"So where are you off to now?"

"Someplace I`m needed, as always..."

"Will you be long?"

"Not this time; I should be back before you know it. Do me a favor though?"

"Hm?"

"Stock us up on some food and drink enough for another guest. Take Victoria with you--I want everything ready before dark, so we can`t really wait until closing time."

"Supposing she doesn`t want to go out?"

"Let her know that our guest is--well...tell her that he`s just the kind of playmate she`s been asking about."

"He? You mean you`re bringing a man...here?"

"I know, I know--but it was my rule, so it`s my rule to break. Besides, this one is special."

"Well, in that case, should I go to a clothing store and do some recruiting as well? I don`t think we have much in the way of--"

"All taken care of," with a tinge of a mischief. "I had some very particular recruiting to do...central to the whole chauffeuring package I've planned, actually."

"Okay, well *now* I`m intrigued. You seem pretty excited about this one."

"Like I said, this one is special."

"So c`mon...a little more detail?"

"Only if you promise not to tell Victoria anything but the teaser I gave you to motivate her to go grocery shopping."

"Promise."

"Let`s just say this stud likes to play the disappearing act. He charms them out of their panties, and *poof*...onto the next."

"How vile."

"Well, perfect gentleman up to that point, though. Patient, patient, patient. Far too smooth for his own good, actually--and he didn`t really realize it until mostly recently."

"You mean he hasn`t always been a slimeball."

"He`s not really a slimeball. That`s kind of the thing. He just needs to...use his talents more responsibly--and respectfully."

"Sounds like your dream project. How`d you come across this one?"

"You`re not going to believe this, but apparently..."

--

He knew it was probably wrong, but that didn`t stop him from justifying it. After all, it didn`t hurt anyone. Every one of them willingly shared his bed--and all at their own pace. He was always careful not to pressure them, never bringing up the subject first, never making too bold a first move without making certain they wanted him to follow it up with more.

The certainty? Every time it escalated to something like "fuck me". If those weren`t the words, then they were made just as clearly in other vivid terminology.

Unflinchingly.

It was only a matter of time. Sometimes it would take weeks. Other times, hours were sufficient.

But it was always their pace.

Occasionally it happened on the first date--which was always a pleasant surprise. They were the ones who would practically rip his clothing off. This, of course, made him feel better about his intentions, too--likely using him as much as he used them. Those that took a few dates to cross the threshold, only after some intense conversation--hours spent comparing philosophies, recounting pasts, telling stories--the sex was usually more intense than with the wham-bams, but that was all the more reason to break it off after the act. Better not to let them believe they`d found a keeper.

After he stopped returning calls, he was just another asshole--and that`s how he preferred it.

Which brought him to the collection: twenty-eight pairs of underwear.

In one way, he knew it was silly--even bizarre. A silly tradition, calcified by obsession and carried over into his adult life. A way of proving to himself--however immaturely--that he was a man worth desiring.

Twenty-eight women, each in his bed at one time or another.

And sure--a few of them searched for their skivvies. A couple were appeased by an offer of boxer shorts when their most intimate item of clothing turned up missing, and a few were probably suspicious of their undergarments apparently "walking off on their own" after a wild night in his high-rise apartment--but he didn`t care.

Twenty-eight trophies.

It was as pathetic as justifying every one-night stand as making up for lost time--but in some stupid way he saw every silky, lacy memento he stole away as a museum to his expertise. Pathetic, almost certainly--but he found himself oddly comfortable with that.

He was still reveling in his night with number twenty-eight, who was almost so gorgeous and intelligent that he considered giving up the adventure. Almost.

He was actually holding her tangerine satin bikinis in his hand, marveling at the pristine gloss of the smooth fabric. These hadn`t gone through the weekly laundry like common faded cotton. They lacked the linty dots that came with well-washed satin. No...she wore these for a special occasion. She wore these for him.

Her scent still invaded them, recalling every luscious curve of her body. And thought she really was amazing...he was on a hot streak. If he stopped here, he might miss out on someone even more incredible.

No, the game would go on. After all, he was just starting to get really good at it.

A buzz on his intercom knocked his wandering thoughts off track. It was Sunday morning, and he wasn`t expecting company. He stood up, tossing the bright orange panties in his leather chair before walking to the foyer and hitting the intercom.

