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A few minutes into the September dawn, Brett Jacobsen squatted in bushes under the cover of oaks and dogwood. Steiner binoculars hung from a leather cord around his neck. The suns rising made the dew sparkle like a million diamonds and spider webs look as though theyd been spun from strands of pure silver. He loved mornings, and especially when he could spend them like this, outdoors.
Subtle movement across the meadow caught his attention and he used the powerful lenses to focus on a red fox worrying an area under low-growing brush. A rabbit warren, most likely. "Too late, fella," he murmured. "Better find your breakfast somewhere else."
Turning the glasses into the trees above the fox, he grinned as he spied a wood thrush, an unusual sight in this part of Virginia. With a jerk of its head and flick of its tail, the thrush took abrupt flight. Brett scanned the immediate area to find what had startled the bird but saw nothing. Instead, he heard a barely discernible hum from off to his left.
He lowered the binoculars and cocked his head to listen. What the hell?
A squirrel digging for food at his feet scurried a couple of feet up the closest tree. Now, tail waving back and forth, the animal waited, head up and alert, as though he, too, was trying to distinguish the source of the noise. Determining that there was no imminent threat, it might have returned to the forest floor, but by then Brett had forgotten about squirrels and birds. His attention was turned to finding the source of the annoying sound.
With stealth that belied his six-foot-two frame, he crept to the edge of the woods and concentrated in the direction ofthe interference. To the east and through a gap in the trees, he saw the wooden deck of a house. Of course. Hed forgotten the owners of the adjoining land lived so near the property line.
Raising the binoculars, his only interest was in seeing what had caused the break in the morning calm. He adjusted the focus. Yes, there was a half-covered deck. A barbeque grill, an umbrella-covered table and chairs, a chaise, a--
Sucking in his breath, he dropped the Steiners. Then he raised them again to take in the sight of a shapely woman, pleasuring herself with the biggest damn vibrator hed ever seen.
Holy shit! He couldnt believe this.
What a surprising find--even more so than the wood thrush, he thought with amusement. The morning had begun in an ordinary manner, racing the sun for an early tramp through the woods before starting the workday. Hed been prepared for the fox and even the thrush. No shock to see a doe and her twin fawns following their morning feeding trail. What he hadnt expected was what he now viewed. Real wildlife. In 30X resolution. The female Homo erectus hornyalitus, in her home habitat.
Speaking of which, the animal in his jeans now felt pretty "erectus" itself and ached to be free. Resisting the urge to take himself in hand, he focused instead on the mystery woman.
Shadow concealed her head and neck, protecting her identity, but the damp, tight curls covering her mound were very visible and declared her to be one of those rare species, a natural blonde. His breath quickened as he watched her push and pull the huge phallus. Her other hand, no less ardent in its work, stroked the nipple of one breast, causing it to darken. The little berry cried out to be suckled, and how he wished he could oblige.
Leaving her nipple for the moment, she dropped her hand to caress the soft spot at the top of her nether lips. Meanwhile, she continued the action of the vibrating faux-man, rocking her hips in slow, tantalizing thrusts that matched its progress.
What a waste, using that thing! From what he could see of her body, she would have no trouble finding a real man to please her. Brett wondered how long it had been since shed had a living, breathing man between her luscious thighs. Sadly, she looked pretty adept at creating her own path to heaven, so perhaps shed been without for far too long.
As he had the thought, her back arched. Through the powerful lenses, Brett watched her middle finger stroke the nubbin that would help bring her to climax. She separated the folds of her labia in a caress and a ray of sunlight struck the vibrator on its outward course. Moisture glistened on the surface. Brett licked his lips, imagining her taste on his tongue, her flavor filling his mouth. He ached now, and barely restrained himself from reaching for the buckle of his belt.
Her golden curls darkened with wetness as the long phallus probed her tight sheath. In his mind, those same curls dampened the hair ringing his cock as he sank into her, over and over.
She seemed in no hurry. But then, it was early. If they were in bed together, he and this mysterious, sexy woman, he would be taking his time, too, exploring every inch of her body with his mouth and with his fingers. Finally, hed use them between her thighs to bring her off. He knew ways to exploit his tongue that he was sure God hadnt intended, although he might be wrong--women always invoked the name of the Almighty when he licked and sucked them to the Big O. Only after hed brought this woman to a mind-bending release would he tantalize her with his cock.
Shit! This sex fantasy was about to drive him crazy. Through his jeans, he stroked the length of his swollen shaft. The hungry, energetic guy between his legs was yearning to take the long-legged blonde to paradise and bring her back again, and he wished more than anything he could oblige.
A groan broke from him. Suddenly he wanted to see her face, watch as her lips parted in passion and her eyes adopted the unfocused glazed look of ... horror if she knew she was being watched.
He let the glasses dangle. What in hell was he doing? He was no voyeur. Besides priding himself on being a gentleman, he had a very nice sex life of his own. Well, it was very nice when it was active, which it hadnt been for awhile. Still, his sexual need certainly didnt require spying to satisfy. Watching the woman was cheap and disgusting and deceitful, and ... too much of a good opportunity to pass up. Okay, so Im a bastard. I can live with that.
