Dear Santa, she read, I want an X-Box and a pink DS and some games, especially Nintendogs, and my brother wants a Transformer...
The list went on and on, written in her daughter's childish scribble. Even though she was smiling she felt her eyes filling with tears and blinked exaggeratedly - rubbing at them with the heels of her palms. Things had just been so hard since the divorce, and this Christmas seemed likely to be no different. If only the useless prick would pay his maintenance on time for once.
Laughing now, she folded the notes carefully, placing them on the kitchen worktop, ready for 'posting'. Perhaps she could try writing to Santa. Mind you, she thought, I don't think he'd be able to cope with my list. For some reason that seemed really funny.
Three hours later, curled on the sofa with her two children asleep upstairs, halfway through some drivel starring Angelina Jolie and a decent bottle of Chardonnay, the idea seemed to take on a compelling merit. What harm could it do?
Laughing softly to herself, feeling more than a little fuzzy with the wine, she took up the pad and pen Isabelle, her daughter, had been using. Okay, what did she want?
Dear Santa, for Christmas this year I would like...
She felt silly. What did she actually want? She chewed the end of the pen absent-mindedly.
I would like to meet a man.
Okay...good start. Definitely a man, a nice man. Somehow that idea left her disappointed. She sipped her wine. No, not a nice man. She giggled. No, not a nice man, at all.
I would like to meet a dangerous, sexy man.
Yes, that was more like it. What else...
I would like to meet a dangerous, sexy man who fancies me...
No, not fancies, too weak. Somehow this note seemed to be taking on something of a life of its own, a strange intensity hovering over her words. She gulped her wine, filling her glass mechanically.
I would like to meet a dangerous, sexy man. Someone who desires me, who wants me, who'll treat me right, who will love me and isn't afraid to take the initiative.
Unlike that useless prick of an ex-husband, she thought. No, no - her thoughts turned more sexual - I know...
I would like to meet a dangerous, sexy man. Someone who desires me, who wants me, who'll treat me right, who will love me and make love to me. Someone who knows what I want and is willing to be sexually dominant. And who will make my sex life more interesting.
She read the note through. No, not 'more interesting', she thought, crossing it out. She chewed the end of the pen reflexively. I know, she thought. Quickly she scribbled 'edgy and exciting' in its place. Well, hey, to be honest any sex life at all would be nice. She looked at the note once again. Hmm, pretty good, she thought. Then, for good measure she added:
And I want my ex-husband to be humiliated. Publicly.
Laughing, without really thinking, she added the note to the posting pile in the kitchen.
I would like to meet a dangerous, sexy man. Someone who desires me, who wants me, who'll treat me right, who will love me and make love to me. Someone who knows what I want and is willing to be sexually dominant. And who will make my sex life edgy and exciting.
And I want my ex-husband to be humiliated. Publicly.
Ha. Fat chance. That selection will screw Santa up, she thought.
It was only after packing her kids off to school the next morning that she realised that her note was in with the kids'. By then, though, she was already late for work. Shit, she thought. Well, they probably wouldn't read all the kids' notes anyway...although she felt her conclusion was touched with a little hysteria.
There could be few things, she thought, as humiliating, as guaranteed to destroy your self-confidence, as working for your ex-husband. In her case, the fact that he had left her to run off with Miss Tits and Curls, his secretary, was a real double whammy.
It was with little enthusiasm, then, that she received her summons to a meeting with him at eleven o'clock that morning. Normally, working in Media Relations, her meetings with him were restricted to the daily nine-thirty group management meeting, a largely pointless affair from her point of view, and the occasional departmental strategy meeting. Special meetings like this were unusual and, she felt, only gave The Prick an opportunity to humiliate her in some subtle or novel way.
With growing trepidation she ran the gauntlet of Miss Tits and Curls, waiting awkwardly in the foyer as the little tramp fiddled with papers and smirked at her when she thought her attention was elsewhere. Fucking airhead. Eventually, just long enough for her to understand her subordinate position, she was called into his frosted glass palace.
The Prick was sat behind his hideously expensive, impossibly elegant ebony desk. Charcoal grey suit with matching tie, white shirt open at the neck. Blond hair expensively coiffured above his slick perma-tan. Body toned by squash and 'rackets': all courtesy of Achilles Corporation. Behind him, over his shoulder, the view of the city through his picture window was breathtaking: the sun reflecting silver from canyons of glass and steel, stretching away out of sight. The kind of view, she thought, that only angels should have. Again: courtesy of Achilles Corp.
