Under My Skin Ch. 01byBrunne©
© 2012 Brunne
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The voice spoke so close to my ear it startled me and I actually jumped a little.
"Sometimes if you kick it, it helps."
He pushed off from where he'd been leaning against the kitchen doorway. He'd obviously been standing there, watching me while I, oblivious, had been contemplating how to get a diet coke out of the machine. The machine that had just eaten my last 60p.
I felt heat diffuse over the surface of my whole body. I get flustered easily and I didn't have to check in a mirror to know I was beet red.
He filled a paper cup from the filter tap and stood, his back to me, tipping his head back and draining the cup in one go.
I could only glower at his suited back, trying not to notice how the tastefully-chosen dark charcoal fabric pulled across his muscled shoulders. Or how his perfectly barbered hair drifted over the collar of his shirt as he drank. He was such an arrogant prick. I never knew why he found so much pleasure in goading me. No, he didn't say much to me at all...in fact, this was the first time in months he'd deigned to speak to me, and I doubt he even knew my name. But I could see it in his eyes when he passed my desk or when we rode together, silently, on the odd occasion we ended up in the lift at the same time.
He managed an entire technical team. I was just a lowly admin assistant. I wore scuffed ballet flat shoes from Barretts (on sale). He wore gleaming Church's. I bought the meal deal from Tesco. He bought sushi platters from the restaurant around the corner. But what did it matter? What did I care about a puffed up preening peacock like him? Even his name sounded arrogant to me. Jarod.
But there was that funny tingle in my stomach. It had happened again just now when his low baritone rumbled into my ear and right through to my insides and rolled around, pulling at strings I didn't want pulled. Not by him at least. It happened whenever I felt his eyes on me. Fuck him. I wasn't about to let myself be affected in any way. Not by the mocking glint in his eye. Not by the twitch of sarcastic smile on his lips.
He was gone out the door by a good 30 seconds before the words I wanted to say popped into my head...Trust you to use violence to get what you want...
Nice, but too late. As always.
Shut up tingles. Fuck you too.
* * * * *
I tried to be ready for it the next time. Cursed myself for it but couldn't help my compulsive need to rehearse what I'd say the next time he caught me off guard. I needed to take him down a peg. I knew I'd blow it. I just didn't know why knowing this infuriated me so.
It was the colour printer this time. Ominous lights flashed on the control panel, dots highlighting possible vantage points within the wretched machine where elusive half-printed pages lurked. I sucked on my thumb where I'd scalded it on some overheated part in the back.
"Maybe you should try giving it a little kick..."
I whirled, somewhat more ready for him this time, but realised very quickly that I was totally unprepared for staring up into his grey-blue eyes.
"I'll kick you if you say that again!" Where had my words come from? For once they just popped right out. I regretted it instantly. I couldn't read the expression in his eyes, but it wasn't fuzzy chickies and bunnies.
His hand grasped my wrist and I was propelled swiftly around the corner into the stationery cupboard. The door clicked shut. My wrist was still gripped, above my head, pressed against the cool metal of the shelving. I should say something. Something like No. or, Isn't this harassment. Or Please...kiss me.
His mouth was on my neck. It wasn't a kiss, or a nuzzle. It was most definitely a bite. I gasped and gulped for air. The bite...it was sharp and it stung. The heat rushing through my body was instantaneous, but not from embarrassment. It was that dangerous kind of heat where you teeter on the edge and wonder what it feels like to burn away in that molten lava down below. Danger, my mind screamed.
Voices outside the door. His mouth gone from my neck. His hand gone from my wrist. The door opening and closing. I was alone. My knees forgot how to work and I sagged against the shelving, finding air to breathe at last. My neck ached. Between my legs, I could feel wetness.
* * * * *
I wore scarves for two weeks. I got some odd looks, maybe because it was July. My daily internal dialogue regarding him was choice and vibrant. No one had ever bitten me before. It bruised and changed colour, and finally faded away. But it wasn't gone. Not in my mind at least. I still knew exactly where it was, even when my skin went back to normal. I often caught my fingers drifting to that spot of their own accord, as if some unconscious part of me needed to revisit that moment. To feel again the stinging heat of his teeth on my skin and the forceful intensity of his body near mine. Not touching, just near.
