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Authors: Jennifer Stevenson

Tags: #humor, #hinky, #Jennifer Stevenson, #romance

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BOOK: The Hinky Bearskin Rug
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“Ma’am,
please, no.” Here it came.
What did you
expect? You go in on a fishing trip, you have to dodge bribes from the fish.
“We can’t accept—”

But Onika
gestured and the assistant handed the bag to Jewel.

“Ma’am,” Jewel
began again, holding up a palm.

“Miss,” Onika
corrected. “I want to give you these so you can see what I’m trying to do with
this company. It’s not a brand new idea, but it’s new to Artistic. You know the
old joke? What’s the difference between porn and erotica? Porn is what turns
you on, erotica is what turns me on. Well,” Onika leaned forward, “the real
difference between porn and erotica is, porn pays ten times better.”

Jewel thought.
“Because more men than women buy porn?”

“Nope.”

“Because men
have more money?”

“Nope. It’s
because for a long time nobody figured out that
women
have more money, and they
will
buy porn — if it isn’t tacky and mechanical. Those were your words, weren’t
they?”

“I’m not
trying to insult—” Jewel began.

“Go home and
watch it. We’re making erotic film for women. It’s respectful, it’s enjoyable,
it’s made with the kind of sex women like. Not the calisthenics you saw
downstairs.”

Jewel felt a
smile coming on. “Sex women like?”

The twinkle
was back in Onika’s eye. She said, “Men like quantity. Women like quality. Men
like it fast and talk-free. Women like it slow, with lots of foreplay and
conversation. Men like to break the rules. Women do, too, but they also like to
break down a man’s emotional resistance.” She blew smoke. “Some of ’em. I’ve
heard tell there are some girls so modern, they like sex any old way.”

Jewel’s pulse
sounded in her ears. “I get you.”

“I’m not
asking you for any favors. I just want you to look at what we’re doing and
decide for yourself if it deserves a chance. You saw what we do downstairs. Now
let’s go upstairs.”

Chapter Eleven

On the fifth
floor, they went into a room full of sound mixing consoles—“Sound is almost the
most expensive part, which is why the sound for a lot of porn sucks”—with a
long, low window looking out and down onto a scene of intimacy.

Down there,
inside a circle of artificial light, was a fake living room in a fake ski
lodge. A fake fireplace flickered. Squat oil lamps sat on old-timey tables
around a big white fake bearskin rug—“I have a thing for bears”—and on the rug
lay a fully-clothed couple in ski duds, including boots and snowsuits.

They were
kissing very slowly, touching faces, looking into one another’s eyes.

Jewel frowned.
She felt like she’d walked into a spy-hole on somebody’s private bedroom.

“I wrote the
first couple scripts, but my contract gal wrote the rest. She’s good. She has
to live with ’em, so it’s only fair.”

Jewel watched
the man slowly unzip the side of the woman’s snowsuit to reveal perfect skin,
tawny in the fake firelight, all the way down to her ankle. He looked in her
eyes the whole time. The woman said something, and Jewel realized she could
hear her murmuring coming from a speaker in the ceiling of the sound booth. She
took the man’s hands in hers and pressed them against her cheeks. He smiled, shaking
his head, and drew her face very slowly to his for a kiss.

“That’s
freaky,” Jewel said.

“Beeecause?”
Clay said.

“It must take
forever to get down to business.” That wasn’t why it felt freaky, but she
couldn’t think straight.

“That’s what
makes it good,” Onika whispered. “Going slow.”

That’s what’s making me antsy as hell,
Jewel thought. She’d been horny all
through this visit, but in a casual, volleyball-on-the-beach kind of way. Now
she squirmed.

Onika went over to the man at the sound console and whispered
to him.

“You should not be here,” Randy murmured in Jewel’s ear.

She turned on
him.
“What
is your problem?”

“You are
vulnerable to certain kinds of magical influence,” he whispered. “In one summer
alone, you have met with a genie and a magical beauty machine — and with me.”

