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Marcy’s Playground

$2.99

The award-winning story, 2014 Summer Romance Contest

Marcy unfairly loses her job just one week after high school graduation. The hunt for a new one isn’t easy for a quiet, shy, book-loving girl. A job practically falls in her lap as a receptionist for a club catering to very specific tastes. A virgin in a sex club? —That has to be the start of some sort of cosmic joke.

She’s mortified when Evan, a handsome man who lives on her street, walks in. Marcy freezes. What should she do? Her telltale blush blooms into a full-body heat when Evan brings in J.L., his even hotter best friend. Marcy hungers to learn about men, but not at work! The new world she’s introduced to leads to a sizzling summer where Marcy discovers love, sex, and romance… and learns even more about herself.

 

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Description

Even in my wildest fantasies, I never dreamed something like this could ever happen to me. Not that my fantasies were ever all that wild to begin with—but still—me, little, quiet, shy Marcy, in the midst of…
Well, I should back up.
It all started the week after high school graduation.

I hugged the box I was carrying to my chest. It contained a small plant, a framed picture of the Dallas Cowboys (with signatures, thank you), a toiletry case, and two books.
Fired, after one week as a secretary for A & M. I stood in the blinding hot Indiana summer sun and bit back tears.
This sucked. My first real job. My plans to save for college. Ruined.
I had the urge to dig a hole in the pavement and stick my head in it; a tiny human ostrich with head in the ground and butt in the air. But instead I forced my shoulders back. I wrenched open the door of my beat-up Honda and put the box on the passenger seat.
Jobs were scarce here. What if I had to spend most of my summer job-hunting instead of working, then where would I be? Ahh, crap.
I took my cell phone out of my purse and dialed my friend Bevvie.
“Hey, Marcy,” she said when she picked up.
“I’m having a triple chocolate Häagen-Dazs emergency,” I said.
“Come right over,” she said.
I was a few blocks from Bevvie’s house when I saw the hot guy with the wavy dark hair. As usual he was walking his two big dogs. He was always just far enough away that I could never get a really good look at him. Just as I strained to see him better, my air conditioner conked out. It was 100 degrees outside with a UV index of a thousand, and bang, no air conditioning. My long brown hair immediately plastered to my face and shoulders.
I arrived in one piece and knocked on Bevvie’s door.
“Whoa,” she said when she saw me. “Serious emergency, Marce. You look like you’ve been through a high-test washing machine on the super hot water setting.”
“Thanks.”
Bevvie stepped back and let me in. She had a pint of ice cream and a spoon in her hand and she handed them to me. I opened the container and dug right in.
“I was fired,” I said around a mouthful of heavenly goodness.
“Oh, poor baby,” she said. “I would hug you, but, ah…”
“That’s okay.”
She got an ice cream container for herself, and we stood in the kitchen near the sink enjoying the creaminess.
I caught a glance of the two of us in the reflection from the window.
Bevvie weighs about 300 pounds. She’s really tall, has wavy blonde hair, and a mixture of a ‘I can hide in public’ and an outgoing personality.
I’m just barely over four feet, ten inches tall. When people ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I say, “Five feet tall.” It always gets a laugh.
I used to be a competitive gymnast, but when I started sprouting serious major curves in all the right places I gave it up. I have bone straight dark brown hair that reaches down to my butt in the winter. As a concession to how hot this summer has been already, I cut it so that now it’s just barely halfway down my back.
