No Strings(5)

By: Cara Lockwood

“Mr. X? Uh, no.” Emma shook her head.

Sarah kept flipping. Then, she stopped on one. “Ooh...he’s cute.” Sarah showed the screen to Emma and showed a blond, blue-eyed thirty-something in a suit.

“I guess so.” Emma shrugged.

“Guess so? He’s one hundred percent Christian Grey. And even his name is cute... Happy Fun Time! I am setting this up.”

“Sarah!” Emma tried to grab her phone. “Don’t!”

“You’re on for tomorrow night, at the bar in the Ritz-Carlton downtown.”

Emma blew a strand of hair out of her face. “Why did you do that?”

“Because I knew you wouldn’t.”


EMMA HAD SPENT twenty-four hours trying to figure out a way to cancel this date. But as Sarah had pointed out countless times, it was only a drink. If she didn’t like Mr. Happy Fun Time, she could simply walk out of the bar and never talk to him again. Yet, the idea of meeting a man just for sex, well, she just didn’t know if she’d be able to go through with it, even if she wanted to.

I’m just going to meet him. Have a drink. Then, tell him politely that maybe we could have more dates before it... IF we ever do it and that’s a big if.

Emma would need about six dates before she’d even consider taking her clothes off. Maybe twelve. Emma realized with a start that she’d never even had sex with a man she wasn’t almost or totally in love with already. When her friends were hooking up in college, she was tied to her high school boyfriend long-distance. Then after college, she began her relationship with Devin. That was before he took a job in Seattle and told her they ought to see other people six months ago.

Emma had thought they’d been headed for marriage, but turns out, she was just headed apps.

She stood before her closet studying the contents and wondering what on earth she was supposed to wear on this date that was almost, surely going nowhere.

“Hmmm,” she muttered, as she pulled out a flowered sundress which screamed summer and wouldn’t work for the cool September night she was expecting. Besides, it showed too much leg. Don’t want to give the wrong impression, she thought. Oh, wait, I already have, because this is NOST.

No strings.

She sighed and pulled out a black turtleneck sweater. Maybe she ought to show up wearing this and baggy sweatpants and see whether or not she’d send the shallow Mr. Happy Fun Time running. She grinned to herself, but then decided against it. She put the sweater back in her closet and tried to dig around for something middle of the road. Emma lamented the fact that she was wasting so much mental energy on what she was going to wear on a date that she didn’t even want to have in the first place. She ought to be outlining more chapters in that book she planned to write.

She glared at the closet, wishing it was her computer screen.

“I should cancel this date,” she told her closet. “I should text him and cancel.”

She whipped out her phone and pulled up the Nost app. Then Mr. Happy Fun Time’s picture came up: blond, sophisticated suit, like a successful and rich businessman. Well, what could it hurt? Just because his picture looked like something she’d find on a corporate About Us page didn’t mean that he was all that stuffy. Maybe he had a sense of humor. Maybe he’d be quick-witted. Maybe he’d just buy me drinks, she thought, as she remembered her less than stellar bank account balance that month. The freelance gigs had been a little less than hot and heavy these last few weeks, and she’d had to lean on credit cards more than she’d like.

I don’t need men to buy me anything, she reminded herself. Just because her budget was tight didn’t mean that she wasn’t a fully functional independent woman. One more reason to cancel. She was already buying into the patriarchy—the idea that this guy in the suit should buy her a drink.

Of course, Sarah would say that casual sex proved her independence from men. Emma shook her head. Feminism was complicated. She glanced once more at her closet, grabbed a pair of jeans and one of her favorite off-the-shoulder sweaters and paired it with a pair of ankle boots, no heel. Emma stood five-seven, so she already knew she was better off assuming Mr. Happy Fun Time was shorter than her. Emma didn’t care, but she knew men did. It had been her experience that men lied about their height. He said he was five-eleven, but that could mean anything.

She pulled on her outfit, dusted on some light makeup and then checked out her reflection in the mirror. Even she could tell she looked tense, even when she plastered on a fake smile and tossed her blond hair over one shoulder.

This is just research, she told herself. She’d take mental notes and then have a hell of a story to pitch to her editor tomorrow.

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