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Take Me Twice
By Isabel Sharpe
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFrom: Laine Blackwell
To: Angie Keller; Kathy Baker
Subject: Joining in the fun
Hey, all. I am sitting here at my itsy-bitsy cubicle pretending to be typing up important memos, but it's my last day in this place (finally!) and all I'm really doing is watching the clock until my going-away party starts so everyone can come as an excuse to stop working, get free food and booze, and pretend they'll miss me and will keep in touch.
Wanting to spew coffee at the thought.
In any case, as you all know, the fact that I am leaving means, as I promised, that Men To Do season is wide open. I have an entire summer of unemployed bliss ahead of me before graduate school starts in September. During that time I plan to make some man or men extremely happy to be alive, and assume they will return the favor.
When September comes, I will start a part-time job, begin my studies and remember once again that men are more than penises mounted on thrusting devices.
For now, however, let the games begin.
"BYE, LAAAAAINE! We'll miss yooou, please keep in touch, okaaaaaay?"
"Oh, I will."
Laine returned the bare squeeze her soon-to-be exco-worker proffered, and nearly gagged on the way-too-familiar perfume stench. Eau de Suffocation. She sure as hell wouldn't miss that. This fact-checking job at I am Woman magazine was her fourth since graduating from Princeton eight years ago and she was done. Done! June first, and she was on her way to a summer of fun and relaxation before she started Columbia journalism school in the fall. Her first real break since ... ever.
Ha! Take that, repressive slave-driving capitalist tools. She was history.
Her boss, Petunia Finkseed - whose real name was much less fun so why think of her that way - shook her hand gravely. "Thanks for the hard work and good luck, Laine. When you graduate, if you want to come back, please do. There's always a job for you here at I am Woman."
Laine grinned broadly, murmured thanks, and wondered just how high those pigs would have to fly before she'd think about coming back. Not that it had been a bad job, by any means. But she was free! Free! Free from the constant pressure, from the snarly office intrigue, from the barely veiled leers of the company V.P.
An entire summer stretched ahead of her; she'd take Manhattan by storm, do all the things she'd wanted to since moving here after college but had never had time for. Sleeping late, reading the paper every day, taking long bubble baths, sight-seeing, irresponsibly late nights dancing during the week, trips to the beach, a solemn vow to avoid panty hose before 8:00 p.m. She wanted to take French, pottery, learn yoga, skydiving, tap dancing, cooking ...
And ... find a Man To Do. Or a couple of them.
She'd joined Eve's Apple, an online reading group, after her high school friend Samantha recommended it not only as a place to find fun and stimulating reads, but also as a good place for female companionship. Not long after, Laine had joined the smaller e-mail subset of the group, Men To Do Before Saying I Do. Their mission? To find unattached, sexy, thoroughly inappropriate males ... and do them.
What could be more perfect? Call it an age-thirty midterm break. Then in September, graduate school at Columbia and the rest of her life would get started. She'd be on her way to becoming America's best reporter. Granted a few years ago she'd enrolled briefly in a master's English program at Boston University, and thought she was on her way to writing the Great American Novel; and granted after college she'd applied to medical school, but this time she was on her way. For real. She was pretty sure.
She grabbed her small box of personal items - pictures of her parents on their vacation at the Grand Canyon, her niece Carolyn on her first birthday, the scraggly air fern that, frankly, she couldn't tell was alive or dead, and the gold-plated bracelet her coworkers had chipped in and bought for her.
Her next-door cubicle prisoner, Fred, got a genuine hug and a promise of lunch sometime, and Laine fled.
Down the hall, down the elevator filled with tall, gorgeous women in black and men in dark suits, across the huge marble lobby filled with tall, gorgeous women in black and men in dark suits, and hot damn, out into the gritty dusty chaos of Times Square. Free! She wanted to hug the harassed mom with three cranky kids, she wanted to kiss the gorgeous blond guy across the street, she wanted to create a scene by skipping, no, frolicking, no, gamboling her way to the subway, kicking up her heels and crowing like Peter Pan.
Except, in Manhattan, no one would even blink.
She bounced down the 42nd Street subway stairs and pushed her way through the turnstile, following the commuting crowds the same way she always did. But instead of bleary-eyed, leaden, sheeplike, obedient herding, she practically danced onto the subway platform. Hello, New Yorkers! Laine's here!
She must be practically glowing. People would raise their heads and murmur when she walked by. Who was that woman with so much joy in her heart? What was her secret?
Instead she stepped in some just-chewed gum and spent a good three minutes trying to scrape the goo off the bottom of her chunky black heels.
No more black! The rest of the summer she'd avoid it like the plague. Except of course a killer black minidress on a hot date.
She filed onto the C-train, headed downtown and clutched her box of belongings, bumping against the other commuting bodies when the train swayed. She gazed at the ads along the top of the car to avoid gazing at other people, though she wished sometimes she could stare openly, like a child. Maybe she would do that sometime. People were so fascinating.
A body came a little too close behind her, pressed a little harder than the crush of commuters would make necessary. A pelvis planted firmly against her rear end. Ewwww. She grimaced and let her elbow make "accidental" forceful contact with the soft male belly behind her. There was a grunt, and the body moved away. City living could be so charming. But nothing could keep her down today. Nothing! Not even a gross grinder.
So what would she do tonight? Champagne? A soak in the tub? Maybe rent a nice romantic movie? Or maybe her roommate of six months, Monica, would want to go out, not that she ever did that anymore since she'd started dating Joe the Smotherer.
Just as well. Laine shouldn't go too wild too soon. Taking into consideration her grad school tuition and expenses, she'd saved barely enough to scrape through the summer without a salary, but finances would be tight if she went too crazy. She had a part-time job as a marketing writer with an architecture firm lined up this fall, but she'd really, really wanted the summer totally free.
The train arrived at Fourteenth Street. She got off and tossed a glare at the subway humper, who grinned back obscenely.
Excerpted from Take Me Twice by Isabel Sharpe Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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