Authors: Jennifer Crusie
“Gone,” Laura said cheerfully.
“Good. I never liked him.”
“He never liked you, either. Thought you were a suit.”
“He was right. You don’t sound too unhappy about this.”
“Oh, he was always just a filler. Only a desperate woman would take Gary seriously.”
“Only a desperate woman would take
“And you’re the woman marketing Sizzle?”
“I said ‘seriously.’ I’ve decided you don’t have to take a man seriously to have sex.” Emily visualized Richard as a cheap pickup to be thrown away like a worn-out glove after a meaningless but passionate fling.
It was a new approach for her, but she liked the idea.
“My sentiments exactly about Gary,” Laura said. “I’ll get back with you ASAP.”
After she hung up, Emily thought about Richard. Sex with Richard. Meaningless though it might be, it would probably be great because he was gorgeous. And intelligent. And he did have a body to die for.
And I’m having dinner with him tonight.
Maybe Jane’s right,
Jane buzzed her. “You told me to remind you about R & D.”
“On my way.” Emily hesitated. “Hey, while I’m gone, I need you to run an errand.”
“Anything, my leader.”
“I need some black lace underwear.”
“Now you’re talking. I won’t fail you.”
* * *
always worried Emily. There seemed to be a lot of activity going on and a lot of people in white lab coats, but no one ever seemed to be in charge. After she’d dated the head of that department, Chris Croswell, for a while, she’d worried even more. Chris had the concentration of a fruit fly and the morals of a mink. It seemed such a bad personality profile for the head of a department with so many bubbling beakers. No wonder it looked as if no one was in charge.
“Hello, beautiful,” he said when he saw her. “Let’s have dinner.”
“Sorry, I’m busy.” She held out the bottle. “About this perfume—”
“Busy? Who with?”
“None of your business. About this perfume—”
“The new guy on twelfth. I thought he’d spot you.”
“Chris, the perfume needs work.”
“So does our relationship.”
“We don’t have a relationship,” she told him. “We haven’t had a relationship for two years. You’ve been married and divorced since then. Now about the perfume—”
“Which only goes to show how much work our relationship needs.”
She took his hand and put the bottle in it. “We want it to sizzle.”
“Tingle a little on the skin. Heat up a little. Can you do it?”
“Sure.” He shrugged. “When do you need it?”
“Yesterday.” Emily began to back toward the door. “As soon as possible.”
“You got it. Now about dinner...”
“You cannot possibly take me to dinner. You’ve got to put some sizzle in that bottle.”
“I’d rather put some sizzle in you.”
“Thank you, Chris.” Emily backed out the door. “Let me know when it’s done.”
One thing you can say for Richard,
she told herself as she escaped.
He’s never that asinine.
She was actually beginning to look forward to dinner.
* * *
well. Emily brushed her hair in a cloud around her shoulders and wore her new black lace underwear, one of two sets Jane had splurged on with her money.
“Always have a backup set,” Jane had told her. “You never know, he may rip this stuff off you with his teeth in the throes of passion.”
Emily visualized it. “Sounds good.”
She topped the underwear with her best short black dress, dabbed on some nonheating Sizzle, and was just congratulating herself on how sophisticated and adult she looked when the doorbell rang and she went cold with nerves.
This is just dinner,
she told herself.
He’s a Hun. You don’t care. This is meaningless.
It didn’t work.
As much as she hated to admit it, the anticipation she’d felt earlier had grown the more she’d thought about Richard. For the first time in a long time, she was really looking forward to an evening with a man. “So much for a meaningless fling,” she told herself, and fought down another little spurt of panic as the doorbell rang again.
Her panic subsided when she answered the door and saw him there, solid and familiar. He stood still for a moment when she opened the door, and then he swallowed and said, “You’re beautiful.” He brought her gardenias. He handed her into the cab as if she were made of porcelain.
This is good,
He looks like a god, and he treats me like a goddess. This could work.
