Authors: Josie Daleiden
Tags: #fiction, #romance, #adventure, #fun, #funny, #temptation, #sell
Sarah left her key fob on the seat, and took
her laptop bag out of the back. She slid into the passenger seat of
the Porsche with her bag on her lap. Joe reached over her and
gently shut the door as she reached back to place the bag behind
her. She still felt out of place in this man's sports car, but she
needed a ride. She still hated being in debt in any way to such a
misogynistic jerk though-
Before she could finish her thought the
little black sports car rocketed away from a standstill. In mere
seconds, they had already accelerated to over sixty miles an hour,
and Joe was banging through gears like he was racing for his life.
As Sarah reached out in all directions for something to hold onto,
her hand grasped his right arm though the fabric of his Pierre
Cardin blazer. She couldn't help but notice his strong, toned
muscles under the coat, and she blushed a little as he looked over
and smiled quizzically.
“Yes?” She said quietly.
“I need that arm to shift.”
She quickly released his arm, and he shifted
the screaming car into another gear. They sped out of the gated
security entrance and onto the nearby highway.
Sarah had never driven this fast in her life.
She dated a guy in high school who would street race occasionally,
but this was on a whole different level. Every car on the highway
was simply a slow moving obstacle, as Joe darted in and out of
traffic like he was off to stop a crime. She dared not look at the
“Do you always drive like this?” She finally
managed to say over the din of the screaming engine.
“No. Usually faster. Since there's a lady in
the car, I'm taking it easy tonight.” He said as he flashed her a
quick smile. Sarah tried to figure out if her was joking or
serious, but before she could form a thought, he was jetting
towards an off ramp and driving into little Tokyo.
In the smoggy dusk of the Los Angeles
evening, The cool air came through as Joe rolled down the windows.
The LA Civic Center slid by, a looming metropolitan obelisk
peppered with the occasionally lighted window towered over them,
visible in its entirety only through the open sunroof. Even though
she had been to downtown LA numerous times, this felt different.
Her trips felt like that of a tourist wandering around an
unfamiliar place. This man seemed to have a grasp on this wild city
as if it was his, and his alone. The cars, delivery trucks, and
pedestrians were only a scenic backdrop to his life, as he deftly
wove around everything to get to this special restaurant.
As the car swung onto East 2
street, she saw street art painted all over the municipal walls in
the area. One last turn took them down a narrow alleyway that had
cars jutting out from angled parking spaces. As he negotiated
around one last gathering of pedestrians, he whipped into an empty
spot, just as a large Hummer was attempting to amble into it. The
bloated SUV bleated like a jilted cow, as the owner slammed his
hand on the horn.
Joe smiled and watched while the man in the
Hummer jammed his large vehicle into reverse and sped off. The
restaurant bared a sign that said, “R23”, and had no other
indication of what was inside. Since they were in little Tokyo, she
was fearing sushi. She despised the little fishy creations made
with strips of sticky seaweed, and she was hoping that there was
something else to eat here besides the fish stuff.
“So, what’s here that's worth driving like a
maniac for?” She teased lightly.
“Sweet cheeks; if you don't have a reason to
drive like a maniac towards something, then you should re-evaluate
why you're driving there in the first place.” He responded
For such an upscale guy, this place seemed
pretty low rent on the outside. The crumbling brick exterior held
old posters and lost pet signs, but the inside was pure
The restaurant was a true diamond in the
rough. A plaque in the entryway bared a Zagat rating, and there was
an actual art gallery tucked inside off to the right. The striking
Japanese decor confirmed her fears of sushi, and in spite of the
surroundings she had to speak up.
“I, um, I don't like sushi.” Sarah said
Joe looked over to her with a smirk. “You
live in LA, and you don't eat sushi? I'm surprised they haven't
done a news piece on you yet.”
“Oh very funny.” She shot back.
