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“What seems to be the problem?”

“It’s Joel in Accounting,” Julia said. “He keeps making … comments.”

Clare studied the woman sitting across from her desk. She’d never seen her at the office before—Clare was sure she would remember someone so striking. In a swift, barely perceptible once-over, Clare assessed the woman in entirety, scanning the length of her. She wore a blue silk camisole that hugged her contours perfectly, from the full breasts with just a hint of cleavage showing, down to the small waist. The black trousers she wore might as well have been yoga pants, they were so form-fitting. And perhaps they were. Clare couldn’t keep up with what counted as “pants” anymore—though she certainly appreciated them on the woman for all that they revealed—slim, muscled thighs crossed casually, a foot bouncing in stylish leather flats. Clare noticed the scent of jasmine emanating from her.

“What kind of comments?” Clare asked.

“Sexual,” Julia replied, her eyes flashing dark and dangerous at Clare, which was enough to force her gaze downward, as if merely the mention of the word sex implicated Clare somehow. Or had Julia noticed her staring?

What a surprise, Julia thought. She had never encountered a more attractive HR manager in her life. Usually they were tight-lipped and anal (not in the fun way), but this one …

Julia openly appraised the woman sitting tall behind the large, impeccably organized desk, the dark brown hair that fell in soft waves about her face, the eyes that seemed to change with each shifting of the light—from blue to green to grey and back. Right now they appeared blue, but not the icy kind, the aloof kind. No, to Julia they appeared to be the blue of flame—the hottest part of the fire.

Even though Clare was merely sitting, pen poised to take notes on Julia’s claim, she radiated sensuality. The hairs on Julia’s forearms prickled as she allowed herself to wonder briefly what the woman looked like under the tight sweater she wore.

But as she let her mind wander so, somewhere in her awareness, it registered to Julia that Clare had asked her a question. “Hmm?” she said, snapping back to attention and away from her daydream.

“If you don’t mind, Ms. Pulley, that is, if you feel comfortable—I’m going to need you to elaborate on the specificity of these sexual comments…”

Clare felt oddly flustered. She made sure to keep her face and voice in an expressionless, professional tone, but inside she was burning up. She couldn’t stop herself from registering again and again the striking brown eyes of the woman before her, which seemed to flash at her like a dare.

“Well,” Julia started, suddenly shy to repeat the filthy, horrible words that Joel had taunted her with—not in front of this beautiful stranger, at least, whose undeniable allure caused her heart to hammer in her throat. “I don’t know that I can say it outloud.”

Clare struggled to keep her voice steady, as she said, “I understand this is difficult for you. But you should know that anything you say to me is in the strictest of confidence. You will not be punished or impacted negatively in any way for coming forward. We have a zero-tolerance policy for unwanted sexual contact at this company, and I will do everything in my power to help. I just need a record of the inappropriate comments for my report.”

Comforted though still feeling timid, Julia surprised both herself and Clare by rising from her chair and leaning over the desk, pressing her palms flat against it to steady herself. In a voice barely above a whisper, Julia spoke softly into Clare’s ear, her lips so close to Clare’s neck that the heat of her breath sent a thunder clap straight down to Clare’s center.

Clare listened to Julia repeat the string of lewd comments that Joel had said to her, struggling to stop the flood of arousal that Julia’s lips had awakened in her. Focus, she chastised herself, You have a job to do and it is not ogling a woman in need of your help! And yet, she could not stop herself from registering the soft peaks of Julia’s breasts as she leaned over the desk—low-hanging fruit, literally!—the impressions of which were now firmly embedded in her mind and would not remove themselves.

The litany of filth continued as Clare warred privately with herself, and when Julia’s lip brushed the soft fold of her ear—accidentally?—Clare let slip a deep, throaty moan. “God,” she whispered.

“I know,” Julia said, thinking this was in response to Joel’s comments. “Isn’t it horrid? I even told him I was gay, which I thought would be a deterrant, but it seems it only to have bolstered his advances.”

When Julia sat back down in her chair, Clare was relieved, as it allowed her to recover from the warmth and smoldering nearness of Julia’s body, and a respite from the brief brushing of Julia’s lips that had set Clare’s particles jostling. “I’m so sorry that happened to you—it’s awful,” she said, thankful to have enough wits about her to form coherent escort ataşehir sentences. “Rest assured that his behavior is entirely unacceptable and will not be tolerated at this company, toward you or anyone else. Is there anything else I need to know?”

