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Chapter 7

“So not only is she ridiculously pretty and rich, she’s also Captain Planet,” I say as I sink down into my office chair.

“If Captain Planet was in the business of servers and data centers,” Jackie says back dryly as she takes the seat across from me.

“I guess I was hoping the product might be some evil artificial intelligence that was going to steal our jobs and souls.”

I turn my desktop computer back on so I can quickly check my email to make sure I didn’t miss anything important while in our three-hour long Ellison kick-off this morning. There’s nothing pressing, which shouldn’t be surprising since my life is now all Ellison, all the time.

“Because that would make it easier to hate Olivia Ellison?”

I shouldn’t have said anything to begin with. Jackie has been prickly ever since she left my apartment on Friday and it just seemed to get worse the closer we got to today. Lauren’s arrival. Not like we’ve even seen her yet. I have to assume she was whisked into meetings with Guy and the other leads right away.

I decide to just move past her comment. Partly because I know that she’s right. I didn’t really think the product would change anything about this situation, but I also didn’t expect the product to be something so…. altruistic.

It would be easier to think about Olivia as some corrupt CEO who only thinks about money. But introducing a groundbreaking technology to make cloud computing and data centers more sustainable? That, I was not expecting.

“This changes everything,” I say as I look back to Jackie from my screen. “We’re going to need to bring in the sustainability team from San Francisco for research. I’ll send Michelle a note to check with Ellison on adding two people to the NDA. This is just too specialized without their help. And we need it soon. We’re on a much tighter timeline than we thought we’d be. Four weeks to get an entire pitch ready for round one isn’t much.”

“I’ll reach out to their creative teams too for some good case studies. We’re going to need to prove that we’re capable in that space.”

“Great. Donnelly & Schneider will be tough to beat on this. They have a huge sustainability practice and I’m pretty sure their headquarters just won some big, green award. We’ll need to do a competitive analysis before we dive into strategy.”

“Let’s not pretend that’s the only reason Donnelly has a leg up on us,” Jackie says looking over her shoulder, even though the door is closed.

“Jackie, I get it. This isn’t ideal. Believe me, I’ve gone around and around in circles on that fact. But we’re in this. We have the info. Now we need to do what we can to win.”

“You’re starting to sound more like her.”


“Don’t play dumb, Ems.”

“I’m not sure what you want me to say here, Jackie. Am I supposed to say no to Guy and Michelle? Just refuse to work on this? You know I don’t have that freedom. If I say no to this, I can basically just kiss my SVP promotion away.”

“You could just leave. You know you’d be an EVP at any other agency by now.”

“Yes, but Altitude is the best. And I refuse to quit over a hard project.”

Jackie doesn’t say anything and for a few moments, the room just holds an awkward silence.

It’s not that I don’t know Jackie is right. I’ve already voiced these concerns to Lauren and logically I know this is more than a “hard project.” But those concerns don’t change the reality of the fact that we now have a piece of business we need to pitch. Even if it is a long shot to win.

And maybe some of my own competitiveness is seeping into my feelings around all of this. When Michelle gave us the briefing document at this morning’s kick-off, I felt a rush of excitement as I read through the ask from Ellison.

Besides the political aspects of the account, it should feel daunting considering I’ve never worked on any kind of sustainability business. But I’ve won plenty of business before in industries I’ve never touched.

I can feel the early adrenaline I always get at the beginning of a new pitch process start to build. The desire to win is no less potent than it usually is, which surprises me considering the situation and likelihood of us doing just that.

But what Ellison is introducing isn’t some run of the mill tech product that requires the same kind of strategic thinking we always employ. This project will require new ways of thinking since what they’re introducing is cutting edge and new.

Lauren must have been right when she said Ellison Tech had been working towards this announcement for a while. This isn’t something that could have been drummed up in the few days that she was served divorce papers.

It brings up even more questions about their marriage and how much they divulged to each other. You’d think Olivia would have mentioned something about this during pillow talk.

“Whoever wins this business is in a PR dream. Beyond the fact that it’s a 10-million-dollar retainer. Whoever wins this will skyrocket Cami Halısı as a leader in sustainability business,” I say.

“Ten fucking million for one campaign,” Jackie says as she shakes her head.

