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Destiny's Chastity

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

June 29, 1998|VERONIQUE DELACROIX-SMITH | 10 TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Chapter I. Animal Attraction

Destiny Bettencourt hurriedly wheeled her shopping cart down Ralphs' pet food aisle, her intense, emerald green eyes darting about the neatly arranged shelves.

"I don't suppose they carry Ferret Chow," she muttered to herself as she pointed her cart toward the checkout line. Now she'd have to stop at the pet store, yet another errand to cram into her already frantic day. But better that, she thought, than facing her beloved yet finicky ferret Suzy with a box of Friskies again.

She mentally rearranged her schedule as she flew down Melrose in her shiny, midnight blue Ford Explorer, her long, tapered fingers impatiently tapping the steering wheel. If traffic wasn't backed up, she'd be able to make it on time to meet her friends Michele and Sarah. Their weekly girls-only get-togethers had been a routine since college, and being late was a cardinal sin.

She steered the Explorer into the last parking space at Java Universe, the gourmet coffee house that had begun springing up in almost every neighborhood in the country. Its only competition was Cuppa Joe's, and so fierce was their rivalry that people were known to have shouting matches over which was better.

Destiny's allegiance was to Java Universe--and for good reason. She was the assistant to the founder, the cunning Sir Oliver Sneddley, an expatriate Brit and former Olympic equestrian intent on world coffee domination--and squashing Cuppa Joe's like a bug.

Racing through the parking lot, her ample breasts heaving with every breath, she flung open the door and searched for her friends. Destiny was, as usual, completely oblivious to the fact that every head turned when she entered the shop.

It wasn't just her breathtaking, almost flawless beauty, which alone was astonishing. Long, cinnamon-colored hair fell in silky waves around her heart-shaped face. Preternaturally rosy cheeks, a pert nose and full, crimson lips gave her a look that was at once innocent and wildly sensual. Yet Destiny also possessed an intangible but boundless joie de vivre that was impossible to ignore and ultimately contagious.

"One minute, 45 seconds late!" Sarah chided as Destiny eased her trim yet curvaceous body into a chair. A floral minidress showed off shapely, muscular legs that owed their incredible tone to good genes and a steady date with the StairMaster. A delicate antique silver locket hung around her graceful, swan-like neck.

"Sorry, but my power yoga class ran long, then Ralphs didn't have any ferret food. . . ."

"Yeah, yeah, we've heard it all before," said Michele with a sly grin. "Des, you're always late. You need to scale back a little!"

"Hmmm. If only I could. But I have that bar mitzvah this weekend, then dinner at Rix with a client, then I have to get ready for my trip to Athens and. . . ."

"You're going to Athens?!" the friends exclaimed in unison.

"Athens, Georgia," Destiny replied, making a sour face. "Last month it was Rome . . . New York. All I want to do is see Europe before I die, but it seems whoever is in control of my fate has a lousy sense of humor."

"Certainly it's not Sir Sneddley," Sarah said, a bit of tease in her voice. "He's so smitten he'd buy Europe for you if you asked."

"Oh, please, you know I don't want that kind of relationship. I mean, I love my job, but I want to get ahead on my own merits. And Sir Oliver's hardly my idea of Mr. Right. Besides, I heard he bought his title."

"You could do worse," Michele said, wagging a finger.

"And I could do better! Look at you two--married to wonderful men, you have beautiful children, grand houses. . . . Sometimes I think I'd give it all up in a minute for that kind of life."

"Honey, you'll meet Mr. Right," Sarah said, giving Destiny's arm a squeeze. "Hey, why don't you try one of those dating serv--"

Destiny stared at her friend in horror, her eyes widening, brimming with tears.

"Uh, Des, why don't you get some coffee?" Michele suddenly interjected while giving Sarah a swift kick under the table. "It's probably been at least a half-hour since your last cup."

"Oh--OK," Destiny replied, pulling out of her shock and gently dabbing at her eyes.

As soon as she was out of earshot, Michele fixed her gaze on Sarah.

"How could you say that? After what she's been through!"

"I--I'm sorry," Sarah replied. "I just forgot. It's been so long."

"Well don't bring it up again," Michele warned sternly. "She's likely to go off the deep end."

Destiny soon reappeared with a steaming cup of low-fat, half-caff mocha latte. Whatever funk she had passed into had apparently disappeared like a meadow mist at daybreak, and her green eyes were once again dry and sparkling.

"Have you tried our new sugar-free, nonfat muffins?" she asked as she plopped a few on the table and watched them bounce repeatedly.

"Um, no, but we're really full right now," Michele said, warily eyeing the still-jiggling muffins. "So anyway, tell us about your upcoming trip. It sounds so glamorous!"

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