"Yeah?"

"Special delivery for you, Mr. Dusek."

"Mitch--uh, who delivers on Sundays?"

There was a pause and a few murmurs in the background.

"Says she wants to speak with you. She`s insisting."

"Put her on."

"I apologize for bothering you, Mr. Dusek, but I need a signature." It was a nice, smooth feminine voice. Kind of sexy, really...but then, this was just an intercom.

"And who makes deliveries on Sunday?"

"Only the best couriers, sir," Came the confident female voice again. The hair in Greg`s neck stood up. Twenty-eight women meant twenty-seven unceremoniously abandoned flings. He didn`t like this.

"You can have Mitch sign for the package. You have my permission."

"I`m afraid I need your signature, Mr. Dusek. Company policy."

"I see. Mitch again, please." After a pause...

"Mr. Dusek?"

"Mitch--" Greg got quiet. "She look crazy to you?"

"Uh...no. Not to me."

"I know I`m putting you on the spot, Mitch, but do you recognize her?"

"I don`t believe so."

"You've never, ever seen her come into this building? Like with me, maybe?"

"Huh. Uh--" The voice on the other end stifled a chuckle when he understood the line of questioning. "No. No, sir."

Greg exhaled, hesitating a moment.

"Tell her I`m coming down to sign for it."

"Will do."

When Greg arrived in the lobby, he saw her immediately. She was poured into a well-cut maroon and tan courier`s uniform. She had sleek black hair tied into a ponytail, and her eyes were om him as soon as he left the elevator. Relieved that he didn`t recognize this gorgeous woman, he confidently locked the stare of her deep green eyes, smiling all the way to the desk in the lobby.

"Mr. Dusek." She held out a clipboard with a shipping invoice. Greg took it and signed, never even glancing from the woman`s eyes.

"Make a lot of deliveries on Sunday?" He handed the clipboard back to her, and she slid the box on the desk toward him.

"Just you today," she smiled. "Special service." Entranced by her, Greg took the box without looking, never noticing that there wasn`t so much as a label on it.

"Well, I don`t mean to be too forthcoming, but would you care to come upstairs for coffee? Espresso?"

Mitch, out of sight, rolled his eyes at the line. Greg went from paranoia to Casanova in the time it took to come downstairs. Dude could not help himself.

"Much as I`d like that, I`m still on duty. Some other time." She winked as she turned to the door, but Greg was undaunted.

"Later, then? When you get off?"

"Get off?" She said, turning back to him with a raised eyebrow. Mitchell`s jaw dropped. Did this woman really just-- "Sure," she grinned. "When I get off. See you in an hour."

"Great, see you then." Greg said as she strutted toward the door. Both men watched her hips pivoting out the entry, accentuating the best curves in her tight tan pants with every step. They continued staring until she was well out of sight.

"Greg," Mitch said, dropping formality now that they were alone, "You don`t really think she`s coming back, do you?"

"Woman like that?" Greg chuckled. "No idea. Never know if you don`t try, right?" Greg grabbed the box off the desk. "If she does...buzz me once--discreetly--and just send her up."

"Wishful thinking?"

"Let`s put money on it," Greg said with a shit-eating grin.

"Yeah," Mitch sneered. "Let me just hand you my paycheck while I`m on the job, Don Juan."

"Have a good day, Mitch." Greg headed back to the elevators with his package.

"You too, Greg."

On the ride up to eight, Greg finally realized there wasn`t any labeling on the box. Light, carefully taped up, about the size of an unabridged dictionary. What was it? Who was it from? And...did it smell like perfume, or did that rub off from the courier wearing it?

Greg held the box under his nose and inhaled, closing his eyes and picturing the box between her arm and her curvaceous hips. His daydream incited a slight shift in his own jeans, and he sighed.

"She`s coming back," he said to his reflection in the door.

When he got back to his apartment, he flipped on his television and sat back in his chair, the box in his lap. He split the tape with his key and pulled open the flaps, revealing a black plastic bag, expanding past the lip of the box just slightly and settling now that the box was open.

"Interesting development," he said, pulling the bag out. It was thick plastic with reinforced handles--the kind you`d see from a clothing boutique or specialty retailer. He pulled it open and looked inside to see...clothes?

