“That one,” Max Holloway said and quietly nodded toward a beautiful blonde with red painted lips and an ass that was perfectly round.
“Nah,” I said with my eyes scanning the room. “I’m here for work. This is completely professional.”
“When have you ever been professional?” Jax, Max’s twin brother, chimed in. “You know you are looking for a woman to get your rocks off with.”
“This is a networking opportunity,” I reminded them both before sipping the scotch I was holding. “I’m not looking to get laid.”
The brothers looked at each other and rolled their eyes. “I’m going to hand out some business cards,” Jax said. “Try and keep a leash on him.”
“I don’t need a leash,” I muttered.
“Just remember, we’re here to promote our business,” Max warned. “Don’t slink away just yet. And please, for the love of God, ask if she’s married. We do not need a repeat of last year.”
“Do you guys really think I’m here to hook up?” I asked with only a hint of incredulity.
“I don’t think you know how to go anywhere and not hook up,” he said, scoffing. “It just happens. Women fall into your lap.”
“Literally,” I said, grinning. “Have you talked with that group? They look like they have money.” I nodded toward a group of men wearing cheap suits and trying to look like they were important.
“Ah,” Max said. “That is a consortium of college buddies that started a furniture-building business.”
“A what?” I asked.
“When people buy stuff that requires assembly, they can hire those guys to put it together,” Max explained. “I already talked with them. I don’t think they have the funds to hire us just yet.”
“We could put together a budget package,” I replied. “Something cheap. We’ll help them grow their business and then we can charge them more for the next contract.”
“I gave them a card, but I’m not keeping my fingers crossed they’ll call,” he said.
We moved through the ballroom of the hotel in search of potential clients. The conference was held every year. Business owners and entrepreneurs got together to share services. My company provided marketing expertise. We did some accounting and business law as well. We specialized in the little guy. When Max, Jax and I, along with a couple of our other friends, came up with the idea to start the company, we purposely aimed small. We decided it was better to have a hundred decent accounts instead of one or two big ones. If we lost a big account, we would be tanked. If we lost a couple of small accounts, it wouldn’t hurt nearly as bad.
That strategy had worked. Our little company started in a tiny office in Queens ten years ago. It was nothing more than an idea and a lot of hope. The six of us busted our asses. We scoured the city for accounts. It wasn’t easy convincing business owners to give us their hard-earned money. We were a bunch of twenty-somethings fresh out of college. We didn’t really know what we were doing and lost a lot of money in the early days.
Then it clicked. We figured it out. We each had our strengths and that was when things started to happen. Now, we were all very wealthy with eight figure net worths. Our office was in Manhattan in one of the nicer buildings. We operated on two floors with a full staff. We had made it. But we never stopped busting our asses, which was why we attended this event every year.
The place was packed, which was great for us. There were always new faces every year, along with some of our current clients. Max and I made our way to the buffet and made ourselves plates before rejoining our table.
“Where’s Spencer?” I asked when I noticed him missing from the table.
“He’s got a lead he’s working,” Derrick Langford, the one and only lawyer of our group, replied.
The tables sat groups of six. Our six-man team had paid ten grand for our table. According to the people that put the event on, it was a sold-out affair. Everyone was hungry for business. It was one of those things where one guy scratches another guy’s back and so on.
“Find the one you’re taking home?” Graham Russell asked.
“I know you’re not talking to me,” Max said with a laugh.
“Of course not,” Graham replied. “We’ve got a bet going. I want to know if I’m going to win.”
“Guys, come on,” I said with feigned irritation. “I don’t have to take a woman home every night.”
“Just on days that end in Y,” Max replied.
I had a reputation. To refute it was stupid. There were receipts. I wasn’t going to try and hide it. I liked women. The idea of settling down with just one woman when there were so many to choose from did not appeal to me. I had no intention of getting married and having a gaggle of kids. Life was short and I planned on living it to the fullest.
It wasn’t like I was taking a different woman home every night. It was often but not every day. And I was always careful. I didn’t see the harm in enjoying myself and giving the women I met pleasure as well. It was the epitome of a mutually beneficial arrangement.
I always made it clear to the women I hooked up with I wasn’t interested in anything more than sex. Some thought they were somehow going to change my mind if they rocked my world hard enough. If a woman asked for my number, I gave her a fake one. If she gave me her number, it generally ended up in the trash. It wasn’t personal. I just didn’t want the headaches a relationship brought.
“You guys exaggerate just a little,” I replied and popped a crab puff in my mouth. “Just because I like to play the field—”
“Excuse me,” an older gentleman said with a plate in his hand. “Can I sit here for a minute?”
“Sure.” I gestured.
“Thanks,” he replied. “My table is currently occupied.”
“No problem,” I told him.
“When you say play the field, your field is the entire country,” Derrick said dryly.
“What happens when you run out of women?” Jax asked.
Our guest was doing his best to ignore us. I sensed his discomfort and gave a slight shake of my head when Max opened his mouth to say more. I knew my friends. They would continue this little stream of conversation if I didn’t put a stop to it.
“I’m Sebastian Brickman,” I said to our guest. “People call me Seb. You are?”
“Clay McBride,” he answered without looking at me.
“Are you a local businessman, Clay?” I asked him. If he was going to be at the table, I was going to try and drum up some business. Or at least make it less awkward.
