Night Maneuvers
Author:Jillian Burns

chapter 2

NOT LIKE A woman? Alex fumed. That was the third time McCabe had accused her of not being a woman. They were fighting words Alex could ignore no longer.

Of course, she’d strived her entire career to be treated equally. To not be thought of as a weak female. But still, it wasn’t as if she was some genderless life-form. She was a woman.

And now that McCabe had gotten himself celibate again, this was the perfect time to show him just how true that was.

Within seven days, she’d formulated a plan and put it into action. Once Jordan returned from her Bahamas honeymoon, Alex had called to beg her help with a makeover. And Jordan hadn’t hesitated when Alex explained her mission. In fact, she’d heard Jordan squeal before she shouted a resounding yes!

But now, after spending almost four hours being peeled, plucked and processed at a salon, and another three shopping at Jordan’s favorite department store, Alex was rethinking her need to teach McCabe a lesson. “How do women do this all the time?” she whined as she tried to balance in the four-inch stilettos. “I’d rather shovel manure from my parents’ stables.”

“Hey, do you want to make Casanova McCabe pay, or don’t you?”

“You’re right.” Alex squared her shoulders and stiffened her spine. “Suck it up, Hughes,” she mumbled to herself.

All she had to do was picture the look of complete dismissal on Mitch’s face when he’d said she wasn’t like a real woman. If she had to break both her ankles trying to walk in these torture devices, she was going to make Captain Mitchell McCabe fully aware that she was a woman. A real, live, desirable female. And then she’d make him sorry he’d been born.

Jordan smiled and waved a hand. “I’m having fun. And you gotta admit the results are worth it.” She turned Alex toward the full-length mirror in the shoe section of the department store. “Just look how the high heels and pointed toes elongate your legs.”

Alex frowned at her poor feet jammed into the sheer red chiffon. She hadn’t realized this famous shoe designer was a disciple of the Marquis de Sade. “Yeah, my legs will look real long sticking up in the air after I fall flat on my ass trying to walk in these things.”

“Ain’t gonna happen, girl.” Jordan nudged her shoulder. “You just need practice. One foot in front of the other, heel to toe…”

Grumbling under her breath, Alex wobbled away, the muscles in her ankles screaming for mercy.

“Sway your hips just a little—no, not that much.”

Alex adjusted her sway. This was ridiculous. She felt like a moron.

“Head up, don’t watch your feet.”

What? How could she make sure she didn’t trip if she couldn’t watch her feet?

“Good, now turn—slowly. Put one hand on your hip.”

She was kidding, right? Did women really go through all this just to attract a man? She stuck a fist on her hip.

“Now come back toward me and watch yourself in the mirror. See how the new, subtle highlights in your hair soften your complexion and the new cut accentuates your cheekbones?”

Whatever. If Jordan said so. Alex smiled and nodded when Jordan asked her to try the walk again. And again. If she could survive The Spa Dragon, she could live through anything. Even—God help her—shopping. The facial had been kind of nice until the Dragon had told Alex her skin was “appallingly dry” and asked about her skin care regime.

Regime? Um…soap. Water.

The Dragon had looked as if she wanted to call security and have Alex thrown out until she’d agreed to buy the entire package of cleansers, exfoliators and moisturizers.

The pedicure and manicure had felt wonderful, but regulations forbade the bloodred nail polish that Jordan wanted her to get. The color would so clash with her combat boots and camo. She chuckled at the thought, lost her balance and teetered over, grabbing a stack of shoeboxes on her way down. An entire row of boxes and shoes came crashing on top of her as she landed hard on her butt.

Jordan rushed over. “Oh, my gosh, are you okay?”

“Nothing bruised but my pride.” She tried to get her feet under her to stand.

“No, no, Alex! Not like that. Knees together.”

“What? How the—” She clamped her mouth shut at Jordan’s raised brow. “Okay, okay.” Alex somehow managed to stand with her knees together and smoothed down the little black dress Jordan said was an essential piece in every woman’s wardrobe. Of course, she’d said that about every item in the five shopping bags full of new clothes.

“Um…Alex?”

“Yeah?” She hobbled over to a bench and lifted a throbbing ankle onto her knee.

“We’ve got one more stop to make. Something I didn’t think of until you—well, until a moment ago.”

“Does it involve shopping? Do we have to?”

“Do you want to make him crazy, or don’t you?”

Reserves of strength straightened her spine. “I want that womanizing jerk brought to his knees.” She rubbed the ball of her poor, tormented foot.

“Then follow me, Captain Hughes.”

After paying for the shoes plus two other pairs of heels, Alex followed Jordan across the department store to the section devoted to undergarments. Good grief. The fancy pieces of nothing came in every style, size and color imaginable. Alex usually bought her plain white undies by the six-pack at the commissary. She’d never seen the point in spending good money on something no one would see anyway. But now…

She wandered around feeling completely overwhelmed until she spotted a violet-red thong and bra set made entirely from scraps of flimsy lace. Bet it would itch like crazy. But it seemed like just the sort of thing to drive a guy like Mitch absolutely wild. Not that she ever planned on him seeing it, but it would certainly help her feel sexy.

With a wicked grin, she found her bra size and took it to the dressing room.