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STRANGER THINGS HAPPEN
Table of Contents
Excerpt – Fringe Benefits
Other Books by Shelley
All Friday nights should be this good...
Computer programmer Anna Walton is lonely and facing a dry spell of epic proportions. Tired of the dating scene, she decides to spend her evening testing the Reality Suite, a program she and her friends have developed. She orders up lighthearted flirting and energetic dancing in a nightclub with a fruity cocktail on the side, but what she gets is three hot cowboys with sex and mutual pleasure on their minds.
Dante Rosetti, his brother Gabriel and cousin Cayle take one look at the curvy Anna and decide exactly how their night should play out. Lots of naked bodies, sensual sighs and hot, belly-clenching pleasure.
Once she’s adrift in a stormy sea of fantasy sex with three strangers, will Anna ever embrace reality again?
“Well, helloooo.” It wasn’t every day a girl glanced up from her work station to glimpse an ass that tempted her to take a bite. Fatigued from hours of programming, Anna Walton blinked to clear her gritty eyes, positive she was hallucinating.
The view remained.
Sexy. Spectacular. Truly memorable.
Tall with unruly dark hair, Mr. Sexy Butt sauntered from sight and she sighed with disappointment. She would’ve liked to see more. A lot more. Heck, she might have even risked speaking to him, fluttered her eyelashes or, if he passed muster, she might have given him the boob test in the hope he’d ace the exam.
Fantasies about hot, sweaty sex pushed through her exhaustion. Dreams and her imagination were about as close as she managed to getting to the real thing lately. Most men scrutinized her body, immediately jumping to conclusions and porn-star delusions. Hello, this girl possesses brains to go with her boobs.
Her fingers gripped the edge of her desk and she imagined clutching those taut buttocks and giving head. Heck, might as well go for broke. She visualized other hands fondling her, pinching her nipples and toying with her clit. Oh yeah. Down and dirty sex with multiple partners. A breathy sigh whispered from her while a tiny shudder of pleasure set her squirming on her chair.
A rough nudge at her shoulder, the painful jolt of her elbow against the desktop wrenched her from her fantasy world.
“Ouch!” Anna glowered at her three smirking workmates and rubbed the sore spot on her arm. “What is your problem?”
“I saw you ogling his arse.” Greg’s smile broke out, tipping up one corner of his lips, the other weighted with scars caused in a house fire at age five. “Good to see. I haven’t noticed you eyeballing a man for a long time.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Deny. Deny. Deny.
Greg winked. “If you’re going through a dry spell I’d be happy to help.”
Anna rolled her eyes. “Get real. I know you guys too well.” They’d worked together on the Reality project for years. They’d gone to college at the same time and experienced both adversity and success. They were like family and stood with her when her fiancé—their friend—died of cancer four years ago. “Besides, your girlfriend might object.”
Barry pushed his glasses up his thin nose and smirked. “Pick me. I’m much better looking than Greg anyway.”
Redhead Cam leered, his Adam’s apple jumping as he swallowed and spoiled the effect. “You can jump into my bed anytime, babe.”
Anna, used to her friends, smiled sweetly. “When hell freezes over. It would be like doing it with my brothers.” Mr. Sexy Butt, on the other hand, might have a chance even if his face didn’t match the tempting rear view.
She’d be the last one to judge by appearances since people saw her full figure, black hair and blue eyes and instantly thought stripper. Never mind that she had a sharp brain to go with her curvy body. All her life she’d fought the stripper stereotype and not even years of hard work and dressing to hide her physical assets managed to change people’s perceptions.
“Who was that anyway?” she asked, striving for casual.
Greg shrugged without interest. “I didn’t catch his face. Probably one of the new owners or their people.”
“When do you suppose the rest of us will meet the owners?” Cam paused mid-stroke on his computer keyboard to take a sip of coffee. After a swallow, he grimaced and set aside his mug.
“Probably next week after the official takeover.” Anna didn’t hold any concerns. Their jobs were safe enough.
“Don’t worry,” Greg said, confirming her thoughts. “Barry and I both liked Mr. Rosetti, the guy we met the other day. We’ll be fine.”
Barry stood and whipped off his glasses to polish them. “Greg’s right. We won’t have any problems with the new owners. I’m more worried about you.” As one, the three men focused on her.
Greg tugged the leather tie from his shoulder length hair and ran his hands through the tangled mess. “Are you sure you don’t want to come out for a drink with us? We should celebrate finishing the Reality Suite.”
