My new novel More Than Words (Pink Bean Series – Book 9) will be out next week. Here’s a preview. Enjoy!
More Than Words
© Harper Bliss
“This is the perfect location for a third Pink Bean,” Kristin says, standing in front of the large shop window. “I can just picture it already.” She turns around to face Rocco and me and reaches out her hand. “And I’m very happy to be in business with both of you.” I let Rocco shake her hand first.
Just as I’m touching my palm against Kristin’s, my phone starts vibrating in the back pocket of my jeans. I sigh because I can so easily guess who it’s going to be: Alana, trying to convince me, once again, to reconsider quitting The Lesbian Experience.
“This is a job perfectly suited for working part-time,” she said yesterday, when I was silly enough to pick up. “Even only one appointment per week would be good.”
“Do you have to get that?” Kristin asks and quickly lets go of my hand.
“Let me check.” I slip my phone out of my pocket. A picture of Liz appears on the screen. Relief washes over me and I pick up. Even though we used to be colleagues at the agency, I know she won’t try to convince me to take another client. She knows that once you’re done with being an escort, you’re done. The line has been re-drawn once and for all.
“Hi Lizzie,” I greet my friend. We’ve gotten much closer now that we’re no longer co-workers—although we never actually, in the true sense of the word, collaborated.
“I’m in my old ‘hood,” Liz says. “I thought I’d drop in.”
“Rocco and I are with Kristin at the venue for the new Pink Bean. Swing by here.” I give her the address. When I hang up, Rocco’s telling Kristin all about his interior design plans—again. His arm swoops through the air and his voice shines with enthusiasm. We’ve been talking about this for so long—although I’m not sure either one of us ever sincerely believed our dream would come true. Then we met Kristin and everything started going really fast.
“Liz is stopping by,” I say when a silence falls in their conversation.
Rocco checks his watch. “Auntie Hera should be here soon as well.”
We make our way into the empty shop.
“If only we had a working coffee machine already,” Kristin says, a smile on her face.
“My aunt will have the renovations done in no time. She’s not one of those builders who say yes to a deadline only to push it back time and time again. I’m also her favorite nephew and she can’t pull that shit with me.” He puts his hands on his hips.
“Family connections can work in your favor as well as against you,” Kristin says.
Ever since we started talking to her about a possible third Pink Bean branch, she’s been uttering words of advice like that. She doesn’t talk a mile a minute, but she’s been invaluable in helping us make our dream a reality. And as a silent partner she has invested enough money so that Rocco and I can devote all our energy to getting this off the ground as quickly as possible.
He waves her off. When they talk to each other, Rocco so flamboyant and Kristin so measured in her movements, the contrast always makes me smile. They’re so different, yet they seem to hit it off. Then again, Rocco is the kind of person who hits it off with almost everyone he meets. He wags a finger at her.
Kristin peers at it as though it’s not a gesture many people have ever had the balls to aim at her.
“Not when it comes to my aunt. Nu-uh,” he says. “She’s a woman of her word if ever there was one.”
“A woman after my own heart then.” Kristin gives him a small smile. I don’t think she’s capable of anything more generous, as though her genetics don’t allow her wide grins.
“After we’ve talked with Hera, we can set an opening date,” I say, my voice brimming with excitement.
When Jessica first introduced me to Kristin, I misjudged her as the kind of person who would take great offense at my then-profession. But looks can be deceiving—something I should know all about—and Kristin embraced the idea of the new coffee shop from the start. It helped that she already had a partnership going with two women who run a Pink Bean branch slash feminist book shop in Newtown.
“We’ll see,” Kristin says. “I know she’s your aunt, Rocco, but it will also depend on the budget.”
Rocco waves her off again. Kristin looks at his fluttering hand as though, if he waves it at her one more time, she might very well slap it away. “This is even better than mates’ rates, Kristin. This is family.”
Even I’m curious about meeting Rocco’s aunt. I’ve known him for a long time, but I’ve never met her. I do know all about her long-term partner Samantha suddenly dying of a cerebral hemorrhage last year. Rocco may have cried about it when he was with me but I’m sure he was a rock for his aunt. He’s that kind of guy. As camp as they come, with a heart of gold underneath. I love him to bits for both those elements of his personality.
A woman on a pale blue racing bicycle stops in front of the window, catching all of our attention. From her lanky form, I can tell it’s Liz. She takes off her helmet and straps it to the handlebar of her bike. She waves at us through the window.
“I can’t believe there’s going to be a Pink Bean in bloody Bondi,” she says as she steps inside. “Now that I no longer live here.”
“Sorry, darling,” Rocco says. “But this is where it’s happening. You shouldn’t have been such a lez and moved in with your girlfriend after two dates.”
The three lesbians surrounding him protest loudly, telling him off for his inane utterance of clichés. While Liz admires the space, I see a bright red flatbed truck pull up outside. The driver manages to maneuver it into a tight spot, impressing me with their parking skills.
Rocco claps his hands together. “Hera’s here.”
