Chapter 1 - Intern

The small break room was crowded; unusually so for mid-July. With outdoor seating and a small lake on the property, even light rain wasn't usually enough to keep everyone inside. But this morning had been stormy, and the outdoor tables and benches were soaked through, driving the usual lunchtime gathering indoors.

Pushing my glasses back for clarity, I glanced around the room. I didn't see anyone from my dev team, or I would have invited myself to sit with them. Instead, I located a table with a single occupant, and headed in that direction.

The girl at the table looked at her phone in the casual manner of someone with nothing better to do, flicking it while occasionally taking a spoonful of soup. She wore a ruby butterfly-sleeved blouse, with tight dark blue jeans. Her features were Asian, with black hair that vanished behind her shoulders. Her nose was delicate, and her chin rounded. When I approached the table, she lifted her head to regard me with dark chocolate eyes. She seemed slightly familiar. Perhaps she worked in a team close to mine.

"May I sit here?" I asked, quite prepared to leave her alone.

"Be my guest," she said, immediately dropping her phone into a small purse. "It's Kayla, isn't it?"

"Oh, we have met?" I asked, setting my purse and lunch bag down. "You do look familiar."

"I interned last year," the girl said. "I think you had just started working here. We didn't interact much. I'm Anita Cho."

She offered her hand. "Kayla Piers," I said, as I took it. Her hand was warm in mine, skin soft, the touch brief and professional. "I remember now. I was a little preoccupied last year."

"Starting a new job is a big deal," the girl offered.

"That wasn't all that was going on," I said. "Excuse me," I added, picking up my lunch bag and threading my way through the tables to the microwave.

The machine wasn't in use, hence my haste to reach it before it was commandeered. I set my dish inside, and dialed a two minute cook time before picking up a can of Coke from the vending machine and returning to the table. Anita had resumed eating her thin soup.

"What else was happening?" Anita asked, looking up as I popped the tab on the can.

"Everything," I said, before taking a sip. Then I chuckled. "Graduation. Independence. My first place that wasn't shared with fellow penniless students. Breaking up with my boyfriend. And yeah, trying to learn how to write professional software rather than experimental programs of dubious value."

"I'm familiar with some of those problems," Anita responded.

The microwave pinged behind me. "Excuse me again," I said. When I returned, I lowered my voice conspiratorially. "And let me tell you, learning how to program is the easy part. Convincing team brogrammers that a woman can code is a constant battle. Do you find that?"

"A little," Anita said. "But they don't give interns crucial tasks. That's less true for me this year than it was last, but I don't get to participate in scrums or reviews. Besides, I probably have it better than you, there. Most Americans seem convinced that Chinese genes teach coding in the womb. It's insulting too, but in a different way. And it makes it hard to find the help I need, since no one takes me seriously when I say I'm out of my depth."

"I hope I don't think that way," I said. "If you have coding questions, let me help. I'm still learning, so If I don't have an answer, we can figure it out together."

"I'll do that," Anita said, with a smile that surely would have turned the heads of her male colleagues.

"You're still interning, then?" I asked. "Interning again, I should say?"

"Yeah," Anita confirmed. "It doesn't pay as well as a fulltime employee, but it gets me out of the 'penniless student' realm, if I'm careful. And an opportunity to learn that doesn't have a negative cash flow has to be worthwhile, right? This seems like a pretty good place to work. I don't know what I'll be doing next year, but I hear that interns have to screw up pretty badly not to be offered a job."

"Then maybe we'll work more closely next year," I said.

"I think I'd like that," said Anita. Her eyes met mine, and for a moment I felt a charge deep in my belly. The shock made me look away. I tried to hide the spike in my breathing by taking measured breaths before turning to finish my reheated pasta.


The following day was intermittently cloudy, but dry, so the break room was half empty. I was sitting at a table with a few members of the dev team when I saw Anita enter. I waved her across, and after she'd microwaved her soup, I introduced her to them. My teammates had already finished their lunches, but they hung back to talk.

When they'd left, Anita asked if I had to hurry back.

"I have a few minutes," I said.

"Would you like to take a walk around the lake?" she asked. "I usually do, if the weather's good."

"Sure," I agreed. We rinsed out our bowls and left our lunch bags on the counter. I carried my half-finished coke through the door to the outdoor paths and picnic tables, several of which were in use. Anita waved to someone she knew, but kept moving down toward the lake.

Though the sky was cloudy and the air humid, it was warmer outside than in the air-conditioned office. There was a scent of freshly-mown grass on the breeze. Anita slipped off her pale blue cardigan, looping it over her arm. Beneath it was a white, high-necked sleeveless tee, that fitted snugly over small breasts and a narrow waist. It was tucked into dark blue jeans. When she walked beside me, the top of her head was at my eye level.

Her hair was very fine, pure black, and hung down to her trim backside. Not that I'd noticed how trim her backside was, of course, or how tightly her jeans hugged her ass and thighs, or how they moved as she walked, because I totally wasn't checking her out.

When the breeze freshened, her fine hair flew in circles around her head, often dancing over her face. When that happened, the girl brushed it back behind her ear. It was an automatic gesture that I found endearing.

Taking a sip of my coke, I closed the distance between us, walking beside her to the lake's edge.

The water was only clear for a few inches of depth, but that was enough to watch a circling school of goldfish, or possibly koi. I bent down to pick up a small twig and tossed it out on the water. The shape of the school changed as curious fish examined the object.

"You said you were going through a breakup last year," said Anita. "Are you recovered now?"

"Oh, yeah, completely," I said. "I met Jason as a freshman, so we were together for almost four years. I guess I'd always known it was a college romance, but he didn't. He moved to the far end of the state, while I stayed here. We should probably have ended it at least a year earlier."

"It doesn't sound like the incandescent passion of the age," Anita commented.

"He might have thought it was," I admitted. "And I'm sorry I treated him so casually, but we weren't on the same page. He seems to have recovered, though. He's doing well. Dating again."

"Are you?" Anita asked.

I shook my head. "Once or twice. Not currently." I turned back to the path and we resumed our stroll. "What about you?"

Anita shrugged. "Had a pretty hard breakup in sophomore year," she said. "I'm just keeping things casual. Besides, at the risk of sounding smug, college is the worst time to be exclusive." She gave me an ironic grin.

"Don't I know it,." I sighed. "I'd seriously consider returning for a postgrad to get back into college life. But I had too many years of being broke to face that again."

"I hear you," Anita agreed.


