Something Sexy in the Air
SEX HAD NEVER LOOKED so intriguing.
Or so scary.
That’s precisely the point. You need to step outside your comfort zone.
Jorgina Gerard closed the glossy brochure, featuring Eros Airlines and Fantasy Resort erotic vacation packages, and fanned herself with it. She was alarmed that her body was suddenly aroused at—of all places—the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport ticket kiosk. Mentally, she gave herself a shake. What was the matter with her?
Um, could it be because you haven’t had sex since your boyfriend dumped you?
Cringing, Jorgie bit down on her bottom lip. All around her there was bustling activity—business travelers rolling their carry-on bags toward the taxi stands, separated lovers reuniting with heartfelt hugs, harried moms and dads herding ebullient children away from the enticing dangers of escalators and baggage carousels.
What was she doing? Why had she let her best friend since kindergarten, Avery Bodel, talk her into this? Was she insane? Embarking on an exotic itinerary dubbed with the provocative title Make Love Like A Courtesan. She didn’t need sex lessons. She was twenty-five. She watched cable television. She’d been in a serious relationship and…and…
And as Brian had walked out the door he’d tossed the accusation over his shoulder. “You’re just too damned conventional in the sack, Jorgina. Men need variety, excitement, danger.”
Danger? Jorgie closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Maybe she wasn’t the problem, maybe it was Brian.
And if Brian was the problem, then she didn’t need to be here, right? She just needed to find some guy who could appreciate conventional.
“You know,” she began, turning to her friend. This week, Avery’s hair was dyed the color of muscat grapes—a deep hue of acrid purple. As a hairdresser, Avery changed her hair style and color as often as most people changed clothes. “Maybe this—”
“Oh, no,” said Avery. She wrapped a restraining hand around Jorgie’s wrist. “You are not!”
“Not what?” Jorgie asked, but her voice came out high and squeaky, giving her away.
“You’re not fooling me. I’ve known you too long. You’ve got that I’m-gonna-run-away-from-fun look in your eyes. Same look you had in eighth grade when we played Spin The Bottle at Miley Kinslow’s birthday party and it pointed to the guy you’d been mooning over.”
“Quint Mason,” Jorgie supplied, wondering if he liked conventional girls.
She’d had a puppy-love crush on Quint for the entire school year and he barely knew she existed. If she squeezed her eyes closed tightly enough, she could still see him as he’d looked then—lanky, medium brown hair, a devilish grin that melted tweenaged hearts. Of course as a tenth grader, he’d never given her the time of day and she’d been far too shy to even say boo to him, but she’d been besotted. Jorgie sighed. She’d been getting it wrong with the opposite sex ever since. Wonder what ever happened to him?
Then she remembered something her brother Keith had told her in passing after his ten-year high school reunion the previous fall. He’d heard Quint had been stationed in Afghanistan, but that he’d recently left the air force and was working for some private airline. That did not sound like a conventional guy.
“Yeah.” Avery tapped her temple with an index finger. “Quint Mason. That’s him. This trip is just like that. You have the chance to grab life by the throat and really live.”
“But is an erotic destination vacation really the answer?”
“Look at this.” Avery snatched the Eros brochure from her hand and shook it under her nose. “Look at all the opportunities you’d be running away from.” Her friend flipped through the pages, reading the copy as she went. “Learn the sex secrets every courtesan knew. Find out how to hold men completely in your thrall. Dance the seductive dance that brought kings to their knees. Become an exotic woman of pleasure.”
Embarrassment heated Jorgie’s cheeks. She snatched the brochure back and stuffed it inside her purse. “Shh, someone will hear you.”
Avery shrugged. “So what? I’m not ashamed.”
“There are kids around.”
“Hey, I’m not their mother. It’s not my job to censor their exposure to life.”
“Maybe not, but you don’t have to announce to the entire airport where we’re going.”
“Seriously,” Avery said, “don’t run away. This is your chance to show that dork Brian that you’re anything but conventional. And where does he get off calling you conventional? You two met at an accountants’ conference, for crying out loud. He’s just as conventional as you, or he was before he—”
“But I am conventional.”
“Conventional is as conventional does.”
“It’s something my grammie says.”
“Your grammie says ‘conventional is as conventional does’?”
“No, she says ‘pretty is as pretty does,’ I just substituted conventional, but the advice still applies.”
“It doesn’t make sense either way.”
“Sure it does. Act pretty and you’ll be pretty. Act conventional and you’ll be conventional. Act unconventional and—”
“I get your drift.”
“So stop having cold feet. Actually, stop thinking. You think too much, Jorgie.”
“And you don’t ever look before you leap, Avery.”
