BEDHEAD is an Ellora’s Cave erotic romance novella, part of the multi-author Skin Deep Series.
Here’s a blurb and the beginning of the book!
Bedhead is a book in the Skin Deep series.
Michele Peterson is young, pretty, healthy…and bald. Being a woman with alopecia isn’t easy—not only do strangers treat her as if she’s a cancer patient, but hiding her bald head under a wig is hard on her sex life. Michele can’t shower with a lover or feel his hands tangled in her hair in the throes of passion. So at the age of twenty-six, she remains a virgin. Then a generous benefactor agrees to finance hair transplant surgery. Just in time too, because Michele thinks she’s met The One.
Andrew Calhoun doesn’t understand why the incredible woman he’s falling for is so distant—pulling away just as he thinks they’re making a connection. When he discovers her secret, he’ll have to make her realize that bald really is beautiful—before she goes through a potentially dangerous cosmetic surgery just for his sake. And the best way to make her feel desirable…is in bed.
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An Excerpt From: BEDHEAD Copyright © SHOSHANNA EVERS, 2011
All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
Michele Peterson looked up at the ceiling fan, which seemed to just waft the stifling hot air around her tiny one-bedroom apartment rather than do its job. Beads of perspiration covered her upper lip, and she knew without glancing in the mirror that her face was bright pink, flushed with heat.
“I need a beer,” she announced to no one.
An image of an icy cold bottle settled into her mind, straight out of a beer commercial. Snow-capped mountains and whatnot. Michele sighed with pleasure at the thought. All right—she’d have to make herself decent to go out, even if she just went down to 107th and Broadway to the corner market.
She grabbed the heavy blonde wig off the mannequin head and pulled it on, the scratchy weight of it already making her feel about twenty degrees hotter. She may as well be wearing a wool hat in the middle of a New York summer.
The synthetic wig’s bangs hung low across her forehead, hiding the fact that her eyebrows, like her eyelashes and the hair on her head, were almost completely gone. Her hair had fallen out a few months after her seventh birthday and, after running a bunch of tests that proved she was completely healthy, her doctors gave her and her mom the diagnosis—alopecia areata. Not much she could do about it, though god knows they both tried. Almost twenty years later, and her hair had never grown back to its former glory. Some bits stuck out of her head in patches—short crinkly hairs, almost like the scant hair she was too embarrassed to have a bikini-waxer remove.
I can’t go outside without the damn wig. When she went out bald, everyone treated her as if she were a cancer patient or something. As if she were sick and suffering through chemotherapy. Perhaps if she'd lost her hair from chemo she'd be able to look at her lack of hair as a battle scar from a war she'd fought and won. She wished she could go back in time and make child-Michele a T-shirt that said I’m not sick—I’m bald. And then another T-shirt that said If you’re reading this shirt, Congratulations—you’re not staring at my head.
Michele sighed. If she ever had a kid with alopecia, she’d make her snarky shirts at one of those design-your-own-shirt places online. Not like that would ever happen. She’d need to have sex to have a kid, and what man would want to screw a bald chick? A twenty-six-year-old virgin bald chick. That was just bad mojo right there.
Brushing the wig into place, she grabbed her keys and walked down the four flights to the street. Just for now she decided to forgo the false eyelashes she usually applied, although her lashless eyes also made her look, well…off, somehow. At least to her.
The dirty city air outside hit her thick and heavy, covering her body with a fine layer of yuck she’d have to shower off later. She walked toward the corner market, barely noticing the other people brushing past her on the crowded sidewalk.
“Hi, Mr. Patel,” she called as she stepped into the store.
The owner smiled and waved back before returning his attention to the long line of customers. Michele went straight to the refrigerated wall stocked with beer and milk and grabbed a six-pack of Amstel Light. A tall guy—with a thick head of gorgeous brown hair—reached over next to her and grabbed the same thing.
“Great minds think alike,” he said, smiling at her.
He had a five-o’clock shadow despite looking as if he’d shaved that morning. Lucky bastard. He was probably covered in hair. He wore a simple T-shirt but an expensive watch, an enticing combination.
She smiled back at him. He’s cute. But she wasn’t wearing her eyelashes. She looked awful. Turning away, she took a deep breath. Chill out.
