by Brandy Dewinter

(c 2010, All rights reserved)

Chapter 1 - "Friday the 13th"

I blame it on Friday the 13th.

Supposedly the legend of that being an unlucky day got started when King Philip IV of France arrested most of the Knights Templar on Friday the 13th, 1307. Legend or not, I know for sure my life got turned inside out starting on that day. If I were objective enough to be honest about it, I'd admit that I'd been doing things for a while before Friday the 13th that could have turned out just as badly. But they didn't. It was on Friday the 13th that the cataclysm started. So there.

I suppose I should actually blame what happened on the voices in my head. No, I'm not crazy. Honest. We all agree.

That's a joke. I don't really hear voices from other people in my head, or have weird blackout periods or anything like that. What happens is that I can "hear" a different way to say things, and then I can repeat it in real time like one of those "instant echo" people, except I'm only echoing what I would have said anyway - just in a different voice. I can do killer accents, and that's actually kinda cool because I found I have an affinity for languages. It's like - after I've studied a bit and heard a few people speaking, or maybe watched a foreign language movie, especially one with subtitles - that I can "hear" how to say what I want to say, only in the language I'm trying to speak.

With all the words rattling around in my head, it shouldn't be surprising that I ended up in a talking job. To be specific: Tech support for small business computer systems. Our parent company, Southwest Synergistics - don't laugh, we didn't pick it - decided that small businesses were fed up with trying to communicate half way around the world with someone on computer problems, and would pay to have someone local who promised that if the problem couldn't be fixed over the phone within one hour, a technician would be dispatched and on site within two. The business model worked reasonably well and there were lots of small offices around the Southwest. We happened to be located in the DFW Metromess, in an office with about half a dozen techs, plus or minus as we hired someone or they got a better offer. Of those, usually four or five would actually be in the office during work shifts, with one or two out on an onsite call.

The biggest problem is that most of our customers - the small business types - were not particularly technoid in orientation. They were dry cleaners or beauty salons or non-chain restaurants. You know, the unimportant little businesses that only employ about 70% of the people in the country. That are owned and operated by the selfish Republican types who never take vacation, work 80-hour weeks and do all the jobs themselves that they can. But of course they don't really 'work' for a living because they own their business. As a result, they can't afford the time to become technically savvy even if they wanted to.

It meant that a lot of their calls were simple, which is to say: boring. So I started doing voices when someone would call. It cracked up the other guys in the office to hear me go into a technobabble riff in a Scotsman burr that would have made James Doohan plaid with envy.

I had - at best - an androgynous voice. The puberty fairy hadn't left much under my pillow, so I seldom needed to shave and couldn't build muscle bulk no matter how much I exercised. In any event, I couldn't manage a coloratura soprano nor a basso profundo, but I could do anything between mezzo soprano and baritone with absolute credibility, at least over a phone. I think my normal voice would have been a tenor, except I'm not sure I even had a "normal" voice.

As a further break in the monotony, I started doing girls' voices on the phone, complete with a girl's name. And then girls with accents.

And the customers loved it. Just because they were Republicans didn't mean they weren't guys, and therefore - automatically - horndogs who would rather talk with a sultry-voiced siren than another nasally geek kid. It didn't hurt that I was good at my job and could almost always fix their problems, and quickly.

At least, fix their computer problems.

The first time some doofus who couldn't figure out how to plug in his monitor asked me out, I just hung up on him out of reflex. When he called back and asked for "Misty" I said she had stepped away and worked the problem myself, with what I used for my "real" voice. The other guys ragged me about what had happened, doing all sorts of very fake falsetto voices and things. Even being the target of their jokes served the purpose of making that boring job less tedious, so I didn't need to keep doing female voices.

For about a week.

And then, after another few days where I'd do a girl's voice for some of the calls, I got asked out again. By another guy, who - if I had actually been a girl - might have been interesting. He was polite, and reasonably competent, yet respectful of my expertise. And his voice had a nice, relaxed sound, as though he was comfortable in his own skin. This time I was able to finish the call (in my "Bonnie, the highland lass" voice), though of course I totally ignored his offer.

Southwest Synergistics had the typical, "In order to serve you better, this call may be monitored" disclaimer so the others could listen in on my calls. And sure enough, one of the other guys was listening when that dude asked me out. In our little office, we didn't really have a full-time supervisor. If a customer asked to speak to our supervisor, we just passed the call to one of the others. As part of that "self-directed team" MBA bull . . stuff, we all had to make out peer-review reports on each other's calls so we had an excuse to eavesdrop, and Tony the Lizard had taken advantage of it.

"Oh, Miss Bonnie," he moaned like a hound as soon as the call was over, "I just have to see you. Let me wine and dine you, and we'll dance the night away."

"Knock it off, jerk," I snapped.

Rick Timmonds picked up the other side of the non-existent conversation. Using a squeaky falsetto, he twittered, "Whah, Mistuh Hunkay, Ah do decleah, Ah'm not that kinda gal."

"You two make a beautiful couple," I sneered. "Be sure to send me an invitation to the wedding."

"Wha'd'you expect?" Little John asked. "You do those sexy voices and the customers don't know what you look like. So it's sure not their fault."

"Meaning it's my fault?" I asked.

"Well, dude, if the shoe fits . . ," he said with a shrug.

"Oh, Ah jus' saw these darlin' little hah-heeled pumps," Rick said, continuing his squeak. "They'd look jus' puhfect on li'l ol' you, princess."

"Geez, dude, it's no wonder you never get laid. Your sense of humor never made it out of the third grade."

"Hey," Rick said, bristling a little and subconsciously sucking in the belly that spilled over his belt. He tugged at his scraggly beard with an annoying little habit he had - annoying in part because I knew I wouldn't show that much growth even if I didn't shave for a month. Or six. "I'll have you know that I've got, y'know, experience."

"Group sex, right?" I asked. "Mrs. Thumb and her four daughters."

It took the doofus a second to catch on, and by that time the other guys were laughing at him, not me, so we moved on.

At the end of our shift, Little John matched my pace while we were walking out the door and said, "Listen, Tommy, I didn't mean anything by that."

"I know," I said, with a sigh. "I guess I should quit with the voices thing. But . . ."

"But you get more business than any two of the rest of us, and you haven't had a complaint when you use a girl voice in . . . how long?"

I just shrugged, but his point was valid. We got a bonus on any call where we were requested by name - even if the name were fake, as long as it was 'ours.' In fact, the company encouraged us to use a few extra names to make it seem like we were a bigger organization. (We didn't figure it was illegal, because they were just nicknames, see?)

On the other side, we lost a bonus any time someone complained, which hadn't happened when I was using a girl voice. Even though I didn't want to admit it, my female voices were actually making me a bit of extra money.

"It's just a way to get through the day," I claimed.

"I know that," John said. "Hell, I wish I could do it, too."

"Yeah, right," I laughed. Little John got his name about like you'd expect. He probably weighed twice as much as I did, and was most of a foot taller. His voice tended to set up standing waves in nearby coffee cups, particularly if the doofus on the other end of the line couldn't find the letters on a keyboard without a map.

That brings me to Friday the 13th.

Since it was a Friday, I decided to be "Freya" in honor of the Norse goddess for whom the day was named. Freya's Day. I did a throaty contralto with a stereotypical rhythmic cadence (see Swedish Chef on Muppets) and a bit of "t" in place of "th," but it was clear enough the customers weren't going to complain about not being able to understand me.

"Hallo, Southwest Synergistics, tis is Freya. Und how may I help yew today?" I sang.

"Hello, Freya. That's an interesting name. I'm Jeff Hansen, and my computer won't. . . ," and the call progressed. The problem was interesting enough to show the caller - a youngish-sounding, but rather deep-voiced man - was fairly computer literate and actually needed help beyond RTFM. By the time we worked it out, most of the hour had passed but it wasn't necessary to proceed to a service call.

"Thank you, Freya, you've been very helpful," Hansen said.

"Ve're glad to be of service, Mr. Hansen," I replied, getting ready to end the call. "Vill t'ere be anyt'ing else?"

"Yes, I'd like to speak to your supervisor please, and could you stay on the line?"

Uh, oh.

"Of course," I said, flagging desperately at Little John to pick up his line.

"Hello," John said cautiously. "I understand you wanted to talk to, um, Freya's supervisor? I'm John Toland."

I gave him points for not quite saying he was my supervisor. And for remembering my Friday-the-13th name.

"I'm afraid I haven't been entirely honest with you," Hansen began. "For one thing, my name isn't Hansen. It's actually Lewis. Michael Lewis."

Double Uh, Double Oh! That was the name of T-H-E Boss, the CEO of Southwest Synergistics. And I didn't figure it was a coincidence.

"The reason I wanted to have you both on the phone - and I know there isn't an official supervisor for your group - is to let you know that Freya is the first tech who's been able to resolve that test problem in under an hour. All the rest have required a service call."

Huh? This was a test?

"I'm glad, um, Freya passed," Little John said. I was too shocked for words - which is kinda ironic, all things considered.

"Yes, in fact, I'm going to feature you, Freya, in our company annual report."

"Me?" I squeaked, my voice climbing even higher than Freya's dulcet tones.

"Yes," Mr. Lewis said. "Oh, don't worry, you won't have to attend some stuffy board meeting . . ."

*Thank you, God.* I slumped in my chair and breathed for the first time in I don't know how long.

"We'll just arrange for a photographer, and all the fixings - new suit, a decent haircut if you need one, that sort of thing. Get a few pictures, including one at your desk. Oh, I hadn't really thought about the, ah, example tech being a woman. I suppose you'll need at least a couple of outfits and a couple of trips to a salon somewhere, unless the clothes you wear to work include the sort of dress we'll need for the portrait shot?"

"Um, no," I whispered, tugging self-consciously at the bit of ponytail that I had. I was too cheap to get haircuts often enough to look neat, and I had found that pulling it into a rubber band kept it looking okay for quite a while. It now hung down three or four inches below the band.

"Of course not," Lewis said with a laugh. "Just teasing. Oh, and there's a pretty nice bonus to go with this. I'm sure you'll find it adequate for any incidentals you need - a new pair of shoes, whatever."

"Incidentals," I repeated numbly. *Like, a new body that matches the voice he heard. Nothing major.*

"There is one thing," Lewis added. "I'm looking at the employee roster for that office, and I don't see a Freya. Are you new?"

*Oh, yeah, and about to become history.*

"The records probably show a, um, T. F. Lincoln," Little John offered unhelpfully. "That would be Thomas . . ina Freya Lincoln. She usually uses Freya because, um, the customers, y'know, remember it."

*I am so dead.* I thought. *If nothing else, I'll get the needle after I kill Little John!* "Oh, yes, here it is. Oh, there's obviously an error in the records, but I'll fix that," Lewis replied.

*I can guess what that error was. The box marked "Male." I am so dead!*

Lewis signed off after promising that additional information would be mailed to me.

"You are so dead," Little John said quietly after the call finally ended.

"Not necessarily," offered Tony the Lizard.

Despite his name, he wasn't really a lizard kind of guy. Actually, he was lithe and moved with a smooth confidence that I frankly envied. He just came in wearing some alligator-skinned cowboy boots one time - it only took one time - and he was Tony the Lizard after that. His last name was something Italian with lots of vowels that I could never spell right. Carobello or something, only with at least a couple of extra letters.

Anyway, I had - until that Friday the 13th - actually thought he was an okay sorta guy.

"Wha'd'ya mean?" asked Little John.

"Well," Tony said, blushing a little as he looked at me. "My sister went to beautician school, and . . ."

"No," I said, recognizing where he was headed. "No way."

"What?" Little John asked, slow to catch on. Then he did, and his face flushed darker than Tony's. We will carefully not mention how my own cheeks were flaming enough to overheat my computer.

"Dude, lighten up," Rick said. "Geeze, we just get a model to stand in for you. No big deal."

"Oh," I said, embarrassed for not thinking of that myself. But grateful, too. "Great idea."

"Not so great," Little John said. "I happen to know that the headquarters personnel system only keeps initials in the files the executives see. There was some sort of discrimination thing where somebody - in another company, I think - thought they were passed over for a promotion because of their name. Too ethnic, if you know what I mean. In any event, I bluffed about your name to Lewis because I knew he only had your initials, but there's some sort of release thing that says you - the you in the photos - really work for Southwest Synergistics full-time, so that you can't be a ringer brought in just to, y'know, let the wheels steer the award to somebody's brother-in-law or something."

"Award?" I repeated.

"Yeah," Little John confirmed. "Last year it was $10,000."

"Ten thousand dollars!" I gasped. "No way!"

"Absolutely," Tony confirmed. "I remember that from last year, now that Little John mentioned it. I didn't pay much attention at the time because I never figured lightning would strike our little hovel."

"I am so dead," I sighed. Then I looked up at the guys and said, "Well, it's been nice knowin' you, but I guess I just quit."

"No way," they all said. Rick added, "Geeze, it's $10,000. You can't just walk away from that."

"Watch me," I said, starting to gather up my stuff.

Little John asked Tony, "What was your idea?"

Tony looked at me, and I pointedly turned away from him and walked over to our copier to get an empty paper box.

He shrugged, but started in anyway. "Well, my sister went to beautician school, and one of the class exercises was to do a, um, transformation on a, um, a guy."

"A guy?" Rick repeated with a laugh.

"Yeah," Tony said. "It's obviously not as easy to make a dude look good as it is to make a pretty girl look prettier, so they made all the students do a makeover on a guy."

Little John got a crafty look and asked, "Who'd your sister use as a model?"

Tony's face flushed hot enough to answer that question.

"Dude!" Rick laughed. "Oh, man, I wish I'd have seen that!"

Tony didn't say anything, but he pulled out his wallet and flipped it open to the pictures. After a moment, he held one up.

"No way!" Rick said, no longer laughing. "That is . . . awesome."

"Yeah, well, like I said, it was a test thing, for her class," Tony finally spoke, moving to put his picture away.

"Man, if she didn't get an A, then somebody is blind," Rick said, trying to tear his eyes away from the image.

"Could I borrow that for, um, just a minute?" Little John asked, then he stood up and walked over . . .

To me.

I tried to ignore it, but he's a pretty big dude and he just planted himself in front of me and held the photo where I couldn't not see it.

I felt my eyes widen, and after a bit I realized my jaw was hanging down and I almost had to lift it with my hand. The image in the photo was indeed . . . awesome. Tony was just a guy. I never really looked at him like, y'know, whether he was attractive or anything. But the girl in the picture was a no-kidding fox. Long, shiny dark hair framed eyes as dark as Tony's, but it took several minutes of staring at the photo before I could see any of Tony in it besides those dark eyes. And even they were . . . awesome.

"Oh my god," I said softly. "That's you?"

"Yeah," Tony said, with just a bit of pride in his voice. "And dude, you'd be even better."

"Yeah, right," I snorted.

"No, really," he insisted. "Angela, my sister, told me what made my, um, makeover work so well was that I had good cheekbones but not too strong of a brow line or chin. Or a nose. Most guys have big honkin' noses. You're even better on all of those. And she went on and on about how a long, elegant neck is so important - I'm not too good there, and we had to be real careful how we cropped that picture so you couldn't see my shoulders. Frankly, dude, you've got the right build for it."

"Yeah, right," I repeated. "Get off my back."

"No, really," Tony insisted. "You're thin, but not too bony. You'd look great."

"Down boy," Little John said, grinning at Tony. But then he looked back at me and said, "Ten thousand dollars, Tommy. For what, one day's work?" Hell, I'd stand on my head for a day for ten thousand dollars."

I shook my head. "Great, you go get turned into a girl, and you can have the ten thousand dollars."

Little John sighed, and turned away. "Okay, Tommy. Your choice."

"Exactly," I said. I started to gather up some more of my things, but ended up just standing there looking at them.

Little John got back to his work station, then asked across the cubicle wall, "Why don't you just wait until you see what the package has in it? I mean, you don't have to quit today, right? You can wait a few days."

"Oh, yeah," I said. "I suppose I could wait at that. I don't care what's in the package because I'm not doing it, but I don't have to leave until, well, until I have to."

"Good," Little John said, and Tony nodded. Rick had a funny look in his eyes for a moment before he turned back to his own work.

Chapter 2 - "Saturday's Child"

I was Saturday's Child that week - you know, "Monday's child is fair of face . . . Saturday's child must work for a living." Our little 'self-directed team' decided how many people needed to work on Saturday, but the requirement was never less than two so that someone would always be in the office even if we needed to make an onsite visit. Of course we always decided that two was plenty. And then we could argue about whose turn it was most of the rest of the week. I guess I was glad I was on for that Saturday because I needed the pay if I were going to be quitting my job. Little John had the Saturday shift too, so I also didn't have to put up with any wink-wink-nudge stuff from the other guys.

Little John had that big-guy carefulness where he tried really hard not to hurt anyone. In his case, his physical carefulness had evolved into a gentle personality as well, since he didn't need to prove anything about his manliness with macho crap. So he was least likely to be razzing any of us - and specifically me, after what happened to Freya - though he could show a quick and wickedly funny sense of humor when he wanted to.

We just said hello as our shift started and then got down to the serious business of surfing the net until any calls came in.

Things were really slow until a courier arrived with a package for "T. F. Lincoln."

I signed for it without really looking, because we were getting software packages all the time. Then I saw the return address.

"uh, oh," I said very softly.

"What's wrong?" Little John asked.

I just showed him the package, pointing to the name of the sender.

Little John looked at me for a while, then shrugged and turned back to his own monitor.

It wasn't $10,000. When my curiosity finally conquered my fear and I opened the thing, there was a check in there for $25,000. I guess Southwest Synergistics was doing pretty well.

"Oh shit," I said.

"What's wrong?" Little John asked again.

I showed him the check. It was one of those cardboard things, about 8 x 17, and I wasn't sure if it were real or not - I mean, officially cashable. But I figured one of the photos was going to be of me holding the check so that the amount could be seen.

"Whoa, dude, that's a lot of money."

"Yeah," I agreed. Like there was anything to argue about.

Little John and I were alone in the office, but he looked around like he was checking to see if anyone were listening. Then he said, "Why are you so hard over on not even trying to do this? I mean, Tony's picture was pretty amazing, and I don't think it, like, means anything about his, um, preferences."

I couldn't turn away fast enough to hide the fire in my cheeks, and dropping my eyes didn't really hide anything either.

After a long, long moment when I wished John would say something more, I finally sighed. And whispered very softly, "Because I'm afraid that I might like it."

"Oh?" John said, his voice so carefully neutral that I knew he was actually disturbed.

There was another long, uncomfortable pause. Finally I shrugged, and then words started spilling out of me with more and more emotion until I was angrily spitting on every other syllable.

"You just don't understand. You're a big, muscular man, and I'm sure that all you need to do to get a girl is smile . . ."

He looked like he was going to try to interrupt, but I was rolling too fast. "But I'm a scrawny geek, with no muscle no matter how much I try to exercise. I'm barely average in height, and I couldn't grow a beard if it meant 25 million dollars! So now I get a chance to pimp my soul, to show the world that I'm a weak little almost-man, never-grew-up sort of Peter Pan who would be played by a woman in any story of my life. And for all of 25 thousand dollars!"

I felt hot tears burning in my eyes and this time I did turn away. But before John could say anything, I whirled back and let him have the rest of it.

"And the worst thing is . . . I think I'd like it! Just for once in my life, I'd like to feel attractive instead of . . . well, I was gonna say ugly but that's too strong for what I look like. Call it empty. A nothing. A blank spot where a real person should be. Too meaningless even to invoke a sense of disgust."

"I could be . . . desirable. Tony was so damn pretty. I never imagined that it was even . . possible to . . ," my voice trailed off.

John was frowning, but not with the sort of 'you disgust me' overtones. More it was the frown of an incipient headache, as though his mind were being stretched too far, too fast.

"So, what do you want to do?" he asked after another of those painful silences.

"Shit, I don't know!" I snapped. "It's just . . . tough, y'know?"

"I, um, guess not," he said softly. "As you pointed out, that sort of thing has never been a, um, problem for me."

"Not the bit about the girls," he added, though he showed a little grin that I thought made my point more than his. "Well, maybe sometimes, when I was the big football jock, but that was more because of the football than . . . whatever. In any event, I think we share more than we differ on the ability to get women."

"Yeah, right," I sniffed.

"Yeah, really," he said. "Zero equals zero, at least lately."

I just shrugged.

My fingers needed something to do so they started pushing around the rest of the information in the packet from the CEO. I found a voucher for makeovers and things, with basically a blank check on what I could have done. *All it needs is to be possible . . . and at a salon, not a clinic somewhere in Thailand.* And another voucher for a not-quite-unlimited but incredible line of credit at some of the higher-end clothing stores in the area. Adding up the totals in my head, I began to see where the $25,000 wasn't out of line with the rest of the cost of this 'award.'

It all led up to a series of photos. The first set were basically flat-out glamour shots: studio photos "demonstrating refined professionalism." Yeah, right. Some were to be home life, and at least I had a scruffy little cat that had adopted me so I could show a bit of cuteness. I'd probably have to rent a furnished apartment for the rest of it - my own place was . . . spartan, at best. And some of the photos were to be supposedly candid shots at work. *Maybe we can get Tony to wear his lizard boots again.*

It took me a minute to realize that I was actually planning how to make this happen.

"Damn," I muttered.

"What?" asked John.

I walked around the cubicle wall to his work area. "Tell me the truth, flat out, no beating around the bushes. Do you think I should do this?"

"Look, Tommy, I'm not the one to . . ."

"Stop. I know all that. Just answer the question."

He looked at me for a long, appraising moment.

Then he nodded.

"Not just for the money. I think I understand what you meant about pimping your soul. But . . . I think you need to know. I think you need to feel, at least once in your life, that you are really attractive."

He stood up and put one massive paw on my thin shoulder, making my small bones seem almost delicate as they were swallowed within the muscular pads of his palm. "And, I have to admit, I think you could be really attractive . . . as a girl. As Tony pointed out, you've got the right bone structure for it."

"Lucky me," I said bitterly.

"Actually, that may be true," John said gently. "I guess I've always had a pretty good self image. As you said, being big helps, for guys. I never thought about what it would be like to feel, um, inadequate. In the way somebody looks, I mean. Hell, you're obviously smarter than any of the rest of us, and you know how to bridge from book knowledge to practical solutions. So that's not an issue."

He sighed. "But the physical side is real too, and I never really thought about that. The way you described it - being nothing, and worse than ugly - man, that's harsh. I never knew."

He squeezed my shoulder again and said, "So, go for it, dude. I think you'll be amazed, and impressed, and pleased with the way you look."

Little John dropped his massive hand and leaned back against his desk. "And what you do after that is up to you."

"There is no 'after that,'" I said quickly.

"Your choice," he said, accepting my statement but reminding me it was a choice, not an automatic answer.

What could have been another long, uncomfortable silence didn't happen. Little John just turned back to his system, and I moved back to mine. We actually had a few calls that morning so we didn't waste our time totally, but it was slow enough to put a capital T on the tedium if my mind weren't racing so fast through other issues.

Somewhere in there, Little John made a call that I didn't know about, until after the results appeared in the form of yet another call.

"Yo, dude, what's up?" the voice said, and I recognized Tony.

"Nothing," I said. "Why?"

"Little John said you needed to talk to me," Tony said.

"I never . . . oh," I said, interrupting myself. "Yeah, maybe I do."

I got that far, but I didn't really know what to say after that. Tony helped out.

"So, you gonna do this?" he asked.

"Maybe," I admitted.

"Ten K, man, that's real money."

"Actually, it's 25 K."

"No shit?"

"Plus a bunch of other stuff - vouchers for clothes, and . . . y'know."

"Which is why you need me, or at least Angela, right?"

"Yeah. Probably both, since I couldn't just, y'know, call her on my own."

"Yeah, man, I know. But I'll be glad to help you out."

I was surprised. "You will?"

His easy laugh came over the phone. "Sure, dude, it was fun! And the best part is, after Angela showed me all the stuff on colors, and all the tricks, I've been able to, y'know, impress girls. Like, if I get a girl a sweater or something, the colors look good on her. And I've gotten some real brownie points - with nice fringe benefits - when I get a girl some lipstick or something that she really likes."

"I never thought of that," I said.

"Well, you will," Tony said, laughing again. "At least, if you let Angela have you for a day or two, she'll teach you more than you want to know . . until you find a way to use it."

While I was absorbing this aspect of what was before me, he added something else.

"Besides, dude, it really was fun. It's kinda cool to look, y'know, really hot. I couldn't do a voice like you can, but we actually went out to the mall while I was Toni-with-an-I."

"You did?"

"Oh, yeah," he replied, a reminiscent tone in his voice. "It was a blast. Guys were falling all over themselves to open doors, and trying to get us to notice them. God, they were so silly, but it was kinda neat - like we had a power over them."

"So, did you do this . . . a lot?"

"Nah," he said. "It was fun, but it wasn't really my thing. I mean, it was like, hours to get all primped up, and in the end I didn't really want to attract guys, y'know."

"Oh, of course," I said, blushing where he couldn't see it.

"But it wasn't any big deal. It was just something to do. It didn't mean I was a different person, just because I put on a skirt one time."

"Yeah, I guess I can see that."

"There's only one thing, dude," Tony said, a note of caution in his voice. "You really need to plan on more than just one day for the photos. Before I went to the mall with Angela, I practiced walking, and sitting, and gestures and things."


"It was just part of the whole running joke. We got to laughing before she plucked the first eyebrow hair, and things just sort of rolled from there."

"So, what does that have to do with me?"

Tony's voice was just a bit guarded. "Nothing, maybe, but don't they want you to, like, go to a professional photographer?"

"Oh, yeah," I said.

"I think you'll need to, y'know, pass, at least in a few settings," he said. "I could get away with claiming to have a cold so I didn't have to talk - that's not a problem for you anyway - but I did have to move enough like a girl that no one started calling for pitchforks and torches."

"Oh, shit," I sighed, thinking again that this just wouldn't work.

Tony heard the defeat in my voice, but his own voice was upbeat. "Hey, dude, no sweat. Angela can help with that, too. She helped me, and I'm no where near as good a mimic as you are. You'll do fine. I'm just sayin' that it may take a few sessions before you go to the photographer, or whatever else they have in mind."

"I guess," I said, not really convinced.

Tony let me have a moment to think, then asked, "So, when do you need to start?"

"Yesterday, I'll bet," I said. "According to the data, the photos have to be at corporate in San Antonio by the end of the month."

"Well, dude, I think that means we'll be seeing Freya around the office some," Tony said. "I think I must have spent at least a couple of days practicing in between the things Angela was trying out before she did me for her grade. That was before we went to the mall. And you need to get into this within a week if you're going to get to the photographer in two."

"Looks like," I sighed.

"Okay," Tony said briskly, "let me call Angela. If she's available, maybe she can start tomorrow. Is that okay with you?"

"I guess it'll have to be."

"Great," he said. "And like I said, I had a blast. This can be fun, if you let it."

"Yeah, right," I said, very, very far from convinced.

"I'll get back to you," Tony promised, and hung up before I could get my locked-up mind to respond.

True to his word, Tony did get back to me, showing up that afternoon with his sister in tow. I had met Angela once or twice when she had stopped by to see Tony at work, but I didn't really know her. My memory was of a reasonably pretty girl who showed her Italian heritage in pleasantly rounded contours.

As soon as she saw me I remembered something else about her - how her bright smile lit up the room when she let it shine on us.

Our little office didn't have any place more useful to hide in than the bathroom, and that was too obviously hiding even for me. Not to mention that they were closer to it than I was. And, being Saturday, I didn't have an active call at the moment. So there wasn't really anything I could do but stand and look embarrassed - something I felt was becoming way too typical.

"Hi, Tommy," Angela said, her bright smile softening into something fairly sympathetic. Her voice was soft as well as she said, "I came by to get some measurements. I'll need to pick up a few things before tomorrow. If you're still planning on, y'know . . . ?"

"Yeah," I said. "I guess I'm still gonna do it."

"Good for you," she said. Tony nodded over her shoulder and smiled as well. Then, in a surprising display of tact, he moved over to talk to Little John.

"So, how much do you have to spend on this?" she asked as she pulled a tape measure out of her pocket.

I just pointed at the voucher things. When she saw what they allowed, her eyes got very wide and she whistled softly. "Wow, do you really want to do all of that?"

"I, um, don't know," I said. "I guess I need some advice."

"Advice I got, lots of it," she said with a giggle. "This is gonna be sooo cool! You're gonna be way prettier than Toni."

She motioned me to hold my arms out to the sides and started wrapping the tape around various parts of my torso, legs, neck, and a few other places as well. Angela was, as I had definitely remembered, a quite shapely girl and by the time she had her arms around me far enough to wrap the tape measure, parts of her and parts of me were making a pretty noticeable acquaintance. Painfully so on my part, after a few minutes.

She noticed, which I figured was better than the alternative, considering part of me was trying as hard - pun recognized, but unavoidable - as it could to be noticed. I mean, what if, even at its best, it was, y'know . . . unnoticeable? In any event, when she was finishing up she glanced at Tony to make sure he wasn't looking, then reached down and definitely did not make things any easier.

I looked at Tony, too, remembering all the stories about Italians, their sense of family honor, and fiery tempers. Then I looked back at Angela in shock, but she leaned close and whispered in my ear. "Don't worry about it. All my family thinks I'm lesbian anyway. It's quite a scandal."

It wasn't any of my business, really, but . . well, hell, who wouldn't ask - considering the circumstances and all? "Are . . . you?" I gulped.

"Sometimes," she whispered, giggling as my eyes bulged, then stroking me again.

Her hand was below the level of the cubicle wall, but I could almost hear Tony's angry shout. Or maybe that was just the blood pounding in my ears.

"But not exclusively," she whispered, smirking because she knew her teasing was working all too well on me. She patted me one more time, then gathered up her notes.

"I'll go to Mass this afternoon," she said. "So you can come by the salon as soon as you'd like tomorrow."

"When," my voice broke in a croak, and I swallowed and tried again. "When would you like to start?"

"Oh, the sooner the better. It will be a full day. How about . . . 9:00?"

"Okay," I said, trying to get the voice that I was supposedly so able to control back into a 'normal' register.

Angela and Tony sailed out as cheerfully as they had arrived, leaving me to slump in my seat with an even greater conviction that I was embarked on a crazy, impossible, sure-to-be-a-disaster path.

And even less able to convince myself to abandon it.

Chapter 3 - "Sunday's Big Game"

As ordered, I reported to serve my sentence starting at 9:00 on Sunday. Yet overnight I'd been thinking - I certainly hadn't done much sleeping - and a part of me was starting to feel anticipation more than dread. What I had told John was honest and from the heart. If just once in my life I could be attractive . . . literally attractive, in a way that meant people wanted to be around me, wanted to spend time with me for reasons other than being paid to be there, like at work. . . .

Maybe it would be worth it, even if it meant I had to be an attractive girl, instead of a guy.

My anticipation hadn't carried over into any advance preparations. I had slipped into comfortable mediocrity in my appearance yet again. My jeans were neither cowboy tight nor gansta loose. My polo shirt was a simple, dark color. My shoes were worn sneakers. I could have murdered someone and all the witnesses would remember was a few inches of ponytail, just enough to show a dirty blonde color. Well, maybe that and pale eyes.

I knew part of the problem was my self image. I didn't respect myself - at least, not the way I looked - so why should anyone else? As a result, outside purely technical areas where I knew I was more than competent, I always felt clumsy and stupid. But knowing intellectually that my 'interpersonal' problems were mostly self-induced, and doing anything about it practically were two very different things. You don't just become witty and charming and fun by ordering yourself to change. So my blah personality was a reinforcement for my totally average appearance, rather than a counter to it.

Angela, on the other hand, had personality to burn.

"Right on time," she said as she invited me into her salon. Actually, it wasn't hers, but she had a key and had arranged with the salon owner for a private session. Of course, the fact she practically had a blank check to work on me - of which the owner would get a nice cut - didn't hurt. "That's one of the first things we'll have to fix," she declared.

My mental digression had cost me the thread of the conversation, so I blinked, and said, "Excuse me?"

"Being on time," she said, shaking her finger at me as she lectured. "No girl can ever be on time. It's in the bylaws."

"I'm not a girl," I said, then decided to soften that. "Yet."

"Good attitude," she said brightly. She took my arm and led me further into the salon. Getting serious for a minute, she asked, "Are you okay with this?"

"I think so," I said cautiously. Then I took the plunge to reveal secret feelings to yet another person and said - in a very small voice - "Maybe too much."

"I wondered," she said with equal care. "And that's not a slam. It was obvious yesterday that you like girls, and wanting to look like one is not automatically a sign of being gay anyway. But I did get a vibe that you were, um, fighting with yourself about this."

"Maybe," I said again. "I just . . ."

"Wondered what it would be like to be pretty?" she offered.

I just blushed, but I nodded.

"Would you believe that I understand? That I really, really understand?" she asked.

"I, um . . . what are you saying?"

We had reached the back of the salon and there was something like a massage table with various things laid out around it, including a pot of water warming on a little hotplate.

"I'll explain in a minute," she promised. "But first we need to get something straight."

She pulled me to face her and started unbuttoning my shirt. "I'm going to see you naked. And I'm going to be touching you in fairly intimate ways. Get used to it."

Well, that thought confirmed again that I like girls. And she noticed right away, announcing her awareness with a bright giggle. But she didn't stop with the buttons on my shirt. She just yanked it out of my pants and over my head, then started in on my belt.

"Wait a minute," I muttered as I tried to get my shirt the rest of the way off. "At least let me take my shoes off first."

"Okay," she said, but she didn't really stop. She just pushed me back a little and about the time I had my shirt out of the way I saw I was where I could sit on a stool.

As I proceeded to undress, she resumed her explanation. "Until a few years ago I was fat. Not just a little overweight, or 'full-figured,' but fat. Then, when I was almost 18 and far enough through the high school nightmare to have a solidly negative self-image, I had a sort of anxiety attack and developed an eating disorder."

"I lost almost 80 pounds in about 2 months," she said. "And I'd probably have died if not for Tony - and my parents, but mostly Tony."

Her eyes teared up as she spoke, but it was more at an impossibly wonderful memory than a horrible one. "He nagged me to eat - and wouldn't let me alone to throw it up afterward. He held me when I needed it. He cried with me . . ."

She shook herself and smiled - not her light-dimming beacon, but a soft little smile of wonder. "And he convinced me that I could be good-looking. He helped me get my weight stabilized at a point where . . . well, I like it. Don't you? He taught me about colors, and what would look good on me. He's the reason I decided to become a beautician."

"Tony told me that you taught him about colors."

"Well, maybe we learned together," she said. "But he's the reason we learned. He got the books, and made me do the tests. He gave me a reason to live, and to respect myself."

Now her smile flashed out bright and strong. "And he showed me that I could be beautiful."

She did a happy twirl, showing her shape from all angles. It was a very worth-looking-at shape. She wore jeans, too, but hers fit very nicely as did the knit top she wore. What made her really attractive was still that smile, though. She was happy. She had large, dark eyes above a cute little nose and full, pouty lips; all the physical things that make a girl look good in a picture. But that happiness is what made her beautiful.

"And I can do the same for you," she claimed, with a laugh and an air kiss.

"Yeah, right," I said, pulling myself back from contemplation of her to my own situation.

"Absolutely," she said. "Now get the rest of it off."

All I had on were my briefs and my socks, with my hands trying to hide what her twirling body display had, ahem, brought up.

"Why do I have to . . ?" I asked.

"Because I said so, for now," she said, reaching out to snap the elastic at my waist. "We won't have time for me to explain every thing that I do, or have you do. For now, you'll just have to do it."

I knew I was proving that not all my blood had 'gone south' because my cheeks were burning. But despite my embarrassment, I also felt a sort of closeness to Angela now that she had told me of her own struggle. I think she truly did understand what it was to want - just once - to be attractive. That her success was continuing just made it all the sweeter. And I thought it meant that she wasn't secretly laughing at me, or disgusted with me.

None of that solved one particular problem, though. If I dropped my briefs, she was going to see 'all' there was of me - just as much as there could be, in fact, because there sure wasn't any room for further growth.

Angela wasn't really sympathetic about that. Or at least she didn't seem to be. She waited for just a second, then laughed and said, "I told you that my family thinks I'm a scandal because I like girls . . . too."

Like that helped anything.

"But after I decided I could be pretty, I got a little wild for a while. And what I decided is that I like sex - giving, receiving, and sharing. So if you need a little help with that . . ?"

"What . . are you . . ?"

"Offering?" she completed. "Drop those shorts and your socks, and hop up on the table. I'll show you."

I wasn't sure exactly what she had in mind, but I for damn sure wasn't going to tell her no.

Well, she fixed it.

She leaned over and kissed me, using just enough pressure to keep my head down on the table so I couldn't look around at what she might be doing. It was not a nice kiss. There was raw, wild sex in that kiss - promised, because the very nature of the kiss showed there was more coming than a kiss alone could deliver - but the joining in that kiss was a window into a certain glory that would follow as naturally as thunder follows lightning.

I put my arms around her neck and tried to give as good as I was getting, not really paying attention to what she was doing with her own hands. I felt something almost too hot to stand, even with the distraction of her kiss, being spread on my leg not too far from 'the problem' and wondered just how wild she had gotten. My experiences with kinky things had been limited to a few naughty stories I'd surfed on the net, and a couple of men's magazines. Visions of whipped cream, or chocolate syrup, or I don't know what being, um, shared between us were dancing in my mind when 'the problem' she had promised to help me with went away. In a hurry.

The rip when she pulled the wax strip off my leg was enough. Between one heart beat and the next my excitement drooped to nothing.

Angela laughed, but she patted my cheek and said, "The rest won't be as bad, now that you'll be ready for them. It was naughty of me to do that without warning, but it did take care of things . . . for now."

The husky suggestion in her voice almost, um, resurrected the problem. But by then she was into the next strip. Anticipation of that, and the ones to follow, took my mind off the tone of her voice and back to the whole, impossible situation. However, as she promised, the rest weren't really as bad. There was a sort of mental numbness that set in to counter the increasing physical sting as more and more of my flesh was ripped away - or at least the deeply-anchored hairs.

It took a while. Mostly I just laid there with my eyes closed, trying not to be too much of a baby. She chattered on about something or another - I was concentrating on not complaining rather than what she said. Afterwards I remembered some sort of dissertation on the various stores we would visit, and what outfits I would need. Like any of that made things easier.

And there were interludes that were even less comfortable, at least psychologically, when she took scissors and trimmed hair that was too long to yank with the wax. Particularly since some of that too-long hair was, um, near to things I held dear. You gotta be a man to get a bikini wax without complaining. Which I was not, as I yelped quite a bit when I got mine. And the underarms were even worse.

Well, maybe not, but the difference was sorta academic.

"Are we having fun, yet?" Angela asked with a cheerful little chirp.

I'd have strangled her but she was moving too fast.

"Oh, yeah. Absolutely," I said tightly.

"Lesson Number 2 in being a girl," she said. "You actually have to be tougher than the guys, but you can never let them know it. Just wait 'til I get you in high heels! Ooh, and a corset, and . . ."

Oh, joy. How could I stand the wait?

After hours and hours of torture - that's my story and I'm sticking to it - Angela finally had me sit up and I could see my body.

