The quest was Tom's idea. We'd been talking about our favorite subject.

"So, God, Ryan," he said, "you're bored with sex?"

"Not bored," I replied. "Not exactly. More - burned out. Like, I've lost the thrill of the hunt, and the trophies aren't worth keeping around."

"Your rifle's too small for big game." Tom smirked.

"Yeah, yeah." I should have expected that.

"You know what the problem is?" he added, looking almost serious for a moment. "You've had things too easy. You get more pussy than animal control. You need a way to test your skills."

There was some truth to that, though the opposite was also true. There were girls I'd gladly have bedded, burned our or not, but they knew my history from their friends. Girls do talk to each other about men - more's the pity.

So there were those I'd had, some of whom would be willing to get it on again, if they didn't have other plans, and those I'd never have. Maybe it was the appeal of that second, off-limits group that made the others less interesting. Whatever. I was sure I'd recover soon enough. Celibacy wasn't for me, that was for sure. But -

"What do you mean?"

"Find something that's going to take you some effort, not an easy one-night stand." He fell silent, frowning.


"Shut it. I'm thinking," he said. Then a grin spread across his face. He took out his wallet. "I've got it. Fifty bucks says you can't bang the Mouse."

"Jesus, Tom, why would I want to?"

"Because it would be a challenge."

"Hell, it would. Challenge my sanity, not my ability, though."

"You know you can't do it, is all," Tom said. "That's okay, I guess my money is safe."

"She works here, for christ's sake," I said.

"So does Kelsey."

"Yeah, but," I said, "Kelsey's hot. She was worth some risk."

"All I'm hearing is that the great Ryan doesn't think he can handle a girl."

"Screw you, Tom," I said. "That isn't it." I thought about the Mouse, our certified geek, and grimaced.

On the other hand, some of the best-looking girls I'd slept with turned out to be lousy dates, in and out of bed. The Mouse could hardly be worse than some of my disasters. And I wasn't exactly committed to anything else right now.

"What the hell," I said. "Keep your money. I'll do it."

"Yeah?" Tom showed his surprise. I don't think he was ever serious about the suggestion. But serious or not, he was right. Seducing the Mouse would definitely not be easy, but it would be an achievement.

"Yeah," I said.

"How long shall we say?" Tom asked. "You win if you get into her panties in the next two weeks?"

I shook my head. "I don't take your cash, you don't set the rules," I said. "I'll take as long as I need."

He shrugged. "Okay." Then he extended two fingers and made the sign of the cross. "And may God have mercy on your soul."


Her name was Nicole. She wasn't particularly short; we called her the Mouse for her skittishness and mousy appearance. She had dull brown hair, badly permed, which usually covered most of her face. Huge, thick-framed glasses that completed the job. She hid from the world, nervous and timid, rarely venturing outside her small cubicle. Pursuing the Mouse would be different from anything I'd ever done.

Nicole was our helpdesk. She preferred to work by email, or via a trouble reporting system, but would field phone calls with reluctance. She did not take kindly to visitors stopping by her cubicle, but she would leave her space when absolutely necessary.

I begged some clear nail polish from Kelsey - to protect a fading label, I claimed. Actually I used it to carefully paint a thin coating over my computer's network socket before I returned it to her. Then, having network problems, I called the Mouse.

After trying to talk me through solving my connectivity troubles, Nicole came to my office and started poking around at my computer and cables. Out of her domain she was a little easier to talk to. I brought her some horrible company coffee, and even managed to get her to grin a couple of times before she replaced my network card and left.

On the next day I took a risk and stopped by her cubicle - with a coffee I'd picked up at Starbucks.

"Hey, Nicole," I said, "I figured I owed you this, since yesterday's coffee was so bad."

"No need," she said, but took the coffee.

"I wanted to thank you anyway," I said. "I know," as she started to object, "you were just doing your job, and doing it very well, but you really got me out of a hole."

She nodded. I think she even smiled, but it was hard to tell behind her protective veil of hair, and I left before I started to annoy her.


The next day, I contrived to meet her in the break room, away from her space. There, I used just a little of Ryan's famed charm, along with apparent indifference, to persuade her to come to the company bowling night. I was careful to make it absolutely not seem like a date; she'd be there with her colleagues. It would be a good chance to get to know them better.

