C.J. Ellisson is the USA Today Bestselling author of the NYT Bestselling book, Vanilla on Top, the bestselling V V Inn series, and several erotica shorts. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband, two children, two dogs, and a fluffy black cat who makes her sneeze.
Unlike most full-time authors, she's also battling severe chronic illness. C.J. works daily to put her Lupus into remission and continues to fight numerous bacterial infections while her immune system slowly attacks her body.
She turned to writing when she could no longer work outside the home and claims the escape of penning contemporary fantasy, erotica, and erotic romance has helped save her sanity.
Connect with C.J: Author Site | Facebook | Twitter
“Casual Sex,” I say, twisting the phrase so it sounds like a bad thing. “There. I said it.” I look across the table and meet my best friend’s dark, knowing gaze. “Happy now?” Unable to hold her penetrating stare any longer, I reach for my tepid chai latte, grateful it’s tasty even cold.
“And why is that, exactly?” Regret gnaws at my stomach. Why did I let myself get dragged into this conversation during my lunch hour? “Sure, you found your great ‘one-and-only’ guy, but I don’t think that’s going to happen with me.”
Heather ignores me and taps her finger on the small sheet of paper on the table between us. “Next one.”
Geez, this feels like a one-woman intervention, and despite the jokes I could make over that realization, I’m really not enjoying it. The pleading on her compassionate face has me glancing at the slip of paper once more. “Friends with Benefits. Oh, come on, that too? I kind of like that one. Makes it much easier to stay friends when the guy winds up being dumb, but not bad in bed.”
Heather’s mouth sets in a firm line and I plow ahead to the last item on her unhelpful “list” of what she sees as my love life faults. “Avoidance of Intimacy. Seriously? You think I do all this crap?” A knot of anxiety sits in my throat. “I’m not a fun-loving chick all the time, you know. I have been searching for the right guy.” The right guy who’s perfect in the sack and magically disappears before dawn. “Just haven’t found him yet.”
A grimace twists my face and I try to smooth my features. “It’s not like that—I swear.” Secretly I fear it’s exactly like that. And what the hell does that say about me? That I’m a slut? I’m not. I like sex but I don’t sleep with just anyone like her darned unasked for list of faults implies. “They weren’t good matches for me.”
“Why are we discussing this…,” I gesture to the paper between us, “list of yours? I’m a careful woman. I always make sure they use a condom. My instincts are good. I’ve never been in a situation I couldn’t handle. What happened to make you think I needed—no wanted—your input in my love life?”
Heather’s strength deflates and I feel like I’ve kicked a puppy. “It’s because I care about you, Carla, and want to see you happy. You keep up with this casual approach to relationships and you’re going to be alone for the rest of your life.”
A snort erupts from me. “Like that’s a bad thing? I’m not afraid of being alone. In fact, I’m quite all right with it.” I resist the urge, just barely, to throw her words from a few weeks ago in her face. She was the one afraid of winding up alone and eating microwave meals-for-one her whole life. Not me. Never me.
My goal has always been to find an exciting, independent man—one who’s a great lover and wants nothing emotional from me in return. I gaze out the window of our favorite coffee shop, staring at the pelting rain washing the city streets. Maybe my relaxed attitude would be better suited in Europe. Seems like the Puritanical ideals of America are still going strong, no matter how much women struggle with equality. If I were a guy no one would bat an eye at my desire for a lover with no emotional attachments weighing us down.
Don’t forget good looking, great body, successful career, a big dick…
Yeah, a girl can dream, right?
Aware I need to get back to work, I glance at my watch then gather the remains of my meal. We say our goodbyes and I race into the rain, pulling up the hood on my stylish raincoat for the three-block trek to the office.
Heather likes to forget—I’m not like her. I’ve always known what I want in my life and in my bed. She and Tony met at the exact time she was ready to blossom. My sexuality bloomed a long time ago and I quickly became disappointed with the unknowledgeable lovers I invited into my bed. Hell, when the first few trysts were a let down, why go back for more?
It’s pretty sad, really. They all appeared to be so promising during our initial dates.
Despite Heather’s list making me sound like a “good-time girl,” a phrase I hear a lot from my mom, I actually practice a lot of decorum when choosing a lover. They all have ambitious careers, their own apartments, aren’t married, and know how to treat a lady with manners. I don’t have a set laundry list of physical attributes the guy has to have, but I do want a man who cares enough about his health and appearance to not be slovenly or obese.
Avoiding large puddles and dangerous sidewalk grating, I wish I would’ve changed out of my heels before dashing off to meet Heather. A short woman like me learns the benefit of being on equal eye level in the advertising world. Doesn’t hurt that I look great in them, too.