My point is that Bevvie and I are as different looking as Laurel and Hardy, or whatever their names were. Bevvie’s my only good friend. Our personalities are different too. I’m a book person. I’m a little on the quiet and shy side. I’m friendly, but I love books so much I’d rather spend time with them than most people.
So the fact that Bevvie and I are best friends is weird. But we live on the same block. We’ve been BFFs since middle school.
I’m damn lucky to have her.
I started crying. I put down the ice cream.
“Awwww, sweetie,” she said, and engulfed me in her big body, even though I was hot and sweaty. “It’s not a big deal. It was just a shitty job.”
“I know,” I said through sobs, “but—” hiccup— “I was hoping to have my weekends free to go down the lake and sit in the shade and read and be relaxed about it. I wanted to save up to buy a new car for college. My car is older than I am, literally.”
“You’ll get another job.”
“Yeah? Where?”
She pushed me away from her a little, and ate more ice cream with a thoughtful look on her face. Then she snapped her fingers.
“I know, the Jangensens, next door. I overheard them talking a few days ago that they needed a receptionist. I didn’t ask about it because I know their business is somewhere out in the boonies, in Jasper county, like 45 minutes away. It probably doesn’t pay for shit.”
“Yeah, but if it’s not too busy a desk I could read on the job,” I said.
“Why don’t you ask them? But you better hurry up, that was a few days ago.”
“Thanks, Bev. You’re the best.”
I hurried home, took a quick shower, put on a pair of khakis and a pink polo shirt and walked over there.
I didn’t know the Jangensens at all, but I had seen them watering their lawn and coming and going. They were a nice looking couple, in their late 60s maybe, and looked like everybody’s slightly doughy grandparents.
I knocked on the door, and Mr. Jangensen answered.
I re-introduced myself, and told them Bevvie had overheard they might have a job opening, and I’d be interesting in applying.
He gave me a really weird look.
“How old are you?”
“Eighteen.”
He frowned slightly.
“I know that’s young, but I have a lot of experience from school doing business stuff, like working on the yearbook coordinating advertising. I’m very responsible.”
I wiped my forehead. It was the hottest summer on record, and I was starting to sweat.
He sighed. “Come in.”
Their house was nice, really nice. I didn’t know the name brands, but I could tell all the furniture and paintings and everything were expensive and classy.
Mrs. Jangensen came out, wiping her hands on a dishtowel.
“We have a visitor,” Mr. Jangensen said.
“Marcy, right?” she said.
“Yes ma’am.”
“Marcy wants to apply for the job of front desk,” he said. Something about the way he said it was weird. Like he paused too long before the word apply and stretched it out too long.
“Oh!”
“I’m a really quick learner,” I said. “I’m great with phones and computers and, ah, people.”
I sensed that I needed to shut up.
“Why don’t you come into the kitchen, Marcy,” she said.
We all sat down in the kitchen. I expected them to tell me about their business and make an appointment for me to go in and fill out an application but it appeared they were starting on an unofficial interview right here.
Mostly they seemed to want to get a sense of my personality. They asked me a lot of questions about myself, and of course, when talking about myself, the conversation naturally turned to the two things I love, reading books and watching football.
They were Dallas fans, so obviously they were good peeps.
The only question they asked me that seemed related to work was how much experience did I have?
Basically none.
My Spidey sense started tingling. Was I missing something? There was some silent communication going on between them. That secret talk without words that adults do when they don’t want you to know something. Like when my parents say they’re bushed and they’re going to hit the hay but they seem pumped but they’re trying to hide it.
What the hell?
Maybe I’m imagining it.
They asked me to come back tomorrow.
Okay, whatever. I guess that went well.
