He’ll do whatever it takes to get out of town. She’ll do whatever it takes to keep him there.
Ford Adams had led a charmed life, but if he doesn’t figure out how to make the equivalent of a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, and sell a boat-load of them, he and his mother might find themselves flipping burgers. Determined not to let that happen, he’ll need all the help he can get—especially from his sexy new business partner. If he can get her to take a chance on his crazy new idea, then maybe he can convince her to take a chance on him.
Becky Jean Parker’s life has been anything but what she’d imagined it would be, but she’d been content until a recent turn of events once again left her no choice. Unless she wants to wallow in bankruptcy for the rest of her life, she’ll have to go along with her new business partner’s insane plan and pray he knows what he’s talking about. The only thing more insane than Ford’s plan to sell sex toys is her attraction to him. Typical of her life, she’d had no choice but to fall for the one man she can’t have.
“The first-ever, lock-in-place butt plug!”
Her insides turned to ice while, inexplicably, heat infused her skin. She didn’t need a mirror to know her face had turned tomato red. Her gaze automatically went to the printer dripping plastic droplets onto an ever-growing pile. Could the item really be…? She had no idea. She’d read about their use in a few steamy romance novels, but she had no firsthand knowledge of the devices.
“You can’t be serious.” Needing to steady her nerves before she went ballistic on her business partner, she reached for her wine, brought the cool glass to her lips, and drained it.
“I’m dead serious, Becks. It won’t take much to retool one of the machines to make them. We’ll keep packaging to a minimum—a plastic bag with a cardboard header. We’ll earmark the first five hundred as free samples, which you’ll send out, worldwide, to wholesale adult toy distributors. I tell you, this will work. People will buy this product.”
“Are you insane? First, this is Butte Plains. If we start making… those things”—she nodded toward the printer—“all our employees will quit. Second, I don’t know anything about the adult toy industry. I wouldn’t know where to start if—and that’s a very big if—I were to agree to your ridiculous plan and we could convince our people to produce the… things.”
“First,” he mimicked her not-quite-business-like shrieking voice, “our employees will make what we tell them to make if they want to keep their jobs. If they quit, then what is the unemployment rate in Butte Plains? Ten? Fifteen percent? We’ll replace them. Second, you’re a smart woman. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Internet. It shouldn’t take you more than a few hours to acquaint yourself with the major adult toy wholesalers.”
She barely heard what he said after he called her smart, but evidently, her subconscious had been listening. She caught up quickly. “Even if we could accomplish a miracle turnover, do people buy those things?”
“The adult toy industry is huge, Becks.”
“I wouldn’t know.” She forced her thoughts away from the cute pink vibrator she kept in her nightstand for those times when she needed release in order to remain sane. Ford might be right about sex selling, but she’d never in a million years let him in on how lonely she’d been since returning to Butte Plains. Some things a girl had to keep to herself.
“Trust me, sex sells.”
“Even if it does, what makes you think your… item will sell?”
“Mine locks in place. It’s a huge improvement over anything on the market today.” He got up and crossed to where the printer put the finishing touches on his creation. “There will be some assembly required before packaging. I’ve already contacted Scott about the locking mechanisms. He designed one a couple of years ago for a project that never went anywhere. He’s willing to let us use it for a few pennies royalty on each unit sold. He’s sending me a case of them by special messenger to try out. They’ll be here tomorrow.”
“My best friend and business partner. He’s an incredible designer in his own right. Luckiest day of my life was the day we were assigned as roommates at MIT.”
“Oh.” Did Ronny know about Ford’s relationship with Scott? Maybe they had a three-way going on or something. Not my business.
Becky gathered the dirty dishes and put them in the sink. Leaning back against the counter, she gazed at her insane business partner’s back. He had one thing right—they needed to do something different, but did they have to dive ass first into the adult toy manufacturing business? Turning, she rinsed the dishes and put everything into the dishwasher. When she spun back around, Ford stood in front of the table, his new creation in his hand.
