Home > Right Where I Want You(9)

Right Where I Want You(9)
Jessica Hawkins

“That’s because I’ve perfected my ability to hide them.” She laughed. “Or you just aren’t looking hard enough.”

I’d never heard a woman laugh about extra weight before. If Georgina thought she was up five pounds, most likely they were located in her northern region. As in, her cup filleth over. As in, she had big tits for such a small girl.

The flirt in me was about to suggest she take off her clothes so I could check for any other insecurities—such as ill-fitting undergarments or stretch marks, both of which I doubted existed—but I bit my tongue. Now that I knew the situation, there was only one thing I wanted less than to be interested in her, and that was her thinking I might be.

“And no, you cannot check the fit of my bra,” she said, calling my eyes back up to her face.

Christ. Not only had she read my mind, and stolen my comeback, but she’d caught me looking. Again. I couldn’t resist. With attractive women, flirting was a reflex, like fist bumping after a soccer goal, taking a shot placed in front of me, or tearing up during Titanic.

Yet, with our conversation, the tension in the room alleviated a little. Our easy banter reminded me of how I was with Justin or the guys on my team, but I couldn’t forget how Georgina had shown her true colors earlier at the café—and I wasn’t talking about her hair.

5

Sebastian

“Should we get started?” Georgina asked. Seated on my office couch, she’d returned to searching her box for the state of Rhode Island or whatever else she was storing in there.

I looked down at the simple yellow legal pad on my otherwise tidy desk. I’d already started. Without her. Because this was my job and my office. “Be my guest.”

“I thought we could call a meeting with your—our team. This morning was a good overview, but I want to get into the nitty gritty. Come up with a strategy.”

“We meet after lunch.”

“Well, let’s try things differently today.” She brought her laptop over, pulling up a chair to the opposite side of my desk. “I just want to let them know where we stand.”

I sat back. “Where do we stand?”

“That’s what we’re going to figure out.” She opened her laptop and tried to power it on before returning to the box. “Hmm, strange. I could’ve sworn I packed my charger. I’ll just have to do it old school.”

After what felt like ten minutes of her sifting through more things, and then her purse, and then a tote bag, even I was exhausted. “Need something to write on?” I asked.

“Yes, please.” She came back, smiled sweetly, and took the spiral bound pad and pen I offered. Instead of sitting, she switched off the overhead light and raised the blinds the last few inches. “Do you mind? I can’t stand artificial light during the day.”

I followed her with my eyes as she returned. “Sure.”

“Thanks.” She shoved more gummy bears in her mouth and began to pace. “What did you think about what I said this morning?”

I set my elbows on the desk, lacing my fingers in front of my face, and tried to think of a diplomatic response. “I thought it was bullshit.”

I’d climbed every rung of my career ladder. I’d spent enough years kissing ass and kowtowing to rich kids to get here. Why was I still biting my tongue? So I could end up taking direction from an amateur?

She stopped walking and glanced up from the notepad. I waited for her reaction, hoping she wouldn’t rat me out to Vance, or worse—cry again. Women’s tears made me think of my mom and sister and the payback I’d exact on anyone who made them cry. Had my morning been different, and my job hadn’t been at stake, I would’ve gone after Georgina earlier to apologize.

She smiled. “Thank you.”

“Why are you thanking me?”

“I work best with people who are direct. I have no time for men who think they might hurt my feelings.” She resumed pacing, making a note on her pad as she rushed out, “By the way, this morning was out of character for me, and I assure you it won’t happen again. That’s why I wanted to apologize.”

I lowered my hands from my face but remained wary. Was this like the time one of our editorial models had told me she was okay with no-strings-attached sex a month before my doorman had caught her graffitiing my front door while I’d been on a date with another woman?

“So which part exactly did you think was bull?” she asked before I could respond.

“There were a few things.” I leaned in as if to tell her a secret. “But mostly, we’re not a women’s magazine.”

“I never said you were.”

“So why would we market to them? Our female demographic is low because they’re not the heart of this magazine. Can’t win ’em all, know what I mean?”

“Mr. Quinn—Sebastian?”

I refrained from rolling my eyes. We’d already discussed breasts and stretch marks. She’d accused me of being entitled, and I’d called her an imposition. We’d blown right by formalities before we’d even officially met. I nodded for her to continue.

“Who do you think buys magazines? I’ve looked over MM’s reports, and for the website, focusing largely on the male readership makes sense. Men mostly browse and make purchases online. They subscribe to the magazine, and typically, we have them for life after that because they’re too lazy to unsubscribe.”

“You mean the magazine’s too good to unsubscribe from.”

“But the decline in print sales could set a distressing trend, and it’ll impact advertisers’ budgets,” she said, ignoring me. “Women are generally the ones out shopping and spending money during the day—grocery stores, malls, bookstores.”

“You’re not.”

She pulled back a little, her mouth opening. “That’s because I—”

“Don’t you think you’re generalizing a bit? And, on top of that, you’re not describing the modern-day woman.”

“Show me your research.”

“It’s sitting right in front of me. You’re a woman in our target age range. I don’t see you out shopping on a weekday, keeping house for your man.”

“That isn’t what I—come on, Sebastian. I didn’t pull this out of my ass. My research is based on facts.” She returned to the desk for more candy as she fixed her eyes on me. Their crystal-clear lime color was unusual, yes, and a little distracting, but I was a goddamn professional. I’d get past that. “In the United States,” she said, “and definitely outside of New York, women are still the primary sex frequenting places magazines are sold. When that data shows something different, we’ll have a different conversation.”

