“You can call me Jeremy, you know.”
Victoria mulled this over while chewing on a french fry. “I thought you preferred Jay.”
His mouth crooked in the lazy way that made her want to slap him, and he stole one of her fries. She didn’t know why he couldn’t buy his own fucking fries. She didn’t steal his beer. “I prefer for Stephanie to call me Jay,” he corrected.
“That’s pretty specific.”
“Alright, I prefer for most people to call me Jay.”
“But not me?” She arched an eyebrow. “I haven’t earned Jay privileges?”
“It’s a good nickname,” he shrugged. “Gives an illusion of intimacy.”
“But isn’t actually intimate.”
“Not really.” He stole another fry. “You should try it sometime, give yourself a nickname.”
“No thanks,” she said. “Why do I get to call you Jeremy, then?” She used a fry to scrape up some stray horseradish and grease that had fallen onto her plate.
He shrugged. “We’re not making nice over burnt hot dogs and talking about lawn care. We’re drinking in my favorite bar, and I’m pretty sure the paint has started peeling off the walls in this fucking booth because you’ve got a mouth like an old sailor.”
“Old sailors don’t have my skill with a makeup brush,” she said primly, as if she didn’t know what he meant.
“If you think so, you haven’t met enough old sailors. You aren’t someone who’d call me Jay. You text me too fucking much to be calling me Williams. You woke me the fuck up last night, by the way.”
She threw a french fry at him, but he caught it in his mouth. She didn’t know why she even bothered. “Put your phone on do-not-disturb like a normal fucking person. You gonna start calling me Victoria then, Jeremy?”
He grinned. “Nah.”
“After that whole fucking speech you’re sticking with Garcia?”
“Everyone calls you Garcia,” he said. “Everyone else calls you Victoria.”
“You can’t have two everyones. That’s not how the word ‘everyone’ works.”
“If my meaning got conveyed then you can shut the fuck up about my vernacular.”
God, it was fucked up how much that fucked her up. Telling her to shut up shouldn’t have fucked her up. It really shouldn’t have. She focused on drinking her beer to distract herself and hide her face.
“Jeremy is special, on account of these are special circumstances. There’s nothing special about Victoria.”
“Maybe you’re not special,” she suggested, and it had to be her most obvious lie yet.
“I make my own special. What’s your middle name?”
“Go fuck yourself.”
“That’s a hell of a middle name. C’mon, I know you’ve got two of them. Just gimme one. I’ll call you that.”
“Absolutely not.” She pushed her plate away from herself to emphasize the point.
“I know it’s an S and a C. Suzie Claire?”
“Ew, no. Stop guessing.”
He sighed. “You leave me no choice.”
“I’m gonna have to call you Vic.”
“It’s too late, he said, pulling his phone out of his pocket. “I’m already changing your name in my contacts. Deleting Queen Bitch—”
“Aw, what, I like that one.” She craned her neck to try and see his screen. “Keep that one.”
He shook his head, continuing to tap his thumbs on the little keyboard. “And typing Vic. Short, sweet, and so, so special.”
She huffed. “I’m not a Vic. There’s no way I’m a Vic. Vic is like the name of someone’s stepdad.”
He nodded. “I think you’d be a pretty cool stepdad. Tough, but fair.”
“I’m not ready to be a father! I’m still sowing my wild oats.”
“See?” he said, pointing at her. “That was a totally Vic thing to say. Classic Vic.”
“You’re grounded. You’re so grounded.”
Victoria: I’m going to come up with a shitty nickname for you.
Victoria: Just wait.
KingBitch: Vic is a great name
KingBitch: Learn to accept it
KingBitch: Embrace it
Victoria: Aren’t you in a meeting?
Victoria: Why are you texting me?
KingBitch: Because you texted me first
Victoria: You can reply later.
Victoria: This doesn’t have to be real time.
KingBitch: Yet here we are
KingBitch: In real time
Victoria: What about Jer-bear?
KingBitch: It will never work
KingBitch: No way you can say that out loud
Victoria: You’re right.
Victoria: Well, I tried.
Victoria: Got any suggestions?
Jer-Bear: I just got caught texting in a meeting
Jer-Bear: So that was fun
Jer-Bear: I appreciate the sympathy
Jer-Bear: I told them it was my sister
Jer-Bear: Who has a lot of problems so I’m trying to support her
Jer-Bear: I don’t have a sister
Jer-Bear: This is going to bite me in the ass later
Victoria: Oh my fucking god you unbelievable dipshit.
