Home - Bookapy Book Preview

Friends and Benefits

Big Ed Magusson


Friends and Benefits

A Compassionate Courtesan Universe Story

Big Ed Magusson

BE’s Place Books


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight


About the Author

More From Big Ed Magusson

Chapter One

“This is a huge mistake!”

She just smiled at my outburst. A very pretty smile. Of course it was. She was beautiful. She had long black hair that cascaded to her mid-back and eyes to match. I could get lost in those eyes.

“Well, you’ve already paid me for the hour,” she replied. “Why not make the best of it?”

“I don’t think I can,” I moped.

She raised an eyebrow, questioning.

“Too much alcohol.”

“The great equivocator,” she said.

I nodded. “‘It provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance’,” I recited automatically. “I should have stopped drinking when I called the agency and made the appointment for you to come over. Since then I’ve had way too much…” Then what she’d said sunk in. I whipped my head up to look her in the face.

“You know Shakespeare?” I challenged. I shouldn’t have moved my head so fast. It hurt.

“I am a college graduate,” she said.



“No. Really?” I asked again.

She sighed. “Bachelor’s in psychology, working on my master’s at Maryland.”

“So why are you escorting?”

She frowned at the question, but didn’t seem offended. Good, I didn’t want to offend her. I need to pull myself together. I pushed the bottle on the table away from me. As far away as I could.

“This isn’t about me,” she firmly stated. “It’s about you. What do you want, Joe?”

I stared at her. I couldn’t remember her name, I realized. In one ear and out the other.

“Why did you call the agency?” she prompted.

“Seemed like a good idea at the time,” I drawled. I tried to crack a country boy smile but she apparently didn’t like the joke.

She got up and walked over to the sink. Why were we sitting in my kitchen instead of the bedroom? She found a glass in the cabinet and filled it at the tap and then placed it in front of me.

“Drink,” she ordered.

I automatically took a swig. She waited, looking at me with just a hint of disdain. Like Sharon used to look at me. I shifted and improved my posture.

“So what’s going on, Joe?” she asked softly. A tenderness had shown up in her voice.

“My life sucks,” I replied.


“I lost both my best friend and probably the only woman who could ever love me,” I said. “So I got drunk and made a phone call.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

I gave an exaggerated shrug. She sat quietly, waiting.

“It’s a long, complicated story,” I finally said, “about friends with benefits. Or without benefits. Or… oh, I don’t know. Friends and benefits.”

“So tell me about it,” she suggested.

“You really want to hear about it?”

“You did pay for the hour. I’m happy to listen, unless you’d rather….” Her eyes flicked to my crotch and back up.

I grimaced. Nothing was stirring down there.

“I don’t know where to start,” I admitted.

“So start at the beginning.”

“‘In the beginning, the world was void and without form’,” I intoned.

My companion cleared her throat and I shrugged.

“I guess things with Sharon began the day I failed to propose to my college girlfriend, Alicia. Well, ex-girlfriend, technically. We’d been together two and a half years before I left for grad school at the University of Arizona. That was the fall of 1990. My first spring semester in Tucson, the distance took its toll. We broke up but agreed to remain ‘friends.’ In reality, the only thing that changed was that the fights stopped. We still talked on the phone as often as we had when we were a couple and we made plans to get together at the end of the semester. My last class ended and I hopped in my car and drove for fourteen hours back to Boulder. I only made one stop. Long enough to get a ring. I’d had enough of Tucson and enough of time away from Alicia.”

I paused. I hated remembering this next part. I really hated having to talk about it. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

“It… didn’t go well. We started off with a hug and a pleasant conversation. I asked her how her life was and… and… and an hour later I was calling Sharon.”

I looked up at my companion. She gave a comforting smile and reached over and took my hand.

“Now tell me the story.”

I nodded, and let my mind slide back to that day….

“Sharon, it’s Joe.”

“Joe? How did it go?” The concern in her voice told me she’d picked up the pain in mine.

“Not well. I… I didn’t even have a chance to ask her. Before I could, she was telling me about her new boyfriend.”

“Oh, Joe!”

“It gets worse. She told me what a great kisser he is.”


“It just happened. She said she was glad we’d been able to be friends since we broke up and I agreed. Then she started talking about this guy and I was just too stunned to tell her to shut up. By the time I recovered… well, let’s just say I was lucky I recovered before she told me about anything but kissing. Like how well he could quote Shakespeare.”

Sharon chuckled. We shared way too many inside jokes.

“I sincerely doubt there are any two-backed beasts yet, at least with Alicia,” she said.

“You’re probably right, but does it matter?”

“Of course not,” Sharon replied.

I let out a long sigh. Sharon kept silent.

“Can I come over?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said. “I’ll break open the wine.”

Sharon greeted me at her apartment door with a big hug. She didn’t let go right away. Neither did I. I wanted to collapse or die, but she held me up.

Eventually we made it inside and over to her couch. As I sagged into the cushions, she handed me a tall plastic glass of red liquid. I looked askance at the cup.

“You need to drink it faster than you will out of a wine glass,” she said. “You should actually be drinking something harder tonight.”

“Harder stuff tastes like crap,” I retorted.

Sharon shrugged and didn’t push me. I took a sip of the wine. It tasted like crap too. I took a gulp. Sharon sat on the couch next to me and put an arm around me.

“I thought Alicia loved me,” I moaned. “I loved her!” I took another gulp of wine.

“I know,” Sharon said soothingly.

“I was willing to quit grad school for her!” I wailed. “And she’s already fucking someone else. God, this hurts.”

“I know,” Sharon said again. “It’s just like me and Allen.”

I nodded.

Sharon and I had become friends when she was dating my roommate Allen. They met at the beginning of her freshman year. When the school year ended, they had a very passionate send-off that required me to spend the night at Alicia’s so they could have the room. It was supposed to tide them over for the summer break while he was in California. A month later the break turned out to be for good. Allen sent Sharon a letter dumping her.

I spent the next year being Sharon’s shoulder to cry on. Now it was my turn.

I did cry that night, leaving tear stains on the shoulder of Sharon’s t-shirt. She listened to me whine and bawl and bitch about Alicia. I also drank enough to be very sick the next morning. I didn’t lose my cookies, but the hangover was fierce. It took me a very long time to sit up on Sharon’s couch, where she’d let me sleep the night before.

“Why did you get me drunk?” I moaned when she walked into the room.

“It’s what you did for me when Allen dumped me,” she said.

“That may have been a bad idea,” I muttered.

Sharon just shrugged her shoulders.

“How are you feeling?” she asked.

I glared at her. “Like shit.”

Sharon just nodded. My head continued to pound and the wooziness was intense. I eventually made it to my feet and tottered toward the bathroom. When I returned, Sharon had started coffee. I decided against sitting in a chair and eased myself back onto the couch. It wasn’t too painful to lie on my side and I figured I deserved that reward after my courageous journey to pee. I closed my eyes and tried to will the pounding away. I didn’t succeed.

Something nudged my ribs. I opened my eyes to see Sharon holding coffee and aspirin. She pulled an end table around and set them within reach.

“You are a goddess,” I muttered.

Sharon grinned and made a flourish with her arm. I would have rolled my eyes but it hurt too much. Instead, I swallowed the aspirin and took a sip of the coffee. Then I closed my eyes and went back to trying to shove the hammers out of my skull.

