“I blame the internet,” said Mary Alice.
Diana raised her diet soda to her lips, where it would hide her smile. Mary Alice was off on one of her conspiracy theories.
“How does that follow?”
Diana kept her tone free of teasing. If Mary Alice detected ridicule, it might remind her that she had other grievances, at least in her own mind. Being her friend took a lot of work, but it beat the alternative – making an enemy who knew how to sell Diana to the cops.
“It stands to reason,” said Mary Alice. “Before the internet, the porn business was all local. Neighborhood adult bookstores were pretty much it. They had to stick to the lowest common denominator.”
“But now any idiot can market worldwide. He can specialize as much as he wants, and still find a million customers who are into it. So now a guy surfing the web can stumble on some kink that he didn’t even know he had.”
Mary Alice had more of a point than usual. Diana nodded.
“And his next step is coming to us with it.”
“Admit it,” said Mary Alice. “Haven’t you been getting more weirdos than ever?”
“Hard to say. After twelve years of this, what’s weird?”
“You know what I mean.”
“Yeah, I do. So what brought this up?”
“I hate it when a guy comes up with something I can’t do.”
“Exactly. I tell them my rules upfront. No fingers inserted, no coming in my mouth, my face, or my hair. Then whatever else he asks for, he gets.”
“Until yesterday, when this new guy wanted me to play in the snow.”
“I’m not sure what that means,” Diana said.
Mary Alice’s smile held a tinge of malice
“Much as I would like to know something you don’t, it means exactly what it sounds like.”
“Fill me in.”
“He wanted to watch me get naked and roll around in the snow. There’s this website called Snow Bunnies, and that’s all they have – girls cavorting outside in the middle of winter. You can tell it’s real. Their whole bodies turn red the way your face does when it’s fifteen degrees.”
“Sometimes they keep their boots on.”
“Any guys involved?”
“Hah. They’re too delicate.”
“So am I, probably.”
“That’s more or less what I told this client.”
Diana looked at Mary Alice across the lunch table.
“If anybody could do it, I would think it would be you.”
“Not me. I know too much about winter.”
It was one of the fascinating things about Mary Alice. Diana knew her friend had grown up in North Dakota, but Mary Alice was dark and dramatic, the opposite of the placid Scandinavian blond stereotype.
“I wonder who they get to do it. And how much they pay.”
“You could ask Heather,” said Mary Alice. “I recognized her in a few pictures.”
“Heather is nuts. I always knew that.”
“Last month she mentioned she was going up to the Adirondacks for the weekend.”
“Maybe that was it.”
“You might want to think about it. So you’ll know what you’re going to say if it comes up.”
Diana caught herself reaching for another of Mary Alice’s French fries. Her friend always ordered something unhealthy and then left most of it on the plate. Diana had eaten every scrap of her Greek salad without the onions or anything else that would give her client-killer breath.
Mary Alice picked up the check and started to slide out of the booth.
“Gotta go. I want to knock off an errand.”
Diana stifled a grimace. By breaking off early, Mary Alice had just give her an extra half hour to get to her date in Sussex. It wasn’t quite enough time to justify backtracking to her rented house, and the manager of Rosen’s restaurant was eyeing their booth as if he needed it for the lunch rush that was still going strong.
Outside, Mary Alice turned right and started to walk the three blocks to her apartment in downtown Driscoll. Diana had parked her Maxima at the curb. She climbed in and started the engine.
The latest snow was two days old. There had been a brief warm spell, but now the gray clouds had returned. Diana drove north on 206. Just a minute or two later she crossed the line into Witherspoon Township, where she was especially unpopular with the cops. The route took her through some of the last working farms in the northern tip of New Jersey. She always enjoyed the views of alternating field and forest.
Ahead of her the two-lane highway climbed steeply enough to make her step on the accelerator and let the transmission downshift. As she crested the hill, the sun broke through and struck the snow-covered fields on both sides of the road.
Blinded, she stamped on the brake pedal. It was the wrong move, because she felt the car skid. A sheet of melt water must have crossed the road and frozen in place. The car slid to the left. She was bracing herself for an impact, when the tires finally gripped dry pavement. The car stopped.
She expected to hear horns blaring from oncoming vehicles, but nothing competed with the sound of her own rapid breathing. If she insisted on pulling a stunt like this, early afternoon was the time to do it. She had this stretch of road to herself.
Diana put the transmission in neutral and climbed out of the car. Things could have been worse. The tires on her driver’s side had dug into six inches of snow, but the other two wheels rested on pavement. The Maxima faced the wrong way, but it didn’t intrude into the traffic lane. She turned away from the car to slow her breathing and calm her nerves.
The field still dazzled her, but the danger had passed. Now she could afford to admire the beauty of the expanse of snow. In town, cars were busy turning the white into gray where the dogs hadn’t drilled yellow holes in it, but here nothing had spoiled the perfection.
