tagBDSMTorn Asunder Ch. 01: Fear

Torn Asunder Ch. 01: Fear

byAkiliDaniels©

A/N: This is my first submission, so I hope you all like it. Comments/criticism happily accepted!

Just a warning that this story is going to be a slow burn, but hopefully a good one!


*****

Chapter One: Fear

When I first saw him, I was afraid.

I was taking a late lunch at work, sitting alone in the tiny lunchroom when he came in: the new guy. Except, nothing about him said 'new guy.' He moved about the space with confidence and there was a fluidity in his actions that told me that he owned whatever space he walked into. As he turned away from the fridge towards the table for two that I was currently occupying, I dropped my gaze, afraid he might find me staring, and I poked my fork at my rapidly cooling lunch of Chinese food leftovers.

"Good afternoon," I heard his voice say, breaking the silence, "Late lunch?"

I cringed inwardly, I was really hoping he wasn't yet another chatty coworker. I already had to wear headphones almost constantly at my desk to avoid the inane workplace gossip that circulated around me. Most of the time they weren't even plugged into anything, they just kept the noise out. Still, he seemed polite, so I looked up at smiled at him.

"Yep," I said, trying to maintain the perfect balance of 'peppy' and 'leave me in peace,' "Had meetings all morning, and they ran late."

"That must have been fun," he said as he pulled out the other chair, and I could hear a hint of dry sarcasm. I smirked and rolled my eyes, easily joking back as he sat down "Oh yeah, the best." I took another bite of my lunch, not terribly hungry anymore, but unsure of how to extricate myself. He didn't seem too bad, but my instincts were screaming at me to leave, to run away, to hide. I couldn't even really focus my attention on him and had no real clue what he looked like. It felt like he was a shadow in my vision: when I looked away, I couldn't recall what I had been looking at.

To my relief, he seemed to understand my unspoken request to be left alone and he pulled out his phone, scrolling through it as he ate his lunch. I took the opportunity to quietly sneak glances at him, trying to form a better opinion without the pressure of interacting.

I realized that my first impression of him being a shadow was actually pretty accurate. He was dark: dark hair, dark clothes, and I couldn't see his eyes at the moment, but they were probably dark too. He was lean, but muscular, and it looked like he needed a haircut, his black hair growing a little wild. Maybe he was growing it out, long hair would suit him, I mused, dropping my gaze again as I tried to avoid outright staring. I picked at my food a bit more, wondering whether to call it quits on lunch and head back to work early.

I looked up again and was suddenly looking into a pair of piercing hazel eyes. He held my gaze for a beat or two and my breath caught in my throat. I blinked twice and the intensity receded as he slowly resumed looking at his phone, a small smirk twitching at the corner of his lips. I could feel the heat rise in my cheeks as I began to methodically gather up my belongings, trying not to simply bolt from his presence. Lunch was over.

It wasn't until I was walking out of the room, lunch bag safely stored back in the fridge, that I remembered how to breathe easily again. And it wasn't until I reached my desk that my brain resumed processing and I realized that his eyes weren't as dark as the rest of him.

I shook my head as I took my seat, pulling out my headphones and preparing to bury myself in my work again. That guy was dangerous, however nice or polite he seemed, and I would be doing myself a favour if I just stayed away from him as best I could.

***

A tap on my shoulder brought me out of my reverie. I had been staring at my computer screen, immersed in work, for what was probably a couple of hours, judging by the crick in my neck. I pulled my headphones out of my ears as I stretched back away from the monitor, just in time to hear my boss say "And this is Quinn Anderson, one of our best editors. If you ever get her on your project, consider yourself lucky."

I turned my chair around as I chuckled, "Thanks Dev, I..." and nearly froze as I saw my boss was talking to the New Guy. My heart beat against my chest and I swallowed hard, fighting off the blush I could feel beginning to crawl up my neck and over my cheeks. I managed to keep some composure as I finished the rest of my sentence trying to focus on my boss instead, "...I appreciate the compliment, but I know you're just saying that to butter me up. What do you need?"

Devlin Marsh, her boss at the publishing company, waved his hand, "We can talk about that later. For now I just wanted to introduce you to our new agent, Alexander Bailey..." He trailed off and looked at the New Guy, "I can't believe I haven't asked you this yet, but do you prefer Alex or Alexander?"

