Read Just about sex Online

Authors: Ann Christopher

Just about sex (page 6)

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But would he ever get her? That was the real question. The one disturbing thing he knew for sure was he wouldn’t—couldn’t—give up. Simone had a hold over him that he didn’t like, couldn’t explain and couldn’t ignore.

The logical Alex he’d always known would do the smart thing and leave her alone. This new, smitten Alex couldn’t.

She required someonespecial.What did that mean?

Rich, handsome and charming alone didn’t do it; her rejection of Romero—assuming she’d really rejected him and wasn’t playing hard to get—had proved that. Same thing with gifts. She’d liked the flowers Romero gave her, but hadn’t gushed the way he’d expected. What more was there?

He turned to Laurel. “You don’t sleep with every man you date, do you?”

Laurel jumped and her eyes widened until he could see the whites all around her pupils. “You really need to work on your segues, Alex.”

“But you don’t do you?” he asked impatiently, sitting on the sofa next to her. “You want men who are special?”

There was a long, careful pause before she spoke. “Usually.”

That shut him up for a minute. If his sister was having one-night stands—even occasionally—he really didn’t need to know. “Well, what doesspecialmean?”

“Different things to different women, Alex.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know!”

She spluttered for a second. Alex nodded encouragingly.

“Well,” she said, blowing out a breath, “he’s got to be sexy, of course.”

So far so good. He was pretty sure Simone thought he was sexy. Every now and then he’d see flashes of interest in her eyes, like that day he’d touched her arm.

“What else?”

“Some women want men with money—”

“No, not that,” he said sharply. “What else?”

“Well, for me, I’d want someone with a similar background and profession.”

His impatience grew. When would she tell him something he didn’t already know? “What else?”

“Intelligence, sense of humor—”

Uh-oh. Goodness knew he had intelligence enough for any six men, but sense of humor could be a problem. People usually didn’tgethim, nor did he always get other people’s jokes. Still, he could try to lighten up a little. All was not lost.

“—and of course he has to be trustworthy.”

Alex’s hopes crashed through the floor and probably landed in China.

Trustworthy?

Squeezing his eyes tight shut, he resisted the urge to pound himself in the head with his fist.Great.He’d blown the trustworthy thing with Simone a million times over, hadn’t he? Vowing revenge, setting up the blog to punish her, announcing he had a history of hurting women. Stupid, stupid,stupid.

After a minute, a glimmer of hope appeared. Simone had confided personal information to him twice, hadn’t she? She’d told him she wanted a special man and that she could take care of herself. If she trusted him—even just a tiny bit—he could build on that, couldn’t he?

The crushing weight on his chest eased and he cracked his eyes open to find Laurel watching him with that familiar bemused expression.

“Am I a jerk, Laurel?”

Her faint smile vanished and she threw her hand over her heart. “No!” she cried. “You’re the most wonderful man I know! If only I’d married someone likeyou!”

Mollified, he breathed a sigh of relief. His ego, bruised and battered by Simone and the results of his audit so far, began to recover. Still, he knew he was far from perfect.

“But…?”

Laurel hesitated and then pressed a soft hand to his cheek as if she wanted to protect him. “But you’re gruff and abrupt. You daydream and don’t listen. You don’t let people in. You think you know it all. You—”

Alex jerked away, his ego crushed to smithereens.“Wonderful.”

She laughed. “You asked.”

“Humph.”

“The main thing is that a woman needs to think thatyouthink she’s special. That she means something to you.”

“Really?”

“Yes. That you’d rather be with her than anyone else in the world.”

Interesting.Alex got up and strode back to the window while he analyzed this crucial bit of the puzzle. Hope rose from the ashes again.

This part was easy. Because hedidthink Simone was special. Goodness knew she was beautiful, smart, sexy, funny and strong. He wanted to spend much more time with her, and she knew it. She’d liked his compliment about her eyes, although he knew instinctively that sharing his feelings was the important part, not compliments.

He smiled at Laurel over his shoulder. “Thanks.”

She smiled back, but then her face tightened down and he remembered why she’d come in the first place.

