A geeky R&D director asks the reigning sales queen on a date and they’re both shocked when she accepts.
Can the geek keep the girl?
Nerdy Nick Harrington can’t believe his superpower over gorgeous sales queen Alexis Collins. He, dorky lab guy, starts distracting their focused revenue maker from important meetings and clients after their first date.
Things go swell for a few euphoric weeks. She meets his cat, he meets her friends, and they contemplate meeting the parents. Then their boss casually mentions that they should both apply for a new vice president job.
Nick and Alexis have to decide between their precious new relationship or their dream job.
“Look, you’re dating the wrong men.”
Alexis Collins gazed at her friend Seanna and resisted the urge to bang her head on the restaurant table. “You think?” But this emitted with more sarcasm than necessary. Chagrin raced through her. “Sorry, Seanna, I didn’t mean to be rude.”
“No, you did, since Seanna stated the obvious.” Their other friend, Lindsay, darted a speaking look at Seanna. “You’re dating pretty boys who expect to coast through life and don’t need to make an effort. In any aspect of life.”
This understated her last experience with Kyle. Who on paper looked perfect for her. A successful stockbroker, with plenty of potential, a nice car and condo, good manners, and an amazing body and face. All of those characteristics appealed to Alexis and every other woman on the planet.
“Kyle was perfect for me.” She didn’t wail this, but she wanted to.READ MORE
“Yeah, no.” The subdued overhead light highlighted the deep richness of Lindsay’s burgundy colored hair. Lovely, with a smattering of freckles and hazel eyes, she often didn’t get overlooked in a crowd.
“He, like all the other men you’ve dated, couldn’t have been more wrong for you.” Seanna heaved a deep sigh. “You’re blonde and blue eyed, you don’t have any trouble attracting attention, but your radar for selfish idiots is working too well.” Seanna’s lovely brown skin glowed in the light over their table. It matched her perfect natural hair and amber eyes and the entire combination earned her plenty of second and third looks. Model beautiful, with an excellent brain, the only time Seanna was considered average was in her height. Lindsay missed the average height cutoff by an inch.
At five feet ten, no one accused Alexis of being short. And yes, her blonde hair and clear blue eyes tended to attract attention. But men overlooked the fact that her brain functioned very well and she had attained honor’s level grades all through school. As had both of the women focused on her now.
Lindsay’s troubled gaze took in her face. “You’re definitely attracted to the wrong sort of man.”
Seanna’s snort made Alexis grin-grimace. “If you’re not attracted to someone, what’s the point of dating him?”
Neither of her companions could refute this, so they remained quiet. A feat on Seanna’s part. She possessed an amazing ability to see things from a different perspective.
Alexis toyed with her iced tea glass, gazing into the depths in the hope it might offer answers to her dating woes. It did no such thing.
When no one spoke for an unusual amount of time, for them, she asked, “So what’s the answer?”
Lindsay stirred. Her shoulders straightened and she met Alexis’s gaze head on. “I think you should throw out your current version of what type of man is attractive.”
Alexis blinked in the wake of this bold statement. “Okay. How do I do that?”
Expecting Lindsay to falter, her friend did not. “The next man to ask you out, say yes.”
Seanna held up a hand. “Unless he’s a creep, then you’re allowed to say no.”
“If you get creep vibes, definitely say no. But the new rules are to say yes to a man you’d normally say no to. One who you’d never think to date.” Lindsay’s upper teeth dug into her bottom lip.
”Is this going to be true for only me? Or for all of us?” Alexis looked pointedly at her two buddies, who also didn’t have great track records in the dating stakes.
“I’m going to practice my own advice.” Lindsay’s shoulders remained straight and resolve emanated from her. “I’d like to be in a committed relationship but so far that’s not happened and I’m tired of the men I’m dating too. They’ve all left me less than enthusiastic about relationships.”
“I’m going to give this a try as well. I haven’t had better luck than either of you.” Seanna’s last relationship had died because her boyfriend had been transferred across the country and they’d both known she wouldn’t follow.
“You’ve had better luck than I have. Jerome was a good man.”
They all reflected on their odds. Jerome had been kind to others, and to Seanna, and he’d enjoyed some of the same things. But their relationship had slowly died because it hadn’t been right.
