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Summary of pt 1: Ten years ago, a month before their high school graduation, everything changed between best friends Mark Ballentine and Nikki Hawthorne. Mark found Nikki tied up in the music room storage closet, and his sexual response was so intense that he couldn’t look at her the same way without feeling deep shame. So he ghosted her. Now they work at the same company–his company–and they’ve just laid eyes on each other and parted ways, neither of them saying anything, both wondering what they’ll do next.
I didn’t remember how I got home. After escaping into the elevator, the night was a blur; quiet elevator, cold parking garage, my car, lights whizzing by, dark home.
Memories pressing against the dam I’d built in my mind after he abandoned me.
Now I was back in the elevator, not giving a shit about how terrible I must have looked after tossing and turning. I had my war face on and was lugging my tote bag full of everything I had taken home last night. I was bringing it all back.
I wouldn’t be going anywhere. This was my new job, my new workplace, and with a couple of layers of management between me and Mark, I was going to be fine.
Just breathe, I told myself, watching the numbers change as the elevator carriage moved up a dozen floors to our office level.
I’d planned to be early for at least the first month of work; I thought if I got into a routine, I could be early forever and make time management easier on myself. But seeing Mark had changed things. I wouldn’t be alone with him in the office, no matter how strongly part of me was dying for that to happen.
I couldn’t go through the pain of seeing him look at me and not care.
So I was right on time with the other people starting to trickle in for the day. Four of us got off the elevator. I strode purposefully to my cubicle without looking around, except to wave to the office manager at her desk, and I stayed furiously busy the whole day. Mark wouldn’t approach me, I was sure. I was too occupied.
I went a whole week that way. I never felt his eyes on me and never went near his office.
I was miserable.
Are you so weak-minded that just his presence casts a shadow over your life? that nasty little voice asked me. Are you so attuned to him, after all these years, that you’ll suffocate just from knowing he’s only feet away and has no interest in you?
Gradually I forced myself to act relaxed. I slowed down to work at a normal pace. I started taking my ten minute breaks in the break room or reading a pleasure book at my desk.
I let my eyes stray to the hall that led to Mark’s office.
Finally, after an email to a manager failed to get a timely response, I decided to walk to her office–which was next door to Mark’s.
It wasn’t like I had known today would be the day. It wasn’t like I had picked this outfit knowing I might see him. It wasn’t like I was wearing my favorite blouse and black mermaid skirt and kitten heels on purpose.
Well, maybe it was.
Let Mark see what he was missing.
I grabbed the relevant file–when would this company fully transition away from paper?–and walked as confidently as I could to Sherri’s office, my heart in my throat the whole time.
Mark had the curtains in his office partially pulled, so I couldn’t tell at first if he was there. But as I turned the corner and began to cross in front of it, I saw out of the corner of my eye his dark shape behind his desk.
He looked up.
I didn’t know what made me do it, but I hit him with a thousand-watt smile. It felt like baring my teeth, to be honest; it was almost aggressive, and I shot a look directly into his eyes. They widened.
Then it was over and I sashayed down the hall to Sherri’s door.
After a brief word with her, I prepared to go back, my pulse fluttering a little with anticipation.
I could feel the extra bounce in my step as I began to cross in front of the glass wall of his office. I would just turn my head a little–just give him a casual peep, show him I was fine, we were cool, everything was all right, I had moved on, I was confident–and I would slow down a little, so if he happened to be standing there ready to say something, I could stop…
He was standing, all right. But his back was to me and he seemed intent on scanning his bookcase for a title. I paused. I opened my mouth.
I snapped it shut.
What the hell was I thinking?
I’d made no impression on him whatsoever.
My shoulders sagged and I nearly dropped the file.
I heard paper rustling and turned my head just enough to see in my peripheral vision that it was, indeed, Nikki standing there. But I was still reeling from having seen her earlier striding so boldly down the hall and lobbing that big fake smile at me, and I didn’t move fast enough, and what was I supposed to do anyway?
Before I could figure it out, she was gone. Back to her cube.
What a weird, exhausting week. On top of the usual labors, I was hyperaware of her, my longtime ataşehir escort best friend, the gorgeous female who starred in all of my fantasies. Hyperaware of how determined she was to avoid me. Hyperaware of her legs as she went around the office in a frenzy of work. Hyperaware of how her silk shirts clung to her breasts as she moved and reached and bent and walked. Hyperaware of how some of the other men in the office were noticing her.