The spark of excitement I'd felt in Anita's presence on the first day recurred from time to time. Usually it would happen if we were sitting together in the break room, when I'd look up and catch her intense dark gaze on me.

It wasn't entirely a surprise. I'd found myself attracted to girls as well as guys at college, but being in a relationship had limited my options. Which was another reason I should have ended things with Jason earlier than I did. Not that I'd know how to approach a girl - and perhaps being with Jason had helped me to avoid uncomfortable situations.

But Anita... triggered something within me. It was hard to say exactly what. There was something in her calm demeanor but devastating smile that spoke to me of passion. And I had an inkling that maybe some of that passion came from her reaction to me. It was probably dumb. She was probably straight. But sometimes when she looked into my eyes, hers seemed to darken slightly, as though something in mine had generated a spark within her.

Over the next few weeks I looked forward each day to meeting Anita at lunch time, and walking with her around the pond. I was disappointed on days when we missed each other.

I considered myself an average kind of girl - dark brown hair, five six, one thirty-two pounds, thirty-four D bra. My eyes were a cornflower blue. They were my best feature, and emphasized them with round silver glasses, usually with silver and glass earrings.

But for the first time since starting work, I found myself paying a little more attention to my appearance. I still wore my hair in a tight bun for work, but spent longer teasing it out to soften it and let a few strands dangle. I began wearing a silver pendant, opening another button of my blouse, and usually used lip gloss. I don't know that anyone, Anita or my co-workers, noticed the changes, but I felt good about them when I checked the mirror.


It was Monday, and I was tightly focused on the program I was working on when I heard a soft rapping on the cubicle edge. I twisted around to find Anita looking down at me.

"Hey, is this an okay time?" she asked. "I have a question."

"Sure," I said. "Grab a chair."

Anita wheeled over a chair from a nearby unoccupied cube and moved in beside me. "There's a function that isn't doing what it should, and I've been staring at it for over half an hour. Would you take a look and tell me what I'm missing?"

"Sure," I said.

There was a light floral scent as she leaned over me, using my keyboard and mouse to locate the errant file and bring it into the editor. I recognized the perfume, having caught hints of it in the break room or on one of our walks around the lake. It was stronger as she leaned forward, her right arm brushing mine as she dragged the mouse around the desktop. There was another fragrance, too, even fainter, but present beneath the perfume. Anita's unique girl scent. I found myself squeezing my thighs together and gripping the edge of my desk to avoid betraying my reaction to her closeness.

Skimming my eyes over the text, I asked Anita to describe the problem. As she did, I felt a sense of deja vu. Comp Sci teaches you to be a competent programmer, but a functional one, rather than an elegant one. That's good; the focus is on understanding the logic behind programming. Style is something you acquire with experience. This was a program I could have written a year ago.

Anita was so close to me, and apparently so engrossed in watching how I handled the problem, that I had to lean forward to put some distance between us. I took my glasses off to be able to see the screen at close range, tapping my lower lip with one of the arms. I didn't attempt to run the debugger - sometimes coding problems are obvious to a fresh pair of eyes, and maybe I wanted to impress the girl that I was crushing on with my mad coding skills.

It didn't take long to see what was happening. "There!" I stabbed at the screen with the arm of my glasses before putting them on and leaning back in my chair, right into Anita's space and her perfume.

Since Anita still seemed perplexed, I copied a similar line from lower in the file, pasted it under the problem line, then leaned back to let her see the screen. Anita bent her body forward again, so close to mine, that faint fragrance intoxicating as she frowned for several moments. Long dormant emotions - and long unused body parts - began to come alive, and I found myself clamping my hands tightly on the chair.

She saw the issue. "Oh, God," she said. "I can't believe I did that. I can't believe I didn't see that."

She leaned back, and I released my death grip on the chair. "Easy to do," I said. "Would you mind if I showed you a few other things I can see? Not problems, just... conceptual differences I've learned over the past year, mostly from my teammates. Code reviews and seeing how the guys think have been educational. It wouldn't have fixed the bug, but might have made it easier to see it."

Anita said, "I'm here to learn, Piers-" followed by a word that must have been Chinese, which I didn't recognize. She grinned when I frowned at her. "Sensei?" she suggested. "Same word." This time I smiled at the term.

For the next hour, I took apart her code and put it back together in a clearer form. She argued with me at several points, but not defensively, just not seeing the equivalence until I explained it, becoming enthusiastic whenever enlightenment dawned.

"But if I'd combined those two into a single statement, it would fail twice as often," Anita said.

"Every time," I agreed. "But that's good, because you'd have found the problem faster. A reliable failure is much easier to locate than an intermittent one."

It made me feel good to bring the glow of enlightenment to Anita, even over such a mundane exercise. I pointed out again that most of my insights came from what I'd learned from the team, though some were my own after I'd absorbed their input.

"Maybe so," Anita said, "but you make it easy to understand. Do you mind if I send you my program for review after I've made changes?"

"Of course," I said, feeling my heart skip as she smiled in response.

"Listen," I said, as she stood to leave. "Are you doing anything after work on Friday? The guys are going to O'Neill's for Happy Hour. I don't think you're on the mailing list, but I know they'd like to see you there."

Anita raised an eyebrow. "I'd like that. Friday would be great. If you're going, that is."

"Only if you are," I replied, with a chuckle. "I hate being the only woman there. No pressure, though, I'm fine with heading straight home."

"Sure, then," she said. "That sounds good."


Friday afternoon hadn't shown much sign of cooling off, and O'Neill's was crowded, so Denny, who was the first to arrive, opted to sit outdoors. Anita and I showed up just as he and David finished dragging three of the small round tables into a triangle.

"Hope y'all are okay being outside," he said to us.

"Fine with me," I said, glancing at Anita, who nodded. The temperature was a little high and the breeze too light to be completely comfortable outside, but compared to the crowding and darkness indoors I was okay with it. Besides, the sun was getting low enough that the evening would cool soon. "I like to see my drink, anyway."

Everyone was arriving, the other chairs being claimed at random. Denny didn't ask anyone else if they cared about being outside.

As it was casual Friday, the rest of the team was even more informal than usual, in combinations of jeans, shorts, tanks and tee shirts. I never felt quite as able to dress down as the men. "Business casual" was a long-sleeved tee and jeans for them, but a blouse and skirt for me, while Friday casual this week was an open shoulder ivory top, dark midi skirt and cowboy boots.

I'd opted to wear my hair down, having wrapped it on Thursday to create heatless curls overnight. I didn't often do that, and I suspected that I was again trying to impress Anita. Seeing her this evening had been on my mind since my offhand invitation.