“So what’s the
friggin’ magic here? It’s just sex. Not even
sex
sex. For pete’s sake, look at them, they’re touching each
other’s
hands
now.”

“I don’t know
where the magic is. I feel it. There is something hinky in this building,”
Randy said, lifting his head and letting his eyes roam over the ceiling. He
looked at her. “I feel your state.”

She set her
teeth.
What state?
she would have
said, but she knew. Randy was attuned to her level of arousal all the time,
like,
all
the time. It was like
owning a dog who could hear you
think
the
word ‘suppertime.’ From across town.

“This is not
an appropriate moment for you to be tuning in to my state, buddyboy.” She
didn’t want to think about sex with Randy here.

“Can we have
it quiet?” said a guy plastered up against the window with headphones on his
head.

“Sorry,” she
whispered. She moved away from Randy.

Clay sidled up
to her other side. “Uh, think I’ll run downstairs to the printing plant, give
it a quick sweep.”

She squinted. “Why?
You don’t have hinky radar.”

Clay pecked
her lips lightly with his. And out he went.

She felt
abandoned.
I’m on my last nerve here and
my team is playing hooky.

o0o

Clay felt that
things were moving along nicely. Randy thought he was so smart, flaunting his
ability to read her mind, talking about it right there in front of strangers.
He didn’t know Jewel, even if he could see into her deepest sexual desires.

Clay knew
Jewel. This was a woman who liked skaggy old men’s porn better than the
touchy-feely stuff going on at Hot Pink Studios. Sex for Jewel was an athletic
event.

And
relationship was her four-letter word.

It might take
Clay longer to get where he was going, but he would stay there longer than
Randy ever could. Because Clay knew how and when to back off.

Randy would
never get that. He’d spent too many years wading around hip-deep in the sexual
swamps of women’s minds. He was bad at consent. And the thing Jewel hated most
was being crowded.

Clay had set
Randy up to push too hard. If he’d done it right, Randy would even now be
digging his grave.

And Clay
wouldn’t even be there. She couldn’t know he had made it happen.

Sweet.

As he
descended the basement stairs he heard the presses thundering. He went through
a set of scarred plexi doors and the noise increased tenfold. A friendly young
man with snaggly front teeth asked him if he needed help.

Clay thanked
him. “Just checking the noise level!” he shouted, holding up the back of his
cell phone and peering at it. “You ought to be wearing ear protection!”

The kid pshawed
visibly and wandered off.
Second quickest
way to get someone to ignore you — fuss over them.

Clay wandered,
holding his phone in his palm by his waist.

Yep, this was
still a porn company. Photos of bare flesh flashed through the old-fashioned
presses every half-second. The press room’s lower walls had centerfolds taped
against them, and the upper walls bore porn posters from bygone decades. These
posters were raunchier than the stuff in
Girls,
Giggles, and Garters,
but there were plenty of Wilmas on the walls, too.

It was
fascinating, how much effort had gone into varying Wilma’s pose and costume,
and yet how carefully the artists of succeeding decades had preserved her
wholesomeness. She could have been Miss Idaho Potato of 1900 or the Daisy Queen
of 2000. From every wall Wilma beckoned, promising everything he’d ever wanted.

Everywhere,
printers with happy grins greeted him. They seemed to love their work.

Clay checked
out the men’s room. The smell hit him first, so bad that he tripped over the
cracked black-and-white tile floor. More pin-ups covered the walls, one over
each urinal. And — he stepped into a wooden stall — yep, the stall had its own
fleshy wanton taped against the inside of the door, with a suspicious and
unsavory stickiness coating the lower half of the poster. For some reason he
didn’t feel like sitting down.

Jewel’s lucky she didn’t draw this
duty.

He wandered
out into the press room and kept moving, following the walls to stay out of the
way of men clambering around the greasy presses, loading huge paper rolls, or
grabbing handfuls of naked pictures off huge stacks and snapping them in the
air, for all the world as if they were making a bed with sheets of porn.

