Chapter 1 & Chapter 2
The paper bag crammed with sex toys began to rip as Amanda Rykowsky trudged up the marble staircase to her boss’s second floor office. Clamping her gloved hand over the tear, she shoved the protruding red vibrator out of sight. The cold drizzle falling outside must have weakened the bag.
She should have asked for plastic instead, but paper concealed the contents better. She was always afraid she’d run into someone she knew on the way back to the office, and her reputation as The Girl Who Doesn’t Date would be shot if anyone caught her with these goodies. How ironic that she was constantly surrounded by sex at a time when she’d sworn off the activity completely.
“Need some help with that?”
She glanced over her shoulder. Coming up the steps behind her was a tall guy wearing a tan trench coat and a hat with earflaps. Those earflaps would stand straight out from his head if he discovered what she had in the bag.
“Thanks. I’ve got it.” No sooner were the words out of her mouth than the bag self-destructed. Various colors and models of vibrators clattered down the marble steps, along with an array of X-rated videos. The feathers, velvet ropes and soft handcuffs made less noise, but no less of an impression.
At least, Amanda assumed it was shock and awe widening the guy’s green eyes to the approximate size of a traffic light. His mouth opened, closed, opened again. He stared at the items scattered around him. The fire-engine red, penis-sized vibrator lay across the laces of his brown oxfords. “Um . . . I . . . .”
Amanda’s cheeks grew hot. She shouldn’t care what this guy thought, but she did, anyway. Her explanation came out in a rush. “My boss is Gloria Tredway and she’s a sex therapist and she asked me to buy these on my lunch break.”
“Uh, that . . . that makes sense. I guess.”
“I’ll just gather up everything and be on my way.” She’d pretend the sex toys were groceries she’d dropped. And she wouldn’t look at him while she did that. With a decent dose of luck, she’d never see him again. She reached for a silver, space-age vibrator that gleamed in contrast to the worn marble steps.
“I’ll help.” He pulled a pair of horn-rimmed glasses out of his coat pocket and put them on.
“That’s okay. No problem.” Unzipping her parka partway, she tucked the vibrator inside. Then she grabbed feathers and velvet handcuffs, stuffing them into her small shoulder purse.
They didn’t quite fit, but maybe they’d stay long enough for her to escape up the stairs and duck into Gloria’s office. She moved down a step and snatched up two videos – Bareback and Bare: Lady Godiva Fantasies and Hotter than a Pistol-Packin’ Momma.
About the time she put those inside her parka, the vibrator fell out of the bottom. The elasticized hem used to fit tighter around her hips, but lately she’d been working hard and skipping meals. Apparently she’d lost weight.
“You definitely need help taking all this upstairs.” He picked up the red vibrator lying on his shoe.
“I can make two trips.” She could not have this stranger gathering sex toys and carrying them to Gloria’s office. No telling how Gloria, she of the super-sized libido, would react. She might decide to educate him. Amanda reached out with her free hand. “I’ll take that . . . that red doohinkus and get the rest on my second trip.”
“I wouldn’t advise leaving this stuff lying around.” He put the vibrator in his coat pocket and leaned down to snag a couple of videos. “There’s a fourth-grade field trip from one of Chicago’s magnet schools headed for the offices of Cooper and Scott. I’ve been asked to give them the grand tour.”
“Oh, sh—sugar.” Visions of little girls in pigtails getting a glimpse of the X-rated videos lying on the steps turned her blood cold. “Then I accept your help, at least to the door of the office.” So he was a stockbroker who worked for Cooper and Scott, the company with offices down the hall.
This close to him, she could smell damp cotton, cold air and his aftershave. No designer, musk-enhanced fragrance for this guy. Old Spice, if her nostrils weren’t mistaken. She’d always liked Old Spice.
“And then we will permanently erase this moment from our memory banks,” she said.
“Are you planning to give me a Men in Black memory flash?” A smile played over his mouth as he picked up a video and a fingertip vibrator. “This is one of those times that will live in infamy.”
“I’m afraid you’re right.”
He had a nice smile, and she truly appreciated his stab at making this incident funny. Maybe in a while, like ten or fifteen years, it would be funny. On this particular February day she couldn’t think of anything more humiliating than spilling a bag full of sex toys in front of a complete stranger.
Scooping up the last of the feathers and handcuffs, she snatched the ripped bag and gave the stairway a quick once-over. “That does it. Let’s get out of here before the munchkins show up.”
