Jane Smith finished filing the last of that day's work, and neatly stacked the leftover documents in her In box for when she returned to work on Monday.
She was particular about leaving work with a clean desk, a trait that extended to her private life as well. She lived by the motto, "a place for everything, and everything in its place."
Her little house was neat as a pin, without a bit of clutter anywhere. Nothing was out of place, and you eat off the floor in her kitchen; that's how squeaky-clean she was.
Of course, she had a lot of time for housecleaning, because her social life was pretty much non-existent. At the age of 28, Jane had never had a serious relationship, not even close.
Oh, she had dated some in the past, but they had usually been arranged through a dating service of some sort, or had been set up by her mother, who worried that her only child was going to end up alone, never to give her grandchildren.
Her dates always seemed to end in disaster. Either the guys were all over her wanting nothing but sex, or she embarrassed herself some way, or the guys were complete losers, nerds that were too geeky even for her to stand to be around.
It wasn't that she was bad-looking, far from it. She was cute, with a pleasant smile and luscious shoulder-length dark hair that was naturally curly.
But she believed her body was the stuff of nightmares for any prospective boyfriends. She was taller than average, around 5-10 and thin, just this side of skinny, and she was all but flat-chested.
For that reason, and plenty more, Jane was painfully shy, and she preferred blending in the crowd. Heck, even her name was nondescript. Jane Smith. See Jane run. Run, Jane, run.
As she waited for 5 o'clock to roll around that cold Friday afternoon, she stared out the office window contemplating her nothing social life. After her last dating disaster six months earlier, Jane had finally just said to hell with it, had crawled in her shell and contented herself with keeping her house and tending to her two cats.
Suddenly, her reverie was interrupted by a cheery voice from behind her.
"So, are you coming or not?" Dana Kilpatrick said.
Their company's annual Christmas party was the next night, and Dana had been after her friend to come with her and go to the party. What social life Jane did have was pretty much limited to Dana and her boyfriend of the moment.
They worked for one of the large insurance companies that were headquartered in Hartford, and the company always rented a reception hall at one of the city's nicest hotels to treat its employees for a holiday bash.
"I don't know, Danie," Jane said. "You know I don't have a date, or anything, I don't have anything to wear, and I'm not really in a festive mood these days."
"All the more reason for you to go," Dana said brightly. "You need to get out of that shell and live it up a little."
Dana then turned serious. She worried that her friend and long-time colleague was retreating more and more into herself, and she was convinced that if the rest of the world could see the Jane she knew, they'd be beating a path to her door -- if only she'd let them.
Jane wasn't sure she could take a repeat of the previous year's party, when she accidentally overheard a conversation about her, and the remarks of some of her colleagues were not flattering.
"Janie," Dana said, taking her friend's chin in hand and lifting her face up so they could look eye-to-eye. "Just because some people are rude assholes doesn't mean you should believe what they say. You're better than that. If you let them dictate what kind of person you are, then they win. God, girl, you have so much to offer. You're smart, you're pretty and you've got plenty of wit. Please, say you'll come. You need it. Who knows, maybe you'll meet someone special."
"I highly doubt that," Jane said with a derisive snort. "Look at me. I'm not very pretty, I'm built like a board and I stumble over small talk I appreciate what you're trying to do, but..."
"Bullshit," Dana said forcefully. "I don't want to hear that. I know the real you, and I'm not going to let you keep putting yourself down. I care about you, and I want you to be happy. Come on, Jane, come to the party with us. You deserve to have a good time."
Jane thought about what Dana said, and she realized her friend was right. Besides, it wasn't like it was a date. She'd be with her friend, and she liked the guy Dana had been dating for a couple of months. She sighed and made her decision.
"OK, I guess I'll go," Jane said. "On one condition."
"What's that?" Dana asked.
"You go shopping with me in the morning to buy a dress," Jane said. "I was serious about not having anything to wear. I haven't bought a new dress in ages, and I'm tired of the ones I've got."
"Deal," Dana said. "Tell you what. Why don't you go ahead and pack a little overnight bag, then you can just change over at my place."
"I guess that'll be all right," Jane said, still sounding a little reluctant about the idea.
"Janie, you won't regret it," Dana said. "I promise, you'll have a great time. I'll pick you up around -- what? -- 11-ish?"
