Ok, I feel so bad that this latest Flirts! volume is taking so long. A few more weeks, I promise! (I have to absolutely love the stories myself before I release them, and I’ve had to walk around with these in my head for a while until the stories shaped into something I really liked.) So here’s the first few pages of “Pickup Lessons,” story #1 from More Flirts!
By Lisa Scott
Stone Kinney crouched behind a rack of clearance evening gowns while setting his sights on the blonde fingering bottles at the perfume counter. She bit her lush lower lip as she considered the choices. The word stalker occurred to him as he watched her, but he reminded himself that all the dating books had instructed him to find women where they congregated. The perfume counter was like a watering hole in the African tundra and he was merely observing the gathering. And besides, it’s not like he was staking out the lingerie section. That would have been much more menacing than peeping at the cosmetics department.
But the women perusing perfumes weren’t much friendlier than wild animals stopping for a drink. The last two prospects he’d approached had swung their shopping bags at him. He’d have the bruises the next day to prove it. They must’ve just purchased hand weights. Or rocks. Two others had sprinted toward the food court when he walked over from behind the gowns with a friendly grin. Another had spritzed him with the tester—right in the eyes. If he hadn’t been so annoyed, he would’ve been impressed with her aim.
The books had all made it sound much easier than this. Not one had mentioned needing self-defense moves while trying to meet a woman at the mall. He’d even worn argyle socks so he’d seem perfectly harmless—he had a drawer full of them to choose from.
He looked up at the ceiling and sighed. Maybe social awkwardness couldn’t be overcome. That should’ve been his dissertation instead of macroscopic quantum mechanics in theoretical astrophysics. How the hell was that going to help him get a date? It was as if he’d bent his head to start reading sophomore year in high school and now only looked up ten years later. He had a lot of dating to catch up on and little experience how to do it. His one and only girlfriend, Susan, had been consumed with her work on protozoa. Seriously, a singular cell organism was more interesting than him? Then she’d dumped him for her micro-biology professor. Now here he was with a new Ph.D., no job prospects, and no girlfriend. With the job search stalled, Stone decided to focus his attention on the female problem. After years with his head literally in the stars, it was time to get his feet back on the ground, argyle socks or not.
“Excuse me,” he said, approaching the blonde. “I want to pick out a perfume for my sister’s birthday. Any suggestions?”
She cocked her head and squinted at him. “What’s wrong with your eyes? They’re all red and swollen.”
He cleared his throat, wondering if he’d get sympathy points for telling her about the tester fiasco. “Allergies. Wicked bad allergies.”
“Weird, right? Maybe I’m just sensitive.” He let that hang there for a reaction, but only got a stare. Guess she doesn’t like the sensitive type.
He rocked back on his heels. “So, any perfume suggestions from a beautiful woman such as yourself?”
She frowned. “Are you sure your sister wears perfume?”
He shrugged. “She always smells great. Real sexy. It’s quite the chemical reaction with her pheromones.”
The blonde blinked at him and backed away. “Yeah. I’ve got to go…”
This is what you get for putting school ahead of women, he thought to himself. His priorities had been all out of whack. Sighing, he was ready to retreat behind a rack of burgundy ball gowns to regroup, when he spotted a cute brunette on the other side of the counter.
He loosened his shoulders and bounced on his toes, then walked over with an easy-going smile. At least he hoped it was. One of the books had advised him to appear approachable, and he’d practiced several different expressions in the mirror to achieve the right look. Although the difference between his look of nausea and nice-to-meet-you was subtle at best. He tapped the woman on the shoulder and she jumped.
“Excuse me,” he said. “I’m shopping for my sister’s birthday and I’d like to buy perfume for her. Any good ones you could recommend? You look like you smell nice.” He cleared his throat. “You know, from an evolutionary standpoint, with your thick shiny hair and full hips, your scent is bound to be attractive as well.”
“Uh-huh.” She scrunched her brows together and looked down. “Um, perfume’s kind of a personal thing.” She smoothed her hand over her hips and frowned. Then she crossed her arms.
“There has to be one popular with hot women like you.” He’d been trying to learn how to read body language, and he knew that crossed arms were not a move meant to boost the bust. It was usually a bad sign. At least that’s what the book on body language had said.
“Why don’t you ask the saleswoman for a suggestion?” She wrinkled her nose. “She looks like she smells nice, too. Although I haven’t seen her hips.” She picked up her shopping bags and walked off.
“Today’s the Pro Bowl! Don’t I get points for shopping on the biggest sports day of the year? For my sister’s birthday?” It was stupid to holler after her while she was walking away. That was an even worse non-verbal cue than the arm cross, but he was getting frustrated.
“You don’t even have a sister, do you?”
He turned around to see who was talking to him. He smiled at the attractive saleswoman he’d been watching all afternoon. This was the first time she hadn’t been busy helping someone or else he would’ve approached her, too. “What makes you say I don’t have a sister?” He didn’t. But how would she know?
The woman put a hand on her hip. “I’ve never met a guy who bought perfume for his sister. I have four brothers; they’re never that thoughtful. And what’s this Pro Bowl business?”
He toyed with the cap on a perfume bottle, knocking it over. She snatched the bottle from him and he shoved his hands in his pockets.“I thought it would impress the ladies that I was shopping on the biggest sports day of the year. So, I’d come across manly, yet sensitive with my argyle socks.” He lifted up his leg to show her.
She blinked. “You’re not kidding, are you?”
He shoved his hands in his pockets. “I don’t like sports, I thought it was a plus.”
She laughed. “First of all, argyle socks are lame. And secondly, the Pro Bowl is in two weeks. Today’s the divisional playoffs. Third of all, no one watches the Pro Bowl—the biggest game of the year is the Super Bowl. And even if you were out here on Super Bowl Sunday, that’s a desperate, devious ploy.”
“I’d call it creative.”
“Coy at best. Besides, some women like sports. I’ll have my butt in a barstool on super bowl Sunday. Maybe your sister will, too?”
He gave a nervous laugh. “You a big NFL fan?” He held up a finger. “Wait. I don’t mean that you’re big. You’re not big at all. You’re quite a nice size. I’m sure I could fit my hands around—”
“I’m a huge fan.” She crossed her arms and glared at him.