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Table of Contents

Table of Contents 2

Diamond Girl Preview 10

CHAPTER 1 12

CHAPTER 2 22

CHAPTER 3 26

CHAPTER 4 31

CHAPTER 5 36

CHAPTER 6 41

CHAPTER 7 47

CHAPTER 8 53

Author’s Message 59

Love Plus One Preview 61

Synopsis 62

Acknowledgments 64

Chapter 1 66

Chapter 2 75

Chapter 3 83

Chapter 4 86

Chapter 5 92

Night Moves Preview 101

Synopsis 102

Acknowledgments 103

Prologue 105

Chapter 1 109

Chapter 2 121

Chapter 3 128

Author’s Message 134

Synopsis - These Men 137

Prologue 138

CHAPTER 1 141

Chapter 2 150

Chapter 3 154

Author’s Message 157

How about a Newbie? 160

Author’s Note 162

Chapter 1 163

Chapter 2 167

Chapter 3 172

Chapter 4 177

Chapter 5 182

Epilogue 188

About the Author 195

Prologue 197

Author’s Message 199

SYNOPSIS 202

Acknowledgements 203

Prologue 204

Chapter 1 210

Chapter 2 215

Chapter 3 218

Chapter 4 223

Author’s Message 228

Author’s Message 231

Chapter 1 232

Chapter 2 239

Chapter 3 246

Chapter 4 250

Chapter 5 255

Chapter 6 258

Chapter 7 262

Chapter 8 265

Epilogue 268

Author’s Message 272

SYNOPSIS 275

Acknowledgements 276

Prologue 278

Chapter 1 285

Chapter 2 290

Chapter 3 295

Chapter 4 298

Chapter 5 301

Chapter 6 306

Author’s Message 309

Author’s Message 312

Acknowledgments 314

Chapter 1 315

Chapter 2 322

Chapter 3 325

Chapter 4 331

Chapter 5 342

Chapter 6 346

Chapter 7 352

Chapter 8 357

Author’s Message 362

SYNOPSIS 365

Prologue 366

Chapter 1 368

Chapter 2 373

Chapter 3 379

Chapter 4 385

Chapter 5 390

Author’s Message 399

Who enjoys M/M Romance? 402

SYNOPSIS 403

Dedication 407

Dedication 408

Chapter 1 416

Chapter 2 419

Chapter 3 423

Chapter 4 426

Chapter 5 430

Chapter 6 434

Chapter 7 439

Chapter 8 444

Chapter 9 447

Chapter 9 451

Author’s Message 455

Synopsis 458

Acknowledgements 459

Prologue 461

Chapter 1 466

Chapter 2 470

Chapter 3 478

Chapter 4 482

Epilogue 492

Message from the author. 496

Hayden’s POV- Final Epilogue 497

Author’s Parting Words 506




A Taste of Sin

Collection of Previews
and
Never Before Seen Short Stories

by

Andrea Smith

Meatball Taster Publishing LLC

Table of Contents

Title Page

Diamond Girl Preview

Love Plus One Preview

Night Moves

These Men

Dirty Deeds

Chocolate is the New Vanilla

Loving Jesse

So Much Like Me

Silent Whisper Preview

Maybe Baby Preview

Walk of Shame Preview

Black Balled

Jaded

Jaded Epilogue Hayden

Author’s Parting Words



Diamond Girl
Preview

Book #1 - G-Man Series

by

Andrea Smith

Diamond Girl Preview

Text copyright © 2013 by Andrea Smith. All rights reserved. Except as permitted under The U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior express, written consent of the author Some of the content in this book is loosely based upon actual events which occurred in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne Indiana back in the summer of 2012. The characters, however, are fictional; any resemblance to actual persons or events, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

This book is intended for adult readers only.

Cover Design: Kim Black @ TOJ Publishing Services

Associate Editor: Janell Parque

The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to five years in FEDERAL PRISON.

Diamond Girl Preview

This is a preview of Book #1 in the best-selling “G-Man Series” Enjoy this sampling, and remember, “Diamond Girl” is available in its entirety on most every retail venue.

PLAYLIST

Diamond Girl” by Seals & Crofts

Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf

“Girls, Girls, Girls” by Motley Crue

Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake

Feeling Good” by Michael Bublé

Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard

Bad Girlfriend” by Theory of a Dead Man

Slow Dancing In a Burning Room” by John Mayer

Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones

CHAPTER 1

I pulled the meatloaf out of the oven, slamming the oven door shut with my left thigh as my pot-holdered hands set the finished entrée on top of the counter. I glanced quickly at the clock on the stove. It was 6:45 p.m. I’d set the table with our good china and silverware. Meatloaf was Jack’s favorite, along with cheesy potatoes. I’d made his favorite dessert as well: Boston Crème pie. I just needed to make a quick trip to the bathroom to check my hair and make-up.

This was the first dinner Jack and I were having together since Lindsey had left for college two days earlier. He’d promised he would be home on time after work. He’d been rolling in past 9:00 p.m. off and on over the past eighteen months. I’d finally told him enough was enough.

Jack explained that his promotion to the V.P. of marketing for the East coast region would require long hours. I got that. I had no clue that it would entail approximately months on end without sex, though. That part was getting to be a real drag.

Jack blamed his workload, jet lag and general exhaustion for his lack of sexual appetite. I knew there was more to it than that.

I studied myself in the bathroom mirror. I had to admit it. At thirty-five-years-old, I was officially a ‘frumpy housewife.’ I’d pulled my light brown hair up on top of my head with a clip. F-R-U-M-P-Y!

Thankfully, I’d put on a clean pair of jeans and a sweater. Jack was used to seeing me in sweats and a tee shirt. My jeans were noticeably tighter than when I wore them last. I was trying to remember exactly when that had been.

I reached into my cosmetic bag to get my compact out to dab a bit more blush onto my cheeks. I saw my fingers reflected in the vanity mirror. My God!