It was . . . scary. And dangerously thrilling at the same time. I had already recognized that the puberty fairy had not been particularly generous to me, but with my body hair removed, my legs looked . . . good. Even sleek. None of my joints - knees, knuckles, jaw - were particularly prominent, and despite my occasional efforts, I'd never bulked up to any degree. So when I looked at my smooth, shining legs, they looked twice as long and ten times as shapely as I ever remembered.

And at the top of those legs was a cute little triangle of hair. Just enough to call attention to a . . . conflict with the rest of the image.

"Holy shit," I said.

Angela agreed. "Definitely! You're gonna be a babe! I can tell already."

She tossed a tangle of straps at me and said, "Okay, next step is to give you a girl's sacred treasure to protect. Go put that on. You can use the restroom if you want. If you need help, just let me know."

It would have been even more embarrassing to admit that I needed help, so I struggled with the thing for longer than I should have. I had found some more 'naughty' stories on the net the night before - ones that were more relevant to my situation than the ones I had surfed before - and some of them covered what needed to be done. It still took a while. Not the least of which is that when things finally snapped into place, I had an entirely new contour. What needed to be hidden was gone without a trace, and what was left . . .

What was left would work even if I actually wore a bikini. The phrase, 'camel toe' took on a whole new meaning for me. I quickly put on a little wisp of black lace - a bit more than a thong, as it turned out, but a lot closer to one than I'd ever worn before - in an attempt to hide my new 'sacred treasure' as Angela called it. The skimpy little panty was just big enough to cover the not-quite-perfectly blended edges of the gaff thingy that hid my boy bits, leaving me an image that was disturbingly perfect. Now my new shape looked not just naked, but enticingly sensual. Those panties belonged on someone who was really proud of that little treasure.

When I finally came out, Angela was holding her hands behind her back - obviously hiding yet another surprise.

"What now?" I asked anxiously.

"Now we give the guys something to talk to," she said, pulling out two quivering blobs of flesh. Or at least, they looked like flesh. Even I wasn't clueless enough to miss what they were.

Or how big they were.

"Aren't those a bit . . . y'know?"

"Boy howdy, do I know," she said, arching her back and displaying her own y'knows. "I've never had any complaints - at least, not since my figure stabilized."

"No, I, uh, think you're . . ." I ran down in confusion, but she got the message.

"Why thank you. Rule Number 3: A girl likes to be appreciated, if it's done in with the right combination of lust and respect."

She motioned me back to the table and started the process of gluing the shapes on me. "Actually," she said, "mine are a little smaller since I lost so much weight. I'm just a nice, full 'D' now, same as you will be."

Oh. How wonderful for me. "How long will they stay on?"

"Until you take them off," she said. "With the solvent. Don't worry, you can shower, swim, whatever."

"Oh," I said quietly.

I managed to make it through the gluing process, and didn't have much to do besides breathe for the next few minutes while Angela hooked a combination of lace and cobwebs around me. She stepped back and motioned me to another part of the salon.

I couldn't help but look down, and those things were even bigger from that perspective. A lot bigger. And heavier than I expected. I could feel the weight being carried through the straps of - oh my god - my bra.

I swayed on my feet and clutched at the table. "I'm sorry, Angela, but this is just too much. I'm not sure I can . . . do this."

I was afraid she'd tease me about my confusion, but she was sympathetic, and in fact, contrite.

"Oh, Tommy, I'm sorry. I've been pushing pretty hard, and you've been a really good sport, but I guess I was just assuming you'd be having as much fun as I was - as much fun as I had with Tony."

"Did Tony really have fun with this?"

"Oh, hell yes," she promised, with a laugh. "As soon as I got his boobs glued on him, he started fondling them and faking an orgasm. He's pretty . . . flamboyant."

Angela's expression changed to a more serious look and she didn't say anything for a moment. Instead, she found a nice - though short - terrycloth robe for me to wear, and asked once again with a glance if I would move to a work station.

I shrugged, which didn't help a thing with all the new motions that started, and fumbled with the robe.

"Right over left," Angela said quietly. "Girl rule Number 4."

We moved to a more conventional kind of work station without saying anything more. Once I was seated, Angela pulled the rubber band out of my hair and leaned the chair back to where she could begin washing it.

"I really am sorry for pushing so fast," she said after a moment. "This is not a joke for you, is it?"

"I . . . don't think so."

"Have you ever . . . before I mean?"

For some reason I found myself spilling some more deep secrets to her. Well, maybe I knew the reasons. She had shared some of her own secrets, and between the kiss, the waxing, and . . . and helping me put on my first bra . . . secrets seemed a little silly.

"Not really," I said. "But I have . . . wondered. I never really had the opportunity, though. My dad died when I was still in grade school - standard drunk driver thing, nothing heroic - but we got a settlement that provides enough money to get by. Mom couldn't handle the loss. She just drinks herself into oblivion every day."

I shrugged again. "So I never had an older sister, or a sexy mother, or anyone else to borrow from. But I did wonder. Sometimes a lot. And . . . fantasized about what it would be like."

I looked upside down at Angela as she worked on my hair. "When this whole thing came up, I realized that for some time, my fantasies about being attractive have had me as a pretty girl, not as some big, macho guy. And it scares me."

She nodded, face neutral but pensive, not judging - just absorbing.

"Well, Tommy, you're going to have more than fantasies in a little while. And - I promise - you will be beautiful."

"Oh, god," I whispered.

Angela had apparently finished with my shampoo. She wrapped a towel around my hair, turban style, and led me to yet another work station. She sat me at the new station and pulled me around to look directly into my eyes. "D'you want to treat this as a fantasy fulfilled? Make yourself into the most beautiful, graceful, sensual, vivacious woman you can be? If not, we can do something androgynous enough to get by, but it would be a shame because you can be fabulous."

"Oh, god, do you think I could . . ?"

"Oh, hell yes," she said with a snort. "Absolutely. I've seen you when you're doing girl voices on the phone a couple of times, and I know you can do this. Do you realize that when you're doing girl voices, your gestures and posture and everything are really feminine already?"


"Oh, yes," she insisted. "Tony actually told me about it, and one of the times I was visiting - I suppose it was about a month ago - I watched for a few minutes. Even little things, like biting your lip in a little pout, giggling instead of chuckling, sitting with your shoulders back and boobs out - if you had boobs - were just like a flirty young woman."

"I never . . . really?"

She nodded. "Yep, you're a natural. It's like the voices thing you do that Tony told me about. You let the little things you've picked up just flow through into your motions without thinking about them. What is it they say about speaking a language? If you have to translate in your mind as you go along, you never really get fluent. But if you can think in the language you can sound like a natural. I think - yeah, that's a pun - that you can already *think* in girl. Or at least you could, if you want. So, what's it gonna be? Reluctant boy-in-a-dress, doing just enough to get the money . . . or hot enough to cause a core meltdown?"

I looked into those dark, but gentle eyes for a long, long moment. I'm sure it was longer than the silences with Little John the day before, but this time there was no awkwardness. All there was between us was acceptance.

So I said, "Halloo. My name ist Freya. I'm zo happy t'at you vill be making me beautiful."

Chapter 4 - "Sunday Afternoon Nap"

"One blonde Viking, coming right up," Angela said, spinning me in my chair so that I faced out of the work station.

"Dum de de Dum dum, dum de de Dum dum, dum de de DUM dum, dum de de dummm" I hummed. "I've zertainly got t'e boobs for opera now."

Angela giggled and yanked on my hair. "Just for that, another 6 inches."


"I'm going to do extensions for you. It'll take a while, so you might as well relax."

"Relax? Maybe in a month when this is all over," I said.

Angela started in on my hair and I found out that 'a while' meant several hours. So we started to talk about this and that, looking for the sense of girlfriends more than for any particular information content. We decided after just a few minutes that I wasn't really going to do the accent all the time. Even though I could do them, some accents "sounded" artificial to me. Yeah, that's ironic considering the whole situation, but so be it. I guess the Scandinavian accent didn't sound artificial so much as out of place in the DFW Metroplex. A Hispanic accent would have been fine, but not with blonde hair and blue eyes. So I dropped the cadence and slightly distorted pronunciation and just kept Freya's throaty voice tones. After all, I was just going to be a young woman from the area and blend in.

Yeah, right.

I also kept the Freya name, at least for now, and Angela definitely wanted me to keep the Scandinavian look. "You have really interesting eyes," she said. "The main color is a pale blue that almost looks grey, but there are darker blue accents, particularly around the edges. I wish I had pretty blue eyes like you."

"Don't knock dark eyes, Angela. Yours are beautiful."

"Why, thank you, Freya," she said. "But with those eyes, and your skin tone, we'll go for a light, spun-gold blonde. People are going to need sunglasses just to look at you."

"If you say so," I sighed. "There's so much of this to learn."

"Oh, you'll pick it up. Like I said, you're already better at the little gestures and mannerisms than Toni ever was."

"If you say so," I sighed again, but this time it was artificial and I giggled right after.

We mostly talked styles and colors. Angela taught me the things she said Tony had showed her, and I could see what she meant when she brought out some books for me to look at while my head was imprisoned. It turns out that I wasn't choosing good colors for me as Tommy, and she wasn't about to let Freya make the same mistake. Angela told me that she had picked up some clothes for me based on my measurements, and I actually found myself looking forward to trying them on.

Not that trying on clothes was going to happen any time soon. Noon came and I had half a head of really long hair, most of which didn't match my normal dark blonde at all.

"I'm hungry," Angela announced.

"Okay," I said cautiously. I wasn't about to go anywhere looking like I did. I wasn't sure I was going anywhere after the whole transformation was done, either. Except maybe to some high bridge to jump. As a matter of fact, with the mention of food my stomach did a flutter that made eating anything seem like a very bad idea. I had been chatting with Angela in our own little world and had been okay, even happy. But the stress of the whole thing was lurking just under the surface - of my tummy, it seemed.

"I'll be back in a little while . . . unless you want to come along?" Angela said.

I just gave her a glare that peeled about half the paint off the wall behind her, which was the response she wanted. Her easy laugh caroled off the bare wall, and the sunshine in her smile at how easily she had tweaked me made the wall clean and bright again.

"Here," she said, thrusting a book into my hands. "Pick a hair style while I'm gone."

Well, what else could I do? I was stuck in the chair, not sure if I would mess something up if I moved around.

Somehow, the thought that I was stuck had an effect that I didn't expect, and certainly didn't seem fair. I don't think Angela had time to lock the door on her way out before I had to go to the bathroom. And the need didn't diminish despite my firm orders to my body to ignore it. If anything, that just made it worse.

After a few minutes, I just couldn't stand it any longer. I gathered up an enormous billow of hair, letting it fall forward over one shoulder and my . . . y'know. The hair hung almost to the belt of my little robe, and caused me to tilt my head a bit just from the weight as I tiptoed to the rest room. That was actually the easy part, because once I got there I had to undo the thing that was hiding my - discordant- contours. And then I had to put, ahem, everything back away.

"Freya," Angela called, "where'd you go?"

"In here. I'm just finishing up."

She was arranging some takeout things by her work station when I tiptoed back through the empty salon. I thought I had everything inside my panties re-arranged correctly, but something was pinching and on the way back I did a sort of wide-legged squat with a bit of nudge from the hand that wasn't holding my hair. Angela just happened to take that moment to look up and that set her laugh off again.

"Okay, so that's not a move I've seen before. Score one for originality, if nothing else."

"Really?" I said, falling back into Tommy's 'normal' voice for a moment. "Guys do it all the time."

"My point exactly," she said.

By then I was sitting in the workstation chair again, and she was handing me a salad and putting a glass of something within reach. I decided I could handle a salad even with my fluttery stomach, but when I took a sip of the amber liquid, it turned out to be wine.

"Oh, I don't really drink," I said.

"No time like the present," Angela claimed. "Rule Number . . . what are we up, to - five? . . a lady needs to be able to drink socially. Without getting drunk. Without the first you seem like a prude and will end up a pruney old maid. Without the second you may end up a mother before you intend."

"That's, um, not something I have to worry about," I said.

"Actually," she disagreed, "you do. You need to worry about the same things that other women worry about - whether they apply or not. It's part of the way we see the world. It's like, any woman who sees a lost child just has to do something about it whether she has children of her own or not."

I just nodded, understanding the point. Not sure how to react to it, but understanding the point.

Angela laughed and went on. "By the time I'm done with you, you'll never visit a friend's apartment again without checking to see how clean the bathroom is."

Her smile twisted a little and she leaned over to whisper - we were the only ones in the whole place but it seemed this was too secret to broadcast anyway. "Speaking of bathrooms, did you know that your gaff allows you to pee without taking it off?"

"What?" I asked, startled at the intimacy of the question.

"At least, that's what it said on the package," she continued, leaning back a little. "You'll have to sit down - which is not a bad thing to remember anyway - but you won't have to worry about . . . rearranging things afterward. Just make sure you wipe."

"Oh, god, that's TMI," I groaned.

"Get used to it, girl, there's more to come."

I didn't realize it at the time, but my professed unfamiliarity with alcohol gave Angela an incentive to make sure my glass was filled for the rest of the afternoon, even as she prompted me to take yet another sip with a series of increasingly silly toasts. I had never really liked the taste of anything alcoholic. That was the reason I didn't really drink, rather than any moral issues with drinking. But after a while that wine started to taste pretty good, and I felt more relaxed than I had all day.

Eventually she finished with the extensions, which was not in any way to say that she finished with my hair. Whatever the next steps were, they all seemed to require smelly chemicals.

Angela explained one of them with, "I'm only giving you a gentle body perm, so you'll have volume to go with the length. Did you pick a hair style? Nothing too curly I hope."

"I, um, didn't really have a chance."

So that set Angela off on a long discussion of what would work well with my face, and what would be easy to take care of, yet still look good - informing me that sometimes being a bit disheveled was exactly the right look - and . . . well, somewhere in there I think I dozed off.

I woke myself up.

By jabbing myself in the side of the nose with something fairly hard and not quite sharp.

Angela's giggle finished dragging me back from some sort of dream. As soon as I woke up I lost the dream content, but I knew I had been dreaming hard just a moment before. The transition was sharp enough that I was confused for just a couple of moments and closed my eyes to give my mind a chance to catch up.

"None of that, sleepyhead," Angela said, and something tickled my nose.

I opened my eyes again to see Angela flicking a soft makeup brush on my nose, and I realized that had been what woke me up - that and unconsciously swiping at it while I was right on the cusp of sleep.

This time I kept my eyes open, so Angela leaned back and giggled again. "You were so cute sleeping there - do you know you have a soft, furry little snore? It's adorable. So I just let you sleep while I worked."

"Thanks, I guess," I said in my Tommy voice. Or at least, the first part of it was. Even as the words were coming out, I was sliding them into Freya's tones. "I didn't get much sleep last night."

"Oh, out partying on your last night as a dude?" she asked.

I just blushed, and reached to rub my nose again. The little tickle still had the nerves twitching, even though the brush was well gone. That's when I saw my nails. While I was asleep, they had apparently grown at least half an inch - and I hadn't really kept them all that short to begin with, at least, not short for a guy.

They looked really good, like they were totally natural. There was a color transition from pinkish to off-white just about where you'd expect. Only a satiny gloss looked artificial, almost as though they were shielded behind a protective coating.

"What'd you do while I was asleep?"

"Oh, lots of things," she said lightly . . . which didn't help at all.

I reached for my nose again to rub out the itch, but she caught my hand.

"No touching," she said. "I don't want you to spoil your makeup."

"I've got makeup?" I squeaked, looking for a mirror.

"Don't look yet," she said. "I'm not quite done. Here, have another glass of wine."

"I've probably had enough," I sighed.

"Nope," she said. "I knew you weren't passed out drunk, just asleep, so you still need practice. Besides, I want a glass, too and I don't want to drink alone."

"How long was I asleep?"

"A couple of hours. Good for you, and actually it helped me as well."

She reached up and touched something I was just realizing was poking out all over my head. "Since you were asleep and I had plenty of other things to do for you - or to you - I decided to let your hair air dry. In the meantime, I did your nails and makeup."

"Makeup," I repeated in a whisper. "Until two days ago, I never thought that would apply to me."

"Well, it does now," she said. "And lucky for you, I'm a genius."

I looked around again for a mirror. "I really need to see . . ."

"Not yet," she said again, but gently. "I think your hair is dry enough now. Let me brush it out so you see the whole picture. It'll only take a few minutes."

I looked at her, and found an almost begging look in her eyes, despite her airy tones. She really wanted my approval, which didn't help my peace of mind at all since if she felt my approval were that uncertain there must have been some pretty dramatic changes. But even in the short time we'd been together, we'd become much more than client and technician. She was my friend - maybe my best friend, in a way that I'd never really known before.

There wasn't really anything I could do but agree, so I shrugged - which reminded me of things I had mostly forgotten, down inside my robe. That triggered a sigh - which started things moving again, and I had to laugh at the thought of being caught in my very own endless do loop.

Angela took my laugh as permission, so she manipulated whatever she had to do to get the chair upright again and started taking rollers down from the mass surrounding my head. I couldn't see what she was doing because she had me placed so that there weren't any handy mirrors. Instead, as though I were continuing to wake up, my chittering mind continued to float more unexpected sensations to the top. And what they meant. I looked at my nails again. They made my hands look very slender, and gracefully elegant.

Disturbingly feminine.

As I stared at them, I realized the sharply unpleasant smells that had surrounded me as I dozed off were gone. Instead, there was a pleasant fragrance drifting in the air. Light, a little flowery, yet somehow quite sophisticated. The glass of amber wine seemed very fitting, particularly when I held it in my equally sophisticated hand.

After I took a sip, I noticed something else I never expected to see: A lipstick mark on the glass. I just stared for a long moment, then my eyes blinked automatically.

Which made the feathery weight of my lashes all too apparent to my struggling senses. Another alarmingly feminine sensation I had never felt would apply to me.

I could feel myself start to pant a bit, with shock and something like despair at the runaway train helplessness that made me less than a spectator to my own . . . what? Destruction? Reconstruction?


The smells and sensations and hints of femininity were all around me, but there was no context for them. Did I look like a clown? A garish caricature of stark lips and pasty-white skin?

Or . . . . or . . . was Angela the genius she claimed? Did the miracle of Tony's photo carry over to me? Could I be . . . pretty?

"I'm sorry, Angela," I said, trying to stand, "but I just have to see . . ."

"Two more minutes," She begged. "I promise, and you'll be so pleased."

I told myself that I could hold my breath for two minutes, so it wasn't that long. Deep breaths. Slow breaths. Ignore the way the robe surged and swayed, like waves caressing a beach. Ignore the fact that I needed to go to the bathroom again. Ignore . . .

Did my ears sting a little?

"Okay," Angela said. My little self-distractions had apparently consumed the required time. "Close your eyes," she ordered. "And stand up. I'll guide you."

I felt her undo the sash of my robe, and urge it down from my shoulders. "No peeking," she cautioned again.

Then her fingers were in my hair, wiggling back and forth as she tousled into disarray her careful work.

"What are you . . ?" I started.

"Shhh," she said. "Now shake your head . . . harder - back and forth . . .once more."

"Okay, you can look," she said a moment later.

"oh god . . . that can't be . . ," I whispered.

" . . . that can't be . . ."

"That's you, girl. You're hot!"

The blonde girl in the mirror was way too beautiful to be anyone in real life. She was an airbrushed, soft-focus, photoshopped, impossibility. With pale blonde hair tumbling everywhere and pale blue eyes wide with shock and plump bright lips opened in an 'O' of surprise.

And she was tall.

All of the sudden the scale had changed. Angela was average height for a woman, and I liked to think that I was pretty near average height for a guy my age at just over 5'9", but "tall" didn't apply to either of us. For a girl, 5'9" was tall. The blonde in the mirror was tall enough to look slender, yet shockingly appropriate curves said she was not some emaciated ectomorph type. She was rounded in the places where real women are full, yet tautly lean in the places where shapely women are trim. Those rounded, pouty lips defined a mouth that looked small and a smile that showed delicate little teeth. Those wide, shocked eyes made the cheeks look fine-boned and almost fragile. The waterfall of captured sunlight made the neck seem graceful and elegant.

And deliciously beautiful.

"The technical term for that style," Angela was saying, "is 'bedroom hair.' That girl has just finished having wild, passionate, uninhibited sex."

"I . . . never believed . . . even after Tony's picture . . . never," I said, still whispering, afraid the image was some ethereal sprite that would vanish at any loud noise.

Angela poked me in the arm and giggled. "Okay, Narcissa, quit ogling yourself and lets get you dressed. We have some shopping to do!"

"Shopping?" I repeated stupidly, blushing at her all-too-accurate observation.

"Yeah," she said. "I just got some things that will carry you over until we can get some that we know will fit. Rule Number Whatever, the tag on women's clothing doesn't really tell you what size it is. It just gets you in the ballpark."

She retrieved a couple of bags that had been sitting by the side of her work station. Before she handed them too me, she paused.

"Look, um, Freya, I had to make some assumptions about your style and your look. And while you were asleep, I had to make even more assumptions."

She turned me back to the mirror, and then nudged me to stand closer. "For one thing, I assumed that you'll be Freya until you get your pictures done. Some of the things just can't practically be done, and undone, and then redone. Like your hair extensions."

"Oh," I murmured, too lost in the beauty in the mirror to pay attention.

"And, well, I plucked your eyebrows quite a bit," she said.

"Ohmigod," I gasped as I really looked at them. My alarmingly thin, highly arched brows were so perfect for the image that I hadn't realized what that meant.

Looking so closely at my eyes reminded me of the fronds of eyelash that I was waving around. I blinked a couple of times, and then found myself doing a sultry, heavy-lidded look - just to see them better, of course.

"Your own eyelashes were too blonde for just mascara," Angela explained. "So I gave you some darker false eyelashes. You'll still need to use mascara and eyeliner, but the lashes will look dark to the root."

And then my long-nailed fingers were touching the sparkling studs in my ears.

"Those are just CZs," Angela said. "I didn't think your expense account would cover real diamonds."

She finally lifted the bags again, and nudged me back to the massage table. "Okay, here's the deal. I decided to go for the warrior maiden look for you. The Nordic Princess thing. You're tall enough for it, and it plays to the fact you're a bit more muscular than most girls. Don't get me wrong - it looks great on you - but we need to show them a Valkyrie, not a flower petal."

"Okay," I said cautiously. "So what does that mean?"

"Well, for one thing, it means we play up your legs. They look fabulous."

"Thanks, I guess."

"Absolutely. But we need to squeeze your waist and pad your hips to give you a bit more shape above your legs, and to balance out your boobs."

With that, she pulled out a padded panty girdle, and what looked like a no-kidding medieval corset.

"Oh, god," I sighed.

Angela just giggled. "Oh, yeah. I'm so looking forward to this."

"You? Why?"

"Because you are already way too pretty. And you have the kind of beauty that will endure forever, like, oh, Kathryn Hepburn or Lauren Bacall. In a few years, I'm either going to need to find a good plastic surgeon, or I'm going to have a double chin and wrinkles around my eyes deep enough for burro tours."

She laughed again and said, "On the other hand, I have the curves that go with my boobs, and it's only justice that I get to inflict the rest of the body shapers on you. Actually, your shape isn't all that bad to begin with . . . I wish my tush were that high and proud. And your waist isn't really out of line for modern women as it is. The problem is that a woman's hips are always larger than her waist. Squeezing your middle in a bit will make your hips look much more feminine without being padded into blimp size. Isn't that what you want?"

"I guess so," I said tentatively, but inside my heart was pounding with the impossibly feminine images her words were building in my mind. My nerves were wound so tight that I could no longer ignore another problem. "I think I, um, need to . . . what is it? Use the powder room? First."

"Oh, sure. Remember what I said."

"What? Oh, yeah," I said, as I did indeed remember.

I suppose I could have deliberately stalled before I put on those body shapers, but the little restroom had a mirror. And when I looked at the girl in the mirror . . . well, it wasn't really a conscious delay. More of a trance.

Angela wouldn't let me get lost in that reflection forever. "Hey, in there, you can hide, but you can't get away. There's only one way in and out, and I'm guarding it."

I finished up as quickly as I could after that, noting in the mirror that my blush - a real one, not a product of makeup - showed even through whatever Angela had painted on my cheeks.

It took a bit of very unladylike grunting and more than a few complaints - from both of us - but eventually Angela declared herself satisfied. Actually, I understood the need. As soon as I saw the hollows in my hips, I knew it wasn't right. Not just that it didn't look as good as the rest of me, but wrong in a way that seemed perverse, and I definitely saw the irony in that. But what needed to be fixed were the hollows in my hips, not the 'new' parts of me.

"Okay," Angela said, gasping almost as much as I was. "That's good enough for now . . "

"For now?" I repeated. "What . . ?"

"We'll tighten it up more for your glamour shots, but that's good enough for shopping."

"Shopping," I repeated. "Now?"

"Well, I don't think you want to wear this to work tomorrow," she said, holding up a tiny denim skirt and a stretchy knit top. And shoes with the highest heels I'd ever even seen.

"Oh, god, no. Nor out in public anywhere else, either."

"Look, Freya, like I said, you're going to be too noticeable to hide - I hope to tell you that people are going to notice you - so you need to make it clear you're damn proud of your beauty."

She offered the skirt and motioned me to put it on. "That doesn't mean snooty and arrogant, and whatever. Just comfortable in your appearance, to the point that you don't feel you have anything to hide."

"So no one will be looking for what I'm actually hiding," I said slowly, finally getting the point.

"Exactly," she agreed.

"But there's a difference between hiding it and flaunting it," I insisted.

"Yes," she agreed, "but for a girl as beautiful as you, tall and blonde, with long hair that shows you're willing to take advantage of your assets . . . would you expect a girl like that to wear sloppy clothes, Mother Hubbard skirts, and flats?"

"I don't suppose," I found myself forced to agree.

But how much of it was forced? How much of my reluctance was because I hated the idea of a mini skirt and high heels, and how much was because I was afraid I'd like it too much?

More than once as I shimmied into that tiny little skirt, or tried to get all that hair through the neck of my way-too-snug knit shirt, I wondered if I were still dreaming. I'd had dreams that were kinda like this, though never so detailed. But my imagination was pretty good and despite all the evidence to the contrary, I wondered if somehow this were still part of a dream - just another fantasy.

Until I got to the shoes. That wasn't part of any fantasy I'd ever had. I'd fantasized about wearing high heels. But the pinch and almost painful pressure just behind my toes, and the overall awkwardness were way too unexpected to be part of my imagination.

"Okay," Angela said. "With those, you're over six feet tall."

"Really?" I said, smiling despite the incipient crash. Being six feet tall had been a dream of its own.

"Yeah," she confirmed. "Walk around a little."

So I tried it. Not too successfully.

"Look, you're trying to hard," Angela said. "It's not that bad. Girls . . . we girls . . . do it all the time. Just think of stepping with your hips a little more - not a barn door swing, you slut! - and let that take care of where your feet go. And extend your knee. You look like you're doing some sort of duck walk!"

Angela's suggestions were actually pretty helpful. It was a little like snow skiing. The best lesson I ever got from an instructor was all about upper body and hips, not about my feet. When I got my upper body moving right, the feet (and skis) took care of themselves. So I let my hips move a little more and all of the sudden I was just walking.

Slowly, of course, with about half my normal stride, but it felt pretty good.

"Oh, God, Freya, you are so natural at this. Pretty soon I'll be taking lessons from you."

"Thank you, Angela, but you are the master and I am the humble padawan apprentice," I said. In fact I was finding other movements that made it work even better. If I kept my hips just a bit forward - so that I didn't stick my wide-load bottom out like a truculent turtle - that shifted my posture a bit and I became more poised and erect. The swing of my hips meant I didn't have to swing my shoulders as much as I used to, but I found myself moving my hands to keep them out of the way and realized I'd seen women doing that, too. It started to come together in a lot of ways, just from those incredible heels.

My new appearance taught me other lessons as well. If I looked down at my feet, all I saw was the swell of my alarmingly prominent bust - and I felt silly staring at my own body so I started to keep my head up. Even so, every time I turned my head my hair swung around in a delightfully energetic swirl, and I developed an unconscious movement to pull the long cascade behind my ears - repeating a motion I'd seen other girls do a million times.

That kept it out of my lipstick as well - another thing that convinced me I wasn't still dreaming, because I'd never guessed that could be a problem.

Somewhere in there, about the time the motions started supporting each other, becoming more feminine and more natural at the same time . . . somewhere in there I started to feel graceful.

Somewhere in there, when I looked at the vision of beauty in the mirror, it stopped being someone else, and I started to be that heartbreakingly pretty girl.

Somewhere in there . . . . I became happy.

Chapter 5 - "Truthday"

As I walked toward the office on Tuesday, I saw Little John's pickup, Rick's Subaru, and Tony's Z4 bimmer. That was moderately good news because they already knew about Freya. Not that I expected to be recognized anyway.

Angela and I had been shopping. The person walking toward the door of Southwest Synergistics didn't look much like the one who had walked out Saturday afternoon.

After Angela finished with my magical transformation there hadn't really been time for any serious shopping since stores in Texas close pretty early on Sunday. Mostly she just wanted to get me out in public. So much for Tony's report that he had spent a couple of days practicing feminine movement before going to the mall.

What we did instead was get a bite to eat at a salad place. At first, the way eyeballs clicked audibly when I walked by made me feel that torches and pitchforks were on the way. I decided to go down with style, living the preposterously unbelievable fantasy until the flames consumed me, so I pushed my hips even further forward, stood even taller, and pretended not to notice.

But the torches never arrived. Instead, I realized the looks weren't mocking and accusatory (well, except for the one short-haired woman with no makeup, who looked angrily at both Angela and me). Instead, there was a sense of wonder that I could understand, since it was even more wonderful from the inside.

I even got asked for an autograph. I just signed it Freya, more or less. I made a flamboyant F and a wiggly streak, and let them figure out the rest.

But after a little salad (which filled my now-tiny stomach) Angela whispered that I needed to fix my lipstick. I didn't do a very good job - not smearing it all over my face, but taking so long to keep within the lines that it still drew the wrong kind of attention. So instead of taking me home to my apartment with a plan to resume the next day, we went to hers. I had my first sleepover with a beautiful woman since college.

This sleepover was a little different. This sleepover was spent teaching me to do my hair, and my makeup, and working out a way to get my corset tight enough without help. (Hint: It involves hooking your laces to a doorknob and walking away. A colorful vocabulary helps. Second hint: You know it's tight enough when the edges of your vision get dark. Third hint: It actually gets easier after your ribs have been crushed for 24 hours straight .)

Well, makeup and hair are mostly what we did. Along about 3:00 in the morning we had destroyed another bottle of wine. (Angela was adamant that I would learn to drink without losing control.) She had assigned me the task of painting my face with full glamour makeup, and I had actually managed to meet Angela's standards. Dark and sultry eyes, lashes made even longer with ultra-volume mascara . . . and ripe, pouty, overlaid-with-gloss lips.

"By George Oi think she's gawt it," she declared, then started dancing around the room singing, "The rain in Spain stays . . ." Okay, Angela was a bit tipsy herself.

After most of a chorus - incomplete because she forgot half the words - she danced back over to me and asked, "Do you know the absolute best thing about fresh lipstick?"

"Um, the gloss?" I guessed.

"Nope, silly," she giggled. Then she leaned close and barely breathed, "It's sharing it."

I had forgotten how much sex she could put into a kiss.

In my defense, it had been a senses-saturating day, and the other time she had kissed me had been as a distraction to cover the start of ripping my hair out by the roots. That part I remembered. But the intensity of Angela's kiss had faded a bit behind the impossibly wonderful events that followed.

I didn't expect I would ever again forget her kiss. Of course, this time the context was better. A whole lot better.

She showed me how to make love like a woman, and then she helped me get my gaff off and showed me how to make love to a woman.

And then she showed me again. Just in case I had forgotten anything.

Most of my memories of that night were sort of disjointed - sensual snapshots that leaped from one place to another (and no, it wasn't the wine - or at least, not only the wine).

It was disturbingly exciting to see her dark lipstick marks on my breast, and sharply disappointing that I couldn't share the same sensations she received when I left my own brighter trail on hers. It was painful and pleasurable at the same time to have my own sensitive bits crushed behind the gaff, yet have her kisses send me into places of rapture where the air was so thin I could barely breathe. Capturing her nipple in long nails, being captured in turn by my long hair when we tried to switch positions. Dissolving into laughter at the awkwardness. Melding together with unending smoothness of sleek legs and soft skin.

Being tickled. Because I started it.

We got up very late on Monday. Thankfully, whoever worked Saturday always had Monday off so it didn't really matter that we got up late, except it was cutting into shopping time. I guess the good news was that we didn't have to get all my new clothes in one day. The bad news is that Angela was insistent that I was going to try on at least half a dozen candidates for each item in my new wardrobe. Shoes took twice that many. And boots.

I found that I really loved boots.

All the shoes and boots had at least four inches of heel, because I was going to be over six feet tall. Period. All my life I'd wanted to be six feet tall, and I liked it. I spent more on shoes and boots than on clothes.

But that was just the first shopping session. We'd fix that.

Angela kicked me out of her apartment that afternoon, laughing at the state of my own 'bachelor pad' when she followed me home to help me carry in all the plunder. "I'll come by in the morning, just to make sure you get your hair and makeup right, but if you weren't too drunk last night to remember what you did, you'll be fine," she said.

I don't know if 'fine' is the word I would have used, but I had myself up, dressed, and primped when she showed up the next morning. I'd started early, since it was clear I wouldn't be sleeping much that night. Actually, I'd started in on cleaning my apartment first, since it really was pretty trashed. Even Moondance, the cat, helped, chasing little dustballs around to show me where they were. She was only moderately irritated with me for staying out all night, since she has a sneak door that lets her roam when she gets bored.

It also took me three tries before I decided I liked the outfit I was going to wear. I ended up with low rise jeans that loved the curves Angela's little shapers gave me, over boots with heels that made my legs look like they went on forever. A light-blue oxford-style shirt was unbuttoned low enough to do more than hint that the curves were real (even though they weren't, but Angela was an artist) and my very, very blonde hair hung in flowing waves nearly to my crushed little waist. I also had a stylish, oversized, distressed-leather bomber jacket that pretended to hide my curves but in fact accented them by contrast.

After I had Angela's approval of hair, makeup, nails, outfit, and accessories, I drove carefully to the office, arriving to learn from their parked vehicles that Little John, Tony, and Rick were already there. I seemed to remember that Joe Heller was off on vacation, and Sam Johnson did most of the onsite installations of our proprietary diagnostics software so it wasn't unusual for him to be out of the office.

*Head up, shoulders back, boobs out. And smile!* I ordered myself. Actually, the smile was easy. I had admitted to myself that I was having fun, and that was before a night spent with Angela. I knew I looked like something out of a fantasy - though the version guys had didn't include actually being the curvy blonde. Probably. Being a fantasy woman was going to give me some real teasing ammunition in just a couple of minutes.

Our office didn't get much walk-in traffic so we didn't have one of those little tinkly bells. But when I stepped through the door a hush-a-bomb went off, proof that my presence was noticed.

Even though the three guys had their headsets on, none seemed to be in the middle of a call. At least, none of them spoke for several seconds. Long enough that I let a little bell-like giggle of my own out and asked, "Hello, is anyone home?"

Tony jumped up first and moved quickly to where I stood. On my stilts, I was actually a little taller than he was. Not that he probably noticed. His eyes never got high enough to tell what color my eyes were . . . which might have been a good thing, because the only thing noticeable about Tommy had been his pale eyes - which I coincidentally shared.

"Can I help you?" he asked.

"I don't know," I said with a husky purr. "Can you?"

"Is there something I can do for you?" Tony tried again.

"What did you have in mind?" I teased again.

He was a pretty good sport about it. He blushed, but he just accepted his own response and smiled a point at me for teasing him so successfully, which cost me my anonymity. When he did - finally - look at my eyes to share his smile, he did - finally - recognize me.

"Oh my God! Tommy?" he gasped.

"Freya, actually," I said, but I said it in Tommy's voice.

"Holy shit," he said, much more softly.

"Tommy?" Little John repeated, rising from his own work station. Rick Timmonds just stared, if anything even more open-mouthed than before.

I ignored the fish-mouth in favor of the man-mountain who moved toward me with a wry smile on his face.

"Is there something you've been meaning to tell us?" he asked. It was a question with a lot of implied meaning- some of which I wasn't ready to address - but I didn't get upset. At least he was looking at my eyes when he spoke.

Well, maybe he was. He was the only one in the room taller than me, so as he moved closer his eyes just naturally looked down a little. More than a little?

Actually, I found myself just a bit flattered that he did check me out, particularly when after a brief glance and slight smile of appreciation he clearly raised his eyes back to meet mine. "I'll vote for successful, if anyone is keeping score," he said.

"Why, thank you, kind sir. A girl likes to feel appreciated," I purred, adding a slow caress of my hands down my nipped in waist. Of course, my sides couldn't really feel it through the corset, but I made it look like I was enjoying the touch.

I used a carefully casual hair flip (Angela had showed me how) to put a period on that conversation, moving to my own station like it were an ordinary work day. I brushed my 'wild' and 'uninhibited' hair into a semblance of order - something that was surprisingly easy since the tumbling waves fell pretty much where they wanted as long as they were out of my face. I just needed to run a brush slowly through the heavy mass to free any tangles . . . a task that was so inherently sensual that I felt my eyes closing in appreciation. And I had to check my makeup. That only needed a little smudgy blend at the edge of my shadowed lids, and a touch of lip gloss.

The room was totally silent.

After a moment I noticed and looked at the staring guys. "What?" I asked petulantly.

Just then the phone rang and since none of the others were moving to answer the call, I took it. It didn't seem right to do a guy's voice - not even Tommy's - so I went into my highland lass brogue and worked the call. Tuesday was often our busiest day as we fixed not-quite-critical problems that rose over the weekend but weren't called in on Mondays when most clients were too busy for anything less than emergencies. So I stayed busy, switching among Bonnie, Olga (Russian), Kimiko (Asian, and my worst because it was so stereotyped), and every now and then Freya. Or Maria Teresa when a client wanted someone who spoke Spanish. Oh, and sometimes even an unaccented, though still female Karen.

A little before 11:00, and just as I was finishing a call, Rick started waving frantically at me. "He's asking for Freya," he mouthed.

I found out who 'He' was a second later.

"Hallo, T'is is Freya. How may I help yew?"

"Freya, this is Mike Lewis. How are you today?"

"Yus' fine, Mister Lewis," I replied, trying not to gulp over the phone.

"Did you get the package?" he asked. "Oh, and please call me Mike."

"Ya, I did," I said. Then before he could say anything further I added in a voice without any accent, "Look, Mr. Lewis, I mean, Mike, I don't really have an accent. I just use that to be, um, more memorable to the clients."

"Ah, I wondered, just a bit. We set up these local offices in part so that clients won't feel they have to talk to someone who has a bad accent. Not that yours is bad. It's quite charming, really. Do you do any others?"

I could feel my cheeks ignite again, but it was too easy to check with clients so I had to admit that I did. I figured if I were dead, I might as well go out with a bang. "Ya, Da, Si, Hai, Oui, Aye, Fer Shure."

He laughed. "That's great. I can see why we've been paying so many bonuses to that office. Clients would love it."

There was a pause on the line, then he said, "Okay, so now you've got my curiosity up. Are any of those, um, historically accurate?"

