Read an Excerpt
By Dawn Atkins
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. All right reserved. ISBN: 0-373-79097-X
Chapter One"Just because you're sleeping with a guy doesn't mean you have to pick out china patterns,"
Kara's best friend said, pointing her nearly drained Fuzzy Navel in Kara's direction. "Stop
channeling your mother. Sex does not equal love."
Kara Collier sighed at the lecture. "I can't help it. I'm a serious person. I want a serious
relationship." She downed the last dollop of her frozen prickly-pear margarita and licked the rim
of the glass - salty as tears.
"You always rush things," Tina continued. "You did the same thing with Brian. And a year ago it
was Paul. What happened this time with Scott?"
"I just asked him if he'd like a drawer - for convenience, you know, to keep a change of
clothes when he stays over - and he accused me of trying to smother him."
"Affection-miser," Tina declared. "I was afraid of that."
"Not another Cosmo quiz."
"Experts write those surveys."
"Did you really think Scott and I wouldn't have worked out?" Kara asked, filled with gloom.
Tina nodded. "Sorry. I might have been wrong. Sometimes I am."
"I didn't see it. Once I sleep with a guy everything changes. My mind starts running with plans
and dreams. Maybe I should just stay away from men."
"Celibacy's a possibility, I guess," Tina said, her expression doubtful.She tipped her glass to
collect a mouthful of ice. Kara braced for the crunching. What did they say about ice crunchers
being sexually repressed? That couldn't be the reason in Tina's case. She was the most sexually
liberated woman Kara knew.
"The only problem," Kara said, "is that after a while without a man I get kind of -" she
squirmed in her seat and leaned closer to finish " - itchy. You know?"
"You mean horny, Kara. Just say it. Horny."
"That's such a crude word."
"Crude but accurate." Tina shrugged, her spaghetti strap sagging over her pretty shoulder. Tina
wore her dark hair curved close to her face. She had petite features and a bow of a mouth - Betty
Boop with a smart-ass answer for everything.
"Can I get you ladies something?" Tom, their favorite bartender at the Upside, shot them his
darling half smile - Mona Lisa if she'd been a man.
"Yes, you can, Tom," Tina said. "You can get my friend here a new attitude about sex."
Kara's face heated. "Tina," she warned, knowing it was pointless to try to get Tina to hold back.
"Not my specialty," Tom said. "I can, however, get you another prickly-pear margarita and a
Fuzzy Navel, double ice." Tom always remembered what they were drinking, even though they
made a point of trying different things during their weekly wind-down happy hour. They went
Tuesdays or Fridays, depending on how hectic things were at work. Today was Tuesday.
"Not his specialty, my ass," Tina muttered. "That man has sex god written all over him ... from
that gorgeous head of hair to those size-twelve feet. And you know what they say about the size
of a man's feet."
"Everything isn't about size, Tina. Or sex."
"Prove it," she said, then glanced at her watch.
"Where's Ross? I want to ask him about the Emerson campaign."
"He was finishing the sketches for the beer company pitch." Ross was a graphic artist who
worked as an art director at Siegel and Sampson Marketing, the ad agency where Kara was an
account manager and Tina a copywriter. He joined them for a drink most Upside nights and
was due any minute. He was also Kara's best male friend.
"You should take lessons from Ross and me and have sex for sex's sake," Tina continued,
"instead of wearing your heart on your parts."
"You have such a way with words," Kara said.
"And that's not fair. I try to take it slow, but when the guy seems right, I can't help but think
ahead. I don't want to invest emotional energy in something that's going nowhere."
Kara lived by her goals - in every aspect of her life. Added to that was her parents' divorce
when she was sixteen. She'd concluded her mother had married the wrong man and the lesson
seemed clear - choose men with care ... and with your future in mind.
"You're either picking the wrong men or rushing the right ones," Tina concluded, her eyes on
Tom, who was bending to get something from a low shelf. "What a great butt," she mused
wistfully. "The quiet ones are deep, you know. And Tom's so alert. Think of all that attention in
bed. Mmm-mmm-mmm." She drummed her highly decorated nails on the bar.
"Could we focus on my problem here?" Kara said.
"Oh, right." Tina shook herself, then turned her big eyes on Kara, crossing her curvy legs with a
quick movement. "Sorry. Talking about sex gets me thinking about sex. Like looking in a bakery
window discussing the éclairs. You gotta have one."
"I may choose the wrong men," Kara said, "but at least I choose. Don't you ever want to settle
"Someday, maybe. Maybe not. I see no point in gluing myself to a guy. When he rips away,
you're a blob of jelly at his feet. I'm not doing that."
"Why are you so sure he'll rip away?"
"Because that's how it works. I tried clinging once. In high school I fell hard and it was a
"High school is Hurt Central."
"It's a proving ground. Lessons for life." Tina frowned. The topic seemed to bother her. "But
that's me. Let's get back to you." Tina tapped her lip. "Okay. Without a man, you get horny,
right? Then handle your horniness. Buy a vibrator. When you itch, you scratch. Simple."
Kara shook her head. "It doesn't work that way with me. I need another person for my, um,
equipment, to work. I never know where the guy's going to touch me next, so it's always a
surprise. When it's just me, it's boring."
"You're missing out on a good time," Tina said.
"It's the electronics age, baby." She pretended to smoke a cigar and wiggle her brows à la
"At least check out that naughty lingerie store by the doughnut shop."
"I don't think a gadget's the answer."
"So maybe it's lack of experience. How many men have you slept with, anyway?"
"Not that many," she admitted. There'd been two relationships in college, and in the eight years
since, just four men, including the three Tina had mentioned. Kara had dated other men, but not
long enough for sex to happen ... and complicate things.
She'd chosen stable men with relationship potential, but somehow they weren't quite ready or
they had commitment issues or mother issues or just plain issues. "I tried to go slow - I waited
six months this time - but I just got too ..."
Excerpted from Friendly Persuasion by Dawn Atkins
Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.