*Marie*Pinkerton*
Romance with a Hint of Kink
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Time to Control
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
© 2013 by Blushing Books and Marie Pinkerton

I was married five hundred years ago to the man I met on Thursday. It has made for an interesting start to a relationship.

My company was being bought out, and my boss needed me to fly to New York and meet with the technical consultant hired by the acquiring organization. When I asked why me, Alan said I was the only tech person in the office that he could dress up and show off. He didn't mean it in a sexist manner, I don't think, just as a statement of facts. The men in the office never left their programming cave, and had the pasty white skin and dour expressions from living in the dark for so long. Not to mention their interpersonal skills rivaled those of said caveman.

To an extent, I was like them; tanning via LCD monitors doesn't work very well, so I was also pale. I like to think that my complexion and dark hair are more Bebe Neuwirth than GothGirl. Give me a flattering skirt and I'll rouge my knees and get along quite well in polite company. Forks don't confuse me, and I can make small talk with the best of them.

So my overnight bags were packed with the most professional clothes I owned, my laptop, and several reams of printed out source code. I wasn't happy about the latter, more for security reasons than the death of additional trees. But the boss says print, and I print, especially since I get to go to NYC as a single woman on the town for the first time.

Spring storms had delayed my departure Wednesday night, so instead of getting into town at ten, it was the ripe hour of five am. I barely had enough time to shower and change at the hotel before going to the firm's office building for an eight o'clock meeting. Thank God for the Starbucks around the corner. If there was ever a day to get an extra shot of espresso, this was it. I wasn't the biggest fan of coffee; I generally preferred my caffeine cold, but there were times paying the four bucks was necessary.

Miriam, the secretary for the man I was meeting, let me tap into Nash Equity's wireless network so I could do some work while waiting. Good thing, too, because the office behind her was still empty at ten after eight. Every ding of the elevator got my attention, and I would look up to see a group of consultants getting off laughing with each other, heading to their respective offices and cubes. With what Alan told me the consultants were making from our acquisition, I'd be smiling and laughing too, all the way to the bank. Enough so, you'd think, that Edward Valenti-Kirby would be on time.

At eight forty-five a lanky, good looking, black haired man in his early thirties stalked past Miriam with his hands full of briefcase and coffee. He grunted at her, and my jaw dropped in surprise. I was expecting Mr. Valenti-Kirby to be my parents age, stuffy, and, well, balding and overweight. I wasn't expecting to want to see how he looked underneath the expensive suit. Sure, the Armani looked custom-tailored to his broad shoulders and trim waist. But what exactly was below that led to that amazing lay of the fabric on his backside? Mr. Valenti-Kirby slammed the door behind him using the heel of his foot, shutting off my view of his rear. I winced at Miriam.

"That's him?"

"Yes, poor dear. The New York News list came out today, and it has rather upset him." I nodded in faked understanding, then went off to Google what was wrong.

What was 'wrong' was that Mr. Valenti-Kirby had made the top ten eligible bachelors in New York City. Huh. Sucks to be him.

"Send her in," he shouted through the door.

Sucks to be me.

I slid my laptop back into the faux-leather case and gave Miriam a shaky smile as I passed her.

"You'll be fine," she whispered, giving my arm a squeeze with her strong typing fingers.

"Good morning, sir, I'm Schroeder Kelly." I shook his outstretched hand, and was pleased to see a slight grin cock one side of his mouth. "Go right ahead, I know it's tempting."

"Did you bring your piano with you?"

"I have a piano app on my iPhone, if that counts."

"Good enough." A smile stretched across his face, showing adorable dimples and deep laugh lines around his eyes. I imagined kissing them -- whoa, where did that come from? Be professional, Schroeder.

Flustered, I took a seat across from him, and started pulling documents out of my case.

“You had a pleasant flight in, I trust?” He asked, making small talk as I prepared my presentation.

My eyes wavered and betrayed me – he looked at me curiously. It was just an innocent question; why did I have to be so transparent around cute guys? “It wasn't great,” I admitted.

