Sample text for Weapons of mass seduction/ Lori Bryant-Woolridge.

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Chapter One

Where am I? Pia Jamison wondered, turning on the light and looking around the beautifully appointed yet unfamiliar room. A momentary burst of panic rushed her body, replaced her morning grogginess, and cleared the way for the facts. It was December 7, and she was in Annapolis, Maryland, at the Loews Hotel, a two–hour Acela train ride away from her chic New York apartment.

The panic was unusual. Waking up in lonely hotel rooms in strange cities had been a part of her life for years now. As a senior vice president at SunFire Productions, she was constantly on the road, traveling to the far corners of the globe, overseeing the making of million–dollar videos for some of the biggest names in the music business. From Mary J. to Madonna, from Seal to Sting, from Alicia to Beyonce; to Ciara, it was her job to make sure that the images and music of these artists were presented as attractively as possible. It was a tough job and success had cost her plenty—a family of her own, for starters—but after nearly fourteen years it was one she did well and still adored.

Interview…Theo Johnson, she reminded herself.

Pia glanced over at the clock and noted with a groan that it was only 7:47 A.M. She wasn’t supposed to meet with Theo until noon. If her fretful mind would only cooperate with her body, she’d have at least another three hours of sleep. Pia wanted and needed to look as beautiful and as fresh as possible for this encounter. Her future was riding on it.

Calm down, she instructed herself. If he turns it down there are others on the list. There is no such thing as only one man for the job.

Nervous energy led her from the bed onto the floor to commence her daily yoga exercises. Standing straight, her arms in prayer position, Pia tried to calm herself by repeating a new mantra: “It’s just an interview. It’s just an interview.” Arching back and then gracefully diving forward and placing her hands on the floor and her head on her knees, she stretched her body and tried to determine just who she was kidding.

She was hoping that Theo would at least hear her out and consider the position, while knowing full damn well that his interest and acceptance had everything to do with her ability to enticingly sell herself. This could be a problem. Pia Jamison could sell a skinny teenager with a mouth full of gold, as well as the inability to pronounce most words of the King’s English, as a worldwide sex symbol, but sell herself? On this front, her confidence sagged.

Pia finished her sun salutation and moved to the full–length mirror to inspect herself. Even in her just–out–of–bed state, Pia still had it going on, she had to admit. Her mocha glazed skin was smooth and wrinkle–free–a sign she was aging well. The notable features of her face came together in a pleasing mosaic of interesting angles. The shapely pout of her mouth and slightly flared nostrils of her dignified nose balanced the stop–and–look beauty of her most striking feature—large, wide–set, golden brown feline eyes that appeared to hold the mysteries of the universe in their gaze. All this loveliness was framed by a head full of healthy black hair, cut fashionably short and fringed.

Her arms, legs, and butt were toned from years of practicing healthy eating and yoga. Gravity had been kind to her round and still firm breasts, and Pia’s stomach, never stretched to its maximum by pregnancy, was still flat. Tight abs were a coveted prize by most women her age, but for Pia they were a daily reminder of the baby she’d always wanted but hadn’t gotten around to having.

You can’t have a baby until you start having sex, she told her image. Girl, face it, you are a nosexhavin’ total usedtobe.

It used to be, as any man familiar with her womanly wiles would testify, that Pia Clarice Jamison was built for sex. It used to be that Pia, closer to forty–one than most realized, had a dangerous combination of sexual expertise and unbridled lust. She had the wisdom of more than twenty years of erotic experience and up until a few years ago had the confidence and technique to work both mind and body to their best advantage. In the old days B.C. (before celibacy), Pia had never met a man who, if she had the will, could resist her way. It used to be that seducing a man into bed or the back of a limo was second nature to Pia, and her list of “whupped” suitors was discerning and distinguished.

But that was years ago. A damn lifetime ago.

Today, she was standing in a hotel room three states from home, hoping to snag Mr. Right. But now, having gone from supersexual to damn near asexual, Pia had no idea how to attract what she needed to get what she wanted.

Walking into the Captain’s Table, a popular new restaurant on the Chesapeake Bay waterfront, Pia confirmed their reservation and took a seat at the far end of the bar to await Theo’s arrival. She’d chosen the eatery, now tastefully decorated for the holidays, for its welcoming ambiance—ambiance she hoped would help sway Theo to her way of thinking.

