Transatlantic DelaybySam Cornell©
It felt odd, sitting in front of the screen, waiting to have a conversation with someone. But then it wasn't just a screen. A camera, too. I can see you. Big deal, I can see you too. I like the anonymity of the telephone, I can curl myself up, pull faces, read the news, hell, I can even play with myself, safe in the knowledge that no-one gets anything more than my voice. This felt a lot more dangerous.
I looked at my watch. Eight pm. Afternoon in NY. I followed the instructions on the laminated card, and the machine booted into life. Surprisingly quickly, an image appeared, much clearer than I'd expected. Not just "an image". Not just "someone".
"Samantha - how nice to see you." Her tone didn't even bother to disguise the lie. Ah, Kat, truly a bitch amongst bitches. Formally Katherine Balfour, but it was one of her games to direct people to use the cute little diminutive the moment she met them.
The screen showed me Kat's head and shoulders. That face. I don't often use the word "beautiful", but there was no doubt, it applied to Kat. She was almost too perfect. Normally I'm drawn to the features in a face that make it individual, like the turn of the nose or something interesting about the eyes, but you could look all you liked at Kat's face and struggle to find the slightest blemish. Like I said, almost too perfect, although we both knew I hadn't always thought like that.
And then, framing the face, as I'd expected, though it was years since we'd last met face to face, was the same old Kat coiffure, golden chocolate hair hanging straight to just above her shoulders. No power-cuts for Kat then. No doubt it was another part of the spiel. "I don't know why women think they have to sacrifice their femininity to get on," she'd drawl in her languid Southern way. "Looking like a lady's never done me any harm." But of course looking like a lady was exactly how she'd got on. That, cough, and the highest graded MBA in her year. Our year.
I wondered whether to use her full name, but decided to avoid such silly games now. There was too much at stake here. "Hi, Kat." Throughout the negotiations my approach had been painfully friendly. "Interesting to see you again, after we've spoken so much on the phone."
Although there was a slight time-lag as the signal crossed and re-crossed the Atlantic, almost before I'd finished speaking Kat was checking her watch. Small talk was for wimps, or people who liked each other. "Your price is too high, Samantha," the face on the screen told me. "You need to drop another fifteen before we're even close."
My reaction was to raise my eyebrows in contempt at her approach, but I'd forgotten that the little eye in the top of the machine was broadcasting my every move. "Problem?" Kat asked archly.
"Even on a historic basis," I replied, "that's an undervaluation."
Although the picture wasn't perfect, I could see Kat was affecting to look bored. "Historically, Samantha, thirty per cent of TransMaritime's fleet didn't have metal fatigue issues." She was still doing bored, although it was meant to convey triumph. Little did she know.
"That's not public knowledge," I said, my heart pounding. That got her attention.
"It...er...I know that...somewhere... Listen, it's public knowledge." Even if it had gone nowhere else, seeing the great Kat struggling for words would have been worth it.
"That information, Katherine," so now was the time to start the grind, "was only known to the engineers, who've signed confidentiality, the board, and me." Kat still looking confused. Shit, I'd expected her to get it together by now. Whatever, it was time to drop my bombshell. "Didn't you buy an option on two million TSM this morning at fifty?"
She was shuffling through her papers now, looking for answers that weren't there. She looked up, and the technology was good enough for me to see the fear in her eyes.
"Sam," - now she'd resorted to my diminutive - "I'll get back to you in five. Don't go away, please." It was the first time in the seven years we'd known each other Kat had asked me for anything. It wouldn't be the last.
The road to my triumph began two weeks before, when I'd bumped into Donovan Stephens in a Soho bar. That's the London Soho, btw. The original one.
"Samantha!" Donovan looked me up and down, lingering, as always, on my breasts. I don't know why, there's nothing much to see there, but I guess it's a habit some men have, like a preliminary glance at the menu.
"Hello, Donovan, how's things?" My face is up here, jerk.
"Cool." Although he was quite short, maybe five seven, Donovan was every inch Wall Street. Everything worked, until the package was almost too convincing. A babe, though. "Just over here a couple of days. What a shitty city."
