CONFLICT OF INTEREST
BY LORI HUGHES
“So, I guessed right. I win.” He went to his desk. “Is there a prize?” He clicked a key on his computer and the venetian blinds, stretching across the floor-to-ceiling glass wall, closed. The outer office disappeared. They were alone.
The mood shifted from all business to all-relaxed.
He said, “You know what I forgot? I never found those contracts you wanted.” He went to a pile of documents on the coffee table.
“Later,” she said. “Send them in the morning.” She didn’t want to go back to business. For the last few minutes her feelings had run in the other direction and she didn’t want them to stop. They were vivid – and dirty – but under control, pulsating between her mind and her core. He was engrossed in his search. “Gotta find ’em … or never will. And that wouldn’t please my nuts and bolts partner.”
A Cougar-Hansen Mystery
BY LORI HUGHES
“Got the ME’s report. Bringing it over –”
“How the fuck did you get – ”
“They put Doc through to me and she’d spewed it out before I could stop her. No big deal. Took notes.”
“She’s sending report tomorrow. Thought you’d want this much.
I’m five minutes from your place.”
Mike and ‘man’s best friend,’ Billy, were lying in his extended recliner like two forlorn buddies watching a baseball game. Without getting up he said, “What did Doc say?”
She ran through her notes and at the end said, “Said no rape. But definitely sex that night. Few hours before death. Small trace of semen – ”
“No problem getting DNA. Could be critical.”
“Did she send it for testing?”
“Good. Leave it to me.”
She mused, “I’m thinking … as much as you don’t buy the love triangle, DNA can tell us for sure. If – ”
“I said leave it to me.”
BY DAVID HUGHES
Soon she was in his opulent penthouse. Overstated, over decorated, over done, but dripping in money. She’d been here before but was always awed by the panorama. Two stunning views: east over the river with its constant stream of barges and south, the length and breadth of the city, the city she loved. It was her playground – the once abused and now used kid from Macon, Georgia. But here and now, it was as if she had flung open a door and the life she dreamed of was there for her – the glitz, the money, the man. For her indulgence.
Lenny felt her visceral high and moved to pursue what he wanted. He always got what he wanted. The son of a billionaire, he’d always worked for his father, staying under his dictatorial command to suck up the indulgent greed. His caldron of anger often poured out in bizarre, even cruel behavior, from childhood torturing of animals and spitting at his mother to the current-day harassing of employees who either submitted or resigned. He despised his life of forced indenture and didn’t control the urges to do evil things to someone, anyone. His father realized the problem and ignored it; Lenny knew the problem and lived with it. But someday, somewhere, it would have its expression, its explosion. As president of JWK Holdings, he ran, under his father’s magnifying glass gaze, a conglomerate of real estate businesses: condos, shopping centers, office towers. His ego, money and dark fire brought a lot of trouble to the table, whether he was negotiating a real estate deal, bullying employees or condemning his lawyers. He either got what he wanted or someone suffered the consequences. His father was a powerful man but he could not always control the rancorous son who bought and sold businesses simply to flaunt his power. He bought the temp agency that Margot worked out of. He did anything and everything to exorcise his burning emotions including extravagant cars, endless women and gambling junkets to the Bahamas in his Citation jet.
BY ELIZABETH JOYCE
I liked sports, the competition and the athleticism of my body. But it had never been enough. It satisfied, in some way, my visceral teenage needs – narcissistic, hedonistic, masochistic urges – but it didn’t engage the sentient needs in my core, in my Venus de Milo self-image. My adolescent flowering needed more. At sixteen, even earlier, I was well aware of both my intellectual and sexual curiosity. Intellectually, I was a straight ‘A’ student and devoured books and was set on studying Greek history and philosophy, or maybe biology. Physically and sexually I was ahead of most girls my age and my athletic body soaked up the physical affirmation of sports. I was tall, in great shape, not an ounce of fat – a little too slim and flat-chested for a boy’s boob fetish but I heard the boy-talk that my long legs ‘were to die for.’ I could outrun most boys in most races and was determined to stay ahead of them in life’s race. I wasn’t going to be dominated by any man. Ever. My father’s patriarchal, narrowmindedness drove me to adopt my mom’s, and Simone de Beauvoir’s, feminist stand, believing that a woman’s problems were rooted in men’s problems. I could sing every word of Helen Reddy’s old hit, I am woman … invincible. Recently, after reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, I threw it in the trash can – too superficial, faux feminist.
