One Size Fits All
Penelope Woodley flipped through the stack of bills sitting on her new little kitchen table in her new little apartment in downtown Newford. It was the first time in her life she’d had to actually pay her own bills, and it was a bigger pain in the ass than she expected.
“Looks like we’re going to have to cut back on the doggie jerky,” she said to Scarlett, her miniature pinscher, who jumped up at her leg with a barking argument. Jack had never let her bring her furbaby to their house, so the eight-pound canine spent the last five years in plush accommodations at Penny’s parents’ house.
Adding up the balance of her utility bills, then comparing it to the balance in her checking account, made Penny wonder if the vibrator shopping spree she’d gone on had been a good idea. But as a newly single girl whose emotions flipped from furious and homicidal to depressed and weepy on an hourly basis, she needed a way to blow off steam and relax. And since she had no dating prospects, she had to find an orgasm somehow.
Jack, her soon-to-be ex and the pile of shit who’d cheated on her and got his new “soul mate” pregnant, had always been in charge of the money and bills. When they’d gotten married, she’d gone from the safety and care of her parents’ home to his, never learning how to be on her own. And until two months ago, she never thought she’d have to be on her own. But here she was, twenty-eight and living in her own apartment for the first time in her life.
But damn it, she was going to do this! She didn’t need that asshole for anything. She’d find a way to thrive, even if it meant eating cup-o-noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She never again wanted to be in a position where she had to rely on a man to take care of her. It was too easy for them to walk away and leave her with nothing but bitterness and a tear-streaked face.
She couldn’t wait to be Penny Wilshire again, and it would happen as soon as she could legally get rid of the jerk’s last name. Another thing to add to her list of grown-up tasks to do. But first was figuring out this whole online banking thing. She was a whiz on social media, blogs, and all other forms of advertising and marketing, but the money stuff was not her strong suit.
Penny clicked the link for her bank’s Web site and set up her online account. Easy so far. She filled in the necessary info, transferring her new checking account number from the bank paperwork, and chose a password. Uppercase letter, lowercase letter, special character . . . They may as well ask for her firstborn in the process. Penny snorted at the thought. She’d have to actually be able to have a firstborn for that to happen.
But she wouldn’t focus on that now. Not when she needed all her energy to figure out how to set up online bill pay.
She took a deep breath and let her head flop back, then noticed the clock. Almost time to meet the girls at the bar for Girls Night Out slash brainstorming meeting.
Mia and Bryn were the owners of Classy ’n’ Sassy Lingerie and Love Shop, and Penny’s closest friends and bosses. She started working there a few years ago when she needed something to occupy her days while Jack built his career. It had been too soon to have a baby back then. It didn’t fit into his “plan.” And when it finally did, well . . . It didn’t go so well. But Classy ’n’ Sassy had needed a marketing guru and Penny was eager to use the degree she’d worked so hard for. Win-win.
These days, it was rare that all three of them were in the shop together, so an evening meetup seemed like the most logical—and fun—way to get things accomplished. And after dealing with the headache of bills, she sure as hell needed a drink or two.
After a quick makeup and hair touch-up, Penny walked the few blocks to the bar, The Red Brick Inn.
“There she is!” Bryn squealed when Penny walked in and ran up to her, arms wide open. “I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever.”
She walked her to the booth where Mia was sitting. There were three bright blue martinis on the table with orange slices wedged on the rims, two of which were half gone.
Penny leaned down and hugged Mia, then slid in next to her. “How are you guys? I need all the details since my life is completely boring now.”
“Good,” Mia said, never one to be incredibly open about her life.
“Good?” Bryn flashed her a doubtful look. “That’s all you’re gonna give us?”
“Okay. It’s really good.” She tried to hide the smile that blossomed across her face with the lip of her martini glass. “He used the ‘M’ word last night.”
“Ménage?” Bryn’s eyes went wide and glittery.
“No!” Mia threw her orange slice at Bryn. “Marriage.”
“Awww! That’s awesome.” Penny was happy for her friend, albeit a little jealous, too. She clinked her glass to Mia’s. “Congrats.”
“Nothing official yet. I just told him I was open to it. We’ve only been together a few months. It’s too soon.”
“I disagree,” Bryn butted in. “When you know, you know. Eli and I started talking marriage only a few weeks after we became official.”
Great. Penny plastered on her smile and slurped down the rest of her drink. Her two closest friends’ lives were full of bliss, while hers was spiraling down the toilet. This didn’t suck at all.
