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A Hands On Serial, Part 1 of 3
By Cathryn Fox, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Cathryn Fox
All rights reserved.
Danielle Lang planted her elbows on the café table and pressed her forehead into her palms. "How could I have gotten myself into such a mess?"
"Because you need the money," her best friend Violet supplied as she sipped a mocha latte and eyed the cute guy making his way to the barista. "There are worse ways to pay the bills, you know, and if you ask me this is a pretty sweet gig."
"Sweet gig?" Danielle dropped her hands, the loud bang on the table gaining the attention of the women sitting two rows over. She leaned forward to avoid unwanted listeners and lowered her voice. "Violet, this is serious."
Violet's gaze jerked back to Danielle's, her dark hair falling over her shoulders. "I know it is, but come on." She gave an easy shrug. "You're a psychologist, fresh out of graduate school. Really, how hard can it be to teach sex therapy to a bunch of incoming freshmen?"
"That's what she said."
Violet grinned over her cup, and Danielle laughed, despite the misery weighing her down. She loved her friend, she really did, but Violet didn't understand the severity of the situation. When it came to sex, Violet would graduate cum laude, and Danielle, well, she could be found at the bottom of the class.
With one elbow planted on the table, Violet flipped her palm face up. "Look, you get in, offer some by-the-book therapy, and get out. Then you get a nice, fat paycheck for your time so you can pay down your debt and open your own family counseling practice like you want to. I'm not really seeing the problem here."
Danielle sank back in her chair and twisted a long strand of hair around her finger, a common habit when she was nervous. "I know that's the plan, and I have book knowledge on sex therapy, but how can I honestly teach anyone about the emotions behind sex, the hang-ups, the fetishes when I don't understand them myself?"
Violet wagged dark brows over deep green eyes. "Ooh, fetishes. My favorite subject."
Danielle crinkled her nose and pushed up her glasses. "I just don't get it. Some of the fetishes I've read about seem strange, maybe even a bit deviant."
"That's because you haven't tried anything."
"You're absolutely right." Decision made, she flattened her hands on the table. "Which is why I need to back out of this job before I get kicked out. There is no way I can teach a group of students about intimacy and the need for desirability in humans if I've never had any hands-on experience." Violet stared at her from across the tiny table, obviously still not seeing the problem. Danielle sighed and tried again. "Remember that dysfunctional family I lived with? The religious ones I told you about?"
Violet sipped her drink. "Yeah."
"Well, they went to their priest for marriage counseling. I kept thinking, what does a priest know about marriage, and how can he possibly give advice if he's never been married?"
"That's it!" The cup her friend was holding came down so hard it clattered on the saucer and splattered coffee over the rim.
Danielle's head jerked back with a start. "What's it?"
"You'll just have to get the hands-on experience you need." Violet sat up straighter in her seat, her eyes narrowing shrewdly, her finger tapping the tabletop as she looked at the patrons in the café.
Shit. Danielle knew that look. Violet was on a mission, and once she went into fix-it mode, there was no stopping her. She leaned forward and rapped her knuckles on the table to get her attention. "If you're suggesting what I think you're suggesting, forget it."
"It's the perfect solution. Two weeks of hands-on training to give you the experience you need before the summer semester starts." She pointed to the guy she'd been admiring earlier. "What about him?"
Oh, hell no!
Danielle grabbed her friend's hand and pushed it down. "I am not going to walk up to some random guy and ask him to have sex with me," she whispered between clenched teeth.
"Okay, then, how about a not-so-random guy?"
She groaned. "Stop. Just ... stop, okay? This isn't going to happen."
"Of course it is. It's just a matter of with whom."
The bell over the café door jingled. To keep from reaching across the table and choking her dear friend, Danielle picked up her drink, took a sip, and glanced toward the door. Ohmigod. Was that Jack Rider?
Jack — badass — Rider.
Her blood flowed thick and heavy as the hottest guy from her high school stepped through the portal. Like a dim-witted moth drawn to a lightbulb, she let her gaze rake over him as he strolled inside the café. She'd had a thing for him back in the day, but the star quarterback had been way out of her league in high school, and from the looks of him now, that much hadn't changed.
She'd heard about the ligament injuries that had sidelined him recently, but outside of catching a game or two on TV, and that one Christmas she'd briefly spotted him buying cold medicine at the nearby drugstore, she hadn't seen him in person since he left Florida and went to college on a football scholarship.
She gave him a once over. Twice. He was hotter than ever, which was really saying something. Despite his bum leg, he moved with surprising grace for a guy of his size, and while she tried not to stare, for the life of her she couldn't seem to tear her gaze away. She swallowed against a suddenly dry throat and took another gulp of her drink, her body warming in the way it always had when he was in the vicinity. In all her years, no guy had ever affected her the way he did.
