Tony was slightly bored;
the acquisitions meeting had gone on longer, MUCH longer than
he’d wanted, and this last item on the agenda
didn’t look promising at all. Apparently the CEO of one of
the smaller companies picked up in the last buying spree had asked for
and won a private audience.
As the rest of the Finances committee made their way out of the board room, Tony leaned over to whisper to Pepper. “If I have to stay, YOU have to stay. Arrange for an emergency call from London in about five minutes or so, got it?”
“I think Mr. Taliferro deserves more than five minutes, Mr. Stark. He didn’t give up his company to you without a lot of very resourceful maneuvering first,” Pepper replied softly. “Especially in getting this appointment. At least hear him out.”
Tony looked over at the short, dumpy man in the green rayon business suit who was setting up a power point presentation at the other end of the mahogany meeting table. “Oooooh goodie. Slides. Maybe when the lights go down we can sneak out.”
“The head of Stark Industries crawling out on his hands and knees,” she smirked, picking up her PDA and thumbing through it, “Classy.”
“Okay, so I’ve done it before; it’s not a crime,” Tony muttered under his breath. To the man at the other end of the room he gave a small nod. “Mr. ah, Taliferro, is it?”
The little round man nodded, his smile genuine. “Yes sir, that’s me. Skip Taliferro, of what used to be the Midnight Ruby Company of Oakland California. You bought out my company three months ago in a downright aggressive stock leverage, but I’m not bitter, no sir. All it means is you have a great eye for quality goods, and that’s why I’d like to talk to you about the future of SIN.”
“Sin. Yeah, I’ve been known to dabble in that from time to time,” Tony admitted blandly, not looking at Pepper, who was quietly clearing her throat in an attempt not to laugh.
“Yes sir, SIN—the acronym for Stark Industries, Naked. The new line I was hoping you’d consider for us.”
Tony’s eyes widened and he sat up; taking that as a positive sign, Skip Taliferro turned on the lamp for the projector. On the screen, the Stark Industries logo was now visible in brilliant red glitter with the word ‘naked’ added in.
It was at the very least, eye-catching.
Skip Taliferro smiled. “Did that one myself with Photoshop, although I’m sure you’ve got a whole company that designs your logos, Mr. Stark. Now at the old Ruby Midnight, we make personal pleasure enhancement aides for the discriminating buyer. Our top line sellers included molded vibrators—”
Another slide popped up, revealing a latex tower of heroic proportions.
Pepper made a small squeaking sound.
“--Dildoes,” Yet another majestic creation that would have looked appropriate on a NASA launch pad.
“--Anal plugs, hand held devices, lubricants, restraint and fetish gear, instructional videos and all manner of products designed to enhance and promote pleasure and satisfaction in the realm of intimate relations.”
“I see,” Tony managed finally. “Quite a . . . line.” He whispered to Pepper without looking at her. “Find out exactly who authorized this acquisition and reassign them to Burkina-Faso, immediately.”
“Top of the agenda,” Pepper hissed back, her face nearly as scarlet as the logo.
Skip Taliferro cleared his throat loudly. “We’ve had great sales, and we deal with quality products. I’m sure Ms Potts there could show you our revenue and records down to the last nipple clamp. But with new management coming in, those of us at the old Ruby Midnight would love to show our full support for our new parent company by working with you folks and the technology you can infuse in our happy-making products.”
There was a pause; Skip Taliferro beamed at them both.
“Oh. My. God. He wants us to use Stark technology to amp up his vibrators,” Tony murmured in stunned surprise. “Talk about promoting peace.”
“Make love, not war?” Pepper managed before deliberately dropping her stylus and diving under the table. Tony finally looked her way only to see her luscious backside. He snickered and turned his attention, reluctantly, down to the other end of the table.
“Skip—may I call you Skip? I’ll say it right here and now, I’m intrigued. Clearly you’re a man who knows what the American bedroom needs, and I like your enthusiasm. Please, go on.”
“With pleasure, Mr. Stark!” Skip responded cheerfully. “When we first heard about the buyout, those of us in marketing knew we’d be joining a great company. And let’s face it, sir—the symbolism is just a Godsend, really. Heck, ask any patriot out there about Stark Industries and they’re already thinking missiles, am I right?”
“They’d better be,” Tony replied, tongue firmly in cheek. “Absolutely.” Pepper was back in her seat, holding out a cell phone.
“An emergency call from London, sir—“ she hissed desperately, her cheeks flushed.
“Take a message, unless it’s from Chuck; he owes me a party. As you were saying, Skip?”
Another slide revealed what seemed to be a three bears collection of flesh-colored dildoes ranging from Baby all the way to a seriously imposing Papa. Skip used a laser pointer, moving from one to the other. “These are part of our old line—Boyfriend, Stud and Porn King, and they’ve been good movers the last three years, but we’d be more than happy to rename them in a goodwill gesture. Lana suggested we go with First Strike, Ground Zero and Big Daddy Jericho for these three.”
Pepper had her jaws clamped and was struggling hard now, her nostrils flaring in a desperate attempt to keep a straight face. Next to her, Tony wasn’t helping in the least bit as he spoke out of the corner of his mouth. “Yeah, Dad would be so proud—“
More loudly, he added to the man at the other end of the table, “Very, um, impressive, Skip. I’m utterly amazed, really, at the creative minds at your company. It’s clear you care about what the customer wants, nay, even needs.”
“You betcha, Mr. Stark!” Came Skip’s reply. “Just like your regular industries, we’re all about quality, dependability, and going that extra inch.”
“Oh that’s obvious,” Tony replied smoothly. Pepper was gripping the arms of her chair now, trying to breathe. “So I have to ask; what can Stark Industries bring to the table here? What is it that we can do to help innovate your toys?”