He gestured for her to sit down in front of
one of the trained chefs, as they expertly sliced fish and rolled
delicate little rolls of fish and rice. The chef looked up and
brightened at seeing Joe. After exchanging pleasantries, Joe said,
“We'll have two of your specialty dishes.”
“I told you I don't like sushi.” Sarah
insisted once more.
The master chef reached behind him and began
pulling out two portions of ground beef. She could see him chopping
up potatoes into thin slices, the beginnings of french fries?
Joe answered her confused internal dialogue
for her. “I don't like sushi either. This guy makes the best Kobe
beef hamburgers. You won't believe it!” He said with a smile, as
the hipsters seated by the chef curled their lips derisively at the
sight of the mundane ground beef by their top shelf sashimi.
As their burgers cooked, they toured the art
gallery, and Joe pointed out a photo set from a new artist.
“She has a great eye for capturing beauty
anywhere. This is actually a whole photo set from an abandoned
military base not far from here. She took all these right before
the crew demolished it. I was there when the cops hauled her off in
handcuffs.” He said with a reminiscent tone. “I had to bail her
She looked at the pictures. There was a
self-portrait of the photographer. She was a striking raven-haired
girl with tattoos all down her right arm. She had a bandanna
wrapped around her head to keep her hair in place, and she was
wearing a pair of jeans and a white top. If not for the black and
white photography, she would probably have flawless tan skin as
well. Sarah couldn't help but hate her a little.
“You two dated, didn't you?” She said out of
the blue. She wasn't sure why it came out as accusing as it did, or
why it even came out at all.
Without missing a beat, Joe said, “I wouldn't
call it dating. She's engaged to a guy back in New York City. We
just fooled around while she was down here.”
“So you two cheated while her husband was
across the country?” Again, she couldn't control the accusing
nature of her voice.
“Technically, she was the one who was
cheating. I was single at the time, and we met while she was
looking for a place for her dad to live.”
His explanation was interrupted by a
waitress, as she brought two drinks over. He took one of the beer
bottles and handed it to her. As he took a long drink, Sarah
watched him while he observed the large, blown up photos of rusting
tanks and close-ups of crumbling buildings.
“You liked her, didn't you?” Sarah said after
a long stretch of silence.
Why did she keep doing this?
After a time, Joe nodded thoughtfully. “Yes,
I did. I even tried to get her to leave that tool bag, art school
dropout that she was with, but to no avail. She finished up here
and left me, and I got stuck on the hook for her five thousand
dollar bail for trespassing on federal property.” He finished his
beer and set it on a nearby tray. “We should get back. It smells
like our burgers are almost ready.”
He was right. The smell of the premium beef
being cooked to perfection was filling the restaurant with a
fragrance that was making her stomach growl. He reached down and
took her hand in his. This easy gesture caught her of guard, and
she realized that he may not have meant it either. He persisted
however, and continued to pull her over to the table with a gentle
tug. Sarah trailed behind him with a little color to her cheeks, as
he pulled her chair out and gestured for her to sit. This man was
starting to seem like the opposite of what she had read and heard
about. That is, until they sat down for dinner.
“So, how was your first open house at Verde
Grande?” He asked casually.
Sarah gave him a puzzled look over the top of
her hamburger. “How did you know it was my first open house?”
“I have my ways.” He answered in between
bites. “Good call on showing cleavage for the Padmas. I hear that
Mr. Padma is quite whipped. You probably stirred his wife to make
an offer out of pure spite.” He said with a chuckle, as he nodded
down at her slightly unbuttoned top.
Sarah flashed him an indignant look, but it
had no effect on him. She wasn't sure what was worse; that he was
brash enough to make a claim like that, or that it was mostly
“Don't take offense, it's good to use all
your assets. I could only wish for big, bouncy fun bags to
manipulate my clients with.” Joe said. He was looking right in her
eyes the whole time, not wavering or flinching as he said things
that would have made her slap any other guy. Instead of winding up
for a punch, she could only wade around inside his dark green eyes
while the restaurant bustled around them.