“But I have a lot more fun than you do.”
Jorgie sighed. True enough. “You know this is just a variation of the same conversation we’ve been having for twenty years.”
“I’m the accelerator…” Avery said, starting the quote their mothers spoke over their heads as they’d played in the sandbox together. Avery was the kid who flung herself headfirst down the slide. While Jorgie was the crying girl who hovered on the top rung of the ladder, too scared to climb back down, too fearful to take the plunge.
“And I’m the brake,” Jorgie finished.
“We balance each other out. It’s the secret to our lifelong friendship.” Grinning, Avery slung her arm over Jorgie’s shoulder.
Avery’s grin bolstered her sagging confidence. The truth was, she didn’t know what she’d do without her. Avery had such a life force. Whenever she was around her, Jorgie felt stronger, braver, more adventuresome. What few risks Jorgie had taken were due solely to her best friend’s influence. Avery was like an exuberant leader, barreling her way through life on her magnetic charm and sheer good luck.
“Your turn.” Avery elbowed her forward. Shoulder muscles tensed tight as a wire, Jorgie stepped up to the kiosk and inserted her credit card. Ready or not, this was going down.
“While you’re doing that,” Avery told her, “I’m going up to the ticket counter.”
“Huh? What for?”
“Never you mind. I’ll be right back.” Avery raised her hand over her head and gave Jorgie a backward wave. She sashayed over to the ticket counter, her low-slung jeans and cropped cotton T-shirt revealing a peek at the vivid ink art decorating her lower spine. Jorgie would never ever have the courage to get a tattoo, but as much as Avery’s audacity shocked her, she also admired it.
The ticket kiosk spit out Jorgie’s boarding pass.
It was confirmed. She and Avery were on their way to Venice to learn how to make love like courtesans. Not that Avery needed sex lessons—the woman kept more men dangling on the string than she could count—but her friend could definitely do with a dose of the courtesans’ famed discretion.
Okay, all right, she would do this. She needed this. It was time she stopped playing it safe. Brian was right. She was too conventional. She could do this as long as she had Avery beside her.
Speaking of Avery, where in the heck had she gotten to?
Ticket in one hand and her carry-on clasped in the other, Jorgie spun away from the kiosk. She was so busy searching the crowd for her friend that she didn’t see the man barreling down on her until it was too late. She tried to zigzag, but that only made things worse.
They collided in a tangle of arms and legs and rolling leather luggage.
“Miss, are you okay?” His voice was as deep as Phantom Lake, where her parents owned a summer cottage.
His hands were on her shoulders, steadying her. That’s when Jorgie realized she was on the floor and her skirt had flipped up, revealing way too much of her thighs. She yanked her skirt to her knees and darted her gaze to his face. Had he noticed?
The slick, knowing grin said, oh, yeah, he’d noticed.
And she was noticing for the first time just how extremely handsome he was. The stuff of daydreams. Chiseled jaw. Neatly trimmed thick, wavy brown hair. Mischievous cocoa-colored eyes. A slightly crooked nose that told her it had been broken at one time, but that kept him from being too damned gorgeous.
She felt like fleeing. Jorgie gulped, stared. Say something, dummy.
“Hey,” he said. “Don’t I know you?”
It surprised her that he’d use such a tired line. He looked as if he would know all the cutting-edge come-ons. She frowned, shook her head, unable to speak against the weight of his warm, distracting hand upon her shoulder.
“Yeah, yeah, sure I do. I used to hang out with your brother Keith, when my family lived in Burleson. It’s Quint, Quint Mason. Remember me?” He extended a hand.
Quint Mason? Was it possible? Here? Now? She stared, stunned by coincidence and the power of his presence.
His hand stayed outstretched, the smile firmly hung on his lips.
She almost laughed. Not because there was anything funny, but to help relieve her nervous tension. What else could she do? She had to accept his help.
His hand was warm and hard and friendly, just like the man himself. Gently, he tugged her to her feet.
She felt oddly absurd, as if she’d stumbled down an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole. “Umm…umm…” she stammered.
“Janie, is it? No, wait…” He snapped his fingers. “Jorgie. It’s Jorgie, right?”
Happiness flowed over her. Mutely, she nodded. He’d remembered her name.
“You’ve changed,” he said, giving her the once-over with an appreciative light dancing in his eyes. She wasn’t the only one who’d changed. He’d gone from lean and lanky to muscular and broad-shouldered. “No more braces.”
Her body flushed hot at his appraisal. “I got them off when I was a sophomore.”
“No more pigtails.” His hand went to her hair, his fingertips briefly skimming her neck.