“Yes,” he answered.
“What business are you in?” I asked.
He looked at me. His irritation was evident. “I’m not limited to just one. I open businesses, get them profitable, and typically sell them.”
I looked at the rest of the table. The man was exactly who we needed on our client list. I reached into the pocket of my Armani suit and pulled out a business card. “We’d love to meet with you,” I said. “We can help market anything.”
Clay didn’t look happy. “Yeah, sure,” he muttered.
He took my card, which I got the feeling was going to end up in the trash. I wasn’t going to give up. “Do you have a card?” I asked him. “We’d love to get in touch. Do you currently have a marketing firm?”
“No,” he said and got to his feet. “Nice to meet you.” The last was said with zero conviction.
Max looked at me and shook his head. “He doesn’t like you.”
“What’s not to like?” I asked. “I’m a personable guy. People love me.”
“Not him,” Derrick said.
“I’ll call him later,” I said, shrugging. “I’ll convince him he needs us. They can never resist me for too long.”
“Unless you plan on wooing him, I think that’s a lost cause,” Jax said.
“You underestimate me,” I said, grinning. “My charms don’t just work with the ladies.”
The looks they gave me were comical.
“You know what I mean,” I said.
“Do we?” Jax teased.
“I’m going to get a drink,” I said after spotting a woman with wavy brown hair headed in that direction. She was wearing a black cocktail dress that flaunted shapely legs and a nice rack. I didn’t know her, which was always a bonus. I liked it better when my targets were strangers.
“You mean you’re going to find your next victim,” Max said.
“I think lucky lady is a more apt term,” I replied.
“Just remember, we’re trying to win business,” Derrick warned. “Don’t fuck it up by pissing off a boyfriend or husband. Ask her if she’s single before you put the moves on.”
“Guys, I’m a professional,” I assured them with my winning smile. “I’ve got this. If I don’t see you, goodnight. I’ll see you at the office.”
“One of these days you’re going to try and hook up with the wrong woman,” Derrick warned.
“He’s not going to learn until it happens,” Graham said with a shake of his head.
I ignored them. My sights were set on the pretty brunette leaning against the bar. She was exactly what I wanted. I wasn’t necessarily picky about the women I chose to spend my nights with. I liked women in general. I didn’t have a type.
Some were naturally pretty. Some relied on cosmetics. Others may not have been considered pretty by conventional standards, but that didn’t matter to me. When I was on the prowl, I went with whatever spoke to me in the moment.
Tonight, I was craving something a little risqué. Maybe just a little naughty. I didn’t think I was going to find it in this crowd, but I would settle for the woman wearing black stilettos. She was gorgeous. I watched her talk to someone at the bar. She smiled and threw her hair over her shoulder. She oozed sex. Maybe it was intentional and maybe it wasn’t. I was going to find out.
I casually moved to stand beside her. I caught a whiff a perfume I was very familiar with. It was old school. “Poison,” I said.
“Excuse me?” She looked at me. Her eyes were a light brown, like honey. Her eye makeup was dark, giving her a slightly edgy look.
“You’re wearing Poison,” I said.
She smiled. “How do you know? It’s a very old scent.”
“It happens to be one of my favorite perfumes,” I told her.
“Is that a line?” she countered with her eyes flashing.
“How could it be a line if I correctly identified the perfume?” I countered with a smile. I leaned forward just a little and inhaled. “I would know that smell anywhere.”
“Few people recognize it,” she replied.
“I guess I’m something of a connoisseur,” I said, smiling, and let my eyes rake over her.
She took her time checking me out as well. “You know women’s perfume.”
“I do,” I said. “Are you a business owner?”
“Do you really care?” she asked with a laugh before taking a drink. “You don’t need to make small talk. You want to have sex with me, right?”
I was shocked by the bluntness. She didn’t seem offended. She actually sounded amused. “The thought crossed my mind.”
She pushed the little straw in her glass out of the way and sucked down the rest of her cocktail. “Good. Me too. Do you have a room in the hotel?”
“I’ll get one,” I said.
I never had a problem picking up women, but usually there was some give and take. I usually had to put on the charm. Never had it been so easy. She started toward the exit. I wasn’t entirely sure she wasn’t pulling my leg. If she was, whatever, but if she wasn’t, it was not something I wanted to miss out on.
I quickly rented a suite, ordered champagne to be delivered, and met her at the elevator.
“The champagne wasn’t necessary,” she said. “You’re not wining and dining me. You’re not seducing me.”
“Noted,” I said. We found the room I rented. I quickly opened the door and gestured for her to go inside. “Want anything to drink?” I asked her.
“Are you stalling?”
I smirked. “No, I’m thirsty.”
“Go ahead.” She sat down on the edge of the bed and undid her shoes.
I pulled a mini bottle of Jack Daniels and a can of Coke from the fridge. I sucked down some of the Coke before dumping the Jack in. “Sure I can’t get you something to drink?” I asked her.
I wasn’t nervous, but I was leery. She was different. She rose from the bed and reached behind her to unzip her dress. “I didn’t come to this room to have a drink,” she said.
Her dress dropped to a pool of black fabric at her feet. My mouth was both dry and salivating. The woman was bold. And gorgeous. I made quick work to cancel the champagne so we wouldn’t be disturbed and put my drink down. It was no longer what I wanted in my mouth.