Anita's outfit was less conservative than mine. She wore a black scoop tee and her signature tight blue jeans. But she seemed able to look elegant in anything. Her fine hair was unadorned, brushed back from her shoulders, flowing down her back, stirring in the light breeze.

When I was with the group there was always some playful bragging from the team that I felt was intended for my ears. That seemed even more clear when their boasts and jockeying for position treated Anita and me as equal targets.

We had both ordered red wine, which seemed refreshingly cool in the heat. There was a lull in the conversation when we were about halfway done with our drinks, and I mentioned to Dave that I'd introduced Anita to some of the coding techniques he'd been showing me. The two of them talked for a while about the importance of minimalism and elegance, some of which she'd picked up from me, and I was proud to see that Dave seemed impressed with her.

When I took the last sip of my wine, Anita leaned close and spoke sotto voce to me. "I should be heading home."

"I understand," I said, as she took another sip, leaving about a half inch of wine in her glass. Then, surprising myself, I said, "Hey, if you're only heading home to eat, why don't you come back with me? I'll make us dinner and we can have another glass of wine."

The dark-haired girl turned her face toward me, and the look that she gave me was direct and curious, but I couldn't read more into it. I returned her gaze, feeling very self-conscious, and wondering if I'd stepped on a landmine somehow. Then she nodded sharply. "Sure. It isn't my turn to cook. My roomies will be fine. Let me text them, and then we can go."

Mark caught part of the exchange. "You're not leaving already?" he said. "Stay for one more?"

His suggestion was echoed around the table, but I shook my head. "I need to get dinner started," I said, as I stood to leave.

Anita was texting rapidly. She drained the last of her wine, then stood, waving goodbye to the group.

We walked through the dark bar to the front entrance. Anita's phone pinged, and she laughed as she read the text. "Yes, it seems that they'll be fine without me."

"I'll send you my address," I said, "and then you'll have my number too if you need to contact me."

Anita nodded, told me her phone number, and I texted her my address, then clicked on the message and added her to contacts before I lost the text in my SMS conversation history.


Taking my usual space before my apartment, I glanced around to see Anita pulling in a half dozen spaces away. I felt a small thrill, knowing she was here to visit with me. I think I had been as surprised to make the offer as Anita had been to receive it. But I had, and now she was here. I gave a quick thought to what state I'd left the apartment in that morning, but I was fairly sure I'd put clothes and cosmetics away. I'd even moved this morning's coffee cup into the dishwasher.

"Do you want to bring in your notebook?" I called out to Anita, as she locked her gold Toyota.

"Interns don't take them home," she replied, slinging her purse over her shoulder and heading toward me.

"Right, of course," I said, taking my purse and computer bag more clumsily than Anita. Stepping away from the car I pressed the key fob, hearing the beep as the car locked, then led Anita through the passageway to the rear apartments and up to mine on the third floor.

Inside, I kicked off my boots. Anita took it as a signal to step out of her causal heels - or perhaps she always took her shoes off indoors - but stopped before removing them. "Are you okay with bare feet?"

I was sure I'd be okay with any part of her, bare or not, but that wasn't helpful. "Uh, yeah, but I thought we'd eat outdoors on the outdoor-patio-balcony-thing which is concrete. And outdoors. I think I can find slippers, so go ahead, I'll be right back."

I took my notebook case and purse into the bedroom, dumping the first on the floor and the second onto the bed, then grabbed the lightweight house slippers from my wardrobe. I'd been wearing hose under my boots, so I had no problem stepping on concrete.

Returning, I found Anita barefoot. Her feet were narrow and delicate, her toenails a dark amethyst.

"These may be a little large," I said. "If you prefer to wear them only on the balcony-thing, that's fine. And that color is so pretty on you, I hate to make you cover it up. Shall I just leave them by the door?"

Anita raised an eyebrow as she smiled at me. "Sure. And thanks, I'm glad you like it."

I dropped the slippers by the glass door to the small balcony, then opened the door. The balcony was small, but had enough space for an electric grill / smoker and a table for two. Not that anyone had ever shared the table. "It's still a little warm out here, but the breeze is pleasant," I said. "Would sitting outside be okay?"

"I'd like that," she replied. "What are we eating?"

"Ah!" I exclaimed. "Job one is getting the chicken into the microwave!"

"So, chicken?" she suggested, with amusement.

"Right," I said, then I stopped on the way to the fridge. "Job zero is the wine, though." I opened a cupboard, took out a bottle of Merlot, and handed it and a corkscrew to Anita to deal with while I placed two chicken breasts in the microwave on defrost.

She had the bottle open, so I pointed out the cupboard with glasses. The kitchen was an ultra-narrow galley style, and felt a little claustrophobic as Anita stood behind me, pouring the wine. I busied myself gathering ingredients: pasta and dried herbs from the pantry, then mushrooms, cream, cheese and a half onion in a sandwich bag from the fridge.

Anita handed me a glass. She didn't move away, her arm brushing mine as she eyed my preparations on the counter. "You really are cooking," she said. "An actual genuine meal. Not ramen or mac and cheese."

Taking a sip from my glass, I nodded. "I usually try to cook something. When I started working I was eating fast food so often that I gained twenty pounds. Joining a gym and cooking for myself dropped ten of them"

"And redistributed the rest in the right places," Anita said.

Her comment was made matter-of-factly, but I felt my face warm, and a gentle thrill form in my belly. Then I turned away from the counter. "'Scuse me," I said. "I need to change."

The shorter girl glanced up for a moment, then stepped aside. I'd expected her to move out of the kitchen. The feel of her body against mine as I squeezed past strengthened that tingle in my belly.

Grabbing a pale green tee from the bedroom, I headed into the bathroom, removed my ivory top and bra, washed my hands and face, and slipped into the tee before dropping my clothes in the hamper and heading back.

Returning, I found Anita still leaning against a cabinet, sipping her wine, and had to squeeze past her again. The microwave timer had expired, but the chicken still needed to thaw for longer. I didn't like to thaw it too quickly at a stretch, because I'd find part of the meat beginning to cook and part still frozen. So I moved the breasts around and started the defrost cycle again.

"Is ramen or mac and cheese your normal fare?" I asked. I unwrapped the onion and began to chop it.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Anita shake her head. I turned to see her tucking her hair back behind her shoulder, then resumed chopping. "My roomies and I know how to eat well for less than most student budgets," she said. "We shop at the Asian market every week, then take it in turns to make dinner and lunch prep. Produce is cheap and we mostly eat veggies, just a little chicken and fish."

