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The next morning, Nancy tried to sneak to her desk, hoping that her boss wouldn’t see her coming in fifteen minutes late. After she had gotten home last night, she had passed out, then had kept slapping the sleep button on her alarm clock until it was a few minutes to eight and she had had to scramble to shower and dress for work.

She surreptitiously searched for Ned in the crowded office, but his desk chair was unoccupied. Nancy didn’t know whether she was relieved or disappointed.

She had booted up her laptop and was just taking a sip of her coffee when she saw the little Instant Messenger window start flashing on the lower-right corner of her screen. “Shit,” she groaned after discovering that it was from her boss.

Morning, Drew. Can you come by my office? Won’t take long , the message read.

Nancy sighed and typed back a response. Sure, Sid – be right there. She picked up her coffee and a notebook and pen and trudged to her boss’s office, feeling like she was walking the last mile on the way to her execution.

The door was open, but she rapped on the frame anyway. “Hey, Sid,” she said, forcing herself to give him a grin.

“Drew!” he boomed. “Come on in!”

Nancy settled herself into one of the chairs across from Sid’s desk and placed her coffee mug on the desk. She decided to make a pre-emptive strike. “Look, Sid, I know I was late this morning-“

He held up a hand to stop her. “You need to make a better effort to be on time, but that’s not what this is about. No, I called you in here to thank you.”

“For what?” she blurted out.

Sid chuckled. “I have to say, I thought you’d be a real pain in the ass when it came to my hiring Nickerson. I mean, you’re a pain in the ass on a good day, so I thought this would really set you off. So imagine my surprise when he came in here this morning to tell you how much assistance you’ve been giving him with the assignment I gave him.”

Nancy blinked in astonishment. Of all the things she thought her boss would bring up in this meeting, this sure as hell wasn’t one of them. “What?”

“I know. Shocked the shit out of me, too, I have to say. But, no – Nickerson said you’ve been great – helping him track down leads, conduct research… I asked if we were talking about the same Nancy Drew,” he joked.

She was still fumbling for a response when he continued. “I’m impressed, Drew – sounds like you’re maturing. You’re a damn good reporter – one of the best I have, which is incredible, considering you’re one of the youngest ones here. How many times have I told you that you’re your own worst enemy – clashing with everyone and complaining when you think that someone or something’s in your way of getting the big story? But when I get feedback like this? Makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.”

“Thanks,” Nancy managed to get out, still stunned. “Thanks, I guess.”

“Don’t thank me, thank Nickerson. Not everyone would share the credit – hell, most reporters I know would gladly hog the credit, especially for a story that could be as big as this one. And virtually none would offer to share their byline.”

“Excuse me?” She couldn’t have heard him correctly; there had to be a catch.

“You heard me, Drew. Nickerson said that with the help you’re willing to provide, it would probably make sense to put both of your names on the story when it’s done.”

The look of disbelief on Sid’s face probably matched the one on her own. “I…I…”

“Yeah, I’ll let you get out of here before you fuck it up by saying the wrong thing, Drew. Just be sure to thank Nickerson – like I said, he came to me of his own volition. I’m glad he told me, though – when I hear stuff like this, it makes me reconsider. Maybe next time there’s something big, or a promotion, maybe I think of you.”

Nancy rose from her chair, still stunned. “Thanks, Sid. And, again, sorry I was late.”

Her boss waved his hand dismissively. “We’ll let it go, just this once. Besides, Nickerson told me that he had you up late last night, so it’s fine.”

--

Still in a daze, Nancy made her way back to her desk. It was almost time for her to meet with Ned to discuss the next steps in their investigation. Just as she was about to log back in to her computer, her friend Heather came bounding up and plopped herself into Nancy’s extra chair.

“I still have no idea how you do it,” Heather proclaimed dramatically.

“What’s that?” Nancy asked, her focus on her computer screen.

“Work so closely with that sexy Ned and not want to jump him.”

Nancy looked up sharply at that. “Who says we’re working closely?”

“Please, girl,” Heather snorted. “You forget that I’m a gossip columnist. You think I don’t hear the buzz? Anyway, I really commend you – if it were me, I’d have a hard time paying attention to anything except him.”

“Heather, nothing is going on between us except work – that’s it.” Nancy’s voice was covered with her emphatic denial.

“Oh, I know,” the other woman hastily reassured her. “But, come on…the entire secretarial pool is trying to come up with ways to get him to take off his shirt. They’ve come up with some creative solutions, I must admit.”

“Well, they can do what they like. I just work with the guy.” Nancy tried not to grimace as she saw an email from Ned appear in her inbox.

“So, about that…”Heather’s voice trailed off, and she appeared unsure of what to say next, which was completely out of character for her. “Nan, would you mind if…”

“Would I mind if what?” Nancy asked impatiently. “Spit it out, Heather.”

Her friend took a deep breath. “Well, if I asked him out.”

Nancy was so surprised by the question that she knocked her coffee mug over, its contents spilling over her keyboard. “Shit!” she exclaimed loudly, jumping up from her chair. Heather helped her to grab wads of tissues and napkins to wipe up the mess, and she was relieved when they were able to sop up the liquid before it did any real damage.

“Sorry I startled you there, Nance. But what do you think?”

Nancy had no idea how to respond. “Sure, if you want to, I guess…”

“Geez, Drew, just calm down. Your enthusiasm is overwhelming.”

“No, no. If you want to, you should go for it. Really,” Nancy said, giving her friend what she hoped was an encouraging smile. “But why did you ask me?”

“Because you work with the guy – I didn’t want to make it weird or awkward.”

“Why would it be weird?” Nancy hoped to hell that her friend didn’t suspect anything and wasn’t using the conversation to try to trick her to confessing that she had hooked up with Ned.

“Well, ‘cause you’re single, too, and I didn’t want to move in on him if you had something going-“

Nancy cut in before she could continue. “I told you, Heather – he and I are working on a story together. That’s the extent of our relationship. If you want to go out with him, go for it.”

“Yes!” Heather squealed, jumping out of her chair and throwing her arms around Nancy’s neck. “I’m totally going for it. Those bitches upstairs will be pissed at me, but who cares? It’s been entirely too long since I’ve gotten laid. Oh, and speaking of… When are you going to get back out there, Nance?”

“Me?” Nancy asked, trying her best innocent expression. “I’m fine, Heather. Really.”

“Uh huh,” her friend replied, not sounding at all convinced. “We’re gonna work on that. Ooh, maybe I can find you a guy so you can double with me and Ned!”

Nancy could not have thought of a worse idea if she had tried. “Sure, maybe,” she responded weakly.

“Awesome!” Heather beamed. “It’s been entirely too long since you’ve had fun.”

“Who’s having fun?” a male voice interjected from behind them. Nancy and Heather turned to see Ned standing there.

