Read Be Mine Online

Authors: Jennifer Crusie

Be Mine (3 page)

“I don’t look at everything in terms of cost, Ms. Tate.” His eyes dropped almost involuntarily to the open collar of her blouse.

Emily raised her eyebrows at him, and he flushed. He looked good flushed.
What do you know,
she thought.
He’s human. There may be hope.
“I’m sure you don’t, Mr. Parker. And I’m hoping you’ll see that in the case of the rubies, cost-effectiveness simply doesn’t apply. We’re selling emotions here, the sizzle not the steak.” She leaned across the desk to him, suddenly earnest, trying to convince him. “You can’t sizzle with paste, Richard. You need the real thing.”

His eyes had widened a little at her use of his name.

“All right.” He cleared his throat. “I’ll take it under consideration. Now, the next item...”

Emily worked with him for another hour, politely agreeing on a few things she didn’t care about, anyway, leaving the others open for further discussion, trying to build a foundation of compromise so that when she came back for real money, for rubies and whatever else she wanted, he’d be used to negotiating with her, not flatly dismissing her. From the look in his eyes, he had a fairly good idea of what she was doing, but he was patient with her. Toward the end, Emily realized her plan wasn’t working; any compromising had been done by her, not him. Richard liked saying no or yes and moving on.

When she stood up to go, Richard pushed back his chair and stood, too. “We’ll have to meet again. We haven’t accomplished much.”

“I wouldn’t say that.” Emily tried to smile warmly but her lips were tight. “I think we’ve established a very creditable working relationship.” She held out her hand. “Please call Jane if you need any information. She knows exactly what’s going on.”

He took her hand and held it for a moment, and she tried to ignore the warmth he generated there. “I’d rather talk to you. I like to go straight to the person in charge.”

“Then definitely talk to Jane.” Emily pulled her hand away. “She’s been running my life since high school.”

“I thought I sensed a lot more there than just boss-and-secretary.” He came around the desk and walked her to the door.

“We’re partners.”

“I envy you. I’ve always worked alone.” He stopped by the door. “Would you consider having dinner with me tonight? To go over some of these points again? Maybe in a...warmer atmosphere, we could get closer on some of these disagreements.”

He smiled down at her, and Emily was caught off guard, her knees going to jelly while she frantically tried to gather her thoughts under the wattage of that suddenly sweet, boyishly endearing, sexy smile.

He’s a Hun,
she told herself.
Unless you want to be invaded, turn back now.

“Sorry,” she croaked. “I have a dinner engagement.”

“Jane again?”

“Oh, no. Jane goes home to a husband and three lovely children.”

“And you?”

“I go home to cost-effectiveness reports.” Emily opened the door. “I have a very tough budget adviser.”

She didn’t turn around as she walked down the hall, but she could feel him watching her all the way to the elevator.

“How did it go?” Jane asked, following her into the office.

“Not well, but not badly, either.” Emily kicked off her shoes. “I really hate panty hose. They itch.”

“Back to Richard,” Jane said firmly. “What happened?”

“I tried to compromise. He told me what to do. He likes telling people what to do. He listened part of the time. At one point, he looked down my blouse and blushed. He asked me to dinner.”

“Wear something sexy.”

“I’m not going. I told him I had a previous engagement. He thought it was with you, but I told him you were happily married. That’s about it.”

“Go out with him.” Jane sat down and folded her arms on Emily’s desk. “Sleep with him.”

“Sell my body for a perfume campaign?” Emily shook her head. “Not likely.”

“No.” Jane leaned back, disgusted with her. “The hell with the perfume campaign. Share your body for a wonderful experience. He looks like a wonderful experience. Did you see his hands?”

Emily frowned. “I must have, but I didn’t pay attention.”

“He has great hands. And he’s really very charming. He’s a little obsessive about getting his own way, but he’s not a Hun.”

“No.”

“Listen, Em.” Jane leaned over the desk again and caught Emily’s hand. “I’m worried about you. You haven’t had a serious relationship since you dumped that fool Croswell in R & D. That was two years ago. You’re not getting any younger. You’re obsessive about your work, and that’s not going to change. You’ve just met a truly beautiful man who is also obsessive about his work, but who has focused his eyes on you long enough to ask you to dinner. You could build a life as obsessive executives together. You could have great obsessive sex together. You could have little obsessive children in suits together. This is the man for you. Go buy that pink lace bra and seduce this guy before you’re too old to wear pink lace.”

“I will never be too old to wear pink lace,” Emily said.

