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Authors: Love Me Tender

Sandra Hill

Love Me Tender
Sandra Hill

 

And finally, a book dedicated to my best friend…my sister, Flora Cluston Drapalski.

 

It is especially appropriate that Flora get a book which centers around dreams and a young woman’s fancy. She was there when both of our dreams first sparked…in the old house in the poor neighborhood, in the disciplined atmosphere of St. Agnes School, along the wide Susquehanna, which swept through the center of our town, in the nooks and crannies of a creaking Victorian library. Oh, the tears and laughter we shared these many years…over dreams!

How apropos to this book, which focuses on dreams, that Flora once wrote:

Snowflakes

and silent tears

long frozen by the howling wind

sent out to lonely lovers’ ears

who wait
.

In dreams
,

my heart and soul

join in a minuet

and dance to the tune of time

in loneliness
.

Please enjoy
Love Me Tender
, Flora, dear. There’s a little bit of this Cinderella in both of us.

Contents

Chapter One

THE PRINCE IS A ROYAL PAIN IN THE…FOOT.

Chapter Two

The woman…Cynthia Sullivan…recoiled, as if he’d slapped her. She still…

Chapter Three

P.T. Ferrama had three looks that made women melt. The…

Chapter Four

“Welcome to my world…” Elmer serenaded Cynthia later in a…

Chapter Five

“Naomi and Ruth did what?” P.T. roared.

Chapter Six

It was hard to maintain anger at a blood-boiling temperature…

Chapter Seven

“It’s all your fault,” he said.

Chapter Eight

“The Mafia!” Naomi scoffed a short time later.

Chapter Nine

“Marry you? Marry you?” Cynthia launched herself forward like a…

Chapter Ten

“Do you feel anything yet?”

Chapter Eleven

The prince had been in his royal bath for over…

Chapter Twelve

By Sunday afternoon, he and Cynthia had been through more…

Chapter Thirteen

Less than twenty-four hours later, Cynthia Kathleen Sullivan and Prince…

Chapter Fourteen

“Wake up, Sleeping Beauty. Your prince has come.”

Chapter Fifteen

“I love the Dakota,” Cynthia said with a weary sigh.

Chapter Sixteen

Cynthia’s fairy tale did come true…for the next week, at…

Epilogue

Prince and Princess Perico Tomas de la Ferrama lived a…

 

 

Dear Reader:

 

Once upon a time, in a magic kingdom, there lived a handsome prince. Prince Charming, he was called by one and all.

And to this land came a gentle princess. You could say she was Cinderella.

Magic kingdom?

Well, okay, if you’re going to be a stickler for accuracy, in this fairy tale the kingdom is Manhattan. But there’s magic in the Big Apple, isn’t there?

Prince Charming?

Oh, boy! You’ve heard the rumors, I suppose. So this fantasy calls for a little imagination. So he’s Prince Not-So-Charming on occasion. So he sells shoes, not glass slippers. So he drives a pick-up truck, not a pumpkin coach. Big deal! He
is
handsome.

A gentle princess?

Picky, picky, picky! Who says a woman has to be soft and fluffy all the time? Haven’t you ever heard of a royal case of PMS? And just because this princess is called “The Shark” doesn’t mean she can’t harbor some tender emotions inside.

Cinderella?

Geesh! Who’s telling this story? She
is
Cinderella, all right…Wall Street Cinderella. This is the nineties, people. The feminist movement, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar, and all that affirmative-action business. Remember, even Grace Kelly had a career before her prince came galloping down Sunset Boulevard.

And, no, no, no, my lips are sealed over the glass slipper not fitting incident. You didn’t hear it from me that the princess has a corn.

Now, dear reader, if you will open your eyes and ears and heart to all the enchantment awash in this earthly realm, I hereby present to you a most fantastical story.

 

Elmer Presley, fairy godfather

THE PRINCE IS A ROYAL PAIN IN THE…FOOT
.

Prince Perico Tomas de la Ferrama had just shimmied out of his jeans and was pulling up his gray silk Armani slacks when he glanced out the shaded side window of the limousine and saw the sign wielded by a female picketer. He did a double take.

