ForePlay

“She wants to play. Game on.” —Leo Foxx

Giving a woman what she wants is my business. I’ve built a career on it. I mean, is there anything more beautiful than seeing a woman get exactly what she wants, exactly the way she wants it, with exactly the man she wants it from? Nothing I’ve ever seen comes close.

There’s just one little catch. Sometimes women go looking in the wrong places. Sometimes they need a little help figuring out what they want in a man. That’s where I come in. I’ve spent years studying what women want. I mean what they really want.

Sounds like a great job for a guy, right? A dream career. Especially since it’s become so much more. It’s a multimillion-dollar corporation called Checkmate Inc., and I’m the CEO. One of the youngest on record. Except a few feminist groups have gotten the wrong impression and are starting to make noise. Something about how Checkmate helps give guys an unfair advantage over women. And the one woman who can help me can also sink my company to the bottom of the Hudson—and drag me along with it.

connected books

The Checkmate Inc. Series

find out more about this series →

start reading

ForePlay

Prologue

“She wants to play. Game on.” —Leo Foxx

I’m a quick study. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here, and say that I’ve always excelled as a student. My degrees hanging on the wall prove it. But what I love to study most is women. They fascinate me.

The way a woman thinks, talks, walks. The way she’s formed. I find what a woman wants from a man and how she wants it to be utterly fascinating. Especially when the lady isn’t sure herself until she’s caught up in the moment. Then a flicker of realization ignites in her eyes and is communicated through her touch and her voice and maybe a subtle parting of her lips as she becomes empowered and willing to show a man exactly what she desires.

Unlocking the mysteries of a woman’s desires is my business. I’ve built a career on it. I mean, is there anything more beautiful in the world than seeing a woman get exactly what she wants, exactly the way she wants it, with exactly the man she wants it from? Nothing I’ve ever seen comes close.

There’s just one little catch. That part about “the lady not being sure herself what she wants.” Well, sometimes women go looking in the wrong places and end up hooking up with a douchebag. I should know, because I was the quiet chess team nerd in high school and college. No one noticed me as I watched girl after girl treated like dirt by the jocks and bad boys.

Sometimes women need a little help figuring out what they want in a man. That’s where I come in. You see, I spent those years (finishing almost three degrees in the time it takes a douchebag to finish one, if they’re even capable of finishing at all… just sayin’) not just studying a chessboard or a textbook, but studying what women want. I mean what they really want.

This sounds like a great job for a guy, right? A dream career. Especially since it’s become so much more. It’s a multimillion-dollar business called Checkmate Inc. I founded the company with two of my old chess team buddies. It took some coercing, but I finally convinced them to put their IQs and their degrees to use in a much more interesting way than developing a new app or a faster microprocessor or a new social media platform like the rest of the brainiac geek-turned-hipster dot-commers who flock to the West Coast. Since Checkmate was my idea, and I had to drag the others to Manhattan kicking and screaming, I’m the CEO. One of the youngest on record, at twenty-nine.

Except a few feminist groups have gotten the wrong impression and are starting to make noise. Something about how Checkmate’s products, services, and retail studios across the country—all exclusively for men—are designed to give guys an unfair advantage over women, or some such bullshit.

Suddenly, my degrees don’t mean shit. And the one woman who can help me can also sink Checkmate Inc. to the bottom of the Hudson and drag me along with it.

 

Chapter One

Most men don’t have a clue when it comes to women. It’s that whole Venus–Mars thing. Let’s be straight up, though. How many men really want to understand a woman? If I had to do the math—and I’m pretty damn good at equations—I’d say less than one percent of the entire male population around the globe.

Maybe it’s because they have no idea where to start. I mean, think about it. The female psyche is so complicated it makes Einstein’s theory of relativity seem like kindergarten work. Plain and simple, women scare the hell out of men. Most try not to show it, but it’s true.

Checkmate Inc. focuses on helping a guy get noticed so he’s got a fighting chance. It’s the first step. Then the lady can show him what she wants from him. And hell, who’s kidding who? When a man and woman hit it off and she’s content and fulfilled in the relationship, she’s likely to demonstrate that in bed. Or on the kitchen table. Or any other piece of furniture in the house.

It’s a win–win.

