Author's note: This is the 3rd sequel to my original story, Willing Slaves. For those who don't like to read multi-part tales, it's not absolutely necessary to read the others, though I'd certainly love it if you did. All the stories are self-contained, but for those who want to know what came before, start with Willing Slaves, then go on to the sequels written by my friend Thelegguy (it was his idea to continue the saga. Thanks Jon!), A Very Strange E-Mail and Charli & Bobby. All can be found in the Interracial Love category.
Andrew was startled at the return address on his morning e-mail. Strange how he'd been thinking of Charli lately, even before seeing the ecstatic reviews for her gallery showing. Maybe she was contacting him to gloat. No, he thought, she's not the type to do that.
It had been so long since he'd written or called that she probably didn't even know he'd gotten married. Well, he thought ruefully, that'll save me the trouble of telling her about the divorce. Not that he'd ever thought of marrying Charli. Back then he'd been so intent on success that he was sure that having a wife who was an impractical artist, and an African-American, no matter how much he was attracted to both of those qualities, would hold him back in the corporate world. Now here he was with a dead marriage, stuck in a job that offered him nothing but frustration.
He looked again at the manuscript on his desk. That's what had started him thinking of Charli. He'd taken a job in publishing as a kind of compromise, figuring it would at least keep him in contact with the excitement and creativity of the world of the arts. But it didn't take long for reality to disabuse him of that hope. Publishing was a business like any other. Brock & Haller was an old hidebound publishing house with its eye on the bottom line. What would sell, that was the important thing. Creativity, originality, art, that was for artists.
But when Lara Holt's book reached his desk, he was struck by it. Too different, too unusual, he told himself, they'll never go for it no matter how hard I push. But the excitement and skill of the writing made him hang onto it. Against company policy, he'd called her up, telling her how impressed he was, asking to meet with her.
In person, her talent and passion struck him even harder, to say nothing of her lissome brown-skinned beauty. Her small cameo-pretty face, with its delicate features, contrasted with her huge dark eyes, filled with warmth and intelligence. Her uncombed black hair was a beautiful tangle, and even clothes that looked like she'd just picked them off the floor (artists don't dress for success, Andrew was glad to be reminded) couldn't hide the slender long-legged gracefulness of her body. They'd connected immediately, and he'd promised her he would do everything he could to have her book published.
Andrew sighed. There had to be a way to convince the higher-ups. Maybe he could push it at the morning meeting, get it on the schedule for the afternoon. He shook his head. Only here would they have meetings just to arrange for the next meeting. He checked his watch. Almost time for it to start. He closed the e-mail window. Charli's news would have to wait.
His mood lifted a bit at the sight that greeted him on entering the conference room. Robin, the office intern, was arranging the coffee cups. Four months here had yet to dampen her spirits. Andrew often thought of her as an elf, that is, if elves had smooth chocolate skin, luscious little bodies, and gorgeous thighs that they habitually showed off with tiny mini-skirts. She noticed his entrance and handed him his coffee cup.
"Black, with extra sugar. That's how you like it, right?"
"Absolutely. How about you?"
"Oh…I like mine with extra cream." She flashed her naughty-pixie smile. "Some of us do, you know."
"And some of us are grateful for it," he answered. It was just their usual routine flirting, but he never tired of it. "But I do wonder why I'm getting singled out. I mean, you don't put extra sugar in anybody else's coffee."
"You're the only one who looks at my legs," she answered. "Nobody else around here even notices me. Just how short a skirt does a girl have to wear to get a good sexual harassment suit going?"
Robin winked, and as she exited the room, Andrew noticed that she was right. None of the other men in the room even glanced at her as she walked away. God, they were all dead inside! Maybe he really was the only one who wasn't so consumed by the job that … no, wait, there was one other who wasn't.
He looked over at Gina Welsh, who was already seated, sipping her coffee. Her hair was, as usual, pinned up and back. The style seemed to pull her cocoa-brown skin taut against her fine-boned face, leaving no superfluous flesh except for her full lips. Her conservative business suit was singularly unflattering, but it wasn't hard for Andrew to remember how different she could look.
