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Important Shopping Decisions

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Some days, a woman just needs to buy a new sex toy. Which is how Pepper finds herself--while sitting behind her desk on a conference call—on her cell phone, checking out reviews and ratings of some higher-end toys.

“Third quarter numbers are—“

“Not official yet,” Pepper interrupts. “We are not discussing third quarter numbers in this meeting.”

“I just think—“

“No,” Pepper says.

“Miss Potts—“

“It’s Ms. and you know it is,” Pepper interrupts a third time. The guy arguing with her is one of the frat bro-type MBAs Tony had hired after a Vegas bender. He is very good at crunching the numbers, but he has a serious issue when Pepper refuses to let him say whatever he wants. “We are not discussing this, Chad. I will not have a conversation about third quarter numbers until they are final, and if you push it, there will be another one-on-one about your refusal to listen to your superior. Do you want that?”

The call is silent for ten seconds. Pepper’s cell buzzes in her hand, the text message icon lighting up in the upper left corner. “Turner,” she says as she opens the text message, “where were we?”

“Fourth quarter rough forecast,” Turner says.

Why haven’t you fired that idiot? the text message reads. The number reads BLOCKED, but Pepper knows it’s Natasha. She’s the only person allowed to eavesdrop so blatantly and still talk to Pepper.

Because he has no underlings and answers directly to me. Pepper sends in return as Turner starts really digging into the fourth quarter forecast.

Fire him.

Pepper laughs silently and agrees when Turner asks her a question. She doesn’t really have to listen. She’s the one who created the fourth quarter forecast, had it reviewed, made the changes, and then submitted it to Turner—the head accountant—for final approval. He had made no changes before marking it as good to go.

If I fire him, we have to pay unemployment. If he quits, we don’t owe him a dime.

The old wear-down-the-sexist trick. I like it.

Pepper grins and turns her attention back to the meeting. Chad is starting to push back on the fourth quarter projections, and it requires more than half her attention.

“I just don’t agree,” Chad says.

“You can disagree all you want,” Turner says before Pepper can chime in. “But Ms. Potts created these numbers, got them triple-checked, and then handed them to me for personal review, and they are spotless.”

“I just think—“

“No, you don’t,” Turner says, and Pepper presses a hand to her mouth to stifle her laugh.

“I don’t appreciate being belittled like this,” Chad says.

“Then stop being an idiot,” Turner says. “My only concern with Ms. Potts is why she allows you to stay on the payroll when you’re a disrespectful ass.”

“Because he’s good with numbers when he doesn’t want to argue every single one of them,” Pepper interjects as her phone buzzes again.

I like Turner. How’s his pension plan?

Excellent, I assure you.

The conference call is silent through Pepper’s response to Natasha, and her phone buzzes again before Mason chimes in with, “I’m not disagreeing with either of them, Chad, but I have another meeting in ten minutes, so could we move this forward?”

“Absolutely,” Pepper says. “Mr. Turner, if you could round us out, please.”

“With pleasure.”

Get the Mia 2. Looks like lipstick, has a sharp edge you could stab Chad in the chest with. It’s a perfect toy.

What? Pepper texts back as Turner finishes the rundown and everyone agrees the numbers are fine, and the call turns to polite goodbyes.

From the website you were looking at when you were supposed to be paying attention.

Pepper presses the button on her office phone to end the conference call and presses the speed dial on her cell to call Natasha.

“Meeting over?” Natasha greets her.

“It is,” Pepper says. “I didn’t realize eavesdropping on your end includes my browser history.”

“Only when you’re having fun with it,” Natasha replies. “The Mia 2 has five speeds and is USB rechargeable.”

“And good for stabbing, apparently.”

“If you thrust right.”

“Perhaps I shouldn’t keep it on my person near Chad.”

Natasha chuckles. “Oh, please, if he finds out you have any hint of sexuality, he’ll disrespect you more.”

“Like I said, I should probably not have it on my person when I’m near Chad.”

“I suppose.”

Pepper shakes her head and smiles. “You’re a terrible influence.”

“Yes, but I’m very, very good with that toy.”

Pepper presses her legs together at Natasha’s teasing tone. “I guess I should get it then.”

“No need,” Natasha says. “I took the liberty.”

Pepper laughs. “Well, lucky me.”