Authors: Jennifer Crusie
“How about Friday night?”
“Richard. You don’t listen. I told you my head hurt. I told you I needed an aspirin. I told you we’d talk about it later.”
“Never.” Her voice rose almost to a shriek. “Never again. Not until you learn to listen. Take classes. Get a hearing aid. But get out of my life until you can hear me when I speak.” She pushed him out the door and slammed it in his face.
I don’t believe this,
How can one sweet, charming, intelligent, sexy, good-looking guy be such a lousy listener? God, my head hurts.
I am never going near him again,
she thought as she turned away from the door.
Not even if someone ties him down and forces him to listen to me. Never, ever again.
“I don’t see what’s so funny about this.” Emily frowned as she watched Jane laughing hysterically in the chair in front of her.
“Tell me the part again where he patted your rear,” Jane gasped. “The part where your head bobbed up and down with his arm.”
“You’re disgusting.” Emily sat down at her desk and tried to ignore her.
“I’d have paid money to see that.”
“Poor baby. So when are you seeing him again?”
“Never. I threw him out.”
Jane stopped laughing. “Are you nuts? It was an accident. He didn’t do it on purpose.”
to me.” Emily’s teeth clenched as she thought about him.
“Well, you don’t listen to me, and I’m sticking with you,” Jane pointed out.
Emily looked up, outraged. “I listen to you.”
“Good. Then my advice is, go out with him again.”
“See, you don’t listen.”
“All right, all right.” Jane got up to go. “How is this going to affect your working relationship?”
“What working relationship? He doesn’t listen there, either.”
Jane shook her head. “You’re making a big mistake. Aside from this one little flaw—”
“—this guy is perfect for you. And you’re going to let him get away.” Jane shook her head again as she went back to her desk. “Big mistake.”
* * *
Emily,” Richard said when she went to his office to check on some cost figures.
“Richard, it’s not important.” Emily sat and reached for the papers she needed. “It could have happened to anyone.”
“Anyone else would have listened.” He looked down at her, regret palpable in his eyes. He looked big and broad and solid and dependable and sexy. Also crazy about her, and devastated that she was unhappy with him.
Emily closed her eyes. She could feel herself weakening.
she thought, and opened her eyes.
“I don’t think we should date, Richard. I’m just not comfortable with the idea of working together and dating.”
“Listen to me,” she said, and he flushed.
“You’re right.” He sat down. “About the listening, not about the dating. But if that’s the way you feel, I’ll listen.”
“Thank you. Now about the estimates...” She found the figures she needed and then left before he could do something to wreck her defenses. It was a close call.
During the next week, Richard found several pretexts to call private meetings with her, but she either sent him memos or brought Jane with her, much to Jane’s disgust. Eventually he got the hint, and for the next three weeks, she didn’t see him at all. She missed his sweetness and the breathless heat she fell into whenever he was close, but she didn’t miss his bossiness at all. She didn’t have a chance to; he bombarded her with memos that needed answers, forms that needed filling out and reports that needed filing yesterday. Ninety percent of the work, she thought, was unnecessary.
Emily took his last report request out to Jane.
“This is ridiculous. He
all these figures. If he sends anything else, send it back. Who does he think he is?”
Jane took the report. “I don’t want to tell you this, but he wants you in his office.”
“What did he say? ‘Have her washed and sent to my tent’?”
“Karen just said he wanted you in his office ASAP.”
“This stops now,” Emily snapped and turned on her heel toward the elevators.
“Don’t bother to announce me,” she told Karen, and opened Richard’s door without knocking.
He was sitting at his desk, comparing figures from two neat stacks of reports. His desk was obsessively tidy; a small bottle, two stacks of papers, one pen, a pitcher of water and a drinking glass. Nothing else.
He must be a Martian,
How can anybody work in such obsessive neatness? He doesn’t even take off his suit jacket.
But he does look great.
“I bet your mom was really strict, wasn’t she?” Emily asked.
Richard looked up from his desk, surprised and slightly annoyed.
“You summoned me.” Emily put her hands on her hips. “I came running as soon as I heard.”
“The new formula came up from the lab.” He gestured toward the bottle on the desk. “Your idea about the, er, tingle.”