I went right to Bevvie’s door and knocked. She was eating some Pepperidge Farm milanos right out of the bag. I snagged one as I walked in.
“Well?”
“I don’t know. They asked me a lot of questions about myself.”
“That’s good, right? They probably want to make sure you would get along with everyone else who works there.”
“What kind of business do they have anyway?”
“I don’t know. I think it’s some kind of exclusive country club or something.”
“That’s good, that’ll probably mean I’ll have time to read if I’m working the front desk.”
“I guess.”
“They want me to come back tomorrow,” I said.
“Good.”
“I really want this job,” I said. “I mean, now I need this job. Forget paying for a new car; I need a summer job so I can pay back the money I’m going to have to borrow from my parents to fix the busted air conditioner.”
“No shit,” Bevvie said. “Scorcher summer plus black Honda hot box equals super suck.”
“I just need to keep a positive attitude. They need a receptionist; I need a job. I’ll just smile and look eager, and hopefully it will be a piece of cake.”
When I went back the next day I wore a fancy business suit. I hadn’t really expected to have an interview yesterday, so this time I thought I’d dress more like I would if I were working in a fancy place.
Mr. J. frowned when he saw my suit.
“Come on in, Marcy.”
Mrs. J. also frowned slightly when she saw my suit. But she recovered quickly. We went into the kitchen. She pulled some biscuits out of the oven and offered me one.
I accepted.
“Listen,” Mr. J. said. “I’m going to be straight up with you. Our place is a sex club.”
WHAT?
“It’s not a sex club,” Mrs. J. said, and gave him a slight slap on the arm.
He looked at her. His expression said, ‘What would you call it?’
Holy shit.
“I thought it was a country club,” I whispered.
“It’s a private club, and it’s in the country,” he said.
I began tapping my fingers on my leg. Nerves.
“It’s a very…” but then Mrs. J. trailed off and didn’t finish.
“Okay, perhaps it would be better to say it’s….” but then he trailed off, apparently unable to put it in words either.
Oh my God.
“It’s a very nice place,” Mrs. J. said. “With wonderful members. It’s not sleazy at all.”
“And you’d never have to go in the main rooms,” Mr. J. said. “You can stay in the front reception hall, you’d be completely separated from any action. You’d never be exposed to anything.”
Oh boy.
“But, if you’re… squeamish about this,” Mrs. J. said, “this is not the job for you.”
I really, really needed a job. I told myself this wouldn’t be a big deal.
“It’s a very simple receptionist job,” Mrs. J. said. “There’s nothing else too it but checking members in.”
I liked her. I trusted her. It would be okay. I was just happy at the possibility of a job.
“And loyalty and discretion are paramount,” Mr. J. said. “I mean ESSENTIAL.”
“Oh, I got it,” I said. “You can count on me. I’m the epitome of prudence and discretion. Bevvie told me a secret in the sixth grade, and I’ve never told a soul. I’ll take it to my grave before I tell anyone.”
They stared at me. They looked skeptical.
Fake it till you make it. Right? I pushed my shoulders back.
“I can do it.”
“So you want the job?”
“Yes, please.”
“So be it,” he said.
I left sort of in a daze. Of course I should go tell Bevvie the news right away, but instead I walked back to my house.
Holy gamoly. A sex club.
Wow.
A totally bookish virgin in a sex club. It sounded like a theme for a porno movie.
I was nervous but also kind of excited. A new job. The suspense of wondering what it would be like had me jumpy but in a good way.
I was alternating between pacing and bouncing on my toes and had to talk myself down a bit. Mr. and Mrs. J. were cool. Everything would be okay. I could do this. It would be an adventure. I was just working a front desk.
Still, the whole thing had an element of naughtiness and secrecy…a tinge of ‘bad boy’ and silence made the idea of the adventure shiny and exciting.
I tiny smile curled up, unbidden, at the very corner of my lips.
I couldn’t wait.