Now I know I've been known to make the odd disparaging remark about this sceptered isle (hey, how come Word spellcheck doesn't recognize Shakespeare?), but the truth is mostly I love it here, I just like to tease is all. After all, you guys invented humor, right? Anyway, number one guaranteed to rile me up is Americans who diss the place. Ironic, huh? Actually not, I reckon the time I've served here gives me the right to comment. Not so Donovan.
"Now, now, Donovan, always be nice to the natives. Then you can sell your beads to them."
"Yeah." He took a long slug of beer. Careful, boy, it's stronger over here. "Hey, guess who I'm working for." I gave him the flat unimpressed look I always reserved for preppy types asking stupid questions. I wasn't in the mood for an hour and a half reeling off all our mutual acquaintances. Surprisingly, Donovan got the message. "Right. Kat Balfour." That was interesting. Particularly seeing as she was currently giving me the runaround on the TransMaritime deal.
"What's she like?" I asked. Donovan grimaced. No surprise there then. I'd always known all that effortless charm was saved for faces that could help.
"She gets things done," Donovan said carefully. "As for *how* she gets things done, well, I'm guessing it's okay so long as she gets away with it."
Now he really had my attention. "Donovan, let me get you another beer. You should try the Belgian ones - so much more flavor than the stuff back home."
I didn't bother counting down, but it was pretty much spot on five minutes that Kat came back to me. I was pleased to see she still looked totally discomfited. "Sam," - still thinking that was the way round me. Just how shallow did she think I was? - "you know how much paperwork there is, I haven't had the time, but I'm sure I read somewhere..."
I decided to cut in. Not often you did that to Kat. "Kat, I understand." She looked pleased, if confused. "Right now I've got issues with the video link. I need you to call me on this mobile number." I read it out, and the way she diligently marked it down proved how successfully everything was working out. "Call me discretely."
I switched off the screen without even waiting for a response. She'd call.
Sure enough, in just a few seconds, my little Nokia was calling out to me.
Again, I cut in. "No you listen. You can search all you like. I'm telling you the metal fatigue is not public knowledge. And I don't need to tell you, because you were always such a bright girl, that the video conference was recorded for the benefit of both the SEC and FSA." They wouldn't check it without a tip, of course, that was impractical, given the number of conversations going on, but then tips did happen... "And I also don't need to tell you it's my duty to report my suspicions to the FSA. Otherwise I'm guilty of an offence, too."
"Sam, I swear I didn't get the information from an inside source." Yes she did, she got it from Donovan Stephens, shortly after he got it from me. He may have been slightly inaccurate, and indicated the information *was* public, but that was his word against Kat's. And mine, I s'pose, because it was just after he put the phone down from telling her that he gave me the ass-fucking he thought was his reward, but actually turned out quite a treat for me, too. Course his other reward was revenge on his boss, but that was a pleasure we were all just beginning to enjoy.
"Whatever, Kat, in the current post Lay climate, you won't stand a chance. You understand that, don't you? Even the suspicion will be enough." She was silent. "Kat?"
"Okay. Now, despite everything that's happened in the past, I don't particularly want to see you ruined." That was a lie, it would have been bliss to destroy Kat's career. But there was an even more blissful option, is all. "But then I'm taking a risk. So...that doesn't come cheaply." Up to that point I'd been negotiating, and all I'd felt was the adrenalin and clarity of pulling off the coup of my life. But now, now I was moving into the final stages, my whole body felt hot, my throat dry. As I'd said, I was risking a lot, but for what a prize...
"How much?" Kat sounded defeated.
She was silent, her mind presumably considering what anyone could possibly want other than money. Then maybe it clicked. "What then?"
"We can go back on to the video link." My laminated instruction card told me how to ensure everything was "off the record". I was getting used to the technology fast. Only had it installed in my office that week, can't think why...
After a few seconds we were up and running. Although all the details were the same, Kat looked very different from just a few minutes ago. "What do you want, Sam?" Her tone was nervous, frightened, not aggressive.
"I reckon I have two, maybe three, weeks, I can justify holding on to this material before going to the FSA. After that, I'm complicit. Before that, you do what I tell you. Simple."
"I..." She was blinking at the screen, at the eye. I could only imagine how difficult it was, coming from hard bitch to victim in less than an hour. How sad. "What do you mean?" I think really she was stalling. Didn't work.
"Show me your breasts." The delay was about a second, maybe two, as my demand crossed the ocean, and her response came back. She flinched.
