ForePlay by Shelly Alexander
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“She wants to play. Game on.” —Leo Foxx
Giving a woman what she wants is my business. I’ve built a career on it. I mean, is there anything more beautiful than seeing a woman get exactly what she wants, exactly the way she wants it, with exactly the man she wants it from? Nothing I’ve ever seen comes close.
There’s just one little catch. Sometimes women go looking in the wrong places. Sometimes they need a little help figuring out what they want in a man. That’s where I come in. I’ve spent years studying what women want. I mean what they really want.
Sounds like a great job for a guy, right? A dream career. Especially since it’s become so much more. It’s a multimillion-dollar corporation called Checkmate Inc., and I’m the CEO. One of the youngest on record. Except a few feminist groups have gotten the wrong impression and are starting to make noise. Something about how Checkmate helps give guys an unfair advantage over women. And the one woman who can help me can also sink my company to the bottom of the Hudson—and drag me along with it.
The event photographer my assistant hired corrals me and Checkmate’s other two founding partners for a photo op. Dexter Moore, in charge of our retail division, flanks my left side looking metro-stylish, having traded his coveted white socks and flip-flops for expensive Italian shoes to look the part of his job. Unlike in our college days, he now manages to brush his dark hair and wears a neatly trimmed mainstream-hipster look. Oscar Strong¾Oz, as we call him¾head of Research and Development, takes the spot on my right, dressed more comfortably in jeans and a trendy blazer. He’s also mastered the uses of a brush since our punk-ass-kid days are over, but he goes for a looser flow-and-comb look for his light brown hair. Khakis are a thing of the past for all three of us, seeing as how that was our standard uniform when we were members of our college chess team.
But all three of us kept the glasses. Sort of a pact between bros, so we never forget our roots and what it took to get here.
“Let’s make this quick. There’s a problem in the lab, so I gotta go,” Oz says. Really, he just hates getting his picture taken.
“Your sister just walked in.” Dex is the opposite and loves smiling for the camera. The flash goes off once, twice, three times in quick succession.
My eyes trek to the entrance of the rotunda. Since I’m six-two, I can see over most of the crowd. My little sister is a full foot shorter than me, and it’s impossible to find her in the ocean of guests all talking, eating, and drinking. But a path parts in the crowd, heading in our direction, and even though I can’t see her, I know it’s Ava. She’s determined and far too bold for her own good. Which makes me batshit crazy when it comes to protecting her from douchebags who will take advantage of her and break her heart.
The photographer tells us to strike a different pose, and we do. Oz grumbles under his breath. Dex strikes a pose worthy of a GQ fashion shoot. I sigh and smile and watch for my sister as she makes her way toward us.
The path weaves left then back right, and finally Ava reaches the fringe of the crowd. She’s five years younger than me, and a protective instinct surges through me because I’ve been her guardian since our parents were killed in a car accident eight years ago. That’s right: I’ve been her brother, father, and mother all at once, since I was twenty-one. I’m told the family resemblance is unmistakable since we have the same vivid blue eyes and honey-blond hair that has a natural wave to it—physical description courtesy of my personal life-stylist at Checkmate’s anchor retail studio on Fifth Avenue.
Okay, fine. Wardrobe, haircut, and really cool Armani glasses courtesy of the personal life-stylist too.
Ava waves, smiles, and then I see her. Not her, as in my little sister. Her, as in the brunette trailing behind Ava, trying to keep up. And I remember that Ava said she was bringing a friend who works in public relations. Thick dark brown hair is pulled into a ponytail that brushes over one slender shoulder. Her clothes are elegant and professional with a subtly chic edge to them. She’s looking down, like she’s making sure not to step on any toes. Then she breaks free from the crowd too, and her head darts up to look around just long enough for me to glimpse the stark contrast of cobalt eyes.
Cobalt. My favorite element on the Periodic Table.
As they approach, Ava opens her arms wide to give her big brother a hug. But I’m not actually looking at my sister. I’m looking over her shoulder. Her friend’s gaze lifts to mine, locks on, and holds me mesmerized. The way she carries herself tells me she’s confident and self-assured. Probably smart as a whip. And then it happens. Everyone else around me melts away as she pulls a plump, red lip between her teeth. Long black lashes flutter downward to break our eye contact, and I know.
I’ve never met her. I don’t even know her name yet. But that small gesture with her lip and the downward brush of her long lashes tells me she’s not sure what she wants from a man. She’ll figure it out, though. The women who are confident in every other area of their lives always do. I also know that when the light bulb finally switches on, she’s going to ask me to fuck her. And I won’t be able to say no.
A 2014 Golden Heart® finalist, Shelly Alexander grew up traveling the world, earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing, and worked in the business world for twenty-five years. With four older brothers, she watched every Star Trek episode ever made, joined the softball team instead of ballet class, and played with G.I. Joes while the Barbie Corvette stayed tucked in the closet. When she had three sons of her own, she decided to escape her male-dominated world by reading romance novels and has been hooked ever since. Now, she spends her days writing steamy contemporary romances while tending to a miniature schnauzer named Omer, a tiny toy poodle named Mozart, and a pet boa named Zeus.
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