"Is that —" Violet began, and then stopped, her head bobbing back and forth between Danielle and Jack when Jack flashed a smile their way. "Ohmigod."
"Ohmigod what?" Danielle asked, trying not to sound as breathless as she felt.
"That is Jack Rider from the Seattle Kings, and you're hot for him."
"No ... yes ... I mean ..."
"Well, holy shit. My little asexual friend is finally all worked up." She waved her finger up and down. "Look at you, all flushed and out of breath." Violet's gaze dropped to Danielle's chest. "And I just bet your nipples are hard."
Danielle set her cup down and crossed her arms over her T-shirt, hoping to hide her arousal. "I am not asexual. I've just been busy. And I'm not all worked up." With a quick nod, she gestured to the fans overhead. "It's just the air conditioner."
Violet leaned in, her eyes gleaming with mischief. "Ask him."
"Ask him what?"
"To teach you all about sex." She gave Danielle a look that suggested she was dense. "Isn't that what we've been talking about?"
"It's what you've been talking about, and you're out of your mind." She pitched her voice low. "That's Jack Rider. The Jack Rider."
"I don't care if he's Zac-frigging-Efron. He's a well-known player, and just the guy to help you" — she waggled her brows — "bone up on sex. Give you the hands-on experience you're looking for." Violet turned and blatantly stared at Jack. "Jesus, look at those hands. You know what they say, the bigger the hands, the bigger the —"
Danielle held her palms up to cut her friend off. "I know. I know. And there's no proof of that."
Violet did that weird head-bobbing thing she always did when she was really getting into a plan. "Wanna bet?"
"Then find out yourself. I dare you."
Ooh, how tempting.
"Violet," she warned. Cripes, her friend had to be out of her mind. She wasn't about to ask Jack to have sex with her. She wasn't about to ask anyone, for that matter. She'd spent her whole life doing for herself, and asking anyone for anything was just a set up for disappointment. So she wasn't about to start now and go down a path that led to regret.
"Look, you said you didn't want to ask a random stranger to get you up to speed on the nasty, and he's not. You already know each other. You went to high school together. Plus, he smiled at you, Danielle."
"He was probably just trying to clean something from his teeth. No way would he remember me. I was a freshman. He was a senior. We didn't even travel in the same circles." Although, there were those few times he offered to drive her home when it was raining, and the afternoon he helped her pick her books up when some stupid jock friend of his knocked them out of her hands and took off laughing. Rumor had it Jack punched the guy in the face later that day — but then, a lot of rumors went around her school.
Violet pursed her lips. "Looks to me like he remembers you."
"Doesn't matter. Go for it anyway. Invite him home ..." Her words fell off as she extended her arms forward and with quick thrusts, jerked them back and forth. "And break in that vag-vag."
"Jesus." Danielle lowered her head and muttered, "I am so not about to do that. And besides, who says he'd go home with me? I read the paper. I've seen the hot women he's been with."
"Which means he has what it takes to give you the experience you need." Violet snapped her fingers. "Right clothes, right shoes, right bra. You'll be a walking wet dream in no time at all. Not that you're not now, but we just need to put a couple of things out there."
Those "couple of things" had better not be what I think they are.
Violet grabbed her own breasts and jiggled them.
"These look good, right?"
Her glance wasn't the only one to fall to Violet's creamy white cleavage as she squeezed her breasts. "They look amazing."
"Victoria's Secret Bombshell bra. It adds two sizes." She dropped her hands. "It's all about the illusion. Just say the word, and I'll take you shopping."
Danielle chuckled. "When it comes off, do the guys feel cheated? Is it a deal breaker?"
Violet cupped one palm. "By then I usually have a fist full of balls, so I'm pretty sure no one would dare complain."
Danielle laughed out loud. "You are so bad."
"No fun in being good."
"Speaking of feeling cheated." She leaned in and lowered her voice. "If I asked a guy for sex, which I'm not about to, don't you think he'd be disappointed, me being an inexperienced virgin and all? I mean, how could I possibly make it good for him?"
Violet blinked, did that weird head-bobbing thing again, then blinked some more. "Girlfriend, you have so much to learn. Guys dig that. Believe me, as soon as he realizes you're chaste ..." She paused to snap her fingers. "He's going to be all over you like gravy on a biscuit."
Danielle's gaze moved to Jack and a fine shiver scuttled through her. Sound calm, Danielle, sound calm. "You think?" He voice came out a little higher than normal. Dammit. Way to give myself away.
Violet grinned. "I know." She checked her phone then shoved it into her purse. "Well, I have to get back." She linked her fingers together and cracked them. "I have a one o'clock hottie in need of a little Violet therapy."
Danielle shook her head. "Maybe you should be the one teaching sex therapy."
