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By Sarah Rayner
St. Martin's Press Copyright © 2014 Sarah Rayner
All rights reserved.
"We'll be late," said Dan.
"Aw ... Five more minutes?" said Orianna, snuggling up to him.
With her head on his chest, she could feel his breath come and go. She gazed absentmindedly past the geraniums on the windowsill and into the distance; she was in that soporific state after making love when nothing else matters. Even the presentation she was due to give that morning seemed less important, although the new business could be worth thousands to the ad agency where she worked.
If I were to die this minute, she thought, I'd die happy. If a bomb were to land slap bang on the apartment and snuff us out in an instant, it would be a good time to go.
Her eyes came to rest on the window box. There was something about the zinging red petals against the dusty bright green of the leaves she found beautiful. Even on a gray day like today, they were brimming with life, determined to bloom, defiant.
This was how Dan made her feel—the world seemed heightened, her senses ablaze. Ordinary experiences were more intense; she noticed things that might otherwise pass her by.
Orianna patted his belly. "You realize this is one of my favorite bits of you?"
Dan breathed in and tensed his lower abdomen. "Look—you can almost see the outline of my muscles."
Much as she loved his body, Orianna was skeptical. Thanks to the amount of sex they'd been having, she'd got to know every inch of him over the last few months and it seemed unlikely she'd have missed such a delicious sign of masculinity. "Where?"
Dan extricated himself from their embrace and sat up. "Here."
Indeed, there were the oh-so-faint contours of a six-pack.
"I've worked hard for them. I've been doing extra sit-ups with Rob at the gym."
"Because I said I liked your little tummy?"
Dan's voice was gruff. "I've always been a bit conscious of it."
"I didn't mean it as a criticism ..."
"No, I know ..." He paused. "You see, I didn't used to be like this."
"I was quite chubby, when I was little."
She couldn't imagine it. Dan might not be Michelangelo's David, but he was in pretty good shape for an ad man with several years' drinking and debauchery under his belt.
He scratched his head, then muttered, "My brother used to call me Dough Boy. "
"No!" She couldn't resist poking a finger into Dan's midriff. "Because of this?"
Dan jumped. "Stop! That tickles!"
"What did you say?" She tickled him some more.
Dan laughed, helpless, but preventing further humiliation seemed the incentive he needed to precipitate him out of bed and into the shower. Minutes later he emerged, rubbing his hair dry with a towel so it stood up in haphazard spikes.
"It'd be great to celebrate getting the pitch over with," she said. "What are you doing tonight?" She awaited his response, apprehensive. Although they'd been seeing each other a while and he'd never given her cause to worry, Orianna wasn't confident when it came to men. Moments of uncertainty when she feared he might say he had something better to do still gave her butterflies.
"I've got an appointment with Rob at seven thirty."
"Oh." She turned away so he wouldn't see how disappointed she was. She'd fallen for Dan big-time and couldn't get enough of him. Although perhaps she ought to be grateful—these grueling sessions with his personal trainer seemed to be keeping him trim.
He added, "I'm free afterwards."
Inside she skipped with delight. "I thought you guys sometimes went for a drink, when you have an evening session?"
"Yeah, we do—only a quick one."
"Don't let me stop you."
"No, no, you won't."
Hmm, she pondered, I do so want to see Dan later, and it's about time we began socializing openly ... Rob would be a good place to start. Besides, it could be worth getting to know him. All this talk of tummies—now I'm in a regular sexual relationship, I might benefit from a little personal training myself. He could help me stave off those Italian curves to which I seem genetically disposed if Mum is anything to go by.
"How about I hook up with you both somewhere? I'd like to meet him."
"Actually, that may not be a bad idea."
"I'm a bit worried about Rob."
"Oh?" Dan's such a sweetheart, thought Orianna. How touching he's so concerned.
"Having you there might help."
"D'you reckon?" Even though she'd never met Rob, she was flattered by the idea he could need her advice.
"I think he might, er ..." Dan scratched his scalp again, a habit she'd noticed suggested he was about to reveal something.
What could it be? Perhaps Rob had girlfriend problems, and Orianna, with her female perspective, could help him. She was good at being a sympathetic ear. And maybe, when he met Orianna, he'd realize what a great girl she was, and appreciating there were other lovely women out there would ease his pain ... Not that she'd do anything about it, of course. No, she was in love with Dan (though she hadn't told him yet), but still, it was nice to be admired. She smiled, relishing the prospect of having two men to herself for the evening. "Mm?"
"I think he might fancy me," muttered Dan.