The New Guy, I couldn't stop thinking of him like that, smiled easily, "Either is fine, but I prefer Alexander for any professional publications."

Dev nodded to himself before continuing, "Anyway, you were out earlier, so I didn't get a chance to introduce you two."

I swallowed my fear and stood up, extending my hand, "Nice to meet you," I said with a smile as close to genuine as I could make it.

He smiled back, gripping my hand with his "I meant to introduce myself earlier in the lunchroom, but you left so quickly."

I was sure I wasn't imagining the chuckle in his voice. It made me certain that whatever had transpired between us in the lunchroom hadn't been my imagination, and it had been entirely deliberate on his part. Well, two could play that game.

"Lots of work to do," I said, with more gusto than I felt, "In fact, I should probably..." I trailed off as I let go of Alexander's hand, curious as to the look on my boss's face, "Dev? What's up?"

He winced visibly, "Oh, well, that thing I wanted to talk to you about..." He seemed nervous, and when Dev was nervous, it never boded well for anyone.

I waited patiently, my focus on Devlin, though my awareness of Alexander was a sharp thorn at the edge of my vision. The trick with Dev was never to force him to say something quickly, he'd just get flustered. He was a good boss, but he was terrible at giving bad news.

"Harrington's pushed the deadline," he finally got out.

My stomach dropped, "Forward or backward?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

"Forward. They need it next week."

I groaned, smacking my forehead with the palm of my hand, "Goddammit Dev. I said I needed a month, and that was before you dropped another project in my lap. I'll have to stay late all week just to get it presentable."

"I know. I'm sorry. Tell you what, order dinner in every night you stay late. It's on the company. Whatever you'd like."

I glared at him from behind my hand, "Fine. But I'm taking the time as banked vacation as well."

Dev nodded, "Done. Just let me know how much, and try not to surprise me with short notice of when you're taking it."

I nodded, running my hand back through my hair and sighed, "Well, then I guess I really should get back to work. Nice to meet you Alex. I look forward to working together." I knew my voice sounded distant, uninterested, but while I was worried about the work I was going to have to do, I was still acutely aware of his presence, and that was unnerving in and of itself. I forced myself to turn back to my desk, signalling that the conversation was over, and I put my headphones back in as I heard them leave, grabbing my phone to send off a quick text before I immersed myself once again in my work.

***

My growling stomach is what tore me away from the computer the second time. I checked the clock as I stretched the kinks out of my back and took my headphones out of my ears: 7:03. Far past quitting time, and past dinner time as well as far as I was concerned. It was time to figure out what kind of dinner I wanted the company to pay for. I opened a few delivery restaurants nearby and squinted at the page, my vision refusing to focus back on the screen after I had just released it from that torture. I shook my head a few times to clear it and looked around, allowing my eyes a chance to rest.

The lights were almost entirely off, only the bank above me were still on, their slight fluorescent buzz louder now that the commotion of a normal work day was done. Over the buzz, however, I could hear a voice from somewhere down the hall. Curious as to who else was staying late, I stood up to investigate. Instantly I felt the effects of several hours worth of sitting and intense focus as my legs protested. I stretched a bit and attempted some squats to loosen myself up but winced and stood quickly as I realized my jeans were being stretched to their limit. Had I put on that much weight lately? I felt like I had just bought these jeans and yet the band was starting to bite into my stomach.

At the thought of my stomach, it growled again, asserting its dominance and I muttered "Yeah, yeah," to myself as I began to slowly walk the halls, searching for the lone voice.

"Great, I'm glad to hear it" the voice said. It was a male voice, but he was speaking quietly and it was hard to determine who it was, or even where the voice was coming from.

There was a pause in the conversation, long enough that I was sure someone had hung up. I saw a light on in an office at the end of the hall I was in, so I strode towards it before I realized that it was Martin's old office which meant...Alexander. Unfortunately I had that moment of realization as I was stepping into the circle of light that poured from his office into the darkened hallway. I froze, hoping against hope that he was facing the wall or his computer. But no. He saw me and smiled, holding up a finger to indicate that I should wait. I didn't want to, but it felt rude to leave.

"Okay, I'll see you tomorrow then," Alex said, "Good night." He hung up the phone and looked up at me.

