Mercy was in her bombshell mode. Never a good sign, as Jules well knew. She had her long, usually straight, red hair in waves, the bangs covering one eye, and a snazzy beret—one of many she’d collected over the years, as he’d learned to his regret on various shopping trips—topping it all. She wore clothes more suited to Lana Turner or Jayne Mansfield or, even more frightening, Mamie Van Doren, than to a twenty-first century Web site designer.
Jules was pretty certain that Mercy’s take on the bombshell was more sexy and evil seductress than beautiful woman next door—Mamie Van Doren to a T.
Normally, this wouldn’t matter to him except as an observation and a note to self to be careful of what he said to her. In bombshell mode, Mercy was very much aware of her status—whatever, at any particular time, she deemed that to be and usually related to something he was doing wrong, in her opinion, at Part Time Lovers—and she took offence way too easily.
This time, though, there was something he hadn’t quite figured out. He suspected it was personal, but he wasn’t going to ask while she was in bombshell mode. If she wanted him to know, he’d know. Otherwise, he’d keep his head down.
Besides, Jules was still spinning from his night in Room 1217 with Jeanne. He wasn’t one of those people who had a free pass list—didn’t have that one person who if they showed up, no matter what relationship he was in at the time, he could claim a free pass for the weekend with that person.
He liked to believe that if he ever found the right person, he’d be more than happy to cleave to her—or him—for the rest of his life. He thought it unlikely, if not impossible, but he knew he wouldn’t be tempted by anyone else if he did find The One.
But right now? He liked way too many people for that list to be anything but unmanageable, though if he had a list, Jeanne Moreau would be right at the top of it. Having, finally, looked at his Jeanne’s entry on Part Time Lovers, he knew he couldn’t contact her. She’d made that perfectly clear.
And under the circumstances he couldn’t ask Mercy, who seemed to have established a rapport with Jeanne that precluded any help from that quarter.
So he went back to waiting for Shea. He wanted Jeanne. He couldn’t have her and, in some ways, he knew that the perfect night they’d spent together was something that couldn’t—and shouldn’t—be repeated.
Besides, despite that incredible encounter, he still wanted Shea. Badly. Badly enough to be resigned to never seeing—or at least having sex with—Jeanne again.
Waiting for Shea didn’t mean he wouldn’t have sex. But Jules knew himself well enough to know that an obsession of the strength of his for Shea would preclude—except, he smiled to himself, for the amazing once-in-a-lifetime encounter he’d had with Jeanne—anything but sex for the sake of an orgasm.
Mercy couldn’t help but laugh at the sight of Jules furtively reading and re-reading Jeanne’s entry on the Web site. She’d been one hundred percent right about what would happen between the two of them, but she was also right about it never happening again. Jeanne had called her the day after to make sure Mercy was clear about that.
Jeanne had gotten exactly what she wanted from her night with Jules—complete and total reassurance she was still a beautiful woman, a sexual being attractive to the opposite sex.
“Now,” she’d said to Mercy, “I have decided what I am to do. I will let the future take care of itself. If I meet a man, if there is to be a grand passion, that is of all things the most perfect. If this does not happen, I will rely on the women who run the lovely toy store down the street.” She laughed her sexy, throaty laugh and made a date with Mercy for lunch the following Friday.
Mercy had hoped that the experience—so great for both of them—would somehow bump Jules out of his melancholy. It had worked for one night, but he didn’t seem to be quite back to his usual cheerful, charming, funny self.
Too bad. Because having both of them in a mood was going to make even the huge space inhabited by Part Time Lovers way too small.
Part of the problem was that she couldn’t figure out why she was feeling the way she was, though she suspected it had something to do with the glow floating around Jules.
She’d noticed something special about people who spent the night in Room 1217, something more than just that well-fucked look. They looked like her mother’s retriever did after he’d gotten it on with the chocolate brown poodle down the street. It was distinctive, that sexually satisfied glow that came from spending time with not just any person, but with the right person for that moment.
Jules had it. She didn’t.
Her tough girl persona only came out of the closet when she felt unsatisfied—and she was definitely unsatisfied. Sex had been in short supply for Mercy over the past couple of months. A few wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am encounters. A quick lunchtime fuck with an old friend. None of them anything to write home about.
Mercy had considered quickly and then discarded calling in her traditional backup for this state of mind. But there was something about Jules’ attitude over the past few months that had stopped her.
Besides, she wanted what Jules had had with Jeanne. She wanted more than just going through the motions. She wanted more than the orgasm. She wanted the tenderness. The passion. The kind of sex that translated into lovemaking.
Being best friends with Jules had its good side and its complicated side. They had a great physical relationship when they had one at all. But because she wanted more, she’d taken Jules out of the equation. She didn’t want to upset the applecart, as her mother would say—though she’d be smacking Mercy upside the head if she was still alive and knew why she was saying it this time—didn’t want to spoil what she and Jules had together by using him knowing that it wasn’t going to be enough.
How did she know that it wouldn’t be enough?
She just knew it. She wanted something special.
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