“No?” He sounded surprised.

My honesty seemed to shake him out of the foul mood he arrived in, and I really wanted to see him more relaxed, so I explained, against my own better judgment. “Storm delays. Weather this time of year in Dallas is terrible – you heard of the tornadoes a few weeks ago, right? We have a line of severe thunderstorms come through at least once a week. There was fair sized hail last night, and ended up with a bunch of canceled flights, including mine. I didn't get into the City until five this morning.”

“Would you like to come back later today? Rest a bit?” Politeness? Consideration? That was the last thing I expected my technical consultant to offer. Alan had led me to believe Mr. Valenti-Kirby wouldn't care less about my personal feelings, that I'd be more apt to be raked over the coals if it was known I was tired. Heaven knew Alan did that to me, looking for weakness. And Valenti-Kirby would be searching for where we were lacking on the due diligence.

“No. Thank you, though,” I responded quickly. “Now, Alan said you wanted to go over the resumes of the technical personnel. I have them all with me, and can give you details of what exactly their roles at the company are. Let's begin with Alan...”

* * *

“Why did I tell him the flight stunk?” I bemoaned to the mirror image in the restroom two hours later. “Alan told me to be honest about the business, but that didn't mean I had to tell everything about everything else.” Yes it did, my conscience told me. You don't like lying. And now hopefully he'll keep in consideration that you're exhausted, and give you a pass on anything he might have grilled you on previously. I took a deep breath, pasted a professional smile back on my face, and headed back into the office.

In my absence, Mr. Valenti-Kirby had taken his jacket off and moved to the couch. Papers were laid out on the coffee table in front of him, and I automatically went to join him on the matte brown leather.

“That's what Kinerian is buying. That's my team's work for the last five years, and what has made Innovative Design, Inc. a multi-million dollar company while so many other online companies are going under.” I reached out and grabbed a small stack of code. “This is one of the supporting applications that Gavin wrote.” I proceeded to outline what the code was doing, trying not to notice how warm his knee was where it touched my thigh.

Going through Gavin's code alone took an hour. Mr. Valenti-Kirby looked at his watch (an expensive Tag-Heuer) and frowned at the papers. I didn't think I could handle having that intense look at me, so I was glad it was the code and not me getting his ire back up. “This is going to take more time than I have allotted. Tell you what, leave these with me, and come back at four. I'll have any questions prepared for you, and then you can give me the next song and dance your bosses wanted you to do.”

I froze. “Sir?”

“You know it and I know it,” he said bluntly. “It's all a game. My job is just to referee it. And stop calling me sir.”

“As you wish, Mr. Valenti-Kirby.” Where the hell did I go wrong? I mentally reviewed everything I had told him, and couldn't figure out where I misstepped. It was code, for crying out loud. This guy supposedly had programming knowledge, and wanted to go over the details. If I was boring him, it was his own fault. He seemed interested in what I was saying, though. Or at least, interested in watching me talk. Maybe he should have paid more attention to the code than to me. Alan was going to kill me if this went south. Fire me at least. I gathered my laptop, leaving the rest of the papers with him. “See you this afternoon.”

As much as I wanted to see the town, what I wanted most at this point was a few hours of sleep. After scarfing down a quick hot dog from a food cart, I headed back to the hotel. The Econo Lodge in downtown Manhattan was a step up from Econo Lodge's along freeways, yet still in my company's price range. IDI didn't get profitable by spending it all on frivolous expenditures. The room was clean, and the bed was comfortable; that was all I needed. I didn't care that the room was barely bigger than the bed. The neighborhood was safe, Times Square was a few blocks in one direction, Nash Equity equidistant the other, and that in and of itself was enough for me.

I returned promptly at four, refreshed from my nap, and this time Mr. Valenti-Kirby was ready and waiting. “I don't understand why Josh writes his code this way,” he started, and we were instantly back in shop talk.