Jer-Bear: This is all your fault, you know
Victoria: Ooooh, playing the blame game now.
Victoria: What, are you going to punish me for my perfidy?
Jer-Bear: Also for using the word perfidy in a text
Victoria: Oh noooooo.
Victoria: I’m so frightened.
Victoria: You’re so scary.
Jer-Bear: I can be
Victoria: I don’t belieeeeeve yoooou.
Jer-Bear: You’d believe me if I had you bent over my knee
Jer-Bear: Too far?
Victoria: Be honest.
Victoria: Are you flirting with me?
Jeremy: I can be
Jeremy: It’s up to you
Victoria: That’s not fair.
Jeremy: Life isn’t fair
Jeremy: If I’m making you uncomfortable, tell me
Victoria: You’re not making me uncomfortable.
Victoria: Not like that, anyway.
Victoria: This is fucking stupid, but do you have a minute?
Jeremy: I’m free in fifteen
Victoria: Can you meet me in the storage room?
Victoria: The downstairs one.
She was going to fucking anxiety vomit. This was the worst idea she’d ever had.
“Hey,” she called, drawing his attention over between the shelves where she was hiding.
“Hey,” Jeremy said, hands in his pockets. He kept a safe distance from her, which was for the best. “Everything okay?”
“I thought it might be better to not text,” she said, “so there won’t be any evidence. Or something. I don’t know if it matters.”
“Okay,” he said. “Should I be concerned?”
“Probably.” She was standing against the wall, her hands behind her back, because she had no idea what the fuck she was supposed to be doing with them. “I want you to be honest with me. And also not freak out.”
“You might as well just ask,” he said. “All this preamble is making me nervous.” He didn’t look nervous. He was leaning against a shelf, hands still in his pockets, looking cool as a fucking cucumber. Because when the fuck didn’t he.
“Do you ever think about fucking me?” she asked, fast, too fast, all one quick breath to get it out before she lost her courage. His eyebrows shut up. “I don’t mean in passing,” she added, because everyone had probably thought about fucking anyone at least once. “I mean really thought about it. On purpose.”
“Okay. Huh.” He seemed to be giving the question careful consideration. “Simple yes-or-no answer?” She nodded. “Yes.” He shrugged. “You caught me.” He didn’t look sorry about it.
Jeremy fucking Williams had thought about fucking her. At least once. Even just once. She was going to fucking die.
“There’s a second part to the question,” she admitted.
“What did you think about? When you thought about me.”
“What?” He was so taken aback she almost wished she hadn’t asked.
“You’re not obligated to tell me,” she assured him, quickly, too quickly. “I just… want to know.” Wanted to know what he saw when he looked at her, wanted to know how he thought about touching her when he thought about her at all.
He stared at her. Neither of them moved. “To be clear,” he asked finally, “you’re asking me to describe to you the sexual fantasies I’ve had about you, in what I am assuming is a fair amount of detail. Is that about right?”
Her face felt hot. She hoped she didn’t look as nervous as she felt. “I want to know,” she repeated, her voice small. “How long you’ve been thinking about me, what it was like—how you wanted it. Wanted me.”
Other women didn’t ask this. He’d never been asked this. No one fucking asked this. This was the weirdest fucking line of questioning, she was definitely going to fucking die.
Jeremy took a deep breath. He tilted his head back, and looked at the ceiling. Eventually, a hand left his pocket to run through his hair as he looked back to her. “You’re aware that the things a guy thinks when he’s—it’s not necessarily flattering. Or representative, even.”
“But it’s important to you.” She nodded. “Is this a… test?”
“What happens if I fail?”
“Nothing.” She looked down at her shoes. “We pretend this never happened.”
He exhaled in one great whoosh of breath, and he was as close to nervous as she’d ever seen him. Fidgety, even. She couldn’t decide if that was a good sign.
“All right,” he said finally. “I’m trusting you, you realize that?” She nodded again, somber as a grave. “Okay, then, just let me think.” His eyes traveled around the room, everywhere but on her.
“The first time… do you remember the first time I came to your office?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “I was just going to swing by, real quick, just say hi and warn you about Morgan, maybe ask for a couple tips on that pamphlet I put together.” His hands had slid out of his pockets so he could gesture, acting as he spoke, always so ridiculously fucking expressive. “I wasn’t going to make you do it, I was—I am never mean to new hires. Never. Especially not women in Finance, god no. But I walked in, and I tried to, I don’t know, compliment your office or something. Do you remember that?” Again, he didn’t wait for an answer, though this time he did look at her to direct the question. “Do you remember what you said?”