"Hi, John," she said, unconsciously straightening the cream skirt of last season's Dior business suit. "You wanted to see me?"
"Kate, yes, come in," he pointed to the matched black leather sofas in front of his desk. "Have a seat."
In the sofa on the left she recognised Mr Saldana, executive director of the hi-tech wing of Achilles Corp - The Prick's boss - so she sat right, crossing her legs with a sigh of nylon. Saldana smiled at her, but it was The Prick that spoke, steepling his fingers before him.
"Kate," he said. "Mr Saldana and I were discussing recent coverage of the company in the professional media, it hasn't been positive. That's your area, right?"
"Uh...yes, part of it anyway," she said. What professional media? She wanted to ask.
"Bottom line, Kate, where are we going wrong?" Saldana asked.
She looked at him again. Expensive black Italian suit, Gucci loafers, diamond ring the size of an aspirin, silver tiepin in the shape of a fir tree. Short, blocky - not fat, squat - early fifties, sandy, reddish hair cropped short, the hint of a beard. Hard grey eyes. Not someone you'd want to upset.
"Okay," she started, launching into a reasonably well-informed breakdown of Achilles' hi-tech division's performance problems.
After that it was fairly easy, a quick strategy drawn up for a renewed assault on some professional publications, a few ideas bounced around, and either adopted or rejected, and the meeting wound itself up. She sighed with relief, gathering her papers and standing to leave.
"Oh, Kate," The Prick said. "You're still single aren't you?"
Here it was then. "Uh...yes, John." What the fuck has it got to do with you?
"Good," he said. "Mr Saldana has a friend staying with us for a while, he needs a date for the Christmas party...I think she'll do, won't she, sir?" Prick.
Saldana looked her up and down like she was a heifer for sale at market. For a moment he pursed his lips, thinking. Horribly, she fought the urge to turn around and let them assess her ass, her heart sinking both at the thought of being seen as a commodity and failing to reach a high enough standard for sale. Pair of fucking pricks, she thought, almost in tears at the humiliation.
"Yes, yes of course," Saldana said at last, "Kate, that would be very kind of you."
Not trusting herself to speak, she nodded, a smile plastered to her face.
"Oh, Kate, this man is a VERY special friend of Mr Saldana's. Wear something current, eh?"
"Yes. He is rather special...to the company, as well," Saldana said. Did he fucking wink at her? "I'd appreciate you taking good care of him. His name's Carl Marshall."
"Okay, Mr Saldana," she said, teeth gritted. "Where does he work?"
"Competitive Response Solutions," Saldana said. She could tell from The Prick's confused look that he'd never heard of it either. "But he's staying at a hotel locally for a week or so, so he'll meet you at the party. I'm sure John can arrange the details."
I'm sure he can, she thought.
"Thanks Kate." Dismissed!
She practically ran back to her office, ignoring the smirking look on the face of Miss Tits and Curls. She wanted to scream. Pair of fucking pricks...how could they do that to her? Like she was some piece of meat? And worse, she now had to babysit some fifty year old prick from Saldana's stable of buddies...and what the fuck was all that about 'VERY special friend'? What was she now? Corporate hooker?
Her secretary, Alice, saw the look on her face when she returned and was on hand with tissues and coffee for the post meeting breakdown. It was becoming a depressing regularity between the two of them. Still, at least they weren't fucking, eh?
She had organised babysitting for the night of the party, the kids staying at her mother's for the night. So, unusually, she had the house to herself. She hated herself for it, but, obedient to The Prick's instructions, she had bought herself a complete new outfit for the occasion. If she was to be a whore for them, best she make the most of it.
Taking her time, she enjoyed the privacy of her own house. Soaking in the longest, most luxuriant bath she'd had since The Prick left her - floating in the hot, scented water for what felt like hours. Pure heaven. She almost managed to forget the chore ahead of her.
Later, she stood in front of her dressing room mirror. At twenty-nine she was proud of her body. She'd had two kids but her belly remained flat, a small curve above her neat pussy the only indication. Her skin was unmarked, an even light honey shade. Her tits remained firm, a little softer, maybe, but the nipples still pink and upturned. And her legs were good: long, shapely, smooth. Not bad.