She sat mostly by herself, nursing a Coke, but she was there. I talked with her some, bringing other co-workers with me. She seemed to appreciate not being left out.

Then - the company had a regular drawing for tickets to our hockey team's home games. Not many usually signed up, but that week I did, and bribed the girl who drew the winning name to draw mine. Then I had two tickets to a company-sponsored event - would Nicole want one, so that it wouldn't go to waste? It still wasn't quite a date.

While we were at the arena, I mentioned the woes I was having making my printer work at home. Of course, I didn't ask for help - and, of course, she offered anyway.

After she'd fixed my printer, I took her out to eat - and that was a date, if a very informal one. We'd crossed a boundary. She'd been to my home, and I'd asked her to dinner. From that time on, it was okay for me to call her and ask her out. Whether she saw it as "dating" or not didn't really matter - yet. She was saying yes, not running away.

We held hands. She smiled. Eventually, we kissed, and, though I could tell she was uncomfortable at first, her enthusiasm grew. When I kissed her goodnight, she was so gentle and sweet that I found the experience turned me on a lot more than I'd anticipated.


Though she remained skittish, she was more than the nickname implied. Certainly she had a more interesting personality than I'd first thought. By the time we started dating, I'd pretty much forgotten "the Mouse", thinking of her only as Nicole.


I took a bottle of wine with me when she invited me to her apartment. After we'd kissed, she seemed to try to cover her nervousness by drinking more than usual. That relaxed her, and made her slightly giggly.

I removed her glasses, set them on a table, and put my arms around her.

She wasn't wearing her usual heavy sweater, and her blouse was easy to unfasten. I could feel her tense with each button I released, and when I caressed her belly, though her reaction showed that, as uneasy as she was, she liked the sensations.

I caressed her stomach and waist, then slipped her blouse down over her arms. Her kisses showed excitement at my touch. Enough that I thought she was ready for me to continue.

Pushing her gently away, I ran my palms down her arms, pressing them to her sides, then drew her bra straps over her shoulders. Nicole's dark eyes were full of misgiving, and her body had become like a rock as I peeled the cups down.

Her breasts were moderately-sized, not big, but far from small, and quite lovely, her nipples already swollen, though they firmed up more as I ran my fingers over them. Lowering my lips to them, I nuzzled as I reached behind her to unfasten her bra, and kissed her left nipple as the fabric fell away.

Then I kissed her lips again, kneading her breasts with increasing firmness, lightly pinching her nipples. Nicole wrapped her arms around me, hugging me close.

Eventually I slid my hands down her belly, and unfastened the top button of her jeans. As my fingers roamed over her panties, she moved her mouth to my ear.

"Ryan?" she whispered. "Are we going to..." her voice broke with nervousness. "Are we going to go to bed?"

"Do you want to?" I asked, softly, cupping her pussy in my hand, feeling her squirm as I squeezed.

"I've always wanted my first time to be with someone special," she whispered. "You... you are. Yes, I want to do it with you."

I backed away, and studied her face, still squeezing her pussy. "Do you have... you know, condoms?" she asked.

Her eyes seemed full of unease, but also trust. I was seriously aroused, my cock straining at my pants, but suddenly feeling very guilty, too.

"Yes," I said, hoarsely.

She gave me a timid smile. At that moment, I realized that I couldn't...

"But," I drew my hand back out of her jeans, "you know..." I cleared my throat, "since we work together... maybe this isn't such a good idea."

Her lips twitched. "Ryan," she whispered, "don't say that. I really want to -"

"I know," I said. "I do too. I just... Shit. I'm sorry, Nicole." I straightened my shirt. "I just can't."

I left her, half naked on the couch, and walked out of the door without looking back.


I felt so stupid, so angry with myself that night. Why in God's name did I stop? She was ready. She wanted me. I should call... but I knew I wouldn't. You call to rekindle a relationship, not to resume a failed one-night stand.

The next day, I was working on my report, when there was a knock at the door, though it was open. My visitor was Kelsey. "Come in."

She closed the door behind her, and walked up to me. "Stand up a moment?" she said.

I did, puzzled. Then - BAM. The room rocked, and the side of my face was on fire.

"What the hell..." I managed.

Kelsey's expression, which had been carefully masked, was now openly hostile. "You fuck," she said, lowering the hand she'd slapped me with. "You perverted, nasty fuck."

