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Authors: Ann Christopher

Just about sex

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Just About SEX

Ann Christopher

To Richard

contents

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Epilogue

Coming Next Month

Acknowledgments

It takes a village to produce a book, and boy have I got a great village. I’d like to thank the following people for making my job a whole lot easier:

My agent, Sha-Shana Crichton, whose constant support, faith and tenacity mean more to me than I can say.

My editor, Demetria Lucas, who helped me sharpen the book and took such loving care of Simone and Alex.

My great friend Robert Nichols, who patiently answered all my dumb computer questions.

Kayla Springer, Ph.D., who gave me a glimpse into the world of sex therapists.

Carolyn Pione, who answered my questions about syndication.

Jill Isaacs and Ed Evans, who gave me a behind-the-scenes tour of the beautiful Newport Aquarium, a place everyone should visit the next time they’re in Cincinnati.

Ann Christopher

Chapter 1

Satan’s minion stormed into Dr. Simone Beaupre’s office right before lunch and, with no prior warning, blew up her life.

She’d been sitting in her leather armchair, finishing a fifty-minute session. Her middle-aged clients, Gerald and Krystal Jackson, sat on the sofa, facing her. Simone closed her notebook and recapped her pen. “We’re making progress, Krystal, but I think maybe next time we’ll focus on why you’re still so hostile toward Gerald now that we know his impotence is tied to his heart disease.”

Krystal shot her husband a malevolent sidelong glance. “We don’t need another session for that. I can tell you why I’m so pissed off. He’s still smoking.That’swhy he can’t get it up.”

Gerald’s chest puffed out. “I amnot—”

Simone quickly held up a silencing hand; if these two got started again, she’d never make her lunch appointment. Hurrying to her desk, she sat and pulled up her appointment calendar on the computer. “I have some time a week from Thursday, or I—”

Loud, angry male voices on the other side of her closed office door broke the peaceful silence. Simone and the Jacksons exchanged puzzled glances and then turned to the door as it crashed open. A large, strange man surged through it with the force of a tsunami hitting a beach. Simone’s wide-eyed assistant, Freddie Reynolds, scurried in after him, wringing his hands and mouthingsorryto Simone. The Jacksons emitted a joint frightened squeak.

Alarmed, her heart thundering, Simone leapt to her feet and watched as the man stalked inside and surveyed his surroundings with all the arrogance and authority of General Patton storming a hill. Well over six feet tall, he wore a charcoal suit with red tie. Short, wavy black hair framed his deep brown face. Heavy dark brows slashed over his eyes. A well-trimmed goatee and mustache emphasized his sharp cheekbones and full lips. Broad shoulders tapered to a narrow waist that gave way to endless legs. With his sharp, severe features he looked like his name should be Lucifer or, at the very least, Damien.

Simone braced for the worst. He didn’tlooklike a murderer, but these days who could tell? His glittering, disdainful gaze slid over—and dismissed—the Jacksons in the little seating area in front of the windows, the coffee table with lit lavender aromatherapy candle, and the overflowing bookshelves. Simone had always loved her cozy little office—she liked to think of it as a living room where she and her clients could settle down and talk—but at this invasion the khaki walls suddenly seemed too close, the office four sizes too small.

Finally he turned to her and she flinched as if a sniper had drawn a bead on her forehead. She couldn’t see any weapons on him but, again, who could tell? Squaring her shoulders, she waited. If he planned to kill her, she at least wanted to go out standing tall and proud.

“Can I help you?” she demanded.

His lips curled into a sneer. One hand lifted and she realized for the first time that he held a copy ofQueen Citymagazine, the glossy monthly for which she wrote a column. “D-did you write this crap?” He flung the magazine at her and it skidded across the desk.

The low, deep baritone of his voice, as dark and rich as hot fudge, startled her, as did his stutter. She opened her mouth to answer, but before she could Freddie hurried around to her side of the desk. Behind his tortoiseshell glasses, his eyes glinted with what looked like equal parts fear and anger. Always faithful, he flung himself in front of her, pushing her back. “I told you to get out of here,” he cried, his short dreadlocks quivering with indignation. “Before I call the police.”

The man stared at Simone, never deigning to look at Freddie. “Call off your attack dog,” he told her. “We don’t need the police. I’m a lawyer and I’m not about to do anything to get myself disbarred.”

Reassured, but also annoyed, Simone stepped forward until she and Freddie stood shoulder to shoulder. She put her hands on her hips. “What do you want, Mr.…?”

“Greene. Alex Greene. I want to talk to you.”