So here I am at a new product launch, dressed in my usual jeans, untucked dress shirt, favorite leather bomber jacket I picked up in Italy a few years ago, and glasses. Glasses are the only exterior component of my former geekster self that I refuse to let go of. I’m on the stage, a place I never felt comfortable until I defended my dissertation. Secretly, I’d put the biochemistry behind my pheromone theory to the test during the presentation. When the only female professor in the room practically threw her panties at me, I knew for sure I was on to something. That got me thrown out of Columbia’s PhD program without a third degree to hang on my wall. It also got me—Leo Foxx, certified chess team geek—laid in the parking lot by that professor, who wasn’t in the least bit shy about telling me exactly what she wanted and how she wanted it from me right then and there. In the back seat of her car. I’ve never had a problem with public speaking since. And, by the way, she’s still the star of my favorite naughty teacher fantasy.

But I digress. So back to the present…

I’m on the stage. The room is chilled to keep the spotlights from overheating, and I’m unveiling Checkmate’s latest line of super-charged pheromone products. The audience is dim beyond the bright lights, and I can barely make out the silhouettes of the press, management employees, fashion magazine execs, clothing designers, and nerdy biochemistry scientists, all of which help make Checkmate wildly successful. But they’re there. I know they are, and I talk to each one of them like I’m having a one-on-one convo.

I’m wearing one of Checkmate’s new products, but the audience isn’t close enough to know that. Not close enough for the powerful pheromone product to engage their limbic systems—the part of their brains that house the animal reactions like sex drive, hunger, aggressiveness… did I mention sex drive? But eighty-five percent of the audience is men anyway, so it doesn’t matter. Checkmate’s biologically engineered products for men are specifically designed to produce pheromone reactions in women.

So I connect with them using a personal approach. Channel the genius, Steve Jobs. Instead of reading from a teleprompter, I talk to them. I keep the product message short and sweet and understandable to a layperson so they can start tweeting before they even leave the auditorium. Instead of telling them how effective the new products are, I show them on the large screen behind me, using powerful imagery. I mention how wildly successful our overseas studios will be when we start the expansion into Europe and Dubai. Energy and excitement thickens the air in the room until I can almost hear a low hum reverberating around me.

I work the audience and build to my finale. That final “wow” moment where the last image appears on the screen behind me and I say, “So technology has allowed us to—”

“Misogynist!” someone shouts from the audience.

I stumble over my words as a grunge-hippie bolts to her feet on the left side of the auditorium.

“Misogynist!” she shouts again.

I’m insulted at the accusation. I do not hate women. I fucking love women. I also love fucking women, and the vast difference between the two is not lost on me. I hold up a hand to shield my eyes from the bright lights so I can see the audience better. Several more women stand, dotting the auditorium, their attire ranging from Goth to business suits, and I wonder how they got in. The launch was by invitation only.

They pull cans of spray paint out and charge the stage.

Fuck’s sake.

This must be what Master Jobs meant when he said he always prepared for the unexpected to happen during a launch.

It’s all happening so fast, yet in slow motion at the same time.

Gasps round the room. One Goth protester detours to the nearest wall and spray paints a giant penis and scrotum, giving a literal meaning to the term balls to the wall. I can’t help but laugh even though the joke is meant to be at my expense. Then Goth Girl sprays a circle around her work of art and one angled line through it.

Which proves why guys give up trying to understand women by the age of twelve.

But I was different than most guys. Inquisitive. The downside to having an exceptionally high IQ, I guess. Instead of giving up, I devoted my life to unlocking the secrets to the female species. Yes, I want to give men an edge. A hand up. But not in the way you might think. Checkmate helps socially awkward guys—you know the ones, the nice, quiet guys who would treat a woman like a queen instead of like a doormat, if only they could attract a woman to begin with—transform into the kind of men that women notice. Gives a guy a chance at first contact so he can figure out what makes a woman tick, what she wants, what she needs.

So I’m baffled at the outrage in these women, taking place right before my eyes.

Security swarms the stage to intercept the protesters as the rest of the audience recovers from their shock and pulls their phones from their pockets.

I smile inside, because I know bad press is even more effective than good press, and the new product line will be an instant success. Calls to our retail studios across the country are probably already flooding in from men who want to become clients. Because Checkmate Inc. has grown into so much more than just a high-end cologne company for men. It caters to the whole man. For a hefty fee, a client can get one-stop shopping in one of our studios. Everything from an image overhaul to an expensive and trendy new wardrobe to coaching sessions to improve their dating skills.