“It doesn’t look any different on the outside. The locking mechanism will be what separates it from the run-of-the-mill variety.” He flipped the item over, examining it from every angle.
“I just don’t see it working, Ford.”
“Have you ever used a butt plug?”
Heat rose to her cheeks. “No. I’ve never even seen one.”
“You through there?” He nodded toward the kitchen prep area.
He set the plug on the counter. “Come on. It’s time for us to take a field trip.”
“Where are we going?” she asked, sinking into the soft leather seats of his luxury rental car.
“I don’t like this, Ford.” She reached for the door handle.
“Okay, okay.” Before she could bolt from the car, he cranked the engine and drove down the driveway. “There’s an adult store out on the Interstate. I saw it when I drove in from the airport.”
She knew the place—by sight only. “You can’t be serious.”
“I wish you’d quit saying that. I’m dead serious, Becks. I appreciate what you and my dad were trying to do, but the fact is we need to change course, and fast. We’re headed straight for the iceberg. If we hit it, we’re all going down. You, me, my mother, all our employees.”
He painted a grim picture, but, in truth, she’d seen the same one hanging on the wall. But there had to be another way.
“If you’ve got a better idea, this is the time to speak up.”
Damn him for being logical. “No. Sadly, I don’t have any idea at all, much less a better one.”
“Then give me the benefit of the doubt here, Becks.” He pulled into the blessedly empty parking lot and cut the engine. “There are thousands of these stores across the country. They’re springing up in malls and respectable neighborhoods, too. Many are women-owned businesses. You should like that.”
“Come on. Let’s go inside.”
“Come on, Becks. Consider this your first class in Marketing to the Adult Toy Industry 101.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “What if someone sees us? What will they think?”
“I hope you do see someone you know. It will help convince you normal people are buying this stuff. As for what they’ll think… well, I suspect they’d wish they could help you with whatever it is you’re buying tonight.”
“I’m not buying anything.”
“Just wait until you see what they have to offer. You might change your mind.”
“I hate you.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Yes, I do.” She reached for the door handle. “I’m going to go inside, but only so I can gather enough information to point out the errors in your plan.”
Ford placed his hand on the small of her back and guided her through the aisles toward the back of the store where a flashing neon sign said Anal Play.
“It’s okay to look around, Becks.”
“I don’t want to look around.”
“Sure you do. This is the kind of place you can’t not look around. It’s like an old-time carnival—filled with oddities you’re drawn to even though you know you shouldn’t be.”
Damn. Why did he have to be right all the time? She’d already spotted several things she wouldn’t mind taking a closer look at, but Hell would freeze over before she’d admit being curious. “Let’s just do what we came to do and get out of here.”
“Sure you don’t want to look around?”
They stopped in front of a wall display covered with butt plugs of every size and color imaginable.
“They’re identical to the one you just printed.” Except for that one. And that one.
“Yes, they are.” At the sound of Ford’s voice, she tore her gaze away from the one with electrical wires attached. He took one down for closer examination.
He held it up, end first. “See? Where this one is solid on the end, mine has a hole in it. The locking mechanism will go right there.”
She scanned the wall. “None of these have locks?”
“Nope. A design flaw I’m going to correct.”
“Seems to me, if a lock was such a good idea, someone else would have come up with one. And, have you considered there could be a reason none of these have locks?”
“Like what?” He took a large pink one down.
“Like, it’s a bad idea, for reasons I can’t even begin to think of.”
He turned his gaze to her and smiled. Something inside her flared to life. She took a step back. He has a boyfriend. He has a boyfriend. Maybe if she reminded herself enough times she’d believe it.
“You’ve never tried to keep one of these things in, have you?”
No. “Have you?” God, she did not want to go there, not with Ford.
His smile turned to a smirk. “I plead the fifth. But I can see I need to convince you of the superiority of my product.” He reached for a shopping basket from the stack of them in the corner.
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