I thank my LadyCibelle and Techsan for their patience, proof reading, editing skills and of course encouragement. I'd also like to add that we don't always see eye to eye, so I take full responsibility for the content and any cock-ups in this story.
Life throws some strange curve balls at you sometimes. The first time I ever saw Della Steel as she was back then, we were set to be in competition with each other.
I'd applied for the position of area sales manager with a German company, which was just expanding into the UK market. I'd had my preliminary interview about three weeks previous and I had been asked to attend a group interview with all the other short listed candidates.
If you've ever been on one of these Group Interview gigs, you'll know the score. But, for those of you that haven't, the general idea is that the employer gets all the candidates together in a conference room and just lets them get on with it really. The idea is the candidate who knows what they are doing is going to finish up virtually running the show. Well, they will shine out amongst the others anyway.
As I entered that conference room, I looked around the other nine candidates and I knew whom my main rival for the job was going to be, the moment I clapped eyes on Della Steel. Phew, now there was one woman who stood out in a crowd. As the day went on it was obvious that she knew her onions as well. With what I can only describe as amazing virtuosity, she shot nearly everyone else in the room but me down, time and again. The two of us duelled with each other's verbal challenges all day long.
By the end of the day, I think we were even on points, but I knew Della was way ahead in other respects. Shit, with a figure like that, the bloody Jerrys would be mad not to hire her. Any red blooded male buyer was guaranteed to give Della an order; all she had to do was smile and she'd have the average guy in the palm of her hand. Of course that wouldn't work so well with female buyers though. Oh, I don't know though; when you exude sex appeal like Della does, just about anything's possible and it was nearly the twenty-first century.
Well, it came as no surprise to me that I didn't get the telephone call that evening offering me the post. Actually I'd been watching the German sales director's mouth watering for most of the bleeding day. It was as plain as the nose on his face, (or the bulge in his pants) who his chosen candidate was, and I figured Della would soon have him by the balls. Literally!
The following day I flew out to Spain to resume my summer holiday that I'd wasted my time interrupting to attend that bloody interview. Well, actually it wasn't my proper summer holiday; it was my prize for being top salesman on my company.
I didn't see or hear of Della Steel again for about eighteen months. I was making my pitch to a new client; I'd been cultivating this old bastard for about two months by then. I figured he was just about ready to sign on the doted line and swing all his company's business my way.
It was as I was pulling into his company car park that I saw her come out of the main entrance. In an instant I suspected all my hard work had just gone down the tubes. The big smile on Della's face told me that she had just hooked a good one and as I feared it turned out to be my prospective client.
The thing I couldn't understand was that she wasn't working for the German Company. "Something must have gone tits-up there!" I thought.
Well, that's how things turned out for the next couple of years. Della was nicking my accounts left, right, and centre and, in retaliation, I tackled some of her older accounts and stole the work from her company by undercutting her company's prices. Look, I wasn't green in the business; I'd been around for ten years. It was quite easy for me to run into the right directors, who had been the buyers when I'd started. I'd just let them know I'd beat Della's price whatever it was and I soon had the contract, whether the company buyer liked it or not.
I'm not joking; it became a kind of undeclared war between Della and I, a real personal thing. She'd steal a contract off of me and I'd take one back from her. I'm damn sure she had a worm in our office somewhere, the same way I had a worm in hers. Illegal? Well, maybe yes, but business is business and what is it they say? All's fair in love and war. And of course, no one asks too many questions of a winner.
Well, in the end the Inevitable happened. I'd just swung a nice contract from a company in Norwich. They'd signed on the dotted line that afternoon and, although I could have made it back home that night, I decided to stay over in the Holiday Inn.
Look, things were quite sticky in my marriage around then. Gwen, my wife at the time, liked to live it up a bit. The trouble was, with me on the road so much she'd got a bit antsy about me leaving her alone too much. Well, things were kind-a slowly going downhill and we both knew it. I think it was down to which one of us was going to be the first one to mention the D word.