“Excuse me, miss, the gentleman would like to buy you a drink,” the bartender informed her, gesturing to his left.

Pia’s eyes followed his nod and rested on the face of a pleasant–looking black man. She gave him a quick smile of acknowledgment before turning back to the bartender.

“Please tell him thanks, but no.”

Before the message could be delivered, the man’s casually dressed, average–size frame was by Pia’s side, blocking her view of the front door.

“Okay, I had to come over and find out for myself,” he began with a flirty twinkle in his eye that didn’t match the matter–of–fact tone of his voice.

“The answer is, no, thank you,” Pia replied, quickly dismissing his unasked query. Despite his warm smile and friendly demeanor, she’d seen his type before and wasn’t interested in getting tangled up in his web of please–baby–please while waiting for Theo.

“But you haven’t heard the question.”

“Doesn’t matter. My answer is still no, thank you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m waiting for someone.”

“I hope he’s got a blowtorch to take the chill off,” the man sniped, stepping back down to the bar to clear his tab.

Several minutes later, the bartender placed a glass full of ice in front of her. “From the gentleman,” he revealed. Without looking over, Pia felt herself cringe at the man’s final statement. She hadn’t intended to come off so rude, but lately, when it came to flirtatious men, “cold” seemed the only temperature setting she knew.

“Pia Jamison. Girl, how you doing?” Theo asked, shaking her from her embarrassment. Forsaking all formalities, he drew her into an enthusiastic bear hug. They both could feel her body stiffen before she awkwardly eased away.

Relax. Don’t screw this up.

“Theo. It’s nice to see you. You look well.”

“You too,” he said as his eyes roamed her torso.

“Um, why don’t we grab our table so we can talk,” Pia suggested.

“Sure,” he agreed, chalking up her distant demeanor to long–standing embarrassment. It’d been a long time since their series of three dates had ended in anything but a fairy tale. He’d definitely been into her, but the last time he went without sex he was fourteen and Theo had no interest in backsliding, not even for someone as fine and intelligent as Pia Jamison.

Theo followed Pia into the dining area, taking the opportunity to check out her curvy physique. For someone not giving it up, the woman certainly chose clothing that worked to her best benefit, like today’s chocolate brown pencil skirt, leopard–print cardigan, and red high–heel pumps. Pia’s ensemble managed to show off her dynamic assets but leave the discerning eye wanting more.

The hostess led them to a window table for two overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. Just as his mama had taught him, Theo held the chair as she settled into her seat, all the while enjoying the rose–scented fragrance of her perfume.

“So…Pia Jamison…” he tried again, singing her name like it was a lyric in a John Legend song.

“That would be me…” Pia responded, sounding totally inane even to herself. She was nervous and it was showing.

“May I take your order?” the waiter mercifully interrupted.

With her lunch request of tofu and vegetable stir–fry and his of crab cakes and fries, the waiter departed. Theo stared out at the water. The view provided a beautiful natural diversion, and a grateful Pia scurried to collect her thoughts. Already this was not going well. Pia was desperately out of practice when it came to making date–friendly small talk, and the silence between them was awkward and heavy. Definitely not a primo way to begin such a delicate negotiation.

“You’re making quite a name for yourself in the sports world,” Pia said, trying to find a safe topic to tackle while she attempted to get herself together.

“I’m flattered that you’ve been keeping up with my career,” he said. Pia couldn’t help noticing that charm still oozed out of the man’s every pore. “And what about you? It’s no secret that SunFire is the place to go if you’re looking to pick up a MTV Moon Man.”

“Well, it looks like work has been very good to both of us.”

“I’ll toast to that,” Theo said, lifting his water glass, “and to that sexy body of yours,” he said, once again returning to his flirtatious self.

“Hmm. So, are you dating anyone?” Pia asked, awkwardly dismissing his compliment while trying to sound nonchalant.

“Uh, not at the moment. I recently ended a relationship. Why do you ask?”

“Just curious. Any kids?”

“Not that I’m aware of? You’re awfully direct, aren’t you? So much so, I’d say what’s fair is fair. So let me ask you: Are you still uh…going without?”

“Yes, and it’s actually very liberating not to be beholden to your libido. I am in complete control of me.” Even to Pia her response seemed stiff and rehearsed.

“Sounds very Oprah…and lonely,” he commented. “So I’m guessing you don’t have a man.”

“Well, no. I mean, not at the moment.” Damn, he was making this harder than she’d thought it would be.