There is something about pain that changes the nature of time. There is no past and barely a future. There is just this painful breath and then this nauseous whirl and maybe the odd thought that is little more than ‘God, make it stop.’ Really good hangovers leave few atheists.

My prayers were answered about two in the afternoon. I may have slept, but I didn’t feel particularly rested. What I did feel was thirsty. I opened my eyes and managed to sit up without wanting to immediately collapse back. This was good. I made a quick apology to God for all the promises I was sure I’d made but now couldn’t remember. I noted that the coffee was gone and glanced around. Sharon was reading at her kitchen table with a glass of something that looked cold. She looked up and watched me. I pulled myself up and slowly, very slowly, made my way to the table.

“Water?” I asked.

Sharon nodded and had a glass in front of me by the time I sank into the chair.

“Still feeling like shit?” she asked.

“Yes. But not as bad. A shower and some food and I might even make it to human.”

“A shower and food we can do.”

Sharon waited until I’d emptied my glass and then stood, extended a hand, and helped me to my feet. She led me to the bathroom and turned on the water in the tub. She started adjusting the knobs while I stripped off my shirt and sagged against the counter, waiting.

“Go ahead and get in,” she said, once she was satisfied with the water temperature. “I’ll go get you some clean towels.”

I nodded, and once Sharon had left the bathroom, shucked my pants and climbed under the spray.

It was glorious. I could almost feel the stink slough away. The steam seemed to open my veins and give me a fresh shot of invigorating oxygen. I stood, just soaking the warmth in.

“Got your towel!” Sharon called from the other side of the shower curtain a while later.

“You are a true goddess!” I called back.

“Thanks!” I could hear the amusement in her voice.

“You got the water temperature exactly right,” I added.

“Well, you and Allen once joked that you were the only guys on the floor that liked it a half turn back from boiling. So I set it to the same temperature that we used when we showered together in the dorms.”

“Uh, Sharon, the showers in the dorm weren’t coed.”

She laughed. “I know that. Allen and I would go there to have sex in the early morning hours when no one else was awake.”

I was taken aback, but didn’t want to let on.

“Sounds hot,” I said.

“Oh, it was! Both the water and the sex!”

I gave the obligatory groan at the pun and Sharon laughed.

“You really should try it, Joe. There’s something about warm water pouring over your body while you’re doing it—it’s incredibly erotic.”

“I’ll believe it. If the water’s hot enough, of course.”

Sharon chuckled again.

“You’d enjoy it. I certainly did. It’s one of the things I miss about Allen.”

“So find someone else,” I suggested. I was nearly done washing and was mostly continuing the shower for the pure pleasure of standing under the water.

“It’s not so easy. Most of the guys who ask me out are clearly players, and I’m not going to put up with that.”

“So ask a shy guy out.”

“Yuck. If he’s too shy to ask me out, then why would I want to go out with him? Besides, I’d probably have to be the teacher in bed, and I’m not interested in doing that.”

I snorted in response.

“So what are you looking for?” I asked.

“In a guy?”


I heard her sigh on the other side of the curtain.

“Someone who can be patient. A guy who can be a great friend, as well as being good in bed.”

“Heh. By the time you find out he’s good in bed, you’re already dating him.”

“Not necessarily.”

“Not necessarily?”

“We could always be ‘friends with benefits’ first.”

Suddenly I was very, very sober. I was also acutely aware that I was stark naked and only separated by a few feet and a thin plastic curtain from an attractive woman. Who also had a high libido, if I believed Allen’s stories. I did one slow final turn under the water and shut the faucet off.

“You’re okay with ‘friends with benefits’?”

“Well, it’s not what I really want… but yeah.”

I cracked the curtain and extended an arm. Sharon placed a towel in my hand and I pulled it back and began drying off.

“You accepting volunteers?” I asked, keeping my voice playful. “Where do I sign up?”

“Hah! Good one!”

I wrapped the towel around myself and opened the shower curtain. Sharon’s eyes were twinkling.

“I’m not going to sleep with you, Joe.”

“Oh, darn!” I said, snapping my fingers with a broad motion of my arm. It got the sought-after laugh and Sharon just shook her head.

“Get dressed and we’ll go get you some breakfast,” she said, “or lunch as the case may be.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Sharon gave me privacy to dress and I spent the time wondering about her comments. I’d always thought she was in the “had to be in love to have sex” camp. At least she’d insisted on waiting to sleep with Allen until they’d been going out a couple of months. Their first time had ended up being a Christmas present. She bought a deep blue teddy and invited him to unwrap his gift. They’d been happy then.

Like Alicia and I had been. That started me wallowing in my own self-pity. I spent the rest of the day, including the meal with Sharon, in a funk.

I spent the rest of the summer doing much of the same wallowing. There was no point in going back to the heat of Tucson until the fall semester started, so I moped around my parents’ house, did a couple of major yard work projects for them, and saw my friends when I could.

Sharon wasn’t the only one I hung out with, of course. She did have more free time than some of my other friends, though. She also didn’t seem to mind me whining about Alicia as much as the others. We’d go out to a movie or hit a club and end up sitting in her living room late at night, telling stories.

I also tried to stay friends with Alicia. That was a mistake. We got together a couple of times for coffee and pretended not to notice the unbearable tenseness we both carried. The tone was polite, but it was death by a thousand cuts, one casual remark at a time. Maybe things would have been different if I’d let myself get angry at her, instead of clinging to my idealistic views about how to be with someone after breaking up. I don’t know.

I do know that Sharon wasn’t so idealistic. She proved it one day when we went to a matinee movie. We’d been sitting in the near-deserted theatre, talking about nothing, waiting for it to start, when Alicia and her roommate showed up and sat down a few rows behind us.

“Hey! What are you doing with my guy?” Alicia teased.

“He’s not your guy,” Sharon called back without turning around.

“Oh? You dating him?” Alicia shot back.

Sharon responded by reaching over and grasping my hand and then lifting it into Alicia’s view. We held hands that way for a while and then lowered them back to the armrest between us.

“He’s also a great kisser!” Sharon said, while never letting go of my hand.

There was no reply from behind us.

The movie started and I tried to keep my mind on the screen. Eventually Sharon released her grip and we returned to just sitting side by side, looking ahead. We stayed that way until the end of the credits. When the house lights came up, Sharon glanced around and then smirked. We were alone in the theatre.

“Sharon one, Alicia zero,” she drawled.

“I didn’t know there was a contest.”

“When they rip your heart out, it’s always a contest. Not who can hurt the other one the most, but who can walk away with the most dignity.”

“You’re kidding,” I said.

Sharon just shrugged her shoulders.

“Besides,” I continued, “if that were true, the contest would be between Alicia and me. How do you score points?”

“Oh, I’m on your side,” Sharon said with a smirk.

I raised my eyebrows.

“Anything for you, my friend,” she said.

“Anything?” I opened my eyes wide in mock surprise at the offer.

Sharon gave me a playful punch on the arm.

“Geez, Joe! You definitely have a one-track mind!”

I shrugged. “What can I say? The sex is one of the things I miss.”

“Tell me about it,” she muttered.

“I will if you want me to,” I said.

Sharon got a wicked gleam in her eye. “Maybe when we get back to my apartment.”


We talked about other things on our way out of the theatre and on the drive to Sharon’s place. After getting some drinks, we settled into her living room, me on the couch, her on a chair across from me.

“So what do you want to know?” I asked.

“Oh, I don’t know. I’m mostly curious about what you’ll tell me.”

“Depends on what you ask.”

