Careful not to let his doubts show, Jack stood up to shake hands with Allen and the other board members. Then the clock began to tick.
In silence Jack and his two partners took the elevator down from the twentieth floor to the lobby. None of them said a word until they’d stepped out of the large glass doors and onto the sidewalk. Ten in the morning was a busy time of day in San Francisco’s financial district, and they had to speak loudly to be heard over the noise of the traffic and the suited businessmen and women rushing around them.
“How are we supposed to give the Pocket Planner sex appeal?” Howie asked, clearly frustrated.
“If we could have gotten it out two years ago, before the economy started to tank, the retailers would have taken it on without blinking.” Larry’s mouth was turned down at the corners as he spoke. He was a genius, but more than once he’d reminded Jack of Eeyore, the morose donkey from the children’s books his mother had read to him when he was a young boy. “But now? It will take a miracle to convince them to stock it.”
Howie was the realist. Larry was the pessimist. And Jack was the energy that kept their inventive and brilliant motors running, no matter what.
“The three of us are going to grab a cup of coffee and start brainstorming.”
They’d been planning to pop open champagne right now, not down more java. Jack pushed the thought away to focus on the problem at hand: making their device “sexy,” not only for men but for women, too.
Of all the problems Jack had faced over the past decade, worrying about sex hadn’t been one of them. He had a great appreciation for women. He liked to watch them move, liked to feel them soft and warm beneath him and enjoyed the way their minds worked. And yet, just as eating and sleeping had always played second fiddle to his work, so had women and sex.
Larry sighed as they got off the trolley and rounded the corner into Union Square, which was fully decorated with lights in every store window and huge green wreaths hanging from the lampposts. “If we can’t convince the retailers to carry our product this Christmas, we’ll officially be out of money. And I’m getting too old to keep living on the edge of completely broke like this, guys.”
Howie gestured toward the center of Union Square, where there was a portable trailer on the corner. Several large lighting rigs had been set up around the area to shine down on the snow that had been brought in for the scene. Flakes of fresh snow fell from another rig positioned above the brightly lit stage.
“Imagine having the funds to put something like this together to sell our invention.”
Their usual coffee place was just ahead but, instead of heading inside, Jack detoured toward the crosswalk.
“Where are you going?” Howie asked.
“To take a closer look.”
Larry was right. They’d need a miracle in the next twenty-four hours to keep their dream alive. Jack knew it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they didn’t make this deal. He’d easily be able to get a job working for one of the high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. But he’d never wanted to work for anyone else. And just as this snowy scene in the middle of San Francisco had been some director’s impossible vision, Jack wanted to see his own impossible vision come to life, too.
A sixth sense had him moving quickly toward the Union Square set. He didn’t know exactly what he was going to learn by watching the filming of a movie or commercial. It was just that today he needed to witness fantasy become reality.
Turning up the collars of their suit jackets, and shoving their hands deep into their pockets to try to keep warm against the strong Bay breeze that whipped between the tall buildings, the three men crossed at a busy corner. They had just stepped up onto the sidewalk when the door to the trailer opened.
And the most beautiful woman in the world stepped out.
Jack stopped so suddenly that Howie and Larry both barreled hard into his back and a car rounding the corner nearly knocked them down.
Glossy, straight dark brown hair moved over shoulders covered in red velvet. Soft fabric clung to a perfect hourglass figure and swirled seductively around an incredible pair of legs, made even sleeker by extremely high heels. Long, elegant fingers were tipped with nails painted red to match the dress and the full lips that were curving up into a smile.
The woman on the Union Square set wasn’t only the most beautiful woman Jack had ever seen, she was also the most vibrant. As she took her place on the set beneath the lights the photographer began taking pictures of her. Though Jack didn’t know what it was she was selling, he wanted it anyway.
He wanted her, too.
“My girlfriend is never going to believe it when I tell her I saw Mary Ferrer live and in the flesh.” Howie’s expression was starstruck.
Larry’s eyebrows went up. “You know her name?”
“She’s on the covers of a bunch of magazines Layla has lying around in the living room. Hard to believe it, but Mary Ferrer is actually better looking in person.”
Men, women and kids of all ages stopped what they were doing in the middle of downtown San Francisco to watch the beautiful model pose for pictures. As she smiled, flirted and laughed for the camera, she was sexy without being too sexy, sweet without being too sweet.
A little girl broke free from her mother’s hand and barreled onto the set with a squeal of joy. The model scooped the girl up into her arms with a laugh, and the two of them chatted cheerfully until her mother rushed up to take her daughter back. Jack couldn’t hear what they were saying, but he could see that Mary was waving away the woman’s apologies without a second thought.