Marina’s Bright Idea
Close friends can be an amazing gift or a major pain in the ass. Tonight one of my friends definitely chose to be the latter. Lori, Jen and I shuffled into Jen’s one-bedroom apartment done in classic styles with everything meticulously organized and accessorized straight out of Ikea.
I kicked off my uncomfortable clubbing shoes with the chunk heels that set off my black jeans and red, scoop neck fitted top. My cleavage was my best asset. Then I removed the red chandelier earrings that had been bugging me all night. “Lori, I think you are completely overreacting.”
“I’m not, Marina.” Lori slumped into an overstuffed chair, pulled her blonde hair into a twist off her neck and secured it with a clip. She looked flawless in a stylish but elegant print dress that showed off her slim figure. “It’s my thirtieth birthday and my life is over.”
Lori had a flair for the extreme and dramatic. I guess that helped make her a good lawyer. She was either going to love her birthday or hate it. Clearly, she’d chosen not to embrace her new decade.
“It’ll all look better over coffee and chocolate.” Jen broke up our fight, as usual, and headed for the kitchen. She was neat as a pin in a brown dress with tiny pink flowers. It wasn’t too revealing at all.
Lori and I had met in college. There was no holding back when we conversed and no hard feelings for our complete honesty. Jen was a newer addition. She’d moved into the third spacious apartment on our floor of the downtown Chicago building about a year back. Our bluntness hadn’t rubbed off on her yet.
We preferred to hang out in Jen’s apartment because she was neat and a chef. She had pretty copper pots and pans suspended from her ceiling and ropes of garlic that scented the whole apartment. Lori and I had never complained about being guinea pigs for her latest creation. Hopefully Jen had something good tonight, because Lori was in a hellacious mood.
Normally I contributed to the party as the designated bartender. Unfortunately, hard liquor wouldn’t help tonight.
“You turned thirty, not sixty.” I peeled off my black leather jacket and tossed it onto Jen’s couch before flopping down next to it. Out of habit, I began detangling my hair from the costume jewelry necklace I’d chosen. After grabbing a clip from my jacket pocket, I pulled my massive locks up and off my neck. No men here, so the need for beauty was over.
The scent of coffee brewing filled the loft and I hoped it would help calm Lori, the caffeine junkie. Until the coffee was ready, I could try to distract her. “Take off those super-high heels. You’re bitchy because your feet hurt.”
“No, I’m not.” Lori took off the shoes anyway. “You don’t understand. You have six months until you turn thirty. Jen has nearly a whole year. This birthday makes you think. It makes you depressed.”
“No, it’s just a number.” Jen offered chocolate-covered scones and Lori picked at one immediately. She was naturally skinny and a true blonde. No amount of junk food put an ounce on her. If she wasn’t my friend, I’d probably hate her. Of course, she envies my cleavage, so we’re even.
“Try a disaster. My twenties are over. No husband, no big house in the suburbs and no kids.” Lori slumped.
“No one to pick up after, less to clean and no stretch marks. It could be worse.” I grabbed a scone for myself and smiled as Lori glared at me.
“I’ve wasted my twenties.” Lori hit the coffee table with her fist.
“No you haven’t,” I groaned. It would be a very depressing and gray Chicago winter if Lori didn’t get over this. The convenience of the three of us living on the same floor of the same building made winter socializing nicer. If Lori kept on this soapbox, however, it could make me want to tunnel my way through the snow barehanded to be anywhere else. “You’ve done a lot so far.”
“Marina is right,” Jen jumped in. “Lori, you’re a top associate with a big law firm. The name is so fancy and long I can’t even remember it. And your dad had no hand in getting you that job or your law degree. You’ll make partner before you know it. All those hours of work got you where you are. That is not a wasted decade.”
I added, “Most people who get married in their twenties end up divorced. You’re taking your time—we all are. None of us are married. Are you saying we’re all failures?”