* * *
Across London, in Battersea, Rob slept on under his duvet, oblivious to the fact his sexual proclivities were an early morning talking point in Holloway. He'd no client till lunchtime today (thank God) so could indulge in sleeping in, with Potato, the cat, snuggled up at his feet. The revving engines and beeping horns of rush hour had evolved into the soft schwoom, schwoom of regular traffic, and his roommate had banged the front door shut long before Rob began to stir. His friends often commented on his ability to sleep through anything; today was no exception.
Eventually, after eleven, Potato made his starvation clear with determined padding of paws on his pillow. Rob rubbed his eyes, looked crossly at Potato and then the alarm clock, admitted the cat was within his rights, and hauled himself blearily into the kitchen. He liked to maintain it was because his job was so physical he needed more rest than most, though in truth he would sleep just as long even when he'd been slobbing in front of the television all day.
"You miss our Chloë, don't you?" he said to Potato and scooped an extra spoonful of Whiskas into his bowl to make up for it. Chloë was Rob's old roommate, and a few weeks before she'd gone to work in New York, leaving him in charge of the cat. Rob missed Chloë too, but at least he could regularly correspond with her by instant messenger.
Texting and phoning the US was expensive, but messaging was free, so he would contact Chloë several times a day, keeping her abreast of the minutiae of his life. He'd even written once to tell her the state of his bowels after a rather unsuccessful attempt at a new Indian recipe. It was only when she'd replied tetchily that this was TMI (and Chloë was no prude), especially as she had Important Things To Do (and Chloë tended to welcome distraction), he realized he'd better curb his transatlantic correspondence.
At last he was dressed, propelled by the need to pay his direct debits and keep himself in designer shirts and the occasional designer drug. Armed with numerous toiletries and a post-workout change of clothes, he headed into the West End. He'd do a quick bit of food shopping in Chinatown, then go to the gym and meet his first client. She was from Green Integrated, the Soho agency whose staff provided a sizeable chunk of his business: a woman he'd not met before.
* * *
"Perfect weather for That Sunshine Feeling," quipped Ivy, throwing her bag and raincoat onto the sofa.
Orianna had been hard at work for almost an hour, nosed pressed to the screen of her computer. She turned to look out of the window. It was raining buckets. "Isn't it?"
"So, sweetie." Ivy's tone was brisk. "How we doing?"
"Nearly sorted. I'm running out captions for the boards."
"You're a star. When do we have to leave?"
"Just time for a coffee."
"You mean you're not going to start the day with a glass of That Sunshine Feeling?" Orianna laughed.
"Am I hell," said Ivy, and headed off to the drinks machine.
While her copywriter was gone, Orianna thumbed through their creative work, checking everything was in order. That Sunshine Feeling, a new soft drink, could be a very exciting piece of business. Press ads, posters, direct mail, promotions—the lot. She and Ivy had been slaving on the product all week, staying late several nights on the trot.
As she was sticking a caption on the last board, her phone rang.
"Oh, Orianna, hi." It was Esme, the production assistant. "I know you're about to leave, so I'm sorry to bother you."
She was a good deal younger than Orianna and she sounded anxious. Orianna's heart went out to her. "It's OK. What's the matter?"
"I wondered what time you think you'll be back."
"Midday-ish, I guess."
"It's only an urgent brief's come in ..."
Orianna's heart sank.
"On Burroso, the olive oil spread, and I was hoping you and Ivy would have the chance to take a look at it."
Orianna was drained. She'd been planning to take it easier for the rest of the day—catch up on some admin. She was sure Ivy wouldn't relish the prospect either. Yet she liked Esme and wanted to help. "When's it needed by?"
Esme hesitated. "Tomorrow, first thing."
"What is it?"
"The July mailer."
"Ah, yes." Compared to a pitch, this was simple. Orianna and Ivy knew the brand inside out—they should be able to sort it fast. And she was still basking in the glow of that morning's lovemaking with Dan, so well-disposed toward the world. "We'll look at it when we're back."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes." It would mean working through lunch again. But tonight she was going out with Dan and Rob—at least then she'd have the chance to unwind.
* * *
"Taxi's here," said Clare.
Damn, thought Ivy, I could do with a coffee. Oh well, we're bound to be offered one by the client. She pulled on her coat again, picked up her bag, and followed Orianna and Clare into the elevator and out of the building.
But when they entered the meeting room at Bellings Scott Inc., Ivy was dismayed to see that there were four clients sitting around a large glass-topped table, and all of them appeared to be drinking That Sunshine Feeling. Not a drop of coffee in sight.
Bugger! she thought, scanning the room.
They sat down; Clare at the head of the table—as the new business director it was her role to take the lead—Ivy and Orianna together so they could present their creative work in tandem.
"Have a glass of our finest?" offered the guy nearest to them, holding out a jug of near-luminous orange liquid. The other three clients smiled and nodded, as if That Sunshine Feeling were the best thing on earth.
Creeps, thought Ivy.
