What? Come on, don’t be like that. I want Kate, no question. But don’t expect me to act like a monk until it happens. The thing women don’t understand is that a guy can want one woman and still fuck another one. Hell, a guy could love a woman and still fuck ten others. It’s just the way it is.
Sex is a release. Purely physical. That’s all. At least to men it is.
Okay, okay—calm down—don’t start throwing shoes at me or something.
At least to this man it is. Better?
Maybe you’ll understand my point of view if I put it this way. You brush your teeth, right? Well, suppose your favorite toothpaste is Aquafresh. But the store is out. All they have is Colgate. What are you going to do? You’re going to use the Colgate, right?
You may want to brush with Aquafresh, but when all is said and done, you use what you have to keep those pearly whites clean. See my way of thinking? Good.
Now, back to my tale of heartache and pain.
I’ve never seduced a woman before.
Shocking, I know.
Let me clarify. I’ve never had to seduce a woman before, not in the typical sense. Usually, it just takes a look, a wink, a smile. A friendly greeting, maybe a drink or two. After that, the only verbal exchange involves short one-word phrases like harder, more, lower…you get the point.
So the whole conversing-a-woman-into-bed concept is pretty new to me, I’ll admit. But I’m not worried. Why not, you ask?
Because I play chess.
Chess is a game of strategy, planning. Of thinking two steps ahead of your next move. Of guiding your opponent right where you need them to be.
For the two weeks following her first day, dealing with Kate, for me, is exactly like playing chess. A few suggestive words, some innocent but seductive caresses. I won’t bore you with details of every conversation. I’ll just say that things are progressing nicely; everything is going according to plan.
I figure it’ll take another week—two tops—till I’m able to claim that golden treasure between her creamy thighs. I already know how it will play out. I’ve spent hours in fact, imagining it, fantasizing about it.
Want to hear it?
It will happen in my office, one night when we’re both working late—the only ones left. She’ll be tired, stiff. I’ll offer to rub her neck, and she’ll let me. Then I’ll lean down and kiss her, starting at her shoulder, trailing up her neck, tasting her skin with my tongue. Finally, our lips will meet. And it will be hot—fucking scorching. And she’ll forget all about the reasons why we shouldn’t: our mutual place of work, her stupid fiancé. The only thing she’ll be thinking of is me and the things my expert hands will be doing to her.
I have a couch in my office. It’s suede—not leather. Does suede stain? Hope not. Because that’s where we’ll end up—on that sorrowfully underused couch.
Now let me ask you this: Have you seen those commercials that say how life can change in an instant?
Yes, yes, I’m going somewhere with this—just bear with me.
You know the ones I’m talking about, don’t you? Where the happy family is driving down Main Street on a bright sunny day and then…BAM. Head-on collision with a semi. And daddy goes flying out the window because he didn’t have his seat belt buckled.
They’re designed to scare the shit out of us. And they do. But the fact remains they are also chock-full of truth. Our goals, our priorities can change instantaneously—usually when we least expect it.
So, after two weeks of strategizing and fantasizing, I’m sure that Kate Brooks will be my next one-nighter. I can’t remember wanting someone as much as I want her. I’ve definitely never waited for a woman as long as I’ve waited for her. But the point is, for me, it’s a done deal—a foregone conclusion—not an if but simply a when.
And then, on Monday afternoon, my father calls me into his office.
“Sit down, Son. There’s some business I’d like to discuss.”
My father often calls me in here to talk about things he’s not yet ready to share with the rest of the staff. “I just got off the phone with Saul Anderson. He’s looking to diversify. He’s coming to the city next month to shop around for ideas.”
Saul Anderson is a media tycoon. Big money—the kind of guy that makes Rupert Murdoch look like a peon. Got a napkin? ’Cause I think I’m drooling.
“Next month? Okay, I can work with that. No problem.” I feel the excitement pumping in my veins. This is how a shark must feel after somebody dumps a great big bucket of bloody chum in the water. It’s a rush.
“Drew…” my father interrupts, but my mind’s too busy whirling with ideas to hear him.
“Any clue what he’s looking to get into? I mean the possibilities are pretty endless.”
“Son…” my father tries again.
You can see it coming, can’t you?
Yet I ramble on, “Cable stations are cash cows. Social media’s in the toilet right now, so we could pick up some real bargains. Film production is always a safe bet, and that would cut down on the overhead when they replay on his own network.”
“Drew, I’m going to give the account to Kate Brooks.”
Hold the fucking phone. Care to repeat that for me?
“She’s good, Drew. I’m telling you, she’s damn good.”
“She’s been here for two weeks!”
Dogs are territorial. You know that, right? That’s why at the park they seem to have a never-ending supply of piss, which they insist on stopping every four seconds to spread around. It’s because they believe it’s their park. And they want the other dogs to know it, to know that they were there first. It’s the nonverbal way of pretty much saying, “Fuck off—find your own park.”
Men are the same way.