“Thank you for paying my rent, Alex,” she said sweetly, her eyes flashing. “And if you do it again, I’ll kick your butt.”

Too bad, because he was determined to help her no matter what she said. “Would you let me give you money if I said I know you can manage by yourself, but I just don’t want you to?”

For the longest time she didn’t answer. Finally she dropped her head, but not before he saw the glimmer of tears in her eyes. She swiped discreetly at her cheeks.

“It helps,” she said in a hoarse voice.

Alex decided to press his advantage a little. “How can you tell me to open up and let people in when you don’t do it yourself?”

She raised her head and her lips twisted in a wry smile. “Don’t push your luck, okay?”

 

That night, Simone wove her way through the neat rows of white-clothed tables and austere wooden chairs to the corner booth. Pat sat with her back to the mirrored wall, poring over her menu by the dim light of a flickering candle.

“Hii-iii.” Simone kissed Pat on the cheek and sank into her seat.

Some of the tension began to leave Simone’s shoulders. The promise of spicy chicken vindaloo, peppered naan and a glass of pinot noir relaxed her better than a hot shower any day. “What looks good?” she asked, picking up her menu.

Pat dropped her menu and scowled. “You gonna tell me what that Alex Greene was doing, barging into your office again? What did he want? No, wait. Don’t tell me. He wants to taunt you a little more with his blog. Right?”

Simone’s shoulder tension returned, along with a silly flutter in her belly at the mention of Greene’s name. “I told you earlier,” she said, shooting Pat a quick glance over the top of her menu. “We had a meeting for the auction.”

“Why don’t you let me sue his butt, Simone?” Pat hissed, her small hoop earrings swaying with every syllable. “We’ll put an end to this nonsense right now!”

Simone prayed Pat couldn’t see the hot flush creeping over her cheeks. Keeping her eyes on the menu, she tried to keep her voice strong and confident. “I don’t want to. It’s better to just ignore it.”

“Whydon’t you want to?”

The rising desperation in Pat’s tone was a dead giveaway: Pat thought she was certifiably insane for letting this insult pass unavenged. Maybe so, but she had no other choice.

“Trust me this time, okay?”

“Trust you?”Pat spat. “I hate to tell you, Snow White, but I don’t even trust my mother on things like this. Cut the ‘trust me’ bull and tell me what’s really going on here!”

Simone dropped her eyes and studied the thin trail of smoke as it wafted away from the candle. “I…can’t. It’s personal.”

“Personal, my rear! Youlikehim, don’t you?”

She said it as if Simone had eloped with the BTK killer. Simone took a hasty sip of her ice water, careful not to look Pat in the eye while she issued her careful denial.

“Of course not! What kind of an idiot do you take me for?”

Pat grunted.

Simone couldn’t blame Pat for her skepticism. Despite the denial, Simonewasan idiot, and they both knew it.

She…liked Satan.

Spending time with him today hadnothelped. Something about him appealed to Simone, and she couldn’t figure out what, only that she couldn’t ignore it.

Of course he was handsome, but Juan was, too, and she didn’t have the remotest interest inhim.Was it Greene’s directness? His intensity? His intelligence? His awkwardness? She didn’t know.

Was she ego-tripping because he didn’t bother to hide his fascination with her? Possibly, but she doubted it. If that was the case, why wasn’t she equally excited that a rich, professional athlete wanted her?

“He wants you.” Pat tapped an index finger on the table for emphasis. “You mark my words. He wants to eat you up like a pastrami on rye. What are you going to do aboutthat?”

Suddenly Simone couldn’t keep still. She uncrossed and recrossed her legs, trying in vain to find a comfortable position in her chair.

“Nothing,” she told Pat. “Don’t worry.”

Pat’s narrowed gaze never left her face. She had the grim look of someone who saw a speeding train heading for a car crossing the tracks, but was too far away to yell a warning. “Why am I worried?”

Simone didn’t answer.

“What’s this apology business?”

“He wants one and I refused.”

“Good,” Pat said. “Don’t back down. Don’t show weakness. That’s fatal.”