What did he mean? In a moment it came to me. He was fishing for what I looked like. At least my answer wasn't a new lie, just embellishing an old one. "Well, my ancestry is Scandinavian (that part was true), which is why my middle name is Freya (not true)."

After a moment, I saw an icon flashing on my screen with his name on it. At about the same time he told me to click it. When I did, his image popped up on the screen in a sub-window. "Do you have the standard computer, or have you modified it?"

Actually, I had modified it, but not all that much. Not enough for what I knew was coming. "It's standard," I said, and tried to keep the sigh out of my voice.

"Oh, good, then you can use the webcam. Would you mind turning it on? I understand that the techs wear casual clothes so don't worry about that, but I like to see the people I'm talking with."

Yeah, right. Like any girl is going to 'not worry about' her appearance, particularly when being seen by the boss of bosses for the first time. On the other hand . . .

*Thank you, Angela,* I sent off a mental prayer, then activated my webcam.

Lewis didn't say anything for a long moment. His eyes weren't really looking at me because whatever window opened on his computer wasn't quite aligned with the camera. But I knew when the window with my image opened. To his credit, his jaw never dropped, though his eyes widened and he didn't blink for what seemed a long time. I almost laughed when I realized that his webcam must be mounted a bit above the image on his screen, because it looked for all the world like he was looking down my blouse, too.

After that long moment he shook himself a little, then grinned. "We don't pay you enough."

"Huh? I mean, excuse me?" I said.

"Nothing, and I'm sorry. That was probably in poor taste, but you are quite . . . stunning, actually. What led you to work for us?"

I don't know if he was trying to make up for his - actually quite flattering, but somewhat sexist - initial reaction when he saw me, or whether he truly just wanted to get to know one of his employees a bit better. But the next few minutes were spent with generic getting-to-know-you chatting. In the course of the chat, it just happened to come out that he was single. I presumed he had my employee records and knew that I was single as well.

"I've been meaning for some time to get out and visit our branch offices," he said after a while. "I should have done it before this." He smiled again, and added, "And I have an even better reason to do it now."

*Ohmigod,* I suddenly realized. *He's flirting with me.* I felt my cheeks heat up again, and this time he was the one to laugh. With a wave from his image and a cheery, "Nice to talk with you," he hung up.

"Tommy's got a boy friend, Tommy's got a boy friend," Tony sang. Apparently, once again, he'd been listening in.

"Freya, you mean," Rick said. "I don't see any Toms around here."

I just put my head in my hands and tried to decide on the best way to commit suicide - and get Tony blamed for the murder. Not that he was wrong - or at least, not that there was no reason for what he was saying. Which wasn't any excuse. I let the next several calls go by until I got one I had to answer (as Maria Teresa). But on a call or not, my mind was whirling in frictionless circles from nowhere to a million other places that always turned out to be the starting point.

"Taking orders," Ricks voice said, standing at my shoulder. "Sandwiches at Jason's? Tony and I have the lunchtime duty, but I'll be back in time, and I'll bring you something back if you want."

"I'm up here," I said, pointing at my face. "And no thank you."

"Sorry," he said, but the smirk on his face showed the lie.

"You up for lunch?" a deep voice asked a few minutes after he was gone.

"Oh, god, I couldn't eat," I moaned. "I am so dead."

"I think we had this conversation before," Little John said, taking my headset from my unresisting hands and pulling me to my feet. "And the result of the first round was . . . awesome."

I looked up sharply to see if he were taunting me, but there was honest appreciation in his eyes . . . which were actually looking at my eyes even though he was standing over me and had a pretty good excuse to look elsewhere. Somehow, my hand was still in his, and we were just standing there . . . close.

"Damn," we heard Tony yell. "I've got to go out on a call."

"What's up?" Little John asked, stepping back - but with a casual move that denied there was any reason for . . . whatever I was feeling. I noticed my distractingly dainty hand was no longer in his huge paw, though.

"Oh, I think Spring Rain Flowers has fried their hard drive. And I kid you not, they poured coke in it."

"Deliberately?" I asked with a laugh.

"Well, they claim it was an accident . . . but I'm checking their DVD drive tray while I'm at it."

"Right," Little John and I said almost in unison - well, in synchronicity. There wasn't much overlap in our voice tones.

Tony gathered up his kit and left, chasing our timeline for onsite responsiveness. He took along a hard drive - and a DVD drive - and waved as he ran out the door.

That left Little John and I alone, at least until Rick got back. Since the office had to be covered at all times, that meant at least one of us had to stay so Little John's lunch invitation was on hold.

"You want to talk about it?" Little John offered.

"What's there to talk about?" I asked, but I knew it was a stall. So did Little John. He just leaned back on a nearby desk, causing it to creak but not collapse, and waited.

"Mike Lewis was flirting with me!" I blurted out.

"I can understand that," Little John said with a wry smile. "Based on what he knows, you're beautiful, witty, intelligent, highly competent . . . and single."

"But I'm a man!"

"Are you?" he asked gently.

"I don't need that from you!" I snapped. "Just because I'm not some macho knuckle-dragger does not make me less of a man than you."

"No, it doesn't," he said, voice still so calm it was becoming an irritation. "But we're not talking about that, and you know it. Let me ask it another way: Are you happier as Tommy, or as Freya?"

"Freya isn't real."

He gave me a long, slow, maddening . . . disturbingly flattering . . . look and said, "She is from where I'm sitting."

"That's just the outside, and it's . . . like a costume, okay?"

"It fits you like it was made for you," he observed. "So, answer my question."

"I'm Tommy. That's good enough," I said.

"It is good enough, for me. I like Tommy, and I'm happy to consider him a friend. But what about you? Don't I remember something about being 'empty, a blank spot where a person should be?' It'd be kinda silly to say that about Freya, wouldn't it?"

"What are you trying to say?"

"I guess I'm trying to say that I truly listened the other day, and that I'm ready to listen now. And you still haven't answered my question."

I was saved by the non-bell. Rick Timmonds pushed the door open, bearing sandwiches.

"Where's Tony?"

"He had a call," Little John said calmly. "We were just getting ready to go to lunch."

Rick leered at me and his smirk denied that lunch was on our minds. Ironically, he was right. But it wasn't what his leer implied, either. *Jerk.*

I didn't need his smug assumptions right then, so I looked at Little John and murmured, "I guess I'm ready to go if you are."

"Sure," he said easily, and now his solid calm was a good thing, not an irritation.

Going to lunch was also an interruption - or a continuation of Rick's interruption. I guess I wasn't ready to answer Little John's question and he didn't push it any more. We were just a couple of friends having lunch - co-workers with plenty of doofus client stories to share.

John was a gentleman the whole time, including little things like holding doors for me, insisting on picking up the check (not a big deal since I only had a diet coke and a few of his fries), and walking close enough to be an obvious escort for me. That lasted until he opened the pickup door on my side, and helped me into the seat. Then, when I was sorta trapped with his bulk filling the way out, he reached up and nudged my chin so I had to look at him.

"I'm gonna keep asking my question until you answer it. With the truth," he promised. "But not any more today."

"Thanks," I said quietly. "I'll think about it."

The rest of the afternoon went . . . actually I don't remember much of the rest of that afternoon. I know I answered some calls, but my mind was definitely not on work. Little John's question was merely life-changing. That made clients who spilled cokes and unplugged monitors seem a bit less important.

It was dark when the time came to leave work and as I gathered up my things - including a way-too-expensive designer purse that Angela had convinced me was critical to life as we know it - I could feel Rick's eyes on me again. I sighed but pretended not to notice until it was unavoidable. He met me at the door, apparently just then ready to leave himself.

"Can I walk you to your car?" he asked. It would have been polite - except for where his eyes were locked.

"Thanks, but I'm fine," I said.

Before I could open the door for myself, he had the handle and was swinging it open. I felt a sigh form again, but I refused to indulge in it because I knew what it would do to the shapes that floated within my blouse. Instead, I just moved past and headed to my car.

Rick followed me, despite the fact his Subaru was in a different part of the lot.

"Look, Rick, I'm fine. I've done this before, you know."

"Actually," he said, "I'm not sure that's true. You might attract a different sort of attention now."

*Yeah. Yours,* I thought.

"Um, Freya?" he said. "I was wondering . . . how'd you like to go get a drink or something?"

"No thanks," I said. "I have to go, uh, get some groceries, and then I have some things to do for Angela."

"Oh, well, maybe another time," he replied.

"Maybe," I said flatly, trying not to offer any encouragement.

He moved away once I was in my car. As soon as he was out of sight I just started banging my head on my steering wheel. Slowly, and not all that hard. I couldn't have a big bruise in the middle of my forehead when I had my pictures done. But the thought was there.

*Asked out on a date. Already. And by the one guy I know who I least wanted to ask me . . . I mean, not that I want a date with anyone. Any guy . . . I mean . . .oh god.*

What would I have done if it had been Little John who asked me? After all, he asked me to lunch. But that was just colleagues, right? Why didn't I have an obvious answer to that question?

I actually did need to get some food on the way home. I didn't often bother to cook, but I could, and not too badly. When my mother started her retreat from reality, I ended up doing a lot of the cooking for us. After a while I got tired of the same old thing so I started experimenting. Some experiments were quite successful, and I didn't really want fast food so I thought I'd fix something.

Shopping for a little chicken and a few essentials might have been fairly ordinary. Except I got asked for an autograph again. And the bag boy who insisted in carrying my purchases walked right into a parked car, dropped my bags, and I had to go back for another dozen eggs.

So it was an hour after I left work before I got back to my apartment. Putting the chicken into the oven didn't take all that long . . . except I had to wash the dishes first. And some fresh flowers had caught my eye in the store so I spent a little while arranging them, even if the vases were really just water pitchers.

Part of me (the part in the middle) wanted to get rid of my padded girdle and release my corset, but that would have required me to take off my boots and jeans, and I didn't want to go to the bother. Instead I spent the time until my simple supper was ready cleaning the apartment. And thinking.

Happy? Me? First off, that wasn't something I really considered much. Life happens. You deal with it. Happy comes . . . when? How? Ever?

Now? As Freya? I know I had been happy when Angela had finished showing me how pretty Freya could be, but was that real? Was it something that would endure more than a week? Would it even endure for a whole week, or was it all going to come crashing down in a few days, or even hours?

This had become a lot more than a costume for a set of pictures.

Especially if the costume . . . had been Tommy.

Chapter 6 - "Wotan's Day"

Angela had agreed to let me solo on Wednesday, on the condition that I wore a skirt. If I weren't comfortable that I could dress in anything other than pants, she wanted to come by and 'help' - which I knew meant nag me into something more revealing than I might have chosen for myself. Picking my own clothes sounded okay at the time, but when we had been shopping on Monday I had been too saturated with the whole experience to notice which things had actually ended up in the bags I brought home. I knew I had tried on lots of different clothes, including some rather long skirts and even a few formal dresses. But somehow (*Thanks a lot, Angela.*) I couldn't find any of them. All the skirts and the couple of dresses I actually had ranged from short to "Oh my God!" So I spent a too-long morning after a too-short night trying on different outfits again, with Moondance providing the only commentary. Mostly not too complimentary, until I gave her one of the leftover clothing bags. All of the sudden she thought all my new clothes were just fine.

In the end I punted and just wore the denim skirt Angela had for me after my transformation in the salon. At least I'd been outside in it - and not gotten arrested. A dark blue v-neck shell and a really cute, very fitted, grey suede jacket worked well with the skirt. Accessories were fairly easy, though this was the first time I'd ever worn a thumb ring and it felt funny for a while.

The biggest challenge, and the one that took the most time (well, aside from doing all that hair on hot rollers and painting my face) was deciding on shoes. I really wanted to wear one of my pairs of boots, but the combination of short skirt and high-heeled boots was just a bit too . . . tacky for me. So I went with fairly simple dark blue pumps - tall heels, but not much ornamentation. When I looked at the whole image in the mirror, my legs look too pale so I practically had to undress to put on some suntan pantyhose - which almost meant I had to undo my corset in order to bend enough to reach my toes.

And then I was even more late for work because I just had to stop by a 24/7 Wally-world to get some flower vases, and while I was at it I picked up some flowers for my desk at work. I wasn't all that late, maybe 15 minutes, but since I'm fairly compulsive about time it was a major irritation.

I intended just to hurry to my work station and get busy. I had forgotten that Joe Heller was due back. Sam Johnson was in the office as well. I had just about as much chance of sneaking to my work station as a cat has of sneaking through a dog show. It was, in fact, much the same, complete with howls.

"Holy Shit! I didn't believe it!" Sam said. "I'm still not sure I do."

From that, I presumed that my oh-so-good friends had informed the other two about my little predicament, and the so-called solution I had found.

Rick and Joe Heller were nudging each other, smirking and whispering. Tony looked embarrassed, from which I inferred that his own prior experience had somehow come up as well. And Little John was involved in a call. At least, he pretended to be, but I noticed that he didn't seem to be saying anything and his eyes glanced over his monitor in my direction fairly often.

"Okay, you morons," I said - in my Tommy voice. "It's obvious you've heard what's going on. You can help me with this - by being nice, for once in your life - or I'm outta here and screw the money."

"Oh, don't do that," Rick said, so quickly that it actually seemed sincere.

"I just don't believe it," Sam said. "But don't leave on my account. I'm headed out anyway. And I promise to be good."

That left Joe Heller, and he just shrugged. "I'm not sure I think this is a good idea, but now that I've seen you, I do believe you can pull it off. I won't get in the way."

"Thanks," I said, returning to my Freya voice.

True to their words, Joe got involved in his work station and Sam headed out for an installation. Nobody said anything when I started to arrange the flowers at my work station before I logged on, but Tony and Rick were having an offline conversation so I knew we didn't have any backlog just then.

"That looks nice," I heard Little John's deep rumble say.

"Thanks," I said. "I don't know why I got them, but I'm glad I did."

"Me, too," he said with a grin. "This place could use a woman's touch."

"Absolutely," Rick said. He hadn't really been eavesdropping. Little John's conversational tones caused people to scan the skies for rain clouds unless he was head-down on a call in his cube.

"Hey, Freya," Tony called. "Why don't you and Angela use a little of that loot to dress this place up a bit?"

"I don't think Corporate would approve paintings of Elvis on black velvet," I said, teasing.

"Better that than huge-eyed, sad little kittens," he said. He knew I had a kitten at home, and yes, Moondance was a foundling wraith who had looked enormously sad when she first adopted me.

"Oh, I don't know," Rick said. "I'd be happy to make sad eyes, if she'd take me home to live with her."

"Sorry, dude, but I don't do snakes, even the ones with bulging eyes and forked tongues," I countered, throwing a paper clip at him.

Then I felt really embarrassed when I realized that a girl talking about 'doing' a guy and then about his tongue had a lot more potential meaning than I intended. Everyone laughed, but there was a strange and uncomfortable quality about it.

Thankfully, the moment was interrupted by a delivery. It was addressed to Freya Lincoln and this time there wasn't any way it could have been software. When I opened the long white box, it was a huge bouquet of spectacular yellow roses complete with delightfully arrayed accents of baby's breath and greenery. It made the flowers I'd picked up on the way into work seem pretty insignificant.

The bad news was that it was from Mike Lewis. The card read, "Looking forward to seeing you in person, Mike."

Well, that made one of us. "I am so dead," I sighed.

Then things went from bad to worse. Mike Lewis, in person, walked into the office while I was still holding the roses in my arms.

"Hi," he said easily. "I see you got my gift."

"Um, yes," I replied, blushing brightly. "Thank you. They're beautiful."

"Not half so beautiful as you," he said smoothly.

*I am so dead,* I thought.

He had another package in his hand and handed that to me as well. "You'll need this."

I fumbled for a moment, getting the roses to my desk so I could have two hands free to open the new package. It was a crystal vase with the sort of understated elegance that says money - lots and lots of money. I blushed again, but at least I saw a way out of that particular moment in time. I nodded my thanks to Mike and took my new flowers into the little rest room. When I came out, I had the flowers arrayed into a satisfying fan shape and water in the vase. Mike was engaged in a conversation in Joe Heller's cube that involved Joe and Tony, so he just nodded and smiled when I returned. For some reason I didn't want Mike's gift to seem as overwhelming as it really was, so I didn't get rid of the little bunch of flowers I bought for myself. Instead, I spent a few minutes trying to find a way to arrange both vases on my desk. I caught Little John's eye as I was trying to find room for everything. He frowned, and I couldn't interpret the message so I sat down and opened a chat window to him.
TL:: What's wrong?

JT:: Nothing.

TL:: Bullshit. I thought we were going to tell each other the truth.

JT:: OK. I'm worried about Lewis.

TL:: You and me both.

JT:: What will you do if he finds out?

TL:: Maybe he won't. I only have to make this work for a week.

JT:: Only a week? Is that an answer to my question?
From that, I knew he meant his real question.
TL: No. I don't know. Not yet.

JT: K. Be careful.
Something came to me. I took a moment and made a small change in my chat window before I answered.
FL: Thanks. I'll try.
Mike made the rounds of the team, spending about the same amount of time with each of us and working around the calls we had to take. He even took a couple of calls himself, demonstrating both that he understood our jobs and could handle one quite competently. However, when one of them required an onsite visit (another case of physical damage, though this one was caused by a faulty electrical panel at the business) he did ask Joe Heller to handle it, partly because it was near the end of the day.

"If it runs you into overtime," Mike told Joe, "you be sure and turn in for it."

"Yessir, Boss, that's an order I can follow."

Joe headed out and Mike turned to the rest of the group. "I'm sorry I missed Sam. I'll have to do this again."

"That would be great," Tony said. "When Freya told us you might come visit, I was worried about some sort of . . . I'm sorry, but I thought, y'know, some sort of crack-the-whip motivational bullsh . . . stuff. But you were great."

"Thanks," Mike replied, actually flushing just a bit. It was charming, in a boyish way. All of the sudden it really came home to me that he was just a few years older than I was - probably younger than Sam and Joe Heller. He was taller than me even with my heels, and his deep voice had so much presence that he seemed older . . . until something like that almost-blush.

"Guys," he began, and then corrected himself with a wry smile, "and Lady, I have a request to make. This is my first time in this office, and most of my time in the Metroplex has been over on the Dallas side. Would one of you like to show me a good place to eat? My treat."

All of the sudden every eye in the room was on me and I knew exactly who was expected to 'volunteer.' I thought about refusing of course, but it was clear that none of the guys was going to offer before I either said yes, or claimed some sort of conflict. The only conflict I had was a tentative date with Angela for more shopping. That was too weak to justify turning down the CEO of our company.

"What are you hungry for?" I asked quietly.

His eyes widened for just a moment, and though he'd been pretty good about making eye contact all day his eyes did dip for just a second. That prompted another little blush when he looked back at me again - I mean, back at my eyes. "Oh, I'm easy," he said, grinning again now that the double entendre was deliberate.

"Well, if you're in Texas, you need a steak," I suggested.

"Sold," he said quickly. Then he looked at the rest of the group and asked, "Would you mind if I borrowed her a little early this afternoon? It looks like the main wave of calls is past for the day."

"Not at all," Tony said quickly. The other just nodded, and Mike looked back at me.

"So, are you ready to go?"

"Now?" I asked. "Oh, no . . ." I looked helplessly around for a second, and my eyes caught Little John's. He just shrugged, and I had to find my own excuse.

"I, uh, couldn't go like this," I said, stalling.

"You look great!" The denial was immediate and strong. The fact it came from Rick Timmonds before Mike could say anything didn't make my life any easier.

"Well, if the place you want to go is a bit more formal . . ," Mike began, looking down at his own sport coat and slacks.

"Um, maybe, " I said, thinking that might be a way out of the whole thing, though I wasn't sure there was a place in Texas where a sport coat wouldn't have been sufficient. There are a lot more places where they cut your necktie off if you're wearing one (in return for a free drink) than ones that require a tie.

"I've got a suit back at my hotel," Mike said. "So if you'd like to go change, I could pick you up around . . . 7:00?"

"I don't know if we could get reservations," I tried to stall again.

"I'll take care of that," Tony said unhelpfully. "How about Silver Fox?"

"Is that a nice place?" asked Mike.

"Oh, sure," I said without thinking. It was basically out of my price range and I hadn't really even been considering it, but it was nice enough to justify my earlier concern about wearing a too-casual skirt.

"Okay, then, 7:00, and I'll pick you up at the address in your records?" he asked.

*Oh, God. At least I've spent two days cleaning the place up.*

"Okay," I said quietly, since I had run out of options.

I gathered up my things and headed for my car. As soon as I was out of sight of the office windows I was on my cell to Angela, begging for help.

She was - as always - awesome. She met me at my apartment, using a key I had given her after our night together. Not that I expected her to, y'know, move in or anything. But I just wanted to make it clear that I didn't want that to be a one-night stand. And besides, I didn't really have anyone else who I knew well enough to give a key to and it seemed like a good idea to have someone who had one, even if we were 'just friends.' In any event, she had taken it without much fuss, and now it turned out to be a really good idea.

As soon as I was through the door, she was pushing me to the bathroom where - to my surprise - she had a bubble bath ready. It made me feel more than a little stupid to be lying there sinfully lazy while she flew around the place, setting out cosmetics, putting my rollers on to heat, even finding time to put a few feminine touches around the place. A couple of pillows, an afghan that hid most of my tired old couch, some soft landscape prints. Even a cross-stitch calendar. *I wonder if those all came from her place. I should remember, but I don't.*

Then she was bustling me out of the decadence of the bubble bath and into the shower to wash off the bubbles - like that made any sense. After that I just sort of hung on to my sanity as best I could and let her have her way with me. I have no idea how long she spent on her full-size doll, but she had that in hand, too. With a wizard's flourish, she sketched a flowing curtsy while she disappeared into the bedroom just as the doorbell was bonging.

The girl that answered the door was from some other world than the Freya of blue jeans and bomber jacket. And from another universe altogether than a guy I used to know named Tommy. The girl - me, however unbelievably - had hair of spun gold gathered up into something that Angela (the angel, how appropriate) made somehow imply a halo - yet a few carefully loosened and curled tendrils showed soft silk bounces that kept it from looking stiff. Angela must have used half a dozen shades of shadow to make my eyes look darkly mysterious, yet it blended so well you couldn't tell where the artifice ended and real magic began. And somehow Angela had found the time to change my nails to dark red polish to match the ripe color on my lips. Even though it had only been a few days since she pierced them, Angela promised me that I could wear chandelier earrings if she soaked everything in alcohol, so the tendrils of gold that brushed my cheeks had companions of crystal and captured sunlight that brushed my shoulders.

And then there was the dress. Angela had only offered me one option. At one level, it was a simple little black dress. At another . . .

To begin with, it had one of those "OMG!" length skirts. I had the alarmingly arousing feeling that something was showing under it - namely my panties - despite Angela's equally continuing assurances that it was fine. And it fit. It celebrated my crushed little waist and gentle hip swell. The keyhole neckline shouted that the shape above that disturbingly tiny waist was real - which was a fairly small lie, all things considered. Higher-than-ever heels on strappy little shoes plus dark pantyhose (that dress was way too short for stockings) made my legs look long and as elegant as all the rest of me. I felt like a princess - but I felt like spun glass, too, and I was afraid to open the door for fear I would shatter at the slightest breeze.

Then the bell bonged again, and I found myself moving toward it out of reflex.

"Hello," I said softly, opening the door and stepping back.

At first, Mike didn't move. He didn't even breathe for a long moment. By the time I was sure he was actually breathing, his face was red and he was gasping audibly.

It was like a switch flipped or something. What had been frightening became a joke. His boyish appreciation was so charming that I could feel myself relax. Even . . . feel like this could be fun.

"Do I look okay?" I asked demurely. So, okay, I was fishing.

"No," he said after a moment. I nearly went spiraling back into frozen shock again, then he added. "You are so far past okay that any man who accepted that description should be shot - and then hung."

"Wow, that's over the top," I teased, but I was pleased, too.

"Are you ready?" he finally asked.

"Almost," I promised. "I just need to get something from my bedroom. It won't take a minute."

Angela was in there, rolling on the bed and chewing on her fist. "Ohmigod," she whispered. "He is so far gone on you . . ."

"But Angela, I don't want him to, y'know, want me like that."

"Bullshit, girl. Tell it to somebody who didn't see the way you smiled at him. That mirror is perfectly placed where I could see you but he couldn't see me. You're having the time of your life, and we both know it."

I felt my mouth open to deny it - but none of the words I felt I should say seemed to fit.

She laughed again, not quite loudly enough for Mike to hear - I hoped - and then pushed me back toward the door. "Just remember, I will want a blow-by-blow in the morning. Every touch, every kiss . . . and all the rest. Take notes. I'll want details!"

"No way," I said, but anything more was cut off when she pulled the door open (while standing hidden behind it) forcing me back into the room where Mike stood patiently waiting.

I hadn't actually done anything in the bedroom except talk to Angela, so I felt I had to have some reason for the delay. I probably didn't. Someone as rich, young, and good-looking as Mike must have had plenty of opportunities to get used to the irrational delays of women, but I still wanted some excuse. Glancing around the room I found the little clutch purse that Angela had told me to take.

"Oh, silly me," I said, moving toward it. "It was out here all along."

I looked up at him and let a little sad-kitten into my eyes and asked, "Forgive me for making you wait?"

He smiled, and looked like he wanted to say so many things that he couldn't get any of them out. In the end, he just nodded, then glanced at the door.

"Yes, I'm ready to go now," I said.

For some reason I expected to see either a big limo or some exotic sports car at the curb. But it was just a mundane rental. Thankfully it was full size so I could get all those legs through the doorway without doing a Britney. I hoped. I did know where the Silver Fox restaurant was even if I hadn't been there, so I could give directions like I knew what I was doing. Then he was helping me out of the car, supporting my fingers like we were an ordinary couple.

But definitely a couple. Little things, like the fact my hand somehow ended up holding his arm instead of back under my own control, and the slight-yet-possessive squeeze that kept it there. An occasional hip bump as we walked, without the automatic pull away in silent-but-reflexive apology for intruding in another's space.

The strangest thing about it was that it didn't feel strange at all.

"You're very quiet," he said when we were essentially alone again.

"I talk for a living," I said lightly. "Sometimes silence is golden."

"I love to hear your voice," he said. "Voices, actually."

We had done the basic getting-to-know-you in our phone conversation, so the voices gambit gave us something to talk about without lapsing into shop talk. He asked me about the accents I could do, and was impressed when he found out that in several languages it wasn't just an accent. I was having fun matching culture to expression, with a snooty French, an emotional Italian, and a 'veddy upah clahss' Brit. When I got to the German it demanded something harsh so I put on like I was some sort of dominatrix, arching one of my thin little eyebrows even higher and shaking my long-nailed finger at him.

Somewhere in there the waiter showed up and I realized I hadn't actually said anything on the way into the restaurant, so I just kept on in my not-quite-fake German, looking confused when he replied in English. So I spoke to Mike in German, and he played along, ordering for me. Of course, if the waiter really had spoken German my trick would have backfired, which is why I wouldn't have tried it in Spanish, in Texas. Well, except in Spanish I could have ordered for real.

"That wasn't nice," Mike said, but he chuckled as soon as the waiter was out of earshot.

"I never said I was nice," I replied, waving my long lashes at him. "Besides, I wanted to see if you could think on your feet - even while sitting down."

"Did I pass?"

"Not bad," I said. "Though you'll have to eat those yuppie roasted tomatoes yourself. I've never been a big fan of tomatoes. Or to-mah-toes, for that matter."

There was an undercurrent of more-than-colleagues throughout the meal, which shouldn't have been a surprise. I tried to walk a narrow tightrope between a formality I couldn't really sustain - that just wasn't me, and I knew I'd slip up with some sort of 'witty' comment - and an intimacy that was even less acceptable. In a dance older than time, he was trying to make it more personal, and I was trying to keep it . . . .

I don't know what I was trying to do. It was wildly flattering to have the interest of such a handsome, successful man. I liked it. I was torn between wanting his attention, and fearing it. Thankfully, one of the girl lessons thrown out so casually (and rapidly) by Angela had included the need to keep men talking about themselves as much as possible. So mostly all I had to do was keep smiling, ask a few questions, and look at him with my Marilyn Monroe eyes. The audience behind those eyes was gibbering madly at the impossible situation, but the screen of my lashes kept that hidden.

At some point, we finished the meal. It was a shame that I could hardly do more than taste it, because it was excellent. But my crushed little waist didn't leave me the room to do it justice. That was a double danger because I did seem to have room for a few glasses of wine, and there wasn't much to soak up - and slow down - the alcohol. I didn't get drunk, nor even tipsy/silly, but I did relax.

Which ended up with me flirting a lot more than I should have. Just about anything can have a sexual innuendo if you look hard enough. It seemed that most of the comments I did make were to tweak him about an implication in his words that wasn't really deliberate. Eventually it became a game, and his implications were definitely deliberate. The blushes that had flared his cheeks when I teased him about his innocent words moved to a permanent residence in my cheeks when his words dropped even the pretence of innocence.

I was in way too deep before I knew it. Something - probably a gasp at an even more blatant suggestion - cleared my head for a second and I realized I had to get off that runaway train.

"I think my nose needs a little powder," I said, reaching for my purse. Mike made it to my chair before I could slide it back, but all that demanded was a little smile of thanks. If my walk to the powder room swayed, my spindly heels provided an excuse.

He must have been putting out some sort of magical field or something, because the further I got from Mike the more insane the situation seemed. By the time I reached the Ladies' room I was seriously considering ducking out and calling a cab.

But I didn't.

Chapter 7 - "Wotan's Nacht"

Mike had taken advantage of my absence to settle the bill. When I stepped from the forbidden zone of the Ladies' room, he was waiting where I could see him easily and tell that he was ready to leave. So was I, and more than ready.

I'm sure we talked on the ride back to my apartment because I don't remember any uncomfortable silences, but I don't remember anything we said. I was way too far into panic about what he would expect when we got to my place. Would he expect to come in? Should I invite him in for coffee - and could I keep it at that? After all the teasing innuendoes in our conversation - teasing implications in which I had participated fully - could I offer just to shake his hand?

Did I want just to shake his hand?

That was the killer question. All through the dinner Mike had made it clear I was attractive to him. He laughed at my little jokes, listened when I did speak on something with a little depth, did all the things that showed he appreciated my mind.

None of that got in the way of unambiguous appreciation for my appearance as well. Several times during dinner I'd caught him looking at all the cleavage that Angela had given me and that my tiny dress revealed. But I also saw his eyes light up when I flipped my hair out of my face, or then my nails tinked softly on the wine glass. Or when I waved my feathery lashes at him. I knew his eyes had been as intense in their appraisal - and approval - of my derriere as I walked toward the powder room as they had been when my headlights were shining in his direction.

He thought I was beautiful, and that was much more intoxicating than a few glasses of wine.

Worse than that - oh, so very much worse - was that it was addicting. I liked feeling beautiful. I liked being beautiful. I liked the idea that a handsome, desirable, confident person thought I was desirable.

I didn't want it to end.

And it didn't bother me that the person who desired me was a man, because I knew I was finding him desirable, too.

At first, it had been that he was a fun person to be with. He was witty, and polite, yet he had a good sense of humor that could even be self-deprecating in a way that showed he was comfortable with who he was - that his dignity wouldn't be compromised by recognizing a few human faults. Somewhere along the way though, I had started noticing more than his wit and unforced self-confidence. I started noticing that he had killer grey eyes that danced with sparking energy, and that he had a warm, sharing smile that showed in those eyes as much as on his lips.

I found myself noticing how well his perfectly tailored suit showed the taper from broad shoulders to trim . . .

Okay, I found myself checking out his derriere, too.

I'd never done that with a man before. The possibility had never even occurred to me. The idea a man might be desirable was like a sound so high I couldn't hear it. I might know intellectually, and even be able to demonstrate with experiments that such a sound existed, but it wasn't something I could experience directly, with my own senses.

Until now.

Until we were standing at the door to my apartment. Waiting for me to make up my mind whether to invite him in.

Mike smiled that wonderful smile again, this time with a hint of that wry humor at his own expense.

"You're an incredible woman, Freya," he said softly.

*Incredible, as in not credible - not believable!* my mind was shouting. But I knew that wasn't what he meant. I didn't want it to be what he meant, and for more reasons than I even understood.

Somehow his arms ended up around me, and mine flowed around his neck like they were pulled by unseen strings. He kissed me. It was strong, yet gentle - showing his strength without brutal force. It was tender, yet full of energy and passion. It was . . . .


Before I knew what had happened, he was smiling at me again and his embrace had loosened until I could get free if I wanted to.

If I wanted to.

"I, um, . . ," I stammered, desperate for something to say. And then I blurted out something that was a lie so bald that I'm surprised I wasn't struck by lightning. "I have a boyfriend."

"Oh?" Mike said. He didn't drop his arms, but he didn't initiate another kiss, either. He added an arch of eyebrow to his little smile and made the question a lot more than a single word.

"He's, um, a really nice guy," I said, adding to my lie with whatever came to mind. "And I couldn't . . ."

"John Toland?" he guessed.

I couldn't think what to say to that, yet I couldn't meet his eyes after my lies so I dropped my glance and hid behind my feathery lashes. He took that as an answer, though.

"You know," Mike said easily as he dropped his arms and stood back, pulling my own arms from around his neck, "I'd be prepared to do battle with a monster to win my Lady faire, but Toland really is a nice guy. And I saw the sparks passing back and forth between you in the office all day. I pretty much expected it, and I understand."

"I'm sorry," I said, and was shocked to find out it was true. What I was sorry about was not so clear, but the sorrow was real.

*Wait . . . sparks! With Little John?!*

"I'm happy for you . . for both of you," Mike said. He smiled that killer smile again, now with a hint of sadness that pulled at my heart. "Thanks for dining with me. I had a nice time."

"Me, too," I said quickly, still thinking about what he said about John . . and me. "Thank you."

Then I pulled my mind back to Mike and whispered, "And thank you for understanding."

I leaned up enough to kiss his cheek, then smudged at the lipstick mark I left there. When I had rooted around in my purse enough to find my key, he took it from me and undid the lock.

"I'll look forward to seeing your photos," he said. "And if I just happen to keep one around my office, I hope you won't be offended."

"No, of course not," I said. "I'd be flattered."

He waved easily has he moved off, and God help me but I noticed his taut tush as he did.

As soon as I was inside I dug my cellphone out of the purse - I couldn't imagine how such a small purse could do such a good job of hiding things within it - and called Little John.


"Hi, John. It's me. I, um, need a favor."

"If I can," he said cautiously.

I took a deep breath - well, as deep as that infernal corset would allow - and blurted out my problem. "I need a boyfriend."


"Mike - Mike Lewis, I mean - wanted . . . more than a business dinner tonight . . ."

"What did he do?" Little John interrupted sharply.

"Nothing," I said quickly, suppressing any hint of disappointment that I wouldn't allow myself to admit. "He was a gentleman the whole evening. But he, um, offered . . ."

"Offered what?" John said, still suspicious.

"Just, y'know, 'offered,'" I said. "He made it clear that he wouldn't mind being invited into my apartment after our dinner."

"You're just now getting back?"

"Well, yes," I said. "What time is it?"

"Nearly 11:00."

"Oh, my, I had no idea," I said. Then I tried to get back on track. "Look, that's not important. What I said - to keep from inviting him in, but also to keep from, y'know, making it seem like he wasn't, like, attractive to me or something . . ."

"You mean you thought he was? Attractive?"

"John, quit interrupting. Anyway, to give him a face-saving way to accept a 'no' answer, I told him I had a boyfriend."

"You told him I was your boyfriend?"

"No, not really," I said. "He, um, guessed. And I didn't tell him he was wrong."

"Oh," John said after a moment.

There were a few more moments - long ones - while we each waited for the other to say something. Finally John spoke. "So, what do you want me to do?"

"Well, if - somehow, I don't know how, that doesn't matter - if somehow the question comes up, I wanted to know if you'd, y'know . . . pretend to be my boyfriend."

"Pretend?" he repeated.

"Yeah, sure, I mean, it wouldn't be for real or anything."

"Oh," he said again, very flatly, with no emotion that I could detect. "So, what do you think this will, um, involve?"

"Maybe nothing," I said. "It's just in case."

"Okay," John said quietly.

"Just, 'okay?'" I said. "No, like, ground rules or anything?"

"Do we need rules?" he asked.

"I don't know," I said, a bit more sharply than I intended. "I've never done anything like this before.

"Neither have I," he replied.

"Oh, duh," I said, feeling like an idiot. "Of course you haven't either."

There was another long pause, then he said, "I guess I'll see you in the morning."

"Yeah," I said. "And, um, thanks."

"Not a problem," he said. "Bye."


I wish it were that easy to end the whole evening. It must have been an hour before I had my makeup off, my hair washed out and brushed dry, and my nightgown on. Somewhere in there I fed Moondance and cuddled her a little, letting her purrs do their best to settle the turmoil in my heart. It took a while.

A long while.

Chapter 8 - "Thor's Day"

There were more fresh flowers on my desk the next morning. A quick glance at Little John was enough to catch a shrug, and an eyebrow toward the other guys in the office. I didn't see any card so I just smiled generally at everyone and no one and tried to find a way to get all the flowers on my little desk.

Even though I wasn't late on Thursday, we had a backlog from the moment I showed up so I got into calls right away. Joe Heller was in the office, but I got the impression he was avoiding me - or at least, avoiding looking at me. Tony and Rick ended up going out on calls during the day, and it occurred to me that I could be in real trouble if I couldn't resolve something over the phone. Thankfully, for the calls I got that day, I could.

I seldom had to go out on calls, actually. It wasn't a requirement that the person handling the phone call handled the site visit. That's one of the reasons that Sam was so often out of the office. And it was recognized that I was the best at solving problems over the phone. But that was still a risk now, that it had never been before.

Despite the early workload, Tony got back by mid-morning and we were catching up fairly well by lunch. That's when Angela sailed in, smile leading the way.

"C'mon, girlfriend," she said. "Time to go shopping!"

"We're, um, I'm supposed to be here," I said.

"Guys," she said generally, "do any of you mind if I borrow Freya for a while? I promise you'll all get autographed pictures."

"Okay by me," Joe said, still not really looking at me. Tony nodded, and Little John was busy but he waved.

"See, another problem solved," Angela said grandly, then started pushing me at the door. I laughed and went back for my jacket and purse, but I let myself be herded.

That afternoon was another whirlwind of trying on clothes that I mostly didn't intend to buy. But it wasn't really the same. I was starting to get a feel for what worked for me, both for comfort and for style, and was actually starting to enjoy myself. The only real problem was that Angela had to drag me past the shoe stores. Particularly in one place where I saw the most gorgeous thigh-high pirate boots . . . Way over the top, but ssoo awesome.

The main justification for our expedition was that my business suits were ready. I had a prim, dark-blue pinstripe that looked like it belonged on the cover of Fortune 500, and a richer, royal-blue, double-breasted, very-fitted little number that Angela promised me would bring out the deeper blues in my eyes. Who was I to argue?

Of course, Angela had taken advantage of my saturated condition on Monday and ordered the skirts a least 4 inches shorter than I found comfortable. But I had to admit, my legs were far and away my best feature. With the right shade of pantyhose and shoes that matched my suits, I looked ready for the runway.

Or the photographer. Thursday afternoon was also my first sitting for the award photos. Angela managed to get all that hair into a tight little twist that looked very professional, and then they proceeded to demonstrate the difference between street makeup and studio makeup. If I'd have known how thick they were going to trowel on their various potions, I wouldn't have worried about the masquerade. They definitely had the 'mask' part covered.