"Kelsey?" I begged. "What did I do?"

"You bastard," she said. "Don't try to tell me you don't know. Nicole has been in the bathroom crying her eyes out all morning. Jesus, if I'd known... You sick, lying, sack of..."

I could see she was readying for another blow. "Wait," I yelped. "Wait a moment. Let me say something..."

"Why should I listen to your lies?"

"Because they won't be," I said. "I mean it. You know. You can tell when I'm lying. Hear me out, then if you still want to hit me, I won't try to stop you."

She shook her head. "This had better be good."

I sat back down, and waited until she'd pulled a chair close, and perched on the edge of it. "You're right," I said. "I lied. I led her on. But I didn't fuck her."

"No, you dumped her, you piece of ..."

"Yeah, yeah, I did," I interrupted. "Wait a moment."

I gathered my thoughts. "How well do you know Nicole?"

"What do you mean?"

"Is she a friend? Do you like her?"

"We're not very close, no," she said, puzzled.

"No, you're not," I said. "No-one is. I've been dating her for a few weeks now, and I've been doing it for one reason only. To get into her panties. To prove I can. And you know what I've discovered?" I paused a moment. "I do like her. She's a sweet, gentle, trusting person. She... she deserves somebody better than me."

I looked straight at her. "You know me, Kelsey. I could have fucked her and gone on my way, and what would that have done to her? Yes, I led her on. Yes, I've treated her like shit. But I didn't do it, because... you only get one first time, and she deserves the chance to wait for that special person. The one who I'm not."

I stood, and folded my hands behind my back. "Now, you can smack me again, as hard as you like. It's okay, I deserve it. It won't help Nicole, but if it makes you feel better, fine. If you want to bring her here to do the same, fine. But if you want to do something that will help her - be a friend. She needs one, and - believe me - she's worth getting to know."

I closed my eyes and readied myself. I sensed Kelsey stand, and move closer, and steeled myself for the pain. After several seconds, though, I dared to open my eyes slightly.

Kelsey stood before me, rubbing her palm, still considering whether she would use it. "You're right about one thing," she said. "She doesn't deserve a bastard like you." She gave me a considering look, then turned on her heel and stalked out.


I saw Nicole around after that, of course. She didn't go out of her way to avoid me, though she looked down, not meeting my eyes.

Then, a couple of weeks later, there was a soft knock on my door. I looked up to see Nicole standing there, looking uneasy. "May I come in?" she asked.

I nodded, and she entered and quietly closed the door. Then she leaned back against the wall. She looked different. Her hair had a glossy sheen, and she had it shaped differently - straighter, curled slightly below her ears. Not over her face at all. She was wearing a royal blue blouse and matching skirt.

"How are you doing?" she asked.

"Okay," I said. "You?"

"Not bad," she replied. "I... uhh... Kelsey told me what you said. I guess... I appreciate what you did."

"I haven't apologized to you," I said. "I haven't even tried, because I don't think there's any way I can, but..."

"It's okay," she said. "You know... I had a good time, even if your heart wasn't in it. I just wanted to let you know that I'm okay."

"I'm glad," I said, honestly. "You're ... looking good."

She flashed me a quick, shy smile. "I've been spending a lot of time with Kelsey. She's been making me buy new clothes."

"She's doing okay," I said.


After that, I saw her more often. I realized that she was not hiding in her cubicle as much. She usually had a quick smile for me, and even started conversations, with others as well as with me.

She became a regular at the company bowling nights. Not just to observe - she took "lessons" from co-workers in a spare lane. There was no shortage of guys willing to help.

Along the way, she lost the heavy glasses, replacing them with an oval silver-framed pair. With her hair framing her face instead of hiding it, she looked great. When she showed up at the bowling lane in a stark black-and-white skirt and top, I realized just how much she'd come out of her shell.

Watching the short skirt twist as she stepped down the lane, or how she giggled with the guys when she guttered the ball, I realized I felt a little jealous. I left early, that night.


In June, the company turned ten years old. We'd just picked up a huge contract, and management had laid on a party. Nicole was standing alone, in a brilliant flame-orange dress. I had to talk to her.

"Hey, Nicole," I said. "You look amazing."

Her face flushed. "Thank you," she said.

"Not dancing?"

"I can't," she said. "I would feel stupid."

