Jodi Perkins and two of her closest friends make a pact on New Year’s Eve. They vow meet at a different bar on every major holiday, and each hook up with a guy to spend the evening with. But Jodi’s personal goal involves an angle her friends wouldn’t understand, and a hired professional to help her check the items off a special kind of list…
“This year, I think we should all make one goal – to spend the holidays with a guy. Or just the evening, anyway.”
Jodi frowned at Laura’s suggestion, noting Melanie’s confused look and wondering if she’d heard correctly over the heavy bass beats that permeated the nightclub. Then again, Laura was the romantic of the bunch. It certainly seemed like something she’d come up with.
“The holidays are over. And next December is still a long ways off.” Jodi stopped as Laura shook her head and jiggled her hands, creating an odd visual under the disco-strobe-light thing that was spinning over the dance floor.
“I don’t mean just Christmas,” Laura explained. “I mean all the holidays. Or the major ones, anyways. We’re all looking for men, right? So I propose that we all meet up at a different place for each holiday during the year and pick up a guy – any guy, to spend the evening with.”
“Sounds dangerous,” Melanie commented, though her thoughtful expression looked somewhat more excited than afraid. Melanie had always been a bit odd, even in high school. And the men she dated tended to disappear, which was a little disconcerting.
Jodi thought about the list of goals she’d made earlier for the new year. This holiday plan might be a good way to accomplish that, though Laura would be mortified if she knew what was on Jodi’s list.
“We could make it safe,” Melanie said, holding up her cell phone. “Regular check-ins at specified times through the night would make sure we know if someone needs help. Don’t call or answer, we call the cops right away. And pictures of each guy before we take off with him. Or his driver’s license.”
“I wasn’t planning on one-night stands. Just drinks, dinner maybe. See what happens after that.” Laura wiggled her eyebrows. “I just thought it would be a good way to make our holidays less bitchy, more potential action.”
Melanie nodded. “We do have a way of making holidays bitter, don’t we? And I’m all for more men.” She took a long sip off her frozen drink. “I’m in. Jodi?”
Jodi took a breath. The list was daunting, but this would give her deadlines and a safety net, without having to reveal her plan. It was time to step out of her shell and start exploring. Otherwise she might never actually go through with it.
She nodded. “I’m in. So when do we start?”
Laura gave a little golf clap. “Yay! I was thinking our first major holiday would be Valentine’s Day, of course. Doesn’t that make sense?”
Jodi rolled her eyes. “Because there’s nothing more romantic than meeting up with a complete stranger on a holiday where everyone fancies themselves in love, right?”
Melanie punched her in the arm, hard enough that three of the four thick silver rings on her fingers might leave a mark. “Knock it off. You agreed, now don’t spoil her fun.” She flipped her long black hair behind her shoulder and turned back to Laura. “So where should we meet, and when?”
Laura didn’t even have to think about it. “I was thinking Charlie’s at six. That will give us plenty of time to check out our options as they come in.”
“Fine with me,” Melanie said, her eyes flitting over a group of college kids in the corner. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go make some young stud’s night. See you ladies on V Day.” She slid off the stool and moved onto the dance floor, her hips rolling in that seductive way that Jodi had never quite mastered. Damn it.
Jodi drained the last of her drink. “Charlie’s it is, then. I’ll be there.” She pulled a bill out of her wallet and laid it on the table. “I think I’m going to head home. It was a long day at work, and I’m beat. Do you need a ride?”
Laura shook her head, her eyes glued to her cell phone as her demurely manicured nails danced across the screen. “I’m fine, thanks.” Glancing up, she smiled. “Thanks Jodi. I really feel like good things are going to happen for us this year. Don’t you?”
Jodi stood, shrugging. “I honestly don’t know, but whatever happens will be something different, and I think we all need to shake things up, right?”
“Right.” Laura nodded. “I’ll see you next month then. Can’t wait!” Then her gaze dropped back to her phone and Jodi knew she wasn’t listening any longer.
Leaving the bar, Jodi shoved her hands in her pockets and breathed in the crisp winter air. She walked along First street, then across and over to Hannon, and then two blocks down to Mulberry. Her steps slowed as she approached the garish red neon sign that seemed to draw her closer each time she passed by. Finally she stood in front of it, staring at the glowing window draped in what appeared to be either black or crimson velvet.
“The first time’s the hardest,” a man said from somewhere behind her. “You’ll either love it or you’ll hate it, but at least you’ll know for sure.”
“I figured as much,” she said, not turning around though she knew she should. Somehow the encounter fit both her mood and her plan, if she could pull together enough courage to walk through the door. If she wanted an appointment for Valentine’s Day though, she needed to make it soon.
“Scared?” the voice asked, gently mocking. Jodi shrugged.
“Apprehensive. This could be life-changing.”
“It could. Or it could be a few fun sessions and you learn a bit about yourself in the process. It’s not like they’re going to force you to do anything.”
She laughed. “Isn’t that kind of the whole point though?”
“Touché.” The man had moved closer, she could feel him in her personal space. But she still didn’t move. “Ask for Ty,” he breathed in her ear. “We’ll have some fun, take it slow, see what happens.” A rather strong, large hand snaked around her, holding a card between two fingers. As soon as she took it, he was gone.
Turning the card over, she saw the Naughty Encounters logo in the corner, and his name in the center with his title and phone number. Tyler Winston, Dominant. The words gave her a thrill just reading them. Not that he’d be available Valentine’s Day, of course, but the very thought of training with him was enough to pull her through the door and to the front desk.
Half an hour later, she walked home, clutching the card with her Valentine’s Day date locked in.
It was going to be an interesting year.