"Jason and I were ramen or mac and cheese," I admitted. "Yours is a better arrangement. Garlic okay?" I asked.

"Very," Anita said. She watched, standing well within my personal space, as I crushed a couple of cloves whole before shucking off the papery skin, then dicing the pulp. "You're good at this," she stated.

"I like to cook," I replied. The microwave pinged, so I checked the chicken again, turning it around before beginning what I expected would be the final cycle. Then I took a sip of my wine and turned to face her.

"With the impromptu programming classes this week, and the cooking skills now," Anita said, "I think you might be trying to impress me."

My cheeks warmed, and I looked away. "I'm not," I squeaked. "I mean... I'm not trying to show off, or anything. I would have been making chicken with or without you."

Looking up again, I saw that she was grinning at my embarrassment. "It's okay," she said. "I'm impressed anyway."

"Uh, thanks," I said, then sipped my wine in silence until the microwave pinged again. The chicken was fully thawed, I poured a little olive oil into a pan, setting it on high heat, then sliced the chicken, transferring it to the pan before the oil began to burn, then reducing the heat under the sizzling pan.

"I see pasta in your collection," Anita said, motioning toward the dwindling stack of ingredients. "Want me to take care of it?"

"Sure," I said. "Now would be good."

Stirring the chicken as the pan cooled, I indicated the large pan. Anita filled it with water at the sink, then carried it toward the stove, lifting it high to avoid colliding with me. I leaned forward against the counter so she could pass. So not only did I have to feel her hips against my ass, but I could feel my pulse in my sex as I was squashed against the counter.

As Anita measured the pasta, I added the onions and garlic, tossing them in the hot oil. I gave her an approving nod as she measured salt the same way I would, sprinkling it into her hand until the amount looked right, then tossing it into the water. The garlic began to turn fragrant, and I felt her lean against me to take a sniff. "Something smells good," she said.

My heart sped up at her proximity, and I wanted to ask her to stop doing that to me, but I didn't want to admit how she was affecting me. Though I strongly suspected she knew. So I steadied my breathing and tipped the mushrooms into the pan as the pot of water started to boil. Anita added the measured butterfly pasta.

The kitchen ordeal wasn't over. Anita had to pass me a couple more times to set up the draining colander. Each time left my thighs less able to hold me upright than the last, so that after I'd added the cream, I turned the heat off and left the kitchen so that she could carry the boiling pasta to the sink unimpeded.

"Take your wine outside," I instructed, shooing her out of the kitchen. "I'll bring the food and silverware out."

She nodded, and moved out onto the balcony, stepping into the slippers by the door. I hastily plated the food, taking it outside before returning for knives, forks, salt, pepper, and shredded parmesan from the fridge. Finally I brought the wine, and made to top up Anita's glass.

"If I have more I'll need to wait longer before I can drive," she stated.

"Is that a problem?" I asked.

"I'm in no hurry to leave," Anita replied, with what seemed a mischievous smile. So I topped up both of our glasses, and we began to eat.

After a few forkfuls, she said, "If you ever feel the need to cook for two again, just let me know."

"I'll do that," I said with a chuckle.

"Especially if you invite me here again," Anita said, looking over the metal balcony frame at the view. The breeze was a little stronger than it had been at O'Neill's. She kept swiping her hair back over her shoulder as she took in the sight.

Behind the apartment building was a slight slope to a creek. Beyond that was a wooded area, and beyond that was a golf course. When I found the apartment I was surprised that the course wasn't surrounded with expensive homes. Perhaps the owners had enough influence to prevent their pastoral setting from being disrupted. It wouldn't last. Sooner or later the woods would be built up, but I wasn't planning to live here forever.

"This makes up for the climb to the top floor," she added.

"There's a gas fireplace, too," I said. "It's still just an apartment, but so much nicer than how I lived last year." Then I returned to my chicken.

I felt Anita's eyes on me. I tried to avoid looking up, but had to when I picked up my wine glass. "I'm almost disappointed that it's too warm for a fire," she said, thoughtfully. Her gaze held mine for a few seconds longer, then she looked back down to her plate and cut another piece of chicken.

When we were done, Anita insisted on taking the plates and silverware. I told her to leave them in the sink, and I'd get to them later, but she shook her head and I heard her loading them into the dishwasher after rinsing them.


When she returned to the table, she took another sip of her wine, then watched me again. The breeze had blown a thick lock of her long hair back over her shoulder. She caught it in her left hand, but instead of pushing it back, she twisted it around a finger as she studied me. "Why are you so nervous?" she asked.

"I'm not," I countered.

"Yes you are," Anita argued. She didn't sound worried, or annoyed that I wasn't admitting it. She sounded amused. "You've seemed a little nervous all day. What's going on?"

"It's nothing," I said. "It'll pass."

She placed her elbow on the table, rested her head on her hand, trapping the hair she'd been playing with against her cheek. I took another sip of wine as she regarded me, head slightly tilted. I felt that the space behind my breastbone was buzzing with apprehension. "I think I'm making you nervous. Is it because I'm flirting with you? Because we work together? Should I stop?"

"Yes. No. I mean, I didn't know... wasn't sure if you were," I said. My normally high alto voice seemed to have risen well into soprano range. "Are you?"

Anita grinned. "I think you know the answer to that," she said. "Question is, are you hoping that I am, or that I'm not?"

"No one ever has before," I said. "No girl, I mean."

"That you noticed," Anita interjected, before I could continue. Her eyes roamed briefly. "I'd be astounded if none have tried."

"Well, maybe," I conceded. "I've only ever dated guys, though I.. I like girls, too... But you said you're not looking for a relationship."

"I'm not," Anita said, sitting back up. "My last girlfriend was... she was abusive."

Even though the admission was clearly painful, the secondary declaration - that the relationship had been with a girl fed the growing warmth in my belly.

"Since then I don't do relationships. But I do do casual." Her eyes met mine, and this time her look seemed challenging rather than appraising. "Does that bother you?"

"God, no," I said, her words bringing relief, not disappointment. "I'm not looking for a romantic partner. I have no experience. I don't know what I want." I grinned weakly. "That's why I haven't tried flirting with you," I added.

Anita raised an eyebrow, then reached out one finger and stroked the back of my hand. "You did invite me to dinner."

"I know!" I said, with a laugh. "That shocked the hell out of me. I don't know where it came from." I turned my hand up to trap her finger between mine.

"You think we should find out?" Anita asked.

Nodding wordlessly, I stood.

