The Other C-Word

 

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 Can she overcome her consuming desire for him? Can he make her comfortable with the other C-word…commitment?

Marley Mason is dreading the arrival of the new business consultant. After all, this man will most likely outsource her job to China. The last thing she would expect is a case of mistaken identity, leading to false accusations of kidnapping when she attempts to pick up the wrong man at the airport, or worse…that she would have such a visceral reaction to the right man.

Rick Randy is super sexy, scandalously flirty and perfect masturbation material, but a relationship is out of the question. Rick is contracted on a temporary basis to fix Marley’s ailing company, then pull out, although as he expresses to Marley, pulling out is difficult for him, in more ways than one! Marley’s feelings range from utter confusion to intense contemplation as Rick charms his way into her life. All of those C-words Marley can control, but it’s the other C-word she fears—commitment.

 


 EXCERPT

 

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I parked in the intimidating parking garage, cursing repeatedly until I finally found a spot. With a deep breath, I realised I had no idea what this consultant looked like. I snatched the email off the dash. It was still damp and part of the paper didn’t lift completely. I tried to piece it together, but it had torn right through his name. I stared at the smudged, ripped letters in complete disbelief. I couldn’t very well go through the airport and yell out, ‘Mr Cheapskate consultant. Your ride is here!’

I put it out of my mind, running into the airport and praying I didn’t trip or break a precious heel on Stevie’s Louboutins. By the time I got into the passenger pick up area, I was a panting, wheezing mess. I looked around the bustling lobby, trying to regain my composure and hoping it would be obvious who I was supposed to pick up.

It wasn’t.

The airport looked like an orphanage for business executives. There were tons of suit-clad men talking on their cell phones, working on their laptops, or just walking around. Was this for real? Where did they all come from? Did a stork deposit them at the United Airlines terminal at O’Hare? At least the view was nice. Although I wasn’t a dressy kind of girl, I did enjoy a man in a good suit, and this was an all you can eat breakfast buffet of hot men in suits.

One in particular made me gasp for a deeper breath. It felt like those movies where the girl and guy catch each other’s eyes and the soft music plays while they exchange lovesick looks across a crowded room. That’s complete bullshit. My reaction to this man was so strong it frightened me, but it was completely sexual. There was no music, except for the drastic beating of my heart, which was not soft at all. He bit his lower lip and I clenched my thighs, aware of the sudden dampness emanating between my legs. Sex was real—tangible, visceral and primitive. Love was mystical, elusive, vague and obscure. Sex was atmospheric, but love was ethereal. I chose sex every time.

I stared at him a little too long and he held my gaze, which did not aid in my attempts to control my breathing. The planes of his face appeared chiselled with a strong jawline that was clean-shaven. His sandy brown hair forked effortlessly across his forehead. It was neat, but not slicked back or groomed perfectly, which I liked. It was a head of hair that could sustain a friendly tousle, but still look flawless. I couldn’t see his eyes, but I imagined they were sexy like the rest of him. He wore a charcoal suit with an emerald-green tie and looked comfortable in the tailored fit. A suit like that coupled with the designer briefcase led me to conclude he was wealthy and definitely not my cheapskate. He was talking on his cell phone, but even from this distance, I could see he was studying me with the same intensity. I looked away quickly, trying to hide my lustful leering.

I needed to concentrate on my task. I looked down at the paper in front of me. I could make out some of, but not the whole name. There was definitely an R in his first name, a U in the next and the last name clearly spelt Randy. I sighed in frustration and flipped over the stiff, ripped email. I scrounged in my purse only to find I didn’t have a pen. How am I so unprepared that I don’t have a flipping pen in my purse? I have three kinds of lipstick, but no pen? I decided to MacGyver it. I chose the coral pink lipstick, the colour I wore the least, and wrote on the back of the paper R U RANDY in big block letters. I stood next to the limo drivers, who all had proper boards with their passenger’s names clearly written. A few looked at me perplexed, but I just smiled and held up my stupid makeshift sign.

It didn’t take long for an older gentleman with a sweet smile to approach me.

“Yes dear, I am,” he said, in a British accent, pointing to my sign. I tried to hide my surprise at his appearance. I’d thought this consultant was a whiz kid, not a gallant grandpa. The man in front of me had to be in his sixties. Then again, the man I was picking up had a strong reputation for business acumen, so it would make sense he’d be older. In addition, he was British and the Brits were very smart in my summation. James Bond was a Brit after all.

“Hi, you’re Mr Randy?” I asked brightly, taking his hand.

“Yes I am.”