“See, I wouldn’t have normally dated him but he caught me off guard, and he’s the only man out of all the men we’ve collectively dated who had the potential for a long term relationship.” Seanna’s amber eyes narrowed. “He’s the only one, and I sort of used Lindsay’s advice with him.”
“Jerome was your type though.” Alexis pictured the man, he hadn’t been tall, but he spent time in the gym and that showed. Seanna wasn’t taller than him, but Alexis was. Especially when she wore shoes.
him. He told me he’s dating someone and it’s going well.” Seanna’s long nails tapped the tabletop. “It took me about a minute to realize I’m happy for him. Genuinely pleased that he’s happy.”
“See, that’s a great indication the relationship wasn’t right for you.” Lindsay’s eyes reflected sympathy.
“That’s what I thought. I want true love, whatever that is, but none of us have found it.” Another tap on the table, but this one rang with authority. “Okay, ladies, here’s the pact. We accept a date with the next acceptable man who asks us.”
“You should say no if he’s a creep, but otherwise, we agree and we follow through.” Lindsay added a few ground rules.
“How many times do we have to go out with them?” Alexis wanted to comply, but her heart raced. What if…
”As many times as you’d like. It will be a real date. If you hated the first one and want nothing more to do with him, then you decline another date. But if you enjoyed the first, go out with him again.” Lindsay had given this some thought.
What if the date is a disaster?
That little voice in the back of her head piped up, what if it’s the best date you’ve ever been on?
“Alexis, do you have a minute?” Nick Harrington stopped their number one sales earner Tuesday morning.
Her long blonde hair and bright blue eyes probably helped her numbers. It was rumored she didn’t have much in the way of smarts but Nick never trusted the opinion of others.
“I do.” Alexis stopped and peered at him. Her blue eyes were so crystal clear and lovely he caught himself staring.
Then his brain thankfully reasserted itself and prompted him. “I wanted to show you the newest prototype for the PRO17. Do you have a minute to offer your opinion?”
The PRO17 was the newest self-defense device they had developed for women, especially. Not only was Alexis their top sales person, she was also a prime candidate within the product’s target demographic. He and his team neared the end of the development of the product, but so far they hadn’t done any research to determine if women were interested in the device.
“Of course. What do you need?”
He waved her into the lab and crossed to the testing area. “This is the prototype. It’s nearly finished. But we haven’t had a woman actually hold or use it. Seems before we finalize this device we should have women review it.”
“That makes good sense to me. You’d be surprised by the number of retailers who ask for that sort of information. They want the numbers. For instance, how many women have reviewed this product? How many have held it? How many have weighed in on the actual device? The more data we have, the more likely the retailer will order a decent number of devices.” Alexis’s voice caused several of his team to glance covertly at her.
Feminine tones in this department occurred so rarely it was cause for curiosity. But a beautiful woman like Alexis could be counted as a supreme anomaly.
She probably attracted attention wherever she went but here in this lab of geeks, well…
He removed the device from the protective container and handed it to her.
Alexis accepted the prototype and after hefting it, her eyes narrowed. “One of our biggest complaints was the weight of the previous models. This one feels premium but it’s not nearly as heavy.”
“I’ve been concerned about the weight. We’d heard rumbles that the others were too heavy. On the same token, a light plastic model would feel cheap.”
“Correct. This one feels like a near perfect blend of both.”
“A near perfect blend?”
She cocked her head to the side. Her hand gripped the device and she hefted it a couple more times. “The device is still a bit heavy. Is that the batteries?”
“Probably.” He pushed up his glasses. “Okay, so would having a chargeable battery be better than double A batteries?”
“Hmm.” She pursed her lips. “The convenience of readily available batteries is nice. We have so many devices we already have to remember to plug in. So would a couple double A or triple A batteries be better?” She flexed her arm as though the device was an exercise weight.
“We’re still testing the merits of several batteries. No decision has been made.”
“Most flashlights are a decent weight and they have disposable batteries.”
“That’s true.” It was his turn to purse his lips. He tugged his tablet computer close and scribbled a few notes.
“How many of these prototypes do you have?”
“This is the only one. We have a slightly older model, but this is the one we’re using now.” He waved toward the device still in her hand.