It had been almost a year, but he remembered it vividly. He was out shopping on a Saturday. Lounging down the street, he looked up to an amazing sight: The most stunning woman he'd ever seen; long braids down her back, beautiful endless legs below and smooth bare midriff above snug denim shorts, with a tight halter top that barely contained her full breasts. She caught him staring and smiled at him. He was prepared to be embarrassed, until he realized it was a smile of greeting, and mutual embarrassment. It was Gina.
"I didn't recognize you out of uniform," he'd said, and she'd laughed in rueful agreement.
"Sometimes I can't take it," she'd admitted. "Occasionally I have to get myself looking like this just to remind myself I'm a woman."
He'd looked her up and down and said, "I don't think I'll need any more reminders, " and she'd laughed again. Nothing had come of it, but since then he'd not only felt the attraction, but also that they were kindred spirits. Knowing that there was at least one other person there squirming under the yoke helped him get through the day.
The meeting went about as he expected. He brought up Lara's book, and was told he could make his pitch that afternoon, but the senior editor's unenthusiastic tone was always a dead giveaway: It was just a stay of execution. His disappointment must have been obvious, and he caught Gina's sympathetic look as he left, but it didn't help. He went back to his office and started to think of the best way to break the bad news. He'd have to do it in person. He'd built her hopes up so much, he couldn't do it by phone or e-mail. E-mail! Charli's message! He'd completely forgotten. He opened his mailbox and clicked it on.
Long time, hmm? I hope your life's good. If it is, then what I have to say won't make much difference. If not…
I heard you got married. I hope it wasn't just because you were doing what was expected of you. I know you always hated it when I told you this, but I know you: You'll never be happy trying to fit in. You need your freedom if you're ever going to be happy and successful.
Of course, I know your answer to that: There's no way to get that kind of freedom. Better to just go with the program and try to succeed that way. I never could convince you otherwise. If it's worked out for you, I'm happy I was wrong. But if it hasn't, and you're caught in the trap you set for yourself, I have a way out.
Read the document attached to this e-mail. I promise you it's not a fraud or a come-on. It worked for me, and the person I got it from. If you need it, I'm sure it'll work for you.
Andrew squirmed in his chair at the memory of their old, never-ending disagreement. It's what had finally caused them to part. She would probably have a good, satisfying, I-told-you-so if she could see him now. She even knew why his marriage went bad. He'd married a woman who would fill out the other half of the image of the perfect successful couple. And it had trapped him. He'd been miserable, longing for the beautiful black women like Lara and Gina he was inevitably attracted to. Even his flirty banter with Robin was more emotionally honest than anything he'd ever had to say to his ex-wife. It was no wonder she'd left him when he hadn't succeeded. She, at least, had understood the deal.
What could be in the attachment? Some kind of cure-all self-help nonsense? Charli would never fall for anything like that. His curiosity rising, he clicked it on.
Huh? … Jebediah Harrington … 1770-1853 … Last will … what the hell? He read with mounting incredulity:
"Fifty-eight years ago, I engaged myself in the scientific study of how various substances occurring in nature affected the human body. In the course of my experimentations, I concocted a mixture which I believed would, if consumed only once, fight off diseases and increase bodily strength and stamina. Not wanting to create a risk to any other person, I swallowed the mixture myself. Its effect was immediate, increasing my body's strength and endurance to many times the human norm. But that was not its only effect. To my great amazement, I found that it also increased the strength of my mind. I discovered that with little effort I could see within the mind of anyone I chose, read their thoughts, memories, passions as clearly as one might read words on a page. Beyond that, I discovered that with little more effort, I could rearrange their thoughts and passions as easily as moving chess pieces across a board. I could release hidden passions, turn enemies into friends, create desires where there were none."
That was all, except a list of common herbs and plants, and the formula for combining them.
He sat there trying to figure it out. Magic formula? Increased strength and stamina? Mental powers? She couldn't be serious. It had to be a prank of some kind. But Charli wasn't the pranking type.
He looked at the list of ingredients. Nothing harmful.
He thought some more. Freedom. A way out.