Using the single finger I held between my finger and thumb, I drew her close.


Turning her hand, Anita captured my finger. She moved it over to the table, dunked it into her wine glass, which was close by, then lifted it to her lips and sucked the wine from it, rolling her tongue over my fingertip.

Goosebumps formed on my upper arms. "What are you doing?" I asked, in a hoarse whisper.

"You've never made love to a girl?" Anita asked

The words impacted me so deeply that I had trouble standing up. I'd only just learned that she'd been flirting with me, and she was already talking about making love. But, God, yes, I wanted that. I shook my head, surreptitiously grasping the side of the table to keep my balance. "No," I croaked.

She gave me a small nod, a smile on her lips, and took my hands in hers. Her fingernails traced circles on my palms. The feeling of her touch flowed up my arms to my chest, causing a quivering sensation in my breasts. Her eyes were clear and penetrating.

"It is rare for a woman to invite me to her place for dinner," Anita said. "But it is not rare for a woman to invite me over, and I usually say yes. Are you sure you're okay with that?"

"Yeah," I said, my heart thumping. "I am."

"Good," she breathed. Then she released my hands, and traced her fingers up my arms, and around the sides of my neck, drawing me a little closer, but not all the way to her. Her fingers continued on, over my shoulders, then down to my collar bone, and over the front of my tee, running lightly over my breasts, brushing my nipples as they passed. My legs felt weak again.

When her hands reached the hem, they gripped it, tugging it to close the distance between us, though I couldn't say for certain whether she drew me to herself, or her to me.

Anita's kiss could barely be considered one. When her face was close enough to mine, her lips grazed mine so lightly that I barely felt it. But my body did. Or some part of me did, because I felt moisture between my legs.

The next touch of her lips to mine was barely more present than the first, but my throat closed up and I almost groaned.

She increased the press of her mouth against mine with each pass, beginning to part her lips to nip at my lower lip, taking in a little more each time, until I ached to capture her mouth and meld my tongue with hers. I refrained, recognizing her mastery in making me need her kiss.

Her hands moved behind me, and I thought she was finally going to draw me in and end the playful torture. Instead, as her lips toyed lightly with mine, her fingers ran through my hair, then brushed it forward, dragging it to fall down my chest before lowering her hands. I noticed that the breeze that was causing Anita's hair to float away from her back barely stirred mine. She gently slid my glasses from my face and set them on the table.

"My God," I whispered, as she drew back again, fuelling my desire with the frustration she caused.

"What?" Anita asked, amusement in her eyes.

"You are so good at this," I said, my voice rough. "At teasing."

She flicked back the strands of hair that had gathered under her chin. "I practice," she said, with a mischievous grin. Raising her hands, she ran them over my tee shirt again, this time letting her thumbs circle against my nipples before lowering her fingers to the hem. I had to actively suppress a moan.

"If we were to have another glass of wine," Anita suggested, conspiratorially, "I might need to stay for several hours before I would trust myself to drive."

"In that case," I croaked, "we should finish the bottle."

The stream of wine as I refilled our glasses was noticeably unsteady. Anita smirked at me before taking a long sip from her glass. My own large sip was to steady myself.

"I approve," she said, then set her glass down. This time, when our faces met, she drew my top lip between hers and suckled it. I could feel her small breasts press against mine. My nipples were completely hard against my tee shirt, and the pressure of the fabric against them prickled, the feeling merging with the sensation of Anita suckling my upper lip. A charge flowed through my body to my clit, which ached as it swelled in response.

This time, when Anita inevitably drew back from the kiss, I acted, pressing my mouth to hers, wrapping my arms around her back to keep her close as I parted her lips with mine. She responded to my need by meeting my tongue with her own, her body melting against mine until she drew back with a grin and resumed baiting me with light kisses.

Anita's fingers glided up my sides, then back over my breasts, though with a more positive touch than before. I felt her thumbs slide against my nipples, as her fingers pressed into my yielding flesh. Her tongue drew lightly against mine as she toyed with them. Breaking the kiss, she moved her lips to my ear, her face turned upward to capture and tug on my earlobe. "You have nice breasts," she whispered. "I love how they feel."

My thighs tensed as her breath tickled my ear. "You're a connoisseur?" I asked, my voice unsteady.

She chuckled, her lips still on my ear, then kissed my neck, intensifying the tingling feeling her touch was stoking. "You might say that," she whispered, returning to my ear. "I like all kinds. Large, small, soft, firm... but right now, these are my favorite breasts in the world."

When she pinched my nipples, I groaned aloud. I didn't think I'd ever been so turned on. Not even in bed with Jason in the early days of our relationship. And she wasn't done with driving my arousal higher. Her lips traced their way back to mine. For a moment, she teased again, then she parted her lips and kissed me hard. She covered my breasts with her hands, palms open on my nipples, then kneaded them firmly.

For a moment, I think only her hands on my breasts kept me upright. I grasped at her waist for support. All of the intensity that she'd held back, allowing to build with her teasing kisses, flooded into my soul in a torrent. Then, panting, I risked releasing her waist to wrap my hands around her neck, locking her open mouth against mine, our tongues dueling.

Anita's right hand released my left breast, though she continued to squeeze the other as we kissed. Her fingers roamed down my side and over my hips. finding the short slit in my skirt, she slipped her hand inside, then up over my hose, until her thumb slid higher, frictionless with my wetness, until it pressed against my clitoral hood.

"Inside!" I gasped, looking around the small patio. I don't know if it had even registered with me that her hands had been all over me in the full view of the creek and woods. Not that there was likely to be anyone there, but there could be.

Anita nodded, then asked, "Bedroom?"

I had to grab the table again at the word. "God, how do you keep turning me to jelly?" I groaned.

She laughed, and for the first time I heard her excitement. "Lead the way," she said, taking my hand.

After Anita was through the patio door I rammed it closed but didn't take the time to lock it against climbers or ninjas. Together we stumbled toward the bedroom, where I took her by the shoulders and resumed kissing her, echoing her own passion into the joining of our lips and tongue. She resumed what she'd been doing when I interrupted her, left hand squeezing my right breast, right hand finding its way into my skirt.

My breathing was heavy as Anita's fingers slid over my thigh, then over my damp hose. She closed her hand against my sex, fingers down, then slid it up and down, letting the heel of her hand press into my clit.

I began to pant into the kiss, my hands behind her neck, not letting her back away. Her mouth moved powerfully against mine, her tongue alternately mashing against mine and lightly teasing.