“Why did it come to you?” Emily asked, exasperated. “You don’t give a damn about tingle.”
“I don’t know.” Richard pulled his eyes away from her and turned back to his reports. “Just take it.”
“What I like most about working with you is your charm.” Emily picked up the bottle. “Don’t you ever summon me again. You want me, you come down to see me.” She turned to go.
She took a deep breath and turned back, fire in her eye.
Richard ran his hand through his hair. “I’m sorry. I get caught up in something and I forget my manners. Let’s try again. I didn’t mean to summon you. I just wanted you to know the perfume was here. If they send it up here again, I’ll send Karen down to you with it.”
“Thank you.” Emily brought her chin up. “I’d appreciate it.”
Richard nodded, then really looked at her, deep into her eyes. His own eyes softened, and there was an appeal there that was hard to resist.
Emily swallowed. “I’m sorry. I’m just touchy about...being bossed.”
“I know. And I keep forgetting and trying to boss you. And not listening.” He smiled at her, and she smiled back automatically. Even if he was a deaf Hun, he had a sweet smile.
He put down the report. “Please try the perfume on. Let’s see if it works.”
“If you will,” she said, and he took the bottle from her and dabbed a couple of drops on the back of his hand.
She sat down across from him. “It probably won’t work there. I think R & D said it needs heat for the chemical reaction.” She picked up the bottle and pulled out the stopper, then stroked it into the hollow between her breasts. He watched her, mesmerized, and then said in a strangled voice, “I wish you wouldn’t do that.”
“It’s the warmest place I’ve got,” she said, and when he raised his eyebrows, she added, “For perfume, anyway,” and then blushed.
He rubbed his fingers over the perfume on his hand. “There
a slight tingle. A little warmth.”
The skin between her breasts grew warm and began to prickle slightly. Emily rubbed her finger over the tingle and shivered. It was somewhere between a tickle and heat, and she felt her skin respond and tighten. “Make a note never to put this stuff on any erogenous zone. This is like Spanish fly.”
He was staring at her blouse, and she looked down and saw that her nipples were pushing against the thin silk. She flushed and hunched her shoulders so her blouse wouldn’t be stretched so tight across her, but all she accomplished was to push her breasts together, deepening her cleavage and his confusion.
It also created more heat between her breasts, and the perfume started to sting.
“Is your hand burning?” she asked him, and he tore his eyes from her blouse.
“What? Uh, yes, a little.”
“They’ve made it too strong.” Emily drew a breath. “Way too strong.” She shifted in her chair and ran her fingertips into her blouse while Richard watched, fascinated.
“Are you all right?”
Emily bit her lip. “Oh, yes, sure.”
The stuff was really blazing now. She shifted uneasily in her chair.
It was too much. She tore open the top buttons of her blouse and reached over the desk, ripping his pocket square from his suit jacket, giving him a brief glimpse of white lace stretched over full round breasts before she drenched his handkerchief in the water pitcher and plastered it on the fire on her skin.
When the burning eased, she said, “I am personally going to slaughter the folks in R & D.”
“Are you all right?”
She winced as she blotted the perfume off with the dripping cloth. “Almost. How’s your hand?”
“Not bad.” He flexed it a little. “Hardly noticeable, really.”
“It must be the heat, then.” She pulled away the cloth and examined the red patch on her skin. “Well, no scars, anyway.” She looked up to see him staring.
“No, it looks great,” he said.
She pulled her blouse shut. “Sorry about your pocket hankie.”
He finally gave up and laughed. “Anytime. Shall I send the bottle back?”
“No.” She picked up the bottle. “I want to deliver this personally.”
“My sympathies to R & D, then.”
She stopped, intrigued. “Why?”
He grinned at her ruefully. “Of all the people in this company, you’re the one I’d least want coming after me. You take no prisoners.”
“Good.” She smiled back. “Remember that.”
* * *
Chris said when she stormed into the lab. “My place.”
“Croswell, the perfume peels skin off. Fix it, or your job will be someone else’s.”
“What do you mean, peels skin off?”
“It burns. Didn’t you test this stuff?”
“Yes, of course, we did.” Chris took the bottle back. “On wrists and behind the ears. No problem.”
