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About That Night ...
By Jeanie London
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneNaughty girls feel good about feeling naughty.
Julienne Blake silently read the phrase from the open book, then again, before rallying the courage to say it aloud.
"Naughty girls feel good about feeling naughty." The words rolled off her tongue, unfamiliar and shockingly bold in her quiet living room. On the walls hung photographs of her youth spent traveling with her bachelor great uncle to renovate historically significant buildings all over the world.
Thankfully, Uncle Thad wasn't in the room to hear her read the words again. Despite being seriously out of his element, he'd tried his level best to rear his orphaned greatniece as a good girl after awakening one morning to find her on his doorstep.
"Naughty girls feel good about feeling naughty." There, she had it. Her voice sounded natural, relaxed. A feat that had required a significant amount of practice, given that Julienne had spent her entire adult life studiously avoiding concepts like feeling good and feeling naughty. These weren't concepts any good girl should dwell on, not when there were other, more productive uses for her time, like focusing on an education and a career.
Julienne had been the ultimate good girl, a fact she'd been proud of - until six monthsago when a broken engagement had made her question whether there was more to life than living up to other people's expectations and always doing the right thing. Especially after her ex-fiancé had placed the blame for their breakup on her, complaining she lacked fire and passion.
Snapping the book shut, she set The Naughty Handbook of Naughty Girl Sex on the end table and leaned back in her favorite chair, a leather recliner where she normally spent nights pouring over her students' papers. Closing her eyes, she let the message filter through her.
Naughty girls feel good about feeling naughty. Julienne planned to feel naughty and feel good about it. She'd just turned thirty, a turning point for finally realizing she should enjoy life. After spending five years with Ethan ... she still couldn't believe she'd spent five years with Ethan simply because it had seemed like the right thing to do.
Come on, girl. Whoever said a woman had to finish college, establish herself in a career and then settle down to get married? When do you get to have fun?
The voice in her head asked valid questions. Although she'd spent a lot of time soul-searching since the breakup, Julienne didn't have any answers. Not even an answer for why life without Ethan seemed as tepid as life with him had been.
"Why are you sitting here in the dark, Julienne?" Uncle Thad asked. "Are you feeling all right?"
Julienne opened her eyes to find her uncle silhouetted beneath the archway that led to the hall. Snatching The Naughty Handbook from the end table, she flipped the cover down on her lap and gazed at him, an always-welcomed sight. His red apple cheeks and neat white beard lent him a rather Santa Clausish air that always made her think of Christmas. Perhaps because he'd come into her life just like Santa Claus down a chimney, generously devoting his golden years to rearing her.
"I'm fine, thanks," she assured him. "Just a little tired."
"You should get to bed then." He strode into the room and sat in the recliner opposite hers, apparently not noticing her book. "Unless you're up for a documentary on the History Channel. The show will feature that Philadelphia courthouse Dr. Fairfax renovated a few years back. Since he's coming to town soon to start work on the Risqué Theatre, I thought I'd watch the program. Starts in a few minutes."
Julienne usually enjoyed watching programs that featured the work of this well-known preservation architect. With citations from more than three dozen historic organizations and an appointment to the President's Advisory Council for Historic Preservation, Dr. Nicholas Fairfax was the noted authority in her area of expertise.
But tonight the very idea of TV seemed so symbolic of her staid lifestyle that not even watching the much-admired Nicholas Fairfax could silence Ethan's unkind comments about fire and passion echoing in her head.
It's always the same thing, Julienne. If I didn't suggest get-togethers with our university colleagues, you'd have us at home every night watching urban renewal shows with your uncle.
Though she hadn't been that gung ho about Ethan's recreation of choice - especially since get-togethers with their colleagues usually degenerated into long-winded debates on the merits of hypnotherapy in today's societal climate - she couldn't argue his point.
Here it was Saturday night and instead of visiting with friends or enjoying one of the many entertainments Savannah offered, she sat at home, contemplating a night watching a very handsome preservation architect prop up rotting joists on TV.
Sheesh. It had taken her weeks to come up with a radical solution to her good-girl problem, a solution she couldn't implement with her uncle sitting a mere foot away.
Flipping down the recliner footrest, Julienne tucked her book under her arm. "I'll pass on the documentary tonight, and take your suggestion about getting a good night's sleep." She stood, circled his chair and kissed her uncle's cheek. "See you in the morning."
"Sleep well, my dear." Smiling absently, he reached for the remote control on the end table.
Julienne headed upstairs, hoping she could find a balance between the "good" girl Uncle Thad had raised, and the woman who needed to know she possessed at least a spark of fire. She didn't always have to do things the right way. Ethan had been right and look where he'd gotten her.
A professor of hypnotherapy at the University of Savannah, Dr. Ethan Whiteside had been stable. He'd also been upwardly mobile, financially secure, and attractive. But he hadn't been very aware or supportive of her needs.
After graduating with her doctorate in historical preservation at the unusually ripe young age of twenty-five, Julienne had wanted to go into the field and work on a rehabilitation project to flex her hard-earned skills. She'd been reared in the field with Uncle Thad, right up until he'd retired to an academic position at the university in time for her to start college. She loved to travel and going into the field again before marriage had sounded like a good ... okay, a fun thing to do.
But Ethan had wanted a wife on staff at the university to fulfill his dream of being part of an academic power couple. He'd insisted she be groomed to take Uncle Thad's place at retirement. Julienne had acquiesced. She told herself she should spend as much time as possible with her aging uncle - which she had, and that she couldn't expect to have things go her way all the time - which they hadn't.
Although she loved her job and found satisfaction teaching her students, she couldn't overlook that her relationship with Ethan had always been focused on his desires and his goals. For some reason she still couldn't quite put her finger on, she'd accepted that. After all, no relationship could be perfect.
It doesn't have to be perfect, girl, but it should be fulfilling, that voice in her head said. You haven't been living, you've been existing. Time to shake things up.
Julienne headed into her bedroom and quietly closed the door behind her. She planned to start having fun. She was through with existing, done with living up to other people's expectations. No more tepid emotions. And absolutely no more tepid sex ever again.
Time to shake off apathy and enjoy life. Glancing in the mirror above her dresser, she noticed pale cheeks where her blush had faded away, the once-neat French braid so at odds with the naughty girl image in her head.
"You can do this," she told her reflection. "You can put aside your good-girl notions. You can take charge of your life and explore your sensuality."
Curiously enough, the ex-fiancé and hypnotherapist, had unwittingly provided the key to shedding her inhibitions with a nifty form of conditioning called self-hypnosis.
Hypnotherapy can be a powerful tool, Julienne. It uses autosuggestion, imagery, and imagination to improve different aspects of your personality. I can show you a few techniques.
Excerpted from About That Night ... by Jeanie London Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.