“Are you wearing any now?”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you have anything sexy or fun in your whole wardrobe?”

“I have some white lace. Sort of.”

“You may already be too old to wear pink lace. Mentally you’re already in gray flannel long johns.”

Emily sighed and thought about what Jane was saying because she always thought about what Jane was saying. Then she shook her head. “I could never be serious about somebody who told me what to do all the time. Telling people what to do is this guy’s reason for living.”

“So change him.” Jane leaned back again. “He has one tiny fault and the rest of him is perfect. Teach him not to boss you around.”

“Maybe.” Emily thought about it.

“That’s a start.” Jane got up to go. “Keep an open mind. I bet he can make love like crazy.”

Change him,
Emily thought.
No, better yet, change me. I’m in this position because I’m modest, cooperative and polite. Because I’m modest, cooperative and polite, I’m working for a vain, obstructive, rude man like George. And as if George wasn’t enough, now I have Richard Parker, the Budget Hun.

A Hun who can make my knees go weak when he smiles, dammit.

Well, no more of that,
she told herself.
I’m tired of being told what to do. Starting tomorrow, Richard Parker treats me like a partner, not a slave. Starting tomorrow, I am going to make that man listen to me.

And starting tomorrow, my knees are going to stiffen up, too.

CHAPTER TWO

“T
HAT
MAN
IS
GOING
to listen to me,” Emily told Jane the next morning. “I am going to be courteous and cooperative, but still forceful and demanding.”

“This should be interesting.” Jane looked skeptical.

“I will stun him with my competence.” Emily stuck out her chin. “I will keep an open mind.”

And during the week that followed, Emily did her best, but she was doomed. Richard kept ordering her to send him files, ordering her to meet him for meetings and ordering her to arrange conferences until she was ready to throw the whole campaign in his face. When she came into the office on Friday morning and Jane told her that Richard wanted her in the conference room, she broke.

“Too damn bad!” She slammed her briefcase down on her desk. “I have things to do.”

“Courteous and cooperative.” Jane handed her a folder. “Here’s his cost estimates. You won’t like them. I think it’s showdown time. Be nice to him, but let him know he can’t dictate to you. You know, forceful and demanding.”

“What happened to marry him and be obsessive together?”

“You can do both. Hey, I did the same thing with Ben. I was nice to him, but I let him know he couldn’t dictate to me.”

“Ben never dictates to you.”

“See?” Jane grinned at her. “It works.”

* * *

E
MILY
WAS
RUNNING
DOWN
his cost estimates when Richard met her in the conference room.

“Here.” He tossed a small black bottle at her. “Put some of this on.”

She caught it and glared at him.

“It’s the product.” He dropped some folders onto the table and sat down, opening one. “Let’s see what it smells like.”

The hell with you,
Emily thought.
She held it out to him.
“You put it on. We’ll see what it smells like on you.”

“I tried it last night.” He sorted through the folder without looking at her. “It took me two showers to get it all off before I came to work.”

“Then you know what it smells like.” She put the bottle on the table and returned her attention to the estimates.

“Put it on.” He pulled a legal pad for notes out of his briefcase. “See what you think.” He looked over at her for the first time and waited for her reaction.

Courteous and cooperative.

Emily sighed and pulled the stopper out of the bottle, putting her fingers over the opening and flipping the bottle over to release a few drops. She tapped the drops behind her ears and on her wrists, then replaced the stopper. “It’s nice.” She picked up the estimate report again.

“Just nice?” he asked.

“I’m not much for perfume,” she said, and he laughed.

“You’re responsible for selling four million dollars’ worth of perfume. I should think you’d be interested.”

“Look.” Emily dropped the report, exasperated. “If you got a job selling tampons tomorrow, you’d work hard so you’d be successful, right? Even though you personally aren’t much interested in tampons?”

Richard lost his smile, taken aback by her intensity. “Well, yes. Why are you so angry?”

“Because you’re treating me as if I were an amusing child.” Emily folded her hands in front of her, clenching them to keep her temper. “An amusing
female
child. That crack you made at the meeting, about ‘no price too great to pay for Paradise’ being my motto was insulting. You would never have made it to a male executive. And now telling me to wear the perfume. Would you ask George to wear it?”

“That’s different.”

“No, it’s not. He’s never smelled it, either.”

Richard looked uncomfortable. “George isn’t part of our team.”