Chapter 2

I was supposed to report for my first day at 10 AM. I had no idea what to wear. I decided on a modest blue sundress.

I followed the directions up into to the mountains to an entranceway in a large hedge. There was an open iron gate, and a pretty black and gold plaque that said in fancy script ‘Melody’s’. That was it.
I had been expecting a cinder block building with darkened windows.
Not so.
It was a beautiful mansion like something out of a movie.
I parked in the parking lot on the side and went in.
Big reception hall with dark marble floors.
Mrs. J. met me.
“This will be your desk, honey.” She led me over to a big mahogany desk. “This is how you check people in.”
It looked pretty easy, scan their card under a scanner thing, let them go through the big double doors.
“If they want to check in a coat, or anything, take their card and run it under the other scanner, here.”
I nodded. Not that anybody in their right mind would have a coat in the middle of a boiling summer, but whatever.
“Here’s the tablet for new member forms. New members only come in to fill out applications by appointment, so you’ll know if someone’s coming.”
She went through the rest of the routine. It took less than ten minutes.
There was a huge sitting area to my front right. A coatroom to my direct right. A break room behind me with a bathroom, small table, and a kitchenette.
“Any questions so far?”
“Nope,” I said.
“Here’s your nametag. If someone addresses you by name, you can call them by name. Otherwise it’s sir or ma’am. Your job is to make everyone feel comfortable, so you need to be relaxed so they can be relaxed. Okay?”
“Okay.”
“If you aren’t comfortable, there’s no way they can be comfortable,” she said. She gave me a hard look.
“I can do it,” I said.
I hope.
She left me alone. I opened my book. I realized I was a little nervous when I started jonesing for some Chunky Monkey ice cream. Come on, Marcy, get lost in the novel.
About ten minutes later a woman came in. I smiled warmly at her. She handed me her card, I swiped it, and handed it back. She nodded and went in.
An old guy about seventy. Said hello. Swipe.
Two maybe gayish looking guys, not much older than me, who could be brothers. They spent a few more minutes saying hi. Swipe, swipe.
A total of six people came in during my first two hours.
At noon more people started showing up. I think the thing that amazed me was how normal all these people looked. A few guys asked me to check in briefcases, two women asked me to check in large handbags. One woman had me check in a fancy scarf.
It was kind of fun. Say hello, smile a little bit, not too much. Swipe.
People came in, people came out.
Mrs. J. relieved me for lunch.
It was hard to believe this place was more than a country club. And at the front desk during lunch the person swiping you in looked like central casting’s idea of a perfect grandmother.
I peeked through the large double doors behind me. Huge fancy room with pretty couches and a bar on one end. Nobody in it. Pretty similar to anybody’s living room except there were two stripper poles near the back wall. I wonder if this was a place where they had dances at night, or people sat before they went to other rooms.
Okay, none of my business.
At 6 p.m. my shift was over. I got in my car and started to review my day. Nobody creepy. Good pay. Easy job. Nice bosses. And most importantly, I had a ton of time to read. I couldn’t see anything bad about it. Yeah, I couldn’t tell anybody exactly where I worked or what kind of place it was, and it was a 45-minute drive away, but other than that, it was pretty sweet. I was damn lucky, and I knew it.
I had been slightly nervous the whole day. I hadn’t been able to hold down my first job, and that was in a regular office. How was I going to hold down a job in a sex club? I didn’t know the first thing about sex. Literally. But all I had to do was be friendly and swipe people in. It was actually really easy.
Still as I was driving home, I mulled over the weirdness of it all. I always thought that sex was something that couples did in the privacy of their own home. The thought of a sex club was something that was a little hard to wrap my head around.
Me? Working at a sex club? Talk about irony. But maybe it was fate. Maybe instead of some big cosmic joke, it was the Universe giving me a…chance.
At least I got to read.
The second day was even slower. I was able to read over a hundred pages in my novel before it was time to go home.
Getting paid to sit and read, what could be better than that?
