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Destiny's Chastity

A Story of Summer Love (and Other Stuff as We Think of It)

July 13, 1998|VERONIQUE DELACROIX-SMITH | 10 TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Our story so far: Destiny is swept away by Hunter, and a date is planned. But Hunter is mildly haunted by the locket Destiny wears.

Chapter III

Mystery Man

Hunter's gaze shifted to another photograph in the locket Destiny had dropped, and he stared, transfixed, at the man's face under the cracked glass. He slipped the picture out, turned it over and read the inscription: "To my little Sis. Love, Chad."

A shock of recognition washed over him. Only recently, he'd seen that face in a silver frame on his mother's dressing table at the Hancock Park house. This was her love child, the infant she'd given up for adoption 25 years ago. Only a few weeks ago her "darlin' baby boy"--Chad--had found her.

It seems that Hunter's mother, Bettie, had a past, a possibility his father, Deleftwich Templin (from old Pasadena money), had conveniently chosen to ignore until very recently. Bettie, with her big hair and her blue eye shadow (frosted, for God's sake), had bedded a few Biloxi boys before heading out to Hollywood and bit parts in flicks like "Hell's Harem."

She was waiting tables at Scandia when she met Lefty (who'd dropped the Deleftwich immediately after the reading of his rich Uncle Deleftwich's will). The "group" at Lefty's country club called his new bride "Betty Boop." At least his first wife had been to the manner born--Westlake School, debutante balls, Westside family north of Sunset.

As a child, Hunter had overheard whispers about "poor Tracy," who was always referred to as "Lefty's late wife." What wasn't mentioned was that she wasn't late until after their divorce. In time, Hunter learned that Tracy had run off with Flint, her young tennis coach. Desperate to shed a few years, she went in to get nipped and tucked and lifted--and never woke up.

Hunter didn't resent Chad--in fact, he was eager to meet him. But why did he have to surface now, just as Hunter had met Destiny? A tide of foreboding washed over him: Were he and Destiny brother and sister? And where did the other man, G.O.D., fit into the puzzle?

He wouldn't breathe a word of this to Destiny, not yet.

*

Destiny's Explorer zipped into a parking slot behind Sunset Plaza, cutting off a crimson Miata with a RDREBEL plate. "Moron!" growled the blond in the Miata. Destiny just smiled and purred, "Extend claws, advance." She was in too good a mood to be upset by a little name-calling. It was Saturday, and she had an appointment for the works--manicure, pedicure--at Jessica's, nail salon to the stars. After all, tonight was her first date with Hunter.

Heat waves danced on the pavement as, buffed and polished, she stepped into the full fury of a scorching July day. Her clinging jersey mini-dress accentuated her full breasts and her long, lithe legs. Entering Chin Chin, she ignored two men who stopped, chopsticks midway between plate and mouth, to undress her with their eyes. She ordered the usual--Chinese chicken salad, "hold the chicken, please"--a treat she permitted herself after a week of aerobics.

The sale signs in the Sunset Plaza shops beckoned, but it was too hot to shop, so Destiny joined the line of traffic snaking up over Coldwater Canyon to the Valley, heading for home, where her pet ferret, Suzy, was waiting to be picked up. Slipping her cell phone from its case while applying a bright red lipstick to her soft, full mouth and negotiating an S-curve, she dialed Ferret Fitness to confirm Suzy's standing Saturday workout time.

But her mind was on Hunter. On the way his strong arm had accidentally brushed hers as he reached for the ferret food, sending a surge of electricity shooting through her; on the rippling muscles beneath the flannel shirt. That voice--sandpaper and velvet--and the slow, tantalizing smile that lifted one corner of his mouth.

Her fingers tapped out a gradually accelerating beat on the steering wheel. She reached for her Prada-knockoff purse, into which she'd tucked a magazine ad for a better-sex video that promised, "Know-how is still the best aphrodisiac." If there was anything Destiny needed, it was a little know-how. And a little sex. Beneath that mane of cinnamon hair, those emerald eyes with their velvety black lashes and that taut midriff with its tiny tattoo beat the heart of a virgin. She'd order the video. By FedEx. Overnight.

Stopping at Ralphs, she picked up the basics for the week ahead: six Lean Cuisines, 12 nonfat yogurts, 12 bottles of Evian, fat-free rice cakes and a quart of Ben & Jerry's chocolate-chip cookie dough ice cream.

The phone was ringing as Destiny unlocked the door to her apartment, a Studio City studio--part Ikea, part Crate & Barrel, part Shabby Chic, with a sprinkling of romantic Victoriana. Destiny always did feel she was born 100 years too late. The men she'd dated weren't exactly looking for a girl just like the girl who married dear old granddad. She raced for the phone, gasping, "Hunter?" A voice chirped, "Hi. MCI calling. . . ."

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