Without volition, he stepped to where forest met meadow for a better angle. He lifted the binoculars and readjusted the focus.
Her hands stilled. She removed the phallus and scooted back before jumping up to use the chaise as cover. In the depths of the deck she became a shadowy form. But a form that nonetheless bent far enough forward to flip him the bird. Then she was gone.
Busted! And he was unlikely to see her again. Even if he did, he wouldnt recognize her since he hadnt seen her face. He knew where she lived, but what could he do? Ring her doorbell and say, "Excuse me, my names Brett and I was the man watching you boink yourself the other day. Would you like to go out?"
He glanced at his watch and sighed. Time to get to work.
"Don, why are you bringing this up now? Weve got signed leases and agreements. The deal is just the way we wanted it." Brett kept his voice calm, but after listening for the last twenty minutes to his old friend but new partner, Don Forbes, he was beginning to lose patience.
"I know how you feel about keeping the land as natural as possible, Brett, but Ive been looking more closely at the figures and walking the property. Doing what we discussed earlier is going to cost a fortune. The Jacorbes Group is just getting off the ground and every penny counts right now." Don tossed a sheaf of papers across the desk. "Look at the estimates if we hold to this course. And theres more. While you were in Pittsburgh last week, I got wind of some tree-hugger stirring up trouble because of where the site is. That means possible legal expenses on top of everything else. I think we need to re-examine the plans and talk to Smith and Conrad again."
Jason Smith and Joe Conrad were CEO and President of one of the largest employers in central Virginia. It was their new RandD headquarters that Brett and Don had contracted to design and build.
In silence, Brett put on his glasses and read the report, flipping back and forth to compare numbers. Then he set the papers on the edge of the desk and stared into space. Don sat quietly.
"I didnt come home to do the same old thing," Brett said suddenly. "Ive already been the architect of record on standard projects and Ive got plenty of photos on my wall to prove it. I dont need more. Since we were kids we talked about doing something that would make a difference, and for me this is it. I have the land, I have the vision, I have the clients who are willing to let me run with it." He frowned, finally facing Don. "I have to do it."
Don started to speak, but Brett held up his hand.
"I know youre nervous, but we cant dissolve The Jacorbes Group now. Weve got commitments, obligations."
"Hell, you know I dont want that, anyway." Don sighed and scrubbed his hand across his face and eyes, bloodshot eyes that revealed a sleepless night. "Marilyn told me last night shes pregnant."
"Yeah, Oh. One kid just starting college, one going next year and now one on the way. When you and Marilyn and I were at Tech, this isnt exactly how I envisioned life would be at forty." He looked at Brett, a plea in his eyes. "Hey, Im not saying tear out all the trees. Not at all. Make it attractive, but keep costs as reasonable as possible. For me, its not just the business figures that are going to be tight. Looks like theyll be tight at home, too. At least until we get the next job, and the next one."
Brett considered. "How about if I assume more of the risk? I can take on more."
"I hate to ask it of you. Youve already got so much on the line."
"We can work it out." Brett pulled a sheet of paper toward him, scribbled, then shoved it back across the desk. "Would this work for you?"
Don picked up the paper. When he finished reading he sat back, pulling on his lip before answering. "This would be good, Brett. But are you sure you want to take on the additional liability?"
"Im sure. Itll stretch me financially, theres no question. And if we fail Ill definitely feel it. But damn it, Don, a dream is worth more than money. I was out there this morning..." The vision of a naked woman receiving a giant dildo invaded his thoughts. With considerable effort he stayed focused on business. "This is going to work. It will revolutionize architecture for rural areas, and it will end up making our reputations, youll see. Well succeed because we have to, and because weve got the vision to do it right." He jabbed his finger at the paper on the desk, happy to see the light of excitement spark his partners eyes again. "If youll have Harvey draw that up and send it over to the hotel this evening, Ill sign it and well get going on this project. As for the troublemakers, leave that problem to Harvey and me."
Don stood, holding out his hand. "I cant wait to get started."
Brett rose and clasped his friends hand. "Me, either, buddy."
Linda Anderson placed the last daisy in the arrangement, centering it perfectly between a yellow rose and purple iris to emphasize their vibrant colors. Turning the bowl to examine the form of the floral grouping with a critical eye, she finally nodded her approval. Attaching a bow and gift card, she set it to the side just as the phone rang.
"Petal Pushers. How may I brighten your day?" It was a corny greeting, but she found people actually liked it.
"Linda? I need a big favor."
She smiled at her friend Carols opening. "A favor, huh? What kind of favor?" While she talked she brushed leaves and bits of florists foam off the counter and into the trash can.
"Are you doing anything tonight? Well, really, this evening after work?"
"I have another blind date. And Im telling you now, if this one isnt better than the last ten, Im swearing off men. After this morning, I should anyway."
"Really. What happened?" Curiosity evidently trumped favors.
