December. Time again to bring out the two-foot-tall artificial Christmas tree with branches missing. Time again to organize the office cookie exchange. Time again for the spring marketing workshops across the country. I don't know yet where the company is sending me this year, but last year I had just put the pitiful tree in the front office when Miranda, CEO and my childhood friend, paged me into her office.
"Lara." She smiled at me. "How do you like sunshine?"
"What's that? I forgot." I glanced past her shoulder and nodded at the grey mess outside her window. The building across the street was visible only if I squinted and the wind halted the swirling snow.
"You'll find out in a few days."
"Miami this year, then?"
"No, it's your turn for Los Angeles. You'll have to deal with the smog, but at least someone else gets crappy Chicago this year—"
"Oh my god," I sighed, crumpling into the chair facing Miranda's desk.
"What's wrong? You can't go?"
"No. I mean, yes. When do I leave?"
"Three days. Your plane leaves Thursday morning. Will you tell me what's so 'oh my god'?" Miranda leaned forward in her chair, training her eyes on me. I took a breath, amazed that my lungs still worked.
"I told you about that guy I met here two years ago, right? Anthony?"
"Yeah, the Italian cutie I never got to meet."
"Right. Well, we've kept in touch. But I never thought—"
"You've been talking for two years?"
"Yeah, we're friends."
"Just friends?" Miranda raised an eyebrow.
"Come on. We can't do anything three thousand miles apart. He's helped me through some tough times emotionally. We're friends."
"After two years, all that friendship crap will go out the window, and I'll be wasting company money on you." She wagged a finger at me, but she was grinning broadly.
"I work. You know me." I didn't want her to think I'd run off with Anthony instead of attending workshop sessions.
"Yes I do. So it's probably a good thing the only flight I could book for you gets you into LAX two days before the workshop begins."
"You're horrible," I chided, "You've been planning this."
"Lara, I had no idea." Miranda threw her arms above her head in mock surrender. "Funny how it all worked out, huh?"
"Yeah, real funny."
"Why don't you go home and pack? It's almost time to leave."
"I think I'll finish up the tree first," I trotted out of her office and returned to the tiny tree. Another limb threatened to fall, and I picked a stray ornament hook from its dusty branches. Every year I had to patch the tree up to make it presentable.
Thursday morning, the rain soaked me while I flagged down a cab outside my apartment building on Fifty-Seventh. I'd called Anthony Monday afternoon, and he'd agreed to pick me up from LAX. My hair was still dripping when I arrived at LaGuardia, but I had a first-class seat and a book to keep me company through the cross-country turbulence. But I couldn't concentrate on the story. Fifteen minutes into the four-hour flight, thoughts of Anthony flooded my mind. I had a few pictures of him, but my one memory of him in person stood clearer than all of them. I came up to his shoulder, barely, and he had short bleached curly hair framing a face with big brown eyes. I put tinsel right on top of his head, and he laughed, refusing to take it off while we talked. His hot, strong hand pressed against my lower back as he ushered me inside a restaurant to have drinks before he left New York. I still felt his lips, soft when they brushed across mine just once. I held on to the sight of him leaning against the back of the cab seat and tapping the front seat with his hand before waving to me and pulling away. I napped to dreams of Anthony and how he would greet me.
When the flight attendant woke me, I still had my seatbelt on from takeoff. I was within ten minutes of LAX, a half hour or so away from seeing Anthony. I felt my toes and fingers tingle, and the back of my head felt tight. I didn't remember landing or disembarking. The feeling rushed back to my limbs as I held my carry-on bag tightly and scanned the throng at the gate. I wondered why everyone else thought it took five people to pick up one person from the airport. Then I saw Anthony, in a long black coat, looking exactly as I'd remembered him, standing a head above most of the crowd. He caught my eye, grinning, and began to push his way toward me. I didn't dare weave through the crowd; I was short and too easily lost in the underbrush. I stood as still as I could, with people pushing from each direction, and waited until I felt Anthony's warm hand clasp mine, pulling me back to where he'd come from.
"I can't believe I'm here," I breathed after Anthony pulled me into a quiet corner in the bustling airport. He held my shoulders and gazed at me and stroked my cheek with his fingers.
"I've got something for you, love." He pulled something shiny out of his pocket. I tried to see what he had, but he kept his hand closed until he'd sprinkled the tinsel on my head. The silver strands shimmied down my straight hair and onto the floor. I smiled, and he pulled me into a tight hug. Then he kissed me, the same way as when we first met. He looked at me and kissed me again, this time sipping at my lower lip, then gently pushing my lips apart with his tongue and caressing mine. He pressed his body against mine, and my legs threatened to give out. When he let me go, my chest felt ready to explode. I took a gulp of air and grabbed my carry-on bag.
