“Sir, this meeting wasn’t on my schedule,” Henry said.
“I’m aware of that, Henry. The circumstances were—incredibly unforeseen.”
Uh-oh. Henry hated surprises. If Eliza had to rank what Henry most despised, she’d put surprises close to the top of the list, followed by, like, emojis, incorrectly used apostrophes, and the Hangover franchise. She expected a diatribe on this any minute now, but Saperstein raised his hand to forestall it.
“Please,” Saperstein said. “Time is of the essence here. I need everyone’s undivided attention.”
“Are these donuts?” Raj said, reaching out for one of the plain white cardboard boxes on the table. “Because I had to miss breakfast, so if there are donuts—”
“There are not donuts,” Saperstein said gravely. “What’s in the boxes is something I’m going to get to in just a moment.” He cracked his knuckles. Wait: fidgeting, stalling, sweaty brow, uncharacteristic lack of singing? This couldn’t be good. “People, you are this company’s best and brightest. Our most loyal. I couldn’t be prouder of working with each and every one of you. But more importantly, you are all people who were in the building twenty minutes ago when there was an accident in the lab.”
“Wait,” Charlie said. “Sir, are we going to get superpowers?”
“There’s nothing in this building that’s radioactive,” Joan said dismissively. “How would you get superpowers from that? I’m sorry, sir, please continue.”
“No, Joan, that was an important point to make. No, I regret to inform you all that you will not be getting superpowers from this. The accident involved the airborne dispersion of some powdered baby formula we were tweaking. Now, I don’t want to point fingers here. It’s not Larry’s fault that Larry managed to break the seal and release the powder into the ventilation system.”
“Are you sure?” Charmonique said. “Because it sounds like it was.”
“If time is of the essence,” Henry said, “I’d like to know what we’re dealing with here.”
This wasn’t cranky Henry, hilariously irritated by the idea that he might have to have his ten o’clock walk to the coffeemaker at, gasp, ten fifteen. That guy had left the building. This was perfectly composed Henry, like all his processing of the outer world had just shut down except for whatever tunnel vision he needed for this. Nervous Saperstein and scared Henry? This was apocalypse shit.
Eliza went cold. And at the same time, for no reason she could figure out, she squeezed her legs together under the table.
“I’ll be blunt,” Saperstein said. “The released powder appears to be having some unintended side effects. We saw the signs in the lab at first, and soon we’re going to be seeing them up here. Damn this fully-functioning ventilation system!” He paused. “I regret to inform you all that the KinderKare building is about to become a love shack, as chronicled in the song ‘Love Shack.’”
“Wait,” Eliza said. “Like—we’re all going to get super horny?”
“That’s an excellent way of putting it. Yes, we’re all going to spend some time being, as you say, super horny. Revved up for pleasure. Eager to take a trip to Pound Town. –Please, hold your questions until the end. Some of you may already be noticing unexplained symptoms of arousal. In these boxes, you’ll find a deluxe assortment of sex toys that I was able to procure last-minute from some local vendors. I advise everyone to select a toy of their choice if they’re not feeling up to, ah, manual labor, then to close themselves in their offices, remain in their cubicles, shelter in bathroom stalls, or in some other way find privacy. The effects should last one to four hours.”
“One to four hours?” Henry said. “That is—sir, that is a very wide range of time.”
“Yes, which is why I’ve also included a collecting of soothing lotions and creams, for chafing-related issues.”
Joan raised her hand. “Are we allowed to contact spouses, sir? If I’m going to be in a prime sexual mood for the rest of the day, I’d just as soon have my husband here.”
“Damn, Joan,” Eliza said. “Respect. That’s what marriage is all about.”
Joan looked reluctantly pleased by the compliment. “Well. Thank you.”
“Yes, you may contact spouses. They’ll have to come here, however, because we can’t be responsible for unleashing a pack of uncontrollably aroused pharmaceutical employees on the streets of Los Angeles.” He checked his watch. “Everyone, the hour is nearly upon us. Please respect each other’s privacy during this… trying time.”
Charlie raised his hand. “Sir, does this mean that office relationships are officially cleared by HR for the duration of the sex epidemic?”
“Wonderful question. Raj?”
“I—I don’t know. I don’t think these circumstances are really covered in—you know, why not? Yes. I’m going to commit to a yes.”
“That’s a yes, people,” Saperstein said. “So that’s an option you have available as well. I know I generally like to encourage everyone to think of each other as family, but that framework is temporarily lifted. Unless of course you’re into that.” He opened one of the sex toy boxes, perused the contents with pursed lips, and then selected something and pocketed it too quickly for Eliza to see. “We’re getting into game-time. This meeting is now officially adjourned.”