“No, I thought I’d have at least met the right man by now. Maybe not be married, but have found him. Now all the single men have kids or ex-wives. Who wants that baggage? And you two have it easier. I’ve got family pressure to get married and have a bunch of kids. Both of my brothers are married and settled and all I hear from my mother is how so-and-so’s daughter is engaged or got married, or is having a baby.” Lori moved from the sofa to the floor and focused on lighting a lavender-scented candle on the coffee table. She stared at the flames with her blue eyes as though the fire would have the answer. I wasn’t about to play into her dramatics.
“Well, you won’t find a man sitting around here. None of us will. There were certainly none worthy at the bar tonight.” Jen looked depressed, like Lori, as she wiped off her tawny lipstick before biting into her scone.
I’d had enough. “Fine, that’s it. I’m changing the subject. Lori, what’s the best sex you’ve ever had?” I walked to the open-concept kitchen and uncorked a bottle of wine. Coffee was not going to cut it tonight.
Lori rolled her eyes at me. “This is not the time for Truth or Dare, Marina.”
“No dare. Just the truth. Face it, you’ve had some fun in your thirty years. So let’s hear about that instead of how old and saggy you’re getting. Who was the best sex you’ve ever had?” I headed back with the wine.
Sighing loudly at me, Lori gave in. “Nick. That mechanic I dated. I met him when the little blue Jag Mom and Dad gave me as a law school graduation present was making a weird noise. He was all greasy and gorgeous. It was just something primal. The smell of a sweaty man and oil still gets me.”
“So what happened?” Jen took the glass of red wine I handed her, her attention focused on Lori.
“Everything.” Lori grinned hard. “He was amazing.”
“You dated?” I prompted, looking for more detail. I’d heard about Nick plenty in the heat of their romance. Now that time had passed, maybe she’d be more objective.
“Sort of. Well, yes. I could never really consider him seriously as a boyfriend. We went at it for a few months. We kept it light because I didn’t know where I’d get a job once I passed the bar. He didn’t want it to end. If my parents found out, though—” Lori shook her head. “He never had a chance.”
“Oh, cut the cord, Lori!” I’d never understood Lori’s need to please her family so much. I didn’t think Lori did, either. Typical ultra-rich northsiders, which was fine, but their inbreeding tendencies shocked me. They only approved of Lori’s boyfriends if they were from the same social circle and I couldn’t believe those circles weren’t related enough by now.
“Can you imagine me with a mechanic?” Lori asked with complete seriousness as she drained half her glass of wine in no time. She tapped her perfectly French-manicured nails against the glass uneasily. “I’m always in suits and heels. He always wore jeans and was happy with pizza and beer. It was fun for a while. We couldn’t be together forever. It was a bad break-up. He was very persistent. I knew it wouldn’t last.”
“He was your best sex ever?” I double-checked.
“Definitely!” She smiled.
“Good. Your turn, Jen.” I didn’t want to dwell too long on Lori for fear that she’d get too negative about him and begin another temper tantrum about the quality of men out there.
“No, I don’t want to play,” Jen mumbled.
“It’s not a game. This is just girl talk. Sex talk. I’ll tell you mine,” I assured her.
Why did Lori and I always have to prod Jen into things? She was a sensitive person, very excitable and anxious when it came to her private life. Professionally, she was successful for a new chef. Now she was ready to jump into a bigger pond. She was up for a job at a trendy new restaurant. Lori and I tended to be protective of her naiveté, but there had to be a best sex of her life.
“Yeah, I did it, so you have to, too,” Lori insisted.
“Okay, Brian.” Jen refused to make eye contact, and the pause following the revelation of the name went on until I was compelled to break the silence.
“Well, I’m getting off from his name alone,” I deadpanned, making Lori nearly choke on her wine. “More, Jen, where did you meet him? Was it a real relationship or a one-nighter?
“Details, Jen! We deserve details.”
Jen blushed redder than her hair and looked at the floor. “The culinary convention in Los Angeles last year. One-nighter, if you must know.”
“And we must! As your friends, we should know all of the details,” Lori added. “He was good?”
“He was great! So sweet and still good with his hands. It was wonderful, then I never saw him again.” Jen shrugged and glanced at me.
“My turn.” I nodded. “Lucas was in stocks. He wanted to make a million before he turned thirty.”
