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Open Season(4)
Author: Linda Howard

Boring. The word hit home with unexpected force. If anyone had to pick one word to describe her, she had a sinking feeling she knew what that word would be. Her clothes were modest—and boring. Her hair was boring, her face was boring, her entire life was boring. She was a thirty-four-year-old, small-town, barely-been-kissed spinster librarian, and she might as well be eighty-four for all the action she saw.

Daisy switched her gaze from the window to the ceiling, too depressed to get up and go downstairs, where her mother and Aunt Joella would wish her a happy birthday and she would have to smile and pretend to be pleased. She knew she had to get up; she had to be at work at nine. She just couldn’t make herself do it, not yet.

Last night, as she did every night, she had laid out the outfit she would wear the next day. She didn’t have to look at the chair to envision the navy skirt, which hovered a couple of inches below her knee, both too long and too short to be either fashionable or flattering, or the white, short-sleeved blouse. She could hardly have picked an outfit less exciting if she had tried—but then, she didn’t have to try, her closet was full of clothes like that.

Abruptly she felt humiliated by her own lack of style. A woman should at least look a little sharper than usual on her birthday, shouldn’t she? She would have to go shopping, then, because the word sharp didn’t apply to anything in her entire wardrobe. She couldn’t even take extra care with her makeup, because the only makeup she owned was a single tube of lipstick in an almost invisible shade called Blush. Most of the time she didn’t bother with it. Why should she? A woman who had no need to shave her legs certainly didn’t need lipstick. How on earth had she let herself get in this predicament?

Scowling, she sat up in bed and stared directly across the small room into her dresser mirror. Her mousy, limp, straight-as-a-board brown hair hung in her face, and she pushed it back so she could have a clear view of the loser in the mirror.

She didn’t like what she saw. She looked like a lump, sitting there swathed in blue seersucker pajamas that were a size too big for her. Her mother had given her the pajamas for Christmas, and it would have hurt her feelings if Daisy had exchanged them. In retrospect, Daisy’s feelings were hurt because she was the sort of woman to whom anyone would give seersucker pajamas. Seersucker, for God’s sake! It said a lot that she was a seersucker pajamas kind of woman. No Victoria’s Secret sexy nighties for her, no sirree. Just give her seersucker.

Why not? Her hair was drab, her face was drab, she was drab.

The inescapable facts were that she was boring, she was thirty-four years old, and her biological clock was ticking. No, it wasn’t just ticking, it was doing a count-down, like a space shuttle about to be launched: ten . . . nine. . . eight. . .

She was in big trouble.

All she had ever wanted out of life was . . . a life. A normal, traditional life. She wanted a husband, a baby, a house of her own. She wanted SEX. Hot, sweaty, grunting, rolling-around-naked-in-the-middle-of-the-afternoon sex. She wanted her breasts to be good for something besides supporting the makers of bras. She had nice breasts, she thought: firm, upright, pretty C-cups, and she was the only one who knew it because no one else ever saw them to appreciate them. It was sad.

What was even sadder was that she wasn’t going to have any of those things she wanted. Plain, mousy, boring, spinster librarians weren’t likely to have their breasts admired and appreciated. She was simply going to get older, and plainer, and more boring; her breasts would sag, and eventually she would die without ever sitting astride a naked man in the middle of the afternoon—unless something drastic happened . . . something like a miracle.

Daisy flopped back on her pillows and once more stared at the ceiling. A miracle? She might as well hope lightning would strike.

She waited expectantly, but there was no boom, no blinding flash of light. Evidently no help was coming from On High. Despair curled in her stomach. Okay, so it was up to her. After all, the Good Lord helped those who helped themselves. She had to do something. But what?

Desperation sparked inspiration, which came in the form of a revelation:

She had to stop being a good girl.

Her stomach clenched, and her heart started pounding. She began to breathe rapidly. The Good Lord couldn’t have had that idea in mind when He/She/It decided to let her handle this on her own. Not only was it a very un-Good-Lord type of idea, but... she didn’t know how. She had been a good girl her entire life; the rules and precepts were engraved on her DNA. Stop being a good girl? The idea was crazy. Logic dictated that if she wasn’t going to be a good girl any longer, then she had to be a bad one, and that just wasn’t in her. Bad girls smoked, drank, danced in bars, and slept around. She might be able to handle the dancing—she kind of liked the idea—but smoking was out, she didn’t like the taste of alcohol, and as for sleeping around—No way. That would be monumentally stupid.

But—but bad girls get all the men! her subconscious whined, prodded by the urgency of her internal ticking clock.

“Not all of them,” she said aloud. She knew plenty of good girls who had managed to marry and have kids: all her friends, in fact, plus her younger sister, Beth. It could be done. Unfortunately, they seemed to have taken all the men who were attracted to good girls in the first place.

So what was left?

Men who were attracted to bad girls, that’s what.

The clenching in her stomach became a definite queasy feeling. Did she even want a man who liked bad girls?

Yeah! her hormones wailed, oblivious of common sense. They had a biological imperative going here, and nothing else mattered.

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