Week 1 Finalist

Title: Sex & The Single Therapist 
Author: Marcia James
Category: Humorous Romantic Mystery

“Mr. Baumgardner, can you explain to your wife your reluctance to fulfill her jungle fantasy?” Dr. Ally Skye prodded.

With a scowl, the man faced his spouse of fifty years. “I’m eighty-two. Tarzan, I’m not.”

“That’s what this is about?” the diminutive Mrs. Baumgardner snapped. “You’d feel silly in a loin cloth?”

Yes! Ally mentally cheered the woman for grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns. The couple’s third counseling session was nearing an end, and finally her clients had reached the root of their current bedroom problems. Since pumping her fist in the air wouldn’t be professional, Ally maintained the thoughtful demeanor she’d worked so hard to perfect as a sex therapist.

“I’ve got a pot belly.” Mr. Baumgardner gripped the chair arms. “I’d look like a fool dressed in a King of the Jungle get-up.”

Ally leaned back in her own armchair and made a note on her pad, using a shorthand she’d developed for documenting her sessions. Husband has realistic body image but is selectively self-conscious. Dressed in plaid pants with purple “I crapped out in Vegas” T-shirt but won’t wear costume for wife.

“You don’t care about that pot belly when you want your willy whistled.” His wife radiated indignation.

Ally intervened. No need digressing into a non-productive discussion of his penchant for oral sex. “Let’s approach this from a different angle. Mr. Baumgardner, do you enjoy sexual relations with your wife?”

The balding man squirmed. “Yeah.”

She glanced at Mrs. Baumgardner, who sat ramrod straight with her arms crossed chest-high over her floral dress. Ally noted her belligerent body language before addressing the woman’s husband again. “How does your wife ensure your lovemaking is satisfying?”

“Well…” The man blushed, the tips of his hair-sprouting ears turning red. “We have a standing date on Saturday nights to, you know, make whoopee.”

“What does she do for you in bed?” Ally doodled on her pad so the embarrassed man could talk without meeting her eyes.

“If her arthritis isn’t acting up,” Mr. Baumgardner explained, “she uses her hands for, uh, foreplay.”

“Uh-huh,” Ally encouraged, as she sketched a leopard-skin-clad he-man in the margin of her notepad.

“And sometimes she’ll take out her dentures and…” He covered his discomfort with a cough.

Ally raised her eyes to his. “So, your wife removes her dentures to what? Enhance your fellatio pleasure? Don’t many people feel unattractive, even silly without their false teeth?”

Mr. Baumgardner, a retired CPA, could still put two and two together. “Yeah. Okay, I get it.”

“Good,” Ally praised. “You know, sex is richer when both partners make an effort. And an openness to new experiences is positive, especially in the bedroom.”

He turned to his wife. “You really want the jungle thing?”

She nodded, a pleased smile transforming her wrinkled face.

“And you won’t laugh at me?” he asked.

“I won’t. I promise.” Mrs. Baumgardner crossed her heart.

Ally checked the wall clock. Two minutes left. She selected a business card from a holder on the nearby table and held it out. “This costume shop on Flamingo has the best selection in Vegas. They carry clothes and props for almost any fantasy.”

Mrs. Baumgardner slipped the card into her bingo-motif purse. “Thank you, dear. Since our time’s up, we’ll just head over there right now.”

Sighing, her husband stood and followed her out of the office. The Baumgardners took the back exit, which allowed people to leave without running into the next clients.

It was a good system. When the back door closed, a light flashed on her office manager Gladys’s desk signaling the end of a session. Then Gladys would give her ten minutes before sending in her next appointment.

Ally smiled. The old couple was making strides. There was no reason they couldn’t enjoy as varied a love life as her younger clients.

The front entrance of her office cracked open, and Gladys poked her head in. Her perfect French twist sprouted wisps of hair as though the middle-aged woman had run her manicured hands over it. Gladys’ silk scarf was askew, and she’d nibbled off her lipstick. In the five years since Ally had established her Las Vegas practice, her unflappable office manager had never been shaken.

