And still, she pushed farther into my hand. All around my steady rhythm, I could feel her begin to tighten, her breath coming out in tiny, sharp pants.
With a guilty wince, I removed my hand and turned her to face me. She looked practically drugged, eyelids heavy, lips parted.
“And unfortunately my two minutes are up.”
I kissed her cheek, the corner of her mouth, and then each of her eyelids when she closed her eyes. And then I took my phone out of her hand and walked out of her office.
A stranger took video of me dancing.
And then he found where I worked—because apparently he’s buddies with my boss—and I asked him to show me the video.
Following that, I made him put his hands in my underwear—again, but this time in my new office—and proved to both of us how much the idea of him touching himself while watching the video turned me on.
“That’s the tenth time you’ve said that in the past fifteen minutes, Sara. Come out here and spill.” My assistant, George, leaned against the doorway. “Unless it’s so scandalous I need to come in there and close your door.”
“It’s nothing. I’m just . . .” I straightened the pens in a cup on my desk, tapped some papers into alignment. “Nothing.”
He curved his lips into a skeptical smile. “You’re a terrible liar.”
George walked into my office and collapsed in the chair across from my desk. “Did this Nothing happen at Chloe’s engagement party on Saturday?”
“And was it of the Male Nothing variety?”
“Was the Male Nothing the slice of Max Stella that was just in your office?”
“What? No!” I lied without blinking. I’d high-five myself later for that bit of unexpected smoothness. George was right the first time: I was a terrible liar. But apparently my shame over the Public Wall Sex Situation was enough to tap into as-yet-unknown skills. “And how do you know who Max Stella is?”
George made careful study of local, hot men, but seeing as how he arrived only a week before I did—a New Yorker for all of thirteen days—I didn’t think even he could work that fast.
“Let me ask you,” he began, “what was the first thing you did when you arrived and had settled into your apartment?”
“Found the closest sources of wine and cupcakes,” I said. “Obviously.”
He laughed. “Obviously. But because my goal is not to be an old plump spinster, what I do is check out the scene. Where are the fun places to eat—dance—party?”
“To meet all of the men,” I added.
He acknowledged this with a wink. “All of the men. I find out everything I can, and in so doing, I also find out about the Who’s Who of the city.” He leaned forward and gave me a wide, bright smile. “In this city, Max Stella is a Who.”
He laughed. “He’s a Page Six darling. City of London import a few years back. Brilliant VC mastermind, always f**king some hot celebrity or trust fund princess. Different flavor of arm candy every week. La la la.”
Great. I’d managed to select the same slutty publicity hound make and model as my previous boyfriend. But here, not only was Max a well-known womanizer, he was a high-profile venture capitalist, whom I would no doubt cross paths with time and again for work. And who had video of me dancing like a stripper while I imagined his head between my legs.
“Calm down. You look like you’re about to pass out. Have you had lunch?”
“Look. You’re way ahead here. We only have four contracts that require any kind of attention and if what Henry told me about you is true, I’m guessing you’ve combed through them a hundred times already. Chloe hasn’t even received any furniture for her office, her assistant isn’t even in New York yet, and Bennett’s only chewed out three people today. Clearly, nothing is on fire here that requires your attention. There’s plenty of time for you to slow down and get some food.”
I took a deep breath, smiling gratefully at him. “Henry trained you well.”
George had been hired as Henry Ryan’s assistant at Ryan Media after I finished my business degree and left for a big commercial firm. When Bennett called to offer me the Director of Finance position in the new branch, Henry emailed, telling me that if I did join the New York offices, he was going to make sure Bennett assigned me George, who was dying to relocate.
George smiled back and gave me a sweet little salute. “Henry told me you were impossible to replace and to not even try. I had something to prove.”
“Oh, girl, I know,” he said. “And I consider it part of my assistant duties to ensure you know where to go to have fun. Cupcakes, wine, or otherwise.”
My mind immediately went to the image of the club on Saturday, packed with people and vibrating with the volume of music, voices, feet pounding. Again, Max’s face flashed through my thoughts, the sound he made when he came, the sheer size of him in front of me, pressing me to the wall, lifting me, and gliding in and out.
I pressed my face into my hands. Now that I knew who he was, and he wanted to see me again? I was screwed.
George stood up, walked around to my side of the desk, and pulled me up by my arm. “Right. Go, get some food. I’ll pull the Agent Provocateur contracts and you can deal with them when you’re back. Breathe, Sara.”
Grudgingly, I went and grabbed my purse from my closet. George was right. Aside from the celebration with the girls two nights ago, and the sleepless nights I’d spent unpacking my new home, I’d spent a majority of my time at the office, trying to get everything up and running. Much of the three floors we rented in the shining glass and steel midtown building was still empty, and without the rest of my department or the marketing team here yet, we couldn’t do our thing: the world’s best media campaigns.
Chloe had stayed on at Ryan Media when I left, taking over several accounts in Marketing with Bennett. But it was her brilliant work on the enormous Papadakis campaign that had catapulted the company into overdrive, and it had quickly become clear that a New York branch would be needed to handle some of these larger accounts. Bennett, Henry, and Elliott Ryan had spent two weeks in the city to find the perfect office space, and then it was all under way: Ryan Media Group would have another home in midtown.
