Delectable bachelor Beau Thibbedeaux has his own designs, however, and he plans on teaching Marissa a few things about steamy desires and letting go. But he never expects the ultrasexy assignment--nor Marissa--to be this consuming....
The game has begun. The rules have been forgotten. And the nights have never been hotter....
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As You Like It
By Lori Wilde
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Great sex isn't just about mind-blowing orgasms and Fourth of July fireworks."
Apparently not, Marissa Sturgess thought.
Leaning back in the tweed-cloth swivel chair, she doodled aggressively on her yellow legal pad and listened to Francine Phillips, the lab-coated clinician from the renowned Baxter and Jackson Sex Research Institute, address the Pegasus software team assembled around the paper-strewn wood-laminate conference table. The team consisted of the two remaining account managers - one of whom was Marissa - a system analyst, four programmers and the president of Pegasus, Judd Thompson.
If great sex was just about excellent technique she wouldn't have found a rather insulting Dear Jane letter from her investment-banker boyfriend, Steve, propped against the salt and pepper shakers on her kitchen table that very morning, ending their threemonth relationship.
As he put it, she was too intense in life in general and in the bedroom specifically. He needed someone more lighthearted, spontaneous and fun.
Yeah, okay, all right. Obviously, she was so intense Steve had resorted to dumping her via a scribbled note rather than confronting her face-to-face.
The coward. Running away and robbing her of the opportunity for rebuttal. She'd taken his stupid note, methodically shredded it into a hundred little pieces and flushed it down the toilet.
"Our extensive research with happily married couples has shown us that great sex demands not only trust, caring and honesty, but above all else ..." Francine continued and then paused as if waiting for a drumroll.
Marissa tossed her head to shake away all thoughts of Steven J. Thortonberry the Third and get her mind back on the task at hand. She'd already wasted a good ten minutes fretting over the breakup. Enough was enough. Time to move on. She refused to linger on defeat.
Besides, it wasn't losing Steve that bothered her so much as it was his accusation she was too serious in the sack.
"You go at sex like it's a corporate takeover, Marissa. Can't you ever just relax and enjoy the moment?" he'd asked her on several occasions.
In a nutshell? No. To Marissa's way of thinking, relaxation was grossly overrated and a handy excuse for lazy people.
As the only child of Brigadier General Dwight D. Sturgess she had learned to attack life with verve and gusto; giving a hundred and twenty percent to any project she tackled, including sex. Her mother had died when she was a baby and it had just been her and her dad. At an early age, Marissa had discovered being the best was the only sure way to guarantee her father's respect.
Her resulting lust for success had served her well in the business world, but in her personal life ... well, in her experience most men didn't appreciate a competitive woman.
At least not when it came to physical intimacy.
And now here was this plump, gray-haired, bespectacled grandmotherly woman standing behind the podium at the head of the conference table, a laser pointer in her hand, lecturing on the fundamentals of great sex. And according to the theory she was putting forth, Marissa simply didn't measure up.
"Truly transcendental sex must include a sense of whimsy." Francine used the pointer to highlight her presentation on the plasma screen featuring a laughing woman being pushed on a playground swing by an equally gleeful man.
"Whimsy?" The other account manager, Dash Peterson, asked.
"Fun, lightheartedness, humor."
Dash winked suggestively across the table at Marissa. The man was a supreme egotist with a sleazy streak a mile wide. He fancied she wanted him as much as he wanted her and he was her chief competition for the promotion. Unfortunately, while Dash was a royal pain in the keester, he was also damn good at his job.
Marissa ignored him and focused her total attention on Francine. Baxter and Jackson made up thirty percent of Pegasus's entire business and since premature labor had forced the current account director to leave her job three weeks earlier than planned, the sex institute's account was now up for grabs. Whoever ended up managing that piece of the pie stood an excellent chance of becoming the next director.
And Marissa wanted the position more than she wanted to breathe.
For three years she'd been gunning for the job ever since she'd made the switch from systems liaison to marketing and joined the small but up-and-coming Manhattan software company with a very promising future. To that end, she'd done everything in her power to cultivate the right image.
Ooze success and convince everyone around her that she was a winner. If she looked and acted the part, sooner or later she was bound to get what she wanted.
Marissa kept her blond hair cut in a sleek, easy-to-manage, chin-length bob. She spent an hour a day at the gym to maintain the size eight figure she'd had since high school. She knew she wasn't a ravishing beauty with her too-small eyes and her too-wide forehead but she had good cheekbones and she pampered her complexion with a plethora of beauty creams and potions.
And even though it required running up her credit cards a bit, she wore exquisitely tailored suits and look-at-me leather stilettos. Clothes might make the man, but in Marissa's estimation the right footwear - from Manolo Blahnik to Jimmy Choo to Dolce and Gabbana - made the woman. Not that she was a true shoe-aholic in the vein of some women. It wasn't the shoes themselves that set Marissa's heart aflutter, but rather what those high-fashion accessories whispered to her.
See, Daddy, I am a winner.
So far, her attention to detail had paid off. Her last year's productivity bonus equaled a fourth of her yearly salary. But her success only whet her appetite for bigger and better things. If she got the promotion and made a huge splash as Pegasus's account director, she would enhance her cache with larger software firms. Marissa was determined to eventually become the most respected software-marketing director on the East Coast.
Excerpted from As You Like It by Lori Wilde Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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