tagNonConsent/ReluctanceBass-Ackwards Ch. 05

Bass-Ackwards Ch. 05

byDeathAndTaxes©

Author's Note: Hi! Welcome to Chapter 5! This is the longest chapter yet, so I hope it makes up for the wait. I don't have much to add this time. Ready for me to torture these two idiots some more? Have fun!

~Eris/D&T

* * *

The red dress Christina wore on Monday was a flag in front of a bull. It was the only long one he'd seen her in, and length of it dropped to skim her ankles in a flowing scarlet dare. Not to mention the fabric falling over the swell of her ass like something that ought to be illegal.

Bill couldn't even stay in the front office with her. It was too much, after Saturday. He made sure he had plenty to do in the shop, or chances were, he was going to do something stupid. Whatever the opposite of discreet was, he was going to do that if he stood within arm's reach.

Two o'clock sunlight baked everything outside the dual-bay steel building, and Bill let the heat soak into him through the open roll-up doors. He could have turned on one of the big box fans, but working while just this side of too hot was almost like some sort of weirdly appropriate, self-imposed punishment for his generally acting like an idiot.

Bill stood at the workbench nearest the side door and ran his finger down the maintenance list he'd made. Checked off that oil change he'd done yesterday, and eyed the next thing. Should be quick.

Well. Maybe not so quick. Not if he couldn't keep his head on the task at hand.

It looked like it was made out of the same sort of material as a tee-shirt, that fucking dress. Maybe softer. She wore some tiny, thin sweater over it that really wasn't much more than a pair of sleeves. Probably trying to put up with the blasting AC, but it was just as well he couldn't see her shoulders. It was bad enough her hair was up off her neck.

Not that he was blaming Christina. She was just doing like he asked, wearing a dress. Wasn't her fault his dick was acting like a kid begging for candy at a grocery store check-out stand.

Please! Pleeeeease can I have some? Just one! You promised!

So much for 'cooling off'.

The only thing different than before their 'arrangement' was Bill knew he could have it now. If he wanted it.

And, by god, he did.

He wanted to touch, to hear, to smell her. He wanted to see the face she would have made if he'd kept going the other day, even for ten more seconds. That stitch in her brow, teeth sinking into the pink of her lower lip ...

Bill fumbled the jug of coolant he was pulling down from a steel shelf and swore. He had it rescued before it hit the ground, but still. It never paid to be distracted. Even now, when he had a job where it wouldn't be a huge problem.

You've already got a huge problem, Marshall.

Right. And it wasn't the truck in the near bay with the coolant leak.

There were reasons people called him an asshole. Usually not to his face, but folks didn't always pay attention to who was standing nearby when they ran their mouths.

He didn't like the fake feeling of 'small talk' and extraneous fluff. Pointless greetings, the placation of ass-kissing. People called that 'blunt'. He wouldn't tolerate lies or bullshit. He'd put his finger right on the nose of what was really going on. People called that 'harsh'. He had zero patience for idiots. He would not wait around, he would not bite his tongue. People called that 'being an asshole'.

Maybe he was. But that had nothing to do with running an equipment rental shop. Other people could take their opinions of him and calmly insert them three knuckles deep.

Christina didn't expect him to act any other way, though. At least she seemed not to. He didn't see that telltale disappointment on her face when he ended a useless conversation. She never bothered to try coaxing forced 'good mornings' out of him. In so many small ways, she allowed him to be himself.

There were parts of him surfacing now around Christina, however, that Bill Marshall didn't know what to do with.

He was ... aggressive. Making demands.

Move your feet apart. Hold still. Swallow. Look at me.

Bill's jaw tightened. It wasn't the commands. It was her obeying him. Those blue eyes wide and wary, asking 'What else? What else will he want me to do?' and braving it anyway.

This was dangerous. She fed into the part of him that wanted to flex power. How much did he have? How far would she let him go? It could be a drug, testing those limits, and keeping the fuck away from cigarettes was already enough of a chore. Bill was already far too familiar with the ways power could keep a person from seeing straight.

Speaking of seeing ... Coolant refilled on the twelve-footer, he lowered himself almost to the ground to peer underneath the truck. The couple of drips were still there on the concrete, reminding him of the leak, but he was not going to change that hose out today. Didn't even think he had one the right size at the shop right now. He would need to get one ordered, though.

