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Do you believe in love at first sight or should I walk by again?
In life, there was only one guarantee and that, Jillian Greene hated to say, was that all men were pigs. "Will you repeat your question?" she asked her coworker and friend, Selene Garnett. "I'm positive I misheard."
"Nope. You didn't mishear. I asked what you would say to a man who told you to take off your panties so he could smell them."
Jillian gazed over at Selene, a blond goddess in black leather, who was untouchable in a way that made men want to touch her. And keep touching her. Over and over again. "Is that a trick question?"
"Hardly." Selene stood in the opening of Jillian's cubicle, slender arms braced on the blue makeshift walls. Her hands covered the two posters Jillian had pasted up only a short while ago. One said, Where There's a Man, There's a Lie. The other read, Behind Every Good Man Is a Gun. "A guy said it to me last night," Selene added. "I was so shocked, I froze."
"Do you like this man?"
"Please." Selene rolled her eyes. "He was a target."
"In that case, you tell him the only way you'll allow him to sniff your underpants is if they've been laced with the Ebola virus."
"I knew you'd have the perfect reply." Selene smiled that cool smile of hers and practically floated down the hall on a cloud of violets and jasmine, throwing over her shoulder, "Danielle owes me ten bucks."
Oh, yes. Men were pigs.
Some were piglets, all oink and no bite. Some were swine-in-training, teetering on the edge between man and boar. Some were Miss Piggies, no explanation needed. And some were hungry hogs, devouring everything in their path.
Those, Jillian hated most.
But no matter where a guy fell on the Pigometer, Jillian didn't let his bestial qualities upset her. Since men were oinkers, it was safe to say that she was the slaughter house. She quite happily cut the different breeds into bacon and served them to their owners on a silver platter.
It was her job and her greatest pleasure.
She (and Selene) worked for Catch a Mate. How deliciously romantic that sounded, right? Except Catch a Mate was the place women came to test their significant other's trustworthiness. Here's how it broke down:
Jane Doe enters the CAM office, cites three incidents that make her believe her man has cheated, then flips through a book of photos and chooses the face and form that will most appeal to her husband, boyfriend or asshole lover too cheap to fork over a ring. The woman she picks—a.k.a. the bait—is then given the man's—a.k.a. the target's—schedule and proceeds to "accidentally" meet him, laying on the charm. Of course, she's wearing a hidden camera and a microphone, recording his every transgression.
Jillian was bait.
She was paid to smile, to lie. To flirt. These already attached men ate it up, too, no spoon required, proving just how disgusting they really were.
Some people (those who were guilty) might consider what she did entrapment. Some people (those who were very guilty) might consider what she did wrong. But she never kissed, touched or screwed the men, just allowed them to incriminate themselves with their own words, so her conscience was safe. Besides, there wouldn't be a problem if her targets would simply send her on her way.
Instead, they returned her smiles, told her lies of their own and flirted back. They were willing to forget years of fidelity, sweep aside their honor and completely disrespect their lover for one supposed night of wildness.
To Jillian, they deserved what they got.
She never told her clients their men had cheated; that was her boss's job. However, she often watched those conversations on a monitor in another room, and what she saw was heartbreaking. Tears, curses, depression. The emotions of the victims of infidelity ran the gamut, but they all had one thing in common: a ruined life. That's why she so enjoyed taking these men down a peg or two. Because of them, their partners would never be the same.
And for what?
Married men pretended they were divorced—just to get a little booty. Engaged men pretended they were single—just to get a little booty. Boyfriends pretended they were unattached, just to—you guessed it—get a little booty. Not one of her targets had ever not tried to pick her up.
She didn't understand it, either. She was cute, sure, but not drop-dead gorgeous. Average height, a decent figure she worked very hard to maintain, long, curly black hair, big blue eyes, slightly rounded cheeks and dimples. God, she hated those tiny, innocent schoolgirl dimples.
Without a doubt, she was nothing special in the looks department. However, if a man thought she was going to ride him like a carnival pony, it didn't matter what she looked like. She suddenly represented every sex fantasy he'd ever indulged.
Bastards. Jillian had worked for CAM for six years now; she'd started when she was only twenty-one. From day one, she'd gained a perverse satisfaction in nailing a man's ass to the wall and saving a woman from further heartbreak. That sense of fulfillment had only grown over the years.