“Well, it’s a problem other places.”
“What other places?”
“Just fix it,” Emily snapped.
He shook his head. “You need to relax. Dump the twelfth floor and come out to dinner with me tonight.” He leered. “You can show me the other places.”
“You won’t be eating dinner, Croswell. You will be fixing the sizzle in that bottle.”
“Oh, come on, Emily,” he said, and then stopped, chilled by the look in her eye.
“I am not without power here,” she said coldly. “Do you believe I can have you fired?”
He thought about it. “Yes.”
“Do you believe I will have you fired if you do not fix that perfume and if you do not stop harassing me?”
He looked at her eyes. “Yes.”
“Then I suggest you get to work,” she said, then left, slamming the door behind her.
Jane followed her into the office when she got back.
“What did he do now?”
“Could I get somebody fired for harassment?”
“Richard?” Jane was shocked.
“No!” Emily said, outraged. “Of course not! It’s that idiot Croswell.”
“Thousands would cheer.” Jane sat down.
“Do I have that kind of power here?”
“Sure. Especially if Richard found out.”
“I don’t want him doing my dirty work.”
“What did Croswell do?”
“Nothing he hasn’t been doing for the past two years. I just finally broke today. I was so mad. I’m still so mad.”
“I can tell. Do you think he’ll stop?”
Emily thought about it. “Yes. He knows I’m serious, and he believes I can get rid of him.”
“You can. George’s bluster notwithstanding, the company doesn’t want to lose you.”
“It’s nice to know I’m valued.”
“You’re not.” Jane crossed her legs and looked confident. “They just know that if you go, I go, and then who’s going to run this place?”
“True.” Emily sat down. “Has advertising got the bottle prototype yet?”
“Should have it by tomorrow.” The phone rang and Jane moved to pick it up.
Emily stared out her window, and thought about how outraged she’d felt when Jane suggested that Richard was harassing her. He would never do that. He might not listen, but he would never deliberately use their personal relationship against her at the office. He had morals. He had ethics. He had—
“Laura’s on one,” Jane said, and Emily picked up the phone.
“What have you got?” she asked.
“Two possibilities. One’s a sure thing—big stars, big promotion, everything. It’s a glitzy caper movie, lots of designer labels, but very classy.”
“Sounds like we could get lost in the labels. What’s the other one?”
“This is a real gamble.” Laura paused. “There’s this kid from UCLA, shooting his first film. It’s about these two business types who become sexually obsessed with each other. And there is a scene where the woman gets dressed that would be perfect for the product.”
“Not if no one ever sees the movie.” Emily swung around in her chair to stare out the window. “How much for the big one?”
“You’re not going to like this,” Laura said, and named the figure.
“The whole damn movie couldn’t have cost that much,” Emily protested.
“Actually for these guys, it’s chicken feed. Do you want me to negotiate?”
“No.” Emily swung back to her desk. “They’ve put a watchdog on me here. I’d never get away with spending anywhere near that much. Tell me more about this kid.”
“I’ll do better than that. I’ll send you some scenes from the film. He really needs the money, so he’s cooperating. They’re shooting the scene where she gets dressed next week, so if you like the film, get a bottle of that stuff out here fast.”
“What’s his price?”
“He doesn’t have one. He’s trusting me to get him a good deal.”
“Which you will. So how much is the kid going to cost me?”
“See the film clips.” Laura’s voice purred with reasonableness. “Then we’ll talk.”
“The film is that good?”
“The film is that good.”
“Rush it out here, then,” Emily said. “And I’ll see if it does anything for me.”
After she’d hung up, Emily thought about the movie. A brand-new movie with a hot new director. Another
Sex, Lies, and Videotape.
They’d get free publicity for having had the forethought to find the newest breakthrough movie. If it was as hot as Laura said, and Laura didn’t make mistakes, this could be all they’d need to put Sizzle into the stratosphere.
Richard’s last memo had absolutely ruled out any possibility of product placement. She’d tried to explain again, but he hadn’t listened. Her lips tightened at the thought. He hadn’t listened.
She buzzed Jane.
“I’m expecting a videotape from Laura tomorrow. Whatever you do, make sure Richard doesn’t see it.”