“Why do you do
that?” he shouted, fascinated.

“So they won’t
stick together!” shouted the lucky paper-wavers.

Clay didn’t
really expect to find anything hinky. So, when he saw the ancient men’s room
door with the brand new board nailed across it, he almost walked by. The
doorway was vaulted, as if this hadn’t always been a men’s room. It was hung
with neatly printed signs.
keep out
. out
of order. health department warning. do not enter.

Huh.
That’s a lot of signage for one busted sewer pipe.

He tugged at
the board. It came loose easily. The nail at the top end had been yanked loose
before, and then slipped back into its old hole. Many times, by the look of it.
Hm.

With a swift
glance around, he yanked the board free, let it swing down, whisked inside, and
shut the door behind him.

o0o

“I want
children someday,” said the brunette beauty on the bearskin rug. “Does that
seem crazy to you?”

“Yes,” Jewel
muttered. She wanted out.

Onika appeared
at her elbow. “That’s Velvita Fromage, our contract girl. Isn’t she gorgeous?”

“Gorgeous,”
Jewel said hollowly.

Onika looked
at her watch. “Conference call time. I’ll be in my office,” she whispered.

Jewel forced a
smile.

Okay, okay,
she was getting the picture. These were movies about nice, good-hearted porn
queens who got slow, affectionate licking from their studs before they took all
ten inches in some orifice. He had to say “I love you” before he got to stick
it in. BFD.
Get me out of here.

She wondered
where Clay was. Randy stood in a corner, glowering. Jazus, was he mad at her
for being turned on? That was another first. She fidgeted silently until she
couldn’t take it any more. Then she went out of the sound booth in search of a
place where she could scream.

Across the
hall she found another sound booth, this one looking out on an empty stage and
one bare lightbulb on a stick.

She hugged herself,
grateful for the dark.

But here came
her sex demon, looking as he so often did like a hanging judge. He flicked on
the light as he entered.

“Jewel, I beg
you listen—”

I am so not up for a fight.
“No, you listen. I’ve had enough. I
thought I could take this. I thought I was so smart and sophisticated and big
city. Well, I’m not. There, are you happy? You broke me down. I’m just a small
town girl with small town morals, and I think it’s — it’s disgusting.”
And disturbing. And it makes me feel weird
about myself.
“I want to go home!”

“Then go!”
Randy exploded. “I met with less hypocrisy from a nun than I have seen in you!”

“Oh, really!”
she said, stung, her voice rising. “Where did you meet
her?
In bed, of course?”

He jerked his
head back as if he’d been slapped. “Of course. That’s what I am. I’m good in
bed.”

Oh, great, now
he was insulted. She tried to soothe him, but frankly she didn’t want to. She
wanted to slap him.

“Yes, you are,
you’re terrific in bed. Can’t you see, it’s the difference between what I do
with you and that — that fake sex that bothers me?”

“It’s not fake
sex.”

Whoa. If Randy
said it was real, it was real.

Double ick.

“That’s even
worse. They’re having fun out there and people are watching, they’re
taping
it, they’re
listening in.
And then a million creepy old farts like O’Connor are
gonna mess up the upholstery on their couches, watching—”

“Or perhaps a
million respectable women and their husbands,” he said with mystifying sarcasm.

“What’s the
difference?” she yelled.

“I don’t know,”
he said, tight-lipped. “What is the difference? How does all this differ from
your own behavior with me?”

“Those people
are being paid to have sex!” she screamed. “I never did that!”

She’d never
seen him so bleak. “But I do it every day.”

She gasped.
Now that was an insult.
“I do not pay
you for sex!”

“But you do.
You house me, feed me, clothe me—”

Frantic at his
expression, she put out both hands. “Randy, you were in trouble. I couldn’t
turn you away. You’re still in trouble. I’m not
making
you.” She stopped, remembering their argument the other
night.

BOOK: The Hinky Bearskin Rug
5.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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