"Yes, please," said Orianna. She gently pressed her foot against Ivy's to signal she should follow her lead.
"Thanks," muttered Ivy.
Clare opened the meeting with an introduction to Green Integrated. As she did so, Ivy, who'd heard the spiel before, found herself contemplating how Clare's mouse-like appearance belied her tenacity. Once Clare got her claws into a new business prospect she was ferocious in her pursuit; she was one of Green's greatest assets, the only woman on the board. Then, as Clare recapped on the brief, Ivy couldn't resist the temptation to typecast each client. It was a game she often played to amuse herself in presentations. The one who'd served their drinks was an East End barrow boy (wider than wide). There was a used-car dealer (fat, balding, probably the boss). Next to him, a department store assistant (a dire case of mutton-dressed-as-lamb), and finally the token female totty (a frizzy-haired twentysomething).
At last it was time to present the creative work. Orianna rose to her feet.
"I'm not surprised you're all drinking That Sunshine Feeling this morning." She beamed. "Because as Ivy and I discovered when we began working on the brand, it really gets you going first thing."
You liar, thought Ivy. She and Orianna had agreed it was revolting—way too sweet, watery and, according to the list of ingredients, full of preservatives. Still, Ivy had to admire her colleague's diplomacy.
Orianna continued. "Talking of 'getting going' set us thinking—what is the most obvious symbol of stopping and starting, getting going?"
The clients shook their heads, clueless.
"Traffic lights," said Orianna, as if there was no question.
They all nodded.
She turned to Barrow Boy. "And what's your product made of?"
Doh! thought Ivy.
Orianna was more patient. "What kind of fruit?"
"Oranges," he said.
Not that you can taste them, thought Ivy.
Orianna turned to Used-Car Salesman. "And, I know it may seem obvious, but what color's your product?"
"And traffic lights?" she turned to Mutton-Dressed-As-Lamb. "What color are they?"
"Orange," she said obediently.
What, all three lights? protested Ivy silently.
But Orianna had them eating out of her hand. "Exactly. Red, orange, and green."
Credit where it's due, acknowledged Ivy. Orianna's a wow at presentations. I might have come up with the overall concept, but when it comes to talking others through an idea, Orianna is in a class of her own. Her enthusiasm is infectious, her open and friendly manner a real advantage. That she's so damn sweet looking with those wide brown eyes does no harm either ...
Ivy, prompted, got to her feet. She picked up the first board from the stack she had propped against the legs of her chair and flipped it around. It was a plain piece of card, covered in an amber-colored paper.
"We thought we'd own orange," she explained. "But not just any old orange—that's been done before, as I'm sure you all appreciate." She smiled. Or perhaps the mobile phone company passed you all by. "No, we'll own the orange of traffic lights. The orange that says, 'Get ready to go.'" She reached for the second board and pointed at the image of traffic lights with a large orange in the center. "So the amber light becomes our icon. And to go with it, our copy line ..." She read from the caption, "'Get up and go with That Sunshine Feeling!'" She stopped and waited for them to take it in, then elaborated. "But that's not all. We don't want to just own orange. We don't want to just own 'get up and go.' We want to own the entire journey to work."
Now it was back to Orianna. "And this is where we really begin to have fun," she said, hauling a third, larger board from the floor onto the table. "We have orange buses. Ads at traffic lights. Bus stops. Subway cards. Cross tracks ..."
"Ads in the morning papers," interjected Ivy, showing a fourth board. "And not just ads but promotions and competitions on breakfast radio shows. We could sponsor the weather ..."
Orianna raised a fifth board. "'Come rain or shine—get up and go with That Sunshine Feeling!' Traffic reports: 'When you're in a jam—get up and go with That Sunshine Feeling!' Or come to that, mailers that arrive in the post before you've even left for work."
But as she was about to reach for their final piece ...
"And what happens when we introduce a lime version of That Sunshine Feeling later this year?" interrupted Used-Car Salesman.
Ivy was stumped. Typical bloody clients, she thought, throwing a wrench in the works. They probably withheld this information deliberately.
"So, you're planning on a lime flavor?" asked Orianna lightly.
"Not planning," said Used-Car Salesman. "It's a definite go."
"September," he said. Ivy could swear he sounded smug.
"We could always run this campaign before that," suggested Clare.
Yet Ivy knew they'd be hard-pressed to get everything produced by then—it was only three months away. In a flash it came to her. "I see no problem with a lime version," she said, struggling not to sound smug in return.
"No. We use the amber for the orange drink. Green for the lime. Green means go, after all."
Orianna added, "It would just be a simple alteration to the visual. We put a giant lime instead of the green light."
Excerpted from Getting Even by Sarah Rayner. Copyright © 2014 Sarah Rayner. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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