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Excerpt

Excerpt

Aphrodisiac

A clinical study found that an effective way to sexually arouse
a man is to waft the smell of pumpkin pie under his nose. I guess
that means Thanksgiving should be declared National Erection Day.
Call me old fashioned, but I’d sooner splash on Miss Dior
than smear pie filling over my navel. Gwendolyn Applebee, my close
friend since childhood, always said the olfactory sense was our
most powerful medium, especially when it came to sex or danger.

I discovered she was right. The hard way.

It took me six weeks after her suicide to suspect she’d
been murdered. Here’s the fun part: Gwen left me
holding the bag. No surprise. I’d been going to bat for Gwen
since our teens in a suburb north of the Bronx. She’d been
the class geek with buckteeth and thick glasses; the only girl who
got ridiculed more than I did. And since I’m about as
physically threatening as a foot massage, I learned early how to
use my big mouth to outsmart the bullies who picked on her.

The kids tagged me “the munchkin.” Totally hilarious
and highly original. Of course, it didn’t help matters that I
was the shortest one in the school. Or that my name was Saylor
Oz.

At age fifteen, my Russian ancestors’ Ozyutikoffsky DNA
kicked in, blessing me with a classic jaw line and a bottom shaped
like an inverted heart. I figured I could say goodbye to that
crapola nickname and maybe even land a boyfriend. But the guys in
White Plains Senior High merely revised their greeting to,
“Hey, munchkin, I’ve got a lollipop for you.”

At thirty-two, high school is light-years behind me, but as I
ride the subway to Brooklyn I’ve still got charming men with
ninety proof breath offering me their lollipops. No wonder they
call it the F train. However, the art of seduction intrigues me, no
matter how primitive. It’s one reason I became a sex
therapist. Not to be confused with an expert on love. If only it
were that simple. The painful truth? I’d always wished
I’d rated as beautiful. I hated the way they called me and
Gwen the munchkin and the scarecrow. Hurts to admit it, but
I’ve never gotten over that.

And neither had Gwen.

My doubts about her suicide began the night I’d gone with
my best pal Benita Morales to a loft on Gold and Plymouth Streets
for a poetry reading called, “Eating Pizza On Mars.” We
zoned out somewhere between the lesbian astronauts and
anti-gravitational foreplay, but we liked the free pizza and there
was plenty of Merlot. At two a.m. we chugged down the stairs,
slamming the clunky fire door behind us. It was a Monday night, and
the streets were empty, with the exception of three men on the
corner. They looked like a photo op for the cover of Lumberjack
Quarterly,
in their sleeveless plaids, denim vests and trucker
caps. Way too country for my taste. Not that I was into picking up
guys on Brooklyn’s waterfront in the wee hours.

Benita, nicknamed Binnie, with cafe au lait skin and pixie short
hair, resembled a Nuyorican Halle Berry; an eye-popping beauty
who’d broken her share of hearts. Me? I hadn’t even
broken the five-foot mark. We hoofed it along a desolate stretch of
Plymouth. The street was a patchwork of cracked pavement over
cobblestone etched with old railway tracks that once carted goods
between the East River docks and the warehouses that were now being
reborn as condos, offices and artists’ studios. The effects
of three glasses of wine and the sultry July night carried me away
in a romantic film noire swoon. Add to that the shadowy atmosphere
created by the Manhattan Bridge -- the giant blue dragon that
loomed overhead and gave our neighborhood its name. DUMBO: Down
Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. Every few minutes the Q train
thundered along the bridge’s underbelly. The only other
sounds were our feet on the sidewalk.

Correction. I could swear I heard rapid and deliberate footsteps
hammering along behind us. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw those
three strapping country boys who were hanging out on the street
when we left the party. We increased our pace. So did they.

The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. “I don’t
like this.”

“Let’s cut it,” Benita said.

I ripped off my white stiletto slingbacks and broke into a run.
(No, I am not one of those women who spend gazillions on shoes
while children around the world go hungry. But any
height-challenged female with a generous bottom knows the wondrous
transformation a few inches of heel can make.) Tonight I’d
pulled my strawberry blonde curls into a ponytail and dressed in a
ruffled gypsy skirt and spaghetti tank. Benita trotted past me in
her favorite uniform -- running pants, Yankees tee and Nike
sneakers. She’d wear that in her office if she could get away
with it.

The trio matched our speed. Sprinting at full tilt, I had no
time to fish inside my bag for my cell. I went primitive.
“Police! Fire! Everything! Helllllp!”

