A Little Persuasion Ch. 02bycuriouslyamused©
A Clockwork Orange, Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Handmaiden's Tale. It had been George's idea to put books about corrupt governments and societies on display in a kind of tribute to the upcoming state legislature elections. Josh was placing the books on the table in alphabetical order, but his mind was elsewhere, namely on her, George. She was always coming up with ideas for the store, like when she decided to give out condoms to every person who bought a book about sex, and when she had started a reading hour for preschoolers. She even made decorations for the store, hanging her original illustrations all over.
He'd thought she would have thought of him as geeky for how much he wanted the store to succeed and stay open, even while major chain stores were opening all around it. But she hadn't rolled her eyes when he'd told her that he kind of loved working there. Instead she had gamely suggested egging the new Books-are-us type store that had just opened a few blocks down. It was weird, how much he liked talking to her. He felt like he could tell her anything.
He remembered the first day she had walked into the store, shoving a half eaten bagel into her oversized purse, patting down her colorful skirt, and readjusting her huge belt. Her afro encircled her head like a halo, and he could see that she was wearing an orange bra underneath her white tee shirt. She'd walked up to him and said, "Hey, man," as if she'd known him for ages, and then asked about the help wanted sign. Gus, the owner of Belton Books, had hired her because the sign had been out there for months, and she'd been the first person to ask about it.
He'd been working at the store for over a year, and he was used to running it by himself. He liked how quiet it was, how he could read a book without being interrupted for a good hour. He even liked the people who shopped there: they were usually grizzly bearded college professors looking for books that were out of print, or little old ladies asking him about what book they should read next in their book club. He wasn't used to the jingle of the many bracelets on her arm, or the clunking noises of her knee high boots, or her humming of a random tune. In fact, he was pretty sure that he hadn't liked her at all, at first. He'd never said much to her, and had kind of ignored her presence.
And then one morning he was half awake with a hard on, and instead of ignoring it and taking a shower like he normally did, he'd let his hand slip down his abs to his cock, which was curved up and nuzzling his stomach. He'd let his mind float along the hazy paths it had taken while he had been asleep, and found himself thinking about George and how good her legs looked in her boots. She had long, toned legs that led up to her curvy hips and held up her generous ass. An unconscious smile curved his lips as he'd thought about her other lovely features: the roundness of her breasts, the fullness of her lips.
His hand had reached down to grasp his aching cock in a tight hold. He'd let his thumb probe the slit that had started leaking precum. He tried to imagine what she would look like naked, how much darker her nipples would be than the rest of her milk chocolaty skin. Could her skin really be as smooth as it looked? What would she like, he had wondered as he'd pumped his hips in rhythm to the firm and steady fisting of his dick. Would she like having her nipples sucked? He'd groaned at the thought, the insistent pressure in him mounting as he wondered whether her moans be soft and breathy in his ear, or loud and demanding? Would he be swallowing down her dirty words with his kisses, or did only sweet words make her come? He was stroking himself furiously now, images of her lips fitting snugly around him and her writhing under him overwhelming his senses. He was thinking about how wonderful she would taste, and then he was coming, all the muscles in his body tensing up and stars popping up behind his eyelids as his hot come gushed out onto his stomach.
He rolled onto his side, shaking as he heard his gasps for air reverberate off the walls of his small apartment.
What the fuck? he'd thought.
He had never had a specific person in mind when he beat off. He'd always found himself thinking of things that turned him on in general: breasts, asses, long legs, the wet sound of a soaked pussy. And George was such an odd choice, too. He'd only known her for a few weeks, two months at most. He barely knew her. He didn't even like her. He'd wanted to shrug his shoulders and tell himself that it was just a freak coincidence that she had popped into his mind.
But he was thinking about it as he took a shower, and as he ignored the man selling cheap watches out of his coat on the subway, and as he tried not to give the waitress a dirty look for telling him his medium cup of coffee was $ 4.69. He was panicking by the time he was unlocking the door to the store. And with good reason, because when she walked in a few minutes later, pulling off her sunglasses, her hair up in a huge puff behind her head, bandana tied around her neck, and boy's shorts hanging low off her hips, he had actually tripped over a pile of books.
The day had gotten worse as it wore on, with him stuttering every time he had to say something to her because he was so nervous he would start gawking at her chest instead of looking her in the eye, and then actually spilling his stupid coffee when a guy came into the store and started flirting with her. Then she'd caught him staring at her back, and had given him a quizzical look, as if to say, "What the hell is wrong with you, creep?"
That had been the breaking point. He had to get a hold of himself.
He could have chosen to ask her out. He could have chosen to smile at her the next morning and ask her if she wanted to go to lunch with him. But he'd immediately rejected the idea. He'd always had problems with girls. He never knew what to say to make them laugh, or how to act to make them want to know him. In high school he had hyperventilated every time he'd gotten anywhere near the girl he'd had a crush on. The first time he'd had sex he had been so nervous that he'd come in five minutes, and the girl had pushed him off, a sneer on her face, and left without saying a word. The last relationship he'd been in had been with a willowy girl named Tiffany. It had ended abruptly eight months before, with a pathetic email saying how sorry she was to end things, but that she just didn't think he was the guy for her. Two days later he'd seen her with her tongue down the throat of what he supposed was the right guy, a man who looked like he had steroids with his cornflakes every morning.
