Passion knows no boundaries in the continuing story of an unforgettable ‘cougar-cub’ romance.
Orlando Locatelli. Restauranteur and rising TV star. Damaged, beautiful and oh so young.
Flick Burrows. 40-year-old actress. Ambitious, talented and also damaged. Despite the odds – age, background and a jealous step-mother – their love triumphed. But just as Orlando moves to London to cement their relationship, Flick is offered the opportunity of a lifetime: a starring role in an American TV drama.
Separated by an ocean, they are determined their love will survive. Soon Flick is thrown into the media spotlight and so is their affair. The claws are out. Insecure about her image, her age, her future with her unpredictable, secretive Orlando, when she receives mysterious, threatening letters Flick is driven to the edge of despair. And Orlando is fighting enemies much closer to home.
In a world where they are constantly watched, and destructive forces lie unseen, waiting to pounce, how can their love unfurl and grow? But intense passion is hard to stop and some souls are meant to be together, no matter what.
Sunday morning in Manhattan, late spring: a wide, tree-lined street; sunlight dappling through leaves; beautiful people walking dogs, clutching newspapers and coffee in paper cups. The most vibrant city on earth and it was mine for the taking. It should have been perfect.
I stood outside my rented apartment on West 14th and looked up toward Washington Square. I felt empty. Three-and-a-bit weeks had passed since I’d landed in the city that never sleeps and I was exhausted. Sleep had evaded me. Not because of the delights of New York and not because of a filming schedule of 13/14-hour days – hours necessary to complete a TV pilot with limited time. Sleep escaped me even when I had the chance to rest, when I lay in a way-too-big-for-one bed.
He was all I could think about; I missed him like crazy. More than I could have dreamt. In the dead hours, I conjured him: his dangerous, topaz-hazel eyes; his long, inky hair falling over caramel-coloured cheeks; his muscular chest; washboard abs; the curve of his peachy backside; his sexy, throaty laugh. His generosity, sense of humour, and intelligence. The quiet, mysterious part of him; the buried aggression, vulnerability, and grief. I missed all of it, him, like crazy. It was driving me nuts, wild, and the pain …
The pain was physical. I felt as if someone had smashed open my ribcage, torn out my beating heart and taken a bite before stuffing it back in my chest cavity. I ached, and when I thought about him in the long, dark hours my pulse rate rocketed, my breathing caught, and my heart palpitated. Anxiety attacks threatened. I kept a bottle of diazepam at my bedside.
Orlando’s absence was a shadow beside me, and it was only when I worked a scene, when Flick Burrows became someone else – a cop, a New Yorker, recently promoted over her husband, tackling vice in one of the most dangerous quarters of pre-Mayor Giuliani Manhattan: Alphabet City – that his shadow faded. Work had always offered respite. Respite from those ill-conceived infatuations in my youth, from the difficulties with my ex, Rafe. And, yes, it offered respite from Orlando. Just a little. Without work, I swear I would have driven myself insane.
But on a film set there are long, long periods of waiting: waiting while crew sort out lighting, sound, marks to hit, camera angles. I spent over an hour in hair and make-up each morning, sitting in a trailer, dreaming, worrying, aching; pretending to listen to the idle chatter of make-up artists and hairdressers as they brushed and plucked and transformed me into an 80s siren, complete with curly perm wig and shoulder pads that wouldn’t have looked out of place on an American football player. I couldn’t get Orlando out of my head; I didn’t want to. No one had affected me like this, ever.
I was supposed to have flown home later; my bags were still packed, sitting on the dark parquet floor of the living room. Late on Saturday evening, when I was out drinking with fellow cast members, trying, and failing, to distract myself from the mounting excitement I felt at the prospect of seeing Orlando in little over 24 hours, I’d received a call from Buddy, the producer. A total and utter workaholic – read obsessive – Buddy was in an editing suite, studying the rushes from the previous day’s filming. There were problems; we’d have to reshoot, Tuesday at the earliest. I’d wanted to cry – I did later, in the privacy of my own bedroom – but in the downtown bar I sank another mojito instead. And another. Sunday morning I was desolate, and I had a stinking hangover. Done with tossing and turning, at 7 a.m., I’d called Johnnie.
‘Well hello, baby. So desperate to hear my dulcet tones you can’t wait a few more hours?’ His voice was thick.
‘What are you doing in bed? It must be midday there! You lazy bugger!’
‘Why are you not, more’s to the point, babe? No use being in bed without your hot-to-trot lover, eh?’ He laughed, low and dirty, and I heard the familiar rustle of cigarette papers. He might have given up the booze but a greater addiction was nicotine. One step at a time.
‘Oh, Johnnie –’ and through tears I told him about the delay to my return home. ‘And I can’t face calling Orlando and telling him. I want to hear his voice; I don’t want to. It’ll be agonising, so frustrating –’
‘Baby, you have to. Otherwise, the poor boy will be standing at the arrivals gate clutching a bunch of lilies all on his lonesome. Imagine how bad you’ll feel then?’
I stared at the photograph sitting on my bedside table. I’d snapped it on our return from that magical masked ball in Venice. Tired but beautiful, Orlando’s mouth was set in a scowl – he hadn’t wanted his photo taken. Those tiger eyes drew me in. That lust-filled gaze spoke volumes: I want to be inside you, fucking you so hard you’ll never forget, stamping my imprint on you.
L. C. grew up in north Wales and now lives by the sea in Brighton with three fellas (her ginger sons and husband) and a cat called Sheila. After working as a journalist, copywriter and editor of hagsharlotsheroines.com, now she writes fiction and works part-time as an editor for Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. All of Him is her second romance for Xcite, a sequel to All of Me. Both novels are set in the world of show business, a world L.C. knows well – she worked as an actress in film, television and theatre in her 20s. She loves to hear from readers and you can find out more here: www.lcwilkinson.com or you can follow her on Twitter: @ScorpioScribble or on Goodreads.