“That’s it,” I said through panting breaths, closer and closer, feeling her start to tighten around me, my own pleas muffled against her shoulder. “Can you get there?”
“So close,” she said, eyelids fluttering closed, teeth buried in her bottom lip. I reached forward to touch her clit, finding her own slick fingers already there. The chaise creaked beneath us and I briefly considered the possibility that it might collapse. “Max, faster.”
I looked around again, seeing us in different mirrors and from different angles, both of our fingers moving over her while we moved, and knew I’d never seen anything even remotely like this. I knew this was a game, but f**k if I ever wanted to stop playing.
I shifted my eyes back to her as she said my name over and over, her head thrown back against my shoulder as she came, her body squeezing me tight. Everything felt hot and electric, my heart pounded inside my chest.
“Don’t close your eyes, don’t you f**king close your eyes. I’m about to come.” I followed, my body shaking as I came, filling the condom. I fell forward, hand clutching at her waist and fingers tightening there, feeling the hot flush of blood pump through my veins.
“Holy . . . ,” she breathed, looking back at me with a small smile.
“Indeed.” I managed to pull myself up and dispose of the condom, and arrange us both on the settee. Sara was pliant, boneless, and smiled sleepily as she lay back on the cushion with a small sigh.
“I’m not sure I can walk,” she said, reaching up to push the sweaty hair from her forehead.
She blinked over to me. “Always so cocky.”
I grinned, closing my eyes while I tried to catch my breath. At least until I could feel my legs again.
Several moments of silence stretched on. Car horns blared on the streets below, a helicopter sounded somewhere in the distance. The room had grown darker when I felt the cushion shift, and I looked up, seeing Sara stand and begin gathering her clothes.
“What plans do you have for the rest of the evening?” I asked, rolling to my side and watching her slip back into her dress.
“We’ve both got to eat.” I reached out, running my hand along her smooth thigh. “Certainly worked up an appetite.”
She gently brushed me away, kneeling on the floor to find her other shoe. I didn’t even remember taking them off. “That’s not what this is.”
I frowned. I suppose I should have felt some sort of relief knowing that she wasn’t moving this into needlessly emotional territory. But she was such a mystery to me. Obviously inexperienced, obviously naïve. But she’d come here, quite recklessly in fact, and was putting her trust in me.
She slipped into her shoes, straightened, pulled a brush from her purse to smooth through her hair. Her eyes were bright, her face a bit more flushed than usual, but other than that Sara looked perfectly presentable.
I’d have to try harder next time.
Maybe this was how Andy got so much done every single day. Nothing cleared the head better than a screaming orgasm with a gorgeous stranger who didn’t expect me to go pick up his dry cleaning afterward. Monday morning, I felt energized and completely engaged in the nine o’clock department meeting.
The other executives and their assistants had finally arrived to the new office, and because some things Bennett had been working on came through, we were inundated with the prospect of twenty new marketing clients. I was buried. On the upside, I had very little time to fantasize about Andy-shaped voodoo dolls and castration techniques.
But in between the frenzy—walking from one meeting to the next, a trip to the restroom, a quiet lull after a phone call—I remembered my night with Max, his hard, na**d body behind me, my limbs heavy with delicious exhaustion and his hands fisted in my hair.
“Don’t close your eyes, don’t you f**king close your eyes. I’m about to come.”
Despite how much fun it had been, I’d felt off for a couple of hours on Saturday morning. Not regretting anything, exactly, but slightly embarrassed that I’d actually done it. It occurred to me that I was giving Max a very bad impression, showing up in some random neighborhood and willing to let him do what he wanted to me in front of hundreds of mirrors where it was very likely no one would be able to hear me if I needed help.
The thing was, even below that thin layer of mortification, I knew I’d never felt more alive. He made me feel safe, as strange as that was, and like I could ask him for anything. Like he saw something in me nobody else did. He didn’t seem even the slightest bit surprised or judgmental when I’d laid out my terms in his office. Didn’t even blink when I told him we wouldn’t be ha**g s*x in any bed.
I sat back at my desk in my office, closing my eyes as the memory returned from the last time Andy and I had had sex, more than four months ago. We’d stopped bothering to argue over his schedule, or mine. Instead, the lack of intimacy in our relationship felt like a dark shadow growing to cover the room.
I’d tried to spice things up, showing up at his office late one night in nothing but a long coat and heels. But I’d have been better off showing up wearing a yellow duck suit, for how embarrassed he was to see me. “I can’t have sex with you here,” he’d hissed, looking over my shoulder.
Maybe he said that because he could only have sex with other women in the office. I’d been humiliated.
Without saying anything, I’d turned and left.
Later that night, he came home and made some effort: waking me up, kissing me, trying to take his time and make it good.
My eyes blinked open, as the reality of everything seemed to hit me in this one, totally random moment. Max made me feel so good, and Andy had only ever made me feel miserable. It was time for me to woman up, and stop apologizing for taking whatever the hell I wanted.
Although I still craved him uncomfortably much, knowing that I would hear from Max eventually let me shut off wondering how or when it would happen for most of the week. But when lunch rolled around on Friday, and he still hadn’t contacted me, it occurred to me that if Max wanted to end things he might just decide to not text me. We had no rules for how to let this go, or how to back away gracefully. In reality, the way I’d set it up meant that the most graceful way to back out would be to simply disappear. There was something comforting about an arrangement that was so tenuous it could just evaporate.
Still, I wanted to see him again.
I put my phone in my desk drawer, determined to not take it with me to the afternoon team meeting. But ten minutes into discussions about a lingerie marketing campaign, and with the memory of Max slipping my skimpy lace panties down my legs still playing on a loop inside my head, I found an excuse to get up and go back to my office to retrieve it.