“You want me to ask questions?” she mused.

In that moment, I had an inspiration.

“Let’s play twenty questions,” I suggested. “We take turns asking each other questions and the other person has to either answer honestly or take a forfeit.”

“Mmm. I don’t know. What did you have in mind for forfeits?”

“We can deal with that afterwards,” I said, backpedaling. “Forfeiting person’s choice.” Sharon slowly nodded.

“Okay, but let’s make it ten questions instead of twenty. I do have plans this evening.”

“Agreed.” She’d told me about the plans earlier, so it sounded like a good idea. We sat for a moment, and it got a little awkward.

“You want to go first?” I asked.

“Sure. What do you miss most sexually?”

I chuckled. “Not starting small, are we?”

Sharon shook her head.

“Well… I miss the orgasms, of course. But the most… I’d have to say going down on her. I loved watching her climax as I ate her.”

“Mmmm. Allen was pretty good at that, but it’s not what I miss the most.”

“What do you miss the most?”

“Is that your first question?”


“I miss having his cock inside me. Allen’s pretty thick and his cock felt wonderful.”

I laughed.

“So size matters!”

“To this woman it does!”

“Was he the biggest you’ve had?”

“Is that your second question?” Sharon teased.

“Sure. We don’t have to be strict about alternating.”

“Yes, he was,” she answered. “My turn.”

She paused in thought for a while. “What is the best sex you ever had?”

“With Alicia or overall?”


“That counts as two questions then,” I said.

Sharon nodded in agreement.

“With Alicia… when she flew down to Tucson to visit me over her spring break, about a month before we broke up. We spent the day making love in every room in the house. That wasn’t tough because there were only three, counting the bathroom. We ended in the living room, lying in a patch of sun streaming through the big window there. Alicia was on top. I’d come, but was still inside her. Instead of pulling off of me, she lay forward, flat against my chest. We basked there, skin to skin, my cock softening but staying inside her, until the sun finally disappeared and the room started to cool.”

“Sounds really nice,” Sharon said. She was lightly running her fingertips over her arms, almost caressing herself.

I smiled and continued.

“Overall? That would have to be the private striptease my high school girlfriend performed for me. She invited me over on a night when her parents were going to be out late. After talking and making out for a while, she told me to sit on the couch because she had a surprise for me. She left for a while and came back wearing a long coat, a hat, and carrying a cassette tape. The music was Joe Cocker’s ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On.’

Nine and a Half Weeks,” Sharon interjected.

“That’s right. It had just come out and she’d been inspired.”

“So what happened?”

“She did a slow strip tease, following the lyrics of the song,” I said. “She was wearing white lingerie underneath, including a garter belt and stockings. I got so excited that I stripped off all my own clothes while she danced. She ended her tease by straddling my lap and fucking me hard.”

“So that’s when your lingerie fetish started,” Sharon mused.

“Well, yeah. Though if a woman had bought a blue teddy and told me to unwrap my Christmas present, I’d have probably ended up with just as strong of an interest in lingerie.”

That drew a laugh from Sharon.

“So my next question,” I began, not letting a pause develop, “what’s the sexiest lingerie you own?”

“The blue teddy,” she said. “I’m a poor starving college student, remember?”

“I’ll buy new lingerie for you if you’ll model it for me.”

Sharon gave me a look with just a hint of disdain. I shrunk back under her gaze. She didn’t dignify my comment with a response.

“Next question,” she said. “Do you have any other fetishes besides lingerie?”

“I think I’ll take a forfeit on that.”

Sharon chuckled and shook her head.

“My turn. Do you have any fetishes?”

“Forfeit,” Sharon shot back. That intrigued me, as I’d expected a ‘no.’

We both paused for a while and I didn’t know if I should wait for her next question or ask one of my own. As the silence lengthened, I decided to ask.

“So,” I began, “you said that Allen had the biggest cock of the guys you’ve been with. How many guys is that?”

Sharon let out a deep sigh. She hesitated, looking a little apprehensive for a moment.

“Nine,” she admitted. “I’m not proud of it, but I had a pretty busy start. You?”

“No guys,” I responded. Sharon rolled her eyes. “Alicia was the third woman, though.”

“Only three at age 23? When did you start?”

“I lost my virginity at 18,” I answered. “And that was your sixth question.”

Sharon nodded in agreement.

“When did you lose your virginity?” I asked.

“Fourteen,” she answered.

“That’s not too bad,” I commented. “Nine guys in seven years?”

“Five of them were in the first year.”

I snorted in surprise. “Really? What did you do?”

“Forfeit. And that was your seventh question.”

“Okay. What’s your next one?”

Sharon didn’t say anything right away. She was scowling and staring into space. Not at me. I wasn’t the cause. Maybe I could bring her out of it.

“If you don’t have a question ready, I’ve got an easy one.”

That got Sharon’s attention. “Shoot.”

“If Allen were here right now and things were good with him, what would you do?”

“Rip off his pants and suck his cock. Then have him fuck me until I couldn’t take it anymore. Then fill the tub and take a bath together.”

“Why a bath?”

“Because it’s more relaxing than a shower, and these days that’s where I usually am when I’m fantasizing about Allen.”

“Really? Are you masturbating then?” I got instantly embarrassed at my question.

Sharon stared at me, and then slowly grinned.

“That was your last question,” she said. “The answer’s yes. I masturbate in the tub just about every time I take a bath.”

The image intrigued me but I couldn’t ask any follow ups. I bit my tongue and Sharon chuckled at my frustration.

“Where do you masturbate?” Sharon asked.

“My bed,” I answered. “Sometimes sitting at the computer.”

“The computer? Why?”

“The university gave me a computer account on one of their mainframes and I can dial into it with my modem. It turns out there are these things called newsgroups. Some of them are for sex stories and some of the stories are pretty hot.”

“The university lets you read porn?”

“I don’t think the university officials have any idea that the newsgroups exist. Remember, a lot of people outside of computer science think of computers as just stand-alone machines.”


“So, like I said, sometimes the stories are pretty hot. I’m turned on, I’m at home, I’m alone… why not?”

Sharon laughed in reply.

“So what type of stories do you like?” she asked.

“All types. Well, all types where the sex is consensual. Rape stories make me ill.”

“I’m glad to hear that!” Sharon said with a snort.

“Past that, there are all types available. It just depends on what my fantasy of the moment is.”

“Really?” Sharon got a devilish twinkle in her eye.

“Last question, then. Other than Alicia, what fantasies do you masturbate to?”

I gulped. Would Sharon think I was a pervert if I answered that?



“Maybe some other time,” I replied.

“Maybe,” she agreed. “This has been fun.” Sharon looked at her watch. “But speaking of time, I have to get ready for Trish’s birthday party.”

I nodded and stood up. Sharon walked me to the door and gave me a long hug good-bye.

I headed back to my parents’ house and discovered they were gone for the evening. Still a little aroused by the afternoon’s conversation, I retreated to my room and lay down on the bed. One thought led to another and soon….

That was the first time I had an orgasm while fantasizing about Sharon.

The brunette squeezed my hand, bringing me back to the present.

“This was 1991?” she asked.

I slowly nodded.

“You said to begin at the beginning. That was the beginning, three years ago.”

“Sounds like there’s a lot more to this story then,” she said.

I just nodded.

“More than I’ll be able to tell in an hour,” I said, feeling dour. “Maybe I shouldn’t have drunk so much.”