He shook his head. “‘Spoiled rotten,'” he said in a mimicking falsetto, and she wrung her hands behind her back. “So fucking sarcastic. It had to be sarcastic. Just the fakest fucking thing—and I look over, and here’s this woman with not a hair out of place, just this fucking immaculate woman—you matched your nails to your lipstick, for fuck’s sake, who does that? And these great big brown eyes, just huge, and you fucking hated me. If looks could kill. I’d barely even said anything! I just walked in, and you thought—I could tell, you thought I was just garbage. You sized me up and you found me wanting.”
“I don’t even know what came over me, it was like I was—you know that kid who pulls a girl’s hair, and everyone says he likes her? I was never that kid, I hated that kid. But suddenly I was that fucking kid. And your eyes were just—your office is the only one, the only one, where I knock on wood on the way out. Because you are the only person who has ever made me believe in the evil eye.”
“That, right then, that was the first time I thought about fucking you.” She felt like he’d knocked all the air out of her lungs, and she realized he’d been moving closer to her, slowly closing the space between them. Words flowing out of him like he’d opened something he couldn’t close, started and couldn’t stop. “You had me fucked up for days with those fucking eyes, the coldest fucking eyes and that empty fucking smile. I would never tell you this if you hadn’t asked, I hope you know that, because I am not proud of myself. I wanted to fucking wreck you.” Her hands had fallen limp from behind her back, and she was staring at him; air felt ragged going into her lungs, and at his last words a tiny sound escaped her. A whimper, a moan, something small and helpless even as he kept talking.
“I wanted—I wanted to fuck that fake smile right off your fucking face. I wanted to fucking rail you, leave fingerprint bruises under your clothes, break though all the bullshit and hear you tell me that you hated me. Tell me exactly what you thought of me, while I made you cum and cum and cum again, until you couldn’t fucking move. Until you were a fucking mess.” Her mouth felt dry, she was all but panting, and she shivered when he came into arm’s reach.
“I tried not to. You know? I tried not to think about it, you think I wanted to be the guy who went home to jerk off to the new girl? That’s fucking awful, I don’t want to be that guy, but I did it anyway because I thought maybe it’d get you out of my system. And I told myself I’d stay the fuck away from you, and I’d play nice, but you just got so fucking mad every time you thought I was wrong. I’m always right. It’s practically a rule in this office, I’m always fucking right. And you played dumb while you corrected me, again and again and your eyes were like fucking explosions of rage and I just couldn’t fucking help myself. I’ve nearly strangled Johnson a million times because of you, you know that? I don’t give a fuck if he’s your boss, he’s not fit to lick your fucking heels.”
The space between them was gone, nothing but the barest few centimeters, his face close to hers and his eyes all alight. She could count his freckles if she wanted, the crescent moon and all the constellations in his skin. “How’s that?” he asked. “Is that the kind of thing you wanted to hear?”
“Keep talking?” she asked, breathless pleading.
He kissed her instead, pinned her body to the wall with his with a suddenness that left her shoulderblades sore, knocked away any air she might have had left in her. He tasted like mint and sugar and his lips were hard against hers, and she wanted to grab him and never let him let her go. She gasped for air when he finally released her, nearly collapsed once he was no longer holding her. “You liked that? Hearing how I want to fucking ruin you? What a fucking animal I am when I’m around you? You want more?”
“How about the Christmas party fiasco, you probably remember that. I planned that shit for months, you know that? I still think about it, it was going to be so fucking perfect but it all went to shit because I tried to be fucking clever, and then you couldn’t even talk. It took all the fucking fun out of it, and you looked so fucking small in that little snow fairy dress and I felt like a goddamn monster. And you thanked me. Do you have any idea what that did to me? That fucking broke me. I was going to kiss you, right then and there I was going to kiss you, I was going to pick you up and carry you home and eat you out until you forgot what hurting felt like.”