“Oh, yuck,” the cute guy exclaimed. “That couldn’t feel good on your head.”
Oh. My. God.
She turned back to him, horrified. Usually people had at least some semblance of manners and didn’t point out the wig.
Holy fucking shit.
“Wh-what?” she stammered.
“The air conditioner,” the guy said, pointing straight up above them. “It looked like it dripped nasty runoff water right on your head. You didn’t feel that?”
Michele reached up and patted the top of her wig experimentally. Wet.
“Eww,” she said, laughing nervously.
Of course she couldn’t feel anything falling on the wig, it wasn’t really her scalp or her hair. But he didn’t know that.
He pulled out a clean handkerchief and reached out to touch her head.
“No!” she cried, pulling away.
“I’m sorry,” the guy said, taking a step back. He put his hands in the air, like I surrender. “I just moved here from Ohio—I keep forgetting that New Yorkers don’t want to talk to strangers.”
“What? That’s not true. I don’t want you…groping me, that’s all.” He’d hardly been groping her, and now she felt a bit silly.
“Of course,” he said, looking suitably embarrassed, although he hadn’t actually done anything wrong. “I’m Andrew Calhoun, by the way. I swear I’m not as weird as I seem.”
Michele laughed. “I believe you. I’m Michele.” She stuck her hand out and he gripped it, his hand large and surprisingly cool compared to her heated, sweaty palm. Maybe from holding the beer.
“So, are you a native New Yorker?” Andrew asked. “You’ve got a bit of an accent.”
“Really? This is nothing compared to some of my friends,” she said. “But yeah, born and raised.” She hefted her six-pack and joined the long line of customers waiting for Mr. Patel to ring them up.
Andrew stood behind her, holding his beer and a bag of chips.
“Long line,” he commented.
“You know, there’s a bar across the street,” he said. “I mean, of course you know. You live here. You think it’s air-conditioned?”
“Should be,” she said. Could the hot guy be flirting with her?
“Can I buy you a drink? I bet we’ll get served ten minutes before this guy ever gets to us.”
He just asked her out. Definitely. Even though she wasn’t wearing her eyelashes and she had nasty runoff water on her wig. Should she go? No, definitely not. Well, what the hell. This kind of thing didn’t happen every day…or any day, really. “Sure!”
Too desperate. Chill.
Shrugging as if she didn’t really care too much either way, she took his six-pack and set it next to hers back in the fridge area of the store.
They walked out together, and Michele wanted everyone to see her with the cute guy—to know they were going to get a drink together. Look at me, Mr. Patel, she thought. She’d been shopping there for two years, but never with a guy.
Someday I’m gonna come in here and buy condoms from behind the counter. And I won’t even blush.
She sighed. Yeah, right.
Andrew’s large hand touched the small of her back, gently guiding her off the curb and across the street. She reveled in his touch, feeling the heat of his hand through her light tank top.
It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the dim light in the blissfully air-conditioned bar. Andrew led her to the bar, where a few guys sat entranced by a game on the overhead television.
“Two Amstel Lights,” Andrew asked the bartender and patted an empty barstool. She sat, balancing precariously on the wobbly seat, but Andrew just stood there next to her, leaning his elbow on the bar counter. “Thanks for coming with me,” he said. “This is the first Sunday I’ve had in New York since I finished unpacking stuff.”
“Wow, you really are fresh off the bus,” she said, laughing.
“Yeah. Don’t mug me.” He grinned and slipped a tip to the bartender when their drinks showed up, thick drops of cold condensation on the bottle. “Just like a beer commercial,” he said, taking a long gulp.
“I was just thinking that!” she said, doing the same and, remembering what he’d said earlier added, “Great minds think alike.”
“Oh, this is weird. I was just thinking that.”
She giggled, feeling tipsy even though she’d barely drunk half her beer.
“Sorry I groped you before. It’s not my style.”
“Oh come on, you didn’t really grope me and you know it,” Michele said. “I just get uncomfortable when someone grabs at my head.”
Did Andrew really not recognize she wore a wig? That she had no eyelashes or eyebrows?
Tell him. You have to tell him or it’s just wrong.
And if she didn’t, when he found out he’d feel as though she lied to him.
Just tell him now and get it over with.