But, uh, speaking of nailing male ass… she glanced at her wristwatch and pushed out a sigh. She should have met with her boss thirty minutes ago; instead, she'd watched Anne enter her office with a tall, blond specimen of deliciousness. Jillian had gotten only the barest glimpse of him, but it was enough of a glance to know he was tanned and muscled and wearing jeans that hugged a perfectly squeezable butt.
She might think—know!—guys were pigs, but she wasn't blind and she liked to look. Looking was all she allowed herself anymore, so when she looked, she really looked. X-ray vision that saw past clothes, past all hint of decency.
Sometimes she reminded herself of a window-shopper, gazing inside the store with her nose pressed to the glass, never actually buying the pretty, overpriced merchandise because she knew that she'd later experience buyer's remorse.
Why fork over hard-earned cash when the item in question undoubtedly would be stolen, tainted, stained or ripped to shreds?
Once (or twice) she'd allowed the "salesman" and his sweet, sweet sales pitch to convince her to purchase, but each of those occasions had ended at the return booth. Yep, the few boyfriends she'd permitted herself over the years had all failed CAM's test, which was especially pathetic since they knew what she did for a living. Finally, she'd cut up her credit cards (so to speak).
She sighed. What depressing thoughts. She needed to think about something else. Like her boss. Which, incidentally, led her straight back to Cute Ass. He and Anne had closed the office door and no sound had emerged since. Not even pressing her ear against the shuttered glass wall had proven useful. And yes, she freely admitted to spying. To her, there was nothing wrong with listening to private conversations, opening someone's desk drawer, sneaking a peek through their wallet, glove compartment, whatever.
Sneakiness was the best way to learn about people. To learn the truth about them, anyway.
Sipping her coffee, Jillian leaned back in her chair and cast her boss's door another glance. She had an assignment tonight and she always met with Anne to outline a strategy beforehand—as if it took more than a push-up bra and an I'm-so-innocent-but-I'm-not-wearing-any-panties smile to stir a man's interest. Still. She was due at the scheduled rendezvous point in four hours and she had yet to look at photos of her target.
As her feet tapped impatiently, her black spiked heels clicked into the floor tile of her very blue, very plain cubicle. Besides her posters, she had no personal items here, no pictures of family. She liked to keep business, business and—what did she care about her cube? She wanted to know what No-Nonsense Anne and Cute Ass were talking about. She wanted to know what they were doing.
"Did you see the guy Anne escorted into her office?"
At the sound of the husky feminine voice, Jillian pivoted in her seat. Georgia Carrington stood at the opening of Jillian's cube, the fragrance of vanilla and sugar wafting from her. Rich, silky red hair framed exquisitely delicate features.
Georgia had gentle cheekbones, a dainty nose, almond-shaped green eyes and flawless skin. Her body was a smorgasbord of naughty curves, and right now those curves were encased in a strapless, barely-there red sheath dress. Men became slaves to their hormones whenever Georgia approached, so it was no wonder she was CAM's most popular choice of bait.
That hadn't always been the case, though. Jillian had known Georgia since grade school, when Georgia had been a gangly, freckled kid. Everyone else had teased her unmercifully, but Jillian had recognized a kindred spirit when she saw one—two girls against the rest of the world.
But it hadn't been an official friendship until Thomas Fisher called Georgia a speckled carrot-head. Jillian had socked him in the nose, Georgia had bandaged her hand, and they had been best friends ever since.
"I saw him," Jillian said now. She set her coffee aside, lifted a pen and tapped it against the armrest of her chair. "Who is he and why's he here?" A client, perhaps? But they only dealt with women. Unless… did he suspect his wife was a lesbian? That was a possibility, though what woman would prefer a female to that prime, grade-A quality meat, she didn't know.
"Maybe Anne decided to give up her stance on the merits of self-gratification and take a lover." Georgia sashayed around the desk and plopped onto the edge, crinkling papers and files. The hem of the red dress rode up her thighs and revealed several inches of tanned, firm flesh.
Jillian shrugged. "Maybe he's her sister's brother-in-law's cousin's uncle and he's here to borrow money."