“Hi, Ned,” Heather cooed, wiggling three of her fingers at him.

Nancy tried not to roll her eyes as her friend flipped her glossy ebony curls over one shoulder and gave Ned a flirtatious grin. She loved Heather to death, but the girl could never be called subtle when a guy was involved.

“Hey – Heather, is it? Good morning to you, too, Drew. Ready to work on our story?”

“And that’s my cue to leave,” Heather said sunnily. “Later, Nancy. See you around, Ned?”

Ned nodded, and Nancy was slightly gratified to find that he didn’t really seem to be taken in by her friend’s act.

Heather walked away, her hips swinging in a teasing rhythm that Nancy knew was specifically designed to get Ned’s attention. For a moment, she debated telling him about her friend’s plans, but then dismissed the idea. His love life is none of my business, she told herself. If he wants to go out with her, who am I to stop him?


“So, how are you this morning, Drew?” Ned asked cheerfully, plopping down into the chair that Heather had just vacated. “Sleep well?”

“I suppose you think you’re cute,” Nancy snapped. “Telling Sid that you had me up late last night?”

Ned grinned. “Come on, give me a break. I was just trying to cover for the fact that you were a little late. Besides, I didn’t tell him what you were doing, up so late – he thinks it was just for the story.”

“Funny,” she snarled. “Really damn funny. Oh, and what was the idea of telling him nice things about me?”

He looked surprised. “Last I checked, giving good feedback about a coworker was a good thing, Drew. Or are the rules different here in Chicago than they are in Phoenix?”

“Look, I know you’re new around here, but I have a certain reputation around here, Nickerson.”

“Oh, I’ve heard all about your reputation, Drew, believe me. Aggressive, tough, smart-mouthed, single-minded when it comes to getting a hot scoop… And considering the fact that I could get frostbite from the glare that you’re giving me right now, I’m thinking that it isn’t too far off the mark.”

Nancy wished she could slap that smirk right off of his face. “Then you had to know that gushing about me to Sid could make him suspicious.”

“Of what?”

“Do you really need me to spell it out? Your praise probably makes him think that we’re,” she lowered her voice to a hiss, “sleeping together!”

“We are sleeping together,” he whispered, leaning in close.

“No, we aren’t.”

Ned actually chuckled, damn him. “So, last night was a figment of my imagination?”

“I told you – it was a mistake. And weren’t you the one who said that you’d keep your work life and your personal life separate? So why the fuck are you bringing this up now, here at my desk, where I’m sure other people are staring at us?”

He looked around exaggeratedly, and Nancy was annoyed to find that everyone else in the busy newsroom seemed to be focused on their computers or their phone conversations.

“Nope, no one’s even looking at us, Drew. Oh, and you’re the one who brought up our personal relationship.”

“You know what?” At the sound of her raised voice, her coworkers’ heads did pop up, and it took all of Nancy’s composure to stay calm. “You know what?” she asked again, her voice softer this time, “You’ve seriously got me re-thinking whether or not I’m going to help you on that story, Nickerson.”

He instantly sobered up at that. “I’m sorry, Drew. Really. I thought I was doing a nice thing by telling Sid how much help you’ve been and what a great investigative reporter you are. I didn’t mean anything by it, I swear.”

When she saw that he appeared to be genuinely contrite, Nancy could feel herself softening, and hated herself for it. “Look, let’s stop this back and forth and figure out what we’re going to tackle today.”

Ned rewarded her with a grin. “Great – thanks, Drew. I was thinking that we interview Rabbi Rob’s family and then maybe talk to Rob and Bailey’s neighbors. What do you think?”

“Sounds good,” she agreed. “Do you want to call any of these people first, or just stop by?”

He shrugged. “Stop by – the element of surprise may work in our favor. We can interview his parents first, and one of his sisters – the other lives in Michigan. Then we can divide and conquer when it comes to the neighbors – you can take one side of the street, and I can take the other.”

“Great – you have addresses?”

“Printed ‘em out – they’re sitting on my desk.”

“Then grab them and let’s go.”

--

Seven hours later, Nancy and Ned sat in the car in front of the rabbi’s house – it was where he had lived with Bailey, and where he still lived with their two small children. His parents had been unwilling to speak with them at first; after a little coaxing, though, they were invited inside for some coffee and cookies. However, the interview had been less than revelatory: both Rob’s mother and father insisted repeatedly that their son had been the perfect husband and father and couldn’t possibly have been involved in the murder of their daughter-in-law.

They had next attempted to speak with Rob’s sister Renee, and the nanny who answered the door told them in broken English that she wasn’t sure when Renee would be back home. Now they had just decided to regroup after a frustrating few hours of trying to interview the neighbors, half of whom were out, and the other half had no new information to share. They had also sworn that Rob and Bailey had been completely in love and totally happy.

“I think we’d better wrap up for the night,” Ned decided reluctantly.

“Yeah, I think we need to come back another day and see if we can get some of these people at home.”

He nodded. “Especially that woman who saw the car in front of the house the night of the murder. She may know more than she told the police.”

“And we can do some more digging about Janie in the meantime. Maybe that angle’ll get us something.”

“Hey, you like Chinese food, Nancy?” Ned asked suddenly. When she stared at him unblinkingly, he continued. “It’s been hours since I ate, and I’m starving. I thought you could join me-“

Nancy cut him off before he could finish. “Nickerson, I warned you about this.” Her voice was steely.

“Come on, Drew, it’s only Chinese food, not a request for your hand in marriage. I need to eat, and you do, too.”

“Sorry, no,” she said, entirely too sweetly. “I have to do some of my own work,” she said, emphasizing the last part of her sentence.

“You sure?” he asked, and she could sense the disappointment in his tone. “I’ll even let you pick the place.”

“Yep. Just drop me back at the office so I can catch up.”

He shrugged, starting the car. “Fine, but let me know if you change your mind.”

When they got back to the office, he asked her again, and it took all of Nancy’s resistance to tell him no before hopping out of the car and letting herself into the building with her employee ID badge.

--

The following Monday morning, Nancy was sitting at her desk, coffee mug in hand, when Ned came and sat in her extra chair without asking for her permission.

“Morning, Drew,” he said cheerily. “I know that you had your own stuff to do at the end of last week, but you think you’re ready to tackle the Rabbi Rob story with me again?”

“Sure, why not?” she replied, shrugging. In reality, though, she was looking forward to helping him again – because the story was so interesting, she kept telling herself. That was the only reason why.

“Great!” Ned beamed. “Hey, by the way…” He let his voice trail off.

“What?”

“Um, your friend Heather…asked me out.” Nancy was surprised to see the look of slight embarrassment on his face.

“Did she?” she asked neutrally, pretending to be fascinated by the email that had just come into her mailbox about a crackdown on expenses.