The next day was the same. A few people introduced themselves when they came in; most people didn’t say anything. I spent most of my time reading.
The fourth day started out the same. I was so engrossed in reading that I didn’t hear anyone come up.
“Good book.”
I jumped.
And I was staring into a soulful pair of hazel green eyes. Oh my God. The guy.
“Sorry to startle you; I’ve read that one. She’s one of my favorite authors.”
I looked at the book cover. He read Jodi Picoult?
Then I looked back at him. I couldn’t believe it. He was THAT guy. From my neighborhood. He was the guy with the two big greyhounds. I had never gotten a close look at him before. Looking at his perfect high cheekbones, and the dark brown bangs falling into his eyes, and his strong chin was doing strange things to me.
I felt a sort of shimmering between us, but maybe I was imagining it. This was the first guy I sort of recognized, and I wasn’t sure what to do. Up close I could tell he was a lot older than I’d originally thought.
Gah.
“Hey, I’ve seen you walking around my neighborhood, haven’t I?” he asked.
“Mmn-hhm.”
“I’m Evan.” He stuck out his hand, and I shook it.
“Marcy,” I said.
He stared at the nametag pinned to my breast.
“I see that.”
“Well…” I was completely tongue-tied. He seemed so nice! “I…ah…” I remembered Mrs. J.’s warning about needing to be comfortable to make everyone feel comfortable. I decided on trying for professional.
I smiled warmly, held out my hand, palm up, and he handed me his card. I swiped it. When I handed it back, he raised one eyebrow and gave me a cheesy, wicked grin. I interpreted his Cheshire beam to mean ‘I know that you know what I’m here for’. Then he smiled even wider and went in.
Holy shit. Is it hot in here?
Yeah, boiling hotter-than-hell in the very cool air-conditioned breeze. You could fry an egg on my forehead, and not just because it’s summer.
My stomach shook as I started silently giggling to myself.
Two seconds later a slightly overweight middle-aged woman came in, and I put on a straight face.
Swipe.
Then a lot of people came in. Old, young, fat, thin, black, white, yellow, brown. Casual, fancy, blue hair, pierced noses, drag queens, couples, business people, girls in short-shorts, glamorous dresses, quiet, anticipatory, laughing, boisterous, embarrassed, comfortable.
Swipe, swipe, swipe, swipe.
Hello, hello, hello, how are you? Yes, I’m new. Welcome. Check in, etc. It surprised me how many people had sweaters. A lot of people must come from air-conditioned offices. And I’m guessing you don’t need a lot of clothes in a sex club.
I noticed when everyone started coming out they looked A LOT more relaxed than when they went in, and they didn’t look that tense going in to begin with. What the hell went on in there?
None of my business.
The job was so mundane it would have bored me to tears if I couldn’t read. The only interesting thing was watching the diversity of people who passed by. And I couldn’t believe how nice they all seemed.
I wondered how much it cost to belong to the club. I’m pretty good with computers, and there was a sleek fancy-looking computer on my desk. When I checked people in, a huge screen came up on them, but everything except their first name was encrypted. Blanked out squares. I couldn’t even see what the fields of information were. There was lots of info though. Lots. Pages and pages of info on each member.
I remember Mr. J. saying discretion was essential. Well, not like I had much to tell.
Except about Evan. But who would I tell, Bevvie? No way. She didn’t even know the name of this place, and I was sure going to keep it that way.
Besides, if I mentioned his name I would probably blush red from my neckline to the roots of my hair. I would never tell anybody this, but he was entering my thoughts pretty often at random times. And they weren’t PG thoughts either.
Not that I would have any idea what triple X thoughts would be like, but I was definitely into R territory. Oh God, even thinking about that my face started to heat up.
A woman of about sixty came up to the desk.
“Are you all right, dear? You look a bit flushed?”
“Hot flash,” I said. Really? At eighteen? It was the first thing that came to my mind. Swipe.
Thank God she didn’t say anything.
If there was one thing I learned at this club it’s that it is not just for the young or beautiful people.
Apparently everybody wants sex.
Go figure.
I had the weekend off. Hello lake. Hello red, white, and blue bikini. Hello shady tree. Hello beach read. Yeah! Summer.
Monday morning I reported back to work at 10 a.m.

