Call Me Wild



Jessie’s eyes darted from one naked man to the next. As a sports reporter, she’d done her share of major league locker room interviews over the years, but today it was as if every player knew something she didn’t. She couldn’t remember when she’d seen more balls—and not the kind you hit with bats, unless you were a jealous husband or wife.
Jessie squared her shoulders and pressed the record button on her iPhone—just for audio—she certainly wasn’t going to film this nightmare.
Tonight the men on the team showed as much skin as possible. She hadn’t had that problem since she was a cub reporter they thought they could shock easily. Every now and then, she had to teach a rookie a painful lesson, but for the most part, the guys were polite and kept their towels in place. Until today.
Wiping her suddenly clammy hand on her Ally McBeal skirt, at almost six feet tall, Jessie had no prob­lem looking most men in the eye. She zeroed in on the shortstop. “Carter, is that you?” She’d never liked the obnoxious man and figured he was as good a victim as any. Jessie dropped her gaze to his package for a few beats and pointed to his junk hanging unencumbered and proud—well, it had been until a second ago. Now it looked even smaller, having evidently wilted under her scrutiny.
An uncomfortable silence filled the room—at least it was uncomfortable for Carter. His face turned a putrid shade of red, a few shades deeper than his carrot-colored hair, and then his smile crumbled like a winning streak after a team photo on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Jessie kept her focus on Carter. “For a moment there I thought I’d walked in on a peewee baseball team. My mistake.”
The team laughed, and when her gaze slid over each player, she found they’d rediscovered their manners and their towels, or at the very least, their jockeys.
Nakedness didn’t bother Jessie; lack of respect did. After quieting the team’s laughter, she got down to business. She did her interviews and left, wading through the throngs of fans on the way to her Eighth Avenue office.
In the elevator, Jessie wondered what caused the scene in the team’s locker room. Maybe it was a full moon? A nudist baseball player’s convention? She wasn’t sure, but she knew something was wrong. It was as if they were humoring her. The reporter in her sensed a juicy story. She’d do some snooping around after she filed her column.
The newsroom always felt different this time of night. Most of the staff was long gone, and a quiet settled over the usually insane place. There were no clacking keyboards, no raucous conversation, no slamming of the editor’s door. Jessie dumped her messenger bag on her desk, tossed an old Starbucks cup into the trash, and tried to ignore the itchy feeling crawling up the back of her neck. Something was off.
Looking through her game notes, she checked her stats. Her memory had never failed her before, but she wasn’t about to chance screwing up. The readers of her column and blog knew the stats almost as well as she did, which was saying something. She played the inter­views she’d recorded, still trying to ignore that niggling feeling, and wrote her story, leaving out the part where the team lost their shorts, jockstraps, and manners, and filed it well before her deadline.
Spinning her chair toward the window, she stared out over Eighth Avenue. She supposed she could go home, but thanks to the coffee and the win, she was too hyped to sleep. She picked up her phone and called her best friend Andrew in LA.
“Hey, sugar,” his deep voice came through the phone. “What’s up?”
Jessie leaned back in her chair. “Good, you’re alone.”
“How do you know?”
“You never call me sugar when you have a girlfriend around.”
“You caught me. Nothin’ personal, but most women don’t believe my best friend is female and that at least one of us is not secretly in love with the other. I’ve found it easier not to mention you are.”
“Not mention I’m what?”
“A woman.”
“You’re kidding.” Jessie twisted in her chair until her back cracked. For once she was glad she didn’t have a social life. No dating, no explanations. Then again, no dating, no boyfriend. No boyfriend, no sex. Yeah, that last one was a real bitch. Jessie didn’t miss having boyfriends, she did, however, miss sex. A lot.
Andrew continued. “They assume you’re a guy, so if I were to call you sugar, they’d wonder if I was bi.”
“I’ll bet. I guess that’s one of the downsides of dating.”
“Sugar, all you see are the downsides.” Andrew cleared his throat. “What are you doing? I thought you’d be writing your column. I caught the end of the game.”
Thank God he changed the subject. Smart man. Jessie twirled around in her chair. “It’s filed.”
“Okay, so cross off writer’s block. What’s the problem?”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t give me that. Something’s wrong. What is it?”
Jessie shook her head, “Probably nothing. I’m just overreacting.” She should be used to Andrew’s hypersensitive, highly accurate, best friend ESP.
Andrew remained quiet, which made her nervous.
“Fine, I went into the locker room for interviews, and every last player lost his shorts. They were playing a trick or a game, and I was the only one not in on it.”