“You’re kidding.” Lori sounded terribly disappointed. “That was your best? The trader?
“Actually, yes, he was boring. That’s sort of why I broke up with him. He was well hung, though. He had the equipment and knew how to use it. That’s really all it was. Great sex, and a lot of it over a couple of months, and done. We weren’t compatible. I think my personality was too much for him. Plus, he wasn’t a pet person, which we vets simply can’t tolerate.”
“I wonder if that’s the best we’re going to ever get?” Lori asked. She twisted the fringe on Jen’s rug uneasily with her fingers.
“Any idea what happened to your mechanic?” I asked. There was one foolproof way to get Lori out of the dumps. I couldn’t outright suggest it without getting another lawyerly lecture. She’d never do it, so I had to find an indirect way.
“No.” Lori sighed. “How about you and your horse-hung stockbroker?”
“Haven’t talked to him since. How about you, Jen? Any idea where Chef Brian is?”
“Nope. And now we’re back to being depressed.” Jen frowned and took a bite of her scone.
“Not necessarily,” I said. “I have an idea.” I paused and admired our view from the huge windows opposite me. The Chicago skyline was a vision against the starry sky. This was either going to work great or be a bad move. I couldn’t know which until we went through with it.
“This can’t be good,” Lori said to Jen, as though I couldn’t hear her.
“It’s brilliant, if I do say so myself! You’re going to love it.”
“Leave your high IQ out of this and let us in on your game.” Lori folded her arms.
She always teased me about how I could’ve skipped two grades in elementary school. She’d crammed for every test in college while I’d had a tendency not to study at all. My parents hadn’t liked the idea of my skipping grades because I would’ve entered high school far too young. My mother had been worried I’d have trouble making friends while my father had been concerned about high school boys near his daughter. I preferred it myself. I wasn’t that smart, just picked things up faster than most. Somehow my plans usually worked.
“I don’t think we should let the best sex of our lives go without looking them up again, do you?” I poured more wine, knowing they’d need it for what I had planned.
“What?” Lori and Jen asked in unison.
“I think we should at least find out where they are now. Revisit them up for fun.” I had no intention of giving up on my brilliant plan. Jen could use a dose of fun, too. She was far too serious.
“Are you crazy?” Lori gestured with her arms like she was arguing in court. “I’m not stalking Nick. I dumped him. I’ll come off as desperate.”
“No, no. It’s not desperate. Do you want to look back at age fifty and wonder what could’ve happened if we’d done this? I don’t want my life full of regrets.” I tried to match Lori’s lawyerly and authoritative tone. Unfortunately, I’m not that scary. A vet is supposed to put people and pets at ease.
“Checking up on our ex-boyfriends. Won’t that appear really crazy?” Jen asked.
“We won’t find our own guys. That could be awkward. We’ll trade and check out each other’s. We’ve never met any of these guys, so what’s the harm? This way it’s not as weird. We can check them out and they won’t know us. Jen can research Lucas, see if he’s bald, fat, or married. Run into him somewhere, strike up a conversation, whatever. We can even pretend to date these guys a time or two to get information if that’s what it takes. No more than three dates so it doesn’t get serious. Then we report back to each other.”
“Sounding less crazy and more like a scavenger hunt,” Lori admitted. “So Jen finds Lucas, then I’ll take Brian and you get Nick?” Lori filled in the blanks perfectly. Like I hadn’t carefully chosen my example so I’d get Nick. It couldn’t have worked out better.
“Perfect! We’ll meet back here tomorrow night with all the information we can dig up from the time we dated them. Full name, address, where they worked, and pictures if you’ve got them. Anything to help track the guy. Then we can each decide if we want to reconnect with our own ex. Deal?” I’d expected a bit of a fight. Instead, they were both smiling.
“Deal,” they agreed.
“Let the games begin. The search for the best in bed!” I lifted my glass and we toasted our new diversion.
* * * *
My parents had wanted me to be a doctor, a curse of that weird brain of mine again. Then in high school, someone had told them that vet school was more challenging because of all the species of animals one had to learn and there was less malpractice insurance. I don’t know whether that’s true or not. Either way, I could never resist a challenge. Luckily, I’ve never regretted it either. Animals made much better patients and were far less trouble than a lot of their owners.
