This lotion is lightly lubricating, and the floral scent is not overpowering. Would you like to try it?"
Tanika Davis extended the bottle to Damon Becker's open hand and a droplet accidentally spilled over, landing in his palm.
"Oops! I'm sorry." She looked around for tissue but he was already crushing the dab of cream with his hands as if it were paper he could crumble.
"Sorry about that," she apologized.
He mumbled something she couldn't quite hear.
Tanika hurried to put the top back on, briefly wished her sister was in her shoes to handle the situation, rather than still at the hospital, happily nursing her brand-new baby. At the moment, twenty-seven hours of labor didn't sound so bad. It beat the heck out of doing a sales pitch to the Patron Saint of Propriety.
Her first impulse when she met him was to drag him into the nearest closet and uncork her sexual frustrations. Three seconds later she realized he hadthe personality of a butler. And it was definitely not the kind that made hot monkey love in supply closets.
"Need a tissue?" she asked politely when he continued to rub his palms together.
His head was clean-shaven, his features were roughly attractive, and his skin absolutely flawless. To top it off, he was wearing a black suit that looked perfect in the light. He had the intensity of a preacher and the brawniness of a linebacker. Truth be told, she was having trouble getting past his body.
Mmm, mmm, good!
But when he steepled his fingers like that, he looked painfully allergic to the slightest sin.
"If the lotion's not your type, don't worry. It's a subtle scent that washes off with soap. But if you like it, all it needs is a little body heat to linger." She smiled, hoping he'd show some levity.
To no surprise, she watched him across the narrow boardroom table as he glanced sternly down at the stack of papers before him. "There are products here that are anything but subtle, Ms. Davis."
Brother. Was he for real? "Actually, Naughty Devil offers a range of products, from the elegant and, yes, subtle, to the bold and sassy."
He pointed to the array of products before him. "We could start with the lingerie and exotic lotions, but the other kinky toys do not belong in a women's clothing store."
Kinky? Not unless his clients were all monks, and even then! Had no one ever used a little fun-bondage on this guy?
"We only carry a handful of 'toys,' and they are only available online. These velvet handcuffs are hardly kinky, Mr. Becker," she said with a careful smile. She glanced at his large hands, certain the velvet would be snug and tight around his wrists, but they would fit. Maybe behind his back instead of the headboard, but--
He gave her a look that seemed to read her thoughts.
"My clientele would consider them playful," she said, holding tight to her smile.
The slightest furrow of his brow was comment enough.
Deciding not to fall into the trap of explaining herself, Tanika took a large gulp of her cooling coffee, then charged on. "As a matter of fact, high-level executives make up a large percentage of our repeat customers, and not just for lotions and lingerie. It's why your VP asked me to work with you on an advertising strategy."
His frown deepened. "I've looked over your product selection and I don't see a simple way to blend them in the catalog. I propose we keep half the catalog for the Becker Apparel items and half for ND items. We can even print one catalog upside down from the other, give them a little juxtaposition. How does that sound?"
"Mutual placement is the key, Mr. Becker. A marketing strategy has already been discussed with your grandmother."
He leaned back, his shoulders holding his tension like boulders. He looked like he was about to say something but instead he briefly nodded his shaven, perfectly shaped head, looking resigned. "I see."
Tanika felt a twinge of pity for him. "I was expecting to meet with your grandmother, the CEO, today."
He leaned back. "She asked me to convey her apologies for not being able to attend. However, she wanted me to review the ads, if you have them."
"Then by all means, please continue."
He didn't have to look like she was requesting a prostate exam, for crissake.
"Is there a problem?" he asked.
She widened her stiff smile. "Actually, there was. We couldn't book our original model, and because of time restrictions, we substituted. Perhaps another meeting with your grandmother would be--"
"Ms. Davis." He leaned forward again, all wide shoulders and intensity stretched taut. "I'm sure the model you chose will do nicely."
Hmm. "Of course."
His eyes narrowed ever so slightly at her tone of voice.
She tapped her pencil in her hand. "Well, then ..."
