tagLesbian SexCould You Be Mine?

Could You Be Mine?

bycareythomas©

A small digression from my other story threads, but this one landed in my head and wouldn't leave. I'm working on my other drafts, I promise! Here be the same flag that I raise for my other stories: build up is long with a focus on the plot and the romance itself. Not for those looking for a story about a quick roll in the hay. Comments/feedback always welcomed!

Heartfelt thanks to Ripley for thoughtful guidance and to AwkwardMD for helping make sure some of my more esoteric plot points were anchored in reality! Any and all mistakes are mine.


Chapter 1: Spark

It was a Monday morning. Davina, the office manager, was clucking around more than usual. Apparently, the IT department forgot to set things up for the new Finance Director and she had to scramble to make it right in less than forty-five minutes.

I was in my second week of a consulting gig with the firm Winchester and Brown, which was in the midst of building out its Finance and Strategy department. They've gone through some growing pains and the new Finance Director was the first of the new guard. "Win-B," as it's known on the Street, was a boutique investment bank with a selective roster of blue chip clientele. It recently expanded operations to the UK and was already gaining market share. They brought me in to review and update their revenue sharing model. I'd spent the last week doing research and interviews and was just getting started on framing a new proposal for them.

Davina was on the phone when I got back from the pantry with my first cup of coffee of the day.

She was glaring at no one in particular, "Tell I.T. to set up the profile on whatever hardware they have, we'll swap them out for newer models later. And where the hell is the nameplate?"

Davina slammed the phone down, "It's 8:13 and I am already having a hell of a Monday. How's your Monday so far?"

"I've got a presentation to reformat," I ducked as she threw a pad of post-its at me.

"You may say you are all mid-western nice, Lauren, but you've got a New York edge to you, you know that?"

I feigned offense, "Why Davina, I was just answering your question honestly!"

Davina shooed me away with her hands, "Go away. 'Reformatting a presentation' pfffttt! Some of us have real work to do... Ah!" She broke into a huge smile as a messenger dropped off an envelope.

"Here, make yourself useful and slide this onto the wall before the newbie walks into a nameless corner office," Davina handed me the envelope.

"Yes, ma'am," I took it from her and headed back to my cubicle. I placed my coffee on my desk and ripped open the envelope. Inside was a slim, rectangular nameplate. It was brushed nickel with black lettering: ROWAN J. KAN. I didn't know much about the "newbie," as Davina said so dismissively, only that he came from some big deal VC firm and was a hard-ass. I had no idea how accurate the information was; my source was Oliver Donovan the Finance VP, and he was at best threatened by Rowan's arrival, and at worst shitting his pants that someone would shove his Ivy League MBA where the sun don't shine.

I walked over to Rowan's empty office, slid the nameplate into its bracket and went back to my cube. Annoyingly, Oliver was there, leaning against my desk, chewing on his pen.

"Is he here yet?"

I shook my head, "Nope."

I sat down and unlocked my screen. The clacking of the pen between Oliver's teeth continued.

"What?" I looked at him impatiently.

"Nuthin'. Just wondering if I should get on his calendar for today, you know, to introduce myself, show him the model I built for this year's budget..."

"Jesus, Oliver, shut up about your model already."

Oliver took the pen out of his mouth and pointed it at me, "I built some awesome macros for that thing."

"You're not the only one who can build macros you know? And you're in Finance and Strategy, isn't it sort of a pre-requisite?"

"No one else has an MBA. Everyone else joined as an analyst. My spreadsheet skills are pretty solid compared to the rest of them."

Bet you can't outdo me, I thought to myself. Instead, I sighed, "Oliver, no-one cares. Really. If you wanted to be the Director of Finance, you should have spoken up... and knowing how to build macros in a finance model isn't going to get you there."

Oliver's mouth hung open.

I felt a little bad, "You're three years out of your MBA; even if you were a total whiz at all of this, they wouldn't have tapped you for the job. But you've got good instincts, so don't do stupid stuff and you'll get there."

His features softened a little, "Really? You think so?"

"I've consulted for dozens of Finance teams; I know so," I nodded, "I also know I need to have this presentation ready by eleven, so stop hovering."