There was no way he could go through that again.
So when he got home that night he'd made a resolution with himself to stop acting like an idiot around her. He would stop ogling at her, stop thinking about what had happened that morning when he should be ordering new books, and stop resenting the little strip of smooth, flat, brown stomach that appeared every time she raised her hand to reach for a book.
The next day, and for weeks afterwards, he'd kept his promise. He stayed as far away from her as possible, arriving at the store before her and disappearing into the back room when she came in. When she was up at the register, he was unloading books. When she was stocking books, he was on the phone with a customer. He would go out to lunch instead of eating with her in the back room. When they closed, he would come and get her cash drawer without saying a word, count it down without looking at her, and then tell her her balance was even with his back turned to her.
But nothing he did could stop him from smelling the clean, fresh scent of her. He couldn't help noticing that she always threw her head back when she laughed, or that she seemed to have bras in every imaginable color. He discovered that he knew things about her, like that she actually pouted when she was upset, and that she listened to WKRP before coming in to work because she would be humming the songs that they had played that morning. He knew that when she spoke, you shouldn't stand next to her because her hands became very animated and she had a tendency of hitting whatever was beside her. He knew that she never drank coffee because she thought it was disgusting, and he knew she loved tootsie rolls because he noticed that she would unwrap one and pop it into her mouth in the middle of a sentence. She would have a little bulge in the side of her mouth the whole time she was talking. He thought it was cute. He liked the jingle of her bracelets, now.
Even when he was across the room from her, trying his best to ignore the way her sweet mouth pursed and her brow furrowed when she was concentrating on something, he would catch himself sneaking glances at her, and smiling when she shooed away the random people who came into the store trying to sell bootlegged copies of DVDs.
It was torture. The sound of her laugh followed him home at night and teased him until he gave in and put his cock out of its misery. It came to a point where he gave himself and ultimatum. He either had to stop being a pussy and ask her out, or be a total jackass and get Gus to fire her.
That was what he had been thinking as he leaned against the counter one idle morning, when she walked in from the back room. He was about to look away, but she'd caught his eye and had given him a brilliant smile that made his heart stop. He'd known right then that he was a goner.
George jogged him out of his reverie when she walked up to him and bumped her hip against his.
"Hey," she said teasingly, "shouldn't you be working, or something?"
She didn't wait for him to answer, choosing instead to reach up and kiss him.
They jumped apart to see Gus standing behind them, a look of disapproval on his large face.
"Sorry," they chorused simultaneously, trying not to laugh, and she scurried back to her place behind the register.
She'd never been this nervous over a boy before. She would watch him out of the corner of her eye, or under her lashes, a surreptitious smile on her lips, savoring the fact that he was hers. She wasn't sure what it was about him that made her so wound up over him. Was it how she would catch him staring at her with a gentle look in his eyes, and then watch as he immediately ducked his head when her eyes caught his? Was it how he would slip his arm around her shoulders or her waist and kiss her forehead while walking down the street? Was it how he let her have the last slice of pizza?
It was all those things, and more. It was how he laughed at her jokes and was interested in her hopes of becoming a children's books illustrator. It was how he'd gone and gotten her a new sketchbook because he'd noticed that the one she had now was running out of pages. It was in the sweet kisses he stole from her every time he was on a break or there were no customers in the store.
What had she ever seen in all those boys she had worn thongs for, and bought makeup for, and tried to cook for? She had always fallen for the boy with the slightly dirty hair that would squeeze her ass in public and would fuck her in the backseat of his car. But that boy would also flirt with other girls in front of her, and ignore whatever she had to say about what she wanted to do with her life, and disappear for days and then show up at her door, expecting her to leap for joy at the sight of him.
She was surprised when she found that she preferred being able to have an actual conversation with a guy, that she enjoyed actually being interested in the things Josh had to say and wasn't just looking forward to fucking him that night. She was surprised that she wasn't just turned on by his firm ass and grey eyes, but was also attracted to how passionate he was about his stance on a topic, or how he actually looked forward to going to work every day. She wasn't only interested in kissing him and having that beautiful dick of his inside of her; she wanted to talk to him, and spend time just being with him. She wanted to know him.
And as she watched him stocking books onto shelves, stopping every now and then to point a customer in the right direction, she thought she might love him, and that scared her shitless.
She could hardly believe that just a few weeks ago, she'd thought that he hated her. She recalled how he would never say anything to her, would never look her in the eye, would never greet her in the morning. She'd told herself that she was being paranoid, that maybe he was just one of those guys that never said much to anyone. But no, that couldn't have been it, because she would see him having lively conversations with customers all the time. And he and Gus were always arguing over how many copies of certain books they should have, and whether or not they should put some kind of coffee place in the store to entice new customers. But when she would walk into the backroom he would stop talking abruptly and make some excuse to leave. He had even stopped eating lunch in the store, and she was convinced it was so that he could get away from her.