Julia struggled to come up with something—anything—that would allow her to stay in the beguiling woman’s presence for a little while longer, but couldn’t. She was tongue-tied and more than a little turned on still from the brief glimpse of Clare’s long, graceful neck and the sweet, animal scent of her she had just encountered when she leaned in close to her ear.

Julia felt desire cloud her throat as she rose from her chair to bid Clare adieu, and as they clasped hands, she allowed hers to linger in Clare’s for a fraction of a second longer than propriety allowed.

The pleasure and heat and memory of this brief encounter would stay with Julia for the rest of the day and well into the evening, where she freely allowed her mind to wander over and over again the details, the impressions, the proportions that had so shockingly bewitched her.

Who is this woman? she wondered.

The following week, when Julia walked past Joel’s desk on the way to her own, she was startled to find it empty.

Had her complaint worked? Was she finally going to be free and able to do her job in peace? A thrilling lightness moved through her as she sat down at her cubicle and opened her laptop, where a company-wide email from the CEO greeted her. It was about Joel’s departure, though there were scant few details as to why. Julia scanned the email ” … blah blah … thankful for his service and dedication … blah blah … wish him luck on his next enterprise…”

Horse shit! She thought, wanting real answers, which is when she remembered the enchantress who could provide them.

Julia peered her head over her cubicle wall, craning her neck down the hall to the office Clare occupied. Her door was open, as it always was, and Julia could see that she was talking on the phone. When Clare glanced up briefly and saw Julia’s eyes upon her, Julia swore she saw the corners of her mouth flicker into a smile before looking away. Julia smiled in kind, almost involuntarily. She typed a message to Clare.

Subject: Case Update

“Does this mean what I think it does?—J”

Two minutes later, Clare responded:

RE: Case Update
“Unable to discuss at present. Tonight? At 1221?”

Julia’s eyes widened. 1221 was the gay bar near their office. Was Clare suggesting it to convey her sexuality to Julia? Or did she choose it because she knew no one at the office would likely be there, and, hence they could talk openly? Regardless, Julia was thrilled, both to learn more about her case and to spend time out of the office with Clare. She did a little dance in her seat, hoping no one would inopportunely walk by, as she replied: “I’ll be there.”

It was only as Clare walked into the bar that evening that she realized she was nervous. Except she didn’t actually “realize” it—she looked down at her hands and saw that they were shaking. She shoved them in her pockets and out of view, making her way to the end of the small, dark bar and ordering a vodka gimlet. The place was filling up fast, as the after-work crowd streamed in, removing blazers and backpacks, loosening neckties and replacing briefcases with pints of beer. Clare managed to carve a space out at the bar that could just fit two people as she waited for Julia to arrive.

Why was she nervous? There is nothing improper about meeting a coworker for drinks, she told herself. And yet, she felt as if she was getting away with something. It didn’t take long for Clare to remember the wild charge of Julia’s lips against her ear and the heat that moved through her when Julia did so, desire coursing down and down and down. Clare shook off the memory and stood up straighter, telling herself, It’s just a drink. She’s just a coworker. It’s fine. I’m fine!

When Julia entered the bar a few minutes later, the sight of Clare struck her again like a mallet. When she found Clare’s face among the crowd of bar-goers, tucked beneath a slew of bears and queens and flannel femmes, Julia felt stunned, unable to take even a single step forward. But then she saw Clare smile, and found the resolve to make her limbs obey her. She pushed her way through the throng of happy-hour bodies and wedged herself in the small space next to Clare. They were close enough to kiss and Julia found she did not know where to look. She focused on Clare’s clavicle, inhaling once again her brisk biology, and felt intoxicated already, though she hadn’t had a single drink.

“Sorry I’m late,” Julia said, breathless, cheeks flushed. Clare wondered if she had run to get here. “I’ve been up to my tits in expense reports.”

Clare’s mouth opened slightly at this casual reference to tits, but she said nothing.

“Am I allowed to say tits?” Julia kadıköy escort said, recognizing the shock on Clare’s face. “You won’t report me, will you?”

Clare couldn’t tell if Julia was joking or not, so responded earnestly, “Oh, I’m not on the clock now. Please feel free to discuss breasts as much as you’d like.” Then thought, Christ, did I just say that?