Penny set down her glass and turned toward the sexy voice coming from her right. Yum. She’d seen Thor, the bouncer at The Red Brick, many times when she’d been there with Mia and Bryn, but now that she was a single woman again, she certainly looked at the six-foot-plus, muscular Adonis in a totally different light.
“Hey!” Bryn said to him. “How’s everything? School just started, so you’ve got to be going crazy.”
Penny vaguely remembered Bryn mentioning that Thor was also a phys-ed teacher at one of the schools. The high school maybe? Plus he coached football. He, Bryn, and Mia, along with Bryn’s deceased husband, had been friends since their high school days.
“Yeah. The beginning of the year is always hectic, especially trying to balance classes with football practice.”
Bryn rambled on about school and kids and all the stuff Penny knew nothing about yet. Instead she focused on the gorgeous man standing before her. She was a sucker for a muscular guy in jeans and a black T-shirt, especially one where the sleeves looked like they were going to bust open, Incredible Hulk style. Her soon-to-be ex-husband was the scrawny type who’d never lifted a weight in his life. She was sure as hell ready for a powerful man to totally take control—throw her on the bed, cover her body with his, hold her down with both hands above her head.
Whoa! Where were all those sexual thoughts coming from? Sure, she was attracted to Thor, but was she really ready to jump back into the dating pool? Some days it was a definitive no. But when she looked at a guy like Thor—especially after hearing how incredibly happy her friends were with their men—it was a lot closer to a yes.
And after the visions her brain had flashed her of what it could be like . . . Well, maybe she was more ready that she originally thought.
THEODORE RUBLINSKI had been a bouncer at The Red Brick Inn for more than ten years. And in that time, he’d had to fight off hundreds, maybe thousands, of advances from drunken women. He’d been flattered at first, but quickly learned the consequences of having one-night stands with random women. He was lucky he’d only gotten a few right hooks to the chin after sleeping with multiple men’s girlfriends or wives.
It really wasn’t his fault. How was he supposed to know? A guy in his twenties with women throwing themselves at him, and no wedding ring in sight?
Now that he was thirty-five, the random casual sex thing wasn’t all that enticing anymore.
The laughter from the ladies in front of him snapped him out of his thoughts. He laughed, too, even though he had no clue what was so funny.
“So what’s the wackiest thing you’ve experienced while working here?” Penny asked.
He’d seen her in the bar tons of times with Mia and Bryn. She was cute, but he knew she was married. “Well, if we don’t count all the times I had to kick people out for having sex in random places, maybe the time I had to help a guy get his foot unstuck from the toilet.”
“That’s a good one.” She nodded in approval, her smile morphing into a naughty kind of grin. “But I think sex in the bar classifies as fun, not wacky.”
If he didn’t know better, he’d think Penny was flirting with him. He let his gaze slide off hers for a millisecond. No ring on her finger. That explained why she’d been looking at him like he was a juicy steak since he walked over. She was either newly single—and apparently ready to mingle—or looking to have an affair. Did he really want to deal with either situation?
She continued. “I’ve never had sex anywhere in public. My soon-to-be ex was a prude.”
There was his answer. She was on her way to divorce court.
She turned back to her girlfriends. “Both of you have to drink, ’cause I know you have. I was on the other side of the wall, remember? I had to explain the thumping noise to customers.”
“Drink?” Mia asked. “When did this turn into a game of I Never?”
“Just now. But I’m out of alcohol.” Penny held up her empty glass. “I’ve never done anything, so do I even need another drink?”
Bryn narrowed her eyes and gave a challenging smile. “Oh, I know a few things you’ve done. You definitely need another drink.”
Thor wasn’t sure he was comfortable with where this conversation was going. He wasn’t one to kiss and tell, and frankly, this kind of talk made him uneasy. He wasn’t a prude by any means, but did he really want to hear about his female friends’ sexcapades? No. And especially not Bryn. He couldn’t handle that.
He cleared his throat. “How about I just get you all another round of drinks? On me.”
“That’s so sweet of you,” Bryn said, flashing a smile.
Thor grabbed the empty glasses and moved away from the table as fast as he could. He’d known Bryn since kindergarten, but when she started dating his best friend, and married him, she became almost a sister. Bryn and Johnny were married for over a decade, until he’d come home for a hero’s burial.
Now Bryn was dating some guy named Eli. She seemed happy, and he was happy for her. But that didn’t mean he wanted to hear about her sex life.
“I need three more of whatever they’re drinking,” he told the bartender, hitching his thumb over his shoulder at the girls’ table. “Put it on my tab.”