A long-legged strawberry blonde on crutches brandished the ignominious placard. Although she leaned against a telephone pole, she was clearly the ringleader of the line of chanting women—at least a dozen—who paraded in front of the skyscraper housing his sixteenth-floor offices. They carried similar messages:
FERRAMA IS ANTI-WOMAN. WHAT’S SEXY ABOUT CORNS? PRINCE FERRAMA IS A FROG. THE VAMP = CORNS. DOWN
WITH FERRAMA SHOES. CORNS, BUNIONS, CALLUSES…WHAT NEXT? WARTS?

“Maldito!”
he muttered and leaned forward to speak into the intercom. “Circle the block, Jake.” With the usual noontime traffic congestion, that could take half an hour.

“Sure thing, boss,” his head designer, Jacob Beaunare, replied with childlike glee. Due to their ongoing financial crunch, Jake had been forced to double as chauffeur, but it was a role he enjoyed. The former MIT whiz kid whipped the leased stretch limo, with its detachable imperial crests, out into the bustling Manhattan street, oblivious to the honking horns and curses of cab drivers, not to mention the WBOT news van.

Oh, great! Is that Diane Sawyer coming up the street, flanked by two ABC cameramen?

“What the hell’s going on, Dick?” he snarled, turning to his lawyer and figurehead CEO, Enrique Alvarez, who sat beside him on the other side of the limo’s wide bench seat, sipping a Scotch and perusing the file of papers in his open briefcase with calculated coolness. Dick prided himself on his smooth composure under pressure.

He was about to give Dick some
real
pressure…like a fist in his too-pretty face. He was sick to death of all the PR games Dick orchestrated, although, to be fair, he didn’t know if Dick was responsible for this latest travesty.

Peering up at him over a pair of wire-rimmed
reading spectacles, Dick smoothed a hand over his long, slicked-back hair, which was gathered into a ponytail at his nape. “Relax, P.T. I told you when I picked you up at La Guardia that we have a minor crisis.
No problema
.”

Uh-oh! Every time Dick said
no problema
, he could be sure they had lots of problems. P.T. mentally fortified himself for the worst, then said, “
No problema?
You call a herd of…of femi-Nazis circling my headquarters
no problema?
You call that “Hard Copy” vehicle on our tail
no problema?
You call this kind of publicity just before the Ferrama stock offering
no problema?

“Don’t get your laces in a knot,
mi amigo
. I’ll handle it.”


Carramba!
Were articles of incorporation filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission?” he asked stonily.


Sí…
of course. Now we have three weeks before Ferrama goes public on August sixteenth. Next starts the road show, taking our presentations to the brokerage institutions in the selling group. The lawyers are proofing the final prospectus as we speak.”

“And the opening price?”

“Five dollars per unit.” Dick beamed with satisfaction. He’d been afraid the initial offering would be set at a lower price; anything under five dollars smacked of penny stocks, which he’d wanted to avoid.

“So, with two million shares, we’ll raise ten million in equity, as we’d hoped.”

“Yep. Man oh man, we landed in a pile of gold dust when we chose Donaldson & Donaldson for the managing underwriters. The fifteen securities firms they invited into the initial selling group are primo…the best in the business.”

“It was more of a coup that Donaldson chose us,” P.T. pointed out dryly, but he couldn’t help smiling at Dick’s enthusiasm.


Dios
, I’m so anxious, I wish we could hit the boards today, but the SEC demands this twenty-one-day ‘cooling off’ period. I can see that you’re wired, too, P.T. So, why don’t you take this time to cool off yourself. You’re entirely too uptight.”

P.T. realized that Dick had managed to divert his attention from the problem at hand…the picketers. He released a long sigh of exasperation. “Ah, Dick, you know that this is a delicate stage. News of our stock offering will surely hit the financial news by tomorrow.”

“Yeah. In fact, you have an appointment this afternoon with a
Wall Street Journal
reporter. And the tombstone ads to be run in the financial pages of all the major newspapers on the big day are ready to be sent out. They just need your final stamp of approval.”

P.T. groaned. “So why are those women picketing our offices?”

“We had no idea the crackpot would go this far. She and her cohorts weren’t here when I left the building two hours ago.”

“You
knew
there was a problem? And didn’t nip it in the bud?”

