A Wildly Seductive Night(6)

By: Lauren Blakely



What Tyler had in mind for Powder was the kind of risk that would make hedge-fund managers quake. But that was what Tyler did well—stare down cliffs, jump from airplanes, bet big.

Clay didn’t always see eye to eye with his cousin. “Listen,” he said, “I’m not saying I agree. I’m not saying we should pursue this client. What I’m saying is I will help you figure it out. So let’s go to this dinner and get the lay of the land.”

Tyler flashed him a smile and they knocked fists. “Thanks, man. I appreciate it.”



After the shower, Clay suited up, knotted his tie, and texted his wife that he’d be home late tonight. Past bedtime.



Clay: Be naked when I get home. I need my mouth all over that beautiful body of yours.

Julia: I see you’re in the mood for me as dessert.

Clay: Always in the mood to eat you, and you know it.





Then he fired off one more note. This one wasn’t of the naughty nature.



Clay: Tell Carly I love her and will kiss her good night when I get home.

Julia: I will, my love.





The thought of not seeing his little girl tonight tugged at his heart, but he’d make sure to find time for her tomorrow.





5





“And then he had the nerve to challenge me.” Julia pointed to her chest, still shocked at JT’s antics today. “Me. The audacity.”

“What does auda . . . whatever that word is . . . what does that mean, Mommy?” Carly craned her neck, looking up at Julia with her wide hazel eyes as they walked hand in hand along Jane Street that evening.

“It means boldness, love,” Julia said, as Ace tugged at the leash. “Heel, Ace,” Julia said to the dog, and the border collie mix fell back in step, right next to her.

Ace was full of pep and energy and needed several walks a day. Clay ran with him in the mornings, and Julia walked him each day, too. She and Carly were exercising him on their way to pick up dinner, as Julia related the basic details. While her daughter was only six and entering kindergarten when summer ended, Julia liked to share as much as was appropriate, and Carly loved tales of life on-set.

“But you can win. You’re tough.” She patted Julia’s lower back. “Don’t let him think he can beat my mom.”

Julia grinned. “No way will I let him win. You have my word.”

Julia Nichols wasn’t a one-trick pony, like JT had tried to suggest with his snide “Miss Purple Snow Globe” comment. Sure, she’d created a wildly successful cocktail that still sold well in stores and supermarkets, but she’d knocked out a few more concoctions since then, too. She had no reason to think she couldn’t do it again, and then she’d show him that he’d taken on the wrong bartender.

She’d served as a judge on The Best New Bartender in New York since the show’s inception five years ago. Byron had emailed her late one night, his note arriving when Carly was having trouble sleeping as a baby. Julia had nursed her, but Carly was fussy, so Clay had been rocking her back to sleep. There, in the dark of their West Village home, sleep-deprived and bleary-eyed, she’d read Clay the email, and they’d tossed out names of cocktails into the wee hours.

What started as a fun little game had surprisingly turned into a real thing. Clay, with his experience and contacts in the entertainment business, had inked the deal for her. The show became a fast and steady hit on one of the premiere cable networks.

The best part? The hours. Julia only needed to be on camera a few times a week when the show was being shot, so it didn’t interfere with her work running Speakeasy or, more importantly, taking care of her girl. Julia’s various gigs made it possible for her to spend time with her daughter, to take her to pre-school and pick her up and soon to kindergarten, to bring her to the park and play, and take her to gymnastics classes and camp, since Carly was wildly energetic, like a border collie in little girl form.

“What are you going to do, Mom? Are you going to come up with the best recipe ever?”

“You know,” she said, as they strolled and Ace sniffed at stoops, “I think I am.”

Carly clasped her hands together, batting her big eyes innocently. “Can I help? Pretty please?”

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