He printed out the formula, grabbed his coat, and headed out the door.
Robin nibbled at her sandwich and looked again towards Andrew's office. The door was open now, but he still hadn't come out at lunchtime. What had he been doing in there so long with the door closed? He'd gone dashing out that morning , then come back with a bag of stuff and closed the door behind him. What was he doing in there alone?
Robin sighed and took another nibble. It had come to this, she thought: I'm so bored here I'm spending my free time worrying about other people's private lives. Not that it was the first time she'd thought about Andrew. In fact, she knew she thought about him a little too much. Well it wasn't her fault that he was the only live man in this graveyard. It wasn't her fault that whenever she flirted with him, he flirted back, or that she often caught him enjoying the sight of her legs and luscious body. Well maybe that was a little bit her fault, she thought mischievously. She would never have bothered with the tiny skirts and tight blouses if she hadn't known he was looking. No, the only thing that was her fault was that she hadn't done anything about it.
Why not, she suddenly wondered. What was stopping her? Nothing. Nothing at all. She was startled at her realization. What happened to all the reasons she used to convince herself it was a bad idea? They didn't seem important anymore. She wanted him. She was sure he wanted her. She should just go in there and tell him. Robin put down her lunch and stood up. Not tell him, she thought, show him. The warmth rose in her at the idea, and a smile spread across her face. She undid another button on her blouse and headed toward Andrew's office.
She entered closing the door behind her. Andrew was standing there, almost as if he was waiting for her. Hungrily she approached him and, without a word, reached up and pulled his face down to hers. Mmmm, such long, warm kisses! In seconds she had her clothes off. Had he undressed her, or had she undressed herself? Oh, who cared! He was kissing her luscious breasts now, her smooth belly. As she felt his hands grip her ass, she spread her gorgeous thighs, frantic for the touch of his mouth on her burning pussy. Now he was licking her, sucking her. Oh, it felt so good, SO GOOD, she thought as the orgasm rippled through her.
She wanted more. Reluctantly, she pulled his head away from between her legs, and shoved him onto his back. Pulling off the rest of his clothes, she almost leaped onto his erect cock. Ah, yeah, that was it! Humping and pumping, she came another time, and another. Feeling him burst inside her, she started to pull herself off him, but he grabbed her and held her body against his. In seconds, he was hard again! Amazed, Robin wrapped herself around him and let herself go, losing track of time, place, and the number of orgasms.
When it was over, Robin, still clinging to Andrew, looked up at him.
"I don't know what came over me," she said. "I just…"
He kissed her. "Did you notice me complaining?"
Both laughed. Robin sighed. "I guess we have to go back to work."
"Don't feel discouraged," said Andrew with an odd smile. "Things can change."
Gina left the afternoon meeting still amazed. How had he done it? The senior editors never changed their minds. She knew it. Certainly Andrew, from the discouraged look on his face that morning, knew it too. But when she'd gone up to him before the afternoon conference, offering her support in his pitch, he'd merely smiled and said, "No need. I've got it wired." It was wonderful to see him that confident, but she worried at the effect the inevitable rejection would have on him. That he still cared so much that something worth reading get published, and hadn't developed the indifferent thick skin that so many others at the company had, were a part of what made him so attractive to her. But seeing him walk in there, only to get cut down again, … she'd worried at the thought of what she was sure was coming.
Andrew's speech was, as usual, reasoned, intelligent, and passionate. Perhaps more passionate than usual, it seemed to Gina. But when she looked at the faces of the senior editors, she was startled. Instead of the usual polite expressions of tolerant boredom they assumed when they were about to say No, they were positively rapt with interest. By the end they were smiling and nodding in agreement. When he finished, they all leaped up and congratulated him, not even bothering to consult with each other, shaking his hand as if he'd just brought in a sure-fire #1 best seller. Her fellow junior editors seemed just as perplexed as she, but when Andrew shot her a bemused I-told-you-so smile, she'd smiled back.
She'd wanted to congratulate him herself, but he was still talking promotion and publication dates with the bosses when she left. She decided to wait in his office. When he entered, closing the door behind him, she jumped up, shouted "Hail the conquering hero!" and threw her arms around him.