Hyperaware that the clock was ticking. This tension between us couldn’t go on; something had to give.
That smile was what did it. Nikki, my bubbly, vivacious Nikki, had looked at me like a cat trying to make itself bigger to scare off a predator.
At least she was done ignoring me, I realized, lying in bed one night, cleaning up after another disconcertingly productive masturbation session.
And it came to me that I might as well try something. Anything was better than inaction. I’d invite her to lunch. Keep it simple, keep it casual. See if we could fall into our old rhythms.
How naive I was.
If someone had asked me two months ago whether I’d ever thought I’d see Mark again, the answer would not have been: Oh, yes, I’ll be sitting down to an intimate lunch with him, after starting a new job with a company where he’s CEO.
Yet here we were, across a teeny tiny table from one another, our menus not nearly big enough. I’d have preferred one of those enormous tri-fold menus, one I could really bury my nose in, so I couldn’t see how awkwardly Mark was avoiding looking at me.
But at this stupid little French restaurant, they had only six items for lunch. So my palm was sweating onto a teeny tiny menu that I’d already been studying for about ten minutes too many.
That made a total of twenty minutes of silence: two to walk here from the office, and eighteen before we finally ordered.
Well, not complete silence; mostly my silence. We’d exchanged pleasantries. Mark had seemed relaxed as he’d sauntered beside me, dropping an occasional remark about the restaurant, an occasional reminiscence about things we’d said or done in our youth.
Whenever I looked up at him, it almost felt like we were walking home together again. His familiar smile–that dimple in his cheek–the way we adjusted our gaits to match each other–all of it made longing stir and swell inside me.
But I was also trembling inside, and kind of mad, and feeling so stupid after what had happened–or not happened–between us just a few days before.
I didn’t mean to be frosty. I was just done caring, or at least, I was doing everything I could to convince both of us that I was. I was pretty sure Mark had been done caring ten years ago. But for whatever reason, he wanted to take me to lunch.
I didn’t take my jacket off, and I could hear how clipped my voice was. I was acting like a sullen teenager, not holding up my end of the conversation, not asking him any questions, barely polite.
None of it was anger; I just wanted to get through this without any further humiliation. And if this was Mark feeling guilty–which I suspected it was–I wanted to convey that I didn’t need him to apologize or hand-hold or coddle or make anything up to me. I would be just fine, thank you very much, as I had been ever since he’d removed himself from my life with the cold precision of a surgeon.
Precision was Mark’s style, always had been. The way he moved and carried himself hadn’t been awkward since he passed through puberty. And the way he could pick through my emotions and cut to the heart of what was bothering me… I had to guard against that now.
As we sat there at the table with nothing between us but our waters, I tried to ignore the rush of emotion clogging my throat. Instead I focused on his water glass.
Mistake. His hand was cupped around it, those big, sensitive fingers rubbing gently up and down, collecting drops of condensation and smearing them on the glass.
Mesmerized, my mind fixed on those dewy drops of moisture on his fingers as they rubbed…
Oh, my god. He was staring at me, he’d caught me watching his fingers and I knew my face looked hungry. I could not stop myself from licking my lips. Damn him.
My eyelids felt heavy; my chest was getting hot; I wore so many layers–but felt so naked.
“You’re sure you don’t want to take off your coat?” he asked.
I pressed my mouth into a line and willed my voice not to betray me.
He fell silent. I could tell he was getting frustrated by the way he sucked in a breath and let it out. He rolled his big shoulders once as though uncomfortable.
The way those shoulders filled out that white dress shirt devastated me. My god, he had grown. I still thought of him as the boy he once was, but as my gaze roved over his chest, his biceps, his big beautiful hands, the word “Man” sounded like a deep bell in my mind, low and pleasurable.
“How are you liking your role?”
Even after all this time, I could hear in his voice how he was suppressing kadıköy escort bayan the real questions he wanted to ask. Suppressing some emotion, though I didn’t know what it was.
Oh, god, maybe he was impatient. Maybe he wanted to get this over with and go back to his normal work life. I’d probably been so awkward that he felt obligated to…
I swallowed the lump forming in my throat.