As yet unmurdered, Simone began to feel a little braver. She raised her chin and glared up at him. “Normally when people with manners want to talk to me, they call for an appointment. If you’d done that, I could have told you now isn’t a good time.” She waved a hand. “You can see I have clients—”

The Jacksons, their mouths open in identical astonishedOs, leaned forward on the sofa and nodded, apparently happy to be both still alive and included in the action.

“—and I have a lunch meeting with my lawyer. So you can make an appointment—”

Greene snorted, which Simone did not take to be a good sign. “I’m not leaving until I say what I came to say. Five minutes.”

Freddie moved toward the door. “That’s it! I’m calling 9-1-1 right—”

“Wait, Freddie.” Unwillingly intrigued, Simone studied Greene for a moment. “Go ahead,” she told him. “You’ve got something important to say, go ahead and say it. To all of us.”

The Jacksons, heads bobbing in agreement, scooted to the edge of the sofa. Freddie crossed his arms over his chest and stared down—or, rather,up,since Greene towered over everyone—his nose at Greene.

Greene’s lips thinned, but then he smiled crookedly, revealing the long deep grooves of dimples on either side of his mouth. “Fine,” he said. “I want you to know that I donothave a tiny, ah, member.”

Simone and Freddie exchanged perplexed glances. Simone’s overwrought brain could not process this announcement.“Member…?”

Greene’s mouth twisted with disdain. “I’ll go a little slower so you can keep up, okay? Why don’t I give you a few synonyms you might recognize? How’s this:phallus.Here’s another one:manhood.Why don’t I try another complete sentence for you: mypenisisn’t tiny. Far from it.”

Everyone in the room but Greene gasped in shock. Freddie’s gaze shot to Greene’s groin, as did Krystal Jackson’s. With a great effort, Simone kept her eyes on his face and ignored her burning cheeks. “Congratulations. Now, if that’s all…”

Greene came to the front of her desk, planted his hands on it and leaned down until he was eye level with her. Out of the corner of her eye, Simone saw Freddie arch his back and crane his neck, the better to study Greene’s butt.

“I’m just getting started,” Greene told her.

Simone fumed for several seconds, weighing her options. Greene was about a foot taller than she was and easily twice her weight. She’d never force him to go if he wasn’t ready. Nor did she want to call the police. Maybe if she heard him out he’d leave and she could go to lunch.

“Freddie, why don’t you walk the Jacksons out and get them scheduled for their next appointment? I’ll be fine.”

Huffing, Freddie looked Greene up and down as he hustled the reluctant Jacksons out. “I don’t think this is a good ideeea,” he called as they disappeared down the hall.

When they were gone, Simone and Greene squared off, glowering at each other across the desk. “What do you want, Mr. Greene?”

“I want to look at the little pseudo-scientist who writes crap like this—” he waved a hand at the magazine “—and gets paid for it.”

Furious, she snatched up the magazine and flipped it open. She’d had just about enough of this nonsense. “I’m a psychologist, Mr. Greene.” She jerked her head at the far wall, which bulged with her various degrees and certifications. “I went to graduate school at NYU, and I have a license just like you do. I’d appreciate a little respect.”

“You’d have to earn it first.”

Somehow she resisted the strong urge to hurl the magazine back in his smirking face. Finding the page with her monthly column,Just About Sex,she held it out to him. “Why don’t you tell me which letter is so offensive, and then at least I’ll know what you’re talking about?”

“That one,” he said, pointing.

Dear Dr. Simone,she read to herself,

I have a big problem. Well, actually it’s a small problem. My boyfriend, “Alex G.,” has a small penis. Really small. Really, really small. I know size isn’t supposed to matter, and it wouldn’t if he was good in bed, but he’s not. What should I do? I’m really crazy about him and he’s a great catch—a handsome, successful lawyer. Please help—good brothers are hard to find. Signed,“Nikki H.,” Unsatisfied in Cincinnati

Simone paused to look up at Greene. “Can you hurry it up?” he barked. “I don’t have all day.”

Balling up her fists so she wouldn’t take a swing at him, she jammed them on her hips. Even highly trained professionals had limits, and he’d pushed her way past hers.

“So sorry, your majesty,” she snarled. “It may surprise you to know I don’t have all my columns memorized. I wrote this months ago. Can I finish now?”

He grunted and crossed his hands over his chest.

