Home > Cream of the Crop (Hudson Valley #2)

Cream of the Crop (Hudson Valley #2)
Author: Alice Clayton

Chapter 1

“Can you raise the blinds a little bit? The sun is setting; it makes for a nice view,” I directed.

“While you reel them in?” Liz teased, letting the soft afternoon sun into the conference room.

Forty-seven floors up, you got a helluva nice sunset across the Hudson River. It made the room seem warm and inviting, and with the powerful backdrop of Manhattan behind me, what client would dream of saying no? Especially when a ray of sunlight landed directly on my cleavage like some divine sign.

I heard the gasp of a guy crushing on me; the intern was clearly looking at my boobs again.

“Hey, junior, eyes up here,” I instructed. I felt the teeniest bit sorry for him as he blushed and stammered his way out of the room, promising to return with the bound copies of the proposal I’d asked for. He was mostly able to keep his eyes redirected. Mostly.

“Poor pup, he’s totally enamored.” Liz chuckled, adjusting one of the pie charts that were propped up along the wall. Even in the days of easy-to-use PowerPoint presentations and glossy, slick color printouts, there was nothing like a giant pie chart hung on the wall to make a client feel like you’d done your homework.

And I had. I was pitching a new ad campaign to T&T Sanitation, one of the biggest distributors of Porta-Potties in the Northeast. Make all the jokes you want, but this business was incredibly lucrative. And incredibly competitive. T&T sanitation was the second-largest distributor; they’d been chasing Mr. John’s Portaloo for years, always coming in second in sales. They were determined to outdo them this year. That’s where I came in.

I started unpacking twenty-by-twenty-four-inch pictures mounted on foam core and kept the images facedown as I arranged easel stands all around the conference room. Once they were distributed, I began to flip them over. Liz came back in with an armful of handouts, and nearly tripped right out of her Jimmy Choos.

“Holy shit.”

“Exactly,” I replied, grinning broadly. I’d literally covered the entire room in pictures of T&T potties, stationed around some of the toniest locations in town. The Bronx Zoo, the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, even one on the lawn of Gracie Mansion.

“Wow, their outhouses certainly have gotten around,” Liz said, walking the room and taking in all the images. “Has Dan seen these?”

“Dan has not seen these,” an incredulous voice boomed from just inside the door. “Dan has not seen these, but would love to know why his walls are covered in Porta-Potties.” My boss stood in the doorway, jaw ticking as he realized his conference room had been taken over by something most unusual.

“You knew I was leading off with this, Dan,” I said, quickly walking to his side and handing him one of the proposals. “The cornerstone of this new campaign is bringing up the one thing no one wants to talk about when discussing their product, and the one thing people really want to know about.”

“Pictures of portable toilets,” he stated, eyes widened. He had faith in me, sure, but this much faith?

I nodded reassuringly. “Pictures of their product placed all around town, pictures of exactly what you get when you hire T&T: a high-quality portable sanitation unit that’s not nearly as tacky as you might think. It’s designed to make the customer think about all the different reasons you might need one of these, and how much nicer they look than the ones we typically think of. These are updated, clean, pretty, even. This”—I pointed to a particularly fetching picture of a mint-green one juxtaposed against the skyline of Central Park West—“is what you want for your daughter’s wedding, for the Fourth of July picnic. Even the mayor uses this one when they’re doing renovations on the official residence.”

Rob, the intern, hurried back in, eyes steadfastly fixed on the exact spot in between my eyes. “They’re here,” he said in a hushed tone, then realized what he was surrounded by. “Wow, that’s a lot of Porta-Potties.”

“It most assuredly is,” Dan replied, his tone measured as he met my eyes across the room. This had better work, they said to me.

Message received and acknowledged, my own look sent back to him.

Liz tried unsuccessfully to suppress a giggle, and we gathered around each other in the conference room.

At least no one was looking at my boobs anymore. Which, to be fair, was a first.

In the end, it was the pictures that did the trick. Mr. Caldwell, president of T&T Sanitation, walked into the conference room, and while his marketing team stared in horrified silence, he walked up to a picture taken outside the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue featuring a prominently displayed unit and burst out laughing. “I’m already in love with this idea,” he pronounced on his way to the seat with his name on it. He and I were already on the same wavelength. It was time to bring the rest of them around.

I spent the better part of an hour describing in detail exactly the campaign I was proposing, buying ad space on television, radio, and the Internet. I’d put together a plan that made his product something people would be talking about, and would stay in a consumer’s mind long after the initial promotional push had ended. Every question asked by his team was answered efficiently, either by myself or by a member of my own team. We’d covered every base, we’d thought around every corner, and we were confident that we were presenting something very different from what any other advertising firm had created to sell portable outhouses.

Dan sat in on the pitch as he always did, occasionally commenting, but letting me take the lead as usual. He’d been surprised to see the display I’d created, sure, but once the clients were in the room he was 100 percent supportive. And now he watched me bring it on home with a secret smile on his face, a smile that told me I’d nailed it.

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