“And what’d you do?”
“I told Carter that I thought I’d walked into a peewee team’s locker room. It’ll take him a few weeks to heal from the wound to his manhood. For such a big prick, who knew his would be so little?”
“You’re skating on thin ice, Jess.”
“Enough about me. What’s up with you? How’s work?”
“It’s a soap opera, but it pays the bills.”
Jessie spun her chair around and clicked on her email, sifting through the trash while she and Andrew spoke. She still couldn’t believe her best friend since freshman year at Columbia was writing for a soap opera, even if the money was damn good. Whatever happened to his dreams of writing for film? “Have you been working on your screenplay?”
“Have you been working on your novel? See Jess, two can play that game.”
“Hey, I’m living the dream. I’m a sports reporter for the Times—I’ve already achieved my goal. You gave up on yours.”
“I didn’t give up. I have a day job so I don’t have to live in my car while writing my screenplay. I’m an artist, just not a starving one.”
Andrew talked about how hard it was to get into the film business. She knew from experience it would take awhile for him to go through his litany of excuses. Instead of wasting her time, she did what every woman was capable of; she multitasked and went through her hundred or so emails. At least by doing that she had a prayer of finding something original and or new, maybe even exciting.
She scrolled through the usual junk—drugs to enhance the size of her nonexistent penis, an ad for dates with naked women. She wondered if it was her androgynous name that brought all this crap to her email box or if everyone got it. She deleted it all without reading, while saying her “uh-huhs.”
Jessie flagged the emails from fans of her column and blog, moving them to her file to be answered—an early morning task she did over coffee. She opened an email from her boss, and for the second time that day, wondered if she’d entered an alternate reality.
She pushed suddenly sweaty bangs off her face with a shaking hand and looked around the deserted office. Had she been Punk’d? “Oh God.”
Andrew stopped kvetching mid-word. “Are you even listening to me?”
She blinked at her computer, and it was still there—an electronic pink slip.
She swallowed hard. “I think I just got downsized.”
This couldn’t be happening to her. She worked all her life for this position—her dream job. She loved it, she was great at it, and now, they were taking it all away.
“What do you mean?”
“Look for yourself.” She hit send. “I’m forwarding you an email from my boss.” It should have been high­lighted in pink. She hadn’t heard about any more layoffs. There was no warning. No sign anything was up. Was she the last one to know about her pink slip?
Jessie checked the time stamp. Noon. Her editor must have assigned another reporter to cover the game. No wonder the guys in the locker room had been naked. They obviously hadn’t expected her.
She rubbed her stomach. If she’d had some warning, she would never have eaten that second hotdog at the stadium. Gray spots danced on a transparent veil hanging over her computer screen, and she swallowed back the saliva gathering in her mouth—the usual preamble to violent illness. She pulled her trashcan out from under her desk just to be safe.
“Oh shit, sugar. I’m so sorry.”
“I just signed a two-year lease on my apartment last week.” She pressed the heels of her palms against her eyes to keep from crying. “I can’t afford my apartment without a paycheck.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll work this out.”
Who’d have thought? A pink slip didn’t need to be pink to pull the Astroturf right out from under her feet.

Fisher Kincaid gazed across Starbucks, over the top of his Idaho Statesman newspaper, at the woman sitting behind her MacBook Air, staring at a blank Word document, and chewing on the cardboard lip of her venti cup. This was the second time he’d seen her today. Since it was barely 7:00 a.m., he hadn’t slept with her, and she wasn’t a patient, that was notable—even for a city as small as Boise.
“Checkin’ out the new customer, Fisher?” Laura, a barista with the voice of an angel and the body of a porn star, handed him his daily refill, which meant it was almost time to leave to make rounds at the hospital.
“I took a run earlier and followed her for five miles.” He didn’t mention that he’d barely kept up with her.
Laura raised her perfectly plucked eyebrow.
“What was I supposed to do?” Fisher’s hands went up—coffee cup and all. “She was in front of me and turned at my usual place by the park.”
“Five miles, huh? So that’s how you keep in shape.” Laura ran a hand down the button band of his shirt, stopping just above his belt buckle, and making her way slowly back up his chest.
Ah, to be twenty again. Those days were long gone, and so were nights with anyone like Laura. She turned her back on him and was already belting out a Lady Gaga tune and hamming it up for the regulars. She spun around, grabbed his free hand, and lifted it high before dancing under it. He set down his coffee and dipped her until her ponytail touched the floor, receiving a round of applause from the crowd.