The server came and took their drink orders. Deciding she needed something stronger than wine, Simone ordered a scotch on the rocks.

Pat watched her with open suspicion as the server walked off. “Since when do you drink liquor?”

Thoroughly flustered now, Simone wished she could follow the server to the bar and make her own drink. “Look, Pat,” she said irritably, “let’s talk about something else, okay?”

Pat’s eyebrows headed north. “Aren’t you the cool cucumber? Does that mean you don’t want to hear what I found out about Greene?”

Chapter 10

Simone’s face prickled with heat. She smoothed the back of her hair, and then clutched her hands together in her lap.

“What?” she asked finally.

A nasty, knowing little smile curled Pat’s lips. “Well, he’s smart as all get-out. Does patent work. Very technical. Made partner after only five years. Was an engineer before that. MIT.”

Simone edged forward on her chair and nodded, too excited to hide her eagerness. “What else?”

“Never married. No serious girlfriend that I could discover. Sister and nephew in town. Parents are dead. Born in Cleveland.”

“It doesn’t sound like he’s a wacko,” Simone said, more to herself that to Pat.

“What? Other than setting up a blog to blow your little career out of the water, you mean?”

Luckily, the server arrived with their drinks. Simone grabbed hers gratefully and took a couple of greedy, burning sips before she thought of her mother and put the glass down. She made the mistake of looking up, to see Pat staring, aghast.

Annoyed, Simone took another gulp and thunked the glass down again. “So, do you have any news for me, or were you just going to talk about that man all night?” she snapped.

“Don’t get snippy, governor,” Pat said, holding up a hand. “Why do you think I want to sue Greene? The powers that be are watching this whole blog thing very carefully. They can’t decide whether it would be good or bad publicity if they syndicated you. They want to wait and see a little bit.”

“Great,” Simone muttered.

“In the meantime, they loved your April column. And the online stuff.”

Simone felt marginally better. At least her career wasn’t in the toilet. Yet. “Good.”

Pat pointed at her. “You keep your nose to the grindstone. Forget about Greene. Don’t let him bother you. We’ll get this deal yet. Mark my words.”

Simone nodded. The best thing to do was forget about Greene. Avoid Greene. Ignore Greene. Whatever it took, she would not let that man take up any more space in her life.

 

Later that night, Simone tossed and turned until her nice Egyptian cotton sheets wound up in a twisted pile at the foot of her bed. She felt…agitated.Notbecause of Alex Greene. Her insomnia had nothing to do with him, and everything to do with her book, her column and the possibility of syndication.

She tried deep breathing and guided imagery—all the things she recommended to her clients. Nothing helped make her the slightest bit tired. Finally, at two-thirteen, she gave up on the idea of sleep and decided to work on her column.

Yawning, she threw a robe on over her silk nightshirt, padded over to the office area in the corner of her bedroom, and booted up her computer. A brass gooseneck lamp provided just enough light in the dark apartment for her to type.

As always, her Web site’s mailbox overflowed with e-mails. She scrolled through the batch, deciding which were repeats of issues she’d recently covered, which requested information too particularized to be much help to the general public, and which she should answer and post to her Web site.

There was a hodgepodge of the usual topics: a teen who wanted to know how far she should go with her boyfriend; a woman who suspected her husband was cheating and wanted to know if increased sexual appetite was a sign; and a man who didn’t understand why his girlfriend wouldn’t let him share her lingerie.

Boring, boring, and boring. A few more letters like this, and she’d put herself to sleep right here at her desk.

But down toward the bottom, another e-mail caught her eye. Someone had sent it just a little while ago, at one-thirty.

 

Dear Dr. Simone:

I hope you can help me. I’ve met a woman and I can’t get her off my mind even though I’ve been trying. Everything about her fascinates me and I’m dying to get to know her better because I think we’d be amazing together. But she doesn’t seem to like me very much—we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot—and I’m not sure what to do. She says she wants a man who’s “special,” but I’m not sure what that means. I know I can be a little gruff at times, and I have some rough edges. But I really want to spend time with this woman and I’m willing to change. What should I do? “Al G.” in Cincinnati.

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