Why is it that photographers always want you to assume the most awkward positions in the pursuit of a 'natural' look? I had my neck lifted and twisted, my back arched, and my shoulders tilted in so many different ways I felt like Gumby. He also had me go through a whole range of facial expressions from wide smile (easy with Angela mugging at me from behind the camera) to "serene Goddess" (his words, not mine).

The first set of pictures was against a neutral backdrop: straight-up glamour shots. Then we moved to 'office' photos and it was actually kinda fun. We started out with a perfectly neat desk, jacket buttoned, every hair in place, and posture so erect I felt like there was a string pulling my head up. From there, Perfect Freya gradually disintegrated until at the end I had my jacket on the back of the chair, about half my hair was hanging down in tumbles, and I had a pencil clenched in my teeth as I stared at the screen. It was hard not to laugh at the silliness of that artificial disarray, which I suppose was part of the point.

It was fun, but it was also a relief to be done with that set of pictures. Angela brushed my hair into a thick, wavy ponytail, and we headed out to get something to eat. With my tiny tummy firmly squeezed within the body shapers I couldn't eat much anyway so the choice of restaurant wasn't very important. What was important - at least to Angela - was a chance to talk.

"So?" she started as soon as we were seated.

"So?" I parroted back.

"So tell me about it," she said.

"About what?"

"Don't be a jerk," she said. "You know what I mean. Tell me about your date."

"It wasn't really a date," I said. "It was just a business dinner."

"So, all business and nothing but the business?"

I was about to try to claim that, but I knew the fire in my cheeks beat me to the punch.

"Ah ha!" she said in triumph.

"We mostly just talked," I said, but I couldn't meet her eyes.

"Um, hmm. And the part other than 'mostly?'"

I knew my cheeks were flaming, but in a strange way, a part of me wanted to share what happened. "When we got back to my apartment . . ."

"Did you invite him in?" she interrupted.

"No . . . but I thought about it," I admitted. "Anyway, we were standing there, and I was trying to decide what to do."

"Then he kissed you," Angela provided.

I just nodded.

"Did you enjoy it?"

"Look," I said, "I've been living as a girl for days now, always using a feminine voice. That changes the way you think, not just the voice register. And I've been wearing heels, which makes me move differently. And long hair, and never passing a mirror without checking my lipstick - and when I do, I see the incredible woman that you created . . ."

"That you created," Angela said. "I just showed you how."

"Anyway," I resumed. "I've been totally immersed in being a woman. A lot of that is inherently . . . submissive, somehow. Long hair that can be grabbed. High heels that make it hard to run away. Tight skirts that do the same. Even the amount of skin that's exposed makes you feel more vulnerable. And when he swept me up in his arms . . ."

"Ooh, sounds dreamy."

"Oh shut up," I snipped. "All the sudden he was kissing me, and I . . . surrendered to it."

"But did you enjoy it?" she repeated.

"Oh, god, yes," I whispered. "I felt all tingly, and shivery, and so weak I had to hang on to keep from falling, yet like I was on fire with so much energy I would split wide open."

"Interesting way to put it," Angela mused. "Women split for their men. A man would probably have said 'explode.'"

"What?" I asked, confused, and deflating from the intensity of my overwhelming memories.

"Just an interesting turn of phrase. And then what?" she prompted.

I sighed. "Then I told him I had a boyfriend."

"You didn't!"

I nodded. "I shouldn't have let him kiss me, but all the sudden it was just happening, and I was nearly fainting, and . . . it's all I could think to say."

"You mean, other than, 'Take me to bed, you big stud?'" Angela said, laughing.

I couldn't contain a blush, because in truth I had thought of that the night before. Not that I could do anything about it, but when he kissed me I had this flash-fantasy that definitely involved a bed.

"So, who is it?" Angela asked archly - before dissolving into giggles.

That was another opportunity that slipped by me. I could have just claimed it was an excuse, not real - which it was supposed to be. But I felt another blast of heat flood my face and knew that claim wouldn't work.

"Little John?" Angela guessed.

"What is it with everyone thinking John and I have something going?" I asked sharply.

"Only the sparks that jump between you two every time you look at each other, the fact you look at him every 4 seconds, the fact he stops breathing when you wave those big girls around, the fact . . ."

"Oh, quit," I protested. *What was the deal with the sparks again?*

"So, is he?" she asked.

"My boyfriend? No, of course not," I declared.

"But . . . ? I could hear that dangling on the end of your lie," Angela said.

"It's not a lie," I said. "But I did call him after Mike left, and asked him if he'd pretend - just in case it came up or something."

"Pretend," she repeated. "And what does that involve? Long walks in the moonlight, holding hands, kissing - all fake, of course?"

"No!" I denied. "It's nothing. Unless Mike - I don't know - asks about it or something. Otherwise there's nothing at all. This is just, y'know, in case . . ."

Angela giggled. "In case you end up home alone on a Saturday night, and . . ."

"No!" I said again. I was starting to get irritated. I knew she was just teasing, but there really wasn't anything between John and me. More importantly . . .

"Why are you trying to make something of this?" I asked petulantly. "I thought you and I had something . . ."

"Oh, we do," she said contritely. "But you didn't make any promises to me, and I don't mind sharing."

"A threesome? Oh my God," I gasped.

"Well, I hadn't really thought of that. I was thinking more of, y'know, you dating two people at the same time. But a threesome with Little John? Hmm, I wonder . . ."

She giggled again and leaned forward to whisper. "So, is he?"

"Is he what?"

"Little John! Ditz. Or is he big all over?"

"How should I know?"

"Y'know, shower rooms, that sort of thing," she said. "Don't tell me you don't check each other out in the shower."

"In the first place, I don't check guys out in the shower, or anywhere else," I said. "In the second . . ." And here I had to giggle at myself. "Hell, he's a jock. Smart, and nice, but he's still a jock. If I'd have gone into the sort of shower rooms that jocks use, I'd have been stuffed in a locker or something."

"So, you don't know?"

"No. No way."

"Too bad," Angela sighed. "It might be worth finding out."

"So go for it," I offered. "It's not like it will make any difference to me."

"Oh, my, you are a fickle one, aren't you. Love 'em and leave 'em Freya, huh?"

She sighed theatrically and added, "I suppose a tall, gorgeous blonde like you just can't help breaking men's hearts. Might as well follow along behind you and see if I can nurse their used-up husks back to life."

"I'm going to get you," I said, but I couldn't help laughing at her melodrama. "Somehow, somewhere, when you least expect it . . ."

"Promises, promises," Angela said lightly.

After our tiny whatever meals, Angela couldn't talk me into putting some sort of fairy-tale princess gown on the expense chit so I really had all the clothes I needed. The little black dress covered dinner or cocktail parties. The suits covered any event that came with a "business" label. And I now had plenty of casual clothes. So other than some shoes . . . Or better yet, boots . . .

"No!" Angela said sharply. "Help! I've created a monster."

"But they're just too awesome for words," I said, struggling back toward the store with the pirate boots. "And those boots would go so well with the disco spandex pants we bought for a laugh at a second hand store."

"No," she repeated firmly, but the smile dancing in her eyes showed she was tempted to let me go just to see if I'd really get them. I wouldn't. I was just playing with her, and trying to be a more fun Freya than the old, boring Tommy had been. Besides, I liked being more than six feet tall, so it was fun to think about shoes and boots.

That didn't mean shopping was over. I still needed accessories. And there was no time like the present to get them.

When I finally staggered into my apartment that evening, my feet were killing me and all I had to show for it were two bags. Of course, there were a lot of sparkly things in those bags so I had certainly been spending money. I didn't waste any time getting my heels off and rubbing my feet that night. Moondance sniffed at my nylon-covered toes and mrrowed at me with a question.

"I don't know, kitten, I just don't know," I said. We spent a while discussing it after she ate her delayed (again) dinner. She was supportive, but didn't have any more answers than I did.

Chapter 9 - "My Day"

Another day, another batch of flowers from some secret admirer. I had a feeling I knew who it was. It wasn't a good feeling.

And the day went downhill from there.

About 10:00 we got a call from Mike Lewis. He asked to speak with both Little John and I as a conference call, which I didn't figure was good news at all.

"Your first batch of photos arrived," he said. "They're great!"

"Um, thanks."

"You're very photogenic, and the more casual poses are quite charming, really," he went on. "So much so, that I'd like to ask you a favor - both of you, actually."

"Both of us?" asked Little John.

"Yes," Mike said, warming up. "You know that some of the pictures for the annual report were intended to be casual, and supposedly candid scenes of things that Freya does outside of work. The idea is that we want to show two things. We want to show that the members of our team are professional and competent. The office photos do that very well, though we'll want some in your real office of course, not just the studio poses. My understanding is that the photographer will be coming by early next week?"

"Yes, I think so. On Tuesday," I offered.

"Right. So that leaves the other objective. We also want to show that the people on our teams are fun-loving, involved, members of our community," Mike said, then he paused and we could hear a wry note in his voice. "We have a too-often deserved reputation for being a bunch of geeks in a cave. I know. I've been there, and probably helped build that reputation."

*Not any more,* I thought. *He wasn't anything like a geek in his tailored suit and high-dollar haircut.**

"So basically," he continued, "we want to use some 'candid' photos as the basis for a recruiting campaign. We thought we'd do a 'day in the life' sort of thing, starring you, Freya."

*Oh, God, I am so dead.* I was too shocked to reply so it was a good thing that Little John was on the line as well. Or at least, I thought it was a good thing.

"I see," Little John said, but it was clear that he didn't. "Is there a reason you asked me to sit in on this call, Mr. Lewis?"

"Of course!" Mike replied enthusiastically. "You're Freya's boyfriend, right? Ex-football player. Tall enough to make her look like the girl next door instead of model tall - until we get someone else in the picture to give it scale, and then you're even more impressive. You're as far from the geek image as Freya herself. Well, nearly. The two of you will shatter that nerd stereotype so completely we'll be getting recruits from every high-tech outfit around. And the best part is, it's all true! You really work for Southwest Synergistics. You really are good at your jobs - both of you. And you really are an athlete and a beautiful woman. No models, no faked resumes, nothing. It's perfect!"

*Perfect. Nothing faked. It's all true. Right. I am ssoo dead.*

I just buried my face in my hands, terrified. And thrilled despite my fear by the disturbingly sensual feel of my hair spilling down around my cheeks, bringing with it a delicate scent from the shampoo I now used. *What have I done?*

Mike was on a roll, and like most juggernauts he was leaving destruction in his wake. He just didn't know it. "So, since you two worked last Saturday, you have off this weekend. I figured we'd just follow you around for the day - maybe shopping for groceries or something mundane during the afternoon, then a date for the evening. Something traditional - just dinner and a movie. We can show you arguing over whether to see the action flick or the chick flick, that sort of thing - show you're real people."

"Freya," he continued. "I really enjoyed our dinner the other night. I know John, ah, Little John is your boyfriend, and I don't want to interfere with your happiness. But you charmed the socks off me and I know you'll do the same for those we want to attract."

"And Little John, you are one lucky dude. Think of all the guys who will envy you after this comes out. I know I'm one of them."

Somewhere in there this had become a done deal. He closed his oh-so-happy announcement with some logistics about where and when to meet the photographer, then signed off.

"Wow," Little John said after the phone went dead.

"At least," I said softly. Turning to him I added, "I'm sorry for getting you into this."

He grinned - a crooked little grin, with more irony than humor in it, but still a grin. "Ah, hell, what's the worst that can happen? We might end up seeing a chick flick?"


"Look. We're friends, right? Spending a day with you isn't that bad. And he's right about one thing . . ."

"What's that?"

"All the guys will envy me after they see me out with you."

"Oh, you big doofus," I said, hitting him in the arm. I might as well have been hitting a tree stump. Besides, I couldn't make a real fist any more anyway since my nails got so long. He flinched like I'd hit him with a 2 x 4 though, then laughed.

Then another implication hit me like the 2 x 4 Little John had imagined. "Uh, oh."

"Uh, oh," he repeated. "I don't think I like the sound of that."

"I didn't tell you all of what, um, happened when I, um, had dinner with Mike Lewis."

"Something happened?"

"Oh, nothing bad really. I mean, he was a gentleman, but . . ."

"But?" he repeated again, and I swear he swelled up until he was 6 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier - while still sitting down.

"Oh, hell," I said, blurting it out. "He just kissed me."

"You kissed him?" Little John said, not quite repeating this time.

"Well, sorta," I admitted. "I mean, he kissed me, and it was kinda sudden so I didn't really realize what was happening until it was, y'know, already happening."

I sighed and added, "But I didn't like, slap him or anything, so I guess you could say I went along with it."

"Oh," he said, shrinking back to merely huge. And disappointed.

That wasn't the worst of it. "But, if I kissed him - or, um, let him kiss me, and maybe, like, responded when he kissed me, so he knows I enjoy kissing, and we're supposed to be a couple . . ."

"Then somewhere on our 'date' that he wants pictures of, we'll need to kiss, too."

I hung my head, but nodded. "Oh, Johnny, I'm so sorry about getting you into this."

"What did you say?" he asked.

"I said I'm sorry about getting you into this."

"No, before that."

"What? I didn't say anything, did I?"

"You called me Johnny," he said.

"Did I? I suppose I did, if you say so. I'm sorry."

"Don't be," he said, smiling with that crooked little grin again. "I kinda like it."

"You do?"

"Yeah." He leaned back in his chair and looked away for a moment. "It's probably surprising to you, but no one ever really called me Johnny. I was Junior growing up, or maybe 'JJ' for John Jr. And in college I was Big John. I don't really know how that got changed to Little John here - though knowing this crowd I'm not surprised. But somehow I skipped right past any 'Johnny' stage. It's . . . okay."

"Okay," I said, smiling. "Then from now on, you're Johnny."

Somehow, that little sidetrack kept us from facing the implications of a day being a couple. At least, until I left that evening. And then my reminder came from a different direction.

"So, Freya, are you up for a drink tonight?" Rick Timmonds asked, walking up behind me as I reached my car.

"No, thanks, Rick. I'm, um, sorta tired. It's been a busy week."

"I'll bet," he agreed, "but one little drink won't take long."

"Maybe next time," I said, turning away.

"C'mon, Freya, that's what you said the last time," he whined. "Just because I don't have as much money as Mike Lewis doesn't mean you can treat me like dirt."

"Rick, I've just turned down an invitation for a drink. Take no for an answer. That's all it is, and all it has to mean."

His face got a bit less amiable. "I wonder what Lewis would say if he knew who you really are."

"I think we better never find out," a voice rumbled from the darkness. Johnny stepped into the light from the pole I'd parked near and loomed over Rick. "All of us agreed to go along with this in order for Freya to get an award she deserves. In fact, you were pressing her to do it. If I find that anyone of us let her secret out, I'd be very, very disappointed." The last was said with a subterranean echo that made it seem like the pebbles in the parking lot were vibrating.

"Oh, hell, I won't tell," Rick said. "I just wanted to share a drink with a pretty girl, that's all."

"Which is fine," Johnny said, "right up until she tells you 'no thanks.'"

"Yeah, sure, I know," he said. He put a little smile on his mouth - a smile that didn't reach his eyes - and gave us a jaunty little wave as he walked away. "Next time."

"Not in this lifetime," I said under my breath.

Johnny laughed and said, "I don't suppose Rick would make a very good advertisement - unless it was for 'Geeks R Us.'"

"Oh, God, Johnny, was I ever that bad?"

"No," he said. "But sometimes - for all of us - the difference is academic. Zero equals zero."

I smiled up at him, biting my lower lip a little while I tried to decide what to say. Finally, I grinned and said, "So, Johnny, you feel like getting off the peg? What are you doing for dinner?"

"Not going to the Silver Fox, that's for sure," he replied, but his smile was easy and open.

"Sold," I said. "I couldn't eat enough steak to make it worth while anyway."

We settled on a Jason's Deli, where I could get a soup and salad (again, but I just couldn't eat the heavy meals I used to get). The closest Jason's was in the opposite direction from where we both lived so it made sense to ride in one car, and that meant it really needed to be Johnny's truck because he could have picked up my own little beater and stuck it in his back pocket.

Johnny let us get situated, then his crooked little smile woke up and he said, "So, 'Girlfriend,', how long have we been going together?"

"What? Oh, yeah, I suppose we should get that straight."

I shrugged, but that triggered those interesting motions within my blouse again, and that triggered a giggle. Like it had done before, the silliness of the situation tripped some sort of switch inside me, and I just relaxed. "So, Big Guy, how did you get up the nerve to ask me out?"

"As I recall," he said, playing along, "it was you who asked me out . . . when you needed your tire changed, you pulled me out of the office."

"Oh, yeah, now I remember. And afterwards, I thought it would just be polite to offer you dinner."

"Right, and not being blind, I said yes."

"Why thank you, kid sir. A girl does her best," I said, fluffing my hair and batting my lashes at him.

"Then I was amazed to find out that you're really a good cook," he continued.

"Actually, I am," I said, falling out of the scene for a second. "And if you help me out with this, I really will fix you a nice dinner."

"Deal," he said, smiling.

The rest of the dinner was spent inventing ever more improbable experiences we'd shared, but in the course of it we developed enough 'real' background to get through any sort of picture-caption details. It wasn't until Johnny was helping me down from his truck that I realized he'd been treating me like his girlfriend all evening - from the obvious holding-doors thing to little touches and gestures that showed he was protecting me, or maybe guarding me from any other suitors. It wasn't quite the same as when we had gone out to lunch the first day I was Freya at work (was it only three days ago?). There was a sense of ownership - polite, he didn't paw at me or anything - but definite.

And the really funny thing was . . . I liked it. Next to his massive bulk I felt almost dainty - and suddenly even more feminine. I liked the idea that, ultimately, I had attracted an alpha male. Even if it were fake - a favor for a friend - it was very flattering, all the more so because he never made a big deal about doing the little things that showed possessiveness. He just did them.

Until we got to my car. We were alone in the lot by then, yet not entirely standing out because a few vehicles had been parked overnight. When I found my keys in my purse, Johnny took them from my hand and worked the lock for me. Then he held them just out of my reach until I turned to face him.

"So, which way do the noses go?" he asked softly, standing very close to me.


"If we're, um, a couple, then we've probably worked that out by now, right?"

"Oh," I said softly, then in wonder. "You want to kiss me?"

"It worked for Lewis."

"He didn't ask," I said.

"I'm not him."

"No, you're not," I whispered.

He put his huge hands around my crushed little waist, making me lift my slender arms as his rose by my hips. I let them keep rising, until my long-nailed fingers were reaching around his neck to twirl the hairs that twisted behind his ears.

"You need a haircut," I murmured.

"Don't go Delilah on me now," he said, lowering his lips to capture mine.

I fainted.

Literally. But not right away. There was a long, delicious moment of tenderness that was swallowed up in rising passion that pulsed through my body like chain lightning. I felt my blood pounding and heard the roar in my ears. Then it got quiet, but I didn't care.

The next thing I remembered was being held in his massive arms, one of his hands cradling my head like a baby. My long lashes fluttered open, and I found a wonderfully proprietary smirk in his crooked little smile.

"Wow," I sighed.

"Yeah," he agreed. "First time I've ever had a woman do that to me."

"A woman?" I asked softly, wanting to luxuriate in the moment but forced by my conscience to face the topic directly.

"Yes," he said. "You know, you never answered my question."

"Do that again and I may find my answer," I purred.

He grinned, but he stood me on my feet again. Then his rugged face showed a much more serious expression. "The day you walked in, as Freya, it was like something clicked inside me. Like an out-of-focus picture snapped into sharpness. It was, literally, like I was seeing you for the first time. Not Tommy disguised as Freya, but Freya with a disguise removed."

"Inside," he continued, "you were still the brilliant, witty, creative, and resourceful person I felt lucky to call my friend. But something that I think you have been suppressing - something inside but just as real as your intelligence and talent - showed so brightly I wondered how you could stand it. Or how you've been able to stand containing it for so long."

He took one massive hand and brushed gently at a tendril of hair that had blown across my face. "I didn't know what to do about it, because I didn't know what would make you happy. That's why I asked my question. Now this boyfriend thing has come up and I've jumped the gun to tell you what my answer would be. But that doesn't change the fact you need to find your own."

"Are you happier as Tommy, or as Freya?" he concluded.

"Oh, God, Johnny, what if it's Freya? What will I do?"

"Oh, we'll figure something out."


"If you'll let me be there for you."

"Oh, Johnny," I whispered, reaching for his lips with mine again.

Chapter 10 - "Come Saturday Morning . . ."

I didn't call Angela until Saturday morning. Barely. It was after midnight when I got home so it was officially Saturday. But there was no way I could wait until the sun came up to talk with her.

"He kissed me," I blurted out as soon as I heard her fuzzy 'hello.'


"He kissed me, Angela. Oh, God, what am I gonna do?"

"Wait . . . lemme, um, wake up a little. Somebody kissed you?"

"What am I gonna do?" I wailed.


"Johnny. We went out to dinner, and then . . . oh, God, it was so wonderful, and terrifying, and . . . Angela, I fainted!"

"You fainted?"

"Out like a light. And when I came to, he was holding me in his arms, and . . ."

"Geez, girl, don't stop there! What happened next?"

"Well, we talked. And then we kissed again. Oh, God, Angela, what am I gonna do?"

Her voice was firmer now, crisper with the clarity that comes from being fully awake. "I suppose that depends on what you want to do."

"I don't know!" As I tried to explain my dilemma, my voice started to catch, and then I was sobbing so hard I couldn't breathe, but my mouth just ran on and on. "Oh, Angela, when you and I were together, it was the most wonderful night of my life. Ever. You are so incredible. You're warm, and . . .and loving, and sharing, and God knows you're a . . . a genius with styles and makeup. And your smile is ssoo warm and bright. Oh, God, and you're just incredible in bed. Better than I ever dreamed anyone could be."

"Glad to hear it," she said dryly.

"But when he kissed me . . . I just couldn't . . . it was too . . . intense. I just lost myself in it. In him."

"Wow, sounds awesome," she said.

"Ohmigod, Angela, it was so far beyond awesome. But what am I gonna do?"

"Well, for one thing, you need to take a deep breath and calm down," she ordered. "Okay, let me catch up a little. First, you went out to dinner?"

"Yes," I said, gulping air as I tried to get my breathing under control. "Rick Timmonds got . . . pushy and Johnny appeared out of nowhere to make him leave me alone, and then we went to Jason's."

"My, what a romantic date," she said, giggling. "Johnny? That's Little John, right?"

"Oh, sure. You know what he told me? No one has ever called him Johnny. He was always John, or Big John, or now Little John. Anyway, it slipped out one time and he told me he liked it."

"He did, did he?" she said, laughing again. "So what happened after that?"

"Well, we rode together to Jason's, and when he walked me back to my car afterwards . . . it just happened!"


"The kiss. Kisses."

"So, is he a good kisser?"

"Oh, God, Angela, you have no idea. Oops, sorry. You're amazing, but it was . . . different, y'know?"

"I should hope so," she said. "I presume that, um, Johnny initiated the kisses?"

"Um, yeah, I guess so. I mean, it just sort of happened."

"And we have established beyond a reasonable doubt that you enjoyed it. I presume he did also?"

It occurred to me that she just might be able to sense the fire of my blush over the phone. When I paused, she prompted, "Did he?"

"Yeah," I said, still blushing fiercely.

"And you know this because . . . ?"

"Well, he did it again," I said.

"And . . ? I know there's something more. You're not telling me all of it."

I stammered out, "Well, there was . . . other evidence."


"Yeah," I whispered, then a nervous giggle eeped out. "Um, he's not . . . I mean, 'Little' John is not . . . applicable."

"Mmmm, tell me more," she ordered.

"Well, he was squeezing me with just the right pressure. I mean, he could have broken me in half, but it was just enough to feel protected and cherished. And show how strong he could be. But it was under control, y'know? And . . . I, um, felt it."

"You touched it?"

"Not with my hand or anything," I said quickly. "It was just . . . between us, y'know? God, you couldn't miss it. It must be like, um, the rest of him."

"Wow," she said, then giggled. I couldn't help it. I caught her giggle, and in a second we were both rolling around laughing so hard I started spraying tears again.

But then the world came slamming back and the tears changed once more. "Oh, God, Angela, what am I gonna do?"

"What do you want to do?" she asked.

"I don't know," I said. "Oh, Angela, if I could have, I'd have gone home with him. But I can't. I can't ever! And I don't want to lose you, either. Honest. I don't know what to do!"

"Okay, first off, don't worry about 'losing' me," she said. "If what we had is something that endures, we'll work it out. But . . .don't take this wrong, honey, but I'm not, um, likely to be a one-woman girl."

I suppose at some level I knew that. Surprisingly, it didn't set me off into another round of sobs. In fact, I didn't say anything, and Angela's voice held a wry humor when she spoke again. "Not a surprise? And perhaps it's a bit of a relief? Oh, Freya, you're are such a sweet soul. I appreciate that you wanted to be 'true' to me. I really do. But don't worry about it. I won't. And whether we ever go to bed again or not, we can still be friends. What we have is more than sex, don't you think so?"

"Of course," I said quickly.

"So, if we add sex to it, then fine. If not, then that's okay, too, right?"

"I, um, guess so," I said, and I knew in my heart I really was relieved.

"So that brings us to Little John - or not-so-Little John, as you've discovered."

I giggled at her comment, but that didn't really solve anything so I waited for her to continue.

"The good news is that he already knows your 'secret' so that's not a problem."

"Maybe he knows, but it's definitely a problem," I moaned.

"Not necessarily," Angela said. "In the first place, there are alternatives to good-ol' missionary position."

"Angela!" I gasped.

"Don't knock it till you've tried it, girl," she said, laughing. Then she got more serious. "And ultimately, there are other alternatives as well."

"You mean, surgery?"

"Perhaps, at some point."

"Angela, I've only been a girl for a week! I couldn't do that!"

"Not right away," she agreed. "But the point is that there are alternatives."

She paused, then asked, "Do you realize what you just said?"

I didn't know what she was after. "That it's only been a week? I guess that won't really happen until Sunday afternoon, but you know what I meant."

"No," Angela said. "You said you've 'been a girl' for a week. Not that you've only been dressing like a girl, or pretending to be a girl. Are you a girl?"

"Oh, Angela, I don't know."

"Didn't Little John have a question about that?"

"I guess. He wants to know if I'm happier as Freya, or as Tommy."


It was all too much for me again, and I started sobbing into the phone. "I don't know. I don't know. I don't know."

Between my gulping breaths I tried to explain. "Tommy was so . . . bland. He never laughed all that much . . . but he never cried. I'm being torn down the middle, yet there is a sense of . . . life that I've never felt before. I just don't know."

Angela's voice was soft and sympathetic. "Look, Freya, you need to get some sleep. You're going around in circles, and just getting yourself upset. Will you be able to get to sleep? I'll come over if you need me."

"I don't . . . okay. I'll try," I said. "Thanks."

"Anytime, girl. That's what friends are for."

I tried to do what she said. Honest. I did. I cleaned and moisturized my face, put on a soft, warm nightgown, and cuddled with Moondance. It still took a long time to get to sleep, but sometime in there I must have because I was surprised when I realized it was light out.

The mechanics of my morning ritual actually helped. By the time I had my hair and face done, and picked an outfit . . . then another outfit . . . and then a third. . . and then went back to the second, it was already mid-morning and Johnny was ringing my doorbell.

"Wow," he said, giving me one of his crooked little grins. "You look great!"

"Thanks," I said. I had worn a shortish (that's all I had) skirt in a light, stonewashed denim with a wide, white retro belt, plus a soft, pastel-blue shell that probably should have been a size larger. My legs were still too pale so I had to wear pantyhose, but instead of spiked heels I had some cute wedge sandals that still lifted and slimmed my legs. I grabbed my bomber jacket because the day was still pretty cool and smiled up at Johnny.

"I guess I'm ready."

"So soon? Wow, the perfect date. Gorgeous, and ready on time."

I blushed at his praise, but I smiled as well. Before we left, Johnny's face got serious for a second. "Look, Freya, about last night . . ."

I just waited, afraid for what he would say, but not sure what I wanted him to say, either.

"I'll tell you right now that I think of you as a woman. And since we're going to be photographed all day, I wanted to make sure you're okay with the idea of me treating you like a woman - like my girlfriend. Is that okay?"

"Oh, Johnny, it's more than okay," I said. "It's what I want more than anything."

"Good," he said with an enormous sigh, as though he'd been holding his breath. Then he gathered me into his huge embrace and kissed me. Thoroughly. Wonderfully. This time I even got to enjoy it all, because I didn't faint. Not quite, anyway. I heard the roaring in my ears and was more than a little light-headed, but I wouldn't let myself faint again.

"So, the kisses last night were real," he said softly. "I was half afraid I'd been dreaming."

"Me, too," I whispered. Then I giggled and pulled free of his arms. "But if you've smeared my makeup, we're going to be late."

"It was worth it," he called as I disappeared into the bathroom.

"Yes it was," I said a moment later. All I had needed to repair was the gloss on my lips because Angela had picked long-lasting lipstick for me.

We met the photographer by the Kimball Art Museum. Even though we were 'a couple', Johnny and I weren't living together or anything so going grocery shopping was too domestic. And a mall crawl was too trite. So we did the cultural thing instead. Fort Worth has a surprisingly good art museum, even though I hadn't visited it before. We strolled through the museum, laughing at some of our interpretations of work we didn't understand; pausing quietly at anything that caught our interest. Johnny was attentive in a wonderfully possessive way that made it clear he considered me a treasure worth fighting for. His treasure. Part of that was touching me a lot - never more than holding hands really - which we did most of the time - but always there. Always brushing shoulders or standing close behind me if we weren't holding hands. He even stood guard outside the Ladies' room when that became necessary.

After we were done at the museum, Johnny asked, "So, do we do a movie now or something? It's a bit early for dinner."

"Oh, no," I said quickly. "I have to change."

"Why? You look fine," the photographer said.

"Thanks, but . . . I just do, okay? Besides, if we went to dinner after the movie, you'd have to hang around the whole time. Why don't we just meet for dinner, and then you can get some pictures before Johnny and I go in to the show?"

The photographer shrugged, and Johnny took that as confirmation of the plan so he delivered me back to my apartment. This time the photographer followed. Angela's little touches were still there - I had added a few things of my own including fresh flowers in several places - so the place didn't look too 'bachelor pad.' Moondance was a big hit once she decided the hulking brutes who had followed me home weren't a threat. The photographer got a darling little picture of her hanging from Johnny's thumb as though it were a tree limb. Which was fair, since it was about that big.

When they left, I just gave Johnny a quick good-bye kiss. I know the photographer caught it, though. I could see the flash through my eyelids. Johnny was tall enough I had to go up on my toes, even more than the wedge heels required, so I expected my legs were going to be pretty noticeable on that one.

After I closed the door behind me and got my heart regulated at least a little, I thought about calling Angela for help in getting ready. But I decided I really needed to be able to do this on my own - not just a casual look, but something really nice. I expected Johnny to put on a jacket, though I wasn't sure he even owned a tie. That was okay. Even a sport coat would give me the excuse to dress nicer than denim. I had the perfect outfit in mind, and I'd been waiting for a chance to wear it. Particularly considering the insane amount it had cost.

Basically, it was a skirt and jacket set, not really a suit. What made it so special was the material - a glove-soft dove-gray leather that was just gorgeous. And best of all, I had found some knee-high boots that matched perfectly - and they even had the heels I loved . . . or maybe a bit more. The sassy-short skirt was high-waisted but very fitted, so it showed off the curves Angela's crushing body shapers gave me. And the top was a cute little bolero jacket that made my improbably tiny waist look even smaller.

It might have looked good with a black turtleneck, but black made my pale Nordic skin look positively ghostly. So I added some color with a soft, burgundy blouse that I left unbuttoned far enough to celebrate Angela's jiggly magic. Slightly-too-large gold hoops in my ears and an extra few rings to accent my nails and I was actually starting to feel like I'd justify Mike Lewis in his assessment of my recruiting potential. I left my hair mostly down, just parted on one side and swept up into a gold barrette on the other. Adding a bit of smoke to my eyes and a bit of sparkle to my lips had me ready to go just a bit early - showing that I hadn't learned my girl lessons as well as I should have.

I wondered if the reason girls were always late was because if they were ready ahead of time, they had a chance to fret. I was working myself into a real dither over whether I looked okay and decided I should have had Angela come over just for the chance to have an outside viewpoint, because from the inside I was less and less sure every second. When the doorbell rang I eeped so loudly that Moondance arched her back.

"Sorry, kitten," I said, taking as deep a breath as my hidden tormentors allowed.

When I opened the door, I just stood there for some time I never noticed passing.

"Wow," I finally said. "You're . . . gorgeous."

"Not on any scale that contains a vision like you," Johnny countered, finally finding his own voice, too.

I blushed, but preened a bit as well. He really looked good, though. Johnny must have taken my comment about needing a haircut to heart, because his looked like it had been styled very nicely; just a bit shaggy, but in a shaped way that didn't look scruffy. His jacket hadn't come off the rack at his size; a very nice gray blazer enough darker than my outfit that we worked together without seeming artificial. And for the first time I could remember, he was wearing a shirt that was open enough to let me see the thick, curly hairs that covered his chest. My fingers twitched with an urge to twirl in that mat and see what happened if I tugged a little.

That image had me biting my lower lip in thought, until I realized that I was staring at his chest just like most guys stared at mine. Then I just laughed out loud.

"What's so funny?" he asked.

"Oh, just a thought I had. Maybe I'll tell you later," I said, letting my voice purr at the thought.

"Damn, Freya, you are gonna hurt someone with that voice," he said tightly. I glanced down to see that he was undeniably attracted to my own appearance, and I turned so he couldn't see the smug satisfaction on my face.

"Let me get my jacket," I said. It was close by, and without thinking about it I just handed it to him to hold for me, which he did with equal reflex. I put a previously packed gray purse over my shoulder and let him get the door.

The photographer was waiting for us and I felt like it was prom night or something with photos on the stairs and getting into the car - which was actually a truck, but this was Texas after all. I had to be careful to keep what little modesty my outfit permitted, but the photographer was a nice guy and didn't try for any particularly revealing angles.

Dinner was Tex-Mex. Johnny ordered fajitas for two, which worked out pretty well. I had one and a few bites of rice, while he ate the rest of the 6 or 8 that the meal provided. We were on the same side in a booth so that the photographer could frame us better, but he did the standard ,"Pretend I'm not here," thing so we had to find somewhere else to look. That meant we spent a lot of time looking at each other, and every now and then I'd have to wake up from a long stare into his deep, dark eyes.

"We need to get to the show," Johnny said at some point.

"Whatever you say, Johnny," I replied, quite happy to let him take the lead on things like that.

The photographer finally left us when we got to the theater. He took a few last pictures as we looked at the marquee and things, but some kids came up and asked for my autograph, pointing at me and the poster of a splashy action movie whose heroine did look a little bit like me. That was over the top for the recruiting images, so the photographer waved his hand and started to pack up. I waved back and signed a few more autographs, explaining that I wasn't really that heroine, but they didn't seem to mind.

It did make the choice of movie easy. Not that I paid much attention. I was still remembering the way Johnny's eyes looked - except when I was thinking about curling my fingers in his chest hair. I was too self-conscious about being in public to do it, but I sure thought about it a lot. Particularly when his arm slid around me and I leaned into his broad chest.

When the lights came up, Johnny whispered to me, "You're prettier."


"Than the actress - Chloe whatshername - who looks like you."

"Really?" I said, waving my butterfly-wing lashes at him. "That's sweet."

We took our time leaving the theater, holding hands and walking easily to Johnny's truck. He helped me in, as the gentleman he was, but I wondered if his hand had lingered longer on my waist than was really required - or maybe a bit lower.

And whether he noticed that I pushed back into his touch just a bit.

When we got to my door, he did the key thing, and let it swing open just a little.

Taking as deep a breath as I could, I bit my lower lip for a moment to gather my courage, then asked, "Would you like to come in?"

Johnny looked at me, pulling my heart into his eyes until I was swimming in their depths. Then he said, "Answer my question."

"Huh? I mean, what?"

"Answer my question," he repeated. "Are you a boy or a girl? Are you happier as Tommy or as Freya?"

"That's not really the same question."

"Okay, then answer them both."

"I don't know," I whispered, tears building in my eyes. "And I don't know."

He leaned down just a little and kissed the top of my head. "I told you that I think of you as a woman. But it's more important how you see yourself. I'll come in when you decide . . . if you still want me to," he said softly. Then he turned away and left me standing there.

Chapter 11 - "Day of Rest, and Reflection"

I was already crying when Johnny left me standing there. Watching him walk away was shattering. I wanted to run after him. I wanted to run out on the freeway in front of a truck.

What I did was run into my room, slamming the door behind me. I threw myself on my bed and cried so hard I couldn't breathe. Literally. I was gasping for breath, but I still couldn't get enough air and I passed out.

Moondance woke me by licking the tears from my face, mewing in complaint at the taste of mingled makeup, but worried enough to keep trying to cleanse the pain that was tearing me apart. When I realized what was happening, I hugged her so hard she eeped out a complaint, but I just held on and on, rocking in my broken world.

The phone rang, but there was no way I was going to pick it up. The answering machine kicked in and it was Angela.

"Freya? It's me. Answer the phone. Little John called and asked me to check on you. Are you okay? C'mon, pick up."

There was a short pause, not enough for the machine to stop, and then she said, "Freya, look, if you don't pick up, then I'm coming over there."

That was almost enough to get me to answer because I didn't want to talk to her right then. I just wanted to cry, silently and alone - except for my lifeline to Moondance, the only one in the world who would just accept me as me, whoever and whatever that was, day by day, with no requirement to decide on long-term answers for questions I didn't even understand. I was starting to move toward the phone to tell her not to come when it clicked dead.

But I was moving, and I saw the nightmare in the mirror that Moondance had been trying to fix. I couldn't see anyone, not even Angela, looking like that, so I got undressed and cleaned my face, pulling my hair back into a ponytail and putting on a soft nightgown and robe. When she got there, I was sitting on the couch in the dark, my feet pulled up under the robe and my head on my knees.

"Uh, oh," she said. "This is not good."

I didn't reply. What was there to say? He had walked away from me, after I had offered . . . whatever I had to offer. Everything. Nothing, because that's what I really was.

She came and sat next to me, putting her arms around me, and just held me for a while. Of course, that started the waterworks again, accompanied by deep, gasping sobs. It went on for a long time because this time my middle was free to be as fat as it wanted to be and I didn't faint.

But time passes, and eventually I ran down in sniffling little whimpers. When even those stopped, Angela finally spoke.

"Transition to the girl side you have made, padawan apprentice," she said in a creaky old voice.

"It's not funny," I said.

"No, it's not," she agreed. "But at least you said something."

I just shrugged. She squeezed my shoulders, but then she reached out for a table lamp and turned it on. "And now that you have cried yourself out at least for a while, and are talking, we need to keep going. Tell me what happened."

"Nothing," I said.

"Hmm, so you're disappointed you didn't get laid. I can understand that."

"That's not it," I snapped.

"So, you did get laid, and that's why you're upset. Isn't he good in bed? The 'nothing' was that you didn't get the big 'O' for yourself?"