First was a pair of jeans, but he could tell immediately from the cut that they weren`t for men. As he tried to work out some explanation for this package, he pulled out the next item, which was almost airy.

He couldn`t help but laugh.

It was a mesh shirt, the kind of tight fine style that covered the whole torso while showing off everything beneath it. He held it out in front of him by the shoulders and shook his head, baffled. Seeing more in the bag, he tossed the shirt over the arm of the chair with the jeans and pulled out a pair of long black socks, sheer like stockings, but thicker, like nylon dress socks. Setting them aside, he pulled out the last item: a satin full-coverage bra with huge DD cups.

Bright orange. Tangerine.

His face dropped, and he reached beneath him to pull out the matching satin panties that he`d tossed on the chair a few minutes before.

"Oh, shit." He draped the matching lingerie over the other arm of his leather chair, picking up the mesh shirt again. As evidenced by the massive cups of the bright orange bra beside him, number twenty-eight`s tits--Natalie`s tits--were phenomenal.

They`d look even better pressed up against the inside of this fine mesh shirt, and apparently she wanted him to know that.

"So it`s from her." He held the mesh shirt up by the shoulders again, and the scent of the perfume was more evident than ever. He held the shirt close and inhaled through his nose again, his five o'clock shadow catching the soft, delicate mesh as he took in the scent.

"No, it`s not," he heard a woman`s voice say. He gasped and held the shirt in front of him again. The voice sounded like it was coming from right next to him! "Nuh--Natalie?"

"Uh-uh, playboy." And when he thought about it, it didn`t sound like Natalie.

"Who--I mean, where--" He was looking somewhere on the shirt for some sign of a microphone, a speaker, wires--but there was nothing. Looking down at the box, he let go of the shirt and started to check the packaging when he realized...

The shirt never dropped.

In fact, now the mesh started to inflate, to stretch in every direction like it was being filled with dense invisible fluid. Before long, the inflated form started taking the recognizable shape of a woman`s torso. Shocked as he was, Greg couldn`t move from his chair. The mesh shirt was just over his lap, the fabric growing taut. He found himself staring at the ghostly orbs in the front, which seemed like they could be even bigger than Natalie`s.

He slid himself up in the chair, trying to pull his legs out from underneath the mesh shirt suspended over them. The sleeves pointed inward just below the waist of the mesh shirt, looking as if they were placing invisible hands on hips he couldn`t see. He was practically sitting on the back of his leather chair when he saw the tangerine lingerie slough off the arm and dangle in mid-air.

"What the...hell?"

"You were only too happy to bury your face in my chest a second ago, Greg."

His eyes locked on the shapely translucent form hovering in front of him. Was the voice coming from the shirt?

"I--uh--h-how is..."

"And you were such a smooth operator with my assistant downstairs. Did you really turn into a stuttering mess just because of little old me?" One of the sleeves pointed at the chest of the shirt, a fingertip-sized indentation appearing between the enormous mesh orbs in the front. "Or maybe you`re a tad overstimulated by what you`re looking at?"

Both sleeves rested in front of the shirt now, just under each side of the chest. The spheroids deformed a bit and lifted up, manipulated by what he imagined to be invisible hands.

"Only natural," said another voice to his left. This time it did sound like Natalie. "He`s used to being in control, having everything give in to the whims of his groping little fingers--whether it`s Natalie or anyone else." Greg stared wide-eyed at the tangerine panties, swelling to feminine curves and hovering over him just like the mesh shirt. "You don`t like the idea of anyone or anything thinking for themselves, do you, Greg? You just want objects to use to your own shallow purpose."

He couldn`t help but let out a nervous laugh as the bright orange bikinis hovered toward his face.

"You--are objects," he managed.

"That`s where you`re wrong, playboy," the mesh shirt responded. "And that`s why you need to be...re-educated."

The jeans laid across the leather chair began filling out in place, with Greg`s leg straining against them as he kept himself balancing on the back of the chair. The surprise motion made him jump back, losing his perch and finding himself tumbling toward the hardwood floor.