“Okay, so, no man. No sex. You don’t smoke. And all you eat is rabbit food. What do you do for fun? How do you live?”

“I live very nicely, thank you. I have a great apartment, though I don’t get to see it too often because I’m always working, but at least I get to travel regularly.”

“Sounds like you have a nice existence, but what do you do to live? To experience life? To feel alive?”

“Don’t be silly. Of course I feel alive,” Pia insisted, but when he laid it all out on the table like that she now wasn’t so sure.

“Not the way you’d feel if you and I hooked up,” Theo said in a very matter–of–fact tone. His eyes spoke a different language, full of lusty promises and resuscitative powers. “Come on, Pia. You know we’d be amazing together.” He reached across the table and placed his hand on top of hers. He flashed that mind-blowing smile at her, and she could feel herself grow flustered as she quickly reclaimed her hand. “What do we say we end that nasty little drought of yours?”

“I don’t want to have sex with you. I want to have a baby.”

A big, fat, very pregnant silence fell over the table. Theo sat in stunned amazement, and Pia was furious at herself for being so tactless.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to just blurt it out like that.”

“That’s why you called me?”

“Well … yes. So what do you think?”

“I think you’ve been celibate a little too long. In the real world, if you wanna make a baby you usually have sex.”

“I mean, of course we would have to have sex.”

Have to have sex? Damn, it has been a long time, hasn’t it?”

“Look, Theo. I’m forty–one years old and have a history of female problems. I’ve always wanted to be a mother and thought I still had time, but according to my doctor, it’s now or never, and I think you’re the perfect candidate.”

“Candidate? Hell, I don’t know whether to be flattered or pissed. Why me?”

“Because I know you’re smart and successful and you obviously take care of yourself, though of course I would like to check out your medical history.”

“You really do cut to the chase, don’t you? No finesse…no seduction …just hand over your vaccination records and let’s go make a baby.”

“You don’t have to be involved. I’m not looking for a partner, just a father.”

“Then why not go to some sperm bank and make a withdrawl. It’s damn obvious you don’t need or desire a man, just his seed.”

His last remark sounded biting and cruel, and unfortunately she’d heard the crack about not needing a man too many times before. Pia brushed it off and continued her pursuit.

“I considered it, but then I thought that in the future the child might want to know who his or her father is, and I don’t want it to be some bar code on a test tube. I at least owe my child a name.”

“Well, so much for your ‘you don’t have to be involved’ theory. What about adopting? Plenty of kids out there need a home.”

“Just because I don’t want marriage or a man doesn’t mean I don’t want to experience pregnancy. So are you interested?” Pia abruptly asked the question, frustrated by her poor showing.

“Sorry, but no. I am already too busy looking after these grown–ass babies I represent. I’m not ready to take care of a real kid.”

“Look, I’m financially secure. I don’t need anything from you other than a little help right at the beginning. I’m prepared to take it from there by myself. I’ll even have a contract drawn up relieving you of any parental or financial responsibilities. You’d never have to see me or the baby again.”

“You know, for a millisecond I might have been flattered that I was your chosen one, but right there you just screwed it up. I’m not a stud service. And I’m not the kind of man who would father a child and walk away. Damn, what happened to you? You’ve become one of those ain’t–nothing–a–man–can–do–for–me types of chicks. Well, that’s not the kind of woman I want and certainly not the kind of mother I’d want my kid to have.”

“Theo, I know it sounds crazy, and I haven’t done a very good job at presenting my case, but I’d really appreciate it if you’d give it some thought.” Pia felt the heat of humiliation creep through her body, but she was too desperate to give up.

“You seem to really want this, and I really hope this works out for you, but I’m not the one. A word of friendly advice: With the next dude you approach, you might want to soften him up a bit first before you spring a request like that on him. Maybe go out on a date or two. Use some of that charm I know you still have locked up wasting away inside of you. Good luck. Nice seeing you.” Theo unceremoniously stood up and dropped several twenty–dollar bills down on the table. And with a slight shake of his head and a befuddled smirk, he turned and left.

The scraping noise of metal chair on tile floor punctuated his departure. Pia watched him walk away and was disgusted with herself for botching this meeting so badly. Twice today she’d managed to turn a man off to the point that he’d left her sitting alone and feeling like a complete and utter failure.

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
African American women -- Fiction.
Female friendship -- Fiction.