"Too shy?"

"I guess," she said. "Always have been."

"Yeah," I agreed. "You used to be hide-from-everything shy. Now you're sexy shy."

She turned an even brighter red at that. "You think?"

I took her hand. "I'll prove it. You watch everyone's reactions." I dragged her out to the dance floor and got her moving, her complexion holding at scarlet.

When I led her back to the table, she was approached immediately for a dance. "Yeah," she said, after a moment's thought, "but give me a minute, okay?" Then, to me, "Ryan? If you're not ... here with anyone, could you give me a ride home, later? I'd like to talk to you for a moment."

"Sure," I said.


Nicole may not have been completely the center of attention for the rest of the evening, but she was popular enough. She mainly stayed with Kelsey, who gave me some suspicious looks after seeing me dancing with her, but often enough she was in groups without her friend. She wasn't following her around.

She didn't seek me out, either, until she was ready to leave. I insisted on one more dance, and she didn't object.

She said very little on the drive. I didn't know why she wanted to talk, and she didn't mention it. I wondered if maybe she'd changed her mind, but when we pulled up at her apartment, she asked if I'd come in for a moment.

I smiled, shrugged, and followed her in.

"What is it?" I asked, once we were inside.

"Mainly ... " she said, "for old time's sake ..." then she stood on tiptoe to reach my lips with hers.

It took me a moment to recover from the shock, and her arms had circled my neck when I reached out to draw her closer. As always, I found myself responding to her gentle enthusiasm...

"Mmm," I said, when we broke. "Have you been practising?"

"I'll never tell." She grinned. "I wanted to remember the good times, and let you know that I'm really fine with everything."

"Thank you," I said, sincerely.

She released me and stepped back with a smile. "You can go now."

"Okay," I said, though I felt a rush of disappointment. I turned to leave, but felt her hand on my arm.

"You can," she said, "but you don't have to - yet - unless you need to go. I'd still like the chance to talk to you."

"Okay," I said, again. She led me to the couch, waited for me to sit, then sat all the way at the far side from me.

She seemed uneasy, folding her hands and biting her lip. She didn't look up at me as she spoke. "What you said to Kelsey," she began. "You said... you told her you left because you liked me."

I nodded. Maybe she could see that, thought she didn't look up.

"Do you... still?" she asked, tentatively.

"Yeah. Yes, I do," I said, my voice sounding rough to my ears.

She stayed in her corner, looking down, fidgeting with her fingers. "You said I deserved someone better. That's ..." she cleared her throat. "That was very sweet of you to say. But, you know, if you really think that ... I think it means you're not that bad of a person yourself."

"Nicole, I ..."

"Wait," she interrupted. "Please. I know what you're like. Kelsey's told me. I also know you're a caring person. Even if you think it's all an act, you know? Maybe some of it is, but not all. And - some of the time - you liked being with me, didn't you?"

I nodded again, but she didn't look up. "Yeah," I replied.

"Would you ... jeez, I don't know how to do this," she said. "Look, I know girls are just a game to you. But what we had - what I thought we had - seems to me that we could have it for real, even if it was just for a short time."

She looked up at me, her dark eyes holding mine from behind her oval glasses. "Look, if you want to leave now, I'm fine. I'm over what happened. But if you really do like me - would you like to start over?"

I studied her anxious expression. Yes, she was still shy, but she'd learned to know her own mind. I didn't have to walk on eggshells for fear of scaring her away. "If I did leave, now," I asked, "how would you feel?"

Her face fell, though she made an effort to hide her reaction. "I'll be okay," she said.

"That isn't what I asked. How would you feel?"

The edge of her mouth twitched. "I'd - I have to admit I'd be disappointed," she said, "but I'll get over it."

I nodded. "Yeah, I think you would."

Then I reached out and gently removed her glasses. After I'd set them on the table, I slid across the couch. With one finger under her chin, I drew her face close, and met her parted lips with my own.

Nicole took my hands in hers, and held them as we kissed. I found myself wanting this gentle girl far more than I ever wanted my more experienced "conquests". I just - felt good with her.

Drawing back, she said, "I take it you're not leaving yet?"

"Are you kidding?" I whispered, then wrapped my arms around her as our lips reconnected.