Thirty thousand feet overhead the clouds fled like hookers from a wife with a gun, but at ground level the wind had died. The silence waited for something to happen.
Diana peeled her gloves from her hands and tossed them onto the passenger seat. She started to unbutton her coat. The cold attacked her, but she stripped the coat off and threw it into the car.
She unbuttoned her white blouse. Her fingers threatened to stiffen, and she forced them to work more quickly than they had with the coat. To take her black wool trousers off, she first needed to remove her boots. Mary Alice had told her that the Snow Bunnies kept their footgear on, but Diana decided there was no point if she didn’t plan to outdo the competition.
Professional pride, she thought.
She undid her belt and sent her trousers and panties to the ground. She stepped out of them and bent to pick them up. The cold groped between her thighs and made her wonder whether she was going to lose control of her bladder.
She didn’t, but she felt vulnerable in a way that summoned a buried memory. She was sixteen again and showing herself naked to her first boyfriend. It had been her first and last experience of modesty.
She left her thigh-high stockings on. That much of a concession she could make, but the bra had to go. She folded all of her clothes over her arm and threw the bundle into the car.
She took another step into the snow. The cold cramped her arches.
Cavort, she thought. Cavort or die.
Diana stretched her arms as if embracing the view. She looked upward and spun around, once slowly, and again more quickly.
She wore the cold like a fuzzy robe. Somewhere in her mind she recognized the danger of the fake warmth, but for the moment she didn’t care.
She spun until dizziness overcame her and knocked her flat on her back. She laughed like a six-year-old and flapped her arms to make snow angels.
Another inspiration struck. She visualized the pool at Driscoll High School and started swimming her best event, the backstroke.
That’s a new school record, she thought.
Her back had lost all feeling. She rolled over and faked a crawl stroke.
This was getting dangerous, but she still had one thing to do. She turned on her back again and raised her knees. She crossed her left leg over her right and starting squeezing her thighs together. She felt nothing but the ruthless rhythmic pressure on her clitoris.
Numbness pared her to mind and pussy. She squeezed and kept squeezing. Where had all those clouds gone? The featureless blue of the sky inflicted a kind of blindness on her. There was nothing to see, nothing to hear, and only one overwhelming thing to feel. It circled her and taunted her and made her beg.
Come on, come on, come on, come on.
When it was good and ready, it skipped the writhing and toe-curling and jumped her like a schoolyard thug. Stunned by the assault, she could only endure it until it passed.
But she kept squeezing, as if she wanted to crush something between her thighs.
Her attacker stole away. For a while she lay there and whimpered. Then she breathed and watched her exhalations disappear.
Damn, Diana thought. It’s cold here.
It was time to get up, but what had happened to her balance? Without feedback from her senses she had trouble locating vertical, but she put in the time and effort and made it to her feet.
“Oh,” she said.
She had company, of the kind she needed least.
“You want to explain what you’re doing here?”
A Witherspoon Police patrol car had parked nose-to-nose with her Maxima. Diana studied the officer who stood facing her. He looked her age, about thirty, with reddish hair, a florid complexion, and the twenty extra pounds around his waist that the Witherspoon taxpayers seemed to require of their officers. She hadn’t realized that this stretch of road was still their jurisdiction.
It was true. Her jaw spasmed, and the rest of her body followed.
“Let’s try that again,” he said. “What are you doing?”
“Um, it’s a little hard to explain.”
“Looks pretty simple to me. Disorderly conduct. Indecent exposure.”
“Exposure is the word.”
“I don’t need smart mouth. What I do need is some ID.”
She pointed toward her driver’s door, which still stood open. He nodded, and she walked the ten paces to the car. The first thing she reached for was her coat, which she started to pull on.
“I said, ID,” said the officer.
“First I’m putting my coat on.”
“You were warm enough a moment ago.”
“Shoot me. I just had the orgasm of a lifetime.”
His jaw flapped open, but nothing came from his mouth.
With her coat on Diana felt her body returning to life. She realized how close she had come to the danger zone. She hoped the Snow Bunnies had backup out there when they did their cavorting.
The warmth felt so good that she reached for her boots. He glared, but she didn’t care.
When she was ready, she took her bag from the passenger seat and held it where he could see her reaching for her wallet. She extracted her license and held it out toward him.
“Diana Andrews,” he read.
She watched his expression and saw what she expected to see. Most local cops knew her name and what she did for a living. Some didn’t care, some would bust her if they could, and some would take a more entrepreneurial approach.
Which kind of cop was he?
“How many dates so far today?”
Witherspoon, she thought. I should have known.
“You know what I’m saying. It’ll take a donation to make this go away.”
“I told you, I don’t have any cash with me.”
“Better find some.”
“I don’t think so. You want your freebie, come get it. Otherwise, I have things to do.”
He glared for a moment. When it didn’t make him feel better, he gestured toward her back seat.
“You sure?” she said. “The snow is really comfortable.”
“I guess you’re not a Snow Bunny.”
“What does that mean?”