Returning to the conference room, I found Bennett flipping through slides at lightning speed. It was okay for me because I’d seen the deck beforehand, but I could tell the newly arrived junior executives wanted to throw up their lunches.
“Slow down, Bennett,” I came up and said to him quietly.
He snapped his attention to me, his temper barely tied down. “What?”
I swallowed. Colleagues or not, he still scared the hell out of me. “I think you clicked through the marketing segmentation too fast,” I explained. “You just finished it yesterday, when these guys were on a plane. Let them digest it.”
He nodded tightly and looked back to the screen. I could almost feel him counting to ten in his head as he let them read the slide, and I looked across the table at Chloe. She was watching him, biting down on her pen to keep from laughing. I doubted Bennett had any sympathy for the RMG employees who had just uprooted their entire lives and were expected to have memorized seventeen tables of market figures in twenty-four hours.
“Good?” he asked, clicking to the next slide without waiting for an answer.
Catch up or catch the next train. That’s what I’d overheard Bennett saying to a new marketing associate named Cole.
My phone vibrated loudly on the table and I picked it up, apologizing under my breath for the interruption. Thank the universe for Bennett Ryan and his endlessly entertaining, impatient perfectionism; for two whole minutes I’d forgotten to wonder if Max was still interested in meeting.
New York Public Library has some fascinating volumes. Schwartzman Building. 6:30. Wear a skirt, your tallest heels and skip the pants.
I grinned down at my phone, thinking Max was a pretty lucky bastard that all I would need to do was remove my panties before meeting him. When I looked up, Chloe still had her pen between her teeth, but this time she was watching me, eyebrows raised.
Looking back to Bennett, I studiously ignored her stare, but I couldn’t seem to lose my giddy grin.
There were altogether too many iconic buildings in New York. Every building seemed familiar or laden with history. But few were as immediately recognizable to me as the New York Public Library, with its lion statues and hulking stairs.
I’d seen him four times since the first night we had sex, and even though this was a planned meet-up, I still felt like the breath had been kicked out of me when I spotted my beautiful stranger. He stood far above everyone around him, and as he searched the crowd for me, I took a few seconds to just drink him in.
Black suit, dark gray shirt, no tie. His hair had grown out in the last couple of weeks and although he kept it longer on top, I liked it messy like this, imagined tugging on it with his head between my legs.
He cut quite a shadow on the steps, as people parted around him. I want to see you na**d in daylight, I thought. I want to see pictures of you with me in full sun.
Max found me then, and I was totally busted for ogling him. A knowing smile spread across his face and he hooked a finger at me, beckoning.
When I drew closer, he teased, “You were staring.”
“For someone who so enjoys being stared at in her most intimate moments, you’re awfully shy about being caught playing the voyeur.”
I felt my smile shrink a little as something ached beneath my ribs. I spoke before even really planning to. “I’m just really happy to see you.”
This clearly caught him off guard. He recovered with a bright smile. “Ready to play?”
I nodded, oddly nervous despite the rush of heat that spread across my skin. We’d had an audience of a hundred mirrors last week, but had otherwise been entirely alone. Here, even at six thirty on a Friday night, the library was bustling.
“This looks interesting,” I mumbled, turning to lead us inside when he pressed two subtle fingers to the small of my back.
“Trust me,” he said, leaning forward to whisper, “this is right up your alley.”
Once inside, he moved in front of me, walking ahead as if we were simply two strangers passing through the library entryway and headed in the same direction. As I followed his lead, I noticed a few people watching him; a couple pointed and nodded to each other. Only in midtown Manhattan would an investment whiz playboy be immediately recognizable.
I followed him, admittedly paying more attention to the fit of his jacket across his wide shoulders than to where we were headed.
Slowing, Max asked, “How much do you know about the New York Public Library, Sara? This branch specifically?”
I searched my memory for details I would have picked up from movies or TV. “Other than the opening scene in Ghostbusters? Not much,” I admitted.
Max laughed. “This library is different from most in that it relies heavily on private philanthropy. Donors—such as myself,” he added with a wink, “take a special interest in certain collections and give generously—very generously in some cases—and are sometimes granted small perks in return. Quietly, of course.”
He stopped, turning to smile at me. “This is the room most people would recognize, the Rose Main Reading Room.”
I looked around. It was warm and inviting, filled with hushed voices and the muted sounds of footsteps and the turning of pages. My eyes moved to the ornate ceiling painted to resemble the sky, the arched windows and glowing chandeliers overhead, and for a beat wondered if Max planned on taking me on one of the large wooden tables lining the cavernous and very busy room.
I must have looked unsure, because Max laughed softly beside me. “Relax,” he said, placing a hand on my elbow. “Even I’m not that bold.”
He asked me to wait while he crossed the room to speak with an older gentleman, who I got the impression knew exactly who Max was. The man glanced at me over Max’s shoulder and I felt myself blush, quickly looking away and back up toward the painted ceiling. Only a few moments later, I was following Max down a narrow flight of stairs and into a small room filled with row after row of books.
Max knew exactly where to go, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he came here a lot, or if he’d scouted the location sometime during the week. I liked both ideas, actually: the Max who was as intimate with the library as someone who worked here, and the Max who had been thinking about this as much as I had.
He stopped in a quiet corner, in a narrow, crowded row of books. It felt like the stacks pressed in on us from both sides; the tight quarters gave me the strange illusion of the walls closing in. I heard a cough and realized that there was at least one other person in the room with us.
Max lifted a book from a shelf without even really looking. “Do you read smut, Sara?”
I knew when he laughed a little at my reaction that my eyes must have nearly popped out of my head. I wasn’t a prude, and I wasn’t closed to the idea of erotica; I’d simply never gone looking for it. “Not much.”