That was pretty much the entire team’s reaction when we saw that number on the briefing document today.

“Damn. Lauren really screwed the pooch on this one,” she added.

“Floozy last week and now screwed the pooch? Why is your vocabulary suddenly from 1950?”

“I’m not sure, why do you keep deflecting any time Lauren comes up?”

“I’m not deflecting. There’s just nothing to say about Lauren.”

“Which is how I know you’ve got it bad. Because there’s so much to say about her. And Olivia. Who I Googled by the way and looks like she just walked off a runway in Milan.”

I want to argue with her, but Jackie knows me way too well and what she’s saying is probably true. If this was anyone else, I’d be pulling my hair out about the ridiculousness of the situation. And I probably would march into Michelle or Guy’s office and refuse to work on it. So why am I so reluctant to voice any of that to Jackie?

Her comment on Olivia’s looks doesn’t help. I don’t need to be reminded how far out of Lauren’s league I am. Especially when I’m trying to put all that aside to come up with a strategy to win this business.

I don’t want to argue with Jackie, but I also don’t want to talk about Lauren. So instead I just look back at my computer without saying anything.

“Have you seen her yet?”

I take a deep breath. Jackie is relentless on the topic and I can feel my anger rising.

“Why do you care about Lauren so much? I’m the lead on this project. Ultimately, it’s going to be my name on the line.”

My tone is much harsher than I meant it to be and I instantly regret saying it when I see Jackie’s hurt face.

For a moment she doesn’t say anything back and just looks out the window to the left of my desk. When she looks back at me, her face is more serious than I’m used to seeing it.

“I think you know why, Ems,” she says quietly.

This is the exact conversation I feared would come up soon, but I didn’t think it would come up at work. This office is starting to see way too much of my personal life.

I look across the desk at my friend, trying to decide what I should say. What we really need to do is talk about this somewhere that’s not the office.

I love Jackie, just not in the way she probably wants me to. She deserves a real conversation about it and probably has for months. I’ve just been ignoring the signs that were there.

“Look, Jackie—” I start to say, but am cut off when there’s a knock on my office door. The person who knocked doesn’t wait for an answer and suddenly my door is open and Lauren Callahan is standing in the entryway.

If I wasn’t instantly frozen to the spot looking at Lauren’s gorgeous face, I probably would have rolled my eyes at the incredibly bad timing of her entrance. From the corner of my eye, I can see Jackie stand, but I can’t do anything but stare at Lauren.

This is probably the most casual I’ve ever seen Lauren dress. There’s no dress code in the Seattle office so she won’t look out of place, but having never seen the woman in jeans, I’m having to adjust to the look. Not that I can’t do that easily. Because she looks amazing.

Her hair is pulled up into a bun and she has a pair of glasses on that make her green eyes even more striking. But what I really can’t stop staring at is the tight shirt she has on under a loose-fitting grey blazer. Across the shirt is a faded image of Mickey Mouse.

I have no idea how long I’ve been sitting there, just staring at Lauren’s shirt, but based on the way her lips are quirked up in a knowing smirk, I’m guessing it’s longer than normal.

“Lauren,” I say, but my voice sounds hoarse, so I clear my throat before continuing. “Nice to see you.”

I can’t seem to say much else beyond that. Images of eating Mickey Mouse pancakes the morning after being thoroughly fucked in her hotel room are floating through my head, making speech impossible.

“Hello, Emma,” she says as her eyes move up and down my body.

It’s only when she turns to Jackie that I realize this whole weird greeting was witnessed by my friend. This timing really couldn’t have been worse.

“Hey Jackie, nice to see you,” she says to Jackie who looks less than pleased by Lauren’s arrival.

“You too, Lauren. Did you have a good flight?” Jackie asks in a voice that I can tell is a bit strained.

“A little early, but it was fine.”

Lauren looks from Jackie to me when the conversation stalls, but the awkwardness doesn’t seem to bother her.

“I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” she says, but her tone makes it clear she doesn’t care at all if she’s interrupting something.

“No,” Jackie says. “You weren’t. In fact, we were just talking about you.”

Now both women are looking at me. Lauren’s face just looks amused by the Cami Halıları situation while Jackie looks more than a little annoyed.

