Jodie had insisted she wear her hair down and had even brought over hot rollers to set it so that it now fell in a soft tousle around her face. Jane found the style a bit untidy, and she hoped Jodie was right when she insisted that a man would consider it sexy. She’d also permitted Jodie to do her makeup, which the young woman had applied with a heavy hand. Jane hadn’t protested, however. Her ordinary application of antique rose lipstick and a dab of light brown mascara was hardly appropriate for a hooker, even a high-class one.
Her gaze finally dropped to the outfit she and Jodie had shopped for together. In the past ten days, Jane had grown to know Jodie Pulanski better than she wanted to. The younger woman was shallow and self-centered, interested only in clothes, going to bed with football players, and getting drunk. But she was also wily, and for reasons that Jane still didn’t understand, she was determined to pull off this sordid encounter.
Jane had steered her away from black leather and studs toward a slimly cut ecru silk suit with a short skirt that molded to her body in a way that left few mysteries. The wrapped jacket was fastened at one side with a single snap, and the neckline dipped nearly to the waist, its soft draping camouflaging Jane’s unimpressive bust line. A lacy white garter belt, pair of sheer stockings, and stiletto heels completed the outfit. When Jane had mentioned underpants, Jodie had scoffed.
“Hookers don’t wear them. Besides, they’ll only get in your way.”
Jane’s stomach pitched and the swell of panic she’d been suppressing all day rose up to suffocate her. What had she been thinking of? This whole idea was insane. She must have been deluded to believe she could go through with this bizarre plan. It had been one thing to map it out intellectually, but it was quite another to carry it through.
Jodie burst into the rest room. “What the hell’s keeping you? Junior’s here to pick you up.”
Jane’s stomach pitched. “I—I’ve changed my mind.”
“Like hell. You’re not going to chicken out on me now. Damn, I knew this would happen. Stay right here.”
Jodie rushed out the door before Jane could protest. She felt flushed and cold at the same time. How had she gotten herself into this mess? She was a respectable professional woman, an authority in her field. This was madness.
She darted toward the door only to have it nearly hit her in the face as Jodie rushed back in carrying a bottle of beer. She opened her palm. “Swallow these.”
“What are they?”
“What do you mean? They’re pills. Can’t you see that?”
“I told you I was farsighted. I can’t see anything close without my glasses.”
“Just swallow them. They’ll relax you.”
“I don’t know . . .”
“Trust me. They’ll take the edge off.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to take strange medication.”
“Yeah, yeah. Do you want a kid or not?”
Misery swelled inside her. “You know I do.”
“Then swallow the fucking pills!”
Jane swallowed them, using the beer to wash them down, then shuddering because she hated beer. She protested again as Jodie dragged her out of the rest room and the cool fingers of air trickling under her skirt reminded her she wasn’t wearing panties. “I can’t do this.”
“Look, it’s no big deal. The guys are getting Cal drunk. They’ll clear out as soon as you arrive, and all you have to do is keep your mouth shut and jump on him. It’ll be over before you know it.”
“It’s not going to be quite that easy.”
“Sure it is.”
Jane noticed some of the men staring at her. For a moment she thought something was wrong—that she had a streamer of toilet paper dragging from her shoe or something—and then she realized they weren’t looking at her critically, but sexually, and her panic mounted.
Jodie pulled her toward a dark-haired, no-neck monster standing at the bar wearing an olive green trench coat. He had heavy black eyebrows that had grown together until they looked like one giant caterpillar crawling over his brow.
“Here she is, Junior. Don’t let anybody say Jodie Pulanski can’t deliver.”
The monster ran his eyes over Jane and grinned. “You done all right, Jodie. She’s real classy. Hey, what’s your name, sweetheart?”
Jane was so rattled she couldn’t think. Why hadn’t she planned for this? Her eyes fell on one of the neon signs that she could read without her glasses. “Bud.”
“Your name’s Bud?”
“Yes.” She coughed, stalling. Her adult life had been dedicated to the search for truth, and lying didn’t come easily. “Rose. Rose Bud.”
Jodie rolled her eyes.
“Sounds like a effin’ stripper,” Junior said.
Jane regarded him nervously. “It’s a family name. There were Buds who came over on the Mayflower.”
“Is that right.”
She began to elaborate in an attempt to be more convincing, but she was so anxious she could hardly think. “Buds fought in all the major wars. They were at Lexington, Gettysburg, the Battle of the Bulge. One of my female Bud ancestors helped establish the Underground Railway.”
“No kidding. My uncle used to work for the Santa Fe.” He tilted his head and regarded her suspiciously. “How old are you, anyway?”
“Twenty-six,” Jodie interjected.
Jane shot her a startled glance.
“She looks a little older than that,” Junior said.
“I got to hand it to you, Jodie. This one ain’t nothin’ like Kelly. Maybe she’ll be just what the Bomber needs. I sure hope he doesn’t get turned off by the fact that she’s so old.”
Old! What kind of twisted value system did this man have that he regarded a woman in her late twenties as old? If he knew she was thirty-four, he’d dismiss her as ancient.
Junior cinched the belt on his trench coat. “Come on, Rose; let’s get you out of here. Follow me in your car.”
He started toward the door only to stop so suddenly she nearly bumped into him. “Damn, I almost forgot. Willie said to put this on you.”
He reached into his pocket. She stiffened as she saw what he withdrew. “Oh, no. I don’t think—”
“Got to, babe. It’s part of the job.”
He encircled her neck with a fat pink bow. She lifted her hand to her throat, and her stomach pitched as she touched the loops of satin ribbon.
“I’d rather not wear this.”
“Too bad.” He finished tying it. “You’re a gift, Rose Bud. A birthday present from the guys.”
Melvin Thompson, Willie Jarrell, and Chris Plummer—three members of the Stars offensive line—watched Cal Bonner line up his last putt. They’d set a course across the carpet of the Bomber’s spacious, but sparsely furnished, living room, where he and Willie were playing for a hundred bucks a hole. The Bomber was up four hundred.
“So who’d you rather bonk?” Willie asked Chris as Cal tapped his putt straight into the oversize Dunkin’ Donuts commuter mug that marked the fifth hole. “Mrs. Brady or Mrs. Partridge?”
“That’s easy.” Chris was also a big fan of Nick at Night. “I’d do Mrs. Brady.”
“Yeah, me, too. Man, was she hot.”
It was Willie’s turn to putt, and, as Cal moved out of the way, his right guard lined up for the same mug. “Somebody said her and Greg got it on in real life.” Willie’s putt rolled past on the right.
“No shit. Did you know that, Cal?”
Cal took a sip of scotch and watched Willie miss his second putt. “I don’t even know what the hell you boys are talking about.”
“Mrs. Brady on The Brady Bunch,” Melvin explained, “and Mrs. Partridge on The Partridge Family. If you had the chance to fu—” He stopped himself just in time. “If you got to bonk one of them, which one would it be?”
The linemen had a side bet going on who could last the longest before uttering their favorite obscenity. Cal wasn’t part of that bet because he’d refused to give up his freedom of expression, which was just fine with the rest of them since they knew he’d probably win. Although Cal could turn the field blue during a game, once he was out of uniform, he seemed to lose interest.
“I guess I’d have to give it some thought.” Cal drained his glass and took the putter back after Willie finally tapped it in for a three. He eyed his next putt, a sharp dogleg left into a KFC bucket. He didn’t play any game, not even a living-room putting contest, without the intention of winning. The urge to compete had taken him from Salvation, North Carolina, to the University of Michigan, where he’d led the Wolverines to two consecutive Big Ten Championships before he’d gone on to the National Football League and become one of its best quarterbacks.