“Him?” Sasha asked slyly. “You like?”

“He’s … He looks fun, that’s all.” Libby cast her eyes down.

They’d been buying pick ’n’ mix when Libby spotted the guy collecting tokens at the roller coaster. He wore the regulation orange security jerkin over a leather waistcoat, both sleeveless (Libby’s mum would have urged him to wrap up that autumn evening) to reveal muscled arms. A pattern of jagged tattoos ran shoulder to elbow on the left. His dark hair was pony-tailed, showing off his broad grin every time he welcomed a customer to the ride. He saved his best for the pretty girls. There was something winning about him, Libby thought, although he was unlike any man she had ever dated. Maybe that was the something.

“I’ll bet he’s fun.” Sasha’s gaze lingered on him. “But not your kind, Lib.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“He’s a carny.” Sasha bit the end off her marshmallow flump. “And by the look of him he’s been around the track a few times. If you get me.”

“Yes, I get you.” Libby rolled her eyes. “You shouldn’t assume. He looks, you know, nice.” She added a pleading tone to her voice and rocked on the outside of her shoes. It was a shame she hadn’t the nerve to approach him on her own.

“Oh, so we’re going on the roller coaster, are we?” Sasha laughed. “Last year it was all I could do to talk you on board. Okay, come on.”

They paid for their tokens and queued, Libby eyeing the object of her fascination as he ruffled kids’ hair and chatted gamely with their parents. He was—what—mid-, no, late-twenties, she thought, some few years older than her and Sasha, with a face just slightly lived-in, accentuated by steely-blue eyes that creased when he smiled.

“Ladies,” he said as they drew level, dividing his gaze between them. “Welcome to the Magnum!” He leaned in confidentially. “Between ourselves it’s a bit more Colt 45, but it’ll still have you girls screaming.”

They both laughed. He had an accent—American, Canadian? Libby was always getting them mixed up. The ‘stranger in a strange land’ factor intensified his appeal.

“Don’t worry,” he said, adding their tokens to his pouch. “I’ll make sure you’re both well strapped in.”

“You’ll take care of us, right?” Libby asked and smiled.

“It would be my pleasure to take care of both you ladies.” His eyes were alive in the carnival lights.

Libby giggled, trying to hold his gaze.

“Oh, I bet it would,” Sasha said. “Question is, are you Magnum or Colt 45?”

Libby’s good humour faded. She cast a baleful glance over her friend as their North American guardian helped them into the car. Sasha was coiling the last of her marshmallow stick into the side of her mouth as she settled. She tugged her woollen dress down over slinky tights to draw attention to her legs.

“Right now that’s for me to know, baby.” Their protector winked at Sasha as he locked them in. “Stay curious.”

“I will.” Sasha held his knowing look till he had vanished down the line of cars. “You were right,” she told Libby. “He is nice.”

Libby’s face smarted. The ride pushed off and she almost forgot to be scared, so great was her anger. Then speed and centrifugal force kicked in and she screamed her lungs out along with Sasha as they swooped and dived. The adrenalin rush united them in squeals of laughter till the journey was ended. That unity of spirit remained right up until the strapping pony-tailed guy helped them out again.

“So, ladies, ride of your lives?”

“I hope not.” He’d been casting looks over them both, but it was Sasha who arrested him once more with her weighted response. “Well, thanks for looking after us, carny guy.”

“That’s Jared the carny guy.” His eyes glinted as they turned away. “Come back for another.”

Sasha flicked a look back over her shoulder. “Maybe I will.”

She trotted off, hands stuffed in pockets, looking pleased with herself. Libby hurried to keep up, though she could happily have turned heel and gone home.

“Oh, my, I think I’m in something beginning with L.” Sasha laughed, then caught Libby’s sour expression. “Lib, I’m sorry. He kind of caught me off-guard. Look, you don’t want that sort of trouble, believe me.”

“What sort of trouble?” Libby let her annoyance show this time. “Don’t treat me like I’m a little girl.”

“I’m not. Really I’m not. But I’ve been around guys like him before and—”

“Guys like him? Why do you assume what sort of guy he is? He was perfectly polite. You were the one doing most of the flirting.”

Sasha dropped her stare and chewed on a fingernail. “I know. Look, let’s forget about him for now. You can go back and chat to him later. I won’t get in your way, I promise. Hey, want to go blast some ducks to oblivion?”

Libby was happy friendship had resumed. “Yes, let’s.”