"Dammit, Angela, this is not a joke!"

"No, it's not," she said again. "But I'm not going to give up until you tell me what happened. If you don't start talking, I'm going to be as annoying as I need to be."

"You already passed that," I snapped.

"So start talking. Begin with what you did the moment you woke up. Cover every single minute. If you stall out, just go to the next minute and continue. I'm listening."

So I did. I'm not sure why. I wasn't particularly happy with Angela because she didn't seem to think my problems were serious. But the early parts of the day had been magical so I could talk about them without getting lost in tears again. And I guess maybe I hoped that if she saw how hard I had worked to make the day perfect, she'd realize how important it was that it had ended in disaster.

Of course, by the time I got to the end, I was crying again. Angela hugged me, but instead of just comforting me, she pushed my shoulders upright and asked, "So, if he'd have come in with you, what would you have done?"

"I don't know," I said, sobbing even harder.

"Then think about it now. What would you have done? I mean that seriously. Would you have kissed him some more?"

"Well, sure," I said, surprised at the obviousness of the answer.

"Would you have let him get to second base?"

I twitched at the thought, which started some ripples within my nightgown that gave a whole new meaning to that for me. "I don't know. Maybe."

Angela laughed. "Why not? It's not like they're real."

"Angela!" I gasped in shock, starting to tear up again.

Before I could say anything more, she surprised me with a non sequitur. "Say something as Timiko."


"Speak like Timiko for a minute. Tell me again about that hot leather outfit you wore."


"Just do it."

So I spoke as Timiko for a couple of minutes, then changed to Olga the Russian and talked about the movie when she asked for that.

"Okay," she said. "Now tell me those same things, as Tommy."

"As Tommy?"

She nodded, so I tried. I really did. But even though I could do a masculine tenor, I didn't seem to 'hear' the words. It was like I couldn't remember what the clothes looked like, except at a superficial level. I was better on the movie description, but not much.

When I ran down, Angela looked worried. She was certainly serious now. She pulled me into her arms again, and sighed.

"Freya, Tommy, whoever you are, you are such a good mimic that I'm not sure you know who you really are, and I'm afraid for you. You immerse yourself in each of those characters so fully you look like you were born that way. You could lose yourself and never find your way back.

"Way back to what?" I asked.

"That's the problem," she said. "I'm not sure there is a real person inside all those disguises. Look, when you were speaking as Timiko, you sat very primly, spoke softly, and with much shy ducking of your head and tiny, quick smiles intended to show a passive, non-threatening attitude. When you spoke as Olga, you were stern and quite political, pointing out the economic waste of racing high-powered cars around in the movie. When you're Freya, you're a clothes horse and more than a little boy-crazy. You cry easily, and flirt and giggle and act like a college coed on a hormonal roller-coaster."

"And when you were Tommy," she continued. "You were lost. You didn't seem to know how to play the part, as though you were an actor with no lines."

"So, should I not be Tommy, then? If there's nothing there?"

"No. I mean, not because there's nothing there. Don't you see? There's nothing in the other characters either, except a role you play. And ultimately, what will happen if you run out of lines to say? Who will you be then?"

I didn't know what to say. I remembered back to when I had talked with Johnny. I told him I thought I - Tommy - was empty, a nothing. Was that why I had fallen into Freya so much? Because she could be more real than Tommy? Vibrant. Alive. Attractive, but also very, very noticeable. Someone to be remembered, rather than forgotten as soon as they were out of sight.

Angel let the wheels grind in my mind for a moment, then asked, "Why didn't you just tell Little John that you had decided? That you were Freya and happier that way, and intended to stay as Freya forever?"

"Because I just don't know," I said.

"Why not?" she pushed. "You feel more attractive, more fun to be with, more everything than Tommy. What pulls you back to him?"

"I don't know," I whispered, beginning to cry again.

"Okay," she said, "now I'm going to be very blunt. Suppose Little John had accepted your invitation last night. And you'd come in, and started getting hot and heavy. Were you enough into Freya that you'd have given him at least a hand job, and maybe even a blow job?"


"Answer the question!" she ordered.

I looked down, searching in my heart for the truth. "Maybe," I said softly. "Probably."

"Now, suppose that a few months from now, you decided that there was a real Tommy in there. That if you let him out, he could be as fun and as vibrant as Freya. You obviously know how to be witty and how to look good and how to have fun. Yet, you would have . . . done things as Freya that you would think were wrong as Tommy. How would you feel?"

"I don't know. I mean, that's a lot of 'supposes,' but I suppose I'd feel bad. Hell, you know I'd feel bad."

"Exactly," she said. "So Little John was making sure that you knew - in your heart - whether being Freya was an act, or the real you. He even told you that he thinks of you as a woman, so Freya is real to him and if Freya is the real you, then Little John is very open to a relationship. What's hidden in your panties doesn't really change who you are, at least not to him. But it has to be real for you, and not an act."

"Oh, God, this is so complicated," I moaned.

"Yep," she said. "But here's the good news. Little John is solid gold. And he's crazy in love with you."

"That's good news?"

"Absolutely," she insisted. "Don't you think he wanted you? You told me he was hurtin' big time - emphasis on 'big' - for two days. Inviting him into your place after a nice date only has one meaning. Freya would not have let her man go home hurting. And he gave that up, because he'd rather be hurting himself than cause you harm."

"Geez, I was hurting so bad after he left I thought about throwing myself off the top of this building!"

"But you didn't. I didn't say you wouldn't hurt. And regardless of which way you go, you'll hurt again. But once you get through this, there won't be the long-term harm that 'taking advantage of you' might have caused. There's a difference between pain, and real harm - not a fun difference, but it's important."

I just nodded, thoughts whirling so fast I was literally getting dizzy.

"So what should I do?" I asked finally.

"Well, for one thing . . . get a good night's sleep. Sleep in tomorrow. Don't make any decisions when you're all tied up in knots."

I sighed, and nodded. Softly, I asked, "Angela, would you stay with me tonight? Not, um, for sex? Just . . . so I'm not alone tonight? When Johnny left me standing there, I felt so alone . . ."

"Sure," she said. "If you'll let me borrow a nightgown - one as frumpy as the one you're wearing will do."

"Frumpy?" I said sharply, then had to giggle at the look of triumph in her eyes - and at the relief from the intense emotions I'd been through. "Okay, so I wasn't feeling particularly beautiful when I put it on."

"Why did you ever buy one like that?" she teased.

"Mostly because . . . hell, I don't know. I guess I didn't want to be a tramp all the time," I said, giggling again.

"Just when you're awake, is that it?" she asked.

I didn't answer, just pulling her to the bedroom. And to sleep.

When I woke up the next morning, I realized that Angela was already awake. She was spooned behind me and cuddled close, gently stroking my hair. I rolled so that I could snuggle into her arms, leaning up to give her a tender kiss. It was a wonderful kiss, but it wasn't the sexual fire we had shared before, nor the overwhelming surrender I felt with Johnny.

"Good morning, beautiful," she said softly.

"Oh, God, I must be a hag this morning," I said. "My eyes will be red for a week."

"Oh, they're not that bad," she said, laughing. "And I'm an expert."

I beat her to the bathroom, which was really unfair since it took me forever to get dressed. But when I came out I looked okay - still a little drawn, but squeezed back into my Freya self from corset to denim mini and high-heeled sandals. It felt good to feel good about the way I looked, now more satisfying than as amazing as it had been the first time, but better because of that.

We went out to a little coffee shop and had a muffin for breakfast, then went shopping for nothing in particular. It was just a chance to be together with no deep, emotional issues to resolve. I truly did enjoy being Freya. If might have been a role I was playing, but it suited me at least at the public level. At the exact one-week anniversary of when Freya had first walked from Angela's salon, we celebrated with something decadently chocolate, and then went back to my apartment.

There, Angela took me to bed again and reminded me that there were some things I would miss if I became Freya for real, or at least as real as modern medicine could provide. It wasn't some sort of . . . test. It was just a loving conclusion to a day together; casual at one level, and deeply sharing at another.

Oh, and it was a lot of fun. I knew I'd been a bit introspective all day, and Angela had given me some space for that. But she certainly got my mind off my worries when we got back to my apartment. And the fourth of fifth time she went over the moon I decided she knew what we both needed, and I chalked that one up to her credit, too.

None of that really resolved anything, but maybe that's what Sundays are supposed to be for - rest and reflection, rather than just another day.

Chapter 12 - "Monday's Child is Fair of Face"

One of the many good things about having a pet is that you can talk to yourself and claim you were talking to the cat. Moondance was pretty good about listening, too. She never really interrupted, except maybe with the sort of encouraging sounds that give you an excuse to continue. Monday she was a bit surprised, though. As I was doing my hair, I realized that I was half-singing, half-humming a chirpy little tune that didn't have and didn't need any words. That wasn't something I did very often. Or ever before, in fact. She mewed a confused little question and I picked her up and danced around the room with her.

"It's like this, kitten," I said. "Sometimes, when you don't think about a problem, the solution finds you."

She was too busy purring to respond, though she did take a moment to bat at a lock of curl that I hadn't brushed into shape yet.

"Okay, okay," I said, putting her down. "I'll finish getting dressed."

The photographer was coming on Tuesday, so I went casual on Monday. Snug, ultra-low-rise jeans tucked into knee-high boots, a soft ivory blouse (unbuttoned just a bit too far for modesty), and my fitted gray jacket gave me a nice mix of sophisticated and casual. And I didn't even waste any time selecting it. In fact, I was the first one there on Monday morning. Trading out flowers and arranging the new ones kept me busy until the guys started showing up.

I had pretty much expected that Rick Timmonds was the one who had been bringing me flowers, so I was ready when he handed me a nice little bouquet.

"Thanks, Rick. These are nice," I said casually.

"Look, Freya, I didn't mean to, um, push the other night, but I really would like to see you some time - outside of work, I mean," he said.

"Thank you, Rick. That's sweet," I said. "But I think I need to get a few things straight, first, okay?"

"Um, sure," he said, a sad little mix of hope and disappointment on his face. I was going to have to resolve that, too, but it was lower on the list than other things.

Johnny was last to arrive, just a little late actually, and I wondered if he had waited until I was on a call to step into the office. *Coward,* I thought, laughing to myself. *Why are the biggest men always the most afraid of emotional issues?*

We were pretty busy, particularly for a Monday, so there wasn't a lot of side conversation during the morning. Sam Johnson had the day off and that meant we would have to handle any site visits ourselves. That kept Johnny and Joe Heller out of the office most of the morning.

It was my turn to work through lunch, this time paired with Tony. I got the impression that Angela had talked to him because he was treading very lightly, steering well away from what I had done over the weekend. I had to laugh at his concern, and decided to bring it to a head.

"Hey, Tony, it's still me in here," I said, pointing one long fingernail at my temple. "I may have new packaging, but the product is still the same."

"Is it?" he asked carefully. "You've, um, changed. And not just in the way you look."

"Actually, you're right," I agreed. "In fact, I've even changed from yesterday when Angela spent the day with me. What did she tell you?"

He looked guilty - and knew it - so he didn't try to deny that Angela had talked with him.

"Just that you were facing some tough decisions, and that I should let you have the space to make them."

"That's nice," I said, then looked at him thoughtfully. "Actually, I'm glad to have a chance to talk with you. Because you've become something of an inspiration to me."


"Yes, you," I repeated.

"Look, um, Freya, I never intended . . . I mean, showing you what Angela did to me for her class project, that wasn't supposed to . . ."

"Oh, I know. Though that is part of it," I said. I stood up and walked over to him, pulling him to his feet.

"In my heels, I'm just a little taller than you," I began. "But that really doesn't matter. When I'm Freya, I can see that a woman would find you very attractive, with a killer smile and a nice body. And I can always take my heels off."

He blushed, clearly uncomfortable.

I laughed and leaned forward to give him a quick kiss on the cheek. "Oh, don't worry, I'm not making a pass at you. What you showed me is that being tall is not all there is to being attractive, for a man. Tommy was always so wrapped up in feeling short that he couldn't imagine that any desirable women would, in turn, find him desirable. Yet as Freya, I find you attractive even though I'm a little taller than you. So thank you for helping me get past something that had been a real problem for Tommy, one that had become self-fulfilling."

"Don't get me wrong," I continued. "I like being tall and I like wearing heels. But you've showed me that a man doesn't need to be as tall as Johnny to be desirable, and I appreciate it." Then I have him a hug and said, "And you did show me that a man can be made into a very attractive woman, and I really, really appreciate finding out how true that can be."

He smiled a little uncertainly, then a look of resolve showed as he clearly came to a decision to ask a question he'd been avoiding. "So, does that mean you're going to continue to be Freya?'

"Would that bother you?" I asked in return.

"Not really," he said, smiling. "Tommy was okay, but frankly, you're a lot more fun - not to mention a lot easier to look at."

"Why thank you, kind sir," I replied. "A girl can only try her best."

"So?" he asked again.

"So," I repeated. "At least for a while."

"Good," he said. "I hope you're happy with that."

"Yes, I think I am," I said, smiling as much to myself as to Tony.

The afternoon was just as busy, but as the day drew to a close Johnny was in the office. I waited until he had a free moment, and asked, "Johnny, how about letting me take you out to dinner?"


"Yes," I said. "There are a few things I'd like to talk about."

I could see a slight wince, as though the basic 'we need to talk' line was likely to lead into some emotional relationship issues. Well, maybe it would, but the big lug had left me standing in my doorway after I'd offered myself to him. He was due a little penance. Beside, I thought it would be reasonably easy for him.

Of course, he took me out to dinner. At least, he drove and did the rest of the gentlemanly things about opening my doors and negotiating with the hostess for a table. He did let me pick the place, a little family restaurant that had a basic entree-plus-two-vegetables menu. I intended to get the check at the end, but that wasn't worth worrying about. If he wanted to do the 'guy thing' on that, too, I'd let him.

Ordering took just a little while, and I carefully steered the conversation into the day's activities. As always, we had new stories to tell of clueless clients. There is no such thing as 'fool proof' because we're always inventing better fools. It allowed us to laugh and regain the underlying friendship that had been strained by the added dimension of my lifestyle exploration.

"'The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and cabbages, and kings,'" I quoted once our meals had arrived. Johnny winced again, but only a little.

"You hurt me, Saturday night. I wanted to die," I accused. Johnny frowned, but he didn't try to say anything. That was vintage Johnny, never really defensive, patient and calm. Sometimes it could be irritating, but for now it was the right thing.

Then I sighed, and said, "But it was really my fault. I put you in a situation where you had two bad choices - hurt me then, or maybe hurt me even more later. I recognize that now."

"Angela and I had a long talk on Sunday - staring just after midnight and continuing through most of the day. She helped me to understand how what you did was because you do care for me, not because you don't."

"I do care," he said.

"I'm glad, because I care for you a lot, too."

"Is this where we do the 'let's just be friends' line?" he asked.

"I hope not," I said. "But I suppose that will be up to you."

Before he could respond, I hurried along. "Okay, so here's the deal. I didn't like Tommy. I thought he was unattractive to women, and not much fun to be with. Both of those are probably true."

"Well, not . . ." he tried to interrupt.

"Let me continue," I said. "But the problem was not the way he looked. The problem was the way he felt about how he looked. Tommy always wanted to be big and strong and handsome - like you - and anything less was just . . . less. Not possible to be satisfying in some other way.

"But Freya is beautiful, and fun to be with - at least most of the time - and witty and cute and all the things that Tommy is not. So . . who am I? Tommy or Freya?"

"Both, of course," he answered. "I like the parts of Tommy that you kept - and I like the parts you've added."

"These parts?" I asked, arching my back.

"Well, they don't hurt," he said, grinning. "But you know what I mean."

"Yes, I think so," I agreed. "But in fact that's part of the issue. Now that I know I - the me inside - can be fun, and now that I know how to be pretty, I'm confident I can be attractive as Tommy. But . . . I like being Freya better."

"So you've decided you want to be a woman?" he asked.

"Not necessarily," I said, bringing another frown to his face. "I said I like being Freya better, but Freya is not entirely a woman."

"Okkkayyyy," he said slowly, clearly not sure about what point I was trying to make.

"I like dressing as Freya," I explained. "I like wearing high heels and showing off my legs, and long, swingy hair that smells nice and feels silky on my cheeks. I like looking in a mirror and seeing someone who is not only reasonably attractive - as I now realize Tommy could be - but knock-out gorgeous in a way that men just can't do in our society. Maybe I'm just hard-wired to think that a woman is better looking than any guy can possibly be, but I like the way I look as Freya. Regardless of what is in my panties, I want to keep dressing this way."

He nodded slowly. The frown was back on his face but the wheels were clearly turning in his head.

"And I like thinking like a woman. I like shopping for clothes, and teasing boys," I said, blowing him a kiss and giggling. "Sometimes just having a good cry can be . . . important. I like having men hold doors for me, and lend me a helping hand when I have packages to carry. I wouldn't want to be a woman in a society where they are treated as little better than chattel slaves, but in the U.S., today, women have it pretty nice."

Then I got serious again. "But there is another aspect to that as well. Something I only realized last night. I like being attractive . . . to men."

"Oh?" he said, lifting a brow.

I shrugged - and tried to ignore the still-interesting movement within my blouse, though Johnny let himself be captured by it. "I haven't been Tommy again since I started to live as Freya, so I don't know what would happen if I did, but I can tell you that as Freya I feel attraction and desire for both men and women. It would be stupid to deny the truth."

"Yes," he agreed thoughtfully.

"Oh, Johnny," I sighed. "Never in my life has anything been an intense as our kiss. I still remember it, all the time. It was wonderful."

I reached out to touch his hand. "And my offer for you to come into my apartment last Saturday was genuine. I really wanted to give you pleasure, in whatever way I could. I'm sure I'd be clumsy and uncertain because I've never done anything like that before, but I wanted so badly to try."

He seemed to hunch over just a little, or maybe that was my imagination. Before he could reply, I went on, "But I was with Angela last night, and I truly enjoyed that, too. I was . . . excited in the most fundamental and undeniable way."

I sat back, and looked directly at him. "I don't know what that means, exactly. I can say that I'm bisexual, which is just a label. What it means is that at one level I still don't know the answer to your question. I don't know if I'm a boy or a girl. Maybe I'm something in between. I do know I'm not ready to go do anything permanent to make that choice one way or the other. For now - for as long as I can see ahead of me - I'm going to be what I am: A pretty girl on the outside, both in the way I look and the way I act, with 'something extra' on the inside."

Now I dropped my gaze and looked at my slender fingers. "It that's not good enough for you, then I guess I'm sorry. Hell, I know I'm sorry - really, really sorry - but it's the best I can do."

I looked up again. "I know that I'm happier now than I was as Tommy. I'm finding out who I really am, and I'm liking what I see. I owe a lot of that to you. You showed me how to be a woman in so many ways, and I still tingle at the thought of our kisses. I'm more intense, and more alive, than I've been in years. For that, I thank you even if you never want to see me again."

With the last line I knew my eyes were filling up, and I tried very hard not to let them spill over as I concentrated on my white-knuckled hands as they twisted in my lap.

Johnny didn't do anything for a moment that seemed to stretch out forever. Then I heard his chair scrape as he stood up. My heart was a frozen, dead stone sinking into oblivion at the thought he was just going to walk out on me. Again.

But he stepped to my side of the table and his huge hands reached down to pull my small fingers up from my lap. He pulled me to my feet and then his arms were around me and his lips were seeking mine as though they were infinitely precious. Tender, yet oh, so passionate. Demanding yet giving. Fierce and patient. All things and everything. I heard the roar in my ears and knew I was getting light-headed, that my legs were weak and quivering, that the world was receding into an immeasurable - yet unimportant - distance.

Then I felt it. I felt an iron-hard bulge against my tummy and I knew that Johnny was not just kissing me to make me feel like a woman. He was kissing a woman who excited him, who aroused him, whom he wanted in the most fundamental way that man and woman can share. It was too much for me, and deep in my soul - and in my panties - I felt an explosion that demonstrated my own arousal and my own need, and my own fulfillment in the arms of this wonderful, loving man. I shuddered against him, and truly did need his arms because I would have collapsed into a melted puddle if he hadn't held me up.

When my world expanded again to more than his lips and my own hidden response, I realized that we had attracted some attention because there was a smattering of applause around us. Johnny finally pulled his head back and though I tried to follow his lips with my own, he was tall enough that I fell short. I opened my eyes to find his warm, gentle smile so close that I tried once again to reach him. Johnny laughed and started to ease up on his embrace, making sure that I was steady enough on my spiked heels that I wouldn't fall. He helped me back into my seat and moved back to his own.

"Ohmigod," I breathed. "That was so beautiful. You can do that again any time you want."

"Promise?" he teased.

"Oh yeah," I sighed.

He smiled his wonderful smile again, but then he got serious. "Okay, now it's my turn to confess."

His warm, dark eyes met mine for a second, then he looked off to the side as though he needed to organize his thoughts and I was too distracting. Which was wonderful, if you think about it.

"I've been unfair," he began. "It was unfair to force you into one neat little compartment or another. I think - hell, I know - part of that was about my own feelings. If you were really Tommy-in-a-dress, then we could have a little fun at a public level. I could pretend you were the girl that Tommy was pretending to be, but only on the surface. I could hold your doors, and pay for your movie ticket, and pretend to be on a date. A kiss would be play-acting, not something real.

"And if you were really a woman - one with a little plumbing anomaly, a 'something extra' as you said - then we could go further because it was okay for me to fall in love with a girl who had 'a plumbing anomaly' that could be corrected. I was ready to accept that your soul was a woman's soul, and love that soul. To make what we have something real."

*Love? Ohmigod! He said love!*

"But that was really about me, about my idea of what I could or couldn't do - should or shouldn't do. It was selfish, and I'm sorry."

He looked back at me and smiled. "Freya, you're unique, and I cherish that. I like Tommy. He's a truly nice guy, and just flat-out brilliant. He's quick, insightful, and always does his best. But Freya gives up none of that. She adds a matchless beauty that takes my breath away, but she also adds an openness and giving nature that shows an inner beauty to match the outer glamour. That's something that Tommy never showed, and even though I think you could now find it as Tommy, you have definitely made it part of yourself as Freya. You're truly beautiful. I do believe you're happier now, and I'm happy for you."

His smile took on a wry quality, and he chuckled. "And you light fires in me that I have never felt before. Turning you down the other night was the hardest thing I've ever done, and believe me, I kicked myself for it more than once over the last couple of days."

One of his huge hands reached out to capture my tiny one and he twisted his fingers through mine. "So I guess what I'm saying is that if you ever feel like inviting me into your apartment again . . . I'll come."

I gasped, and clutched at his fingers.

Johnny's brows narrowed and he sighed. "But I have to tell you that I'm not . . . ready to, um, reciprocate. At least not yet. I'm sorry, but I've thought about that, too, and I'm just not . . . ready."

I blushed, and bit at my lower lip. Finally I felt a little wry grin of my own curve my lips and I looked up at him through my heavy lashes and whispered, "That's okay. It's not really, um, necessary."

He frowned. "But I don't want your needs to be . . . unmet."

I ran my tongue over my glossy lips and said. "That, um, isn't a problem. I already . . . just now . . . when you kissed me."

"You did?"

"Ummm hmmm," I murmured, letting my teeth catch at my lower lip playfully, this time as a deliberately flirt.

I knew my cheeks were flaming, but I couldn't keep a mischievous little grin off my face as I looked up at him through my lashes. "So it's only your needs that are . . . unmet."

"Oh, God, woman, you don't know what you do to me."

"I think I have a pretty good idea," I said, giggling.

"Damn," Johnny said, wincing, but there was humor in his eyes as well.

"So, Johnny, what are you doing after dinner?"

"You mean?" he asked.

I nodded. "If you want. Because I want you."

"Oh, hell yes!" he said.

Chapter 13 - "A Hard Knight"

Being a girl is fun. It can be devastating, and painful, and confusing, and frustrating . . . But it can also be unbelievably liberating. And empowering. A tease from a coquettish woman can wrap a strong, handsome man up in ways that no judo master could match. And a girl can get away with it, where a man would just get slapped. For the first time since the devastation of Saturday night I could be as feminine as I wanted to be, even with Johnny. That released a pent-up flood of light-hearted fun that I hadn't even realized was bottled up.

One part of that was immediate. Now that Johnny had accepted me as I understood myself to be, I could use my new found freedom to tease the socks right off of him. And I did, just as soon as we were in his truck. I leaned over to unlock his door - which wasn't really necessary, since he had an electronic lock - but it gave me an excuse to stay on his side after he got in. He was barely out of the parking lot when I leaned over and breathed in his ear, followed by a throaty whisper.

"We can get my car later . . . on the way to breakfast."

"You are a naughty girl," he grunted, trying to shift in his seat to find room for something that had come up between us. But he flicked me a quick grin and a look with enough lust in it to bottle and sell. "And hot enough to melt titanium."

"You're not so bad yourself, big boy," I said, flicking my tongue in his ear.

"You're gonna cause a wreck," he said, flinching from my tongue but not really moving away.

"What's the matter? Big strong man can't control himself? Oh, my, what will happen to li'l ol' me?"

I blew in his ear again, and said in a little girl voice, "You'll be gentle with me, won't you?"

He grunted and this time it looked like he was actually moving into the real pain level. "You need to stop, really. I'm . . . distracted enough already."

"Never enough," I said, leaning in to lick his jawline from his chin to his ear. But then I sat back - just a little - and pretended to look out the windshield. Well, actually I did look out the windshield. What I pretended is that I was paying attention to where we were going. It really wasn't fair to keep teasing him, but it was ssooo much fun.

So as he drove along and I looked out the windshield, I let one long-nailed hand drift over and rest on his thigh. Using the nails, I scritched lightly at his leg, drawing little swirls and spirals that - not coincidentally - moved closer and closer to the bulge that threatened to split his seams.

"Stop that," he said, slapping at my hand.

"Stop what?" I asked innocently, and resumed my finger walk toward my target. My plan was not to cause a wreck, or cause him to leave a deposit in his underwear like I had left in mine. I didn't want to waste his! But I did want to take us beyond where we'd been before so that Johnny had no excuse to stop short of my door. That doesn't mean I wanted to hurt him. Just the opposite. He said he loved me . . . almost. And I knew my heart was overflowing with the feelings I had for him. But if what we had were real, it would stand up to a little . . . preparation.

Johnny wore boxers, not briefs. I could tell by the way a snake the size of my arm grew down his leg - a long way down his leg. Tommy had usually worn briefs and things tended to get . . . compressed more than Johnny had to endure. Which was good for Johnny, if just a bit intimidating from my perspective. My panties were even tighter than Tommy's briefs, which had an interesting side effect as I had discovered when Johnny kissed me . . . and the pressure was enough for me to climax.

After several minutes of teasing, I still had not - even through the material - touched the monster that was reaching toward Johnny's knee. Then he hit a stop light and had to get on the brakes fairly hard. I guess my eyes had drifted down from the windshield again so I didn't see what was happening. When Johnny started to brake, I started to slide forward and grabbed for a handhold . . .

Yes, what I grabbed was not Johnny's thigh. It wasn't deliberate. Honest. I really intended only to tease him. But there it was, and from where my hand had been dancing, that was the closest thing I could grab.

Gloryosky, that thing was as hard as a steel crowbar. Maybe I'd been teasing a little too much.

Or maybe not.

While we sat there at the stoplight I pulled myself back into position on the seat - yes, using that - and let my lips drift near Johnny's ear again. I used a Mae West cadence and asked, "Is that an axe handle, or are you happy to see me?"

I licked his ear again just as the light changed, and giggled as I arranged myself to look out the windshield. But I didn't let go of my new-found toy.

"If I hit someone," he growled, "I'll make you pay."

"Promises, promises," I said lightly.

Through his jeans, I explored the contours of his weapon. Despite my intention to please Johnny, I couldn't help gulping at the size of the challenge I had set for myself. Yet I was fascinated, too. My own hidden tool seemed very inadequate in comparison, but it started to strain in its captivity again when I stroked Johnny's specimen.

I have to admit I was nervous when we reached my apartment. Maybe Johnny was, too, because his face was flushed and he didn't just jump out to get my door like he usually did.

"Is something wrong?" I asked coyly.

"As if you didn't know," he said, but he smiled a tight smile and humor danced in his eyes. "If I move too fast, I might break it off."

"Ohmigod, don't do that!" I said. Then I giggled and added, "That's my job."

"Uhhh," he grunted. "You are not nice."

"Nope," I said proudly. "So, do you want me to go up to my place and wait for you? Maybe slip into something less comfortable?"

"You are not nice," he said again. Johnny took a few deep breaths and then his face became serious. "Are you sure about this?"

"Oh, Johnny, more than ever," I said softly.

He smiled, a warm, gentle smile that made me feel all fluttery inside, then said, "Okay." He didn't seem to be having any trouble moving when he got out of his side of the truck, and I waited for him to get my door and help me down from the seat.

"Nothing broken, I hope," I murmured into his ear.

"Not yet," he replied softly.

Somehow, we never seemed to get untangled as we moved from the truck. His arms were around my waist, and mine around his shoulders. I tried to nibble on his ear, and he tried to distract me with a massive paw clamped on my padded derriere. I didn't bother to tell him it was padded, and just giggled and squirmed enough to make him feel that he had won that round.

When we got to the apartment he did the key thing again, just like Saturday night. And just like Saturday night, when he handed me my key I asked, "Would you like to come in?"

He nodded, and waved me in before him. Then I felt . . . confused. I didn't really know what to do. I mean, my intentions were obvious, but was it too . . . trashy just to throw myself at him?

"Would you like some coffee?" I asked.

"C'mere, woman," he ordered in a rough growl.

I did what I was told. Johnny swept me up into his arms, and it was like the first time and every time we had kissed. My ears roared and my breath stopped and my legs shook and my world started to narrow to his lips and his warm breath . . . to his arms and his massive chest . . . to the bulge between us, and to the pulse I felt as my own hidden member tried to expand beyond its home. I didn't let myself faint again, but it was only because I didn't want to miss a second of that always-new wonder.

The next thing I knew Johnny was working my jacket down my arms, and I was trying to help him without losing his lips. Somehow my arms came free and I started to pull at his shirt while he worked the buttons on my blouse. We were getting in each other's way, but it was fun and it didn't matter if we were making progress because we were too busy laughing to notice.

Johnny got to my bra about the time I got to his belt, and that changed the laughter into something higher - a celebration that was mirth plus joy plus need plus . . . . things I couldn't put into words. Things I didn't dare put into words. Yet.

When he had my bra off, Johnny started to fondle my breasts, gently, but possessively. It was wildly erotic, maybe more so because I didn't feel it directly, but only as pressure that lifted and fell in different places than my eyes told me to expect.

Angela had given me nipples that were always just a bit aroused - not quite glass-cutter hard, but never even close to flat. Johnny's thumbs moved over the turgid bumps and it was strange but I moaned with pleasure at the very idea, even if the nerves weren't really engaged.

My own hands had been busy, and his pants were about to fall to the floor when he pulled back.

"Let me get my shoes," he panted hoarsely.

I didn't, of course. I wrapped my arms around his neck while he struggled to toe off his loafers, burying his face in kisses and little tongue jabs, and tiny bites along his jaw. When he stood up again, he let his jeans fall to the floor and I had to look down. I saw the tip of his tower poking out past the bottom of his boxers and gasped again.

"Dear, sweet Lord," I said reverently.

He smirked like a schoolboy and reached for my own belt. I let him. The shapers that Angela had given me smoothed my front into one that looked good in the tightest jeans - or out of them. The compression on my hidden need was more than strong enough to keep the contours appropriate for Freya, and the eroticism of being undressed by this huge, handsome man sent fresh pulses through me, just short of another climax.

But it meant I had to take my own boots off, and that gave Johnny all the excuse he needed to try out his own distractions - pulling my hair back to 'force' me to kiss him, jabbing his tongue into my mouth with irresistible force, to be met by welcome and invitation rather than resistance. Somehow I got my boots off, and then worked my own jeans down my legs. I still wore pantyhose most of the time, in part to smooth the boundaries of my form-enforcing underthings. So as soon as my legs were exposed the shimmer of nylon made the soft lights in my apartment dance and race along the long, sleek contours.

He moved to take my pantyhose down as well, but this time I intercepted his hands and made him put them around my shoulders, freeing mine to take the last and most important step in our frantic exposure. I worked his boxers down past his shaft and let it rise rampant and proud between us.

Johnny let his hands down until they once again played with my eternally excited nipples, and I moaned again, not sure whether I was really feeling some strange equivalent of what a real woman felt, or whether my sound was a complaint because I could not.

My hands began to explore Johnny's tower from foundation to capstone, imagining what my eyes could not see without disengaging from his kisses. His hand moved down to knead at the juncture of my thighs, palming the smooth mound with enough pressure to put yet another pulse through my hidden nerves, nearly sending me over the edge.

"Sit down," I finally gasped into his panting mouth.

He pulled me back with him as he moved to my couch, but as he began to sit I held back, still caressing him with my slender fingers, in turns carefully avoiding my long nails and then scratching ever-so-lightly at different textures of smooth and rough, hard and wiry with hair. When he reached the couch, I sank down with him, only I knelt on the floor instead of in the seat.

That's when I got my first good look at his penis. It was the first time I had ever seen one from that particular perspective. It was more than impressive. It seemed to be angry. Red, and purple, and . . . . huge. Demanding . . .

. . . and compelling. I was drawn to it with an impossible, forbidden, overwhelming fascination. Almost by themselves, my hands rubbed gently over the velvet hardness, tickling at the edge of the cap and tracing out the thick veins.

"You are . . . magnificent," I panted. "Beautiful . . ."

"You are incredible," he replied. "So sensual, so full of fire and tenderness . . ."

I had to kiss it. I wanted to taste it. I wanted . . . in some way, however I could do it . . . to have it inside me. My hungry little mouth was just big enough. I stretched my lips and pushed them over the helmet, letting my tongue relish the taste of the tiny drop of nectar trembling at the tip. Pulling back, I began to wash it with my tongue, drawing circles from the delicate tip to the shaggy root. Then I took it in my mouth again, pushing further forward until my throat began to protest. I waited until the sensation was not quite so overwhelming, then pushed forward again. And then back. And then I began a slow, steady rhythm of pressure and suction.

I sensed more than heard Johnny's breath start to catch, so I pulled off and started licking it again, my massive lollypop, more salty than sweet, but with a taste I craved more with each heartbeat.

"Oh, God, Freya, what are you doing?" he moaned.

I didn't answer, of course. I couldn't, unless the warm breath I blew on his glistening length was an answer.

He pulsed up and down with a quick jab that I thought might herald the end I was trying to delay. But I had judged it correctly, despite my novice status, and I was able to resume my worship with another throat-deep plunge. I couldn't get him all the way down my throat and in fact I gagged more than once, but I kept at it, bringing him closer and closer to the brink, then backing off with a lick or a soft breath or even a teasing little nip with my teeth to keep him from crashing over the line.

"Do me, Freya," Johnny begged. "Finish it. Now."

Well, who was I to refuse a direct order? I took him back into my needy mouth, pulling my head deeper and deeper with my own suction, until he filled my throat and I trembled on the edge of reflexive rejection. I moved carefully, swirling my tongue in what little space remained within my stretched-wide mouth so wonderfully filled with his beautiful treasure.

And then he exploded. In one instant I felt him swell into an even more impossible size, and in the next he was shooting down my throat so fast and hard I was hardly granted a taste.

And when he exploded, I came in my panties for the second time that evening. Wailing my release into nothingness with no path for the sound to escape.

When I opened my eyes from my own climax, I saw Johnny sagged back against the couch, a look of satiation softening even his craggy features. I cleaned up the shrinking tower with a loving tongue wash, then - when I had every last drop - I flowed up to nestle within his arms, preening as his thick thumb played with my firm little buds.

"Wow," he finally said in a ragged whisper.

"You can say that again," I purred, then leaned up to whisper in his ear, "in, say, about 10 minutes?"

"Uhhh," Johnny grunted, but he grinned. "You are not nice, not nice and all . . . and I love it."

"Ah, it's good to be appreciated," I said with a smirk.

It didn't take ten minutes. Well, at least, not ten minutes to get started again. In fact, it was only a couple of minutes until I swung a long, smooth leg over Johnny's lap and straddled him, kissing and nibbling at his strong chin, licking the swell of his Adam's apple, breathing little promises in his ear. My sleek, nylon-clad legs and mound were rubbing on his resurrecting soldier, sliding and squeezing and wriggling until it was fully awake and demanding attention.

I seriously considered stripping off my padded shaper and . . . doing something more. But I was just too intimidated by Johnny's size to give in to that urge. I wanted to. In fact, I felt a hard pulse of interest from my hidden anomaly at the thought, and then almost lost it again when I thought of a potential solution - involving Angela, and something a little less monstrous than Johnny's tower. Or several somethings as a buildup.

"Oh, Johnny, I want you so bad," I moaned, actually pumping up and down to slide his anaconda between the padded cheeks covering my bottom. "But . . . I'll need to, um, practice a little first. On something not quite so . . . awesome."

That almost sent him over the edge again himself. He grunted and I could feel him start to swell.

"Oops," I said, laughing. "Wait!"

I quickly slid back down between his legs and lunged for the pulsing tip of his penis with my hungry lips. I caught it quickly, and let my mouth slide down as my hands squeezed the base. I was just in time. And I could appreciate it more since I was not, this time, busy spurting my own equivalent into my panties. That had been more than a little distracting the time before.

I decided the taste was . . . interesting. The texture was a bit of a problem for me, but the taste wasn't bad at all. It had a little salt, a little musk, a little tartness from somewhere - an intriguing mix of flavors that I didn't really expect.

"Wow," Johnny repeated, this time with a smirk. I waited until he was looking at me, then swallowed. That caused his softened monster to perk up again with a sharp jab, but it dropped back into a rest position after that single response.

He sagged against the cushions, looking almost as limp as his well-used soldier. I giggled at his satisfied grin and stood up. "Don't go away," I said. "I'll be back in a few minutes."

I used the time to change into something more comfortable. And to brush my teeth. The taste lingered, and while I was still intrigued, I didn't think Johnny really wanted to share. It didn't take long to strip out of my shapers, leaving only the gaff that hid any discordant contours. I put on a pastel blue nightgown with an empire waist to celebrate the curves that Angela had glued on me and hide the ones that were no longer crushed into a tiny hourglass. Actually, with all the time I'd spent wearing my corset, I had a fairly narrow waist even out of it. The only real problem was that my hips still showed hollows where a woman's should be rounded.

The nightgown wasn't really sheer, but it pretended to be, with over and under layers that together kept anything from actually showing even though each was very thin. A filmy peignoir and some skyscraper mules completed the outfit, but not my change. I also redid my face and in particular my lips where - for some reason - my lipstick had almost completely disappeared. Finally I pulled my hair back into a bouncy ponytail to complete the sexy innocence look.

Johnny had gotten dressed too, and was nervously standing near the window of my apartment, waiting to see what my reaction would be. I felt that was plenty of excuse and I essentially threw myself into his arms, smothering his face with - fresh-tasting - kisses.

"Oh, God, Johnny, that was so wonderful! Thank you, thank you."

"I, um . . . really?" he asked.

"Oh, yeah," I said. "I've wanted to do that for so long . . ." Then I giggled and continued, "At least, oh, two days."

"I guess I was thinking it was kinda . . . one-sided," he said.