“Yeah…”

“And what did you tell her?”

“That I was flattered, but had to turn her down.”

At that, Nancy’s head swiveled to face him. “And why’d you do that, Nickerson?” she demanded. She wasn’t at all relieved, she told herself firmly.

“Because…I mean, she’s hot and all, but…I just thought it would be awkward.”

“Why?” Her voice was sharper than she had intended.

“Because you and I work together. I start going out with her, things start getting…heated up between us, she starts sharing information with you…Then you guys start comparing…”

She actually laughed at the wince on his face. “Nickerson, trust me – if she got a look at that thing between your legs, she’d be broadcasting it all over Chicagoland.”

Ned chuckled. “But that’s the other reason why it wouldn’t be a good idea…She’s a gossip columnist, and I have a feeling that she wouldn’t exactly keep things quiet. I mean, she seems perfectly nice, but it wouldn’t be smart for me to get involved with her.”

Nancy hid her smile. “Well, I’m sure that she’d be more than happy to give you a second chance if you change your mind. Why’d you tell me, anyway?”

“Because we’re partners, Drew. I thought I owed it to you,” he said simply.

“Thanks, I guess. Anyway, you came to see me about our story,” Nancy reminded him, changing the subject.

“Yeah…I thought that we could hit up Dreamz tonight?” he asked hopefully.

“Looking for a hot night out?” she joked.

“Yeah, sure,” he grimaced. “We said that we thought it was the best place to start for more information to find Janie, right?”

“We did,” she confirmed. “So, I suppose you have a plan as to how you’d like to play it this time around?”

“As a matter of fact, I do,” he told lightly. “Don’t get pissed at me when you hear it, though, Drew.”

“Don’t give me a reason to get pissed, Nickerson,” she told him mildly.

“I thought that we could pose as Steve and Lexie, a couple out for a good time…” Nancy started to protest, but he held up his hand to stop her from interrupting him. “Hear me out, would you? Anyway, I thought we could act like we were out for some fun, maybe buy a lap dance or two…”

“For you or for me?” Nancy demanded archly.

“Either of us,” he replied airily. “I’m totally cool with either. Anyway, we get some personal attention and then you start talking about how you’re considering getting a job there, like your friend Janie had. Then you talk to the manager and start asking him questions, we start talking to the girls to see if anyone knew her …”

“So, last time, you had me flirt and show some skin to get you information; now you want me to pose as a would-be stripper? Nice,” Nancy sighed, not wanting to admit that his plan was actually a good one.

“You don’t actually have to get on stage and start taking off your clothes, Drew – unless you want to,” Ned smirked.

“Gee, thanks,” she said wryly.

“So, you game?”

“Sure, why not? Although, thanks to Sid’s latest email, I have no idea how in the hell you’re going to put ‘strip club’ on your expense report.”

He laughed at that. “Sid’s been so itchy to get this story that I’m pretty sure I can talk him into it.”

“Good luck with that.”

--

Nancy and Ned surveyed the exterior of the strip club from the sidewalk. The cheap stucco looked faded and the heavy wooden door definitely had seen better days. The ‘e’ and the ‘a’ had burnt out on the pink neon sign mounted on the roof; as a result, it now spelled out ‘Drmz’.

The club was surrounded by storefronts that looked empty and vacant; in fact, most of the block seemed to be made up of rundown buildings. Nancy was glad that she didn’t have to park her car in this neighborhood - she and Ned had wisely decided to take a cab instead of driving. Since the driver was reluctant to come to this part of town, Ned had given him an extremely generous bonus to stick around and come pick them up when they were finished.

“So, you all ready with your dollar bills, Nickerson?” she asked as they prepared to enter.

Ned patted the front pocket of his jeans. “Right here, ready and waiting, Drew”

She held out her hand, palm up. “Gimme.”

He gave her a puzzled glance. “Give you what?”

“Some cash, Nickerson. I’ll probably need it to help lure the strippers our way.”

He nodded and withdrew a wad of money, pulling back just before Nancy could close her hand around it. “Now, remember, you’re supposed to like me, so use your best acting skills, okay?”

Nancy made a face at him before grabbing the money and opening the door to the club. They were hit with a wall of sound and smoke as they entered. The entire back of the room was taken up by a large stage that jutted out on both ends: each end had a pole where some very unenthusiastic women in various stages of undress gyrated to the thudding baseline of Bon Jovi song blaring out of the speakers mounted on the walls. The club was only half-full, and the clientele was made up of a combination of young and old men. Besides the strippers and the bored-looking cocktail waitresses, Nancy was the only woman in the place.

“Nice place you’ve brought me to,” Nancy whispered to Ned.

“Right back at you,” he told her as they selected a table that was in front of the right side of the stage. “Drink first?”

“God, yeah,” she shuddered as she saw a topless bottle blonde flip herself upside down on one of the poles and spread her legs wide in a split formation.

“I love how they put the candles on the table – like candlelight will really help to create ambience,” Nancy remarked, looking around the club.

“Yeah, sorry to disappoint them, but no one would mistake this place for a classy, upscale strip club, trust me.” When Nancy looked at him, eyebrows raised, Ned suddenly looked defensive. “What? I already told you that I’ve seen strippers before – where did you think that happened, in a church?”

She just shook her head and continued to scope out the place.

Ned placed their order when the cocktail waitress approached, and Nancy was glad that he had selected the bottled kind so she wouldn’t have to drink out of a glass, for fear that she’d contract some type of scary disease.

The men at the table next to theirs leered at her in her form-fitting red v-necked shirt and black leather miniskirt, and Nancy had to try her hardest not to give them the finger in response.

While they waited for their drinks to arrive, Ned and Nancy watched the strippers perform in a lackluster way onstage.

Ned leaned over to whisper in Nancy’s ear. “You know, I consider myself to be a connoisseur of these things, and I have to say that these are some of the worst fake boobs I’ve ever seen. All ripply and shit.”

Nancy nodded her agreement. “Tell me about it. That redhead over there? I feel like I’m in one of those paintings where the eyes follow you around. Only in this case, it’s her lopsided nipples.”

She could hear Ned try to smother a snicker as the stripper in question approached them and began dancing more energetically. He reached into his pocket and slipped a few dollar bills underneath the strip of fabric at the stripper’s hip, and she acknowledged him with a flicker of her eyes before moving on.

“They weren’t any better close up, either,” he told Nancy in a low voice. “I definitely know a redhead with much better ones, and hers are real.”

Before Nancy could hit him with a sharp retort, their waitress reappeared and set down two bottles of beer on the table. As she was about to walk away, Ned began talking to Nancy in a loud voice.

“Baby, you are – you are definitely hot enough to dance here.”