“Nikki,” he said, and I was sure I heard the bite of his impatience. I winced and didn’t meet his eyes.
Right. He’d asked a question.
“I’m, um, fine. It’s fine. Good–I mean good.” I shrugged. “Really, it’s all going well. It’s a good company,” I finished weakly.
Where was the food? How long did it take to pour a cup of soup? There was no way I was fitting anything else in my nervous stomach, and Mark’s order had been pretty basic, too. But it was taking far too long.
I fidgeted with my napkin. I didn’t even try to formulate a conversation, knowing I would just flounder.
“So how’ve you been?”
The gentleness in his voice was nearly my undoing. I could feel the prickle of tears in my eyes.
“Great, Mark. Just great,” I sat flatly. I had to bite my tongue, the pain giving me something to grip, something to hold onto so I wouldn’t let loose everything I’d been holding back.
“Nikki,” he said again, the heat in his voice licking at my skin like flames, and when I looked up to see his bulk leaning toward me, it was as if the rest of the world disappeared. It was as if he was speaking to the old Nikki–the one who would have come running without a second thought.
But I was having too many thoughts, all crowding in my head, shouting, vying for my attention.
“Mark,” I said abruptly, cutting him off. “Thanks for lunch, but I have to get back to the office.”
That little crease between his eyebrows hadn’t changed. “Nikki, come on. It’s me–“
His voice, cajoling me; I’d heard that tone a thousand times over the years. Come on, it’s me. Talk to me, Nikki. Tell me what went wrong. Tell me what happened. Tell me where it hurts.
Everything hurt, all over again.
“What? What hurts?” he was asking.
Oops. I’d said that out loud.
“I have to go.” I could barely get the words out. I started digging around in my purse for a few bills, hoping I actually had some cash.
I glanced at him. I couldn’t tell what my face was doing, but I hoped it wasn’t cracking open with anguish.
“I mean please don’t pay.”
“Just go. Go ahead.” He nodded toward the door.
The door had just closed on her as the server came over with our food. Her cup of soup was so pathetically small that I ate it and then my own dish, all the while thinking, my pulse thudding in my ears.
I looked up. Standing next to me was… Vickers, that was it. Trent Vickers. Finance department. Hired within the last three months. I still wasn’t sure if I liked Trent.
“Yes. Hi, Trent. And please, it’s Mark.”
Trent nodded. “Mark. Just finishing up?”
“I uh… I don’t mean to pry, but I saw that new girl running out of here.”
Sure you don’t mean to pry, buddy, I thought, watching his face and not liking what I saw.
“She’s something,” he went on.
I didn’t know what to say and hoped this would die out on its own.
“Seemed kind of upset thought. Well, at least she gave you a nice view as she took off.” He winked.
I ground my teeth. “I’m not sure that’s appro–“
“Hey, you’re the boss,” Trent said, putting his hands up as if in apology. He lowered his voice and leaned in. “Bet she could use some bossing.”
“Excuse me.” I stood, forcing him to take a step back. I leveled a look at him as I put money on the table.
“That’s not part of our company culture, Trent.”
He grimaced. “Okay, boss. No offense meant.”
“Just Mark. Please.”
He nodded and I swept out. If that didn’t nip it in the bud, I’d talk with him again. That was not how I wanted anyone to see our female employees…
But that was how I saw Nikki, every night in my imagination.
That night was no different. I was the last one in the office; Nikki hadn’t stayed late since the day I had first seen her.
I stood and stretched. Half past nine. Full dark outside. It was late spring, almost summer, and it was a warm evening. I loosened my tie, then took it off and ran my fingers over the smooth fabric.
If Nikki were here, I thought…
I would close the curtains, for sure, and call her in. I thought back to how she had acted on our failed lunch: distant, cold, uninterested.
Here’s how it would go, I thought. I would call her in. I would dress her down, tell her just exactly what I thought of her poor attitude. I would remind her of our years together as friends…
I would stand as she sat in the chair in front of my desk, and I would have a perfect view of her breasts. She would cross her legs escort maltepe and the skirt would ride up a little.
Nikki would hang her head, I knew, feeling all her feelings about us. But she had a strong desire to please–she’d been a bit of a teacher’s pet–and she would be the same at work.