They had been at the shooting range some minutes, giggling at each other’s lack of hunting prowess, when a familiar voice made Libby’s stomach flip.

“Hey girls, you’re not going to bring home much supper firing like that.” Jared wrapped a strong arm around each of their waists. “Want me to show you how it’s done?”

Sasha restrained herself from responding, while Libby struggled for any words at all. Finally she managed: “Aren’t you keeping people safe over on the ride?” Like she had the faintest desire for him to leave.

“One of my buddies has got it covered. I figured it’d be nice to escort you two ladies about the fair.”

“We live around here,” Libby replied sweetly, hoping it was sufficiently flirtatious. “Think we’ll get lost?”

“Maybe not, but don’t you want any help aiming that rifle?”

Libby feigned helplessness to ensure she didn’t miss out on his arms around her, steadying her aim, his stubble-shadowed chin hovered just shy of her face as he lined up the shot. Even through her chunky sweater she could sense the strength of his tensed body.

“Now squeeze nice and gently.” A succession of bangs eliminated ducks, squirrels and other two-dimensional wildlife, resulting in a large blue teddy-bear for Libby.

“See what you can do with a little prompting?” Jared said with a wink.

“You know I’m as rubbish a shot as she is,” Sasha chimed in.

Jared was on Sasha instantly, to the stall-holder’s chagrin as well as Libby’s. “So I get a little target practice with both of you. My lucky night,” Jared said, as he took charge of the blonde girl’s aim. Sasha shot an apologetic look over her shoulder, which Libby didn’t buy for a second. Apparently her friend couldn’t rein in her competitive spirit after all.

Having bagged Sasha a cuddly rabbit, Jared slid those powerful arms around both girls’ waists and guided them away from the stall. “So, ladies, you got me for twenty minutes tops. Where you gonna take me?”

They took him for hot chocolate and toffee apples, which Libby insisted they pay for.

“You did win us our prizes after all.” Sasha, to her limited credit, allowed Libby a share of the conversation and together they drew out their new friend on what he was doing at the fair.

“Earning my way from one town to the next. Wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home. I swear that song was written about me.”

“You’re not actually wearing a hat,” Libby pointed out. He had his arm draped loosely about Sasha’s neck by that point, giving Libby a constricting sensation in her chest.

“Just a metaphor.” He winked again. “As well you know, smart girl like you.”

His wanderlust, he explained, had taken him to the UK on the invitation of an English rocker with whom he had downed beers in a Chicago music club one spring night. “Told him I played guitar and he said his band was looking for a guitarist. I’d only planned to visit a month or two, max, but we hooked up, jammed some, then I got myself a work visa and stuck around to play.”

“What, they let you stay ‘cos you’re a rock star?” Sasha jibed, her gaze straying all over him. Libby fumed inwardly, searching for space to wedge herself back into the conversation.

“Not yet,” Jared admitted, “but soon, baby.” He punctured the inflated boast with a throwaway “Or maybe never.” He flashed a look to Libby to keep her on board, even as he got tactile with Sasha.

Libby wondered from the start which one of them he’d opt for; it occurred to her now that given the opportunity he might have them both. She supposed she should have found his behavior repellent, but he had a knack of transcending that. Maybe it was that glint in his eyes. However much the situation galled her, she kept gazing back at him, trying to make her impact.

“Construction work keeps me here right now,” he explained, “and gigs like this one. But English babes like you two are my reason for sticking around. You girls have gotta come see the band play. We’ve got a London gig coming up.”

“What are you called?” Libby asked.

“The Devil’s Rejects.”

She laughed along with Sasha.

“Yeah, and we play like that sounds. Down and dirty rock and roll. You’re gonna come hear us, I insist, get rocked like you’ve never been rocked before.”

“Oh really?” Sasha had an arm slipped around his waist. “I hope your lyrics aren’t as cheesy as that.”

“Sure we’ll come, I love live rock music,” Libby cried out in near-desperation. “Hang on, I want to get you something.” The impulse seemed to come from nowhere. She rushed to a nearby stall and bought a pound of her favorite Cornish fudge.

An electric thrill ran through her at the thought of pressing the salty sweetmeat into Jared’s wet mouth. Maybe his tongue would brush her fingertips if she lingered just a little. She’d light up and spin like the Meteorite ride if that happened. What was coming over her? What sudden transformation? The urge to steal this disreputable man from under the pert nose of her competition … God, she was actually moist as she reached for the candy-striped bag.