Thankfully, Julia laughed. “My kinda gal,” she said. “Speaking of tits, gonna try and fail to get the gay male bartender’s attention for a drink. You good?”

“I’m good … great actually,” Clare said, surprised at how much she meant it. When Julia came back with a manhattan, Clare smiled again.

“What?” Julia asked, wedging herself once more into the space, and registering the unbearable nearness of Clare’s body to her own.

“Oh, nothing.”

“No, tell me.”

Clare demured. “It’s just that all of my ex-girlfriends are whiskey drinkers.”

“Are they now?” Julia delighted in this information. So she did like girls. Now all Julia had to figure out was if she liked her in particular.

This would prove to be difficult to maneuver, however. She couldn’t casually hit on the head of HR, could she? Wasn’t that, like, five kinds of wrong? And when she herself had just submitted a harassment claim! This was going to be trickier than she thought. And then there was Clare’s scent, casually debilitating her while they stood, the soft fabric of their elbows touching.

Julia tried to distract herself from her arousal. “Why do you think this place is called 1221?”

“I was wondering that, too,” Clare said, placing her foot on the rung of the bar stool near Julia’s thigh and resisting the urge to lay her hand upon its muscled contours. The allure of Julia’s thigh drew her like a magnet. She clutched tighter to her drink. Clare had never felt so exhausted from NOT touching someone! What is going on with me? She wondered.

“I bet the internet knows,” Julia said, punching the question into her phone. “Aha … it’s, oh, that’s disappointing. It’s just the address.”

“Not a very good story.”

“No, I was hoping it’d be something like: In 1221, the first glory hole was invented. And today, at 1221, we honor that hole and every hole that has found a similar path to glory.”

Clare laughed. “Let’s definitely tell people that. It’s way better.”

“Deal.” Julia raised her glass to Clare’s and together they cheered. “So,” Julia flashed her darkly shining eyes at Clare once more, “tell me. I’m dying to know.”

Clare felt at that moment that she could tell Julia anything, the darkest contents of her soul, the triumphant and brilliant and strange recesses of her person—anything to keep Julia’s gaze upon her as it was in this moment. It was only when Clare realized Julia was expecting her to say something that she came to. “Oh! Joel. Yes. Turns out he had a rap sheet a mile long. Not just at this company but several priors. I can’t give you gory details, but let’s just say the man has an appalling history with harassment.”

“So it wasn’t just me?”

“Far from it. The CEO had no choice but to let him go. It would have been extremely cavalier to keep him on, considering.”

Julia squeezed Clare’s hand suddenly, in a fit of excitement. “Well, that’s both the worst and best news I’ve heard all day!”

The pressure and warmth of Julia’s hand sent another wave of arousal through Clare. She sipped her drink to steady herself, longing to know what other parts of Julia might feel like in her hands.

“I can’t believe it,” Julia continued, aware that she was still holding Clare’s hand. She let it go only reluctantly. “In the past, whenever I’ve complained either nothing happened or the harassment got worse! Like, they knew they could punish me for speaking up. You’re a goddamn hero, Clare Tretyakov.”

Clare’s cheeks burned bright at the sound of her name on Julia’s lips, but she said, “Just doing my job.”

“Truly, I can’t thank you enough. Can I buy you a drink at least?”

“Me? I should be buying you a drink—for all that you’ve endured. I’m really sorry, by the way. No one should have to go through this, especially not more than once!”

“Are you surprised?”

“That someone so beautiful would be harassed? No.”

It was Julia’s turn to blush now. “Oh, I meant are you surprised that men are trash.” She tucked a wave of brown hair behind her ear and looked down at Clare’s clavicle.

“Well, no, I can’t say I’m surprised by that either. Forgive the assumption—”

“There’s nothing to forgive,” Julia said, finding Clare’s eyes once more, a boldness overtaking her. “You are very attractive yourself. But surely you must hear that all the time.”

The blood pulsed in Clare’s temples. This was quickly veering in a direction that was entirely out of Clare’s control. She didn’t know if she liked it. And yet she very much did like it. She scanned her inner filing system, trying to remember every code and bylaw from her maltepe escort bayan extensive career, to make sure she wasn’t doing something improper. Yet, the desire coursing through her had its own ideas of what was proper. Besides, she soothed herself, it sure seemed that the attraction was reciprocated.

