Something Wild

By: Toni Blake
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Meet me tonight. Ten o'clock. Corner of Fourth and Walnut.

And be ready for anything.

Penny



Penny Halloran released a nervous sigh as she peered down at the note she'd just penned on a plain white card bearing her business's logo. She wished she'd had something more romantic to write on, perhaps scented stationery, something with flowers or hearts. Or maybe something sexier than that—animal print came to mind, then leather, then lace—but she doubted stationery had made such leaps yet. She read the words once more and wrinkled up her nose. What she'd written them on was irrelevant. What mattered was, could she go through with this?

She wasn't usually an impulsive woman, and if her plan could wait, she'd let it. This was the sort of thing that needed weeks of preparation to make sure it came off without a hitch. Even the note seemed lackluster; she wished she'd had time to think of something more clever, playful. But it couldn't wait—Martin was going out of town tomorrow, and when he returned in a week, he expected an answer to his marriage proposal. Tonight was the night for action.

Swallowing her fears, Penny reached for a stapler and attached the card to the bag containing Martin's sandwich—ham and Swiss on rye, light mayo—the same kind he ordered every day. Then she gathered the bag lunches that had to be delivered to Schuster Software Systems upstairs. "Be back in five," she said to her sister, Patti, who stood working the bar of the Two Sisters Restaurant and Pub as the lunch hour started. Exiting the restaurant into the building's lobby, she headed for the elevator.

This is really quite simple, she lectured herself as the elevator climbed toward the eighth floor of the downtown Cincinnati office building. I'm just going to seduce him, that's all. Nothing to be nervous about. Men love this sort of thing, or so she'd heard. Martin will love it, too. And as for why her heart was beating ninety miles an hour and her stomach felt as if it had been left back on the ground floor … well, that was only because she'd never seduced a man before. And maybe it was also because Martin's expressions of affection so far had been … less than enthusiastic. Good-night kisses at the door that often felt more obligatory than passionate. And hand-holding, Martin was big on hand-holding. But nothing more.

Oddly, that hadn't bothered Penny in the three months they'd been dating. Martin was everything she wanted in a man—ambitious, dependable, sensible and smart. Tall and lean with trim brown hair that never touched his collar, he was even somewhat handsome in a simple yet classic way. On top of that, he owned his own company, so they shared an entrepreneurial spirit, too. And at twenty-eight, Penny was mature enough to know there was more to life than sex. She enjoyed his companionship; they liked the same movies and had the same tastes in restaurants, and they loved spending lazy weekend afternoons picnicking at EdenPark, then meandering through the art museum afterward.

A few days ago, however, Martin had taken her hand in his and said, "Penny, I'm in my thirties now, and I want children before I'm too old to enjoy them. I think you and I make a good team. Will you marry me?" It had been an unexpected turn of events, all things considered. And although it hadn't been the most romantic proposal in the world, Penny couldn't deny that Martin was right. They made a good team; they were well-suited. Still, it was only now, with a marriage proposal on the table, that she'd come to realize sex was important, and she just didn't think she could marry him without … taking a test drive, so to speak.

In fact, in the three long days since Martin's proposal, Penny had done a lot of long, hard and rather disturbing thinking about herself. Disturbing because, not only did sex matter to her, and not only did it suddenly matter a lot, it was also beginning to matter in ways she'd never even imagined before.

After several stops to let other passengers on and off, the elevator finally opened on a crisp, contemporary lobby. Grace Davis, the receptionist, sat behind her round desk with a phone receiver tucked beneath her chin. "Mmm-hmm … mmm-hmm…" she mumbled. She shoved back a lock of wispy red hair that had fallen from the bun at her nape, and rolled her eyes at Penny from behind her small, gold-framed glasses as if to say the person on the phone wouldn't shut up.

"I'll just go on back," Penny whispered, pointing. Then she padded toward the hallway that led to the private offices, her heart rising to her throat. She was about to do this, about to deliver this crazy, demanding note to sensible, undemanding Martin, who would likely think she was off her rocker the moment he saw it.

Don't think like that, she commanded herself. You've got to do this. And maybe he'll even like it. Maybe it will even unleash the animal hidden inside him. If there was an animal hidden inside him. Oh please, Penny thought desperately, let there be an animal. Even if it's just a little one.

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