Dear Nikki H.,she’d replied,

Well, I won’t pretend this isn’t a serious problem, but I do have some suggestions. Why don’t you try watching some sexy movies together and showing him what you like? Also, there are several wonderful how-to manuals out there. I’ve listed some on my Web site. Role-playing can also help—you can do to him what you’d like him to do to you. Have fun! Be adventurous!Please don’t be too hard on poor Alex. Imagine how humiliating it must be for him to have a small penis, especially in this day and age, when there’s so much emphasis on sexual prowess. Always remember that a small penis can be a major sore spot on a man’s ego, so you’ll want to be gentle with him. But with your loving help and encouragement, I’m sure you and Alex will soon enjoy a more thrilling sex life. If none of these suggestions help, you may want to find a therapist. Good luck!

Simone tossed the magazine down. “Well, I don’t see what the big problem is, Mr. Greene. The names are changed, so I don’t know how anyone would know it was you, and anyway—”

Greene’s face twisted in on itself, collapsing and contorting like a smashed soda can. “That’s just it!” he roared. “Shedidn’tchange the names! Her nameisNikki! My nameisAlex! Everyone in town knows it’s me! The only thing she didn’t do was include m-my address and phone number!”

“Oh.”

“Yeah,oh!My boys have been ragging me ever since this crap hit the newsstands the other day, but I’ve just been ignoring it. But today my partners and a couple of secretaries at the office started in on me, and I decided enough is enough!”

“Oh.”

“Yeah,oh!Don’t you people fact check around here?”

“This isn’t theNew York Times,Mr. Greene.”

“Yeah? Well, what are you going to do about this?”

The reason for his fury now painfully clear, Simone decided she could forgive him his rudeness and arrogance. Her therapist’s instincts kicked in. A man’s ego is a fragile thing, after all, as delicate as blown glass. Maybe she could help him through this difficult time. Moving aside a file on her desk, she picked up the book beneath it and clutched it to her chest.

“I can understand why you’re so upset.”

He started, his frown disappearing.

“I’m sure we both wish your girlfriend had tried to solve your problem in a more private manner, but at least she’s opened up a dialogue—”

Greene’s mouth dropped open.

“—and I’d like to help. Here’s an advance reading copy of my new book. You can have it for free, of course. I’ll be happy to autograph it for you.” She held the book out to him and he took it warily. “I think chapter eight could really work wonders for you and Nikki.”

Blinking as if dazed, Greene looked down at the book, where her face smiled up at him from the cover, and read aloud: “Sextasy: Dr. Simone’s Guide to a More Satisfying Sex Life.” He looked back up at her, his chin still on the floor. “You cannot be serious.”

She smiled encouragingly. “It’s natural to be embarrassed, but youcanwork through this! This is a very common problem—”

“I don’t think you’re hearing me.” Holding the book overhead, he dropped it on the desk with a loud thunk, ignoring her surprised, outraged squeak. “I guess they didn’t teach listening at NYU.”

“Now wait a minute—”

Freddie’s head poked in the door. “Everything okay in here?”

“No!” Simone and Greene shouted together, neither bothering to look at Freddie. “Freddie, I need a minute,” Simone snapped, glancing at him long enough to see his brows creep toward his hairline as he spun and walked off down the hall.

Greene didn’t miss a beat. “Nikki is not and never has been my girlfriend. She was a woman I had occasional sex with. When I ended it, she got pissed.That’swhy she wrote that little letter. Revenge. And I donothave a small penis. And I’m great in bed. I can do two fishes. One night I made Nikki come four times.That’swhy she was so upset when I dumped her. Okay?”

“‘Two fishes?’” Simone asked blankly.

Disgust passed over his features. “You call yourself a sex therapist? Maybe I should lend you my copy of theKama Sutraso you can educate yourself a little. And you can keep your little how-to, pseudo-science manual.”

Suddenly she remembered. The two fishes position required a man with an exceptionally long penis. Simone felt her cheeks flame and her pulse drummed with anger. When had she ever met such an arrogant jerk? Nikki, obviously, had had the right idea in dealing with this idiot. All Simone’s training and professionalism flew out the window. Something—everything—about this man rubbed her the wrong way, and it was her solemn duty to the women of Cincinnati to take him down a notch.

Tapping her index finger to her lips, she tilted her head to the side. “Wow. This is worse than I thought.”

“What is?”

“Well, in my experience, lovers are like soldiers. The ones who really see the action don’t need to brag about it.” She stared pointedly at his groin, which was covered by the flaps of his jacket. “So I guess yourmemberis even smaller than I’d suspected.”

Greene leaned over the desk again and smiled that same crooked smile. His leering gaze swept up and down over her body, lingering on her breasts, the tops of which he could surely see through the white lace camisole under her peach suit jacket.

“Baby, there’s one sure way for you to find out how big I am.”

Ignoring the strange and unwelcome fluttering in her stomach, Simone laughed without humor. “Well, as tempting as your little—” she looked at his groin again “—and I do meanlittle—offer is, I think I’ll pass.”