Damon noticed Tanika's tone didn't change one bit, but she looked distinctly annoyed. Her attitude emanated from her in waves, sparking in her eyes.
Dazzling eyes. Sultry. Like dark amber in sunlight. Despite her business suit, luscious curves, and a perfectly conservative French knot, her eyes were the epitome of seductive temptation. Everything about her was so unmistakably feminine. There was nothing he could put his finger on precisely, just a natural comfortable sensuality about her body, an unconscious femininity that was almost blatantly sexual ... and yet wasn't.
She quietly cleared her throat and he briefly refocused on the pen in his hand as he listened to her.
"We market our products with the Naughty Devil logo, so here are some ideas of how I would approach joint placement in ads. As you will see, our products are not as incompatible as you'd think."
Tanika placed a large portfolio case on the table. The sand-brown tailored jacket she wore was molded to the lush roundness of her breasts and a faint satin-on-satin sound reached his ears. The barest scent of an unknown fragrance wafted over to distract him. Lily? No, that was too soft. Definitely not roses. Orchids? Musk? No, greener. What was it?
"Here is a glimpse of our hosiery and one of your suits." She straightened a photo of a man in a Becker Fine Tailoring suit, hands fisted in his trouser pocketsas if to hide an erection in his pants. He boldly stared at the camera with an almost thuglike challenge.
A woman hid behind him, eyes laughing as she peered over his shoulder wearing reading glasses, pencils sticking out of her coiffure. Halfway down, the angle of the shot showed off one of her legs, long, sensuous, and encased in thigh-high black nylons ... all the way down to the burgundy high-heeled pumps. Sexy.
The laughing eyes halted him. Amber eyes. "You?"
"Well, as I mentioned, I thought I was going to meet with your grandmother. I no longer do modeling work--"
"You were a model?"
"Mostly for size twelve. Obviously not for anything less. But anyway, we had a booking conflict, so ..." She sighed. "I was assured this would not be an issue."
He looked back at the photo, studying the very long, very sexy leg. "No. Not an issue." Right. Sure. Was getting a hard-on considered an issue?
"Should I continue?"
He nodded. "By all means."
She turned to the next photo and didn't bother with an explanation.
It didn't need one.
The body shot of a woman pushed back on the edge of a desk was graphic enough. Her plaidBecker skirt was around her hips, the photo showing just enough of her bare inner thigh to titillate. A man in pin-striped Becker trousers stood between her legs, the belt dangling suggestively. At the point where the skirt gathered at her hips, a tiny tattoo of the Naughty Devil peeked out. Damon felt instantly transported into the picture, dry-mouthed and shocked by the rush of blood to his groin. He could practically feel the heat of her vagina against his cock.
The apt tagline "You can have it on his desk by the end of the day" was written in red cursive.
Sweet Mother of Moses!
"Here's a shot of the lingerie," she continued.
In it, Tanika lounged in an executive chair in nothing but a Becker trench coat. She was speaking into a microrecorder in her hand and studying a thick open binder in her lap, seemingly oblivious to how the coat fell open to reveal the curve of a lace-covered breast and torso. Her mouth was parted, just inches from where her red-tipped nails held the microrecorder, the gloss on her lips inviting unscrupulous thoughts. The caption read "Dictation method no. 5."
He forced himself not to shift in his seat.
He was tempted to bring the image closer and study that perfect mouth, but she turned to the next ad. It invited blow job fantasies. Damn ...
And there she was again but this time in a gym shower. She stood with her back to him, naked butfor a man's shirt--Becker, no doubt--and tight-knit fishnet stockings and garters. The cotton shirt looked deliciously translucent in the places where the shirt touched her skin, like wet icing. The damned tattoo appeared again on her thigh, just under the rippling crease of water. Was it real? The close-up shot captured the chill on her skin and made him want to run his hand over the photo and warm her, caress her ...
"This one is for what you would refer to as kinky items."