He had rolled his sleeves up at some point in the afternoon, and I tried not to stare at the muscular forearms. Good lord, was the rest of him like that?

“I'm sorry, what was that?” I blushed as he repeated his question. My fair skin always made the blush more pronounced, and I flushed more realizing he would notice my distraction. I tucked a stray piece of hair behind an ear and tried to focus.

“Going out on the town tonight?”

“Working,” I answered, embarrassed yet again to admit it. “Finishing off a new website so that it can launch tomorrow.”

“Can't Josh finish it off?”

Oh crap, now I stepped into it. I chose my words with care. “I've been the creative talent behind the project so far, and I know what's left to be done. I can finish it in a few hours tonight.”

“How long would it take him to finish?” He asked pointedly.

“Josh is a great programmer--”

“I'm not debating that. His job is not under question. How long would he take?”

Damn honesty. “Several days, most likely. He'd have to review to figure out what the scope of the project was, then see how far I got, then he could do the rest of the code.” Maybe, I added internally.

“And his code is drastically different from yours,” Mr. Valenti-Kirby gestured at the coffee table.

“We have different approaches.” There, that was smoothly spoken.

“And you're a quicker coder.”

“I have five more years of coding experience, and four more years working at the company than Josh. It's natural that I may have a better feel for things at this point.”

“Face it,” he told me, tossing the papers in his hand onto the table. “You are the tech department. I can see it in the code, and the fact that they sent you here. Well?”

I had nothing to say in response. Yeah, he was right, but I didn't think IDI would appreciate me saying so. “Sir, I'm not sure--”

“You're fine. No worries. You can report back to your boss that things are going well. See you at nine?”

I agreed, and fled. For someone so cute when he smiled, and nice when he tried to be, he was very intense.

* * *

Mr. Valenti-Kirby (it was getting annoying calling him that – how pretentious!) smiled at me as I entered Nash Equity's offices the next morning. I got a good night's sleep after scouring the Internet for articles on Mr. Bachelor. Single, obviously, and to say that he was the most attractive man in IT wasn't doing him justice. The lawyers, doctors, and firefighters making up the rest of the top 10 paled in comparison. And well off was an understatement. He had done well in the dot-com boom, leading a small startup to a multi-million dollar buyout. The fact that he was still single was astonishing. While he had been a bit gruff at times to me, there was a definite attraction. The gruffness almost made the glimmers of his (hopefully true) personality shine that much more. If yesterday was him on a bad day, I'd swoon to be near him on a good day. Women had to be throwing themselves at him.

“Good morning, Mr. Valenti-Kirby.”

“Please, call me Eddie. After all, I'm calling you Schroeder.”

“Okay, Eddie.” I said, emphasizing the nickname, and was glad for the reduced formality.

"You want some coffee?"

No, what I want is a Coke, but that's not socially acceptable. Damn Juan Valdez and his morning caffeine monopoly. "Yes, please."

"Let's go," he said brusquely, and led the way out of the office. Great, gruff Eddie again. Maybe this was him normally? I expected to be shown where the break room was, but instead we got on the elevator.

In line at Starbucks, I debated whether to go back and get my purse, not get anything to drink, or mooch off of Eddie. I was still debating when the barista asked about my drink choice.

"Nothing, I forgot my purse."

An amused look crossed Eddie's face. "No problem. My treat."

I glanced at the menu, and ordered the same drink as yesterday. This way I could blame my pounding heart on the caffeine and not Eddie's proximity.

"So are you enjoying New York? Have you been here before?"

"I did the touristy thing with the folks when I was a kid. Never been here as an adult, though." I mentally kicked myself for saying 'kid', instead of a more formal and professional 'child'. Even though I could call him “Eddie” doesn't mean that I needed to lose my professional small talk cred. Although I may have lost that the first time Eddie flashed his wide grin at me.

"Are you seeing everything you'd like?" He repeated.

"I was hoping to catch a show, actually. I was going to do the whole TKTS experience either later today or tomorrow, see what sort of shows I can get into."