Her eyes followed my glance down to my crotch, which didn’t feel so disconnected as it had, but still wasn’t functional.

“You needed—need, the conversation more than you need the sex,” she said.

I tilted my head and stared at her. “The sex would help me forget.”

“As well as the booze? Or should I say, as poorly?”

She had me there.

“You are an incredibly smart lady,” I said.

That drew a smile, and for a moment I thought I saw something in her eyes, but her control was back in place too fast for me to be sure.

“Must be a change of pace,” I said. “Sitting here just listening.”

“I actually like it,” she replied. “The reason I went into psychology is because I find people fascinating.”

“Even drunk whiners?”

She chuckled.

“I doubt you’re a drunk whiner all the time. In fact, you’re probably a lot of fun in the right circumstances.”

“Damn straight!”

She just smiled. I smiled back. Then she glanced at her watch.

“Our hour’s almost up. Unless you’d like to extend….”

“What’s the point?” I said. “I’m too out of it to be much good.”

She nodded.

“I understand. If you want to talk again, though, feel free to call the agency. They offer a much lower rate for purely social companionship.”

I raised my eyebrows.

“It has to be somewhere clearly public where nothing… intimate is going to happen. It also has to be for longer blocks of time than an hour.”

I nodded.

“So who do I ask for? I’m sorry, but I don’t remember your name.”

“That’s okay. I’m not surprised. My name is Sherri.” She pulled a card out of her purse and wrote it down, then passed me the card.

I stared at it for a moment, then stared at her. She stood and so I did, and then I walked her to the door. She turned and faced me, and then stepped in close, looking into my eyes.

“It may feel like the end of the world, Joe, but it’s not.”

Then Sherri grabbed my head and pulled my lips to hers. She kissed me hard, thrusting her tongue into my mouth. Then, just as suddenly, she released me and pulled back, a feral smile on her face.

“It’s not the end of the world at all.”

With that, she turned and disappeared down the stairs.

I closed the door and wandered back into the kitchen. Sherri had been drinking water while I’d been talking. I cleared the glasses and headed to bed. I looked at the bottle and shook my head ruefully. I hadn’t drunk as much as I’d originally set out to and I was certainly feeling better. Then I realized it wasn’t just being less drunk than in the past. Maybe making that phone call hadn’t been a huge mistake after all.

Chapter Two

I dreamed of long black hair that night. It wrapped around me and enfolded me and cushioned me. I kept trying to grasp it in my hands, but the silken threads just slipped and slid on through.

Morning found me hung over, though not as badly as I’d expected. Bad enough to call into the office and claim a sick day. My boss asked if it was the bug that was going around and I said yes, so he wished me well and told me to stay in bed. I did so for most of the morning, just staring at the far wall when I couldn’t sleep. Hunger and boredom finally drove me out shortly after twelve.

In the kitchen, I found Sherri’s card on the table and my wallet on the counter. Why was my wallet on the counter? Oh yeah. I’d paid Sherri while we were standing there, just before she called the agency on the kitchen phone to confirm her arrival. Then I’d apparently forgotten to put my wallet back in my pocket.

I opened it up. Nothing was missing. Sherri had been moving around the kitchen while I sat mired in sorrow and she hadn’t touched it. I let out a deep sigh of relief.

I’d been lucky, I realized. I’d invited a complete stranger into my house to engage in an illegal activity, while I was too drunk to do much to protect my stuff or defend myself. I was lucky in who actually showed up. Incredibly lucky.

I got some coffee and a bowl of cereal and sat down at the table. I picked up Sherri’s card and read it again. I was surprised. She’d written down the rates for “social evening” and they were a third of what a “full” hour cost. In fact, they weren’t too much higher than what shrinks cost, if I could believe what Sharon had told me she was paying. I idly wondered what her shrink had said about me.

I didn’t wonder long. I didn’t want to get into another self-pity party like I had over Alicia. It still hurt, but it only hurt when I thought about it. So I avoided thinking about it.

I spent the afternoon reading old favorite novels on the couch and internet porn on the computer. I toyed with going in to work but figured that I couldn’t explain why my recovery from “the bug going around” had been so fast. In the end I didn’t do much at all in the afternoon.

I did start getting lonely in the early evening. Unless I was working late, I usually called Sharon right before dinner. It was a great way to get sound and a sense of other people into my otherwise quiet apartment. Far superior to the TV that served that same function when Sharon didn’t answer.

Instead I made a different phone call.

It took a little convincing to get the agency to agree to the “social” rate that Sherri had mentioned. They wanted to maintain the fiction their ladies only provided “time and companionship” under any circumstance. It wasn’t until I mentioned that Sherri had given me the rate herself that the lady on the phone stopped obfuscating and scheduled me an appointment for two hours later, making it a late dinner date.

Sherri met me at Union Station. When the District, or the Feds, I was never sure which, overhauled the train station, they added a mall area in the front half. The shopping was okay and the food wasn’t terrible. I caught the Metro in and met Sherri at the Center Café, which was in the middle of the restored Grand Hall.

“Good to see you, Joe,” Sherri said, giving me a quick hug. I did a quick check of my watch and realized she was exactly on time. She caught me looking.

“Don’t worry. We’ve got plenty of time.”

We were a little too close to the entrance and the hostess asked if we were ready to be seated before I could make a reply. Sherri told her yes and led the way to the table. I dropped back to admire Sherri walking a few steps in front of me. Her hair cascaded straight down further than I expected; really three quarters of the way down her back instead of halfway. Her ass was tight and beautifully molded in the skirt she wore. I didn’t have a chance to look much more before we arrived at our table.

Sherri only glanced at the menu before putting it down. She looked at me, placed her elbows on the table, and clasped her hands. She arched her eyebrows and waited. Oh, yeah. I passed her an envelope which disappeared into her purse after a quick glance at the contents.

“So, how was your morning?” Sherri asked.

“Not as bad as I’d expected,” I replied. “Neither the hangover nor the guilt were as bad as I expected.”


“Uhh, well, for, well, getting drunk and calling you.”

“What’s there to feel guilty about in that?”

“Because you’re an escort.”

“So? We didn’t do anything illegal.”

“True, but I wanted to.”

“If every person who wanted to commit a crime was in jail, there wouldn’t be anyone left on the outside.”

“You needed to talk and I like listening,” she said next. “That’s why we’re here tonight, right?”

I snorted.

“I need more friends in D.C.,” I said. “It was either you or a shrink and they don’t keep evening hours. Besides, you’re better looking.”

“I’m also not bound by the same rules that they are, either.”

“Rules?” I asked.

She leered in reply. “Let’s just say I can’t lose my license for getting involved with a client.”

I sat, frozen. I didn’t know whether to run away, make a joke, or make a pass at her. Sherri seemed to revel in my discomfort for a moment, but then she relaxed and reached over to take my hand.

“Tell me more about Sharon, Joe.”

I nodded my head and let out a deep breath….

Sharon called two days after our “ten questions” afternoon to claim her first forfeit.

“Joe, can you come to Kim’s party with me Saturday?”

“What party?”

“Kim’s having a barbeque and she’s invited a lot of people. I want to go but Allen might be there.”

“So you want me to go as your date?”


“Good, because Allen would never believe we’re dating.”

“I know that,” Sharon said. “It’s that… well… I just don’t want to be standing alone if he shows up with someone.”

This didn’t make sense to me. “So, you want me to go to Kim’s party with you and stand around with you until he shows up, but not act like we’re together.”