"I...Shit, Sam, listen, I had a real good bonus this year and I..."
I cut in once more. "This isn't a negotiation. I'm only going to say this one more time. Either you do exactly what I say, or I hand the tape to the FSA. Now, decision time."
Kat carried on blinking. I truly think she was suffering from some form of shock. Then "Okay. But I've gotta sort out my office, you understand?" Her acquiescence hit me like a wave, as if my body had previously refused to anticipate success. But now I could feel the wet need between my legs. I slid down my chair, under my desk, and slid my skirt up my thighs.
Kat was back. "Okay, I'm secure. No-one can see. I think." She looked around nervously.
"Show me them. You need to tilt the eye down some. That's better." I now had Kat's face and the upper half of her body in view. She began toying with the buttons of her blouse. "Get on with it," I said cruelly, "show me your breasts."
She glanced heavenwards quickly, shame and embarrassment written all over her face. Then she was unbuttoning, her eyes always looking away from the screen and the eye. When she was all the way down she pulled her blouse out of her skirt waistband, to leave it hanging outside. Where it was open, I could see the flat smoothness of Kat's stomach and the lace of her bra. "Pull your blouse open," I commanded her, "you don't have to take it off." She complied, quickly, nervously. "You can keep your bra on, just lift your breasts out of the cups."
Once again the glance up, and then Kat reached up and, hooking her fingertips into the cups she pulled them down, exposing her bare breasts. Fuck she was hot. Pale white, (Kat was not the kind of girl to go topless, anywhere), dreamy brown nipples about an inch and a half across, even on the screen I could see they were erect, naughty Kat, and despite the thousands of miles between us I found myself poking out my tongue, so strong was the urge to chew and bite them.
"Play with them. Play with your tits, Kat." I slipped a couple of fingers inside my knickers. I was soaked already. Kat was squeezing and rubbing her breasts, a little half-heartedly, I felt. "Pull your nipples." Again, the delay. Then just a little bit of play between fingers. "Properly. Tug them. Hard." She did, tho not with the viciousness I really wanted. Whatever, her relative obedience was both surprising and encouraging.
"Okay, come close to the eye." My screen was full of Kat's navy blue skirt. It was odd having such a cut-off view, like I was directing my own porno movie. I guess in a way I was. "Lift your skirt up for me." My fingers were busy between my legs, one, two, poking into the wetness that was my cunt.
"Just fucking do it, Kat." A little resistance was exciting, but I didn't want to encourage her. I saw Kat's fingers reach down from the top of the screen, down to the hemline, then quickly lift her skirt up to her waist. Mmm, navy pantyhose and underneath what seemed to be simple navy knickers. I had an image of Kat standing in her locked office in New York, her skirt lifted up exposing herself to my face on the screen. I pushed my fingers a little further into my pussy.
"I want you to know, Kat, that I'm touching myself looking at your knickers, my pussy's very wet, and I've pushed two fingers inside myself. Did you hear that?"
"Now show me your cunt. Drop your knickers. Not far, just to the tops of those lovely slim thighs of yours." I waited. It was more than the delay. "Show me your cunt, Kat." Her fingers were hovering.
"Sam, I can't."
It was funny that her refusal just increased my arousal. "Pull your pantyhose down. That's good." Adopting a slightly more encouraging tone seemed to be effective. "Now your knickers. Just to the top of your thatch. Mm that's good. Why don't you put your hand inside, Kat? Touch yourself." Now my mental image, the one added on, so to speak, to the pictures on my screen, changed to long-legged Kat standing in front of the machine frigging herself. "Yeah, that's good, play with yourself." On screen her fingers were moving under the fabric. "Now show me your cunt, Kat." I couldn't command any more, my voice was too heavy with desire, but this time it worked and she teased her panties down just enough. Mm, a nice neat chocolate brown triangle of hair, just like I'd hoped and fantasized about.
"Now touch your cunt, Kat." Although I couldn't see it I was sure Kat was flinching every time I used the word. Which was the point, really. She was brushing through her pubic hair, creeping where I wanted her. "Go on, touch it." Then, reaching out her forefinger, just teasing the top of her slit, seeking out her clit. "Open it. I want you to open it wide." Again there was a delay longer than just the transmissions, but before I had time to repeat my command Kat was reaching down with the fingertips of both hands, teasing along her lips, slow, uncertain, scared. "Open wide." And she did.