I wish I could tell Jackie something to make her feel better in this moment, but I can’t with Lauren staring me down and making my thoughts feel sluggish.

“Great,” Lauren says even though it’s clear Jackie didn’t mean we were saying anything good about Lauren. “Because I wanted to talk with you both. Michelle let me know the kick-off this morning went well. I’m going to be setting up a meeting for the three of us to meet on Friday for a strategy session.”

The quick swerve into work talk does its job to shake me out of my daze. “Strategy? I ask her. “I thought you couldn’t sign the NDA.”

“I can’t. What I’m going to do is go over a deep background on the client and what our past business relationship has looked like. We’ll go through what Austin has done for them and I can give some insight into best practices on pitching them.”

“Oh, I’m sure you have a lot of info to share on that relationship,” Jackie says and I almost can’t believe how snarky her tone is.

Jackie can be irreverent at times and she definitely has no real care about hierarchy, but this was pushing it, even for her.

“And lucky for you, I’ll be here to help. From start to finish,” Lauren says back to Jackie in a much sweeter tone.

She has a smile on her face, but there’s a challenge in her eyes I’ve seen before. Jackie should probably tread carefully. Lauren looks like a caged animal ready to strike if pushed the wrong way.

Lauren seems completely comfortable with the silence that takes over my office. Jackie looks over at me like she’s expecting me to chime in, but when I just sit there, she bends down and grabs her laptop bag by the chair.

“Lucky us,” she says as she moves to the doorway that Lauren is standing in. “I’ll look out for the calendar invite.”

Lauren walks further into my office so Jackie can move past her. Before completely leaving, Jackie shoulders her bag and gives me a last look.

“Talk later?” she asks me and I simply nod back.

There’s so much I want to say, but not in front of Lauren and I’d really like for this awkward encounter to be over.

Despite the fact that Lauren is still in my office, I can instantly feel my shoulders relax at Jackie’s departure. Every moment since the kick-off has felt tense and I hate feeling like that with Jackie. Usually we’re cracking jokes and teasing each other after meetings.

“She doesn’t like me much,” Lauren says as she closes the door behind Jackie.

“She’s just protective of me,” I say as I watch her walk over to my desk.

Instead of sitting down in the chair Jackie had just used, she moves to the desk and sits on the end of it, crossing her legs as she does. Even without her usual, imposing heels, the move is domineering, and it instantly makes me feel like she has the upper hand.

“Is that what that is?” she asks.

“Nice shirt,” I say to her, ignoring her comment about Jackie.

“I thought you’d like it,” she says with her usual smirk.

“You’re the one with a Disney fetish, not me.”

She pretends to look at a watch she’s not even wearing and looks up at me with a shocked expression on her face.

“Why Ms. King. It’s not even 1pm and you’re already talking about fetishes. At work no less. I should report you.”

“I’m sure HR would love to hear about how we came to that topic,” I quip back.

She smiles and gives me a small wink. “While I’d love to continue our foreplay, I have some appointments to look at apartments I need to get to. I came to make sure you didn’t forget about our dinner tonight.”


Like I could have forgotten that I inadvisably agreed to go to dinner with Lauren tonight. Besides the kick-off meeting, I haven’t been able to think about much else. I even wrote text after text to Lauren over the weekend backing out, only to just erase them before sending.

Everything in me is screaming that I should cancel. I’m not an idiot, in fact I pride myself on being pretty self-aware. I know exactly how my attraction will grow if I go to dinner with her. And I know how that will complicate things, not to mention the lecture I’d get from Jackie.

But as I sit here staring up at Lauren, I can’t help but want to spend more time with her. And it’s not like she invited me to her hotel room. Dinner can just be dinner.

“I haven’t been told a time or place so I could technically accuse you of being the forgetful one,” I say back quietly.

The intense way she’s looking from my eyes down to my waist is making me feel like I’m being undressed on the spot.

Instead of answer, she focuses her gaze on my chest and moves her hand to gently play with the collar of my shirt. She tugs it lightly before moving the same hand down to the top button.

Without anything else to do with my hands, I grip the arms of my chair and I can see my own chest rising and falling at a much faster rate.

