me, I'm supposed to kiss a hundred men on TV?"
A waiter came by and placed a dish full of steaming gumbo in front of Sam. "Not all at once," Sam answered. "Just a few of them each week."
"What's a few?"
Sam dug into his gumbo. "Four or five. Just enough to demonstrate technique."
Brad threw down his napkin. "This is not the damn Jerry Springer show. We're not making a spectacle out of anyone."
"No spectacle. Just good old-fashioned…kissing." Sam grinned at
Julie. "Think those guys you kissed would be willing to come on the show?"
Seconds went by until Julie answered. "Uh, maybe. I-I don't know."
Sam's face fell. "I just thought…"
She shifted in her chair and sipped some water. "It's just that it was a private, controlled study." Brad leaned back in his chair, balancing it on its two back legs. "What?" He came crashing forward. "What kind of crap is that? Private, controlled, study, my butt."
She sat up straighter. "Just what are you saying?"
"That there were no hundred men. You made it up."
"I did not."
"Did, too."
Sam held up a hand. "Okay now kids, no fighting." He looked at Julie. "Can you get hold of some of those, uh, test subjects?"
"Here's the thing about that." She smoothed her napkin over her lap, fingering the edge. She looked up at Sam and pushed her plate aside then leaned her arms on the table. "It was an anonymous study. I-I can't tell you who those men were that I kissed, because, well, I promised I wouldn't."
"Oh, this is such nonsense." Brad folded his arms across his chest.
She turned towards him. "Why is it so hard for you to believe that I kissed a hundred men?"
"It's impossible." He had a vision of one hundred hunky, half- naked men, like the ones he accused her of having on her book covers, lined up, waiting their turns to plant a kiss on those sweet, bow- shaped lips of hers. Brad broke out into a sweat. He felt it trickle down the back of his shirt.
"Did I say I did it all at once? This study was done over a period of years."
"Yeah? How long?" Brad leaned in, bending his arm over his
right thigh.
She backed up an inch. "Uh…th-three years." Her eyes darted towards the stage where Ravi's sax wailed on a high note.
"See?" He turned to face Sam. "She can't even look me in the face. She's lying. "
Sam frowned at Julie. "Looks mighty honest to me."
She poked Brad in the chest. "You know what your problem is? You think you're the only one who knows how to kiss."
Brad leaned a forearm on the table, his look smug. "Why thank you, Ms. Wilson, care to endorse that publicly?" Julie turned beet red.
Brad grabbed her wrist, tugging her forward. He made his face level with hers, his voice husky. "As I recall, you almost fainted the day I kissed you in the book store."
She stuck her nose in the air. This time, it bumped his. "It was hot in there, that's why."
"Right," he leaned back, releasing his grip on her and crossed his hands over his stomach."Sure." "Are you afraid someone might outdo you? Is that fragile ego of yours really that shaky?"
"That's it! You want kissing? You've got kissing, lady. Bring in a hundred guys…two hundred…I don't care, I'll outshine them all, you'll see." He aimed his index finger at his chest. "I'm the
world's greatest kisser."
It got very, very quiet in Birdland as the other people enjoying Ravi Coltrane's set and Ravi glanced in Brad's direction when he made his big announcement.
"That's the spirit, Brad." Sam clapped him on the back. "I knew you'd go along with this."
Brad knew he had lost his mind. What in hell had he just done?


Catherine Chernow said...

Oh my...that Brad is one hot guy! KISS ME, Brad, KISS ME!!!!!!!

Doreen Orsini said...

Geez, if Julie doesn't want his kiss, I'll take it!! I found myself leaning forward as I read the scene, as if I could close that gap and feel his lips!

Catherine Chernow said...

LOL...I know what you mean, Doreen!
That Brad knows how to kiss. Hmmm...I wonder what Julie Wilson, the heroine from THE FINE ART OF KISSING has to say about all this? I wonder what a what who's kissed a 100 guys could possibly say...

Paz Edwards said...

Great excerpt! I think those two -- Julie and Brad -- belong together!

By the way, I love your book cover!