The photo looked like it had been taken in an elevator. A man's broad back could be seen as he faced a corner, his long, signature Becker trench coat almost touching the ground. The only visible sign of Tanika was her hands at his neck, one clutching the coat near his collar in a desperate grip and the other cupping his head. A velvet handcuff dangled from her wrist. The coat bulged oddly at the waist, giving the impression that her legs were intimately wrapped around the man's waist. No doubt she was naked. Straining to take him in an illicit moment of fornicating passion.
The caption read "Want to hold a captive audience?"
For the elevator camera?
Damon's erection hardened further, pushing uncomfortably in his trousers. It didn't help that the identical trench coat was draped on the arm of the empty chair next to him. Same color too.
The drumming of his pulse was deafening. This wasn't an ad to sell sophisticated clothes.
She spoke again, her voice unfailingly polite but almost bored. "And this last one targets the lotions."
In it, she sat at a mirrored vanity wearing an oversized man's shirt. White. The collar sagged enough to reveal a Becker Fine Tailoring tag in the back. The shirt was unbuttoned halfway down to reveal a hint of her full breasts.
Behind her was the out-of-focus view of a rumpled bed ... with a man in it. She was licking her lips while one of her hands hovered over the vast selection of lotion bottles before her, her face beaming with rushed excitement. As if the choice she had to make had to be quick. Naughty. Tasty.
The caption was "Decisions! Decisions!"
"Well?" she asked politely.
No. Absolutely, positively not!
"It's definitely ... different," he muttered. "Our approach has always been to present fashion with a little less scandal and instead place the focus on the professional aspects, Ms. Davis."
Her eyebrows shot up. "I don't see anything truly scandalous about these ads. There's lots of implied passion, but that doesn't translate to scandal."
He pointed to the desk, elevator, and shower ads. "Our last ad had our models reading the New York Times by a warm fireplace."
"I'm sure that can be arranged," she murmured, looking entirely too innocent. "I'll pass it along."
Yeah, I'll bet. Without a doubt his forefathers were doing triple flips in their graves. "The point of a good ad is to get more customers, not alienate them or blindside them," he pointed out.
"I concur." She mimicked him by tapping her pencil in her hand, and he got the distinct impression she was mocking him. "However, we're going for a younger, more energetic demographic, Mr. Becker. We need to market ourselves to stand out. Becker Fine Tailoring and Naughty Devil. The women's line of suits and the Naughty Devil products are a match made in heaven. The best way to blend the two is with the Naughty Devil logo. We can pull it off."
He wanted to shift his erection into a more comfortable position or simply unzip and save the big fella from the stranglehold it was in, but that was not going to happen, so he decided to cut to the chase.
"Resorting to selling sex is not what Becker Fine Tailoring is about, Ms. Davis."
She gave him a cool, predatory look. "Well, Naughty Devil is all about selling the possibility of sex, Mr. Becker. That has the most lasting impression. We want to make the client feel professional yet provocative and sensual. Confidence stems from that. People love the possibility of sex, the chemistry, the foreplay, even if they are stuck in a boardroom for four hours, wearing an uncomfortable, stuffy suit with a stellar reputation."
"Stuffy?" he asked calmly. "Are you sayingBecker Fine Tailoring makes stuffy suits?" The men who had served under him in the army would have recognized the warning in his voice, but she apparently didn't.
"Of course not." But her denial was mocked by her eyes. "I'm simply saying that sexual allure is a common marketing ploy that we intend to leverage to create a new image for the Becker Fine Tailoring line."
"There's nothing wrong with the old image. If anything, there is a certain nostalgic, romantic element there. We offer the finest quality, use top-of-the-line materials, and have--"
"Zero sex appeal."
He wanted to stand, lean over, and impress on her the integrity and sacrifice of four generations of custom tailoring that demanded to be defended. But sporting a raging hard-on probably wasn't going to help him with this argument. So he stayed seated and silently fumed.
"It's as simple as this, Ms. Davis. Becker suits give people an edge in a business encounter by making a distinct professional statement."
