Authors: L. E. Towne
His Perfect Woman
Book I- Ross
L. E. Towne
© Copyright by Rico Towne Books
all rights reserved
cover by Story Cat Publishing
The man wove his way through the late afternoon shoppers on the subway steps, negotiating his way to the street with the expertise of a native Chicagoan. The sun had emerged earlier in the day, bringing a definite feel of spring to the city. They might get another storm before real warmth settled in, but today spring was in the air and in his step as Ross Berenger turned uphill toward the tiny one bedroom on South Racine.
His neighbor came down the hall with a tiny dog on a leash trotting alongside as Ross let himself into the apartment. New to the building, he greeted the man with a friendly wave, though he couldn’t quite recall his name. Setting his battered briefcase down in an alcove that realtors had laughingly called a foyer, he looked around for a resting place for his keys and phone. There was none.
“So, how did it go?” Dani pulled her wire rimmed glasses off and blinked up at him, a thick issue of Vogue splayed open on her spray tanned legs.
Ross left his keys and phone on the tiny kitchen counter and kicked off his old but still wearable Italian loafers. He kissed her lightly as he headed for their bedroom.
“Good, Richard asked me to close, so by the time I got up there, it was late, and the room was stifling. Something was up with the air conditioning and those poor bastards had been in there for like three hours.”
Ross shrugged out of his suit coat and carefully hung it on the padded hanger. It was his best suit and cost him a month’s salary from his former firm. Now that he was on his own, he wouldn’t be buying anything else like it for a long time. He pulled off the silk-like polyester tie and hung it on the rack inside the closet door.
“I kept it short and sweet. They laughed. They cried. They applauded.”
“Did you use the joke?” She hadn’t moved from her spot on the couch, but their bedroom door was only a few feet away. It was a small apartment, stark, modern and the only thing they could afford in the Decatur area.
“Yeah, for the most part. Yeah.”
“Good.” Dani, as usual, heard what she wanted to hear. “You’re later than I thought. I was wondering what happened to you.”
Stripped down to his boxer briefs, Ross peeked around the sliding wooden panel that served as a bedroom door. “I had a drink with Richard, you know, networking stuff. I’m going to grab a quick shower and then we can go, where again?”
“Julie and the guys are meeting us at El Greco’s.”
“Right.” Ross frowned as he stuck his head under the shower spray. Julie and the guys worked with Dani, all of them friends since modeling school. All young, good looking and far too thin—their hottest topics of conversation were salad dressing and hair stylists.
He scrubbed his short hair vigorously with Dani’s expensive vanilla mint shampoo. Today had been optimal. The gig this afternoon would lead to other gigs. He’d needed to perform well and he had. Hopefully, it would pay off with some real consulting work—lucrative work.
“Don’t be all day,” Dani called from the bedroom.
Ross said nothing but ran his hands over his head, brushing the last of the shampoo away. He turned twice, rinsing off the soap, letting one hand smooth down his abs to his crotch. He palmed his half-hard dick and sighed as Dani called to him again. He punched the faucet lever inward with a final thump. He’d been too exhausted to even think of sex the night before.
She stood in front of the closet door mirror, model thin legs showing under a black mini-dress. A red leather and fabric belt caught just above her slim hips. She hadn’t done her hair yet, it was held in a messy auburn ponytail on top of her head. She turned sideways to inspect her profile, patting her non-existent stomach, sucking it in, which raised her breasts even higher. Ross caught her waist, leaned his chin over her shoulder, and kissed her neck.
“You’re gorgeous,” he murmured, pulling her close to his naked chest.
“You’re wet.” She wrinkled her nose, but she didn’t pull away. He turned both of them to face the mirror. Dani was tall, five-ten at least, but Ross stood a good four inches above her. He grinned in their reflection, his hand snaking down the front of her dress to dip playfully under the hem.
“You could be too.” He smiled into her shoulder. She pulled his hand closer to her center.
“We’ll be late,” she said, crossing her thigh in front of his hand.
“Julie’s late, always. If we’re really late, we’ll get there at the same time.”
“I missed you last night,” she said as she turned her face up for a kiss. Running her hands over his chest, she pulled playfully at patch of hair in its midline. Ross was trim, but not model thin. He was built like a broad shouldered swimmer, lean muscles stretched on his tall frame. “But they’ll only hold the reservation so long.”
He ignored her statement and kissed her again. They kissed like old lovers, familiar and comfortable. She reached down and squeezed his butt cheek through the towel.
“We could make it fast and still get there on time.” He stepped back and dropped the towel. Dani’s eyes sparkled as she looked at him.
“I still have to do my hair. I’ll make it up to you tonight. I promise.” She danced away from his arms and into the bathroom, leaving him naked and erect.
“You’re seriously going to leave me hanging like this?” He’d only been mildly hopeful that sex would actually happen.
Dani giggled from the bathroom and then leaned out and eyed him from the doorway, one long tress of hair wound around a curling iron.
“I don’t think hanging is the right word.”
“Funny.” He sighed as he walked to their shared dresser, pulling out a clean black T-shirt.