"Broadway fan?"

"Huge," I confessed, letting my inner Gleek out. "The other guys in IT listen to their rock or alternative music on their headphones, and I'm listening to show tunes."

Eddie crinkled his eyes at me. Swoon. "Miriam's caught me listening to them as well." Double swoon.

"Look, it's Edward Valenti-Kirby!" Eddie stiffened as he was recognized.

"Your adoring fans?" I teased without thinking, a hand flying up to cover my mouth as soon as the faux-paus crossed my lips. "I'm sorry, that was terribly inappropriate."

"Inappropriate was that article," he responded grimly, getting up to sign the napkins the teenage girls thrust in his hands.

Ah, what the Hell, I told myself while waiting for Eddie to finish. "If you don't mind me asking, what's the problem? You're young, successful, and handsome, to state the obvious." I bit my lip, hoping I wasn't going too far.

"It makes me feel like a bull put out for stud. Or a horse up for sale."

"So take yourself off the market.”

"You offering?"

I choked on the coffee, the hot liquid scalding the roof of my mouth. "So, how about that source code?"

He looked abashed. "I'm sorry, now that was inappropriate. An attractive young woman like you would have to be married. I do have to know, though -- is his name Lucy?" His eyes sparkled as he couldn't help teasing.

“Yes, I married Lucifer.” I paused for the normal look of horror. Do people really think I don't hear this often? I learned good retorts by the time I graduated kindergarten. "No, I'm not married." I waved my ring-less hand in the air. "The hours I put in at the office, or working from home, plus a non-standard woman's job tends to send the guys running."

"I hear ya."

We finished our coffee in companionable silence, and headed back. Eddie gestured for me to go on into his office, and stopped to talk to Miriam. I strained to hear, but had no luck. Was he talking about me? Asking her to get us coffee next time? Asking her to move up my flight? Telling her to hold his calls, that he was going to ravish me behind the closed doors? I sighed. My mind was much better suited to innovative leaps in code logic, not deducing the thoughts of a man.

Eddie and I wrapped up going over the IT due diligence documentation in early afternoon, plenty of time for me to go back to the hotel and freshen up before standing in line at the TKTS booth for discount show tickets.

“It was a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Eligible Bachelor.” I had to get one last tease in before I left. “Sir.” I tacked on for good measure.

He grinned back at me, his eyes showing their crinkles yet again. Good thing I was leaving; otherwise I'd be swooning for real. “Thank you for coming. I'm sure I'll see you again soon.”

I lifted an eyebrow, but said nothing. I was too busy imagining him naked.

Back at the hotel, I dropped off my laptop and changed into jeans and a t-shirt, and noticed the message light blinking on the phone. That was odd. Everyone should have been calling my cell. I called down for the message, and went downstairs to pick up the delivery waiting for me.

“What'd I get?” I bounced on my heels, peering over the high counter to see what the package was. I was almost disappointed when the clerk returned with a plain white envelope. I tore into it to find a ticket to West Side Story for that evening, orchestra row F, seat 107.

“Holy good seats, Batman!” I squealed. I turned the envelope over, but there were no markings. “Who delivered this?”

The clerk shook his head. “Just a delivery service, no name.”

Well, it could be Mom and Dad. They knew I was here, and had been known to do similar things in the past. When I went on a company cruise, they had made sure I had a cheese plate and bottle of wine waiting in the room. Of course, it could have been IDI, as well – they also had left a bottle of wine in the room on the same cruise (I was very drunk that trip). Yes, I decided, it must be from the company, for thanks for going the extra mile and helping with the acquisition. There's a first for everything.

Since I didn't have to buy my own ticket (and seeing the price stamped on the piece of cardboard, that was quite some savings), I had just enough time to go out and get a new dress for the night. Maybe even one that I wouldn't normally own, or wear. Most of my clothes were suitable for the office or lounging about at home, and even the office attire was more business casual than dressy. I flirted with the idea of even expensing the dress as I slid them around on racks at Macy's, but ended up paying for it myself.

