I grab his wrist and pull his hand from my mouth. He gives me a warning look to not bring up his body parts. But that’s precisely the reason why I’m choosing tonight, the only option that offers him any sort of pleasure too.
“We can wait,” I say softly and slowly. Begrudgingly, I slide off his lap and the bed. I flip my laptop closed and go to straighten out my shirt in front of the mirror. The worst part—I won’t be able to release my pent-up frustration right now. The pulsing between my legs will have to stay. Because I’ve committed to no self-love. Once I start down that road, there’s no stopping. I’ll turn back into a compulsive beast, and I don’t want Lo to see me like that.
“Are you sure?” Lo calls from the bed.
He’s as surprised as me. Normally I’d take one of the immediate gratifications, even if it was fleeting. I’ll regret my decision in a couple of hours, but at least I’m making the smarter choice now.
I meet his eyes, and I swear they lighten, like he’s proud of me.
In retrospect, I should have gone for the fondling over the clothes bit. I would have come and all would be well. Even after a shower, I sit behind my desk at the Calloway Couture offices with tension so crazy that I reflexively rub my lower half against my chair. My face flames when I catch myself, and I look up, wondering if Trish and Katie notice.
But both blondes type away behind their white desks, the workplace more like a loft, no cubicles. Racks of clothes shield the walls. Rose has a glass office that overlooks the rest of us, and right now, I miss her constant peeks across the room, her reprimanding gaze darting from her computer screen to my desk.
Her chair is empty, and I keep eyeing her office, wanting her to remind me why I shouldn’t sneak into the bathroom and do something naughty and just plain wrong.
But it will feel so good.
I’m two seconds from smacking my forehead on the desk. But I focus on my computer and the Excel spreadsheet. I try not to picture a nak*d Lo, which has already popped in my head three times. I fantasize about him too much, but I am thankful that no other guys infiltrate my thoughts. Missing him for three months has temporarily cured me. It was like my brain could only process one image: Loren Hale. All day, every day.
But by being alone—surrounded by clothes and two busy assistants, their eyes glued to computers—I can’t stop the sinful images from seeping right on in.
They begin with Lo walking towards me, still in the office. He shoves everything off my white desk and lifts me up roughly, none of his movements soft and slow. And in this particular fantasy, I’m wearing a dress.
And all he needs to do is shift my panties a little, and then he yanks my legs so they wrap tight around him, my back cool against the desk. And everything thrums so much. He tears down the top of my dress, his lips finding my breast, sucking, and then he thrusts…
Okay, I need to stop.
I squirm in my seat, the spot between my legs now pulsing, for real. There’s no doubt about it.
Maybe I can just log onto a p*rn site and once I stare at the pictures, all will be good. I’ll scroll through Tumblr’s naughty photos, and no one will know. I’ll hit that high I crave, and it will be okay again.
It’s an itch, a subconscious pulse. This time, I do slam my forehead down onto the keyboard, pounding my frustration until my computer lets out a screech. Shit.
I roll back a little, exhale deeply. And then a doorbell buzzes. Trish stands, her suede gray booties making the short trek to the door.
Rose is probably here. My anxiety starts to lessen. Her presence will surely keep me in line. I zone in on the Excel spreadsheet that details the collection’s current inventory. We have to ship a few more pieces to H&M because I messed up the order. I accidentally put a maxi-dress in the spring collection, and Rose has been trimming most of her clothes because they’re more flattering on the everyday girl.
My phone pings just as Trish opens the door. I check the text.
Whore – Unknown.
My heart explodes.
He has my number. He’s no longer going through Lo. What if it’s not the same person who texted him? I never thought it was possible that there could be multiple people involved in the text-threats.
I quickly log into the search engine and type my name, wondering if my secret has already been spilled. My fingers tremble as I scroll through a list of Lily Calloways. Most articles about me discuss my involvement with Fizzle. Some even call me a “soda heiress” which is a cooler title than I think I deserve. No trashy headlines pop up. Nothing about sex addiction.
I let out a short breath of relief, even if the word “whore” is still on my cell phone. Replying back may just fuel him to do something drastic—like call the tabloids—so I abandon the pursuit.
“Come on in,” Trish says. “Just stand along the back wall by the window. It’s tinted, so you don’t need to worry. I’m going to bring out the men’s clothes from our backroom. Help yourself to coffee and water on the table.”
What? I thought the male models were coming later today. Like in two hours. I check my clock on my phone. Oh…time really does fly when you’re stuck inside your head.
The guys file in. One by one. Each of them as striking as the next. It’s hard not to stare since that’s what they’re here for. I try to remember Daisy. I wouldn’t want anyone to gawk at my sister like I’m doing to these guys, but yet, I can’t stop.