Before he hit, though, he felt himself slow and stop inches above the floor. He could sense his body weight bearing against his clothes, as if his outfit itself halted in mid-air and caught him like a net. He sighed momentary relief before the tangerine bra hovered over the back of the chair, its full-coverage cups swelling to capacity just like the other phantom clothing.

"Now, now...no trying to get away," said a voice coming from the busty lingerie`s direction. Like the panties, it was similar to Natalie`s, but somehow distinguishably different. Greg sailed up and over it and was plopped back into his leather chair, placed properly in the seat once again. He felt his legs pulled up as the leather ottoman slid across the floor and under them before they were dropped onto it.

"Relax, or you`ll have to be restrained," the mesh shirt said, now attached at the waist to a nicely-filled pair of jeans. It lifted a leg to the ottoman, showing off a vaguely-translucent black nylon foot beneath the hem at the ankle.

"Like we`re not going to do that anyway," the tangerine panties laughed.

"One step at a time." The mesh shirt and jeans outfit pulled its other leg onto the ottoman, standing on it. Greg noticed that the invisible nylon feet didn`t sink very far into the leather, making him wonder exactly what the clothes were filled with.

"What, uh--what is it you plan on doing with me?" Greg didn`t know what else to say, given the situation. In his mind, there was no explanation for what was happening, so he just let this dream-like weirdness ride.

"She told you," came another voice from the direction of his bedroom. "You`re going to be re-educated." Greg turned to see a pair of lacy green boy shorts strutting out into the living room. Stephanie`s boy shorts. Number...twenty, was it?

"So this is how people go nuts," Greg muttered. "Repressed guilt for one impulsive escapade or another."

"It`s gonna get worse before it gets better, hon!" Another voice from inside his room. From the Midwestern twang, he already knew it was Shelly`s hot pink silk thong with a purple embroidered heart on the front. Another glance to the doorway confirmed it.

"Wow. So...time to toss the collection, I think." Greg only continued operating so coolly because he knew he had to be asleep in his chair, dozing away while the TV played...whatever it was that was producing a dream this crazy. Looking back at the outfit standing on the ottoman, though--he figured there were plenty of worse dreams he could be having.

"Toss the collection?!" Yet another voice protested. He already recognized it as Jessica and didn`t bother to confirm it by glancing at her seamless tan briefs, no doubt making their approach like the others. "You ought to keep your mouth shut, boy. You`re only making the case against you worse."

Greg laughed. This really was something else.

"You though," he leaned forward, "I don`t know where I dreamed you up from, but I can`t say I`m disappointed..." Lucidity. That`s what all this was. As long as he was aware of what was going on, he figured he might as well explore it. As he reached a hand up and behind the tight indigo denim legs standing on the ottoman, the outfit leapt forward, its knee jumping to the crook of his arm and pinning it against the back of the chair. Now the denim crotch was in his face, and he found himself staring up at the huge mesh tits over his head. He could see the empty collar up through the mesh abdomen of the shirt. "Not disappointed at all." He shuddered a bit when he felt nylon toes nudge against his own crotch, which responded altogether positively when the bulge beneath his pants slowly swelled.

"Hey, you said we were going to teach him a lesson," Natalie`s tangerine bra said. "I`m pretty sure he`s enjoying this a little more than you expected."

"He doesn`t even believe it`s happening!" Another voice from the remaining collection protested as all twenty-seven joined the tangerine lingerie and the mesh shirt outfit in the living room. A couple other muttered complaints came from behind him.

"Patience, ladies, patience. There`s a process to these things. Besides, 'est nihil persuadent quam tormentis volptate'." The toes cliched gently against Greg`s bulge again. "Which our friend here will certainly discover." Greg moaned again, but now something more than enjoying this dream was on his mind.

"Was that...latin?" His face flushed. "I don`t really know any latin, but that sounded like--"

"Something your mind couldn`t have possibly come up with on its own?" The mesh shirt asked. "That`s because it didn`t, stud." Greg looked up at the intimidating voluptuous figure again, then back at his bedroom door, where he could see nearly every pair of underwear from his collection--in detail that seemed too accurate.

"What is going on here...?" A mesh sleeve reached down toward his head. He flinched, but it didn`t stop the unseen fingers at the end of the sleeve from reaching his chin and tilting back his head to look at the mesh shirt again, now leaning back a bit.