Bill stood and dusted his palms off on his jeans. He eyeballed the office. That's where he'd have to go at some point. Get this radiator hose added to a PO.

But she was in there.

Goddamnit, which one of you is running this show? You scared of her now?

Maybe. A little. Scared of what he might become around her. Of how this whole thing was going to end.

Today was Monday, though. A new week. A new hour.

And Bill was greedy. He knew what he wanted this time.

* * *

Christina exhaled through puffed cheeks, consulting the clock on the computer for the hundredth time in the last hour. Today was dragging ass.

Hardly any customers on a Monday, and cutting the week's POs had taken almost no time at all. She'd scraped away at all the mundane busywork she could find, but the last half hour of her shift was stretching away like a funhouse hallway, just out of reach forever.

Jonah wasn't even pretending to work. He leaned on the end of the counter, scrolling with a thumb through something on his phone. She swiveled on the tall stool and refreshed the Haul Ash email inbox. Again. Still nothing new.

And Bill could not have made the day more awkward. He'd spent most of it in the shop, but whenever he managed to pass through the office, Christina stopped being able to function as a human being.

He came in the door, she'd drop a roll of receipt tape. He needed something behind the counter, she'd start making typos. He asked her a question, she'd scramble syllables in her answer like she was trying to have a stroke.

It might have been less flustering without all the staring. She'd catch him, every time he'd come in, at least once. Glance up and Bill's eyes were on her, their focus intense. He'd look away as soon Christina noticed, but it was enough to keep her unbalanced for most of the day.

She minimized all the windows on the monitor. Maximized them all again. Restless. Fucking around.

Why'd he have to make it like this? All weird. Avoiding her all day only to stir chaos with his every appearance. Why couldn't he just ... do things that made sense? Just haul her by the arm into the back bathroom and—

And what? Bend you over again? Fuck you? You want it, don't you Christina.

She frowned, shifting on the seat. At least if things went back to how they were in the beginning, she would know where she stood. Christina the Fucktoy was a lot easier to get her head around than Christina panting while Asshole Bill's fingers brought her almost, almost ...

Fuck, I want him to touch me.

She might as well have pulled out a Ouija board and summoned the fucker with that thought, because here he came, too.

"Jonah, you ain't got nothing to do, I'll find something for you." The front door settled shut behind their boss to the dull clunk of bells.

Jonah pocketed his phone and stood up away from the counter. No one wanted the kinds of jobs the owner of the Haul Ash 'found' for bored employees. "I'll deal with the trash," Jonah said, leaning down to grab the bin. Smart move on his part.

"Christina?"

She looked over at her boss, wary. "Yeah?"

"Your front tire's low." He came around the counter to hang up two sets of keys, his proximity waking up the pace of her heartbeat.

"Which one?" Christina said to the monitor. She didn't want to turn around on the stool, as if facing him was going to spring some trap.

Whatsa matter, Dodd? You don't wanna get caught?

"Driver's side," he said. "When you clock out, go ahead and pull it up in front of the shop and we'll get it filled."

He was headed out through the door to the back half before she could say 'OK'.

'Get it filled.' Forget springing a trap. He'd poked a hornet's nest, and her mind flew in every direction.

Since when did Bill care about anyone's tire pressure? Since never, that's when. Christina knew what this was, and she knew in twenty more minutes she'd be out there fighting for her sanity against whatever torture her boss had planned for her next.

If it bothers you so much, why don't you just ... get out? Tell him you're done. Leave.

But ... 'bother' probably wasn't the right word. Terrify? Hypnotize? This asshole was calling her out like the fucking Pied Piper and there wasn't even a question. Christina was going to go.

'Seduce.' That was the word. Whoever thought that word would happen in the same hemisphere as Bill 'Next Time Wear A Skirt' Marshall?

Another glance at the clock. Ten minutes. She'd been spazzing out about it for that long. Jonah was already bringing in the other small, tied-off trash bag from the back half. He hefted both bags now and pushed his way outside, heading around to the side of the office to toss them in the larger dumpster.