Monday was my day for surgery. A marathon of fixing animals meant hours on my feet and a stiff neck at the end of the day. Changing into my street clothes, I was looking forward to the evening.
My information on Lucas was sketchy at best. Knowing him, he hadn’t gone far and was probably at the same firm building his portfolio. He could be sort of alpha at times and I hoped he wouldn’t freak out Jen.
I emerged from the office the vets shared. “Anything happening?” I asked the desk clerk as I pulled my hair back in a ponytail.
“No, the puppy obedience class is about to start. You’re all done.” She smiled.
“Great. I’ll get out of here while I can.” I grabbed my bucket purse and jacket and walked to the door.
Picking up my kitten-and-puppy design umbrella to protect me from the drizzly November weather, I saw Seth coming in the opposite direction. Despite my intent to stay calm, my palms tingled with the urge to touch him. I took a deep breath to calm my heart, which seemed to be beating in my throat. The two men were very different. I’d definitely improved my taste over the years. Seth had a calm confidence and not the bold arrogance Lucas had flashed. As I got to the door, Seth opened it and stood back, getting wetter while I slipped by him. I tried to keep my smile to simple gratitude for a polite act that didn’t happen much anymore.
I gazed down at him. I quickly pretended to be smiling at the dog, who was the patient.
I couldn’t help blushing. Seth was shy, smart and totally clueless that I was attracted to him. He didn’t seem to notice me, either, and gave the same polite behavior to all the staff I worked with.
“Dr. Castini.” He nodded and his dog tugged at the leash, happy to see me.
“Mr. Lauden.” I did my best to remain casual. I paused briefly and bent to pet the black lab puppy named Monster by Seth’s nephews. I didn’t want to keep him standing in the rain, so I straightened and nodded while I continued walking rather than start a conversation. He was there for the class. Monster had been on my exam table for all of his puppy shots.
It was lucky timing that he always showed up when I was working. I had no idea what his schedule was, though. I knew he was a pharmacist, lived in the city, and wasn’t big on small talk. He’d gotten Monster because one of his nephews had turned out to be extremely allergic. I couldn’t help but think it was sweet of him to take the dog so it could stay in the family.
I walked the few blocks to the L station and boarded the train. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my mind off the pharmacist. My secret crushes normally faded fast, but this one seemed to be dragging. Why was I always attracted to the shy, smart guys? Just like Seth. I’d never gotten anywhere with them. Those guys never made a move, at least not at me. Jen would say it was karma for how I’d treated them when I had been younger.
All through school, I’d rejected being a nerd, so not skipping those two grades had been fine with me. I hung out with the popular kids, cut class, went to parties, and had way more fun in high school than my mother ever needed to know. My grades had stayed perfect and I’d never gotten arrested, so my parents could remain blissfully ignorant of the rest.
Much as I’d tried to remind myself that this was not high school, I knew Seth would never ask me out. I had no idea why I bothered flirting with him other than the fact that he was cute with a great body and naturally polite manners. There had to be something wrong with him. When the train pulled into my stop, I put my fantasy on hold. There was one thing I had to do before heading home to trade information with the others on our search for the men from our pasts.
I entered my mom’s bakery to pre-empt any nagging about never seeing my family and to get supplies. I loved it there. It looked like every Italian bakery should. Murals on the walls depicted old Italy. Thanks to my artist cousin, Anthony, the floor-to-ceiling hand-painted pictures of vineyards, fields and cottages were updated regularly.
It always made me feel at home to come to the bakery. I might not have any talents in the kitchen, yet I liked to contribute, so Jen doesn’t always have to feed us and she got a taste of home baking.
My mother and her sisters had been brilliant bakers all of their lives and when we children had gotten older, they’d opened the Three Aunts Bakery on Taylor Street. All of the daughters, including me, had worked the register during their high school and college years. Now it was my youngest cousin Penny’s turn.