Ally stood, dropping her notes.

“There’s a cop out here.” Gladys hissed the words before Ally could speak. “There’s been a–”

The woman squeaked as a wide, sinewy hand grasped the edge of the door above her head and shoved it fully open. A long-limbed, broad-shouldered man stepped around Gladys and closed the door in her face.

The grim man strode forward, impatience shimmering off him in waves. Holy guacamole, as her mother used to say. Beneath her clamoring fight-or-flight instinct, Ally recognized a thoroughly female reaction to his overt maleness…a sexual awareness that buzzed like a low-voltage current. Intrigued, the therapist in her quickly catalogued his physical attributes.

Lean but muscular, he wore a short-sleeved shirt revealing powerful, sun-darkened arms. The untucked, orange-and-turquoise Hawaiian shirt hung over dusty jeans that molded to his thighs. And there was a bump under his shirt tail. A belt holster?

A desert tan gave the cop the look of an Old West lawman despite his vibrant shirt. His hair, unruly and the color of espresso, brushed his collar. The room’s diffused lighting glinted off gold highlights probably threaded through his dark mane by Nevada’s relentless sunshine.

Fine lines emphasized the man’s vibrant cobalt eyes and full, sensual mouth. Laugh lines? Only if he occasionally offered the world something besides this scowl. The cop’s serious demeanor, though, fit the sharp planes of his handsome face. He halted in front of her, and Ally fought the knee-jerk urge to retreat.

“Detective Zack Crawford, Las Vegas Metro Police Department.” His gruff introduction wasn’t accompanied by an offer to shake hands. But the man’s gaze drifted over her, insolently assessing, before his eyes returned to her face. “I need to ask you some questions.”


25 responses

18 09 2007
Rachelle Chase

Sex & the Single Therapist made me smile from the opening line to the end, and included a few laugh out loud moments. I love the twist of using seniors – and the unique challenges age introduces to love-making. When Zack makes his appearance, I felt Ally’s attraction and would turn the page to see the sparks fly and discover what questions Zack has for her. A really fun read, Marcia!

18 09 2007
Marcia James

Thanks, Rachelle, for your kind comments about my entry! 😉 I am thrilled to be picked as the Week 1 Finalist and look forward to reading the other finalists’ entries!
— Marcia James 😉

18 09 2007
Donna MacMeans

Shoot! I wanted to read more! Not fair! Not fair at all.

Loved the quirky characters and anxious to see what Zack is really there for. Good Luck!

18 09 2007

I’ve been putting off reading the book as a treat – but it’s NEXT on my list after getting this sneak preview.

Congratulations Marcia.


18 09 2007

Hi Marcia,

Loved it. Great juicy characters. I’m sure the sex therapy session topic grabbed the reader’s interest on many levels. What a way to introduce the story! Congratulations!:-)
Would love to read more, I am off to check out the website!
Good luck!


18 09 2007

Marcia — thanks for sharing part of your work! I really enjoyed it. Great pacing, characterization and an intriguing situation. Best of luck with it:-)

18 09 2007
Leigh Michaels

Marcia — Congratulations on being our first finalist! Your opening grabbed me from the beginning (I’m a sucker for characters with a sense of humor) and I too would have liked to read more. I particularly like the great visuals — Mr. Baumgardner in a loincloth — and the contrast between your senior citizen foils and the hero/heroine. But no fair to say “There’s been a–” and then drop us. There’s been a WHAT, for heaven’s sake????

19 09 2007
Marcia James

Thanks, everyone, for the kind words about my manuscript! And Leigh, if it isn’t against the contest rules, I will spill the beans about the plot: There’s been a murder. The heroine is a sex therapist, and one of her clients has been murdered. The dead man’s wife (also a client) is the prime suspect. The cop is there to demand her files on the couple, which she refuses to turn over due to client confidentiality. When she launches her own investigation of the murder, the heroine finds herself trading heated words and hot kisses with the hunky cop. That’s my favorite part — since I LOVE to write love scenes! 😉
— Marcia 😉

19 09 2007
justine wittich

What great fun this entry is! I immediately formed an attachment to the therapist — her job hadn’t taken away her sense of the absurd. And the hero! I was waiting for him to smile, because I’m sure his teeth will send out light rays the way Tony Curtis’s did in The Great Race.