“William Sloan, by the way,” he said as they hurried up the steps with the goods.
“Amanda Rykowsky. Thanks for making the stairway safe for nine-year-olds.”
“Glad to help out. It must be an unusual kind of job, working for a sex therapist.”
Especially this one. “It’s temporary. I needed to intern with a local therapist this semester as part of a new course requirement at DePaul, and Dr. Tredway had an opening for a Gal Friday.”
“You’re studying to be a sex therapist?”
“Nope. Just happened to land this internship. I haven’t chosen a specialty yet. I’ll narrow down my options while I’m in grad school, but I’m leaning toward adolescent psychology.”
“You sound very focused, Amanda Rykowsky.”
“Too focused to have lunch with me tomorrow?”
Oh. She hadn’t seen that coming. Usually she was prepared for such invitations, but having a guy help her carry X-rated gizmos up the stairs had thrown off her timing.
“I could give you some hot stock tips,” he said.
“I, uh, don’t have any money to invest.” She hoped that wasn’t some sort of double entendre about the hot tips.
“I was kidding. Stockbroker humor. I just thought, since you made your sex toy run today, you might want to have a more normal lunch hour tomorrow. I know a sandwich place that’s not too far from –”
“Thank you, William.” She finally had the presence of mind to dial in her standard response. “But I’m determined to become a therapist, and I’m putting myself through school. Between work and studying, I have absolutely no free time.”
“Not even an hour for lunch.” She gave him a smile to soften the blow. “It’s a nice offer, and you’ve been terrific to help me today, but I’ll have to say no.”
“It was just a thought.” He sounded sad, though, as if he’d really hoped she’d take him up on his invitation.
“I wish I could go.” Now she was feeling like an ingrate. He’d come to her rescue and saved her from potentially traumatizing an entire class of Chicago fourth-graders, and yet she’d refused to spend an hour in his company eating lunch. She should probably offer to buy him a meal for being so gallant.
No, bad idea. She couldn’t take the chance that he’d see the lunch date as the beginning of something. And it couldn’t be, not with her schedule. Besides, she’d been doing without a guy for so long, she might be tricked into thinking this guy was sexy. A love affair gone wrong had nearly trashed her GPA a year ago, so no more guys, no more sex until she’d reached her goal of graduate school at Harvard.
“I wish you could go, too.” William walked beside her down the hall toward Gloria’s office. “But I don’t want to muck up your routine.”
And didn’t that make her sound prissy? Like one lunch date would destroy her entire program. It probably wouldn’t, especially if he wore the hat with the earflaps. But there was that smile to consider . . . nope, lunch was out.
“Here we are.” She paused in front of the heavy oak door with its frosted glass upper panel. Gloria Tredway, Ph.D was lettered in gold on the glass. The door looked so professional and imposing that no one would guess what sort of gonzo activities took place behind it.
Amanda clutched her armload of toys to her chest and wiggled her arm until her sleeve edged up and she could see her watch. Ten minutes past one, which meant the Ordwells would be in Gloria’s office for their regular Tuesday appointment. She needed to get William in and out very fast.
As she juggled her purchases, trying to free up a hand to open the door, William stuck two videos under his chin and reached out with one long arm. “Let me.” Twisting the brass doorknob, he opened the door and stood back. “After you.”
“Just dump everything on my desk,” she said. “I’m sure your fourth graders will be here any – ”
“Lookee there!” Elmer Ordwell’s voice blasted through Gloria’s closed office door. “Just from watching you do that, Dr. Tredway, I’m stiff as the tailpipe on my Chevy truck!”
“That’s a real breakthrough, Elmer.” Gloria was no slouch in the voice projection department, either. “Now, Gertrude, I want you to try what I was just doing. Yes, use your hand, and let Elmer watch. I’ll be right back. I’m expecting some supplies that we’ll need for the last half of our session.”
Amanda avoided looking at William. “You can just drop everything and go.” She tried to sound nonchalant. “I appreciate your help in getting it this far. I’ll be fine, now.”
But William didn’t show any signs of leaving. Instead he stared in fascination at Gloria’s office door. “I had no idea.”
“Dr. Tredway’s not the norm.” Amanda deposited her loot on the desk and reached for the stuff William was holding. “Most sex therapists don’t operate the way she does. Look, I’m sure you need to get back to your office.”