Goose bumps set up camp on her forearms, and her breathing grew so shallow she was practically panting. “Left those behind with the private school uniform,” she managed to say.
“You don’t have library books clutched in your arms. Did you lose your love of reading?”
“Nope. Nothing’s changed there, but I’ve upgraded to an e-book reader. Got it stashed in my purse for the plane ride.”
“And you lost the glasses. LASIK or contact lenses?”
“LASIK,” she said.
“It’s amazing you recognized me at all.”
“Those eyes are the same.” He nodded as if speaking the wisdom of the ages. “So deep blue that they’re almost purple. Like a Colorado mountain stream. Not many people in the world have eyes like that. The minute I looked into them, I knew it was you.”
He remembered her.
She shouldn’t have found the idea so thrilling, but she did. Her junior high crush remembered her. Her heart did a crazy little rumba.
Oh, just stop it. You’re being silly.
“You know,” he said. “I’d love to stop and talk. Catch up on old times…”
What old times? She hadn’t spoken ten words to him the entire year he’d lived in Burleson and hung out with her brother. She’d been far too shy.
“Find out what Keith is up to these days, but…” He glanced at his watch. “I’m late for work. Maybe we could hook up later.” His comment had been mildly made, but it threw her off to think of meeting up with him again.
“Maybe.” She breathed hopefully even as her brain churned cruel taunts. Get a grip. He’s not interested in you. He’s just being polite. Why would a guy like him be interested in you? He’s traveled the world over. Been in the military. Probably been with dozens—maybe even hundreds—of women. He’s seen and done things you could never dream of. You could never hold the attention of a guy like that. If you couldn’t hold on to someone as bland as Brian, you don’t have a prayer with Quint.
He pulled a card from the pocket of his houndstooth sport jacket—he just had to be a snappy dresser, as well as good-looking—and passed it over to her. “Give me a call when you get back in town.”
Yeah, right. She’d find the courage to do that about the same time hell froze over. Still, she palmed the card, clutched it tight.
“See ya.” He picked up his carry-on, raised a hand in farewell and took off.
Stunned, Jorgie felt as if she’d been clipped in a drive-by. What was that?
“Omigod, who’s the hottie?” Avery asked as she sidled up to Jorgie. Simultaneously, they both cocked their heads to watch Quint walk away, the fabric of his slacks molding to his butt. They sighed in unison.
“That,” Jorgie explained, “was Quint Mason.”
“Quint Mason of Spin The Bottle fame? Get outta town.” Avery gave her a playful shove.
Jorgie pointed to her luggage. “I’m working on it.”
Avery giggled. “You know what I mean. This is incredible.”
“Seriously. It’s kismet, fate, serendipity. I mean we were just talking about him and poof…here he is. What are the odds?”
“Well, actually,” Jorgie said, her mathematical accountant’s mind kicking in, “the probability isn’t as slim as you might think, given that Quint works in the airline industry and DFW is the biggest airport in the state. He probably passes through here every morning on his way to work.”
“Yeah, but what are the odds that you’d be standing here when he sauntered by?”
“I could do a statistical analysis if you wanted…”
Avery plastered her palms over both ears. “No, no, please spare me. Numbers make my head explode.”
“It’s really just like that phenomena where you decide to buy a certain kind of car—”
“Spyder, I want a Spyder.”
“You decide to buy a Spyder,” Jorgie played along, “and suddenly everywhere you look the place is crawling with Spyders.”
“You know me. I can’t resist wordplay.”
“You can’t resist anything brainiacish.”
“Anyway…” Jorgie ignored that comment. “If we hadn’t been talking about Quint, then I probably would never have noticed him. He would have walked right on by. Just like if you weren’t dying to own a Spyder, you wouldn’t notice every single one of them that drove past.”
“Except that he didn’t walk right on by, he ran smack-dab into you.”
“You saw that?”
“The whole airport saw it.”
Jorgie winced. She hated being the center of attention and nothing embarrassed her more than public humiliation. Unlike Avery, who courted the spotlight with glee.
“Don’t obsess about it,” Avery said, accurately reading her. “No one cares that your skirt was practically up around your waist.”
“Look at the bright side. At least you don’t wear thongs. Come on. Let’s get through security before the line gets any longer. Our plane starts boarding in fifteen minutes.”
Avery was right. No point obsessing over something she couldn’t change. She needed to live in the moment. Get fired up about her trip. She was going to Venice. What more could a woman ask for?
By the time they were through the checkpoint and found their gate at Eros Air, boarding was already in progress.
“Hey,” Avery said, nudging Jorgie in the side. “Isn’t that your guy?”
“Mr. Handsome over there by the gate attendant.”
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