But sitting there in the dim bar, feeling desirable for the first time in a long time, she couldn’t do it. Couldn’t tell him that under the wig, she was bald.
If only I had hair.
If she had her own real hair she could finally feel comfortable having sex with a man, she just knew it. She even wrote an email to the Durban Trust to see if she could be a beneficiary of one of their generous cosmetic surgery grants. She attached a picture of herself without the wig on and everything, and told the truth for the first time in writing—that she needed hair so she could lose her virginity. Feel a man’s hands tangled in her hair, tugging on her ponytail, smoothing the sweat-covered strands from her forehead after a night of lusty sex.
She must’ve scared the hell out of them because the Trust retained a psychotherapist who called and gave her a phone consultation about the whole thing. That was two weeks ago, and she never heard from them again. She’d avoided checking on the status of her query because she really didn’t feel like hearing the rejection. And she certainly couldn’t afford to pay for hair transplant surgery on her own.
So if this was her only chance to feel beautiful, right now in this bar with this hot guy, then she had to just go for it.
Michele shrugged and took another sip of her beer to avoid answering Andrew’s question about why she didn’t want him going near her head. Why wasn’t she over this by now? Twenty years of being bald hadn’t really gotten easier with time. Especially when she met someone new. The woman who won Miss Delaware that time—she has alopecia too, Michele reminded herself. She’s not ashamed to go out bald or with a wig, she feels beautiful either way.
Andrew gazed into her eyes and all her thoughts of wigs and baldness and feeling uncomfortable dissolved. “You’re gorgeous,” he said.
Michele laughed. “Okay, I think you’ve had enough to drink.”
“I’m serious. And you have such beautiful long hair. I love blondes.”
Michele felt her excitement wash away as suddenly as if he had dumped a whole bucket of water on her.
“I said something wrong,” he said, reaching out for her hand as she turned to get off the barstool. “I’m sorry, I put my foot in my mouth. You probably get hit on all the time. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Is this guy blind or what?
“No, you didn’t upset me,” she lied. “I just realized what time it was. I have to go. Thanks for the beer.”
She slid off the barstool, flashed what she hoped was a friendly smile, and walked outside. The thick city heat hit her and she took a shaky breath. She really had to talk to her landlord about the broken air-conditioning. If it hadn’t been so hot in her apartment, she’d never have come out and met Andrew—and never gotten her hopes up for nothing.
Michele turned at Andrew’s voice behind her.
“Here’s my card,” he said, handing her a white business card. Andrew Calhoun, Advertising Executive, it read.
So he knew all about the importance of packaging and image. And he liked blondes.
“Thanks,” she said, plucking the card from his hand. The walk light hadn’t changed yet but Michele just wanted to get away so he wouldn’t see her cheeks burning with embarrassment. She stepped into the street, a yellow cab honking as she came within inches of its tires.
She half walked, half ran all the way back to her four-story walk-up with the broken air conditioner. Bolting the door behind her, Michele sat on the threadbare couch in the middle of the apartment and fought back tears of frustration.
If I had hair, this wouldn’t have happened, she though miserably. They’d still be at the bar, talking, flirting and maybe getting a little tipsy. Then she’d invite him back to her place and they’d f-ck each other silly.
She tore the wig off her head, relishing in the feel of air on her sweaty scalp. Grime from the runoff water that had fallen on her wig coated a few of the synthetic strands. She stood with a sigh and carried the wig to the sink, where she washed and combed it before setting it back on the mannequin head.
He loves blondes. God she was a moron. Why’d she even accept Andrew’s invitation in the first place? She’d already known where it would go—nowhere. It certainly wouldn’t have ended up in bed, which was where she most wanted to see Andrew.
An image of his impressive physique showing through his T-shirt flitted through her mind. She should have just told him she was bald immediately, as soon as the water hit her head. She could’ve just said, “Oh, I didn’t notice the nasty water hitting my head because this is a wig. Obviously.” But apparently it hadn’t been so obvious to Andrew.
She should call him and explain herself. Maybe he’d still want to see her, just as friends. He was new to Manhattan, after all. Pulling his now sweat-rumpled business card out of her pocket, she sighed. Now or never.
Checking the number on the card carefully, she sent a text that took ten minutes to word properly but that she hoped sounded off-the-cuff.
Sorry bout that, no hard feelings? -Michele
He texted back quickly.