“They’ll page me.”
“I should warn you that Dr. Tredway is a little . . . ” Before she could decide whether to use the word oversexed, it was too late.
Gloria, her shoulder-length, red hair tousled and her brown eyes shining from whatever she’d been doing to get Elmer stiff as a tailpipe, breezed through the door of her office. Immediately she spied William with a fingertip vibrator in one hand, porn in the other, and the long red vibrator sticking out of his trench coat pocket.
Her perfectly plucked bows arched. “My, my. I didn’t know the G-Spot had a delivery service.”
Amanda closed her eyes. Gloria was perpetually in man-hunting mode, but Amanda had thought the earflaps might dissuade her. Not so.
“Love the hat,” Gloria said. “Do you demonstrate G-Spot merchandise, too?”
Amanda decided William was too shell-shocked to speak up for himself. “This is William Sloan. He’s a stockbroker with Cooper and Scott. The bag ripped on my way up the stairs and he was kind enough to help me carry everything here.”
“A knight in shining armor. How dashing.” Gloria held out both hands, flashing her rings and her scarlet nails as she wiggled her fingers. “Let me relieve you of your burdens, William, so you can give me one of your business cards. I could use some advice on stocks and bondage . . . I mean bonds.” She laughed. “Pardon my Freudian slip.”
A moan filtered through Gloria’s office door.
William handed over the vibrator and the videos and edged backward toward the hall door. “I should probably make it another time. When you’re not busy with clients.”
Amanda could understand his desire to leave, but she had to figure out a way to let him know he was still packing heat. She couldn’t let him give a tour to the fourth graders with a red vibrator sticking out of his coat pocket.
“My clients are fine.” Gloria dropped the items on Amanda’s desk as the moans coming from her office escalated in volume. “I wouldn’t dream of walking in there when they’re making such obvious progress.” She winked at him. Gloria loved eye makeup, so a wink from her was always dramatic.
“Uh, well, right, but I still – ”
“I love it when my clients take the initiative. At this rate they may not need the video I’d planned to show them.”
“That’s great. But I have to give a tour to a bunch of kids. I need to get back.” William eased closer to the door.
Amanda moved in his direction. “Uh, William . . . I think you might have forgotten – ”
“Never mind the business card,” Gloria said. “I’ll just pop down to your office later for a consultation. My current broker is at least a hundred and six and terminally boring. I can safely say he’d never show up with a red vibrator in his pocket.”
Glancing down in horror, William yanked the vibrator out of his pocket and shoved it into Gloria’s hand.
“You’re welcome to keep it if you like.” Gloria batted her mascara-coated lashes. “Especially if you’ll give me visiting privileges.”
He cleared his throat. “Thanks, but it’s not my color.” And with that he hurried out the door.
Gloria laughed. “Amanda, is he the cutest nerd you’ve ever seen, or what? I think I’m in love.”
* * *
William had been worried that the fourth graders would be bored with a tour of a brokers’ office, but they surprised him with savvy questions about insider trading and the current value of the Japanese yen. From the content of the questions, William figured they all expected to be Donald Trump by the time they were thirty.
They kept him so busy that he should have had no chance to think about Amanda Rykowsky, but he thought about her anyway. Images of her were constantly wiggling in through cracks in his concentration.
She was the kind of woman who was more beautiful than she realized, and he was a sucker for that type. Her body had been swallowed by the dark blue parka, but he’d noticed silky blond hair that fell in a soft curve to her shoulders, clear blue eyes, a full mouth rubbed bare of lipstick and cheeks pink from a brisk February breeze. Her cheeks had become even pinker after the bag had ripped.
He liked to think he would have noticed her even if she hadn’t dropped a bag full of sex toys at his feet, but that little scene hadn’t hurt. Her fresh-faced wholesomeness and the scattered X-rated items made for an arresting combo. She was such an unlikely person to be toting them around, and that made the prospect all the more interesting.
She’d bought them for someone else, though. Still, she had bought them, had marched into the store and made the selections herself. He wondered why she’d chosen that red model, for example, the one he’d almost taken with him. He tried to picture her going through the merchandise at the adult toy store and choosing one over the other.
“Mr. Sloan? Mr. Sloan!” Someone tugged on his sleeve.
He glanced down into the chocolate-colored eyes of a little girl with her hair in cornrows. Her nametag read Natalie.