“Right. And watch the door. I want to be able to flirt with some of the guys that Kim’s inviting without having to be constantly watching out for Allen. You can let me know if he shows up with anyone before I have to talk to him.”

Oh. She wanted me to be her wingman. I was glad she couldn’t see me rolling my eyes over the phone.

“Sure,” I answered. “I’ll do that. What are friends for?”

The party actually turned out to be pretty big. That was fine since Kim and her roommates were renting a house with a yard. There were probably fifty people there and the gender mix was about even. Kim had a keg out back under one tree and her boyfriend was manning the grill almost non-stop. Sharon hung around the backyard and, after snagging my beer, I headed back to the front of the house. I joked with some women that I didn’t know who were talking with one of Kim’s roommates, but my attempts to flirt went over like a lead balloon. I quit trying and decided just to enjoy the conversation. Allen arrived about an hour later. He was alone.

“Joe!” he called. “I didn’t expect to see you here!”

He came over and Kim’s roommate introduced him to the ladies we were talking with. One of them used the break in the conversation as an excuse to go get more beer and her friend followed. Other folks came in and Kim’s roommate abandoned us to go greet them. In less than two minutes I’d gone from talking with three single women to none. Allen seemed amused and non-plussed.

“Driving ‘em away again, Joe?” he joked.

“Hey, they were here until you walked over. If they were driven away, it was by you,” I shot back.

Allen chuckled. “That wouldn’t have happened if they weren’t so eager to get away from you,” he countered.

I glared at him. He just grinned back.

“Let’s get a beer,” he suggested.

I nodded and led the way to the back. A quick glance around revealed Sharon in conversation with a dark haired Keanu Reeves type on the opposite side of the yard from the keg. Allen’s eyes were only for the beer until we’d both gotten a glass. Then he stepped back and surveyed the yard.

“Good crowd,” he commented.

“Kim does know a lot of people,” I replied.

“True. Most of the old dorm is here. Greg, Tom, Patty. And Sharon.” His face soured with Sharon’s name.

“But no Alicia,” I said.

Allen took a long sip out of his glass. “No,” he said. “No Alicia.”

We settled into silence for a while. Allen was watching the crowd and I was watching Sharon. She noticed us and stiffened, but only for a moment. Then she shifted her stance so that she couldn’t see us. It placed her a little closer to the guy she was talking to and he perked up and started talking faster. I watched Sharon over-exaggerate a laugh at one of his jokes and I turned back to Allen.

“So what are you doing these days?” I asked “Now that you’ve graduated?”

He snorted.

“Bartending. Taking it easy. Mostly just being happy I graduated. Five years is too long.”

“Well, you did change majors four times.”

“Not everybody knows what they want to do on day one like you, Joe.”

“I’m not so sure anymore. Grad school’s kicking my butt.”

That surprised Allen. He stared at me, mouth open, for long enough for me to be uncomfortable.

“‘Kicking your butt’?? School was always easy for you! You barely studied for tests and never pulled an all-nighter. At least when we were living together.”

I shrugged.

“I’ve got good short-term memory,” I said. “The higher-level math to understand cosmology, though,….” I just shook my head.

“Math is kicking your butt?” Allen asked again.

I just nodded my head.

“I’m not sure it’s math at this level so much as magic,” I said. “I was in class one day this spring and the professor filled an entire blackboard with a single non-linear second order differential equation. He was lecturing without notes and stepped back to look at it and spotted an error he’d made. One I never would have seen. Then he said, and I quote: ‘The solution to this equation is obviously’—and then proceeded to fill the next chalkboard with the answer. I knew right then I was toast. There was no way I was getting from chalkboard A to chalkboard B, even with a week of study and analysis.”

“That bites,” Allen said.

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s made me really question what I’m doing in Arizona.”

“You going to stay in school then?” Allen asked.

I shrugged. “No point in dropping out. I can’t tend bar worth shit.”

Allen responded with a low chuckle but didn’t get offended. We’d joked too often when we’d been roommates that he was responsible for organizing the parties and I was responsible for making sure they didn’t get out of hand. He’d developed more pride in his ability to mix up exotic drinks than he had in his test scores. That had cost him a semester of failing grades, the fall I moved out because I couldn’t stand dorm food anymore. The same fall after he’d dumped Sharon, I realized.

“So what are you going to do when you get done ‘taking it easy’?” I asked.

“Dunno. I’ll worry about that when I get there.”

There was nothing I could say in reply to that, so I didn’t.

A couple of other people came up to the keg about then and we spent some time shooting the breeze with them. After a while, I slipped away for a bathroom break. When I came out of the restroom, Sharon was waiting in the hall.

“So is he with anybody?” she hissed, her eyes constantly flicking toward the main part of the house.

“He didn’t bring anybody. I don’t know if he’s involved with anyone or not.”

Sharon just looked at me, studying my face.

“Honest,” I said.

“Okay,” she said. Then she motioned toward the bathroom door.

“If you’ll excuse me,” she said.

I nodded and let Sharon slip on by. I returned to the party where I found Allen chatting up a blonde in a tight t-shirt. I decided not to interrupt and just headed back outside. I found a lawn chair and sank into it.

I pretty much was left alone for a while. The hubbub swirled around me, but other than smiles and the occasional nod, no one engaged me in conversation. The women in particular seemed to keep their distance. I wondered if my ripped-out heart showed. Probably. I knew it wasn’t attractive, but I didn’t know what to do about it.

Eventually, Allen wandered into the yard and found me. He had stopped by the keg and he handed me a fresh glass before pulling up a seat.

“Struck out?” I asked. He looked at me, confused. “The blonde.”

“Yeah,” he admitted. “She has a boyfriend in California. She didn’t get around to mentioning him until I’d asked her if she wanted to go to dancing later.”

We shared the knowing glance of the torpedoed male and smiled.

“That reminds me, why aren’t you in California?” I asked.

“No point. With Mom and Dad divorcing, there wasn’t exactly a home to go back to. Besides, I like it here.”

“Sure beats the desert,” I said. “Why I picked Tucson, I’ll never know. It’s brown, it’s hot, it’s uncultured.”

“Uncultured? Why does that matter?”

“It does if you want to find decent theatre or restaurants.”

Allen snorted.

“I suspect it’s got those, but you haven’t found them. Besides, you can’t afford fine dining. You’re a poor starving grad student, remember?”

“Don’t remind me. Actually, I’d be happy to pay for good food if I knew where it was and if I had someone to go with.”

“So ask someone.”

“Not that simple. My department is overwhelmingly male.”

“So take a friend.”

“If I had any,” I said.

Allen just looked at me, slowly shaking his head.

“Okay, I know that’s pathetic,” I said. “I need to stop whining.”

“Damn right!”

I took a swig of beer and didn’t reply. There was some commotion by the door to the house. Apparently a guy had spilled beer on a girl coming out and made a huge mess of her shirt. Her boyfriend was having words with the first guy and a crowd was developing. It dissipated when our hostess Kim intervened.

“You know what you need, Joe,” Allen opined. “You need to do two things. First, you need to give yourself a treat now. Give yourself something nice so your last good memory won’t be of Alicia. Get laid if you can, actually. That’s always a nice memory.”

“No kidding.”

“The second thing—give yourself something to look forward to. A goal, or a reward for meeting some other goal, like finishing your degree. That’ll help you stay out of the pity party.”

I paused and thought about what Allen had said.

“You’re probably right,” I admitted.