"Yeah, well, maybe I want a piece of her sister's brother-in-law's cousin's uncle. I almost slid out of my chair when he walked past me."
Jillian, too, had experienced a very feminine reaction: breathlessness, beaded nipples, quickened pulse. It had been a long time since she'd been intimate with a man and, well, the scent of sin—that's the only way to describe it—had followed this one, lingering in the air long after he'd stepped into the boss's office and shut the door.
"I thought you had a boyfriend," Jillian said, trying not to frown at the image of Georgia and Cute Ass. Together. Naked.
A dark, haunted glint entered her friend's eyes but was quickly extinguished. "I did." Georgia sighed. "I do."
With a dismissive—forced?—laugh, Georgia waved her hand through the air. "Of course not. Things are the same as they've been for the last several weeks. Wyatt tells me I'm beautiful and asks me to marry him every single day. And every single day I tell him I'm still thinking about it."
"If you have to think about it, he's not the man for you." Jillian didn't think he was the man for Georgia, anyway. He treated her like a queen, sure, lavishing endless compliments on her physical beauty. But where were his compliments on her witty mind and kind heart?
"I've heard your argument against him a thousand times, counselor, so no need to rehash the case. I just want to be sure we're forever, that's all." She sounded miserable.
"We could put him to the CAM test again." Every woman who worked here ended up putting her man to the test. Only two had passed. Wyatt and some guy Selene had dated—and later dumped when she found him in bed with another man.
"He'd just pass again. Since he knows what we do for a living, he's always suspicious of pretty women who approach him." Georgia crossed her legs and her skirt rode all the higher. "No more talk of Wyatt. I want to discuss, in minute detail, Anne's possible new lover. He has to be a superhero. Pleasure Man or something like that, able to cause orgasm with a single glance. No ordinary man could have charmed his way into a private meeting with Frigid Anne."
Jillian eagerly returned to the topic of Cute Ass. "Did he look at you when he passed you?" she asked pensively, replaying his hallway stride through her mind, step by sexy step. "Did he give you any sign of interest?"
Georgia's forehead furrowed and her red brows drew together. She blinked in dawning confusion. "No. He didn't."
"He ignored me, too," Selene said as she strode past Jillian's cube, head bent over a file. "Danielle, too."
"He didn't look at me, either," Jillian assured Georgia. Hadn't cast a single glance in her direction, actually, and she had been making plenty of noise as she'd struggled to pick up her jaw and draw in even a molecule of air. It wasn't that she thought she was entitled to male appreciation or anything like that. But to completely ignore the women of this office as if they were nothing more than asexual beings… maybe he was gay.
"What a waste if he's gay," Georgia said, confirming her thoughts.
It was telling, really, that neither one of them thought there was a chance in hell he was so devoted to a wife or girlfriend that he failed to notice other women. It wasn't even a possibility in their minds.
"But I didn't get the gay vibe," Georgia added. "Did you?"
"No." So if he wasn't gay, what was he? Jillian didn't like mysteries (they sucked), hated working puzzles (they blew), and wanted to spit on surprises (they both sucked and blew). Maybe that was one of the reasons she enjoyed working at CAM. Every night, the outcome was the same. The target cheated. End of story.
Okay, so that was a little sad.
"Do you think he's blind?"
"Come on, Detective Carrington. You can do better than that. He didn't have a Seeing Eye dog or a cane. Nor did he stumble or need Anne to lead him." She thought about it for a moment. "My guess is he's so self-absorbed, he didn't realize anyone else was in the building."
"Oh, no doubt you're right. What an ass!" Discussion over in her mind since that made Cute Ass a jerk and unworthy of their time, Georgia pushed to her feet and twirled. "So… do you like my new outfit?"
"You look like a slut. I love it." Jillian grinned. "Do you have an assignment tonight?"
Returning her grin, Georgia plopped back onto the desk. "Nope. This outfit is for Wyatt. After last night's assignment…" Her full, red lips curled in revulsion. "I may not go into the field again. I sat next to my target—at a coffeehouse, of all places—and the slimy bastard immediately tried to talk his way into my pants. Your dad has to be a thief. That's the only way to explain those stars in your eyes. Gag! He's married, for God's sake, and had just celebrated his sixteenth wedding anniversary."