Home > Best Laid Plans(8)

Best Laid Plans(8)
Author: Lauren Blakely

It’s a damn good thing I wasn’t throwing the ball when she asked that because it might have landed five lanes over.

Cracking up, I head over to the ball return. “That’s a little specific and definitely inappropriate for a town bulletin.”

“Did she like to be tied up?”

I shake my head. “Not going to go there.”

When the green ball pops up, I palm it then slide my fingers in the holes. She follows my hand with her eyes. “Do you mean she likes to be . . . filled in all the holes?”

I laugh so hard I nearly choke. “Who has the naughty mind tonight? I was simply getting ready to throw a spare.”

She doesn’t even blush. She’s undeterred. “Did she ask you out on the date?”

I frown, trying to remember who asked first. I shrug. “I honestly don’t recall.”

“You’re not helpful. You won’t answer my questions, and you won’t tell me how it started.”

“That’s partly because it’s not going to continue. I’m not seeing her again.” I return to the lane and send the ball down the hardwood, waiting until it smacks the remaining two pins, nailing the spare. When I turn around, I ask, “Why do you want to know so badly what it was like?”

Arden has never pumped me for dating details before. Not the tawdry ones at least. I half want to believe it means something, but it could mean nothing at all.

“Just curious,” she says nonchalantly as she grabs her favorite purple ball. She makes it sound so casual, her inquiry. But there’s that word again from Words with Friends—curious—and it snags on my brain. Why exactly is she so curious?

A second later, she gives me the answer. “Everyone’s coming into the bookstore buying these racier books. It just got me thinking.”

She turns away, heads to the top of the lane, and holds the ball in front of her.

And her comment has me thinking too.

About dirtier books.

If she reads them.

What she likes between the sheets.

What her curiosity has piqued exactly. Well, besides me. I’m definitely piqued, and I make a quick adjustment in my jeans so it’s not so damn obvious.

As she tosses the ball down the lane, her left leg arcing behind her, showing a hint of the back of her thighs, I groan.

I want to know the landscape of her body. Want to slide my hands up and down her legs, nibble on her ass, and make her whimper.

I would love to know what would make Arden go wild in bed.

That’s not only because I’m wildly attracted to her.

It’s because I want to know what makes her tick in the bedroom as well as I know what excites her out of it.

I want to know her in every way.

Sooner or later, I’m going to have to figure out how to drive this car clear out of the friend zone.

Sooner is my preference.

Like maybe this weekend at the party here at the bowling alley.

Maybe I can find a way to pique her interest in me.

10

Arden

“What kind of wine would you say goes well with a memoir? Something really hard-hitting and designed to rip my heart out?”

The question comes from a bespectacled woman who’s pawing through my display of non-fiction bestsellers.

“Like Educated by Tara Westover?”

“Yes. Exactly.”

I tap my chin. This is my forte. “You definitely want a merlot. It’s bold and powerful, but the best ones with the most fantastic grapes are so good, they make you want to cry.”

“Like Educated.” Her lips curve into a grin, her laugh lines a happy pair of parentheses.

“Exactly. Want me to set everything up for your book club?”

“Yes. It’s going to be a raucous night of…”

“Drinking wine and only very occasionally discussing books?”

“That’s exactly what a good book club should be.” The woman extends a hand. “I’m Miriam.”

“Arden East.”

“Someone likes you very much to give you that name.”

“My mom is pretty rad,” I say, thinking of my parents, who are happily traveling the world in their much-deserved retirement. This month they’re in Australia and sent me an email about their visit to the Sydney Opera House. “It’s better than all the travel books say,” my mom told me.

Miriam points to the nook in the back of the store, reserved for book clubs. “Is tomorrow night available? We plan on being loud and a little obnoxious.”

“As if I would want you to be anything else,” I tell her with a smile. “The store closes at eight on book club nights with my rowdiest gals. Would that work for a starting time?”

Miriam’s blue eyes sparkle with a yes.

The next evening, she parades in a troop of women about twice my age and introduces me to CarolAnn, who wears her jet-black hair in a sexy, messy bun; to Sara, sporting cat-eye glasses and skinny jeans; and to hobo-chic-styled Allison, who tells me I’m beautiful.

Possibly, I fall in love with all of them on first sight.

I busy myself with placing orders on the store computer at the front while the ladies discuss Educated and drink a rich merlot from Oak Hollows Vineyard, a few miles south of us. But soon enough, the wine loosens lips, and the conversation shifts.