She peered up at him. “Are you okay, Mr. Sloan? I asked you a question two times.”
William looked around and realized the entire class was staring at him, including their teacher, Mrs. Jones, who was a plump African-American woman in her fifties.
Mrs. Jones cleared her throat. “I’m sure Mr. Sloan was just collecting his thoughts.”
“Exactly,” he said. “Economics is a serious subject, and I didn’t want to give you the wrong answer.” Whoa. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d allowed fantasies about a woman to absorb him so completely that he lost track of his surroundings. He had no idea what Natalie had asked him. Twice.
“I’ll bet he’s having one of those mini-seizures,” said a tall girl who looked as if basketball might be in her future. “I have a brother who gets those, and he just zones out, like Mr. Sloan did.”
“Well, my brother gets like that when he’s thinking about his girlfriend,” said an impish boy named Elijah whose curly hair was cut very close to his head. He looked at William and grinned.
“Well, I don’t have a girlfriend,” William said. “So, did everyone hear Natalie’s question?”
They all nodded.
Rats. “Even so, let’s have her ask it again, so it’s fresh in our minds.”
Natalie gave him a look, but she repeated the question, which had to do with commodities. William wondered where in the world these kids got so smart. Maybe from watching The Apprentice.
He answered the commodities question, and then it was time for the class to leave. Good thing. He wasn’t giving a very good impression of a man focused on economics.
As the class filed out, Elijah inched over toward William. “Are you sure you don’t have a girlfriend?” His grin widened. “Because you look exactly like my brother does when he’s thinking about Angie. ”
“Elijah,” the teacher said. “Tell Mr. Sloan goodbye and thank you.”
Elijah held out his hand. “Goodbye and thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” William shook his small, sticky hand. The kid probably had a pocket full of jelly beans.
“And good luck with your girlfriend.”
“Mm.” William didn’t bother contradicting the girlfriend reference again.
In fact, he’d been thinking of the girlfriend issue recently. If he didn’t watch out, Helen’s accusation might come true. When he’d caught her in bed with someone else, she’d blamed her behavior on his neglect. She’d predicted he’d never be willing to invest time in a relationship because he was obsessed with his career.
But that wasn’t true, was it? Asking Amanda to lunch had been more than an idle invitation. He wanted to get back in the game and prove Helen wrong, and he wished Amanda hadn’t turned him down. How ironic that she’d said no because she was over-committed.
Or maybe she’d been turned off by the stupid hat. He usually took it off once he was inside, but today, of all days, he’d forgotten about it, probably because he’d been so intent on Amanda struggling with her bag. His ears were super-sensitive to the cold, and the earflaps were the alternative to intense pain.
“William, there you are!” Gloria Tredway appeared in the open door of the office and maneuvered around several nine-year-olds. Her black-and-white checked jacket was unbuttoned to show off a black lace chemise and a generous amount of cleavage. “I see the tour is ending. Do you have some time for little old me, now?”
“Um, sure. See you later, kids. Thanks for coming.”
Elijah gazed at Gloria. Then he looked over his shoulder at William. “Uh-huh.” Then Mrs. Jones hustled him and the rest of the class out the door.
Gloria approached, a predatory gleam in her eyes. “I’ll bet you give great tours.”
William swallowed. “The kids seemed to enjoy it.”
“Can I have a tour?”
She made a low purring sound deep in her throat. “Excellent. Show me all you’ve got.”
Amanda tried not to think about Gloria sitting in William’s office. Without Gloria there, she had a chance to go over her notes for a test she had coming up tomorrow morning in abnormal psych. Hauling her notebook out of the backpack she kept tucked in the kneehole of her desk, she flipped to her most recent notes.
As she reviewed the clinical definition of schizophrenia, she picked up the glass hummingbird she kept on her desk. Usually the smoothness of the glass helped her concentrate, but not today. Instead she pictured Gloria crossing her legs so her skirt inched up. She was extremely proud of her legs.
Come to think of it, she was extremely proud of all her body parts. She bragged about having the tits of a twenty-year-old, and right this minute she was probably leaning forward and allowing her chemise to gape open. William, being a nerd, might not be used to that. He might not have the foggiest idea how to handle a woman like Gloria.
And what should Amanda care? She didn’t, really, except that Gloria saw men only as a source of temporary pleasure, a conquest, a way of keeping score. She’d use William for what she wanted and discard him when she got bored. In William’s case, that just didn’t seem right.