We all watch Hera as she descends from the truck. She stands looking at the building for a split second, just long enough for me to take her in. She’s tall with short cropped dark hair that is greying slightly at the temples. Her jeans are faded and marred with paint spots. The T-shirt she’s wearing is loose and shapeless, but from its sleeves, a pair of bulky biceps protrude. Hera pushes her tortoiseshell glasses up her nose and heads inside.
Rocco introduces me to Kristin, Liz, and Katherine. I’ve heard him talk about Katherine before. I know what she used to do for a living.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Rocco, as he’s my only nephew, but I was still hesitant to take on this project. Especially when he told me he would be ‘interior designing’ the coffee shop.
I glance around and conclude it’s a good space. It’s light and airy so it won’t feel cramped.
“The counter will go here,” Rocco says, not wasting any time. He’s like an overexcited puppy. It makes me want to pet him to calm him down a little bit, but I’d better not embarrass him in front of his business associates. I know he and Katherine will be running the show, with Katherine putting in most of the money—apparently being a hooker allows you to save up quite some cash.
Kristin will be lending her brand name and expertise, and is also investing a percentage of the money. What Rocco lacks in cash, he can sure make up for in sheer enthusiasm, I know that much. I’m secretly proud of him for doing this, for making his dream come true. Life can be so short, he’s right to make the most of it.
“Rocco has drawn up some plans,” Katherine says. “Which I’m sure he’ll share with you.”
I point at the backpack slung over my shoulders. “I’ve studied the plans already.” I lock my gaze on Katherine’s for an instant. Her eyes are dark and intense. I can see why a woman like her could hire out her… services. I quickly push the thought away. I’m here to help Rocco make his dream come true, not judge his business associate. He’s old enough to make his own judgments. I’m just the builder. I come in, do the work, and leave. “I’m here to get a feel for the place.” I glance away from Katherine. “What you’ve planned for it shouldn’t be a problem, from a builder’s point of view.” I have to admit that, though striking as she is, Katherine looks quite different than I pictured. She’s much more curvy than my idea of a high-class escort—but what do I know? She wears her curves well, however, and maybe that’s where the secret lies.
And if I’m going to do this job, I really need to get over Rocco’s friend’s profession—or former profession, so he has assured me.
“You’d best not tell your mother who you’re hanging out with,” I told him when he first told me about Katherine’s job. “She won’t understand.”
Rocco had shaken his head in that way he has, adding an exaggerated eye roll and hiss, and said, “Seems to me the one who doesn’t understand is sitting right across from me.”
When he offered me this job, I took it because I need it. Not so much from a monetary point of view—although at the time Australia wouldn’t let us legally marry, Samantha had made me the only beneficiary of her life insurance policy. She urged me to do the same, because you just never know. But now the beneficiary of my life insurance policy is dead. I guess it’ll all go to Rocco then.
No, I need this job for the distraction and as a way of getting back into it. I need to work, need to do something with my hands to chase the ever-growing cobwebs from my mind. If I have to work for an ex-prostitute, so be it. I’ve always considered myself an open-minded woman, but I have my limits. Trading sex for money is something that falls out of the boundaries of my comprehension.
“When can you start, Auntie?” Rocco asks. “And how long do you think it will take?”
Kristin steps forward. “We will also need a quote from you, Hera. On paper.”
“Of course.” I nod at her. I like her. She seems to know what she’s doing, unlike Rocco who’s been wagging his tail over this coffee shop for months now.
“You’re opening up a coffee shop called the Pink Bean?” I asked him, incredulously, when he first told me. “You’re not pulling my leg?”
He looked at me with his eyebrows all arched up. “Because we’re all gay, hence the coffee beans are supposedly pink,” he said, looking much more innocent than I knew him to be.
“Sure, dear,” I said. “If that’s what you want to believe.”
I’m glad Rocco and Katherine have Kristin on their side for this venture. It makes me feel as though I won’t be working on something that’s bound to go bust in a few months’ time.
“I’ll get you the quote, on paper, by the end of the week,” I say. “I can start as soon as all parties are agreed. I don’t have any other jobs going at the moment.” I don’t explain why. I’m sure Rocco has told them all about how his aunt has become a sad, grieving widow. “The job is pretty straightforward.” I give Rocco a quick pat on the biceps. “If we put all this vanity muscle to use, Rocco can be a great little helper if he wants to be. It should only take a few weeks. Let me have a proper think about it and I’ll give you a better idea of the time I’ll need when I send over the quote.”
“Sounds great,” Katherine says.
“This place is going to be amazing,” the lanky, toned woman whose name I’ve already forgotten, says.
“I’ll do my best,” I say.
Rocco puts his arm around me. “I know you will.” He cocks his head. “When Chris and I redid our apartment, Hera tore down the walls as if it was nothing.” He grins at me.
Katherine extends her hand. “I look forward to working with you.”
I have no choice but to shake her hand. We stand around chatting for a few more minutes, after which I do another run of the place, inspecting its nooks and crannies.
By the time I’m back in my truck, already doing calculations for the quote in my head, I’m glad for this opportunity. It’s time to get out of my house and start living in the real world again.
<<End of preview>>
More Than Words will be available on Thursday 15 November 2018