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About the Author
S. L. Carpenter, a born and raised Californian, is a writer and cover artist. Visit the author's website at www.slcarpenter.net.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Strolling down the busy downtown street, Tania Pelligrini swayed her hips in their tight leather pants. Her stiletto sandals clicked along the sidewalk, their laces tied in neat little bows just above her heels. Bright red nail polish gleamed from her toes in the same shade that shone on her perfectly manicured fingernails. Long tawny hair, swept up into an untidy ponytail, curled tendrils of silk around the sharp features of her face. Her ample bosom, barely contained in the short-sleeved stretch top, bounced enticingly with every step.
Keeping her chin tilted down, she looked up through long lashes and smiled coyly at every man she passed. Whistles filled the air as she passed a construction zone and she waved and grinned at the men leaning from the beams to look their fill. A woman pulled a little girl from her path and scorn crossed Tania's face. She had no disease the child would catch. Except joy in her own sexuality. And that, Tania wished for the little girl with all her heart.
During business hours, Tania dressed with the decorum expected of one who worked in a prestigious law firm, even if she was a lowly research assistant. The pay was good, the hours predictable and at the age of thirty-five, Tania had no aspirations to change her career. The lawyers in the firm treated her well and she got along with them all. From the custodian to the head lawyer affectionately known as the Old Man, all knew her name and she knew theirs.
Except today was Saturday and Tania was horny. With no one special in her life, she hadn't had sex in almost a year. Long ago she had decided that dating coworkers was too messy when things didn't work out -- and sometimes even when they did. She enjoyed her independence. No one's sensitive ego to tiptoe around, no one's schedule to have to match. No one she had to prod into action when she was in the mood.
What had happened to all the "take charge" kind of guys? Had the women's movement succeeded in bleeding all the life out of men?
No, she was better off alone even if it meant taking her pleasure by herself. She'd lost count of the late-night sessions she had with the variety of toys she had purchased to keep herself occupied. For a long time, the toys had satisfied her. They didn't talk back or walk out on you, even though she did need to clean up after them and feed them batteries every once in a while. She grinned at the thought and added a lilt to her step.
Unfortunately, the motor had burned out of her favorite toy two weeks ago. And while she knew she could go buy another one, Tania just didn't have the urge. She wanted more than what her toys could offer.
And so this morning, after dressing for fun, Tania had headed out her apartment door and aimed for downtown. The malls provided better shopping for the masses, but tucked away in the corners of the city were shops infinitely more interesting than the mass-market offerings of the suburban malls. With no agenda in mind other than doing a little shopping and striking up a conversation with the first handsome man she found, Tania sauntered along the street.
Jim Delaney had no idea what was about to hit him. His fortieth birthday loomed not too far away and he'd been waking up feeling his age more and more every day. He ate right, visited the gym three times a week and biked to work in addition to his daily regimen of exercise and a three-mile walk. In spite of all this, his body still protested when he forced it out of bed each morning.
He changed his walking route every day, as much for variety as for other reasons. Although his old girlfriend had finally stopped stalking him, threatening retribution for her own guilty interest in kinky sex, Jim still chose not to settle into a routine she could count on. Currently dressed in khaki walking shorts and a white T-shirt, Jim's physique made him the envy of his friends and turned the heads of many women on the street. No paunch hung over his belt, no flab gathered under his chin. Trim and fit with just a touch of gray at the temples in his otherwise black hair, Jim's sexy appearance called to mind the predator of the boardroom, a place he thrived.
The fact that he had inherited his company from his father didn't take away from his accomplishments since taking the helm. He'd expanded their market while keeping both the products' and the company's integrity. For that, his male employees admired him. His female employees adored him. He knew that women primped and preened when he walked by, but his attention was never more than polite. How could he ever explain to a modern-day woman that his sexual interests were politically incorrect? His last foray had proven disastrous.
This Saturday, Jim chose a route that would take him through a quiet section of downtown rather than the more residential areas. With no one special in his life right now, he found himself in need of some company, even though he had adopted a scruffy appearance for the day. He hadn't shaved and he had let the summer wind dry his hair any way it wanted to. His purposeful walk led him along the secondary streets preferred by the city's native pedestrians and into some of the busier neighborhoods.