“Hey, Penny.” I waved at my cousin and went to the kitchen. “Hi, Mom, Aunt Marie, Aunt Louisa.” I dutifully gave them each a peck on the cheek and hopped up onto a vacant countertop. The old Chicago building was deep rather than wide and the oven dominated one of the walls. The island in the middle was full of delicious creations in progress. The heat was oppressively familiar. I felt at home.
“Marina, where have you been?” my mother demanded, adding spices to her dough while my aunts chimed in with similarly loving scolds.
“Work. I need a dozen Parmesan rolls, please.” I picked at a new creation and got the requisite slap on the hand by one aunt while the other slipped a sample into my package of food. Whatever I requested would be tripled and just about anything could find its way in there.
“Fresh from the oven,” Aunt Louisa said proudly.
“Thanks,” I replied.
“How was Lori’s birthday?” Mom never stopped working her dough.
“Bad. She’s not happy about being thirty. I have a plan.” I smiled.
“What plan? She’s just going to have to get over it. I’m sixty and I don’t care who knows.” Mom wagged a finger at me.
“You don’t care because you’re the youngest,” Aunt Marie cut in.
“What’s the plan?” Mom ignored her sister.
“You remember when she was dating Nick?” My mother heard most things eventually. Trying to keep her out of my personal life was a fight and I picked my battles. She always got the censored version, though. When Lori and I had been in college, Mom had practically adopted Lori. Actually, it was more Lori who’d decided my mother was what a mom should be.
“Nick? Sure. He was a nice boy. Hardworking mechanic. I took my car there after you told me about him. Lori was foolish to let him go. Nice-looking, too, and very polite.” Mom added a layer of butter to the rolls as she boxed them up.
“Don’t tell Lori’s family that,” I warned. That was very high praise from my mom and my aunts knew it.
“What? A mechanic isn’t good enough for them?” Aunt Louisa asked.
“Aunt Louisa, royalty wouldn’t be good enough for them. All lawyers, judges and politicians.” I rolled my eyes. “They’re snobs and he was good for Lori. So the plan is we’re going to look up old boyfriends and put the past behind us for fun. It’ll get Lori’s mind off her birthday.”
“Who are you looking up?” Aunt Marie asked.
“Remember Lucas?” I grimaced as they all groaned.
“That dull boy who played with stocks?” Mom held nothing back. “You don’t want him. You need to find a new man.” She thought Lucas had been a waste of time.
“No, I’m sure he’s probably bald or married by now, so I’ll be off the hook. I just had to pick one of my exes for her to find, to get Lori to do it,” I explained.
“You’re a good friend. We’ll light a candle tonight that you find a nice boy,” Aunt Marie promised and crossed herself on my behalf. Aunt Louisa nodded.
“Thanks, but I’ll survive turning thirty and being single. Cross yourself for Lori.” I had no fear of ending up thirty and alone. Then again, I’d never been in love. At least not the kind that took more than a few days and a new cute guy to get over. Alone was safe and easy.
“What about the tiny redhead with the freckles? Is she playing, too?” Mom asked.
“Jen?” I supplied. “Sure, she wants to find some chef she only saw a couple of times. Maybe he’ll be right for her. They didn’t spend enough time together to let it develop. Whether it works or not, it’s better than being depressed about our ages.”
“Good! Action is always better than doing nothing. Maybe you’ll find a nice man in all of this.” Mom’s advice was always supportive. I was lucky that she rarely criticized seriously.
“Action toward finding a good man is even better.” Aunt Louisa winked.
“As long as my plan is mom and aunt approved, I can’t lose.” I added a loaf of her special bread to my stash. “I’ve got to go. We’re getting started tonight, so hopefully it’ll get our minds off anything negative.”
“Let me know how it goes. I’m not going to tell your father about this plan of yours. I don’t think he’d like it. He still thinks of you as the baby.” Mom patted my cheek.
“Dads aren’t supposed to approve of their daughter’s love lives.” I shrugged and left the kitchen. “Bye, everyone. Bye, Penny.”
“Find me a man while you’re at it, Marina!” Penny called as I left with a wave. Some days I think I should have gone into matchmaking. Of course, Lori was my first intentional attempt. I’d done some by accident in college and with clients at the animal hospital. Always setting up others and never finding a good one for myself. My luck had better change one of these days.