Christina hopped off the stool and started tidying the counter area. Dropped a couple stray pens back in their cup. Straightened piles of papers, moved a business card and brochure holder back into place. Anything to distract.

Her shift ended an hour before closing tonight. Jonah's didn't—he closed. That meant she'd be out in the shop trying not to have a nervous breakdown while her co-worker was still here. She could only pray Bill's stern mandate that someone always be watching the counter was enough to keep Jonah chained to the office. That whole 'fear of being caught' thing did nothing for Christina. Other people could go be exhibitionists. Not her.

The time clock didn't give a single fuck about Christina's mental health. When she looked again, it was time.

Fuck.

Jonah made his return through the door to the back half. "Lucky you, time to go home," he said. That hint of routine bitterness on his voice told about his excitement for the last hour of his shift.

Christina swallowed. What was she going to do? Procrastinate? For what reason would she not boogie right out of here when her shift ended? Especially on a sleepy day like this. It would look weird to do anything but pick up her purse and clock out.

So she did.

"See you, Jonah."

"Later," he said to her back as she pushed through the front door.

The amber light of near sunset warmed her arms, even as her lower back went cold, and Christina stepped out onto the concrete like she was walking a plank.

Here goes.

She headed around to the Bronco, squinting. Hmm. The front tire on her side was low. If the guy was making up excuses, at least he found one that was legit.

Purse shoved onto the passenger seat, Christina fumbled her keys trying to get the right one into the ignition. The truck behaved itself and backed up like she wanted, and rolled over the gravel and onto the concrete pad in front of the one open bay. When she opened the door to get out, she could already hear the tinny pneumatic purr from the compressor.

Bill stood in the roll-up doorway, twisting a nozzle onto the hose. Instinct made her want to walk over to him—it seemed rude to just stand by the truck—but he'd be coming over in a few seconds to deal with the tire, so she just hovered near the driver's side headlight, fussing with a hangnail.

The compressor hose made a dry shush over the cement as he dragged it toward the Bronco. "Thanks," she said, as her boss took a knee.

He had the valve stem cap off and the square plastic core popped out of the pressure gauge. "Yeah, that's low," he said.

Thank you, Captain Obvious.

The tire grew upright out of its bulge while Christina watched, Bill saying nothing, and the nozzle making its pffffft of air once he wrangled it loose. Tiny black cap screwed back on, he stood. The compressor rattled back into silence.

"Thanks."

Really? Is that your only word of English? Jesus Christ, are you awkward.

Her boss was already coiling the hose back up, hanging it neatly on its rack, because there was no way Bill Marshall was going to tolerate it just flung in a pile on the shop floor. And god help Travis or Jonah if they left it that way.

Christina made a tentative step sideways and glanced around the lot while Bill hauled on the chain loop and brought the roll-up door clattering down along its track. When it met the ground, she bit her lip and turned to eye the Bronco.

Maybe he really did just want to get her tire filled, and that was it. She was losing her fucking mind reading into things anymore.

He's in the shop, he probably has shit to do. Not every comment is some hidden invit—

"Christina." Bill stepped around the side of the shop.

Something thudded in her chest and then leapt to top BPMs. And that, my friends, is the sound of the bass dropping.

"Yeah." Like it was any old thing, coming next.

He jerked his head back the way he'd come. "Come on."

* * *

She knew. There was no way she didn't know.

And she came anyway, following him around the shop to the side door, ducking into the dim space for Bill to shut them in and slide the bolt home.

Christina stood there, feet right next to each other, arms hugging her middle in that way of a person trying to make themselves small. Ruddy sunset light filtered through the windows just under the ceiling on the opposite wall, setting the tip of her nose, her cheekbones, and a halo of stray lines of blonde hair aglow.

Bill wanted to tear into her like a birthday present.

Calm down. Or you're gonna fuck this up.

In place of acting like an animal, he stepped up beside her and touched fingertips to her lower back. She started and her head snapped to one side to show him a wary eye, but he kept his touch sliding around to her elbow, nudging as he moved past her into the shop.

"Come here." He didn't need to put any volume into his voice. The air in the space sat still and heavy, warm from the late afternoon, and silent other than the whisper of passing cars from outside.

