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Being out of circulation is not the end of the world--it is, however, the kiss of death when you're an aspiring sex columnist. For Beth Samuels, who's not used to letting down her hair, turning the heat up is going to take lots of hands-on experience. She's off to a sizzling start in her first attempt when she meets AJ, a mouth-watering guy who leaves her with a tell-tale glow and no doubt that her dry spell is over. After their steamy night together, she knows what it is to be very truly sexy. Too bad distance ...
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Being out of circulation is not the end of the world--it is, however, the kiss of death when you're an aspiring sex columnist. For Beth Samuels, who's not used to letting down her hair, turning the heat up is going to take lots of hands-on experience. She's off to a sizzling start in her first attempt when she meets AJ, a mouth-watering guy who leaves her with a tell-tale glow and no doubt that her dry spell is over. After their steamy night together, she knows what it is to be very truly sexy. Too bad distance separates them and there will be no repeat performances. Until he shows up at her door, that is!
Beth Samuels adjusted her steno pad on her lap, clicked on the mini-recorder she used to back up her note-taking, then leaned back to listen, her stomach jumpy with tension. Her Chinese Crested hairless dog Spud, as relaxed as Beth was nervous, shifted his barrel body against her hip, cozying up for a snooze.
"Were intimate?" Sara teased. "You mean had sex, Beth. If you're going to write about it, you're going to have to say it." Sara dipped an Oreo into the whipped cream garnish Beth had added to the circle of cookies for their snack-and-chat.
"I'm adjusting, okay? I said twitch and moan. What do you want?"
"More than that, sweetie."
Beth clicked off the recorder, dismayed by the challenge she faced. She had to go from easy-breezy entertainment writer to nitty-gritty sex columnist practically overnight. Well, by the next magazine deadline anyway. She wasn't that experienced at having sex, let alone writing about it. That was where her sexually accomplished friend Sara came in. If she would only cooperate.
"I'll make it work, don't worry," Beth said firmly. She would not let her readers down. She cherished her
"On the Town" column, where, as her alter ego, E.M.
"Em" Samuels, she scoped out entertainment venues, analyzing every nuance with as fresh a wit and focus on detail as she could manage. The column was her window on the world and it made her feel valuable and very alive. The money mattered, too, but not as much as the joy of the work.
"So, about Rick and that first time," she said, resituating herself, making Spud groan in his sleep. She snapped on the recorder again. "Was it on your first date? Why or why not? Did he suggest it, or you? Did you make out at length or did it just happen?"
"You mean, did clothes whip away, condoms appear and bodies magically meld?" Sara smiled. She'd told Beth more than once she was too dreamy about these things. "Sex doesn't have to be pretty to be good." She dipped an Oreo into the Grand Marnier frappe Beth had concocted as part of the evening's refreshments, then gestured with it. "People jiggle and wobble."
Beth lunged forward with a napkin to catch Sara's flying drips.
"Zippers snag," Sara continued. "Condoms fly across the bed. Bodies squeak and thrusts get off-tempo. But if you have the right attitude, everybody has a good time." She pushed the soggy snack into her mouth with a triumphant finger.
The drip danger gone, Beth relaxed against the sofa. "I just don't like the awkward parts."
"What you didn't like was sex with Blaine."
"Our sex was okay."
"Okay and sex should never be in the same sentence."
Sara hadn't made a secret of disliking Blaine, though an I-told-you-so had never crossed her lips. Sara was fiercely opinionated, but a loyal friend.
"You have to take a different approach, Bethie, if you're going to make this work. Less lace, limos and gimlets and more 'Ten Tips for Better Blow Jobs.'"
"I'm not writing for Cosmo," she said, distress shooting through her. "It's still Phoenix Rising magazine. I'm just going to spice up the entertainment reviews with a little sex."
Though that wouldn't be as easy as it sounded. Or as easy as her managing editor, Will Connell, thought it would be. Just take your notepad in for the post-date entertainment, he'd said to reassure her. What's the problem?
The problem was that, for her, there was no post-date entertainment, though she wouldn't share that fact with Will, who treated her like a treasured niece. She was as likely to take Sara with her to scope out new bars, res-taurants and clubs, as to take a man. She hadn't actually had a date since Blaine left, nearly a year ago. Maybe she was still recovering. Or maybe dating just seemed like too much trouble.
Sara tried to set her up from time to time, but Beth preferred cocooning in her cozy house with her pets, watching Doris Day-Rock Hudson romps while munching on low-fat caramel rice cakes and diet cream soda - low-cal snacks so she could afford an occasional cookie-frappe splurge with Sara.
But now Phoenix Rising was about to be gobbled up by a magazine conglomerate and Will was trying to save as many sections, columns and jobs as he could, including her own, God bless him.
"So pick up a guy and write about your own first time," Sara said, twisting a cookie apart to scrape the frosting off with her teeth. "Pop a toothbrush and some Trojans into your clutch, hit a singles' spot and - poof - a sex column."
"That's you, not me," she said, absently running her fingers through the silky fringe of a throw pillow, vaguely soothed by the tickling sensation.
"Maybe that's not sweet, shy Beth, but it sure as hell could be hip cosmopolite Em."
"I think I'll stick with my very own personal sexpert - you. Just help me through this rough patch, Sara."
"And you think it's going to smooth out?"
"I can only hope." We're in a reality TV world, Em, Will had said. Readers are bored with their own lives, so everyone else's fascinate them. And nothing was more fascinating than sex. She sighed.
"Okay," Sara conceded, evidently reading her gloom.
"I still say you need the adventure, but I'll tell you about the first time with Rick if it'll help you."
"Start with the highlights, please." Boomer, her St. Bernard, lifted his chin from the floor, as if interested in the scoop, and Ditzy, her teacup poodle, jumped onto Sara's lap.
"Is this animal story time?" Sara asked. She glanced up at the archway into the kitchen. "Even your cats are listening in."
Beth glanced up at her black-and-white spotted cats, Frick and Frack - watching closely from their favorite perch - then at Sara. "At least cover Ditzy's ears. I think she's still a virgin."
"Listen and learn, furball," Sara said to the dog curled in her lap, then shifted her attention to Beth.
"Okay, the highlights. First off, Rick has the most amazing tongue. He did this swirly thing in my ear, and then below, where it counts, and, let me tell you, I thought I was having an out-of-body experience and a vision quest - where an animal guide tells you the meaning of your life, right? - in one big whammo."
Beth swallowed. "Um, that's impressive." The tops of her ears burned and she felt funny listening to some-thing so intimate, but it had to be done. To distract herself, she scooped a dab of whipped cream from the cookie plate onto a finger, then let it drizzle sweetly down her throat.
"Impressive? It was mind-altering, mind-boggling, mind-melding - all that and more. After I stopped hyperventilating, I returned the favor, doing my very best work...."
Beth took careful notes while Sara described what her best work entailed, uncomfortable with the way her body began to feel like a marshmallow over a low flame - toasty warm on the outside and all melted on the inside.
Excerpted from Very Truly Sexy by Dawn Atkins Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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