“Hey, I had my hands full with your stepsisters. Those two bloodsuckers would put Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters to shame.”

P.T. winced. “What are Naomi and Ruth up to now?”

“Same old, same old. Money, money, money…they just can’t get enough. They’re driving everybody at the office bonkers. Wait till the accountant gets a hold of you. Naomi bought five thousand dollars’ worth of power tools and fifty gallons of paint last week. And Ruth ordered three Bob Mackie sequin jumpsuits for her boyfriend, Elmer Presley, for a cool ten grand.”

“Elmer Presley? He’s still hanging around?” P.T. groaned, then waved a hand dismissively. “I can’t deal with Naomi and Ruth now. Back to the picketers…what can we do to avert a disaster?”

“Don’t overreact. I’m sure it’s just a tiny blip in the scheme of things.”

“Are you
loco?
I smell a lawsuit waiting to happen.
Any
negative publicity could deflate our opening stock price.”

“I said I’d handle it, man.”

That was the problem. He probably would. The question was how.

Lifting his butt off the seat, P.T. tucked his black T-shirt into the pleated slacks, then buttoned, zipped and belted himself in, the whole time scowling his displeasure at his colleague.
As a final touch, and with a grimace of distaste, he draped the matching double-breasted suit jacket over his shoulders like some Italian movie star…or prince. Who the hell ever heard of wearing a T-shirt with a suit? But Dick proclaimed that was the hottest look in international men’s couture, according to
GQ
. Dick knew about that kind of thing.

The persona finally in place, P.T. took a deep breath. “Let’s cut to the chase and—”

His words were interrupted by the screech of brakes and the sound of metal abrading metal as Jake misjudged a corner and sideswiped three trash cans. A bag lady gave them the flying finger salute and a cop blew his shrill whistle. Jake could be seen in the rearview mirror shrugging sheepishly and mouthing, “Oops!”

P.T. braced his forehead with the carefully manicured fingertips of one hand—another of Dick’s bright ideas…clear nail polish!—and closed his eyes, counting to ten. Then he leveled a withering glare at Dick, who had the good sense to put aside his booze and briefcase. “Fill me in on everything.”

“She’s Cynthia Sullivan.”

“Who?”

“The redhead.”

Oh. The babe on crutches with the Rockette legs
. “That wasn’t red hair. It was blond…well, reddish-blond,” he pointed out, having no time to wonder why or how he’d noticed such an irrelevant detail.

“Oh, God!” Dick’s mouth went slack-jawed with surprise before he hooted with laughter, shaking his head at him. “You dumb schmuck. That’s Cynthia ‘The Shark’ Sullivan, and you’ve got the hots for her.”

“Knock it off,” P.T. sliced out. Dick had been a friend for more than a decade and a business associate for more than five years, but sometimes he went too damn far.

“Take my advice. You need all your wits about you the next few weeks, and it’s a proven fact that testosterone is a natural I.Q. suppressant. I oughta know.”

“Damn straight you oughta know.” Since his divorce Dick had gone through one woman after another.

“Believe me, this
señorita
is bad news…a pit bull in high heels.”

“I am
not
interested in the woman. I only commented on her hair,” he protested. “Besides, my sex life is none of your business.”

Dick just grinned at him.

P.T. inhaled deeply for calm. “What did you mean by the shark remark?”

“Didn’t you see the
Business Week
article last year profiling Cynthia Sullivan, the Wall Street trader nicknamed ‘The Shark’?”

P.T. rubbed his chin pensively. “I thought
shark
referred to a ruthless corporate raider or ‘Black Knight.’”

“It usually does, but in her case, she earned the tag another way. She’s so aggressive on the
exchange floor that some brokers refer to her as ‘The Irish Barracuda.’”

“Is she the kook who made network news when she told Alan Greenspan to f-off?”

“Bulls-eye! The Fed chief was giving a speech at the
Forbes
Magazine luncheon when she overheard him saying something about brokers taking voluntary pay cuts to help curb inflation.”

“Hmpfh! It’s about time someone put Greenspan in his place.” But then P.T. frowned. “I don’t understand. We have a Wall Street trader leading a picket of our business? And you say
no problema?