She took her time drying her hair, styled it to fall on to her shoulders in soft waves. It was somewhere between dark blond and light brown in colour and, against it, her eyes were a strong shade of blue. Her face was angular - perhaps a little wide at the mouth, but she had good cheekbones and nice full lips. Pretty good. Good enough, surely.
She stared hard at herself: so why wasn't she happy?
She pawed at her eyes. Keep it together, girl.
"I hope they're not expecting me to fuck this old bastard," she said to herself in the mirror, laughing a little too loudly and afraid that this was exactly what they were expecting.
Finally, like a knight preparing for battle, she dressed. Stockings, garter, panties, bra - all black, majoring on lace. Channel dress: figure hugging, elegant - expensive and knowing it. Channel bag, Gucci shoes. Red lipstick, dark eye shadow.
Finally, she was ready.
Lock and load, girl.
When you're single there are only two times to arrive at a party, she reflected: too early and too late. Having booked a taxi, she chose 'too early'. By the time they cleared the city traffic she arrived 'too late'. The Prick was waiting for her in the foyer of the building, all dressed up in his penguin suit.
"Kate, you're late," he said, barely giving her time to check her coat before he was ushering her toward the lift. "This Carl guy is upstairs. For fuck's sake treat him right, I don't want Saldana on my ass, okay?"
"Sure, I'll try my best, okay?" Hi, I'm Kate...fly me, she thought bitterly.
"Yeah. Just don't screw up." Prick.
On the executive floor the party was in full swing, the lighting dimmed, music filling the function room. She nodded to a handful of people she recognised, clocking a couple of admiring glances from her male colleagues that provided just the right fillip to The Prick's annoyance.
"He's in with Saldana..." he led her to the office suite at the front of the building, fussing like a designer label mother hen.
The door opened onto the sound of laughter. Inside a handful of people were scattered about the office space, now expensively decorated in Christmas fashion, sat on sofas or chatting around a large Christmas tree near the window. As soon as she entered, Saldana was rising to his feet, arm out for introductions.
"Ah, Kate, so glad you could join us at last," he said, subtle overemphasis on 'at last'. "This is Carl..."
Some men train to become hard, she thought, punishing their wage-slave bodies in the gym or on the court. Some men are just hard men. Carl Marshall was a hard man. He emerged from the shadow behind Saldana and Kate felt her heart lurch, all her misconceptions blown away in a single moment.
Straight away it was obvious he was no office clerk, no corporate climber in the mould of The Prick. Whatever Competitive Response Solutions did, they needed staff with a predatory instinct. His movements were feline, naturally graceful in a way that couldn't be faked or emulated. He stood about six-two, she reckoned, a head taller than her. About thirty-two years old. Slim at the waist, broad at the shoulder. Athletic build, not a steroid monkey.
"Hi. Carl. Carl Marshall," he said. His voice was interesting. Educated, English, with a subtle trace of something more exotic, French perhaps.
His hair was black, cut short in an elegant fashion, not cropped. Darkly tanned, perhaps indicating some mixed heritage, although there was nothing apparent in his handsome, angular face. A hint of stubble, no more.
"Kate. Kate Morgan," she said, a genuine smile finding its way out. Morgan was her maiden name.
His eyes were pale blue, stunning against his dark skin. Very sexy.
"Nice to meet you, Kate," he said, holding on to her offered hand longer than form would dictate. "Can I get you something to drink?"
He wore his dress shirt with onyx studs. Freestyle bow tie, expensive looking single-breasted jacket, no obvious label. Nice.
"Yes, please," she found herself hoping he would keep her hand a little longer. "White wine, please. Dry."
"Of course," his eyes flicked towards The Prick and Kate thought the room suddenly seemed dimmer than before. "John, can you get Kate a dry white wine? I'll have a mineral water. Thanks."
He had turned away before The Prick had a chance to react, moving to include Kate in his conversation with Saldana and Miss Tits and Curls. Kate almost laughed; it was so delicious.
"So, Kate. What is it you do?" He asked, manoeuvring her away from the main group once her wine had been dutifully, if a little inelegantly, delivered.
"Media relations. You don't drink?" She said, pointing at his mineral water.
"Driving. I don't see a wedding ring," he said. She noticed that he had a small white scar on his right cheek, it gave him a roguish, somewhat rugged look.
"My, you don't hang about do you?"