I count off the models in my head. One, two, three… and when I reach nine, the door closes. Wait. Where’s Lo? And Rose? Rose and Lo. I need both of them here. And Lo should be the tenth model. Rose was going to drive him to the office since she had to run a few errands and would be here during the fitting. But yet, she’s not here.
Trish departs to the backroom, and Katie stands, ushering the guys towards my desk where they’ll linger. I sit by the window with a view of the city, and to the right of me is a table with freshly baked muffins, coffee and bottles of Evian.
I freak out.
I don’t know what else to call it. Just as Katie begins to look in my direction, I act as though I dropped a pen, and I squat to pick it up. Then I scuttle underneath my desk, hiding, and I quickly dial Lo’s number. Thankfully no one can see me, but I am sure they’re all wondering where the loony assistant disappeared to.
Maybe they’ll think I just teleported. I try to convince myself of the ridiculous and the impossible notion. But at least I can’t see them. Their deep voices and low laughter make me more paranoid than aroused. I just don’t want to stare at them for too long and begin to fantasize. Because sometimes I’ll try to turn those fantasies into realities. And I will not cheat on Loren Hale.
Not for anything.
I press my phone to my ear, the ringing incessant. “Pick up, pick up,” I mutter under my breath. I hug my knees to my chest, practically in a scared, little ball.
“Hey, it’s Lo.”
“Leave a message, and I may get around to calling you back. But really, you should just call me again. And if it’s not important, then don’t bother calling at all.” BEEP.
“I hate that you haven’t changed your stupid answering machine,” I whisper angrily. “It tricks me every single time. And it’s not nice.”
A pair of jeans land near my desk. I jump, my eyes wide. They’re undressed. One of them is without pants. Oh. My. God…
I shut off the phone and redial. Answering machine. I swallow hard and say under my breath, “Um, Lo, where are you? Bye.” I hang up quickly, and I dial my sensible sister. The line rings twice before she answers.
“Are you okay?” Rose asks.
“Why is Lo not answering?” I wonder, biting my nails.
“He left his phone at the house.” Her voice muffles as she pulls the receiver from her lips. “Okay, okay, Lo, I understand. Calm down.” She huffs and then says louder, “Are the models already there?”
“Yep,” I say, catching a glimpse of a pair of bare ankles and legs—which means that he can see me curled up here. But I don’t dare move. “All nine Captain Americas have reported for duty. Where are you?” It’s not like Rose to be late.
“Stuck in traffic,” Rose tells me. “I told Connor I would pick up his dry cleaning, and there was a long line.”
“You could have told Harold to do it,” I say softly. The bare ankles are moving closer! I shut my eyes. Go away. Go away.
“I’d rather not use our mother’s butler, thank you.” Yes, I suppose that comes with some sort of stipulation. Like spending an extra couple of dinners in Villanova, and Rose already commits to Sunday get-togethers.
“Mmm-hmm.” The legs pause, too close now.
“Lily…” Rose trails. “If you’re uncomfortable, you can go wait in my office, okay? You don’t have to be around those models.”
I think it’s too late for that.
The male model squats, and I am met with beautiful brown eyes, tan skin, and full dark hair, swept in a perfect way. He has that Italian charm in his blinding smile. He tilts his head. “What are you doing under there?”
“I work down here,” I blurt out. I am roasting from head to toe.
He laughs a husky laugh.
“Lily.” I flinch at the sound of Lo’s voice, and I look over my shoulder, met with the back of the white desk. Right, I have the phone pressed to my ear.
“I’m Julian,” the model says, extending his hand.
My palm is too sweaty. He’ll think I’m weird if he shakes a slippery hand, so I point to my phone and give him a nervous smile. “Work stuff,” I say.
“What’s going on?” Lo asks through the receiver. “You okay, Lil?” His worried tone drives knots in my stomach. I don’t want him to be concerned that I’ll cheat. I know it’s a valid fear, but I wish he could trust me one-hundred percent. But he can only do that when I begin to trust myself.
Julian says, “When you’re finished, you should come out from under there. Your office has a great view.”
I know he’s just trying to be nice since I’m the anti-social monster hiding beneath her desk. He’s not hitting on me, but I can’t stop looking at his pretty eyelashes.
He stands, and I try to focus my thoughts on the phone call. “Lo?” I question whether he’s hung up.
“Lil,” he says slowly, “you’re freaking me the f**k out.”
“Sorry, I’m fine.”
“Where are you?”
“At my desk.” That’s not a lie, right? Technically I am right here. “I just…thought you were going to be in the room too.” I don’t want to cheat on him. I don’t want to even give my mind the ability to contemplate the thought—to wander and fantasize. That will kill me. Keeping them out of sight is best, even though it’s not healthy to avoid the opposite sex when Lo’s not around.
Once I have a handle on controlling the things that tempt me, it’ll be better. Today’s just not a good day. I am overly aroused.