Then again, Amanda didn’t really know him. Most red-blooded guys would be happy to jump into bed with a woman as experienced as Gloria. Amanda had no doubt Gloria was great in the sack. She constantly boasted about the number of men who’d told her they’d never had it so good.
But when Gloria walked back into the office, she wasn’t smiling. Amanda took an unholy amount of satisfaction in that. Maybe William hadn’t been so easy to seduce, after all.
“Come into my office.” Gloria sailed past her without waiting for a reply. “I need to discuss something with you.”
Amanda put down the hummingbird, got out of her chair and walked into Gloria’s office.
“Close the door. I wouldn’t want a client to hear this.”
Amanda turned around and closed the door with a soft click.
“Sit down.” Gloria waved Amanda to the red leather loveseat that rested against one wall.
Amanda moved aside a stack of videos and various tubes of personal lubricant. Every time she sat on this loveseat she had to block out visions of what had probably taken place there. Gloria was both an exhibitionist and a voyeur, so anything was possible.
Gloria began to pace. “This is rather embarrassing, but I need some advice.”
“From me?” Amanda wondered what on Earth she knew that Gloria didn’t. “About what?”
“I’m extremely intrigued with that broker.” Gloria paused at her desk, picked up the silver vibrator Amanda had recently bought and tapped it against her palm.
“I think it’s because he’s so different from the men I usually meet.” Gloria caressed the vibrator.
“Because he’s a nerd?”
Gloria pointed the vibrator at her. “That’s exactly the problem. He’s a nerd, and nerds react logically, not emotionally. I find that challenging.”
Amanda fought to keep the smile off her face. It wouldn’t do to smile in a situation like this. William hadn’t taken Gloria’s obvious bait. Good for him.
“He’s probably not used to having a voluptuous woman like me go after him. He could be telling himself I’m too hot to handle.”
“He might, at that.”
Gloria began to pace, her five-inch heels sinking into the deep pile of her carpet. “I need to get around that perception and make him realize that he deserves the sexual attention of someone like me. I’d be doing him a favor by convincing him to aim higher. So I have to ask myself, what mind games would work on a nerd?”
“Why even bother with him?” Amanda wondered if she could possibly derail this effort. “I mean, why work so hard, when there are a dozen other guys who would be happy to –”
“See, I knew it! You think like a nerd. That’s logic talking, but the reaction I have to William Sloan is at a gut level.” Gloria smiled. “Or, more precisely, a bit lower.”
No surprise there. Gloria reacted that way to everyone with a Y chromosome in the mix.
Gloria continued to pace. “It takes a certain disdain for convention to walk down Michigan Avenue wearing a hat with earflaps.” She gestured with the vibrator. “A disdain for convention can translate into an appetite for the unusual, and in sexual terms, that’s very exciting to me.”
“You could be reading too much into the earflaps. He could be simply fashion impaired.”
Gloria whirled and pointed the vibrator at her again. “There you go, being logical again. That’s why I called you in here. You’re a bit of a nerd yourself, Amanda.”
“Me? I’m not a nerd.”
“Of course you are! Always studying, never dating, a regular loner.”
Amanda rushed to defend herself. “Okay, I can see how I might appear that way to you, because you haven’t known me that long. But this is my last semester, and I can’t take a chance on messing it up and not getting into graduate school.”
“Precisely!” Gloria waved the vibrator at her. “You don’t want to take chances. You’ve been here nearly six weeks and you’ve never once asked to borrow a video or a jar of body paint. I’ve had interns who went through that stuff like locusts through a wheat field. You’d think I’d handed them the keys to a treasure chest.”
“Dr. Tredway, I can’t speak for them, but – ”
“For the hundredth time, call me Gloria. We’re colleagues.”
Amanda sighed. “All right. Gloria, I can assure you that I am not always like this. It’s just that right now, I have to focus.”
“Fine, fine. We won’t debate the matter anymore. But I’m positive you will have some ideas about how I can attract William’s attention. Let’s say you were in my place.”
That would be quite the stretch. “Uh-huh.”
“Just tell me honestly, Amanda, how would you go about getting into William’s pants?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea.” And even if she did, she wouldn’t tell. Now might not be the time to mention that William had asked her to lunch.
“You’re sure you don’t have any thoughts?” Gloria peered at her. “How long has it been since you’ve had a date, anyway?”