My nails were chewed down below the cuticle. Whatever had happened to the beautifully manicured nails that I had as a newlywed?

I knew the answer to that question before it had left my mind. The baby had followed the wedding ceremony, in short order. There were diapers, spit-up, formula, teething, cleaning, laundry, and trying to keep my head above water with Jack. He was a very persnickety man.

He liked order.

He liked perfection.

I didn’t fit into either category.

I guessed the reason that Jack had been extremely patient with me over the years was because of the great relationship he had with my father.

When I had discovered that I was pregnant at sixteen, I’d been terrified of telling my folks. I was an only child, and I’d understood through my upbringing that there were certain expectations. Those expectations hadn’t included my brief, sexual interlude with Jack Dennison.

Jack was two years older than me in high school. He was an all-around athlete. He played varsity football and was the star point guard for the Northwood High Raven’s basketball team. I never thought he would have given me a second look. He was gorgeous and sexy, even in high school. There wasn’t a girl at our school that hadn’t drooled over him at some point in time.

The truth was he hadn’t really given me a second look that night. It was more like we were at the same post-game party and he was drunk. He’d been extremely attentive to me at the party, and I was simply an infatuated sophomore girl on the cheer squad enamored with him like all of the others. I felt honored when he wanted to slip upstairs to be alone with me. We had talked and then started making out. I had no clue that the rest was going to happen.

I remember creeping back into my parents’ home the next morning. I’d stayed the night with my best friend, Becky. My mother had been up putting the coffee on when she saw me quietly coming in at a little after 7:00 a.m.

“Samantha? Why are you home so early?” she had asked, eyeing my somewhat disheveled appearance. I was still in my cheerleading uniform.

“Oh, I couldn’t sleep at Becky’s, Mom. Kerry had the flu and was puking all night, so I had to get out of there, you know?”

“Now, Sam,” she’d said, giving me the hairy eyeball, “Are you sure that Kerry had the flu, or were you girls drinking beer? I was a teenager once you know? And I know what went on back then.”

“Mom, I swear, as far as I could tell, none of us girls drank any beer or alcohol of any kind.”

“Well, alright then,” she replied, shrugging. “Go get out of that uniform and into your PJ’s. You need more sleep than what you probably got over at Becky’s house. Don’t wake Daddy.”

“Okay, Mom,” I had said, hugging her and giving her a kiss on the cheek. “I promise not to wake Daddy.” I knew that she wouldn’t wake Daddy, either. I was his princess and my mother wouldn’t do anything to banish me from his kingdom.

I had collapsed into my own bed that morning, not realizing for an instant the implications of what had happened the previous night. The strange thing was that I couldn’t recall wanting Jack to do the things that he’d done to me. I was positive that I’d heard myself telling him “no” beneath his lips that were crushing mine with passion and just plain old drunken horniness.

Afterwards, as I’d tried to sit up on the bed, my mascara streaming down my cheeks, searching for my ripped panties, I realized that I hadn’t wanted what happened to happen at all. He was simply drunk and incoherent at the time. He seemed to be used to getting his way with girls, and I was sure that he generally met with no resistance.

I wasn’t even sure that he had been aware of what happened. I mean I couldn’t very well blame him for something that he’d done while under the influence. Afterwards, he had simply told me that I was a “great fuck” and then passed out next to me on the random bed where we’d done the dirty deed.

Six weeks later, I knew that something was terribly wrong.

So, I naturally did what any sixteen-year-old girl would’ve done when faced with such a dilemma: I confided to my best friend, Becky.

“Holy crap, Samantha, why didn’t you tell me what happened that night? Aren’t we supposed to be best friends?”

“Can you please be mad at me about that later, Bec? Right now, I’m freaking out. I needed to tell someone. I don’t think Jack even remembers.”

“Well, first of all, you need to make sure you’re really pregnant. Let’s stop by Whitaker’s Drug Store after school and pick up one of those testing kits.”

“I can’t stop there,” I had whined. “What if Mr. Whitaker is there? He knows my dad.”

“Samantha,” Becky had said in her matter-of-fact voice, “Everyone knows your dad, I mean there’s no getting around that.

She was right. My father was the CEO of Banion Pharmaceuticals, one of the largest employers in town. His father, my grandfather, had founded the company fifty years prior. Like Becky, and most everyone else at our school, I’d been born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana. My father sat on the board of trustees for two local banks and the Chamber of Commerce. He had recognition and power in the community.

“Okay,” she had acquiesced, “I’ll go get it and meet you at your house later.”

‘Later’ had turned out to be the following morning before school. I’d called Becky telling her that my father had gotten home from work earlier than usual. He was taking Mom and me out for steaks at The Elite Cafe downtown. It was his favorite restaurant. He insisted on taking us there at least once a month. Mom was simply tickled that he’d gotten home early, for once.

I’d driven my car over to pick Becky up for school, as I’d done every morning since getting my driver’s license.

I had held my pee, just as she had instructed me to do, in order to get the most accurate reading. I had covered my mouth to stifle my screams as the result came through loud and clear: knocked up.

My father is going to kill me.

My trip down memory lane was interrupted when I heard the sound of our garage door opening. Jack was home. I hurried to put the finishing touches on dinner.

I heard him talking as he came in through the garage to the family room. Our house had two stories with a loft from the second floor. Our master suite was the loft. The house was only two years old, and I hadn’t finished decorating it yet. Jack had been on me about that, telling me I procrastinated far too much, and reminding me that most women would love to furnish and decorate such a gorgeous house with no worries about money or the confines of a budget.

I figured he was probably on his cell phone talking work on his way up until I realized the conversation was live. I heard a female voice laugh coyly at something he must’ve said.

Who the hell is with him?

“Sammie,” he called out from the main hallway.

“I’m in the kitchen, Jack.”

He entered the kitchen, setting his briefcase inside the door. A tall but petite, well-manicured woman was following behind him. She had perfect features, perfect make-up and she was dressed in a dark grey business suit that was tailored to accent her slim, yet shapely, figure. Her long, blonde hair flowed well past her shoulders. She had exquisite eyes. They were a mixture of greenish blue, almost a deep grey color to match her business suit.