I was quite pleased with the end result. Everyone had always told me that red was a great color for my skin tone and hair, but my personality was one to hide in the IT cave, and not bring attention to myself. This dress was the opposite. The fit flattered my larger-than-average curves, and I liked to think that the high heels (a departure from my usual sandals) emphasized my long legs. The bodice of the dress was clingy in all the right places, and scooped down enough to make me feel self conscious, but not too low to feel slutty. The hemline for the full skirt hit right below the knees, and flowed nicely around me when I twirled. Not that I'd be twirling at the theater, but it was still a fun dress. And red. Sexy 'I'm a woman' red.

I passed Sephora on the way back from Macy's, and gave into temptation. The sales girls there helped me get lipstick to complement the dress, and a light powder to even my complexion. That was more makeup than I normally wore, but I could handle it this night. I was going to the theater, and had a great seat. Might as well look the part.

As usual, I was early for the show. I didn't mind. After spending several minutes looking around the Gershwin theater, I made my way to my seat to read the Playbill. I glanced around the theater a few times after the lights dimmed the first time, watching it fill up with hundreds of theatergoers, loving my seat. The view was going to be spectacular.

“Pardon me, I believe I'm in the seat next to you.” I automatically moved my legs to the side to let the gentleman pass, then recognition of the voice dawned.

“You!” I spluttered.

“Me,” Eddie replied, a smile stretching across his face.

“You--”

“Quiet, the show's about to begin,” he cut me off as the lights turned down.

* * *

I got up and stretched at intermission, and waited for the other people on our row to leave. “Excuse me for a moment, I need to slip out to the ladies' room.”

“Can I get you something to drink? Glass of wine?”

I hesitated, then agreed. “White, please.”

When I returned, Eddie handed me the glass, and leaned back against the row in front. “Having fun?”

“You know, most guys that want to go on a date, actually ask.” I couldn't believe I said that, but things were weird. He bought me a ticket to a show. He was responsible for evaluating my company's technical future. He was one of the most eligible bachelor's in New York. The most eligible, in my opinion. Edward Valenti-Kirby could not, could not be interested in me.

“I didn't know if you'd say yes.”

“So you forced my hand?” I sipped at my drink, wanting to chug it, surprised I was keeping my cool.

“If you said no, you'd miss out on seeing West Side Story. It closes in a few months, and you'd regret not going. I was looking out for you.”

“Next time ask,” I said, and sat down, instantly regretting it as his eyes went right down my dress.

“I have two tickets to Romeo and Juliet tomorrow night. They are not as good of seats,” he admitted, “but not bad. Would you like to go to the theater with me?”

“See, that wasn't so hard, was it?” I beamed at him as the lights dimmed and he took his seat again. “And yes, I'd love to.”

Eddie shifted in his seat, and his leg ended up pressed up against mine. I must say, it was quite preferable to the guy in the next seat from the plane ride up here. Why is it that guys must always sprawl their legs out so far? They can't be that well hung, can they? My thoughts drifted to how endowed Eddie was, and I could feel the blood rushing to my face. I closed my eyes and tried to calm my racing heart.

“If you close your eyes, you can't see Maria in her dress. Yours is much prettier.” Eddie leaned over and whispered in my ear.

“If you're watching me instead of the show, you're not seeing it either,” I responded.

He shushed me, and took my hand and rested it on his knee. Now my eyes wanted to close in a swoon. I could hold his hand forever. I settled for the rest of the show.

Since we were in the front of the theater, we went ahead and waited for the majority of the patrons to leave. “Can I show you around town tomorrow? See the sights?”

If he was seriously flirting with me, I was going to flirt right on back. I never had to see him after this series of meetings. Once the buyout was through, I'd never hear from him again. Why not just relax, and be me? Have fun, and for once, see what the hoopla was about with a guy? “Spend some time together?”

“That too.” He cocked a grin.

I smiled back. “That'd be fun,” I said, and meant it.
Ready for more?