At noon Evan showed up. Partially hidden, a tall, gorgeous man with wavy, dirty-blond hair came in right behind him and clapped him on the shoulder hard enough it made a sound.
“Evan, you ready to rock and roll?”
He laughed. “Always.”
“Hey, Marcy,” Evan said.
“Hi.”
Evan looked at the guy. “J.L., have you met Marcy yet?”
I jerked, and thought I would fall out of my chair. Holy shit he was hot. Like, thousand-degree heat wave hot.
“I haven’t had the pleasure,” he said. His voice was deep and resonant. He held his hand out for me to shake. When I touched his palm some essential functions short-circuited. Probably in an attempt to reroute all available energy to my central processing core.
The zing felt hot enough that I worried a transformer would blow out somewhere and kill people’s air-conditioning in three counties.
Yeah. It’s hot in here.
His eyes were an amazing shade of turquoise, like a harnessed gem of Caribbean ocean boring a hole right through me. He was without a doubt that most handsome man I had ever seen. He didn’t let go of my hand.
Evan pulled him away from me. “Easy, man,” Evan whispered. “She’s my neighbor, back off.”
“Tell me there’s more room in that neighborhood,” he said.
“Can it, you viper. Card.”
Evan handed me both of their cards.
Swipe, swipe.
Evan grabbed the other guy’s shoulders and frog-marched his friend toward the doors. His friend was still looking over his shoulder at me.
I watched them as they disappeared through the double doors. Scrumptious. Sigh.
I looked at the computer. The other guy’s name was Jean-Luc. Jean? Oh, it was pronounced sort of like John, but with a slightly soft ‘J’ sound. It fit him. Kind of exotic and larger than life. There was something about him. A sort of ‘it’ factor that made me think of superstars, rock icons, and flashing strobe lights. Or no, maybe lions thundering across the plains, desperate to get something that had caught their attention.
Evan was cute. Jean-Luc was…heart stopping.
I tried to look busy when they came out. They waved. I had a warm and fuzzy feeling watching them go. Was it because I hoped I’d see them again?
Next time Evan was there I didn’t hear him come in. He slid a book under my nose. I looked up. I looked down. It was the brand new Jodi Picoult novel. I looked up at him again.
He gave me a smile. God, he had a gorgeous smile. Thoughtful, understated.
“Oh, gosh, thank you. I’ve been looking forward to this. I’ll give it back as soon as I finish.”
“No Marcy,” he said quietly. “It’s a gift.”
He handed me his card. Swipe.
“Oh, wow, thanks.”
“No problem.”
No one’s ever given me a book. Wow.
I held the book to my chest as I thought about the differences between Evan and Jean-Luc. I didn’t know them well enough to really know. It seemed like…I don’t know, Evan was more Bach and Jean-Luc was more Lady Gaga I guess.
Melody’s was closed for July 4th. Bevvie and I went down to the lake and sat under our favorite shade tree. Usually our spot was pretty secluded, but it was the fourth of July. The smell of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers made me feel starving even when I’d already eaten. Sigh. If I kept eating the way I’d been lately I doubt I’d be wearing a bikini next summer.
Could it be that I was hungry all the time because I really wanted sex?
Nah.
I read the book Evan gave me, finished it late at night to the sound of firecrackers. I wondered if I should buy Evan a book.
I was spacing out at Melody’s, back to work as normal on the 5th. I brought my favorite J.R. Ward book to work, but I wasn’t concentrating. I hate to say it, but I was watching for both Evan and Jean-Luc.
Last time Evan snuck up on me, but this time I saw him coming. Evan was walking up the grand steps. Jean-Luc was only a few feet behind him. I could see them clearly through the glass door.
Jean-Luc put one hand on the door handle and used the other to clasp Evan on the shoulder. I missed the first few words of the sentence, but as Jean-Luc opened the door, I heard him, “…ward to goin’ in through the back door?”
Evan laughed hard at that. “You know it.”
Huh?
They walked to my desk.
“Hey Marcy,” Evan said.
“Hi.”
Swipe, swipe.
I watched them go in.
There’s a back door to this place? Is Mrs. J. checking in people, and I don’t know it? You think she would have told me. Hhm.
A whole swarm of people came in after that, and I didn’t have time to think about it. Swipe, swipe, swipe, swipe, swipe, swipe. Everyone was laughing, and they hadn’t even gotten in yet. There’s one thing to say about this job. Lots of happy people.
I was driving home, sort of zoning out and enjoying the scenery of the drive and thinking how weird it was that there’d be another door to Melody’s. And why would Jean-Luc say that when they were already walking in the front? That didn’t make any sense. I tried to think back.
“Goin’ in through the back door?”
Loud laugh. “You know it.”
I just didn’t get it. I replayed it in my mind. I couldn’t make sense of it. At all. Wait.
HOLY SHIT! Did that mean what I think I meant?
Nah.
But what else could it mean?
I drove the next few miles in a daze. Then another thought popped in my head. Were Evan and Jean-Luc a couple?
I mean, would Jean-Luc say something like that if they weren’t?
Hhhm. I mean… that would be a pretty forward comment for someone to make otherwise. Wouldn’t it?
But I thought about the shimmering tension I felt when Evan stood next to me when we were alone. And the book. How Jean-Luc looked at me. Evan pulling him away. Maybe I misread all that. Or… could it have been jealousy? Maybe they were both bi? I mean, it’s a sex club, right?
Or maybe none of it meant what I thought it meant.
God. There was nobody I could talk this over with, for sure.
And… now, for real, I had something I needed to be discreet about.
Hhhm.
Well.
I think I have a tag line now.
It’s none of my business.
But boy, am I curious.