Desperate for more, I rocked my hips against her palm. My panting had turned into groans.

Ignoring the restraining pressure of my hands around her, Anita drew back. Her left hand pinched my nipple hard, making me shiver. "Enjoying yourself?" she asked, with a sly grin.

"God," I groaned. "You've made me so wet."

"You don't say," she replied tartly, drawing her hand out of my skirt. I pouted at the withdrawal of stimulation. Then she took hold of the hem of my tee with both hands,yanking it up. I raised my arms automatically, before I'd even realized what she was doing. She tugged the shirt over them, her appreciative eyes roaming over my breasts as they bounced free, my nipples hard and wide.

Lowering her mouth to my left breast, Anita began to suckle. "Oh, Christ," I groaned, squirming with the redoubled stimulation. Her hands moved to my waist. Several seconds later I felt the tension in my skirt's waistband vanish, and she was easing my skirt over my hips and letting it drop to the ground.

Anita's right hand slid down my belly and inside my hose and panties. One finger found my clit and started a light rubbing motion. I began to hyperventilate, my thighs lifting and pressing together as the stimulation overwhelmed my senses. Then she added a second finger, my clit between the two as she purposefully stroked me toward climax.

My hips rocked against her hand, and my chest rose, nipple pressed into her mouth. I was so close to coming that my thighs were tensing in anticipation. I vaguely wondered how I would stay upright, and decided that I didn't care. I was so ready.

And so, of course, Anita drew her hand back. I cried out in frustration.

"Get on the bed," Anita ordered. "I am going to lick you until you forget your name."

Her words made me shudder. I yanked down my hose, and fell backward onto the bed, naked but for my pink bikinis. Anita climbed atop me, and we began kissing immediately. I tugged her top up. She raised her arms for me to take it off and carelessly toss to the side. She wasn't wearing a bra, and I was instantly drawn to her small, firm breasts, her nipples narrow and erect. I cupped her breasts and squeezed.

Our kiss was fierce, and my body vibrated with need. When I pinched Anita's nipples, she responded with increased passion, fuelling the kiss so that I groaned into our shared breath. She didn't give me long to play with her body, however, sliding down to tongue my left breast.

As she did, she lifted herself off my sex, trailing fingers down my belly to caress my pussy, finding me wetter than ever. Then she lightly stroked my clit, and my back arched.

Anita's touch didn't linger long. It moved further down, and she curled a couple of fingers inside me, beginning to rock her wrist powerfully, driving her fingers against the wall of my sex. I moaned as she enhanced her action by suckling my left nipple.

Rolling back onto me, her hand still in place, Anita squeezed my left leg between her thighs. Her hip pressed down onto her hand, pushing it more firmly as she moved it inside me. Then her body began to move with the same rhythm against me. She panted as her own arousal grew, her eyes becoming darker, and her face glistening as her lips remained latched to my nipple. I reached down to spread her hair over my belly. She drew her face back and smiled at me before returning to her work.

My hips rocked, arousal growing in the core of my being. She'd brought me close to climax standing, but my lust was far beyond that point now. It was as if a volcano of passion was forming deep within me. I knew that it would have to break free, but for now it was gaining heat and power.

I began to gasp. Anita's lips left my nipple, while her fingers kept rocking inside me. She slid down my body, and I moaned when I saw her extend her tongue to lick my sex. Then she brushed back her hair as she parted her lips and lowered her face.

The most exquisite feeling took over my clit. My back lifted, and I squirmed on the bed, groaning in the euphoric sensation. My thighs tensed around her hand, and rose, lifting my sex ino her face. When I tried to grind against her, Anita avoided my clit, only touching it lightly as she tasted my labia, building the pressure within the volcano without touching off its release.

She looked up at me, my breasts high and firm between her eyes and mine. "Touch your breasts," she instructed, and I brought my hands to them. "They're so sexy. I want to see you make them work for you." I squeezed, digging my fingers deeply into the flesh. "Yeah," Anita breathed. "Like that."

Then she returned to lightly tonguing my clit as my own actions fed my desire.

Anita toyed with me expertly, keeping me just short of cresting for many minutes. When I tried to compensate by stretching my nipples or bucking against her face, she would release the pressure of her tongue or fingers until I groaned in frustration, then would begin to bring me right back to that point.

When the change began, I hardly noticed it. Her face was lowered, and the exquisite feeling of her lips on my clit began taking hold again. I thought she was teasing, but the power continued to grow. And then she'd taken me too far, and wouldn't have been able to hold me back if she tried - and she wasn't trying. I grunted. "Gnnnnnnh..." and grasped the bedsheets as my hips rose from the bed. "Oh, Christ! Anita..." I groaned...

The volcano blew. I could feel hot lava scorching my emotions as I moaned, my clit pulsating wildly. "Oh God oh God oh God..." I whimpered, overwhelmed by my feelings, the stream of sound continuing until I started to regain my composure, the spasms in my clit slowing to a glorious aftermath, and my ass gradually returning to rest on the bed.

After the erotic pulsing was over, Anita dragged herself up my body. She paused on the way to unbuckle and kick off her jeans, then lay with her breasts pressed to mine, her lips meeting mine. Our kiss maintained the charge in my sensitive clit as she threaded her legs between mine, her left thigh pressed to my sex, and mine to hers

Moving my hands to Anita's ass, I slipped them inside her underwear and held her against me. She moaned softly into the kiss as we rocked, and I felt my own arousal rekindle. Soon we were both crying out into the kiss. Her excitement fed my own, her firm breasts squashing and reshaping mine, arousing me both by their movement and by the whole idea of feeling this incredibly sexy girl's body against mine.

My cries grew in volume, until I felt her tense. Squeezing her ass, I pressed her firmly to my sex, and as her body stiffened with her climax, I found myself in the last stages of my own rise, and came mere seconds behind her, both of us gasping, breaking and rejoining the kiss as our passion permitted.

Finally we settled against each other, moaning softly. Anita's lips were against my ear, and the sounds she made still excited me. "It didn't work," I breathed.

"What didn't?" Anita asked, her breath making me shiver.

"I still remember my name," I said.

"Oh, you do?" Her voice was amused. "What is it?"

"Umm... Kristen? Kara? Kyrie?" I shrugged. "Some name beginning with C, I'm sure of it."

Anyta laughed. It began small, but in the way that happens after an emotional upheaval, the laughter grew until she was shaking on top of me, which made me start to laugh. We shook together for minutes, each rekindling the other's laugh several times.

"It wasn't even that funny," I said, finally recovering.