Fisher pulled Laura up and released her. He nodded toward the woman with the amazing ass and even more impressive stamina he’d followed just that morning. “What’s the deal with her?”
“Not sure.” Laura wiped the counter, looking at Mac-chick chewing on her cup.
The woman was nervous—the kind of nerves that couldn’t be blamed on coffee, even if she’d downed a few venti quads. Her eyes darted around the small store in a sweep of the area, not meeting anyone’s gaze, but missing nothing.
Pacific Northwesterners never had a problem looking strangers in the eye. Obviously, the woman wasn’t from around here. With her self-imposed isolation and the way she frowned at the copy of the Times she’d bought off the rack, Fisher pegged her for a tourist from the east coast.
He hadn’t seen her type a word on that computer since he walked in and recognized her, taking in her blank face and her blank screen. He’d said hello to the morning regulars, talked golf with his buddy Dana, and fishing with Alan, as they joked with the baristas and each other. All the while he’d had the distinct feeling he was being watched.
“What’s her name?” Fisher asked Laura. If anyone there knew, it would be Laura. She had a great memory for names and drinks.
“Jessica. The two of you have a drink in common, but she likes her venti Americano with sugar-free vanilla instead of a half cup of sugar, and she doesn’t bring in her cup for the discount.”
“I don’t do it for the discount; I just hate cold coffee.” He threw his arm around her shoulder. “And I love the way you always heat up my cup—it keeps my coffee hot longer.”
Laura tilted her head toward him. “Too bad the only person getting hotter than your coffee is me. Yeah, hot, bothered, just sayin’.”
Fisher stepped away as he watched Jessica open the Times to the sports page and scowl. Not many women he knew went right to the sports without first checking out the front page and the lifestyle section. Hell, most women he knew never made it to the sports page at all. That’s why he hadn’t had to buy a paper in ages. He usually found it littering a table just waiting for the next guy to read.
Steph, the manager, sauntered out from the back of the store, “Hey, Fisher. What are you still doing here? You’re running late today.”
He checked his watch. Damn, she was right. Heading toward the door, he waved goodbye to the baristas, gave Steph a wink, and walked straight into Jessica. His arms went around her as her body slammed into his. He instinctively tightened his hold, drawing her close, doing his best to keep them from falling, as he struggled to catch his balance without spilling his coffee all over her.
Her solid muscles vibrated with what seemed like barely contained indignation. She was tall, just a few inches shorter than him, and at six feet three inches, it was unusual for him to be eye-to-eye with a beautiful woman. She was lean with sharp angles, sinewy muscles, and what looked like keen intelligence, once you got past the pissed off, icy glare. Even her expressions were hard. The only things soft about her were the breasts pillowed against his chest.
Her deep brown eyes were shot with specks of gold and blasted insults loud enough to be heard without speaking.
“I’m sorry.” Fisher did his best to steady her, moving his hand to her small waist. No hint of softness there either.
She jerked away as if he’d zapped her with a defibrillator.
“Easy, I was just trying to make sure you were steady on your feet.”
She grabbed a handful of her long chestnut hair and tossed it over her shoulder. It was not the usual look-at-me hair flip. No, hers was pure exasperation, not a come-on, which was a damn shame even with her prickly attitude. “I thought this was a coffee shop, not a dance club.”
Fisher did his best to squelch his urge to smile. “Coffee’s a requirement, dancing is optional.” He took a deep breath and caught her scent. It was somehow familiar, but unknown, arousing without being overbearing, light and a little dark at the same time. Captivating.
“Obviously not for me.” Jessie had spent the last half hour watching this guy and wondering what the odds were of running into the man again after he’d followed her on her morning run. It had damned near killed her to outpace him.
His untamed white-blond hair curled over his collar and looked as if it had been gelled and slicked back in a vain attempt to rein in the wild curls—at least temporarily. His bright green eyes were clear and crisp as the high mountain lake she and Andrew used to hike to. He was at least six-three, and ripped in all the right places. He looked like a surfer doing a really bad job of impersonating a professor.
In the half hour she’d been at Starbucks, she’d watched him schmooze every female barista and customer, and most of the males too. Oh yeah, she knew his type. He was the guy who spends half his time working on his tan and the other bleaching his teeth, all the while living in his mother’s basement.
Jessie gave him the Bronx stare, the one that deflated a professional athlete’s ego faster than you could say Goodyear Blimp, only to be met by a grin—a dimple bracketing one side of his mouth and a Tic Tac commercial smile. Crap, the guy must be thick too.