Two men emerged from a lone car up the street. To lend a hand?
Nope. They just snickered and stood there blocking our path.

“This way,” Benita said. She ducked into the shadows
of a construction site that had become an abandoned lot between two
windowless brick warehouses. I followed, tip-toeing barefoot at
full speed, trying not to think about the squooshy lumpy things
under my feet. Like doggy doo and trash bags that smelled of
week-old Chinese take-out. Adrenaline pumping, I stumbled past a
mattress and a bathroom sink. And, oh, yes. Tires everywhere. An
endless supply. Landscaping by the Michelin Man.

At the far end of the lot we ran head-on into a cyclone fence
that was topped with a spiky furl of barbed wire. Climbing over it
was not an option. Benita clenched her fists. I could tell what she
was thinking. A financial analyst by day, she’d also been a
professional female boxer for six years. It gave her the confidence
to hold her own against a man, but one at a time, and provided they
weren’t armed.

“Don’t even go there,” I said, tugging her
elbow.

We sprang for the darkest corner of the lot. Crouched in the
blackness, the two of us huddled between a disemboweled sofa and a
pile of worn-out radials. The tires smelled like stale condoms.
Mosquitoes whined in my ears. I held my breath at the sound of
footsteps crunching on rubble. They were still about ten yards
away. Could I phone emergency without revealing our hiding place?
My fingers probed through my bag and came up with my Fleur de
Sephora orchid spritz. Pfft.Pfft. I was definitely a perfume
aficionado. Fragrance was a luxury you didn’t have to be rich
or sexy to have, yet it could make any woman feel both.

“What are you doing?” Benita hissed.

“The smell of garbage makes me nauseous.”
That’s when my cell found me. A muffled ring-tone played
“Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy.”

Benita grabbed my arm. “Shut that thing up. Those
guys’ll hear it.”

I prayed they didn’t, throwing in a request for some
divine intervention. Like maybe they’d all get a sudden case
of dysentery. The caller ID was familiar. “It’s Candice
Stoutz,” I whispered. “I have to take this.”

“Now? Are you loca?”

“She might be in crisis.”

“What do you think this is?”

I flicked open my cell. “Dr. Oz.”

“All he wants is blowjobs,” Candice sobbed.

Hushing and racing my words, I said, “Remind Harry of his
contract from our last session. No more oral sex without attempting
intercourse. But it won’t work if you’re still
criticizing him. Resentment is the big spoiler.”

“Dr. Oz? I can hardly hear you.”

I whispered a little louder. “Actually, Candice, I’m
kind of in a jam. Binnie and I are trapped in a lot on Plymouth
Street near Bridge. I need you to call an ambulance for me. Right
away. Plymouth near Bridge. Please hurry. Thanks.” I closed
the cell, my hands shaking.

“Ambulance?” Benita sounded irate.

“I meant police, okay?”

“How could you be so dumb?”

“We all make mistakes when we’re nervous.”

“So, will you please call 9-1-1 and get it
right?”

“Hold on.” I leaned into the torn-up sofa next to me
and snaked my arm through the stuffing and springs.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Don’t get mad, but I dropped my cell. It’s in
here somewhere.”

Ay, bendito. I knew I should’ve brought
mine.”

“Shhhh. They’re getting closer.”

We pressed ourselves flat to the ground. The sound of a dreaded
metallic click could only mean one thing. The cocking of a pistol.
I froze, trying not to wet my pants.

A man’s voice. “I got first dibs on the little one.
You get sloppy seconds.”

Another man. “Bitch’s gonna give up more than
that.”

Delete and cancel, please. My heart pounded. Was it Krav
Maga time? Would I have to resort to gouging eyeballs? Urgh. I
needed something to use for a weapon. Quietly reaching into my
shoulder bag, I located a Jack Rabbit vibrator. Being a part-time
distributor for Do-Me-Good sex products did have its benefits. I
took hold of the red plastic shaft. Funny how even a fake penis
brought out the animal in me.

The next few minutes seemed liked hours. My face and body were
drenched in sweat. The wine in my stomach turned to vinegar.
Suddenly in the distance I heard the wail of a siren. Please,
please come this way. It grew louder and louder. Next came the
pitter-patter of our little muggers’ feet and the slamming of
car doors.

Benita took a quick peek. “They’re going.”

Moments later, I saw flashing lights bouncing off the walls of
the warehouse buildings around us. Okay, so it was an ambulance. As
we say in therapy, whatever works.