"Well, it was early, and you know the house is out there with no one around for miles, so I went out on the back deck with my Lumberjack..."
"Oh, no! Dont tell me there was someone..."
"--and there was some pervert in the woods watching me."
"Yes. He didnt come right out into the open, but I saw the sun glint off his binoculars, the creepy bastard. I wish Id called the police. After all, that land is private property." Her tone was huffy, but strangely, the memory sent a jolt through her loins. After the initial shock, and except for not knowing who the interloper was, being watched had been somewhat titillating. Sexy, even. But--that was better kept secret. After all, who was guiltier? The watcher or the person who enjoyed being watched?
Guilt didnt dispel the thrill of a new fantasy, though. Carol did.
"Whoa! That would be some report. Think of what hed say. Still, maybe you should have called the cops. You are out there in the middle of nowhere. Doesnt it worry you?"
Linda sighed. "No, Im fine. But the session with my poor Lumberjack was ruined. I never got to yell, Timber! Hell, I didnt even get the damn tree topped, if you catch my drift."
Carol burst into giggles. "Get a grip."
"Ha! Easy for you to say, youve got a real guy at home to wake you up in the mornings. Give us single girls a break."
"Oh, sure. Between kids, shopping, cooking, cleaning and being here eight hours a day, who has time or energy? Were lucky if we kiss before falling asleep. And mornings? Forget it. Which brings me to my favor." She sounded excited. "Dannys planned a romantic evening at home. No kids, no calls, just us. Its tonight."
"Oh, how sweet! You deserve it."
"It is sweet, isnt it? But now Harvey wants me to hand deliver some papers to a client out in the west end. They wont even be ready until almost five. If I have to drive west of town at rush hour then come back through town, itll take me forever to get home." Carol lowered her voice. "So I was wondering, since youll go near the hotel on your way home anyway..."
Lindas forehead creased into a frown. "Wont your boss be upset if someone else takes the papers? These are legal documents, after all."
"No one will know. The client is expecting someone from the office and hell think youre that someone." Carol went on in a rush, "You just ring his room, hell come to the lobby to sign for the envelope and you give me the receipt tomorrow morning. Simple! It would take me a couple of hours to do two minutes of work. And, Linda..." it seemed impossible that she could drop her voice any lower and still be heard, but she did, "--I really, really need this time with Danny. It feels like years since weve done what you and the Lumberjack did this morning." There was no denying the desperation in her voice. Still...
"Okay, okay," Linda said reluctantly, "Im just afraid something will get screwed up."
"Itll be fine, youll see." There was no mistaking the relief in Carols voice. "Oh, wow, this is so wonderful! I thank you, Danny thanks you, everyone Ive been bitchy to in the past few weeks because Ive been without, thanks you. Now, the clients name is Brett Jacobsen, and..."
Linda stood up straight. "Jacobsen? The architect?"
"Yes, have you heard of him?"
"Oh, yes, I know more than I care to about Mr. Brett Jacobsen. I didnt know Harvey represented him." Instead of pinching the brown leaf off the philodendron on the counter in front of her, she yanked it off, almost overturning the pot.
"Yeah, we do." Carol hesitated, sounding less sure of her course, then she forged ahead. "Hes at Home Suites, that new hotel on Broad. You know where it is, right?"
Linda took a deep breath and strove to keep her tone light. "Yeah, I do. Im actually meeting my date at that little Mexican restaurant right next door to the hotel. Thisll work."
"Great!" With her problem solved, Carol zeroed in on Linda. "Who set you up?"
Carols voice brightened. "Shes got good taste in men. Maybe this one will be a winner."
"All of the guys Jocelyn knows are conservative, button-down, vanilla." She ripped open a packet of bloom extender and dumped it into a pitcher of water.
Chuckling, Carol said, "But, Linda, except for using the Lumberjack youre conservative, button-down, vanilla."
"Dont sound so perky about it," Linda said through a sigh. "What good does it do me? As soon as guys see me, their eyes are glued to my chest and any intelligent conversation is overridden by hormones. Besides, I think I might have discovered a wild side. I bought an outfit that is definitely not vanilla and Im trying it out tonight. Believe me, if my date can control himself through the evening, hell be a man among men. Ill grab him up and make sure hes not sorry."
"Linda!" Carol laughed. "Dont go too wild on me. I like my solid, conventional friend. And somewhere out there is the right guy. Someone who ignores boobs and sees all of your other qualities. I believe it."
Linda snorted. "Ill be thirty-six in a few weeks. You know the statistics. Lately Ive been hiding during storms because Im more likely to be struck by lightning than to find that mythical right man. Im about to stop looking."
"Statistics arent facts, you know. They can be manipulated to support anything."
"Yeah, I know." Linda dropped two dozen carnations into the pitcher of water and loosely arranged them. "Well, tonight Im implementing a small test of my dates concentration. This dress is low cut and black lea..." The bell over the shop door tinkled. "Oops, got a customer. Ill see you later this afternoon."