Nancy looked down at her beer coyly before raising her glance to the waitress’s face. “Isn’t my boyfriend sweet?” she simpered. “Telling me I look good enough to get on stage here.”

The waitress shrugged. “Sure, I guess.”

“No, she really is – that body, those legs, that ass…Any guy would definitely pay good money to see Lexie shake her stuff.”

“Steve!” Nancy giggled, pretending to be scandalized.

“Come on, baby – you know I’m right.”

Nancy took a slug of beer and pretended to consider it. “Hey, you know of any openings here?” she asked the waitress.

The woman shrugged, obviously bored with their conversation. “Dunno. If there are, you’d probably want to talk to Maurice – he owns this place.”

“Is he here?” Nancy queried, trying to sound casual.

“Yep – he’s here almost any night. Go to the back and knock on the red door.” The waitress pointed to a hallway off to the left side of the room

“Cool, thanks!” Nancy said, giving the woman a friendly smile. The waitress shrugged again before leaving.

“Nice work, Drew,” Ned congratulated her.

“Thanks,” Nancy replied breezily as she stood up. “Now, let me go and see if I can charm Maurice into telling me anything. Try not to have too much fun while I’m gone. Remember, we still need those singles to charm a few more ladies.”

Nancy walked through the club, trying to ignore the stares of the male patrons as she made her way to the hallway. As instructed, she knocked on the red door and held her breath until she heard a deep voice call, “Enter!”

She opened the door and found a heavy-set bald man sitting at a battered metal desk. He had a large stack of bills in his hand and was counting the cash before placing it in piles on the desktop.

“Who are you and what do you want?” he asked, obviously not interested in the normal niceties. Nancy was struck by his piercing green eyes; if he didn’t have a scowl on his face, he would almost be handsome.

“Well,” Nancy said, giving him her brightest smile, “Are you Maurice?” When he nodded, she continued. “Perfect! I wanted to see if you had any openings for dancers.” She deliberately stuck out her chest and ass as he stared at her body.

“You?” the man asked, clearly skeptical.

She nodded vigorously. “Yep. My friend Janie worked here a few years ago, and it’s the first place I thought of when I thought about taking another job.”

“Well, no offense, honey, but…” his eyes again scanned her body, “I don’t think you have the stuff.”

Nancy gave him a pout. “Why? My boyfriend thinks I’m hot.”

Maurice snickered. “I’m sure he does, but I like my girls to have a little more going on upstairs, if you know what I mean. And I’m not talking about your brains, either.”

He guffawed loudly at his own joke while Nancy gritted her teeth and willed herself to continue. “You don’t think that my tits look good?” she whined. “I’ve never had a complaint before, believe me. Besides, Janie told me she used to make a shitload of tips when she worked here, and I could definitely use some cash.”

“Janie, huh? There’s a name from the past.” Maurice said, resuming his money-counting task.

Nancy pounced on the opening. “Yeah, I know, right? I haven’t heard from her in ages. At least two years. You?”

Maurice shook his head, still looking down at the wads of cash in his hands. “Nope, it’s been at least that long. It’s a shame, too – the guys really liked her. Then one day, she just didn’t show up for work and that was it. “

“Did she have any regular customers, maybe? Or any friends who are still working here?

He looked up sharply upon hearing her line of questioning. “Why - you a cop? They came by last week and wanted to know lots of shit. I told them I didn’t know anything. Now, all of a sudden you come by…seems like a weird coincidence.”

Damn it, Nancy thought frantically. “Me, a cop? You kidding? Please – I couldn’t shoot a target if it were standing right in front of me. Plus, those uniforms are ugly as hell. Not nearly cute enough for a girl like me,” she replied lightly.

“So, if I frisked you, I wouldn’t find a wire or a weapon?” he asked, obviously trying to sound flirtatious.

It took all of Nancy’s concentration not to let the revulsion show on her face. “Go right ahead,” she told him, matching his tone.

Maurice stood up from behind the desk, walked over to her, and began patting her down. When he let his hands linger a little too long on her breasts and ass, she pulled back, forcing a smile onto her face. “See, told you,” she crowed.

“Seems I was wrong. Sorry about that,” he told her, not sounding at all sorry. “By the way, you do have a really good body – maybe we can find a job for you here, after all.”

He winked at Nancy. “What’s your name, anyway?”

“Oh – I’m Lexie,” she lied.

“Sexy Lexie – I like it.”

“Thanks! But I really want to find Janie because she owes me money and as I said, I’m in desperate need of cash.” She fixed Maurice with a bright smile, hoping that it helped to convince him.

He took the bait. “Oh, really? Well, too bad for you, ‘cause that girl would never pay you back, even if she were here. Talk about money-hungry.” He perched himself on the corner of his desk.

“Why do you say that?”

“She was all about the hustle, and all about getting as much shit as she could. Loved manipulating one poor sucker after another to get what she wanted – I mean, you know, right? After all, she got money out of you, didn’t she?”

Nancy nodded, fixing a rueful expression on her face. “So, are there any girls who would’ve been working here when Janie was?”

Maurice thought for a moment. “Yeah, a few. Kelly – dark hair, wearing a red outfit. Also Wendy – black girl, zebra-striped thong. The other girls are newer or aren’t working today.”

“Thanks! I don’t suppose that you have Janie’s last address on file? Or some information about her family?”

“Well, you’re a persistent little thing, aren’t you?”

“Come on,” she wheedled. “I mean, you just put your hands all over me, so we’re friends now, right?”

He rolled his eyes, but Nancy could tell that Maurice was secretly amused. “Fine, but if I look in my files, what will you give me?”

Nancy thought for a minute. “I’ll come back this week and work a set for free?” Of course, she had no intention of doing it, but it sounded good.

Maurice’s lips turned up in a wolfish grin. “I like how you think, but maybe you give me a private audition first?”

She frantically racked her brain. “Like how?”

“Take your clothes off and let me see what you’ve got.”

Try as she might, she couldn’t see her way out of it. Unless she were able to find a way to get him out of his office later and search his desk, praying it wasn’t lockedNah, too risky, she told herself. Maybe you just have to take off your shirt – after all, your bra is almost the same as the top of a bathing suit, right?

Nancy pulled her shirt over her head in one fluid motion, and felt Maurice’s eyes lock on the cleavage that her push-up bra created.

“On the small side, but nice,” he leered.

Anything would be on the small side compared with those giant fake ones that you have parading on the stage out there . “Thanks,” she cooed.

“But since this is a place where chicks take off their clothes, don’t you think you’re still overdressed?”

Shit! she cursed internally. The thought of showing her breasts to this idiot made her stomach crawl.

