Excerpt: Please Don't Blow Up the Neighbors
I all but jumped out of my seat when I heard my name yelled from far away. I must have dozed off or something, because the boring first speaker in the lecture hall was gone. My friend and coworker, Ben, stood in front of the entire auditorium with a microphone, looking right at me. I slinked down into my seat and he laughed. I hated working for CIA just then. This was a required seminar for new recruits, entitled, 'The Magic of Distraction.' If I'd known Ben was speaking, I'd have faked a headache.
"No, Kes," Ben said. "I need you, right now."
It figured we'd be stuck with model-adorable Ben. He was a gorgeous agent, blond hair, blue eyes, and a killer white smile. He also liked to flirt a lot, especially with me.
Every face in the giant filled auditorium turned toward me. I hated Ben for this. He was going to buy me the biggest and most expensive dinner for making me die in front of everyone.
My cheeks heated up. "Where?"
"Up here, Kes. Now."
I stood up and gave my best 'save me' look to my husband, James, who sat beside me. He shrugged as if to say, 'you're on your own and I'm glad it's not me.' So, I straightened my outfit and walked the plank to the stage. As soon as I got there, I gave Ben the 'don't mess with me' glare and stood with my arms folded.
"See this?" Ben picked up my long, wavy, dark red hair in his hand. "Huge distraction, especially in places where they don't normally have red hair." He turned me slightly and held my face toward the crowd. "Green eyes. Not normal."
I shot him the dirtiest look possible, making him chuckle. He stood back and held his chin as he checked me out. "Nice body, too. A little flat-chested, but you can't have it all."
I put my hands on my hips and watched him with my mouth agape. That little…
Ben stifled a laugh and talked to the huge chuckling audience again. "This lady has done amazing things with distraction. She has it down to a science and has proven it time and time again, even before she'd trained to be an agent. She was the inspiration for my book and I'd love to have her demonstrate some of the things she's done in the past. You might want to take notes, because she's a natural."
I looked toward James, who'd hidden far down in his chair with his face covered. He probably felt like I did, terrified for what was to come.
Standing about five or six inches taller than my height, James Hamilton was very handsome, with compassionate and sexy light blue eyes and medium brown hair framing his face. His beautiful white smile and high cheekbones gave his face a model-like glow. With his sexy slightly British accent, his muscular six-pack abs, and his very caring personality added into the mix, I'd married someone who should've been in the movies or on the front cover of a magazine. It didn't hurt that James was independently wealthy from all the businesses he'd started or inherited, including the biggest newspaper in Denver. Even so, we got along really well, but also knew how to push each other's buttons. With his newly obtained doctoral degree in psychology, he thought he could counsel anyone. I think I was his only failure, because I played with his head. Even though we'd only been married for four months, I figured it was my right to play with his head a bit. It kept things interesting.
"James," Ben yelled. "Bring Kes her purse."
James took a deep breath and grabbed my purse. He walked up to the stage, handed me the purse, and headed back for the stairs.
Ben ran to James' side and directed him back to center stage, right beside me. "Oh, no, my friend. You're up here with us."
I turned toward James. "Do you want to kill him now or later?" I said it loudly enough for everyone to hear. The audience laughed. I even saw our big boss, Wilson, hiding a grin.
"Now, Kes, dear, relax," Ben said into the microphone. "I promise this won't hurt." He looked out to the audience and put his hand to the side of his mouth. "We're actually really good friends."
"Not for long," I said. There was laughter again.
Ben shot me a dirty look. "Anyway, here's how this works. Distraction is like the magician who can fool you into seeing one thing when they're doing something else behind your back. Let's take an example here. Kes, I need a sleazy woman."
I raised my eyebrows and lowered my gaze down over him. "Sounds like a personal problem."
Laughter rang throughout the auditorium. I was pushing my luck, but so was my good old buddy Ben.
Ben shook his head while clutching the mic with white knuckles. I guessed he was probably trying to control his anger, but he smiled anyway.
"No, Kes," he said. "I need you to look sleazy and I need it in less than five minutes."
Of all things to choose for me to do. I hung my head.
"What's wrong?" Ben asked me.
I looked up slightly. "This is really embarrassing. Do you know that?"
"That's funny. You weren't embarrassed when you did it before on various occasions. Should I name a few?"
I couldn't believe he'd tell my secrets. I wasn't proud of some things I'd done in the past, but knew I'd gotten the job done and saved a few lives. "Ben…"
He laughed. He was such a joker but I wasn't amused.
"Fine," I murmured. "Are you ready to time me?"
"Sure." He pulled a stopwatch out of his pocket and I waited until he set it to zero. "Go."
I removed my jacket and unbuttoned part of my blouse, and then pulled the blouse up and tied it in a knot under my bust line. I raised my hem by turning under the top of my skirt, and then opened my purse and pulled out a mirror. I applied blush, mascara, and lipstick to the max, so it would be very apparent. I fluffed up my hair and looked at Ben. "Done."
"No, you're not. I want the bra off, too."
"Ben. No," I whined, my hands falling to my side.
James, my dutiful husband, stood back, smiled, and crossed his arms. "Do what the man says."
"Oh, man." I pulled my arms out of my sleeves and took the straps off from my bra, under my blouse. I put my arms back in, and undid the bra in the back. I laid it on the table with my jacket, and turned to Ben. "Do you want anything else off, too?"
"Well, now that you say it…" He glanced at my annoyed face, and then checked his stopwatch. "No, that was great. Doesn't she look sleazy? And in only two minutes and twelve seconds, too."
The men in the audience clapped while the women took notes, like this was something special.