He took her to the Celestial for dinner.
“George said this was your favorite restaurant,” Richard told her as they sat down.
Emily clamped her lips together.
You could have asked
where I wanted to eat,
she thought, and then sighed.
Be nice, Emily. He’s being nice. And you need him on your side. And he’s paying; he has a right to choose the restaurant. Besides, it
your favorite. Besides, he’s gorgeous.
“I’m starving.” He motioned to the waiter. “Let’s skip drinks and go right to dinner.”
“I wouldn’t mind a glass of wine,” Emily said, but Richard was already ordering.
“Sweet and sour soup. Mongolian beef.”
“I don’t care for Mongolian beef,” Emily said politely.
“I like garlic chicken.”
“I really hate su-san shan.”
“Princess prawns.” He beamed at her. “How does that sound?”
“Have you had your hearing checked lately?”
Richard was already handing the menus to the waiter. “That’ll be fine.”
“Plum sauce on mu-shu pork?” the waiter asked.
“No,” Richard said.
“I like plum sauce,” Emily said, and the waiter smiled at her and nodded.
I was afraid I’d suddenly gone mute.
“We needed to get away from the office.” Richard smiled at her. “Too many aggravations there.”
The only aggravation there just ordered dinner for me here,
“Your hair looks wonderful.” He looked at her, his eyes shining, and then smiled that sexy boyish grin that made her breathing quit every time. “You’re lovely in the office, but tonight you’re absolutely gorgeous.”
He’s not that aggravating,
Emily thought, remembering to inhale.
He has potential. Be nice, Em.
“This is really nice of you.” She leaned forward. “It really shows me how much you want our
to work. And I’m glad you’re concerned about our working relationship, because I think we can do much better.”
“Absolutely.” Richard took her hand. “I agree with you absolutely.”
His touch startled her. He had nice hands. Nice warm hands with tapered fingers. His nails were beautifully manicured, she noted, trying to concentrate on details so she could ignore the warmth spreading into her from his fingers. She breathed a little harder and met his eyes. He was looking at her with naked adoration. He really was sweet.
Do not become emotionally attached to the Hun,
she told herself.
Simply use his body mercilessly and then fling him aside.
“Tell me about yourself.” His hand tightened on hers. “I want to know everything.”
Emily blinked. “Why?”
He seemed taken aback. “Don’t you think it’s important for people who, uh, work together to get to know each other?”
“I guess so.” Emily thought about it. She and George had worked together for eight years, and he’d never even asked her where she lived, let alone gotten to know her. This was an interesting side of Richard. “All right.”
She answered his questions through the soup and the pork. By the time she was finished, she knew why Richard was so successful. He asked the right questions and, this time, listened to the answers. Midway through her life story, she realized he was piecing together the things that made her the person she was; he was doing in-depth research on his latest project—her. It was intensely flattering and not a little disconcerting.
But at least he was listening.
He was also charming, intelligent and polite. Emily relaxed and enjoyed herself with him, and the more she relaxed the more he opened up, so that by the time the pork was gone, there was a vulnerability in him she hadn’t seen before. It was devastating. Emily found herself fighting against falling in love with him. And losing.
Don’t be a fool,
she said, and then she looked into his incredible blue eyes, eyes so plainly adoring her, and fell some more.
“Mongolian beef, princess prawns, su-san shan,” the waiter said, putting the dishes on the table.
“Great.” Richard ladled Mongolian beef onto her rice.
Emily looked at the stuff. She didn’t care for beef in general, and she hated beef cooked in oil. The onions looked like worms. Richard added several spoonfuls of vegetables, also glistening with oil. Then he served her prawns, and she began to eat, carefully avoiding the beef and vegetables.
“You’re not eating your beef.” Richard frowned. “Is there something wrong? Should I send it back?”
“I don’t like Mongolian beef.”
“Why didn’t you say so?”
“I did. You didn’t listen.”