“Don’t you say my name like that, not now, don’t you fucking dare. I’m not done yet.” He pinned her again, and she thought he might kiss her, but instead his hand slid up her skirt to rub against lace, make her gasp again as she rocked against his hand. “You fucking ruin me, you know that? Every time, you’re always finding new ways to fucking ruin me. You remember that day—fuck, I don’t even remember why. You were on the floor in this fucking crime of a sweater dress, your ass looked amazing and your hair was all fucked up. The hottest goddamn thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I wanted to pin you to the fucking floor. I wanted your legs around my waist, I wanted to hold you down by your pretty fucking neck so I could feel you scream.” And then he rested his hand at her throat, gentle as could be, and her knees nearly gave out.
“Sometimes you aren’t even there and I think about you and I can’t fucking stop. I was on this date a couple months ago—you know Martha, from VTS? Of course you don’t, what the fuck am I saying. We went to see some movie about two people who hate each other, some romcom thing, all I could think about was you. And I had to tell this girl, this lovely girl, this real sweetheart, that I wasn’t feeling well and I had to go home, because every time I think of you it makes me fucking useless.” The hand between her legs stopped, made her mewl in protest as he grabbed her by the wrist to press her palm against his erection. Immediately her fingers curled to trace the shape of him through his suit, and she almost told him to stop talking, to fuck her instead.
“The first time you showed up at Crown’s Head, I lost my goddamn mind,” he said, his mouth nearly touching hers, almost kissing her again. “It was just the most perfect thing. You were such a fucking bitch. The perfect hair and the perfect lipstick and those fucking nails—do you know how many times I’ve imagined those things against my back? Clawing at me while I fucking destroy you?” She groaned, squirmed against him, because if he just touched her a little more she’d be done for and that was the only thing she wanted.
“You can’t even imagine how bad I wanted to take you home. That’s why I asked you to sit with me that first time, because if I saw you getting chatted up by some asshole I was gonna lose my shit. I know it wasn’t any of my fucking business, but I’m so fucking glad I did it. Seeing you all the time, talking to you all the time, it’s been torture, you know that? Every time you call me Mr. Williams I want to fuck your pretty face until you gag on it. I didn’t used to think about that, you didn’t fucking talk, what would be the fucking point? Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing you talk, you’re so fucking smart and you’re so fucking funny and I could listen to you all goddamn day. I swear to god I was listening, I meant every fucking word, I wasn’t some fucking asshole jerking off under the table when I thought you wouldn’t see.”
“It’s nights, Victoria, it’s fucking nights, when you’re not there and it’s so fucking easy to imagine you doing whatever the hell I want. You sent me a picture the other day of all the cops across the street from your apartment, and I could just barely see your reflection in the window, and it drove me fucking nuts. I spent for-fucking-ever trying to figure out what you were wearing, because the neckline was so low I could almost see your tits, and god damn if I didn’t want you to switch the fucking camera and take a picture for me. I almost asked, I swear to god I almost asked.”
In that tiny moment between breaths, she whispered, “I would have.”
Another kiss, another breath-stealing agonizing kiss, and she ran her hands over his face to feel the faint beginnings of stubble. After a moment he pulled away, nearly stumbled backward to put precious space between them. She resisted the temptation to reach for him. He ran his hands over his face, over his hair, closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“So there’s your answer,” he said, his voice almost normal, like whatever he’d let escape had been carefully put away. “How’d I do?”
“I wish you would have kept touching me,” she whined, pouting as she tried to fix her skirt.
Jeremy gave a hoarse laugh. “Is that all?”
She bit down on her thumb to keep from biting her nail. “Would you really fuck me like that?”
“God, Victoria, don’t ask me that.”
“What if I asked nice?”
“If I got on my knees and begged?”
“Christ.” He rubbed at his face again. “Are you fucking with me right now? I swear to god, Victoria, if you’re fucking with me—”
“I’m so close I feel like I’m gonna fucking scream and you barely even touched me, it’s not fucking fair, it’s really not fair.” She wrapped her arms around herself and huffed, because she felt overheated and underdressed and overexposed. “I should have waited until I got home, I should have called and asked then, but you threatened to bend me over your knee and I couldn’t think about anything else. And now I’m going to have to say I feel sick so I can go home because—”
“No,” he interrupted, and her eyes widened, startled. “You’re staying. You’re staying and you’re finishing the day, and then…”
“You know that old hotel up the street from the Crown’s Head?” She nodded. “You’re going to go there. If that’s what you want, then you’re going to go there. Or else you’re going to go straight home, and you’re going to text me when you get there to let me know you changed your mind.”