Suddenly, a burst of inspiration struck. “Why don’t we save it for later? After all, my boyfriend’s out there waiting for me, and he’ll probably come looking for me any minute now. Once he has a little more to drink, I can come back and we can have some fun…Then I can show you my gratitude for giving me Janie’s address and we won’t have to worry about being interrupted. “

Maurice actually seemed to be considering her offer. “But how do I know you’ll come back?”

She leaned over to give him a better look at her chest then to whisper in his ear. “Because I’m a very honest person. And if you reward me now, I’ll definitely reward you later. And you may not know whether I’m a very good stripper, but I’m definitely good at some other types of ‘jobs’, if you know what I mean.”

He gave a lewd chuckle. “Oh, yeah? Like the kind where you have to get on your knees?”

“That’s right,” she told him in a singsong voice. “I’m especially good at those. Just ask my boyfriend.”

“Well, then it’s a date, Lexie. Say, two hours from now?”

“Sounds perfect,” she giggled. “You won’t regret it. But you need to keep up your end of the bargain.”

Maurice sighed exaggeratedly and got up from the desk. “You better be worth it.”

“Oh, I am,” Nancy replied as he opened a drawer and began hunting through files. After a minute, he withdrew a manila folder and pulled out some papers. He carefully wrote some information on a Post-It note and handed it over to Nancy. Just as she was about to grab it, he pulled back.

“Uh huh – I need to get a little preview first.”

Fuck , she sighed internally. I should’ve known it would be too good to be true. “How about I drop the skirt and show you some more?” she offered.Again, like being in a bathing suit. Sort of. Thank God you decided on bikini underpants instead of a thong tonight, she congratulated herself.

Maurice nodded his assent, and Nancy slowly undid the buttons and zipper of her skirt before letting it drop to the floor. He motioned with his finger for her to turn around and she followed his order, stopping when her ass was facing him. She was glad that he couldn’t see her face because she couldn’t stop cringing from the noises of approval he was making.

Carefully composing her expression, Nancy whirled back around. “We good?”

“You have one hot ass, Lexie.”

Thanks, “she giggled. “Now, a deal’s a deal…” She held out her hand again.

Maurice dropped the Post-It into her outstretched palm. “I can’t wait for our private meeting, Sexy Lexie.”

“Me, either,” she told him, dropping down to pick up her discarded skirt and shirt from the floor and quickly pulling them back on. “Two hours, and I’m yours! Bye!”

She wiggled her fingers at him in a mock wave and rushed for the door, heaving a huge sigh of relief when she closed it behind her.

Taking another deep breath, Nancy walked back towards the table where she had left Ned.

“There you are! Shit, I was starting to get worried! What happened, Drew?”

“Please, “Nancy said grimly. “Nickerson, you owe me big time. I can’t believe the shit I just had to do to get you this.” Ned stared as she dropped the Post-It on the table in front of him.

“What’s this?”

“Janie’s full name and her last known address. Oh, and her emergency contact information. For her parents in Burr Ridge.” She plopped down into her chair and drained her beer.

“How the hell did you pull this off?” He demanded incredulously.

“Oh, it was no big deal. I only had to take off my clothes, suggest a private striptease, and offer to give a blow job later on tonight in exchange for it. Which reminds me – we have to be out of here in two hours; otherwise, that asshole Maurice will come looking for me and expect me to keep my end of the bargain.” She shuddered.

“Drew, you could’ve been in serious danger – this story wasn’t worth it,” Ned told her, frowning.

“How many times do we have to go over this? I can handle things.”

“Oh, really? So, when you were naked in this dude’s office, you could’ve prevented him from overpowering you and raping you?”

Nancy made a dismissive gesture. “I was still in my underwear, so I was fine. But you’re not off the hook - you still owe me. Anyway, I also learned that two of the ladies here worked with Janie. Maybe we can book some private time with them and find out what they know before we leave?”

“You are so damn good at this, you know that?” Ned told her admiringly. “But seriously, if you’ve had enough, we can leave.”

Nancy still felt mildly unsettled and more than a little demeaned by what had happened in Maurice’s office, but she wasn’t ready to give up yet. She found that she was having far too good of a time working the angles of this story to throw in the towel. “Nope, we’ve come so far, let’s keep going. Now, we need to get the attention of the girl in red and the one in the animal print. They’re the ones who knew Janie.”

He looked like he wanted to protest further, but instead ordered another round of drinks.

When the dark-haired woman in the tiny red g-string approached their table, Ned rested his hand on her bare knee. Nancy was about to push him away when he whispered into her ear. “Remember, Drew, we’re supposed to be a couple.”

Nancy took the hint. “Oh, Steve, what about her?” she asked, giggling loudly as she gestured to the stripper.

“Nice,” Ned replied, giving a lascivious grin. “Baby, you’ve got damn good taste. She’s almost as hot as you are, Lexie.” He began rubbing her knee, and Nancy tried to ignore how good it felt.

“Thanks, baby,” she cooed. Nancy fished in her purse and waved a handful of cash towards the stripper.

The woman took the bait. From afar, she had looked to be in her early twenties; up close, they could see that she was easily pushing forty. Her obviously fake breasts jiggled obscenely as she leaned down to show off her wares. “Hey, we don’t get a lot of couples in this place.”

Nancy leaned in conspiratorially. “My boyfriend has been begging me to come to a strip club for ages – it’s his birthday, so I finally decided to give in.”

The stripper gave her a knowing look. “Well, let’s make this a happy birthday for him, then.” She turned around and shook her ass before turning back to make her breasts bounce.

“You enjoying this, baby?” Nancy asked, poking Ned in the ribs.

“Definitely,” Ned grinned, reaching into his own pocket and placing a few of the dollar bills under the tiny strip of fabric at the stripper’s hip.

“Hey, do you do any private shows?” Nancy winked at the other woman. “Might as well go all out and really give my man a night he won’t forget.”

“Sure, if the price is right,” the stripper smiled. “We have a special VIP room just for private parties.”

“Awesome,” Ned declared, finishing off his beer and waving at the approaching waitress for another. “So, you’ll take care of both me and my girl?”

“That can be arranged,” the stripper told them. “For extra, of course. Thirty minutes – meet me in the back room.” She pointed towards the same hallway where Nancy had found Maurice’s office.

“Um, you think that you could get one of your friends to join us? Make it a real party?” Nancy ventured coyly.

“Who do you have your eye on?”

Nancy pretended to study the strippers on stage. “Ooh, Steve, what about her?” she asked, pointing to the African American woman in the zebra thong that Maurice had referred to as Wendy.

“Nice,” Ned grinned lasciviously as he watched Wendy’s ass. “Baby, you really know what I like.”

“Wendy? Yeah, I guess I could get her to join us. Again, if the price is right…” Kelly reminded her.

Nancy reached into her purse again and pulled out eight fifty-dollar-bills. “How’s this?”

Kelly’s eyes bulged greedily. “Perfect. Thirty minutes. The four of us will have a really good time.” She winked before sashaying away.