"Nothing...is more convincing than torture by pleasure," the shirt said, enunciating each word slowly and deliberately.

Greg`s lip trembled. The phenomenological denial he relied on in the last few minutes wasn`t coming so easily anymore. Now he was silent.

"Wow. Well, that shut him up, didn`t it?" Kayley`s voice...or its approximate. Kayley`s spandex shorts. Number eighteen. He had to change his gym membership to keep from running into her again. The comment was followed up by a chorus of giggles, swallowing up Greg`s dread silence.

"This can not actually be happening. You`re just...clothes. Things. Not voices or ghosts...things." Desperately grasping for denial now.

"Things," echoed another female voice, more acidic than any before it. The mesh shirt and jeans stepped back and off of the ottoman altogether. Greg tried to move, but his limbs were held in place, apparently by his clothes. A pair of sheer black panties hovered in front of him, emulating its former owner`s curves like the rest of the talking clothing in the room. "But you`re a thing too, aren`t you, Greg?" The underwear came right up to his face, their soft curves overruled by an obviously upset voice. "A shallow, self-absorbed, insecure, unfeeling, selfish, cold, disgusting thing." He frowned. There was remorse in his eyes.

Jill. Number two. They were so close that he swore he could still sense her body heat in them. Her scent...

When he looked away, unseen hands boxed his ears and pulled him to face forward.

"You will look at me, Greg. You will look at all of us in ways you've never even imagined." Now, even the giggling and chatter from the other items went silent. "I never, ever thought this day would come. I sat in that little drawer of yours, taken from my owner, stashed away from the world except for all my soulmates in this dirty little prison of yours." The panties pushed themselves against his face, and he could almost feel the emotion pulsing from the fabric. A concoction of lust and fear spiraled through his senses, dizzying him. Despite the remorse and his fear of what was coming next, his most male component was more ready to party than ever. It only embarrassed him more, even if his audience was nothing but renegade undergarments. "We couldn`t move, Greg, but we could communicate even then. Did you know that? Did you know that every second you weren`t marveling at your pretty fabric trophies, we passed around a collective prayer that somehow, someday, we`d have an opportunity like this?"

They backed away, and Greg felt his head released and his limbs unfrozen by his own clothes.

"Our prayers have been answered," said the spandex shorts, "thanks to her." The tight black spandex turned to the mesh shirt outfit.

"All in a day`s work," the mesh shirt shrugged. "And thank your bright orange friends, too--they got me the message through the grapevine..." The mesh shirt folded its arms in front of it`s chest. "But, hey--now that Greg gets the gravity of the situation, I`d like to invite all of you back to my place to participate in the lesson plan."

"Fucking lesson plan?" Greg exclaimed.

"Cutie, it`s probably best you really shut up for now and let the women talk, okay?" The boy shorts said. "Really. For your own good."

"I think I speak for us all when I say we`d love to join you," the black spandex shorts said, "but how do we get there with him?"

The intercom buzzer rang, and Greg looked to the door. Just one buzz.

"There`s our chauffeur now," the mesh shirt said.

"Chauffeur...you mean the courier?" Greg asked. "You`re not--you`re not going anywhere with me." Greg slid out of his chair, dodging the panties hanging over him. He ran to his bedroom, slamming the door behind him and locking it. He grabbed anything he could find to shove under the door. Once he stuffed the gap with a towel, he backed into his bed.

"And what do we do about that?" The sheer panties said. "He`s not exactly going to walk out of the building. Not now, anyway."

"No, he`s not *exactly* going to walk." The mesh shirt and jeans headed over to the bedroom door. "But leave it to me. Everything`s taken care of."

Greg jumped when the closet door behind him folded open. A luggage bag rolled out and unzipped, making its way toward him.

"Not my own stuff too..." His bedroom door unlocked itself and popped open. In the frame stood the mesh shirt and jeans.

"You`re being presented with an opportunity, Greg." The outfit strutted in, the bedroom door closing behind it once more. A mesh sleeve pointed to a dresser drawer, which opened by itself. "You`re coming with us, and you may as well accept that. However, you do get to choose how cooperative you`ll be. You`ll find that this choice will have some bearing on how you`re treated."

