Handing Kylie a slightly smudged glass of celebratory Chenin Blanc, Ross exclaimed, "I apologize for my lack of faith--you really are an extremely crafty negotiator," and at the last second thought better of adding, "and a very dear sweet girl."
Kylie shifted her derriere on the stack of Commentary magazines beside his desk and grinned appreciatively as Ross gloated, "Imagine getting a set of posters plus the T-20, and only sacrificing a cheap Acme. You've outdone yourself, Kylie-girl."
Kylie smiled winsomely, aglow in the fulsome praise, and raised her glass to clink his in a toast. As each took an appreciative sip of wine, Ross's expression suddenly darkened. "Just be sure to test the T-20. It would be just like that Dragon Lady to try to pass off a busted Sunbeam. And make sure those movie posters are originals. Duplicates will have images of holes in the corners instead of real thumbtack holes."
"You think of everything," Kylie said brightly. "Everything devious, I mean."
With an appropriately evil chuckle Ross said, "Now that is praise of the highest order," and then added, "So you meet Robin at five tomorrow?"
"Yes. Here in Berkeley, at a cafe."
"Good idea. I'd rather dear Alexia didn't know where we lived."
"If she's clairvoyant, she already knows," Kylie remarked, and Ross responded by gulping the white wine a bit too quickly. Wiping his still-pancaked chin, he asked, "Did you ever pick up the shoes I paid for?"
Kylie nodded and offered him a beatific smile. "Do you really think I'd abandon lime-green heels? I went to the store after the craft fair, but Alexia wasn't there."
"Probably moping with her tail between her legs after being bested in the negotiations."
"Maybe," Kylie replied uncertainly. "But your $60 bought the heels and another pair of darling black flats with buckles. See?" Kylie stuck her feet out for Ross to inspect, but all he saw was her shapely legs.
"Adorable," he sighed, and Kylie beamed with pleasure. "Now about the $100 negotiator's fee."
"Sweet Jupiter, wasn't the fun of winning enough payment?"
Proffering her open palm, she said, "A deal's a deal. Rent's due in three weeks."
Ross poured her more wine and flashed a devious grin. "When the T-20Z is in my sweaty little palms."
"Don't you trust anyone?" Kylie snapped scathingly, and Ross's grin only widened. "Not when it involves a T-20." Re-filling his glass, he added, "There's a windstorm blowing in tomorrow, so keep the T-20 well-protected."
"Don't worry," Kylie sighed. "I'll protect your dumb toaster from harm."
"That dumb toaster is worth two months' rent," Ross replied, and Kylie's large brown eyes widened. "I keep forgetting what insane people will pay for a toaster."
"This is not a mere toaster," Ross said grandly. "Form follows function—Louis Sullivan. This is a work of art which happens to toast slices of bread."
"I wish I shared your enthusiasm," Kylie remarked sincerely. "Instead, I'm spending tomorrow afternoon on the tennis court, hoping to meet some entrepreneur who will hire me."
"You poor girl," Ross said sarcastically. "Having to play tennis all afternoon." Exhaling a disgusted breath, he added, "And even worse, you're probably good at it."
"Well, I did win a trophy in high school."
"You revolt me," Ross proclaimed. "Here I suffer in maimed silence, while you win everything effortlessly."
"Everything but what I want," she huffed. "A decent-paying job."
"Oh, those are boring," he said dismissively. "You'll be dreaming of the tennis court and the freedom of genteel poverty in no time."
"How about you pay the rent on my room next month?" she said acerbically, and Ross smiled with the gracious generosity of the monied monarch.
"Get me that T-20 Sunbeam, and I will pay your rent next month."
"Is that a wine-soaked promise, or a real promise?"
Ross emptied the bottle into her glass. "It's a real wine-soaked promise. If I get into that Las Vegas show, my future will have changed from gloom to a brightness which rivals the sun itself."
Kylie tipped the glass up and drank rather too deeply for someone who rarely touched wine. "I love when you go into your drunken poet mode."
Ross said, "I confess we make a pretty good team." and Kylie fell into the deep silence of a very pretty 25-year old in the presence of a deeply smitten, paunchy 33-year old. It stung, but Ross added, "As friends and neighbors."
Kylie lifted her glass with a slightly wobbly precision. "To friends and neighbors."
Ross raised his goblet to hers and said, "To the T-20 and success in Las Vegas."
Kylie gave him a very warm, very wry grin and clinked glasses. "To online bidding, to success in Las Vegas and to a job for me."
To read the previous chapters, visit the "Four Bidding For Love" home page.