The awning to my building appears and I gratefully step under it and push back my hood. I unzip the coat and flap the sides, knocking off moisture before entering.
“Hey, Carla,” a masculine voice calls from the doorway.
I look up to see one of the company accountants holding the door for me. “Thanks, Andrew.” I step through, avoiding eye contact with him.
He’s tried to make casual conversation with me for months, and I’m always polite but careful not to lead him on. I mean really, he’s an accountant. Could a job be more unexciting? Just stick him in an IT position and buy him a ticket to the next Trekkie convention in town.
One thing I’ve learned while shopping for an exciting man—I won’t find one in a humdrum job like his. I’m not saying Andrew is boring, he seems nice enough. But his job sure as hell is unexciting, which decreases his chances of being a stimulating guy by eighty percent.
While we walk across the lobby to the elevators, I sense him fidgeting beside me, perhaps too nervous to talk. I smother a smile at his awkwardness. Honestly, he’s not bad looking—no beer gut and he dresses okay. Maybe I should hook him up with Katrina from yoga class. She’s been on the prowl for a decent man.
He clears his throat as we step into the elevator. “Do you have time later to talk about the Stringer account?”
My ears perk at the mention of my largest client. “Of course. Is something wrong?”
The doors whisk closed and we ascend to our floor. “No, nothing’s wrong. I was looking over the latest numbers and think I’ve found a way to free up some advertising money in their budget that isn’t working where it is now. Might help you up-sell them to a larger ad space in the areas that are working.”
“Sounds good.” I smile, the first genuine one to grace my face since I met Heather for lunch. “Your cubicle or mine?”
His blue eyes crinkle at the corners as he returns my smile. “Come to mine, I’ll show you the spreadsheets.”
Hours later I hang up the phone with Jennifer Stringer, the owner of the largest independently owned fabric distributor in the legendary New York garment district. She was thrilled with Andrew’s findings and eager to pour fifty thousand more into the current advertising campaign. We helped to increase her business twenty percent in the last three months. Satisfaction for a job well done warms me, filling me with a sense of completeness like no encounter with a man ever has.
A sigh escapes as I relax into my chair. Damn, talk about a long week. It’s Friday and after five. I stifle the urge to chant TGIF and log off my computer, eager to shake the stresses of the week from my shoulders.
IMs flew around the office ten minutes ago and people are gearing up to meet at the bar down the block for drinks. I freshen my lipstick, straighten my desk, and grab my bag. Andrew stands the same moment I do and our eyes meet across the cubical walls. “Are you going tonight?” I ask him.
Interest lights his eyes. “Yup.”
He runs a hand through his short brown hair, the gesture making him appear more confident. Too bad he’s boring, he’s almost handsome. “Great, I owe you a drink for that tidbit you shared after lunch.”
A small smile turns up his mouth as he walks down the opposite aisle toward the door. “Just one? Could have sworn my ‘tidbit’ helped you make your monthly quota a week early.”
I laugh at his ballsiness. “Maybe I’ll buy you two. But don’t get your hopes up.”
A spark ignites in his blue depths as his gaze travels up and down my length. An awareness tingles through me and I can’t deny, he looks different, somehow. He’s only a few inches taller than I am in heels, which makes him a couple of inches shy of six-foot. His shirtsleeves are rolled up to reveal corded forearms with a light dusting of hair. With warm heat banked in his gaze, his average looks jump a thousand points.
I brush off the sudden interest spiking in my gut. I can’t let an office romance begin to brew. I told Heather I wasn’t doing any of the things she accused me of. No matter how much I might wish otherwise, I highly doubt a co-worker with benefits is much different than the friends with benefits on her sheet.
As a large boisterous group of our co-workers join us in the elevator, I resolve to steer clear of any temptation offered by Andrew at the bar. No way in the world could he be a good match for me.
Excerpt from Avoiding Mr. Right ©2013 by C.J Ellison. All rights reserved.
1. Casual Sex
2. Friends with Benefits
3. Avoidance of Intimacy
Carla ignores the list—unwilling to face she might have a commitment problem. Until she invites a co-worker to her place one night. She instantly regrets the hum-drum sexual encounter and discourages the accountant from pursuing her.
Andy Shea refuses to become another lover the feisty blonde dumps. It'll take a patient man with a strong hand to unlock Carla's sexual awareness and win her heart. He’s up for the challenge to convince her he’s the one—and eager to prove this number cruncher won’t make a boring bedmate.
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