Location: Team Office (Interior) (Morning)
Just at that moment, Noah walked up, carrying a box of personal items.
(That reminds me, I have to go down to Production and get my stuff.)
Noah “Looks like we’re going to be desk buddies. Welcome to the third floor.”
(Yep . . . looks AND charm. I would be in SO much trouble, except I’m pretty sure he’s gay.)
Heroine “Where are you moving in from?”
Noah “Just across the hall. Sales.”
(I can see where he’d do very well there.)
Heroine “How did you like it over there? Pretty high pressure?”
Noah “It’s all high pressure in the rag trade, but I love it.”
Heroine “Any idea what this new department’s all about?”
Noah “I’ve heard a few rumors, but since I’m the one who started most of them . . .”
I laughed out loud at that, drawing attention from the other guys, who were busy at their desks with various tasks, or talking in pairs.
Grabbing my desk phone, I called Wilma, my old boss down in Production to ask if I could come down and pack up my old desk.
Wilma “What a funny coincidence. Watch the elevator.”
Just at that moment, the elevator doors opened and Mike, one of the daytime maintenance guys, came out pushing a dolly.
Wilma “I believe you’ll find what you’re looking for in those boxes.”
Heroine “You are SO sweet, Wilma! Let’s do lunch next week.”
She agreed and we hung up. I thanked Mike and started unpacking what he’d brought me. Noah was already logging into his computer.
After a minute, though, he leaned back in his chair.
Noah “I admired the way you spoke right up in there. It is ridiculous that no one even thought about the gender composition of this new team.”
Not wanting to get any further into the soup on this issue on my first day, I said the most innocuous thing I could think of
[Please select one]
A) “My mouth gets me in trouble sometimes.”
B) “Just stating the obvious.”
C) “Everyone would have thought of it eventually.”
Heroine “My mouth gets me in trouble sometimes.”
Noah “Huh. Such a NICE mouth too. I can’t imagine.”
(Okay, buddy, two can play at that game!)
Heroine “No, you probably can’t.”
Noah “Ummmm. I don’t know. I have a VERY good imagination.”
Heroine “Just stating the obvious.”
Noah “Obvious to YOU, maybe. The rest of us are so used to the bias, we don’t even see it.”
(He’s very good. I don’t know if he’s being sincere or if this is a new tactic for getting into my pants.)
Heroine “Let me guess, you took a Women’s Studies class in college.”
And then, smooth as silk and twice as sexy, he looked at me with those wide, beautiful eyes and said . . .
Noah “Every class was Women’s Studies for me.”
Heroine “Everyone would have thought of it eventually.”
Noah “Now you’re minimizing, which means you want to be left alone . . . or your mother told you not to act smart around men if you want them to like you.”
(She still does, but I ignore her. Don’t I?)
Heroine “Let’s go with the former, just because the latter is too personal to discuss with someone I met fifteen minutes ago.”
Noah “That tells me it’s the latter.”
I suppressed a laugh, but I couldn’t keep the grin off my face. I stopped unpacking for a moment and just looked at him.
(The big brass ones on this guy!)
Heroine “Alistair was absolutely right about you.”
Noah “That’s Alistair’s great gift. Being right about everything. Wonder if he was right about YOU?”
I looked at Noah with a raised eyebrow.
Noah “The Girl Wonder, I think he called you. He’s always fancied himself a bit of a caped crusader for M. Housler, so it makes sense he’d see you as his protégé.”
(Is he serious?)
Heroine “I’d be surprised if Alistair used my name and ‘girl’ in the same sentence . . .
Heroine “ . . . since he seems to be a sophisticated adult male born in the last quarter of the 20th century.”
Noah “Okay, you caught me. He didn’t say that. He did win the betting pool, though.”
Heroine “All right, I’ll bite.”
Noah “I bet you do.”
Heroine “Stop it!”
Noah “None of us knew you at all, since they’ve kept you buried down there in Production . . . “
Noah “. . . so the guys all threw in a few bucks, betting on your . . . proportions.“
I sat back in my chair now, just staring at him.
