EXCERPT from Driving Me Crazy
Peggy loved her job as a chauffeur. She was one of a select group of women in the male-dominated industry that had the opportunity to drive prestige cars and meet the most interesting people. High profiles, celebrities, and normal, everyday business types, and then of course, there were the weddings and school formals, which were always great fun. It was a charmed position and she was grateful.
She had previously worked in a mundane office job, finding it unbearable, and considered it to be a brain-numbing, nine to five grind that was going absolutely nowhere. But it had been a means to an end―paying the bills.
This morning, as Peggy drove to work, she had the distinct feeling that something was brewing. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but something nonetheless. Normally, she felt the day was going to be great … her motto: It’s going to be a great day! But not today, for some reason. Maybe she would have an awful client―an annoying celebrity type―arrogant and insensitive. She’d had her fair share of those before, and one in particular she hoped she would never lay eyes on again. Ever!
As she pulled her car into a parking space at the rear of the Crystal Limousine Company, Gary Taylor, her supervisor, rushed across the parking lot. When he got closer, he motioned for her to wind down the window.
Peggy pressed the button on the armrest, and the window glided into the door with a muted, mechanical hum. “Morning, Gary, what’s the rush?” she asked, leaning her head out of the open window.
“Kent Reynolds is flying in today and he needs a driver,” he said, pushing a piece of paper at her. “His manager just got off the phone.”
Peggy shook her head. “Well, don’t look at me. You remember what happened the last time I drove for him, don’t you?”
Gary gave a heavy sigh. “It’s been a year, I’m sure it’s all forgotten. You’re our best.”
She glanced down and smiled. She was by no means conceited, but knew she was great at her job, and it was a good feeling to get the verbal recognition.
“I’m sure he’s over it by now,” Gary offered.
“He’s over it? What about me? You do recall what he tried to do and then almost got me fired for it?”
“Of course I do. But we got it sorted with management and you’re still here.” He gave an unsure smile, small beads of perspiration forming across his wrinkled brow.
Peggy closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She had a soft spot for Gary; he’d been good to her and had given her a job when she suddenly found herself redundant. He was a good guy, like a second father to her. Peggy gave a huffy sigh. “Oh, all right.” She shook her head and held out her hand for the piece of paper.
Gary’s smile broadened. “Thanks, hon. And I do understand why you don’t want to drive for him, but I really appreciate you doing it on such short notice.”
Peggy pressed the button on the armrest and the window glided shut. She sighed again and pulled the keys from the ignition. Gary opened the door for her. “Thanks. How much are you paying me to endure Mr. Arrogant?” she asked, frowning at him as she stepped out of the car.
“You want hazard pay, do you?” Gary chuckled as he closed the car door.
Peggy wasn’t smiling.
Her boss cleared his throat, the look of amusement disappearing from his face.
She glanced at the paper in her hand and her voice raised a decibel. “He’s staying at the Palazzo Versace?”
“Yeah. Why not? He can afford it.”
“What does he want this time?”
“Same as before. You’re to stay in the suite with him, separate rooms of course, and do his bidding … I mean drive him wherever he wants to go.” He gave her a sheepish smile.
“That’s what I was afraid of.” She pushed the paper into his hand. “It won’t work. He’s so … so exasperating. Can’t Brenda do it? Or better yet, one of our male drivers?”
“She’s driving Claudia Schiffer, and everyone else is booked. It’s always like this at this time of the year.”
“Why don’t we just drive them around and pick them up like any other normal limousine company? Why do we have to spend 24/7 with these people? Don’t you think I have anything better to do?”
“It’s all part of the service. No one else offers it and the rich and famous love the convenience of having a driver on hand. You know that.”
Peggy sighed again. “Yes, I know, but I really don’t think I can do it. The last time I drove for him he was so rude and demanding. And he expected more than just a driver. He tried to…”
Gary waved it off. “His … his management has assured me nothing like that will happen again. Reynolds has been told it’s a hands off policy, and he knows our female drivers aren’t escorts.”
“Well he didn’t seem to understand that the last time he was here.” She frowned at her boss.
“Please take the job, hon. I need you. And besides he tips well.” Gary gave her a sideward glance.
“A five thousand dollar payment does not give him the right to thrust his sexual advances at me.”
“No, it doesn’t, but you could do with the extra cash, right? Please take the job. Gary nudged the paper toward her.
Peggy’s gaze moved to the piece of notepaper in her boss’s hand. She hadn’t stayed at the Palazzo Versace Hotel before. It would be a treat she well deserved, having to endure Kent Reynolds for…
“How long?” she asked, folding her arms across her chest.