Oliver muttered a quiet 'thanks' to me, and shuffled off back to his cube. I turned back to my screen and tried to turn my brain on. The presentation was a beast. It wasn't an easy message to deliver: Win-B's revenue allocation methods were basically a web of ad hoc policies which worked fine when the firm was smaller with lower revenues. I was essentially going to tell them they needed to smash it into a million pieces and put it all together again. But better.

As I said, it was a beast. Big investment banks, and boutique ones like Win-B, have all had to tackle this particular slice of performance reporting, with mixed results. The banking business is built on relationships, and every banker wants to claim credit for red-hot deals and get a share of the fees. Building a model that mitigates bad behavior and drives business forward was a thankless task. I had the advantage of being an outsider, so I was uniquely positioned to attempt marrying the client relationship structure and the profit sharing structure without walking into the buzzsaw that was the politics of ego and profit-maximization.

It was 10:57am when I hit 'print' and I ran into the printer room to grab the copies.

"FUCK!" The printer didn't collate the pages. "Goddamit," I muttered, taking the stack of papers with me. Manually collating the deck as I walked was next to impossible, and I backed into the conference room with my arms full of paper.

"Speak of the devil," Mona Winchester, the co-founder of the firm, said as I turned around.

Mona raised an eyebrow, "Did the printer throw up on you?"

I arched an eyebrow of my own, "Someone took off the default collate function... and walking and collating is not a skill I thought I had to develop."

Mona chuckled, "It better not be - we'd be paying you all wrong otherwise!"

I smiled gamely at her and started putting the decks back in order. I was just about done when the door to the conference room opened again, and a voice behind me said, "Sorry I'm late - the techies needed some extra time getting me set up."

I looked up and I swear to god, some voice in my head said, oh, there she is. As in, forget everything and everyone that came before, this is the one.

She was tall, for one. Eurasian, but I couldn't begin to guess exact provenance. Shortish dark hair, brown... no - hazel eyes, boyishly handsome but distinctly female. It was hard to describe her any better than that, because my brain stopped functioning. I forced myself to shuffle around what remained of the uncollated presentation. My pulse pounded in my temple, and I wondered who the woman was and what just happened to my heart. Helpfully, Mona said, "Everyone, this is Rowan, uh, RJ Kan, our new Finance Director."

I think my jaw dislocated itself and landed on the floor. And not for nothing, but this proved once and for all that I should never listen to Oliver Donovan because he had no idea what he was talking about. Rowan Kan wasn't some slick high-finance banker bro with a swagger and attitude. Rowan Kan was a hot high-finance banker dyke with a swagger and attitude. And yes, I was assuming she was gay based on appearances, but I was pretty sure I was right and did I mention my brain was melting?

Rowan went around the table, shaking people's hands. I wondered if feeling would return to my limbs before she shook my hand. I knew I was blushing. I could feel my neck blooming with heat.

"RJ," she said, hand outstretched.

"LE," I responded. I didn't know why I did that. Reflex or something. I took her hand. Her grip was firm and business-like. But I reacted like she had caressed my palm. Seriously. It felt soft, sensual, and strong, and I fought the urge to hug her. This was very clearly all in my head, because RJ looked like she was ready to move on to meet the other folks in the room; I wasn't even a blip on her radar. Conversely, my brain or whatever it was between my ears was projecting this weird glow around her entire being. It was like time jumped for a second before falling back into its groove.

"Ellie, nice to meet you."

"Oh," I blushed even more, "No - you gave your initials, so I gave mine. 'L.E.' is for Lauren Elizabeth." Why did I try to be funny? I'm not funny.

"Ah!" She flashed me a smile, "Nice one!"

Maybe I should keep trying to be funny if it gets her to smile at me again.

"Lauren is the consultant I told you about," Mona chipped in, "She's worked with us before on some projects and hasn't let us down yet! Sorry Lauren, I forgot to tell you RJ would be joining today."

"The more the merrier," was the best I could come up with.

The rest of the presentation was a blur. I talked through it somehow, and it must have made sense, because people were nodding and adding comments of their own.

RJ said very little, but I knew she was listening. When I wasn't talking, I just stared at her. There was one particular moment when my eyes wandered over to her left earlobe, and I found myself wondering what it would feel like between my teeth. So I suppose it wasn't all a blur: I remember very clearly my new Finance Director's delicious looking left ear.

