How to Tell a Lie
Truth & Lies, Book 1
Allison Moore does her psychology research from the safety of the internet, where she can study her subjects’ lying ways without the need for pesky human involvement. Online games are the perfect place to look for liars and have fun at the same time.
Seth Brantley is a fellow professor who can make even economics seem sexy. When he and Allison realize they’ve been “researching” in the same game, a face-to-face meeting seems inevitable. After all, they’re practically neighbors—they’ve been working in adjacent buildings for years.
Fresh from a breakup and afraid to take a risk, Allison wants to keep her affair with Seth strictly electronic…but she can’t deny their virtual antics are hot enough to melt their keyboards. Can Seth convince her to give up the safety of cybering and take a chance on passion in the real world?
Excerpt from How to Tell a Lie
Copyright © Delphine Dryden, 2015. All Rights Reserved.
It was an odd feeling to sit in the basement rec room, wrapped in a blanket against the chill, and log in to the game. The couch was the same one she had sat on while watching videos with her friends. Horrible green and brown tweedy plaid, which she had tried to disguise during high school with a cheap floral slipcover. It was the place she had come perilously close to losing her virginity once or twice, back when her virginity was something she still wanted to keep. She had kept it until her freshman year of college, at least. But this place, this paneled room with its ancient couch, was still essentially a place of her childhood. Another time warp, like the kitchen. She had spent countless hours down here playing, reading, helping her mother do the laundry.
Later, after her mother had died, it was where she came to do the laundry by herself and cry without being interrupted.
It was a place where she knew her father wouldn’t hear her, unlike the living room or her bedroom. She knew, even as she descended the steps and settled onto the faded tweed of the couch, that by ensuring she wouldn’t be heard she was acknowledging the possibility that something other than game play might occur over the course of the evening. She tried to push that possibility to the back of her mind, where she could examine it later if she chose to.
The laptop cast its glow, pulling her in as the loading progress bar crept across the page. She logged into the voice chat program and watched as her screen name joined the list of names already signed on. Seth, his brother and four of the others from the previous Friday. Another two names she didn’t recognize.
“Hey, Ally’s here,” said a voice that sounded like Drew’s.
“Hi, everyone,” she said quietly into the headphone mike, hoping she wouldn’t have to talk any louder to be heard.
The hot pink text of a private message was flashing in the chat window even as the main screen of the game came online.
Notmyrealname: Thank you for playing! I was worried you wouldn’t.
Aeiou: This was my excuse to get out of going to the local dive and singing karaoke with people from high school.
Notmyrealname: And here I thought it was because you enjoyed the company. I’m wounded, madam.
In the voice chat Drew was telling another bawdy joke, and some girl was complaining about the high price of ingredients for health potions in the game. Seth reminded everybody to start heading toward the dungeon they would be raiding.
Allison mounted her character up on the winged horse she preferred to ride for longer trips and steered her in the direction of the road to the dungeon. She was just a short distance away, fortunately, leaving her plenty of time to get there and still chat with Seth.
Allison scanned her last reply and wondered why she had worded it that way, turning their interaction into an excuse, a way to avoid something else rather than a goal in itself. The thought felt uncomfortably like a hard truth about herself, something she didn’t want to think about.
Aeiou: Ulterior motives. I showed you mine, are you planning to show me yours?
Notmyrealname: Only in the game.
On screen, their characters were among a small group standing just inside the dungeon entrance, waiting for the rest of the party to arrive. As Allison watched, the robe, pants and boots disappeared from Seth’s wizard. The cartoon figure danced a jig, wearing just his cloak and pointy hat along with a Speedo-sized pair of shorts. She giggled and typed in a quick command, disrobing onscreen and making her character prance around Seth’s like a well-armed pole dancer while other characters slowly drifted in.
“What the hell are you two doing?” Drew demanded. “Can we have some focus, here?”
Allison hastily ended the dance. She shifted her concentration to keeping herself and her friends alive as they began to work their way through the layers of horrifying creatures. Their ultimate goal was to get to the center of the labyrinth where the biggest monster of all lay in wait.
At least she tried to concentrate. Seth was in fine form in the game, but also managed to keep her thoroughly distracted with a string of comments in private chat that had Allison alternately giggling like crazy and squirming in her chair with pent-up need. By the time the final “boss” was defeated and the loot divided, she felt ready to explode.
Notmyrealname: That giant man-snake had designs on you, snow elf. I could tell.
Aeiou: Jealous much?
Notmyrealname: Not particularly. I’m secure. Once you’ve had wizard you never go back.
Aeiou: I haven’t exactly “had” wizard, of course. And that snake was pretty well built.
Notmyrealname: Well, if it’s a well-built snake you’re looking for . . .
Aeiou: So you say through the safety of the internet.
Notmyrealname: Ah, no wonder I’ve been limiting myself to cyber sex in your case. We must never do this in person, princess, it would spoil everything.
Aeiou: I believe I’ve expressed that same sentiment.
Notmyrealname: But doing it online is a definite must. Speaking of which, are you naked?
Aeiou: Not a chance. I’m in a damp, chilly basement, wearing ratty jeans and a sweater and wrapped in a quilt, hoping like hell my dad doesn’t wake up and decide to come check on me.
Notmyrealname: So it would have to be pretty quick then? And no voice chat?
Aeiou: I mean it would have to be when I’m back in my apartment with the heater cranked and my dad about eighty miles away.
Notmyrealname: You never got up to anything down there when you were a teenager? What was the point of having a basement rec room then?
Aeiou: I guess if I’d been a skank, the point would have been to use my rec room like a cheap motel with a revolving door. Crazy me, I just had friends over to watch videos and eat chips.
Notmyrealname: Such a waste! If I’d known you then, I definitely would’ve been angling to get you down there alone.
Aeiou: Oh yeah, Romeo? And then what? My overprotective dad has super hearing.
Notmyrealname: So I would have gone slowly, so as to avoid startling you. No sudden moves. Lots of whispering sweet nothings in your ear. And I would have used all my mad skills to drive you insane but then remind you to be quiet while you were coming your brains out.
Aeiou: You had these mad skills even in high school?
Notmyrealname: Oh yeah, I was a sex god even back in the day. No, of course not. I was completely clueless in high school. But I certainly would have tried my best to get my hands into your pants, that’s for sure.
Allison paused, trying to decide whether to go in the direction Seth obviously wanted to lead her. It was tempting, but it really did feel strange to be contemplating such a thing while sitting where she was sitting. She fidgeted in her seat again, the seam of her jeans suddenly feeling too rough against her sensitized core.
“Oh, what the hell,” she muttered, and started typing again.
Aeiou: So I’m here, on my ratty couch in the basement, wearing jeans and a red sweater because the team’s colors are red and blue. I have a big quilt wrapped around me because it’s always chilly down here. My dad has probably been asleep at least two hours. We’re horny high school geeks who have just closed their laptops after the Friday-night raid. Go ahead, woo me.
Notmyrealname: Dear Lord.