Eliza felt like her brain was running on fumes, probably because all her blood had rushed down to her clit. She was at least pleased to identify that some of those mostly unmarked boxes were from Here Kitty Kitty—that was some upscale shit. She’d paid over a hundred for one of their custom-made vibrators. Circumstances aside, this made for some really quality swag. She rooted around through one of the boxes with the thin pink ribbon pattern around its edge. Vibe, hell yeah, anal beads, sure, sensual massage powder, why not.
Charmonique blocked her when she went for the powder, though. “Hey, Miss Grabby. Save some for everybody else.”
“Eliza,” Henry said. His voice was low and she didn’t know when he had gotten around the table to stand behind her, his hand now on her elbow. “Even in—trying situations, office etiquette holds. Saperstein said everyone was entitled to one item. Not as many as they can carry.”
The last thing she needed, the actual last thing, was Henry’s warm hand on her bare skin while he said velvety-sounding things about sex toys. She dropped everything but the vibe and retreated.
“Sorry,” she said over her shoulder, walking so quickly now that she was actually starting to regret not wearing flats. “Um, situation red.”
Her cubicle. She was supposed to jerk off in her cubicle. For one to four hours.
To be fair, she did kind of have an exhibitionist streak. And if she were going to go all in, she could even livestream all this as some kind of epic camgirl show—her follower count would go through the roof.
Okay, that was definitely arousal-brain talking. She hadn’t spent years tastefully covering her nipples on Instagram to go all-out get-her-perv-on now. She could do this. She could improvise some tactful privacy before she lost control and fingered herself right here, standing up and still able to see somebody’s fucking cat-of-the-month calendar.
She could lie down under the desk. Hard pass. She was wearing a brand-new skirt and she had spilled a seriously outrageous number of mochaccinos down there that the reverse garbage Santa hadn’t gotten to yet.
She could just trust that everybody would be polite and keep their eyes on their own fun parts. But this was not an office full of people you wanted to see naked—for all she knew, lowered inhibitions were going to have a bunch of people panting around after her like she was a walking, talking centerfold. Flattering, absolutely, but distracting.
She gripped the back of her chair, trying to think, when she heard Henry say, “You can… I would extend my invitation for you to use my office, if—if that would be more private for you. I mean, obviously it would literally be more private for you, but I’m saying we could establish some kind of dividing line down the middle, if you wanted, and—”
On the one hand, given everything that had happened and, more importantly, not happened between them, that was a terrible idea.
On the other hand, she was totally going to do it anyway.
“Right. Thanks, Henry.”
He swallowed. She could see the little twitch of the muscles in his throat. “It’s a gentleman’s duty to—why the hell does our baby formula have an aphrodisiac side effect? How does that happen? Are we going to have to try to sell this?”
“I mean, if it only works when it’s inhaled, not when it’s mixed up and fed to the baby, you know, maybe that’s an upside for the parents, help them revive—Henry, I can’t really riff right now.”
“No. Me neither.”
This might have been the first time she’d heard him admit to not being able to have his mind on work. Wow. Was this what it took for him? Eliza got distracted figuring out what breed of cat she was on some Buzzfeed quiz. How did they rationalize using your favorite novel as one of the questions? How did that tell them anything about illiterate cats?
They got to Henry’s office and closed and locked the door behind them. Eliza felt like she could feel every stitch and seam in her clothes. She was so wet that she could feel it on her thighs.
And Henry—she could see the bulge ruining the perfect line of his perfect trousers and perfect order. She wanted him more than anything in the world. God, why did he have to do this to her? Why did he have to be here right now, just a few feet away from her, and not touching her? Why did it never happen for them?
She couldn’t keep looking at him. She turned away; breathed in and tasted tears in the back of her throat.
“Don’t worry about me,” she said, running the back of her hand across her eyes. “I’m a sex-crier. Like, not all the time, but it happens. I happen.” She couldn’t wait any longer.
Still facing the wall, staring at Henry’s absurdly boring painting, Eliza lifted her skirt. No sense going for any warm up. She parted her legs and cocked her hips forward, pulled her underwear to the side, angled the vibe, and slid it up into her cunt. The suddenness of it, from needy nothing to total fullness, made her clench tightly around the toy. She cried out before she even turned it on.
Then, with its low buzz settled in her, she began to fuck herself, aware of the messy, undignified noises she was making—the little gasps and moans, porn-star responsive even while doing something as basic as getting herself off, the thick wet sound of the toy moving in and out of her. She couldn’t stop the sounds, though. Fuck it. Henry knew everything else about her, he might as well know this. She wanted him to.