“How long do I have to put up with the unbearable Mr. Arrogant?”
“Only seven days. Think you can handle it?”
Peggy snatched the paper from his hand. “Sure, especially when I’ll be staying at the Versace hotel.”
“Thank you.” Gary’s hands met in prayer. “All the flight details are there, he’ll be flying into Brisbane…” he said, glancing at his watch, “in an hour. You’d better get a wriggle on. Don’t want to be late.”
“That was extremely short notice, wasn’t it? Has the US finally wised up and exiled him out here for being an insufferable jerk?” Peggy was still uncomfortable about taking the job and having to spend seven days with the actor in his hotel suite.
“Yeah, probably. Poor us. His management doesn’t want too many people to know he’s arriving. You know how the paparazzi can get; it’d be a zoo out there.”
“He’ll be jet-lagged and totally intolerable. You know that, don’t you?” She crossed the parking lot to the back entrance of the building. Her boss followed.
“Just don’t let him get to you.” Gary knew that was impossible. He’d met Kent Reynolds once and had experienced firsthand what a condescending piece of work he could be. He admired Peggy for actually accepting. He thought he wouldn’t be able to talk her into it.
“Easier said than done, I’m afraid.” She stopped and turned around. “I just want to hit him with something hard. Knock some sense into that self-absorbed brain of his.” She continued inside, Gary followed. “He’s the kind of person who knows exactly which buttons to push … and when.”
“Hon, I have the utmost confidence in your professionalism.” Gary didn’t know how to respond to her comment about assaulting the actor. He hoped she was joking.
Peggy glared at him sideways. “Right. What if he doesn’t want me to drive for him?”
“If he decides to complain he can drive himself around. But he has no option. It’s a busy time of year and you’re the only available driver right now.”
She really wished she wasn’t.
While Peggy changed into her chauffeur uniform, which consisted of a white shirt, black jeweled cravat, fitted, single breasted jacket and black tailored pants, she thought about the arrogant Mr. Reynolds. He had fallen into an acting career years ago because of his incredible good looks and steamy bedroom eyes. She had to admit he was attractive, but that was all. He had no genuine attributes or personality―none that would attract the right people into his life, anyhow. His attitude and the way he treated people was appalling. Her mind wandered back to the first night she had stayed in his hotel suite…
…The evening had started out reasonably well, until room service was late with dinner. Kent had been pacing and was clearly ticked off by the time the meal arrived. Peggy had been embarrassed when Kent berated the young room service guy for being five minutes late, even though he’d tried to explain that the hotel was a few staff down, due to the fast-spreading flu. Kent hadn’t cared at all, telling him not to bother with excuses.
After the young man rushed out the door, Kent slamming it behind him, the actor turned on her, his angry eyes boring into her core. “Well,” he ordered, hands on hips. “Don’t just stand there looking at me like that. Sit down.”
Peggy opened her mouth to respond, but he raised a dismissive hand, saying ‘don’t bother’.
She had really wanted to voice her opinion, but decided it would be a waste of energy. He didn’t give a damn what anyone thought. Instead, she walked across, pulled out her own chair and sat down opposite him at the over-sized, circular mahogany table. Not knowing whether to attempt conversation, she ate in silence. But Kent wasn’t about to let that happen.
“Peggy, isn’t it?” he asked, his brooding gaze focusing on her, making her feel uncomfortable and self-conscious.
“Yes,” she replied.
She frowned. “Why what?” she asked, her gaze meeting his. He was so good-looking, even at forty-something. Dark brown, shoulder-length hair, pale clear skin, his chin adorned by a closely cropped goatee, and beautiful, chocolate brown eyes. She couldn’t understand why he chose to be so unpleasant when he had everything going for him.
“Why Peggy? Why not…?”
“Does it matter?” she countered. “Why is your name Kent? Why not Kenneth or Keith or…”
“Touché,” he replied, and continued eating his meal.
Peggy studied him for a moment, trying to determine the point of their brief encounter before continuing her meal. There didn’t seem to be one.
All of a sudden, Kent pushed back his chair, got up from the table, and walked across to the well-stocked bar in the corner of the large room. He took two glasses from a shelf above his head, sat them on the counter, then surveyed the bottles of wine nestled in the rack behind him. Finally sliding a bottle from its v-shaped resting place, Kent studied the label before uncapping it and pouring two glasses. He picked up the bottle in one hand, the glasses in the other and returned to the table, sitting the bottle between them.
“Here,” he said, shoving the glass at her.
Peggy glanced up at him and took the wine glass from his hand, their fingers touching and sending a tingle through her body. “Thanks.” She sat it on the table in front of her.