He nodded, but didn’t tear his eyes off a couple of women laughing together a little ways away.

“Any specific suggestions?”

“You want fine dining? Take someone out here, before you head back. I’m sure you can come up with some restaurants you’ve always wanted to go to in Denver. Hell, go to the Flagstaff House. You’ll remember that for a while.”

“Yeah, that might work.”

“Of course it’ll work. I know what I’m talking about.”

He flashed me a smile then and I rolled my eyes.

“Yeah, I forget, you were a psych major for a semester, weren’t you?”

“Two,” he replied.

I just chuckled. Allen was not always right, but never in doubt.

“What you really need,” Allen continued, “is to get laid.”

“No kidding. But how do I manage that?”

“For that, you’re on your own.” Allen glanced at the two women who had been laughing and my eyes followed his. They were still talking and one of the girls, a brunette, kept glancing over our way. She was smiling as she did so.

“You’re definitely on your own,” Allen muttered and then slammed the rest of his beer. He stood and started walking over to the women. The brunette’s eyes twinkled at his approach.

I just laughed quietly to myself.

I sat and slowly finished my beer, idly surveying the crowd. It had grown thinner and more clumped, as if little magnets had been dropped into an iron filing bath. Maybe they had, I mused. All the unattached women seemed to be in the middle of those clumps.

Except one. Sharon appeared at the back door, took one glance around the yard, and strode over to me.

“Ready to go?” she asked. Demanded, really.


“Let’s go.”


I set my near-empty glass down and got up. As soon as I was on my feet, Sharon started walking back toward the house. I quick-stepped a couple of paces to catch up.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Later,” she spat.

We found our hostess, said goodnight with Sharon giving some excuse about early morning plans, and headed to the car. Since she was more sober, she took the driver’s seat.

“So what is it?” I asked again as soon as the seatbelts clicked closed.

“The guy I was talking to,” she began.

“Short black hair?”

“Yeah, him. We were flirting pretty heavily and he even suggested a trip to Glenwood Springs. Then he asked for my phone number. I gave it to him and then asked for his. He hesitated and when I asked again, he said his roommate really didn’t like being disturbed by the phone ringing and so it wasn’t a good idea for people to call him.”


“Well, it turns out his roommate is his girlfriend.”


“Yeah. He says they have an ‘arrangement’ and I told him I wanted to talk to her about their ‘arrangement.’ He started some bullshit story about how that wasn’t a good idea and that’s when I told him to go fuck himself. Then I came looking for you.”


“What is it with guys?” Sharon bemoaned. “Why do they have to be such liars?”

“Not all guys are liars.”

“Present company excepted, of course.” Sharon didn’t even glance at me as she said that.

“I’m not sure I’m the only exception.”

“True. Allen never lied to me. He just dumped me.”

I bit my lip to avoid responding to that.

I gained a distraction when Sharon paused to curse at a car that had cut us off. Given her aggressive driving, I didn’t think it was really the other driver’s fault, but Sharon wasn’t in a mood for me to point that out. I just clenched the door handle until we pulled into her parking lot. As we walked to her apartment, Sharon seemed to calm down. She invited me in and I plopped down on her couch as she got us each a glass of water.

“How’s Allen?” she asked, after settling into the chair across from me.

“Doing fine,” I replied. “We mostly talked about me.”


“Yeah, he suggested I do something fun so my most recent good memory isn’t of Alicia. Take someone to the Flagstaff House, for example.”

“I’ll go!” Sharon chimed in.

I chuckled.

“I can’t afford the Flagstaff House. The prices are the highest around! You know that.”

Sharon shrugged her shoulders.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Strings, in Denver,” she said.

“Strings would be good,” I mused. I started thinking about some of the women I’d found attractive in college but hadn’t been able to date because I was going out with Alicia.

“How about going next Friday?” Sharon asked, breaking the silence.

I looked at her.

“You and me?” I asked.

“Sure, why not? Why does it have to be a date?”

“Well, I’d like it to be a date.”

“But who are you going to find around here that would go on a date with you?” she challenged.

“Good point.” Which sucked, but was accurate enough for me to only feel a little insulted.

“It’ll be fun!” she added. “I haven’t had a chance to get dressed up and go out fancy for a while.”

“Me neither,” I admitted.

“Then let’s do it!”

“Okay,” I agreed. “We’ll go out and have a good time.”

Sharon smiled and leaned back, crossing her legs.

“Though I don’t know which dress I should wear,” she mused.

“Wear something that shows off your legs,” I suggested, teasing a little. Allen had once made a similar request when they were dating and it had led to the biggest blush I’d ever seen on Sharon. This time it didn’t.

“I can do that,” she replied without a hint of embarrassment. “I haven’t dressed up really fancy since Allen.”

That admission surprised me. I knew that she hadn’t had much luck with relationships since they’d broken up, but I knew she’d been dating.

“So you’re going to dress sexy for a night with me,” I mused out loud.

“Sure! It’ll be fun!”

I didn’t know what to say to that, so I asked how her recent dating had gone. She told stories with consistent bad endings. The guy who’d pinned her to her door, trying to kiss her at the end of the date, before she pushed him off of her. The classmate she’d had a crush on who’d turned out to be gay. A couple of guys who just hadn’t called when they’d said they would. I nodded and sympathized and shared some of my pre-Alicia dating war stories. It got even later as we talked and we finally called it a night. I drove back to my parents’ house and crashed, sleeping soundly.

The following Friday found me at Sharon’s door in my suit, ready to go, but feeling mildly uncomfortable. When I’d dressed up to go out with Alicia, I’d always brought flowers. That wasn’t right for Sharon, but it also felt weird to have my hands empty.

Sharon opened the door and took my breath away. She’d given her long dark hair gentle waves and her makeup was perfect. She was wearing a midnight blue silk dress I’d seen only once before with a plunging neckline and a tight waist. The color matched her eyes perfectly. The dress hugged her hips and ended just below the knee, revealing hose and pumps.

“Wow,” I said.

Sharon dimpled at the compliment.

“Glad you like!”

“What’s not to like?” I replied.

Sharon just grinned. I extended my arm, elbow hooked, and Sharon slid her arm in mine. We walked, almost strutted really, to the car. Two fancy folks out for a fancy night.

Dinner was excellent. We let the sommelier pick a bottle of wine for us and he matched it to the food perfectly. We laughed and joked and swapped stories about classes and things that had happened the last school year while I’d been in Tucson. I stole a couple of peeks at Sharon’s chest, wondering if she was wearing a bra, given how tight the top was. She only caught me once, and just chuckled at my blush. After dinner, I had coffee while she had port and we continued to laugh and joke until the waiter had asked three times if we wanted anything more. Catching the hint, we headed back to Sharon’s place.

I was quiet on the drive back. Sharon was almost glowing in happiness, bubbling and almost giddy. She chatted up a storm and laughed at my jokes. I, meanwhile, just soaked it all up. I was catching a contact buzz, though there had been no drugs other than the wine. We laughed and kidded and were all too soon back at Sharon’s place. We paused just outside her door.

“You really look perfect tonight,” I said, standing a step back so as to not be too close.


“More beautiful than anytime I saw you with Allen.”

That got Sharon to blush.


“Really. If I could show him a picture of how you looked tonight, he’d be jealous as hell.”

Sharon laughed. Then she glanced up at me with a playful look in her eyes. She then looked away and bit her lower lip, thinking. Then she glanced back at me and grinned.