He looked at her plate. “Su-san shan, too?”
“Yes. The waiter heard me. That’s why I got plum sauce on my mu-shu pork.”
“You like plum sauce?”
“Yes.” Emily sighed, patient to the end. “I mentioned it.”
“I don’t listen.” He looked at her with eyes like a scolded puppy’s.
“No, you don’t.” She couldn’t bear to see him so unhappy so she smiled at him. “Work on that.”
“I will,” he promised.
“Good. Now it’s your turn. Tell me about you.”
He hesitated, but she was a good researcher, too, and by the time the fortune cookies arrived, Emily knew everything about his past. They had a lot in common. They both agreed, for instance, that Walt Disney should have been shot, instead of Old Yeller, because they’d both been traumatized by the movie. They’d both been president of their senior class in high school. They’d both been at the head of their classes at business school. They both truly enjoyed their jobs. They’d both had disastrous relationships in the past. They were both determined to have a better one, perhaps a permanent one, in their future.
Emily forgot his high-handedness and was happy again. He was so sweet, so bright, so kind, so vulnerable, so obviously dazzled by her. So sexy, she thought.
So right for me.
So when he took her home, she invited him in.
She closed the door behind them and turned, and he kissed her. He moved slow enough to give her time to say no if she wanted to, fast enough to give her the feeling of being swept off her feet.
she thought as his lips touched hers. Then she stopped thinking.
He hadn’t spent all his nights studying to be the Budget Hun. His lips were firm on hers, moving against hers, and she felt the warmth he always generated start again. She kissed him back, sliding her arms around his neck. She opened her lips and touched his with her tongue, and he slid his tongue into her mouth, tangling with hers, stroking inside her. The heat was everywhere in her now, and she clutched at him, leaning into him. He brought his hand up to the back of her head, lacing his fingers into her long dark hair to hold her close.
When he moved his hand down again, her hair became tangled in his sleeve buttons.
She felt it first as a tug and broke the kiss.
“Richard,” Emily said, and he said huskily, “I know,” and found her mouth again. He moved his hand down her body and she felt the hard pull against her hair.
“No, Richard! Wait! My hair...” She dropped her head back to ease the pull on her scalp.
He bent to kiss her exposed neck, moving kisses down into her cleavage. He also moved his hand to her rear end.
“Ouch! Richard, stop it!”
“What?” he asked huskily, his hand moving across her rear. Her head swayed with his hand. It really hurt.
“My hair.” She held on to it, trying to take the pressure off her scalp. “You—”
“You have beautiful hair.” He lifted his hand to run his fingers through it and the pull stopped.
“Thank God.” She let her head drop forward as the pull eased, tears in her eyes from the pain.
“You’re crying,” he said softly, touched.
“My hair’s caught on your sleeve.”
“You’re so beautiful.” He bent to kiss her again.
“Dammit, Richard, my hair’s caught on your sleeve!” Emily yelled.
She pulled away from him, holding on to his arm so he wouldn’t jerk her hair out. A lock of her hair was wound around his sleeve button.
“Don’t move.” She blinked back the tears of pain. “This really hurts.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” He gently untangled her.
The mood wasn’t broken, it was shattered. It took every ounce of self-control she had not to murder him where he stood.
“It’s probably better if you go now,” Emily said, backing away as Richard moved to hold her again. “I’ve got to be at work tomorrow. I’m meeting with advertising on the package design and you know those ad guys... Somebody’s got to watch them every minute.” She’d moved to the door as she spoke, and she opened it now. “I had a lovely evening.”
“How’s your head?” Richard looked disappointed and rueful and faintly annoyed.
She rubbed her scalp where the tug had done the most damage. “I’ll take an aspirin. It’ll be fine.”
“Let’s try again.” He smiled down at her. “Come out with me again.”
Emily closed her eyes. “Why don’t we talk about it later?” Her head really did hurt.
I told you I needed an aspirin. Go away so I can take one.