“Throwing a bottle of perfume at someone and ordering her to wear it is not teamwork!” Emily snapped. “It’s not a team. It’s a boss and a flunky, and I am nobody’s flunky. I told you I wouldn’t put on that perfume, and you simply ordered me to put it on again. You give me orders, and you never listen to me. This is not a partnership. This is not teamwork. I don’t need this.” She slammed her portfolio closed and stood up.

“You’re right,” Richard said.

She stopped and glared at him, and he rubbed his hand over the back of his head and smiled at her ruefully. At that moment, he looked more like a boy than a man, sheepish and apologetic. It was devastatingly effective.

“I’m used to being the boss.” His eyes pleaded with her. “I’m sorry.”

Emily sat down again.
It would be a whole lot easier to stay mad at him if he wasn’t so damn charming,
she told herself.
That smile must get him a lot.
She opened her portfolio. “All right, then,
listen.
Our main problem with this product is that we have to distinguish it from Paradise. And that’s going to take more than a different name. More than just switching from diamonds to rubies. And it’s so important that anything we can do to make the difference clear to the consumer will be worth extra money in the long run.”

Richard pulled the cap from his pen, prepared to listen so hard he’d take notes. “All right, how is it different?”

“It’s cheaper. But it would be suicide to market it that way.”

“Granted.” He was still trying to cooperate. “Does it smell different from Paradise?”

“Of course.” She unstoppered the bottle again. “It’s spicier, sharper. Paradise was heavier, fruitier. We marketed Paradise as a slow, languid, sexy scent.” Emily waved the stopper in front of her to smell the scent in the air. “This stuff has more of an edge. We could try for a more exciting approach, I suppose.”

She touched the stopper to the back of her hand and sniffed. “It definitely has an edge.” She frowned as she replaced the stopper in the bottle and flipped the bottle upside down to moisten it. Then she absentmindedly touched the stopper to the hollow at the base of her throat. “It’s just as sexy as Paradise, really. Just different.” She moved the stopper down into the V of her blouse, stroking it between her breasts.

Richard watched her, fascinated.

“It will be a while before the scent is true,” she told him. “It needs to be warmed by my skin.”

“Oh.” He swallowed. “Fine.”

“It doesn’t matter if you don’t know much about perfume,” she said to reassure him. “We just sell the sizzle, not the steak, remember?”

“Right.” Richard cleared his throat. “Does this perfume have sizzle?”

Emily rubbed the silk of her blouse against the skin between her breasts to release more scent and wriggled her nose as it floated up to her. “Yes. Actually, this is pretty good stuff.”

He cleared his throat again. “So, uh, how would you base the campaign?”

“Well,” she said slowly, “we marketed Paradise as sex—you know, the heavy, filled feeling you get when—”

“Right.” He nodded. “I know.”

“This stuff is more like...foreplay. You know, exciting and edgy.”

“Foreplay.”

“I wonder if this stuff builds the longer it’s on. We could tie that to sexual excitement. Then we could direct this to a younger, faster customer. If Paradise was classy sex, this stuff could be kinky sex.” She saw his eyebrows go up. “Well, not whips and chains, but still...sizzle. I wonder...”

She unstoppered the bottle and slid the black crystal stopper into the V of her blouse again.

He turned away. “Will you stop that?”

“Sorry. I know. Too much perfume can make you gag. I just had an idea...”

“What?”

She leaned forward across the table, and she saw his eyes drop to the V of her blouse. “I’m sorry about the perfume. I’ll wash it off, but listen. Suppose we put something in this stuff to make it
really
sizzle?”

“Sizzle?”

“You know.” She frowned in frustration. “Tingle. Only with heat. A woman wears perfume on the warmest parts of her body—the pulse points. Suppose when she touched the perfume to those places she felt a subtle heat and tingle. It would make her feel excited. Exciting. It would feel like...”

“Foreplay.” Richard grinned, taking Emily’s breath away for a moment. “Well, you’ve got my attention.”

She smiled back, taken with her new idea. “We could call it Sizzle. We’ll get it a product placement in the next really hot movie, something with an electric sex scene. We can package samples with other sexy products for women...”

“Such as?”

“Seamed hose, lace garter belts...” She broke off when she saw him laughing. She sat back and gritted her teeth. “You don’t like the idea?”

“No, no. It’s great. It’s just you. You’re so intense, talking about lace underwear.”

“My intensity is what makes me a success,” she said evenly. “
You’d
take this perfume, call it ‘Night in the Boardroom’ and sell three bottles of it.”

“Probably,” Richard agreed.