"And that's working extremely well for your men's line. But for your women's line, not so much." Tanika started to put her inventory of lotions, edible underwear, and sundry items into her briefcase. "Mr. Becker, we will see more sales if people purchase both of our products with the hope that their business--whether in the courtroom or the bedroom--involvessome sensuality or even erotic pleasure. Don't you agree?"
And there, he decided, was the problem. "Business and pleasure don't mix."
Again the quick, disbelieving look. "Ideally, in theory, that may be true, but never in advertising. In any case, what's wrong with giving your customers another reason to buy your suits?"
He gave her the once-over. "Is that why you buy a suit?"
She froze in mid-motion, and he knew he'd surprised her.
"You're wearing one of our best suits," he noted. "Did you buy it to be sexy and alluring or to present a professional image at this meeting?"
Instead of showing embarrassment, a flash of sensual fire lit her eyes, mentally knocking him on his ass. Her gaze held, starting a phantom caress that swirled like satin through and around the thickness of his penis before settling in his testicles.
"Well, that goes toward my point," she said carefully. "Do you want to know what I'm wearing underneath all this? Are you curious to know which of the various Naughty Devil lotions or lingerie I decided on this morning? Does any of that matter to you or do you prefer to think of this as a dry-cleaned suit with fine tailoring?"
Images of what might be under her double-breasted jacket seared his mind. Her scent was still eluding him, but was no less haunting for it.
"I'd rather avoid a sexual harassment lawsuit than answer that," he replied.
She placed a few more items into her briefcase, sighing patiently, and he felt like a child who wasn't understanding basic math. "Our customers won't have to vocalize their thoughts, Mr. Becker. It's enough to make them wonder whether I could be wearing the Pink Dahlia lotion, or whether I chose to slip on item number fifty-nine twenty under this suit today. That's our selling point."
From earlier research of the ND products, he remembered the "fifty-nine hundred" selections were satin camisole-and-thong combos. His imagination went into overdrive.
"And wondering what a woman wears under her suits is not completely sexist," she continued breezily. "For that matter, women will wonder whether the men who wear your suits might also use one of our many unisex lotions, or if they have on our tuxedo boxer shorts or ... whatever else. Statistics prove sexual speculation is part of human nature."
She closed her briefcase with a definite click and a business card fluttered to the floor. She bent to retrieve it and Damon tilted his head to admire the curve of her luscious butt ... and the way the suit molded to it.
And to think there was a red thong under that suit, just waiting to show off the sexy round mounds of her sweet behind and--
She straightened, smiled at him, and tucked the card into her breast pocket, her eyes gleaming victoriously.
He wanted to smack himself on the forehead.
"Are we in agreement about the marketing strategy, then?" she asked sweetly.
He smiled in spite of his straining erection. "Not entirely. I still think that, human nature or not, we should consider toning it down, make ripples in the advertising rather than a splash."
She seemed amused again, which irked him even more. "Mr. Becker, this is more of a formality. Your grandmother bought into the ideas when I spoke with her on the phone and she hadn't seen the photos yet. I'm fairly confident she plans on moving forward with them as they are."
He checked a flare of impatience, both for Tanika and his grandmother. "If this was a done deal, I could've spent my time on other urgent matters, Ms. Davis."
She lowered her coffee mug and her smile suffered. "My job is to acquaint you with the less tangible aspects that make Naughty Devil so popular, its sensual, and yes, provocative, spirit. If we are to succeed in this marketing strategy, I hope you will evaluate and approve of our products as completely as we do your apparel--"
"I understand where you are coming from, but Becker Fine Tailoring does have a reputation to maintain," he stated firmly.
"Be that as it may, your current 'reputable' marketing plan is not showing a profit. Our partnership will serve to expand the women's line of Becker Fine Tailoring and introduce our products along with it. And as you can clearly see, my company also has a reputation to maintain. I can assure you that we are not suffering from loss of profit." Her curt reply seemed like a judge's gavel hammering into the following silence.
