Okay, for those of you who were looking for a little more I Know What You Read …enjoy! The novella is almost finished! Hope to have it on the market before the end of this month.
(I Know What You Read…continued)
“Oh shit!” she whispered. Immediately, she looked up to see if anyone in the office was watching her reaction. There were at least fifteen people with a good view of her office from across the floor, one of which was an over-bearing sports columnist on the opposite side of the office expanse. He’d have to have great vision to see her from such a distance, but the man had good enough eyesight to stare down a batter thirty yards away and manage to land a ball in a catcher’s mitt.
Her blood felt as if it turned to steam as she crumpled the little note in her hand and stormed across the building.
“This isn’t funny!” she snapped, but then suddenly realized he was on the phone.
“Hey, let me call you back in a couple minutes, I have someone in my office. Thanks,” he said as he hung up. “Jade, what’s—”
“Don’t play coy with me! Your note wasn’t funny. What I do is none of your—”
“Whoa, princess, whoa,” he said putting his hands up as if in defense, “What note?”
“Like you really don’t know,” she said, displaying the small piece of crumpled paper.
“I don’t. Let me see it. What does it say?”
“Uh!”she groaned. “You’re full of shit! And,” she stressed, “I’m not going out with you!”
“I haven’t asked—not today anyway,” he clarified, “but I don’t have any plans for dinner if you—”
She turned without listening to another word and stomped back to her desk to fume. She knew she was in the wrong frame of mind to write her story. It pissed her off to think he’d been spying on her somehow. Her computer was up all weekend, so it was a distinct possibility he came into the office on Saturday and turned her monitor back on. Damn it all. It was so embarrassing to realize he saw what she’d been reading. She glanced around the office again; several people were looking at this point. Her anger began to calm and worry replaced it. What if he honestly wasn’t the person who left the note? No—it had to be him.
It didn’t take more than a few minutes for her to decide she was skipping out of work for the remainder of the day. She would finish her story from home and email it in. She grabbed up her stuff and headed for the front door.
She had just put her hand on the crash bar when she felt someone touch her arm.
“Are you okay?” Ethan asked.
She was so frustrated, her jaws felt locked from clenching her teeth.
“I’ve been calling out your name for the last hundred feet or so. What’s going on in that pretty head of yours?”
“I’m sorry. I guess I didn’t hear you.”
Ethan smiled, “Rough day?”
“Yeah,” she said, still sounding upset, “Noah is just being a jerk.”
“Oh, you mean he’s acting normal,” he chuckled.
She felt the smile coming back to her face, “You’re absolutely right. He’s being himself.”
“Where are you headed?”
“Don’t tell Hiram, but I’m out of here for today.”
“Girl, I’m definitely not a snitch. You just take your fine self to the spa, or the salon, or—hell, this actually sounds like something I’d like to do. I could really use a manicure,” he said, looking at the nails on one hand as he put the other hand on his hip. He was using his over-the-top southern gay accent.
At this point, she couldn’t keep from outright laughing, “Thanks, Ethan,” she said, as she went up on her tippy toes to wrap an arm around his handsome neck and give him a hug.
The hug appeared to take him completely by surprise, “For what?”
“You just brightened my day, that’s all.”
He grinned, “Well, Julian doesn’t call me sunshine for nothin’.”
She laughed harder. “I have two words for you: comedy club.”
He tipped his head back and smiled as if he just had an epiphany, “I love the comedy club! Open mic night at Side Splitters—you have to go with me and Julian next month.”
She was about to tell him she might when she saw Hiram walking toward the front. He hadn’t seen her, yet, “Crap, here comes the boss. I’m outta here.”
“Go. Go,” he said, pushing her out the door.
She drove to her home in Valrico. It was an ample two/two, build in the early 1970’s in a safe, but older neighborhood. Her grandmother willed it to her several years ago, and Jade was grateful to get out of apartment life in the city. She honestly was a bit of an introvert. She liked to putter around the house putting her home repair skills to the test. When she wasn’t watching Youtube videos on how to repair a leaky faucet, or how to lay tile, or whatever happened to need fixing at the time, she could be found mowing the lawn, trimming the trees, or replanting her flowerbeds.
Her mother tried to talk her into selling it and moving to South Carolina, but, with the crappy real estate market, it didn’t have a decent resale value right now. And, besides, she didn’t care for the guy her mother remarried. No, she would stay in Florida and live in her modest home, work as a reporter, and pray for prince charming to find her one day.
She went into her den and pulled out the notes for her story. Her angry emotions faded and all that remained was happiness over working from home. So what if mister big-shot-former-baseball-player knew she liked to read erotica. What was he going to do about it? Blackmail her? She didn’t have much money, and he certainly didn’t need any more.