“If you’re uncomfortable dancing here we can go to Humpin’ Hannah’s or Shorty’s.”
Jessie struggled to keep from rolling her eyes. “Not interested, but thanks anyway.” She was surprised to see his smile widen.
“Okay, then. I guess I’ll see you around.”
“Not if I see you first.”
He shot her a wink before he turned toward the door. His smile hadn’t dimmed one little bit. Yeah, he was definitely not a member of Mensa. Maybe he had processing problems. He’d figure out that he’d been turned down sometime in the middle of next week.
Jessie took her place in line and waited. Once the couple in front of her placed their half-hour-long, amazingly complicated order, and paid—having to not only dig for their gold card, but also refill it—she told herself to calm the hell down. After all, she wasn’t in New York, she wasn’t on deadline, and it wasn’t as if she even had a job to go to.
For the first time in her life she had more free time than she knew what to do with. No wonder her mother had always warned her to be careful what she wished for. Jessie had always wanted to have the time to write a novel—she just didn’t want to lose her job and sublet her beloved apartment to get it.
She let out a sigh, pasted on what she hoped was a friendly smile, and stepped toward the counter.
Starbucks’s answer to Lady Gaga with a go-go dancer twist leaned toward Jessie, wide eyed. “Fisher asked you out, and you blew him off? What’s wrong with you? Are you married?”
“No.” Jessie had worked with people for six years who hadn’t asked her such personal questions. The woman had only served her a cup of coffee, and she wanted her life story?
Andrew had warned her that people were a whole lot friendlier in Boise. He didn’t say friendly was synonymous with nosy.
“Why the third degree? So, a guy asked me out, and I said no. What’s the big deal?”
“Hmm. Maybe you have a vision problem. Did you look at the man?”
Jessie did roll her eyes then. “Just because he looks great doesn’t mean there’s anything there, if you know what I mean.”
The barista appraised Jessie’s outfit, a Mets T-shirt, holey, ragged-out jeans, and black Converse high-tops. “I guess there’s no accounting for taste.”
Jessie wasn’t sure if Lady Gaga referred to her taste in men or clothes. She decided it didn’t matter. “May I have an employment application, please?”
“Applications are all online. Just go to Starbucks dot com, slash careers, and you can fill it out there. Lucky you, we’re hiring. I’m sure Steph, our manager, will give you a call.”
“Great, thank you.” Jessie ordered a lemonade iced tea, and after a barista with a pixie face and curly brown hair slid it across the counter with a smile, Jessie went back to the document on her computer that contained nothing but a blinking cursor. At least she had a plan for her forced sabbatical. Write a book and work part-time at Starbucks for the health insurance. It wasn’t much, but it was her plan.


Fisher rubbed his stiff neck as he got out of his ancient Toyota Land Cruiser in front of the local Albertsons grocery store. He lifted the door a little to make sure it closed properly. His brothers always teased him about driving a beater, but he didn’t mind. He loved his old truck. He’d bought it used and put another quarter of a million miles on the darn thing, and except for having to replace the engine a hundred thousand miles ago, just as the odometer passed four hundred K, he hadn’t had one problem with it. The same couldn’t be said for his BMW Roadster, or his BMW sport-touring motorcycle, even though he loved both with the unbridled passion of a sixteen-year-old.
Fisher grabbed a cart from the parking lot and made his way into the grocery store—the same store he’d shopped in since he was in diapers.
There was something to be said about shopping at the original Albertsons. He remembered when Old Joe Albertson, who had been one of Grampa Joe’s best friends, used to give him and his brothers penny candy right out of the bins.
Fisher knew his way around the store with his eyes closed and even knew every cashier who worked there. At least there were some places where nothing much changed. He wished he could say the same about his life. He’d been in a bit of a funk lately.
For a moment that morning when he’d asked Jessica out, he’d wondered if the root cause was lack of sex. It had been awhile since he had a date. Now that he thought about it, he wasn’t sure why. She was the first woman he’d asked out in months, which was strange. Still, even though he crashed and burned in front of an audience of alert coffee drinkers no less, he couldn’t say he was in any more of a funk than he had been before.
Fisher made his way to the produce aisle and grabbed the makings for a nice, healthy salad. Good food, strong body, strong mind, and all that. After tossing most of the produce aisle into his cart, he ran through the rest of the store looking for inspiration. Nothing looked good, but after the kind of day he’d had, it wasn’t surprising.