“Now we just have to cool our heels for a half hour.” Ned picked up his bottle of beer and took a slug.

“Great, gives me time to get drunk,” Nancy smirked. “I have a feeling I’m gonna need it.”

--

Thirty minutes later, the dark-haired stripper pointed to her friend and they gestured for Nancy and Ned to join them in the VIP room.

Holding hands, they followed the strippers down the hallway into a dingy room that had a few chairs and a stereo system. Nancy and Ned took seats next to each other while the girls worked to turn on the stereo.

“Their idea of VIP and mine appears to be very different, “Ned whispered into her ear as he surveyed the dark, dank room.

“Doesn’t exactly scream class, now, does it?” Nancy whispered back.

“Okay, I think they’re ready for us. Remember, - we’re together and you want to make sure I have a good time. Time to start acting again, Drew.” Before she could register what he was doing, Ned leaned in and gave her a long, deep kiss.

“Baby, you’re the best,” he told her, pulling away. “This is gonna be the greatest present ever.” Ned rubbed both of his hands together in pretend anticipation.

Nancy giggled. “You haven’t seen anything yet, Steve. Right, ladies?”

Both strippers nodded enthusiastically. “Cash first, and then we’ll have some fun.”

Nancy handed them the money, which they split in half before turning back to her and Ned with grins on their faces. “So, birthday boy, how do you want it?” Wendy asked.

“Well, “Ned drew out the word, “I thought that maybe you could give me some attention, and your friend over there,” he nodded his head at Kelly, “could spend some time with my girl.”

He had no sooner got the words out than Wendy began grinding on his lap. Nancy gritted her teeth as she watched the woman gyrate over him, her fake breasts bouncing in his face. She was about to make a sarcastic comment when Kelly straddled her own lap, her ass in Nancy’s face.

“So, what’s off-limits?” she suddenly asked as Wendy’s hard, dark nipples hovered perilously close to Ned’s mouth.

Kelly chuckled as she turned around to face her. “Normally, we’d tell you no touching. But with the money you paid? Honey, there’s not a lot we won’t do, and we’ll do even more if you give us more. Come on, have some fun – spice it up a little.”

Ned raised his eyebrows as Wendy took his hand and placed it onto her ass. “Enjoying this, honey?” she asked coyly. “It sure feels like you are.”

Ned leaned over in his chair to kiss Nancy again, cupping her breast in his hand and teasing the nipple with his thumb. “It’s like I’m dreaming,” he sighed. “Three hot women at once?”

Nancy tried not to think about how good his hand felt on her. “I’m glad you’re having fun, baby. Save some of it for later, though, when we’re alone.” She winked at him.

“You don’t have to do that,” Kelly told him. “If you want us, just say the word.” She scooted backwards off of Nancy’s lap and slid down her g-string, Wendy following suit. Both women were completely shaved.

Kelly straddled Nancy’s hips again and gently grazed her lips over Nancy’s neck. She was proud of herself for not recoiling, but noticed in her peripheral vision how Ned’s eyes had glazed over at the sight of her being kissed and touched by a naked woman. The fact that a nude Wendy was waving her breasts in his face and grinding on his lap probably wasn’t helping matters, either.

Nervous that she’d lost him, she called out to Ned. “Baby, you know I don’t like to share.” She put on a pretend pout.

“Oh, he’s fine,” Wendy told her, shimmying so that her breasts bounced even harder.

“I said, I don’t like to share!” Nancy’s voice came out firmer than she would have liked, but the woman backed away from him a millimeter, an amused expression on her face.

It seemed to help Ned snap back to focus on their task at hand. “I know, baby… Lexie’s very possessive,” he told the strippers in a stage whisper.

“I can’t help it,” she told them. “Women are always after him.”

Ned grinned. “The only reason Lexi decided to give in on this is because her friend Janie Albertson used to work here, so she figured it wouldn’t be too bad.”

The strippers exchanged a look, all the while still grinding on Ned and Nancy’s laps.

“You knew Janie?” Wendy asked Nancy.

She nodded in what she hoped was a nonchalant manner. “Yep. She owes me money, too. Any idea where she could’ve gone?”

Again, Wendy and Kelly looked at each other. “Who knows?” Kelly tried. “I mean, it’s been so long since anyone’s seen her…”

“I know, right? Hey, do you think her mom would know where she is? Is she still in Burr Ridge?”

“Uh, hell no?” Wendy replied quickly. “They did not get along at all – her parents were pissed that she didn’t dress like a country club girl and have 2.5 children, so the fact that she worked here? Did not sit well with them at all.

“You know,” Kelly piped up, “I always thought that she’d taken off with her boyfriend. There was this guy she was seeing around that time – used to buy her shit all of the time. Clothes, purses-“

“Don’t forget that tacky necklace with that huge-ass stone – she came in here and flaunted the shit out of that thing,” Wendy interjected.

Kelly nodded before continuing. “Sometimes the guy even came in here to catch a set or two. Although, he’d get all pissed and shit when other guys came near her – kind of impossible to avoid when you do what we do, you know?”

This time, Ned and Nancy were the ones to exchange a look. “This guy – was he, like, medium-tall, brown hair, glasses?” Nancy asked casually.

“Yeah, I think so? But it’s been so long that it’s kinda hard to say for sure,” Wendy replied.

“So you think that they were seriously involved and that they may still be in touch?” Nancy tried not to sound too hopeful or eager.

“Maybe,” Kelly shrugged, causing her implants to ripple. “Although, who knows? It’s been two years or so – knowing our Janie, she probably dumped his ass and traded up for some guy who was even richer!” She and Wendy cackled and Nancy made sure to join in.

“You think she stayed in the area?” Ned asked. “I mean, if she’s not with her parents…”

“No idea,” Wendy said. “But sometimes she liked to use fake names here and there. Helped if she had people coming after her for money or shit - just like you’re doing now.”

“Like what kind of fake names? Like ‘Jennifer Aniston’ or Britney Spears’?” Nancy breathed, wide-eyed.

“Nah, nothing that fancy,” Wendy told her. “She didn’t have a good enough memory to remember something like that. I think she used to go by her mom’s maiden name when she really wanted to skip out on something or fly under the radar.”

“That was smart,” Ned interjected, and Nancy was amused to see him trying hard not to focus on Wendy’s undulating ass as she turned around and straddled him backwards. “So, what name did she use? My girl really wants to get her cash, so she’s been kinda obsessed with finding Janie.”

“Why, so she can buy more lap dances for you?” Kelly cooed.

“One can hope,” Ned grinned.

“If he’s a good boy tonight,” Nancy teased.