That day at the small, nondescript university, when dad insisted we take a look at the gym, my first impression was, wow, it’s huge. Our high school gym would’ve fit in one corner. My second impression was, wow, who’s that?
He was across the floor. On the rings. Doing the iron cross. In a Nike top and long pants, the athletic-fitting, manhood-revealing kind. Double-wow! The sexiness was there in every muscle, as his taut body strained to hold this primordial specimen in suspension between two rings, between physical perfection and muscular failure. His physical and sexual energy captured me like Paris must have captured Helen of Troy. He dropped to the floor and walked toward us, wiping his face and arms with a towel. He glistened. I gawked.
DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE
BY LORI HUGHES
We are the Webster twins. Identical.
Most people say, ‘the beautiful, bright, adorable Webster twins.’ We add, ‘cursed … sometimes’. But it’s not all bad. Most of the time it’s been great. Lots of attention and lots of boys, romance and sex. Jackie is my little sis – I’m Jodi – and she’s better at some things than me, but other than that we’re as identical as twins can get. The only difference now is she’s married with a handsome husband, a darling little boy and living the good life, happily-ever-after. I’m okay, just haven’t been as lucky in love, you might say. Still single. I call her my ‘little sis’ because mom said she was born two minutes after me. Mom died when we were nine. Dad is still selling cars at the Mercedes dealership, every day. He owns it. Probably never retire, just die on the showroom floor. We’re ‘thirty-something’ now – Jackie doesn’t like to reveal our age ‘cause she’s hung up on getting old. Don’t tell anybody, especially her … we’re only thirty-two.
We’ve been inseparable, even worked together in the advertising business, until Jackie quit to have Finn – he’s three now. Harry, her guy, is a big-time, tech executive and makes a fortune. I’m still in advertising. It’s what it is. We are where we are today because of what we did when we were young. That’s the fascinating part – like, a crazy mix of wild, weird, wonderful and romantic.
How we got here is a romp through the growing-up-years of two privileged, overly romantic, oversexed girls living in an upscale, suburban society. A good chunk of it with the wonderful Harry. We’ve known him and loved him since our freshman year in university. Both of us. Intimately. University. OMG! The best times – ever.
BY LORI HUGHES
Penny realized this guy was okay away from the therapy group. He was completely oblivious to the crowded hotel bar; just watching her. She hadn’t had so much attention in years. Not since college days and frat parties. But it had been downhill since then. Too many sleepovers – not that there’s anything wrong with plenty of sex – but not enough love. In fact, no love. Even her ex hadn’t loved her. But she admitted she loved the trappings that came with him, especially the Mercedes, the unlimited credit cards, the memberships, the clothes – yes, the clothes. She could walk Rodeo Drive with her eyes closed and never miss a shop. But somehow, she’d missed out on the love and attention part. But not from this Jason guy. It was exhilarating to have a young hunk paying attention to her. He seemed kind. Confident. Intelligent. With a quiet strength. But he was sad. Hell, why wouldn’t he be, he was thirty-something, alone and dying. It was in his face, a gray underlay beneath the skin, marring his youthful spirit. She wanted to hug him, pass some energy to him, make him feel good, blow away the gray with some sunshine. Maybe some sex? Bet he’d like that. Some sunshine and sex. Wonder if he’s into cougars?
BY LORI HUGHES
Everything was fine. They weren’t very deep, about sixty feet. Brooke was following Julio as they drifted over the reef. They’d just left the dive boat and visibility was superb, 150 feet, and the coral was teeming with fish as a large barracuda languished like a sleeping marauder and a Hawksbill turtle meander past. Julio was looking for a special nurse shark he encountered from time to time, who he called ‘Amigo’ and sometimes petted. Julio had schooled her in the behavior of nurse sharks and they were docile, posing no threat unless provoked. He settled quietly on a large sandy area between coral outcroppings and waited. He had been diving since he was seventeen, twice a day, five or six days a week, and over the past twenty years had done more than ten-thousand dives.
Two years ago, Brooke started diving with him a couple times a week and they’d become ‘dive buddies,’ inseparable––at least under water. On dry land, she would’ve liked to spend more time with him but their time together had been limited to after-dive beers and a few lunches on his days off. They remained ‘just friends’––without the benefits––although there had been more than one time when she considered trading benefits. Since they’d met, she’d denied her feelings but not her fantasies, admitting that if Mexico had a bachelor reality-TV show and she was the bachelorette, she’d pick him, hands down.