As I went through the rest of the day, I managed, somehow, to not completely lose my shit over the fact I now knew of RJ's existence. I couldn't begin to fathom how one person could flip me inside out with the mere action of showing up in a room. I wanted to know everything about her. Even more surprisingly, I wanted to tell her everything about me. I felt like one of those cartoon drawings with my eyes bouncing on springs, steam coming out my ears, and a swarm of blue cheeping birds flying in circles around my head.

I was discombobulated for a number of other reasons, the first of which (in no particular order) was - 'was' being the operative word - me being straight. Clearly that now needed adjustment. Second, there's Keith, this guy I'd met recently, who all of a sudden seemed incredibly sweet and nice, but I definitely did not lose my mind over him (nor have I over anyone else) like I did in the conference room when RJ walked in. Needless to say, I no longer had any interest in pursuing anything with him. Third, and most importantly, I knew nothing about RJ. Zip. My reaction was so out of left field it was like someone purposely stunned me with an infatuation ray at full force. But it wasn't an infatuation... I knew that without a doubt. I wanted her deeply. As in, wanted her in every way: I wouldn't be able to stop myself if I tried. Is this how people realize they're gay? Am I gay? Maybe I'm just RJ-gay... is there such a thing? I thought about my past relationships, none of which felt lacking in any way, but-

"So what'd you think of her?"

I screamed in surprise and looked up. Oliver.

"Jesus H Christ on a stick Oliver, you scared the shit out of me."

"Sorry," the pen was back in his mouth rolling between his molars, "So? What'd you think?"

What did I think? Where should I start? She's basically the person I didn't even know I was waiting for?!!?

I shrugged as carelessly as I could, "Didn't spend that much time with her except in a meeting this morning - have you had your meeting yet?"

"Tomorrow," Oliver mumbled, "And... she's not a dude."

I laughed, "Ain't that the truth! You made some erroneous assumptions, Mr. Donovan."

Oliver shrugged, "I caught a glimpse when she was in for her interview with Mona... I wasn't looking all that closely... and she has zero presence on social media... not even on the professional networking sites."

"You looked at her resume and her name and assumed she was a guy."

Oliver snorted, "Bet she's a lesbo."

I made a face, "What's that got to do with anything?"

"This place is full of them."

"Oliver, if you have a problem with it, go get a job somewhere else." That stopped him cold.

"I was just kidding around," he back-pedaled, "I totally got the vibe that she's a hard-ass though, right?"

"She seems really nice," I shrugged again. Understatement of the century.

"I'm not homophobic, by the way," he tapped his foot nervously.

I raised an eyebrow.

"Seriously! My brother's gay, I don't have a problem with it."

I crossed my arms.

"Okay, fine. I went for the cheap shot."

"And...?"

He looked blankly at me for a beat before light dawned.

"...and I'm sorry I was an ass."

"Okay, apology accepted." I turned back to the computer.

I went back to my existential crisis when Oliver loped away. My only recourse, I concluded, was to talk to someone who could help me figure out what to do.

I took a breath and was about to call my best friend when I heard Oliver striding back. At least he wasn't sneaking up on me again.

I dropped the call, "This better be worth the interruption, jackass, I have things to do..." I said loudly as I threw my phone onto my desk.

"I'll try my best to make it worth your while."

Oh, no no no, that didn't just happen.

I turned towards the voice and indeed, I had just called RJ a jackass.

Once again, the sight of her arrested my breath and evacuated all air from my lungs. It was a good thing I was sitting down.

I tried to laugh off my gaffe, "I thought you were someone else. Clearly. If I'd known it was you, I would definitely not have called you a jackass."

RJ smiled, "You don't know me yet, so don't be so sure!"

"I highly doubt you're a jackass, but point taken. What can I do for you?" Very inappropriate images popped up in my head. I felt myself blushing again.

"Your presentation - can you walk me through your attribution calculations? I couldn't follow how you got to the thirty-three percent. I tried, but I couldn't get there."

"I took seven percent off the top first - I think that's the default for all fees..."

"Okay, so you start with nine million six-thirty five... got it. Cool."

I wasn't really sure how she remembered the ten point four-ish million number from the first slide of my deck or how she got to the nine million number as I was talking, so I just nodded.

"You know what this means, right?" RJ wiggled her eyebrows.