(They did NOT bet on how I’d LOOK?!)
Noah “They appointed me official fact-finder . . . ”
He pulled a cloth tape measure out of his pocket and grinned it me.
Noah “. . . so I have to take your measurements. It’s not for ME, you understand . . . I have too much respect for women to take a bet like that.”
(He has a great smile. Most guys couldn’t get away with this kind of banter without getting slapped or fired, but he pulls it off without being offensive.)
Heroine “You . . . carry a tape measure?”
Noah “I’m in the fashion business. You never know when you’re going to need to measure someone.”
Heroine “Did I just wander onto the set of that show about the ad business in the Sixties?”
Noah “Yeah. Which one are you: the ambitious-but-plain one, the voluptuous secretary, or the one who marries the boss?”
I spun away from him and tried to get back to work.
Heroine “YOU are a sexual harassment suit waiting to happen.”
Noah “I’m too impatient to wait. Let’s go out this weekend. Paint the town chartreuse. Red is just SO last season.”
Heroine “Y’know, let’s table that thought for . . . forever. You’re funny, but you need to let me work now.”
Noah “You are far too tasty to be this dull all the time, so I’ll just put it down to first day jitters.”
After that, he gave me the space I needed to get focused and work.
About an hour later, Robert called Noah and me into the conference room.
Location: Conference Room (Interior) (Morning)
Robert “Settling in all right?”
Noah “Not at all. She’s resisting my charms.”
Robert “They are far more limited than you imagine, Noah. Please don’t get us sued.”
Heroine “It’s fine, sir. If we were two men, we’d be bantering to establish boundaries and territory, to see if we were going to cooperate or compete.”
Noah “How anthropological of you.”
Robert “I hope you fall on the side of cooperation. A lot’s riding on what you two come up with.”
(What is he saying?)
Robert “Here’s the big secret about this team: there is no secret. Yet.”
Noah “You brought us all here and you don’t have a project for us to work on?”
Robert “In a sense, the team is the project. M. Housler focused on acquisitions for a long time and let our in-house development lag . . . “
Robert “We’ve stopped the slide in recent years, but now to get back on top we need new thinking: new products, new ways of doing things.”
Robert “You six, plus Tim Newell and me, are the Development Team . . . “
Robert “We’re going to brainstorm new product lines and new ways of doing business, flesh them out and bring them to life . . . “
Robert “. . . then hand them over to other departments to run while we start working on the next new thing.”
(This sounds so exciting!)
Robert “The pilot project is a new product line, and you two are my lead-off hitters.”
Robert “[USER_FIRST_NAME], you’ve shown real promise as a creative thinker and Noah has a great sense of the contemporary fashion market . . .”
Robert “I’d like you two to bounce around your best ideas over lunch and pitch the whole team the two best . . . “
Heroine “Wouldn’t it be better if we all brainstormed this together?”
Robert “We assembled the team with different strengths in mind. You two are new product innovators, Francis and Damon are new marketing practices . . . “
Robert “And Hunter and James are what I call my ‘new environment’ boys . . . they’ll be heading up the push to generate new experiences for our customers . . . “
Robert “. . . and Alistair is the numbers man. It’s his job to make sure it all adds up.”
Robert “But we will all bring our expertise to each other’s projects. You just happen to be first to the plate.”
Noah “Is it going to be all-sports-metaphors-all-the-time, Mr. Stierman? Because, frankly . . .”
Heroine “It’ll be fine, Noah. I can translate for you. I speak fluent jock.”
He and Mr. Stierman both looked at me skeptically.
Heroine “Pitcher on the varsity baseball team in high school. We went to the State Championship. Not GIRL’S varsity either. Only woman on the team.”
Noah “You clean up so well!”
Heroine “For a pitcher, I had a decent batting average, Noah, and I still have my bat.”
Mr. Stierman laughed.
Noah “What are you suggesting?”
Robert “She’s suggesting that your head is much bigger target than a baseball. Now, go to lunch on me and come back with two ideas to pitch.”
Noah and I rose to go.
