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By:Lynda Chance

"There's nothing to tell. He was hot. We were at the coffee shop, we checked each other out, he followed me to the back of the store and proceeded to try to get me to meet him later for sex."

"No fucking way!"

"Oh yeah, he did." Lauren underlined.

"You have all the damn luck! So what was wrong with him?" Heidi questioned.

Lauren's mouth flattened in lines of a sulk. "You mean, besides the fact that he was an asshole who only wanted to screw me?"

"Well, yeah, besides that. You going to blame him for thinking you're hot?"

"Well, no," Lauren was forced to admit.

"Well, what then?"

Lauren stared at her friend. "Have you ever known me to just sleep with somebody for what . . . the relief of it?"

"Yeah, the relief of it, and no, I haven't known you to. But I'm telling you." Heidi narrowed her eyes. "Vaginal atrophy."

"Shut up."

"You shut up. You need to get laid, Lauren."

"I don't have his name or number or anything, even if I was as . . . non-discerning as you are." She gave her friend a look and Heidi only smugly smiled and nodded her head as if she fully agreed.

Lauren laughed, "Yeah, I tried to put that nicely."

"Well done, but next time, don't screw up so badly. If a dude's as hot as you're describing, you have to at least get his number, you know!"

"All right. I hear you loud and clear. Maybe you can start giving me lessons on snagging a guy for . . . good times," Lauren joked, tongue-in-cheek. "But it will have to wait a few weeks, I have to get this project finished or I'll have no life and I'll be continually stressed about it," she hinted, trying to get back to work.

"Blah, blah, blah." Heidi lifted a perfectly manicured eyebrow. "I know you're not serious about lessons so I'm not going to get too excited." Heidi looked put out and then changed the subject. "You know that new guy from Florida is hot for your tail, right?"

"Hot for my tail? Seriously, you'll never get married if you don't tone it down." Lauren studied her friend. "Nico? The guy in sales?" She made a face and shook her head. The guy gave her the creeps. "He already asked me out and I turned him down."

"I want him if you don't," Heidi said.

"Be my guest."

"And I damn well will get married," Heidi argued. "Just because I act like a slut in front of my friends doesn't mean I'm stupid enough to do it in front of potential fathers-of-my-future-children."

Not missing a beat, Lauren said, "That's good because guys have a built-in slut radar or something, you know that, right?"

"Yeah, I know. But they don't all have a radar--" She stopped as if waiting for Lauren to ask.

Lauren rolled her eyes. "Fine, I'll bite. Which ones have a radar and which ones don't?"

Heidi glanced down at her french manicure and wiggled her ass on the desk as if she were settling in for the long haul, ready to impart knowledge of an almost biblical proportion. "Well, in my experience, your average beta-type male doesn't have one. Your typical alpha-male, of course, does."

"And you know this, how?"

"God, you're really just as sweet and innocent as you come off to be, aren't you?"

"I'm not innocent, Heidi. That ship sailed a long time ago."

Heidi shook her head in disbelief. "Could have fooled me, but whatever. Do you want to know or not?"

"Sure. For kicks, I guess. Share your wisdom, oh, slutty one."

Heidi cut her eyes at Lauren. "Watch it."

Lauren blew out a breath and looked at the clock on the wall. "I'm sorry. Share your wisdom, Miss Voice-Of-Experience."

"That's better. Okay. Beta males don't have a clue. If you go by the three-date rule, they'll just think you're a decent girl. Alphas, on the other hand, know all about the three-date rule and they'll be instantly suspicious if you sleep with them on the third date."

"Three date rule?"

"Oh, come on, Lauren. Seriously?"

Was this three-date rule something Lauren had missed in college? Something the sorority girls passed down that she'd never heard about because she wasn't affiliated with them? "I'm serious. I don't know what you're talking about. Are you telling me there's an unspoken rule that women can have sex on the third date and still retain their dignity?"

"Yes. And everybody knows that a sign of a slut is if a woman has sex before the third date."

"I didn't know that," Lauren said.

"How could you have missed it?" Heidi fired back.