Terrific job, Marcia. More more more!!!

19 09 2007
Patricia Sargeant

Great scene, Marcia! I loved the character tags and the pacing is wonderful. I love the easy slide from humor to sexual tension. Great job!

20 09 2007
Marcia James

Thanks, Tina and Patricia! You are very kind! And, Tina, I know exactly the scene in The Great Race you’re referring to. Tony Curtis did look handsome, and would have even without sparkling teeth! ;-D
— Marcia 😉

20 09 2007
Rosemary Haggerty

What a fun read, but then what happens? Are the older couple the hero’s parents or grandparents? Or is one of those hot seniors on the lam? Can’t wait to find out!

21 09 2007
Marcia James

Rosemary — Thanks for your kind words! Your comments also made me laugh. The old couple are a way to set up the heroine — what she does for a living, her personality — so when the hero demands her client files, we can see that she takes her job seriously and is willing to go to court to protect their privacy. The book is a comic romantic mystery, so the therapy sessions are transitional devices that also provide comic relief. Woven together, there’s a mystery plot, a romance plot, a secondary hero and heroine, and yummy love scenes — if I say so myself. ;-D
— Marcia 😉
http://www.Marcia James.net

27 09 2007
Marie writing as Belle Scarlett

Hi Marcia! Thank you for the kind comment on my story! It made me realize I’d neglected to mention that yours made me go from laughing to drooling as soon as the rugged, sexy hero burst through her office door! Talk about sex fantasies! Hope to read those yummy love scenes you mentioned soon!


10 10 2007
Marcia James

A belated “Thanks”, Marie! I think the best part about this contest is getting to read all of these great entries. 😉
— Marcia James

3 11 2007

Hi, Marcia.

Congratulations! I love the idea of therapy sessions threaded through the book for humor. I also love Zack’s opening scene!

15 11 2007

Marcia, congratulations on finaling. I love this story. No fair it ended. I wanted to read more.

22 11 2007
Robin le Fey

I loved your description of the detective. I felt like I could see him exactly.

Also, I am impressed with the novel intro of the elderly couple and their sex life. After all, most couples have sex even those after 65. Its just that nobody writes about it – until now.

22 11 2007
Robin le Fey

How interesting – a therapist that councils the elderly in sex. Very unique.

Good description of the detective.

26 11 2007
Eddie Columbia

A unique, fun beginning, leading up to an intriguing ending hook. Definitely makes me want to read more.

26 11 2007
Jane C.

Very funny entry, Marcia. Although the detective isn’t smiling yet, he sounds very sexy. I would like to have read more. Great job!

3 12 2007
Paula Eykelhof and Megan Long (editors, Harlequin)

Author clearly does have writing ability. Heroine has appeal. We found the opening, while attention-grabbing, a bit too long, even a bit indulgent. We would have prefered to get to the hero and the situation he introduces sooner. We wondered if this story might have potential for Blaze.

5 12 2007
Elaine English (agent)

I found the beginning to be very funny and engaging. I felt the final scene when the cop comes in, though, to be a bit long and slow paced, particularly if he’s as impatient as the story suggests him to be. I kept feeling that I’d like to understand a bit more about Ally even in this opening.

12 12 2007
Cheryl Ferguson (agent)

Although the humor is endearing and the writing is superior, the entry could be tightened to increase the pacing and give the plot more impact. Congrats on being a finalist.

12 12 2007
Marcia James

Thanks to the judges and their feedback and to everyone who voted for my entry! And thanks to Rachelle and Leigh for the time and effort that went into this contest!
— Marcia James 😉

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