Envy coverJamie Godwin thought she was ready. She’d fantasized and planned, daydreamed about bringing her wildest fantasy to fruition. When her wish to become a man for a day comes true, Jamie steps into a world of new possibilities – a world that threatens everything she thought she knew about herself and pushes the boundaries of friendship past where even she dared to dream.

Warning: This novella contains crazy best friends, romance novel logic, impossible wishes, spicy Thai food, wish-fulfillment fantasy, internet argument rehashes, bathroom cruising, a sexy guitar player, movie spoilers and a love that defies physical form. And that’s just the first half. But it’s not anyone’s definition of a traditional romance story.

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There’s more to being a man than fart jokes and sex. I nodded and watched Brian take a sip of his whiskey sour. I knew that. He knew I knew that. Sometimes, I swore he argued for the sake of arguing. Still, I loved him, even when he was being a brat.

“Of course there’s more to it,” I said. I pulled my margarita across the table and took a sip. Ugh. It was bitter. There was barely any tequila left in the bottom of the glass. I swirled the straw in a slow circle. I wanted to get another one, but I shouldn’t since I told Brian I’d drive us both home. Buzzed driving is against the law as well, but I’d been nursing this one for over an hour. I doubted I had much liquor left in my system. I wished I did. It would make the weird tension I felt from Brian a bit more bearable.

“I don’t know why women think it would be so much fun anyway,” Brian said.

I looked up. Just as I expected. Avoiding eye contact was Brian’s new thing. There were a couple of handfuls of people in The Blue Devil, typical for this early on a Friday. With the muted lighting and dance music blasting from the speakers, it was hard to tell if the patrons were having a normal quiet night or if the pensive mood at our table was in the atmosphere for everyone. Was Brian making everyone somber or was he adopting the quiet mood of the room? Chicken and egg, I guess. We’d chosen a table in the corner because Brian liked to people watch. I thought that was a nice way of saying he wanted to check out every guy in the room while using his female friend as a shield in case one of the men wanted to talk.

The truth is, Brian Cook is sex on a stick, if my opinion counts for anything. With his dark blue eyes, full, kissable lips, and messy dark brown hair, he spent more time ignoring men trying to make eye contact than giving anyone a chance to say more than hello. I once told him he ought to be ashamed of all the time he’d wasted, only to get one of those cute, bashful smiles of his in response.

Behind that gorgeous exterior existed a man who was funny, smart and unfortunately, terminally shy. I had the opposite problem. Every stranger I met was an opportunity for a new friend. It would be easy for me to filter through the jerks to set him up with someone suitable – if Brian would let me. Of course, he never did. He went out of his way to avoid any situation that could lead to something romantic. I’d started to hate Friday nights.

Unless I was out with Brian. We had our special alone time when we talked about everything and nothing. Tonight’s topic? I wanted to know what it would be like to be a man for a week. A day, even. I’d joked that I’d probably spend the first hour masturbating in front of a mirror. Yeah, like I was joking about that. It looked so hot when men did it, I’d give just about anything to try it for myself. I was still laughing about it until I realized Brian was flipping out. I had no idea what triggered that, but, as had become the new norm, I had a feeling he wouldn’t tell me what was wrong if I asked him directly.

“Okay, so yes, some of it is about sex,” I said. That’d be silly to lie about. What woman hasn’t wondered at least once what it’s like to penetrate someone else? There’s got to be some crazy kind of sexy power in being the sword to someone’s sheath. I could easily imagine being the top in the kind of slow-moving sex that lit up every nerve in someone else’s body until they exploded. See, if I was a dude, I’d have a huge ego. That kind of sexual power would go to my head, and I’d love every minute of it. And so would the person on the receiving end.

I touched Brian’s hand, waiting until he brought his attention back to me. He frowned, skin crinkling around his eyes. “We want to know what it feels like for a man. The physical part, the emotions, all the things no one ever talks about in detail.”

“What about all those books you read? The gay porn stuff?”

