It was only day two, but I already loved my new job. It had rekindled something inside of me that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I hadn’t even realized it was missing until now. Passion. I couldn’t wait to go to work when I woke up this morning. I’d been there at one point with my previous job, but where had that feeling gone? Parker Industries made me feel alive again.
I’d spent all morning in a marketing think tank session listening to the group come up with ideas. These people fed off of each other—building off each other’s thoughts to come up with the best single idea, rather than competing with one another. Since I was new, I listened more than I spoke.
We’d returned from lunch, and Josh was standing at the whiteboard, scribbling random words that people called out, when Chase slipped into the back of the room. He stood quietly, observing. Feeling his eyes on me, I glanced back a few times, and his gaze was always waiting for mine.
There were two empty seats in the room. One was next to me. After a few minutes, Chase silently walked up the side of the room and slipped into the seat to my right. We exchanged a sidelong glance, and then Josh stepped away from what he’d been writing and cleared his throat.
What do women want? he’d written on the whiteboard in big, black letters.
“Before we get started again this afternoon, let’s talk about the things we know.” He counted off facts with his fingers, beginning with his pointer: “One, our customers are ninety-six percent women. Two, women’s buying habits are different than men’s. Three, ninety-one percent of women in the survey we did last year said advertisers don’t understand them.” He ticked up his pinky as he started his fourth point. “Four, men shop for their needs. Women shop for their wants.” Then he tapped on the board. “What do women want? If we’re going to sell them a product, let’s start at the very beginning.”
He pointed to easels set up on both sides of the room. “We’re going to split up into two teams. There are two whiteboards. Let’s make this interesting, shall we? All the women work together on the right side of the room, and all the men work together on the left. I want a minimum of five wants on each of your lists. More is fine. I’ll be the scrivener for the men.” He looked to Chase, who offered a single nod. “Chase will be the scrivener for the women.”
Chase leaned over to me and whispered, “You smell incredible—like the beach in the summer.” He breathed in deep through his nose. “Coconut, maybe some honeysuckle, mixed with a little citrus.”
I shook my head, but whispered back, “Thank you.” Then I pointed to my watch. “Inappropriate during the work day.”
“Oh yeah? Adrien Brody needs a raise. I’m about to get a roadmap into what makes you tick, and I get to call it actual work. Love this job sometimes.”
After the room had been rearranged and everyone was comfortable in their new seats, Chase suggested each woman take five minutes to make her own list, and then we could see what the group collectively came up with. He tried to peek at mine a few times, but I covered my notepad and grinned. After everyone’s pens had slowed, Chase stood, swiped the marker from the tray, opened it, and scribbled What women want with a thick slash underlining it.
“Of course, I already know the answer to this one, but since I’m the facilitator, I’ll let you ladies take your best shot.” He smiled playfully, and there was that damn dimple again.
Go away! You’re like kryptonite to my brain.
At first, the wants being tossed around were typical—money, love, security, adventure, health, beauty, fun, simplicity. The ladies in the group argued over a few, but most of their note pages were full of crossouts that we’d listed on the whiteboard or disregarded. I was mostly quiet, and my list still had a few items not already mentioned. Chase looked over and tried to read my list upside down.
“What do you want, Reese? Anything left on your list?”
I nibbled on my bottom lip as I looked down at my notepad. “Recognition, safety, power, family.” Checking off as I went, I found one left. I hesitated, but then looked up and said, “Orgasms.”
Pointing to love on the whiteboard, Chase asked, “Are orgasms not covered here?”
I tilted my head. “The two aren’t mutually inclusive to most women, believe it or not.”
“Fair enough.” Chase added orgasms to our list. Of course, he made it twice the size of the other wants. He also added family, safety, and recognition to the list. “Power? What does that mean? As in strength?”
“No, meaning the ability to influence the behavior of others.”
“In order for you to have power, you need to strip it from the others you’re going to influence? So you want to be a dictator? Women want to be dictators?”
“No. You’re taking the concept of power to an extreme. A dictator rules by force and oppression. Women want to rule by influence. We like a softer touch.”
“I don’t think women want the power in everything.”
Abbey, one of the brand managers, cackled at Chase’s statement. “That’s because you’re a man.”
“Our goal is to get to the root of what women want so we can connect our product to that want. So let’s be honest with ourselves. There are times when a woman wants to cede control to a man.” Chase pointed to the big O in orgasm. “In the bedroom. A lot of women like a dominant lover.”
The women mumbled and shook their heads, but I spoke up. “That’s true, but we still want to hold the power there. It’s the woman who decides when it’s time to have sex in a relationship. It’s our influence that controls whether the act happens or not. Even in a true dominant-submissive relationship, when a woman is submissive to her male partner, she still holds the power even as she’s being paddled. She has a safe word, and that gives her all the control. She has the power and influence even from the physically submissive position.”
I was mindlessly twisting one of my bracelets, a nervous habit I had, and when I looked up, I found Chase staring at my wrists. He cleared his throat and capped the marker abruptly.
“Good work, everyone. I think our list is complete. Gotta run to an afternoon appointment. I’m looking forward to seeing which want will be the center of our rebranding campaign.”
It was after eight, and the night cleaning crew was vacuuming, so I didn’t hear Chase coming down the hall until he was in my doorway.
“Fourteen hours a day. You’re even making me look bad.”
He had changed out of his suit and into running shorts and a T-shirt.
God, his thighs are thick and muscular.
I had my hair piled up on top of my head, a bunch of pencils sticking out of it. I caught the quizzical look on Chase’s face as he examined it. “I forgot a hair tie. By the end of the day, I need my hair off my neck.”
Chase’s eyes traced my neckline. I felt a flutter in my belly at the way he seemed to be unable to stop staring.
“So what was the consensus today?” he asked. “The strategy for the rebranding campaign? What does a woman want?”
“We’re not there yet. We’ve narrowed it down to three, and we’re going to map out ideas for them and see which takes us in the right direction.”
“Power, adventure, and orgasms.”
“Well, we know those three combined did well for those Fifty Shades books.”
“This is true.”
He tilted his head. “You read those?”
“Loved them. Women love a fantasy.”
His eyes never left mine. “It’s after business hours, right?”
I looked down at my watch. “I’d say so.”
“You into that sort of thing?”
The color on my face answered the question. I avoided meeting his gaze as I stared down, twisting my bracelet. “I don’t think so. But I’ve never actually tried it.”
Forcing my eyes up to his, I asked, “How about you?”
“Not something I ever gave any thought to myself. But I could see the appeal of tying a woman up, having her vulnerable before me—a certain element of power for both people, in a way.”
His eyes fell to my throat when I swallowed.
“Maybe seeing my pink hand mark on her pale skin…on her ass, the inside of her thighs…” He paused, staring at my wrists. “Bound, a blindfold, maybe a toy or two.”
“Thought you said you never gave any thought to it?”
“I didn’t.” He waited until our eyes locked. “Until today. Didn’t get shit done thinking about your tiny little wrists and how much I look forward to seeing them tied to my headboard someday.”
Just then, my cell started to buzz. I looked down, seeing the name, and my eyes flicked back and forth between Chase and my iPhone. He wasn’t going to give me any privacy.
“Excuse me one second.” I swiped and answered. “Hello?…Yes, I’m almost done. Why don’t I meet you there?…Okay. See you in a half hour.”
“I’m meeting Bryant for drinks.”
Chase’s jaw tightened. He nodded. “Have a good night, Buttercup.”