“That’s…” She pulled her phone out of her pocket to check. “That’s four hours. At least.” She gnawed at her lower lip. “You’re going to make me wait four hours?”
“I’m giving you time to think about it,” he corrected.
“But I can’t think,” she protested. “I’m going to spend four hours just thinking about…” She struggled for words. “Dick,” she spat.
The corner of his mouth twitched. “I’m willing to take that risk.”
She gasped, affronted. “You’re doing this on purpose.”
He grinned as he shoved his hands back in his pockets and started walking backward out of the room. “See you in four hours, Vic.”
“You unbelievable asshole.”
Victoria: I fucking hate you.
Jeremy: I’m heartbroken
Jeremy: Should I cancel the room?
Victoria: Don’t you fucking dare.
Victoria: I must look like a fucking idiot.
Victoria: This is so awkward.
Jeremy: I can imagine
Jeremy: It’s probably super obvious to everyone that you’re a cockhungry slut
Victoria: I’m going to fucking murder you.
Jeremy: That’s a funny way of spelling ‘harder’
Victoria: I can’t do this.
Victoria: The waiting.
Victoria: I can’t.
Victoria: I’m serious.
Jeremy: You can do it
Jeremy: I know you can
Jeremy: Good girls who do what they’re told get fucked just the way they want
Jeremy: You never said btw
Jeremy: If you ever thought about me
Jeremy: Maybe I just didn’t give you the chance
Victoria: I did.
Jeremy: That’s not very specific
Victoria: Don’t make me spell it out.
Victoria: It’s fucking embarrassing.
Jeremy: I showed you mine
Jeremy: Now show me yours
Victoria: I don’t know.
Victoria: You got promoted, I guess?
Victoria: In this stupid fucking scenario that I invented.
Victoria: So you were my boss.
Victoria: And you fucked me in your new office.
Victoria: Which I think was nicer than anything actually in this building.
Jeremy: I like that you consider that a relevant detail
Jeremy: That sounds sarcastic but it’s not
Jeremy: But also that makes me sound gross
Jeremy: I’m kind of offended tbh
Victoria: I don’t know!
Victoria: You said it was because you knew I liked you.
Victoria: The fake you said that.
Victoria: The made-up version.
Jeremy: I gathered
Victoria: You said it was super fucking obvious.
Victoria: And it was super obvious from day one.
Victoria: And it was obvious I needed to get laid.
Victoria: So you were going to do me a favor.
Jeremy: Fake me is much more observant than I am
Jeremy: And kind of an asshole
Victoria: He wasn’t wrong.
Jeremy: I wouldn’t say I was doing you a favor
Jeremy: I need to know your safeword
Jeremy: I don’t actually want to hurt you
Victoria: I guess.
Jeremy: You’ve done this before, right?
Victoria: No, I am the sweetest and purest of virgins.
Victoria: I have definitely never asked a guy I met at a bar to slap my stupid face while he fucked me.
Jeremy: First of all
Jeremy: Your face is not stupid
Jeremy: Even if I’m planning to fuck you stupid
Jeremy: Second of all
Jeremy: I hope that guy knew your safeword
Jeremy: Or I am going to be upset with you
Victoria: I like stoplights.
Victoria: Yellow to slow down and so on.
Jeremy: That works for me
Jeremy: Little miss change of subject
Jeremy: Anything you’re definitely not into?
Victoria: I liked everything you mentioned.
Victoria: I don’t really like being choked.
Victoria: I just like the hands there.
Victoria: You know?
Jeremy: That’s fair.
Victoria: A guy pissed on me once and I wasn’t into it.
Victoria: If you try to make me lick your ass I’ll probably punch you in the balls.
Victoria: I’m not really into anything that actually breaks skin, I don’t like bleeding.
Victoria: Or making me vomit, but I don’t have much of a gag reflex so you have to really be trying.
Victoria: I’m not calling you daddy or papi, I’m a grown-ass woman and incest is gross.
Victoria: Not into race stuff, that goes both ways.
Victoria: That includes calling me a maid or whatever.
Victoria: And any closed fist hitting means I’m leaving and never coming back.
Victoria: I think that’s it, though.
Jeremy: Who have you been fucking
Jeremy: I want names
Victoria: You dingus.
Victoria: No one, lately.
Jeremy: I don’t know if I feel better about myself, or worse
Victoria: You’re just a big old softie.
Jeremy: One out of three ain’t bad
Jeremy: You’ll see