Lauren shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. By being in a long-term relationship for most of my college years and never having had a friend quite like you until I came to work here." Lauren smiled at her friend to soften the blow.

"Well, it's a good thing you have me now! I won't let you go astray. So here's the thing. Like I said, an alpha knows all about the rule, so if you're dating an alpha, you have to wait longer than three dates. Probably like five or six."

Lauren was getting extremely bored with this conversation and needed to get back to work but she played along. "Good to know. What else?"

"Basically, your alpha-male is so experienced and has slept with so many women that he's a suspicious animal. You have to clean up all signs of prior men in your life and you have to pray that you never run into one of your 'flings' while you're out with him. Because if you do, he'll peg the guy right off as someone you've slept with."

"So this is what you do?"

"I'm not that slutty, Lauren. I don't have a trail of past lovers behind me. Besides, my plan is to find a nice beta-boy who won't know the difference and will worship the ground I walk on."

"But really, you're saying that alphas are just out to sleep with a shit-ton of women but betas are your marriage material?" That was actually good information to know and Lauren was going to file it away.

"Pretty much. I'm not saying that alphas don't want to get married. Someday. That's the key word. They want nothing more than to bang a long list of women, probably into their mid-thirties, and then at some point when their own mortality is staring them in the face, they'll pull a double standard and try to find a good girl to marry. And the bastards can always tell an inexperienced girl from an experienced one. Trust me on this. It's why you should have fun with alphas, but only set your heart on a beta."

"But aren't betas supposed to be boring?"

"Oh, my, no. Not necessarily. A lot of them are super good-looking, but they're just shy. You find one of those who will treat you right, and it's marriage time."

"So how do you tell the difference between a beta and an alpha?"

"The alpha is the one who acts like he's God's gift to women." When her friend said that, Lauren got a shivery feeling in her stomach as Heidi blathered on. "The beta may look as if he is, but he won't act like it. The alpha is the one who expects sex right off the bat because that's what he's used to. An alpha knows what he wants and goes after it, balls to the walls."

"Like the guy yesterday," Lauren mumbled under her breath.

"Yeah, probably so. If he flat out tried to get you to go home with him the first time he met you, the dude is an alpha. Stay away from him. Don't have sex with him, because nothing will come of it and you'll only get hurt."

"But I thought you told me that I should be having sex with someone? And that alphas are good for having a good time with. Why not someone like him? I mean, if all I'm after is sex." Which was still up for debate, but Lauren wanted to know Heidi's reasoning.

Heidi tsk-tsked. "Because I know you, Lauren. You wouldn't have sex just for the fun of it. I can advise you to do it, and you can lie to me and tell me you're going to, but trust me, I know it ain't going to happen."

"Yeah, you're probably right."

Heidi gave her a sly look. "Oh, honey. I'm always right about stuff like this."

On Thursday, mid-morning, Lauren sat her stuff down at her favorite table and lowered herself into the chair, blowing on her coffee. She looked across the room and her eyes clashed violently with the man who sat facing her. Him. His eyes held hers and refused to release her, and a thousand butterflies went crazy in her stomach, trying to get free. Her hand began to visibly tremble, and she sat the cup down before she spilt her coffee.

The dude wasted not a second, and got up and came across the room. He pulled out the chair opposite her, sank down with his legs spread wide, crossed his arms and put them on the table in front of him, and leaned in toward her.

He stared solidly into her eyes without saying anything, and Lauren began to hyperventilate. When he remained silent, she felt her eyes widen and she finally found her voice. "What are you doing?"

His eyes dropped to her lips before finding her gaze again. "Not taking 'no' for an answer." A cocky, mirthless smirk twisted his lips and the force of his commanding presence sizzled dangerously from across the table.

Chapter Two

Lauren could feel his sexual magnetism, even with the space that separated them. It was so incredibly strong, and undoubtedly one of the reasons why he was so self-confident. A thought hit her: Alpha.

Her stomach made an odd kind of flip and she was aghast to feel a hot, liquid heat in her midsection, even as silent alarm filled her.