No prob, drinks tonight, same bar @ 8p?
Whoa. Okay. No, wait. She had to work tomorrow. But…all the other customer service reps came into the office hungover on Monday mornings. Why shouldn’t she? It was about time she got a life. It’s not as though she had to do brain surgery.
Just one more text to tell him the truth.
I’m not really blonde, this is a wig. I’m bald.
But she couldn’t hit send. Sighing, she pressed erase and wrote See you at 8.
* * * * *
The sun started to go down as she got ready to go out with Andrew. Michele carefully applied her false eyelashes, which looked pretty natural all things considered. With a fine-point smudge-proof eyebrow pencil, she drew on eyebrows and then let her long-banged wig cover them. Not bad. She just hoped he didn’t try to touch her hair when they kissed.
Yup, she’d already decided to kiss him. All she wanted was a taste of him, really, before he found out the truth and she went from being his date to his platonic friend.
She walked slowly down the street to the bar, relishing the break from the stifling heat in the mild summer night air. Andrew was already waiting at the bar, nursing something amber-colored on the rocks.
He stood when she stepped through the door.
“Thanks for meeting me,” he said, smiling.
Damn, he looked hot. He’d changed into a dark, fitted button-down shirt and jeans that probably cost him two hundred bucks.
“Sure.” Michele smiled back and resisted the urge to smooth her wig, not wanting to draw attention to it.
“I promise not to hit on you again,” he said, “since that seemed to have the opposite effect I meant it to have this afternoon. But can I at least buy you a drink?”
Michele laughed and nodded. “I’m in the mood for a frozen margarita.”
The bartender handed her the frosty drink a few moments later and she took a big sip, trying to gain some liquid courage.
“You don’t have to worry about hitting on me,” she told Andrew, resting her hand on his knee. “I won’t mind.”
Andrew chuckled and placed his hand over hers. His looked so huge compared to hers. She lifted his hand and pressed hers flat against it, sizing up the difference.
“Big ugly hands, I know,” he said.
“No, these are great hands.”
“I got a paper cut today on a cardboard box when I was getting them all ready for recycling,” he said, pointing to a red mark on the side of his palm.
With the ice broken, Michele was amazed at how quickly they both got into the groove of conversation. The next half hour flew by.
This guy was so sweet—certainly nicer and funnier than any guy she’d ever gone out with before. Not that she had much experience in the dating department. She giggled to herself, the tequila in the frozen margarita making her feel especially easygoing.
She asked him all sorts of questions about advertising, both to keep the conversation flowing and to ascertain just how important he thought looks were. He seemed passionate about his career, and he didn’t even seem bothered by her rather lame job as a telephone customer service representative.
“I’m taking some time off to reevaluate my priorities,” she said, even though he hadn’t asked. For some reason she always felt she had to defend living a non-workaholic lifestyle.
“That sounds awesome.” He took a sip of his drink. “I did the same thing before I went to grad school.”
“Really?” He seemed so pulled together, she couldn’t imagine him working a dead-end job while he sorted through his options.
“Really. It’s worth it.” He smiled and then pulled her hand toward him so she was only an inch away from his face. “If I kiss you will you run away again?”
This is it.
Her taste before it all fell apart. She shook her head and kissed him, reveling in the softness of his lips and the roughness of his cheek against hers. He slipped his tongue into her mouth and she welcomed it, tasting scotch.
He touched her face, cradling it, and it felt so…right. So nice that she even forgot to be worried about his hands being so close to her wig.
And then he tangled his hands in her wig, probably thinking it was her hair. She gasped against his mouth as she felt the wig shift back across her forehead and pulled away quickly.
“Shit,” Andrew said. “I did something wrong again. Was it slipping you the tongue? Too soon?”
Michele straightened her wig discreetly. “No, not too soon.”
Tell him, tell him, tell him, tell him!
She opened her mouth but no words came out. Instead, she stood and kissed him fiercely, grabbing his hands so they’d stay out off her head and pulling them tight around her waist.
“Come back to my place,” he murmured against her lips.
No way. Yes way. No way. “Okay. Yes.”
They walked out of the bar holding hands. Could she really do this? She’d just met Andrew. She made it this far without ever having sex—could she really go through with it tonight?
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