He shrugged. “Your loss.”

“Oh, I’m sure.” She picked up a file from her desk and flipped through it without seeing anything. “And I’m sure none of your alleged satisfied customers ever faked it.”

Roaring laughter answered her. “That’s ridiculous. None of my women would ever need to fake it. And anyway, I’d know.”

Infuriated now, she slammed the file closed and tossed it aside. “Have you ever seenWhen Harry Met Sally?”

His smug, defiant smile faltered. “No. Why?”

“No reason.” She let her lips turn up in what she hoped was a satisfied, mysterious smile. “So if we’re finished—”

“No, we’re not finished.” His face tightened and his voice dropped back into a low, dangerous range. “I don’t like being laughed at. How are you going to fix my reputation?”

Sighing, she ran a hand through her hair and considered their limited options. “The best I can do is let you write a rebuttal letter, or print a correction on the names. But I think that would only draw more attention to the whole thing. The best thing for you to do is just get over it.”

A muscle pulsed in his jaw. “‘Just get over it?’”

“Yes.”

“I don’t think so. I want you to print an apology.”

“Forwhat?Not showing up at your house with a tape measure before I ran the column?”

“No, no. You can keep it vague. Just say you’re sorry for recent inaccuracies and for not double-checking to make sure the names had been changed. That should do it.”

Simone’s powerful defiant gene kicked into turbo drive, and she raised her chin to give him her haughtiest glare. “If you think I’m going to let some arrogant jerk storm intomyoffice and dictate whatI’msupposed to write inmy owncolumn, you’d better think again because you are obviously delusional.”

Greene growled ominously, but she wasn’t finished.

“Why don’t you suck it up and be a man about it? Stop your whining! You know what they say about sticks and stones! Get over it!”

A dangerous silence stretched between them. Greene cracked his lips open and somehow spoke despite his rigid jaw. “Are you…tauntingme?”

“No.”

More silence followed, reminding Simone of the audience’s hushed silence one time when she watched the tiger tamer at the circus; just as she had then, she knew the wild animal could strike at any second, but prayed that he wouldn’t.

“Hmmm.” Greene tapped an index finger against his lips and tilted his head to the side, just as she had done.

Was hemockingher?

“You’re awfully glib. I wonder howyou’dfeel,” he said, leaning his hip against her desk, “if someone printed stories aboutyoursexual exploits and ruinedyourreputation.”

Unease replaced anger. She certainly didn’t want her private life trotted out for public inspection, especially now. Not now. Trying to appear nonchalant, she tossed her head. “What do you mean?”

“Are you familiar with the termcomeuppance?”

Unease gave way to a panicked feeling of dread. Frozen, she couldn’t look away from his dark, intense stare. Something told her both that she did not want this man as her enemy and that she must not—must never—show him any sign of weakness. But as her ears burned and a cool drop of sweat trickled between her now clammy breasts, she couldn’t help it. She blinked.

His gaze sharpened.

Abruptly she looked down, brushing lint off her slacks. “I have no idea what you think you’re talking about.”

“Will you issue the apology?”

“No,” she said, her stubborn streak refusing to allow her to back down.

Risking a glance at him, she saw, to her horror, a slow, wicked smile widen across his face—exactly the way a conniving smile had dawned across the Grinch’s face in that old cartoon where he decided to steal Christmas. She swallowed, hard.

“You’re going to regret that, Dr. Simone,” Greene said. “You’ll see.”

Chapter 2

After Greene stalked off, Simone’s quivery knees finally gave out and she collapsed into her desk chair. Leaning back, she closed her eyes and tried to take several deep breaths to calm her racing pulse, but her lungs seemed to be suffering from amnesia and wouldn’t cooperate. Her brain, likewise, went haywire and focused on only one frenzied thought: what did he mean?What did he mean?

Worrying solved nothing, but her roiling gut wouldn’t let her do anything else. Greene wanted a pound of her flesh, preferably bleeding and tattered, and wouldn’t stop till he got it. As tempted as she was to hope he was the idle threat type, she knew better. Greene was the Captain Ahab, scorched earth type—the type who’d follow her to the ends of the earth until he got vengeance, no matter what kind of destruction he left in his twisted path. She knew it.

But what could she do? She couldn’t—

Hurried footsteps in the hallway startled her out of her thoughts and she jumped to her feet. Freddie rushed in, followed by her lawyer/agent, Pat White.

“Pat’s here, honey,” Freddie told her.

