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(If there’s anything I despise more than our schools’ current obsession with “self-esteem,” I can’t think of it at the moment. Self-esteem is not a gift to be given. Nor is it always where you might expect to find it. Many a hero thinks himself a coward. Many a genius thinks himself a churl. Many a loving man thinks himself unlovable. On the individual level, Mankind knows no greater tragedy.)

It was getting ridiculous. It didn’t seem to matter what I said, how I dressed, or how suggestively I behaved. I simply couldn’t get a rise out of him. For nearly a year I’d done everything I could think of short of pulling down his pants. He acted as if I were just one more male colleague. Oh, he was polite, even friendly. He’d listen forever to anything I cared to talk about. And he was helpful to a fault. But I wanted more than anything to see that courteous, attentive expression tinged with a little lust.

I thought it might be my face. I ruined it a few years ago in a motorcycle accident. Major skin grafts were necessary just to keep bone from showing through. The scars are many and prominent. In short, I’m not pretty. My face makes me look much older than I really am. But I have other assets.

I’m a fairly big gal at five-eight and a hundred thirty. All the martial arts training and sports I’ve done have given me a tight, muscular body. Still, I’m visibly female, with the right stuff in the right places and no shortage of it. And I like clothes that divert attention away from my face and toward my figure: silky, form-following blouses, short skirts, and the highest heels I can manage. A colleague once called me a walking advertisement for sex, which I’d have minded a lot less if I’d been getting any.

My build, my couture and my single status at age twenty-eight had made me the office sex kitten. Just about every office has one. Most of the time, the designated female is no more sexually active than anyone else there, and frequently, as in my case, a good deal less. But the position has its responsibilities nonetheless, so I flirted as universally and lightheartedly as possible.

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