"Sounds good," Jane said, and so the die was cast.
Having decided to attend the party, she made up her mind that she was going to try to have as good a time as she possibly could. Maybe she'd have a couple of glasses of wine, or maybe a beer or two. Jane hardly ever drank, so the idea of having a few drinks was a daring one for her.
Jane was feeling restless as she tried to fall asleep that night. Dana's suggestion that she might, "meet someone special," had stirred her imagination.
She was a "nice" girl, and shy to a fault, but she was a normal woman with the normal needs and desires of any other normal woman. For years, she had pictured her dream lover, and had long nurtured her fantasies about that person.
She was seeing him that night as she struggled with sleep. He was darkly handsome, with dark hair and dark eyes that hinted at mysteries abounding.
It was the eyes that held her in her dreams. They were kind, but with an undercurrent of passion lurking just below the surface. They seemed to bore into her soul, to see the romantic heart that beat beneath her plain-jane personality.
Without consciously thinking about it, her right hand slid under the waistband of her sweatpants, into her cotton panties. She ran a finger through her labia and groaned softly at the liquid fire she encountered.
Jane did not often masturbate, an attitude that went back to her mother's starchy religious beliefs. She had drummed into Jane's head that such a practice was sinful, but Jane had learned how to do it anyway, and when she was feeling down about herself, she would do it to gain some measure of self-sufficiency.
This was one of those occasions. She squirmed in her bed as she alternated stroking her swollen clit and sliding two fingers into her hot little pussy. She imagined her dream lover taking her, fantasized about him making love to her.
While working her right hand between her legs, she slid her left hand under her t-shirt and clutched at her chest, squeezing one of her sensitive nipples with her fingers. Rhythmically, she stroked herself as the sensual feelings mounted.
God, she wished she could find a man who could do this for her, instead of having to do it herself. As quickly as the thought crossed her mind, it was drowned out by the lustful feelings swelling through her body as she worked her hands faster and harder on her writhing body.
Hard, insistent, the imaginary thrusts of her dream lover climbed to a crescendo as Jane's climax came to a head.
As she fantasized about his swollen manhood filling her with his hot cream, she arched her back and shivered as the orgasm rippled through her slender body. As she did, she remembered what had happened to her so many years ago, and how it had affected her life.
Jane rolled onto her side, sobbing softly as a tidal wave of shame washed through her soul. Why was she always the wallflower? Why did she always have to be the one that people looked through? Why was she the one who always went to bed alone?
It was with those questions rattling around in her mind that she drifted off to sleep.
Ryan Hebert wasn't having a particularly good time as he wandered through the crowd of party-goers, beer in hand. He'd been with the insurance company about six months, and he really didn't know anyone very well.
Yet, because of his background as a professional baseball player, he often found himself put on the spot by the guys in the office who were jock wannabees looking for some reflected glory, and women who acted like the Baseball Annies he often encountered during his career.
He just wasn't that comfortable talking about himself like that. It sounded so much like bragging when he talked about his pro career.
It wasn't like he'd been famous or anything. He'd only gotten as far as Double-A, finishing his career just down the road at Norwich, in the Giants' farm system.
He'd stayed in Connecticut because he'd had a girlfriend at the time that he was planning to marry, but that relationship had been blown up a couple of months earlier when he caught her in bed with an old boyfriend.
By this time, he was stuck in New England, with a good job at a good company, and, honestly, he'd grown to like it there. In a lot of ways it reminded him of his native Louisiana. The people were kind of quirky, a little clannish, just like the folks back home, and there was a definite pride of place that was strongly reminiscent of his home in the bayou country.
Of course, there wasn't the biting, mind-numbing cold in the South that he'd had to come to grips with in Connecticut. But this was his second winter up north and he was a little more acclimated to it than he'd been the year before.
He didn't look like an athlete, being fairly short of stature and slender. But he'd been a left-handed pitcher with good velocity, a wicked curveball and a studied knowledge of how to pitch.
He'd been the star for his small-town high school team, but didn't get any Division I offers, so he ended up playing two years at LSU-Eunice, a junior college not far from his hometown with a very good program. He'd helped them make it to the JuCo World Series and that paid off in an offer to pitch for Louisiana-Lafayette, another solid program.