A hot looking EMT helped me find my phone and shoes. We rode in
the ambulance to the police station where we filed a report. Our
lack of information wasn’t much help. I doubted Logan would
be on the case anytime soon. A sweet young uniform brought us
coffee and even drove us home.

What’s with all these sexy civil servants? It’s
enough to give a woman a daily outbreak of Damsel In Distress
Syndrome.

The police car turned onto Main Street in DUMBO. From the
backseat I stared out across the East River at the Manhattan
skyline and thought of the years Benita, Gwen and I ran around the
city together, dancing at CBGB’s, puking up our first
martinis and panicking over missed periods. The three of us had
shared an NYU dorm room in the early days and an apartment during
grad school. Now Benita and I were roommates again, thanks to her
recently divorced status. We weren’t exactly a perfect match,
but over the years we’d grown closer, while Gwen had drifted
away from us.

Gwendolyn Applebee had always been kind of a loner, a brilliant
egghead who fit perfectly in her chosen field of archaeobotany. She
could be maddeningly anti-social at times. Like the way she refused
to buy a cell. Said it was too invasive. And she never answered the
phone when she was engrossed in her work. But the last time I
assumed she lost track of which century we were in, Gwen’s
body was discovered a few feet off the Beard Street Pier, floating
face down in South Brooklyn’s Erie Basin.

How close had Benita and I come to joining her tonight? It
didn’t take five guys to steal a purse. Would they have done
the ultimate nasty on us and left our bodies in the lot with the
garbage? I pictured a crowd gathered around my corpse, as it lay
draped over a pile of tires. Good thing I was dressed to party and
not on my way to the Laundromat. Which reminds me of a detail about
Gwen’s so-called suicide that just didn’t add. The
fanny pack. When they found Gwen’s body, she was wearing one
of those silly-looking hernia belts meant for carrying a
week’s supply of trail mix. But I doubt she even owned a
fanny pack. She’d always despised them. I’d been so
upset over her death, it had gone right by me. And there’d
been no reason to be suspicious. Until now.

Maybe I’ve been lucky, but after fourteen years of living
in New York City I’d never been robbed or assaulted. Tonight
was the second time I’d been the target of a crime since Gwen
died. Was I seeing a pattern? Sure, being a therapist, I was
pattern obsessed. But as we stepped out of the patrol car in front
of our door, I factored in the reason we moved to DUMBO a month
ago.

Benita and I had been living in a two bedroom in
Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section. When someone broke in and
turned that apartment upside down, the police saw it as just
another robbery. Yes, we had an alcoholic super and neighbors who
happily buzzed in anybody who sounded remotely related to the
primate order. Still, those little red lights inside me were
flashing. I couldn’t help asking if those thieves had been
the same men who chased us tonight.

The seek-and-destroy job done to our ex-apartment didn’t
make a lot of sense. It wasn’t just the degrading
woman-hating gynecological references scrawled across my bathroom
mirror with lipstick. It wasn’t that they snatched my laptop,
twenty-three dollars off the dresser, some costume jewelry,
bric-a-brac and three beers from the refrigerator. What I wanted to
know was, what made them riffle through every single drawer,
cabinet, book shelf and closet, tearing open pillows, gutting the
sofa and doing a filet job on my mattress? All this for spare
change?

The worst part? If my hunch was right, if tonight’s bad
hombres were the same guys, how did they know Benita and I had
moved to DUMBO?

Sometimes I wondered if Gleason’s Gym was the reason
Benita agreed to move to DUMBO with me. Especially since the loft
we rented belonged to my aunt, who comes in from Long Island for
periodic overnighters. Benita wasn’t crazy over that idea.
However, the loft also happened to be a stone’s throw from
this world-famous boxing gym on Front Street.

Benita and I went there determined to clear our heads of last
night’s harrowing episode. It was seven o’clock Tuesday
evening and the summer heat hadn’t let up. My kiwi print tank
top and black Lycra capris were soaked through. Because of the
large number of hunks at Gleason’s Gym, I’d left my
shoulder-length curls hanging loose. Thanks to the heat frizzies I
probably looked like Goldilocks from hell. “It must be a
hundred degrees in here. They never heard of
air-conditioning?”

“Cut the whining. That’s what gives this place
flavor,” Benita said. “It’s the real
deal.”

I’d gone two rounds practicing my newly learned jab-cross
combination. “How did a totally nonviolent person like me
ever agree to join this gladiator factory with blood red walls?
Eggshell white would have been more tasteful.”