“Sammie,” he repeated, “I want you to meet Susan Reynard, my new administrative assistant at the office.”

Oh, fucking great.

“It’s Samantha,” I replied, pasting what I hoped was a sincere-looking smile on my face as I held out my hand to clasp hers. “Very pleased to meet you, Susan.”

She afforded me a smile, showing perfectly even, white teeth. Naturally, her nails were professionally manicured and matched the shade of lipstick she was wearing on her full, pouty lips.

“Samantha,” she purred, “It’s such a pleasure meeting you as well. Your husband told me what a beautiful home you have here and he sure wasn’t exaggerating.”

“Yes,” he remarked, “if only I could motivate Sammie to finish furnishing it. Hey, perhaps Susan could help with some ideas on what the house needs to bring it all together. She’s done an awesome job on my office.”

“Oh, Mr. Dennison,” she gushed, almost blushing, “I just narrowed the choices down. You made the ultimate selection. Your husband has great taste by the way.”

“Now, Susan,” Jack admonished with a smile, “There’ll be none of this Mr. Dennison stuff. It’s Jack.”

“Yes, Jack,” she replied obediently. “I keep forgetting.”

I felt like a voyeur watching their interaction as I remained clueless as to why she was even here. I was hoping my husband was going to clue me in.

“Sammie,” he said, as if sensing my curiosity, “I invited Susan to dinner. We have some work to finish up and I thought we might as well work here in my office. I’m sorry I didn’t call you earlier, babe.”

“Oh, it’s no problem at all,” I lied. “I’ll just set another place.”

“Can I help?” Susan asked.

“Everything’s done,” I replied. “All that’s left is to take our places.”

Dinner was strained. I felt like an intruder on both the small talk and office talk between Jack and Susan. She looked to be about in her mid-thirties, if that. She certainly hung on Jack’s every word. I tuned them out, resuming my jog down memory lane.

I thought back to the ugly scene that had taken placed when I’d informed my parents that I was pregnant.

“I didn’t even know you were dating anyone,” my father had blurted out in pure confusion. “Why haven’t we met the boy?”

My mother had been less vocal, simply wringing her hands, like she always did when my father was upset or displeased about something. She constantly ran interference when I had occasion to disappoint him.

I hadn’t been sure how to explain what had happened without fear of my father hunting Jack down and killing him in cold blood. I merely told them that we were both drunk one night and it just sort of happened. In other words, I mostly lied. I had been stone cold sober at the time.

I remember my father’s face turning red. He’d been livid about my behavior.

“No daughter of mine is going to be regarded as some party tramp,” he bellowed. “I want the name and address of this boy, and I want it now! He’ll damn well make this right. I’ll see to that.”

“Now, Sidney,” my mother had whined, “Keep calm, remember your blood pressure.”

Six weeks later, Jack Dennison and I had been married in a small civil ceremony in a judge’s chambers. The judge was one of my father’s closest friends.

Jack had been able to graduate high school with his class.

My parents gave us a seven-day cruise for our honeymoon. They purchased a two-bedroom condo for us as a wedding gift, and Jack was given an entry level position in the office of my father’s company. My father had fixed the situation for us. He had a knack of doing just that. Unfortunately, no amount of my father’s power or influence could force Jack to love me.

“Sammie? Hello?”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said, shaking the memories of our shotgun wedding out of my mind for now. “What did you say, Jack?”

“I wondered if you made dessert.”

“Of course, Boston crème pie,” I replied, getting up to clear the dinner plates.

“Oh, none for me thanks,” Susan said. “I ate too much as it was. I’ll have to work out twice as long tomorrow morning.”

I watched as Jack openly admired his assistant’s physique.

“Speaking of which,” he said, “Susan belongs to a great fitness club just a couple miles north of here, Sammie. Perhaps you two could meet mornings and work out together?”

That was Jack’s not-so-subtle way of reminding me that I needed to get into shape. He worked out faithfully each day. Sometimes in the morning before work he stopped at his men’s club and sometimes after work. His physique was perfect.

“Maybe I will,” I replied. It was my standard reply to his nagging. If it shut him up for a day or two, then it worked.

After dessert, they both took mugs of coffee and went to Jack’s office, which was on the second floor. I cleaned up the kitchen, thankful that I didn’t have to continue to make small talk and observe Jack’s beautiful and shapely assistant. Maybe it was time I did focus on myself. Our daughter Lindsey had encouraged me before she left for Cornell to do just that.

“Mom, you never do anything just for you,” she’d stated. “It pisses me off, too.”

“Why would it piss you off?”

“Because Daddy indulges himself and you never do anything just for you.”

I’d argued that her father loved working out, buying new clothes for himself, and preening about. I just wasn’t sure I would get that much enjoyment or satisfaction from it.

“At least you should try,” she argued. “You need a hobby of some sort, besides looking after me and Daddy, especially now that I’m going away. I worry about you, Mom.”

“I’ll be fine, Lindsey. I swear that I’ll find something outside of the home to do once you’re gone, okay?”

“Promise?”

“Yes, Lindsey,” I’d replied, laughing. “You do realize that you’re a nag, right?”

I wiped the countertop off, thinking about my beautiful daughter. I missed her terribly. I knew that I would. We were close, very close. She’d made everything over the years worth it. Jack loved her - that was abundantly clear. Maybe that was all I could have hoped for under the circumstances.

I’d wanted more children, but Jack wouldn’t budge on that topic. He’d gotten a vasectomy when Lindsey was seven years old, due to my pressuring him for another. He came home one day and said I could put my diaphragm away (not that it had gotten much use anyway). He’d taken care of the problem, stating that one child was enough.