“You’re not going to taste it?” Kent asked with an incredulous glare.
“Oh?” Peggy gazed at the deep red velvet liquid in the short-stemmed wine glass. “You want me to try it now?” “You’re damn right I do. That’s a $500 bottle of wine. A Chateau Latour Bordeaux, to be precise.” Kent moved around the table and sat down opposite her again. “So drink up, there’s plenty more where that came from. And I plan to get wasted tonight.” He sucked in a large mouthful of wine.
Peggy wasn’t a drinker. She’d learned the hard way once at a party, when she’d consumed two glasses of wine on an empty stomach and made a complete fool of herself by climbing onto a table and doing a seductive striptease to the Marvin Gay song ‘Sexual Healing’ in front of her then new boyfriend, David, his mates and their girlfriends. The guys had hooped and hollered, calling ‘take it off, take it off’, but their girlfriends hadn’t been amused, and neither had her boyfriend. Suffice to say the relationship didn’t last long after that little alcohol-induced performance, and she’d promised herself never to do it again.
Kent gazed across the table, noticing she was distracted. “Where’d you go just then?”
The embarrassing memory quickly dissipated. “I beg your pardon?”
“I asked where you went. You were definitely somewhere else.”
“Oh, just remembering something that happened once after a couple of glasses of wine. I’m not a big drinker.”
Kent’s face darkened, and he smirked at her. “Did something you regret, hm?”
She’d known exactly where his mind had gone … to sex. He’d assumed she had gotten drunk and had random sex with some guy. She decided not to elaborate and leave him wondering…
…Peggy pushed her cap onto her head, gave herself the once over in the full-length mirror, and headed out to the garage. Gary was waiting for her with the keys to the BMW 750i. She was thrilled. At last she had the chance to drive her dream car.
Her boss dropped the keys into her hand. “I know you’ll take good care of this little beauty,” he told her, running his hand along the glossy paintwork of the elegant, black sedan.
“Thank you.” Peggy’s smile broadened.
“It’s the least I can do, considering.”
She kissed his cheek. “You’re one in a million.”
Gary’s face reddened. “Better get going. The king’ll be arriving soon.” He opened the door for her. “And you don’t want to be late.”
Peggy slid into the luxurious, leather seat and gave an appreciative sigh. She had died and gone to heaven―prestige car heaven that is.
The drive to the airport would take about an hour, so she could cruise along the highway, enjoy the ride, and familiarize herself with her new toy. The ride was smooth and exceptionally quiet. Peggy slid through the toll detector with the device on the dash, and continued along the Gateway freeway toward the airport.
When she drove over the crest of the Sir Leo Hielscher Bridge she could see that the traffic had ground to a halt. She slowed the limousine and stopped behind the other stationary vehicles. The freeway usually flowed smoothly and Peggy figured there must have been an accident somewhere up ahead. She turned on the radio to listen for a traffic report, and glanced at the time. Mr. Arrogant would have already landed, gone through security and, right at that moment, would be collecting his luggage. Oh well, there’s nothing I can do about that now. He’ll just have to wait until I get there, won’t he.
The traffic was doing the stop-start shuffle, and as Peggy inched her way along the highway she noticed the exit sign for the airport not far up ahead, but knew it would take ages before she reached it. The female radio announcer reported that there had been a five car pileup on the north bound lanes and it would take some time to clear. Peggy sighed and drummed her fingers on the steering wheel. Kent Reynolds would be furious by the time she pulled in to collect him, and she would have to endure him berating her for not being on time all the way to the hotel.
When she got off the freeway, Airport Drive wasn’t at all congested and the International Airport quickly came into view. She breathed a sigh of relief, swung the BMW around and continued up to ‘Arrivals.’
Peggy pulled the limousine into the curb at the far end of the building and spotted the actor standing with an Airport Security Officer. No paparazzi in sight. They glanced over at her as the car stopped in front of them. She shrugged off the uncomfortable feeling, pressed the button on the console to pop the trunk, opened the door and stepped out of the vehicle.
“I apologize for being late, Mr. Ar … Reynolds, but there was an accident on the freeway and it held everything up.” She gave him a thin smile and crossed the sidewalk to pick up his luggage.
Kent Reynolds turned to speak to the security officer, who shook his hand and walked away, then the actor approached her. “I didn’t expect to see you again. I thought you’d been let go.” He frowned at her, remembering their encounter in his hotel suite. After plying her with a couple of glasses of red, he’d attempted to have his way with her, until she managed to knee him in the balls. It had hurt like hell and he couldn’t stand up for a good ten minutes afterward. That had been a year ago and things had changed significantly since then.