“I don’t know, exactly. A while.” Amanda wasn’t about to get any more specific than that.
“If you don’t even remember, then you’re obviously out of practice with these things. But I want you to think about the subject of William and get back to me. I feel certain you could help me with my campaign. I’m switching my brokerage accounts over to Cooper and Scott, so that will give me an excuse to see him.”
“Wouldn’t it be unethical for him to get involved with a client?”
Gloria propped her hips against the desk. “If that issue comes up, so to speak, I’ll simply switch back to the senile old goat I had before. First I have to get William to the point where he has that moral dilemma. I hate to admit it, but he’s not even close yet.”
“I just don’t understand why you would go to all that trouble. What’s so special about William?”
Gloria tapped the vibrator softly against her mouth. “I guess you didn’t pay attention to his thumbs.”
“Oh, yes. Gorgeous thumbs. Nice large ones.”
“I don’t get it.”
“My dear Amanda, take it from a woman who’s indulged in sexual adventures with men of all sizes – a man with thumbs like that is quite likely to be magnificently, gloriously hung.”
* * *
Later that afternoon, while Amanda was typing up client evaluations and Gloria was in her office previewing videos, William walked in, a manila envelope in his hand. Naturally she looked at his thumbs, and sure enough, he had big ones.
She refused to think about the implications of that. Gloria could be blowing smoke, and besides, Amanda had always been of the opinion that imagination trumped size any old day. How much imagination could a girl expect from a man who constantly dealt with numbers?
“I have some papers for Dr. Tredway to sign,” William said. “Our computer was down when she was in the office earlier, but it’s back online, so I was able to print out the forms. I decided to bring them over.”
“Thanks. I’ll see that she gets them.” Amanda had to admit that the lack of a hat improved William considerably. He had a thick head of dark brown hair. He wore it short, but not so short that a woman couldn’t run her fingers through it. William wasn’t a total loss – just not Amanda’s cup of tea.
For one thing, his tie was a boring gray and blue stripe. Amanda admired men who took a chance in that department, daring to wear a Jerry Garcia number, for example, or one decorated with a Warner Brothers cartoon character. She was partial to the Roadrunner. Her last boyfriend had worn outrageous ties. He’d also broken her heart, but that was beside the point.
When William hesitated to put the envelope on her desk, she wondered if he might actually want to see Gloria again. “Or would you like me to find out if Dr. Tredway’s available?”
“No, that’s okay.” He handed her the envelope. “She can sign them anytime. No rush.”
“All right, then.”
He glanced at the little hummingbird on her desk. “That’s cute.”
“I like hummingbirds.” She picked it up out of habit. “Scientifically they shouldn’t be able to fly, but they do. They beat the odds.”
“And they work damn hard to stay airborne.”
“I know. They’re so determined. I admire that.” He really was a nice guy, and because she still felt guilty about turning down his lunch date, she asked about the fourth graders. “How did the tour go?”
He brightened. “Smart kids. They knew more about the stock market than most adults. Their teacher deserves some credit, but they were sharp. One of them asked me about – ”
“William!” Gloria burst from her office as if shot from a cannon. She held a video in her hand. A rhythmic beat and muted cries indicated that she’d already popped another one in the player. “I thought I heard your voice, but between the exaggerated grunting and moaning on this lame DVD, I wasn’t sure.”
He backed up a step. “I was just bringing the papers for you to sign. No hurry, really. I should be going.”
“Nonsense. Come on in the office while I sign the papers. That will be more efficient.” She handed the video to Amanda. “I’d like you to return that one and get a refund.”
“Now?” Amanda tried to tune out the orgasmic sounds coming from Gloria’s office.
“Yes, while the transaction is still fresh in the clerk’s mind.”
“I thought you wanted the client evaluations finished by tomorrow.”
“I do. Take a few home if you need to. But I need this video returned.”
“All right.” There went any hope of extra sleep tonight.
Gloria was picky about her porn, but as one of the G-Spot’s best customers, she was allowed to return almost anything. Holding the video, Amanda stood, walked around her desk and headed toward the coat rack next to the door.
From inside Gloria’s office came a woman’s voice on the DVD begging Give it to me! Give it to me now!
“Bring me a mocha cappuccino on the way back,” Gloria said. “The video I’m watching now is more promising than that one, but if it doesn’t stimulate me, either, I can always resort to caffeine.”