All this would have been fine. All this she would have been able to handle. She'd never been one of those people who just had to have everyone adore them, and so his not liking her shouldn't have meant anything. The problem was that every time she heard his low, slightly husky voice, a delicious shiver would run down her spine. He would be talking on the phone, or to a shopper, and she would stop what she was doing just so that she could listen to him.
Many a time she would find him reading, and she became fascinated with watching the emotions run over his face as his eyes flicked from sentence to sentence. She particularly loved it when he would smile and the sides of his eyes and top of his nose would crinkle up. She watched his hands flipping the pages, a finger pressing down on the corner of a page and then flicking it aside.
He had the perfect hands for a boy: big, with long, thick fingers and veins running down into the backs from his arms and short, clean fingernails. When there was no one in the store she would take out her sketch book and draw his hands, her mind leaping from fantasy to fantasy of what they could do to her. She always hastily shut her book and shoved it under the counter when he passed by and prayed that he couldn't see the heat rushing to her cheeks. She joked to herself that she would have to start carrying a spare pair of panties in her bag, what with how wet she was making herself over him.
She hadn't understood it. Why was she lusting after a man who so obviously had no interest in her? The guy practically balked at her presence. But she kind of liked the sweet torment she was putting herself through. She had never been a shy person. Whenever she liked a guy she had always flirted with him shamelessly, batting her eyelashes coyly and smiling over her shoulder at him. It was different with Josh, though. She didn't want to toy with him. She luxuriated in the secret pulsing between her pressed legs that started up every time she was close to him. She would press her lips together and tilt her head to the side, hoping that she looked nonchalant as she rocked her hips against the stool. At home she would thumb her clit just enough to make her moan, but not enough to make her come. She didn't want to use her dildo or vibrator. She wanted him, and nothing else would do. It made her wonder if maybe she had a bit of a masochistic side.
And she didn't just want to fuck him, either. She had begun to admire him. She had come to realize that even though it was Gus who owned the store, it was Josh who actually ran it. Josh was the one who called in for new books, who arranged book readings with new authors, and who decided how the store would be set up. So much of the store mirrored him. It was as if he had poured a little bit of himself into it. She knew that without him, it would probably have shut down a long time ago.
And then that wonderful day had come when he'd brought orange juice and chocolate chip muffins in for breakfast. How had he known they were her favorite? Something had changed. He wasn't ignoring her anymore. When she had walked into the back room that morning he had been in there, as if he'd been waiting for her. He had smiled at her almost cautiously, as if he were nervous. His hand had shaken a little when he'd handed her a muffin. That day, and the days after, he hadn't walked away from her with a lame excuse when she approached him. He helped her unpack the magazines and set them up on their racks, and helped her tape up a poster she had made for a sale they were about to have.
What is going on, she'd thought. Why had he suddenly started being nice to her? Wishful thoughts had started to leak into her mind, teasing her with the possibility that maybe he felt something for her, something close to what she was feeling for him. She had to shake her head to get these thoughts out. He was just being the good guy that he was, and his attitude had nothing to do with her. Her lusting after him was obviously starting to affect her thought processes; she'd have to get laid soon or else she would start thinking that when he handed her a book what he was really doing was professing his love to her.
One night they were cleaning up after they had flipped over the open/closed sign and had locked the door. They were picking up books shoppers had left in the wrong place, sweeping, and recording how many items they'd sold that day. She'd gotten the key to her drawer from Josh and had unlocked it, picked it up and carried it against her hip to the back room. The lights were dim in there, as they always were, making the shadows a little deeper, a little softer. She had walked over to him, plopping her drawer down on the counter. She'd smiled at him as he handed her his drawer and she handed him hers.
This was her favorite part of the day. She loved standing next to him as they counted down each other's drawers. She drank in the feeling of being so close to him that she could feel his body heat. Every now and then their elbows would touch, or the back of his hand would brush against hers, and she'd feel a little spark that would zing right up her arm and make her grin ridiculously. Then he would turn to her, leaning against the counter in a way that made her want to just tear his slightly geeky clothes off, and he would tell her that her drawer was even. She'd nod and tell him the same. She always felt as though there were a curious tension between them at these moments, but she pushed the thought aside, telling herself that she was being silly. Then he would pick up both drawers and lock them away in the safe. She would throw her purse over her shoulder, he would slip into his sweater. They would walk to the door together, and he would let her step out first. She would watch as he locked the door, just as Gus insisted she do, and then Josh would say bye to her, giving her an awkward yet strangely charming wave, and then walk away toward his apartment.
But tonight was different. She hadn't quite been able to push the thought of stripping him naked out of her head as easily as she was usually able to, so she was clutching her sketch book to her chest to give her fingers something to do. A chilly wind whipped her skirt around her legs as she watched him lock the door. He'd dropped the keys twice, muttering apologetically before he was able to slip the right one in the slot and turn it. He had turned to her and she waited expectantly for him to give her the wave. But he didn't. Instead he stood there, looking down at the sidewalk. He'd shoved his hands into his pockets and was shuffling his feet. She was about to ask him what was wrong when he looked up at her.