She deftly opens the top button of my shirt with one hand before moving down and doing the same to the next button. She cocks her head to one side and hums softly as she looks at her own work.

“You look sexy in blue, Ems. You should wear that color more often.”

After carefully grazing the skin just inside my shirt with her fingers, she slowly moves her hand back and sets in on her lap.

“Have a drink with me at my hotel before dinner,” she says in a low voice.

I have to close my eyes for a moment before I can form words. I’m so aroused right now and I know she can easily tell. My defenses are down and she’s using that to her advantage, which is something I can’t let happen.

“No,” I say as I open my eyes and look into hers.

She doesn’t look mad but simply gives me a smile and shrug. “Worth a shot.”

I can’t help but smile back at her. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone like Lauren. She moves off my desk and over to the door, which she stops in front of before leaving.

“I’ll see you at Serafina. 8:00. The table is under my name. My last name. I’m sure you remember it.”

She gives me a final wink and heads out the door.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It’s not a date, it’s not a date, it’s not a date.

Repeating that to myself over and over doesn’t seem to relieve any of the nerves that have built in my stomach since I left my office. It also doesn’t help me choose something to wear out of the mountain of discarded options that now pepper my bedroom.

Granted I haven’t been to dinner with a woman in a while, but it shouldn’t be this hard to pick something to wear. Especially since it’s not a date.

I even went as far as to look up the restaurant’s website to see if it would give me inspiration. I’ve never been to Serafina, but it’s fairly well-known in the city and I’ve always wanted to try the food.

A dress near the back of my closet catches my eye. It’s a dress I used to wear in New York all the time but seemed a little too fancy for the fleece and plaid culture of Seattle.

But Serafina is a nice restaurant and I’d be lying if I said I don’t care what Lauren thinks about how I look. Because I crave that hungry look she gets in her eyes, even if I shouldn’t, and this little black dress will certainly do that.

The dress still fits me perfectly and I smile at the image of Lauren seeing me in it. While it’s a fairly simple design, the cut is on the short side, showing off the legs I’ve caught Lauren staring at more than once. But my favorite feature is the back of the dress, which isn’t really a back at all since there’s no fabric there, giving people a clear view of my bare skin.

I’m fairly pleased with the outcome of my primping an hour later and give myself one last look in my bedroom mirror before turning to leave the room. But as I get to the door, something Lauren said earlier pops into my head, and I turn back slowly to my dresser contemplating something I definitely shouldn’t.

Fuck it. I move over to my dresser and lean against it as I quickly remove the pair of underwear I have on. I open the top drawer and move some things around until I find what I’m looking for.

As I leave my apartment for the Uber that just pulled up and is waiting for me, I feel a rush of excitement at what I just did.

I’m not going into this night expecting that Lauren will even find out, but it still gives me a rush to know that the very color Lauren complimented me on earlier today is now wrapped around my pussy in the form of a blue thong.

Chapter 8

The restaurant is just as nice as I expected and I’m instantly glad that I decided on this dress. The other patrons in here are dressed similarly and it almost doesn’t feel like Seattle anymore.

“I’m meeting someone here under the name of Callahan,” I say to the Serafina hostess.

She gives me a warm smile. “This way, please. Ms. Callahan has already arrived. Can I take your coat for you?”

I quickly remove my jacket, trying desperately not to focus on her use of Lauren’s last name like that. I can’t be turned on before I even get to the table. I need to keep my focus so I can get some answers from her.

I see Lauren before she sees me. Tucked into a corner table, she looks so much different than this afternoon when I saw her at work, but equally as sexy. She’s retired her jeans for a deep green silk top, and what seems to be some high waisted black slacks.

Her blouse cuts so low that my eyes transfix for a moment on the soft curves that are so easily visible. Lauren’s cleavage is tanned and incredibly soft looking and I can remember what it feels like to run my tongue between her perfect tits. Her blouse is holding them in such a perfect balance that my fingers itch to slide up her top right here in public.

When I raise my eyes back up, I’m almost at the table and Lauren’s eyes are trained on mine. The mischievous smile on her face makes it obvious she didn’t miss my ogling of her tits. Luckily, she doesn’t say anything as I get to the table, but that could be because she was doing her own share of ogling.

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