Julie Andrews twirls in a field of flowers, her arms spread wide like she’s going to hug the world, while the Alps rise majestically behind her.
“That’s the one.” I point to the light-blue T-shirt with the caption—Look at all the fucks I give!—scrawled in cursive above the famous image from The Sound of Music.
It’s the perfect T-shirt for CJ.
One, she loves musicals.
Two, I’m always telling her she needs to give far fewer fucks. Shake off the little things. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Hell, look at me. I give so few fucks I’m practically a Zen master.
Although, for the record, the fucks I do give result in pure pleasure for the giver and the receiver.
“Would you like me to model that for you?”
I blink up at the unexpected offer. The curvy saleswoman bats her eyelashes suggestively. “It looks like it might be just my size,” she says, those baby blues drifting down to where she wants me to look.
Holy hell. That’s an eyeful. But of course, I’m only noticing her impressive rack because I want to get a look at her name tag. Ahem . . .
I scrub a hand across my jaw. Damn, this shirt would look excellent on Olive.
Just have her try it on, the naughty devil on my shoulder whispers, determined to knock me off the wagon.
But that’s not happening. Not today, or any day in the near future.
I fish a fifty from my wallet and set it on the counter, calling on my best Bruce Willis in Die Hard 2. Just the fax, ma’am. Damn, he was cool in that film. In every film.
“Just the shirt, ma’am,” I say, flashing her a lopsided grin that has, admittedly, been known to melt panties.
“Ma’am?” She giggles. “You’re making me feel old.”
I swallow the teasing response on the tip of my tongue and slam on the charm brakes. Must. Stop. Flirting. I’m on the straight and narrow now. No distractions. Just laser-focus, like Bruce Willis disarming terrorists and saving Christmas.
“And can you wrap it up, please?” I ask, since CJ deserves the best. I can’t just waltz into brunch, ask her to pretty please with sugar on top help me save my company, and hand her a T-shirt in a plastic bag. Pfft.
The least I can do is gift wrap my request. Besides, I pride myself on excellence in gift-giving.
I check the scores for the Portland Badgers, my favorite hockey team, as busty Olive who I’m not going to hit on—not going to hit on, not going to hit on—wraps soft pink paper around the shirt, tying it with a silky white bow before slipping it into a pink gift bag. Perfect for a woman like CJ. Pink is her color.
I thank Olive and head out of the boutique, the midmorning sun of a gorgeous spring day in Manhattan shining brightly above.
My driver, Gary, waits for me at the curb of this cobbled street in the Village, and I remind myself to give him an even bigger tip, since he never idles. The dude always turns off the engine while he waits for me, treating the earth right.
That’s worth every penny of a tip.
Another thing worth every penny is having a town car at my disposal.
New York can suck it without a driver.
I can’t believe there was a day when I didn’t have this. Growing up with jack shit, my shoes held together by duct tape, I was lucky to have bus fare. I won’t ever forget how lucky I am to have all this now, and to take care of my family, too, so their shoes are whatever kind they want.
I slide onto the cool leather seat, and my phone dings with a note from my good friend Luna, thanking me for recommending she see the newest Zach Galifianakis flick. Apparently, she laughed all the way through. I’m sending a quick you’re always welcome, when another text lands. This one is from Lucy.
My shoulders tense, and I tell Gary to head to Ruby’s Kitchen on the Upper West Side, a farm-to-table place that has the best eggs in the city.
“Of course, Graham. Did you find what you were looking for?”
“I did. A perfect gift for CJ.” A smile crosses my lips as I think of CJ and her nerdy addiction to novelty T-shirts, but the grin erases itself when I glance back down at my phone.
Lucy. Lush, but loony Lucy.
I really should block her number.
But if I did that, she would show up on my doorstep, crazy leaking out of every pore, and I would need a damned crowbar to pry her off of me. Briefly, I wonder what Bruce’s John McClane would do in a situation like this, but then decide he wouldn’t let it happen in the first place.
Just the fax, ma’am, and yippee-ki-yay-motherfucker.
Lucy: Hey there, G-Man. What are you up to?
I roll my eyes at the nickname I can’t stomach then fire off a quick reply.
Nothing shuts down a textual flirt attempt like a one-word reply. I’ll just keep Die Harding it through the day, like John McClane would if he were the badass CEO of a sexy-as-sin lingerie company.
I delete the text and shove the phone into the pocket of my jeans.
Ex-girlfriends have a way of coming out of the woodwork at the least opportune times, proving my long-standing belief that any relationship that lasts for more than a few weeks is a Big Mistake. Gigantic with a capital G.
Lucy, for all her sexy curves, filthy mouth, and willingness to tackle any challenge in the book on exotic sex positions, is proving to be the biggest mistake of them all.
The trouble is, I’ve always been a sucker for the crazy ones. They’re just really good in bed.
Okay, fine, that’s a lie.
I’m a sucker for all the ladies. Blond, brunette, redhead. Crazy, sane, smart. I love women. We’ve had a solid mutual appreciation society going on for years.
Until Lucy came along, and the focus-sucking vortex of her growing obsession with me served as a stark reminder that I don’t have time for distractions in any shape or form. I don’t have a minute to spare on a romantic relationship. Not with my business at stake. My industry is in a massive state of flux, and I need to concentrate on keeping the company train rattling along at full speed.
That’s why I’m seeing CJ.
She’s my secret weapon, the key to making sure Adored moves in the right direction, despite the suitors waiting in the wings for my baby, doing their best to tempt my shareholders.
Absently, I run my hand over the silky bow, frowning as my fingers slide across a card. Plucking it from the bag, I turn it over—In case you change your mind about wanting more than the shirt.