Pat stepped around Freddie, looking him up and down as she went. “What are you, the butler?” she snapped, her sleek salt-and-pepper bob swinging around her unlined light brown face. “I’m quite sure Simone can see that I’m here.”

Freddie sniffed and looked away.

In her omnipresent shapeless dark suits with alternating white or cream tailored shirts, Pat looked like a consummate professional, but Simone had always secretly thought the spirit of some dead but confused New York cabbie had possessed her body. If she had to pick a motto for Pat, it would be something like, “My opinions: always available. No need to ask.” Pat and Freddie, alas, got along like gasoline and a lit match.

She hurried forward to kiss and hug Pat. “I’m so sorry!”

Pat frowned at her. “What happened to you? I’ve been waiting down at the café for twenty minutes! What? Have I got all day?”

“Well, I—”

“Wait, don’t tell me.” Pat waved a hand and perched on the edge of the desk. “Freddie, here, said some maniac barged in and bragged about his penis. Was it really that big? Never mind. What happened?”

Simone scowled at Freddie before answering. “I’m not sure what Freddie told you, but we didnothave a penis viewing here in my office this morning.”

“A shame,” Freddie muttered, flopping on the sofa and throwing his arm over the back.

“As I was saying,” Simone said, shooting Freddie a death glare, “this man was upset about a letter he claims his angry ex wrote for revenge. I think he wanted me to print a retraction or apology or something. We argued, I pointed out doing something like that would probably draw more attention to the whole issue than he really wanted, and he left. Well, actually, he made a veiled threat, and then he left.”

Pat clutched her arm. “Why didn’t you say something? What kind of threat? Did he have a gun? Do we need to get a restraining order?”

“No. Nothing like that. He’s a lawyer. I don’t think he’s a wacko.”

Pat snorted. “I hate to burst your bubble, Snow White, but lawyers are the biggest wackos out there.”

“Amen,” Freddie said from the sofa.

They both ignored him. “It wasn’t a violent threat,” Simone said. “He was just kind of wondering aloud how I’d feel if someone told stories about my sex life, or something like that. I’m not going to worry about it.”

She meant it. Now that a few minutes had passed and she’d repeated his veiled threat aloud, it all seemed so silly. The man was a lawyer. A professional, just like her. What was he going to do? Hire Sammy “the Bull” Gravano to carry out a hit on her? Of course not. So she’d just forget about the whole ridiculous incident. Greene couldn’t do anything to her.

“I don’t know. I don’t like it.” Pat whipped her PalmPilot out of her jacket pocket. “Gimme his name. I’ll check him out a little.”

Simone told her, then moved on to what was to have been the topic of their lunch meeting. “Soooo? How was the conference call? What’d they say?”

“Well, I’ve got the good news and the not-so-good news. I’ll give you the good news. The good news is, National Press is definitely ready to add a sex columnist to its daily papers. They think the time is now, people are ready, yadda, yadda yadda. They like you, they think you have enormous appeal, they think they can work with you and they’re excited about your book coming out. This would be tremendous exposure, of course. WithUSA Every Day,you could be huge.Huge. And I think the deal would be worth about ten percent more than I quoted you.”

For the second time that day, Simone’s professionalism left her and she giggled and clapped her hands. Finally! After a million years of graduate school and dissertations and research and building her practice and working her behind off, now—finally—real financial security, for herself and her mother, was within reach. She could buy a house, travel and put more money away for retirement. If they syndicated her column and her book took off, the sky was the limit.

“I’ll be wanting that raise,” Freddie told her, grinning.

Pat held up a warning hand. “Not so fast. I haven’t told you the not-so-good news.”

Simone froze in midclap and dropped her hands.“What?”

“They’re also looking at another columnist. You know that woman out in Minnesota? The granny-nurse woman? Her. They think she’s more reassuring and a little more scientific. I dunno. More credible, maybe. Who knows. Anyway, the point is, they haven’t decided. It’s between you and her.”

Freddie made an outraged noise. “Well, that’s probably just a negotiating trick. You know—so they can get Simone for cheap if she thinks they might give the job to someone else. That’s all that is.” He smiled reassuringly at Simone. “Don’t you worry.”

Pat pivoted on her hip to gape at Freddie. “What are you? A lawyer now? Did you go to law school since last week? Huh? You think I didn’t think of that? You think I didn’t do a little research?”

“Heifer,” Freddie muttered.

“Okay, people,” Simone said, shooting them both warning looks. Once they got started they could bicker like the Honeymooners. “Just give me the bottom line, Pat.”

Pat drew herself up. “The bottom line is, you need to keep your nose to the grindstone and keep cranking out a great column. And keep up with all the little local interviews and radio shows and positive publicity. Okay?”