Jack had come from a family of four children. They’d struggled financially. He’d been the oldest and when his father had taken off when he was just twelve years old, he’d borne a lot of the responsibility while his mother worked two jobs. She’d finally remarried when Jack was sixteen, but by then, he’d had his fill of caring for his younger siblings. He hadn’t gotten on with his stepfather either. Even now, he had very little to do with his family.

The phone rang. I picked it up in the kitchen.

“Busy?”

“Hi Bec, just finished up the dinner dishes. What’s up?”

“Not much. George is in Chicago on business for a couple of days. I wondered if you wanted to hang out tomorrow. I figured you might be having Lindsey withdrawals.”

My friend knew me too well.

“That sounds great. I’ve been thinking I’m in dire need of having a spa afternoon. What do you think?”

“Let’s do it,” she said. “Meet me at Cappelli’s at noon. We’ll do lunch first.”

I was showered, wearing my sexiest nightgown and reading a book on my iPad when Jack came to bed. He was fresh from the shower, his brown locks still damp.

“Tired?” I asked.

“I’m beat,” he said, pulling the covers up and fluffing his pillow. “The light doesn’t bother me, though. Go ahead and read.”

I closed my iPad and set it on the nightstand. I switched the lamp off next to it and rolled over, scooting close to Jack.

I lowered my lips to his, kissing them gently. He wrapped his hand around my neck and pulled me closer, his tongue briefly tracing my lips.

“Good-night, Sammie.”

“Jack, I kind of thought maybe we would make love tonight. It’s been a while.”

“Samantha,” he sighed, a bit of impatience in his tone, “I told you how beat I am tonight. Rain check?”

“Sure,” I said, rolling away from him. “Love you.”

“Love you.”

I lay in the darkness, a single tear escaped and rolled down my cheek. Within minutes, I heard Jack’s even breathing signaling that he was sleeping.

What the hell was wrong with me? Becky said I was still gorgeous. That presumed I’d been gorgeous as a teen or as a twenty-something. I figured best friends were obligated to say things like that. Jack had never said that to me, though. I wanted Jack to think I was beautiful, or ravishing, or goddamn sexy.

My thoughts went back to the honeymoon cruise my parents had given us. Jack had been attentive then. He’d romanced me, charmed me, and we had sex every day of the cruise, sometimes even twice. The sex wasn’t what I’d expected. Jack avoided kissing during sex. He had a tendency to be a bit rough. I attributed it to the fact that Jack had been pressured into marrying me. Still, I loved him, for whatever reason.

Once we returned from our honeymoon, I’d busied myself decorating our new condo, buying baby furniture, and outfitting the nursery.

Jack’s family hadn’t bothered to acknowledge our marriage or the impending birth of our daughter. They did, however, periodically hit us up for money.

My father had started Jack out at a generous salary. Money had never been an issue for us, though I suspected this was all new for him. He loved having money and sometimes flaunted it a bit when he got together with his buddies while they were home on summer breaks from college.

Jack’s mother and step-father had come to the hospital to see Lindsey shortly after her birth. Jack’s mother, Louise, had commented that Lindsey was probably set for life. It was a strange comment. I’d looked over at Jack to see his reaction to her comment. He’d remained impassive to it. The truth was, I think he somehow enjoyed the fact that we were financially comfortable in life and that the rest of his family continued to struggle. I knew deep inside that was the only reason he’d allowed my father to force our marriage. Jack was set for life, too.

I turned over on my side, clutching my pillow beneath me. Why had I settled, though? Perhaps contentment was all that mattered to me. I’d busied myself with Lindsey and her activities, and Jack had participated as well. He’d coached her softball team and never missed her soccer games, school concerts or plays. He’d taught her how to drive, and was extremely protective of her when she’d started dating. He was the one who had insisted on taking her to Cornell for freshman orientation. I knew that he loved Lindsey. I just couldn’t figure out why he’d never come to love me.

I finally drifted off to sleep with the feeling of loneliness and uncertainty gnawing within me.

CHAPTER 2

Becky and I spent a lovely afternoon at the spa. We were massaged, given facials, waxed, manicured, and pedicured. We were now sitting in the sauna, white towels wrapped turban-style around our hair, another wrapped around our torsos.

“Now, this is just what the doctor ordered, right Sam?”

“Yeah. It does feel great.”

“Come on, talk to me, Samantha.”

I knew that Becky wouldn’t let up until I shared whatever I was feeling with her. She knew me too well.

“It’s just that, with Lindsey gone, I have nothing, Becky. I need something of my own. I even promised Lindsey I would find it.”

“Okay, I get it. Lindsey is right, you know? I just can’t figure out why you had to hear it from your daughter. How many times have I told you the same thing?”

I got up from the bench and dipped the wooden ladle into the bucket of water, pouring it over the hot stones. I took my place back on the bench, pulling my knees up and resting my chin on them.

“I don’t know. I guess it was easier not to think about myself as long as I had Lindsey to take care of and to occupy my time with her activities.”

“That’s kind of a lot of bullshit, you know?”

I looked over at her quickly. Where was this coming from?

“You haven’t had to take care of Lindsey for quite some time, Sam. She just didn’t suddenly go from diapers to college in a day. You chose to fill your time over the past eighteen years by caring for her as an infant, then as an adolescent, but face it, once she hit her teen years, it was more of you and her buddying around together.”

“I’m not sure if I understand what you’re saying.”

“What I’m saying is that, once Lindsey reached the point where she was independent, you know, dating, going to dances and parties, you kind of lived your life vicariously through her. I mean, come on; think about it.”

I contemplated what she had said silently. She continued on a roll.

“All of the photos you took, the scrapbooks you made, the video journals you created to document the sports she played, the hobbies she had. What about you always being one of the chaperones on the class trips she took throughout high school?”

“What about it?” I asked, now getting a bit defensive.

“All I’m saying is that I can see why you’re suddenly out of sorts with what to do next. You can’t plan your life around Lindsey’s anymore. You need to find a life of your own.”

“What do you suggest? It’s different with you. You still have your two kids at home.”

“Yes, but I still have my own life, too.”