The congratulatory hug turned into a long embrace. His body felt so good against hers. She pulled her head back, forgot all about asking how he did it, and melted into a delicious kiss. Then another. She kissed her way down his neck, his chest, pulling his clothes off, and hers, as she went. In seconds she was kneeling naked before him, her full breasts brushing his thighs, her soft lips browsing on his erect cock.
God, she wanted to fuck him! Reaching up, she pulled him down to her. Mmmm, even better without the clothes, she thought, twining her long legs around him. She felt his hard cock slide into her hot waiting pussy and began to writhe against him. Oh wonderful! She came and came, until she felt him come as well. Ahhh!
Gina didn't move, still holding Andrew inside her. She looked up at him, about to speak, until she felt his cock rising again. Oh, yes, she thought.
"Were you going to say something?" Andrew asked.
"Never mind," she answered, pulling him deep inside again.
Publication! Lara could hardly believe it. He'd done it, he'd come through for her the way he'd said he would. Now he was on his way over. They could relax and celebrate.
Celebrate. Lara smiled a bit nervously to herself. In the weeks since they'd met, she'd felt the attraction between Andrew and herself, but had done nothing about it. She worried that perhaps his attraction to her was the only reason he was pushing her book. Or maybe if she had done something about it, it would have put too much pressure on him. And now that he'd succeeded, would he expect something to happen as a reward? Or would he think that she was just doing it now out of gratitude? She would hate that, since it would be out of a lot more than that.
Or maybe she just thought too much.
Lara chuckled to herself. Seeing all the sides of a situation was part of what made her a writer. She relaxed. They would just have a drink and toast the future. Nothing was going to happen.
At least, that's what she thought before he arrived.
It started out as just a friendly, welcoming kiss. Well, maybe something more than that. After all, they were celebrating, weren't they? She clung to him in the doorway for a long time, as he nuzzled her ear, her neck. She giggled with pleasure at the sensation, then broke the embrace and took his hand, leading him to the bedroom as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
They sat on the bed, eagerly undressing each other. Lara shivered with pleasure at the stroking of Andrew's hands down her smooth naked back. She turned toward him, her huge dark eyes aglow with passion, delighting now in his caresses of her soft brown breasts. Now she was pulling him to her, and as they fell back onto the bed, she slipped her long left leg beneath his right, and as she wrapped herself around him, his hard white cock entered her. He fucked her and fucked her, until finally she rolled him on his back and, with her luscious thighs astride him and sweet breasts in his hands, bucked them to one last orgasm. Exhausted, she collapsed atop him.
Her eyes closed, she could still feel him caressing her back, her ass, her thighs, inhaling the scent of her hair. She giggled as she drifted off to sleep when he whispered in her ear, " I can hardly wait to see what happens when we sell the movie rights."
Time Magazine, November 29, 2004
"Publishing's New Superstar"
"We're about freedom here," says Andrew Gibson. "Freedom for the writers. Freedom for the staff. Freedom for the readers."
That dedication to freedom is part of what has made once-staid Brock & Haller the hottest house on New York's publisher's row. Two years ago, when he landed the then-unknown Lara Holt and her novel City Women for B & H, Gibson was an obscure assistant editor. Now, on the publication of Holt's new book, Gone Wild (see box, Page 88, "An Erotic Breakthrough"), the 33-year-old finds himself the youngest and most talked-about CEO in American publishing.
Even now, Gibson's meteoric rise is a bit of a mystery. No one seems to know just how he managed to advance so far so fast. But the results of his administration have been obvious. "He cleaned out all the dead wood over there," says one of his competitors. "I don't know how he did it. Some of them had been there forever. He got them out in a few weeks."
"He's not like other bosses," says one of his editors. "He doesn't look over your shoulder, doesn't get in your way. Most of the time you wouldn't even know he's there. But he somehow knows everything that's going on. Anybody not pulling their weight, he knows it and gets rid of them." Though there hasn't been that problem much since he took over. "He's an amazing personnel man. He just knows who can do the job."