"Not entirely," I said, blushing. "I came again, too."

"Really?" he said, a grin replacing the frown that had greeted me when I came back from the bedroom.

"Um hmm," I said, biting my lower lip demurely and looking at him through my long, feathery lashes. Then I danced around the room, making my nightgown swirl up about my legs. "The thought that I could excite you that much made me feel so wonderfully feminine. It was glorious!"

"You were glorious," he said. "You are just amazing. Every time I think I'm starting to understand you, you do something else that pegs my amazed meter all over again."

"Good," I smirked. "A girl's got to keep her man from taking her for granted."

"Oh, I would never do that," he promised fervently. Then he frowned again. "But . . . would it be . . . would it make you unhappy if I went home tonight? I, um, didn't plan on staying out, and I really need to get home. I'm expecting a delivery."

"Oh, sure," I said, pouting. "Love me and leave me, just like yesterday's newspaper."

"No, not at all," he protested. "I'll stay if you want."

"I want," I said, then I giggled and added, "but I also understand. Believe it or not, I didn't think we'd come back here tonight, either. And . . ."

"Yes?" he prompted.

"Well, I completely forgot that I asked Angela to come by in the morning to help me with my hair and makeup for the photos tomorrow. I don't suppose it would be a good idea for her to come in and find us . . .y'know."

"Oh, no, I guess not."

"Unless you want to," I offered, slithering into his arms and purring. "I bet she'd be interested."

I was close enough to him to feel his response, so I knew he liked the idea. Not that I was surprised. Angela was gorgeous and I expect making love to two beautiful women at the same time is as close to a universal men's fantasy as there is.

"But not tomorrow," I said, reaching up to nibble at his chin. "Tonight is all about you and me. And tomorrow is . . . well, at least it will start out as all about business, so I'd have to kick you out of my bed early anyway."

"Um, okay," he said, dazedly. Oh, he was so much fun to tease.

"On the other hand, it's still early . . ," I offered.

"Damn," he said, "you are just . . . incredible. Truly, truly beyond belief."

Then he grinned at me and said, "But I think I'm going to have to teach you not to take me for granted, either. Just to show you that I'm not totally under your spell, I think I'll crawl back out to my truck and go home."

"Oh, poo," I said, but broke my pout with a giggle.

Johnny broke my giggle with a kiss, and only the fact I'd already taken off my corset kept me from passing out yet again. Even then, I was so lightheaded when he finished ravishing my lips that he had to hold me steady for a long, delicious moment.

"I'm going home, now," he said, not really moving to the door.

"Oh, um, what?" I asked.

"I said I'm going home, now."

"Oh . . . okay, I guess," I said blinking and trying to focus.

He laughed and leaned me up against the wall near the door. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Um hmmm . . ," I murmured, smiling softly.

Johnny smirked at my confusion and opened the door. I followed him to the doorway, and blew him a kiss as he moved down the corridor. As soon as the door was closed, I was on the phone to Angela.

"Ohmigod," I said. "He came back."



"To your apartment?"


"And did you . . . ?"

"Yes. Twice."

"Ohmigod," she said. "Did you enjoy it?"

"Oh, yes," I sighed happily. "More than I could ever say."

"So, give me the details!"

"Well, first I invited him out to dinner . . ," I began.

Chapter 14 - "Tuesday's Child Is Full of Grace"

The first thing Angela did after I let her into my apartment on Tuesday morning was slap me.

She slapped me on the arm, and laughed when she did it, but then she shook her own long-nailed finger at me. "I can't believe you told Little John that I'd do a threesome with him!"

"Why not? Don't you want to?"

"Of course I do, ditz! But I don't want him thinking I'm as trashy as you are."

"Why not? Aren't you?" I asked, giggling.

"Of course I am, ditz!" she said, laughing. "But I don't want him thinking I am. What if he tells Tony?"

"Gee, would that mean . . . a foursome? Your brother does look mighty tasty."

"Eeeuw. Okay, you win. I'm not going any further down that path."

Then she looked thoughtful for a moment. "Do you really think . . . I mean, are you really attracted to Tony?"

"Yes, a little," I admitted. "I told him so, too."

"You did?"

"Yes. He's one of the reasons I quit being in such a funk over this whole thing. I realized when I thought about Tony - who isn't really all that different from Tommy in things like, how tall he is and all - that if Tony could be attractive to an attractive woman, then so could Tommy. That really opened my eyes. It meant I could be Freya because I wanted to, not because I was running away from being Tommy. When I realized that, my conscience quit getting in the way of my happiness."

"Oh, cool. I'm really happy for you."

"Thanks. So, what did you have in mind for today?"

At her prior instructions, I had showered and squeezed my body into my wonderfully cruel body shapers. But I had left my hair wet, only combing out the worst of the tangles. And I hadn't put on any makeup. I felt strangely naked with my face bare. That sense of exposure wasn't helped by my boobs jiggling inside my robe with unaccustomed freedom.

"Okay, we have two choices. We can go 'office slut', and sex you up until nobody gets any work done today."

"Hmm, sounds interesting, but not with some of those guys. What's option two?"

"That's what I figured," she agreed. "But . . . you do tend to send out a lot of too-hot-for-my-panties vibes. And this is the best excuse you'll ever have to let it all out."

"I do not!" I said. Then I spoiled it by giggling. "Well, except when Johnny and I are alone."

"You liar," Angela said, smirking. "You can't walk down the street in your nosebleed heels and swingy hair without sending out a major sex-on-the-hoof message. And the way you wave those girls around . . ."

"Hey," I protested. "I learned that from you!"

"What's your point?" she asked innocently, then giggled. "Okay, so maybe I'm not the one to talk, though I think you're better at it than I am - or worse. Whatever. Anyway, for today I think we'll do girl-next-door . . . with a little added spice."

"Oooh, I like it already," I said.

The first part of that, which I hadn't expected, was that I didn't wear a skirt. Angela said that a denim mini was a little too obvious, and a nice skirt and sweater outfit or dress wasn't really appropriate for that sort of office. So she had me put on some gray slacks - I already had my magic dove-gray boots to go with them - and I have to admit they did make my legs look wonderfully long.

The added spice was just wicked, though. She had brought along a half-cup bra that left my permanently proud nipples exposed. Then she added a slightly-too-tight powder blue turtleneck in a soft, fluffy angora knit. It flowed over my curves like water, yet was just thick enough to make my nipples play peekaboo. You couldn't tell for sure if that's what you were seeing, or whether it was just a slightly uneven bit of sweater fluff.

"If I wore that sweater with that bra," Angela explained, "my nipples would be going crazy after 30 seconds - and way too big to hide even in that sweater. But you can get away with it."

"Oooh, yeah, I never would have thought about that," I said.

"That's because you're so girly you never even think that there might be things that you can do that other girls can't."

"Thanks, I think," I said.

Angela looked thoughtful for a moment, then asked, "Does it bother you when I, y'know, point out ways that you're not . . . physically a girl? We can do something else."

"Not really," I smiled. "I am what I am, and that's all that I am." Then I sighed and said, "Though it would be nice if my boobs were real. I'd like . . . a better tingle when we mingle."

Angela smiled and lifted an eyebrow in question.

"No," I said, answering what she hadn't quite asked. "No surgery, no drugs. At least, not now.

She looked relieved and pointed me toward the desk that I had turned into a vanity. The first thing she did was roll my hair onto the biggest rollers I'd even seen. They were the size of soup cans, I think. When my hair was tight to my head and out of the way, she started in on my makeup. That was different, too. I normally worried about looking too pale. I had learned to be subtle - particularly at work - but I usually tried to add shades of color to my face. Angela seemed to do the opposite. She used a light gray eyeliner over pinks and pale golds and ivories that just missed being white. Several of the 'colors' were actually lighter than my natural skin tones. Only my lashes were dark, and even the mascara was a dark blue instead of something pure black. It brought out interesting tones from the darker fringes of my pale irises. She finished it off with a pale pink lipstick and a double coating of gloss.

"Here," she said, handing me the gloss wand. "I want you to put more on at least once an hour, all day long."

"Really?" I said. "The lipstick you gave me usually lasts all day." Then I blushed because I remembered something I had done to take it all off, and rather quickly.

"Naughty, naughty," Angela said, laughing. "I know what you're thinking about."

"Well, you would too, " I said smugly. "Ohmigod, Anglea, he was . . . awesome."

"Don't tease me," she grumped, but her eyes twinkled.

"ANYway," she continued, "this is a brighter gloss, and I want you to keep your lips super shiny."

"Okay," I said. "I'll work on it."

Then she started blowing warm air through the hamster run circling my head. It still took a while - I had a lot of hair, thanks to her extensions - but eventually she declared herself satisfied, and started taking it down.

She did something I didn't quite understand. In fact, I still don't. It's one of those things that make the difference between a skill, which I had actually developed after a week of seemingly endless practice on all those pale tresses, and an artist, which Angela clearly was. It looked like my hair was pulled back tightly into a neat, perky ponytail. Yet it also had lots of soft volume around my face, flowing down almost over one eye in another peekaboo trick before being captured in a barrette over my right ear. And the ponytail itself was a thick tumble of waves that looked like they were bouncing even when I wasn't moving at all. I'd done a ponytail several times, but this was so much softer, yet still quite neat with not a hair out of place.

"Oh, Angela, that's beautiful," I said, turning my head back and forth in the mirror.

"Your welcome, my sparking ice princess," she said. "Those cool colors will make you look like a snow queen. Just the right contrast to all those hot-and-bothered horndogs in the office. I think it will work."

"Absolutely," I said. "You're a genius."

"Yes, I am," she said smugly, then dissolved into giggles.

Since my car was still at the office, I had Angela drive me over. When we arrived, there were several extra cars in the lot.

"Oh, hell, it's going to be one of those days," I sighed.

Angela laughed. "Don't give me that, girl. You're going to love being the center of attention."

"Moi?" I asked, wide-eyed and innocent.

She punched my arm and shoved me out of her car. The smile that lingered from her good-natured teasing made for a nice entrance into the office. Well, the bright, cheery makeup and girl-next-door-with-spice outfit she had crafted didn't hurt, either. The classic sign of that was when the obvious photographer dropped a flood light he was carrying. The bulb shattered into twelve zillion pieces, which was better than a drum roll to accent my arrival. At least it wasn't his camera.

Mike Lewis was there, which I hadn't expected but should have. The rest of the guys were already there, too. And I wasn't even late! Not very, anyway.

"Wow," Mike said with a welcoming smile. "You get better looking every time I see you."

"Flatterer," I said, but I preened a bit at the praise.

"Really," he confirmed, offering me a hand shake, but not resisting at all when I reached out with an offer of an embrace. While we were close enough that it seemed like a private conversation - even though others could hear - he said, "I'm serious. When we first met, I had the impression of a coltish girl, beautiful, but not entirely sure of herself. Now you look like a graceful, self-confident woman - mature without in any way seeming to have aged. It suits you."

Then he added a whisper for my ears only. "Little John is a lucky man."

"I hope he thinks so," I said, glancing his way. It wasn't an empty worry. Did he still respect me, now that it was morning? Did he still want me?

"If he doesn't, let me know," Mike ordered with a grin. "I'll fire him for being too stupid to breathe on his own."

"Oh, you," I said with a tinkly little laugh, giving him the soft girl punch that was all my nails allowed.

The day actually went fairly smoothly. It was a lot of posed settings but the office actually had work to do during the day as well. They started out with me arranging a new bouquet of flowers on my desk - several of them, actually. It seemed that a lot of my friends had brought me flowers that day. I even got interrupted with a couple of calls for me by name (at least, one of my names) and I took those for the camera. Thankfully they were fairly quick. I did manage to get in a little teasing on Johnny, because they wanted me to pose as though we were considering a problem together. I tossed my head around enough to get my ponytail to tickle his nose a few times. By the third one, everyone knew I was playing and we all had a good laugh. Or a sigh, in Rick Timmonds case. I was going to have to talk to him one of these days.

A little before noon Mike Lewis did the formal presentation of my check, then handed me the receipt that said it had been credited - minus taxes, of course - to my account. He took back the cardboard check. Once the photographer was done, he invited us all out to lunch, minus poor Rick Timmonds who had the noon duty, and Sam Johnson who was out - as usual - on a call. Mike Lewis left them a voucher for a dinner on the company, but that was a disappointing alternative.

Not surprisingly, I ended up in Mike's car. But he was gracious enough to let Johnny ride along as well. I wondered what Tony and Joe Heller talked about in their car. It was funny to watch the two guys with me puff their chests and grunt at each other like a couple of jungle gorillas. They were just a bit more sophisticated than gorillas, but the testosterone was flowing and the basic behavior had started about the time mammals started reproducing sexually. I sat back and let them argue about whether football or hockey were a tougher sport - apparently Mike had played hockey for a time - pretending to ignore them both.

My own thoughts needed to be private right then anyway. Seeing Mike had brought back some very special memories. The most intense kisses I had ever shared had been with Johnny . . . but Mike was and would forever be my first. Kiss as a woman, that is. I remembered it, and if my little nips had been real, they'd have been shouting that the memory was fascinating. I knew he'd have accepted if I had invited him in that night . . . and I'd have been lying to myself if I didn't admit a part of me regretted that I hadn't.

Johnny was a wonderful man, and I was deliriously happy that we were together. But I could see the attraction for a sophisticated, successful man with enough social power to overshadow Johnny's physical bulk. It was the dance that separated mankind from all the other animals. A lioness or a cow picks the biggest, strongest male who can father big, strong offspring to carry on her genes, as well as his own. But a human female is genetically disposed to pick a man who will not only father healthy children, but stay around to help her provide for them. In the car were the biggest, strongest man I knew . . and the richest, most successful man I knew. And a part of me was attracted to both.

*Of course,** I laughed to myself, *that presumes that Mike would hang around to use that success to provide for our children.*

And then my laughter went away when it came crashing back in on me - again - that I wasn't likely to have any children. Ever. And certainly not as the bearer of a child fathered by either Mike or Johnny. I sighed, and tried to think of other things. In fact, I hadn't even let myself think about how things would have been if I had actually been born as a woman. And that was not the time to start. I knew that part of the reason I wouldn't consider any long-term plans, particularly anything involving drugs or surgery, was that I would rather not even start down that path if I couldn't travel it fully. And I couldn't. Ever. No matter how much I might want . . .

*Stop!* I ordered myself. *Do not go there.*

Thankfully, we arrived at the restaurant about then and the swirl of activity connected with getting seated kept me from being too introspective.

"We should have invited Angela along," I murmured to Tony as we jockeyed for seats. "Four to one odds is a bit awkward."

"Oh, don't worry about it," he suggested. "Enjoy the limelight when you can. I'm looking forward to the chest beating between those two."

"You should have seen it on the way over," I whispered, giggling.

Lunch was fun, despite the undercurrent of tension between the two would-be alpha males at the table. Actually, this was a side of Johnny that I had seldom seen before. He was generally so meek and mild-mannered - always careful not to use his size to intimidate someone - that I might have figured he was a superhero on the side if there were any such people. Yet this time he was puffed up and quite willing to demonstrate a strength of personality to go with his physical strength. I figured Mike was used to dominating any group he was in, so that might not have been as pointed at me . . .except the way he looked at me all through lunch made it clear where his mind was.

I was tremendously flattered of course, because I was the one they were trying to impress. And I was impressed. I was also thrilled to the depth of my heart that Johnny was still contending for me. Last night, when he left, I was floating on a sea of wonderful emotions and the idea that he might think less of me today never entered my mind. And the morning had been so busy with Angela . . .

*Angela! I need to talk with Johnny about Angela. She can provide things that I can't do for him. And . . . ohmigod . . . maybe I should talk with Angela about . . . preparing myself for Johnny. He's awesomely big, but she seemed to think that the, um, other option to please him might actually be something that could work.*

I squirmed in my seat at the thought, but fascination warred with fear and I knew I'd never be satisfied if I didn't at least try. That thought certainly kept me distracted throughout the rest of our little business lunch, and it was not that long before we were back at work anyway.

And then, suddenly, it was over. Mike waved good-bye and the rest of us were standing around looking at each other.

"Well, you got your money," Joe Heller said.

"Yes," I agreed. "Thanks to all of you."

There were the typical shrugs, then another awkward silence. Finally Joe spoke again. "So, are you . . . is Tommy ever coming back?"

"I don't know," I said quietly. "Is that a problem?"

He shrugged. "Yes, a bit. I'm sorry, because I can see that you're happy as Freya and I truly do want you to be happy. But I'm still very uncomfortable about the whole thing."

"What about the rest of you?" I asked.

"I like Freya," Rick Timmonds said directly. "Sorry on the other side if it makes you feel bad about the way you were - or may be again in the future - but I like Freya better than Tommy."

"Thank you, Rick, that's sweet," I said, then looked at the others.

Tony spoke up next. "I'm happy if you're happy," he said. "I guess I had a part in starting you down that path, and if it's working for you, then I'm not about to complain."

"Thanks," I said.

Johnny waited until Joe had another chance to say something if he wanted to, but when the older man remained silent his deep voice rumbled out. "I think that Freya has kept the best parts of Tommy - and there are a lot of things in Tommy that I admire - and added qualities that are very special. I hope that Freya feels comfortable staying around for a long time."

I nodded to him, then looked back at Joe again. "I guess it's up to you, Joe."

"What, like I have a veto or something?"

"In a way," I said. "I'm the one who has changed things. If my being Freya is disruptive, I won't stay."

"Meaning Tommy will come back?" he asked.

"No," I said firmly. "At least, not for as far as I can see in front of me."

I walked over to lean a (padded) hip against a table in an attempt to make the discussion less formal. "Look, guys, I never expected how this would turn out, but I'm not going back to the old Tommy. I'm not going to stop dressing as Freya - to stop being Freya. If that's a problem for any of you, then I'll leave."

"Oh, no," Rick said. He frowned at Joe and looked like he was going to say something.

"No, Rick," I interrupted him before he began. "Thanks, but Joe is right. At least, he's right in being honest about his feelings, and he's right that what I'm doing is what's out of the ordinary. Some people - honest, compassionate people who worry about a slippery slope away from traditional, well-proven moral codes - will even consider it perverse or just flat wrong. And I understand that. Frankly, a few weeks ago I might have been one of them. So I don't want any of you to get down on Joe because he's been honest. Okay?"

I held Rick's eyes until he dropped his and nodded. Johnny looked worried, but he nodded, too. Tony just shrugged, but it was clear he was not going to push on anyone, Joe or me either one.

"Wow," Joe said quietly. "Y'know, I can't imagine Tommy sitting there so comfortable in who he was that he could face down the lot of us and force us to be honest about this."

"Like I said," Johnny rumbled, "Freya keeps the best parts of Tommy, and adds very special qualities. Not all of those are related to long hair and makeup."

"I see what you mean," Joe said. He walked over and took his own seat, swiveling it to look at me. "Look, Freya, I appreciate what you said, but I also know it runs both ways. I need to look at my own feelings and see how much of it is baggage because of things I grew up with, and how much I honestly believe is still true. But in the meantime, please don't leave."

"Okay," I said, smiling, and sighing as much as my crushed little waist would allow.

Joe looked uncomfortable again, glancing sideways at Rick and at Johnny. "But, could you do me a favor? Could you not . . . um . . . flirt too much here at work? I'm not sure I'm ready for that, yet."

"Deal," I said. "I've got a lot to learn about this girl thing, and I'll make mistakes along the way. But if I stay in this office at all, we need to be professionals."

"Agreed?" I asked the rest of the guys, looking around.

"Of course," Tony said for all of them. Not that there was really any choice.

It wasn't until later that I thought about how long it had been without a call to handle, particularly for a Tuesday. We always had a bit of time during the day to surf the net or do the geek thing and read software manuals. But it was unusual for none of us to have a call for what had probably been half an hour or so. It was a good thing, because it let us get that heavy discussion out of the way. At least, mostly. With perfect timing, just as we thought we had things settled, Sam Johnson came bustling in.

"What's goin' on?" he asked. It was so comic that we all just started hooting with laughter, so much so that I had to concentrate really hard not to let my eyes fill with tears and ruin Angela's magic makeup job.

Joe, to his credit, motioned Sam into his cube and they started a low-voiced conversation. It was clear from a small smile Joe sent my way that he was not going to undermine the agreement we had reached by making his participation seem grudging or forced. I concentrated on things in my cube while they talked, but I couldn't help glancing that way and seeing their smiles - with a few of the wink, nudge things that guys do when talking about a pretty girl.

I also found myself looking at Johnny several times. He had been wonderful in defending me, and it thrilled my heart to think that what we had shared had made us closer. It could have been a cataclysmic mistake. A "Friday the 13th, Part 2" kind of error that made playing around with voices to relieve the burden seem trivial in comparison. But Johnny still hadn't spoken to me directly - or at least, not outside professional interaction in front of the photographer and Mike Lewis.

Finally, I just had to clear things up. I suppose it was yet another feminine response, needing to address relationship issues when the guy was happy just to let things drift. But it was real for me, now. I needed to know where we stood.

"Johnny?" I said quietly, rolling my chair into his cube. Neither of us were on a call, but the other guys seemed busy enough that we could talk for a moment.

"Yes?" he answered, smiling easily but that was Johnny. He always had an easy, low-energy smile.

"What about us?" I asked.


"Yeah, doof . . . you and me. Where do we go from here?"

"I, um, guess I don't know," he said. "Is there something wrong?"

"What's wrong is not knowing where we're going from here," I answered, a bit testy.

"I don't understand," he said. "You're the one who said she just wanted to, y'know, be Freya. No long term commitments or anything."

"That's different," I said. "That's, like, long-term. Where are we going right now?"

"I don't know," he repeated. "What do you want me to say?"

"I want you to say . . ," I started, then ran down. "If you don't know, then I can't tell you."

"Oh, god, that is so typical," he said. "Why do women always do that?"

"Why are men always so stupid?" I countered.

Johnny's heavy brow creased in a frown, then he visibly took a deep breath and calmed himself.

"Look, Freya, I don't know what you want. But last night was the most fantastic night of my life. I want to spend more time with you. If I had my way, we'd duck out of work right now and go somewhere private. And yes, that includes a physical relationship, if you want to share yourself with me. Other than that . . . I guess we'll just have to see. Is that okay?"

"Oh, Johnny," I said, sighing with relief. "It's perfect."

"But not tonight," I said, smiling. "I have to meet with Angela tonight."

His brow twisted into another frown, but then he just sighed again.

"Women," he muttered under his breath. "Can't live without 'em, but it should be legal so spank their cute little bottoms."

"Ooh, hold that thought, big boy," I purred, then I giggled as I slid back to my own cube.

Chapter 15 - "The Night Before a New Day"

I was proud of myself for not doing something - for once. What I did not do was call Angela the minute I was in my car headed away from the office. I actually went shopping again, and picked up some fresh ingredients for a little chicken-and-pasta dish (light on the pasta) that I wanted to try. I had never really done much with wine-based sauces, but now that Angela had awakened in me a new appreciation for wine, I wanted to experiment a little.

At least, that was the plan. As I was standing in line for the checkout, I realized I didn't have any identification as Freya. The wine I intended to try was going to get me carded, and my driver's license was for Thomas F. Lincoln: Male.

*Damn. I forgot all about that,* I thought. *And getting some wine is the least of my worries on that.*

Actually, faking an ID was fairly easy. I had done it several times for friends in college. I wasn't enough of a hacker to get into the Texas Department of Public Safety database, but grocery stores in the areas that allowed wine sales didn't actually run licenses through the database, they just looked at them.

Which didn't actually help in the current situation. I certainly couldn't fake an ID while standing in line. So much for my intention not to call Angela right away.


"Hi, Angela, it's me."

"Hi, 'me.' What's going on?"

"What are you doing for dinner?"

"Um, eating you . . I mean, eating with you?" she asked, giggling. Her first offer was not, of course, a slip of the tongue.

"You are ssoo bad," I sighed, but I had to giggle, too.

"And your point is?"

"My point is," I said, "that I need you to pick up something for me, and bring it by so that I can fix us dinner."

"What do you need?"

"A bottle of wine, actually," I said. "My ID is . . . a problem."

"Oh, I forgot all about that," she said.

"Me, too," I agreed. "I was standing in line to get some things, including a nice Riesling that I wanted to try. But . . ."

"So, you want me to get some wine and bring it over? How romantic."

"Well," I whispered into the phone, "you are the first person who ever seduced Freya."

"Seduced you?" she laughed. "I thought it was the other way around."

"Whatever," I said lightly. "So . . ?"

"On my way," she said brightly. "Where are you?"

We worked out the details, and then we worked on the meal. It turned out that there was actually one 'girly' skill that Angela needed to improve. Her cooking consisted mostly of frying and microwaving, and she didn't eat much fried food since she had lost all the weight. So I showed her a few tricks, and we experimented with the wine sauce. And then we experimented some more. One of the little tips I'd picked up is that you should never cook with a wine you wouldn't drink. After all if it doesn't taste good enough to drink, then how can it make something else taste better?

It was a good thing Angela bought more than one bottle.

Finally, we were sitting in candlelight sipping a final glass (*Yeah, right.*) of wine after we had eaten all we wanted. Angela was snuggled most comfortably under my arm as we shared a companionable silence for a while.

Not a very long while. Angela twisted gently in my arms and lifted her lips to mine. "Tell me again," she whispered huskily, "what you did with John."

I twitched, then giggled as a blush fired my cheeks. That was what I had been thinking about, even with a gorgeous, sensual woman in my arms.

"Gotcha," she said. "But I don't mind. He is worth spending a little fantasy time on - if you like them tall, dark, handsome, and big . . . allll over."

"Oh, god, I just can't stop thinking about him," I admitted.

"Good," she said. "So, what were you thinking?"

I blushed even more fiercely than before, which set off Angela's ever-ready giggle, but she tweaked my (unfortunately) insensitive nipple and licked at my throat. "Give, or I'll start something."

"Promises, promises," I said, but I was a bit distracted. She used that distraction as an excuse to start playing with her long nails on the inside of my thigh.

"Stop that," I ordered.

"Make me," she countered.

So I started a wrestling match, which didn't really help because by the time we were done I was straddling her lap and kissing her while I held her hands. Which is what I had been thinking about - only the lap I was thinking about had an extra accessory.

"Have you ever done anything . . . anal?" I asked in a whisper when we paused for air.

Angela giggled, then asked pontifically, "You mean, the Freudian anal-fixation, obsessive attention to detail sort of thing?"

I leaned down and nipped at the sharp bud showing through her blouse.

"I'll do it harder if you keep teasing," I threatened.

"Ooh, I like that," she said, not intimidated at all by my threat. But her eyes met mine and she nodded. "A few times."

It wasn't really a non sequitur. I asked a further question with a lift of thin little brow.

"It can hurt," she admitted, "but there is something so . . . primal about it, that it can be . . . unbelievable."

I nodded, starting to squirm on her lap like I had done with Johnny.

"If he's really as big as you say," she cautioned, "I think it will hurt, no matter how bad you want it."

"Really?" I sighed.

"But, sometimes that's okay," she said. "I mean, I'm not into pain, but the sense of being so filled was . . . awesome. It made the pain . . . okay, somehow. Like it added to the pleasure."

"Really?" I asked again, more hopeful. With a pulse inside my panties that proved the idea was definitely interesting. Angela couldn't feel that pulse, of course. There were way too many layers between us, but she could see the interest in my eyes.

"So, when are you going to do him?" she asked.

"I don't know," I sighed. "Today, he said he still wants me, but, ohmigod, Angela, he is so big!"

I leaned down to kiss her and then sat back, releasing her arms. "And . . . he's never seen me without my padded butt, except when I wore a nightgown that didn't show my real shape. He might be . . . disappointed.

"Not after I get through with you," she said. "D'you think they only make glue-on boobs?"


"Sure," she said. "I can fix you up so that you have a great shape, and it will look as real as your boobs."

"Oh, god, that would be so awesome," I sighed. "I guess I'm sorta getting used to the corset, but the damn girdle is a pain in the . . . well, you know."

Angela giggled and nodded. "The fanny pads aren't quite as good as fake boobs because your hips have muscles under the skin, but they're good enough you don't have to worry about ruining the mood . . . at least, not if you time it right."

She pushed to make me move over, and started thinking out loud. "Okay, so I figure we'll get you a nice, pastel blue, satin brocade corset with half cups. That way, you won't have to take it off and you'll look all sweet and innocent as you have your wicked way with him."

"Ooh, sounds yummy," I agreed.

"I guess the real question," she asked seriously, "is whether you want to keep, um, things hidden, or . . .?"

"Hidden," I said firmly, then giggled. "Besides, that seemed to work okay last night."

"Twice, as I recall you said," Angela said, tapping her nails on my hidden interest.

Now that she had a plan, Angela was energized to get moving on it. After a long, sweet kiss, she gathered up her things and swirled away, a curvy tornado of action. Her assurances that I would love what she got for me weren't entirely comforting, but the thought of . . . going further with Johnny was distracting enough that I couldn't seem to find a reason to worry.

After she left, I did what I seemed to be doing a lot lately. I cleaned up the apartment, beginning with the bathroom. I changed clothes first, of course, and even took off my body shapers. Wearing old sweats and sneakers that looked huge didn't change the image in the mirror enough to matter. I looked like a girl wearing her boyfriend's clothes.

Which was fine with me.

After I finished getting the place neat and tidy, I went online and ordered some decorative things to make my apartment look nicer as well as cleaner. That led to another set of purchases, ones that were promised to be delivered in 'plain, brown packages.' Angela was working on the clothes - or more specifically, the underclothes - I would wear when I seduced Johnny, but that wasn't the only preparation I would need. The sizes were intimidating, but the goal was already defined. I still winced at the thought, but the whole point of getting these things was to get past the 'wince' point so that Johnny would believe it was as wonderful as I wanted it to be - as I wanted him to think it would be.

There were a few other things as well, because if nothing else, I was going to be clean when we 'did it.' That made my stomach a bit queasy, but I didn't see it as optional either.

*Oh, Johnny, I sure hope this is worth it,* I sighed.

The last thing I did before Moondance and I went to bed was set up some fake ID. Actually, this time nearly all the information was right. Just a little F where an M used to be, and a couple of extra letters on my name. No big deal, right?

It was back to jeans (nice and tight . . . or at least, good and tight) and a blouse on Wednesday when I went to work. Two packages came for me about noon. I was getting more than a little gunshy about packages at work, but I held my breath and opened the smaller one anyway. In it were an enormous number of photos; a full set, as near as I could tell, of all those taken as part of winning that stupid award.

The second package only had two photos, but both were mounted. The one of Mike handing me the check was in a regular little frame, obviously intended to be hung somewhere in my cube. The other was done up in a much nicer frame, with a mat and glass and even though the basic image was still 8 x 10, it ended up being about the size of my desktop, or at least it looked that big. The image was one of the glamour shot poses, and it just didn't seem possible that the portrait subject was me.

"Wow," Tony said, looking over my shoulder.

"Damn, Freya, you are so pretty," Rick sighed. He started to look through the other photos from the first envelope, and found the one where Johnny had kissed me . . . or actually, from the way I was stretching up on my toes to reach him, it was more like I was kissing him. The others from our date were in there, too, and pretty soon they had them all spread out.

"Wow, again," Tony said. He looked at Johnny, who blushed enough it showed even on his rugged face. Tony looked like he was going to say something further, but he just shrugged. Rick Timmonds opened his mouth and clearly intended to say something that from the frown on his features was likely to be unpleasant. Tony grabbed his arm and said, "C'mon, Rick, let me take you out to lunch."

"What?" Rick said. "But . . ."

"C'mon," Tony said again, yanking on his arm.

Joe Heller hadn't come over to see the photos. I think he knew they would make him uncomfortable. Tony gathered him up on their way out, and it wasn't until they were gone that I realized it had been Joe's turn to take the lunchtime shift, along with me. I wasn't going to complain, though.

Johnny hadn't really said anything. As the others walked out, he came over to look at the pictures himself, and sighed. "Any regrets?"

"No, not really," I said. "None for what we've done. I guess I wish I'd have . . . I don't know . . . worked all this out before I got started. It's just been so many things, so fast . . ."

"I know," he said gently. He took me into his arms and just held me. Of course, that set off the waterworks again. I sobbed into his massive chest for I don't know how long. But, like a lot of good cries, it helped. When I finally ran down, I was actually laughing just a little at being so silly. Laughing and crying at the same time always seemed like some silly fiction thing, until it happened to me for real.

"Oh, god," I moaned. "I must look . . ."

" . . . Absolutely beautiful," Johnny interrupted me.

I smiled at his flattery, but I was already reaching for my purse and a mirror. It actually wasn't that bad. Angela had selected waterproof mascara and most of the other things were equally durable. I ducked into the little bathroom for emergency repairs, which only took a few minutes.

When I came out, Johnny had found a place to put the big portrait up on a set of cabinets that you could see from anywhere in the office.

"Thank you, Johnny. That's sweet," I said. "But I don't think the other guys . . . "

"Wanna bet?" he asked, interrupting me again. "I'll bet you . . . oh, another night at Silver Fox that no one complains about having your portrait there."

"That's because they're all afraid of you, you big ox," I said, but I laughed.

"So?" he said, grinning that crooked little grin. "You use what you've got to work with, and I use what I've got to work with."

"Oh, you do, do you?" I said, smirking and looking deliberately at 'what he had to work with.'

"Naughty, naughty," he said. "I told you that if you keep that up, you'll get spanked."

"Naughty boy," I said, waving a finger at him like a schoolmarm. "You shouldn't make threats if you don't intend to back them up."

"Who said I don't?"

"Ooh, you say the most interesting things," I purred. Then I sighed, "Oh, Johnny, it's too bad I promised Joe I wouldn't flirt at work."

"Too late," he said wryly.

I blushed, then shrugged - which, as I 'm sure he would point out, was a flirtation.

Johnny rested a hip on a creaking desk and said, "So, Gorgeous, what are you doing after work?"

"What did you have in mind?" I asked, batting my eyes with wide innocence . . . and dodging in case a lightning bolt struck me.

Before he could reply, I shook my head. "Sorry, Johnny, but I have to pick up some things." Then I let my voice go husky. "But I'll make it up to you."

He winced, and grunted a bit. "God, woman, you are just . . . too hot for words. That tone of voice would make you an awful lot of money - on a different kind of phone service. I know it figures in my dreams."

"Just my voice?" I asked.

"No," Johnny answered bluntly. His eyes roamed over my body and his appreciation was obvious. He was actually wonderful at keeping eye contact, speaking to me instead of my boobs. But every now and then - and all the more special because it so clearly was deliberate and not just a reflex - he made it clear he was happy with the whole package. Like Angela had once said, the best attention is the right combination of lust and respect.

"I'll make you a deal," I offered, walking over to sit next to him. "Give me until this weekend, and I'll make you that dinner I promised."

"Wait 'til the weekend?" he whined. Well, it was kind of like a whine. In his voice, it sounded a bit more like gears clashing in a heavy duty truck transmission. But his lopsided grin was so charming that I almost relented.

"Mmmm hmmm," I murmured, avoiding his eyes because I wanted him so badly. My own hidden need was making my panties so tight I couldn't hardly breathe. After a moment, I managed to stand up again. First, I looked out the door. No one was coming. So then I leaned over to give him a quick kiss.

He never touched me, except with his lips and he let me control that. But I nearly passed out anyway. Just the most gentle, tender brush of his lips on mine was enough to make my heart rattle out of control. I realized I was panting and starting to get dizzy, but all he did was meet the pressure of my lips with his own, my warmth with his warmth, my rapid breaths with his slow surge. It was so beautiful I felt my eyes tear up again, but I pulled back before I lost control completely.

"Oh, God, Johnny, I do want you so much."

His own eyes opened with gratifying slowness, and he took a very deep, very slow breath. "Now I will make a show of not letting you take me for granted by declaring that you set the rules, so you have to live by them. That you can't just twist me around your little finger. Not a bit. You have been officially informed."

He stood up and moved toward the door. "In what is, of course, an unrelated development, I'm going to go out and beat my head against the side of my truck for a while."

He didn't really. He did get in and drive away. But when he came back, there weren't any marks on his forehead. I checked.

Chapter 16 - "Thursday's Child Is Loving and Giving"

Angela invited me to her apartment on Thursday. I was a bit nervous about it because her voice had been playful, hinting at a secret that I'd find only when I arrived. I had a 'secret' of my own. Despite her comments that dressing up would be too formal for the office, I had a worn a cute, royal blue skirt and sweater set on Thursday; one that I had found for myself. The skirt was just a bit more than knee length so it worked nicely with my spike-heeled gray boots. I was finding that I really liked soft blues and grays, which seemed to highlight my eyes without making my fair skin look too pale. Maybe there was some carry over from Tommy in that, because I didn't wear much pink or green or purple and he never had either. But I didn't care. I thought it looked nice.

"My, my, look at you," she said, holding me at arm's length for a moment. "Damn, girl, you do clean up well."

"Oh, you," I said, giving her a mild little punch. "I'm surprised you didn't razz me about how long the skirt was."

"I was thinking about it," she admitted. "But you're just too cute to tease. That looks so perfectly preppy that I figured you were recruiting again."

I just laughed and let her escort me to a living area that brought back some very fond memories.

"Before we eat, why don't we get changed?" she asked.


"Oh, yeah. This is your big night, b'ooful. Tonight you get to seduce me."

"Ooh, I like the sound of that."

Actually, it was more than a simple change of clothes. Angela had a lot of fun 'preparing' me for the evening's fun. It started with a check to see if I needed to be waxed again. A very close, very comprehensive check. That required me to strip, of course. All the way. For the first time in a long time, my 'inner self' was free to enjoy the attention of a pretty girl.

Interestingly enough, there were places on my body where the only way Angela could be absolutely sure I didn't need another wax attack was to check it with something more sensitive than her delicate fingertips. A tongue, she maintained - between inspections - is much more effective in some cases. I did not see any reason to argue with her, and in fact was only too happy to study her technique . . . with appropriate practical exercises for myself as well, of course.

I actually did need to be waxed in a few places. She explained it was caused by individual hairs being at different places in the normal replacement cycle when she had done it before. But it wasn't too bad because, once again, I was learning the technique and had the chance to demonstrate proficiency - on her - which made up for my tender skin.

"Nice little landing strip," I mused - inspecting it closely. "But there is grass growing on the edges of the runway."

"Careful, cutie," she said. "I may decide you need a different shape, too."

"I think a triangle is just fine," I said quickly. "It works with the, um, gaff thingy."

When we were done polishing each other's porcelain bodies to a glossy shine, she brought out some more jiggly shapes.

"Okay, stand up straight . . . oh, you'll need your heels again."


"Yep," she said. "These work best if your tush is tight and high when they're applied. That way, when you move they stretch rather than bunch up."

"Oh," I sighed. Not that I minded putting my boots back on. At least, not until Angela stuck a book under the spikes.

"What are you doing?"

"You need to be higher than any of your other shoes, too. I figure this will be about right."

"That's crazy. I won't even be able to walk if I ever wear heels that high."

"You, the greatest shoe queen since Imelda Marcos? I'm surprised you don't have ballet heels already."

"Ballet heels?"

"If you don't know, I'm not telling," Angela said, laughing. "I've already created a monster."

It was more than a little strange to be standing there wearing nothing but impossibly heeled boots. Nothing at all, meaning my reaction to Angela's fondling of my hips was both undeniable and becoming ever more uncomfortable.