While she gripped my waist, I explored her back and waist with my fingers. I didn't want to push. She said we would "start over," and - as much as I wanted her - I wasn't going to spoil things by moving too fast.

But then ... Nicole's hands left my waist. She reached behind her, and unfastened the buttons of her dress, then moved her arms to her side, letting me ease it off her shoulders, and down, without interrupting our kiss.

With her dress collapsed at her waist, she reached her right hand behind my head, squeezing me close for a moment, then dropped it back to her side, waiting expectantly.

Taking the invitation, I raised my fingers to her unhook her bra strap, then slipped it over her shoulders. She wrapped her arms around my neck as I gently kneaded her breasts, her tongue rubbing hard against mine.

When I lowered my mouth to suck her nipples, she unfastened my shirt, running her fingers over my bare back and chest after she'd completely removed it. I kissed her lips again, squeezing her left breast hard, and she sighed with pleasure.

Caressing her stomach with the fingers of my left hand made her wriggle, and she sighed again as I pushed her dress further down, running my fingers around her navel. When they explored down to the tops of her panties, she stiffened, but immediately broke her lips from mine, and whispered "It's okay," before gripping my head to kiss me with greater enthusiasm. She dropped one hand, and shuffled as she tugged her dress down beyond her waist, until it fell to the floor around her ankles.

I caressed her nipples, then slipped my arms around her back, ending the kiss to hold her close. "Nicole ..." I whispered.

She stood, held out her hand, then led me through to the bedroom.


Standing beside the bed, Nicole unfastened my belt and pants, then waited for me to take them off. Her eyes widened when she saw the bulge in my underwear, and her smile was apprehensive, but she climbed on the bed and held out her arms.

My fingers explored her body, caressing her ass as I suckled her nipples. Then I stroked her thighs, letting my fingers trail over her panties. She parted her legs as I cupped and squeezed her pussy.

When I slipped my hand inside her panties, she gasped, but didn't stop me. I watched her eyes widen as I traced my fingers over her labia. Slowly, gently, I worked them inside. She lay still as I explored, her lips occasionally twitching, and her expression tense.

For several minutes I worked, her sex soft and moist, but her body unresponsive. I worried that I might have gone too far. She just lay there, watching me with dark, unreadable eyes. Gently I stroked inside her sex, feeling the firm surface under the soft, lubricated tissue, wondering when she was going to tell me to stop and get dressed.

Then I felt her thighs tighten for a moment. She remained otherwise still, though her eyes seemed to be a little wider. I kept up the motion, and her thighs spasmed again. She seemed to be breathing more heavily.

When I brought my lips close to hers, she extended her tongue to lick them. I met it with my own, and she sighed. After I'd covered her mouth with mine, I could feel her excitement. Her breath caught as I moved my fingers within her, and her hips pressed against my hand.

By now she was becoming very lubricated. I felt around to find her clit, rewarded with a little gasp when I found the nub. As I circled it gently, she started rocking her hips against my fingers.

I started to stroke her clit, and her breathing immediately became labored. Then, "uhhh..." she moaned, into my mouth, before breaking her lips from mine. "uhhh..." again, her breathing becoming more rapid. I felt her suck my earlobe as I backed away from her clit, not wanting to push her over the edge.

Lowering my lips to her breasts, I sucked her nipples until they became hard against my tongue, then lapped at them, running my fingers around her wet labia. Tugging her panties down, I slid them to her ankles, then dropped them on the floor, then moved my fingers back to her sex, and slipped them inside, stroking with a firm, steady rhythm.

When I felt her move her hips to press against my hand, I backed off again, to keep her arousal in control. After she'd relaxed for a short while, I stroked her clit again.

"Ohhhhh ..." She made a gentle sighing sound as I stroked. "Ohh ..." with each breath. "Ohh ..." I took more of her breast into my mouth, kneading it with my lips and tongue. "Ohh ..."

I felt her sex tensing as my tongue moved against her nipple. Gently pinching her clit, I suckled hard. "Ohh ..." the soft voice became more urgent. It was time to use my power over her body to bring her to release.

Pausing for a moment, I waited for Nicole's to relax a little, her sighs becoming more gentle. I kept one finger just lightly touching her clit, and toyed with her nipple with my extended tongue. Then I took her breast into my mouth, moving my tongue against her nipple as I sucked, and at the same time I rubbed her clit between my finger and thumb.

