Home > Best Laid Plans(10)

Best Laid Plans(10)
Author: Lauren Blakely

I shoot her a curious stare. “Are you checking out the Shaw view?”

She scoffs then grabs a glass of water and downs a gulp. “No way. I was just talking about all of them. They’re all the reason fireman calendars and fireman fantasies exist, right?”

I decide to let the Shaw issue go for tonight—I don’t need to give her the inquisition on a stare that lasted a little longer than usual. “We do seem to possess an embarrassment of riches in the hot fireman department. I bet Guinness World Records would like to know what we’ve accomplished in our little town.”

She wiggles her dark eyebrows and motions for me to inch closer as the music shifts to Elvis Presley. “Want to know why we have so many hotties here?” She drops her voice to a whisper. “I planted seeds. Hot fireman seeds.”

“And now they grow from the fields,” I say, laughing, as Gabe raises a hand from across the alley and waves at me.

My stomach flips.

Stupid stomach.

It’s just a wave.

Why the hell is my stomach flipping?

I wave back, rehearsing the words that I want to say to him later. I’ve mapped it all out.

So I have this idea . . .

I’d like to ask for your help . . .

How would you feel about doing . . .?

Vanessa drums her fingers on the bar. “And now I can ask you the same question. Are you checking out the view of Gabe? Looks like you’re giving him a very thorough undressing right now.”

I snap my gaze away from the hottie. I mean, my friend. My friend. Only my friend. “I am not disrobing him.”

Vanessa rolls her brown eyes. “You kill me, girl. I love how you deny it.” She raises her pitch, imitating me, evidently. “Oh, we’re just friends. Oh, he’s my bowling partner.” She snorts and goes back to her own voice. “More like the man you’ve been hanging out with for the last year, secretly staring at and imagining naked the whole time.”

“I do not secretly stare at him.” Sure, Gabe is so handsome it’s nearly criminal, and admittedly, I have experienced a fair share of tingles and shivers when he’s accidentally touched me. But our friendship is what matters most.

“True. You don’t secretly stare. You stare at him in public.”

“I don’t do that at all. I’m simply attentive. To all my friends.”

She snorts. “That’s a good one.”

“But it’s true,” I say, perhaps to remind myself of my plan.

I’m going to ask him for help as a friend, and only as a friend. I made a promise to myself the day David ditched me—no more dalliances with unworthy men. Not that Gabe is unworthy, but he does like the ladies, and I don’t want to be someone’s “nice” comparison point ever again. But I very much want to know what naughty things I might like, and I want to learn that without making a fool of myself when I have no idea what goes where in what position, or even what to say to get myself in that position in the first place. But I haven’t asked Gabe yet, so I don’t want to say a word to anyone else.

Besides, there’s nothing to share. This is only a little exercise between pals. “Just because we hang out doesn't mean we’re going to do anything more. A man and a woman can be friends, thank you very much.”

Vanessa sets her glass on the bar. “You might see it that way, but he’s always looking at you like he wants you.”

I startle at her comment, my skin buzzing, betraying my brain. But I keep my focus tight. There is no room for a Gabe attraction in my life. None at all. “You’re crazy. He doesn’t look at me like that.”

“You’re crazy, because yes, he does.”

I shake my head, wishing the idea didn’t delight some part of me. “We’re friends. It’s not like that.”

“That’s why your cheeks are all red and flushed.”

I raise a hand to touch my cheek. Maybe it’s a little warm in here. “I can be friends with a good-looking man and not jump his bones.”

“If you insist.” She nods toward the other side of the bar. “I need to go check on the patrons.”

“Do you mind if I pop into your back room?” I ask. “I need to have a private conversation with someone.”

She arches a curious brow. “And who would that be?”

“Don’t worry about it,” I say, trying to be light.

Vanessa crosses her arms. “No. You can’t borrow my back room.”

“Oh, c’mon. Why not?”

“Because friends don’t keep secrets about who they’re hosting private meetings with in other friends’ back rooms.”

“Fine.” I sigh. “It’s Gabe. Okay?”

She smirks, giving me the most knowing smile she’s ever given me. “Are you going to plant hot fireman seeds with him?”

I decide to deflect with wordplay. “If anyone would be planting seeds, I’d think it’d be him.”