Chapter 3

The next day at work was the most dead I’d seen it. I started on the new Susan Mallery book.
That night I stopped at Zen Sushi for dinner. I heard a voice from over on my left side. “Marcy?”
I turned. Oh no. Evan.
I blushed. “Ah, hi.”
“Hi.” He was sitting at a booth. Already eating sushi. I walked over. God, this was awkward. What do you say to a guy who, um, yeah. I looked at the table. He ordered a lot of sushi.
“Ah, spicy tuna,” I said just because I had no idea what else to say. “That’s my favorite.”
“Do you want to join me?”
My gaze bounced back up to look at his face again. That was a bad idea. Wasn’t it?
“Okay, ah, sure,” I said. I caught the waitress’ eye to let her know I was sitting down and slid into the booth on the bench opposite him. I felt heat in my cheeks.
“So hi,” I said.
He chuckled, a barely audible brook bubbling out of his teeth and bouncing over me quickly before it faded. When his quiet little laugh subsided, he was still smirking.
“Perv,” I said in a very friendly way, obviously joking.
“Guilty, but hey, you work there.”
Now I smiled.
The waitress came over and took my order.
She walked away, and I stared at him. The heat that had dissipated when I ordered came up again. I was so curious.
“You look like you want to ask me something,” he said.
“Ah, yeah.”
“Ask away.”
“Well, it’s a little personal.”
“Obviously. Whatever you want, go ahead and ask.”
“When did you first know you were into guys?”
“What? I’m not into guys.”
I stared at him. Tried to get a sense if I believed him. I did. “I thought you and Jean-Luc were a couple.”
“Why?” There was a second’s pause. “Because we come in at the same time?”
Well, I thought to myself, yeah, that and.
But I didn’t answer.
He had a wolfish grin.
He bit his bottom lip and let it go. Even bigger wolfish grin. Raised one eyebrow.
I had absolutely no idea what that meant.
“It’s none of my business,” I said.
“But, you get it, right?”
“No. I have no idea.”
He laughed. God he had a great laugh.
“Okay,” he said. “Next question.”
I blushed hard, from my neckline to my hairline.
“Oh, this is gonna be goooood.”
I choked a little.
The waitress brought me a glass of ice water. “Your order will be up in a minute.”
I nodded.
Evan leaned in. “So tell me what question has you looking like that.”
I shook my head.
“Come on,” he said. “We’re friends here. I’m dying to know what you’re thinking.”
“Um,” I said. My throat felt like I swallowed sandpaper, and each word got squeakier. “Ah. Um. Jean-Luc said… um… something about a back door. What did he mean?”
Evan cracked up. I could tell part of his expression was, ‘You heard that? I’m gonna kill him,’ but mostly he was laughing at how high my voice got when I asked.
“Oh my God. How did you get that job?”
I blinked. Should I be insulted? I looked down. “Mr. and Mrs. J. are my neighbors,” I said.
“And just how much experience have you had?” he asked.
“This is my first job,” I said.
“That’s not what I meant,” he said.
Oh crap.
“Well, the answer’s the same. Basically none. Well… ah… not basically. Totally.”
He smiled. “That’s freakin’…” he smiled wider. “Precious.”
“It would be unprofessional to curse at you, right?”
“No offense meant.”
“None taken.” It was hard to get upset when his tone was so obviously happy and amused. And I was so… alive.
“Listen, if you want, I’d be glad to…help you out, train you, show you…everything.”
My gaze snapped to his. Surely he didn’t mean what I thought he meant. I stared at him trying to figure out if that’s what he was saying.
Um, yeah. I think he was.
No. Surely not.
His face was completely calm. Impassive. Placid. Lake Placid. But then one corner of his mouth twitched up in a smirk.
Was he offering to fuck me six ways to Sunday?
“You can’t possibly be offering what I think you’re offering,” I said.
“Well, I’d have to double check with my wife and make sure she’s okay with it first, but yeah, that’s what I’m offering.”
WIFE????!!!
I blinked.
Dumbfounded.
“Wife?”
“I mean, I wouldn’t have offered if I wasn’t sure she’d be okay with being part of this, but obviously I’d have to ask first.”
I blinked more. Furiously. Convulsively. A blinking fool.
“Or not,” Evan said. “No hard feelings.”
Holy shit. I’ve never even been kissed.
All learning experiences are good experiences, right? I will never, ever, get an opportunity like this again. You should jump on this, Marcy. I swallowed a huge lump in my throat. Because I couldn’t talk.
“Would you like to try some of this?” he asked. He held up a piece of sushi with his chopsticks. The idea of taking something off his chopsticks was startling intimate. He brought the small piece near my mouth.