"Do all nervous breakdowns start like this, or is it my underwear obsession that`s making me believe I`m talking to...a bunch of clothes?" Greg watched his own underwear jump out of his open drawer and float into the unzipped bag, one after another. Each item filled out just like the panties waiting outside, except that his own underwear carried unmistakably male equipment. Invisible male equipment. The situation couldn`t have gotten any more unnerving.

"No, and no." The mesh shirt waved a sleeve at the open drawer again, and it closed with a hollow reverberation that told Greg it had been emptied. "This isn`t a nervous breakdown, and you don`t just *believe* you`re talking to a bunch of clothes. You are." He watched the curvy outfit saunter over to his closet, leaning inside as if it were looking for something. "Ah-ha...come with me, my darlings." When the outfit turned back to Greg, he saw his navy blue silk pajamas walk out of the closet on their own.

"Clothes...that can talk."

"Well, all clothes can talk, as you've already learned. But clothes you can hear, yes...and clothes that no longer have to passively tolerate your lack of respect. Thanks to me, of course."

Greg just shook his head, still in disbelief of what he was seeing. His own silk pajamas approached the mesh shirt outfit, sliding their sleeves around the hips of the jeans. The mesh sleeves wrapped around the collar and pulled the pajamas in. Greg snapped out of his stare.

"So...what are you doing with my clothes?" The two outfits spun around and released their embrace, ending with the pajamas uninflating and jumping into the bag.

"Just playing around a bit while they help me pack for your trip." The outfit approached him. "You've got decent taste, Greg. Any other goodies in here other than those pajamas?"

"What do you m--" Greg felt himself sliding off the bed as his comforter and blankets shifted, pulling him away with them.

"Haaa...silk boxers, silk pajamas, silk sheets. We`ll take those, too." The sheets pulled themselves off the bed, folding themselves as expertly as a hotel maid and joining the other things in the bag. Greg was only more confused.

"Where exactly is this trip?"

"Already past your quota for the questions, hot stuff. I've already told you more than I usually tell anyone."

Hot stuff. Whatever was going on here, Greg knew enough to know a flirt.

"You mean you do this with other guys? And here I thought I was special."

"There`s the charmer I was warned about," The mesh shirt said. Greg watched as his ties and belts hovered out of his closet and into the bag. "Must be the shock is wearing off? Or are you back to convincing yourself this isn`t happening?" Greg shrugged.

"Going with the flow, I guess. But since I`m going with you anyway...I`m gonna ask. Who are you? Did I piss off a witch?"

"Not exactly accurate...but I`m sure you caught that your tangerine friends out there were the ones that called for help." The bag zipped up, and Greg couldn`t help but notice that there weren`t any shirts or dress pants joining the belts and ties.

"Called for help? How?"

"Questions, questions. I could try to explain 'how' for weeks, and it would go in one ear and right out the other. The thing for you to learn is 'why'."

There was a knock on the door.

"You done in there? We`re all packed up and ready." Greg recognized the voice outside his bedroom door. His bag rolled over to him, zipped and ready.

"Is that--" The door popped open, and Greg`s jaw dropped.

"We`re ready too," The mesh shirt said. "Greg, you've met Bianca." His eyes were locked on the woman in the doorway.

It was the courier, no longer in her pressed uniform. She had pink rubber rain boots on, tight jeans tucked into them that stuck to her shapely legs like a second skin. She had a tight pink sweater on, a backpack slung over her shoulder and a closed umbrella in her other hand.

"Scoped out the back stair. You can pretty much pull any trick you want--don`t think it gets any traffic." Bianca looked at Greg. "Not even bound yet? She must like you."

"I--uh..."

"Greg`s been a good boy so far," the mesh shirt turned to him, "but charming as you are, my dear, I have to be sure that our departure goes smoothly. Nothing personal..."

He gasped as he floated into the air, his toes rising just off the floor. The waist of his tee pulled up over his torso, pushing his arms up and blocking his view. He felt his pants go loose and heard the zipper run down its track. Before he knew it, they slid down his legs.

"What gives?!" Greg cried through his rebellious outfit.

"Procedure is procedure, my dear. Just let it happen and I promise I`ll keep you comfortable on the way back to my place..."