“Of course. Whipped cream gives me such a sensual buzz. William, can I interest you in a cappuccino?”
“No, no, thanks.”
Deeper, deeper! cried the woman on the video. The drumbeats grew faster.
William shifted his weight uneasily. “I really need to get back to the office. The papers can be signed anytime in the next couple of days.”
Gloria waved a hand in the air. “Don’t look so worried. I have clients coming in ten minutes. It’s not like I’ll throw you on the floor and have my way with you. Amanda, don’t let them give you any guff because that DVD’s been opened.”
“I won’t.” She’d become a pro at X-rated movie returns.
A man’s voice replaced the woman’s on the video, and now a saxophone wailed. Take it, baby, said the man. Take it all. Oh, yeah!
“They should cheerfully give you a refund,” Gloria said. “That video is a waste. I don’t know how they expect to arouse a viewer if they won’t show full frontal nudity or zoom in on the genitals. The pumping action was a complete fake, if you ask me. I’ll bet Tab A was never inserted in Slot B. What a rip-off.”
Amanda resisted the urge to glance at William as she took her coat off the hook. She was used to this kind of behavior in Gloria’s office, but he wasn’t. She had one arm in her coat sleeve before she felt the weight of the coat lighten and realized that William was holding it for her.
Drums and saxophones combined for what was surely the climactic moment for the couple on the screen in Gloria’s office. I’m coming! groaned the man.
“Thanks, William.” Amanda transferred the rejected video to her other hand and slipped her arm into the sleeve. In the process she got another whiff of Old Spice.
“That is so precious,” Gloria said. “How many men hold a woman’s coat these days?”
“Blame it on my upbringing,” William said.
“Did you also learn how to help a woman out of her coat? That could be even more valuable.”
I’m coming, too! screeched the woman in the video.
Amanda turned in time to catch a plea for help in William’s green eyes. Well, he’d have to find aid somewhere else or learn to fend for himself. He was the one who’d chosen to make a personal delivery of the papers.
“See you later,” she said, and escaped into the hall.
It was true that clients were due in ten minutes, but that gave Gloria a window of opportunity that was more than ample for a quickie. She seemed determined to make a conquest with or without Amanda’s advice. And maybe she would succeed, but Amanda figured it wasn’t in her job description to hang around and watch.
* * *
When the door closed behind Amanda, William wished he’d decided against bringing the papers down. He could have sent Bonnie, the receptionist. But then he would have missed the chance to see Amanda again.
He should abandon the cause, but the more he found out about her, the more intrigued he was. She was as determined to fly as that little hummingbird on her desk. He had no idea why, but maybe she’d had a screw-up older brother like he did. Maybe she was carrying the banner for the whole family, the same as he was.
William admired that kind of determination, but, because he was a normal guy, he admired other stuff, too. Her soft blue sweater gave him X-rated ideas of his own, for all the good it did him. Arriving without his hat had seemed to make no difference in her reaction. She didn’t even want to be friends.
A potential friend wouldn’t have left him to deal with Gloria and her raging hormones. William had never met anyone like Gloria before, and he hoped never to meet anyone like her again. But he needed to build up a client list, which meant he couldn’t afford to turn down business, especially from a woman with a portfolio like Gloria’s. She might be a sex maniac, but she also had a ton of investments.
“Come on into my office, William.” Picking up the envelope from Amanda’s desk, Gloria turned and sashayed through the door.
William didn’t want to go in there. The video playing on her TV was bad enough, but he was worried that she might start peeling off clothes, and he wanted to avoid that at all costs. They hadn’t covered this situation in his orientation with Cooper and Scott. Vowing not to look at the television screen, he squared his shoulders and walked into Gloria’s office.
Holy den of iniquity! The X-rated video playing on the screen was the least of his problems. He’d never been in any therapist’s office, let alone one who dealt with sex, but he would have expected framed diplomas and professional citations on the wall. Instead Gloria’s walls were decorated with enlarged, framed illustrations of couples in various sexual positions.
William had some knowledge of those positions. He believed in studying any subject in which he had an interest, and he definitely had an interest in sex. Obviously Gloria had more than an interest. He was no psychologist, but he thought it would classify as a fixation.
“How do you like the art I’ve chosen?” she asked.
He turned, half-afraid of what he’d find when he looked at her. Thankfully she hadn’t removed any clothes. “I guess it’s appropriate to your job.”
“Do you recognize it?”