I sat at my desk each day, swamped with trepidation that he would walk past. Just as strong was the fierce hope that he would. In the end, the hope was disappointed, and the part of me that continued to curse his existence rejoiced. If he was in the office, he was paying an incredible game of hide and seek as I saw him nowhere for several weeks.
The memory had just begun to loosen its hold on me when I encountered him again. Or he encountered me. I never knew whether these meetings were accidental or if he carefully planned them. It was late on a Thursday, and the open-plan office was practically deserted as I made my way to the lifts. I contemplated my options for a moment, and decided that the niggling twinge from my bladder was only going to get worse on the Tube ride home.
I pushed through the door leading to the Ladies' and was about to place my hand on the bathroom door when the intersecting stairwell door opened to my left. I muttered the usual "Sorry," as a matter of etiquette, not really seeing who was walking through it. I had little doubt about who it was when a firm hand gripped me low on the throat and I was swiftly pinned against the wall. All the air went from my lungs, and I was left staring up into the piercing grey of Jarod's eyes, his lip twitching in what looked like a snarl. It wasn't his hand on my throat that stopped my breath, but the look on his face. Controlled, but feral. Danger, my mind screamed at me once again. I told my mind where it could go. I wasn't being assaulted. The truth was...I wanted this. I'd been asking for this. Excitement or fear roiled in my belly. I couldn't tell which.
He must have noticed my eyes flick up towards the ceiling, because he pressed a little more firmly, bringing my gaze back to his in a hurry.
"No CCTV here."
Did he say it to reassure me, or to point out that even the security guard couldn't help me now? His voice was low and rough, and I wondered if I just imagined that he sounded a little out of breath. Maybe from climbing the stairs. He glowered down at me, his thumb moving imperceptibly against my skin, finding the hollow of my neck where my pulse beat, rapid and crazy.
My wrist was grasped tightly and twisted behind me and I winced at the sharp burn that shot up my arm.
"What? That hurts?" he asked, that mocking tone dancing over the words.
I hitched my chin a little higher, glaring into his eyes, my defiance a blooming cloud in my chest. Fuck him. He wouldn't see me complain. Or give in.
The hand on my throat released, and I gulped in a deep breath, desperate to keep the relief out of my eyes. And the disappointment. His fingers moved back to my throat, but this time they stroked my shoulder-length hair, pushing it gently back and away from my neck. His head lowered and he moved in. The edges of my vision went dark and hazy, but some sliver of consciousness won through.
His head jerked back and he regarded me coolly.
"Not there...it shows," I breathed, trying to focus.
His thumb rested against the place where his teeth had been last. I waited for what felt like forever as he appeared to deliberate. He pulled his hand away. My captured wrist was twisted around a little further, and I yelped. I felt him tug at my blouse where it was tucked into my skirt. He methodically pulled it out all along the front of my waistband, the cool air hitting my skin as he bared my midriff. His hand invaded, skimming over my stomach. He had warm hands. Deadly warm hands.
He dropped into a half-crouch in front of me, but instead of groping me he just pulled my blouse up, not even uncovering my bra. His dark head moved in and this time his teeth found my skin just along my rib. I could feel his hot breath on me as he devoured me, biting deeper, harder than he had before. My defiance in tatters, my body bathed in deep waves of heat, I could only gasp, my head rolling back and forth against the wall behind me.
Footsteps on the stairs, the murmur of voices. My wrist was released and my blouse dropped back in place. I felt his hand at the small of my back as he thrust me through into the Ladies' bathroom, alone.
* * * * *
Several days later I'd finally stopped wincing when I moved, but my ribcage was bursting with rainbow colours. I'd accepted the fact that he got off on marking me. What it released in him I didn't know, but I know what it did to me.
I was drafting the department calendar for the following month, deep in emails and post-it notes when my desk was darkened. I refused to turn for a moment, intent on selecting times and dates. Something landed with a soft clunk on my desk, and I turned to look at it, and then up. It was Jarod, staring off across the office, leaning casually on my desk, his phone lying smack in the middle of my notes. It wasn't the office-issue model, so it had to be his personal phone.