There was something obscene about the image on my screen, maybe because the pink fleshy beauty of Kat's sex was transformed into something literally pornographic through electronic transmission in such close-up detail.
"Okay, turn around." I could only imagine the uncertainty or confusion in Kat's eyes at this latest turn. Imagine and savor.
Kat's ass was beautiful. I have, I know, described in awe many bottoms in the past, and I'm aware it's my weakness. But Kat's really did stand out, in a way, I think, literally. She had, naturally and without making the slightest effort, a superb body, but Kat wasn't a girl to leave everything to nature, and so she worked out, lightly, giving her thighs and lower back the faintest hint of muscle-tone. But her ass was soft white flesh, maybe supported and shaped by her physique, but in itself pure and simple and utterly inviting. And I didn't even need an invite.
"Show me your bum, Kat." Again, I could imagine the puzzle on her face. "Yeah, been in London too long, Kat. These Brit girls have pretty little asses, you know. Don't mind showing them, either, if you ask them in the right way. Tell the truth, Kat, until you turned around I thought I couldn't get enough of them. But now when I see your pretty bum, Kat, I'm reminded there's nothing better than home-grown. But you know I've always liked your ass, don't you?"
I couldn't really hear a reply, after all Kat was standing up and facing away from the mike, but she knew.
Way back when we were all hungry little MBA students, Kat's charm was offered around a little more generously. Seemed every class mentioned "networking", and of course we all had it in our minds that ten years time we'd be CEOs of something grand. (This was just before dot com, to put it in context). Of course it was obvious to everyone Kat was a stuck-up bitch, but at least she was a stuck-up bitch who pretended she wanted to be everyone's friend.
The funny thing was, despite her beauty, in some ways Kat wasn't very sexy. I think she was a little too aware of her looks, which most of the time made her seem a little stiff and formal. But every now and then, when she'd had a few drinks and metaphorically let that lovely chocolate hair down, she did turn a little flirty. With me.
At business school I'd toned down my pick and mix approach to sexuality, thinking, probably correctly, that it wasn't the way to get on. But it was no secret, amongst my peer group at least, that my lovers were women as often as men. To the extent she gave anything away, most of the time Kat gave the impression she disapproved, but a little alcohol and she changed. Most typically she would come over and sit next to me, too close, resting her head on my shoulder, the outside of our thighs brushing together. And talk in the most glowing terms about how "together" I seemed. "In every way."
Well by then I wasn't a fool, yes I was almost certain she was coming on to me, but she was also a confused bitch I didn't like very much, so despite all the attractions, I did nothing. Until, one evening, we were really blasted, I think we'd both just scored two highest marks on some paper, she was resting her head on my right shoulder as usual, and she was laying it all on very thick, about how inexperienced she was, how experienced I was, how I must really understand what turned a girl on.
And I just let rip. "Sure I know how to make a woman feel good." At this point it was still, theoretically, ambiguous as to whether we were talking masturbation or sex. Not for long. "The best for me," I continued, warming to the task of talking dirty to someone I normally thought of as so unapproachable, "is pushing her knees right up, up to her chest, then you get the best of both worlds, you can choose, do you love her puss or her ass?" Kat's head moved comfortably on my shoulder, encouraging me to continue, go further. "If it was you, Kat, I think I'd love your ass. Pull your cheeks wide apart, poking my tongue out, drawing it across your asshole..." Then, sudden as anything, her head was gone, and when I turned around she was looking drunk but determined. Thirty seconds later she was out of there.
I think, and I don't believe this is just retrospective justification, she was flirting and she got scared. It had taken plenty of signals for me to even begin responding. But when it came down to it, all the voices in her head told to her run.
Fair go, I've no problem with that, but she did, and thereafter Kat's charm was quite definitely withheld from me. Mostly it was just a pain in the ass for everyone, people asking "Why all this tension?" when I could hardly explain. I wasn't ostracized or anything, it just put a dampener on everything. Whatever, she hadn't spoken a civil word to me since, and when our professional paths had started crossing she'd kept it up, even giving the impression that every little bargaining victory was some sort of revenge for that evening. `Til I'd found a way to swing the pendulum back.