Her jaw drops.

“But the answer is no. I just need to talk to him about something. I’ll update you later.”

She shoots me a sharp stare. “You better. Use of my back room includes giving me a detailed briefing.”

“I promise.”

“Then my back room is your back room.”



I finish my go-out-on-a-limb Riesling, and when Gabe is done with his frame, he strides over and parks himself on the stool next to mine. My stomach flip-flops, and my palms are clammy. I need to make my request soon, otherwise it’ll nag at me all night.

“Hey, East. What’s cooking? Did you save a game for me?”

“Always.” But I don’t want to play a game right now. I want to make my pitch, and I don’t want to wait another second. I’ve been saying the words in my head all day. “But first, do you have a second to chat privately?”

Worry creases his brow. “Sure. Everything okay?”

“Absolutely.” I smile, keeping the mood light and easy, or so I hope.

We head to the back room, where filing cabinets line the walls next to a desk stacked with papers. Across from us is a green leather couch. I don’t sit. I don’t want to delay. I swallow, steeling myself as I find my courage and screw it to the sticking point. Like the ladies in the book club. Ask for what you want.

I reach into my bag, take out a book, and show it to him. Though I read several the other night, this one is the closest to what I want.

Fifty Ways to Spice Up Your Love Life.

“Is this for me?” His expression is curious, lips quirked up in a question.

My throat is dry. I shake my head. “It’s for me.”

Confusion flickers across his blue eyes. “Okayyyyy.”

I grip the book hard. “I have this idea that I want to try some spices.”

“Are you seeing someone you want to get spicy with?” It sounds like the words taste like bitter paprika to him.

“No.” This is harder than I thought. Because of what Vanessa said. Because Gabe is so handsome, so kind, so easy that a part of me keeps thinking how much I want to try all these things with him. To feel what might come next after the little shivers up my spine.

Only that’s not what I’m asking.

I don’t want a typical hands-on lesson in seduction. Please. That’d ruin our friendship, and our friendship means the world to me. I simply won’t risk it.

But we don’t need to get naked for me to learn. You don’t practice CPR on a real person. You do it on a dummy. We don’t need to walk the walk.

He can spank me with my jeans on.

He can pull my hair on my front porch.

He can bite my neck without it leading to anything more than information.


That way we stay friends.

Besides, he’s not playing the same long game I am. He’s a short-term guy, and I respect that, but I’m a long-term kind of woman.

I dig down deep. “I’d like to ask for your help.” Taking a breath, I pause before I lay it all on the line. “I’m not terribly experienced in the bedroom, but I’m incredibly curious, and I’d really like to know if being tied up, taken over the back of the sofa, stopping for an impromptu hookup while out for a drive, making out in an elevator, or having my hair pulled so hard I see stars is my cup of tea. How would you feel about doing some research with me? Say, over the next week?”



Come again?

Did she say what I think she said?

As in, the answer to all my prayers?

I have half a mind to punch the sky and do a victory strut.

But one, I’m not an asshole.

Two, I’m not simply trying to get in her pants. I want to get under her skin, like she’s under mine.

But pants . . . pants are a good start.

And it’s getting tight in mine.

I scratch my jaw. Part my lips. Try to speak. But my throat is dry. “What?” It’s all I can manage to say, and it comes out like a scratch.

“Sorry,” she says, backpedaling, sounding as contrite as she did the day I found her by the lake. “Did I offend you?”

Please, offend me more. Offend me so much you ask me to take you home right now.

“You’re going to have to try a lot harder to offend me.” I eye the couch. “Why don’t we sit down?”

That way maybe it won’t be so obvious how much I like her plan. How much this is like a fevered, dirty dream, one I don’t want to wake up from.

She sits, crossing one bare leg over the other, her polka-dot skirt riding higher to reveal more flesh. I nearly groan out loud—I’ll be able to get my hands on those legs soon. Run my palms up her thighs. Spread her open. Touch her where she wants it most. Taste her. Dear God, the prospect of kissing her all over is frying my brain.

Maybe it’ll happen tonight? If she wants to conduct this sex symposium over the next week, we’d better get started stat.

Yes, the situation south of the border is indeed escalating.

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