“No, no, no,” Dick corrected. “Her job has nothing to do with this campaign of hers…well, not directly. Don’t you remember me telling you on the phone last week that some fruitcake had been calling customer service to complain about a corn she got from one of our shoes…‘The Vamp’? You told me to ignore her.”

“A
corn?
” P.T. yelled. He felt a headache the size of his debit balance begin to pound behind his eyeballs. “I thought you were talking about some old lady with blue hair, not someone quite so…uh, young. And wipe that smirk off your face.”

“Oh, Cynthia Sullivan’s not young,” Dick said with a knowing snort. “She must be at least thirty.”

P.T. slanted Dick a wry glance. They were both thirty-two. “That’s young,” he insisted. “Let
me get this straight. We’re being picketed because some chick allegedly got a corn on her big toe from one of our products.”

“Pinky.”

“What?”

“The corn’s on her pinky toe, not her big toe.”


Mierda!
” he murmured.

“She claims her profession requires her to be on her feet all day on the exchange floor. Traders are those people you see on the evening news during the daily stock reports, standing around yelling out bids, like at an auction. Anyhow, she says the pain of the corn kept her from doing her job.”

“Don’t make me laugh.”

“Then, because she wasn’t able to move quickly, one of the other traders stepped on her foot and broke that toe, along with two others. She lost her job…temporarily, at least. And she might have to default on the two-million-dollar apartment she recently bought in the Dakota.”

“Two million dollars?” P.T.’s jaw dropped with incredulity. Then he thought of something. “The Dakota? Isn’t that the place where John Lennon was shot?”

“Uh-huh. It’s harder to get into that building than Fort Knox now—visitor or resident. Very ritzy place, like a castle. Believe me, she got a bargain at two million. And talk about elite occupants! Over the years it’s been home to Lauren Bacall, Rudolf Nureyev, Gilda Radnor, Roberta
Flack, some Arab princess, Boris Karloff. In fact, the movie
Rosemary’s Baby
was filmed there.”

“What are you, a walking real estate encyclopedia?” P.T. snorted with disgust. “So, we’ve got some Boris Karloff creature from the black Dakota lagoon, living in Rosemary’s baby’s co-op, about to put a curse on our company?”

“I never said she lived in those particular apartments.”

“Whatever! A corn, Dick? A corn? Talk about frivolous complaints!”

“That’s what everyone said about that lady who sued McDonald’s over a hot cup of coffee. She got millions.”

“I needed to hear that,” P.T. grumbled. “Dick, our shoes sell because they’re sexy, but also because they’re guaranteed to be ergonomically and orthopedically correct. Is it possible our product caused her…injury?”

“I doubt it, but it doesn’t really matter. We can’t risk a court battle.”

“Okay, what’s our happy picketer looking for…fifteen minutes of fame on the TV tabloids? An easy cash settlement? Or is she just plain crazy?”

“At first I would have said crazy. Now I’m leaning toward crazy like a fox.”

“Or a shark.”

“Yep,” Dick agreed. Then he added, “We need a plan.”

“Will our liability insurance cover this kind of injury claim?”

“Probably. Even our bare-bones budget isn’t skimpy in that department.”

“So, the problem is publicity. We have to do everything to avoid publicity,” P.T. concluded.

“Yep. The bankers say we have every reason to expect Ferrama to be hyped as a hot issue. But what we don’t want is a swooner…a stock that’s volatile…supersensitive to news of any kind.”

“Like picketers,” P.T. deduced. “Okay. You’ll have to set up a meeting with Wall Street Barbie, ASAP.”

Dick nodded. “And you’re going to have to be her Ken. Lay on the princely charm with a trowel. Seduce her if you have to.”

P.T. didn’t even blink at the suggestion. They’d both done worse for the company in the five years since they’d begun the blitz to change its image in the marketplace. Now the pot of gold was almost in their grasp, the end of the rainbow no longer an impossible dream.

Besides, he’d never made it with a stockbroker before. Maybe he could learn something new.

Still, P.T. balked inwardly. “I’ve spent the past week dodging the Countess Ariana,” he complained.

“That oversexed tart who owns a chain of European fashion mags? I read about her in the
New Yorker
.”

“One and the same,” P.T. said tiredly. “I gotta tell you, I’m all charmed out. Why don’t you do the seducing this time?”

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