A sociable man by nature, he didn't subscribe to the attitude held by so many city people. He looked people in the eye as he passed them, knowing only a few would meet his gaze to make a small connection in the sea of people surrounding them. Men more than women returned his glance, which did not surprise him. Over the years he discovered women tended to shield themselves, cloak their bodies in invisible armor to keep strange men at bay. Not that he blamed them. Too many lunatics out there on the street. Playing it safe was totally understandable. But there was no reason he couldn't look and appreciate the beauty of the women he passed.
The smile in his eyes remained as he passed a woman and her little girl. The woman stared straight ahead, as if her eyes could bore a hole that would tunnel the two of them straight to their destination. The little girl's manner was still innocent and untrained, however. She looked around her with the curiosity given to the very young. Her eyes met Jim's and she smiled up at him, revealing a pretty smile that was all the better for the missing two front teeth.
Jim winked at her as they passed and his heart lightened. As long as there were children in the world, there was hope. A sappy thought, but one that sustained him when the mother gave him a dirty look and sniffed. He wished happiness on the child as he continued his brisk walk.
A small caf - , its four tiny tables nestled under an oversized awning, beckoned to Tania's thirst. Surrounded by a low wrought iron railing, the caf - would give her respite from her heels, yet still allow her to watch the passersby. It was just too charming to pass up.
Entering the outside enclave, she took the last available table. Using one painted wrought iron chair for her packages, she sank into the other, leaning back with a grateful sigh. Smiling cheerfully at the older but still handsome waiter, she gave him the once-over and accompanying nod of approval before ordering water with lemon.
Her morning had been productive. One small shop, run by a woman from India, produced a beautiful sleeveless silk dress that would go wonderfully with the flat sandals she found in a Moroccan shop. Just two shops down from the caf - , she'd found a lingerie shop but, after considerable window shopping, did not go in. She had no one to buy sexy things for.
The thought distressed her only a little. Her sister married early and soon gave Tania nieces to dote on. Perhaps someday she would like a family of her own, but for right now, she found being the favorite aunt was actually a role she very much enjoyed. It let her play the heroine when she offered to take the kids for the weekend so Sarah and Rob could have some time together. And on Sunday night, she could give the kids back.
Leaning back with a contented sigh, she took in the view. Tourists and businessmen in their professional attitudes would never find this little out-of-the-way side street. Just the locals knew and populated it with their diversity. Across the street, an older, established Greek market vied for customers with the new Korean market just moved in next door. Shouts in Greek and Korean mingled with the languages of Mexico and Indonesia. Somehow a French caf - seemed to fit right in with the polyglot cacophony.
And into the mix walked a tiger. Jim Delaney's unshaven appearance did not hide his controlled demeanor, nor his obvious enjoyment of the life that teemed around him. His step, almost cocky in nature, bounced him into Tania's line of sight, and her breath caught in a way it hadn't in quite some time. So when Jim's gaze roved over the patrons of the caf - , Tania made sure their eyes met.
The striking woman's eyes did not fall or look away. Instead they held a challenge and Jim paused on the sidewalk to smile back at her. His mind filtered through his acquaintances and came up empty. Besides, that smile was a come-hither look if ever he'd seen one. And he was a sucker for those tendrils of dark golden hair that curled around her face.
A waiter approached her table, being sure to lean in to get the full effect of the woman's low-cut top. She rewarded him with a smile and a straightening of her shoulders, flicking her glance back toward him to see if he might also like a closer look.
Jim grinned at the woman's obvious flirtation and it appealed to his ego. Giving her a once-over of his own, he noted the stilettos and the tight pants. The table blocked his view of her waist, but it didn't matter. Her other attributes were presented for display and he liked a woman with ample breasts.
By the time his gaze returned to her face, lust had settled in his groin. Probably a hooker, he decided, then shrugged. He wasn't one to turn down an afternoon's delight just because he would have to pay for it. And his libido could use a good workout, even if it came from a professional. It had been far too long since he ... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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