Then as she returned, her glee evaporated. Sasha was keying a number into Jared’s phone, hanging nonchalantly about him as he saved it. Libby tried to mask the mortification which had replaced her sudden confidence.

Jared gave that look again. “So we can all hook up at a gig. Want to see you there, Libby, you hear me?”

“Sure,” she said weakly. “That’d be good.”

“You girls enjoy the rest of your evening.” He reached over and picked a chunk of fudge from her lamely-proffered bag, tossing it in his mouth. “Now that tastes really good.” His eyes lingered on Libby as he savored her treat. “Kind of sweet and salty on my tongue at the same time. I love that.” He turned away, shot a meaningful glance at her friend and departed.

Sasha had the facility to look guilty even after she’d behaved shamelessly. “I really did give my number for both of us,” she insisted, but couldn’t sustain in the face of Libby’s stare.

“Look, he asked and I gave it. I wasn’t thinking. He … I didn’t mean to … I’ll say no if he calls, okay? If that’s what you want. I promise.”

Libby’s pride would not allow it. She wasn’t going to be a peeved little girl with a trembling lip, just because she’d been out-maneuvered. “You don’t need to promise anything, Sasha. He’s just some bloke with an accent. If he calls, really—do what you feel.” She hoped she sounded more generous than she felt.

“You sure, Libby? You okay with that?”

Libby had seldom heard Sasha so transparently eager. She swallowed her disappointment. “I’m fine. Look, it’s getting cold. I think we should—”

“Quick drink in the Princess?”

Libby was in no mood to drink anything, but dignity enforced itself. “Yeah. Sounds good.”

That night she scrutinized herself in front of her mirror. She untied her hair and shook it out like a shampoo commercial. Rich chestnut to match hazel eyes. Maybe really interesting guys shared a nut allergy. She stripped to her undies, attempting a provocative pout and hip-wiggle. Not very her. Everything else in place though. Skin still held its summer bronzing. Firm and tummy-tautened, her bosom held in springy tension by her bra. And yes, a passably pretty face looked back at her. But she couldn’t compete, not with that torrent of blonde sexiness. She couldn’t flirt with a Jared, not the way a Sasha could.

No big deal. Nothing missed. Stupid guy, confident to the point of arrogance. Much more likely to end up with Sasha, right? Though he did have a low-rent charm, she thought, as she wriggled into bed. And he was funny. And kind of … rough-hewn. She drifted into sleep with the thought of him. Of being sweet and salty on his tongue.

*

Monday mornings, Libby could always tell instinctively whether Sasha had been loved-up that weekend. This particular Monday the blonde’s behavior was altogether unique. Libby had never seen her friend accidentally jostle the office pot plant or knock a full stationary holder off her desk. The girl’s focus seemed shot from the start. She could scarcely meet Libby’s eyes—that was the other thing. None of the usual “I’ve got a story to tell” glances. The reason was clear.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Sasha said at the water cooler. Seldom did she sound so hesitant.

“That Jared guy, you know, from the fair? He called me Saturday. We went out. Look I know I said I wouldn’t, but—”

“Sasha, it’s not a problem.” Libby had spent two whole days preparing her look of unconcern. She thought she pulled it off pretty well. “If you want to go out with him, that’s fine.”

“Really? I didn’t mean to step on your toes, Lib—”

“He went for you, it’s not an issue. We’re grown-ups, okay?”

“I’m sure he liked you just as much. But I think he likes women to be direct.”

If that’s what you call it, Libby thought, then reprimanded herself for being spiteful. “Whatever. Look, I really don’t mind. Did you have a good time?”

Sasha’s catch of breath told a slim erotic volume. “Yes, yes, I did. Thanks.” There was a brief silence. “Are we okay about this?”

“Totally,” Libby said, as she grieved her own lost weekend.

“Then can I tell you about it later?”

“Eh, yeah, sure.”

Why the hell did I say that? she screamed at herself on the way back to her desk. Dumb reflex politeness.

The sandwich bar, where they normally shared their respective weekends, Sasha deemed inappropriate for her story. “Let me take you out for a drink tonight,” she said in a hushed tone. “I’ll tell you the rest. If that’s okay.”

“Sure. I want to hear.” Strangely Libby did.

That night they went to The Princess of Wales. It took half an hour’s token work-chat over vodka and Coke, before Libby lost patience. “Okay, you’re clearly bursting about Saturday night. So tell me.”