Not that I’m going to piss a circle around my desk or anything, but this firm is mine. I’ve nurtured these clients since they were tiny corporations. I’ve watched, like a proud papa, as they grew to sturdy conglomerates. I’ve wined them, I’ve dined them. I’ve put in hour after hour, years of sleepless nights. My job isn’t just what I do—it’s who I am. And I will be damned if Kate Brooks is going to walk her ass in here and take that away from me.
No matter how fine an ass it might be.
“Yes,” my father says, “and have you seen some of the stuff she’s come up with in these two weeks? She’s the first one in and the last one to leave—every day. She’s fresh and thinks outside the box. She’s come up with some of the most innovative investments I’ve ever seen. My instincts are telling me to give her the ball and see what she’ll do with it.”
What are the early warning signs for dementia, exactly?
“She’ll frigging fumble—that’s what she’ll do!” I yell. But I know from experience dramatics will get me nowhere with my father, so I pinch my nose to try and calm down. “Okay, Dad, I hear what you’re saying. But Saul Anderson is not a client you pass someone off to just to see if they can cut it. He’s someone you give to your best and brightest. Someone you know can take him all the way to the end zone. And that’s me.”
Isn’t it? I wonder as uncertainty clouds his features.
As my father’s silence stretches on, my stomach twists in my gut. It’s not that I have a daddy complex or anything, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the pride my father takes in my performance at the office. I’m his right-hand man. His go-to guy. When we’re down by two with five left on the clock, you can bet your ass I’m the only one John Evans will pass the ball to.
Or at least I used to be.
I’m accustomed to having his undivided confidence. The fact that confidence seems to be wavering is…well…it fucking hurts.
“Tell you what.” He sighs. “We’ve got a month. Come up with a presentation. Have Kate do the same. Whoever can knock my socks off gets a crack at Anderson.”
I should be insulted, really. What he’s asking is the equivalent of telling an Oscar winner he’s got to audition to play a frigging extra. But I don’t argue. I’m too busy planning my next move.
So, you see what I was saying about life?
Just like that, Kate Brooks has changed from a woman I couldn’t wait to do the nasty dance with to someone I can’t wait to crush under my boot. My adversary. My competition. My enemy.
It’s not her fault. I know. Now ask me if I care.
Nope—not even a little.
In full-out combat mode, I return to headquarters—otherwise known as my office. I give Erin a few orders and work the rest of the afternoon. Around six o’clock, I have Erin call Kate into my office.
Always keep the home-field advantage. Play on your own turf. Remember that.
She comes in and sits down, her expression unreadable.
“What’s up, Drew?”
Her hair is down, framing her face in a long glossy curtain. For a second, I imagine what it would feel like tickling my chest, draping across my thighs.
I shake my head. Focus, Evans, focus.
She’s wearing a dark burgundy suit with matching heels. Kate is into the high heels. I think because she’s naturally petite, the height advantage they give makes her feel more confident at the office.
Guys love heels. We associate them with all kinds of fantastic sexual positions. If you want a man to notice you, you cannot go wrong with a pair of shiny four-inch stilettos, I swear.
As my eyes continue to roam over her from head to toe, a problem, shall we say, arises. Although my mind recognizes that Kate Brooks is now my rival, apparently my cock hasn’t gotten the memo.
And he, judging from his reaction, still wants to make friends.
So I picture Miss Gurgle, my fifth grade science teacher, in my mind. She was a beast of a woman. A retired female wrestler—not the bikini kind. She had a mole on her right cheek that was so big, we were sure it was the head of a twin that hadn’t separated in the womb. It was disgusting but strangely hypnotic at the same time—you couldn’t help but stare at it. It jiggled when she spoke, like a bowl full of Jell-O.
I shudder slightly, but it does the trick. All’s clear down below.
“Saul Anderson is coming to the city next month,” I say at last.
Her brows rise. “Saul Anderson? Really?”
“Really,” I tell her, all business. No more pleasure for her. “My father would like you to put together a mock presentation. A run-through, as if you were really going to pitch a client. He thinks it would be good practice for you.”
I know, I know…you think I’m a scumbag. I’m not even giving her a fair chance. Well, get over it. This is business. And in business—like war—all is fair.
I expect her to be excited. I expect her to be grateful. She isn’t either of these.
Her lips press together in a tight line, and her expression turns serious. “Practice, huh?”
“That’s right. It’s not a big deal; don’t put yourself out. Just throw something together for him. A hypothetical.”
She folds her arms in front of her chest and tilts her head to the side. “That’s interesting, Drew. Considering your father just told me he hasn’t decided who’s getting Anderson yet. That it would come down to you or me, whoever put together the more impressive strategy. The way he explained it, it sounds like a very big deal.”
When I was twelve, Matthew and I snagged a Hustler magazine from a convenience store. My father caught me with it in my room before I’d had the chance to hide it under my mattress. The look on my face at this moment is very similar to the one I wore then.
“Playing a little dirty, are we?” she asks, her eyes narrow with suspicion.
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