We made our way to baggage claim and waited for my luggage to come around. He plucked the suitcase off the track and guided me to his car outside, all the while keeping a hand on my shoulder or my arm. He drove deliberately, slam-shifting through the chill rain and slow traffic. Miranda had made reservations for me at a Beverly Hills hotel, but I couldn't recall the name of it. I had told Anthony on Monday, though, and he remembered where to go. He stopped the car in front of the lobby and looked at me a moment, his eyes warm with hunger and his breath quick.
"I can't wait to get you upstairs."
A valet tapped his window, startling us both. Anthony cleared his throat and we got out of the car. He carried my suitcase and bag as I checked in, and we took the elevator to the second floor. We didn't have time for anything more than a brief, deep kiss before the doors opened and we found my room. I unlocked the door and Anthony followed me in, dropping my bag and setting my suitcase just inside the door. A light was already on in the room. I shut the door.
"God, am I glad you're here," Anthony sighed and backed me against the wall. He had one hand on the side of my neck while the other pulled my coat open and squeezed my waist. He pressed his hips against mine and kneaded my lips with slow, deep kisses. I couldn't believe how soft his mouth was. His velvet tongue slipped past my lips and stroked the inside of my mouth, rubbing against my tongue and stealing my breath. I felt dizzy.
"How have you been?" I asked once he broke away, holding me and looking into my eyes. He smiled and chuckled.
"Right. I'm sorry, love." He smoothed my hair and stepped backward. "I'm getting ahead of myself."
"I didn't mean for you to stop," I admitted, "But it would be nice to talk."
Anthony set those warm brown eyes on me again, giving me a lopsided grin, and scanned my face. I flicked my eyes up and down his body. The black coat fit his shoulders and fell past his knees, where I could see stylish black shoes and the neat grey pants of what was undoubtedly an Armani suit. I kissed him.
"Or not," I laughed and kissed him again. I would never tire of feeling those lips on mine. Between kisses, we shed our coats, and I unbuttoned his slate-grey jacket to reveal a black shirt underneath. He stepped back a moment to survey my dark green traveling suit, then started on the jacket buttons. Before long, I stood before him in my black satin slip and stockings. I had to admit I'd chosen the items that morning with Anthony in mind.
"God, you're beautiful." He held my waist and drew his hands over my hips. His fingers stilled, then traced the outline of the garter belt I wore, and he cocked an eyebrow at me. "You didn't plan any of this, did you?" He plucked the belt playfully. I sensed a twinge in my lower abdomen, felt my insides quiver.
"Not really." I smiled and undid the button at his throat. He kept skimming his hands up and down my sides as I unbuttoned his shirt. He shrugged out of the shirt and pulled the slip over my head, tossing both articles into the growing pile of clothing on the floor. I admired his trim build. He would undoubtedly develop love handles in a few years, but his lanky body had enough muscle to be healthy. My hand moved over his chest like a ghost, his skin being naturally darker than my Irish flesh, and he shivered as if with cold. I looked up and his eyes were closed.
"Nothing." He smiled and opened his eyes. "I've missed you. I never thought you'd actually ever be here to touch me."
"I know." I put my hands on his neck and he settled his hands on my hips. "I still wonder if this is real."
"Oh." He nodded, detaching the garters from my stockings, then unhooking the back clasp. "It's real, Lara." He kneeled and hooked one of my knees to his hip. He kissed down my legs as he unrolled one stocking, then the other. He stood up, kicked off his shoes and socks, then returned to me, placing his arms around my back and kissing me again. He kissed my breasts above the black lace cups of my bra and, kneeling, moved to my stomach, planting small kisses all over. He stopped and looked up at me. As I held his gaze, my breath grew shallow and I felt his long fingers trailing up my thigh. He flicked a finger across the front of my panties and my knees buckled.
Anthony caught me, laughing, and held me up for a kiss. Once I regained my footing, I felt his hands working the back clasp of my bra. I wriggled out of my bra and let it fall to the floor, and then he pulled my panties down my legs and dropped them on top of my bra. I felt his fingers again, this time tickling and petting my exposed lips. I felt one long, thin finger slide into me, and I sighed as it twisted inside of me, then gasped when Anthony removed his finger, drawing it back down my thigh.
"You must have been sopping wet halfway across the country, love," he rasped against my neck, gently lowering me to the queen-size bed. Not wasting a moment, he sank his head between my thighs and swung my legs over his shoulders. I had expected harsh, quick passion from him, but he wasn't in a hurry. My hips bucked and I grabbed fistfuls of the bedspread as Anthony lazily licked my inner thighs and flicked the tip of his tongue against my clit. His tongue landed hot on my tender flesh. Small moans and squeals escaped me as he tortured me with his calm loving. When I thought I would explode from the pleasure, I glanced at Anthony and caught his eyes. He pressed his tongue against me, hard, still looking at me, at the same time slipping a finger inside me again. I came instantly, crying out and shuddering violently, my mind spiraling into momentary darkness.