“C’mon in,” she said.

I followed her in and she dropped her purse on the counter and proceeded to her bedroom. Not quite knowing what to do, I stood in the middle of the living room. Sharon returned a moment later, holding her camera.

“Take some pictures,” she said, handing the Nikon to me. I glanced at it—it was a high-end automatic, well within my skill level. Sharon walked over toward one mostly bare wall, and moved a lamp out of the way to give herself a clear backdrop. I stepped back to where I could get a good shot.

Sharon struck her first pose standing partially sideways, knee bent. It emphasized her hip in the tight dress and the line of her thigh. For the second shot, she swept her hair back and tilted her head, drawing my eyes and the camera to her smile. Her third pose was more square to the camera, one leg extended forward. In the fourth, she tugged her skirt up a little, emphasizing it even more. Shots five, six, and seven occurred as she slowly spun 360, never letting her eyes leave the camera. That occurred in shot eight, which emphasized the curve of her ass. In shot nine, her eyes had turned from playful to smoldering as she looked back over her shoulder.

I just got a click when I tried to hit shot ten.

“The roll’s finished,” I said, starting to rewind it.

“Let me get another one,” Sharon quickly said. She hastened to her bedroom and back, bringing a 36 exposure roll.

“We really should get some shots that emphasize your cleavage,” I said without thinking.

Sharon gave a hearty laugh, to my relief. “Sure!”

She moved over to the easy chair and sat in it. She leaned back first, then frowned and shifted forward, resting her elbows on her knees. I took a couple of shots while she tried different arm positions. Then she moved behind the chair and knelt down, leaning against the chair so that everything below her waist was hidden. She leaned forward and found an angle that let the cleavage of her dress gape open just a little more, creating a deep valley of shadow between her breasts. I got three pictures with her tilting her head at various angles. I was pleased to note how that subtle motion changed the entire feel of the picture.

I stepped back and checked the film count. We still had plenty of pictures. Sharon had slid around to sit in the chair. She was leaning back, legs crossed at the knee, gently flexing and extending her raised foot, which had lost its shoe and was encased only in black nylon. I took a few more shots and then let out a deep sigh.

“You really are sexier tonight than anytime I’ve seen you with Allen.”

That brought a huge smile to Sharon’s face.

“In fact,” I continued, “the only time he’s probably seen you sexier is when you wore the blue teddy.”

Sharon laughed and got a mischievous grin. Then she jumped out of the chair.

“Wait here,” she said, and then headed toward the hall. I sat on the couch and twiddled with the camera for a little bit.

When Sharon walked back in, I almost dropped it. Fortunately, the camera had a cord which I’d wrapped around my fingers, but I didn’t notice immediately because I was busy staring.

She’d changed into the blue teddy.

Deep blue silk, with just a touch of lace. Narrow spaghetti straps that expanded into fabric almost seamlessly as her breasts swelled beneath them. High and French cut across the hips, leaving no doubt that she at least partially shaved since there was no hair peeking out and not much cloth for it to hide under. I reminded myself to close my mouth.

“Allen always wanted pictures of me in this,” Sharon said. “Let’s show him what he’s missing.”

I didn’t hesitate. Sharon moved over to the blank wall and struck similar poses to those she’d done while wearing the dress. When she stood sideways with one knee bent, her entire thigh exposed since the teddy was cut above her hip, I let out a low whistle. After a couple more shots, she turned her back to me and leaned her upper body against the wall, thrusting her ass toward the camera. That pulled the teddy tight, making every curve of her cheeks visible. She tossed her hair to one side and gave me a smoldering look over her shoulder. I snapped that picture too.

“We should get some by the chair,” I said.

“Good idea.”

Sharon moved behind the chair like before, leaning over the back. This time she was a little higher and the teddy top gaped as she lowered her chest, exposing almost all of her breasts. Her nipples weren’t quite visible, but plenty of smooth pale skin was. After I got the picture, Sharon arched her back, thrusting her breasts forward. The gap disappeared, but her hard nipples visibly poked though the smooth silk. She struck a couple of poses with her arms in different positions before moving around to the front and sinking into the chair.

“Can you do coy?” I asked.

“But of course,” Sharon replied. She sat, feet and knees together, elbows on knees, which showed nothing. I moved forward and tapped the outside of her thigh and she got the message and turned her legs forty-five degrees. I got two pictures with her feigning innocence. Then she leaned back and crossed one leg over the other, mimicking her earlier pose in the dress. I got two of those and then checked my exposure count. Thirty-four shots used.

“How about something brazen?” I suggested.

Sharon grinned and then paused, thinking. Then her face lit up and she chuckled.

“How about this?” she said. With that, she slid the teddy strap off her left shoulder, letting it hang loosely. The fabric fell forward, but not quite enough to expose more than the top of her breast. Sharon then leaned back and placed her feet flat on the floor, slightly spread. She placed her left hand on her bare thigh, just an inch from the edge of the silk covering her crotch. She rested her right hand on her chest, just under her almost exposed left breast. Then she cupped her fingers slightly, hinting that they were about to slide north. If I hadn’t known it was posed, I’d have sworn she was just about to play with herself, both above and below. I snapped the picture. Sharon licked her lips. I snapped the second.

“That was the last exposure,” I said.

Sharon sighed. “I don’t have any more film.”

That led me to sigh.

“Well, I’ll get these developed and see how they turn out,” Sharon said.

“Do I get copies?”

“Of course.” She looked at me like I’d asked a stupid question, so I just shut my mouth. I glanced around and my eye caught the clock on the wall.

“Wow, it’s late,” I said.

Sharon turned and looked at the time as well. “Yes, it is.”

“I should probably get going.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” Sharon replied.

We started walking toward the door. I opened it and then turned around. Sharon was still in only her teddy, but that didn’t stop her from putting her arms around me and giving me a deep hug. I returned it, caressing her back through the silk. She let out a deep sigh of pleasure.

“Thanks, Joe,” she said. “I’ve had a great evening.”

“Me too,” I said.

She gave me a final squeeze and then pulled back.

“Goodnight,” I said.

“Oh, it will be,” she said, with a twinkle in her eye. I just rolled my eyes in response. I waved and slipped out the door.

On the drive home, I thought a lot about what had happened. Sharon’s behavior surprised and excited me. I couldn’t tell exactly what had caused it. Maybe the wine at dinner, but maybe not. I just knew something had changed.

Chapter Three

“Do you still have the photos?” Sherri asked, our menus having been collected by the waiter.

I nodded. “Shoebox in my closet. With the others.”

“Other pictures?”

“I’ll get to those,” I replied.

Sherri’s eyes flashed in response. Devilish and almost feral.

“Do you like taking sexy photos of women?” she asked, her words slow and measured.


“Good. I’ll keep that in mind,” she drawled. She brushed a few black strands of hair away from her face. Then she slowly licked her lips.

I felt my cock stiffen in response. I slowly let out my breath.

“Allen was right, you know,” Sherri said, much more seriously. “You can’t erase old memories, but you can write over them with newer, better ones.”

“I know,” I admitted. “That’s why I called the agency. I thought getting laid would help and in my drunken state, that’s all I could think of. While the dinner with Sharon was a lot of fun, and what happened afterward with the photos was mind-blowing, it wasn’t enough.”

“It wasn’t?”

“No. But I suppose I should explain….”