Only she’d be my pet.
So she would hang her head, and I would lean against my desk and ease up on her.
Fantasizing, I did lean on my desk. I imagined Nikki sitting in the chair in front of me, her eyes wide, her lush mouth turned down at the corners. Her cheeks flushed.
What can I do, she would ask, to have the right attitude?
I imagined what she would sound like asking me that, and my dick stiffened. As it would have if she’d actually been sitting there.
Well… I would let her twist a little, enjoy how she would hang on my words. By now she would have caught the spark in my eyes and she would see my arousal.
She would breathe hard as she saw the telltale lump in my pants. She might bite her lip, like she used to; she might adjust in her chair.
Well, I would tell her gravely, there’s a typical punishment in situations like this… Almost a time-honored office tradition.
She would know what I was talking about.
Wouldn’t she? Surely she’s watched porn, I thought, pausing in my jerking off. Surely she would know.
In my fantasy I decided she would know. And if not… My smile widened as I imagined teaching her.
Nikki, do you want me to give you your punishment?
Yes, she would say, leaning forward, giving me a look down her shirt. She would be fidgeting her hands in her lap, starting to squirm.
Stand up, Nikki, I would tell her. Come here.
My right hand was busy stroking myself. My left hand still held my necktie. Which I would use to bind her hands behind her back…
Mark, she would say, her voice tight with nerves, Mark, what are you doing?
I’m giving you what you need.
I would bend her over the desk. I would slowly push her skirt up over her hips until I could see her hose, her underwear; I would caress her cheeks until she was breathing so hard and fast that I’d fear she would pass out.
So, Nikki, I would ask. What do you need?
She would hesitate, I knew. But I would knead and squeeze her ass until it drove her wild.
What do you need? Tell me.
As I handled myself, I imagined her voice, breathy, high, tight: I need my punishment.
I would give it to her.
I pictured my heavy hand on the swell of her ass, coming down hard, watching her flinch and jiggle. I could almost feel it and hear it, each smack I would be giving her, each time her breath would hitch, and I knew I would smell it, her response, her wetness.
I knew I would peel down her tights, removing the last layers between me and her sex, trailing my fingers down her pussy lips–they would be swollen and red and glistening–
I pumped faster. It would be right here, over this desk… I would hold her hands, tied behind her back with my tie, and prepare my cock for entering her… I would see it nestled in the crevice between the globes of her ass, swollen, ready for her, so hard for her… I would lean back and watch as the head of it probed against her entrance and started to work its way inside, pushing forcefully, firmly, feeling her wriggle at the violation…
My cock liked that image; I saw in my mind how I would thrust my whole length into her, coming out wet, in and out, driving her forward against the desk, pulling on her bound hands, riding her.
Nikki wouldn’t be quiet–I was sure she wouldn’t–and her moans would tip me over the edge.
As if I could actually hear her, her voice in my mind triggered my dick to blow its load suddenly. I wasn’t prepared and caught it with my left hand–the hand holding my necktie. But I couldn’t regret anything as waves of pleasure washed over me and receded.
I drove home with renewed determination.
There was one thing standing in the way of this–if Nikki would even be into it, I mused. The hurt. The way I had hurt her, so deeply, so profoundly. And the only thing to do would be to come clean.
One more lunch, Nikki, I thought grimly. We can do one more lunch.
One lunch, when I would confess why I’d been a monumental asshole ten years ago… and what I wanted–what I needed–to do with her.
Another lunch like that and I’ll just be a bundle of walking nerves, I thought, finally letting myself reflect on the day. I was in the tub; a good soak was just what the doctor ordered after such a stressful ordeal.
The water was getting cool now and I would look like a prune in another five minutes, so I reluctantly hauled myself out. Water sluiced off me. I couldn’t help but look down at my breasts, shiny with wetness, my dusky nipples peaking as the cold air hit them, and think of how Mark’s hands would look–how his thumb would look tracing circles over them, collecting beads of water from them.
I groaned. I just couldn’t get away from thinking about him. I dried myself with a fresh towel and flopped, face down, on my bed. My body had adjusted to the ambient temperature, which was warm for a spring night, and I had an energy I knew would keep me up if I didn’t try to do something about it before trying to sleep.
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