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Excerpt from 49 ½ Shades of Charcoal – Get free pages here.
Chapter 1 – The Flirt
‘Connie! You look like you have seen a ghost!’
‘A ghost would be fine, Dee. I could put it down to too much cheese or a raunchy kipper.’
My PA Dee was wide of the mark. I was not about to put her right in the middle of a busy hotel lounge and bar. I caught my reflection in the mirror behind the drinks. I was relieved to see I looked like I’d seen a ghost. The truth would have left my cheeks burning and given the game away. I moved conspiratorially towards her. ‘It’s much worse than a ghost. I’ll tell you later. It’s too public here,’ I whispered in her ear.
Dee could have waved at a waiter. Instead, she took my hand and headed for two vacant stools at the bar. We ignored the calls of friendly derision about girl stuff and doing things in pairs. That was good-humoured banter and came from the engineers, who were celebrating our new contract, were pleasantly drunk and probably admiring our backsides as we walked toward the bar. We hadn’t had time to change and so waddled on high heels, our cheeks trapped in tight business skirts and doubtless fighting for space. That was a lot of oscillating flesh. I hate such sexist teasing, but that didn’t help. The power suit is now part of the female armoury, in the world of sales and deals, and the events of the last half hour had unleashed long-sublimated emotions. The knowledge that six pairs of male eyes were taxing our backsides as we swung across the deep carpet caused a twinge of excitement, with or without my approval.
I’d been drinking, too, and was in a lot of trouble.
‘I’ll get you a drink.’
She nodded toward the other team members, all men, sitting nearby. ‘That lot are going to the gym or pool or whatever, in a minute. Then we can talk in private.’
I hooked myself on to the barstool, which was just too high for comfort, and in a tight skirt it needed me to hike the hem halfway up my thighs in order to take a sitting stance. This so was not me. This whole afternoon was so not me.
The waiter brought a couple of sodas. Dee came straight to the point.
‘Did he sign? Or are you white as a sheet because he has thought of something else with which he can jerk us about?’
‘He was making a fuss, wanted the price lower, which would send us bankrupt in six months, so I told him there was no way. If he can get someone else to do it for less, then so be it. A competitor would have to make a crap job of it in order to come in with a better price. He knows that.’
‘What did he say?’
‘He sat staring at me … like for a long time; much longer than is polite, but with a hint of a smile on his face.’
‘I stared back. I thought, I’ll show you. I can face you out. And after a while, we started, you know … flirting, I suppose you would call it. His smile broke into a grin and he twinkled and so I smiled and twinkled.’
My young, pretty, twenty-something PA had a fit of the giggles. I was furious.
‘What’s so damn funny? It was stupid and unprofessional of me.’
‘Come on, Connie. We have been working together for three years – three years of living in each other’s pockets, sharing hotel rooms sometimes when the budget was tight, and I have never seen you flirt! Let go for once.’
‘Ha!’ I snorted. ‘Well it happened this time! I let go.’
‘Oh dear. What happened next, little Miss Lascivious?’
I hesitated. She recited that line like smutty poetry in a girls’ school playground. Was she taking this seriously? I hedged a little more.
‘This is about to enter a personal sphere, and I don’t talk about personal things to colleagues. You know that.’
‘So why are you telling me?’
‘I shall need your advice – what to do.’
‘Then get on with it!’
She was becoming exasperated. Maybe her curiosity was reaching bursting point and she knew, woman to woman, I was going to tell her, so why was I fooling myself and dithering?
I took a deep breath and tried to hide the butterflies building in my belly. I needed to get control, but how can one have control when the tormentor is Greg, the middle-aged rave, the customer MD, who Dee declared on day one, had ‘it’, and whom I had just propositioned. Those butterflies were only partially nervousness. I knew the major problem was the signals and urges coursing through my body. I’d managed to suppress them for the last ten years, but now the dam had burst. Ten years is more than is healthy and today my excitement was that of a teenager who was going on that first date. Something in me had decided – today was the day to fight back. It was shaking me with that deadly cocktail of nervousness and thrill of the chase. I continued in a low voice.
‘He smiled, I smiled. I had two large sherries after lunch instead of coffee. There wasn’t a clear thought in my head,’ I offered by way of a pathetic excuse. ‘I told him he could buy me dinner and afterwards we could go to my room and the contract would be on the bedside table with a pen, and he could sign it, and if the decision was still too difficult, I would try to think of something to help him make up his mind.’
My voice trailed off to a whisper. Dee’s gasp drowned the last words. Was it horror or delight that her boss could fall so low?
‘It was stupid of me and I don’t know how I could have said it and now I don’t know what to do. Obviously, I can’t go through with it.’
‘You can’t? Why not? I would, in the service of the company! What higher ideal can there be?’ There was more giggling and then she thought of something nice to say. ‘I assume he took up your offer, so that is quite flattering for you, isn’t it?’
There was a pause, so I completed her sentence.
‘Flattering for me at my age, I think you meant.’
‘I would be pleased to be asked for a date by him and I’m fifteen years younger than you.’
‘Stop mocking me! It’s not funny. I’m not doing it. That wasn’t a date I agreed to. It was a screw, so if you think he is so great, you take my place.’
What did Connie do next? I have to stop here due to underage access.
For the end of chapter 1 – ‘The Flirt’, click on Free Preview above!
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Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Goddesses, next week.
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