“One solution is to make up a few of the prototypes to distribute to the women who work here. Give them a week or so with the device then have them fill out a questionnaire for valuable feedback.”
“We don’t usually do extensive testing like that.” The pros and cons of extending the developmental process ran through his brain.
“Right. But that will cost you because you haven’t placed this in the hands of the demographic you’re targeting. If the very people who will be buying this can weigh in on what they did and didn’t like and perhaps offer suggestions, then you’ve got data we can offer retailers. The testing should also provide the strengths and weaknesses of the product. The testers can also weigh in on the device name.”
She didn’t raise her voice, didn’t push her opinion on him, and he appreciated her experienced input without the pressure.
“We could alter the product accordingly then. Before it goes into production.” He turned to one of the men trying hard to look as though he truly was absorbed in the data in front of him and not blatantly listening in on their conversation. Alexis stood close enough to Jon that he’d be able to smell her clean feminine scent.
No doubt the man’s circuits had been blown but Nick needed his brain to function. “Jon, can we make a few prototypes?” He didn’t pretend along with the man. Jon and every single male in the room had heard their entire conversation and Nick needed answers.
“We’ve got the 3D printer. So yes, I’m sure we can make as many as we need. But we’ll have to figure out which battery to use.” Jon spun his chair to face them. Hopefully he didn’t make Alexis uncomfortable. She must be used to staring men...
“So make a few with each of the battery types you’re considering.” Alexis held up the PRO17. She ran a fingertip along the shaft. “There’s an uncomfortable seam here. Can that be tweaked so the device doesn’t have it?”
He and Jon both leaned forward. “Really? A seam?” They both gazed where she pointed.
Her fingers were long and slender and her long fingernails sported a natural, glossy surface, not the daggers other women preferred. His reliable brain prompted him to stay focused so he took the device from her and he and Jon inspected it.
“You’re bothered by that seam?”
“It’s rough and uncomfortable in my hand.” She didn’t back down. But she did hold up a finger. “How many women have actually held this prototype?”
“You’re the first.” He pushed up his glasses again. That was a little uncomfortable to admit.
“Hold on a moment.” She left the room but soon returned with what looked like the entire sales department. Nick counted four women and three men. “Guys this is…” She raised an eyebrow at him.
Heat suffused his cheeks as he greeted her department. “I’m Nick Harrington. I know some of you. And I’m sorry Alexis, we met on your first day, when you heard so many names you’d never remember them all.”
Madison, one of Alexis’s colleagues, batted her heavily mascaraed lashes. “What Nick didn’t mention is that if he hears your name, he doesn’t forget it.” Dark haired, dark eyed, and dainty, Madison’s obvious attractiveness still somehow didn’t appeal.
More heat infused his cheeks after Madison’s flirting. He forced back the color because a blushing man probably was frowned upon by the alphas, and he guessed the male members of sales ranked among that number. He cleared his throat but Alexis stepped in.
“Thank you, Nick. Usually I remember names as well, but you’re right, my first day offered far too many names and information.”
A pretty shade of pink now colored her cheeks. He wanted to stare at it, but he was a professional, so he surged forward. “Alexis is the first female to hold our new prototype. We’re hoping to hear the opinions of all of you, if you don’t mind?” Can I be more of a geek?
Ugh, just what we need, Madison all but simpering over Nick Harrington. Alexis admitted to not remembering their first meeting but guessed it had happened at the end of her initial work day, after her beleaguered brain had checked out.
He had been kind and didn’t appear to mind that she’d forgotten. In fact, he seemed to take being forgettable as normal.
This caused a little pang, but Alexis wouldn’t have remembered meeting a prince, so she brushed off her memory lapse to concentrate on helping Nick with this prototype. He possessed the prettiest green eyes she’d ever seen. His abundant dark hair curled and twisted although she could tell he’d taken some time to tame it. The possessor of wavy tresses herself, she appreciated that this man also appeared to struggle with hair that had a mind of its own.
She also liked his dark glasses and that he was taller than her by six or more inches.
Since he worked in research and development, the man had to be brainy as well. She approved that he’d asked for product input. They’d all be selling the device so asking for their thoughts, especially that of the women, was a great idea.
