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The Fix Up

By´╝ÜTawna Fenske

Chapter One

“As you can see, this is impressively sturdy.”

The saleswoman smiled at Ben, then turned and presented her backside. Or the hand-carved headboard. Really, it was tough to tell what she was presenting as she leaned across the mattress in a short gray skirt.

Ben wasn’t sure where to direct his gaze, so he settled for looking around the furniture warehouse at endless rows of tables and armoires and bookshelves. This whole shopping trip was baffling. He was exhausted and jet-lagged and not entirely sure what was going on. He’d been in this store less than ten minutes, and already the saleswoman had touched his arm a dozen times.

Normally, a woman being so aggressive might be a welcome surprise for Ben, but this one just didn’t do it for him. Not that she seemed to notice. She subtly raised her backside a little higher for his viewing pleasure.

“You see that?” she said. “That’s quality craftsmanship.”

“Er, yes. Indeed.”

She gripped the slats of the headboard with both hands and gave it a firm shake.

“Notice the sturdiness?” she asked, turning to peer at him over her shoulder. “No jiggling at all. That’s solid wood.”

“Er, yes.” Ben took a step back and folded his hands behind his back. “No jiggling. Oak, is it?”

He swallowed and glanced around, trying to look anywhere but at the pert posterior wiggling in the air. Now wasn’t the time to get distracted. He had a lot of work to do, and none of it involved staring at a sales clerk’s rear end. It was his first week on the job as CEO of Langley Enterprises, and his father had handed him a corporate credit card and instructions to purchase new furniture for Ben’s new “primo office” and “primo penthouse.” His dad’s words, not his. His father’s only requirement for what furniture to buy was “none of that bachelor pad shit you usually get.”

So here he was, doing his best to look like a refined CEO, instead of like a geeky engineer trying not to notice the saleswoman’s ass waving like a flag in front of him. She turned and slithered off the bed, reaching out to touch his arm again.

“You see anything you like so far?”

“Uh, yes,” Ben said, nodding. “That credenza over there is very nice.”

She frowned, then followed the direction he pointed. “Of course. That’s one of our newest models. Would you like to take a closer look?”

“Sure,” Ben said.

She turned with a dramatic pivot and began to strut in that direction. He followed, stooping down a little as he ducked past a froofy canopy covering a king-sized bed. At six-foot-three, he was accustomed to slouching to avoid hitting his head or intimidating people who expected a guy with a PhD in engineering to be a scrawny pencil pusher with glasses.

You’ve got the glasses, he told himself, shoving them up his nose as he followed the saleswoman across the floor. He stepped past a slender brunette standing on the other side of the bed studying the tags on a pillow.

“Pardon me,” he said.

The woman glanced up as he passed and reached up to tuck a strand of sleek, espresso-colored hair behind one ear. Her eyes were a remarkable shade of violet-gray, and she flashed him a smile he could have sworn seemed sympathetic.

He gave a small shrug in return—if only you could help me—but then the moment was over as the saleswoman grabbed his arm and towed him to the front of the credenza.

“As you can see, this piece is manufactured to the highest quality standards with French dovetailing, adjustable glass shelves, and a one-of-a-kind, patented touch-lighting system that’s unique to this design.”

“I know,” Ben said, stroking a hand over the surface. “I hold the patent.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I developed that lighting system. I engineered specialized thermoplastics using phenolic resins crosslinked with fiberglass aramids to produce a unique design that—”

He stopped talking, realizing the saleswoman’s eyes had gone surprisingly wide. He felt a faint swell of pride at the thought she might be admiring his workmanship, then realized she was staring at his left hand.

What the hell? He didn’t have any scrapes or bruises or rings or tattoos or anything besides five fingers and a palm.

“That’s incredibly interesting,” she cooed. “Maybe we could get together later and you could tell me all about—”

“There you are!”

He turned to see the woman with the sleek black hair striding toward him. She wore a broad smile and a sparkly ring on the hand that reached out to slide around his waist. Before he could say a word, she snuggled up close to him and extended a handshake to the saleswoman.

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