He tapped his fingertips on the desk impatiently and spoke in a low voice. "I want a picture."
I blinked, not comprehending. "What?"
"A picture. You know...a photograph. Use my phone. In the bathroom."
I sat, my face flooding with heat, my eyes darting around to see if anyone had overheard.
"Go." And then he walked off, stopping to chat with the PAs as if nothing had happened.
I stared at the phone, which seemed to be burning some black-hole in my paperwork. Denying myself the luxury of second thoughts, I snatched the phone and rose from my work station, walking as casually as I could in the direction of the bathroom. The irrational thought that everyone knew what I was doing flashed back and forth in my mind. No one looked up, no one paid any mind. When I pushed through the bathroom door, several girls from marketing were chatting and fixing their makeup. I slipped into a stall without making eye contact and leaned my back against the door, suddenly feeling very out of breath.
He wanted a picture. He wanted...a picture. Why did this feel like more of an intrusion...an intimacy...than his mouth, his teeth, on my skin? Was this his trophy? Trophy for what? Making a silly office girl do things against her better judgement? All I could think about was the fact that he would have this in his phone. That he would look at this picture of me...of what he did to me...whenever he wanted. It was this thought that started the throbbing between my legs and the flooding wetness. The girls chatted inanely out by the sinks. It scared me how close I was to touching myself with them just on the other side of the stall door.
I took a deep breath, and focussed on the phone. I finally found the camera function, and fumbled with my top, wondering how to get the angle right. It took a few attempts, but I finally had one decent picture of the bite-mark which didn't show anything else. He shouldn't even be getting this, I thought, but damn him...he had me hooked now.
The girls left before I had to pretend I was really going to the bathroom, and as I escaped the stall, I caught a glimpse of my own reflection in the mirrors. Flushed cheeks, dilated pupils. I was a mess. I ran my hands under cold water for a minute until I was certain I was breathing normally. Grabbing the phone, I walked out to the hallway, my head high.
When I got back to my desk, he was nowhere in sight. I debated, and decided to just leave the phone where he'd put it. He could come and fetch it if he wanted to.
A few hours later I was returning to my seat after delivering some files to the managing director's PA. The phone was gone. In its place was a crisp new post-it. It just said 'Thanks Stephanie, Jarod.' His handwriting was firm, and slanted. As cocky and confident as he was. It was then that I realised I hadn't bothered to take his number. Or look through his phone. And that he did know my name.
The idea that his phone was filled with pictures of other women and other bite-marks plagued me for some days afterwards. That and the fact that I was actually bothered about being the only one.
* * * * *
"You only sent me one."
Warmth immediately crawled up the back of my neck at the sound of his voice near my ear. I was waiting in line at the cafeteria and hadn't seen him come up behind me. He'd spoken low enough that only I could hear.
"You only asked for one," I hissed back, trying to calm the scattered tingles bouncing around my insides.
"I didn't know you were so stingy," he murmured, nonchalantly rifling through the basket of crisps as if looking for a particular flavour.
"You should be more specific next time." My mistake didn't register until he answered.
"Next time, huh?"
Scarlet, I stepped up to the end of the queue to avoid him, averting my eyes and doing my very best to ignore him. I was one person away from the cash register when he spoke again, his breath warm on my ear and neck.
I looked down with dismay and discovered he was right. How did he make me so fucking flustered? "I'm not hungry," I said, dropping my tray lamely to my side. I tried to find a way out of the line but I was trapped by the food cases and a large pillar.
I thought I could hear him chuckling behind me before I fled towards the lifts, empty-handed.
* * * * *
I began to dread bedtime. Lying there, waiting for sleep to come, repeated memories flashing through my mind of him trapping me, holding me down. I even woke up from dreams I couldn't remember, my body arching off the bed and the ache between my legs crying out to be addressed. He'd barely touched me. Neither time had he even brushed his body against mine. Just his hands held me, and his mouth and teeth made their mark. Nothing else. It made me wonder if it was even a sexual thing for him, or just about control or some sort of power trip. Whatever it did for him, it was driving me crazy.