This would still be entertaining. My finding Lori’s Nick would be the perfect distraction to keep her from being depressed. Hopefully this time Lori would be strong enough to keep her mechanic. We all had baggage to clean up in order to face age thirty and this might do the trick. I might have real hope for Lori and Nick if I weren’t so worried she’d screw it up again.
* * * *
I arrived home to find Jen pacing in a panic with her apartment door wide open, not a good idea in the city, even with our building’s reliable security. Her Wisconsin roots were showing.
“What’s the matter?” I asked, setting the packages of food carefully on her island.
“The interview is tomorrow morning. I completely forgot with all of this Lori’s birthday and men stuff.” Jen didn’t stop pacing and started biting her unpainted short nails. I glanced at my cherry-red polish and wondered how I could talk Jen into fixing up her makeup. That was a project for another day. She was stressed enough already.
“You’ll be great.” I popped a few rolls in the microwave to get them all gooey, hoping Jen could be tempted by my mom’s latest creation.
“What if I’m not? What if I don’t get it?”
“Jen, you’re a great chef. You’ll get the job.”
“Where is this crystal ball of yours?” Jen was a worrier and never knew when to quit.
“Fine, so you don’t get the job. Did you quit your old job? Are you stupid enough to walk away from a paying job because you have an interview?”
“No, of course not. But I hate that job!”
“It’s better than eviction.” I extended both hands and mocked a scale in distinct favor of the disliked job. “You’ll live with your current job until the right one comes along. If it’s not this one, then there’ll be another.”
“I just want tomorrow to be over with.” Jen sank into the sofa as I deposited the rolls and a cup of coffee on the table in front of her. The idea of slipping a few tranquilizers into her drink crossed my mind. She’d survive.
“Tomorrow won’t be the end. What are the odds they’ll offer you the job tomorrow? I’m sure they have to make a decision and maybe have other candidates to evaluate. Then you have to wait.”
“At least the interview will be over. You know I’m not very good with words.” Jen bit into a roll and groaned. “Won’t your mother give me any of her recipes?”
“So you can sell them at triple the price at some fancy restaurant? She’d die first.”
“I can’t believe you never learned how to cook or bake.” Jen finished the roll fast and drained the cup.
“What for? Two of my cousins work at the bakery part-time in the kitchen while they’re going to college. They’ll probably take it over from the aunts. Of course, my cousins will have to force them into retirement, yanking the rolling pins from them. And most of my sisters can cook. I’ll never go hungry.”
“What if Lucas comes back into your life? Don’t you want to impress him with your culinary talents?” Jen teased.
“Not really,” I admitted. “It’ll be funny to see where he is. Bald, arrested for insider trading, or married with triplets. We didn’t click. It’s strictly entertainment value, Jen. Don’t waste too much energy on this guy. He’s boring.”
“Maybe Lori shouldn’t bother looking for my Brian.” Jen walked to the kitchen to put the dishes away. “We were only together that one time.”
“You liked him,” I reminded her. “You lit up like New Year’s Eve when you talked about him.”
“He was nice, but there’s no guarantee.” Jen chewed her lower lip nervously.
“There are no guarantees in life, about your job or boyfriend. That’s the whole point of this. We get out and do something different. If we hang around here all winter, we’ll pack on ten extra pounds, which I don’t need, and be depressed. Besides, Lori needs to get Nick or get him out of her system.” I propped my feet up on the coffee table with my own roll and savored the smell.
“That’s what this is all about, isn’t it?” Jen asked.
“What all what is about?” I pretended not to follow her and took a bite.
“This whole ‘best in bed’ thing. You’re doing this for Lori’s sake.”
“Well, she was the one depressed about her birthday.” I waited to see if Jen would push the issue.
“Our guys are pretty random. Okay, they were good in bed. Unlike Lori, we don’t really have some huge emotional connection with them.”
I grinned slyly. “You won’t tell her, will you?” All I needed was for Jen to spill it. Lori was too wrapped up in the thought of Nick and turning thirty, so she’d gloss over the plot, even knowing me as well as she does.