I thought about it, and it was true. Everything that Becky was saying was true. I’d centered my life on Lindsey’s. I’d not developed any interests or hobbies of my own. My only social activities, outside of volunteering at Lindsey’s high school, were occasionally hanging out with Becky, or Jack and I having dinner with my parents. My father was retired now. He and my mother traveled quite a bit, so even seeing them socially was rare these days.

“You’re right. I need to focus on myself. Jack has been nagging me to finish decorating the house. I guess I could throw myself into that.”

Becky rolled her eyes and sat up from her reclining position.

“That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about something for you, Sam. You aren’t into decorating. Let Jack decorate, if it’s so damn important to him.”

She shook her head as if she was becoming impatient with my cluelessness.

“I don’t know what you want me to say? I agree with you, okay?”

“You’re not getting it, Sam. Your daughter is off to college, so what? You’re going to try and build some kind of life around that mannequin husband of yours?”

I was taken aback. Becky had never taken such a harsh attitude with me, ever! She had always stood by me through everything, as far back as high school. She was Lindsey’s godmother, for Christ’s sake. Why was she giving me shit? I didn’t respond to what she said. I grabbed my thongs, putting them on my feet, and exited the sauna room, heading for the showers.

Once showered, I dressed and headed out to the front to pay the bill. Becky was just a couple of minutes behind me. I paid our spa bill, though Becky protested when I picked up her tab as well.

I was signing the credit card slip when I saw a stack of business cards on the counter in a holder that was labeled, “Take One.” I did, not even sure what the card said, but I liked the artwork on it. It was a slender woman in a kick-boxing pose. I shoved it into my pocket and headed out the door.

“Samantha, please,” Becky called after me. “Stop, I need to explain.”

I stopped on the sidewalk outside to look at her.

“Look,” she said, “all I’m saying is that you need to do something for you, Sam. Get a job, go back to school, or take an art class. Start living for yourself because you never have, and it hurts me to see that you have no identity of your own.”

“Gee, thanks Becky, I think. Have you considered that my fate is to just be a mannequin’s wife?” I hissed.

“I won’t apologize for that, Sam. You know how I feel about Jack. I’ve never pretended otherwise.”

She was being honest about that. Becky had little use for my husband. She considered him to be self-absorbed, demanding, and unable to bond or to be intimate with a woman.

I wasn’t sure how qualified she was to make such a diagnosis, but I felt it was likely due to my intermittent complaints about him over the years. Perhaps it was my fault that Becky had developed the opinion she had of Jack. I never shared with her the good things about our life together.

“I know that you’ve never cared for him, but he is my husband and Lindsey’s father.”

“Just think about what I said, okay? I’ve got to run now. I’m late picking up Shawn from football practice. Call you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, later,” I said, suddenly absorbed in the business card that I’d picked up inside.

The name of the establishment was Foxy & Fierce Body Shaping Shop. It boasted several types of martial arts training, along with kick-boxing and yoga classes. Why the hell not?

I located Foxy’s in a somewhat seedy neighborhood not far from campus. I decided that if everyone in there was Lindsey’s age, I would turn around and leave. There was always the YWCA.

Once I stepped inside the doors, I was pleasantly surprised. The receptionist looked to be about the same age as my mother, but holy hell, was she ever fit.

“Hey, sweetie,” she greeted me, “what can I do you for?” I noticed her nametag read “Vonda.”

“Vonda,” I said with more enthusiasm than I’d felt for quite some time, “I want a body just like yours.”

CHAPTER 3

It had been nearly four weeks since I started my membership at Foxy’s. I’d lost a total of twelve pounds, and dropped two sizes. My sweats were practically falling off of me. The part that I was most proud of, however, was the muscle tone that I’d developed, both in my lower and upper body.

The kick-boxing was awesome for building muscle tone in the legs. My other workouts included lifting with free weights for arms and shoulder toning, along with a Pilates class for my torso and abs. I’d been spending about four days a week at the gym. I hadn’t told Jack any more than that. He’d mumbled an obligatory, “That’s great, Sammie,” not bothering to feign interest.

I’d just wrapped up my workout for the day and showered when Vonda came into the locker room looking for me.

“Glad I caught you, Sam,” she said. “We need one more person to sign up for pole-dancing lessons. The instructor has a minimum registration number in order to meet what she charges. I figured you’d be perfect.”

“Pole-dancing? Me?”

“Why not you? You’re pretty damn limber and it’s a hell of a way to build up your biceps and triceps that you’re always whining about, sweetie.”

“I know, but Vonda, come on. Don’t you think I’m a little bit old for that type of --?”

“I think the word you’re looking for is exercise, Sam. Good grief, it’s not stripping. It’s a great dance art form, and to answer your question, no. I’m on the roster. Do you think I’m too old?”

Vonda had me there. At fifty-six-years-old, there wasn’t too much that Vonda couldn’t do. Maybe it wasn’t out of the question. After all, I’d taken three years of ballet under the tutelage of Madame LeBlanc when I was in grade school. She had told me I had natural grace. I had taken it to appease my mother, who insisted on lessons of some sort during my formative years.

“Okay Vonda, I’m in. When does it start?”

Vonda was tickled pink that we had enough members signed up to bring in who she claimed was the ‘queen of pole-dancing.’ The instructor’s name was Ginger Cooper and she’d actually won a third place trophy in the Midwest Pole Dancing Competition the year before.

The lessons started the following week and were daily for the following three weeks. I had no clue that pole dancing was recognized globally as a competitive sport and art form. I’d always regarded it as being a second cousin to stripping. Boy, had I been misguided.

Ginger was extremely talented and driven. She expected no less from her students. She was brutal in her training and assessments.

After the third day of lessons, I told Vonda I was contemplating dropping out. I could barely move a muscle. It had certainly burst my “I’m in great shape” bubble. My God, I hadn’t known the muscles that were now feeling a slow, burning pain even existed.