"Maybe not, but that felt good," Anita said, breathless. She kissed my neck.

"Not as good as what you did to me," I breathed. "Good Christ. I thought it wasn't a big deal to stay with Jason through college. Did I fuck up, or what?"

Anita laughed again, more controlled this time. Still, her breast shook against mine, which felt good. She bit my earlobe, then said, "It's not too late to get involved."

"Hmm," I said.

"Really," Anita replied, rolling off me. She stood. "I still have most of a glass of wine left. Do you want me to bring yours?" she asked. When I nodded assent, she strolled away, returning in a moment with both glasses and the bottle. That was when I realized she must have gone out onto the patio in nothing but her skimpy underwear. Oh well, I was enjoying the sight of her much more than any hypothetical ninja would have.

"You really won't be able to leave soon," I said, eyeing her glass.

"I won't stay the night," Anita replied, "but I don't mind spending a few hours getting to know you better. If you're okay with that."

"If I get fired for being a mindless zombie tomorrow, I'll consider it worth the cost," I said, turning back the sheets so that we could get under them. "You can apply for my job next year." We sipped our wine in silence after that, both grinning like idiots.

"There's a club," Anita said, at last. "It's called Gabby's. LGBTQ-friendly. They have a social evening every Monday. Dancing. It's aimed mostly at college students and older teens. Strictly eighteen-plus. No minors, but also no alcohol, even for over twenty-one patrons. That way they don't need to card you, and don't risk drunken fights or orgies.

"There's also a twenty-one plus monthly party on the first Thursday of the month. Absolutely no entry without being carded, then alcohol with no ID checks at the bar. They can't afford to look the other way with anything illegal, because there are groups that would love to shut them down, even here.

"I'm there most Mondays. Most of my friend group don't go to the first Thursday party, because we'd be leaving too many behind, and Thursday caters to an older generation. You'd be welcome at either."

"Hmm," I said again, still dubious.

"You can be there just to talk with friends in an accepting environment," she said. "Many do. You can dance. Their regular DJ is good. But since you know that everyone you meet is either queer or an ally, it's also good for hookups. If you don't want to leave alone, you probably won't. And as a new girl, especially looking like you do, you'd be a guaranteed hit."

"Hmm," I said a third time, letting my tone rise and fall in exaggerated interest.

Anita smirked. "Most girls there are like me. Not in a relationship, though they happen. Several of my friends are there with their partners, some of whom they met at the club. Mostly it's just casual enjoyment, alone or with someone who piques your interest."

"I don't know if that's what I want," I said. "The casual thing, that is. But I kinda think it's what I need. I've been insulated from self-discovery by my own dumb choices. I know you're too polite to ask, but no, Jason never made me feel the way you did tonight. Nor any other guy. I feel something with you that's beyond anything I expected, and I'm sure it's because of my inexperience. If my road to enlightenment is only to be reached by making love to other girls, I guess it's a burden I need to shoulder."

Anita had just taken a sip of wine, so when she laughed at that, wine went up her nose and she started coughing. I grabbed her glass so she wouldn't lose the contents (and so that I wouldn't have permanently wine-stained sheets), then leaped out of bed to find a box of tissues. She wiped her eyes and nose, getting herself under control, her cheeks pink. When she managed to stop coughing, she said, "You should run around the room again. I couldn't see clearly the first time, but I'm sure your boobs were amazing."

"Hah. No," I said.

Anita smirked as I returned her glass. She took a more careful sip.

"However..." I began, then continued when she looked up. "I still have a problem. I don't want to show up at one of these dances only knowing half of the program. I know that really like being fucked by a girl, but I don't want to be a disappointment when it's my turn to do the fucking."

"You won't be." Anita sounded entirely confident.

"Maybe not," I replied, "but we could find out, right now."

"Hmm," she replied. "Let me watch your boobs bounce around the room, and we'll see."

Laughing, I took her wine glass, setting it down on my side of the bed. I climbed over her body to sit on her thighs, facing her. "Tell you what," I said, "how about I just give you an up-close view?"

Anita grinned at me, then stacked pillows behind her so she could sit up. "That'll work," she said, and began to kiss my right nipple, which recovered its solidity immediately.

I shuffled forward until I was straddling her lower belly. She caught my nipple between her teeth, tugging on it to stretch it. My breath caught.

Reaching behind me with both hands, I drew Anita's knees up and apart. Then I ran my right hand down along her thigh to find the slight fuzz of her pussy, which I caressed as I began to rock my hips, moving against her belly while holding my chest in place so that she could continue to suckle.

I circled Anita's sex with my thumb, pressing against her clit as I rocked, her breathing gradually becoming heavier. Then I moved my left hand to her breast and began to squeeze. Anita's lean belly began to tense and relax as she rocked her hips with mine.

With two fingers I probed her sex, pushing her panties aside to slide my fingers into her slick passage. I curled my hand as far around inside her as I could, then slid backwards, so that my butt was against my hand, and my weight pressed against Anita's sex. As my hips rocked, so did hers, pressing my fingers deeper into her as we moved. She panted softly, then released my breast and leaned away.

The pillows now were preventing her from lying back, so I let go of her breast and tugged them out from under her. She looked up at me, her lips parted as her breath came hard.

"Is this okay?" I asked.

"Oh yeah," Anita breathed. "You're doing great. I think you're going to make me come, and this is a fantastic view."

"Should I stop and use my mouth?" I asked.

"No!" Anita gasped. "No... the way you're grinding is... aww. I like it."

I pinched her nipple. She moaned, and her belly twitched. Then she grasped her left breast with her own hand and squeezed hard. Her back lifted from the bed as she did, and the muscles of her belly tightened again.

"Just a little more," she groaned. "Make me come, babe. God, make me come."

Pressing firmly against the wall of Anita's sex, I bounced my ass against her, and against my hand with its fingers deep inside her. "Oh, God, I'm going to come," she groaned. "I'm ready, babe."

She didn't, not immediately, though her groans kept rising in pitch. It must have been about another minute before she wailed, "Kayla! Oh God! I'm coming!" Her hips rose from the bed, and I pushed my fingers firmly into her, before her belly tightened again. Then her sex squeezed my fingers and began to pulse rapidly.

Anita moaned as she climaxed. Her thighs gripped my hips, pressing upward, relaxed, then gripped again as her soft sounds conveyed her pleasure.

I withdrew my fingers before the pulsing had ceased completely, stroking her clit with my thumb and making Anita's body writhe beneath me. Then I eased myself off her, tugging off her panties before moving to squat between her legs and lower my mouth to her sex.