“It’s nice to meet you. I’m sorry I’m late. I’m Marley Mason from Henley Inc.” I relieved him of his shoulder bag. Mr Randy appeared frail and I didn’t want him to strain carrying it. He had an amiable smile, which endeared him to me immediately. He wore a suit too, although it looked like it belonged in a previous decade, especially with the polka-dot bow tie. “Have you gotten your luggage, sir?”

“We don’t have to worry about that, dear. This won’t take me very long.”

I had no idea what he meant, but I assumed it was that Brit wit I always had trouble following. Besides, his shoulder bag was heavy, and it probably had clothes in it. The man was an efficiency expert after all.

“Follow me, sir. My car is in the parking garage, but I’ll pull it up for you.”

“Thank you, love. That’s very generous.”

He actually called me love! I put my hand over my heart. Maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad car ride. I found him adorable, in a grandfatherly way. Maybe he’d unleash some of that dry, Brit wit in the car. I doubted I would get it, since Monty Python confused me, but I’d pretend to find it humorous nonetheless, so I wouldn’t offend him.

He took my arm. It seemed like such an unexpected, courteous thing to do. We walked arm in arm towards the exit. We were about half way there when I heard the loudest, most cantankerous shriek echoing out behind me. “Dad, where are you?”

We kept walking, but some crazy, heavy-set woman was screaming out with headache-inducing wails. She was looking for someone, but I was in a hurry, and didn’t have time to be side-tracked again. As it was, Mr Randy was going to be late because of me. I almost dropped his bag when a plump hand reached for my elbow.

“What the hell are you doing?” It was definitely the owner of the screech, and she had a British accent too.

“Excuse me?” I replied in my offended tone. Unfortunately, my voice cracked at the last minute. I was a little freaked out by this woman manhandling me.

“Give me that bag!” she said hysterically, reaching for Mr Randy’s bag.

I held it tightly. “Look lady, I don’t know what your problem is, but you best get your hands off me!” My grammar really lacked when I tried to act tough.

I thought she was talking quite loudly, but when her voice raised a few octaves, it sounded like she was on a megaphone. “Help, kidnapper! She’s kidnapping my father and stealing his bag,” she said to no one in particular.

Before I knew it, four TSA agents were crowding us, beckoned by her panicked cries. I stood helplessly, silenced by her crazy accusations. The deranged woman explained to the TSA men that I attempted to kidnap her senile father. I looked at Mr Randy, imploring him to help me, but he just smiled at both of us as if this was a normal occurrence.

I dropped Mr Randy’s bag like it was a bomb—probably not the best way to discard a suitcase in the airport. “But…but…this is Mr Randy,” I kept saying, to which crazy lady responded that I was insane. I’m the insane one?

I looked around and my face burned. I knew I was ten shades of red from the realisation of the horror surrounding me. Every hurried businessman had stopped their multi-tasking. Children had stopped their temper tantrums. Parents had stopped paying attention to their children. Even the boyfriends had stopped kissing their girlfriends. Everyone was gawking at us.

“Uh, excuse me, but I think I may be able to shed some light on this…ah…situation.”

I didn’t see him approach, but heard the deep cadence of his voice. It was Mr Lip-biting-Perfect hair-Charcoal suit himself. He appeared amused by my distress. I gave him a ‘get out of my business’ look and narrowed my eyes, but it only made him laugh. He asked the TSA agents to step away with him, while I was left with Mr Randy, the crazy lady and the one remaining agent.

“Mr Randy, I’m sorry about this,” I apologised, placing my hand on the old man’s shoulder.

Crazy lady batted my resting hand right off him, “What the hell is wrong with you? You should be ashamed of yourself for trying to kidnap a senile old man.”

My mouth gaped open as I stared at the older gentleman in front of me, whose smile didn’t falter. “He…uh…he…told me he’s Mr Randy,” I stammered.

“I am dear. I always thought you Americans were very friendly, but this is quite marvellous.”

My brain felt like it was going to crack. I stared at all the TSA agents talking to Charcoal Suit . A tiny trickle of sweat rolled down my brow. Am I going to jail? Kidnapping was illegal, but was it more criminal if you did it at an airport, like how stealing mail from the post office was a federal offence?

Finally, Charcoal Suit and the rest of the TSA agents joined us. Everyone in the airport was still staring in our direction. It didn’t help matters that Charcoal Suit and the TSA agents were laughing boisterously as if they were in a high school locker-room, sharing a private joke. Some of my fear dissipated, replaced with sudden irritation.

“This has been a misunderstanding,” the oldest, balding TSA agent explained. “Everything’s fine so we’ll all go our separate ways.”

“She kidnapped my father!” Crazy Lady barked at him. TSA man number one, who appeared to be in command, gave her an admonishing look.