“No, you’re not,” Vonda stated, in her authoritative tone. “If I can hang with it, you sure as hell can, Sammie. Besides, you’re doing great.”

“How do you figure, Vonda? You heard Ginger today telling me to get the lead out of my gluteus maximus while she was instructing us on the snowflake or pretzel, or whatever the hell she called it.”

“She’s tough, I know, but really Sammie, you’re doing great. Hey, I bet your husband would love a pole dance demo once you finish this class.”

“Yeah, right,” I said, getting clothes out of my locker. “He hasn’t even noticed my new svelte body,” I replied, rolling my eyes.

“What’s his problem?”

“I guess he doesn’t find me attractive anymore, maybe he never did,” I replied with a shrug.

“Humph,” Vonda said, shaking her head. “You’re gorgeous. You do realize that, right? I hope to God you don’t see yourself through his clueless eyes, Sammie.”

“You’re required to say stuff like that to paying members, right Vonda?”

“You’re so full of shit, girlie,” she replied, still shaking her head. “I hope to Christ you wake up and smell the coffee one of these days. That’s all the pep talk you’re getting from me today. I’ll see your getting-tighter ass in here tomorrow for our lesson.”

I started to say I wouldn’t be coming, but then I thought about it. Maybe Vonda was right; maybe I did have potential. Maybe I would give Jack a demo when classes finished. Maybe he’d even want to touch me again.

I stopped by Becky’s on my way home. I hadn’t talked to her in the last couple of weeks. She knew I was totally wrapped up in my “exercise” classes as she called them. She was simply relieved that I was finally doing something just for me.

“Holy shit,” she said, her eyes widening as she held the door open for me. “You’ve lost a ton of weight, Sam. You look fantastic!”

“Thanks,” I said, rolling my eyes. I didn’t do well with compliments. It was probably because I wasn’t used to getting them.

“No, I mean it. Your damn body looks like a teenager’s. What type of exercise class is it? Maybe I’ll join you.”

“It’s kick-boxing and Pilates. I just added pole-dancing to it.”

“Oh, God! There’s no way I could hang with that, but Sam, it looks so freaking good on you! I bet Jack is drooling, right?”

“He thinks I look great,” I lied.

“I bet the mannequin hasn’t even noticed, has he?”

Becky knew me so well. She seemed to know Jack much better.

“You know, he’s been pretty busy these days. He’s been traveling for work quite a bit. We barely see one another.”

“Uh huh,” she replied. “He’s such a fuckwad.”

“Becky,” I said, my tone cautioning her to just let it go, “how have things been with you?”

“Everything’s good. Shawn’s playing junior high football. Megan’s doing well with her piano lessons. George still fucks me at least three times a week.”

“Braggart,” I said, with a smile. We both laughed, and the mood lightened.

I loved my best friend, but our worlds were different. That was just the way it was. She’d finished high school and college, married George, had two great kids: a boy and then a girl. She had done everything right. Her life was the American dream. It was the way that things were supposed to work out.

We made plans to meet the following day. I needed to shop for new clothes, she’d pointed out bluntly. She was right.

I was surprised that Jack was home by the time I got there. He’d been in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the past three days on business. Banion Pharmaceuticals had plans to open a large distribution center on the east coast.

Jack had been negotiating with members of the Chamber of Commerce both in Charlotte and in Charleston, South Carolina, for tax incentives. The two cities were competing with each other to be awarded the location where the facility would be built. It would employ up to five hundred people when completed.

He’d just finished up in the shower when I came into our bedroom. I made it a point to undress in front of him, hoping that he would notice and perhaps get the hint.

“How was your trip?” I asked, kicking off my shoes and lifting my sweatshirt up and over my head.

“Brutal,” he replied, getting his nail clipper from the top of his dresser. “I have to fly to Charleston on Friday. Our meeting is early Monday morning, so I figured I would have the weekend to prepare my presentation.”

I slipped my sweat pants off, and unhooked my sports bra, springing my breasts free. I’d always been rather proud of them. They were still full and perky. I sauntered by Jack who was now sitting on the bed, clipping his toenails. I got clean underwear from the drawer and sat down on the bed next to him.

He finally looked up at me, noticing that I was practically naked in front of him. His eyes narrowed infinitesimally, as he actually looked at me for the first time in weeks.

“Have you lost weight, Sammie?”

“It’s nice of you to finally notice.”

“Have you been feeling well?” he asked.

“I feel great. I’ve been working out, getting in shape. What do you think?”

“I think that you’ve probably lost all of the weight you need to lose. If you get much scrawnier, people will think that you’re ill.”

“Hey, “I said, moving closer to him on the bed. “How about I go with you to Charleston? We’ll have a romantic weekend together. We haven’t gone away together alone for as long as I can remember. This would be perfect.”

“Babe,” he said with a sigh, getting up off of the bed. “The whole point of me going down Friday and staying over the weekend is to prepare for Monday’s meeting. I mean, you know how it is with me. I need that total concentration, no distractions when I’m preparing for a big presentation. How about a rain check?”

“Sure,” I said. “I’ll just list that in our rain check voucher. Maybe one day I’ll be able to cash in on all of these IOUs.”

Jack didn’t even bother to respond.

Well, so much for that.

No mention of how my legs, arms, and abs had gotten into shape with ample muscle tone. No mention of how he missed our making love, since it had been months now. I guess that was too much to expect from my mannequin husband. Christ, I was sounding like Becky now. Maybe she was right. The bottom line was that I was getting sick to death of Jack’s inattentiveness towards me. Maybe I needed to take the next step in getting a life of my own.

I sauntered into the bathroom and took a shower. I decided I would start looking for a part-time job as soon as possible. I needed more things of my own.

CHAPTER 4

It was the final day of our pole-dancing lessons, and Vonda and I were chatting in the locker room after showers.

“So, aren’t you glad you finished the lessons?” she asked, towel drying her flaming red hair. “Ginger certainly gave you kudos today after your number. I was a bit jealous, Sam. Did you hire a choreographer to put that together?”