Instantly she arched her back, her thighs gone rigid, squeezing my hand between them. "Ohhh - OHHH," she called out. "OHH! God! Stop!"

Sensing how much she was enjoying the feeling, I didn't stop, but kept rubbing her clit.

"AAHH!!!" she cried. "Ryan! Please, stop! Please!"

I released her breast, and stopped moving my fingers against her clit, though I left them touching it. Nicole writhed on the bed, back still arched, then she took my hand between hers and forced it away from her. Her breathing was short, and she moaned as she rolled onto her side and curled up, still holding my hand.

"Mmph," she panted, "Oh, mmm..."

"Why stop?" I asked, quietly. "I want to make you feel good."

"I know." She gasped for breath. "I know ... but I want to feel you inside me. I don't want it to happen to me like this, not when I could ..."

"Oh, God, Nicole," I said, "I didn't bring condoms. I wasn't expecting ..."

She laughed between rough breaths. Holding my hand for support, she leaned over the side of the bed, opened her nightstand, and a few moments later a light box landed on my chest.

"Oh," I said. She'd bought condoms. For whom?

My expression must have shown my shock. She kissed my face. "It's okay," she said. "I haven't been ... practising. Not kissing, and not this. I got them ... because I figured I'd need them one day." She took the box away from me, opened it, and handed me a packet. "I really do want my first time to be with someone special," she said.

"Nicole, you know ..."

"Yeah, I know" she said. "It may just be one night, but I want you, Ryan."

After working my way out of my underwear, I opened the condom and unrolled it onto my shaft. Then I kissed Nicole, slipped my fingers between her legs, and started caressing her labia. Her breathing quickened as I resumed stroking her clit. Soon she was sighing again, her hips moving against my hand.

Reluctantly, I let her go, and lay on my back while she straddled me.

I guided my shaft into her, trying to help her avoid too much discomfort. She was so wet that she didn't seem to have as much trouble as I'd feared, though it took a while before she relaxed on top of me.

She laid her head on my chest, and I stroked her back. Running my palms over her ass, I squeezed her to me, then rocked my hips, just gently, not demanding a response from her while she was getting accustomed to the strange feel of having me inside her. Moving my fingers to the edge of her pussy, I pressed it against my shaft, and heard her breath catch as I moved against her.

I felt Nicole's excitement rekindling as she began to move against me. As turned on as she'd been before we started, it didn't take long until she was breathing heavily. She lifted herself up from me to reach my lips with hers, and I cupped her lovely breasts and squeezed. "Mmmm... mmmm..." she breathed.

Then suddenly she drew her lips from mine. Her face was flushed. "Oh God," she said. She pressed her thighs against mine, and I thrust harder against her. "Mmmf... mmmf..."

Her lips were parted as she panted, and her eyes were wide, as though she'd suddenly realized the full power of what was happening to her. "Aaaah..." she gasped, as I squeezed her breasts. I felt her body stiffen as I moved against her. "Uh... uh... uh... Aaaaaaaaaaah," she cried out as she shuddered.

Then she went limp, collapsing to my chest, but gripping my arms as she gasped for breath. I could feel her sex pulsing around me. I took hold of her hips so that I could keep squeezing myself into her, and she sighed with pleasure.

Careful not to overstimulate myself, I kept up a slow movement. After a time, Nicole started pushing back against me. I don't think she knew right away that she was going to be able to come again; when she did, she said "ohh!", in an almost-calm voice, then sought my lips with hers as I guided her towards climax.

When she groaned, I pushed harder, allowing myself my own release, and I felt her reach orgasm just moments after my own.

Neither of us wanted to part, but the condom made it necessary. Nicole's smile when I returned to bed was blissful and sensual. How could I ever have not recognized her beauty?

I kissed her. "I guess I'd better go," I said.

"You don't have to," she said. "If you'd ... you know ... like to stay the night?"

I wrapped my arms around her. "I'd love to," I said. She yawned and snuggled close.

"Hey, Nicole?" I said, several minutes later. I wasn't sure if she was still awake.

"What's up, Ryan?" she said, in a sleepy voice.

"What if ... what if it wasn't just a one-night stand? What if it was longer? Maybe a lot longer?"

She wriggled a little closer in my arms. "I could live with that," she whispered.

"Yeah," I said. "I think I could, too."