Damn, it was so bloody stupid. If my Gwen went out with some of her friends now and again, I wouldn't have minded. Jesus, I wouldn't really object if she found herself a playmate. At least I could get on my high horse and throw her out if she ran around behind my back. But no, she'd sit at home and sulk when I was on the road, then when I walked through the door. Bloody hell, just about everything got thrown at me. And when I say thrown I mean it literally. Damn, I think the woman had a standing order for crockery at the local departmental store.
Anyway I chose to stay in Norwich rather than arrive home too late to take the wife out. It was just a matter of self-preservation. The next evening I'd be standing at the door waiting for her when Gwen got home from work and I'd take her out for a nice meal. Show her the bonus I'd earned on the trip, then she'd take me home and shag the living daylights out of me. Yeah, you got it, strange marriage. You see, I loved Gwen and I knew she loved me; the silly bitch just couldn't control her temper. All right, I'm pretty good at losing mine as well!
Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, the Holiday Inn, just outside Norwich. I'd checked in and having dumped my bag in my room, I made my way to the restaurant for a meal. I'd call Gwen later and tell her I'd just closed the deal. She was used to me calling late by then.
I was still perusing the menu when, without a by or leave, Della plonked herself down in the seat opposite me.
"What's the big idea, Martin? You stole the Parkinson contract from me just when I had them ready to sign on the dotted line," Della demanded.
"Parkinsons. Jesus, Della that was bloody weeks ago and I didn't even know you were tendering for it." Strangely the truth, but I knew there was no way that Della was going to believe me.
"Bullshit, you've been filching my clients all year."
"Now hold on there Della, you started pinching my clients first and don't you try to deny it."
I'm not going to go any further describing the altercation that went on between us; you can guess how it went, we each accusing the other of stealing contracts.
I suppose we must have gotten quite loud, because the next thing I think either of us was aware of was a guy in a dinner suite standing beside our table.
"Sir, madam, I must ask you to lower your voices, please. Otherwise I'll be forced to have to ask you to leave the restaurant."
I think both Della and I looked at him with shocked expressions on our faces. Neither of us had intended to make a scene.
"I'm sorry," I said to him, "Miss Steel and I are in competition in our professions. I'm afraid we get a little too involved in our work sometimes. We'll try to keep our emotions under control."
"Anger isn't normally the emotion we have trouble with here, sir. Would you like to order now?"
I looked at Della, only to find she had resorted to hiding behind a menu. "Have you decided what you're going to eat yet, Della?"
"Are you paying?"
Damn the bitch had some front. Fancy me having her dinner on my company expense account. Oh, well, they never checked my expense account anyway. Well, I hoped they didn't!
"Sure, why not. We can put it down as a peace offering."
"Ah, do we have a truce for the evening?" the manager said.
"It looks like it," Della replied with that bloody winning smile of hers on her face. "Can you ask the waiter to give us a few minutes?"
"Certainly, madam," the manager said as he backed away from the table.
When he'd left us alone and still with that smile on her face, Della held her hand out to me. "Pax for this evening and no talk about our companies or clients."
"Pax!" I replied, shaking the offered hand.
The waiter came and we ordered our meals. Surprisingly Della didn't order the most expensive things on the menu. I'm not sure I would have done the same thing in her position.
I'm not really sure what we talked about at dinner, but we were jousting with words and only just staying within the spirit of our truce. God, it was fun. You know, its not often you get to spar with your greatest rival in the industry under a flag of truce.
There were innuendoes flying around all the time and hints at the contracts that we'd stolen from each other. It was really fun trying to think of a way to drop a company's name in the conversation, without actually mentioning it.
Della and I weren't friends, but we weren't exactly enemies either. We were business rivals, both at the top of our profession. Neither of us could let the other get the upper hand; we both needed to come out on top.
.... There is more of this story ...