Owner of The Red Brick Inn and Thor’s longtime friend, Seth took the glasses and lined them up on the bar. “Three ladies. One of them’s gotta be your type.”
“It’s not like that.”
Seth poured various liquors into a martini shaker. “Why not?”
“For starters, Bryn and I have too much history. And she’s taken. Mia’s taken, too.”
“I don’t see rings on their fingers.” He gave the concoction a douse of pineapple juice.
“For a minute during the summer I thought about asking Bryn out, but it just felt weird.”
Seth nodded. “I get that. But what about the other blonde? I saw her making eyes at you.”
Thor turned to look at Penny. Something must’ve been funny, because her head was thrown back in laughter. When her eyes lit up like that, she was really beautiful. He hadn’t noticed before. “Yeah. Maybe.”
Seth capped the shaker. “Just maybe?”
But Thor’s argument was interrupted by Seth’s shaking. “What? I can’t hear you,” he yelled above the clang of ice hitting metal.
The noise stopped, so Thor began again. “I’m not sure—”
More shaking as Seth’s grin widened. He finally stopped and poured the bright blue concoction into each glass. “What happened to the guy who could get any woman in here to drop her panties in five minutes flat? That guy wouldn’t hesitate to hook up with a pretty girl.”
“I’m not that guy anymore. It got old and boring.”
“Aw. Is my little boy growing up?” Seth crossed his hands over his heart then wiped away an imaginary tear.
“Shut up, asshole.”
Seth loaded the drinks onto a tray and pushed it toward Thor. “Go get her, tiger.”
Thor rolled his eyes. “Whatever.” He returned to the girls’ table with the fruity drinks.
“Thank you, Thor,” they sang in unison.
Penny picked hers up. “I have a good one for I Never.”
That was his cue to leave. He stepped back, but Penny turned her seductive gaze on him.
“I’ve never seen Thor naked.”
Mia shook her head. “Not me.”
Bryn giggled and put the edge of her martini glass to her lips and sipped.
What? This was news to him. His cheeks felt like they were on fire.
“Do tell,” Penny purred.
Thor stepped back to the table. “Yeah. I think I need to hear this.”
“This one time, Johnny and I were making out in the boys’ locker room after practice and you came in. We hid in the corner, but I saw you strip down.” She turned back to the girls. “And yes, ladies, the rumors are true.”
Mia cocked an eyebrow and unsuccessfully fought a smile.
“What rumors?” Penny asked.
He was pretty interested in that, too.
“Well . . . ” Bryn started, wicked grin, “he puts our dildos to shame.”
He didn’t know much about the lingerie business, but from what he’d gathered from Bryn and Mia the various times they’d held work “meetings” at the bar, their shop had recently journeyed into the world of sex toys, fulfilling more than just their customers’ bra and panty needs. They took a crazy idea and ran with it, saving their shop with custom dildos molded after real, live men.
“Sorry, Mia, your man doesn’t have the nicest dick after all.” But then Bryn’s eyes went wide, her mouth open. He could almost see the lightbulb click on above her head. “Oh! Damn it! Why didn’t I think of him before?” She turned back to Thor. “You can be our new dildo model!”
“What?” Forget about the lowly fire, his cheeks were now so hot they were melting off. “I need to . . . um . . . go do something.” Laughter erupted as he backed away, bumping a guy, then almost knocked over a bar table.
PENNY SHOVED her key into her door after Bryn and Mia walked her home. It was nearly 2 a.m. Two drinks had turned into four, then four had turned into dollars shoved into the jukebox and three drunk women dancing and singing at the top of their lungs. And of course, they’d needed sustenance before heading home.
But she loved her friends, and the lack of sleep would be worth it.
Even in her tipsy state, Penny managed to wash off her makeup and pull on cozy pajamas. She flopped onto her bed without pulling back the covers, but sleep didn’t come. All she could think about was Thor and the way he’d watched her the rest of the night.
It was adorable how he got all flustered when Bryn mentioned his manhood and him being the next Classy ’n’ Sassy dildo model. Good thing he didn’t stick around to hear what she’d said after that.
Bryn didn’t know from experience, but she’d heard from some pretty reputable sources—and some not so reputable—that he was dynamite in bed. He was big—in more ways than just his height and bicep circumference—and knew how to work it well. There were even some stories of him being too big for some.
It sounded like exactly what Penny needed. She needed more than the insert-tab-A-into-slot-B stuff. She needed bone-crushing, nail-digging, break-the-headboard-and-not-care fucking with someone who knew what he was doing.
And maybe that someone was Thor.