"Working late on your first day?" I asked, eager to get the first word in and hide my anxiety, "Ambitious are you?"

A slow smile crossed his face, and damn if it wasn't one of the sexiest things I've ever seen. I was suddenly very aware of my body and how suddenly hot it was.

"Yes," he said simply, still watching me as I felt my cheeks flush.

I cleared my throat and leaned against the doorframe to feign nonchalance, "Are you sticking around for a bit, or heading home? I'm about to order dinner, and it's on the company." I felt like I was playing a not-so-innocent game of chicken with him, and I was positive that I would be the one to blink first. Why was I doing this?

"Well," Alexander said, drawing the word out as he rocked back in his chair, "If the company's paying...How do you feel about sushi?"

I grinned, glad to find something (else) to be excited about. "Fucking love it" I said, turning to leave, "I'll find us a delivery place?"

I caught Alexander's shake of his head as he moved back over to his computer and began to type, "No need, I'm fairly particular and this one place is amazing."

He waved me over and I approached his side of the desk cautiously. There was a menu up on his computer, and I looked at it, but the type was just small and fancy enough that I could hardly read it from my position standing behind his chair. I swallowed hard, hoping he didn't notice, and stepped around the side of his chair and leaned down, my shoulder-length brown hair falling over my shoulders and brushing against his. That's how close I was. I breathed deep, I didn't mean to, but I couldn't help myself and he just smelled. So. Good. He smelled cleanly of soap, with a hint of some spice that I couldn't place. Was that his natural scent, or the soap he used, or was he wearing cologne? I wanted to know. I needed to know.

The menu on the page was blurry as my focus sharpened on him, and I must've been noticeably distracted because the next thing I heard was his voice in my ear, soft and amused, "It all looks good, doesn't it?" His breath caressed my cheek and I could barely suppress the shudder that ran through me. I made some sort of affirmative sound, cleared my throat, and worked hard to focus on the menu again.

A ninety-dollar order of sushi later, I barely remember what I chose, but when it showed up it looked delicious so I didn't particularly care. I did feel like we, okay I, had ordered too much food, but I rationalized it as possible leftovers so I didn't mind too much. Plus, it was easier to overspend when it was on Dev. I was sure he'd pass at least some of the cost onto the client as some sort of 'rush job' fee, but even if he didn't, I felt justified. I also wouldn't eat this way every night I worked late, so I may as well enjoy it.

Remembering that I had sent a text earlier about working late, I checked my phone, no response, but that was typical. "Do you even care?" I muttered to myself as I shoved the phone back into my jeans pocket.

"What was that?" Alex said, his voice was like the first sip of a good whiskey, smooth, but with a bite behind it.

I shook my head, "Nothing, just talking to myself." I picked up chopsticks and gestured at the accumulation of food that we had spread out over Alex's mostly empty desk, "Do you want a taste? If there's anything of mine you'd like, I mean..." I trailed off as my brain spotted the accidental innuendo in my words and I fought off yet another blush before picking up a piece of sushi and shoving it in my traitorous mouth. I really should think more before I speak.

That smirk of his twitched over his lips and the corners of his eyes crinkled, but I do give him credit for not outright laughing at me, "I'd like that," he said with a single nod as he reached over and grabbed a piece of my sushi roll, wielding the chopsticks like he had been born to them.

We ate in a companionable silence for awhile, and I was glad for the chance to keep myself out of trouble.

I stared off into space, enjoying the salty tang of the soy sauce on rice, but after a moment, I glanced back over at him. He seemed engrossed in something on his computer screen as he slowly picked his way through a sushi roll. I smiled a little, less afraid when he seemed so serious and his attention was elsewhere, but I let my gaze slide away and continued looking around the room.

It was sparse in here, just the desk and computer. There weren't any identifying photographs or other pictures up on the wall, which didn't strike me as odd since it was his first day, but the blank slate bothered me. I wanted to know more about him, but I was too timid to ask outright.

"So how long have you worked here?" Alex said, startling me out of my reverie. He had abandoned whatever he had been looking at on the computer and was now giving me his full, intense attention. My heart skipped a beat and I broke out in a slight sweat.

"O..oh. Um, about three years, give or take" I managed to say, tripping over my words in my hurry to answer, "But I've worked as an editor for more than six."

Alex nodded and looked impressed. Or did he? Was I just hoping he looked impressed?