She finally got her shit together and, her fingers slippery, lined up the little butterfly on the vibe with her clit. The shock of contact made her come right then and there, grinding forward helplessly onto the pressure of her own hand. She couldn’t get enough. Even that, long and ear-pounding, was barely any relief.
This was why they should have let her have the anal beads and the massage powder. A girl had needs.
But her cunt was still too sensitive to stand the vibrator again even as her body was begging for more. The different parts of her weren’t talking to each other. She dropped the vibrator on the carpet—there was no way Henry had ever spilled anything in here, ever—and touched herself lightly, with just the pads of her fingertips.
“I’m making a mistake,” Henry said behind her. “As in, I’ve made a mistake and this is an ongoing mistake.”
“Wait, Henry, do you not know how to jerk off? How sad was your childhood?”
“I don’t want to be on the other side of the room from you.” His voice was quiet. “I don’t want to just hear you. I want to see you. Can I see you?”
Eliza slowly turned around. “You could always see me.”
She was looking at his back and then he turned to face her too. He was still hard, and she didn’t know if he hadn’t gotten off yet or if, like her, he just couldn’t get off enough to make a difference.
His hair was disheveled, like he’d put his hands back through it. His face was flushed.
She wanted to bite the buttons off his shirt, kiss a line down his chest. Devour him.
This could be anything, though. He could want her because he needed her—or not even her, just a warm tight place to work the green M&M high out of his system. He could be convincing himself he felt something because he was Henry and he didn’t like meaningless sex.
Not like they could never have had meaningless sex anyway.
“You could have seen me whenever you wanted,” Eliza said. “You know that.”
“I panicked,” Henry said. “I don’t—I don’t know how to get everything I want without working for it, without analyzing it. And with you I didn’t have to spend sixteen thousand dollars on horseback riding lessons, or be sensible, or hold back, and…” He trailed off, just looking at her. “With you all I had to do was be open. You weren’t safe, Eliza. I thought I could give you everything I am, with no pretense, and you could walk away. And then I would just be the—”
“Asshat,” Eliza suggested. Her mouth was trembling.
Henry nodded. “The asshat who lost you. And I’d know that that’s who I was—and you’d be gone. So I panicked.”
Damn. He’d panicked for two straight months. That was almost as bad a downward spiral as when he found out Toddlers and Tiaras existed.
Any woman would have to be pretty baller to make Henry Higgs’s head spin like that. And she was, wasn’t she? Yeah, she’d totally deserved multiple goodies from the adult toybox—she was a conqueror.
“Wow,” she said, moving closer to him. “You panicked over a girl flashing you in a hallway but office sex fever leaves you pretty much unfazed.”
“Oh, I’m not unfazed,” Henry said. He was starting to smile, and it made Eliza feel like she was melting. “If you’re willing to accept that apology, in fact, I really need to start ripping your clothes off right now. And fazing you on every available surface for the next one to four hours.”
He checked his watch.
“For the next forty minutes to three hours and forty minutes, more accurately.”
She used his tie to pull him forward to kiss her. She’d always wanted to do that—to muss him.
“Apology accepted,” Eliza said against his mouth, their lips barely grazing. “Also, you’re an incredible dork.”
Henry tugged her forward by her hips and didn’t waste any more of their however many hours and forty minutes. His hands moved to the small of her back as he kissed her; pulled her shirt free of her skirt. She didn’t know what he was going for there and then she realized he wasn’t going for anything at all, he was just—trying to touch more and more of her, trying to get as much of her as he could. She did the same thing to him, pressing her mouth up against his neck and his collarbone, unbuttoning him one-handed.
He got her shirt off and unlatched her deep blue bra where it clasped at the front.
“This is a surprisingly practical garment, Eliza. Aside from the color.”
“Hey, you can wear any color bra as long as you wear it with confidence—fuck, Henry.” He had started to suck on one of her nipples and she thought she’d come just from looking at him like that, his eyebrows up as he turned his head to look at her, his teeth firm and his tongue hot against her. “I will wear whatever color bra you want if you keep doing that. I will wear boring-ass beige underwear for the entire rest of my life.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t want to cramp your style.”
“Cramp my style? Are you a time traveler from 2003?”
“First of all, that expression is still widely in use, and second of all, if you think about the fact that we were both alive during 2003—” He drew his thumb across her soaking wet underwear. “I’ve lost track of my argument. I want to taste you.”