“Since you and I are such go getter types,
hows about we make the next month over at Verde Grande a little
more interesting?” Joe offered in a friendly tone.
Sarah was intrigued by this offer of a wager.
She loved good-natured competition, and this was a chance to go toe
to toe with the best in town.
“Did you have anything in particular in
mind?” She asked as she finished off her second beer.
“Not off the top of my head. How about..., if
you sell the most houses, I give you my Gold Coast Realtor's Award?
I usually win every year. But if you outsell me, I'll relinquish it
to you at the acceptance ceremony.”
She mulled over that thought. That award was
to realtors what the Oscars are to actors. The thought of besting
Mr. Blake in a bid to win that was certainly worth it.
“What about of I lose?” What do I have to
give you?” She asked. She had nowhere near the money or clout that
he did, so she was at a blank for what to put on the table for her
part of the wager.
Joe munched deliberately on a gourmet French
fry and considered the question. “If you lose, I mean, when you
lose, you come to work for me, for no less than three years.” His
emerald eyes twinkled with boyish mischief as he formed the words,
and Sarah knew that working for him for three years would be like
getting trapped in a typing pool in the 1950's.
“What if I just decide to welch on the bet
and not work for you?” she teased with a smile.
“Oh sweetie, that's not an option. Once you
agree, I'll have my lawyer draw up a very lengthy and detailed
contract. If you try to bail on it, not only will you trash your
name everywhere in So Cal, but you'll owe me a ton of money.” He
finished his little spiel with a teasing wink that only served to
enrage her even more.
“How are you so sure I'll agree to this?” She
“Honey, I know you better than you know
yourself.” He stuck out his hand across the table, and waited
patiently as Sarah tried to make him sweat. Finally, she took his
hand and gave it one firm shake.
“I hope you know what you're getting into.”
She said with pure confidence. The wager had her blood rushing, and
her familiar winning spirit had taken over.
“It will be great having you under my employ
Miss Bella. The best part will be telling your old coot of a boss
that I stole one of his girls!” He teased.
Sarah felt her cheeks reddening in anger.
How dare he make this so personal!
“You have one month to best me Mr. Blake. I
suggest you work on your game, and not your shit talking.” She
chimed in an even voice.
Joe appraised this girl before him.
loved the game!
This little attempt by this cheerful upstart to
usurp his stance as the leader of the LA real estate market was
just what he needed to get him out of his bored state of mind.
“One last thing, Miss Bella; I don't play
fair, and I don't follow rules. You're in one of the most
culturally mixed cities in the entire world, and I know everyone
important in it. You just moved here from Scranton Pa., and you're
little BBA degree from UCSB isn’t going to save you from the storm
that just befell you.” He said.
Sarah was hanging on his every word. Even
though he was tearing her down, she loved the confident rumble that
his voice held. She could smell his mix of aftershave and body
spray again. Only this time, it was warmed beneath like a potpourri
dish as his competitive nature stirred like embers crackling in a
fireplace. Every word brought him closer to her over the small
table, until he was perched right over her in proud silence. A
quick look over her shoulder made her turn around just in time to
see a tall Latino man about the same age as Joe standing silently
“Ernesto, this is the lovely woman with the
wind up car.” He joked, as he stood to pay the bill.
Sarah moved to block his grab for the check.
“We'll split it.” She chimed confidently.
“Really? Okay...” Joe said, as he let go of
Sarah felt her heart flop over as she saw the
bill for two burgers and some beer:
“Are you fucking kidding me!?” She breathed
to herself as she took out her pocketbook with a shaky hand. Joe
blocked her move, as he handed his Amex gold card to the
“This was my treat Sarah. Just think, when
you start working for me, all of these meals will be business
expenses.” He said through a warm smile.
Just then it sank in. There was no way to win
against him, and he knew it! As he stood there straightening his
suit coat, he wasn't the least bit threatened by her. She was just
another chick to him. Although, she was now stuck probably being
his new personal assistant by the time the month was out.