Sasha went an uncharacteristic shade of red and leaned in, even though no one was near. “Oh, Libby, my god, I thought you’d never ask. Jared … He … I … Well, after the pub he took me back to his place and …” Her voice dropped to a murmur of barely suppressed delight. “God, you don’t even want to know what it was like. This guy, he just … does things! Seriously, Libby, maybe it’s better I don’t say anything.”

“Look,” Libby sighed, “tell me or don’t. But cut out the games.”

“All right.” Sasha took a gulp of vodka and a deep breath. “Okay. Well, up to that point he’d been, you know, the same funny laid-back guy we’d met Friday night. Then once we got inside, he … took control. Grabbed me. Did what he wanted. Like he owned me.”

A chill ran up Libby on the final word, one which went right to the points of her nipples.

“Wasn’t that scary?”

“Christ yes. And sexy as hell. He’d still got that look, that cocky amused thing. You know what I mean?” Libby knew. “But something had changed. I knew from the way he was kissing me. He just pulled me into his room and threw me down on the bed. He hadn’t even made it.” Libby’s heartbeat sped up palpably. “And then he just reached up under my—” Sasha put her hand to her mouth to suppress a squeal of recollection. “Oh, god, no, I’m sorry. You don’t want to hear this stuff, Lib. It’d shock you too much.”

“Maybe I don’t shock so easily.”

“God, the things that boy can do with his tongue.” She said it more to herself. “He knew he’d got me ready, because he … No, I shouldn’t.”

Now Libby was truly pissed off. “Look, tell me or don’t! You were the one who wanted to discuss it.”

“I know, but well, he’s so rough and unexpected. The things he made me do.” She laughed again, her face alive with those ‘things.’ “Shit, what didn’t he make me do? He’s so fucking dirty, you have no idea. And Lib, he’s …” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “… Really big.” Now there was a detail Libby could have done without. “And hard. Like the boy never goes soft. Even when he’s done. And when he comes, god—flood warning.”

“Okay, okay, too much information!”

Sasha subsided into laughter. “Libby, I just knew he wasn’t your type. You couldn’t cope with this guy, truly you couldn’t. I did you a favor.” And myself. The unspoken words were all over Sasha’s face. She sipped from her glass again, eyeing her friend mischievously.

Defensive primness overtook Libby. “You’re right. I wouldn’t want someone to treat me like that. It just sounds disrespectful.” Her face was flushed and she was moist between her thighs, like when she had purchased fudge for Jared three nights back, so she added: “And tacky.”

Sasha was unabashed. “Well, sometimes ‘tacky’ can be fun. Don’t worry, Lib, I’ll help you find a nice boy, I promise.” The hip pocket of her jeans buzzed and she gasped when she fished out her phone. “Oh my god.”

“What is it?” Libby was sure she already knew.

“He’s texted me. He’s asking what I’m doing.” She thumbed her response. “I’m saying I’m out with you.” Message sent, she resumed conversation with Libby, but seemed much more focused on whatever follow-up text might be imminent. “He said he’d be in touch, but I kind of didn’t know if he meant it. I shouldn’t have texted back so quickly, should have made him wait, what do you think?”

Libby was still searching for an opinion, when Sasha’s phone buzzed again. The blonde scanned the display and gave a startled laugh. “He’s so bad. Look what he wrote.” She shoved the phone in Libby’s face.

GET OVER HERE. I WANT MY COCK IN YOUR CUNT BY NINE. SAY HI TO LIBBY.

“He’s so naughty!” Sasha giggled, then stared with an expression of kittenish pleading.

Annoyance flared inside Libby. It was half from seeing her name hovering so close to those dirty words, half at the abandonment of their evening. “Fine, Sasha, go. If you want to be with someone who talks to you like that, who treats you like some cheap slut, don’t let me stop you.”

Sasha’s face tightened. “I won’t.” She grabbed her bag. “I don’t need your permission for what sort of guy I date. And maybe I like how he treats me just fine. And maybe you should deal with the fact that he went for me instead of you.”

“There’s nothing to deal with,” Libby snapped. “You’re right, he’s not my type. Why would I be interested in some guy who … who—”

“Bends me like India rubber and fucks me till I scream? I’m sure you’ve no idea.”

The comment bit deep, but Libby ignored it. “Are you even fit to drive?”

“Why? Are you offering to take me there?” Sasha cast a final irate glance and was gone.