“Well sir, as you may or may not know, a lot of personal pleasure enhancement devices need a power source, either batteries or electricity,” Skip began, moving to another slide that showed a young woman slipping on what looked like a repulsor glove. The fingertip cups had small red circles on them.
Pepper muffled a squeak, and Tony bit back a chuckle. “I take it you recognize the item, Ms Potts?” he muttered, earning himself a death glare.
Skip spoke on. “This is one of our models, Tori—sweet gal—holding up our Lovin’ Mitt. We thought we might even re-market this as part of a signature line from you yourself, Mr. Stark, and call it Tickle Me Tony.”
This time Pepper snorted; the expression on her boss’s face was truly priceless; she wondered if she dare risk a shot with her camera phone. After a moment, Tony cleared his throat, blinking rapidly.
“Wow. Didn’t see that one coming. Flattering as that is, really, I’m not sure it’s feasible for me to endorse any product without---“ he turned to stare at Pepper, “—a rigorous period of testing.”
“Not a problem! I had a case of all our top of the line products delivered to your home earlier today, along with survey sheets and quality commentary forms for each.”
“Gee Potts, I think Christmas came early for you this year; you may have to return the favor,” Tony whispered.
Pepper gave up and put a hand to her forehead, blocking her face from view.
Tony continued, speaking to Skip again. “That’s wonderful, really. You’re a man dedicated to the pursuit of happiness, Skip, and a credit to Stark Industries, Naked.”
“Thank you sir,” Skip replied modestly. “It’s an up and coming company and I think with our products and your technology in bed together, we could make a lot of Americans very happy.”
“God that’s a hell of an image,” Tony gazed off in the distance.
“I couldn’t agree more,” Skip nodded. “And believe me, it’s pretty darned lucrative. You wouldn’t believe the number of people out there who rely on mechanical things for satisfaction. Lonely girlfriends, workaholics, neglected partners—”
“Do tell,” Tony muttered. Skip flashed another slide, this one showing a collection of bottles.
“We also make Lube of your Life, and Hot Shot, both good sellers for our fine young men in the military—we give’m a discount of course—and our Consensual Confinement line of goodies—“
On the screen a young woman was in a thin nightie, tied down to a bed by a series of gold and red silk straps; Tony shifted uncomfortably, his voice pitched low, “Oh look, he’s even got my color theme going. Make a note to check in that box when we get home, will you, Ms Potts? I’ve got a few ideas for some improvements—”
“Over my—never mind,” Pepper retorted, catching herself as Tony shot her a naughty grin. “Mr. Taliferro, I have a question about what products you may be designing for men?”
"Glad you brought that up, Miss Potts! We’ve got one we’re really proud of here—this beauty’s design coincided with that reactor mascot Stark Industries has—Voila! The Arc Romancer!”
Neither spoke as they studied the slide featuring the glowing cock ring on the screen.
“Ho-ly shit,” Tony managed after a moment. “Talk about fireworks—”
“Yes indeed, it’s a beauty,” Skip announced proudly. “It can flash three different colors and blink in patterns too, all based on the mood of the wearer. No more fumbling in the dark, if you get my drift!”
“I don’t know whether to be completely freaked out or turned on,” Tony admitted under his breath. “it’s sort of half and half right now.”
“Please tell me you’re not taking Mr. Taliferro seriously, Tony. Please—” came Pepper’s little breathy plea. “If I have to deal with a subsidiary called Stark Industries, Naked I will drive the four inch heel of my right Astrabella through your forehead with my foot still in it.”
“Not if I have you tied down with Iron Man brand consensual confinement restraints you won’t—”
“Don’t make me call a certain liaison to tell him about Tickle Me Tony.”
“And steal my thunder? Dirty pool, Potts. Rough; merciless, just the way I like it!”
Tony rose up from the table, and walked over to Skip Taliferro, reaching out one hand to shake it. “Skip, welcome aboard. I’d like you to get all your proposals together and forward them to R and D. You’ll want to talk to Tim O’Hallorhan who heads up the marketing team out there. I think we’re on the start of something big here.”
“Thank you, Mr. Stark, thank you so much! I’m thrilled to be on the team!” Skip burbled, getting tangled in the cord to the projector. “You won’t regret this, I promise. And thank you for your time!” As he worked himself free, Tony strode out the door, Pepper only a few steps behind him.
They made it to the elevator, and after he pushed the button, Tony turned to look at her, saying nothing for a long moment. Pepper couldn’t hold out; she bit her lips, but the smirk grew into a smile, and finally she giggled, the sound echoing off the walnut paneled walls. Tony grinned at her, hands shoved deep in his pockets.
“Admit it; you want to see an Arc Romancer in action.”
“Of course—” she murmured back. “Lead on, Big Daddy Jericho.”
“Hey, hey—nothing artificial here,” Tony reminded her as they moved out of the elevator and through the lobby to climb into the waiting limo. “And I’ll tickle you Potts, without any damned mitt.”
“Maybe, maybe not,” she told him, settling into the seat with a smirk. “You’ve got meetings at Edwards this afternoon, and I have a box to unpack.”
“Cancel them, will you? I think as the future corporate CEO of Stark Industries, Naked, I need more hands-on knowledge of our future products. For the good of the company you know.”
“Boys and their toys,” Pepper replied, her cheeks going red again.
“And with your help this afternoon, we can begin the future of Stark Industries, Naked.” Tony beamed. “God Bless American innovation.”
“Leading the way in inventive technology,” Pepper agreed. “As if you needed to be any cockier.”
“Shhhh, behave, or I’ll make you the president.”
Pepper blanched a little.