“Focus, will ya.” Benita stood there with her arm
wrapped around the heavy bag to steady it for me. Her enviably flat
abs showed beneath a gray crop tee. “Bend those knees.
You’re starting to look like the damn Statue of
Liberty.”

“I am bending them.” I went into a deep
crouch.

“Now you look like a friggin crab.”

“My arms are ready to fall off, and you’re expecting
Raging Bull.” So, I wasn’t exactly Olympic material. My
petite hourglass figure wasn’t all that bad, despite my
eternal hope that I’d still grow a few inches.
“I’m getting dizzy. I need a donut.”

“Are you here to eat or workout?”

“The gym’s snack bar has Danish. Then there’s
a Blazing Donutz on Jay Street.”

“You said you wanted to lose some pounds.”

My concentration just wouldn’t kick into gear. You’d
think I’d be fantasizing a skinny-dip in a cool stream with
Oscar De La Hoya, but after last night my mind kept recycling the
same questions about Gwen. I just couldn’t believe her death
was a suicide, even though the medical examiner reported no signs
of struggle, and the police found two empty vodka bottles on her
desk, plus a goodbye note in her handwriting. Yeah, she sometimes
drank too much and, granted, she needed anti-depressants when Rob
left her. The thing is, I knew her like a book. I would have seen
it coming. And rule out the accident theory. Gwen wasn’t into
getting bombed and roaming the docks. She was murdered. I could
just feel it. But why? She didn’t hang out with lowlife
criminal types.

Benita’s keen eye picked up on my thoughts. “I know
what’s going on in your head. Give it up.”

“But what if the police were wrong?” I said,
punctuated with my best one-two of the day.

“Come on, Saylor. They checked for foul play. There
wasn’t any. And Gwen’s body had enough booze in it to
drop an elephant. What more do you want?”

“I want to know the reason she was wearing a fanny
pack.”

“Same as anyone else. To carry her money and cards. Now,
put more on that jab.”

“Would you carry an ID if you were going to kill
yourself?”

“Of course. How else would they know me once the fish
started eating my face?”

I dropped my hands. “That wasn’t funny,
Binnie.”

She rested her forehead against the brown leather bag.
“Look, I can’t keep going over this territory with you.
We need to start letting go, all right?”

“I’m sorry.” Six weeks had passed since
Gwen’s death had hit us like a wrecking ball. I sometimes
forgot that Benita, my rough-on-the surface buddy, was a vulnerable
tenderheart underneath. But I came from Russian Jewish stock;
digging into human suffering was in my blood. I wasn’t about
to let go until I found out the truth. In fact, I’d already
emailed Gwen’s twin brother, Darryl.

I shifted my thoughts by using the only subject as powerful as
death and danger. Sex. I focused on the men around me. Their naked
torsos were shiny with perspiration. Their fabulous breathing came
in bursts, hissing in and out through the nose, interspersed with
short grunting sounds. So carnal. I was in testosterone heaven.
“I love the smell of men when they sweat. Studies prove that
women experience mood elevations when exposed to the scent of male
underarm secretions.”

“Not your sweaty armpit theory again.”

“Well? Doesn’t it make sense?”

“Maybe if you’re a female deer,” she said.
“Now zip that hole in your face and show me some
work.”

I caught a glimpse of a guy shadowboxing in one of the four
rings. He was as sculpted as Michelangelo’s David. Say hello
to instant orgasm. My next punch missed the bag completely.

Benita rolled her eyes. “Unreal. Whose buns are you
watching this time?”

A dull beep signaled break time, and the percussive symphony
filling the gym subsided to a murmur. I stepped close to my
friend’s ear. “In the second ring. No shirt. Black and
red trunks. Shaggy brown hair.”

She followed my gaze and turned back to me. “That’s
Eldridge Mace. Retired pro. Half Mohawk, half Irish.”

Made sense. That mix of copper skin with pale blue eyes.
“Please tell me he’s not married with six
kids.”

“Thirty-five and single. But, trust me, you don’t
want to mess with that. He’s going nowhere these days. You
can do better.”

“Don’t worry. He wouldn’t be interested in me,
anyway.”

Jaleel Thomas, Benita’s friend and trainer for the past
eight years, ambled our way. “I heard you two ladies were
playing hide and seek down on Plymouth Street last night.” He
was a bear-sized, baby-faced man with shoulder-length dreads
hanging beneath his black do-rag. Jaleel no longer embodied the
aspiring middleweight he’d once been. Five years back he
married a female attorney who also happened to make the best
cheesecake in Brooklyn, and he shot up to his current two hundred
fifty pounds. He extended a cordial fist to Benita, who then gave
it a light pound with her own. Respect.