Immediately I began to tongue Anita's clit hard and fast, lifting her thighs up and parting them with my hands, so that I had completely unfettered access to her sex. Anita grinned at me, dragging one of the pillows I'd removed back behind her, so that she could settle in and watch me.

After a couple of minutes her expression changed. She looked surprised. Then her lips parted, and she began panting softly, before gasping as arousal apparently surged within her again. "Oh, God, Kayla, you're going to make me come again," she groaned.

I sucked her clit, using my lips as well as my tongue to rub against the hard nub. As I did, I shook my head, catching my breath as I could. A minute or two later, Anita cried out as another climax took her, her back arching and thighs quaking.

A minute later, Anita beckoned to me. I slid up her body to lie atop her. "You're going to be so fucking popular," she said, then kissed me hard enough to make my clit tingle.

"I dunno," I breathed. "That was a lot harder than a blowjob. My tongue's aching."

She laughed. "There are exercises you can do..." she said. "Though I think the best exercise is to go down on a girl whenever you get the chance." Then she grinned wickedly. "I think you're going to get plenty of chances."

"Link me the exercises anyway?" I suggested.

"If you'll give me a non-work email," Anita said, with a smile. "I suspect 'Boost Your Lingual Muscles To Blow Her Mind' would trigger some kind of filter."

I laughed. "Yeah, I'll text it to you."

"But... my God, Kayla, I don't think you need any exercises. That was intense."

I shrugged. "I had the feeling that it was what you needed to get off," I said. "If you hadn't come already, I think I'd have wanted to be much more gentle. At least at first."

"I think you're right," Anita replied. "You made me come hard. It was a very sexy surprise. If you could read that from my reactions, you must be a natural."

"Huh," I said, feeling my lips stretch in a mile. "A surprise, even with all your experience?"

"I told you," she said. "You're going to be a very popular girl."


With that, Anita rolled me onto my back and started to kiss me. God, could she kiss. When she'd first kissed me, tantalizing me with her lips barely touching mine, she'd built up the need in me slowly, until it became overwhelming. I was convinced that even if I hadn't wanted to make love to her, her delicate insistence would have overcome any resistance. Since I had wanted her, she'd used her skill to set the pace and ensure that she could control the encounter.

Now that she had no need to beguile me, her kisses were pure passion. Her face moved against mine as her tongue penetrated, repositioning her whole body to align each joining of our mouths perfectly. Her breasts reshaped mine as she lifted and lowered her shoulders, and her thigh slid between mine.

Not all of the kissing was against my lips and tongue. She would break away and brush them along my neck, making me shiver with pleasure, or against my ears. Her teeth would nip at my earlobe and stretch it as her breath tickled my ear. And all the time her body was rocking against my, her hip thrusting into my sex.

My hands roamed Anita's body, over her small, tight ass, over her back, caressing her firm breasts when she lifted her body far enough for me to reach. I wrapped my hands around her upper thighs and squeezed, my fingers grazing the edge of her sex. She made a "Mmm" sound in my ear when I did that.

The feel of her body against mine amplified the erotic charge, and I found myself moaning softly. Then she ran her left leg down my body, and slipped a finger beneath her thigh, wedging it between her leg and my clit.

Groaning, Anita picked up the pace, her body moving against mine, and the moaning became constant. Her lips were on my neck, but I took her face in my hands and forced her mouth to mine. I felt her chuckle into the kiss, but she was also gasping with arousal, and the laugh became a moan.

Her lips didn't leave mine as I ran my hands back down over her butt, squeezing her thighs again, letting my fingers explore the wetness between them.

Suddenly she was thrusting hard against me, her finger transmitting her movements into my clit. She was driving me powerfully toward climax.

Hooking my ankles around Anita's knees, I held her tightly against me. We were both breathing noisily into the kiss. My arousal passed into the place where it couldn't be held back, and my thighs tensed.

Crying out into the kiss, I rubbed the edge of her sex, still squeezing her thighs. My body fell into strong contractions, my hips rising from the bed. Moments later, Anita's cries joined mine. Her thighs shook, and her sex quivered against me.

Still, I didn't release her lips, though I was panting hard through my nose. Not until both of us began to unclench did I draw back, each of us moaning softly, her body nestled against mine.

Releasing her thighs, I began running my fingers through her hair. I parted it, drawing each half out across her back, then joining the halves and spreading them out again.

Anita giggled at my childish games.

"This is going to sound weird," I said, "but I didn't expect to like this so much. I mean, I guessed it would be great, but I wasn't expecting to have such strong feelings. For you. For your body. For being together. I mean, don't worry, I know the feelings are temporary, but right here and now, I don't care that there's a world beyond you and me, that we'll be going back into separately. I know I'm just feeling lust, but I wasn't expecting it to carry so much affection.

"I think I get that," Anita said, softly. "I think it's fine to have strong feelings while we're connected like this, as long as you're okay with the connection being transient."

"Do you feel it?" I asked.

"With you, or in general?" Anita asked in return.

"Both, I guess," I said.

"Sometimes," she said. "Maybe usually. It's always better when I feel a connection. I do, with you. Which won't stop me leaving, but it might mean I don't leave as quickly as I could."

I laughed. "You were up-front about this being a one-night event," I said. "I don't think I'd have mentioned it otherwise. We'll be okay, right? I mean, with each other, after you leave?"

"Sure," she said. "Maybe closer friends than we were, but no regrets and no jealousy, right?"

Anita's body quivered against mine as I laughed again. "If I'm honest," I said, "I'm kinda excited to see if I feel the same way with someone else."

"I hope you do," Anita said. "Take the time to learn what you like, what you need from a partner, and what you can give her in return. Just - be careful. If you want to avoid feeling jealous, or hurt, or getting too close, don't sleep with a girl more than once. Or at least, not regularly. You'll find that everyone understands that. Hookups are hookups, not dating. You'll both have a fun time, then go your own ways, with no strings."

Something she had said earlier had been gnawing at me. "Earlier, you said...looking like I do, I'd be a hit?"

"Well, duh," Anita said. "You have to know you're a fox, right?"

I frowned. "You're serious, aren't you?"

"Serious as a bluescreen," she said. "I'm lucky enough to know that you're lovely on the inside too. Other girls will figure that out quickly enough. Would you like me to introduce you to Gabby's on Monday?"

"I'm nervous," I admitted, "but excited, too. Yes, I would."

When Anita left, a little after three a.m., she'd certainly worked off any effects from the extra wine, and I'd done my part to help.