Libby slumped into a folded-arm sulk. She wasn’t sure which angered her most, Sasha’s insensitivity or her own body’s reaction to what Jared might soon be doing to her blonde friend. Drink unfinished, she went home.

She made herself hot chocolate, but could not focus on the episode of Friends she put on. The thought of what a certain Michigan native might be doing with his cock was much too distracting. She checked her emails, then gravitated to the erotic fiction site no one knew she visited. She was partway through her favorite tale, the one about the girl lured from her boyfriend by the scoundrel next door, before she stopped herself.

What the hell am I playing at? I so don’t need to be reading this.

She went to bed miserably horny, willing sleep to take her. But her phone chimed before it could and she marveled to see her best friend’s name displayed. An apology perhaps, or a sorry account of an evening turned sour.

“Sasha?”

The response came not in words, but as a series of extended moans. They sounded distant from the receiver. Much closer was the accompanying male voice. “That’s it, that’s it, girl, take it …” From Sasha came further inarticulate wails. “Tell me what you are, girl. Let me hear you say it.”

“Oh god, I’m your slut!”

“Yes, you fucking are, and you damn well love it!” came the American voice from the fairground, only with a fierce edge. It made Libby wet to the core, even as it shocked her. She clutched the phone seconds longer, filthy epithets and fuck-noise pouring into her ear. “Come on, blondie, take that fucking cock!”

Libby cut the call dead and knelt panting on her mattress. She felt like she was the one who’d been fucked.

*

“Look, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have rubbed your nose in all the gory details,” Sasha told Libby during a lull in work the next morning. There were heavy bags around her eyes.

“What do you mean?”

“In the pub. I should have kept it to myself.”

Libby clutched her coffee. She’d been waiting for an opportunity to broach her concern.

“Sasha, did you call me last night?”

“Sorry?”

“Last night, late on. Did you call me?”

Sasha frowned. “No. No, I didn’t. Why, should I have? Was I that much out of order? Libby, don’t you think you were a little over the top as well?”

“Forget it. I must have been … Forget it all. Look, have fun with your new boyfriend. But I don’t need the triple X-rated version of what you get up to with him, okay?” Her imagination would supply that.

“Fair enough,” Sasha agreed, nibbling on a cinnamon biscuit. “I promise. Not another word.” She shifted awkwardly in her seat and winced.

“You okay?”

“Sure, I’m just a little tender after last—Yes, I’m fine.”

Libby was sure Sasha was suppressing a smirk. Did she know more than she was admitting?

The phone on her desk rang, interrupting her thoughts. “Blue Arrow Travel. Can I help you?”

“I’d like to book a vacation.”

Libby’s heart thumped. She’d heard that voice very recently. “That’s what we do. What had you in mind?”

“Two weeks naked in Bermuda with a hot brunette and a supply of Cornish fudge. Can you help me?”

“Jared. I don’t think it’s me you want to talk to.” She dropped her voice to a whisper. “Same way I don’t think you meant to make a certain phone call last night.”

The briefest of pauses. “Goddamn. Have I done that again? It’s becoming such a habit. You know how it is, Lib, you get into that hot crazy action and then you go kneel on someone else’s cell. My humblest apologies.”

Apologies my ass. “Look, I don’t know whether you’re covering for her or playing some messed-up game of your own, but—”

“Sasha had no idea it happened, I assure you. So we can keep it our sexy little secret. Is she there now?”

“She’s busy on a call. A proper call. You know, work-related?”

“Oh, well in that case, I’d be obliged if you could pass on a message.”

“Make it quick, Jared.”

“Could you write this down, Lib? It’s important.”

“I’ve got a pen. Just tell me.”

“Tell her I’m sorry about the damage. I’ll replace the panties and try not to rip the next pair I remove. You got that?”

Libby slapped the pen down. “Tell her yourself. And next time call her cell. I thought you were nice, not a … a pervert.” She hung up, heart racing.

Wanker …

“Everything okay?” Sasha asked.

“What? Yes, it’s fine. Joke call.” Libby’s face and neck flushed. Her panties were soaking.

*

There was no more contact from the “carny” that week. The main reminder was Sasha’s sleep-deprived work performance. Libby tried to divert her imagination from what might be occupying Sasha’s night hours. It was tough, what with the hints she’d been given by Jared. Then on Friday Sasha made a proposition. “He’s the brother of one of the girls in my spin-class,” Sasha began. “He came along to a few of the sessions and it turns out he’s noticed you around the gym. I was thinking …”

“Hold on, you know I don’t like being set up.”

