Barry hardly ever dined out in the open anymore. His security guys would have a stroke.
As Darrel -- his beefy director of personal security -- had spelled out, "Look, Barry: You've got a former secret service agent, two hard cars, three ex-Navy SEALs, and a 24-7 perimeter patrol -- and you want to spend two hours out in the clear, exposed to the general freakin' public? Not on my watch. Some Belgian wacko hits you in the face with a cream pie like old Bill Gates got, and I never work again. This is a competitive business, Barry, just like yours. You need to get on board." Then, cashing in on their macho camaraderie, he added, "If not for your sake, then do it for me."
Barry had relented. If he was a sucker for anything, it was for real-life action heroes pleading with him.
But Fleur de Lys had a number of private dining rooms, which had satisfied Darrel and the rest of Barry's corporate guard dogs. And this particular evening, Barry was pleased to discover an unanticipated benefit to his sequestration: It greatly facilitated his advances on the object of his affections -- a position currently being filled by Candy Sawyer. He silently thanked his bodyguards as he eased his hand under the table.
"I'm so impressed with your work," Barry crooned as he caressed her shapely, muscular leg. "You're all over the strategic markets. That's one of the things I love about you, Candy -- you know where to focus your efforts."
Candy swigged her kir royale and fixed Barry with a gaze somewhere between boudoir and boardroom. "That's nice of you to say, Barry -- it's my core competence." She shifted in her seat, generating some kinetic energy under the table in the process. "You just need the right touch. You have to just feel your way into the revenue streams, and use your intuition about where you're going to find the most juice."
This statement rendered Barry uncharacteristically mute with admiration, at least for the moment. His eyes nearly crossed with delight. Candy moved into the conversational vacuum, intent on multiplying her gains.
"You've got to go straight for the big targets, and cut 'em down fast. That's the whole game, Barry," she explained, voice quickening, caressing his meaty finger. "Once you've got the strategic markets roped and tied, the regional markets just fall into line. You just sit back and watch them all come to you." She tapped her fuchsia fingernail on his knuckle for emphasis.
Seeing such hard-balling ruthlessness in a member of the fairer sex inspired an almost unseemly delight in Barry. Candy was simultaneously pushing all his pleasure buttons.
"Oh, you're so tough," he fawned, more vigorously manhandling her knee by the moment. "How'd a mega-babe like you learn to be such an ass-kicker?"
Candy knew an opportunity to consummate an advantage when she saw one. "Good coaching, I guess," she said with an adoring look. "And you know, Barry, you could be getting even more leverage out of me if you," she lowered her voice just slightly, "have the desire."
"Oh, do I!" came his throaty growl. "Nothing would give me more pleasure. Tell me," he commanded, more than a little salaciously, "how I can get more leverage out of your core talents."
Candy was blunt. "As executive VP, Sales and Marketing."
Another suitor might have been put off by such an abrupt proposition, but Candy was demonstrating just the kind of naked ambition Barry so admired in himself. She seemed almost too good to be true; Barry was eager to find out just how firm her naked ambitions were. He decided to raise a little resistance, just to benchmark her desire.
"Now, I know you're one hell of a capable woman, Candy, and I hate to break it to you, toots, but I already have a guy in that slot. And as far as I can tell, he's doing OK."
Candy wrinkled her nose and frowned, temporarily diminishing the tenor of seduction. "Let me tell you about your guy, Barry: He's a weenie. As in www.weenie.com. This year, he's dropped the ball on at least two big opportunities."
So she wasn't afraid to step on some heads on her way up. There's that killer instinct again, Barry gloated to himself. "Oh, yeah? Tell me what you know."
"Remember that undersecretary of trade who came through town last February? That guy was ready to write checks -- big ones -- and your guy didn't follow through. Not important enough, he says. Then Informix swooped in for the kill -- a week of skiing at Tahoe, plus the standard Reno casino junket, and they turned him. That deal should have been us."
"Hmm." Nothing roiled Barry's anxiety like the specter of missed opportunity. "Tell me more."
"Then there was that toupee-wearing spook wannabe from the NSA with the fat black budget. All we had to do was humor him by pretending to be impressed with his James Bond routine. I could have nailed that one with both hands tied behind my back. Your guy was playing footsie with some university provost over some bullshit academic discounts."
Candy downshifted before Barry's ardor could be completely eclipsed by the shadow of unclosed deals. "And there're a couple of other things I have that your guy will never be able to compete with," she asserted in a softer, breathier voice.
"Like, you're holding one of them right now," she said, launching down the dregs of her cocktail. "Nothing trumps a great pair of legs."
Barry certainly must have found Candy's case compelling; he began to
imagine her in a higher position on the org chart -- as well as in
several more positions from the office edition of the Kama Sutra.
The waiter brought their lobster salads.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
By the end of the meal, Candy's play for promotion was nearly complete. There were only a few details left to resolve.
"It would mean that we'll have to work much more closely in the future," Barry asserted. "We'll have to tightly coordinate our efforts. Are you ready for a little strategic merger?" he asked.
"I don't know, Barry -- are you? There's this rumor floating around that you've already got a silent partner. What am I supposed to do with that?"
This wasn't the first time his zombie marriage had interposed itself amid his operations of conquest; he'd learned to deflect it without blinking. "Oh, don't you worry about that," he blithely dismissed, working the hem of her skirt. "When you're king of the world, people make up all kinds of bullshit stories. Don't pay any attention. You're backed up by the full faith and credit of the Bank of Barry.
"Your proposal is intriguing," he said, returning to the deal. "But I think we should sleep on it."
"You're the boss," she said breezily.