Violet hooked her purse over her shoulder. "Come on. You're the strongest girl I know, and you've never let anything keep you from getting what you want. So, go out there and do what you need to do." She tipped her head thoughtfully. "Maybe it would be easier if you thought of it as research. We all know how much you love your research. And, of course, if you did something for him in return ..."
Danielle climbed to her feet and grabbed her purse. She had no intention of going through with Violet's crazy plan, but had to admit that her friend had a point. Second to a warm plate of brownies, research was her happiest place. Choosing the project, seeking out the best resources, and then basking in the satisfaction of knowledge gained ... yeah, she got off on that kind of thing. Would sex be as fulfilling? Would she ... get off?
Jesus, what am I doing?
She shook her head to clear it and followed Violet to the door. As she exited, she could almost swear she felt Jack's eyes on her. She stole a quick glance over her shoulder, and when her gaze collided with his, her knees nearly went out from underneath her. Those eyes. Rich, dark ... a luxurious raw chocolate she could so easily lose herself in. Saliva pooled on her tongue. She spun back around quickly and hurried out the door. Why would he be staring at her like that?
He must think I'm someone else.
She gave Violet a quick hug good-bye and started toward her apartment. The warm sunshine beat down on her as she walked, and when she heard the bell over the café door jingle, she hurried her steps, not daring to look back. If she found Jack watching her again, she just might consider following through with Violet's ludicrous plan.
A few quick steps took her to the corner, and to the familiar For Sale sign outside a quaint downtown house. She stopped and stared at it for a moment, like she always did when passing, visualizing the place as her new home and office. It was the perfect location to set up a practice.
If only I had the money.
Danielle kicked her feet out and hurried to her apartment. She stopped to check the mail, and her stomach twisted when she saw the pink paper inside the window of her power bill. She ripped into it and scanned the notice. Overdue.
Shit. Shit. Shit.I don't have a choice. I have to make this job work.
Well, damned if Violet's plan didn't seem so foolish now. Insane? Maybe. Stupid? Not so much.
She'd worked so hard, done without so much to get her education, and now, with the bills piling up and her money reserves shrinking, it could all be for nothing.
Her forehead fell against the aged wood of her door as despair closed in around her. Tears burned the back of her eyelids, and for a brief moment, she wallowed in the misery that was her life. No money. No business. No family. No man. Thank God Violet couldn't see her now.
With a tired laugh, Danielle pushed off the door and dug through her purse for her key. Yeah, all her friend needed was to see her now, at her lowest, to drive home the asinine idea she'd come up with.
"Sex therapist, indeed," she muttered, stepping into her apartment and closing the door behind her. But, oh, the money would be so good.
She tossed the idea around then shook her head. Am I really considering this?Then again, was having her power shut off better than marching over to Jack's place and begging for love lessons?
She wouldn't do it.
Couldn't do it.
At least, she didn't think so.
But if she did, Jack Rider would be a prime candidate for the cause, and if she offered him something in return ...CHAPTER 2
Flat out on his back under an old pickup truck in his father's auto repair shop, listening to music blaring from his dad's vintage radio, Jack planted his feet on the grease-stained concrete floor and boosted his hips, adjusting the dolly beneath his back. He took care not to put pressure on his fucked up knee as he reached for an impact driver to tighten the screws, but despite his prudence, the movement twisted his leg, and pain shot straight down his calf muscle. He dropped the tool, grabbing the cramping leg. The driver landed with a loud clang as he breathed through the agony.
At least if the team didn't renew his contract, he could fall back on his auto mechanic skills. In the bay, he was his own boss and didn't have to put up with the shit that went on behind the scenes at the stadium. He clenched his teeth, a vein in his forehead throbbing as his mind rewound to last month's bullshit.
One minute he was the star quarterback. The next he was nothing but a shell of his former self, climbing onto an airplane to recover at home from knee surgery that could very well end his career. If he couldn't stand on the starting line, he was no more useful than yesterday's newspaper. Behind the scenes it was all business, and it was a raw fucking deal if you asked him.
He grabbed a rag and wiped his face, and was just about to shove it back into his pocket when the sound of heels clicking on the cold concrete floor reached his ears. They stopped where his scuffed up boots stuck out from the rear of the car, and he angled his head to get a better look. Those heels led to slender ankles then up to bare, smooth legs with just enough calf muscle to make him think they'd hold a man's hips down hard until she was finished with him.
Damn. I really need to get laid.
His cock jumped, and he shifted again, eager to see exactly who those legs belonged to, and if he could coax her into his bed. Overeager, he jackknifed up, the loud thud of his head hitting the new muffler echoing though the garage.
Excerpted from Hands On by Cathryn Fox, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2016 Cathryn Fox. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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