“She didn’t leave with him, ma’am, so all’s well. And as for you, young lady”—TSA man couldn’t even say it with a straight face. He started laughing, causing a rippling effect among all the men, including my fake Mr Randy—“don’t let me see you in here again trying to abduct someone.”

“But…but…he said he’s Randy,” I stuttered, resulting in a new chorus of rambunctious laughter. I glanced at Crazy Lady , wondering if we had some kinship since we were the only ones not laughing. These men were laughing at us…no, technically their laughter was aimed at me. Crazy lady was just too indignant to join them.

“I had thought Americans were more prudish than us, but you’ve proven that wrong, dear,” the fake Mr Randy said, which ignited yet another round of rowdy laughter.

“I’m Randy…or Mr Randy…Mr Richard Randy,” Charcoal Suit said, smiling widely. I wanted to wipe the smirk right off his face.

Everyone eventually dispersed, after a few more crafty jokes that I didn’t get, despite being the butt of them. Even the fellow airport travellers returned to their affairs, and I found myself left alone with the real Richard Randy. For some reason, The Real Slim Shady by Eminem popped into my head.

He tried to feign a serious expression, but was unable to freeze the curling at the corners of his sexy mouth.

“It’s nice to meet you…Ms Carver?” He held out his large hand. I was embarrassed, confused, but most of all completely pissed off. I limply clasped his hand. He tightened the grip and pulled me a little. It felt like a challenge of sorts, so I tightened my grip in response. I narrowed my eyes at him and pasted a tight smile across my face.

“She couldn’t come. I’m Marley Mason. Follow me. My car’s in the parking structure.” I walked with a hurried clip. I didn’t offer to help him with his luggage or pull my car around for him. He was young, capable and most of all, pompous. He could deal with it.

“Hey, wait up. Come on, you have to admit that was funny. Surely, you’re not mad at me, Marley Mason,” he said, jogging slightly to catch up with me. A slight shiver coursed through my body when he’d said my name with that masculine voice of his. I ignored it and let my Louboutins do the talking. Their clipped sounds conveyed my nonverbal message perfectly.

As we neared the car, it occurred to me how stupid I was being. Honestly, I had no business being hostile. Whatever happened wasn’t his fault, it was mine. In reality, he probably helped me avoid arrest or at the very least, airport detention.

“I’m sorry. I’m not really sure what happened in there.”

He smirked again, keeping stride with me. “You don’t know? Really?”

“That’s what I said, wasn’t it? That man told me he was you. He was senile like his daughter said.”

“Oh, I don’t think he was that senile, Marley…or should I call you Ms Mason?”

I smiled curtly. I wanted to say Ms Mason because I was mad, but it would look stupid since we worked for such a casual company. “You can call me Marley.”

“Please call me Rick,” he replied congenially. “So, I take it you don’t know the definition of ‘randy’.”

We reached my car, and I opened the trunk for him. He assessed my mode of transportation, and I knew what he was thinking—small car, tall man, uncomfortable ride. Oh well, served him right. He was the cheapskate that couldn’t get a rental car. He placed his bags in the trunk.

“What are you talking about?” I didn’t attempt to hide the irritation in my voice. I wished Kathy were here with her SUV. It would have been better for everyone.

He reached inside his jacket and pulled out his cell phone. I wondered if he was text messaging someone. It seemed rude, so I tapped my heel impatiently.

“Here you go.” He handed me the phone.

He’d done an Internet search for ‘randy’. The first item was a definition.

 

Randy—sexually excited or aroused, lustful, horny.

 

I almost dropped his phone. Was he propositioning me? I shook my head at him, still confused.

Rick smiled impishly. It was a cute smile, almost boyish, especially with the appearance of the small dimple on his right cheek. He snatched the email I was still clutching out of my hand, and held it up to my face.

“Sweetheart, think about it. You were in an airport, holding up a sign in pink lipstick that read, ‘RU RANDY’. Granted, you have no question mark, but the interpretation is plain.”

I gaped in shock, while Rick chortled again. “Oh my God, that old guy…thought I was propositioning him?”

“Yeah, well, I’m sure he was a little senile. Don’t feel bad, it’s not a commonly used term anymore. It’s antiquated, kind of like the guy you just tried to pick up.”

I tightened my smile and replied coolly, “Don’t call me sweetheart.”

I walked over to the driver’s side, but he beat me to it. “This is my car. I’m driving.”

“I was just getting your door for you, Marley.” He let go of the door handle, holding his hands up in resignation.

I shook my head thinking of a response, but he caught me off guard by speaking first, “I don’t know if I should get into the car with you. You’re not going to kidnap me, are you?” He was mocking me, cocking one of his eyebrows, goading me with his sarcastic wit.

“Oh! Just get in the car already!” I grumbled.

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