Noah “This word ‘pitch’ I do not understand . . . can you translate?”
Heroine “If these windows opened, I could demonstrate by pitching you out one of them.”
Noah “Ah, I see. It means ‘to threaten with physical violence.’”
We were laughing as we left the room. Mr. Stierman smiled the smile of a manager who sees good team chemistry brewing.
(I hope he’s right. We haven’t actually DONE anything yet.)
Location: Kevin’s Café (Interior) (Afternoon)
On the way to Kevin’s, which wasn’t really a café as much as it was a bistro, Noah and I talked about the difference between the two.
We agreed it was probably a distinction without a difference to most people outside of France . . .
. . . but that bistros usually had menus consisting of something more than salads, soup, and sandwiches.
Heroine “What are you having?”
Noah “Probably a sandwich.”
Heroine “Really? Look at this menu!”
Noah “How about you?”
I perused the menu.
Heroine “Salad for me.”
Noah “Adventurous. I like that.”
He said it with a lilt in his voice and a twinkle in his eye. I had to laugh.
(Every other sentence is flirting with him. Hard to take any of it too seriously.)
Heroine “Any ideas to put on the table?”
Noah “You really want to talk business? There are SO many more interesting things to talk about.”
I gave him a stern look.
Realizing he wasn’t going to get the banter going with me until we’d done our homework, he sat back in his chair and nodded for me to go first.
Heroine “I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of years, but didn’t really have the pull to get it moving . . .”
(I can feel myself getting excited just thinking about this!)
Heroine “. . . I think M. Housler needs to move into wedding couture . . . dresses, tuxedoes. Hand-tailored quality, priced for upper-middle income budgets.”
His eyes lit up.
Noah “Yes! It’s a perfect signature line to sell to our main retail outlets . . . they could build whole departments in their stores . . .”
(I’m glad he likes it . . . but does he like it because he wants to sleep with me or does he LIKE IT like it?)
Heroine “We use a big name designer, but someone who hasn’t doing a wedding line before . . . Anastasi Bliss, maybe, or Miko Kimota . . . “
Noah “Bliss’s all right . . . but Kimota did a wedding line for Gerhardt’s a few seasons ago that flopped.”
Heroine “I’d forgotten that.”
Noah “How about Cordelia Taylor? She’d be PERFECT. Really daring, avant-garde stuff. She’d produce a really innovative line for us!”
Heroine “Oh! I love her stuff! Last year’s fall line was wonderful . . . edgy, but still accessible.”
We talked about it for a few more minutes, more-and-more coming to the conclusion that Cordelia Taylor was our first choice.
(He genuinely seems to like the idea. He’s forgetting to flirt with me.)
Noah “We could do a whole line for Fall and Spring weddings the first year, then Summer and Winter next year . . . “
Heroine “Slow down, Speedy. We haven’t signed her yet. And if we’re going to sign somebody that hot, it’s going to be pricey . . . “
Heroine “. . .which means we’ll need to do market research.”
Noah deflated a bit.
Noah “They’re going to want to use Daniel.”
Heroine “Daniel? You mean Daniel . . . “
Noah “Daniel the Hot Designer. That’s what we call him up in Sales, because he was the flavor-of-the-month when they brought him in-house three years ago.”
Heroine “I heard that his own design house was going under . . . “
Noah “. . . you heard right. But he was still getting a lot of press, and it was considered a big coup for M. Housler to land him. Back then.”
Heroine “And now they justify his contract by throwing everything at him.”
Noah “Yes. And in my opinion, he lost his edge ages ago. Hunter’s better, but Daniel’s showier and, believe it or not, more arrogant than our Mr. Stark.”
(Hard to imagine, but okay.)
Heroine “All right, so we have to get back . . . but Mr. Stierman said he wanted TWO ideas.”
Noah “We’ll talk as we walk. I like yours, but . . . let’s suggest a line of budget-priced fashions and accessories for the tween and teen market?”
Noah “You know, lots of kicky little sandals and pleather belts and bangle-y, dangle-y earrings . . . with hearts . . .”