She wanted to taste him too, wanted his cock in her mouth so much so that she almost didn’t sit on the desk for him. But she wasn’t made out of stone—nobody could resist Henry going down on his knees in front of her and rolling her underwear down her legs and onto the floor. She was nothing but nerve endings and unrelieved tension and she needed Henry’s mouth on her cunt and what was more, she’d fucking earned it.
He gave that to her. He was gentle at first where she was still sensitive, but then she needed more and more from him and didn’t care if it overwhelmed her. He slid three fingers in and out of her soaked cunt while his tongue stroked and toyed with her clit and here was news that would surprise exactly no one—Henry was a total clit-tease. She was going to have infinite orgasms for the next couple of hours and he was drawing this one out just to be a dick about it. She whimpered, flattening her hands against his desk and pushing forward onto his mouth.
If Henry couldn’t breathe, maybe he’d just have to learn a valuable lesson about dropping this Sting forty-eight hour hard-on bullshit and stop edging her when she just needed—just needed him.
Also this could possibly get him behind the Blorkel ™ blanket snorkel. For all your undercover work.
But Henry seemed down with having his oxygen cut off, because he just kept on. She rode his face like that until she came, and even then his mouth stayed on her, this warm and constant presence that she could just wear herself out against.
That was what he’d always been. Whenever she’d needed him.
Eliza relaxed for approximately two seconds, which was about as long as she could stand not reciprocating this by blowing both Henry and Henry’s mind, and then a serious downer occurred to spoil the afterglow.
Henry had been resting his forehead against her thigh, but then he jerked up. “What? What’s wrong?”
“I just realized all my condoms are in my purse at my desk! Do you have any?”
“No,” Henry said. “I’m not constantly prepared for assignations, you know. I don’t keep any office condoms. Which I would have thought before was a sound choice but which I’m now extremely regretting.”
“You never know when you’re going to get a tidal wave of aphrodisiacs, apparently.”
“I don’t know,” Eliza said, pulling him up by the shoulders and moving around to kneel in front of him and undo his zipper carefully, loving the way his breath caught as her touch grazed him. “Maybe it’s more romantic for us to have at least one first in an actual bed and not in your office with all our coworkers avidly masturbating outside.”
“Yes, this is truly the height of romance.” He touched her chin; caressed it with his thumb as she looked up at him. “Actually, maybe it is.”
Time to give Henry his assignation.
His cock was fucking gorgeous, thick and not so long she had trouble taking him in her mouth. She thought about leaving lipstick smears on his skin there, rosy pink traces up and down the length of him. She wanted him everywhere. Between her tits, in her ass, between her thighs, closed in her hand—there wasn’t an inch of her body she didn’t want Henry to stake some kind of claim on.
But this was a good place to start. Her throat burned and she held his hips tightly until she felt one of his hands grip hers back. They were holding onto each other for dear life, like all of this was a rollercoaster that would send them flying. Henry had said she wasn’t safe? He should have come with more warning labels than their satanic hallucinations drug.
The effects of the powder lasted closer to four hours than one. She lost track of all the places the vibrator went.
The official all-clear came through on the office intercom while they were lying on the floor trying to catch their breath. Eliza had her head pillowed half on Henry’s jacket and half on his shoulder. One of her shoes had gotten all the way on the other side of the room. They listened to Saperstein telling them all that under the circumstances, they had the rest of the day off. And also that they should consider any items dispersed during this morning’s meeting to be theirs to keep.
“Score,” Eliza said. “Free vibrator. Did you get anything?”
“I may have been a little too busy policing your ethics in grabbing up sex toys like they were free samples of cheesecake.” He ran his hand lightly up and down her body. “And then there was the intense desire to bend you over the table, so that was a distraction. Though—don’t take this the wrong way—let’s not have sex for at least a week.”
“Agreed,” Eliza said immediately. “These legs are closed for business.”
“It may actually be several hours before I’m able to stand up again.”
Their lips were raw enough that even the soft kiss he pressed to her mouth still hurt. They both said, “Ow,” simultaneously.
Worth it, though. Henry combed through her hair with his fingers. She couldn’t remember him having looked away from her since they’d started all this.
Without a billion endorphins flooding her body all at once, she was a little shyer about the intensity of that look. She was a mess. Rat’s nest of hair, absolutely, plus carpet burns and sweat and just—the overwhelmingly unglossy, unappealing aftermath of four hours of enthusiastic banging.
“Hashtag no filter,” she said.
Henry shook his head, his mouth curving into a smile that made her mentally drop the week-long sex fast down to five days max. “You never needed the filter.”
“Aww, Henry.” She held his hand. She was the good kind of wobbly, unable to keep herself from smiling. “You learned about Instagram for me.”