“Hear me out, Lib. You’d like this guy. He’s successful, he’s fit—in more ways than one—and he seems really nice. I thought I could invite him along to the gig in Camden next week, the one I’m going to, you know, with Jared. We could go as four.”

“Sasha, I’m not sure if that’s a good—”

“Come on, Lib, it’ll be fun. I don’t want to have to keep you and Jared apart now we’re seeing each other.”

Seeing each other. One way to describe a fuck-fest not yet in its second week. Did Sasha know her new man made dirty phone calls to her best friend?

Libby said she’d consider the date, but in truth she thought more about Jared. She was doing so the following afternoon, when her coffee shop interlude was interrupted.

“Hey! Little Miss Sweetness, I knew it was you.”

Startled, Libby looked up from her novel. Jared had breezed in as though summoned by her wandering thoughts. “Little Miss what?”

“It’s okay, Libby, I’m not busting your chops. I was talking about the fudge. Touching gift.”

“Yeah, you keep mentioning it.” She shifted in her seat and wondered on a one-to-ten scale how flustered she appeared.

“Although you and Sasha do have quite the sugar and spice routine going, it’s gotta be said.”

Was he searching for ways to goad her? “Jared. I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. We don’t have any routine going. Was there something you wanted?”

“That’s a little unwelcoming, Lib. I thought since I’m dating your friend it’d be polite to say hello.”

“So what about phoning me up when you’re in the middle of … of whatever, is that polite too? Sharing with me? Is that a game you like to play? Is Sasha in on it?”

“Hey, Lib,” he remonstrated. “It was an accident. I’m as mortified as you are. Why would I do that deliberately?”

Libby studied his face and relented a little. She was sure she shouldn’t, but somehow he made her feel like she was over-reacting “You … You here for coffee?”

“Yeah, thanks, love to join you. Get you another?”

“Ehhh …” Libby hadn’t meant to initiate a sit-down chat, but Jared returned with two freshly-steaming cups and dropped into the chair opposite.

“What you reading?”

Libby held up the novel, embarrassed. “Woman in love with her married boss. Very chicky. You a reader, Jared?”

“Yeah. Kerouac, Thompson. Love the beat writers. Joseph Heller … Oh, and Loaded Magazine. That’s a quality Brit publication.”

“I’m sure you think so.” She could not help but be amused.

“Hey, sorry about that ‘sugar and spice’ thing. I was just being funny.”

“Hilarious. What did you mean by that?”

“Just me fuckin’ around. Don’t mind it.”

“No, you can’t just shrug it off.” Libby was glad of some irritant to pursue. It distracted her from the buzz in her lower stomach. “What made you say that?”

“Well,” he leaned back in his chair, “when we met that night, you and Sasha had different approaches. And if I’d been with a buddy who you liked, maybe it would have worked out better.”

“What? You … I didn’t have an approach.”

“Sure you did. Only when Sasha wants something she takes a direct one. Yours is more sugar-coated.”

Libby tried to keep her cool. “Sorry, Jared, you’ll have to enlighten me. What exactly did I want?”

“Me.” He sipped his Americano.

Libby’s mouth hung open. “You have an amazing ego. And no sense of boundaries.”

Jared planted his coffee mug back on the table. “Honesty is what I’ve got, Libby. And no bullshit false-modesty. Ego doesn’t come into it. It’s body language. Pupils dilating, like yours are now, shortening of breath. Human biology. I know when I’m being shot down for real, but you’re just pretending. Come on, tell me you’re not attracted to me.”

Libby eyeballed him, but her boldness wilted under his calm scrutiny. “Look, I may or may not have been that night, but if you go bragging about it—”

“Who’s bragging? I recognize when a woman thinks I’m hot. Just like you know when a guy finds you hot.” He dropped his voice and leaned in, causing her to do the same. “You’ll deny it to me and to yourself, but I can tell you right now, the barristo who served you that coffee, and that guy two tables down with his girl? They’d both love to bone you six ways from Sunday.”

“Jared!” Several heads turned at her burst of outrage.

“And I know how they feel.” He took another sip of his drink. “You’re totally as hot as Sasha. I’d as soon have hooked up with you. Maybe more so.”

Irritation tussled with flattery inside Libby, the former only just winning out. “So why didn’t you?”