And discordant. Even without a corset, I now had a well-defined waist. Angela's ministrations soon left me with womanly, tulip-shaped hips that removed all but one - one very obvious - sign that I wasn't as feminine as my shape declared.

From behind though, it was awesome. I did the Betty Grable thing, looking over my shoulder into a full-length mirror, and it was just too perfect for words. "Oh, Angela, I love it!"

"Surprise, surprise," she said dryly. Then she grabbed my face in her hands and kissed me until my toes curled right up out of my boots.

"God, you're beautiful," she sighed into my lips.

"God, you're wonderful," I whispered back. My hands started to work at the buttons on her blouse, and her hands - needing something useful to do - found another target.

"It would be a shame to let this go to waste," she murmured.

"A shame," I agreed.

She didn't let me take my boots off. Which is only fair, because we were so hot for each other than she didn't get all of her clothes off, either.

In the afterglow, something came to me and I giggled.

Leaning over, I whispered in her ear, "So, maestro - or maestresse, or whatever - just how durable are these things."

"Your womanly hips?" she asked.


"At least as durable as your boobs. You can wear them in the shower, or swimming, or whatever you want to do."

I felt my face flushing, but I had to ask. "Are they . . . will they be okay . . . if I get spanked?"


I giggled again, nervously, even though I knew my face was on fire. "Yesterday - well, a couple of different times, actually - Johnny threatened to spank me."


I nodded.

"Wow, you really have gone over to the girl side, padawan," she said with her own giggle. Then she squirmed out from under me and said, "Let's find out."

"No way," I said, struggling to get free of her clutches.

I didn't get spanked, but I did get tickled which was almost as bad. Or as good, depending on how you looked at it.

When, finally, I was getting dressed again, she gave me a wonderfully tender good-bye kiss, then whispered in my ear, "They'll be fine - except they won't get as red as the rest of you."


"That's what happens when you get a good spanking," she explained, grinning in a way that implied personal experience. Of course, she could have been faking it. I would never assume I knew with her.

"I'll make a note," I promised.

I loved my new hips so much that I just had to show them off. Or maybe I just wanted an excuse to wear the paint-tight spandex pants I had found, with very tall boots and a stretchy white top that wasn't quite long enough to tuck into the low-rise pants. Even without a corset my waist was pretty slim and I didn't have enough of a six pack for that to be an issue. I wasn't quite as curvy as my corset demanded, but it was wonderful to have a shape that didn't need that artificial aid. And yes, I did see the irony in that, but it's the way I felt.

The guys at the office were suitably impressed. It was almost as good as the first day I arrived as Freya.

"Okay, you hounds. Close your mouths before birds start nesting," I said, giggling and waving as I made my way to my desk.

A chat window opened as soon as I sat down.
JT: You realize that you're setting yourself up for a lawsuit.

FL: What?

JT: I'm warning you that if we get some whiplash complaints, I'll have to testify on behalf of the guys.

FL: Yeah, right. :-)

JT: I may have to sue you myself.

FL: What?

JT: I had to replace my "amazed" meter so many times, the warranty has run out. And it's all your fault.

FL: What . . . this little outfit? Would you believe I found it in a second-hand shop? All but the boots.

JT: I'll believe whatever you tell me. But those pants should be registered as lethal weapons.

FL: Should I just go take them off?

JT: Oh, baby, that image just about broke something I consider rather important.
There was no way I was going to pass up an opening like that . . .
FL: So, would you like me to kiss it and make it better?
There wasn't any answer. Just a groan from the other side of the cubicle wall. God, he was fun to tease.

Not that I was just teasing.

We were busy throughout the day. In addition to a faked driver's license, I had faked a company ID so I could go out on a call, but once again I didn't need to. I almost did, and all of the sudden I realized that if I showed up at one of our more conservative customers looking like I was a barely-out-of-high-school, "easy" girl - a teen-aged slut, in other words - it wouldn't have made Mike Lewis very happy. That gave me an even greater incentive to solve problems within the allotted hour, and there were a couple of times I started sweating when we went past 45 minutes.
FL: Johnny, I may need you to cover for me if I get a call.

JT: Why?

FL: Get a clue, doof. Look at the way I'm dressed.

JT: That's about all any of us have been doing - for about two weeks now.

FL: No, I mean today.

JT: Yep.

FL: Damn it, Johnny, pay attention. I can't go out on a call looking like a trashy high-school girl!

JT: Is that what you think you look like? You look hotter than a quasar to me.

FL: Yeah, well, there's attractive-professional, and there's trampy. I shouldn't have worn this outfit to work.

JT: You realize that I'm not going to agree with you . . . even if it means I have to go out on a call for you. You look incredible.

FL: Thanks, you big ox. But this is not an outfit I can wear on a call.

JT: Well, you may be right. If you do go out on a call, then whoever the customer is will demand that they only speak to you . . and we'll have a rash of cokes poured into hard drives that guarantee service calls. I don't suppose that's a good thing. :-)
Before I could respond, he sent another note, in fact, a group of them. He must have been typing as fast as his thick fingers would go.
JT: Of course, you could go wearing an old sack and they'd do the same, just based on your smile . . .

JT:: . . and your gorgeous eyes . . .

JT: . . . and the way you move, like water flowing around smooth stones . .

JT: . . . and the way your hair shines like joy captured in a diamond . . .

FL: Okay, okay. Thank you, and I think you're awesomely beautiful, too. But I still can't go out on a call dressed like this.

JT: What's it worth to you? ;-)

FL: Dinner?

JT: Tonight?

FL: Is tomorrow night okay? I have some things I need to get.

JT: So, this is the dinner you're going to fix for me with your own dainty fingers?

FL: I'm only dainty relative to lumbering mountains like you. But thanks. You make me feel dainty sometimes, and I like it.
Now it was my turn to type a set of quick messages.
FL: And all quivery and soft . . .

FL: And hot, yet shivery cool at the same time . . .

FL: And hungry, for something you can't buy in the store . . something I've developed a taste for.

FL: And achingly empty, with a void only you can fill.
Johnny stood up, face flushed and twisted into a funny little half-smile, half-grimace. He moved quickly into the little office bathroom and closed the door.

"Is he okay?" Rick asked.

"I think so," I answered, careful to keep from looking his way so he couldn't see the smirk I knew was curving my shiny lips. "He's been working on something, but apparently he finished."

I let a giggle out and added, "Maybe he's just been holding it too long."

Tony hooted his agreement with my suggestion, and decided to play it up. He went to the restroom door and knocked.

"Yo, dude, you gonna be in there all day?"

After a moment with no response, he knocked again, "Hey, Little John, I always knew you were full of it . . . but if you shake it more than three times, it's pleasure not business."

Johnny came out a moment later, the commode flushing behind him. He was still flushed, and seemed to be a bit out of breath, but Tony had more or less committed to a need of his own and so he just pushed past into the little room.

As soon as Johnny sat down again, another chat message arrived.
JT: You are not a nice woman . . . but God you are HOT! If we weren't at work . . .

FL: Don't tease me . . .

JT: Me? Tease you? After the lightning strikes, can I have your laptop?
I couldn't help it. I laughed out loud, causing the other guys to look my way, but then I just waved at them and said, "Funny YouTube. I'll send you the link." There's always another funny YouTube around somewhere, so that was safe. I wasn't about to let them see the chat log.

Another chat window opened.
AC: Just so you know, I'm an expert in type pacing.

FL: What?

AC: Type pacing. I can tell when two people are chatting by the pace of their keystrokes. You know, one types about a sentence worth, then the other does, and so on.

FL: Oh. So?

AC: So, if you don't tell me what you said to Little John to get him so excited, I'll tell on you.

FL: To Mike Lewis?

AC: Oh, hell no! Worse. To Angela.
Which, of course, got me to laugh out loud again.
FL: Do your worst, you evil fiend! I can lick Angela.

AC:: Eeeuw. TMI. That's my sister!

FL: And a mighty tasty morsel she is, indeed.

AC: Okay. You win. I've been out-chatted.
So I found an mp3 of Ride of the Valkyries and started playing it through my speakers. Dum de de Dum dum, Dum de de DUM dum, Dum de de Dum dum, Dum de de dum.

Joe Heller was pretty sharp for a guy already past 30, and he picked up on what was going on, too. But he was a pretty nice guy, as well.

He grinned and shook his finger at me. "Okay, Freya, I thought you weren't going to flirt at work."

"I wasn't flirting!" I said. For some reason both Johnny and Tony pushed their chairs back to be farther away from me. "Tony and I were chatting, but it was about his sister, Angela."

"That's right," Tony said virtuously.

"Oh, pardon me," Joe said, but his smile also said he didn't believe me.

"Honest!" I protested. "It was about Angela."

"Young lady," Joe said, pretending to be a stern school teacher type complete with wagging finger, "I expect that you can put more flirting into a conversation about Tony's sister than the rest of us could with some explicit sex story."

"Why, Joe, I didn't think you noticed," I purred. Just before I broke up into giggles again.

He shook his head and then we all decided to work off some of the call backlog. We weren't all that far behind, but it did keep us busy until the end of the day. I picked up the things I needed for Johnny's dinner on the way home from work. Which meant it was well after the delivery trucks had made their rounds before I got to my apartment.

I had several packages. Some of them were in plain brown wrappers.

Chapter 17 - "Saturday Night Live"

Johnny was punctual, which was not a surprise. In fact, I was just lighting the candles on the dining room table when the doorbell bonged. It wasn't much of a table, but I had a beautiful linen tablecloth to hide the marred surface. And the array of dishes on the table did look nice. Of course, they were Angela's dishes. I didn't have enough matching pieces to fit out one place setting, let alone two. But the contents were all of my own making - some all the way from scratch, and we won't worry about the rest.

I walked carefully over to the door. Even if I had wanted to hurry, I didn't really have any choice. I was perched on platform heels that were way higher than any I had ever even seen before I found them in an online catalog. For this night, I was going to be almost as tall as Johnny.

And thin, though not skinny. The latest corset from Angela was tighter than any I had worn before and it left me with a dramatic hip spring from a ridiculous little waist out to my new padded tush. My dress was tailored to fit, and fit it did. (Thank you Number 12-zillion-and-9 to Angela, who was as skilled with needle and thread as brush and comb.) For once, I had decided against soft blues and grays in favor of a rich royal purple that set off my hair without quite making my skin look washed out. It stretched from a regally high neckline to the floor, which was far, far away in those insane heels. And all of it fit. I couldn't have moved even with the baby steps those heels allowed if it weren't for a slit that ran up my left leg . . . a long, long slit. Unless I were standing perfectly still, you could see the welt on my stocking. But if I were standing still, I had an hour-and-a-half-glass shape that tapered from heart-shaped derriere down all those legs to the tiny-but-tall platforms of my shoes.

But none of that was the real reason I was moving so carefully. I had also . . .

"Bing, Bong!"

"Coming," I called out. Finally reaching the door, I swung it open to find Johnny looking like a kid on his way to the prom. He actually had on a suit, with a tie and everything. And he had a huge bouquet of flowers in one hand, with a bottle of wine in the other.

"Wow, look at you!" I said. "You're beautiful."

He didn't say anything right away, at least not with words. His eyes widened and his mouth opened . . . then shut . . . then opened again. Then he swallowed a couple of times.

It was quite flattering, and I felt myself arch my back a little and swing a hip out, almost without conscious thought.

"Wow," he finally whispered. "You are . . . I'm just . . . stunned. I always thought the description of a woman as 'stunning' was poetic exaggeration. Not any more."

"Why, thank you, Johnny. That's sweet," I purred. When he still didn't move, I asked, "Are those for me?"

"What? Oh, uh, sure. I hope red is okay," he said, handing me the flowers and wine.

"I'm sure it's wonderful," I said, "but if it won't hurt your feelings, would you mind if we saved it for another time? I have champagne chilling already."


"Of course, Johnny. Nothing but the best for you. I owe you."


"For pretending to be my boyfriend," I said, blowing him a playful kiss with my ripe, dark lips. "I just don't know what I would have done without you."

He looked stricken, and I had all I could do to keep from giggling. Pretending indeed. But he was so much fun to tease.

I moved as quickly as I could to the little kitchenette and found a vase for the flowers. The bouquet was much too big to put on my little table. We wouldn't even be able to see each other if I did that. So I put them on a nearby bookcase and then walked over to my seat. "Shall we eat?"

True to the manners he always showed, Johnny was there at my side in a heartbeat. He helped me with my chair - something I actually needed since my long skirt took at least one hand to control and I used another to discreetly - I hoped - steady myself as I transferred my weight from my toes to my tush. It was still a bit too abrupt, and I couldn't quite hide a wince.

"Is something wrong?" Johnny asked quickly.

"New corset," I said, smiling as I tried to adjust to the discomfort. That was the truth and nothing but the truth . . . if not quite the whole truth.

"Would you do the honors?" I asked, pointing at the champagne. I didn't have a wine bucket so I had just kept it in the freezer for a while. The bottle was nicely chilled, though.

Johnny did a good job getting it open. There was a nice little pop, but nothing went spraying around and he kept a hold on the cork. He grinned and entered into a little show of pouring some into his glass, sniffing and tasting, then pouring some into mine.

"Is this where I say it tickles my nose?" I asked, taking a sip.

"I'm more interested in tickling your fancy," he said with a Groucho Marx play on his thick, dark brows. And a wonderfully naughty leer.

That set us off into a place where everything and anything was sexual teasing. Okay, so it wasn't really all that far to go. We seemed to spend a lot of time there. And I cheated. Earlier that day, I had deliberately watched the old Steve McQueen / Faye Dunaway, "Thomas Crowne Affair" movie - in particular, the part where Faye Dunaway 'distracts' Steve McQueen so deliciously as they play chess.

We made it through the salad, and I had eaten all the Chicken Piccata with angel hair pasta that my crushed little tummy could hold. I think Johnny was still hungry, but all of the sudden he was putting down his fork and standing.

Without a word, he moved to my side of the table, lifted me to my silly heels, and started kissing me senseless. It wasn't the first time he had done that, and I dearly hoped it wouldn't be the last. As my world dissolved into flashing lights and drumbeat heart, I pulled my head back enough to whisper, "Take me to bed."

He didn't. At least, not right away. He just crushed me even tighter in his arms and kissed me again.

When I came to, I actually was in bed, with Johnny gently stroking my face. I smiled up at him and said, "You are so wonderful."

Then I giggled and added, "But what are you doing with all your clothes on?"

He smiled and kissed me with infinite tenderness. "Your picture should be in the dictionary next to 'beautiful,' and 'sensual,' and 'exciting,' and all the words beginning or ending with 's-e-x.'"

He did stand up, though. He had just been lying next to me, fully dressed except for his jacket. I watched him undress with appreciative eyes. And a playful little nibble at my lower lip. And no, I did not keep my eyes looking at his face. When he was just about down to skin, I stood up and said, "Let me do that."

Moving carefully on my killer heels, with that long dress, and a few things Johnny didn't know about yet, I stood in front of him and kissed him lightly while my slender fingers uncovered my prize. It was anxious to be let out of its wrapper, and I giggled into Johnny's mouth when it thumped against my hip.

"Grab on to something, stud. I'm not waiting any longer," I ordered as I swiveled my legs to the side and kneeled. God, he was awesome.

One of the 'plain brown wrapper' packages had included a dildo that was almost as big as the Johnnyconda I faced. I had practiced. Several things.

Johnny gasped when some of my practice started to pay off. "Holy . . . Freya, what are you . . . oh, shit, I can't believe it."

When we had been together before, there was room for both of my hands to squeeze the Johnnyconda below where I could reach with my lips when my mouth was full. This time, as I slowly eased myself onto his shaft, I pulled one hand away and waved it to show it would no longer fit.

And then I pulled the other away. I let my head bob in and out on his monster - each time going a little deeper - until his wiry hairs were tickling my nose. Better than champagne any day.

I smiled up at him as best I could from my position, and then pulled back a bit - after all, I had to breathe. The nails of my left hand started scritching lightly on his massive family jewels, and I used the right to squeeze the base as it appeared again, smeared with my dark lipstick. I wasn't about to let him get off too soon. So I played with him, sometimes letting him out of my mouth completely so that I could lick his swollen testes, or nip at the inside of his thigh, or . . . well, I had a lot of things to try.

"Freya . . . I can't hold . . on . . . much longer," he grunted. I actually felt his knees quaking. Much more and he might just collapse onto the floor, which was not my plan.

I pulled back and swayed to my toes, caressing his velvety knob with one set of slender fingers and tickling his jewels with the other. Then I turned and held my hands behind my back as though handcuffed, though what restrained them was my continuing engagement with his tower.

"Help me get my dress off, will you?"

He was panting so hard I'm not sure he could speak, but I felt his fingers fumbling at the back of my neck. After a moment the regal collar fell away, taking my violently violet dress with it. It slithered to the floor like flowing water and puddled at my feet.

When I turned back around what I presented to him could hardly be called virginal. With my permanently proud nips saucily peeking from the top and my womanly hips swelling out below, my display was anything but virginal. But my new corset and tiny little thong panty were a soft pastel blue with white trim, including white garters that held up taut dark stockings. It was a nice contrast of lustful shapes and innocent colors that I thought was most intriguing.

So did Johnny.

I giggled and leaned forward to whisper, "You need to blink every now and then, stud. It keeps your eyes from drying out."

I raised my arms to his neck and kissed him, putting all the lust into it that I could find - and I was running over like a steam-hot geyser. His hands cupped the rounded globes of my bottom and lifted me into his lap. The Johnnyconda pushed between my legs, stiff enough for me to ride even without the support of Johnny's hands.

I pulled back from the kiss before I passed out this time, and whispered huskily into his ear. "I need you to do something for me, lover."

"Huh, what?" he said, dazed and blinking as he tried to gather up enough cognition to understand what I was saying.

I swung my legs back down and moved to the bed, kneeling on all fours away from him. Tossing my hair over my far shoulder, I looked back with a heavy-lidded smolder and reached behind myself. One long-nailed hand pulled the thong out of my rear cleavage, revealing a bit of plastic. I tugged at the foreign intruder and drew it slowly from my stretched bottom. Tossing it aside I panted huskily, "I need you to fill an aching emptiness in me."

"Oh my God," he gasped.

"Do it, Johnny. Do me now," I begged, moaning. "I need you in me so bad."

"Oh, God, Freya. I don't want to hurt you."

"I know that, lover, but I want this. I want you. It'll be okay."

I was having a hard time controlling my own panting when I added, "I told you I'd practice, and I have. I'm ready for you."

"Oh, God," he moaned, but he moved between my legs.

I let my shoulders down to the pillow, looking back at him. "Do it slow, Johnny. One inch at a time. But give it to me . . . all of it."

I felt a thick, heavy knob thump against my bottom. It slid to the already-open rosebud that felt so empty, and claimed its place.

I didn't feel empty for long.

Johnny was as gentle and patient as I knew he would be, but inch by inch he forced his impossibly huge tool into my straining bottom. I'd be lying if I said it didn't hurt, even with all my preparation. I had cleaned myself - thoroughly - and lubricated myself - thoroughly - and stretched myself - repeatedly, with larger and larger shapes. None of them were as big as Johnny, though.

Nor as warm, nor as velvety soft over a steel-hard core, nor as wonderful in too many ways to count.

When I felt his heavy sack press against my bottom, it was too much. I came right then, in an instant, with no warning. My tight little muscle clenched his unyielding invader and I screamed out my pleasure.

Through the fog, I felt him start to withdraw and from somewhere I found enough voice to cry, "No, don't take it away. Keep doing me."

His thick sword pushed back into the spasms of my tortured rear, pulling and surging with implacable demand.

"Oh, God, yes. Do it! Oh, Johnny, that is so . . . I'm so . . full. But it's so . . . wonderful."

His hoarse voice growled, "I can't believe we're doing this . . . but it is so hot. I never imagined . . . oh, God . . . I'm . . ."

"Do it, Johnny. Do it! Oh, God, I'm going to come again!"

I felt his hot seed exploding far, far up into my waist. And when the pulses of his semen pushed past my tight little rosebud, I came again into my panties, pushing my own seed into the little scrap of material that covered the opening in my gaff.

And I laughed. Right then, with the Johnnyconda deep, deep inside of me. I laughed, and I couldn't stop. I giggled and gasped, and laughed again, collapsing onto the bed with Johnny still joined and pulled down on top of me.

"What's . . wrong," Johnny gasped.

"Nothing, you big, beautiful, moose. Everything is perfect, except . . ."

"Except what?" he asked, concern in his wonderfully tender voice.

"Except Angela is going to be mad at me for staining my panty."

Johnny laughed, too. "I can't believe you're thinking about someone else at a time like this. I should be offended."

"Why not think about her?" I asked trying to get enough air to put a husky note into my voice. "Next time we can have her join us."

That got his attention. I felt more than a twitch from his softening member. It started to swell again.

"Hah," I said, looking back over my shoulder. "You want her, too."

"Not more than you, but two incredibly hot women at once. . ," he mused, grinning.

"I'm not enough for you, huh?" I asked, pouting. I don't think my eyes matched the expression on my lips.

"Don't even try," he said, laughing. "I know you want her, too. I could ask the same thing. I'm not enough for you, huh?" He pulled back, leaving an aching void where I had been so wonderfully full.

"Oh, God," I gasped. "Any more and I'd have split right down the middle, but it was just awesome. The most magical moment of my life."

"Glad to be of service, ma'am," he drawled. Then he gathered me up in to his arms and said, "Seriously, Freya, are you okay?"

"I'd like to think I'm a bit better than just okay," I purred, then I smiled. "Didn't I do it right?"

He laughed and pulled me over his lap. "Just for that, you get the spanking you deserve."

"No, Johnny," I cried. "Not now."

He let me up like I had become white hot. "Oh, God, Freya, I'm so sorry."

"Don't you dare be sorry," I countered, slapping his shoulder. "I want you to be as thrilled as I am."

"Oh, I am," he promised. "Except, I didn't want to hurt you."

"And you didn't," I lied. "But if you're going to spank me, it's going to have to be before you ram that monster into me. Deal?"

"Uh, deal," he said, his not-quite-somnolent monster waking up just a bit.

I leaned over to whisper in his ear, "And we'll both do it to Angela."

I guess there were two interpretations of that. We could both spank Angela, or we could both make love to her. I didn't clarify what I had actually been thinking about. I just laughed and pulled away. "I'll be in here for just a moment. Why don't you pour us some more champagne? And there's dessert."

I let him have a good look at my new, improved tush as I waggled my way to the bathroom. Another of my packages had included some things that I never expected to need to use, but you can find anything on the net - including stories about experiences that I would have considered unthinkable just a few weeks before. One of them suggested tampons had more applications than the designers originally intended, and I confirmed at least one additional use.

My panty really was stained so I found another one, if anything even tinier. The gaff was really pretty convincing as long as you couldn't see the fine seams. They couldn't be concealed on something removable as well as on the items glued on my bosom and bum. I put on a not-quite-sheer shorty nightgown with a fuzzy hem and a long-but-definitely-sheer robe. My insane heels called attention to my dark stockings, and they framed a treasure that was hidden just enough to sustain the mystery. I'd just have to careful not to let my little nightgown show too much.

Just enough, maybe, but not too much. Always keep them wondering.

When I got back to the living room, Johnny had pulled his own pants on and was pouring the champagne. I pushed him into a chair and just about jumped into his lap, my long legs and dangerous heels hanging over one of his arms.

"Hi," I said pertly.

His answer was yet another kiss, and I surrendered to it for a long, delicious moment before pulling back.

"I'm not going to faint again, lover. Not just yet, anyway."

"You are so far beyond my wildest fantasies," he whispered, letting his tongue dart out to tease my earring. "If I read this in a story, I'd just laugh. But you are so very real."

Was I? In the most fundamental way, I guess I was real. But I wasn't a real girl. Did that make what I actually was any less real? Did Johnny care?

"By the way," I murmured. "Thank you."


"For taking me to the limits my body could reach, and more. You are just awesome in bed, beautiful."

"I'm not beautiful," he said, snorting.

"Yes you are," I insisted. "When I was growing up, I had this image of the most attractive a man could possibly be . . .and you're it. Exactly. Tall, dark, and handsome. Kind, and courteous. Strong, when you need to be strong, but so gentle you make me feel like a precious sunbeam you've caught safe in your hands. Like I said, 'beautiful.'"

I sighed a little and said, "Once it became apparent that I'd never have the size to be my fantasy man, I guess I started thinking a lot more about fantasy women."

"Well," he said, "you're certainly my fantasy woman."

"Not really," I said, suddenly serious. "I'm not . . . a lot of things that a woman needs to be."

"Like what?" he snorted again. "You're perfect."

"Like fertile," I said. "I can never be the mother of your children."

"Whoa, Freya, aren't we getting a little ahead of ourselves here?"

I felt my eyes tearing up so I carefully snuggled into his neck where he couldn't see.
"Oh, sure, I know that. But you deserve more."

"So do you. So does every single person in the entire world. What's important is cherishing the people you do have."

*Cherish. I like that.* I sighed to myself.

Johnny held me on his lap for a precious time that I never wanted to end. After a while, he reached for his champagne and handed mine to me.

"So, you want your desert?" I asked, giggling.

"I can't imagine anything topping what we've already shared," he replied.

"Not even Angela?" I asked, squirming in his lap. Yep, I felt his interest. And he knew I felt it, so he didn't even try to deny it. He just laughed again.

"You are insatiable, you little minx," he growled. "I'm going to go take a shower. Fix something else if you want."

"I love it when you take charge," I purred. Then I had to scramble as he dumped me off his lap by standing up. He steadied me or I'd have never made it back onto my skyscraper heels.

I waited until he was in the shower to take off my corset and shoes. My ankles hurt a bit when I tried to stand on the flat floor, but I didn't really care. I just walked tiptoe into the shower.

"Room for two in here?" I asked.

"For the right two," he said, even though the little apartment shower was hardly big enough for him.

"Well, if I get in your way, let me know," I said. I reached for the soap and proceeded to clean all the places that seemed like they needed it. Some of them three or four times.

"Did I tell you that Angela showed me a special way to make sure things are clean and smooth?" I asked in a nonchalant tone.

"Um, no," he said.

"Yep," I continued. "Last time she was here, she started checking to see if I needed to be waxed again. In case any hairs were growing back. Apparently - and she's an expert - the tongue is much more sensitive than fingers. See?" I asked, then showed him some of the places Angela had checked on me.

"You keep that up, and you will get spanked," he said.

"Promises, promises," I said, giggling.

"C'mere and kiss me," Johnny ordered.

"I'm busy," I claimed, and then I didn't say anything for a while. After all, it's not polite to talk with your mouth full.

I finished just before the water went cold - but not soon enough to get out of the shower first.

"Ooh, no!" I cried, standing up and moving for the shower door.

I was instantly shivering so hard I could hardly talk. I had a couple of nice big towels, so I managed to dry off my body fairly quickly, but my wet hair weighed a ton and was pulling heat from my body.

"Sorry, Johnny, but I'm going to have to dry my hair."

"I'm not sorry," he said with a smirk.

"Get yourself some dessert," I said. "I'll be a while."

"Do I get my choice of dessert?" he asked, the smirk turning in to a leer.

"You're have a dirty mind . . . and I love it," I said, leaning up to kiss his nose. "But get out while I dry my hair."

It took a while. A long while. Usually after my morning shower I put it up on hot rollers. By the time I get everything else done, all that hair is mostly dried and a few minutes with a blow dryer takes care of whatever dampness remains. I thought about skipping all of that, but I needed to redo my face too, so I sighed and started in on the whole process.

When I finally came back into the living room, Johnny was sound asleep on the couch. He'd put his pants on yet again, but his massive chest and thick arms were all there ready for me to snuggle into.

Unfortunately, my old couch wasn't really big enough.

"Come to bed, lover," I whispered, then breathed softly into his ear.

He stirred, and smiled, and then picked me up in his arms and did just that.

Chapter 18 - "The First Day"

"Oh, God, that is so romantic," Angela sighed. "Then what happened?"

I smirked and recrossed my long legs the other way, tugging down on the tiny skirt that accented more than hid them. We were sitting in Angela's kitchenette on Sunday afternoon, sipping on coffee and sharing secrets.

"Actually, we just went to bed . . . well, I did help him get out of his pants - again."

"Of course," Angela said, smirking. "What were you wearing?'

"Oh, I had on that shorty nightgown, and a teensy little thong panty that didn't hide much."

"Fig leaf symbol," she said, nodding. "He's naked, and you're . . . demure. So you just let him go to sleep? Needy?"

"He was satisfied, thank you very much," I answered, giggling. "At least for a while."

"For a while," she repeated, laughing. "There's a narrative hook if I ever heard one."

"Well, I woke up first this morning. I snuck into the bathroom and took care of business - to make sure I was clean. Yes, inside and out. And I brushed my hair and touched up my makeup. Then I slid very quietly back into bed with him."

"And . . ?" Angela prompted. "God, you are such a tease."

"I started breathing on his tower of power."

"Breathing?" she repeated, eyes widening.

"Yep," I confirmed. "I just, y'know, sighed my warm breath on him. Pretty soon it started to, ahem, warm up."

Angela made a come on gesture with her hands. I could tell she was getting into the story. Her little tattletales, unlike mine, showed her interest almost as well as a guy's equipment does.

"This hair you gave me is wonderfully silky," I said in an apparent non sequitur. "So I used the ends to tickle at him a little."

"Oh, you are a tease," she giggled.

"Yep," I said unrepentantly, then I giggled, too. "The first thing he did - basically he was still asleep, poor guy, like he was worn out or something - the first thing he did was bat at my hair with his hand. I dodged that and did it some more. Even though he was still asleep, his interest was definitely showing."

Angela sighed. "Ooh, I'd like to have seen that."

"Whenever you want," I offered. "I don't think he'd complain."

"Oh, god, you are going to get me in trouble."

"Turnabout is fair play," I said, waving a hand down the form she had created.

"So, anyway, " I continued, "as soon as he was stiff enough that it started to lift off his leg, I just put my lips around it and let my tongue move verry slowly over the tip."

"And he still didn't wake up?" she asked incredulously.

"Oh, yeah, he woke up," I said. "As soon as his eyes started to blink, I put my hands around him and started going down with slow strokes, a little further each time. Eventually, I didn't need my hands any more."

"Damn, now you're making me hot!" Angela panted. "I've got to learn how to do that."

"Ohh, now there's an image," I said with a moan. "Anytime you want to, um, practice . . ."

"Not till you finish your damn story," she said, laughing.

"Actually, that's about all there was to it," I said. "I finished my breakfast, but I had to go brush my teeth after. Johnny was mostly dressed when I came out again."

I sighed and said, "That's probably just as well. Ohmigod, sex with him was the most intense thing I've ever experienced - sorry Angela - and I definitely want to do it again. But I'm a little sore right now, and though I'd have done it if he wanted to, I guess I was just as happy to send him on his way with a smile on his face."

"So he just left?" she asked.

"Actually, I fixed him breakfast first, clicking around the kitchenette in these cute little lucite mules, waving my bottom at him whenever I had the excuse. That shorty nightgown and thong didn't hide much. It took a while because every time I got within reach he pulled me into his lap and kissed me senseless."

"Did you faint, really?"

"No. I wasn't wearing my corset so I was able to enjoy every second," I said. "But I wasn't always thinking too clearly after he let me up."

"Geez, girl, you don't think clearly even when he's not around," she laughed.

I had to agree she had a point, so I giggled and used a long-nailed finger to chalk up one for her in the air. "Actually, I may have to wear a corset anytime he's around anyway. He discovered that I'm insanely ticklish under my ribs."

"Oh, yeah," Angela said.

"Watch it, cutie," I said. "You're ticklish, too. It's just not your ribs that are sensitive."

"Don't you dare," she said, but her eyes were twinkling as I pretended to move toward her with my nails reaching out.

She stopped me with an equivalent threat, which didn't really work because once again my waist was crushed into a tiny circle. But I laughed and continued my report. "Anyway, by the time we were finished with breakfast it was almost noon and he said he had to get home to take care of Sunday chores."

"Hmmph," she snorted. "That's not very romantic."

I laughed again and said, "Well, I had chores to do, too. I hadn't even cleared the table from dinner - we ate breakfast at the counter in the kitchen. So when he started talking about how the weather was good so he could work outside, and how he needed to change the oil in his truck, I didn't complain too much."

"Not too much," she repeated with a smirk.

"Well, I couldn't let him go thinking he could just, y'know, have me any time he wanted. I told him if he called me later, I might be like, washing my hair or something."

"You didn't!" she said. "Ohmigod, what did he say?"

"He laughed," I reported. "I don't think he was too worried."

"Yeah, right," she said. "He already knows he can have you any time he whistles. God, girl, you got it so bad I'm surprised you didn't offer to change the oil in his truck for him!"

"I might have broken a nail," I said haughtily, looking at my talons.

Angela laughed, but then a frown twisted her brow. She didn't say anything for a while. At first, I just gave her the space to think, but after a few moments it became uncomfortable.

"What's wrong, Angela?"

She still didn't say anything. Instead, she stood up and got another cup of coffee. Holding the pot out, she asked a question with her eyes and I shook my head.

"Okay, now you're starting to worry me," I said. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong. That's what's wrong," she said. Like that helped.

I expect my expression made it clear what I thought about that response, so she sighed and continued. "Freya, you're just too . . . girly."

"I'm sorry," I said, feeling a burn in my eyes.

"I'm not," she said quickly. "I just think you're not being honest with yourself. Freya, I think you're a girl."

"Sorry," I said again. "I thought we'd settled that."

"I did, too," she said. "But there is just too much girl in you - too much that I don't think is an act, or you just mimicking what you've seen girls do. I think it's . . . who you really are."

"Well, I'm not," I replied. "Dammit, Angela, we've slept together!"

"I'm not talking about what's between your legs. I'm talking about what's between your ears," she said. "There are too many little things. At first, I thought the way you giggle instead of laugh was just part of the game. Or the way you dress - usually very sexy, with heels that make my feet hurt just to see you wearing them. But think about it. When I asked about helping Johnny change his oil, what was your response? That you had your own chores to do? That he could do it easier than you could? Or that you were afraid you'd break a nail?

"Think about your night together. Do you think anal sex with a guy is just an act?"

"So maybe I'm just queer," I snapped.

"That's not very politically correct," she said, smiling just a little. "So let's talk about some of the rest. How many pairs of shoes have you bought? All with nosebleed heels? How many times have you bought flowers for yourself lately?"

"So? I like flowers."

"How many times did Tommy buy flowers for himself?" she asked gently. "Freya, you told me that you had an orgasm just from being kissed by a strong, handsome man. That's not a body thing. That's a mind thing. And in your mind, you're a girl."

"But I'm not," I said, starting to weep. "I can never be a girl."

"Yes you can," she said.

"No. I can't," I insisted. "Do you think I haven't looked into it? Do you think I wouldn't if I could? But even the best doctors can't make me so I can have Johnny's children."

"I can't have children either," Angela declared.


"I screwed up something inside when I had that eating disorder," Angela said. "I haven't had a period since. I've been to doctors too, and I'm not ever going to have children from my own body. Does that mean I'm not a woman?"

"Oh, Angela, I'm so sorry."

"Me, too," she said softly. "But it's a fact I have to deal with. Just like you have to deal with the fact you're way more comfortable being Freya than you ever were as Tommy."

"I . . . maybe," I had to admit.

"And much, much happier," she added.

I could only nod at that. There I sat, crying my eyes out, but knowing it was true.

Angela stood and moved over to me. She pulled me to my feet and hugged me. "That's actually the thing that convinced me most of all. Freya cries. Freya lets people into her heart, but Tommy had to keep that walled off because he was afraid what people would see."

"This is not really about sex, Freya. I know you get aroused by Johnny, but you get aroused by me, too. It's what you do to show your interest that tells me who you really are. You flirt, but as a girl flirts. With a man - with Johnny - you make little sexual innuendoes to set the stage and get him thinking about you in 'that way,' but for your real seduction you prepare a beautiful dinner and wear a formal gown to show the homemaker and lady. If you were a guy inside - even a bisexual guy, but a guy in your soul - you'd have met him at the door in a trashy outfit from Frederick's of Hollywood, with a six-pack and a pizza."

She made me meet her eyes. "Who is real? The anonymous guy who didn't have a single picture on the walls of his apartment? The guy who had to fake voices in a search for someone else to be, because he knew he was missing something in his life? The 'blank space where a person should be?' Or the beautiful young woman who can't pass a shoe store without going in? Who has a sexual climax just from kissing someone? Who wears feminine clothes even when no one else can see; not because they are a sexual fetish - just because she likes to look pretty?"

She laughed and hugged me, "Well, maybe the shoes are a sexual thing . . ."

Then she held me very, very tightly for a long moment. "The girl who really, truly, enjoys giving her lovers pleasure, even if her own 'naughty bits' aren't involved? Believe me, Freya darling, being more interested in the relationship than the sexual pleasure - in fact, getting even your sexual pleasure primarily from the relationship instead of physical stimulation of some particular bit of your body - is almost stereotypically the difference between a woman and a man. If you're not a girl, then neither are 98% of the women on this planet. It's way past a role you play. It's who you are."

"Oh, God, Angela, do you really think so?"

"I'm as sure of it as I am that the sun will come up tomorrow. It's just right for you, love."

"What am I going to do?" I moaned.

"I think we had this conversation before," she said with a laugh, then answered the question. "Right now, nothing different. I think you're doing just fine as Freya. You've got a life now. You've got a boyfriend who's nuts about you . . . and a girlfriend who's nuts about you. I just want you to be honest with yourself."

"Oh, god, that can be really hard, y'know?"

"You're asking me?!" she said. "I'm the one who nearly killed herself because she couldn't see the real person inside the fat girl. Believe me, I know it's hard."

She stretched up on her toes and kissed me tenderly, slowly, but with so much love I started crying all over again. "But you're worth it, Freya. Worth it to me. Worth it to Johnny. And worth it to yourself."

Major crying session, but it was a happy cry, and it felt so good afterwards. I went home, put on something silky and soft, and gathered up Moondance for a good cuddle.

When my throat loosened up enough I could talk again - in any voice - I called Johnny.

"Hi, beautiful," he said. He obviously had caller ID. Or else he was in deep, deep trouble.

"Hi, Johnny. Do you have a minute to talk?"

"For you, gorgeous, I have days - weeks if you insist."

"Oh, you," I said, giggling. "Look, this is serious . . ."

And then I ran down.

After a minute, he said, "Freya, are you still there?"

"Yes, I just . . ."

"Look, Freya, if this is about last night. I'm sorry - not sorry that I spent time with you, that was incredible - but because it was so . . . one-sided. I'm trying to, um, get past some of my . . ."

"Oh, you big goof," I said, laughing in spite of my concern. "Last night was the most perfect night of my entire life."

It felt so stupid to be talking about such intimate things over the phone, and even more stupid to be whispering, but I just couldn't like, shout it. "I came so hard when you were in me that I thought I was gonna set the bed on fire."

"Oh, really?" he said, and I could hear a bit of smugness in his tone. But I didn't mind at all.

"And Johnny? I really do like . . . the taste of you."

"Damn, girl, you are so hot! When I crawled home this morning I didn't think I'd be able to get it up for a week. Then three sentences from you and I'm hurting so bad I can't stand up straight."

"Oh, really? Maybe I should come over and, ah, see what I can do to help you with that."