She shoveled more gummies into her mouth and stepped out of her heels, which probably put us about eye level now considering I was seated. I narrowed my eyes as she resumed walking around the room. She could show me a graph indicating women were responsible for a hundred percent of consumer spending for their households, and I still wouldn’t admit defeat. Not after a few measly hours with her. “What about single men?”

“I’m not looking for either-or. I want all relevant demographics. Over forty percent of your readers are married.” She hummed to herself as she chewed and swallowed, then scribbled on her pad. “Why are they reading about how to pick up women? Maybe they still like to surprise their wives.”

“If we start writing articles and choosing layouts with women in mind, then we’re a women’s magazine. We’ll lose all brand recognition.”

“I agree.” She stopped at my window overlooking Eighth Avenue. “I’m not after that reader, but there are subtle tweaks we can make to appeal to women, too. Like you said, we’re going after modern women. The ones who’re tired of reading about the latest nail polish trend or impossible-to-achieve sex positions. The woman who—”

“Impossible to achieve?” I asked, unable to help the rising corner of my mouth. “Show me your research.”

She came and sat down, rolling her eyes. “I’m just saying, when you print an article on the same topic every month, you’re bound to get a little too creative. Do you honestly think the Double-Fisted Flying Squirrel is doable?”

At the same moment my mouth fell open, my dick twitched. And the scary part was, I wasn’t even sure why. There was nothing sexy about squirrels, but I liked the way her mouth curved when she talked about sex positions. “The what?”

“That’s nothing compared to the Upside Down Double-Fisted Flying Squirrel,” she added. “You’d have to be a member of Cirque du Soleil to pull that off.”

This was about the last conversation I’d expected to be having this morning. I’d been counting on steamrolling some middle-aged man by Friday. I openly gaped at her. “Are you making this up?”

“We’re getting off track. What I’m trying to say is, there are women out there who want to read about sports or who’d love to learn how to brew their own beer. So why aren’t they?”

“They are.” My sister got Modern Man every month, but was that only because of me? I visited her and her husband in the Boston suburbs as much as I could, and they rarely got into specifics about the issues. Libby wasn’t our target audience at all. She ran her own clothing boutique and had a double-wide stroller with kids to put in it. Her clothing staples included expensive leather flats, cardigans, and pearls, and she had a standing appointment for a blowout every week. While I’d been at baseball practice as a kid, she’d “cleaned” houses with our mother as an excuse to spy on rich kids’ violin lessons or tea parties or etiquette classes. I wondered for the first time if she actually enjoyed the articles we printed, or if she’d just been indulging me all this time.

“I have lots of female friends who read the mag,” I said, “and I’ve heard no complaints.”

“You’re not talking to the ones who don’t read it. They pass over Modern Man because they don’t know what we have to offer. Because we aren’t marketing to them. Because we openly insult them.”

Her eyes flickered away with that last part. What she meant was that I had openly insulted them, or at least, I was catching all the heat for it. I drummed my fingers on my desk. “I see your point.”

Her perfect posture eased. “You do?”

“Yes, but I still don’t know what you’re suggesting. That we print bylines in script font? Incorporate pink onto the cover? Host a bake sale?”

Her jaw ticked. Finally, we were getting somewhere. She’d been way too cool about all of this when she secretly wanted to tell me to fuck off the way she more or less had that morning.

“Did you hear a word I just said?” she asked. “This isn’t the fifties, and I’m not trying to turn you into a chick lit rag.”

Justin strolled in wearing a shit-eating grin, but that was nothing unusual. It was his default expression. “What’s for lunch?” he asked before he spotted Georgina.

“Lunch?” she asked, checking her watch. “It’s barely eleven.”

Justin maneuvered around her boxes and flopped onto the couch. He put an arm along the back. “Yeah, but we need to brainstorm about what we’re going to eat, and that can take up to an hour.”

“Is that so?” Georgina asked, pursing her lips. “Sounds productive.”

I sliced a finger across my neck to get Justin to shut the fuck up. He always knew exactly how to make things worse. “Give us a minute, Justin.”

Justin raised his palms. “I’m not even here.”

“You need a crash course on gender stereotyping,” Georgina said, turning back and picking up the conversation as if Justin wasn’t even there. “Honestly, I’d really hoped the sexism rumors were an exaggeration, but I’m starting to think they’re not.”

“You don’t know me,” I said. “Don’t come in here accusing me of things after a few hours. You’re the one implying women do nothing but shop all day.” I loved women. Loved them. If I was sexist against anyone, it would be men—I’d kick Justin to the curb in a second for a beautiful woman, and Justin would do the same to me. Beyond that, I treated the women in my life like queens. Past and present.

“Oh, please. You just suggested we add pink to the cover and call it a day. As if that’s enough to get a woman’s attention—”

“You should listen to him,” Justin chimed in. “If anyone knows how to get a woman’s attention, it’s Seb.”

“Shut up,” I told him before looking back at Georgina. I had no idea if it was Justin’s comment or our arguing, but she’d worked herself into a tizzy. As if she’d just run around the block or escaped to the bathroom for a quickie, her cheeks had gone pink, her eyes narrowed, breathing labored.

What would she look like, pinned against the locked door of the men’s bathroom, legs circling my waist, lacy black bra peeking out from a crisp button-down, hair messy from my hands as she begged me to finish her off?

Fuck!

Why was I thinking about sex? I pushed the fantasy out of my mind . . . even though I had a shameful feeling I’d revisit it later.

“You need an education on gender discrimination, and discrimination in general,” I pointed out. “You assume that because I work here and look the way I do, that I have no consideration for women—”

“Oh my god.” She scoffed. “I mean, wow. In a city of arrogant men with overinflated egos, you really take the cake.”

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