It means you're as fascinated with my mind as you're with my looks and you want to take me out on a date and to hell with everything else?

"Huh?" I shook my head, mostly to shock my brain back from fantasy land.

"You've just engineered a head-fake - it's making the profit allocation bigger by reporting on contribution, but your attribution calculation right-sizes it on the back end."

I grinned. She totally got it. "Yep. People like talking about contribution anyway. So why fight them?"

RJ nodded appreciatively, "What else are you working on for Mona?"

"This is it, and we're just getting started. We need to get the model built, test it, and then get buy-in from the client-side folks. Mona wants this to go before the Management Committee... and if they approve it, we'll integrate it into the accounting platform. But after that, I'm outta here!"

"A rolling stone gathers no moss, eh?"

I tilted my head, "I think of it more as having 'nowhere to go but everywhere.'" Oh my god, why am I being such a geek with my literary references? To my great surprise, she got the reference. She picked up on it and my heart pinged with joy.

"Okay Ms. Kerouac, why don't you wander over to my office at some point this week and we can hammer out the rest of this before we loop in the client team guys? How about blocking out either the morning or afternoon of Thursday, and you can catch me up on everything?"

My mind went straight to a vision of RJ pinning me against the wall of her office and kissing me for an entire afternoon until I went cross-eyed. "Jesus," I mutter.

"Timing doesn't work?"

"Uh, no!" I stammer, "I can make it work. I'll make it work."

"Awesome. Thanks Ellie," RJ winked.

I giggled. As in, I giggled like a seven year old.

RJ chuckled, "I'll see you later."

I nodded, "Yeah. Okay. See you later."

The moment she disappeared from view, I picked up my phone. Screw the rest of the day. I need to head home. We're at Defcon 1 ladies and gents.

I texted my best friend Ian. Flaming homosexual and my life-long confidante.

{Lauren} SOS. SOS. Drop whatever/whoever you are doing and meet me at home ASAP.

I stared at my phone, willing it to ring.

When it did, I answered before the first ring finished, "Holy shit, Ian. Holy shit."

"Is this a real emergency or did you lock yourself out of our apartment again?"

"Ian, shut up and listen."

I threw everything into my bag, ran into a conference room and shut the door.

"Okay," I took a deep breath, "I think I'm gay."

Silence.

"Ian? Are you there?"

Silence.

"Ian?"

"Sorry," I heard Ian try to suppress a laugh, "I had you on mute."

"Are you fucking around with a guy right now? This is serious!"

"No!" Ian laughed again, "I thought I heard you say you're gay."

I rolled my eyes and flopped down onto a chair, "You did. Can you please try and be serious for a second?"

"Hold up," Ian kept laughing, "You. You really think you're gay?"

"YES!" I yell.

"Laaawwww-ren?" Ian intoned, "You were straight when you went to work this morning."

"I know. This is why you need to meet me at home right now. I need a crash course on... oh, I don't know... EVERYTHING. Like, I need to know how to find out if someone is gay and if so how I would go about asking her on a date and maybe many dates and definitely lots of other things related to dating..."

"You are asking me how to ask a woman out on a date?" Ian sounded incredulous, "I have no freaking clue!"

"Isn't there a universal LGBT 'I think you're hot' bat signal or something?"

More laughter. I groaned, "Can you stop laughing for a minute and let me know if you can meet me at home?"

"Lauren, it's my day off, remember?"

"So?" I was blanking.

"So, I'm about to walk into class right now, but I'll see you at home as soon as I am done."

Oh. Right. Duh. Ian was a private chef with a regular roster of clients, and on his days off, he teaches classes at a culinary school.

"Fine," I dropped the call and walked past Mona's office, saying that I had some vague 'thing' to do. She waved me off, and I practically ran to the subway.

I paced around in the apartment like a caged animal, waiting for Ian to get home.

We've lived together for three years now, each of us pleasantly surprised by how compatible we were domestically. We kind of grew up together: we met at sleep-away camp when we were nine, and - thanks to our parents agreeing to coordinate on how they wanted to get rid of us for eight weeks each year - we got to spend every summer together since. And it was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.

He was a native New Yorker, born in Brooklyn and attended college on the upper west side. With his biological and chosen family scattered throughout the city, I was happily adopted into the mix when I moved to the city five years ago.

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