He held her gaze knowing she would continue with her sex-crazed agenda either with him or without him. Hell, she had a huge point there. But more importantly, he'd promised his grandmother he'd cooperate, right? At the very least, he wasn't supposed to jeopardize things.
"All right," he conceded after a long pause.
It was worse to see the pity back in her eyes. "Mr. Becker, I'm optimistic this will work. In fact, I'll tell you what I tell all my customers. 'Delve into the experience. ' It's the Naughty Devil motto."
"Ah, yes. Catchy."
"Well, unless you get into our toys, in which case it changes to 'Naughty Devils Do.'"
Oh, sweet Jesus. Was there anything Naughty Devil didn't do? "I must not have received that catalog," he said.
"Not a problem. I'll get one to you. Our quarterly report should reflect the growing success. However, I strongly suggest you do more than just evaluate the chemical makeup of our lotion or measure the fibercount in our lingerie. Try out our products. See what you like or don't like. Rub on some lotion and see if it itches. Try our boxer shorts and report back any problems. After all, I've taken this approach with your products."
"And you found them stuffy?"
"I'd never say such a thing, Mr. Becker."
He was about to reply when a polite knock at the door had them turning to it. Mrs. Merriweather, his secretary, stood with keys and purse in hand. "I apologize for the interruption, but I wanted to let you know I'm on my way out."
"Thanks, Helen," he said. "I'll lock up."
"By the way, sir, I'll be off tomorrow, but I'll be at the holiday party in the evening."
"Great. I'll see you then."
After a chorus of goodbyes, Tanika tossed her Styrofoam cup into the trash and reached for her purse and briefcase. "It's late. I should get going, too."
He glanced at his watch, mentally groaning at the unfinished work sitting on his desk. Hell, it would still be there tomorrow. "If you'll wait just a minute, I'll leave with you."
When she turned away, Damon took advantage of the moment to slip on his coat, effectively hiding his arousal. Not since high school had he had such an uncontrolled hard-on.
On the way out, he paused to set the office alarm, then lock the door.
They entered the elevator together. The piped-in music was playing some punched-up jazz. He frowned. Just yesterday it had played tunes that belonged in malls and fitting rooms. Conservative music that inspired shopping and suited Becker Fine Tailoring to a T.
She pressed the button and waited as the doors silently slid shut.
Damon tried to ignore the fact that she stood in a corner and he was wearing his full-length coat. The vivid elevator ad refused to leave his mind. Now that he thought about it, he'd never had sex in an elevator before. Nor in his office. The possibilities suddenly bloomed in the tension, taunting him.
He absently rubbed his jaw and encountered the erotic scent she'd accidentally dropped into his palm.
The elevator began its descent.
Tanika knew it was an optical illusion, but Damon Becker seemed to take up too much space in the elevator. She resisted checking her French knot from her reflection in the wall of brass and instead kept both hands gripped on her briefcase handle.
It was too easy to imagine Damon pinning her against the corner while she wrapped her cuffed hands around his broad shoulders.
Man, oh man ... his body was just made for stuff like that.
It was one thing to do a photo shoot with a gay model and quite another to imagine the real thing with a straight man who looked like Damon.
Maybe she'd forget the handcuffs and kiss him until she had his perfectly creased trousers unzipped and pushed down mid-thigh. Oh, she'd stroke him all right. She might even introduce him to some oral delights.
Too bad he wasn't her type. Her sex life had no room for uptight, prim, and humor-impaired men.
It wasn't as if she couldn't get a date. But who wanted that scene anymore? The last guy she'd dated had become clingy and needy, obsessed with "where's this relationship going" questions until she'd called it quits. He hadn't taken it well at all and the whole thing had turned into a huge mess.
Being a heartbreaker was a bitch.
As a result, it was wiser and far less complicated to just enjoy a rare one-nighter. No muss, no fuss. Just hit-and-run sex and bam, move on.
But now, the sexual hiatus had her hormones totally rebelling, the sexual urges taking on an edge of desperation.
Not that Mr. Propriety over here had picked up on it.
"What scent is this?" Damon asked, sniffing his open hand.