“Today we got worse problems.” Benita pointed her
thumb at me. “Saylor’s gone hot for Mace.”

Jaleel laughed. “Uh-oh. Good boxer, but watch out, Saylor.
I hear a woman never come back the same after a night with the
Mace-man.”

Sign me up. “He seems mysterious.”

Jaleel rocked the bag with a short left hook. “Crazy more
like it.”

“I’m a therapist; I like crazy people.” In
fact, I was a magnet for dysfunctional men. I’d helped Peter
get over a painful divorce, Simon overcome his panic attacks and
Mickey face his alcohol problem. True to form, they all dumped
their surrogate mother figure as soon as they got back on their
feet.

When the beep sounded for the next round, Jaleel tapped Benita
on the shoulder and left. “I’m going for a jog on the
treadmill,” I said, slipping off my gloves. I picked up my
bottle of Poland Spring and strolled away. It wasn’t as if I
was the only person wandering around. People often showed up at
Gleason’s just to watch the fighters train. It was one of the
few gyms where kids from the projects, movie stars, Wall Streeters
and even a klutz like me could train alongside world-class
champions. On my way I paused for a closer glimpse of Eldridge
Mace. Just to study his form, of course.

I suddenly realized who he reminded me of. Eddie Rivera. My
first. A sleek sprinter with a sweet sexy mouth that every girl in
my high school had been dying to kiss. On a balmy July night in the
parking lot behind Lazkov’s Deli he’d actually kissed
me, the munchkin. One ecstatic month later we did it in his
father’s car. By September he not only stopped calling me,
but the buzz in study hall was that I’d been a yock
he’d practiced on while his real girlfriend was away for the
summer. The fact that Eldridge Mace provoked a spontaneous
regression to my unhappy youth should have made me instantly turn
and leave. Instead I found myself inching forward in a slightly
mesmerized state, until I stood smack against the edge of the
ring’s elevated floor.

Eldridge zigzagged his way around the ring, shadowboxing his
imaginary opponent. His hands were wrapped in bright orange tape
and moved in a blur of speed. Beware of men with fast hands. He
pivoted and glanced right at me. Caught unsuspected, I felt a
shudder of discomfort. His eyes definitely had a scary, distant,
I-could-hurt-you-and-not-care look. Trying to appear unruffled, I
casually sipped on my water bottle and took my time screwing the
cap on tightly. Eldridge spun ninety degrees and back pedaled in my
direction. Just as I began to hope he might be purposely moving
closer to me, my bottle of spring water slipped from my hand and
bounced into the ring.

“Heads up!” I shouted. “No, I mean
down!” Too late. His right foot rolled over the bottle, and
the most graceful man I’d seen since Baryshnikov slid onto
his butt.

Eldridge got to his feet in a flash, snatched up the bottle and
stepped toward me. “This yours?” he asked with a slight
Brooklyn accent.

I nodded. Guilt City.

“Figures.”

I stood there feeling clumsy and squat with my thighs bulging
against my tight capris. Running shoes were not exactly the
footwear of choice for a woman my height. “I’m really
sorry. I’ll gladly pay for any doctor bills.”

“I’m good,” he said, bending and flexing his
right ankle. In one fluid movement he slipped through the ropes,
jumped down and handed me the bottle. “What’s somebody
like you doing here anyway?”

His attitude caught me off guard. And pissed me off.
“What’s that suppose to mean? I’m hardly the only
female in this club who’s learning to box.”

“You? A boxer?” He coughed out a short laugh.

Just because he had a point didn’t mean he had to be rude
enough to share it. “I happen to be a natural athlete. I
played semi-pro soccer for two years and pitched in a women’s
softball league.” I sounded positively pathological, but as
long as I was lying I might as well chuck in a biggie. “And
in college I led our gymnastic team to the nationals.”

“Then how come you couldn’t hold onto that plastic
water bottle?”

Oooh. “I should have thrown it at you instead. Then you
would’ve really needed a doctor.” I already half hated
him just for resembling Eddie Rivera.

He crossed his arms, visibly amused. “Hot
blooded.”

“That’s right. I’m a Mars in Aries.” I
tossed him a nasty, sexy grin. “So, next time I’m
around, you better watch your step.”

“Or what? You gonna trip me again?”

“That was an accident. Maybe you should be more careful
where you put your feet. I mean, isn’t that part of boxing?
Don’t blame me if you’re not attentive.”