So I just lay there, my covers pushed back, my nightie bunched around my hips. Whenever I thought about his hand on my throat my body lit on fire and all I could do was try to cool myself in the breeze coming through the open window. When he'd held me down, it was as if a different self kicked in. A different me. Like a light switch, flipped. It took me off somewhere, to some distant place, but at the same time I knew I'd never felt so...present.
I didn't know what I wanted to have happen next. More covert encounters in corners of the office? More secret liaisons in random broom cupboards? Part of me said yes. Another part wanted to run away as far and fast as it could. The final part of me kept imagining him pinning me down on the bed and fucking me. This part was most definitely winning.
I wanted release, but I knew nothing could even approach what just one touch from him did to me. Somewhere along the way I'd handed the keys to him, and he was driving this thing. Whatever was going on between us was in his control. So I just lay there, aching, trying not to think about his hands on me.
* * * * *
I dropped my handbag down next to my desk, and caught sight of the note as I went to sit down. 'In the drawer.' was all it said, in that narrow, slanted cocky handwriting, stuck to the bottom edge of my computer monitor.
Cautious, I pulled top drawer open. Inside was a black box, about the size of deck of cards. Checking around me first to see if anyone was watching, I carefully slid the top off the box. Inside was a mobile phone. Nothing expensive, probably a throw away one. I tipped the lid over, and found another post-in stuck inside. 'Turn it on.' it said.
Nervous of what I'd find, I slipped the phone into my handbag and made a quick exit to the bathrooms, locking the stall door behind me and closing the toilet lid before sitting down. I breathed deeply for a few moments before pulling out the phone. It was shiny and black. I found the power button, and after a few loading screens it was on. There was nothing much to see, and I just stared at it dumbly. The bars indicating reception slowly blinked into life, and I nearly dropped the phone when it buzzed in my hand. He'd set the phone to silent, but kept it on vibrate. A little envelope icon flashed slowly on the menu bar. A text.
I fumbled with the buttons, suddenly aware that my hands were shaking, trying to ignore the rushing sensation in my stomach. Excitement or nerves, or both. The text opened. It wasn't just a text. It was my photo as well. There was my stomach, his teeth-marks, and the words, 'I think about this. All the time.'
I had to read the words a second time before they fully registered, their impact like a slow punch to the stomach. One that made the muscles inside me clench and the ache swirl at the very centre in a painful spasm. One touch and I could come. One touch from him.
I dropped my head between my knees, suddenly very dizzy and struggling to breathe. What the fuck was this thing? This love-hate connection that had gotten me like a drug. This couldn't be normal. This couldn't be right. The things I wanted him to do to me just weren't...right.
When I could get my legs to work again, I stood there in the locked stall for some time, contemplating whether to just drop the damned phone in the toilet. To kill it. To erase that message and be done with it all. But my hand held tight, and I could only switch the phone off and bury it deep in the innermost pocket of my handbag.
I don't remember much about the rest of the day. I performed my usual duties on something resembling autopilot. How do you get that sort of image out of your mind? Or those words for that matter.
* * * * *
I thought I could be strong and leave it alone. But it called to me, silently. Weighed like a ton-weight in my handbag and burned a hole in my mind. I couldn't help but need to see his text again, or stop the wondering about whether he would send another.
I managed to make it until bedtime before pulling the covers over my head like a child with a new flashlight who can't sleep. It seemed to power up so slowly. Why had I turned it off? Fear of him calling?
Only the previous text was there, nothing new. I waited for a few minutes, and nothing. Maybe he was just waiting for me to reply. I hadn't a clue what I would say in response to that. That I thought about it too? Could I bring myself to give him that amount of power over me? I could just see his infuriatingly sardonic expression now. But he liked a bit of a fight. I didn't know how I knew this...I just knew.
I was finally sinking into sleep when a buzzing made me jump, startled.
'Are you awake?' The words stared up at me from the small screen of the phone.
I checked the clock...it was after midnight. I slumped back against my pillow, torn about whether to answer. I could just ignore him. Pretend the phone was off. Pretend that I'd never even turned it on. But the ache was there, as always. In my body and in my mind.