Madison took the device from Nick with too much skin contact, in Alexis’ opinion. But Nick either didn’t notice or ignored the unprofessional behavior. He handed it off and nudged his tablet computer closer.
Jon and a few of the other men came forward. After a brief round of introductions between the employees who didn’t know each other, her remaining colleagues handled the device.
All of the women mentioned the seam. None the men in her department did.
Alexis took the device from the last man. “See, our hands are smaller so that seam is noticeable for us. People with larger hands didn’t mind it, but it makes holding this prototype uncomfortable.”
Emily, one of her favorite colleagues nodded. “I’d be hesitant to carry this at night because it’s uncomfortable.” She also offered another improvement. “If you made this handle more rubberized and fit it better to a hand there would be less chance of losing your grip in bad weather.”
They discussed that, with both Nick and Jon scribbling notes and one of the other researchers came forward with an assortment of handle designs. Each of the women tried the options and unanimously selected one in particular.
“We didn’t think about a rubberized grip.” Jon scratched his head. He made precise measurements of the chosen handle. Then spinning toward his computer he pulled up the rendering on the screen. As they watched, he sized it down. “This would fit better in a smaller hand.”
“The thing is, a smaller handle would still fit a large hand. However, this design would work best for the demographic you’re targeting.” Alexis pointed to a curve in the smaller design.
By then many of her colleagues were called away. They were on site today for a meeting, otherwise many of them would be pounding the pavement. A good bit of their job could be done over the phone, but they all made a point to spend actual face time with their customers.
Alexis had spent her first few weeks establishing contacts with as many retailers as they had. She spent a fraction of her time on chasing new leads but also worked diligently to provide her current clients with the best products they manufactured.
”Is that what you wanted?” She asked Nick before she also left.
“That’s more than I ever imagined, thank you.” He waved his tablet where notes and calculations scrawled across the glass surface. His deep voice appealed in ways she was too chicken to delve into.
“Hopefully we set you ahead of schedule. That’s what getting feedback should provide.”
“We are heartily thankful for your help.” Jon twisted his chair around to salute her but immediately returned to his keyboard where he tapped with abandon. The lab appeared to have been energized. The men all scurried from table to table, checking measurements, rifling through components, and inputting data.
“You’re welcome.” She smiled. “Aren’t departments supposed to work together?”
Nick walked her to the door. “Yes, but it’s rare.” He didn’t sound in favor of this.
Her favorable take on him wavered. “You don’t think we should all work together?”
“I believe it should happen far more often than it does.” He gestured toward the lab. “You just saved us hours, if not days.”
“I agree about us working together. And I’m glad we could help.”
They stared at each other for the span of several heartbeats. She swallowed and stepped into the hallway.
He followed. “Thank you again.”
“You’re welcome. Having a great product makes our job in sales that much easier.”
“Do you enjoy your job?”
“For the most part, yes, I do. There are times when I don’t but I imagine that’s true for the majority of people.”
“I can’t imagine trying to sell people stuff.” He shoved a hand through his curls.
Her smile increased. “I hear that a lot. I believe in the products I sell and love working for a woman owned and run company.”
“I’ve enjoyed my time here.” His nod was slow.
“How long have you worked here?”
“See, I can’t imagine developing new products for that many years. Let me talk to people all day and I’m happy.”
He didn’t exactly shudder at this. “No, thank you.” His voice sounded tight.
“That’s why you excel at your job and I excel at mine.”
Nick studied her face for a long moment. “I’ve heard you’re a dynamite sales force.”
“Not your whole department—you.”
For a second, she couldn’t think. “No, it’s all of us. I just bring a different perspective.”
“I don’t think so.” His deep voice remained pleasant to listen to.
“I do.” I need to get back to work. She didn’t say anything.
“Would you like to have dinner sometime?”
Would you like to have dinner sometime? Are you crazy? Nick’s inner self shouted at him at this unfortunate lack of judgment. The more sensible part jammed the panic button.
But Alexis-the-beauty tilted her head to the side and studied him. The expression in her eyes quelled the ensuing internal frenzy. “Yes, I think I would.”
On the verge of saying, what, Nick rallied and grabbed control of himself again. He was not a high school boy now. “What night do you have free?” His voice grew a little deeper.
“I’m actually free tonight.”