"And...you?" I asked hesitantly, "Have you been an agent long?"

"About a day," he said with a wink, "But people have always said I've had a knack for this sort of work and I wanted to break out of my old line of business. Dev was kind enough to give me a chance."

I tilted my head at him, "What were you doing before?"

He shrugged, "This and that, whatever I could get really."

I raised an eyebrow, "That's no way to make a living."

Alex snorted and smirked at me, his eyes glittering with humour, "No, no it wasn't. But I'm here now, and I'm not about to let this opportunity get the best of me. Martin left his clients when he retired, and Dev hadn't divvied them up yet, so I'm going to start there and build my own client list." He shrugged, "Hopefully everything will work out, but if not, I'll at least know I tried."

I was a little stunned by his honesty, enough that I simply nodded and began eating again, letting the peace and quiet settle over us once more.

My eyes kept wandering back to him though, my interest growing, and I wondered what sort of man he would turn out to be.

***

I fumbled with my bags and my keys at my apartment door. It was late. Too late. After Alex and I had finished dinner, he'd gone home, but I had several hours of work left to do. Finally I could barely see straight anymore and I grabbed a bus home, practically stumbling over my own feet. I finally got the key in the lock and pushed my way inside, dropping my work bag, my lunch bag, and my gym bag (something I never seemed to have time, but had high hopes for) on the floor in the front hallway. The lights were on, which meant nothing since Mark was notorious for both staying up late playing video games, and for forgetting to turn off the lights if he ever did go to bed. It was a wonder our electricity bill wasn't higher.

I took a deep breath and walked into the living room, completely unsurprised to see Mark, clad only in his boxers and socks, playing a video game with his headphones on.

I waved a little to get his attention, "Hey, I'm home."

He glanced up at my briefly before going back to his game, "Oh," he said, a little too loudly, "Hey babe. Sorry, I'm in the middle of a raid."

I sighed and went to the kitchen to grab a drink. I was sorely tempted to just head to bed, but then he'd get all pouty about me ignoring him. Never mind the fact that I had sent him a text hours ago saying that I'd be late and I didn't even get a 'k' in response. Better to just wait until he had a moment to pause the game, I could say goodnight and leave him to play.

A few minutes later (six, but who was counting?), Mark popped his head into the kitchen and moved towards me, sliding along the tiled floor rather than walking like a normal person, "Hey," he said, wrapping his arms around me and giving me a hug. It felt nice, so I leaned into him, resting my head against his bare chest. Then I lifted my head away. He smelled...sour, not like he usually did. He probably just needed a shower.

"How was your day?" I asked, smiling up at him and trying to ignore the memory of how Alexander smelled.

Mark backed off so he could look at me, "Oh, nothing special. The shop was slow, so they sent me home early. Basically just been playing games since."

I nodded, trying not to stare accusingly at the piles of dirty dishes in the sink and on the counter. He didn't do one fucking chore on his day off, did he?

"Look," I said with a bit of a sigh, "It's late and I've got more late nights this week, so I think I'm just going to head to bed."

"Okay," Mark said with a grin, "I'm going to stay up a bit longer and play some more, it's my day off tomorrow anyway, so I can sleep in a bit."

I very nearly bit my tongue before I said the first words that came to mind - that I didn't want him anywhere near our bed tonight. Maybe he'd just pass out on the couch instead. It wouldn't be the first time.

I hugged him again, and he kissed the top of my head, before he ambled off to the bathroom and I navigated the mess in the living room to our bedroom door.

As I closed the door behind me, I sighed into the darkness. I loved Mark, I really did, but at times like this, my patience was wearing thin. He was a good guy, but maybe we needed to have a talk about things like pitching in around the house. Especially on days when he got home early from work. Retail wasn't easy, but my long days weren't either, and I couldn't be the one doing everything at home anymore.

I began taking off my clothes, dropping my jeans, socks, and t-shirt into the laundry hamper. I sighed with relief as I removed my bra - those things helped in some ways, and others did magical things, but it was always nice to be free of it at the end of the day. My breasts sagged slightly and I scratched the line the underwire had worn into my skin as I walked towards my bed, dropping heavily onto it. As I lay down and pulled the covers over me, all I could think about was the blissful release of sleep. My brain, however, had other ideas.

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