Michigan Avenue in Chicago was bustling, but it had nothing on Fifth Avenue, Manhattan. I felt buried by an endless grid of streets, hulking masses of architecture, and the constant people, traffic, and noise. Horns blared around me, and the longer I stood still, the more the sound of the city grew deafening. Did I go left or right to find the hidden little Chinese place Bennett liked? What was it called—Something Garden? I stood, struggling to get my bearings, while a stream of businessmen and women parted around me like water around a rock sitting dumbly in a river.
But just as I reached for my phone to text Chloe, I saw a familiar tall shape duck into a doorway across the street. I looked up at the name on the tiny storefront: HUNAN GARDEN.
The restaurant was dim, practically empty, and smelled amazing. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d eaten anything more substantial than a granola bar. My mouth watered and, for a moment, I forgot that I was supposed to be on high alert.
I’d moved here to start fresh. Starting fresh meant putting my career first, finding myself—not falling into another messed-up Stepford relationship. And that settled that. I would get my lunch there, but I would do it after telling Max he needed to never, ever come into my workspace like that again. And that when I put his hand under my dress just now it was a total accident. Complete slip. Unintentional.
My name was a quiet, erotic sound in his accent, and I turned toward his voice. He was in a booth in the corner, peeking around a tall menu in his hands. He lowered it, clearly surprised, but then he smiled and I wanted to smack him for how jittery that made me feel. His features were even more prominent in the low shadows of the restaurant. He looked even more dangerous.
I walked to his table and ignored the way he moved over to let me in beside him. His hair was cut short and left longer on top. It fell forward when he moved and I wanted to reach out, see if it was as soft as it looked beneath the cone of overhead light. Damnit.
“I’m not here to join you,” I said, straightening my shoulders. “I just needed to get a few things straight.”
He spread his palms out in front of him. “By all means.”
Taking a deep breath, I said, “I had the most fun I can reasonably remember with you at the club the other night—”
I held up my hand. “But I moved here to start over. I wanted to do something crazy and I did, but that isn’t who I am. I love my job and my colleagues. I can’t have you walking into my office to flirt with me. I can’t ever act like that at work again.” I leaned forward and lowered my voice. “And I can’t believe you kept that video.”
He had the presence of mind to look contrite. “I’m sorry. I really did intend to delete it.” Leaning forward on his elbows, he said, “The thing is, I can’t seem to stop watching it. Watching that is better than a shot of f**king whiskey for my nerves. Better than even the filthiest porn.”
A low hum spread through my belly and between my legs.
“And I suspect that you like hearing that. I also suspect that the wild Petal I met at the club is a much larger part of Sara Dillon than you like to think.”
“This,” he said, “is simply a meal. Sit down with me.”
“Come on.” He sighed quietly. “You let me f**k you on Saturday, you put my hand beneath your clothes a few minutes ago, and now you won’t join me for lunch. Do you always make a point of being so confusing?”
I hesitated for a long beat before I slid into the booth beside him, and felt the radiating warmth of his long, solid frame next to me.
“You look beautiful,” he said.
I looked down at the simple black dress I wore. My bare legs peeked out below the hem and just above the knees. He ran a finger from my shoulder to my wrist and my bare skin broke out in gooseflesh.
“I won’t come to your office again like that,” he said, so quietly I had to lean a little closer to hear him. “But I do want to see you again.”
I shook my head, staring at his long fingers on me. “I don’t think that would be a good idea.”
When the waiter stopped at our table, Max’s fingers lingered on my hand, and when I was unable to think of anything to order, he chose meals for both of us.
“I hope you like prawns,” he said, grinning.
“I do.” His hand on mine, his leg so closely pressed to my thigh, what did I want? I didn’t want to be continually distracted by a force of energy like Max, but I remained unable to pull out of his orbit. “Sorry, I’m a little distracted.”
His other hand crossed over his body and slipped below the table. I felt the light brush of fingers along my thigh. “Distracted by me? Or by work?”
“At the moment, you. But I should be distracted by work.”
“You have plenty of time for that. I’m going to wager your assistant sent you out to eat.”
I leaned back to look at him. “Spying?”
“No need. He looks like a busybody, and you look like you rarely remember to take lunch.” His fingers pushed the hem of my dress up higher, higher, higher to my hip bone. “This all right?” His accent dropped the last bit of his sentence into a whisper.
It was more than all right, but my heart pounded with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Once again, I was letting him completely take my reason away, hide it in this dark corner where I couldn’t find it.
“I’m aware.” He slipped beneath the soaked lace of my panties and slid his fingers over my clit, dipping down into my wetness. “Good God, Sara. I’d love to spread you on this table and have you for lunch.”
For a brief pulse, my skin ignited. “You can’t say things like that.”
“Why? We’re the only people in this place besides that old man in the corner, the waiter, and the cook in the back. No one can hear me.”
“I can’t say things like that because of what it does to you?” he asked.
I nodded, unable to say anything when he slipped two fingers into me.
“We have maybe ten minutes before our food comes out. Think I could make you come that fast?”
It wasn’t as if he didn’t already have two fingers deep inside me, but for some reason when he put it like that, I grew hyperaware of where we were. It was a torment: the knowledge of what I should do in a quiet restaurant like this—sip my tea, eat my lunch—and the desire to do something completely unlike me: have this man finger me where anyone could walk in and see.
It was the same crazy fantasy from the club, all over again: the potential of being caught with this beautiful, strange man, and getting away with it.
He began to move his thumb in small circles, but kept his fingers pressed deep, unmoving. His arm barely shifted above the table, but below where the tablecloth hit our hips, an explosion was building.