His senior season, he'd gone 8-3 with a 3.16 ERA and helped the Ragin' Cajuns get an NCAA regional berth. That caught the Giants' attention and they'd picked him in the 13th round of that year's draft
At Lafayette, he took his schoolwork seriously, graduating with a degree in business, and that had helped him land the job with the insurance company when arm trouble ended his playing career.
Truthfully, he wasn't all that broken up about having his playing career cut short. Sure, he was disappointed that he didn't make it to The Show, but the life of a minor-league player meant a life of wandering from one end of the country to the other, of endless bus rides from one town to the next, of cutthroat competition to get ahead.
He sighed as he surveyed the crowd and listened to the music at the party. A live band had been hired and they were well into their first set. The dance floor was packed, but Ryan wasn't terribly interested in getting out among the masses.
Actually, that wasn't quite true. He was interested, but he just hadn't seen anybody yet that he was all that fired up about asking to dance.
Then he happened to see her, and something tugged at his heart. She had a wine glass in her hand and she was swaying slightly to the music, but she had an almost sad look on her face like she was lonely. Here she was in this crowd of holiday revelers and she just looked utterly out of place.
Ryan studied her intently for several long seconds. She was a little taller than average and quite slender, almost thin. She wasn't classically pretty, but she was cute, with dark curly hair that fell just to her shoulders.
She was dressed quite stylishly in a fairly snug dress that stopped an inch or two above her knees. It was a burgundy color in a kind of shimmery material and she had a large scarf draped about her shoulders that added a splash of color to her ensemble.
Jane and Dana had had a good time shopping, then having lunch at a nice chain restaurant. Eric, Dana's boyfriend, had arrived around 6 o'clock and they had driven to the hotel.
On the ride over, Jane started feeling the blues coming on. Dana and Eric were trying their best to make her a part of their night, but they were still a couple sitting together in the front seat of his car and she was single sitting alone in the back seat.
As long as they were grazing at the buffet table, and could mingle and chat with her co-workers, she didn't feel quite so out of place. But when the band started up and the couples started filling the dance floor, she felt like the fifth wheel.
She would never know what caused her to look up, perhaps a feeling that she was being stared at. Whatever it was, she turned her head and nearly dropped her glass. Her stomach did sudden somersaults as she locked eyes with a man standing maybe 30 feet away.
She just gaped in astonishment as she looked at the face from her dreams, the man in her fantasies. He wasn't real tall, but he had the same dusky complexion, the same dark hair, the same dark eyes that smoldered with a barely-restrained fire, the same mysterious smile.
Almost in a daze, she realized that he was walking up to her -- to her! She felt herself flushing and there was a roaring in her ears as she tried to process everything that was assaulting her senses in that moment.
"Hi," Ryan said with a smile. "You look like you could use some holiday spirit. Would you like to dance?"
Jane was stunned. This good-looking guy was asking her to dance? Then she shook herself and set her jaw.
She made up her mind in that moment that she wasn't going to blow this. The man of her dreams had just walked out of her fantasies and asked her to dance, and she'd be damned if she let the moment slip away because she was too tongue-tied to respond.
"I'd love to," she said and smiled broadly. She swallowed down the last of her wine, set the glass on the table nearby and walked out onto the dance floor.
Dana happened to look over in Jane's direction a few minutes later and grinned at her friend, giving her a little thumb's up to indicate her approval.
In fact, she was a little shocked that the darkly handsome Ryan had singled out Jane for a dance. She said a little silent prayer that the guy wasn't going to toy with her friend's emotions. She'd seen the surprised look of excitement on Jane's face, and she so hoped it wasn't going to dissolve into cruel disappointment.
If she'd known the thoughts that were going through Ryan's mind at that moment, Dana would have known she had little to fear. Ryan was captivated by the way Jane moved on the dance floor. It wasn't overtly sexy at all, but it stirred something in his soul.
As a pro ballplayer, he'd had plenty of casual sexual relationships, plenty of women who'd flaunted their sexuality in his face. This woman -- whose name he still didn't know -- wasn't like that at all. She moved easily to the beat of the music with a certain sensuality, but she seemed to be extremely modest, and he sensed that she was quite shy.
They danced several fast numbers, and the look of joy that was splashed across Jane's face excited Ryan to no end. He'd seen how lonely she'd looked before, and to see her now gave him an immense sense of satisfaction.