She chuckled to herself as she turned on her computer, “I’ll just say it was research for a story I’m working on.” The more she gave it thought, the funnier it became because a new adult store had opened in downtown Tampa and she might actually have to turn it into a story. If Noah thought he was going to rattle her cage, she would prove him wrong.
Tuesday morning found her happy and chipper. Morning traffic was light and she made it into the office a few minutes early with time to spare for picking up a Starbuck’s cappuccino. Her story from yesterday had come together brilliantly and she considered it to be some of the best writing she’d done in a long time. She would meet with Julian around 8:30 to decide on which pics to use and it would be finished.
Hiram stood at the front desk waiting, apparently for her.
She groaned internally, but put a smile on her face, “So, what did you think about my story, Boss?”
He was wearing the kind of smile her Granny used to say was like a ‘possum eating shit and enjoying every mouthful.’ She suddenly worried he might be the one who read what was on her monitor. She gave a mental, ‘Ewww!’ He was in his mid-fifties, short, balding and pudgy, but everyone told her how much he liked her. He called her his ‘Roxanne Simpson’ of the office. Roxanne was the reporter character in the movie Ghost Rider played by Eva Mendes. Now, Jade didn’t exclude herself from her celebrity matching habit, and although she did see a striking resemblance, with the exception that she had green eyes and Eva had brown, she simply didn’t see herself as sexy.
“Great work! I loved it. I want you to make sure you don’t have anything on your calendar when they finish the three-day so you can do a follow-up.”
“Sure. No problem.”
“Listen, the Lightning are—”
“Don’t say it or I quit!”
“You and I need to talk,” she glanced to Kristen who was seated at the reception desk trying to appear busy and uninterested, but Jade knew she was listening to every word. She also knew within the hour her refusal to cover the Lightning game would be all over the office.
Five minutes later they were standing in Hiram’s office.
“Boss, I know you’re getting ready to pair me up with Noah, and I know he asked you to do it.”
Hiram looked a little ashamed as his cheeks turned red, “Jade, he—”
“Mr. Spencer,” she said, addressing him formally so he’d know she was serious, “he’s harassing me, and I don’t appreciate you going along with it.”
He sat down behind his over-sized desk and sank into his over-sized executive chair, “I’m sorry.”
His sudden apology caught her totally off-guard.
“He interviewed with Jacksonville and Miami before he came here. I was working hard to land him, and I hate to admit it, but I think when he saw you, he made up his mind. He wanted to know everything about you, and he asked me what you wrote. He also asked if I could arrange for the two of you to do a couple stories together. I’m sure it helped for Tampa to have major league baseball, football, and hockey, but once he saw you, he agreed to work for us.”
Jade felt as if someone could knock her over with a feather. Although it was a strange compliment in a way, it didn’t deter her from telling her boss how she felt about the whole thing, “That isn’t my problem. He makes me really uncomfortable—the son of a bitch was practically naked the first time I met him! He’s too pushy, too presumptuous, and too married. If you gave him the impression he and I were going to be working together just to land him, you need to apologize to him. I’ve never been one to buck an assignment, but this is wrong and I refuse to go along with it.”
“Honestly, I’m surprised you didn’t tell me this when I assigned you to the Ray’s game.” He paused, but then started again, “I was going to have you do a piece on the couple chosen for the Lightning’s community heroes program before the game.”
“Would you have sent me to do this piece if someone else was writing the sports column?”
“I tell you what. I’ll do a write up on who they selected as their heroes program recipient, but I don’t need to go to the game to do it. Were you going to send a photographer?”
“Angie was going to go, but Ethan volunteered.”
“Ask him to get me a couple shots of the presentation of the check, I’ll do the rest. The next time Noah wants me for a female sidekick, you’re going to tell him no.”
“You’re not going to hold this against me are you?”
She gave him an uneasy smile, “Only if you don’t use me as a hiring bonus in the future. I’ve always rolled with the punches and I don’t get my panties in a wad over too much, do I?”
Surprise was written all over his face. His blush returned, “Nope. Matter of fact, anyone else might have been threatening a sexual harassment suit. You, Jade, are a gem—and that isn’t a pun.”
She was genuinely smiling by the time she made it to her desk. She never had much trouble getting things off her chest, but she was relieved to have tackled this problem before it got out of hand. When she pulled out her keyboard tray though, her smile quickly faded. There sat a manila envelope. When she opened it, she found a copy of the erotic story she read the day before. She looked across the office. Noah wasn’t too far away, sipping coffee and bullshitting with some of the production men.
She put her fingers to her lips and gave an ear-piercing whistle. Suddenly, she had the attention of more than just Noah. She smiled, waved the pages at him, and then promptly fed them to the shredder.