“Another time,” Anna said. “I want to test the final tweaks I worked on today, make sure the game works seamlessly.”
“You work too hard.” Barry shoved on his glasses with a forefinger and stared at her in a chiding manner. “All work and no play. Yada, yada, yada.”
Anna glanced at her computer screen, picked up her pen and jotted a quick note. “The test won’t take long. By the time I finish the traffic will have thinned out. The drive home will take half the time.”
“What scenario are you testing?” Greg stood and stretched. “Do you want us to help? The secretary sent a request for me to program a game for the new owners anyway.”
Anna pursed her lips and mentally filed through possibilities before grinning. “I have a yen for dancing. A New York night club, I think.”
“That’s it. I’m not leaving until I check out your clubbing gear,” Greg declared. “Go and change and we’ll set up Room B for you.”
“Thanks.” Her friends weren’t always pains in her ass. Only sometimes when they felt she needed a lift. With a grateful smile Anna stood, her tiredness falling away, replaced by anticipation.
She and the guys had developed the groundbreaking software after a random conversation at college. It was different from the available software because their game took on an edge of reality, with people actually entering a lifelike setting and situation. The gamer picked a scenario, dressed to fit the part and interacted with the setting and the lifelike characters populating the game. A person could play alone or with a group and the only limit was imagination. Their new game was so different and original Rosetti Inc. gobbled up the company who’d originally employed them. From what Mr. Rosetti told Greg and Barry, they intended to market the software to military and police for training purposes.
Humming, she scooped up her bag and hot-footed it to the restrooms. She exchanged her loose sweater and jeans for a tight red dress and matching stilettos, embracing her inner bad girl. Lots of dancing, a few fruity cocktails and tons of flirting would lighten her funky mood. While she might return to an empty apartment, she’d arrive home on a high and maybe even break out her trusty vibrator to complete her celebration. Easier than picking up a stranger because she could always count on her vibe to get the job done with minimal fuss.
Too bad her toy couldn’t cure loneliness.
* * * * *
“Would you like to test the software?” Their long-time secretary waited for an answer, her shrewd gaze studying each of them.
Dante Rosetti glanced at his younger brother Gabriel and his cousin Cayle before nodding acceptance. He’d already tried out the game and couldn’t wait to experience the possibilities again. “That would be great.” They all wore jeans, casual shirts and boots since they’d flown via helicopter from the ranch. “A Western theme would work for us.”
Julia inclined her silver-gray head and picked up the phone. “I’ll ring the programmers and organize the game for you before they leave.”
Cayle frowned. “Is it safe playing the game without anyone here?”
“It’s impossible to injure or kill anyone within the game. The programmers have built in fail safes to halt the game should anything untoward occur.” Julia paused and spoke to someone on the phone. She confirmed their preferences and requested a Western theme.
“That’s the first thing I asked,” Dante said. “You can touch, run, climb, fly and do practically anything we can in the real world. I got in a fistfight with a character. We traded punches until I struck his nose and the game stopped.”
Julia disconnected the call. “The programmers have considered the safety issues. If the gamers show any signs of physical distress, the game halts. If there is a fire or other hazard in the vicinity, the game will cease.”
Cayle’s brows shot up in disbelief. “You’re kiddin’ me. We can do anything within the game? What about sex?”
“My question exactly.” Gabriel chuckled, a throaty suggestive chortle that told Dante what his brother intended to try in the gaming room.
“I kissed a woman in the game.” Dante winked at his cousin. “Everything felt normal.” Like Gabriel, he wanted to experiment too.
“How normal?” Cayle appeared unconvinced. “Did you register the woman’s body against yours? Taste and smell her? Hell, did you get a hard-on?”
Julia blushed at the frank sexual direction of their conversation and held up her right hand in a stop signal. “I suggested this time of day because most of the staff have already left. The programmers will leave once you enter the game and said feel free to experiment.”
“What about security?” Dante didn’t want anyone spying on them while they put the game through its paces. The last thing any of them needed was a story in the gossip columns or, worse, explicit pictures to highlight the scandal.
“They patrol the perimeter and will only enter the internal area if a door is insecure. I’ll make sure everything is locked when I leave.”
“Good. I appreciate that.” Dante sent Julia a hard look that promised retribution if she didn’t follow through on her promise.
“Have I ever failed you?” she demanded in affront.
“No. Sorry,” Dante said. “Thank you.”