“No, this is fun! Lori came up with his name really fast. I just hope it turns out for the best.”
“Either way, she’ll have some closure and can move on, with or without him. She ended things with Nick so abruptly when she took the job and put this brick wall up. She wouldn’t even discuss the break-up with me. I don’t think Lori and Nick ever really sorted it all out.”
“And you never met him?” Jen returned to the sofa and stretched out.
“No, she was studying for the bar and I was finishing up vet school. I’d hear about him all the time, but she never brought him around. I think she thought she was supposed to be ashamed of him. Why, I don’t know. I’m from the Southside, working class. Did she think I’d kick him out?”
“Her parents,” Jen whispered, like they were in the room.
“Her parents have let me in their home.” I shrugged. “Anyway, I’ve never met him. I heard plenty of stories, though.”
“Like?” Jen insisted.
“You’d better not, Marina,” Lori said from the doorway. “This is what happens when I leave you two alone.”
“You’re the late one. Jen and I got started without you. We’ve already covered Brian and Lucas. Right, Jen?” I defended.
“Right,” Jen agreed.
“Fine, fine. I got stuck on a conference call. What smells so good?” Lori headed for the kitchen, removing her jacket on the way. She walked with confident steps, her pumps clicking on the Mexican ceramic tile.
“Mom sent rolls.” I winked at Jen. “Why don’t you share a Nick story and have one?” “Don’t make me lose my appetite,” Lori scolded me as she dove into the food.
“Come on, Lori, how can Marina find him if she doesn’t know stuff?” Jen nodded.
“That isn’t the kind of story I wanted to hear.” I grinned.
“If all you want is a juicy story, fine.” Lori settled down with coffee and pastry on the sofa next to us.
“So?” Jen pressed as she grabbed a throw pillow.
“My car was in and out of the shop for about a month and his garage happened to be on the way to my study group for the bar,” Lori began.
“How soon after you met him did you two start dating?” Jen asked.
“The dating sort of happened later. Other stuff happened right away,” Lori replied.
“I like a woman who knows her priorities,” I teased.
“You shut up! You already know this story.” Lori turned back to Jen and smiled. “Anyway, we’d been having fun for a couple of weeks and he picked me up from my study group to bring me back to the garage because my car was ready.”
“I like a man who picks up and delivers.” I laughed and was struck by a blue shag throw pillow, compliments of Lori, which I returned with equal force.
“We started fooling around, you know, just kissing. All the guys from the garage were gone then so it was just us. Things got a little out of control.” Lori blushed.
“Go on,” Jen urged.
“Well, there was this black Aston Martin there—and I just love that car!”
“A what car?” Jen asked.
“One of James Bond’s cars,” Lori supplied.
“Oh.” Jen nodded.
“So, I started looking at it and touching it and Nick kept touching me, and before I knew it, I was naked! He’d taken my clothes off and I hadn’t even noticed.”
“Good with his hands,” I chimed in.
“Very!” Lori agreed.
“So you guys did it in the car?” Jen asked.
“Close,” I whispered.
“More like on it.” Lori shrugged.
Jen shook her head. “On the hood of the car?”
“Wrong end,” I supplied.
“Wasn’t that hard on your back, lying on the trunk of a car?” Jen asked.
“I wasn’t on my back.” Lori’s pale skin turned deep red now.
“Doggie style on the trunk of some stranger’s expensive car? The two of you there naked for anyone to walk in on!” Jen’s jaw dropped.
“He wasn’t technically naked,” Lori corrected. “He left his mechanic’s cover thing on, only had time to unzip it.”
“Wasn’t it all dirty and rough?” Jen asked.
“Yes, just the way I like it,” Lori said. “I need chocolate.”
Jen bounded up and found the next best thing to sex to soothe the beast we’d created in Lori—gourmet chocolates.
“That settles it, I’m getting you a vibrator for Christmas,” I said.
The laughter broke the sexual tension our fantasies had created.
“It’s not the same,” Lori argued.
“True. It’s better than nothing. Before we have another of Lori’s tales from the garage, maybe we should trade information on these guys?” I suggested.