“So don’t patronize me.” Emily looked him straight in the eye. “I don’t deserve it.”

“I apologize again.” He leaned toward her, sincerely sorry. “I really do. Listen, let me make it up to you. Let me take you to dinner tonight.” He smiled, and she lost her breath again.

“Come on, Emily.” Richard coaxed her with his eyes. He had amazing eyes. “You’ve got all that perfume on—you really should go somewhere in it.”

He has eyes like the sky,
she thought.
I love the way he says my name.
And then she thought,
no. I don’t need this. I don’t even like him.

“Please.” He smiled that earnest killer smile at her.

Don’t do that,
she thought.

“Strictly business. We can talk about the account. About seven?”

I really don’t like him, smile or no smile, but I bet he has a great body under that suit. Not that it matters.
“All right.” Emily took a deep breath. “If it’s all right with you, I’ll send a memo to the lab and to the advertising people on this.”

“Fine.” Richard sat back and picked up his notes, obviously pleased she’d agreed, the human in him fast receding behind the businessman. “Although we’ll probably have to scale down some of your ideas.”

“Which ones?” Emily asked coldly.

He was back into his reports and he didn’t hear the chill. “Well, the product placement will be a fortune. We’ll reach more people with print.”

“But not the same way.” Emily leaned forward. “In a movie, they’ll see someone beautiful stroke herself with the perfume, use the stuff against her skin and then go out and have incredible sex with some gorgeous guy. If we get really lucky,” she added thoughtfully, “it will be a very explicit scene, and the audience will get another look at all the places she put the perfume.”

“And if the movie flops?”

“It flops.” She shrugged. “Life’s a gamble.”

“Not with company funds.” Richard shook his pencil at her. “You’ll stay inside the budget this time.”

She ignored the pencil. “If we get this stuff placed in the right movie, it could be bigger than Paradise.”

“And if we get it placed in the wrong movie, we’ll go to executive hell.” He turned back to his papers.

She took a deep breath.
Calm. Courteous and cooperative.
“I’m still going to suggest it in the memo.”

He didn’t look up. “Just as long as you realize I’m probably still going to reject it in the budget.”

“Fine,” she said, and slammed her portfolio shut.

“Fine,” he said, and looked up and smiled. “See you at seven.”

* * *

“I’
VE
GOT
A
DINNER
DATE
with the executive Hun,” Emily said to Jane as she passed her desk. Jane rose and followed her into the office.

“Tell me everything.”

“It’s a toss-up.” Emily slumped into her chair. “His face is still beautiful, but he also still has a narrow, little cost-effective mind.”

“Which means he disagreed with you.”

“Oh, please.”

“So where are you going?”

“I have no idea. He, of course, will decide.” Emily frowned. “What do you want to bet he orders for me?”

“Why do you care? You can sit and look at him all night.”

“A pretty face isn’t everything,” Emily told her primly.

“Forget the face.” Jane sank into her chair. “The body is to die for.”

“How can you tell? The man is always in a suit. I bet he sleeps in a tie.”

“Karen went in to give him some papers, and he was changing his shirt. He’d spilled coffee on it, and he keeps a spare for emergencies.”

“He would.”

“She saw him with his shirt off.”

“And?”

“She’s still speechless.”

“I doubt he’ll take his shirt off at dinner.”

“No, but if you play your cards right...”

“Don’t you ever think of anything but sex?”

“Frequently. But let’s face it, here. You’re not going to dinner to work on Perfume X. You’re attracted to him.”

“Sizzle.”

“Pardon?”

“Perfume X is now Sizzle.”

“And does it?”

“It will. I’m on my way to R & D.”

“Well, this should be an interesting campaign. What are you going to wear?”

“For what?”

“For dinner, dummy. I suggest you wear something sexy. Drive him wild.”

“The only thing I do that drives Richard Parker wild is spend company money. Which reminds me, will you get me Laura in Los Angeles? We need a product placement.”

“Big bucks. Did we get the Hun’s okay to spend the money?”

“No, we’re going to surprise him.” Emily smiled evilly. “That man positively needs more surprises in his life.”

* * *

“H
EY
, E
M
. W
HAT

S
NEW
?”
Laura said when Emily was put through to her.

“Perfume. A hot new perfume called Sizzle. We need a product placement. Something very sexy.”

“Is this the next Paradise?”

“If I have anything to say about it, it will be.”

“Then it will be.” Laura laughed. “You
always
have something to say about it. I’ll get right on it.”

“Thanks. How’s Gary?”

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