Bill made it to the shop bench and looked back to see her rooted in place, blinking at him. He could never tell from one day to the next whether she was terrified of him or aroused. Or disgusted?

Let's hope not.

He angled his head in a less curt gesture than before; a suggestion for her to join him, not a barked order. It warred with everything in his nature that had no time for the handling of people with kid gloves.

Christina looked at her shoes for a moment and he saw her chest rise and fall with a breath. Then she let go her arms and moved the few steps to stand in front of him. Close enough for a handshake.

Be patient. You're the one with the plan. At least until it all goes to hell.

"Come sit on the bench."

Her mouth came into a line, but she made to do like he asked, shoving a shop stool a few inches out of the way to make room. Until her palms landed on the surface.

"There's all kinds of crap all over it."

Yeah, because it's a fucking workbench.

But he kept his mouth shut and grabbed a rag. She didn't want to get her dress dirty, that was fair. Bill swiped at the space he'd cleared, brushing away most of the dust and filthy little bits of god-knew-what.

She ran her hand over the area in his wake and made another little face, but sidled in between him and the bench. The heels of her palms went back to the edge and she hoisted herself up to perch there, ankles crossed.

Followed him into the shop, sat up here like he wanted: it was going smoother than Bill had hoped.

Don't forget the money, though. Still a good reason for her not to argue.

But maybe today he would find out.

Giving her no time to balk or shift elsewhere, Bill melted into Christina's space. His hand insinuated her knees apart and his hips slipped between her thighs. Her feet came unlinked and the fabric of her dress stretched across his belt.

All that tight composure fled as he invaded her little bubble. She had a hand on the work surface behind her, putting her weight on it to lean back even an inch from whatever he had in mind.

There was a button fastening her sweater, and Bill already fumbled it in his fingers. When it came apart, he was sluicing the flimsy thing off her shoulders before it dawned on him there were sleeves, and they were going to make things difficult.

"Take this off."

She did, and it should have been hot. Stripping out of her clothes, however, came second to the depth of blue eyes locked on his as she did it.

Her jaw had gone slack and there was some little thing all this meant, though Bill couldn't quite get it around into the light where he could see. Like the name of something he couldn't extract from memory, aside from the uncanny feeling it would be so obvious once he did, he'd want to slap himself.

As soon as she pushed the pile of knit material away behind her, Bill's hands were gliding along her forearms. Her shoulders. Smooth like the rest of her, and he was going to have to hit the brakes before he crashed.

The top of the dress had narrow straps, and they lay alongside two more that belonged to her bra. It wasn't a fancy outfit. He could see her wearing it to a barbeque. But that red against her pale skin ... so much skin.

His thumbs flanked the column of her throat while he all but licked her collarbones with his gaze. He wanted everything.

His fingers moved under the straps and he shifted closer, breathing her in, shampoo and woman and home.

"You tryna fuckin' kill me with this dress, Christina?"

Her brows came together like it was a trick question. "N-no?"

Bill almost chuckled. "Coulda fooled me." And slid the mess of straps down her shoulders. Whether it was a good idea to expose a weakness like that out loud remained to be seen. He braced his hands wide apart on the edge of the bench and met her eyes again. Only inches remained between them.

"You're allowed to say 'no'." His words were quiet, but distinct. This was important, but he couldn't stop staring at her mouth. And oh, that little scrunch of her features in confusion was going to end him. "I'm paying for your time. I didn't buy you. Don't have to do every damn thing I ask for. If you don't want."

He'd made a statement out of it, but it hung in the air like a question.

Plenty cheerful and social in the office, Christina couldn't manage words around him out here. He watched her throat move as she swallowed. Decisions were happening behind those eyes and there was no way for him to understand all the factors.

Something brushed his right thumb. A glance flicked down showed him her smallest finger extended into the contact. Her lips had parted. A thigh shifted at his hip.

William James Marshall about came unglued.

But he didn't. He seized a hold of the disaster inside him and brought his knuckles up to brush, feather light, down the bare slope of her chest. When they reached the unsupported top of her dress, her bra, she made a little noise. In her throat. Not even enough to count as a whimper, but Bill was rock hard and ready to stop being a gentleman.

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