They’re no longer discussing a young girl raised in a survivalist family. They’ve sidestepped from the author’s first boyfriend to their own first loves. They then jump seamlessly to current lovers, husbands, and beaus.

As I let my distributor know I need twenty more of the new Nora Roberts romance, I hear that black-haired CarolAnn still likes it doggie-style at age sixty.

While checking on my shipment of quirky travel guides, I learn that hobo-chic Allison wants to explore clamps.

As I hit the order button on a new clean recipe book, I discover that skinny-jean-wearing Sara and her younger boyfriend like to park at the end of a deserted road so she can give him a blow job in the car. Sometimes, if Sara’s really frisky, her boyfriend will pull her hair and spank her.

During the blow job.

An unexpected pang of envy stabs me right in the solar plexus.

I want to know what that’s like. All of it—the blow job in the car, the spankings, the ease with which she talks about it. Most of all, I want to know how the hell studious-looking Sara has navigated the path to car spankings.

I step away from the desk and straighten some shelves, doing my best to pretend I’m not eavesdropping as I pick up a “You Can Have It All” style of self-help guide that I’m positive Clare knocked over earlier.

“Look, I know these aren’t crazy kinky things, but I feel like I’ve been liberated since Chuck left me and I met my new boyfriend,” Sara says, in a husky, Kathleen Turner-esque tone. “Chuck was the same old, same old. But Javier? No way. He’s a different creature entirely, and it’s freeing. Do you know what I mean?”

“Absolutely. You’re sexy and single and you have a hot man who wants you. There’s no reason you shouldn’t do exactly what you want to do,” CarolAnn adds, almost like she’s giving a you go, girl speech. Which she kind of is.

“How did you get Javier to pull your hair? Was it his idea or yours?” Allison asks, and I don’t want to tune out a second of this conversation even though it’s making me keenly aware of my lack of an interesting sex life.

I’ve never been spanked.

I’ve never bitten.

I have never given a blow job in a vehicle.

I used to think I was simply a good girl. I boxed myself into a category—I’m the safe one, I’m the one who likes beds.

And I do like beds.

But what if I like cars more?

With a deep, needy ache, I desperately want to know what I’m missing.

“Easy,” Sara declares, then details precisely how she accomplished the hair-pulling and spanking. I take furious mental notes, adding the ideas to my burgeoning plan.

If the sixty-something ladies in this book club are sowing their wild oats, it’s time for me to damn well do it.

I resolve to make a change.

Tomorrow night I’ll see Gabe at the bowling alley for the party. I intend to walk out of there with a solid plan to figure out what’s been missing all these years.

When the ladies leave, I say good night, lock the door, and grab a stack of how-to books. After a few hours of study, I make a list. Books rule. Research rocks.

By the time the clock chimes midnight, I have one hell of a plan.

I am woman. Hear me roar.

11

Gabe

“And I believe we set a record today.” Shaw stretches his neck, cracking it loudly as he slams his locker shut next to the baby-faced Charlie, one of the paramedics who works frequently with us.

“For the number of non-fatal medical emergencies?” I put the rest of my gear away at the end of our twenty-four-hour shift, which is thankfully, finally fucking over. Felt like a forty-eight-hour one. But with only minor injuries and no deaths or losses of limb, I’ll chalk it up to a damn good shift.

Shaw shakes his head. “No. For no phone numbers given out.”

Charlie drags a hand through his dark hair. “It’s a record shift of epic failures in that department.”

I roll my eyes. “You two clowns do know it’s called work? That thing we do all day long?”

“Huh.” Shaw scratches his unshaven jaw, affecting surprise. “Is that the name of it? Did you know that, Charlie?”

The younger man feigns shock. “I had no idea.”

I point to the two of them. “Well, I’m glad to finally be the one to inform you, since you seem to be under the impression that it’s a pickup market.”

“Oh yes. That’s exactly what I was thinking when we responded to a shortness of breath call for the eighty-year-old Mrs. Miller,” Shaw remarks.

I give my buddy a sharp-eyed stare. “I don’t think it’s the eighty-year-old Mrs. Miller’s phone number that you were angling for.” I crack up as it hits me. The woman’s twenty-something granddaughter was the one who made the call and then seemed unable to look anywhere but at Shaw as he took grandma’s vitals. The trim, toned blonde ogled him the whole time, and I was positive Shaw would be shacking up with her tonight, but it sounds like nothing came of it. “You didn’t get the girl’s number?”

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