I knew Vonda was being funny. She loved to tease me about how well I was doing with the whole pole-dancing thing.

“Ha ha, Vonda,” I replied, smiling. “You certainly didn’t do too badly in Ginger’s eyes, as I recall.”

“Honey, she was just being nice to the old lady in the group. Plus, I’m the one who cuts the check for her hefty fee.”

“Yeah, right. You know you have the body of a thirty-five year old,” I chided.

“Aren’t you thirty-five?”

“Yeah, so?”

“Well honey, I certainly don’t have a body like yours, though I’ll take the compliment. Thank you. Of course, you have to recognize your body has gone younger since you’ve been coming here.”

“Gone younger?”

“Absolutely. You’ve got the bod of a twenty-something since you’ve started working out. Now, if we could just do something about your hair and make-up.”

I rolled my eyes as I put a clean sweatshirt on over my head.

“Roll your eyes all you want. I mean it, though. Plus, you still wear clothes that cover all of your toned muscles and ligaments. What a shame.” She was shaking her head and ‘tsking’ me.

I closed the door of my locker, fastening the lock into place.

“Hey Vonda, you wouldn’t be in need of any part-time help here, would you?”

“You aren’t seriously looking for a job are you? Come on Sam, I know you don’t open up a lot about your personal life, but I wasn’t born yesterday. I see the car you drive, the brands of the clothes and shoes you wear. I have a hard time believing you need money.”

“It’s not really about the money,” I replied, tying the shoelaces on my Nike Air Max shoes. “I just want something of my own, I guess. A job working here would give me that, plus I’d be doing what I love to do.”

Vonda was thoughtful for a moment.

“You know, Sam, I don’t have anything at the moment. My tight-ass husband does the books for this place, and he keeps telling me to cut back as it is, but I might have something else for you. I just need to talk to my sister, Janine.”

“Janine?”

“Yeah, Janine manages a gentleman’s club over on West Washington Street. With your looks and dance skills, I’m sure she might be able to hook you up with some part-time hours.”

“Uh . . . Vonda, I’m not thinking of stripping or giving lap dances. I was thinking more along the lines of personal trainer, maybe?”

“Well, good luck with that, sweetie. But before you slam the door on my suggestion, let me clarify it for you. This club has a variety of clientele. Granted, late night and early morning hours, the clientele wants to see a lot of skin and private dancing. I know that’s not your gig, sweetie. I was thinking maybe she could hook you up with an early shift. That’s when there’s more interest from the after-five businessmen in viewing pole dancing with the classier chicks. That way, you will be doing what you love, right?”

“Well, I don’t know. I mean I’ve never pictured myself as being a dancer at a gentleman’s club. I mean, what do they wear?”

“Very little,” she answered, honestly. “What are you worried about?”

“I don’t think I’m the type, Vonda. It’s just not me, you know?”

“What is you, Sam?”

I hesitated, trying to think about how I visualized myself. All I came up with was how other people visualized me.

I was visualized as a daughter, a wife, a mother, a best friend by those people in my life, but I had no clue as to how I viewed myself as a person. I’d never bothered to carve out an identity for myself.

“That’s what I thought,” Vonda replied with a smirk. “Look, before you shoot the idea down, visit Janine at the club. I’ll give her a call and see if she can meet with you some afternoon next week. See you Monday?”

“I’ll be here,” I said, giving her a weak smile.

I convinced myself on my drive home that there would be no harm in at least meeting Janine and seeing what the club was like, but I sincerely doubted that pole dancing at a gentleman’s club was the identity I truly wished to carve out for myself.

I spent the weekend cleaning the house. Jack was in Charlotte again, only this time he had mentioned the fact that Susan was accompanying him. They supposedly were meeting with the city government officials to wrap up the deal. The decision had been made to build the distribution center in Charlotte. Jack had said he’d be gone a week this time. They were meeting with surveyors and contractors.

I was fairly certain that Jack was fucking Susan. His increased obsession with his looks and wardrobe hadn’t gone unnoticed by me. I was surprised at my own impassiveness about the situation. Perhaps having gained some self-confidence these past couple of months had given me some perspective on my marriage. Becky was right, Jack was a mannequin. Correction: Jack was a cheating mannequin.

I was putting some of the new clothes I’d purchased into our large, walk-in closet. I had to shove Jack’s clothes over to make room. He had one whole side of the closet, and half of mine. Becky had pointed out how unacceptable it was that Jack had a much larger wardrobe than me.

On second thought, his clothes were all going to the other side. I wasn’t going to have my new wardrobe getting wrinkled because they were all crowded together. I removed handfuls of hangers with Jack’s shirts and sweaters on them and hung them on the bar on his side of the closet. There. His clothes could get smashed together now. My cell chimed from the bedroom. It was Lindsey.

“Hi, Mom,” she greeted cheerily from the other end. “I’ve been worried about you.”

“Me? Why?”

“You don’t call me as often as you used to. I’m beginning to think you don’t miss me anymore.”

“Sweetie, you know better than that. I just know you’re busy with college. I’ve been trying to find some hobbies of my own to fill the void.”

“I’m so glad to hear you say that, Mom. What have you been doing?”

“I’ve been doing kick-boxing and Pilates.”

“No, really Mom. I’m serious.”

“So am I.”

“Really? Well, that’s fantastic. It just doesn’t seem like you. So are you enjoying it?”

“I love it,” I replied, honestly. “I had to buy all new clothes, though.”

“You were due, Mom. I’m really happy that you’re finally doing stuff for yourself. How does Daddy like it?”

“I’m not sure he’s really noticed, Lindsey.”

“I’m sure that he has. You know Daddy. He’s just not one to make a big deal out of anything. Is he home?”

“No, sweetie, he’s in Charlotte for a week or so. He finally tied up the deal with locating the new distribution facility for Banion. He’s been pretty distracted.”

“Well, see then,” she replied, giving him the benefit of the doubt for his lack of attention to me. “I’m sure once that facility is up and running, Daddy will have more time to spend with you.”

