Home > Mr. Perfect(12)

Mr. Perfect(12)
Author: Linda Howard

True to form, Leah gasped when she read the sign, and began turning red. "That's disgraceful," she snapped, reaching out to take it down.

"If you touch it, your fingerprints will be on it," Jaine said, totally deadpan.

Leah froze, her hand only a fraction of an inch from the paper.

"There's no telling how many people have already seen it," Jaine continued as she punched the up button. "Someone in management is bound to hear about it and investigate even if the sign isn't here any longer. Unless you plan on eating it – which I wouldn't, the germ count on that thing must be in the gazillions – how are you going to dispose of it without being seen?"

Leah flashed Jaine a look of dislike. "You probably think this disgusting trash is funny."

"As a matter of fact, I do."

"I wouldn't be surprised if you put it up yourself."

"Maybe you should tell on me," Jaine suggested as the elevator doors opened and she stepped inside. "Try calling 1-800-WHO-CARES."

The elevator doors closed, leaving Leah standing outside them glaring at her. That was the most acrimonious exchange they'd ever had, though Leah wasn't known for the ability to get along with others. How she had ever landed a job in HR was beyond Jaine. Most of the time, she simply felt sorry for the woman.

Today wasn't one of those times.

Mondays were always the busiest day of the week in the payroll department, because that was when all the time cards for the week before were turned in. Hammerstead worked at supplying computer technology to General Motors, not at putting its own payroll system on computer. They still did it the old-fashioned way, with time cards that were punched by a clock. It was a lot of paperwork, but so far payroll had not been stopped by a software glitch or a hard-drive crash. Maybe that was why Hammer-stead hadn't upgraded: the payroll, like the mail, had to go through.

By ten o'clock, she was ready for a break. Each floor had a snack room, with the usual assortment of vending machines, cheap cafeteria tables and metal chairs, a refrigerator, a coffeemaker, and a microwave oven. There were several women and one man grouped around a single table when Jaine entered, all of the women laughing their heads off and the guy looking indignant. Jaine poured herself a much-needed cup of coffee. "What's up?" she asked.

"A special edition of the newsletter," one of the women, Dominica Flores, answered. Her eyes were wet from laughing. "This one is going down in history."

"I don't see what's so funny" said the guy, scowling. "You wouldn't," a woman said, snickering. She held out the newsletter to Jaine. "Take a look."

The company newsletter wasn't officially sanctioned, not by any stretch of the imagination. It originated from the first two floors; give that many imaginations access to desktop publishing, and it was bound to happen. The newsletter appeared at irregular intervals, and there was usually something in it that had management trying to round up all the copies.

Jaine took another sip of coffee as she took the newsletter. The guys actually did a pretty professional job of it, though with the equipment and software at their disposal, it would have been a disgrace if they hadn't. The newsletter was named The Hammerhead and a nasty- looking shark was the logo. It wasn't a hammerhead shark, but that didn't matter. The articles were set in columns, there were good graphics, and a fairly witty cartoonist who signed his work "Mako" usually poked fun at some aspect of corporate life.

Today the headline was set in huge boldface letters: DO YOU MEASURE UP? Below it read, "What Women Really Want," with a tape measure coiled like a cobra ready to strike.

"Forget about it, guys," the article began. "Most of us are nonstarters. For years we've been told it's not what we've got, it's how we use it, but now we know the truth. Our expert panel of four women, friends who work here at Hammerstead, have come up with a list of their requirements for the perfect man."

Uh-oh. Jaine almost groaned, but managed to bite back the sound and show nothing but interest in her expression. Damn it, what had Marci done with that list she had written down? They would all be teased unmercifully, and this was the kind of thing that stuck forever. She could just see tape measures by the dozen turning up on her desk every morning.

Hastily she skimmed down the article. Thank God; none of their names were mentioned. They were listed as A, B, C, and D. She was still going to wring Marci's neck, but now she wouldn't have to fold, spindle, and mutilate her. The entire list was there, starting with "faithful" in the number one spot. The list wasn't bad until it hit number eight, "great in bed," but after that it deteriorated rapidly. Number nine was Marci's ten-inch requirement, complete with all their accompanying comments, including her own about the last two inches being leftovers.

Number ten had to do with how long Mr. Perfect should be able to last in bed. "Definitely longer than a television commercial," had been T.J.'s – Ms. D's – rather scathing indictment. They had settled on half an hour as the optimum length of lovemaking, not counting foreplay. "Why not?" Ms. C – that was Jaine – was quoted as saying. "This is a fantasy, right? And a fantasy is supposed to be exactly what you want it to be. My Mr. Perfect could give me thirty minutes of thrusting time – unless you're having a quickie, in which case thirty minutes would kind of defeat the purpose."

The women were all howling with laughter, so Jaine figured some expression must be on her face. She just hoped it looked like astonishment rather than horror. The guy – she thought his name was Gary or Craig, something like that – was turning redder by the minute. "You wouldn't think it was so funny if a bunch of men said that their ideal woman had to have big boobs," he snapped, getting to his feet.

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