“I think I’m in shock,” I said.
He smiled a huge smile, showing dimples. “Open,” he said, his voice low and sexy.
I opened my mouth. He placed the piece of sushi in.
“Savor,” he said. “Roll it around on your tongue. Chew.”
I did. The waitress brought my small square plate of sushi. I just stared at it. My heart was beating with a loud, fast thump-thump. I didn’t think I could eat.
Evan snagged the waitress as she hustled past our table.
“An order of mochi, please.”
“You got it.”
I had no idea what mochi was.
I watched Evan eat the rest of his sushi. He was pretty damn sexy the way he handled his chopsticks and popped each piece of sushi in his mouth. I thought he might have been putting on a show of it for me, but I couldn’t be sure.
There was no denying that I was attracted to him. Like, fiercely attracted to him. How old was he anyway? Twenty-eight? Twenty-nine? THIRTY? God, what if his wife was older than he was? No matter how much I want this, it was a bad idea. Right? I heard a sound. My brain buzzing.
I looked down at his left hand. No rings.
“How come you don’t wear a wedding ring?” I asked.
“I do,” he said.
He held up his left hand in the classic Star Trek ‘live long and prosper’ pose. There was a huge web between middle finger and his ring finger. He separated his fingers for me. A web was between each one.
“Neat-o,” I said, sounding completely like a dork.
“Makes rings on this hand impossible.” He put together the forefinger and thumb of his right hand and slid them over his left ring finger until they bumped into the web. He bobbed it up and down quickly a few times to show how a ring wouldn’t be able to get all the way on. I could tell he meant the bobbing up and down innocently, but it looked TOTALLY obscene.
Not going there.
He held up his right hand. Completely normal. Pretty, plain gold band on his right ring finger.
“So I wear my wedding band on the right hand is all, no big deal.”
“Ah.”
“Wanna know if I have webbed toes?”
“Yeah.”
“You’ll have to take me up on my offer to find out.”
You never know a trap until after you fall in it. Right? I had a sense that I might be headed for trouble. I couldn’t exactly see how. But I bit my lip. My stomach was doing gymnastic flips by itself. I put a word to the feeling.
Wary.
But also…
Hopeful?
The mochi came. It was tiny bits of ice cream wrapped up in a small something or other.
“Hey,” Evan said to the waitress. “The check, and put hers on it too,” he said, nodding at my food.
“So that’s mochi,” I said looking at his plate.
“Good things come in small packages.” He stared at me.
I looked down. He ate some of the mochi but left two and pushed the plate over toward me. He threw some money down on the table for the bill.
“Listen,” he stood up. “Why don’t you come over my house for drinks and dinner? My wife, Heather, is a great cook. Just dinner. That’s it. No pressure. No strings. Neighborly.”
I looked up at him, unsure. How was it again that Venus flytraps attract their prey? I couldn’t remember.
“It’s up to you,” he said softly. “Friday?”
I took a deep breath. “Okay,” I said.
He took out his phone. He texted. He was really fast with the texting. He took a napkin and wrote down his phone number, address, and email. His phone binged.
“Heather says Friday is fine. Seven o’clock?”
I picked up the napkin and looked at the address. “You only live two blocks from me,” I said.
“That’s good, that way if you get drunk I can carry you home.” He leaned over and spoke in my ear, his voice low and sexy. “Easy to cradle you in my arms and carry you around; a little slip of a thing like you.” He winked. “See ya Friday.”
He left. I put the glass of ice water to my head.
It wasn’t only the summer that was hot; I needed to cool off.
I took the glass away from my forehead and looked at it. Was the heat coming off me so hot it cracked the glass? No. It just seemed that way. I put the glass against my upper chest.
That old song, by Nelly I think, came into my head: ‘I think it’s hot in here. So take off all your clothes. So hot, hot, oh! Hot with a little bit of uh uh, and a little bit of, uh uh.’ I couldn’t remember any other lyrics. I remembered thinking the song was kind of dumb when I first heard it, but now the ‘hot with uh, uh,’ made more sense.
Especially the grunting ‘uh uh’ part.
Get a grip, Marcy.
This was definitely starting out to be an adventure.
God help me.
Dinner. Just dinner.
It’s a slippery slope, Marcy.
And, oh baby, did I want to slide.

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