Excerpt from “The Lion’s Den” in Tastes of Pleasure: Taking It to the Edge:
So what does it take for me to revert to a gauche sixteen-year-old once again? Just
seeing Alex McCoy, biceps flexing, sweat rolling down his shirtless chest, jeans
caressing muscular thighs. Yup, sends me right back to high school, and right back to my
coming-home funk. Damn.
I hadn’t wanted to come home at all, even for Thanksgiving. I’d rather have ordered
my turkey from a store on Third Avenue, thank you, and invited some friends over for
wine and cheese late in the evening. But Mom had compelled me, blackmailed me really.
She’d threatened to publish pictures of me naked in the bathtub on the Internet. Of
course, I was three at the time of the photos, and Mom could be arrested for child
pornography. But the embarrassment factor alone gave me hives…because knowing
Mom, she’d slip it into conversation when the church ladies came over for tea, and she’d
feel compelled to pull out the photos and pass them out for the chatty hens to peruse.
From there, the gossip mill would take over, and I’d be done for in the eyes of the
twenty-somethings of Flamington, Virginia, the best town south of the Mason-Dixon
Line, population 10,015.
So just don’t go home, you say, then I’d never know, right? Wrong. I’d get emails
from Denise at the high school alumni association and from Bob at the gas station and
from Georgina at the alterations shop. I’d get cards, letters, and phone calls, too. There’d
be no escaping, I’m telling you.
However, now I’m thinking all of that would be better than standing here
dumbfounded, mouth open, staring at Alex McCoy’s glorious pecs. My God, he lifted
weights now, didn’t he?
Yup, that’s me. It occurred to me that I should close my mouth and wipe away the
“Uh huh.” Yeah, five years in New York had really honed my conversational skills.
Can you tell I graduated top of my class from NYU? Didn’t think so.
A slow grin spread across his face, revealing his dimples and emphasizing the laugh
lines around his eyes. He could be a pin-up boy, maybe Mr. July, centerfold baby.
Why was I here? Oh yeah, Mom had sent me for a hammer. Hammer, hardware
store. My flummoxed brain finally grasped it. That woman had set me up! My own
mother—not to be trusted ever again in this lifetime.
Why was a man topless in the hardware store, I’m sure you’re wondering. Well, we
were actually out back on the loading dock. I’d hallooed through the store, found no one,
so I’d followed the breeze through the open stockroom door until I’d found this
exceptional specimen of manhood loading plywood into the back of a pickup truck.
Instead of futilely repeating my name once again, he bent over and lobbed a board
into the truck bed. I watched his shoulder muscles flex and strain. His wavy gold hair
glistened where it lay against his neck. His hazel eyes with long sumptuous lashes no
longer gazed at me, but that pleasure had been replaced by a tantalizing view of his tight
butt. I could melt right there on the chilly concrete.
Once the wood was all loaded, he waved to the truck driver, looked like Alice
Fenway from what I could see, and turned back to me. I gripped the hammer in my hand
“Suzy, did you need something, or did you come with murder on your mind?” He
gestured to the tool in my hand.
“Um.” Come on brain, function. Now! “Um, Mom said she needed a hammer.”
“Ah.” He grabbed his flannel shirt from the prongs of a forklift and shrugged into it.
Sigh. There went my view. “Follow me then.” He strode through the stockroom and I
quickly followed. He was walking too fast for me to attack him and throw him bodily
onto a bale of insulation for a quick fuck. Bummer. I willed him to turn around and ravish
me. Take me, I’m yours, or I will be if you ask me. Ask me, dammit.
He stopped abruptly by the cash register and I nearly ran into him. The heat from that
near-collision thrummed through my body. “I didn’t know you were back in town. I
thought you’d gone off to L.A. or something.”
“New York actually, and it’s Thanksgiving, you know.”
He grabbed the hammer from my jelly fingers and scanned the bar code into the
computer, scowling the whole time. “So they keep telling me. Isn’t there a parade up
there you could have gone to?”
“Macy’s. Yeah, I went last year. Mom wanted me home this year.”
“Are you against Thanksgiving in general or do you dislike turkey?” I asked.
“All of it.”
That’s when I remembered that his parents had split up over Thanksgiving dinner in
1989. So I’d put my foot in my mouth again. Nothing new there. “I’m sorry, Alex. I
forgot about your parents.”
“That has nothing to do with it,” he barked, but I knew it had a lot to do with it. “Ten
“For a hammer?” Maybe that was a good price, but I’d had little call to buy hammers
in my life.
“For this hammer.”
I handed him the twenty Mom had pushed on me this morning. I’d offered to buy it
myself. I mean, I was super chic city woman now. I had credit cards, but Mom had said
she didn’t know if the hardware store took credit and it was her hammer after all. I think
she’d been overwhelmed with guilt for sending me into the lion’s den, but please note,
that didn’t stop her from doing it.
“So…not to make a sore spot worse, but where are you spending Thanksgiving?”
He handed me my change. “Right here.”
“Here as in the hardware store?”
“My apartment’s upstairs.”
“Oh.” Killing Mom as soon as I get home. “Is someone coming over?”
“No.” He paused and grinned. “Actually, Marie Callender.”
Available in print.