She didn’t realize that the distraction wasn’t the distribution facility. It was Susan.

“How are your classes going?” I asked, desperate to change the subject with her.

“For the most part fine. I mean there’s the usual struggles with chemistry and trig, hut no surprises there. I have an upperclassman tutoring me. He’s totally hot so it’s kind of distracting.”

“Lindsey,” I laughed, “Your dad and I aren’t paying that kind of tuition for you to be distracted.”

“No worries there. He’s totally about the tutoring, trust me.”

I breathed a silent sigh of relief. Lindsey had gone through a painful break-up the previous summer with her high school sweetheart, Lance. I’d done my best to soothe her pain, all the while really wanting to tell her that it was probably the best thing that could have happened. I’d seen a lot of Jack in Lance, and I wanted better for my daughter.

“Mom, I’m still planning to come home for Christmas, but I’m sticking around here for Thanksgiving. One of the girls in the dorm has invited me to her family’s home in Connecticut. We’re going to do a little skiing. Are you okay with that?”

“That’s fine, Lindsey. I’m not even sure what we’ll be doing. Your grandparents are still in Hawaii until after the first of the year. Things have sure changed in a year, I guess.”

“You sound sad. If you want me to come home, I will.”

“No sweetie, I’m fine. You stick with your plans, okay?”

“Okay, if you’re sure.”

“I am, sweetie.”

CHAPTER 5

I was sitting at the bar at Jewels waiting for Janine to finish chewing out one of the employees in her office. Kevin, the bartender, had given me a glass of club soda to drink. He chatted with me for a few minutes. I picked up on a distinct Boston accent. He was a fairly friendly guy, telling me a little bit about the club and the clientele.

It was just after 11:30 a.m. The club officially opened in ninety minutes. I looked about, studying the layout. There were three separate horseshoe shaped stages with seating around each. Towards the back, there was a sunken seating area with round tables and cushioned seats. I figured those separate seating areas were for customers requesting private attention from a dancer.

The thought of doing lap dances or dancing privately for a customer didn’t appeal to me whatsoever. Vonda had assured me that the club offered a variety of different types of dancers. She’d let Janine know that I was only interested in pole-dancing. The fact that I was here waiting to be interviewed by Janine meant that she must have been receptive to my conditions.

The door to Janine’s office opened, and a teary-eyed, twenty-something girl came out. Her face was blotchy from crying. I felt sorry for her without even knowing why. She couldn’t have been more than early twenties. I cringed at the thought of Lindsey ever having to make her living in a place like this.

What the hell? I was here fully prepared to do just that. What a contradiction. I rationalized that I wasn’t here to really earn a living. I was here to find my identity. That made it more palatable in my mind.

I saw a woman who I presumed to be Janine poke her head out of the office and look over towards me.

“Are you Samantha?”

“Uh, yes. Janine?”

“You guessed it, sweetie. Come on in.”

I made my way over to her office. She closed the door behind us and instructed me to take off my coat.

I’d worn a pair of my new, tight jeans with a clingy spandex top, and three-inch, heeled boots. This was done per Vonda’s strict instructions.

“She has to see your body, sweetie,”’ she explained. Vonda had also told me to wear a bikini underneath my clothes for my dancing demo. I’d been forced to order one online because it wasn’t actually bikini season in Indianapolis. I’d paid more to have it shipped next-day than for the bikini itself. It was a simple black bikini, trimmed in gold. I thought it had a classy appeal to it.

“So, Red says you’re looking for some part-time shifts, pole-dancing only. Let me take a look at you.”

“Red?”

“Oh, sorry. That’s what I call my sister, Vonda. I mean seriously that hair of hers is something else, right?”

I simply nodded.

She lifted my shirt up to look at my bare stomach. “Nice and flat tummy, no stretch marks. Those tits your own?”

“What? Oh, uh yeah. They’re mine.”

“Lower your jeans, babe. Red says you have a perky tush that’s to die for.”

I felt myself blush. I hadn’t done that in ages because I hadn’t had cause to do that in ages. I unfastened my jeans, kicking my boots off and lowered my jeans, stepping out of them.

“Now, turn around please.”

I did as instructed, letting Janine peruse my bikini-clad body.

“Red’s right. You’ve got the body for this place. Need to see what you can do on the pole, though. Follow me.”

I followed Janine back out into the main room. She headed over to the jukebox, asking me what song I wanted for my dance.

“Is ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’ by Def Leppard on there?”

“Honey, this is satellite music. We can get anything your little heart desires. Def Leppard it is.”

‘Boston Kevin’ was still behind the bar, setting up glassware I noticed as I took the stage. He was totally inattentive to my dance demo, which made me more comfortable. It was probably old hat to him anyway.

The music started. This was the song I’d used for my dance at Foxy’s. Ginger had given me a 9.5 out of a perfect 10 score. I now put everything out of my mind. I let the music take over. The length and width of the horseshoe stage allowed for lots of creativity, and there were three poles spaced apart on each stage.

I executed perfect form on my spins and climbs, twirling around and around on my triple snowflake. I ended the song with my upside-down twirl, hooking my outside leg around the pole, my arms outstretched, my back arched as I descended down the pole, my legs outstretched into straddle splits at the end, my head bowed down, my face buried behind my forearms that were now clutched in front of me.

“Not bad; not bad at all, girlie. Let’s talk.”

I followed Janine back into her office. I put my shirt and jeans back on while she gave me the lowdown on the club. There was an open slot left by the previous dancer, Diamond. Janine was willing to give me a shot at filling it.

All of the dancers had stage names. My name would be ‘Diamond.’ She cautioned me about giving personal information out to the other dancers or the clientele.

“This isn’t a strip club and it’s not a whore house. We provide entertainment to mostly male clients. Most of them are regulars, and some of them are wealthy. I don’t know your particular situation, Samantha, but I have a feeling you’re a babe in the woods, even at your ripe old age of thirty-five.”


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