He laughed. Even his laugh was sexy, for God's sake.
"Am I going too fast for you, Kate?"
She shook her head, suddenly aware of how close he was, leaning towards her.
"Silly man...letting you get away like that." Kate found herself smiling with him.
Whatever else he was, Carl Marshall was good company. She found herself talking easily with him, taking up the narrative of her life with a readiness and an enthusiasm she hadn't felt in a long time: alternately flattered and charmed by the rapt attention from this handsome, sexy man. Behind and around them she felt, rather than saw, the envious looks her corporate colleagues cast her way. The women anyway.
Finally the conversation dried to a trickle, the pair of them sitting on a leather sofa in the shadows of one of the larger offices, several small knots of partygoers sharing the room with them. Carl allowed the silence to build, leaning on his elbow on the back of the sofa, his eyes meeting hers boldly, waiting.
Kate realised that they had reached that time in the 'relationship'. Either the boundary was crossed and the relationship became physical, or it wasn't and they would be 'friends'. Anxiously, she waited, her mouth dry, watching him, trying to read his face. She licked her lips, tasting her bright red lipstick, crossed her legs, leaning towards him. What did he want, a fucking signpost?
Finally, he smiled a slow, feral smile - the kind she imagined a cat would smile on seeing a mouse. Her heart skipped a beat.
The smile gave it away. She knew now that he was playing with her. That he had been playing with her all evening, just like a cat tormenting a mouse. He had read her like a book: knew what she wanted, how she felt. There was never any chance that they would be just 'friends'. He was a fucking predator, she was just prey. He was going to fuck her, she knew now. He was going to fuck her in this building, tonight.
Oh my God, she thought, shivering with excitement.
And there, right there, he read her realisation: there in her suddenly wide eyes; her shocked, anticipatory gaze; her position on the couch - poised, waiting, willing. Languidly, with terrifying self-assurance, he reached over, sliding his hand into her hair, gripping the back of her neck.
She whimpered slightly then, allowing herself to be pulled toward him - lifting herself - straddling his waist in her short, tight dress - the fabric riding up to expose her creamy thighs above her stocking tops.
The Prick chose that moment to reappear, standing, speechless at the side of the couch. His mouth open, eyes blinking foolishly.
"Kate...uh," he started.
Carl paused, his slightly open mouth partway to hers. Mesmerized, paralyzed, a rabbit before a snake, Kate sat straddling his waist: utterly unable to answer, utterly unwilling to answer.
Carl's eyes flicked sideways. "Go away, John," his tone patronising, commanding, entirely confident.
His mouth closed over hers, his tongue forcing her mouth open, diving wildly into it. Again she whimpered slightly, then threw herself into the kiss - passionate, hungry - her tongue dancing, her jaw working against his, lips grinding, utterly oblivious to anyone or anything about her.
His hands took possession of her body - sliding over her hips to cup her ass, gripping her, fondling her, caressing her skin. She felt him pulling her dress up, exposing her panties, her garter, stroking her ass through the lace. Moments later his hands had slipped inside - his hard, warm skin sliding over the smooth flesh of her ass, his fingers stroking the moist flesh between.
Oh, my God, she thought, he's going to fuck me here, in front of everyone.
If he had, she knew she wouldn't have stopped him.
Finally, he pulled his head back, breaking the kiss. Flushed and breathless, her chest panting, she knelt above him - an expectant look on her face.
"Come on," he said, his voice hoarse.
Leading her by the hand he pushed through the open-mouthed crowd watching in the office, pulling her subserviently after him.
"In here," he said, pushing her into The Prick's empty office.
With wide-eyed horror she watched as, without pause or regard, he swept his arm across The Prick's fine desk, sending the contents spinning onto the floor with a jarring clanging, crunching sound. It was like an elemental force had been unleashed in Achilles Corp, she thought, something with no interest or regard for the normal rules that governed the corporate cesspool. Like a Greek fucking God, she thought.
Dinner jacket discarded, his strong hands were on her hips, lifting her onto the cleared desk - his tongue deep in her mouth, her dress ruched up about her waist.
"Is the door locked?" Her voice almost breathless, a hoarse whisper, her lips crushed to his neck.
"Fuck the door," he growled.
All of a sudden she found she was lying on her back on the desk, his hands gripping her panties - ripping them off her, yanking them from her long legs.