Ahmed's cousin Sam stepped ahead to push open the door of the studio, and Ahmed moved to step through it when a flash of pink caught his eye, something unusual in his established Wednesday-morning routine. He stopped in his tracks and damn near caught his breath at the vision of femininity floating toward him from down the hallway.
High heels, a pink floral dress swirling around slender legs and hips, a narrow waist he could easily measure with both of his hands. The woman’s breasts were small, barely a handful, but like most Black men he socialized with, Ahmed had never been caught up in breast size. Big, small, barely there at all—it didn’t matter to him. The rear view was what made him decide whether or not a woman was worth a second look or even a second date.
The Pink Lady sauntered toward him, her hips swaying and high heels loudly kissing the tile floors, making his heart beat faster as she came close. She wore her hair straight and pinned up in some sort of topknot with curly wisps floating around her face.
“Don’t swallow your tongue.” Sam, still holding the door open, was making a visible effort not to roll his eyes.
Ahmed didn’t care. He was already losing himself in a daydream involving thick thighs and a plump backside made for spanking. He had no idea what his Pink Lady was packing in her trunk, but damn, he bet it was good. His fingers twitched with the phantom sensation of sinking into her sweet flesh.
Sam pretended to cough into his fist. “Okay, now you’re just being a creep.”
And he was right. Ahmed couldn’t stop himself from just…staring. He didn’t want to stop. Above her hips and waist and delicate-looking breasts, the woman’s face was pretty. Like a daisy in sunlight or a rainbow after a storm, she stunned him with her natural and easy radiance. The image came to him, effortlessly, of tumbling with her into his bed to the music of her laughter and the sweet clasp of her thighs while her thick hair fanned over his pillow.
Damn. She made him want to give up his rule about messing around at work.
But he wasn’t a kid anymore. He couldn’t afford to be that sloppy about who he took to his bed. Not again. His—no—the Pink Lady was still walking toward Ahmed, but he forced himself to look away from her.
“Let’s get in there and do this.” He clapped his hands once, a loud gunshot of a noise to get his mind right.
“I’m not the one who needs the pep talk about sticking to business, cousin.” Despite his casual words, Sam did his usual thorough scan of the studio’s large outer office, only relaxing his stance once he was satisfied nothing lurked in the spacious room to harm Ahmed on his watch.
“Ahmed, my man!” The station’s general manager, Clive Ramirez, was a ball of energy. Probably from the four-plus espressos he usually had before lunch. He stepped out from behind the receptionist’s desk, where he had been looking over the young woman’s shoulder at something on her computer. With a wide grin, he shook Ahmed’s hand. Firm and enthusiastic.
“What’s going on, Clive?”
“Life, just life.” Short yet muscular, with a belly just beginning to grow from middle age and lack of exercise, Clive Ramirez gave the impression of being a perennially happy man. He loved what he did for a living, fairly treated the people who worked for him, and loved drama like a teenage girl. But everyone had to have a hobby. Clive followed Ahmed and Sam from the outer offices to the sound booth.
“Nothing wrong with that.” Ahmed took off his blazer and draped it over one of the six chairs in the room while Sam stood with his back against the wall, his legs spread, hands clasped easily in front of him as he kept an eye on the single door into the room and the glass partition separating the sound booth from the studio, where the sound engineer and his intern handled their responsibilities.
Over the airwaves, Ahmed could hear DJ Don Juan, who was in the sound booth across the hall, about to wrap up his morning show.
“What’s on tap for today?” Ahmed asked Clive. “Anything special or do I just do my thing?” His thing was usually to play music, rile up the listeners and entertain them with what his mother called his bee-sting humor. Ahmed would almost do this for free. He settled down into the ergonomic chair with a sigh of bone-deep pleasure then swiveled around to keep Clive in his sights.
The station’s GM sat in the chair on the opposite side of the oblong table and its six microphones set up in the center of the soundproof room. “More of the usual,” Clive said. “Except we have a Valentine’s Day promotion going on. A local woman is supposed to come on with you today to plug her business.” He passed Ahmed a sheet of paper. “It’s all here. Just introduce her and her business then offer the prize. If it goes well, people will be calling in to win, and she’ll get her money’s worth in new clients.”
“Cool, I can do that.” He quickly scanned the paper, noting the type of business, the name of the owner and what she offered. He smirked before he could get his face under control. “Selling romance, huh?”
“What? You got something against selling love? `Tis the season, my friend.”
Ahmed shrugged, not bothering to offer his opinion about romance or love in general. None of the so-called relationships he’d experienced had anything remotely like “love” attached to them. He didn’t want to seem like the Grinch or whatever the Valentine’s Day equivalent was.
“If you like it, I love it,” he said and caught the flicker of amusement on Sam’s otherwise stoic face. Ahmed hid his hand behind his back and shot his cousin the bird. This time, Sam’s amusement came with a huff of quiet laughter.
Minutes later, Ahmed eased into the seat, once DJ Don Juan wrapped up his program. He slipped on the headphones and into his on-air persona.
“Hey, Atlanta! It’s Ahmed Clark on the air and in your ear for the next—” he looked at his watch, a gift from his father “—two hours and fifty-eight minutes. If you want to talk, call me. If you want to listen, open your ears real wide.” And he was off. Grin in place, anticipation for the next few hours bubbling under his skin. Yeah, he could definitely do this for free.
He fell into the magic of being on air, exchanging laughter and information with his listeners until he got the signal from the sound engineer’s intern outside the glass. She flashed him five fingers. Almost time for Gabrielle Marshall to get on the microphone to hawk her goods. He gave Kiara the thumbs-up sign and started to wind down his heated discussion with a listener about citizen responsibility in the digital age.
When the woman kept insisting regular people didn’t need to share everything they recorded on their cell phones, especially when it came to footage that would inflame the public, Ahmed cut her off with Rihanna’s “Desperado.”
When Kiara gave him the thirty-second warning, he was ready. The door to the sound booth opened. And it turned out he wasn’t prepared.
The Pink Lady from the hallway swept in on a cloud of crisp perfume, like she brought the spirit of autumn in with her, and Ahmed couldn’t help but inhale a deep breath of it. The pen he’d been making a note with dropped from his numb fingers and rolled across the notebook, across the desk and then to the floor. He heard Sam snickering. A signal for him to get it together. For real.
But damn, she had dimples. They bracketed her quick smile, and she sank gracefully into the chair across from him to easily fit the headphones over her high swirl of neatly pinned hair. Three diamond studs in varying sizes winked from the lobe of one ear.
“Hi, I’m Gabrielle Marshall,” she said. “Most people call me Elle.”
Her voice was pure sex. And damn if she wasn’t even sweeter looking up close. The smiling lips with just a hint of color. Big Bambi eyes and thick hair he could easily sink his hands into. He forced himself to pay attention to the now instead of the hypothetical future where he had her in his bed. He held out his hand for her to shake.
She smiled wider, a curve of glistening and lusciously full lips that made him glad he was sitting down. After releasing her soft hand, he reached under the desk to subtly adjust himself.
Although Sam didn’t make another sound, Ahmed could feel his amusement from all the way across the room.
Ahmed cleared his throat and glanced at the timer. “I’ll introduce you after this song. You already know what to do, right?”
Why did that sound dirty?
The Pink Lady—Elle—nodded and settled her little purse on the desk. Her lips curved again. The pulse of heat in Ahmed’s slacks made him wince. A woman’s smile. Really? That was what was getting him hard these days? He must really need to get laid. He could easily picture her being the next woman sprawled, wet and panting, in his bed.