Finally, there was a slow number, and Jane seemed to tense up at the prospect. She knew once this hunk got close to her shapeless body that it would be all over.
Ryan did indeed take note that the woman's body wasn't real curvy, but he liked the way she felt in his arms, and he could feel himself getting hard at her nearness.
Jane was shocked then to feel the hard ridge of flesh boring into her abdomen. This was so unexpected that she could feel herself flush and a hot flash of arousal surged through her loins.
After the song ended, they both decided they needed a break and something to drink, so they walked off the dance floor, and as they walked, Jane was stunned when their hands fell into an easy clasp like they'd known each other forever.
As they strolled casually to the bar, they finally introduced themselves. Jane was captivated by Ryan's exotic Louisiana accent, the soft way he rolled his R's, the way it seemed like English wasn't his first language.
"So, Ryan A-bare, that's a pretty interesting accent," Jane said playfully. "It doesn't sound like you're from around here."
Ryan told her a little of his background, but deliberately didn't tell her about his baseball career. He wanted Jane to accept him for who he was, not because he'd been a ball player at one point in his life.
Jane told Ryan a little about herself, fearful that he'd find her mundane, but not caring. For some reason, she felt relaxed around this man, like she'd known him all her life, which, in a sense, she had.
She didn't tell him that she'd had fantasies about a man that looked just like him. She didn't want to spook him. It wasn't until he asked how she came to be at this function without a date that the old Jane resurfaced.
"Oh, I'm not very attractive," she said, dropping her head to stare at her lap. "I'm not very pretty and I'm not very sexy and I never know what to say."
Ryan had been around enough to pick up on the undercurrents of loneliness that ruled Jane's life, and he knew that he faced a tough job if he was to pick her up from the depths.
And it was a job that he was looking forward to, because he was definitely feeling something for this slender wallflower, something besides pity. He wasn't sure what it was about her, but something about Jane Smith excited him in any number of ways.
"Jane, listen to me," he said softly. "Don't ever sell yourself short. I happen to think you're very pretty, and sexy is such a relative term. Never forget that the most important sex organ a person has is the one right between their ears."
Just then, the band started back up and Ryan more or less insisted that they get out on the dance floor.
Jane and Ryan danced through the entirety of the band's second set, and more than a few shocked eyebrows were raised when those who knew her saw Jane so thoroughly enjoying herself, and with such a great-looking guy.
By the time the band took its next break, Jane was in a state of euphoria, and Ryan was definitely showing genuine interest.
"Would you like to step outside for a breath of fresh air?" Ryan said.
"I'd love to," Jane said, her stomach in knots.
I was a little chilly out on the terrace where the smokers had congregated. Ryan pulled his jacket off and offered it to Jane, and she took it gratefully. They stood looking out at the city, with their arms around each other.
"So how does a guy from Louisiana end up in Connecticut?" Jane asked.
Ryan thought, "Here it is, the baseball question." But he wasn't going to lie, and he wasn't going to hide his background. So he told her in as straightforward a fashion as he could about playing ball and ending his career in Norwich.
"Really," Jane said, matter-of-factly. "I guess we have something in common, then. I'm a big baseball fan. Go Sox!"
They laughed at that, and Ryan felt another connection with this woman, who seemed to be blossoming before his eyes. They talked baseball for a bit, and Ryan found that she was indeed very knowledgeable about the game.
But he didn't get any sense of awe or hero worship coming from Jane. She just seemed to accept that he'd been a player at one time, but now he was not.
In fact, Jane was in awe, but not because of his background. The mere fact that the man of her fantasies was paying attention to her, and seemed to be genuinely interested in her, had her struck nearly dumb.
After a few minutes, the conversation petered out, and they both stood there lost in thought. Neither one was quite conscious of it, but suddenly they turned their faces toward each other and their lips met.
Jane just stared into Ryan's eyes for just a moment, her eyes wide, then she melted into his arms and surrendered to the kiss. It was slow and sensual, and for Jane, who hadn't been kissed in so long she'd almost forgotten how to do it, it felt heavenly.
When they broke apart, Ryan looked deeply in Jane's eyes.
"I'm sorry; I hope I didn't startle you," he said.
"What is there to apologize for," Jane said. "It was lovely. I... I haven't kissed a guy like that in a long time."
Her eyes took on a faraway look as she thought about her heretofore nothing love life.
