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I went to a party I will never forget.
our plans now that BizMart is out of the picture?"
"Haven't given it much thought. How about you?"
"You know that deal you negotiated for Mom? The educational DVDs? She's trying to set me up in business."
"Great! Glad you've got something to fall back on."
"I could use a partner." She let the ambiguity linger, and he took the bait.
"Just say when!"
"Oh." He put his glass of wine down. "Not as much fun as being a business broker. At BizMart I feel-felt-like a pimp."
"Mom will hire you." Jessica felt a frisson of delight skewering both of them.
"Well, what are you planning to do? I heard about the no-compete clause." Biz-Mart had made Kurt agree to refrain from business brokerage anywhere near Baltimore.
"I could take my severance pay and move on. Or I could stay here in Baltimore and start a new career."
"Gretel told me she gave you two options at the Vanguard meeting last night: Join her team or become her lackey. She usually gets her way." Conceding Gretel's allure left a bad taste in Jessica's mouth, but she had to see how much Kurt was hooked on Little Sister.
"That's no choice. That's an edict to bow down to her. Maybe I should take the money and run."
Jessica walked to the coffeemaker and poured two cups. She put one at her place and the other at Kurt's. When he reached for it, she put her hand on his. "Stay here in Baltimore. Let me help you. I'm not afraid of my little sister."
"Me either." He doctored his coffee and took a large swallow. "Good stuff. Gretel doesn't frighten me, but my reactions to her frighten the daylights out of me."
Jessica remained standing, took a sip of coffee, and put her cup back down. Her desire to wipe Gretel from Kurt's memory consumed her. "I bought a new dress this morning. Want to see it?" She strolled toward her living room.
"La-de-da," Kurt pooh-poohed Jessica's announcement. "A dress is just gift wrapping." But he followed her into the living room.
"Not mine," she said. "This dress is me. Not just the body I was born with. Or the way life has shaped me. My dress is my essence."
"Wow! Sounds like some kind of philosophy."
"Sure, that's what I was going to say." Kurt looked heavenward. Jessica could tell philosophy strained his intellectual capacity. Naming a philosophy was out of the question. He finally spotted the large box on the coffee table and a smaller box on top. "So what kind of dress is it? Some exotic animal skin?"
"Leather, Kurt. Not just a skirt. Or a top. Or the combination. But a whole, sleek dress of leather, tracing my entire torso in smooth, curved lines." Her skin tingled just saying the words.
Jessica watched Kurt's face while her verbal picture unnerved him. His furtive look suggested a sense of being trapped but wanting her to tease him. "What's in the other box?"
"Of course." His gesture started as a shrug but morphed into a hands-up sign of surrender. "And a whip?" He already looked beaten. He wanted Jessica to whip him.
"Not my style. I don't need to punish a man to get my way. Not physically, anyway."
Kurt walked toward the box. "Let me see."
She pounced in front of him. "I'll model my outfit for you." She picked up both boxes and strode up the stairway to her bedroom.
Once inside, she closed the door. She put her boxes on the bed, stepped out of her shoes, and slid them under the bed. Stripping quickly, she tossed her clothes in the hamper and took a black, satin garterbelt and bra from her bottom center dresser drawer. Hooking her bra and garterbelt, Jessica felt her heart pounding when she imagined Kurt's anticipation mushrooming while he waited for her. He'd expect her to return downstairs to show off her dress.
He'd be mistaken.
Jessica sat on the edge of her bed to slip into a pair of sheer black stockings and attach them to her garters.