He’d done back-to-back knee replacements on patients so obese, their joints deteriorated under their weight. After seeing what those poor people went through, he bypassed the frozen food aisle, looking at the shoppers who lived on chemically engineered, processed foodstuffs, and then did a double take when he recognized Jessica.
Okay, it wasn’t her he recognized, but the shapely ass he’d followed that morning. The memory of it was branded on his psyche. Yeah, and he hadn’t exaggerated its perfection either. Jessica had her ass sticking out and her head buried in the frozen food case, while she tossed Lean Cuisine meals into her cart at an alarming rate.
Fisher’s cart glided down the aisle as if it were self-propelled, while he checked out the rest of her cart. Two cases of diet cola sat on the bottom rack—hadn’t anyone ever told her the hazards of drinking that? The day he’d seen cola take the finish off an antique wood table was the last day he drank it. In the empty child seat beside her purse sat a loaf of processed white sandwich bread. He did his best not to gag. He almost failed when he saw the cereal beside it. She wasn’t buying cereal with colored marshmallows in it and a prize in the bottom of the box, was she? Maybe she had small children, but who would feed small children that? God, her cart looked like something that should be featured on a television show titled What Not to Eat. How could a woman in great shape survive on what she’d dumped in her cart? He didn’t see one fresh fruit or vegetable and nothing whatsoever from the dairy aisle. Of course, depending on the direction she was shopping, maybe she hadn’t hit it yet. One could only hope. “Hi.”
Jessica jumped at his greeting. “What? Oh, it’s you.”
Fisher leaned on his cart and checked her out—still amazed that her beautiful body could run on such low-quality fuel. “We meet again.”
Jessica dumped a stack of chicken meals in her cart and looked him up and down. “Yeah, looks that way. I didn’t see you first.”
She couldn’t fool him. Her words might say she was unhappy to see him, but her body language said different. Hell, from the fit of her T-shirt, she looked downright thrilled to see him, though that could just be from spending five minutes with her head and chest stuffed in a freezer case. Still, he wasn’t about to complain. “Do you actually eat all that?”
She looked from her cart and back to him. “Yes. That’s why I’m buying it.”
Fisher shook his head, tossed aside a few of the frozen meals, and picked up a jar of marshmallow spread that rested next to the peanut butter. “What are you, like six years old? This stuff will kill you.”
Jessica took the jar of Fluff out of his hands and returned it to her cart. “It’s comfort food, and right now, I’m not about to question it.”
“I was just heading over to the butcher block, hoping for inspiration, when I saw you and thought I’d be neighborly and say hello.”
“We’re neighbors?”
“We must be if you shop here. I live in the North End, and I assume you do too.” He moved his cart closer, blocking her in. “I was thinking a nice piece of sea bass, maybe some tuna, rainbow trout, or salmon. How’s that sound to you?”
She shrugged.
Fisher chose to ignore her lack of an answer. “Yeah, barbecued fish, a side of yellow rice with roasted vegetables, and a big Caesar salad sounds good. There’s plenty for two if you want to come over and keep me company.”
Jessica leaned against her cart and stared dumbfounded—that was the only way he could describe the look on her face. “Do you do this often? Pick up total strangers at the grocery store and invite them to dinner?”
“You’re not a stranger. I’ve seen more of you today than I do most people in a week. I know that your name is Jessica, you have a thing for venti Americanos with sugar-free vanilla syrup, and you’re new around here.” He leaned a little closer to her. “FYI, for the most part Boiseans are friendly people. This”—he motioned from him to her and back again—“is nothing unusual.”
“Seriously?” She stepped back as if he had bad breath. “You do this often? How many women have you picked up while grocery shopping?”
“I’m not picking you up. I’m inviting you to dinner. As for how many women I’ve invited to dinner while at this store, I’m not sure. I’ve never thought about it. But really, Jessica, from what I see in your cart, you could use a good, healthy meal. I’m offering one, and I’m a great cook.”
“And modest too.” She took what looked like a mental inventory of each cart before giving him a seemingly self-conscious shrug. “Thanks for the invite, but I have a lot of work to do tonight.”
“Shot down twice in one day. I don’t know if my bruised ego will ever recover.”
She looked as if she was searching for a way to escape. “I can’t imagine it being a problem. I’ll see you around.”
Fisher nodded and rolled his cart out of her way. “Only if you don’t see me first. Right?”
“Right.” The side of her lips quirked as if she wanted to smile and wouldn’t allow it.
Oh yeah, right then and there, Fisher decided he was going to see that smile. If he had to chase her for twenty-five miles uphill in a head wind—hopefully with good visibility—he’d see her smile.