My body bucked every few moments as Anthony stood up from the bed. I'd never come that quickly; my mind was in shock. Anthony smiled softly at me as he unfastened his belt and pants and let them drop to the floor. As I'd imagined, he wore silk boxers. He approached the bed again, and I couldn't take my eyes off his large bulge. He sat on the edge of the bed, looked at me, then glanced down at his crotch. He smiled at me.
"It doesn't stand up for just anybody, mind." He looked at me with his eyes full of amusement, and I leaned up to capture his face in my hands. I kissed him lightly, sweeping my lips across his, leaving his eager lips parted.
"Um." I cast my eyes down.
"You deserve it, love. You're a goddess. And you're beautiful when you come." He touched my chin and stood up again. "Now," he tugged at his boxers, "you'll get something else you deserve." He uncovered a dick larger than most I'd seen. It was only slightly longer than average, but it was thick. I'd been with only two other men, neither of whom compared to Anthony.
"And what would that be?" I purred as he kneeled on the bed and lay beside me.
"A good—" he kissed my neck, "long—" then nibbled my ear, "slow—" and licked my earlobe, "fuck." The last word sent a shiver from my ears down to my toes. Anthony plunged his tongue into my mouth and began fingering my clit again. His fingers dipped into me, drawing in and out, wetting my flesh, preparing me for his entry. Anthony moved over me and used his knee to spread mine. His fingers kept working at my clit, making my back arch as he placed the head of his dick between my pussy lips. Instinctively, my muscles contracted, trying to draw him into me.
"Anthony," I whispered, wrapping one arm around his shoulders and reaching with my other hand to guide him into me. My hips rose to meet his, but he drew back, leaving me gasping and aching for him.
"Not yet, love." His voice was a calm whisper, but instead of assuaging my throbbing need for him, it fueled my desire. My body burned and my skin tingled. Every pore yearned to unite with him.
"Just enjoy." He restored his dick to its resting place, and I struggled not to thrust my hips against him. He kissed and nibbled my neck, breathing hotly against my skin, as he rocked his hips back and forth, each time pressing his dick into me a little harder. I felt I couldn't bear the wait, but I didn't want him to draw away again. I felt the head, slick with my juices, squeezing into my pussy. Anthony rested his weight on one arm and used the other hand to rub tiny circles on my clit again. My body went slack for a moment, then stiffened and shook. My mind washed under a wave of color, and I realized I'd come again. Never before had any man brought me to more than one orgasm in one sitting.
"Anthony," I whispered, this time not calling to him, merely speaking his name in affirmation and in praise.
"I know, love." His voice was harsher, less restrained. "You're so tight." I felt his legs shake with the strain of holding back. He supported his weight on both arms, and I grabbed his buttocks. I tried to pull him into me, but he would not give up his slow pace.
Steadily he rocked his hips back and forth, coating himself with my fluids and pushing in again, stretching me beyond my fullest point. Anthony lay above me, fully encased within me, and I could feel his dick pulsing against my throbbing walls. He had stretched me so much that I couldn't tell if I could contract my muscles around him. I tried, and he shuddered.
"God, Lara," he hissed through clenched teeth, "you're making me come."
"No." He withdrew from me almost all the way, then began to inch back in. "It feels too damn good to end."
He kept up the long, teasingly slow strokes, drawing soft, low moans from my throat and building another coil in my belly. After what seemed like infinity, I gasped and my hips bucked. Anthony pulled out of me suddenly and dropped his mouth on my pussy so quickly that my body only had time to react with another enveloping orgasm as his burning tongue made quick flicking motions across my clit. Before the darkness in my mind dissipated, Anthony moved up again and drove into me fiercely, blurring the line between pleasure and pain. In a few quick, short thrusts, he shuddered and collapsed over me, gasping and moving slightly in and out of me as his orgasm shook the last energy from his body.
"Are you sure this isn't a dream?" I asked when we both lay still, Anthony beside me, stroking my cheek with his fingers. He kissed my forehead.
"If it is, love, I won't ever wake up again."
That was last year. This year, though, I might end up in Detroit or Seattle or Omaha, wherever Miranda sends me. As I'm winding the last of the garland around the pitiful Christmas tree, Miranda pages me into her office. Assignment time.
"Where to this year, boss?" I ask, hoping I don't sound too disappointed with a new location.
"I'm changing the workshop rotations, Lara." Miranda grins.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that, unfortunately, you're stuck with Los Angeles."
"Permanently." She smiles as I stare blankly at her.
"A permanent assignment?" I squeak.
"Well, it seemed like you had a lot of fun last year."
I grin at her, disbelieving my luck. Anthony better get used to my visits.