The next time we got together, neither Sharon nor I said anything about the pictures. I was scared she’d declare that they’d been a mistake. Instead, she seemed nonchalant and as relaxed as she’d been before our night out. We had a casual dinner and caught an ultimately forgettable movie. She had to work at her part-time job the next morning, so I didn’t stay to talk.

A few days later, she called and suggested I come over and hang out that evening. When I showed up just before dinnertime, she ushered me in and headed to the kitchen. The photos were spread out all over the table.

“Wow,” I said, looking at the montage.

“Those are your copies,” she said, pointing to a stack in one corner.

“These,” she said, pointing to a grouping on the left side of the table, “are pretty good. These,” this was a group in the middle, “are okay, but could be better. This last set… well, you need some practice, Joe.”

I grimaced. The bulk of the photos were in the middle and the ones on the right outnumbered the ones on the left. I’d thought I was a better photographer than that.

“So show me what you mean,” I said.

“Sure,” she said. Sharon then pointed to one of the pictures on the right.

“My eyes are closed in this one,” she said. “And in this one, the way my hair is hanging over my shoulder looks weird.”

I sighed and nodded.

I continued to nod as Sharon walked through each picture on the right side and then each one in the ‘okay but could be better’ middle. Then she turned to the pictures on the left—a mere seven prints. The first four were of her in the dress in various poses, looking elegant and sexy in all of them.

“Now this is a really good picture,” she said, pointing to the fifth one. It was the one of her looking over her shoulder as she leaned into the wall while wearing the teddy.

“You have a great sultry expression on your face,” I said.

“And it makes my ass look great.”

“You have a great ass.”

“Thanks!” Sharon gave me a smile with that and picked up the next picture. “I wasn’t sure that posing behind the chair would work, but this one’s really good.”

In the photo, Sharon’s head was turned and she had a warm, almost innocent smile. That sense of innocence was offset by the deep view down her cleavage. The teddy had gaped open just enough for me to strain to see if her nipple was visible. It wasn’t, but it was close.

“And this final one’s just plain hot,” Sharon said. It was the last shot I’d taken, with one hand on her thigh and the other cupped below her breast. She looked wanton and aroused.

“It looks like you’re about to touch yourself,” I commented.

“Yeah,” she admitted, grinning.

“Did you?” I impulsively asked.

“Did I what?”

“Touch yourself,” I clarified. “After I left.”

“Well….” Sharon’s eyes twinkled, teasing.

“How about if I cash in one of the forfeits from our game a while back?”

“Okay!” Sharon replied. “Yes, I did. I fantasized that you’d shown the picture to Allen and he’d called because he wanted some of his own. I said he’d have to take them himself and he agreed and… well, it was a very good fantasy.”

I chuckled and shook my head. At the same time, my gut twinged. I hadn’t gone home fantasizing about an ex. I’d gone home fantasizing about Sharon.

“So,” I said, gesturing at the pictures, “are you going to give me a chance to practice?”

“Maybe,” Sharon replied. “But not tonight. I’m hungry. How do you feel about Mexican?”

“Sounds good. La Estrellita?”

“Sure.” Sharon swept her copies of the pictures into a pile and then grabbed her purse. I snagged my copies and stuck them in my jacket pocket.

We parked about a block away from the restaurant and on the walk up my gut started to churn. It had been a mistake suggesting La Estrellita, I realized. That had been ‘our’ restaurant when Alicia and I were dating. The food was good and cheap and we’d ended up dining there about once a week. In fact, we’d gotten to be such regulars that Alicia would just say ‘the usual’ and the waitress would put in an order for chicken soft tacos with beans and rice. Walking up with Sharon, I kept expecting to see Alicia in the doorway or at one of the tables. It would be too easy to run into her here.

We didn’t. Alicia was not sitting at any of the tables up front or any of the booths to the left. A quick glance into the bar showed just a couple of students and no familiar faces. Even the waitress was new. Letting out a deep breath, I picked up a menu and forced myself to relax. Sharon didn’t seem to notice as she chatted about something that had happened at her job that week. I did my best to fake paying attention as my mind drifted to thoughts of Alicia.

Alicia had been my first true love. Not in The Princess Bride sense, where love transcended and triumphed over all, but in a deeper-than-puppy-love way. More than the mutual crushes of early high school. Or my high school girlfriend. While we’d used the 'L' word, I don’t think either my high school sweetheart or I had expected it to last, given how young we were. With Alicia, I had. We’d been together long enough by the time I’d graduated with my bachelor’s that I was sure we’d make it.

And now, instead of sitting across the table from Alicia, I was sitting across the table from Sharon. Who had been fantasizing about Allen when she’d been posing for me.

Sharon was in a chatty mood and at first didn’t notice as I sunk more and more into quiet despair. She seemed to catch on that she was carrying the whole conversation just about the time the food arrived.

“What’s wrong, Joe?” she asked.

“Nothing,” I grumbled.

“You were thinking about Alicia again, weren’t you?”


“I know it’s hard to let go,” she said.

“Yeah, and I know I should.”

“Be gentle on yourself,” she said. “It’s okay that it takes some time. How many months did you let me cry on your shoulder? Six? And how many late nights did I call you because I was lonely or depressed?”

“I didn’t count.”

“I know. And I’m not going to count for you. You need me, I’ll be there.”

Sharon’s expression was deeply sincere. I nodded and dug into my food. With my mouth full, I obviously couldn’t reply.

“That’s what true friends are for,” Sharon continued. “We’re there for each other when things are difficult and we support each other. Then we celebrate together when things are good.”

“Whenever that is,” I groused.

“You had a good time at Strings,” Sharon countered.

“Yeah,” I admitted.

“So maybe we should do something else like that.”

“What did you have in mind?” I asked.

“How about the Colorado Shakespeare Festival? Before you head back to Arizona.”

I shrugged. “Why not?”

“Great! We can do the picnic on the lawn beforehand and the whole works.”

“The whole works?” I asked, trying to keep any note of hope for what that might include out of my voice.

“Sure! I’ll take care of everything.”

“You’re on!” I replied.

“Great. So how long do we have? When are you headed back to Tucson?”

I told her and that turned the conversation to the drive through New Mexico. Sharon had relatives in Albuquerque that she visited often.

Gradually the conversation drifted through family stories, then to stories from our childhoods. I knew Sharon, but I didn’t know her so well for her past to be old hat. That seemed to be mutual as she asked questions about my own stories throughout the conversation. She even laughed at some of my tales about youthful antics.

My tenseness returned when we finished the meal. My eyes kept darting around, looking for Alicia, but of course she was nowhere in sight when we walked back outside.

“Let’s go for a walk,” Sharon suggested.

It was still warm and light and the Pearl Street Mall was full of people outside enjoying the weather. We wandered past street musicians and teens playing hackey-sack and peered in the various stores. Sharon pulled me into the Arts Cooperative, but none of the various displays interested me much. I retaliated by pulling her into the Kite Shop. She indulged me as I poked through the boomerangs but was a step ahead of me leaving the store.

That’s when she stopped. I pulled up short to avoid running into her. Looking past her shoulder, I then understood why.

Outside, in the crowd walking by, was Alicia. Holding hands with a guy I’d never seen.

Getting kicked in the gut doesn’t hurt as much when you’ve been expecting it all evening. Maybe that’s why we spend so much energy expecting the worst. The anticipation spreads the pain forward a little. So it’s not so raw when the moment actually arrives.


That was a preview of Friends and Benefits. To read the rest purchase the book.

Add «Friends and Benefits» to Cart