Still, Clare was unsure how to proceed, and the slight buzz from the gimlet only confused her further. She decided to restrain herself. She must not let Julia’s allure get in the way of her professionalism. As Clare gave herself a silent pep talk, a man precariously holding four beers elbowed her on his way past, spilling some of the amber liquid on her shoes, and forcing her body even closer to Julia’s. The bar was packed now. Soon they would be scissoring if they wanted to or not! (Which, reader, you should know by now, they obviously did.)

As Clare tried to ignore their perilous, maddening closeness, Julia noticed a thin sheen of sweat glistening on Clare’s neck and longed to trace the line of it with her tongue. But she resisted. How ironic would it be to hit on Clare when she had just brought a harassment claim against the company! Though, even with the crowd pushing them closer together, Julia could feel Clare’s desire pulling her in like a celestial body in orbit. And it did not help matters that she had a perfect view down Clare’s shirt from where they stood. Julia struggled to not survey the swell of Clare’s breasts against the softly clinging fabric as they talked, but it was damn near impossible.

And then, as the tension coiled tight as a bow string, this happened. Clare set her empty drink down on the bar, unintentionally sweeping her hand against Julia’s breast, where she watched the nipple harden and rise to her touch. In this small, accidental gesture, something was unleashed inside Clare. The pleasure was so acute, in fact, that she couldn’t help but do it again, as she pulled her arm back, this time very intentionally brushing against Julia’s breast and watching Julia’s face register the sensation, the intimacy, the intentionality of the sweep. As she did so, Clare swore she could feel Julia’s pleasure in her own body, the soft sigh of it radiating along her spine, her hips, and down into her cunt, which pulsed intently and rhythmically, like the hammering of her own heart.

She looked once more into Julia’s face, a devious half-smile disarming her. Julia had not moved away from her touch. Indeed, she had leaned into it. Surely this was a sign? Clare decided to be a little bolder, to press, as she had wanted to earlier, her thigh against Julia’s thigh. Again, Julia did not move away. Far from it, Julia’s leg pushed back against her own, the muscle and bone and skin pushing softly together now, nodding their perfect, wordless, animal approval.

That’s two, Clare thought. If she gives me one more sign, I’ll kiss her.

As she thought this, Julia ran her hand through her hair. Clare noticed that Julia seemed fidgety, unaware of what to do with her body in so small a space. Was she nervous, too? Anticipating? Holding back?

The conversation continued, despite the wildfires tearing through each of their bodies. When Clare noticed that a strand of Julia’s hair had become mussed and tangled, she saw an opening for her third and final test.

“May I?” she said, reaching her hand out. “You have a rogue strand.” But before Julia even had a chance to respond, Clare’s fingers grazed Julia’s hair and ear with the tips of her fingers, smoothing and tucking the hair back into its proper place. Julia closed her eyes dreamily as Clare did this, keeping them closed as Clare’s fingers reached the arc of her lower earlobe, where they rested now against Julia’s neck and cheek, and still closed when Clare leaned in and kissed her long and full and hard on the mouth.

Momentarily stunned, Julia’s mouth twitched slightly, as if it had encountered flame, which indeed, it felt like it had. She let out a low moan before kissing Clare back, the force of her lips and tongue sending wild pulsations down the red length of Julia’s body, down to the tips of her toes and back. Her hands went to Clare’s breasts, almost unconsciously, cupping them firmly in her palms before she realized she was doing it, feeling the soft lull of Clare’s nipples against her thumbs.

The push of the crowd sent their bodies still closer together, every part of them touching that could—knees and thighs and hips, torsos and breasts and lips—each woman forgetting where they were or even who they were, responding only to this bestial hunger, the indelible ache of connection, of grasping, of a need so raw and pure and true it didn’t have or require a name.

And then, Clare remembered herself, her responsibilities, and pulled away. She had been too caught up, too beside herself, and now the authoritative part of her brain tugged at her. This woman came to you for help, not a quickie!

“We shouldn’t,” she managed to whisper, turning her head away from Julia’s hotly probing mouth. But Julia then found her neck, kissing along the line of her jaw, her ear, the muscle leading to her shoulder. Clare’s hands trembled. She struggled to find the part of herself capable of saying no in this moment, in the face of this enormous, exquisite appetite.

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