“Look, Janie screwed over everyone she knew at one point or another, so, if you can find her, more power to you. Her alias was Janie Favre,” Wendy confided. “The only reason I remember is because of Brett Favre – you know, the one who used to be the quarterback for the Packers? Whenever she used the name, people used to ask if she was related to him – she wasn’t, but she liked that anyone had the idea she was.”

“Awesome – thanks.” Nancy told her.

Wendy and Kelly looked at each other and traded places so that Wendy was on Nancy’s lap and Kelly was on Ned’s.

“So – Steve, is it? You want a little extra-special attention?” Kelly cooed.

“Sure,” Ned told her, giving a lascivious grin. “Now that you’ve been nice enough to tell my girl where to find her friend…Hey,” he added, as if the thought hadn’t occurred to him before, “if Lexie still can’t find Janie through her mom’s maiden name or with her old address, do you know where else she could look?”

Wendy piped up again. “There was a billiards place where she liked to hang out. Can’t remember the name, though.”

“Double Ds?” Nancy asked quickly. When Wendy nodded, Nancy tried to hide her disappointment. “Yeah, I was already there. They didn’t know where she was, either.”

“Ooh, you know where you could try?” Kelly suggested, grinding up and down on Ned in slow, suggestive movements. “The Cadillac motel over on North Wacker. Sometimes Janie liked to bring guys there when she didn’t want them to know where she lived. Place was a total fucking dump, but she just used that to her advantage – they would then spring for a more expensive place the next time they would hook up with her.”

“Excellent – thanks!” Nancy beamed at her.

“Sure,” Janie shrugged. “Now, birthday boy Steve, if it doesn’t make your girlfriend too jealous, how about a little action for you?” She leaned in closer to Ned and quickly slid down the zipper of his jeans. He let out a little yelp of surprise when her hand dipped into his fly. “Fuck, you’ve got a big one, don’t you?”

“Um, no,” Nancy told them, grabbing Ned’s hand and yanking him away from the stripper. “If anyone’s gonna jerk him off or go down on him, it’ll be me. That cock is all mine, ladies. Right, Steve?”

She had to give him credit for recovering quickly. “Yeah – told you that she’s jealous,” Ned said, chuckling slightly. His chuckle turned to a moan when Nancy slid her hand where Kelly’s had just lingered. Nancy wasn’t surprised to find him erect, but was surprised that she couldn’t seem to stop herself from stroking him through his boxers. He pushed his hand under her skirt and skimmed the damp crotch of her panties with his fingertips, Nancy letting out a cry of arousal.

“Fuck, yeah, baby,” Ned hissed before capturing her mouth in a brutal kiss. Wendy got up off of Nancy’s lap so that she and Kelly were each straddling one of Ned’s legs.

Nancy was dimly aware that she was giving Ned a hand job while two strippers – and total strangers - were humping him, but it felt entirely too good to give in to the arousal she had felt simmering in her over the last several days every time she was near him.

Ned pulled away , panting, and she could see the reluctance mixed with barely veiled desire in his gaze. “Baby, let’s get out of here so we can fuck,” he murmured.

Nancy kissed him again, their teeth almost clashing as her lips crushed his. “God, give it to me good,” she moaned.

Ned gently pushed the strippers back so they could disengage from his lap. “Thanks, ladies – that was great. Now, if you’ll excuse us, my girl and I need to get out of here.”

He grabbed Nancy’s hand and dragged her out of the room, not stopping until they were outside of the front door of the club.

“I’m gonna call the cab driver and tell him to come get us,” he murmured. “Then we can go back to my place and finish this.” He whipped his cell phone out of his pocket and made the call, the driver agreeing to come by within five minutes.

“Nickerson,” she began to protest as he put his phone back. “We’ve been over this before…”

“We have, and I don’t want to do it again tonight. What I do want? Is get you back to my place and out of those clothes so we can finish what we started.”

“That was just an act for the people inside.” Nancy’s voice sounded weak, even to her own ears.

“Uh huh,” Ned said, appearing not at all convinced. “And the fact that your panties were wet? That was for their benefit, as well, Drew?”

“Fuck, “she groaned. “Fine – I want us to fuck again. But tonight is the last time – I mean it.”

“Then let’s make it count.” Ned grabbed her and pushed her against the wall of the building, where he pressed his body against hers and pushed his tongue in her mouth. They remained like that, kissing passionately, until the sound of a honking horn signaled the return of their cab.

Once they slid into the backseat, Ned began stroking her thigh with his flattened palm.
“God, your legs are incredible.”

Nancy squirmed with delight at the feel of his hand on her bare skin and the desire simmering in his voice. She leaned over and slid her mouth over his, their tongues tangling fiercely.

He pulled away, his eyes low-lidded with arousal. “How do you feel about fucking in public?” Ned whispered into her ear.

“Good, if it means that you can get that huge cock into me within five minutes,” she moaned in reply. “Where do you want to do it?”

He suddenly undid her seat belt and grabbed her so that she was straddling his waist, her skirt hiked up perilously close to her hips. “Right here in the backseat of this cab. So let me revise my question – how do you feel about fucking in public, with someone else watching?”

“Good, if it means that you can get that huge cock into me within five minutes,” she repeated. “If we give the driver a show, well – he can consider that part of his tip.”

That was all of the prompting he needed. Ned reached under her skirt and yanked at the crotch of her underwear, growling when he heard the fabric tear. He pushed up her skirt so that it was bunched up around her hips, careful to keep her ass covered so that the cabdriver wouldn’t get too much of an eyeful. As they resumed kissing, he slid his hand under the back of her shirt, undoing the clasp of her bra with one flick of his fingers.

“God, you are too fucking good at that,” Nancy told him, biting back a cry when he buried his face in the valley between her now-loose breasts.

Ned raised his head and grinned at her before thrusting two of his fingers into her pussy, his other hand stealing around to cup her ass.

“Oh, fuck,” she sighed. “I am wet as hell and ready for you to fuck me, Nickerson.” Nancy grabbed at the front of his jeans, flicking open the button and sliding down the zipper to stroke his erection.

A thought suddenly occurred to her. “Shit – do you have condoms?”

Ned nodded, and Nancy caught the slightly sheepish look on his face from the headlights of a passing car. “I grabbed some before I left my apartment.”

He pushed his feet flat on the floor, raising his ass from the seat so that he could grab his wallet from his rear pocket. Nancy held onto his shoulders so she wouldn’t fall. Letting out a cry of triumph when he found the foil packet inside, he scissored it between two fingers and held it out to her.

She should have been pissed at how he had just automatically assumed that they would be fucking that night, but Nancy was entirely too preoccupied with the idea of them fucking that night to care right then and there. She grabbed the packet and tore into it, quickly sheathing him in the condom. Nancy raised herself on her knees and began to inch down on his erection, throwing her head back in delight as she felt him slide into her.

“Fuck,” they both groaned at the same time.