As the protesters are escorted out, I make a witty joke, end the presentation, and invite the attendees to join me and my business partners in the rotunda for a catered open bar reception. The sleek, modern design of Checkmate’s building gleams with chrome and glass, the images of chess pieces and black-and-white checkered game boards strategically placed to decorate the grand space. The Champagne fountain flows, glasses clink, the buzz of chatter escalates.

The event photographer my assistant hired corrals me and Checkmate’s other two founding partners for a photo op. Dexter Moore, in charge of our retail division, flanks my left side looking metro-stylish, having traded his coveted white socks and flip-flops for expensive Italian shoes to look the part of his job. Unlike in our college days, he now manages to brush his dark hair and wears a neatly trimmed mainstream-hipster look. Oscar Strong--Oz, as we call him--head of Research and Development, takes the spot on my right, dressed more comfortably in jeans and a trendy blazer. He’s also mastered the uses of a brush since our punk-ass-kid days are over, but he goes for a looser flow-and-comb look for his light brown hair. Khakis are a thing of the past for all three of us, seeing as how that was our standard uniform when we were members of our college chess team.

But all three of us kept the glasses. Sort of a pact between bros, so we never forget our roots and what it took to get here.

“Let’s make this quick. There’s a problem in the lab, so I gotta go,” Oz says. Really, he just hates getting his picture taken.

“Your sister just walked in.” Dex is the opposite and loves smiling for the camera. The flash goes off once, twice, three times in quick succession.

My eyes trek to the entrance of the rotunda. Since I’m six-two, I can see over most of the crowd. My little sister is a full foot shorter than me, and it’s impossible to find her in the ocean of guests all talking, eating, and drinking. But a path parts in the crowd, heading in our direction, and even though I can’t see her, I know it’s Ava. She’s determined and far too bold for her own good. Which makes me batshit crazy when it comes to protecting her from douchebags who will take advantage of her and break her heart.

The photographer tells us to strike a different pose, and we do. Oz grumbles under his breath. Dex strikes a pose worthy of a GQ fashion shoot. I sigh and smile and watch for my sister as she makes her way toward us.

The path weaves left then back right, and finally Ava reaches the fringe of the crowd. She’s five years younger than me, and a protective instinct surges through me because I’ve been her guardian since our parents were killed in a car accident eight years ago. That’s right: I’ve been her brother, father, and mother all at once, since I was twenty-one. I’m told the family resemblance is unmistakable since we have the same vivid blue eyes and honey-blond hair that has a natural wave to it—physical description courtesy of my personal life-stylist at Checkmate’s anchor retail studio on Fifth Avenue.

Okay, fine. Wardrobe, haircut, and really cool Armani glasses courtesy of the personal life-stylist too.

Ava waves, smiles, and then I see her. Not her, as in my little sister. Her, as in the brunette trailing behind Ava, trying to keep up. And I remember that Ava said she was bringing a friend who works in public relations. Thick dark brown hair is pulled into a ponytail that brushes over one slender shoulder. Her clothes are elegant and professional with a subtly chic edge to them. She’s looking down, like she’s making sure not to step on any toes. Then she breaks free from the crowd too, and her head darts up to look around just long enough for me to glimpse the stark contrast of cobalt eyes.

Cobalt. My favorite element on the Periodic Table.

As they approach, Ava opens her arms wide to give her big brother a hug. But I’m not actually looking at my sister. I’m looking over her shoulder. Her friend’s gaze lifts to mine, locks on, and holds me mesmerized. The way she carries herself tells me she’s confident and self-assured. Probably smart as a whip. And then it happens. Everyone else around me melts away as she pulls a plump, red lip between her teeth. Long black lashes flutter downward to break our eye contact, and I know.

I’ve never met her. I don’t even know her name yet. But that small gesture with her lip and the downward brush of her long lashes tells me she’s not sure what she wants from a man. She’ll figure it out, though. The women who are confident in every other area of their lives always do. I also know that when the light bulb finally switches on, she’s going to ask me to fuck her. And I won’t be able to say no.

End of excerpt