“No, Mr. Reynolds, as you can see, I’m still with the company. Our other drivers are fully booked, so you’ll just have to tolerate me, I’m afraid. Now, can I take your luggage for you, sir?” She hated calling him sir. What she really wanted to call him was asshole.
Kent folded his arms across his chest. “Go right ahead.” He knew she wouldn’t be able to lift the large suitcase into the trunk of the limousine by herself but he thought it would be amusing to watch her try.
Peggy reached for the handle of, what appeared to be, a heavy suitcase and attempted to lift it off the ground. She couldn’t. She gazed along the sidewalk, hoping there was someone who could help her, but there was no one other than the actor.
“Having some difficulty?” he asked, walking over to her. “I’d be happy to help you with it.”
Peggy wasn’t about to give in. If he helped her, she would have to do something for him. And she knew exactly what that would entail―sleeping with him. She swallowed the angry lump in her throat. “No thanks, I can manage.” The suitcase had wheels, so she dragged the cumbersome bag across to the open trunk and struggled to get it off the curb. It was way too heavy for her to lift, she knew, but she wasn’t going to give Mr. Arrogant the satisfaction of having something to use against her later.
The actor stood on the path smiling as he watched her struggle with the suitcase. He could have picked up the two flight bags and dropped them into the trunk, but he enjoyed watching her try. She was a feisty little thing committed to doing her job, no matter what.
“Are you sure I can’t help you with that?” he offered.
Peggy was determined to get the suitcase into the car, one way or the other, without his help. She had no intention of becoming another of his conquests. “No thank you, I’ve got it.” She knew she didn’t.
“This is going to take awhile, you realize,” Kent told her. “If you just let me help…’
Peggy swung around and glared at him. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you? You think I’ll give in and let you help me, so that you can sleep with me … is that it? Do you think I’ve forgotten what happened last year? Well, I haven’t.”
Kent frowned at her. He’d been totally unaware that so many people had had such a low opinion of him. Although, he realized, he had been pretty intense back then. He’d come to understand his actions were hindering his career and his relationships, and that people didn’t want to work with him or for him. In the end, he’d asked his manager for help. Eric Schwartz had offered him the name of a good therapist, and one year later Kent was a changed man. How could he explain to this woman, one he had tried to take advantage of, that he wasn’t the same person she’d encountered a year ago?
“Look, I don’t want anything from you. I’m only trying to help you get the bags into the car.”
“Oh, right, like you do that every day.”
Peggy raised a dismissive hand. “Don’t bother. I know exactly what kind of man you are.” She shivered, remembering his body pressed against hers, his tongue probing her mouth, and his roaming hands unbuttoning her blouse in his hotel suite that night.
Kent’s management had offered her a meager sum in compensation, which she’d refused and had her sign a non-disclosure agreement. After that the incident was quickly swept under the carpet.
At that moment, an attractive blonde strutted out of the airport and came over to Kent. “Are we ready to go?”
“Not yet. The driver’s having some difficulty getting the bags into the car.” The actor pulled the young woman to him, sliding his arm around her tiny waist.
Peggy’s mouth gaped, and she realized Kent and the nameless young woman were staring at her. The oversized suitcase had to be hers. Peggy wondered who she was. A colleague? His girlfriend? She suddenly became aware of her feelings … was she jealous? No, that’s not possible. She despised Kent Reynolds.
Kent moved away from the young woman. “Here, let me do that.” He walked over, picked up the suitcase without effort and tossed it into the trunk. Then he picked up the other two bags, dropped them inside and closed the lid. “Can we please go now?” he asked, a look of amusement on his face.
Peggy looked into Kent’s eyes, becoming lost in those amazing brown pools, and for a moment forgot where she was. She noticed that his eyes were a rich, milk chocolate color. Beautiful bedroom eyes. Her heartbeat quickened, and her face grew warm.
The young woman waiting on the path cleared her throat, snapping Peggy out of her daze. “Oh? Yes … of course.” She stepped around Kent and opened the rear passenger door.
Kent escorted the young woman over to the BMW, helped her into the vehicle, and climbed in beside her. Peggy closed the door, rushed around the car and slid into the driver’s seat.
The drive to the Palazzo Versace Hotel on the Gold Coast would take some time, and as Peggy glanced into the rearview mirror and saw the pair kissing in the back seat, she realized it was going to be an extremely long drive.
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© 2012 Maggie Anderson
Bella Luna Books, Australia
All rights reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or otherwise, without written permission of the Author.