“I can be very attentive.” Those chilling eyes of
his were on me once again. In fact they were studying me from head
to toe. I felt my face go hot. And a few other parts. The
I’d-like-to-screw-your-brains-out energy between us was as
thick as a gob of K-Y jelly. Typical me, I sabotaged the delicious
moment by wondering if it was my anger that excited him or if maybe
he got off on pint-sized portable models he could easily maneuver
into position.

A voice near the front desk called out, “Dr. Saylor
Oz!”

Could it be? I looked past Eldridge to see Tara Buckley. As if I
hadn’t been through enough trauma in the last twenty-four
hours. Tara breezed her way across the floor in her tiny shorts.
Miss D-Cup Hollywood Blonde With The Legs. Turning heads as usual.
Including the Mace-man’s.

“Hi.” I put my face on auto-smile.

“I know I’m early,” Tara said, giving Eldridge
a quick squeeze and a peck on the mouth.

I couldn’t believe it. Of all the single women in New York
City, he would have to pick Tara Buckley. Or, knowing Tara, she
most likely picked him. The Mace-man’s body language was
super casual, not possessive. Were they an item or just fuck
buddies?

She turned to me with her own well-practiced look of canned
sincerity and compassion. The kind only a twenty-five year old life
coach who’d become a multi-million dollar self-help guru
could give. Perfect for winning over blank-faced audiences on book
tours. For the past year she and I had been on the same speakers
and seminar circuit. Except that Tara was usually the featured
guest, while I was relegated to a filler spot. Her book, How To
Be The Woman Every Man Dreams Of
, was going into its second
year on the bestseller lists. She spoke in one of those melodious
breathy voices that women find repulsive, but apparently stimulate
the male species. She grasped Eldridge’s hand with two of
hers while leaning her cheek against his shoulder. “Saylor is
one of my older colleagues. What a surprise that you know
Ridge.”

Ridge? “Actually, I’m new here,” I said.
“He was just offering me some tips on my hand-eye
skills.”

The corners of his mouth turned up in a boyish half-smile that
made my knees weak.

“Wait’ll you hear how Ridge and I met,” Tara
gushed. “I saw this incredibly sexy Spider-Man dangling
thirty-one stories above Third Avenue, right outside my office
window. The only thing between him and the sidewalk below was this
itty-bitty seat under his cute little hiny. I wrote a note on a
piece of paper, pressed it against the glass, and Ridge had a
coffee break in my office he’ll never forget.”

Like I really needed this. My only consolation was the
uncomfortable look on Eldridge’s face. “You’re a
high-rise window-washer?” I asked.

Eldridge nodded. “A drop-man. Not to be confused with a
person who drops things.” He watched for my reaction.

I kept a straight face. “I assume it also doesn’t
mean you drop off the side of a building.”

“Actually it does,” he said. “We don’t
use scaffolding. Just ropes and a harness. Then we drop straight
down from floor to floor. More fun that way.”

Fun? Jaleel was right. He is nuts. Heights scared the hell out
of me. Climbing on a footstool to reach my closet shelf gave me
vertigo.

Eldridge looked at me and said, “Now it’s your
turn.”

“My turn for what? To do you in my office?”

He looked tickled. “I was asking about your
work.”

“Let’s just say orgasms are my business.”

His eyebrows shot up. That got his attention.

Tara moved in quickly to dampen the effect.
“Saylor’s a sex therapist whose specialty is teaching
women how to give themselves orgasms. Necessity is the mother of
invention, right? Of course, I’m a woman who never has to fly
solo.” She winked at Eldridge.

I forced a smile. The kind you flash people before running them
over in your truck.

“Well, gotta hurry. My weekly Clitoral Culture Group meets
at eight in SoHo.” Perfect exit line.

Not so fast. Tara was on a roll. “Saylor also gives
workshops for couples who need help with their sex life.” A
breathy laugh. “Guess you could say, ‘Those who can,
do. Those who can’t, teach’.”

Please Universe, may a pigeon with a rare disease leave its
droppings in her hair.

As Tara rambled on, Eldridge remained poker-faced.
Couldn’t figure if he was concealing a case of advanced
nausea, as I was, or if he was just another sexy looking
asshole.

Why was I wasting my time here, anyway? There could be a
response from Gwen’s brother sitting in my email right
now.

Excerpted from APHRODISIAC © Copyright 2011 by Allyson Roy.
Reprinted with permission by Berkley. All rights reserved.

Aphrodisiac
by by Allyson Roy