Heroine “Ick. Oh, did I say that out loud?”
Noah “Exactly. They’ll hate it instantly, and the wedding couture idea will only look more brilliant by comparison.”
Location: Conference Room (Interior) (Afternoon)
And so it went, just as he predicted.
We’d expanded on the second idea on the walk back to the office, so it didn’t sound half-bad . . .
. . . but the response was tepid, at best. Then we hit them with Cordelia Taylor wedding couture and, boom!
Damon “Oh, yes! We can market the HELL out of that!”
Francis “All the wedding magazines will want it for their covers . . . with Cordelia attached, we might even get Talleyfaire!”
Hunter “I love the idea of developing niche departments for the wedding line in collaboration with our bigger retail clients . . . “
James “Gerhardt’s has been looking for something like this since they flopped with Kimota a few years ago.”
Alistair “I am somewhat concerned about costs. Would it not make more sense to use in-house talent . . . “
(And there it is.)
Robert “Well, that’s always been the elephant in the room on these kinds of projects. At least since we brought Daniel in.”
Noah “Yes. The elephant that sits on things until they’re DEAD!”
Everyone laughed. Even Alistair. Apparently, The Hot Designer’s reputation preceded him with this crew.
Robert “Alistair has a point. But the whole idea of this department is to break out of the box and BREATHE . . . “
Robert “. . . so I’m going to take this to Mr. Housler. Pretty sure he’ll back us. But the politics may be tricky, so step carefully.”
The meeting ended on a high note, with everyone jazzed about the idea and Mr. Stierman’s strong show of support for it.
Location: Team Office (Interior) (Afternoon)
Noah kicked back in his chair and put his feet up when we got back to our desks.
Noah “Mission accomplished.”
Heroine “It’s not like we have nothing to do now, Noah.”
Noah “No, we’re good. A day’s work for two day’s pay, that’s my motto. That, and ‘There’s no such thing as bad sex.’”
Heroine “We had lunch and came up with two ideas, one of them so lame we had to put lipstick on it to get it in the door. That isn’t a day’s work in my book . . .“
Heroine “. . . and, even if it were, would NOT be rewarded with sex in any form.”
Heroine “However, I’d like to point out that you spent a whole two hours NOT flirting with me once since we started talking real business, which PROVES . . .”
Noah “Wait. You think that proves I have boundaries?”
[Please select one]
A) “It proves you know what they are, at least.”
B) “I wouldn’t say it PROVES anything.”
C) “Can you let me finish?”
Heroine “It proves you know what they are, at least.”
Noah “Au contraire, Mademoiselle. As we developed your idea, the flirting simply became more intellectual. It was a STIMULATING conversation, after all.”
(I give up.)
Heroine “Whatever helps you sleep at night.”
I said it with a chuckle, so he settled back to work with a smile on his face.
Heroine “I wouldn’t say it PROVES anything. It does suggest you CAN think with your BIG head . . . “
Noah “Hey, hey! Don’t go there. That could be construed as harassment!”
I glared at him. He threw up his hands in the universal male gesture of mocking surrender.
(I should settle for a little peace at this point, but I can’t let him off the hook for the attitude.)
Heroine “Can you let me finish?”
I was really pretty annoyed with him at this point. He must have seen my expression, because he backed off.
(Flirting is fun sometimes, but he’s been at it almost non-stop today!)
Noah “Sorry. I go too far some times.”
After a minute, I sighed and turned to him.
Heroine “Look, Noah . . . I know most of it is in fun and I don’t mind clever banter with a smart guy, but we work together. This isn’t going anywhere . . . “
Heroine “. . . and we need to be able to WORK, not just banter with each other. “
He gave me a relaxed smile, as he turned off his computer and rose from the desk.
Noah “I will keep all that in mind . . . while I’m drinking and dancing at Big Bang tonight.”
As he grabbed his shoulder bag and headed for the elevator, I again found myself amazed at his audacity.
(He’s LEAVING for the day? At three p.m.?)
Noah “See you tomorrow, [USER_FIRST_NAME]. Onward and upward!”