Jared shrugged. “I was horny and she was less work. But I wanted to. With you. Trust me on that.”

Trust you,” she spluttered. She recalled his words to Sasha in that phone call, the sounds he had drawn from her friend. “No girl in her right mind should trust you. When you’re done hitting on me, what makes you think I won’t tell Sasha?”

He raised a hand in placation. “I’m not hitting on anyone, just giving you a compliment. You’re a sexy-ass girl and you need to start believing it, not hiding your light all the time.” He waved a hand that indicated her default baggy jeans and sweater. She blushed like he had ignited a blast furnace within her. “Look,” he said, “I’ve talked way too much and I’m gonna go. But I’ll say one last thing. Sasha thinks you’re Rebecca of Sunnybrook fuckin’ Farm. She doesn’t get you at all.”

“Oh …” Through a broil of emotion, she attempted scorn. “And you do?”

“Hell, yeah. I know what’s inside you bursting to get out. I have a sense for it, Libby. It’ll just take the right guy.”

Rational thought was sidelined by a swell of illicit longing. Those azure blue eyes were drilling into her and she was failing to slap him down. If he didn’t up and leave, she’d have to flee the shop herself.

“Babe, I wasn’t expecting to find you here!”

They both looked up, the trance broken. Sasha was standing there, all tube-top and hipster jeans, showing off a diamante glint from her belly-button.

Jared rose and kissed her full on the mouth. “I knew you two were meeting, so I figured I’d talk Libby into the Camden gig,” he said smoothly, looking to Libby with his arm around Sasha. “You’re coming, right?”

“Eh … yeah, maybe.”

“Make sure she’s there,” he told Sasha, before kissing her again. “Gotta run. See you tonight.”

Substitute your choice of filthy verb for ‘see,’ Libby thought. He shot her a glance over Sasha’s shoulder and her stomach somersaulted once more.

“You’ve got to come, it’ll be fun,” Sasha said. “Lib?”

Your new boyfriend was coming on to me. Libby considered blurting it out, but was sure she couldn’t do it without sounding snide. Besides, her secret felt so damned empowering. Your boyfriend wants inside my knickers. He as good as said so. She was furious with Jared’s toying, but more so with Sasha for daring to discuss her with him. Libby’s such a poor sweetheart, she wouldn’t know what to do with you. Well, poor sweet Libby would go to the wretched gig. She’d show them both what she was made of.

“Okay, I’ll come. Have you given that gym guy my number yet?” The enquiry was innocent. Because innocence was what she did so well, right?

*

Jonathan phoned to introduce himself a day later. He sounded polite and self-effacing, prone to covering nervousness with jaunty humour. He’d seen Libby training and would be delighted to get to know her properly. They could all meet at the Camden venue and go for a drink afterwards.

Libby’s interest in Sasha’s match-making was low. It went against her grain to use a guy in a stratagem, but this situation was unique. The plan was simple. Screw up her courage and dress like she had never done before. Draw Jared’s gaze enough to make Sasha jealous, then devote her attention to her date. Perfect, if unscrupulous. Of course if Jonathan was hot, triple-result.

Newly-bought slim-fit jeans (that looked like she’d smoothed peanut oil on her ass and thighs to pull them on) set off with black stiletto ankle boots. Still, no point in coyness if she wanted to make an impression on Jared. What had all those gym classes been for? Her top half was a whole other source of concern.

Libby’s early development had mortified her in school. Big breasts on a skinny adolescent frame—some girls might have revelled in it, but not Libby. Particularly after Rob Hyland’s opportunistic locker-room grope. By the time her frozen brain had gathered what the school rugby forward was doing, it was already too late. Helen Anderson had walked in and witnessed it all. The incident had been related to that bitchy girl’s cackling friends, resulting in endless changing-room taunts. “Look at the slag. Thinks she’s somebody because she’s got tits. Got the whole team feeling you up, Libby?” No wonder she’d kept herself covered up for the past eight years.

But no more harking back. It was time to get sexy. She stripped her upper body and put on her new black push-up bra, the one which raised and cradled her breasts so snugly. Then she topped it off with the low-cut blue vest, so that the bronzed upper curves of her bosom (and even the hem of her bra) were on display, hair tied back to provide maximum exposure. It was scary, uncharacteristic and utterly thrilling. Redeeming her sexuality and her curves from the jealous taunts of teenage. And if one of her old persecutors should see her, she would hold up her head, thrust out her chest and sashay past with pride.