Every muscle inside him clenched. “Perfect. Do you want to meet at a restaurant or would you be comfortable with me picking you up?”
“Maybe it’s best if we drive separately. I live on the south side.”
“So do I. I’m thinking about a great little place called Granny’s Kitchen. Have you heard of it?”
“I have. I’ve never eaten there though.”
“It’s a little treasure tucked away with a great atmosphere and amazing food.”
“I think that’s close to my place, so I’ll meet you there.”
He didn’t argue, because he’d learned that women had to always be cautious. Nick also didn’t need to exert his own will just because. If he pressed a point it had to do with him being passionate about the issue. He still didn’t close his mind to other possibilities though.
They agreed on a time. Her thoughtful look when she did finally leave left him embroiled in his own thoughts.
What have I done? But that initial panic didn’t swarm him again.
He had asked Alexis Collins out. So what? Maybe he didn’t make a habit of dating women he felt were out of his league but the women he considered in his league had all disappointed. Not that Alexis resembled what he’d heard or was anything like he had expected. At least based on his initial interaction with her.
Never once had she discounted someone else’s thoughts. She didn’t slightly mock others for their opinions. Madison did. Alexis also didn’t flirt with every male in the room to get her own way.
He respected that. Her clear blue eyes had remained without guile and never turned sly or flirtatious. Nick appreciated women who didn’t wield their wiles.
Alexis certainly possessed plenty of those. He strolled back into the lab, just short of whistling.
All of the males in the room focused on him. “What?”
“You just went up to her and asked her to come see our new prototype?” One of the most girl-crazy guys in the entire room gawked as his Adam’s apple bobbed.
“Yes. I saw her in the hallway and asked her to give us feedback on the PRO17.” He pushed up his glasses. “Once it’s done, I think we should ask her for feedback on the device name. Her suggestion about asking for name input from the testers is also great.” He checked that he’d made that notation.
The entire lab gaped. “You just walked right up to her, the most beautiful woman here—who can have any guy she wants—and asked her a question.”
Jon looked in danger of sliding right off his chair. His buddy was a classic nerd. Out of shape, with a receding hairline, glasses similar to his own, and an appetite for any blood thirsty game available. “And she came with you and then brought her entire department.”
Nick paused in reviewing his notes. “Guys, getting feedback for a new product is part of our job description. We’re supposed to ask for input for all of our products.”
Mac, the only normal genius in the lab, nodded. “And by asking her, we’re actually further ahead with this project than we were this morning.” Satisfaction oozed from him.
“I think it was successful.” Nick returned to his notes.
“I can’t believe you walked right up to the most beautiful woman here. And she acknowledged you, agreed to look at the product, and gave us great feedback.” The girl-crazy geek blinked in wonder.
Holding up a hand, Nick stepped in with a major word of caution. “Alexis is known for her professionalism. I knew that when I approached her. She is unique in the beautiful woman realm. Most of them, as you know, won’t hesitate to shoot us down.” Take Madison for instance…
This dampened the ebullient spirits of the nerds in his lab. Which is what he sought. The guys couldn’t go racing up to any gorgeous woman and expect her to react the way Alexis had.
If he thought about it, asking Alexis to give her input was out of the ordinary for him. Then again, Nick had learned long ago how to interact with most people and he had learned a few tricks that aided him with beautiful women. The guys thought him a jock because Madison had made her interest known.
But Nick had studied women when he’d first come into hormones because that seemed like the logical thing to do. During his coursework, he’d learned that women had an agenda and usually didn’t mind entertaining the smartest guy in the class because this enabled them to achieve better grades. They wanted to date the popular guys but enjoyed a “friendship” with his kind.
This understanding of woman had sustained him through high school, college, and graduate school. He’d made peace with himself long ago. Perhaps that had been why he’d had no problem approaching Alexis. She hadn’t been on his mind as a person of interest in the dating realm.
Someone that accomplished and gorgeous wasn’t the sort he would interact with except on a professional level.
Better get back to work. His notes sucked him in and his brain focused on the product they hoped to bring to market with rousing success. He tucked thoughts of Alexis away for now. Hopefully. Otherwise these intelligent guys would figure out his plans and that monkey wrench needed to be avoided at all costs…COLLAPSE