Why did everyone think it was porn? As a gay man, he knew better. Or maybe he didn’t since he claimed he’d never picked one up. Still, I was sick of people dismissing romance novels as ‘mommy porn’ or some other demeaning label. It was not the 1950s. One would think we’d be beyond things ‘for girls’ being thought of as inferior.

“You’ve really never read any books like that, have you? Let me straighten you out about that one. The vast majority of gay romance is written by women, most heterosexual, and like most romance, limited by the imagination of the writer. There are some amazing stories out there, but there are a lot of things women just can’t write about. I mean, they can describe frottage and anal and docking and everything else with as many adjectives as they can come up with, but that doesn’t replace firsthand knowledge of what it actually feels like for a man. That’s part of the fascination.”

Brian stared at me and I could see the wheels turning. He’d always been good at dismantling my arguments, the only person who could, but he couldn’t say anything about this if he’d never read the books I’d read. He took another slow sip of his drink. “Women want to know what it’s like to play with another man’s foreskin? Trust me, it’s not that fascinating.”

At last a smile. And a blush, I noted as Brian finished off his drink. “You’d be surprised. When it’s not something you’re born with, it’s a subject of endless curiosity.”

“Yeah, about prostate stimulation. Pervert.”

Damn it. I hated that he made me snort-laugh. “Right, like you haven’t asked me a bunch of nosey questions about my breasts.”

“Look, it is a known fact that all men are obsessed with boobies.” Brian looked down at my low-cut shirt. “Yours are pretty nice. You should show them off more.”

“You have no room to talk. Your assets are far more noticeable than mine –”

“I do not have boobs!”

“Ha. But you are hot. And where are you now?” I gestured around the room. “Most popular gay bar in town –”

“Because there are so many of them.”

Three, and the one we’d picked was by far the nicest of our choices. Not that it would ever matter because Brian never let anyone get close enough to buy him a drink, never mind actually hit on him. One of these days, I was going to ignore his protests and find someone to set him up with. I met cute gay guys all the time. He could have a date every night of the week if he wanted. Well, except for his night with me.

“Most popular bar in town and you’re hanging out with me, hiding in the corner. Cory has hit on you twice tonight and all you do is nod and sip your drink.” To be fair, the bartender hit on every halfway attractive man in the bar at some point, but the comments he’d made to Brian had seemed sincere. At least, they had to me. Or maybe I was hoping they were sincere because I was tired of seeing him alone.

Brian frowned and gestured to the waitress behind me. Cory smiled at us and started on Brian’s next drink before I turned back to Brian.

He had stopped shaving a few months ago and the thick growth of dark brown hair covering the bottom half of Brian’s face made him look mature and sophisticated beyond his twenty-six years. There was something about his eyes, though. A beautiful dark blue, they’d seemed haunted the few times I’d been able to catch them with mine lately, as if Brian had a secret eating away at him that he couldn’t share, even with his best friend of ten years. I’d given up trying to pry whatever it was out of him, instead trying to do little things that would get him out of the mood he’d been stuck in the past few weeks. Spending a night out once a week usually did the trick, but I was afraid tonight it wasn’t enough.

“Jamie, I wish you’d accept that not everyone wants to be paired off. Some of us are okay with being single.”

“What does that mean?”

The waitress came back with Brian’s drink at that point and I waited for her to leave with my empty glass before pressing Brian for an answer. “Well?”

“It means, I know you’ve been unhappy since you broke up with that assho – Mark. I think our spending more time together lately has been good for you, but I’m not a project you can work on. If you’re restless, it’s because you want something new in your life. You should focus on that.”

I did not think of him as a project. He wasn’t nearly as smooth at changing the subject as he thought he was, but I let it go. He was impossible when he shut down like this.

“I just want you to be happy,” I said.

“I’m content.”

Content. Like a cat sunning itself on a deck or a man who had given up wanting more for himself than a decent job and an empty apartment to come home to every night. Brian deserved more than that and it didn’t make sense that he didn’t want more for himself.

“Is that enough for you?” The sadness in Brian’s eyes startled me before he broke eye contact, glancing across the bar before coming back to his drink.

“For now,” Brian replied. “You’ll just have to live with that. That, and your penis envy.” He winked at me before downing his drink in a few quick swallows.