He looked completely puzzled.
She went back to work.
Wednesday morning, Kristen stopped her at the front desk and handed her a manila envelope which someone left anonymously on the reception counter.
Jade opened it in her office, discovering another printed copy of the erotic story. This time it was accompanied by a small typed note: I know what you read. You can sit at your desk and read this or I’ll make sure it ends up in a public place next time—with your name on it.
She glanced across the office. Noah’s door was closed and his light was off. She wasn’t planning to read the story, but she was intensely curious as to his location. Surely he had a vantage point from somewhere else and he was trying to throw her off. She placed the papers face-down on her desk and went about her normal morning routine. At least a dozen people stopped by her office to either say good morning or discuss her write up about the women, but still no Noah.
It was after 10 a.m. when she picked up her phone and dialed Kristen, “Hey, do you know where Noah is at today?”
“Umm, hold on a sec,” she stated, “I think Hiram gave him the day off. Yeah, here it is. He is closing on his beach house, but I don’t know if it means he’ll be out the full day or if he plans to be back this afternoon or not.” She paused for a moment and then asked why.
“He left me a—a story to look over. I was just going to give him my opinion on it, but don’t worry about it, I’ll catch him later.”
She had an interview at eleven with a new restaurant owner, and, since she was at the restaurant anyway, she stayed for lunch. It was a little after one when she made it back. The envelope and story, which she tucked away in her file drawer, were now on the top of her desk. The newest note inside simply read: I’m not kidding.
It pissed her off to think he had gone through her file cabinet, but when she looked, she realized this was simply another copy—the one she filed away was where she left it. His light was still off, but she was positive he was somewhere in the building.
She took the newest story and placed it in her top desk drawer and then walked out to see if she could find him. He wasn’t out on the newsroom floor, not in the break room, copy room, nor mailroom. She relented and went to the front desk.
“What time did Noah get back in?”
Kristen gave her an odd smile, “He’s not.”
“Are you sure? Maybe he came back for a while when you went to lunch.”
“I haven’t gone, yet. I’m taking my break at the end of the day because I have an appointment. So,” she said, getting her sly ‘I love gossip’ expression, “what’s up with you two?”
“Nothing. Period. He left another story on my desk. He had to have been here.”
Kristen gave a disappointed frown, “He must have had someone deliver it for him then because he hasn’t been in the building—that I know of.”
Now she was getting worried. Surely it was Noah doing this to her. He was the one who walked in on her when she was reading and—ah—playing, but there were numerous people with a good view into her office. She wasn’t sure what to do at this point. She didn’t want this story to keep popping up in places with greater public exposure than the last. She took the papers out of the desk drawer and stared at them. If Noah wasn’t here then how would he know she read it? It might pop up somewhere public tomorrow, but if it didn’t, would it prove Noah wasn’t the culprit?
She straightened the pages and gave them a single tap on her desk. She glanced around, took a shaky breath, and began to read. She thought about skimming the pages and not actually reading, but the story, once again, drew her in. There were little nuances in the writing that caught her attention this time.
Goosebumps rippled across her skin, her nipples tightened under her bra, and her pulse started to climb. She readjusted her chair closer to her desk. She hadn’t planned to enjoy this, but she couldn’t help herself.
Ah, the first kiss of the stranger’s lips. The pressure of his fingers as his hand slipped low. The woman’s timid, accidental brush against the erection in his jeans.
Jade took a deep breath; she had to join them. She let one hand slip down to rest on her knee as she permitted her vision to lift briefly to the people beyond the glass. No one appeared to be paying her any attention.
The handsome stranger told the woman how beautiful she was to him. The first tears forming as this woman considered she had never truly made love with a man. The exhilaration of being slowly undressed by a new lover—oh, yes, it all came together so beautifully.
She made it past the point of the woman’s first orgasm without delving into one herself, but now this man was taking her to the bed, placing her legs on his shoulders and burying himself so deep inside her it was almost painful. It was too much for Jade’s feeble resistance; she wanted to experience what was happening to the character in the story.
No one was watching her, Noah was gone, and everyone else was working. She pushed her chair a little to the left. Her inbox should be tall enough to keep anyone from seeing the miniscule movements of her arm. She was grateful that she put a panty liner in her underwear this morning because she was so slick and wet, she’d have soaked through to her skirt by now. She was ready for this—absolutely starving for release.
She allowed her index and second finger to slide from the hot, moist silk entrance upward to her clit and then back down. Damn, it tingled. She knew how to make it intense, but she didn’t know if she could do it without being obvious—or if she could keep silent when it happened, but all it would take would be to place her clit between her fingers and give it a bit of friction. Oh perfect.