Ned slapped her ass under her skirt. “Move, baby – take my whole cock into that wet little pussy.”

She moaned and slid all the way down so that he was hilt-deep inside of her.

It felt incredible to fuck him again, and Nancy was again struck at just how much he stretched her. Riding him slowly at first, she increased her speed when Ned jolted his hips up to thrust deeply into her. Despite the noise of the traffic around them, Nancy could hear each stroke of his cock, thanks to how wet she was.

Ned reached between them and began playing with her clit as she continued to slide up and down on his erection, trying to hold in her noises of pleasure.

“Baby, let me hear how good it feels to fuck me,” he growled. “How much you like having my dick inside of you.”

Nancy bit her lip after one particularly savage thrust from him, still trying desperately to remain silent.

“Do you know that the driver is watching us right now? He’s watching you bounce up and down on my cock and he can’t keep his eyes off of us, of you. He find it hot as fuck – I’ll be that he’s hard right now, wishing he were the one who was fucking you.”

His mouth was close to her ear, and the combination of his nearness and the incredibly dirty things he was saying as he was driving into her turned her on even more. She knew that she should be embarrassed at the thought of having a total stranger watching her have sex, but right now, it felt too good for her to care. All that mattered was breaking the delicious tension building up inside of her.

“Oh, oh – oh, God,” she panted as she felt her orgasm start. “Finger me harder, Nickerson.” Her knees were being indented by the seam of the seat cushion underneath them, but she ignored the discomfort, focusing instead on the sensations between her legs.

He obeyed her command, using his thumb and index finger to roughly fondle her clit, craning his neck up to push aside the neckline of her shirt with his chin and suck on one of her tight nipples.

“Oh, fuckyeah, oh shit,” she shrieked as she came hard against him. “Yes, yeah!”

She continued to buck her hips against his, more weakly now, her head lolling down limply as he gave another few thrusts before his own orgasm hit.

“Umph,” she sighed, moving almost languidly now.

“Jesus, that was good,” Ned moaned, slumping back against the seat.

Nancy tried to move off of his lap, but her legs were entirely too weak. He gripped her by the waist and gently deposited her into the seat next to him, buckling her seat belt around her. For the remainder of the trip back to Ned’s place, they sat in the back seat in silence as their breathing resumed back to normal state. Nancy saw the driver try to give her a few lascivious glances through the rearview mirror, but each time she pointedly raised her chin in an almost-defiant stare until he looked away again.

When the cab pulled up in front of Ned’s apartment, Nancy stood there on the sidewalk while he settled the tab, giving the driver a huge tip.

The driver leered at Nancy through his half-open window. “I gotta tell you – it was hot as hell watching a sexy redhead get fucked hard in my backseat. You know, if you’re ready for more, I’d sure as hell like it if you wanted to give me a go next.”

Nancy’s first instinct was to glare at him again, but instead she gave him her sweetest smile. “Yeah?”

“That’s right, baby,” he told her, still grinning.

“That’s a nice offer, but I gotta tell you – I’d only ever consider it if your cock was as big as my man’s. And he’s more than seven inches, and from what I can see here…” she leaned down over the half-opened window of the driver’s side door and gave an exaggerated glance at his lap, “you’ve only got five inches there, tops. So, no.”

“Bitch,” the guy muttered while Ned tried and failed to control a snicker.

When the cab pulled away from the curb, Ned turned back to Nancy. “You know, you could have just said, ‘no, thanks’,” he smirked at her.

Nancy shrugged. “And what would be the fun in that? Besides, you should be thanking me – I just bragged about the size of your cock to a total stranger.”

He laughed. “True – thanks, Drew.”

“Well, it’s been fun - really,” she told him, starting to head in the direction of her Mustang. “

“And where are you going, Drew?” Ned asked, amused.

“Home?”

He shook his head. “What makes you think I’m done with you?”

Nancy tried to ignore the tingle that went through her at his words. “Sorry, Nickerson – this was already a mistake, one I have no desire to repeat,” she lied.

Ned stepped closer to her, causing her heartbeat to quicken. “Well, I disagree, but it wasn’t a mistake that we made.” She looked at him quizzically, and he gave her a wide smile. “It was Steve and Lexie, not Ned and Nancy, in the back of that cab.”

She rolled her eyes. “Same difference, Nickerson.”

“Nope,” he protested lightly. “They’re a couple in love that likes to go to strip clubs together, and we’re… Well, you’ve said it before, Drew – we’re just two people who work together, nothing more, right? So, no harm done.”

Nancy shook her head. “Unfucking believable – you are unbelievable, you know that? You just don’t give up!”

“Hear me out, please. Look, Ned and Nancy like to fuck, but you’ve established that it’s not a good idea for us to do that. “

“You know what I think about people who refer to themselves in the third person?” she inquired sweetly.

“You probably think they’re assholes, but stop interrupting and hear me out, Drew. Anyway, as I was saying…It’s not a good idea for you and I to fuck,” he gestured between them, “but whatever we do as Lexie and Steve is cool. So if we have to go undercover as them again and somehow wind up in bed – or in the backseat of a cab – then it’s fine. We won’t jeopardize our relationship as co-workers.” He crossed his arms over his chest and grinned at her triumphantly.

“Unbelievable,” she repeated. “You think you have it all figured out, don’t you.” It was a statement, not a question.

“I do, but you don’t have to decide right now. Think it over – if you want to take me up on this proposal, we’ll go from there. Now, since we could technically still be Steve and Lexie for a while longer, I’d like you to come upstairs with me, but that’s up to you.”

Nancy couldn’t believe how much she wanted to go upstairs with him, but she decided to use her better judgment for once. “Sorry, Nickerson, I’m calling it a night.”

Ned looked as disappointed as she felt. “Okay. But at least let me call you a cab – I think you probably had too much to drink to drive right now.”

He was right, and she knew it. “I can get a bus – there’s a stop at the next corner. But what about my car?”

“You can come pick it up tomorrow. But at least let me walk you to the station, Drew – it’s kind of late.”

“No, I’ll be fine,” Nancy told him. The longer she stayed around him, the more likely it would be that she’d cave in. “Really – it’s just around the corner, Nickerson.”

“If you’re sure,” he said, still looking skeptical.

Nancy nodded. “I am. Now, let me get going.”

“Yep. And thanks, Drew – you were a huge help again tonight. Maybe we can meet up at the office tomorrow and talk about when we want to scope out Rob’s neighborhood again?”

“Sounds like a plan. ‘Night, Nickerson.”

He leaned forward and planted a kiss on her cheek, and the feel of his lips on her skin brought back memories of how they had just fucked in the backseat of the cab. Nancy pulled away reluctantly and wiggled her fingers in a half-hearted wave before turning to walk towards the bus stop.