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Need You for Mine(6)

By:Marina Adair

She just had to keep her eyes open.

When Clovis still didn’t look convinced, Harper took her hand. “You’re not the bad guy here, Grandma. She was using the shop after hours to entertain her male friend. While wearing store merchandise.”

Baby didn’t end up entertaining Adam—at least not that Harper knew, since Baby and Fireman Frisky left separately—and Baby had paid for the merchandise before turning in her key. She’d also taken a handful of the Come Again Condoms Clovis passed out for swag.

“Have you seen that man’s chest?” Clovis asked, placing a hand to her ample bosom, and Harper considered doing the same since her pulse was picking up pace at an alarming rate. Harper’s eyes went to the Cuties with Booties calendar on the wall that was still opened to July—of last year. “I’d do the dressing-room dance with him, too,” Clovis continued. “The month his photo came up in Shay’s calendar, with him in only his helmet, suspenders, and turnout pants, my Fireman Saves the Day dildo sales went up three hundred percent. Can’t say I blame the girl.”

Unfortunately, neither could Harper, now that she knew firsthand just how incredible his abs were. And his lips? Confident, controlled, and so lethal under pressure she could still feel the effects two days later. She almost felt like a hypocrite when she said, “This time we were lucky. Baby was sweet-talked by the local playboy. Next time it could be by a playboy who wouldn’t think twice about taking off her fishnets, then taking off with your cash.”

“You’re right,” Clovis said, looking more concerned than comforted. “But now I’m short an assistant, and with National Underwear Day right around the corner, time is running out to order fall inventory.”

“I can help you after I get off work until we hire someone new. Someone who is qualified to manage a retail store,” she clarified.

Clovis shook her head, her gray bob bouncing. “No, you don’t understand. I didn’t hire Baby for her managerial skills—the girl can’t even count change. She’s my hired sex.”

“Hired what?” Harper asked because surely she’d misunderstood. There was no way her grandma was a madam.

“I hired her for the sex.”

Well, look at that. Harper suddenly felt light-headed. As if she needed a stool to hold up her weight. Because if Baby’s credentials were that of sex for hire, then it meant—

“Adam was a, uh, customer?”

“He’s one of my best customers,” Clovis said and, yup, Harper was going to be sick. All over the Come Again Condoms basket. “But Baby was supposed to be my front person for when we meet with the rep next week. Be the sexy on my team.”

Harper laughed—it was part hysterical and part relief, but it was a laugh—which was so much better than throwing up. “Since when do you need a team to meet with reps?”

Clovis had been handling buyers and reps since before Harper was born. In fact, she’d been in the sex business so long she predated Hugh Hefner. There wasn’t a lingerie company or distributor Clovis hadn’t worked with, or one she couldn’t call.

“Since I lost my sexy,” Clovis cried. “I went and got myself a man and suddenly I’ve become Ms. Missionary. Not in the bedroom, mind you, but in the boardroom and around town. One of my suppliers has pulled their terms for fall, leaving me with a pending order.”

Harper ignored the bedroom part, because picturing the woman who practically raised her doing the dirty with Giles Rousseau gave her the shivers. “Small shops get pending orders all the time because of the quantities, you know that.”

“Not my shop,” Clovis said, and her eyes went misty. “Never my shop. A pending order with no expected ship date? That means I don’t know what I’m going to be selling in the fall. I can’t prep for the new season, can’t update my website, or get my fall catalog ready.”

“Didn’t they give you an estimate?”

“They were too busy sending in a secret shopper who reported back that the Boulder Holder has”—she took a shuddery breath—“‘lost its sexual edge, catering to the senior demographic,’ which we all know means granny panties. I am not a granny panty pusher!”

“That’s one manufacturer,” Harper said, putting her arms around Clovis’s meaty shoulders.

“But it’s the only one that counts,” she whispered, and Harper’s chest pinched at the defeat and humiliation she heard in her grandma’s voice. “And if they pull my shop from their list of retailers, I don’t know what will happen.”