"Like that image does anything but make it worse," he said, but he laughed.

Maybe the flirting helped, but this time I seemed to be able to get out what I had to say.

"Johnny, what would you say if I told you that I think - inside - I'm really a girl?"

"I'd say it's about time you realized it," he replied. "I already told you that you're a woman to me."

See? That's part of what makes him so wonderful. It's okay for a woman to talk about being a girl. I guess we all want to be younger, at least once we reach about age 20. But to have a man (who obviously finds us attractive, not in any way "old") tell us that we are really "women" - equally mature and competent - is . . . nice.

"This is about more than how I dress," I said. "It's about the real person inside."

"Exactly," he said. "Don't get me wrong - your outsides are about the prettiest I've ever seen. No, check that. Definitely the prettiest I've ever seen. And incredibly sensual, and just flat out awesome in bed But what I really . . ."

This time he was the one to run down. I let him have a moment and he came through.
"What I really love is the person inside."

"Oh, Johnny," I crooned into the stupid phone. "I love you, too."

"I'm glad you found yourself, Freya," he said.

"Me, too," I said. "This is going to be complicated."

"That's life," Johnny said, laughing. "More complex than any other option."

"But more wonderful than I ever dreamed," I said.

And they lived happily every after.

Yeah, right.

Chapter 19 - "Cleaning Day"

On Monday, I waited until everyone was more-or-less busy (even if for some that meant web-surfing) and opened a chat window to Johnny.
FL: So, is your truck all shiny and clean? With shiny new oil?

JT: *lol* I guess so.
This is where my new plot started to thicken . . .
FL: I thought about coming by . . . with some new, fragrant oil.

JT: And what kind of oil would that be?

FL: Well . . . it doesn't go in a truck, but 'pistoning' does some to mind.

JT: You are not a nice girl . . .
Here he quickly sent another note before I could respond.
JT: And I wouldn't have it any other way.

FL: But there's a problem . . .

JT: ??

FL: I don't know where you live. You've never invited me over.
This time there was a long pause, and I saw Johnny looking my way.
JT: Obviously, you're welcome any time you want. But there's more to that comment than simply fishing for an invitation.
Right then, a couple of calls hit the backlog queue so we had to attend to them. It was nearly lunchtime when we got a break. Johnny waited until I was off my last call and asked me out to lunch.

"Of course, Johnny. I'm yours to command," I said meekly. Well, at least it started out meek. I expect the Marilyn Monroe eyes changed the message a bit. It's amazing how little the difference is between eyes demurely downcast and heavy-lidded suggestion.

The logistics of going somewhere to eat offered an excuse not to talk about anything important for a while. But eventually we were sitting down with our meals.

"So," Johnny opened, "what's with the fishing for an invitation to my place?"

"Can't I come visit you for a change sometime?"

"Of course, but it sounded like you were feeling . . . insecure? Do you feel like I've been, um, using you?"

"Oh yeah," I said with a throaty little sigh. "Well and wonderfully used. Thank you so very, very much."

Johnny's face mottled red among the planes and crags. It was so charming, and he was so much fun to tease.

I took just a little pity on him and continued, "But I know what you meant. And I suppose there might be some of that. I'm still so amazed, and thrilled, that someone as handsome and wonderful as you is interested in me . . ."

"Interested? God, Freya, you're so . . ."

"Thank you, Johnny," I said, interrupting him. "But Sunday evening I actually got to feeling like I'd been using *you.* You've made me feel so incredibly cherished, and so impossibly feminine and desirable. And you've rocked my world like I never dreamed was possible. Goodness, Johnny, even kissing you can make me faint! But I know so little about you."

I went on with a babbling array of questions that didn't really matter. "Do you have a 'man cave' in your place, with a huge TV and 57 remote controls? Are the magazines scattered around Playboy, or Car and Driver, or Architectural Digest? Is your place cluttered or neat - I'm guessing cluttered from that wince I just saw? Do you live with your mother and sister and two maiden aunts and a cocker spaniel? Who *are* you really, Johnny?"

He sighed and relaxed a little. "Well, I live alone. And my place is cluttered, at best. I don't really have a man cave, and the monitor on my computer is bigger than my TV. I suppose you'd characterize most of my magazines as history - primarily military history, with emphasis on the tools of war. Planes, tanks, ships, that sort of thing. I guess I'm a bit of a geek."

"Hardly," I laughed. "Believe me, I'm an expert in 'geek', and you don't fit the mold at all."

"Hardly," he laughed in turn. "Once upon a time, maybe you were a bit toward the nerd side of things, but Freya is way cool."

"Thank you, kind sir," I said with a purr. "A girl can only do her best and hope . . ."

"An awesome best, indeed," Johnny said, reaching out to touch my hand. I swear, I felt the tingle all the way to my earlobes.

Finding out a bit about Johnny's interests made for a pleasant lunch time and much too soon we were pulling back into the lot at the office. I didn't want it to end.

"Johnny," I said quietly, "You really, really make me feel special . . ."

"Glad to hear it," he answered with just a bit of smug satisfaction, but I forgave him.

"And part of that is because it is so wonderfully flattering that I can, um . . . interest you."

"Oh, you do that," he said with a smile.

"And, um," I said, dropping my eyes. Which didn't really help, since what I saw showed he was indeed interested. "I, um, didn't get any dessert at the restaurant."

"It's not nice to tease," Johnny said with a groan.

"It's not a tease if you're willing to back it up," I said softly, still looking demurely down.

"You mean, right now?"

"Mmmm hmmmm," I sighed, biting a bit at my lower lip and finally looking up at him through my feathery fronds of lash.

"Oh, God, Freya, you are so damn hot . . ."

"So, is that a yes?" I purred, reaching out for my prize.

Hearing no objections, I tried to get his monster out of its prison. It almost didn't work.

"Wait . . . careful," he grunted. He had to lift his tush off the seat and slide his pants down a bit, because he was just too big to come out through the fly.

"I have a name for it, you know," I murmured, reacquainting myself with the velvety hard contours. I lowered my lips and gave the tip a kiss. "Hello, Johnnyconda, so very . . . good to see you again."

In the awkward position of the truck cab I couldn't really get the right angle to do the whole thing, but I managed to get enough of him into my mouth to do a reasonably competent job. In any event, I heard no complaints. A few grunts, and a moan or three, but no real complaints. When I finished, I did as good a job as I could at cleaning him off, then let him tuck things away as I reached for a mint from my purse.

Once the . . . desire was past, my eyes started to fill up with tears. I tried to look out the window while Johnny was restoring his clothes, but he was so beautifully sensitive that he picked up on my distress.

"What's wrong?" he asked, pulling me into his arms.

I didn't say anything for a minute, working very hard to keep my tears from spilling over.

"Freya, love, what's the matter?"

"Oh god, Johnny, you must think I'm such a slut!" I wailed. "But I so need to know that I can excite a wonderful, handsome man. I never felt so . . . desirable before. And I'm afraid that I'll wake up and find it was all just a dream!"

Johnny gathered me up into his massive arms. "It's not a dream, m'love - at least, not the kind that can go away when you wake up. I do want you, but not just for what you can do to my body - no matter how incredible that is. You don't have to . . . pleasure me to make me want you."

"But I need to pleasure you for *me* to want me," I said into his chest. Then I hiccupped and added, "And I do, truly, get pleasure from pleasing you. It makes me feel so good."

Johnny tried to lighten the mood with a joke. "Well, I'm all for making you feel good." But he also squeezed me so wonderfully tight, and said, "Freya, darling, I do love you, but the sex is only a part of that. I love your bright sense of humor, your intelligence, your beauty and your grace. I'm unbelievably flattered that such a gorgeous woman would want to spend time with me. That you are so damn good at sex just makes it all the better. But don't ever think you have to do sexual things to keep me interested. It's so much more than that."

"So, you don't . . . want me to be a slut?" I asked, but my little mood had passed as quickly as it had appeared and I was teasing again. And he knew it.

"Oh, hell yes," he said. "The perfect woman is a lady in public, but a . . . well, I just can't call you that, but . . . wanton in private. In other words, just like you."

I hugged him back and purred at his sweet, comforting words. Then I sighed and said, "We're going to be late getting back to work."

"Tough," he said, squeezing me harder.

"Oh, Johnny," I sighed happily. "You are so good for me. But we need to get back."

He didn't say anything for a long, delicious moment, then I could feel his shrug. "Okay."

I didn't go inside immediately, of course. I had to touch up my lipstick and make a few other repairs. But my wild, energetic hair would need brushing when I got to my desk regardless of what I might do outside, so that could mostly be put off. The walk across the parking lot reminded me of something else.

"Oh, Johnny," I said as we walked through the door, "I'm looking for a new car. Would you mind helping me find one?"

"Not at all," he said.

Rick Timmonds tried a wink-nudge thing with Tony, but Tony just shrugged off any reinforcement of what Rick was trying to imply. Joe Heller smiled at me, and I caught Joe's eye and smiled back. After I had tamed my mane of hair, I walked over to Joe's desk.

"I hope that's not bothering you," I said. "I'm honestly not trying to flirt with Johnny. I do need some help finding a new car."

"It's okay, Freya," Joe said with what looked to me like an honest smile. "I'm actually feeling better about all of this."

"I'm glad," I said, then leaned a hip on his desk and lowered my head so that only he could hear. "I guess I should tell you . . . over the weekend, I realized that - deep down inside - I believe I really am a woman. I talked about it a long time with Angela - Tony's sister - and there are a lot of things that just . . . make sense, I guess."

"Really?" Joe said, frowning for a moment. But then his face cleared and he said, "I suppose it's funny, in a way, but would you believe that makes it better in my mind? Somehow, if your inside matches the outside, and there's just a, um, discontinuity in between, that, um, works for me."

"Oh, Joe, you're a sweetheart," I said, smiling. "Thank you so much for understanding."

"But no flirting on company time," he whispered with a grin.

"Yes sir," I said, snapping to attention and saluting. I forgave him for watching my girls bounce around instead of looking at my eyes - at least that time. But when he did look back at my face, I grinned and dropped my hand in a 'gotcha' shot. He blushed, but smiled and waved me out of his cube.

I really did need a car. My old Rustoleum beater seemed okay to Tommy, but I needed something more . . . stylish. I had my eyes on a Miata. Surprisingly - which is one of the reasons I wanted him to come along - Johnny could actually sit in it. I'm not sure he could have driven it comfortably, or ridden in it very far (and walked afterward), but it was okay.

And it was sooo cute. I got the so-called "Special Edition" which was a darling ice blue that I just loved. The only thing Johnny really disagreed with me on was that he thought I should have used more of my remaining bonus money to make my down payment larger, but I had another use in mind for that money.

With buying the car and a few other things I had to take care of, all the sudden I had another insanely busy week. I took off a day on Wednesday for 'personal reasons,' and picked up my car on Thursday. The good news was that I had an excuse to show it to Johnny, so I met him at his apartment, getting a look inside for the first time.

It wasn't much of a surprise, which was good because one of the things I'd been planning required that his place be pretty much of a typical 'bachelor pad' sort of thing. Meaning, it needed a bit of cleaning.

One of the most compelling arguments that Angela had used to convince me that I was a woman on the inside was when she pointed out that a 'guy' - including a bisexual or gay guy - who invited someone over for a 'dinner and sex' evening would have met the visitor at the door in some overtly sexual outfit. Instead, I had chosen classy elegance and a very refined dinner. Followed, of course, by the wildest and most intense sexual experience of my life. But the setup was elegant.

I was deliriously happy with the way that evening had gone. But Angela's comment had stayed with me. Was that what Johnny wanted the most? Would he have preferred a no-beating-around-the-bush, no-questions, blatantly sexual offering? Would he have preferred the slut I felt so much like I wanted to be for him?

There was obviously one way to find out.

So when we were arranging what we would do for Saturday night - we had the Saturday duty again, so we didn't do anything Friday evening - I told him I'd come by his place. I let him assume it was because I wanted to drive my pretty new car wherever we went for dinner, but I had a different idea in mind.

When Saturday evening rolled around, I found myself sitting in my new car in the parking lot by Johnny's apartment. And sitting. I was trying the "deep slow breath" thing before I got out of my car, because I was going to be mortified if anyone saw me before I got to Johnny's place and I wanted to be as calm as possible. Eventually, after 5 or 6 very long hours - or perhaps that many minutes - I decided it was about as quiet as it was going to get and I slipped out of my car and up to Johnny's door.

I was still about half an hour earlier than I said I'd be there, so I figured Johnny was still getting ready. That was part of the plan.

I used one of the things I was carrying to knock on his door, listened for a bit, then knocked again.

"Coming," I heard his voice say. As the door opened, he said, "You're earl . . ."

"Maid sairveese," I said. "I 'av - how you say - *come* to clean votre apartement."

Then, as though I were expected to do just that, I swayed into his apartment. The sway was pretty much a requirement, since I was perched higher on my toes than I had ever been. Even the platform heels I had worn the night Johnny first made love to me didn't arch my own feet quite so high. They had started to hurt just as soon as I stood up on them, but I wasn't going to let Johnny know that.

In addition to the heels, I had on a little black satin dress over an explosion of snowy petticoats, with a little white apron and cap, plus a little cameo ribbon choker. My stockings were seamed fishnets that were opera length, but still not long enough to hide the dark band at the top under the super-short pettis, nor the garters stretching from my hidden corset - which was itself doing a very good job of squeezing my bosom out through the neckline of the tight little dress.

"Oh, M'sieu," I said, "you 'av waited much too long to call on me."

I proceeded to bustle my way around Johnny's apartment, picking up things and swiping at piles with a feather duster. Whenever I needed to bend over - and that seemed to happen a lot - I bent at my waist despite the stiffness of my corset, keeping my long legs as straight as possible. And made sure that either my pretty little tail or my cavernous cleavage was aimed in his direction.

Johnny was wearing his slacks and shoes, but he didn't have a shirt on yet. I let my eyes linger on all those muscles when I was looking that way. Well, muscles and other areas of bulging interest. I also let the tip of my tongue peek out through my bright lips as I did.

"Oh, M'sieu, vous etes . . .you air zo 'andsome. They did not tell me you would be so magnifique.

I suppose calling his attention back to the way he looked reminded him that he was half dressed. And that, in turn, broke his stunned immobility. He twitched, closed his mouth (finally) and laughed. Johnny surged over to me, sweeping me up in his arms.

"Oooh, M'sieu, vous etes tres coquin . . . naughty," I protested, but as I did I squirmed so that my poufed out skirt rubbed against him.

"You are incredible," he said, laughing. "Where in the world did you get that outfit?"

"Ce uniforme? Vous l'aimez? You like it?"

"What there is of it," he laughed, nodding. "It's quite . . . flattering."

"Je suis . . . I am zo 'appy that you think zo," I said.

I squirmed just a bit more so that he let me down, then dipped into a deep curtsy that gave him a view most of the way to my navel - or would have, if my corset weren't crushing that into my backbone. "Je m'appelle Suzette. A votre sairveese."

"And just what 'sairveese' do you provide, mam'selle?"

"Oh, M'sieu, J'ai beaucoup des connaissances . . how you say? . . . many skills." In case he was being particularly dense, I slowly licked my lips and looked at his most prominent bulge.

"I assume this means we're not going out to dinner," he said.

"Mais non, M'sieu. It would not be propair." That was certainly true. If I went anywhere in public in that outfit I'd probably get arrested.

"Asseyez vous," I said, ordering him like I had any authority. I pushed him back into his easy chair and sashayed to the little kitchenette. "Je vous donne a boire . . . a drink."

This was the next part of my plan, and one that was incredibly risky. It might end up in disaster, but a part of me needed to see whether it was as much of a turn on for Johnny as thinking about it had been for me.

All I got him was water, but he wasn't going to get to drink it anyway, so that was quite adequate. On my way back to his chair, I 'slipped' and fell, pouring the water into his lap. My stumble ended up with me draped across his lap with my tush in the air.

"Ooh, M'sieu, je suis desolee! I am zo zorry. Whatever will you do to me?"

If I had any doubts, they went away in a single heartbeat. Literally. Because between one heartbeat and the next, the Johnnyconda grew so hard and huge that I thought I was going to get bucked right off Johnny's lap. Johnny's face, as I looked up at him through sad, but very large eyes, got bright red, then grew a snarky little grin that showed - for the first time, actually - he was truly ready to get into this game.

"Suzette, you are a bad girl! I'm going to have to teach you to be more careful."

He flipped up the hem of my 'uniform' and then pushed all the petticoats out of the way. All that was left was a tiny thong that didn't get in the way of anything.

Then he lied to me. It was a pretty standard lie, and in fact I thought it might even be the truth or I might not have set up the whole scene.

"This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you," he claimed. Then he whacked my butt with a hand that felt like a concrete block.

"Ow!" I yelled - still in Freya's voice, but without any of the cute little 'Ooh, la la' expressions I had planned. I was afraid - well, maybe that's not really the word - that Johnny would stop when he heard a real yell out of me, but he was far enough into the game that it didn't seem to register. In any event, it certainly didn't stop him. After that first bang I didn't say anything more - mostly because I couldn't. That first cry was the sound of all the air being driven out of my lungs. I couldn't seem to breathe while he was smacking my bottom. I felt the blood start to pound in my ears in a sensation I was finding all too familiar. Damn corset! Or wonderful corset, considering it made me feel so deliciously helpless and feminine.

Whack! Whack! Whackwhackwhack!

He was laying on with a will, and he certainly had the skill. In seconds my poor little tush was burning like the sun, and I expected it was probably glowing about that brightly, too. At least, most of it was.

The reason I had thought - hoped, actually - that being spanked would hurt Johnny's hand as much as it hurt my bottom was because of the pads that now shaped my derriere. They weren't enough. Not even close.

As he beat a drum roll on my bottom, I felt Johnny's arousal grow impossibly large under my tummy. Somehow, and this part wasn't really planned, it had ended up just below the lower edge of my corset, rubbing on the outside of the much-thinner and more flexible gaff that hid my own arousal away. I could feel the contours of it, the thickness and the curve that tried so hard to escape from its prison. By about the third swack, my own arousal was as hard as Johnny's - not as big as the specimen he owned, but just as intense. Every slam of his hand rubbed my tummy against the thick monster that lurked inside his pants.

"Oh, God, Johnny, I can't . . . hold it . . . any longer," I gasped. And then an avalanche rolled over me, roaring and implacable. My back and legs arched up until I thought my head would touch my heels and I held it for a timeless infinity, quivering and moaning.

I woke up in Johnny's bed.

On my stomach.

"Oooh," I moaned as my hand felt the heat of my poor bottom.

Johnny's concerned voice asked, "Are you okay?"

"I like to think I'm better than just okay," I purred, but I let my head droop against the pillow. "Ohmigod, Johnny, that was intense."

"For me, too," he said, and I saw another flush on his face. And that he was wearing a different pair of pants.

"You mean?"

"Yes," he said sheepishly. "When you came, I did, too."


"Yeah," Johnny agreed.

"You're a naughty boy, Johnny Toland," I said, pointing a shiny nail at him.

"You started it," he countered, trying for a little peevish whine that didn't work at all in his huge rumble. It tickled me so much that I started giggling, and that made him laugh, and then we were both hoorawing so hard that we couldn't breathe. I made myself calm down when the world started to go dark in the edges, but it wasn't easy.

After we survived our laughter, Johnny fluffed at the mound of petticoats that pretended to cover my ass. "I assume you have some other clothes . . . not that I don't think you look terrific in that outfit."

"Actually, no," I said. "I was, um, afraid that I'd lose my nerve, so this is all I have until I get home again."

"So, do you want to go? I can follow you to your place."

I laughed, and then explained. "Angela told me that the proof that I was really a woman was that when I wanted to seduce you, I planned an elegant evening in a formal gown. She said someone who was a guy on the inside would have met you at the door wearing 'something trashy' with a pizza and a six-pack."

Johnny laughed, and said, "That's probably right."

"So, this outfit counts as something trashy," I said. "Do you suppose we could arrange a pizza and a six-pack, and just stay in tonight?"

"I think we have that technology," he said.

I never even took that silly maid outfit off. I couldn't take the shoes off because they locked on. There was an ankle strap with little padlocks, which I guess I didn't think about when I ordered them. I was just focused on how insanely high the heels were. And if I couldn't get the shoes off, then I couldn't take the stockings off, and if I couldn't take the stockings off, I couldn't take the corset off that had the garters to hold them up. And so . . .

So I just flounced around in my outfit all night. I used my Suzette accent and pretended to clean while we were waiting for the pizza, though my feet were screaming for relief from those Torquemada heels by the time it arrived.

Since I couldn't stand in those ridiculous heels, and I for sure couldn't sit down, I straddled Johnny's lap and we fed each other pizza. He tried to get me to eat way too much - I think he was having fun smearing it on my face - but it was worth it when he started to lick the sauce off my lips . . . and my nose . . . and my chin . . . and my neck. I didn't think any pizza got on my neck, but he insisted.

Dessert was all mine, though. And I cleaned him just as thoroughly. Or maybe even a bit more, because by the time I was done . . .

I didn't have anything in my bottom this time, but I was ready for him anyway. I did get a little of that fragrant oil I promised - I had brought it as part of my 'cleaning supplies' - and I coated his tower with cool, scented fluid, then rode his lap in a slow, tender, coupling that was so beautiful my eyes filled with tears even as my body - and Johnny's - shuddered yet again.

Chapter 20 - "Off Days and All the Rest"

"You are such a romantic," Angela sighed, then she giggled. "A naughty, naughty girl, but a romantic."

We were hanging curtains in my apartment on Sunday afternoon. I wanted to lighten up the room with something cheerful, and had found some poufy drapes in a floral print that seemed to bring Springtime into the room all by themselves.

"Did you really lock those crazy shoes on your feet?" she asked as I stepped up on a stool to reach the curtain rod. I wasn't still wearing the heels from my maid outfit. I had taken those off as soon as I hit the door. The heels on my western-style boots were at least a couple of inches lower, enough to make me feel like I was walking on flats though they still lifted me above six feet in overall stature.

"Yes," I said, smirking. "But I had the key with me. It was obvious that they were a real turnon for Johnny - that boy has a few kinks I don't think even he knows about."

"Not many left, I hope," Angela replied. "Geez, girl, if all you've done together is not enough for him . . ."

"Oh, I think he's been satisfied," I said smugly. "But you never know what lurks beyond the next horizon."

"When'd you get home?" she asked.

"Sometime before dawn," I said. "I wasn't about to wear that outfit in the daylight. Particularly not coming back into my apartment looking like the morning after the night before with - as you pointed out - 'bedroom hair.'"

Angela laughed and nodded. "Probably not a good move."

"I woke up fairly early and slipped out. When I got back here I cleaned up and went back to bed. I was just getting up when you called."

"Well, I had to find out what happened," she explained.

"Of course," I agreed, then I handed her the other end of a cascade of fabric. "Besides, I was gonna call you anyway to come and help with this."

Not surprisingly, I had received several deliveries on Saturday when I had absolutely zero time to take care of them. Between work and frantically preparing for my date with Johnny, I hadn't had a chance even to open all the packages. In addition to the drapes, I had received several place settings of a nice, though inexpensive set of dishes. I had already washed and put those away, consigning my old ragtag mix to the giveaway box, when Angela had arrived. I was also finally able to give her back the afghan that had been hiding my couch. Not because I had a new couch - that wasn't due for another week or so - but because I now had my own pillows and throws and coverlets. Every day, my apartment was beginning to look more like a home and less like a mere box to keep the weather out.

When we had finished with my chores, Angela and I sat for a cup of coffee. Well, Angela sat. I sort of gathered up my legs under me so that I didn't have to put all my weight on my still-glowing tail. The conversation wandered around for a bit, but finally I decided to get to a topic that was thrilling in the fullest sense of the word. I was scared and anxious and yet so excited I could hardly hold it in.

I tried to be cool and sophisticated, though, treating it as though it were merely another little job to do.

"Angela, can I ask you a favor?"

"Sure . . . you can ask," she said, grinning.

I smiled at her tease, then took as deep a breath as I could before blurting out, "I need to go to the hospital tomorrow."

"Hospital? What's wrong?" she asked with concern.

In response, I hefted the mounds that filled my blouse. "These aren't real."

It took her a few seconds to get the point. "Ohmigod, you mean . . . ?"

"Yep," I said. "I need to be at the hospital by 6:00AM tomorrow. I've already arranged to have off on Tuesday, and the doctor says that should be enough, since my job is just sitting at a phone all day. I'll have to get one of the guys to cover any site visits, but that's not unusual."

"How did you set that up? So soon?"

"I took a day off last week, too," I explained. "I managed to do the research to find what I wanted - and who I wanted to do it - during slow periods at work, and I met with the doctor and . . . well, it's tomorrow."

"What are you gonna have done?"

"Just my boobs," I said. "And I've started on some hormones - not a lot, yet, and it will be a while before anything is irreversible. And yes, it is all under a doctor's supervision."

Angela frowned. "I didn't think they'd do that sort of thing so fast."

"Well," I said, looking down at my hands. "I did fib a little. I told him I've been living full time as a woman - which is true - but I said it had been for several months, not . . .well, less than two. All the pictures I showed him made it seem like I'd been doing this for a while."

"More like one month," she corrected me. Then she smiled, and patted my hand. "I was there, after all."

"Yes, Angela, you were, and I'm more grateful than I can ever say."

We paused for a minute, then I asked, "So . . . ?"

"So. . .?" she repeated, looking confused.

"So will you come to the hospital with me tomorrow, ditz? It's supposed to be an outpatient thing where I can come home tomorrow afternoon. They really don't let you stay in hospitals much any more. But I'm supposed to get someone to bring me home."

"Of course I'll do it," Angela snorted. "You should know that."

"Well," I blushed, "I did sorta expect it. I sure can't ask Johnny."

"No," she agreed. "He doesn't need to know until it's a done deal."

"Exactly," I agreed, then I giggled. "I'm thinking up ways to let him 'find' my new, um, equipment."

"Even if you're only in the hospital for a day, how are you going to, um, hide things until you're all healed up? I mean, won't there be bandages and things? And maybe, y'know, some swelling?"

"I'm counting on a lot of 'swelling,'" I said, smirking. "I have a couple of loose, bulky sweaters that could cover the Goodyear Blimp . . . or two of them."

"Just how big are you going?" Angela asked suspiciously.

"Oh, Angela, what you did for me was just perfect. I told the doctor I want to look just the same, except have the, y'know, things on the inside."

"And the hormones?"

"Well," I giggled, "I mostly want . . . nipples that work."

"Oh," she said, eyes wide.

"Yep," I confirmed, then I reached out and rubbed my palms on the tight little buds that had grown within her blouse as we talked. "I want to . . . feel what you feel."

"Ohhh," she moaned. "I can . . . understand . . . why you want . . . that."

We didn't get much more work done that afternoon.

I tried to get them to let me wear my panties under the hospital gown the next morning. The panties - actually a teensy little thong panty - wasn't really all that important. It certainly didn't hide much. But if I could keep my panty on, then I could keep the gaff on. I didn't want to let who knows how many people see a decidedly discordant shape on what otherwise looked like a girl. Even if they couldn't 'see' anything through the gown, the shape might show.

But they wouldn't hear of it. I hadn't ever spent much time in the hospital, but apparently they had set things up with assembly-line efficiency for these outpatient procedures, and that meant there was no time for negotiations or exceptions. At least my hair was anchored with glue, so that had to stay. They weren't particularly happy about that. Even though Angela had wound it into tight braids, the volume was still enough that they had to hunt for a larger cap to cover it than the assembly line provided.

And of course, my face was naked. That was worse than no panties. I suppose that actually helped, because the indignity of the whole thing kept any unsightly bulges from growing enough to show.

They even took away my wedge-heeled sandals. After being in skyscraper heels almost constantly for weeks, I was finding it uncomfortable-to-impossible to put my feet flat on the floor. Which was just fine with me. I never wanted to be short again. But it meant that when I was required to walk from one place to another, I had to walk on my toes.

So, all in all, I wasn't in a particularly good mood when they gave me the first shot. After that, I would placidly have watched Congress in session and not complained.

Here is a hard lesson: Getting a breast augmentation - especially when you start with essentially nothing and 'go for the gusto ' hurts. It feels like the worst muscle pull you ever had . . . every single time you breathe. Even with the pain pills they gave me I spent a lot of Monday night and Tuesday crying. Softly, because I couldn't afford the deep breaths required for real wails, but tears flowing quite freely, thank you very much.

But by Wednesday I was back at work. Angela had come by to do my hair and makeup because it hurt too much to raise my arms that high, but I made it into work more or less on time. I wore tight black jeans and tall black boots to draw everyone's attention away from the shapelessness of my upper body. That part worked okay. Nobody seemed to suspect what had really happened.

The chat windows opened fairly early, though.
JT: What's wrong?

FL: Just feeling a bit under the weather.

JT: Was it anything I did?

FL: Goodness no! You made me feel wonderful! ;-)

AC: You okay, Freya?

FL: Yeah. Just a little tired.

AC: Tell that big moose to take it easy.

FL: Tony . . . what are you suggesting?! :-0

AC: Like it's not obvious to everyone.

FL: Oh, my. Are you telling me that I've become a scarlet woman?

AC: I don't know about scarlet, but you've been smiling so much you put the sun to shame . . . until today.

FL: Truly, I'm okay. I'll be fine. Thanks for being such a nice guy.

AC: Yeah, right, that's what they all say.

AC: Just before I get the 'friends' line. :-(

FL: Oh, Tony, you're a dear, but . . .

AC: Yeah, I know. Just, take it easy with Little John, okay? He doesn't know his own strength.
I blushed at that. I think he had a pretty good idea of his own strength, after the way he'd held me up . . . and down . . .and up . . .
FL: I'll be careful. I promise.

AC: You better. Else I'll sic Angela on you.

FL: Oh, no! :-)

JT: If you're quite finished with your other conversation, do you have a moment for me?

FL: Sorry, Johnny. I guess I must look like s**t today or something. Tony was concerned, too.

JT: Well, I can't blame him. What's wrong?

FL: Nothing. Really. I'm just tired. I had a lot to do on my days off.

JT: Like what?

FL: Oh, just chores.

FL: Oh, by the way, I'm expecting a new couch in a few days. Could I get your help moving it in?

JT: Of course.

FL: Great! I'll let you know.
Then I got a call, which was a good thing since it let me close those topics.

Thursday was better, and My Day was better yet. Johnny wanted to do something over the weekend but I begged off due to redecorating chores. He offered to help with those, but except for moving the old couch out - which he pretty much did on his own - and mounting a few shelves around my apartment, I told him it was just something I needed to do myself. And I did make quite a few changes: A new spread for the bed, cushions for my 'dining room' chairs, a few other things that would have been mementoes of growing up as a girl, if I had actually done that. I put some dolls and stuffed animals on the shelves and wished I had pictures of a young Freya to go with all the ones of the grown up person I had become. At least some of my pictures showed me with a guy so I didn't look totally like an old spinster with her cats and knitting.

I also rested a lot, mostly because the pain pills I took when I was home pretty much knocked me out. But by the following Monday I was feeling pretty much back to normal, except for the bulky bandages around my chest. I was really, really tempted to peek, especially once they quit hurting so much.

My appointment with the doctor was on Tuesday, and Angela was there for me.

"Can I see?" she wheedled.

"Not till we get home, you slut!" I said, laughing.

"Well, you looked," she claimed.

"Of course," I said blandly. Then I giggled and said, "You know what? They don't look any different. I wanted to match what you did as well as the doctor could, and they look as perfect as the ones you gave me."

Then I laughed again, "Well, except that the nipples are tiny little things. But I'm working on that."

She laughed, then frowned. "Is that going to be a problem? I mean, when you, um, grow your own, aren't you going to be . . . huge?"

"Not really," I sighed. "My mother and all the female relatives that I can remember were all pretty . . . limited. I'm just hoping for nips as big as the ones my stick-ons had."

"Ooh, that's an image I can appreciate," she purred.

Like Sherlock Holmes said (paraphrased) the funny thing was the dog that didn't bark. Or in this case, the fact my bosom looked the same on Wednesday as it had a couple of weeks earlier. None of the guys seemed to notice any change. Inside though, I knew it was me. I could feel the caress of the bra on my breasts. I could feel every little waft of air that flowed over my (low) neckline and tickled at the depths of my (definite) cleavage. It was intensely satisfying. The only thing it would take to make it perfect is for my nipples to finish growing up. Well, that and have Johnny caress them the way he had caressed my fake bosom.

And have Angela leave lipstick marks across them that I could feel as well as see.

And maybe for them to tingle the way Angela's seemed to do. Sigh.

I was as anxious as any 14-year-old girl to have my girls grow in, only I had cheated on the easy parts. But I was already detecting just a bit of darker color in my areolae. I'm sure I was. And maybe just a bit of swelling behind the color . . . and maybe just a bit more size to the tiny little bumps on the end.


I had talked to the endocrinologist about my options, and we were on a course of hormones that he hoped - and so did I, a dozen times a day - would give me softer skin with a little subcutaneous layer of smoothing fat, add enough fat to my hips that I could do away with those pads, too (in fact, he seemed to think this would be hard to avoid - perpetual diets were in my future, it seemed), and give me a woman's well-developed nipples and areola . . . all without causing me to lose function in my last vestige of masculinity. Or at least, not lose all the function in it. That was the risk; that the hormone cocktails would have the effect of castrating me chemically (ugh! - even to think about). Somehow, I just couldn't get comfortable with the idea of . . . doing away with it.

I felt like a woman in my heart, yet that little leftover bit of Tommy was somehow part of me as well. Including what it - I - could do with Angela. I'd hate to lose that option. Maybe that meant I was not 100% woman on the inside after all, but I could live with that.

Besides, the shrink and the endocrinologist and the rest of the medicos wanted me to go for a year full time as Freya before they'd let me consider any further - and irreversible - steps anyway. I had lied about when I'd started, but I wasn't in a frantic hurry to cross that bridge. Or refuse to cross that bridge.

That nagging little reluctance kept me from ever moving in with Johnny. Okay, that and the fact I wanted my time with Angela as well. But if I weren't going the whole way, then it didn't seem right to live with Johnny full time. Though there were times when I wanted that so bad that if he'd have offered I'd have taken him up on it. Somehow, we never both reached the same point at the same time. He never asked when I'd have said yes, and I never quite felt like saying yes when he did ask.

So, over the course of the next few months I grew nicely - or naughtily - proud nips and developed a wonderful little tingle when they received any attention. Almost any attention at all, in fact. I ended up wearing heavier bra cups because the little tickle of lace cups was driving me crazy with desire all the time. I actually started dressing a bit more conservatively at work. After a couple of onsite calls where my outfits didn't really fit the image the company wanted, I got the message and started to dress more appropriately. In fact, I pulled the whole crew up with me a little. Instead of jeans and t-shirts, I started wearing nice skirts, or even a dress sometimes. And the guys started wearing slacks and dress shirts, often with a jacket. I never got more 'sensible' on the shoes, of course. It's been a long time since I could put my feet flat on the floor.

Of course, I wore lace cups when I wanted that tickle - which was . . . oh, about every weekend and any other night that I expected to get with Johnny or Angela. My little tattletales were as proud as Angela's, and I was only too happy to show them off . . to the right people.

It turned out Johnny did indeed have a few more kinks, not that he ever gave up on the 'old' ones. Over the course of the next few months I got spanked a few more times. I don't think I ever again came as hard - from spanking alone - as I did that first time, but Johnny could put me over the top any time he decided to do it. I was not always a good girl, and never a nice one, so once he decided it was an 'acceptable' way to teach me a lesson . . . he did. But just like sweeping me up in his arms to kiss me senseless, his spankings made me feel small and delicate and incredibly feminine, so I accepted whatever he wanted to give me, whenever he wanted to do it. I suppose it was a little like having his monster up my bottom - there was pain, but it was a sort of all-consuming, full-body intensity that swept me up into places I didn't even know existed before Johnny showed them to me.

But the operative phrase in those experiences was "over the next few months."

Because there were only a few months - just over six altogether after I became Freya - before I lost Johnny. It wasn't his fault, and it wasn't really my fault either. He got a job at another company. In another state . . . one far, far away.

It was actually a family thing. I never knew his family had money. It turned out he was a nephew of some rich guy who owned about a dozen freight forwarder companies and he offered Johnny the chance to be somebody important in the parent company. Like the eventual owner. It was a good fit for Johnny because he had the sort of gentle compassion that meant he'd take care of the company's employees, which is why his uncle wanted someone from the family to keep the business rather than just selling out to some soulless corporation.

But it was a long way out of state. We talked about me going with him, but at the time I was making fairly good money at Southwest Synergistics and we decided to wait until I could find something equivalent up there in the frigid Northeast. In the meantime, I visited him when I could and he showed me the sights and sounds of the megalopolis. The shoes in New York are to die for.

And he showed me the sights and sounds of his apartment, too. Particularly the bedroom. That was even better than the shoe stores.

But I never found a job up there. I suppose part of the reason was that it would have meant leaving Angela. And in the end, it turned out I loved Angela more than Johnny. It wasn't a particularly easy decision and I spent a lot of tears on it. But my visits to Johnny started spacing out further and further, and after a while we had another too-important-for-a-phone talk and decided to call it quits. The only thing I really regret is that I never got a chance to share Johnny with Angela. I still have fantasies about that.

Or maybe I just loved Johnny enough to realize his best future didn't really include me. I tell myself that, sometimes. After we broke up, he married this tall, blonde, model type. Yes, I noticed the resemblance. But in the most fundamental way, she could give him something that was forever beyond my reach. By last Christmas (we still exchange cards) Johnny's tall, handsome, compassionate genes had been passed on to the cutest little twins - fraternal twins, a boy and a girl - so he had an almost instantly perfect family.

I had a few flings of my own with guys after Johnny and I split up. The time-of-the-month excuse always works to steer the guys into something other than missionary position, and I do like giving my lovers pleasure so they didn't seem to mind. But none of them ever measured up to Johnny - literally and in all the other ways.

If they ever make a movie about Wonder Woman though, Angela should be the star. She is pretty enough to be a movie star, and her killer smile is just too beautiful for words. Plus, she's a genius with hair and makeup, has a great eye for styles, and even knows how to sew. Oh, and she's as wise as any of those old Greek goddesses that Wonder Woman supposedly mimics.

Since Angela didn't mind my little secret, I never had the final surgery - even when the hormones caused that last part of Tommy to become a bit less . . . insistent. We still find plenty of opportunity to use "it," and that's okay, too. At least, Angela doesn't complain and I'm more than satisfied. And then there are the toys that are the only things that come close to the Johnnyconda anyway . . .

So I guess we are living happily ever after, at that. It's just a different 'we' than I expected, way back when I decided I really was a woman on the inside. Or even further back, before that terrible, wonderful Friday the 13th.

"Freya, are you still writing in that silly diary?" Angela called as she came into our study / sewing room / reading room / quiet place.

"Yeah, I guess so," I said sheepishly.

"So, am I in there?" she asked.

"Just about every page, b'ooful," I claimed. Then I dumped Moondance from my lap, smiled, and walked to the other half of my being and gave her a big kiss. "So, are you in a hurry for dinner?" I asked, working my thin little eyebrows in a silly parody of a Groucho Marx leer.

"That depends on what you have in mind for dinner," she purred.

"You, of course," I murmured, smiling as I led her to our bed.


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