Dani was right, the maitre’ d was about to give their table away when they arrived ten minutes late. Her friend Julie came in minutes after them, flanked by two beautiful males, Kyle and Brandon who were more into each other than anything else. Their mutual attraction wasn’t overt, and they were so impossibly attractive most people never noticed anything else. Kyle was a football fan and he discussed defensive strategies of the Bears with Ross while playing footsie with Brandon under the table. Julie bubbled with the news about booking a prime shoot at some fashion house and was off to New York in the morning. Ross watched Dani across the table. Her face was schooled into a professional smile, and he knew she was disappointed. She’d had a go-see for the same shoot and Dani hated losing out on a job.
The evening ended with him making excuses of a very long day. Dani was only slightly disappointed at leaving early. Julie had a habit of continuing even minor celebrations long into the night, early morning flight or not.
Ross opened his laptop at the tiny workstation next to the kitchen counter that served as his office. Not listening as Dani ranted about Julie’s new gig, he clicked through four new emails since he’d left the conference that afternoon. Two were website ads, someone adding him to their mailing list of their own consulting network. Delete, delete, delete. The last one was from an [email protected]. The subject line read: speech availability. He expected to find another
join our association
thing. Instead, it was a brief professional letter introducing the author as Azure Worth, an events planner for Conway Titensor Consulting out of Denver. He’d heard of CTC, of course. They were rivals with his old employer, Vanguarde Resources. He scanned the letter once, his mind buzzing. He slid from his chair and pulled a cheap bottle of Pinot Grigio from the fridge.
“Are you listening to me?” Dani appeared free of makeup and ready for bed, wearing soft flannel shorts and one of his old faded Northwestern t-shirts.
“No,” he said, almost cheerfully. He sipped his wine and went back to the computer. It really was there. In black and white:
Please let me know if you are available to speak at a luncheon, Director of Nurses conference in St. Louis on Saturday, the 25th of April
Details to follow
He read the pertinent parts of the email to Dani as she poured herself a glass of wine.
“Good, congrats.” She smiled thinly. “I’m glad someone’s working at least.”
“Aw, babe, you’ll book something. I know you will, and soon.”
“Yeah, I know, it’s just...” she trailed off. She padded over and picked up the Vogue from the coffee table and tucked it under her arm. “You coming to bed?”
“In a minute, I want to research this a little bit. I need to send a reply.”
“How hard is it to say yes?” Dani mumbled and disappeared through the bedroom slider door. Ross didn’t hear her.
Conway Titensor had a sleek design with an overindulgence of information similar to most marketing firms. It took Ross the entire glass of wine to sift through the colorful fonts and classic background pages to find what he was looking for. CTC boasted of being the second largest marketing and events firm in the Mid-West and they sponsored conferences, workshops, conventions for a huge clientele.
If he got in good with them, he’d be inundated with work. More speeches and workshops and consulting than he could handle. He flipped from the general company pages to the employees and searched for his would-be benefactor.
Azure Worth, he smiled at the name,
as your worth
. The picture showed a young woman, dark hair in waves to her shoulders, a tentative smile, as though she was determined to be taken seriously. Nice eyes, he couldn’t make out the color, but light rather than dark. The bio was more personal than the typical listing of awards and education merits. It said she grew up in Colorado and was educated in the Northeast at some small school he’d never heard of. She attended Leeds School of Business in London. She’d been with CTC for four years.
Ross clicked back to his email screen. He didn’t need to check his calendar. Except for a small fund raising dinner for the Lions Club this month, his schedule was desolately open. He re-read her email to him. She’d heard him speak today and was very impressed. He smiled. It must have been the suit and the funny story. Thank God he didn’t use Dani’s joke. He poured a tad more wine into his glass and formulated a reply.
Dear Ms. Worth,
As it happens, I would be available for a conference in St. Louis. I must tell you I have very little knowledge of what nurses do, except from the obvious, but I’m sure I could come up with something along the lines of the speech I gave today at the convention. If there is a more specific topic you would like me to speak about, please let me know as I can prepare something. My fee schedule and credits are attached. If it is acceptable to you, then please respond ASAP with details. Hope you are enjoying Chicago.
He hit the send button, sipped his wine, and X’ed out of the CTC site pages. He hesitated at the employee page, and he looked at Azure Worth again. She was good looking, though not comfortable in front of a camera, making her smile a little stilted. He reminded himself that he lived with a professional model who made her living looking natural in photos. He did like her words though, and re-read Azure’s statement about successful events. “A good event is merely a party, really, from a small dinner party to a convention of thousands. It’s a combination of the exchange of ideas in a comfortable environment with a bit of fun thrown in.”
She wrote like a Brit, in spite of being a Colorado girl. She must have spent more than just two years at business school in England.
It was time for bed. Leaving his computer, he cleaned up, meticulously rinsing his wine glass and re-sorting Dani’s jumble of dirty dishes in the crowded dishwasher. The dishwasher’s quiet hum whirred as he re-corked the wine.
Dani was curled up on her side in the darkened bedroom and he smiled at the sound of her soft snore. Just as he flicked off the living room light, a tiny bleep sounded from his computer. A new email.