She was a full partner at Russ and Ogden. There were four of them and they’d started the company together; built an empire from the ground up. She was the only woman executive in said empire, and a lot of the weight and stress of the company fell onto her shoulders. The business plan had been her idea and she recruited the other three from the brokerage firm they had been working in. It had taken a lot of convincing to get them to walk away from solid money for a new venture that had never been done before—but she had. Russ and Ogden auctioned video ad space in real time. Ads that were tailored to the viewer and therefore more valuable. The sale always went to the highest bidder. They also acquired long term accounts and permanent ad space, but it was the live auctioning that made the job incredibly stressful.
Amber knew she needed an outlet soon or else she’d start drinking heavily or dabbling in drugs to alleviate the pressure. She loved what she did and was proud of the fact that her idea had taken off and flourished. But with great success came more pressure and an endless cycle of scrambling to keep up with the growth. Chase Ogden, her ex-husband had been her main weapon. Sharp as a whip and cutthroat in business. They were perfect partners, both supportive and protective, worked well together and became equally obsessed with getting ahead. Amber started working out like a maniac to compensate for the brain burn and the perpetually fried nerves. Chase said he was working out too, but at a different gym. And by different gym, he meant Scores, where he’d acquired a taste for both strippers and coke. Not the carbonated kind. She didn’t blame him, nor did she hate him. But she couldn’t see him coming back from the direction he’d veered off in. It wasn’t an amicable divorce by any stretch. But Chase had given her the company while he went back into banking. Rightfully so because the business was her brain child. But it was still a little sore, the loss of their strong partnership almost four years later.
“Amber we go live in five,” her assistant Jerry warned her.
“Thanks. Is the crew queued up?”
“All set,” he said as he clipped her mike pack to the back of her shirt.
Every day she had to go into the lion’s den, the lone female, in a cloud of testosterone and privilege, not so coded misogyny and sexism. She should have worn the red shoes.
She could pee in five minutes if she ran for the restroom. Two green teas in the morning, a diet Coke, and a Macchiato had her bladder on overdrive. Once they were locked in the wired board room to do the live auctions, they couldn’t discreetly leave—the place was on lockdown. She bee-lined for the women’s right across from her office. Ignored the janitor’s sign and zipped into a stall while they were cleaning another one. She peed and practiced deep breathing on the toilet. She had a garter holding up her black seamed silk stockings. Her heels were shiny and black, four inches with a small bow detail on the back. Amber spent a lot of her money on clothes—to her they were armor. She came out of the stall talking out loud to herself. Positive affirmations were part of her self-therapy to get through the high stress.
“It might be a lion’s den, but you are a tigress! Your claws are longer and you have the gift of intuition. Those pigs have nothing on you!” she growled. “You can fuck them up. You always do. Don’t blow this.” She mantra-ed to herself. She flexed her fingers like claws and growled a little just for extra oomph to get herself going. The tight skirt she chose was jacked up over the garter and she couldn’t pull it down. Amber could feel her ass hanging out in the breeze. What if she couldn’t fix it in five? She messed it up more when panic set in. Her body froze instinctually when she heard someone clear their throat behind her.
Please be that one sweet lady Lourdes, please? She silently prayed. She turned around in slow motion hands covering her ass, only to gaze straight into the sexy, smoky eyes of one Fit_and_Full_Frankie, holding a mop and smiling at her with that mega-watt jaw dropper.
“Oh God!” She said out loud and covered her face. “Shit!” She exclaimed and then dropped her hands back to her ass that was in plain view thanks to the wall of mirrors behind her.
“That was probably the best pre-show pep talk I’ve ever heard,” he told her. The guy leaned his mop up against the wall and stepped over in her direction.
“I’m so fucking embarrassed and I think I’m stuck. I go on in,” she glanced at her watch, “fuck. I go on in thirty seconds.”
“Here, let me. Close your eyes so you don’t feel embarrassed. I’ve seen these before and I think I know how they work. Also, I have a sister and up until recently, she was my roommate. So I know about ladies and lingerie and I’ll be discreet.”
His fingers were touching her before she could refuse, which she really couldn’t, because her partners would fuck up the auction without her there to help. She cringed at his touch, expecting to be humiliated or feel violated or all the other things that scared her to death. But Frankie’s touch was a surprise, because he was gentle, careful, and surprisingly, not remotely sexual. He untwisted the garter with attentive and warm fingertips. She could smell his cologne and that terrible industrial strength cleaner. He lifted the garter a little farther up her thigh, his touched spreading a plain of gooseflesh all over her body like wildfire. She swallowed and pulled her skirt back over her rear end. It was admittedly tight and she had to shimmy it back and forth in order for the fabric to accommodate her generous curves. She kept her eyes closed because if she were to open them, she’d be too close to his face, which in turn would provoke an acute memory of what she did to herself just last night while staring at his picture.
“You’ve got ten seconds. You’re good, you can make it,” Frankie told her brightly. He was earnest, and he was kind. Honestly, she felt confused by his chivalry. She was used to the guys she worked with who were all swine in Armani. It wasn’t a diss, those guys would be the first to admit it.
“Oh God, you’re a-” She was at a loss for what to call him. A good friend? A nice person? Gay? Totally not into her at all?
“A gentleman. You’re such a gentleman.”
She ran for the board room before she could get herself in any more trouble.