The Naked Truth

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Tansey Reynolds had sworn off men and embraced celibacy.

Okay, so maybe embracing was an exaggeration, since every time she saw a two-legged human male, even remotely attractive and over the age of twenty, she started to drool and engage in a battle with her willpower. But she really had sworn off dating men.

And she was celibate. For now. For as long as she could stand it.

The problem was, she wasn’t a virgin. And once you got the ball rolling, it was kind of hard to stop it. Her ball wanted to tumble down a long driveway at top speed with the first boy ball that bounced by, and she was trying to force it to stay still. It wasn’t working, and she hadn’t figured out how to deflate her ball yet.

“What are you staring at, Tansey? We’re next in line.” Her best friend, Emily Baker, gave her a little nudge.

Forcing herself to stop salivating over a construction worker’s tight butt in line ahead of her, Tansey clutched the contest flyer in her now sweaty hand and pondered a life without car payments. She frowned at Emily and tried to hold onto the dream. “How long have we been standing in this line? It feels like an hour.”

Taking another king size bite of her pretzel and a slurp of her cherry slushie, she added, “And I’m starving, Em. I wanted to eat a real lunch today for a change. The clock is ticking on my break.”

“Eewww,” Emily said, curling her lip in horror. “Close your mouth, Tansey, it looks like open heart surgery in there.”

Carefully chewing the soft pretzel remnants, Tansey swallowed. “Sorry.”

But there was nothing better to do but eat carbs and fat standing in line at the mall waiting for a chance to win a free car. Eat or talk to the guy behind her, which she had done for a minute or two. And while that guy was cute, in an eager, much-younger-than-her sort of way, Tansey needed to concentrate her energies on the F word. Focus.

No more men. Not until she figured out what to do with the rest of her life. Not until she figured out how to stop herself from being attracted to gorgeous, sexy, lying male sluts.

“I can’t even see the car because the fountain’s blocking it,” she said, feeling grumpy.

This wasn’t exactly where she had pictured herself being at twenty-eight. Single and spending ninety percent of her waking hours at the mall between work and shopping, with fatty food as her only consolation. And as unexciting and low-paying as her job was, she was going to get fired from the department store if she didn’t get back to work in about two minutes. “This is a total waste of time. I’m getting out of line.”

Emily looked aghast. “But, Tansey, if you get out of line, you can’t win the car.”

“The chances of me winning that car are about the same as the balance on my credit card being zero.” A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, her credit card balance had been nothing. These days it heaved and bubbled and popped, threatening to overflow with a life force all its own.

“Well, you won’t win if you don’t enter,” Emily said, the eternal optimist in a sunny yellow sweater. Emily was chronically cheerful. She thought everyone was sweet and adorable and oh-so-sincere, and she doled out trust like Tic Tacs. Somehow it seemed to be working for Emily.

Emily was happy. Tansey just felt crappy.

There was a life lesson there. Like maybe what goes around, comes around. You receive what you give. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Or maybe just stop being an ungrateful bitch.

The thought made her feel better. “You’re right, Em.” She controlled her destiny. She could stand back and react when things happened to her, or she could make them happen. “I’m in charge of my life.”

Like swearing off men. That was taking action. See, she had taken charge already.

Her eyes strayed back to the construction worker’s fine behind. It was very… firm in those worn jeans. Her mouth went dry.

Tansey didn’t need a man. But she sure wanted one.

Just like that, please. One gorgeous, tool belt-wearing, guy to go.

Order up.

Tansey watched the hunk with blond hair step out of the line in front of her and take the clipboard handed to him. He wore faded jeans that hugged his thighs, and scuffed work boots, with a tool belt hanging down around his waist, dragging those jeans even lower. A white T-shirt strained across a multitude of male muscle, and on top of that was a red flannel shirt.

Tansey fought the urge to lick her lips. She’d always had a thing for men who worked with their hands. All those calluses, and tanned skin in the summer. Rippling muscle and dirty jeans. The total lack of modesty they displayed as they slung hammers around in ninety-degree weather bare-chested. Even though it was February right now, she could visualize it.

Whew.

Yeah, she could visualize it.

As he turned, he saw her. Though he was a little too far away to be sure, she would guess his eyes were blue, given his light hair with blond streaks.

She would not do anything, she would not, she couldn’t… she smiled, did the hair flip. Damn. She was addicted to flirting. After nearly fifteen years of mating behavior, she couldn’t just drop it as easily as she wanted.