“Uh . . .” Of course he recognized it. Any guy over the age of ten would recognize what those pictures were about.
“I mean the source of the illustrations. I assume you understand the subject matter. It’s self-explanatory.”
No kidding. Over her red leather loveseat hung the male and female versions of something labeled underneath as Mouth Music. One of those illustrations was being mimicked on the TV screen. He’d tried not to look, but it was like trying to ignore an elephant in the room.
“So, do the drawings look familiar?” Gloria asked again.
“I don’t know the artist, if that’s what you mean.”
“They’re from Alex Comfort’s The New Joy of Sex. Have you seen that book?”
“No, can’t say that I have.”
“It’s a classic. I could loan you a copy if you –”
“You were going to sign the forms?” Gloria didn’t tempt him, not even slightly, but the emphasis on sex in this office was working on him, anyway. No guy could be surrounded by the power of suggestion to this extent and not have a reaction. He was sure Gloria was counting on that.
“Yes, of course.” She walked behind her desk and picked up a pen.
Grateful that she was finally about to do what he’d asked, William watched her sign the forms, which meant he noticed the pen in her hand. It was flesh-colored, and thicker than a normal pen. At the top were two round . . . oh, dear God.
She glanced up. “Like my pen?”
“I love my job, William.” She lifted the pen and licked the tip of it. “And I’ve learned a great deal.”
“I’m sure you have.” He sounded as if he had laryngitis. What an impossible situation. “All done?”
“For now.” She picked up the forms and tucked them slowly back inside the envelope. “Tell me, have you ever let a woman tie you up?”
“No. Listen, I have to get back. I’m sure I have a stack of messages piled up by now.” He wouldn’t have a stack of messages. He hadn’t reached that level of success yet. But it sounded good and it was all his distracted brain could think of.
“I’m sure you do. I’m sure you have a big, thick, stack of urgent messages by now.”
“Right.” He grabbed the envelope.
She hung on. “Let me take you to dinner tonight.”
He tugged on the envelope. “I have plans.” Plans with his television set and the Bulls game. Justin, his roommate from college days, was batching it this week while his fiancée was on a business trip. Justin was coming over for pizza and a couple of beers.
She gripped the envelope tighter. “Cancel them. Better yet, we can have dinner at my place.”
“Sorry, can’t cancel. Very critical.”
“Uh, yeah.” He’d call his mother during the first commercial. He hadn’t talked to either of his folks in a while, and he needed to let them know how the job was going. Up until now, it had been going just fine.
“Well, then.” Gloria released the envelope. “If she doesn’t work out, you know where to find me.”
“Absolutely.” He left her office so fast he ran straight into Amanda, who had just returned, a mocha cappuccino clutched in one hand. The lid flew off and whipped cream and coffee splashed over both of them.
“Damn it! I’m sorry!” Dropping the envelope on the floor, he pulled a handkerchief from his hip pocket and began dabbing at the coffee and whipped cream on the front of her nylon jacket.
“Don’t worry about me,” she said. “It washes. I doubt you can say the same for that suit.”
“What have we here?” Gloria strolled out of her office. “I do believe I’m the one who was supposed to be playing with the whipped cream, not you two.”
“Sorry about that.” William picked up the envelope from the floor and noticed it had been baptized by the coffee, too. At least there wasn’t any on the carpet. “I can get you another cappuccino.”
“And bring it personally?”
“I’ll probably need to have it delivered. I really am pressed for time.”
“In that case, I’ll make do with this one.” Gloria took the cup from Amanda and licked at the remaining whipped cream. “But I think you may have to redo those forms and bring them back for me to sign.”
“I’m sure they’ll be fine.” William edged toward the door. “Amanda, if that doesn’t come out of your coat, let me know.”
“It’ll come out, but thanks.”
“Sure.” He took another second to enjoy the sparkle in her blue eyes and the pink in her cheeks. If he could be alone with Amanda in an office filled with graphic pictures on the wall and an X-rated video running, he wouldn’t mind at all. She might, though. They’d shared spilled sex toys and a spilled coffee drink, but they hadn’t bonded over either incident.
“See you soon, William,” Gloria said. “I need to warn you that I have lots of questions about my portfolio. I’m the kind of client who needs plenty of personal attention.”
“Right. I’ll be in touch.” As he headed out the door, he regretted his choice of words.
“That’s exactly what I’m hoping for,” Gloria called after him.