Niall was back in his shell.
Nodding to the stairs, he asked, “Would you care to accompany me?”
The South Ferry station was one of the hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy. With a street-level entrance of only one hundred feet above sea level, the tunnel was flooded in minutes. The seawater destroyed practically everything in its path, damaging wiring and equipment and filling caverns deep enough for workers to swim through. This was why we were here, to think ahead of Mother Nature and design a system that would prevent catastrophic damage like this from happening again.
Traffic whizzed by as I followed Niall down into the newly reopened station, my eyes on his broad shoulders as he descended the stairs in front of me. He looked Serious Business today. His expression had remained neutral throughout our cab ride to the station, conversation kept to a minimum. He wore a dark suit and darker overcoat, his brown cashmere scarf continually escaping the lapels of his coat and trailing over his shoulder behind him. There was purpose when Niall Stella walked.
A handful of engineers was there to meet us, and Niall introduced us both, taking the time to get each person’s name, and listening attentively as they took us from one end of the tunnel to the other. It was dizzying to see him like this—so knowledgeable and completely in his element—while simultaneously remembering what he’d looked like last night. In six months I’d amassed a catalog of Niall Stella memories, and the few unguarded ones I’d made since coming to New York seemed to eclipse them all.
Niall called me over to stand next to him, and I watched as he crouched down, took measurements, and inspected one of the proposed entrances. My brain was a mess of focus and inattention: I wanted to absorb everything around me, but having him so close after last night turned me into a complete mental maniac. Was he thinking about it? Was he pretending it didn’t happen?
A horrifying thought occurred to me: Was it even possible he didn’t remember?
He called out numbers or various notes while he worked, but it was noisy, the sound of trains and people making it difficult to hear him. I had to stay close, so close that his shoulder would occasionally brush against the side of my leg.
I assumed it was accidental, and tried not to react as goose bumps spread along my skin. But by the second and third time, I began to wonder.
“Ruby,” he asked me, looking up quickly. “Did you make note that this was the last of the stations to reopen?”
I nodded. Of course I had. But given how important it seemed to him, I took down the information again anyway, my pen stopping, tip pressed into the paper as I felt his palm wrap around my calf. It lingered there for only a moment, fingers trailing slowly up toward my knee, gripping ever so slightly, before they were gone.
Every nerve in my body seemed to run on a circuit, beginning at where he’d touched me and stopping just between my legs. I swayed on my feet, my nipples tight and my breasts heavy as an ache moved up my thighs.
My heart twisted. He remembered; he just had to wrestle his way out of his own head.
The more time we spent near each other, the more he seemed to unwind around me and his wordless flirtation slowly built over the rest of the afternoon: his hand pressed to my lower back as we left the station, his fingers quickly brushing the hair off my forehead as we stood in line for coffee, and, once, his thumb sweeping across my lower lip, back and forth and back and forth as our subway train moved through a dark tunnel.
When a seat opened up on the train and he urged me to sit down, he stepped close enough that his belt buckle was only inches from my face. In front of me was the long expanse of his torso, slim shirt tucked neatly into his pants. And, lower, the clear downward line of his cock against his thigh, already half hard.
I reached up, hooking a finger through his belt loop as he gazed down at me, wordless and rapt.
When we rose from the station, he came up behind me as I stopped to get my bearings. His large hands curled around my hips and he pressed into me.
I lost my breath when his mouth came against my ear and he said simply, “We’re headed to the left.”
By the time we got back to the temporary offices I was ready to explode. I felt tight and swollen between my legs, the skin of my thighs slick and wet. My senses seemed to be dialed up to a ten, and even the most basic things—the lace of my bra brushing across my breasts—felt wanton.
But what I thought had to be leading up to something . . . didn’t. Instead of closing the door to our empty office and touching me—I didn’t care for one second that we were at work—he moved to his small desk and sorted through a few files while I stood there, hot and confused and speechless.
It was torture to feel this way. To be infatuated, to feel his interest grow but see him continually close back up after each tiny step of progress. I wanted to simply ask him, but worried that would close him up for good.
Beyond that, I ached. It was an entire afternoon of quiet, gentle foreplay and my body felt like a pitchfork struck against an iron beam. I was practically vibrating.
Our bathroom was private, thank God, and going into it I flipped the lock, taking what had to be my first real breath all day. I could still smell the faint scent of his cologne, as if it had somehow been burned into my senses. As I crossed the room to the small leather bench that sat just under the window, I let myself imagine how he would smell up close, with my nose pressed directly against his skin.
With that image in mind, I took a seat and slipped my panties down my legs as I imagined the warmth of that skin under my touch. My fingertips became his, and they skirted up my thigh and between my legs. If I listened closely, I could hear his voice as he spoke to someone on the phone. I pretended he was speaking only for me.