Friday evening Libby was not so cavalier. She wore a corduroy jacket to Barfly in Camden Town and kept it wrapped around her the entire train ride. Jonathan recognized her outside the venue. In other circumstances, he might have been a pleasant surprise—neat, presentable, handsome. Peck on the cheek, polite enquiry about whether she was cold, then cheerful small talk regarding the gym they both frequented. Sasha had worked hard to find a “Libby kind of guy.”

Once Sasha appeared with Jared, however, Libby dropped all attention to her date and held her breath, anticipating their reactions.

“Hey, Lib,” Jared said casually, giving a quick once-over of her repackaged body. Libby couldn’t deny how much it smarted.

“God, Lib, what’s this?” Sasha said. “You must be set to impress this guy. I’m not sure if this is what he was expecting.”

“Too much?” Libby asked lightly.

“No, I think it’s cute seeing you try sexy. Just don’t catch cold, all right?”

Libby burned, the thrill of her big unveiling rendered an anticlimax. Considering Sasha’s own backless halter-top, the “don’t catch cold” was ironic.

She turned around and saw Jonathan trying not to look at her tits. At least one person there was impressed. She took his hand as they all ascended to the hot and dingy room upstairs.

“Oh yeah,” Jared said with approval, “this’ll be fucking awesome.” Libby turned to him enquiringly. “We’re playing here next weekend, Lib. Halloween. Our biggest gig to date, hope you’re gonna be there. Bring your guy.”

Damn him. Libby spent the rest of the evening trying to muster enthusiasm for her date, while paying her carny-crush no mind. She clapped hands and cheered when a band called Sidewinder kicked off the evening. Bathed in red and blue stage lights, she bounced on the balls of her feet till sweat trickled into the cleavage of her tightly-sprung bosom. To hell with who was watching.

Jonathan had gone to fetch drinks, when Jared spoke into her ear. “Looking hot tonight, Lib. Glad you took my hint. Time you showed yourself off.”

He had a way of making her flame with indignation even as her loins liquefied. She checked for Sasha; her friend was retreating towards the toilets. “I didn’t dress for you, Jared, I did it for me. And as you pointed out, I’m here with someone.”

“You’re sharing floor space, that’s hardly with him. I’m not getting much chemistry between you two.”

“What do you know? I like him. He’s a perfectly nice guy.”

“I’m sure he is. He’s just not your type. He’s Sasha’s idea of your type, but we both know you’re looking for something different, right, Lib?”

She stared at him. How demonically handsome he looked in the red light. “It’s Libby to you. And you can keep your innuendo. You’ve no idea what I’m looking for.”

“God, Libby, I totally know, it’s so damn obvious. It’s trying to bust out of you like your tits out of that top.” He fixed his eyes on her cleavage. “Hell, I wanna be there when that happens.”

Libby flushed hot and was thankful for the lighting. “Jared, what makes you think I won’t pass this on to Sasha? She’s my best friend, or had you forgotten?”

“Tell her if you have to. Though I’m guessing you won’t. Not with all her jokes about you looking so cute, trying to be sexy. For the record, you don’t have to try. And there’s a hard length in my pants, testimony to that.”

Her body shivered with excitement before her mind could rebel against the image.

He leaned close, so that his lips brushed her earlobe. “You won’t say a word. Why? Because you know it’s just a matter of time till I fuck you.”

Libby trembled. Images of her and Jared flashed across her mind. “Dream on, Jared,” she said over the on-stage sound and her heartbeat’s drumming. “You made your choice. Live with it.”

She turned away, flushed with triumph. Consider yourself brushed off, Mr. Rock Star. When Jonathan returned she bounced and swayed, flirting more overtly with him. Maybe she was into him after all. Maybe she’d sleep with him, soon. Make sure Sasha passed on the news to Jared. That’d be so choice.

“Hope you’ll be at our gig, Lib,” the carny said, as they all meandered sweaty from the venue.

“It’s a costume party,” Sasha told her. “Come on, it’ll be fun.”

There was something addictive about this game. “Jonathan, do you want to come and see them?” She would play Jared at his own game, teach him and Sasha a lesson. She’d make it a Halloween to remember.

TO BE CONTINUED

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than Lushstories.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

<a href=”https://www.lushstories.com/stories/straight-sex/-the-jared-chronicles-jareds-roller.aspx”> The Jared Chronicles: Jared’s Roller Coaster – Part 1 </a>





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