The instant thought that came to mind was of his fingers gripping his hardened erection, takinghis time sliding back and forth in languid masturbation ... God, he couldn't mean that scent! The glint in his eye told her he'd read her mind. Again. It took a split second more to remember that she'd accidentally spilled a drop of lotion on him.
"Pink Dahlia," she replied huskily, before clearing her throat. "One of our bestsellers from the flower series. We have nine."
"It's, um, interesting. You're wearing it," he said, surprising her with his low rumble of certainty.
"Am I?" She absently straightened her jacket. "This is exactly what our marketing strategy is about, Mr. Becker. Raising the possibility."
He moved closer to her, slightly crowding her. He was smart enough to leave room for her to move away if she chose.
"What are you doing?" she demanded.
"Delving into the experience, as you suggested." When she didn't move away, he shifted closer still.
Taken by surprise, she was rooted to the spot as he lowered his head and inhaled at the base of her neck, his nose barely nudging her small hoop earring.
Her eyes drifted shut and an involuntary shiver of delight melted down her spine.
"Yes," he said gruffly, "you are wearing it."
For a breath of eternity, his eyes locked on hers and she felt like she'd fallen slowly into water, steadily sinking. Her own quiet panting echoed inthe small space. She caught a whiff of his subtle cologne as it wrapped around her. Sophistication, wrapped up in manliness and eight hours' worth of starched cotton and body heat.
Very erotic. And unexpected. She'd have to think of how to bottle that.
She had the sudden urge to tug him by his tie and French-kiss the hell out of his firm mouth. Too bad he was Mr. Uptight.
"What's too bad?" he murmured.
His words began to penetrate the hazy fog as the elevator came to a stop and the doors retracted. God, had she really started to say that aloud? "Um, I said, not bad. Your sense of smell, that is."
He was still watching her too closely, too intimately. Definitely testing her.
Not one to back down, she leaned closer still and whispered, "Pink Dahlia is just the start. We have lots of other lotions. Some flower. Some musk. Others naughty and some kinky. You will want to delve into those, too."
His eyes darkened with the unmistakable sign of desire. "Ms. Davis--"
She could practically see the words tottering on the tip of his tongue. But he held them back, hovering for a dangerous second before taking a step back. Something about the way he moved made her think of a panther, pretending to be held at bay by a little stick. It was just a matter of time before he'd prowl again.
"One more thing," he rumbled.
"Yes?" she repeated, her voice entirely too breathy.
"The item you mentioned earlier. Number fifty-nine twenty? It is a crimson-red camisole-and-thong combo with a black lace trim."
He barely glanced down at her suit, but she felt as if she were standing before him in only the items he'd mentioned. The fact that he was dead right send heat rushing over her that had nothing to do with embarrassment. "Very good."
His reply came at her like a brief intimate kiss. "Thank you."
The elevator doors automatically began to slide back together, but he stopped them with a press of a button, becoming the reserved businessman again. "After you."
Tanika walked out, her legs not quite steady. It was silly, really, to feel so annoyed with herself for wishing he'd had less control. For wishing he'd done something out of character, like kiss her or fuck her brains out in the isolated elevator ... whatever. Maybe he wasn't into quickies.
He followed, half a step behind.
At the main entrance to the building, she nodded to the guard who held the door open for them.
She dug in her purse for her keys, grateful that she'd been allowed to park in the "Reserved" slot nearby.
"Good night, Mr. Becker." She used the remotecontrol in her key chain to unlock her yellow sports car.
He too used his remote control. It figured his car was the pristine black SUV parked next to hers.
She pasted on a smile and settled into her car, still juggling the fact that he'd turned her on more than she'd expected. Oh, yes, he was definitely good at starting a slow, smoldering burn.
With a twist of her wrist, the engine of her car roared to life, its ferocity joining the wildness he'd sparked in her. Two blocks later, she hit the freeway and, despite the cold December air, let the convertible top down while she gunned the engine into the fast lane.
Copyright © 2006 by Delilah Dawson.