The man took the woman over the top for the second time. He was bringing her body toward the third climax when he begged the woman to work him, to make him come for her. Damn, damn, damn—Jade bit her lip hard as the three of them tumbled into bliss together. Wow, that was good.
Her pulse ebbed to normal, her breathing calmed, and her fingers were removed from under her panties. The goose bumps returned as she wondered if anyone paid careful attention to her daring game. She waited another five minutes before rising, collecting both copies of the story and taking them to the shredder.
She was a little worried when she came into the office Thursday morning; would she find a nasty surprise in a public place? Noah was back, early as usual. Kristen didn’t stop her, so nothing was waiting up front; nothing on her desk, or on her keyboard. She wandered down to the break room, praying silently there wouldn’t be a crowd gathered around the bulletin board—nope, nothing there. She checked her mailbox, and it was empty as well. She was both relieved and upset. How did Noah know she read the story if he was out of the office?
She settled in behind her desk and glanced over to her monitor. There was a camera built into her monitor. Could he possibly have watched her through it without her knowledge? She read a story on the internet months earlier about something similar happening in a school district. She pulled a post-it off and placed it over the lens.
She had several appointments today. Each time she returned to the office she expected to find the story lying somewhere visible, but nothing turned up. Perhaps, she thought, Noah is tired of his stupid game. She completed what had been asked: she read the printed copy. She felt equally certain Hiram informed him she wouldn’t be accompanying him on any stories. If she was lucky, her refusal pissed Noah off and he didn’t even like her anymore.
Friday morning she was all smiles as she walked through the front door of the newspaper. She saw, out of the corner of her eye, Noah heading toward her.
“Hey there gorgeous,” he said as he came up beside her, “do you like the beach?”
“I’m not coming over to your house.”
“Ah, Jade, come on. I’m not a bad guy, I swear. I’ll be a gentleman all night,” he added, getting a wicked little grin.
“I’m directly on the beach; the sunsets are fabulous.”
“No. And, I—”
“You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you?” he said looking slightly exasperated.
Yes, she wanted to hear, ‘I know what you read,’ come out of his mouth. She wanted to know, without a doubt, he was the one harassing her. “Yes I do.”
“Okay,” he said and then took her by the elbow and guided her into her office and closed the door.
Her heartbeat picked up speed as he stared at her with an expression that showed his level of discomfort.
“Really? You’re really going to make me say it?”
She crossed her arms and nodded, “And don’t act like you’re all uncomfortable at this point either.” If he was brazen enough to get on her computer, print out the stories, scare the shit out of her with his little notes, and basically blackmail her into reading erotica, she wasn’t going to feel sorry for him if he didn’t like admitting it.
“Fine,” he said, dropping down on one knee.
Holy crap! What was he doing? Proposing?
He took her hand and gave her the biggest puppy-dog face possible, “Pleeeeease!”
“Ah!” She couldn’t believe it. That is what he had to say?!
People were staring.
“Get off your knees. You look like an idiot!”
“Not until you say yes. I’ll be good—scout’s honor.”
They were drawing a crowd in the newsroom, and Jade could feel the scarlet color flooding her cheeks as she stood there speechless.
“One dinner with me, and I won’t bother you anymore.”
“You’ll stop harassing me, and you won’t pull any stupid stunts like undressing when you get home?”
“I’ll be an angel from now on.”
She wanted to laugh, but she was afraid he’d take it to mean she liked his corny antics, “Get off your knees—everyone is watching.”
“Please say yes,” he said with a little more seriousness.
“You won’t touch me?”
“A kiss—on the cheek only.”
“No,” she snapped.
“Back of your hand? I’ve already kissed your hand, so surely you can’t object.”
“Okay, just get up.”
He smiled broadly and rose to his feet.
She looked down and rubbed her forehead for a moment. “What the hell are we going to tell everybody,” she said in a fierce whisper. She knew the moment he walked out, half of the office staff would want to know what they’d been discussing.
“That’s easy,” he said, and then turned and opened her door. “Yes,” he shouted and raised his fists in the air in triumph, “she’s covering the Lightning game!”
Son of a bitch—he suckered her right into that one! Now, unless she wanted everyone to know what they’d actually agreed on, she had to go with him to the game! What a jerk!
The first person to poke his head in her office was Ethan, “Seriously? You’re going to the game? I thought you wiggled out of it?”
She slumped into her chair in defeat, “Me, too,” she said, but it was more like a whine.
“You know I’m going—which means I’m driving my car—so if you want to skip out early…”
It took a minute to sink in, but as it did she began to smile, “Yeah, you’re right. There is no reason I can’t skip out. Ethan, you’re a genius!”
“Well,” he said with a funny smirk, “maybe better than average.” He said he’d see her at the game, and then he was gone.