"The closest I've ever been to nirvana was during an orgasm."
Tate Cross rolled her eyes. Where did Val come up with this stuff?
Undaunted, her friend Val shifted her pregnant belly. She broke the chocolate bar in half, sucking at the apricot filling oozing over her finger. "But this..." a satisfied moan escaped, "...is running a close second."
"I wasn't talking about nirvana the place; I was talking about Nirvana the band." Tate slid the CD case across the dining room table and switched off the boom box, doubting Val would appreciate the subtle nuances of Cobain and company's "Heart-Shaped Box".
"Sorry. I never understood that whole grunge thing."
Tate narrowed her eyes. "But if we were talking about sweaty, grungy cowboys in tight jeans, whinin' 'bout lovin' the wrong woman, drivin' off in dusty pickups to the local bar for a shot of pain-easin' whiskey, you'd pay attention."
"Country music always gets me hot."
"No wonder you've been pregnant four times."
A sly, dreamy look drifted over Val's face. "This one was conceived when Rich brought home that Stetson and we played--"
"Baby roulette? Apparently Richard's six-gun was fully loaded that night." With a grin, Tate gestured to Val's stomach. "Seems that elusive slice of sexual heaven has a high price."
"Being pregnant isn't bad." Val lovingly rubbed her hand over her swollen abdomen. "And a great sex life is not elusive."
"Maybe not for you. You have the perfect man." Tate tamped down on a rare surge of jealousy. She doubted Val's perpetual rosy glow was entirely pregnancy related, the lucky duck.
"So sue me."
Tate cocked a blonde brow. "Your lawyer husband laughs at your lawsuit jokes?"
"Of course." Val tipped her glass of milk against Tate's in a mock toast. "My fabulous sense of humor is the reason he married me."
Tate choked back a giggle; milk nearly squirted out her nose. How mature. Here she was trying to have a sophisticated conversation about sex and not act like the goggle-eyed ingénue Val remembered her to be.
Val smiled. "I'll admit our compatibility inside the bedroom played a key role. Love at first sight. It can happen."
"Not to me." Tate snatched the candy from Val's plate. Swapping sexual quips was one thing, forking over the last piece of chocolate fell into an entirely different realm. Mmm. She savored the sinful flavor; it was indeed close to orgasmic. Not that she had anything to judge it by lately.
"This is the first lunch we've had without my kiddos since you've come back to South Dakota and we're discussing my sex life? I should be spellbound by your wild sexual adventures in Mile-High Stadium. Or cavorting naked on the beach in Cozumel."
"Get real." Tate snorted. "There's nothing to discuss."
A cascade of auburn ringlets brushed Val's heart-shaped face when she shook her head. "Then I'm sorry for you."
"Me too." Tate traced the ruffled edge of the crocheted placemat. "I have no life at all, besides getting this house ready to sell. I haven't done the deed for--" Mentally, she counted back and shuddered. "At my sexual peak. What a joke. I'm supposed to be worried about my partner pleasing me instead of whether I've got enough AA batteries."
Silence. Tate slid Val a sideways glance. Talk about bold statements.
Without missing a beat, Val said, "No judgment, but I couldn't live without that intimacy. Connecting with Rich on an elemental level whenever, wherever we want." A satisfied sigh gusted forth. "Except now we're forced to be discreet."
Didn't Val's beach ball condition belie that statement? Tactfully, Tate didn't point it out. "I'm the epitome of discreet."
"You and Chris Taylor weren't very discreet, if I recall."
"That's the only time," Tate grumbled. "No one believed 'Miss Goody-Two-Shoes' boinked the school bad boy that night at the lake anyway."
"How did you pull it off?" Val mused. "I mean, didn't you find it awkward to roll a cold, wet Speedo over a stiffy?"
"Hah! Didn't it just figure my first experience with a penis outside Playgirl magazine and his dick was more like a clammy, fat worm than the 'throbbing rod of manhood' I'd expected."
She drifted back to the summer of her senior year she'd spent with Aunt Beatrice. It'd been easy convincing studly Chris to change her virginal status. But the quick tryst on his Harley hadn't included passion, and Chris had been clueless on demonstrating carnal secrets. That flagging sense of disappointment still dogged her. Would she ever discover the powerful sexual connection her friends raved about? When?
"Forget Chris and his unimpressive rod. Although it makes sense why he's fat, bald and married to his motorcycle shop." Val paused and offered, "I could set you up with someone, if you're interested."
"Who?" Tate snapped back to attention. "Is he nice?"
"Of course he's nice." Val sniffed.
"Then nothing doing."
"Nothing doing. I'm done with nice. This little chat has just reinforced my decision. The next affair I start will be purely that. An affair. No strings, no promises. Just sex. Lots of hot sex."
Val daintily wiped off the milk mustache before expelling a surprisingly unladylike burp. "Excuse me. Run that by me one more time?"
"You heard me. Sex. I want sex. The steamier, the nastier, the better. I've never been impulsive. Never dated a guy just because he could give me mind-blowing orgasms." Tate shoved an agitated hand through her short, spiky blonde hair. "I want the heady out-of-control passion I've never experienced before I lose what little nerve I've got left."
Val's jaw nearly hit the parquet floor.
There. She'd actually shocked the unflappable Val.
"But honey, don't you want a man--"
"No. I don't want the same kind of man I've been dating for the last ten years. I don't care if he's suitable as a lifelong mate. Or if he'd make a great father. Or whether my parents would approve. I want a man that can find my G-spot in two seconds flat."
"Who-ee Tatum Cross!" Val fanned herself.
"Oh, don't play innocent with me, after you admitted to the 'my-husband-has-a-Stetson-and-I-ride-him-like-a-pony' scenario."
"I'm not. I just don't want you to get hurt."
"I'm not naïve." Well, not as much as she used to be. She longed for the chance to act outrageous, to unleash the sexual tigress lurking beyond her kittenish exterior. Aching to prove--if only to herself--that a purely physical relationship didn't have to end in dreams of picket fences, cocker spaniels and mini-vans.
"Men do this all the time without emotional repercussions. Find me a guy who has nothing on his mind besides awesome sex, and cutting loose his libido because that's all I'm in the market for."
"Not even one date?" Val asked skeptically.
"Nope. No relationships."
"Good." Val's resounding smack on the antique trestle table knocked an ornate silver candlestick into the leftover chicken salad. "Then I've got an even better guy in mind for you. A purely sexual relationship is right up his alley." Val's eyes met hers, sporting a devious twinkle. "I think you'd get along with my--"