"I just don't want to seem pushy," Ryan said. "But I like you, Jane, I like you a lot."
"Why?" she said.
"I think you're cute, you're smart, you seem to have nice personality, and you're modest," he answered. "Those are all characteristics I value in a woman."
Jane didn't answer, but simply pulled Ryan to her and they kissed again, long and deep.
Jane's eyes had a dreamy cast to them and she had a smile on her face as she sat in the back seat of Eric's car.
"He seems very nice, very polite," Dana said as she turned toward the back seat and saw the look in her friend's eyes.
"Yeah, he seems nice," Jane said in a sort of abstract way. "I had a great time tonight."
It wasn't until she was home, lying in her bed, that the old insecurities and self-doubts began to resurface. It was like the Cinderella story. She'd had her two or three hours as the belle of the ball, but now she was back in the real world, where she was just a face in the crowd.
Sure, Ryan had asked for and gotten her phone number, and had promised to call in the next few days, but Jane had been through that routine before.
A couple of dates in the past that she had thought were promising had never gone anywhere, and she had no reason to think this one would develop either.
And, besides, Ryan Hebert could have any woman he wanted. He was good-looking, nicely-built and he had a great personality. Guys like that just didn't notice her. She was Plain Jane, and no match for the women he was undoubtedly used to. A funk seemed to descend on her as she drifted off to sleep.
Jane cried out as she awoke suddenly. She was wrapped in the cocoon of her bed sheets, sweaty and disoriented. Slowly, the realization dawned on her that she was alone, that she was an adult, that she wasn't really in the nightmare.
She sobbed softly as she realized that the nightmare had come on her again, as she relived her one and only sexual experience. It had been almost two years since she'd had it, but here it was again, with all of its darkness and evil.
She had been a senior in high school, a decent student, but nothing special. Even then, she'd been a wallflower. But suddenly, out the clear blue sky, Mike Ellsworth had started paying attention to her, started chatting her up in class and in the commons during breaks.
She should have been suspicious, but she was so surprised that a good-looking, popular guy like Mike Ellsworth was showing interest in her that she was blinded to his real intentions.
Unbeknownst to her, Mike had been bragging among his friends that he could fuck any girl in the school, and somehow her name had come up. A wager was soon made that he could fuck Jane by the third date, and Mike thus began his campaign to get into Jane's pants.
It took dosing her with a date-rape drug to accomplish, but he did succeed in taking Jane's cherry.
Mike had been the perfect gentleman the first two dates, even charming her mother, who was a little skeptical, for good reason, as it turned out.
The third time they went out, Mike had pulled into a convenience store where he knew he could buy beer and came out with a six-pack. Jane was alarmed, but she didn't want to seem uncool so she took the proffered beer as they drove around town.
She really didn't want the second beer, but Mike insisted, and that was the one that was dosed.
Jane knew something was wrong before she got halfway through the can, but it was already too late and she was powerless to do anything about it. Mike drove to a secluded spot, where he met one of his co-conspirators, who was there to document the event.
Jane would only recall bits and pieces of the next hour or so, but what happened was that Mike and his friend maneuvered Jane into the back end of Mike's SUV -- or, rather, his parent's SUV.
He got her shoes and her slacks off, pulled her panties aside, squeezed a dollop of KY Jelly on her pussy and spread it around real good, then smeared some on his cock and rammed his way in.
The pain of her hymen breaking Jane would remember, but she couldn't recall Mike fucking her and filling her with his cum, then his friend following suit.
The first coherent thing she remembered was sitting on a picnic table in the park not far from her house, where they had ditched her. She realized immediately what had happened and broke down in tears.
Of course, she could never tell her mom what had happened. Her conservative mother would never understand. At the time, there wasn't as much of an awareness of date rape and date-rape drugs, and Jane knew her mom would accuse her of being a slut, a whore.
School was a different story. In keeping with her shy personality, she shrank from a confrontation over it, but the word got out anyway. She could see the looks, hear the whispers and it just caused her to retreat within herself even more.
The incident ruined her senior year of high school, and all she wanted to do was get away from her home, from her mother, from the old neighborhood and start a new life.
She'd found a job at the insurance company as a clerk and had moved up to assistant in her branch. She made a nice living, enough to buy a decent car and put a down payment on her little house in a quiet area of Hartford.